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Introduction to Pre-event Assignments 

Algonkian Conferences The below seven assignments are vital to reaching an understanding of specific and critical core elements that go into the creation of a commercially viable genre novel or narrative non-fiction. Of course, there is more to it than this, as you will see, but here we have a good primer that assures we're literally all on the same page before the event begins.

You may return here as many times as you need to edit your topic post (login and click "edit"). Pay special attention to antagonists, setting, conflict and core wound hooks.

And btw, quiet novels do not sell. Keep that in mind and be aggressive with your work.

Michael Neff

Algonkian Conference Director


att.jpg After you've registered and logged in, create your reply to this topic (button top right). Please utilize only one reply for all of your responses so the forum topic will not become cluttered. Also, strongly suggest typing up your "reply" in a separate file then copying it over to your post before submitting. Not a good idea to lose what you've done!



Before you begin to consider or rewrite your story premise, you must develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done?

What must this person create? Save? Restore? Accomplish? Defeat?... Defy the dictator of the city and her bury brother’s body (ANTIGONE)? Struggle for control over the asylum (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST)? Do whatever it takes to recover lost love (THE GREAT GATSBY)? Save the farm and live to tell the story (COLD MOUNTAIN)? Find the wizard and a way home to Kansas (WIZARD OF OZ)? Note that all of these are books with strong antagonists who drive the plot line (see also "Core Wounds and Conflict Lines" below).

att.jpg FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 



Antagonist (Photo Javert from "Les Misérables")

What are the odds of you having your manuscript published if the overall story and narrative fail to meet publisher demands for sufficient suspense, character concern, and conflict? Answer: none. You might therefore ask, what major factor makes for a quiet and dull manuscript brimming with insipid characters and a story that cascades from chapter to chapter with tens of thousands of words, all of them combining irresistibly to produce an audible thudding sound in the mind like a mallet hitting a side of cold beef? Answer: the unwillingness or inability of the writer to create a suitable antagonist who stirs and spices the plot hash.

Let's make it clear what we're talking about.

By "antagonist" we specifically refer to an actual fictional character, an embodiment of certain traits and motivations who plays a significant role in catalyzing and energizing plot line(s), or at bare minimum, in assisting to evolve the protagonist's character arc (and by default the story itself) by igniting complication(s) the protagonist, and possibly other characters, must face and solve (or fail to solve).


att.jpg SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.



What is your breakout title? How important is a great title before you even become published? Very important! Quite often, agents and editors will get a feel for a work and even sense the marketing potential just from a title. A title has the ability to attract and condition the reader's attention. It can be magical or thud like a bag of wet chalk, so choose carefully. A poor title sends the clear message that what comes after will also be of poor quality.

Go to Amazon.Com and research a good share of titles in your genre, come up with options, write them down and let them simmer for at least 24 hours. Consider character or place names, settings, or a "label" that describes a major character, like THE ENGLISH PATIENT or THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST. Consider also images, objects, or metaphors in the novel that might help create a title, or perhaps a quotation from another source (poetry, the Bible, etc.) that thematically represents your story. Or how about a title that summarizes the whole story: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, etc.

Keep in mind that the difference between a mediocre title and a great title is the difference between THE DEAD GIRL'S SKELETON and THE LOVELY BONES, between TIME TO LOVE THAT CHOLERA and LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA between STRANGERS FROM WITHIN (Golding's original title) and LORD OF THE FLIES, between BEING LIGHT AND UNBEARABLE and THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.

att.jpg THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).



Did you know that a high percentage of new novel writers don't fully understand their genre, much less comprehend comparables? When informing professionals about the nuances of your novel, whether by query letter or oral pitch, you must know your genre first, and provide smart comparables second. In other words, you need to transcend just a simple statement of genre (literary, mystery, thriller, romance, science fiction, etc.) by identifying and relating your novel more specifically to each publisher's or agent's area of expertise, and you accomplish this by wisely comparing your novel to contemporary published novels they will most likely recognize and appreciate--and it usually doesn't take more than two good comps to make your point.

Agents and publishing house editors always want to know the comps. There is more than one reason for this. First, it helps them understand your readership, and thus how to position your work for the market. Secondly, it demonstrates up front that you are a professional who understands your contemporary market, not just the classics. Very important! And finally, it serves as a tool to enable them to pitch your novel to the decision-makers in the business.

Most likely you will need to research your comps. If you're not sure how to begin, go to Amazon.Com, type in the title of a novel you believe very similar to yours, choose it, then scroll down the page to see Amazon's list of "Readers Also Bought This" and begin your search that way. Keep in mind that before you begin, you should know enough about your own novel to make the comparison in the first place!

By the way, beware of using comparables by overly popular and classic authors. If you compare your work to classic authors like H.G. Wells and Gabriel Marquez in the same breath you will risk being declared insane. If you compare your work to huge contemporary authors like Nick Hornby or Jodi Picoult or Nora Ephron or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, and so forth, you will not be laughed at, but you will also not be taken seriously since thousands of others compare their work to the same writers. Best to use two rising stars in your genre. If you can't do this, use only one classic or popular author and combine with a rising star. Choose carefully!

att.jpg FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Read this NWOE article on comparables then return here.

- Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?



Conflict, tension, complication, drama--all basically related, and all going a long way to keeping the reader's eyes fixated on your story. These days, serving up a big manuscript of quiet is a sure path to damnation. You need tension on the page at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is to create conflict and complications in the plot and narrative. Consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you MUST have present in the novel. First part, the primary dramatic conflict which drives through the work from beginning to end, from first major plot point to final reversal, and finally resolving with an important climax. Next, secondary conflicts or complications that take various social forms - anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters. Finally, those various inner conflicts and core wounds all important characters must endure and resolve as the story moves forward.

But now, back to the PRIMARY DRAMATIC CONFLICT. If you've taken care to consider your story description and your hook line, you should be able to identify your main conflict(s). Let's look at some basic information regarding the history of conflict in storytelling. Conflict was first described in ancient Greek literature as the agon, or central contest in tragedy. According to Aristotle, in order to hold the interest, the hero must have a single conflict. The agon, or act of conflict, involves the protagonist (the "first fighter" or "hero") and the antagonist corresponding to the villain (whatever form that takes). The outcome of the contest cannot be known in advance, and, according to later drama critics such as Plutarch, the hero's struggle should be ennobling. Is that always true these days? Not always, but let's move on.

Even in contemporary, non-dramatic literature, critics have observed that the agon is the central unit of the plot. The easier it is for the protagonist to triumph, the less value there is in the drama. In internal and external conflict alike, the antagonist must act upon the protagonist and must seem at first to overmatch him or her. The above defines classic drama that creates conflict with real stakes. You see it everywhere, to one degree or another, from classic contemporary westerns like THE SAVAGE BREED to a time-tested novel as literary as THE GREAT GATSBY. And of course, you need to have conflict or complications in nonfiction also, in some form, or you have a story that is too quiet.

For examples let's return to the story descriptions and create some HOOK LINES. Let's don't forget to consider the "core wound" of the protagonist. Please read this article at NWOE then return here.

  • The Hand of Fatima by Ildefonso Falcones
  • A young Moor torn between Islam and Christianity, scorned and tormented by both, struggles to bridge the two faiths by seeking common ground in the very nature of God.
  • Summer's Sisters by Judy Blume
  • After sharing a magical summer with a friend, a young woman must confront her friend's betrayal of her with the man she loved.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
  • As an apprentice mage seeks revenge on an elder magician who humiliated him, he unleashes a powerful Djinn who joins the mage to confront a danger that threatens their entire world.

Note that it is fairly easy to ascertain the stakes in each case above: a young woman's love and friendship, the entire world, and harmony between opposed religions. If you cannot make the stakes clear, the odds are you don't have any. Also, is the core wound obvious or implied?

att.jpg FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication.



As noted above, consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you should ideally have present. First, the primary conflict which drives through the core of the work from beginning to end and which zeniths with an important climax (falling action and denouement to follow). Next, secondary conflicts or complications which can take various social forms (anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters). Finally, those inner conflicts the major characters must endure and resolve. You must note the inner personal conflicts elsewhere in this profile, but make certain to note any important interpersonal conflicts within this particular category."

att.jpg SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

att.jpg Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?



When considering your novel, whether taking place in a contemporary urban world or on a distant magical planet in Andromeda, you must first sketch the best overall setting and sub-settings for your story. Consider: the more unique and intriguing (or quirky) your setting, the more easily you're able to create energetic scenes, narrative, and overall story. A great setting maximizes opportunities for interesting characters, circumstances, and complications, and therefore makes your writing life so much easier. Imagination is truly your best friend when it comes to writing competitive fiction, and nothing provides a stronger foundation than a great setting. One of the best selling contemporary novels, THE HUNGER GAMES, is driven by the circumstances of the setting, and the characters are a product of that unique environment, the plot also.

But even if you're not writing SF/F, the choice of setting is just as important, perhaps even more so. If you must place your upmarket story in a sleepy little town in Maine winter, then choose a setting within that town that maximizes opportunities for verve and conflict, for example, a bed and breakfast stocked to the ceiling with odd characters who combine to create comical, suspenseful, dangerous or difficult complications or subplot reversals that the bewildered and sympathetic protagonist must endure and resolve while he or she is perhaps engaged in a bigger plot line: restarting an old love affair, reuniting with a family member, starting a new business, etc. And don't forget that non-gratuitous sex goes a long way, especially for American readers.


att.jpg FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it.


