Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:14

A Day in the Dog House

RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS' DOGCON 2012: STATE OF THE DOG

 

Written by Steve Pattee

 

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(Front: Jason Jack Miller, Matt & Deena Warner and their son, Jennifer Barnes, Damian Walters Grinatalis, K. Ceres Wright, Deanna Lepsch, Stephanie Wytovich,
Leland Pitts-Gonzalez, Yours Truly. Back: Michael Mehalek, John Edward Lawson, Steven Archer, Donna Lynch, Chris Stout, Nathan Rosen)

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Towards the end of October, I had the pleasure of attending the first ever DogCon, a celebration of Raw Dog Screaming Press' upcoming 10 years of publishing. The invite promised to be "...part Halloween party, part writer's weekend, part State of the Dog address and completely epic!", and it certainly delivered.

Because I never plan ahead for anything, I arrived about an hour late (what we socialites like to call 'casually late'), and was greeted at the door by Raw Dog Screaming Press owners and founders John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes. We exchanged the normal pleasantries and while I have only met the two in person twice prior (in addition to some Facebook conversations), I immediately felt comfortable in their home. They are just good people, and that's no doubt one of the reasons why Raw Dog is reaching its tenth year in a cutthroat business.

 

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After dropping off the cookies I had brought (which really paled in comparison to the spread already laid out, complete with dog-themed cookies and sandwiches), I made my way over to talk to Matt Warner, who I had seen come in right before me. I had first met Matt years ago at a reading, where he was promoting his first novel The Organ Donor (a tale on why you should probably avoid buying organs on the black market). Since then, I have run into him various times at conventions and readings, and I always enjoy his company. I haven't seen Matt in well over a year (possibly two), so we spent a few minutes catching up — which means Matt spent a few minutes listening to me talking about how much I enjoyed his Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre. This was fitting because Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word is published by Guide Dog Books, an imprint of Raw Dog. That's how I justify taking over the conversation, anyway.

Deena Warner, Matt's wife, was there too. An artist as well (on the painting and illustrating side), Deena has done numerous book covers for various authors, including Bryan Smith, Gary Braunbeck, Alethea Kontis and more, as well as work for publishing houses like Cemetery Dance and Raw Dog Screaming Press. We had a great conversation on the state of independent publishing and how the ease of self-publishing both helps and hurts new authors (as well as old readers).

I made my way to the back yard (or, as I like to call it, the smoking section where all the bad kids hung out) where I had a great conversation with Donna Lynch and Leland Pitts-Gonzalez on horror films (including the labeling of fans), religion, politics and everything else you aren't supposed to speak of in mixed company. Lynch is not only an author  (Isabel Burning), but she and husband Steven Archer perform as Ego Likeness, an industrial band. Pitts-Gonzalez is another writer, having penned The Blood Poetry (in which HorrorTalk reviewer Gabino Iglesias glowed about here).

 

 

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(Leland Pitts-Gonzalez and John Edward Lawson)

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Jennifer soon came out and wrangled everyone up for the first reading of the day. We all gathered in the living room in front of the TV where Mike Arnzen, while not able to make it in person, was ready to read some selected work via video over the web. Author of The Gorelet's Omnibus, Arnzen's first piece was called The Intelligent Zombie, a humorous poem that he happened to have in front of him. Following that, he read a few one-liners that were either on or were to go on Jones' soda bottles, and they were equally amusing. He finished things off by reading a haunting short story that was untitled at the time. It was easily enough for me to want to track down more of his work. After his reading he had a Raw Dog-themed quiz where prizes from the publicity tour of his novel Play Dead were handed out (or, rather, to be mailed out). Most memorable was the final challenge, which was to say Raw Dog Screaming Press in your most satanical voice...backward. MicroHorror founder Nathan Rosen effectively beat the competition. Not only was he the first to attempt it, he was also the last because after his rendition, the rest of us excused ourselves. This was no contest.

After Arnzen's reading, it was back outside for more smoke and conversation. This time we were joined by Damien Walters Gritalis, whose first book Ink will be hitting bookshelves this year. Conversations ranged from favorite movies to favorite authors to favorite books to writing, editing, selling and publishing and everything in between. It was an absolute nerdgasm to be in a group of such talented people who shared the same interests as I.

