Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From Fiction to the Real Deal- Post #4

Women going solo. Making it in a paired world. 

Whether your widowed or divorced, when your status changes so does the world around you. Society views you and treats you differently. 
Transitioning from a wife to a single female can be daunting and alarming at times. 
Coupled friends that you and your once, significant other used to have, recede into the woodwork. The smooth grain of a past life becomes abrasive, filled with deep ruts, often mirroring this difficult transition. 
There are reasons for this. 
Some may not know how to integrate or socialize with you anymore, feeling they have to guard themselves, ensuring they don't mention an ex, or deceased spouse. The pressure that this strain creates often has them pulling away due to indecision.
Becoming single can also be viewed as a threat by other females in your circle. Due to their insecurities you become a sort of adversarial distraction that can raise suspicion. This in turn has the widowed or divorced female yanking back on the reins of her conduct, afraid and even paranoid of acting in such a way that could be viewed as inappropriate or disrespectful to the paired female friend or acquaintance. This restraint causes an unnatural environment, adding an unnecessary awkwardness to all who may be present in a group situation.  
These possible scenarios can cause great anxiety to the now single woman who's trying to salvage what's left and navigate herself forward. 
The ineptness of others can also cause great frustration to the recently widowed or divorced. One finds themselves preparing what to say when or if certain comments are made pertaining to their newly, acquired status. 
For the widowed, your new status was not a choice, yet a life-changing event that you've been forced to accept.  It's vital to keep these things in mind when attempts are made to re-enter a social circle that was once occupied by you and your deceased spouse.   
I myself, from personal experience have learned which of my friends are secure in their relationships and those who are not. I've often found myself censoring what I contribute to a conversation. If someone mentions my husband I provide a polite reply and try to steer the conversation back to comfortable ground for all those involved. 
Dating? That's another obstacle in itself. Though I have not started to date yet, I've been told by grief counselors that one should again, answer inquiries but refrain from talking about the deceased spouse. 
No one wants to be compared or over-shadowed by a spirit of the past. As a widowed  individual we can reflect and answer questions without inflicting the pressure on another with the need to compete.
I feel it's also important to try and not get offended by certain inquires. If you've lost your spouse due to a tragic accident or illness many you come into contact with have not been through an ordeal of this magnitude. They simply just want to know how you've dealt with your loss, and may know someone else who has endured a similar tragedy. One can't learn without asking questions. Some have the courage to, but many do not. 
I salute the ones that do ask. It shows a strength and willingness to face life's harsh realities and gain knowledge by hearing about these catastrophic events from others.  
I've found that rebuilding your social circle takes time and much patience. When we need to count on the understanding of others our own timetable cannot be implemented. 
   Some of these points can certainly relate to singles as well, people that are still searching for that one, special person they can connect to. For me, dating is entirely different then it was back in 1996 when Mike and I first met. I think I'll save those hurdles for a future post. 
  For me, I will quote Joyce Meyer, a great life teacher. "There is no drive-thru breakthrough." These adjustments in life take time. We learn as we go. 
I surround myself with secure, supportive and understanding people. The others who struggle with my situation will and have handled things to the best to their ability. I have to accept that. Though I may see that as unfavorable for me, I have to acknowledge that I am powerless in changing the reactive behaviors in others. I can only pay attention to my own behavior. One of my greatest life-lessons since my husband, Mike's death has been not to be impressed by the negative. I surround myself with the people who are caring and supportive of my journey. I know they only want the best for me. They have also given me license to find, and obtain happiness again without ridicule. These individuals become the root of your new social garden so to speak. Through their unbiased actions and appropriate reactions, I'm confident that my new life will grow and thrive, leading me into a brightened future. I know that's what Mike wants for me. Seventeen hours before his death he told me so. 

Justine Cerrigone Szot

JC Cerrigone- Nonfiction works

JC Szot
Author of Fiction romance 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"All In" download tomorrow- Release Day 2/24

