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New York Pitch Assignments - December 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


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!



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. 



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).


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.



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).



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?



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.



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?



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.


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.


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%.



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



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.



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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Respite – Memoir by Michael McCormack (preface and first chapter).pdf

Story Statement:

An environmentally conscious, psychologically damaged photographer spends a quarter century capturing epic landscapes and iconic cities on film, while trying to escape the memory of a traumatic 1970’s summer and its closely guarded family secrets. Eloquent pictures gradually become a trail of thirty-five-millimeter breadcrumbs spread across each page, foreshadowing loss, betrayal and violence. Those same secrets force the photographer into making a devastating choice between madness or permanent estrangement from all he has known, in order to become a better man and retain his humanity by embracing nature instead of conflict.



The principal antagonist is gradually revealed to be the protagonist’s brother (J.P.), while chronic untreated depression serves as a formidable co-antagonist throughout. The biblical story of Cain and Abel (though never referred to in the narrative) will be brought to mind, as two emotionally crippled young men struggle to overcome a highly dysfunctional, Irish Roman Catholic upbringing by finding solace in their respective creative talents. As the men age, the bonds that once intimately bound them, are slowly undone by the suicide of a cousin and the crucifying death of the family patriarch from dementia. The photographer’s guilt over not having saved his younger brother from the family’s neurotic grip when he once had the chance, poignantly echoes throughout the story. The reader will come to see this failure as the source of J.P.’s eventual betrayal of his brother, as well as the senselessly violent confrontation near the book’s conclusion that nearly destroys them both.


Breakout Title:

Respite – A photographic memoir of madness and resurrection

Magic Hours of the Loon – A memoir of madness, love, and pictures

Shutter – One man’s journey from madness to mercy through a camera’s lens

The Crying Manifesto - A man's photographic journey through mental illness to redemption


Comparable Books:

Molly Crabapple – Drawing Blood

Sally Mann – Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

(Both of these well received books are comparable to my manuscript because they are beautifully written by professional artists who overcame personal adversity through creativity, and found larger truths about family, society, and themselves within their art)


Hook line/Core wound & primary conflict:

A.     Hook line – An eccentric male nature photographer passionately attempts to emulate his artistic hero’s life by embracing his own untreated mental illness as a creative muse, with eventual tragic consequences (imagine Vincent Van Gogh with a camera instead of a paint brush, transplanted from 19th century France to contemporary New England).

B.     Core wound – At age twelve the protagonist witnessed his mother’s infidelity, keeping the secret to protect her, and save his parent’s marriage. With a thirty-five-year vow of silence came the betrayal of his father, and a lifetime of guilt. The experience undermined his trust in women, a belief in the concept of family, and fostered years of self-reproach. As an adult man, disappearing into the creation of a photograph becomes his drug of choice (the way in which he deals with the wound), as the photographer forgoes intimate relationships in favor of beautiful images that cannot cause pain. But emotional dissatisfaction and loneliness only intensifies his chronic depression, for which he refuses treatment.

C.     Primary conflict This story’s principal dilemma can be summed up with a sardonic line from its ninth chapter: Untreated depression is the logical extension of my citizenship – like so many men walking amongst us, I have a concealed carry permit for madness.” The photographer wrongly believes American men cannot speak of their emotional pain without losing their dignity and stature as men. The conflict in this narrative comes from the photographer’s growing self-awareness, understanding that his despair will ultimately lead to self-destruction of one form or another, yet depression fuels his desire to create pictures – his work with a camera providing the only meaning or joy in his life. Great care is taken to show – through metaphor and physical descriptions – how rapidly a depressive’s mind can turn against them, even under the most benign of circumstances. The protagonist struggles (and ultimately fails) to keep a darker nature hidden within, with near disastrous results as the story progresses to its redemptive conclusion.


Other matters of conflict:

A.     Inner conflict – The great inner conflict of this narrative comes from the photographer’s gradual understanding that the better part of his adult life has been spent hiding behind the protective bubble of a camera lens. He can only view life as an artistic observer, but doesn’t yet possess the psychological tools needed to actually live it fully. By the middle of the book, while photographing the Eiffel Tower at night from the Seine the photographer realizes a camera can no longer shield him from the great flood of human longings. There is a growing, dramatic awareness within this man’s soul, of beautiful places and passing moments seized on film only being appreciated for their value as a potential work of art. Yet the distraught photographer can only shut the cacophony of voices in his head off for any appreciable length of time when he is actively taking pictures – the source of his inner conflict.

