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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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Blogvember #22: Choices.(Mission Possible)

This was the photo I used for the back of my recent work of fiction, The Loftiest Thing. I love this photo. For one thing, the trees in the background absolutely fit the title’s theme, which was also one of the stories in the book. Secondly, I think my photographer (who also happens to be a good, longtime friend) captured the joy I felt at having accomplished this latest creative project. The natural lighting, the setting: parfait. 

My third book is on the horizon. Can we pause to celebrate this?


A part of me wants to keep that photo for the back cover. The other part of me wants to change it up. Just because change is always refreshing, and I think this third book represents some of the changes I’ve made with how I want to present my art. Below are the three photos I’m considering. 


Your mission, if you choose to accept it (and why wouldn’t you? You love me, right?): what say you? Pick the photo you like the most and tell me your option in the comments. I’m partial to all three of them, so I’m no help. The most-picked will win and I’ll make it my back photo. 

Happy choosing on my behalf…

Blogvember #17: Throwback Poemday.

I wrote this a few years ago. Happy TBP.

******************************

From Damascus to Emmaus 

I’m waiting you out.
I’ll be here in Damascus,
waiting for the scales to fall from your eyes.
You’re making it hard on yourself, honey,
determined to wear
these blinders, determined to
ignore what we and the world know:
I am the one for you, and you are the one for me.
So, go on, kick against this oxgoad,
persecute your poor heart with denial,
hold their coats and stand aside,
pretend like you don’t feel it or get it.
The light will come. 
Oh, yes.
And it will be luminous.
When it does, I’ll be waiting, ready to use my heart as your salve to open your poor eyes, 
ready to journey with you to Emmaus,
where our chests will burn with love and understanding.

the writer.

Simply put: the works that I produce need to thrive and be shared. We write for ourselves first, yes, but an audience is intrinsic. My family and friends have long supported my writing. And that was enough for me for a long time. It’s a big world. If 10 people I know and love like my work, hey, let’s throw a party. But there’s a comfort level in that. (See the above quote about shyness. That’s part of it, too.) Those you love are those you love. They aren’t the random reader that may stumble on your book and love it or hate it or scratch their heads or wonder who you think you are or applaud who you know you are. 

I’m looking for readers outside of my world, my comfort zone, my people. It isn’t about money. (Although, I mean, come on…) I want my audience to grow. I want to share my passion with more people. 

I have a new Instagram page: @sodavis_thewriter 

Kindly follow it, won’t you? Other than TSP as a platform to occasionally share my work, I’ll share here, as well: one clever hashtag at a time. 

“…wings of her own.”

I wrote this poem seven years ago. Bon Throwback Thursday.

 

Mrs. Birdman

 

When he finally lands,

the odds are that she’ll be waiting for him by the riverside.

He’ll tell marvelous tales

of the sweet air up there, of racing with skylarks and ravens,

that near-miss with the eagle…

She’ll tell him that Billy lost his tooth, and that Sally started walking.

He’ll smile and ask if they remember him and she’ll lie and say that

they do.

She’ll cry when he says that he has to go again,

(“I thought you’d stay longer this time”)

and he’ll placate her with promises that they both know

will fly away faster than he can, never to be seen or heard of

again.

Up, up, up, he’ll go, the Man who makes the sky that much

more unique, as they all like to say.

She’ll continue by the riverside,

waiting,

too morose and too teary-eyed

to realize what he hopes she never will,

that she’s always had

wings of her own.

The Choice.

I haven’t shared fiction with you in a while, have I? Here’s one you’ll likely find in my third collection of short fiction. Yes, another book is coming. Call it a spoiler. Share your thoughts about it in the comments, won’t you?

Enjoy your Friday and have a bon weekend.

***********************************************************************

The Choice

The envelope sat on the picnic table next to her half-eaten blueberry muffin from that morning. Upon glancing at the sender’s name, his stomach dropped. He wasn’t in the habit of reading her mail, but privacy paled in comparison to the name in front of him. He pulled the letter from the envelope.

Cancer.

Dying.

I need to see you.

Gripping the iron chair for balance and the need to feel something firm and concrete—unlike the jelly that seemed to now permeate his body—Desmond continued reading. A plea to see her just once, to make amends. He swallowed thickly and placed the letter back into the envelope. Glancing at the muffin, he wasn’t surprised at her loss of her appetite.

 

The next morning, he watched as she quietly moved around the house, her demeanor unreadable. She occupied herself with her usual weekend routine of household chores: cleaning, dusting, vacuuming. He entered the kitchen from the patio just as she was approaching the sink. “I’ll take care of the dishes,” Desmond said. There were a few plates from their breakfast.

