The government uses fear to control you. Show no fear, and they will destroy you. Still raw from the death of his parents, eighteen-year-old Tommy Bailey isn't sure if he wants to live--until he meets complex and intriguing Careen. He comes to her aid during a terrorist gas-strike, sharing his last dose of the government-mandated antidote that, they've been told, is key to their survival. Without enough antidote, the teens expect to die. Instead, they discover the terrorist attack wasn't real, and the antidote was never meant to protect them--it was meant to dull their thoughts and make them easy to control. As he and Careen search for the truth, Tommy learns that his parents were operatives in an underground resistance group that's fighting to overthrow the government. The Resistance expects him to continue his parents' crusade. The government's hunting him down. Which side will get to him first?
Tommy and Careen's relationship is complicated. I mean, who has time for love when you're trying to start a revolution? This week, heading into Valentine's Day, I pulled the scene in which Tommy sees Careen for the first time. He's still recovering from injuries suffered in the car crash that killed his parents. His confidence is at an all-time low. What will she see when she looks at him?
This week's polar vortex kept people apart. Schools were closed, events postponed, and flights canceled all over the country. In Counteract, government policies designed to protect the people are part of the reason Tommy feels isolated, and the death of his parents left him lonely and bewildered by the rapid changes in his life. When he meets Careen, one of the first things he recognizes in her is her loneliness.
When I wrote the Resistance Series books, it was easy for me to visualize the story as it unfolded. Since I could see it as a television show, I decided to adapt the books into a television series. It's a whole new, scary world, but the pilot episode has placed in the semi-finals and finals in several screenwriting competitions. Stay tuned--because someday, we might be binge-watching Tommy and Careen as they face off against the OCSD!
Are we really less safe than we were when I started writing Counteract back in 2010? If you watch the news and read posts on social media, you are probably convinced that the world is a dangerous, hostile place. If you do a little research, there are many articles that assert we're safer overall than we ever were, and that it's a great time to be a kid in America. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/14/theres-never-been-a-safer-time-to-be-a-kid-in-america/?noredirect=on
I think our characters want meaty roles. They're much more interesting when they're flawed, even if it makes them suffer on their way to growth, enlightenment, and redemption. Careen told me herself (yes, I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested) that she needed the opportunity to be a jerk and hurt people so she would learn from the consequences of her bad behavior. At this point in the story, she doesn't believe she's the right person to fill the void in Tommy's life.
This week, a tornado ripped through the town where my daughter grew up. We no longer live there, but the devastation wrought by a 15-minute bout with an F-1 tornado was considerable. One of my FB friends wrote that she was walking to the high school, where she teaches, and found herself in the midst of the maelstrom--lighting flashing, trees crashing to the ground all around her. Only later did she realize she had walked through a tornado to get to work. There was no siren. No warning on television. The fear came later, when people woke up and surveyed the devastation. In Counteract, the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense feeds off the population's fear. Without advance warnings, people would cease to worry. So the OCSD is always upping the ante...
Wes Carraway is a member of the Quadrant Marshals, the quasi-military police force that keeps a close watch on everyone, ever-alert and ready to bust members of the Resistance, who have been branded as terrorists because they threaten the status quo favored by the totalitarian government. But Wes is different. He's a double agent, and a member of the Resistance, gathering intelligence in the hopes of exposing the government's corruption.
Tommy's living under the constant threat of a chemical weapons attack, and doesn't realize he's actually in the grip of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense's hallucinatory "antidote." He's never been taught to question authority--and it's a stretch for him to sneak in a morning run before taking his daily dose of the antidote. Surely whatever side effects he's experiencing are still better than falling victim to the terrorists? Dystopian fiction seeks to explore what humans will endure before they rebel against external forces that seek to control them. What will it take for Tommy to assert himself?
Tommy Bailey's world changed forever the night his parents were killed in a car accident. He's reeling from the loss of his family and trying to cope with his new physical limitations. He has no idea there's a connection between that accident and the terrorist attack that threatens him now. He's being watched. And things are only going to get worse. Tommy is lonely--but he's never alone.
When I wrote Counteract, I enjoyed creating a dystopian story with action, adventure, and characters you want to root for. But there's also a message of caution. Tommy and Careen unquestioningly follow instructions and take the antidote that's supposed to protect them against the airborne poison--but the OCSD has conveniently neglected to mention some disturbing side effects. In this scene, Tommy has begun to realize that his malaise is related to the antidote, and he starts to rebel--just a little. But the pull of the antidote is strong. What will it take for him to risk his safety and free himself from its grasp?
