Aug 24, 2016

A Query Kombat Success: Jim O'Donnell!

Congratulations to this year's Query Kombat YA Champion Jim O'Donnell on signing with his agent! More than one host had their eye on HOT SAUCE IS BAD FOR WOUND CARE, and we're absolutely thrilled to share this success story.
Stats time! Everyone loves the stats (God, I know I do). It’s so encouraging when you see those meticulously kept stats on how many queries were sent out, how many rejections were received, how many offers came in… if a writer could quantify their journey seeking representation in number of bowl movements from first draft to agency signing, I’d be here for it!
So now it is my turn to list all the fun stats and… I don’t have any.
Sorry. I just didn’t keep any. Well, there are a few. I wrote four full manuscripts and queried three. And I got plenty of rejections. Hundreds. Thousands, if it makes you feel better. But probably more like a hundred.
Yay for stats!
I do have one more group of numbers that is important. Not just to me, but to a querying writer as well. That number is: Forty-two. No I’m kidding, but wouldn’t that be cool? The real number is six. Over the course of my querying career, I entered six different contests a total of seven times.
Contest 1: Pitch Slam

I entered Pitch Slam twice with two different manuscripts, first in 2014, then again in 2015, and was selected each time. From my tenure as a Pitch Slam contestant, I received a total of five agent requests and made friends I still rely on. I love this contest so much, I currently help the hosts out as a slush reader.

Contests 2, 3, and 4 were all contests I did not get into. These contests are obviously all wonderful or I wouldn’t have tried to enter. However, not getting in took its toll each time. Getting rejected by agents is one thing, getting rejected by contests is a whole other.

If you are actively querying, the rejections come in so regularly, it gets to a point where you feel lonely when you haven’t gotten one in a week or two. They are a part of the scenery in a writer’s world; like a fern. When’s the last time you read a book where the author focused on, or even mentioned, the ferns? They’re there, they have to be, but dwelling on them is a waste of words. Contest rejections are different. First, there aren’t enough of them to ever be a fern. They are trees, and people write about trees often. Second, they come from fellow writers, and somehow, that makes them hurt so much more. Like I said, these contests are all great, but they are unnamed simply because they hurt the most and I don’t want any of the creators to feel bad about that. The time and energy these people put into the contests for no return other than a couple extra followers and the good feeling that comes from seeing their friends and peers succeed goes above and beyond. Because of this, I really want to say something positive here like, “These rejections gave me the motivation to do better,” or some other inspirational bs like that, but it’d be a lie. The truth is, getting rejected can be crushing, and there doesn’t have to be anything positive that comes from it. Sometimes it just sucks, and that’s all. How you proceed, when you proceed, if you proceed is entirely up to you.

Contest 5: Pitch Wars

The big one! This contest is so big, I actually had an agent send me a DM on Twitter letting me know I got in. At the time the names were announced, people were refreshing the webpage so much it nearly crashed the system, making it difficult to load. It broke the internet. Pitch Wars is Kim Kardashian's ass. In a good way. This agent, however, was so interested in who was getting in (like many other agents), they kept at it, refreshing until the names loaded, and ended up knowing I got in before I did.
And it’s no wonder Pitch Wars is so popular. Agents are willing to scroll through and read the hundred plus entries each year because they know these manuscripts were the best out of the thousands that entered. Not only were they the best of a huge group, but after being picked, they spent months working with their mentors to make those already good manuscripts great. And the results speak for themselves. Exactly a year after PW15 started out, nearly half of us have agents, and new book deals roll in each month. One of those deals was so big, Donald Trump just asked the writer for a loan. Which given the number of bankruptcies he’s filed, isn’t as impressive as it sounds.

From Pitch Wars, I received eleven agent requests and a group of friends who I’d trade those eleven requests for any day. Mostly because none of the requests led to an offer, but still the community is great.

Contest 6: Query Kombat

Query Kombat is by far the most stressful contest I’ve been in. It’s also the one that got me my agent. In all contests, you are competing with other writers. In the submission rounds, you’re competing for a limited number of spots. In the agent rounds, you typically aren’t competing for the highest number of agent requests, but you are competing for each agent’s attention. This is true for all contests. Query Kombat takes it to the next level, says, this level is boring, then bumps it up six levels higher. Not only are you competing in the same anonymous, hardly competitive way as in the other contests, you’re also competing in the one-on-one, nerve-wracking, back and forth, anything-could-change-in-a-second way that I can confidently blame for the decreased volume of hair on my head. I went to a convention while Query Kombat was going on and spent the entire time refreshing the screen on my iPhone. I honestly don’t remember anything from the con other than a friend warning I was missing the entire convention. She was right.

As stressful as it was, it worked. My query was a hundred times better from start to finish, and I walked away with eleven agent/editor requests. Then something weird happened. Requests turned into offers. Offers. With an s. As in more than one. I was (still am) in shock.

In the end, I accepted representation from an agent who requested during Query Kombat, but made her decision to offer based on my work as a whole. This agent’s enthusiasm and willingness to work on all the other projects I'm obsessing over was what won me over.

So, after three years of writing and querying and entering contests, last week, I signed with Victoria Selvaggio of Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.

