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New York Pitch Conference - September 2021


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Introduction to Pre-event Assignments 

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

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

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

Michael Neff

Algonkian Conference Director

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

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THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT

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

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

att.jpg FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

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THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

Antagonist (Photo Javert from "Les Misérables")

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

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

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

CONTINUE READING ENTIRE ARTICLE AT NWOE THEN RETURN HERE.

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

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CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

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

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

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

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

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DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS

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

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

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

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THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

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

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

CONTINUE TO READ THIS ARTICLE THEN RETURN.

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

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

We have reviewed these and agree 110%.

MEMOIR WRITING - CHOOSE A SPECIFIC EVENT (good general primer)

NYBOOKEDITORS.COM

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

MEMOIR MUST INCLUDE TRANSCENDENCE

MARIONROACH.COM

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

WRITE IT LIKE A NOVEL

JERRYJENKINS.COM

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

MEMOIR ANECDOTES - HOW TO MAKE THEM SHINE

JERRYJENKINS.COM

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

 

 

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

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

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1.Story Statement:  Lara Arducci is abducted from her small town and whisked across the country by an affluent man. Her captor, Jon, wants her to assume the identity of his missing daughter. Lara is hesitant and fearful of going along with this delusional plan until she receives some coaxing from an unknown person. Reluctantly, Lara takes on the role of Jon’s missing daughter only to discover he is hiding more than anyone could ever imagine. His secrets are the key to her freedom and reveal secrets from her own family’s past she never knew existed.

2.Antagonist: Jon Alderidge is a man of wealth and power who plays by his own set of rules. Money is no object, and he uses it to line the pockets of anyone he deems useful. If you stand in his way, he has no qualms about committing murder to get what he wants. His narcissistic personality drives him to believe he is untouchable. He is a widower who never remarries. With the death of his father and sister, all he has left is his daughter, Natalia. After he forces Natalia to disappear, he is unable to deal with her absence, so he abducts Lara to replace her. Jon believes that he has charmed Lara into going along with his plan, unaware that she has her own motivations. When Jon discovers her betrayal, Lara finds herself fighting for her own life.

Another antagonist is Lara's father, Mitch Arducci. Mitch is similar to Jon. He is a powerful attorney who is used to getting his way. Coming from meager beginnings, he was driven to obtain more and went to extreme lengths to get it. He is the catalyst that sets everything in motion back when Lara was only a few months old. Mitch sells Lara's twin sister, Lilly, to gain the financial stability he needs to be successful. Through a series of events, Jon ends up with Lilly, who he renames Natalia. Mitch is also the person who brings the private eye in to search for Lara. This leads to the discovery of what Mitch did and is who ultimately brings Lara home. The revelation of Mitch's actions changes Lara emotionally and affects her future relationships with friends and family.

3.Title: Secrets unraveled

            A second chance

            A daughter’s revenge

4.Comparables: A Reason to Live: A Marty Singer Mystery by Matthew Iden

5.Hookline: Thrust into a world of privilege, where there are no rules, Lara must uncover the secrets of her captor if she ever wants to make it home alive.

6.Conflict: Lara’s primary conflict surrounds the entire situation with Jon. She struggles on many levels. Jon terrifies her, but she knows that she has to uncover his past for her sake and for his victims. Jon brings her to the brink of death, but she still feels the need to help those he has already hurt. She knows Jon needs to be stopped and that she is the only one who can do it.

Lara’s secondary conflict surrounds her emotional state. She is a strong, driven woman, but she is very fragile in the current situation. Jon breaks her down in the beginning by keeping her confined to a single room. The isolation is almost too much for Lara to handle. Once free from her confinement, she struggles with the guilt of not returning to her family and the turmoil she knows she is causing them by not going home. She is also struggling with the breakup she had with her boyfriend the day before she was abducted and the new man she meets while with Jon. She knows that she is sacrificing the chance at love by not revealing her true self.

7.Setting: The story follows Lara on her journey to uncover the truth and the private investigator hired to find her. Each chapter of the story takes place in a different setting. It begins in a small motel room and moves on to Lara’s hometown in coastal Maine. Primarily the main backdrop focuses on present-day California. The story travels from Big Sur to Los Angeles during the peak of the wildfires. Most of the scenes take place in areas of confinement-Lara’s room in Maine, her room at Jon’s house; at one point, she is in a makeshift dungeon. Most of these scenes are about what is discovered in the rooms and the emotional state of Lara. After Jon’s arrest, the backdrop turns into the Monterey County Sherriff’s Department, where he is interrogated. Jon’s trial follows, and the story concludes back in Maine.

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1. Act of Story Statement for The Saint of Byberry:

At the outbreak of World War II, an Army recruit inclined to pacifism struggles to survive his unjust imprisonment in a notorious state mental asylum after refusing to fire his weapon on the boot camp firing range. His mission to rectify injustice and expose hospital atrocities dovetails with a secret plan by Byberry conscientious objector-attendants to do the same. Ed’s quandary sets his devoted young sister Mary on a journey to uncover the circumstances that led to his baffling institutionalization, and restore his honor.

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2. Conflict/antagonist: Family secrecy and shame, as well as Mary's naïveté prevent Mary from understanding what happened to her brother and why. Family secrecy and shame also serve as an unwitting barrier to Ed's getting help and being freed from his dubious incarceration, as does his father's pride and inflexibility; institutional malfeasance and corruption in the form of hard-assed platoon sergeant, Sgt. Stanley Kaczynski, and abusive hospital attendant, Buster Keating. In some ways, Ed’s resolute attachment to principle also unwittingly contributes to his downfall.

 

 

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4. Comparables:

Similar to Susan Meissner’s The Last Year of the War, Mary’s Quest explores an obscure corner of World War II history through the eyes of a naïve observer whose life is tilted by a distant war in unexpected ways. Although Mary is too young to “rescue” the lost brother she loves, her quest to reclaim and honor him echoes T. Greenwood’s inspiring, heart-rending account of the horrors of institutionalization and the balm of family devotion in Keeping Lucy. Fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light You Cannot See will root for Mary and Edward and appreciate the parallel stories in Mary’s Quest and how they are weaved together.

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5. Hook Line (log line):

A debut novel (95,000k, upmarket fiction), Mary’s Quest, a true family story of a sister’s pledge to restore honor to her disgraced brother, sheds light on an obscure corner of World War II history and the unsung heroism of pacifists that labored and languished in state mental asylums. 

6. Inner conflict and turmoil with specific example:

 Mary is a dutiful daughter, but when she finds herself visiting her beloved brother in a mental hospital she is distraught. She wants her big brother back and craves to understand what is going on. But how? Her father is distant, her siblings, dismissive, and her mother refuses to discuss the matter or answer Mary's questions. Mary, Ed's only faithful visitor, struggles to get on with her life while helplessly witnessing her brother's steady decline in the hospital. What is happening to her brother, and why is it happening?

With war on the horizon, the call for patriots is a strong one. Ed wants to prove his patriotism and please his exacting father who thinks Ed is too soft. A devout Catholic influenced by articles in Dorothy Day's The Catholic Worker, Ed’s conscience pull him towards pacifism. An internal debate ensues, but after being drafted Ed reluctantly reports to boot camp where his conscience continues to gnaw at him. Did he make the right choice? 

Secondary Conflict: 

 As Mary grows up, she wants to forget about Byberry, the state hospital where the brother she adores is tight-lipped and disappearing before her eyes. At home, secrecy and shame shroud Ed’s predicament. Once the pride of the family, Ed is no longer discussed except in whispers between adults. His perplexed younger sister Mary is left trying to figure out how her once healthy, happy brother ended up in a strange hospital, and longs to help him. u fix him.”

Final Assignment--Setting:

 1. Port Richmond/Kensington, a friendly, working-class Philadelphia neighborhood, the two towns separated by a train trestle. Ed, unmarried, lives in a crammed three-story brick row-home, comprised of parents, older brother, four younger sisters and two cousins (taken in by the family) that he helps to support with his job at the nearby American Can Factory. The neighborhood tavern is a couple of blocks from Ed’s house. Mary, along with her younger sister and friend, collect coal along the railroad tracks to bring home. They also walk to the pretzel factory in center city at the behest of Mary’s mother to purchase, and then sell, pretzels to make money.The kids play stick-ball in the street, and everybody knows Tim McGee, the beat-cop. St. Anne’s, the parish church and the rectory where Ed meets with his friend and advisor, is a few blocks away. Ed takes the #52 trolley to and from work, and his little sister Mary greets him at the trolley stop at the end of the day, eager for the pennies Ed is sure to give her for candy, along with a playful toss in the air. Ed makes homemade root beer for the family and neighborhood kids in the back yard, and volunteers at the church carnival. 

2. The train to boot camp, boot camp, the camp hospital, and the car on Ed’s ride back, with MPs, to the Philadelphia federal courthouse. The train, from Philadelphia to Camp Crofton, SC, is jam-packed with high-spirited but nervous GI-recruits. Boot camp consists of the clean and orderly but rustic bunkhouse where Ed and his best friend Chappy are assigned, and the firing range where Ed has his showdown with the sergeant. Just miles from Ed’s home and the promise of safety, are the hallowed halls and pristine rooms of the courthouse in the Philadelphia courthouse, where Ed is adjudicated as a prisoner of war. 

 3. Byberry is a fleet of brick buildings on the northeastern edge of the city. Impressive from a distance, inside is a different matter. The men’s wards are overrun with naked or ill-clothed patients who are corralled like animals, and treated like prisoners in a concentration camp. Except for the admission area and administrators’ offices, which are clean and well-kept for the public, the walls of the dayroom are covered in feces and urine and the flooring is deteriorating. The building is ill-heated in winter and suffocating in summer. One toilet room serves 400 men. The sleeping area is packed with filthy cots, and vermin have free reign throughout the building, especially in the cafeteria. The bunking quarters where the Quaker and Mennonite conscientious objectors serve as attendants is spartan but clean. Separated from the main building, it gives the men the privacy they need to hatch their plot to blow the lid off of Byberry, as does the nearby tavern-restaurant where they recreate and blow off steam from their high-stress job at their abhorrent workplace. The hospital grounds are dotted with picnic tables, and this is where family members like Mary and her mother, visit Edward—never seeing the inside of the repulsive hospital.

4. The bedroom in married-Mary’s suburban Fairless Hills home where she re-discovers and finally opens her deceased mother’s metal box that contains clues to the riddle of her brother’s Edward’s tragic fate.

 

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1.

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

To assert her presence in a society that dismisses her as invisible and voiceless.

 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.

The antagonistic force is the Philippine class system as embodied by various characters. Among the primary ones are members of a wealthy family – Bart (father), Elena (mother), and Rina (daughter) Borgas. Bart is the president of a bank that is under the control of a dictatorial government. His status rewards him with a wealth and recognition that absolve him of past failed business ventures. Elena comes from poverty. With her chicanery, she has buried her history with fabrications of a privileged upbringing and is now a dominating force in high society. Rina is trapped between her own wishes and those of her mother. She shares sincere feelings with her beau, who hails from a pedigreed family. When he proposes marriage, her mother considers this a personal triumph, scoffing at Rina's insistence that it is love, not social standing, that joins them.