B.     Secondary conflict – The secondary conflict within this story is slowly revealed to the reader with clues plainly spread out across the page, as in a novel. Throughout the story, vital information about family dynamics, the protagonist’s mental state, human nature, and society are rather seamlessly blended into evocative interpretations of individual photographs – photos symbolic of grief, and portents of dramatic change. This secondary conflict is between the photographer and the story’s antagonist, his younger brother J.P. 

In the last part of this proposed book, the author makes the prescient observation “Most American men are only one humiliation away from having this distinction of being a man rendered utterly meaningless. One job loss, one catastrophic illness without health insurance, one failure to respond in a situation that demanded immediate action, and you are Sisyphus rolling that same stone up the hill again and again.” Those two sentences encapsulate how even brothers can come to blows in the worst of times. When their father is committed to a psychiatric ward against his will after a mysterious violent altercation, the story becomes a reckoning with ancient family secrets, long simmering resentments, and the evolving nature of American male identity.



One of the many strengths of this 75,000+ word literary memoir is that its setting is in a constant state of flux (a larger reflection of both the photographers growing creative ambitions and raging psychological states). Locales and environments (both interior and natural) shift dramatically to great effect, keeping the reader on edge and heightening curiosity about where the next page might take them. A first chapter humiliating confrontation in a jail cellblock awakens the young would-be photographer to America’s social inequalities, before cinematically merging with the abandoned winter streets of a northern New England mill town; here, he aspires to create meaningful art as social commentary for the first time, where “sidewalks were covered in garnishes of broken glass, grimy alleyways displayed forsaken pieces of decapitated furniture, strewn about like dead fish after a hurricane. The detritus of an America where twelve years of neoliberal, supply-side economics had failed to trickle down to the lives of its working poor.

Gritty factory floors with “sweat extracting furnace ovens and cool chambers of poisoned air” eventually become stunning high mountain ridges where the protagonist begins the long process of teaching himself a new trade as a landscape photographer. The visceral presentation of the White Mountains to the narrative presents them  as an antidote to dysthymia (his specific depression diagnosis).

*The reader may begin to sense by the end of the memoir, that mountains have been a metaphor for depression all along, and he has been climbing them since the summer of 1995 to be on equal terms with the hardships they exact – something he has never been able to accomplish with depression

Much attention is paid to the aesthetic details of how a landscape photographer selects a subject (often a symbol of unfulfilled longings), and the subject then becomes a portal on the page that bridges nature with concealed emotions or disturbing past events. For example, A lyrical rumination on an idyllic childhood of the early 1970’s living beside a wooded Connecticut riverbank is then contrasted with more details from the summer of 1977; A specific date (July 27, 1977) is noted for disturbing revelations hinting of danger to the family (children sleep in closets less susceptible to bullets).  The imagery from this span of time is revealed in fragments throughout the memoir (deliberately throwing the reader off balance) as the photographer ages, coming to terms with an unsettling childhood as he moves deeper into middle age alone.

The photographic shoots written about are geographically diverse, and no less revealing for their emotional, philosophical, or technical insights. A photographic capture of birch trees becomes the fulcrum for the memoir’s strong environmentalist ethos. The photographing of a Vermont pasture in fading summer light four days after 9/11, is linked to much larger themes, such as environmental degradation and Americans denial of their own history. In this way, the photographer’s mental illness (and unwillingness to treat it properly) is subtly merged in the text with the untreated neuroses of his own country. There is a jarring contrast between this man’s deeply conflicted psyche, and the utter guilelessness of the beautiful landscapes he obsessively photographs, in the same way Van Gogh once painted Provence. Evocative sentences such as “Sun burnished the scenery with an impressionistic confetti of autumn light that fell through the leaves onto a riot of earthen colors,” are followed by blunt declarations like “Empty beds and ring-less fingers are the cost for becoming a half-mad artist.” These literary contrasts foster an understated tension within the storyline.

