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New York Write to Pitch 2022 - Seven Assignments (09/22)

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) Story Statement

A terminally ill woman seeks redemption from the past love she betrayed.

2) Antagonist:

Outside the boundary of La Tembaldora, a valley nestled in the high elevations of Mexico’s La Sierra Madre Mountains, the poppy is cultivated. Carlota Nieblas is seventeen when the Mexican military, known as the soldados, on a mission to destroy the illegal crop, cruelly torture the local farmers and murder Carlota’s older brother Narcisio. Her fiancée, Sarapio Viscara, avenges Narcisio’s death by killing his murderers. Knowing the soldados will hang him, he escapes to Texas. Before Sarapio departs, he promises Carlota that he will return as soon as it is safe, and they will marry. She vows to wait for him. Without the protection of her brother or Sarapio, Carlota is kidnapped by a local admirer. Although she is an innocent victim, the mountain people shun her as a woman without honor. With the help of her sister Pascuala, Carlota flees from La Tembladora, swearing never to return. Two years apart, filled with hardship, tragedy, and deception force Carlota and Sarapio down different roads, shadowed by regret. Fifty years later, Carlota is a widow when she is diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. Weeks after, she discovers that Sarapio is still alive. Carlota returns to La Tembladora on a final quest to seek forgiveness from Sarapio. The lovers reunite and pursue a second chance at love. But nothing has changed in La Tembladora. The soldados are still torturing and murdering the local poppy farmers and have become even more hostile as they hunt to capture Sarapio, who is now Mexico’s most notorious drug lord.  

3) Breakout Title

Current Title - LA TEMBLADORA

Carlota’s Final Quest

Where the Poppy Blooms

After the Poppy Blooms

4) Genre Comparable:

HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford.  Lovers forced apart by uncontrollable circumstances meet again in their golden years.

THE LOST WIFE by Alyson Richman. Separated by war a husband and wife go separate paths. Each believing the other is dead. Sixty years later they reunite.

5) Hook Line:

After discovering the fiancée she abandoned fifty years ago is still alive, a terminally ill woman journeys back to her childhood home, a remote valley in the Mexican Sierra Madre, to seek forgiveness from the man who is now Mexico's most notorious drug lord.


6) Matter of Inner Conflict:

Carlota is frail from lung cancer, but she is determined to meet with Sarapio and explain why she betrayed their love even if it means returning to La Tembladora and facing the horrific memories that forced to run. She convinces her daughter, Lorena, to accompany her on the trip. As she journeys back to her childhood home in the Mexican La Sierra Madre Mountains, the violence and humiliation she suffered resurfaces.

Example from novel:

At the mention of the local military soldiers, the soldados, Carlota and her sister’s voices would intensify, swear words were muffled by sobs, followed by a searing silence. Through misty eyes, Carlota would catch the silhouette of her eavesdropping daughter, and her small feet quietly retreating into her bedroom.

Whenever Lorena questioned her about what she overheard, Carlota replied that “tragedies were best left buried”. But now, Lorena was old enough and should know everything about La Tembladora. The place Carlota swore she would never again set foot. From the first moment she had set her tiny feet on that cold valley floor, there had been a terrifying supernatural aura surrounding the mountain. An aura that she knew now, after living for sixty-nine years, had been a warning.

Secondary Conflict:

Sarapio Viscara leads a life of crime, but he tries to make amends by helping the poor. After reuniting with Carlota, Sarapio wants to marry her. But does love give second chances to a man whose hands are stained with so much blood? He agonizes about bringing the only woman he has ever loved into his violent world. He is on the run not only from the soldados, but an adversary cartel also wants him dead. Gun shots in the middle of the night at his hacienda warn him that his enemies are near, and he and Carlota must escape out of Mexico before they kill him and harm her.

Example from novel:

He returned the cup to the table as the stillness returned to the room. The warm liquid seemed to have stopped her hacking. Carlota pulled out a rosary from her pants pocket and began to pray. Had he been a fool to think he could bring good law-abiding people into his life? Could he keep Carlota safe if they married even in Argentina? Not completely. There would always be a price on his head. No man can erase the sins of his past. But surely, he and Carlota deserved a few years of happiness.


7) Setting

La Tembladora, Mexico, is a valley nestled in the high elevations of La Sierra Madre Mountains. On the surface, its majestic natural beauty filled with flowing streams and colorful spring flowers conceals a threatening aura that Carlota has always sensed.  After her father’s death in the winter of 1935, four-year-old Carlota moves with her impoverished mother and sister to this lawless community where the women are guided by a strict moral code, and the locals are quick to condemn. Outside the boundaries of La Tembladora, the pretty but illegal poppy grows, bringing prosperity to the poor and constant vigilance from the corrupt Mexican military known as the soldados. Carlota’s uncle, Teodolo Chaidez, ventures in the illegal drug trade and thrives. Knowing of the repercussions the potent flower will bring to the mountain, Carlota’s brother Narcisio adamantly opposes his uncle. But it is too late. As the poppy blooms, so does the violence.



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First Assignment
Tom must avoid prison after he’s framed for murder by his stepfather.

Second Assignment
Ray Whelan spent many years as an alpha male in the harsh Texas prison system, and views predation and extreme violence as perfect tools for accomplishing his odious goals. Released from prison, Ray grafts himself onto a struggling family by marrying a late-stage alcoholic with two teenaged children, giving himself cover as a family man while he runs drugs for a Mexican cartel in the small town of Flatrock, Texas.

After murdering one of his drug dealers, Ray frames his stepson Tom for the killing in hopes of avoiding a return to prison. Tom’s sister knows the truth but is devoid of any self-worth, has been sexually groomed by Ray, and meekly supports her stepfather’s scheme for fear of losing his affections.

The county sheriff strongly suspects Ray is the killer, but Ray creates suspicions about his unsuspecting stepson by committing a second brutal murder, continuing to manipulate his pitiable teenaged stepdaughter, taking advantage of Tom’s loyalty to family, and fabricating evidence. And while Ray silently assesses that Tom stands little chance of surviving prison, he remembers that he himself thrived behind bars, viewing the contrast as an indication that he is vastly superior to the stepson he disdains.

Third Assignment
The Vultures of Flatrock
The Hills Hide the Sun
The Bad, The Bored, and The Desperate

Fourth Assignment 
American Rust by Philip Meyer, and Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Between both books, they cover topics and themes similar to those I explore: the hopelessness and regret often found in small towns, and the ache young people feel to escape; the chaos of dysfunctional families; the lack of opportunities that can drive the bad, the bored, and the desperate to engage in crimes with devastating consequences; the power of gossip; the grinding pain of poverty; the misery of drug abuse. 

Fifth Assignment
Desperate to finish high school and escape his small Texas town, a promising young man’s future is imperiled when his ex-con stepfather frames him for murder.

Sixth Assignment
After Tom buries a body to protect his sister, he begins to feel overwhelming guilt. Tom frequently tries to rationalize the act by convincing himself the victim was deserving, or that at least burying the body wasn’t as bad as actually murdering the victim, but the crime continues to gnaw at his conscience. If it weren’t for his need to keep his sister from harm, whom he mistakenly thinks was the killer, Tom would readily confess his sins to the sheriff and accept punishment to try and assuage his guilt.

Tom also is wary of disappointing his co-workers, neighbors, and especially his girlfriend, all of whom recognize that he comes from a very troubled family, how hard he has worked to overcome his circumstances, and how bright his future could be. When Tom interacts with these various individuals after the murder and burial, his inner voice plays out the disappointment each one will feel if they learn the truth about what he did.

Seventh Assignment
Flatrock is a small town in the Texas Hill Country, just a couple hours north of the Mexican border. The long distance from any major city, and the surrounding hills give the town a deep sense of isolation. Flatrock is run by a small number of affluent individuals, and opportunities for the majority of its working class inhabitants are hard to come by. Younger people with potential like Tom can’t wait to leave, and many of the less capable individuals stew in resentment while working menial jobs, or pursue illicit activities in a desperate search for a leg up.

The town is dotted by a few beautiful, spacious homes, but most of the residents occupy very modest one or two bedroom clapboards. The majority of these homes are older, many are in need of serious repair, and a good number are also used to operate under-the-table businesses – everything from barber shops, to daycares, to car repair. A few blocks of dilapidated public housing serves the most destitute.

Relationships amongst the town’s inhabitants are deeply intertwined and often last a lifetime, forged during the innocent years of elementary school, the budding adulthood years of high school, and then through imperfect marriages, families, and jobs. Passing through these phases of life together can be deeply meaningful, but can also lead to hatred and envy and be destructive.

The story is set in the early 1980s before social networks were virtualized, with local news, gossip, and other information exchanged at coffee shops, cafes, the Dairy Queen, PTA meetings, and over telephone land lines.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: A young martial artist sets out on a mission to destroy a mysterious creature and must navigate the dangerous underground world of martial artists filled with grifters, demons and supernatural forces.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: The antagonistic force in my story is a mysterious monster attacking innocent villagers that the protagonist, Quincy, is sent to search and destroy as a test that his martial arts master set out for him, to prove his mettle as a martial artist. Quincy must figure out what the creature is and defeat it on his own in order to pass his test. The antagonist serves to drive the plot because it forces Quincy out of his comfort zone, and lets him grow as a martial artist while on the road as he investigates the mysterious creature. Hunting the creature also allows Quincy to face his deepest fears.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: Quincy and the Nine-Tailed Fox, Martial Underworld.

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Naruto X Lockwood and Co. I chose these two because it has similarities in both concept and premise to my book. Naruto is a young ninja in a ninja school who gets trained in the ninja and fighting arts, and gets sent on heroic missions. This concept is similar to my book, in which a young hero is trained in a secret society of martial artists and gets sent on heroic missions to help innocent people. Similarly, Lockwood and Co. follows three young operatives of a psychic detection agency who investigate mysterious cases involving ghosts and gets rid of them to keep their clients happy. The protagonist in my book also has to investigate supernatural cases to save innocent people.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: When young martial artist Quincy Zi is sent on a mission to purge a mysterious supernatural creature, he must get over his fears and past failures to navigate the dangerous underground world of martial artists filled with grifters, demons and supernatural forces.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: Quincy's inner conflict stems from his fear of the dark. With the high-pressure expectations from his environment (powerful martial artists with superhuman powers), his fear of the dark, which caused him to wet the bed at 11 years old, is a source of mockery and bullying. Quincy himself is a decent martial artist but his fear doesn't earn him any respect and prevents him from fully realizing his potential because he scurries back home in fear once the sun starts to go down. In the book, there is a brief mention of an incident when Quincy was sent on a mission, which ended in utter and abject failure because he scampered up a tree like a frightened kitten when dusk fell and had to get rescued.

The secondary conflict involves Quincy growing up as an orphan because his mom died during childbirth and no one knows who his father is. Quincy growing up without a family also alludes to his lack of social skills, thus having no friends and being the target of bullies. While on his mission out in the big, wide world, Quincy realizes the importance of having friends and allies, and eventually learns how to make a friend.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: The setting is set in modern times, but mostly takes place in the remotest mountains in China, barely touched by modern civilization. It starts out in a dusty, ancient temple where no patrons dare visit. It's the remotest temple in all of China, resting atop a mountaintop with a drop thousands of feet deep. But it's not the drop that scares away potential patrons - it's the peril that awaits those who attempt the climb. It is said that the cursed mountain is haunted by unspeakable beasts and unidentifiable forest creatures. Even modern-day authorities don't dare disturb the mountain. Every time they try to do so, bad luck seem to befall those who try to build tourist spots or pave hiking trails. They tell unlikely tales of being chased by ogre-like creatures and being haunted in their dreams for many years after. Its reputation first earned it the nickname, Gui Shan or Ghost Mountain - a nickname that stuck for centuries. Little do ordinary people know, this is the main headquarters of the Lotus Triads, the secret society of martial artists that protect the world from Otherworld creatures that threaten humanity.

As the story unfolds, it's revealed that there is a whole secret underground world of martial artists who have battled Otherworld forces for centuries, protecting the world from harm. They mostly dwell in remote mountains and inaccessible places, making them invisible from the ordinary world. These places are filled with all sorts of danger, from Otherworld creatures, demons, supernatural forces and hostile martial artists looking to challenge anyone just because they can.

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Seven Assignments (Abigail Cummins' the Near Lands project) 


1) Story Statement: 

Save magic, save all the worlds. 


2) In 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

The main antagonists are Fionnlach, Fae Prince of Unseelie in Elfhame, and Lord Aethelred Ruraidh Connley, Hand of the High King of the Near Lands. Fionnlach believes Aethelred works for him, while Aethelred has aspirations of power that he keeps close to his chest. Both men wish to dominate control of the wellsprings, which are the main sources of magic, in the Near Lands and Elfhame alike. Fionnlach is Fae and eerie; his moniker amongst his own people is the Prince of Thorns. He was born to power and is innately cruel, willing to step on anyone who gets in the way as he strives to rule Unseelie and control more wellsprings than any other faction does. He sees people as pawns on a chessboard. Aethelred has come to power through long scheming and difficult political work, and sneaks to achieve his underhanded consolidation of power. He will betray anyone. Both antagonists value power and the ownership thereof more than anything else, though they access their power differently. Fionnlach’s strengths lie in his magic use and his royal blood; Aethelred is conniving and clever, and works behind the scenes to pull people’s strings as though they are puppets. 


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

The Near Lands


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

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo - Comped because of the concept of retelling fairy tales with darker twists. Bardugo references familiar tales without mimicking their exact forms or shapes, and uses exquisite language to focus her story collection on pieces with realistic endings and grim consequences for their characters. 

Tithe by Holly Black - Comped because of the focus on Unseelie and Seelie Courts, and because Holly Black writes a beautiful work where the “real” world overlaps beautifully and invisibly with the magical in a way similar to how the Near Lands and the world as we know it co-exist. 

Part of what I hope to achieve with this book is to bring the magic of the fairy-tale-focused, Fae-centric YA novels that I loved so much growing up (and still love today) to an adult audience. I read very widely, and I have found almost no comparable works of any length on adult shelves that deal with fairy tale retellings or Fae/fey/Faerie in the same way that so many YA books do, and I still want to read those things as an adult - just with a little extra folklore and violence and spicy scenes and political intrigue dashed in here and there! All the best comps I can find (and the works that mainly inspired me) are YA, but I definitively am writing in the adult genre. 


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

At age four, Bryn Hamilton was found wandering a public park in California, unable to tell rescuers anything about herself except her name and story after story of the Near Lands, a place of high adventure and fantasy that’s filled with maidens, magic, and Fae. Now adult Bryn is finding that the Near Lands aren’t imaginary at all - and she isn’t who she thought she was, either. 


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

Bryn’s biggest inner conflict is that she doesn’t know where she belongs. She mostly avoids thinking about this, and that repression of her fear makes her prickly at times and slow to forge meaningful connections with others. Having grown up in the foster care system, she deals with particular abandonment and trust issues, and as an adult searches for a way that she can both be fully self-sufficient and capable (the way she already is), and also be taken care of and feel comfortable (the way she is not). 

This conflict manifests on ongoing ways throughout the story. At first, when Bryn is brought to the Near Lands against her will and discovers that these fairy tale worlds really do exist, the wonder of “magic is real” becomes tainted by the fact that she’s been kidnapped to another world and is now expected to marry a stranger and “do her duty,” all after being abandoned by her own when she was a child. 

Scenes where family/sense of belonging and lack of family/sense of belonging are triggers: flashbacks to her time in Ronnie’s care growing up; meeting her cousin Ciaran for the first time; when her memory of her Fae caretaker Linnea is unlocked and she realizes that Linnea died protecting her, and Bryn wasn’t unloved and intentionally abandoned as a child. Even by the end of this first book, Bryn is nowhere near done processing any of this emotional trauma and is still working heavily through her fight/flight reactions and instinctual dissociation. 

The secondary/societal conflict of the book - that Bryn must literally save magic or the worlds are all at risk - is heavily entwined with Bryn’s personal conflict. For most of Book One, Bryn’s goal is to figure out a way to get back “home,” to her life in the real world. She feels such a sense of wonder and love for the fairy tale world she’s discovered is real, but she resents everything about how she’s been treated and doesn’t see why saving everything should be her responsibility. As she learns more and more about how the magic of the wellsprings works, she comes to realize that she is a “Chosen One” by dint of hereditary magical powers and circumstance - ie concrete things that require her to be the one to take up the world-saving - and that literally no one else can save magic. 

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

There are three worlds in which the Near Lands takes place, comprising the three settings of the book.

The first setting is the real world as we know it, specifically the United States. Think cell phones and McDonalds and freeway traffic and 9-5’s. Bryn’s memories begin around age four, when she is discovered wandering alone in a park in California. She’s taken into the foster care system and grows up shuttled back and forth between caretakers, ending up living with a minor criminal who exploits her talent for remaining unseen and thieving. While in this setting, Bryn dreams constantly of the Near Lands, a group of kingdoms in a fairy-tale-esque world where magic exists. She writes down Near Lands stories, sketches maps, etc. She thinks it’s odd how often the Near Lands occupy her thoughts but it’s been written off by therapists, teachers, etc. her whole life as an escapist hobby that’s the product of an overactive imagination. Bryn travels extensively and is living in Pennsylvania at the beginning of the book. She’s always on the move to keep under the radar, so she’s spent time in many states; specifically mentioned are Florida, Pennsylvania, California, DC, and Montana. We spend the least time in this real world setting, beginning the book in the US and then providing flashbacks/memories located in Bryn’s various foster homes, previous thieving exploits, etc. to clarify Bryn’s backstory and give insight into some of her motivations as the plot moves along. 

The second setting is the Near Lands themselves. Turns out they're real after all, and Bryn is in fact lost royalty from Skyrland, one of the northernmost kingdoms in the Near Lands. During this first book, we see mostly the three topmost kingdoms in the Near Lands: Eloria, where Bryn makes her crossing into the Near Lands for the first time, which is decently analogous to medieval France; Cranagh Yrth, the eastern harbor port capital of the Near Lands, from where the High King rules; and Skyrland, the northernmost kingdom of the Near Lands. There are many other kingdoms included in the Near Lands, including Chandigesh, Knossos, and many more. My goal is to incorporate as many folkloric/fairy tale references as possible throughout the series, with specific emphasis on Scottish/Irish/Welsh source material. Because of this, any and all manner of fairy tale creature and environment exists throughout the Near Lands, and each of the many kingdoms provides some kind of analogous space for different fairy tale settings. For example, Skyrland as the northernmost kingdom has elements of Scottish, Norse, and Irish lore (think glaciers, trolls, craggy mountains, kelpies, salty cliffs, lochs, and pine forests), while Chandigesh as a southern, desert region explores elements of Persian and Middle Eastern lore (think rukhs, palm trees, djinni, marids, sand dunes, and thriving port cities on river deltas). The main important feature of all Near Lands kingdoms is that, while magic exists and magical creatures thrive there, these kingdoms are mainly populated by mortal humans. 

The third setting is Elfhame, the realm of the Fae. This realm is one that requires magic to enter (or the aid of a magical person/creature), and is the equivalent of “under the hill.” Bryn mostly sees the Unseelie Court and its environs in the first book, though Elfhame has many other regions. The Unseelie Court is a place of tricksters and roots and earth and obsidian. It’s full of darkly glittering beauty, all of which is capable of poisoning its admirers in the space of a heartbeat. In the manner of Fae, things may not be what they seem, but everything is alluring. The other part of Elfhame where we spend significant time is the Wildwood. The Wildwood is home to the solitary Fae, those who have not declared allegiance to either the Seelie or Unseelie Court. It’s also exactly what it sounds like - a great wood that spreads through Elfhame between the two courts. There is no industrialization or mechanical progress in Elfhame at large, as everything can be accomplished by magical means instead, but the Wildwood is particularly sylvan.  

Elfhame borders the Near Lands at its south border, where Elfhame’s unsettled land meets the Near Lands’ kingdom of Skyrland. The Near Lands fear their Fae neighbors, as especially in recent years there have been many attacks on various towns and villages by Fae. There is a treaty in place between the Fae Courts and the High King of the Near Lands, dictating the ways in which Fae may cross into the Near Lands, which supposedly should prevent acts of aggression against mortals. In turn, mortals are unable to cross into Elfhame at all without the aid of a Fae, as any kind of Crossing between realms requires magic. Even with this treaty, bands of marauding Fae continue to appear throughout the Near Lands, laying waste to settlements, stealing magic from wellsprings, and disappearing without a trace. This fosters anti-Fae sentiment among many of the Near Lands’ inhabitants. 

