Jackie Charley and Dr Greg Nazvanov – Unlock the Cage

unlocking-the-cage_Book-coverTitle: ‘Unlock the Cage’ Subtitle: Empowering parents to step out of fear into freedom

Author: Jackie Charley and Dr Greg Nazvanov

ISBN: 1482306344

Page count: Paperback: 310 also in Kindle

Genre: Non-fiction: parenting

Price: Paperback: $13.99, Kindle $9.76

                             

Author Bio:

Jackie Charley is a published author and keynote speaker, a Psychology graduate, NLP Jackie180pxwidePractitioner and Life Coach focusing on process addictions, confident parenting, change management and personal development.  Her passion is to see people discover their freedom, and believes that life should not be lived without a mischievous sense of fun. (Longer bio available if required.)

Tell us about your book:

Most parenting books are only concerned with modifying a child’s behavior. Unlock the Cage is different. It’s about developing you, the parent. Many people assume that being a parent is such an instinctive role that there’s something wrong with them if they find it a struggle. They feel they are just ‘muddling along’, doing the best they can without understanding why they do the things they do, or how to do them better.

 

This book shows you how to:

– Connect with your kids so they willingly include you in their world

– Be confident in yourself and the choices you make

– Discover the 3 essential secrets of raising a smarter child and how to prepare them for leadership

– Learn how to protect your child from bullying, drugs, alcohol, media abuse and too much texting!

– Teach money skills to your kids

– Involve your kids in healthy, stimulating activities and have fun with them come rain or shine

– Make time for yourself to discover how you can achieve your dreams in the midst of the chaos that is raising kids

– and so much more!

 

How long did it take to write the book?

It took me a year to write, including the extensive research that was required.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I felt that too many parenting books were over-prescriptive in their insistence on following ‘this formula’, or ‘that program’ to arrive at the ‘perfect’ family.  I also felt that they concentrated too much on the children, and not enough on developing the parent. ‘Unlock the Cage’ attempts to redress the balance, and enable parents to regain confidence in their parenting skills whilst continuing to explore their own dreams and passions. In short, I believe the best way to bring up children is to put yourself first. That way, you can offer them the best ‘you’ it’s possible to be.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I approached the writing process as a nine till five commitment.  We were living in a caravan at the time – husband, two boys and one boisterous dog – on the site of what we hoped would be our new home. So the practicalities of writing were quite a challenge – a laptop on the dining table whilst the boys were at school, and a wood burner to stop my fingers freezing! After a few months I was able to use a room in my friend’s holiday cottage – heating was still a bit of an issue, but at least it was quiet.

The book required extensive research but, fortunately, my co-author had managed to locate most of the academic papers and sent them, or their links, to me via email.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

I hope readers will come away with the sense that they have what it takes to be an effective parent. It doesn’t, in fact, require slavish adherence to someone else’s philosophy of parenting – although there may be useful things to be gleaned from that – much more simply, it requires confidence and a clear knowledge of their own personal values.  I also hope it puts to bed the notion that once you are a parent you have to wave goodbye to any other form of self-identification. You do not have to leave your dreams at the door – you can continue to pursue them even while you stir the custard, or fly the kids’ kite.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

‘Unlock the Cage’ is available in either kindle or paperback version from Amazon.com http://amzn.to/YhMEue

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

The book has its own website at www.unlockthecage.com, blog www.unlockthecage.com/news/ and Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/FreetoParent.

 

Excerpt from book:

The crazy world of parenting

Remember those ‘Love is …’ cartoons?  The ones with those funny captions: ‘Love is letting her take over the bathroom’ or ‘Love is agreeing to cycle the world with him’.  Well, parenting has got plenty of its own captions to choose from like, ‘Parenting is … the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s like jumping without a parachute.’ Or, ‘Parenting is … being the eternal taxi-driver, the world’s best sock picker-upper, toilet-flusher, play-date organizer and referee. The list is endless.  And after the first few weeks days of bliss with your newborn, or your first fight with an emerging teenager, you can confidently say ‘Welcome to the crazy world of parenting!’.

 

The crucial foundation

If you’ve picked up this book it’s because, in some measure, you’re dissatisfied with your performance as a parent.  Phew!  I’m so glad.  Dissatisfaction is a wonderful energiser and agent for change.  So often I’ve looked at other people’s kids and wondered why mine are not so tidy, well-behaved and responsive as theirs seem to be.  Have I missed the boat, did I drop the memo?  How come I’m struggling to tame these wild yet wonderful creatures, while others seem to have their kids toddling behind them like well-trained ducklings?

The truth is, of course, that we see only what serves to reinforce our own limited view of the world.  Sub-consciously we doubt either our ability or our knowledge, and so we’re magnetically attracted to the good things every other parent is doing which, in turn, seem to confirm our own lack.  In actual fact, every parent who truly values their children is often aware of their inability to parent in the way they would most like to do.  Most parenting books focus on the quick fix solutions, the tips and tricks of the trade that offer immediate relief to exasperated parents.  This book, however, is different.  Of course it will provide plenty of effective ways to improve your skills as a parent and tackle particular nuggets of concern, but fundamentally it will look at how you can release the power and compassionate intelligence that you already own.  To be the best parent you have to be the best you.  So let’s look at what it takes.