I have a lot of people to thank for reaching this milestone, but right now, the ones most on my mind are the hosts of all the contests I’ve entered. Of course this includes the fabulous hosts of Query Kombat and the other contests I was accepted in, but also the ones I did not make it in. Because after about six hundred words worth of thinking, I’ve come up with something positive to say. In every single contest I’ve entered, I’ve made friends. Friends who have critiqued and edited sentences, paragraphs, pages, entire manuscripts. Friends who have inspired me with their own success and set aside their celebrations to make sure the rest of us don’t feel too bad. Friends who have promised me I’d get to this point even when I knew they were lying. And friends who have said nothing at times because they knew silence was what I needed. Thanks to all of these contests, I found the community that got me here. So thanks, hosts, you all rock!


 
Jim O'Donnell is a father of three (the oldest being three), husband, attorney, and a soon-to-be-retired police lieutenant. If you're wondering why he'll be retired so young, it's because Will Smith is just that good of an actor. When he's not playing with his kids or trying to convince his work that Will Smith is actually an actor and not a doctor, he writes about teenagers doing bad things. And then his wife threatens to divorce him for spending every second of his free time writing, and after he writes about teenagers doing really bad things. Like murder. 

You can find Jim on Twitter @JD_ODonnell. He's also on Facebook at Facebook.com/voteODonnell. Yeah, that's right, he once ran for Congress. No one ever said he was the smartest guy in the world.

Jul 7, 2016

Query Kombat 2016 Grand Champion: Jason Beymer

Jason Beymer
 
A permanent fixture at his local coffeehouse, Jason Beymer hunches over his laptop in a caffeine-induced frenzy, jowls slick with muse. He writes fantasy and horror laced with inappropriate humor. Jason worships at the feet of Ray Bradbury, and blogs at TomesandTV.com, where books and TV come together to make sweet, sweet love.
 
Contact Jason at twitter or his website.

Title: The Siren Episode
Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: YA Fantasy
Query:  
Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.
Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable. 
Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, Lenora’s a siren. Worse, she’s a murderer. And Lenora hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco, not the monsters. If opened, the safe’s contents could ruin his family, leaving humans unprotected against nightmarish creatures. Arlen’s parents want the siren dead, and Arlen faces an impossible choice: kill Lenora to bury the secret, or trust the siren and expose the truth. 
First 250 words:
Arlen Boggs hopped his neighbor’s fence and slipped past the protestors. They’d camped in front of his house again, picket signs raised. He tried to keep his footsteps light, but the rain puddles didn’t help his cause.
Two blocks, he thought. You can do two blocks without getting recognized.
The morning air chilled his neck, and he buttoned his father’s trench coat, too big for his lanky frame. Arlen wore the coat, baseball cap, and sunglasses to keep himself hidden. He hoped it would work this time. 
Head down, he hurried along the narrow sidewalk. Trees rustled on either side of the street, and he glanced up at the sycamores. Nothing but windblown leaves.
A woman’s voice came from behind him: “There he is.”
Arlen turned to look at the protestors, five houses back. “Great,” he muttered.
Two of their poster boards read, “GO AWAY, MYTH SLAYERS!” and “MYTHS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO!” Despite the wet September morning, the crazy zealots surged onto the road and shouted at him.
A few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, Arlen still didn't have his driver's license. His parents never had time to teach him, always out filming their TV show. Otherwise, he would have driven himself to school and avoided the daily hate-fest.
Another tree rustled and a branch snapped. 
Could be a monster.
The protestors sped up, chasing after him with their hand-painted signs. 
Arlen broke into a jog. Monsters in the trees, protestors on his tail. Why were mornings so complicated?

Query Kombat Adult Champion: Ann M. Miller

Ann M. Miller
Ann M. Miller writes adult and young adult fiction, and enjoys a wide range of genres including romance, mystery, and Sci-Fi. Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she now lives in windy (but beautiful) St. John’s, NL with her husband and son. She can usually be found glued to her laptop writing or revising, with her two lazy dogs for company. She has an unhealthy obsession with Han Solo, an addiction to Belgian chocolate, and is a sucker for Sinatra tunes. The first draft of The Absence of Butterflies was written during National Novel Writing Month.   

Connect with her on Twitter and visit her website.






Title: The Absence of Butterflies
Entry Nickname: Madam Butterfly
Word count: 80,000
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Query:

Will Kavanagh is the only one who knows the truth about the drug overdose that killed Christy Talbot. Not that he’s telling. The world famous actress may have starred in the film adaption of his novel, but that doesn’t mean he wants to go to jail for giving her illegal drugs. Troubled by a mounting sense of self-loathing and guilt, Will returns to the only place he has ever felt something other than lost: home. Not that everyone in town is rolling out the red carpet for Cherrington’s prodigal son—especially not his former fiancĂ©e, Jessica Locke.

Following the unexpected death of her father, Jessica needs something—anything—to keep herself busy, and fixing up a property for Will’s mother sounds like just the ticket. The only hitch is her ego-fueled ex-fiancĂ© is back—the one who left her in the rear-view mirror on his way to literary fame in NYC. Will is the last person Jessica wants to talk about, let alone see. The trouble is, she never could resist those piercing blue eyes and tortured writer’s soul. It isn’t long before things heat up between them once again.

