Author Archive | Contributor

Step Garden by John Grey

Photo by Ernest Porzi on UnsplashThe slope is steep but cultivated:
olive and racemose carob trees,
primrose cyclamen nodding at their feet;
at the bottom, lemon trees
sipping tartness from the sea;
farther up, Spanish chestnuts,
fruit rattling in the breeze,
limbs swishing like horse tails.
A narrow trail snakes its way
through thick shadow
to low cut brush
where light bursts large.
My breath scores lemon
and salt and oil and legume.
I walk the length and back again
with you beside me,
like we’re hiking a scented
soft moment in ourselves.
With nervous lips,
I place a hungry garden
on your mouth’s sweet slopes,
for you to prune,
to fertilize.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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At this hour by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

The remembering bones
collect pieces of tales
snippets of song
flashes of color
Gather them deep in the marrow
mix and blend
swirl them through the blood

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Listening to Jimmy Santiago Baca by Pat West

She drives home on a dead-straight
two-lane highway, listens to the CD
of the author reading,
I Am Offering this Poem.

His lines break off
in her mind, making space
for another and another.
His rich throaty voice

layers offering upon offering.
She feels like those times, in dreams,
or while drinking, when she thinks
she can finally see inside things.

She noses the car into the garage,
picks up his book on the passenger
seat, stares at his picture on the back cover,
eyes the color of slick-river rocks staring right at her.

When the world outside no longer cares
if you live or die; remember.

The last line a slow whisper,
I love you. His breath strokes

her skin. She sighs. Maybe next time
she’ll meet someone who knocks her flat-out
crazy in lust with one poem.
Instead of some old, hairless guy

who wears white socks
with black dress shoes, says huh
one hundred times
in two hours, yet swears he doesn’t have

a hearing problem. She shuffles into the house,
drops a kiss on her husband’s bald head
as she passes his Barcalounger,
takes the book of poetry to bed.

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Therapy by John Grey

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

She’s a girl
who spends most of her life
lying flat on her back
like an upturned palm
that’s begging for
some of luck’s spare change.

She regards her room
as a kind of coffin
for those not quite dead.
Which makes the house
a mausoleum,
the entire surrounds,
a graveyard-to be.
And her parents, one brother,
one sister, make for
some jowl-faced undertakers.

Yet there’s always the window.
Her eyes aren’t disabled at least.
And she can only look up.
The moon may be as useless as she is.
But stars light their far fires on cue.
They get such brilliant notions.
And her imagination isn’t paralyzed either.
It has such legs at night,
it can go anywhere.

Her body’s as dead as old boots.
But something of her is alive and free.
Folks whisper how the therapy’s
going as well as can be expected.
And that’s without knowing
what the true therapy is.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Exposure by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on UnsplashLike the pin-up on the calendar
in the neighborhood garage
she feels male eyes as if they
were fingers greasy from car parts
rub over her body. They linger
on bumps that seem mountainous,
probe like dirty wires into folds and crevices,
laser with surgeon’s skill
on every mole and blemish.

She’s new to the game,
hasn’t picked up the model’s saucy strut,
the flare of the toreador’s cape
as she unveils her flesh.
The camera loves the sweet young package.
The man who promised her fame
at a so-called chance meeting
leers behind the lens,
ignores the naked terror
trapped in her eyes.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Gravity’s Never Been My Friend by Pat West

I remember falling¬¬¬¬

out of a pear tree at seven,
playing Follow the Leader
with my older sister.

Off a bicycle onto gravel,
grass and blacktop
unable to push through the wobbles.

Solid on my tailbone in the Crystal Theater.
(Mouse Merriman thought it funny
to fold my seat up when I wasn’t looking)

During a high school field trip to Chicago,
first time maneuvering high heels and an escalator,
I fell down the up staircase.

Busy reading the bio of the visiting conductor,
missed the curb outside the Schnitz. Stumbled,
parted the crowd flailing, perfect four-point landing.

Over backwards from a ladder holding a full pan of paint,
Martha Stuart butter-cream yellow splattered
like a Pollock painting on kitchen cabinets and floor.

The tumble off that sloped-roof
shed behind the barn
doesn’t count. I was pushed.

