INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
(Aging Out Book 1)
(Aging Out Book 1)
by Angelica Kate
Foster Intellect is the first book in the Aging Out series by Angelica Kate. The author stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. She also sponsors our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Foster Intellect, as well as her complete Soldier's Series bundle. Also available in this series: Foster Hope. Coming soon: Foster Passion (23 October), Foster Healing (30 October), and Foster Spirit (6 November).
Before her death, Mama Jean, as she was fondly known by the foster children she took in, set in motion the plans for the Hertzel-Mendall Family Farm, a community established to offer homes to families that fostered children. The "Farm" offers therapeutic, recreational and many other services all in one place to achieve the best outcomes for children in the foster care system. "Mama" Jean Hertzel fostered teenagers who had run out of options. Teens who were considered unadoptable mostly due to their ages, but sometimes for other reasons. She gave them a chance when they were out of chances. Through the years, six of those young people made it all the way through her innovative program, and this group - tight as any biological family - were named in her will as the team to assume not only her wealth, but the weight of caring for the oversight of the Farm. Each of them have overcome big odds, and each book in this series allows us to be part of their world for a little while.
Preston Young could hack any computer, rewire any machine. What he couldn’t do was remain in any foster home. His bad attitude and increasing age were causing all of his options to fade. Then one night he ended up on Mama Jean’s doorstep. It was his last chance, but it was a good one. Years later his thriving computer business and monetary contributions to the Farm’s operations are a reflection of how far he has come. He can fix anything electronic, but dealing with most people is a challenge.
Alex is a fifteen year old foster kid with little hope of finding a family to take her before she ages out of the system. Her social worker, Sadie Reece, just can’t give up on her, though. The kid is intelligent. She causes enough trouble to be irritating, but never enough to get herself in too deep, and Sadie is determined to help her before it is too late. She will do anything to change the girl’s future, even going toe to toe with the mean spirited and emotionally void Preston Young.
December 15, 1995
Preston was seething inside, sitting in the back of the squad car. He had never met a grown up smarter than he was, especially when he was navigating a virtual world in front of a computer screen. He was a sponge when it came to any documentation on computer hacking, coding, or making these newfangled machines do his bidding. It was a new science and each month, something else was being discovered that individuals like him could accomplish on these windows to new worlds. Knowing he could change someone’s destiny or get inside of a company with a few clicks on a keyboard gave him an adrenaline rush nothing else had been able to accomplish in all of his 15 years of life.
He inhaled and thought about the consequences of today’s exploratory session. In hindsight, he understood his deep-seated feelings of neglect and general uselessness may have started with his biological family’s abandonment but he helped perpetuate those angsts with every consequence brought on by one of his hacks. This would be his 24th foster home placement in the five years since a judge had determined he could not return to his birth family. He found out quickly after his initial placement that adoptive families didn’t seem to want anything to do with a snarky, intelligent, but introverted ten-year-old. As each year had passed, his bad attitude became more fixed, until it seemed he was always just looking for the next high, which he generated by stirring up mischief.
This time, the victim, as the police had called him, was fully deserving of whatever could be heaped upon the man. The sorry excuse for a foster dad had snuck into his room and taken what little cash Preston had managed to scrape together from helping kids pass tests with ‘not exactly kosher’ copies of previous exams. Preston’s tiny nest egg had given him a sense of security, that should things get too bad, he could escape.
The man had the nerve to claim Preston owed him for taking him in and feeding him. The room, just bigger than a walk-in closet, free lunches the school provided, and whatever he could pilfer from the barely stocked fridge at night didn’t qualify as proper food and shelter in Preston’s opinion. The obstinate man wouldn’t return his money, propelling Preston to perpetrate a simple release of some personal files directed at the man’s employer. It had been the best revenge Preston could hatch on short notice.
In his opinion, the little glitch with the man’s personal records resulting in his short-lived arrest had been fair play for the misappropriation of his money. Preston had been mighty surprised the douche bag didn’t press charges when he was questioned about his intentions early this evening by the arresting officers. His refusal told Preston his now ex-foster dad probably had actual skeletons locked away he wasn’t keen on bringing into the light. He just wanted Preston gone, and to forget the entire episode, he said as he angrily stomped away from the station. Preston hadn’t felt a single stir of emotion, as the man’s backside disappeared from his view.