There are three maids in the Borgas mansion. Elena and Rina treat them with imperious airs. Bart is genial but with an ulterior motive. The brunt of their target is a maid named Celeste (protagonist). Plain and poor, with an independent spirit and the mettle to speak her mind, Celeste represents a threat to the social hierarchy.

3.

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

A Voice in the Storm

Because of You

Music Beyond the Stars

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?

The Girl from the Coast by Pramoedya Ananta – This is the tale of poor girl from an Indonesian fishing village who is forced to marry a wealthy man. Little communication occurs with her husband. She is nothing more than his possession.

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig – The novel explores human relations in the midst of a political drama. The protagonist is Burma's first beauty queen, who survives a civil war and a dictatorship.

My novel is set in the Philippines during the final year of Ferdinand Marcos's 20-year dictatorship (1985-1986). The protagonist is a provincial girl who moves to Manila to pursue her ambition of becoming a singer. She first earns her keep with a wealthy family, then flees their mansion after the master of the family attempts to violate her, finding her community in the tourist district, where as a club singer, she voices the woes of the working Filipino.

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.

Invisibility for being plain and poor ignites the creative fire: songstress Celeste shines with music that unites Filipinos against a despot. But she will betray her country if she succumbs to love with an American and flees West.

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.

Celeste's American lover has proposed marriage and promises a life of comfort and happiness in America. She has accepted, but has misgivings. Lyndon is also half Filipino. Accounts of discrimination when he was new to America as a child informs her that, even if she were to take on his American surname and be granted an American citizenship, Americans may not be so welcoming of her because of the color of her skin. She also sees through daily media coverage of Western pop celebrities – Madonna, Schwarzenegger, an ever-whitening Michael Jackson - that she and her music would have no place in the United States. Though the love between her and Lyndon is true, Celeste realizes that her place is in the Philippines. The everyday working folks and Filipino laborers are whom she wishes to touch with her songs. She needs them and they need her.

 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?

Celeste's father has run for mayor in their small town. Her grandfather was once mayor before World War II, and her father wants to reclaim the family name. At the same time, the current mayor has been promising the town a better life, but his promises remain unfulfilled. She sings to win her father votes, but he loses due to corrupt voting tactics on the part of the current mayor, who eventually plunders the town in search of gold purportedly buried there during the war. Celeste vows to avenge her father and to restore the town's pride by making something of herself with her voice.

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? 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.

Calinte – A hilltop province. Homes are made of wood and stone. An 18th century church constructed of volcanic ash with a belfry dominates the town square. Fauna grows through the belfry fissures, and the crucifix affixed on the façade spire resembles a giant X against the dizzying clouds and blue sky.

Celeste's home is a ramshackle structure the gray of gravel and grime. It was once a mansion, for her maternal grandfather had been an influential man with wealth. World War II brought the family to ruin. The only remnants of the home's former glory are a stain glass window in the living room and the ceiling socket from where once hung a chandelier. The furniture is now plastic with duct tape that seals tears, an old Singer sewing machine, and a makeshift altar of Jesus and Mary. The family quarters on the second level are furnished with bare essentials. Bunk beds for the boys and girls. (Celeste has three sisters and three brothers), a cot for the parents, and a bureau in each room.

Forbes Park – A high-class residential area in the capital of Manila. A high gate and stone walls border the Borgas mansion, with a long driveway that swerves up to double portals. The mansion has limestone walls and a patio with French doors that open into a garden. Mango and palm trees are in full bloom, and beds of bougainvillea plants and hibiscuses line the walls and dot sloping hillocks.

Portraits of Ma'am Borgas's ancestors adorn the living room. A statue of the Madonna stands in the patio. Dining chairs and furniture in the living room as well as in the family quarters on the second level are upholstered in brocade. The maids quarter downstairs consists of a sitting area with an oven and a black and white TV.

Celeste's room has a bunk bed and a drawer set. A calendar that bears the image of Jesus Christ is tacked on the door along with a magazine cover cutout of her favorite singer, Nora Aunor (an icon dubbed the Barbra Streisand of the Philippines). The images of Jesus and Aunor are directly across from the window for daylight to shine on with each sunrise.

Ermita – The red-light tourist district. Ermita was once a high-class district before World War II. It contains abandoned lots with crumbling palatial homes juxtaposed with drive-in motels, karaoke bars, plastic encasements above brothel entrances, and money exchange venues. Buildings are covered in grime with laundry hanging on window grids.

Cherry Bar – The first establishment where Celeste earns a reputation for her voice. It is a low-class bar that caters to the working class and laborers. A placard with scratch marks and an illustration of double cherries hang on the front door. The inside is dimly lit in red light, with four tables and chairs on the right, a bar to the left, and a stage behind the bar. Posters of Conan the Barbarian and other Western media icons are taped on a mirror wall behind the stage. Her own room has a cot, a ceiling bulb with a cord switch, and a door mirror that has a horizontal crack at the middle.

White Palace – A high-end establishment that Celeste later works at. It is a white structure with a harem-like dome and opaque windows to black portals. Inside, strobe lights illuminate the stage, which is adorned with papier-maché trees and plants. The dining area consists of tables covered in floor-length cloth. Her own room is painted white with a bed, a bureau and a vanity, a full length mirror, and a color TV.

The juxtaposition of wealth with decay makes for a dramatic backdrop to a story about class, oppression, and race.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Girl of Many Crowns

1.    Story Statement – Judith must find the strength to defy the powers of an empire and forge her own future.


2.    Antagonistic Force –  Three kings (King Charles of Francia, King Aethelwulf of Wessex and King Aethelbald of Wessex) view young Judith as a valuable pawn in their political games to attain or retain power.  Each king exercises his will upon Judith – some more benignly than others.  All significant choices as to what she will do, where she will live, whom she will marry or even whether or not she will bear children are taken from her.  Each of the three kings is blind to, or in absolute opposition to, Judith’s need to make her own choices in life.  As kings, they are accustomed to being obeyed without question.  They view their world as a dangerous place where one must constantly defend one’s holdings, using any tool at hand – no matter what the cost.


3.    Book Title
A.    The Girl of Many Crowns
B.    Judith of Francia, Baldwin of Flanders
C.    Princess, Queen and Countess

4.   Genre/ Comparable work 

Genre: The Girl of Many Crowns is historical fiction with international appeal bringing to life the untold story of a ninth-century heroine who participated in the founding of three countries: France, England and Belgium.

Comparable #1: Similar in approach and style to the television series "The Crown"  The Girl of Many Crowns follows seven years in the life of a princess who becomes queen and finally a countess.  It differs in time period - occurring in the ninth-century.

Comparable #2: Similar to Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series, The Girl of Many Crowns is set in the ninth century and portrays the constant danger of Viking attacks facing the kingdoms of the early medieval era.

Comparable #3:: Similar to Alison Weir's Six Tudor Queens series, The Girl of Many Crowns is written with an emphasis on the political intrigue rampant throughout medieval Europe and England, with a royal female historical character as the protagonist. 

Judith's story is told from three viewpoints: Judith's perspective, the knight, Baldwin Iron Arm's perspective, and from the perspective of Archbishop Hincmar, political adviser to Judith's father, King Charles.


5.    Hook line – A ninth-century French princess, forced into marriage by her politically-motivated father and widowed twice by age 15, and a brave knight - determined to serve his king and country – risk everything for true love in defiance of king, church and political pressure.


6.    Primary Conflict – Eleven-year-old Princess Judith is raised in a secure and wealthy environment tightly controlled by her father, King Charles II of Francia.  Shortly after her twelfth birthday, her father arranges her marriage to the fifty-year-old widower, Aethelwulf, King of Wessex.  Judith is reluctant but obediently moves to Wessex with her aging husband.  After little more than one year of marriage, King Aethelwulf, who married Judith for political advantage, dies unexpectedly.  

Widowed at age thirteen, Judith enjoys for the first time a taste of independence.  However, instead of allowing her to return to Francia, her father insists she remain in Wessex and marry the twenty-four-year-old son of her late husband - King Aethelbald.

Judith despises Aethelbald, finding him to be proud and selfish.  She is conflicted between her aversion to the marriage and her duty as her father’s daughter.  Judith resists the marriage by raising legal objections and using delaying tactics.  Finally, she relents, and the marriage takes place.  

Cruel and emotionally abusive, King Aethelbald seeks to destroy Judith's will and self-esteem during their nearly two years of marriage.  King Aethelbald points out to Judith that she has never been anything but a pawn -used by her father King Charles, her first husband King Aethelwulf and now by him.  Judith's attempts at resistance are swiftly punished by King Aethelbald.

When King Aethelbald dies unexpectedly, Judith experiences a true sense of freedom.  At age sixteen, and no longer an innocent child, Judith returns to Francia and refuses to marry again for political purposes.

King Charles confines Judith within his palace at Senlis until she is willing to agree to another arranged marriage.  Judith's brother Louis and his companion – a knight named Baldwin Iron Arm - visit her.  Judith and Baldwin fall in love and risk everything in a daring escape from the palace assisted by her brother Louis.

Their flight and King Charles’ pursuit will take them to Flanders, Germany and to Rome to plead their case before the pope. Will Judith and Baldwin be captured and face separation, dismemberment, or death?  Or will the young lovers succeed against all odds in defying king, church and social demands?

Secondary Conflict – Baldwin Iron Arm’s sworn desire is to serve his king well and protect the king’s family.  He despises treachery and the many people who betray the king.  However, when Baldwin falls in love with the king’s daughter, he becomes conflicted.  Does his pledge to protect the royal family include protecting the king’s daughter from her own father?  Or does adherence to his oath require strict obedience to the king’s wishes?

Tertiary Conflict – Since his youth, King Charles has been beset on every side by forces threatening to take his kingdom: his half-brothers; the rebel lords of Aquitaine; and the Vikings.  Experience has taught him to make use of every political tool at hand, including his family.  His goal is to survive from year to year, sometimes from month to month.  He sees his daughter Judith as a valuable political tool and views her assertion of independence as a form of treachery and rebellion similar to that of the rebel lords of Aquitaine - who remain a constant thorn in his side.


7.    Setting – The book is divided into three parts: Part I - Judith of Francia, takes place mainly in the ninth-century kingdom that becomes modern-day France. Transported by historical events within the story, Judith and Baldwin experience a wide range of settings, including battlefields, churches, roadside inns, and palaces.  Part II - Judith of Wessex, encompasses Judith's time as Queen of Wessex (now, southern England) where she explores the rich culture and customs of her new kingdom, goes on hunting trips and even attends a council of the Witan at Stonehenge.  Baldwin, meanwhile is caught up in intrigue and murder plots, sieges and Viking strongholds in Francia.  Part III - Judith of Flanders, follows Judith's return to Francia and her escape from the palace at Senlis with the help of Baldwin.  Their flight takes them to Flanders, Germany, and the Via Francigena pilgrim's road to Rome, where they will plead their cause before Pope Nicholas I. 

