Book Preface

As someone who has always been fascinated and inspired by diverse groups of people, I chose to write a book of short stories revealing this range of interest. Unexplored Lives delves into the challenges of different individuals living in various parts of the United States over the past thirty years. Although many of the characters in this collection may be ordinary, I hope to provide a glimpse of extraordinary ordeals.

Some may find this book difficult to read due to the unusual subject matters that range from heartbreaking to disturbing. But it is not my intent to cause discomfort; rather, I want to examine the influence of certain situations on the human psyche. I’ve always wondered about the effects of bizarre, frightening, or unsettling events. Not only am I curious about these specific effects, but I also believe that many of life’s outcomes can be fateful. That is, one’s destiny may be working in ways that are beyond comprehension, but have meaning nevertheless. Still, I hope you find my characters’ ability to face hardships and the inexplicable to be a testament to human endurance.

Three of the following tales are based on limited information of actual events—marked with asterisks—for which I used my vision to fill in the missing details. Being honest with the subject matter was my main goal for all of the stories—you’ll notice that there is the occasional obscenity that was written not to provoke, but to reveal.

This project began in the fall of 2007 when I was persuaded to submit a short story for a competition in the Washington Post. The contestants were asked to write a narrative based on a picture of a redheaded woman lying in bed—my entry is called “The Other Woman.” While I was satisfied with the final draft at the time of submission, I later determined that I had much to learn about writing a compelling piece of work. Presumably, the judges agreed as I didn’t place in the contest, or they may have found the subject matter too scandalous for the pages of their publication (or more likely both).

Regardless of this outcome, that project gave me the motivation to continue writing and to improve my skills. I began to read books about writing and pondered how my varied interests enhanced my ability to consider the things that might make a good story.

I learned that a writer must ensure that each story provides consistency, purpose, and a connection to the reader. In addition, my decision to compile this book was made both difficult and absorbing by my obsession with the process of revising and editing. I imagine the method of writing fiction to be similar to that of a sculptor who initially chisels an indistinguishable shape that ultimately becomes refined into smooth lines and a clear concept.

This book would not have been accomplished without the encouragement of my dear friends Mikhail and Sam. They understood my appreciation for writing and convinced me to pursue this undertaking even if seen only by my eyes. Reading my late grandfather’s book, Death of a Plantation, provided the final inspiration; a story that demonstrates a talent I can only hope to possess. Therefore, to Mikhail, Sam, and Grandpa, thank you for prompting me to explore the wonderful, albeit odd, world of my imagination.

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