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New York Pitch Conference - September 2021

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Goldmine by Michael Feldman


After being scapegoated and fired for hacking his company, Tyler Morlin must clear his name and prevent the real perpetrator from destroying his family.


Jane Ortega met Tyler when he joined her team at Google. She instantly became infatuated with him but initially checked her impulses because he was a committed husband and father. When she could no longer contain her lust, she sideswiped his wife Jessica on her bicycle commute in a hit-and-run murder with no witnesses, giving Tyler her shoulder to cry on and ultimately ensnaring him in a romantic relationship.

She introduced Tyler to Bucky Thomas, the CEO of Blanco Energy, a coal-fired electricity plant, who hired him to lead the company’s transition from polluter to solar power producer. Fueled by a grudge against Bucky after he broke off an affair with her, she teamed up with Reese Dillard, COO of Blanco Energy, who wanted to settle the score for being passed over for the CEO role after spending twenty-five years rising up the company ladder. They built a massive operation to steal Blanco’s electricity to mine billions of dollars of Bitcoin and disgrace Bucky.

Obsessive, crafty and vengeful, Jane will stop at nothing to get what she wants, even if that means destroying anyone who gets in her way.



The Mother Lode

Settling the Score


Genre: suspense/techno-thriller with relatable, flawed protagonist and fierce antagonist

The Chain by Adrian McKinty — kidnapping thriller with a protagonist who finds she’s capable of much more than she had thought to get her daughter back; ruthless, diabolical antagonist; plot involves high-tech (spyware, bitcoin, etc.)

Firewall by Andrew Watts — accessible techno-thriller with good action, character development, likeable protagonist and clever twists

The Spider Heist by Jason Kasper — morally-flexible protagonist redeems herself after being scapegoated and fired


When a widowed single-dad engineer is falsely accused of hacking a power plant after discovering a plot to steal its electricity for a lucrative Bitcoin mining operation, he must discover the truth before the real perpetrator murders his daughter and destroys his reputation.


Tyler carried the albatross of self-doubt after he made the difficult decision to take his wife off life support following her accident. Lacking her guidance and encouragement, his social anxiety grew and he lost the confidence to stand up to his superiors at work when they accused him of not being a team player. He second-guessed his actions, worrying he was making the wrong choice.


Saddled with medical bills from his wife’s hospitalization and his daughter’s disease, Tyler reluctantly joined a coal-powered electric company to make ends meet. The lucrative assignment drove a wedge between him and his teenage daughter, Maddy, who blamed the company’s toxic emissions for causing her rare lung disease. She asserted her independence as they argued about his decision to join Blanco, date Jane and spend time with friends he wouldn’t consider ideal role models.


Goldmine takes place in June, 2019. Most of the scenes are in Tyler’s home in Rockville, MD, an upper-middle-class city in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, whether it’s dialog between Tyler and Maddy or Jane, or time in his home office and on the phone with other characters. Tyler’s home office is meticulously set up for his technical projects. Other locations in downtown Rockville include Tyler’s favorite cafe, Roaster’s, his lawyer’s office, Spazio’s restaurant and the theater where Maddy performs.

Much of the action takes place at Blanco Energy’s headquarters, coal-fired plant and solar farm which are located in rural Dickerson, Maryland, forty-minutes Rockville.

The climactic scene takes place at the upscale Knyght Hotel in Washington, DC.

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The New Guardians must rescue one of their own before he falls into the clutches of the Shadowlings, henchmen of the Stygian King.


Three Main Antagonists

Sealed within the boundaries of the Void, a grey dimension devoid of sunlight, the Stygian King rules with an iron fist. His ambition is to expand the borders of his dimension to absorb all of creation into the Void so that he may rule over all that lives. He is aided by the immortal Shadowlings, who are bound to him by their life force, and a traitorous ex-Guardian.

Lauryn Green is a powerful sorceress and among the most powerful Shadowlings. She’s one of the last of the Stygian King’s generals not sealed in the Void. She poses as a human and uses humanity to further the Stygian King’s goals while keeping her true nature a secret. Prior to being bound to the Stygian King, she was worshipped as a self-styled goddess. She yearns for those days again.

Ethan Hardy is a vengeful, power-hungry ex-Guardian who betrayed his teammates to the Shadowlings. His powers broken, he paid dearly for his betrayal, but continues to ally himself with the Shadowlings for the promise of power and vengeance. When the New Guardians are chosen, he has the means to find them. He conspires with Lauryn Green to eliminate them.


The New Guardians: Deadly Genesis

The New Guardians: Birth, Betrayal, and Rescue

Hunt for the Missing New Guardian


My book has elements of both science fiction and fantasy genres for young adults. I've chosen the following two books for this assignment:

1) Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer 

2) Legendborn by Tracy Deonn by Peter Lerangis

My book is designed to be the first self-contained story in a larger seven book series story arc.  


Hook line: When the New Guardians are targeted for death at the moment their powers awaken by the traitorous ex-Guardian, Ethan Hardy, and the Shadowlings, they must be gathered before they are eliminated, and the survivors must learn to master their powers before assuming their destinies.  


Prince Kyle leads a caged life at Castle Matheson. At fifteen-years-old, he's never been allowed off the estate and he doesn't know why. It leads to friction with those around him, escape attempts, and other mischief. 

Some of the New Guardians have great life ambitions that get upended when they are chosen as the next generation of Guardians. Not everyone is happy to be chosen. 

Mei Ling is a Guardian who trains the New Guardians, successors to her generation of Guardians. The Shadowling, Lauryn Green, killed her fiancé, Ramon Soltero, fellow Guardian and teammate to Ling and Ethan Hardy. Ling seeks revenge against Green.


1) The primary setting of the story is New Pangea, a fictional country that has remained hidden from the world since its founding. It is the oldest and most technologically advanced civilization on Earth, but they’ve only just revealed themselves to the rest of the world fifteen years ago. 

New Pangea is roughly the size of Ireland and Great Britain combined and is located west of Ireland and south of Iceland in the North Atlantic. It is divided into five provinces. The story takes place in three of the provinces: the Arncola Wilds in the North; Venmark to the west; and at the center, Cancona—where the nation’s capital, Kingston, resides. At the heart of Kingston, the imposing structure of Castle Matheson rears tall, dominating the landscape. The venerable abode is centered on two-thousand acres surrounded by a twelve-foot-high wall of stone.

Much of the earlier parts of the book is set in Castle Matheson. There are literally thousands of rooms in this castle, and this is where Prince Kyle Matheson (a New Guardian) lives.

2) The Arncola Wilds is where Prince Kyle meets his beast-mate, Moonshadow. . This province is undeveloped wild jungle where beasts of all kinds exist.

The story is set in modern times, but the New Pangea's indigenous creatures and plant life are from the Tertiary Period. (I took the liberty of creating some of the creatures since new species are being discovered all the time.)

3) New Pangea’s Academy for Exceptional Youth is located in the remote Beauwood Forest in the eastern province of Venmark. There’s an invisible, intangible energy field that surrounds the school which deters predatory creatures from entering the grounds.

The main school building is a large, four-sided stone structure with a large courtyard in the center. There are four detached dormitories spread out at each corner of the school.

There are also condos on the campus where faculty and staff live as well as a school hospital. The gym and fine arts building are separate from the main school building. There’s also a series of underground labyrinths on the campus and an underground lagoon.

There’s a lot of greenspace on the campus, and the walkways are made of cobblestone.

4) Other settings include:

A farm and a carnival in Michigan

A house and a university in Ethiopia

The Phoenix Metropolitan Area

A clothing store in Shanghai, China

A pocket dimension at the school only accessible to the New Guardians, their mentors, and the principal, where the New Guardians train to use their powers and study up on the Shadowlings by reading historical accounts of them in the Guardian Library.

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Algonkian Writers Conference-  Seven (7) Shorts

By Natasha Von Imhof



1)     Story Statement(s)

·       A wise and experienced consciousness, paired with a youthful and vigorous body, to spread positive energy throughout the world.

·       Die, but then be given a second chance at life to make the world a better place


2)     Sketch the Antagonist

There are several secondary characters that act upon Lindy (main character) to provide conflict. Chloe the school bully tests Lindy’s patience and tolerance for mean-girl behavior, Mrs. Severson the US History teacher tests Lindy’s ability to navigate condescending authority, and the alcoholic soccer team captain pushes Lindy to use her talents and ability to the level that she is capable. 

But the real antagonist is Lindy herself. “Some of the greatest battles in your life will occur in your own mind.”  (variations of this theme have been offered by Sheldon B Kopp, Jesse Owens, Tim Kennedy, Dalai Lama, Ali Vincent)

The antagonist is Lindy’s free will to choose to accept her plight, and in doing so, to engage in deliberate service to her community to affect positive change in the world, or, instead choose to live her second chance at life as a self-indulgent individual.


3)     Create a breakout title

·       Live Twice

·       Live Again for Good

·       Second Chance to Do Good Things


4)     Two smart comparables for your novel

Live Twice is women’s contemporary fiction that nudges readers to wonder about the things they would do differently if given a second chance. 

