Posted in #Book, #Giveaway, Author, blog, Book, Coming of Age, Silver Dagger Scriptorium Tours, Tour, Writer

Punk by Lex J. Grootelaar – Book Tour + #Giveaway

31/05/17

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Punk
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by Lex Grootelaar
Genre: Coming of Age
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Short and entertaining, “Punk” pushes both the rules of writing and the
dominant ideas and expectations of our society. Thrown into the world
of punk rock in the early 1990s, this novel follows the intertwining
lives of a wandering reject and the people he meets as he learns of
his fathers’ unexpected death. It explores themes of social
structure and religious indifference through the eyes of this
disenfranchised man living from one high to the next. The story takes
place over a few hot summer days in Edmonton, Alberta.


Thiscoming-of-age story, although set in the 90’s, is still very relevant
to today. It explores a quest for God without religion. Written with
bursts of stream-of-consciousness and first-person narrative, “Punk”
is simultaneously an urban existential fiction and a mystery novel.
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pu- excerpt
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CHAPTER 1

I awoke cold on the shoulder of a highway. I had no idea how I got there. As the song goes, I found my mind in a brown paper bag—only this wasn’t the sixties, and the bag was clear, not brown. My life felt like a cliché as I found myself in this shoulder—this ditch. I slowly stood up. A semi-truck whirled by sending up a dirt cloud. I choked. To complete the cliché, I held out a thumb: the one that had been broken the year before when I fell out of a bar. The cars flew by and filled the air with exhaust. I smiled beside myself. Beside my life. I smiled at all the self-destruction, the missed opportunities, the lust, and the indulgences… All the indulgences. The thought carried as the wind blew. Finding my sunglasses in the high grass, I put them on hiding my bloodshot eyes and, hopefully, the haggard sketchiness that those eyes contained. As I looked at the empty eyes of drivers

passingng me on their way to work, my sympathy was with them. What day was this? What month? What year? When did the bender start? When would it finish? Finally, a car slowed as I gazed up at the sun just showing itself.

Running to the car on the shoulder, I attempted to piece together what happened the night before. Did my run-in with the Afeller boys go amiss? Their punk rock band was becoming so big—and with it, lots of new characters were on the scene. Did I offend some white-top? Something about his mother, I’m sure. The car put on its hazards as the driver opened his window and gestured me over. I ran my hands over my patched black jeans. I guess they didn’t offend; nor did my red and blond Mohawk that I never wore up.

I opened the door and peered in. The man was fortyish. He looked like a family man in his suit and tie. I smiled, knowing I was everything he wouldn’t want his children to become. And yet he offered me a ride.

“Hey there. You from the city, or some drifter?”

“Neither. I’m not from this city, nor a drifter. I’m a man of the land with nothing but my good sense to guide me through waters deep and quick.”

“Son, I’m not some girl at the bar, I’m the man driving you back to the city. So save the bullshit. Do you want some coffee? I have a thermos. You must drink coffee?” The man smiled as he passed over a thermos and a small brown disposable cup.

“Thanks. I know you’re not a girl at the bar, so I will put away my charm—and yes, I drink coffee, but only when I smoke. And I seem to be out,” I said as I lazily checked my black leather jacket and found nothing but an empty pack.

“You’re a drifter then; smoking’s a dying pastime. A losing battle.”

“Then you don’t partake?”

“Lucky for you, son, I’m also a dying breed.” He pulled out a silver case full of long cigarettes.

“Thanks,” I said as he passed me the case.

“You have a name? A real name? I offered you my smokes and my coffee; least you can do is give me a name.” I lit the cigarette and sipped the coffee.

“A real name, eh?” I took a long drag. “Clark. Clark Kent,” I smiled at him.

“Superman, eh? Fully able to fly, but stuck in an ‘85 Toyota, smoking my cigarettes, drinking my coffee and dressed in a fashion that I take it Lois Lane picked out?”

“Yeah, she’s a great dame.” I kept trying to remember what had happened last night.

“Humph. Where in the city are you going? Or should I just shoot for the downtown homeless shelter?”

“Mid-city would be good. I just need to get to my bike. It’s in a garage I rent with the money I make saving the world and all.”

“What were you doing on the side of the road? Good old Lex Luthor leave you high and dry?”

“If you must know, he attacked me with kryptonite and took my cape. I wouldn’t need the lift if I had the cape. You should know that.”

“Good point. Have some more coffee. A bike guy, eh?”

“Harley guy. It was my father’s,” I replied.

“A gift for your law school graduation?”

“Stolen.”

