"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Girl from Tenerife by Bernard Schaffer

Before I offer any opinion about this book, my latest project, I want to give you, my faithful readers, the opportunity to read the first chapter. It won't take long. It's only about five pages, about 1700 words. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

We met at a bar, but it's not what you think. She worked there. It was my first time going in, taking a chance on an authentic-looking Mexican restaurant with the misfortune of being built into the rear end of a run-down shopping center. The writer in me suggests I tell you it was the sad, soulful music that lured me in, calling to me past the newspaper stand and tire center and discount shoe store, but really, it was the neon Mexican beer signs blinking in the windows. 

It was dark and the tables were empty as I slid onto the barstool and inspected the taps. Modelo Especial. Good. Corona. Obviously. Negra Modelo. 


I tapped my fingers on the counter waiting for the bartender to come my way. He slid a bowl of fresh salsa in front of me and I told him, "Negra Modelo, tall." He pulled their largest icy mug out of the freezer under the bar and filled it, then dropped in a lime wedge. 

This was in my serious drinking days so I lifted the glass and drained it hard, swallowing until the lime wedge was soaked in nothing but white suds. The bartender vanished, probably crowded with the rest of the waitstaff into one of the booths near the kitchen, watching futbol, not thinking the gringo with the pot belly would drink so much so fast. Two Central American teams battled it out over a field of never-ending green. Looking the waitstaff over, I wasn't sure who they were rooting for. 

Soccer matches are tough to watch on TV. The camera is too far back from the field so it looks like a bunch of tiny ants running around not doing much. I guess people who know the game want to see how everyone is positioned, but personally, I can't get into it. Soccer has too many crazy rules my simple western mind can't wrap itself around. How in the hell can a game end in a tie? How in the hell can a referee decide they're playing in overtime but nobody knows for how long? 

People around the world love it though. Beautiful Brazilian women fill the stands in tight-fitting t-shirts to sing their team songs. British hoodlums follow fans of rival teams home and stomp their heads in. Every once in a while, you get a full-scale riot with a dozen people dying, crushed against a chain link fence. 

Now, American football fans are committed, but you don't see that. Maybe a fistfight when some ignorant, drunken Cowboys fan opens his mouth one too many times at an Eagles game. I mean, what do they expect? 

And that's when she came into the bar area.

No. Not yet. Let me back up. 

You see, in movies and books moments like these are something you immediately recognize. The golden filters of the cinematographer's lens and deep, swelling crescendos of symphonic orchestration cue you, the audience, that something important is happening beyond just the momentary impact of a woman of rare beauty surprising you by appearing in a bar. 

In real life, it's just another minute that passes. Just something that happens one moment to the next. There will be another empty glass of beer that another bartender comes to fill, helping you kill time before you pay, get out of your seat, and go back to the monotony of real life. In real life, you don't realize a moment is worth remembering until you have a reason to. 

It can be years after the fact when you look over at the person lying next to you in bed and think, "I would have never met you otherwise." 

And that can be good or bad, depending on your current evaluation of the relationship. 

My ex-wife and I were introduced by our mothers. They met at a country western dance club. "My son's in his twenties, he's single." 

"My daughter's in her twenties, she's single too." 

"You're kidding. Oh my God!" 

"Oh my God! Do you think?" 

Two amazingly precious children later and one long, seven-year drought of only-occasional companionship, I would sometimes roll over and look at her sleeping face and I would think, "If I pull the comforter over her face and she dies, is it still murder? Shouldn't most people have the fortitude to yank the covers down before they suffocate? Isn't it more like I'm leaving it up to God if she dies or lives on to torment me in perpetuity?" 

She lived. 

I moved out. 

Nothing got better. 

Being divorced from a mentally abusive maniac is actually worse than being married to one, because they can come after your time with your kids and come after your money. So you have to play nice. When you're married and aren't nice, the most they can do is cut you off from sex. When you're divorced and aren't nice, the mind of a female can find new and exciting ways to torture you forever. 

