Leslie Bratspis —

Vanilla Grass
In the News...

Leslie entered "Vanilla Grass" in the 24th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Although she didn't win a prize, she received the highest ratings and a wonderful review! (Click here to read the review.)


Vanilla Grass

by Leslie Bratspis

A Novel of Redemption

Vietnam Vet, John Carrows suffers from PTSD and 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.

“This gifted writer researched her subject and got the feeling right for someone returning from the Nam and suffering from PTSD. It’s almost as if the author had been there herself. Three cheers for this one!”

Richard A.M. Dixon
Lieutenant Colonel USA (Retired)
Author of “Dillon’s War” Trilogy

Vanilla Grass is a thoughtful satisfying read, rich in information about the plight of PTSD soldiers, at risk youth, and the options available for their recovery along with valuable insight on the role of companion dogs.”

Lisa Marguerite Mora
Novelist and Professional Member of PEN

Sage is featured in this book.

Purchase "Vanilla Grass" from any of the links below:

24th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Entry Title: Vanilla Grass
Author: Leslie Bratspis
Judge Number: 65
Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.
Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 5
Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

Vanilla Grass details the redemption of a man, returned from war, and his deliverance from PTSD. I found so much to love about this story! I loved that John scares the teens, I love that not all of them were saved from their downward spiral just as in real life, I loved that dogs were used as therapy, I loved that he gets the girl!

The pacing is just right. At no time does the plot stall. Your editor deserves kudos—very few grammar/mechanical errors. In fact, I was so involved in the story that I only noticed one or two small ones. Normally, I don’t care for writing that uses vernacular speech, but you really get the pattern of the teens’ speaking well.

The cover is exceptional! The flag, the Purple Heart, and the grass growing up around the base of the title all show a great eye for detail. And the yellow of the title and large font make it highly visible, both on the front and the spine. The back cover is done with excellence as well: the dog, the synopsis, author bio and picture, and several short quotes from satisfied readers—perfect!

With our veterans returning, this story is perfectly timed. We have a real need for more info on dealing with PTSD. Thank you for the privilege of reading this amazing book, and I hope you land a movie contract with it!

5 starsA book that makes you sit up and take notice! ~ Joy Viola
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 a 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. In Vanilla Grass you have a powerful document that forces you to mentally address each element. This book was carefully researched by the author giving it, although a novel, a book based in fact. I highly recommend it - especially to Golden Retriever lovers!

5 stars touched upon so many aspects of the heart ~ Enid Richey, Ph.D.
Having met the author, Leslie, during her golden retriever rescue days in Los Angeles, it is an honor to read the touching parts of her life woven into her book. A must read for those compassionate hearts that have been touched by the love of a dog...

Comment by Sheryl A. Wingate: This book was recommended to me by my friend, Enid Richey. Enid and I share the same tastes in books, and if she says "it's good," then I know it will be. This turned out to be one of the best books I have ever read. Growing up through the Vietnam era, I know that some of our soldiers came back with debilitating conditions. While having heard of "service" dogs, I had not heard of "comfort" dogs, and I found this story to be so touching on so many levels. Leslie's characters all had an amazing depth to them, and made me feel more like I was IN the story, rather than just reading it.

5 starsA novel of intrigue and joy ~ Claudia Heller
This book kept me going from page one to the end. 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 physicial 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.

5 starsComing Home ~ Lil Mistep
Vanilla Grass was truly an educational read. Returning war veterans have always held a deep sadness for me as they have endured terrifying experiences and have been left to cope with "normal life" upon coming home. Vanilla Grass shows how the central character, a Vietnam vet, overcomes many of his demons by extending himself to a small town group of troubled teenagers who through his help find redemption by helping others. By caring for and handling trained rescue dogs that will go to recuperating vets these young people find purpose in their lives while improving the lives of others.

5 starsWhat we need more of. ~ Randee Morrow
The novel is entertaining and informative in several ways and categories; PTSD, at-risk teens, returning injured vets, and how re-training rescue dogs helps all of them. Not only is the book an enjoyable, inspiring story, but it moved me to want to get involved with helping abused and homeless dogs, along with helping our brave military men and women. Vanilla Grass is well written in a way that you feel and understand the people and their plight in life.

5 starsThank you for a great read ~ Pamela Skowronek
This novel was one I didn't want to put down, very intriguing. To those growing up in the Vietnam era we knew our soldiers were not treated well upon returning and this opens eyes in that regard. Thank you for a great read Leslie

5 starsSo very relevant... ~ Claudia Patchen
I'm not much of a reader of fiction these days but this one caught my eye and I'm glad it did. It so artfully dealt with so many relevant topics of our day, I was amazed. The story is intricate and touching. I'm glad I read it!

5 starsI loved John, the Vietnam vet ~ Jane Banick
Vanilla Grass is a superbly written novel. It 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.

