Shriekfest 2021 – Getting a little freaky, getting a little spooky, getting a little SHRIEKY

Photo by: David Hanger

Shriekfest is a Horror Film Festival that is a goldmine of both upcoming and veteran horror talents. Denise Gossett, the founder and organizer of the festival has helped many debut directors and screenwriters find an audience at Shriekfest, which is very much appreciated. There’s suddenly been a resurgence in the horror genre, but Gossett has been an advocate for horror for the past twenty-one years, which is to say that she has seen a lot of horror films to know exactly which ones are worth showcasing and which ones need better tweaking.

I was very excited to receive Press Passes for this event because as a huge horror enthusiast, watching horror films for thirteen hours straight is basically heaven. Not to mention that I really love the chill vibe that the festival has and how appreciative everyone is for being there to view their films and support them. Plus, I really have a soft spot for the Charlie Chaplin theatre at the Raleigh Studios. I’d give anything to watch ALL my movies there. Seriously, folks, if you haven’t seen a film there, you’re missing out.

That being said, I was so happy that this year the event wasn’t canceled as the previous year (pandemic and all – ya know the drill) because the films I got to see this year were incredibly good. The previous years, the shorts tended to be more on the campy side of horror (which I don’t mind cause who doesn’t love the OG Evil Dead am I right?), but I do love it when horror can also be on the uber dark and creepy side, so I was all for that.

I ended up watching 31 shorts and 2 features and I know many of the directors and screenwriters I spoke to asked me how I was going to remember all of them and I told them that I was taking notes of the film titles and what they were about, but that mostly after one day of viewing if I could easily recall my favourites then that means that those were the ones that really stood out to me and were worthy of my mention. Although, I have to admit that there were probably only one or two films I wasn’t too crazy about, for the most part, the shorts were extremely well produced, edited, written, and acted.

One of my favourite shorts was from the Spanish director Alvaro Vicario called Polter. The film was about a guy trying to get rid of poltergeist in his home. The film didn’t take itself too seriously, and the fact that it was fun and campy is what really honed in the ending for me. I really suggest you guys check it out if you can because it’s very well worth the ten minutes it takes to view it. Polter was followed by another very well acted and written short called, A Strange Calm. This short was very dark and sad as it followed two friends, Rosie and Mills who encounter a strange man while they’re out playing in rural California in the 70’s and end up getting abducted. The short was full of tension and dread and overall it was excellent. Now, the shorts seemed to get progressively darker as A Strange Calm was soon followed by Killing Small Animals which was a very disturbing short where the protagonist kills various animals throughout the movie, slowly graduating to bigger ones until the very end where she’s seen abducting a little girl. I wouldn’t say that the short was bad, but I wasn’t that keen on the storyline and wasn’t a fan of seeing various animals getting killed (guess it’s just not my kind of horror).

Meanwhile, The Rule of Three expertly explored how a young woman suffering from severe OCD has to try to overcome her demons while trying to survive a home invasion. The short was filled with dread and suspense and tied everything up in a way that wasn’t cheesy. Wide Awake in Bridgewater may have easily been my favourite short. It was mysterious and held an element of sci-fi that I really liked. An elderly man receives a phonecall from his teenage girlfriend and he tries to figure out what happened to her fifty years ago when she disappeared. It was easily the best written, acted, and edited short and had a satisfying ending. Seek was a fun, thrilling short about two sisters who stop at a rundown restroom only to find out that a strange entity haunts that area.

Love Bite was a refreshing and hilarious take on the zombie trope. A bickering couple soon find out to what lengths one of them will go to just to be proven right, despite the dire consequences that it will bring. It was easily very funny because it was also very relatable. I think any couple whose been together for awhile could easily see themselves in the couple. Being a huge fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street Nancy played by the incredibly awesome Heather Langenkamp, it was a pleasant surprise to see her star in the short Cottonmouth. The short easily flourished cause of Langenkamp’s star power, but it was also engaging as the viewers can’t help but wanting to know who or what is continuously drinking from a glass of water that the protagonist keeps next to her bed stand. Selfie was another short that I enjoyed, where a girl’s photoshopped self somehow manages to come alive and become the monster that she is.

