Poetry: Fire Effects

We are of Taraxacum.

A volatile genus in duress.

Our heads disseminate, blown from our stems.

Rash thoughts ignite into words and whirl

On the wind,

Take seed in a flash of tongue and slice of eye.

In the young, loamy soils

We till fears deep.

They spring up from the ground and

Spark into being.

Fractured fragments of the whole,

Born from friction, this contempt consumes.

And it is like a wildfire.

Thick, fiery vines twist and coil.

Flowers, stoked to an angry bloom, blaze and burst,

Throwing open petals wide with the backdraft of odium.

It scorches and scars the skin of the earth.

We are barbaric in this unnatural state.

Hearts sterilized by the heat of hate.

Hearts full of bitter sap and brambled embers.

Roiling smoke stings and blinds us,

Chokes away our empathy.

This fury lashes through our humanity

Until there are only blackened sticks and

Smoking patches of ashy dirt.

The afterglow of spent, searing sentiments

Fade from the carpel.

Here, a pistil of arrogance and one of defeat,

And here, a pistil of disgust

And another of ignorant nostalgia.

Fear singes the last delicate cell walls

In a red, luminescent squall line.

And finally, fully charred,

The spent bloom wilts and crumbles.

But their fire has not left me infertile.

In this crackling, wild prairie,

There is a budding, a delicate anticipation

That the rains of my sorrows will sprout new growth.

I must germinate, cultivate

A bright breath of compassion,

Lest the world around me burn out and

Smolder into cold nothingness.

 

By: Erica Ruhe

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Book Review: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

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 “This is not a fairy tale. It is a song.”

Release Date: July 3, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: William Murrow

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed—viciously attacked by an infected neighbor—and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares—terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll begin this with the admission that I wasn’t a big fan of Paul’s most popular novel, A Head Full of Ghosts. However, there were genius moments in that novel that made me want to check this new book out. The publishing world is slow, so when the author actually wrote this book he was merely speculating on a long-distance future. However, months into a global pandemic and the future that Tremblay describes in his book is suddenly our reality.

In the novel, a new form of rabies virus has made the jump from animals to humans and the effect is devastating. Since the onset of rabies plays much like flu-like symptoms, this feels very eerily similar to what we’re dealing with right now with COVID-19.

The reader can automatically assume which President the author had in mind when he wrote the following: “A president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational science-based decisions necessary.” Especially given the fact of how our current President has managed the pandemic we’re living.

The novel is very fast-paced as all the events take place within the same day, much like how horror movies do. If you wish to read a fast-paced horror with strong female bonds, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and William Murrow for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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6 Awesome Movies to Celebrate Pride Month

I know it’s almost the end of the month but with so many going around lately (gesturing to the world), it was kind of hard to keep up with everything and remain sane. However, I do wish to acknowledge Pride Month and here are some of my favourite movies to celebrate pride! So grab your popcorn and get ready to ride an emotional rollercoaster.

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ROCKETMAN

A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years.

MOONLIGHT

MOONLIGHT

A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.

TANGERINE

TANGERINE

A hooker tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.

BOYERASED

BOY ERASED

The son of a Baptist preacher unwillingly participates in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents.

BOYS

BOYS DON’T CRY

A young man named Brandon Teena navigates love, life, and being transgender in rural Nebraska.

HEDWIG

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

A transgender punk-rock girl from East Berlin tours the U.S. with her band as she tells her life story and follows the former lover/band-mate who stole her songs.

BONUS DOCUMENTARY

MARSHA

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON

Victoria Cruz investigates the mysterious 1992 death of black gay rights activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P. Johnson. Using archival interviews with Johnson, and new interviews with Johnson’s family, friends and fellow activists.

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Book Review: The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

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Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Price: $18.89 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

Grade: C

Review:

Let me preface this by stating that I really loved All The Missing Girls, but was sorely disappointed in The Last House Guest. But I was willing to give Miranda another chance and was thrilled when I was selected to review her latest novel.