The author is drawing a parallel between toxic masculinity and the human race’s destruction of the Earth’s fragile ecosystems in favor of an economic system bent on unlimited consumption of finite resources.  By now, the photographer’s political awakening has aligned his work with the antiwar and environmental movements. The author provocatively asserts that America’s mentally ill continue to be stigmatized as weak in the same way that those who question the necessity of its endless wars are. In this way, he begins to tie the circumstances of his own life (and photography) to a growing awareness of America’s more corrosive myths about itself.

*One of this proposed book’s unique narrative devices is that the author has combined the highly descriptive prose of a well-traveled journalist with the literary sensibilities of poetry to firmly establish setting, and bring to life for the reader the imagery of photographs and how they came into being. On the page these photographs serve a dual purpose: Illustrate the photographer’s creative growth over a long span of time, while providing a set of clues as to the psychological chaos that lies beneath the surface.

Great cities like New York and Paris are then explored in detail by the now professional photographer, as he seeks out more challenging motifs beyond the natural world. Photography is now being examined, not just as an artform, but as a philosophical plea for greater understanding. The contrasts between rural landscapes and city are dramatic and intentional, but no less emotional. The city settings are where the reader will begin to interpret echoes of pending tragedy on these pages of elegiac prose lit by Paris twilight and New York skyscrapers. The unique dynamics of a New England Irish catholic family are showcased for the reader with flashbacks – an “ancient heritage of suffering” that only ensured “we were doomed to piss blood together in heaven or link arms across hell.” He reimagines his father and himself again in early-1970’s Manhattan, “disappearing into a gauzy haze of cigarette smoke, suede suits, and soft pretzels lying on steaming charcoal grills.

Iconic New England locations are then featured, such as Cape Cod’s National Seashore, Down East Maine, Boston’s Italian North End, Gloucester, rural Vermont in autumn, the White Mountains, Cape Elizabeth, and ultimately, Death Valley for the memoir’s surprising epilogue. These settings are all constructed around descriptions of a psychiatric ward where the photographer’s father spends his final days. The ward is a precursor to a final confrontation between brothers. The author uses the confrontation to posit the idea that men are prone to violence because of an outdated belief that it’s the only way the world will acknowledge their pain without reducing their masculinity in the process.

By the epilogue set in the transcendent California desert, the author concludes after surviving four decades of depression, that the neuroses of modern life are inextricably linked to mortality and man’s omnipresent fear of death – a belief nature photography has only reinforced. The memoir concludes that it is in nature where human beings are most likely to overcome their worst characteristics, like conflict, resentment, and selfishness. He has finally found the courage to stop hiding behind a camera, live fully in the moment, and embrace a life of meaning through his travels and relationships.  












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Story Statement

15-year-old Whitney Graham finds herself on Ésperin; a secret modern society that gives people a second chance, and stones that allow them to control an element. Though a fantasy nerd, she's stunned to be on a magical island in real life. Not only does she try to comprehend the island itself, but two voices in her head guide her in opposite directions. On top of all of this, she's proclaimed as the supposed Chosen One, one who'll lead Ésperin into continued peace, as the first person to ever control Water. Plus, a shunned girl also wants revenge on Whitney for stealing everything she wanted. With her life flipped upside down, she's determined to understand more of Ésperin, why two voices conflict against each other, and what they and she have for their fates to intertwine with the island.



Vega is a supernatural voice who speaks to Whitney ever since she arrives to Ésperin. She claims she is commanded by God to watch over Whitney since she's the Chosen One, but not only manipulates her, but also holds a deeper grip on Ésperin and everyone in it, including Carnelia.

Carnelia Brown is one of the thousands of lucky survivors to enter Ésperin, who was physical and verbally abused by school bullies and her own mother and sister. She only hoped for love in her life. Arriving there, she was finally accepted and respected by others, especially when they assumed she was the awaited Chosen One. But once people mysteriously treat her similarly to the bullies and her family back home, the flashbacks were too real and she goes on a killing spree, causing her banishment from Ésperin. Living on a cavernous cliff, Vega also talks to Carnelia, but tricks her into thinking Whitney is the Chosen One and stole the acceptance Carnelia always wanted. After all this happened, her soft side hardens and will harm anyone who tries to hurt her again.