From Evernight Publishing
All In
Teaser Snippet

JC Szot Copyright © 2014
Chapter One
“Where did you get that?” Cara asked. Her eyes widened at the wad of cash Mick had clenched between his fingers. He straightened out the bills, fanning them in her face like a deck of cards.
“It’s my old man’s, or it was,” Mick said. A cunning grin formed on his full lips.
It was more money than Cara had ever seen, aside from standing in line while at the bank.
“I found it stuffed behind the fucking insulation down in the basement,” Mick told her. “Fucking asshole ... says he never has any money. Well, now I’ve got a little over three G’s.”
They huddled in the dark alley, shuddering from a bone- chilling wind that tunneled around them.
Mick’s eyes flashed as he pushed the black wool cap back over his brows, displaying features that could easily swing between expressions, and at the drop of a hat. Cara had seen both sides, how Mick could look wonderfully handsome, as well as extremely intimidating.
He kept his dark hair buzzed close to his scalp. Mick had intense hazel eyes that seemed to change with his expressions, often looking as dark as cocoa with a leafy green incorporated in. Those unique eyes were paired with a strong, square jaw. His cheeks were always shaded with a hint of growth.
Checking both ends of the alley, Mick rolled the bills up, returning them to the safe confines of his pocket.
“What are you going to do with that money?” Cara pulled her hood over her head. 
 “It’s what we’re going to do with it,” Mick told her, his features sobering. He scoured the length of the alley once more, his voice lowering. “We’re getting the fuck outta here.”
“What the hell are you saying?” Cara felt her entire body go tight. The look on Mick’s face had her mind racing.
“Just look at our folks.” He sniffed, shaking his head. “There’s no future here. We live in The Hollow, remember?” Mick’s hand reached for her. His fingers dug into her arm. His grip seared through her heavy coat. Mick shook her, jarring her with the brutal truth of his words. “If we don’t get out of here now, we’ll never leave,” Mick whispered, his tone now dripping with an empathy Cara wasn’t familiar with. “There’s better, and I don’t need to become a goddamn basketball player to get it,” he said sharply.
Cara knew the resentment Mick had for his brother ran deep. All Mick’s parents cared about was Theo’s athletic success and what it could buy them later. Theo had won a scholarship for college and was now being considered for the NBA draft.
Mick had always fought to tame his jealousy, only ever getting the leftovers. He’d never been praised for his good grades. His father always told him there was never any money for him to even consider taking a night class at the local community college.
Mick was a short-order cook at the local diner, and a good one, but Cara knew his aspirations were always trying to reach higher.
They’d both been living day-to-day in The Hollow. Mick had been vowing since graduating high school that he was going to split. Cara had underestimated him. She thought this day would never come, assuming Mick shared her own fears about leaving, fears that were connected to failure, only having to return and admit defeat. Silence hung around them as dead leaves swirled in the wind before skidding across the asphalt.
They were already twenty-two years old. Mick was right. Very little had changed. Had Cara become so numbed by the same daily routine that she hadn’t noticed?
She’d been sloughing in a dead-end job, assembling pegboards at Rothmans’ Millworks. As Mick presented this blinding reality, Cara’s thoughts reverted back to her mother. Though Cara had always had shelter and food, her mother was foolish, shacking up with a new man every week. 
 A gust of biting wind stung her eyes. Mick’s voice clawed its way through the shadows.
“We only get one fucking life, and this isn’t how it’s gonna be,” he said, jamming the toe of his sneaker into the concrete.
“Why do you want to take me?” Cara asked, her heart tripping at her own question. She and Mick had been what Cara always thought of as “survivor mates.” This was a radical move. Before she agreed to anything, she needed to know.
“No way am I leaving you here,” he told her through an irritated breath, his jaw tight. “It’s now or never. It’s this one second of indecision that can easily turn into many minutes. Minutes that turn into the hours of days, days that you can never get back. Faltering can do years of damage.” Mick swallowed hard, his eyes narrowing.
“Why does this feel like a top-secret mission?” Cara asked. “I can’t leave without telling my friends.”
“If we say the slightest thing all people will do is laugh,” Mick said, his tone scathing. “They’ll say our plan will never work, and we’ll be back. I will not listen to their fears of failure. People are also going to question where I got the funds to leave. I’d probably be arrested for stealing, knowing how gossip travels around this place.” Mick shook his head. “Tomorrow night is the night. Are you in, Cara?”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day-

