A Different Kind of Fire

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My novel, A Different Kind of Fire, features a woman artist in the 1890s as she struggles to reconcile art, career, motherhood, lovers, and marriage. Sounds like nothing much has changed from women since then. Waldorf Publishing says it will be out sometime in 2018. They have picked up my second novel, as yet unnamed, for 2019.


I have sent out copies of my novel to get cover blurbs and reviews. The first came back from the very kind Alicia Rasley, best-selling Amazon author of The Year She Fell. Many thanks to Alicia for such a kind review.


Suanne Schafer’s A Different Kind of Fire is a powerful story of a Gilded Age artist who brooks convention both in her art and her love. Read this book: It has both the depth of emotion of a modernist novel and the epic scope of a historical saga.

Alicia Rasley, author of The Year She Fell, Amazon bestseller


Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

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Esi Edugyan
Literary fiction
February 28, 2012
Kindle, hardcover, paperback, audio CD

From Amazon:

Berlin, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris café. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.

Berlin, 1952. Falk is a jazz legend. Hot Time Swingers band members Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, both African Americans from Baltimore, have appeared in a documentary about Falk. When they are invited to attend the film's premier, Sid's role in Falk's fate will be questioned and the two old musicians set off on a surprising and strange journey.
From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world as he describes the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that led to Falk's incarceration in Sachsenhausen. Half-Blood Blues is a story about music and race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

In anticipation of the next Empty Sink Publishing’s short story due out soon (“Automatically Hip” by John McCaffrey), I’d like to recommend HALF BLOOD BLUES by Esi Edugyan.
Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Man Booker Prize Finalist 2011
An Oprah Magazine Best Book of the Year
A book with gorgeous dialogue that begins with the preWWII jazz scene in Berlin and follows a group of jazz muscians through WWII Paris through to their old age.

Book Review: The Ropes that Bind by Tracy Stopler,

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The Ropes that Bind Book Cover The Ropes that Bind
Tracy Stopler
Binah Books
1 edition (December 24, 2016)
electronic books
336 pages

Tracy Stopler’s debut novel, The Ropes that Bind, deals with the under-reported crime of child sexual abuse and how it affects her protagonist, Tali Stark. Tali’s abuse is deftly and sensitively handled in this well-written story. The reader watches nine-year-old Tali grow into a functioning woman while holding her emotional trauma within her. Through her personal strength and determination—and the help of family, friends, mentors, and lovers, Tali becomes an integrated soul.

2016 Gival Press Novel Award

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My novel, A Different Kind of Fire, was a finalist for the 2016 Gival Press Novel Award, judged by author John Domini. Mr. Domini has won awards in all genres, publishing fiction in Paris Review, Ploughshares, and anthologies, and non-fiction in GQ, The New York Times, and elsewhere. His 2007 novel, Earthquake I.D., was nominated for a Pulitzer

The winner:

Dream of Another America by Tyler McMahon

The finalists were:

A Different Kind of Fire by Suanne Schafer

A Kind of Paradise by Bev Jafek.

Wild Girl by Rita Ciresi

Water by Nagueyatti Warren


News Update: A Different Kind of Fire

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News from the WisRWA Fab Five contest: A Different Kind of Fire placed third in the Wisconsin Romance Writers in the women’s fiction category. Fire is set in the 1890s and involves a young Texan who dreams of becoming a famous artist. Along the way, Ruby’s various trial and tribulations change her, her perception of sexuality, and her definition of fame.

News update: A Different Kind of Fire

Posted by on 7:26 pm in My Writing | 0 comments

News from the WisRWA Fab Five contest: A Different Kind of Fire is a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers in the women’s fiction category. Fire is set in the 1890s and involves a young Texan who dreams of becoming a famous artist. Along the way, Ruby’s various trial and tribulations change her, her perception of sexuality, and her definition of fame.

Book Review: The Memory Of Us by Camille Di Maio

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The Memory of Us Book Cover The Memory of Us
Camille di Maio
Women's fiction, historical fiction
Lake Union Publishing
May 31, 2016
Paperback, Kindle

The Memory Of Us by Camille Di Maio is a wonderful love story, though definitely not a typical romance. Set in pre-World War II Britain, it spans several decades. Di Maio’s voice captures that time period in both her word choice and her superb descriptions of setting and clothing.

Julianne Westcott, the protagonist, is a young socialite being groomed to follow in her mother’s footsteps, running church bazaars and charity fundraisers as the wife of some prestigious gentleman. Superficially, Julianne’s life is perfect; however, it is filled with secrets. She learns the first secret: she was a twin, and her brother, born deaf and blind was institutionalized at birth. As Julianne visits her brother, she meets a young man, Kyle McCarthy and falls in love. Kyle, however, is in a Catholic seminary, and thus a forbidden love. Julianne herself begins to keep secrets from her parents. She then disappoints her family by rebelling against the life they’d planned for her. Just as she finds happiness with Kyle, the war intervenes, and Julianne must make life-changing decisions. Just when she thinks that she can no longer bear the pain in her life, she grasps a lifeline, a second chance at happiness.
DiMiao does a great job relaying backstory without bogging down in minutia or removing the reader from the ongoing momentum of the story. The war and the bombing of Britain are accessible as a backdrop, accurate and powerfully described, yet never overpower Julianne’s story.

