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New York Pitch and Algonkian Pre-event Assignments - 2022

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

Lydia must maintain an uneasy balance between her mission to destroy the Roman army and the Roman soldier she loves, all while grappling with her growing obsession with the latter. 


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.

At first, the antagonist force is Lydia’s guild of sorcerers. Though they are Lydia’s family, their goal of revenge against Rome means she must maintain an uneasy balance between them and her love, Publius. Eventually, the guild’s goals force the two lovers apart. As the story progresses, however, Lydia becomes her own antagonist as her obsession with Publius and jealousy over his marriage mark her path to destruction.


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

The Consul’s Son

The Last Sorceress of Rome

The Mark of Death


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?


For my first comparable, I chose THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern in that it has a similar focus on an impossible couple and the consequences of their love. THE NIGHT CIRCUS places this focus against the backdrop of a competition to the death involving magic, a situation similar to what Lydia finds herself in. 


For my second comparable, I chose FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao for its similar atmosphere of dark magic and nefarious aspirations. The protagonist, Xifeng, is an anti-heroine prone to jealousy and obsession, just like Lydia. 


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.

A young sorceress tasked with destroying Roman armies finds her mission—and her life thereafter—immensely complicated when she falls in love with a Roman soldier.


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.

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?

Inner conflict sketch: To please her guild, Lydia must fight for Rome’s fall, but she isn’t willing to let go of Publius. Lydia would lose her place in the guild if they knew about her relationship with Publius, so she has to fight for him secretly. This becomes impossible when Publius’s ambitions propel him into generalship. 


Secondary conflict: Marcus, Lydia’s childhood friend and staunch ally displays an unwavering devotion to her throughout the novel. Lydia feels guilty about her inability to return his affection, considering all he does for her. At the same time, she is also irritated by his romantic pursuit of her. 


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.


Ostia: Lydia’s guild has made their home in Ostia, a bustling port city only a few miles from Rome. Ostia, with its picturesque blue waters, serves as a home base throughout for Lydia. 


Rome: Rome is a lush city of glimmering mansions, temples, markets, and quaint insulae. It is also the capital of the state Lydia’s guild seeks to topple and where Lydia meets Publius. 

  • The Scipiones’ mansion: The luxurious home of the patrician Scipio family, situated on the glamorous Palatine Hill, first belongs to the newly elected consul, and then to his son, Publius. Here Lydia and Publius meet and later conduct their love affair. 

  • Praeconia’s house: Lydia and her guild reside in this modest, generic dwelling during their alliance with Praeconia. The house draws its personality from Praeconia and her guild. Praeconia fawns over Lydia and welcomes her guild warmly, but beneath this veneer is a conniving and manipulative nature that Lydia struggles to match. 


The battlefields: 

  • Cisalpine Gaul: This recently conquered territory just north of Italy is the site of the Roman army’s first battles of the war. It is crisscrossed with rivers and unleashes an unrelenting winter on the army. Lydia realizes she loves Publius amidst the calamities that befall the army here. 

  • Cannae: This is the site of Rome’s greatest defeat. During this battle, Lydia uses her magic to rescue Publius instead of further devastating the Roman army. 

  • Canusium: Cannae’s survivors seek refuge in this nearby city. Here, in the aftermath of the battle, Lydia must reckon with what she just did, which was decidedly choose Publius over her guild.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 


A sinister Order has infiltrated the island of Anthanaeum, when the 14yo mixed raced Cursed Prodigy investigates, she uncovers a deadly conspiracy of human and beasts concocted by a god. She must eliminate everyone involved before they kill her...or worse, capture her friends


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.


The Order of the Chosen, once thought of as a harmless religious organization, was discovered by Maddison (the Cursed Prodigy) to be connected to the Massacre that killed the Queen of Forknowl. Now, they are plotting something on the island of Anthanaeum — something that might bring destruction to the whole island. Driven by their divine ideation, the Order will stop at nothing to bring Glory for the Chosen. What they see as Salvation for their people means death to all those who oppose them.

Of the spies working on the island for the Order, the most dangerous is Sebastian Ollie, a High Priest that infiltrated the Sage Tower and orchestrated their forces on the island. As he engages in a battle of wits against Maddison, he utilizes all of the tools at his disposal to deliver the last ingredients that can lead to God’s Arrival. 


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


The Orphan of Anthanaeum

The Order of the Chosen




Three Dark Crowns - Kendare Blake (2016) - Strong female protagonist in a High Fantasy Novel with multi-POV that has parallel and complex storylines with interesting character development. Similarly voiced and written for YA audience to engage a more commercial read, targeted towards a broader market.

Mistborn: The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson (2006) - Multi POV High concept Epic Fantasy Novel with intricate world-building, hard magic system, and a female protagonist with intricate plot. There’s intrigue as well as the looming threat of a god.

Uprooted - Naomi Novik (2015) - High Fantasy Novel that builds on intrigue and strong female characters and dealing with friendship and sacrifice. The discovery of unknown magic and overall expanded world-building, along with the uncovering of a looming threat and its origins.

Additional comps for length and marketability - The Poppy War: A Novel by RF Kuang | King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo | An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir


FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline)


Petty gossip of nobles about her origins isn't a concern for the Cursed Prodigy, she's too busy with matters of life and death; protecting her friends in the mercurial Library against vile crystal monsters, deadly mutated acolytes, and a god bent on their destruction.


SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. 


After Maddison’s investigation into the Sage Tower leads to something much more sinister. She must protect her new friends from the Order of the Chosen that is out for blood, while finding their true purpose on the island of Anthanaeum. As she tries to balance her cold calculations with her newfound concern for her friend's safety, she wavers for the first time from the words of her mentor: Caring is a weakness.


Secondary conflict:

With Maddison’s arrival to Anthanaeum the lives of Linden, Nina, and Benjamin are forever changed. One begin questioning their purpose and future for the first time. One finds the history of their past and is compelled to take on the mantle to protect the nation. And One is selected as the Beacon candidate by a mysterious Guardian of Knowledge, unwittingly thrusted into the path of a chosen one. Each are dealing with the ramifications of what it means to be 'worthy' realizing heroes are not born but the result of an individual's choice and sacrifice.


FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. 


The Queen of Forknowl was dead, as well as the prince, or so people thought. They were just two of the many victims of an inexplicable massacre. More than a decade since their deaths, the traders of Amarastar have crisscrossed the oceans. The Imperial Family of GuiAnDao has drawn a curtain of secrecy ever more tightly around their nation. The King of Forknowl has tried to keep the peace, despite the loss of his wife and son. No one in the Three Kingdoms has paid much attention to the tiny island of Anthanaeum.  It was home to the Sage Tower and the mysterious Library of unknown depth, filled with elemental Masters and researchers adept at manipulating crystal magics.


The Island of Anthanaeum, is a greater asset than anyone would expect for its size and is the setting of the Novel. We traverse the Island’s many locations from the Beast-filled forest to the south, to the Anthanaeum Academy, and the Library and its underground lair. As we follow Maddison and her friends through the course of eight months, we learn and see various areas of the Island and discover its hidden secrets and the unknown forces working there.


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1.     FIRST ASSIGNMENT:  Story Statement  


An indentured servant adjusts to life amidst the rich and poor in the multi-cultural 18th century Mohawk Valley as she earns a plot of land, attracts a husband, and learns the importance of female friendship. 



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


Dorothea’s main antagonist is patriarchal 18th century beliefs and customs. She defies the wishes of her foster father, a conservative Palatine German farmer, moves to the very different world of the wealthy, Irish, womanizing Sir William Johnson, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, learns to negotiate the world of the powerful, slave-holding Johnson family, overcomes the difficulties of a young woman starting a farm on her own and the suspicions of her newly arrived Scottish Highlander neighbors. The other antagonist is Patrick Fitzpatrick, the man she finally falls in love with. When he first arrived from Ireland as the serving boy to Sir William’s long-sought for blind Irish Harper, she and Patrick soon became good friends, but she thought he was too young, too fun-loving, and too eager for adventure to ever become the hard-working, responsible farmer husband she seeks. She fends off all her unsuitable suitors until she overcomes her own reluctance to acknowledge the man she really does want to share her life with.



3.     THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title


Mansions on the Mohawk; A Farm for Dorothea; 

4.     FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - - Develop two smart comparables for your novel. 

The genres are romantic historic fiction and biographical historic fiction.

Two series which are set in the same era as my book and continue to have a big readership are Dana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and Sarah Donati’s Into the Wilderness series. I’m not trying to compete with Gabaldon, but her books vividly depict frontier life during the colonial period, as do Donati’s in the post-revolutionary War in upstate New York. In both series the heroine is well-educated and determined to improve the lives of others. In contrast, my heroine is an illiterate servant who is determined to better herself, and we see all levels of frontier society from her point of view. 

I’ve found stand-alone historic fiction novels set in this time and place, but none with a similar protagonist, nor that I am enthusiastic about.  I keep hoping to find one. 

This book is the first in a four book series that I have outlined, but, of course, must stand out on its own.

5.     FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline). 


In upper New York before the Revolutionary War, a determined young woman, jilted for lack of a dowry, risks her reputation to work for the most powerful family in the Mohawk Valley in order to earn a plot of land, becomes part of a multi-cultural community of friends and neighbors and discovers unexpected love.


6.     SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. 

Dorothea believes she will not be happy unless she can attract a sturdy, responsible, young, German-speaking Palatine farmer who will be her partner in running a farm and raising a family. Once she serves her indenture in a mansion belonging to members of a powerful, wealthy family, and earns a lease on a plot of land, she has changed so much that her farm boy suitors all bore her. Unlike Patrick Fitzpatrick.  She first met him when she was eighteen and he was only fourteen, so she thought of him as a younger brother and she ignored his love for her. After four years, however, he grew up and her feelings changed. They marry. But he does not turn out to be  the reliable farmer she wanted. Indentured to the same wealthy family, he still spends much of his time working for them, at tasks that feed his adventurous spirit. Meanwhile, Dorothea begins to worry before the birth of their first child, knowing her biological mother died in childbirth. Dorothea’s low point comes when Patrick does not return from Philadelphia in time for the birth of their first child, but female friends and neighbors help her greatly.

Sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. 

Dorothea becomes a nurserymaid at Guy Park Manor, home of Sir William Johnson’s daughter Polly and her husband Guy Johnson. The Johnson family employs many enslaved people. Dorothea does not approve of slavery, but she benefits from it because the slaves do all of the hard and unpleasant manual labor. She makes an effort to become friends with an enslaved maid of her own age, but she can’t do much for the girl until she gets her farm.


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


Dorothea is raised by a German-speaking Palatine foster-family in the Schoharie Valley of New York in the years after the French and Indian War. Her brother-in-law, from an old Dutch family, encourages her to become a maid in the newly built Guy Park Manor, further north, on the banks of the Mohawk River. Guy Park is one of four Mansions in the Mohawk Valley occupied by members of the Irish-German-Mohawk family of Sir William Johnson, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, who is one of the wealthiest men in the colonies. Three of the mansions are still standing today. The Mohawk Indians (the Onkwehonwe) have shrinking amounts of land and settlements in the area where they coexist with the Palatines, the Dutch, newcomers from Ireland, and the most recent influx of Scottish Highlander refugees whom Sir William recruited to settle on his vast estate.


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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Help a time traveler return to the future without altering the timeline of the universe.

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.

Zipporah Goldblum has traveled back in time from 5012 CE on a scouting mission. The people of her time, faced with calamity, want to know if they can escape to the 21st century. Her time machine self-destructs in the process, so she recruits physicist Pascal Rahali to build a new one, deceiving him into thinking she is an angel investor who wants to boost his research. Sick with a 21st century virus, she is running short of time. So, step by step, she reveals aspects of her mission to Pascal, hoping that he will not turn against her when he realizes the double risk of colonization by the people of the future and altering the timeline of the whole universe. Both cunning and vulnerable, she evolves though the story, gradually learning nuances of 21st century culture so that she can evade detection by the police and accelerate the construction of the vessel she will need to return home.

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

Exotic Matter

The Time Scout

Time Crystal

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?

Exotic Matter resembles Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things in that it explores colonization in a future setting, as well as the loneliness endured by people who are consumed by their missions.

It resembles Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem in portraying a physicist wrestling with real problems in physics while faced with a potential invasion from life forms with superior intelligence.

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.

Deprived of funding, scorned physicist Pascal gets support from an unscrupulous time traveler who wants his help getting back to the future.

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.

Inner conflict: Pascal longs to make a big scientific discovery, but he has neglected to publish and has lost his funding. A Moroccan immigrant to the United States, he feels scorned by established physicists. The quest for nature’s secrets inspires him; he has no desire to apply what he discovers to any sort of invention. Zipporah, an incognito time traveler, gives him money to pursue his research, but in return she – and the investors who follow her example -- demands that he invent technology that poses a danger to all of humanity. Now he must choose whether to abandon his life’s work, or risk turning it to the most dangerous possible uses.

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 conflict: In his obsession with making a breakthrough, Pascal forges the name of his mentor, Ernesto, on a scientific paper. Ernesto breaks off the friendship. And Pascal’s girlfriend dumps him after learning about the incident.


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.

Exotic Matter takes place in Oakland and Berkeley, California, in the present and prehistoric past. One early scene shows the protagonist, Pascal, in a laboratory with cables snaking from floor to ceiling and an isolation chamber the size of a propane tank, suspended from above and split in half to reveal crystals, sensors and mirrors. In a later scene he watches turtles by a placid lake in the embrace of his girlfriend. That nature theme returns when he travels backward in time to find himself amid towering redwoods, so primeval he half-expects a diplodocus to emerge from the ferns. Taken to an indigenous village, naked, sunburned and mosquito-bitten, he dresses in a coat of mud from a freshwater creek, eats shellfish and acorn mush, and huddles at night across from his host family in a tule reed hut, owls hooting as he struggles to nestle in the fur rugs. Finally in the close atmosphere, warm and redolent of sweat and campfire smoke, he drifts to an uneasy sleep.


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On 3/13/2021 at 10:00 AM, MingluJiangP6 said:

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

Lydia must maintain an uneasy balance between her mission to destroy the Roman army and the Roman soldier she loves, all while grappling with her growing obsession with the latter. 


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.

At first, the antagonist force is Lydia’s guild of sorcerers. Though they are Lydia’s family, their goal of revenge against Rome means she must maintain an uneasy balance between them and her love, Publius. Eventually, the guild’s goals force the two lovers apart. As the story progresses, however, Lydia becomes her own antagonist as her obsession with Publius and jealousy over his marriage mark her path to destruction.


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

The Consul’s Son

The Last Sorceress of Rome

The Mark of Death


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?


For my first comparable, I chose THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern in that it has a similar focus on an impossible couple and the consequences of their love. THE NIGHT CIRCUS places this focus against the backdrop of a competition to the death involving magic, a situation similar to what Lydia finds herself in. 


For my second comparable, I chose FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao for its similar atmosphere of dark magic and nefarious aspirations. The protagonist, Xifeng, is an anti-heroine prone to jealousy and obsession, just like Lydia. 


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.

A young sorceress tasked with destroying Roman armies finds her mission—and her life thereafter—immensely complicated when she falls in love with a Roman soldier.


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.

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?

Inner conflict sketch: To please her guild, Lydia must fight for Rome’s fall, but she isn’t willing to let go of Publius. Lydia would lose her place in the guild if they knew about her relationship with Publius, so she has to fight for him secretly. This becomes impossible when Publius’s ambitions propel him into generalship. 


Secondary conflict: Marcus, Lydia’s childhood friend and staunch ally displays an unwavering devotion to her throughout the novel. Lydia feels guilty about her inability to return his affection, considering all he does for her. At the same time, she is also irritated by his romantic pursuit of her. 


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.


Ostia: Lydia’s guild has made their home in Ostia, a bustling port city only a few miles from Rome. Ostia, with its picturesque blue waters, serves as a home base throughout for Lydia. 


Rome: Rome is a lush city of glimmering mansions, temples, markets, and quaint insulae. It is also the capital of the state Lydia’s guild seeks to topple and where Lydia meets Publius. 

  • The Scipiones’ mansion: The luxurious home of the patrician Scipio family, situated on the glamorous Palatine Hill, first belongs to the newly elected consul, and then to his son, Publius. Here Lydia and Publius meet and later conduct their love affair. 

  • Praeconia’s house: Lydia and her guild reside in this modest, generic dwelling during their alliance with Praeconia. The house draws its personality from Praeconia and her guild. Praeconia fawns over Lydia and welcomes her guild warmly, but beneath this veneer is a conniving and manipulative nature that Lydia struggles to match. 


The battlefields: 

  • Cisalpine Gaul: This recently conquered territory just north of Italy is the site of the Roman army’s first battles of the war. It is crisscrossed with rivers and unleashes an unrelenting winter on the army. Lydia realizes she loves Publius amidst the calamities that befall the army here. 

  • Cannae: This is the site of Rome’s greatest defeat. During this battle, Lydia uses her magic to rescue Publius instead of further devastating the Roman army. 

  • Canusium: Cannae’s survivors seek refuge in this nearby city. Here, in the aftermath of the battle, Lydia must reckon with what she just did, which was decidedly choose Publius over her guild.

This sounds like a great read! I love stories set in ancient Rome.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: Story Statement.

In the late Viking age, Norse settler Erik Fenris and his son Einar must overcome trials of love, loss, war and their Viking destiny, to locate and reunite three hidden shards of an ancient, magical talisman, to break the curse of a power-hungry witch, and free their enslaved kinsmen from her burgeoning wolf-skin warrior army.


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

Skara, the Volva (witch):

Skara is the physical counterpart, “dark sister” to the elemental, spiritual manifestation of the Forest Spirit Skovsraet. Together they are like heaven and earth or good and evil. Skovsraet represents calm, order, light and positivity, while Skara seeks to create chaos from order and embodies the sins of lust, pride, and greed. If Skovsraet’s power creates life and makes the forests grow, Skara’s strength is destruction. Skara has used her magic to interfere with the Skovsraet’s (spiritual world) treaty that had temporarily restored peace between the three realms of man, wolf and nature. She has convinced the wolf tribe that she will steal the world back from Man in the name of their tribe, so that they may regain their lands lost to the ever-encroaching human settlements and be safe from being hunted and killed. Skara convinces the wolves to entertain her dark magic, she takes their skins to transform her enslaved army into Ulfhednr (wild, violent assassin/warrior) clad in their wolf-skins. Skara instigates and indulges the dark spirits and in exchange for their powers, for her desires she eventually agrees to raise an army of monstrous, barbaric varulven (werewolves), and is now searching for the lost strands in order to make herself invincible and unstoppable. However, she must get to them first, but she is not the only one looking for them.


THIRD ASSIGNMENT: Create a breakout title.

1.    Nordskov

2.    The Legend of Nordskov: A Viking Tale

3.    Wolflore: The Legend of Nordskov

4.    Wolven


FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel.

Comps (from Amazon 4/27/2021):

Bernard Cornwell - War of the Wolf: A Novel (Saxon Tales)

James L. Nelson - Night Wolf: A Novel of Viking Age Ireland (The Norsemen Saga)

Duncan M Hamilton - The Wolf of the North (Book 1, Volume 1)

A. E. Rayne - Eye of the Wolf: An Epic Fantasy Adventure (The Lords of Alekka Book 1)

Comp Categories: Historical Norse Fiction, Norse and Viking Myth & Legend, Action & Adventure Fantasy, Epic Fantasy


FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound.

A Viking Age family is torn apart by a witch’s curse, they must overcome individual trials and the witch’s ambitions for power to find one another again and free their kinsmen from her wolf-skin warrior army.

A Viking Age family must overcome personal tragedy and embark upon an epic quest to stop an evil witch from her campaign for domination, defeat her werewolf army and free their enslaved, cursed kinfolk to restore peace.


SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment.

a. Erik: The overwhelming nature of being part of a Viking settlement, having to prove your survival skills, your strength, manliness, and that you deserve to be there by the value of your contributions

He feels inadequate to marry the Jarl’s daughter and must obtain more stature and wealth to be considered worthy

He has to overcome his friends/neighbor’s doubt in him when bad things start happening, that he isn’t the one causing them himself

He eventually gives in and also blames himself for the tragedies that have befallen his family, and begins to exhibit schizophrenic behavior, no longer determine what is real and what isn’t. (This is when the “protagonist” title shifts to his son Einar who picks up the quest.)

b. Einar: Guilt that his twin brother’s disappearance/death is his fault, that it should have been him instead Not knowing whether your father is responsible for the tragedies befalling your family as people say

Not knowing who to trust, or knowing that you cannot trust anyone, that you are all alone Feeling like he doesn’t have all the facts, that there is more to the story than he knows

Trusting that his inexperienced survival skills will be enough to undertake a solitary journey through the endless, treacherous woods

Doubt in himself and his abilities—fear of the witch’s skill with seidr and her army of ‘werewolf’ warriors, how can one boy stand up to a witch and her mighty fighters? Not knowing what will become of him after the war is over?


SEVENTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. 

The story takes place towards the end of the Viking age, deep in the mystical, reverent, snow-covered forests of northern Norway, with its Norwegian-blue sky being pierced daily by sharp, striking mountains running with glacial rivulets and its frothy seas interrupted by drifting polar ice and the occasional Viking ship. The lands here are still ruled over by ancient, powerful forces of nature and the divine that interact daily with the inhabitants of these lands they sowed. But even here, inside the arctic ring, between the ancient pines at the very edge of the north woods, the frozen tundra is swarming with soldiers engaged in battle over reign and religion, but a far older war—still raging—exists here too. The wolves of Norway are disappearing, and a new age has begun. The tribe of wolf ignores the Forest Spirit’s benevolent treaty of peace between the realms of man, beast and tree, and forges an unholy alliance with the volva (witch) Skara to bring about an end to the encroachment of humanity on their lands.

