Announcing the Loving Vintage Release

My interest in women’s back stories drives me to explore their situations and their worlds. And better yet if that back story includes archaeology, natural/alternative  healing methods,  metaphysical touches and some travel. In past stories you’ve met a software project developer (Nardi Point); a Nurse Practitioner (A Path through the Garden); and a bibliotherapist (Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar). vintage_cover

Today, I announce the release of the first book of my new series LOVING VINTAGE. In this story, you’ll meet Annie Savone, the boomer manager of the Loving Vintage consignment shop.

When Annie Savone enters her bid to purchase the upscale vintage clothing shop she manages, she designs a path to take her from a blindside divorce to the rest of her life.

With only a faded photo of a woman with toddlers—her only possible clue to a family of her own—Annie elects to brazen out the mystery of her adoption and grapples newly exposed family roots that lead her into a jeopardize-all risk.

You may enjoy reading the novella,  Stronger Ever After (presented in a five-part series on this blog) that introduces some of the main characters you’ll meet in Loving Vintage. Enjoy!

Stronger Ever After – Conclusion

Here is the final installment of my novella, Stronger Ever After. Enjoy! For the further adventures of these characters and others, be sure to explore my latest novel, Loving Vintage, to be released December 10, 2016!

The long Sunday hours killed her. Barb had projected the increase in shop traffic correctly. Mimi’s greatest struggle however, were her careening thoughts about Willow and how to guide and support her daughter through this challenge as Mimi restocked displays and helped customers. Her focus was Willow’s next confrontation surely to follow tomorrow, Monday morning at school. And the appointment Mimi had arranged with Willow’s teacher. She slipped away into the break room and rotated her shoulders to break the tightening knot. She scanned her cell. No messages. Her daughter hadn’t answered her texts all day.

She pressed Jeff’s number. The call went to voice message as she rubbed her neck. “Jeff, I’ll stop by for Willow on the way home from work. Save you a trip. Be leaving in about half an hour.” Her shoulders burned in spasm. She reached back and attempted to knead it loose then finished up the orders and inventory count before leaving.

Jeff’s townhouse windows were dark when Mimi parked in front. She grabbed her cell as the message indicator blinked on. It was Jeff.

“Look, Mimi. I messed up. Willow’s home. Safe. I’m at the precinct,” a pause, “Got picked up for DWI.”

What! Her hands shook. The message, listed from two in the morning, had posted only now.

Impossible reckless excuse for a husband. He’d sworn off drinking and why the judge had granted joint custody during divorce proceedings.

Her throat tightened, she crushed the car door handle open and ran to his front door, pressing Willow’s number again on her cell. Still nothing. She wanted to throw the cell, smash it. She rang the bell, then pounded the door.

No response. She called out, “Willow!”

Her fingers trembled as she jabbed Willow’s number one more time. Jeff in the drink tank all night, where was her daughter? The last time she saw her was yesterday afternoon. Anything could happen in that time span to a thirteen-year-old looking to be fierce—in a black leather jacket.

She fumbled the key ring for a duplicate key made from the one Jeff gave Willow for weekends. That’s what being a mom was all about. Grateful she’d taken the precaution, her shaky fingers eased the key into the lock. She was in, the door slamming behind her. Sprinting two steps at a time, she rushed the stairs to the bedrooms. The master was undisturbed. Willow’s room had been slept in, the rumpled bed unmade. She gulped a breath and raced downstairs to the kitchen. There was a bowl and spoon in the sink, a jar of chocolatey Nutella, Willow’s favorite, on the table.

Again she jabbed Willow’s number. Too soon to call police? They wouldn’t take the report yet, not enough time. What about an amber alert? Her mouth dried. Jeff wouldn’t have his phone in the drink tank and couldn’t help. Her legs weakened beneath her. She had to sit.

On the table beside the Nutella jar, a couple of fashion magazines caught her eye. Several loose pages of sketches were nested between them. Mimi recognized her daughter’s style. With the sketches, was a torn magazine page from a local vintage consignment shop. Did it connect in any way with Willow? She caught her breath and flashed-read the shop’s location. It wasn’t far.