Below are several links to part of an article or whole articles that we feel are the most valuable for memoir writers.

We have reviewed these and agree 110%.



Are you thinking of writing a memoir but you're stuck? We've got the remedy. Check out our beginner's guide on writing an epic and engaging memoir.



MEMOIR REQUIRES TRANSCENDENCE. Something has to happen. Or shift. Someone has to change a little. Or grow. It’s the bare hack minimum of memoir.



When it comes to writing a memoir, there are 5 things you need to focus on. If you do, your powerful story will have the best chance of impacting others.



Knowing how to write an anecdote lets you utilize the power of story with your nonfiction and engage your reader from the first page.


Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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  1. Storyline:

Maggie must face her grief to help save what’s left of the Sweeney family.

  1. Antagonist:

Maggie’s alcoholic oldest sibling, Danny, who passed away the year before. 

Danny haunts Maggie, and her siblings, who can barely tolerate one another. In their 30’s, both their parents also gone, the siblings all have separate lives, away from painful memories, with Maggie, a married mother of two. When their aunt’s will requires them to spend a month together in her once loved beach house, Maggie’s filled with dread, because that was where Danny died, and she’d rather avoid even the thought of him. Deep down, Maggie blames Danny for their mother’s death, something she’s never admitted.

Yet from the start of their stay, Danny’s inescapable, in physical items they try desperately to avoid, memories they can’t forget, simmering anger they struggle to control. He represents everyone the family’s lost, the sadness and the longing, the bottled up resentments and regrets, the unspoken betrayals. He’s always present, showing them what to keep, discard and remember. Finally, Danny forces Maggie and her siblings to face their loss, the part they played in giving up on each other, so that in the end, they recapture what they meant to one another, long ago, and try to be a family once again. 

  1. Title:

What’s Left of Us

  1. Genre/Comps:

Commercial Fiction

The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid

We are the Brennans, Tracey Lange

5. Hookline/logline

An uptight, married, mother of two, haunted by death and estranged from her siblings, faces her grief and inspires a true reconciliation during a month of forced togetherness in a once-loved home by the sea.

  1. Inner conflict

Maggie’s inner turmoil, already significant, is heightened because she is also keeping a secret from her siblings. Her Aunt Kate's will includes a private addendum that tells Maggie if her siblings do not decide to keep the beach house at the end of their month together, Maggie will inherit it by herself.  And she isn’t allowed to acknowledge that fact until the decision is made. At the start of the story, Maggie has no desire to step foot in the house and no intention to keep it, so the secret addendum is like a little gnat, momentarily uncomfortable, but easily dismissed. As the story progresses, she is surprised to find the idea more alluring, and the stakes of her silence are raised. Over time, the secret forces her to consider what she values most – a house she has grown to love again or the siblings she has given up on. 

A secondary, related conflict for Maggie is her sibling relationships. Maggie has always been dominated by her older siblings, Bridget and Patrick, who are tough, direct and capable of being bullies. She’s insecure about “just being a mother,” and has never learned to stick up for herself in the sibling dynamic. Her relationship is particularly complicated with Caroline, her younger sister, going back to childhood. Caroline had major issues growing up, and those crises impacted Maggie. In the eyes of a teenager, everything revolved around Caroline, to the exclusion of Maggie, and those resentments and old roles remain. Maggie has never been able to see Caroline beyond that screwed up kid who wrecked Maggie’s (and her own) teenage years, and even now, she watches her movements with suspicion and concern. She fails to see that Caroline has grown into a wise, interesting and healthy woman. It isn’t until major confrontations and revelations that Maggie is finally able to bury the past and see her sister as she really is.


  1. Setting

The story is set on Beach 127th street in Rockaway Beach, Queens, a wobbly finger of a peninsula jutting off Long Island between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic. It’s a remote place. To get there you have to travel highways and neighborhoods, pass by sanctuaries and waterways, and finally, there’s the first glimpse of it over the expanse of the last bridge and somehow, regardless of how long the journey took, you have an immediate feeling it was worth it. Endless summer days, soft sand under foot, expansive, clean beaches, meditative, powerful surf, neighbors friendly in a New York kind of way, the smell of barbeques the only signal it’s time to leave the beach. A working class paradise.  

Aunt Kate’s house is a ramshackle cottage three doors from the beach.  It’s a house proud street otherwise, tidy and pretty, with flowerpots and American and Irish flags, tiny postage stamps of grass glistening from sprinklers, the sounds of basketballs and bikes, the near constant scratch of carts lugging beach paraphernalia up and down the block like camels crossing the desert. It’s 2016, a few years after Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the area, so there’s clear signs of renovation, with distant echoes of hammers and back-hos and everywhere, evidence of re-birth.

Except for, at first glance, Aunt Kate’s cottage. The small A frame appears neglected and abandoned, with no sign of life when Maggie first arrives. Sand obscures the windows, the siding sags, the wrought-iron fence surrounding the tiny front porch is chipped, even the Claddagh knocker on the front door is hanging off its hinge. The spit of grass in the back and front is brown and dead, the back porch splintered and falling apart, the outdoor table covered in cobwebs. It is as if everything transforms from vibrant color to a suffocating black and white the second you step onto the property. 

Inside is a time capsule, sprinkled with modernity.  The kitchen was redone following the Hurricane, and the basement, where the five Sweeney kids slept in single beds akin to their very own summer camp, has been obliterated into a cement storage room, like basements everywhere. The rest of the house is filled with history, some poignant – their Nanna’s things, Aunt Kate’s personal items, Maggie and her siblings’ creations – others devastating, even paralyzing – the couch in the living room, where Danny died, the room itself, dark, covered in a light sheen of sand, and upstairs on Aunt Kate’s floor, an array of Danny’s art. 

The beach itself, like going back in time for Maggie, who sees herself in pockets of families playing at the shore, siblings diving into the surf to catch thrown footballs, mothers and daughters holding hands on long walks towards Brooklyn in the fading dusk light. The beauty of the place is breathtaking in its simplicity and power. Its impact on Maggie both uplifting and painful. It was here, on this beach as children, that Maggie and her siblings were a true family.

As the story progresses, the house is slowly transformed by Maggie and her siblings. The outside is cleaned, beautified and in some cases, redone, the inside packed up, stripped bare, and then slowly put back together, incorporating both old and new.  








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Assignment 1, v 1. Storyline

  • Cat, the fixer, and her brother Dart, the driver, must put the pieces together of an imminent threat to Washington DC, then figure out how to mitigate the threat.

Assignment 2, version 4. Antagonist

  • Don had a dark childhood that left deep scars in his psyche. Yet Don had a unique analytical mind, especially regarding computers. In his first career with the CIA, Don was never rewarded for his significant contributions to U. S. national security. He retired from the CIA after 20 plus years with hard feelings but without incident, and keeping his thoughts bottled up. His deplorable past and repressed workplace bitterness, morphed into silent rage over the course of a second career he took as Director of the nuclear Trucking Command at the Office of Secure Transportation. Don’s abominable plan for atomic revenge matured when he found a way to obliterate the records of some nukes by hacking Cat’s new nuclear warhead accountability database. Simultaneously, Don recruits the first all-female convoy of truckers (including Dart’s girlfriend) which, overtly appears to be a mission to unveil special new blast-proof 18-wheelers to the sponsors in Washington, DC, although the unsuspecting professional women Federal Agent drivers are not privy to Don’s furtive and ultimate plan of reprisal.

Assignment 3, v 2. Title

  • Chariots of Armageddon
  • Highways of Devastation

Assignment 4, v 1. Comps

  • This is an attempt at being respectfully analogous to Michael Crichton’s techno-thriller genre (although mine is physics- and engineering-themed, whereas Crichton’s novels have a largely biological theme). The writing style aligns nicely with novels by Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath series especially regarding military weaponry and technical gadgetry, Mark Greaney’s Grey Man series, and Nelson deMille’s John Corey with respect to weapons of mass destruction (although Corey narrates first-person and mine does not).

Assignment 5, v 2. Hook Line

  • A depraved and reticent computer expert has slowly and methodically exploited a weak link in the highly secure chain that protects the United States 4,000 nuclear weapons, and it’s fallen to a professional PhD engineer and her long-haul trucker brother to prevent nuclear Armageddon.

Assignment 6, v 1. Protagonist's primary and secondary conflicts

  • Primary. Cat competently and confidently manages her career at the defense contractor facility where she works. Cat’s normal job is routine and safe because of her professionalism and patriotism. Cat is also very happy and secure in her life outside work with two horses in the barn, a good secondary rodeo rider hobby that pays well enough, and a great husband who does more than his fair share around the house, the barbecue grill, and the ranch. But when Cat discovers that two nuclear explosives appear to be missing where she works, and that this occurred on her watch, that steady-state life is turned completely upside down. She is alternately disbelieving, angry, and distressed. Yet because she was always a git-‘er-done kind of gal, this nightmare does not distract her from trying to get to the truth. Her managers largely ignore her calls for action, and actually impede her investigation because they do not see the urgency in the situation. Management’s lackadaisical attitude compounds Cat’s confusion and surprise, and initiates some uncharacteristic actions on her part. Cat desperately turns to her brother for help and the two of them go rogue to try to mitigate the situation. Cat is almost killed in defensive interactions, but she discovers a newfound resolve that allows her to think through a novel, but dangerous idea to disable the explosives. The sister’s and brother’s actions in the climax are completely complementary, and the little team shows that the combined makeup of each individual is immensely greater than the sum of the respective parts, just like when they were kids growing up.