5 starsRedemption in Everyday Life ~ Patsy R.
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 effects of war on life and identity are very real . 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.

~ Vanilla Grass ~ Copyright Material ~
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by Leslie Bratspis

“Ancient Chinese wisdom
secretly passed through handwritten fortunes
guides the lives of two men from different cultures.”

Good Fortune is the tale of two men unknown to each other, connected by a shared source of enlightenment. Each overcomes adversity to achieve inner awareness through personal journeys. Michael Hamilton, successful San Francisco advertising executive, has his world shattered when he becomes a casualty of the 1994 California recession. He faces a bleak future — unemployed, despondent and alone. To pull himself together he must overcome emotional obstacles and accept a broader, unconventional vision of reality. A secret mentor will guide him.

Wu, the respected manager of the family-owned Good Fortune Chinese restaurant, enjoys financial security. He has been a loving husband and father, but is at odds with his aging father, Chow Lee Tong, the restaurant’s bookkeeper. Gradually, Wu neglects his wife and sons due to his assiduous attention to business.

Wu and Michael each face challenges that, like the mirrored images of the Yin-Yang symbol, are identical yet reversed. Good Fortune awaits them, but first they must discover happiness is less tied to outward goals than inner awareness. Tong’s gentle wisdom shows them the way.

362 pages, 6" x 9"
ISBN: 978-1-61170-028-2

Read the first 40 Pages of this book.
Good Fortune - Free sample

Good Fortune by Leslie Bratspis

Purchase "Good Fortune" from any of the links below:

Editorial Reviews for "Good Fortune"

"Her style is colorful, descriptive and brimming with well-researched, fascinating details that draw the reader in and make the book hard to put down."

"Her sensitive and realistic portrayal of the characters' thoughts and emotions makes Good Fortune a pleasure to read from start to finish."

"I was captivated from the first chapter and unable to concentrate on much else until I had finished reading the book."

"The setting of the 1994 California recession might as well be the current national state of affairs. There's something here for everyone."

From the Author

Synchronicity. You've probably heard the word but what does it mean?  In the 1920s Swiss psychotherapist and psychiatrist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, coined the term to describe the phenomena when two unrelated events occur simultaneously experienced in a meaningful manner. More than coincidence, it can be manifested by strong intent. "GOOD FORTUNE's" recurring theme of synchronicity is more than words on paper, it's something I've experienced first-hand numerous times throughout my life.

I tied in the theme of synchronicity by paralleling the lives of the Caucasian and Asian characters throughout the book without them knowing about each other yet, what happens to one affects the other.

My hope is you will find "GOOD FORTUNE's" positive theme uplifting and when faced with obstacles you will be mindful, live in the moment and be receptive to change. May your life be filled with blessings and good fortune!

5 starsI'll never look at fortune cookies in the same way again~ MK
A wonderfully told story, weaving together in a beautiful way the blending and clash of Chinese and American cultures, personal and career choices, family and economic realities, traditional ways and changing values. All set against the magnificent central California coast with characters struggling and succeeding with many of the same issues we face in our own lives. The author completed extensive research into Chinese tradition and culture, and juxtaposes it excellently with the immigrant experience and transition into a new world. The idea and premise of the book sends an insightful and hopeful message about our past, its impact on our present and how we develop our own "Good Fortune".

5 starsA wonderful, character study ~ Marvin Stamm
I enjoyed very much "Good Fortune," written by Leslie Bratpis. Ms. Bratpis' writing style and the development of her characters kept me interested from beginning to end. This story is a very good read, and while traveling through the maze of emotions experienced by all of her characters, 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!

5 starsEmbrace Good Fortune ~ Lorraine Z
I was hooked by the prologue and the promise(and delivery)of insight into Chinese culture. The characters grabbed my interest and I was invested in their dilemmas and transformations. A wonderful story of learning to listen to your heart and having the strength and courage to follow it. The guidance of a very wise secret mentor motivated Michael to change his life's direction and learn we all have the ability within us to create our own good fortune.

I have recommended this book to my book group because of the excellent discussion possibilities.

5 starsA Fortunate Read is "Good Fortune" ~ Sylvia Krask
Good Fortune is a great read. I was captivated by the writing about 2 cultures that melded into one. I loved learning about the culture of the Chinese and was so impressed with the beautiful writing of the author. I was captivated by the first chapter and could not put the book down until i finished it. The story is very unique and yet very real. I would highly recommend this book. A very fast read!

5 starsRemember Forever ~ Me, Yusem
A first for me. Never felt so moved to render an opinion. This book- Good Fortune - is that good. A story and characters that have penetrated my emotions and sensibilities. Thank you, Leslie Bratspis for creating a most entertaining, educational and beautifully written novel that I will enjoy rereading many times over. I highly recommend!

