Now Available: Young Innocents, Boys Club Book One by David Gonzalez

Young Innocents
Author: David Gonzalez
Series: Boys Club, Book One
Genre: Noir, LGBT, Social Issues
Length: Novella
Word count: 46329
e-book page count: 99
price: 2.99 USD

Cover art: Melody Pond

Buy from: Amazon Kindle|BN Nook|Kobo|Google Play

From filmmaker and author, David Gonzalez, director of the award-winning short film, “The Choice is Yours,” comes the first volume in his Boys Club series, now in English.

When Adrian is seventeen, his younger brother Max is kidnapped from their home. A masked stranger knocks Adrian unconscious as he tries to save his brother. Life goes from difficult but relatively normal to nightmarish overnight. Adrian’s only driving need is to find Max who, he learns, has been trafficked. Into the horrors of sex slavery where perverted clients can fulfill their most lurid, exploitive fantasies with beautiful young men who are helpless to stop them. Adrian must find Max before it’s too late. The odyssey into darkness has just begun…

Author’s note: This novel is based on actual events
Unfortunately, it’s a reality that happens all over the world.

Tags: young adult, human trafficking, sexual slavery, lgbt issues, social issues, noir, human trafficking fiction

Excerpt:

I breathe a sigh of relief and close the door. I start to head back to my room when someone grabs my neck and shoves me up against the wall, so hard, my feel lifts off the ground. A black mask hides his face. It looks like leather, with strange symbols painted on it, like ancient symbols. The rest of him is covered in a black suit and boots.

I’m gasping for breath and struggling against him. Instinctively, I knee him in the gut. It works. He releases me and I let out a scream of pain then rush toward Jack’s room.

“Jack! Jack! Help!” his door stays closed so he must be so drunk he can’t hear me or doesn’t care.

The masked intruder has recovered and grabs me again by my hair. He slams my face against the wall, breaking my nose. I fall to the ground and he stands over me. I see the blade of a small knife flash in the light from my room. I kick his leg hard, causing him to lose his balance and fall. Then I scramble to my feet and try to run. Before I can move and inch, he grabs my foot and makes me fall again. I try to drag myself away from him but he holds my foot in an iron grip and makes me fall to the ground. I try to run away, by crawling on the floor, but he pulls me towards him and I end up in his claws. He spins me over and while I fight him off, he grabs me by the hair, lifting my head, and slamming it against the floor. He then lets me go and I stop fighting him, feeling slightly dizzy and lightheaded. The stranger, on top of me, stares at me liking something that he sees because he pulls out a sharp knife and runs it over my neck, in a caressing and threatening manner to the rhythm of my descending and frantic breathing. He reaches for my nipple and punctures it slightly. He continues to move lower and when he reaches my pants, he tries to put his hand inside of them, but before he can go any further, after recovering slightly, I hit him with all my might in the groins. The man screams in pain and falls next to me. I get up, however I can, and run towards my brother’s room. Pretty soon, the masked man, jumps to his feet, cursing at me, and runs behind me. I panic completely. I dash to Max’s bedroom, open the door and lock it shut, immediately realizing that the stranger is only a few steps away. I turn on the light, panicking hysterically with my nerves on edge.

“Max!” I call to my brother who is now fully awake, sitting on the edge of his bed and looking completely petrified. “They broke into our house and they want to hurt us. Quick, go out the window and ask our neighbors for help. Hurry!”

I help him out of bed while the masked intruder begins to pound at the door with all his might. We dash to the window and I barely manage to open it. All of a sudden, the blade of the intruder’s knife goes through the door and we both jump on the spot, feeling terrified. In no time, the door is being torn apart with powerful stabs and deadly blows. Max carefully crawls out the window and jumps into the roof. Unexpectedly, the door swings open and I barely have time to pick up a lamp and throw it at the intruder’s head, but he is fast enough to elude my attack and dodges the projectile. The lamp ends up smashing against the wall behind him, breaking into a thousand pieces. The unknown assailant then grabs me by the arm and violently throws me against the bed. I fly over it and fall on the ground on the ground and on other side of the bed. The masked stranger looks out the window and sees his prey, standing on the roof and looking at him without knowing what to do.

“Max, run and jump! Save yourself!” I shout at Max.