The real world has broken away from the other two realms completely, and over time (as machinery and industrialization became prevalent) has collectively lost its memory of the Near Lands and Elfhame. Now, the Near Lands and Elfhame remember the real world as “the Iron Lands” - a place anathema to magic, the same as cold iron. Within the Near Lands, it’s thought of as a mythical place, the same way people in the real world think of fairyland. Only the High King, the monarchs of the Kingdoms, and their Fae allies know that the Iron Lands are an accessible, real place. Because of this, it’s a perfect place for the High King to send Bryn, a princess who needs protection, so that she isn’t discovered by anyone who means her harm. 

Elfhame knows that the Iron Lands are very real, and though they don’t visit or make any kind of crossings back and forth between the Iron Lands and their home, they do use the Iron Lands as a place to dump their exiles and criminals. Generally, within Elfhame, exile to the Iron Lands is thought of as a fate worse than death. Once you’re sent to the Iron Lands, you can never come back (although this is explored in book 2 and may not be entirely true). 


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Part One: Launcelot (age 26)          Launcelot must reconcile his sense of self between his renown as a virtuous Arthurian knight with his recent un-virtuous deeds (his affair with the Queen and his sexual assault of Elaine of Corbin while he was bewitched and drugged).


Part Two: Launcelot (age 44)          Launcelot is determined to protect and teach his son, Galahad, (who is on the brink of manhood) right when the King is recruiting both of them to foil a rebellion plot that launches he and Galahad into a deadly jousting tournament, to crossing swords with a serial-killing psychopath, and confronting a sorceress bent on the destruction of the Realm.


The Overstory Protagonist: Galahad         Galahad's purpose is to improve humanity by going through time and reincarnating iterations of the same human that will "help" evolve human collective consciousness and placing them in key places throughout the chronological spectrum of human existence. 

     In order to do this, Galahad must obtain Morgalyn’s mystical tower. Once he possesses the tower, the tower will allow Galahad to travel into outer space and enter a black hole, which will enable him to travel throughout time. This will give him the means to re-write and evolve human consciousness and behavior one lifespan at a time. 





Morgalyn (The Fay) Morgalyn is King Arthur's sister. As children, Myrddin (Merlin) brings them to Sir Ector to be raised in secret since their father was Uther, a powerful king during the feudal era. As teenagers, Morgalyn and Arthur fall in love and Morgalyn becomes with child. Myrddin returns and enlists Arthur to unify the Isle under one king and Realm. Afraid for her family, Morgalyn meets with Myrddin at the Isle's volcano. There, Myrddin bequeaths Morgalyn magical powers. But after the birth, Myrddin meets with Arthur and tells him no one in his new kingdom will accept a king wed to his own sister—and further, if allowed to live, his son will one day lead a rebellion. So, Myrddin gives Arthur a choice: kill his son or choose another as a wife and form the Realm. Arthur pulls his son from Morgalyn's arms and hurls her baby into the sea. Morgalyn escapes and vows to destroy Arthur's realm with her powers. Her desire and attempts to destroy the Realm's system of governance puts Morgalyn in conflict with nearly every character in the story. In Part One, she manufactures a war across the Eastern Sea, which forces Arthur and his knights to leave the Realm. Then, Morgalyn unleashes the Rain of Blood, where she turns every river, well, and water source—even the rain—to blood in hopes of killing everyone on the Isle with thirst. In Part Two, Morgalyn teams with psychopathic, Lord Weostan, to raise a rebellion against the Realm. Her main motivation is to destroy the thing her brother sacrificed their son for.





The Triple Morn

The Second Ocean





  Comp Titles:

  A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

 Circe by Madeline Miller

 Bright Air Black by David Vann


These contemporary novels are all in the similar vein of my ms. These works all modernize the themes and characters of ancient, male-dominated, Greek myths similarly to how I’m rebooting the Arthurian mythos.  





Through two tragic love affairs sixteen years apart, Launcelot struggles with his core identity, and his deep desire to keep his family safe while also keeping his oath to protect King Arthur’s Realm against Morgalyn, Arthur’s sorceress sister; he finds that the more he tries to clutch his loved ones close, the more of them he loses, all while trudging forward on his journey to the final epiphany that we are all iterations of the same re-occurring person.





            Inner Conflict: From early childhood on, Launcelot has been conditioned to feel pronounced guilt and shame about his deeds and desires. Growing up after the death of his mother, his father, King Ban, tries to school young Launcelot in the virtues of celibacy. Ban took an oath of life-long celibacy after the death of his wife and tries to impress Launcelot of its virtues—even going so far as decrying onanism as well until Launcelot is wed. Of course, this proves a little too austere for teenage Launcelot who is caught one morning by his father in the throes of ‘self-abuse.’ Ban’s punishment of Launcelot is severe and lasting. The king publicly shames his son by painting his son’s exposed member with a strong purple dye in front of everyone living in the castle. 

            For years afterward, Launcelot succeeds to remain chaste until, as a young knight in Arthur’s Realm, he is seduced by Arthur’s wife and queen, Gwynevere. For months the two have an affair that increasingly becomes more sado-masochistic. This in turn, reignites Launcelot’s inward feelings of shame, failure, and guilt. He feels he has now not only failed his father but betrayed his friend and his king, as well as destroying his own emerging virtuous sense of self. 

            The affair and his concealment of it results in Launcelot’s escalating alcoholism. He begins to hear a ‘second voice’ in his head—which he calls the viper’s voice—which whispers to him a catalogue of his failures, hypocrisies, and treason. While he is still in the middle of this affair, Launcelot is called out to quest, and saves a maiden held captive by one of Morgalyn’s monstrosities in a tower. This maiden turns out to be Elaine of Corbin and Launcelot nobly returns her to her parents in Corbin. 

 Unbeknownst to Launcelot, Nimue (Elaine’s mother) and Brisen (Elaine’s aunt) are also sorceresses that believe a sexual union between Launcelot and Elaine of Corbin will result in the birth of a perfect knight—one that will one day save the world entire. This prompts Brisen to drug Launcelot and trick him into thinking he’s having a rough sexual rendezvous with Gwynevere when, he’s actually with Elaine. Launcelot ends up assaulting Elaine who was expecting Launcelot to softly make love to her. When Launcelot realizes what he’s done, and to whom, this furthers his descent into guilt, and he becomes manic and suicidal. After Elaine gives birth to Launcelot’s son, she visits Camelot. Launcelot drunkenly staggers into Gwynevere’s room to have sex with her at her command only to find Elaine with Gwynevere holding his bastard son, Galahad. This pushes Launcelot into psychological breakdown, and he wanders into the wild for two years. This cycle of guilt and shame only subsides when, years later, Launcelot is forgiven by Elaine who realizes he was bewitched by Brisen. Elaine offers to marry Launcelot so that he can finally be a father to his son.  Elaine’s forgiveness and acceptance is enough for Launcelot to finally allow himself to exist and reconcile with himself—not for his sake, but for Elaine’s and Galahad’s. 


Secondary Conflicts

            In Part Two, sixteen years later, Elaine of Corbin is dead (she sacrifices her life to save the Realm from Morgalyn’s Rain of Blood), Launcelot has secondary conflicts all over the place. For instance, when King Arthur commands Launcelot and Galahad to joust in a tournament and fight against the deadly Lord Weostan for Elaine of Astolat’s hand to secure a critical bridge in the Realm, a lasting friction is born between these two friends. Launcelot warns Arthur, “If any harm comes to my son, I’ll burn your Realm to the ground.” To which Arthur responds, “Fair enough…” Later, after Galahad’s magical powers awaken within him and he takes on the quest to evolve human collective consciousness—a quest which will pit him against Morgalyn, Launcelot argues and pleads for his son to flee the Isle with himself, his new love, Elaine of Astolat, and Launcelot’s loyal cousin, Bors. Galahad ultimately refuses his father and sends Launcelot away to try and save Queen Gwynevere from burning at the stake.




    This reboot of the Arthurian mythos is set upon The Isle, which is a medieval alternate/fantasy British Island. It comes complete with detailed castles, towers, cities, and shantytowns. But most historical references, and certainly all Christian references and locales, have been removed from the narrative. 

     Aside from all the usual medieval settings, wardrobe, combat, battles, and descriptions of weaponry that come stock with the genre, there are other locales upon the Isle that host some pivotal scenes and are very much singular to my ms. There is an expansive moorland in the north of the Isle where Launcelot and Elaine of Astolat run for weeks on foot trying to evade capture from Lord Weostan. During this time Launcelot and Elaine form a romantic attachment running for cover under thunderstorms and walking among the fireflies through the moorgrass. It’s also in the moorlands where years earlier, Arthur and Morgalyn fall in love growing up in Sir Ector’s fortress. 

      Next, there is the mountainous active volcano that sits in the middle of the Isle that plays host to several scenes. Like, when Myrddin bequeaths magical powers to Morgalyn, Brisen, and Nimue through the medium of ritualistic sex upon a basaltic dais on the volcano. Further, a year later Morgalyn will go back to the volcano after Arthur kills their son, and demand Myrddin for more power. The old sorcerer grants her request and allows her to stab him repeatedly before he recedes into the volcano and turns to stone. 

       There is also the setting of the Oylemen’s Cave. After Launcelot has a psychotic break and loses his mind and memory, he spends two years with a cult of men called the Oylemen. Dressed in only tattered loincloths, the emaciated Oylemen silently gather plants and stir them into a cauldron in their cave to make oyle. Daily, they take the oyle across this dark-watered rivulet on the cave floor, which flows into a narrow crack into the cave wall. The narrow crack is just big enough for a man to fit through and is covered with all manner of lush moss and live organica. On a crag right where the rivulet flows into the crack, they bring the oyle to a blindfolded oyleman. This man then manually stimulates each of the remaining oylemen in turn until they ejaculate into the rivulet. This sole, silent, ritual is all they do every day. Eventually, Launcelot escapes the Oylemen by jumping into the rivulet and floating into the crack. The crack leads to an antechamber with a whirlpool and a choice of two other caverns: a wider cave of further watery darkness, or another cave that is a portal to galactic, star-strewn, outer space. 

        There are also a number of scenes that occur on the Isle’s stone-cliff coasts. An orphan boy, named Stephen, lives in a fishing shack with the body of a dead woman and discovers we are wholly wrong about time…  Elaine of Corbin confronts Morgalyn on the cliffs amid a thunderstorm under a rain of blood… Years later, after the fall of Arthurian civilization, an old hermit walks the cold coast in winter and witnesses the burning of a woman for the mere crime of infidelity…

       And finally, there’s Morgalyn’s mystical tower. This castellated tower that comes mysteriously to Morgalyn after she ‘slays’ Myrddin, gives Morgalyn the ability to transport to anywhere in the world and beyond. She makes it appear in the moorlands, the coast, the volcano, and finally, at the gates of Camelot. It’s in this tower that Morgalyn captures and then clones Launcelot in the sunken pool of her solar—clones him so perfectly that neither the original Launcelot nor the clone knows which is which. And it is here, in this tower where Morgalyn finally meets her match against Galahad. After Morgalyn is defeated, in the last scene in the novel, Galahad takes the tower into the far reaches of space before a massive black hole, which he intends to enter.








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THE ODESSA CONNECTION Matt Evans (Humorous Fiction) 

September 2022 Write to Pitch 




Mike Novack is a struggling, incompetent young small animal veterinarian on the Upper East Side of NYC. One day, he gets hit in the head and can suddenly hear animals talk. Sounds a lot like Dr. Doolittle, I know. Except that Mike is a Russian sleeper agent, which Dr. Doolittle certainly was not. At least not that we know of.

Mike, who always had a special gift with animals, was abducted by the KGB from his childhood home in Odessa, Ukraine during the cold war and sent to America to live and become a veterinarian to further Russian infiltration of American society. He was then forgotten about by collapsing Russia in the 80s and 90s, left to his own devices with his fake family in Odessa, Texas before being pulled, unwillingly, back into spy work by a new FSB agent, none other than Putin's evil son, in the 2000s. 

Thanks to Russian connections, country boy Texan Mike, who graduates from veterinary school trained to be a cow vet, ends up in New York where he is placed at a clinic to meet, work for and get information from the richest of America's rich and influential. His ineptitude causes multiple issues, so much so that his handler, baby Putin, loses his cool and beats Mike causing the concussion that leads to Mike hearing animals talk. This power changes everything - from Mike’s professional competence to his ability to retrieve information useful to his Russian bosses.  

Mike falls in love with a client who is his childhood friend from Odessa and is now the Ukrainian diplomat to the UN and is on his way to animal communicator fame until Lil' Putin's devilish ways put Mike in a conundrum where he must navigate between saving his love and protecting his adopted country of the US and home country of the Ukraine, all while surviving his betrayal of Put-Putin. 

All this obviously very serious spy business is kept humorous by talking animals who offer a running commentary on Mike's fish out of water persona as a country boy lost in New York society, lost in sudden fame, lost in international espionage, lost in love and finding himself in life. 


Story Statement 


An inept NYC veterinarian, who is a Russian sleeper agent, gains the super power of telepathic communication with animals and must use his nascent ability to save his new home country - the US, his country of origin - the Ukraine, and his love - the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, all from his plotting FSB handler, none other than Putin’s most evil and incompetent son.


Antagonist Sketch


One of Putin’s children, his bastard son from one of numerous affairs, Andrei Osipov is a meaner and less intelligent, but not less conniving, version of his father. Vladmir Putin, Jr., as he likes to think of himself, secured a position via nepotism in the FSB but through his ineptness and proclivity for destruction has found himself assigned as a handler to a group of unnecessary sleeper agents planted in America twenty five years ago - all veterinarians. He is making the best of it - cheating, blackmailing and bribing his way to wealth and power when one veterinarian, Mike Novak in NYC, goes from his most useless agent to his best asset. When the opportunity comes to use Mike and Mike’s girlfriend, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, to do serious damage to the US and the Ukraine, Osipov sees the opportunity to get himself back in his father’s graces and make a name for himself. Andrei will stop at nothing to earn Putin’s respect and a position of power in the FSB that will lead to wealth. Mike, in one strange moment, went from a nuisance he had to babysit to the very means of his ascension. 












Shelby Van Pelt


Bonnie Garmus


Tom McCaffrey


Christopher Shelvin


Hook Line / Log Line with core conflict


An incompetent and out of place young veterinarian must use his new supernatural gift of telepathic communication with animals to stop an evil mini-dictator from destroying his country and his love.


Inner and Secondary Conflict Sketches


Inner Conflict

The protagonist Mike Novack has never had a family that loved him. In fact he had two identical families, both in towns named Odessa, who each did not love him in exactly the same way. Once Mike found his true passion and someone to love - cattle medicine and his bovine focused classmate, Sarah - it was taken away by Andrei. Now Mike is unloved in New York City. 

Once his power of hearing animals kicks in, it leads to a new love, none other than his childhood only friend Oxana Panko, who has grown up to become the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN. Finally on the way to becoming loved, Andrei Osipov intervenes and Mike is forced to choose between love and survival. His inner conflict becomes the source of his core conflict.  


Secondary Conflict

Mike also struggles with competence, having focused his training on cattle medicine. Mike is a fish out of water, an adopted Texan with a rural background in New York City. Educated, but not in small animal medicine or the ways of the wealthy elite, Mike finds conflict with his boss, some of the clinic staff and his clientele. 

This continues and he is making the best of it, learning to enjoy and appreciate all that NYC has to offer when Mike’s supernatural gift makes him the best animal communicator in the world and he is thrust into the spotlight as a celebrity, which he is equally unprepared for. A new level of incompetence and imposter syndrome takes hold of Mike that he must battle all while the tension of his core and inner conflict rise. 




The novel takes place in New York City. Mike works in the Upper East Side. This land of wealth and opulence is where the action and all of Mike’s famous clients are found.  

In spite of his country upbringing, Mike has found that he loves living in New York. It is the opposite of anything he has ever known and he finds himself enamored with much of what New York has to offer. Central Park, art museums, the subway and New York comedy clubs all play a role.

He lives in Queens and falls in love with his fellow loser neighbors, The New York Mets. He develops an interest in architecture, art and comedy; therefore many scenes are set in The Met, The Guggenheim, MOMA or The Comedy Cellar and Caroline's. The novel takes readers on a guided tour of New York’s art and stand up scene. 

Also, Mike is into New York's restaurant scene as he has become a bit of a street food / mid level restaurant aficionado. He can’t afford the Michelin starred places but is always after the best pizza, pastrami and falafel he can find. There is lots of beautiful food richly described in restaurants that you can still find in NYC. 

Fans of the novel - that’s right there’s going to be fans - will be able to tour Mike Novak’s NYC and sit where he sat and see the art, buildings, comedy clubs and same pathetic Mets that he loved. They can stop and eat where he ate. It’ll be a side cottage industry - Mike Novak tours. Invest now. 


You also have Moscow, Odessa, Ukraine, Odessa, Texas, Lexington, Kentucky and Texas A&M as places where characters spend some time. All are fun and maybe super fans will go and see them, but NYC is the place that takes on the dimension of a character of its own. 

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After decades of lies and on her deathbed, Mallory Collins must find the courage to share her family’s darkest secrets with her daughters to prevent them from reliving her past mistakes. Can they forgive her once they read the truth?



The antagonist in BEFORE I GO is Ryan Collins, a restless, middle-aged man who loves his wife and his family but has lost his way in life. Raised as an affluent mama’s boy and doted on by his wife, Mallory, in the early years of their marriage, Ryan is underwhelmed by the demands and monotony of raising two young daughters and feels neglected by his wife. No longer the center of her attention, he begins a secret affair with a co-worker. When Mallory discovers Ryan’s infidelity, she drops their children off with her parents and takes off for NYC for a week of solitude to clear her head and gather her nerves. On her cross-country flight, Mallory meets Jake Prescott, a handsome off-duty pilot. Sparks fly and an undeniable connection is made. They begin a passionate, whirlwind week-long affair, but Ryan won’t let Mallory go that easily. He is remorseful, persistent, and wants his wife back. When the unimaginable happens, and their world literally comes tumbling down around them, will Ryan finally win Mallory back, or will the mistakes of his past follow them into their future, and if so, at what cost to them all?



HELLO THERE STRANGER – (name of the game played by the protagonist)

PROMISE ME – (meaningful line repeated by several characters)

BEFORE I GO – (a play on Mallory’s urgent truth-telling on her deathbed)



WOMENS COMMERCIAL FICTION with elements of suspense, family drama & romance




Perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover and Emily Giffin.



 A young woman discovers her deceased mother’s journal revealing her darkest secrets, including her doomed marriage and secret love affair, leading to a shocking and unforgivable confession that will change her daughter’s life forever.



MALLORY: Mallory is reeling from the discovery of her husband’s affair. Blindsided by his secret life and unable to trust her own instincts to notice when someone is being dishonest, she is guarded and distrustful of everyone in her life. If she can’t look back with any certainty and doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow, how can she feel safe and move forward today?


MALLORY: The repercussions of Ryan’s infidelity will be felt for years to come. Who can Mallory confide in about their struggles? If Mallory chooses to attempt reconciliation, does she tell her friends and family? With today’s societal norms regarding infidelity, the expectation will be for them to encourage her to leave him and move on. Can she do that? Does she want to do that? If she confides in them and takes Ryan back, will they judge her for her decision? Mallory feels isolated with the weight of her family’s future on her shoulders.

NORA: After discovering her mother’s journal, Nora learns that the family history she once knew couldn’t be further from the truth. This shakes Nora to the core, and she feels betrayed by those she thought she was closest to. Will Nora be able to forgive her mother for the lies that she carried to her grave? More importantly, will Nora be able to move past the hurt the lies have caused and apply these truths to her own life, so she avoids reliving the mistakes of her mother’s painful past?




Location: California to New York City

Time: August 31, 2001 to September 27, 2001



Location: Family home, California

Time: Fall, 2020

The setting in BEFORE I GO is integral to the plot of the story. Told in dual timeline and bookended by Nora’s revelations about her mother’s secrets and admissions, the story spans 19 years, two POVs (mother and daughter), and reverts from California to NYC. The reader is purposefully left in the dark on the exact year/dates of Mallory’s story so as not to see the tragic events of 9/11 coming. Although there are slight clues as to the timeframe in which it takes place (subtle song references, mention of taking a steaming coffee into the airport for her flight, etc), these mentions are so subtle that even beta readers have not picked up on them, nor seen the plot twist of the setting coming in the closing chapters. The national tragedy serves as such an important turning point for the character arcs of Mallory, Jake, and Ryan. With unimaginable loss, grief and fear (emotional and physical) introduced into their lives they are forced to determine what and who is truly important to them. When all fails us, when the world feels like it is going to end and is literally crumbling around you, who would you want by your side? Who would you reach out to? And would their past indiscretions matter in those moments?