  • Secondary. Jo is a young and sexy truck driver on Dart’s team who wants to deepen her personal relationship with Dart. The feelings are mutual. Before the affections ripen, Jo is recruited as commander of the first all-female convoy of truckers unveiling new equipment to their sponsors in Washington, DC. While Jo is seduced by the glamor of such an historic convoy command mission, she is completely unaware of the underlying mission to destroy Washington, DC with explosives she will unknowingly transport. Dart tries to warn the convoy and stop it from getting to its target. Up against high tech 18-wheelers and Jo’s professional command of them, Dart is almost killed. As the convoy moves along, Jo is deeply distressed since she finally realizes who is trying to stop her. But duty to the mission prevails, and she leaves Dart stranded. Dart eventually catches up with Jo, but before she is able to fully bear her soul, he interrupts and lays out the dire situation. Jo snaps back into command mode at the climax, and gets briefed on how to disable the second of the two bombs. Jo suppresses her feelings and instantly makes her decision. She abandons Dart in a fit of desperation, and runs off to disable the other nuke.

Assignment 7, v 2. Detailed scene-by-scene setting

  • Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM) Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities, SCIFs and office spaces where nuclear weapons engineering and classified computing takes place.
  • Managers workplace at the Office of Secure Transportation (Albuquerque, NM) where nuclear weapons engineering, classified computing, and sometimes unauthorized bitcoin mining is taking place.
  • Management office space at the Central Intelligence Agency (Langley, VA) where counterintelligence and counter terrorism analysis takes place.
  • Hotel room (Oak Ridge, TN) on the morning of an important presentation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, TN) SCIF conference room where an important computer database demonstration and presentation takes place.
  • Cattle ranch, house, and stables outside of Amarillo, TX, that is the home for a family and their horses.
  • Rodeo arenas in Amarillo, TX, and Waco, TX.
  • Various living quarters for Federal Agent Nuclear Material Couriers in several towns, as well as gym facilities for Federal Agent Nuclear Material Couriers at the Pantex Plant nuclear weapon factory in Amarillo TX.
  • Various living quarters and gym facilities for Federal Agent Nuclear Material Couriers in Amarillo TX, apartments of
  • Cattle ranch, house, and stables outside of Waco, TX that is the home for two young siblings and their horses.
  • Denim & Diamonds country western bar and dance hall in Amarillo, TX where Federal Agent Nuclear Material Couriers come after work for a good time.
  • The Big Texan steakhouse in Amarillo, TX, home of the 72 oz steak (if you eat the complete 72 oz steak meal in under 1 hour you get your name inscribed in the record book).
  • Blue Sky hamburger restaurant in Amarillo, TX.
  • Pantex Plant, Amarillo, TX, nuclear weapon factory highlighting layers of security from the main entry road and ending in a massively over-designed blast-proof workshop, where a team is starting to refurbish two nuclear weapons, and how you go through many layers of security to get there.
  • Independence Avenue, SE and South Capitol Street, SE on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, before and after the bomb blast.
  • Specialized over-designed blast-proof 18-wheeler big rig trucks and support SUVs, driving the highways and byways of the U. S. where some incidents and chase scenes, take place.
  • A pristine 1975 Ford F-100 Pickup truck driving the highways and byways of the U. S. where some chase scenes, incidents, and accidents take place.


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Jackie Rudd must defeat her cheating ex-fiancé to make partner at her prestigious New York law firm so she can fulfill her dad’s dreams and finally save his shamed reputation. 


Blake O’Reilly is Jackie’s sleazy, cheating, ex-fiancé.  He unexpectedly called off their wedding just weeks before the big day. Jackie’s fine will all that, she’s ready to move on (so she says). Blake is from Florida, and he has an arrogant grin, gelled back hair, and an overly thick southern accent. Blake returns to Jackie’s life when he files a lawsuit against Jackie’s client, a fancy hotel chain. Jackie has mixed feelings about Blake resurfacing. However, not only does Blake return, but he brings with him his new girlfriend and soon-to-be fiancé (the woman he was seeing behind Jackie’s back). Jackie must finally confront Blake and beat him in his happy place – the court room. Meanwhile, Blake has a lot to prove. This is the first case his overbearing, legal powerhouse dad is letting him handle on his own. Screw up, and he’s cost himself the opportunity to open the family’s New York office of their growing firm. Blake tries to use Jackie’s vulnerability and broken heart against her to put her down and defeat her. But it doesn’t work! Then, a new piece of evidence surfaces, and Blake might find himself on the winning end after all. 

3.    TITLE

Chasing Shiny Objects


Women’s Fiction

a.    Katherine Center – Things You Save in a Fire
b.    Rebecca Serle – In Five Years


After screwing up an assignment, a young attorney who is desperately trying to fulfill her dad’s dreams and save his shamed reputation, gets one last shot to make partner at her prestigious firm and works with a dreaded partner to defeat her cheating ex-fiancé in court, but she must figure out what will really bring her the happiness she’s seeking before she ruins her reputation too. 


a.    Inner conflict: Jackie is chasing her dad’s dreams and trying to save his reputation, but she’s not happy. Making partner at D&D isn’t her dream and she ends up putting her reputation on the line. One example of a trigger is when Jackie’s boss, Sheryl, tells Jackie she must lie about new evidence that mysteriously surfaces. Jackie wants the coveted partner title, but she doesn’t want to live with lies like the ones that ruined her dad. She must make a choice if she’s going to continue down her dad’s shamed path, or be honest, even if that means losing her shot at becoming partner. Ultimately, Jackie decides she’s not going to lie, she’s going to defy Sheryl’s orders and tell the truth about the new evidence.  
b.    Secondary conflict: Not only is Jackie chasing a career that’s not making her happy, but she’s also chasing guys who don’t make her happy. What she thinks she wants isn’t really what she’s seeking in a boyfriend. Then, along comes a lanky, dorky, but cute, government lawyer. He’s not her type—at all—but Jackie can’t help falling for him. Except it’s possible he’s setting her up and using her for information. She can’t figure out if he’s out to help or hurt her. Either way, he’s off limits until the government’s investigation into her client is done. Except, Jackie can’t stop her feelings for the dorky, but cute, government guy. 

7.    SETTING 

The setting of Chasing Shiny Objects is Devonshire & Dowling, one of New York’s oldest and most prestigious law firms with offices in a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper towering above Central Park. The building has a modern white lobby with marble floors that echo with the daily parade of dress shoes. The two dozen floors that house D&D include offices, conference rooms, a gym, and a cafeteria. Every other floor has a royal blue color scheme with glossy, modern, white furniture to break up the monotony of what was once an all beige, stuffy, interior. Redesigning the entire firm at once would’ve been too drastic of a change for the older lawyers, so the firm went in increments, but stopped once it had finished every other floor because the blue color was not well received by the outspoken, disgruntled attorneys. Jackie initially has a spacious office on one of the “new” floors, complete with a killer view of Central Park. However, she’s put on probation and lands herself on an old beige floor with a tiny office and old, wooden furniture and a view of the adjacent skyscraper. Jackie has a picture of her and her dad at the boardwalk licking ice cream cones and she has a face down picture of her ex-fiancé that she has yet to throw in the trash. Her new office is tight and barely has room for the one chair for a visitor. Her new boss, Sheryl Sullivan is down the hall and can yell for Jacqueline. Even though Sheryl just arrived at the firm, her corner office has photos, plants, full bookcases, a desk, a sofa, a wooden table with chairs covered in manila folders as if she’d been there for years. 

In addition to Devonshire & Dowling, there are scenes at the Jersey Shore (Bayshore Island Beach - golden sand beach and boardwalk with tantalizing smells of pizza, dinging arcade games, dripping ice cream cones, and divine lemon drop cocktails), Hudson Shores (Jackie’s swanky New Jersey apartment with floor to ceiling views of the New York skyline -- she’s on the hook for the exorbitant rent because her ex-fiancé stuck her with the lease. The apartment is cluttered with empty alcohol bottles and her ex’s furniture); Pembroke Pines (Jackie’s hometown with lovely colonial homes and oak lined streets).

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1.       THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT-- develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done?

Vinyl records are making a comeback. But they have never left the author of The Sunday Vinyl Project, as her collection has grown from the very first acquired at an early age and new ones added every year. After surviving a stroke, the author embarked on a journey to reignite the memories of her past as a shield against the possibility of future dementia, revisiting and reflecting on her vinyl album collection. From early childhood through high school graduation, The Sunday Vinyl Project is a journey of sound & memory as it transports us to an earlier time in the U.S. and strums our heart and souls for an era gone by.

 2.     SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story.

Tooter, the father, a man who was sentenced to prison time for stealing food for his family is one of several antagonists. He is an abusive alcoholic who shows growth and change from raising his daughter from birth to high school graduation. His protective nature, however, can at times be violent.

Socio-economic challenges lay the groundwork for hardships in survival. From the Needy Family Program through Food Stamps and working in the agricultural fields for income, poverty and class distinctions/separations follow the protagonist throughout the stories presented.

Having suffered a stroke, the possibility of developing dementia is the driving antagonist behind selecting and listening to vinyls to evoke memories of the past.