Her heart took on a prayer-answered fervor that propelled her out of the chair, out of the townhouse and into the car. She almost passed the address, it was that nearby. Mimi checked her watch. It was late afternoon.

She could see the shop’s lights still on. As she ran to the door, a woman placed a Loving Vintage Closed sign in the door window. Mimi met her eyes and gestured she needed to come in, thinking she must absolutely look like a crazy person. Past the woman, and sitting at a low counter, she could make out a young girl, her head down, busy with something she couldn’t tell what. depositphotos_7711394_m-2015

“Willow!” A shout and gasp released from her chest as she recognized her daughter.

The door opened immediately. Mimi flew past the woman to her daughter.

Willow looked up. A radiant smile Mimi hadn’t seen on Willow’s face in a long time, changed in a split second to a flush that spread across her cheeks. “Mom!”

Mimi embraced her daughter as tears dropped from her eyes. “Thank, god!”

She pushed Willow’s shoulders back out of their embrace and placed her face close to her daughter’s. “No call, Willow! You know the ground rules. I’ve been so worried, you have no idea!”

Willow hung her head. “Sorry. Everything was such a mess.” She raised her gaze. “Then I met Annie, here.”

The woman stepped forward. She gave Mimi an understanding smile filled with compassion.

“I’m Annie Savone,” she clasped her hands in front of her. “I manage Loving Vintage.” Annie looked toward Willow and swept her hand at the designs Willow had drawn. “Your daughter has quite the eye for vintage.”

Mimi tilted her head and waited for more.

“Willow stopped by the shop the other day to look through our vintage wear and collectibles. She was interested in the stylist job I posted.”

Willow’s gaze hit the floor. She didn’t seem able to meet Mimi’s eyes.

Annie looked from Mimi to Willow and continued, “She drew a couple of sketches putting together some of the pieces we have for sale and I recognized her talent.” She paused, “If it would work with Willow’s school schedule, I’m looking for an intern, too. Flexible hours, only a few a week actually because this is a new position. And it comes with a small stipend.”

Willow’s head bounced up. “Could I, Mom? I’d love it.”

Mimi took a quick sweeping glance of the consignment shop. Over toward an area marked Consult, Willow’s black leather jacket slipped to the floor from where it had been tossed. The shop had a secure, established feel to it. No doubt business was good evidenced from the freshness of the tasteful displays, and orderliness. She returned to her daughter’s expectant face. The change she saw in the Willow before her was dramatic.

She looked at Annie who exchanged an almost telepathic message of understanding.  The warmth and kindness in the woman’s eyes were reassuring. Annie had somehow recognized Willow could benefit from having her talent recognized. A smile curled Mimi’s lip and the heaviness she carried lifted. She would back her daughter, formally support her talent, grow her confidence, and guide her along a path to wherever Willow’s talent would take her. Mean Elle would not have the last word.

Mimi nodded, “I think you’d enjoy that and learn a lot.”

Willow rushed a hug to Mimi, remaining in her arms longer than she had in quite a while. Mimi dropped her head to Willow’s and gave the softening hair-sprayed head a kiss before returning to meet Annie’s gaze.

“Thanks for this,” she sighed. Then she raised her chin and without hesitation, asked, “About that open stylist position—”

There would be no more mean girls for either of them.

Stronger Ever After – Part IV

Here is Part IV of my five-part novella. Hope you’re enjoying it!

Shoppers wandered and browsed the merchandise aisles as Mimi routinely refreshed displays. Willow was all she could think about. Her outburst last night only brought more questions as she pieced together at what point Willow started avoiding school.

After Jeff had collected Willow, Mimi entered an online teacher conference request. Willow was a good student, it wasn’t school work that intimidated her daughter. She had to determine what the teacher knew about the situation.

A shopper interrupted her thoughts by asking about sizing. The woman nodded her appreciation and carried the garment to checkout.