Just as readers cheered on Cannie in Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, or rooted for Lilian in Garden of Small Beginnings by Abby Waxman, Lindy demonstrates that it’s possible to turn a tragedy into something positive and meaningful. 


5)     Hook line, with conflict and core wound

Live Twice, by Natasha Von Imhof

·       Lynn is a professional 51-year-old wife and mother who dies in a car accident but “wakes up” the next morning in the body of a 16-year-old girl, and spends the next two years discovering how and why this mind/body swap occurred.  


6)     Matters of Conflict

Youth is often wasted on the young. But what if this time, it isn’t?  Lynn is a professional 51-year-old wife and mother who dies in a car accident but “wakes up” the next morning in the body of a 16-year-old girl.  Lynn asks herself, am I dead? But she can’t deny that she feels very much alive, albeit inside a slovenly and sweaty teenage body. Why did this happen? But more importantly, how did this happen? Lynn just wants to go back to her old life, but can she?  Or, does she have to embrace this new and permanent situation and make the best of it?

Live Twice takes place during the junior and senior year of high school when Lynn finds herself a student again thirty years later. Initially, she has to process her grief and let go of the family she left behind. As she moves forward, she decides to reinvent herself to represent both her mind and body, and changes her name to “Lindy”, a blend of “Lynn” and “Mandy”, the teenager’s body her consciousness has inhabited. Right off the bat, Lindy has to deal with practical matters such as attending algebra class, getting a job, and fending off the school bully who sees Lindy as a threat.

At the end of her junior year, Lindy learns how and why the mind/body swap occurred: it is a consciousness transfer of biblical proportions when specific circumstances collide, for the purpose of applying her knowledge, maturity and wisdom to make the world a better place through meaningful and numerous positive interactions.

During her senior year, Lindy has to decide how to embrace this strange second chance, such as whether to have a romantic relationship with a boy her age, or how to navigate the dynamic of having more life experience and insight than many of her teachers and superiors. Finally, Lindy has the opportunity to meet up with her family again. Should she? How will they accept their mother as a teenager?

Ultimately, Lindy’s must engage in an internal battle of free will, either choose to accept her plight, and in doing so, to engage in deliberate service to her community to affect positive change in the world, or, instead choose to live a life of self-indulgence.

Live Twice is women’s fiction with a touch of magic realism that nudges readers to wonder about the things they would do differently if given a second chance. 


7)     Setting

The book takes place present day, in a low income neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. When Lindy regains consciousness in her new body, she finds herself in a dingy and dim apartment with catatonic Carrie, the only other occupant. The apartment is near Overton High School where she attends for her junior and senior year, as well as close to various community parks, Southern Methodist University, and is within driving distance of the sprawling ranches north of town owned by Dallas’s wealthy elite.  

This centralized and urban location allows Lindy to interact with her struggling neighbors, her classmates, a potential boyfriend, as well as use her wisdom and experience to influence families of all social and economic strata.

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Submitted by James Charles

Story Statements

Love should not sentence you to life as a pirate.

Survive abduction by pirates to get back to the woman you love.    

Antagonist force

In seventeenth century Tuscany, Salvatore’s father banishes him to a life at sea for fathering a child out-of-wedlock with a Jewish woman, Leah, who is forced by her father to marry a widower with children whom she does not love.

Captured by Caribbean pirates, Salvatore must survive a life of piracy before attempting an escape to get back to Leah where he hopes to find that she still loves him.

During her unhappy marriage and while taking care of her husband’s family and helping to run her father’s business, Leah secretly sets aside funds she later uses to sponsor her exceptional son’s education whom she is forbidden to see and make herself known to.

After pen paling with Galileo Galilei, and while working in Florence with the support of Medici Duke Ferdinando II, their son, Pietro, develops revolutionary scientific treatises until  Salvatore’s ruthless brother, the Bishop, turns him over to Papal inquisitional authorities who compel him to stand trial for heresy. 

While Leah fights to free Pietro, Salvatore fights for his life and to return home to confront his father, his brother the Bishop, and to find the woman he loves.


For Loving a Woman

Quantum Entanglement of Hearts

Comparables and Genre

Historical Romance

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, by Diana Gabaldon

A Pirate’s Love, by Johanna Lindsey


In seventeenth century Tuscany, Salvatore is banished to a life at sea by his father for loving a Jewish woman and must battle Caribbean pirates, Spanish Conquistadors, and North African warlords to get back to the woman he loves.

Inner Conflict

After his capture and forced employment on board a cutthroat pirate ship, and so far from home, Salvatore wonders whether he should fight to go home at all because so much time has passed and Leah most certainly has moved on with her life, marrying and loving another.

Secondary Conflict

Furthermore, not only will his wealthy father disown him for his crime of passion, but after an unfortunate incident on board the merchant ship during his escape before his capture by pirates, Salvatore knows he will most certainly hang if he were to return home to Tuscany.


We begin in seventeenth century Medici-controlled Renaissance Tuscany where Leah, a young Jewish girl, gives birth to her, and Catholic Salvatore’s illegitimate son, Pietro.

Shortly after Pietro’s birth, Salvatore is forced to sail to the Caribbean on his father’s merchant ship where he is captured by pirates. The ship ports in pirate-haven Port Royal, Jamaica, in Puerto Rico, and sails the Caribbean assaulting merchant ships while out-running Spanish Galleons.

Later, Salvatore is marooned in Spanish Florida, where he at first is captured by Native Americans, then has to battle Conquistadors in St. Augustine.

Subsequently, he makes it to Jamestowne, Virginia, eventually sailing on a supply ship on its return voyage to London.

Thereafter, he earns enough money to book passage on a ship sailing to Naples, but is kidnapped and enslaved in Morocco.

Finally, he makes it back to Tuscany to battle his brother the Bishop and the Roman Inquisitors who are holding his son on trial for heresy.


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1.       Story Statement — Sean Ryan must leverage his engineering training and newfound abilities as a Silversmith to save two worlds.

2.       Antagonist — Lord Rueben kills King Madison and attempts to set himself up as the new ruler just when our Protagonist (Sean) arrives. Rueben orchestrates multiple attempts to assassinate Sean, who is a threat to his power. Rueben is so absorbed in his quest for dominance that he allows the zerst (monstrous antagonistic force) to gain a foothold in human lands. He has allied with Lady Vivian, Lord Cyrus, and the self-righteous Captain Nicholas, who he manipulates and discards as needed.

3.       Titles

·         Silversmith (Current working title)

·         The Altar – Book 1 of the Silversmith Chronicles

4.       Comparables —My novel is science fantasy and has secondary world-building and a closed magic system like Mistborn, The Lightbringer Series, and The Warded Man. It also has light science fiction elements like The Martian and Exo. My two comparables are Mistborn and The Martian.

5.       Log line — An engineering prodigy must combine his new abilities as a Silversmith mage and his training as an engineer to battle dangers that threaten two worlds.

6.       Character turmoil and conflict           

·         Sean finds himself on another world. As an introverted movie buff with math skills, he feels ill equipped when asked to lead a nation thru impossible odds.

·         Prior to the events of this novel, Sean was in the US Army. He killed a child soldier in Afghanistan, and guilt from this changed who he is and how he sees the world. It’s also the source of some of his bad decisions. He must face this guilt if he is to succeed. 

·         Sean is attracted to Amilia but the religion on Mayim says he must marry fifty wives and breed an army of Silversmith. He refuses this mandate and searches for another way.

·         Sean develops the ability to create Silversmith. Amilia wants him to convert her but it’s dangerous and he initially refuses.

·         Amilia is a princess/queen who wants to be a soldier. Her society tells her she should have a large body and sit and look pretty. She likes being fit and exercising with the soldiers. She dreams of being a warrior even though society disapproves. 

·         Amilia is mocked and disrespected by the Lords and Ladies but respected by the people. She is forced to be queen for a short time after the assassination of her father.

·         Amilia is attracted to Sean but refuses to be part of the Harem the religion says he must have. Even though Sean is rejecting this idea, She doesn’t want to be the reason he rejects a path that could save Mayim.

·         Nicholas is an arrogant captain and expert bowman. He is righteous but blindly loyal to an evil man.

7.       Setting

·         My protagonist transfers to a secondary world. This fantasy world is sprinkled with light science fiction elements. The world looks like an Icy Rivendell with the visual vibrancy of Pandora.  I use two moons in very low orbits as a focal point for my protagonist when he arrives in Mayim. This is what stands out in his mind and screams he is no longer on Earth.

·         My novel features a closed magic system that centers around seven types of Silvers. A Silversmith is someone who can see and manipulate these Silvers. 

·         We find that an ancient religious artifact called The Altar is an ancient piece of technology. The Altar transferred Sean to Mayim and turned him into a Silversmith.

·         The world of Mayim is stuck in the iron age due to population and geographic constraints.

·         Mayim is full of strange creatures but also has some familiar animals from Earth.  A couple of examples: giant frogs are used by some of the people instead of horses, and some plants pull up their roots and relocate.

·         Zerst (Giant venomous reptiles) are invading from the south.