Breakout Title

Mystic Shadows - current title

Shadows of Ésperin

Wander Lost



The Magicians by Lev Grossman - the main character is a big fantasy nerd and finds himself in a magic world, but there's a secret darkness that lies in his new world and realizes it's not what he hoped it to be.

Mirror X by Karri Thompson - the main character enters a new world, discovers new lifestyles, both good and bad, of others, and she is a similar Chosen One who only her can save the world, or so she is told.


Core Wound and Primary Conflict

A shy, introverted girl who escapes in fantasy books finds herself on an unrealistic, hidden magical island, but her anxiety is challenged when she's proclaimed as the awaited Chosen One. Two opposing voices also speak in her head who guide her with her new life.


Other Matters of Conflict

Whitney must confront her anxiety by being the highest recognized person in Ésperin, along with leading and protecting the entire society from any conflicts. 

The secondary conflict are Shadow and Vega, the two voices who speak to Whitney saying they were sent by God to watch over her. Shadow guides her on one path, but Vega warns her not to trust him, and vice versa. She's not only stuck between the two, but she also crosses paths with Carnelia, who only hears Vega and is misguided to hate Whitney for stealing her fate.



Ésperin is an island unknown to the world who bring people to it through mysterious scenarios, taking them away from their tragic lives and give them a new life. And Ésperin gifts every citizen with a stone that can control an element from nature. Whitney not only is the first person to control Water, but she's the only person to hear Shadow and Vega. She learns more about both Ésperin, Shadow and Vega, but slowly realizes there's more to both them and their purpose to Ésperin.




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Story statement:  After the brutal murder of her brother and the subsequent airing of the investigation by The First 48, a mother and school teacher must keep her brother’s homicide case alive after the prosecutor drops all charges on the arrested suspect.  In the absence of justice she learns to create a happy ending where there is none and closure where there is only an abyss.  


The primary thematic antagonist is the protagonist’s innate need for justice and avoidance of defeat, which constantly challenges her identity and life purpose.  The personal antagonist is the prosecutor who dropped the charges on the arrested suspect.  A seasoned prosecutor, hippy at heart, more aligned with the fight of public defenders and the underdog than the piety and righteousness of the State Attorney’s Office where he would spend his career.  He saw himself as someone who would change the system from the inside, having seen too many cases where defendants were wrongly convicted.   A tall and stout man, exuding kindness and warmth.  A deep thinker, at odds with the police department from the moment he was assigned the case. Consistently conflicted as he found himself in support of the arguments of the defense. The antagonist is firmly rooted in his convictions and unbending in his ethics.  Those ethics continually tested and challenged by the protagonist as he allowed himself to bear witness to her endless suffering and, at times, destruction. 


1. Chasing Justice -  

2.  Still I Breathe - What remains in the absence of justice.

3.  Shining in the Abyss  - Living with unsolved homicide.


A similar title in this genre is: A Rip in Heaven, by Jeanine Cummins.  This story is a true crime memoir told by the family member of the murdered and the sister of the wrongly accused. The author enlightens the reader to the inner-workings of the criminal justice system as the case goes to trial and the aftermath of the trial. The story thoroughly describes how lives change dramatically as a result of the crime and lack of closure, even after a trial. This story mirrors mine in relationship to the victims’ experience with the police, personal transformation from the event, long-term impact and search for closure.

Another similar title in this genre is: Shattered, Reclaiming a Life Torn Apart by Violence by Debra Puglisi.  Kidnapped and raped by the same man who murdered her husband the author details her profound trauma and her attempt to recover from it. Through the trial of the assailant, the author exposes the treatment of victims in the criminal justice system.  I found this book similar to mine as it describes the ripple effect, short and long-term of violent crime and the journey to rebuild one’s life.


When The First 48's filming in a Miami homicide investigation results in the arrested suspect's release from prosecution, the victim's sister is catapulted into a sixteen year, life-altering fight for unobtainable justice while avoiding her own descent as collateral damage. 