My villain in the Resistance Series is fear. The people's reaction to fear and terrorism has spiraled out of control, and the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has taken advantage of that desperation to clamp down on the people it claims to be protecting. All this seemed pretty far-fetched when I started writing Counteract in 2010. When I explained the Essential Services Department with another writer friend, she said, "Wonderful! No more schlepping to the grocery." She changed her mind after I explained that ES doesn't let people choose what they want to eat. An unexpected consequence of relinquishing control. I didn't realize just how much my made-up scenario would come to resemble the world we live in...
How do you choose the catalyst that will bring your protagonists together? A good YA thriller should have an element of romance, right? In Counteract, Careen is a strong, independent heroine--well, at least she was, until the world unraveled and she realized everything she'd come to believe was a lie. Add the looming threat of forced conscription into some sort of army--she and Tommy aren't exactly sure how the government plans to make use of the people forced to participate, but anyone who fails to report for training can be jailed. They've just recently become a team--working together to figure out why everyone is being forced to take CSD, which makes people compliant and causes amnesia. Now they're trapped. There's no escape. And unlike most of the people around them, they've stopped taking CSD. This is not the time to deny their mutual attraction, or fail to seek the comfort of a human connection in the only way they have left.
Careen and Tommy were law-abiding citizens who put their trust in the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense's ability to protect them against the biological warfare that threatens the country. This scene shatters that trust; they realize they're quite on their own, and they've got no idea how to protect themselves. It was my hope that readers would put themselves in Tommy and Careen's shoes, and think about who they trust--and how much control they might have relinquished over their own lives.
The characters in Counteract are mandated to take the Counteractive System of Defense drug (CSD), which is supposed to protect them from an imminent chemical weapons attack. Trouble is, the side effects include hallucinations. How do you know what's real--and who to trust--if you can't believe what your senses tell you? Careen is an extremely intelligent young woman who turns into a scatterbrain when she takes CSD, but her natural defenses kick in when she perceives she's in danger from more than the toxins in the air.
I made the decision to write the Resistance Series books in multiple point of view because I had a collaborator early in the project. We'd each written scenes for our characters, and when I began writing alone, I didn't want to take a voice away from any of the characters. Writing in multiple POV gives a film-like feel to the book. It also allows the reader to know things Tommy and Careen don't. In this excerpt, we meet Dr. Trina Jacobs, a new hire at the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, charged with developing a drug that will counteract the effects of the toxins used in chemical weapons.
This excerpt is the final version of the first scene written on the project, in response to the prompt about everyone being on LSD. Tommy Bailey was seriously injured in the auto accident that killed his parents, and he's just beginning to get his life back together when the threat of a chemical weapons attack against the US sends him reeling again. Writing a scene in which your character hallucinates was a great creative exercise. A lot of the references might be lost on someone who didn't know the writer, but the finished scene portrays a person whose fears of pain, death and decay overwhelm him.
Counteract evolved from a writing prompt. I was mentoring a friend of my daughter's, editing his short stories and working on his writing. We were between projects, and he suggested we free write to a prompt. His suggestion? "What if everyone were on a mind-altering drug and all thoughts were communal?" It was certainly thought-provoking, and we each wrote a scene and eagerly traded them. In his, Chase created the character Tommy. We had no idea where the project was going at the time, but writing hallucination scenes for these new characters was fun and exciting. After we had three characters and about six scenes, we began to dream about how and why our characters had ended up in this situation.
I put considerable thought into the "grown-up stuff" I included in Counteract, which is categorized YA. If it were a film I'd rate it a mild PG-13 for romance, violence, and language. I wanted to use the situation in this excerpt, not to glorify the fact that many college students have, at one time or another, experienced waking up and not knowing exactly where they are, but to allude to what Careen is giving up by blindly following the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense's edict to take the antidote. It's supposed to protect her from a chemical weapons attack, but it's got some side effects that have been, shall we say, downplayed by the OCSD...
This is the opening chapter of Counteract. Here you'll meet Careen, Tommy, and Wes--three young people who have very different reactions to the news of an imminent terrorist attack against the United States.
Tommy and Careen’s eyes are opened to the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense’s abuses of power. After accidentally discovering that the miracle antidote that’s supposed to protect them is actually meant to control them, they take their knowledge public and join the fight to undermine the OCSD’s next bid for total control of the population. Being a part of the Resistance brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Tommy and Careen’s differing viewpoints threaten to drive a wedge between them, and their budding relationship is tested. Not everyone working for change proves trustworthy, and plans to spark a revolution go awry with consequences far beyond anything they bargained for.
