Monday, November 19, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Monson Rev 2

YA Speculative Fantasy
The Promethean Effect


Sixteen-year-old Kade Maddox lives a privileged yet secluded lifestyle in the Appalachian Mountains thanks to his parents’ employer, AIB Laboratories. Though he isn’t allowed to touch anybody, Kade is skilled at hand-to-hand combat, weapons training, and foreign languages. However, none of these proficiencies prevents his mother’s murder at the hands of the Collective, a rogue government organization that has remained in the shadows until now.

Despite the fact Kade knows little of the outside world, he understands the only way to protect his two younger siblings is to leave home. Injured and heartbroken, the teen reaches out to his estranged older brother for help. Together, they hitchhike to a rural town in southeast Georgia.

At first, Wisteria seems like the perfect place to hide. However, social strain at Kade’s new school brings unwanted attention. The experimental serum his mother injected him with before she died isn’t helping either. Using the skills provided by AIB, Kade works to control his flourishing power while trying to figure out who he can trust, including his own family. If he can manage these feats, he may stand a chance against the Collective. If not, Kade and his siblings will become the agency’s latest victims.


Steel gears grind overhead along thin aluminum girders. The weighted anodized-pistol rests cradled between my palms. As I wait for the targets to line up, two questions rotate on heavy cycle: Why did my brother have to die? And, will Ms. Reddington remember I prefer chocolate over spice cake this year?

Ten computerized birds drop from the ceiling. The sensors on their tails flash red, blue, and green. Chromatic lights reflect off of the bullet-proof glass to my left and the painted-gray cinder block wall to my right.  It doesn’t matter how quick the fake birds move or in which direction, blue is always first. I adjust my stance and squeeze the trigger. One by one, the stiff automated fowl return to the rafters. According to my father, the electronic target system is the latest in gaming technology. I wouldn’t know. My siblings and I aren’t allowed to leave the compound.

The panel embedded into the wall beeps before Mother’s voice crackles through the intercom speaker. “Kade, come upstairs. Your father and I wish to speak with you.”

My gaze flicks to the red START button. Two-tenths of a second and I’ll have beaten the high score. Perhaps I can squeeze in one more–


I return the pistol to the charging dock. Game over.

After tucking in my shirt and fastening the buttons on my suit jacket, I sprint across the expansive atrium to the staircase leading to the main floor of the house. Spotless, translucent gray glass surrounds me from all sides. As I skid past the other training rooms and lap pools, the soles of my dress shoes squeal along glossy anti-static tiles. Like the sophisticated-gaming console, the three-story, fully-staffed house in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains is supposedly hi-tech. Again, I wouldn’t know. My brother’s unexpected death changed a lot of rules.

At the top of the stairs, the aroma of overly-peppered roast beef from the kitchen collides with the astringent, recycled air from the basement below. However, it isn’t the clash of smells that almost knocks me off my feet. It’s the ferocity in Mother’s voice as she yells at Father. After I compose myself, I lean closer to the door and listen.

“You promised this time would be different,” she exclaims.

“He has been here two years longer than–”

“Don’t say his name.”

Father sighs. “Dang it, Grace. You knew this day was coming.”

“Of course, I knew, August. I’ve always known.” Her tone softens. “But I want Kade to join us when he is ready. Not when they say he’s ready.”

I steal a peek around the corner before taking the last final step onto the main floor. Under the three-tier chandelier, in the foyer, both of my parents face off. Mother, dressed in her usual travel attire of black slacks and sweater, stands with her hands on her hips, her golden hair tied in a loose bun on the back of her head. A dazzling display of rainbows reflects off the crystals above them onto the white walls and marble floor. Father rolls his shirt sleeves to his elbows, his work pants wrinkled. He watches her as she moves to the other side of the round, mahogany-red table. When she closes the gap between them, he shifts his favorite brown journal and electronic pad behind his back.  

“Be their father for once,” she snaps.

Father’s face reddens. “I am not doing this now.”

He smacks his hand down on the table. Skinny orange petals rain down from the bouquet of chrysanthemums onto the polished surface. Mother sweeps the petals in her hand and deposits them in a small crystal bowl. Like me, the table and flowers don’t seem to belong in this icy world of crystal and snow-white furniture.

With a long, deep breath, I step into the foyer. The basement door closes behind me with a soft metallic click. “Sorry to make you wait but I had to go back down and grab my jacket.” Honestly, I despise liars but sometimes telling my parents the truth can be dangerous.

Mother reaches out to touch me, then stops. She drops her hand back to her side. “You’ve wrinkled your dinner suit.”

