Preface: I will be focusing on To Know That the Sun Is There, the character driven mystery, but I have the others available. Assignment 1: Story Statement Girl Unbound They must break Cuchulainn’s centuries old hidden curse and free Tabitha and the coven. To Know That the Sun Is There She must catch the serial kidnapper and prove her dog research is viable. Sky Woman They must unravel their mother’s past to break free of it. Assignment 2: The Antagonists/Antagonistic Forces Girl Unbound Cuchulainn is a powerful witch siphoning off magic from a captive coven in Wales to prolong his life and profit from selling their magic energy. In this generation he poses as Mr. Owens, beloved science teacher of one of the protagonists. He chooses the most vulnerable witches in the coven to bind into his parasitic curse. He also uses witches as fodder for his plans, dealing with them as he sees fit to further his own evil ambitions. For instance, he enchants Tobias’s mother to make her appear a stroke victim in order to assure her silence about his plot. Tallulah Shahrani, deeply in love with Cuchulainn/Mr. Owens, is willing to bear a child by a man she doesn’t love, murder that man, and then poison that child to make her disability seem worse than it is in order to bind her magic and perpetuate the curse. She does this all for want of Cuchulainn’s attention. To Know That the Sun Is There The actual perpetrator in the book is the postmistress, Mrs. Smith. She is driven to abduct children because her own daughter had been kidnapped and murdered. The Royal Conservatory of Canines had been on search and rescue duty then, but unfortunately did not find the Smith girl in time. Mrs. Smith, in her grief, sought to blame the Conservatory, who she views as charlatans. In her mind, exposing them as frauds is saving other grief-stricken mothers from wasting precious time in similar situations. She enlists the help of her twin sons in her plotting. TJ is a former SAS operative and has all the skills to evade CCTV and capture. He is an interesting mix of diligent skill to not be caught, but also hubris in his cleverly laid literary notes as clues. He serves as a guiding force, leveling out Mrs. Smith’s derangement. Natty’s own dark past, however, it the real antagonistic force. When Colonel Harrison shows up and presents a few tantalizing similarities to the case, Natty is sorely drawn to implicate her. The trauma she suffered under Colonel Harrison during her active-duty days not only haunts her but threatens to overwhelm her brilliant analytic capabilities with bias. Sky Woman Sky Woman is a layered story with the overall villain, Skyman, pulling strings on Earth/Middleworld to manipulate what happens to Skywoman’s twins. He is the embodiment of the abuser, having cast Skywoman down to Middleworld in a jealous rage. Now he seeks to keep her isolated upon her return to Skyworld. Skyman manifests through Daniel Vasiliev, Senator hopeful and abusive boyfriend of Freya Laveque. He pursues her as she embarks on her journey across the States, sending threats and trying to abduct her. He seeks to bring her back under his control by any means necessary. Ivan Vasiliev, drug mafioso and Daniel’s uncle, is another antagonist and iteration of Skyman’s manifestation. We find out that he is the real father of the twins, having raped Lana when she was back in Cay’s Harbor. Nathan Blackwolf is another antagonistic force. Corrupt cop, and drug smuggler, the town of Cay’s Harbor is loathe to forget the trouble he, and by association, Lana, brought into their haven. Though Lana ensures his end at the beginning of the story, his legacy floats over the twins’, and especially Jimmy’s head. Assignment 3: Breakout Titles Girl Unbound Other options: Break, You Cannot Hold Me To Know That the Sun Is There Other options: The Faith of Dogs, The Things Dogs Tell Us I’m pretty happy with To Know That the Sun Is There as it is a reference to Dostoevsky, which Woods reads to Natty when she’s in the hospital and it speaks of resilience. Sky Woman Other Options: Fall to Earth, The Things That Catch Us Assignment 4: Comparables Girl Unbound A Heart So Fierce and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is comparable to Girl Unbound in that the fantasies both have strong, neurodiverse female protagonists. Paula Brackston’s Silver Witch is another comparable, but instead of adult, YA. Both go back in time to see a Pictish crannog as part of unraveling the plot. The feeling and setting are very similar. To Know That the Sun Is There Susan Conant’s dog mysteries, only character driven and set in Oxford. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill but with a mystery tied in and dealing with PTSD instead of an anxiety disorder. Sky Woman The cultural magical realism of Sky Woman is similar to The Water Dancer by Ta-nehisi Coates, in that it portrays cultural elements in an otherworldly way. But it also has a focus on resilience and tenderness in the vein of Catherine Hyde’s Take Me With You. Assignment 5: Log Lines Girl Unbound Determined to break free of a binding curse, Tabitha enlists the help of nerdly Saoirse to battle an evil centuries old in the isolated moors of Wales. To Know That the Sun Is There Natty Rivers has faced daunting trials, but none so formidable as explaining to her doctoral defense board how she suffered a gunshot wound and heroically saved lives during “routine” research in the United Kingdom. Sky Woman Through postmortem discovery journeys, Skywoman helps her shaken twins still in Middleworld overcome the meddling rath of Skyman through the healing power of dogs and family. Assignment 6: Other Matters of Conflict Girl Unbound Girl Unbound is dual POV. Focusing on Tabitha first—She is frustrated to the max with having her magic bound. Her heart is breaking