 Inner Conflict and Secondary Conflict:

The protagonist’s primary conflict and core wound is the traumatic loss of her brother which is exacerbated by the actions she takes to avoid this wound.  The secondary conflict of debilitating defeat arises as the prosecutor drops all charges on the suspect.  She then replaces the natural grieving process with an innate desire to avoid defeat and therein becomes the driving force of the ensuing investigation.  This places her center stage in a losing battle and serves to increase her desperation and the risks she is willing to take. 

Additional secondary conflicts arise as she penetrates the methamphetamine world for leads and confronts witnesses and suspects.  One such action resulting in a warrant for her arrest in New Jersey.  Likewise, conflicts arise with family relationships as her identity of wife, mother and school teacher must morph to include her developing identity as fearless investigator. 


The setting of this memoir takes place physically in the author’s home in New York, various settings in Miami (police department, state attorney’s office, FCI Miami, witness interactions throughout Miami) and finally in Fort Lauderdale as her healing begins.  The more prevalent setting is the author’s mind; exposed, raw and honest, as destructive as it is life-affirming. 

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Fragments of Quinn by Peggi Peacock


Young scientist Quinn is uploading her mind to erase her painful past but, when she’s blackmailed and disappears, her friend, desperate to find Quinn, downloads the very memories she hoped to delete into the brains of three dream research subjects. The fragments of Quinn the friends experience reveal the misinterpreted history she was trying to escape and provide clues in the race to save her.


Fragments of Quinn flips between past and present. 

Not only is Quinn Beckett trying to escape the blackmailers who are trying to force her to take down the very project that is the key to Quinn 2.0, she also faces her own demons etched from a family history of lies, omissions and misunderstandings. 

Past—Quinn’s mom, Amelia Slater, is manipulative, controlling and totally disconnected from human emotion. She is a brilliant and highly successful woman, used to controlling everything in her world, that is until she became a mother. When Quinn’s father, a former Olympian and Quinn’s primary caregiver, descends into deep depression after nearly letting Quinn drown, Amelia sorts them both out in her usual, efficient manner. But her actions nearly destroy both Quinn and her Dad, resulting in a family rift that, over the ensuing years stretches into a chasm of distrust and betrayal. Amelia believes all her choices are made to protect both Quinn and her father but what they have really done is destroyed Quinn’s ability to trust or to love herself. 

Present—Zeke the aging hired gun leading the blackmail attempt, didn’t really want any more jobs. He wanted to retire in peace. But his damn ex-wife is draining him dry. This one final job, forcing this wunderkind Quinn to take down the freakingly cool DreamDraw clinical trial, sounded like easy money. But the religious fanatics paying Zeke’s bill are about the worst clients he’s ever worked for. And he’s being forced to work with an amateur, another damn geek with local and technological knowledge Zeke doesn’t possess. Not his fault he can’t keep up with the world. And this damn target, this Quinn kid, she’s a lot tougher than he anticipated. That pisses him off royally, but she’s earned his respect in a weird way.



Fragments of Quinn. 

Mind Share




Near Future Kate Morton X Black Mirror 

 Fragments of Quinn is: 

       a near future Kate Morton tale, full of family secrets and lies;

       like the series Black Mirror, ratcheting up ordinary human experience with plausible near-future tech;

       like Paula Hawkins’ Into The Water, revealing secrets and lies through first and close third POV;

       like Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, built on a Sci-Fi backstory simply to provide the mechanism necessary to make the story work.


Young scientist Quinn is uploading her mind to delete her painful past but, when she’s blackmailed, she refuses to take down the very tech enabling her plan. Quinn escapes her blackmailers and disappears. 

Her friend, Jaskaran, desperate to find Quinn, downloads the very memories she hoped to delete into the only system possibly able to interpret the data: other human brains.

Three friends participate in DreamDraw, the clinical trial for the cool new tech that turns dreams into images. After DreamDraw, things change. Dixon, the commitment-phobic player, pukes his brains out every time he attempts a new conquest. Beth’s carefully constructed grief vault quakes, about to blow. Ali, the painter of muted watercolours, presses intense oil images onto massive canvases with her fingers. When Beth and Dixon attend Ali’s art show and see the images from their heads on graphic display, it becomes clear that DreamDraw is at fault.

They confront Jaskaran and the braided narratives collide.