I could see the city approaching, the skyscrapers visible with an early morning summer haze around them.

“And what do you do for work there, Clark?”

“Me? The usual philanthropy, human projects, building churches, and feeding the poor.”

“Ah, a fine job for Superman.”

“Fine job for any man. You wouldn’t happen to have anything… I could put in this coffee?” I asked.

“I’m a family man myself—but like I said, a dying breed. Look inside the glove compartment.”

I opened it, and inside was a small bottle of bourbon. This was a man after my own heart. I poured a healthy amount into my mug.

“And for you?”

“No thanks; not before lunch.” As he shoulder-checked, I slipped the bottle into my inside jacket pocket.

“Let me guess,” I said. “You were a ‘60s hippy into the drug scene who got some flower child knocked up and started looking at things seriously. Your college degree wouldn’t get you far, so you got into sales. You don’t work in the office, hence the road drinks and the engraved cigarette holder: a gift for being with the company maybe fifteen years. You have children in their teens and you wish for nothing more than for them to go to college, get good jobs, and become nothing like you used to be—and definitely nothing like me.”

He laughed. “The world is a cruel place and not for the faint. Don’t doubt that you’re heading down a bad path: one where your super powers won’t be enough to save you. One day you’ll need redemption, but no one will show you any mercy. You’ll cry out, and no one will answer.” He stared at me, no longer watching the road. I looked back at him.

“Let me tell you something, man. I’ve cried out already. I’ve cried to the world, and you know what the world said back? It said no, just like you’re saying it would. But you know why that makes me better than a day driver—a day salesman whose life lost its lustre over the years?” I pulled the bottle out of my jacket and took a long swig, looking at him as I did. “The world has also cried out to me. And I was the one saying no, just the same. I fight the good fight and walk down the road walked by so many others, but I will never falter. I will never cave. I will seek out a life all want, but none have the courage to live.”

“Keep the bottle, then, and let your destruction swallow you whole. And if you come out alive, the tie and jacket will welcome you on the other side—and there will be someone like me, bailing you out.”

We drove into the city.

“Drop me off by Manulife Place.” I was feeling the kind of clarity the drink will give, as I put my hangover aside. “Alright.” He slowed. The sun was just barely up; it must have been about 6 in the morning when we reached the mall’s entrance. I opened the door.

“I never got your name, oh wise one,” I said as I stepped onto the sidewalk.

“Why do you care? You’ll forget me as soon as you light another smoke.” He handed me another one. “The name is… Ivan. Ivan the terrible.”

“Ha. Good day, sir. Watch out for that looming mid-life crisis,” I said as I closed the door.

 

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I started writing at a very young age but soon was more consumed with
women, drinking and smoking. It was only when I realized that vice
doesn’t lead to virtue that I left childish things behind me and
found myself back into the realm of writing, work, and love. It was
in that aspect that the words started to flow. I have spent the past
few years at study, spending my summers at work fueling aircraft for
Alberta forestry, when I can break away I travel with my lovely and
brilliant spouse.
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Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
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Posted in #Book, #Giveaway, Author, blog, Book, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Silver Dagger Scriptorium Tours, Tour, Writer

Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird – Book Tour + #Giveaway

24/04/17

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Just Shut Up and Drive
by Chynna Laird
Genre: Coming of Age, Contemporary
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One teen, one cranky old man and the open road. What could go wrong?
Eighteen-year old Wil Carter can think of more than a fistful of things he’d
rather do than go on a road trip with his ninety-five year old
grandfather. But when Gramps Wilf barks an order, you listen or get
an earful of grief.
Wil lost his parents in a horrible car accident when he was five. Gramps
has been the only parent he has ever known. Now that he’s ready to
go off to college, the old man says he has things Wil needs to learn
to be the man he’s supposed to be. But the trip turns out to be
more than he bargains for.
Along their week-long road trip across the Canadian Prairies, Wil not only
learns tidbits about his own life, but realizes the grandfather he
thought he knew has mysteries of his own. With each stop they make, a
new layer of emotional truth is revealed…for each of them.
Will Gramps teach Wil what he needs to know before the journey ends? And
is Wil strong enough to hear it?
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su- excerpt
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“Good grief, boy!” Gramps yelled. “You drive like an old lady on a Sunday afternoon drive. Don’t be afraid to push down on that gas pedal.”

“Gramps,” Wil sighed. “I’m going the speed limit. Anyway, what is the hurry?”

“The hurry is I hate being a passenger, especially yours,” he said, emphasizing each word. “And watch your mouth, boy. You aren’t too old for me to give a whoppin’ to.”

