Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pimping Jo Ramsey...

I am starting off by pimping my friends or complete strangers so if you are an author and you want some pimping done let me know. If you are a friend, even by the barest of emails then expect me to send you questions at some stage.

Today I am pimping an awesome author in the young adult fiction genre: Jo Ramsey. But before I start with her book and excerpt I want to tell you a bit about Jo and the Helping Hands at Featherweight Press.

Helping Hands is the brainchild of Featherweight editor Ralph Gallagher, who saw a need for stories that will both encourage GLBTQ youth and support the charities that help those youth. All royalties from each story in the line go to benefit a charity chosen by the author. Royalties from Life Skills benefit the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, specifically their Day of Silence project. In addition, Jo is making a donation to Special Olympics as a thank you to them for allowing her to use the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign in the story.

I've been reading and writing since I was very young, and I've always enjoyed creating new worlds and stories in which someone who considers his/her life bland and boring suddenly finds everything he/she's always known turned on its ear. In other words, fantasy that starts, and often takes place completely, in the “real world.”That's the type of story I enjoy reading, as well.

I wrote my first story when I was five, and completed my first book-length manuscript when I was 12. Through junior high, high school, and college, I wrote about 19 more book-length stories, all longhand. Well, I didn't have a computer back then... I put writing aside for several years after I married and had my daughters, but then got back into it about five years ago, and since then have completed the first drafts of 44 young adult manuscripts, 30 of which are part of a series, and another ten of which make up another series. My characters don't like to leave me alone.

I'm a former special education teacher who now does school visits in addition to writing. I live in Massachusetts with my two daughters, my husband, and a pair of cats.

Title: Life Skills.

Author: Jo Ramsey

ISBN#: 978-1-60820 (ebook) $2.99

Release Date: 3 January 2012

Cover Artist: Deana C. Jamroz

Page Count: 66 pages/ 18000 words

                        Amazon (ebook)


 Brian Monahan thinks his school's new community service requirement is ridiculous. Especially when he's told that since he didn't submit his own community service proposal, he's been assigned to volunteer in his school's Life Skills class. But despite himself, he begins to enjoy working there and likes helping the kids.

When he sees one of the Life Skills students being bullied in the school cafeteria, Brian intervenes. He's been bullied enough himself because of his sexuality, and he refuses to let it happen to anyone else. Using his experience in coordinating his school's Day of Silence, supporting GLBT students, he decides to organize a "Spread the Word to End the Word" rally at his school, using the national campaign against the "R-word." But can Brian pull it off?


Chapter One

Brian slumped down in the cushioned chair and glared at Ms. Fuller. The guidance counselor had called him out of his favorite class, Web Design. That was bad enough. The reason she'd called him to her office was even worse.

"You haven't turned in your community service proposal yet." Ms. Fuller folded her hands and looked at him through her black-rimmed glasses. If it hadn't been for the glasses and the tight bun she insisted on wearing, Brian probably would have thought she was pretty. That, and if she hadn't been his guidance counselor.

"That's because I haven't come up with anything to propose yet," Brian said. The whole community service thing annoyed him. The previous spring, the school had announced that beginning this year, every student had to do community service in order to graduate. Freshmen would have to do a total of eighty hours, twenty hours a year. For Brian and the rest of the junior class, the requirement was forty hours, twenty this year and twenty their senior year. Brian thought it was ridiculous. This was supposed to be high school, not prison.

Then again, sometimes the two were the same thing.

"The deadline was last week," Ms. Fuller said. "You had ample time to think of something. Since you chose not to, we're assigning you a placement."

Brian groaned. He had known he should have proposed some kind of community service project. He'd just kept procrastinating in the hope that the whole thing would go away. Obviously he hadn't been so lucky.

"Give me another day," he said. "I'll have a proposal in the morning. I promise."

That plea had always worked with his teachers, but Ms. Fuller just shook her head. "I can't make an exception for you, Brian. If you had come to me last week and talked about this, I might have been able to give you an extra day or two. You've already had a full week past the deadline."

She pulled a piece of paper out of a file folder on her desk and held it out. "Mr. Spiretti in the Life Skills class needs a volunteer. You're it. You'll be there every Day Two during your study period." The school's block schedule alternated between Day One and Day Two. Brian had come to count on the Day Two study period to do the assignments he didn't feel like taking home.

He rolled his eyes. He didn't have anything against the kids in the Life Skills class. They couldn't help having Down's Syndrome or being autistic or whatever. That didn't mean he wanted to spend eighty minutes with them every other day, though.

"How long do I have to do this?"

Ms. Fuller folded her hands again. "You know the minimum requirement."

Brian didn't need to be a math whiz to figure it out. For every three days he worked in that class, he would complete four hours. That meant he only had to do fifteen days, and then his community service requirement would be done. Fifteen days wasn't that much. He wouldn't like it much, but he'd be able to handle it.

"Fine." He glanced at the clock on the wall. Class would end in only five minutes. "Today's Day Two."

"Yes, and Mr. Spiretti is expecting you right after lunch." She smiled. "Have a good day, Brian."

Brian left without saying anything. Have a good day? Yeah, right. She'd pretty much tricked him into starting his community service right away. She hadn't given him a choice.

That was the way a lot of adults in this place seemed to work.

He headed back to the Web Design classroom as slowly as possible, planning to time it so he would arrive just as the bell rang. Then he would just have to grab his books and go to--

To the Life Skills room to drop them off. Students weren't allowed to take their books to lunch with them. They were expected to drop them off in their third block class. Ordinarily Brian would have gone to the art classroom, where his study period was held, and left his books on the table where he and Javier sat. This time, he would have to go all the way to the far end of the building and leave the books in the Life Skills room.

