Portrait by Tao Nguyen

Thursday, August 27, 2015


I was somewhat apprehensive about my "VANILLA GRASS" author event at Barnes and Noble in Silverdale, WA. Barnes and Noble! I took a deep breath and walked inside. I was thrilled to see my picture on the poster with my book cover. This was really happening.

For weeks I planned what I was going to say, collected props, and got a mani-pedi the day before. My presentation was scheduled to begin at 1 pm. I arrived around noon to give me time to get my table arranged. Barnes and Noble also ordered copies of "GOOD FORTUNE." I brought a bowl of fortune cookies for everyone to sample.

As people began sitting down I recognized some familiar faces and relaxed. They gave me a microphone and I talked a little about my background and what brought me to the Pacific Northwest. Spoke about what it's like to be a writer. Showed scraps of paper where I scribble notes whenever ideas come to me. Explained I write about subjects that are meaningful to me--overcoming life's challenges, being compassionate, doing work for the greater good, volunteering for Golden Retriever rescue. I explained all the Golden Retrievers in "VANILLA GRASS" are my rescued dogs and I chose Sage to be the star because she was blind in one eye and injured when I got her from the shelter. Said how John Carrows feels damaged inside so when he finds Sage he recognizes another wounded soul and feels an instant bond with her. I read the pages where he first encounters her. Then I compared my two protagonists, Chow Lee Tong in "GOOD FORTUNE" and John Carrows in "VANILLA GRASS" who at first glance seem like complete opposites, yet are similar in many ways.

Then a Vietnam Veteran walked up with his service dog and approached me carrying a copy of "VANILLA GRASS" he'd purchased some weeks before. He walked with a cane and introduced himself and his dog. He wore a Vietnam Veteran's cap, jacket, and shorts that exposed a long scar on his right leg. 

"My name is Richard and I came here to meet you and thank you for writing your book," he said, holding up his copy. "I want you to autograph it. This is my service dog, Chloe. My friend gave her to me. John Carrows is exactly like me. I have PTSD too. Where does he live? How do you know him?"

"John Carrows is a fictitious character I made up. He's not a real person."

Richard's eyes blinked. "He's not? But . . .  how did you know exactly what I've been going through? The way your write about it I was sure you were writing about someone you know."

I told Richard about all the hours of research I did about PTSD. How my former husband served two tours in Nam. That one of my friends shared his war experiences with me before he passed away of Agent Orange complications. 

"I was exposed to Agent Orange, too." Standing up, Richard became excited. "I want to buy another copy of your book for my friend who finds housing for homeless vets like me. Will you autograph it?" He gave me his friend's business card.

"Of course."

Richard turned and began talking to the audience. Tears rolled down his cheeks when he told how he was the sole survivor of his unit, witnessed four of his buddies get killed, and has survivor's guilt. Lost all contact with his family until four years ago and discovered he's a grandfather.

Everyone was so moved listening to him tell his story there wasn't a dry eye in the audience. We all thanked him for his service and Richard became choked up.

When things were starting to wind down I stood in line with Richard while he purchased his second book. There were a lot of people milling around and the noise and movement was distracting. Chloe stood by his side alert, silent, and protective.

It was a good day. People bought copies of both "VANILLA GRASS" and "GOOD FORTUNE." But what was most meaningful to me and has stayed with me was meeting Richard and realizing I touched his life. He hugged me and blessed me, said he was going to pray for me when he went to church Sunday. Repeated how he came just to meet me and thank me for writing this book. It was difficult for me to find the words to thank him for coming because I was so emotional.

Page 66 "GOOD FORTUNE" Grandfather is teaching young Tong life lessons and the difference between wealth and fortune. "Don’t mistake the abundance of costly possessions for a fortune. Money does not give you love. It cannot nurse you back to health. Jewels may be beautiful to gaze upon, but they will never give you sons; only a devoted wife can do those things for you. A simple bowl of rice is as valuable to a starving man as a holiday feast is to a king. Do you understand?”

What I took home from that day was the knowledge I made a difference in a Vietnam Veteran's life and this experience was more valuable to me than anything. I was living what I wrote and believe. It wasn't the book sales or the accolades that I held inside my heart. It was the realization I wrote a book that was as meaningful to a reader as it is to me and it helped him. In this day of selfies, I realized on the drive home I hadn't taken my picture taken with Richard. I was so moved by our meeting and what he said it never occurred to me to snap our photo.

A UK blogger is featuring me and "VANILLA GRASS" for the next month. I hope you'll read the interview.


For more information please visit my website: www.lesliebratspis.com
Follow me on Twitter: @LeslieBratspis
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leslie-Bratspis-Vanilla-Grass/1459047377684683
Amazon Author page:http://www.amazon.com/Leslie-Bratspis/e/B005EJ438W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1440722923&sr=1-1

Thanks for stopping by. Namaste,
Leslie Bratspis, Author

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