“You’re just ticked because they won’t let you drive anymore. It’s your own fault for not taking care of your eyes. And for the record, I’m not exactly thrilled at the moment having you as a passenger.”

“You better watch your attitude, or I’ll take this truck back.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was Dad’s, right? And I think you told me he wanted you to give it to me. Guess that means it isn’t yours to take.”

Gramps got a sour look on his stern face, like he’d just sucked on a lime. “Don’t you be talking to me like I’m some crazy old coot who’s lost his mind. I remember what I said. Shoulda charged you for it, considering the lip I have to put up with every time I’m gonna be in here with you.”

“And what makes you think I’m going to drive you around everywhere in this beautiful truck? I’ll chauffeur you around in my car.”

“That piece of crap? Hmph. Forget it.”

Wil stared at the road ahead of them. “You could take a cab, you know. Or the bus.” Sam Hill help the poor drivers.

“Nah,” Gramps said, slugging back the rest of his coffee and shoving the empty cup in a plastic bag. “I get much more pleasure out of torturing you than I would a stranger.”

I noticed. “Alrighty, then. So you got a plan for us, or are we just going to keep going until we run out of gas?”

Gramps crossed his arms over his chest and looked out his window. “First stop is gonna be Elie.”

Wil released a sharp breath and squinted. “Seriously? There’s, like, 100 people living there.”

“Six hundred and fifty.”

“Close enough. And I’m sure the census people were able to gather them all in one place and count them at once. C’mon, Gramps. What could possibly be in that small town worth checking out? If we drive straight on, we can get to Portage la Prairie for lunch—”

“Just because a place isn’t all lit up like Vegas doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be visited,” Gramps interrupted. “Some places need to be seen because they’re gold mines for memories. We’re stopping at Elie.”

Wil had a smart-butt retort clinging to the tip of his tongue, but he held it there after giving Gramps a side-glance. The old man rested his chin on his right fist and stared out his window.

“Fine. I guess we’re stopping at Elie,” Wil mumbled.

Like my vote even counted.

*

 

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CHYNNA LAIRD – is a psychology/criminology major, freelance writer and
author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband, Ryan, three
daughters [Jaimie (fourteen), Jordhan (twelve), and Sophie (eight)]
and baby boy, Xander (ten). Her passion is helping children and
families living with Sensory Processing Disorder, mental and
emotional disorders and other special needs.
You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational,
Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States,
Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an
award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two
memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s
Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult
novella (Blackbird Flies), an adult Suspense/Thriller (Out Of Sync),
a Young Adult Suspense/Paranormal (Dark Water) and a contemporary New
Adult novel (Just Shut Up and Drive,). She is presently working on a
sequel to Not Just Spirited as well as the next book in the Dark
Water series. Stayed tuned as Chynna has several Works-In-Progress on
the go.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Posted in #Book, Adventure, Author, Bewitching Book Tours, blog, Book, Coming of Age, Tour, Writers

Age Six Racer by Joe Vercillo – Book Tour + #Giveaway

29/03/17

 

 

AGE SIX RACER
Joe Vercillo
Genre: Adventure/Coming of Age
Publisher: Wild Thorn Publishing

Date of Publication: 03/25/2017


ISBN: 9781520784137

ASIN: B06XFMNQNG


Number of pages: 150

Word Count: 36 000


Book Description:


Now, I’m not sure if it’s like this for every guy out there, but it seems like the main underlying reason for everything I do is because of a girl. It was ‘the girl’ who made me run away from my hometown. And it was ‘the girl’ who almost got me killed. But it was also because of ‘the girl’ that I ended up in New York City with my three best friends on a mad adventure.


My name is Princeton, and I’m a white-footed mouse.

