Poetry: The Way You Left Me

cry

I housed dreams in my heart

You used razor blades to tear them out.

Hope lingered on my lips

You bit down hard till they bled.

You left me bloody and empty.

In a world that wants us to be whole and pristine.

***

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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I Was Friends with J.T. Leroy: From Fame to Hoax

jtreal

Laura Albert as “Speedie” and Savannah Knoop as “J.T.” with Asia Argento in 2002

J.T. Leroy was one of the greatest literary hoaxes of the internet era. It’s also proof that reality is much more outrageous than fiction. Up until the New York Times’ Warren St. John uncovered the hoax in January 2006. Up until then, J.T. Leroy blazed the literary scene and was pretty much a rockstar with the celebrity friends (Bono, Madonna, Shirley Manson, Courtney Love, Michael Pitt, Gus Van Sant, and Asia Argento just to name a few). Shirley Manson even went so far as to write not one, but TWO songs inspired by J.T., Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) and Bleed Like Me. But J.T. Leroy wasn’t really who he claimed to be, the son of a truckstop whore in West Virginia and former junkie and prostitute himself. He wrote about his childhood in West Virginia in the book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things and Sarah. Both books were published as fiction, and yet in interviews, he suggested that they were based on fact.

But up until 1999, no one had ever seen Leroy. In fact, Leroy never did book signings or readings. It wasn’t until sometime in 2000 that Leroy began to do public appearances, and he was always disguised by a wig and sunglasses.

In 2006, we found out exactly why he was always in disguise because J.T. Leroy never existed. Rather he was an “avatar” for writer Laura Albert who hired her sister-in-law at the time, Savannah Knoop to portray J.T. in public.

winonajt

Winona Ryder with Savannah Knoop as “J.T.”

How to best describe the moral outrage that many felt when they found out they had been “duped” by the duo were best said by Warren St. John when he stated, “The books are fiction but the marketing device to get us to read them was a lie, pure and simple.”

Recently, a film was made based on Savannah Knoop’s memoir, Girl Boy Girl: How I Became J.T. Leroy, where androgynous It-Girl Kristen Stewart brought to life both Knoop and the enigmatic Leroy, while a wildly unrecognizable Laura Dern played Laura Albert as well as Leroy’s so-called “manager,” the cockney-accented Speedie.

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Laura Dern playing Laura Albert as “Speedie” and Kristen Stewart playing Savannah Knoop as “J.T. Leroy”

In the film, Asia Argento was played by Diane Kruger (although they changed her name to Eva, probably to avoid any legal issues). Although the film excelled with these actress’ performance, the film lacked to explore how writing was therapeutic for Laura Albert and how that propelled her to hide behind J.T. Leroy. It also failed to address the fact that maybe J.T. wouldn’t have had so many people willing to be helpful towards him had he not been a young, white male. One of the most poignant moments in the movie was towards the end, when after the hoax was exposed and Savannah reveals to Laura Albert that she’s planning to write a book about her experience portraying J.T., Albert replies with, “Remember, just because you played a writer, doesn’t make you a writer.” A little too tongue in cheek.

For years, I’ve avoided writing about J.T. because for me he wasn’t just an author that I admired (he was so young and had already accumulated so many accolades and for someone like me who was an aspiring writer at the time, he was such a great inspiration), but he was also a friend. You see, back in the early 2000s there used to exist Yahoo mail groups, and somehow I found myself being in the one dedicated to J.T. Leroy, which was run by the actual author. At some point sometime in late 2001, he and I began to correspond. And our correspondence lasted up until The New York Times unveiled the hoax in 2006. He and I would talk about books, movies, cartoons (we were both obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants) and chocolates. In fact, on several occasions, I sent him Italian chocolates.