The characters in my series have been duped by the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense's claims that its policies and restrictions are meant to keep people safe. In reality, the agency seeks only to gain power. Sound familiar? Yeah. I thought I was writing fiction, but... Anyway, in Resist, the second book in the series, the characters have become more proactive. They realize they're up against a big, powerful foe--but that doesn't mean they have to surrender. Eduardo, who was the mail carrier in Tommy's neighborhood when the series began, has shed his timidity and fear, and puts himself on the line to help Tommy and Careen escape from the OCSD after their attempt to infiltrate the agency's headquarters and liberate some political prisoners.
At the midway point of Resist: Book Two of the Resistance Series, Careen's feeling like she's bitten off more than she can chew. She's the face of the Resistance's counterattack against the oppressive Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, and the Resistance has hacked into the government-run television station to broadcast her videos that champion freedom, rather than acquiescence to the OCSD. She's frustrated with Tommy's jealousy. After all, she joined the Resistance because of him. She didn't ask for the attention. She didn't ask for attention from Wes Carraway, either, but every time she turns around, he's there. She can't seem to find common ground with Tommy, and she can't seem to get rid of Wes. What's a girl to do?
Jaycee Carraway is the youngest member of the cast of characters in The Resistance Series. She's a bit of a practical joker and loves attention. She had just one scene in Counteract, but several of my readers commented on how much they liked "the little waitress." I didn't even know her name when I wrote the first draft of Counteract, but later, when it was in revision, I heard another one of the characters call her Jaycee. (Yeah, that happens in my head--more than you'd think.) Anyway, in this excerpt from Resist, Jaycee's dialogue flowed as she directed my hands on the keyboard. She wanted a bigger part in the story, and she knew just how to make it happen. She's become a major character in Ignite, and she's loving it. So am I.
I added this section of Chapter 10 after I'd finished the second draft of Resist. I remember sitting on the front porch (my favorite place to write) and feeling like a spectator as Tommy's first impressions of the unfamiliar mountain landscape unfolded on the page in front of me. Tommy's never been far from his home quadrant in what used to be central Ohio, because of the Travel Restrictions. Now he, Careen, and his folks are on the run, in search of the Resistance's remote headquarters. Even as Tommy marvels at the massive rock formations, he recognizes that the terrain can change at a moment's notice. Will he and his allies be able to shake loose the oppressive regime from its seemingly impregnable position?
Resist has only been out a few weeks, and even though I was pleased with how the story had carried forward from Counteract, it's reaffirming to get good feedback from a reader. Here's one of the first reviews posted on Amazon: "Author Tracy Lawson hits it out of the park in this second book of her gripping dystopian series. Fast-paced and impossible to put down! Who says this is only for young adults? I absolutely loved it, and my 17-year old daughter did as well! This book is rich in detail and filled with great characters. Tommy and Careen are as brave and bold as they come. Determined to continue their quest to overthrow a corrupt government, they are on the run to reach their Resistance headquarters. Lives and relationships and everything else imaginable are put to the test here. Put this on your must-read list! I can't wait for the next book. Tracy Lawson is a budding superstar author!"
Eduardo, the timid mailman of Counteract, was so frightened of the possible terrorist attack that he took his daily dose of the preventive antidote with a Kahlua chaser. His cowardice touched off the series of events that led Tommy and Careen to discover the real purpose of the antidote. When he realizes he's been played for a fool, he decides to fight for change and justice, and he undergoes a very satisfying evolution. Early in Resist, Eduardo's making up for his past mistakes. He's rescued Tommy and Careen from the botched mission at the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense headquarters, and now they're dodging roadblocks and the quadrant marshals in an attempt to complete their task without the help of the other members of the Resistance. They know the OCSD has used the antidote to keep the people in its iron grip--but that's all about to change...
It's been harder than I thought for Resist, the second book in The Resistance Series, to take hold and achieve the sales numbers I'd hoped for in the first two months. I wonder if every second book in a series needs time to find its audience? It really does help to read Counteract before Resist, as Resist picks up the action right where Counteract left off. Tommy and Careen took part in a Resistance raid on the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, in attempt to free other members of the Resistance being held captive there. Things didn't exactly go as planned, and now Careen's accused of a murder she didn't commit. She and Tommy are dodging roadblocks and the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the safety of the Resistance's remote mountain headquarters...
Tommy and Careen have been vilified in the media for the Resistance's failed attempt to take down the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense. Both teens struggle to survive the circumstances that thrust them into the national spotlight, and this time, they don't have each other to lean on. They're on opposite sides. Even though both the OCSD and the Resistance believe Careen's convincing defection, Tommy refuses to believe her loyalties have shifted. How can she be in favor of the OCSD's latest plan to monitor all minors with the Cerberean Link, a device that will track their every move?