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Algonkian Writers Conference Assignments

 

  1. Story statement: Miaoyi Yu demands to live life on her own terms and fights a war to save the soul of China. 

  2. The antagonist, Liu Bang, grows up as best friend to the protagonist’s childhood friend and later husband, Xiang Ji. Both are sons to powerful warlords, Bang from Han and Ji from Chu. But Bang is a cruel misogynist who wants to control everyone and everything. He even asks Yu to be one of his concubines. She turns him down but accepting is her great friend, as well as the most tender and tragic figure in the book, Li Luli. He proceeds to manipulate and terrorize Luli, turning a once loving and kind woman into a broken and obedient slave. He stands for everything Yu fights against. The three friends will end up fighting to win control of China, Yu and Ji against Bang. With the war lost and staring in the face of a China directed by men such as Bang, Yu will make her most difficult choice. And the fate of China, then and now, hangs in the balance.

  3. Breakout Titles: Surrounded By Chu Songs; The Soul of China; Mandate.

  4. Two comparable novels: Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, and The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck.

  5. Hookline: A poor young peasant woman, born into a misogynistic world controlled by the rich and powerful, fights to live life on her own terms and win the war for the soul of China. 

  6. Inner turmoil: Miaoyi Yu is in love with her friend, Xiang Ji. But she also demands to live life on her own terms. He is forced to marry a woman--Xi Shi--who is the daughter of another powerful warlord. So he asks Yu to be his concubine. This puts all of her feelings into conflict. Adding to it all, her parents are poor and dependent on Ji’s dad for support. One day, the person they will count on will be Ji. Still, Yu chooses her own self-worth over her intense love for Ji and all other considerations, not least of all is a life of poverty and loneliness. 

  7. Social Conflict: Yu and Ji do become a couple and take a quasi-honeymoon through the Seven States to see the flora and fauna. Towards the end they stop at a small town controlled by the owner of the only business, a slaughterhouse. The working conditions are sub-human and the workers little more than economic slaves. Yu and Ji decide they must save the town and set off to do so. By the end of their efforts, we get a vision of how China would be run if they were to win the coming war.

  8. Setting: The book is set in the ancient Chinese state of Chu, and the primary location is a secret, idyllic garden behind the warlord’s large home and that of a family of his servants, the Miaoyis. There, Yu and Ji meet for the first time, grow up together, talk about philosophy, practice fighting, and fall in love. Another large portion of the book is set inside the warlord’s home, where Yu is a servant. She meets her great friend, Luli, who goes on to be the most tragic figure in the book. She also meets the Chef, who provides the comedy relief. It is also there that Bang asks Yu to be one of his concubines. But she is also always under the watchful eyes of Madame Furen, Yu’s school teacher, and a mysterious figure whose motivations and loyalties are unclear. The two take a trip through China during which they encounter tigers and dugongs and lie by a lake watching a mother panda feed her cub. During the trip, they visit a canyon that Ji visited as a child. This canyon is where the final scene takes place, deep inside a snowstorm. 

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1. Story Statement- When a Voodoo God of Death abandons the Underworld to entertain himself, death spirits are being killed and humans can’t die.

 

2. The Antagonist- After Baron Samedi abandons his duties for a life of debauchery in the human world, death spirits are being randomly slaughtered. As a result, humans cannot pass into the afterlife, having been forced into longer excruciating deaths. A young Jamaican high school student, Taroen Stewart, trying to impress a girl by stealing graveyard dirt, encounters a Congolese spirit, who, along with an assortment of other grim reapers, force him to search for Baron Samedi to compel him his return to the Underworld. Taroen is uniquely unqualified for the task, having no experience in the voodoo or the occult. He resents being pressed into service and hostilities dramatically increase when he finds out that he actually the son of Baron Samedi.

 

3.  Breakout Titles-Death Spirits Rising: The Books of Samedi

      When Death Walks Out

 The Voodoo Prince

4.  Stormfront by Jim Butcher, the Netflix Series Lucifer

 

5.  Hook line: Dead people bore him, sunrises intrigue him, but when death quits his job, the living will suffer.

 

6.  Inner Turmoil: Taroen Stewart wants to be a normal teenager, but instead he is forcibly dragged into an world he wasn’t aware even existed. With his life on the line, and forced to deliver a wily, wanton voodoo death god to a cemetery, Taroen is terrified when certain powers arise in him. He later learns that an entity he is the son of Baron Samedi.

 

7. Social Conflict: Baron Samedi has taken over the body of handsome thirty something lawyer.He spends time enjoying human carnal, culinary and intellectual pleasures. He has no desire to the “go back to dead guy land.”

 

Other death spirits, an Irish banshee, a French grim reaper, and Charon the Greek Ferryman, cannot fulfill their respective duties, escorting the newly dead to heaven, hell or purgatory. The death spirits are as terrified as Taroen because they are being killed by the necromancer who possessed a knife that kills them. A Catholic priest from Taroen’s school who is familiar with all the parties involved attempts to strike a balance between the spirits, Taroen and Baron Samedi.

 

8. Setting- Dark Spirits Rising enters world of dark, urban fantasy.

 

The story occurs in urban cities of Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey. The opening scene occurs in the Underworld as the Baron is digging a grave for a newly executed murderer. After he sends the murderer’s soul to hell, he then sees the open grave as an entrance to the living world. Assuming the body of a young handsome lawyer, he seeks out a voodoo priestess to enjoy expensive booze, sex, fine cuisine, and interacting humans in the city streets. One of the Banshees is murdered on the streets of Chelsea by the same necromancer who is responsible for the killing other death spirits.

 

The final scene in the book takes place in an old, converted gymnasium in Jersey City where the death spirits led by Samedi fight the necromancer to prevent Taroen’s girlfriend from being a human sacrifice for the necromancer.

 

 

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Assignment 1: Story Statement

I must overcome my self-destructive urges in order to free myself from the throes of alcoholism and codependent love.

 

Assignment 2: Antagonist

Readers of my memoir would perceive Veronica and alcohol as antagonists because of the obvious harm they are inflicting upon me. I am only sixteen years old and madly in love with an abusive older woman, so I am unable to see how much she is hurting me. I am also madly in love with alcohol, and I don’t care what it makes me do because it dulls all the jagged edges of my unrelenting anxiety. Like any addict, my perception is flawed. 

When my mother forces me into treatment against my will, I fight tirelessly against everyone and everything keeping me away from Veronica and alcohol. I perceive recovery as my enemy because it forces me to feel my emotions, which are unbearable at times.

My perception of what is hurting me and what is helping me fluctuates as the story progresses, but the main antagonistic forces in my memoir are ultimately my own trauma, addiction, and mental illness.

 

Assignment 3: Breakout Title

The title of my memoir is Take Her Down.

I have not decided on a subtitle yet. A couple of my subtitle ideas are:

-Take Her Down: A Memoir 

(Short and has a nice ring to it, but may not be descriptive enough)

-Take Her Down: A Memoir of Trauma, Underage Drinking, and My Battle Against Recovery

(More descriptive, but might too long)

I am also considering not having a subtitle.

 

Assignment 4: Comparative Titles

It was challenging for me to come up with comparative titles because Take Her Down has so many unique elements I had trouble finding in other published books. Involuntary youth treatment is fundamentally different than inpatient treatment geared toward willing and compliant adults or older teenagers. Take Her Down is also unique in that it features a queer protagonist. I was unable to find any published memoirs about domestic violence in a same-sex relationship, and I couldn’t find any other coming-of-age addiction memoirs by queer authors. 

Bad Girl: Confessions of a Teenage Delinquent by Abigail Vona (Rugged Land, 2004) is the most similar memoir I could find in terms of subject matter, but it is now quite dated. Like Take Her Down, Bad Girl is a coming-of-age memoir about involuntary youth treatment. Bad Girl tells a similar story to the one told in Take Her Down, but with a different tone and writing style. Bad Girl is written in the voice of an angry teenager, whereas my memoir concentrates on looking back from a more mature and wise perspective. Take Her Down offers an in-depth look at my inner world and the core issues behind my behaviors, while the narrative in Bad Girl is primarily focused on external events. 

One Hit Away: A Memoir of Recovery by Jordan P. Barnes (Island Time Press, 2020) is a more current comparative title. Like Take Her Down, One Hit Away takes the reader on a tumultuous journey from seemingly hopeless addiction to the freedom of recovery. Both memoirs are written in a mature voice and include insight into the author’s mindset, as well as wisdom about the cycle of addiction. I wouldn’t have entered treatment without my mother, and Barnes’ parents also played a significant role in him getting clean. Barnes, however, entered treatment willingly as a young adult, rather than being forced into rehabilitation as a rebellious teenager. Another key difference between our stories is that One Hit Away is about heroin addiction, whereas Take Her Down is about alcoholism, self-harm, trauma, and mental illness.Nonetheless, because of their shared themes and similar styles of writing, readers of One Hit Away would likely enjoy Take Her Down.

A couple people in the publishing industry have also compared my subject matter and writing style to Running with Scissors and Dry by Augusten Burroughs, which I took as very generous compliments. I’m hesitant to list these books as comparable titles because Augusten Burroughs is such a successful author.

 

Assignment 5: Hook Line

An anxiety-ridden sixteen-year-old girl struggles to find the motivation and inner strength to escape the binds of alcoholism and an abusive lesbian relationship. 

 

Assignment 6 (Part 1): Primary Conflict

At sixteen years old, I have already lived through the tragic death of my father and the trauma of my mother’s addiction. I have been plagued by severe anxiety and panic attacks since early childhood, and I am desperate for a way out. When I fall in love with Veronica and she introduces me to the miraculously numbing effects of alcohol, I am hooked. Veronica becomes abusive and my drinking spirals out of control, but all I want is more. Although I experience some inner conflict as my alcoholism and Veronica’s abuse both worsen dramatically, I don’t believe I can live without them.

I get arrested, and my mother offers me an ultimatum: a ten-day psychiatric evaluation at a treatment center in Minnesota, or I’m on my own without any financial or legal support. Seeing no other option, I agree. I fully intend to fake my way through it and return home to Veronica and the sweet relief of alcohol. My inner conflict grows when I enter treatment and meet other addicts who seem to truly understand me. I am torn between the pull of booze and codependent love, and the possibility of moving into the unknown realm of recovery. 

Unable and unwilling to comply with the treatment program in Minnesota, I am kicked out and sent against my will to a psychiatric hospital in rural Wisconsin. I find out my mother has the power to keep me in treatment until I turn eighteen. I run away repeatedly, until I end up in a wilderness program in the Utah mountains. 

Part of me wants to recover, but a bigger part of me resents all the people and institutions trying to keep me safe and sober. The following is an excerpt illustrating this inner conflict:

I felt conflicted between the anesthetizing effects of alcohol and the real relationships I might be able to build if I awoke from the haze I’d been blindly running through. As much as I longed to be warm like Kerry, and open like Lily, I knew that required being authentic with myself. I didn’t know what would happen if I widened my eyes to truly look at myself, and I couldn’t imagine liking what I saw. The thing with alcohol was that it worked—it made everything else go away—and how could I let go of that to grasp onto a rope that might tear as I flew mid-air over a bottomless abyss? How could I make that gamble with no guarantee I’d ever reach the unimaginable beauty on the other side? 