Still, as he sat trying to imagine where his next stop would be, he felt just a tinge of uneasiness. Another school, another set of well-meaning people trying to tell him what to do, while, in the end, they all wanted something from him. The ones who didn’t have a hidden agenda, but truly wanted to help, would soon request his removal from their home because he wouldn’t conform to the cookie cutter image they had in their mind of how children should act. It was a predictable pattern Preston was accustomed to and didn’t for a second believe would change before he aged out of the system.
As the cruiser stopped outside an impressively large house, Preston looked out the window. He inhaled at the size, cleanliness, and obvious wealth the house portrayed. This must be just a quick stop, he thought, but he decided to enjoy the view while it lasted. Someday, he promised himself, he would be free of the government oversight of his person and make a killing with his skills. He would show all stupid grownups just how smart he really was when he became rich and famous. He didn’t need anyone or anything but his mad skills to get ahead in the world.
Preston felt he was just about old enough he could be emancipated and live on his own. Such an outcome would require he didn’t end up locked in a jail cell or juvenile hall before he reached sixteen, which he was surprised to admit he thought might have happened this time. If not for the chicken he had lived with for six months, this evening could have gone an entirely different route. He had already broached the subject of emancipation with his social worker, Ms. Devin, who had absentmindedly agreed to discuss it again upon his approaching sixteenth birthday.
The door to his right opened without warning. Preston scooted back from the open door across the seat a foot as he turned to figure out what was happening.
“Hello, Preston.” Ms. Devin stood outside the cruiser and she had deep furrow between her eyes again.
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” he said cockily, jumping out of the cruiser and facing her head on. “You better not leave me with any bleeding heart rich people again…you remem…”
Ms. Devin cut him off. “Preston, this is Mrs. Jean Hertzel,” She turned to a lady old enough to be his grandma from the look of her face.
“You my next foster prison guard?” he asked with a smirk.
“Preston,” Ms. Devin said warningly as the older lady walked forward.
“Nice to meet you, Preston,” the lady stated in an even tone, sticking her hand out in greeting.
He stared down at her extended appendage as if it had teeth, and backed up, looking from one woman to the other.
“It is customary to reciprocate a handshake with someone you meet for the first time,” Jean Hertzel stated, her hand still extended toward him.
“What is this?” he asked, confused.
“This, young man, is your last chance. I need you to listen carefully,” Ms. Devin said, holding up her hand when he went to interrupt.
Typical. No one ever wanted his side of the story.
“You are about to age out of foster care, with no stable support system in place. Mrs. Hertzel takes in a few special young adults such as yourself and provides them with a second chance.”
“Why do I need a second chance? No one wants me, and I already told you I want to be emancipated when my birthday rolls around. I don’t need anyone. I have skills. I can take care of myself.”
“I bet you could do even better with a college education.” the lady called Jean interjected.
The woman was crazy, foster kids like him didn’t go to college. They got jobs if they were lucky enough not to end up in prison, and they tried to survive. He understood the score and was willing to work hard on his computer programs in order to make a living.
“No, thank you.”
“Okay, then I will have the officer transfer you to Woodsell,” Ms. Devin stated simply.
He spun around as the words penetrated, and fear climbed his back, leaving goosebumps in its wake. Woodsell was worse than any foster home he had been in. A four month stint there two years ago was enough to last the rest of his life. The all-male residential group home housed some scary dudes traditional foster care couldn’t accommodate but had not yet been caught and sent to a more secure facility. The staff ran it much like a military installation with strict outlines of chores, bed times, routines, etc. It had been the darkest time in his foster care merry-go-round existence.
He turned to the lady called Jean, and took her hand in his. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said, sugary sweet.
He could play the game until emancipation, he decided, glancing back at the house. It looked much more inviting than Woodsell.