·         Belquist are mind-controlling zerst overlords. They look like Wyvern. (They only appear in two scenes in book 1)

·         The Bardan are an extraterrestrial threat that attack from space and pose a threat to both Earth and Mayim. (this threat is not imminent but motivates Sean to contact Earth.)

·         My novel has castles, weapons, and other themes you would expect in Western Europe based fantasies.

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Assignment 1 - Story Statement - Sixty Eight by Brian Freeman

A time and space bending tale of the massive challenges America faced in the late sixties, Sixty Eight centers on Lyndon Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. After losing his life to a heart attack on his ranch in Texas, he awakens in Vietnam at the height of the Tet Offensive. Unseen and unheard, like a revenant, he witnesses the chaos of the war around him while following a platoon of Marines. He’s then transported to Washington where he’s finally seen, overwhelmed by the challenges he endured before; the Civil Rights Movement, the war, Soviet aggression in Europe, and the upcoming presidential election. Faced with a flawed mortality, he begins suddenly transporting to Vietnam and back, witnessing the gruesome war firsthand as he dedicates himself to stopping it.

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Assignment 2 - Sketch the Antagonist - Sixty Eight by Brian Freeman

The Johnson Administration existed during a time where the mantra of young people was "don't trust anyone over thirty." LBJ was one of our final WWII presidents, while members of his National Security Council shared similar views on foreign policy. Walt Rostow, one of the biggest hawks in Washington and LBJ's National Security Advisor, as well as Bob McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, played vital roles in exacerbating America's war efforts in Vietnam. They convinced LBJ that the war was winnable when it never was, inclining the president to scrutinize his decisions on the war when the nation had already reached the point of no return. These are only two of many people who played an antagonistic role in the Johnson Administration.   

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Assignment 3 - Breakout Title - Sixty Eight by Brian Freeman

Sixty Eight is a trilogy of books spanning across 38 chapters, 80,000 words apiece and divided into even thirds. Because of this, I am not sure whether there needs to be a separate title for each book under the Sixty Eight moniker, similar to the Lord of The Rings (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of The King), or simply a numbered volume collection of three books. Considering the book centers more on 1968 than the narrator and main character Lyndon Johnson (the story is written in the first person), Sixty Eight, spelled informally as the title, seemed most appropriate. However, if each book needs it's own title under the Sixty Eight moniker, then my suggestions would be:

1). Sixty Eight - A Painless Fire (book 1)

2). Sixty Eight - The Anguished Kingdom (book 2)

3). Sixty Eight - Hope in the Homeland (book 3)

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Assignment 4 - Approaching Comparables - Sixty Eight by Brian Freeman

Sixty Eight is a speculative, historical fiction novel that is written in the first person. Because of the respect and admiration I have for Lyndon Johnson, I chose to have him narrate the story in order to give him the literary voice that he deserves. One book that  my story compares to in terms of perspective and depth of character is Claudius the God by Robert Graves. Written in the first person, Claudius the God is about a Roman emperor who deals with his own handicaps as he reigns on the throne during a political maelstrom. He's self deprecating and underestimated, yet decisive enough to reign as emperor for 13 years, reminding me of Lyndon Johnson, a flawed man who, in my story, opens up about his deficiencies as president while leading the nation during the most turbulent year in our history. Another story that my book compares to is The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh. Written in a stream of consciousness style, the story is centered on the gruesome nature of the Vietnam war, consisting of reflections of past battles experienced by a North Vietnamese soldier. Firsthand recollections of the war are exactly what my story offers, experienced by LBJ and U.S. Marines when he's transported to Vietnam, bending time and space as a revenant while witnessing the conflict that defined his presidency. 

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Assignment 6 - Sixty Eight by Brian Freeman

Inner Conflict - Unlike other presidents before and after him, LBJ didn't live a long life after the conclusion of his presidency in January of 1969. He died four years later in January of 1973, not long after the reelection of Richard Nixon. One of the reasons for this is the massive amount of guilt that LBJ left the White House with, combined with the shattered self image of how he wanted to be perceived vs. how Americans actually received him. He prided himself on his competence and decisiveness, both of which helped to get him elected in 1964. But the Vietnam War produced results that were antithetical to the well being of his reputation, resulting in massive scandals and allegations, as well as a nation piqued by the lies they were told.

Secondary Conflict - Two examples of this are LBJ's physical health, as well as the health and condition of his marriage to Lady Bird. LBJ had a genetic heart defect that he inherited from his father who also died of a heart attack. Throughout all three books, he routinely takes trips to the doctor's office in the White House because of his ailing health, suffering night terrors in the form of visions and dreams from Vietnam and Soviet Europe. In regard to his marriage, Lady Bird develops significant trust issues related to a series of disappearances from her husband that no one can account for. This initially tears them a part, but she regains her empathy for him after seeing how hard he tries to stay focused on his responsibilities to America, but most importantly to his family.  

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Assignment 7 - Sixty Eight by Brian Freeman

Setting: Sixty Eight takes place in the year 1968 and includes all of the various themes, subjects, culture, and overall ethos of the late sixties era. Lyndon Johnson is our narrator and spends a good deal of his time in multiple places throughout Washington, D.C. including: The White House, The Capitol Building, The Pentagon, The Lincoln Memorial, and the National Mall. Because of his role as president, LBJ travels across the world for matters pertinent to security and diplomacy including: London, Paris, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Florida (Cape Canaveral), Wisconsin, as well as a multitude of towns and villages in Vietnam including Da Nang, Hue, and other areas. Because of the transportive nature of his experience, he finds himself in locations that are decided by fate more so than will. For example, Soviet Europe, specifically Prague, Czechoslovakia, is an area that LBJ tours throughout the book, most notably after the Warsaw invasion. He will not be alone throughout his journey, as he's led by U.S. Marines who play major roles in his development, as well as multiple famous figures who he encounters.  

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By Brian Park



Sam must warn the Dalai Lama about a terrorist plot while searching for his true love in China.



A revolutionary hiding in China by the name of Hey Guevara unveils his plot to assassinate the Dalai Lama. The CIA enlists Sam "Iam" to spy on Hey Guevara's group of revolutionaries called "R.E.I.N." Sam is quickly taken in by their philosophy and lifestyle and must choose whether or not to betray his newfound friends.


3.    TITLE:





-        “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer

-        “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo

-        “The Beach” by Alex Garland

-        “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” by J. Maarten Troost



-      The Dalai Lama's life is threatened by a terrorist plot. Sam must find a way to prevent a global conspiracy while backpacking on a wild adventure through China and Southeast Asia and searching for his true love.




-        Sam chooses to travel seemingly at random, but believes that existence is not random. He believes in fate. In order to prove this idea to himself, he sets out on a journey he believes will reunite him with his true love, believing that destiny will guide them somehow to find each other.

-        Sam becomes disheartened at the thought of not finding his true love, and also becomes disillusioned with the idea of duty and heroism when it involves betrayal of his friends. He chooses not to act, but wonders at the deeper meaning of this and what it means for his journey.

-       Sam wonders about his meaning and purpose in the universe, and the world. He wonders about the meaning of existence and puzzles at how we can find it through the different roads we take in life.



-        Backpackers, partying, political conspiracy, revolutionaries in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Southern China, Western China, Tibetan Border, Central China) and Southeast Asia (Laos, Cambodia). 

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First Assignment: Story Statement

1950s housewife, Irene Pickett, wants to save a failing  museum and make a mark in her community, while proving to her family that women can do more in the world than keep house. She bands with three other women in a series of misguided and bumbling attempts to save the museum and showcase the history of their rural, forgotten town.

Second Assignment: The Antagonist

Odilia Delgado is a tough, determined, sometimes ruthless woman, eager to make a name for herself in a man's world in 1950. She wants to be the first woman in a prestigious men's organization in the town. Her brother, a prominent state senator, has always overshadowed her. But being his sister gets her into a lot of doors and she latches on to the museum to create a legacy for herself, and take credit for saving the place. But her ideas for saving the place are  not working and Irene battles with her over plans. Odilia is willing to do anything to save the museum, including throwing Irene under the bus, trickery and self-promotion. Despite building a friendship with Irene and the other two 'queens" she sacrifices their friendship for the sake of glory.


Third Assignment: Breakout Titles

1. The Four Queens of the Museum

2. The Four Queens

3. The Museum Queens


Fourth Assignment: Comp Titles

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe- for the tone and humor of a small town, folksy nature and fun camaraderie among women.

Beware the Mermaids - Female friendships, a common purpose among a group of women who battle an outside force.

Call the Midwife - A series of stories about women united in a common cause.

Fifth Assignment: Hookline, conflict and core wound

Irene,  a smart and smart-aleck farmer’s wife with big dreams, teams up with three other women in a series of misguided and bungled efforts to save a failing, rural, California museum in the 1950s.

Irene was a crackerjack reporter during WWII in her hometown, but when the men returned, she had to give up her job. She is unhappy with not having something to work towards so she latches on to a board position at a floundering local museum. She is not content just keeping house and needs a bigger purpose in life.  She wants to be seen. She bands with three other women to save the museum. But one of the women, Odilia, has her own ideas of how to fix the museum and is using it to elevate her position in the community, regardless of who she hurts in the process. Irene's children and her mother are resentful of the time she spends at the museum, constantly badgering her to focus on her family duties. Irene, insecure and unsure, wants recognition for herself and for the forgotten history of her town.