But really, when I thought about it, what did I have to lose? I was already falling.

 

Assignment 6 (Part 2): Secondary Conflict

My level of insight grows throughout my memoir, and many conflicts arise within and around me as my perspective shifts. A secondary conflict involving my social environment arises when I meet Isabel, the first person I feel attracted to since being forced to leave Veronica. I am conflicted because we are in a wilderness program together, where romantic relationships are strictly forbidden because we’re supposed to stay focused on our treatment. I’m also still in love with Veronica. 

I don’t act on my attraction to Isabel while we’re together in the wilderness, but a similar conflict arises at my next treatment center. Here is an excerpt illustrating this conflict:

Once safely in a bathroom stall, the only place around there with some degree of privacy, I carefully unfolded the piece of paper. I began to read Janie’s neat blue printing, and my brow furrowed in surprised confusion as I realized she had written me a love poem. 

I walked out of the bathroom feeling more excited and happier than I had since leaving the wilderness. Nothing else seemed to matter. It was a welcome distraction and my view of Janie immediately shifted. Suddenly, I was attracted to her and wanted to be around her all the time. 

In wilderness, I had developed genuine feelings for Isabel, but I was able to accept that it was the wrong time to act on those feelings. This situation with Janie was entirely different. I didn’t feel like I’d been doing any work on myself, and I was lonely and in desperate need of some sort of escape. I wasn’t strong or self-aware enough to realize I was returning to my old pattern of glomming onto whoever showed interest in me merely because it felt better than being alone. 

 

Assignment 7: Setting

Take Her Down is divided into four parts, and the setting varies throughout.

Part I: Veronica

Part I takes place in British Columbia, Canada. I live in West Vancouver with my mother, my stepfather, and my older sister. I am in Grade Eleven at a fancy private school, also located in West Vancouver. After I meet Veronica in downtown Vancouver on an unusually warm February evening, I start spending less time at home and at school. I am usually with Veronica, riding around in her grey Honda Civic, sleeping together in cheap motels, or warming ourselves with alcohol and bonfires on the beach. Veronica and I end up moving into a small one-bedroom apartment together, also in West Vancouver, but very different from my large family home. Our apartment is on the seventeenth floor of an old high-rise overlooking a shopping mall, about a fifteen-minute drive from the highly sought-after neighborhood I grew up in. 

Part II: Rehab

Part II takes place in two different locations: a rehabilitation center in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and a psychiatric hospital in rural Wisconsin. 

The accommodations in rehab consist of small rooms, each containing three or four identical beds, dressers, and desks. I spend a lot of time sitting outside at a picnic table in the designated smoking area or lounging on one of the worn leather couches in the common room.

The psychiatric hospital in Wisconsin is a multi-story brick building, each floor of which is a different ward. I start out in a mostly empty ward, where I have my own fluorescently lit room. I take my meals in a dining hall resembling a small school cafeteria. I end up being sent to the first floor—lockdown—which reminds me of the psych wards portrayed in old, disturbing films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 

Part III: Wilderness

Part III takes place in the Utah wilderness. There are no buildings in sight, only rolling hills carpeted in sage bushes and red dirt. I am stuck out there, miles away from civilization, with a group of other girls and a few staff members. We hike through the mountains during the day, setting up a new campsite the same way every night. Dinner is eaten around a large fire, our large backpacks resting in a neat row nearby. We each sleep in our own individual shelters, constructed of bright blue tarps and colorful cordage. Part III opens in September, when the weather is mild and unthreatening. By December, the ground is blanketed in snow, and the temperature at night drops well below zero.

Part IV: The Ranch

The first two chapters of Part IV take place in a residential treatment center in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. It is an institutional setting resembling a large boarding school, the main difference being the fist-sized red lights above all the exterior doors, signifying that I am locked inside.

The rest of Part IV takes place at a ranch that doubles as a residential treatment center for youth aged thirteen to eighteen. The ranch is located in a small town about an hour south of Salt Lake City. I live in a cozy stone house with several other girls, and there is another similar house nearby for the male residents. There are various other buildings and structures scattered around the large campus, including: a long, low barn containing horse stalls and an indoor riding corral; the girls’ schoolhouse, attached to the front of the barn; a ropes course centered around a self-supported wooden climbing wall; a two-story building containing a cafeteria and gym on the first floor and the boys’ schoolhouse on the second floor; an outdoor riding corral; several outdoor horse stalls; and a large field with two rows of small beige hutches, each housing a young, knobby-kneed calf. 

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Erik Wecks
erikwecks@gmail.com
360-624-3674

Story statement:
After seven years of selling pharmaceuticals, Alex Novak must learn to value himself even if doing so destabilizes his marriage.

Antagonist:
Lisa Nowak (not the pandemic) provides the chief opposition in this story. Lisa had a relatively healthy upper middle-class upbringing. She is intelligent, independent minded, and quite beautiful. All these advantages leave our protagonist, Alex, fearing that he married above his station. With little understanding or empathy, Lisa responds to Alex’s insecurities by controlling—forcing Alex to behave as she wants.

In contrast, Alex’s working class history leaves him feeling inadequate by his own standards and inferior to his wife. However, when the COVID pandemic turns deadly, it will be Lisa who proves fragile and Alex who will proves resilient. After the apocalypse, Lisa’s failure to find a high status job in an altered world will worsen their differences. Eventually Lisa will leave Alex and their home for a “too good to be true” job in Chicago.

The second half of the book will deal with the emotional crater created by Lisa’s (understandable) decision to leave. It will be up to Alex and their daughter, Tanner, to recreate the family that has been absent for three years. In the final scene, Lisa will tentatively return, with both Alex and Lisa able to see the other eye-to-eye for the first time. (It is an ending of potential happiness rather than fulfilled happiness.)

Combined with his insecurities, Lisa’s inability to respect Alex propels the story, leaving the reader turning pages to find out if their marriage will reach the place of rest Wallace Stegner once called “The Angle of Repose.”

Breakout Title:
Sugarbug

Genres and Comparibles:
Sugarbug is an 82,000-word general or up-market novel about our relationships to work both in the world and in a marriage. In its mood, depth of violence, and over all approach to a pandemic Sugarbug is similar to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. And while I am a mere shadow compared to Wallace Stegner, Sugarbug is a book about whether or not a marriage can find a place of rest and in that way resembles several of his books, including both Big Rock Candy Mountain and Angle of Repose.

Hook:
When a dad quits his job to find meaning and purpose in his work, he unwittingly destabilizes his marriage just as the COVID pandemic turns apocalyptic, leaving him struggling to keep his family fed and alive, while his sense of self, his marriage, and his relationship with his daughter hang in the balance.

Secondary Conflict:
The secondary conflict in Sugarbug revolves around the worsening of the COVID pandemic. (Do not confuse this as the primary conflict) The pandemic changes Alex’s value system; it’s suddenly more important to stay alive than to achieve social status or a “good work life balance.” Alex’s focus on survival creates all sorts of complications from finding food and medicine to negotiating make-work with the wealthy. Surprisingly, Alex finds value in the direct use of his labor to provide necessities for his family. This gives him a sense of connection to his work he’s never had before.

Inner Conflict:
From the beginning Alex struggles to see himself as worthy, to see himself as his wife’s equal. Thus, he never stands up to her. For example, when he reveals that he wants to quit his job, he allows his wife to control how he will find his next job, leading him to a very inauthentic interview that wastes the time of both Alex and the interviewer.

Setting:
Sugarbug is set in a dying subdivision north of Detroit, Michigan. Four families remain, all children of the original homeowners. The COVID pandemic provides the backdrop for the setting, giving a familiarity and resonance with readers. When the pandemic drastically worsens, Alex’s home and land become major features of the setting as many of the scenes take place inside this cramped house or on the block surrounding it. (This was done with a film adaptation in mind.)

By the midpoint of the book, Alex is the only person left in the whole suburb as the survivors leave to find work in the diminished but still standing cities. This empty suburban landscape is designed to help Alex transform from a person unconsciously controlled by status and suburban concerns to a person with a better and more direct connection between his work and his own survival. Farming the now empty land around his childhood home, is the key that connects the setting to the story and provides the lynch pin of Alex’s transformation.

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Seven Questions

 

Story Statement: Women defy a racist and sexist society to forge their own destiny.

 

Antagonist:

The antagonistic force is Philip Michael, a descendent of a slave-owning Mississippi plantation family. He has fallen on hard times and maintains his white supremacy by demonizing African Americans. His young daughter dares to choose a Black girl as her best friend, plunging the family into conflict. Collective antagonists also appear in the form of a mob that attacks the Black girl; the police who club and arrest our protagonists; the white bigoted dean of the University of Mississippi. In a reversal of oppressor/oppressed, a Black preacher is unmasked as the perpetrator of sexual violence against our Black protagonist’s daughter. Ultimately, the most powerful antagonistic force emerges in the conflict between the two protagonists: the white woman for her internalized white superiority, and the Black woman for her bitterness and pride in the struggle to befriend a person of white privilege.

 

Breakout Title:

THE HOUSE IN THE EBONY TREE

UNBENDING WOMEN OF THE LONG ARC

THE COLOR OF THE HEART

 

Comparables:

MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan. (Algonquin books of Chapel Hill, 2009) “Love is a kind of survival,” writes Ms. Jordan in this beautiful novel of the discovery of love across racial barriers in the South. The legacy of slavery looms large in these pages, a story of ordinary people bonded by the extraordinary force of love. The threat –or actuality—of violence is never far away. A bigoted white father never lets us forget the hatred at the core of racism. It is the power in the hearts of women, bolstered by a love of the arts that opens a crack in the legacy of prejudice and fear. My novel also navigates the human heart in a racist/sexist society. Like MUDBOUND my story engages the reader through the passion and self-discovery of the characters in an America struggling to transform its racist legacy with love.

 

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, 2020) is the story of female twins raised in a small Southern town. Being of “sandy” colored skin, they go separate ways, one passing for white, the other having a “blue-Black” child with a dark-skinned African American. Each twin is restless to forge a life beyond the prying eyes and prejudice of the small world around them. The spirit in the hearts of women impel them to make their own choices, in defiance of the norms of their culture. The closely-bonded women in my novel are not literal twins, but they cross racial lines and share a blood-sister ritual in childhood. They come into conflict, not only with the racist society of their small Southern town, but with the prejudice it has instilled in their own hearts. My novel, like THE VANISHING HALF will appeal to readers who want to engage with the complex emotional landscape of those who struggle for belonging and racial identity in American life.

 

Hook line:

A Black girl and a white girl in 1950’s Mississippi forge a lifelong friendship in defiance of the prejudice in the world, and within their own hearts.

