Friday, November 11, 2016

On The Block #16 - THE ANTIDOTE 11:30 AM EST

TITLE: The Antidote
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Lonely 12 year old Adam Revelstoke can see disease, and comes to accept, even revel in, this family “gift” while he reluctantly battles ILL, the ancient evil behind most maladies.

England, 1348

No one in this village was safe.

A woman sat weeping, a still man laid out on the bed beside her.  His fingertips were black, rotted away.  Blood crusted at the side of his mouth.  An hour before he’d been coughing, hacking, rust-tinged sputum filled his soiled handkerchief.  Now he was quiet.  An hour before, his breath had come heavy and harsh.  Now there was none.

Outside the cottage, in the churchyard at the end of the lane, a pit waited.  Shrouded bodies lined its bottom.  Soon the man would join them.

A hooded figure stood beside the pit, looking over the scene with satisfaction.  One of his greatest creations.  Oh, he didn’t invent the plague, the rats, the fleas.  Yersinia pestis had been around for centuries.  But he improved upon it.  More deadly, easier to catch.  In a year, a third of this village would be dead.  In the pit.

*   *   * 

The Hot Dog Kid

Everyone loved pizza day.  Except for Adam.    

Kids crammed the middle school lunchroom, sitting ten or twelve to a table, jostling, laughing, joking.  All so easy, all so casual.
Someone bumped his elbow and his tray lurched.  Jack and another guy.  Adam caught his apple just before it rolled off.  He put it in his mouth to hold while he maneuvered his pizza back onto the paper plate.

“Nobody eats the apples, Revelstoke,” Jack said as he tossed his in the compost bin.

 “He likes eating wax,” the friend said, jabbing Jack in the arm and sniggering.

 Adam put his apple back on his tray and slunk to his usual table, uncrowded even today.


  1. Oh, this is a fun bad guy. I want to see what he does next, and I'd read on hoping for more flashbacks. This is not something I'd normally say, too.

    The outcast nerd MC is not as compelling--for me--as the evil entity. However, outcasts are relatable and I'd keep reading because you've created polar opposites: powerless vs. omnipotent. The two voices are quite distinct and the promise of the inevitable showdown is intriguing.

  2. First section drew me right in. Fantastic way to set the scene -- and I love that era; lots of fantastic evil detail and sense of dread.

    I experienced a "skip" between the first section and the second. There's a very clear shift from one voice to the next -- very well done there -- but I was a bit confused at the first sentence: The Hot Dog Kid. (Unless it was just meant as a speaker shift? Then maybe it's only the way it's written. Maybe: - The Hot Dog Kid -

  3. Love the premise about how Adam can SEE disease and the whole excerpt In Pestilence (love that, btw) had an incredible air of ancient, dark, and evil. I am VERY intrigued by this hooded figure and would definitely read onto see more of him and how Adam's world ties into what's going on with what's going on in Pestilence and/or with hooded figure dude. Yes, agreed that there is an abrupt transition between that first excerpt and the second, but I don't think that can be helped. 250 here is a limiting factor for your story but I'm confident you'll show more on the next few pages. The very tiny nitpicky thing I have for you is the line about the lunchroom. I know you have to establish setting but it feels forced. I can't get much of a sense of Adam's voice in this little bit, but I wonder if you could give me more of his voice in his descriptions of things like the middle school or maneuvering the pizza. Overall, I think you have an incredible premise and a great start. Good luck!

  4. The Hot Dog Boy section was well done! I only have nitpicking suggestion for the part before it. I'd nix "soiled" before "handkerchief", seems repetitive after reading about the rust-tinged sputum.
    And for me, the paragraph starting "Outside..." would flow better as two sentences to cut repetition. So, "Outside the cottage, in the churchyard at the end of the lane, shrouded bodies lined the bottom of a pit. Soon the man would join them.
    Same with cutting "dead" in the last sentence. "In a year, a third of this village would be in the pit."

  5. Loved the opening! I could feel the death and evil. The second half was done well, too, but I have to admit it was a bit disappointing, only because the first half was so good, I wanted to stay there.

    And the second half starts with the MC hating pizza day, but it's not followed up with why. The fact is stated, then you move on to a kid being bullied. Perhaps tell us why he hates pizza day.

    And a small nit - Put a comma after "An hour before." Without it, the meaning of the sentence changes.

  6. What, what? Too confusing for a first page - you've shown no link between the two. (And the first passage, strong but somewhat overwritten, seems too dark for MG.) You need either a much shorter "Pestilence" passage or the current-day passage that follows needs to almost immediately establish its relevance - that Adam SEES these things (and is perhaps seeing them as he's maneuvering with his lunch tray).

