(5/21) Marlo Schalesky's SHADES OF MORNING and Rene Gutteridge's LISTEN
SHADES OF MORNING
By Marlo Schalesky
"Schalesky has a knack for waving a surprising spiritual twist into her tales. The touching plot will make readers examine how they deal with past regrets, and how God moves them through it. A not-to-be-missed, stunning novel!" 4 ½ stars, Top Pick, Romantic Times review
Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that's nobody else's business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church - they all think she's the very model of compassion and kindness. Then Marnie's past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old sona boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome - and that she's woefully unprepared to care for him. What's worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister's attorney, a man Marnie once lovedand abandoned. As Emmitand Taylorwork their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?
Autumn snow fell like fat angels fluttering to earth.
Emmit sat on the snowbank, his eyes closed, his head tipped back. He was a snowflake too, drifting on the breeze. Cold nibbled at his wings. Ice kissed his lashes. He stuck out his tongue and caught a flake. Why did the snow always melt away just when he finally got some? He reached up and scratched his too-small ears with a too-small hand. Then he adjusted his heavy, coke-bottle glasses.
Something whispered in the wind. He held his breath and listened with all his might. He could almost hear the voices telling him that today he was fifteen years old. It was a big number. They all said so. He was a big boy now. All grown up.
And that meant it was time for the prayer to be answered. Not some little prayer about sniffly noses and friends at school. Not one about nice weather or where to park a car. This prayer was important. It was about love. It was about family. And God always answered those.
Emmit wiggled deeper into the snow. The flakes fell in heavier clumps. He opened his eyes
The pretty light would be coming soon. The big whirring one on top of the truck that picked up the garbage from the cans on the street. He liked the light. Round and round. Round and round. It would come.
A screen door slammed. He looked back, over his shoulder. A puffy white coat stood on the doorstep with a matching hat perched atop wisps of brown hair. The coat waved.
Emmit waved back. That's how a mom should look. White coat, pink smile peeking from between collar and hat.
"Mighty cold out here, sweetie." She motioned toward the snow as she spoke.
Emmit grinned. "I wait for pretty light."
She nodded and trudged to the mailbox by the street. The box creaked when she opened it.
Then the pretty light came with a chug, a squeal, and the grinding of gears. The light turned and turned, made its way around the corner and up the street.
Emmit watched it. "Pretty light! Pretty light!" He called out to her, but she didn't turn.
Instead she stood there, hunched over a stack of white envelopes in her gloved hand.
The wind gusted.
The whirring light rumbled closer. Closer.
Then it happened. A little thing. A simple thing. It shouldn't have mattered at all. But it did.
An envelope skittered from her hand, blew into the street. She went after it.
He stood up. "Stop!" But he couldn't stop it. Couldn't stop her. And worse, he couldn't stop the lights.
Her boot hit ice. It slipped from under her. Envelopes mixed with the angels in the air.
Fluttering, flying, drifting on the breeze.
But they weren't angels. Not at all.
Emmit yelled and yelled. But it didn't help. So he closed his eyes, plugged his ears. He held his breath. But that didn't matter either. He still heard the terrible squeal. The dull thud.
And then, the awful silence.
He peeked out and saw her, a still, white blob on a dirty, white street.
The whirring light stopped.
Emmit sat down and cried into the drifting snow. But that didn't make any difference either.
She didn't get up. She didn't move. No matter how much he cried.
Later other lights came. Red and blue and more yellow. Lights on a black-and-white car.
Lights on a big red fire engine. Lights on a white van with the letters A-M-B-U-L-A-N-C-E printed real big on the side.
They weren't pretty lights. He didn't like them at all.
He shivered. But no one noticed him. They just buzzed around the new lights like bugs.
They weren't bugs. But they still buzzed and shouted and flew away.
And he just kept sitting there, tears freezing on his cheeks, a cold fist rubbing his wet nose.