Excerpt
AGE SIX RACER
CHAPTER
ONE
The End
I
had a little scare this morning. There I was, lying facedown on the garage
floor of 18 Westwinds Boulevard in Princeton, New Jersey. I was only a few feet
away from my home, actually—a little woodpile in the front corner.
I
felt the bristle of the broom gently pushing then rolling me into the plastic
dustpan. Next thing I knew, I was in a shallow grave in the cedar mulch under
the damn maple tree out front.
After
a heartbreak, I always like to fantasize about having an untimely death and
going out in a blaze of glory with the girl who broke my heart bawling her eyes
out and wondering how she’s ever gonna live without me. But as great as this
death fantasy is, I’ve never really
wanted to die.
Now,
don’t think that this is some sort of Romeo
and Juliet
story or anything like that because it’s not. Even if it were,
you should never feel bad when a mouse dies. Our life spans are only about a
year in the wild, but to give you some perspective, one day for a mouse feels
pretty much like a human year. So most of us live good long lives even if they
seem short to people.
So
yeah, my name is Princeton, and I’m a mouse—a white-footed mouse, to tell you
the truth. We’re often confused with our rival cousin, the deer mouse. Our
coloring is similar to that of a deer—reddish brown on top with white bellies.
The only difference between deer mice and us is our white feet.
By
the way, Princeton is just my nickname. I don’t wanna tell you my real name
because it’s kind of embarrassing. The nickname Princeton actually started as a
razz. My friends acted as if I had suddenly turned into a douche when I moved
to the town that was home to the prestigious
Princeton University. Sure, it’s full of professors and some of the world’s
brightest young minds, but the attitudes here are exactly the same as in any
other town I’ve ever been to. An outsider with an inferiority complex about
Princeton should see how most of the humans dress here. It’s all sweatpants and
hoodies, I swear to God.
Anyway,
the nickname Princeton just stuck, and to tell you the truth, it’s grown on me.
Nicknames can make or break you. I once knew a guy who was nicknamed The Dove.
Some friends and I had shown up at a grain-silo party, and there was this field
mouse named Miles sitting way up in the rafters, eating all by himself. My
friend Tyler said, “Hey, check it out—the lonesome dove.” Everyone laughed, and
from that day on, Miles was known as The Dove. Imagine getting stuck with that nickname for life. Doves are the
worst. Trust me.
And
Princeton isn’t the first nickname I’ve ever had. I’ve been called other things
too. This one time, I had to hide out in a hamster cage for a night to evade a
barn cat, and my friend Charlotte started calling me Hamster Boy. Another time,
she started calling me Junior after I had a close call with a vacuum cleaner.
Why Junior? Well, when she was a kid, she had this pet potato bug named Junior
that got sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. She has a sick sense of humor like
that.
Anyway,
I moved to Princeton a couple weeks ago from Port Elgin, Ontario. To be
completely honest, the move was a result of two things, which I’ll tell you
about in a minute.
Back
in Port Elgin, I lived in this little woodpile in the backyard of a big old
two-story century home. It was a great setup. The humans who lived there were
the Sanagans. I actually got to know them pretty well—not personally,
obviously, but you know what I mean. I found a hole in the foundation
underneath their deck that led into the wall right behind the kitchen stove. I
could sneakster my way in and out of there pretty easily.
There
was never a shortage of food in that house, with old half-eaten boxes of cereal
lined up along the back wall of the pantry. And it was all of the good stuff
too—Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Corn Pops, you name it. The Sanagans were
cereal fiends.
The
family was also addicted to watching movies, which was how I became such a
movie buff. I used to do marathons with them, watching from under the couch.
My
taste in music was also shaped in that house. The one son, J.P., would blast
his tunage while taking showers. I’d always make a point of being in the
bathroom wall near the return air vent in the mornings so I could rock out and
jump around to songs like “Blue Orchid” by the White Stripes, “Sober” by
Blink-182, or “Breed” by Nirvana. J.P. would be dancing and singing along too,
so those days were a lot of fun.
I
swear, that place would have been like the damn Elysian Fields if it weren’t
for a few of its nonhuman inhabitants: Indy—a silver tabby cat, Rascal—a big
fat calico cat, and Frankie—a little wiener dog. The fat cat wasn’t much to
worry about. She would just lie around all day stretched out on the floor like
Jabba the Hutt. And she had this permanent sore on her back that kind of looked
like a slice of pepperoni. It was strange. I was never sure if I wanted to puke
or lick it. Frankie wasn’t usually a threat, either. That guy was anything but stealth. I could hear him coming
from a hundred miles away with his heavy footsteps and jangly metal collar, not