Whose map are you reading?

“The map is not the territory.”  Alfred Korzybski

Have you ever been lost?  I have quite a few times – even with a map.  My husband has had to rescue me both in person and on the phone.  It’s OK for him, he has a natural in-built navigational system that outclasses any ‘sat nav’ I know.  He and directions go together like bread and butter but, sadly, the same is not true for me.  Give me a map and I’d probably just throw it back at you – I mean, what’s the point of a map when you have absolutely no idea where you are to start with?  Those squiggles and coloured lines bear absolutely no resemblance to the hills, houses or dead-end alleys I see out of my car window, so what good are they to me?  I think Korzybski and I could have been good friends because he agrees with me – the map is not the territory.  Although some cartographer has tried to be extremely helpful by supplying me with visual representations of real life trees, streets, bridges and so on, they are definitely not the same as the real thing (hence my brain-numbing confusion).  Maps can’t tell me how tall the street lamps are, or the colour of the paving slabs.  They can’t tell me the names on the shop fronts or how many sheep Mr Brown has got in his south-facing field.  They can only tell me what part of the world is like, in just the same way that a person’s thoughts and opinions can only express their worldview – their mental and emotional map, as it were.  Whose map are you reading?

We may actually have a few maps in our pocket: our own map, our inherited map and our peer-group map, and as we look at each one in turn we may decide to throw one or two of them away.  Let’s start with our own current map.  This is made up of our own experiences, perceptions and fears.  If in the past we’ve attempted to do something like say, walk a dog, but we’ve made a complete mess of it – perhaps the dog’s slipped its lead or messed in a neighbour’s garden – we might say “Oh, I’m no good with dogs” and thereafter put a line around that part of our territory rather like a Police cordon with a sign saying ‘Keep Out’.  We’ve begun to outline our map in a particular way and restrict access to certain areas.  We’ve declared that certain experiences are now off-limits.  It happens all the time, but is our reaction based on fact, on what’s really there or merely on our perception?  What would happen if the dog’s owner came back and said “Oh I’m so sorry.  I forgot to tell you that Bonzo’s had a really upset tummy all week.  He’s lost so much weight I should have put a smaller collar on him.  He can’t control himself very well either at the moment and tends to mess all over the place.”  Would you still think you were useless with dogs, or would you realise that you’d only seen half the picture and that it wasn’t worth writing yourself off after just one experience?  Perhaps we should adjust our map a little.

Next, let’s pull out our inherited map and take a good look at what we’ve been handed from both our parents and our grandparents.  Although it might be easier to see what we’ve gained from our parents, our grandparents have a lot to answer for.  Their views, values and generation’s principles have shaped our parents who, in turn, have shaped us.  Their social and biological DNA has been passed down in whispers of “We don’t do things like that in our family”, or “We’ve always been a hot-headed bunch.  It’s in our genes.”  Even if a quick-temper is ‘in our genes’ it doesn’t mean we have to behave in a quick-tempered manner.  We have a choice and that’s what’s so fantastic.  Their map of the world, though useful as a guide around certain social and moral landscapes, is not ours.  We may choose to pick it up, or put it down.  It does not define who we are or the way we behave.  Similarly, the way our parents brought us up with their particular style of discipline, family rules and ways of expressing affection and so on has drawn yet more contours on our inherited map.  We do not need to keep it or, if we do, we don’t need to use it as our sole means of navigation.

Finally, let’s look at our peer-group map.  This map has been drawn by other people or influences in our life – friends, work colleagues, the man in the shop. Even government policy could be included here since it represents an external influence which you feel is commenting on or doing something to you.  What shape does this map have?  What are other people’s opinions of you?  What do they say or think about you?  Do you have a nickname or a label for example?  “Oh, she’s the shy one”, “He’s the daydreamer”.  Do you feel you negotiate your life according to their classifications: “He’s never on time”, “She’ll never do it”, “I never thought you’d finish!” or even “I can’t believe you did it.”  Their perceptions of you are not what you truly are, and so often the weaknesses they comment on are actually theirs, not yours. 

In addition, they experience life differently to you.  If you had all been invited to a wedding reception, for example, and asked to describe it the following day, each person would give a slightly different account.  One person may have noticed all the different colours used in the hall decorations and the guests’ outfits.  Another would comment on the music and the conversations he had heard.  Someone else would describe the food in great detail: which accompaniment was served with which dish, and what each one tasted like – not forgetting the wine of course.  Every person has a preferred way of interpreting the information with which their senses provide them.  We all get pretty much the same information but we pay attention to it in different ways and this causes us to draw a slightly different map of the world to others.  Whose map do you want to keep?