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                                                        [A TRILOGY]                                                          


"Whoever heard of such a thing?

You're about to find out!"

Mother Caracal.


Story statements.

1.     A magical pair of shoes takes a heartfelt journey through time in an inimitable saga of a princess and her fight for sovereignty.

2.     Two women, wounded by troubled childhoods, piece together discordant memories of family fables and poetic lies that have spiraled out of control.

3.     Fi-Nicky, sent to an internment camp for a crime he did not commit, emerges as an unlikely leader of a grimalkin city of renegades in the Outer Sphere of life.


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.


This fanciful tale of a magical pair of shoes follows the footsteps of a princess stolen through time.

Scoundrels. In an intricate scheme, a band of thieves devise a plot to smuggle a precious heirloom from the queen of Soleville.  Wending their way through the paradisiacal gardens of her palace grounds, they encounter the princess. Catching her off guard, they ensnare her in a trap and carry her off to a faraway land.

Marauders. Holding her in bondage, along with countless others snatched across the borders of familiarity, she is sold into slavery. Stripped of her possessions, save the clothing on her back and the shoes on her feet, her life is now governed by an ethos that is based upon the words and incantations of the Old Text.

With nothing more than her wits, she must draw upon inner strengthen to face powerful forces of evil and combat her way home.


This coming-of-age story explores the seesaw relationship between two girls as their upwardly mobile parents strive for success.

Fueled by ambition, Harlem Harper and Monica Sterling, first cousins, are determined to rise above social inequities at a time of political unrest. Raising their children amongst the shrill tones and chaotic beats of city life, they do their best to provide the structure needed to reach the pinnacle of success, but things go awry when expectations grow extreme, striking chords of resentment while pushing the threshold of tolerance beyond reasonable limits. 

With stakes high, the adults are committed to maintaining their image of successful marriages, high achieving children, and upstanding accomplishments within the community. Under a code of silence, they insist that each child conform to a dutiful role that preserves the dignity of the family, but the children are unable to keep up the façade and fumble along the way, jeopardizing their reputations. Rebounding from these mistakes isn't easy, but they manage to fine tune their performance and restore the sound distinction of their legacy. 

Under the spell of perfection, scattered memories rise to the crest when the children grow up, and as poignant truths of the past start to unravel, the foundation of everything the cousins revere begins to crumble, threatening to send each member of their raucous tribe tumbling off their mantle of power.


This furry tale tells the story of Fi-Nicky, a timid, but talented, moggy exiled from his colorful village and sentenced to the stark region of the Outer Sphere, leaving behind a sick mother and a life of dreams and purpose in this fanciful story of honor, justice, and redemption.

Bumpuss, an ill-tempered neighborhood bully, the Council of Whiskers, a defiled governing board, and The Order, an iniquitous decree that sets forth laws and edicts of the feline district, unite forces. With the overarching goal of subduing creativity and artistic expression, it rules with an iron paw, subduing individuality and establishing a world of programmed conformity.

Town residents, oppressed by the Council of Whiskers, rebel. Through organized protest, they rally against the corrupt authority, but the rulership strikes back, enacting harsh intimidation practices, stiff penalties, and lengthy incarcerations for insurrection.

The residents' revolt, strengthening their numbers, but this time the Council of Whiskers brings out the big guns with a new, chemically infused drug known as CatatonX, an addictive form of catnip designed to lull the senses, subdue neurological functions, and bring the citizens under complete and ultimate control.


Create a breakout title.

1.    Emerald Slippers: The Sole Chronicles of an Unknown American Princess

2.    Cradle Cousins: Black Lullabies and Blue Lyrics  - Rhythms of a Family on the Edge

3.    Scatland


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?


  • Roots (1976) by Alex Haley
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1903) by L. Frank Baum
  • Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chinese Legend with Related Texts (2010) Edited and Translated by Shiamin Kwa and Wilt L. Idema

Emerald Slippers: The Sole Chronicles of an Unknown American Princess draws inspiration from Roots, the story on an 18th century African captured as an adolescent and sold into slavery, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the iconic story of Dorothy, her ruby red slippers, and her search for home, and Mulan, the story of a young maiden who begins life in her cultural village where she becomes skilled in the martial arts and must rely on her early training and guidance from the ancestors to overcome adversity, meet her true-life destiny, and restore honor to her family.

Exploring thematic aspects of each of these stories, Emerald Slippers weaves a modern-day tale into an enchanting saga of a princess warrior abducted from her kingdom and transported a long way from home. Shielded by a unique family heirloom, a magical pair of Emerald Slippers, the story preserves themes of cultural identity, family honor, and fulfillment of destiny.


  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (1975) by Ntozake Shange
  • The Friends (1974) by Rosa Guy

Cradle Cousins: Black Lullabies and Blue Lyrics is inspired by the colorful cadences and lyrical choreopoems of Ntozake Shange’s novel, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.  The story opens in the fictional setting of Wombsville, a community filled with urban harmonies, vibrant characters, and dialectal inflections delivered through song and spoken word. This evocative drama explores the unbreakable bond of two children and their dysfunctional families. Within their lives, relationships are tested and compromised through a lens of colorism and class consciousness, as explored in Rosa Guy’s novel, The Friends.


  • The Lion King (1994) Screenplay by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) by TS Elliott

Scatland, drawing inspiration from The Lion King and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, delves into the nature and psychology of Fi-Nicky, a young moggy exiled from the dreamy landscape of Oneiro Harbor and remanded to the Outer Sphere, where he is starved of inspiration and must somehow find a way to nourish his soul to save himself from demise and his shantytown from destruction.


Write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound. 

1.   Emerald Slippers: The Sole Chronicles of an Unknown American Princess

      A magical heirloom, stolen with an abducted princess, trails a lost generation of travelers in their long journey home.

2.   Cradle Cousin: Black Lullabies and Blue Lyrics - Rhythms of a Family on the Edge.

      Two lifelong companions, tormented by jarring childhood memories, are forced to revisit buried secrets, bruised egos, and mournful ballads in a family on the brink of success …(or disaster).

 3.  Scatland

      Fi-Nicky, banished to the Outer Sphere, a condemned community on the outskirts of the city emerges from exile to save his shantytown from destruction and restore it to its prior glory.


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.

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?

 1.  Emerald Slippers: The Sole Chronicles of an Unknown American Princess



Emerald Slippers: The Sole Chronicles of an Unknown American Princess is an enchanted tale of a magical pair of  shoes that travel across time and follow the saga of a young royal. The story unfolds in the civilization of Ngome Ya Kiatu, a mystical city in the mountains of Mlima Wa Mbinguni where Solena, a princess warrior is captured from her  homeland and sold into slavery.

 With only the clothes on her back and a simple pair of shoes, she is left bereft and vulnerable in an unknown land. The gravity of her circumstances strikes the cord of her heartstrings. While she has demonstrated great physical prowess in the past, the life she has been transported to is nothing close to anything she has ever experienced, and she is no longer confident in her ability to protect herself. Held in bondage, she goes through a stage of deep inner conflict resulting from the choices she has at her disposal. Her natural instincts tell her to fight, but dare she try to defend herself from the wrath of the slaveowners and brutal lash of the whip?

Contemplation of resistance and uprising versus compliance and self-preservation are key inner conflicts that continually play out during her period of captivity. Central to this struggle is her feeling of loss of family and country. She passes through the stages of grief and undergoes a long period of healing, along the way experiencing shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, the upward turn, reconstruction and working through, and acceptance and hope.

While these steps serve as the impetus for change and character growth, as demonstrated over the course of her journey in an unfamiliar land, they are constantly battling and shifting within her as she migrates along the path of an unsettling world.

Secondary, to these conflicts, are the challenges that emerge from the social environment as she passes down the unfamiliar customs and traditions of her birthland.  It is through these interactions that curiosities are raised among the plantation owners, slave women, and the lustful men that become intrigued with her performance. As the power of the magical slippers transforms her environment, it also brings unwelcome attention, sparking envy and suspicion in newly forged relationships that are crucial for her survival and search for home.

2.  Cradle Cousins: Black Lullabies and Blue Lyrics - Rhythms of a Family on the Edge

Cradle Cousins: Black Lullabies and Blue Lyrics, Rhythms of a Family on the Edge is a coming-of-age novel that explores the seesaw relationship between two girls as their upwardly mobile parents strive for success amid a period of political unrest and strident protests. Sparrow Sterling, brainy, shy, and timid, adores her favorite cousin and best friend, Laire Harper, a privileged  teenager who seems to have it all. Not only is she beautiful, popular, and sociable, but she also has wonderful parents—something Sparrow craves.

The two girls, born on the same date at the same hospital, are as close as sisters, but at the season of their thirteenth summer, things begin to change. The colors of their lives start to fade and the harmonious melodies that once filled their days of youth reduces to silence.

Competition swirls, and as Sparrow finds herself continually overshadowed by her exuberant cousin, resentment builds.  Laire, the unspoken favorite, is charismatic and sweet, yet she also has a side to her that is entitled and manipulative. Able to turn on the charm, she gains the advantage in most situations and manages to have the best of everything, so when Sparrow, who often gets the short end of the stick, discovers a secret that will rock her cousin’s picture-perfect world, a sneaky plot is hatched. Amid her plan for attack, the lives of the adults begin to ruin.

Sparrow, watching events spiral out of control, experiences a deep sense of inner conflict, vacillating between being secretly happy about her cousin’s misfortunes and guilty that she has been the one to set the pendulum in motion. Simultaneously, she also wrestles with family loyalties and betrayal of secrets, conflicts that further amplify when a life altering truth is finally revealed, causing each member to come to grips with the magnitude of what it means to bear the weight of forbidden knowledge and the price that come along with it, a discovery that will push one member over the crest of sanity.

3.   Scatland

Scatland is a furry tale about a young moggy named Fi-Nicky, a brilliant artist with a timid nature that made him a target for bullies. Believing himself inferior, he frequently doubted his abilities and consumed himself, daily, in perfecting his craft. 

In the open outdoors, he created inspiration. Oneiro Harbor, an enclave of dreams, is where he spent most of his days. Paint can in hand, he sprayed along a community wall. Starting with a dark outline of letters, he filled in the hollow spaces with bright, vibrant colors. Standing back, he read: 

             "It's your get up that shows your pedigree.”

The message, of large block letters, glistened boldly in the sun.

Admiring his handiwork, Fi-Nicky didn't notice the approach of Bumpuss, a cateran who disdained competition. Sneaking up behind him to examine the work, he grimaced at the quality and with furrowed brows began to taunt.

            “I’m about to lay paws on you,” he said.

            Fi-Nicky, the smaller of the two, turned round to face the shadow of a cat whose eyes were dark and mean.            

            “I didn’t do anything,” he said, his voice quivering with fright.

            “But you did,” Bumpuss retorted.  “And now you have to pay.”    

He leaned forward and flinched, causing Fi-Nicky to startle. The can of paint dropped and rolled onto the ground. From behind, the crisp voice of a Leaper shouted.

            “Leave him alone,” it said. “He won’t stand up for himself, but I will.”

The Leapers were well-known for interfering with The Order, ways of the Outer Sphere that were dictated by The Council of Whiskers.

            Bumpuss stopped in his tracks and turned round to face Tabius, a mangy, unfettered chap who looked as though he could handle a scrape or two.

            “Stay out of it,” Bumpuss warned.

            “I will not allow bullying on my grounds,” Tabius responded. “In case you’ve forgotten…”

He pounced. Without a moment’s delay, the two become a tangle of knots.

            Bumpuss appeared to have gotten the worst end of the scuffle. He lay on the ground with the old chap, Tabius, seated upon his chest.

            Fi-Nicky found his way out of the fracas and galloped home. His furry legs couldn’t carry him there fast enough.

*   *   *

Nganga had been summoned to a tent, in the corner of which laid a frail feline who was curled into a ball on top of an old cushion that had been placed inside a wicker basket. 

            “I have been told that I am dying,” the feline said. Her voice was frail and thin.

            “Retrovirus?” Nganga asked.

            The feline shook her head sadly.

            “The only thing I ask for is help with Fi-Nicky. He is a good child and will need someone to look after him, well after I am gone.”

            “What’s going on mother?” a timid voice rang from the doorway of the room.

Fi-Nicky had been standing there listening. No one had heard him enter. In an awkward silence, Nganga turned to depart.

            “I will leave you two to talk,” he said.      

Behind him, the eyes of a frightened mother and Fi-Nicky, the child she loved beyond measure, met across the room.

Meanwhile, Bumpuss was sore and bitter. Stopping to lick his wounds, he urged himself to proceed with a formal report. Lifting his chin and pulling up his chest, he forced himself to get a grip. Tail, tucked between his legs, he straightened it.  A respectable appearance is what he was going for, but his muscles ached. He limped along until reaching The Council of Whiskers. There, he informed his band of allies about the latest encounter.

Commissioning a board meeting, The Council agreed that the colony of artists would have to be regulated. Reaching consensus, they outlined a new set of laws to restrict their activities, but that wasn’t all. They now placed further sanctions on the residents. Given the most recent infractions, Fi-Nicky was to be made an example. The decree was set and recorded in The Order. He was to be banished to the Outer Sphere, a cold, mechanical world where life was measured and controlled without regard for individual expression.

Fi-Nicky was exiled at once. In the Outer Sphere, he was contained in an interment camp where he was starved of inspiration. Dispirited, he tried his best to remain calm and compliant with the hope that he would be sent back home soon, but the days stretch into months and the months stretched into years, and as he becomes older, maturity set in. Looking at himself in the reflection of a mirror, he was no longer the same. The progression of seasons had altered him. It was change that was marked, that day. by a letter from home. Delivered to him by a guardsman, he opened it and read, and thus he experienced a secondary conflict.

It was his mother. She had not long to live. Enduring the decree of exile was heartbreaking enough, but when Fi-Nicky received word that his mother had only a short number of days, he was devastated. In a separate paragraph, it was also written that the entire shantytown had been infiltrated with CatanonX, a government drug to dull the senses of the residents.

The situation looked bleak, not good at all.  With the people no longer able to advocate for themselves, the village was being demolished with a brand-new development being built for the Council of Whiskers. Fi-Nicky, incensed by the waggery of it all, felt a shift inside himself. His courage began to rise. Within a short period of time, he reached a decision. He was going to leave. Escape. With the goal of returning home to visit his mother one last time, Fi-Nicky was ready to face the town bully and rebuild Oneiro Harbor.


Emerald Slippers: The Sole Chronicles of an Unknown American Princess



Mlima Wa Mbinguni was a moorland so tall it was said that to have it climbed it one would see the gates of paradise. Hence, it was called Heavenly Mountain. At its foot was an expansive ocean with giant waves that crashed against the phalanges of jagged rock at the sole of its foundation. Surrounding it were the seven isles of Nguzo Saba: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Overlooking the isles was a stronghold built high upon a bluff of stone that served as the mantle place of the people of the sole.  Enclosed, within its quarters, was a garden that ebbed and flowed in precise symmetry along with four quadrants smartly divided by lengthy canals and springs of water that were interspersed along an abundant acreage of exotic trees and foliage meticulously arranged in an even pattern of distribution. At its center was a castle, Ngome Ya Kiatu, an oddly shaped bastion that had stood proud and firm for five generations in the dynasty of Soleville.  It was here that Solena stumbled and fell.

Cradle Cousins: Black Lullabies and Blue Lyrics - Rhythms of a Family on the Edge


Wombsville, a small hamlet on the West Side of Manhattan, was an enclave where Sistahs in all colors, shapes, and sizes reigned supreme. It was the birthplace of rhythm and the heart space of blues, a vibrant neighborhood on the edge of greatness. Located along the perimeter of the city, it was outlined on the town map as an inverted triangle, overlaid with outstretched arms and fimbriae. Affectionally dubbed as a haven for women, the neighborhood, once frequented by horses and buggies, now showcased an array of prewar brownstones, subsidized co-ops, and a Federal housing project. It was a lively community on the precipice of change.

The story unfolds along Fallopian Street where Black angels, carved into a wrought iron fence, was the last of what remained of a citadel that had been erected to protect enslaved Africans who fled the Antebellum South and found refuge in the welcome embrace of a community where hope and fertility was celebrated as a place of new beginnings.

Visitors were invited to enter through a gate described as an original construction of old-world workmanship. At its center was an aperture, a hollow space with the shape of a large, flat head, ringed neck, and tubular body with small arms that stuck out from its sides.  Made to resemble the form of a woman, it was referred to as an Akua’ba, a symbol of fruitfulness, designed to unlock with an iron key. When opened, the door swung back to reveal a cobble stone path that carried with it a song, as its hinges spring forth a melody of chords that set the tone for love, harmony, and sisterly embrace through an archetype that had been carefully chosen as a trope of divine ordination. So, begins the story.



Learn. Oneiro Harbor, a shantytown of dwellings along a boating pier, was a purlieu for scribblers. A scraggly group, they expressed themselves through the fine art of graffito. Occupying their days with Scratchery, a unique form of spray tags, handwritten scrawls, and a colorful arrangement of wall paintings, they spent their days decorating along a block of brick and mortar.

For the most part, the residents were vagrants purposed with survival. Living out of makeshift tents and homes of eclectic textiles, they referred to this place as home. A long stretch of the imagination, it served as a refuge to those in the outer sphere of life.

Caboodle. Lined up along the street were brittle boxes of cardboard. Its corrugated packaging repelled the scent of rotting fish. It wasn’t entirely effective, of course, but modestly helpful, nonetheless. The shelter, a series of connected square and rectangular cubicles, served as a barrier that extended well into the air. Across the street, from that row of crooked crags, a cadre of warehouses stood, firmly, at attention. It was there that a creature peeked from the frame of a window overlooking the slush of contaminated river water where two toughs were squaring off, or so it seemed.


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1. Write your story statement. 

Haunted by loss from a young age, Elle searches for the capacity to forgive her husband’s mid-life infidelity and accept other newly discovered family secrets.

2. In 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story

Bobby Swanson is tempting Elle when she is at her most vulnerable. He is drawing her closer, playing on their past friendship, feeding her wounded ego. Elle is not ready to forgive her husband. She’s not sure she ever will be. As feelings develop between Elle and Bobby, he plays the part of the sexy, young seducer to perfection, waiting patiently in the wings as her marriage implodes.

But the true antagonist is Elle herself: her inability to forgive herself exacerbates her current problems. The trajectory of the rest of her life is at stake. What started as a search for the willingness and capacity to forgive her husband, turns into a quest for freedom. Freedom from her insecurities, from fear about her future and regrets about her past. Once she begins following the clues left by her aunt’s inheritance, she can’t turn back. She can no longer think about her marriage; her search may have started there, but it has become much bigger. Elle needs to claim her own worthiness by confronting the pain caused by her family and the secrets they kept from her, before she can come to terms with the current choice she must make.

3. Create a breakout title.

(The) Bottom of the Breath

4.  Develop two smart comparables for your novel.

Liane Moriarty - Moriarty is one of my favorite contemporary writers. She was not a professional writer before she wrote her first novel--she worked in banking! She writes about women and their families, often set in ordinary neighborhoods or quaint locales. Her work explores issues important to adult women of all ages: friendship, marriage, parental relationships, love, loss and personal struggle. Her stories are character-driven with tightly woven plots. They are entertaining and humorous, but tackle serious themes such as domestic abuse, divorce, and the difficulties of raising children--all issues I and so many women can relate to.

“Her breakout novel The Husband's Secret sold over three million copies worldwide, was a number 1 UK bestseller, an Amazon Best Book of 2013 and has been translated into over 40 languages. It spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. CBS Films has acquired the film rights.”

(2021) “From Liane Moriarty, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, comes Apples Never Falla novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest.”

Ann Garvin - Ann writes about women and their everyday struggles—caring for aging parents, illness, challenging relationships with spouses and siblings—with humor and compassion. She also had another career before writing, as an RN and a teacher.

I Thought You Said This Would Work (2021)

“A charming exploration of female friendship and cancer’s uncanny ability to put perceived slights into perspective…[I Thought You Said This Would Work is] a testament to the power of one’s own voice and the mistruths in the stories we tell ourselves, and an introspective, heartwarming, and witty farce.” Booklist

I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around (2016)

Other favorites:

Kristan Higgins: Life and Other Inconveniences (2020)

Ann Patchett: The Dutch House (2019)

Maria Semple: Today Will Be Different (2016) Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (2012)

Lauren Groff: Fates and Furies (2015)

Gabrielle Zevin: The Storied Life Of AJ Fikry (2014)

These stories revolve around women or marriages. They explore insecurities, dreams, relationships, loss, resilence--most in the context of everyday American life. They move me to examine my own life, my own feelings, my own relationships and my roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. When I read these stories, I am as satisfied as when I have sat down with a friend for a good, long chat, complete with tears, laughter and the telling of secrets. 

Bottom of the Breath also centers on a woman--a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend--whose world is disrupted by her husband's confession of infidelity. This revelation sets in motion a forced examination of Elle's failings as a wife and how past losses have influenced her marriage. The stand-out twist comes as Elle learns about the actions of her parents and other family members, and the secrets they took to their graves. Learning about her family's buried past forces Elle to confront the realities of the excruciating choices her relatives made and how those choices affected her life.

5. Write your own hook line.

On the brink of an affair with a much-younger man, a middle-aged waitress sets out from coastal Florida with her estranged husband to collect an unexpected inheritance. Clues to an old family secret lead her to the bottom of the Grand Canyon where one mystical night changes her past and her future.

6. Sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. 

Though she hasn’t yet admitted it to herself, Elle knows that she is as much at fault as her husband for the dismal state of their 28-year marriage. She was flirting with Bobby long before Loren's affair. She'd neglected Loren’s needs for years: when caring for their young children, then her sick brother, then her invalid mother. She relied on her friends, not her husband, for advice and companionship. She used Bobby, who was always around for a drink and a laugh, to escape the reality of illness and loss that filled her days. She shut Loren out repeatedly. How could he not feel unneeded and unappreciated? Perhaps unintentionally but still, she had taken Loren for granted. She was guilty of that, at a minimum. 

When Loren confesses his one-time infidelity, Elle wants him to leave their home. She says she wants time and space to think, which Loren reluctantly gives her. Instead of contemplating her role in their problems, she turns to Bobby. She feels desired, sexy. He helps her forget her insecurities about her fading looks, her advancing age, the entire stage of life in which she has suddenly landed. She's been betrayed and she wants to retaliate.

As the problems between Loren and Elle continue to brew, so does a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico headed toward their small town on the Florida panhandle. They agree to drive to Arizona to learn about Elle’s unexpected inheritance despite Elle’s growing concern about the impending storm. This causes even more tension between the couple as they leave Florida, the hurricane, and Elle’s love interest behind. They argue on the way to Arizona. Hard truths are spoken. The fragility of their relationship is undeniable. As they arrive in Phoenix, the future of their marriage seems as inhospitable as the desert landscape.

Elle's world is further upended when she learns of a decades-old family secret. She now questions everything she thought was true about her past--her parents, her aunt, perhaps even her beloved brother, had all lied to her. She wonders if she will ever be able to trust anyone again. This news, on top of Loren's unthinkable betrayal and her raging hormones, threatens to destroy what little self-confidence Elle has left. She leaves Loren and heads for the Grand Canyon, following a clue she hopes will help answer newly raised questions and perhaps some age-old mysteries.

Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment.

Woven through the first 2/3s of the story is a ferocious hurricane and the tragedy caused by the increased frequency and destructiveness of major hurricanes due to climate change. The small towns along the gulf coast have been repeatedly threatened and damaged. Lives are lost. Homes and livelihoods are destroyed. And there is no end in sight.

At the end of the story, Elle visits and falls in love with the Grand Canyon. She feels an immense gratitude to those who, a century earlier, were wise and courageous enough to grasp the importance of protecting it from exploitation, profiteering and irreversible damage. As she studies its history, she is introduced to the architect, Mary Colter, and feels a connection to her based on a shared, early-life tragedy.  

7. Sketch out your setting in detail.

Lola, Florida is fictional, small town on the Florida panhandle with a history linked for generations to the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is a quaint but remote town in a hurricane-prone area. Like most small towns, gossip travels: people know about Loren's affair, Elle inadvertently hears about Loren wanting to sell their rental building, Elle is unable to keep her relationship with Bobby private. Friendships are multi-generational, as with Elle and her best friend. Some, like Loren, begin to feel trapped after too many years in such a place. Others, such as Bo, leave for awhile then long to return home, or like Elle, hesitate to ever leave at all. The restaurant where Elle works is a cornerstone of the town, and at the center of Elle's world. The waterfront town and the restaurant serve as the setting for the first third of the book, and for the epilogue.

Loren and Elle leave Florida and drive to Phoenix and then on to Sedona, Arizona, the second main setting. Here, Elle is introduced to the ancient energy vortexes of the Sedona red rocks. Elle feels the energy, and reads about the mystical history of the place. She understands why her Aunt Mae wanted her to travel to see it. Sedona serves as an energetic, almost magical, connection to her aunt. Elle finds her spirit guide in the canyon when a hummingbird follows her as she hikes out to the rock formations.

From Sedona, Elle drives to Flagstaff, a quintessential, southwestern town. As she meanders through the historical downtown area, she finds more mysticism in the form of a silver, hummingbird necklace. The Native American shopkeeper tells her the story of the bird’s importance in Indian lore: it represents beginnings and endings, the natural passage of the cycles of life. “It reminds you not to flap too furiously to get to your destination, but to respect the importance of finding the treasure presented in each day,” he tells her.

Lastly, Elle heads to the Grand Canyon: the South Rim, Bright Angel Trail, Indian Garden, Bright Angel Campground, and Phantom Ranch. This magnificent setting engulfs Elle and leaves her forever changed. The energy is once again palpable. Elle descends into the canyon as she descends into her own truths. She pushes herself physically and spiritually. She does things that are out of character: leaves without her phone, embraces strangers, spontaneously decides to stay the night at the bottom of the canyon, and takes drugs. She emerges a different person, at peace with herself, and with her loved ones—those still with her and those who have passed. Like the great canyon itself, Elle is filled with beauty, mystery, and limitless possibilities.

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Greetings --

Below is my submission for Assignments 1-7 for the upcoming workshop in St. Augustine.  All comments most welcome.  I also attached the same as a Word document (docx).

Looking forward to meeting fellow writers and learning a lot soon.



Elizabeth Nichols Pre-Workshop Assignments

Assignment 1.  Write your story statement

Cary Michael is a successful Internet entrepreneur and mathematician. When Cary’s father dies, she is delighted when her historically unreliable younger brother Tripp, who lives near their parents, eagerly volunteers to care for her 85-year-old helpless widowed mother. 

Seven years later, Cary discovers that Tripp has stolen all of her mom’s money — over three million dollars. Cary is consumed with fear for her beloved mom’s welfare and with guilt for letting this happen. She vows to save her mom, recover the family fortune, and bring Tripp down.

First, Cary plays it straight.  But Tripp is defiant. The police and FBI won't prosecute. The civil courts yield fake justice. And appeals to charity help but fall short.

Then Cary learns that Tripp is sitting on a secret stash of bitcoin worth over ten million dollars.  She puts together an off-beat group of geniuses including two teenage cryptocurrency whiz kids, former FBI and IRS agents, and a few Chicago-style magicians. Together they set up an elaborate sting. But things don’t run smoothly. Bitcoin exchanges are flaky. People lie. And their entire plan is probably illegal.

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 ways they react to the world about them.

  • Primary antagonist: Cary’s psychopathic younger brother Tripp 
  • Secondary antagonists: 
    • Tripp’s hideous wife Bea and incompetent son Chase.
    • Cook County Courts
    • Illinois States Attorney
  • Primary antagonistic force: Greed. 
  • Secondary antagonistic forces:
    • Flawed US justice system
    • Politics
  • Tripp’s goal: To acquire material assets and appear to be as successful as the other men in his family
  • Tripp is his father’s only son and bears his name – Henry Stewart Cromarty III. 
  • From early childhood, Tripp has been a constant disappointment – from setting a neighbor’s house on fire when he was three years old, to shop lifting, to failures at school, to personal bankruptcy, and ultimately to financially and physically abusing his vulnerable mother. 
  • Tripp has never stopped depending upon his parents to bail him out of trouble. 
  • Notwithstanding these flaws, he remains his mother’s favorite child.
  • Tripp lives minutes away from his mother. Cary lives in Virginia, preoccupied with her life there.
  • After his father’s death, Tripp has unfettered access to his mother’s money which he steals. 
  • None of Tripp’s failings are his fault. In his mind, he is the victim. He has no conscience about the damage he has inflicted, nor does he feel any desire or responsibility to make amends. 
  • Tripp proves to be a worthy adversary, when Cary fights him for restitution and revenge.

(200 words)

Assignment 3.  Create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).
•    Bitcoin Trust
•    Get Tripp 
•    Tripped

Assignment 4.  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?

Genre/SubGenre: Suspense/Techno

  • Bitcoin and baby boomers:
    • Like big con movies, “Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, 8” and “Sting” but with intra-family dynamics and bitcoin (instead of old crime buddies and gold bullion)
    • Like Janet Evanovich/Lee Goldberg Fox and O’Hare Series books – big cons and stings plus father-daughter family dynamics but no bitcoin.
    • “Bitcoin Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich – involves bitcoin, family dynamics, betrayal and redemption, but no big con or sting
    • “Bitcoin Clowns: A Novel” by Vann Chow (Appears to have been self-published, 2019) – cryptocurrency crime fiction inspired by true stories
  • •    Intra-Family struggles + Sandwich generation challenges
    • “Heaven’s a Lie” by Wallace Stroby, Mulholland Books (April 2021) – Lacking baby boomers and bitcoin, but shares family, financial pressures, and illegal temptations

Assignment 5.  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.

Devoted daughter leads a gang of baby boomers in a sting to capture bitcoin, save her mom, and bring down her despicable brother. (23 words)

Baby boomers conduct a bitcoin sting to avenge wronged mother. (10 words)

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 hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

Inner conflict: 

  • The protagonist Cary feels guilty because she could have prevented her brother from looting her mother’s trusts, if only she had paid more attention.
  • Also, she is terrified that she will go broke supporting her destitute mother, and thirsty for revenge against her unrepentant brother

Secondary conflicts: 

  • Cary turns to the US justice system for help and fails. Out of disappointment and desperation, she resorts to an illegal option – namely a sting operation that can exact both restoration and revenge. Unfortunately, the scheme also risks exposing her teammates to criminal liability.
  • Cary’s extended family:  Her mother is distraught that her two children Cary and Tripp are fighting. Other family members take sides creating permanent rifts between spouses, cousins, aunts and uncles.

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? 

Primary settings:

  • Lake Forest, Illinois:  A very wealthy bedroom community north of Chicago, Illinois, unfortunately located within the jurisdiction of the infamous Cook County courts.
  • Tripp’s McMansion – Ridiculous, over-the-top features built with no consideration of cost, time, or egregious budget busting overruns. Note: The definition of McMansion = a large ostentatious house lacking in architectural integrity
  • Kensington Place – An upscale lifecare community with all the amenities needed to grow old with grace – except protection against greedy family members
  • The Chicago Magic Lounge:  
    • An award-winning speakeasy Chicago-style magic bar, theater, and lounge located in the Andersonville section of Chicago, Illinois, offering exotic craft cocktails (e.g. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, ‘How Houdini Died’, ‘Sleight of Hand’ and more) plus small plates along with up-close, table side performances of some of the best working magicians of the day. 
    • Additionally, CML is equipped with a comprehensive, high-tech security system, making it perfect as the site of the bitcoin trust sting.

Secondary Settings:

  • Various Chicago Landmark Buildings: Law offices and court rooms where settlement conferences, depositions, and a trial take place
  • Various parks and beaches on Lake Michigan:  Where Cary goes to find peace, reminisce, and think
  • Lake Forest Police Station: Where Cary works with police on criminal investigations
  • Hospital Emergency Room: Where Cary’s mother is treated for suspected physical abuse at the hands of Tripp and other medical problems
  • Onwentsia Country Club: Exclusive country club founded by past scions of the booming Chicago business scene and site of a charity ball and chase scene that contributes to the success of the sting



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2021 Algonkian Pre-conference assignments:


#1, Write Your Story Statement:


            Solve two murders, one in present day and one 85 years ago, that are somehow connected to the same WWII plane.  


#2, 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.

There are two antagonists working together.  One is seen as a suspect, but the other one works behind the scenes.  Their goal is a cache of items hidden on a WWII plane, including: jewels; a map to lost Nazi loot; and a list of names of women who were impregnated by Hitler in his last days.  Hitler’s progeny, and their descendents, would be seen as Nazi royalty that would then lead a takeover of the U.S Government.  

They murder in the opening scenes, and make several attempts to murder/injure the protagonist to get her out of the investigation.  Both of the antagonists are intelligent and disciplined.  The main antagonist is charming, but the protagonist senses it’s not genuine.  The hidden antagonist is a perky extrovert on the outside, but a psychopath on the inside.  She cares nothing for anyone, including her partner.  During the whole book the protagonist believes that her husband’s parachuting accident was murder, and in the final scene, she’s proven right when the hidden antagonist gloats about the fact that she rigged the husband’s parachute and got away with it.  She laughs that she enjoyed ruining the protagonist’s perfect life and watching her grief. 


#3, Breakout title:


            1.  Angle of Attack

            2.  Diamonds in the Sky

            3.  The Last Flight


#4, Comparables:


1.  Mercy and Elvis mysteries by Paula Munier:  (A Borrowing of Bones (Book 1); Blind Search (Book 2); and The Hiding Place (Book 3).   

The protagonist, Nicole, is ex-military, like Mercy, but Nicole does not have a service dog.  Both Mercy and Nicole are overcoming the trauma of losing their husband/partner to violence.

2.  Rachel Hatch thrillers/mysteries by L. T. Ryan and Brian Shea:  Drift (Book 1 in the series) and Aftershock (Book 7 in the series.)  Nicole investigates her husband’s death while as Rachel searched for the killer of her sister.  The cases are hampered by the fact that everyone else thinks the deaths were not murders, but accidents.  Both women are ex-military.   


#5, Hook line/Log line: 


While being hunted herself, former Air Force security officer Nicole Burnette must stop a murderer killing their way to a secret cache on a WWII plane, or America may not remain the Land of the Free.


#6, Conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have.

 Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment.

1.  The protagonist, Nicole, saw her husband die in a parachuting accident, which she believes to have been a murder.  All the dark feelings of loss come back, as she has to notify the widow of the murdered modern-day victim that her husband was also murdered.  Nicole knew the victim, and his widow, as the victim worked for Nicole a couple of years ago.  Only Nicole’s professionalism and military training keep her from sobbing along with the widow.  When the widow begs Nicole to find the killer, she says yes even though she’s no longer an Air Force Security Forces Commander.


2.  Her brother-in-law, who is also her next-door neighbor, goes missing on deployment along with the rest of his unit.  Nicole’s coping skills are tested as this event is layered onto the murder investigation, in addition to the attacks on her, which have occurred over the last few days. She only has two more days to find the murderer before the VIP suspects leave the area.  Now, in the midst of the investigation, she must keep her nephew and is Mother calm, while dealing with her own anxiety over the possible loss of her dead husband’s brother.


#7, Scenes:


Scene by scene for Angle of Attack:

Timeline:  Chapter 1 - Event 10 months ago; Chapter 2 forward - Wednesday night (first murder) to Sunday




1.  Chapter 1:  Horrible things happen on beautiful, sunny days.  It’s a blue-skied, sunny day at Greene County airport.  Spectators on the ground are watching a group of skydivers.  Nicole Burnette, a former Air Force Security Forces Commander and aerobatic pilot is among the small crowd.  One by one the parachutes open – until one doesn’t.  Nicole realizes it’s her husband Thomas’s parachute.  She’s running toward him before he even gets to the ground.  Nicole begins CPR, even though it’s obvious to everyone there that he’s gone.  When the EMTs arrive, she steps back, blood smeared on her face from her attempts to revive him.  Almost immediately, the EMTs pronounce Thomas dead.  She says nothing, just starts walking to the hanger for Thomas’s things.  Friends won’t let her drive.  She says nothing as a close friend drives her home.  Thomas’s death is declared an accident, but Nicole knows that Thomas, a master skydiver, would not have made a mistake packing his chute.  Her instincts tell her it’s murder.



2.  It’s early morning at Nicole’s house where she’s on her deck, looking out toward the runway that sits between two rows of houses at the airpark.  She’s just finished a workout with her five-year-old nephew Nico, her namesake, when she gets a call from the Base.  There is an emergency at the National Museum of the U.S Air Force’s (NMUSAF) Annex on Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where she works.  Her nephew walks back to his house next door as Nicole gets ready for the day.  When she pulls out of her garage, she looks over at her plane parked on the far side and decides to do a night flight later.


3.  Before heading to the Annex, Nicole stops at the end of her long driveway to check her mail.  A rattlesnake shoots out of the mailbox.  She manages to not get bitten, and it slithers into the brush before she can kill it.  She sends Nico’s Mom a text to keep him away from the front of their shared property, and tells her why.  As she drives to the Base she tries to figure out who would have put the snake there.  She has no idea who she’s ticked off enough to want her dead, or at least injured. 



4.  Nicole drives to the huge aircraft hangar used by the NMUSAF for former Presidential aircraft, and is told there’s been a murder.  She knows the victim – he used to work for her when she commanded the Security Forces.   Her friend J, an OSI agent, asks her to help with the investigation, which the museum security chief, Ryan Jeffries, doesn’t like.  He says she’s an amateur.  Nicole agrees to help because she knows the victim and his family.


5.  J and Nicole walk over to the office area of the hangar to talk with Doris, Nicole’s godmother.  Nicole says, just like 9/11, another horrible event on a beautiful sunny day.  Doris says she’s being superstitious.  Doris introduces Nicole to Beckett Jamison, a Flight Surgeon, who examined the body before the techs got there.  Doris wants to fix up Nicole with Beckett.  The surgeon is interested but knows she’s a widow and may still be grieving.


6.  Beckett leaves and J finds out that Doris worked late last night.  Nicole is happy that Doris left before the murder occurred so that she wasn’t hurt.  It comes out that Doris keeps a .357 Magnum, which she calls “Tommy” after the actor Tom Selleck, in her trunk even when on the Base, which is against regulations.  Jeffries overhears that and wonders if Doris did it, but keeps that to himself.  J gently tells Doris that when she gets home to take the gun out of her vehicle, and never bring it on the Base again.  Unhappy, Doris agrees and stomps outside.  As she passes Jeffries, she says hello Dipstick, her pet name for him.  J is upset at Nicole because she probably knew about her Godmother having the gun on Base.


7.  J’s partner Brown walks up and tells them that it looks like someone was trying to get into the B-17, the Champagne Lady, but were unsuccessful.  The two Security Forces (SF) patrolmen did a routine check on the Museum Annex and interrupted the murderer.  One troop was killed and the other one is in the hospital unconscious from a gunshot.  Brown expresses his condolences to Nicole as he hasn’t seen her since her husband passed.  Although she tries to keep the grief from her face, J sees it.  J, Nicole and Jeffries are told to report to the Director of the NMUSAF.  As J and Nicole walk toward the open hangar doors, he talks to Nicole about seeing a therapist to help her deal with her grief.  He tells her that she has to accept that Thomas’s death was an accident.  Nicole states that Thomas was murdered and that she’ll never stop trying to prove it. 

8.  Nicole, Jeffries and J arrive at the main Museum to brief Director Burch on the investigation progress.  The Museum is filled with both U.S. and international visitors. Nicole and J walk through the Lobby and past several entrances to the various Museum wings before getting to Director Burch’s office.  He has worked with Nicole in her past life as an SF Commander, and overrules Jeffries when he wants Nicole out of the investigation.  Nicole knows that Jeffries will do everything he can to keep her in the dark as the investigation progresses.  Jeffries’ attitude doesn’t matter to her, as J will keep her informed. 


9.  Jeffries goes to his office to pull lists of museum employees for the interviews that afternoon.  J walks Nicole to the Museum’s Public Affairs (PA) office.  On the way they talk about the American Nazi rally that was in downtown Dayton the weekend before, and that there’s going to be a bigger one this coming weekend.   Given the WWII veterans and their families attending the donation of the Champagne Lady this weekend, Nicole is concerned they’ll be upset by the rally.


10.  J leaves, while Nicole goes into the PA office to talk with her friend, Shelly, who is in charge of publicity for the Museum.  She says that the VIP guests arrived the day before and were given access to the Base early.  Shelly asks Nicole if she’s packed up Thomas’s stuff yet?  She says it’s past time to do so, since it’s been almost a year since Thomas died.  Nicole gets visibly upset, and stares at Shelly.  After shaking her head no, she says she’ll see Shelly at the luncheon and walks out.


11.  On her way to her car Nicole texts J and Jeffries that the VIPs are suspects because they were given Base access the day before.  So, any of them could have gone to the Annex and committed the murder.  Museum employees and Base personnel are thought to be the most likely  suspects.


12. Nicole goes back to the Annex where the OSI is finishing up.  The SF Commander Harmon, and the Chaplain, ask her to go with them to make the official notification of the SF troop’s death to his widow, since Nicole knows the family.  Dreading the notification, but always feeling responsible for her troops, even though she no longer commands them, she says yes, and that she’ll drive separately.




13.  They arrive at the house of the victim’s wife, who breaks down as soon as she sees the Chaplain, Scott and Nicole at her door.  All military spouses know what it means when a notification team shows up at the door.  Nicole comforts the widow, who asks Nicole to find the killer.  Nicole replies that she’ll do everything possible to put the murderer in a box.  Commander Harmon and Nicole leave when a few of the widow’s friends and neighbors arrive to be with the widow.


14.  As they walk out it becomes obvious that Harmon is interested in Nicole, but she’s oblivious to his interest.  She hasn’t let Thomas go yet.  Harmon asks if there are any suspects in the investigation yet.  Nicole tells him no, but that the OSI begins the interviews this afternoon.  She gets uncomfortable when he gets her to agree to take him on a flight that night.  They arrange to meet at her house at 5:30p.m.  Nicole leaves, upset at herself for saying yes to the company on the flight.




15.  Nicole arrives back at the museum for the VIP luncheon.  Nicole meets the VIPs for the first time while socializing with them before and during lunch.  A couple of them stick out as possible suspects, including an obnoxious family, the Staffords.  On the other hand, Nicole immediately likes the Hertenstein family, especially the Patriarch Al, who was a member of the Lady’s crew.


16.  Nicole, Jeffries, Brown and J interview all of the VIPs and the museum workers.  A couple of the VIPs mention that before they flew out of Germany they were interviewed because of a murder, and that this feels just like that.  The body was near the Lady, and they were also questioned about some jewels.  One in particular, called the Bavarian Star, seemed to be the focus of the questions.  Although it seems unlikely, Nicole suspects there may be a connection between the old murder and the current one.  History repeating itself?  Jeffries says that is idiotic, that it’s probably just teenagers.  J says, with a gun on the Base?


17.  Nicole, J and Jeffries discuss the interviews and whittle it down to a few suspects from the VIPs, but none of the museum employees stand out.  The VIPs are prime suspects since the plane has been at the Annex for a week with no issues until the VIPs arrive in town for the donation of the plane to the Museum.  Nicole and J only have three days to catch the murderer before the VIPs leave town on Sunday afternoon.