3.     THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

The Sunday Vinyl Project

The Echo Project

The Vinyl Echo Project

4.     Fourth Assignment— Develop two smart comparables for your novel.

Trying to find more contemporary comparables...

Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck -- This memoir covers the travels of John Steinbeck with his dog, Charley, across America. Their travels together paint the era of events happening at that time in history against the country they set out to explore together.

This book is comparable to The Sunday Vinyl Project, as each chapter drops the needle on a different vinyl, weaving music through the events of the era and the cornerstones of the author’s life. Pink Floyd, Cass Elliot, Johnny Cash, Stephen Sondheim, Jefferson Airplane, and Benny Goodman are just a few of the artists tapped and explored from a diverse collection of vinyl. Each transformed her sense of growing up and being alive from the 1960s through the mid-1970s.

Power of One – Bryce CourtenayThis is a story of young boy born in South Africa, a country divided by racism and hatred. He eventually comes to lead all the tribes of Africa. The story weaves through his young life, friendships, and the strengths he needs to acquire on his journey to battle conflicts encountered along the way.

Comparably, The Sunday Vinyl Project is a story of a young girl experiencing poverty and working in the agricultural fields as a youth to growing up and heading off to college. The Sunday Vinyl Project displays a foundation of resilience and bears witness to a life altered in trajectory by the sounds of the time.

5.   Write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. 

Driven by fears of impending dementia and told through the eyes of a young girl growing up from the 1960s through mid-1970s in the United States, The Sunday Vinyl Project is a journey of sound & memory as it transports us to an earlier time in the U.S. and strums our heart and souls for an era gone by.

6.     SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

The protagonist is the 66 year-old survivor of a stroke with impending dementia potential in her future. The anxiousness of documenting her early childhood is carried across all chapters/scenarios and demonstrates resilience across time with each story told.

B. Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

Secondary conflicts include family, friends, classmates, poverty, and her education during her high school years. Alcohol and drug abuse coupled with harsh physical and mental punishment shape the overall trajectory of the protagonist as she resists and rebels against the negative potential outcomes for her own future.

7.     FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

The setting for The Sunday Vinyl Project spans four settings in Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Oklahoma.

Silverton, Oregon, a small, sleepy rural town found in the Willamette Valley. Inhabited primarily by white Christians, the intersection of poverty and education along with economic opportunities in agriculture becomes the recurring foundation of a young life growing up in Mill Town, the region of Silverton that lies literally ‘across the railroad tracks’ where the milling of lumber from the forests just outside of Silverton used to occur.

Sedona, Arizona, the scenic movie location for the Elvis Presley movie, Stay Away Joe. The author’s grandparents lived in Sedona and the author describes her many travels to this location, especially during the filming of an Elvis movie.

Las Vegas, Nevada, where a broader awareness of racism and cultural differences help the author to grow and deepen her understanding of the perspectives of others on race and behavior.

Oklahoma. Parents and relatives galore take the author to Oklahoma on several journeys and this becomes the backdrop of teenage sexual awakening and resilience in protecting her future. 

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: story statement

Even if she must defy the Moon Goddess, Acalia will make every personal sacrifice to stop the soul thieves to redeem herself and save all those she loves back home on Etherluna and here on Gaia.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: sketch the antagonist

Kernt’s discontent had been building up for centuries as he watched members of other clans bathed in the blessings from the Goddess. The edginess slowly turned to anger as unsettled whispers from other members of his clan lent justification to his thoughts of unfairness. The loud complaints of rejection after rejection from one he swore to protect emphasized a need to force a change in their situation. He was primed to become a cult follower when approached to take destructive action to raise himself up to the level and power he felt he was entitled too. He was quick to latch onto the demented moon witch who’s own twisted logic played into his skewed reasoning validating his decisions to destroy anyone in his way.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title 3 options

Soul Matched

Soul Thieves


FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: compare your novel

My story is comparable to Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series and Ann Bishops’ Others books because I offer a strong, ongoing series with beloved characters that readers cling to during the wild misadventure and triumphs over one adversary after another with a twist that gives fresh eyes to the genre. Like the world of Mercy Thompson’s, my story has relatable, endearing characters that have their own problems that keep the reader rooting for their success and in tears over their losses. My side characters’ lives are complex with their own juicy problems that make the reader want to be their best friend to help battle along side or drink a big glass of wine to commiserate with them. Ann Bishops’ Others’ series reinvented the fantasy genre with the voice of the wild, magical creatures saving the world while the humans are trying to prove they aren't the plague that needs destroy. My story’s twist gives a voice to the dark, dangerous, creatures from inside the magical soul matches that creates werewolves and revels the world behind the wolf side as no other book has. Invested fans are on the edge of their desire for the next book to be released in Briggs and Bishops' series, I know because I’m one, and my series will have the readers hoping the story never ends and craving more.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line

Tormented from being tricked into destroying and replacing Bellanna as the wolf side of the soul matched werewolf pair drives Acalia to use her Goddess forbidden knowledge from Etherluna to stop the disillusioned Etherwolf, Kernt, and his demented witch from destroying all that she holds dear.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict for protagonist

Acalia narrowly escapes her own destruction by accidentally participating in the elimination of another innocent Etherwolf. She has always felt compelled to help and stand up for others. Now she finds herself the source of inconsolable pain. She can’t even sacrifice herself to undo the damage and death she was a party of. During each step she takes to stop and punish the ones responsible she is faced with another individual that feels the loss and emptiness her action helped to create. Her guilt compels her to protect those that she she has caused irreparable harm.

Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict"

Treont was blessed in not only finding his soul match, but also a soul mate. The long lived life of a werewolf can become lonesome and tiresome. He was fortunate the lander he merged with saw the beauty in Bellana’s lander as he knew she was his as soon as his eyes locked onto hers. His gazed poured down past the lander’s mundane brown irises and connected with the amber flame of Bellana’s soul. Their passion endured for centuries until his soul was torn apart by her abrupt loss when Acalia replaced her in the body of the lander he knew as his.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail

Etherluna –

Acalia felt sorry for those in the lander dimension who can’t see past their non-magical noses even when they have finally found a way to set their undeserving feet on the Mother Goddess’ bosom. Their realistic filtered senses could only fathom a cold, hard lifeless, stagnant gray ball surrounded by engulfing, smothering blackness. Their eyes cannot see into Acalia’s home of the Moon Goddess given dimension called Etherluna. They are denied sight of what brakes up the continuous mundane terrain as Etherluna is filled with shooting white sparkles Her pent up magic randomly explodes across the tundra or gently glitters among the minerals coating Her heavenly body. Their environmental muting suits blocks them from seeing and feeling the magic and warmth that lays across the upper atmosphere in colorful ribbons of streaming mixes of greens, reds, and blue photons that ride across the solar winds creating a veil between them and the vast heavens. Through the visor of their helmets they can see carved out, dry, river beds that were formed during Her youth when magma poured from insides out and across Her flesh weaving among the deep impact craters with wrinkled ridges and mountain ranges that had exploded during Her bloom. Only those in the Ether world can see and transverse the rivers of white vapor, nebula energy pouring down the carved channels. The landers are rejected by the Goddess as foreign invaders from discovering the underground basalt formed shoots and tunnels to her children's dens. They believe She is a solid, hard, compact, barren orb, they view in the night sky of their Earth bound home, but they still feel compelled to meet her in the heavens where she is still out of their true reach.


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Assignment #1: Write your story statement.

Cora tries to disprove her sister’s belief in a mysterious ancestral story. 

Assignment #2: In 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the way they react to the world about them.

Cora’s cynicism is a sharp contrast to her younger sister, Sadie, whose bubbly personality delights their dreamy mom but constantly irritates Cora. Whereas Cora prefers to accept the harsh realities of life, Sadie believes there is still magic in the world.

While overseas, the sisters stumble upon an heirloom with hidden letters inside, so they decide to unite to try to find out more about the stories revealed in the letters. Cora is determined to show that they simply stem from their ancestor’s imagination, but Sadie is convinced the fantastical stories are true. Neither sister could know the adventure that would unfold when they set out to prove the other one wrong.

Sadie’s fearlessness frustrates Cora who is eager to look her best in front of the charming local translator assisting them. So, refusing to be outdone by Sadie, Cora pushes her cautiousness aside to venture into the unknown. When the opportunity finally presents itself to be alone with their handsome helper, Cora eagerly takes it. She has no idea the danger this will cause her sister until it is almost too late. Cora must force herself to face her fears to save the sister she refuses to lose.

Assignment #3: Create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three)

Sea Song

When Land and Sea Collide

Moon Tears

Assignment #4: Develop two smart comparables for your novel. Who compares to you? And why?

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy (Magical Realism)

Comparables: Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah -- Like my story, there is a modern character who has  been through recent hardships who encounters a mystical character whose presence helps her deal with past wounds.

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Ann Noble--Similar to my story, this story deals with a sisterly relationship, a magical mermaid element, and lots of adventure and danger along the way.

Assignment #5: Write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound.

Cora blames herself for her friend’s unexpected death but is guided by her presence when a dangerous overseas adventure mirrors a childhood game they used to play.

Assignment #6: Sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one scenario in the story wherein this would be the case.

