Here’s the backstory on the first chapters of novels posted on this site:
My literary agent sold STASH to Random House in a two-book contract, the second book turning out to be CLEAN BREAK. After years of writing and rejection, I had made it as a novelist with a major publishing house.
Everyone was excited about STASH. The publisher at the novel’s imprint, Broadway Books, said it was exciting and full of moral complications.
And then things got complicated for me. Within a week of signing the contract with me, the publisher and my editor at Broadway Books both were fired. I don’t think it was because they signed me, but I’ll never know–I never spoke to either of them again.
I’d lost my main advocates at the publishing house, but other editors took over. As part of the two-book deal, the Random House retained “right of first refusal” on a third novel. That means they had first dibs on anything I wrote next.
Turned out for a number of reasons that STASH and CLEAN BREAK weren’t bestsellers, but most readers who discovered the books gave positive reviews. In publishing, like most businesses, sales results drive a lot of decision making, and my publisher exercised its right to refuse my third novel, THE FINISH LINE. I’m pretty sure almost anything I would have written they would have rejected. Why would they want to lose more money on me?
I had a lot of passion for THE FINISH LINE, which continued the story of two minor characters from STASH who had stayed with me after I finished writing that novel. Their story still fascinated me–Aaron and Dana–and I had to keep writing it. My agent loved THE FINISH LINE. She tried to sell the novel to other publishers, without success.
So I went back to work. I wrote FLIGHT RISK. That novel didn’t sell either, despite my agent’s efforts and enthusiasm, and her support for me as a writer. Our relationship began to show strain. She probably wished I wrote a different book; I wished she had better connections in the publishing world. At this time, I might have entered a fugue state, as had Robert, the main character in the unsold novel.
Following these publishing setbacks, I veered in a new direction with my writing. No doubt inspired by the state of the world around me and my personal world, I wrote a dystopian speculative thriller, THE CULLING, the most commercial, page-turning idea my brain could conjure. The novel is a cross between Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ridley Scott’s “Bladerunner,” about a woman on the run from an unjust death sentence and the mercenary assigned to hunt her. I really enjoyed writing it.
My agent, who strongly preferred upmarket and literary fiction, had no interest in THE CULLING. I’m seeking a new agent for this novel.
But writing. I’m always writing. A story is always being conceived, mulled over, worked on, discarded or continued. There’s always a light peeking through the clouds, like in the photo I took at the top of this page.
New addition (3/11/20): I recently finished a new novel, THIS GAME WE PLAY, about a recent college graduate who suddenly falls in love with an ambitious schemer, causing her father to become obsessed about preventing the marriage. My agent likes this one a lot and I’m working on edits so the novel can be submitted to publishers.
This is almost an afterthought: I wrote STILL LIFE (and other novels) before I wrote STASH. It began as a short story, “The Painter’s Son,” that was published in Storyquarterly, a respected literary journal. It is another example of characters and story I wasn’t finished with yet, and so I expanded the story into a novel, adding an essential character into the protagonist’s life. STILL LIFE has a very secure place in my heart.
That’s the backstory on the First Chapters. Here are introductions to those novels:
It’s been a tough year for Anna. She barely escaped a murderous shooting and has faced relentless academic pressure to be accepted at a prestigious law school. She needs a break from all that stress. Following college graduation, she heads to her family’s unoccupied lake house for the summer and takes a job at a resort restaurant, but her adventure goes awry when she is seduced by the party life and falls in love with her boss, the ambitious and scheming Kyle.
Kyle has risen from a miserable childhood and remains on the lookout for any opportunity to further advance. While he tells himself he loves Anna, he also sees in her a path to his own success. He will do what it takes to keep her, including encouraging her destructive behaviors and manipulating her feelings.
Soon, Anna realizes she doesn’t want to go to law school—she wants to marry Kyle and open a restaurant and bar with him, which she will help finance using inheritance money from her grandmother. Anna’s father, Art, senses the trap his vulnerable daughter is falling into. Faced with personal health issues, he must also battle against Anna and Kyle’s relationship, and prevent the marriage without alienating his daughter.
At first, Art offers to pay Kyle to disappear, and when that doesn’t work he resorts to blackmail and threats. But he doesn’t anticipate Kyle’s response or the impact his maneuvers will have on Anna or even himself, and all three of them end up facing life or death consequences.
A barbaric constitutional amendment has resulted in a Lottery that culls a percentage of the population each year—all in the name of ensuring equality. The algorithm draws your number, you report. No exceptions, unless you have immunity. Maren, a director at a charitable organization founded by the country’s first lady, still has immunity from when her husband volunteered for the Lottery. To battle her loneliness and despair, she regularly runs all 76 flights of stairs in her apartment tower.
During a special news event, the first lady volunteers to be culled in the ultimate show of support for her husband, the president general. She lies in state during a national broadcast. Yet that same night Maren spots the first lady in disguise with two guards—and in turn is spotted by them. Quickly, Maren is notified to report by the Lottery Commission, and her immunity credentials are invalidated.
Ven Nowak, a mercenary who hunts citizens that refuse to comply with a Lottery notification, is working to earn permanent freedom for his disabled brother and himself. He’s running out of time because his license is about to expire and he’ll never pass the recertification test. Not with his arthritic shoulder and debilitating asthma.
Ven is awarded the assignment to hunt Maren, which can earn him enough points to retire. But when he discovers she is the woman he recently met and has been fantasizing about, he hesitates capturing her, misses his deadline, and is himself now eligible for the Lottery. Instead of hunting Maren, Ven forges an alliance with her, against his brother’s warnings.
Maren and Ven attempt to escape to Canada together where they can join the resistance. The long and dangerous journey requires them to get past checkpoints and navigate the violent upcountry, while being relentlessly pursued by other mercenaries and federal troopers. Relying on skills, wits, and luck, they’ll make their escape together—or be destroyed in the process.
A SERIOUS LAPSE (NOW CALLED FLIGHT RISK)
Successful, happily married man and devoted father Robert Besch is traveling for business when he survives a deadly plane crash. He manages to rescue fellow passengers from the burning plane, but he lapses into a fugue state, forgetting who or where he is.
Several days later he wakes up in a hotel room with a woman beside him. He has no idea what happened. No way to explain. Returning home, he must put his life back together while enduring the stigma of his psychological collapse and the pain he’s caused his family.
As a series of unwanted memories from the fugue state slowly return, Robert begins to question his motives in the crash’s aftermath. Is he is really the man he believed himself to be? Or have unconscious desires taken control of his life?
When Aaron, a damaged young veteran just released from prison attempts to apologize to Dana, the collegiate athlete he’d once sexually assaulted, she recoils in fear and rejects him, but soon an uneasy bond develops between them when she discovers he might hold the clue to her father’s unsolved murder.
A painter on the verge of success loses his creative spark and alienates the woman he loves when his estranged father forces him to confront their damaged relationship.