18.  A rattlesnake slithers down Nicole’s arm when she gets in her car to leave for home.  As the snake coils up in the front passenger seat, she’s barely able to push her car alarm.  J and his partner Brown hear it and run over to her car.  They see the snake inside, get it out and find another one in the glovebox when they check the rest of Nicole’s SUV.  Additional SF patrol cars show up on a report of shots fired, after J shoots the snakes.  J wants Nicole to have protection, but she refuses, as she thinks she can take care of herself.  They think there is some connection to the break-in and murder, but don’t see what it could be.  She thanks J and Brown for keeping her from being snakebit and heads out for home.




18.  Nicole stops over to get her nephew and tells her sister-in-law, Indigo, about the murder.  When she takes Nico to her house Harmon is there.  The three of them do a pre-flight check on Nicole’s plane and then takeoff on the runway behind the house to go to Grimes Field for dinner.  The half hour flight to Grimes gives Harmon a chance to get to know Nico a little.  By the time they land at Grimes, Nico is bragging about his aunt’s flying skills.


19.  When they arrive at the Grimes Field Café, they join experts from the WWII museum there.  Nicole tells them about the Annex break-in, murder and asks them what someone would be after on the Lady.  They all start talking over each other, giving opinions.  One member of the group is a WWII history buff and says he’ll check with his friends at the National Archives for information on the murder near the Lady during WWII.  During the conversation it’s mentioned that the plane will go into the restoration section of the museum and be taken apart starting Monday.  Nicole realizes the murderer has a deadline to retrieve what they’re looking for on the plane. 

22.  When they arrive back at home, Nicole takes her nephew to his house while Harmon waits on Nicole’s deck.  She finds out that her brother-in-law, who is deployed, called via video chat.  He says might not be able to call for several days but not to be concerned.  Nico is disappointed that he missed his Dad’s video chat.   Before Harmon leaves, he makes it clear that he’s romantically interested in Nicole.  He hints at a second date, but Nicole remains noncommittal. 

After Harmon leaves, Nicole relives memories of her marriage to Thomas.  Looking at his picture on the night stand, grief overcomes her.   She sobs until sleep comes.




23.  J calls Nicole early to let her know there was another break-in.   Jeffries was hit over the head, but he refused medical treatment.  This time the murderer got into the plane.   Nicole arrives at the annex to see swastikas spray painted on the fuselage and on the underside of the wings.  J, Jeffries and Nicole look at the inside of the plane but don’t see anything broken, etc.  Given the American Nazi Party gathering in nearby Dayton coming up this weekend, Nicole and J think it’s likely that group is somehow connected to the murder and break-ins.  They discuss the fact that if the murderer is a VIP most of them will lose access to the Base on Monday.  So, the VIPs only have the weekend to get whatever it is they want off the plane. 


24.  Nicole heads to the museum to help escort the VIPs to the replicas of the Wright Brother hangers at Huffman Prairie on a different part of the Base.  While on the bus ride to the hangers Nicole is able to talk to many of the VIPs.  So far, only two stand out as possible murderers:  the obnoxious Stafford family; and Charles Peterson.  As people leave the buses, Shelly reminds everyone not to go too far out into the grass because of the massasauga rattlesnake population there.  Nicole tells her about the snake in her mailbox.  Shelly says that she’s not afraid of snakes, but hates spiders.  She asks Nicole if she reported it to the police.  Nicole says no.


25.  The tour moves to the Wright Bicycle Shop and downtown Dayton where they see swastikas put on buildings during the Nazis rally the previous weekend.  VIPs are angry to see that, saying they beat the Nazis once and they can’t believe Nazis are in the U.S.  Nicole doesn’t tell them that swastikas were painted on the Lady.  They end the tour with lunch at the historic Engineers Club on the river in Dayton.  The engineering accomplishments of Daytonians are discussed, along with the 1913 flood.  During lunch Nicole gets a sense of who has a solid alibi and who is a viable suspect.  Several of the VIPs say they want to go to the American Nazi march on Saturday so they can tell people what being under Nazi rule is really like.  Nicole and Shelly try to talk them out of it.


26.  Nicole drives back to the Museum with Doris.  They discuss all of the VIPs and their families.  Doris asks how Nicole’s date with Harmon went, which annoys Nicole.  She denies it was a date and says good-bye as soon as they’re in the Museum parking lot.  As she’s walking back to her vehicle, she notices that she has five missed calls from Indigo.  When she calls back Indigo is crying and just says “come home”, then hangs up.


27.  When she gets home, Indigo tells Nicole she was notified that her husband Chip’s unit is missing.  Nicole comforts her, but doesn’t let Indigo know that if they’ve been notified, it doesn’t look good for the unit.  She manages to get Indigo calmed down before Nico gets home from a friend’s house.  Nicole tells her to stay positive, that the unit may just be lost, or making their way back to the forward operating location.  When she leaves to get ready for the VIP dinner Indigo is still worried, but smiling while playing with Nico.






28. Nicole returns to the museum for a meeting with all the escorts.  Shelly goes over the itinerary for the rest of the weekend, culminating in the donation ceremony for the Lady at midday on Sunday.  Nicole realizes she only has 2 days to find the murderer.  Before they go in for dinner, Nicole asks Shelly what she knows about the Nazi looted artifacts and murder that Nicole heard about at lunch with the VIPs.  Shelly says yes, the looting is common knowledge, but a group called the Monument Men has searched since the end of the war and she thinks they’ve found everything taken.   Shelly says she got her love of WWII history from her great-grandfather, who was in the war.

29.  At the cocktail hour before dinner Nicole tells J about her missing brother-in-law and asks J if he can use his contacts to check on the status of Chip’s unit, which he agrees to do.  Beckett, the Flight Surgeon, escorts Nicole to her seat and takes a seat next to her.  He admits he arranged that seating.  Nicole’s attraction to Beckett and his deep, blue eyes gets stronger the longer their converse. 


30.  At the start of dinner, the Director gives a welcome speech and gives out his coin to the crew of the Lady.  He also talks about how the plane ended up in the hands of its former pilot at the end of the war.  He ends his remarks saying the plane will go into the museum restoration shop on Monday to be torn down and rebuilt.  At dinner Nicole hears two of the guests talking about the murder again and missing Nazi loot, including paintings and jewels at the end of WWII.


32.  After dinner Beckett asks if she’d like to dance.  She does, after Doris happens to be standing behind her, and answers yes for her.  There are sparks there, which makes Nicole feel guilty because of Thomas.  In spite of herself, as they dance she feels a strong attraction to Beckett.  It’s the first time she’s felt that way since Thomas.


33.  Toward the end of the evening, Director Burch, Nicole, J, Brown, and Jeffries meet in a side room away from partygoers, so the Director can be updated on the investigation.  Jeffries says that he’ll be guarding the plane for part of the night, but Security Forces troops will take over around 0100.  Beckett waits in the Museum lobby to walk Nicole to her car.  Nicole invites Beckett to go on a flight with her early the next morning, so she can pick up the research material from her friend at the WWII Museum at Grimes Field.


34.  Nicole gets home and is relaxing in the backyard when she’s startled by Charles Peterson coming into the backyard through the garage.  Her combat training has her on full alert.  He walks closer and says he wants to get to know her better, that they didn’t have enough time to talk that day.  Nicole’s gut is telling her to be careful.  She’s polite but firm, saying that they’ll have to talk at the Museum the next day.  She watches him get in his car and drive away.


35.  That night there is a third break in at the museum.  The Security Chief turns off the alarm because he or J will be there.  J gets there during the break-in, hears the noise and gets off a shot.  He hears what sounds like marbles falling near the plane.  He is grazed in the head, making him unconscious, but the murderer heard him call for backup, so they leave.




36.  At 7am Nicole takes off for Grimes with Beckett and Nico.  They meet the WWII expert, Roger, for breakfast.  He gives Nicole the materials his friend dug up at the National Archives, which include information on Nazi loot as well as the murder near the Champagne Lady at the end of WWII.  Roger says it might be a good idea to look through the pictures included, even though they’re grainy.  On the flight home, Nicole’s plane’s engine starts sputtering and stops completely while still a short distance from her home base.  Beckett and Nico brace for a possible crash landing, but Nico is completely confident that his aunt can land a plane no matter what is wrong with it.  They brush the trees on approach, but Nicole successfully glides her plane to the airpark runway.  Neighbors rush out with fire extinguishers, which turn out to be unnecessary.  Nicole calls her mechanic and he says there was nothing wrong with the plane when he checked it the month before.  He says he’ll be out later that day to find out why the engine quit. 


37.  Nicole goes to the museum and sees that there’s been yet another break-in, in spite of Jeffries, J and the SF troops guarding the Annex.  SA Brown and crew find jewels scattered inside and outside of the plane.  There is some blood just inside the hatch entry, so the murderer must be at least wounded, but got away.  J was grazed and lost consciousness for a short period.  After the crime techs are finished, J, Brown, Jeffries and Nicole go inside the plane.  An expert from the restoration unit joins them.  They see that an inside the panel just before the cockpit entry was taken off and left on the floor of the aircraft.  Nothing was left inside the open panel.  The restoration expert says that if there’s anything left, it will be found when the plane is stripped down during restoration.


38.  Walking to the empty office area at the back of the hanger, Brown, Nicole, Jeffries and J now know the murderer was after the jewels.  They know the murderer must be one of the VIP guests, as they were the ones who were on-scene when the jewels were put into the plane at the end of WWII.  But most of the crew was now gone or in their nineties.  J says that he and Brown will go to the suspects and interview them to get additional information.  Nicole receives a text from Shelly saying some of the VIPs went to the Nazi rally in Dayton, and that they are at the Dayton Police Station.


39.  Nicole goes to the Dayton PD station where the Staffords, Al Hertenstein, and JC Nelson are making statements to the police.  JC, great-grandson of a crewmember, says the Nazis didn’t do anything, those protesting against them started the trouble.  The Staffords agree.  These comments incense Al, and a shouting match resumes among all of the VIPs and their families.  The police officers say they won’t press charges against any of them if Nicole will just get them out of the station.  She encourages them all to go to back to the Base.  Nicole lets J know they’re all headed back to the Base.


40.  The VIPs are patched up before returning to their hotel rooms on Base for a break for the afternoon.  The formal celebration dinner is to be held that night at the Club on Base.  The next day is the donation ceremony at the Annex, formally closing the weekend for the VIPs.  So, time is getting short to catch the murderer and find out why they keep breaking into the plane. 






41.  Nicole goes to the Annex to make sure that everything is set up for the donation ceremony on Sunday.  Shelly is there too, working with volunteers, including Beckett.  Nicole sits in the Lady imagining what it was like at the end of the war, how things got into the plane.  Beckett joins her.  Nicole becomes convinced that the jewels weren’t the only items hidden on the plane.  She believes there are important documents, discussed by the archivist and her WWII expert at Grimes. She’s anxious to see what the restoration team finds when they start working on the bird.  As they come out of the plane Shelly and Doris come up.  Nicole tells Shelly about the attack and Shelly says Nicole should drop out of the investigation so she doesn’t get hurt.  Shelly again offers to help Nicole clean out Thomas’s things from the house.  Nicole says maybe soon, but not right now.


42.  Doris doesn’t seem to have a reason to be at the Annex, other than hoping to see Nicole.  She digs to try to find out if Nicole knows who the murderer is, and when she hears about the close call with the plane, tells Nicole to let the OSI and SF troops handle it.  Nicole says the most likely suspects are Peterson, JC Nelson or one of the Staffords.   The problem is, the investigation team still needs to get hard evidence. 


43.   Nicole gets the documents from the Archives from her car and pours over them with Doris and Beckett.  Jeffries walks in and joins them.  The photos in the documents are grainy, but they see a picture of the crew by their plane, as well as a picture of the dead man.  The dead man was identified in recently declassified documents as a double agent for Germany and America.  There is one document in the stack which talks about Hitler having children, but Roger put a note on it saying no credence has ever been given to that theory.   Roger’s expert archivist believes there is a missing list of locations where the Nazis stored their stolen artifacts toward the end of the war.  Some artifacts have been found, but there have been persistent rumors about this list, which could lead to the location of the rest of what Germany took from Governments and citizens alike during the war.  One grainy picture shows a man who looks exactly like JC Nelson.  The picture’s caption said it was his great-grandfather standing by the Lady, talking to what looks like investigators.  J texts Nicole to meet him at his office, that he and Brown have some information which might solve the case.  Doris and Beckett remain at the Annex when Jeffries and Nicole head to J’s office.


44.  At J’s office they go over the suspects, clues, and what they still need.  Nicole realizes while any of the crew could have done it, a flight engineer or mechanic might be the most logical suspect.  J briefs Nicole and Jeffries about the interviews from that afternoon.  Brown says that he found something very interesting in his research.  He uses a large briefing screen to bring up a booking photo.  It’s of JC when he was college age.  JC was at a Nazi rally, and he wasn’t protesting the rally, but participating in it.  J said that they’ve crossed the Staffords off as suspects, because their alibis have proven rock solid.  They can’t say the same for Peterson or JC.  J doesn’t believe Peterson is a murderer, but Brown says he gives off a creep vibe.  Nicole agrees, but Jeffries is reluctant to cross him off the list.  Nicole sees a call come in on her phone and steps out of the room. 


45.   The call is from Indigo who calls to say Chip has been found.  He’s injured and is on the way back to the US, arriving that night.  She wants Nicole to watch Nico that night and on Sunday so she can be with Chip when he arrives.  Nicole says of course, even though she’ll have to keep Nico with her at the dinner that night, as well as the next day for the donation ceremony.  Nicole assumes that Doris will help her watch Nico.


46.  Nicole goes to the main Museum to go over the agenda with Shelly for the next day.  She runs into JC Nelson and his grandmother leaving the Museum. Nicole sees a Nazi tattoo on his arm when his grandmother bumps it and a band aid falls off.  JC hurries away when Nicole tries to question him about it.  As they walk away, JC’s grandmother looks Nicole in the eye and gives her a small smile.  Nicole calls J with the information about JC’s tattoo and defensiveness as she’s walking to Shelly’s office.  She and Shelly go over the agenda for the donation ceremony the next day.  Nicole tells Shelly that Nico will be at the dinner and the activities the next day.  Shelly says her staff is running the dinner that evening, so, she’ll be glad to help watch Nico.  Nicole has tried several times to reach Doris, but she hasn’t answered her phone.


47.  Nicole goes home to dress for the formal dinner and to pick up Nico.  She tells him he’s her date for the evening, which tickles him.  Dressed in his best shirt and kakis he has a bomber jacket on with a patch from the Air Force Test Pilot School.  It’s his pride and joy given to him by a test pilot friend of Nicole.  They talk about the evening, and that he might have to be with Shelly at some points during the night.


48.  JC and his grandmother show up just when dinner is being served.  He makes sure they sit far away from Nicole and leave right after dinner.  Nonetheless, J follows him out as he’s walking his grandmother to their car.  JC gets defensive when J questions his ties to the American Nazi Party.  He says it’s a free country, and he can support any organization he wants.  J doesn’t have enough cause to arrest him for anything, so let’s them go.  Several of the VIPs ask Nicole about the investigation.  The Collins family is upset that the events over the last few days have marred their Father’s donation of the Champaign Lady to the Museum.  Nicole placates them, saying the actual donation ceremony tomorrow will go well.  After dinner Nico stays with Shelly, who says she can take him to Nicole’s place while Nicole is with J.  Nicole and J head over to the Annex to take the first shift guarding the plane.  The SF troops have been pulled off of guarding the Anne because their Commander believes the murderer has what he wanted, and that there will be no more break-ins at the Annex.


49.  Nicole and J turn off all of the interior lights in the hanger, except the emergency lights, hoping the murderer will assume that no one is there.  They hide behind a power unit, and wait.  J tells Nicole that if someone shows up, as they believe will happen, they should remain hidden until the person comes out of the plane.  A half hour later, they see someone come into the hanger and go directly to the Lady.  They can’t see who it is in the darkened hanger.  Sounds of metal clattering in the plane come through the open hatch in the Lady.  J and Nicole move toward the hatch, waiting for the murderer to come out.  As the person climbs out of the plane, J tells them to stop and lay on the ground.  The murderer fires toward J, then points a gun at Nicole.  It’s JC.  Threatening Nicole if J doesn’t put his gun down, JC moves closer to Nicole, but J is already laying on the ground, motionless.  JC has two rolled up documents in his hands. 


50.  Nicole keeps talking to JC, who answers with arrogance and sneers.  As soon as he’s close enough Nicole drops to sweep him off of his feet, punches him across the jaw, and takes his gun.  A voice echoes in the hanger.  It’s Nico, calling Nicole.  Nicole turns to see that Shelly has her arm around her nephew’s shoulders, and is walking him toward Nicole.  J stays on the ground, still.  Shelly has a gun pointed at the side of Nico’s head.  She tells JC to take the gun from Nicole.  He does and picks up the two rolled up documents from the floor of the hanger.  Shelly asks him if that’s all that was in the panel.  JR nods.  JR says, you were right cousin, that the map to the Nazi treasures will support the Party’s takeover of the U.S.  He says, the other document listing the names of the mothers of Hitler’s children will lead to a worldwide Nazi takeover, as millions follow Hitler’s progeny.  Cousin? Nicole asks.  JR says, Shelly was born on the wrong side of the blanket, that’s why no one knows they’re related.  Shelly responds that there’s no need to explain.  You’re a liability now.  She shoots JR.  As she turns back to Nicole, an arrow whistles through the air, just past Shelly’s ear.  Shelly looks over to see Doris holding a crossbow.  Before she can reload with Shelly orders Doris to toss the crossbow and lay on the ground, face first.  Glancing at Nicole, Doris complies.


51.  Turning back to Nicole, Shelly says that Nicole had the life Shelly always wanted, including Thomas.  She loved him and tried to get him to leave Nicole.  Shelly said he refused and felt sorry for Shelly, who had no one.  Nicole is stunned with shock.  Thomas never told her about Shelly’s advances.  Shelly laughs, I thought those snakes would get you out of my hair and away from the investigation.  But even though you didn’t get bitten, I enjoyed hearing you talk about your fear and how it was a close call when the snakes were in your car.  Pausing before hitting Nicole with the biggest shock, Shelly continues, remember that I was there at the airport when Thomas died?  She smiles, and tells Nicole, you were right.  Thomas didn’t pack his chute, I did.  I made sure that your perfect little life would turn into misery.  As Shelly confesses, Nicole’s fury at Nico being threatened turns to ice inside of her, and quiets into a deadly combat mode.  Shelly continues, saying, for a while that’s what happened, but now you have another great guy attracted to you.  Who wants you.  I’m going to make sure that you don’t get a happy ending, Miss Perfect Pilot.  Not you.  Not any of your family.  Nicole looks into Nico’s eyes, and says, SIGN now!  Nico elbows Shelly, stomps on her foot, hits her leg, and tries to hit her in the nose.  All of which sends Shelly’s shot at Nicole wide.  He breaks free of Shelly just as Nicole gets to her.  Nicole knocks her to the ground and takes her gun.  She stands over Shelly pointing the gun at her.  Nicole is surprised that her hands aren’t shaking.  She has a cold calm as she continues to point the gun at Shelly.  Rage and grief willing her to pull the trigger. 


52.  Nicole says to Shelly, I want you dead.  You deserve to be dead.  Doris and J have come up behind Nicole, but are standing a few feet away.  Shelly tells them to stop Nicole, that they can’t let Nicole kill her.  Doris has her arm around Nico, and they all stand still, silent.  Nicole takes a step closer to Shelly’s head.  Nico says, Aunt Nicole?  Pausing, Nicole steps back, still pointing the gun at Shelly.  Disgust on her face, Nicole says to Shelly, the only thing saving you is that little boy.  The one you pretended to care about for two years.  The one you threatened and held a gun on minutes ago.  Nicole hands the gun to J and, picking up Nico, walks toward a corner of the hanger just as the Security Forces arrive.  Doris follows her to make sure they’re both alright.


53.  Away from the other people in the hanger, Nico cries on Nicole’s shoulder, saying he thought Shelly was going to kill Nicole.  Letting him get the tears out while she rubs his back, Nicole says, you know you and I are a team.  No one can hurt us when we’re together.  Nico smiles at his aunt and says she can put him down now.  He’s ok.  Nicole gives him one more squeeze, and a kiss on the cheek, before putting him down.  She turns to Doris, and says, an arrow?  That’s the best you got?  Well, you made me keep Tommy at home.  Shaking her head, Nicole says, your 357 is fine locked away at home.  The crossbow did the trick, distracting Shelly.  J and his partner Brown walk up.


54.  Doris said to J, you weren’t much help just laying around on the ground with that crazy woman pointing a gun at Nico.  J says he didn’t have his gun, nor the advantage, already being on the ground.  He thought it best not to escalate the situation in hopes he’d have a chance to tackle her if she tried to leave with Nico.  Doris simply responds with a grunt.  Brown has the documents that Shelly and JC were after.  He rolls them out on a nearby table.  Although the writing is a little faded, the map identifying locations of artwork, important documents, jewels and more is easily read.  They all look around at each other.  This is big, says Brown.  It will hit the papers shortly and it’s anybody’s guess how using the map will play out.  Nicole says that it will probably be an international panel of historians and art experts who will work at finding the items, as well as returning them to the rightful heirs.  Although Germany may make a case that it’s their responsibility to return the treasure, and there would be something to be said for that, said J.   