Or at least until the kids are grown. 

Sometimes I've found myself wishing the kids were eighteen already and immediately hate myself for it. It's not what I really want, anyway. If that were the case we wouldn't spend so much time on the floor of my small apartment playing board games or having full-scale wars with every toy they own from Batman to Malibu Barbie. No, I don't wish their youth away at all. I just don't want to have to talk to their mother anymore. 

In our relationship, she's Lucy and I'm Charlie Brown. The football symbolizes us getting along. Every time she tells me she's serious about it, I take off running down the field like an idiot and try to kick the thing in for a field goal. We could be a team. A unified force of parental guidance. One cohesive family unit in two different locations. 

Every goddamn time I try to kick one in for the win and every goddamn time she yanks the ball away and sends me sailing through the air to land flat on my back. But I keep doing it. 

Why? Because I love the little buggers, man. At twelve, my boy Sam is smarter than I ever was. My little girl, Rosa? She's walking sunshine. That kid giggles and it's music for the soul. The kicker is that she kind of looks like her mom. I'm convinced the reason I can't hate my ex-wife is because of her resemblance to my daughter. That's why no matter how many times she puts the football down and says, "You want to kick it, Charlie Brown?" I go running. I'm an idiot. But I'm an idiot in love with two little kids. 

These are the thoughts of a man sitting at the bar of a Mexican restaurant, staring into an empty glass mug, surrounded by people he can't understand. Maybe that's why I liked it there. I couldn't understand what they were saying and they weren't interested in me. 

And that's when she walked in. She looked at me and smiled and said, "Do you like another beer?" 

It is with the sudden shock of a sniper's bullet to the soldier's forehead that a man looks upon such a woman for the first time.

Her smile was a long, curved dagger sunk deep in my chest, all the way in, all at once. 

Her face bore the kiss of the Costa Adeje sun and sand with high-angled cheeks and rose pink lips that drew to a swollen heart at their center. Almond-skinned with long dark hair, she wore it pulled back and out of the way. I could not help but wonder what she looked like in six-inch heels with a blood red rose pinned in her hair. 

I looked up at her that first time and said, "Yes, thank you." Then, I paused and said, "Where are you from?" 

She moved her long brown hair over one ear and smiled, caught off guard. "Why do you ask?" 

"Your accent is different than theirs. You aren't Mexican." 

"I am from Spain," she said. It sounded like "I em ah frahm Spayne." 

I nodded and told her what beer I was drinking.

She carried my mug over to the tap and started to pour, looking back at me over her shoulder. "Do you speak Spanish?" 

"Only a little. I picked it up from an old friend." 

"Is good, yes?" 

I took the mug from her hands before she could set it down and said, "To speak Spanish? Or to have an old friend." 


I didn't know what the hell we were talking about but she smiled again and I nodded eagerly and said, "Yes it certainly is." 

She smiled easily, I could tell. People who do that amaze me because I rarely smile. Not to be melodramatic about it or come off like I'm some sullen, artistic type, because I laugh all the time. I laugh hard. I laugh until I snort and cough and beg the person making me laugh to stop. I'll be one of those guys who laughs himself into a heart attack. But I don't smile much, I don't think. 

Actually, I smiled when I wrote about my kids. 

So maybe I'm lying. Maybe I've finally de-evolved into one of those unreliable narrators you always hear about in English class. The kind that all the good and decent narrators grew up knowing they were to keep a good distance from. 

She swiped her hair over her other ear and spun like a dancer to attend to the register and the whole time she was turned away I didn't touch my beer. I watched her instead. "What is your name?" I said. 
The Girl from Tenerife
by Bernard Schaffer
cover art by Keri Knutson
of Alchemy Book Covers

edited by Laurie Laliberte

"Sahily," she said. 

"Sai-lay?" I said, trying to get the pronunciation right.

