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  1. What happens when your vocation as an Executioner keeps you from finding love? Finding happiness while lopping off heads sends this unusual woman into a partnership she never saw coming. This is a 79,000 word Speculative Romance. Maigrede is proud to follow in her family’s footsteps to act as the Executioner, but it is forbidden for women to perform the task so she must keep her identity a secret. One day, she arrives at her hidden home to discover Philip, an injured nobleman. Against her instinctual need for isolation she finds herself falling in love with him. All is well until he discovers the truth about her job. Forced to make a choice between her heart and her duty she chooses her life’s work and loses the man. Left alone and with child she breaks her code to rescue a woman she is supposed to execute. The woman becomes a friend, helpmate, and then lover. Together, they raise Maigrede’s child and build a family until war enters their balanced existence. Once again, Maigrede faces choices which seem impossible. She struggles to understand her role in a fractured land. Comps include: Sistersong by Lucy Holland and The Princess and the Odium by Sam Ledel
  2. Hello everyone! This is my first chapter. Content warnings for implied pedophilia and abuse (both non-graphic). Then 1982-1986 Cleveland, OH 1 Sean Cold metal everywhere. Under my ass. Around my neck. Above my head. The van jumped a bump, and my head whacked the slab over it. The new boy in the cage next to me didn’t need to huddle to fit, but did anyway. When the van stopped, I and the others leaned on the cages’ doors. The exact disembarkation procedure differed depending on where we were taken, but it always started with our backs to the metal. There were three of us that night, and since nothing hid our restraints, I expected a remote area where no one would question the waist chains. The back doors swung open to reveal a garage. Not like one for a mall or an apartment building, but a two-car residential garage. My throat parched. They held auctions in the houses. I could spend a week with the same pervert determined to get his money’s worth. Chris opened my cage last. The choke collar tightened from the weight of the chain leash, but I knew better than to flinch. A woman in a slinky red jumpsuit checked the others’ brands. Chris spun me around and lifted my shirt. “He’s marked differently,” he said. “Wouldn’t hold still?” she asked. “Something like that,” he laughed, and the bile inched to my throat. Disco music, cigarette smoke, and the stench of too many bodies saturated the air. All the boys were barefoot, in blue jeans and white tank tops. The girls donned pink babydoll dresses and high pigtails. It had to be an auction. There was some rule about dressing us the same for those. Greasy, hungry adults leered from folding chairs and plush, dusty blue couches. Chris pushed a pill into the others’ mouths and gave them what was never water. My dose never came. He set them loose, even the new boy. I remained chained as he herded me through the house and into a dining room with a long, dark wood table, waxed to a glass-like finish. At its head was a balding man with a scraggly beard and beer belly. The guy’s plate held a heap of mashed potatoes and a huge steak. I had finished the peanut butter a while ago. I’d do whatever he wanted for half of each. Even a quarter. A taste. “Is this him?” he asked in a voice like scrunched tin foil and looked me up and down. I fixed my eyes at nothing in particular, but still keep that steak in my peripheral vision. Chris huffed. “Who the hell do you think I’d bring you?” God, I missed hot food. Forgetting myself, I followed a forkful of mashed potatoes from the plate to his mouth where we locked eyes. Before I could drop my gaze or step back from a probable slap, he took me by the chin, inspecting my face this way and that. Safe for the moment, my eyes found the plate again. “Very nice. Yes. I think he’ll do.” He pulled a wad of bills out and handed a few to Chris. “Half hour. Clock doesn’t start till I get to the room.” “Then you pay for the whole hour. I’m not losing money because you have to stuff your face.” He counted out a few more bills. I didn’t pay attention to the denominations; I didn’t care what I was supposed to do, and only hoped it would involve that steak. The man tsked and said, “Get those chains off him. He’s not an animal.” “He’s got a history of running,” Chris muttered and unlocked the waist chain. The man smirked. “They don’t run if you treat them better.” That yanked my attention from the plate to him, but not for long. “All the chains,” he said. Chris grumbled and gave the collar a tug. The links caught my skin and I clenched my teeth to keep from wincing. “Don’t make me chase you,” he said into my ear, low and icy. I could nod “ok” or shake “I won’t” but Chris didn’t want an answer. The chain left my neck for the first time in forever. I expected relief but only felt lost. The man beckoned an older girl over. She wasn’t much older, just enough to have tiny peaks and not