55.  Brown rolls up the treasure map, and they all turn their attention to the other document, which is clearly a list of women’s names and addresses.  Each line also has a date next to a woman’s name.  The title at the top of that column is “date pregnancy confirmed”.   My God, said Nicole.  Nazi organizations around the World would give anything for this list of names.  They could make Hitler descendants Nazi leaders, giving validity to Nazi organizations now.  There are enough disgruntled people in the world right now that conceivably millions of people would join them, even here in the U.S.  Everyone was quiet, thinking of the ramifications.  J rolled the list back up and said, I’d assume that this document will be classified and not released.  So, you may want to just forget you saw it.  At the very least both of these documents are now evidence of what those two were up to when they killed Sergeant Scott.   Nicole and J looked at each other.  Nicole quietly said, at least his wife will know why she lost her husband.  J nodded and said, as usual, you’ve done great work. 


56.  Doris said, here comes Dipstick.  Jeffries heard her and gave her a scowl before turning to J and Brown.  So, you caught the two murderers?  Would have been nice if you’d let me in on what you were going to do tonight.  Just luck that you caught them tonight and that I didn’t the other nights.  Yeah, said Doris, you didn’t.  Jeffries ignored her and asked about the two ducments found and reached out for them.  Sorry, said J, these are evidence, and walked away to talk with the SF personnel.  Grudgingly Jeffries said to Nicole, I’m glad your nephew is safe.  But unable to resist making a snide remark, he said, maybe you should have had him here in the first place.  Hopefully in the future you’ll keep better friends.  Before Nicole or Doris could say anything, Jeffries smirked, and walked away.


57.  Nicole tells Nico it’s time to head home.  J had already said that both she and Doris could give their statement the next day.  Doris hugged both of them, and they all walked out of the hanger, waving to Brown and J. 


58.  Nicole takes Nico back home and they find his dad there.  He’s bandaged up, but says he’ll be fine.  No more deployments for him for a while.


59.  The next day, all are at the museum for the donation ceremony, including Scott’s widow.  She thanks Nicole, saying she knew Nicole would do it.  All of the VIPs congratulate Nicole on stopping the murderers.  JC’s Grandmother shakes Nicole’s hand and says JC was on the wrong path, just like her father was.  That when she sees her father in the nursing home he’ll be disappointed that his plans didn’t work out.  But she smiles and tells Nicole, thank you for stopping them.  I saw more than they thought I did.    



60.  Nicole is on her deck the next morning, but can’t get into her normal morning routine.  Nico was sleeping in, having stayed up late with his dad.  She closes her eyes, the morning breeze blowing.  She feels Thomas is close to her in spirit, but that he might not be soon.  Nicole dreamed of him the night before, and clearly remembers him saying to her, time to move on Flygirl.  Live each day.  She whispers, I knew it wasn’t anything you did that took you from me.  Almost against her will, she could feel her heart start to heal, knowing she’d found the truth about Thomas’s death.  She turned from the view of the runway and other houses under a blue sky, to go inside and get ready for Sergeant Scott’s funeral.  Another horrible thing happening on a beautiful, sunny day.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Camille Adele Saffron faces the dangerous power figures of the Ancient city of St Augustine to find the murderer of the sister who betrayed her.  


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.

The first antagonistic force is Camille’s desperate love for the sister who her hurt her.  She fights a daily battle between stubborn anger, and immense heartbreak. The harder she fights it the stronger the memories of love push her towards her hidden enemies. She both refuses to forget and refuses to forgive. The opposing emotions twist up what is real about how her sister died and how she imagines the events must have unfolded. Eventually leading her in the wrong direction again and again, until her time to choose a side runs out.  

The second antagonist in the story is the plot twist:

The hidden antagonist is a young man energized by obsessions. He’s very good looking and creatively talented. He has no problem getting noticed but the women he wants seem to misunderstand his efforts to protect them. He knows Camille is eager to uncover the truth. And he’s doing his best to scare her out of St Augustine for her own good. If she can be helped to take the hint she may survive for a few more days. He’s well camouflaged but the more they spend time together the more Camille reminds him of Sophie.  He falls in love again and the cycle begins once more



My working title is The Girl in the Beach House. Its simple but the best things in life are simple.

I believe this is a bestselling title that’ll pique interest.

Others I’m playing around with are The Good Girl. The Girl in the Waves.



The novel which compares to mine, the closest, thought it isn’t an amateur sleuth fiction is My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni. The premises are similar, in that both protagonists lose a sister and distrust law enforcements convictions of a prime suspect. Both uncover secrets in the process of solving the mystery.

The Second comparable will most definitely be Sister by Rosamund Lupton. This one is almost scary close.

                From the summary posted on Amazon: “Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.”

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered.  Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess's apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister's life--and all its secrets.


I mean the premise is almost the same as my novel except the relationship between my sisters has been a strained one for five years before the murder. Also the police know Sophie was murdered but are wrong about who did it, which is why the first comparable also fits.


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.


After the famous sister who ruined Camille’s life is found dead on the shore of Anastasia Island, the failing psychology student battles a deadly host of powerful conspirators and discovers a secret obsession that could end her life.



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.

Inner conflict and turmoil. All Camille wanted to do was hate her sister forever, but how she can morally go on drinking in the intoxicating emotions of anger when the woman has now been violently taken. Now the struggle is to forgive as any decent person is required to do once a family member is tragically killed. No matter what they did to you, no matter how scarred they left you. She has valid reason to be angry but was ripped from the route of processing the grief of losing her best friend to betrayal much too early. Now she must balance the left-over feelings of resentment as they overlap the physical grief of never having the chance to forgive Sophie face to face. There is guilt in this and an assumption of wrongness. Perhaps she should’ve forgiven a long time before the opportunity to have her friend back disappeared forever and perhaps, she was irrevocably broken before the chance came and went because she failed to do so in time. She wonders often if Sophie cheated her, or her stubborn heart forever cheated them both out of reconciliation and reunion

Secondary Conflict: Social family conflict: Camille is torn between desiring approval from her parents who tend to favor Sophie’s good girl façade and a true desire for justice for her sister which requires probing into Sophie’s true nature. This pits her against her family and the police who believe they’ve already caught the killer (a random druggie beach bum. The more Camille screams from the rooftops that Sophie was more villain than angel and had possibly wronged some deadly enemies, the more Camille alienates herself from the people she loves and scorned by police. There’s a scene in the story after Camille has visited the man accusing Sophia of murder to hear his tale. When her mother finds out about this, she berates Camille for entertaining lies about her dead sister. So not knowing that Camille followed a hunch based on inside knowledge into Sophie’s secret life her mother sees her pursuit of the details as a cruel vindictiveness

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?





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.

 Truth is stranger than Florida. The best thing about setting this story in Florida is it adds a sense of believability without adding to an oversaturated setting where these types of stories usually take place. The story is ripe with celebrities, big business, corruptions, scandals and some sprinkling of drugs and tons of sexual misconduct. This could easily be set in Los Angeles but where’s the novelty in Hollyweird elements set in Hollyweird. This is also why I didn’t choose the city of Miami to set the story.

There are legends and myths in every city, but St Augustine is highly regarded as historically tumultuous. And where there is history, there is the creep factor of specters lingering. Think Louisiana. Tailing the bible-thumping south, gripped in swampy wilderness and unpredictable weather phenomena, St Augustine Florida has a little bit of everything. That versatility allows the story to transform from one genre to the next while still keeping its main form. St Augustine Florida as the nations oldest city is both frightening and beautiful. Much like Sophie. This place would have camouflaged her in a vibration that matched her own. Just what she needed.

 The city itself is rich not just in its ghostly back drop but in the people who bravely live there. They belong. They are proud to belong to the coquina rock and colonial district. They don’t have a problem walking pass the torture museum for an ice cream cone and browsing the old cemetery for photos. Good thing Camille has the thick skin to blend right in.  

The sky is open as it is everywhere but there something different here. The sky is sentient and heavy, it looks down on you, wondering what you’ll do next. This is inescapable exposure. Paranoia inducing. St Augustine is plotting against you, waiting for you to make a move so it can return with its own. Just as the ghost of settlers who made the town what it is, the city tries to soothe and distract you from your own hair prickling gut feeling. How? By laughing and dancing in merriment and silly, dizzying nonsense. The pirate at the bar holding a smart phone, the water mills attached to restaurants made of inside out houses in the quarters. A Clydesdale-drawn carriage tugging down a choked avenue or on the open street.  The castle with cannon fire and the actors who ignite them. You must feel safe. But you don’t know for sure. Look up its Christmas! See the night of lights strung from house to bar to museum to bed and breakfast. Miles of thousands. Millions. Tens of millions and more. Like a starry night fallen to earth and painted gold. But remember that hotel shooting and the guy who fired that gun at the monk St George street or the kid who stalked and killed his classmate, or the girl who went missing after drinking from the fountain of youth and was never seen from again.

My point is St Augustine is enchanting, chilling and mysterious. Not to be trusted and so perfect.

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1.Rampart Story Statement:

Born into poverty, mama is a prostitute, papa is not around, Louis must make his own way. He luck will change when he starts working for brothers, Morris and Alex. He overcomes his life’s demons with the encouragement and support from the brothers’ family. He must face his own family, square up with the law, learn to blow the horn, all while figuring out a way into musical greatness.



Louis Armstrong Sr was too busy in his debauchery to give his son anything but a name. Louis Jr learns as a youngster that his papa wasn’t someone he would or could count on. Louis Sr doesn’t give his son any encouragement, love or support much less attention. He will relentlessly pursue his Pappa’s attention and approval only to be shot down again and again. He tends to his little sister Lucy and his prostitute mother Mayann by working for a Russian immigrant family. Papa disapproves and will try to spoil the relationship and poison his chances of opportunity. After a scuffle with the law, Pappa allows Louis Jr to be sent away to the colored waif’s home instead of vouching for his son. Every time Louis Jr makes headway out of poverty and shame, his papa is there to break him down. In spite of his evil, Louis must rise  up and confront his Pappa. He will overcome and prosper despite his bone of contention of a father.


3.Working titles:


Born for the Horn

Rise of Sachmo

Lifting Dipper

Dipper Rising



The Kitchen house. Kathleen Grissom

Where the Crawdads Sing. Delia Owens

Lawn Boy. Jonathan Evison


5.Hook Lines:

A young pennies boy tries to forgive his papa, take care of his momma and sister. All while working for learning from his chosen family who facilitates his rise to greatness.


After lifting himself out of poverty with the help of his chosen family, young Louis must confront his deadbeat father, prostitute momma and his calling to the musical world.


Young Louis must struggle through his poverty, confront his deadbeat Papa, tend to his prostitute mother all while trying navigate a musical future with the help of his chosen family.




Conditions For Inner Conflict:

Young Louis forages for food at the market and behind the fancy hotels and saloons of New Orleans. In 1905 New Orleans is divided into two. The affluent white southern gentry make the rules and often break them at will,  and the immigrant, ex con, free slave folks are holed up in the “back o’ town.” Storyville, where a man can go for extra circular enjoyment, attracts both worlds. Back behind the French Quarter, “Vieux Carre”, Storyville offers gentleman adult entertainment which is divided by color, Black and White Storyville. Mayann, young Louis’ momma, is a black working girl who births Louis at age 15 and is often not around to care for her son. He stays with his Grandma some and usually on the street foraging for food. He meets and starts working for two white boys with a wagon. They collect “rags and bones” in the day and sell coal at night. The brothers invite young Louis to their home and it is the  first time Louis is ever cared for, fed a decent meal and offered a warm welcome. He cannot forget about his family, he must continue to help them, which he does every week by handing his momma his earnings. Momma has another child, his little sister Lucy, he must tend to her too. His Pappa is not around and there are many men that enter and exit his momma’s world. Louis is able to see the white world while working on the wagon and is exposed to the new sound of Jazz. He must find a way to learn to blow a horn, this will be his first act of  helping himself, and can also save his family. The conflict of obligation verses personal determination will consistently rear its head throughout the novel.


Secondary Conflict

It is New Years Eve and Louis wants to celebrate with all the others on the street. He makes his way back to his Momma and Lucy to hand them his earnings. He is feeling so proud that he can provide for his family.  Louis takes “Momma Lucy”(his sister’s pet name) for a special New Year’s treat then brings her back to his Momma’s room. His momma, Mayann, will be going out for work and Momma Lucy will go down for bed soon. He is humming one of white brothers Russian lullaby to Lucy when he discovers a real gun under the bed. It must belong to one of Mayann’s gentlemen friends. He better be careful with it but, wow, he would like to shoot up to the sky, especially since its new Years Eve and the sounds from the streets are already reaching a crescendo! He kisses Momma Lucy and exits with the gun in his pocket, as he turns on to Perdido street he eyes his pals and runs up to show them his treasure. Soon after, he points it up to the sky and shoots the gun. His face turns red as he looks straight at the officer walking right towards him. Louis feels regret, sorrow and angst like he has never felt before, and his humiliation is heightened as he is taken away to the paddy wagon. Louis must forge his path through this next hurdle which will be filled with challenges and maybe some opportunities.



“Back o’Town” is the other side of the tracks in New Orleans in 1900. Perdido and Rampart Streets are the veins that pulse the life in and out of this strange world. White and Black Storyville are situated next to each other but are also different worlds. The immigrants, ex cons, free slaves and other unwanted soles are the citizens of the Back o’Town and create a sense of lawlessness. The stench of the dirt streets that are covered in the droppings from the horses and discarded trash of the night before, is most days intolerable by one who resides uptown. The cribs of Black Storyville line the alley ways and the rooms where the working girls stay up and down Jane Alley carry the stench of rancid food, dead animals and the public privy behind the rooms. Many of the lean-to wooden shotguns are beginning to settle and most look like they won’t make it through the next big storm. The street corners have men in small circles hunching over and gambling with dice, howling and screaming when they win or lose. The corner bar serves ale like water, which is most of the time the cleaner and safer to swallow. Children wander the streets shirtless and barefoot, often hungry and untended. Many of the young mothers are working girls and receive little or no help from their men or pimps. The Back o’ Town is also referred to as the Jungle which aptly paints an accurate picture of daily life. Further downtown in White Storyville, the streets may be laid with brick and some modern sewage lines but the decadence and debauchery still prevails as the common link throughout this ghetto. There are a few immigrant owned businesses, pawn shop, junk yard, small markets and saloons, most owners living upstairs above the street level businesses. They must protect it and their family, so living close makes sense. Besides, they could not afford to live anywhere else. These folks can venture out to other parts as needed. They will walk over to the river to the Decatur Street market to buy good produce, meats and cheeses. Their dress defines them as vagabonds, immigrants and the unwanted. It is best if they keep their head down, tend to their business and hurry back to their part of town.



Narrative fiction

Historical Fiction

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1.     Story Statement

 After a soldier she’d just met at the Nashville USO Club rapes her, 18-year-old farmgirl Grace Pennington flees to Oak Ridge to work on a top-secret project. Promiscuity soon leads to pregnancy. Desperate, Grace chooses the older, more mature Royal DuPriest as the father. When he abandons a fiancée back home to marry her, Grace fully commits. Over the next 7 years, as Royal drinks to excess and bankrupts his business, young Grace reluctantly bears 5 children. When Royal dries out, they move to Pennsylvania where Grace feels isolated, but happy—until her first, favorite child, Gloria, gets cancer. With Royal now overdosing on prescription painkillers and disappearing into hospitals for months, Grace fights to keep her family afloat. After Gloria dies, Grace falls for her married boss and begins staying out all night, drinking heavily. During an argument, Royal accuses Grace of being a terrible mother, and she tells him that Gloria was not his child—and that she knew all along—which sends him into a drunken, blinding fury.  

2.     Sketch of Antagonist

 Royal DuPriest grew up a dirt farmer in southwest Georgia, quitting school after eighth grade to support his family. While serving as a Seabee during World War II, he developed severe ulcers and almost died in a South Pacific jungle. After doctors patch his stomach back together, Royal heads to Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Now 29 and engaged to a girl back home, he falls for a beautiful 19-year-old farmgirl he meets in Oak Ridge. When Grace tells Royal that she’s pregnant and that it’s his child, he dutifully marries her, which infuriates his family. After the war, they move back to Georgia, where Royal descends into alcoholism. Though he finally stops drinking, after barely being present as a husband or father, he bankrupts his business and leaves his family to find work.

 Feeling burdened by his growing family, Royal is often domineering and occasionally abusive; he expects his young wife to endure bad situations and hold the family together, virtually on her own. When their oldest daughter—and favorite child—gets cancer, the narcissistic Royal overdoses repeatedly on prescription drugs, again leaving his wife to deal with everything. Despite his drug addiction, his ongoing depression and multiple suicide attempts—because he married her when she most needed him—Grace feels duty-bound to the marriage. After their daughter dies, however, she begins multiple affairs that eventually drive Royal to the brink of murder.


 Grace DuPriest (Pennington) is her own antagonist. Her desire for adventure at an early age, conflicted feelings, deep insecurity, promiscuity, and bad choices lead to getting pregnant at age nineteen, with multiple candidates for father. She chooses an older man that she thinks will make a good father, but it leads to a disastrous marriage to an alternately ineffectual alcoholic who constantly abandons her.

Throughout their life together, she dutifully cares for her husband and children, but rarely feels capable, or appropriately loving. Growing feelings of resentment and despair, particularly as her husband descends into alcoholism and later prescription drug addictions, make her withdraw further into her shell. Still, compelled by her desire to be the type of woman her parents expect her to be, Grace remains in the marriage.

When her favorite child gets cancer, and her husband abandons her, yet again, Grace grows a steely exterior. She hides her unhappiness from everyone—her children, her parents, her neighbors—and soldiers through, though she is drinking alone at night, in her room. After her daughter dies, Grace falls in love with her married boss, begins an affair, starts to drink heavily, and pulls away from her marriage and her children, who flounder without their mother. Even when her entire world crashes down, Grace makes fatal choices that lead to her ultimate demise.

 3.     Three Breakout Titles

The Captive Mother

The Devious Wife

The Unlived Life

Wrong Pursuits

When Lies Prevail

 4.     Comparable Titles

 ·       Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart - Grove Press; 448 pages; (February 11, 2020)

Story of a late-stage alcoholic mother, from the child’s perspective.

My story is from the mother’s perspective and shows her slow decline.

 ·       An American Marriage, Tayari Jones - Algonquin Books; 336 pages; Reprint edition (February 5, 2019)

Story of a disastrous marriage due to husband’s failings.

My story also has a disastrous marriage due to husband’s failings.

 ·       Home, Marilynn Robinson - Picador Paper; 336 pages; Reissue edition (August 4, 2020)

Story about a man’s alcoholic despair and how it affects his family. Very interior, focused on the family home.

My story is also about alcoholics and family despair. Also very interior and focused on the family home.

 ·       Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls - Scribner Book Company; 288 pages; 1st edition (January 1, 2006)

Her memoir is from the daughter’s perspective, and her parents are insane.

My story is from the mother’s perspective. Grace is not insane, but both she and her husband are selfish, dysfunctional, and alcoholic.

 ·       Irreparable: Three Lives. Two Deaths. One Story That Has to Be Told,

Mark Gerardot - Green Heart Books; 373 pages; (March 31, 2020)

Memoir about a long, very dysfunctional marriage than leads to love affairs and murder.

My story is also about a very dysfunctional marriage that leads to love affairs, and almost leads to murder.

  5. Hook line:

What happens when a reluctant mother of five feels trapped in a disastrous, alcoholic marriage and her favorite child gets cancer.

 6.      Conflict

Primary Conflicts

Grace Pennington is a war with her own desires, first for admiration and adventure, then for married happiness, both of which lead to disastrous choices and perilous circumstances she is constantly struggling to overcome. Never wanting to be a mother, she ends up with five children under the age of seven; always wanting to be happily married, she chooses an ineffectual alcoholic who constantly disappoints and abandons her. Determined to be the woman her parents raised her to be, bound by a sense of duty to the man she married, Grace reluctantly stays in a marriage that will never fulfill her basic needs.

The ongoing marital turmoil Grace both endures and later creates; as well as the conflict between her desire to fulfill her duties as an adequate mother and her feelings of suffocation create constant conflict.

She’s both a reluctant wife and a reluctant mother, which constantly leaves her feeling like an inadequate failure. Deep resentment and her own inability to love, even herself, leads to Grace’s demise.

Inner conflicts your protagonist will have

·       Grace wants adventure and a career, but she gets pregnant at age nineteen and feels compelled to marry and have the baby.

·       Grace’s parents raised her to be the ideal wife and mother, but she chafes at the bit, feels disappointed in marriage and overwhelmed and encumbered by motherhood.

·       Grace knows she is supposed to love her children, but she finds them a burden. She feels trapped. Only Gloria is her darling.

·       Grace feels like a failure for failing to achieve her parent’s standards.

·       Grace feels compelled to trust Royal’s doctors, but she blames them for supporting her husband’s addictions and resents them placing blame on her for his continuing depression.


 Raised by salt of the earth parents to remain a “good girl” until marriage, Grace can’t resist the soldiers and sailors headed to war. When she ends up pregnant, and doesn’t know who the father is, she chooses the most mature man and tells him she’s been faithful to him, leading him to abandon a fiancée back home to marry her. Whatever guilt she feels must remain hidden.

Secondary conflict in the social environment

·       Primary Ongoing Conflict with her husband about his drinking, his drug addictions, separate bedrooms, her wanting a divorce and his determination to hang on, his accusations that she’s a bad mother. Their failed relationship, constant fighting, and her cheating leads to a dramatic, violent climax.

·       Conflict with Lila, her youngest daughter, who rejects her mother’s advice yet seems vulnerable to following in her mother’s undesirable footsteps. She becomes rebellious, tells her mother she never wants to get married, criticizes her mother’s choices, and constantly confronts her mother about her drinking.

·       Conflict with his doctors, who provide drugs despite obvious overuse, and who blame Grace far more than she thinks she deserves for Royal’s problems.

·       Conflict with neighbors who ask too many questions about Royal’s constant disappearances make Grace feel ashamed.

·       Conflict with her parents who want her to keep up appearances, to always do the right thing, to stay strong, and to stay married.