Sixth Assignment: Inner conflict and secondary conflict

Inner conflict: Irene has always felt disjointed as a 1950s housewife; she never fits in with the other "perfect" mothers. She wants more than just to can pickles and wants her kids and her own mother to see she is doing something important for her community. She feels unseen and unheard, just like her town's history is unseen and unheard. But Odilia's domineering presence intimidates her and she feels weak and unsuccessful. She both admires and fears Odilia and struggles to find strength to counter Odilia's destructive ways.

Hypothetical scene - The manager of the museum drinks too much and spills some of the town's juiciest secrets in front of a large crowd. The other members of the museum board are guided by Odilia to fire the manager. They forget to even talk to Irene, even though she is on the board. She feels slighted and ignored.

Secondary conflict: Irene's daughter, Pauline, becomes enamored with her friend's mother, the lovely Joyce, who is an ex-fashion model. Pauline idolizes Joyce, viewing Irene as dowdy and insignificant. Irene struggles to teach her daughter the importance of setting goals and achieving them, and in valuing women for something other than beauty. She longs to be seen by her children as a person, not just a mom machine.

Hypothetical - Irene discovers that Pauline has not invited her to the mother/daughter tea at school but has been talking about it with Joyce. Her daughter tells her she thought Irene would be too busy at the museum to attend the tea. Irene feels guilty and sad that her daughter thought so little of her because of her focus on the museum.

Assignment seven: Setting

The setting for the novel is the fictional Walker, CA, a small rural city in the Central Valley of California. Dry, dusty, hot as hell, full of hard working people who are smart and ambitious, good-natured and honest. They are homespun and the town is full of 1950s atmosphere (dungarees, pick-up trucks, tractors, taffeta dresses, oil wells pumping, ladies at the beauty shop under the dryer, cotton pickers in the field)  and the town is filled with a variety of characters who serve as foils to Irene's goals. The Walker County Museum is a 21-acres section of land that is filled with old houses (1800s) and buildings that have been moved to the location, in a Jamestown-type of museum.  It is set in the middle of Walker's downtown. A large clock tower is the key landmark at the museum. The buildings and artifacts are full of stories of Walker pioneers who tamed the land, farmed, drilled for oil, built a city. A quirky group of people come in and out of the museum, some good, some bad, some funny.

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Assignment #1- Story Statement

When Eeke Abschrift, a wide-eyed graduate student finds herself at the center of an extremist group's attack against artificial intellegence, she finds unlikely allies in an absentminded couple and two reformed henchmen.


Assignment #2 - The Antagonist Plots the Point

Renee ‘Missy’ Fleming is nothing like her name’s sake.  More often referred to as The Countess, Missy is ruthless in her attempts to stop the rise of artificial intelligence, nor can she hold a tune. 

She leads a local organization known as Purification of the Insipid and Stratified Societies, or, due to the unfortunate acronym that comes to mind, they are more commonly called The Society.

Countess is the former wife of James Charleston, one of the investors of Charleston Smith’s Amsterdam’s leading A.I. business, and she will stop at nothing to take down her ex-husband, his company, and the monstrosities he has helped bring into this world.


Assignment #3 - Create a Breakout Title

Charleston Smith’s

Artificially Human

Synthetic Consciousness


Assignment #4 - Deciding on Your Genre

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman is one of the best a transforming everyday life into the extraordinary.  Neverwhere, in particular, is an excellent urban fantasy novel and is exactly what I tried to accomplish in Charleston Smith’s.  To me, there is no greater feeling than wondering if something that you’re reading, something off-beat and fantastical, can happen to you.

Anxious People by Fredik Backman – Anxious People calls out to me because Backman develops characters so well.  The best stories to tell are the ones most personal to you and I try to let that show in my writing.


Assignment #5 – Hook Line

A curious graduate student, a pair of concerned parents, and two unconventional henchmen have their worlds collide when Amsterdam’s leading A.I. provider is broken into by a group of extremists who are looking to bring down the growing A.I. community.


Assignment #6 – Two More Levels of Conflict

Inner Conflict: Raised by her grandfather to be accepting to all people, Eeke must now recalibrate her world views.  Torn apart inside by the hatred shown towards what the extremists refer to as ‘skinjobs’, she must trek this new world as she tries to take down The Society.


Social Conflict: Eeke has never known her parents.  Her grandfather, Oliver, told her they passed away in a car accident when she was younger; however, Eeke is more than just Oliver’s granddaughter, she is his greatest creation to date.  You see, unbeknownst to Eeke, Oliver is the mind behind Charleston Smith’s, and created Eeke when his own daughter passed away.  Eeke, who’s foundation is her relationship with her grandfather, will face an unscalable mountain when she is forced the face the facts of who…or what, she truly is.

In addition, Oskar and Olivia Kristiansen will be followed as they head to Amsterdam to finally get the son they’ve always wished they’ve had.  Once their soon-to-be-son is kidnapped by The Society, they must deal with the emotions of losing a son before they’ve even met him.


Assignment #7 – Importance of Setting


Amsterdam: Amsterdam perfectly fits the quaint feeling needed for this personal story.  The winding alleys and flowing canals provide for a unique setting that other major cities don’t offer.  In this distant-future Amsterdam, they are leading the way in the advancements of artificial intelligence, yet there are so many opportunities for our characters to grow and interact.  Whether it’s walking the canals, visiting the Rijksmuseum, or eat local cuisine.  By the end of the story, I want my readers to feel like they have just visited this European gem.


Vergeten:  Lost in the western fields of outer-Amsterdam, Vergeten is an over-sized windmill that never got into working order and is now home to The Countess and her men.  After all, what better place to hide then in a windmill nearly forgotten by all except for urban legend.  An old, accordion style elevator connects three levels of the old mill and provides The Society with plenty of room to hold court and more importantly hold their captives.


Oliver’s Cottage:  Eeke’s grandfather’s old Dutch cottage acts as a main headquarter for Eeke and her band of friends.  It is warm and welcoming, providing plenty of memories and backstory for Eeke and Oliver; however, it also acts as a launching off point to drop some hints regarding Eeke’s true nature.

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Eight Months

1.       Story statement

a.       Eight Months covers one of the most interesting stretches in the life of Mitchell Watkins, his sophomore year of college. He is often disparaged by his football teammates and fraternity brothers due to his autism and androgyny. He wants to enter into a new committed relationship this school year with someone who cares deeply for him. He meets a freshman named Molly who dotes on him. She is very fixated on him physically and emotionally, and both grow a quick aversion to birth control. 

2.       Antagonist sketch

a.       Mitchell encountered a very large, crass, autistic classmate freshman year, whom he keeps at hands length because "He is utterly terrifying." He refers to this classmate as "Vampire" due to "Vampire's" long hair, lack of hygiene, and constant, stumbling drunkenness, as he does not know his real name or origin, yet feels sympathetic due to this imposing character's lack of friends and willingness to blame their shared autism for his loneliness. Mitchell would tell "Vampire" of his prior history in relationships, including repeatedly cheating on his high school girlfriend, which makes "Vampire" both jealous of Mitchell's social success and enraged at his infidelity. "Vampire" often manipulates Mitchell out of spite, especially once he sees that Mitchell cheated on a pregnant Molly, and has started a new relationship. Vampire seeks to ruin Mitchell's life completely, by way of gossip, manipulation, and threats. 

3.       Breakout title

a.       Option 1 – Eight Months

b.       Option 2 – Did you Hear About that Kid?

c.       Option 3 – What a Waste

4.       Identify Comparable Authors/Titles

a.       Eight Months takes place at an insular university with a more traditional set of expectations in relationships. This relationship dynamic hearkens back to Victorian and Gothic Literature such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Here, an innocent Gothic heroine such as Molly dates a flamboyant and extravagant character such as Mitchell, in spite of how he hides his autism and history of infidelity, much as Mr. Rochester hid his former fiancée in the attic.

b. Mitchell's profound androgyny and nonchalance towards social norms draws strongly on such works by DH Lawrence as The Rainbow, as well as contemporaneous works such as Jeannette Winterson’s Written On the Body, and LGBTQ+ works such as None of the Above by Gregorio, I. W. Others make their thoughts on Mitchell's feminine physical features and overtly sexual dress and mannerisms known. He must also beware of predatory advances made upon his person by by large, burly men such as "Vampire."  "Vampire's" innate sexual attraction to Mitchell and uncertain sexuality are a frequent conversational point. 

c.       The Bride Test by Helen Hoang centers an autistic man named Khai Diep who feels he is incapable of reciprocating his lover's affection, much like Mitchell. Mitchell's actual level of care for his lovers is very questionable, as he prefers to provide women with what society tells him they generally want so they will pay him compliments and love him unconditionally. In other words, he is in love with the idea of being loved. Both Mitchell and Khai suffer from insecurities, and holding a very absolutist definition of an abstraction such as romance. 