My biggest issue with this book is that for a thriller, it’s very slow-moving. There’s no sense of urgency and there are a lot of repetitive phrases and rehashing of the same story over and over again, and I don’t know if that was to fill a certain page quota or what, but a lot of the flashback, news clippings, or 911-calls chapters didn’t really reveal anything new. There isn’t even a body until 30% in the book!

Another issue that I had with the book is that I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters. All the side characters felt shady and the protagonist, Olivia was annoying beyond measure.

Now, there are two major twists, one that I saw coming a mile away and another that I didn’t really expect. Did these two major twists save the novel? Yes and no. It’s always nice when a thriller can throw a surprise ending, but for a novel that was at a snail’s pace with no sense of urgency or threat, it was a little too late.

If you’re more of a cozy mystery sort of reader, then you may enjoy this novel very much. But if you’re a reader who loves fast-paced thrillers, then you may want to pass on this one.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Throwback Thursday: The Return of the Living Dead

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Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of a Global Pandemic, or maybe because my version of comfort movies is to turn towards horror, but whatever the case may be, the first thing I did whilst under stress from Covid-19 mid-March was to rewatch The Return of the Living Dead. Even as a young child, I always found zombies to be far more comical than scary. Then again, my tune may change if I suddenly were to find myself in an actual zombie apocalypse.

As always, this movie provided the very much needed comical relief that I was seeking but didn’t know how much I was craving. We watch as a group of teenagers have to deal with the undead when a strange acid rain pours upon their small town. The first hing I noticed while rewatching was that as a kid, I never thought these actors were too old to portray real teenagers, but now looking at it with fresh eyes, I can’t help but realize how much those actors resemble me in age than any teens I’ve ever seen.

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Apart from that, the movie is one hell of a fun ride. We get half-body skeleton ladies that reveal the real reason why zombies must devour brains and who can’t help but find the half cut pup horridly adorable? And if you’re anyone with a pulse with a penchant for goth girls, you’re going to simply adore a certain famous grave yard dance scene. Why is the redhead Trash dancing naked? Who knows! But it sure is hot and entertaining to watch!

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There are many other hilarious instances. This movie doesn’t take itself seriously and wants YOU to not take it seriously either. Instead, it wants you to lean back and enjoy the decaying fun. After all, when you look at this way, sure there’s a Global Pandemic, but things could be worse, we could be fighting actual zombies right about now. And I don’t know about you, I still kinda want to keep my brains.

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Review: Bausch + Lomb Lumify

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What It Is: Eye drops

What It Does: Redness Reliever

Verdict: I am someone who suffers from chronic bloodshot eyes. Why you may ask? Probably the fact that I only sleep about four hours a night has something to do with it as I’m lucky enough not to have any eye issues due to allergies. When I was first sent this product in an Allure Beauty Box, I was a bit wary. I’m not a fan about putting an eye drops in my eyes unless they’re prescribed by a doc, but these seemed to promise something that I wasn’t sure they were going to deliver: luminous eyes! I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, but one drop in each eye was enough to convert this non-believer. It doesn’t take long for the luminous effect to take place, and boy I have never seen the whites of my eyes look SO WHITE AND BRIGHT. It was unreal. Sadly, the effects of these eyedrops only last for about 3-4 hours. So it seems more as something to use if you’re planning on having photos taken (such as closeups of your face) or are going on a big date. I could see this being useful in a wedding prep situation. As for everyday? As much as I loved the luminous effect, I can’t see the point of using a product that will only last three hours at best (esp. for the price). But hey, maybe not everyone has come to terms with their bloodshot eyes and may use this way more often than I would. Bottom line is, this works.

Price: $15.98

Where To Buy It: https://www.lumifydrops.com/

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Short Story: I’m Coming

photo of couple kissing in hallway

Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

….and it’s over before I know it. A brief instant of ecstasy that fills me up to the brim.

Creating rainbow-colored clouds beneath my feet lifting me up to momentary heaven.