He would be late to lunch, and if his friends decided to eat somewhere other than the cafeteria, he'd be out of luck.

This sucks.

The bell rang as he put his hand on the doorknob of the Web Design room. He opened the door quickly, before anyone slammed it into him, and went inside for his stack of books. Trista smiled at him. Brian didn't smile back.

"What's wrong?" Trista asked.

"Got plugged into a community service assignment." Brian hefted his books against his chest. The school didn't let students carry backpacks between classes, either. "Life Skills."

"I told you to sign up for the park clean-up with me."

He shrugged. "Too late now. I have to take my stuff down to the Life Skills room. They're taking away my study period. I'm going to be a while. Are you guys going anywhere for lunch?"

"I don't know. If we do, I'll text you." Trista picked up her books. "See you in a few."

"Yeah." It would take him a lot more than a few minutes to get to the Life Skills room and back to the cafeteria.

The hallways were nuts, as usual. The school scheduled a single, hour-long lunch period, during which all eight hundred students were expected to eat. Brian considered it completely ridiculous. Normal schools staggered their lunch periods so everyone would have time to buy their food in the cafeteria and eat. Their school's cafeteria wasn't even big enough for all the students.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors were at least allowed to go to one of the convenience stores or fast food places within a few blocks of the school instead of having to wait in cafeteria lines. That didn't make it much easier to cram their lunches into such a short amount of time. And having to go from one end of the school to the other and back would give Brian even less time on Day Two. Just another reason why community service sucked.

All the special education classes in the building were in the same hallway, and they were the only classrooms there. For the first time, Brian wondered why the special ed kids were shoved away from the rest of the school. It didn't seem very fair.

The Life Skills class, the class where kids with more severe special needs learned things like cooking and counting money instead of taking typical high school classes, was at the end of that hallway, next to an exit door. The kids in the class didn't even take the same busses or enter the building through the same door as the rest of the students. Maybe that made it easier for them to find their room.

He paused at the door to look through the window. The room was empty. The Life Skills kids ate in the cafeteria, but they went down about ten minutes early so they wouldn't have to wait in line for their food. Brian had seen them all sitting at the same table with their teachers. They were in the same room as other students, but that was about it.

The door was locked, which meant he couldn't leave his books there. He rolled his eyes. This would be a problem if he had to come here every Day Two for a while. He didn't have anywhere else to leave his books, and he sure wasn't going to leave them on the floor in the hallway like some people did. That would be just asking to have stuff swiped.

With no other choice, he headed for his locker, which was upstairs in another wing. The clock was ticking away on his lunch break. At this rate, he wouldn't be able to eat.

His books barely fit inside his locker, but he managed to slam the door shut and lock it. He took his cell phone out of his pocket and texted Trista and Javier. "If one of you is still in line, buy me food. I'll pay you back."

Neither of them answered, but he knew they wouldn't let him starve.

A few minutes later when he walked into the cafeteria, he found his friends at one of the window tables. Javier had saved him a seat. On the table was a slice of pizza and a cardboard tray of fries. "Got your text," Javier said as Brian sat on the stool beside him. "Hope that works."

"It does, thanks." Brian crammed a fry into his mouth. "Want me to pay you back today or wait until our date Friday?"

Javier grinned. "You buy me nachos at the movie and we'll call it even."

"Sure." Brian smiled back. He would have paid for the movie and food anyway, since he'd been the one to ask Javier out this time.

"So you're working with the retard class, huh?" asked Molly, a friend of Trista.

"Don't call them that," Trista and Brian said at the same time.

Molly shrugged. "Sorry. That's what half the school calls it."

"Half the school is a bunch of idiots, then." Trista glared at her. "Don't use that word around me. I have a cousin with Down's Syndrome, and he is not a retard. Neither are the kids in Mr. Spiretti's class."

"Fine. I don't even know your cousin, so obviously I wasn't insulting him, but whatever." Molly drank some of her flavored water.

"You know some of Spiretti's kids," Brian said. "Everyone does."

"I said, รข€˜Sorry.' What are you, their biggest fan or something? I told you, half the school calls their class that. It isn't the kids; it's the class."

"You're an idiot," Trista muttered.

"Who's going to the soccer game Saturday?" Javier asked.

Everyone went along with the subject change. Brian was amused. Javier hated it when anyone argued, and he was always the one to smooth things over. The amusing part was the way the rest of the group always followed Javier's changes in topic, even if they wanted to argue.

After lunch, since Trista's third block class wasn't far from the special ed wing, Brian walked her to class as a way to put off going to the Life Skills room. "You didn't say you were going to the game," Trista said.

"That's because I'm not," Brian replied. "It's a soccer game. I'm not spending Saturday afternoon watching soccer."

"You promised me last week that you would take me." Trista stopped walking and spun around to face him and block his way. She narrowed her eyes. "Are you so excited about your date with Javier that you forgot you're dating me too?"

"No, I didn't forget." Brian groaned to himself. He really wished he had thought things through a little better before he'd decided to date Trista. They'd been friends for years. He'd had a crush on her since fifth grade, and when he had finally gotten up the nerve to tell her in seventh grade that he liked guys as well as girls, she'd said she didn't have a problem with it. She had continued being okay with it when she and Brian started dating a few months later.



  1. Sounds like a awesome story. Could make for an educational piece about tolerance in schools and in the minds of bigots.

  2. Thanks for posting this, NJ!

    Cinderella, I'm hoping that at least some of the people who read it will take that away from it.