 

Other Matters of Conflict

Inner conflict dogs our female protagonists throughout the story. Dorothy, our Black protagonist, struggles with the question: can I be friends with a white girl? This becomes more poignant when Dorothy is attacked by white supremacists. Her inner conflict progresses throughout the years of their friendship, as her white friend, Winkie, marries into wealth and becomes a woman of “clueless privilege.” And they are conflicted in the matter of faith. Dorothy is raised in the Morning Glory Gospel Church. Winkie cannot abide religion, and this schism in belief further taints the way Dorothy perceives her old friend. For her part, Winkie struggles with the shame and guilt of being a white Southern woman whose ancestors owned slaves. The conflict of faith shows up when Dorothy’s teenage granddaughter, Olivia, discloses that she is carrying an unplanned child. Winkie, an avowed feminist, stemming from repression and a “coat hanger abortion” in her own past, is appalled at Dorothy’s faith-bound view that the pregnancy should not be terminated. Winkie now sees Dorothy as a “right-to-lifer”, and Dorothy sees Winkie as a “murderer.”

 

Outer world conflict abounds for our core characters. The story begins in 1955, before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. “Colored” bathrooms, churches, schools, shops, restaurants --- every aspect of community life is replete with the scourge of segregation. This shows up in family relationships, with Winkie’s racist father, Philip Michael. Dorothy’s parents are protective of their child, fearing the friendship with a white girl could be dangerous. 

 

Setting

Tupelo, Mississippi is the hometown of Elvis Presley, just down the road from Oxford, where governor, George Wallace stood on the steps of the University of Mississippi, vowing that no “Negro” would ever cross the threshold. In this way, setting is story, referencing historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Alvin Ailey, Maria Tallchief, Rosa Parks, up to our contemporary BLACK LIVES MATTER.  The history of the struggle for racial justice in America is both a protagonistic and an antagonistic force.  On a different level, the non-human aspects of Tupelo, the nearby woods, creeks, and nature trails roll out before the reader with the sound of birds, insects---the wind whipping in to cool a sweaty face--the moon rising above the girls’ special house in the ebony tree of Winkie’s backyard. The beauty of the earth experienced first through the eyes of children, later through those children who have become aging adults, A magic that transcends the warring ways of the world, for our characters, and our readers.

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MY Name Means Fire Memoir:

Assignment 1: The Act of Story Statement

An Iranian girl copes with familial abuse through dissociation and eventually escapes to America.

Assignment 2: The Antagonist Plots the Point

A paranoid mother believes her daughter is cursed and aims to rid herself of that curse by performing sadistic rituals.

Assignment 3: Conjuring Your Breakout Title

My Name Means Fire

Alternate: The House Of Stone

Assignment 4: Deciding Your Genre/Comparables

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison is comparable, in that it is written by a therapist who is not afraid to be honest about her own psychological condition and recovery.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is comparable, in that it gets at what it was like to be a young girl during the Iranian Revolution.

Assignment 5: Core Wound & Primary Conflict

An Iranian girl deemed “cursed” by her mother is torn between wanting to find love and connection in that relationship and wanting to flee it.  

Assignment 6: Secondary Conflicts

Secondary conflict 1: cultural obligation to protect her family’s reputation

Secondary conflict 2: mental illness, pedophilia and homophobia that were rampant at that time.

Assignment 7: Setting

The setting of MNMF is Tehran, Iran, both before and after the Revolution. The story starts with the modern, cosmopolitan energy of Tehran in the 1970s — fancy nightclubs, colorful picnics, and bell-bottomed jeans — and then transitions into the period of the Revolution, when people were hanged in the streets and women, gradually, started to dress in black and leave the workforce.

The two sub-settings of MNMF are (1) upper-class North Tehran, where my father lived, and where people resisted the Islamification of Iran by continuing to hold secret parties and feminist meetings in private apartments, and (2) the village of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where my mother was forced to relocate and where the teachers taught me about Hellfire and the kids threw rocks at “Tehranis” like me.

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Dorcas Renee

Working Title:  Given Over

Story Statement

After his father dies and he is stripped of citizenship, Solomon must recreate family/community in order to survive the systems that seek to destroy him and the world around him

 

At every turn, Fallu, Solomon’s father, thwarts the boy’s ability to get ahead.  First, he abandons his son and daughter, Blessing.  Then he has a daughter, Alicia Amal, who he dotes on.  Fallu never misses an opportunity to disappoint his son and show him that he doesn’t love him.  From not paying child support to missing soccer games, to never calling or showing up in the boy’s life.  Even when he is threatened with deportation to Sierra Leone, the country he fled during the civil war, his concern is never for Solomon.  After his death, Fallu negatively affects his children in that his immigrant status leaves them subject to the political whims of an America under a fascistic regime which strip the citizenship of children of immigrants leaving them stateless and vulnerable.  But, is it fair to lay all of this at his feet?  Afterall, America’s downturn affects him too as his immigration status is ripped from him and he faces deportation to the country he fled 20 years ago.  Maybe the real villain is America which, like a rampaging elephant is trampling Fallu and Solomon underfoot like grass.

 

Ex 3 Breakout title

·       Given Over

·       When Elephants Rampage

·       Released into the Time of Shameful lusts

 

Ex 4  Comparables

·       Homeland Elegies (personal account of life in the time of Trump)

·       Years and Years (HBO mini-series)

·       The Plot Against America (family watches as the country moves toward fascism and has to weigh how to survive)

·       Upcoming:  The next Civil War (Marche)/non-fiction; Without a handle (Joe Milan- fiction); and, Ben + Beatriz (Gamara) fiction. 

 

Ex. 5 Hook

In a fascist leaning America what happens if Solomon’s teenage rebellion of truancy and marijuana smoking, means he is stripped of US citizenship and deported to the country his father fled 20 years earlier seeking safety from tyranny:  Sierra Leone.   

America strips citizenship from 16 y.o. Solomon who is grieving his father’s death and deports him to the country his father fled 20 years ago:  Sierra Leone.  How will he survive and will he ever see his homeland again? 

 

Ex 6 primary conflict

Fifteen-year-old Solomon has always longed for a relationship with his father, Fallu.   When Fallu dies, Solomon refuses to accept the loss and acts out violently with his mother, skips school and smokes pot.  When Solomon is arrested for truancy, Fallu again causes Solomon’s life to make a major shift.  The son of an immigrant, Solomon’s truancy qualifies him for de-citizenshipping and deportation to the country his father fled for safety 20 years earlier:  Sierra Leone. 

Stripped of every comfort he has ever know, alone in a foreign land that he knows nothing about, Solomon is forced to accept that his father and his country, although beloved by him, have abandoned him.  By contrast, he is adopted by this new country finding love, family and belonging until the country is over-run by dispossessed former Americans with Sierra Leonian blood and Solomon is caught in the middle.  Who is he?  American? Sierra Leonian?  Neither?   

 

Secondary conflict: 

Fallu comes of age in the midst of the Sierra Leonian civil war.  A victim of both the rebels and the army, he is eventually able to flee to the US but the trauma he experienced there follows him.  When his relationship with Solomon’s mother fell apart, the only good thing Fallu had to hold onto was his youngest child, Solomon’s half-sister, Alicia Amal.  She is the only good thing in his life; the reason he keeps fighting to survive and thrive in the US.  But when the country elects Donald J. Banner and rescinds the legal status of millions and begins deporting refugees and back to the countries they fled, Fallu has to figure out how to survive and more importantly, what to do about Alicia Amal.    

 

Secondary???

Just as Solomon finds love and a hope for a future in Sierra Leone in the form of beautiful Maseray, he learns that his mother is in prison for murdering the woman who reported his truancy years before.  The revelation sends Solomon into a spiral of self-hate.  He knows his mother killed the woman because she was avenging him.  He knows also that the fact that she is in prison means his little sister, Blessing, is alone.  And he knows it is all his fault.  If he hadn’t acted out…If he hadn’t blamed his mom for his dad’s abandonment…none of this would have happened.  His fears that he is as bad as his father plague him and threaten to upend all that he has fought so hard to develop.  How can Maseray and her family accept him as a credible suitor?  Once again, his father threatens to destroy his future.  Will he lose the girl?  Is he forever tainted by his father’s past and now his mother’s crime? 

 

Tertiary conflict

Solomon’s sisters, meet for the first time in the country’s system of immigrant detention centers for children called Guest Lodging.  Traumatized and alone, they quickly forge a strong bond.  When the sister’s are faced with deportation, Blessing is offered the chance to escape.  Will she abandon Alicia Amal to face Sierra Leone on her own? 

Setting

Three major settings: 

Northern VA suburb where Solomon lives with his mother and sister.  Fallu also lives with Alicia Amal and her mother in NOVA. Alicia Amal also lives with Fallu and then her foster parents in NoVA suburbs. 

Freetown Sierra Leone but mainly in the home of the families that have adopted Solomon:  Charles/Missus and the Pastor’s wife Ma’am. 

The various Guest lodgings that Blessing and Alicia Amal live in over the years.     

. 

 

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT

Story Statement:

As one of the rare remaining fertile people on Earth, Theodore Young, a licensed sex worker at an ‘all-natural’ adoption facility, spends his days conceiving children with fertile female partners whom he has always experienced as human-sized birds. For years, management, and Theodore’s friends, have played along with his delusions, denying any issues that might deem Theo unfit for his job. The company cannot afford to lose him.

His delusions are never confronted until an assignment to conceive with an unusual swan brings Theo’s mental illness, his lifelong struggle with an abusive twin brother, and the impending murder of his company’s CEO, to a head.

The swan is initially brought to the facility because her DNA may be the key to resolving the fertility crisis. However, when Theodore begins work with her, the swan notices that he’s experiencing psychosis in seeing her as a bird, and she takes it upon herself to help Theodore better understand himself, and the birds he sees. Theo’s self-discovery leads him to push back against his boss’s increasing demands to produce a child with the swan. Instead, he seeks—with the swan’s help—to reconcile the contradictions between his perceptions of reality and his seemingly perfect memory. Are the unspeakable acts his brother subjected him to as a child real, or mere figments of delusion? What might Theo himself be capable of?

(And how have his delusions affected the murder he knows is about to happen?)

 

SECOND ASSIGNMENT

Antagonist Sketch:

William Young is the CEO of the Stork Adoption Agency, the only ‘all-natural’ birth facility in the world, specializing in ‘real’ babies, born from ‘real’, consenting adults. No petri dishes, no in vitro fertilization. His company is proud, morally upstanding, and sex-positive—progressive, and admirable. Though William is often genuinely kind, he is blinded by the riches Theodore and his twin brother, Shane, bring into the company.

For years, William hides Theodore’s episodes of psychosis from the general public, afraid that Theodore's mental shortcomings would cause people to stop paying so much money to adopt his children. This results in Theodore not getting the help he needs.

As Theodore grows older, so do his delusions grow more severe. All the while, William keeps the truth to himself, and orders every other worker at the facility to keep the truth to themselves as well. William also refuses to acknowledge Theodore’s accounts of being abused by his twin brother, Shane, who is equally valuable.

When William finds out there is a woman (the swan) who may hold the answer to curing the fertility crisis, he manipulates her into staying at Stork, hoping he can use Theodore as a means of getting her to conceive a child, thus giving his company an opportunity to study her gestation period. However, his disrespect toward the woman causes her to close up, and refuse to give him the child he wants.

