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New York Write to Pitch Conference 2023 - Assignments (March)

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Introduction to Pre-event Assignments 

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

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

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

Michael Neff

Algonkian Conference Director


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

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

att.jpg FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 



Antagonist (Photo Javert from "Les Misérables")

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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


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


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

We have reviewed these and agree 110%.



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



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



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



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


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I hope I'm posting this in the correct place? But here are my thoughts on the opening assignment



Bobby Kent is called to serve after 9-11, but he must confront and overcome the pressures he discovers as a soldier in the War on Terror and find a way to achieve meaning if there is to be anything left of him at the end of his service.



Corbin Myers, Bobby Kent’s commanding officer. Corbin is the force that separates Bobby’s reality from his idealistic hope for the army. Corbin is well-intended and brave, but he represents what is wrong with the military. He is shrewish and demeaning toward his soldiers, he over estimates his own abilities, he is extremely risk averse in career-centric ways but wildly reckless with the lives of the men in ways which are isolated from career pressure. He takes credit for his men’s successes and blames them for his losses.

Though Bobby goes to Afghanistan on his firs tour hoping to help win the war, by serving in Corbin Meyers’s company he is forced instead to bash his head up against a wall of futility. By the time a more cynical Bobby returns to Afghanistan as a company commander himself, he remains haunted by Meyers, struggling to avoid the same pitfalls he once blamed Meyers for. When he cannot, either militarily or in his personal life, he is driven to his crisis point 



The Glory of Rome

What So Proudly We Hailed

Only the Dead



The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Blood Meridian

The Things They Carried



Bobby Kent abandons the easy road to personal success when he feels called to serve after witnessing the terror of September 11th, but as his idealistic notions begin to fall, both in combat and at home, Bobby's sense of purpose and meaning are thrown into peril and he must confront the mounting pressures driving him toward a grim fate



Home life vs deployment op tempo – Prior to his first tour, Bobby meets the young and enchanting Kara. They begin a torrid romance and Bobby believes he has found his storybook love. They are engaged and expecting a child when he leaves for war, only to discover that an engagement made in a few short months cannot stand the stresses of deployment. When Bobby is called home unexpectedly on leave when his mother falls ill, he finds Kara partaking in an ongoing affair. She leaves him, taking their future daughter with her, and shattering his storybook illusion. After which he will struggle to re-engage anyone romantically. This highlights the struggle of maintaining a healthy home life when deploying to war every other year

Army life vs civilian support network – As Bobby becomes increasingly ingrained into Army life, his existing support network (parents, friends, etc) grow ever more distant. Then, when the realities of soldiering cast him into the unforgiving seas of depression, will they be there to throw a life preserver? For example, after not being there much for his father after the death of his mother, when he finds himself morally unmoored during his second tour he longs to get advice from his father but feels too ashamed to ask. This highlights the way people become isolated from their safety nets as they are absorbed into the army life, leaving them vulnerable to the emotional stresses of that life style



As locations go, the story moves around some. Probably most accurate to say that the setting is The Global War on Terror. That provides for several moving sub-settings:

-          New York on September 11th – in the suburbs of the city, the September 11th attack is a life-changing trauma that leaves deep scars

-          A college ROTC program at an Ivy League school – promising young men and women face the reality that they are forgoing immediate professional success for a life of service and why they would do that

-          Texas at a military base – a world both profound and largely unknown to outsiders, rife with incredible conflict, growth and pain as vast numbers of young people taken away from their support networks are thrown into a world where they are constantly moving across the country and then heading to war for year long stretches

-          Afghanistan – the central sub-setting, where the soldiers come to learn what war really is

-          New York caring for an ageing father and trying to recapture the idealism of youth – where the story ends


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Olaf and Essex, Middle Grade contemporary fantasy

Story Statement:  

Protect the kidnapped baby and find the real parents.

Antagonist sketches:

Misunderstood, shunted aside and ridiculed by her pathetically magic-devoid family, Mabel Blackthornudder doggedly practices her craft. By her early thirties, she becomes the most powerful witch in New York City. (Don’t be fooled into thinking those annoying Hagglebottom sisters are!) 

Seething with resentment, she views all who oppose her with disdain and hatred. She marries a lesser witch, Harvey, who for a time proves adequate in his dual roles as henchman and lover. However, he increasingly shows weakness and poor resolve in accomplishing the actions required to move New York City (and soon, the world) from its current oppressive police-state climate, to one where witches can walk the streets free from injustice and violence.

Speaking of walking freely, for now Mabel must wear a hat pulled low over her face, as well as hunch down while in public, as her seven-foot frame, long, crooked nose, and mop of unruly orange hair attract unwanted attention. But under cover of night, no one should see her fly to her sister’s house, drop down her chimney, and steal her baby. Brenda’s husband, the Chief Magic Detector, will surely cave to Mabel’s demands. 

Is kidnapping crossing a line? Not when someone has it coming.


Mabel’s antagonist, Chief Magic Detector Damon Thomas, fears—and therefore, hates—anything he cannot understand and control. Coming from a long line of law enforcement officials on his father’s side—and a mob of thugs on his mother’s—he grew up with the understanding that deviant behavior needs to be rooted out and destroyed. Or at least locked up, the key destroyed.

When he discovers his own wife’s sister is a member of that resurgent scourge to civilized society, witches, it adds another black mark to his estranged wife’s growing tally. He determines to keep a closer eye on his newborn (once he gets her back from the kidnapper, of course), as well as—just in case—his teenaged daughter from his ill-fated union with his first wife. (Modern women just do not appreciate strong men.)

As secure as he is within himself, nevertheless he mourns his lost head of hair. He looks to prominent bald actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for daily inspiration, and wishes his thin, wiry frame could pack on more muscle. He plays bass in an amateur rock band, though their stuff is too highbrow for the masses, and thus will never be truly appreciated. 

Title Options:

Olaf and Essex

Much Ado About a Baby

Deep in the Darkness of Central Park


The One and Only Ivan

Pax, Journey Home

The Unteachables

Hook line/logline, with core wound:

A bear whose mother was killed by humans when he was a cub gets the chance to make her spirit proud, by protecting a magical human baby from an evil witch—and from the baby’s own father, the NYPD’s Chief Magic Detector.


Olaf has no doubt in his bear heart he’s doing the right thing, protecting the defenseless baby after its careless parents leave it behind. Even more so after he and his fox friend Essex discover those humans aren’t the parents, but evil witches who kidnapped the baby for nefarious purposes.

When the real mother’s identity is revealed, Olaf’s heart hurts to let the baby go, but he does the right thing. That is, he spies on the real mother to make sure the baby will be safe and loved. When the real mother neglects to feed her own baby, Olaf feels no guilt about stealing it back.

Essex and the good witches don’t believe him, and plan to return the baby in the morning. It tears him apart to leave his best friend, but Olaf can’t let the baby go back to an abusive home environment. His mother would want him to protect the baby, no matter what.

He mourns his lost friendship. And doubts it. Were he and Essex ever really friends? Or did she just pity him, and tolerate his company?

Essex proves herself a true friend. She comes around to his side, and joins him and the baby at their hideout. The seasons pass in relative peace. But Olaf has never forgotten Wendy, the kind zookeeper who took care of him after his mother was shot. He starts wandering the streets of New York in his human disguise, searching for her.

When he finds her, she’s arguing with her girlfriend in the animal shelter they run, and holding their little boy. Consumed with shame, Olaf runs away. If she knew he stole the baby from the real mother . . . Maybe Essex and the good witches were right. Maybe he’d misinterpreted the real mother’s behavior because he wanted to keep the baby. Maybe Wendy would be disappointed in him. Maybe so would his mother.

He’ll have to do the right thing. He’ll have to return the child.


In the 2030s, social unrest, a string of stock market crashes and a great recession have sent New York City into a tailspin. Even donations to the struggling Central Park Conservancy have dwindled. The park now resembles its decrepit state in the 1970s and '80s.

Our recently reformed police force—the Conflict Resolution Department—gamely does what it can to quell the protests, marches, and vandalism recurring throughout the city. Central Park—especially its densely wooded areas, the Ramble and North Woods—has become a haven for muggers, witches, and other miscreants.

Foxes have boldly moved into the city, mimicking their London counterparts. There have even been reported sightings of a bear running around loose in Central Park. Most likely this is but an urban legend, as all security cameras can discern is a rather large homeless woman wearing mismatched clothing occasionally getting down on all fours. Perhaps to rest? New York, more than ever, is not for the faint of heart.






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Submitted by Emily M


Honor friendship above all else



General Georges Delassus, commander of the local air force base, is dedicated to rounding up the aliens who have bonded to our hero, Harris Lemke, and remanding them to the Pentagon’s dubious hospitality. An imposing figure with combat medals adorning his chest, he is unencumbered by self-doubt. Delassus doesn’t walk. He swaggers. Delassus doesn’t speak. He barks. Delassus doesn’t laugh. He snorts.

A caricature of a true warrior, Delassus is feared for his casual cruelty, but mocked for his lack of tactical ingenuity and dearth of strategic foresight. Call sign “Frenchie” for both his given name and his stubborn, bulldog approach to problem solving, Delassus is dangerous not for his competence, but for the myriad resources at his disposal.



  1. Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies
  2. Aliens, Bayous & Boudin
  3. Uncommon Southern Charm



Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies is a sci fi comedy. Think Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series meets John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces.

Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and the three books that follow in the series [published 2015 through 2021] are humorous, feel-good science fiction yarns. Story development focuses on relationships and embracing the comedic in unusual situations. Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies, a story of humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrials, is also a feel-good science fiction story about strangers arriving in a strange land.

A Confederacy of Dunces [published 1987] relies on the quirkiness of the Crescent City and its inhabitants for comedic effect. Toole’s book is so deeply grounded in NOLA that the story wouldn’t work if set somewhere else. Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies embraces this same strong sense of place in the unique cultural, political and social geography of the ArkLaTex. Characters drawn from the region lend a voice to this story that is as much a love letter to the ArkLaTex as it is a comedy of errors about what happens when aliens try to settle in amongst good ol’ boys and southern belles.



A lonely reporter dreams of becoming a professional Elvis impersonator, but when aliens land and bond to him, he must focus all his attention on defending them from an obsessive military leader eager to separate him from his new friends.



Harris Lemke (45) works for the largest newspaper in the ArkLaTex. His job pays the bills, but he dreams of finding love and making it big as an Elvis impersonator. He’s still smarting from his ex-wife’s decision to run off with the heir to a boudin fortune and he clings to the hope of finding more lasting love the next time around. [core wound]

His editor assigns him to cover the Fort Worth UFO Rodeo. Harris joins the convention in search of a story, falls for sassy deejay Lenora Scantlebury (34), and fails to resist participating in the convention’s talent contest. And that’s how Harris Lemke is center stage, dressed as Elvis, when three flying saucers descend on the hotel’s rooftop pool deck. [inciting incident]

The three small aliens bond to Harris, following him home to Shreveport. Comedic adventures unfold as the aliens are exposed to Southern culture, including a stint with the Junior League and volunteering with the local historic preservation society. While navigating a bumpy new relationship with Lenora, Harris battles the dark side of humanity as his alien friends face nativists who oppose their presence. [secondary conflicts]

All the while, the US Air Force and mysterious men in black stalk Harris and the aliens across the ArkLaTex. [primary conflict] General Georges Delassus (57), commander of the local base, dislikes the visitors. Multiple times he fails to separate them from their growing community of supporters. But one night, the military stages a raid and the aliens are spirited away by men in black.



The ArkLaTex is where the boundaries and cultures of three Southern state combine. Famous for oil fields across the Piney Woods and river boat casinos along the Red River, the region is named for the intersection of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Home to nearly two million people, its economic well-being is dependent on the health care industry, river boat casinos, an air force base, agriculture, the last vestiges of postwar industry, and the mailbox money that still flows to families who got into the oil business early.

It’s a place where Johnny Cash once fished in the bayous and Martin Luther King Junior once preached in the churches. It’s a region where one sees bumper stickers with the profile of a B-52 bomber superimposed over the peace sign and the words “peace the old fashioned way.” It’s an area where manifestations of the ginni coefficient are found in the same zip code.

Shreveport is the largest metropolitan area in the ArkLaTex. Identified by legendary songwriter Tilman Franks as the center of the Magic Circle, the city has a significant, but little publicized connection to Elvis Presley. It was at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium where Elvis first made it big as part of the Louisiana Hayride. And it was from that same building that he exited years later leading to that famous line: “Elvis has left the building.”