to mention his incessant yelping, whimpering, and whining. Nope, it was only
Indy who put the fear of God into me.
Indy
was an infamous mouser—a mass
murderer—who haunted the dreams of small rodents all across the land. There
were rumors in the neighborhood that she had over three thousand kills dating
back to the early 2000s. Mice, chipmunks, and rabbits were her favorite
targets. During the warmer months, a killing a day was the norm. It wasn’t
uncommon to come across chipmunks or mice who had been chopped clean in half
and left on the front porch or back step like some sort of sick taunt or
medieval warning—a message to us all to watch our asses. Other times, you’d just see the entrails or dry blood spots of
some other poor departed soul.
The
point is, Indy was a professional assassin, and our crossing of paths was the
push I needed to get out of town.
So
there I was, out on a movie date with this girl named Jules. She was this
beautiful field mouse I had gone out with a couple times. She was more of a
rebound, to tell you the truth. I was really only seeing her to try to get my
mind off of a recent heartbreak. I was very attracted to her, but we didn’t
have much in common. Deep down, we both probably knew it would never work out.
Anyway,
we’d just finished watching the movie—the Sanagans had put on the fourth Harry Potter—and were on our way back
through the pantry and into the kitchen. I told her to wait the usual ten
seconds to make sure the coast was clear before heading to the exit behind the
stove. But Jules—being the naive little field mouse she was—decided to just
stroll on out there like a moron. Well, guess who came flying around the
corner, barking his head off just as she was walking out? Yup, you guessed
it—Frankie, the wiener dog.
I
took off like a shot, running straight under the kitchen table and around the
corner of the island. My diversion worked as Frankie was right on my ass. That
meant that Jules was in the clear and had a safe path to the stove.
There
were small cubbies where I could wait out danger in most parts of the Sanagans’
house. But unfortunately, I was chased into the only area that didn’t have a
hiding place—the dreaded dining room.
“THERE’S
A MOUSE!” a human voice yelled out from somewhere behind me. Frankie was still
hot on my heels at that point.
Damn.
It was one thing for the pets to know you were in their house, but when a human
found out that they had a mouse problem, it was pretty much game over. All of
your routes and hiding places became compromised—holes got filled by foam
insulation; poison-bait stations popped up on every corner of the foundation;
snap traps, electric zapper traps, and glue boards got set up at your favorite
hangouts. It was a real pain in the ass. If you were lucky enough to make it
out alive after being spotted, you’d cut your losses and move on to the next
house.
All
I could do at that point was beeline it for the junk-cluttered section in the
back corner of the room. When I made it there, I squirmed my way in deep and
hunkered down to catch my breath.
With
all of the barking and yelling, it was hard to concentrate, but this would be
the best time to escape—during the pandemonium. I shimmied past a bookshelf and
then crawled under the liquor cabinet and stopped for a minute at the back
corner. I had to try to figure out where exactly my pursuers were positioned.
Frankie
was still barking like a bastard back near the junk pile where I was hiding. I
didn’t have eyes on him, but he was over there for sure. Mrs. Sanagan was in
the same area. I could see her feet and hear her trying to calm Frankie down.
She must have been the one who spotted me on my run over here. I could hear Mr.
Sanagan yelling from either the kitchen or the family room. He wasn’t a very
mobile fellow, so I assumed he would be supervising the mouse hunt from afar.
From
what I could tell, I only needed to elude the three of them.
If
I stayed under the liquor cabinet it’d be game over, Frankie would be moving in
to sniff me out at any second. So I did what I had to—I made a run for it.
Did
you ever have that feeling as a kid, when the shortcut to get home required you
to go through a really dark section of a scary forest or alley, and you’d run
through it as fast as you possibly could hoping to God that nothing would
snatch you up? Well, that’s pretty much what it feels like to be a mouse making
a mad dash.
After
scurrying through the dining room doorway into the kitchen, I rounded the
corner of the island and saw the stove. My heart leapt for joy—home stretch!
But just as I cleared the island, I looked over to my left, and what I saw made
my stomach drop. It was Indy, the mass-murdering killer cat. She was sitting
there on her haunches, no more than a foot away, staring at me with her
squinted green eyes. I instinctively jumped sideways and skidded away from her.
“THERE
IT IS! GET IT, INDY!” shouted Mr. Sanagan.
But
as God is my witness—and I’ll never know the real reason why—Indy let me run
right by her. She didn’t move an inch. She just sat there with a carefree smirk
on her face, like she was only there to watch the show. I’ll never forget that
act of mercy she displayed for me that day. Ever.

