Portrait by Tao Nguyen

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


"Time had taken on another dimension; no one had enough of it anymore. Details led to more details, and were it not for Eric's past experience as a contractor and his friends and connections in the construction business that pulled strings and moved things along, the renovation of the empty restaurant would have taken longer. Eric pushed hard for things to happen quickly, but unexpected delays were unavoidable. The days whizzed by at warp speed, and then it was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving." ~ page 228 "GOOD FORTUNE"

This is what I wrote when Michael was working part-time and getting ready to open his new business. He and his partners were overwhelmed with details and trying to get everything done in time. Indeed, "time had taken on another dimension" and no one had enough hours in the day to get everything done.

For the last two months this accurately describes what my life has been like as I've been getting ready to release my new novel, "VANILLA GRASS." The title is derived from the wild-growing sweet vernal grass that grows in the woods of Western Washington, and smells like vanilla. Five rounds of edits and a final read-through, working with my cover designer to make everything just right, formatting the manuscript, getting the Library of Congress Catalog number assigned and the  Publisher's Cataloging-In-Publication Date and a CIP number assigned so libraries can purchase and catalog my book--these are just some of the details I've been attending to!

When I wrote "GOOD FORTUNE" my heart was immediately connected with the story and characters. I wasn't sure if I'd feel the same way while writing "VANILLA GRASS" because for the first few chapters it felt more like the start of a "project" than something meaningful. Then as often happens while writing, things shifted, my story took a direction I hadn't planned, and I found myself totally immersed and emotionally invested in the characters and plot. 

"VANILLA GRASS" is a book about a Vietnam Veteran suffering from PTSD, a subject I've researched and learned a great deal about in the last year. Rather than attempting to explain the plot, I've decided to post the synopsis that appears on the back cover:

"Suffering from PTSD, Vietnam Vet, John Carrows lives off the grid in self-imposed exile. Battling daily with violent war memories, he is forced out of hiding when pot-smoking teenagers make a failed attempt to rob him at gun point. Teenagers and the town at large aren't prepared for the consequences.

An abused dog will become the catalyst to heal John's deep psychological wounds. When he saves the dog's life, John begins to emerge from years of recurring nightmares and deep depression -- setting forth a chain of events that affect his entire community."

As with "GOOD FORTUNE" I did countless hours of research while writing this book. Part was taken from memories of my ex-husband's post deployment after his return from serving two tours in Vietnam. Some was based on a friend's experiences while serving there. Much of it came from interviewing Vets in my writer's group, reading numerous blogs and articles, and watching YouTube videos of wounded combatants suffering from PTSD. Many Vets go decades suffering with trauma and flashbacks until they get paired with, or go to a shelter themselves, and rescue a "comfort dog" that works miracles helping them cope and heal.

What about the teenagers? Perhaps I was destined to write a book about juvenile delinquents because my father, Irving Shulman, wrote "THE AMBOY DUKES," a novel about an actual street gang in Brooklyn, New York, that was made into the film "CITY ACROSS THE RIVER" starring Tony Curtis and Rita Moreno. He also penned the original screenplay for the iconic film "REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE," starring James Dean and Natalie Wood. His book based on the film is entitled "CHILDREN OF THE DARK." Later, he wrote the first book to be released concurrently with a film. That book was the paperback version of the play that was then made into the film "WEST SIDE STORY."

Am I trying to follow in my father's footsteps? Perhaps. Every writer dreams of writing a best-seller. But at first it didn't occur to me what I was doing was carrying my father's torch by writing about this generation of teens until I'd completed half a dozen chapters. My teenagers aren't much different from the ones my father featured in the 1940s-1960s. My present day delinquents are sexually promiscuous, talk slang, smoke pot, carry guns, and have no goals. They lack motivation and compassion until a Vietnam Vet shocks them into reality.

"VANILLA GRASS" will be released by mid-November. Watch for it on Amazon and I'll announce it here. Until then, you can follow and "Like" on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leslie-Bratspis-Vanilla-Grass/1459047377684683?ref=hl

I look forward to having you join me!

Yours in good fortune,

Leslie Bratspis,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Often on my “GOOD FORTUNE” Facebook newsfeed I come across posts that relate to things I wrote in “GOOD FORTUNE” and I share them with my followers. Today I decided to share this one on my blog. It’s about being in touch with the changing rhythms of our bodies.

Zen Heart writes: “There is a right time for each of the things you do. If you try to live counter to your personal rhythms, you will expend more time and energy to get things done. Body and soul suffer when you force yourself to wrestle against your own rhythms. Listen to your rhythms and follow them.”