Watching the movie J.T. Leroy was kinda triggering in the sense that it reminded me of so many J.T. things that I had forgotten over the years. It also left me sad, because although he didn’t exist, in some ways he did and his memory remains alive in those that had a chance to be friends with him. Even after all these years, when I visited San Francisco in 2016, I found myself going to places that he had suggested I visit so many years ago (Ghirardelli Square being one of them), and also Polk Street (only because it was predominately featured in Leroy’s final book, Harold’s End.

polk street

Pictured at Polk Street in San Francisco with my cousin in August of 2016

In today’s age of social media, Laura Albert wouldn’t have been capable to pull off the hoax for very long. But for me, the fact that she not only managed to pull it off, but to market J.T. in such a way that had him picking up awesome gigs left and right (he wrote for Vogue, got to interview Billy Corgan’s short-lived band Swan for The Rolling Stone, and wrote the screenplay for Gus Van Sant’s Elephant). In other words, Laura Albert was a master class in marketing and promoting, and I think any author would benefit from being more like her in that regard.

laurabert

Laura Albert the writer using “J.T. Leroy” as her avatar

I know some people in the literary world still shun Laura Albert today, but no one can take away the fact that the novels she wrote provided solace to many of those that had succumbed to the child abuse she depicted in them. Maybe, the hoax went on for so long because we all wanted J.T. to be real, and in believing it, he ultimately became real.

I miss you, J.T. There’s a part of me that still wishes that someday you’ll find your voice again and we’ll get another book.

Here’s hoping, but I’m not holding my breath.

jtbono

Savannah Knoop as “J.T.” with Bono sometime in 2003

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Book Review: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

souls

A girl with a guitar never has to apologize for anything.

Release Date: September 18, 2018

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Price: $18.49 (hard cover)

Plot Summary:

Every morning, Kris Pulaski wakes up in hell. In the 1990s she was lead guitarist of Dürt Würk, a heavy-metal band on the brink of breakout success until lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom, leaving his bandmates to rot in obscurity.

Now Kris works as night manager of a Best Western; she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. One day everything changes—a shocking act of violence turns her life upside down, and she begins to suspect that Terry sabotaged more than just the band. Kris hits the road, hoping to reunite Dürt Würk and confront the man who ruined her life. Her journey will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a satanic music festival. A furious power ballad about never giving up, We Sold Our Souls is one woman’s epic journey to reclaim her life—and save her soul.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ever wonder what happens to musicians that don’t make it? Kris Pulaski was the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band called Dürt Würk in the late 90’s. Now, nearly two decades later, she’s a night manager for a Best Western. In other words, it’s hell and her life sucks, while the band’s original lead singer, Terry Hunt reinvented himself with a new sound (nu-metal) and band (Koffin) and became a rock icon. When Kris see s a billboard advertising Terry’s farewell tour, something inside of her sparks Kris to leave her sad life behind and seek out the remaining members of Dürt Würk to get them to confront Terry with her and demand answers over what happened the night the band broke up.

This book was everything you’d want a horror and rock band novel to be. There’s action, gore, and passion for music all woven into a kickass tale of what it means to fight for your dreams and to never give up hope. There were many times where Kris could’ve just given up her mission, but she always prevailed no matter how difficult the task seemed or physically ailing she was. This book isn’t just about some Faustian deal gone awry, the heart of this book is to take a hard look at yourself and see if you’re living for what you believe in or lie Terry, you have sold your dreams in exchange of a cozy life.

I honestly love Kris so much in the novel that if it had been about anyone else, I don’t think the journey would’ve been as much fun or as meaningful. This book has seriously been one of the most fun to read this whole year, because even when there were moments of despair, there was always an underlining hope that maybe our heroine, Kris would save the day.

I highly suggest this book if you love horror, death metal, rock stars, and road trip stories.

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

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Film Review: The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

vanishing

I went into this film, much how I often do with indie dramas, without much information about the movie itself other than knowing that Elle Fanning was in the cast (and I’ll watch any movie she’s cast in). When I read the plot summary of the film stating that it was about a former writer who after his ascent to stardom, decides to throw a disappearing act ala J.D. Salinger and travels across America’s libraries and bookstores so that he can burn his Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, Suburban Tragedy, I decided to give this movie a go instead of my default horror film selection.

