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Travis Johnston

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    Author of middle grade fantasy and science fiction novels.

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  1. Story Statement Rescue his parents from Earthlings and stop them from destroying his home planet. Antagonist Commander Natalie Jordan is the leader of the Earthling army on the planet Toren. She bears a scar under her right eye and wears a metal mask over her mouth and nose, which creates the most awful, raspy sound when she breathes. She likes the way people cringe and shy away from her when she draws near. Her goal: do whatever necessary to save Earth from certain destruction, and make her brother—the emperor of Earth—proud. He’s the one who gave her that scar when she’d failed him long ago. She won’t fail him again! Breakout Title JACK STEAM AND THE EARTHLINGS EARTHLINGS KIDNAPPED MY PARENTS Comparable Titles Merlin: The Lost Years by T.A. Barron meets Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Yes, the first comp title is middle-grade fantasy and the second is a middle-grade science fiction. My novel definitely fits in the genre of middle-grade science fiction, but the protagonist lives in a medieval setting when he is introduced to the Earthlings, and their technology seems like magic. So, it works with the whole “medieval + sci fi + middle grade” concept. Plus, both of those comp titles portray courageous young boys (10-12 years old) as protagonists who have to face great challenges on their own—much like the protagonist of my story: Jack Steam. Hook Line A twelve-year-old boy sets off to rescue his parents who were taken by Earthlings and stop them from destroying his home planet. Inner “Secondary” Conflict Jack was traumatized when his parents were taken from him three years earlier. He strives to overcome his post-traumatic stress every day by facing anything that scares him head on. Hypothetical Scenario: He’ll climb tall trees and jump over deadly crevices to feel like he’s conquered all of his fears. Whenever images of that awful night creep into his mind, he forces them away by doing something dangerous. But the paralyzing trauma will resurface in full force when he faces Commander Jordan, the Earthling who took his parents. Jack’s drive to face his fears make him courageous but also a bit reckless. This creates a rift between him and his best friend who prefers extreme caution. Setting The setting is terraformed Mars about a thousand years in the future. But the reader doesn’t know that at first. Initially, the planet of the protagonist is called Toren, a green world that resembles that of Earth. The inhabitants of Toren live in a medieval society with kings, queens, and knights. The presence of the space-faring Earthlings comes as quite the shock to the people of Toren. This setting creates a unique experience of viewing ourselves through an “alien’s” perspective. Plus, the reader will get to experience what a terraformed Mars could look like. As Jack learns more about the Earthlings, he also learns more about his own planet. He explores a forbidden forest with ancient ruins that hint of advanced technology—though he initially writes it off as magic. He doesn’t know that he’s exploring the remains of Martian colonies from centuries ago. He eventually learns the planet he’s called Toren was actually called Mars first, and that it was terraformed to look like and be as inhabitable as Earth. He learns that Earth is in ruins, still suffering from a huge nuclear war centuries ago. And now the Earthlings have come to Mars to dig up the main terraforming technology and take it back to Earth to save their own planet. But in so doing, they will jeopardize the inhabitability of Mars. When the kings and queens learn of the Earthlings’ true plans, they are furious. This creates an Earth vs Mars conflict that will span throughout the series.
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