Shreveport is a place where Steel Magnolias-style hair salons co-exist with the hustle of creatives focused on benefiting from the state’s Motion Picture Tax Investor Credit. It’s where ignoring a “stairwell closed” sign in a downtown parking garage can lead one to crash an impromptu movie set and where a morning run in an upscale neighborhood can lead to encounters with Hollywood royalty who are renting a house down the street while in town for a production.

The real life characters who populate the ArkLaTex deserve a library full of books written for and about them. Elvis, Aliens & Moonpies exploits the sometimes charming and sometimes dark incongruities of the place and its people. Harris, Lenora, Georges and others who populate this work of fiction share the page with the ArkLaTex itself. And the ArkLaTex sometimes threatens to steal the show.





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Revise, revise, revise again! I'm anxiously awaiting all of the learning at NY Write to Pitch and I hope to continue perfecting my manuscript (on my 5th version) in addition to creating the perfect pitch! Cheers (or as we say in Spanish, Salud)!


Story Statement

The past calls to the future



El Búho, a hardscrabble survivor from Mexico City, works his way up to 2nd in command of the Los Hermanos drug cartel. He believes himself to be a macho womanizer, but finds himself magnetically drawn into a torrid affair with a transgender poet, Liliana, after he moves in with his socialite cousin in his younger days. This experience both haunts and drives him, as he is arrogant, brutal and ruthless. Deep down, he is a child who has been hurt. Unwilling to face this side of himself, resentment and anger guide his doomed path. He would rather be damned for eternity than be redeemed by love. He seeks guidance from a dark sorcerer who is able to conjure up Techlotl, a god of one of the Aztec underworlds.



The Oyamel Secrets


Genre and Comps

Mexican Gothic

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

The Vampire Lestat (with a Mexican twist)

-latina horror, speculative fiction, women's fiction



When Alea attends her grandmother's funeral in Mexico, she finds love and uncovers a dark secret that places her in danger but only she can summon the butterfly goddess Itzpapalotl to halt further destruction by the cartel.


A potent feminine cocktail of sexy twisty mystery and magic set in Mexico


Core Wound/Primary Conflict

Alea Najar-Smith gets a phone call informing her that her grandmother in Mexico has died about the same time she discovers a lump in her breast which results in a break up with her boyfriend. Soon after, she travels from Austin, Texas, with her parents to the small Mexican village of Xochitlalpan (so-cheet-lah-pahn) to attend the funeral, keeping her recent cancer diagnosis a secret. While there, Alea reunites with a local young man, Julian, whom she's known from previous visits during her childhood. Together with Julian and a strikingly beautiful trans bartender, Liliana, she embarks upon a journey of self-discovery involving ancient family secrets that connect her to a powerful Aztec goddess, Itzpapalotl. This goddess has the ability to protect the monarch butterflies (their ancestors' spirits) from the imminent destruction of the trees where they roost. Julian's grandmother, Mamá Lulita, a curandera (Mexican medicine woman) and an unusual town priest, Father Maldonado, also reveal other secrets about Alea's mysterious grandmother. Alea finds out she is the chosen one from her descendants to summon Itzpapalotl and must choose whether to stay in Mexico to complete the tasks that she is called upon to do or to go back to Texas as soon as she can.

Secondary Conflict

There are dark forces at work in the butterfly sanctuary that threaten the very existence of the monarchs which migrate from Canada to overwinter each fall in the trees. Illegal loggers, protected by the Los Hermanos cartel, are cutting down the sacred trees for money. The cartel protects them as they use an area in the vast mountain sanctuary for their meth production operation. The cartel is run by Rico and his unlucky brother, Geraldo, otherwise known as El Búho. El Búho (The Owl) is named thus because of his association with Techlotl, one of the gods who guards an underworld, who is represented by owls. El Búho is in debt to Techlotl after an exchange he had with a sorcerer, Don Dario, in which he asks for an antidote to his obsession over Liliana, before his rise in his brother's cartel.


The story takes place briefly at the beginning and the end of the story in Austin, Texas. The majority of the story takes place in a fictional bucolic town near the edge of a monarch butterfly sanctuary on the border of the state of Michoacan, Mexico. This town is based on a real place, Macheros, where I have visited several times and seen the monarch butterflies migrate to annually. It is a setting full of delightful and sensuous descriptions of the mountains (and what happens in them), trees and beauty there and one that is full of magic, mystery and ancient history. Some of the story also takes place in distinct places in Mexico City: Coyoacán (where Hernan Cortes' home stands and where Frida Khalo's famous Blue House resides), a café across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a neighborhood adjacent to Chapultepec park and more. One thing I incorporate throughout my story is the rich history of Mexico and the importance of place. Readers who have visited these locations will recognize the specific settings and those who have not will yearn to visit these unique spots. Mexico is a land full of mystery, charm, magic and ancient dieties.



Name: Carmen Gray

Title: Monarca

78,000 words

Genre: Women's Fiction

Comp: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Córdova


Alea Najar-Smith, a single young woman living in Austin, Texas, lives an ordinary life, but the news of her grandmother's death sets in motion profound changes. She discovers a lump in her breast, breaks up with her boyfriend and soon after, travels to Mexico to attend her grandmother's memorial.

While in the mountain town at the edge of a monarch butterfly sanctuary, Alea reunites with a childhood friend, Julian, now a handsome chef at her uncle's Inn, and meets the mysterious trans bartender, Liliana. They lead her to uncover ancient family secrets connected to a powerful Aztec goddess that can protect the butterflies from imminent destruction of the trees where they roost. Illegal loggers, protected by the Los Hermanos cartel, are wiping out the trees for money. The cartel, run by Rico and his unlucky brother, Geraldo, has claimed an area in the mountain for their meth production operation. Will Alea follow her ancestor's call to face this danger and protect the monarchs or go back to Texas to deal with her health crisis? Or do these two situations parallel one another?



I am a Native Texan of Mexican-American heritage and a Dual Language (Spanish/English) teacher in Austin, Texas. In addition to being a teacher, I lead yoga/meditation classes weekly and am a freelance writer and contributing editor for Latino magazine. I've appeared 3 times in different volumes of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers. I've also authored two short story pieces, (femme fatale and Y.A.) published by Castle Bridge Media. My poetry can be found in a variety of anthologies. My story was inspired by my daughter's cancer journey, my encounter with monarch butterflies on their way through Texas down to Mexico and my grandmother's curandera lineage.



Alfredo Estrada, Latino magazine owner and and author of Havana, Autobiography of a City, says about this story, "it is a potent feminine cocktail of sexy twisty mystery and magic set in Mexico that will appeal to women of all ages." He helped edit my novel in its many stages.

Katie Gutierrez, author of More Than You'll Ever Know, says, "the rich visuals and intriguing family lineage draw you in and leave you wanting to uncover more."





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Story Statement:

The protagonist: Mendel, must come to terms with his past, and his religious upbringing as he navigates his life and matures.


The Antagonist/Antagonistic Force:

The antagonist, Moussia, at once attracts and repels Mendel as she struggles with the demands of religious life. The antagonistic force is Mendel’s religious upbringing that shapes his worldview and threatens to destroy his happiness. 


Breakout Titles:

The Redeemed

Salvation through Sin

Redemption and Desire



The Romance Reader by Pearl Abraham

Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories (Library of America)



Mendel’s love of Moussia threatens to destroy them both.


Inner & Secondary Conflicts:

Mendel’s inner conflict is between how he is living his life, immersed in religious ritual, and how he wants to live it. 

Mendel’s secondary conflict is between the social norms of his community and how he wants to express himself.



The setting is in a close-knit religious community in Brooklyn that follows its own patterns of life with its own rules and regulations, that are in conflict with Mendel’s evolving values.

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Story Statement:

Rosie Braun, an overaged, yet ambitious, assistant, must choose whether or not to expose the lies and schemes behind a well-known yoga guru, while dealing with her own questionable life choices.


The guru, Sandrine Guptana, formerly Amy Pratt, began her yoga journey over 20 years ago at a yoga teacher training in India. Led by an acclaimed Ashtanga yoga guru, Pratt was anointed to “guru status,” according to her website and yoga community folklore. She then landed in Los Angeles quickly becoming a sought-after Ashtanga yoga instructor, planting seeds for the studios she’d eventually open years later in California and in New York City. Her bumper-sticker-like spirituality was persuasive. A stickler for asana, the individual yoga poses, and perfecting correct form, she possessed the “X factor,” mystifying students in her presence. After class, she was cool, approachable, and accessible. She’d spend time listening to her student’s questions and concerns about yoga, their aches and pains, and their relationships even. 

At 5’10 she had a commanding presence. Tall, lean, toned, and stylish, from a distance, appeared to be a modern-day statue of perfection. Up close, she exuded a warm, sensual, maternal quality. Colorful wooden and stone mala beads wrapped around her neck and wrists. With thousands of devoted followers, her world-renowned reputation as a trusted yoga guru had never been questioned until now, when protagonist Rosie Braun, attends a Guptana retreat. 

Antagonistic force: protagonist Rosie Braun constantly battles conventional traps like marriage and having kids she believes to be up against and her self-belief that she ruins everything.


Be Good
This Is Going Well?
Meet My Guru

Comp Titles:

"At Least You Have Your Health" by Madi Sinha
"Self Care" by Leigh Stein
"Nine Perfect Strangers" by Liane Moriarty 

Hook Line

An overaged assistant, determined to never “settle down” like her miserable parents, is sent on a work trip to an exclusive yoga retreat with a world-renowned yoga guru where she’s confronted with a whole new way of life.  

Two levels of conflict:

Rosie’s inner conflict: (I ruin everything) is manifested through her yearning to avoid conventional traps, as she sees them, like marriage and children, and to find a fulfilling career purpose–a quest that continues to fail her. 

A secondary conflict: Since befriending Tori Pearl at the retreat, back in New York Rosie meets Tori’s husband in a random, indiscrete way and as a result of their meeting is faced with a decision that directly conflicts with her yearning to stay untethered from conventional commitments and revalidates her I ruin everything core wound.

Hypothetical scene: Rosie is invited to a friend’s baby show in New York, a woman she grew up with in Ohio, more of an acquaintance than a real friend. Surrounded by pink balloons and pregnant bellies and all-things-baby talk, Rosie is cornered with questions and comments from the over-prying group of women about her aging ovaries and plans to settle down, which sets Rosie down a spiral reminding her of when she stumbled upon her mother’s betrayal.


The yoga retreat takes place at The Green Door, an exclusive, magical oasis in the dry California desert near Death Valley, where C-suite workaholics, A-list actors in search of a break from press junkets and awards seasons, bored socialites, and the occasional diplomat go to hide from reality. 

The second half of the story takes place around New York City in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, where Rosie Braun lives. 

Some flashbacks are set in Ohio, where Rosie moved from years ago to New York for college.


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1. Story Statement

The protagonist must break a cycle of poverty and abuse, learn to stand on her own two feet, discover who she is, and live out her authentic self.

2. Antagonist

The antagonistic force is poverty. At the beginning over her journey, the narrator is living below the federal poverty line. Financial poverty from youth was perpetuated into adulthood by a poverty of self-sufficiency. The narrator also suffered from a poverty of healthy, constructive relationships. This lack led to her living with abusive men for an entire decade and being emotionally and financially unable to leave. The narrator also suffered from spiritual poverty, or poverty of self-knowledge. Perhaps this could even be called a poverty of self—being unable to know one’s true self, and lacking the means (financial independence, healthy relationships, and community) to live as one’s true self.

When the narrator tries to escape poverty, it fights back with a vengeance. She manages to get an emergency restraining order but is denied a two-week one—and is literally at the courthouse when her husband disconnects her cell phone service. She later discovers that he’s hidden his gun. When she manages to get out, her entire community turns against her: when she loses her marriage, she also loses her job, her church, and her friends. Just as she’s establishing financial independence after divorce, poverty lashes out with unemployment due to COVID-19. Suddenly, she finds herself relying on newly formed relationships in the church and from swing dancing. After the dark winter of 2020, she has established enough financial independence to spend seven months traveling the United States: seven months to discover who she really is, what she really wants, and where to settle down and build a life.

Concrete details: Poverty looks like my dad’s house on Long Island, “heated” with sternos in the winter with a collapsing roof and a family of raccoons upstairs. Poverty looks like marrying a man older than my father and being forced to work for him for free. Poverty looks like trying to live in D.C. on $14,000/year in graduate school with a pothead boyfriend with an engineering degree who works part time teaching kids.