New York is my favorite city, and I often visit just to pound the pavement, people watch, and take in a show. As someone that feels the need to be incredibly busy all the time, NYC is the only place I truly feel calm. It is the only place I can sit on a bench and be still because the City continues to be busy for me. Because of this, I knew when I began to write my first story that NYC deserved to be a main character. So much of New York is a perfect reflection of what Mallory’s character is going through in BEFORE I GO:

The excitement of the bright bustling streets is the exact opposite, and in high contrast to the monotonous life, Mallory leads back home in California and makes it the perfect place to escape to distract herself from Ryan’s betrayal.

Strangers so busy they don’t look up and see each other while passing on the crowded sidewalks is a great metaphor for the lives Mallory and Ryan have been leading at home. Two lovers who live together but have become strangers by not engaging and simply going through the motions of life.

The tragic events of 9/11 mirror that of Ryan’s infidelity (unforeseen, earth-shaking, damage causing, crash, permanent damage caused) and the manner in which Mallory bounces back from the infidelity (similar to NYC’s resilient recovery).



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A genius orphan abducted by a mysterious academy ,faces its authoritarian Solar Virologist and fanatic tribes of savants, surfing for a cure in memories found in the destructive sprawling star virus, a black hole once called Earth.


Ausrine Vitri Helele was born in a Galaxy of chaos and survival.

He had been discovered by the age of 4 and chosen for candidacy at the elite Vish Order.  His education and testing would continue for 15 years.  Vitri  had a gift for analysis possibly because he possessed a nearly perfect photographic memory.  He was selected to receive the title of Vish and be among the first to go to Earth.. 

The gravity on Ausrine’s home world had made him stronger than most Humans.  

Ausrine was one of two boys to survive the first jump and it was him that discovered the memories.

Vish Ausrine Vitri Helele could save everyone.

He sent word back to the Vish to find children with minds like his.  Minds which could keep photographic records of all they sensed.

Ausrine invented the  tribal system that brought order, culture, identity and something to help deal with the tremendous physical and mental labors of jumping, seeing friends die or go insane.  The tribes brought stability.

Ausrine became Mr. Helele developed the system to map the memories of the boys.  Like an investigator trying to solve a crime Mr. Helele became the steward of finding the answer.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: The Last Star Surfer

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Enders Game, Ready Player One

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: A genius orphan abducted by a mysterious academy ,faces its authoritarian Solar Virologist and fanatic tribes of savants, surfing for a cure in memories found in the destructive sprawling star virus, a black hole once called Earth.


Ki was abandoned before he can remember.  He survived by his wits.  By most moral standards he would probably be considered a wild, savage animal.  Having to survive from such a young age Ki focused his mind one one thing, survival on a planet of criminals. 

His world will be thrown upside down when he surfs for the first time and lives a beautiful life swimming with a turtle.  For most people this wouldn't mean much but for Ki's brilliant mind a new chamber was opened.  It was at that moment he knew he would have to decide which Ki he would be, the Ki who simply survives or the Ki who takes risks because life is precious and it contains untold beauty.  This inner conflict starts right at the begining of the story and  you see him go back and forth as events unfold but eventually it is clear that Ki is heading toward a life of peace, even if that meant sacrificing his own life.  

A secondary conflict emerges quickly.  Any new arrival goes through a fairly unforgiving learning curve.  For Ki the events the plot quickly begins to put Ki at odds with the othre Star Surfers.  This conflict evolves throughout the story and moves from hostility to mortal danger.



The overall setting is a space station orbiting a black which was once Earth.  This allows me to create a number of scenes throughout the novel that readers can connect with during each jump:

-The Pacific Ocean, North short Hawaii with a Turtle

-A Redwood Tree growing

-Bucephales - Alexander the Greats famous horse

Complete list of jumps:  Chapter 7000 Link


The In Medias Res Setting is the Mysterious ship where the boys live, train, learn and meditate.

-Each level of the ship is described.  

There are painted scenes, murals throughout the entire ship which give it symbolism and color.

The primary living space is described in detail including the details of each tribe's living area.

The Jump area is described in detail

The Meditation area is described

The Research area where the Antagonist is in complete control.  There are a number of pinch points here.

The Learning area is very symbolic and a place where major reversals occur


Another primary setting is space

The jumps are described.  The feel of gravits, the protagonists experience, the science

The final scene where the story Climax occurs 


The above areas are emphasized in the work.


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Find a way to get to Salt Spring Island and start a perfect, new life.


The weather in Manitoba, Canada is a well-known formidable force. The intersection of Portage and Main in Winnipeg is touted as the coldest place in Canada; and if it wasn’t for the three day snow storm that shut down the province in January 1980, Jaime Dorr  would have made it to the west coast and Salt Spring Island. Instead, she ended up stranded in the small, northern town of Lundi long enough for RCMP officer Harry Dyck to see her slip out of the local cafe without paying her bill. Constable Dyck is the son of a Mennonite minister who was taught to “turn the other cheek” and growing up, was bullied because of it. He is ambitious, rigid, spiteful and likes being the big fish in a small pond. He has zero tolerance for rule-breaking both legal and moral. Harry volunteers on town committees so he can belittle and control others and force outcomes that suit his agenda. However, Harry is not a hypocrite, he holds himself to the same high standard he expects of everyone else. His only blindspot is his 10 year-old son who he adores and believes is destined for the NHL.



That’s the Problem with Rainbows

What Doesn’t Kill you Makes you Crazy

Lies for the Living, Truth for the Dead



Lucky by Marissa Stapley - Dec. 2021

Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett - Apr. 2022

If the Wizard of Oz hired Lucky Armstrong to drive his hearse and the ghosts from Unlikely Animals came along for the ride.

Darkly comedic upmarket fiction in a domestic, nostalgic setting with a troubled but likeable coming-of-age protagonist and a host of pleasantly eccentric characters.



A runaway becomes stranded in a quaint prairie town where the undertaker believes she is his new protegé, sent to him by her dead grandfather’s spirit.



CORE WOUND - Jaime Dorr doesn’t know who she is. That’s because when she was ten years-old, the only mother she ever knew, Connie Eastwood, revealed that she didn’t actually give birth to her. Jaime assumed that she’d been adopted, which meant  that Connie’s abusive, con artist husband Cliff Eastwood wasn’t her biological father. Hoping to escape Cliff and the rundown shack where they lived, Jaime decided to find her birth mother and that forced Connie to confess that actually, she’d found her in a toilet at the Woolworth’s department store downtown. Instead of taking the newborn to the authorities, Connie brought her home, named her Jennifer, and raised her as her own. Resenting Connie but also fearing she might go to jail, Jaime kept the secret.

The one bright light throughout her dismal childhood was her beloved grandfather, “Gramps” who always took her in when she ran away. After studying the calendar on his wall and seeing a photo of Salt Spring Island at the end of a beautiful rainbow, Jaime began dreaming of a whole new beginning. And like many adopted children, she also fantasized about the life she could have had. She imagined that the wealthy, childless neighbours, Roberta and Gerald Dorr are her phantom parents. Obsessed with the character Jaime Sommers on the hit TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, she begins secretly calling herself Jaime Dorr.

PRIMARY CONFLICT - The day Jaime finds Gramps dead she jumps on a bus and takes off for the west coast. What she needs most is for people to stop judging her based on her poverty-stricken, uneducated upbringing. When nobody likes you, it’s hard to like yourself. What she also needs is to discover her place in the world, one far away from Cliff and Connie and the thing that haunts her dreams - a toilet at the Woolworth’s where she works. And if she never again sees the classmates who ridiculed her growing up, bonus!

She begins her new life by assuming the fake identity of Jaime Dorr. After becoming stranded in a small town she sees no harm in lying about who she is. But things quickly escalate. The longer she lives in Lundi the harder it becomes to deceive the kindhearted people who’ve taken her in. And they want her to stay permanently but she isn’t quite ready to give up her decade-old dream of living on Salt Spring Island. As the months pass her decision about whether to stay or leave is complicated by RCMP officer Harry Dyck who continues to dig into her background. Eventually she must decide whether to leave for the island or face the soul crushing embarrassment of confessing to everyone that nothing she has said since arriving in their town is true.

RCMP OFFICER HARRY DYCK’S INVESTIGATION - At six key points in the story Harry reveals one of Jaime’s lies about who she really is, each time causing her to fabricate more lies to cover her tracks.

SECONDARY CONFLICT - Lundi Town Politics - Brian and Bud are cousins and close friends. Brian is President of the Arena Board catering to young people who are the town’s future; Bud is President of the Museum Board supporting seniors and preserving the past. Jaime lives at the Bed and Breakfast with Bud and Ardith, but works at the funeral home with Brian. Bud wants her to come work for him at the museum. Jaime doesn’t really want to work at either place, because she is only putting in time to earn enough money to establish herself on Salt Spring Island. Meanwhile, the biggest event of the year is quickly approaching—July 1st—where Brian hopes to earn enough in donations to put in artificial ice that fall - otherwise they’ll lose a matching government grant. Bud is competing for the same dollars to pay for the museum expansion which is way over budget.

SCENARIO - One of Jaime’s lies is that her father is good friends with Toronto Maple Leafs captain, Darryl Sittler. Harry pressures her into inviting Sittler to be the guest speaker at the July 1st dinner. She has no choice but to agree. At first she isn’t worried, she’ll be leaving Lundi on April 1st and they’ll have plenty of time to find someone else. But as the months pass, and she realizes how important the event is to Bud, she starts to panic. She decides to try and contact Darryl Sittler’s agent, but of course Bud has other ideas. He doesn’t want a hockey star to be the guest speaker, he wants a historical hero. So Jaime is relieved when Bud dials up an old friend, Bill Stephenson, who he invites to guest speak the event. Bud wants it to be a surprise and makes her promise not to tell anyone. But later, when she finds out that Bill is a WW2 war hero and spy, the real life inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series and he’s 83 years-old and lives in Bermuda, she’s convinced there is no way he’ll come despite Bud’s optimism. She begs him to call Bill again but he refuses because he’d already hid the long distance charges once from Ardith and wasn’t about to deceive her like that again . . . As July 1st nears, Jaime’s panic grows. The day before the event, Harry delivers his last blow by revealing that he’d phoned Darryl Sittler himself. Darryl isn’t coming. He wasn’t even invited. But he would have gladly been their guest speaker had someone asked. And, he doesn’t know anyone named Jaime Dorr.



The story is set in 1980 in the fictional town of Lundi, inspired by the real town of Lundar, situated near the shores of Lake Manitoba, a large lake on the Canadian Prairies. It is a hardscrabble place known mostly as a wilderness where only the resourceful and tough survive. Here the land is marginal and the rocks are plenty. The trees that do grow up—oaks and poplar, birch and spruce—root themselves against the harsh winds and deep frost, withstand droughts and floods. The ones that survive do so for hundreds of years which could explain the incredibly fresh, invigorating air. In recent times people have been known to relocate to the area because of it, but in earlier days families who came here had no place else to go.

The area was settled in the 1880s by poor immigrants of primarily German, Ukrainian, Mennonite and Icelandic descent who came with the dream of one day owning land. They made a living mostly from farming and fishing; hunted wild game, starved over winter, planted gardens in the spring. They co-existed peacefully with the indigenous people, the Saulteaux and Ojibwe who live on nearby reservations. Now they are called First Nations or Anishinaabe, but back then, we called them native or Indian. Other than that, Lundar hasn’t changed much over the years.

Lundar is mostly an Icelandic community that has an old-fashioned look and feel. With the exception of technology, it’s much the same now as it was in 1980, which back then felt like you were stepping into the 1960s. Generally speaking, Icelandic people are robust and determined. They are proud of their Viking heritage, easily offended and will argue a point to death—except the issue of women’s rights because it is an accepted fact that women are equal to men.

Many Icelanders are superstitious; they believe in ghosts, see spirits and feel connected to a hidden world the rest of you cannot see. They are family-focused and place an above average emphasis on reading and education, and areas settled by Icelanders are known to build a school before a church. Traditions and history are a priority. Children are spoiled and grandparents revered and there are plenty of multi-generational homes. Many of today’s seniors still speak the language and proving that everything old becomes a new again, many young parents still choose to give their children traditional names.

Icelandic names can be difficult to pronounce but are easy to identify. Because Iceland has a patronymic naming system, last names end in dottir or son: Hjartarson, Bjornson, Emilson, Gudbjornsdottir. This is both curious and delightful and explained here: Icelandic Naming Tradition

I fictionalized Lundar and surrounding area for the series (this is book one of three) because it is the place in the world I know better than anywhere else. I lived there for thirty years and still have a summer home on the lake. This is a perfect setting for a city girl who is lost in so many ways.

Sub-settings within the story include: Bed and breakfast, funeral home, community hall, arena, museum, hospital room, cemetery, local cafe, and outdoors along the shores of Lake Manitoba.

After the climax, five chapters are spent on Salt Spring Island, the largest and most populous of the Southern Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia. Its original inhabitants were the Indigenous Haida and later settlers included freed African American slaves, Hawaiians, and the some English, Irish and Scots.  For the purpose of this story it is worth mentioning that the Icelandic immigrants who could not tolerate the harsh Manitoba and Minnesota weather migrated to Vancouver because the terrain reminded them of home.

Salt Spring Island mimics Lundi in many ways. Both are small, tight-knit communities that can be difficult places to live since everybody knows you and they also know your business. Community leaders can be domineering and it can take a long time for a person to gain acceptance. There are eccentric people everywhere but in quaint towns, they tend to stand out. Both places have low crime rates and a laid back attitude. Key  differences between the two is that Salt Spring is only accessible by ferry, winter temperatures are mild, and the community is not as accepting of newcomers. Salt Spring has grown into a popular summer tourist destination—but in 1980, tourism on the island was just beginning.

Sub-settings on Salt Spring include: The ferry, cottage, sweat lodge, and chapel.

After Salt Spring, Jaime goes home.



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Story statement: 
Hanoona and Romana are a pair of unlikely friends. After Romana is sexually assaulted by a boy from school, they must work through their own personality flaws to come together and receive justice in their own ways. 


Ms. Arfa is one of the teachers at the private Islamic School Hanoona and Romana attend. She is middle aged women with children that lives a boring life. She is invested in her students’ lives more than she should and cultivates an environment of negativity as well as misogyny among her students. As a teacher of the two friends, she is meant to be a mentor or even a friend but when she takes of advantage of her position of power over the girls and she makes Romana believe she is someone who she can confide in other than her mother who might not be as understanding. Romana tells Ms. Arfa some details of what the boy from her class has done to her, Ms. Arfa takes the side of the boy. Ms. Arfa favors the boys over the girls generally, but she is especially fond over the boy who Romana is accusing of sexual assault. With the information Romana tells her she decides to disregard Romana’s feelings and tells the rest of the teachers an incorrect version of the story to villainize Romana. Hanoona although struggling to understand Romana and why someone whom they both trusted would betray them takes matters into her own hands. 


Some People Don’t Deserve Names


A Women Is No Man, by Etaf Rum, centers Muslims women’s voices while navigating violence. 

Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi, uniquely writes Muslim characters into unconventionally story lines. 
Genres: Young Adult, women’s fiction.


In the moments leading up to Romana’s inevitable faceoff with her friends and teachers about what happened to her, she begins to understand that in her life, SOME PEOPLE DON’T DESERVE NAMES.

After Romana trusts the boy she’s been talking to at school takes advantage of her at their local park. Romana is only a middle schooler and has no idea how to comprehend what as happened making her feel an immense amount of guilt. After the boy leaves her at the park, she walks to her cousin’s house in a daze and is unable to speak about what happened when her cousin notices something is wrong.

The internal spiral Romana is experiencing hinders her from fully forming what took place and she begins to blame herself as well as her circumstances. Not being able to process her own trauma Romana becomes insufferable to be around. She takes zero accountability of her actions and the pain she causing to the people around her through herself destructive actions.  When Romana returns to school after her own classmate assaults her. She chooses to focus on how he ignores her and blames herself. She makes up a plan to talk to him and apologize to him contrary to what she knows deep down she deserves. The anxiety and depression she develops is subconsciously making it harder to confront how she really feels and ask for help. Romana wrestles with the idea of suicide in Islam and why God has made it forbidden for her while she continues to go back to that idea many times. 

Hanoona’s major internal conflict comes from her social anxiety and quiet nature. How could someone who has lived her life as a fly on the wall stand up to the teachers she has idolized for so long for her friend. Hanoona pushes her limits to come out of her shell to defend Romana’s name but at the cost of ruining her reputation and getting in trouble something she has avoided her whole life. She knows she can’t ask her mom for help without telling her the story, so she asks her sister while pretending the story she is telling is not about Romana. Hanoona fights the internal judgement she feels towards Romana in order to try and help her but struggles to find a middle ground between defending her friend and having to deal with the backlash for her. 


The First Half of the novel takes place in Rural New Jersey. A small quiet town that has a small but growing Muslim population. The main two characters Romana and Hanoona are middle schoolers and mainly are seen in their private Islamic school and their homes. Although ‘private school’ sounds fancy theirs is anything but. It is a tiny school with not many students and derives from the small Muslim community that is not wealthy but middle class enough to pay for their children to attend a school that holds their values. The school itself it run down and functions more like a community center than a school which is obvious by the close-knit relationship of the teachers with their students and their families, everyone knows everyone mindset. The characters homes but more importantly their rooms are where their personalities flourish. The opposite styles of room décor show case the major difference in Romana and Hanoona’s personality.  The setting offers a realistic tone to the story as it is very relatable to the American- Muslim experience. The second half of the novel finds the two girls as adults on opposite ends of the country. Hanoona in college and working hard in New York City to build her journalism career, and Romana in California after dropping out of college and working a minimum wage page job as a barista. Hanoona stills lives at her childhood home but is making a name for herself in the field, the stark contrast in settings of the girls adult lives showcases the way each of their decisions has lead them to living vastly different lives. 


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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

All her friends are dead, and she isn’t. Embracing a second chance means accepting what really happened.

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.

First antagonist is Nichole’s mother. She doesn’t understand abstract thoughts, only concrete goals like winning games. She needs Nichole to be more like her older sister and in doing so makes her feel worthless. Her new school, her new adult body, her first crush, her new older boyfriend… all of these antagonists makes choices for her instead of letting her develop who she wants to be based on her values. Her antagonist goals were never to harm her, but they all do. The characters that should be her real enemy, Dr. Ryan, is actually the only one that pushes her to become something based on her own beliefs.

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

 Ed Told Us We Could Fly

 FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel.

Have real hard time with this – coming of age novel with horrific event not related to a sexual assault, what is my book like? Would like it to be like: Eleanor and Park, Go Ask Alice? Or Tell Me Three Things

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.

Six teenagers jump off a bridge because they believe they can fly. Nichole is the only survivor and she tells the story of how they all ended up on the overpass that night.Will this reflection be the hope that she needs to see a life and a body as shattered as hers can heal?

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

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


Nichole’s Mother finds it impossible to relate to someone not goal oriented and goal oriented specifically with sports and winning. She belittles Nick’s academic talents and doesn’t help her achieve in the areas she doesn’t understand. Those achievements and support could have given Nick the self-worth she needed to not make stupid choices. Nick never feels good enough, and in turn relies on others to fill her up.

Nichole is the sole survivor of a horrific act. This is her journey as she transforms from a fourteen-year-old arguing about clothes and boys with her mother, to the girl with titanium body parts. Instead of embracing her second chance, suicide starts to become Nick’s only option. She flashes back to four years earlier, her freshman year, when she developed a new body, started a new school and met a new group of friends led by, Ed. Nichole goes through her first crush, first kiss, and first character defining mistakes with them. As they grow up, they all come to their own reasons to stand on the bridge that night and jump.

 First, Nichole has to accept she didn’t fail, no one flew. Second, she has to forgive herself for living. Third, she has to develop who she is. on her own. so she has reason for living.


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.


Suburban Tennessee

High school



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1. Story Statement (Book One)

Apollyon Rising is a story about a disgraced and disinherited prince who survives his public execution, and after being trapped in an otherworldly prison, returns home to reclaim his birthright, and disrupts the lives of my three protagonists—his triplet heirs..

The story begins on our triple protagonists’ seventeenth birthday. Allex, Thena, and Cassiel are unaware that their father, whom they have never known, is still alive. Their mother had died at childbirth, and as orphans, are raised by their paternal grandmother Queen Sinai the ruler of the Sun Empire. Allex—the reluctant heir to the throne—is obsessed with fulfilling his duty to his bloodline without complaint, yet secretly yearns to adventure. He is also obsessed with not becoming his father, whose shadow of disgrace looms over him. On the day that Allex comes of age, at sunset, Apollyon (Antagonist) returns to exact his vengeance on his mother (Queen Sinai) for sentencing him to die. Will Allex, Thena, and Cassiel uphold the ancient pact between their ancestor and the Sungod and save the Empire of the Sun or will they be forced to watch as it crumbles beneath the vengeful blade of Apollyon the Disgraced?

