Portrait by Tao Nguyen

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Until now I’ve only been promoting “VANILLA GRASS, a novel of redemption” to adults because of the strong language and sex, and drugs. It’s the story of a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who rescues a dog that changes his life. But it’s also about a group of delinquent teenagers who need someone to care enough to stop them from self destructing. These teens lived inside my head for over a year and drove me slightly crazy with their bad behavior and stunts that got them into trouble. At times the things they did shocked me. And I’m their creator!

Recently, a high school teacher who previously read “VANILLA GRASS” attended a book signing and informed me they act and sound just like the kids in her school. She added she hopes teens will read it because of the positive messages the book promotes. I also heard from a mother who said, “I think all parents of at-risk teenagers should read your book.” Okay, I'm listening, and now I'm reaching out to mature teens and YA readers.

An excerpt from a newly posted 5-star review on Amazon says: “...I found myself really pulling for the kids to turn their lives around AND for John and Colleen’s relationship! Anyone who loves animals, wants to learn about therapy animals or is looking for a positive message will enjoy this book. Teen readers will especially find the journey of their peers to be compelling.” 

Are there any mature teen readers out there? Here's some of what you'll be reading.

Pages 20-21 – “VANILLA GRASS”
“Got a loosey?” Monica asked.
“Look in my purse; got a new pack from Mom’s stash.”
Bonnie said, “Light me one too.”
The signal turned red and Summer rolled to a stop. “What do you beyatches feel like doing?” She looked at Bonnie in the rear view mirror.
“Shoplifting at Target,” Monica said. “I need some makeup.”
“Absofuckinlutely good idea,” Bonnie agreed leaning forward to talk.
“Hey bitch! Keep that ash offa me.” Summer brushed hot cigarette ash off her shoulder and scowled at Monica.
“Sor-reee.” Monica flicked her ash out the window.
The light changed to green and they took off heading for Target. Summer circled around the parking lot until she found a space close to the entrance in case they had to make a fast getaway. “Don’t get caught—if you do you’re on your own,” she warned as she parked.
“Chill, I know what I’m doing,” Monica assured her.
“She does,” Bonnie said. “We’ve done this before.”
They got out of the car and tossed lit cigarettes on the ground without crushing them out.
“There are hidden cameras taping you,” Summer warned again. “Be careful.”
“I’m all over it.” Monica sounded annoyed.
“Meet at the car in twenty minutes. I won’t wait.” Summer turned and headed for the entrance.
They watched her walk away.
“She’s so uptight,” Monica said with disgust.
“Yeah, lame,” Bonnie agreed.

 Pages 69-70
Summer spied Evan strolling across the quad and wished he’d stay away.
“Here comes one of the moronimated brothers,” Monica said, speaking loud enough for him to hear. “’Sup dawg?” She flashed him a superficial smile.
Evan’s mocking laugh ridiculed her. “Someone’s got pretty girl syndrome.”
Monica made an “O” mouth and pressed her hands to her cheeks. “Wow, I’ve got a doctor diagnosing me. I’m so impressed—not.”
Summer couldn’t stand listening to anymore bullshit. “Shut up! I’m sick of all this dumb snarking.” She got up and stalked off.
“What’s got her panties in a knot?” Evan asked innocently.
Monica never passed up an opportunity to be cruel to him. “Lookin’ at your ugly shaqdick face.
“You bitches think you’re so hot. Do you eat with that nasty mouth?”
“Are you asking me for a blow job?”
“In your dreams, skank. I’m outta here, something stinks.” Evan held his nose and walked away.