 

Just
a few weeks ago, though, I heard some sobs coming from outside of my woodpile
in the garage in New Jersey. It was J.P. He had just gotten word that Indy had
passed away in her sleep back home in Port Elgin. I know I should have been
rejoicing with the rest of the woodland creatures that she’d haunted and
terrorized all of those years, but I ended up saying a little prayer for her
that night. Just out of respect for letting me go that day, ya know?
 

About the Author:


Professional ice-hockey goaltender and Canadian singer-songwriter, Joe Vercillo, stumbled upon the love of his life, journeyed down to Princeton, New Jersey, and found a dead mouse in a garage.


The rest is history.



Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/joevercilloauthor/Amazon: 

https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Vercillo/e/B06XGP2K74/ 

 

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Posted in #Book, #Giveaway, Author, blog, Book, Coming of Age, Fiction, Silver Dagger Scriptorium Tours, Story, Tour, Writer

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett by Gerald M. O’Connor – Book Tour + #Giveaway

16/03/17

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The Origins of Benjamin Hackett
by Gerald M. O’Connor
Genre: Coming Of Age
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All families have secrets. Most go untold…

In the summer of
‘96, Benjamin Hackett has come of age, technically. And in the
midst of the celebratory hangover, his world is whipped out from
under his feet. His parents have finally shared their lifelong secret
with him; he’s adopted.
At the age of 18, the boy still has
some growing up to do, and with the help of JJ, his loquacious
consigliore and bodyguard, he embarks on an adventure that’ll put
to bed a lifetime of lies.
Over the course of five days, they
find themselves caught up in the darker side of Cork. But when they
sweep through the misfits blocking their way and finally discover the
truth of it…now that’s the greatest shock of all.

 

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett
is a tender tale of heartache and displacement told through a wry and
courageous voice. Set in Ireland, it’s a timely reminder that the
world hasn’t moved on just as fast as we fancy. Now, in this
emotionally charged story, Gerald M. O’Connor explores conditioned
guilt and its consequences in a country still hiding from the sins of
its past.
O’Connor’s book draws on a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland would
quietly take children from mothers in convents and Magdalene
Laundries and deposit them into new homes, making it nearly
impossible for these kids to find their real parents. Attempts by
children to find their birth parents were often blocked by a dark web
of secrecy and bureaucracy that, in many ways, still continues to
haunt the country today.
Brimming with unfathomable escapades, a motley crew of characters and a
healthy serving of Irish humor, O’Connor’s book is steeped in
Irish culture told in the inimitable Corkman’s brogue. Set in a
time before the chaos of modern digital culture,
The
Origins of Benjamin Hackett

takes a step back, allowing space for readers to escape and think
about the realities of growing up in a family founded on a lie. In
his stylish debut, O’Connor shows an amazing ability to paint
heartbreak and longing that will keep readers thinking about
The
Origins of Benjamin Hackett

long after they finish the story.
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bh- excerpt
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Here is a preview of The Origins of Benjamin Hackett by Gerald M. O’Connor…Chapter 3…

 

Life was lived in the quiet moments; all the rest was pure bluster. I was paraphrasing of course. I hadn’t the foggiest who’d said those words, or whether they were ever uttered out of the mouth of anyone at all, and if by happenstance they had it probably was more succinct. But the thought cropped up in my head then, watching my dad visibly stutter less than the width of a jab away from me.

“There’s no way in hell I’m adopted,” I said.

“You are a bit.”

“You can’t be a bit adopted.”

Dad seemed to consider this for a moment, before shrugging and smiling wanly. “No…I suppose you can’t.”

“This is a pile of unadulterated nonsense. You’re both having a laugh, right? Some twisted revenge for me not applying to college?”

Dad reached inside his shirt pocket, pulled out a manila envelope and laid it on the table. “This,” he said, tapping it twice with his index finger, “contains your adoption certificate. We decided to keep calling you by your birth name, Benjamin. Seemed the correct thing to do at the time.”

“Did it?”

He held up his hand to hush me. “It’s the original document we received the day Father Brogan brought you here and made it all official.” He slid it over to me. “It’s yours now.”

I picked up the envelope and tore it open, unfurling the paper inside and laying it flat on the table. My eyes skimmed over the document, flitting from word to word—adoption, adoptees, dates, signatures and the official diocesan insignia on the envelope. They were all there, all the bureaucratic paraphernalia of the state and church.

I held his stare, neither of us flinching. “Am I really adopted?”

“Yes.”

My throat turned to dust. Call it the formality of the letter, or the way the word cut short on his breath. I thought of Mam’s delicate frame and barley-blonde hair. We looked nothing alike. But Dad? He was meant to be the exception. We both towered over her. We both had lanky frames. Hell, we even shared that same terrible torture of walking on long, flat feet that no shoe, no matter the cut or cobbler, could fit comfortably.

Reams of memories of years gone by played on a loop in my head. “Sure, isn’t Benjamin the spit of his old man,” they’d said. “Dug from the same field, no doubt about it. Oh, he’s a Hackett all right, this fella.” And my parents had lapped it up. Like the time in Hay Street, in the bustle of market day, when they nodded in tacit agreement at some hunched-over old coot as she tousled my hair and told them how my curls were the carbon copy of Dad’s.

“But we look alike?” I said.

“Do we?”

“You know we do.”

He leaned in closer, dropped his voice to a whisper. “Truth is, we’ve been secretly dying your hair since you arrived. You’re actually ginger.”

