Poetry: Tonight, Tonight

*April is National Poetry Month, and thus I decided to share one of my poems from Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken. 99% of the poems collected in the book were written during the ages of 13-22 years old, so if anything reads too tragic or overdramatic, now you know why. And rather to censor or edit my poems with adult hindsight, I left them raw, obsessive, and dark.

*

Tonight, tonight, you’re falling so behind

I see you trembling—

Feeling left on the side.

Tonight, tonight, you’re crying all your tears

I feel your pain—

Drowning in your despair.

Tonight, tonight, you’re growing so distant

I see you shriveling away from me—

Scorning my stoned affection.

Tonight, tonight, you’re scrapping at the floor

I sense your frustration—

Slapping me across the face.

Tonight, tonight, you’re running out of time

I see you walking out—

Letting go of any part that belongs to me.

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Film Review: US

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After seeing the trailer for Jordan Peele’s new film, I was left with this strange sense of unease. Something was off. I know, it’s a horror movie. It’s supposed to set an atmosphere of mental discomfort. But this was a subtle unease, like walking into your house and knowing something is amiss but you can’t put your finger on it. Then I saw the movie and realized the skewed detail I’d gotten hung up on was during the car scene where the Wilson family is listening to Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It.” The mother, Adelaide, tells her son to “get into rhythm,” and then proceeds to snap her fingers…off beat.

Huh?

At first, I thought it was just me but after reading up on it online, I realized it was actually a thing; a harbinger of truth pointing to Adelaide’s disturbing past. And that’s the beauty of “Us”. It’s going to toy with you, give you a few fake-outs and distractive ploys. Then it’s going to sock you in the gut with an intelligent sucker punch but for hours and days and weeks afterward, you’ll realize you actually got hit in the brainpan.

First, a brief synopsis: Adelaide Wilson takes a beach vacation to Santa Cruz with her husband, Gabe, and their two children. Haunted by a childhood trauma that occurred in a mirrored funhouse on the carnival pier, Adelaide begins to take notice of strange coincidences. She sees an odd vagrant with the sign, “Jeremiah 11:11”. Clocks read 11:11. A rogue Frisbee lands beside her, perfectly aligned with a polka dot on the towel pattern.

That night, four trespassers show up on their driveway. After a tense invasion of the Wilson’s beach house, Adelaide and her family come face to face with their doppelgangers, each a dark, deranged version of themselves dressed in matching red jumpsuits. Adelaide’s double, Red, reveals they were the subjects of an inhumane and failed experiment of clones forced to play out every action of their above-ground counterparts. Armed with a dagger-sharp pair of golden scissors, she aims to free herself and her demented family as second-class shadow-people by killing the Wilsons and taking their place above ground. Thus, the “untethering” begins. Snip, snip.

As with his debut film “Get Out”, Peele is wedging open the door on a new subgenre: societal horror. The fear surrounding social issues that plague the public today is over-ripe for exactly this kind of creative commentary. These are the subjects that privileged society would like to sweep under the rug: topics including mental illness, racism, unconscious biases, and discrimination. These are not well understood and what’s worse, they are not well-accepted. 

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People lean on belief systems to help them make choices. These are personal life lessons, religious teachings, parental guidance, peer pressures to assimilate. All these experiences act as a moral barometer. Now show those belief systems from an opposite perspective and those same people are left feeling totally confused, attacked, angry, defensive, helpless and desperate. They target the catalyst that brought the issue forward and not the issue itself. And usually, this translates into immense pressure being put upon the victims to become “normal” in order to be accepted into society again. It’s now their responsibility to stifle their hurt so the rest of the world feels comfortable. Translation: fix yourself. And if you can’t fix yourself, please have the courtesy not to talk about it. 