5.       Hook Line

a.       In August, Mitchell Watkins had a scholarship, wealth, teammates, and a new lover. Eight months later he has debt, no home, no friends, and two pregnant ex lovers. 

6.       Sketch the inner conditions for the protagonist’s inner conflict

a.       The primary conflict in Eight Months is Mitchell struggling to keep his autism and history of cheating a secret from Molly. Mitchell's autism very much colors the way he views others and the world around him, such as struggling with self-awareness, or how he views the world in very concrete terms, and lacks empathy. But he wants to emphasize that he is not socially awkward, nor does he have obsessive, unproductive or age inappropriate fixations, as he is quite apt to deny himself any sort of escapism, and looks down on others who take to these unproductive hobbies. He believes stereotypes color the way others view autism, and that by revealing his autism, he will come across as a stereotypical social leper, or "Sperg." For instance, Mitchell gets defensive when Molly brings up his understated, blunted emotional state, and inconsistent eye contact. 

Mitchell is only occasionally aware he does not care much for Molly, and is using her devotion to supplicate his ego. Mitchell only grasps social norms on a "Letter of the Law" sort of level, and understands that he should try not to harm her or make her feel uncomfortable, but many of these are just half measures with little emotional investment. He also believes himself to be sterile, and that he will not get Molly pregnant, no matter how many times she asks him to come over to her room, or on dates. Three months in once Molly reveals her pregnancy with their daughter, Mitchell feels some emotional attachment to his unborn child, but only on the level that his daughter to be is his family, and he feels obligated to be a breadwinner husband for his new family. This is still a stated improvement, and shows that Mitchell is capable of being emotionally attached to his partners, such as in his relationship in which his new partner, Malee, or May is not forthcoming about her intentions with him beyond physicality and will dodge Mitchell's concerns about her wellbeing. This gets worse when she reveals she too is pregnant with Mitchell's daughter, and she suffers from bouts of emotional pain, and crying, with no explanation given. This culminates with her dropping out of school and repatriating to her home country, with no reason given. 

b.       The secondary conflict comes between Mitchell and "Vampire",  who makes no effort to hide who he is from others, and sees Mitchell as self hating and a hypocrite. He will coerce Mitchell into producing methamphetamine for his enterprise, and spread much worse rumors about Mitchell's person after Molly leaves him for his infidelity. Mitchell comes to realize how vindictive and and cruel "Vampire" is. But only after he remorselessly ruins the lives of many classmates and other local college students with disguised methamphetamine, as well as Mitchell's new relationship with May by intimidating her out of the school and country. Once he has bankrupted and socially isolated Mitchell, "Vampire" takes out his aggression by provoking Mitchell to fight, and beating him into a coma

7.       Setting

a.       The timeframe is 2006-2007, making this a period piece for the mid to late 2000s. There will be a very limited number of pop culture reference from the time, mostly to point and laugh at how tacky this era was. The setting is Connecticut Polytechnic Institute, or CPI, an elite, fictional private engineering University located in the desolate small city of Waterbury Connecticut. Waterbury suffers from having one of the highest poverty rates and lowest average amounts of sunshine within the otherwise very wealthy United States eastern seaboard. This paints shades of drab, postindustrial grey for a depressing story where not only do many of these characters find themselves in self-imposed poverty by the end, the villain also wins, consequence free. 


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AD Greenwy

The Fox, the Maid, and the Blade


1.      Story Statement

Remeus Blakesley’s best friend has been kidnapped by a group of thugs who have been terrorizing the realm. Learning this Remeus decided that she’s going to save Vanessa and bring her back home.

Alternatively, Thaige Maeken her traveling companion is seeking revenge against the man Eisa Y’ro who killed his family.


2.      Antagonist

There are three antagonists in The Fox, the Maid and the Blade: The first being the people who kidnapped Vanessa. Once messengers for the gods of fate this cult known as the crows are searching for one of the lost children of their god. They are under the assumption that Vanessa is that person. The second is a group of mercenaries combined with the army of a neighboring nation; together they are searching for an ancient artifact called the red blade, in hopes to bring about a “new world order” The third and last Antagonist is Vanessa, who wasn’t kidnapped and wasn’t looking to be saved. Vanessa just wants to see the world, and she will do anything including betraying her best friend to do it.


3.      Break-Out Title (The Fox, The Maid, and the Blade)

·        Gilded Crimson

·        The Shattered sword in the City of Giants

·        The Black Bird Concordant

4.      Comparisons

·        We Hunt the Flame written by the author Hafsah Faizal and Fire with Fire written by Destiny Soria, are two books that I find my own projects comparable to.

In Faizal’s We hunt the Flame, the protagonists are haunted by an impending war that maybe stopped by finding an ancient artifact, though that same artifact seems to pose a greater threat. And there is an antient evil stirring. Similarly, The Fox, the Maid, and the Blade is about an impending war and Remeus’ search for the lost fragments of the famed hero of legend Azel Ouda’s ancient sword.

In Soria’s Fire with Fire, two friends find themselves on the opposite sides of a conflict. Vanessa Taylor and Remeus Blakesley in The Fox, the Maid, and the Blade, Remeus Blakesley goes on a search for her friend who she believes has been kidnapped by a group of people terrorizing the countryside. Though when Remeus finds her friend, she learns that Vanessa wasn’t kidnapped, but knowingly left with these people joining their “cause”.

5.      Hook Line

After setting on a journey to bring the woman she loves back home, a young woman becomes entangled in a plot that involves an ancient artifact and a war gods cult.

6.      Inner conflict

Remeus was brought up in a small town, with human neighbors and human parents. She was always a little odd, but she always figured she was human just like them. Now she finds herself coming to terms with the fact that none of that is true. She isn’t human, in fact her father is a god. And with that comes strange abilities that she must learn to control.

7.      Setting

The setting takes place in the imagined world of Heartall on a continent called Mondsant. In Heartall if you look up at the sky, you’ll see a sky full of stars, and three moons called the sisters who will tell you your destiny. The wind carries with it the stories of the dearly departed on their way to the other realm. The emerald grass sings in the breeze. And if you look closely past the blue haze silhouettes of Vortigen’s mountains you might be able to see the stranger, walking through the tall silver grass of the silent hills, searching for more people to bring to the other realm.



Orwich is a small, isolated town, where nothing ever really happens; but all that changes when a group of men armed to the teeth storm through the small town, they lay waste to the houses and kidnap the women and children. The reason they’re doing this? The men are looking for something, something they think someone in the town has. That thing is an ancient artifact that had long ago disappeared, a fragment of something called the red blade. They are looking for it, and they will kill to have it.

Remeus Blakesley and her new friend Thaige Maeken know this, because each of them has lost someone to the maddening search for the blade. Thaige wants revenge on those people, but Remeus just wants to find her friend, a girl from her hometown of Orwich, who she believes was kidnapped by the same seekers of the blade pieces. But as they make their journey following the blade seekers into giant’s land, they learn that it isn’t just their homes that have been affected. All across the realm everywhere they go, men and women are telling the same story: black clad men are hunting for some mysterious object, tearing apart towns and villages along the way.  These blade fragments are more than just pieces of ancient metal, they’re powerful artifacts, and they’re being sought out by some of the most dangerous men.

Armed with this knowledge Remeus and Thaige find themselves trapped between serving their own interests or joining the hunt for the blade.

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Question #1 Story Statement

Discover what the contents of a mystery trunk bought by a grief stricken widower really mean.

Question #2 Antagonists

Antagonistic forces abound in this story about a grief stricken young widower from Montana whose dream of becoming a research scientist was crushed when his wife’s car left the highway. He feels his life is leading nowhere and his relationships with family and friends are now strained. When he buys a mysterious trunk and discovers that it was owned by a doctor of a leper hospital in the early 20th century, he is swept into the world of the doctor and his wife on a desolate island off the coast of Massachusetts. He learns about the doctor’s struggles to improve the care of his slowly dying patients and his battles over funding the hospital that the state would rather disappear. In addition, the growing fear of infectious disease brings out the best and worst in people: hope and fear, science and faith, humanity and cruelty.

The objects in the trunk belonged to some of their patients whose stories are slowly revealed. Each story tells us of their painful pasts leading the reader to Cape Verde, Russia, Latvia, China and Japan as we learn what led them to leave their homelands.

Question #3 Title


This is my preferred title. “Keepsake” is the name of the boat that is predominant in the story and the contents of the trunk owned by the doctor and his wife were keepsakes of their special patients.

Other options:

The Outcasts of Penikese



Question #4 Genre and Comparables

“Keepsake” is Historical Fiction

Comparable historical fiction titles that take place in a similar time period, share subjects of anti-immigrant sentiment, infectious disease and isolation include A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and The Orphan Collector - A Heroic Novel of Survival During the 1918 Pandemic by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

In addition, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was the inspiration for my book.

Question #5 Hook Line


When a young, grief stricken widower buys a mysterious trunk, he finds not only that it was owned by a doctor of a leper hospital but discovers the importance and meaning of its contents -each object tells a story of a special patient - and in the process finds the courage to move his life in a new direction.