Mimi cruised the shop like a robotic carpet cleaner.

What was it about Willow that led this Elle to bully her with texts and name-calling? Willow had friends, but didn’t cultivate them, preferring to sketch fashion designs and examine style magazines over mani-pedi talk. She spent weekends sewing and more often reconstructing outfits from older clothing.  Willow wore a smile that glowed whenever she came across a vintage piece she could afford.

Fierce inside, that’s what Willow had said. What did she mean? Mimi scrubbed her face with a hand.

Checkout was busy. Not a word of feedback about how the hot date had gone. Maybe later. It didn’t matter. There was only one thing that mattered now.

At the front of the shop, Mimi recognized a particularly arrogant customer well-known to sales associates. The woman carried the ultimate designer Birkin handbag—always. No matter the outfit, weather, or appropriateness, the Birkin was the single accessory. Mimi well remembered the feel of that bag on her back as the woman pushed her out of the way on several past shopping visits.

The woman approached a sales associate who spun on her heel and paused before leading the woman directly toward her. Mimi steadied herself as they advanced.

“This is our stylist, Mimi,” the associate said, waving her hand at her as they neared. She had placed a funny little sarcastic emphasis on stylist.

“She can help you.”

The shopper, her mouth open, watched the associate walk off then pivoted back to face Mimi. She tucked the Birkin bag onto a pile of cardigans and scrounged the bag’s contents. Mimi doubted she even needed anything in the bag. It was merely a prop, like a calling card to announce her possession of a coveted designer accessory. The woman looked up from her bag with narrowed eyes.

“I don’t need a stylist,” she growled. “Never have.” There followed an arrogant tirade about her individual style sense.

Mimi held her tongue. It was a set-up. They had deliberately dumped Birkin-woman on her. The woman ended her stream of self-acclaim, made her way to the front of the shop, and trundled out.

Mimi shook her head and looked around gauging if others had viewed the scene. There were no bystanders. The shop was as hard as its decor, no heart, only chrome coldness.

Talk about Willow, I’m in the same situation–bullied for my style sense and bullied into working an unfair schedule because I need the money.

She squeezed both eyes hard to clear unwanted tears and caught another figure entering, a familiar figure. The hair looked purposely bedhead-ratty. Was that a black leather jacket punctured with studs worn over, oh no, a green bohemian skirt and black combat boots?

“Mom. How’s it going?”

Mimi gasped. “Never mind how it’s going, Miss Willow. What’s happened to you?” She pulled her daughter over to the side. She searched Willow’s face for a moment, then pushed back a clump of her hair, releasing an antiseptic smell. Five fresh ear piercings lined up along Willow’s outer ear. beautiful young girl with dreadlocks

Mimi sagged against the counter and leaned into the four-way chrome display fixture for support. The display wobbled and might have fallen under her weight had she not been able to recover her balance.

Willow tucked the hair defiantly behind her ear, fully displaying the piercings. “It’s the new me, Momma. I can be as tough as the others.”

“This is now you?” Mimi swallowed and forced her voice low. “Because some mean girl-come-lately can’t see the value, style, and heart that the Willow I know possesses?”

Mimi couldn’t chance the scene escalating into a drama, but her daughter’s so-called look was a hot mess. Any small display of so-called style fierceness was lost on Willow’s soft body. She reached for her daughter’s shoulder to guide her off the selling floor toward the breakroom. “Let’s talk.”

Willow shrugged Mimi’s hand from her shoulder, “No, Momma. I don’t care what you think.” She spun around and huffed toward the door.

Mimi could only follow with her eyes. The checkout associates stopped what they were doing, put their heads together and whispered as Willow stomped out of the shop.

Mimi’s chest ached, followed by a quickening pulse and pounding heartbeat. She’d love and defend Willow against Elle, against the separation pain, against any danger the world might serve up for her struggling daughter. And the intervention had to be soon.