Page 161 of “GOOD FORTUNE” aged Tong is speaking to his son, Wu, who is alarmed at his father’s aging. Tong attempts to reassure Wu that he’s fine:

"Life has its own rhythm that conforms to our daily existence. It changes with us as we grow and mature.
For most of my life I have worked hard, and now, I am getting ready to slow down my pace and take the needed time to rest. I have earned that right, which did not come easily. Do not deny an old man the reward he has labored toward his entire life.

Page 162 the conversation continues:
Occasionally my joints ache, but I have nothing hurting me in the way you fear. I’m slowing down, so if I work less and keep myself warm, that will be my best tonic. My biggest comforts in life now are a bowl of hot noodles and watching my grandsons tumble on the floor the way Cho and I once did when we were boys.”

Monday, August 25, 2014


“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and your mind is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” ~ Lao Tzu

This is a question that presents a challenge because we live in a modern age where everything happens in an instant. If our computers are slow or our texts aren’t answered immediately we feel impatient. The instant the red light turns green if we don’t take off right away we get honked at. We hate to wait in line for anything. Cultivating and practicing patience takes . . . patience! Often, I’ve had to remind myself of the advice a friend gave me some years ago, that has prevented me from making snap decisions I’d regret later. Her two words are simple: “wisdom waits.” The theme of practicing patience and waiting for the right moment to act appears throughout “GOOD FORTUNE.” Here are two examples:

Page 32 - Grandfather is instructing young Tong on the virtues of patience and quiet thoughts as a way to settle his mind so he can “hear” what he must do.

“Listen for your inner voice to guide you. Trust your instinct.” As if it were yesterday, Tong remembered Grandfather’s voice instructing him when he was ten. “It may be no more than a whisper, but if your intent is pure, you will hear the voice clearly. Follow where it leads you.”

“I’ve tried, Grandfather, but I hear nothing,” Tong insisted with frustration. “What am I doing wrong?”

“If you try too hard, the noise from your thoughts will obliterate all other sounds, thus making it impossible for you to hear your heart speak.”

Pages 160-161 - Much later in the story, Tong’s son, Wu, enters his bedroom to share an intense dream where he actually sees his Great-grandfather whom he’s never met. At first this seems like the perfect opportunity for Tong to have an important discussion with his son that has been on his mind for years. With Tong’s advancing age his declining health, he feels the urgency to pass on the wisdom Grandfather taught him. Tong is bitterly disappointed when he realizes the conversation he has waited for years isn’t going to take place. Patience is his only solace.

“In that instant, Tong's hopes shattered like a crystal vase that fell to the floor and splintered into a thousand tiny shards of glass. Bitter disappointment replaced hope when he realized the conversation he had so often prayed for was not going to take place that morning. He was so close to saying the words he’d kept bottled up inside him, and they were almost out of his mouth when he was forced to swallow them. Tong knew that in order for Wu to fully comprehend what he wanted to teach him, his son would first have to have an open mind or his words would fall on deaf ears and be wasted like spilled water. Now, any further attempt to pursue this line of thought or explain that the dream foreshadowed Wu’s future would be futile. Above all else, Tong desired to teach his son what he still lacked in perception and values, but once again, he would have to be patient and wait for the right moment.”

Some reviews:

"Synchronicity, life lessons, multi-cultural, patience, acceptance and much, much more ... all woven together into a masterfully told story ... what's not to love ... I did and I think you will too."

"...one will find him-or herself reflecting upon their own life experiences. Finally, it is a pleasure to read a book with a positive and uplifting outcome. Definitely recommended!"

"Bratspis tells the story of two young men from different cultures who face challenges in their lives. An elderly Chinese man who learned ancient wisdom from his grandfather is the human instrument who influences both of these men in working toward life-changing goals."

#Patience #LaoTzu #Listen2YourHeart #BePatientAndWait #GoodFortuneByLeslieBratspis #LifeLessons

Leslie Bratspis, Author
"GOOD FORTUNE" is available at Amazon.com & Kindle, Barnes&Noble.com & Nook, Smashwords.com
By request from your local bookstore

Monday, March 31, 2014


Recently I was approached by a book club that selected “Good Fortune” as their monthly read. The members inquired if I’d be willing to attend their meeting and of course, I answered I’d be delighted. It had been two years since I’d read my manuscript and I thought it wise for me to refresh my memory. I started reading it again and at once it became apparent how much I loved my characters, but also how much of my own life was revealed on the pages. At the time I started writing “Good Fortune” my father was dying from Alzheimer’s. Once a brilliant author, scholar and teacher, he was deteriorating rapidly and I was experiencing grief at how he’d radically changed. As I read about the conflict between Wu and his father, Tong, I realized I was writing about my yearnings for my father to be well.