I shoved the table into him and threw my hands up. “Jokes? You think now is the time for messing about? For having a bit of a laugh?”

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, showing his palms in surrender. “It just snuck out…but seriously, you’re not going to make a big deal of this, are you?”

“And why shouldn’t I?”

“Because it’s not what Hackett men do.”

“Well, I’m clearly not one of them, now am I?”

My comment flushed crimson high in his cheeks. He balled his hands twice and relaxed them flat on the table. “You’ve been long enough on the farm,” he said, quieter now. “Long enough to know that animals of all sorts adopt strays and nurture them as their own. And there’s not a blind bit of difference in them when they mature. Attitude is more in the rearing than the genes. You’re my son and a Hackett. Adopted or not.”

“So you’re calling me a stray animal now? Christ, Dad, you’re some piece of work.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it. Don’t go all melodramatic on me now. We’ve enough histrionics happening outside already.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “I think we’re allowed this one time to have a bit of a barney.”

“Well, you’re not. No son of mine is going to throw a tantrum over something like this. Adoption happens all over the world, every day of the week. Just because you came out of another doesn’t mean we’re not your parents. And let me tell you this now. If I hear any of that sort of nonsense when your mother’s about I’ll—”

“You’ll what?”

“Ah, nothing.” He leaned back, folded his arms and studied his feet for a while. His standard move whenever his mood blackened. “You know,” he said after a while. “I never wanted to say anything. But your mam wouldn’t have it. Have you any idea how difficult it was for her to keep this a secret all this time?”

“And if it was such a burden on you two, why didn’t you relieve yourselves of it sooner?”

“Because we thought if you knew too soon it’d mark you, hang over you like a shadow looming large. Scar you for life. Father Brogan advised us to tell you early, but your mother thought it was best you didn’t know. She thought you’d settle better and handle it easier as an adult rather than a child. I don’t know…maybe we should have taken the priest’s advice and told you sooner?” He stroked his stubble and sighed. “It was bad enough you’d that birth mark on your face without lugging this around as well.”

“Nice one, Dad,” I said, and instinctively I felt for the port-wine stain on my face. I couldn’t help myself. It was an old habit, hiding behind my veil of fingers and thumbs. “An Angel’s kiss” Mam had called it when I was finally tall enough to catch sight of myself in the mirror. Even at three years of age I knew it’d be a burden. Angel’s kiss was such a pile of nonsense. It was more like ten of them took turns to give me a six-inch hickey from cheek to chin. I stopped wearing camouflage since the age of twelve. No matter how you applied the green-tinted clay, it always came out a weird shade of vomit.

“Okay so, Mister Automaton,” I said. “Tell me this, then…who are my real parents?”

“Not a clue. All we know is what’s in that letter, and we never felt a need to find out more. Do you?”

“Ah, I don’t know what I want to do with all this. I mean…who would? Springing it on me now after all these years with my head all over the shop.”

“Well, if you do, Father Brogan’s your man. He knows all about this revelation today. I expect it wouldn’t be a surprise to him if you turned up there later.” He pushed up and away from the bench. “Right so, that’s that.”

“Seriously? That’s all you’re going to give me?”

“Well, as much as I’d like to stay and chat the farm won’t work itself. Fancy helping me spraying weeds in the paddock?”

“What do you think?”

“Suit yourself, then.” He buttoned his overalls, swung his arms into his mac and zipped it up to his neck. With a hand on the door handle, he inched it ajar, before turning around once more. “You know, Benjamin. We’ve farmed this patch of land for near on ten generations. And do you know what I’ve learned from the three decades I’ve held it together? Tides come and tides go. Every bit of sand laying on the beach below us today will be somewhere else entirely tomorrow. Nothing stays the same. All this is just noise, a glitch in your life. By tomorrow, or next week, or ten years down the line, today will be a distant memory to you. Hell, you’ll probably even laugh about it.”

“I doubt that.”

“Well, whatever your plans are from here, don’t go leaning on your mam too much. Do what you have to do, but do it gently.” He fixed his cap on his head and held a finger up as if he’d just remembered something. “Oh, and make sure to collect Ella from Nell’s before you trot away into the day. And get her home before the high tide. It’s a spring one and it’ll cut the road off. If Ella misses her lunch, there’ll be hell to pay.”

I snorted. “And we can’t be having that.”

“Nope. You’re right on that point,” he said, the trace of a smile brightening his face. “You see? We are alike after all.”