 Pregnant with her fourth child in five years, knowing her husband would not agree, Grace secretly wishes the baby would abort. After a car strikes her to the ground, she spends the night hoping her wish will come true; but the baby survives and when she’s an infant, Grace is neglectful to the point of malnourishment. When Lila is three, Grace inadvertently spills hot grease, burning and permanently scarring the same, unwanted child’s entire right leg.

 7.     Settings

 The story begins at a USO club in Nashville, TN, bustling with soldiers and sailors either on leave or headed off to war. It’s 1943, and eighteen-year-old Grace Pennington finally feels attractive and is flirting with young men, letting them more aggressive than is wise. When she’s raped by a soldier she just met, Grace flees to Oakridge, TN to work on a top-secret government project.

 Oakridge, TN: The industrial complex is under massive construction, with muddy streets, and pop-up buildings, including massive factories. Grace and “Big Sister” Virginia settle into a large dormitory, bustling with pretty girls. A busy Cafeteria, a dark Skating Rink booming with loud music, and an always-crowded Post Office all play a role in Grace’s romantic endeavors. She’s now promiscuous and soon pregnant. She chooses her oldest, most mature suitor, tells him he’s the father, that she has been faithful only to him. They travel to Georgia to marry and meet his family, then settle in a house with another family in cramped two-story house in Knoxville.

 Camilla, Georgia: A speck of a town in southwest Georgia. It’s hot, dusty, looks like the Great Depression never ended. Royal and Grace now live in tiny two-bedroom, run-down house located next to a dilapidated railroad yard. Like the house, the yard is unkempt, filled with weeds, and they have few neighbors. They have little furniture, only one double bed for all three children, a wicker bassinet, a bed for them, a soiled couch, and a small wooden table with four chairs. They have three small children and Grace is pregnant again. It’s hot, sticky, and too close to Royal’s family for her comfort. Royal is drinking heavily, and they fight often. Children in tow, Grace is often trolling bars, looking for Royal. When she’s pregnant with baby #5, Grace begs Royal to stop drinking and he finally does. Scenes happen in various bars, a church parking lot, a library, a doctor’s office, as well as at the home.

 Paris, TN: The Pennington farm. Old, crumbling wooden house, with surrounding barns that are also wooden and failing. The outside is farmland, tobacco fields, with chicken coops, a smokehouse, and a large garden. The inside is cozy, filled with farmhouse quilts and rocking chairs. It’s homey, comfortable, and inviting. Grace goes there to ask her father’s permission to move to Oak Ridge; and later they all visit on vacation, where Gloria is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

 Albany, Georgia: A brand-new, cheerfully green, one-story ranch house in a brand-new neighborhood. Their house is one of the first in the new complex, surrounded by empty lots and construction, but Grace is thrilled with its three bedrooms, hardwood floors, and modern fixtures. Royal has his own business working as an electrician, and they are able to buy brand-new furniture, including beds for everyone. They are finally living the modern, suburban life Grace anticipated, and life looks good, until Royal’s business fails, and he travels north to find work, leaving Grace alone with five children. After nine months apart, they sell Grace’s dreamhouse and move north, far from all family. Scenes take place at their home and his parent’s General Store/home.

Manorville, PA. Western Pennsylvania, an hour north of Pittsburgh, near a sprawling power plant where Royal finds work. They settle into a rented, run-down house built in 1860, with peeling wallpaper, crumbling ceilings, one and half baths, and a coal furnace. Though spacious, it’s old, creaky, and has train tracks a block away, with trains that rumble through regularly, rattling all their windows. The neighborhood is all lower-middle class families, which makes the children happy, but disappoints Grace. She does her best to spruce up the house, but it’s constantly falling apart. Most scenes take place in the house, which is alternately happy and bright, or dark and dreary, dependent on what is happening. It’s located on the banks of the Allegheny River, across from one of Pennsylvania’s rolling hills (that remind her of home) so at least she has beautiful views. Scenes take place in various rooms of the house, the next-door neighbor’s house, and outside.

 Various Hospitals: Sterile, harsh lighting, long corridors and crowded waiting rooms, teeming with people (which irritates Grace). Royal becomes dependent on prescription pills and bounces in and out of local and Pittsburgh’s Veteran’s Hospital. When Gloria gets cancer, she’s in the Memphis hospital (they were on vacation at Grace’s parents’ home), then later Grace is often at the local Kittanning, PA hospital with Royal or Gloria. Grace attends therapy sessions in a brightly lit office with Royal and his psychiatrist at the Veteran’s Hospital.

Kittanning, PA. Office/Bars/Motels: It’s a second-story office with large windows, three desks in one room and the boss’s office. The bars are dark, moody, with a 1950s vibe (though it’s now the 1970s); the motels are new, modern chains, sparsely furnished but quite nice. This is where Grace will rendezvous with her married boss.

 Europe: Grace goes on a ten-day trip to Europe with her married lover. They visit Amsterdam, Strasbourg, and Paris, which involves beautiful hotels, tourist sites, cathedrals, and the Louvre Museum.


USO Club, Nashville, TN 1943: loud music, smokey atmosphere, boys headed off to war, dressed-up girls dancing and flirting with them. Grace, her cousins, and her sister meet, dance, and then leave with young soldiers.

A tree-lined park just outside Nashville: Moonlit night, they are the only two around, a parked car. He overwhelms Grace, pushes her into the backseat and rapes her.

A boarding House in Nashville: Lots of young girls, bustling atmosphere. Grace returns, avoids talking to anyone, baths, cries, crawls into bed, cries.

The Pennington farm in Cottage Grove, TN: Old wooden house, surrounding barns, cozy but not plush, a real sense of home. Grace asks her strict father for permission to work at Oak Ridge.

 A 1940’s bus: Full of farm girls headed to Oak Ridge, TN to work on a top-secret government project. A man in uniform tells them what to expect, tells them that this project is extremely important and top-secret, warns them about importance for secrecy—even from family.

 Oak Ridge, TN Administration Building: Bustling with lots of curious female recruits. Man in uniform explains the new rules they will live by.

Dormitory, Oak Ridge: On the way, Big Sister and Grace see signs about importance of keeping secrets. At the dorm, lots of girls carrying suitcases looking for their new quarters. Grace and her sister find their sparse room and settle in.

Skating Rink, Oakridge, TN: Dark, Glenn Miller songs at full blast, couples skating, girls gathered in groups, watching as men arrive and ask them to dance. Grace and Royal meet for the first time. He walks her home.

Small Nightclub, Knoxville, TN: Frank Sinatra plays while Grace and Royal dine, dance, fall in love.

Motel, Knoxville, TN: Small, but tidy, very intimate. Grace and Royal have sex for the first time. He tells her about his war wounds.

Cafeteria, Oak Ridge: Bright, noisy, filled with people at 3 a.m. Royal shows up to treat Grace and Big Sister to pie and milk.

Motel, Knoxville: Small, but tidy. After they make love, Royal tells Grace that he has a fiancée back in Georgia, and they argue.

 Oak Ridge Grounds: Grace is pining for Royal, who drove home to Georgia, where he’ll see his fiancée. She walks to the post office, looking for mail, then meets a former lover at the dormitory lounge, then has sex in his car.

Skating Rink, Oak Ridge: Loud music, crowds of men looking for women. A drunken Grace dances with various men, leaves to have sex with a few of them. During day, she haunts the post office, hoping to hear from Royal.

 Dormitory Bathroom, Oak Ridge: Girls circle in and out while Grace throws up in a private stall. She goes back to her room and Big Sister asks if she’s pregnant.

 Hospital Oak Ridge: More than ten girls are lined up waiting for appointments. A disapproving doctor confirms that Grace is pregnant. She tells him she’s engaged, but she’s not—and she doesn’t know who the father is.

Dormitory Grounds: Long lines of people outside the Post Office, hoping for mail. Grace finally finds a letter from Royal.

 Dormitory Lounge: Bustling with girls. Royal returns, they embrace, she races upstairs to change, and they leave to take a drive in the rain. Grace tells Royal she’s pregnant.

Dormitory Lounge/Cafeteria/Grounds outside Cafeteria: Royal comes to pick up Grace, then walk towards the cafeteria in a thunderstorm; just as they arrive, he asks her if the baby is his. They stand arguing in the rain. She tells him she has been faithful.

Dormitory/Car: Grace packs her bags and she and Royal drive towards Georgia to get married.

 Dalton, GA: Small, country town, surrounded by beautiful hills. Royal and Grace get their marriage license and pick out rings.

 Justice of the Peace, quaint house, Dalton, GA: Royal and Grace get married with only the justice and his wife present.

 Car on the way to Cordele, GA: Royal forewarns Grace that his family might be hostile.

 Cordele, GA/Family Home/General Store/house: Cement block structure, surrounded by sparse pine trees. A new world for Grace. Royal’s six siblings rush out to greet them, overwhelming Grace.

Interior DuPriest House: Small, tight, plain rooms, old kitchen, women crowded in, cooking, and talking. Grace and Royal’s feisty sister Sarah argue about Royal’s fiancée. Royal tells his family he and Grace are already married.

 Two-story House in Knoxville: Grace and Royal have moved in with a family; Grace is at the kitchen table, at sunset, alone, brooding, feeling lost now that she’s married, pregnant, and often alone.

Knoxville, Hospital: Small room, dim lighting. A doctor and nurse are in the room. Grace gives birth to Gloria, with only the doctor and nurse present. Royal shows up later, drunk, but happy.

 Knoxville House: Various scenes of Royal and Grace fussing over Gloria. Grace and Royal making love. Grace realizing that Royal may not make her happy.

 Knoxville Butcher Shop: Crowded with people waving coupons, trying to buy what little meat is available. While Grace is there, the radio announcer declares the end of the war. Everyone cheers and hugs each other. The announce reveals the Oak Ridge developed an atom bomb that ended the war, Grace tells everyone that she worked there, and then rushes home to celebrate.

Tiny two-bedroom house in Camilla, GA: Next to a railroad yard, old, crumbling house, unruly yard, surrounded by weeds. Grace loads her three small children in her car and drives them to their grandmother’s house.

 Albany, GA Library: Small, deserted, one old librarian, peering over her glasses. Five months pregnant, Grace searches for a book about natural abortion.

 Church parking lot, Albany, GA: A jumble of cars competing to leave. Just as she’s getting in their car, an old man hits their bumper, sending Grace to the ground. Royal and the man argue, while Grace is secretly delighted. She hopes this will abort the baby.

 Camilla, GA Hospital:  New hospital, but a sparse, empty room, with only one nurse wandering in and out while Grace endures a long labor and gives birth. Her drunken husband shows up later.

 Country Doctor’s Office, Camilla: An elderly doctor in a small, cramped office. The new baby is sick, and the doctor blames Grace. Two days later, she, Royal, and the children arrive. The doctor tells them that the baby has rickets and accuses them of neglect.

 Camilla House: Though lit with sunlight, it’s messy, cluttered, claustrophobic. Grace orders Gloria to take her younger siblings outside so Grace can be alone.

 Seedy Bar near Albany: Dark, noisy, smokey, sound of clattering pool balls, men talking. Grace sends Alex, her four-year-old son in to look for his father, who ignores his son’s pleas to leave. Grace then enters and begs Royal to come home.

 Camilla House, Bathroom: Small bathroom, cold tiles. Grace is on her knees praying and crying. Royal comes in and crouches beside her, promises to stop drinking.

 Their Bedroom: Small, cramped, clothes strewn everywhere. Grace tells Royal that this will be their last child and they argue.

 Camilla House, Kitchen: Small cramped kitchen with old appliances. The children are running around as Grace pan fries chicken. Lila, the second youngest, climbs on a chair beside her and Grace spills hot grease down her leg.

 Camilla Hospital, Waiting Room: The children line up on a bench while Grace and Royal pace, worrying as they wait. The doctor comes out and asks probing questions that embarrass Grace. They get to tiptoe in and see their three-year old daughter’s bandaged leg.

 Their Bedroom: Dark, quiet, Grace and Royal argue.

Their Bathroom: The sound of kids playing in the background. Grace bathes Lila’s leg, weeping.

 Albany, GA/church/brand 3-bedroom new house in a brand-new neighborhood: Royal serves as a Deacon at the Baptist church, and they finally buy a brand-new house that they fill with new furniture. Grace dresses for her new job; a Negro maid arrives to the children’s delight. They are happy—until Royal’s business goes bust.

 Ford City, PA, small hotel room: Manufacturing town, past its prime. Plain, small, sparsely furnished. Royal arrives and settles in. He’s found a job at a power plant.

 Two-story house, Manorville, PA: Built in 1860, crumbling, on the banks of Allegheny River, in a small town of similar old houses. A train track nearby delivers regularly scheduled trains with bleating horns. They also rattle the entire house. After nine months apart, the family moves in. Scenes of happier days.

 Interior Car: 1958 Mercury, four kids lined up in back, Royal, Gloria, Grace in front, windows down, radio blaring. They family leaves on vacation. Sixteen-year-old Gloria complains of nausea and headache, which she’d been doing for weeks.

 Pennington Farm: Sunny, warm, happy atmosphere. The children are running around outside. Gloria gets sicker. Her aunt, a nurse, tells Grace she should take Gloria to Memphis for tests.

 Memphis Hospital, Waiting Room: Sterile, quiet, late night. A doctor tells Royal and Grace that Gloria has a brain tumor and needs an operation. Royal collapses, gets sedated, sleeps while Grace waits, prays in the chapel, calls her father in tears.

Manorville House: Hospital bed in the living room, a rocking chair, one small, black & white TV flickering. Royal comes home from work a mess, having a meltdown, addicted to drugs. He goes up to their bedroom and stays there for days. A friend comes and drives him to the Veteran’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Manorville House, Kitchen: Large, sun-filled, painted bright yellow. Grace sits alone at the Formica table, reading the newspaper. She sees an article about a six-year-old girl in Hiroshima who survived the bomb, and she feels a wash of guilt for her role in creating the bomb. She puts the article in her family Bible.

Manorville House, Living Room: Dark, night, house is quiet. Grace hears Gloria having a seizure. Grace calls out and the children come running, then Royal. An ambulance arrives to take Gloria to the hospital.

Manorville House Kitchen: Bright, sunny. The house is quiet. Royal and Grace argue, the children arrive one-by-one and rush upstairs to avoid their parents.

Kittanning Hospital parking lot: Daytime, bustling. Grace arrives to pick up Gloria. The family doctor knocks on her window, and they talk in the car. Grace is angry that he failed to diagnose Gloria and gives Royal too many pills. This time she doesn’t hide her hostility.

Interior Hospital: Grace picks up a happy Gloria, which is the opposite of how she feels.

Grace’s Bedroom: Neat, but crowded with furniture, a sewing machine. She sits alone, trying to conjure reasons to be happy, clasps her Bible, prays for a miracle.

Manorville Kitchen: Dusk, darkening sky. Grace return home to find Lila has broken her ankle. Grace and Royal argue.

 Downstairs Hallway: Completely dark until Grace flips a light on and rushes downstairs. Lila is on the ground crying. She’d bumped the doorframe and screamed in pain. Everyone comes down. Grace and Royal argue, and he pushes her, sending her tumbling over Lila.

 Upstairs, Royal’s Bedroom: Formerly Gloria’s bedroom, a small room, only a bed and dresser. Royal is comatose. Grace discovers him and oldest son Alex call an ambulance.

Manorville Exterior: The sun is rising over the river; everything looks golden. Grace sees her neighbors waving to her as the ambulance driver keeps asking her if it was a suicide attempt. She is angry, mortified.

 Downstairs bathroom: Crowded with washer, dryer, and toilet. Stacks of dirty clothing surround the toilet. Grace sits on the toilet crying. Alex, her oldest son, lures her out and tries to comfort her.

 Kittanning Hospital: Busy morning, people streaming past. Grace and Lila run into the doctor, but Grace forbids him to discuss Royal with her. While Lila is getting an X-ray, the doctor tells Grace that Royal needs an extended stay at the Veteran’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. She tells the doctor that she has her hands full, and Royal is on his own.

 Manorville House: Bright, sunny. Grace and the children are happy. The doctor comes by with papers for Grace to sign, committing Royal for treatment.

 Welfare Office: Lines of people, poorly dressed. An embarrassed and chagrined Grace is there to sign up for welfare and takes home boxes of groceries.

 Landlord’s House, Manorville: Big, two-story white frame house, with sprawling lawn. It’s only three blocks from their house and represents everything Grace thought she might have one day. She tells their landlord that her husband is still hospitalized and that she will pay rent as she can. He’s so understanding, she feels humiliated.

 Manorville House: Sunny. Grace’s parents are coming for a visit, so she and the kids madly clean the house and prepare. Grace instructs her children to hide their real situation and “put on a happy face.”

 Manorville yard: Large, a stone well just off the porch, a stone barbeque in the backyard, a garage at the end of the drive. Grace’s parents arrive to jubilation.

 Manorville Kitchen: Sunny, bright, breakfast dishes on the table. Grace’s father probes for more information, she lies to him, tells him they are financially stable; he tells her that she must stick by her husband, fight for her marriage.

 Manorville House: Dark, cold day. Grace and Lila are there with Gloria. A debt collector comes to demand money but sees Gloria in her hospital bed and leaves.

Grace’s Bedroom: Bright, sunny. Lila and Heather drag home an Avon box filled with samples, which they happily sample.

Neighbor’s House: More orderly and cheerful than Grace’s house. Grace goes next-door for her first try at selling Avon. Though the elderly Dorothy is very polite, Grace feels shy, as if she should be embarrassed. She doesn’t like talking about Gloria’s illness. She balks at sympathy.

 Neighbor’s House: A young mother’s house, unkempt, kids running around everywhere. This neighbor is nosier than Dorothy and asks blunt questions about Royal being gone for eight months that send Grace home with a headache.

Pittsburgh Veteran’s Hospital: Long, sterile corridor, and a sparse, bright office. Dr. Wainwright talks with Grace, who gets defensive when he implies that she could do more to support her husband. He tells her that Royal had “emotional problems” during the war, which was a surprise to her. Royal comes in and he and Grace reconnect in an unexpected way.

Manorville House, holidays: Dark, cold. Royal had come home for Thanksgiving, but soon relapsed and disappeared again. The children are worried about Christmas and Grace puts on a happy face, does her best to make their house festive.

 Manorville House, Christmas Eve: Tree is up, lights are flashing. Royal comes home unexpectedly, looking healthy and strong. Grace and Royal have sex for the first time in a year.

Manorville House, New Year’s Day: Early morning. Clearly drugged, Royal stumbles and falls; Grace takes him to the Kittanning Hospital. She and Alex talk on the back porch about how they are going to survive.

Manorville House: Spring, green yard, flowering bushes. Royal comes home and Grace ushers him into Gloria’s old bedroom; they squabble but agree to be civil, while sleeping separately, because the family desperately needs Royal’s income.

 Living Room: Nighttime, all is quiet. Grace crawls into bed with Gloria, who pleads with her mother not to let her die.

 Living Room: Dawn, December morning. Gloria has yet another convulsion and dies. Grace and the children surround her bed, decide what to do. The undertaker comes to take her away. Heather and Lila clean up everything while Grace rests.

 Kitchen: Late afternoon. Royal comes home for work and finds all the children in the kitchen. When they tell him Gloria died, he takes a handful of pills and goes upstairs to talk with Grace.

 Kitchen: Neighbors fill every room downstairs. With supportive relatives afoot, post funeral, the children feel optimistic that their lives may finally improve.

Office: Bright, sunny, big windows in an upstairs office. Grace has taken a job, shares an office with two other women; she’s immediately finds her handsome, attentive boss quite charming.

 Kitchen: Overcast, evening. Grace and Lila are cooking dinner and argue about the Vietnam War, politics. Alex is in the Naval Reserves, policing in DaNang. Lila is against the war and Grace doesn’t like her attitude. When Lila mentions her role in building the atomic bomb comes up, it triggers Grace’s guilt.

 Allegheny Riverbank: Summer, early evening. Heather is off to college and Grace’s boss has offered the family a motorboat and water skis at a price they could afford. Doug and Lila drive it home from Kittanning, and Doug and Royal build a dock to house it. The children have never been happier.

 Neighborhood Exterior: Sunny summer day. Grace, Heather, and Lila go bike riding. Grace loses control and crashes into a tree, banging herself up badly. When they come home, Royal is angry.

 Office: Early morning. When Grace shows up battered, her boss, Eddie, assumes Royal beat her up. They go out for a drink after work, and he makes a move that lets her know he is interested in her romantically.

Back Porch Manorville House: Evening, sunset turns sky pink. Grace sees Lila with Joey, one of Doug’s friends and fellow band members. She worries that they’re dating, but Heather says “no.”

 Manorville House: Dark, night. Grace confronts Lila about Joey, and she reveals that they are dating; however, she tells Grace she has “zero” interest in marriage, cites her mother’s bad marriage as the primary reason. Grace is heartbroken, but still doesn’t want them involved. She watches Lila like a hawk.

Grace’s bedroom: Dark, night. Heather tells Grace that she wants to go to airline school. Grace sobs, experiencing a similar grief to what she felt after Gloria died.

Interior Car/Pittsburgh Airport: Grace and Lila drive Heather to the airport and see her off. They go shopping afterwards and have a brief bonding moment.

 Grace’s bedroom. Dimly lit. Grace finds Lila and Joey being intimate—on her bed—and throws a fit.

Doctor Jameson’s office: Wood paneled room, just a desk and two chairs. Dr. Jameson asks Lila if she’s having sex, and she stands up for herself, furiously brings up the fact her mother is overreacting out of terror she’ll end up like her—miserably married—shocking the doctor, and her mother.

 Motel Room, Kittanning: Nice, modern room. Grace and her lover Eddie have sex, drink to excess.