“Here is the deal. You must attend school and not skip. Your grades need to remain at a ‘C’ or above, as I’ve spoken to Ms. Devin and she assures me you are smart and more than able to maintain those grades. You will be expected to do chores and various jobs around the estate for a cash allowance we will agree upon in advance. Additionally, you will respect the other young adults here, and not break any laws. We have a strict three strike policy.” She paused to let sink in. “If you can follow all the rules, my family’s foundation will pay for you to attend the college of your choice as long as you maintain a full course load with a ‘C’ grade point average or above.”
“So, what’s the catch?” He looked from the lady speaking to his social worker. There was always a catch. No one gave you something for free.
“No catch. My family tries to help young people who have potential, but without a bit of a helping hand, could fall through the cracks. Ms. Devin said you are extraordinarily smart and this program might work for you,” She studied him for a moment before continuing. “I will need an answer of whether you wish to stay before the car leaves.” She indicated the squad car idling behind him.
He casually looked up at the impressive house, the lady treating him to a line of crap, and his tired looking social worker.
He shrugged. “I’m in.”
Worst case scenario, this would be a good place to lay low until his birthday, when he could be emancipated.
Interview With the Author
Hi Angelica, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Foster Intellect.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
I would have to say that I intended it for women romance readers in particular.
What sparked the idea for this book?
We have been foster parents for a number of years and worked with so many wonderful kids and caregivers that the story just organically came to fruition over time. I wanted to give a realistic good outcome and tough road picture of those in the foster care system and the people who make it their life’s goal to help.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
That is a great question. I think meeting real life foster kids, caregivers and others made me want to do the story. As I was writing, I did channel many real life stories with twists into the series, so I would say the real life inspiration for many of the characters made me want to tell this group of stories.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I found trying to portray the hopelessness of the children in the system, many times through absolutely no fault of their own, the hardest part to write. The emotions they go through, no foundation, bounced between houses, not understanding, anger and so many other range of emotions, it was difficult to get this down on paper in a realistic fashion.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I truly want people to see this as a heart-warming and uplifting story, and the series in general. Foster care leaves such a bad taste in people’s mouths through the media portrayal that many times we forget about those kids trapped in the system but also all the people out there putting in blood sweat and tears to help children that are not their own biologically.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Once I had it outlined it took about a month to write, and basically I wrote the follow-up books in the series back to back. Then came the hard part of editing everything, changing details in one story had to be vetted out in the other stories, so it was a big undertaking. Front to end, over a year is represented in this series all coming out weeks apart before Christmas this year.
What is your writing routine?
Despite still working a traditional job in addition to my writing endeavors, I have set a 3K word count goal to write daily. With my busy schedule how I get there is a winding crazy path most days and organic to whatever is happening in my day. Sometimes I wake in the early morning hours with a chapter for my latest work just begging to get written down on paper. Other times I take time outside at lunch to just enjoy the outdoors and write, but other times I close myself into a quiet room at the end of a long day, putting ideas onto a computer screen. Also, my family loves long weekend drives and quick getaways which are the best venues for getting lots of solid writing time while my husband drives. No matter what it takes, I find the time to make writing a priority.
How did you get your book published?
I decided when I was ready to share my writings to do it through Independent Publishing which means I use Amazon Kindle self-publishing tools. I now also have paperback books printed on demand for all my titles through CreateSpace and audio books produced through ACX agreements with various narrators. I love the control and self-pacing, marketing and learning the industry specifics firsthand, and so to date I don’t submit my manuscripts for traditional publishing and am not certain that will ever change. I love what I do and have been able to see many of my manuscripts shared with a larger audience than I could have ever imagined.
Fantastic! What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Find great cheerleaders who believe in you and can help you through the tough days. Have thick skin and take feedback both negative and positive to heart when learning your audience, your own writing style, and the publishing world in general. Never give up; one person will hate something you wrote but the next will love it. Perception and personal preferences will prevail, but remain true to your comfort level, writing stories you care about. Finally, write every chance you get, take classes, and surround yourself with other authors and great inspiration, whatever form that takes for you personally. Just like any goal, if you want this bad enough, are willing to learn from your mistakes, and persevere, you will see results.