“You just mowed the lawn. I can do them,” she replied.

He smiled at her. “Let’s do them together.” With that, he pulled over a chair and sat next to her, as the sink had been modified to allow her to reach it from her wheelchair. “I wash, you dry.”

Liza gazed at him. “Deal,” she said, ruffling his hair.

While they washed, both silent, the contents of the letter ran around in his mind. He wondered how to reveal that he knew about it. But he wouldn’t have to wonder long.

“My father found me. He sent me a letter,” she said as she slowly dried a plate.

He didn’t reply, waiting for her to continue.

“He’s sick. Lung cancer. He wants to see me.” She looked up at him. “Tell me what to do.”

His heart thumped painfully. Every inch of his being wanted to do just that, to tell her to refuse to see him. But nothing about that desire was right or fair. “I can’t,” he said, gazing at her. “The decision is all yours.”

“What would you do?” she pressed.

“I really don’t know.”

“I don’t believe that,” she replied, suddenly reaching over and decorating his chin with a handful of soap suds. “You always know what to do.”

“Hey,” he mildly protested, returning the favor by piling suds on both sides of her face. It was a playful respite from the conversation at hand. He welcomed it, however brief it would be. And sure enough, as her laughter dissipated, he knew that they were quickly back to reality.

“I don’t know how to feel, Des,” Liza said quietly. “It’s like opening a door I’ve closed for a long time.”

Desmond nodded. “I know.”

 

“There’s no way I’d let my wife…” Rich Mooney shook his head, unable to finish his statement, and took a long swig of beer.

Desmond turned his empty glass around and around on the table, his mind a jumble of emotions and thoughts. While Liza napped at home, he had slipped out for a drink with Rich, his good friend and neighbor. Naturally, Rich quickly became a sounding board for Desmond’s present quagmire.

“The fact of the matter is, the guy doesn’t deserve anything from Liza,” Rich finally continued.

“Don’t you think I know that? But he’s her father.”

“I get that, Des. But father or no—he ruined his daughter’s life. Period.”

It was easy for Rich to carve the situation in simple black and white terms. He was the outsider looking in; the visitor to a situation that was older and far more complex than he knew. In the end, he knew that no opinion or thoughts on the matter, not even his own, could usurp whatever Liza decided she would do.

 

Later that night, as they both lay sleepless in bed, Liza released a long sigh. Desmond knew then that she would see her father. He wasn’t sure how he knew, how he understood, but the certainty of her decision was as plain as the ceiling above his head. “You’re not going by yourself,” he whispered, tightening his hold around her. “I’m going with you.”

Liza peered up at him, her eyes moist with tears. “You’re not angry?” she asked.

Desmond shook his head, nearly out of breath from the idea that he could ever be angry with her. It was impossible, even when they argued, to be angry with the woman he loved more than he could truly comprehend. “Never,” he firmly assured her.

 

Liza’s mother, however, had a far different reaction to learning that her daughter planned on seeing her father. That Monday morning, as Desmond sat in the usual LA morning traffic on his way to the office, Kate Harbor’s raised voice, on speakerphone, filled the confines of his car.

“How can you allow this, Desmond?” she cried. “That man is a monster. You’re pushing her into a room with a monster.”

For the past several moments following her phone call, he had remained silent as Kate expressed her outrage. If anything, he had surmised, her outrage was warranted. He shared it. Accordingly, there was no need to speak or to verbally agree to the feelings they shared. But the idea that he was forcing his wife to do this—Desmond needed to speak. “Kate, you need to understand that this is entirely Liza’s choice,” he interjected.

“It doesn’t matter. You should stop her.”

“I’ll do no such thing.”

“Desmond—“

“Your daughter is a grown woman, Kate. You don’t have to agree with what she’s doing, but you need to find a way to understand.”

After some silence on the other end, Kate cleared her throat. “I don’t think I can,” she whispered, her voice coated with emotion.

“But you have to try,” he replied softly.

 

Walter Harbor resided in a group home in a suburban neighborhood about 3 miles outside of New Haven, Connecticut. It was a stately three-story house that easily blended in with the other properties on the quiet street. A week later, as they sat in the car, Desmond watched his wife gaze at the house, her demeanor expressionless. Nevertheless, as she clutched his hand tighter and tighter, the fact that she experienced a range of emotions was indisputable. He leaned closer to her. “How are you?” he asked.

Liza shook her head. “I wish I knew how to answer that,” she replied, drawing in a prolonged breath. She then turned toward him. “But it’s now or never. I’m ready.”