Next, sketch out a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

Cora’s inner conflict is the result of going through two difficult circumstances in the past year. Shortly after her father left her mother for another woman, her best friend, Molly, tragically died of an accidental overdose after her first time ever trying a drug. Cora blames herself for her friend’s death because she was the one who had convinced her to go to the high school party and then left her there when they got into a fight. Rather than dealing with the guilt, she has buried herself in her phone and social media. She has lost much of her joy for life in the process of adjusting to being without her constant companion while at the same time dealing with the increasing absence of her father. She carries around a lot of unresolved hurt which sometimes results in an anxious inability to act while at other times it is disguised as reckless rebellion.

Cora’s defiant attitude is seen in her decision to break her mom’s rules by leaving the hotel while her mom is visiting other towns gathering information for her travel writer job. She is undeterred by Sadie’s threats to tell their mom and remains determined to do what she wants. However, Cora’s immobilizing fear is seen throughout the story, especially when the people she cares about are in dangerous situations. When Sadie ends up in the ocean and is struggling to stay above the water, Cora is so terrified that she can hardly move. It takes a childhood memory of Molly to trigger her into action to come to the rescue of her sister.

Final Assignment #7: Sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story?

In the first chapter, Isabella and her two daughters are sitting in the back of a taxi that is speeding down a traffic-filled interstate to the international airport in Orlando, Florida. They are about to leave their hometown to travel overseas to Sicily for the summer and Cora does not want to go.

When they arrive at their destination, they are stunned to behold the breathtaking view from the top of the medieval town that is staggered precariously up the mountain. The quaint seaside village boasts panoramic views of the Ionian Sea, the Strait of Messina, the Bay of Giardini Naxos, and Mount Etna in the distance. Though, perhaps the most exhilarating sight, is the mysterious crumbling castle that stands guard on the cliff above the town.

The charming historical hotel they will call home for the summer is a small but cozy space, with a tiny wrought-iron balcony overlooking the sea and the castle. The floor to ceiling windows opens onto the balcony bringing in the saltwater breeze mingled with the scent of the colorful flowers around the piazza. It also lets in the sound of the seagulls above and the chatter of the locals below.  

On the first day of exploration, Isabella, Cora, and Sadie wander past the wishing fountain in the center of the village. Then, they stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets passing underneath drying clothes strewn between colorful buildings and eventually into an antique shop with a mermaid sculpture in the window. They are fascinated by the historical items inside the overcrowded shop. Especially of interest are the stories the elderly storeowner tells them about some of the items retrieved from the castle. She recognizes Cora’s startlingly similar features to a portrait among her collection. They soon come to realize the painting of the sea captain’s daughter who used to reside in the castle is an ancestor Isabella once heard stories about as a child.

The next day, they explore the dilapidated castle and discover an intricately detailed mural painted on the walls of the tower room. The pictures seem to be illustrating a story, but they are unsure of its meaning. They stroll over colorful mosaics into the open aired courtyard where a fountain bubbles with fresh water rising from deep inside the mountain. Beautiful white flowers bloom beside the fountain and possess an enchanting quality they cannot explain.

Later, the sisters discover hidden letters inside the portrait’s frame which reveals an ancestral story seemingly too magical to be real. Determined to find out more, they explore further around the castle and then along the river streaming from the courtyard fountain. This eventually takes them over the cliff beside the waterfall, through a narrow rock tunnel, and into a remote sea cave where they stumble upon an heirloom washed inside by the tide.

These locations continue throughout the story with the variety that comes with the time of day. During the midday siesta, the sleepy village grows quiet in the afternoon heat when shops close, only to liven up again for the nighttime festivities when the locals come out to socialize. The castle’s mysteriousness grows in the night when the moon casts its glow on the white flowers by the fountain which the villagers have nicknamed lacrime di luna (Moon Tears) due to the way they reflect the moon’s light.

One day, the girls join their mother on her work by sightseeing in the larger historical town further down the mountain as she takes notes and photos. While visiting there, they stop in a toy shop full of wooden puppets, churches full of relics and detailed architecture, ruins of an amphitheater, museums with ancient artifacts, and a cozy café full of delicious aromas and stunning ocean views.

The final chapter brings them full circle to where the story began as they ride down the interstate in the back of a taxi on the return trip from the airport. The setting Florida sun illuminates the way towards the familiarity of home and a new hope.     


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#1. Story Statement

- The mission of the protagonist (myself) is to ameliorate his life by his own volition: financial success through Cryptocurrency. Thereby proving to himself and those around him that the horrible circumstances that has dictated his existential dread do not define his essence, and that trauma can be spun into gold.

#2. Antagonist

- The antagonist of my novel, like the protagonist, is a real person. He is a famous individual in the Cryptocurrency sphere that has spearheaded several start-ups and anonymous projects in the industry. He created one of the first bitcoin mining machines that ever existed, held a board role at a Jeffrey Epstein shell company, and his father runs one of the largest sex cults in the world. He is a nefarious conspirator that I befriended on a personal level after becoming the largest and most well-known investor in his most notable cryptocurrency company. The closer I became to him and his cohort of con artists, the more I was forced to deduce that Cryptocurrency in its entirety is a perpetual Ponzi scheme that most serves Machiavellian types and the morally depraved.

#3. Breakout Title

- Shitcoin Secrets (concept cover included)
- Non-Fungible Trauma
- Crypto: How to Create Generational Wealth and Lose Everything Else

#4. Comparable Works

- Hunter S. Thompson, “Hell’s Angel’s: A Strange and Terrible Saga”:

Thompson’s first novel told the story of his years enmeshed in a famous biker gang. My gonzo journalism effort tells the story of my time integrating with and documenting the maleficent activities of a gang of cryptocurrency scammers. I find this to be a fair comparison despite his worldwide acclaim.

- Nic Sheff, “Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines”:

The mental turmoil that I’ve been running from is highly comparable to Tweak and is thematic throughout the novel.

#5. Logline

- A traumatized man gambles his future on Cryptocurrency, and in doing so becomes an integral part of a world he was never supposed to know existed.

#6. Inner Conflict / Secondary Conflict

- Inner conflict has been ubiquitous in my life. After losing everything I held near and dear to trauma and abuse, nihilism took the reigns, and so I devoted myself fully to acquiring wealth through Cryptocurrency. High stakes gambling with nothing to fall back on created a state of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and drama that has altered my cognition until the day I die. As the novel progresses, the inner conflict evolves into an ethical dilemma: is it worth sacrificing my morality and principles, and taking advantage of others with the same dreams, for the purpose of self-enrichment?

- The secondary conflict of my novel is the fervent romance subplot with a very mentally unwell woman. Having spent much of my existence in psychiatric facilities against my will, it was only natural that the love of my life be afflicted with dissociative identity disorder, also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Her constant mental breakdowns, suicide attempts, and her attempt at taking my life further fueled my inner conflict while permanently desiccating any sense of normality I had left.

#7. Setting

- The main setting takes place in Illinois. I lived in an attic in a boarding house in complete isolation for the purpose of minimizing all overhead expenses, so that nearly every dollar I managed could be a further hedge towards my Crypto gambling. The romance subplot explores nearly every noteworthy location in the state, as desperate distraction was the only thing providing a semblance of stability in our relationship.

- Large portions of the book depict my interactions with individuals on the chat application Telegram, where nearly all Cryptocurrency communities convene and trade information, or “alpha”, for the purposes of “wealth creation” (gambling). Telegram is truly a wonderous piece of software that I liken to the campfire of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”. People from every walk of life imaginable congregate under anonymous aliases, and yet often show their truest personalities. They feel compelled to tell their stories and connect with others in a way that’s often a rarity in surface reality. The façade many people purport in their daily lives is not necessary in a virtual environment. What ensues is a sense of community with the most unique and captivating people found almost nowhere else.

- The culmination of the novel ends with a cross country road trip to New York City, for 2022’s NFT NYC event. It is here that I meet the antagonist in person for the first time, as well as my closest telegram confidant, who turns out to be a head of business development for Coinbase. Looking over the city in pure awe from his penthouse apartment, and the contrast of having come from a dingy boarding house attic, sets the scene for the novel’s sequel

shitcoin secrets nft FINAL.png

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1)      Story Statement

Escape the evil politician who wants to control her or kill her and in the process create a life with meaning in spite of an out of control telepathic disability that does not allow for any privacy of thought

2)      Antagonist

Zachary Winthrop’s title is Central Committee Secretary. The Central Committee is the Earth’s global ruling body and is structured and operates similarly to the Soviet Politboro. Officially Winthrop’s responsibility is to handle the administrative tasks of the Central Committee but through blackmail, extortion, and underhanded use of drugs has leveraged his position into being a major power broker. He is the founder of the Mother Earth First (MEF) political party whose goal is to keep Earth as the dominant force throughout the galaxy and to keep all colonized planets subservient to Earth’s needs. Shaanti’s aunt is his primary opponent and rival and the only one his equal (if not superior) in various intrigue’s. Winthrop sees Shaanti as an opportunity to gain leverage over her aunt through the use of a new mind control drug. When that fails in its initial attempt he actively pursues capturing her and either achieving his initial intent or having her killed so that she can’t serve her aunt.

3)      Title

No Thought My Own

Everyone’s Thoughts but Mine

Between Dimensions

4)      Comparables

Vatta’s War  & Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

Kylara Vatta is the daughter of a prominent family who leaves under family pressure to succeed who rises quickly to prominence.  Her family pressures and personality is similar to my main character

Dorsai by Gordon Dickson

Donald Graeme is from a prominent family from the planet Dorsai who has extraordinary intuit abilities similar to Shaanti with her telepathic abilities

For comps I’m looking primarily for characters dealing with family expectations to excel

5)      Hook Line

Shaanti strives to fulfill her aunt’s expectations for political prominence but is determined to do so independent of her aunt’s influence making her vulnerable to her enemy’s schemes.