3. Breakout Title

Digital Nomad: Finding Hope on the Road in a Global Pandemic

Digital Nomad: How I Lost My Life in Order to Find It

Life, Liberty, and Kanafa: How an Immigrant’s Daughter Beat Poverty and Seized Her Destiny

Life, Liberty, and Kanafa: How an Immigrant’s Daughter Beat the Odds

4. Comps

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love – Similar to my story because it’s about traveling in order to find out who you are. Strong difference is that Gilbert was already successful when she began her journeys (and was even paid an advance by her publisher in order to do them). The narrator of Digital Nomad, however, is climbing up out of poverty and must self-fund her entire trip. She is also an immigrant’s daughter. This leads to both humor and more layers of complexity. The experiences of immigrant families and women surviving abuse are also culturally timely at the moment.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah – Similar in the sense of similar readership. Adichie’s narrator is a direct immigrant, where I am a daughter of an immigrant. Both works involve well educated narrators (with university backgrounds) who nonetheless face cultural difficulties and grapple with questions of family, race, and identity. Like Americanah, my book is written in a more literary style.

5. Primary Conflict

Life, Liberty, and Kanafa by Alexandra Syrah

An immigrant’s daughter escapes an abusive marriage and is living just above the poverty line when a pandemic leaves her unemployed and isolated. She must figure out how to take advantage of the situation and turn it from disaster into success.

6. Secondary Conflict

Trigger: Not long after she begins her traveling, a man she thought would marry her suddenly breaks up with her. She is, once again, alone in the world.

Reaction: The narrator feels that she has wasted too much time and cannot afford to make any more mistakes. Any more mistakes will mean she never has a career, never has a family, never has children. If she misses this moment, she will be trapped in poverty forever. She is further conflicted by her father’s diagnosis with cancer and his insistence that she live the life that he failed to have. 

7. Setting

This is a travel memoir. Primary Settings are: New Orleans, Charleston, and New York City.

What makes these so interesting at the interactions that I have with people in each one. For example, at the restaurant Fleet Landing, I meet a Danish woman, recently widowed, who flew in from California, fell in love with the city, and spent all day walking from place to place until she found a job. She cries about how rudely she was treated “by her own people”—fellow Danes—and I give her a hug and bring her back to her hotel.

Each of these cities/settings also: 1) has a lot of local color; 2) has religious and cultural layers that intersect with the narrator’s immigrant background and faith; 3) has very funny stories about interactions with the people who live there or are visiting which, in addition to being funny, say something deeper.

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What is your story statement:

A wronged Medusa living under the present day Nazi rule shocking the corridors of power with a weapon of their own creation.


The Antagonist plots the point:

With his all-consuming lust for power, the Supreme Leader has turned a crumbling democracy into his own totalitarian regime. Concerned only with keeping the scales of power titled in his favor, he has created deep hateful rifts within The State’s population with imagined wrongs committed by the marginalized. His power looms indisputably within its borders aided by his crony billionaires who fund his futuristic ideas and support his need to keep people at odds with each other. Together, they keep the population busy with the endless dreams of promised lands, as they divide amongst the favored few all bounties of this political war.

In an effort to homogenize and control the minorities, he launches a nation-wide campaign to implant sub-dermal identity cards in all the rightful citizens of The State - a move that allows him to effortlessly deepen the existing divides while monetizing and reaping rewards from the digital footprint of the population. Ten years hence, card patrols roam The State with unlimited power to detain those that do not belong and justice is but a foggy memory from a lost democracy.


Breakout Title Options:

  • Of Monsters Born and Made
  • Nemesis of the Gods
  • The Girl Who Promised No Tomorrows


Genre and Comparables:

Speculative Fiction:

Bable       R.F. Kuang (2022)

The Three Body Problem Liu Cixin (2014)


Both these books use elaborately crafted stories to look at problems facing modern society like colonialism, race, class, misogyny, and extreme capitalism. Their antagonists are a product of over-engineered social problems arising from greed and their protagonists want to do the right thing but grapple with the common problem of - ‘is that which is legal and moral truly the right thing to do or is there such a thing as the greater good which law and morality have largely ignored?’ In their quest for finding a solution for those around them, they end often grapple with the need for violence against the antagonist force as a means of resolving the social problems.



Core Wound and Primary Conflict:



In her quest to find justice for her sexual assault, a research graduate studying nanotechnology realizes that hers is not the only battle worth fighting in the war for justice. Shunned from society when she demands justice, she must entangle herself in the many scrimmages that the marginalized face at the hands of The Supreme Leader and exploit the fault lines in the lap of power to create a jolt powerful enough to unearth the lost vestiges of democracy and bring about a return to the normal.


Primary Conflict:

The State has given up any pretense of wanting to create a safe space for those on the sidelines of society - women and those in minority are but a data point if they live by the rules and an annoyance to be flicked away if they raise their voice. The protagonist, Aru, a privileged but entitled research graduate, finds out the hard way what it means to be marginalized in the modern world, when she starts to fight for justice after her professor sexually assaults her. Shamed and shunned into silence, she decides to use The State’s own weapons against them to show them that those who have been silenced against their will, will not always stay down. The primary conflict in the story is the continued inequality that The State strives to keep up in order to be able to stay in power and the nonchalantly violent nature of The State's implementation of its policies.


Secondary Conflict:

The story’s protagonist, Aru, has always lived a life of privilege and has thus never understood the plight of those around her who are not either offered the same opportunities as easily or are passed up continually. Aru’s eyes finally open up to the truth in the life around her when she has to fight for justice and finds herself on the other side and not as easily liked. This situation is further accentuated in her mind when she finds warmth from the locals, Ka Nia’ma and Hanif Bhai’s family, in her northeastern refuge. Never having had the same advantages as Aru, they easily empathize with her situation and are able to offer her solace in her hard times. When they fall prey to a card patrol’s purge, she finally realizes the extreme hardships that most people face in The State and how truly different her life had been to theirs. The guilt of never having been aware of the constant current of injustice around her eats at Aru when she begins her fight for justice for her new clan and as she finally decides to give up any thought of returning to her old life or to plunge herself back into building a career. Instead she chooses to use her skills to fight those who have nothing going for them. Her guilt at not having empathized with those around her when she had privilege and her quest to bring them justice, forms the secondary conflict in the story.



The incredible importance of setting:

The story starts against a backdrop of a leading private research and teaching university, in an overloaded metropolis on the eastern coast of The State, 10 years from present day. What was once a young democratic country known for its diverse population that was ready to take on the world is now rife with unemployed, frustrated crowds. Outwardly it is a hyper-digitalized society with all citizens sporting embedded microchips as IDs but in reality it is the stage set by The Supreme Leader and his crony billionaire friends misleading the population about their true motives. The campus is home to thousands of students and research graduates milling around the university grounds. Forever looking like they are running late to a class, dressed in expensive looking oversized and haggard clothes in perfect tune with their lives. The buildings around the campus exhibited Grecian facades with rich interiors that housed the best of the day’s technology thanks to the deep pockets and connections of the university’s founding family. 

The protagonist, Aru is one of the research graduates in this prestigious institution, born with privilege and surrounded by those much like her. Her friends and family are all happy to have their cards tapped to pay for things they purchase, to gain access to gyms, office, and government buildings and indignantly shake their heads at the uncarded. Everything is stored for rightful citizens on their Civility Card Numbers (CCNs) and could easily be accessed by them through the many devices they have gotten used to carrying around with them. The data collected from their spending habits, health check ups and even library visits is all recorded, misused, and now also legally allowed to be used in a court of law…in the interest of The State.

However, as Aru’s life turns from idyllic to nightmarish, she decides to take some time off in the northeastern region of the land, which has forever been treated as the unwelcome cousin. Home to untamed forests which the townsfolk revere, the town is easily a half day’s walk through shallow rivers and thick forests to get to the roads that connect them to the rest of the world. Home to over a thousand varieties of plants, wild fruit trees and medicinal herbs, Aru is fascinated by the silence that surrounds and echoes the one she now feels in her once overstimulated brain. The lush forested lands atop hills that seem to blend into each other, the night skies dotted with infinite stars, the city sounds replaced by sounds of birds during the day and strange growls during the night are all at first jarring to her. But the easy calm that this new setting provides is matched by the warmth that the simple people of the small hilly town offer her when she is traumatized by a triggered memory. The change from an urban controlled society to a calm retreat where the old world still exists in its abject simplicity provide the perfect setting for her healing to begin, until The State finds a way to attack the bliss of her new dwelling and unleash within her the need to fight back violently.

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Story Statement:

Navigating through a fantastical new world while battling her inner demon at every turn. 



The Antagonist:


There are three prominent antagonists in my story, but the main antagonistic force would be the Spirit. Evren, my teen-aged protagonist, discovers one day that there is a being living within her, and is fairly certain that this being is a demon. This is unfortunate for many reasons, one of the main being that she’s newly started attending a school where the students are doggedly taught to hunt and kill demons. 

The Spirit is a force that has lived in the heavens since the beginning of time. But one fateful day it was forcibly pulled from it and sent crashing down to Earth where it split into two. To stay hidden from those that would use it to do harm, both sides of the broken Spirit entered human vessels, remaining within their souls for as long as the vessels lived. Their possession of the vessels guaranteed that there would now always be a target on the humans' backs as those in pursuit of the Spirit went in search of their human companions.

What’s more, a catastrophic event takes place that causes the Spirit and the vessels they live in to stop hiding, and instead fight on opposite ends of a great battle that involves opening the gates of hell. In this battle both vessels ultimately end up dead. 

Now, hundreds of years later, the Spirit has awoken yet again in two new vessels. And the one living within Evren will do anything, at risk to Evren herself, to accomplish the task it started eons ago.


Breakout Title:


The Other World

Vol 1: The Legend of the Scintillant


The Legend of the Scintillant


The Vessel and the Spirit

Book One of the Other World



Young Adult Fantasy




Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


Core Wound and Primary Conflict:

A teenage girl, imprisoned and betrayed by the person she thought was family, takes a Door to a fantastical new world where she finds a surrogate family and fast friends, only to discover a terrible secret that could ruin the life she’s created forever.


Other Matters of Conflict:

Evren isn’t a normal girl. Muma (her grandmother) aka Helena Eveningstar (the Fey) made sure of that when she stole her as a baby and made her live as a hermit in a cottage in the woods. Now that she’s free, Evren has a new lease on life. Sure, there are things she has trouble swallowing, like the fact that she’s not of the world she’s lived in for all of her life. But her new world really isn’t that different from her old one (apart from the fact that in the Other, faerie folk once existed). Evren is determined to create her own identity and live the life she wants to live. She is making friends in a school of demon hunters (Mab and George) and she’s kindly been adopted by Senior Harinder Ranaday, a demon hunter himself, and member of a secret society. 

But, of course, Evren has issues. Evren’s inner turmoil stems from several different factors. For one, there’s a part of her that misses Muma, even though she knows that she’s a deceitful creature that kept her as a prisoner and constantly glamoured her with Fey dust. 

Her second inner conflict is a very relatable one. She’s a teenage girl going to a new school and she’s desperate to fit in. All teenagers are conflicted when it comes to finding out who they are, but with most of her memories being falsehoods, and her one friend before she landed in the Other a middle aged housewife she was glamoured into believing was a teenaged girl, Evren has double the amount of insecurities. She knows nothing of her new world. She doesn’t know what shows everyone is watching. What books are they reading? What’s hot? What’s not? Will every word out of her mouth sound stupid? Will she ever make up for what her faux grandmother did? 

Evren’s greatest inner turmoil happens to be the voice in her head. When she’s first aware of its existence she’s reasonably alarmed. Nothing good could come from one who hears voices. However, Evren soon learns that the voice not only speaks to her, but can control her actions too. Her lessons at the infamous Mab and George taught her most plainly what that means. Evren is possessed. A soul that’s been taken by a demon cannot be salvaged. What will happen to Evren once her new family and friends learn what lurks within her? 

When Evren arrives at Norminster, New London she soon learns that there is unrest between the government and the people. A terrorist group is at large that the government believes is a fanatic religious organization. Members of the secret society that created the school that Evren attends believes it is a demonic cult that is terrorizing Englande. Evren isn’t aware of any of this, but from the outside looking in she is starting to notice that New London, which is known for lacking in demonic activity, is slowly yet surely becoming more and more dangerous. The students of Mab and George are also noticing the changes in their city, and while they are excited Evren is terrified. The students think this is an opportunity for them to take their studies into action, but Evren can’t help but wonder why an originally quiet city is now teeming with demons? And furthermore, how did she wind up being possessed herself?  Will she eventually find herself hunted like the members of the demonic cult?