“You can keep my ‘go green’ bags. That way you won’t have to deal with ripped paper.” Meg set the tote bags, stuffed with Zane’s groceries, down on the table. “It’s such a waste anyway.” She frowned. “Hey, your clock is wrong. It seems to have stopped.”
“Yeah, I know.” Zane rolled over, wincing as he sat up. His gut twisted with a burning cramp. He grabbed the remote, silencing the stereo. His new neighbor walked closer to the wall, gazing up at the antique timepiece that his uncle had given him. Zane’s eyes wandered down her tall, willowy frame. The girl needed a sandwich.
“That’s a shame. It’s such a pretty clock.” She faced him. Fiery- red curls fell over one emerald-green eye. She did have a unique type of sex appeal, but she talked too much, too many words for Zane to process. She was also quite friendly, which only fed his guilt, but she was just too much for him, so bubbly and happy—too happy.
“Yeah, well, actually...” Zane stood up, his head swimming for a minute. “It worked up until yesterday, but when I got home from the doctor’s, it was broken. Just like me. It’s stopped keeping time, and so has my body. Our lives are stationary, I guess.” He shrugged. It was really too deep a philosophical statement coming from Zane, but it was one he believed was true. He’d met Meg down in the vestibule, near the mailboxes, last week. Today he’d gone shopping, only to  have dumped his stuff all over the floor of the lobby when his bags tore open. His bladder was on the brink of bursting, so Meg had waved him off, saying she’d bring his stuff up. Too nice.
Meg turned her back on the clock, her face creased with worry. Two thin, vertical lines deepened between her brows. She was sort of cute.
“What d’you mean?”
“Doc told me yesterday that I have Hodgkin’s disease.” Zane grabbed one of the green tote bags and headed into the kitchen. He tossed his groceries on the high counter that lined the edge of the kitchen. Meg was on his heels. She slid onto one of the stools behind the counter before he could blink. She toyed with a box of Pop-Tarts, eyeing the contents listed on the side of the box, her brows pulled together.
“I’m sorry.” Her wide eyes reached for him, her stare a bit intense. Zane instantly regretted divulging this information. He could almost see her head spinning off her thin neck, which had a sensual curve to it, he noticed.
“Listen.” Zane waved a hand through the air, reeling his thoughts out of the gutter.  “Hey, I’ve got a handle on it. I’m sure you’ve got somewhere you need to be...”
“No.” Her tone was laced with a mild hysteria. Zane stepped back, feeling her verbal fire. “I work at the Holistic Hut, you know, down on Seventh Street. There’s things you can do, besides the traditional medical treatments. Jesus.” Curls moved around her face, grazing the edge of her jaw. “If the disease doesn’t kill you, those damn chemo treatments just might.” Her lips pressed into a thin line. Seriousness crossed her face. “God, Zane, I’m sorry. It’s just that—”
“Meg, it’s okay, really.” She was too much. Now he had her feeling sorry for him. Zane walked around the counter, helping her down. Her long, thin fingers were cool in his palm. Her brows were still knitted across her forehead. “I appreciate you bringing my stuff up.” 
 “Yeah.” She glanced up at him, her expression startled. “I’ll see you later...I guess.” Her voice lowered. Zane escorted her to the door, her body moving slowly, as if she were sedated. She looked dazed and confused. Meg quickly grabbed her purse off the table, some paisley-fringed sack. The material at one time could’ve probably been a pair of curtains dating back to the seventies.
“Thanks again.” He put on his best smile, holding the door for her, his face pained from the charade.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Upcoming release news

Final edits on All In are complete.
Release date is scheduled for February 24th
Evernight Publications

Raised in the outskirts of Pittsburgh in a slum known as The Hollow, has both Mick and Cara stuck at a dead end. Tired of taking second place to his brother who's up for the next NBA draft, Mick plans his escape. Having concealed his feelings for Cara since childhood, thinking he'd never be able to give her what she deserves has him recruiting her, making her part of his plan for the future. Cara, who's just been going through the motions of a mundane life escapes her harsh reality through fiction romance, often wishing she could live the life of the characters she reads about. As Mick and Cara set out on their journey there are bumps along the way. As Mick struggles, waiting for the right time to confess his feelings he discovers the method of Cara's escape. When Mick decides to rely on Cara's  fictional world to assist him with the expression of his affections, real life and fiction collide. Will Mick learn how to be the expressive man Cara wants on his own? Will Cara accept his overtures as genuine while the two attempt to gain stability and have a life together, leaving the grime and grit of The Hollow behind. 

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day

Sara quickly walked up the street, her skis and poles over her shoulder. The roads were dark and desolate. She headed toward the trail Jake had taken her to Thanksgiving Day, hoping he was there. She dropped her skis in the snow, clicking her boots into the brackets. She turned on her headlamp, adjusting the brightness. Bright light flooded the trail ahead of her that wove through the tall, snow- covered pines.
She listened to the snow fall steadily, a light crinkling sound as millions of flakes fell. Sara pushed off. Her skis cut through the snow, her legs gliding down the trail, her muscles coming back to life with a slight burn. She breathed deeply, calming herself with the rich, woodsy scent. Sara adjusted her light again, thinking she could see the faint tracks of Jake’s skis.
She saw the clearing ahead, hearing sounds of civilization. Orange light pulsed through the darkness as a plow passed. She stopped at a group of large boulders at the mouth of the trail. She unclipped her  boots from the skis, sitting down. Across the highway a group of kids congregated in front of the convenience store.
“They’re probably hoping for a snow day tomorrow.”
Sara jumped, her poles falling into the snow.
“Jesus,” she gasped, holding her chest. Dale was sitting next to 
her. She couldn’t help but stare. He’d never spoken to her before. Had he sensed all the turmoil? 
“I’m sorry. I was hoping I wouldn’t do that.” His deep laughter filled her ears. Sara kneaded her temples, shooting him a sideward glance. He was perched on the rock next to her, the heels of his black boots anchored into the granite, his elbows resting on his knees, another visitor unfazed by the weather. He was wearing a sleeveless white T-shirt. A large tattoo covered his upper left arm, a black panther snarling, gnashing its teeth. Sara cocked her head at him. He looked different, his hair buzzed close to his scalp. He spoke her thoughts.
“It’s the hair.” He smiled. “I seem to be molting into another creature. Oh, by the way...you just missed him.”
“Shit.” She looked away. What she wouldn’t give for a simpler life. She’d rather be back at home arguing with her mother about how often the bathroom should be cleaned.
“So, um, when did he leave?”
“You only missed him by an hour or so. He stopped here, just like you, went across the street for a coffee, and headed back.”
They sat for a few minutes. An occasional vehicle passed on the snow-covered roadway. Dale got down to business, slinging the dirt of the past faster than Sara could comprehend it.
“He’s a bizarre creature, that Jake, isn’t he?” His blue eyes gleamed. “The ladies used to call him the ‘oversexed charmer.’” His velvety laughter filled the quiet woods around them. Sara felt her brows lift. Their naked bodies flashed in her mind, as a flash of heat rushed over her face. She didn’t know if it was Dale’s presence pulling it out of her, or Jake’s openness where sex was concerned. It was hard for her  to be angry or embarrassed. He’d really set her free, allowing her to be a woman again and embrace her once-dormant sexuality, something she hadn’t known existed, even with David.
“Don’t overthink things.” He waved a finger.
“No, it’s just that...”
“Not all tortured souls are dead.”
Sara’s body trembled at his words. “You mean Jake? Mr. Smooth 
and Uninhibited?”