  7. Very intriguing idea, especially since Adam seems like a relatively normal kid (a good access point for many readers). I do think, though, that we need more of a link between the two scenes - as is it feels jarring. Possibly the vivid Pestilence scene could go after the Adam scene? I would also note that as it stands, we don't know much about Adam, and wonder if in the cafeteria there could be more hint at what he sees and a hint of the conflict to come. One thought I had was perhaps starting with an Adam scene, then shifting to a 1300s scene, but this time keep the hooded figure (who I assume is ILL) as the driver of that scene, instead of the woman sitting beside the dead man. That way you are setting up two characters, Adam and ILL, and their stories, which sets the stage for their two stories to eventually come together.

  8. Love the premise, love the first part, was okay with the last part. Because that first bit it so strong, the next part needs something a bit more. Also with the title Hog Dog Kid, I expected something about hot dogs, but got pizza. I do however, like the opposition of characters.

  9. This is an intriguing idea but it completely threw me at first - I think b/c the logline doesn't make it clear that Adam lives in the here and now. When I got to the "Hot Dog Kid" section I actually thought a mistake was made and posting and 2 entries were run together. The writing is good, but some modifications to the logline and the transitions between Adam's connection to the past and his present would serve you well here, I think.

  10. I agree with everyone-you have a rock solid opener. Let's call it was it is: A Prologue, which I love, especially when they are short and pointed like this one. Because the voice and style of writing is so different when the narrator gets to the opening chapter, the reader is pulled out. You must make that opening chapter/hook as good or better than the prologue. Lose, The hotdog kid line. Also, how important to the story is Adam's preference to hot dogs vs. pizza? If it has nothing to do with the story and you aren't foreshadowing in any way, let it go. It feels out of place, meant for a different story and after reading your amazing prologue, it's disappointing. Where does the story start for Adam? If you're just showcasing Adam as a loner, no friends, etc., take us out of the cliche' lunchroom and show us an original scene equivalent to the prologue. I'm sure there's a point in the story/opening where Adam looks at another kid and sees a disease/problem? Just guessing, but really a great place to start. If the lunchroom is that scene, hook us with something right away to keep our attention. Maybe, start with "Someone bumped Adam's elbow and his tray lurched."...then when he looks at the kids involved, maybe hint at what he sees (if this is the intention in this scene). I'm assuming you have a solid reason for opening here. I can tell by your writing you're experienced, so keep that amazing tone going. Remember, not everyone reads a prologue. If the 1348 setting is the first chapter, it's not long enough to hold a reader's attention and you'll need to be clever with the second chapter. I'm also curious about POV. It feels distant 3rd? Good luck-I know I rambled but your opening is off the charts and I want you to do well. :) Hope you get a full request!

  11. The pitch really hooked me, and I was excited to read on.

    The bit of prologue took care of that. The tone was completely off from what I was expecting from the pitch, and then off again from the tone once you got into the story. And I don't think it told me anything I needed to know before we actually got into the story. I would definitely have a hard time continuing much past this based on that whiplash feeling alone.

    Another note on the prologue: I'm a fan of short, incomplete sentences, but they work best to convey action or high emotion. It was jarring when we're reading about something that's literally dead and cold.

    This one might be nitpicky or it might be significant if it's symptomatic of the rest of the manuscript, but "All so easy, all so casual." really stuck out as a very odd observation both for the age and the situation. Unless it's quickly going to become obvious why easy and casual aren't to be expected in this situation, then it's not only out of place, but maybe too mature and distantly introspective for the opening scene of a MG book.

    Good luck with this one. The premise definitely has me rooting for it and I'd love to see it really take off.

    Leah Petersen

  12. I really loved the prologue. It was captivating, dark, and made me want to read on. However, the prologue felt like it was from another, adult book. The rest of your opening felt like MG. I found the "Hot Dog Kid" line super confusing since it wasn't explained, yes, but even more so because I had just come from this macabre, foreboding sort of mood to a casual and ordinary school lunch scene.
    By the log line your premise is good, I'd just connect the two parts a bit better in tone and backstory. Maybe have ILL (the hooded figure, I assume) mention how those who can see disease being his only opposition to a fatal epidemic. Perhaps your MC can explain that he hates pizza day because he can see the food-borne disease from ill-handled pies squirming its way across his plate.
    Really great writing style, otherwise. Keep it up and good luck! :)

  13. I was completely engrossed from the start, and you've set up a formidable antagonist in the prologue.
    The following lunchroom scene is such a contrast, I wasn't sure how the two were related (other than the log line explaining).
    The first section seems written for a much older audience--including the subject matter of losing a loved one to a gruesome, agonizing death.
    The second part is definitely MG, and a great read too, with the social awkwardness of school/peer relationships.
    But the two sections seem completely different, and I'm wondering how they might be better connected.
    That said, I would definitely read on, just from the premise in the log line.
    Good luck! :)