be in pink. Her dress was red, sheer, and paired with high heels. “Make sure David comes here when he’s done,” he told her, and I watched as she scurried off. “You like that?” The right answer was never clear, so I stopped looking at her. The food was more appealing anyway. “Speak up,” he said. “Do you like girls?” I swallowed the grit in my throat. “Her shoes look hard to walk in, is all.” Fear pulled my spine straight. Non-answers were worse than looking at the wrong thing. “I know my way around guys better.” “Don’t we all,” he said and crowned a piece of steak with potato. I was staring at his fork. He was staring at me. Crap. I was fucking up all over. But Chris already had the money. Maybe the beating wouldn’t be as bad as the last? The man scowled and inched the fork toward me. What if he was teasing? My breath quickened. I opened my mouth and hoped for the best. The meat was seared to a salty crust, with its interior juicy and tender. The potatoes were buttery, creamy goodness. I pressed the lusciousness to the roof of my mouth, unwilling to waste the moment, even though my hollow stomach protested with an angry growl. The rest of me soared like they drugged me. A blond boy appeared out of nowhere. “Just wanted head,” he told the man and handed him money. “Sent you back early too.” The boy shrugged. “Didn’t take long.” He was older. I guessed around twelve. Maybe I wouldn’t die before hitting the double digits? The man motioned at me. “This is one of Chris’s boys. Bring him to the studio but get him something to eat first. I’ll meet you there.” “Ok,” the boy said, and took my hand. We weaved through the crowd and got stopped by a guy who looked like the scientist in Jaws. Eyes hungrier than me swept over us. “Are you a two for one deal tonight?” he asked and licked his lips. “Never. And we’re booked. Sorry,” the boy said, dragging me along. “I hate that guy,” he said under his breath. “I hate all of them.” “Me too.” He grinned and pushed through a swinging door. “But that guy is seriously twisted. What do you want to eat?” If I were a cartoon character, my eyes would have popped out three feet ahead of me. The kitchen’s bounty glowed. “Not peanut butter.” He handed me a paper plate and leaned on the counter, bored. “Take stuff that’s not on the platters.” I shoved anything edible into my mouth and when it was full, I piled stuff on the plate. “Slow down!” He lunged to stop me and screwed his face into disgust. “Christ.” I froze, but held onto the plate for dear life. The expression dripped into curiosity. “When was the last time you ate?” My mouth was too full to answer. “Chew that real good and don’t rush. Then tell me.” He tried to take my food again; I tightened my grip. “I’m just gonna put it down. Not take it away. It’s ok. I promise.” I swallowed some, talked around the rest, and clung to that plate. “Nothing about this is ok.” “Oh. You’re new.” He smirked and rolled his eyes. “Shoulda known. You don’t have the bee thing on your arm yet.” He tugged his jeans over one hip, revealing his brand. “Mine’s a camera.” I pulled the tank up while turning around. “I’m not new.” “Fuck,” he breathed. I felt pressure around the scabs as he touched them. “Belt?” “Whip.” I let go of the material. He sized me up with a bit of respect behind his eyes. “You ran.” “Not fast enough. And it’s been a couple of days, I think. Since I ate.” “Peanut butter?” He rolled his eyes again at my nodding. “Then you gotta eat just a little, and real slow. Or else you’re gonna throw it up.” He opened a few cabinets until he found hot cups and lids. “You like meatballs?” he asked and then mumbled, “What the fuck am I asking you for? You’d probably eat meatballs made with dog right now.” He lifted the lid off a pot. Steam swirled up, and I swooned. He scooped a few meatballs into two cups and fitted a top on each. “Don’t worry. It’s not dog. I’m not so sure it’s cow either but, it’s not dog. C’mon,” he waved with one hand and snatched something up with another. “You know the saying ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’?” He swung around and pointed the tines of a fork at me. “If you stab me, I’ll do worse than that whip. You get me?” I accepted the possible weapon. “I’m not stupid.” He knocked a different swinging door open with his ass. “We’re all stupid.” The studio was a room with all sorts of photography equipment, backdrops, and props. Relaxing was a mistake. There was a bed behind a drape in the corner. Not that we needed a bed. “Does Larry know about your back?” He stared at my blank expression “Larry. The guy?” He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “You don’t got a clue what’s gonna happen, do you?” I looked around the studio. “Some combination of pictures and fucking, yeah?” “What gave you that idea?” He exaggerated a confused face and a bitter laugh followed. “Larry usually won’t touch you. He can’t get it up so even if he tries, it won’t be nothing too bad from him.” Only one guy whose dick didn’t work had rented me before and it was one of the worst hours of my life. “So just pictures?” “Pictures to start, yeah.” He nodded