Monday, February 17, 2014

From fiction to the real deal. Death does not warrant drama.

Death is a difficult topic for many. As some readers may know, I lost my husband, Mike last summer to AML leukemia. I've released 14 Erotica romance novellas through several Ebook companies. I've recently started writing nonfiction under the pen name JC Cerrigone. My nonfiction works consist of my experience in dealing with a spouse that battled cancer. I only planned to write one memoir. Now that has turned into a series which will consist of three books. One has already been released-"Leukemia, My husband, And me: A Turbulent Triangle." The second book in the series titled "What Lies Behind" is now in edits. I am currently working on my third and last book of the series, titled-  "Widow's Walk."  
Since receiving nine 5 star reviews for the first book for which I am thankful to all my readers, that is what has prompted me to write this blog post today.
In those reviews it's stated many times that my story hit close to home, and that so many people had similar scenarios occur in their family circles.
Being a cancer caregiver as well as the experiences that I've had to endure following my husband, Mike's death, has spawned a mission of sorts. I hope that these books can be used as tools to help others. The first and second books I go into how vital communication among loved ones and relatives is while dealing with a catastrophic illness. A topic I did not touch on and that I am addressing today in this blog post is how important it is for one to have plans in place. Yes, I am speaking of making plans and/or arrangements for your death.  Whether a death is unexpected due to a sudden accident or a catastrophic illness, it is so important for one to have a A Last Will and Testament drafted, leaving instructions for family members. Let me enforce that those details need to be specific. 
My husband Mike planned his own memorial service once his doctor told us that his time here on earth was extremely limited. Our wills had been drafted 17 months prior after Mike was diagnosed in the spring of 2012. 
Addressing this need is often brushed aside, consumed by the demands of a daily routine, for which Mike and I were guilty. Though it's unpleasant to look at and explore, it is so very important that one documents his last wishes. So many people struggle with death and loss, actually avoiding it until it directly affects us.  There are a plethora of problems that can arise from procrastinating on this issue of not having arrangements in place. 
I mentioned earlier my husband even planned his own memorial service and there were still problems. This is when maybe a recording or a personal letter from the individual to the family would really ensure a solid, drama-free acceptance and journey through the grieving process. 
A few weeks ago while sitting at my desk I came up with this line 'Denial can be the enemy of almost anything.'
Family members on my husband's side denied his illness, often avoiding the gritty reality of what we were all up against. 
After my husband Mike passed away negative, self-centered drama erupted. People were aghast at the fact that my husband chose to be cremated. They were irate, going to great, malicious lengths to get me to change things. My husband's death became all about them. As a wife it was my job to honor my husband, implementing what he had planned and wanted. One of his relatives went as far as requesting to go to the funeral home to view my husband prior to his cremation. 
To the grieving widow these occurrences are devastating, compounding a pain and loss that is already so deep and raw. 
So many factors can play a role in this type of reactive behavior for which I go into in my second book. Though, I was pressured and emotionally abused by people who claimed to care about me, I refused to budge. I knew what my husband wanted. 
Mike and I had had many private, intimate conversations about his death, conversations that are meant to be kept between a husband and wife. Sorry moms, dads, sisters and brothers. This is something that is private between spouses. 
As Mike's wife the result of me carrying out his final wishes has completely destroyed relationships, relationships that I thought I had with my in-laws for fifteen years. 
I am pleading with all my readers and blog visitors today. Respect the wishes of those whom have departed. Promote unity and memorialize your loved one the way they deserve. 
When making your plans leave detailed and specific instructions. Ask your family to respect your wishes, and to treat those left behind facing a gaping hole of loss with compassion and kindness. 
The selfish bickering of family is not what my husband deserved after fighting an intense illness for sixteen months. 
If individuals have trouble dealing with serious illnesses and death then they should seek council. Open the lines of communication and utilize the numerous resources that are available in your community and local hospitals. 
I've seen the devastating damage of unspoken words and regret. I've witnessed the anger and selfishness of others. It's about honoring your loved one. Being supportive, and compassionate should not be contingent with your own wants. 
In closing I want to emphasize that these plans, no matter how unpleasant, need to be put in place. When arrangements are made ahead we can assure that those who we love and have left behind will not be harassed and hurt. It only adds to the loss. I lived through this. The torment went on for months. 
Instead of reflecting on the wonderful memories of my husband, I was channelling my energy into an empty well that was corroded with greed. 
I did what my husband wanted, and I have great peace in that. Though the price was high, I'd do it all over again. I know that Mike would not have wanted all of this drama and discord. If his family could've looked beyond themselves the outcome would have been so different.
Make your plans. Have wills drawn up that speak directly to family members, and most of all, ask that they unite in your memory. Come together and mourn the loss. Don't create division. It's not always about us. 
JC Cerrigone

