A story about small town life…
and people with secrets that, if revealed, would hurt those held most dear.
They say that people in Hiram Falls get along because they have to—they see each other, do business with each other, every day so there is no alternative but to accept each other. But beneath that facade are secrets, that if discovered, would change things altogether.
The book centers on a large cast of characters in this fictional rural town from 1918-1973 whose lives intersect, some for the good, some for the not so good. Some of the large cast of characters are noble and hard-working and funny, others are weird, sad, even nasty: A young journalist who returns to his hometown only to find out things he wished he did not know; a man whose brain is damaged by an accident who regularly sees an imaginary man who may not be so imaginary after all; a crooked banker and his dangerous right-hand man —and their sons who continue the tradition;. a farmer trying to rebuild his life; a woman who carries a secret so disturbing she protects it all her life and her grandaughter who faces the choice of love or freedom.
This book has been years in the making, though the most focused work has so far taken more than three years. I intend this to be my best work and I have a team of brilliant writers and editors helping me with feedback and suggestions and encouragement. Several professional editors will help me bring it home.
My intention has been to self-publish this work in a variety of forms: Text and audio here; a podcast; a radio serial; an ebook and a paperbook. However, the professional editor who is working with me is pleading that I first submit it to an independent publisher first. I have decided to give that process, once I complete the writing in March 2023, six months.
Presuming that an independent book publisher does pick it up, I will be selling the book at a discount to all who subscribe here.
Presuming that an independent book publisher does not pick it up, I will be publishing it here, as planned, and on other platforms in late Fall 2023. I will keep you posted.
In the meantime, I will be posting occasional snippets here and will also be starting an edited series on the process I have undertaken to write the book. For those of you with the Substack App (free, easy to use), I will soon be introducing occasional ‘chats’ to hear your thoughts and answer questions.
I hope it all will pique your interest.
My intention is to give all of this (except the physical book) to all of you for free. BUT. But … But, you can show your love by making a DONATION and I will share all proceeds with three organizations who are helping me.
OR you can donate to them directly:
The Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in northern Vermont. Please direct your donation to the nation’s food shelf and please mention that you are doing so because of this project. A small group of elders are helping me shape two of the characters in a respectful and accurate way.
Vermont Stage Company. This powerful, high-quality nonprofit theater company has staged my stories of four of this book’s characters. It will stage a fifth story in December of 2022. Its executive editor will be producing and directing the audio book version.
The Media Factory. This Vermont nonprofit which provides Vermonters with tools and advice and access to audio-visual equipment will be providing a recording studio and sound engineering for the audio book to ensure it is of podcast and broadcast quality. It will be broadcasting Hiram Falls installments on its Burlington radio station (99.3 WBTV-LP) as well as cable stations.
By the way if you do donate (and only give what you can afford) let me know (honor system) I’ll give you early access to the ebook and a discount to the physical book.
So why subscribe now?
Because the novel is going to be damned good and you will enjoy the snippets I will be publishing. I know. I know. That’s what they all say. And who the heck wants to subscribe to a first novel by an old fart from Vermont? (I ask myself the same thing.)
Because my Writing Journal will give you some tips on writing and help you in your own creative endeavors.
And, well, beause the stories of five of the characters that have been presented on stage to live audiences have brought rave reviews. People loved them.
So, there you go. And I thank you for signing up.
Who I am.
I was a journalist for 33 years. Then I started and ran a nonprofit dedicated to helping kids write better for 12 years. Now I’m doing a life dream: Writing a novel.
The germ of this novel began more than 20 years ago. But I’ll tell you about that later. I’ve been working in earnest since October 2019 (six months after I deleted my very first 25,000-word draft because, well, it sucked.)
The book is the capstone of my career. I am a storyteller. I do it with words and photographs and sound and combinations thereof; big projects and small stories. I love to talk to people, to learn about them. I am curious. I am digitally inclined: I led the startup of the 13th news website (think about that; not that long ago either (1995)), edited the first syndicated column about the Internet, built hundreds of web sites for teachers and students to use in schools to learn to write better. I love the outdoors and have explored places unseen by man. I am always looking for stories, even though I have plenty already.
I grew up in a tiny town in the mountains where everyone knew everything about everybody. It is that experience that serves as the foundation to Hiram Falls.
Never underestimate the value of a beard. This photo was taken a while ago by my then high school intern, Cecilia Giordano, a peach of a person.
My time as a professional journalist was mostly with newspapers (remember them?) where I learned from some of the nation's best. My journalistic travels began in Maine (Lewiston Daily Sun and Portland Press Herald) with later stops in New York City (Institutional Investor Magazine), Baltimore (Associated Press), Boston (Boston Business Journal & Quincy Patriot Ledger), Akron (Beacon Journal) and finally Burlington, VT, (Burlington Free Press).
I am lucky. We won lots of regional and national awards, including the George F. Polk Award for investigative journalism. We changed some laws, brought some joy to people’s lives and put some crooks into prison, too. It was fun. And it saddens me every single day that newspapers — and professional media outlets for that matter — have become so inconsequential and so maligned. Support them. Subscribe to them. We must keep them alive.
At my last newspaper job — The Free Press in northern Vermont — I grew concerned that so many kids in school were learning how to hate writing. So, with a group of exceptional writing teachers, we started a weekly feature designed to highlight interesting student writing and to showcase different – and better – ways to teach writing.
In 2006, with a founding grant from the Vermont Business Roundtable, I left journalism and transformed the newspaper feature into an organization: Young Writers Project, a web-centric, nonprofit that helps young people find their voice and confidence, and, oh yes, improve their writing. It is still a site with a one-word rule for behavior: Respect. The web site and organization I built is still running strong.
As part of that project I led workshops in 200 schools, including several inner-city schools in Newark, NJ; trained thousands of teachers to engage students more deeply in writing particularly in digital spaces; and taught 250 teachers in a Master's credit course. In the process, I also built upwards of 400 sites used by teachers in the classroom. They were unique. Ahead of the curve.
In May 2019, I stepped away from Young Writers Project to work on my own projects before my brain turned to Swiss cheese. Here’s what I’m doing in addition to the novel:
Whenever there is great light, I chase around for pictures and had started a project called I Love My Work, a series of digital stories showcasing people devoted to their work.
To keep my hand in building affirming creative communities online, I guide writers from all over every Thursday night on Zoom, but we connect via https://www.facebook.com/groups/gglivewriting If you are interested, go to that link and ask to join.
I do a Monthly Wednesday Night Live Writing session at my local library; twice a year I co-lead a 6-week digital storytelling course with StoryCenter.org and I write a column on Digital Writing for The Writing Collaborative on medium.com.
I also serve as a “ghost” editor to two writers of fiction, a poet and a prominent chef writing a unique book about cooking and food.
I enjoy myself.