Each dealing with death in very different ways, Jessica and Will navigate conflicting emotions and their undeniable attraction to find something worth saving. Too bad Will, haunted by the knowledge of how Christy died, isn’t exactly relationship-ready. Neither is Jessica. She knows Will is hiding something and she’s determined to find out what.

Then Will realizes that unless he’s willing to reveal his secret to Jessica, fast, he could lose her trust—and her love—all over again. Because, as it turns out, Will isn't the only one who knows the truth behind Christy’s death.

First 250:

When Will Kavanagh stepped out of the coffee shop, his eyes were drawn to the bookstore window like a magnet.

Just get back in the damn car, he commanded himself.

But his legs seemed to move of their own volition, taking him over to the book display. He would have recognized those red and gold splashed covers anywhere. Bold black letters at the top of each one proclaimed Now a Major Motion Picture. Underneath was a snapshot of the two main stars. The one on the right gazed back at Will, her full lips curved in a wide smile. His gut twisted into knots of guilt.

As he stood transfixed on the sidewalk, the world around him faded away. He didn’t see Christy Talbot with her arm around her leading man. Instead his mind burned with the image of the actress as she lay sprawled on the floor next to an upended pill bottle, her eyes empty. Those eyes had haunted him every day for the last two months.

“Excuse me.”

The voice made him snap back to the present. A man stood beside him, holding out the bag that contained Will’s bagel. “You dropped this.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”

Will stiffened. “No.”

He strode back to his BMW. With a tightness in his chest, he drove past the downtown stores, this time making damn sure his eyes faced forward. He needed another reminder of Christy like he needed a hole in the head.

Query Kombat 2016 Young Adult Champion: Jim O'Donnell

Jim O'Donnell  

 
Jim O'Donnell is a father of three (the oldest being three), husband, attorney, and a soon-to-be-retired police lieutenant. If you're wondering why he'll be retired so young, it's because Will Smith is just that good of an actor. When he's not playing with his kids or trying to convince his work that Will Smith is actually an actor and not a doctor, he writes about teenagers doing bad things. And then his wife threatens to divorce him for spending every second of his free time writing, and after he writes about teenagers doing really bad things. Like murder. You can find Jim on Twitter @JD_ODonnell. He's also on Facebook at Facebook.com/voteODonnell. Yeah, that's right, he once ran for Congress. No one ever said he was the smartest guy in the world. (And yes, that is real hot sauce, and yes it is a real 3rd degree burn on his arm. And YES, he did get the hot sauce in the burn while taking this picture. The photographer, his wife, thought it was the best thing that's ever happened.)

 
Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word count: 63K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense

Query:

Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday's first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.

As Grayson debates whether or not to kill, some of his victims begin to see the cycle as a blessing instead of a curse, and in order to ensure it continues, they increase their cruelty to outrageous levels. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor and member of that group treats him as a fellow human that signs of a possible end to the cycle begin to appear. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his other victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medications, and friendships he needs. Otherwise, he will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.

Although the manuscript is narrated by a second-person voice in Grayson’s head, his is not the only story being told. Since Grayson is unaware of the temporal loop, so is the voice, leaving the reader to only feel the presence of the loop through Grayson’s interactions with the group of students he kills. While Grayson’s outlook resets with each chapter, the group members’ memories continue across the length of the manuscript, allowing their individual outlooks and attitudes to evolve, or in some cases, devolve. These secondary arcs are as seen by the voice in Grayson's head who keeps saying "you" when any rational, reliable narrator would clearly just say "I."
 
First 250 words:

TUESDAY 7:59 A.M.

You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.

But still.

That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –

Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.

You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.

Yet.

Query Kombat 2016 Mid-Grade Champion: Chad Morris

Chad Morris            
                     
Chad Morris is the author of the futuristic Cragbridge Hall series: The Inventor’s Secret, The Avatar Battle, and The Impossible Race. Chad grew up wanting to become a professional basketball player or a rock star. (Inspired by Animal from The Muppets, he has been banging on drums since he was eight years old). Though neither of those plans quite panned out, he has worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, comedian, and author. You can learn more about him and his books at www.cragbridgehall.com or www.chadmorrisauthor.com.

Follow Chad on twitter.






Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37,500
Genre: MG Humor

Query:

Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays ofJello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all.

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.”

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.

Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.


Jul 1, 2016

QK Championship Round Begins!




Championship Round!



Now before we begin:

 
Read this post again to remind yourselves of the rules and guidelines of 

commenting and judging. Below I've reposted the main ideas:

Reminders for the Entrants:

 
You may comment on your own entries ON the last day of the round to offer thanks or congrats. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. (@RavenousRushing) If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling us the mistake. Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.
Kombatants should comment on 6 other match-ups to help share the love around! But Kombatants do not cast votes. 

Reminders for the Judges:

 
Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!). Be sure to point out the good as well as what needs work. Post under your nicknames! If you forget, just delete and repost. And judges: seriously, thank you for doing this. It's a very tough job and isn't for the faint-hearted.

Reminders for Everyone:


Try not to comment until after one of us hosts have made the first comment, then go ahead and offer your feedback. We ask everyone who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment. 