Away up the yard he pottered, hands tucked into pockets, shoulders hunched forward, with a host of grey clouds looming above him. I raced upstairs and changed out of the flag into a plaid shirt and black denim jeans, and a whole load of questions kept buzzing about in my brain. One kept barging its way towards the front and trampling over the others. “What you gonna do, Benjamin?” it said, over and over again, mockingly.

I looked through the attic window and spied Mam down in the yard with pegs clipped to her blouse and her sheets being harassed by the weather. She must have sensed me staring because she glanced up and immediately gestured me down.

“You going out?” she asked, when I appeared.

“I am. Going to pick up Ella from Nell’s.”

“Thanks for doing that…” Her voice trailed off, and she turned away, and I knew she was lining up the sentences in her head.

“And then?” She picked up a duvet cover and laid it across the line.

“Then I’m going to see Father Brogan.”

A peg fell from her grasp, and she kicked it away across the yard. “I thought you might.”

She nodded over towards Dad. “Did he handle it okay? Explaining things, I mean.”

“I suppose so.”

“Any jokes?”

I shrugged. “Just the one.”

“Ah, I’ll wear him up the road—”

“It was a pretty good one, though, in fairness.”

“Still…”

The wind stiffened. Wisps of hair slipped across her mouth. She tucked them back behind her ear, and her eyes met mine. She looked scared standing there and frailer than her years. “You won’t stop until you find them, will you?”

I shook my head. “I’m the odd man out. I have to find out why.”

And with that I turned on my heel and strode out of the farm and away from the people I thought were my family. The weather seemed to match my mood; a gale rose up and blew in my face. In the distance, the seas roared thunder.

I stopped by Mosses Point and walked out to the ledge where the whole sweep of the coast stretched out beneath me. The isle of Inis Saor stood less than a mile from shore as a tall and immovable mule of rock. Normally, a quick glimpse of the place would take the breath clean out of my chest, pulling any bit of foul mood with it. Not today, though. For some unknown reason, I thought of Dad, of him leading me into the fields with my wellies two sizes too big and the chill of dawn biting at my skin. I remembered the shakes I’d felt, as I stood rooted to his side with one tiny hand clutched in his. The black-and-white giants plodding toward us with their teats swollen terrified me.

“You have to be brave, Benjamin,” he’d said. “If they rush you, wave your hands, stand tall and make as much noise as humanly possible.”

And I did. I was only five, but I’d waddled over to the nearest one with my boots sticking in the muck, and I’d barked until they clomped the ground with their hooves and shied away back down the farm. When I’d looked at Dad he’d this honest-to-God warmth to his smile that had me brim with happiness.

“That’s my boy,” he’d said, like the big liar he was.

All the frustration in me erupted. I opened my mouth wide and screamed into the winds until my throat ran hoarse. One thought played over in my head—I’ll find my rancid parents. And when I do, I’ll punch them square in their goddamn noses. And with the fire in me stoked up nicely, I cinched my shirt closed and headed up the road to Nell’s.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Gerald M. O’Connor.

Reprinted with permission of Down & Out Books.

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Advance Praise For
The Origins of Benjamin Hackett
“‘The Origins of Benjamin Hackett’ by Gerald O’Connor is a raucous and
riotous coming-of-age story that is brutal, tender and hilarious.”

Paul D. Brazill, author of A Case of Noir and Guns of Brixton

“O’Connor doles out killer dialogue that adds oodles of character to this
hero’s journey. Told with the lilt and panache of Joseph O’Connor
and Dermot Bolger in their novels of the ‘90s, Gerald O’Connor is
the new and improved voice we’ve been waiting for.”
Gerard Brennan, author of Undercover and Wee Rockets

“Visceral writing that inherits a long Irish tradition. O’Connor’s
narrative contains sharp characterization, and has an assured voice,
while dramatizing conditioned guilt with humor and style.”

Richard Godwin, author of Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, One Lost
Summer and others

“If you’re expecting the usual coming-of-age tale, you’re in for a
big shock. This is a tale big on heart and one which the author,
Gerald O’Connor, has hied religiously to the advice of Harry Crews
for writers, to ‘leave out the parts readers skip.’ None of those
parts remain in these pages. An auspicious debut!”

– Les Edgerton, author of The Death of Tarpons, The Bitch, The Genuine,
Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping, Bomb and others

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GERALD M. O’CONNOR is a native Corkonian, currently living in Dublin with
his long-term partner, Rosemarie, along with their three children. He
writes character-driven novels of various genres by night and is a
dentist by day. When he isn’t glued to the keyboard, he enjoys
sci-fi films, spending time with his family and being anywhere in
sight of the sea. He is currently working on his second novel, The
Tanist.
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