Ignite is a Solo Medalist in the YA Mystery/Thriller category of the 2018 New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing. I'm honored that Ignite has been so well-received. It also won Bronze in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards. What makes Ignite a compelling story? I think it's the villain. Tommy and Careen are great protagonists, and I love them like they're my real kids, but it's great to have a bad guy (or gal) that you love to hate! In the Resistance Series books, that villain is Madalyn Davies, the director of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense.
We often look back on an event and wonder how in the world we ever let things get so out of hand. In Ignite, the president begins to realize he's like the proverbial frog in the pot--put him in cold water, and increase the heat so gradually that he won't realize he's in trouble--until he's nearly cooked. Trusting the wrong person with power has led the entire country into a dire situation.
Tommy may have been clueless about his parents' involvement in the Resistance, but he's not stupid. Now he's stuck in a safe house with Atari, a Resistance operative who may have an inflated sense of his own worth. Atari's constant jibes and insinuations that Tommy's nothing but a semi-literate jock really get under Tommy's skin. How long before he punches Atari's lights out? On the other hand, is there anything Tommy can learn from him?
This is one of my favorite chapters in Ignite, and it didn't exist until after the second draft was done. My husband said I needed something bigger, the action was dragging. So I threw most of the cast into a situation that ramps up the tension and erupts into a physical fight. There are a lot of layers to this scene (especially when you read the whole book) because every person involved is hiding a secret of some sort. The Resistance has suffered some losses and setbacks, and everyone's temper is on a hair trigger. Is it any wonder three men who are all trying to engineer a revolution end up brawling in the diner?
Each subsequent book in the Resistance Series picks up minutes after the one before left off. This gives the reader the sense of staying in the thick of the action. The books are told in multiple perspective, and the opening scene in Ignite, the third book in the series, is a short recap of a scene from Resist, except shown from a different character's point of view.
Working Title: Answering Liberty's Call: Anna Asbury Stone's Daring Journey to Valley Forge
This Book Is In Development
Set against the familiar backdrop of the winter of 1777-8 at Valley Forge, Answering Liberty's Call is based on the true story of Anna Asbury Stone, who cast off societal norms and risked her own safety to aid both her family and the American Revolutionary cause.
The main story in Answering Liberty's Call takes place in January 1778. This is the third winter Anna Stone's husband has been away from home serving in the Continental forces. But in order for the reader to get to know the couple, I needed to start the story sooner. Here's a scene set ten years before Anna makes her daring journey.
This is a first look at my new WIP! If you like historical fiction, you're going to want to stick around and follow this story as it unfolds. Anna Asbury Stone was my 6x great grandmother, and I've enjoyed creating a feisty, independent character to honor her.
Teen freedom fighters put a plan in motion to overthrow a totalitarian government and oust its wolfish leader. Just when everything seems leveraged in their favor, treachery, lies, and long-held secrets could derail it all.
Tommy and Careen are holed up in one of the Resistance's safe houses as the days tick down to their final confrontation with the OCSD. In their tightly controlled society, they've come to downplay holidays--part of the cultural changes that subjugate the people. But Tommy remembers what it's like to feel loved and nurtured, and he's doing his best to help Careen, who has been subjected to re-educated by the OCSD, find herself again.
In Revolt, Tommy and Careen know it's just a matter of time before the government activates the tracking devices that will monitor all under-eighteens, 24/7. Even until that happens, they can't leave the Resistance safe house without risking being picked up by the Quadrant Marshals, as all the security cameras have facial recognition capability. Still, they long for the anonymity of their lives before joining the Resistance. The public's demand for increased security has led to decreased privacy for all.
Fake news, propaganda, gaslighting, outright lies--people are frustrated with how we receive and disseminate information. But what if there was no way to verify what was true and what was false? What if there was only one source of information that was closely controlled by the powers-that-be?
It's hard to express how much I loved getting to know Jaycee Carraway, the daughter of Resistance leader Mitch Carraway. She's been raised off the grid by a single dad, and she's got savvy and survival skills that surpass Tommy and Careen's. Jaycee doesn't remember her mother at all. But before the story in Revolt ends, she learns long-buried secrets that drastically alter her future.
Careen, who has been held by the OCSD, questioned, and tortured for information about the Resistance, wants more than anything to feel like the person she used to be before she joined the fight for freedom. She and Tommy have been a team ever since they discovered the OCSD's safety and security programs are designed to control the people rather than help keep them safe from terrorism, and she wants to trust him. She even kinda loves him. But she's unable to let her guard down around him because, while she was held hostage, she was told over and over that Tommy's the one who's out to kill her. Now he's the one who's keeping her locked away with Atari, a guy neither of them trust. For her safety, he says. In the Resistance Series books, I took a look at how the fake news, propaganda, and outright lies told by those we're supposed to trust skew our perception of reality.
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