slowly, curious what my reaction would be to his next statement. “And then… he likes to watch.” “Watch?” I parroted back. “Watch what? Us?” He considered me and cocked his head to the side. “You’ve only been with one of them, right? And not one of us?” Did it matter? The meatballs and cream cheese cracker things battled it out in my stomach. “I think I ate too fast.” He shoved a wastebasket at me. “It probably won’t get that far. He’s not gonna lose cash by keeping me here. But if it does, and if he doesn’t direct, then we can totally fake it.” “Fake it?” I echoed again. “Yeah. If it looks like I can get away with it, I’ll get you on your back and slide under instead of in.” “But if we get caught…” I hugged the wastebasket. “We won’t,” he dismissed. “But if he gets up for a better look, I… well I can’t fake it then.” “If that gets back to Chris…” I couldn’t finish the thought. A voice in the hall launched him into hyper-instructional mode. “Fuck. That was fast. Listen to me. Dealing with Larry and each other is a hell of a lot better than those fuckers out there. It’s easy. Unless he tells you different, you gotta look right into the camera. And mix it up by acting like there’s meatballs on the other side and someone taking them away. I’ll whisper instructions if I can and for god’s sake don’t show him your back.” “Boys,” Larry said as he walked in. He yanked the basket away and spun me so we both faced Larry. “Took you long enough. It’s mean to give me a pretty one and make me wait.” My body tensed and he whispered, “Go with it.” Larry laughed and waved us toward the gray backdrop. “You boys getting along ok?” he asked and picked things off the shelf behind the camera. “We’re just fine. Don’t you worry.” The boy stopped us in the middle of the fabric pooled on the floor and leaned into my ear. “I’m David and I’ll try not to hurt you.” The hell of my life was so crazy I didn’t know what to believe.
  3. Self-Coverage Novel Scorebox Charles and Agnes, Historical Fiction, Susie Pruett MARKET VALUE Originality, freshness, high concept: 4 I believe these three categories are covered. The concept, an American heiress goes to London to marry a Viscount and falls in love with the Viscount’s valet is an idea that came from two of my favorite authors. I love P.G. Wodehouse’s character Jeeves and wondered what would happen if he ever fell in love. Another favorite author of mine is Edith Wharton. I combined her last book, “The Buccaneers” about rich American girls going to Europe to marry titles with the idea of Jeeves and came up with the story of an American heiress who falls in love with a Viscount’s valet. The story began from there. In the Romance genre the concept of a rich person falling for a poor one is not new. Usually, the rich person is a man and the poor one a woman. If a rich girl falls for a poor man, he usually turns out to be an aristocrat or prince or some other class that elevates him to the level of the woman. However, in my story the valet does not turn out to be a secret prince or aristocrat in hiding. He is simply a servant who also happens to be a good man worthy of inspiring love and of course, there is the sexual tension between Agnes and Charles. The additional aspect that contributes to the concept is that the Viscount the heiress is supposed to marry is a homosexual with problems of his own. Additionally, the valet and the Viscount have grown up together and the valet has devoted his life to protecting the Viscount’s secret life. When the valet falls in love with the American heiress, he is conflicted by his need to protect the Viscount’s secret while saving the heiress from a disastrous marriage. Clear target readership: 4 I am a fan of historical romance. I have read over one thousand historical romances from various authors. With a few rare exceptions, they all seemed pretty much the same to me. I wanted to write a book I would read. So I think the person who would read this book is someone like me, a fan of historical romance looking for something a little different. Hook: 3+ As 1912 England is on the brink of catastrophic change, a compassionate British valet to an emotionally damaged, opium addicted, homosexual Viscount, and a desperate American heiress sent to London by her domineering grandmother to marry the Viscount, meet under false pretenses and fall in love. When they discover their true identities, they must overcome duty, and society to be together. STRUCTURE Act Zero back-story development: 3 The story begins with the history of Glennwell Abbey which haunts the Viscount and will be his eventual downfall. Then the story picks up in London through a scene with Charles, the valet, going to an opium den and homosexual brothel to find the Viscount. The reader is introduced to Charles as a devoted, though equivocal servant, and to the Viscount as an addicted, haunted soul. We learn the back-story between the two men through their conversation and internal narrative. In New York, Agnes is introduced at her engagement party. We learn her back-story through her momentary memories before she enters the party. I don’t