NOW THE FUN BEGINS!!! GO GO GO!!! We'll be Tweeting under #QueryKombat!


 

Query Kombat Championship Round: Cement Gargling 101 vs Jello Poems

Title: The Siren Episode
Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:  

Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.

Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable.

Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, Lenora’s a siren. Worse, she’s a murderer. And Lenora hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco, not the monsters. If opened, the safe’s contents could ruin his family, leaving humans unprotected against nightmarish creatures. Arlen’s parents want the siren dead, and Arlen faces an impossible choice: kill Lenora to bury the secret, or trust the siren and expose the truth.

First 250:

Arlen Boggs hopped his neighbor’s fence and slipped past the protestors. They’d camped in front of his house again, picket signs raised. He tried to keep his footsteps light, but the rain puddles didn’t help his cause.

Two blocks, he thought. You can do two blocks without getting recognized.

The morning air chilled his neck, and he buttoned his father’s trench coat, too big for his lanky frame. Arlen wore the coat, baseball cap, and sunglasses to keep himself hidden. He hoped it would work this time.

Head down, he hurried along the narrow sidewalk. Trees rustled on either side of the street, and he glanced up at the sycamores. Nothing but windblown leaves.

A woman’s voice came from behind him: “There he is.”

Arlen turned to look at the protestors, five houses back. “Great,” he muttered.

Two of their poster boards read, “GO AWAY, MYTH SLAYERS!” and “MYTHS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO!” Despite the wet September morning, the crazy zealots surged onto the road and shouted at him.

A few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, Arlen still didn't have his driver's license. His parents never had time to teach him, always out filming their TV show. Otherwise, he would have driven himself to school and avoided the daily hate-fest.

Another tree rustled and a branch snapped.

Could be a monster.

The protestors sped up, chasing after him with their hand-painted signs.

Arlen broke into a jog. Monsters in the trees, protestors on his tail. Why were mornings so complicated?


VS


Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37,500
Genre: MG Humor

Query:

Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays ofJello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all.

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.”

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.

Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.


Jun 27, 2016

Query Kombat Round 4 Wrap Up

 
THE FINAL FOUR have been crowned! Two from Michelle's team, one each from Laura's and Mike's. These are the top FOUR out of over 340 entries--an amazing accomplishment by these authors. Congrats to the winners of Round 4 who have become our Final Four! The next round takes place on Tuesday and goes for two days before the final round starts on July 1st. A big cheer for the last four standing from sixty-four entries! Among them is our Grand Champion!
 Go Mike and Laura's Team!!!! WHOOOOO
All the action is over on Michelle's blog for the next two days! 

Here are the matchups:
 
Cement Gargling 101 vs Madam Butterfly
Jello Poems vs Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

Good Luck Kombatants!

Jun 24, 2016

Query Kombat Round 3 Wrap Up



Round 3 of Query Kombat has officially come to a close.

Our numbers have been cut in half yet again. The Sweet 16 becomes the Elite 8 fighting for just four spots in the next round. Round 4 promises to be the toughest round thus far. I have no idea how the judges are going to do it. Good luck to all!

Below is the list of round 4 entrants and who they will be matched against. Happy taunting. Rebels Without a Comma are in orange.

Madam Butterfly vs My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

And I Feel Fine vs Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care 

Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs Cement Gargling 101

Jello Poems vs. One-Handed Wonder


CONGRATS AND GOOD LUCK KOMBATANTS

Jun 21, 2016

Query Kombat Round 3!




Round 3!

This round lasts until June 23rd at 8 pm.


On the last day the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. In the event a tie remains, the blog host will provide the tie breaker.

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the fourth round on June 25th!
 
There will not be any more opportunities to revise for the remainder of the tournament. Good luck!


Now before we begin:

 
Read this post again to remind yourselves of the rules and guidelines of 

commenting and judging. Below I've reposted the main ideas:

Reminders for the Entrants:

 
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QK Round 3: My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery vs. Ticket to Ride

Title: Windfall
Nickname: My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery
Word Count: 83K
Genre: YA Contemporary Suspense

Query:

In Marina’s culture, dumplings are thought to bring wealth and good fortune to anyone who eats them. But she’s been eating dumplings her whole life and good fortune remains as elusive as a good boyfriend. She’s a Chinese-American piano prodigy with no say in her future, and the pressure to be perfect is crushing her. 

On her eighteenth birthday, Marina plays Windfall—a new lottery game promising large payouts every day for life. When she wins and her dad inexplicably forbids her from claiming the prize, she feels newly entitled to defy her parents and reject their plans for her life. She accepts the money against their wishes, cutting her family ties in the process. As she lets new friends in, including a sexy guitar player named Sean who represents everything that’s missing from her musical life, her old friends get pushed to the side.

But Marina’s lottery win comes with strings attached. She was hand-picked to win because of her family connections, and because those on top thought she’d be easy to manipulate. If she fails to do her part and the scandal is exposed, she’ll be removed. Since it’s a for-life prize, the company only has to pay out as long as she’s … well, alive. When Marina finds evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But Sean’s arrival in her life was suspiciously close to the announcement of her lottery win and there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him, including the fact that he’s the CEO’s nephew. To keep her family and friends out of the crossfire of the scandal, Marina must figure out who to trust and who’s pulling the lottery strings—before her prize becomes a noose.