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Romance by Æverett

curve of your back

the curve of your back
against the navy cotton
of your t-shirt as you remove it
and the sage sheets an hour later

he loves you
he hates it
he has commitment issues
just give him time

the curve of your spine
as you dance
in the dazzling sunlight
out where the monsters are

you’re not afraid of anything
you’ve got your Red Devil
and Precilla
you know?

he laughs
it’s a good sound
and then he kisses you
the surprise is real
for once not private

and dark hair under broad hands
and the curve of your back

skin like leaves on water . . .

i lay my lips against his skin
and breathe
we are one—   none.
give me time.
i’m not ready yet.

not for this.
not for the curve of your back
or the silk of your side

my laptop sits abandoned
on the coffee table in front of my sofa
the music’s still playing
as you melt me.

damn.

red head and broad shoulders
what a thing
all thighs and cries

you still hesitate when i kiss you.
yeah, commitment issues.

but  the curve of your back
is worth it
as you stretch in the mornings
with the light bright through the glass wall
and your feet tripping
on the clothes left on the floor

the curve of your back.

Photo by Jason Schjerven on Unsplash

About the Author: Æverett

ÆverettÆverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.

Josie Says What She Thinks by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

You may think I look blowsy and fat,
perched here naked with that red
ribbon dangling down my cleavage.
Not quite naked, matter of fact,
as I’m wearing those wicked
high black boots and a sparkling
butterfly clip in my storm-tossed hair
(that’s what one guy called my ‘do).

Sure, I billow over that ridiculous chair
the artist sat me on and my flesh waves
and ripples in enticing hills.
But, honey, my breasts are soft pillows
where grown men nestle their heads
and sigh and my hands have cute little dimples
they like to lick. I could go on…

Men want a bit of comfort, you know,
and that skinny arm candy with their lettuce leaf
diets don’t offer much cuddling
with those bony frames. Nope, I’ll keep
my billows and pillows, deck them out
with wild colors, big sizes, and swallow
every bite of everything tasty
that comes my way.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

I Carry with Me by Pat West

Memories of old army blankets
slung over the clothesline,
a tent built when I was seven.
The front steps
of every house I ever lived in
thinking this is it,
this will be my home
from here on out.
My phone
and all the numbers
of people I call
and those who don’t call back.
Every fresh new start,
every last turn of the lock
and final drive away.
The tabby’s gentle footfall
on the bed. A shiny crescent scar
on my knee. Grocery lists
and birthday cards to send.
Flashbacks of the first funeral
I attended decades ago
and all the ones since.
The ceaseless chug of days
that pull me forward. The sour hope
that I’m among the ones
who get to grow old. I carry with me
an image of my father’s ropey hands,
the redness of my mother’s lips,
my brother laughing
crazy hard that time he ordered frog’s legs.

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Conversations Over Coffee: Krista Davis

Want to know what I love more than a new book from a favorite author? The first book in a new series from a favorite author, which promises more books to come! When Krista Davis  – author of The Domestic Diva series and the Paws and Claws Mysteries – announced her new book, Color Me Murder, was the first in a new series set in Washington DC, I was thrilled.

And I was right to be excited about it: I’ve read the ARC and it’s an awesome book. Set in a bookstore in the Georgetown neighborhood, the main character, Florrie, likes to bake, creates adult coloring books, and manages the bookstore. (So, as a bonus: the cover of the book is color-able!) It got me thinking about characters, so I asked Krista if we could have a little chat about that. A great insight into writing, characters, and more – a perfect fit for our Selfie issue.

We call this series Conversations Over Coffee because it’s the things I’d ask you if we were sitting across the table from each other over a casual cup of coffee….. so, let’s set the stage: where would you suggest we meet near your current home….and what is your go-to beverage and/or snack were we to meet?

I live out in the country so I’d suggest meeting in my kitchen. I’ll put on a carafe of French Press coffee, or English Breakfast tea if you prefer. It’s too cold right now to sit on the terrace, so we’ll just meet at the kitchen table. If we’re talking in the morning, we might indulge in some home baked cinnamon rolls. If it’s afternoon, we’ll nosh on cupcakes or a slice of chocolate cake.

Color Me Murder is the first book in a new series for you. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it seems it also takes a village of characters to create a book (and series). How do you go about creating your main character – choosing their names, traits, personalities? And all the supporting cast? Do you include traits of YOU and folks you know in them?