I am standing below the stage looking up at you. You stand over me with a regal posture. You own the universe. Your vibrant voice rings in my ears; it slides beneath every single pore to become a part of me. To become one with my essence.

Your eyes dive into mine. I can feel you swimming in my veins. You offer me a smile. I return it. You begin to walk down the stage stairs. The lights following every single minimal move you make.

The air is balmy inside the venue. My black lace top clings to my dewy skin. I try not to pay attention to the pain that shoots up and down my legs like miniature electric bolts. Five hours of standing on eight-inch heels make me realize that I hadn’t thought about the possible torture that I was going to subject myself to when I had pulled my knee-high leather boots over my feet.

You pass by the shouting girls. They are dying for your attention. But your eyes are locked on mine. I don’t look away. I fall into your gaze. I am going down a one-way spiral, and at the end of it, there is only you. I am taken into another realm…

Our bodies compress in a sweaty haze. You cling to my lips, sucking on them. Not wanting to let me go. Brown curls fell carelessly over your eyes. My hand reaches up to move them away. I am breathless. I want to savor the moment, as it was my last.

Breath against breath, lips against lips, naked flesh against naked flesh…

“Don’t forget to keep me alive in your mind,” you sing to me as I jump out of my daydream.

Your movements are graceful, feline. I can only plead that you will come nearer.

“Remember me whenever you feel obscene.”
Your eyes are burning tiny crevices in the center of my irises. My body is all giving. As well as all receiving.

And then you touch me….

That voice…those eyes…my hand traveling down the contours of my body. It runs over my plump breasts, my thumbnail grazing over my nipples. It shifts down to my navel and passes it, lowering itself down a little further. My hand is greeted by softness. My two fingers probe at its entrance that is enveloped in musky wetness.

There’s no need for knocking, a simple push and the door is opened. The two fingers cruise down a dark and humid corridor, a thrilling chill tingles throughout my body. I smile at you.

“Remember me whenever you feel obscene.”

Suddenly I can’t control my fingers anymore. They have a life of their own as they break into a frenzied rhythm. Faster…faster…faster…

I hear a shrill in my ears and my breath gets caught in my lungs but my fingers don’t stop. Faster…faster…faster…

My body is burning. Sweat slithers down like a sensuous snake. I feel a pounding in my head as though my membrane is being nailed to my skull.

I see you. I hear you.

And my body abandons itself to the senses. The wetness around my fingers contracts, tightening its grip on them. The wetness increases. It swells up like water in a dam until the dam is broken and there’s no turning back. Shocks race up and down my body. My vision blurs. Your face becomes a tapestry of vibrant colors. And then it fades to the bleakest black. The wetness releases its iron grip on my fingers. Liberating them in a yielding manner. They slide out of the murky tunnel restless and defeated.

I bring my hand up to my lips. My tongue flickers at the opaque whiteness coated on my fingers. You smile at me. I smile back.

Your hand loosens its grasp on my shoulder. You walk away. I am breathless. My knees feel weak as though they’re going to give in. I see you walking back up towards the stage. You look down at me and smile. I smile back at you, my body pricking from the aftershocks. My breath comes back to me. I am able to breathe again. My heart slows down to a normal sequence. My fingers are coated with your glitter. My tongue flutters at the tiny red specs of luminance. You smile down at me. I smile back. The pain in my feet makes itself be heard again. I look down.

“See you next time!” you shout.

I look up in time to see you smile at me one last time. I smile back and blow you a kiss that you pay no attention to.

My senses go dormant and it’s over before I know it.

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The National Debt Is Higher Than You Think

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Thank you, Donald Trump.

Wait! Don’t go yet, dear reader. Hear me out.