My brother immediately comes to his senses and turns around. After a few seconds of hesitation, he closes his eyes, takes a leap of faith, bounces on the summer awning and rolls down until he finally hits the ground below. Max then lies on the floor, too shocked to move. The man, who saw it all, turns around, leaves the bedroom and runs to the bottom floor. I jump to my feet and look out the window. Outside, Max gets up slowly, too slowly. All of a sudden, the front door swings open and the stranger exists the house, heading straight for Max. Max gets frightened and he jumps to his feet, looking even more petrified than before. The man strides towards him, getting closer with each passing second. When he is a few steps away from Max, to the stranger’s surprise and to mine, I jump on top of him and we land on the floor, next to my brother. I’m completely stunned and I could swear that I have broken my arm or hand because it begins to hurt like hell.

With every bit of strength left, I get up, get a hold of my brother’s hand and kick the stranger in the head, making him twist on the floor. We need to get out of there and fast so we run to Jack’s car which is parked a few yards away. The moment we arrive at Jack’s car, I open the passenger door, sit my brother down, buckling his seatbelt, and close the door shut. I circle the car around, jump into the driver’s seat, closing the door shut and shaking nervously. I flip open the driver’s glove box, on the roof of the car, and the keys fall in my hand. I turn on the engine of the car, but all of a sudden, it goes off and the on. It is then that something hits the hood of the car and Max and I both scream in terror. A second later, I spot the masked man standing in front of us in a threatening manner. Even though he is wearing a mask, I could swear that there is some type of hate and fury behind his evil gaze. I floor the accelerator, and instead of moving forward, we move backwards and hit a tree. From the force of the impact, I hit my head on the steering wheel while Max crashes into the glove compartment, unconscious. Smoke comes out of the car while the windshield is completely shattered into a thousand pieces. The passenger door then swings open and a dark shadow reaches into the car. He grabs Max, takes off his seatbelt, and lifts him off his seat, carrying him away into the night. I stretch my arms out, calling for my brother, but I’m too weak to do anything and my vision begins to blur. My head hurts and I could feel my strength leaving my body. A tingling sensation begins at my feet and moves into my neck. As the tingling sensation makes its way into my face and reaches my eyes, I lose consciousness and everything goes black.

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Author Spotlight: Percy Makhuba

This month Kokoro Press released Cries of the Forgotten by a bright new voice among authors in postapartheid South Africa, Percy Makhuba. Raised on a farm in South Africa, Percy Makhuba works fulltime as a pastor of a ministry. The author has written such a fascinating approach to and vision of achieving a society free of violence, we wanted to know more about him. Please welcome Percy Makhuba who has graciously answered some very personal questions.

Kokoro Press: What inspired you to write a story about ending violence against women?

Percy Makhuba: There was a time in my life where I was being abusive and recognising that I have abused my wife was the first step of accepting my problem. I also congratulate myself for taking other measures for wanting to correct my behavior. I have control over myself and the way I choose to behave is to be a REAL man, husband and good father to my children and that is the whole reason why I wrote about ending violence against women.

Kokoro Press: Do you relate to the protagonist, Tshepo Nonyane? If so, in what ways?

Percy: I relate with Tshepo simply because of the way he loves his wife and that is my definition of loving and he is a spiritual man like I am. He makes me feel better knowing that it’s okay to feel alone, confused and lost. He made me accept the fact that you’re never going to know what you’re future is like and if it’s scary it’s a part of life.

Kokoro Press: Cries of the Forgotten brings in many different aspects of South African society, one of them is the long tradition of sangomas (medicine men/women). Having grown up in South Africa, were you exposed to sangomas and what was that experience like?

Percy: Growing up as a black child in South Africa, I grew up believing in Sangomas, and always thought they are powerful and my mother is a sangoma as well. l have accepted that is what she believes in, but I have found out that their ways of doings things doesn’t go with what I believe in now as a Pastor. I do believe there are prophets and that herbs heal people.

Kokoro Press: Your lifetime spans both sides of apartheid. Do you see an appreciable difference in South African society since apartheid was abolished?

Percy: Not much has changed for most blacks – slow progress, overall improvements at the start but beginning to slide now. There is freedom of movement – live where you like if you can afford to.