The Otherside dealt with the very real horror of child trafficking and how the mother’s of the victims tend to be haunted by their grief and in this case, one mother in particular not only haunts but seeks revenge to those that do the same to other kids. And last but not least the shorts cycle ended on a high note with Half-Cocked where two doctors find a way to bring a man to life and make him immortal only to find out that that man isn’t appreciative since he had committed suicide. The film was definitely on the campy side of horror but it was a very funny and thrilling ride.

The two features I was able to view were Ten Minutes to Midnight and Redwood Massacre: Annihilation. Ten Minutes to Midnight was a campy fun vampire film about a radio show host (played by the ever charismatic and alluring Caroline Williams) who slowly manifests the signs of vampirism after she’s bitten by a rabid bat. Apart from being a fun film, the movie also focused on an important message, especially for women, how we’re often easily discarded after we’ve passed a certain age. That’s why I love horror, because it’s a genre that dares to tackle difficult topics that other genres simply gloss over.

The last film I viewed was Redwood Massacre: Annihilation that starred horror veteran Danielle Harris (which you may recognize her from the Halloween franchise). I was really excited to check this film out as I have an affinity for killers who choose to use a burlap sack as a mask. All in all, I did enjoy the film, although once we started to surpass the sixty minute mark and no one had died I started to fret when the massacre was going to happen (no need to worry, the promised bloodbath does occur and doesn’t disappoint).

Thirteen hours of film watching was an intense feat but can you truly call yourself a horror fan if you can’t do that? Am I right?

Stay spooky my friends.


Book Review & Author Interview: Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca

Sadomasochism. Obsession. Death.

Order on Amazon!

Release Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher: Wierdpunk Books

Price: $11.37 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s—a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.

What have you done today to deserve your eyes?

Grade: A-


This dark tale begins with Agnes looking to sell an antique apple peeler and Zoe contacting her to buy said peeler. I know, I found the way the two protagonists virtually met strange for a horror novella, but it was very intriguing how their bond slowly grows. As the days go by the two women forge a tight relationship which slowly descends to sadomasochism and careens to absolute horrific madness.

The writing is very engaging and very vivid, creating a visceral rollercoaster that will leave you wondering WTF did you experience. It’s told in epistolary format of email exchanges and IM’s, making the reader feel that extra layer of voyeurism that ramps up the creepiness factor. I recommend reading this book in one sitting – it’s much more impactful that way as the tension and dread increases with each passing page.

The ending is a masterclass of true horror and one that readers won’t easily forget. Read this novella for a violent, wild ride full of debauchery and horror.

*Thank you so much to the author for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


What inspired you to write the novella in the format that you did?

I’ve always been fascinated by books with unconventional formatting. I admire any opportunity to tell a story in a way that might be unique for the reader. The reason I chose this particular format for the novella was because I wanted the reader to feel voyeuristic in their reading, as if they were reading something they knew they shouldn’t be reading. That’s profoundly unsettling to me as a highly desensitized lover of horror. I shudder when I think of accidentally stumbling upon something that wasn’t meant for me to see—something horrible, something truly disturbing. I’ve been dabbling in unconventional formatting for many years now and this novella seemed like a natural progression for me and my work.

The novella establishes that the two protagonists are women – but the internet being the internet I was suspicious whether one of them or both were being truthful about their identities and their genders since it was commonplace in the 2000s to find men trying to pass off as women in lesbian chatrooms. The fact that the two protagonists never see each other through webcam nor exchange photos kind of makes you wonder if one of them is being catfished. Was it a conscious decision to create that suspicion in the reader?

That’s a fascinating reaction to the work. I actually had never considered that before and I’m quite disappointed in myself for not thinking of it first. I approached this concept quite literally when I first wrote it. In my head, they were always two women interacting with one another across the infinite gulf of the internet. As I was working on this piece, I definitely wanted there to be a sense of suspicion—a sense of distrust in the reader when considering the two main characters. Who can you trust? Who is telling the truth? Which one of them is the real monster? Of course, Zoe is less than savory for asking Agnes to perform such horrible acts. However, is Agnes a monster as well for being so agreeable?

