Monday, March 13, 2017

EXCERPT of DEATH of a SCULPTOR; In Hue, Shape and color © M.C.V. EGAN Mary: Wife No. 1






EXCERPT of DEATH of a SCULPTOR;

In Hue, Shape and color © M.C.V. EGAN

Mary: Wife No. 1





Thunder, lightning, and rain, that was what we had at our wedding. However, on the day of his funeral, the Florida heat and humidity made my face shiny with perspiration. My hair looked like a dark Brillo pad. My children requested I attend the funeral of my first husband. Bruce Jones, the world-renowned sculptor.

     The parking lot was already packed with an unexpected variety of cars. I then realized that it was not peak season. The South Florida snowbirds are attached to their cars and they migrate with them back and forth each year.

     I noticed a police car and a uniformed man by the entrance. Even for Bruce a bit much; however, since 9/11, security has been tight everywhere.

     The valet attendant opened my rental car door. “Welcome ma’am. Your daughter is waiting for you.”

     “Thank you. Please make sure you keep the car in the shade. August Florida heat and sun are not my friends.”  I pulled a five-dollar bill from my purse to tip him, but he shook his head and mumbled, “No, thank you.”  After all It was Palm Beach. I probably should have pulled out a twenty.

     I was surprised that the building looked like an actual church, at least from the outside. The church had a long name. It was Universal something or other; apparently, a place of worship with neither affiliation nor strictures. Bruce’s life had, after all, been too outré to pretend he followed any conventional religious norm.

     “Thanks for coming, Mom.” Clair’s voice shouldn’t have surprised me, but I stood still, focused on carefully dabbing my shiny nose. I clicked the compact shut, smiled, and answered, “Anything for you and Aaron, sweetheart.” She nodded as she guided me where to sit. It was toward the back of the church—the ex-wives’ pew.

     “Please Mom, don’t look at me that way. This funeral is a time for forgiveness and closure.”

     Clair always found a way to get me to do whatever she wanted. The last thing I wanted was to be in the company of the women sitting there. I touched my frizzy hair, regretting my rejection of the keratin treatment.

     Wife number two, Leslie, was the first to say hello. “Mary, you look lovely. It’s been years.”

     “It has, thankfully,” I replied. The other two simply nodded, and I nodded back. Leslie, the one Bruce left me for, handed me a packet of tissues and winked. Forcing a smile, I took them. The idea that she assumed I planned to cry had not crossed my mind. I pulled the compact out of my purse again to check my makeup; it looked fine. Through the mirror I saw the reflection of the fifth and last Mrs. Bruce Jones, the widow. She was standing waiting for the ushers. I shook my head in disbelief. There next to Brooke was the coffin. The ushers waited with the coffin for the minister’s signal. It had images of Bruce’s artwork. Digital photography makes it possible to decorate anything in living color. Some of the images were blocked from my view by the ushers, but not mine. There I was paraded as a nude sketch. Each one of Bruce’s loves had a color and mine was pink. It was kitsch…even worse, it was downright tasteless.

     Bruce had a type. We all had brown hair and pretty faces with full lips and straight noses. The eye color varied as did our size and build. His type was limited to our physiognomy.   I clicked the compact shut, and the other ex-wives faced me, startled by the sound. I shrugged with a coy apologetic smile. Look at the five of us; he had a type.

     Bruce’s love also had a shelf life. He took the seven-year-itch need to scratch very literally. Some marriages were shorter because sometimes the divorces got complicated and his new loves always overlapped with the old. Public or private, his relationships always lasted seven years.

     I was nineteen when I first walked into his classroom. He was tall and muscular. I felt a tingle at the base of my neck when I saw his back, as if somehow I already knew. When he turned to face me, I was gone and completely in love. I fell in love with Bruce and the sculpture next to him all at once.  I soon learned he made love in a way no other man did (not that I was very experienced then),Bruce traced every inch of my body with every part of his. At twenty-four, he already made a good living from his sculptures, but teaching remained his passion. As he grew older and wealthier, he taught short workshops in different parts of the world. His last one had been just a few months before his untimely death. He was after all, only sixty-two.

     It was clear by the careful shape of his sculptures that he knew the shape of my legs, ankles, feet, and every other part of my body. His sculpture venues varied; his talent knew no boundaries. Bruce loved and sculpted as instinctively as the rest of us breathe. Whoever inherited the rights to his art would be wise to market his sketches as limited edition lithographs. Bruce liked to keep those private, but he always added color to the sketches in a way that made them works of art unto themselves. Bruce was as gifted with hue and color as he was with shapes. Those were the sketches that someone had the poor taste to use for the coffin. As the ushers moved around, I heard the reactions of the other ex-wives, a blend of gasps and giggles. We recognized all the shapes and colors.