Stronger Ever After – Part III

The continuing novella, Part III, featuring characters from my soon to be released novel, Loving Vintage. Mimi Shepherd is the clothes stylist at the Loving Vintage upscale vintage consignment shop, and Willow is her teen daughter. Teenage girl portrait

Mimi slammed the car keys on the entry table. Traffic had been worse than ever.

“Mom, you’re home.”

Willow, draped on the couch with a chenille throw around her shoulders, dipped into a bag of chips. The thick scent of licorice floated from an opened box of Allsorts candy tucked into a stack of teen fashion magazines on the coffee table.

Mimi’s chin dipped to her chest. Her daughter had an appetite which was good, but was eating junk food. Guilt overtook her—she hadn’t been there to prepare dinner.

“Sorry, Willow.” She took up the candy box and closed the flap. “Why don’t I make us a great salad? You’d like that?”

Willow looked interested, then said, “You could have called to let me know where you were.”

“Okay, Willow. Message received.” One rule Mimi enforced was that her daughter let her know where she was throughout the day. And the only reason for Willow’s cell phone.

Willow exhaled with the usual teen drama, got up from the couch and followed Mimi into the kitchen. Mimi searched the fridge for romaine lettuce then set to rinsing the dark green leaves in the sink. The sink hose splashed a water stream onto Willow’s skirt.

“Oh, no!” Willow whimpered.

Mimi grabbed a towel and sponged the wet areas of her daughter’s skirt. The faded agate green color had an artisanal look only vintage clothing possessed. Willow loved the skirt, but she overdid the boho look. It was like some stylist’s curse, having a daughter who couldn’t quite get the proportions of the blouse with the belt to pull the look together. However thoughtfully she coached Willow, the teen held on to how she wanted it done.

“There.” Mimi stepped back to check it out. “It’s fine.”

Willow’s face relaxed. “Yeah, it looks okay.” She smoothed down the volume into soft folds.

“Great skirt, Willow. So versatile. There are lots of things in your closet I bet it would work well with, too.”

Willow avoided her eyes. “Why, Mom. You’ve got something to say about my outfit, too?”

Mimi’s ears piqued. She managed a non-confrontational tone. “I guess for me it’s an occupational hazard being a stylist at the shop. You know.” She attempted a smile and placed the towel over the sink and attempted a nonchalant question, “Do others comment on your outfits?”

Her daughter pushed away. She met Mimi’s gaze from the safety of distance. Tears were ready to drop from puffy eyes rimmed with thick dark lashes.

“Two worlds, Momma.” Willow’s voice cracked. “Me fierce and me—not so fierce.” She turned and fled to her bedroom. The door slammed behind her.

Mimi’s forehead wrinkled as she cleared her throat. Nothing quite that succinct had ever come from Willow before. Fierce was a fashion attitude she’d never use for Willow. What was going on?

Her daughter’s cell ring tone sounded from the coffee table. Mimi waited a moment then went to retrieve the cell. An incoming text message. Though not wanting to snoop, she was Willow’s mom and the way her daughter was acting, something was up.

She pressed the view key.

Weeping Willow looks like a pillow. Pillow Willow.

That was all of it.

Stunned, Mimi could not take her eyes from the mean text. Weeping Willow? Could that explain the puffy eyes? Pleas to leave school? How long was this bullying going on?

She flexed her fingers, then jabbed the call list for sender info. Elle something. She couldn’t remember Willow mentioning any Elle. Elle was a fashion model’s name, not a real name. What was this Elle doing intimidating her daughter? She realized she was holding her breath and let it go. And she had to work this weekend. Her hands were tied.

Her call to Jeff connected after several beats.

“Yeah, Mimi, what do you want?” His voice sounded gravely. Had he been sleeping?

Her palms sweated.

“Jeff,” she pushed her message out, “listen, my work schedule’s been hijacked. I’ve got to work this weekend–they only told me today–and something’s going on with Willow. Could you take her this weekend? It’s especially important for one of us to be with her now.”

He said nothing.

“I hate doing this, really—”

“What’s going on with her?” he growled.