How could this be the answer? This didn't seem like any answer at all.
This seemed like everything gone all wrong.
He wiped the ice from his face, laid back in the snow, and moved his arms and legs up and down, up and down. Three times to make the image of an angel in the bank.
A perfect angel. A snow angel. Just for her. Because she was what a mom should be.
Because he loved her too. Because she was gone.
The new lights took her.
And then, the snow stopped falling.
* * *
Marnie Helen Wittier hated baby showers. She also hated her middle name, but that was another story. What mattered now was that despite her intense dislike of powder pink balloons, little crocheted socks, and cheap plastic baby bottles, she now wove in and out of handmade tables at her own coffee shop, offering flowered-dressed women fresh pumpkin-shaped cookies and specialty lattes.
The only thing worse would be if she had to wear one of those foo-foo dresses. But a gal had to draw the line somewhere. If not at pink balloons and pastel teacups, then at least at swaying dresses andgasp!high heels. She wouldn't be caught dead in heels.
But she could put up with pretty tulips on the tables, the pink and white streamers, and that ridiculous "It's a Girl!" papier-mâché sign, because this shower was for Kinna Henley. And if anyone deserved the perfect baby shower, that woman did. After all last year's troubles piled onto years of infertility, Kinna had earned the best shower Marnie could think of.
That's the only reason she'd said "of course" when those ladies from the church asked to hold the event here.
Still, that didn't stop her from snatching a pink napkin, scrawling the words hosting a baby shower what was I thinking??? on it, and stuffing it in her pocket. The napkin would go into her box of regrets later. A reminder to never, ever to do anything this stupid again . . .
For more information about SHADES OF MORNING and Marlo's other books, visit www.marloschalesky.com. You can also find Marlo on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky, and on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/marloschalesky.
Shades of Morning will soon be available for purchase (and is now available for pre-order sorry, the release date was pushed back by a month!) at:
Christian Book Distributors: http://www.christianbook.com/shades-of-morning-marlo-schalesky/9781601420251/pd/420251?event=AFF&p=1136938&
And fine bookstores everywhere! Go to http://www.marloschalesky.com/books/fiction/ for numerous purchase options.
Copyright: Marlo Schalesky, 2010
By Rene Gutteridge
Someone is listening...
The quaint, close-knit community of Marlo was the ideal place to live...until someone started posting private conversations online for everyone to read, word-for-word. Now it's neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, as careless comments and hurtful accusations turn the town upside down. Violence and paranoia escalate, and the police scramble to find the person responsible before more people get hurt, or even killed.
But what responsibility do the residents of Marlo have for the words they say when they think no one is listening?
"From it's captivating prologue to its powerful ending, my friend Rene Gutteridge has written an engaging and memorable story. Listen concerns a theme of immeasurable importance to us all. Don't miss it!" -- Randy Alcorn
"Marlo is a small town in trouble, with a capital T. The premise of Listen is fascinating and the execution tightly crafted. The author's script-writing skills are evident in the snappy, realistic dialogue, and her talent for suspense keeps the pages turning. From first chapter to last, Listen explores a town's journey toward redemption with humor, grit, and heart." Liz Curtis Higgs
Damien Underwood tapped his pencil against his desk and spun twice in his chair. But once he was facing his computer again, the digital clock still hadn't changed.
In front of him on a clean white piece of paper was a box, and inside that box was a bunch of other tiny boxes. Some of those boxes he'd neatly scribbled in. And above the large box he wrote, Time to go.
This particular day was stretching beyond his normal capacity of tolerance, and when that happened, he found himself constructing word puzzles. He'd sold three to the New York Times, two published on Monday and one on Wednesday. They were all framed and hanging in his cubicle. He'd sent in over thirty to be considered.
He'd easily convinced his boss years ago to let him start publishing crosswords in the paper, and since then he'd been the crossword editor, occasionally publishing some of his own, a few from local residents, and some in syndication.