Herein lies another hidden beauty about “Us”. It is the catalyst. It shows the basic human fear of accepting our own duality. It presents a stark and uncomfortable contrast of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil…our shadow selves versus the masks we show to the world. And how we react when there is a critical imbalance of this light and dark power: rejection, jealousy, suspicion, paranoia, anger, violence. These knee-jerk emotions drive the need to delineate the status of “us” versus “them”.

Peele records these primal fears places them in the hearts of seemingly normal characters and plays it back in a distorted, reflective environment. Indeed, mirrors and reflections play a key visual element. There’s the presence of a “twin concept”, especially in the number eleven as it pops up on television, the time on clocks, in Bible verse, sports scores, even in abstract shadows. While this doubling can be consumed quite literally, it is best appreciated after you’ve seen the movie and had time to reflect on the multi-faceted meanings. And I’m not just trying to be punny here. These coincidences lead the characters to discover how their actions have helped or harmed others despite their intent, even how their actions have contributed to their own entrapment.

In addition to the psychology of duality, there is the theme of the American dream. The “haves” and “have nots”. Class structures and, in the constant strive to keep up with the Jones’, society’s inability to appreciate what they do have in their lives. There is a moral price for naivety and social complacency and this transaction plays out between the Wilson family and their tethered family of clones (but with more melodrama and excessive blood spray, of course).

Refreshingly, a talented, diverse cast takes the main stage. I am not a POC but I can attest that the amount of stories I’ve watched about white people has fatigued my appreciation for an intriguing plot. Presented here is a unique, well-told story about characters of color even though the story isn’t specifically about race. “Us” allows a brilliant opportunity for discussion of Hollywood’s lack of diversity without pandering to the audience. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance is spell-binding, especially in her disturbing portrayal of Red. She files her voice to a raspy, jagged husk and moves like a caged but confident animal who has conquered the laboratory labyrinth. Winston Duke deserves praise as well for bringing humanity and humor to the father figure trying to protect his family.

As a writer, my brain is always in “plot & character” mode. I tend to be severely critical of books and movies that lack logic or at least a moderate attempt at believability. Plot holes, if small enough, are forgivable. Give me a good story and I’ll give appropriate credit for the effort.

But don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

A good story doesn’t have to be airtight. In fact, if a movie is too clean this can be a bit condescending to the audience, as if the writer has said, “Here, I’ve done all the thinking for you in case you couldn’t figure it out.” Nor does a good story leave glaringly large voids that prevent the story from making reasonable sense. A smart writer knows how to leave just enough mystery without compromising a satisfying ending.

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So with that said, are there plot holes in “Us”? Yes. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this post-spoiler-free for those who have not seen the movie yet but just know that when the credits roll, you will have questions. Normally plot holes signal sloppy plotting and rushed production but in this instance, it is apparent that Peele has too much respect for the craft and his audience to have done this inadvertently. Go online to any of the numerous “Us” discussion boards or YouTube videos and you’ll find that deconstructing all the Easter eggs in this movie is half the fun. Personally, I feel the gaps are present on purpose. Maybe these plot holes give room for interpretation of the figurative gaps in society. Gaps in opportunity for individuals of lesser means. Gaps in understanding on common social issues. Gaps in memory due to trauma. The important takeaway is the ending gives closure while opening a Pandora’s box to a harsh new reality.

There’s plenty of action and gore to satisfy any terror junkie but “Us” goes beyond the blood spatter and gets cerebral. It touches on something more subtle in the human psyche. Darkness is not always evil. We must consider all the catalysts that trigger our fear and ask the simple question, “Why?” Does this emotion really stem from something out in the world or is it inside? And if it is inside, are we brave enough to face it? Ignorance can trap us in our own mirror house of horror for as long as we choose. We can close our eyes if we’re scared. But our reflections are still there. The shadow selves will wait until we’re ready to see what they have to teach us. And when that day comes, who will do the untethering? Snip, snip.

By: Erica Ruhe

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I’ve Applied to be a Mentee in Author Mentor Match!

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What is Author Mentor Match?