Kokoro Press: You are a pastor who heads a ministry. What drew you to that occupation and can you talk a bit about what it’s like? What are the difficulties? What are the rewards?

Percy: A burning desire to serve the Lord full-time. A desire to see lost souls saved. On a regular basis, pastors face the reality of people who have been part of their church deciding to leave. More often than not, these people have received a great deal of ministry and have been given special attention to get them through difficult times. And though it may not be talked about much at our local churches, when people leave your church, it usually hurts. What is rewarding about it is when you see people testify or get healed by your words. When you feel appreciated by your congregation.

Cries of the Forgotten is available from Amazon Kindle|Barnes and Noble Nook|Kobo Books.

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Now Available: Cries of the Forgotten: A Murder Mystery of Postapartheid South Africa

Cries of the Forgotten
A Murder Mystery of Postapartheid South Africa

Author: Percy Makhuba
Genre: Murder mystery; Paranormal
Length: Novella
Price: 0.99 USD

Cover art: Louca Matheo

Buy at Amazon Kindle|Barnes and Noble Nook|Kobo Books

John Burdett, internationally best-selling mystery author of Bangkok 8 (Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series), The Last Six Million Seconds and A Personal History of Thirst calls Cries of the Forgotten, “A moving insight into Zulu shamanism and Christian forgiveness in today’s troubled South Africa.”

From a new, powerful voice in the post-apartheid South African canon of authors, comes Cries of the Forgotten, a murder mystery that explores the scars left by the inner war of a nation.

A seemingly ordinary man with an extraordinary secret…

One day, Tshepo Nonyane, a mild-mannered government statistician walks into the Johannesburg Metro Police Department and confesses to the brutal rapes and murders of several women. He describes his crimes in grisly detail, even as his clean-cut, sincere appearance completely belies the violent man he claims to be.

As Detective Eloff Mueller and her police partner, Joseph Langa, investigate Nonyane’s horrifying confessions, they find themselves pulled into a world where appearance and reality are blurred beyond recognition. They could never have prepared for what is uncovered along with the skeletons of the long-dead and forgotten victims of South Africa’s epidemic violence against women.

Tshepo, the son of one of the country’s most powerful sangomas (medicine men), has long-denied his heritage and believes he has gone mad from refusing to follow his ancestral calling. His madness has led him to murder and brutality…or so he believes. Along with the visions of his unthinkable crimes, the act of confession opens up long-forgotten wounds and secrets he has been keeping from himself. Unlocking the depths of his soul leads to consequences he, and everyone else in his beloved South Africa, could never have imagined in a million lifetimes.

Part murder mystery, part social statement and part spiritual journey, Cries of the Forgotten is one man’s odyssey to protect and heal the nation he loves from its self-inflicted wounds. With a cast of characters who yearn for justice in a nation where men and women have long been at war against themselves and each other, Cries of the Forgotten explores the pressing question of what it will take for the violence to end, once and for all.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

“Tshepo, you’re not a killer. Let’s go home, please.”

Tshepo stopped on the steps of the police station and looked briefly at his wife. The devotion and admiration Nandipha’s eyes reflected for him was unbearable. He’d never deserved her, not after his great act of cowardice had led only to brutality and death. “We’ve discussed this endlessly, Nandi. I’m a killer. I must pay for my crimes. Go home. I promise I will call you. You shouldn’t have got out of the cab.”

Nandipha’s large, beautiful eyes filled. Behind her, the traffic of Johannesburg passed on Main Street. A tear trembled on her lash and rolled down her smooth dark cheek. “You’re not a killer. I know what you are. Why won’t you listen to me?”

“Because you’re prejudiced in my favour. I can do no wrong. You do not see who is in front of you.”

“I do see you. Of all the people in the world, I see you when no one else will. I can’t let you do this. I beg you, Tshepo.”

He turned and went in. There was a line ahead of him. Thankfully, Nandi stopped her tearful begging, but she stood and sniffled endlessly. He could hear her silent pleas, however. When two people had been soulmates since birth, the connection was so deep they could hear each other’s thoughts and finish their sentences. Finally, when he could bear her suffering no longer, he looked at her. He restrained the overpowering urge to wipe the stains of her tears from her cheeks. The near obsidian hue of her skin contrasted with the orange house dress she wore. She’d always worn dresses like that, simple and humble. She wore a matching band to pull back her abundance of perfect, smooth braids. No doubt, she craved his touch after so many years, but he would not mar her beauty with his monster’s hands. She never complained. His beautiful Nandi. “Please, my love,” he murmured. “Go home now. I will call you. I promise.”

