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C.B. Shiepe returns to Cliff Falls

I recently had the pleasure of revisiting a novel that has itself been revisited by its author in a revised and expanded new version being released April 28 called Cliff Falls: The Missing Pieces Edition (pre-order now at Amazon or purchase in-store exclusively at Vroman’s book store in Pasadena until its national release). Shiepe, in support of independent bookstores, will do a book signing at Vroman’s at 7 p.m. Friday, April 3rd, where the new edition is in a section called Books That Change Your Life along with the likes of The Alchemist and Tuesdays with Morrie.

C.B. Shiepe

Bed-ridden and recovering for more than a decade in his twenties and thirties with an unusual strain of bacteria that took seven years and 70 doctors to diagnose, C.B. Shiepe of San Marino, California, made the most of his down-time in the 1990s and 2000s by writing his first novel called Cliff Falls. The inspirational award-winning story about a former child TV star who struggles with his identity, purpose, and self-confidence as an adult until finding himself when he becomes the unlikely catalyst for healing in a picturesque remote hillside community, became the all-time best-selling independently-published book in the 125-year history of Vroman’s upon its initial self-publication in June 2011 and was widely-embraced and praised. Now a special 10th anniversary edition of this best-selling novel called Cliff Falls: The Missing Pieces Edition, is being released with revisions and expansions throughout the book that collectively add about 30 pages (now 288) and a deeper understanding, appreciation, and closure for several of the multiple notable characters in the touching and romantic story.

The story For those unfamiliar with the original novel, in a world where entertainment has become our religion and religion our entertainment, angry 18 year-old Clay Grant panics when he inadvertently starts a fire at a Hollywood studio back-lot where he has been the exploited star of a 1980s TV series called Little Guy Mike. He runs away from the fire, his life, and everyone he knows. Fifteen years later, at age 33, Clay is still running from the pressures of expectations and his pain – his single-parent mother left him alone with an unscrupulous and abusive manager who continues to stalk him in hopes of cashing in on the now-notorious Clay’s tabloid value. With no one to trust, his lifetime of frustration has only been expressed in a private journal, referenced poignantly and powerfully by Shiepe in the following passage…

Clay felt that burnt leather journal tucked under his mattress. The irony of sleeping atop his buried feelings.

Just as he is about to collide with his past while working a menial job in Boston, a nationally-known preacher facing the consequences of his own imperfections while at a crossroads in his life, is sparked by the death of his wife to hastily arrange for Clay to fly 3,000 miles to the majestic rolling hills community of Cliff Falls in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California.

What happens when you run into everything you’ve been running from?

This is another of the many bits of provocative writing by Shiepe in the story filled with metaphors and allegories. Constantly on the edge of running away from his problems and uncertainties again, Clay keeps finding reasons to stay in Cliff Falls, one being an enticing but wary woman at the local Acorn Diner, and another being the preacher’s precious grandson lamenting the recent separation of his parents. Self-doubt and uncertainty abounds in Cliff Falls, particularly in Clay, who soon learns that his former manager-turned-paparazzi is on his tail again.

Gazing out the window as the blinds inched down, Clay’s breath on the glass was proof that his heart was still racing.

Then there is the preacher’s son Ted, who harbors similar resentments and challenges of trying to live up to impossible expectations in the large shadow his father. Ted isn’t even allowed to deliver his .own comments about his mother before being forced to grudgingly accept the embrace of a post-funeral line of well-wishers.

With each hug he felt the folded eulogy on the inside of his suit pocket press up against his chest. He hadn’t read it and somehow it was repeatedly being stuffed back into his heart.

Ted therefore resents his father’s Prodigal Son-type outreach to Clay. Cliff Falls is multi-layered with many subplots and surprises cleverly revealed at opportune moments as the stories of the various characters unfold, leading to life-reaffirming conclusions.

Revisions and expansion Cliff Falls: The Missing Pieces Edition, which even more-so allows readers to see elements of themselves in the characters, took Shiepe the past four years to complete. The new introductory “A Word Before,” written in the words of the Cliff Falls church caretaker Diego (another pivotal character in the book), he notes that the previous version “wasn’t a lie. It just wasn’t the full truth.” He asserts that Clay has now allowed Shiepe to share “the hurtful missing pieces” in the hope that they might bring healing to others. Among those hurtful additional elements is the more specific nature of the abuse of Clay by his former manager, Burt, and the preacher and his son Ted having had some early awareness of this when they could/should have taken action, which now provides even more reason for the preacher’s enormously generous outreach to Clay years later. The reader will be satisfied that Burt now faces some tangible consequences for his abuse. We also learn that the abandonment of Clay’s mother was more than just irresponsible, but consciously self-serving. On the other end of that spectrum, there is also more potentially redeeming resolution to her character.

But the primary existential note posed by the original Cliff Falls remains the same in Cliff Falls: The Missing Pieces Edition

It’s one thing to believe in something when you don’t need it to be true. It’s another when everything is riding on it.

Ironically, it’s Ted, the character who perhaps most feels that his feelings are not acknowledged, who eventually offers the most insightful observation about his mother…

She always saw, in all of us, what we could never see in ourselves.

Shiepe and Cliff Falls Shiepe is a USC graduate who began his career in production at the Walt Disney Company, where he worked with child stars, has coached entertainment executives and pastors on brand management, synergy, and visionary leadership, and co-created three ministries in Hawai’i and California. He has been asked to discuss his award-winning Cliff Falls on NBC, PBS, TBN, Hour of Power, in Guideposts Magazine, at the LA Times Festival of Books, and at speaking engagements across the country, including the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA where actors performed scenes from his novel. Living in neighboring town of Arcadia at the time, I had the good fortune of meeting Shiepe shortly after his book was published. My partners in the non-profit Arcadia’s Best Foundation created and run by Carol Libby, now-Councilman Sho Tay and myself, invited Shiepe to make an appearance at our inaugural Arcadia’s Best Patriotic Festival on July 2, 2011. He then agreed to be our featured speaker at our second One Community, One Book program on October 2, 2011, where more than 100 attendees enjoyed his presentation, a panel discussion among academics and clergy, and a dramatic interpretation of one of the scenes in Cliff Falls by Arcadia High School theater students under the direction of drama teacher Steven Volpe.

Praise for Cliff Falls

  1. “In Cliff Falls author Shiepe… creates a spell-binding tale that keeps you interested from start to surprising finish. It kept me turning the pages…and filled me with a sense of hope. As a man who has lived and collected thousands of genuine kid star stories, I highly recommend this illuminating and insightful work.” — Paul Petersen, child star of “The Donna Reed Show” and the original “Mickey Mouse Club,” who founded the child star advocacy group A Minor Consideration

For information about having C.B. Shiepe speak to your group or organization, please contact: OFFICE@CLIFFFALLS.COM

— By Scott Hettrick

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