I run my hands over the thick black wool of my dinner jacket. Static cracks under my fingertips. Above our heads, the bulbs flicker. “I wanted to get a few more rounds in before dinner.”

Father places his free hand on Mother’s shoulder. The twins say I look like him but I don’t see it. We have the same brown hair and eyes, but while his complexion is dull and pallid from sitting under fluorescents all day, I have a ‘kissed by the skin glow’ from running outdoors every morning. “How many hours have you clocked in this week?” he asks.

“Sixteen.” The same as the age I turned today.

“Outstanding,” he says with a smile. However, his posture doesn’t match the expression. His shoulders are too rigid, his back too stiff.  “We just wanted to let you know that we cannot stay for dinner.”

“It’s important,” Mother adds, “or we wouldn’t leave.”

I bite the inside of my cheek. But, what about my birthday?

On the other side of the foyer, Father’s office door opens. Sofiya Snyderman, my parents’ forty-something colleague at AIB– the Advanced Institute of Biotechnology– steps out. The tap-tap-tap of her stiletto heels sends a chill up my back. I glance up at the top of the staircase. Thankfully, no one is there.

“Sofiya,” Father chokes out. “I thought you were in D.C.”

“Not tonight,” she purrs. “I came to oversee…Kade, my little soldat.” Soldier. Her German, Russian, and possibly Ukrainian accents blend together in a sticky dialect-pudding. Sofiya adjusts her short, asymmetrical wig. A patch of black lace peeks from under her lab coat as she treads towards us. Every week, the doctor changes the design of her pretend hair, but the color is always the same: jet-black. I take a tentative step back.

Father clears his throat. “There is an issue at the lab which needs to be rectified immediately. Would you care to join us?”

Sofiya purses her thin lips. “Of course,” she purrs once again. After my father nods, the psychiatrist shifts her concern to the person closest to me. “Grace. Where is Bishop?”

Movement at the top of the main staircase catches my interest. I shake my head in warning for my two younger siblings to stay upstairs. Behind Snyderman’s red cat glasses, her eyelids narrow. Even though I know this is going to earn me an hour-long session with the doctor tomorrow, I mumble, “Then why did I even bother getting dressed for dinner, if neither of you are going to stay for it?”

Like Snyderman, Father’s glare constricts behind rimless eyewear. “Kade Maddox. Recite the three rules.”

“Rule number one,” I say to the tiny white scuff on the tip of my left dress shoe, “obey authority. Rule two, never ask questions. Rule three…”

“We should go.” Mother’s eyes flick from Father to the chandelier. Though no one is near the light switch, the brightness has doubled. She steps away from me. “Kade, Ms. Reddington made your favorite dinner and there is cake in the sitting room. Leave everything, she will clean up in the morning. Come, August. Everyone is waiting for us.”


  1. You say in your pitch “Though” in one sentence and in the next “However”. This reads kinda funny and takes. I also think that this pitch is a good start, but it could be tightened up. The stakes need to be a little more clear, and there’s a lot of info that doesn’t feel immediately necessary that we could use the words for something else. You have 3 fairly large paragraphs and they feel really bulky. I think they could easily be tightened up and thinned down to make room for more.

    I really likes the changes you made for the dialogue between Kade’s mother and father. So much smoother now, and it makes me read the dialogue a little faster, which works well for the fact that they are having a heated argument. The back and forth feels a little more snappy and that’s nice.

    “Then why did I even bother getting dressed for dinner, if neither of you are going to stay for it?” — Yes! Loved this. You’re getting closer to that teenage voice that we’re looking for while still holding onto their proper, slightly silted way of speaking.

    I think your pages have improved so much since your first submission and it’s been a pleasure seeing them improve. I really hope you continue working on this novel and find a place for it soon!

  2. I think your pages are in an excellent spot right now. Super intriguing, a great balance of vagueness to keep me wanting to find out more, but I’m able to follow the story.

    Your pitch story is also intriguing. There is one line that left me feeling a bit confused. “Though he isn’t allowed to touch anybody” is thrown in there and then not mentioned at all for the rest of the pitch. Do you need it in the pitch? Is it part of the
    reason he has issues at the new school?

    Thanks for all of your comments the last few weeks, they have been very helpful and I’ve seen such an improvement in my own work because of them. Good luck with this book! Hope to see it on a shelf soon.