“All right. But what you’re doing is wrong.” She turned and walked out of the station.

Tshepo watched her leave. Perhaps there was a time he would have relented and followed her, but he could no longer allow the carnage to continue.

The line crept forward. The clock read well after lunchtime when he finally reached the window and leant slightly inward so that the woman behind the desk would hear him over the din of ringing phones and numerous conflict resolutions happening around them. “I’m here to confess to murder.”

The weary desk sergeant stared at him. Her dark eyes seemed to be assessing whether he was a crackpot she should send away. Of course, she wouldn’t. Anyone who was confessing to murder had to be questioned, at least. Her eyes rested an extra moment on his forehead. Eyes always did rest there, at the crudely fashioned image of a dragon-like snake consuming its own body. The true semiotic of a serial killer. And rapist. “Name?”

He cleared his perpetually dry throat. “Tshepo Nonyane.” Tshepo held out his ID card.

Her round, smooth dark cheeks reminded him of the faces of the women whose lives he had ended. If he looked any longer, he would once again be swimming in a pool of blood; a pool full of the bodies of his victims. “I’m not crazy. I’m telling you the truth.”

“One moment, please.” She picked up a phone and pressed a button. “Yes. Someone has come in named Tshepo Nonyane. He wants to make a confession to murder.” She listened and nodded. Whoever was on the other end was obviously giving her instructions. “Yes, sir,” she answered and replaced the receiver. She signalled to a nearby officer. “Put him in Room Three.”
The officer, young enough to be his son, took his arm. “This way.”

About the author::

Percy Makhuba was born on 18 June 1967 in Honeydew, South Africa. He grew up living on a farm and attended school at Paradise bend School and Witkoppen High School. Percy studied transport management at Rand Afrikaans University qualifying in 2002. He founded a church in 2008 and is currently a Visionary Leader and a Senior Pastor of Percy Healing Word Ministry.

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Now available: Death Effect by John Burdett

Death Effect
Author: John Burdett
Genre: Dark comedy; Short stories; Noir
Length: Short story
Word count: 3237
e-book page count: 13
Price: 0.99 USD

Buy: Amazon Kindle | BN Nook | Kobo | ePub from Google Play compatible with your iBook reader.

Cover art: Louca Matheo

Doing very bad things for very good reasons…

A noir short story from John Burdett, international best-selling author of The Bangkok Asset, the most recent novel in the critically-acclaimed Bangkok mystery series.

Sheriff Jack Gatt is the least eligible (read: least desirable) bachelor in Etowah County, Alabama, especially to Medical Examiner Bethany Lee Brown, who has done all she can to avoid his slobbering desire for her. That is, until he makes her a proposal…or two…she really can’t refuse. What is it that has Bethany shift in an instant from repulsion for the unshaven, lout Gatt to irresistible lust for him and…a darkly odd partnership that neither of them could resist if their very lives and careers depended on it?

John Burdett has published eight novels to date, The Last Six Million Seconds, A Personal History of Thirst and the Bangkok series: Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, Bangkok Haunts, The Godfather of Kathmandu, Vulture Peak, and The Bangkok Asset. . Visit him on Facebook.

Excerpt:

Medical Examiner Doctor Bethany Lee Brown — Dr. B to friends and felons alike — of Etowah County, Alabama, was not pregnant — so why marry that fat slob of a sergeant Jack Gatt from Etowah PD? She didn’t want to, but he was forcing her hand as only a cop can. Okay Mister, she thought, have it your way, but you better watch out.