The story takes place primarily in New London, Englande. Evren goes through a Door that she later finds is the entrance to another world– Other. In Other the faerie folk are not just characters in bedtime stories, but magickal beings that once existed, but have since gone extinct. Now all that remains of the folk are their predecessors, the Fey (part human/part folk). 

Norminster, New London is where Tanner House is located. Tanner House is the headquarters for the New London chapter of the Scintillant Society, a secret community of demon hunters. And the head of Tanner House takes on Evren as his new ward when she accidentally Travels to the Other one fateful night. 

Amongst the four chapters in the UK, New London is deemed quite boring due to their lack of demonic activity. Not as boring as the Trau-Wicklow chapter (set on a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere) but boring all the same. 

Norminster is a beautiful borough in the city of New London, known for its quaint cafes, historical buildings, gleaming statues, and housing the Parliamentary. But across the river is Stepney Tower, otherwise known as “Sub City”. Stepney Tower is the night to Norminster’s day. It’s a congested borough that is polluted with (Fe)y Air (synthesized gaseous iron meant to keep the Fey’s folk side dormant) and terrorized by cycops (cyclopean Fey police officers). Evren has a particularly life changing moment that takes place at a rave in “Sub City”. 

The idea of Norminster, Stepney Tower, New London, and Other itself is that at first sight these are places that one recognizes. The fashion may not be the same, but not so outlandish that you couldn’t see it coming into trend on this side of the Door. The entertainment runs in more or less the same vein, with tweaks made to represent how the folk culture influences their society. Most Fey look like commoners (100% human), the only thing making them stand out being the black code tattooed on their left wrist for identification purposes. The Other is recognizable, which very often poses a problem for Evren. For in the off chance that she forgets that she is no longer in the world she’s grown up in, she’s reminded of this by happening upon a terrifying cycop, wearing a full face gas mask to protect himself from (Fe)y Air (aka the cure) as he hauls a Fey (showing signs of being non-dormant) into his massive police van. 
So, to paraphrase what the High Elder Hildimar Travers tells Evren after she steps through the Door, “It’s a world like your own, but…Other”



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1.     Story Statement

Layel must fight through the internalized idea that she is unworthy of love and accept the help that’s being offered to her.


2.     The Antagonist

The internal conflict really makes Layel her own antagonist. With her family and ex removed from the situation she is fighting herself and her memories and her mental illness to pull through and become capable of more. But by the definition, or at bare minimum, in assisting to evolve the protagonist's character arc (and by default the story itself) by igniting complication(s) the protagonist, and possibly other characters, must face and solve (or fail to solve), in the prompt I think the owner of the halfway house would be the antagonist or the antagonistic force. The owner’s goal throughout the story is to push each resident staying at the halfway house to make it through the day. His degree in psychology/therapy coupled with a battle with alcoholism makes him the perfect person to run this kind of house. His family history and alcoholism is where his core wound stems from and he deals with issues of perfectionism and being enough for the people he's helping. He’s not provoking them for a negative experience/response/reaction but it’s his job to push the residents and especially Layel who the story focuses on out of her comfort zone and to face the issues she’s dealing with.


3.     Title Options

The House of Rigby


4.     Comps

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

-        For the found family and magical realism elements as well as the themes on interpersonal relationships.  

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

-        For the mental health and coping (or lack of coping) and parental relationship themes

Girl Interrupted by Susanna Keyson

-        For the mental health facility setting and the sense of community when healing around others


5.     Logline

After a devastating breakup coupled with a recent bpd diagnosis, Layel takes up residency at a whimsical halfway house where she must confront her fear of trust and abandonment in order to develop the coping skills she needs to survive outside of the house or risk fading away forever.


6.     Levels of Conflict

Before Layel’s arrival to the halfway house she is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (a mood disorder characterized by emotional instability, feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, impulsivity, and impaired relationships) and she is faced with fact that her boyfriend of three years has decided to end the relationship. For Layel this confirms the thing she has always known about herself, no one will ever love her and everyone will always leave in the end. Layel’s mother has never been emotionally available to her and favors her younger sister. And though Layel knows her father didn’t choose to die of a heart condition when she was thirteen, it still kind of feels like he abandoned her too. When Layel arrives at the halfway house she is met by an ensemble of residents all struggling with their own hardships but willing to welcome her into their community with open arms. This dynamic triggers Layel’s feelings of being unworthy of love and her inability to trust the people in her life and challenges her belief that anyone will ever be there for her forever. It also challenges whether or not she can ever accept that some people are only meant to be in her life for a little while instead of feeling completely abandoned when it is time for them or herself to move on. Layel believes that everyone in the house will tolerate her but she struggles to believe that they genuinely care about her.

While at the halfway house Layel is forming new connections and also managing relationships from her past in what feels like a very far away outside world. Everyone in the house bonds with each other in different ways but Layel becomes particularly close with the owner of the house who helps her navigate the emotions she has trouble processing, a young man named Elias, and a young woman named Runa. Elias and her fall slowly into a relationship that is romantic in nature but as she is learning to manage her bpd and heal from her break up and Elias is recovering from a narcotics addiction they attempt to keep each other at arm’s length despite their attraction to each other. Runa and Layel have a quiet friendship and something that feels more intimate to Layel than she has ever allowed herself to become with another girl. It isn’t a romantic relationship on either end but traumatized by her mother and sister, Layel has never allowed herself to trust other women until now. Layel harbors a lot of unresolved resentment towards her mother which comes forth often in her internal narrative and how she navigates the world despite having minimal contact with her mother in her adult life. Her younger sister is disproving of her stay at the halfway house which makes Layel reluctant to speak with her when she calls. And as far as her ex goes she knows deep down the relationship was over long before the break up but the sting of rejection is a lot harder to heal from than losing the person himself.


7.     Setting

The story starts out in a small town in Illinois and then on a train but these settings are very brief. The majority of the story takes place on a fictional river in Maine in a very whimsical house. Though the landscape of Maine plays a minor part in the setting (the house is located in the woods and along a river. We go through all of the seasons in this book so heat, changing colors of trees, rain, snow all play a part in the background of the story), the main focus is the house. The halfway house is a two-story Victorian home made of blue-painted brick, a turret, and stained glass windows. There are sunflowers carved into the paneling on the face of the roof and a door knocker shaped like a lion’s head. Inside the maximalist décor takes over with lush colors, plants everywhere, walls covered floor to ceiling in artwork. Knickknacks in every corner and half-finished murals on the staircase. There are blankets everywhere and cozy places to sit and read. The front and backyard are full of overgrown flowers. There’s vegetable gardens and a green house and a pond in the backyard. The house also has rooms like an art room and a library as well as the typical bedrooms and bathrooms. The bedrooms seem to change with the arrival of new guests to fit there preferences and there is a contraption on the back of the house that plays music when it rains. Birds fly in and out of the open windows and create nests in the corners of the bookshelves in the library. And of course, there is the emotional support lion Felix lumbering around any corner or sleeping on his giant bed in front of the fireplace in the living room.  






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Story Statement

Allowing one's mind to paint the universe in colors beyond the black or white reasoning of binary logic.



Twenty-one-year-old Kat Watburn is a pragmatic UCLA mathematician who definitely does not believe in astrology, the healing power of crystals, or any other New Age hippie crap. But then she attends a sound bath meditation during an earth energy anomaly, which briefly connects her mind to a network of encoded human consciousness. Information flows though her—prescient insight, knowledge of an impending geomagnetic storm that could trigger the collapse of society. Kat, of course, refuses to believe that some form of intangible stimuli had pervaded her thoughts. She dismisses what she experienced, chalks it up to bad take-out. A mini stroke. Possibly hypnosis...maybe lead paint? But her sense of creeping dread is an antagonistic force—Kat sees its evidence hiding under everyday life and she feels a call to follow the mathematically derived clues to their source: archaeological ruins; the lost high technology of an ancient civilization; scientific knowledge buried in the folds of time. 



The Infinite Matter of Kat Watburn



THE INFINITE MATTER OF KAT WATBURN is grounded science fiction. Think Carl Sagan's CONTACT (except “the transmission” is sent from a parallel reality).

Emily St. John Mandel - SEA OF TRANQUILITY



Blake Crouch - DARK MATTER


Logline (elevator pitch):

A pragmatic mathematician who definitely does not believe in the earth energy anomalies she’s sensitive to, involuntarily joins her estranged physicist father on an adventure spanning three continents, searching ancient cultures and archaeological ruins in pursuit of a centuries-old algorithm that could save humanity from an impending geomagnetic storm.


Primary Conflict

Someone or something is trying to warn Kat Watburn of an impending geomagnetic storm that could trigger the collapse of society. 

Core wound 

Kat’s inner conflict. Her pragmatic refusal to accept that which cannot be explained through logical deduction. 

In order to accept and act upon the prescient knowledge she received during an earth energy anomaly—information which might help avoid a global cataclysm—Kat must call into question everything she thought she believed about the world.   

Secondary Conflict

Dr. Madison Watburn, PhD, is Kat’s father. He’s a theoretical physicist who uses mathematics to question nature. To speculate. He converts physics problems into math problems, but he’s not a mathematician. 

And therein lies the conflict. 

His daughter, Kat Watburn, is a mathematician. Her job is to invent new, problem-free mathematics. Whether that mathematics matches theories—realism, antirealism, social constructionism, instrumentalism, postmodernism, or even nature itself—is beside the point. As long as the math is accurate, she’s done her job. 

Speculation versus accuracy: their relationship in a nutshell. The gap is sizable. 

Despite finding her father insufferable, and having hardly spoken to him in three years, Kat knows her best shot at decoding a series of enigmatic clues is by agreeing to work in tandem with him. It’s not too late for worldwide evasive measures to be taken. But only if Kat can find a way for her logical deductions to overlap with Dr. Watburn’s grand philosophical ideas.  



The story takes place in our present world.  

UCLA mathematician Kat Watburn and her engineering student boyfriend, Som, attend a sound bath meditation in Joshua Tree, California—during an earth energy anomaly which briefly connects Kat to a network of encoded human consciousness.

Despite her reluctance, Kat feels a call to follow a series of prescient insights. She and Som drive to Chaco Canyon, a remote archaeological site in New Mexico, where they uncover evidence that centuries-old ruins in North and South America were built on global ley points for the purpose of moving physical matter across a traversable energy bridge.

In response to a litany of ever-compounding mysteries, Kat and Som fly to Lima, Peru, then travel by bus to the Nazca desert, where they meet up with Kat’s estranged father. 

Now acting as a trio, Kat and Som and Dad journey through Peru’s Sacred Valley—they hike across the Andes alongside a fearsome drug cartel, led to the cave of Ñaupa Huaca by a set of enigmatic clues.

Ñaupa Huaca harnesses terrestrial energy, which allows Kat to trigger the elusive “traversable energy field”. However, only her quantum-entangled presence can stabilize a parallel circuit between two geographic points, so she lobs herself into a wormhole, where her perception of “self” grows recursive. Kat Watburns begin branching off and duplicating into endless parallel worlds.

Eventually, Kat steps out of infinity and into the shine of the British countryside, suffused with the information required to warn humanity of the impending geomagnetic storm. 

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1. Story statement--The morning Pete Mitchell left his six-month-old alone in his car in the alley behind The Broad Ripple Coffee Shop, a carefully conceived chain of events was set in motion. The subsequent investigation suffered, and the result led the authorities to conclude that his daughter was probably already in the ground, buried next to wherever he'd buried his first wife. On the cusp of being hauled downtown for booking, Mitchell reluctantly turned to the only person who had stuck around...the psychic who had adopted him.   

2. The antagonist goal--Jillian Montgomery has dedicated years of her life toward a single end...to bring Pete Mitchell down.

3. Prospective Titles:

   The Hanged Man (card number twelve--part of the Major Arcana of the tarot deck)

   Both Sides Now (possibly with a connection to the Joni Mitchell lyrics)

   Feels Like Home

4. Smart Comparables--

E. H. Vick--Mercy Forsaken. Profiler Meredith Connelly begins her hunt for the .40 caliber killer.

Jason Rekulak--Hidden Pictures. Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a babysitting job in an affluent neighborhood.

W.P. Kinsella--Shoeless Joe. An inexplicable voice reaches out to an Iowa farmer and encourages him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. 

Alice Sebold--The Lovely Bones. A young girl is abducted and murdered. She watches life move on without her and decides to do something about it.

5. Hook Line with a Core Wound--

In seeking revenge upon the brother-in-law who'd humiliated her, a woman hatches an elaborate plan that begins with the kidnapping of his six-month-old daughter.

