Book Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

dreamers

To sleep, perchance to dream….

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Pre-Order On Amazon

Price: $17.70 (hardcover)

Publisher: Random House

Plot Summary:

One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.

Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Written in luminous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking and beautiful novel, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life—if only we are awakened to them.

Grade: A –

Review:

I’m not a fantasy or sci-fi genre reader, but nonetheless, when I read the blurb for this book about a whole town being plagued by a mysterious deep sleep, I was irrevocably intrigued and requested for an ARC. The writing in this book was lyrically beautiful and I did like the characters that were presented, although I wish that we were allowed to get to know some of them more on a personal level rather than only ever seeing them from a bird’s view perspective.

My only gripe with the book is that although many people got infected by the sleep disease, they eventually woke up, and we never understood what had caused them to wake up or if there was an inkling to a cure. My second issue was that it was alluded to that some of the sleepers spoke of how their dreams were visions of the future, and I would’ve enjoyed the book more if we could’ve known more about people’s dreams and how this sleep disease affected their brains, since some of the other sleepers didn’t have these same prophetic dreams.

I really enjoyed following the perspective of college Freshman Mei the most, probably because to me she was the most relatable in the sense of a girl trying to fit in but finding out that she didn’t fit in anywhere, not even in a time of crisis. I wished that she could’ve had a better story-arc as hers was the saddest, but I guess someone had to be the tragic heroine in the novel, and poor Mei was the one for this one.

I recommend this book if you’re interested in dystopian novels or are fascinated by dreams or comas and how that affects people, as that’s what had drawn me into the book. The writing as I mentioned above is top-notch, and it reads like a fairytale of sorts. It has a dreamy quality to it and maybe in that way the author managed to have the reader feel that blissful-balmy sleep that befell the college town of Santa Lora.

The Dreamers is essentially A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream with a twist, and if you enjoy mesmerizing writing, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Witchcraft and Monsters by Kala Godin

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“We may be good at burying things. But we aren’t gravediggers.”

Release Date: January 21, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $4

Publisher: Patchwork Press

Plot Summary:

If there’s anything Kala knows, it’s monsters.
Witchcraft and Monsters is a debut poetry collection by Kala Godin.

Kala understands that the human body can be its own kind of monster. She knows the way strangers both see her and don’t.
There is magic in everything we do.
And there are monsters in each of us.

This collection is broken into five parts.
Witchcraft.
Fairytales.
Bodies.
Bad ideas.
Endings.

Grade: A

Review:

Ever since Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav came to the scene, they’ve officially made poetry cool and the rise of poetry collections that can be found today are astounding. Poetry is having a golden age again, mostly thanks to Instagram where people share and repost bite-size poems. Since so many poetry collections have adopted the simplicity that made both Kaur and Leav famous, I was expecting to get relatively short poems in Kala Godin’s Witchcraft and Monsters poetry collection, but that wasn’t the case at all. These poems are a bit lengthier than what the Instagram crowd is used to, but they’re way more up my alley than the tiny four sentence poems that are being vastly shared today over social media.

The book itself is relatively short (roughly 54 pages) but the poems contained within those pages are powerful and thought-provoking. Godin has broken down the collection in five parts: Witchcraft, Fairytales, Bodies, Bad Ideas, and Endings. Many of the poems found within this collection are dark (again a plus for me as I enjoy darker literature) and very relatable and well-written. I have a soft spot for Fairytales and Myths, and in Part 2, Godin explores certain Greek myths and popular fairytales. In The Big Book of Mythology, the poet questions Hera’s decision on remaining with Zeus when he’s a serial cheater and it all boils down to loyalty.

Another section that I enjoyed a lot was Part 3 that dealt with how we see ourselves (our bodies) and how that relates to how we relate with others. One poem in this section explored how someone in a wheelchair likens herself to Medusa because many avoid eye contact with her, just like people did with the Greek monster.