watching her familiar age because of it. And she seethes with hatred toward her mother who purposely poisons her so that her autism seems worse than it is and makes the coven think she needs her magic bound. She is also nettled by her cousin, Tobias, who has freedom not only from the dictatorial coven but his magic is not only intact but thriving. Saoirse is fraught with imposter syndrome as her magic is haywire. It doesn’t help her familiar finally emerges as a dog, which is unheard of. The only thing she’s good at is timewalking, a trait she shared with her late father. Wanderlust is deep seated in her soul and she wants to break free of the oppressive isolation of the coven to study what she’s good at—history—in a place where she would be away from their rules (Oxford ideally but anywhere she could get away to study really). A scene that could combine these elements might be a fight between Tabitha and Saoirse in which Tabitha (through writing because she’s nonverbal) tells Saoirse she’s an idiot for getting involved with Tobias. Saoirse, of course, wouldn’t listen because Tobias is from the Outside and his mysteriousness is too seductive for her to resist. Tabitha could break down at Saoirse and point out that she may well be able to escape one day into her books and the Outside, but she, Tabitha, will remain bound in the coven forever if they do not break the curse. She could point out that Tobias is a risk to all of this. His meddling is only going to attract coven eyes. Saoirse can’t get caught associating with him. This will leave both girls seething, of course, Saoirse because she’s being told to go contrary to her wishes and Tabitha because she is secretly pissed Tobias has anything to do with their plotting. To Know That the Sun Is There Natty is plagued by PTSD from her assaults while she was on active duty. She is a brilliant mind and a sensitive soul, which makes the world hard for her to navigate. But she’s trying to start over with her new life as a PhD student studying cutting edge research applications of dogs in law enforcement. There are several scenes already in the manuscript that highlight her struggles. One is where she pipes up because she sees a pattern in the case being discussed by several of the detectives and police officers at the Oxdale Police Department where she was able to secure a partnership to do research for her dissertation. Despite great misgivings about attracting attention to herself, she steps up and shows the pattern to the onlooking PD. It attracts the ire of a toxic masculine type who also has a beef with her thinking she’s a dog expert, as he’s a K-9 handler. She has to stand up for herself despite her insides screaming to run away. Another is where she has a fight with the love interest, DS Stewart Woods. He was trying to help her, but she is overwhelmed by insecurity and lashes out at him. She pushes him away because her trauma tells her to do so, not her heart. And yet another is when a figure from her traumatic past emerges, a Colonel Jillian Harrison, who exacted retribution on Natty when she was the victim of an assault during her active duty service. Natty desperately wants to pin the kidnappings on her and even comes up with some plausible connections. Deep down, her analytic self knows she’s biased. But she has to struggle, lash out at Woods, and work her way through her trauma to rid her mind of the bias. Because the manuscript is character driven, it’s rife with scenes of her past and how it influences her today. Maybe if I were to create a new scene, I could have Natty discussing something with her uncle and have her assert something like he doesn’t know what she’s been through. And he could tell her he wasn’t exactly in her situation but everyone has their battles. Then he could tell her about how he felt with Natty’s parents died. Or perhaps tell her about a case he failed on. Tell her how the effects of it still rattle him and how he has to work to handle them, even now. Sky Woman Jimmy is dealing with PTSD from his military service and his work as a cop. On top of that, one of his best friends from the Army committed suicide and his cheating spouse left his retired K-9, Jax, to Jimmy. He has older brother syndrome to boot because they grew up without a father, so he had always been responsible for his twin sister and his mother. Freya’s abusive situation is one he spots immediately and it both enrages him and makes him feel guilty for not keeping up with her in the last few years. Freya struggles with self esteem both from her abusive relationship with Daniel, but also because she absorbed wholeheartedly some of the more toxic behaviors of the “in-crowd” in NYC where she works as a social influencer. She has trouble setting boundaries and struggles from battered woman syndrome. She wants more than anything at the beginning of the story for her crowd of so-called friends back in NY not to know about what she has learned to think of as her “trashy” upbringing in Zephyrhills, FL. Lana, aka Skywoman, dealt with abuse both in her Middleworld and her Skyworld lives. Her husband was a corrupt cop, and she was raped by a Russian mob boss. The very reason she has had her iterations of life on Middleworld is because Skyman threw her in a jealous rage through a hole in Skyworld to the abyss below. Lana, however, reacts quite differently to abuse than Freya. She literally lights her past on fire and flees. It isn’t until her passing and her return to Skyworld that she has to contend with the complications of her past. A scene with all of them together would have to be a flashback from when Lana was still living. Perhaps before Jimmy leaves for the military and Freya for NYC when they are still teenagers growing up in Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Florida. Maybe