6. Protagonist inner conflicts sketch--

Pete Mitchell's unhappy father taught him to be both disappointed and disappointing. He'd grown up fighting to garner his father's approval: solo and ensemble contest, swimming and diving meets, nothing proved good enough, at least not good enough to pull away that blank, dead-eyed, ever-present stare.

Ten years later, his wife had left for awhile, and trapped in marriage limbo his sister-in-law made him an offer that he could refuse. Never, however, in his wildest dreams, did it occur to him that his decision would return...with deadly consequences.  

Eventually Mitchell's first wife returned, and months later committed suicide. That brought a new kind of pain, one that echoed through each day reminding him that he was at least partially responsible. Then, when he least expected it, someone new appeared. It was a bright and funny woman, and she had about her a transformative effect. Mitchell worked up the courage to ask her out. Eventually they married, and she gave birth to a daughter. All seemed well until that fateful morning on his way to work. He left his daughter in the car for just a few minutes, and once more, his world came tumbling down. 


7. Sketch the setting

The setting moves between Indianapolis, Indiana circa 1995, and the Ohio River neighborhoods of Louisville, Kentucky. The backdrop runs from the busy urban downtown of the twelfth largest city in the nation, to narrow country roads. The true enigma of Indianapolis is its metropolitan feel: a world-class symphony, its NFL and NBA franchises, exquisite fine dining and shopping and the one-of-a-kind Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the 'greatest spectacle in racing,'  all completely surrounded by cornfields and roadside produce stands.


Submitted by PJ Allen



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Story Statement

Dioni (protagonist) must find her sister and uncover the mystery on their island.



There are multiple antagonistic forces at play in the novel (the shadows, bullies, other territories), however the main villain is the grandmother, Yaya.

Yaya doesn’t like change. She wants to preserve traditions and her way of life, even if means betraying those closest to her. She values obedience, and though she preaches that family is the most important, those who do not listen are dispensable. For her, success lies in power, and she revels in this as part of the council. Never having had such options growing up – she’d been told who to marry and what to become – she comes alive after the disaster and finds freedom in controlling her own destiny, her people, and ironically, her family instead. She is an immovable force, and the main character describes her as such multiple times. Anyone who does not obey Yaya should be afraid – very afraid, indeed.



We Drown Beneath the Stars

Isle of Stars and Shadows

The Stars Within Us



1.       House of Hollow – this novel shares a similarity with the main conflict wherein the protagonist must find her older sister, and continuously compares herself to her. Additionally, there is an element of the dark/paranormal that threads its way into my manuscript, as well.

2.       House of Salt & Sorrow – the seaside setting, despair of the protagonist, and dark twists all correlate with my novel’s aesthetic.

3.       The Depths – the book’s concept that strange things start happening on a disconnected island and ghostly apparitions haunt the protagonist shares a similarity to mine.


Core Wound & Primary Conflict

Dioni’s core wounds were etched into her by a) growing up as a middle child, and b) being separated from her parents. As the middle child, she envies the attention her little sister has, and she looks up to her older sister — the perfect granddaughter that she herself could never be. Afraid of change and the sea, Dioni feels she’s weak and that she can’t live up to the expectations. While her sister is a star dancer and a lively extrovert, Dioni keeps to herself. Due to this, Dioni relies on her older sister who is her only tether to reality and their old life.


Hook Line

Separated from her parents, a timid teenager feels unmoored when her sister disappears and must confront enemies, sinister clues, and her own fears to find her.


Conflict: 2 More Levels

Inner conflict (dependence vs. independence, weakness vs. strength): When Dioni realizes there’s no hope of reconnecting with her sister, she feels terrified. Without her sister’s support, she must come to terms with the fact that she must face the island’s dangers all on her own.

Secondary Conflicts (fitting in vs. being herself): Dioni wasn’t born on the island which causes friction with her peers. Meanwhile, there are two enemy factions on the island that seek to harm Dioni and her village, as well.

Romantic subplot: There are two love interests, both on enemy sides.



The story takes place on a small Greek island, where white homes curve uphill and bright flowers pour off balconies. With a view of endless sea and sky, Dioni should feel at ease in her village, but she can’t shake the feeling that something sinister lingers beneath the perfect calm.

Sand sifts between Dioni’s toes on the beaches, and rocks clatter under her weight as she crawls into dark, dripping caves to find her sister. She weaves through olive groves as she makes her way into one of the enemy territories: to the resort forgotten by time. There, unruly vines blanket Ionic columns, and moonlight streams through cliffside windows.

Finally, on the third side of the island, Dioni wanders through a torn town, where doorways stand alone in defiance, and dust coats huddling tents. Any ships left rust away on the shores.


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Story Statement:

An over 40-year old Francesca must secure a Jewish husband and sire a baby in order to save her Jewish legacy. 

Story Synopsis 

The Walk is a women's fiction novel that follows Francesca, a woman haunted by her disability and who struggles to find her place in society with her own scrambled identity. She desires to feel a sense of belonging, but often feels a petal short. Francesca discovers she is Jewish late in life and frantically pursues a search to find the perfect Jewish man to fulfill the societal norms of having a Jewish home.  However, because there is uncertainty about her Jewish identity, her search for more answers leads her to discover family secrets about her Jewish past, challenging her preconceptions about her Grandmother Laylah. Her experiences along the way allow her to embrace the idea that true happiness lies in embracing her authentic self.


The forty-six-year-old Professor J is an intellectual Washingtonian snob, who sees himself as an esthete among the erudite of prestige university life. Others view him as a respectable, confirmed old bachelor who pontificates about Hobbes and Locke; however, he desires to find his perfect mate.   Francesca idealizes him as the perfect version of a Jewish man. He is not perfect, but because of Francesca’s narrow and traditional views on marriage within the Jewish community and what he represents for her future Jewish home, she cannot see his flaws. Professor J's elusive behavior as the unattainable figure, along with his ambivalence towards Francesca, constantly thwarts her hopes and dreams and reinforces her belief that she is a misfit who cannot fit into the norms of society. Her “graceless walk” is the culprit. He acts as a primary antagonist because his rejection of Francesca further reinforces the negative narrative that she tells herself and drives her to continue searching for the perfect Jewish man, even when it is not what she truly wants. The other men she dates act as minor antagonists because they also reject her, contributing to her sense of inadequacy and failure.

Breakout Titles

1.       The Walk to Self-discovery

2.       The Graceless Walk 

3.       Walking Through Identities


Comparable Novels

1. Letters to My Father by Kathleen A. Balgley blended with Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

2. The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem meets Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

3.  (The Classics): Frankenstein's monster in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein meets the Phantom in Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera with the focus on the desire to be loved. 


Fraught with a scrambled identity, Francesca, a fatuous woman searching for her idealized version of the perfect Jewish man, uncovers hidden family secrets about love and her newly discovered Jewish identity while grappling with society's traditional views on marriage.

Protagonist Conflict Sketch

Francesca, the protagonist in "The Walk," experiences an inner conflict because of her struggle to fit into societal norms and her desire to find a sense of belonging. She feels torn between her desire to conform to traditional Jewish expectations of marriage and motherhood and her yearning for personal fulfillment.

One hypothetical scenario where Francesca experiences inner turmoil is when she meets with Professor J, the object of her desire, and realizes that he does not share her values or long-term goals. While Francesca believes that marrying a Jewish man and having children is the ultimate expression of her identity, she also longs for a deep and meaningful connection with someone who understands her on a personal level.

During their short time together, Professor J clarifies he is not interested in a serious relationship and can only offer Francesca something casual. This realization devastates Francesca, and her deep-rooted insecurities about her walking disability and fears about being rejected by the Jewish community resurface. She feels anxious and conflicted about whether to pursue a relationship with Professor J or continue her search for a suitable Jewish mate.

Francesca's inner turmoil is further compounded by her growing sense of disconnect from her past and her family's hidden Jewish heritage. Francesca’s mother established their Jewish identity on a tenuous geneogloical trace through the legacy of names only. While Francesca internally feels like a Jewish woman, she struggles to find tangible evidence proving her newly discovered identity. She experiences anxiety, fearing a rejection by her Jewish community (the external conflict).

Ultimately, Francesca must confront her inner demons and learn to embrace her authentic self, even if it means going against societal expectations and norms. Her journey to self-discovery is fraught with challenges and setbacks, but it ultimately leads her to a place of acceptance and peace.

Secondary Conflict

Francesca feels a sense of isolation in her journey to reconnect with her Jewish heritage. Her mother does not understand the significance of this for Francesca. Francesca feels a sense of guilt: her mother raised her and her siblings to embrace their German heritage instead of her native country, Colombia. Francesca’s mother unfairly experienced racial discrimination in American schools, causing her to drop out.  Francesca’s mother is so disconnected with her past that she is indifferent. Indifference overshadows the core wound.

While she wants her mother’s approval to delve deeper into their Jewish past, she understands her mother’s indifference is a cover for the pain she felt growing up Latina. To be Jewish would add yet another layer of persecution to the pain. This subtle tension contributes to her feeling even more alone in her search for identity and belonging. So, while Francesca empathizes with her mother’s position, she craves for her mother to support her as she explores her Jewish identity.


  • Francesca's primary setting is Washington, DC, a bustling and diverse city that offers a multitude of unique and interesting locations for scenes in the story:  The Newseum, in which we meet Francesca in Chapter 1 of the novel, represents the cosmopolitan and political backdrop of the novel. While the novel is not political, its grandeur permeates.
  • Dupont Circle neighborhood, where Francesca first meets Professor J. The vibrant and eclectic community offers plenty of opportunities for interactions with colorful characters, such as artists, musicians, and activists.
  • The famous Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, where we learn more about Professor J.  
  • The Jewish day school where she teaches. The setting offers a contrast between the feeling embraced by her colleagues and students as a Jewish woman (sense of belonging) and the harsh realities and inner turmoil of her personal life.
  • Her apartment in the Palisades, a sleepy neighborhood of Washington, DC.
  • Madisonville, Louisiana, and the Causeway Bridge
  • Barranquilla, Colombia: Her cousin’s affluent lifestyle, The Museo De Romantica, and the airport: Her travel to explore her Jewish identity.
  • Overall, the setting of Washington, DC, along with the scattering of other locations, provides a rich and diverse backdrop for Francesca's story, offering a wide range of settings and scenes that capture the unique spirit of the places and Francesca's personal journey.
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Story Statement

“A woman will break the rules for the bad boy, but makes rules for the good guy.” 



The Professor is a fictional character – Dr. Grayson Solace – aka Graycee or Professor Solace

College Professor of Psychology - handsome - light-skinned African American man 

Scorpio Male -mid 30’s - bachelor

Birthdate – November 5th

Rising Sign, Ascendant Sign and Moon Sign - Scorpio

Birthstones – topaz, citrine, beryl

Cologne – Black Afgano, Tom Ford Ombre Leather, Tom Ford Oud Wood

Favorite Colors - black, red

Favorite Food – berries

Sexual Preference – dominant, BDSM, Kama Sutra and advanced levels of Tantra

Lives in Uptown North Dallas, TX Area

Characteristics – sigma male, charming, confident, loner, former college athlete, fitness fanatic, scholar, witty, OCD about cleanliness, insomniac, noctivagant,

Turn-ons – intellectual, sapiosexual, confident, fit and athletic women, BDSM, dominance 

Hobbies – astrology, star watching, working out, traveling, reading, yoga, boxing and traveling

Scorpio men are intense, passionate, and filled with desire. They can be moody and vengeful, with a hot temper and long memories for any wrongs, imagined or otherwise, done against them.


As Scorpio Man Grayson is the embodiment of a Desirable Man.  A great listener, quick thinker, witty, but suspicious and a loner.  His adventures and stories are based on 12 different individuals that reflect the astrology zodiac signs.  From foreign and domestic settings, calming and volatile situations and even first-time encounters. 


#8 Scorpio (October 23 - November 21): Scorpio is a water sign and is most compatible with other water signs (Cancer and Pisces) and earth signs (Taurus, Virgo).


A desirable man knows when a woman is on the prowl.  Experience has taught him what to look for and how to control his emotions to be able to remain calm and cool to think his way into making any negotiation in his favor.  A child prodigy – Mensa gifted student and athletic as his 6’4 215-pound frame is as impeccable as his educational merits. 


Please keep in mind that a person is not only their sun sign. Their personalities are modified by moon signs, venus signs, mars signs, the aspects these have to one another, their positions in a natal chart, and so forth. Some people ‘fit’ their sun sign zodiac profile more than others.