Behind William’s back, the woman teaches Theodore to embrace his differences, and join her in rising against William. When he catches a whiff of this, William sends in Theodore’s twin brother, Shane, to finish the work Theodore has barely even started.

Through expert beguiling, and master manipulation, William’s lies are camouflaged from Theodore for years. In the end, he is finally outwitted and cornered, caught in the act. Revenge takes its toll.

(I would like to note that although there are notes of sexual discomfort in the plot, I do veer from sensationalizing rape, focused solely on the company’s moral obsession with consent. William serves as a point of manipulation, convincing the woman to eventually consent with clever lies, not physical force.)

 

THIRD ASSIGNMENT

Titles:

  • My Extraordinary Memory of Birds
  • The Stork and the Swan
  • Crows in the Attic

 

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT

Comparisons:

  • THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt  - Why? Recent. Literary style, not for the faint of heart, real people with real issues—no holds barred. Slow paced, steady build-up. Mental health immersion.
  • THE PROPHETS, Robert Jones, Jr – Why? Recent. Literary style. Similar voice. Similar intercharacter, LGBTQ drama. Mental health immersion.

 

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT

The Hook:

A male sex worker, and one of the most valuable, fertile assets in the world has experienced a childhood trauma that causes him to see all the women he works with as human-sized crows—when one of those birds becomes wise to his mental disability, she begins training him to better understand himself, ultimately freeing him from the traumatic bonds he is bound to.

Or

A male sex worker who has dedicated his life to helping populate the world with children discovers that a most important aspect of his job has been all delusional, and now he must rise against the family members who kept him ignorant of his disorder for years.

 

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT

Primary conflict:

Theodore’s primary conflict revolves around his own self-discovery, after he becomes aware of the fact that he has been experiencing moments of psychosis for years. When he brings the issue up to his boss (who is also his uncle, by blood), his boss denies that anything is wrong with him, but Theodore worries that he’s being lied to.

Because Theodore is worth more money than any other man in the facility, it is imperative that no flaws appear on his public profile, which means no mental ‘illness.’ It is important that everyone make him believe he is 100% healthy, mentally and physically, regardless of the truth.

While grappling to accept his shortcomings, Theodore begins to push back against those who kept him in the dark for years (his family, his friends). Simultaneously, he worries about what his disability might mean for his future life, his job, and his livelihood.

His Uncle William, who is the CEO of the agency where Theodore works, is a key player in all this, and master manipulator, who constantly tries to manipulate Theodore into believing there is nothing wrong with him, and he is not delusional at all.

Theo resolves this conflict by resolving his tertiary conflict (see below).

 

Secondary conflict:

William Young has brought a swan into the facility who he claims has the answer to solving the fertility crisis on Earth. She does not want to be a part of William’s research, but she agrees to try to get used to the idea. To help her, William hires Theodore to speak with the woman often, to try and get her comfortable with the idea of helping solve the cure. However, the swan becomes far more interested in the fact that Theodore appears to have some sort of undiagnosed psychosis. Instead of pushing herself to conceive with Theodore, she befriends him, and begins using her background in psychology to help him.

William grows more and more impatient as Theodore and the swan continue to make him wait for them to conceive, slowing down the process of him finding a cure. But he’s just in it for the money and fame, and the swan knows it. Because of William’s continued disrespect, she plans to help Theodore, then leave Stork and find a different person to bring research to (because she no longer wants to work with William).

When Theodore takes too long to convince the swan to have a child, William grows impatient, and sends in Theodore’s twin brother to finish the work for him, without telling anyone.

Theodore finds out in the end that his brother succeeded in pretending to be him, and lying to the swan, to manipulate her. He seeks to kill William.

Theo resolves this conflict by resolving his tertiary conflict (see below).

 

Tertiary conflict:

To add insult to injury, Theodore is convinced that his history with an abusive brother and birds are not only real, but incredibly accurate. He claims to have an eidetic memory, and his memories are so detailed that he feels them as if they are happening in real time (and even blacks out when he experiences the memories). He believes he can remember back, in detail, as far as the latter months in his mother’s womb.

Many of Theo’s peers doubt his memory, and his unspeakable accounts with his brother, because of these outrageous claims.

The truth, for Theodore, lays in a special memory of a place from his babyhood—The Nursery. If he can prove that the nursery genuinely exists on the 13th floor of the building he lives in, he believes he can prove everything else. If the nursery exists, it means that his brother is actually abusing him, it means his memories are real, and it means he is not just a ‘mental-case’ with no reliable qualities.

The only way to find out if the nursery exists, however, is to ride the same copper elevator that took him away from the nursery as a baby. For years, he has avoided the copper elevator. The copper elevator is the thing he fears most, and while Theo doesn’t know it, the reader knows that the elevator is what initially caused his delusions of women being birds.

Getting to the nursery means Theo can finally make his peace with every issue in his life so far, including his delusions.

 

ASSIGNMENT SEVEN

SETTING:

Before I get to setting, I’d like to mention that I did everything in my power to make Theo’s world as optimistic as possible. As a human on this good Earth, I am so bored of the speculative fiction that paints a picture of humanity as having no idea how to problem-solve, or get along, or make positive changes in times of hardship. (Especially in times like the ones we've experienced during COVID). I intentionally abandoned the idea of a dystopic society in order to create believable, humane characters (even the antagonists) who are all inherently altruistic and kind at the heart’s center, and overall, enjoyable and comforting.

Just as well, I have built up a world that has risen from the ashes of a fertility crisis, and embraced concepts like sex work to create a world that is fair, and just, and hopeful. Theodore himself is wholly optimistic, and kind. My sex workers want to be sex workers—and are proud to do so. There is no stigma, here.

It was important for me, in writing this book, to create a story that was emotionally delicious without focusing on the folly of man. My book is sex positive, sex work positive, mental-health aware, and LGBTQ+ inclusive. It is by no means a book for the light-hearted, but it does stray from the usual ‘world is on fire approach’ to speculative fiction. Theodore’s world is on fire, yes, but humanity is smart, and is taking care of things as best they can. Optimistically.

As for the actual setting—Theodore’s life takes place entirely indoors. Facilities called ‘Family Dispensaries’ house and care for the few fertile people left on earth in exchange for good pay, and fair treatment. When contracted with a Dispensary, workers cannot leave the building, for their own safety, to make certain they do not die of things like the flu, or car accidents, etc. Theodore’s world is 70 floors of safety. (The building I speak of is actually based on the Michigan Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. The book takes place in this building, in a not-so-distant future.)

It is difficult staying busy in close quarters, but my characters have as colorful a life as they can, given the circumstances. They are given access to gyms, and private malls, theaters, church (the facility Theodore lives in is specifically funded by Christian sponsors), all of that good stuff. There is, however, a keen reliance on things like video games (namely, eSports) to keep the men busy. Many of the characters in my book have made themselves famous winning championship level eSports competitions.

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On 7/26/2021 at 10:55 AM, Catherine Bennett said:

 

First Assignment

They’ll cross any line for money, including putting her wealthy sister away in a decrepit nursing home and orchestrating the felony arrests of her other sister along with her son for kidnapping.    From childhood, sisters Sophie and Elizabeth built a strong bond against their mother and older sister, Nancy.    But when Nancy and her preacher husband Charles sign Sophie into a nursing home leaving her trapped there, Elizabeth takes a stand, running toward Sophie and unwittingly walking herself and her son straight into a web of corruption.  A raw and compelling true story of a loathsome antagonist Nancy, and her husband Charles, who take advantage of the elderly and vulnerable, stalking their prey in their church and community.  Both use their fake charm and sexuality to scour the town for anyone with money.  Will Elizabeth go to prison for life while trying to save Sophie?  How far will she go to help her sister and son while being tried for kidnapping?   This is a harrowing true story riddled with messy money, corruption, conservatorships, kidnapping hearings, romance, healing, and hope.

Second Assignment

Nancy and Charles need massive amounts of money to maintain their luxury lifestyle.  As her mother’s favorite child, Nancy follows in her mother’s footsteps for acclaim and wealth.   Soon after marrying Charles and losing sight of her moral compass, the couple is reassigned to a rural area church.   His reassignment is clouded by gossip of improprieties and affairs involving other married men.  Poor and living in a small dying town, she hones her skills of coercion, manipulation, and stealing from wealthy family members and churchgoers.  Scheming her way toward the bigger and better and desperate for acclaim for her “nonprofit” work, she is committed to swindle even her sisters and nephews. Arrogant and manipulative, anyone with money will do.

Third Assignment

Twisted Sisters and Stolen Conservatorships

House of Fire
Guilty by Birth

Fourth Assignment

Let Him Go by Larry Watson   Determined to save her grandson, the protagonist puts herself and her husband’s life in danger.  Gutsy story of trouble and revenge. 

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson  The story pushes the family to its limits.  Murder charges, characters tested to the limit.

Call Me Tuesday by Leigh Byrne  A true story of endless abuse and punishment.

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder Family Secrets and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen  A true story of sisters trying to survive their mother’s house of horrors.

Netflix’s I Care A Lot

Fifth Assignment

A true story about greed, desperation, and betrayal among sisters and family members that commenced the day they were born.

That super bowl Sunday no one won. The minister made sure of that. Corruption and handcuffs found their way around Elizabeth’s wrists along with her son’s. What happened next would shake up her and her sons’s life and a multi-million dollar conservatorship.

Sixth Assignment

Elizabeth, even after being arrested for kidnapping, is willing to do anything in her power to keep her sister Sophie out of the nursing home she rescued her from and away from their older sister Nancy who wants conservatorship.  But her hands are somewhat tied as her son Liam was charged along with her.  Mothers, sons, grandmothers, and an ex-husband are coming out of the woodwork and picking sides.

Seventh Assignment

Archaic laws, courtroom dramas, and estranged family members are vying for Sophie for various and sinister reasons.  Sophie, a 43-year-old who loves alcohol and pills, is trapped in a backward Mississippi opioid-infested small town decrepit nursing home where the patients are kept in their wheelchairs to deteriorate to death.   Her older sister, Nancy, has left her in this hellhole facility as another money and conservatorship grab.  

Final Assignment  need help with this one.

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(Sorry, I've tried working out the formatting issues, but I can't seem to keep the words from extending past the margins)

 

1. Story Statement:

A mouthy little boy must rescue the rotting realm of Confectioneria from the clutches of the diabolical Worst Day Cake to restore it to its former glory.

 

2. Sketch the Antagonist:

King Crumb was once the benevolent ruler of the sweet and fresh realm of Confectioneria. When his wife and unborn daughter died during childbirth, he succumbed to his grief and rage and misguidedly attempted to retrieve his lost family by possessing the mythical, yet forbidden, Sugary Boogery. Instead of bringing his wife and daughter back, the sacred object reflected the deep pain and suffering in Crumb's heart, transforming the realm into its Boogery state and him into the monstrous Worst Day Cake. Festering in his hate, hurt and failure to regain his family, the unhinged Worst Day Cake developed a plan, fueled by his dark conclusion that life is nothing more than a cruel joke. Though the decaying conditions and dysfunctional confections around him worsen day by day, the Worst Day Cake's plan is to finalize the toxicity by turning the realm into a colossal booger, once and for all.

