It is my pleasure to welcome AAMBookclub Author Missy Salick to Conversations today. Sit back and relax, and enjoy the excerpt from her new release, Claiming Jeremiah. Be sure and check out her interview and get to know Missy.
With all odds against her adoption of Jeremiah, and her pregnancy at high risk from increasing stress, will Jordyn win this tough battle, or will her world crumble before her?
Hazel pulled a black garbage bag from her jacket pocket and gave it to Tori. Another black bag protruded from her pocket.
“You take the living room and I’ll take upstairs.”
Tori walked around the well-decorated house looking for valuables. She saw a silver picture frame with the word FAMILY written in decorative script across the top. It was a family of four: mother, father, little girl, and her brother. Tori stepped back and gazed at the photograph wondering what it felt like to have what they have.
Hazel hurried into the living room, her garbage bag filled to the top. Tori could see a laptop poking out.
“Tori, what you doing standing looking at that picture? We have to go. In and out remember?”
“I . . . uhhh. Do you know these people, Hazel? We stealing from people who have kids you know.”
“No, I don’t know them, Tori, and neither do you,” said Hazel, heading for the back door. “You don’t owe them nothing. Come on. We do this now or you going to be sucking someone off later for that score. You choose. I’m outta here.” The screen door slammed behind her.
Hazel’s words brought Tori back to reality. She quickly rummaged through the coffee-table drawers grabbing what she could. She found a PlayStation, some DVDs and two DSs that had been left plugged in to charge, a dead cell phone, knickknacks from the mantel, and a printer. She scurried down the steps and ran around the corner.
Hazel was waiting for her two blocks down, bumming another cigarette from a corner store regular. When she saw Tori, her face broke into a delighted smile.
“Nice choice,” she said. “Here, I got you a loosie. Ha, I see you got that printer. We should be able to get at least ten for that.”
“Yeah,” said Tori, as she and Hazel walked along the busy street. “It was a waste to leave it behind.”
They arrived at Barry’s, who ran an illegitimate pawnshop from his apartment. He bought everything from electronics to furniture, anything you needed to get rid of.
Hazel pressed the buzzer and they waited. Tori had never been inside Barry’s apartment. She had only waited outside many times when Oscar brought him some hot merchandise.
Barry opened the door. He was tall and had to weigh close to four hundred pounds. He was dark-skinned and his face was covered with a thick beard. He wore black tinted sunglasses even though there was no sunlight in the room. He blew a thick cloud of cigar smoke into Tori’s face. Hazel slipped past him and went inside. Tori stood at the door and peered into the apartment.
“You coming in?” he asked.
“Umm no. I’m going to stay outside. Let Hazel know when she gets back.”
Tori made her way back outside. After three attempts to get a cigarette from someone, a teenage boy finally gave her one. As she puffed the nicotine in the cool air, she mentally counted how much Barry might give Hazel for the merchandise. Even though he was known for low-balling, Tori calculated there should be at least fifty dollars’ worth of stuff in her bag alone. If Hazel had as much as she did, which she did, that would be another fifty. Split down the middle and it would be fifty apiece. It would be enough to buy five bags. Not bad for ten minutes’ worth of work.
And I was able to do it without O.
Tori paced in front of the building and flicked her cigarette.
Damn. What’s taking this chick so long?
As if on cue, Hazel came out of the building flashing a bunch of ten-dollar bills.
“How much we get?” Tori asked, her eyes never leaving the cash.
“A hundred. I tried to get more but you know that cheap-ass wasn’t going for that.”
Tori laughed loudly, as she had calculated that amount earlier in her mind.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Nothing. Give me my half and let’s go cop from Blue over on Wilson.”
“Blue be having that good dope for real,” said Hazel taking a sniff.
“Yeah, when he got it. That dude be on some other stuff sometimes.”
“I know, right? He a fake-me-out dealer.”
Tori stood over Hazel’s kitchen counter and inhaled the heroin she had copped from Blue. The sink had an annoying leak that hit the dishes with a loud, wet plop every second. The doors from the cabinets were missing and roaches boldly scuttled by.
Hazel shared the one-bedroom with her daughter, sister, and her son. Hazel’s daughter was turning five and could barely speak or say her ABCs. Hazel’s plan was to say that she was special-ed so she could receive more money from the state. In addition to the Section 8 for housing, she received food stamps and cash assistance.
“Yo, I gotta be out Hazel. Thanks for that hook up.”
“No doubt, catch you on the block.”
Tori resumed her search for Oscar along the streets of Brooklyn. Chasing Oscar and heroin had become her daily and nightly routine. The sun would fall and rise again before she laid her head down to rest.