The film is directed by former frontman of the rock band Stellastarr, Shawn Christensen, who also helped co-write the script with Jason Dolan. Christensen proved to be a competent storyteller and director a couple of years ago when he won an Academy Award for the short film, Curfew in 2012.

We’re first introduced to the precocious Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) whilst he’s reading an essay for his English class where he describes a girl he used to fantasize about and masturbate to. Some of the students giggle, while others are appalled, namely the English teacher who wants to report him to the principal. Honestly, I had to suspend belief there for a moment, cause I can’t see anyone in my high school getting away with reading an essay about masturbation in class (the teacher never would’ve allowed a student to read it all the way through without truncating it before it went into NSFW realm). However, I can see why the director opened with that scene, we, the audience are supposed to believe that Sidney Hall isn’t your typical teenager. He’s got talent and talented people can get away with being blunt as long they’re being creative about it.

sidney

Sidney isn’t particularly likable at first, but Christensen provides a “save the cat!” scene, where Sidney agrees to help jock and bully Brett Newport (Blake Jenner) with a favor if Brett in return promises to no longer bully the nerdy outcast at their school. Suddenly, we’re thought to believe that maybe Sidney isn’t such a jerk after all, but merely a misunderstood genius. Which is why we won’t bat an eye when he cheats on his wife (Elle Fanning) later on in life, because after all he can’t be too awful if he did that one act of kindness so many years ago!

The story is told in three parts, teenage Sidney, twenty-something successful Sidney, and thirty-year-old Sidney. Throughout the film we get scenes from all those three-time frames as we try to piece together exactly what happened that inspired Sidney’s debut novel, and also wish to know what caused him to become a hobo-looking book-burning nomad later on in life.

After viewing the film, I noticed that the reviews for it weren’t so positive. However, I loved the movie (maybe it’s because it’s about a writer who strikes it big but then has a major fall from grace moment, coincidentally that’s what made love Words too). Adult Sidney sees himself being stalked by “The Seeker,” (Kyle Chandler) which we don’t exactly know why he’s being pursued by him (if he the authorities or someone he wronged?). I thought the reveal of Chandler’s character was rather clever.

sidney2

I found the film to be compelling, emotional, and at times too raw and visceral but you can’t help but keep on watching and hoping that your hero will find some peace.

I recommend this to anyone who loves their indie movies to amp the tragedy and downplay cliché happy endings because if you’re looking for one you won’t find one here.

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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.

Bleed - High Resolution

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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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: Hanna Who Fell From The Sky by Christopher Meades

hanna

“A powerful meditation on how we define ourselves… A gorgeous blend of dreamy folklore and gritty reality.”

Release Date: December 4, 2018

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Price: $15.99

Publisher: Harlequin

Plot Summary:

Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven, nor has she ever questioned why her father has four wives. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age. But just days before the wedding, an enigmatic stranger challenges Hanna to question her fate and to follow her own will, causing her world to begin unraveling around her.

When her mother reveals a secret, Hanna is forced to decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she’s ever known? With lush, evocative prose, award-winning author Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world—and along the way brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.

Grade: A

Review:

The premise enthralled me right away. The idea of a secluded community that lived like a cross between Mormons and a bit Puritan both fascinated and interested me. Something about people in modern times CHOOSING to live in such a backward and misogynistic society (especially for the women) really had me thinking. I can understand the girls who were born into the community and didn’t really know much about the outside world, but a lot of the older women (like Hanna’s mum) chose to live there (although we later find out WHY Hanna’s mum chose that life and it was plausible for her to choose it given the circumstances).

