Author Life
SF Benson  

A Writer’s Notebook

Today, I thought I’d share the notebook I started when I first had the idea for Regress: The Alliance Chronicles.  


Nearly five years ago, April 12, 2014 to be exact, I started developing an idea based on a dream about a girl and cloning. The premise was simplistic—people were being replaced with clones. I dug out the notebook I kept, and this is what I jotted down: They couldn’t be ‘guessed’ as not being fully functioning. People did not have any idea that society was being replaced. Folks would go on vacation and come back cloned. Where were the subjects going? One girl gets curious when…

My notes continue with details of the mandatory law that sixteen-year-olds register and provide blood samples for the government.  The samples were used to create perfected clones—they’d never get sick and would have genes to allow the clones to exhibit all the right traits.


By September, my notes included a loose outline. How loose? Try this:

Notice all that’s missing in that so-called outline? But hey, that was me flying by the seat of my pants. I was afraid of planning too much. I’m one of those people who gets lost in the details. I’ll research something  to death (I’ll talk about it in a future post). 

Back to the notebook…


Truly almost didn’t get that name. I made a list and kept testing to see what piqued my interest. Check out the list for Zared:


The name Shiloh did get life in Asher’s story. That was his older brother. 

Speaking of names… Regress wasn’t the first title I chose. I was totally clueless at how to decide on a good title. I started with Regenesis. Then it became Inception. I have a few pages of notes just on possibilities:  

Alliance and Chronicles made the cut. At this point, I was stuck on the title Origin: Book One of the Alliance Chronicles.

My notes include asking myself why I wanted to write this story, a bullet-pointed list of the general concept, a revised premise, character sketches, and character arcs. Flipping through the pages, I even found a section on Young Adult Fiction—genre keywords, themes, and writing a coming of age tale.

Eventually, I got Origins written during NaNoWriMo 2014. It took two years, however,  to get that first book written, revised (five times!), and professionally edited.

Here’s a peek at the first chapter of Origins:


“You’re not scared? Not even a little?” Tru asked as her friend Koko, lovingly called Ko, packed another faded green duffel bag.

“What’s to be scared of? It’s not the old military. We don’t have wars anymore. Besides, I’m going into the Officer Training Program. How cushy can you get?”

Ko, a tall, thin Japanese Latina hybrid with blonde hair, was being naive. She was always too trusting. What would she do without Tru to protect her? There might not be any wars but there was plenty of danger. It was the world they now lived in. New Detroit was not a safe place to be. Tru’s father told her that daily. The old regime was gone, and, you couldn’t trust anyone.

Things were supposed to have improved after The Third Estate Revolution. That’s what the scientific leaders told everyone. There would be no more politicians arguing and getting nothing done. No more political grandstanding. No more unemployment. Everyone would be guaranteed a job. The New Regime promised an end to poverty, lawlessness and even disease. It was a wonderful platform. It put an end to the insufferable Street Wars. Things looked different, but, they didn’t feel any different. Social injustice was definitely the only law of the land.

Ko tossed a rolled sock at Tru. “Are you ready for your Inoculation Day?”

She was talking about the government mandated vaccines that every seventeen year old had to endure. Well, not everyone. Ko had been excused. She took the intelligence tests at their Learning Center. Ko passed everyone. She showed promise to The New Regime. Those who had aptitudes for any area of math or science were considered relevant by the New Regime. Relevant meant useful.

Tru was a creative type with a genetic defect. Useless. Her DNA indicated illness. Ever since The Ebola Pandemic the government was overly cautious. Could you blame them though? Millions of people died worldwide. Hundreds of thousands clung to life with the risk of infecting others. Families were torn apart. People could be outcast even if they were suspected of being sick. Tru lost plenty of friends to the virus. Class sizes grew smaller at the Learning Center because of death and fear. Fortunately her family remained well. A vaccine was finally created and the crisis was soon over. In the former United States, now known as The Republic, the vaccine became mandatory. But, nowhere else in the world was it still being done. Why was The Republic still doing it? It didn’t matter why. What if it were like the vaccines years ago that made people sick or altered their brain chemistries? Tru didn’t want it.

“How can I be ready for something that’s not needed or even dangerous?” Tru couldn’t believe Koasked her again. They had been arguing about this, off and on, for the past year.

“Lower your voice!” Ko looked around her small, dimly lit room. Although the girls were alone, Ko didn’t want to risk anything. One never knew whomight be listening. She had a new security clearance and didn’t want to lose it. “How many times do I have to warn you? Good, loyal citizens do what they are told. You do not question the government. It’s for everyone’s good.”