“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”  Anais Nin

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Jo Barney – Graffiti Grandma

11687803_CoverProof-4050378Title: Graffiti Grandma

Author: Jo Barney

ISBN: 978-0615726458

Page count: 338

Genre: Thriller

Price: #13.98

 

Author Bio:

Former counselor, now full-time writer with four novels finished, two published, another waiting for my attention.  I worked with teenagers similar to the  ones in Graffiti Grandma, and researched the transient lives of Image 11others,  the reasons for choosing to live on the streets, the relationships they seek, the dangers they face every day.  Like my character, Ellie, I spent time cleaning off the graffiti from the mailboxes in my neighborhood, and it was on one of  those days, graffiti X in my shopping  bag, that Graffiti Grandma was born.

 

Tell us about your book:

When Ellie, a disgruntled old woman whose hobby is removing graffiti from the neighborhood’s mailboxes, meets Sarah, a smiling Goth girl in black who looks like she might have done some of the tagging Ellie is wiping off, neither of them knows that in a few days they each will be running from a serial killer who preys on the homeless folks frequenting the nearby park.  Neither can imagine that she will become  dependent on the other for safety.  And neither will admit that she knows who the killer is, to each other or to the police.  One of them finds out she is wrong, the other that she isn’t.  But not before both end up at the Killer’s forest camp.  Strange as it may seem, Graffiti Grandma is about families, losing them, finding them.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Writing, editing, rewriting:  two years

 

What inspired you to write the book?

The stories I discovered as I researched teenage  homelessness and the homeless kids lounging on the park benches two blocks away, on the sidewalks downtown.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

Graffiti Grandma sent me to the internet many times.  I do hope that my searches have not been monitored  for they center on the dark side of life;  drugs, prostitution, rape, mental illness, military life including discharge, pedophilia, food banks, and  police procedures.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

That for many of us, including  us serial killers and scroungy kids holding the cardboard signs in our city sidewalks, we seek a family, either the one we have lost  or the one yet to be found.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon, both as an ebook and in print.  Both are second editions , the glitches cleaned up, the covers changed.

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
The story of getting Graffiti Grandma published as seen through the eyes of a frustrated,determined woman,  in her blog:  breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

 

Excerpt from book:

CHAPTER ONE

SARAH

October 2009

 

I can remember every second of that last graffiti patrol with Ellie. Maybe it’s the meds they’re feeding me, or maybe I’m a little crazy right now. The nurse says I probably should be with all the stuff I’ve gone through in the past couple of weeks, Ellie at the center of it all.

It was chilly that morning, and we shivered a little as we headed toward the first mailbox, me, in my punk clothes, Ellie in her old lady sweatshirt and red sneakers.  She had her supplies and towels in an old garbage bag, like usual, and I could tell she was still mad at me, at my knowing how the graffiti got on the boxes. I was thinking about that, too, but she didn’t know the whole story, not then.

“Spray!” Ellie ordered, and I stopped remembering and pointed the bottle at the mailbox in front of me. We scrubbed, Ellie not talking to me yet. After a couple of minutes, the black polish on my nails began to melt like the paint scrawls we were working on. Ellie muttered “Good” when she saw me rubbing at them. As soon as the box was as clean as GRAFFITI X could get it, we headed toward the next one. By the time we got to the street with the big trees, I was getting hot and glad for what little shade was left, the limbs above me almost bare. Leaves crunched under my boots.

The people who lived in these buildings were rich. I could tell by the doors, the polished brass knobs, and the pots of flowers beside them. They must sit on their upstairs terraces and feel like they are living in the arms of the trees. I was imagining eating breakfast four stories up and feeding a squirrel a piece of pancake, when I stumbled and heard the heel of my boot snap. Shit, my only shoes was my first thought. I had to walk like a cripple, one leg short, one long.

“Take ‘em off!” Ellie said, shaking her gray head at me. “Stupid to wear boots like that; you look like a baby hooker.” She took the bag of supplies from me, and I leaned against a tree and pulled them off. The cold from the sidewalk seeped through the leaves and into my toes. The look on Ellie’s face told me not to complain, so I shoved the boots into the bag. Maybe I could get the heel fixed somewhere.

“We’ll finish up with the next box. When we get back you can borrow a pair of my old sneakers.” I watched where I was going, hoping I wouldn’t step on dog poop or something yucky hidden under the leaves.

That’s when I saw the white basketball shoe sticking up from a pile of debris at the curb. Someone must have lost it. Except that the shoe also had a sock in it. And in the sock, a leg.

I grabbed Ellie’s arm and pointed. She looked, made a sound like she was choking. I ran to the gutter and pushed sticks and leaves away from the rest of the leg. I saw familiar worn denim jeans, recognized a plaid patch on a thigh, a hand I knew because of the small ink tattoo of a smiley face at the wrist. I was bawling by the time I uncovered his head, brushed bits of dirt from his eyes, understood that he was dead. Peter.