The complicated relationship between Wu and Tong as Tong's health declines runs prevalent throughout “Good Fortune,” but there is much more from my life captured on its pages. I've heard it said an author writes about what they know. Chapter 8 tells about a letter that foretells the future. I wrote about an actual letter my husband received from his grandfather while he was anxiously waiting to find out the results of an important state exam relating to his position as pastry chef for a major hotel. Somehow, the letter got tucked inside a book and was forgotten for six years until once again, my husband was waiting to learn if he’d passed his state exam to become a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. Back then things weren’t computerized, so he had to wait three months to learn the outcome. One morning he dreamt about his grandfather with whom he’d had a close relationship. He woke up missing him, wishing he could talk to him one more time. Without knowing about his dream, I watered the plants per my usual weekly routine and noticed a letter protruding from a book. Curious to see what it was because it hadn’t stuck out before or I’d have noticed, I slipped it out and read it. When I saw it was from Grandfather, as a surprise I set it on the reading table for my husband to find next time he sat there to read. At the end of this blog is a photo of the actual letter which predicts my husband is going to pass his exam. The reproduction is small, but it reads: “Your father keeps informing me of your progress. I trust and feel confident that you will pass your state exams with flying colors…” When he read it that morning, he knew he had!

Another example from my life is written about in Chapter 17. The ballerina painting Jenny shares with Michael was the first oil painting I ever attempted. I came across a photograph of a prima ballerina after her final performance and was struck by the beauty of her pose, her long hair flowing down her back. I’d taken many figure drawing classes with live models and I thought the pose so beautiful I wanted to paint her. When I showed the finished painting to a friend they remarked it was “so sad.” Until that moment, I hadn’t seen the sadness, only the beauty that inspired me to paint her. Page 97 Jennie is talking about herself to Michael as they are getting to know each other:

While I was still in school, an artist friend gave me a beautiful gift. She made an oil painting depicting a ballerina after she danced her final performance…She's seated backstage with her torso bent over and her head resting on folded arms across her knees. Flowing down her back, her long black hair makes a graceful veil…When I hung it on the wall, I only saw the dancer's sadness. My friend viewed it strictly from an artist's perspective. Her eye appreciated the shape and form of the dancer's body draped in the chair and she painted what she saw, but I felt as if I were seeing into a mirror reflecting what could be my future… The painting showed me the depth of the dancer's sadness after her final performance, and every time I looked at her I felt her pain, too. I knew I didn't want to end up like her…Then one day, I found myself looking at the painting in a different way. I realized I was also an artist, and I had the power to paint my future. My life was a canvas and the future my work of art. Once I came to that realization, I was able to take the steps to protect myself from such a heartbreaking fate. That changed everything. Now, whenever I look at the sad ballerina, all I see is a beautiful painting.”

These are just two examples from my life I incorporated into writing “Good Fortune” while attempting to share some personal experiences of synchronicity, wisdom and learning. There are too many to include, so I will only list twelve of them. The names are fictitious, the incidents all true.

1.         Discovering how to actually open a fortune cookie without breaking it. My friend described how her daughter received her engagement ring the day before I wrote Chapter 7.

2.         Learning about Chinese culture and customs from unexpected sources wherever I went such as the conversation coming from the next table while dining at the commissary at work. A magazine delivered in the mail with an article about Shuikou noodles after I’d just begun writing Chapter 40.

3.         Brothers Andy and Michael fighting and ruining their mother’s new lamp.

4.         Pretending to be pirates and fighting with swords made of cardboard.

5.         Chapter 18 - Michael’s reflections about the hurdy gurdy man in Monterey, CA, how he respects this man for being independent and his own boss.

6          Contemplating the universe while star gazing around the fire pit at Nepenthe. A silver fox appeared and scared the diners.

7.         Michael standing all day and being exhausted from working so hard on Valentine’s Day. As a floral designed, I experienced such fatigue.

8.         Meditating by the ocean and hearing a voice in the wind.

9.         Creating a beach sculpture from driftwood, shells and seaweed.

10.       Referring to “A Dictionary of Symbols” after waking up from a dream.

11.       Jennie studied ballet and jazz. I took ballet 6 years and lyrical jazz for 25 years.

12.       Grieving over the death of my father. The poem Wu tucked into his father’s breast pocket is in the grave with my father tucked inside his breast pocket.

13.       Achieving a state of enlightenment during meditation.

 I hope you enjoy reading “Good Fortune” as much as I loved living it and writing it.

Yours in good fortune,
Leslie Bratspis, Author

"GOOD FORTUNE" is available at Amazon.com & Kindle, Barnes&Noble.com & Nook, Smashwords.com    By request from your local bookstore