Question #6 Protagonist’s Inner Conflict Scene

Blake (main protagonist) “Now with the winter ahead, he’d look for things that may inspire him to repurpose or make something sculptural. Anything to make the time pass and keep his mind occupied. Making rods and tying flies he could only do so much of. There was just too much of a well of emptiness and time to fill.”

The doctor (secondary protagonist) “It has been a long battle and we have lost but I resign myself to cooperate. Governor Cox was sworn into office only a week ago and I believe we were his first order of business. He won and he has gotten his wish. Every governor since we opened has tried to get rid of the problem of the lepers and close the hospital. They all have pushed hard to make this happen and now the United States Public Health Department is concerned if leprosy is not contained and managed in one facility where treatment is consistent, it could turn into a nationwide epidemic. They blame it all on the large number of immigrants but the problem does not only lie there. I am fully aware of those who are not immigrants that have been diagnosed with leprosy and have been quietly told to take their loved one home and keep them out of sight. The only patients that come to me on Penikese are poor immigrants who have no means of defense.”

Question #7 Setting

The prologue opens with a fire on an island. It is a controlled fire - the crew of men are directed to obliterate any signs of what existed there.

Chapter one introduces Blake who is a fly fishing guide in Montana. He is with clients fishing on the Bitterroot River enveloped by the surrounding natural beauty. The story continues with Blake in Montana until more is revealed when he buys an antique trunk and discovers that it belonged to a doctor of a leper hospital from the early 20th century. The hospital was located on a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts.

He finds out all of hospital’s patients were immigrants. The stories begin in their homelands: Cape Verde, China, Russia, Latvia, Barbados, and Japan then follows them on their journeys that eventually lead them to the island.

After Blake discovers the trunks secrets, he travels to the island where the story climaxes followed by his return back home and a surprise ending.


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Assignment I: Story Statement: Defy the order to detonate a nuclear weapon in Las Vegas.

Assignment II: Protagonist Sketch:

Abu Zil, the devil in human form and commander of a terrorist group, kidnapped the protagonist, Muhammad Jihad, and conscripted him as a child terrorist eight years ago in Syria. Now, in Las Vegas where he sent Muhammad Jihad as a sleeper agent, Abu Zill recalls Muhammad Jihad to duty and charges him with detonating a smuggled nuclear weapon in Las Vegas. Abu Zil, who has assumed the identity of a UNLV professor killed in Syria, wants to use Muhammad Jihad to spread hatred in the world and prove himself to God. Through the use of brilliant logic, reason, dishonesty, double-talk, and other devious techniques, Abu Zil breaks down the mind and spirit of his protege. But when Muhammad Jihad continues to resist his orders, Abu Zil--omniscient, omnipotent, and ubiquitous--unleashes mayhem, destroying Muhammad Jihad's bright future of medical school and marriage and bringing him to the brink of madness. Abu Zil is willing to destroy whatever necessary to defeat Muhammad Jihad, but his fundamental weakness is the power of love to overcome his machinations.  If he cannot keep Muhammad Jihad brainwashed into believing himself unlovable, for Abu Zil all is lost.

Assignment III: Titles:

I, Muhammad Jihad

The Gifter's Bargain

The Roadblock

Assignment IV: Comparable Titles:

Kafka On the Shore (Murikami): As with my work, this title is a coming of age story in which a protagonist travels through darkness attempting to avoid a terrible destiny all the while struggling to discern between what is real and what is not, and to reconnect with family, and to discover love in all its forms.

Song of Achilles (Miller): As with my work, this title portrays the struggle of an epic hero to overcome powerful forces arrayed against him, to overcome destiny, and through acts of courage to earn the right to know love in this world and the next.

Assignment V: Hook Line

Muhammad Jihad, a troubled university student ordered to detonate a nuclear bomb in Las Vegas, bets his soul against the devil's promise to call off the attack if he finds even one woman who truly loves him.

Assignment VI: Primary and Secondary Conflict

The primary conflict is internal. Muhammad Jihad must find the strength and courage to defy Abu Zil's summons to detonate a nuclear weapon in Las Vegas, but he must first overcome the self-loathing and sense of worthlessness that has burdened him since he committed terrible acts as a child terrorist in Syria. Abu Zil, recognizing Muhammad Jihad's vulnerability, attacks each and every one of Muhammad Jihad's relationships to reinforce his sense of isolation and bring him into a state of despair and near-surrender. Only if Muhammad Jihad is willing to silence Abu Zil's voice inside his head and face his deepest fears will it be possible for him to see things as they truly are and choose his own path.

The secondary conflict is external. Despite telling everyone in his life about the terrible circumstances and Abu Zil's order, Muhammad Jihad is dismissed as mentally ill, abandoned, and betrayed. Without external sources of validation and support, Muhammad Jihad is rendered even more vulnerable to Abu Zil's deceits. Only a last-ditch gamble, where Muhammad Jihad wrangles Abu Zil into giving him a reprieve if he can prove even one woman loves him, can prevent Muhammad Jihad from surrendering and carrying out the horrific order to nuke Las Vegas.

Assignment VII: Setting

I, Muhammad Jihad, is set temporally in the past, present, and future. Geographically, the story is set in war-torn, blood-soaked Gaza; in ISIS-controlled territory and terrorist training camps in Syria; in the Las Vegas metropolitan area from swank Summerlin to the Naked City in North Las Vegas to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam; and in NYC at the Metropolitan Opera and Juilliard. The chaos of battle, the burning desert sun, the contrast between social classes, and the pull of contemporary popular culture help characterize the setting. Gaza contextualizes how Muhammad Jihad not only came to harbor ideologies that contribute toward his radicalization but also the countervailing knowledge and wisdom imparted by his aunt, who adopted him on the death of his parents. Syria describes the process of attachment formation to Abu Zil and the commission of the acts that undermine Muhammad Jihad's self-concept as a worthy, lovable person. New York is where Muhammad Jihad hits rock bottom and decides to battle against Abu Zil. Las Vegas is the grand stage upon which the important acts of the final month of Muhammad Jihad's life are played out.

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1.       Story Statement: Lost in a world where he never quite feels accepted or accomplished, a man turns to an experimental drug to improve his life.

2.       Sketch the antagonist: The main antagonist in this story is the main characters inner self. His struggles with acceptance, addiction, delusions of grandeur get the better of him in different ways. The story is written in first person with the main character often delusional as to what is happening around him. We see much of the story while under the influence of a variety of drugs, one in particular. He is often rash and volatile in decisions that cause him to make choices that could potentially ruin his life. It is often unclear if what we are seeing is the real world or the world under the influence (while drifting).

3.       Breakout Title: Drifting

4.       Genre/Comparables: Psychological Fiction, Cultural Satire, Dark Comedy

My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Ottessa Moshfegh) – first person account. Deep character development around a somewhat simple, everyday story. Extreme drug use/addiction/class warfare/self-delusion. 

Taipei (Tao Lin) – personal struggles leading to drug dependance. Class conflict/personal political tension/societal acceptance/family acceptance.

Marlena (Julie Buntin) – poverty and societal struggles leading to drug dependence and lack of personal independence. Relationship difficulties (family, personal, romantic) resulting from drug dependence and self-delusions. Personal avoidance, obsessions, physical and mental deterioration leading to extreme conflicts.

5.       Hook Line: Overwhelmed and repulsed by the corporate greed, social pressure and lack of substance in life a troubled man finds refuge in an experimental drug that allows him to escape reality finding happiness and love, but as things begin to spiral out of control – can he find his way back?

6.       Primary Conflict: The primary conflict is the world of addiction. There is a bit of a sci-fi undertone as to not state that this book is about opioid addiction, but rather allude to it. The main character is entrenched in the world of corporate greed and becomes numb to his life and his surroundings. Filling his life with material possessions that bring him no joy, he realizes there is more to life and changes need to be made. When he falls for an alternative woman – they immerse themselves in a world of experimental drug use and addiction in order to escape reality. When the addiction begins to overtake his (their) life he begins to make desperate decisions that could permanently ruin any semblance of the life that he had lived.

Secondary Conflict: Societal pressure and acceptance. The main character is surrounded by wealthy, powerful individuals who live a cutthroat corporate life of greed. Being raised middle/lower class, he was not privy to these people/situations and feels it necessary to fit in any way possible. The more he dives into the lifestyle the more he realizes how empty and evil it is, but he is in too deep that it is difficult for him to escape. The antagonists are portrayed in comical, exaggerated manners (Wolf of Wall Street). This conflict is much more of a comment on society, greed, approval, and idolization.  

Tertiary Conflict: Love. We follow the protagonist through his immersion in love for the first time in his life. His deep fall, confusions, reliance, jealousy, rage. The love becomes codependent very quickly with the backstory of each participant and the concept that they may have crossed paths before.

7. Setting: Purposely left vague, the setting is in the northeast of the United States. Clues would make you think Manhattan or Boston depending on the reader. There are references to the Catskills, Hamptons, and Martha’s Vineyard. A bustling city full of vibrant culture, unique individuals – a true melting pot. The setting often makes the main character feel constricted, often lost in the big city never making an effort to see the rest of the world



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1st Assignment - Story Statement

The Bronze Keeper has a life assignment to keep watch over the historic covenants and recorded books of life of all denizens, within the depths of Bronze Mountains.