"More soft," she said. "You must be gentle with it." 



"And you? What is your name?" 

I told her and she said it slowly, rolling the r's with wild abandon, and then we both smiled.     
And that was the moment. 

Right then.

The kind I spoke of. 

The kind you look back on and say, "That's where this all began."


Every once in a while, I come across a book that I can't leave behind. I carry it in my handbag, or keep it by the side of my bed for weeks after I've finished reading it because I cant let it go. THIS is one of those books. Fortunately, because it's in the Kindle app on my tablet, I can keep it with me forever.

As this book's editor, I'm not allowed to post a review on Amazon, but believe me when I tell you this is the best book I've read all year. It's the only novel I've edited from which I suffered a "book hangover." I did, slightly, with Reeni Austin's Barboza Brothers trilogy, but not so much because I knew that fairly soon, I'd be revisiting the world Reeni created. (Yes, there's more to come from the extended family, but that's all I'm allowed to say for now.) GfT didn't elicit waves of emotion from me like some of my writers' books do. It's a beautiful story, told in beautiful language, that held me captive from beginning to end. I've read it three times and it's possible I'll read it again, not because I have to, but because I want to.

You see, for the two years I've been working with Bernard Schaffer, I've told him he has the potential to be a truly brilliant writer. I think he's finally starting to believe me, because you can see it here. That glimmer of brilliance that I saw two years ago is becoming a beacon that glows brighter every time he releases a new work.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What's Cookin'?

The short answer to that one is, "Nothin'."

When I moved in here, the kitchen was dirty, dark, and difficult to work in. Now it's bright, airy and impossible to work in. My landlady has absolutely no concept of what makes a kitchen workable. She insisted on beginning a kitchen renovation she knew she would have to stop in the middle. Therefore, I currently have zero counter space.

When I say zero, I'm not exaggerating; all of my counters are gone, along with nearly all of my cabinets. My toaster and coffee maker are currently sitting on top of the stove. I've eaten little beyond raw foods for weeks.

But I'm not here to whine. In fact, it's just as well that I have no space in which I can experiment with new recipes because I've been working my tail off to help churn out several new books. So lets take a quick peek at what's new and on its way to tickle your Kindle, shall we?

Currently Available:

Far From Home 8: Warrior -- The eighth installment of Tony Healey's Far From Home serial takes us to the two thirds mark with some unexpected discoveries. It's definitely a piece you won't want to miss.

More Than a Maid -- The last, and longest, installment of the Barboza Brothers trilogy by Reeni Austin answers all the questions thousands of readers have been asking, but don't think we're done with this family yet.

Coming Soon:

The Girl from Tenerife -- A beautiful story about love, passion, and friendship as well as a haunting tribute and a challenge to the older generation of writers who influenced the author and his love of the craft. THIS is Bernard Schaffer's best work to date.

The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing -- The second book by author Bernard Schaffer being released on the Dia de los Toros. This one is a manual meant to help the next generation of independent authors avoid the pitfalls that held Schaffer up as a newbie. If you're thinking of self-publishing, you need this book.

Both of those titles, plus a super-secret (that just means he hasn't shown off the cover or announced the title yet) children's book Bernard has written for his daughter, will be released on the same day.

PLUS, I'm finishing the final edit on a fan fiction piece by Joshua Unruh that may or may not be found in a larger anthology (that's still undecided), but it will be everywhere soon. Josh is also plotting a sequel to Downfall, the five-star debut in his Myth Reaver series.

Still in Development:

Here's the part where I get to be a bit sneaky and maybe show off a little . . .

From Reeni Austin -- More steamy deliciousness involving some peripheral characters from the Barboza Brothers series.

From Shaina Richmond -- More from the world of Tyler and Suzie.

From Tony Healey -- The final four installments of the Far From Home series and about ten other projects guaranteed to keep me busy for the next year.

From Bernard Schaffer -- Hellifino. He doesn't tell me anything because he enjoys teasing me as much as his readers.