think it is an info dump as I tried to make the memories brief and relevant. Agnes’s relationship with her grandmother is shown through their conversation and Agnes’s thoughts. Concise, effective setup with inciting incident: 4 Setup: The Viscount is informed by the Earl that it is time he married. The scene is through the Viscount’s POV: The Earl cleared his throat. "It's time you married. Twenty eight is a good age to start filling your nursery. Glennwell needs a long line of heirs and since your mother never provided me with more sons, it's up to you. Maybe a true Forster will come out of those loins of yours after all. I dare say if you have enough sons, at least one of them will take after my side of the family." If Robbie had been at liberty to react as he truly wanted to, he would have barked out a laugh. Sons? From his loins? Never. It was never going to happen. Oh if his father only knew his whereabouts six hours earlier. But, he could play this game if he had to. "Absolutely, sir. That's the ticket. It is time. Sons, yes. That is exactly what I need to do. I need to marry and have sons for the title." Agnes breaks her engagement to her cheating fiancé (setup) and is sent by her grandmother to London to escape the scandal and to marry the Viscount (Inciting incident). "Be that as it may," Grandmother said, looking down her nose at Eleanor. "The question before us now, is this engagement business. After last night, Agnes is not inclined to go through with the wedding and I won't insist on it knowing what a fool Freddy is. However, if at all possible, I'd like to avoid another all out scandal." The disgrace that cost Grandmother her standing in society was still a topic of conversation. "Yes, of course. We must avoid a scandal at all cost. The only solution is for Agnes to go away for awhile.” Eleanor turned from addressing Grandmother to Agnes. “You simply must come with me to Europe, Agnes. Trevor and I are returning to Harding House next week. There is nothing like a trip to Europe to cure the blue devils and cover a multitude of sins. Don't you agree, Camille? Maybe there is a titled gentleman there for you, Agnes my dear.” Agnes held her stomach as it rolled over. She wanted to hide. The term “Dollar Princess” from the Broadway play echoed in her mind. Was she destined for the same distressing fate as so many of those other girls whose marriages ended up being disasters? Plot line arc and subplots: 3+ The plot line arc follows the hero’s journey for all the characters. The only difference is that Charles and Agnes end their journey having achieved their goal and the Viscount and Earl each end theirs in tragedy. The POV of the Viscount is a subplot. His suffering and motivation are revealed to the reader. Another subplot involves two orphans which Charles finds on the street and takes them to Mrs. Collier’s, the same orphanage where he lived as a boy. In the end they are adopted by Charles and Agnes and taken to America. Well designed reversals: 2 Agnes doesn’t marry Freddy, goes to London and meets Charles Agnes and Charles find out their true identities at the party. Agnes marries the Viscount. After finding out Agnes is pregnant, Charles’s loyalty changes from the Viscount to Agnes. The Viscount dies. Agnes tells the Earl the child is not his blood heir, but the Earl doesn’t care and still wants the boy. Pinch Points: 2 After Agnes and Charles have promised to end their relationship, the Earl requires Charles to persuade Agnes to marry the Viscount. Agnes becomes pregnant after confessing to Charles how miserable she is. Catalytic, situation driven: 3 Each new situation is a catalyst for the conflict. Agnes breaks her engagement and consequently is sent to London. Agnes in London meets Charles which is the beginning of the romance. Agnes and Charles discover their real identities and must end their budding relationship. Agnes meets the Viscount and sees his weirdness which prompts her to question the engagement. The weekend at Glennwell Abbey gives Agnes and Charles a chance to be together in secret. Agnes ends her confusion over whether to honor her grandmother’s wishes by finally marrying the Viscount. The admission that the marriage has not been consummated leads to Agnes getting pregnant by Charles. The Viscount despairs and falls from the Abbey walls and dies. The Viscount’s death means Charles and Agnes can be together. Agnes tells the Earl the child is not the Viscount’s. The Earl does not care because he wants an heir. Agnes and Charles leave for America. When the Earl finds out they have taken his grandson, he has a stroke leaving him paralyzed on one side of his body. The Countess is free from his domination and in charge of his care. Conflict, tension, rising action: 4 I believe there is a high degree of conflict in the story which contributes to the rising action and tension. Over arching conflict of class; External conflict between Agnes and her grandmother regarding her marriage; External conflict between the Earl and the Viscount; Internal conflict of Agnes concerning her desire to be loved by her grandmother; Internal