2nd Assignment - Antagonistic Force History

The Dray, a wicked force purposed for the shadows and masterful in their quest for devising all destruction and suffering. A call of power, crawling within the night, a darkness so strong it wreaks havoc on the surface of ones skin and depths of ones bones. Viper, the monarch of the Dray, towered over all with his muscular build and hauntingly bronze skin. His hair was as black as the dead of night wherein all Dray prowled. A glance at his alluring molasses eyes pulsed terror to your soul. The Dray denizens feared him of which his presence demanded. He was heavily skilled physically, mentally, and spiritually. Reuben, his son, and heir vanished during nightfall at the tender age of three. Viper, furious at the disappearance of his heir and rabid to find those who dared defy him, soon heard whispers that Cassia, the monarch of the light of the Ziv, was responsible. His life mission became discovering the truth. If Reuben still lived, he would restore his son to the monarch and destroy Cassia and everything she held dear. Battle raged between the Dray and Ziv until few denizens were left standing and Cassia herself had disappeared. Out of necessity, a Covenant of Peace was agreed upon to save the remaining Dray and Ziv.

3rd Assignment - Titles

The Bronze Keeper: Awakened

Guardian of the Covenants: Awakened

The Bronze Covenant: An Heir Awakened

4th Assignment - Genre & Comparable Books

Fantasy YA Novel

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard – My story is similar because like Corayne, Rylee discovers the truth of her ancient lineage and is revealed as the hope to save her world from destruction. A world full of fantasy and adventure. Like Corayne, she will not be alone in the fight. And of course, together her allies will help her stand against evil forces.

Fallen Series by Lauren Kate – My character Rylee and Liam will experience extreme highs and lows as my series revelations become known. The tension created between Luce and Daniel of unknowns and possible hidden agendas and in which they will come together and be torn apart is something similar to what will happen between Rylee and Liam. They start their relationship at a younger age than Luce and Daniel so it will be more innocent initially. A loyal friendship develops immediately. Their strong connection to one another is tested as they discover their purpose in life which could tear them apart.

5th Assignment - Hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound. *Her core wound is Self-worth. Her desire is to belong and know her purpose

Rylee lived life as a lonely, isolated child in the Haefen Monastery. At the age of twelve, Lily and Gabriel Rayne adopted her. Rylee is adjusting to life on Bronze Keep. Lily soon realizes she resembles the daughter she held lifeless at age 2. If it is true, the covenant of peace established between the Ziv and the Dray was broken, and the future Bronze Keeper lives.

6th Assignment -

Inner Conflict

Rylee’s life was one of isolation. Her family had abandoned her, and the monastery had withheld all information regarding her former life. Rylee senses Lily is withholding information which causes Rylee to withdraw and spend the majority of her time in the forest.

Secondary Conflict

Dealing with the fact that she has encountered a one-foot-tall blue talking butterfly in the forest, left her unsure on what to do. Should she tell Liam, the only person she completely trusted? Should she tell her family?

7th Assignment - Settings

An abundance of beauty spreads the length of Bronze Territory, which the Ziv guard. Covering 33,333 acres of land with over one hundred mountain peaks which have elevations of well above 7620 Meters. However, what left one speechless was the four mountain peaks that rose above the rest at 9,000 Meters. A magnificent river flows through the area creating the beautiful Terich Waterfalls between Upper Wisch Lake and Lower Wish Lake. There is a bridge going over the river that runs between Upper and Lower Wisch Lake with several paths leading west into the forest. One of those paths leads straight to Middle Lute which is Liam and Rylee’s designated safe place. Liam lives in a cottage even farther west of Middle Lute. Elephant Head Meadow is a clearing past Terich Waterfalls. The river meanders north of the clearing and runs east to Dray Territory and also far west into Krook Village. Massekah Garden, a presumed horse’s graveyard, sits nearby and is high on a hill, providing the perfect overlook to enjoy the wonderment and beauty of Bronze Territory. The silhouette of Bronze Mountains sits off in the distance northwest of there.

Bronze Keep, makes up 777-acres situated near the Bronze Mountains with vibrant layers of harmonious but ever-changing wilderness. The advantage of this mountainous region was the location. It was an area less traveled but was near civilization. The homestead was fifty miles from Krook Village. Their house sat off Gyrus Way Road about three hundred feet. Secluded deep within the forest sits a Shack built to conceal a shabby old cellar door. This provides the only access to the four mountain peaks which contain the secret historic covenants and recorded books of life of all denizens.

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1. Story Statement

Toni Bowman wants to ditch her business partner, grab all the glory for herself, and walk away with clients, staff and their thriving business.


2. Antagonistic Force 

Toni Bowman is both protagonist and antagonistic force to all others in this story. She is a highly talented graphic designer, and she knows it. Ruthless ambition drives her to undermine her ad agency business partner, Liz, and run roughshod over their staff.

Through all her hubris and showmanship, Toni downplays her humble family background and Liz’s ongoing contributions to their designer/writer duo. Even before starting their own ad business six years ago, she and Liz were paired as a team right out of college at the mega-firm AdVisors.

Toni’s own recent ad industry acclaim has gone to her head, and she clearly forgets that those surrounding her are talented too. Her success depends on their contributions, even if she doesn’t know it.

Toni plots to ditch Liz, create her own new solo practice, and entice clients and staff to follow her. She is particularly motivated to divert their newly-landed tech startup mega-client, Coagula into her fold. 

Coagula, with its new new cancer-detection “InstaTest,” is on track to become a billion-dollar “unicorn.” And since Coagula is headed by Toni’s college roommate and good friend Cassidy, she feels well-poised to succeed.


3. Breakout title

The Split    (current title)

Creative Differences

Sinking the Partnership


4. Genre & Comparison Titles

Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Workplace Fiction

The Devil Wears Prada meets Then We Came to The End


5. Logline (Hook line) with conflict & core wound

She’s shrewd; she’s driven; and she’s plotting to ditch her business partner and take it all. If only she knew her most-coveted new client is actually a fraud…


6. Conflicts - internal & with another character

Toni Bowman bulldozes her way through life in a struggle to rise above her lower-class family background and prove her talent. A successful business partnership is not enough; she is determined to claim that business all for herself. Ultimately, when daunting roadblocks arise, she turns her talent in a new direction — striving to gain respect as a painter backed by a top-flight Manhattan gallery.

Secondary character conflict:

Toni’s last romance ended in an uproar over her insatiable career striving. It left her raw and determined to stay uncommitted and put her own needs first. But when her new relationship with Jonathan starts to catch fire, she wonders if she can actually find love again. In a nasty twist, she recruits Jonathan’s wealthy sponsors to invest in her own client, which ignites Jonathan’s anger. Her unfettered ambition appears to have thwarted her love life once again, unless she can find a way through the morass.


7. Setting

The novel flashes between three sleek, glass-walled Manhattan ad agency offices and a lavish New Jersey corporate campus. The Coagula corporate campus features outdoor walking trails, a stately boardroom, and a bustling product development department housing a high-tech medical diagnostic machine studded with dials, colored lights and a card reader.

Other scenes include:  

- A lavish fund-raising auction at the Naples, Florida, Ritz-Carlton, featuring world-class food and entertainment and populated with formally-attired guests winging in internationally on private jets. Auctioneers’ chants crackle with energy, leading Cassidy — in her display of bravado to prospective investors — to over-bid on a trip package she can’t actually afford

- A prize trip where would-be investors join Cassidy’s group on a private jet that feels like a flying living room, with cushy leather seats, catered meals, and ample alcohol…

- Then aboard a cruise ship amid a confetti-send off, a champagne toast and speakers blasting Jimmy Buffet tunes

- Later, a formal-yet-trendy patron reception at the New Orleans Museum of Art honoring Toni’s new boyfriend Jonathan, a nationally-acclaimed photographer. Roving wait-staff hand-carry lavish hours d’oeuvre selections on silver platters, floating among jewel-bedecked blue-hairs while a tuxedoed musician at a grand piano plays soft background music.

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The Act of Story Statement

Find the serial killer, even if it’s a monster that pulls her back to her troubled past.

The Antagonist Plots the Point

The antagonist is the titular Ana, or more appropriately the hive of Anas. Anas are grotesque, skeleton-esque monsters that hunt and feed on humans. Their means of survival for the past centuries have been to hide in the skins of their victims (mainly young women), continuing in that girl’s place to lure others (mainly overweight men) to their hive. They’ve been able to survive in a way that they only need to feed about once a month, and as the United States has become more and more populated (and as people have cared less and less about the welfare of those they deem unattractive) they’ve been able to stay under the radar better and better. Part of their stranglehold on the populations of the small towns in northern California where they reside is in their black vomit. When ingested, a victim becomes intoxicated, willing to do whatever it takes to get more, even if it means seducing and luring men into the woods as an offering to the hive.