And That's Not All:

I'm still in the midst of editing novels by newcomers Michael Tognetti and M. L. Adams. I've also been in contact with several authors who are looking to line me up for their second in series. And maybe one or two completely new projects coming out of the ether.

I will also be finishing my latest crochet project book and beta reading a couple of pieces for my dear friend Joshua Unruh, but without his permission, I don't even want to tease you with any details.

Yep, I'm already looking at 2014 and thinking, "How am I going to get this all done?" But then I look back and see what I've finished so far this year and I think. "I got this."

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Politics, Religion, and . . . Football?

I do believe this is the first time I've ever brought politics or religion to this blog, and I'm doing it all in one post. (Click here to read the Huffington Post article that precipitated my need to do so.)

Heck, if the Pope played football, I'd find a reason to work in the third taboo subject I tend to avoid in conversation. I become far too passionate about all three subjects sometimes to discuss them rationally.

[Is this thing on? :taps mic: Where's my soap box?]

If you've read my facebook, or twitter, or Google+ posts, you've already figured out I'm a bit more liberal than moderate. You've figured out I'm pro-gay, pro-choice, and pro-marriage equality. I believe that every individual has the right to choose his or her own path in this life and it's nobody else's right to do it for them.

I was raised in a Roman Catholic family. For a short while, I went to a Catholic school. And the one thing that was drilled into me, beyond any other, was to hate no-one. NO. ONE.

(The crazy, senile, verbally and mentally abusive, old nun who ensured I would never grow up to be a Catholic is the exception, not the rule.)

I even do my best to use the word "hate" as little as possible. That said, I can honestly admit that one thing I DO hate is hypocrisy.

That is also one of the reasons I am no longer a Christian or a member of the Catholic church. It's not the religion that bothers me. It's the things some people do in the name of religion.

It absolutely INFURIATES me when I hear "Christians" spouting off about any group not deserving the same rights as everyone else because the Bible says they are wrong. The Bible also says, "Judge not lest ye be judged."

I look at friends, gay or straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist, raising children with good family values and I ask, "Isn't that all that really matters?"

I know so many people who accept Christ as their savior. Who are kind and loving and generous. They are so completely unlike the very loud, vocal few who spout hatred based on sexual preference, or any other preference. They may not all agree with me when it comes to certain subjects, but they accept that not all opinions are the same and that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

To the haters I say: Your God didn't tell you to deny or hate anyone. He told you to love thy neighbor. He told you to help others where you could. He told you to spread His word, one of positivity and righteousness, and that He would make the final judgement.

What I want to know is whether you've learned anything from the stories of the Bible. From the Samaritan who stopped to help his fellow man. From Jesus spending time with lepers and easing their suffering. From the woman at the well.

It's been a long while since I've opened a Bible (although it was on a Kindle app), but I don't recall it saying, "Love thy neighbor who is a heterosexual white male."

So, to the R's, and even the D's, who are like the person in that HuffPost article I ask one question: How can you vilify a group of individuals and deny them equal rights and then, in good conscience, call yourself a Christian?


Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing

The man himself. NO! I was
not the reason for the Band-aid.
If you follow me on twitter, you've already determined a few things concerning my relationship with author Bernard Schaffer.

First: You've seen that we're very close friends in spite of the fact that we've never been in the same room together. 

Second: I'm not just his editor; I'm his biggest fan and his second harshest critic. (He's tougher on himself than I could ever be.)

Third: We're a hell of a team. Think, Maddie and David, Laura Holt and Mr. Steele, Beckett and Castle, Turner and Hooch . . . Wait, what?

Fourth, and most important: I read nearly everything he writes whether it requires editing or not.

Welp, today I decided to share with you a blog series Bernard has been working on to help new independent authors avoid some of the mistakes he made when he was first starting out.

If you're thinking of publishing your own work, it's a must-read. Follow this link and you'll see what I mean.