Nodding, Desmond opened his door and made his way toward the backseat on the passenger side. He pulled out the wheelchair and positioned it firmly on the sidewalk. Opening her door, he carefully lifted Liza from the car and into the chair. As they headed toward the front door, he stopped himself from urging her into the opposite direction.

 

Perhaps more surreal than inhabiting a room with his wife’s father, a man he had never met or cared to, was watching him weep without feeling much sympathy for him.

Walter Harbor cried until the coughing fits that were a symptom of his cancer took over, turning his sobs into spasms that shook his frail body. Desmond watched from the corner of the room, mostly unmoved. He was solely interested in Liza’s side of the experience. For her part, Liza sat by the side of the bed and quietly waited for the coughing to subside until her father grew somewhat calm.

“I’m sorry,” Walter muttered, wiping his face with his hands.

“It’s ok.”

But almost immediately, fresh tears streamed down his weather-worn, hollow cheeks. “Seeing you—you’re so beautiful. I just—” He paused and held up his hand. “I’ll end up crying again. I’m glad you came, Liza. You’ve done really nicely for yourself. Your life, everything.” Walter nodded toward Desmond but didn’t look at him, which had been the case since the two had been shown to his room.

“Thank you. How did you find me?” Liza asked.

He grinned. “One of the guys from the force knew a private investigator, so I called in some favors. I was surprised that you left the East Coast. Thought you’d be a New York girl for the rest of your life.” He paused. “Is your mother—is she close by, in case you need her?”

“She’s close by.”

Walter nodded. “Good. I bet she wasn’t very happy when you decided to come see me, huh?”

“Can you blame her?” Desmond interjected, unable to stop himself from speaking.

Liza glanced at him. He mouthed “I’m sorry.” She smiled wanly and mouthed “it’s ok” in response.

“It’s understandable, yeah, her being mad about that,” Walter murmured, still not looking at Desmond. “I deserve her anger. I deserve your anger, Liza Marie.”

She shook her head. “Dad, I’m not angry with you. I stopped being angry at you a long time ago.”

He peered at her with wide, watery eyes, willing her to go on.

“I knew you drank too much. I knew you were sick. Deep down, I don’t believe you truly wanted to hurt Mom and me.”

Walter shook his head. “I went crazy that day, Liza. I never, ever meant to hurt my family,” he said fervently.

 

Her father was racing upstairs with a knife. After already hitting her mother, she knew he was going to kill her. Eyeing his left hand, which held the knife, 10 year-old Liza Marie Harbor ran up behind him and jumped on his back. She willed herself to be strong and to hold on tight. She was going to knock the knife from his hand.

Get off me, Liza, he threatened.

No! You won’t hurt Mom!

Without another word, he forcefully pushed her back, causing her to plummet backwards. When she finally reached the bottom of the staircase, sharp pains ran up her legs and her backside. She screamed for her mother until, strangely, the need to close her eyes came over her.

 

“You did hurt us,” Liza said simply. She leaned over and took her father’s skeletal hands in hers. “It was so hard for Mom and me, for so long. But 25 years later, Dad, I can only forgive you. I forgive you for everything.”

Desmond felt his chest tightening. A hard ball began to form in his chest; it was a paradox, this hard, tight ball, made up of rage for a man who he felt didn’t deserve forgiveness and heightened respect for the woman who had just given it to him.

Walter began to weep once again. “You can’t walk because of me,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry, my darling. I’m so, so sorry.”

Desmond nearly rose to his feet. He ached to condemn Walter’s tears. He wanted to refute his apology.

Liza tenderly rubbed her father’s hands. “I accept your apology,” she said softly. With that, she leaned over and kissed her father’s forehead. “Be at peace with yourself, Dad. You’ve made your amends with me.”

Desmond shook his head, unable to stop trembling. Yell at him, he silently begged Liza. Be angry with him.

“You’ve made your amends me with me,” she repeated to her father, as if in response to Desmond’s silent plea. “Thank you for giving me life.”

Walter Harbor nodded slowly, gazing at her, his eyes brimming with tears.

Liza then turned toward Desmond. “We’re ready to go,” she announced. Her wide eyes, so much like her father’s, seemed to implore him to do what he struggled to do—to stand up and leave without another word to the man who painfully and irrevocably changed her life. Coming here was one thing. But Liza had to recognize that to leave without a word was too much to ask of him.

She held out her hand. Please, her eyes seemed to entreat.

Desmond stood up, his attention directed on his father-in-law, a man who couldn’t even look at him. But eventually, his attention was pulled toward the woman he loved, who waited for him with her outstretched hand. With a deep breath, he approached her and claimed that hand. Without looking back, Desmond pushed her toward the door.