So far she had resisted pressure to sleep with him on grounds of religious principle, which was kind of quaint for a forty year old woman in the context of the twenty-first century, but not so unusual in Alabama where the Lord still ruled. Even so, unkind tongues had often asked: Was she gay? Was she just weird? Her friends opted for lovably weird, and pointed out that there were a lot of men who would find it difficult to sleep with a medical examiner, especially if they couldn’t stop thinking about what she did with her hands all day. Also, if she’d been gay everyone would have known about it by now. This was gossip county. You couldn’t even cop a speeding ticket without the whole town knowing. And now the prim little ME with the old fashioned hair-do, short with a wave across her forehead from left to right held rigidly in place by a brittle lacquer, was about to marry the roughest police sergeant in the county? He was no Adonis; the best the opposite sex could find to say about him was that he’d kept his ginger hair — and vastly enlarged his stomach, was the second thing they said.

Nobody, except perhaps a curious psychiatrist or two who had heard the news, considered an alternative explanation.

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A Quest for Healing: The Passionate Roots of Atopalm

“I’m also grateful for whatever force in me never let me give up. That I held onto that voice inside me that told me to find my own way, not to give in and follow anyone else, no matter how compelling their example seemed or their desire for me.” – Dr. Park, A Quest for Healing
Most successes in life are made possible by one driving force — passion. Atopalm is no exception.

Dr. Raymond Park, creator of MLE and founder of Atopalm, began his journey when two of his three sons could not be cured of their acute atopic dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema. Dr. Park devoted his life to developing the first viable bio-identical non-prescription formula for healing and protecting the skin barrier — and succeeded in reaching his goal.

During his years of hard work developing this revolutionary skin care ingredient, Dr. Park was faced with the struggle of…

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220x300A Quest For Healing (A Memoir That Weaves Together Science, Family and Faith)Author: Dr. Raymond
Non-fiction, Memoir and Biography/Leaders and notable people/science/scientists/Asia/South Korea
Family and relationships/parenting/fatherhood
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/ Science & Technology
Word count: 49824
e-book page count: 110 pages
Price: 2.99 USD

Cover art: Louca Matheo

Buy from: Amazon Kindle|BN Nook|Kobo Books|Google Play

Dr. Raymond Park is one of the world’s leading skin care scientists, credited with developing a formula that cured both his infant and four year old sons of acute atopic dermatitis, a formula that would go on to become the leading brand for sensitive skin in Korea and then the world. The path to his discovery was a lifetime in the making and there were dark moments when he might have turned away, never to offer his unique vision of skin care to the world.

With heart and candor Dr. Park shares memories about his life, fraught with the pressures of growing up in one of the most academically pressured and competitive societies in the world. Constant was his inner struggle to define himself on his own terms in the face of intense parental pressure about education, a troubled relationship with his father, men and women, and then, one of the most precious relationships of all: as a father with his sons, especially his middle son, who provokes the unforeseen depths of his own cultural conditioning, challenging him to the most difficult struggle of his life:: how to be the parent he wanted to be deep in his heart.

A Quest for Healing is at once intimate portrait of life in South Korea, of the struggle to gain admission into the nation’s most coveted university, Seoul National at a time when the horrors of the Gwangju massacre and the government’s betrayal of its own people were exposed, igniting the new student movement. When his closest friends were heading deeper into the struggle for social change, Dr. Park wrestled with his own conscience and the voice inside that was leading him away from the others, to his own way. The way that would eventually lead him to the crossing of the great mysteries of spirit with his knowledge of science, giving voice to his mission for skin care. It is the story of the forces, inner and outer, that shape a person’s destiny, someone who is engaged in the classic struggle to find what is truest in the human heart.

About the author:

Dr. Raymond Beong Deog Park earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Seoul National University. He is the first skin scientist to develop a viable bio-identical non-prescription formula to heal and protect the skin barrier, helping thousands of children and adults to heal from atopic dermatitis and other skin ailments. The proud father of three wonderful sons, Dr. Park has made it his lifelong mission to continue expanding and perfecting his award winning formula, a top selling line in Korea for over ten years for sensitive skin. He now resides in the States with his family. To learn more about Atopalm and Medikos, please visit his websites at www.atopalm.com and www.medikos.com.

Excerpt:

There is a Korean tradition that every family takes part in when a child reaches his or her first year. The parents seat the child at a table. On the table, they’ve placed a notebook and pencil, money and a rice cake. The child is supposed to choose one item that will determine his or her future path. The notebook and pencil mean their child will be a wise scholar. The money means their child will be rich. And the rice cake means their child will be strong and lucky in life. The hope of most Korean parents is that their baby will reach for the notebook and pencil.