conflict of Charles concerning his desire to protect the Viscount’s secret; Internal conflict of the Viscount over his secret life; External conflict of the Viscount as he is haunted by the ghosts of the Abbey; Conflict between Charles and Agnes over their differing social class; Internal conflict of Charles and Agnes concerning their love for each other; Conflict between Agnes and the Earl over the child. Every scene relevant: 3 I have tried to make every scene relevant. However, I’m not sure the subplots contribute to the main plot. In the case of the orphans, I wanted to illustrate Charles’s compassion and add a touch of whimsy. In the end I’m not sure if I should keep that part, though I love the orphans. In the subplot of the Viscount I have included his POV. I wanted to show how his anguish over his sexuality (remember it’s 1912) and how his father treated him drove him to use opium and what effect it had on him. Is he really haunted by the ghosts of the Abbey, or is it the opium? The subplot of Trevor sets up the sequel. Effective, believable climax: 4 The climax is predictable in the sense that this is a romance and must have a happily ever after. I toyed with the idea of not letting Charles and Agnes end up together, a circumstance more consistent with their reality especially in 1912. However, I did let them end up together because I felt their true essences were what made them ultimately compatible and willing to face whatever obstacles they might encounter. Resolution: 4 I believe each of the story lines have satisfactory resolutions. Agnes and Charles end up together with their baby and the orphans. The Viscount’s end is sad, but where else could he have ended up? He was in a nightmare life. The Earl is ultimately outwitted and meets his deserved end. Trevor is left with a possible future. CHARACTERS: Antagonistic force: 4 The over-riding antagonistic force is the class difference which Charles and Agnes must overcome to be together. The other antagonistic forces are their feelings of duty to others over their own happiness. The Earl’s cruel treatment of the Viscount and his desire to control everything is another antagonistic force. Agnes’s grandmother is also an antagonistic force since she keeps Agnes from having a life of her own. Consistent opposition: 4 The forces of society and tradition which pull on both Charles and Agnes are the most consistent opposition. However, the subtle influence which the Viscount has on Charles and Agnes keeps them apart by the fact that Charles must be loyal to him and Agnes is supposed to marry him. He is an obstacle to their being together. Protagonist’s goals: 4 There are two protagonists in this love story since the outcome of each is important to the story. Charles begins with his goals being to protect the Viscount and keep his secrets. By the end of the story, his goal changes to being with Agnes and his child. Agnes begins with the goal of obeying her grandmother. Her goal changes to being with Charles and their baby. Sympathetic protagonist: I think Charles is set up as a sympathetic character. He is loyal and kind. He cares about other people and tries to help the orphans. 4 Setting up Agnes as a sympathetic character was harder. Although she is in a life she doesn’t want, and is controlled by her grandmother, she is rich and has everything material in life she could want. I tried to show her as a rebel at heart and thus able in the end to find a life she wants in spite of her grandmother. 3 Protagonist’s arc: 3 Charles begins as a man who is dominated by his desire to take care of others to the point where he does things he doesn’t believe in. For instance, he goes to great lengths to protect the Viscount. In today’s language we would say he is an enabler. Although Charles does not know the term, he instinctively knows what he does for the Viscount is not in the long run helping him. Naturally, when the Viscount dies, Charles blames himself because he has already begun to separate himself from the Viscount in favor of Agnes. In the end, although he is still a kind and loving man, he has chosen to seek happiness of his own. Agnes begins as a young woman who is dominated by her grandmother’s desire to re-join Old New York society and uses Agnes to that purpose. Because she has always felt responsible for her grandmother’s fall from grace, she does whatever her grandmother requires of her. In spite of that, Agnes has a small fire of rebellion within her. She goes through an anxious time deciding whether or not to marry the Viscount and ultimately succumbs to her grandmother’s wishes. When she finds out what kind of man the Viscount is when he can’t consummate the marriage, she goes to Charles. They make love and Agnes becomes pregnant. Her life becomes much more complicated since she must tell the Viscount the truth. He despairs, takes too much opium, hallucinates and dies from a fall. After that, Agnes defies both her grandmother and the Earl and goes to America with Charles, their baby and the orphans. Supporting characters: 4 There are several supporting characters. The Earl’s