What are your current fave horror books that you recommend?

Oh, so many to list. I’ll try to be brief. Lately I’ve been recommending Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk quite a bit to fellow readers. I’ve read that book several times and it always unsettles me. I also heartily recommend Gwendolyn Kiste’s phenomenal The Rust Maidensif you’re looking for truly poignant body horror. Lastly, I usually recommend I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid. Such an inspiring tale of existential dread.

Do you have any other projects that you’re currently working on and are going to be released soon?

I’m currently at work on a bunch of different writing projects. Most of them involve contracts, so unfortunately I’m unable to share full details until the publisher makes the official announcement on social media. I’m so happy to report that I’ll have work being consistently published over the course of the next few years and I certainly hope my readers stick with me as I continue to release new material.

Honestly, this is too good not to ask but what have you done today to deserve your eyes?

Nice try, Zoe . . . Just kidding. But seriously. Kindness. The answer is always kindness. Whether it’s showing kindness to another living thing or receiving kindness gracefully, that should be our priority as human beings every day we’re on this planet.


The National Debt Is Higher Than You Think


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.


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.


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.


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.


By: Erica Ruhe


Twenty-Six Things About Azzurra Nox



A- Age: Young enough to be reckless, old enough to be wise.
B- Biggest fear: Being powerless to defend myself or someone I love from being physically hurt by someone else.
C- Current time: 1:06 am
D- Drink you last had: Coke Energy Drink (it’s my new crack)
E- Every day starts with: My alarm going off at 5:30am where I reluctantly try to wake up and do my morning stretches, while my pups peek from under the covers with that, Sucks to be you smugness on their faces.
F- Favorite song: Psh, obviously Pierrot the Clown
G- Ghosts, are they real?: Fuck yeah, they are. Sometimes they’re supernatural, and sometimes they just live in your head.
H- Hometown: Catania, Sicily (Italy)
I- In love with: My fiance.
J- Jealous of: Lucy Hale’s hair & brows, cause c’mon she’s slaying.
K- Killed someone?: If I did, you’d never know…..
L- Last time you cried?: Reading an old love letter.
M- Middle name: Azzurra (haha that’s the twist)
N- Number of siblings: 0 – Only child which makes me both responsible but a somewhat spoiled brat.
O- One wish: No more violence.
P- Person you last called: My mum.
Q- Question you’re always asked: Do you prefer Italy or America? (for someone who is both half Italian & half American there is no true answer, there are pros & cons to both countries)
R- Reason to smile: Sunny days, chocolate, pups, friends, ice cream, unexpected gifts, family, my love, and walks in the rain.
S- Song last sang: Cosmic Dancer 
T- Time you woke up: 5:30am (kill me)
U- Underwear color: Crimson silk
V- Vacation destination: Take me to a beach or London
W- Worst habit: Drinking tea too hot or biting into right out of the oven pizzas (the roof of my mouth is probably mostly scar tissue now)
Y- Your favorite food: Pasta alla Norma and sushi!
X- X-Rays you’ve had: Always for my teeth (I’m obsessed with impeccable oral hygiene & healthy teeth)
Z- Zodiac sign: Capricorn (so it’s in my nature to be bossy cause I’m a born leader)

Tell me something about you!

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Excerpts From: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology


It’s officially Women in Horror Month and in less than two weeks, this anthology will be released (February 18!). You can pre-order the book in both ebook and paperback formats! If you’re from the Los Angeles area, then you can find signed copies of the book over at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave.!).

Excerpt from Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

I wake up unable to move, pinned to my bed by an invisible force. I struggle against it but can’t even wiggle my little finger. Each beat of my pulse pounds through my veins. My eyes are wide open. I try to blink, but even my eyelids are frozen, immovable. With my head locked in place, I can only stare straight up at the ceiling. What’s holding me down? Why can’t I move?