Realizing their experiences originate in the mind of Jask’s missing colleague, a sad young woman they now feel connected to, the friends decide to help Jask find Quinn and save her from the blackmailers and herself. 

The fragments of Quinn the friends experience reveal the misinterpreted history she was trying to escape and vital clues in the race to save her from the blackmailers and the potential fatal impact of her accelerated mind upload.


Inner Conflict – Unworthy of Love or Life but Desperately Wants Both

Quinn’s misconstrued view of her past has led her to believe she is unworthy of love, perhaps unworthy of even living. In turn, this view has led her to the plan to upload and edit out her past, a plan that could really be viewed as a veiled suicide attempt. Quinn’s plan creates direct conflict with her true desire to be loved. She rationalizes that her mother will be so proud of the academic accomplishment – being the first human SIM – that she will finally love Quinn. Quinn’s father, the former Olympian, spent the first five years of Quinn’s life, before he abandoned her, training Quinn to be the strongest girl in the world. Quinn rationalizes that creating a better, stronger, more lovable version of herself will make her Dad proud, perhaps enough to return to Quinn’s life. Quinn refuses to admit to herself that her plan to wipe out her history will eliminate the possibility of earning that love as she won’t even know who her parents are. 

This conflict is evident throughout the story. 

For example, why does Quinn not just let blackmailers kill her if she is truly unworthy of living? Because she must be strong and justifies her desire to defy the blackmailers with the rationale that she must protect the technology that will ensure Quinn 2.0.

Secondary Conflicts

Jaskaran. Damn him. Abandoned by her parents and grandparents and even her dog, Quinn has vowed to not let human connections get in her way ever again. And then Jaskaran arrived in her campus office. She knows that, once her mind is uploaded and she can live as the first human SIM, there will be no chance of physical relationships. But until that time, she must figure out how to deal with Jaskaran. It wasn’t until she realized that she’d put him in grave danger that the true nature of her feelings for him whack her upside the head. But she tries to convince herself that she is only striving to protect him so he can complete the creation of Quinn 2.0, not because she loves him and wants to be with him. She can’t possibly allow herself to love Jaskaran, or anyone, as history has clearly demonstrated that she will only hurt anyone she loves.

Additional Conflicts

Quinn’s inner conflicts are mirrored by each of the three friends who unknowingly receive her neural download.

Emotions Under Wraps—Beth, who lost her mother to cancer, has refused to face her grief, to accept that loss, and has created a psychological grief vault to keep it under control. Quinn’s life has been full of loss and pain that, at such a young age and all alone, she has been incapable of processing. Instead, she has kept it locked away behind her facade of strength. 

Maintain Strength and Control—Ali, the artist, lives her life under strict control, behaviour typical of the child of an alcoholic. Her father’s chaotic impact left Ali in fear of not having control. In her very early years, Quinn’s dad worked hard to make his daughter strong. His rapid departure, when Quinn was only five, left a need for Quinn to always be strong, what her Daddy wanted and what he, himself, failed to demonstrate when he attempted to take his own life. Quinn has vowed to never be weak like him.

Unlovable But Needs Love—Dixon is a serial dater, not because he’s a bad guy, but because he can’t quite believe any woman would really want him long term. He moves on before they do. Dixon still sees himself as the geeky little kid with the buck teeth and coke bottle glasses. He believes himself to be unlovable, just like Quinn. Quinn believes she has caused great harm to everyone she has ever cared about. She refuses to allow herself human connections, they are dangerous. But, deep down, she desperately longs for love and connection.

7.     SETTING

Fragments of Quinn required a moody, bleak setting with opportunities for optimism and I knew just the place. Simon Fraser University (SFU), my alma mater and childhood playground, sits atop Burnaby Mountain, just west of Vancouver. Designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson, it is a study in concrete and grey, often shrouded in mist and forever damp. But, like Quinn, SFU has moments of brilliance and clarity when it is bathed in sunlight as the city below lies beneath a blanket of fog, mirroring Quinn’s desire to shroud her history and live as a new, bright and shiny version of herself.

Perched on top of a mountain, SFU’s concrete campus, like Quinn is solid and strong yet isolated, lonely, and unique. 

SFU first opened during the height of 1960s unrest and has a history of radical responses to world events. The school is known for leading—and even bleeding—edge research so fits as the location for DreamDraw and for the protests by those opposing the technology.