This was a very solid poetry collection, and I actually look forward to reading more poems or any other writing from this author in the future. If you’re into dark and sinister literature, mythology, or feminist-themed poetry, then this collection is simply perfect to add to your collection.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Patchwork Press for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Short Story: Errors of Grievance

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“I warned you!”

The old priestess pounded a weathered fist on the small dining table, her dingy blouse falling off of a dark, bony shoulder. “But you know more than Miss Beaulieu, eh?”
Across the small table, Momma dried a rivulet of shame from her cheek.
“I didn’t mean no harm,” her voice quivered. “I swear.”
From her cold, moonlight-washed perch atop the old bayou house, Adelaide shifted her attention to the agitated women below. Rolling her skinny frame onto her belly, she shivered under her thread-bear dress, setting her little doll beside her. He balanced on his round torso, head draped in a dry tangle of Spanish moss. Yellow lamplight sliced across his black button eyes and together they peered through a crack near the chimney overlooking the kitchen.
“I never took it out the house.” Momma insisted. “Someone done stole it.”
Miss Beaulieu planted a hand on her hip and took a long draw on a short cigar.
“Who done the spell? That jinx, Laronde?” Syllables of dark smoke puffed out of her mouth. Momma stroked her arm and looked away.
“Stupid girl.” Beaded bracelets criticized and chided on Miss Beaulieu’s thin wrist. “His bad voodoo gon’ come back to him and everyone he cast for.”
“You’ve cast for love before.” Momma’s eyes pleaded.
Miss Beaulieu jabbed a finger. “You know this ain’t the same.”
Adelaide’s heart ached. She didn’t like seeing Momma so upset, but she also didn’t like being only one in the house when Momma fell into one of her dark moods. So when her brothers escaped to the river to hunt gators, Adelaide took refuge on the rooftop. In a cigar box, tucked under a missing brick in the chimney top, was her trove of knick-knacks. Her new doll, dressed in cotton pants and a burlap overcoat, was her most valuable addition. It was bad to spoil surprises but Adelaide knew Momma had made this Christmas doll just for her.
“‘Sides,” Miss Beaulieu paced, “he got himself a faithful wife and a good job in Baton Rouge. You think all the Magick in the world gon’ make that man wanna leave that to take up wit’ you out here? Wit’ your five kids?”
Adelaide gave the little man a kiss to ease his troubled expression, the scent of cloves and musk wafting up from the crude stitching down his chest. She would replace him in his hiding spot under the floorboard tomorrow.
“Can you make him a gris-gris bag for protection?” Momma wiped her apron across her cheeks. “In case something happen to the doll?”
Adelaide froze.
“A good Christian like him won’t be caught dead with a necklace full of chicken’s feet and dove’s blood.”
Adelaide’s eyes fell upon the little man beside her. Dried grass protruded out of his stiff arms and legs. He suddenly appeared feeble and indisposed, like a paralyzed prisoner.
“Ain’t no spell on your lover can be reversed without that doll.” Miss Beaulieu dropped a large dollop of ash onto the floor. “Only the One Most High can help him if something happens to it.”
Nausea swallowed up Adelaide like the cold, wet mouth of a whale.
Miss Beaulieu leaned in. “Who you think done stole it?”
“Adelaide?”
Below, Adelaide’s brothers eased their rowboat up to the, rotting, crooked pier. The eldest, Francois, shielded his eyes from the bow lantern to see her better.
“Why you up there?”
Flushed from hiding, Adelaide leapt to her frozen bare feet, accidentally kicking her treasures down the slanted roof. The doll bounced over the ledge. Vertigo struck her numb. Her footing slipped and she tumbled down the sharp slats.
“Adelaide!” Francois’s voice broke as her footing slipped.
A screech leapt from her throat before she plunged into the river. Frigid water hit like glass on her stomach. It rushed up her nose, burning the brain lobes behind her eyes. Sound muted, heavy and low in her ears. Her mind jolted with panic. Adelaide’s eyes popped open but there was no light. Her heart pounded. Only the flash of a brass shoe buckle glittered as it somersaulted down into the watery shadows. She grasped but only caught emptiness. Lungs aching for air, she pulled her way up through the cold void and burst to the surface.
“Sweet Jesus!”
“Grab her!”
“The doll! The do—!” A wave of river water sloshed into Adelaide’s mouth.
“Adelaide, stop! Settle down!”
“No, no, no!” she cried. Strong hands gripped under her arms and slid her into the tiny boat. Violent coughs rattled her little bones. She gagged from a bellyful of the Mississippi and tried to writhe free a final time.
“I…I…didn’t know!” Adelaide sobbed. Warm arms wrapped around her and pinned her to the seat of the small wooden rowboat. “Momma, I didn’t know!”
“Adelaide?” Momma’s voice carried from the house.
“Settle yourself, girl.” Francois held her firm. “What are you carryin’ on about?”
Adelaide’s eyes darted beyond the bucking bow, searching for the voodoo, but it had sunk all the way to the bottom of the bayou.