5 stars A fascinating read ~ Pat Soussan
In her book "Good Fortune," Leslie Bratspis has created believable and captivating characters who take hold of your interest from the first chapter and hold you until the last page. I found it fascinating how she interwove into the story, with great skill and knowledge, the way dreams, symbols and proverbs influenced the lives of the main characters. It is a compelling novel.

5 starsGoes on my all time "Top 10" list of favorites! ~ Rainbow
I found "Good Fortune" to be a beautifully written entertaining and emotional story of the lives of a Chinese immigrant family who came to the United States to start a new life and a successful business, while still honoring the traditions of the country they left behind. "Good Fortune" is a contemporary tale that pays great respect to the past with fascinating insight into the Chinese culture, while dealing with the present. It follows the lives of a Chinese family in San Francisco as they deal with all of the changes in their lives over the years, and of an American born business man who is going through a personal crisis, and how he finds that "Good Fortune" awaits him as he becomes the recipient of Chinese wisdom. This is a novel filled with beautifully defined characters who will touch your heart and remain there. By the end of the book, I was left wanting to know more about their lives - perhaps one day, we will have the "Good Fortune" to follow their continuing story.

5 starsGood Fortune = A Good Read ~ Jeanine
Good Fortune is a lovely story that grabs you from the start as it is easy to read, well-written and easy to identify with the various characters, their individual struggles and their hopes for a brighter future. While Michael is searching for a renewed life purpose after losing his job, Anna longing for her husband to be present in family life at home, and Jennie hoping Michael will commit after finally finding love, each obstacle is a gentle reminder that everyone faces challenges in life. I especially enjoyed how the author encompassed the wisdom and insight of Tong, the older Chinese-born grandfather, as he seeks to share and preserve his grandfather's knowledge, skills and culture with his younger, American-born family members and a complete stranger. Good Fortune is a great book to read anywhere!

5 starsThis is one of my favorite books I've read this year!!! ~ Paula M. Lawrence
Leslie, You did a fabulous job writing this very entertaining story! I especially like the deep heartfelt wisdom, and the location of the story it fit like a puzzle! Keep up the good work, I will be looking forward to your next book!

5 starsExquisite, Emotional Read ~ Jo Dennis
Leslie Bratspis has created a captivating story of men and their loved ones who come from different cultures but are brought together through the mystique of Chinese fortune-telling. The book is brimming with well-researched, fascinating cultural lessons and details that draw the reader in and make it hard to put down. The author's sensitive and realistic portrayal of the characters' thoughts and emotions makes Good Fortune a pleasure to read, from start to finish.

5 starsGrabs you from the start! ~ Enid Richey, Ph.D.
I was hooked from the start! Stage is set from the very beginning for an intriguing personal journey through the characters that Leslie created. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore their own life potential and find deeper meaning. Humor, music, art, and a cup of coffee is all you need to become part of this book.

5 stars Excellent Read ~ Lorrain Eep
Good Fortune by Leslie Bratspis is an excellent read. I was captivated from the first chapter and unable to concentrate on much else until I had finished reading the book. The descriptive language put me directly in the middle of the story and I was easily able to envision all the characters and locations. I also found that I learned some interesting facts from the well researched history of the dynamics of a Chinese family. This is a book that I would highly recommend and shall do so to many personal friends that I know enjoy a well written story. Buy this book; you won't be able to put it down!

5 starsSummer Read ~ Lil Mistep
"Good Fortune" by Leslie Bratspis is definitely among my book recommendations for this summer's reading. The author truly engages the reader in self reflection...especially concerning the cycle of life. Her heart-warming characters remind us of our human vulnerabilities and foibles, but also of the strength of the human spirit. I enjoyed learning about these Chinese immigrants' love of family, honor, and deep tradition. The non-Chinese characters were a pleasant contrast and are an intrinsic part of this enchanting story.

~ Good Fortune ~ Copyright Material ~

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~ Copyright Material ~

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The Author:

Leslie Bratspis

Leslie's Amazon's Author Page.

Facebook Facebook.com/GoodFortuneFans
Twitter Twitter.com/LeslieBratspis

Leslie Bratspis is the daughter of novelist and screenwriter Irving Shulman. She grew up in southern California and graduated from Los Angeles Valley College with an Associate of Arts in English, and both a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Standard Elementary Teaching Credential from California State University Northridge.

Leslie also studied art with an emphasis on portraits and figures. In her spare time she sketches and paints. Her combined interests in cultural anthropology, metaphysics and meditation prompted her to research and write her debut novel, "GOOD FORTUNE." The fictitious location of Ships Cove, WA where "VANILLA GRASS" takes place is loosely based on Gig Harbor and surrounding areas.