Vancouver, a young, vibrant city, provides a parallel to what Quinn aspires to be: fresh, new, clean, if she can just wipe out her fog shrouded past.

Water and woods play a major role in the story, particularly for Quinn and Beth. The Metro Vancouver area is a perfect location, fringed with forest and dotted with lakes. 

Water is both Quinn’s love and nemesis. It can wash away the past but forms a significant part of Quinn’s traumatic history. 

The sparkling turquoise expanse of Kitsilano Pool, where Quinn’s story starts, mirrors her childlike optimism and joy. Beyond the pool, the cobalt waters of English Bay lay before Quinn like her life, an endless sea of possibility. 

But as things start to go wrong, the coastal evergreen forest becomes her happy place, somewhere she can hide

The interplay of light and shadow, the physical obstacles and the hidden dangers of the forest perfectly represent Quinn’s inability to see herself and her life clearly. 

Vancouver and SFU are the home to a large Indian diaspora, including many brilliant young academics and researchers, some who have been my lifelong friends. Jaskaran Menon would fit right in. 

Sasamat Lake and Camp Howdy, a deserted kids camp, echo Quinn’s lost childhood. The camp is isolated and lonely but possesses great potential for joy when the sun comes out and the children come back.





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Marni struggles against stereotypes, rejection, and loss as life forces her into an unexpected home.



Grumpa has always been a constant roadblock in Marni’s life, long before they ever met. As a lawyer, he is skilled in choosing a side, arguing his stance, and never giving up. He is always right, especially when it comes to his family’s reputation. His controlling hand interfered with Marni’s family once before and now he stands in her way again. His stubborn, old man prejudices are the perfect catalyst to Marni’s story, creating a hostile environment where his picture-perfect family is threatened by her existence. He openly refuses to accept Marni and tries to keep his wife from meeting Marni as well. He doesn’t hold back when they are together, reminding her that she doesn’t and will never fit in to the mold of the perfect southern family he’s created. His tenacious mind slowly recognizes a spark of familiarity that eventually reveals aspects of his own character within her. He watches from the outside as she struggles, knowing he’s played a part in her pain, but still wanting nothing more than to send her back home. He needs life to go back to the way it was before because Grumpa has never dealt with change positively.



1)     Never Enough Time  (current title)

2)     Not-So Picture-Perfect 

3)     Her Best Kept Secret



1) Lauren K. Denton’s “Glory Road”—women’s fiction. Like my novel, Denton’s story is told through 3 generations of southern women, each with her own perspective and issues. Denton’s main character struggles with self-worth and self-acceptance which is similar to one of my characters’ personal struggles. When Lauren, the stepmother, meets Marni, the shock of who Marni is immediately reopens old wounds from her father’s infidelity. When Marni learns of her father and finally meets him on her doorstep, she is terrified that she’s in the wrong place. After discovering that these white strangers are in fact family, she struggles with her identity and the rejection her Mama faced years ago. Denton’s writing is easy to read, digest, heartwarming, and sensitive. She dives deep into the waters of women struggling to define their self-worth while recognizing that they deserve to be loved for who they are. I feel we have similar views on life, love, and family which are seen in the themes and details we’ve woven into our novels. I see a clear parallel between her established audience and the readers my book will draw.

2) Ashley Clark’s “The Dress Shop on King Street”—women’s fiction. Like my novel, Clark’s story is told through three people. She weaves an inspirational story of love and mercy despite the hardships and obstacles that life threw at each character. Her tale, much like my novel, highlights how easily a mother’s secret can cause her children to doubt their identity and place in this world. We see the extent a mother will go to, the lies, the secrets, the sacrificial choices she’ll make to ensure her child is safe and well-loved. With the death of Marni’s Mama, her 15-year-old secret is finally revealed so that her daughter can be loved and fully known by her father. Clark’s novel also parallel’s my novel in illustrating just how much people struggle to find their place in the world. In both of our novels, the issue discussed is a bi-racial heritage. The audience that loves Clark’s writing style and storytelling techniques will similarly love my novel content, relatable characters, and underlying theme that highlights the universal language of a mother’s love.