Coming soon from JK Publications- What Lies Behind. 
Visit Mike's website for his story

JC Szot- Author of fiction romance 

JC Cerrigone/ Nonfiction works

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day

Her stomach rose and then fell like the steep climb and fast descent of a roller coaster. Flashes of light exploded behind her lids. Sorted laundry was scattered on the floor. Liz was crawling across the carpet of her bedroom. A wide beam of light poured through the window, blinding her.
“Duane,” Liz gasped. Her voice was hoarse, her throat closing. “You’re back...really here.” Her words were a strained whisper. Her eyes stung. She dug the heels of her hands into them, needing clarity. Liz froze on all fours, staring at Duane sitting in the caramel suede chair he’d bought her for her birthday.
The flesh of his bare chest sparkled. Around his neck hung the braided leather necklace she’d given him. A shark’s tooth dangled from the thin string, nestled between his muscled pectorals. He had on his favorite jeans, the ripped and frayed pair she’d kept. His feet were also bare. He always sat like that...with one foot resting over the top of the other. Liz choked. Elated tears flowed like a rushing stream. “You always hated shoes.” Her anxious laughter rebounded around her. “Do you want something to eat?” She shook her head at her ludicrous question. Everything around him glittered, dusted with a pearly snow.
Her stomach turned. The evening’s meal that had settled was now thrashing inside her gut. Duane smiled at her, his rich, blue eyes more dazzling, almost electric. His hands were folded in his lap. The  wide, gold band she’d given him glinted on his finger. Rich, brown curls fell over his brows, grazing the nape of his neck.
“What should I do? Am I’m doing okay? God, I miss you," Her lungs ached, her chest tight. Liz wanted to speak and scream at the same time. Paralysis numbed her body, its functions hindered. She could barely talk or lift a hand. She wanted to touch him, but she couldn’t move. Duane grinned. He raised his hand, giving her the thumbs-up. They used to do that if they got separated in a crowd and their eyes would meet, closing the distance between them. “Duane!”
Liz’s eyes popped open. Her body was cloaked in heat, her skin slick with sweat. She quickly sat up, the room spinning. The clock on the nightstand was in triplicate. She blinked, waiting for everything to right itself. Digital numbers glowed, 3:24 a.m. Liz kicked at the covers, the sheets soaked and sticking to her skin.
She leaned into the clock. Boiling bile rose into the back of her throat. Liz leapt to her feet and ran into the bathroom, lowering her face into the toilet. As her stomach returned all that she’d ingested, the tears came, hard and strenuous. Her head throbbed. She reached for a towel that hung on the bar above and wiped her mouth. She sat on the floor. Her nightshirt was soaked, twisted around her waist. A shuddering shiver sliced through her.
Tonight as Liz stared up at the ceiling, an answer she couldn’t quite grasp flashed through the darkness. The digital clock had spoken, jarring her with its numerical display. Duane’s date of birth was March 24. 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Excerpt- "What Lies Behind" Sequel to Leukemia, My Husband, and Me: A Turbulent Triangle

A sequel to
Leukemia, My Husband and Me: A Turbulent Triangle
JC Cerrigone

Cerrigone/What Lies Behind/page iii


I dedicate this book to my family and friends. The people who came forward and showered me with love, support, and encouragement. No matter how difficult things became, they remained firm in their position and continued to offer me their loyalty and devotion. I thank you all. I’m forever indebted. Dealing with my husband’s catastrophic illness was one of the most excruciating times in my life, but what I dealt with after Mike’s death far surpasses any pain I’ve ever experienced.

 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

To learn more about Mike’s story, visit


This is a work of creative nonfiction. The events are portrayed to the best of Justine’s memory. While all the stories in this book are true, some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.
This story is not an attack. It was written with the intention that it will hopefully be used as a tool in preventing others from having to encounter what I did. I am not trained in any specific areas of psychology obereavement counseling. The stories in this book are the experiences I had in dealing with individuals and their reactive behavior following my husband’s death.
I want to thank JK Publications for taking on these two books. Nonfiction is an entirely different market and not always accessible to every author. I thank you for this opportunity. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly.