By: Erica Ruhe

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7 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block

beautiful journalist looks typewriter

Photo courtesy of http://araugustyn.com

It happens to the best of us. If you’re a writer, you’ve at some point dealt with the dreaded Writer’s Block. Every writer has struggled with this at some time in their lives, but there are methods of overcoming this dreaded obstacle rather than wallowing in self-pity and allowing months turn into years and finding yourself even more in the tunnel of no return than before. So don’t be that writer. Below are some suggestions on how to push through the block and be one with the muses once again.

  1. Read poetry. – This can put you in a certain mood and allows the creative juices to flow.
  2. Go for a walk. – Even if you’re just going around the block with your dog, sometimes the movement and being out in the open air allows our brain to refocus.
  3. Play a game. – Not a video game that can suck up eight hours of your life without noticing, but a true hands on game, whether it’s a round of cards with friends, a board game, or chess, sometimes doing a different activity other than writing will help your thoughts regenerate.
  4. Paint or draw. – I personally love to draw using charcoals. Sometimes when your brain is doing something creative in a fun setting (you’re not agonizing to be the next Picasso) you find that it opens up the doors of your writing brain too.
  5. Listen to music. – If you wish to be in a certain mood to help create the setting and atmosphere of a story, then I listen to music and many times just listening gives me ideas for prose. Jot those ideas down.
  6. Keep a dream journal. – I know this seems so cliché, but it works! When I first started writing my YA novel CUT HERE, I began with Lena’s backstory of how she had lost her mum. That backstory was inspired by a nightmare I had in the summer of 2008 when I dreamt of seeing a fur coat splattered with blood and later seeing a book entitled CUT HERE. I wrote that odd dream down and didn’t use that idea till the winter of 2011 when I began writing the novel, so what may seem like an irrelevant dream or idea now, could be useful later on! You never know!
  7. Write pitch ideas down. – You may end up not using them at all, but thinking up plot pitches for a book may just get you out of the writing funk and excited about a new project!
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Photo courtesy of www.bang2write.com

Whatever you do, just remember that NOT WRITING isn’t a solution to overcoming Writer’s Block! You need to be proactive and willing to put the effort to get out of the tunnel rather than wait for the muses to come and rescue you from writer’s hell. So after doing any of the suggestions above, just write. Whether it’s about the activity, your day, or writing ideas, just write. Because the only way to truly overcome Writer’s Block is to start writing. You can do it!

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Upcoming Books: Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists

bettybites

I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER is going to be included in the upcoming anthology Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists (coming out October 2019). This anthology is put together by award-winning badass authors, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, and Kate Karyus Quinn.

Here’s a little teaser of what my story is about:

GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER by Azzurra Nox

Puberty comes with many changes, but after being bitten by a mysterious animal in the forest, Dilay finds out that some changes may just give her a certain edge she didn’t have before.

Until then, support me and the amazing authors that are going to be included in this awesome anthology by stopping by the Kickstarter Page for it (even if you can’t contribute monetarily, forward the link on your social media so we can spread the word!).