These zodiac male/female profiles are designed to be read for heterosexual, lesbian, gay, pansexual, and bisexual people. 



Scorpio Man “No One Likes Romeo” The Professor’s Memoirs

Scorpio Man “The Professor’s Memoirs” 



Zane - Zane’s Sex Chronicles

Rachel Kramer Bussel - Flying High

Elene Sallinger - Awakening

Christina Lauren - Beautiful Bastard 



In astrology, it's believed that the alignment of the stars and planets at the time of your birth can influence your personality traits, values, and behavior.  When it comes to dating, some people believe that certain zodiac signs are more compatible with each other than others. This is often based on the element and qualities associated with each sign. 


Scorpio Man’s Nobody Likes Romeo is a short story collection of a portrayal of a conflicted man Professor Grayson Solace who is perfectly composed on his surface. Wickedly intellectual, financially successful, powerful, and respected, he has an uncanny ability to attract women, especially those who tend to only see as far as his initial presentation. 


In this book, I take you, the reader, with me to the secret inner world of Scorpio Man. This book displays the personality archetype of the Scorpio Man and how his archetype is compatible or incompatible with 12 different women each of a different zodiac sign. In a series of short stories of his adventures, each chapter is told from his recollection in a series of sessions with his therapist Dr. Zenobia Lovelace. 


Primary Conflict

This offering is a self-reflection of a man both predator and prey.  The primary conflict involves tension between his desire for romantic or sexual relationships with multiple women and his ability to maintain these relationships without causing harm or betraying the trust of those involved.


Ultimately, the conflict for Professor Solace may involve balancing his own desires and impulses with the needs and emotions of the people around him, and figuring out how to navigate complex and sometimes conflicting romantic and sexual dynamics with multiple partners.


Core wound 

Grayson’s inner conflict is that he is not the “stud” he’s portrayed to be.  In this memoir, he revels in his successes, but also agonizes over his failures.  Each chapter tells the reader straight: this worked, that didn’t. He concludes it is necessary to hide one’s feelings behind a serene exterior, hiding his fear and doubt and empathy from the woman that only can see as far as his handsome face, physique, wittiness, and devilish charm. 


Secondary Conflict

Deep beneath his surface, he is a man pulled in many directions, lost in lechery, limerence, temptation; filled with fleeting desires and fearing commitment.  On one hand, Grayson may enjoy the thrill of pursuing and seducing new partners and may find validation and self-worth in his ability to attract and charm women. However, this behavior also leads to feelings of guilt or shame and can strain or damage existing relationships if partners feel neglected or betrayed.



The book presents a tantalizing short story collection.  The stories take place over a course of seven years pre/post COVID-19 in Dallas-Ft. Worth at University of Dallas, as well as travels of both foreign and domestic locations.  



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The book’s heart is the rekindling relationship of a white father (Ian) and his biracial son (Savion). After the loss of their wife/mother (Imani) shortly after childbirth, Ian blames Savion for her death. In the wake of grief, Ian keeps an emotional distance until he’s forced to confront Savion’s racial awakening. As a white man raising a bi-racial son, Ian must find ways to connect with Savion and teach the child how to navigate a world Ian doesn’t understand. Meanwhile, Savion lacks the vocabulary to understand microaggressions and feelings of isolation. With a father who’s attempts never quite resonate with his perception of the world, Savion will find other outlets to coupe with his changing identity. It is through comic books where Ian and Savion’s healing begins. 


For both, Ian and Savion, their biggest obstacles are internal. They will each need to find spaces to share and be vulnerable. 

One of Ian’s external barriers is to overcome an addiction with alcohol. 

Savion has issues with a schoolteacher and popular classmate. 

The book has three aside narratives which are the creation of a Black superhero named Bison-Man. The stories evolve to confront the challenges Ian and Savion face in the real world. In the stories, the antagonists symbolize Savion’s understanding of race. 

In the first version of the comic, when Savion is five, Bison Man fights two evil henchmen trying to steal a magic potion. The antagonists are showcase Savion’s view of a traditional “bad guy.” Additionally, the henchmen mirror the Golden Age of Comics’ storylines.

It’s not until Savion is in high school that the father and son resurrect Bison-Man. In this version, Bison Man is fighting in a dystopic Washington DC. Bison-Man fights with a technologically advanced policeman named The Shackler. With a growing awareness of police brutality in the real world, and the politics of immigration, Ian and Savion’s newest version is a commentary on authority within their community. 

Just before leaving for college, Ian and Savion draft a final version of Bison-Man. After realizing that there are more complications beyond the police, their new comic depicts the crossroads of government and Black history. There is an organization called the Grand Eidolon which is responsible for the government’s history of suppressing Black people. This section is written in manuscript format. Ian and Savion see the injustices of Black people through a long and complicated history of various intersections on race, politics, and class. 





THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris
THE LAST WHITE MAN by Mohsin Hamid
IF I SURVIVE YOU by Jonathan Escoffery


Hookline: A widowed white father and his bi-racial son create a black superhero to bond over race, grief, and identity.



Ian suffers from an addiction to alcohol throughout the entire novel. Drinking was a coping mechanism after the death of his wife. While there are moments of sobriety, Ian is consistently pulled back to the bottle. At the end of the novel, after dropping Savion off at school, Ian visits a bar that used to be his local hangout with Imani. Feeling abandoned once more, Ian is tempted to fall back into old patterns. Instead, Ian decides to start dating again.  

At prom, Savion accidently spills a beer on his longtime bully Connor. While Savion doesn’t want to fight, the growing crowd around adds more pressure to do so. In a drunken state, Connor continues to antagonize Savion. When someone pushes Savion into Connor, they start throwing punches. 



The novel is set mostly in a suburb outside of Washington DC. The private schools that Savion attends are predominantly white. Savion feels the difference of being the only student of color. Other backdrops for the novel include neighborhood houses, a city park, Howard University, the DC Waterfront, The National Museum of the Native American, a Black Lives Matter rally, The Women’s March on Washington, and New York City.

The comic narratives have three distinct settings. The first iteration of Bison-Man takes place in at traveling circus. A dystopic new Ward 9 serves as the setting in the second version. Here certain citizens are detained from the rest of the city. The final version sees Bison-Man fight in the famous Moorland-Springarn Research center at Howard University. There are many parallels to Ian, Savion, and Imani’s life in the final comic.

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My work is YA FANTASY.

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

To find a place to belong while not fulfilling a doomsday prophecy.


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

The Saya Reaper was the first in the royal family of Ondhokar to utilize magic. He befriended two sisters who also possessed magic, Maltem the First and Lady Ayana, to normalize its use in the kingdom. He fell in love with Maltem, overlooking Ayana’s love for him.

His family’s suspicion of magic fueled his ambition to become king, and he went on a rampage after Maltem rejected his feelings to marry his older brother and become queen. The Saya Reaper spared his father but killed his three brothers, his mother, and the advisory council. Maltem used her magic to trap the Saya Reaper in a mountain, but Ayana put his soul into the dream world, saving him from being killed. Ayana then forfeited her magic, leading to her death.

Knowing he was not completely dead, Maltem issued a prophecy, warning that the people must find a girl who would be powerful enough to counter him and her sister, who will inevitably help him. The Saya Reaper has used this prophecy for hundreds of years to find his next Ayana, to rectify his late realization of her devotion, and finally become king.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title

Darkness That Binds

Darkness That Shatters


FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel. 

Six Crimson Cranes

Candle and the Flame


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

Scorned for not having magic like her twin sister, a girl must fight her role in a prophecy that claims she will bring doom to her kingdom. 


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

Primary conflict: Finding a place to belong.

Inner conflicts: Resentment for her twin sister, the feeling of familiarity with the antagonist, and falling in love for the first time.


Secondary conflict: An evil force wants her on his side.


FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. 

The story takes place in a fantasy continent, Ondhokar, based on the countries Bangladesh, Southern Europe, and Turkey, with an island kingdom, Porticor, based on the country Indonesia. These specific countries were chosen to represent specific regional and religious backgrounds: Sephardic and Cochin Jews for Southern Europe and Bangladesh-based culture, respectively, and Islam for the Turkey and Indonesian-based lands.

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My story is commercial sci-fi/fantasy and about 95% complete. It's in the last stages of the editing process. If my responses need to be rewritten for clarity or length, please let me know. 

Thank you. 


Story Statement 

Control your inner demons, regain your abilities, and protect the child that killed you. 


Antagonist Force Sketch

There are two types of antagonistic forces in my story: internal and external. 

Internally, the protagonist’s inner demons (both metaphorical and literal) push him to do harm. It’s to the point where his violent tendencies are reflexive and amplified if pushed too far because of desensitization. The desire to do bad things to bad people competes with his remaining humanity, memories of better days, and sheepish hope. The result is often an internal struggle to decide what/how he should feel.

Externally, forces both known and unknown assault the protagonist and endanger those he cares about. One force is composed of nightmares created as a byproduct of the protagonist’s new world. The second is made of others like himself, people who existed before the new world was created. The difference is many of those people see the new world’s inhabitants as expendable and inconsequential resources to freely use. If the “other” people don’t matter or aren’t real, why should what’s done to them be any different?


Title Options

The Myrmecoleon  < Pretty much set on this title.

Endeavor: Stray Dogs


Comparable Titles

One of the negatives of being a journalist (my job) is not having enough time to devote to reading for pleasure. On top of that, I do not much like modern fiction writing. Not the style nor substance, so this question was difficult to answer. 

One test reader said The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is comparable. However, that is far from modern literature. The reader came to that conclusion because my story contains elements of Judeo-Christian mythology, is written in acts, and follows a journey of discovery and danger. On the more recent side, my story could also be compared to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Magic and time are vital elements of the story, as are the motives of the protagonist. Neither of the stories listed are perfect comparisons to my story. But if a reader enjoyed either they should find enjoyment in my writing. 



After blowing himself up, a dichotomous tortured soul tries to find redemption through protecting a young boy. But just like him, old habits die hard. If they die at all. 


Conflict Sketches 

The protagonist has inner conflict whenever life or death occurs. Any excess of emotion can result in his personal confliction. His past is riddled with violence and loss. As a result of his prior actions, he struggles to decide what he should be allowed to feel or how he should react unless the situation is extreme. He’s often tired and angry at being so tired and angry, but doesn’t believe he has the right to be happy. 

In a hypothetical scenario for inner conflict, let’s say the protagonist has a prolonged relationship with a woman. Things go well until the woman says she loves him. If the protagonist feels the same, this would be the equivalent of a bomb going off. The protagonist now has something to truly lose. Worse, he has someone who has openly chosen to place value in him. He would immediately become distant and focus on his work. Because of the nature of his work, he would likely become more violent while working so he would meet the expectations of others. Why should he be happy when he has done bad things? His response would be to do more bad things to prevent himself from feeling happy until circumstances change the equation in some way. 

A hypothetical scenario with secondary conflict would involve the second main character, a young boy named Shango. Shango is a new arrival to the setting of the story. He’s still young and relies on others to explain what and why things are happening. By the same token, his caretakers are diverse in their view/place in the setting. They are well intentioned, but his caretakers can butt heads over trivial issues. An example would be holidays and celebrating them. Endeavor, the main setting of the story, does not officially recognize Christmas because the holiday has been replaced with another to commemorate a momentous historical event. Shango remembers that Christmas was an event his family celebrated in the previous world. His caretakers would try to accommodate Shango, but there would be conflict among the caretakers regarding how and why to celebrate Christmas. The end result would be humorous as they try to blend the two holidays together, but there would be disagreement and opposition. 


Setting Sketch 

The bulk of the story takes place in a nation-state called Endeavor. It was founded by survivors from the modern world after a series of events caused the world/setting to be destroyed. The event is referred to as Redux because it resembles a reset to the survivors. Time went back, sending those individuals and their memories with it. However, what came after wasn’t a true recreation. What existed the second time was based on the memories and imaginations of everyone at the time of Redux. As a result, fantasies such as magic and mythological beings became reality. A citizen in Endeavor wouldn’t be surprised if they called for an electrician and then a lamia, orc, or demon showed up for the repairs. 

When the character Shango arrives, it’s millennium after Redux has occurred and back to the “modern” era. Shango is a very late arrival. The rebuilding and fighting are almost all over. He sees the results of conflict, rebuilding of society, and carefully cultivating world history so what exists is a facsimile of the original world. He is brought to the largest of Endeavor’s territories, a massive artificial island built in the Atlantic Ocean to contain magic, mythical creatures, and technology that shouldn’t exist in the rest of the world. While there, Shango learns that the survivors of Redux and their descendants are different from the people who came after. At a minimum, Shango is biologically immortal. Beyond that, he may have abilities he can use to influence the world around him, but there’s no telling what those abilities are, when they might appear, or how extreme they may be. 

