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,

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