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Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood: A Chilling Prophecy

maid

The TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale has been an incredible success (so much so that they’ve already confirmed a Season Three), but before actually watching the series, I decided I wanted to read the novel. I’ve always been a huge fan of George Orwell’s 1984, a futuristic novel that should be seen as a cautionary tale of how the government can control every aspect of our lives, even history (as the protagonist Winston works in doing exactly that, rewriting history). Like Orwell, Atwood hopes that her novel can also be seen as a cautionary tale of how easy it is for women to lose their rights and actually be reduced to silenced slaves if we do nothing about keeping the rights we already have and obtaining new ones that we’re still fighting for today.

The book opens with Offred telling us about her life as a Handmaid. The new government in the Republic of Gilead has outlawed reading for women, they can no longer have bank accounts or jobs. In this new austre republic, women are divided into groups of Wives (who wear blue, much in resemblance to Mary from the Bible and are usually married to commanders), Handmaids (they are used as wombs for the barren wives and made to wear red), Marthas (dressed in green and symbolize those who do chores much like servants), Aunts (they dress in brown and are those who instruct future handmaids on their “occupation”), Jezebels (they’re allowed access to alcohol, drugs, makeup, and garish clothing cause they’re essentially prostitutes), Econowives (wives of those who are lower-rank and dress in stripes), and Daughters (dressed in white). Then there’s the non-women, these group of women are those that have defied authority or are too old to reproduce, hence are sent to the colonies to clean up toxic waste till they die.

In this novel, Atwood seems to want to shake women and tell them WAKE UP! THIS COULD BE YOUR FUTURE! And eerily enough, with more and more politicians and conservative women fighting to strip away rights from other women, Gilead could pretty much become a reality. Whenever one perpetuates rape culture or slut-shames, we’re allowing a future like that to manifest.

Serena Joy, in the novel, is the Commander’s wife in which Offred if the Handmaid to. In her former life, Serena Joy was a conservative religious TV personality. The irony is, that Serena Joy got exactly what she preached for, but at the same time, her rise to fame wouldn’t have occurred if she hadn’t been living in a democratic republic. But, once things began to spin out of control, it was too late for Serena to regret the change she herself had perpetrated.

One of the most chilling quotes from the novel is spoken by Aunt Lydia who tells her handmaids in training, “ This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will.” And that’s where the horror lies. The new society hopes that future girls won’t question their fate, because they won’t have a recollection of a time before, nor would they have access to books to know that such a time ever existed.

With this novel, Atwood wants women to wake up and see that as the Commander tells Offred, “Better never means better for everyone…It always means worse for some.” People like Paul Ryan are hoping that you tire of fighting so that they can have a better society that betters their lives but would ultimately make yours worse.

In the novel, we never know what became of Offred. But if there’s one thing we can take away from Atwood’s novel is this: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” (Don’t let the bastards grind you down). Fight on and fight hard.

By: Azzurra Nox

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Book Review: Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2 – Amelia Kibbie Q & A

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Amelia Kibbie’s latest short story “Idylls of the King,” is one of the twenty short stories featured in the new Running Wild Anthology by Running Wild Press. Her short story features two young boys who have to leave their London homes due to Nazi bombings during WWII with their school teachers and classmates for the safety of the countryside. Both boys, James and Arthur are ruthlessly bullied by their peers, the first for having effeminate mannerisms and fancying boys, whilst the second for his weight. But when the two boys meet an aging Baroness, their lives will never be the same again.

What inspired you to write this short story?

Actually, it was for a totally separate anthology called “Heart of Steel.” The anthology called for happy ending LGBT love stories that contained knights of some sort. I didn’t want to do the typical fantasy thing, so my story takes place in England in WWII. I wanted to show that no matter how old you are, or what time period you live in, you can have a heart of steel — the heart of a knight that values love, friendship, honor, and protects those in need.