                  Chapter Twelve -  Slandered 

I think Mike liked the whole Tree of Life theme I was using for his service because everything was thriving. The grass, as well as our plants and flowers, were growing like mad. The growth couldn’t be contained. It was bizarre. I had marigolds that were drooping, falling over from the weight of their colossal blooms.
We had about two acres of yard. I had someone coming to cut the grass, and Mike’s union brother Vic had been here twice to trim some things back.
We had three Rose of Sharon trees. I reluctantly had Vic cut two down. Their trunks were weak, and I was already thinking about the upcoming winter and how I was going to manage the snow removal for an eighty-yard driveway.
Vic had taken a small root from one of the trees. He said he wanted to plant it in a pot in memory of Mike. He planned to keep the small sprig in his garage, which was heated, and then eventually plant it in his yard in the spring.
* * *
I called Ivy, the woman Naomi had referred me to for the quilt. I had all of Mike’s clothes laid out on the bed. When I heard her pull in, I went to receive her at the front door.
She was a young girl, which surprised me. I suppose I just assumed that she was older, because Naomi was. She had an earthy look, with long brown hair that moved at the top of her shoulders.
“Hi, Justine.” She waved through the screen door, which I now kept locked. Due to the recent events and being alone in the house all the time, my guard was up.
“Hi, come in, please.” I opened the door, stepping aside. Her light-brown eyes blinked, her lips a glossy taupe.
“I’m so sorry about your husband,” she said, her condolence soft and airy. “How are you holding up?” she asked, her sensitivity taking me by surprise. I attributed that to not having experienced much in the last several weeks, and again it was coming from a stranger, compassion that I just assumed would come from my husband’s family.
Others were making up for it, and for that I was extremely grateful. Ivy obviously had practice with her tactfully delivered sentiment, considering her line of work. I had to keep reminding myself to acknowledge people like Ivy. It was so easy to be impressed by the negative.
“I’m taking one day at a time,” I said.
Ivy nodded. “It’s so hard. I’m looking forward to creating something that will provide you with many years of memories.” 
“Come in. I have all of Mike’s clothes out.”
“Great.” Ivy followed me through the living room. I had set everything out on the bed in the spare room.
Ivy sat on the edge of the bed and sorted out all of my husband’s clothes, piling his jeans and tee-shirts on one end and then stacking the sweaters and few button-downs that Mike had. We weren’t people who dressed up often. During the holidays we tried to make an effort with our attire.
“Okay.” She tucked a pencil behind her ear, a small pad of paper in her lap.“What I usually do is pick out a color for the backing and then cut the squares. It looks like Mike’s favorite color was yellow,” she laughed, thumbing through the tall stack of shirts and sweatshirts that were all in the yellow family.
“Yes, that’s true, as you can see,” I agreed.
I liked her instantly. She was a sweet girl, upbeat and perfectly poised with an empathy that almost had me choked up.
“I say we go with a yellow backing.” Ivy glanced up at me intermittently while jotting down a few notes.
“That sounds perfect,” I said, content about the project.
“Now, if you find yourself thinking tonight that there’s something here that I have that you don’t want me to cut up, please call me,” she told me. Her forehead creased slightly with trepidation. “I’ll probably start cutting the squares tomorrow.
“Great. No, you can have it all,” I assured her. “I’ve already sorted everything.”
“I just want to make sure that you’re comfortable. You can always change your mind…I mean…I have your husband’s clothes.” She reached for my shoulder, her fingers lightly pressing. “Thank you for trusting me with them.”
This girl was killing me. Tears poked and pricked. I hastily wiped my eyes as we bagged up all of Mike’s clothes. I didn’t want her to feel bad, because I cried at the drop of a hat these days. This girl had obviously done this many times before. Ivy’s compassion was something she had artfully mastered along with an expertise I would soon be able to drape myself in.
* * *
Later on in the afternoon, I went down to the bank. I’d gotten a lump sum death benefit payout from Mike’s union. It was relief. I’d made back some of the money I’d had to return to Emma.
I walked into the bank and got in line. Tara, one of the tellers, glanced up from counting and gave me a solemn wave.
Mike and I had come in here the day after Dr. Hikaru had given us the news, telling us that Mike was terminal. We’d come in to make sure all of our bank business was in order. I removed the two death certificates from my purse that Tara had told us I would need after Mike passed away.
After she locked her till, she waved me over. I sat down across from her.
“How are you?” she asked, her teeth catching her lower lip. I made people nervous now. They didn’t know what to say or do. Some tried, some ran away, and some wounded me. I diverted my thoughts back to the people who were giving me what I so desperately needed.
Death was something many had trouble with. As time continued to move forward,I would experience a plethora of behaviors from people.
“It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had a lot of trouble with Mike’s family,” I admitted. I glanced over my shoulder. It was nearing noontime. The lobby was empty. Tara knew me and Mike. We’d been doing our business at this bank for over ten years.
“I saw the announcement on Facebook that your sister posted, about you having to cancel the service,” she said in a hushed voice. She shook her head. God, let the guy rest,” she sighed, sliding my check toward her.
My mother-in-law offered to pay for the service. After about two weeks she retracted her offer. I don’t think she was happy with Mike’s final arrangements,” I told her.
“Those are arrangements that he made. It was his choice,” Tara hissed, her eyes blazing with irritation. I shrugged.
“All she had to do was tell me. All any of them had to do was communicate with me. It wouldn’t have made me modify anything. I would have gladly returned her money. I’m Mike’s wife. It’s my job to honor my husband’s last wishes. It’s the way his family went about expressing their frustration,” I said. “They’re angry about other things. There’s no one else to target but me,” I said, exhausted from telling the story.
I questioned whether I should delve into the allegation, right here in the lobby of the bank. I quickly discovered that I didn’t have to. Tara’s next words would shroud Mike’s family with a new, dark evil.
Tara nodded, taking a breath. She leaned across her desk.
“Justine,” she whispered. Tara’s eyes darted around. Her gaze returned to me.“They were in here…Mike’s brother and sister.”
The terminal sickness that this family kept trying to inflict upon me returned, racing through my veins like a lethal dose of heroin.
“They were?” Soured bile rose in the back of my throat. “Why?” I asked.
“They wanted to ensure that your name wasn’t connected to any of their mother’s accounts,” Tara confessed.
“Oh my God.” I sat back in my chair, blown away by another toxic squall.
“Justine…” Tara’s words faded, hanging in an empty air that wasn’t pure enough for me to breathe. I could get into trouble for saying this about a customerwhich they’re really not, their mother isbut you need to stay away from these people. You did the right thing, canceling your husband’s service. Take what I’ve told you today and consider it their first count of slander against you, and it only takes one.” Tara lifted a finger into the air, driving her point.
Mike’s family’s first count of slander really came with the initial accusation, an accusation that didn’t stem from any investigation or inquiry, not to mention proof. I’d slipped away, sucked back into some sort of dingy tunnel, unable to see my way out. Tara’s hand touched mine, drawing me back.
If you hear of anything else, you should really take action.” Her face was etched with seriousness. I’m telling you, what they did the other day in here is slanderous, and slander is against the law. The fact that they don’t know that only reflects their own incompetence,” she said.
Tara completed my transaction, passing my deposit slip across the counter.
“You stay well, Justine. If you need anything, anything! Come in and see me,” Tara told me.
My in-laws hated me, and I didn’t know why. I’d never had any type of confrontation with any of them over the fifteen years Mike and I were together. If I gave them all a gun, would they kill me? Their actions were all but killing me. My heart was still beating, living through each dayanother day without my husband, as their behavior continued to hammer into me. They were maliciously chipping away a little bit more of my integrity with each passing day.
I found myself contemplating how Lyn or Ben would feel if they were the ones who’d lost a spouse and their in-laws had turned on them, inflicting more torture on someone who was already grief-stricken. Jan and Sara had been divorced for years. It was like my father said. They couldn’t see beyond themselves. I had trouble grasping this. I needed to get pasthis. I just didn’t know how. Mike’s family’s conduct toward me was poisonous. To slander is to slaughter. To slaughter is to kill.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Leukemia, My Husband and Me: A Turbulent Triangle/ audio of chapter One