First 250:

My best friend’s raspberry spritzer sat dangerously close to the edge of the table, a twitch of the elbow away from tumbling to the floor. It was non-alcoholic, of course. The staff at Valer Prep made sure that alcohol was only consumed by parents (preferably ones with fat checkbooks) at the annual fundraising events.

I reached over Darya and slid her drink to a less precarious spot in the center of the table. She didn’t even notice—she just kept staring at the phone in her hands.

Okay, I was staring at it too.

“The draw was at six. Why haven’t they posted the numbers yet?” Darya’s eyes were wide, and her dark hair hung in thick waves down her back. She had the tiniest hint of a Spanish accent, but it only came out when she was stressed or upset. Like now.

“Relax, it’s only been five minutes.” My leg bounced up and down under the table, upsetting the floor-length tablecloth.

The parents in the decked-out ballroom were dressed like they’d gotten lost on their way to the Oscars and ended up at our high school’s silent auction by mistake. They mingled about, bidding on rounds of golf at exclusive country clubs and dinner cruises around the San Francisco Bay. What they really should have been bidding on were self-help courses like: Connecting with Teens For Dummies, or How to Break Your Workout Addiction in Ten Easy Steps.

Despite what I'd said to Darya, I felt anything but relaxed.


VS


Title: BREAKING DOWN GLASS DOORS
Entry Nickname: Ticket to Ride
Word Count: 78K
Genre: YA contemporary

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Jack wants to escape his narrow-minded Appalachian hometown more than anything. His family’s welfare checks pay for little more than food on the table, his mom and her pastor won’t stop lecturing him about his sins, and the rumors about his sexuality floating around school make him feel unsafe at every turn. The only thing worth looking forward to is the full-ride scholarship with his name on it—his one-way ticket to a better life.

But his plans hadn’t involved falling for Casey, the boy from the trailer park down the road who understands him in ways no one else in their town can. With the countdown to college ticking away, there’s only a limited amount of time to make the most out of their relationship. And unfortunately for Jack, using his scholarship means leaving Casey behind.

Then, right before college starts, his mother tries to commit suicide, blaming her attempt on her son’s sexual orientation. Overwhelmed with guilt, Jack finds his mental state heading in the same direction as his mom’s. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t slept since she kicked him out of her room at the psychiatric clinic, or that Casey, without explanation, hasn’t returned any of his calls since the incident. Now, Jack must learn to balance the life he’s been dealt and the life he wants before he can patch up the situation with his mom and win back the guy he loves.

First 250:

Jack snapped his head around. What was different? Had the shower curtain moved?

He swiped a hand over his face to clear away the sudsy water, then examined each corner of the shower stall. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. The only thing within reach was his tiny bottle of shampoo, the one shower product he’d been using to clean himself.

Wait

There, on the bar above the shower curtain, he saw it: No clothes hanging over the bar, no towel, even though they’d been there just moments before.

Shit.

He rotated the lever until the water stopped flowing. Surely this couldn’t be happening. His towel must’ve fallen off the curtain rod. His clothes, too. Because there was no way someone had taken them. Right?

Jack placed a hand on the shower curtain, ready to pull it back. His stomach clenched as the root of the problem hit him: the noise level in the locker room also fell into the “nothing” category. He heard no talking, no footsteps, no lockers slamming. Had he been so focused on his thoughts—what was I thinkin’ about, again?—that he’d missed when the entire gym class left?

With a turn of his wrist, he peeled back the edge of the shower curtain. His gaze landed on the bare floor, the empty bench, and the vacated shower stalls. The only sound prickling his ears was his own breathing.

Everyone was gone. And they’d taken his clothes on their way out.


QK Round 3: Escape the Fate vs. Cement Gargling 101

Title: Prophecy Punk
Entry Nickname: Escape the Fate
Word Count: 65K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Query:

Cassandra of Troy High School has the gift of divine prophecy, is compelled to recite what she sees, and is cursed--no one can ever remember what she says.

Knowing the future sucks the life out of everything (and has left her in need of a serious attitude adjustment) but Cass has discovered an almost as good consolation prize: money. When her prophecies are ready to become reality, she presses record and uploads the video to her website. All Cass cares about are how those thousands of ‘press play’ clicks turn into cash.

While ProphecyPunked.com is a much-needed money-maker, Cass’ prophecies aren’t all viral video worthy. Buried beneath the funny accidents, incredible feats, and curious glimpses of her future girlfriend, she also foresees a deadly rivalry brewing. A foreboding vortex of violence has begun to swirl around her beautiful, and beloved sister, Helen. With the sinister threat of a school shooting looming, Cass must turn to her morally bankrupt ex-boyfriend, Apollo, for help. She swore to never speak to him again after their prophecy-fueled blackmail business ended badly. Unfortunately, he’s the only who can help her (because that dirtbag can remember her prophecies).

Together, they vow to do anything (including lie, cheat, steal, commit felonies…) if it will prevent Helen’s death. Cass knows the future is impossible to change, but for the first time in her life, she’s ready to fight fate.


First 250:

Cass had warned him this would happen.

A dangerous patch of early morning ice had formed up ahead, right in front of the door to the fast food place where he worked. He pulled on his coat while talking to someone not visible through the glass door.