valet, Mr. Percy, who mentored Charles; Mrs. Collier the owner of the orphanage where Charles lived; Lady Harding, Agnes’s aunt, Trevor’s mother and the woman Agnes is living with in London; the Countess of Glennwell, the Viscount’s mother; Lyle, one of the footmen; Rat and Mouse, the orphans; the woman who lives with Mrs. Collier; the cook; the head butler at Glennwell House; Katie, the scullery maid. NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT: Scene length and structure: 2 This might need work. I tried to keep the scenes and chapters relatively even, but may have missed it with the structure. I know each scene must have a beginning, middle and end in the same way a story must. And each scene must carry the plot forward. I’m not sure I did this with every scene. Effective transitions: 2 Again, I’m not sure this is accomplished. I re-ordered the scenes for more effective transitions, but this may need more work. Clarity of spatial set: 4 I attempted to make clear where each scene was taking place. The reader sees everything through the eyes of the character whose POV we are in. So, the reader knows where the character is by what the character can observe and feel. I tried to bring in all the senses when describing a place. Comprehensible prose narrative: 4 This is not a work of literary fiction. It is genre fiction. I have written it in simple language without writing down to the reader. I believe it is easily read and understood. Nothing fancy here. Tension on the page: 4 Because there is always the tension of the overall situation, each page has some of that tension. The problem with the Viscount, the difference in social status between Agnes and Charles, the looming presence of the Earl, plus the emotional ups and downs of the characters, keeps the tension going. Dialogue mastery: 4 If there is one thing I am proud of, it is my ability with dialogue. It seems to flow naturally when I’m in the character’s POV. The dialogue reflects the time it is in without being arcane. Exposition delivery: 2 Not sure about the exposition delivery. I may not have achieved the fine line between too much exposition and not enough. Narrative composition: 4 I tried to make the narrative composition equal among description of places as seen through the character’s POV, interior monologue and dialogue. I may have overdone the exposition at times. Cinematic imagery: 4 I think I have come pretty close to nailing this one. I see the story as if it were a movie playing out before my eyes and try to describe what I see. The descriptions of most places are told from a cinematic perspective. Proper point-of-view: 4 I use the point-of-view that I believe will best enhance the scene and I am careful to stay in that character’s POV. Wise use of craft technique: 3 I have studied a lot of craft. In addition to attending workshops and classes, I’ve read at least twenty books on craft, from structure (three act, four act, six act, plot points, pinch points, midpoints) to description and characterization. I know what each plot point is to achieve and where it goes in the story. Needless to say, I should have a pretty fair grasp of craft at this point. However, I’m a “pantser” so even though I use a brief outline, I’m not sure my plot points are accurate or well timed. Interior Monologue and rumination: 3 Interior monologue is a way to bring the reader closer to the character. It shows the emotion the character is having at any given moment. I’m aware that is a weak point of mine and although I have tried to develop the interior monologue as a way to experience the character’s emotions, I’m not sure I have achieved this effectively. BOOK REPORTS “The art of Fiction” by John Gardner How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? Gardner obviously has a great respect for the art of fiction. He elevates it to a high level of moral responsibility. Although he says there are no “rules” for writing, he elaborated on some of the basic guidelines. For instance, character shapes plot, plot is discovered through exploration, characters must be interesting, fiction is art yet there are serious principals at work. I found his verbosity too heavy for me. It got in the way of the ideas he was attempting to get across. I thought he was very judgmental at times like when he said, basically a morally corrupt person cannot write a good book, which may or may not be true. He also implied the only way to become a good writer is to have a University Professor as your guide which fits well with his pedagogical approach. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? The one aspect that was instructional to me was the idea of the “vivid and continuous dream” of the novel which must not be interrupted by the writer. He rephrased the idea of author intrusion into a more interesting context. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Gardner does not talk about the structure of a story. “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? I read this book many years ago. I have also taken a workshop by Maass. I was inspired by the concept of my novel being better than “good enough.” He introduced me to the idea of striving for “break out” status. He gives a practical guide for how to create subplots, multiple points of view, building interesting characters, inner and outer conflict and stakes that have what he calls “break out” status. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? Good storytelling is the core of a successful novel. Conflict is the essence of plot. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. Continually escalate the stakes. Ask “what if” questions. Kill somebody. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Nothing conflicted, although the approach was different. Maass described structure as elements of plot. He also stresses escalating conflict as one of the basics in writing a break out novel. “Write Away” by Elizabeth George How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? This book was the most instructional for me of all the books on this list. George goes into detail about everything the writer needs to know in order to write a novel. She gives examples of her own and other’s writing to illustrate her points. Her diary entries at the beginning of each chapter make her seem as insecure as any writer. One does not expect such insecurities from a successful writer which made her all the more relatable. This is a good book to keep as a reference guide. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? George gave excellent suggestions for how to develop character, the importance of place as setting, how to structure scene, the power of dialogue, and plotting. She broke each topic down using specific examples which were easy to understand and follow. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Again, there was nothing that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings. But the topics were approached in more depth. "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? My overall impression of this book the first time I read it was that it was depressing as hell. For example, on page eleven, she makes a most discouraging comment, “…your work is so meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well or ever.” I understand the sentiment here. But, she could have stated it in a more uplifting way, I thought. Then I picked up the book again in order to write this report and saw it in a completely different light. There are pearls of wisdom on the pages, also irony and humor. She said if you leave a work in progress for too long, it will turn on you. So true. Her stories of the typewriter that caught fire, the use and limits of coffee, revving oneself up to write only to take a break, the strange chess game, the story of the stunt pilot and how she was struck by the beauty of the skill. I am a painter and I liked the way she often compared painting to writing. She observed and interpreted her life experiences and used them to illustrate aspects of writing. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? I learned about the author’s life and experiences and how she viewed them in a grander scheme. She was awake to her life and that was an example to me. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Nothing that obviously conflicted, but the authors approach to writing was more creative and non-academic. SELL SHEET (TITLE OF PROJECT) SELL SHEET Agnes and Charles (working title) 2. GENRE and COMPARABLES (please review the comp guidelines!). Historical Romance The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn The House at Riverton by Kate Morton 3. LOG OR HOOK LINE (this is crucial!) A British valet and an American heiress accidentally meet and fall in love. 4. SHORT PITCH SYNOPSIS (200-300 words - tight and punchy!) After Agnes Worthington breaks her engagement, she is sent to London to marry a British Viscount. The Viscount is living a secret life as an opium addicted homosexual, haunted by the ghosts of the monks from the old Abbey. Charles Stevens, the Viscount’s devoted valet protects the Viscount and covers for him. When Agnes and Charles accidentally meet in the park and spend time together, an attraction develops. At a dinner where Agnes is a guest and Charles is acting as a footman, they are shocked to see each other. With the differences in their social status, their relationship must end. Meanwhile, the courtship between the Viscount and Agnes is not proceeding. The Earl, who needs money, and is also obsessed by the desire to have an heir, becomes angry and orders Charles to intervene and make sure the Viscount marries Agnes. Charles is torn by this request because he knows the marriage will be a disaster and he loves Agnes and wants to protect her. When Charles and Agnes surrender to their passion for each other, Agnes becomes pregnant. Now she must marry the Viscount. Eventually, the Viscount dies by falling from the crumbling walls of the old Abbey. After the Viscount’s funeral, Agnes is faced with the decision to tell the Earl the child is not his heir, or let her child be in line for the earldom. Together, she and Charles realize they must not let the cruel Earl raise their child. They leave for America. 