6)      Conflict

a.       Inner Conflict

All her life Shaanti believes she must make up for her mother’s death by becoming a person of influence on Earth, someone who can make lift for everyone better. But, after escaping from Winthrop several times, seeing someone close hurt trying to protector, and finally killing someone with her special ability in a gruesome manner she faces the fact that exile is her only viable solution. Gone is any hope of achieving anything on Earth beyond simple survival. With the simplicity of life without ambition she discovers meaning in the relationships of the people around her.

b.       Secondary Conflict

Trapped in another empty dimension, isolated from everything she knew, she realizes she needs help. But who does she turn too, her aunt (her surrogate mother) or her father. Her aunt blames her father for her mother’s death and her father, burdened with guilt, looks to his daughter to help restore his reputation. In either case father and aunt hate each other and for Shaanti going to one for help will be interrupted as betrayal by the other. Ultimately she forces herself to decide by who is best able to help regardless of what the other will feel.

7)      Setting

Earth centuries later.  Unified under one government with nations dissolved. Instead society is broken up into professional and industrial ‘guilds’ with each ruled by a guild-master. For example Security Guild, Science Guild, Mining Guild, and Guild of Fine Arts (GoFA) the primary guilds of the story.  The guild-master’s collectively form the Central Committee, Earth’s government. The guild-master’s select the Central Committee Chairman, and the Central Committee Secretary (Zachary Winthrop).  Guild rivalry is vicious and there have actually been wars between guilds.

As backstory, the previous Central Committee Chairman was a tyrant. His mentor was Winthrop and his mistress was Shaanti’s aunt. Her aunt was a major player in having him overthrown. Winthrop had to use blackmail and extortion to keep from getting arrested and by turning on his mentor was able to secure his position in the new regime.  He hates Shaanti’s aunt for her role in deposing his mentor and almost causing his arrest.

Each guild has its capital, Washington City of the Chesapeake District is Security Guild Capital, London of the Britannica District is the GoFA capital, Shanghai of the Shanghai District.  The global capital is Singapore.  Global transportation is accomplished by Anti-Dimension (A/D) Transports which provides almost instantaneous teleportation across the globe.  Each cities has a transport hub where multiple A/D Transport Chambers are located as well as a central routing for Ride-Shares, the form of commuter train. The A/D is also used for inter-stellar travel reducing light years of travel to weeks or days.  Local travel is by MagVees, which are aerial vehicals which harness the magnetic field for both lift and propulsion. Also Ride-share is the public transportation, trains whose cars couple and de-couple as necessary to deliver passengers to their desired location.  It’s a bumpy ride, but reliable, basically the only means of transport for those who are not guild-citizens.

Society is heavily oriented towards meritocracy. Children are evaluated at birth to determine their potential.  If they score high enough they are groomed to be guild citizens.  Guilds compete viciously to attract the highest scoring prospects to join their guild, attend their academy and become guild citizens for their guild. Upon completion they swear loyalty to their guild and their guild-master.  Guild citizens are also evaluated by their psychological profile and the most advantageous matches in terms of marital success and producing offspring with high potential are strongly encouraged but not coerced.

At acceptance into an academy each guild citizen has an implant to connect them to C-Link, a computer network that provides communication and instantaneous access to all the world’s data so long as they have the necessary clearance. It also access their optic nerves to give the sense of a projected 3D image of who they are communicating with any other data available. Currency is a crypto. C-Link calculates the value of a crypto as the value represented by the minimum of what one person requires each year for housing, food, and clothing.  Crypto’s are indexed to the size of the economy so there is no inflation, or deflation.

Time zones are eliminated and everyone operates on a 26 hour day so the timing of night and day travels across the globe.

Populations are concentrated in cities and the Earth is heavily foliated to regulate carbon emisions.  Citizens who get into trouble either criminally or non-payment of bills are forced to emigrate to populate frontier planets.  Voluntary emigration is becoming increasing popular due to various social and economic restrictions on Earth.

Energy is by fusion from a rare radioactive metal called polonium. A colonized planet called Gwynfa is humanities primary source of polonium. 

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 Assignment #1: Story statement

1.    Telling a real-life story of deception and scandal, Frank exposes rogue elements of a system that underestimated the tenacious character of its accused as he refused to be intimidated by a political machine.

2.     After his malicious arrest and lock up a young charismatic high school principal takes on corruption within the New York education and criminal justice systems.

Assignment #2: Antagonists

Michelle is Frank’s close friend. A beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyed school teacher with a dark history. A seductive femme fatal who uses her perfect body to get her way. When she does not get what she wants she stops at nothing while taking action against what she considers injustice. She masterfully conceals her past from Frank until it’s too late for him to save himself.

Michelle conspires with the Suffolk County Police Department. A political machine more interested in personal gain and ambition than the truth. They feed the media with false statements, turning mundane cases into headline grabbing stories that convict people in the court of public opinion rather than a court of law. Because their case against Frank is baseless, they fear the same media they fed with false statements will turn on them in a new feeding frenzy. Thus, a stalemate is born, suspending Frank’s life in a no-man’s land of deception, lies and publicity hungry officials.

Assignment #3: Title

Standing on Principal: A Devoted Educator’s Fight against a Corrupt System      

Assignment #4: Comparables

1.      Until Proven Innocent; Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

2.      The Central Park Five

These books compare because they are accounts of wrongful arrests, ensuing media frenzies and hightened public reactions that destroy the lives of young men. However, my story separates itself because it’s a first-hand account, investigated and written in real-time, by the main character. Nothing is lost as far as raw emotion, time, or detail. My story is a current event (trial is scheduled in 2023) and it broadens from local themes to global issues of social and political importance.

Assignment #5: Hook line

Melding the fictional "Fatal Attraction" with the real-life Duke Lacrosse and Penn State scandals, Standing on Principal is a first hand, well-documented account of a rogue system that underestimated the tenacious character of its accused as he refused to be intimidated by a political machine.  It’s a real story and it will scare the hell out of everyone.

Assignment #6:  Inner Conflicts

1.      Frank is a fallen hero. He goes from being publicly labeled a dream team administrator who was being recruited by multiple districts to a man who is left for dead. Because of what is done he cannot even find menial employment and remains unemployed for many years. He loses everything in life while the real criminal remains unscathed and prosperous. He soon contemplates giving up, ending life altogether.

2.      Frank can either continuously lean on his family for support. He knows they would gladly help him. However he is prideful, and, as a man in his upper thirties, he can’t come to grips with the fact that he is living like a child and relying on family for everything in life. He doesn’t want them or the world to know just how bad he is doing. Does he spare them the heartache he is experiencing? He doesn’t want to be a burden. Frank actually contemplates suicide if his life doesn’t change.

Assignment #7: Setting(s)

As a young child Frank walks the beaches of Miami with bookies and hangs out with hustlers in Fort Lauderdale bars. As an adolescent and adult, he spends his free time at racetracks and Atlantic City. His main vacation destination as an adult is Las Vegas.

In living out his Italian immigrant family’s American dream he becomes an educator and quickly advances to become a young, award-winning, high school principal in the Hamptons, Long Island. He’s a young, charismatic leader surrounded by an entourage who party heavily by night in posh clubs, from the Hamptons to Manhattan. By day he is a dedicated, hardworking educator with a goal of simply helping students and saving the failing school from being taken over by the state. His love for education is equaled by his love for beautiful women. These passionate encounters will help lead to his tragic demise.

Riverhead Jail, police precincts, state and federal courthouses, and the backseat of his car become the settings after he loses everything, is left for dead, and fights for his life.

After years of unemployment Frank is given a break. A priest hires him to be a school principal, ironically working with the legal system to give youths at risk a second chance at life. Frank also becomes a radio show host and public speaker at colleges and universities where he raises awareness about injustices in the criminal justice system and seeks change through legislation.

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  1. FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Bereaved, recently homeless, and spectacularly unskilled Birdie Binks must scatter her beloved guardian’s ashes and find a way off the streets.


  1. SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

Birdie’s first night on the streets she meets Clementine Truelove, a clever ex-journalist-turned-ragged-drifter with a penchant for bottom shelf whiskey. Clem’s brash introduction and wildly unconventional sartorial choices frighten Birdie, but she accepts Clem’s assistance when she unexpectedly offers to show Birdie somewhere warm to sleep. Birdie is guarded and suspicious of her motives as she’s exposed to Clem’s hard way of living and her own particular brand of dysfunction. If Birdie is the delicate stem that has been pruned, and fed, and tended to, Clem in contrast is the hardened tree that has grown thick, rough bark over the years. She is an unapolagetically hard fighting, hard drinking, ungovernable presence, as if even molecules couldn’t impose themselves upon her. Birdie desperately attempts to distance herself, but when Birdie discovers she’ll need to embark on a cross-country road trip to scatter Doonie’s remains, she’s scared of being alone, and knowing Clem to also be intelligent and well-travelled, she invites her on the trip, where Birdie constantly battles the fear that Clem’s volatility and unpredictability will lead her further from any hope of a normal life and closer to an irreperable state of impoverishment.