“Leave him!” Ellie yanked on my arm, her words daggers of icy fear. “Not our business.” She had me up on my feet, and I shoved at her and knocked her into the trunk of a tree. “It’s trouble!” She reached for me again. “Nothing good ever comes from a dead body.” I was crying so hard I couldn’t see. She grabbed my arm and pulled me through the trail of leaves. “I’ll call 911,” she said. “When we get home. Anonymous.”

And she did, and now I’m lying here in this hospital bed hoping she’s still alive.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

ELLIE

September 2009

 

I’m muttering ancient thoughts when I notice the girl standing on the corner, looking at me. Black boots, net stockings, holes at the knees, a tacky black skirt under a fat jacket, its elbows patched. Her black hair looks plastic, her dark-rimmed eyes shiny blue.

She cocks her head at me like a curious crow. She frowns. “Hey! That was really pretty.”

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” I say. I keep scrubbing.

“So you’re hired by the government or something?”

I wave her out of the way with one hand and spray another swoosh of GRAFFITI X on the silver lines. This time I’ll wait the thirty seconds before I get worked up. “No,” I answer.

“Oh, so you just do it?”

The midnight artists have attacked the mailbox in front of me until their fat pens and sprayers and brushes have created a gruesome mass of internal organs, a handful of spindly fingers, an eyeball or two, and some scary, foreign-looking scribbles.

“Yes.” I pass the steel wool over the metal fingers and the pad etches its way into the black letters I am uncovering. VAGINA. Just when did that become a dirty word? I press harder. The girl has moved behind me, is watching the body parts, the body word, disintegrate.

I make a final swipe at the edges of the box, push against a curve of silver that still shows. I’m woozy from the smell of the damp rag, and my fingers on my right hand are up to the knuckles in black and silver goop, too late for gloves.

“That’s it for this one,” I say in the girl’s direction, meaning good-bye. I turn and head for the next mailbox, a block away. I hear her boots tapping on the sidewalk behind me. High heels, for God’s sake. She’s, like, what? Fifteen?

Most of the time, people don’t even look at me as I scrub. Sometimes someone will ask if I get paid. After a glance at my apron, the grungy red Kmart sneakers swallowing my anklets, the nubs of gray hair escaping from under my Yankees baseball cap, the questioner usually smiles in an embarrassed way and hurries off.

One time a little kid asked me, after I told him to stand back and don’t breathe in what I’m spraying, if I was a grandma. I said no, because I’m not sure. “I think you’re Graffiti Grandma,” he said, pulling down his lip over his teeth so he couldn’t take in my poison. His mother yelled at him and I never saw him again, but the title has stuck in my head. Could be worse.

“Can I help?”

“Why would you want to?” The girl’s finger, or the finger of a midnight buddy, pressing down on a button, has created the blue organ, the yellow eye, the dangerous word, and now she’s watching an old lady clean up after them. She’ll have a good story to tell her gang the next time they come around with their cans of paint and felt pens and whatever they swallow or sniff to get their artistic juices running.

She comes closer to me, takes the shopping bag from me with one hand and my elbow with the other. “I’m Sarah,” she says.

“I don’t care who you are.” I shake her off and grab the bag back. “I can do this myself.” For a second, I could swear I was talking back to my grandmother. I stop walking and consider that thought.

All my life I have lived by that motto and I’m not going to change now, despite the lines of silver paint pen refusing to melt into my wads of paper. Or maybe because of them. Life has presented me with any number of stubborn uglinesses, and early on I learned that they are best faced alone. Especially when the would-be helper looks, with her black eyes, duct-taped black jacket, and ragged skirt, like the spawn of a failed witch and a raccoon.

“And where has it got me?” I didn’t mean the question for her, but she shrugs, a little grin moving her lips. I know the answer: a door punched into an olive green hallway like twenty other doors, behind which old people like me fall apart. What the hell. “I’m Ellie,” I say. I hand her the bag and we head to the next corner.

I choose, for reasons of my own and which I am not too clear about, to go out each week and clean up the U.S. mail receptacles bolted to the sidewalks lining the four blocks around my apartment house. It’s one of the few things I can still choose. Something inside me makes me attack those blue boxes, even though at times I grumble so loud dogs growl as they sniff at my shoes, my stained bag, their owners saying sorry, yanking their animals and themselves away. I don’t know why I get so worked up. And I’ve tried to understand it, the graffiti, the why of it, the need to signal that someone’s been there on walls, signs, and mailboxes, like dogs do on tree trunks.

On this next box, a red heart wraps around a word:  MOM. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this valentine, and it puzzles me almost as much as VAGINA.  “What would that person’s mother think if she knew her kid was vandalizing public property in her name?” I ask my helper.

The girl squirts the bottle a couple of times, and the soft red crayon melts fast, drips in bloody splatters onto the cement. “Maybe that kid doesn’t have a mom,” she answers as she bends over and tries to mop up the sidewalk.