I’m grateful Trump became President. Thanks to his blatant prejudice, raging narcissism and wanton disregard for human decency, he has successfully flushed out the insidious, bubbling septic sludge of systemic racism to a level that even white society can’t cover up with a patch of sod and a pretty pot of begonias. So, grab your gloves, rubber boots and shovel. We’re gonna dig in to a stinky little spot right over here…

In 2018, Amendment Four was put on the Florida ballot that, if passed, would restore voting rights to felons who had served their terms. And it passed. I voted for this amendment and was encouraged to see this victory. The amendment went into effect January 8, 2019 but just a few months later Governor DeSantis signed a bill in to law requiring felons to pay all fines and legal fees associated with their sentencing before their voting rights would be restored.

WHAT?!

A democratic government is not pay-to-play. Voting is a constitutional right. But what really stood out about the amendment’s overthrow was the knowledge that a majority of convicted felons are people of color. Restoring the voting rights of nearly 1.4 million citizens could certainly be enough to swing the state of Florida in future elections. It doesn’t take a genius to see this was a blatant squashing of black citizens’ civil rights.
Now, watching the heartbreaking videos and emotional protests of the past week has left me with a strange mix of anguish, guilt, sadness and, yes, hope. There will be sweeping reform in the coming months and years, I have no doubt. And while it will be a good start, it will take diligence and persistence to engrain these changes into the system permanently. As quickly as laws can be amended for good, they can be easily overturned when we’re not looking.

That’s partly how racism became embedded in our culture. Much of this standard of injustice stems from the broken promise of forty acres that every freed slave was to receive from the government. This was what a small group of African-American leaders and ministers, a mix of free men and former slaves, requested as restitutions for their people; not as a handout, but as a means to create their own wealth and build a prosperous community.

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Incredibly, the wheels of this movement were set in motion and quickly passed. Lincoln approved the redistribution of a swath of nearly 400,000 acres from South Carolina to Florida for the settlement of freed slaves. But less than a year later the order was overturned by Southern sympathizer and Presidential successor Andrew Johnson. The land was confiscated from freed blacks and handed over to former white owners. And discussion of reparations all but ceased in white society.

Unpaid reparations is white society’s debt to black society. Many will argue, “It wasn’t my fault so why should I have to pay?” Generations of black Americans have suffered unspeakable oppression from a government constructed by and for white society. The debt of this injustice is white society’s inheritance. I am white and I am American. It doesn’t matter where my family came from, who my ancestors were, what my political biases are — my country was built on the foundation of slavery and oppression and thus it is my history. One cannot revel in the light of freedom and national pride and at the same time reject the shadows of this country’s inhumanity. It is my responsibility to pursue the equalization of justice and the compensation of debt.

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So where do we start?

Reparations paid as a simple cash-out to descendants of slaves would be an unacceptable and grossly inappropriate apology for the damages done. Instead, we must look at how to eliminate the current social and financial imbalances. Slavery built the foundation of America’s wealth and every generation has had to bear injustice that directly contributes to white prosperity. Perhaps we should start reparations with a simple national tax exemption for black citizens for, let’s say, the next four hundred years? That money would enrich individuals and families and go right back to the communities they live in.
Too many are locked up in prisons for inflated, paltry offenses. As an example, pot possession and/or distribution should be grounds for immediate release and expungement of criminal records. Now that more states are legalizing pot it is absurd to keep those locked up for a crime that is becoming legal and shamefully profitable for white people.

Generous federal grants (not loans) should be allocated for black-owned businesses and education. Funding black communities through facilities such as public schools and parks, recreational centers, and museums will offer opportunities for growth and alleviate crime and poverty. Life enrichment through cultural education, art, sports, community events, and paid internships will translate to real-life work experience.
And where will this funding come from? Money currently spent on militarizing police is a good place to start. That’s just a small step on a long road ahead. There are many other ideas and proposals that should be implemented but this redistribution of funds could provide an immediate, beneficial change in the communities that have suffered so much loss.