On my first birthday, I chose the notebook and pencil. I was too young to remember it but my parents told me a few years later that I had, probably in one of the many moments they spent telling me about the big shiny university in Seoul I would get into when I grew up, the best in the nation.

Decades later, to my wife’s and my delight, my first son, Jun-Hyeong and my third son, Chae, both chose the notebook and pencil.

Our second son, Ji-Hyeong, however, took one look at all the items and his little hand came out, grabbed the rice cake and in seconds, he’d devoured it happily.

Suk Young and I stared at our son. We were so sure he’d choose the notebook and pencil that his hasty choice immediately made our hopes sink. Our son would be strong and lucky, perhaps. But he wouldn’t be a scholar.

“Ji-Hyeong,” I said, pushing the remaining items toward him. “Choose again.” I pointed to each, my heart beat rising a bit.

After a moment, Ji-Hyeong’s round face turned to the money. He picked up the bill, a note equivalent to ten dollars, and held it.

I exhaled at his second wrong choice. Ji-Hyeong didn’t need to be rich. One of the reasons I had barely seen him this entire year since his birth except on weekends was because I worked night and day on the new formula of skin cream I was developing. A breakthrough for mothers with children who suffered skin problems and didn’t want to use prescription medicine with possible side effects. Even before I’d finished my doctorate, I’d distinguished myself as a research scientist in my area of expertise. If all went as planned, my new venture would take off with wild success. As long as I managed everything properly, Ji and his brothers’ futures were assured. They would have the freedom to pursue studies and distinguish themselves as the wise scholars they were meant to be.

In a last desperate attempt to assure a good prophecy, I pushed the notebook and pencil even closer to Ji, close enough that he would barely need to reach out for it. “Go on, Ji-Hyeong,” I said. “Take the notebook. That’s the one you really want.” I nudged the notebook even closer until it touched his little fingers.

Finally Ji curled his grip around the notebook and held it.

I breathed a sigh of relief. In time he would understand how much better it was to be a wise scholar.

Growing up, I’d been indifferent to tradition, rebellious against it to a large degree in my struggle to define myself on my own terms. However, now as a young father with children of his own, I knew the importance learning and study had in my own life, the opportunities it had given me in moments when turning away from it could have robbed me of any promising future. Like my father and his father before him who’d pushed his sons to be educated and reach for the absolute highest in life possible, I was now about to do the same.
I didn’t see in that moment the other reason for my anxiety. Ji, being the only one who’d chosen something other than the notebook and pencil, had already shown me he was different. Ji would be the boy of the three I didn’t understand, who challenged me as a father and pushed me up against the boundaries of what I’d learned, the models I’d had and would desperately need to go beyond.

Nor did I see my insistence that Ji pick up the notebook and pencil as any violation of a promise I’d made to myself in childhood, a promise that I would break many times in a number of years, not intentionally of course, but which would be a source of unhappiness and, if I wasn’t careful, the possibly permanent loss of a good, meaningful father-son relationship, such as had happened to me and my father.

The promise I made one night, shivering in my bed after a great fright, was that I would never be like my father, not as a person, not as a father.

It started with something as innocent as a piece of paper…

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Now Available: Just to Make You Smile (A Memoir)

justtomake23Just To Make You Smile ( A Teenage Daughter’s Reflections on Loving and Losing Her Father to ALS)
Author: Sarah Caldwell
Genre: Non-fiction young adult, memoir, biography, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, young adult memoir, losing a parent, healing from loss, teen & young adult biography
eISBN: 978-1-937796-88-4
Price: 2.99 USD

Trade paperback:
ISBN13: 978-1-937796-89-1
Price: 12.99 USD

Buy from: Amazon|Nook|KoboGoogle Play

Cover art: Melody Pond

“My dad was going to die. My sweet, loving, caring, and wonderful-in-every-way dad was going to leave me before he could watch my sister and me grow up.”

At the tender age of fifteen, Sarah Caldwell learned that her father had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and had only a short time left to live. In moments her life went from texting friends, going to gymnastics practice and family vacations by the sea to watching her father’s rapid, irreversible deterioration, a process that plunged her into deep depression.