Your short story explores the theme of bullying—how important is it to have a story where the bullied triumph over their bullies?
Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve been bullied. I think everyone dreams of some kind of a sweet moment where you can go back in time and stand up to your bully. But in the real world, this usually doesn’t happen. So part of writing this story was wish fulfillment for me. I wish that anyone bullied for their sexuality would be able to stand up and fight back or have someone to protect them.
I’m definitely not the first person to depict this, but maybe the first person to have a suit of medieval armor involved!
What actually happens in, Idylls of the King is that James and Arthur stop being the bystanders to each other’s bullying. James sticks up for Arthur and risks a beating, only to be saved by the air raid siren. When Arthur sees this, it empowers him to stick up for James in return. In real life, empowering the bystanders is the most effective way to combat bullying. All of those other kids in the class were just standing there and watching all those years, just thankful it wasn’t them being targeted. They should have been banding together to stand up to Morgan and his friends to improve life for everyone in the class. I work with young people, and the anti-bullying research finds that empowering the bystanders is the most effective way to improve a school climate.

Why did you choose WII England as your setting?
This is going to sound super cheesy, but I was actually inspired by the ultra-crappy sequel to The Woman in Black. I liked the first movie quite a bit, and the second one was on Netflix. I was homesick, so I decided to watch it. It wasn’t a great movie, but it had some really interesting ideas to it — like the manor house being cut off by the tide at certain parts of the day. That reminded me of one of my favorite travel destinations, Mont Saint Michel. The part that obviously made it into Idylls of the King was the story of the children evacuated for Operation Pied Piper and moving into a mansion together.
Do you have any other upcoming writing projects?
I’m currently crafting Idylls of the King into a novel that picks up ten years after James and Arthur find one another. They’re still together, living in London, and find themselves on a cross-country adventure to fulfill a man’s dying wish.

You write across genres, which one is your favourite?
I would have to say horror. I just re-read The Shining, and it brought back so many memories of being in high school and reading Stephen King. He and Anne Rice were my big inspirations back in the day, and horror will forever hold my heart. I love writing in other genres and just telling a good story with characters I care about, but when I write a horror piece, I really get into it.

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You can purchase this book HERE or check out Amelia’s short story in MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY HERE.

Follow Amelia either on Facebook or her website.

By: Azzurra Nox

Short Story: ANIMORTIS

a scary undead zombie girl

Germany, 1861

“Easy! Easy, I say!” Charlie commanded and cajoled the four Windsor Greys to an amble with a firm pull on the reins. The bridles clanged and rigging groaned as the team clambered over each other in confused panic. “Steady, boys.”

The open-top landau creaked and slowed, halting in the middle of the dark forest road. Dusk had slipped away to a heavy indigo of evening, the small oil lanterns on either side of the carriage offering little beyond their stunted diameters of golden light. Charlie squinted into the surrounding shadows, searching for the source of the team’s unease.

“Is there a problem, Charles?”
Charlie turned to the passenger behind him with a respectful tip of his top hat. “No, sir.”
“Then why have we stopped?” the Earl asked the tone in his German accent as weary as his blue eyes.
The bitter October breeze carried an unusual quiet through the trees. Charlie shivered.

“I’ll get them back on their way.” Eager to dismiss the anxiety growing in his gut, Charlie snapped a smart nod of his head and turned back to the Greys. Assured all was under control, Earl Baumgart angled his book back to the lamplight and returned to his reading.

Charlie’s leader horses pawed at the spongy earth, grousing and chewing at their bits. Behind them, the soft, pointed ears of the wheelers twitched, straining to hear beyond their clinking tack. Charlie gripped the thick leather reins, digging frigid fingers into his palms to fight off the numbing fatigue.
“Alright, boys.” He clicked his tongue. “Be on, now.”

Defiant, the horses tossed their heads and snorted, refusing to move.
“Stroll on,” he gave a good snap on the straps, his patience waning. A few hours travel still lay ahead before they reached the Earl’s brother in Coburg. Every moment standing here in the autumn cold was another moment of delay from a full belly and a warm bed.

