Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tuscany Press Fiction Contest

I decided to enter my novel, The Art of Dying, in a contest at a small publishing house, called Tuscany Press.  I didn't realize it when I entered, but the contest moderators post extracts from the submissions to the Press blog while they are in the process of judging.  I have to say that it's extremely kind of them to do so.  Even if a person doesn't win or place, it's just a good feeling to get a little exposure thanks to submitting a manuscript.

Here's the link to my extract, which was posted today: The Art of Dying.

Here is where you can peruse more of the submissions, in case you're interested: Tuscany Press Blog.

Also, I thought I might post my summary of The Art of Dying, since I had to revise it for my novel submission:

The Art of Dying: Synopsis

Chiara Solari

Charles Elliot was just shy of graduating from college when his eyes were destroyed in a car crash. As a sculptor, this accident seemed a perfect catastrophe, and he sank swiftly into a despair from which at first he could not be stirred. 

The novel opens as Charles bids farewell to his niece, the first person he sculpted after his accident. Charles feels his debt to her, and sadness for her pointless, angry departure. He cannot blame her too much, though, since she, like all the subjects he has sculpted, has undergone such suffering.  Instead he marvels at these humans whom he has met, struggling to survive disasters equal to his own.  He sculpts his two closest friends, a local waitress, and an old professor, so as to capture the directive which their forms reveal: Know thyself.  From them, Charles learns that man becomes great if he recognizes his weakness and resolves to act in spite of them.

The influence of these models climaxes in a meeting with the composer, Victoria Fisher. So grand an artist is she that her music brings Charles an experience very close to vision.  In gratitude, he sculpts her, and under her influence, resolves to become the greatest artist he can be, with or without eyes.

However, this is not the only interaction which motivates Charles.  Around the same time, his half-brother, Isaac, commits suicide.  Charles feels a particular horror at this act, since he also contemplated it after his accident.  The meaningless death startles Charles enough that he resolves never to follow his brother’s path. Memories of Isaac also recall the one person Charles can never sculpt: Robert, the man who caused the loss of Charles’ eyes.  Worse, he became besotted with Gwen, the woman destined to be Charles’ wife, and ruined her in a drunken rage.  Charles hates Robert but fears becoming a monster like him.

While tracing out the roots of such wickedness in men, Charles decides to sculpt his mother, who died giving birth to him.  He admires the noble woman who offered herself, but feels conflicted since he cannot be grateful for his troubled life.  In fact, gratitude only comes from sculpting his own child.  After her rape, Gwen had a son, who, in spite of his origins, is so gentle that Charles cannot help but love him selflessly, realizing that here is the true cure for unhappiness.  He finds such love on a universal scale in one of his last models, a Japanese girl, Hikari, dying of leukemia.  She reveals that the secret of her joy is to embrace everything, and offer her life to repair the world’s crimes.  Charles hears Hikari as an oracle, and applies her lesson to heal Gwen’s long agony.  As he sculpts Gwen, he convinces her that the only means for surviving their wounds is love that endures everything.


When a commission for a crucifix comes from the local Catholic cathedral, he is prompted to explore again the paradox of suffering, this time through the figure of a God who chose pain and death of his own will. As Charles prepares to sculpt, he dimly realizes that every man can partake in Christ’s sacrificial action and chooses himself as the model for the corpus.  Days after completing the sculpture, he wakes to his death agony.  His last moments, however, bring him confidence that faith at last can restore to him all that he has lost.