 Roadside, Kittanning: Dark, cold, middle of night. Grace swerves off the road and rolls her car over three times, the police and an ambulance arrive.

 Hospital Room: Two nurses are discussing Grace’s condition. Badly bruised and sore, Grace is otherwise fine. Royal shows up, clearly furious, confronts Grace about her excessive drinking.

 Grace’s Bedroom: Two lamps on dresser create soft, dim light. Lila slowly picks glass shards from her mother’s teased hair, and they share an intimate moment.

Grace’s Bedroom: Mid-day, sunlight streaming in windows. Royal angrily confronts Grace about her drinking. Accuses her of failing her children.

Dining Room: Family is gathered for dinner. Grace announces that Eddie is paying for her to travel to Europe for ten days. Lila and Doug are happy; Royal is furious.

Amsterdam, Park Hotel: More grand that anything Grace has ever seen. She has landed in an entirely new, highly desirable world. Eddie is waiting for her in the bar, then they go to their luxurious room to have sex. She tells Eddie she’s never had an orgasm and he makes sure she does.

 Streets of Amsterdam: Grace and Eddie stroll through Amsterdam, stopping for lunch and dinner.

 Strasbourg: Grace and Eddie arrive and stroll through Strasbourg, going to Cathedral Notre Dame and other sights.

Bus heading to Paris: Mid-day, gorgeous scenery outside. Grace tells Eddie about Gloria’s illness and how she suffered for more than two years, watching her favorite child die. They share a tender moment.

 Paris, Small Boutique Hotel in the Latin Quarter: Grace and Eddie stroll around Paris, hitting all the major sites.

 Louvre Museum, Interior: Grace and Eddie view and discuss art.

 Latin Quarter, searching for Hemingway’s favorite bar on Rue Mouffetard: Grace and Eddie settle on seedy bar that may have been it and talk about Hemingway.

 Manorville House, Living Room: Grace arrives home to find a comatose Royal. Doug reports that his father has been downing pills the entire time she was gone.

 Lila’s Bedroom: Early morning, Lila is packing her suitcase. She’s leaving for New York City to stay with Heather for the summer. Lila tells Grace that she will never live in Pennsylvania again, and she has no desire to ever marry, because she never wants anything remotely resembling her mother’s life.

 Pittsburgh airport: Late day, just before sunset. Grace drives Lila to the airport and weeps when she leaves.

 Pittsburgh Veteran’s Hospital, Corridors, private office: Grace goes to see Dr. Wainwright, who tells her that she needs to let Royal go; that letting him stay in the family home is killing him. She’s long thought she had been keeping him alive, and leaves furious, without seeing Royal.

 Manorville House, front porch: Royal is packing to leave. Grace hands him divorce papers, and they argue. She tells him that Gloria was not his child, and he leaves heartbroken.

 Pittsburgh Civic Arena: Frank Sinatra concert. Home for a short visit, Lila surprised Grace with tickets. She is beyond thrilled.

 Motel, Kittanning: Nice, modern room. Eddie tells Grace that he is breaking off their relationship, because she professed love, and he cannot leave his wife. Grace is heartbroken.

 Manorville House, Thanksgiving: Everyone is home, bustling activity, joviality. Grace and her girls cook dinner. Lila probes into Grace’s dating life, but she doesn’t reveal that she’s broken off with Eddie but has a new lover.

 Kitchen: Just before dawn: Grace comes home to find Royal drunk, holding a loaded gun. He chases her into the yard, firing several shots, missing.

 Next-door neighbor’s house: Dark, all lights are off. Grace bangs on their door, enters, hides in their house until Doug comes home and convinces his father to go to the hospital. Doug returns to take his mother home.

 Office: Early morning, only Grace and Eddie are there. Grace tells Eddie that Royal tried to kill her, and he fires her, tells her never to come back, and to move somewhere far away. She leaves distraught.

 Living Room, Christmas: Lights are twinkling in the background. Lila tells Grace that she’s heading back to NYC, where she now lives and works. Grace begs her to stay for Christmas, tells her that Eddie fired her, admits that she really needs her. Lila is very unhappy with her mother’s excessive drinking and yet another married boyfriend, but she stays.

 Butler, PA: Grace buys a dilapidated three-story house and moves in. She and her boyfriend Paul become binge drinkers, falling further and further into drunken despair. After years of this, Lila comes home and confronts her mother, tells her that she must choose between the bottle or her children.

 Liquor Store, Butler: Nightfall. Grace stands in front, debating. She knows Lila is right, that she should stop drinking, but she steps inside anyway

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NY PITCH CONFERENCE pre-Assignments: Nan McCann.docx


A Peter Churchill mystery

Assignment #1
Write your story statement.
A Scotland Yard forensic linguist, reeling from dual heartbreaks of death and divorce, has less than 3 weeks to decode historical documents to save the United Kingdom from a Prime Minister who is a Russian agent. Then, he discovers his own family is involved. Does he choose family or country?

Assignment #2
Sketch the antagonist. Keep in mind their goals, background, and ways they react to the world around them.

    The antagonist, GEORGES DELACROIX, is a double agent for the UK and Russia, with decades of experience in deception, forgery, and assassination. He has sworn allegiance to the Communist cause, and his motivations are personal, professional… and urgent. 
    Dying of cancer, with only weeks to live, Delacroix has a fierce thirst for personal retribution, and a need to succeed, no matter the cost… all providing him with vital incentives to murder, financially ruin, blackmail or eliminate all from his past who threaten his resolve to achieve his goals. Georges Delacroix is crafty, dogged, and unforgiving, with the tools and the determination to triumph. 
    Delacroix has created an elaborate linguistic maze, the Manifesto, a palimpsest (a document whose writing has been effaced, to make room for additional writing. Monks, in medieval times, did it to conserve parchment). This ploy was designed to place the opposing socialist candidate, a mole and a puppet for Russia, at the head of the British government, accomplishing a long-held Russian goal.
    On a personal level, in retaliation for a decades-old romantic snub by Peter Churchill’s mother, Delacroix targets her son, Peter, a renowned forensic linguist for Scotland Yard. Within days, he turns Peter’s cerebral life upside down with burglaries, threats, and physical attacks. 
    Delacroix is a complex and worthy opponent for Peter Churchill, an antagonist who has the ability to bring about ruthless devastation as he targets not only individuals, but a nation.

Assignment #3
Conjuring your breakout title.


Assignment #4
Deciding your genre and approaching comparables. Who compares to you and why?

My genre is Mystery. It is a high concept, forensic linguistic mystery set in present-day London.
It resembles the Elizabeth George, ‘Lord-of-the-Manor-as-Sleuth’ type of genre. A Lord Peter Wimsey meets George Smiley read or, rather, a 21st century Downton Abbey mystery…  only with forensic linguistic puzzles, Russian skullduggery, and a Gordian knot of complicated relationships, all threatening the survival of British democracy.

Forensic linguistics, the intersection between language, crime, and the law, deals with forged wills, ransom notes, plagiarism, verification of authorship, threats, etc.… word puzzles, of a sort.
This mystery centers around a student Manifesto and Peter’s ability to discover who is its author, and therefore, a murderer, and agent for Russia. 

Susan Elia MacNeal, and Kate Quinn and Cara Black are similar current reads. These combine history, intrigue, and international protagonists who are navigating the challenges of being placed in the bull’s eye of unfamiliar, life-threatening situations, while having to rely on intellect and determination to solve the crimes. However, with a ticking clock, forcing the decoding of intricately plotted puzzles, and with international espionage at the crux, one might be reminded of Dan Brown and John LeCarré with their similar types of enigmas, betrayals, and adversaries.

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

A Scotland Yard forensic linguist, reeling from the recent deaths of his father and older brother, and a difficult divorce, has less than three weeks to decode historical documents to save the United Kingdom from a Prime Minister who is a Russian agent and murderer. Then he discovers his own unconventional family is involved in the past crimes and are now in grave danger. Does he choose family or country?

Assignment #6 
Other matters of conflict: Two more levels.
Sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out the hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this will be the case—consider the trigger and the reaction. 
Next, sketch a likewise hypothetical scenario for the “secondary conflict” involving the social conflict. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

Peter Churchill’s inner conflict:

Dr. Peter Churchill is an ivory tower academic who delves into lexical riddles for Scotland Yard and MI5. It’s a safe, cerebral job that keeps him out of danger. 
Or so he thinks. 
   When an ailing French professor, GEORGES DELACROIX, hands Peter a packet containing coded, historical documents, he throws Peter into unaccustomed emotional and physical turmoil. 
    According to the odd visitor, the author of this student Manifesto is a double agent and the murderer of Peter’s uncle, whose assassination, he claims, is the catalyst for upcoming political mayhem. Delacroix demands that Peter authenticate the documents to prevent a Soviet agent from becoming prime minister. Or, rather, thwart a murderer from continuing his elimination of all who had known him in the past. 
    Peter’s inner conflict centers on his fear that, in many ways, he is the wrong man for the job. He’s coping with the recent deaths of his father and older brother and his own PTSD from being the sole survivor of that car accident. Although he’s a forensic linguist, he agonizes about the consequences of his inability to solve the linguistic puzzle within three weeks. Such an outcome, which rests solely on his shoulders, would bring about the downfall of the democratic system of government in Britain. 
    In addition, he is concerned not only for his own survival, but that he might be incapable of saving his mother from harm. As a member of the British aristocracy and as a well-educated, well-connected peer of the realm, Peter is quite far from being a James Bond or Jason Bourne. He doesn’t even possess the typical street-smarts of the average Brit. He’s terrified of failure. As he’s thrown into this chaos, he battles self-assurance, a ticking clock, a sense of powerlessness, and the terror of becoming the target of an assassin. 

Scenario #1:

“Professor, our surname is Churchill. But the fact is we all live, and have always lived, mundane, uneventful lives. Our family delves into dull social niceties, boring fêtes, and excepting those of the gossipy kind, no explosive secrets. All our connections are linked with centuries old family rivalries, not Machiavellian political intrigue.”
“You could not be more mistaken.” Delacroix said, looking at the package. “What happened in the past is merely a catalyst. The genesis for what’s happening now.” 
“The election?”
“Of course.”
.     “Hang on. You’re still missing one of the activists, Professor.” Peter counted on his fingers.
    “Yes. Well done. The last member of the Sorbonne Seven was your uncle. He was assassinated for his allegiance to MI5.” Delacroix waited for the words to register with Peter.
    “MI5? Ozzie? Not a chance. He was an easy-going, gregarious, upper class… er…playboy. He wasn’t even twenty-one. Spy? No. He’d be as likely a spy as I am.”
“And what better cover? He had contacts, connections, an extrovert nature, and an evident surplus of patriotism. He was a spy. As was I.” Delacroix continued. And this concerns more… much more… than your uncle’s death forty years ago. It was not an accidental death… it was a planned elimination. An assassination. What happened to your uncle was one of three successful murders that occurred during the Sorbonne Protests in 1968. The other two unfortunate students were ‘fall guys.’ Bad luck on their parts. Your uncle was the actual target.” 
“Ozzie…targeted? For what?” Oh Lord, I’ve let in a nutter.
    “It is complicated. His murder was planned, executed, and the first gambit in an elaborate political chess game that continues today. You have three weeks.”
    Delacroix wheezed the final few words. His energy seemed to have fled again, leaving a frail, elderly figure in its stead.
    The man seemed to be on the verge of breaking down completely. Peter wondered if the professor’s near collapse came about only after he accomplished his mission. He’s thinking he’s hooked me.
    “Being blunt, I work for Scotland Yard as a consultant, not as a policeman. I’m no James Bond. Far from it. I’m simply an academic, a research geek, who was about to leave for Christmas holidays until…”
    “A mad Frenchman intruded?” Delacroix asked. 
    “Well… yes.” Peter ducked his head in apology. 
    “Peter, I am here to secure your help. I’m not asking you to be… James Bond. I am dying.”
    Peter froze and looked at the Frenchman who retrieved his handkerchief and wiped away the beads of sweat that now lined his upper lip. 
    Delacroix continued, “It is only to seek your aid as a forensic linguist that I have come out in this blizzard to warn you of the danger to your mother. And to your country.”

Peter’s secondary conflict:

    Peter Churchill, who has grown up on a Downton Abbey-like estate, has had all the luxuries, education, and attendant benefits anyone could desire. He knows all the etiquette requirements of hobnobbing with Royalty, of using his mind to solve forensic linguistic riddles, and of maintaining a calm, stress-free life. 
    Yet, while he has abundant material advantages, he has always lacked familial closeness and ordinary friendships. He yearns for both yet is unsure about how to achieve genuine love and friendship, not tied to his wealth and status. 
    While he is confident of his professional and societal capabilities within his own upper-class sphere, he struggles as he pursues romantic relationships, and normal, collegial comaraderie. He recognizes that many of his quirks of personality were brought upon by his demanding, criticizing father… who was patently unfatherly. He also wrestles with his own inadequacies as he’s forced, within a very short time, to become someone far removed from whom (and what) he has been for thirty-five years. As he uncovers his family involvement in decades-old crimes, he also grapples with his long-held perceptions of his own father as an aloof, degrading pater familias. 
    Both his inner and secondary conflicts reflect Peter’s fear of not measuring up to his own standards, his family’s standards, and the normal societal standards of your typical Brit. He also fears failure by lacking enough pluck and courage in dangerous, physical circumstances.

Sceenario #2:

Peter knew that his grief for his father was unfathomable. Even, as his brother had said, absurd. Yet, it, also, was pervasive, if inexplicable. He should…of course he should… feel relief. No more goads or gibes. No more frantic struggles to satisfy a demanding patriarch.
He made a face, remembering the times that he had failed. As a Churchill, second best was not tolerated. He winced as he remembered the one time that he offered an excuse for not achieving the top mark. His father, who seemed very tall to the eight- year-old Peter, said in a steely voice, finger stabbing at Peter’s chest, “You are a Churchill. You have failed to live up to the responsibilities of our name. Never accept second best. Never give nor accept excuses. Never shame yourself, or me, again.” His father’s words had seared and molded him.
Peter glanced at his brother and snorted, “Tollie, look at us. Until I was ten, I didn’t realize that living in a sixteen-bedroom residence or that having a full staff of butlers, housekeepers, cooks, nannies and groundskeepers was outright unusual. Finding the right woman has, at least so far, dissolved into two scenarios. Both are untenable. A, the wonderful woman is over-awed, awkward with, and uneasy at our lifestyle. All she truly wants is a decent, respectable bloke with a normal life. Not a posh, pampered existence. For example, I’d met a lovely woman, an architect, and things were going well indeed until one day she phoned me at home.”
“And she jumped right into the conversation before any greetings were spoken, saying breathlessly, and apparently quite sexily, that she’d just been shopping and had bought lovely, lacy, red lingerie for our date that night.”
“Sounds great to me. And…”
“Benton said that he’d replied, and I quote, “Yes, Madam. I will be happy to give Lord Churchill your message.” That was the last time I heard from her. And, then there was, Lucy. We’d gone to see something at the theatre, School of Rock, as I recall, and arrived home quite late. Benton delivered my breakfast tray the next morning, as usual, to me in bed. With Lucy, entirely unclothed and mortified, beside me. Our life just isn’t for everyone, you know.” Peter said.
“Too right.” Tollie nodded.
“Or B, she’s another Gillian who is salivating for and chuffed at the lifestyle, wealth, title, and attendant benefits. Her goal is to flaunt her new status to friends and family for all she’s worth. Like Gill, she is in love with… not me, Peter Churchill…but with the life of privilege.  Either way, it’s been a tough challenge to find the right person. I won’t make that mistake again.”
“Not so easy, is it?” Tollie agreed. “But, Peter, there will be one. Okay, don’t laugh, but I have this prickle of a premonition. You’ll find the right person. I know it.”
“Well, I’m still waiting for that prickle. And, after Gillian, in truth, I don’t know what I want. The divorce was one of the hardest things I’ve done and I’m not sure I’ve come up for air yet. God knows, it’s not that I’m not lonely. I have only just realized how desperately I crave…”
“Finding someone isn’t easy for anyone. I’m still in the ‘fingers-crossed’ stage,” Tollie interrupted.

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

London: Many of the scenes take place within the opulent, rarified world of the British aristocracy. Much happens within exclusive London restaurants, residences, and hotels as Peter Churchill frequents Le Gavroche, the Wolsey, J. Sheekeys, and the Savoy Grill on a regular basis. Clandestine meetings take place at the Ritz and the Dorchester Hotels, with their expansive lobbies, massive fresh flower arrangements, and uniformed staff serving tea and cocktails at a slight beckoning of a hand. The reader is immersed in Downton Abbey-esque affluence and comfort.

Hartsford Abbey: Peter’s branch of the Churchill family lives at the elegant family estate, Hartsford Abbey (think of a 16th century palatial property) situated on 12,000 hectares of lush, green terrain, forty-five mutes from London. No neighbors, no noise, no crime, no bangers and mash, no DIY. The ending of this mystery is again at Hartford Abbey… in their hunting lodge. And once again, the refined life of the Churchills is highlighted, as Peter solves the mystery and brings the traitor to justice.  

London: St. John’s Wood: Peter’s London house is set in St. John’s Wood (a posh area of London, home to Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Kate Moss, and Bill Nighy). Wellington Park bookends the High Street where luxury shops and classy cafés attract Londoners from all over the city. The aim is to give the readers a chance to be part of this genteel lifestyle as they come in contact with the beauty, serenity, and ease of lavish living that few experience.

Brixton: Hartsford Abbey and St. John’s Wood are contrasted with Brixton, a crime-ridden, dodgy section of London where one of the assassins and his senile mother live in a dingy, cramped, two-bedroom flat. The difference between the two environments is a stark reminder of how circumstances can, often, dictate one’s choices and life consequences.

Paris, France: The Sorbonne: The past is also brought into focus with a few scenes set at the Sorbonne in Paris during the 1968 student protests that nearly brought down the French government. and was on the brink of ousting DeGaulle from leadership. The chaos, with Molotov cocktails, hurled cobblestones, gendarmes’ batons, and student placards illustrate the students’ impetus for change, and the formation of the Sorbonne Seven (the gang of student activists,) that result in giving rise to life choices that diverge from those of traditions long held by parents. It is the catalyst that begins this mystery.

Aix-en-Provence: Aix-en-Provence, the home of one of the Sorbonne Seven activists, is another setting which is brought into focus as a shelter from the threats of murder and is also a place of serenity and upper-class living. 

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In a post-renaissance age, a young scientist searches for his father, while stumbling across a technology from another time; someone with a robotic arm.  


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.

The antagonistic force is represented both by the advancement of technology and the ends that those in power are willing to go to control it. Both the government and its people find ways to leverage the rapidly advancing technology of the age to control and abuse one another, calling for social upheaval and global chaos. A king rules from a metal throne with sword and shield, as a federation controls the flow of wealth from cities filled with skyscrapers and firearms. Both of these worlds exist at the same time, and the push and pull of their influence affects more than just what is on the surface.

Hidden figures watch from the outside, puppeteers of a grand scheme that ties together the very fabric of the various powers at play. Their intentions are both unknown and incomprehensible by many of the souls that dwell in this world, living a rat race of their own lives while the true players battle it out for control of something far, far greater.





In Memory of Kings

The Aether Chronicles


I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov: More specifically ‘Robbie’, which features a sympathetic robot. As a sci-fi writer Isaac tackles many more questions that just lasers and spaceships, and delves into the philosophical of what advancement and technology can question. My story also has these same themes: how humans interact with technology, literal robots, the mind of the A.I., and ultimately, how power corrupts, alters, or creates.  


Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien: Yes, every fantasy writer will compare to one of the classics; however it is a story that in fact shares some similarities to mine own.  There is a high fantasy setting and a list of ensemble characters, a group of main protagonists who form a sort of fellowship, and a grand powerful force that threatens to dismantle life as we know it. Both stories feature politics of the elves, a species which also exist in my book, to the banding together of eclectic forces to oppose a seemingly infinite power, with the responsibility first on the shoulders of an unsuspecting person.







Abandoned by his prominent scientist father, a young elf must discover the secrets to his father’s disappearance and a terrible secret that has changed the course of the entire world.






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."


Atriel feels abandoned by his father.  For a while he and his father traveled the world attending conventions, presentations, and studying the intricate world of aether technology, in which they were at the forefront of discovery. Now, Atriel feels alone, forgotten, worthless. Should he ever study again, he would feel embarrassed that he wasn’t worthy to continue on with his father, wherever he is.


Celeste feels she has no control in her life. The daughter of a noble gone mad, she soon discovers herself at the middle of a dangerous web, one now-impossible to get out of. Although it was her choice, she now feels once again without control or autonomy, unable to change her fate once more. Should she try, she fears failure and cannot deal with the trauma of such an event, already at her last straw due to her own curiosity.


Vilanta feels as though she has no purpose. Born from wealth and politics, she is sent to a brothel for reasons unknown. She’s never known anything else, other than the ease of a highborn lifestyle that she now emulates with prominent clients and a firm grip on her funds. She has power, but she finds no use for it, only the struggle to get by the day-by-day. This is until a dangerous presence enters into her life, and forces her to make a choice.






The world is divided by a large mountain range on a single giant land mass; the north, inhabited by elves with pointed ears who live longer than the average human, have adapted crystal technology called Aether to power their cities. Grand buildings, skyscrapers with shimmering lights and windows, floating platforms and stairways, bridges connecting rooftop to rooftop; they live a life of excess, while those in the side streets and gutters see a very different picture. A federation of elves rule the varied numbered cities that make up the northern region of Al-Terra, coined by humans as the ‘New Land.” The elves call their land Terra, meaning ‘Land’, which they had migrated to first. The south, inhabited by humans as we know them, features medieval towns, wrought with steam-powered technology and castles with a king. There are a series of Colorguards, various men in  different colored armor who serve a purpose based on said color. Greyguards, the oldest guard, are dying out, and only one country utilizes them. They are about balance, and created a court system by which to judge offenders. Blackguards, a guard who were created to defend the beliefs and practices of a certain ancient religion, only exist in the southern most country, where their power and influence surges. The main guard, chosen and upheld by the king and his kingdom, is the whiteguard, a guard of those who simply get paid to defend and enact a duty. The common folk of this world have an opinion on each, and since whiteguards are controlling all other human countries, they are often looked at with distaste or blind loyalty.