“Not sure. She’s moody, wants to come home from school because she says she’s sick, but she doesn’t have any symptoms.” How much should she share? His interest level in his daughter’s life wasn’t high. Father or not, she hated he was the only one she could turn to.

“So she’s not sick?”

“Not that I can tell. It doesn’t stop her from snacking. I think it’s something to do with bullying.”

“Bullying? What the hell’s that about?”

She rubbed the back of her neck. How to explain? “I found a mean text sent to her cell. Something about weeping willow, pillow willow.”

“Pillow willow? Come on, what’s that mean?”

“I think maybe something to do with her weight. Snacking’s put on some pounds.” Her muscles tightened. She waited for his response and shook her head. Willow, already short-changed by the separation and now this.

“I had something going, but okay. I’ll drop over and pick her up.”

It was the only available solution, thank god he agreed. She would break the change in weekend plans to Willow and help pack her up. “Thanks, Jeff.”

Mimi tapped on Willow’s closed door, waited a moment, then turned the knob and stuck her head through the open slice. Willow had folded herself on the bed, her back facing the door.

“Honey? Can I come in?” Mimi opened the door fully.

Willow turned slightly, but said nothing.

Mimi took that for an okay and walked to her daughter’s bed and sat down on its edge. She stroked Willow’s tousled hair. The pillow was damp. “Seems like a lot’s going on.”

Willow shook her head so that Mimi’s hand fell from her hair and turned away.

“I was late tonight because I found out my schedule’s been changed.” Mimi swallowed hard. “It affects this weekend.”

Willow sat up with her back against the headboard. “Changed?”

Mimi nodded. “I have to work, honey.”

Willow rolled her eyes.

“I have to sort it all out, but in the meantime, Dad said you could go with him. I’m sorry about the last minute change. He’s on his way.”

Willow stroked her eyebrow and looked away. “Well, I guess okay.”

“Thanks, Willow.” She needed to bring up the mean text and looked for an easy in. “By the way, I kind of intercepted a text message for you. Just before.”

Willow sat straight up and seemed startled. “Why?”

She reached for Willow’s hand. “Would you like to tell me about Elle?”

Willow pulled her hand from Mimi’s grasp, pushed her out of the way, and stood.

“Mom!” she shouted. “That’s private. Why’d you go and do that?”

“Who’s Elle, honey?” she asked softly.

“I hate her. Hate her, hate her.” Willow clenched both fists in the air and pumped them for emphasis. “She’s mean, says my clothes are old—says I’m fat,” Willow sobbed tears and gasped for breath. “Everything was fine until she came along.”

“Oh, honey,” Mimi stood and embraced her daughter who shook her off at first, then surrendered.

“What does your teacher say?”

Willow’s shoulders shuddered from weeping. “Don’t know.”

“Haven’t you said anything to her about Elle?”

“Don’t want to.” She ran the back of her hand against the side of her nose. “I’m strong, Mom.”

Mimi’s heart broke. It was time to step in.

Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar releases October 10, 2014

I’m excited to announce the release of my third novel, a Boomer Generation read, Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar!

Bibliotherapist, silver-haired Rhose Guerin uses books, movies, plays, and poetry in her private practice. An advanced professional credentialing program removes her from friends and family in North Carolina to study in Westport, Connecticut where she reconsiders her fading marriage; a daughter in a relationship crisis; a parent challenged by health issues; and the reappearance of an old love.

Long held family secrets and relationships are revealed that beg intervention as Rhose second-guesses decisions made in her past. Was the path she turned from, the better one to have taken? Can she satisfy her need to grow both professionally and personally in order to find acceptance and romance in a life of her own?

There are no novels to show her how. She must be the heroine of her own story as she appraises and makes peace with life decisions boomer generation women face.

Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar available at: http://smile.amazon.com/Yellow-Pansies-Blue-Cobalt-Jar-ebook/dp/B00OBRI58C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412887177&sr=1-1&keywords=Yellow+Pansies+in+a+Blue+Cobalt+Jar