When Prasad Patel (Protagonist) pops up and demonstrates his heroic intentions to return Confectioneria to its Sugary state, the Worst Day Cake deploys his malicious minions to stop him. Prasad is not only a threat, but an opportunity for the Worst Day Cake to indelibly reaffirm to himself and everyone else that life is a meaningless farce.

 

3. Breakout Titles:

Prasad Patel and the Quest for the Sugary Boogery

Prasad Patel and the Hunt for the Sugary Boogery

Prasad Patel and the Crumby Quest for the Sugary Boogery

 

4. Two Notable Comparables:

Michelle Cuevas - THE CARE AND FEEDING OF A PET BLACK HOLE - silly, whimsical and conceptual, yet anchored by a heavy heart. Wordplay and joke friendly, with an emphasis on healing from trauma.

Norton Juster - THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH - Witty, tongue-in-cheek conceptual fantasy with intriguing oddball characters. Loose and absurd, yet held together tightly enough to create a cohesive, propulsive plot. Pun heavy, with a deeper meaning beneath all the zaniness.

 

5. Hookline:

After being utterly forgotten on his 10th birthday, an indignant boy plummets into a flabbergasting realm of rotten and dysfunctional pastries. He must survive and defeat the toxic confections around him, as well as his burning need for recognition, to restore the realm to its former sweetness and make it home.

 

6. Protagonist Inner Conflict:

Beginning with his family forgetting his tenth birthday in the frenzy of his eldest sister's wedding activities, Prasad's sense of victim-hood, anger and "being in the right" compound as he lands in and adventures through the ruined realm of Confectioneria. At several key junctures, the Worst Day Cake masterminds the deaths of Confectionerians Prasad has come to care for and love most. These blows stoke Prasad's hate and rage and determination to destroy the Worst Day Cake, as well as bolster his internalized narrative as "the good guy". Prasad's greatest loss comes when the Worst Day Cake kills the Sweet Tooth Fairy, Prasad's quest-long protector and mother figure. Hence, at the critical moment when Prasad has the opportunity to grasp the Sugary Boogery and restore the realm, his seething enmity for his nemesis prevents him from doing so. In fact, it makes conditions worse, even augmenting the Worst Day Cake's power. Devastated, Prasad realizes he's simply mirroring the Worst Day Cake's deep negativity, despite his conviction in being the "hero". As excruciating and unfair as it feels, Prasad has no choice but to find a way to transcend his blinding fury, self-righteousness and maddening need for revenge. If he cannot, the realm and all within it are doomed to a permanently Boogery state.

Secondary Conflict:

Another important, though less extreme secondary conflict of the protagonist is his desire to be recognized and appreciated. As he's the youngest and smallest in his large family, Prasad feels overlooked and is frustrated at being continually dismissed as a "little kid". When the family forgets his birthday, it contributes to his sense of being invisible and this carries over to his journey through Confectioneria. Inhabitants, including the Worst Day Cake and his goons, condescend and talk down to Prasad and when he first meets the Sweet Tooth Fairy, she's resentful to be stuck with who she considers a brat. She dismisses his opinions, bristles and snaps at his attempts to lead and even chides his sense of humor as sophomoric. Prasad wants to be taken seriously and listened to, but he must find a balance between asserting himself as a natural leader and wisely taking the back seat when necessary.

Tertiary Conflict:

Prasad harbors the stinging humiliation of pooping his pants on a recent field trip. Though he pushes down the painful memory, it surfaces from time to time during his quest through Confectioneria. This incident goads his insecurities, particularly of feeling like a little kid, resulting in doubt and overcompensation. Unless Prasad can release himself of this gnawing shame, it will prove a significant hindrance in rescuing the realm.

 

7. Setting:

Prasad's House In Suburban New York - Cozy, creaky and cramped. Two floors. Luggage bags and boxes of wedding adornments stuffed into corners and spilling out. Teeming with noisy relatives in town for the wedding. They take up space in the living room and kitchen, nearly all the seats and cushions filled. Prasad sleeps on the carpeted floor of his room, his bed taken by an aunt and uncle that've come to visit. At Prasad's desk are open books, and sheets of completed crossword puzzles.

CONFECTIONERIA

The Dessert - Endless wasteland, surface covered in tan and brown crumbs instead of sand. Crumbs are a mix of grit and sponge, but are all obnoxiously salty and foul tasting. Suffocating sun beating down. Tall and vast dunes heaped in every direction like frozen waves. Packs of wild dog and bird confections that chase Prasad into quicksand made of countless black and white sprinkles. The deeper he sinks, the more his mind spirals into worsening conclusions. The dunes level off, the desert still seeming endless. Sharp gusts of wind kick up sheets of crumbs. Cacti spring up, concentrating in density around a bare patch of crumbs. Buried underneath is a bottle containing the Sweet Tooth Fairy. She leads the party to the edge of the desert, to a sphinx like crumb construction. Prasad solves the sphinx's puzzle and the sphinx brews up a sandstorm, revealing a pathway out of the desert.

Rocky Rd. - Crumb terrain hardens into short mounds. Gopher confections pop out of the mounds and scurry across. A long stretch of melted and then semi-solidified chocolate ice cream leads the way forward. Embedded in it are supersized chunks of almonds large enough to skip across, as well as anthropomorphic marshmallows who've gotten stuck at unfortunate angles. The marshmallows wilt and droop and contribute to a 'Debbie-Downer' atmosphere. Up the road, the mounds grow into dusty hills and the path clears of inhabitants and lifts. It arrives at an junction splitting into two paths. A sweeping range of hills swallows up the two paths, one leading uphill through a narrow crack in the range, the other downhill through a cave in the range. At the junction itself is a bumpy beige slab exhibiting a golden fork lodged into its top.

Jellow Brick Rd. - Past the downhill cave, which has a low ceiling and smudgy black walls, the path consists of brick-laid blocks of grody gelatin. Sporting a variety of dulled colors, the bricks are dingy and dirty, as well as mangled or missing. As they walk, the heroes notice their steps range from springy to decidedly mushy. To the left of the road are the backs of the dusty hills seen on Rocky Rd. Splotches of trembling gelatin desperately cling to the hills, each one an erstwhile part of the patchy Jellow Brick Rd. To the right of the road is a sweeping plains thick with sick, wilting candy corn stalks that hiss and whisper meanly when the heroes pass. Jellow Brick Rd. extends and is soon overrun by goopy, gooey confections such as puddings, curds and custards. Puddles scatter the grounds like a marsh. Further up, the stalks grow wild as a grimy old bridge rises above a large pond of condensed milk. Beyond it, the road elevates, enabling sight of the kingdom ahead, ultimatley culminating at a high, wide spanning wall of packed walnuts. An arching doubledoor serves as the only way forward.

Kingdom Crumb - Beyond the doubledoor is an expansive and dense city, ravaged as it is vast. Gingerbread homes are dilapidated and crumbling, streets are torn, debris and dust swirl and sting and plumes of black smoke billow from beyond. Zombified pastries mill about aimlessly and litter the walkways as the city's homeless population. Further in, the homes become more damaged or fully demolished, some engulfed in flame. The streets thin and gnarl and disappear altogether, the gritty crumb ground around it fully barren. In the darkening distance, upon a high plateau, lightning illuminates a castle sitting at the top, it's tall spire threatening to poke through the black cloud spreading above. The heroes march up the barren land to the castle, aware it houses the Worst Day Cake. As they approach, the shadow beneath the cloud darkens and the atmosphere tenses, arousing deeply uncomfortable feelings in the heroes. Surrounding the high plateau from all sides is a jagged black chasm. Decaying brownies files steadily towards it, unable to resist its powerfull pull, and leap into the abyss. The heroes are lured towards the pit, goaded from above by the Worst Day Cake via intercom. Self loathing consumes Prasad, convincing him to leap into the chasm, when he's rescued by Choc.

Charcolate Mines - A valley set between ranges of dusty hills, with entrances to various connected mines at the foots of the hills. Conditions are dry and dusty, except for sudden showers, which precipitate a mud slide. Inside the mines, when a light is cast, glinting crystals of bright color poke from the smudgy black walls and ceilings. Back outside, a rusty old timey handcar waits at the edge of a set of tracks, which twists and turns in a convoluted path up the mines. At the end of the tracks is a rusty sliding grate flanked by insurmountable hills.

Blandyland - A cracked off-white path splatted with blackened chewing gum swerves through a quaint village. Discolored gingerbread cottages sit atop fuzzy knolls, roofs draping heavily with mold. Anthropomorphic candies loll about. Deeper into the village is a two story tavern fashioned out of stale chocolate. Inside is gloomy and dim, depressed candies and chocolates slumped in their seats. There's a bar area, stools, tables and one table in particular in a shadowy corner. Outside, the white path continues and encircles a set of defaced statues, one of the wizard Swirlin, the other, of the disgraced Sweet Tooth Fairy, demolished. Further down is a library in the form of a large chintzy strawberry candy (similar to Spongebob Squarepants's pineapple house). Most of the lights are out and green mold hangs from the top. Inside, the library is dimly lit and covered in cobwebs and dust. Books lay on the floor or in imperfect towers. Desks are strewn across. Up the floors the lights diminish to a single candle, where a large study area is cluttered with thick volumes splayed open.

Beyond the village is a graveyard of hastily dug ditches. Barbwire separates it from the adjacent forest. At the edge is a padlocked hatch door, which leads to an underground crypt roughly hewn entirely out of chocolate. Inside, child size sarcophogi are arranged neatly on either side of the crypt. At the very back is a pedestal hoisting a red and white swirled urn. A flight of steps leads out the back entrance.

Blechh Forest - Curled chocolate shavings carpet the forest grounds like dead leaves. Dense colonies of gnarled trees corkscrew up, their twisted limbs converging to blot out the cold moonlight. Some drip a odorous sap. White mist drifts through the trees, thickening and becoming nearly opaque. Only shadows of tree trunks can be seen. Wild confections howl and run through the mist. Past the mist, puddles of vomit swamp the floor. Dark and vague, the forest repeats itself like a loop. In one pocket of the woods, however, is a small cottage. Intact, it appears fancier than those in Blandyland, and its bare surface is streaked with the residue of peeled off sweets. The interior is cozy, with a cauldron in the corner and a small fireplace. Beyond the cottage, the woods thin and the backdrop of a mighty mountain emerges.