Great advice, Angelica. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
My family is always moving. I have a varsity swimmer, so she spends a fair amount of time training. When not on the road supporting her team during season we love to travel, do 5K and half marathon races as a family. Additionally, international travel for educational and other reasons is a favorite of all members of my family.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are extremely supportive and think it is great that I’m pursuing my biggest dream. Although, they do worry when situations arise that they will end up a character in a future book!
Always a possibility! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was raised the oldest child of six in Wisconsin. My father was mentally ill and so you will see that theme in several of my books, as that is a big part of my story as a child. I did well in school but was extremely bashful growing up and didn’t outgrow that stage of my life until probably the last ten years.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I have always been a voracious reader. As a child you could always find me with a book tucked into a corner somewhere.
Sounds familiar ... When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Being raised in the Midwest in a fairly low income family, I had experiences that writing about could help me process from a young age. Over time I realized that I loved creating stories about the ordinary experiences I witnessed, but many times providing happier endings for the scenarios. As I went away to college, pursued a career, and generally progressed to adult experiences, I always came back around to writing as an outlet. A couple years ago a good friend of mine who was going through a health scare told me she had always wanted to publish a book she had been working on for years. We commiserated over lunches and tea on this shared passion, but when she unexpectedly died before she could see through her last project, it struck home for me. I decided to publish my first Indie book - which I had written years prior - a month after her passing. In her memory I worked up the courage to share it with the world. From there, my writing career has gone fast and furious with no regrets on my part.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Absolutely! You find domestic abuse, child abuse, foster care, and other hints of the kind of childhood I had in my writings. Like my characters, I feel I am stronger for these experiences and not worse off than others who didn’t have such struggles. Many of my heroines use their experiences to be stronger people for their children, co-workers, and individuals they help. I find that a liberating aspect of my childhood, it made me the writer I was always meant to be and I’m thankful for that now in hindsight.
What a wonderful attitude. Which writers have influenced you the most?
Erma Bombeck - she just had this funny, witty, sarcastic way of looking at life and being able to put down on paper so eloquently you couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Should any single reader ever feel a level of emotion at something I wrote to rival that which I felt reading Ms. Bombeck’s books, I will be a success.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do hear from readers more than I had anticipated when I started this journey. The most vocal are when they don’t like a story, think I did something wrong, didn’t edit a manuscript in a manner they like, or some other flaw. I still read every email and have changed style, editors, proofreading processes, and even future story lines in response to feedback I felt was warranted. Many times readers can look at a situation without emotion, being so far removed, and the feedback can prove beneficial. Also, I do still read every review posted on any site (i.e., Amazon, Goodreads, etc.) because good reviews bolster my spirits to keep going but the bad help be try harder the next time. In my opinion, feedback - negative or positive - is necessary to help me grow as an author.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I have several projects in the works, but each day brings its own set of challenges. I hope I am still writing in five ... ten ... fifteen years, but what those stories are going to be only time will determine.
Well, I wish you all the very best. Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Angelica.
From the Author
My name is Angela K. Naff and I am a current resident of Stillwater, Oklahoma (go OSU Cowboys) and write under the pen name of Angelica Kate. I have written for more years than I can count, but only started publishing my work as an Indie author in the Spring of 2014. My favorite genre to write is contemporary romance featuring current societal issues such as foster care, child abuse, drunk drivers, domestic violence etc. and heroines/heroes that overcome the odds to not only survive but thrive. Additionally in 2015 I have published my first full-length novel in the science fiction/mystery mixed genre titled The Cure, and followed it up with a psychic thriller entitled Discord. I enjoy stretching my skills by penning stories that don't fit in a single style or genre and help me grow as an author.
When not working at Oklahoma State University as a Program Coordinator or writing I enjoy working out, keeping up with my two biological college kids activities, and keeping pace with my elementary aged foster children. As a family we enjoy traveling, a myriad of sports, binge watching our favorite shows and entertaining the never ending stream of visitors and relatives to our home.
I like to hear from anyone who has a question, feedback on my latest project, or just in general has something to share.
Enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Foster Intellect by Angelica Kate, as well as her Soldier's Series bundle (comprised of A Soldier's Promise, A Soldier's Vow, and A Soldier's Oath) in signed print copy (US only) or ebook (open internationally).