The air is too thin. I can hardly breathe. Every muscle in my body tenses as I twist and strain, but it’s no use.

My vision is hazy as if my face is covered by a gauze veil. Blurred figures are visible in my peripheral. They wear light blue tops, surgical masks, hospital caps, and latex gloves. There are seven in all, three on each side of the bed and one at the foot. I want to open my mouth, to scream for help, but I can’t.

That figure at the foot of the bed speaks, his voice the low baritone of a man.
I strain to hear. Something about administering medication. The person closest to my head on the left responds, “Yes, doctor.” A woman. She has something in her hand. I focus on the object, try to see through the veil.

A syringe.

My breath catches in my throat. No. Leave me alone. Let me go!

Pain pricks the inside of my elbow, and a slow burn spreads through my veins, building into a raging inferno. Tremors shake my body, and a scream swells in my throat. Unable to open my mouth, the shriek stays locked inside, silently ripping through my brain.

Excerpt from Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

But that noise, that thing on her wall was neither plain nor right. The thunder was spreading to her chest, walloping her ribcage with each loud boom. She got up achingly, her body accustomed to anything but her bed. She crouched when she got closer to the wall, her knees popping protest, but she knew she needed to be as quiet as possible.

She moved in closer to the ring of light and that terrible sound like a stalking cat ready to spring; her body taut and still, her eyes closed to slits. The thing started to flit in and out of the light, but Leda’s usually dulled senses were sharpening just by the sight of her prey. She could see it almost too clearly.

It was there staining her pristine wall with its filth covered feet, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing through the quiet of her mind.

A fly.
Musca domestica.

Six hair-covered legs, antennae, a small head with two compound eyes, prothorax, mesothorax, a large abdomen, and two transparent wings.

Its front two feet were probing the pure white of Leda’s wall, searching for sustenance only to buzz out its frustrations over the empty surface. Her frustration was built on its existence in her, once sacred, space. Her only solitude after her body had been hollowed out, wiped clean from the toxins and waste that fly thrived on.

She felt the storm rage throughout her and let it out with a low moan, her vocal cords cracking to attention after months of disuse. She groaned softly at first, her knees starting to shake slightly. She took another step towards the fly and her voice came out louder, her legs ready to give out on her in any second.

The fly buzzed louder, startled by the other presence in the room. Its movements became a little more frantic as it bounced to different parts of the lit wall. Leda tried to follow, but she was so focused on that one spot, she couldn’t imagine it going anywhere else. But it decided to move and ruin more and more of her wall.

She started to cry, small tears hot and salty falling down her tingling face. Her nerve endings were all firing at once and she suddenly felt like she was dancing on a thousand pins and needles. Each step was another sharp stab to her that almost broke the skin but didn’t. Her legs finally gave out on her and she fell keening to the carpet.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

A dreadful chill ran down his spine. It was like having a million spiders crawling down his back. He shivered. The last thing he wanted to do was lose his soul mate.
“So what exactly am I supposed to do with this box?”
“Keep it locked and away from Olivia.”
“Why haven’t you just buried it then?”
The look she gave Cillian was that of disbelief, almost as though he had suggested torching the damn box.
“You must never do such a thing!”
“Why not?”
“Because this is part of her, and you can’t bury it like it’s a box of bones you’re trying to get rid of!”
“What would happen?”
“There could be fatal consequences.” With that, she got up and handed the box to Cillian. “Be careful, and remember….never let her see the contents of this box! Keep it locked.” And with those parting words, Lydia left as swiftly as she had entered.


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Love or Hype? Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album


Last year, I ran the segment Throwback Thursday where I rediscovered things that I appreciated in my youth and see if it passed the test of time when I reemerged myself in it. This year, I’ve decided to run a new segment, Love or Hype?, where for the first time I check out something that was immensely popular but I never took the time to check it out.

For my first Love or Hype? of the year, I’ve decided to take a listen to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Sure, I’ve heard a song or two from the album in passing (you’ve had to live under a rock to NEVER have heard a Michael Jackson song because he was simply that globally famous), but I’ve never listened to the album in its entirety. Up until now, Thriller is undoubtedly the most bestselling album of all time with 66-million copies sold worldwide. So obviously, it can’t possibly be a terrible album, right?