2. Antagonist Sketch

Apollyon Rising follows the return and rise of the treasonous Apollyon who has a bitter yearning for his lost status as crown prince, for wealth and dominion, which he is stripped of and sentenced to death for staging a coup d'état against his own mother, Queen Sinai. Eighteen years after he survives his public execution, on the day that my three protagonists come of age, Apollyon returns home, bent on exacting his vengeance on the one who issued the kill order—his mother—with an army of half-giants.  He then discovers that he has been widowed. The love of his life has died during childbirth, leaving him with triplet heirs who he does not know and have automatically become his enemies. He forges an alliance with the Sungod’s youngest daughter—Maximone, the Goddess of Chaos—who wants to end her father’s oppressive religion and usher forth a new world order—the AGE OF CHAOS. He makes her a promise—to destroy all nine empereon dynasties—and at the end of book 1, destroys Elleringuard (the kingdom that belongs to House Ellerin).


3. Titles

Working Series Titles

1. Secrets of Solaris

Solaris, colonised by Sungod Helsius, is largely ruled by his Sun Empire, and will be destroyed by the secrets of its rulers.

2. Children of the Sun: Children of the Sun are descendants of the Sungod.

Working Book One Titles

1. Apollyon Rising

Excerpt from Chapter 8: …Every barleycorn he gained against his battle with the cliff infused him with a potent thrill. That gave him strength, and he pushed himself skyward. Nothing else existed but that hold, that push, this leaping dance over stone. As if he descended from gargoyles instead of the gods, Apollyon kept rising, refusing to believe that each movement was becoming more dangerous than the last. 

2. Children of the Sun: Children of the Sun are descendants of the Sungod, and refers to his blooded (mortal) heirs of House Ellerin and the Sungod’s youngest daughter Maxiomone (immortal). Two kindred spirits join forces in book one— Apollyon of Ellerin who wants to usurp his mother, and Maximone who wants to erase her father’s religion, and usher in her own.

3. Call Me King: Apollyon says as much to his half-brother.

4. The Inheritance Thief : Apollyon, who comes to steal his son Allex’s inheritance.


4. Genre and Comparables


Comparables—The following two books feature multiple heroes, antiheroes, and underdogs with conflicts akin to mine.

Iron King, featuring Philip the Fair, is similar  in story structure, themes, and because it comprises an anti-hero that you can root for.

The Band Series is somewhat similar in writing style and also contains comparable characters. It is as full of heart as it is of heroes—with humour filling the gaps in between.

Accursed Kings by Maurice Druon is a historical novel series. Book One—Iron King—is the story of the French King Philip the Fair, who is already surrounded by scandal and intrigue, and brings a curse upon his family when he persecutes the Knights Templar. The succession of monarchs that follow Philip leads France and England to the Hundred Years' War. Although mine is a fantasy work and is different to Druon’s in genre, our story structure and themes are similar: A monarch leads his country to war, and destroys his ancestral legacy.

King Philip murders the templar knight that curses him—while the reader intellectually recognises this as an act of villainy, nonetheless cannot help but root for him because Druon creates conflicting emotions in the reader, and in his depiction, Philip cuts a formidable figure you want to root for. Similarly, despite the fact that Apollyon brings ruin and disrupts the lives of the triplet protagonists, he is a an antagxonist that you can root for, whose antics you can enjoy and whose downfall you await. Also, much like how Philip set in motion the events that led to a terrible war, Apollyon’s thirst for revenge and dominion and power sets in motion the downfall of Halos and the Empire of the Sun, which his ancestors built. Other thematic similarities include family/sibling bonds and rivalries, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, plot-moving lies at court, and world-ending secrets.

The Band Series by Nicholas Eames

I truly love Eames’ jolly prose and underdog characters. Kings of the Wyld follows Clay Cooper and his band who were once the most feared mercenaries in Heartwyld. But their glory days are long gone, and now they are old and fat and drunk. Then, a former bandmate turns up at Clay’s door asking him for a favour: his daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy horde. Much as a bandmate convinces the protagonist to go on a quest to rescue his daughter, my antagonist convinces his dutiful, honourable half-brother to join a group of unlikely bedfellows in a quest for vengeance.


5. Logline

1. A reluctant heir to the throne finds out that he is not an orphan; he is plunged into a war on the day he comes of age, when a horde of marauding half-giants descend upon his future kingdom, led by his disgraced father, who returns to reclaim his birthright.

2. Three heirs of the Sungod come of age, and their disgraced father returns home from exile to steal their inheritance.

3. After being trapped in an otherworldly prison for eighteen years, a disgraced prince returns home to exact his vengeance upon his mother, and reclaim his birthright.

4. A disgraced prince’s unlikely alliance with a Goddess of Chaos spells the beginning of the end of the Empire of the Sun.

5. Chaos is unleashed upon a peaceful kingdom when a disgraced prince returns home to seek revenge upon his mother and reclaim his birthright.


6. Conflicts

Apollyon Rising is written in third-person limited narration, and follows the points of view of three protagonists and one antagonist, all of whom are yearning for things they cannot have.

Antagonist—Apollyon of House Ellerin’s main conflict is a bitter yearning for his lost status, which he was stripped of and sentenced to die eighteen years ago, for staging a coup d'état against his mother, Queen Sinai. This yearning propels him to seek vengeance against her at all costs.

Hypothetical: Seeking vengeance at any cost is never advisable. Apollyon may go as far as aligning himself with an untrustworthy god, who only serves herself, and would not realize the repercussions of such an alliance until it’s too late.

Secondary Conflict: The love of his life has died giving birth to triplets, who’ve automatically become his enemies and perceive him as a traitor to their bloodline.

Hypothetical: Apollyon would be torn between killing off his heirs and allying with them. He may try to convince them to join his side, to turn against the present regime, beginning with the weakest link.


The protagonists have their own problems too:

Protagonist One—Allex of House Ellerin—secretly yearns for a life of travel and adventure and does not want to ascend the throne. He hears whispers behind his back that he looks like his dead treasonous father, and believes that a certain “sins of the father” miasma follows him everywhere, and he has set his North Star—not to become his father.

Hypothetical: If Allex should hear whispers that he looks like his father, he would hate it. Since he is determined not to be like his father, he would comb his hair differently (as prescribed by his grandmother) and would wear historically significant, untrendy, and grand-looking clothes that would make him look like a forefather —as if he were a transplant from an ancient generation (because it is widely known at court that Apollyon kept up with latest trends in his day). However, if he were ever to come face-to-face with Apollyon, he would overly focus on the similarities in their features (while ignoring the differences) and convince himself that his efforts not to look Apollyon (and thus, turn into him) were in vain.

Secondary Conflict: Falls for an elf called Clara that he cannot marry because he is the future king and unofficially betrothed to a girl from an empereon bloodline.

Hypothetical: Allex might unwittingly sabotage his alliance with a powerful family by pursuing his heart’s desire.

Inner Conflict: He suppresses his true desires, ignores his love for the elf, in favour of honouring his duty.


Protagonist Two—Thena of House Ellerin—who lives in a society dominated by ancient and patriarchal values, longs for a life of freedom. She subverts authority, sometimes against her own self-interest. She doesn’t understand that this is misguided until it’s too late.

Hypothetical: Thena does not like authority. If she were to find out that she was betrothed to the most eligible and handsome bachelor if her generation (whom she would have found attractive until the moment the betrothal is foisted on her), she would instantly begin hating the lordling and look for ways to foil their union. For example, she might decide to install her one true friend in the lordling’s house to spy on him, even if it means that her friend would need to leave her side, and she would have nobody in Halos to trust or lean on.

Secondary Conflict: In Halos, boys come of age at seventeen, when it’s deemed that they are both ready and responsible enough to wield their empereon powers to fight in the Sungod’s name. However, girls come of age when they are deemed to be of marriageable age—at thirteen. On her thirteenth birthday, each empereon girl must donate all of her toys to Hydra the Goddess of Nymphs, and in turn, they receive an exorbitantly expensive statue—usually commissioned by her father—that she will be allowed to install in her future husband’s garden. Thena finds that this double standard for boys and girls is ridiculous, and thinks that an expensive statue is very poor compensation for the loss of her childhood (and toys).

Hypothetical: Thena would not want to give up her toys to Hydra. She would ask her brother Cassiel to build her a hollow bench with a lid. Then, after the coming-of-age ceremony, when everyone is too drunk to pay attention, she would get her best friend to sneak into Hydra’s temple and steal back her toys. She would hide them all in the hollow bench and congratulate her own cleverness.

Inner Conflict: She has insecurities caused by society’s expectations for young girls, which causes her to make terrible romantic decisions.


Protagonist Three—Cassiel of Ellerin—is the most naive of the triplet siblings, and hates the destiny that he feels is unfairly forced on him—the burden to become Allex’s war chief when Allex becomes king. Though he dares not hope for an alternative future, he fails to uphold his responsibility—he puts off trying to understand the true nature of his power, and therefore, does not have sufficient control of it nor is able to wield it safely.

Hypothetical: Since Cassiel has no true understanding or control of his power, if his father (Apollyon, who has the same ability) should decide to overpower him and wield it without his permission, he would be unable to stop him. He may become an unwitting traitor to his own family.

Secondary Conflict: Cassiel is a hedonist and is unwilling to give up his creature comforts. The present Warchief—his mentor—is constantly pestering him to give up on the Arts of Verse (“Prince Cassiel, do you believe you are a bard?”) and focus on the Arts of War. But Cassiel does not want to do that, he’s not ready to give up his poetry and playwriting. He believes that the quill is mightier than the sword and prefers to fight using his words, which does not work in the society he lives in.

Hypothetical: TBD

Inner Conflict: He has a nagging feeling in the back of his head that he is to blame for Apollyon’s return (which is true).


7. Setting

SOLARIS is a world that is inhabited by men, elves, dwarves, goblins, and a semi-divine race called empereons—and terrorised by mythical monsters, a race of giant vikings, and a lone evil sorcerer.

Sun God Helsius has colonised this world; his blooded heirs, born to House Ellerin, are tasked to rule and protect his Empire of the Sun. As a symbol of this divine pact, the Ellerins build a great city and name it “HALOS” to honor their Sunfather. Rising above Halos is a cliff called COLOSSUSCRY, which is said to be made out of the weeping widows of giants, upon which is built HALCYONE TOWERS, which is the monarch’s seat of power. It comprises three towers, the tallest of which reaches one thousand feet into the sky above Halos, as if to bridge the gap between the Sunfather and the capital city of his empire.   

The protagonists (Allex, Thena, and Cassiel) and antagonist (Apollyon) all belong to House Ellerin.


The first and highest circle is HEAVEN, where the worshipped gods dwell On the second circle, you will find the ISLE OF MISCHIEF (also known as the TOWER OF THE MESSENGER), home to the exiled Goddess of Chaos Maximone;

The third circle is the RIVER OF MEMORY, which no mortal may cross, unless assisted by a starcrosser (like Icarus the Gryphon, easily identifiable as a starcrosser from his heterochromia);

The fourth circle is terrestrial, and is where HALOS, the EMPEREAS, ANTARES, ZEPHYRAN, CELEBRION, and EMERALIS can be found;

The fifth circle is called the CITY OF DRAGONS, a subterranean realm which no mortal may cross unless assisted by a Firewalker (like Thena of House Ellerin who is easily identifiable as a Firewalker by her heterochromia)

The sixth circle is TARTUS (subtarranean), where dwell the souls of the dead. It is home to Tartus Necromage (the new Judge of Death), the oldest and wisest of all the gods. He is equal in power to his nephew, and Helsius fears his dark uncle. He views the Tartus as a pathetic liar and coward who wallows in self-pity in his exile in his subterranean home.

If you do not possess the Seventh Sense (which is the power that Apollyon, Cassiel, and Sinai possess) You need Tartus Necromage’s permission to access the….

…Seventh and DARKEST circle, known as the UNREALITY REALM.

Components of the FOURTH CIRCLE

Continent 1 (Mainland):

  • Halos is the capital of the empire of the Sun and is found on the coast of the continent known as the MAINLAND;
  • Empereas: Empereon realms located on the Mainland (to the north, the northeast, and west of Halos) are collectively known as MONTAGON and empereon realms (isles) located on the archipelago (to the south of—and surrounds—Halos) are collectively known as ISLANDIA;
  • CELEBRION: aka VALLEY MAGUS, hemmed by the CRESTA MAJORA mountain range in the south and CRESTA MINORIA mountain range in north, are located on the Mainland above Montagon.

Continent 2:

  • ANTARES: Slotted canyons of Antares are home exclusively to the Iridian elves*
  • ZEPHYRAN: The kingdom of dwarves

All of the above belong to the Empire of the Sun and all apart from Antares are inhabited also by men and goblins.

  • EMERALIS**: An independent elf kingdom, that exists on the Mainland to west of Montagon, and does not belong to the Sun Empire.

*The Iridian Elves are about as near-immortal as you can get, coming in second only to creatures like the gryphons and dragons, for they have given up war—in exchange for which they are granted power of healing and long life. Clara is about 2500 years old when she meets Allex. To kill an Iridian elf is a great sin.

**The Emeralian elves that dwell in the forestlands and emerald caves to the West of Montagon are a race of warrior elves with much shorter lives than their Iridian counterparts, than even empereons, and have the same life-span as men. Theirs is a kingdom independent and untouched by the Sun, and lit by emerald-fyre.

Worshipped Gods

1. Helsius the Sunfather, King of Gods

2. Hydra the Lady of Water—Goddess of Oceans and Seas and Nymphs, wife of Helsius.

3. Alcyone the Champion—Goddess of Warcraft and Victory, daughter of Helsius.

4. Sycorax the Stormbringer—God of Air and Guardian of Heaven, patron of the silver-swirling River of Memory through which no mortal must past, brother of Helsius.

6. Atlas the Huntsman, Golden-eyed Archer, Heir of the Sun. Son of Helsius. Sires a line of Emeralian elves called FROSTFYRE.

7. Phoinix the Forgemaster—the God of Fire, Metalworking, and Smiths, son of Helsius. Sires a line of dwarves known as the Waldermar.

8. Orpheus the Songster—God of Music, Poetry, Art, Sculpture, brother of Helsius. Tasked with moulding the race of men out of clay.

9. Prometheon the Mastermind—God of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Crafty Counsel, son of Helsius; sires a race of green goblins and breathes life/intelligence into the men that Orpheus builds from clay.

10. Caeron the Shepherd—God of Beasts and Husbandry, brother of Helsius.

11. Prospero the Healer—God of Health, son of Helsius. Gives Iridian elves eternal youth. His Iridian sire line is extinct.

12. Epicurios the Yeoman— God of the Harvests and Husbandry, uncle of Helsius.

Empereon Realms and dynasties


  • Magnetia—House Magnetes, descending from the Mastermind
  • Calympia—House Calympus descending from the Stormbringer
  • Astrophania—House Astrophanes, descending from the Songster
  • Tyrania—House Tyranis, descending from the Shepherd


  • Elleringuard—House Ellerin, descending from the Sunfather
  • Isle of Normany—House Normany, descending from the Healer
  • Adamantes—House Adamantes, descending from the Huntsman
  • Picardia (Gemini isle 1)—House Picardia, descending from the Forgemaster
  • Polaria (Gemini isle 2)—House Polaris, descending from the Yeoman


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After Danes slaughter his family and brutalize a little girl, he promised to keep safe; an orphaned boy must find a way to save her from a burning tower, escape capture, avenge his family, find her again, and make it back home.    


In 10th century Ireland, as all others cower, an insignificant orphan becomes rebel, outlaw, warrior, Chief of his Clan, King of the South, King of North and South, and the only Ard Ri – High King, over a free and united Ireland in peace.  Yet the forces of envy, betrayal and greed, lead him to an all or nothing battle for the fate of his people, and the destiny of homeland.  

Brian wins, but pays the ultimate price, with the lives of his three sons, and his own.   Only to have the greatest Liar Thief in history, steal his life story – to fabricate the most famous, and beloved Imposter of all time – King Arthur of England.

 HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE Series – is two true stories, one within the other

  – The life of Brian Boru:  Insignificant orphan – to greatest High King                                          

  – Geoffrey of Monmouth plagiarizing Brian’s life:  Cleric – to Bishop and famous Author

ANTAGONISTIC FORCES:   Events are true and Characters real

GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH – Antagonist of Series Mystery

Lowly cleric, is commissioned by King Henry 1st, to come up with an historical Hero for Britain.  Henry needs gold to pay for his wars; and therefore, precedent to invade, sack, and kill fellow Catholics in Ireland – to steal theirs.   The problem – there isn’t one.   Until Geoffrey is given  “a certain most ancient book”.  We watch over his shoulder as he steals Brian’s life to fabricate a Hero for Henry.  He is rewarded with fame, fortune, the company of Kings, and 886 years of reprints – pulling off the most successful fraud in history.  Indeed, Geoffrey’s 1136, “true” account of, Imposter 5th century King Arthur, is for sale on amazon.com/books. today. Geoffrey – The Liar Thief

                                                  Antagonists of Main Story                     


 Gofraid, Olaf and Ivar, descendants of Ivar the Boneless, have Ireland surrounded, and are closing in.  Their goal – finish what the Boneless started – the rapine and plunder of Ireland.  And most lucrative – the selling of her women and children for slaves. Gofraid, sets out to attack Killaloe, slaughter Brian’s family, and claim the only cattle crossing of the river Shannon for 240 miles.  He kills all but two of his brothers.  At every turn of his life, Brian must fight the Danes.   Gofraid will die of leprosy from shagging sheep, Ivar is killed by Brian, and Olaf will marry Gormlaith, spawn Sigtrigg Silkbeard.  These three, forgiven thrice by Brian, for coming against him; will conspire and recruit, the largest Norse army ever assembled, to bring war against Brian, for Ireland, her treasure, and his head.                                                                              Danes – Nonselective Insatiables                                                                            

MALACHY II – Possessed it all.  Next in line to the 600 years of Ui Neill Dynastic High Kings – Represents the entitled, rich and self-serving.  A schemer, only too willing to sacrifice honor, for lying, cheating, stealing.   He might have been great, but shaped by his father, turned out narcissistic, weak, obsessed with jealousy.  All his life he shadows Brian, becoming ever more desperate – unprovoked, cuts down his 1000-year-old, sacred oak tree, tries to kill him, passes his poisonous ex-wife onto him, breaks his oath, betrays him, refusing to take his place on the field, in the Final Battle; and after Brian and his boys are killed, takes his place as High King.  Ironically, this ultimate traitor is admiringly recorded in history as Malachy Mor –“Malachy the Great”.                                                                                                                       Malachy – Duplicitous Political Snake 

5 IRISH PROVINCIAL KINGS – Sycophants, dogs in the manger, who will betray anyone, for any advantage.  Cronies of Malachy, they have no loyalty, betraying their own people for crumbs of the High King – and betraying the High King, for table scraps of the Danes.  They conspire and collude, giving an oath to join Brian and his brother Mahon, in battle against Ivar the Dane.  Once the battle begins, Irish, Donovan, Donald, and Molloy, in league with Ivar, abandon the field, lure and kill Brian’s brother, and try to kill him.  Brian escapes, goes back and takes revenge, killing Ivar, and hunting down all three traitor Kings – one after the other.   It is not Brian’s ambition that makes him King of Munster, as often reported – but these cowards’ conspiracy, and dastardly betrayal.  The eejits have just slaughtered themselves, and made Brian, King of the Dal Cass, King of Munster – one 5th of Ireland.                                                       Provincial Kings – Treacherous Bottom Feeders                                           

       MURCHUADA IRISH PROVINCIAL KING of Leinster – next to Norse held Dublin, the most lucrative slave port in Europe.  He is the brains and Puppet Master of the viper pit. He uses his daughter as a Pawn, to manipulate the Kings of Ireland into self-annihilation. He toys with the Danes, and controls with abject terror, of what he might do next.  And molds Gormlaith in his own image –controlling her in every possible way.  Until out-played by his “line-bred” daughter.  Sick Control Freak. Sins of the father.                                                              Murchuada – Deviant Chess Master

 GORMLAITH– a legend in her own lifetime, in the sagas of the Norse, for her beauty, brains and cunning.  Her father’s little pawn, and apt pupil, makes it across the board to become the most infamous Queen in history.   (Her true story has thus far been under-reported).  The strategy learned from her father – You make them choose – between what they want most – and what they love most.  “Tis the choosing, that breeds the undoing.”  You – Pin, Fork, Skewer.  Until the field is cleared, and you are the last one standing.  In a Chess match, cage fight, or in battle – that is winning.   Gormlaith, looking for love in all the wrong places, is torn between conscience and winning.  Life has taught her – beating the boys, feels best of all.   She becomes – wife and “poison cup” to the three most powerful Kings in Ireland, Olaf, Malachy, and Brian.  

