A couple of things have been going around this week. I just finished reading Darcie Chan’s e-book, The Mill River Recluse. It’s the very articulate story of a disfigured, wealthy Vermont widow living alone in her marble mansion. At her death, she bestows her fortune on the townspeople who barely know her. Only the town’s priest — her sole contact with her neighbors — knows her secret phobia created by a childhood rape and an abusive husband. This is a story of triumphs over tragedy, insights into friendship, and love that comes from unexpected places.
It’s also an amazing accomplishment for Ms. Chan. First, I enjoyed the story enough to send a thumbnail review over to Anne Bendheim, books editor at the Asbury Park Press. (It should be in print shortly.) Second, the “amazing” part is that Chan is a youngish lawyer who drafts environmental legislation — not a novelist. Recluse is her first book, and was self-published when publishers rejected it. Word of mouth, I presume, garnered sales of the 99 cent book, she took out some advertising and — voila! — sales have gone over 400,000 copies. She’s now on the New York Times best seller list.
I wrote Chan, “I'm a few weeks late in telling you I loved The Mill River Recluse,” and have drafted the thumbnail book review. She responded, “I am thrilled that you enjoyed Recluse, and I am so excited about the review! Thank you so, so much. You probably know that it is very difficult to get any kind of review of any self-published book into any mainstream newspaper, so I really appreciate this.” Don’t tell me it’s tough getting reviews. I have two collections of short stories just waiting.
Second item is that Every Day Fiction — one of my fave online publishers — has accepted “Nun on the Run.” This will be the seventh story of mine to go up at EDF. The 800-word story covers a late-night cab ride that becomes an invitation to realize a fantasy. And where are the dividing lines between the living and the dead, the real and the pretext in New York City?
“Nun” was actually written in 2006 in response to a prompt put up on Wordtrip, but I never submitted it. Rewriting it with some added depth to diminish the ending collected these comments: “This one made me laugh. I wasn't expecting the ending,” said one reader. The publisher commented, “The ending is a bit of a punchline, sure, but the storytelling is strong enough to make it work for me.” Look for it in March or April.