Let me preface that I’m not a fan of eunuch type male voices (which is the sort of voice that Michael Jackson had), but with the catchy tunes found within this album, there’s a reason why he was coined The King of Pop.

With hits like, Thriller, Baby Be Mine, The Girl is Mine, Billie Jean, and Beat It even the most reluctant dance can’t help but feel themselves itching to move their feet. And even after all this time, the album still proves to be fresh. I know that Michael Jackson’s legacy throughout the years has faltered (either by being too eccentric and weird to being accused of child molestation), listening to this album without thinking about those things makes you appreciate the man as a musician.

And after all these years, I can admit that I can see what the hype was all about. Even if his voice isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, 66-million people weren’t wrong in consecrating this album as the most sold album of all time.

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5 Unique Gifts that Writers Will LOVE to Receive


Buying gifts can sometimes become a stressful chore, especially when you’re struggling what to give to someone that is close to you. But if you’ve got a writer in your life, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered pals and gals. Below are some seriously awesome gifts that anyone who enjoys writing will be thrilled to receive.


Across The Page

What You’ll Get: Across The Page is a unique subscription box for writers looking to learn and find inspiration from cross-genre writers, specifically screenwriters and playwrights. Each month’s box is curated around a new story and includes a copy of the script, screenplay, book, and movie or stage play. Past boxes have included stories like The Martian, The Handmaid’s Tale, and A Few Good Men.


This box is curated by authors, for authors so of course, I had to include this! Each box comes with one writing theme, one fiction novel, author tips, writing themed gifts, plus the chance to speak to a publishing professional!



Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story–from the opening image to the finale–this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate–and a novel that will sell.


On Writing by Stephen King

The master of horror shares his love for the writing craft and tips on how to do better. The book reads easily, not in a preachy way. It’s in a conversational tone and shows how much King went through to get to where he is. Nobody gets to the top without having a learned a trick or two on the way.


As a writer, you always need to save your work and what better way than to keep your precious manuscripts saved than to use the handy USB drives. Every writer needs a couple of them.



Don’t always have a desk with you? No worries! Bring the desk with you! Any space can easily become your writing nook with this awesome portable desk.


When you’re on the go, sometimes writing can be difficult. That’s why any writer will appreciate it if you gift them a notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or big. Writers are equal opportunity when it comes to notebooks and journals, we’re not that picky when we just need any scrap of paper to write down our ideas!

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Travel Post – New York (Part 2)

A Souvenir from the Robert McKee Genre Fest

A souvenir from the Robert McKee Genre Fest 

The first day in McKee’s genre fest was dedicated to horror. Ask me five years ago if I’d be writing my own tales about the darker side of life and I would have told you you’re mad. Nowadays I see the beauty in plumbing the dank, dreary depths of the human condition. Fear is a powerful force. It tears off the mask we wear for social acceptance and sinks its claws right into our subconscious. Horror is the one genre that has the potential to reveal our true selves: the good, the bad and the repulsive. It’s also a powerful medium for society’s response to polarizing topics like war, political corruption, and racism. Take the film Get Out for instance. Try to reframe that story as a simple family drama and see if it makes the same impact. Mr. McKee’s presentation had a lineup of film clips that demonstrated superb examples of spooky cinematography tricks, scare tactics and underlying themes in horror: eternal damnation, the monster within, and not so surprisingly, sex.

Since sex is such an anxiety-inducing topic for many Americans, it makes sense that this would be a core element in most U.S. horror films. And it was soon after Mr. McKee made this point that I observed a relevant example of this from the audience around me; a distinct difference in how horror affects us depending on our gender. Now I must take a small detour down a dark and thorny path. The especially squeamish may want to skip the next paragraph.