Audio of first chapter, read by the author.


The Fork in the Road of a Writer

Being a writer is like battling multiple personalities. I have created many versatile characters, each with their own individual voice. They've have the power to distract me, interrupt social situations, and keep me bound and chained to my computer. They also have the ability to cause insomnia, and confusion. They've made me happy, sad, and frustrated. My relentless determination has kept me driven to provide a resolution for each and everyone of them. 
When my husband, Mike was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia my fiction world was interrupted, draped with a black curtain I couldn't see through. My characters and their lives were at a standstill, drifting on a raft, further and further away from the shores of my story telling. 
Suddenly my life, along with these catastrophic events forced me to look at my own reality, and attempt to create or manipulate a solution, but this was a resolution I couldn't control or predict. 
My thoughts and my voice, along with the events in my life began to scream with an ear-piercing reality, overriding any of the voices of the characters that I'd created. My fiction world became silenced. Real life was yelling in my face, echoing through my mind, my future forever altered. The urge to express my feelings, my heart aches and pain became an annoying stalker I wasn't sure I could or should give my attention to. I've only ever dabbled in poetry because I had to, an assignment for school that I would stumble through.
Throughout my husband's battle, and after his death spawned a reaction as well as undesirable behaviors in others that I never saw coming. My journey into widowhood has been a multifaceted experience, one dominated by pain, loneliness, and the often inappropriate reactions and opinions of others while adjusting to my new status. 
My fiction production had stopped cold, dying a slow death, just as my husband, Mike had. I'd even gone as far as confessing to my dear friend, and fellow author, Loc Glin that it might all be 'over.'  My life as writer had been taken away from me, corroded by Mike's Leukemia. I'd sent her an email, telling her that I'd reached the end, no longer able to create, listen and converse with my characters. My fictitious planet had spun out of control, and was unreachable.  
Loc didn't just email, she called me promptly right after the email had gone through. 
"Listen to the voices that are there...don't ignore them. They have something to say." 
Her guidance, that one statement was the birth of my journey into the nonfiction world. I grabbed onto my angst, making peace with my devastating circumstances. 
"You have so much to share," she'd insisted. "Once a writer, always a writer. I hate to tell you this, Justine, but it'll never be over." Her laughter over the line warmed me, renewing my spirit. Loc had crawled inside my head, embracing the plethora of emotions that come with losing a loved one. "Just sit down and see what happens. Something is bound to come."
Real life came at me like an avalanche I couldn't stop. It flowed. My thoughts and ideas were snowballing.  They required no plot, and no outline. God had already made the outline, I just needed to get the words out and down as I rode on the coattails of my emotions. 
All it takes is the power of one person, and one action to change a course. My pain and loss became my production, fueling a memoir series that will consist of three books. I give credit to Loc today for her unyielding friendship, love and support. My first release in the series- titled- "Leukemia, My Husband, and Me: A Turbulent Triangle" is a title she created. I give her full credit in giving me free rein and a much needed pat on the back to get me back at my desk and get busy. Please visit my website below that will consist of my nonfiction works. This website is dedicated to my husband, Mike and reflects our battle with his AML leukemia. In closing I'd like to add that my fiction writing is making a slow comeback. In the upcoming months I will have a release through Evernight Publications, titled- "All In." 
Michael J. Szot
8/11/51- 8/1/13