“Why are you stalking Kiernan? I thought you didn’t like him?” Diana asked. Foggy plumes of breath formed with each impatient huff. “Anyway, we’re going to be late so let’s go.”

Cass lounged against the Java Joint's brick wall. She winked at Diana, lips curling into a mischievous smile--the kind that made a person want in on whatever was about to go down.

“Shut up before you mess up my video.” She pressed the camera icon on her phone and held it up toward the spot she had seen in her prophecy.

“Ooh!” Diana rushed to her side, peeking over Cass’ shoulder to watch the screen. “What are we recording?”

It had always been we, not you.

“In about ten seconds, Kiernan is going to come running out of the building, slip and almost fall for about seven seconds of pure hilarity in a stunning show of balance and luck. It’s going to be great. I’m thinking about calling it Lights, Camera, Traction.”

Diana’s eyes glazed over with an opaque sheen. Her face slackened while the memory of Cass’ prophecy erased itself from her mind. When she blinked, her eyes returned to their normal dark brown.

“Did you just say something?” she asked.


VS


Title: The Siren Episode
Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
Word Count: 82K
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query

Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.

Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable.

Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, Lenora’s a siren. Worse, she’s a murderer. And Lenora hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco, not the monsters. If opened, the safe’s contents could ruin his family, leaving humans unprotected against nightmarish creatures. Arlen’s parents want the siren dead, and Arlen faces an impossible choice: kill Lenora to bury the secret, or trust the siren and expose the truth.

First 250:

Arlen Boggs hopped his neighbor’s fence and slipped past the protestors. They’d camped in front of his house again, picket signs raised. He tried to keep his footsteps light, but the rain puddles didn’t help his cause.

Two blocks, he thought. You can do two blocks without getting recognized.

The morning air chilled his neck, and he buttoned his father’s trench coat, too big for his lanky frame. Arlen wore the coat, baseball cap, and sunglasses to keep himself hidden. He hoped it would work this time.

Head down, he hurried along the narrow sidewalk. Trees rustled on either side of the street, and he glanced up at the sycamores. Nothing but windblown leaves.

A woman’s voice came from behind him: “There he is.”

Arlen turned to look at the protestors, five houses back. “Great,” he muttered.

Two of their poster boards read, “GO AWAY, MYTH SLAYERS!” and “MYTHS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO!” Despite the wet September morning, the crazy zealots surged onto the road and shouted at him.

A few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, Arlen still didn't have his driver's license. His parents never had time to teach him, always out filming their TV show. Otherwise, he would have driven himself to school and avoided the daily hate-fest.

Another tree rustled and a branch snapped.

Could be a monster.

The protestors sped up, chasing after him with their hand-painted signs.

Arlen broke into a jog. Monsters in the trees, protestors on his tail. Why were mornings so complicated?

QK Round 3: Jello Poems vs. Parters-in-Magic

Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37K
Genre: MG Humor

Query:

Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays of Jello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all.

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.”

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.

Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.


VS


Title: Spellbinders
Entry Nickname: Partners-in-Magic
Word Count: 74K
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Query:

When twelve-year-old Sam heals a dying cat with her bare hands, her world gets turned on its head. Magic exists in boring upstate New York. Sam has magical powers. Strangest of all, she used to know all of this, before a magical accident destroyed her memory.

Unfortunately for Sam, her magical past comes complete with a snarky elf named Gabe, who reappears in Sam’s life as her powers emerge and now he won’t go away. Ever. Sam and Gabe are a pair of Spellbinders, bonded for life. She can't perform a single spell without him.

Sam is still reeling from her magical awakening when Spellbinders start disappearing. All over New York, humans and elves with magical powers are being abducted. When Sam’s guardian, Aunt Jo, goes missing too, Sam and Gabe set out to rescue her. But the path to Aunt Jo is dangerous. They don’t know whom to trust, they can’t quite control their own powers yet, and they have a pair of would-be kidnappers on their trail. And rescuing Aunt Jo becomes more important than ever when they learn who is targeting Spellbinders…and why. 

First 250:

Unlike most twelve-year-olds, Samantha Jacobson had a stalker. He was small, grey and white, and quite possibly the most irritating stray in cat history. He watched Sam every morning as she tried to tame her straggly hair into a ponytail. He watched her every evening as she kissed a photograph of her mother goodnight. No matter where she was, the stalker cat would find his way to her side and stare. She called the cat Creep.

It was week four of Creep-gate, and Sam felt like a prisoner in her own house, complete with her own furry guard. It was also the last day of 6th grade, which meant her problem was about to get a lot worse. She would soon have to endure eight more hours of disapproving cat-stares each day.

But Sam refused to give into cat terror. While her teachers talked about summer assignments, she huddled over her notebook writing a plea to Aunt Jo for help with her “Creep problem.” She planned deliver it that evening at dinner. This was a desperate move and Sam knew it. Aunt Jo loved cats and had a particular soft spot for mangy strays like Creep. All the strays in upstate New York had free rein on their property. At least six of them had colonized the sprawling vegetable gardens outside Sam’s window.

Sam fiddled with her glasses and bit her lip. Hopefully, Aunt Jo wasn’t kidding when she said she appreciated a well-reasoned argument.