Out of all the horrific imagery of bizarre gore and gratuitous violence seen that day, do you know what elicited an audible groan from the men in the audience? The scene that made them most uncomfortable? A small, infamous snippet from the 1978 film, I Spit On Your Grave. Without getting too graphic, it involves a woman murdering a man out of revenge by cutting off his “ahem” and locking him in the bathroom to bleed out in a bathtub. Absolutely vile and cringe-worthy? Of course. But speaking from a female-identifying perspective, where the sexual violation and abuse of women is sadly a historical norm, this kind of sexual violence against a human body seems almost run-of-the-mill.

The fact that it happened to a man, however, is not.

It was a jarring example of how removed from empathy a majority of men are when considering the trauma many women live through every day. I don’t necessarily fault men for this, but consider how many countless films depict the sexual violation of women. How often do you see men squirming in their seats or averting their eyes at such a scene? It’s a dark, twisted perpetuation of human behavior that the patriarchal society shrugs at because, well, that’s just how it’s always been. The terrible truth is that most women will suffer some form(s) of physical abuse in their life because of their sex, especially in minority and trans communities. I’m in no way devaluing the experiences of male-identifying individuals who have suffered similar abuse. I only aim to point out an observation that a strong majority of the male population don’t seem quite as affected by the representation of violence against a person’s sex…until it’s their own. As gender fluidity increases in society, it is my hope that we’ll empathize beyond our own corporal boundaries and realize that harm to any“body” is intolerable.

I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

Autumn in New York.jpg

Autumn in New York

The following seminars were just as eye-opening. Every day Mr. McKee broke down a film scene by scene, pointing out all the key genre elements that made it a successful story. I hadn’t seen Bridges of Madison County before this seminar and let me tell you, I cried like I had just seen a parade of dead puppies. It was very embarrassing to be sobbing and sopping snot from my nose in front of fellow colleagues. Good stories are supposed to move us, whether it’s wetting our seat in fear or doubling over in a fit of silent laughter…you know the kind where your face is frozen in an ugly-cry expression, your nostrils flare and you can’t breathe. A good story gives us a memorable experience and binds us together because of it.

For any budding writers out there, I can say whole-heartedly that Mr. McKee’s seminars are worth every penny. (No, I’m not being paid to write this.) I’ve dedicated most of my free time outside of writing to study great works in film, television, and literature and I like to think I have a pretty solid foundation of what makes a good story tick. I even expose myself to some pretty terrible material to understand why it’s so bad. But Mr. McKee’s complete and thorough understanding of successful story structure made me realize I still had more to learn. And I was most impressed by his genuine love of sharing this knowledge. He engaged us in thought-provoking debates and on every break throughout the day he made himself available for one-on-one questions, conversation and book signings. Nothing about his presentation felt mechanical. I can only imagine how many times he’s given these same lectures and been asked the same questions, yet he approached each day’s lecture with the enthusiasm of a passionate, seasoned professor. I left these seminars invigorated and inspired, eager to bring new energy and a critical eye to my works in progress.

Veteran's Day Parade Preparations.jpg

Veteran’s Day Parade preparations 

On the final morning of my stay, the city was buzzing with more activity than usual. It was Monday, November 11th and the streets around Madison Square Park were clogged with motorcyclists, floats and hundreds of uniformed men and women for the annual Veteran’s Day parade. I found myself surrounded by military faces easily 15+ years younger than me. Kids, really; each one with an air of discipline beyond their years. I had to leave before the parade kicked off but the celebration of honor and gratitude for all these service members lifted my spirits for the trip back home. I’m glad I gave myself permission to enjoy this little sidetrack. Sometimes being a responsible adult means making time for that little kid inside you that tugs your sleeve, points to your heart’s desires and says, “Let’s do that!”

Veteran's Day Parade.jpg

Veteran’s Day Parade

By: Erica Ruhe


6 Things I’m Thankful For

First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope that you’re all having a wonderful Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating, but while we stuff our faces with all the ham, sweet potatoes, and pies, I just wanted to take the time to give things to the things I have in my life.


This is something that we all take a little bit for granted when we’ve got good health. It’s only when you have bad health is when you’re thinking about what you took for granted. I’m lucky to be healthy with functioning limbs. So I want to give thanks for having good health.