In the meantime, check in on your black friends and colleagues. Support black-owned businesses. Get involved with civil rights organizations. Donate. Black Lives Matter is not a campaign bandwagon to hop on for social media optics. Those of us who have benefitted from white privilege need to engage in fundamental solutions and apply the pressure on our elected officials until a change is implemented. It’s an election year. Let’s jump-start this movement by voting in candidates who listen and holding accountable those who seek to overturn majority votes for their own interest.

And in case you were wondering about the governor’s “pay-to-play” bill? In May, Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the bill unconstitutional. Hell yeah. DeSantis and the Republican party will most likely appeal but the world has changed dramatically in a few short days. I wager there’ll be a lot more resistance now than they remember.

To all black lives: you not only matter, you are invaluable. I see you. I love you.

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By: Erica Ruhe

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Coming Soon: Baby Teeth in Midnight in the Pentagram

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2020 has been both the best of times and the worst of times for me. Oddly enough, it’s been a most fortuitous year in regards to my writing. I signed two new contracts for short stories, have a short story coming out in June, and Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology had the best sales ever. The worst of times, of course, refers to all of us having to deal with a global pandemic and all the stress and worry that comes along with that.

Not to dismiss a serious topic aside, I do wish to focus on the positives. And one of the best thing that has happened this year so far is having my short story, Baby Teeth selected for the anthology Midnight in the Pentagram published by Silver Shamrock Publishing. These guys are total badasses when it comes to horror publications so I was over the moon at being selected.

Baby Teeth is the story of a young mother, Melissa, who begins to feel that there’s something seriously amiss with her new baby. I was slightly inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, but I was also fascinated with the notion of, what part is real and what part is merely Melissa suffering from post-partum depression?

It’s one hell of a twisted, scary treat and I’m looking forward to all of you getting a chance to read it soon. As of right now, I don’t have any official release dates, but I’m hoping for a Fall 2020 release as it seems the most appropriate.

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3 Beauty Trends I’m Loving

Trends come and go, and a lot of the times, I don’t follow trends, so the ones listed may not exactly be trending right now, but I’ve always been one to do my own thing. These three trends are ones I simply love or find inspiring. Beauty, especially makeup should be seen as an extension of your personality or emotions, so following trends isn’t a must if you’re more about expressing yourself (which is more what I tend to lean towards). Here are three beauty trends that I’m loving at the moment:

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BLUE EYELINER

Here’s the deal: There’s a circus way and a safe way to wear blue eyeliner without it becoming overbearing. The secret to this is to make it the focal point. What that means is that blue eyeliner pops the most when it’s paired with neutral eye makeup. When you pair blue eyeliner with other colors it tends to be too much and loses the ability to make your eyes the main focus. Whether you decide to place the blue eyeliner on the upper or lower lash line is our choice. I like either one and usually alternate. But balance is key. If you place blue eyeliner on the upper lash line, do NOT put it on the lower lash line too, and vice versa.

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GLITTER

Anyone who knows me knows of my eternal love for glitter. Maybe it’s the Marc Bolan in me wishing I had been a glam rocker in the 70’s or perhaps my recent binge-watching of Euphoria is to blame for my reacquaintance with my love for the sparkly. One thing is certain, glitter can really elevate your look. But here’s the tip on how to make it wearable every day and not just for the club: place glitter on cheeks like a highlighter and keep the rest of your makeup simple or your face bare. I think glitter looks the freshest when NOT paired with a ton of foundation or crazy contour. Euphoria really excelled in creating glitter looks that feel fresh, edgy, and totally wearable for every day.

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BLUSH

There’s just something youthful and innocent about rosy (or peachy) cheeks. Again, this look works best when paired with less makeup and you make your cheeks the focal point. I would suggest pairing rosy cheeks with minimal eye makeup (think only a heavy dose of black mascara) and lipgloss or lip stain. If you keep the rest of the makeup light, then the look won’t seem overbearing.

Balance is truly the key ingredient to achieving the most out of these looks. And honestly, with the warmer weather approaching, I’m less likely to wear heaps amounts of makeup (although I personally never wear foundation or contour).

Which trends do you prefer or are you willing to try out?

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