     Focused on raising our children, I had not noticed when the sculptures started to change. That was when Leslie entered the picture. Bruce may not have planned to divorce me, or at least for years I tried to believe that, but then Leslie got pregnant.

     Our marriage, his first as well, was the longest marriage: it lasted ten years. Three of those, Bruce had spent loving Leslie, but playing house with me. His marriage to Leslie was far shorter. I could tell by the sculptures he had loved her for seven years. We all met him through his art in one way or another. Wife number three, Petra, worked in an art gallery. Although not an artist she was very involved with his work. I derived great pleasure from the public scandal when he hurt Leslie that way, leaving her for a mere merchant. By then Bruce had a name, an art, and a face that was recognized everywhere. Leslie had ended my marriage, so curiosity as to who had ended hers interrupted my life for a time. Hers was the only one of Bruce’s love stories I followed carefully, aside from my own.

     Aside from relishing in Leslie’s pain, his personal life did not pique my interest. I knew my children were always respected and old enough to voice concern if anyone mistreated them.  I could not remember if it was the third or fourth wife who was the only one of us who did not have children with Bruce.

     Chopin’s somber Marche Funèbre snapped me back to the moment. The elaborate coffin encasing Bruce’s body had been placed on a movable catafalque. The catafalque with squeaky wheels carried Bruce’s body in a guided procession down the aisle. He was always a large man and had managed to become larger as he aged. His appetite for food and drink superseded all his other appetites.

     Leslie whispered in my ear, “She doesn’t look sad.”

     Glancing over at the person in question, I nodded in agreement. The widow could not be described as grieving. Grief is, of course, different in all of us. The body language of grief, though, is universal: the defeated, slumped shoulders, head bowed, tears flowing. Leslie was right. The widow was crying, but they almost looked like tears of relief.

     A montage of Bruce’s works on a screen at the side of the altar shaped in a semicircle created the focal point. The aisle inclined and my pew toward the back provided a good vantage point. The incline was slight but pronounced enough to give those of us in the back a full view. The ushers seemed to be holding back the coffin so it would not speed down the aisle. The wheels continued to squeak. Bruce would have hated this. The minister or priestess─I am not sure what title this universal church gave her─had a very unpleasant voice and thus was difficult to listen to. No voice, even a pleasant one, could compete with Bruce’s art. For all the rotten things I would be happy to tell you about Bruce Jones, his art was not something anyone could criticize. Even the most prestigious critics raved about his talent and his work.

     The slides were in chronological order. The memory and pain from the sting of betrayal flooded me as it had twenty-eight years earlier. I could see Leslie through the corner of my eye and the blush that betrayed her shame.

     As wife number two, she had been party to betrayal because she too had been betrayed. I know Leslie grew to love my children very much. I guess she saw me as an extension of that love in some ways. I felt terrible. I had been so curt.

     My hand reached to her shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and forgiveness when the images on the screen segued to show the shape of ex-wife number three. My heart ached for Leslie because we had similar builds, and many would not have been able to distinguish when Bruce transitioned from sculpting my body to sculpting hers.

     Ex-wife number three, Petra─a very tall woman with long slender limbs─had a body that blatantly displayed the transition from Leslie to her replacement. The unquestionable change in shape left no doubt Bruce’s affections had shifted again.  Leslie, pregnant with her second child at the time, lost the baby to grief, a loss I also knew well.

     At that point, I did need the tissues Leslie had given me, but I was shedding tears for her, not for Bruce. I miscarried a child with my second husband. I understood her pain and sense of loss. Mine, too, was the last child, the child I never had.

     Bruce never sculpted pregnant women. Consequently, wife number three, the one who had never been pregnant had seven years that boasted more sculptures than the rest of us. At the seven-year mark, Bruce transitioned into a new love story, a new model. Petra’s telltale sobs showed her grasp of Bruce’s tell. After all, loving Bruce was a gamble. The change of model in the sculpture showed his change of heart. Petra was from a foreign country; I never paid much attention where. My kids interacted with her, and she welcomed them with kindness. In tandem, Leslie and I passed her the tissues.

     Petra took both tissues we offered and her lips moved in a quiet whisper; the words were obviously meant for Leslie, though I could discern they were, “I am sorry.”

     My daughter, Clair, had always lived up to the dual meanings of her name: clear and famous. Clair could see things with great clarity, and she could convey them as such. I could only assume that she knew the ex-wives belonged together, ‘for closure and forgiveness’ as she had said.

     Clair’s modeling career had started in her teens at her insistence; she was not pushed nor did anyone suggest she should model. She knew she was very attractive, and she knew she could convey her beauty and charm to an audience, a photographer, a camera.

     Her modeling spun into acting. She was as natural on a screen as on a stage. It came to her with ease, though she was happy to take classes and learn. My Aaron is also successful, but he is a behind-the-scenes sort of person. I took great pride in knowing that I had always been a good mother. I had known how to allow my children to forge their own paths.