Family can sometimes drive you crazy, but I do love my family very much. I also love my friends very much too. Many of them I’ve been friends with since my teens. But I’ve been lucky also with the new friends I’ve encountered in my adult life. One thing I know for certain is that I can always rely on my family and friends for support and that makes getting through life a little easier.


Halloween 2015, we had only been dating for 3 months.


I’m kind of private when it comes to my personal life (or at least sharing it online). But I feel blessed that a few years ago I finally met my soulmate (we’re currently engaged!). I spent my early twenties dealing with terrible relationships that I kind of associated love with pain. But it doesn’t have to be that way! True love will uplift you and not hurt you. True love allows the best part of you to shine, and I feel that I’m truly my best now with my fiance.


Life would be quite dull for me without my passion for writing. I am thankful for my passion because it gives me a purpose and it also fills me with happiness.


One of my pups, Nico


Even on a bad day, I love my pups who are always excited to see me. They instantly lift my spirits and are always so silly that they make me laugh even on the worst of days. I am thankful that they came into my life (I didn’t go to a rescue to find them, I literally found them on the streets).


My book Bleed Like Me at The Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, California


If you’re reading my books or you read my blog, THANK YOU. I appreciate my readers and am thankful that out of all the authors and bloggers out there you chose to read my work. An artist can’t exist in a vacuum without an audience and I am very appreciative of mine.

What are a few things that you are thankful for?

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Travel Post – New York City (Part 1)

Bow Bridge, Central Park

Bow Bridge Central Park 

A few months ago I found out Robert McKee would be in New York City in November to host a week of his famous story seminars. It would kick off on Monday with the marketing workshop “Storynomics” and the genre days would follow: horror, action, romance and comedy. The genre fest immediately snared my full interest. I’ve been trying to do the whole “responsible adult thing”, keeping my expenditures in a moderate budget, holding myself back from another travel adventure. But as soon as I saw this opportunity, my miserly conscious ripped open the purse strings and said, “This is a business trip and an investment in your writing career!” Who was I to argue with that totally legitimate and tantalizing rationalization? I booked my travel, giving myself a day and a half of city exploration, and the rest of the time I would dutifully plant myself in a theater seat for the seminars.

Central Park Rowboats

Central Park

There is something quite magical about New York in the fall. And it’s not just a sentiment drummed up from the multitude of romantic films set in the city. The trees are aflame in gold leaves; window displays and building exteriors emit the first twinkle of holiday lights; and the cooler weather tamps down the odors of mysterious biological evacuations that stripe and splotch the pavement. Ah yes, New York City. It’s kinda like a toddler: a noisy, smelly, temperamental stain-factory that still manages to capture your heart. I had three things I wanted to check off my must-do list: stroll the High Line, wander aimlessly through Central Park and make a pilgrimage to pay homage to The Stonewall Inn.

The Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn

I’d visited NYC last summer on the heels of PRIDE week and one of the most memorable sights I’d ever seen was the night sky lit up by the rainbow glow of the Empire State Building. It seriously brought tears to my eyes. The tragedies and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community occupy a big, special place in my heart and I have a great appreciation for their culture and bigger-than-life approach to love. I’d arrived at The Stonewall Inn during off-hours but enjoyed a few moments of quiet contemplation at the site. I spent part of the afternoon walking the streets of the neighborhood reflecting on the history made there; the heroes that were unwittingly born from the riots in ’69; the change that would unfold over the years; the representation of PRIDE in the world today. I would’ve loved to have attended a drag show while I was there but I normally work overnights and resetting my schedule back to daylight hours completely body-slammed me face first in my hotel pillow by sundown. Next time…

The High Line

The High Line

The High Line is truly a gem in the city and another shining example of a popular amenity that wouldn’t be around without the history and efforts of the gay community. Partially opened in 2009, it’s an abandoned elevated train line turned linear pedestrian park full of green spaces, art installations and unique, cinematic shots of west side Manhattan. Instead of its original destiny of demolition, Friends of the High Line and the surrounding neighborhoods rallied for its preservation and thus, the infrastructure was repurposed as a popular new park spanning nearly one and half miles from the Meatpacking District, through Chelsea, up to 34th Street. At the end of this lovely trek was one of those ubiquitous food stands and the smell of fresh French fries. It was like crossing a rainbow bridge to the fried pot of gold at the end.