Freya tries experimenting with pot and when Jimmy finds out, he erupts. Lana hears the argument and lands on Jimmy instead of Freya. Jimmy, feeling responsible for his sister but too immature really to bear that wait, reacts with an abundance of anger for her carelessness. Freya is miffed because she has an overwhelming urge to fit in and her brother is jeopardizing that, so she sees she has to distance herself from her family in order to “make it” in her mind. Lana would be less concerned with Freya’s dabbling and more so with Jimmy’s temper. It would remind her of her husband’s temper, which ultimately led her to do away with him. She can’t do the same with Jimmy obviously and the reemergence of this character trait would start Lana thinking she needs to figure out how to guide Jimmy better. Assignment 7: Setting Girl Unbound Girl Unbound is set in the harsh, windy moors of Wales. Specifically, it is set in the magical village on Kilcullen Hollows where the Irish Tuath De Danann witches immigrated centuries before to set up their isolated stronghold. Kilcullen Hollows is the quintessential stone-and-ivy English village but far away from prying eyes. The gardens have an affinity for their witches seen both in the contented sighing of the Groves family garden and the angry neglect of the Shahrani garden. The Galbreaith Academy, the coven’s school, is also unique. It changes its façade everyday. One day it might be a 13th century castle. The next a Bahamian plantation. It starts to deteriorate as the plot goes on, becoming more and more decrepit and sterile as the magic is sucked out of Kilchullen Hollows. At one point I even had the school set as the institutional brick block that I went to secondary school in! The school, like the gardens, is imbued with a certain magical guardianship, perhaps by the school’s enigmatic namesake. This magical heritage manifests itself in the library whose ropes elevate scholars to whatever books they seek, and the passages which, even though they change every day, still remain navigable to the students and faculty. There is the creepy Council House as well, rife with booby traps and ghosts who did not escape those traps. One scene takes Saoirse and Tobias back to the coven’s Pictish roots and they get to explore the inner workings of a crannog, and watch the coven plot against the Romans. To Know That the Sun Is There The setting in this book is essentially Oxford with all its grandeur. There are scenes at the world renowned Bodleian library and Ashmolean Museum, as well as other quintessential Oxford experiences such as punting or grabbing pints at the Trout Inn. The setting serves to draw in those of us who are literary nerds into the world of The Inklings which serves to highlight the literary nature in the mystery. But it also has a dual effect. Natty is American. She has to navigate the haute grandeur of one of the oldest, most distinguished universities in the world. It would be a challenge for anyone, but especially to a discerning, sensitive soul like Natty. The snubs do not go unnoticed. The university is called Oxdale instead of Oxford for one purpose—I needed it to be slightly more rural than the real Oxford. So, I plopped Snowdonia National Park (called Scaledonia National Park in the book) next to it. There is a wilderness rescue scene that is a pivotal bonding moment between Woods and Natty that happens when they go in search of a missing child in the wilderness together. The Royal Canine Conservatory is housed at a countryside manor with the room for the horses and dogs they use, and Natty herself, to breathe. Sky Woman Sky Woman goes through several settings. Sky World is depicted in the book as well as Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Florida, where the twins grow up. Jimmy goes on to Cay’s Harbor, a small reservation offshoot town in Canada where he goes presumably to set his mother’s estate, which he didn’t know about until now, in order. She has a small cabin on the lake there that needs to be renovated to sell. Through this endeavor Jimmy is introduced to the small town which had aspirations of becoming a tourist destination but fell short. It is in this setting that he is finally introduced to a heritage he did not know he had. One of the scenes brings him to the town’s cultural museum, and another to the annual strawberry festival at the longhouse. Cay’s Harbor was founded as a refuge for Kanienke (Mohawk) tribal members wanting a fresh start away from the woes plaguing Akwesasne. Both Jimmy and the setting feel isolated. It is here he learns of the trouble his corrupt cop of a father brought with him to Cay’s Harbor and feels the skepticism of the community that he might be the same. Therefore, Cay’s Harbor isn’t the welcoming small town. Instead, it is more complex. Ramshackle, but still together. Isolated but still alive and humming. Wounded, but trying to heal. Often the setting reflects the conflict and this is the case here as well. Freya’s journey is across the country in her mother’s RV full to the brim with hilarious, “derpy” rescue dogs. She takes them to all the iconic spots along the way in order to share them on social media and get them adopted. They go to Café du Monde in New Orleans, and the Grand Canyon. The rising action takes Freya and her new friends to the bottom of the Grand Canyon into the Havasupai reservation and the famous Havasu Falls area. Her journey out west shows a stark juxtaposition to her former life back in NYC. Ultimately her journey leads to her to be reunited with Jimmy in Cay’s Harbor in Canada, including several stops along the way. Her setting, like her story, is one of busting free of the bonds of battered woman syndrome, so I felt like her cross-country journey was a great way to showcase this and her newly found freedom.