The puzzle clues were coming harder today. He wanted to use a lot of plays on words, and he also enjoyed putting in a few specific clues that were just for Marlo residents. Those were almost always published on Fridays.
A nine-letter word for "predictable and smooth."
Yes, good clue. He smiled and wrote the answer going down. Clockwork.
He glanced over to the bulletin board, which happened to be on the only piece of north wall he could see from his desk at the Marlo Sentinel. Tacked in the center, still hanging there after three years, was an article from Lifestyles Magazine. Marlo, of all the places in the United States, was voted Best Place to Raise a Child. It was still the town's shining moment of glory. Every restaurant and business had this article framed and hanging somewhere on their walls.
The community boasted its own police force, five separate and unique playgrounds for the kids, including a spray ground put in last summer, where kids could dash through all kinds of water sprays without the fear of anyone drowning.
Potholes were nonexistent. The trash was picked up by shiny, blue, state-of-the-art trash trucks, by men wearing pressed light blue shirts and matching pants, dressed slightly better than the mail carriers.
Two dozen neighborhood watch programs were responsible for nineteen arrests in the last decade, mostly petty thieves and a couple of vandals. There hadn't been a violent crime in Marlo since 1971, and even then the only one that got shot was a dog. A bank robbery twenty years ago ended with the robber asking to talk to a priest, where he confessed a gambling addiction and a fondness for teller number three.
Damien's mind lit up, which it often did when words were involved. He penciled it in. An eight-letter word for "a linear stretch of dates." Timeline. Perfect for 45 across.
So this was Marlo, where society and family joined in marriage. It was safe enough for kids to play in the front yards. It was clean enough that asthmatics were paying top dollar for the real estate. It was good enough, period.
Damien was a second-generation Marlo resident. His mother and father moved here long before it was the Best Place to Raise a Child. Then it had just been cheap land and a good drive from the city. His father had been the manager of a plant now gone because it caused too much pollution. His mother, a stay-at-home mom, had taken great pride in raising a son who shared her maiden name, Damien, and her fondness for reading the dictionary.
Both his parents died the same year from different causes, the year Damien had met Kay, his wife-to-be. They'd wed nine months after they met and waited the customary five years to have children. Kay managed a real estate company. She loved her job as much as she had the first day she started. And it was a good way to keep up with the Joneses.
Until recently, when the housing market started slumping like his ever-irritated teenage daughter.
The beast's red eyes declared it was finally time to leave. Damien grabbed his briefcase and walked the long hallway to the door, just to make sure his boss and sometimes friend, Edgar, remembered he was leaving a little early. He gave Edgar a wave, and today, because he was in a good mood, Edgar waved back.
Damien drove through the Elephant's Foot and picked up two lemonades, one for himself and one for Jenna, his sixteen-year-old daughter, who had all at once turned from beautiful princess or ballerina or whatever it was she wanted to be to some weird Jekyll and Hyde science experiment. With blue eye shadow. She never hugged him. She never giggled. Oh, how he missed the giggling. She slouched and grunted like a gorilla, her knuckles nearly dragging the ground if anyone said anything to her. A mild suggestion of any kind, from "grab a jacket" to "don't do drugs" evoked eyes rolling into the back of her head as if she were having a grand mal seizure.
So the lemonade was the best gesture of kindness he could make. Besides offering to pick her up because her car was in the shop.
He pulled to the curb outside the school, fully aware he was the only car among the full-bodied SUVs idling alongside one another. It was a complete embarrassment to Jenna, who begged to have Kay pick her up in the Navigator. Some lessons were learned the hard way. But his car was perfectly fine, perfectly reliable, and it wasn't going to cause the ozone to collapse.
She got in, noticed the lemonade, asked if it was sugar-free, then sipped it and stared out the window for the rest of the ride home. It wasn't sugar-free, but the girl needed a little meat on her bones.
"Your car's ready."
Finally, a small smile.