But Jim Caldwell was a man whose indomitable spirit in the face of his suffering provided the ultimate inspiration for Sarah to transform her depression into a journey of healing and love. She learned to accept her and her father’s fate and became determined not to waste a moment of the time she had left with him. When her father passed away, leaving Sarah to face life without her beloved dad, she was determined again to continue on the path of hope and strength, making sense of her loss and honoring his life by helping raise awareness of ALS and money for desperately-needed research for a cure.

With a special foreword by former pro-football player Steve Gleason, Just To Make You Smile is the rare, honest, compassionate and bold account of a young adult’s process of watching a parent get ill and die, and the inspiration she hopes to impart by sharing her grieving process, deep inner growth and healing. By telling her story in its entirety, from the lowest depths of grief and depression to the heights of finding her inner strength, making a difference and carrying on her father’s fighting spirit, she hopes to touch the lives of others, especially kids with a sick parent, letting them know they are never alone on this difficult journey.

Excerpt:

Introduction

My name is Sarah Caldwell. I am seventeen years old. My dad was diagnosed with the disease ALS—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—when I was fifteen years old; he passed away just sixteen months later. ALS is a neurological disease that gradually robs a person of his or her ability to walk, talk, and eventually breathe. The whole time, the mind is typically alert and functional. At fifteen, I found out my dad was going to die through finding a bottle of his medication. At sixteen, I found out he had died when my mom came to get me at gymnastics practice and, through tears, told me Dad hadn’t made it.

Doctors on TV (and I’m sure in real life too, but I’m not a doctor) are taught to spell out the situation when someone passes and literally say, “He died.” Saying, “He didn’t make it,” or, “We did everything we could,” simply doesn’t cut it. I didn’t understand that until my mom told me, “Dad didn’t make it.” I didn’t understand what she was saying. I had seen my dad that morning, and he was still talking and walking and smiling. There’s no way he could be gone…could he? But in fact, I had been left without my father, my mentor, my hero. This man would not be there to tear up when I graduated from high school or walk me down the aisle when I got married. At age sixteen, I was put in a situation few people my age have experienced. And I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

This memoir is the story of my journey through my dad’s diagnosis, death, and what I have chosen to do to carry on his legacy. After my dad was diagnosed with ALS, I felt as though I didn’t have anyone to turn to who was experiencing a similar situation. I didn’t know anyone else my age who had a dying parent, and when I looked for books, I couldn’t find any that could help me. I didn’t know if what I was feeling was normal. Was I supposed to have feelings of resentment toward my dad for being sick? To lie on the floor and cry myself to sleep every night? It was months of depression, anger, and denial before I finally woke up and literally picked myself up off the ground. I chose to do everything I could to live without any regrets in the time I had left with him and stand beside my hero in his battle with ALS.

I helped him go swimming with stingrays and swing a golf club again. I encouraged him that he wasn’t missing much by not being able to eat dinner with us anymore (“Sorry Mom, the chicken is dry”), and I made riding in a wheelchair fun (picture me racing him across the room and “accidentally” flipping him over). More importantly, I helped do something about his greatest frustration: there is no cure or effective treatment for ALS. I helped found a group, Team Red Trekkers, to raise awareness of ALS and fundraise to help find a cure. Less than a month later, my dad lost his battle with this disease. ALS had defeated him. But then again, it hadn’t. My dad had maintained his positive attitude up until the end, and he never blamed anyone for his disease. I honestly don’t know if I would ever be able to do that; I would probably blame my parents for “giving me bad genes” as I do whenever I get sick. Even after my dad died, I wasn’t about to stop fighting ALS. I wanted to carry on my dad’s mission to find a cure. My campaigns have touched people nationwide, raising awareness of and funding for this currently incurable disease.

After my dad died, I was introduced to a girl my age, Karen, whose mom was diagnosed with ALS. As I wrote this book, I started giving her drafts as I made progress, and, every time, I could see the weight of sorrow lift off her shoulders just a little. She no longer was alone. If this book has the potential to reach just one person like Karen, just one person who realizes what they are feeling is normal, then I can know my contribution to the world has truly made a difference. I will have helped someone who needs help, the exact thing that I needed all those months ago when my family’s journey with ALS first began.

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