Portraits and Ashes is my first novel. The manuscript is complete, and I am currently seeking either a literary agent or small-press publication. This page contains, for the curious or the interested, a summary and a .pdf of the complete first chapter.
Portraits and Ashes, set during the economic collapse of an unnamed rust belt city, tells the intertwined stories of three central characters. Julia Bonham is a young aspiring artist with no money and no direction, haunted by a strange family history. Mark Weis, her old boyfriend from high school, is a seemingly successful architect who finds himself unemployed with a baby on the way. And Alice Nicchio-Strand, the former mistress of Julia’s estranged father, is a well-known artist and museum curator disgraced when the last art exhibit she curated proved fatal to twenty-one people. As each of their apparently failed lives moves toward its crisis, the trio is drawn into the orbit of a strange new cult called the Its, a sect of wandering ascetics who seek to obliterate the individual by living in abject communion with each other—and which may be tied to Frank Jobe, the mysterious and dangerous avant-garde artist responsible for the murderous art installation that led to Alice’s downfall. Portraits and Ashes unforgettably portrays three people—Julia the baffled drifter, Mark the good citizen, and Alice the willful quester—desperate to lead meaningful lives as they confront the bizarre new institutions of a fraying America: an underground secret hospital for the poor, a deconsecrated church turned artists’ colony and pornographer’s film set, a library whose gallery is a haunt of suicides, and a death-cult that may or may not be a radical art experiment.