                                     Gormlaith – Instigator and Prize of Battle – and “The Last one Standing”

BREAKOUT TITLES: up to three 

                                       Series Titles:  HAMMERED STEEL AND CRIMSON FIRE

                                                      THE TRUE AND RIGHTFUL KING

                                                  GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS

Book 1 ~ BLOOD GAMBIT               INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND                       THE RAVENING                                                  Book 2 ~ CLEARANCE SACRIFICE      STRIPLING WARRIOR                    DRAKKAR-SLAYER                                                  Book 3 ~ PIN, FORK, SKEWER            YOUNG STAG IN VALOR                       RECOMPENCE                                                  Book 4 ~ ENTOMBED                       EAGLE UPON THE ROCK                 HAWK-FELL OF MY HAND                                       Book 5 ~ SMOTHERMATE                  GAUNTLET OF SLAUGHTER               RUINS OF RAGNAROK                                        Book 6 ~GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS    HELL-VORM              WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT 




          The Life of Brian Boru High King of Ireland – Based on a True Story


 High Concept, Commercial Fiction – History, Biography, Adventure, Intrigue, Mystery,

                                                                 Romance, War                               (no fantasy)


                               Braveheart of Ireland, meets Uhtred of The Last Kingdom

                                 Solving mysteries of: Da Vinci Code’s The True Grail

                                                        And the Real King Arthur


                                                             Concerning ~

                                      A boy who would never be King,

                                      A “certain most ancient book” that would never be found,

                                      A thief in the night who would never be caught,

                                      The most compelling mystery never solved,

                                      The most successful and perfidious fraud ever committed,

                                      The two most famous, enduring, and beloved, imposters of all time,

                                      King Arthur of Britain, and the Holy Grail,

                                      And the truth.


Book 1 ~ INSTIGATOR OF IRELAND ~ The Twelfth Son  (loss of innocence, coming of age) 10-13

Book 2 ~ BLOOD GAMBIT ~ Rebel, Outlaw, Warrior  (lone rebel without a cause, finds one )17-26

Book 3 ~ ENTOMBED ~ King of the South   (gladiator becomes beloved hero of people) 26-35

Book 4 ~ WOLVES AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT ~ King of the North   (dude with big problem) 35- 45

Book 5 ~ SMOTHERMATE ~ High King of Ireland   (monster in the house - and bed) 45-60

Book 6 ~ GOLDEN CHESSMEN OF THE GODS ~ Last Ard Ri of Erin (war – Destiny of Ireland) 73 

Premise: The least likely of us can achieve the impossible – if we Dare to dream it – have Courage enough to fight for it – Heart enough to never give up – and Guts enough to pay the price! 

High Concept     Braveheart of Ireland meets Uhtred of the Last Kingdom

THE SAXON TALES  Series – the LAST KINGDOM - WAR LORD – Cornwell’s number 13, in the tales of Uhtred, is recently published, and testament to commercial interest of a similar Series: the Viking Age in history, the true story of an orphan turned Warrior, who must find his way amidst: Viking savagery, treacherous Lords, and scheming Kings, to take back his home, in the face of impossible odds, worthy quest of Freedom against Savagery, and a ripping cage fight for the Throne of King, destiny of people and homeland.  All 13, books in Series – best sellers.  With a huge fan base, and by demand, there is currently a film in production to finish the Series.   Uhtred is missed already.

Secret to success: Dreymon’s well-loved Uhtred is the only truly lovable, funny, and relatable Hero, with great buddy and love stories as well, and heart wrenching – to the end of limits – acting and emotions, since Braveheart, (what all the others are missing).

BRAVEHEART (the first and best – characters against archetype, sense of humor) – of Ireland, 

Similar Hero and quest - unlikely orphan becomes beloved Hero of people, uniting the Clans, against tyranny, sacrificing himself in the cause of Freedom. And true story.

Same Subject Success –


Morgan Llywelyn’s books on Brian Boru’s life, have sold over 40 million copies.  At the 1000 year celebration of the Battle of Clontarf, in Dublin, 60,000 people showed up. Love for Brian’s story endures.  

HSCF is more specifically – Brian’s life story - The Irish Version: anti-archetypical characters, tone, slightly wicked sense of humor, themes of Freedom and Loyalty, endearing Buddy and Love stories, with a goal to inspire, and use of screenwriting techniques.


Similar setting and characters:  Antagonists, familiar to readers - All true contemporaries of Brian:  In HSCF – The real Uhtred, Lord of Northumbia (16 years younger), makes several appearances, along with:  Ibn Fadlan, Eric the Red, Harald Hardrada, Olaf and Ivar, great-grandsons of Ivar the Boneless, Sitric Silkbeard, Cnut, Harold Bluetooth, Wulf the Quarrelsome, and others.    


Starting with Historical Facts:  the same mystery Solved – The true Nature and Location of the Grail.  Which was first mentioned in connection with Arthur in 1190 –  As well as the true Identity of the Real King Arthur.  However very different conclusions, style, and delivery, and genre than Dan Brown’s.      


Same: starting with historical facts, like Crichton, then recreating true events, bringing historical characters to life. 


THE HAMMERED STEEL and CRIMSON FIRE Series is unique, from the only other fictional account of Brian’s life – Llewellyn’s, “Lion of Ireland”, which is beautifully written – in English King’s, English grammar and vernacular.    

HSCFThe Irish Version – is committed to mischief, mayhem and mangling, of all things English.                                                                                             

I offer proof. 

My Nonfiction companion book, “The True and Rightful King” will make the case for Fraud by proving Geoffrey’s plagiarism, to the highest standard of the Law – Perpetrator, Means, Motive, Opportunity, Preponderance of the Evidence, Smoking gun, Bloody glove, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and Beyond the Shadow of Doubt, meaning there can be no other. 

Commercial value:   

According to IMDB - Llewellyn’s “LION OF IRELAND”, the life of Brian Boru, is currently in development for a TV Series 2019.    

The TV Series, THE LAST KINGDOM, based on Cornwell’s Saxon Tales of Uhtred, is the highest-ranking Series in Great Britain, one of the highest ranking in the US.  Well loved, and well done, with a huge fan base.  There is a much anticipated film in production, finishing up, to complete the Series.  Fans are saddened.  Everyone is going to miss Uhtred the Godless!

Dan Brown’s DA VINCI CODE, theory of the Grail – sold over 60 million copies, fueled by HUGE CONTROVERSY, rattling the cages of, the Vatican which claims to possess the True Grail, Catholics, and Christianity, in general, with his theory – the Grail being the womb of Mary Magdalene, and the Holy Grail, Mary Magdalene herself. (Ironically, Mary Magdalene has been classified as a prostitute since the Middle Ages, by an early Pope – not to be confused with Mary the virgin Mother of Christ). 

I remember well – on Nightly News, Dan Brown, at the top of the NYT Best seller list forever; “verbally scourged” by the Christians and castigated down to Hell by Catholics – is videoed, lamenting in self-defense, “Its only Fiction!”   His beautifully crafted novel, and ingenious original Theory, became the object of crazed condemnation, boycotting, and slander.    

Result – The Da Vinci Code has become the world’s all-time best seller.

~ The take-away – the greater the outrage, the crazier the controversy, the more spectacular the sales  

I think it is fair to assume; HAMMERED STEEL and CRIMSON FIRE Series, proving :

    All this time:  the experts have been looking in the wrong time and place, for the 5th century English Hero, King Arthur – that he is really Irish – that Brian Boru’s life was stolen, to create the IMPOSTER – by Geoffrey of Monmouth – as well as the theory, then proof, that the Grail, is not a womb, but quite the most scandalous opposite imaginable  well connected to the  Real Irish Hero“The True and Rightful King” and I can prove it . . .

 Is most certain to rattle, then spontaneously combust a few cages as well.   

Inciting Controversy: 

     There is nothing the British love more than a Royal scandal, as does the world’s  media.  What will the reaction be when they find out:

Deliciously Scandalous:

~ Queen Elizabeth II– the longest reigning English Monarch, the best, and most beloved;  Is the 35th Great Granddaughter of the – Irish Rebel, Outlaw, Instigator, Brian, orphan of Beal Boru? 

~  Making her heirs, Charles, William, and George – who all bear the name Arthur –  the Imposter – direct descendants of the Real King Arthur.  

Anyone who has followed Queen Elizabeth’s life, can decidedly see that she is far more like Brian: a brave, uniter, forgiving, devoted to, God and country, and beloved by her people, than any of her subjugating, beheading disemboweling, despoiling, abdicating, ancestors since him.   

~ The Queen’s great 35th grandmother, was Brian’s second wife, who gave him one son – murdered by his half-brother, Gormlaith’s son.  In my story, she is a wonderful character, anti-archetypical, rescuer of the fallen in battle, chariot mechanic, fantastic rider and horse lover – as was the Queen herself.   

 (This portrayal is my humble tribute to a wonderful, Lady, Mother, and Veteran, whowho would have much rather been riding her horse, in forest and field, with the sun on her face and wind in her hair – but instead, hopped on the grenade in stockings and heels for 70 years . . .)

~ Deliciously scandalous, as well; Harry the lovable, Rebel, Outlaw, Outcast, Fomenter of chaos, Instigator of outrage, and his beautiful children, all have Brian’s red hair.   Proof positive of the pesky, Irish, rebellious, rapscallion strain, in the stodgy, rather shallow, Royal gene pool.

These revelations, together along with the “Irish Version”, should be enough to give the entire British Empire the vapors.

~ But then – perhaps – the greater the vapors, the crazier the controversy, the more the sales . 




     In 10th century Ireland, when Danish Vikings attack, young Brian promises to watch over a little girl. Beaten nearly to death, he is forced to watch helplessly, as she is savagely raped and burned, and his family slaughtered.  He vows he will, never be powerless again to protect those he loves, avenge their deaths, and drive the Danes back into the Sea, and drown them in their own blood.  


Inner Conflict – 

     Brian’s inner conflict – the wound that he carries all his life, and the secret he keeps, is the stuff that rips his, and our heart out:  guilt, regret, the wrong choice, shame, sadness, helplessness.  When Brian 10, and a little girl 8, are caught in a Dane attack; he promises to keep her safe, by running to the 100 ft round tower.  They make it to the top, but Olaf and Ivar follow them. As Danes are ax-cleaving the trap door apart – Brian must decide – take her to the window and jump to their quick deaths – or try to hide her and fight the Danes himself.  Though he has her by the hand, and they stand upon the sill, with the slaughter going on below them – he cannot do it.  Seeing her dead mother on the grass below, he hides her in some rags and baskets.  Tells the Danes she jumped.  They are beating, and kicking him to death, when he sees her come out of hiding, to beg them to stop.  Though he is powerless to move; he witnesses her, to save him, being brutalized in every possible way, as flaming arrows set the tower ablaze.

External Conflict –Sea-Eagle, Danes, Traitor Irish, High King, 11 brothers, and two pups

      Just a boy like any other, Brian dreams only of one thing – to catch the biggest fish in all the world, to flaunt it before his eleven older brothers, and take his place around the campfire this night, with the best tale to tell, his Da proud, and his brothers green with envy.   His biggest torment, thus far – his two pups, that sabotage him at every turn, and his brothers who have one goal in life use him for their hurling practice dummy, at every opportunity

     Brian has the biggest salmon in the world, by the tail, and is being dragged naked through the Shannon River; when he is attacked by a giant Sea-Eagle and must fight for his fish.  Winning, though mutilated, he fights unsuccessfully, his two Lucifer-spawn pups for his clothes.  And consequently, is caught celebrating, dancing around, bare-arsed, toes pointed spritely, his nether-parts flogging him to keep up, like a soused fairy under a Rowan tree – by a little red-headed girl hiding in the tall grass.   And so, he dives into the only cover – a thicket of thornapple, thistle, and stinging nettles – with the high pitched, girly scream, of a neck rung stoat!   Only to be late for school, again, God help him, with his eleven brothers, lying in wait, to make him to run the “gauntlet of slaughter”, to his seat in the front of the Chapel.    Fairly demolished already, he is picked up, passed along, and slung from the window to the chants of “Runt!  Runt!!  Runt!! Dal Cass scores – One!  Against the langers of Ulster – None!   Brian gives, thanks to God, for the tender mercy of the flinging.  And runs to the shore.  His new goal in life now, is to put the flames of Satan’s, every class of a Hellfire out, by plunging arse first, into the cool waters of the Shannon; hidden from the eyes of God, man, and the little girl, and finally get a good scratch where it itches, without touching anything, he’d have to confess for, after.  His goal in life changes again, when the Danes attack – trying to survive.

Social and Interpersonal Conflicts – 

Clonmacnoise Monastery –Brian is sent away to school.  A name and blessing from the Abbot 

     The fires of hell licked at the top of his head.  The talons of Baal clamped to his scalp, wrenching hair out by the roots!    Brian 13, yelped in pain, “Please Father, not the tower again.  Anything but the tower,” and unleashed his most pathetic howl, long and drawn out, “I’ll repent.  I’ll be good, I swear . . . I’ll die if ye lock me in the tower again!”             

      “One can only hope!”  The Abbot growled through sanctimoniously clenched teeth.

      “Please Father, if I must suffer,” Brian pleaded most mournfully, “don’t lock me in the tower again with the old geezer Plutarch, and all his whinin’ about the Thracians, and the ruttin’ Spartacus,” he sniffled, “Anything but the Plutarch.”

      The Abbot pondered his last wish . . . “Get me the Plutarch!” he bellowed to the crowd of boys, sniggering sadistically, “It’s to the tower with ye, and no food nor water until ye’ve memorized the Plutarch entirely!” 

   Brian wailed louder, “Please, Father, I’m beggin’ ye, instead, of the Plutarch, may I have the Book of Saints?   Oh, how I love the Saints!   Ah, the blessed virgins.  I love the one who, sacrificed herself, refusin’ offers of marriage and all, and shavin’ her radiant hair off, and scaldin’ her lovely face, with the boilin’ water, so’s that no man would want to have carnal knowledge of her.”

     The Abbot, red-faced and teeth barred like a trap-strangled ferret, yanked the young orphan of the Clan Dal Cass, up, glaring into his eyes, “The blessed Saint would roll in her grave, to know her sacred virginity was on the mind of the likes of ye! Ye, vermin from the South, and the son of Cennitig to boot, with the foul tongue, and the filthy mind!”  And he shook Brian by the hair on his head until, what was left of his own teeth rattled. “Ye’re a wart of the arse of the sainted Lady,” he hissed, and yanked him viciously towards the isolation and imprisonment of the tower.

      Brian, wincing through the pain, couldn’t help but conjure the image of the lovely young woman bare-pelted, from behind. . .  “Have ye seen her arse then, Father?  I mean the wart and all?” The novitiates clamped their hands to their mouths, to stifle the giggles, and the boys roared and hooted, doubled over with the laughter, “She’s a Saint, and been dead for 600 years, you goat’s spore!”  Father Alphonsus, holding him arm’s length, by the hair, stopped and tried to kick him in the soft parts, and then the buttocks, alternating – bollocks, buttocks, bollocks, buttocks, but Brian dodged the blows, hurtling himself, front and back, and side to side, like when his brothers had him up against the wall and all trying to pummel him in the goolies with the sliotar, practicing their hurley swings.   And all the while Brian trying to explain, “It’s just that, when I’m on me knees in prayer, Father, I’ve often thought fondly of her Holy Relics, and such.  I know her lovely head is in Rome, her little foot is in Venice, and her finger, her sacred finger, in Ravenna – with a ring made from the foreskin of the baby Jesus” . . ..  And he wondered how that worked, exactly.  For one thing it sounded painful for the sweet little babe, and for another, it seemed unlikely a Jewish Rabbi would place such a thing on the finger of a Catholic nun . . . and then he couldn’t help it, his mind ran to the bit about shavin’ her hair off, and he wondered if they meant all her hair . . . and even if Saint’s had a place for hair other than the top of their head . . .  and then there was the part about scaldin’ her face off, and he thought she might have done it so’s no one would notice the wart and all on her arse . . . but still . . . she might have looked lovely, naked, from the front . . . with a sack over her head . . .. “Do you suppose her breasts are with the rest of her then, Father? . . . I’d like to think so,” he grinned.

     “Ye little rabble rouser!  Fomenter of chaos!  Instigator!”  Wailed Father Alphonsus, responsible for the edification of souls, of the young Princes of the Isle . . . “I’ll feckin’ kill ye!”


The settings in 10th century Ireland are simple – a stone chamber, a tower, the forest.   It’s the situation, characterization, humor, that makes a scene interesting, and impossible to convey without illustration.

Setting: Craig Lia - a rocky crag above the ancient ring fort of Beal Boru, where the jagged stones from the beginning of time, protrude from blankets of moss and bracken. It is a matter of historical record, that Brian believed in the pagan myth passed down in his Clan, that a Shee – Avril, the fairy Queen, who lived in the crag, was a: guardian for the children, companion for a lonely warrior, on a cold night before battle, gift of memory for the old ones, and of prophesy for the King.   

NarratorBeginning and end of each book, to recap and foreshadow           

    And so, it was . . .

             That all of Killaloe lay smoldering in embers and ashes,

             And the Shannon ran red, with blood of the sons of Cennetig,

             And blood red, the hills, and meadows of Erin.


             In years to come, the old ones would say, looking back at the time of dragon ships,

             That was the day the Banshee of Craig Lia, who loved the boy who would never be King, 

             The last, and least of twelve sons, found him trembling, burned, and broken,

             And drenched in his mother’s blood,

              Then Avril, of the high crag – guardian of the crumbling ringfort of Beal Boru,

              Shee of the ancient ones – riders of the white horse, mound builders, chariot racers,

              Raisers of Lia Fail stone – and the child of the last Thracian King, 

              Issued forth a keening wail . . . an oath of reckoning . . . a vow . . .

              To the enemies of Erin . . .


             Then raging in wild and savage fury, scored their fates, into the face of her cliffs,

             By thunder, of Hammered Steel!  And lightening, of Crimson Fire! 

            For the courage in the heart of the boy, destined – him to be the one . . . 

           The Instigator of Freedom for Ireland!


 Setting: The Hill of Tara –

     The Hill of Tara is the jewel in the crown of Ireland, today, and in Brian’s story.  It begins and ends on this Hill and is the setting of several of the most poignant scenes in his life.  There is a single standing stone, for thousands of years it has been known as the Lia Fail, or The Stone of Destiny.  It is where, Brian is crowned High King, and Ard Ri, and when he is lost, prays on his knees to God, to show him the way.  And finally, after the final battle, jumps over the setting sun, with his lifelong friend, on their way to take their place – where only true stories of real Heroes are told  . . . ‘round the campfires in the sky.    

Prologue:  The Saga-teller – delivers Theme: Truth vs Lie/fairytale – Courage vs Cowardice

     “Tell us a tale,” the people called out, and drew back like the tides of the Red Sea, “Of myths and monsters . . . of demons and dragons.”

      The old man, gnarled and weathered as a druid oak, made his way to the top of the windswept hill, drawing near to the fire.  Then placed his hand upon the ancient standing stone, gently as a grandfather caresses the face of a child. “I have no fairy tales,” he said, and bent his head so that his tears fell at the base of the Stone.                                           

     When the old man spoke again, ‘twas a fearsome thing – a rumbling, come from way down deep in the heart of Erin, up through the hill and the stone.  The growling of a feral beast, to scold, and score, and shake the earth from its slumber.   And the wind swirled all around them, in a fury of waves and torrents, up and over the cliffs at the edge of the world.  And tumbled over the Hill, hurling his voice like rolling thunder, across the plains, over the mountains, and beyond the seas.   “Oh, you foolish children, who seek what is not there, and never was – a reflection in the pool, a shadow upon the meadow, an echo in the hills – has no beating heart!  Don’t you know, there can be no courage, nor valor, nor Hero, nor deeds worth remembering, nor story worth telling without truth!  All else is chaff in the wind.”  And the breath of Erin whispered all around them, quickening every blade of grass, ruffling the leaves silver, and tumbling the clouds in moon-glow. . .

Setting: Ireland – Hook, Mystery, Intrigue, Suspense to come  (metaphors no fantasy)       

      “Listen well!”  The old man roared, a mighty stag upon the mount.