I wipe fast while the red’s still melting. The box’s blue enamel comes out almost clean. “So he doesn’t have to worry about what she’ll think?”

Sarah blinks, looks away. “Where to next?” she asks. We turn the corner.

This block is lined with classy apartments and new condos. The only old things the developer left after tearing out a couple of decrepit mansions are the eighty-year-old trees, maples and oaks, lining the street. Their used-up leaves play in the cool fall air, pad our steps. Sarah scuffs her boots through the dry drifts, trying to leave a track, maybe, so she can find her way back. At least that’s what I used to think when my son, Danny, headed off to first grade scuffing the same way, me standing at the door watching.

“Over there.” I point at the backs of a row of shoulder-high parking signs. “Easy targets for anyone wanting to make his mark in the world.”

At some point, in the months I’ve been cleaning up my neighborhood, I came to the conclusion that’s why kids tag. Maybe it’s because I myself once wanted to make a mark in the world.

She’s already got the spray bottle out and she aims it at the scribbles running across a PARKING 10 MINUTES sign.  Black ink sags onto the rag in her hand. “I think this is making a mark on the world, not in it.”

“Would you please explain that to the jerks who are doing it?”

The girl steps back, wipes a finger across an eyelid, maybe squinting against the sting of GRAFFITI X. “You think I do this stuff?”

I’ve heard this question before. Danny, about her age: “You think I do this stuff?” Even now, I can feel my hand reaching into his pocket, touching the plastic bag, pulling it out, the white crystals rustling inside. I can still hear myself yell, “Get out.”

“Yes,” I say. She’s slipped out of her fat jacket and has tied it around her waist by the sleeves. She looks like she’s being hugged by an elephant. The arm that brushes mine is tattooed. A flower winds from elbow to shoulder, reds and oranges and greens. I poke a finger at a blossom. “Anybody who could do this to herself is capable of doing the same to a mailbox.”

She gives up the bag when I pull at it. I toss the bottle in and head toward the last box on my route. I don’t look back, but I imagine she’s standing on the curb, glancing around, wondering who else to bother.

That first time, I believed Danny when he said, “Trust me.” I let him stay for another year, until the night he left for good, me bloody, hanging on to a doorjamb and screaming, “You’re not my son anymore.” We both were screwed up, me on cheap bourbon, Danny on who-knows-what.  He never did come back home. The one time he called, I told him I couldn’t help him. It was up to him, just like it was up to me, to find our separate ways. So far, I told him, I am not good at saving myself, much less other people.

“Thanks a lot, Mom.” Ugly words, worse than cussing at me, words I kept hearing while I made my way to clean and sober. Last summer one of his high school buddies told me he saw Danny up north in Green River. “Looks good,” he said. “He was hauling around a little kid in a pack on his chest. Gavin, I think his name was.” I should be glad for that news, both of us finding our ways, even if Gavin is one more son to regret not knowing.

I lift my foot to avoid catching the loose sole of my shoe on a root-raised hunk of sidewalk. The city needs to come fix stuff like that, I think, probably out loud. I can see the last box half a block away, Day-Glow green swirls signaling to me. I shut my mouth, walk a little faster, not wanting to think about unfixable upheavals elsewhere.

Then I hear Sarah’s voice floating toward me like the leaves dropping from the trees. “The freesia’s for my mom.   She liked to grow them.” I stop, turn around, see her leaning against the clean mailbox, wiping her eyes on a jacket sleeve, her face disappearing into her hands.

I pat my pants pocket, feel a fold of Kleenex, take a step, then another, toward her. I can’t stand watching someone cry.

“I grew freesias once,” I call to her.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

JEFFREY

1986-l991

 

The only thing Jeffrey can remember about his mother is that she has red lips. Whenever the five-year-old sees a red-lipped woman on the street, on the bus, or on his father’s arm, he wants to run up and take her hand in his, but he is too big to hold hands, his father told him, giving him a knock on the head the last time he did it. The woman had smiled at him, but he could see that it wasn’t his mother because this lady’s teeth were shiny with gold.

He and his father live on the first floor of an apartment house, and they sleep on the sofa that is opened into a bed most of the time. Sometimes his father has a visitor, and then Jeffrey takes a pillow into the closet and sleeps there among the shoes and wad of clothes that have been tossed inside to make the room neat for the visitor. Sometimes the visitor has red lips, but she is never his mother. Finally his father tells him to stop being so fuckin’ stupid the morning he can’t stop crying after he finds a lady sleeping crosswise on the sofa, her hair touching the floor, her red lipstick smeared like jam across her face.

Jeffrey understands then that his mother is gone, for sure. “Off somewhere, the bitch.” The way his father says it, his hand flinging out and bumping into the bottle that lives on the table, the boy knows two things: his father hates his mother, and his father will hit him if he asks one more time.

Sometimes he wishes he could live at school with his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Michaels. She smiles and pats his shoulder and teaches him songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” which Jeffrey sings to himself as he walks home and waits for his father to come in. One night he waits until it is dark, and he gets hungry so he spoons peanut butter into his mouth and pours orange juice into a cup, careful not to spill. The bed is open and when he gets tired he crawls in between the lump of covers.