In short, Author Mentor Match is a mentorship program that pairs aspiring authors (or self-published authors) with seasoned published and agented authors. The awesome thing about this program is that it’s supposed to help authors who have a completed manuscript and are in the process of querying agents, improve both their manuscript and query letters. The reason why this program is so sought after because the authors you’re paired up with have already gone through the query and publishing process so whatever advice they may have for you is truly valuable and sound.

Why have I decided to Enter this program?

I came across this program by chance (through a Twitter hashtag no less!), but it reminds me a lot of Pitch Wars, which I submitted to last summer but sadly didn’t receive a mentorship through that. However, since I participated in Nanowrimo this past November, I have a new manuscript that I think is ten times better than my Pitch Wars submission, so I wish to try my luck with this.

What I hope to get out of this program is:

  • Write a powerful query letter.
  • Feedback from a professional of both my letter and manuscript.
  • Forging a friendship/professional relationship with a fellow writer, as only writers can understand certain things about what you go through!

My Project

GIRL THAT YOU FEAR, a YA Horror that’s Speak meets The Exorcist.

Spencer Torres seemingly has it all, she’s beautiful, popular, smart, and on her way to becoming the school’s valedictorian. However, after a visit on the Queen Mary ship, something goes amiss. It all begins with the ominous taps she hers on the walls and the nightmares of an enigmatic, yet creepy young man called Dever. Her therapist believes she’s simply under stress. But Spencer secretly believes another truth. One far more sinister. She thinks she may be possessed by the demon Dever, and a part of her doesn’t mind. A part of her relishes in her new power. Especially when triggered by a song she remembers a sexual assault that she had repressed in her mind. Now, with vengeance as her sole companion, she seeks out to destroy all of those that were to blame for her rape. She doesn’t care if it even means that she will lose her soul in the process.

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Who else is participating in Author Mentor Match? Let me know!

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Poetry: Blood Remembers Even When You Don’t

smoke

I left lipstick imprints on your neck

We bathed in rose petals and strawberries

Champagne kisses

You were like a tormented Arthur Rimbaud

All the girls bursting with love for you

But you only had eyes for me

Baby, it wasn’t maybe

And I was living free like Carole Lombard

We didn’t know we were bound for heartbreak

The young are fearless

Baby, we were crazy

Wrapped in our intoxicating dreams of forever

Chasing each other in the night

Our hearts exploding with possibilities

Sometimes we look back and try to grasp

How we fell apart

But baby, it was never maybe

We’re immortal in the blood and memories we left behind.

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ATTENTION!

For a limited time, you can now request an early ARC of my upcoming poetry collection, “Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken” on NetGalley! You’ll find this and other poems in the book! You can pre-order the book on Amazon!

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Coming Soon! Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

This is how you draw a broken heart:
Dip your fingers in blood and don’t
Hesitate to botch the final project.

Synopsis: 

This is a book about love and the wounds that it can bring. It explores the exhilaration of first love, the damage of unrequited love, and the distress of abandonment. The poems are little memories that come alive, a journey between reality and fantasy, often mingling as one. Fragments of life depicted in words. This is a collection of poems both cruel and sweet. The poems depict the difference between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. But most of all, this is a kaleidoscope of emotions that are multiplied and amplified as the reader looks into the window of a young woman’s heart.

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This poetry collection is probably the closest anyone will ever get to reading my diary. Many of the poems were written between the ages of 14-24, although there are about two or three that were written more recently.

Some of these poems have been featured elsewhere. Such as:

The Enchanted Forest (honorable mention from Amherst Society in 1997) & featured in a European anthology in 1998

The Love Song (the Illiad Press 1997)

Betrayed With a Kiss for Wildsound Festival

Paper Monsters for Booksie

The book is up for pre-order on Amazon but will be available on FEBRUARY 12, 2019.

This collection is perfect for those who are fans of dark poetry, gothic lit, and love poems. Some of the topics explored in this book are: relationships, first love, body image, unrequited love, eating disorders, toxic relationships, death, abandonment, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and suicide.