            “For, I will tell you of a myth that is true, and of the monster who fed upon it, 

             Of a boy who became a giant, and of the serpent who dragged him down to Hel,

             Of a light, a brilliant light, as bright as a blood-ember, glowing,

             And of a demon in the darkness, black as a tomb in a new moon,

             And of the shadow he conjured, that grew upon the wall,

             Twisting and writhing, and slithering through the cracks,

             Until it spread o’er the land, extinguishing the light,

             And with it came a pestilence, a poison, a plague, on the children of Eiru,

             To scorch and shrivel every meadow and flower, and dream and dawning,

             For every dew drop in Erin, turned to blood!

             And the most sacred of all fell on this hill, on this stone, on this very night . . .

            And it all began – the day the dragons came!”       

Setting: Geoffrey’s Chamber –Thief in the Night – lowly cleric to, rich and successful Author 

     Geoffrey of Monmouth, cleric to Walter, the Archdeacon of Oxford, perched on his stool like a plague raven gargoyle, casting a loathsome eye back and forth between the piles of musty manuscripts, and the trencher of spitted piglet carcass on the table before him.   The corners of his right eye and mouth ticked spasmodically, like the twitching of a maggot flicked onto hot embers.  And rightly so, for he drew nearer to a spit-scorching himself, every day.  He’d exceeded his deadline for the King. There by, reneged on his contract, betrayed the trust, and spat in the face of the King’s generosity.   Ah yes, and how had the First Henry put it?  Coyly, with one arm about his shoulder, and his dagger in his other hand, the tip of the blade, darting about his face like a poison-fanged adder, as he walked him to window gesticulating East, over Wales to England.  His broad sword and small mace jingling; and compliment of soldiers with all the aforesaid, as well as battle-ax, boar-spear, neck-cuffs, chains, and gaffing hook, helped to make his point. You, Geoffrey, hold not only the outcome of my war with France – in your right hand – but my very life, and the future of all Britain, as well!”  His eyes narrow-slitted, and glinting, “Do you think you can manage?”   Geoffrey, his right hand usually occupied with himself, let go to wipe the sweat from his upper lip, and flap at his gown to fan the water running down his legs and moth-eaten stockings, into his scuff-worn sandals.  Indeed, Henry 1st, King of England had decked the Tower of London, for Yule – with bowels and bollocks – for far less disappointment, than this. How his entrails would be removed to garland the Great Hall, and his cods to roast with the chestnuts, during the hymn singing, evoked in Geoffrey intolerable pain and a constant sweating, so that he wondered if he might be bleeding from every pore.  He quickly crossed himself over the blasphemous thought, turning his gaze away from the waning sun’s rays, palely illuminating the three crucifixes hanging upon the stone chamber wall above the fireplace before himA thief on each side, and Christ in the middle, who loved scabby lepers, filthy Samaritans, and poxied prostitutes, diverted His gaze from Geoffrey as well.


Setting:  Geoffrey’s motive – what he is giving up                                                            

      With a pang of self-pity, Geoffrey acknowledged he’d seen horse stalls bigger and more congenial than this, and far less foul smelling.  His chamber, a flue for the kitchen below, cow-pen, pigsty and stable just outside and up-wind, possessed stone walls stained with several hundred years of smoke and greasy soot, and infused with the smells of rotting rubbish heap, rancid swine slop, and pungent horse dung.  In one corner, the stone floor opened to a steep and winding staircase down, contrived so that one Kingsman, with a sword in his right hand, could defend the tower against an upcoming horde of Saxons.  Perhaps left-handed, he’d obviously failed his task, the filthy drunken Saxons having used his chamber for a privy for three hundred years, and the stench remained.  In the other corner – a rudely constructed cot, lumpy with infested horse-hair mattress, home to bed lice, and other small vermin, attracting certain barn foul, which in turn deposited defecated remnants of said vermin, all over the contents of the chamber.  Next to the bed, a small chest contained everything shabbily made and thread bare, he owned.  And beside it, a wicker basket with his only other set of grimy linens, which the Archdeacon’s cat, following the Saxons lead, befouled on a regular basis as well. 

Setting:  Geoffrey’s chamber on the West Coast of Wales

      He, Geoffrey, lowly cleric from Monmouth, who would otherwise be trapped in the cave-infested, midden-heap of Anglesey, in the farthest foul dregs of west Wales, beyond the outer edge of the Roman Empire and civilization, and the closest landfall to the barbaric Irish. Even mighty Caesar, though he conquered the rest of the world – loathed to go to Ireland.  And if he refused?  His future loomed bleak. Nothing had ever come from puking Wales, beset with superstitions, ghosts of ghoulish Danes skulking in the mists, and wailings echoing throughout the hills of evil otherworldly demons.  The last of the headless Celts, festering in tombs, and bansheeing about in vile winds, forever blowing over from the Irish Sea, with the fetid breath and blustering bowels of the Irish!                                                                                                                                                             Setting: Clontarf –Flashback in media res. Latean brings severely wounded Brian, news of his sons

      Young Latean, attendant to the High King, thrust his foot up and down with all his might into the mutilated face of a youth not much older than himself, but the mass of gutted wound-slurry would not let loose of his ankle.  A ghastly claw, white and bloodless, tethered him to the battlefield of blood and gore – the specter of death haunting the corpse’s eyes, plotting to drag them both down to hell.  He swiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and kicked frantically until his shoe slid off, talon and all, then staggered on up the battlefield, towards the tent at the top of the hill.  He bore a message for the Ard Ri, he’d sooner cut out his heart than deliver – but deliver it he would.

     The gory dead conspired to trip him up, their severed heads and limbs scattered among their own entrails.  The dying moaned out to him and tore at his clothes.  He slipped and fell, again and again, crawling on his hands and knees, retching, and gasping for air.  Blood, warm and cold and clotted as blood pudding, oozed through his fingers. Smoke and ashes seared his lungs.  Scarlet spurted from sword slashings and dripped in stringy rivulets down from tree branches overhead, upon his face. The salt from the blood, mixing with the salt in his sweat-soaked tears, ran into his eyes, stinging and blinding him so that he could not see.  All around him, the great oaks of Tomar Wood grew black with ravens, as the fallen twitched and writhed from hill to sea.  He struggled to stand, and clinging to a sapling, looked back down the battlefield, his stomach revolting at the sickening stench of burning flesh and ruptured bowels. 

Setting: The view towards the sea

     The pallor of death had spread over the land, gray and bloodless.  For it was all on the field – all the blood in the world, oozed and gushed, and seeped onto the mud and trampled flowers of Clontarf meadow.

     To the West, the last of the sun, blazed like a dying ember in a windblown fire.  To the South, black smoke churned, and carcass-flames leapt up from the walls of Dublin Castle into a scarlet sky.  To the East on the seashore, Danes, drowning in chainmail thrashed at water’s edge, flickering silver and blue, in scarlet foam, like a bucket of bait-herring.  Their dragon ships, born out and away by the high tide and offshore wind, drifted empty and rudderless.  All around him, the edges of the earth, had burst into flames.  And all the while, Erin’s treasure, in a river of crimson, flowed down the battlefield, across the strand, and into the Irish Sea, staining the dark green, like red wine spilled onto a silken gown.

    For bestowed overall, meadow, man and beast, a blessing – an Irish blessing of blood


rne on a crimson, rain-soaked wind, up from the frothing sea    Latean wiped at his eyes with a blood-soaked sleeve, and looked up to the Heavens, wondering at the hand, that could offer such a benediction over the end of all dreams.

Setting – outside the King’s Tent

     At the top of the hill, wound-ravaged warriors encircled the High King’s tent.  The last of the original Dal Cassians, Brian’s boys from the beginning, now gray with age, scarred, and wounded.  They listed back and forth, shivering and blood soaked, against the gusting wind, leaning upon gore-slurried spears – splintered shields locked together, dulled swords encrusted in blood-clotted scabbards.  Still, they stood bravely at the ready, loyal to their Chief until the end, their silhouettes, etched in torrents of red rain, lashed sideways upon the outside walls of the tent.  Ghosts, and blood of ghosts born over the battlefield, on banshee winds hurled up from the wild Irish Sea.  In front of the tent, a terrible pain stabbed at his heart – a scene more sorrowful than bearing.  “Amergin,” he whispered.

      Three battle weary warriors struggled at the ends of ropes, around the neck of an enfrenzied gray war-horse – the King’s stallion – his valiant battle companion for more than thirty years of warring.   The beast, crazed with pain, thrashed between them, dragging, and tossing them like wet rags, desperate to be free.   Oblivious to his war wounds, he skittered and reared, trying to bolt.  Broken shafts of spears pierced his shoulders and flanks. Deep slashes laced his powerful chest.  Arrows pierced his heaving belly as streams of blood trailed down over his legs, strafed with sword cuts.   The aging stallion screamed, fierce and blood-curdling, charging towards the tent.  The whites of his eyes shot with blood, as he tossed his proud head.   His thick muscular neck, flexing and twisting, snake like.   His massive rump bunched and coiled to bolt, rearing, and pawing the air.  A profuse white mane and tail, blood-drenched and muddied, churned about him like the fury of tempest-tossed waves, spraying spirals of blood over his restrainers.   Even as scarlet foam blew from his nostrils – barbed arrow tips twisting in his lungs.   Still his great heart would not give in, he too, fighting to get to his beloved master.

Setting – Inside King Brian’s Tent – Battle of Clontarf, as the slaughter closes in 

      A single candle flame flickered . . . then sputtered . . . then glowed . . . first tentatively, then defiantly, in the darkness and drafts surrounding it.   Though the battle raged ever closer.

     The screams of men, and the spear-gored war horse, shattered the coming twilight, together with the clang, and sparks of steel on steel, and flames of fiery torches, seething, and writhing upward in twisted funnels, to the blackening sky.  Latean reached out his trembling and bloodied hand, and lit another . . . and another . . . and another, blinking away blurry haloes of light.   The honeyed scent of bee’s wax wafted aloft, mingling with smells of smoke, and battle-sweat and charring flesh.    Candlelight suffused the tent with a soft amber glow, casting molten shadows upon the walls, and illuminating the tokens of a Warrior’s lifetime of battle.    In the center, of the tent, a roughhewn table, about which all of King Brian’s brave generals had sat. Lucifer’s minions – snakes in the grass, lying in wait . . . rabid dogs in the manger . . .  wrist-claspers, and oath-givers, and vow breakers . . . Judases all! ” Now, it stood awash and dripping with hero’s blood, their beloved Chief and King.

Setting: Brian’s sword, his battle companion, carries his blood to the “book”.  (MacGuffin)

 . . .  And in the hand, that still wielded it, a great double-edged sword – woven and forged in steel, tempered in the blood of murderers, and burnished with the blood of cherished ones, bearing his father’s name, his grandsire’s, and his father before him. The hilt and pommel filigreed with gold.  The hand grip – stag horn wrapped in silver wire.  Once, gleaming in the sun, held high before the Army of the Dal Cass, in battle-charge; or hilt up to make a cross, over a King’s blessing of his men, on bended knee, before waging war; or glistening in the prow of the lead war ship of, the Navy of Erin – Now, it lay cold and chipped, and darkly smeared – and still wet . . . As blood flowed from the mighty heart, along the scarred and sinewed arm, down the blade . . . and onto the tip, a pool of scarlet collected, then dripped down onto the page . . . of a book.

Settings:   The Shannon River - Gofraid’s dragon ships on their way to attack

     Dead-eyed and soulless the dragons came. Preening black swans – their fine boned, worm-whorled prows and arched necks, skimmed the water, caressing their breasts, barely stirring a wake.  Crimson sails billowed in the wind, from yew masts, like blood-eagled lungs from cloven-ribs of corpses, floating on the river Styx.

     They came without sound, without warning – reivers from Hell, in the dawning.

     And in each belly, Lucifer’s seed – One hundred mail-clad, pointed-helmed, steel-bladed Danes – engorged with mead, and bloodlust for rapine and ax-slaughter.  On their arms, rings of silver and gold, filthy lucre for the children of Erin, sold as slaves to the harems of the Moor and Persian Kings.

      Atop each mast, a saffron banner thrashed in the wind – a tusked black boar, eviscerating a great horned stag – the banner of Gofriad, master of all, standing in the prow of the Long Dreki.  

     Gofraid, defiler of children, and desecrator of Christian altars with innocent blood, throughout Angland, Frankland, Scotland, and Irland.

     Gofraid, son of Sigtrigg Gale, son of Sigtrigg Ivarsson, son of Ivar the Boneless, son of Ragnar Lothbrok – King of the Norse, and scourge of all Christendom.   He had decimated Killaloe, and the Irish Tribal King of Thomond before, in his youth with his father. But enough time had passed for the boar-tough, Cennetig, of the Clan Dal Cais, to build up his stores of cattle, pigs, lamb and horses, and a round tower with treasures of precious gems and metals, forged steel blades, crosiers and crosses, silver reliquaries, horse-trappings, and bejeweled covers of their sacred books, illuminated in gold – And his stores of sons . . . Twelve he had now.  None in all Norseland, could claim such a gift. 

Setting:  The Nursery

     His crib, and then cot, being the one farthest in the corner of twelve, had made his life challenging from the get-go.   At bedtime, before his Mam arrived to hear her boys’ prayers, as a babe he was tossed from one brother to the next like a chunk of turf . . . as a small boy, slung like a sheaf of goat turds . . . and more recently, hoisted aloft and jettisoned along over their heads, as they chanted “Who will score! Who will score!  Until building up momentum . . . launched him like tossing the caber, as close as they could get him to the piss-bucket in the corner.

     It took a few years, and although he was always accused of stinking the place up, by wetting the bed, to their mam, and the brunt of all manner of smirking, verbal castigation, facial contortion, and obscene gesticulations his way, while his Mam’s eyes were closed during the prayers . . .  he never ratted them out.  For which he earned their respect, if not mercy.  As the mighty Bebinn, would have flogged their bowels out, for tormenting her. . . favorite one, her changeling babe, with the lovely red curls, left by the faeries, and not related a’tall to the rest of Cennetig’s hooligans . . . so they all mimicked. 

     As time passed, he learned quickly, he could duck, tuck and roll, twist in midair like a cat, and land on his feet straddlin’ the bucket, without spillin’ a drop.   With his brothers cheering him on, “The Runt holds, against the langers of Ulster!”    Firbolg one!  To Ui Neill pissers, none!   Hie!   Let’s hear for the Runt! Runt! Runt! 

     And in their Mam would come, eyes a twinkle trying to keep a straight face with their Da’s hurl, flailing the air, and boys jumping up and down like fleas in a hot pot, sliotars whizzing, pillows, and feather beds, flying around the chamber, in a flurry of goose down and horsehair.

     And finally, Mam tuckin’ him in as she did all her boys and givin’ each a kiss, she’d bend low so only he could hear her, “I know ’twasn’t ye’r fault Bri.   Did ye know, each of ye’r brothers was the Firbolg in his turn, your Da, and Grand Da, as well?  Never ye mind, the day will come when ye’ll be as big as they are, and they’ll have to face ye in the Tourney for the wrestlin’ and all.   And ye can show them then.

      Then she would bend close to his ear, and whisper, “Never forget . . . the finest steel, is hammered the most, and forged in the fieriest furnace!”  Then she’d wink, eyes sparklin’ and full of the mischief, and kiss him on the forehead. “One day the Runt will rise!”  She’d say . . . and I’ll be lookin’ down on ye with a smile on me face . . . me own little Bri . . . the bravest and fiercest Firbolg of all.”

Setting: Family campfire in the graveyard, under the ancient oak of Mag Adair 

      But . . .  whatever it would cost him in the class of torment . . .  he could conger up this very night, already.  All his brothers gathered ‘round, a wink and a nod of affirmation from Father Maelsuthain,  and his Da’s face all aglow with firelight and pride, at the telling of the battle of Brian and the great white sea-eagle for the most glorious salmon in all the world! . . .  Well, young Brian, ye’ve got a warrior’s heart in ye, right enough, he’d say.   No, Da could ask more of his son. . .  All the rest of ye boys look to ye’r young brother . . . and remember this day . . . and his Da would grab him under his chin in the crook of his elbow, plunging his face into his rank hairy oxer, and rub his knuckles on the top of his head, the closest thing Cennetig ever gave to a hug . . . The grandest fish goes to the biggest heart, and the smallest cods, eh, lad! . . . .  And there would be laughter and teasin’ for the Runt, the manky little Firbolg, and pride in the eyes of his Mam, and laughter and glowing faces all around – a cheer from the boys.  A grand moment not soon forgotten . . ..

    Brian could feel the rush of devil-mongerin’ pride,  risin’ up in him.  There would be no weaslin’ out – ‘twould be runnin’ the gauntlet of slaughteror die tryin’!

    Besides . . . he’d fought this battle before.

Setting:  The Chapel –  In front of the door.

     Brian gestured with his hand up, casting an evil eye, and grunted for Chulainn and Lug to stay! And shush!   Which they protested with a pitiful whining, Lug laying down with the long puss of the hang-dog look, and Chulainn panting, and whining, eyes on fire with mischief, like the wanton harlot, Queen Maeve of the North, looking for a quick bend-over the altar, so says his Da, in the tomb of Newgrange.  And Brian had always wondered why she would bend over the altar to pray, instead of on her knees in front, like the rest of the world. . . but then she was the “wanton,” one, his Da always said, with a sly wink to him . . . and then, he’d always wondered what she was wantin’ for . . . her bein’ a Queen and all?

     He moved towards the door, crossing himself, as best he could with his hands full, and whispering a prayer, of thanks, like his Mam had taught him, for small blessings – like no piss bucket, and old Patrick’s Prayer . . .

     “Christ be before me” . . . he whispered, “Christ behind me . . . on me right hand, and on me left . . . “Which he always followed by a whispering of the battle cry of the Dal Cass, as he always heard his Da call out after a few too many ales – Here’s to singin’ the short and curlies, lads!  May the flames of ye’r fires be short – and the arms of ye’r women be long!

      He wasn’t really sure of the meaning of it all, but he thrilled to the tears it brought to the old warrior’s eyes, as they nodded, and swilled in affirmation, to rid themselves of the lump in their throat, and banged their cups down upon the table, chanting, Dal Cais! . . . Dal Cais! . . . Dal Cais!

     He reached out, and with his dirty big toe – pushed ever so gently at the door . . .

  Setting:  The door of Lachtna

      The thick Irish oak door, heavy as a cart of rocks, and hewn by Lachtna himself, to not only keep out the fustering Danes, but the hordes of godless Angles, and the odd Saxon, sniffin’ about for the south end of a ripe ewe.  Not to mention, scarred with nearly two hundred years of ax, sword, and spear blade mutilations. Pissed on by more than a few drunken Danes, before they set fire to it – and pissed on, by more than a few drunken Dal Cass, to put the fires out . . .  swung slowly open . . . 

     The rusted-out, bog-iron hinges, forged in the time of Methuselah, let loose with a never-ending, banshee-screeching creak, to raise the headless bog sacrifices of the Fomorians.

     The clatter of the boys ceased, silence filled the void, save for the shrieking wail of the rusty door . . .  As one by one, every head, every shade of red in the world, and slathered with freckles, face filled with a wonder, turned to him.  Every satanic, mischievous green eye in the chapel gawking at his fish.  Not a murmur, not a whisper, not a flutter of an eyelash filled the void, only . . . pure and utter reverence for the grandest, most glorious salmon in all this world!

Setting:  The Lay of the Land – Maelsuthain’s chapel

     Father Maelsuthain’s school, a small rectangular stone chapel, built in commemoration of when the first of the wild Pagan Clan Dal Cais, had stopped severing and collecting of the heads of other Clans’ men, for the decorating of their chariots.  Long enough to be baptized by Patrick himself, with the first Priest-blessed water drops, ever taken from the Shannon. 

      The oak table in front, now serving as an altar, still bore the ax-cleaving by his great, great, grand Da.  Who, deafer than a yew post, took offence, mistaking Patrick’s odd speech of the North, and Roman ways to boot . . . splashing water on him, and waving his ram-headed crozier about, thought it to be an invoking of the banshees of black pools – to shag his mother almost ended Christianity in Killaloe, before it began.  

      But the gouge in the table, bore witness to the miracle – the staying of the blade of the old pagan – as all knew the fearsome old King never missed, when hewin’ off a head – ‘twas blessed by Patrick, still sportin’ a head, as a proof of the true Christian God’s, power.  And so, the altar remained revered down through the ages. 

     All subsequent children of the Clan, when baptized as a babe, had their tiny hand placed in the very spot where Patrick’s had been, for good luck, and long life in God’s blessing.