 

The next morning he wakes up and wonders if he should go to school because it is light outside. He is sure Mrs. Michaels will miss him if he doesn’t come, so he heads down the street and finds the playground empty and the big doors locked. He sings his way home, pulls the key on the string out from under his T-shirt, and puts it in the lock like usual.

At the lock’s click, the door swings open and a hand reaches out, sweeps across his head. He feels himself flying first up and then down and he lands on his nose, his face pressed into the rug.

“Little jerk. Had me worried. Don’t ever disappear like that . . . ” His father’s voice falls apart and his body crumples on top of Jeffrey. It is a long time before he can dig himself out from under the weight of arms and legs and chest and the smell of beer and make his way to the sofa.

 

Five years later, his father doesn’t come home all night or all day. The first few hours alone, Jeffrey is glad his father isn’t around. He smooths the blanket on the couch and begins to read for the third time his favorite book, The Incredible Journey, the turning of its pages the only sound in the quiet apartment.

He’s not scared to be alone, but he is a little worried because the bread bag is empty. He uses his finger as a bookmark and lays the book on his chest. What would happen to him if his dad didn’t show up for a long time?  No way could he be on his own. Ten years old is like being a baby. Not like the teenagers on the street below who push him around and grab his jacket looking for money or candy. Those guys can take care of themselves their dark shades and tattoos protecting them like the combat armor on the soldiers in the news. Nobody messes with them. He wishes he had a pair of sunglasses.

The buzzer startles him. “It’s all right,” a voice says, and he presses the button to let her through the front door. Minutes later, a fat lady with a plastic ID tag around her neck walks in and tells him to pack up his clothes and, glancing at the book in his hand, perhaps a favorite book. “Your father won’t be home for a while,” she says.  “We have a very nice foster family who will take care of you in the meantime.”

In the meantime lasts until the trial is over. Mrs. Oscar, a social worker, he has learned, arrives and tells him to pack up again, he is going home. His grandfather is coming to take custody of him. “You are lucky to have a family member willing to take that responsibility. Some kids don’t.”

Jeffrey looks around the small room that has been his for the past three weeks. What grandfather? He can smell dinner cooking, can hear his foster mother Helen tell the two other kids to wash up and be quick about it. Before he piles his clothes into the bag, he makes sure the bed is neat. That is one of Helen’s rules. She has a lot of rules and he likes the way her rules make him feel safe, like streetcar tracks that know the way.

“Come along.”

In the car, Jeff learns that his father has been sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary after pleading guilty to armed robbery and the attempted murder of a Chinese man who ran the corner market. “Your grandfather is coming in an hour on the train from Las Vegas. He’ll be here soon.” “I didn’t know I had a grandfather.”

“Really!” Mrs. Oscar looks at her watch. “I have another appointment in a few minutes. Will you be all right alone for a little while once I get you settled back at your apartment?”

“I guess,” Jeff says, still feeling the hug Helen gave him when she said good-bye. Maybe he could visit her once in a while? Mrs. Oscar shrugs, says maybe, and Jeff knows he probably won’t.

After she leaves, he opens his book but he’s read it too many times. He looks out the window. The mean guys are still there, but he sees someone moving through the tangle of legs and hoodies on the steps. The man, big in an overcoat and hat, takes a piece of paper from his pocket and then climbs up to the apartment house’s entry door. A second later, the buzzer rings and Jeff picks up the intercom earpiece.

“Yeah,” he says, not knowing that word is leading him into the next chapter of his life.

“It is I,” a voice announces. “Your grandfather.”

“Stupid,” the old man says once he’s gotten into the flat and explains himself. “Your father always was stupid.  Never went to school unless the principal threatened no lunch if he didn’t come often enough, and that only lasted until he found ways to get free lunch without having to go to school. But first, let’s find somewhere to eat.”

“Dad got free lunch?” Jeffrey asks, his mouth full of hamburger bun. He knows what that is, and he gets it, too, every day. He just didn’t know his father also had to put up with the eye-rolling classmates who paid for their food with weekly checks, not the blue ticket his teacher gives him that makes him less a kid than they are.

“Why?” he asks. His and his grandfather’s fingers touch as they reach for fries on the tray between them.

“We had very little money. I hurt my back on a job and was on workman’s comp. Mildred, your grandmother, was a good woman, but she died early. So it was Bucky and I on our own. We did quite well for a while, but he probably blamed me for the loss of his mother. That’s why, when he grew up, he left.“ His grandfather’s watery eyes look out the window. Then he turns and smiles. “And now I’m here meeting my grandson for the first time.”

Jeffrey asks again, “Why?”

The old man takes Jeffrey’s hand, his touch soft and unfamiliar. “Your father not only found ways to make money outside the usual accepted ways, but he also found ways to spend it.”