     Not everything in my life succeeded, but I was a success at being a mother. I recognized Bruce’s love shelf life because I had one of my own, with a trail of the remains of ended marriages or relationships. Mine perhaps more impressive than Bruce’s.

     I guess Bruce might have been the love of my life. But now in my mid-fifties, I questioned whether a spouse or companion had any viable use?  I loved art, my passion, and although my work is not as popular or renowned as Bruce’s, I have achieved a certain level of success.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Psychological Thriller ~ The Twilight Trunami by Shelby Londyn-Heath











Grey and his co-workers find themselves in dangerous situations every day at work. Their social services jobs require them to confront irate parents who are on drugs or who are mentally unbalanced. Grey is a long-time social worker, one who is not afraid to snatch newborn babies from glazed-eyed mothers or grab abused children out of classrooms, to place them in foster care. But something happens to Grey, something he cannot put into words as he struggles to cope.



When a new co-worker enters the department, she secretly strategizes ways to force Grey out of his job. He senses her ploy and his stress intensifies. He grows increasingly head-strong and defiant, but he fails to stop her from delivering the final crush in an unexpected, malevolent manner

To challenge his co-worker, Grey must find his inner truth and his co-worker’s "Achilles Heel" in order to rise up to conquer her.   One of them must be transformed or destroyed








     



Shelby Londyn-Heath has been a world-traveler, crossing the Sahara Desert on the back of a salt truck, working on banana plantations in Spain, an oil company in New York, and on coffee farms in Hawaii. She has jumped freight trains across the United States, and she was the proud owner of a beachfront bamboo hut on the Canary Islands. She has worked as a counselor, social worker, and teacher




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CHAPTER ONE:       

The Hospital

GREY STOOD QUIETLY next to the hospital bed. “Mrs. Jaspers, your baby has tested positive for cocaine.” Grey knew from experience that talking in a low voice helped hold back the negative emotions of a child’s removal, before anger and defiance from parents swept around him like a dangerous tempest. Mrs. Jaspers, a nineteen-year-old woman recently out of high school, glared at Grey. Her eyes grew larger in her upturned face, framed by tangled, matted purple hair. She wore an apologetic nose ring that swept to one side of her flared nostril and vibrated with each panicked inhalation she drew in.



 “I repeat, Mrs. Jaspers, your baby has tested positive. I am from the Department of Social Services. I am here to take your baby to a safe environment.”



Mrs. Jaspers bolted upright in her bed. She grabbed onto Grey with a gritty desperation to stop him from removing her baby. “My baby ain’t on cocaine. How dare you say my baby is on drugs? I didn’t give no drugs to my baby. You cannot take my baby girl. We are waiting for her daddy to come see her. We are going to name her today. I need my baby to stay with me, because like I just told you, we’re waiting for her daddy to come see her.”

The daddy, a twenty-one-year-old unemployed construction worker who married her when she tested positive for pregnancy, prowled the streets looking for cocaine after a three-day drinking binge.  Grey unclasped the mother’s hands and moved towards the door.



Mrs. Jaspers jumped up, pulling out her intravenous tube, causing blood to spurt out of her arm. She howled loudly. Grey called in a police officer who waited tentatively in the corridor. The police officer’s presence did not deter the fiery mother from running around her hospital room in frantic leaps. The sickening odor of fresh blood permeated the room. Her hospital gown flew open, displaying the naked form of a young woman new to adulthood. Her tattoos, splayed across her torso, looked like colorful orbs of paint, embroidered flesh.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cards From Khloe’s Flower Shop by Isabella Louise Anderson

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As the owner of a successful florist shop, Khloe Harper trusts her instincts. She has a strong bond with her family and friends, but after being betrayed by her last love, she’s kept herself at arms’ length from romance. When dashing entertainment attorney Derek Thomas walks into her store, Khloe’s interest is piqued. What at first seems like a business relationship quickly turns into romance, and Derek slowly plucks away the petals she’s been hiding behind. Just as Khloe lets down her guard, she discovers that Derek may not be worthy of her love after all.

Frumpy Connie Albright has a faux fascination with an imaginary man named Walt, thinking that by sending herself flowers from him she’ll feel less out-of-place with the “mean girls” she works with. When she comes face to face with her possible prince charming and thinking she might have a happy ending, when a truth is revealed, she wonders if she’ll ever have a Cinderella story.

A recently widowed senior, Gabby Lewis, isn’t ready to give up on love—which means releasing herself from survivor’s guilt and taking a chance on finding happiness and companionship again. After signing up for an online dating site for senior citizens, much to her surprise, she’s matched with Harry, an energetic and loving man, who quickly eases himself into her heart. Will Gabby take the leap of falling in love again, knowing it’s possible to have two loves of her life?