I really liked Hanna because although she was born into that community as she got older and was forced to become the fiance’ an older man she began to question the community’s rules and regulations. The men in Clearhaven fit into two categories: noble and heroic or rapist and violent. The men in this community had a ton of women and the only way this was possible was because the eldest in the community would send the younger men out of town and so they’d accumulate young teenage brides whose sole purpose in life was to please their men, be a meek housewife, and be knocked up most of their lives. Truly terrifying but I guess it’s paradise for the men.

I liked the bond Hanna had with her siblings, although towards the end I was getting a bit too frustrated with Hanna due to the choices she was making because of those bonds. I guess in her place, especially after all she had been through I would’ve been a bit more selfish. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and it had a magical element that wasn’t too ludicrous and fit well with the theme of the book.

Bonus: Usually author afterwords aren’t that reflective, but I found Christopher Meades’ afterword to the novel to be very inspiring. He detailed how his idea of Hanna was born and how many years it took him to actually put his idea unto paper after a hastily written rough draft. His journey was an author was truly inspiring and being a writer myself it kind of gave me hope that if he could persevere through a concussion, then any one of us can manage to jump through all the book writing hurdles there are.

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

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Book Review: The Fade by Demitria Lunetta

fade

The Others meets The Cellar in this scary ghost story thriller from the author of BAD BLOOD.

Release Date: December 11, 2018

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Price: $12.32

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

We don’t want to disappear.
We want to be found.

Something terrible happened in her basement. Haley can feel it.

Four girls went missing several years ago, and the police never solved the case. But Haley knows the missing girls were murdered. How else can she explain the hostile presence in her house?

The ghostly girls need something from her. And unless Haley can figure out what they want…she might be next.

Grade: A

Review:

Creepy haunted house in a small town? Check. Missing girls that are possibly dead and haunting said house? Check. Creepy little boy, that sees dead people? Check. Basically, this book has all the things that a good ghost story murder mystery should have. I liked that the book started right off the bat with creepy events, it wasn’t a slow burn. And I like that some of the minor characters were right on board with the belief of ghosts, cause sometimes it gets kinda taxing to have characters go back and forth about whether or not the existence of ghosts is possible.

The mystery of what happened to the missing girls is what had me hooked, to be honest. I really wanted to know what happened to the girls, how they were murdered, where, and why. I also wanted to know who had murdered them. That mystery was the most interesting aspect of the book. I also enjoyed that the book didn’t try to force romantic relationships, or rather they were more casual, rather than insta-love. There are some events that take you by surprise, so it isn’t one of those predictable books, instead it keeps you wanting to read because I really had no idea where it was going to take me. But it was a fun, yet creepy ride!

The writing flowed very well, and if you’re a fan of YA and ghost stories, then this book will be right up your alley.

Short Q & A With the Author:

Why do you think that books about missing girls are so popular?

I think that the mystery is what really gets people. WHAT HAPPENED?! Then when it’s a young person, when there’s an expectation of care, it’s even more important to figure out WHAT HAPPENED?!

What inspired you to write your current book?

I moved into a new house and was at the top of the basement stairs thinking, “This is such a murder basement.” And the idea for THE FADE was born!

The Fade isn’t only a thriller mystery but it has a paranormal twist to it with the ghosts. What makes ghost stories and haunted homes so frightening?

Ghost stories are terrifying because they’re all about the unknown. Unexplainable phenomenon is terrifying! When reading/watching ghost stories I always think about the point of when I would leave the haunted house. It’s usually pretty soon. I could get a new house. And new stuff. And a new husband. I’d be so gone at the first spine prickle of a ghost.

Your book kind of reminded me of The Sixth Sense in the way that Haley is tasked with trying to help the ghosts she encounters. What movies do you think influenced or inspired you with the writing of this book?

Yes! Haley’s name is inspired by Haley Joel Osment from the Sixth Sense! I loved the creepiness of that movie but also the revelation that the ghosts just want help.

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

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED ARC OF THE FADE BY CLICKING THIS LINK!
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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

darkangel

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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