Jeffrey’s savior has gray hair combed in neat ridges across his head, and his bright hooded eyes look at Jeffrey in a way he isn’t used to, into him, it seems like. His grandfather talks different, too, quiet, every word coming out like it is being tasted. Jeffrey listens hard, trying to understand what he is hearing. It isn’t that he doesn’t get the words, despite some of them that slip right by him; it is just the opposite. It seems like he understands more than the old man is saying, his voice sounding just the way a person would imagine a grandfather’s voice would be: low, tangled with laughter and sadness, a rope flung to a foundering boy. Foundering. His grandfather uses that word to describe Jeffrey and he knows what it means even without knowing.

“What should I call you?” Jeffrey asks.

“Grandpa Jack, I think. Does that suit you? And, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to call you Jeff. New names for our new life together.”

Over the next couple of days, the two of them clean out the apartment, throw away most of the stuff that fills the drawers and the floor of the closet, and call Goodwill to pick up the furniture they won’t be using in their new place. During the packing and sorting and tossing, Grandpa Jack talks and Jeff listens until he feels okay about asking about some things that are bothering him. “How come I never met you before?” Then, even before Grandpa Jack can answer, “What did my father do that made you not want to be around him?”

By the time their work is finished, Jeff has learned that his father was a thug and a drug dealer early on, and when Grandpa Jack called his son on it, he moved out, lived a dissolute life (his grandfather had paused, explained “lawless, lost” when Jeff frowned) until he met Kathi, Jeff’s mother. Kathi was into drugs, but not bad. She meant well, kept their apartment clean, cooked every once in a while. When she got pregnant, she stopped the drugs and laid down the law with Bucky. She told him, who, proud of his woman, then told Grandpa Jack, “We’re going to have a normal life, you’re going to get a job, I’m going to be a mother and we’re going to have a family.”

Grandpa Jack sighs, wipes his lips with his paper napkin. “They almost made it. You were the glue holding Bucky and Kathi together for a few years. Then Kathi got bored with motherhood, and started using again, and your father, who had taken a job as a school custodian, you were that important to him,” he says, pointing a “remember this” finger at Jeff, “flipped out and beat her up when he found her so high that she had left you alone for a day.”

Jeff remembers a lot of times he came home to an empty house, but never one empty of his mother. In his memory, his red-lipped mother never left him until the day she left forever.

“I was living in Phoenix at the time, glad that Bucky seemed to be shaping up, coming to adulthood in a satisfying way, when I got the letter from Kathi.” His grandfather takes a piece of paper from his pocket, presses out its creases, reads. “I’m leaving this town because I’ve become a bad mother and because your son has beaten me so bad I spent three days in the hospital. If ever Jeffrey needs a family, please take care of him. Of all the things I’ve done, he’s the very, very best.“ Grandpa Jack passes the note to Jeff and he sees that his mother had signed it with a heart over the i in her name.

Jeff holds the paper in his hand and feels a weight lift from his body. His mother did not leave because she didn’t love him. She didn’t love his father. He’d hurt her.  Who wouldn’t leave? Then the next thought lands like a bag of rocks across his shoulders. Why didn’t she take him with her? He runs a finger over her name. She loved him. He can feel it, warm as he touches the heart. She was just messed up for a while. She might even be looking for him right now. He glances up, sees Grandpa Jack shaking his head.

“She is dead, Jeff. The drugs.”

It was his fault. If she hadn’t gotten pregnant, his mother and father wouldn’t have gotten married, would just have gone on doing what they were doing, nobody’s business. When he was born, he ruined everything. No wonder his father drank so much. No wonder his mother is dead.

Jeff gives the paper back to Grandpa Jack and tries to pay attention to what the old man is saying.

“I wrote to Bucky, when I got the note, that I couldn’t condone a man beating up a woman, the mother of his child. I told him I was not his father from that moment on. He was on his own. Good riddance.” Grandpa Jack squeezes Jeff’s hand. “But I didn’t take you into account, Jeff. I thought you’d be with your mother and taken care of. Until a week ago, when Children’s Services called and informed me that you needed me.” He wraps an arm around Jeff’s shoulder. “You and I have a second chance at being a family.”

Jeff manages a smile. This time he will not mess up. A second chance.

They move into an apartment a mile away from the old one and Jeff, on his first day outside, on sidewalks that hold only a few old ladies on the porches and a lot of leaves in the gutter, skateboards into a new friend, Danny.

 

Grandpa Jack frightens Jeff a little the night he pulls up the bedcovers and slips in beside him. A hand passes over his chest and lies warmly on his penis and after a while it doesn’t seem so strange.

In those first months that they’ve lived together, his grandfather has told him that he loves him as he rubbed his back or massaged his legs. He has assured Jeff he will never be unsafe again. He is a special boy, Grandpa Jack has said, a wonderful grandson who brings happiness to an old man.

“Like now,” he says this night, his hand moving a little. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

Jeff says yes.