There were a few moments when switching back and forth from the parts set in Abertillery to the distant past that I found somewhat repetitive. I also found the posthumous epilogue somewhat superfluous (this from an author who has a short story written entirely from a posthumous point of view). But I read the 413 pages of The Memory Of Us in one sitting and sobbed through the last thirty pages.

I received an advance readers’ copy in exchange for a fair review.

14594100Camille di Maio Camille is an award-winning real estate agent in San Antonio who, along with her husband of 18 years, home schools their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries), belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes, and is training in tae kwon do. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it does’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. The Memory of Us is Camille’s debut novel. Her second, Before the Rain Falls will be released in the spring of 2017.

Book Review: December Boys by Joe Clifford

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December Boys Book Cover December Boys
Jay Porter series #2
Joe Clifford
Oceanview Publishing
June 7, 2016
300 pages

December Boys is the second in Joe Clifford’s Jay Porter series. Just as dark as the first in the series, Lamentation, December Boys moves more quickly without a wasted word. Clifford’s prose is gritty and moody, yet beautiful, with lines that shine like a Jacob’s ladder. The New England winter, with its aching, biting cold, snow and dirty roadside slush, is a recurrent motif.

Jay Porter is a seriously flawed character with deep psychological issues that commence with the death of his parents in his childhood followed by his brother’s “suicide by cop” which occurred in Lamentation.

He now has a 9-5 job as an insurance claims investigator and has married the love of his life, Jenny, but can’t hold his life together. He remains haunted by the deaths of family and the guilt he feels over being unable to save his junky brother. He self-medicates with an increasing does of alcohol. Though he tries to provide a home for Jenny and his son, Aiden, she leaves him because, though present in her life, he isn’t really there.

He remains obsessed by the Lombardi case that got him in trouble in Lamentation. In December Boys, he works with Nicki, a courthouse employee (and Jay’s newest temptation) to undercover the dark secrets of the Lombardis in a new scam. His involvement nearly costs him his life.

Jay is not particularly likable but is a sympathetic character as the reader becomes acquainted with him and his many problems including PTSD, an anxiety disorder, and a relentless paranoia over the Lombardis. Porter has an underlying morality and tries to do the right thing, including not cheating on his wife, but he invariably undercuts his own efforts.

I received an advanced copy of this work in exchange for a fair review.
Joe Clifford

Book Review: Wolfshadow by Robert Edward Graham and C.S. Fuqua

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Wolfshadow Book Cover Wolfshadow
Robert Edward Graham and C.S. Fuqua
Science fiction, dystopian fiction
Ursa Major Books

The world's governments have degenerated to the point that corporations control everything. The largest conglomerate, Nattech, Inc, has designed a machine to disrupt the time-space continuum and plans to send a man into the future.

Jim Pleasant Wolfshadow, a former Navy Seal, Nattech operative, and Cheyenne Native American, doesn't particularly want to jump into the unknown. But when his best friend, Max, disappears, Jim takes the unwanted assignment. He is accompanied by a shape-shifter cat who has shadowed him since birth. Wolfshadow learns he is the "Expected One" and that Max is being used as bait to lure him into a battle with Mahu, the most powerful negative force in the universe.

Wolfshadow by Robert Edward Graham and C.S. Fuqua is an odd, but delightful, mix of world mythologies (Christian, Buddhist, Native American, Hindu) and science blended into a cohesive whole in which the Native American Wolfshadow battles Mahu, the most negative force in the universe, powerful and chaotic. Though basically a dystopian novel, there is hope here that we humans can overcome our self-destructive selves through self-sacrifice and bonding with the oneness of nature, through our abilities rather than the deus-ex-machina miracles promoted by some religions.

Normally I race through books, but I found myself setting Wolfshadow aside so my nightly reunions with Jim Pleasant Wolfshadow would continue as long as possible.

A thought-provoking and interesting read.

Night Lights: An Anthology of Short Fiction: First Contact, Conspiracy, and Space Opera

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Night Lights: An Anthology of Short Fiction: First Contact, Conspiracy, and Space Opera is now out in paperback and contains my short story “Suite for the Lady in Red.” Here’s an excerpt:

Langley, Virginia, 24 February 2013

“Eliminate her, Mark.”
My ulcer began a slow burn as soon as Caulder gave me the assignment. I ignored the pain. He’d interpret any reaction as a sign of weakness.
Caulder jointed the CIA in 1985. A couple years later, I mustered in. I’d been active military in a clandestine DC outfit longer than he’d been CIA. Bottom-line—who had actual seniority. Back in 2008, we were candidates for the same promotion. He took credit for my breakthrough in a tough assignment and yanked the position from under my nose. I’d been treading water since, trying to survive until retirement. Our professional relationship remained strained. Our friendship ended…

Not only is my story great (and a real departure from my usual fiction), but the others are imaginative, exciting, and well-written.

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