Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday Thirteen Thirteen Things about The Promised Land

About Valerie Stocking

Valerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five.  When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine.  She wrote her first play at the age of ten.  In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year.  During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether.  It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.

For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories.  She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S. and Canada.  She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period.  In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series.  It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.

Valerie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.
You can visit her website at
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About The Promised Land

It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

13 Things About The Promised Land
By Valerie Stocking

1.)                The story is set in the fictional town of Willets Point, Florida, which is located approximately 30 miles west of St. Petersburg on the Gulf Coast.  Willets Point is based on an actual town I lived in from 1966-67, which is also when the story takes place.

2.)                The main character, Joy Bradford, is a 12-year-old misfit who has been an outcast from her peers since kindergarten.

3.)                Joy’s mother, Jessica, was raised by her aunt and uncle since she was 16.  Jessica resents that her parents gave her up because her aunt had no children of her own.

4.)                Bill McKendrick, Jessica’s divorce lawyer and new boyfriend, is also head of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.

5.)                The sheriff of Willets Point, Thaddeus Simms, doesn’t like the Klan, but he doesn’t believe that blacks and whites should mix, either.

6.)                Jessica is used to having men like Bill and Thaddeus fight over her.  In fact, she enjoys it.

7.)                Margaret Karlson, Jessica’s aunt, has been widowed by Gustav Karlson, a millionaire inventor. She enjoys drinking and spending money.

8.)                Clytus Dooley, an African-American newcomer in town, moves his family to a white neighborhood and tries to open a store in the white section of downtown Willets Point.  He is married to a Swedish woman and they have a 12-year-old son, Clay.

9.)                Clytus is the son of a Baptist minister, and grew up in Atlanta. He has little contact with his father nowadays, as his father accuses him of “going into white folks’ territories and stirring up trouble.”

10.)            Clay Dooley, Clytus’s son, is biracial.  He has café au lait colored skin and striking hazel eyes.  He and Joy become friends.

11.)            All of the main characters, with the exception of Clytus Dooley, drink.  Margaret and Jessica drink scotch, Thaddeus drinks gin, and Bill is a bourbon man.

12.)            Joy takes tranquilizers and drinks scotch, both of which are sanctioned by doctors and her mother.

13.)    Joy becomes stronger as the book goes on, and is able to stand up for her                            convictions despite what her family and the town think.

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