Most concerning of all, one of the oldest, most impulsive, and most dangerous survivors of Redux has taken an interest in Shango. He’s chosen to be Shango’s friend and watch over him, whether the young boy wants it or not. And if Shango knew any of the man’s history, he really wouldn’t want it.

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Story Statement:

Save herself and her children from her abusive husband and the cult.



Leo follows classic abusive cycles so he’s not horrible to Kate everyday, just some days. He didn’t start out cruel, he slowly inched his way there. Like Kate, he was raised in the cult with oppressive rules and overbearing religion, but the cult plots a very different course for men and women. Leo takes his role as the man of the house to the extreme, justified by their church and his family upbringing. He’s quick to take any disagreement from women as disrespect to his authority. He’s threatened by the very thing that attracted him to Kate in the beginning, her intelligence. He demands her complete subservience. He is emotionally, verbally, and sexually abusive to her, outright telling Kate that he’s not dumb enough to do anything that leaves marks. Divorce is forbidden by their church, so Kate just lives for the good days, telling herself that he’s a good dad and provider, but as their daughters hit their teen years, Leo rules them cruelly and with ridiculous expectations. When he’s mad, he can go for days, weeks, and even months without talking to anyone else in the house. He’s leaving unseen marks on all of them.






Women’s Fiction, Upmarket Fiction, Autofiction



God Spare the Girls by Kelsey Mckinney

Revival Season by Monica West

Maid by Stephanie Land

The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin 



After being born, raised, and married into a cult, Kate divorces her abusive husband and walks away from the cult. Saving herself and her daughters means losing everyone they know and swinging on a pendulum from the most restrictive lifestyle into moral chaos. 

 A second coming of age - with no boundaries for the first time in her life, she could go over the edge.


Inner Conflict:  

Kate generally doesn’t feel good enough. She was never validated by her father. He never told her he loved her, and he was hard on her.  She also battles with self-harm, an eating disorder, and being emotionally overexcitable (from being a gifted adult - she experiences higher highs and lower lows and tends to cry too easily).

Much of Kate’s inner thoughts center around leaving the cult and experiencing “firsts” that most people would have experienced in early life. She has never cut her hair, worn makeup, had her ears pierced, been drunk, had sex with anyone but her husband, and more. She’s experiencing all these firsts in her forties. 


Secondary/Social Conflict: 

Kate desperately wants to be rescued by a man and tries to find another man after leaving Leo, unsuccessfully. Since she can’t find a serious relationship, she resorts to using men for money to support her family. She eventually realizes that she must save herself and that the women in her life have brought more salvation than any religion or man. 

Because she and her daughters have lost everyone they know from leaving the cult - all friends and family - she goes on an ancestry website to try to find more family and uncovers something she was never meant to know. 



Northeast Florida starting in 1996 - The Westside, Orange Park, the beaches - a multicultural town with rich and poor. Kate longs to be rich but identifies with the poor. Money is always an issue for Leo and Kate. The cult church is full of poor people that cling to the promise of an afterlife. When she leaves Leo, she moves from a smaller house on the poorer Westside of Jacksonville to Orange Park (only slightly better) but is always longing to live at the beach (the nicest area of town). She meets men in the second part of the novel that live out at the beach but are too cheap to tip well. The setting is used for character development and some statement on socioeconomic status not being guaranteed to make someone a better person.

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Upper-Middle Grade Fantasy

Story Statement

A 14 year-old girl from  New York City needs to find out how her foster father disappeared into thin air right before her eyes, while coming to terms with her own unbelievable identity. 


The antagonist is a sinister force that is not well understood by the primary characters in the book as it unfolds and is largely shrouded in obscurity (for now).  He is called Seraphim, which is a self-given moniker for an archangel meaning “burning one.”   Seraphim is the dark force in the Other Place, a separate reality in the far reaches of the Cosmos tethered to Earth by a wormhole (whose other end is in  the basement library at a notoriously oppressive New York City private school, Festermunder Academy).  Seraphim is never seen by his lieutenants, known by some as the Mechanix, yet he possesses untold power.  We find out ( later) that Seraphim is actually a former astronaut named Peter Loren, who intentionally flew his spacecraft into a wormhole near Neptune while on a covert space expedition in the 1970’s.  Loren traveled untold eons through space and time and gained infinite powers through the attainment of Stellar tokens throughout the universe. Over time, Seraphim and the Mechanix abducted people from Earth and beings throughout the Cosmos to colonize/construct a sanctuary planet they discovered called Elysium (also called the Other Place) that mirrors Earth. Throughout his discoveries, Seraphim was said to have glimpsed The Beyond.  Past the edge of the expanding Universe.  There he saw something so dark that it drove him mad.  In his ages of time-dilated travel, he attained Cosmic Immortality.  Tragically, Seraphim only wants to die.  Yet he cannot and lives for countless eons instead.  Full of rage and ironic futility, Seraphim wants to destroy Earth and enslave its inhabitants if he cannot reach his true aim:  finding someone who can help destroy him. He believes it’s our protagonist Beatrix Voght, a 5 foot tall , 14 year old girl with glasses, black curly hair,  confidence issues and a murky past, who lives on Upper West Side and attends Festermunder.


The Stolen Star

Beatrix and the Unwritten

The Dark Matter of Festermunder



Keeper of the Lost Cities, Shannon Messenger

The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman



After seeing  an identical duplicate of herself in the streets, Beatrix, a New York City teenager, must figure out what happened to her foster father who vanished in plain sight right before her eyes and determine why these events are likely connected.  


I. Beatrix Voght, a self-proclaimed outcast 14 year-old , is a student at the notorious Festermunder Academy in midtown Manhattan.  Rumors persist that students at Festermunder have gone missing over the years as well as stirrings of something quite strange located in the basement library that is strictly prohibited to students.  Beatrix, after a run in with the decidedly evil Headmistress Grunnion-Paltine, walks home one evening and discovers an exact replica of herself crossing 79th street.  She pursues her doppelganger to the alley where it only whispers “13” and vanishes in a flash of green light.  Beatrix, who has had other encounters with the Unexplained, is still reeling from her foster father Wendell’s “missing time” incident in Scotland 2 years prior that left him mentally incapacitated. She makes it her mission to keep her “replica”  from her- brother-boy-wonder, Ben, and do some investigation on her own to see what it means.  Does it have any relation to her headaches, her visions and the songs she repeatedly hears in her head?  Beatrix will seek to find out who her replica is, as well her own  identity and its connection to the stability of the Universe itself.

II. Beatrix, in addition to having complexes about her height, weight, braces , glasses and complexion, also has another problem.  Her foster father whom she adores, Wendell Voght, has been an incoherent babbling shadow of his former self since he momentarily vanished while on a private tour of a castle in Scotland.  He has taken to obsessing about stars, constellations, maps of the cosmos, and particle accelerators, as well conspiracy theories about missing persons.  Most disturbingly, Wendell has been venturing out into Central Park every night in his pajamas for hours on end.  On a hunch, Beatrix, Ben and their quasi-friend by convenience, Malik Patel, venture into the park to follow him one night, whereupon Wendell disappears into thin air right in front of them - for good this time!  There they also glimpse for the first time a terrifying shadowy figure they refer to only as the Hat Man.  Beatrix, Ben and Malik team up to find out what happened to Wendell and their discoveries portend danger not only to those at Festermunder but to the future of the Cosmos. 

III. The trio of Beatrix, Ben and Malik, assisted by the acerbic Scottish astrophysicist Percival J. Parfleet, Ph.D (who was recently reanimated into human form from that of  Beatrix’s live-in pug…but more on that later) and “it-girl” Alex Thacker, uncover clues that lead them to the doorstep of Parfleet’s former colleague, a crusty old retired astronomer named  Giuseppe Montavani.  Montavani informs Beatrix that her missing foster father, Wendell, had been a long time traveler on terrestrial and celestial space-time portals called Meridians.  The most notable one is in the basement Library at Festermunder where Wendell Voght was once a student.  Through this portal, Seraphim and his Agents have filched students as unwitting test pilots to the Other Place.  It’s made clear that Seraphim, who is likely personally known to the obfuscatory Montanvani, is planning to take precious resources from Earth to siphon them off to the Other Place; some of which are luminaries of the scientific community.  This eventually will lead to the End of the Beginning as Montavani said is prophesied.  It is also foretold that an  unknown one of  ‘The Thirteen' may have the  power that could save them.  This could in fact be Beatrix herself who always suspected she was a tad different from other kids her age.   Beatrix wonders if Wendells’s disappearance had an even darker truth.  Was he taken because of her?  The group of Beatrix, Ben, Malik, Alex and Percival, along with the bumbling Brit Special Agent Fred Hardingham (Alex’s Uncle) tentatively make it their mission to seal and destroy the Prime Meridian in the  Festermunder Basement Library.   There are several problems, such as the vile Headmistress Grunnion-Paltine, who has the school’s security as tight at Fort Knox. They  also need rare and highly volatile antimatter to cast into the Prime Meridian. Having none at the moment, they have to do the unthinkable: sneak into the world’s second largest particle accelerator facility and steal it.  All the while being trailed by the faceless Hat Man and the just as tenacious, albeit diminutive, Mi5 Agent, Libby Soames-Briggs.


The story takes place most notably in New York City where Beatrix lives in a 4th floor upscale apartment 2 blocks behind the Museum of Natural History.  Her school, Festermunder Academy, is located in midtown Manhattan in a windowless brown monolith of a building (actually the Long Lines Building in Lower Manhattan as inspiration; some call it “the scariest building they have ever seen.”)  The characters use New York as the backdrop of the story and many of the popular sites and stores are used in the book, especially Central Park and the Museum.  Much time is also spent in the defunct Sovereign Light Theater in Midtown Manhattan, where many of the companions are headquartered in the story.  This is a New York City story, but our characters have very efficient means of travel!

Our characters also are on the move a bit by making use of “unnatural travel” to the U.K.  Additionally, several of the characters are British, as Mi5 is a large part of the story, as Special Agents Libby Soames-Briggs and Fred Hardingham hail from the London suburbs.  There is a distinct British “tilt” to the story with so many characters from the U.K. and London is a major hub. 

We also get an in depth glimpse into Scotland where the pugnacious Percvial J. Parfleet, Beatrix’s personal protector (see also Chewbacca) hails from.  We enter the catacombs of Castle Glamis (Forfar) near Dundee and the Scottish flair is consistently embodied by the academic, yet completely profane Parfleet, who frequently enjoys a pint at his favorite Dundee watering hole, The Green Griffin. 

Could we, at times, be in Space?  Maybe!

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On 2/14/2023 at 2:02 PM, PJ Allen said:


1. Story statement--The morning Pete Mitchell left his six-month-old alone in his car in the alley behind The Broad Ripple Coffee Shop, a carefully conceived chain of events was set in motion. The subsequent investigation suffered, and the result led the authorities to the conclusion that his daughter was probably already in the ground, buried in a shallow grave right next to his first wife. On the cusp of being hauled downtown for booking, Mitchell reluctantly turns to the only person who has stuck around...the psychic who adopted him.   

2. The antagonist goal--Jillian Montgomery has dedicated years of her life toward a single end...to bring Pete Mitchell down.

3. Prospective Titles:

The Hanged Man (card number twelve--part of the Major Arcana of the tarot deck)

Both Sides Now (Possibly with a connection to the Joni Mitchell lyrics)

Feels Like Home

4. Smart Comparables--

E. H. Vick--Mercy Forsaken. Profiler Meredith Connelly begins her hunt for the .40 caliber killer.

Jason Rekulak--Hidden Pictures. Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a babysitting job in an affluent neighborhood.

W.P. Kinsella--Shoeless Joe. An inexplicable voice reaches out to an Iowa farmer and encourages him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. 

A.J. Quinnell-Man on Fire. A former French Foreign Legion officer loses his faith and finds it again as the bodyguard for a young girl.

5. Hook Line with a Core Wound--

In seeking revenge upon the brother-in-law who'd humiliated her, a woman hatches an elaborate plan that begins with the kidnapping of his six-month-old daughter.