There are flying ships, ridden by sky pirates who pillage and plunder; firearms are just invented, and cause a power dynamic against the knights who still use sword and shield. The juxtaposition of futuristic environments with medieval and renaissance settings paints an important picture of wealth, power, and progress. Later in the series we will discover even more varied landscapes, from deserts with a city that holds a large fighting coliseum, to an isolated island with a maintained traditional culture ruled by a powerful empress. In this world, powerful people run gangs, hand in hand with the pirates also called Tradesmen, who rule from the shadows with their wealth and influence. Bombs are made from aether that can destroy entire nations, and yet there are those who still wish to train in the art of sword fighting. Bigotry runs rampant between humans and elves, as humans see elves as superior and flaunting their knowledge and wealth. It is not uncommon for elves to be mistreated in the south, and those of mixed blood, called half-elves, find no place in this world. The various protagonists experience different versions of the same existence, all through their own individual lens.

In the southern most country, a young girl begins to see the troubles with an overly stifling religious society, and the detriments it can mean to her being a woman; this world is not unlike our own, with our past and present filled with rampant sexism and prejudice. Nobility and the blood of one’s family is all that is seen, and this girl seeks to live apart from that. After her father goes mad, she befriends a group of witches who use a strange substance to enhance their own mental capabilities. At the same time, technology years behind its time is secretly coveted and introduced in the first chapter of the first book, making one of the protagonists question everything they’ve come to understand.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

48-year-old Eliza Heaton discovers she is the most recent, yet unlikely incarnation of Eve from Garden of Eden fame and is destined to follow the steps of an ancient prophesy that has her running for her life to break the blood lust curse placed on Eve’s first son Cain, the casting of which made him the first vampire.  Gifted with the Book of Eve by a sentinel angel, which contains the journaling of all of the previous incarnations of Eve, Eliza has to decipher the prophesy and find courage and discipline deep within herself while eluding rogue vampires, vampire hunters and the Catholic church who would see her efforts fail for their own gain.


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.

There are multiple antagonists based on plots, subplots, and mission goals.  Eliza is twice divorced, has two adult children whom she is determined to keep safe and now has to partner with the prince of the modern-day vampire kingdom to free an entire race of beings she was unaware existed before she found out who she really was.  There are factions of the vampire nation that want nothing to do with removing the curse that makes them the powerful, nearly immortal creataures they are and will stop at nothing to make sure the prophesy is never fulfilled.

The Catholic church has its own secret reasons for wanting vampires to remain in the world. 

Vampire hunters are descended from Seth, the supposed victim of Cain’s heinous crime.  Their purpose is to balance the scales of karma and to do so, there have to be vampires to hunt and kill.

A female vampire, Lila, has her sights set on remaining a vampire and becoming the vampire prince’s queen and will therefore do her worst to ensure those loyal to the crown do not succeed. 


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

Title 1:  Suddenly Immortal

Title 2: Why Me?

Title 3:  Be Careful What You Wish For


 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?

My book, Suddenly Immortal, is the first book in a trilogy entitled The Daughters of Eve.  It can most closely be compared to The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlain Harris.  These are the books that the series True Blood was based on.  Both stories feature a strong female protagonist that evolves as the story progresses.  Snooky in True Blood was shocked by the existence of vampires but quickly warmed to them not just as a species, but as a romantic entanglement.  She joined in with the goals of these deadly beings and found human-like features about them to love.  Likewise, Eliza, my protagonist had never considered the existence of vampires and is now engaged in a life and death struggle to free them from an ancient curse as well as being romantically drawn to the vampire prince.

As the trilogy advances, there are also elements of the adventure in Journey to The Center Of the Earth by Jules Verne as the unlikely team of humans and vampires travel to several exotic places in search of the keys to unlock the curse.  Our heroes must travel to the Middle East to locate the original Garden of Eden to perform an ancient ritual and subsequently to Iceland searching for the portal into Vortex where all possibilities exist.    

 But this first book is more like the flavor of the early works of the Southern Vampire Mysteries.


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.

Eliza has become disquieted with her vanilla life and as a result accepts the challenge posed to her by Uriel the sentinel angel as he discloses her immortal nature to her and delivers the ancient text known as the Book of Eve.  While rational, levelheaded Eliza would never become involved in anything that would put her and her children in such mortal danger, the Eliza who sees middle age ready to plunge her into the depths of obscurity, decides to move in a direction of danger, intrigue and romance that has her rushing to catch up with her own evolving spirit.  She becomes entrenched in the stories she reads from the Book of Eve and longs to make a difference in the world like her sisters before her.  Hers may be the ultimate sacrifice, but Eliza has come to terms with that and is willing to take the risk.  Will she be able to find the elusive, deep, passionate love she seeks before her deestiny takes her life?


 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.

 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?

Eliza is on a quiet journey of self-discovery searching for her life’s meaning when she is immersed in a deadly adventure that could have a monumental impact on the world.  Her children are at risk, and she has to trust people she doesn’t know to keep them safe while she focuses on unwinding the mystery behind the prophecy she is meant to fulfil. 

Eliza has a history of broken relationships and is reluctant to become involved with anyone, especially when she doesn’t know if she will survive her current situation.  But an overwhelming pull from an unlikely man pulls her deep into a love that she has always craved. 


 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 action in this first book takes place in modern times between Santa Barbara, and Oxnard, California.  Eliza’s home is in Santa Barbara where she has accepted employment after her most recent failed marriage.  New place, fresh start.  That is what Eliza hopes to find.  However, as she looks around her home, she sees the same muted color scheme that she has always chosen.  Safe, neutral beiges and tans.  Her home is described in enough detail for the reader to find themselves comfortably at home in her surroundings but to also feel the safety, bordering on boredom she has always chosen for herself.   The reader would be able to visualize the floorplan and energy of her home surroundings so that the subsequent action sequences make sense. 

After Eliza’s home is destroyed in an explosion perpetrated by a battle between rogue vampires and the angels set to guard her, she and her new partner in this adventure are swept away by his security detail to the Vampire Prince’s home in Oxnard, California for a brief stopover.  It is in stark contrast to Eliza’s simple surroundings with opulence, color, and security unlike anything Eliza has ever experienced.  Even this fortress proves to be unsafe for the group, however, and they must quickly follow the clues in the Book of Eve and embark on their journey to locate the original Garden of Eden to perform the ritual described in its pages.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT:  story statement. 

A young, successful lawyer is faced with a choice: risk losing everything that matters to him, or protect the man responsible for everything he’s achieved. 

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: antagonist sketch.

As head of a notorious international organized criminal syndicate who despises the US, Cosimo Benedetto's reach extends from financing terrorists and the poppy fields they control in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a worldwide narcotics distribution network, to cyber attacks on government institutions and corporations, to a worldwide narcotics distribution ring, to brazen wall street stock manipulation schemes that cause billions in losses. But for all his immense wealth and unrivaled power, Cosimo's life is missing the one thing he wants to control the most: the son he's never met. For some 30 years, Cosimo has manipulated his son's life to guarantee his every success. Now it's time to see if his biggest investment will pay off. Putting the final touches on his master plan of manipulation and blackmail, one he's worked on for decades, Cosimo seeks to join forces with the son he's longed for in the hopes of saving himself and protecting the criminal empire he's built.      

THIRD ASSIGNMENT:  breakout title. 

My Father's Son

Between Family and Honor

The Ragazzo

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT:  comparables.?

Quasi legal thrillers, but not courtroom dramas, in the vein of John Grisham, and stories about the mafia an la cosa nostra, such as by Mario Puzo and Nicholas Pileggi.  


After discovering secrets about his former law firm, those he loves and respects, and the father he never knew, Tom is faced with the uncertainty of a future that is controlled by his past, and he is forced to choose between family and honor.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: Secondary conflict.

It’s as if Tom had a guardian angel watching over him. Yet for all his achievements, there was one thing missing from his story-book life: the father he never met and always thought of. But if success followed Tom wherever he went, so too did doubts about whether he was worthy of all his achievements, including the Harvard law degree and his job as an associate in the world’s largest and most prestigious law firm. 

When he is unexpectedly offered the No. 2 position at the Department of Justice, Tom thinks his string of good luck is continuing.  After accepting the job and moving to Washington, DC with his wife, Elise, Tom is tasked with bringing to justice the head of an international criminal syndicate. While in charge of the investigation, Tom is framed for disclosing confidential information about about a former client. The plot threatens not only Tom's legal career, but could land him behind bars for decades. As the Feds close in on him, Tom discovers that the only person who can save him is the one person who's been missing from his life. Between investigating the syndicate and tracking down those trying to destroy him, Tom learns secrets about his former law firm, his family, and his past that will change his future forever. Confronted with the devastating truth, Tom is forced to choose between family and honor.        


A courtroom in the Southern District of New York in lower Manhattan. 

The palatial offices of a law firm in a modern skyscraper in New York City. Italian marble cover the floors, handcrafted walnut wood panels line the hallways and partner dining room, and crystal chandeliers hang in the reception area and conference center, all happily paid for by the firm's A-list clients who shell out well over a thousand dollars an hour for the privilege of retaining the best known and most successful lawyers the American justice system has to offer.

The Department of Justice building in Washington , DC and Tom and Elise's apartment also in Washington. 

Various scenes take place in New York City, including in Penn Station, an opulent apartment on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, and a small Vietnamese restaurant on the upper eastside of Manhattan. 

A rundown house in the poor section of Columbia Heights, Maryland, home to a down and out FBI agent who becomes easy prey and a pawn in Cosimo Benedetto's master plan.  

Aboard the floating fortress, the Vulcania, a high-tech, gilded mega yacht that is home to Cosimo Benedetto, as it plies the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, sailing from Rhodes, Greece to Port Hercules, Monaco, and the Bay of Monte Carlo.  

The Oval Office, The White House, Washington, DC

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It seems my previous attempt to post failed. Here're my assignments:

1.      Story Statement:

After his schizophrenic sister is brutally raped, Chris kills the man responsible only to find that the rapist belonged to a rival gang. Chris must defeat the rival gang before they can destroy everything he holds dear.

2.      Antagonist:

Minh Khanh is the chief enforcer for the Vietnamese Golden Guns gang. From his earliest childhood he was initiated into the gang in Vietnam where he was asked to kill an informer. He is ruthless and relishes the shedding of blood. He is loyal to a fault, at least to his boss, the head of the Golden Guns. When the gang leader’s nephew is killed by Chris Hunter in revenge for the rape of Hunter’s sister, he is ordered to find and destroy everything that Hunter holds dear, from his mother, his gang, and finally to the very sister whose rape started the cycle of vengeance. Minh is a hardened criminal and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his assignment.

3.      Title

Vengeance is a Hunter

Hunter’s Revenge

Hunter Killer

4.      Comps

Thomas Perry’s Butcher Boy

Don Winslow’s Savages

5.      Logline

A young gang leader desperate to meet his Abuela’s expectations, avenges the rape of his sister only to ignite a brutal war with a rival gang.

6.      Conflicts

a.      Inner Conflict

Chris Hunter was raised by his Abuela who told him when she died that he must become the best he could be at whatever he decided to do. As a gang leader he has taken that admonition to heart and strives to climb to the top of the mountain of gang leaders in Orange County, California. But when someone rapes his mentally disabled sister he faces the imagined disappointment of his grandmother that he would let such an atrocity go unpunished, but in righting the wrong, he sets in motion a response that will threaten his ability to lead his gang and be the best gangster he could be.

b.      Secondary conflict

When Chris jumped into the gang he was only twelve years old and his act of shooting up a rival gang’s funeral led to his mother kicking him out of her house. When she calls to tell him his sister has gone missing he is forced to confront the emotional baggage that comes from dealing with his mother and her disapproval of his life choices.

7.      Settings

Orange County, California, 2005. Chris Hunter is immersed in the gang culture of southern California and through a previous girlfriend become acquainted with Vietnamese and Vietnamese gangs. When he discovers that the man who raped his sister is Vietnamese he is forced to engage with the large Vietnamese population of central Orange County. Ranging from Newport Beach to the Crystal Cathedral to Disneyland, Chris is forced into confrontations with a rival ganga cross the geography of Orange County. 


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Story Statement: Social worker Erin is on a mission to win a prestigious grant that will allow her to expand her program serving pregnant women struggling with substance abuse. Standing in her way is her client, Shayla, who is in an abusive relationship. Erin wants to “save” Shayla” and win the grant.

Antagonist: The main antagonist is Erin’s client, Shayla. Shayla is needy and vulnerable; the novel opens with Erin walking in on Shayla right after her boyfriend Kevin has hit her. Shayla’s mother died when she was younger; she was temporarily homeless, but moved in with Kevin after she became pregnant. Her trauma history, lack of resources and support, and current substance use drive many of her actions. Erin is triumphant when Shayla gets into a women’s shelter; this success story will really help her with her grant application. But Shayla doesn’t stay long at the shelter and is soon in trouble again. She doesn’t genuinely like Erin, but needs some of the concrete resources she provides, and she does call her when she is in crisis.  

Another antagonist is Erin’s boyfriend, who is cheating on her with one of her friends.

Ultimately, however, Erin is her own worst enemy. She has a tendency to look down on her clients. Even though she is struggling with a number of issues herself her clients are always worse off, and she uses this to comfort herself and stay in denial about her own real problems.


Mission: Baby

Saving Shayla

The Defiant Client

Comparable Titles:

Not her Daughter by Rea Frey

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Hook Line:

When social worker Erin’s attempt to “save” her client from an abusive relationship devolves into a kidnapping Erin must face her own demons as she learns that she can’t help others until she has healed herself.

Internal Conflict: Erin experiences internal conflict because she is using her clients as a way to distract her from her own issues – her undiagnosed eating disorder, her cheating boyfriend….being a social worker makes her look good to others, but it is also a way that she can distract herself from her very real problems. She will feel in turmoil because she doesn’t really think she has the skills to make transformative changes in her client’s lives. She will be anxious when her client needs her help and she doesn’t know what to do. Shayla in particular is needy and definitely high risk. Erin realizes she may not be able to change Shayla, but she wants to make sure she has a healthy baby.

After Shayla leaves the shelter and goes back to live with her child’s father, Kevin, Erin is distraught. Erin finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her and that she has lost the main grant that funds her program all on the same morning. Shayla calls her in crisis, begging Erin to come help her. Erin can hear Kevin cursing at Shalya, and she loses it. She goes to the apartment and forces Shalya to come with her.      

Secondary conflict: Erin’s boyfriend, Ben. He is a new attorney and works long hours; however, he is not always working. Erin finds out that he is cheating on her with one of her best friends; this makes her much more fragile and less capable to deal with Shayla’s emergency.  

Settings: My novel is set primarily in Philadelphia. The sub-settings in my novel include a small public housing community where the antagonist resides, the prenatal clinic where the protagonist works, the protagonist’s car after she kidnaps her client, a social work conference at a hotel in Cleveland, the side of a highway (where the baby is delivered), a jail cell, and a courtroom.



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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement

After a doctor tells her that her seizure disorder might kill her, civil rights litigator Casey Berk must fight to keep her epilepsy under control, herself alive, her marriage together, and to avoid the total destruction of the world she once knew.

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.

Harold, Casey’s nightmare boss is an antagonistic force in my novel, forcing Casey to choose between her health and her career. He is an egotistical, sociopathic litigator who makes his career his life and expects Casey to do the same. He has been divorced twice, has no children, and sees his full self as a litigator, compared to Casey who has a husband and two children, so is torn between wanting to please her demanding boss and fulfilling her families’ expectations. His role is similar to the “antagonistic force” or temporary antagonist, as she quits her job in the last 3rd of the novel because of the stress that he forces on her. He stays in the story long enough to provide verve and is a moving force in the protagonist’s growth arc.


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

Uncontrollable - still a working title. Fits the theme of the novel.

Spikes – this was the original one, but “Uncontrollable” suits the final manuscript better.


- 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?

My genre is upmarket women’s fiction/book club fiction. 

Oxygen, by Carol Cassella, is similar in tone and in that it humanizes the medical experiences.

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picolut, is similar in tone and that both books have complicated marital dynamics.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is similar in that both my book and her book have legal drama and complicated romantic relationships.

Other authors that my audience may enjoy are Ann Patchett, Andrew Bobotis, Liane Moriarty, and Gail Honeyman. 

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above.

At 36, career-focused civil rights’ attorney Casey appears to have the life of her dreams until she learns that her epilepsy could kill her before she is fifty, and she must find a way to control her seizures before they break her marriage, destroy her career, shatter the world she toiled so hard to build, or end her life.


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?

INNER CONFLICT: Casey knows that the stress from being a civil rights litigator causes her seizures. She knows that her boss inflicts this stress upon her, but she loves the type of law that she does and does not want to leave her job. She knows that she cannot be a part-time litigator – there is not really a place for that and her boss would never keep her on working part-time – but she is conflicted between her love for her job and her desire to control her epilepsy. Internally, she wrestles with the concept of who she would ‘be’ if she was not an attorney. She has connected so much of her self-worth to her profession, she cannot see her life without it, but deep inside, she knows that she might have to. 

SECONDARY CONFLICT: Casey’s refusal to leave her job and her boss’s unreasonable expectations puts a stress on her marriage, as her husband has to carry the weight of the days she has seizures. As the story progresses, she finally quits her job and falls into a deep depression that her husband is not equipped to deal with. He has been raised to avoid therapy, and will not commit when Casey suggests that they go see someone together. Their marriage is on the brink of ruin, as they grow farther and farther apart throughout Casey’s journey to conquer her seizures while retaining her self-worth. When an important civil right's client leaves Harold's office and begs Casey to represent her, Casey and Jonah fall even further apart when she agrees. 

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? 


Home: Casey and Jonah live in a gray craftsman that was built in 1942. Originally, a two-bedroom and one bath, the first floor curves in a circle from the front door with the dining room on the left, through the kitchen, passing the kids’ bedrooms and their bathroom into the living room and back to the entrance. Subsequent owners built out a second floor with two more bedrooms, and finished the basement with a laundry room, office, and large TV room. Jonah and Casey bought the house when they were twenty-seven and childless, and wondered what they would do with all the space. Now, throughout the years, they have found ways to fill it – books, couches, children – and make it a home. 

Office: Harold’s office is a a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Eastern part of downtown Portland, with a view of the Willamette River and Mt. Hood. His immense wooden desk is littered with papers, some in piles, some alone, and the leather chair is placed so that his back is to this glorious view. There are two plush leather chairs in front of his desk, and bookshelves around the room that hold volumes of case law books (unused since the advent of legal search engines), and diplomas in opulent frames, an admission to the 9th circuit, and various awards gathered throughout Harold’s career. There are no pictures of family or friends, no signals of hobbies, as he has none. His life is to work.

 Casey’s office is a smaller version of Harold’s, but she has positioned her desk to enjoy the view of downtown Portland and the river. She has a small photo of her family on her desk.

Court: The Portland Federal Courthouse is a behemoth of a building, shining white and standing over twenty stories tall. The lobby has marble floors with a trickling, elegant waterfall and a yawning staircase that leads to various conference rooms. In the courtroom where Casey will argue, wooden benches sit against the back wall with five rows of seats in front for those who want to be closer to the action. A divider separates the spectators from the attorneys and their clients. There are two gigantic wooden tables on each side after walking through the divider, large enough for three chairs and to spread out documents for several feet. A judge’s bench with attached witness stand looms in the front of the room with an American flag and an Oregon flag hanging limp on either side. The jury’s bench is to the left of the judge. 


Hotel: The hotel – the Holiday Inn by St. Lutheran’s Hospital – has a large, plush chair next to the double-paned floor-to- ceiling window with a view of the street in front of the hotel. With a desk and chair against the wall in the middle of the room, and two queen-sized beds, it is a space for recovery, rest, and some deep discussion between Casey and various characters. 

Hospital: St. Lutheran’s hospital is one of the top ten hospitals in the United States – top five for epilepsy centers. The dramatic enterance includes a circular driveway that curves around a low fountain. Sliding glass doors open into a bustling atrium where men and women in red jackets and lanyards announcing “ASK ME” stand sentry by every door. There is piano music playing somewhere, but the sterile smell reminds visitors that this is still a hospital. Patients wander around with maps, trying to find their way on this campus that spans several city blocks, doctors and nurses in white coats or scrubs bustle about. Wheelchairs pushed by uniformed attendants shuttle patients through the building. It is all very overwhelming at first, and when she enters, Casey wishes she had brought Jonah with her to hold her hand.

Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU): The EMU is the ward of the hospital where epilepsy patients are monitored on video 24-hours a day and by electrodes that are hooked onto their heads in various manners. It is basically a long hallway with rooms on either side where the patient sits in his or her bed talking to a visitor, looking at their phone, watching TV, trying to keep themselves occupied while waiting to have a seizure. 

Casey’s room has dark wood-paneled walls behind her bed that look like they have not been replaced since the 1970s; the rest of the walls are a whitist-tan. She stays in a twin-size bed with padded sides. There is a visitor’s chair, a window that overlooks a snow-covered lawn and snow-plowed sidewalks, and a video camera directed at her bed. She has a small gray rolling table, and the florescent overhead light conflicts with the more yellow lights that come from a ledge on the wooden wall behind her. It is a miserable place, where she is miserable herself. 

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