“Oy!” Charlie slapped the reins now. “I said get!” He gritted his teeth, pulling the riding whip from the socket.

The sudden snap of a twig and crunch of dry leaves halted Charlie, whip held above his head. On their guard, the horses remained rigid, listening. Charlie stuffed the whip back into the socket, unlatched a lamp from its post and stood, peering as far into the darkness as he could manage. Only emaciated shadows of barren trees swayed in the wind.

“Charles,” the Earl whispered and thumped his book closed, “is someone lurking about?”

Charlie wrapped the reins in a loose knot around the whip socket and disembarked from the coach bench. With the lamp in hand and caution in his feet, he stepped to the front of the team.

“Perhaps it’s only a small animal, sir.” He hunched his shoulders against the night chill and exhaled, cold vapor billowing over his unshaven face. A long moment passed. Nothing stirred.

“What is it, Titan?” Charlie muttered, patting down the wheeler’s broad neck and shoulder, breathing in the familiar, earthy scent of cold, damp horse. Titan blew a heavy gust from his large nostrils and tossed his head away, annoyed and distracted. His wide eyes roved toward a dark corner in the forest ahead.
Then, on the soft breeze, came a deep, guttural sigh.

Again, velvet ears snapped forward, this time with unnerving precision. Charlie eased further into the darkness, certain his mind wasn’t playing tricks.
“Hallo?” the word scratched in his throat as he raised the lamp. Pierced with the pungent odor of kerosene, the night air smelled sharp and inauspicious. Charlie swallowed. Crisp, naked branches creaked in the wind. “I say, is anyone there?”

Charlie held his breath. Fear seeped its way down his taut back. His heart thrummed in his ears. The whooshing of his blood blurred his senses. The miserable chill settled deeper into his bones.

A ragged moan flowed down the path in answer, low, monotonous.
“Sh-show yourself!” Charlie demanded through numb lips. Shielding his sight from the glare of the lamp, he tromped a few feet ahead of his team. His eyes snagged upon a curious shadow wading through the shrubbery.

“You there!” Charlie’s voice broke in a most unflattering manner.
The figure inched forward. She was an odd girl. Seventeen, perhaps, but her footing was awkward and unsure like a babe’s first step. Her head hung low, the lower half of her face shrouded in the shadows. Her eyes were sunken; merely two, dark pools reflecting the lamplight. Jagged branches teased and pulled at her disheveled blonde braids as she neared. She was the frail silhouette of a beggar girl. His courage restored, Charlie lowered the lamp and planted an authoritative fist on his hip.

“Do you get a jolly out of spooking travelers and their horses?”
The girl did not answer.

“You should get a good wallop on the backside for a prank like this! And what, in God’s name, are you doing out here in the forest at this late hour? What kind of a father would allow his daughter to wander about unescorted? And have you a coat? You haven’t—.” Charlie trailed off at the observation, appalled. “You haven’t even a coat,” he muttered to himself, strangely and suddenly compassionate. “You poor creature.”

He took notice of her red dress, the thin fabric torn and muddy. She remained silent as she shuffled forward into the outer reaches of the lamplight. It cast faint upon her visage, revealing her pitiful state. Her face was soiled, a cut stretching across her forehead. She inhaled and exhaled with effort, the raspy sound suggesting fluid in her lungs. Charlie’s tone softened as he realized she was hurt.

“I say, are you alright, miss? You must be freezing in this cold.”
She sucked in a laborious breath and dragged another foot forward, emerging from the brush and onto the edge of the road. Her head twitched to the side, revealing a large tuft of hair that had been ripped out of her scalp. The horses groused again. Her wide, glossy eyes stared, emotionless yet transfixed. Charlie’s compassion melted back into unease.

A smell hit him.

It was illness, and yet, something grotesquely viler. He swallowed down a gag and reached for a handkerchief to cover his nose. She stank of death.
“Gott in Himmel!” Earl Baumgart exclaimed, opening his carriage door and kicking down the metal folding step. “Come! I have a warm blanket. We’ll give you a ride to town! Where is your family?”