6. Protagonist inner conflicts sketch--

Pete Mitchell's unhappy father taught him to be both disappointed and disappointing. He'd grown up fighting to garner his father's approval: solo and ensemble contest, swimming and diving meets, nothing proved good enough, at least not good enough to pull away that blank, dead-eyed, ever-present stare. Mitchell's long row of failures had real impact, and it became him.  Ten years later, his wife had left him, and while trapped in the throes of divorce, his sister-in-law made him an offer that he could refuse. Never, however, in his wildest dreams, did it occur to him that his decision would come back to haunt him.  

Eventually Mitchell's first wife committed suicide. That was new kind of pain, one that echoed through each day reminding him that he was responsible no matter how much he fought to rationalize it, and then someone new appeared. It was a bright funny woman, and Mitchell worked up the courage to ask her out. Eventually they married, and she gave birth to a daughter. All seemed well until that fateful morning on his way to work. He left his daughter in the car for just a few minutes, and once more, his world came tumbling down.

Mitchell's father had been right, he'd managed to grow into the worthless waste that his father had foreseen. 


7. Sketch the setting

The setting moves between Indianapolis, Indiana circa 1995, and the river areas of Louisville, Kentucky. The backdrop for the action runs from the busy urban downtown of the twelfth largest city in the nation, surrounded by the requisite networked interstate highway system, to narrow country roads well on its outskirts leading mostly to farms.  

The true enigma of Indianapolis is its metropolitan feel: its world-class symphony, every major sports team, exquisite fine dining and shopping and the one-of-a-kind Indianapolis Motor Speedway, all completely surrounded by cornfields and roadside produce stands.


Submitted by PJ Allen




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PRIMARY SOURCES: upmarket/Southern noir by Wes Nolen



Befriend the enemy or die trying.


Charlie Goodman (auto-fiction alter ego) is a disgruntled asshole who’s pissed off at the world after becoming a blue-collar casualty of the nation’s push toward green energy. He’s a former coal-fired power plant operator who’s lost everything and is now fighting to save his family with a journalism degree he’s never used. The rookie communications consultant wants to be judged by the words he puts on the page, rather than his ADHD/dyslexic disabilities, Kentucky diction, and farm-boy roots. But when a closed-door conversation challenges his conservative Christian values, Charlie defends his manhood and conceals his personal insecurities by unleashing a searing gauntlet of one-liners and turn-or-burn bigotry in an all-out crusade against the poignant intrusion of the sinful gay enemy.







PRIMARY SOURCES is Dallas Buyers Club meets Hillbilly Elegy in a Southern noir novel, in the tradition of S.A. Cosby and Eli Cranor.




At Eastcor Energy headquarters, where political correctness rules, a hypermasculine homophobe stumbles into a closed-door debate with an AIDS survivor who smirks at the opportunity to evangelize a coal-blooded Southern Baptist.


“I don’t have a wife, Charlie. I have a husband.”

Sam Riley has just outed himself in front of a known homophobe with extreme Bible acumen and hardline Southern Baptist roots. Sam’s been here before, but to make an ally out of this adversary, Sam knows he’ll have to ignore his own triggers, PTSD, and survivor’s guilt as he risks a mental breakdown in the face of certain persecution.

                                                                 i.     Sam’s first internal conflict is having to relive his best friend’s suicide and the circumstances leading up to Harvey Milk’s murder.

                                                               ii.     The second conflict is having to relive his brother’s death, the AIDS epidemic, and a coming-out conversation with his father in which an insecure Sam learns the reason for his existence and the true circumstances that forced his childhood friend to suicide.


Job security and personal convictions trap two sworn enemies inside a sound-proof office where dignity forces them to fight with intellect and resolve until death, truce, or surrender. Each battle over today’s hot-button headlines serves as a time machine that transports each character into their polarized pasts of livestock sale barns, San Francisco airport and Linda Clifford disco parties, power plant dystopia, a backwoods hunting cabin, a secret ride on the gay underground railroad, an Oprah cheese-burger debate in a hardware store, sex in a park, feed mill with a bench seat made of fertilizer bags, ride in a cop car, amputation in a hayfield, snow cones in Alabama, deathbed catheter and piss bag in New Orleans, a scuba diver swimming through the running blades of an industrial water pump, and a cattle beauty salon in Soddy Pine, Kentucky.


LINE OF THORNS is inspired by true events and is based on a single conversation that upended my thirty-year struggle with homophobia and racism in the rural South. I revisited the experience on the page in hopes that it might do the same for others.

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1: Story Statement

Is the Boston Diocese, disgraced as it was by the Clergy Sex Crisis, brazen enough to throw five elderly nuns out of their beloved convent and lifelong home?

2: Antagonist

The seat of power is the monthly bishop’s roundtable. Bill Dunner, the hired Public Relations man, is charged with reviving the Church’s battered reputationan impossible task. The arrogance that ushered in the Sex Crisis is alive and well concerning the nuns. The Church contends to owe them nothing.

Yet it’s not only the nuns that will be losing their convent. A troubled neighborhood is losing their local church as both buildings are being liquidatedslated for high end condos.

The nun’s humility, not to mention their vow of poverty, make them an easy mark. The diocese assumes they will simply leave nicely. But not if Florian Lutz has anything to do with it.

Florian Lutz has had a bone to pick with the Church for as long as the neighborhood can remember. His story is their story. He is something of a local hero as his father was Saint Jude’s most adored hippie priest (1968-1980). When Florian was 11, his father was excommunicated and his mother forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. At 42, Florian is a dispassionate Greenpeace activist and hard-fallen Catholic. Yet few things have motivated the malcontented Florian more than devising a scheme to win back Saint Jude’s from the hands of the bishops. With this goal in mind, Florian and PR man Bill Dunner join forces against their Goliath--the diocese.

3: Breakout Titles
Where the Lines Cross (working title) Not Leaving Nicely
A life Less Ordered
Not Dying of Shame

4. Comparable Novels:

Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette. Hers is a story of displaced nuns and the unlikely half- way house in which they land. Luchette never treats her nuns as a punchline. In this novel she explores the beauty of their intentional community, as well as the shadow of patriarchy. What shines is their utter resilience. My book, like Luchette’s, examines the space between compliance and resistance.

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. This novel has such reverence for the people at the core of American Catholicism. In her work, the people, not the institution, are the crux. The reader feels the weight of an unyielding church, yet her characters prevail. It is all too easy to write a hit piece on the Church. McDermott didn’t do and neither did I.

Underworld by Don DeLillo. (Based on his Novella, The Angel Esmerelda). DeLillo paints a picture of a blighted urban neighborhood, a wasteland of crime and despair. In this forsaken landscape, a priest is doing the work the Church was founded upon. In DeLillo’s book, and my own, the Church provides a sanctuary.

5. Hook line: Florian Lutz, disgruntled Greenpeace activist and lovechild of Saint Jude’s beloved hippie priest takes “acting local” to new heights when the Boston Diocese attempts to evict five elderly nuns from their convent. With blazing tenacity and little to lose, Florian orchestrates a public relations campaign leaving the Church with only one option: to practice the humanism it was founded upon.

6. Secondary Conflicts and Core Wounds: Try as he might, Florian Lutz cannot escape the very thing that made him. He lives like a monk, in denial of lust, beauty, and humans in generalthe very things his Father embraced, though clearly at his peril. But when Chelsea, the new sexpot/Greenpeace manager rolls into town, Florian’s bleak, monastic life takes a hedonistic detour. Yet it’s not until a fatherless 11-year-old boy disappears that Florian’s heart is called upon in earnest. Can this misanthrope rise to the occasion? Be the father that he, Florian, was denied, the Father that the Church made disappear?

7. Setting: The year is 2010, a decade after the Clergy Sex Scandals broke in Boston. The collateral damage has been great, particularly for communities in the crux of the headlines. Saint Jude’s was once the crown jewel of this ho-hum chunk of Boston. Yet now, between the Scandals and the old flock dying off, this working-class neighborhood has taken a turn for the worse. Crime is up, morale is down.

The pot-holed parking lot of Saint Jude’s faces the surrounding neighborhood like an ass backwards Italian Piazza. To the right stands a public housing complex, to the left, the convent. At the far end is a six-family apartment building, home of Florian Lutz. Like many in the

neighborhood, Florian’s building is the color of grime, its once beige aluminum siding detaching like bark from a sickly tree. Above the sidewalks, stacks of lilting front porches sprout satellite dishes; plastic bags billow in the trees. The soundscape offers pigeons, church bells, and car alarms.

2010 is a record winter for snowfall in Boston, so the streets are lined with Space Savers (old folding chairs, bread crates, and the like) to prevent interlopers from usurping parking spaces from those who shoveled them out personally. The convent nuns, like many Bostonians were

famous for surviving their blizzards, yet this year the unrelenting snow felt ungodly in nature. This on top of all the rest.

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1. Story Statement

Jonny Bueno has 72 hours to find out if he’s capable of killing to save his own life.

When he falls deep in debt to violent loan shark Mr. Wink, he has 3 days to collect the debts of fellow deadbeats Sarah Caldwell, Roberta Lacy and Charles Rousseau or kill them. Fail to do either and Wink will act on his animal nature, Johnny suffering the ultimate consequence.


2. The Antagonist

Mr. Wink, a criminal loan shark who chain-smokes through his tracheostomy tube is short on patience and time. Dying of throat cancer, his urgency to bring in debts and make an example of his delinquent debtors is heightened. A student of natural selection and a fan of wildlife documentaries, he doesn’t miss a chance to draw parallels between his life and the great predators of the planet. Joined by his loyal peacock guardian, Bartholomew, he plots to seek revenge for any perceived slight. When he learns of his personal betting concierge, Johnny’s betrayal, he chooses not to kill him. Rather he toys with his prey by offering a futile chance at redemption, teaching him a lesson about his place in the food chain. Childhood memories of being bullied fuel his rage as he tangles with younger, stronger crime bosses of Los Angeles. Weak and compromised, he is forced to defend his status as an apex predator.


3. Breakout Title





4. Comparables

SQUEEZE ME by Carl Hiassen for the comedic crime and quirky elements.

JACKIE BROWN by Elmore Leonard for the comedic tone and sympathetic, disreputable characters. Similarly, the setting isn’t static and makes full use of Los Angeles and the surrounding cities.


5. Hook line (logline)

After he falls deep in debt to a violent loan shark, perennial loser Johnny Bueno has 72 hours to find out if he’s willing to kill to save his own life.


6. Inner conflict and hypothetical scenarios

Inner conflict: Johnny is a budding gambling addict who never seems to win, but still manages to find his way out of trouble without much effort. The product of a loving family, his shame lies in his mess of a hidden life created by impulsiveness and his inability to make good choices.

Hypothetical Scenario: Against his better judgement, Johnny makes a small bet against Mr. Wink, who then offers to up the stakes. Johnny, conflicted, knows he should decline. However, he impulsively accepts the bet and is quickly consumed with dread.

Secondary Hypothetical Scenario: After Johnny is given the deadly ultimatum by Mr. Wink, he visits his grandfather, who is convalescing in a nursing home. Seeking advice and validation, Johnny speaks in generalities, unable to give details on his predicament. Having received comfort, he leaves without any resolution. Transitioning from one world to another, he finds himself awash in shame and without a plan for how to get out of trouble.


Assignment 7: Setting

The story is set in the greater Los Angeles area, spanning the foothills to the southern coastal areas of the county. True to the sprawl of the region, scenes are set across numerous, unique, and diverse locations. The story begins at the horse races in Arcadia and moves to Mr. Wink’s mansion in Pasadena before making its way across the L.A. basin. In the spirit of providing detail, the list below covers many of the scene locations. Some locations are revisited throughout the story.


Home-base settings

Mr. Wink’s Pasadena mansion

Johnny’s apartment (outside only…he’s recently evicted)

Sarah Caldwell’s apartment

Roberta Lacy’s apartment

Charles Rousseau’s Furniture store


Other scene settings

Santa Anita Thoroughbred Race Park

Hollywood Park Casino

Loof’s Lite-a-Line Pinball Bingo gaming establishment

Assisted living facility

Coffee shop around the corner from Sarah’s apartment

Roberta’s church

Roach-coach style food truck near Charles’ apartment

Speakeasy featuring modern performance art

Residential garage

Inglewood Cemetery

Redondo Beach Pier

Los Angeles Airport Hotel

Bonavista Revolving Lounge at the Westin Bonaventure

Johnny’s car

Los Angeles YMCA

Big Box Hardware store

Parking lot church service

Gas station mini mart

The Apple Pan (burger joint)

Philippe’s (The original Home of the French Dip)

Surface street along El Segundo Oil Refinery

Abandoned movie theater

Techno nightclub

Forest Lawn Mortuary

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