If any book bloggers are interested in an ARC just hit me up at: azzurranox[@]yahoo.com

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Book Review: And We Call It Love by Amanda Vink

andwecallitlove

Release Date: June 1, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $19.95

Publisher: West 44 Books

Plot Summary:

Clare and Zari are best friends. They write music together, go everywhere together, and they know everything about the other. At least they did before Zari started dating Dion. The more Zari falls for Dion, the less she has time for anything else. At first, Clare chalks it up to a new and exciting relationship, and she tries to be happy for her friend despite her loneliness. When Zari starts to show up to school with half-hidden bruises, Clare knows there’s something darker about this relationship that has to be stopped.

Grade: C –

Review:

I usually love poetry and verse, however, this book just didn’t hit the mark for me. I think my biggest issue with it, despite the fact that it was written as poetic verse, was that the writing just wasn’t that poetic. I was expecting more lyrical writing with this type of writing format. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Another issue that I had with this book is that it was told in alternating perspectives, and I usually love the dual points of views, however, the way it was written, there was no clear definition between who was Clare or who was Zari. So it made it a little confusing to keep up with the plot because of that.

It saddens me that the execution of the story wasn’t done well because the book explored some very important topics like friendship, self-discovery, and abusive relationships. And I think those are some compelling topics for teens to read about if done well. The characters in this book weren’t very well-developed and this book just fell short.

As a writer, I honestly despise being too critical when it comes to debut authors so I won’t delve too much on the negatives. Also, since I’m not the intended audience, the writing may not resonate with me so much, however, middle-grade readers or tweens may find this books interesting.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and West 44 Books for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Poetry: Mephistopheles with Scabbed Wings

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It was a blue February night

When I first stumbled in your dream.

I felt awkward swaying to your song

As you pulled off my bruised wings.

You were as persuasive as Mephistopheles,

Digging your nail in the pit of my heart.

But I wanted you to plunge into my heart

Where you could hide your ethereal song,

So that I could become your dream

And would no longer need my wings

To soar into you every night,

Like a devious Mephistopheles.

I’ve been yearning to hear your song

Because it makes the blue night

Seem less long, as I dream

Of a raging Mephistopheles,

Who craves to clip my wings

And shatter my bloody heart.

Recently I feel that the night

Passes by slowly, as I lick my wings

Alone. Because Stupidbitch has now become your song.

I now invade you in your dream.

I’m like a horny Mephistopheles

Who wants to fuck your heart.

I know you feel invulnerable when you dream

Because it’s the only place where you can break my wings.

For I’ve got an asphalt heart

Gained from a previous lover with a tainted song

Who used to beat his pain into me every night

Until I began to perceive him as Mephistopheles.

Yes, I know that I’m your dream

But I’m afraid that you’ll want to chew my wings.

You love the taste of the jasmine night

Found within their enchanted song.

You need to run before your heart

Gets devoured by Mephistopheles.

I should’ve confessed in your dream that night

That your song cannot burn my wings

Because I am Mephistopheles ready to claw my way into your heart.

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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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Poetry: Mourning Glorie

bed

Photo courtesy of parisapartment.wordpress.com

These frigid sheets mourn your soul.

This barren bed cries your name.

There’s nothing left of you in me.

You tore every particle that belonged

To you away.

This pale white pillow misses the weight of your head.

These useless rose petals wait to fall upon you.

Loneliness wraps its icy claws around me.

Devouring me without mercy.

You’re no longer here to cling to.

You’re no longer here to move closer to.

This bed never seemed so vast—so endless—

Without you—it’s infinite.

I hide beneath the covers but still no warmth I feel.

This room is in eternal winter

Ever since you left.

These fragile sheets yearn for your body.

This immense bed bleeds your essence.

I’m waiting here for you.

I shall always remain here—

Waiting for your return.

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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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