“Sir?” Charlie tried to control the rising alarm in his voice as he stepped back toward the coach. “I think we should be on our way.”
“And leave this unfortunate soul to freeze to death out here alone?” Earl Baumgart continued down the carriage step, flabbergasted. “Have you gone mad, Charles?”
The young girl raised her head with a renewed strength and sniffed the air. Charlie’s heartbeat broke into a gallop. He dropped the handkerchief from his face. An eerie, tight breath gurgled past her blood-covered lips. Thin, delicate fingers curled into trembling, stiffened claws.
Charlie squelched the rising urge to turn and run for fear of startling the horses. Instead, he continued his slow retreat back to the landau, choking down a gasp of terror. A splash of bright red cascaded down the girl’s chin and throat. It was as though she had bit her tongue right out of her mouth. The Greys blew strong gusts of air from their flared nostrils, catching wind of the horrid stench. They shuffled their heavy hooves, jostling the carriage. Charlie felt for the lantern hook and slipped the lamp back on to its rung.
“Sir,” Charlie urged, anchoring a foot onto the coachman’s step. “She appears to be,” he faltered, not knowing how best to describe her condition, “ill.”
Baumgart paused, a peculiar expression creeping across his face.
Charlie glanced back once more. Rivulets of blood stained the girl’s bruise-dappled arms. A shred of white ribbon hung tangled in the end of a loosened braid. Rouge smudged her cheek. The glint of a golden locket flashed bright around her neck. Charlie noticed her tattered, red dress once more.
He felt his breath catch in his chest.
Halfway down the skirt, it shone of fine white silk. The top was completely dyed red with blood. This was not a common beggar girl. She did not seem to be in pain. She did not seem to be coherent at all.
“We’ll…send someone back for you,” Earl Baumgart managed in a whisper, back-peddling to the landau.
The girl turned her head toward the sound. Her jaw went slack, arms reaching out as if to embrace him. Blood bubbled into froth around her mouth.
Charlie looked back and the two men nodded in unspoken, wide-eyed agreement. They scurried aboard, Charlie nearly missing a step and Earl Baumgart clapping the superfluous carriage door closed with a loud clack of the latch. Snatching up the reins and snapping a hard crack against the team’s backsides, Charlie cried out a desperate plea, “Run on!”

To be continued. Look for part two, next Thursday!

By: Erica Ruhe

 

My American Nightmare – Giveaway & Book Launch!

My American Nightmare 2

October had me uber busy between Halloween events (I was at a new event every weekend cause I LOVE Halloween) and launching my horror anthology MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY.

This anthology is a bit of a passion project where I selected short stories from a vast amount of entries to bring readers the very best of horror (and all the nuances of the genre) and incredible new voices that I wish to showcase.

For two weeks now the book has been featured on Amazon’s bestselling list in short stories, and I couldn’t be more proud of these ladies that helped my dream of compiling an anthology come true!

So support women writers by purchasing a copy of the book: HERE (or if you have Amazon Kindle Unlimited you can read the book for FREE!).

ALSO: Don’t forget to enter the giveaway I have for my book launch HERE (where you have a chance to win a $15 Amazon Giftcard & amazing book themed swag!)

P.S. For a limited time my book DOLL PARTS: Tales of Twisted Love is being offered FREE HERE!

By: Azzurra Nox

A GIRL AGHAST IN AUGUST

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Writer’s know all about comfort zones…we live to destroy them. We chop up our protagonists’ lives and scatter their pitiful feelings to the wind just to sweep up the pieces and solder them back together into hell-fired heroes and heroines. It’s a very messy, emotional process, and yet, it has a simple equation:

Character – Something Valuable = Fear

Fear = Conflict

Conflict = A Helluva Good Story

In today’s ego-based economy, where what we possess determines our worth on the class scale, people break into a cold sweat at the possibility that ‘Something Valuable’ might be taken away from them and diminish their social status. Especially, if that ‘Something’ is fleeting and intangible, like their comfort zones. Americans have seen a lot of change over the past sixty years. The abolition of racial segregation; equal rights for women and minorities; the legalization of same-sex marriage. All of these movements have brought about great strides to empower the oppressed. It’s hard to imagine that some view these victories as defeats. After all, when power is given to one person, it must have been taken from someone else, right?