QK Round 3: One-Handed Wonder vs. The Order of Black

Title: The Windup
Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40K
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Contemporary

Query:

Kyle Whalen, a southpaw Little League pitcher, had enjoyed a typical adolescent boyhood until a car crash took his right hand, his twin brother, and his passion for life. Now, three years later, Kyle is fourteen and determined to play ball again in memory of his brother and fulfill the dream they shared: win the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament, a feat his home team has never accomplished.

Kyle practices hard with his catcher Hailey—the girl he’s crushing on and best friends with—but he struggles to pitch and bat one-handed. Those challenges mount when he discovers she likes a rival ballplayer. Things get worse when his coach and several of his teammates bail, leaving his team ineligible to compete. It’s game on, though, when Kyle convinces his estranged dad to take over as coach and his troublemaker cousin joins the team.

As Kyle leads his ragtag club toward the championship, he grows closer to his father, the man he thought no longer cared—about anything, not since the crash. Kyle also begins competing for Hailey’s heart. When Kyle settles a score with a bully by whiffing him each at bat and bouncing his team from the tournament, he thinks the torment is over. He thought wrong. The bully pulls a nasty prank on Kyle a few hours before the big game, and Kyle must choose between keeping the dream alive and keeping his family together.

First 250:

I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down.

“Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. She was my age, fourteen, and a cutie. Ponytailed blond hair. A freckled nose. Full lips. Yeah, I had a crush on her, but it was just a tiny one. Really. Okay, a big one.

The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My tired pitching arm sagged at my side. I dug my cleat into the soft dirt in front of the pitching rubber, wound up, and slung a fastball. After my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and got into fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. I had no doubt teams would test me by hitting comebackers.

“Nice pitch,” Hailey said, hopping up. “You’re ready for this.”

I shook off my glove. “I hope so.”

It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin teammate to double high-five.


VS


Title: The Order of Black Hollow Lane
Entry Nickname: The Order of Black
Word Count: 57K
Genre: MG Mystery

Query:

Ginny’s mom is a world-renowned parenting expert with no parenting skills of her own. She doesn’t even give Ginny warning before dumping her at a boarding school right before her thirteenth birthday. If only Ginny’s dad was around to look after her, but he disappeared when she was three. She figures she’s heard the last of him.

Then the box arrives. It’s crammed with ornate medallions. There’s no return address, just a note that says, ‘These belonged to your father.’ Ginny thinks the medallions are just heirlooms until she sees symbols from the box in an unexpected place: her new boarding school. She starts investigating and finds out her dad was a member of a mysterious student society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane.

At first it seems like nothing more than an old boys’ club, but then Ginny finds evidence that The Order had something to do with her dad’s disappearance. She’s desperate to learn more about what happened to him, but The Order won’t give up its secrets without a fight. When some of its members start threatening her, Ginny has to decide if finding out what happened to her dad is worth the risk…even if it means risking her life.

First 250:

There were certain things Ginny’s mother didn’t really need to know. Trivial things, like whether Ginny had clipped her toenails that morning, or that she’d stepped in something sticky at the park. But the box in Ginny's nightstand was not a trivial thing. Ginny knew it wasn't. And that's why her fingers twitched every time her mother came into her room.

"Are you ready, dear?" Her mom opened the door. "The press will be here in a few—“ She put her hand to her chest and gasped.

Ginny held her breath. She had put the box away, right? If her mom saw it, if she found out....

Suddenly her mother's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Ginny, that dress...you look just...just beautiful."

Ginny breathed out and picked at the crunchy taffeta on the front of her dress. She had to put the box out of her mind. She needed to focus today.

“Don’t you just love these little pink polka dots?” her mom asked as she brushed Ginny’s hands away from the dress. “They’re all hand-sewn, that’s why they pop out so much!”

It looked like the dress had come down with the measles. The sleeves puffed out like pink toadstools, which would come in handy if Ginny ever needed a place to hide a cat.

QK Round 3: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care vs. What's Luck Got to Do With It

Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word Count: 63K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense

Query:

Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday's first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.

As Grayson debates whether or not to kill, some of his victims begin to see the cycle as a blessing instead of a curse, and in order to ensure it continues, they increase their cruelty to outrageous levels. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor and member of that group treats him as a fellow human that signs of a possible end to the cycle begin to appear. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his other victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medications, and friendships he needs. Otherwise, he will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.

Although the manuscript is narrated by a second-person voice in Grayson’s head, his is not the only story being told. Since Grayson is unaware of the temporal loop, so is the voice, leaving the reader to only feel the presence of the loop through Grayson’s interactions with the group of students he kills. While Grayson’s outlook resets with each chapter, the group members’ memories continue across the length of the manuscript, allowing their individual outlooks and attitudes to evolve, or in some cases, devolve. These secondary arcs are as seen by the voice in Grayson's head who keeps saying "you" when any rational, reliable narrator would clearly just say "I."

First 250:

TUESDAY 7:59 A.M.

You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.

But still.

That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –

Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.

You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.

Yet.


VS


The author of What's Luck Got to Do With It received an offer of rep! Congrats!!!
Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care wins by default!