“You just don’t get it Ko! How can you believe it’s good for every one? Nowhere else are people being forced to get inoculated! But, I guess it’s cool since you’re not having your civil rights violated! “

“You keep talking like that and you won’t have any rights!” Ko slammed a dresser drawer to emphasize her point.

Tru didn’t want to fight with Ko. It was their last day together. Ko was to enter The Riza Academy tomorrow. Although she didn’t agree with her friend’s choice, she was proud of her. In a world where you are categorized by your worth to society, becoming Rizawas a big deal. Some might say that Tru was jealous of her childhood friend. Well, maybe, a little. After all, she was going to spend four years in a nice, clean environment learning to be an officer. Ko was going to get a great education and choose what her life would be. Tru would not be a part of any of that.

“I’m sorry Ko. No more fighting. So, when can I visit you?”

“After the first 72 hours. They want us to totally acclimate to our new surroundings. Wait till you see it Tru! Everything is so shiny and new! And, there’s so much tech! No more dingy dark rooms! No more needing to hot wire my room! Wait! I think I can pull up a picture on my computer.”

You couldn’t blame Ko for her excitement. Life was very hard all over the city. There were sectors where people barely had a decent place to live. Ko’s family was one of the more fortunate ones. They lived in the New Center sector. Their brick home had intact walls and floors. The furniture was ancient, but comfortable. Tru thought it dated back to 1980, way before she was even born. It was not a smart home but Ko’s dad was a former IT person. He knew what to do to get their house on the grid. Ko’s computer, when it worked, was at least a decade old. Yes, it would be nice to wake up to modern conveniences. Okay, so Tru was full on jealous. When would she get to enjoy life?

Tru’s family lived in the New Jefferson sector. That area of New Detroit was not slated for any renewal program. Homes were dilapidated or burnt out relics. Many should have been condemned. There were no neighborhoods. No yards. No kids playing. No dogs or cats walking the streets. The only birds that entered the sector were the large, ghastly looking black birds. They roamed the streets like winged gang members. It was all about survival in their sector.

They lived off the grid as much as possible in a slightly dilapidated apartment building. A smartphone was the only modern convenience for any of them. Tru always had to stay at the Learning Center after classes to do homework. Or, she went to Ko’s. When Tru complained, her parents told her it was better not to be so tied to technology. They just didn’t understand. Why have all this wonderful mechanization and not be able to use it? It made it hard for Tru to do anything school related or even contact her friends. Might as well send up smoke signals. Tru would miss her friend. Hanging out at Ko’s made life easier.

Ko sensed Tru’s mood. “Hey, you can always visit my parents. Mami would love it. You’re like one of the family. You know that right?”

“Yeah.” Tru didn’t want to upset Ko. Her parents were not going to let her return after Ko entered Riza. Her father was insisting that Tru started preparing for her own future. Being a Creative only doomed her to a miserable existence. It was best she embraced her destiny. There was the possibility of a manufacturing job for her. Tru’s brother, Cris, was going to arrange it with his boss. Her mother had other ideas for her only daughter. She wanted Tru to marry up. It would be difficult without the right connections, but, it could be done. Tru’s mom just wanted her to live in a better sector. Tru just wanted to be free. Whatever that meant.

“Ko, ¿Tru pasaran la noche? Ya es tarde.” Ko’s mom was calling from the kitchen. Tru loved that she spoke mostly Spanish at home. Although Tru was a Spanish hybrid herself, only English was spoken in her house.

Tru usually stayed overnight if it were getting near curfew. She quickly shook her head. Tru had promised her parents that she’d be home tonight.

“No Mami.” Ko zipped her duffel bag and held out her arms. The girls had a quick embrace. “You’ll see. It will all be okay Tru.”

“Yeah, you’re right. The first free day you get I’ll be there.”

“You should hurry. You don’t want to be out past curfew.”

Tru looked past the grayish thin curtain and saw it was getting dark. Hopefully she hadn’t missed the last train. She’d never missed curfew before. She hadonly heard stories about the Drone Police. She didn’t want to become a tale.

“Friends forever?” Tru held out her pinky.

Ko smiled and wrapped her pinky around Tru’s digit. “Friends forever ever!”

Tru couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be the last time they would be able to see each other. She looked back at the plain tan brick house and headed toward the train.


If you read Regress, did you notice the difference?  

That’s it for today. Have a good one. Keep reading! 

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