  1. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).




  1. FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?

The dark humor of Halle Butler’s The New Me

The odyssey-like pace of Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library


  1. FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication.

When her beloved guardian of twenty-two years dies and leaves her homeless, an inexperienced young woman is surprised by what-and who-she finds while trying to survive on the streets.


  1. SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

A grieving Birdie finds a letter tucked into the cushion of Doonie’s favorite chair asking Birdie to scatter her ashes in six undisclosed locations before doing absolutely anything else. As the cryptic task to decipher where those six locations are sticks achingly in Birdie like an enigmatic splinter, the house they lived in gets foreclosed, and Birdie ends up on the streets. With an entirely new challenge ahead of her, and facing the continual threats lurking in the shadowy underbelly of Chicago, Birdie is torn between honoring the urgency of Doonie’s final wish and finding a way out of this destitution.


Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

Her first day on the streets, Birdie meets two clever but unruly drifters. Though she’s wary of them, they teach her how to forage for food and stay warm on freezing nights. As the specifics behind Doonie’s final request begin to take shape, a sheltered and inexperienced Birdie realizes she must leave Chicago and embark on a cross-country road trip to scatter Doonie’s remains. Afraid of being alone and aware of her naivety, she invites them on the trip. As Birdie grapples with her own dysfunction, their presence is both helpful and unexpectedly illuminating, but also a great source of instability. She’s constantly fearful that their unpredictability with throw her further off course, not just in fulfilling Doonie’s final wish, but she’s also afraid her proximity to them will lead her further toward a vagrant and ruinous end.


  1. FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it.


  • The house she lived in with Doonie and the sight of the inciting incident. It smells of musky perfume and ink. Shelves of leather-bound books stand next to stacks of journals and dusty anthologies. Candles and lamps fill the crevices between chairs and side table drawers are stuffed with letters in opened envelopes. Jute rugs and kilims are pieced together over wooden floorboards creating an ocean of colored fibers that feel scratchy underfoot. They used to spend whole days together in this room listening to music, playing card games, eating pistachios, reading, napping. This house was in Birdie, of her, a part of her so long that it now felt like her skin. These walls had sheltered her from the weather of her life. Twenty-two years ago, after leaving her parent’s house as a little girl, these walls had welcomed her weary young soul into its embrace. As she stands in the room for the final time, the embrace pulls away, unraveling itself from her body as she steps out into the cold.
  • She rides her bike as fast as she can away from the house and through the streets toward anything, anywhere. Her tire bursts and the bike stops and she looks out toward a forest of snow beside her. She made it to a wooded park three miles from the house. The tops of the trees are covered in white, barely discernible from the pale sky as snowflakes fall around her, dropping like silent grenades. Stepping off the bike, she takes two labored steps in the foot-high powder and drops to her knees. She opens her mouth wide and closes her eyes as the snowflakes pool on the surface of her tongue like liquid cyanide. She swallows. It’s so quiet she can hear the pounding of her heart in her ears. Until, in the flurried semi-darkness of twilight, Clementine appears for the first time.
  • Clementine takes a watchful Birdie back to her squat under the Michigan Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago. They descend the icy steps beneath street level and emerge next to a row of erected tents and forts made of cardboard and cotton sheets and a few individuals are puffing on cigarettes next to piles of trash and a mix of sheets and fabrics are strung together haphazardly to form a roof above them. Clem’s corner has layers of blankets stacked on top of one another creating a mattress at least two feet off the ground. On top of them is a sleeping bag and a dozen books piled beside the bed. A few empty liquor bottles are in the corner next to a small steel bowl with burnt logs and charred paper inside. Birdie is wary of Clem’s motives at this point, but she at least has a place to sleep and a source of warmth for the night.
  • Over the next day Clem introduces her to another rough sleeper Gideon, and she navigates Birdie around the city and to a forsaken part of it with derelict buildings, rusted fences, litter strewn curbs, and sidewalks that crack open like eggshells. One particular abandoned building is where Clem used to sleep when she first ended up on the street. It’s riddled in spray paint, there are no doors or windows, only a dozen rusted iron garage entrance ways that look brittle enough to kick through and plastic bottles and cigarette butts and old syringes gathered at the perimeter. Inside is dark and damp, Birdie is terrified of what, and who, lurks inside. But when she meets some other rough sleepers and gets to know them, she discovers they’re not that different to her.
  • A cozy little restaurant in Chinatown with dozens of glowing lanterns hanging from the ceiling above the tables and the deep red warmth of the walls enveloping her as the clink of dishes serenade her. Steamy plates of marinated meats and glazed vegetables fill tables and she breathes in the thick scents of ginger and garlic, the earthy flavors settling on her tongue before swallowing. She hears the sizzle of pan smoke, the shuffling of hurried cook’s feet, the clatter of knives pounding against chopping boards. This is the sight of the first ash scattering location.
  • The sight of the second scattering is the Hancock Tower, a skyscraper in the center of the city. After dodging building personnel, creeping up staff elevators and sneaking through corridors leading to a second tier of elevator shafts traveling to the roof, they finally arrive at the top floor. A thousand feet above the streets. Wind lashes from every direction but the entire city glimmers beneath them. Birdie marvels at the light; a glittering, golden sparkle that bounces off her eyes as she gazes out over the dense tower forest and she scatters Doonie to the winds.
  • The road trip begins on a bus that smells of tobacco and urine. Chicago’s crowded city streets and dense cluster of buildings soon turn into suburban roads and manicured lawns. As they drive further south, roads empty and towns become sparser. Soon they are driving along a flat, viewless highway, the silhouette of the city skyline no longer visible. Cornfields flank them on both sides and groups of ramshackle homes sit alongside the road. Birdie’s trepidation wanes and her excitement grows as they get closer to Tennessee, the sight of the third scattering.
  • They meet a woman named Octavia who offers them a bed for the night. They drive with her along a paved mountain road that winds through forested hills. Every few minutes a break in the trees reveals a vista of overlapping mountains and valleys, a dense fog hanging low between them. They arrive at the edge of a forest. It’s so quiet they can hear frogs croaking in the distance. They step through some dense foliage and into the front yard of a large cabin on a hill, perched among the peaks. There’s an unassuming sign nestled in the bushes that reads ‘The House.’ Small trees and a myriad of crawling vines shroud the exterior. Only the front door is fully visible.
  • The first peek into Octavia’s mountain home is an aesthetic mix of Japanese ryokan and English farmhouse. Cozy but minimal, thoughtful. Several flat but plushy pillows on the ground circle a small stove and a few large lamps sit at the perimeters of the room. The light is warm and amber. Framed drawings of plants and relief sculptures cover the walls. A wooden bookshelf hangs from the wall above the stove, books neatly piled on top of each other and considerately wedged into every available nook. It’s the first home Birdie’s been in since leaving her own, and though this feels like a detour from the task at hand, she wants to sink into the walls.
  • The house is surrounded by a forest and Octavia takes the trio into its depths to forage for mushrooms. Birdie trudges behind them into the thicket and immediately the smell of damp moss and pine hit her. She shuffles atop the ground debris, looking up at the green canopy roof, slivers of sunlight piercing through the trees at varying angles, casting shafts of golden browns across the dark emerald canvas. She thinks this is all a distraction to her finding the next scattering location, but in the quiet of the forest, she discovers this is exactly where Doonie had in mind.
  • As they travel west on the bus past the Mississippi River and through vast plains toward the Continental Divide, the land becomes drier and the horizon rockier. Straight, flat lines turn jagged. The sky gets higher and wider. Roads full of small attractive sedans are now burly trucks and tractors. It is open, endless, like they could drive for an eternity and never reach the distant hills as they journey toward the next scattering location in borderland Texas.
  • After an altercation at a defunct gas station during a pit-stop, they escape possible arrest by sprinting into the surrounding desert. The wind whips into Birdie’s face and her hair blows in all directions across her eyes. The thick layer of red earth dirties her body as she moves over it. As she looks out at the luminous horizon, the hot dry air makes her skin tingle and burn anew, and the flurry of sand sounds like thousands of tiny whispers calling out to her. She feels out of control, but also free, wild. After some time, they realize they’re lost in the middle of endless sunburnt desert scrub that reaches out far into the distance, scattered assemblages of them painting the vast desert floor with their woody green and brown stems. It scrapes at their ankles as they walk.
  • Somehow avoiding dehydration and a close encounter with a snake, they survive a night in the desert and meet a vigilante named Ale who cares for border crossers she finds that are on the brink of death. She takes Birdie and Clem back to her camp, next to a stream flanked by a carpet of sun-drenched desert grass and mountains overlapping each other in the distance. The camp is amidst a cluster of small mesquite trees, with a white sheet tied between the branches as a canopy. They hydrate and revive in the shade as they get to know Ale and her friend.
  • Avoiding an approaching storm, the four seek refuge at an enormous network of boulders and caves. The rocks have slits in them creating passages that lead to the inside of a cavernous jungle of stone. It’s dark, but the daylight is bright enough to illuminate the walls of the interior, and they stop inside a cave. It backs out onto the other side of the mountain. The view through the opening in the rock is vast. Miles of desolate sun-bleached land and stark blue skies quickly become obscured by thick, almost black clouds. They think they’re safe, but a flash flood quickly becomes their most pressing problem. Narrowly escaping it, Birdie almost loses Doonie’s ashes and she becomes furious at herself, doubting her abilities.
  • Walking out of the desert to continue the journey to the next scattering location, an exhausted Birdie and Clem gather themselves at a roadside bar. It has a red tin roof with the Texas flag painted on one side of it. Bales of hay are stacked underneath the lone star. Inside smells of stale beer and wet rags. It’s dimly lit, with only the gleam of neon beer signs creating pockets of fluorescent light on the walls. There’s hardly anyone in there, aside from Clem sat at the bar and an old man near the pool table and two other men at the far end of the bar in Carhartt jackets and cowboy hats, laughing and grumbling into their Budweisers as they watch the TV above them. Birdie and Clem get into a fight, and Clem forces Birdie to see their situation in a new light.
  • The bus drops them off in the center of Taos, New Mexico. The high desert air is clean and cool. Streets are brick and buildings are clay and small adobe shops with hand painted signs sell textiles, pottery and local art. Bunches of chilies hang across the walls like edible crucifixes. They need to find somewhere to sleep and something to eat.
  • They decide to scope out a family llama farm looking for day workers. They reach an old ranch on a dirt road. A large pine-covered outcrop looms behind the property. Turning into the drive, Birdie clocks a barn, stables, a tractor, a pickup truck, a modest house and miles and miles of nothing. The sun is low in the sky but still beats down harshly on the land, painting a yellowish hue and long shadows over all it touches. They are given bunks and a meal and shown how to wrangle wily llamas.
  • After Clem loses Doonie’s ashes, they get into an enormous confrontation and Birdie runs off with one of the llamas she had become friendly with and together they sprint toward the surrounding canopy of evergreen trees, vanishing into the boundless wild. After a few hours and several miles of dense forest, they emerge into a clearing. Spruce trees flank a small lake on all sides and behind them rise rocky ledges and mountain crags, shooting up into the cloudless sapphire ceiling. The stark blues and greens reflect off the lake. Still as glass. When they encounter a mountain lion, the llama runs off without her and though Birdie is able to fend it off, she thinks things couldn’t get any worse. The one last thing she’d had control over, she’d blown. The chance to give Doonie her final wish. She thinks it doesn’t matter where she is or what she does, and that it never did. Her birth had clearly been a mistake, so her death, whether it happened out there or not, would certainly be of no particular concern to anyone. What she feels is too deep for tears.
  • She shoves a handful of magic mushrooms into her mouth that Clem had stolen from Octavia’s in Tennessee. She hopes it’ll kill her, but instead, as she lays there, an insect flies past her face. It sounds like a jet engine. The buzz of microscopic life around her blares in her ears and any object she focuses on spins and enlarges in her field of vision. Everything is alive, loud, desperate to get her attention. Everything that only minutes ago had been so inanimate, unnoticeable even, now has personality. The drops of water on the wildflowers roll off and do triple salchows on the descent. The ants sing songs as they march on the ground, their legs scurrying underneath them as they wag their backsides like tiny insect puppies. As the sun dips slowly behind the craggy peaks and tiny particles of earth glisten in the last light, becoming sparkles as they float above her, she ends up seeing her past in a way she hadn’t before, and she realized what she must do to move forward.
  • The final scene takes place at the fierce edge of the Grand Canyon, the sight of the last scattering, where the unlikely trio reunites. They look out over the canyon, where the floor drops out and the sky multiplies, its endlessness unfathomable.