QK Round 3: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs. Meet Me at Lake NevaeH

Title: Under the Surface
Entry Nickname: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy
Word Count: 64K
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is a professional mother-disappointer… but losing her sister in an eerie underwater town sets a whole new standard.

When Lauren hears the legend, she’s intrigued; exploring the lost town under Lake Modoc is the perfect adventure to take her mind off of her mounting stack of detention letters. Together with her two best friends, she hops on a boat (somewhat illegally) and sets out to discover the Atlantis of Owego County.

One problem: Lauren must bring her eight-year-old tattletale sister, Roxie, along for the ride. In the split second Lauren and her friends find the creepy, algae-covered church steeple under the lake, Roxie disappears from the boat. Silently, impossibly, Roxie is gone.

With her sister missing, Lauren is wracked with grief and uncertainty. She becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind Roxie’s increasingly mysterious disappearance. But when the police can’t see the steeple Lauren leads them to—the place where Roxie vanished—she takes matters into her own hands, scuba diving into the deep.

Lauren finds out too late that the town under the lake was abandoned there for a reason. By opening its doors, she unleashes its dark, magical ability to lure away children—and if she doesn’t find her sister soon, she might have more than one lost kid to answer for.

With Roxie’s life hanging in the balance, Lauren must piece together the secrets of the town under Lake Modoc—or live under the weight of Roxie’s death forever.

First 250:

Whenever I stand on the shores of Lake Modoc, I scour the horizon like I’ll find something out of the ordinary. Today I do the same, letting my eyes skip over the dark blanket of water as the wind plays with the ends of my hair. On the edge of my vision something bobs some twenty feet away, but the moment I squint harder to see its shape, it disappears.

“Ugh, damn it! These test tubes are impossible,” Carly shouts beside me, breaking my reverie.

“Jesus. You ruined my yoga vibe.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I can totally see you doing downward-facing whatever. Can you help for two seconds?” Carly pushes her red curls out of her face, bent over the water’s edge.

As I step toward her, movement flashes in the water again. My stomach drops out, leaving a vague sense of dread in its place. Whatever’s out there avoids my glance, so I force myself to take up my time-honored duty: talking Carly down from insanity.

“Hey,” I say. “It’s a simple assignment. We’d be fine using tap water.”

“Tap water is too easy. I want a challenge.” The glass tubes she’s struggling with tumble into the lake, causing her to swear under her breath.

“Well, consider yourself challenged.”

Carly has been my best friend since that time we had the misfortune of being dressed in the same hideous sweater on picture day in the second grade, but at times like these I reconsider our actual compatibility as human beings.


VS


Title: Lost Inside Her
Entry Nickname: Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh
Word Count: 71K
Genre: YA Thriller

Query:

For as long as seventeen-year-old Violet can remember, she’s had a voice in her head she calls Gabby. Gabby’s not just her best friend, she feels real. To doctors, the voice is a mental aberration they’ve treated with meds and therapy. But nothing’s worked.

Gabby hasn’t been her playful self lately. She begs Violet for help, but can’t clearly communicate what’s wrong. All Violet knows is the fear reaches so deep, it makes her dizzy and nauseous. Things grow even more confusing when Violet notices weird bruises on her arms. Worried they’ll put her away for good, she keeps the new symptoms to herself. When she meets Neil, her new classmate from Red Lake Indian Reservation, his down-to-earth, gentle nature draws her so close, she trusts him with her secret. And he’s the first to believe her.

When Gabby’s visits land Violet in the hospital, they discover the bruises and plan her transfer to inpatient treatment. Now Violet’s had enough. Hungry for real answers, she runs away with Neil to his reservation, where his grandfather performs a shamanic ritual. Swept into a trance, Violet learns Gabby is a real live, flesh-and-blood person, their bodies linked by a rare anomaly in their cells. Finally, Violet understands the bruises. They’re Gabby’s. And someone’s hurting her. Violet must save her best friend to save her own life…and to have any chance of being with the first guy who ever believed in her.

First 250:

Three days since I’d secretly quit taking my meds. Or was it four? This might have ranked as the stupidest thing I’d ever done. Huddled in the back seat of Dad’s swaying SUV, I forced my eyes open. Swirling gray clouds dumped more rain onto the street, already flooded from a week of late-September storms.

That spot where Gabby’s voice filled my head was empty. For now, anyway. After all her drama, insisting I “stop the drugs,” she hadn’t even popped in since I’d quit. Maybe it was better that way. Because just thinking about how weird she’d been acting lately made me sweat all over. Staring out the window, tears filled my eyes, blurring the falling rain. I didn’t even know my best friend anymore. I almost wished she’d never visit me again.

A gust whipped fat drops against the windshield, forcing Dad to slow down and lean forward. We crawled through the downpour and turned into the mini mart’s lot. While Dad ran in for drinks, Mom flipped down the visor’s mirror and applied that bright-red lipstick I hated. She saw me looking at her. “You still mad at me?”

“I was tired. I didn’t mean to yell.” I’d swear she was more concerned about being yelled at than why I was so upset when she woke me for church. I’d barely slept all night, and I really wanted to tell her why. Tell Dad. Tell someone.

Gabby’s mantra echoed: Keep it inside, where it’s safe with me and you.