Page 125
Bonnie stuck her tongue out and glared at Evan with utter contempt, but in spite of herself, Summer couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “You’re such a dweeb,” she snorted.
“Yeah, a dick with eyebrows is what you are,” Bonnie said cruelly. “Get it moron? D W E E B spells dweeb.”
Evan’s cheeks flushed and he retaliated. “Oh yeah? Well you’re a cunt. C U N T.”
“Dude!” Jason grabbed the front of Evan’s shirt and shoved him on his back. In a flash he straddled him and balled his fist to strike, but instead he lowered it, shoved Evan again and climbed off him.
“I’m givin’ you some slack ‘cuz I know you miss Brent. Now watch your mouth or I’ll knock your teeth out.”
“Okay, chillax.” Evan rearranged his hoodie and smoothed his hair.
“Now, can we talk about what happened at school today?” Summer asked.
Page 179
The weed was strong and Evan felt very stoned already. He took another drag and this time his eyes stayed open. Summer and Zach had moved to the corner and were sharing a joint, talking and laughing.
“You’re kinda cute. Guess I just didn’t notice before.” Bonnie started unbuttoning her blouse and reached for Evan’s hand. “Wanna touch?” She placed his hand over her bare breast and allowed him to fondle it.
“I always thought you were beautiful,” he said in a husky voice, silently thanking God she wasn’t wearing a bra. Evan pulled her down and stretched out on the mattress. When she didn’t resist he finished unbuttoning her blouse and started licking her breasts. His tongue tickled and she laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Summer asked joining them. “Wanna make it a threesome?” She knelt down to French kiss Evan first, then Bonnie.
“Hey! Don’t forget about me,” Zach said pulling off his T-shirt and unzipping his jeans.
“This is awesome!” Evan stripped down to his briefs showing his hard-on. He and Zach finished off a joint and he rubbed himself while watching Bonnie and Summer make-out.
“All right girls, time for some real action,” Zach said, getting on his knees. He was completely naked.
Zach stroked Summer’s back. She rolled over and he started to remove her lace panties. Bonnie pulled off Evan’s briefs and began to lick and suck his swollen dick. Everyone was high and horny.
“Hey Jason! What’s going on up there?” a masculine voice shouted from below.
“What the hell?” Evan jumped up and grabbed his briefs and jeans. Summer, Bonnie, and Zach scrambled for their clothes. Evan hopped on one foot while he struggled to pull up his Jockeys. “Jason’s not here,” he shouted. “Who’s askin?”

“VANILLA GRASS” is available in paperback from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Download on Kindle to your e-reader, cell phone, computer or tablet. Your local bookstore can order it without adding shipping charges.

“Every once in awhile, a book comes along that causes you not just to read it, but sit in silence afterwards thinking about what you have been reading. Vanilla Grass is such a book. Once I started, I couldn't put it down. Everyone thinks they know what veterans face when they have PTSD, and you tend to brush aside "at risk teens" with perhaps an unsympathetic view, and oh yes, of course we've all heard about how meaningful a dog can be to a handicapped individual or even one with PTSD, but when you put all three elements into a single story, blend their interactions, speak in their language, and realize how initially, all three were misfits in a throw-away society that really wants to move on and not ask "why," you have a powerful book…”

“Vanilla Grass…touched me in so many ways. I loved John, the Vietnam vet, and the teenagers he got involved with. The animals in the story were also so sweet. For me, this was a story about love and the gifts we receive from unconditional love of our fellow humans and animals. I have to say this was an uplifting 'page turner'. I couldn't put the book down.

“Every character in Vanilla Grass touched me in some way. The characters are developed through precise dialog and very realistic circumstances, whether an isolated Vietnam veteran or an alienated teenager. This novel brings to life not only the essence of redemption but does so through exploration of some very complicated and humanly challenging circumstances…The struggles of disenfranchised young adults and the search for connection that we all struggle to achieve jump, out of every page. The healing power of dogs not only brings together the commonality of the characters but highlights the essence of what really pulls our characters through PTSD and other live traumas. This is a very sensitive and important story. It is about all of us. It is about healing.

“…The author has developed the characters so deeply that I felt I knew each one. It taught me about many important aspects of life that I had not given much thought: the horrific physical and mental burdens returning soldiers suffer, the healing power of dogs trained to give solace; the redemption of wayward teens when someone cares enough to teach them their worth, and the importance of speaking up when peers attempt to lead you in a dangerous direction. Congratulations to Bratspis for this thought-provoking book with a plot I could not only immerse myself into, but I could even smell it.

Twitter: @LeslieBratspis

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