“Desmond.”

He froze at the sound of his name. Slowly, Desmond turned around. Walter Harbor’s eyes were intently fixed on his. “You keep taking care of her,” he said.

She takes care of me, he wanted to reply. However, he merely nodded and departed the room with his wife.

 

They sat in the car, still parked by the group home.

“How could you forgive him, Liza?” he whispered. “Help me understand.”

“If I could, there are so many things in life I would have chosen to do. Have children. Dance at our wedding. So many things. But I had the power to choose this time, Desmond. And I chose to give my father something he’s never experienced in his life: peace of mind. That could only come from forgiving him.” She paused. “It was what I wanted to do.”

“But he took your choices away when he…” His voice caught in his throat. “When he caused your accident.”

“Yes, that is true. But without that wheelchair, I wouldn’t have accidentally rolled over your feet in Lecture Hall the first day we met.”

Desmond looked up at her, both taken aback and moved. Her words elicited the vivid memory of that day in college. He was still convinced that he had fallen in love with her on sight.

Liza beamed, smiling at him. “I choose to focus on that,” she said, “the effect rather than the cause. The cause was you. In the end, that’s all I choose to care about.”

From the beginning, he realized, this entire matter had been about choices. And he wasn’t about to take that away from her.

 

Elegies.

I’m still writing poems about him. I don’t think that will ever end.

 

Elegy. 16.

Perhaps I always knew I would end up near you, my dear, departed one,
near the streets you once walked upon, near the air you once had the privilege to breathe.
Somehow that dreaded constant summer began to call out to me and I began to listen…
A siren’s call, surely, one worthy of wax shoved quickly in the ears, but your memory is far too strong, far too melodic for that Odyssean self-control, and I’m not willing to let you go.

(How is it that the silence that spoke such volumes when we stood across from one another is even louder now, now that you slumber in the ground?)

 

Elegy. 98.

I’m in the mood for you.
For your fanciful cowboy tales–
For your romantic sunset–
For that gleam of mischief in your bright eyes–
and for the sadness I saw in them, too, the kind that told me who you really were.

I’m in the mood for you.
For your arrogant understanding of me–
For your inability to understand nothing at all–
and for the sadness I wanted to take away so badly, the kind that your actions couldn’t hide.

But moods pass.
So did you.
And sadness quietly changes partners.

 

Elegy. 99.

Memory becomes my salve.
Numbing the skin, numbing the nerves,
creating a youthful version of you where smiles ruled the day and
laughter echoed through the halls of our temporary home.

Contests.

I recently submitted a few of my pieces (two short stories and a poem) for some writing contests. I submitted them with the reminder to myself that 1) I’m not the only writer in the world, and 2) there’s a high likelihood that I won’t even place, because see #1. I should tell you that I don’t doubt my talent for a second; gone are the days when I would compare my writing to every one else wielding a pen and/or a laptop and wonder why I couldn’t evoke emotions like Writer A or describe scenes like Writer B. For years and years now, I have wielded my pen/dusty laptop quite confidently, as every writer should. But it was also important to provide myself those two reminders because This Square Peg definitely likes being real and honest with herself. This foils disappointment and eternal irritation with judges who clearly don’t have eyes.

All that said, I received an email yesterday that with 375 entries submitted, I wasn’t selected as a finalist for the poetry contest. And how did I react, being that I gave myself those two reminders? I glared at the email and muttered to myself that I would never participate in that contest again. (It was my second time sending something to this literary festival.) And, yes, I wondered if the judges had eyes. And yes, I almost threw my phone on the ground. Of course, some time later, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at

phone
Yep.

myself–because as a writer, moments like that par for the course. They just are. Writing is entirely subjective. Person 1 may think my collected words were borne from the divinest of clouds. Person 2 may wonder why I didn’t choose basket weaving instead of writing as something to fall in love with. (And may wonder why I insist on ending sentences with prepositions.) When you think about the variety of writers and styles and then we all enter contests with each other? Kind of incredible.

However: for a few moments, more than seconds, I entertained my anger and my irritation. Yeah, I’m a writer, and I’m mostly a realist, but I’m also quite human. So there you go. But eventually, I bounced back. I told myself to cool it, to seriously stop flirting with throwing my phone whenever something doesn’t go my way, and to remember that I write for one person only: myself. When I’m happy and content with the work I produce, all is well. The icing is when my readers feel the same way. No contest needs to tell me any of those things.

But if those short stories don’t do well…kidding, kidding.

Tell me: in life, how do you deal with disappointment?

About your Author: Round-Up.