Before self-publishing, Claiming Jeremiah, Salick spent several years as a freelance business writer for Fortune 500 companies such as: Shearman & Sterling, KPMG, Deloitte and many more. She also had a stint with song ghost writing. Salick’s experience in the entertainment industry stems from working with entertainment companies and media including Violator, MBK, Village Voice and more. As the founder of J.J. Autumn Publishing, her publishing company is geared towards highlighting urban fiction dedicated to special causes and community awareness projects.
GET TO KNOW MISSY:
What inspired you to write Claiming Jeremiah?
A: I was inspired to write Claiming Jeremiah after I experienced the foster adoption process with my son. My son was a family member who entered foster care and I wanted to prevent that from happening as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, due to legal and state laws it was harder than I thought. I did research, reading several books and articles on what I could do to stay positive and to learn more about the process. While I found several books about the technical information I needed, I couldn’t find any that illustrated a positive story and outcome.
I wanted more than just information. I wanted to experience the roller coaster ride of someone else’s journey to give me hope. And the stories that were hopeful seemed too good to be true. I wanted the bad along with the good. I wanted the truth. While foster care isn’t always a beautiful and positive subject to speak about, I believe it is a subject that needs more public attention drawn to it in the media and from those who have experienced it from both sides, both the children and the parents. I kept a journal of my own personal trials and tribulations and that lead to the birth of Claiming Jeremiah.
How long did it take to complete from start to finish?
A: I started the novel a year after my son arrived. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop. I would say it took me a couple of months. However, once I finished and reread it, something was missing, it wasn’t complete. I put it down for a year and returned to it after that time, once I had had time to grow, not only in my writing but also as a human being. This story is so personal that I knew the timing and my mindset had to be perfect. After I picked up the pen for the second time it took me about three to four months to complete.
What was the toughest part about writing Claiming Jeremiah?
A: The toughest part about writing Claiming Jeremiah was the character development. It was very important to me to capture each character the right way. The reader needs to be able to experience not only what it is like being each character, but also to get the information they needed to foster a child in care. For instance, from the first chapter you easily understand Jordyn and what she is about. However, with Tori, she is a much more complex character. From the first pages, you see her confused, scattered, and being a heavy drug user who has left her two-hour-old newborn in a hospital stairwell. The normal reaction would be to dislike her character. Tori is misunderstood, however, and I wanted to reveal what it would be like to walk in Tori’s shoes. What causes her to do this to her body, to herself, and to her children? What’s the driving force behind her actions? These are all questions I wanted to explore and give some shape and impression of to my readers. More importantly, I wanted to show her other side and not make her out just to be the villain.
Do you intend to write a second book? Is this the first in a sequel?
A: Yes, I definitely intend to write another book. Claiming Jeremiah tells the beginning stages of what it’s like to go through the process of fostering a child. The next book will give you more information on what happens when the child is in your home and the stages of adoption.
You are still very young—at what age did you begin this process, and what has it been like being a young foster (adoptive) mother?
A: I began this process when I was twenty-four years old. I must say it has been a rewarding experience. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be doing this, yet alone at this age. It’s funny, because when my husband and I go to trainings or into the agencies we are always the youngest ones there. We usually get bombarded with questions and then praised for our actions.
As a foster parent, since you have witnessed some of the challenges involved in all the red tape, what are some solutions that you can offer?
A: Each situation is different. You have to find what solutions work best for you. For me, I was dealing with two states and therefore had to deal with four different agencies: the ICPC of each state and each state’s local agency. It was a nightmare. My solution was to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. Each day I was constantly e-mailing or calling someone for a status update. My advice would be to find out what the hold up is or what you can do to make the process move faster and more smoothly. The caseworkers have so many cases and things going on, it’s easy for them to get sidetracked. I’ve learned they care as much as you care. If you show extra incentive, they will too.
Why did you start writing?
A: Writing has always and will always be a part of my life. Writing is my comfort zone. Nothing brings me more peace and assurance in my life than writing. There is no judgment when my pen hits the paper. To me it’s my time to be free. I can say what I want, wear what I want, be whom I want. Writing keeps me sane. When I write I have the opportunity to let go and express myself.
What’s your next project?
A: My next project is the sequel to Claiming Jeremiah, but I am also working on a short novella that is currently Untitled at the moment. My readers will get to see a different side of me after reading Claiming Jeremiah. This novella is going to be a romantic comedy.
You are new to the writing industry; what can your readers expect to see from you?
A: My readers can expect to never expect the same thing. I am a prolific writer and my mind tends to come up with stories in various genres. One day I can feel romantic, the next day like a thriller, then inspirational, and so forth. Every day and every story won’t be the same.
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