     Upon the altar stood a simple roughhewn cross, singed black on the top, and bottom, made from a branch of the ancient Druid Oak upon the hill of Mag Adair.  When lightning struck and cleft the trunk down the middle, the tree survived; but the old King Lachtna with his sword in his hand, lit up like the shooting star named after the long arm of Lugh, sparks flying, eyes glowing red, smoke shooting from both his ears, and cursing like an Ulster goat-shagger – didn’t.

      So, the cross, stained with blood and singed hair, and declared sacred by Maelsuthain, his childhood friend – stood as a token of his oath to a dying King, that he would uphold the Clan, until his last stifled breath.   And laid down the law, that all Princes of the Dal Cass must attend school, develop their minds, and be in their seats by the time the bell stopped ringing or pay what’s due.

     This vow insured Father Maelsuthain, would invoke God’s blessing, upon his pupils if he was in a good mood – and Lachtna’s, of the fiery temper, armed with the ashen hurl, he kept by the altar leg, if they were late.  The good Father was a man of his oath, and the twelve sons of Cennetig had the splinters in their arses, to prove it. 


Narrator - Setting Ireland – Saga-teller – Hill of Tara – Foreshadowing, Intrigue, Suspense

 And so the young cub, the sky-jewel of Irland, who burned brighter than all the rest . . .
Would one day, consume the traitors, oath-breakers, snakes in the grass,

Descending like an eagle, hurtling down from the sky,
His shadow passed over moor, and meadow, and mountain,
First to the South, and then to the East, and West and Northward,

The breath of Erin, whispering his name before him,
Mists through ancient stones,
A shiver in the trees,
A rustle of leaves,
A ripple of quiet waters,

Demon, they murmured . . . Drakkar-Slayer . . .
And the cowards and murderers, and brokers of children, trembled behind bolted doors,

Shivering in the dark,
Their armies, in chainmail, with ramparts and moats, and murder holes surrounding them –
A shield wall of cob web, against the steel blade of a mighty Warrior’s heart,

They hid and drank, and laughed aloud,

Boasting in the company of their slaughter mongers, 
As if, when alone in the dark, they did not piss in their trews,
And always, in their nightmares, they saw his specter,

Wild and ruddy – Cennetig’s cub,

The young lion in valor, 
Eyes gleaming, mouth agape, fangs bared, dripping with the blood of traitors,

Coming for them . . .


And all the while, One-Eye’s ravens, hovered – circling – biding their time –                               

Until they slaked their thirst on coward’s blood.


                                                                               End Book  I

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A US Staff Sergeant during WWII on New Guinea must survive the war, and being kidnapped by a local tribe, to save a boy and himself.


WWII on New Guinea is a constant antagonistic force that drives decisions for all of the characters, often with detrimental outcomes. 

The antagonist is aggressive Kavili, lead warrior and khakhua sorcerer hunter in the village. Kavili is a constant reminder to Alice that he is no longer an US officer with position and power—he is a captive and must follow custom or be killed. He is unyielding in believing Alice should have been sacrificed instead of captured for the strafing run that murdered two women. Kavili upholds tribal customs even when faced with imposing a hunt on his best friend's nephew, who ultimately got the blame for the plane that killed his mother. A plan is initiated to save the boy, and when the betrayal is discovered, Kavili continues to not only hunt Bunop, but also Alice and Boas. When Alice and Bunop escape and Boas is killed, we finally see the humanity of the antagonist.



Previously: SAV•AGE(S)



Comps for historical fiction/historical fantasy

Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien

In a blend of reality and fantasy, this novel tells the story of a young soldier who one day lays down his rifle and sets off on a quixotic journey from the jungles of Indochina to the streets of Paris. Where men are both fleeing from and meeting the demands of war, the story is about the forces of fear and heroism that do battle in the hearts of us all. 

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness.  

A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda

The story takes the reader into the very heart of sorcery, challenging both imagination and reason, shaking the very foundations of our belief in what is "natural" and "logical." In 1961, a young anthropologist subjected himself to an extraordinary apprenticeship with Yaqui Indian spiritual leader don Juan Matus to bring back a fascinating glimpse of a Yaqui Indian's world of "non-ordinary reality" – a world of experience no man from our Western civilization had ever entered before. 


LoglineDuring World War II on the island of New Guinea, a Kansas-born US Staff Sergeant nicknamed “Alice” is kidnapped by native clansmen in retaliation for a murder he didn’t commit, requiring him to find his way through tribal wonderland back to his unit.


Primary conflict

Alice is kidnapped by a tribe to nullify the “evil spirit” that killed two tribeswomen during a strafing run on a local beach. He must try to get free of the village, and return to the “normalcy” of war.

Secondary conflict

While Alice is a captive of Boas in the village, Bunop is named as a khakhua - evil sorcerer - and must be killed as custom dictates. Alice decides to help save the boy with Boas, thus making them hunted by the tribe as well.

Inner conflicts

Alice’s upbringing in a rural, Christian community never sat well with him. Like many men in wartime, nothing felt right – he was convinced of the lies he told himself, that he would always choose war because it was patriotic, heroic, rewarding; evil needed stamping out and he was the right guy to do it; and protecting farm and family from the evil reaching home was paramount. But that mantra itched at him like a splinter starting to fester. When he was faced with a badly wounded Japanese soldier who was clearly no threat, Alice shot him instead of capturing him, saying nothing more than, “He would have hated our food.” His dissociation from self and place set him up for being dragged through tribal wonderland to emerge back into a war he thought he wanted to be a part of, only to realize he wanted to embrace life by returning to the village. His core internal conflict drives Alice’s choices throughout the story until the very end when he resists the conflict, and choses his own path of transformation.

B-story conflict 

The conflict for Alice’s enlisted friends back at camp is their commander’s refusal to rescue Alice, assuming he has already been executed by the Japanese in retaliation for killing the wounded soldier. His mates mount an unauthorized rescue – where Crackers, an Australian soldier and close friend of Alice’s, is taken and beheaded by the Japanese. Alice and Bunop must pass the Japanese base camp en route to the safe haven, and Alice bears witness to this war crime. He risks his own life by entering the Japanese camp to recover his friend’s head for a proper burial.


The setting writ large is the island of what is now Papua New Guinea during WWII. Militaries from Japan, US, and Australia are there to engage in a conflict that does not involve the tribal communities. The over-arching setting is the island, it's people's, and a war. It is a steamy tropical island full of beautiful and dangerous plants and animals. And home to 800 different languages and as many distinct tribes–who at the time (1940s) were ritualistically cannibalistic. The world of the tribe, the forest, and the Pacific War Theater are the persistent backdrop of the story.


-       Strafing run on a beatific tropical beach; full on warfare on same beach

-       Fetid mud pools and jungle where the men must march 

-       Rotting tent camp for the enlisted: sleeping quarters, hospital, mess hall, laundry, swimming hole with crashed Zero behind it, officer’s quarters, volleyball courts and fire pit

-       The village: stilt homes, spirit house, farms and fields, central plaza, the intense surrounding tropical forest and its rivers

-        The Japanese camp on Huon Bay: clean, organized, huge parade grounds 

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First Assignment – Story Statement

Elwin needs to survive the coming revolution long enough to earn enough money to escape out of Luxton’s poorest neighborhood – without getting her friends killed first.


Second Assignment – Antagonist

The Governor – Silk to his friends, the number of which he could count on one hand – had been a thief, merchant and spy before the Goddess had plucked him out of his normal life.  The divinity had given him one job: protect the girl until she could fulfill her destiny.  And they had – he, Palston, that half mad witch, completely mad wizard, and besotted princeling.  They’d put her on the throne and gotten her up the mountain where she’d stuffed the Emperor and his Demon Lord back into the seven hells.  As a reward, the girl had made him Royal Governor of Luxton.  Silk vowed to hold it.  The Emperor was gone, but his Empire remained, plotting revenge.  The kingdom needed Luxton’s armories and charm makers to defend its borders.  No collection of apprentices, workers, and nuns who didn’t understand their place in the world was going to upset the ordered running of those industries, not while Silk breathed.  If that meant meeting protests with demons, Church Guards, and other holy instruments of violence, so be it.  He promised to hold the city for his Queen and his Goddess and he would – whether they approved of his methods or not.


Third Assignment – Titles

 The Fire of Fools and Knaves

Gunpowder Demons

No Kings. No Masters. No Demons.


Fourth Assignment – Comps

Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennet.  Second world fantasy with a mix of technology and magic, and thief who ends up thrust into politics against her will.

Blocktongue Thief – Christopher Buehlman.  Second world fantasy with a sense of humor, focused on a character interested in their own advancement whose self-interest draws them into bigger struggles.

 Fifth Assignment – Log Line

 A thief and magic taster stumbles upon an item that everyone in her revolution torn city wants – its her way out of poverty if she can survive long enough and if she can stomach the amount of innocent blood she’ll have to spill to cash in.


Sixth Assignment – Core Conflict

Life as a thief in the Wreck has taught Elwin that people like her can merely hope to make their way in the world, nit make the world better, whatever her old friend Beanpole and his revolutionaries think.  So when she steals a charm that every side in the conflict is willing to pay for, she jumps at the chance to turn it into enough coin to escape the grinding poverty of her life.  But politics is a bloody game, and the more she tries to simply make her way out, the more her friends pay the price.  Ultimately she has to decide: is making her way instead of making the way better worth the cost in innocent blood?


Seventh Assignment –Setting

Luxton is the largest city on the continent.  Nestled in the lowest pass separating the plains form the Empire and resting on the Great Lake, it is a natural commercial and immigration hub.  The influx of people form all over the continent, and Gnomes fomr the mountain, have made it the magic, cultural and industrial center of the continent, a jewel fought over for centuries.  The wealthy merchants build towering mansions to their egos, the First Families spend their inherited fortunes on gambling, plays and artists, pretending not to notice the industrialists buying their way into power and prestige.

The Wreck is everything Luxton does not wish to believe itself to be – poor, desperate, violent.  It is the home of forgotten shops, forgotten religious orders, and forgotten people.  Run by gangs, ignored by the city’s rulers, its citizens make their way in the world as best they can with only a few dreaming of making the way better.


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What If The Devil…Banished God…From Heaven?



Helel is the co-creator of a heavenly realm called Alegion with Adonai. Close as brothers, together they utilize a planetary dominion in the effort to grow an instinctual need to create and learn about their evolving powers. That is, until an unforeseen clash of wills over how to govern humankind on the planet Eden commences; and the one who remained with a handful of Morning Stars (Guardian Angels) on Alegion, is not the being we were led to believe. Helel casts out Adonai to the plane of humanity. In lieu of killing each other, they try to get the other to submit to their ways via the manipulation of humankind throughout history. Watching from above, Helel is the aggressor but knows confronting Adonai on Eden’s plane could lead to death. Eventually, Adonai knows one must die – but Helel uses a loyal and resourceful cult of humans from afar to break the will of Adonai. Once Helel can accomplish the task at hand, the last living creator will descend on Eden – under the guise as a “Savior.” Choices the last standing creator enacts upon humankind becomes veiled…as does who will rise to challenge the misleading Helel.    



DOMINATURE: What If The Devil…Banished God…From Heaven…





“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith in terms of the alternate history approach to a familiar story (i.e. The Bible) complimented with the self-aware humor that evolves as the story opens up in modern times.

“The Devil's Workshop: A Metaphysical Extravaganza” by Donnally Miller for its philosophical tone woven through an adventurous action-packed exploration.

I would just like to add this has grounded fantasy approach similar to what Christopher Nolan executed with his “Dark Knight” film franchise by infusing larger-than-life characters in a more reality based tone.



When the “Devil” banishes “God” from heaven, how will humankind react to learning the true nature about their creation while having to interact with both moral, deceptive, and violent divine beings.


Adonai must deal with counteracting Helel’s manipulative treachery while imprisoned on the plane of humankind. Adonai, though pure at heart, is morally bound by a portal used to travel from their realm of Alegion to humanity’s. Said portal governs the divine’s power while roaming Eden. However, Helel makes a risky play to violate these laws – which gives Adonai an idea on how to accomplish the goal of luring, and then destroying, the corrupt co-creator – despite having to violate the moral code embedded and thereby nullifying “God’s” lifeforce.

Helel initiates a natural disaster to distract Adonai; which allows the former to sneak onto Eden. Helel then romantically manipulates a woman named Mary to birth a spawn (Jesus) – who could potentially undo Adonai’s influence. Essentially the Devil’s offspring, Adonai reluctantly brings Jesus to a harsh justice (death). By doing so, Adonai willfully violates the divine governing laws while on Eden (in this case, directly causing physical harm to humankind). That said, as centuries pass, Adonai wrestles with the idea of birthing a demigod through a human as Helel once did. This deceptive act would end the existence of Adonai – who is humankind’s best protection against The Devil. However, if Helel believes Adonai has died, and takes the bait, a Devil can then descend upon Eden – unaware that Adonai’s heir does have the power to administer a deathblow – if the heir accepts this destiny. 

 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?

After Adonai resorts to ending the life of Jesus, those select humans who assisted, choose to create a written lie (The Bible) to ensure a non-violent moralistic path for humankind – which will hopefully keep Helel’s influence at bay. Adonai struggles with this for its implementation involves wielding evil’s tools at various points throughout history. By enacting this, Adonai implores humankind to believe and nurture a lie. Meeting key individuals who are privy to this ancient agenda, some start to lose faith and question what they fight for; leading to betrayal and death; therefore, allowing a Devil to potentially gain and wield balance-shifting power through its unwavering human disciples.



DOMINATURE starts the reader off in a divine realm in the cosmos. An excerpt for how I describe it is pasted here:

Akin to night overtaking the setting sun, a steady tint of

brightness accents the dark void of infinite space. The vast

mirage of a seemingly transparent floor canvas yields a landscape

encompassing structures built from materials so refined, the

human mind would not be able to articulate if asked.

Standing with an upward gaze at a conversation taking place on a

high-rise tower is a human-like being, fair mannered in expression,

though imposing in stature. Unable to hear the dialogue of said conversation,

the being appears to be hanging on every word as another,

slightly more masculine, approaches.

“They’ve been meeting. All have noticed. Is there belief you’ll decipher

what equation their powerful minds circumvent at this time,


Gerwen, not diverting the gaze, says in a deep tonal voice, “Which is

why you come forth now? Taun’s inquisitive spirit wonders as well.”

“I have no yearning for what our creators Adonai and Helel discuss

until ready to divulge,” claims Taun. “They have our trust. Inform us

prior to their public decree, this you know.”

Gerwen breaks the concentration and walks down a staircase towards

a valley sporadically populated by similar-looking beings. They are met

by Zamus and Quen, also blessed with physical prowess and height,

both of which equally curious to the dealings of their creators.

“If true, new life has sprung over our domain,” says an eloquent

Quen. “Though the catalyst remains mysterious.”

“Mysterious?” says the blunt Zamus. “The answer lies with the two

of Gerwen’s persistent focus.”

“No matter,” says Taun. “Whether spawned from Adonai and Helel

or an unknown, all we can do is observe from this realm. Let us rejoice if

their life comes with attractive engagement.”

“Perhaps, extending our influential engagement is the discussion

they have,” adds Gerwen.

“Engagement?” says Zamus. “Sharing our presence as the four of us

stand now?”

“Bliss coddles our ever-existence,” says Taun. “To give this willing to

sub-beings? Worthy has no species proved.”

“Our ever-existence you speak of, Taun, consumes knowledge for this

plane created by the pinnacle of a hierarchy,” says Gerwen. “With

purpose, we nurture. With purpose, we advance. Without purpose, static

power, we become. Is this not where our realm of Alegion stands now?”

Pondering Gerwen’s audacious proclamation about the heavenly

state of Alegion, the trio watch Gerwen separate from the discussion.

Eventually the remaining disperse amongst the plane of frosted glass, as

the constant fiery glow of the universe’s brightest star surrounds their



locks only moving as Adonai’s body turns to continue with Helel after a

brief pause in conversation. Mirror images of each other - the only

noticeable differences are the length of their hair, with Helel’s resting

longer on the collarbone, and Adonai’s piercing wide eyes. The creators

lean against a wall of their private chamber atop an uncovered monumental

pillar. In the cosmos, registering clear through their optic lens of

vision despite the distance, is a blue orb with assortments of landmasses.


From there, the story toggles between present day in such places as the bustling midtown Atlanta area, the inner sanctums of The Vatican, and a secret hi-tech compound in the U.K. Eventually the distinct timelines explain why certain actions are happening beginning with the divines embedding themselves during the start of the Roman Empire era. Thorough research of politics and culture are referenced to help set the tone for how the divines maneuvered amongst the human population. Once the timelines come together about halfway through, this becomes a globe-trotting exploration with settings of Antarctica, various monuments, and the Doomsday Vault in Norway hosting key action sequences. Everyday settings such as parks, bars, and lavish parties are sprinkled in to advance character development and bridge story beats via character dialogue…

Walking through the pristine garden trail, the monumental tower

enchants their eyes as they gawk at the crystal-clear reflection hitting the

manmade pool just feet away from where they stand. Getting closer, they

see the golden door surrounded by a moat. Michael goes to the left of the

tower as Giancarlo takes the right. They scope it out, meeting in the back

at the sundial, shining ever so bright in the sunlight.

As the story transcends from psychological to a physical chess match with divine influenced natural disasters happening across the world, the story jumps into the near future (2028) where the ancient continent of Pangea is reformed - wiping out half the population. This all climaxes to an immortal battle at the refurbished roman Colosseum where the fantastical elements laid out in the story crescendo.

Other excerpts articulating the early reformation of Pangea:


SCIENTISTS ON ANTARCTICA’S OUTER MONITORING STATIONS ARE CONTINUING their years-long study of the climate change effect from the trilogy of volcanic eruptions in 2020. That is, until the central ice shelf has ridden a

surf pushing them north for the last twenty minutes or so. Off in the

distance, their sonar imaging has two giant landmasses the shape of

India and Australia seemingly barreling towards their location.

In the center of the now moving icy continent, Guardian Angels were

instructed by Helel to gather with Gerwen here, as rumors of trying to

instigate a return to Alegion is the cause for the worldly overhaul. The

continental movements draw concern on their faces, yet what they are

enduring is minimal compared to other areas of Eden.



Yuri, watching the world reconfiguration nullifying the Atlantic Ocean

on Jenson’s laptop. Europe is seemingly moved as a lever with the

extended land attachments of Russia and Asia being swung up to the

North Pole. When zooming in, portions of countries are ripped apart

with the remains settling on opposite ends of the hemispheres. Certain

areas seem to be experiencing less movement, such as South America.

Then there’s Japan which ended up west of China and Russia.

Peering out from under the tunnels in the Colosseum, The Devil’s

band is watching Helel on an in-arena platform, deeply locked in a

grueling trance.



of the oceans go inland, wiping out clusters of a helpless humanity.

Going further inland, structures continue to crush the ones who built

them up as achievements to advancing their way of life. The lone

Morning Star tries to physically move people out of harm’s way, though

the sheer volume of destruction renders Valen in a state of helplessness.



constant pain as he can feel the cries of a rattled world. Making his way

outside, he sees a growing, dark horizon approaching from miles out.

Ascending to the top of the tower, he knows Helel is manipulating the

elements. Michael tries to muster up divine antibodies to slow whatever

viral ploy is attacking Eden. The force which Michael meets head on has

an unrelenting momentum for his only half God-like spirit. Exhausting

every effort, the pressure submits Michael down on his knees and then to

his back, drained like never before since ingesting these powers.



shadow over the sky with disturbed seas comprised of dead fish, animal

carcasses, and human remains. Surviving humanity slowly rises together

to see yet another altering change in their existence. Shortly after the

rumbling subsided, the Antichrist is branded the culprit. Footage from

the Colosseum is shown encompassing a fatigued Helel with tactful

headlines annotating the Savior’s efforts to stop the assault as he did a

few years ago.

Murky satellite imagery shows the world has literally come together.

Shots from Morocco lie in the spots where Boston and New York City

once stood. Places such as Iran are no longer landlocked. Cuba crashed

into Louisiana and Texas. The Bahamas and other similar-sized islands

were run through by larger landmasses, negating their existence. A death

toll projection ranges from half the population to near extinction.

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Silas Zobal


FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.


When a drug deal goes bad at the Troutmans’ sheep farm in central Pennsylvania,

seventeen-year-old Jonas Troutman grabs a duffel bag full of cash and runs across the country,

trying to escape his abusive father, the narrow limits of his life, and the forces that tell him who

he must be.


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.


