"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!


  1. I completely loved it. The man does have a way with words. I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing. Since I just bought my copy, I won't have to wait long.

    1. Hey Tony! I think there's a certain character in the book you'll appreciate. Is love to hear what you think when you've finished reading it. Have a great week!