The latest on coming attractions

Matthew Arnold Stern
3 min readMar 22, 2021

Here’s the latest on some projects that I’m working on this year.

My NaNoWriMo project has a complete draft and new title

Although I “won” NaNoWrimo back in November by finishing the first 50,000 words of my new novel, I had more work to do before I could call the draft complete.

Part of that work was to give the novel a new title. The painting my character creates became an important part of the story, so I changed the title to Christina’s Portrait. It fits the theme of the story as characters in 1977 and 2021 try to understand the tragic character at the center. As I developed that character, she became far different from Mary Ann Henderson, who is the inspiration for the story. It was the right choice to make for several reasons.

First, I didn’t want to write about one specific tragedy, but how different tragedies affect those left behind. I have characters who suffered through other horrific losses. One lost her mother to COVID-19. Another lost his father in a mass shooting. The question is how can they move forward and build a life around loss.

On the subject of COVID-19, I was saddened that a heartbreaking prediction in my draft came true. When I started the draft in November, I had a placeholder estimate of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by the time the pandemic abated. We have exceeded that tragic number. I shudder to think what number I might have to change it to by the time the story takes place. I hope that my other prediction — that life returns to some form of normalcy by October — comes true.

Second, I came to realize that Mary Ann’s story wasn’t mine to tell, and I didn’t have the tools to do it properly. True crime requires special skills that include a knowledge of law enforcement and criminal justice procedures, an ability to interview that elicits facts and insights from those unwilling to share them, and a willingness to face disturbing facts about human nature and behavior. But I can tell a story about people dealing with challenges, examine the past with the insights I have today, and provide messages I hope will inspire people.

I will be sending my draft to select beta readers soon.

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Matthew Arnold Stern

A novelist and award-winning public speaker and technical writer. My novels Amiga and The Remainders are available now.