My antagonist, Neil Cargill, is hired to retrieve the money that Jonas Troutman has

taken. Here’s a sketch that introduces him and the way he sees the world:

At a bench beside a picnic pavilion, Neil Cargill fished his phone from his pocket. He

opened the Tor anonymity browser, but the morning sun washed out the screen. To his right, a

teenaged brother and sister played toilet tag with a small group of kids. To his left, a couple

wandered in circles beneath a thin evergreen. Near a parked Winnebago, a fat bearded man

bounced on his toes and stretched his arms. People everywhere were ungainly and weaklimbed.

Cargill felt the need, pent up inside him, to hurt things. He’d never met anyone who

understood themselves, their desires or fears or needs. Each fragile life was no more fixed than

a line of spit. But he wanted to extinguish what they were, these people, and give them the

chance to be something else.

The woman pressed against the man beneath the evergreen. The fat bearded man

disappeared inside the Winnebago. When the sister caught the brother, he grabbed her arm

with both hands and twisted. Long ago Cargill had cut a deal with himself to hurt no one

outside the service of his work.


THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title



Because I’m lousy with titles, I’ve only included one. (But I like this one.)


FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel.


Emily St. John Mandel: The Glass Hotel, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet.Cormac

McCarthy: No Country for Old Men. (Too big, I know.)


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


When a drug deal goes bad on his father’s farm in central Pennsylvania, an abused

teenager grabs a bag of cash and runs across the country to escape the limitations of his life.


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

have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical

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


My protagonist, Jonas Troutman, is an abused seventeen-year-old who lives on a sheep

farm in central Pennsylvania. His abusive father grows marijuana illegally. Jonas has long

yearned to escape his life. When one of his father’s drug deals goes bad, Jonas seizes the

moment to flee. He grabs a bag of money and runs from his father, from the limitations of his

life, and from the man who comes hunting him. Jonas is angry about his father’s abuse, and

about the life he’s known so far. Here’s a brief sketch of a moment in which Jonas sweeps out

the marijuana grow room in the barn:

Jonas swept the cement floor, leaving dust and leaves in small piles. Above, in the

farmyard, he heard engines turn and rumble. Barn timbers shivered. Gravel cracked as the

trucks drove out of the lane. Jonas gathered the piles in the dustpan, dumped them in the

garbage can. He set the broom and dustpan on the empty table. He leaned against a stone wall.

Had his dad always been such a fucking asshole? It was hard to tell. His gums ached, and his

cheeks felt bruised. He touched the split in his scalp with his fingers. When had he first

understood that his dad was a shitty father? God, it was hard to know your own mind, much

less to figure out how your mind, and what it thought it knew, had been warped by its

upbringing. Like, was he thinking this now because he’d grown old enough to ask such things?

Or was he thinking this because he was pushing back like some teen on TV? Or was he thinking

this now because he’d learned to be an asshole like his dad?

Jonas lifted the shotgun on the table, then set the gun back down. He went up the cellar

stairs, and sat on a milking stool in the barn. There had always been guns around. At six years

old, he’d learned to shoot wooden targets and rabbit and whitetail and turkey, but a sawed-off

wasn’t for hunting. Why had his dad sawed off the barrel? What was he expecting?

Light shimmered through the barndoor and hit the floor hard. Motes of wool and hair

and skin floated toward one another like they were going to melt together. The heat on Jonas’s

skin was a kindness. He closed his eyes.

There was the sound of the wind rustling straw in the loft, and the urgency of the field

crickets. There were his dad’s intermittent bootsteps. There was the uncomfortable beat of his

own heart. Seven doves cooed on the roof. Barn timbers creaked deep in its joinery. The

bootsteps moved into the barn, circling. A hand knocked Jonas’s shoulder hard enough that he

slipped off the milk stool.

“You lazy piece of shit,” his dad said. “Nobody ever gave me nothing. Get your ass up.”

“What for?”

“Cause I’m wanna knock you down again.”


Until this point, I’ve answered these questions as if my novel has a single protagonist.

But it doesn’t. In fact, the novel quickly develops three main protagonists (Jonas and two other

teens that he’ll meet in Chicago).


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?


Given the nature of this novel, there are a number of secondary conflicts. But one

involved the potential romantic relationship between two of the protagonists, Jonas Troutman

and Esme Washington.


FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.


There are two main settings in Heartwood. Snyder County, Pennsylvania and Chicago,

Illinois. I like that there’s a kind of tension between the rural and the urban as the book moves

back and forth between these two environments.

In Snyder County, we visit farmhouses and farmland. We travel the small roads that lead

to smaller roads like veins to capillaries. Jonas Troutman lives on a sheep farm, and Jonas

Troutman studies flora and fauna, including their scientific names, so we experience the natural

environment intimately through his perceptions. We see the Mennonites that live around him,

the farm animals, the sheep, the gnats and the horseflies.

In Chicago, we have the lights, and architecture, and the flood of people that brings a

welcome anonymity. Two of the novel’s protagonists attend St. Ignatius College Prep, a private

Catholic high school. One of these protagonists, Mason Roswell, lives in Water Tower Place on

the Magnificent Mile. The other, Esme Washington, lives to the south in the Grand Crossing

neighborhood, so I get to look at two very different sides of the city.

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Story Statement

The protagonist (Alice) must defeat the foes trying to destroy her Father even as she suspects the man she loves may be part of the plot.

Antagonist Sketch

Claybank is a hired assassin who is very good at his job. Once a promising boxer, Claybank had to retire early because of a bad heart. He turned to crime after a devastating flood killed his oldest son and wiped out his savings. Claybank tells his wife that he became a hired killer to support his family, but that isn’t strictly true—he enjoys the competitive challenge. His wife left him because of his choice (although she still accepts his money), but Claybank is convinced he’ll win her back once he earns enough to retire.

Claybank had refused to harm women and children previously. However, he reluctantly helps in a plot to harm Alice because it will pay him enough to quit and win his wife back. Also, Claybank feels betrayed by those in power due to the flood. He views Alice as a spoiled rich heiress who is part of the corrupt elite.

Potential Titles

-The Wolf Rises in the Heart

-American Princess on the Run: Alice Roosevelt and the Blue Dragon Conspiracy

-The President’s Daughter


“Opium and Absinthe” by Lydia Kang

“The Nurse’s Secret: A Thrilling Historical Novel Of The Dark Side of Gilded Age New York City” by Amanda Skenandore



Alice Roosevelt, the most famous women in America in 1905, sees marriage as a way to reach her potential and escape her insensitive Father, but then she discovers the man she loves may be plotting to destroy the president.

Conflict Scenarios

Primary conflict

Alice feels ignored by her Father, an unloved stepchild. She writes in her diary that her Father loves her as 1/8 as much as his other children. Like many other women of her time, Alice seeks a husband to escape a stifling family atmosphere. However, she ends up torn between two suitors—the more conservative Nick and the mysterious Brynmor. When an assassin threatens the president, Alice’s instinct is to try to solve the case to protect her Father, which will also enable her to move on with her life and find fulfillment with a new husband. But when Brynmor is implicated in the plot, she’s torn between him and her family—a feeling exacerbated by her feelings of worthlessness.

Throughout her ordeal, Alice is surrounded by lawmen and others forced to compromise when pursuing justice. In a final twist, Alice must choose between her family and the man she loves and face the question: How do you achieve justice in an unjust world?

Secondary conflict

Alice views herself as an orphan because her grief-stricken Father ignored her as a child after his first wife died. Despite being a celebrity lauded for her beauty, Alice refers to herself as “ugly” and “Poor Alice” in her diary. Her insecurity causes her to seek attention, acting in a way that’s considered outrageous. Due to her feelings of worthlessness, Alice struggles when Brynmor is implicated in the plot, finding it hard to accept the evidence before her eyes. As the proof against him mounts, Brynmor takes advantage of Alice’s insecurity by gaslighting her. However,  Alice’s superior intelligence wins out in the end.

Secondary conflict

Because the Secret Service isn’t authorized to protect the president’s family, Teddy Roosevelt strong-arms Bat Masterson to act as a bodyguard for Alice. Bat has no interest in performing this duty as he’s happy as a full-time sportswriter in New York. However, Roosevelt points out that Bat had just accepted a position as a federal deputy marshal for the handsome annual salary of $2,000. Roosevelt expects Bat to earn his money. Bat and Alice immediately clash about who is calling the shots. Alice expects to give the orders, but Bat is a celebrity in his own right and equally strong-willed.


Alice takes a literal and figurative journey, so the story takes place in multiple settings: Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Sweetwater, Texas, and the Big Pasture in the Oklahoma Territory. A secondary character involved in a subplot travels from Los Angles to San Francisco to the Organ Mountains and finally to the Big Pasture. I changed some settings from indoor meeting rooms to more dynamic locations after reading the NWOE article.

The primary setting is New York at the dawn of the Progressive Era in 1905. Reformers clamor for change in the city; robber barons cling to power. Anarchists and abandoned children roam the streets. A flood of immigrants pours into New York every year. About one in six Americans at this time are foreign-born. The city is a series of armed camps, with the Five Points Gang controlling everything west of the Bowery and the Eastman Gang in charge to the East. Tammany Hall works hand-in-hand with the gangs, providing political protection in exchange for getting out the vote.

The New York settings include Broadway, the “Dreamland” amusement park at Coney Island, East Side wharfs, Chinatown, a bottle factory in Brooklyn, a nickelodeon in Manhattan, a bare-knuckle club, a secret club for cross-dressers in the Bowery and a salt marsh in Oyster Bay (in Long Island).

Another important setting is Washington, D.C. Scenes include the White House grounds and gymnasium; an Embassy Row ballroom; Rosslyn, a corrupt small town close to the Capitol; and “Dead Man’s Hollow,” a wooded ravine just outside of Rosslyn where numerous murders occur.

A third important setting is the Big Pasture, specifically the Wichita Mountains. This area is known for its unusual mix of prairie grasslands and Alpine features—including deep granite gorges, heavily timbered woodlands and clear-water lakes, all surrounded by a pair of rugged mountain ranges.


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Story Statement: A young girl and her foster sister must reveal the corruption of The Circle to unite their home states. 


Antagonist: Blair Woodsen is the leader of The Circle, the governing body of states Comely and Ghastly. Her ancestors built The Circle over 100 years ago in search to breed perfection. Comely is home to those who meet the standard of physical attractiveness, and Ghastly is for those who do not. Blair is a Type-A personality with severe control and trust issues. Blair has been raised to believe emotion is weakness, leaving her to treat her employees as subjects and never show empathy. She is narcissistic, vain, wealthy, and would rather people fear her than like her. As the towns evolve, Blair feels she is losing control of the states and decides to implement a judging system where she will have total control over who resides in Comely and Ghastly. When Hope, the youngest daughter of one of the most elite families in Comely, suffers severe burns on her face and body, Blair is forced to send her to live in Ghastly. Fighting so hard to create perfection, Blair is blind to her own narcissistic failure and creates the cracks in her own system which lead to its downfall.


Working Title(s): Changing Hope, Pretty Ugly People, The Judgement


Comparable: Flawed series by Cecilia Ahern and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld


Hookline: (Hope) The word “failure” is not in Hope Steele’s dictionary. She is the best player on the soccer team, the lead in every play, and everyone knows her and her family. But with a vain and controlling mother, nothing Hope, or her old sister, Hannah, does is enough. After losing her social leverage, family, and friends, Hope Steele struggles with her identity and must find friendship where she never thought she would.


Other matters of conflict:


Hope has never felt good enough. Everyone in the state knows and envies her mother, but Hope has never been good enough for her. Struggling with her own identity, Hope begins to defy her mother, standing up for herself in silly situations, like refusing to wear makeup at a soccer game or not changing a necklace her mother disapproves of. Despite being the lead in the play, captain of the soccer team, and absolutely stunning, Hope has never felt like she is good enough.


Hope is used to being the best. She is beautiful, a trend-setter, athletic and talented. But none of that will ever be enough for the picture perfect family her mother tries so hard to maintain. Hope has never been good enough for her mother, so she takes out her dejection on her two best friends, Kira and Mikayla, and always has to be the center of attention. Relying on her looks and raw talent her entire life, she becomes lost when her scarred face forces her to make friends the hard way; by having a good personality. When Hope is forced to move to Ghastly and live with another girl her age, Ana, she has to learn how to work for what she wants and cope with the fact that real love can’t be fabricated or bought. 



After the Great Natural Disaster of New Zealand, where an Earthquake followed by a tsunami wiped out 80% of the population, they had to rebuild the island country from scratch, creating a new governing body with it. Sebastian Woodsen, ancestor of Blair Woodsen, designed a new political system where he would rule. He split the country into two states, Comely and Ghastly. The people were so desperate for homes, they relocated wherever Sebastian said it was okay. This is how he separated those he thought were pretty, from those who were ugly. He wrote into law that only direct descendants of his could rule. He built the government headquarters in the middle of Comely and Ghastly and named it The Circle. As years went on, they worked to completely isolate the states, until they were finally able to totally segregate them and keep the states unaware that the other existes. 

Comely is home of all who meet the beauty standard. Think Beverly Hills or the rich and famous in NYC, and that is Comely. Designer is everyday attire and salon appointments are a weekly commitment. The schools are very generously funded and the entire state has more money than they know what to do with, so most of them decide to get plastic surgery. Every family works fiercely to maintain a beautiful, happy looking family. Your opinion doesn’t matter in Comely if it doesn’t fit the mold. 

Home to those Blair doesn’t deem pretty enough, Ghastly is in a state of poverty. Their schools and homes are in desperate need of renovation, but they are under significantly less stress than that of their counterparts. Their families surely are not perfect, but they know how to have fun and they know how to love. They value experiences rather than materials.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT (Story Statement) 

Two ambitious medical residents, Eve and Naomi, must survive their first year of residency during the onset of COVID at one of New York City's most prestigious and demanding university hospitals.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT (Antagonist or Antagonist force)

Dr. Stewart is a demanding and verbally abusive surgeon who has made great sacrifices to rise to her current position. She is driven to become the next surgical chief no matter who she has to step on to get there. In school, Dr. Stewart would frequently make her fellow classmates look less intelligent than her by calling out their mistakes and setting them up for failure. After school she has put her job first, sacrificing personal relationships and almost missing her opportunity to have children after going through multiple rounds of IVF while working eighty hour weeks. After maternity leave, she returns to work committed to proving that having a child has not made her less suitable for a leadership position. She leans into this ambition by continuing to cut down the residents around her. When Naomi joins a case with her where a patient dies, Dr. Stewart goes to great lengths to pin the patients death on Naomi and smear her reputation.

The head of the hospital, known in the story as the director is a hard nosed businessman whose ego has led him to great success in his professional career. Brought up in the most prestigious private schools, the director has lead of life of privileged but holds himself and others to a high standard. When the director learns that several residents have started a union, he makes it his personal goal to find out who is running the meetings and ruin their professional careers. When he discovers that Eve has taken over the union meetings after Ellie has a miscarriage, he works hard to find a way to remove Eve from the program without tarnishing his reputation


THIRD ASSIGNMENT (Create a breakout title)

The Dissection of Dignity

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT (Genre and Comparables)

Genre: Commercial Literary Fiction

Normal people by Sally Rooney. A coming of age story about the story of two unlikely friends who drift in and out of each others life. Similar to the Dissection of Dignity, this story examines class dynamics and the complex relationships of friends and families.


This is going to Hurt, by Adam Kay is a collection of secret diaries from a medical resident during medical residency. At times morbid, heartbreaking and funny, it is a realistic look at the world of medical training. It is similar to my novel in that it offers a no holds barred look at what it is really like to train as a resident. 


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthini is a heartbreaking memoir about a medical resident who develops metastatic cancer as he trains for neurosurgery. One quote from the book that resonates deeply with my protagonists’ journey and encompases the sacrifice that is made when choosing to be a doctor: If the unexamined life is not worth living, is the unlived life worth examining? One of my characters develops cancer during training and learns what it is like to deal with a diagnosis when the treatments are not covered by insurance


FIFTH ASSIGNMENT (Core wound and the primary conflict).

Primary dramatic conflict: A woman jumps to her death from a building. One year earlier, Naomi and Eve start their first year of medical residency during the start of the pandemic in New York City and the reader must wonder if either of these characters are the ones to have killed themselves. Eve must struggle with her internal conflict to join and support the union when she has so much to lose. She knows her family needs her monetary support and she realizes that by staying in the union she could lose her residency position. Naomi must decide whether she will put her career before all other pieces of her life including family and intimate relationships, and become like Dr. Stewart who inevitably betrays her. 

Secondary conflicts: Do Naomi and Adam get together or does she cheat on him with Cooper. Is Eve in love with Naomi or is she simply interested in friendship. Does Sarah die from her cancer diagnosis or does she get the medical treatments she needs due to the petitioning of the union on her behalf.  Does Mona tell on the union to the director or does she decide to join.


SIXTH ASSIGNMENT (Protagonist inner conflict conditions & Secondary conflict)

– Protagonist inner conflict conditions

Naomi must grapple with her desire to get approval from her father by being as ambitious as him. In kind becoming the kind of person she saw destroyed her mother and her own family life. Additionally, she must come to terms with the fact that by encouraging Eve to think about herself first instead of supporting others, she is supporting the kind of behavior that ultimately leads to her own shaming (Dr. Stewart publicly outs her mistake to others) and leads to her own death by suicide.

Eve must decide whether it is more important to keep her head down and prioritize her personal financial success versus joining and supporting the union. She must come to terms with the grief she experienced by leaving her parents behind in her home country at a young age and raising her brother. As time progresses, she realizes that supporting the union might make conditions better for future residents but would jeopardize her own career. This is complicated once she realizes that the

SEVENTH ASSIGNMENT (The incredible importance of setting)

New York City during the peak of the pandemic is deserted and boarded up. No stores are open except for grocery stores and at times even Bodegas are closed. Taxis and buses do not run and there are drag races in the streets. Without tourists, the homeless population is even more vulnerable due to the lack of safe housing and increase in drug use. Eve and Naomi, both essential workers are witness to the cities most profound and moving moments. From the George Floyd protests to the evening clapping, we see New York City at its' best and at its' worst.

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Jim McCarthy (jmccarthy@dystel.com)


Assignment 1. 


Oslo is a black cowboy, supposedly freed after the Civil War, who searches the country for something he cannot name. He wonders what place, if any, he has in America. 


Assignment 2.


John “Soap” Carlysle is the child of a white and monied rancher in the prairie town Jubilee. His family runs the town and they run it like a fiefdom. Soap knows that he will inherit the kingdom, but everyone else knows it too. He’s never had to work in the stables, and his distance from the dirty work is why people derisively call him Soap. He’s worried that he’s a small man and wears what he thinks is an important man’s personality. When Oslo appears, Soap is threatened by the black man’s quiet competence. He works to undermine, and eventually kidnap Oslo to preserve the natural order of things and his own uneasy sense of self. 


Assignment 3. 


There is No California


Assignment 4.


The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead. Sweeping historical novels that explore how racism sunk into America, even across its different landscapes and people. 


How Much of These Hills Is Gold, C  Pam Zhang. A literary re-invention of the western genre, told from the perspective of people who, by law, were excluded from the American dream.


Assignment 5. 


Oslo joins a cattle team heading west, which would bring him closer to the egalitarian paradise called California. On their long drive into the mountains, he is kidnapped and sold into a life more grim than even he had imagined.


Assignment 6. 


Internal - Oslo is looking to escape the burden of racism but he learns that freedom is not the absence of external control, but finding purpose in the doing of something. In one example from the book, Oslo’s revolutionary mentor is killed during a messy escape from the military. He asks another disciple what to do next with no real plan of his own. The other disciple excoriates him and calls him a lost dog. With danger all around, Oslo is paralyed and decides to get drunk. 


Social - Reaching California is finally possible, but Oslo concludes that whatever happens in California will be the same as what happens everywhere else in America. He decides to return to Jubilee to cause havoc and at least let the establishment know that they too can be reached. 


Assignment 7. 


Jubilee is a fictional frontier town somewhere in the lower Utah basin. It is necessarily dusty, too dry to grow much more than brush. It is a small town made of iron and wood, mostly a collection of homes and storefronts with shacks and stalls sprinkled in between. There are not more than half a dozen large buildings in the whole town and the two biggest are the saloon and the jail. 


The town is held together by streets that alternated between gravel and earth. Everyone, even the ladies, wore boots as they went about the day. The roads were paths of circumstance, decided by the earliest settlers and then followed by hundreds more who called themselves pioneers. 


Town life is full, or as full as it could be at the end of America. Oslo tours Jubilee and passes a trapper haggling with a man at a butcher stall over whitetail pelts. Glistening cuts of meat tied with string hang from the sideboards. Flies circle over the buckets of entrails nearby. 


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