Conjuring Your Breakout Title



When You’re Thin

The Woman in the Woods

One Last Hunt

Thin and Pretty

Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables

Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

Emily Schepp’s Marked for Revenge

Core Wound and the Primary Conflict

A former monster hunter tries to leave her hunting days (and partners) in the past, but when she stumbles across one last job, she must decide if she’ll return to that world.

Other Matters of Conflict: Two More Levels

The inner conflict for the protagonist (Sylvia) is whether or not to return to her monster hunting ways. She’ll feel torn between leaving it behind and letting new friends deal with a monster unprepared or helping them and diving back into a world that’s left her scarred and embittered.

The “secondary conflict” is the actual monster hunting itself. Once Sylvia realizes there’s a monster in the town she’s passing through, her friends decide to take it down. The monster poses a threat to Sylvia’s friends and unraveling what kind of monster it is and how to kill it become the secondary conflict.

The Incredible Importance of Setting

My novel will be set in a small cluster of small towns in northern California. The tight-knit community will make it difficult for Sylvia and some of the other secondary characters to gain the trust of the locals, and will have to resort to various unsavory means to be accepted and accomplish the tasks at hand. This cluster of small towns is also unique because almost every resident under the age of 18 is drop dead gorgeous, to an almost unbelievable degree for outsiders. The towns are extremely invested in the modeling agencies in southern California, many of the high school graduates going on to pursue a career in modeling. This unbelievable beauty standard sets Sylvia and other characters on edge as they try to maneuver through this unfamiliar setting.

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New York Pitch Workspace 2021

  1. Story Statement: In the not-so-distant future, the world faces climate collapse and humans are addicted to pills that were created to stave off addictive habits. In this world, Poppy Newton, a young climate scientist, and her cohort, are joined together by one thing: The Clubhouse. Something deeply ominous is happening to women at The Clubhouse, a collective so elusive yet renown that their nightly activities are unknown except to the limited few who enter, yet the world covets its existence. When a member of the cohort disappears in its doors, the urgency to break down its doors becomes a matter of life and death. Little do they know that their own lives are interwoven within the confines of The Clubhouse which turns their plans upside down.
  2. Antagonist: Abe Miller is a former boyfriend of Poppy and co-founder of The Mend. He is a handsome, charismatic leader with prestige provided his work in the scientific field. He also is on the board of the Clubhouse, a title he holds proudly at such a young age. Abe is well-liked by most, but he is known to have a hothead most accept as a token of leadership. Abe and Poppy had a horrific end, in which Abe attempted to take advantage of her on their research trip to the Maldives. Since then, he has floated in her life like a taunting ghost while basking in his success. Little does Poppy know that Abe has plans for her, and fully expects her to one day break into the Clubhouse. 
  3. Title: The Clubhouse, Walls Scream Within, Smuggled Petals.
  4. Comparable: 
  5. Hook Line and Core Wound: A young climate scientist becomes obsessed with the inner workings of an exclusive club, only to find out it has plans for her and the world around her.  
  6. Inner Conflict/Secondary Conflict: Poppy Newton has family ties to the Clubhouse. Alongside that, she faces interpersonal relationships, such as her friend Alice, who works at The Mend and wants the company to thrive. In many instances, Poppy will gaslight herself and consider her obsession a weird response to grief from her mother’s passing. In many cases, it’s those she loves and trusts the most that do not support her obsession. And, perhaps, they are right, as the Clubhouse wants her to be interested to lure her in.
  7. Setting: The climate crisis has shifted the world in which mass immigration from flooded countries/states and health disparities is present. Women are excelling in STEM, but for some reason there is a lingering force keeping their voices unheard or secondary. Folks are convinced the pills from The Mend saved the mental health crisis, as the pills prevent those from being addicted to substances. It’s a world that still seems like our own, but it has a mass amount of subtle and uncomfortable contradictions.
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file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

Kingdom’s Con Men – Story Statement: Nicholas Johansen, my novel’s main protagonist, is abandoned at birth by parents instructed to do so by their unscrupulous church pastor, a religious leader who considered the newborn a distraction from the couple’s ministry duties. Every father, mother, ostensibly loving nuclear family, with home, balanced meals and white picket fence, reminds Nicholas of what he didn’t have and still longs for. A simple and, ironically, unmaterialistic man, Nicholas aspires to achieve love within the context of a traditional family. He discovers a semblance of this via friendship—with classmate Rowland Wade. When the two discover a knack for conning residents of their smalltown of Kingdom, OH, they thrive at it, and it enhances their bond, until Rowland ends up in juvie. There, he embraces religion. In Nicholas’ eyes, religion has once again stolen from him someone he valued. Though Nicholas argues his life’s mission is to take down corrupt clergymen by conning them, so much of what he does—despite his zeal for corruption—reflects his ongoing aspiration to experience family.

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.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.

Religious men: church leaders, pastors, evangelists, reverends—they are Kingdom’s Con Men’s antagonistic force, engendering conflict, tension and obstacle at various stages of my main character Nicholas Johansen’s life. One pastor instructs Nicholas’ parents to abandon him. Another torments Nicholas when he lands work at the city of Kingdom’s unofficial house of ill repute. Another has his henchmen beat Nicholas, breaking a rib and loosening teeth in the process, upon discovering that Nicholas has conned him. And another kills the person Nicholas considers his truest friend. Yes, religious men—the church leaders, pastors, evangelists, reverends who make life difficult for Nicholas throughout the novel—they’re all Kingdom’s Con Men’s antagonistic force.

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

Breakout Titles For my Novel:

1)    Two For One God

2)    Of Kingdoms and Con Men

3)    Kingdom’s Corrupt

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?


1)    Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead – Amazon.com describes the contemporary adult fiction work as a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel...”  That’s precisely what Kingdom’s Con Men endeavors to be. All of those things.


2)    Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis – The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature calls Lewis’ classic 1927 novel Elmer Gantry a satiric indictment of fundamentalist religion… “Throughout the novel Gantry encounters fellow religious hypocrites” – and my protagonist Nicholas Johansen, encounters the same--and cons ‘em all. And though Gantry, like Nicholas, is ultimately exposed as a fraud, he is never fully discredited.

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.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.

Kingdom’s Con Men Hook Line: Religion ruins everything in the life of Nicholas Johansen. Raised in an overly religious town, abandoned by blindly religious parents, tormented at every life stage by corrupt religious men who, Nicholas believes, cons from him everything resembling love, family, friendship and acceptance, he finally decides to put the con on them.  

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.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.

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.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?

My Protagonist Feels Conflicted When…: In one scenario, Protagonist Nicholas Johansen dines with his high school girlfriend’s loving family, in their large, beautiful home—a daunting contrast to the small, shabby apartment he shares with his detached grandmother. The family has everything he’s always wanted, makes him long for it even more profoundly. Their home is filled with love, he concludes. They want for nothing, their lives are legit, he thinks. His life, however, is one to be ashamed of, he concludes, while shrinking in their presence. His idealization of the family evokes an anxiety that results in his doing things that are uncharacteristic of him—such as assuaging his utter distaste for all things religious and attempting to attend church with them.

A Secondary Source of Conflict for my Protagonist…: In one of several scenes involving so-called “Men of God,” Nicholas is dismissively referred to as a “bastard.” Nicholas hates being called a that word—it reminds him that he’s fatherless, motherless, too. From boy, to teen, to man, he never fails to respond--with violence--to the triggering term. So angry at the insult, he could kill the offender—especially if it’s a corrupt preacher.

file:///C:/Users/Middl/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg FINAL ASSIGNMENT (7): sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story?

A Sketch of My Novel’s Setting: Kingdom is Ohio’s safest city. Virtually no crime. Churches everywhere. Good people. It’s nicknamed “Holy Ghost Headquarters”—quite a selling-point for respectable families seeking to settle down in a small town where politics (conservative or otherwise), sex crimes, and the cultural impact of hip-hop music appear nonexistent. Oh, but there’s one spot, on the city’s far end, the dark side of town, called “Thornridge House.”   

Thornridge House is where wayward residents get whatever they want. Reason most crimes are nonexistent in quiet little Kingdom: they only occur within Thornridge House, or T-House, walls. Originally intended as wealthy industrialist Silas Leigh Thornridge’s lavish estate, its extravagant marble floors, mahogany paneled walls and gold leaf columns were an affront to wife Lilith’s modest Midwestern tastes. Her refusal to reside in the perversely palatial mansion rendered it Gilded Age’s first man cave, where Silas instead hosted parlour games for his powerful cronies. In 1910, a clandestine council of city leaders met with Kingdom’s branch of the Anti-Saloon League, urging an agreement to make T-House the town’s specified spot for illicit imbibing. Gambling, prostitution and other immoral activities subsequently assigned themselves rooms within the 16,000 square ft. French-style manor. Post prohibition era, those thirsting for unlawful thrills or to secure items not legally sold in local stores discovered where to go--to the only place in the Bible belt-like town where citizens can procure porn, radar detectors, fireworks or Sunday liquor. As long as it brings no attention upon itself, and law-abiding families are ostensibly unaffected by its activities, law enforcement leaves T-House alone. Protagonist Nicholas finds work at T-House. Amid all the chaos daily occurring, it becomes his home.



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