A few weeks later, Jeff helps his grandfather feel good, too. And when he cries out in pain, Grandpa Jack tells him it is part of growing up, of being a man and he will be gentle until his body gets used to it. And his body does get used to it, and Jeff begins to sleep on the far edge of his bed and wait for the door to open and the mattress to sink, the covers to be lifted, letting in cold air and his grandfather

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Rosalind Scarlett – Cailín, Book I of the Anam Céile Chronicles

Cailin-Official-CoverTitle:  Cailín, Book I of the Anam Céile Chronicles

Author:  Rosalind Scarlett

ISBN: (ASIN:)  B00BVOPX1U

Page count:  240 Print

Genre: Paranormal Romance; Historical Romance

Price:  $2.99

 

Author Bio:

Rosalind Scarlett lives in Boulder, Colorado with her loving and supportive husband, two rambunctious little boys, her beautiful Great Dane, Isis and her proud bunny, Micah.  She holds degrees in Psychology and Rosalind-Scarlett---AuthorInterior Design. Rosalind is zealously proud to be of Celtic ancestry.

When not immersed in her writings, Rosalind’s passions are reading, listening to music, yoga, spiritual exploration, organic gardening and living, riding horses, transforming ugly, old houses to their former splendor, riding bicycles with her family, hiking, mountains, lush evergreen forests, foggy mornings, falling snow, feeding old bread to small critters and watching nature form her deck on crisp evenings with a glass of wine.

 

Tell us about your book:

A love which transcends existence . . .

It is the year 1702.  Aislinn, the daughter of a sheep farmer in western Ireland, is a tenacious redheaded lass who has NO intention of ever settling into the dutiful roles of marriage and motherhood demanded of her by her father.  The only thing she has ever wanted is to pursue her dreams of being a professional fiddler, and that is fully what she intends to do— with or without the blessing of her family.

Nevertheless, all that, and so much more, is about to change when she is unwilling persuaded into participating in her older cousin’s girlish, traditional Celtic love spell to see the face of the lad she will be destined to marry.  Aislinn doesn’t take it at all seriously, until that night when she dreams of a handsome dark-haired lad— just as she was told would happen. 

Falling for some charming lad was never part of her plans.  Only now, Aislinn cannot seem to shake her obsession with him— nor does she want to!  And though she never looks back after he comes into her life, things seem to do anything but fall beautifully into place.

The vision of Donovan was not the only vision that Aislinn had ever experienced.  She had always felt out of the ordinary somehow.  She just didn’t know why— yet.

Her father never misses an opportunity to rebuke Aislinn for her peculiarities.  He accuses her of being a changeling of the sidhe, the dreaded faerie folk of Ireland that delight in causing mischief for decent folk like him. 

Perhaps she is.

Fact is, for most of her life, Aislinn has been tormented by strange visions.  And now, every one of them is about to manifest themselves to her.

Just when all Aislinn believes she wanted is right within her grasp, she awakes in a strange bed in a castle surrounded by Vampires and the commanding presence of a striking man with an otherworldly attraction. 

She has no idea of his intentions, but from the shivers surging down her spine she is certain she’s about to find out.  

Everything is about to change . . .

She finds herself heaved into a world of secrets, violence and lust so powerful— it will either consume her or destroy her.

The thing is, Aislinn has no earthly idea of who or what she actually is.  To discover the secret for herself, she will embark on a quest which will test her strength and devotion more than she could ever have imagined. 

But first, she’ll have to lose everything!

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Approximately nine months

 

What inspired you to write the book?

My own Irish heritage, as well as the desire to express years of pent up emotions and frustrations.  My character, Aislinn, is very similar to myself, and the other characters all drew from people who have played a part in my life, as well— some good and some not so good.  This story brings together my love for Ireland, Celtic folklore, music, nature, horses and vampires.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

As this is my debut novel, my writing routine took several months to come into its own.  I’m sure it is still in the process.  Like most moms, my life can be pretty hectic and it is difficult to find quiet time to focus on something such as this.  So, typically, when my son would go to preschool three days a week, and my husband would be gone at Graduate school, I would buckle down and devote every minute of that rare time of solitude to my writing— oft times even to the exclusion of eating lunch— to writing my novel.  I now have a pretty decent routine established, and my son actually understands what it means when my husband says, “Mom is writing.” My family has been very supportive!

During the formulation of the story, I did tons of research, about the first three months.  Predominantly, the research was on history of the time of the setting, towns, landscapes, sites, language, character names, daily life.  It was fun and I learned so much, but it was also draining at times!

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

A sense of relating to Aislinn, my heroine, and a hunger to find out what happens and unravel more of her secrets.  My goal is for my reader’s to experience each and every one of their emotions invigorated.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Author website:  http://www.rosalindscarlett.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/rosalindscarlettauthor

Blog:  http://rosalindscarlett.blogspot.com/

 

Excerpt from book:

http://www.rosalindscarlett.com/Thank-you-Cailin-Excerpt.html

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