Her husband, Ned, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, award-winning poet, and teacher of Mindfulness Meditation. In 2005 Leslie, Ned, and their Golden Retrievers relocated from southern California to the Key Peninsula area of Gig Harbor, Washington. Leslie is a member of Friends of the Library, Lakebay Writers, and volunteers for Evergreen Golden Retriever Rescue. She lives and writes in Gig Harbor, WA with her husband and Golden Retrievers.

Leslie would love your comments about her books.
Send emails to:  lesliebratspis@yahoo.com

Visit Leslie's Blogs: lesliebratspisauthor.blogspot.com and https://www.tumblr.com/blog/areadheadedwriter

Website: lesliebratspis.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leslie-Bratspis-Vanilla-Grass/1459047377684683

Read Natasha Orme's interview with Leslie Bratspis.

Barnes & Noble event

Leslie is mentioned in OFF The Ken on August 15th.

Aug 15th event

Kitsapweek also mententioned her on July 3, page 18.

Aug 15th event

"Thank You" to all who attended
the Key Center Library event.

Leslie had a wonderful time meeting new friends
and discussing her book.

Key Center Library event

Key Pen News KP author publishes second novel
Written by Irene Torres

Leslie Bratspis

Leslie Bratspis saw a change in her ex-husband, a U.S. Marine, after he returned from two tours of duty in Vietnam. She drew from those memories when she started developing the plot for her new novel, Vanilla Grass,which is drawn from interviews with other veterans, online research, war movies and video documentaries about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Bratspis worked on the U.S. Marine Corps base in 29 Palms, Calif. during the Vietnam era where she spent a lot of time around members of all ranks, both officers and enlisted.

She said it took about nine or 10 months to write this book, which is set in a fictitious location called Ships Cove, reminiscent of the Key Peninsula where she lives with her husband Ned and two golden retrievers, both rescue dogs.

Being retired and having time to write has been wonderful,she said. Belonging to Lakebay Writers was very helpful, not only in writing but in forming friendships.

When asked about local talent, she said, There is such a creative group of writers, painters, weavers, seamstresses, photographers, quilters and potters. The environment here is conducive to creativity, rather than living in the city where there are so many distractions.

Vanilla Grassis a labor of love, written to raise awareness of the challenges to our military members returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are 22 military suicides a day (reported). Because we live so near a military base, I took it personally. It had meaning for me, I became immersed in it and in the characters,she said.

"Some of the problems associated with PTSD are flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, inability to sleep, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, anger and nightmares. The book's main character, Vietnam veteran John Carrows, and another fictitious veteran, Mike Hogan just returned from Iraq, show many of these symptoms in the novel."

Bratspisresearch found that the symptoms of PTSD were documented in 1990 B.C. and 27 centuries ago in Homers Iliad. The term shell shock emerged during World War I, and was later called war neurosis or traumatic neurosis. It was adopted formally as a clinical diagnosis only in 1980. Through her work, Bratspisrespect and appreciation for the military and what they do has definitely increased,she said. There is a real need for post-deployment reintegration. The veterans need services and support and understanding,she added.

Bratspis said a therapist at Joint Base Lewis McChord is giving copies ofVanilla Grassto coworkers and those clients who are focused enough to read, calling it insightful.It means so much to an author to know their work is read and well-received,she said.

Comfort dogs and service dogs, like Dogs of Warand Battleground Buddies,play a big part in this novel. Sage is a rescue dog and is the catalyst that brings Carrows out of his shell, so that he can be around people again. Both are wounded, and survivors. Both are heroes,Bratspis said.

This book covers many current issues. Strong language is used. Bratspis said it is a necessary vehicle to demonstrate growth and change in the youth. The sex she depicts in the book is a reflection of current teenage promiscuity.

It shocked me. It is more prevalent than I knew. I wrote about it to raise awareness,she said.

She is grateful for the assistance of the Gig Harbor Police Department for their technical expertise regarding processing of delinquent youth. It is a story of redemption for veterans and for some of the teens, because of John and how he enlisted the community,she said.

I hope people appreciate the message and spread awareness of challenges faced by returning soldiers, and that they understand the importance of community in getting things done, Bratspis said.

South Sound Magazine, October/November 2012 issue.
South Sound Oct/Nov
Leslie Bratspis launches her book.

The New Neighbors Book Bunch of Gig Harbor, WA held a meeting on February 28, 2014 with Author Leslie Bratspis as their honored guest. She answered questions and autographed books. A lively discussion made it an interesting and enjoyable meeting for all.

The New Neighbors Book Bunch

A third book club has selected "Good Fortune" as their monthly read.

News Article Sept 2011


News Article 9-22-11

Key Peninsula News

by Colleen Slater, FP News

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could have someone write fortunes that would solve your problems and guide you through life?"

Click here for a PDF of the full article.

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