Imagine Bobo has two bananas and Lulu has one. Bobo has the most banana power. So when Kiki comes in, holds up the newly passed Equal Rights Amendment and gives Lulu a banana raise, there’s much rejoicing. Now we’re all equal! However, despite losing nothing, Bobo feels less powerful, even threatened, because Lulu has ‘moved up to his level.’ His financial situation now improved, Lulu has inadvertently affected Bobo’s comfort zone. This might cause Bobo distress, even anger him. Lulu now becomes the unwitting target of Bobo’s misguided fear, leading to a display chest-pounding and poo-throwing. Great friction for fiction. Bad for Human Resources.

So what is this ‘Something Valuable’ that has the country at odds right now? For a self-riotous few, it is as narrow-sighted as their outdated beliefs and comfort zones of intolerance. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend are a painfully accurate example. Ultra-conservatives are exhibiting the same messy, emotional symptoms of a character in conflict:

Entitled Americans (Alt-Right) – Freedoms & Rights (Power) = Displaced Fear (Discrimination)

So how do we tame the volatile stray that’s barking inside these terrified Alt-Right ideologists? How do we get them to understand the unshakable truth that nothing is being taken away from them? Their precious freedoms are as intact as they’ve ever been. The only difference is, back in the ‘good old days’ they could unethically enthrone themselves on top of the social hierarchy without raising eyebrows. It’s 2017. Now people are raising their eyebrows, their voices and their protest signs and ultra-conservatives don’t know how to handle the pushback.

The Alt-Right’s refusal to acknowledge these changes is what’s led to their own paranoid schizophrenia. Building a pillow fort with Confederate flags in their living room while chanting ‘blood and soil’ does not change the fact that the South lost the Civil War. No doubt we still have a long road ahead, but most Americans have come far enough to declare that people are not property or punching-bags or ladder rungs. The Alt-Right have padded their egos using this superiority complex to punch and fluff the minority ‘cushions’ under their derrieres. But now they are the ones under the sharp focus of (gasp) discrimination. Discrimination against inequality and violent rhetoric.

This bad behavior is being strung up as an intolerable example on social media. And the Alt-Right is feeling the acute discomfort of that mass public rejection. Evolution hard-wired humans to ‘think like the flock’. If you didn’t, you died. That’s led to rationalizations like, ‘slavery is acceptable’; ‘sexism is scientifically proven’; ‘desecration of your neighbor’s faith is honorable.’ This brain-washing machine was, unfortunately, left on the spin cycle for most of humankind’s development. And, it seems, our current POTUS’ development as well. But that’s a rant for another day.

Although intolerance is still gnashing its teeth, the ugly beast is slowly backing itself into a dead end alley. People are talking. People are coming together – just sometimes with too much force. In dealing with every aspect of this divide, the lives sacrificed are unnecessary. It is a loss felt deeper because of the senseless violence. But I hope the country will remain optimistic. The fiery conflicts we see on our television screens at night are proof that we’re squeezing in on the Alt-Right’s comfort zone.

There will be more heated exchanges, more blood, more tears, and this is why the pending years of America’s next big ‘growth spurt’ are going to take all the patience and compassion we can muster. We must continue to lead by example and breathe through those dark, infuriating moments to come; to look to the core of the problem before we become a part of it too. Because the biggest challenge is not the danger of taming a cornered, belligerent mongrel – it’s convincing the damn thing to turn around and see that there were never any walls to begin with.

By: Erica Ruhe

Photo Credit: https://jerkmag.wordpress.com/