It wasn't long before it was time enough for another reading, this one from D. Harlan Wilson. Like Arnzen, Wilson could not make it but instead did the reading via video chat. You have to love technology. Wilson chose to read the short story Presidency from his upcoming short story collection Battle without Honor or Humanity from Raw Dog. This is the second time I've seen D. Harlan Wilson and, like the first, it was a bit...surreal. His style is bizarro and if you've read it you know what I mean by surreal. If you haven't, you should give it a try if you want a good mindfuck. I've read Wilson's Dr. Identity: Or Farewell to Plaquedemia and Codename Prague, and this story captured the same frenetic and hilarious pacing that I loved about those two novels. Now that I think about it, the first time I saw Wilson read was at a porn/book store. This time was via a wi/fi connection. This is all very fitting.

 

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(Jennifer Barnes and Heidi Ruby Miller)

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Soon after D. Harlan Wilson's reading came the main event, the reason for the party: The State of the Dog. After a very sweet opening by Jennifer, in which she thanked everyone who came, expressed a genuine love for the company and those who support it (be it authors or customers) and mentioned with brutal honesty that there was a time that she and John considered closing the Raw Dog doors (which obviously and fortunately didn't come to pass), she delivered some announcements on what the future of Raw Dog Screaming Press entails.

The first announcement Jennifer made was of the plans for Raw Dog to get more involved with the community. On the web side of this will be a complete redesign of the Raw Dog website, including a communal blog where authors, editors and fans can all interact. On the 'real life' side is the introduction of The Dog Squad. This will consist of volunteers getting word of the company out in various publicity missions. Perks and privileges have been promised.

Then came the major announcement of the day; a new Raw Dog imprint: Dog Star Books. This imprint will release sci/fi adventure novels, including pulp and sci/fi romance. It will have an official launch the weekend of June 27th, 2013, at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA, during a writer's workshop that will be open to the public.  With novels from Mike Resnick and K. Ceres Wright being the first launched, Raw Dog hopes to do six books a year (both limited edition as well as mass market and eBook). The editor for Dog Star will be author Heidi Ruby Miller. I don't read much sci/fi, but the excitement for this new imprint was so infectious and I was ready to throw down money right there for these yet-unpublished books. As exciting as this news is, I love the fact that the whole idea was conceived over a cupcake.

Other announcements included:

  • Bradley Sharp will be doing covers for some of the Dog Star releases.
  • Matt Warner will have another book, The Seventh Equinox, coming in 2013.
  • Red Horses, a prequel to Donna Lynch's Isabel Burning, is coming soon.
  • Mike Arnzen's Play Dead will be re-released in paperback since the Limited Edition is now sold out.
  • Look for Jason Jack Miller's The Revelations of Preston Black in December.
  • Hal Jaffe's Revolutionary Brain will be coming from Guide Dog Books early next year.
  • The Kyoto Man, the final installment in D. Harlan Wilson's will be out early next year as well.
  • A Raw Dog Anthology dog-themed book was teased


Wrapping up the presentations were two more videos. The first was "Treacherous Thing",  an effectively creepy video by Ego Likeness. The second was Nathan Rosen's humorous mini-documentary Michael A. Arnzen: Purveyor of the Uncanny.

All in all, DogCon: State of the Dog was a fantastic time that I'm extremely thankful to be part of. It was chock full of great people, intelligent conversation and tasty food; everything one could ask for at a memorable gathering. My only regret is I didn't get a chance to talk to the other authors at the party, which included K. Ceres Wright, Dustin LaValley, Jason Jack Miller, and Chris Stout. I also didn't get to spend nearly as much time I would have liked with John and Jennifer (fortunately, though, they live nearby so hopefully there will be opportunity to correct that). Here's to wishing Raw Dog Screaming Press many more years, and I hope to see them again at DogCon 2: The Revenge.

Links: Raw Dog Screaming Press | State of the Dog Speech | Michael Arnzen's Reading | D. Harlan Wilson's Reading

 

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(Jennifer Barnes, Heidi Ruby Miller, Deanna Lepsch, Stephanie Wytovich, John Edward Lawson, Leland Pitts-Gonzalez, Mike Mehalek, Jason Jack Miller)

Click image to enlarge.

 

 

 

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