Seriously. Why are we doing this? You don’t have a book to promote. 
Is that why you think I do this feature? To promote my fiction?

What other infernal reason could there be?
We’ve talked about plenty of things via this feature. The weather, working out, health. It’s fun.

Debatable. Anyway. What’s going on? You got quite a bit of snow last week, didn’t you?
A “bit” is underestimating it. It was unreal. I’ve seen blizzards before, experienced them, but this…

Not so fun when you’re an adult. Right?
Right. Exactly. You know me so well, kitten.

Again, because I’m you. You’re essentially talking to yourself. You get that, right? Right?
Anyway, what else is going on? Let’s see. I’m making plans about the future.

ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?
Mom, is that you?

What’s this about the future? What’s happening? What are you doing??
Just making some significant changes. When things become more concrete, I’ll discuss them here. Until then–

Until then we’re all supposed to be on pins and needles, waiting with bated breath, until you reveal the plans about your non-husband?
That cabin fever did wonders with your temper and sarcasm, didn’t it?

So, your writing. How’s that going?
I’ve actually been dabbling in science fiction lately. I included a very sci-fi-esque story in my recent collection and it certainly lit a fire. So I’ve been writing short stories in that vein. Pretty proud of the one I wrote a few weeks ago, actually. I even submitted it for a writing contest.

How would you define science fiction?
Themes that deal with time travel, parallel universes, things like that.

Interesting. Are you going to post your beloved new story on here?
In a few weeks, yeah.

What do you like about that genre so much?
Here’s how I feel about it: if I write about time travel, I feel like the science fiction genre allows me to go as far as my imagination will allow and beyond without having to go too crazy with research and facts. Because no one has traveled through time. If I write a story about Savannah’s legal system, it needs to be based on the actual legal system in Georgia. you feel me?

So this is your lazy way of avoiding research. I feel you.
You’re the worst.

And yet you didn’t disagree. 
I’m leaving you now.

*sigh of relief*
You really are the worst.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

About your Published Author.

Oh, I caught that. You’re published?

Book
The booooook. The BOOOOOOOOOK.

Yes, indeed. I’d like to happily announce that my second book, a collection of short fiction entitled The Loftiest Thing, has been officially published. *insert primal scream here*

Congratulations, you. Wow. You’ve been working on that thing for an eternity, haven’t you?
Admittedly, yes, some of the stories have been gestating for years. It feels awesome to share my art, first and foremost, but to finally see this goal realized after all this time is nothing short of amazing. Thank you.

So where can people get it?
See the following links: a paperback version and a digital version of the book can both be purchased through Amazon. The book is also published in hardcover, which is available through Lulu Publishing here. The links are also available in my “Writing” page right here on the blog.

Good, good. Will we see some of the fiction you shared on This Square Peg in the book?
Yes, you will.

Nice. Now: about this title. Tell us all about that.
Can I just say that I like this good mood you’re in?

Don’t ruin it. Answer my question about the title.
Sheesh. Spoke too soon, huh? Anyway, to answer your question, The Loftiest Thing comes from one of the stories in the book with the same title. In general, however, when we’re faced with choices in life about who we are are, what we deserve, and the nature of our relationships, the loftiest thing in life that we can choose, each and every time, is love. Love is the highest, most elevated thing any one of us can reach for and attain. So that theme/question runs throughout the book: when faced with which way to turn, will these characters choose the loftiest thing?

Interesting. So are these love stories?
If you’re thinking about love between families, for yourself, within relationships, between husbands and wives and mothers and daughters, then, yes, they are.

Oh. So not smoochy, smoochy stories, then?
Uh, no.

No romance?
Uh, no.

But you said these stories are about love.
See my response two questions ago.

I want romance!
Then don’t buy my book, you weirdo.

Whew. Sorry about that. Lost my mind a bit. How many stories do you have in there?
Twelve. Plus an excerpt of my brand new novel, which I’m currently working on.

Will that take another five plus years?
You’re the worst. No. I intend on completing it sometime next year.

Yeah, we’ll see about that. 
Back to normal, huh, Miss Moody?

You love it. But I am proud of you. You’ve been talking about this collection of new fiction since Raincoat for your Senses was published 5 years ago.
Why, thank you. Yes, this has been my baby for a while. It went through different incarnations, it went ignored for a while, but I think being inspired by fellow writers largely inspired me. I have the pleasure of having fellow artists in my life. Seeing their work ethic influenced me significantly. The little writer in my head stretched her fingers, cleared the cobwebs, and got to work.

Wonderful. So we’re really going full speed ahead with this “About your Author” feature, huh? This is like the 15th time.
Ok, exit stage left.

 

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