  3. Your pages have improved so much over these weeks! I don't have much left to comment on, except there's something a little distant about the initial description of the ferocity of his mother's voice knocking him back. I think it's because the knocking back is described first, before the actual dialogue begins. The order in which things occur (I'd assume) is Kade approaches the door, hears the first line of dialogue, then staggers back, then composes himself, then approaches again, but that's not quite how it plays out (the first line of dialogue that knocks him back is never described).

    The pitch helped clarify a lot for me, including the genre of this ms! Overall, I think it gets the stakes across, but a few small points:
    "Though he isn’t allowed to touch anybody"--this feels odd to be included because I can't tell if it's alluding to something greater. Does he have some power that makes it dangerous for him to touch people? I think you either should expand on this, or drop it, because it raises more questions than it answers.

    "Injured and heartbroken" -- does injured mean physically injured? Did he try to save his mother? Again, while I understand heartbroken in the context, injured sort of raises more questions for me than it answers.

    I think in the last paragraph, it might help to include why the Collective is after Kade now? They killed his mother in paragraph one, and then weren't mentioned again until the end, so it's not entirely clear 1) why they're after Kade now and 2) how or why they tracked him down.

    Best of luck, Christine!

  4. I like your pitch! The stakes are high and I get the feeling that there will be a lot of action in this story and plenty of twists and turns. I was unclear about why leaving was the only way to protect the two younger siblings, but I'm not sure it's important enough to include in the pitch.

    Your writing is clear and polished. It flows much more smoothly than the first version we read. Kade's lack of emotion is going to be a challenge. At some point I think you're really going to have to shine a light on it, but perhaps that doesn't have to be in the first five pages. Wishing you good things with this one!

  5. Your pitch really drew me in and makes me want to read more. Be careful that you're not mirroring A Series of Unfortunate Events. All in all is sounds exciting, the sort of thing your readers will enjoy.

    Your first five pages turned out great. I look forward to reading this in book form one day.

  6. Thank you all so much for your comments. It has been a pleasure working with each and every one of you. I have truly loved watching everyone’s writing grow. And, my hope is that one day I am able to walk into a bookstore and purchase your books.

    Lana: Don’t worry. Kade’s emotions are released in the second chapter which sparks serious implications. There is a reason they were suppressed. Yes, the book has lots of action!

    Brian: Thank you for your input and taking the time to read over my pages each week. I have greatly appreciated all of your advice.

    About my pitch:
    I agree with all of your points. I had a hard time cutting 100 words from my query, and in the end, this pitch appears muddled and confusing. In the full query, each of your questions/ concerns are answered and the paragraphs are less bulky. (I wish I could have submitted it instead. I would have loved to have read your opinions.)

    Again, thank you and I wish you all the best!!! 😊


  7. Hi Christine,

    Great pitch! Suzie has been traveling for the holiday. I'm posting her comments below:

    Hi Christine,

    You've done such a great job here. So glad I got the chance to read your pages. Below are all my comments:


    There’s not enough characterization for Kade to make me want to follow his story. All you tell us about him in the beginning is that he’s privileged and secluded. What are his hopes and dreams before everything goes wrong? Who is he?

    Then there’s the fact that you mention he’s not allowed to touch anyone, but never mention why. It feels like it should be an important detail, but it’s presented too casually. It’s also unclear why he thinks he needs to leave home or what he’s hiding from or how any of this relates to his mother’s murder. In the end, I don’t know enough about what’s happening to want to read more. You’ll definitely want to try to rework what details you’re presenting.


    Ultimately I don’t feel as sucked in by the pages as I want to. Part of it’s details—sometimes when the details feel contradictory or unexpected it will pull the reader out of the story. Very early on when Kade thinks about the two questions in his mind—his brother dying and Ms. Reddington and cake—these things seem so disconnected, and one feels very serious and the other feels very frivolous. It immediately pulls me out of the story.

    Also, description—there’s too much focusing on physical descriptions. These should be limited to what’s absolutely essential. For instance do we need to know that he tucks in his shirt or fastens the buttons on his suit jacket? Do we need do know all the details about the compound? I would much rather know more about Kade himself—his inner thoughts and feelings. He’s summoned by his mother and he can never leave the compound—how does all that make him feel? The compound and his attire can be very easily and very quickly mentioned or implied.

    I also wonder if this is the right opening scene for you. It actually largely feels like it’s not about Kade at all. Once he sees his parents arguing, their dialogue feels both confusing and a bit forced between them. Then their business colleague arrives and for the most part in the scene Kade is lost. I want more of his reactions so that he feels like a fully realized and believable character. (With his parents so absent why wouldn’t he have rebelled already at these ridiculous rules of theirs?)