After the death of her mother, Marni is forced to move out of state to live with the father she never knew existed, raising alarming identity questions while she struggles to overcome rejection.

Torn between her mother’s final wishes and an unrecognizable family, Marni comes face-to-face with a world that rejected her and her Mama.  



Marni’s inner conflict: Loss

Lost—lost her mother, lost her home, lost the security of her aunt, loses faith in her personal identity.

a.      Trigger—the realization at the lawyer’s office, the reading of her Mama’s will, that she has a father and will be moving to Texas to live with him and his family.

b.     Reaction—confused and furious. She begs her aunt to step in and take her because they are all each other has left. All she’s ever known is her Mama and Aunt Jo, so now she’s losing what little sense of home and family she has left. Living without her Mama is hard enough but sending her to live with perfect strangers in Texas, seems cruel and unimaginable.

Secondary conflict: Rejection

Rejected and unwanted—this involves her new family, specifically the grandfather, the head of the family. He is a stubborn, old, traditional man who sees the world as black and white. When Marni shows up, he will not entertain the idea of her, let alone be welcoming and hospitable. He refuses to accept her and lets her know that she’s not one of them, not like them, not family.

a.      Trigger—Marni finds out that her new grandfather refuses to acknowledge her presence and will not accept her as part of the family. However, the grandmother, Mrs. Ann, takes Marni out on a girl’s date and ambushes Grumpa on the golf course. She forces Marni to ride a few holes with Grumpa where she quickly understands that he doesn’t see her as a legitimate grandchild because she’s not a product of the marriage and love he approves.

b.     Reaction—Angry, hurt, and irritated. Marni challenges his stubborn view of love and acceptance by bringing up his dog, his half-breed that he adores. She feels rejected and unwanted not just because she’s different, but finds out he considers her a mistaken product of a relationship that he thought he had handled years ago.   

Third inner conflict: Identity


Setting: Book starts at a graveside. We feel the dirt beneath Marni’s feet as she approaches the graveside service, we see the flowers, the people, the faces. The scene allows for us to witness Marni as an adult and shortly afterwards, a flashback to when she buried her mother as a teenager. The setting allows us to feel her pain, setting the tone for the rest of the story.

This book has two main settings that are complete opposites of each other. Marni’s first setting is at her childhood apartment in downtown Chicago. Her small home has distinct smell, feel and sound. The greasy pizza joint and local food holes nearby produce competing smells that mask the dingy feel of the exhaust filled air that envelops her crowded block. Inside her apartment, the city sounds of traffic and trucks loading and unloading permeate their thin walls. Space is limited, but the space she and her Mama do have is full of love, laughter, and happiness.

Marni’s second setting is the complete opposite. She is sent to live in a small, conservative Texas town with perfect strangers, who don’t know the first thing about her. This new home is a massive mansion that sits among similar sized and beautiful houses. The openness highlights each house’s distinctive space with a sprawling front yard, huge trees, and colorful flower beds. The air is transparent and clean, no trace of exhaust fumes and the silence is almost startling. The streets are vacant, and she wonders about the people who live inside these homes. She’s used to people everywhere, practically on top of each, but that’s not the case in this small Texas town. The sounds inside her house are chaotic with the chatter and energy of two younger girls…siblings are a novelty. Inside, the house smells like a bakery, not a greasy pit stop. Her new home feels like a resort. She has her own bathroom attached to her bathroom and is marveled that she doesn’t have to share a bathroom with anyone. The giant backyard showcases a beautiful in-ground pool, a fancy play set, and a painted wooden swing dangling from the massive oak tree. This new Texas home is bigger than she ever dreamed possible, yet she feels so alone and empty.  

We are also introduced to multiple settings throughout this quaint Texas town. We experience the city through Marni’s eyes as she shops at specialty stores, as she takes in her surroundings, as she eats at new restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. We are taken to the uppity country club for meals and rounds of golf. Marni is taken to a unique spot along the Bosque River, Tonkawa Falls, where she admires the river against a backdrop of jagged limestone cliffs. The readers get to experience living in a small town, the people, the sights, and the food.

The book ends where it began, back at a graveside service. This setting reiterates loss, but also the acceptance to a family she never knew she had and never knew she wanted.

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