As each woman’s story develops through flowers and cards sent from Khloe’s shop during the Fall months, they begin to learn that love can only truly blossom when you trust your heart.

Connie Albright
Connie typed anxiously on her keyboard, looking up from her cubicle every few seconds, waiting for Sharon from Khloe’s Flower Shop to come through the glass entryway doors. She had checked her email first thing that morning, and like always, once a week, there was a confirmation about her order.
Dear Connie Albright,
Your order to CONNIE ALBRIGHT has been created by one of our team members and is on its way to the recipient.
If you have any questions, comments, or complaints, please call Khloe Harper at 1-800-555-1212.
As always, I wish you a bouquet of happiness! Khloe HarperOwner of Khloe’s Flower Shop
With a sigh, Connie looked back down at her keyboard and continued entering patients’ data into the Excel spreadsheet. Six years ago, to pay for her college education, she had started the medical data entry job, where she found mundane tasks enjoyable, and had been looking forward to making new friends. However, these days, she was now a college graduate with a degree in marketing who hated her job, finding it boring and repetitive, nor had she made friends with any of her co-workers. In fact, they barely noticed her.
Compared to the thin, sexy bombshells she worked with, Connie wasn’t anyone to be desired. She was tall, frumpy, wore glasses, and, thanks to a conversation she overheard, was known in the office as “the ugly girl who wore tacky sweaters.” With the exception of a few that her grandmother had sent her for her birthday, having crocheted each one, Connie didn’t think the sweaters were tacky.
So, after hearing enough of what was being said behind her back, and after complaining to her best friend—her diary—she came up with an idea to change things, and, so far, it seemed to have worked like magic.
“Connie!” Mia, the office receptionist, squealed. “They’re here!”
With a slight pause to get ready for the weekly act she performed, Connie popped up from her chair and watched Sharon approach. After signing her name to the page on the clipboard, she gave Sharon, the only other person besides Khloe who knew her secret, a quick nod.
Suddenly, Connie found herself in the center of a circle of women hovering over her desk, eagerly waiting for her to read the card that came with the bouquet.
“Well, what does it say?” asked a co-worker.“Yeah, come on. Tell us,” begged another.She took in the moment, wishing she had a real man who would say the things she had written to herself. “Your beauty captures me more each day, and my love for you grows each time I touch you. I’m looking forward to this weekend...in bed! Walt.”
Holding the card close to her chest, Connie forced tears from her eyes, forcing herself to blush in front of her co-workers. “Oh, I love that man so very much.”
“Seriously, that has to be the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard,” Mia said, dramatizing her voice and placing her hands on her chest. “Oh, Connie, you’re so lucky to have a man like him.”
“Yeah, Con, that’s cute,” began Nicola, the bitchiest of them all. “But the last time I got flowers, just yesterday as a matter of fact, they certainly weren’t carnations,” she joked, motioning her hand like she was shooing the flowers away from her. All the co-workers joined in her laughter, and then shuffled back to their desks.
Connie looked at her flowers and smiled, her feathers not ruffled by Nicola’s comment. She felt accomplished and desired. For a few moments, she’d been the center of attention of a group of women who she knew despised her. Even back in high school, she had been a female nerd, which crossed her out from being friends with the beautiful and popular girls, and in college it was pretty much the same story. It’s not that she didn’t try to make an effort, because she did, but after failing time and time again, whether it be at orientation, working together in groups for school projects, or the few times Connie went to a pub near the university in hopes of meeting up with a few girls who she thought she could be friends with, it never worked. They either laughed in her face, said that the empty seat next to them was already taken (when it really wasn’t), or simply ignored her.
Though it was beginning to get expensive and difficult to keep the lies about Walt straight, Connie had no other choice but to continue the weekly charade.
It’s just the right thing to do!, she told herself, taking a seat in her chair before continuing to enter the endless data, while thinking of what Walt’s card would say the following week.

**Find “Cards From Khloe’s Flower Shop”: Amazon-US (Kindle and paperback) * Amazon-UK * Amazon-Canada * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Goodreads

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About the author: Isabella grew up with a book in her hand, and to this day nothing haschanged. She focuses her time on featuring other writers on her blog, Chick Lit Goddess, along with organizing Goddess Book Tours, and is a member of the Romance Writers of America.

She lives in Dallas with her husband, enjoys spicy Mexican food, margaritas, gin on the rocks (with a splash of lime). She loves spending time with family and friends and cheering on the Texas Rangers. Not only is Isabella an author, she’s also a Scentsy consultant and hoarder.

Isabella is the author of The Right Design and Cards From Khloe’s Flower Shop. Her short story, “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe,” was featured in Simon & Fig’s Christmas anthology, Merry & Bright. She’s currently working on another book.


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