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Story Statement:

Vivica Harrow is driven to keep her brother, Anders, and the young warlock, Shina, safe from the Inquisition, even if it costs her position, privilege, or life.


In her story, Vivica fights against many foes, though none more dangerous than the Inquisition, and its leader, Bartholomew Crow. 
Coming from a minor house of nobility, Crow wants nothing more than to carve his mark into the world and intends to grow his holy army to supplant the king, break the Vorhelt council, and reform the world in his twisted vision of fairness and progress. 
Crow is driven by his relentless ambition, willing to sacrifice ideals, comrades and political leveraging for his goals. Yet, he's not without guile and wicked cunning, forging alliances with enemies of the crown while patiently waiting for his moment to strike before delivering decisive blows to his enemies. 
An accomplished soldier, Crow approaches the world around him as a battle to be won. He's an exceptional tactician and knows that two steps forwards often require one step backwards. However, what makes Bartholomew Crow so vastly dangerous is not his relentlessness, the favour of his god, nor his mysterious and powerful backer, The Shadow Giant; Bartholomew Crow is threatening because he wholeheartedly believes that it's better to break an enemy than it is to beat them, and he's more than capable of enjoying such cruelty.

Title Options: 


The Vorhelt.

Comp Titles: 

Harrow is a sprawling Fantasy with significant Young Adult appeal. 
Fans of how Rebecca Ross weaves intimate and familial relationships into the heart of her YA Fantasy stories will find new and enjoyable heroes to cheer for in Vivica Harrow and her allies. While those who enjoy grounded fantasy realism, mature themes, and intrigue like that appearing in Joe Abercrombie's A Little Hatred will find a vast and comprehensive world to get lost in.


After encountering a young girl with the power to control death itself, monster slayer, detective, and people's hero, Vivica Harrow is forced to abandon everything she's ever worked for and her position in the Vorhelt guild to keep the girl safe from the growing Inquisition that wants her dead.

Inner Conflict:

Through her journey, Vivica is forced to confront what it means to be a member of the Vorhelt, whether she's actually helping others, and if that's something she truly wants. A life of heroism and privilege never appealed to Vivica; however, her mother wouldn't allow anything less for her children and often employed cruel methods to train and prepare Vivica and her siblings. Eventually, Vivica left home to discover what kind of person she wanted to be, only to be brought back when her sister, Nora, asked for help to pass the Vorhelt trials. Despite being plagued by a degenerative illness, Nora was selfless and brilliant. And although acceptance into the Vorhelt ranks would have given her the technology to cure what ailed her, she only ever wanted to help others. So, when Nora died during the trial, Vivica accepted the position her sister coveted and has been reluctant in her duties ever since. 
So, when Vivica's younger brother is kidnapped by raiders from the West, she has no compunctions about ingesting a potentially fatal dose of performance-enhancing poison to keep from losing another sibling. Yet, Vivica survives, barely, and the young girl (Shina)'s ability to control death allows Vivica to reunite with her deceased sister. 
On death's door and with renewed purpose to keep Shina and her brother Anders safe, Vivica is finally forced to confront what she wants to do with her life and what it means to be a hero.

Secondary Conflict:

As Vivica's health worsens throughout her story, her concern for Anders grows. In the five years since she last saw him with any frequency, the boy has hardly changed, willfully remaining juvenile and naive. Yet Vivica is reluctant to take the boy under her wing, to train and encourage him as she once did with Nora, even when Anders shows maturity and growth. However, Vivica's decision to aid the young warlock means that Anders is placed in the same danger she'd wanted to keep him from. With a relentless enemy pursuing them, Vivica wonders how she can keep the boy safe; and if he perhaps has a value she'd overlooked until it was too late to appreciate it.


Set on the west coast of the Megisan Kingdom, Harrow explores only a small handful of the things that make this fantasy world unique; while setting up a larger world for following stories. 

  • Long ago, the gods lived among a race of giants. The gods taught the giants their magic and guided their great civilization as it grew to cover the world. But when the gods withdrew to the heavens, the giants were overcome by raging demons, and now all that remains of their once-great empire are the handful of ruins scattered across the world. 
  • The secrets of magic disappeared with the gods, though it's said there are places of power remaining in the world and that the various mythical beasts prowling the countryside of Megisan were born from this influence. But for mortal humankind, magic is accessible only through the gods' favour or the treacherous touch of demons.
  • The world warred for the fragments of magic for centuries until King Harlan the First brought peace to the eastern lands where Megisan now lays its borders. He instituted a system used to this day of three governing bodies to ensure peace, prosperity and protection for all his subjects. From his palaces in the East, King Harlan created laws and guards dressed in red and copper to keep them; from rich mountains in the North, he allowed guilds and bankers wearing green and gold to organize the realm's wealth and development. And from the bustling cities in the West, he allowed five generals dressed in blue and silver to form a council of heroes (Vorhelt) to serve the people and protect them from threats he could not. 
  • The heroic council grows in influence and power every year, maintaining the balance between the factions of wealth and law. The greatest minds and most heroic citizens find homes within the Vorhelt halls, sharing secret technologies and resources with each other, pioneering feats of scientific progress that rival what the giants could do with magic.
  • With this newfound reliance on the mind, fear of magic grows, giving rise to an Inquisition led by the favoured of the gods. Those born with dark power given to them by demons are considered warlocks and hunted with extreme prejudice. The crown supports this growing force of Inquisitors, and the world is safer from those who consort with demons. 
  • The western coast of Megisan thrives, opening new ports and expanding cities with automatons and burgeoning electricity pioneered by Vorhelt councilman and Vivica Harrow's patron, Tomo Quinn. 
  • Vivica is assigned to the western frontiers, operating primarily between Prim, the City of Knowledge, and Newton, a quiet port town. With her discovery of the young warlock, Shina, Vivica leaves Newton for the City of Knowledge, hoping to find allies with her Vorhelt comrades there. But Prim borders the plains and deserts of the South, where the Inquisition has many men. A final confrontation must be held in Prim, among the streets of colourful retailers and impressive innovations. There Vivica's friends and allies must fight to prevent chaotic ambition from spoiling the system that's kept their world in balance for so long.
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