Mt. Meringue - Gigantic mountain of meringue, home to the highest point in Confectioneria. The terrain at the base of the mountain is solid and gray, but when crunched through is thick and mushy like toothpaste. The air is cold and the wind is gusty and icy. Stiff peaks of meringue spike up all throughout the surface of the mountain face, some tall and thin, others short and stout, all wilted to a degree. A rushing, frothing brown river spirals down from the peak of the mountain, emptying into an adjacent bay with two large glaciers floating in it, trash fringing them. The mountain face inclines at a gentle gradient before steepening. Wide banks of meringue conceal vicious confections waiting to ambush. The high altitude contributes to a sluggish, easily distracted mind. Large ice crystals with confections trapped inside appear. Weather conditions worsen the higher up the heroes trek. Flakes fall and swell into a violent flurry, piling rapidly. Past the midway point a cave, the source of the river, provides the only refuge from blizzards. Inside the cave is still, with glinting white walls composed of vanilla ice cream, as well as the effervescent sparkling brown river. After the blizzard, the remainder of the trek is through fresh fallen snow. It maintains its grayish tinge, but lightens towards the steep summit. There, one stiff meringue peak curls out like a fishing pole as the highest point in the realm.

Delica Sea (aboard the S.S. Crustacean) - Murky brown churning sea, where a rugged ship sails. Ship is skeletal, constructed entirely from stale, hardened pastry crusts. The captain's quarters is cramped and poorly candlelit, with a desk cluttered with maps wedged into the corner. A barrel of rum rests next to it and a dirty birdcage hangs above it. Up the uneven steps is a sprawling deck outlined by a crumbling rail. Confections in pirate garb perform deckhand duties. A crumbling mast supports a patchy sail of stitched together pie tins and parchment paper, and at the very top is raised a modified jolly roger flag. At the sides are cannons and at the helm is a large wheel.

The Gateau - A decaying inner city of tall crooked buildings like shadowy scientists inspecting a petri dish. On the ground level, streets are cluttered and home to garbage can fires, broken street lights, derelict European pastries and gingerbread housing projects. The streets themselves diverge and dip, twisting and turning like a multilevel labrynth. Alleyways are shrouded in shadow, the hard streaked walls are stale layer cake.

Almond Forte - Fortress where prisoners are kept. Dim and dungeon-like, with torches fixed to the walls. The walls are rock hard and rough stale cake and stink of rancid almonds. Guards patrol the halls and inmates moan. The cells are cold and shadowy. A metallic vault door secures an off limits room, the door radiating an ominous green glow. Inside it are several pedestals exhibiting forbidden treasures. The second floor houses a cavernous domed dungeon, where a massive dragon is shackled up. The floor is puddled with runny chocolate and torches run across the walls.

Jungle Boogie - A dense jungle overgrown with wild vegetation, the tallest of which sheltering from the intense sun. Grass, bushes, vines and trees all drip with a mucusy gooiness. It's nearly impossible to not brush against something sticky or slimy. The floor is littered with cracked rotten coconuts. Past a tight wall of bamboo shoots is a clearing, where bright orange beehives clump the sparse trees. Beyond that, the grass grows taller and more unruly, the jungle rustling and shaking with a menagerie of Asian confections.

The Feelow - Land is flat and the weather is extremely dry. The terrain is sun baked, from a toasted beige to dark brown. The ground is delicate and flaky, each step cracking through layers of thin crispness. Thinner sections yield to soft, sputtering dough. Caves line the horizon. Deeper in is a bazaar full of ramshackle stalls and the chaotic bustle of Middle Eastern pastries in the form of merchants, shoppers and pedestrians. Alleys are tight and crooked. The smells of cloying rose syrup perfumes the air. Beyond the bazaar, the conditions grow sweltering, as each cracking step releases vents of steam. Yellow-orangish liquid begins to seep through the cracks. Soon the land fragments into chunks floating in a lava pit of scalding honey. In the center of the pit is a charred black landmass, rocking violently. An open crater exists in the very middle, where the honey is glowing red and bubbling furiously.

Gruel of Denial - The hot honey pit empties into a sludgy brown river, creating a sweeping steam that fogs the land. The sour fog contributes to an atmosphere of haziness and denial of reality. The hard ground is gritty and grainy and leads to a simple village of rough cubed homes. Further in, the village grows more developed, the cubed homes stacking into high rise condos. Construction sites abound the area, billboards and posters plastered everywhere. The rattle and whine of dangerous machinery pollutes the air, as does the shouts of African confections shouting orders through megaphones. Past the village is a range of secluded hills shrouded in fog, native wildlife hidden away. The hills flatten into a wide plains, the fog still present. North of the plains, the fog thickens, returning to a western bank of the river, a rickety bridge providing the only way across. Crocodiles line the bank and wait in the river for anyone who misteps through the missing floorboards of the swinging bridge.

El Postre - A high, long spanning wall borders the edge. A toll booth in the center provides the only way in. In the darkness of night, a slumbering outpost of Latin American confections rests in the shadows, a single lit kiosk open for business. Beyond it is a flat desert of vast proportions. Cool night winds blow, and stampeding wildlife thunder in the distance.

Castle Crumb - The halls are patterned with cracked baroque swirls of frosting, colorful hairy mold growing from the cracks. Gilded portraits of the royal family hang at crooked angles. Windows are darkly tinted stained glass. Garish, uneven chandeliers dangle from above. Classical music warped to an unsettling high pitch wafts throughout. Tarnished golden doubledoor leads to Worst Day Cake's throne room. Rot climbs the plum walls like vines. Ornate throne on raised platform set against back wall, fancy stand with powdered sugar next to it. Gilded distorted mirrors set along the walls. Giant windows outlooking the thundering outsides.

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On 7/26/2021 at 10:55 AM, Catherine Bennett said:

First Assignment

They’ll cross any line for money, including putting her wealthy sister away in a decrepit nursing home and orchestrating her other sister along with her son arrested for kidnapping.    From childhood, sisters Sophie and Elizabeth built a strong bond against their mother and older sister, Nancy.    But when Nancy and her preacher husband Charles, sign Sophie into a nursing home, leaving her trapped there, Elizabeth takes a stand, running toward Sophie, unwittingly walking herself and her son straight into a web of corruption.  A raw and compelling true story of a loathsome antagonist, Nancy, and Charles who take advantage of the elderly and vulnerable, stalking their prey in their church and community.  Both use their fake charm and sexuality to scour the town for anyone with money.  Will Elizabeth go to prison for life while trying to save Sophie?  How far will she go to help her sister and son while being tried for kidnapping?   This is a harrowing true story riddled with messy money, corruption, kidnapping court hearings, romance, healing, and hope.

Second Assignment

Nancy and Charles need massive amounts of money to maintain their luxury lifestyle.  As her mother’s favorite child, Nancy follows in her mother’s footsteps for acclaim and wealth.   Soon after marrying Charles, and losing sight of her moral compass, the couple is reassigned to a rural area church.   His reassignment is clouded by the gossip of improprieties and affairs involving other married men.  Poor and living in a small dying town, she hones her skills of coercion, manipulation, and stealing from wealthy family members and churchgoers.  Scheming her way toward the bigger and better and desperate for acclaim for her “nonprofit” work, she is committed to swindle even her sister.  Arrogant and manipulative, anyone with money will do.

 

Third Assignment; Twisted Sisters, House of Fire, Guilty by Birth

Fourth Assignment

Let Him Go by Larry Watson   Determined to save her grandson, the protagonist puts herself and her husband’s life in danger.  Gutsy story of trouble and revenge. 

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson  The story pushes the family to its limits.  Murder charges, characters tested to the limit.

Call Me Tuesday by Leigh Byrne  A true story of endless abuse, punishment.

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder Family Secrets and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen  A true story of sisters trying to survive their mother’s house of horrors.


Netflix’s I Care A Lot

 

Fifth Assignment

A true story about a sister getting her sister along with her son arrested for kidnapping another sister from a hellhole nursing home.

 

A true story about greed, desperation, and betrayal among sisters and family members that commenced the day they were born.

 

Sixth Assignment

Elizabeth, even after being accused of kidnapping, is willing to do anything in her power to keep her sister Sophie out of the nursing home she rescued from, and away from their older sister Nancy who wants conservatorship.  But her hands are somewhat tied as her son, Liam, was charged along with her.  Mothers, sons, grandmothers, and an ex-husband are coming out of the woodwork and picking sides

Seventh Assignment

Archaic laws, courtroom dramas, and estranged family members are vying for Sophie for various and sinister reasons.  Sophie, a 43-year-old who loves alcohol and pills, is trapped in a backward Mississippi opioid-infested small town decrepit nursing home where the patients are kept in their wheelchairs to deteriorate to death.   Her older sister, Nancy, has left her in this hellhole facility as another money and conservatorship grab.  

Final Assignment  need help with this one.

 

 

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1) Defy the gods to protect your kin.

2) For centuries, Junotheia has planned to massacre her siblings to consolidate divine power for herself. The time has finally come. The Divine race cannot generate offspring with each other, but mingling with mortals has its consequences. A half-blooded child enjoys the unique privilege of irreversible power transfers from their divine parent as the Divine develops feelings for the child. Since abstinence is an unfair proposition for immortals, slaughtering their own children is the next best option. The Reborn are the mechanism for this ongoing extermination. Divine discovered to have fathered or mothered a child are responsible for sponsoring a new Reborn that will hunt and kill half-blooded children indiscriminately. This initiative is run by Junotheia who has never had a child herself, but believes her half-blooded nieces and nephews may be the keystone to her plot.

3)

  • More than Myth (perhaps this is the series title)
  • The Demi Gods’ Dilemma
  • Wrong Side of Divinity

4)

  1. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan if things were up to Hera. 

     

  2. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson set in contemporary times. 

5) A Demigod and his friends aspire to exist despite their maniacal parents.

6) Jared struggles transitioning from a high school fantasy nerd to an embattled demigod, his biggest qualm being the apparent necessity of violence. After being denied refuge from the Demi colony beneath Grand Central Station, Jared and his two new friends, Andre and Maria, seek to redefine the half-blooded experience. The empowerment they seek is product of a brutal process to harvest the creatures that hunt them. Jared becomes increasingly conflicted when their quest imperils human lives as collateral. As if stealing the souls of sapient beings wasn’t hard enough. 

Secondary conflict: Jared has a crush on Less-Than, the magical former captive who just spent more time with both of Jared’s parents together than he has. 

7) Jared’s flight for life takes him from an assassination attempt at a vaudeville circus in Bridgeport Connecticut to a secret colony of his peers eight levels beneath Grand Central Station. From there he and his friends rob a weapons tent at a Renaissance fair in Pennsylvania, infiltrate a neo-Nazi gathering, have a shoot-out in a mannequin factory, and return to the the colony to defend against the extinction of their peers. Meanwhile, Less-Than travels from the ranch she’s been a captive on in upstate New York for most of her life to an abandoned warehouse in Long Island to aid in a resurrection of a beast meant to hunt Jared. She travels to and from her dream world where she’s been tutored in magic for the past few years and uses the space to convene with Jared after his parents free her. This is where she warns him of the impending attack on the colony before going to Grand Central herself with Jared's parents. 
Benjamin, Jared’s father, ends his journey in the underworld after being killed by Junotheia. It is occupied by other lost souls who are driven to clawing at, and eating, the sand-like walls of this disparate place. He is left at the edge of the pit, a gorge of nothingness that grants one the ability to think and remember so long as you stare directly into it. Here Benjamin contemplates endowing the last of his life force to his son through self-annihilation while Jared and his kin suffer the wrath of Junotheia above.

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