The High Line - Window Overlook at 10th Ave. & 17th St.

The geniality I encounter in this city always amazes me. Living in Florida for almost twenty years has given me an unfair impression of New Yorkers. Here, I have only been witness to a rather rude and discontented variety which led me to believe all New Yorkers were like this. Yet in my explorations of the city streets, whenever someone needed assistance (myself included) there was always an eager expression on a nearby face and a helpful prompt.

At the Bus Depot: “Whatcha looking for, sweetie?”

On a street corner: “Need some help, buddy?”

At a construction site: “Careful, guys! Watch your arms, hands, legs, feets and bunions!”

The High Line - Vessel (TKA),  Staired Structure.jpg

Even getting an order of fries from the guy at the food stand was like chatting with a long lost friend of the family whose sole focus in that moment was genuinely enjoying his conversation with you while making sure you get the best damn fries in all of New York.

“This sauce is special. It’s my own recipe, from my grandmother; a secret marinade with garlic, some sherry and a little bit of mint. Promise you, these are the best fries in New York.”

And yes, they were the best damn fries I’d had in all of New York.

Central Park was just as fantastic as I imagined it would be. Get a few paces in to that walkway through the trees and the sounds of the city just disappear. The sky was clear, the temperature was mild. Herds of families enjoyed an afternoon stroll, musicians played to tourists for tips, friends laughed in rowboats on the lake. I could have spent hours on a bench people-watching but the daylight was short and my stomach demanded more sustenance.

Bethesda Terrace, Central Park (1)

I settled in for dinner at a newfound favorite: P.S. Kitchen. I’d had the privilege to enjoy a few of its vegan delicacies last year and knew I had to come back on this trip. The food is phenomenal and the service is excellent. The ambiance is like dining in one of those cozy Pinterest-meets-Etsy photos full of cream and eggshell tones, warm lighting and weathered, exposed brick walls. It’s the perfect oasis to escape the fall cold and city buzz.

The Holiday Season Approaches

The Holiday Season 

Vegan Caesar salads and French fries are my crude measuring stick of a culinary experience when I explore a new U.S. destination. Not very exquisite, I know, but it brings my little plant-based heart joy. So far only one rivals the vegan Caesar served at Darbster’s in Lake Worth, Florida and that’s P.S. Kitchen’s. As I was enjoying it I was actually struck with a moment of horror, thinking, “Okay, this is way too rich to be vegan. Did I order the wrong salad?!” But no, it was just that good. Then came the creamy Colombian potato soup, poured into the bowl right at the table. (Ooh, la la.) Followed by a maple roasted honeynut squash sandwich with herbed almond ricotta and pecan pesto on a crispy-soft focaccia bread. (Hold me.) And the non-alcoholic specialty drink called “The Pumpkin Patch” was swoon-worthy. (No kidding. Nearly fell right out of my seat after the first sip.) It was like a farmer had just milked a fresh pumpkin pie, shook that up to get a nice frothy head and then poured it on ice…I…I really don’t know how else to describe it. The Dutch like to portray this experience as an angel peeing on your tongue and, oddly, it seems a fitting analogy because the whole meal left me throwing my hands up in praise. (Which the staff kindly asked me to stop because I was making other patrons uncomfortable.) Plus, when dining here the warm and fuzzies are doubled knowing that the restaurant’s profits are donated to charity.

I merged in to the stream of foot traffic, admiring the city’s colorful transition from day to night, and hoofed my way back to my hotel on 24th. After a hot shower, I lay curled up in bed exhausted and content. It was only day one but I was already grateful I’d seized this opportunity. There really is no place quite like New York City.

The Lake at Central Park

Lake at Central Park

By: Erica Ruhe

Stay tuned for Part II next week!