Some characters seem to jump fully blown into my head. I knew everything about Florrie’s boss, John Maxwell, immediately. Florrie herself was a little bit more complicated. But I love writing about someone who isn’t a bold superwoman. Florrie is a calm sort, who loves reading and drawing. She’s smart, but hesitant—not the type to boldly jump in unless it’s necessary. She’s very compassionate, though, which will probably get her involved with other murders.

I’m sure I include some of my own traits. For instance, Florrie likes to bake. We’re all multi-faceted, so while I’m not as shy as Florrie, I have my moments, and draw on those.

I suspect all authors are people watchers. We can’t help but include traits of people we know or observe. Haven’t you ever heard a news story and wondered how someone could have done some crazy thing? For instance, I heard recently that some genius burglar got stuck in a chimney. Did he really believe he could fit through a chimney? What possessed him to think that was a good idea? You see where I’m going with this. I might not know the person, but I start to wonder about his or her motivation and what kind of situation might have led the person to do something peculiar.

As for names, I’ve been known to change a name midstream because it just didn’t suit a character. Let’s face it, a Delbert is quite different from a David or a Dallas. They all conjure up different types. Lately I have been meeting a lot of people with unusual names. Florrie stuck with me and seemed just right for an artist.

And do you consider the settings – for example in Color Me Murder – Georgetown, the Bookshop, the mansion, and the carriage house –  their own characters in a way?

I think all authors must be picky about settings. I considered a small university town, but Georgetown won because I love the diverse population there. The professors and diplomats might not be in every book, but they attracted me because they offered so many intriguing plot ideas. The bookshop went without saying. It was such a perfect place for Florrie to work. The mansion suited her boss and the carriage house soon developed as I was thinking about the story. I suppose they are characters in a way. The story wouldn’t have been the same if the human characters had been lifted out of those locations and plopped down somewhere else.

Of course, we can’t forget all the animal characters in each of your series. Why do you include pets and how to you write them so delightfully?

Since you’re in my kitchen, you have probably noticed that two cats and two dogs have checked you out. Well, maybe not Sunny, my calico kitty. She waits a few hours before making a special appearance. Cats and dogs are a big part of my life, so my protagonists usually feel the same way. Thanks for saying that I write them delightfully. My furry gang offers me a lot of inspiration—even when they don’t behave as they should!

You write three amazing series now – the Domestic Diva series with Sophie Winston and the Gang, the Paws & Claws series with Holly Miller and friends, and now the Pen & Ink Series with Florrie Fox and Crew. How do you keep ‘em all straight  and consistent – from book to book? What tips can you share? And is any one character your favorite?

Each series has distinct differences. It’s almost like going to different places on vacation. You’re still on vacation, but everything is different at the beach than it is in the mountains or in the desert. Maybe it sounds strange, but each of the protagonists seems real to me. They all have their own quirks. For instance, Florrie is young and not yet worried about her waistline, while Sophie is a little older and often succumbs to elastic waist trousers because of her fondness for good food. They are all sufficiently different that it’s not a problem to slide right back into their lives. I have to say though, that I don’t write more than one book at a time. That would confuse me!

Are you asking to pick my favorite child? <gasp!> I truly do love them all. Even the obnoxious characters are fun to write. People are so different. We’re all products of our experiences. Characters are the same. They may not always act the way you think they should, but people don’t do that, either. We see things differently depending on what we’ve been through in our lives.

What do you know now that you wish you knew at 42?

Oof! That’s a really difficult question. In terms of writing, the world has changed enormously. I think it’s a good thing that we don’t have crystal balls. They might stop us from moving forward while we wait for certain things to happen. That said, it’s always good to know that a writing career is in grasp for anyone who perseveres. It rarely happens overnight.

There were two big things that I learned. By nature, I am a helper and a problem solver. My first reaction is always to help. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but there are times to shove over and let someone else do it. I had to learn to tell myself that it wasn’t my problem. I had to learn to step aside.

The other thing is that people are what they are. Accept them on their own terms or move on. People don’t change unless they want to. It has to come from within.

About the Author: Krista Davis

New York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Paws and Claws Mysteries set on fictional Wagtail Mountain, a resort where people vacation with their pets. Her 1st Pen & Ink Mystery: Color Me Murder debuts February 27th. Don’t forget about her 5th Paws and Claws Mystery is NOT A CREATURE WAS PURRING, which came out earlier this month. Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with two dogs and two cats.

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