5. FIRST 500 WORDS (best of the best--make or break) LONDON October 1912 Charles Stevens pulled the worn coat tighter as the chill night air of the waterfront settled around him. The stink of rotting fish and brine washing up from the Thames seemed to coat the inside of his nostrils. He pulled out his watch and noted that he’d been standing here for one hour. The only light came from a yellow haze that encircled a street lamp, and the moon whose light could be seen behind strands of clouds. A sound alerted him to something crawling from the gutter. A tom cat emerged, its fur patchy and scratched, one ear torn. It reminded him of a boxing man he once knew. He laughed silently at that notion, watching as the cat ignored his surroundings and began twitching his whiskers sniffing the air. "Out for a late supper, old chap?" Charles reached in the pocket of his second hand coat and pinched off a piece of left-over cheese. He tossed the chunk down in front of the animal. It crouched, hesitating before stalking the cheese. The feline devoured the food and hastened away. “Quite right." Charles said. "No sense dithering. I should get on with the task at hand." Vaguely amused at himself, he blamed procrastination for the boredom that had him talking to cats. For a moment, Charles questioned why he was here. He asked himself why he was always in places he didn't want to be, disguised in old clothes, required to be patient as he waited in the shadows? But, he knew why. He had a job he took seriously, to protect the Viscount from harm. And that meant he must keep the Earl of Glennwell from finding out where his son, Robert, Viscount Forster spent his nights. The Earl was a cruel bully whose self-centered desire in life was to have an heir, a son who looked like himself, large and dark, and who liked hunting, shooting and womanizing. These were things the Earl could understand. He could not comprehend his son. And, indeed Robbie was not masculine in the way the Earl valued. Robbie was average height with light blonde hair like his mother. He was prettier than a boy should be. He was naturally thin and not the least athletic. Charles had never actually known a homosexual man, until Robbie. He first became aware that Robbie was attracted to men when they had gone swimming together, in the nude, and Robbie had an erection upon seeing Charles's body. At the time, Charles and Robbie were young men and Charles had just become Robbie's valet. Charles was lying on the blanket in the sun when he felt a hand on his groin. Shocked, he slapped Robbie’s hand away and jumped up. “What the blazes?” Charles said as he grabbed up his trousers and put them on. Barefoot and carrying the rest of his clothes, he stormed away, leaving Robbie by the river. 6. PLOT OUTLINE (bullet by bullet summary of all the major points from the Six Act, divided by Act--plot points, reversals, etc--one line only per point. This should be brief, please, but also label each bullet, e.g., Reversal #1, Pinch Point #2, etc.) Story statement: A lonely valet meets a naïve heiress and they fall in love. ACT ONE Set Up Agnes breaks her engagement, to avoid scandal she goes to London to marry a Viscount Conflict between Agnes and her grandmother regarding her marriage The Viscount has meeting with his father and is told he is to marry a rich heiress. Inciting incident: Charles and Agnes meet accidentally in the park. Exposition: Charles and Agnes continue to see each other and their attraction grows. ACT TWO First PP: Charles serves as footman and Agnes is guest at dinner. Conflict between Charles and Agnes over their differing social class; ACT THREE Minor Reversals: Charles and Agnes each feel betrayed and they know any future is hopeless. The courtship between Robbie and Agnes is not going well. The Earl instructs Charles to intercede on behalf of Robbie. Minor Complications: Charles must seem to encourage Agnes to marry Robbie. Agnes and Charles fall more deeply in love. Agnes and Charles succumb to their attraction and make love. ACT FOUR FIRST MAJOR REVERSAL and 2nd PP: Agnes discovers she is pregnant and decides she must marry Robbie. Agnes marries Robbie as Charles watches helplessly. Pinch point: The Earl belittles Robbie for not getting Agnes pregnant. Agnes tells Robbie she is pregnant. Agnes tells Robbie who the father is. Robbie is jealous that Charles loves Agnes. Climax: At the Abbey, Robbie climbs a crumbling wall where he falls and dies. Agnes has the baby boy. Agnes and Charles tell the Earl the truth about the baby. The Earl says he will accept the boy as his heir anyway. Agnes and Charles tell the Earl they will not let him have the boy. ACT FIVE Denouement Agnes tells the Earl she will marry Charles and return to America. The Earl becomes angry and tells her if she leaves, he will find her. Agnes and Charles leave for America. The Earl is angry and has a stroke which leaves him partially paralyzed Final Surprise In a letter, Agnes’s grandmother confesses her long time love for her butler. Tells Agnes to marry the man she loves.
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