JC Cerrigone/ Nonfiction works


Friday, February 7, 2014

The Man between the Men

You came at the end of destruction, bringing light to my dark path, dressing it with friendship, affection and sensitivity. You set me free, enabling me to feel again, to give and receive pleasure. The feel of your warm flesh against mine, your arms holding me in a safe embrace. It was a reality that felt like a dream. Those moments are rare, an untarnished beauty, a polished perfection. I consumed all I could, knowing you weren't mine to fully possess. I can own it now. It burns in my bones, a certainty I can carry forward. Can it happen again? Thoughts of you bring hope, that maybe it can.
JC Szot

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Weary Widow

An empty hole is all that’s left, dark, hollow and cold.
I’ve been defined by the death of another. I’m alive, breathing, my life stifled by words that wound. I hide behind my shield, waiting for the approval of my jury. They are silent with their gifts, only voicing their rules. The battle rages daily, to hike this earth because God has decided that I am to remain.  Light comes in quick, moving flickers of heat, a warmth that does not last.
I am trapped, chained and bound to a life that was altered without choice.
Moving forward feeds the scrutiny of others. Ravaged wolves gnash their teeth.
Leaving loneliness is not permitted. Adapting is out of the question.
Suspicion grows, consuming me, tainting my integrity.
Opinions dictate, telling me what I’m allowed to have and what I’m not.
 Is my soul dead? My heart still beats, though shrouded by death. What is a life without passion? What is a life without contact, the touch or caring words of another? Has my only chance come and gone?
Am I not worthy?   What are the rules of this new life? According to others it is small, confined, and without unity.  If this is the way, why must I remain? God strives for fellowship as his own children insist on division.
Where is my place? Am I to be alone? Waving, but not permitted to venture from this island?   Does a circumstance beyond one’s power deem them to never connect to another, to never cherish or be treasured?  Who is the one to approve?
A plant that is parched cannot live. 
I am still here, thirsty for my purpose, wanting all the desires that others seek.
Why can it only be them, and not me?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day

“I don’t understand it,” Ella said. Her eyes scanned over the front page of what was a thick packet of documents.
“Did you and your uncle not have a good relationship?” The attorney glanced at her over the rim of his glasses.
“We did when I was young.” Ella shook her head. “As I got older, he and my father didn’t see eye to eye anymore. Something happened. My father’s been dead for years. After his funeral, I never saw my uncle again.”
“And your mother, if I may ask?” His tone was cautious.
Ella sighed, riffling through the papers again, trying to make sense of it all. “My mother left as soon as I went away to college. She had some sort of midlife-crisis thing. She’s out west, fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning an antiques business. After my father’s death, things fell apart. I can’t say we have a great relationship either,” Ella added, her tone hushed with regret. She felt like she was dumping her dysfunctional past on a stranger. “Doesn’t my mother want the house?”
“Your mother’s name isn’t on the will. Yours is.” James Ryan of Ryan, Spencer, and Brighton stood up and righted the papers on his desk, signaling to Ella that their business was complete. He slid the keys across his desk, the chain a shiny, plated gold. “That’s a prime  piece of real estate you have there.” He chuckled, seeming perplexed over why Ella was debating with him. He obviously thought this was her gateway to a great fortune. “There’s no mortgage, and the taxes have been paid for the next six years. I say go down there and enjoy. Try it.” He shrugged. “If you don’t want the place...sell it. You’ll walk away with a nice purse, I can tell you that,” he said. James Ryan grinned, his wiry brows lifting.