Jun 14, 2013

QK Round 3: Like-Minded Individuals vs. The Decapitator

Entry Nickname: Like-Minded Individuals
Title: The Secret Society Of Like-Minded Individuals
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Thriller


Leon Garber has his reasons for ridding the world of abusive people. Justifiable homicide is a risky business, but someone needs to take out the trash.  
Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of people like Leon. LMI’s clientele are provided with new identities, security, and even lists of potential “projects.” But let’s not call it “serial killing.” Such a nasty business. For uncouth serial killers, it’s a good deal. For Leon, it’s a dream come true.  

But sometimes a killer business idea is simply…killer.
LMI’s put a target on Leon’s back. He has no idea why. Forced to defend his territory in Kansas, Leon clashes with other Like-Minded Individuals: The Good Samaritan Killer, The Mad Doctor, and Donnie and Marie—a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll, a whole lotta’ killing.

LMI, the police, sanctioned hit-men, and a vicious psychopath are after him. Heads are chopped, dropped and swapped as Leon fights for his life and freedom. But nothing will keep Leon from finishing his current project. Nothing. Not even the chance to fall in love with the woman at his day-time job.
With nowhere else to turn, Leon enlists (unwillingly, natch) The Denver Decapitator, his nemesis, to storm LMI headquarters for answers. Or die trying.

First 250 words:

When LMI, Inc. contacts you, you damn well better respond. Since Leon relocated to Kansas, he hadn’t received one message. It’s not like LMI sent out birthday greetings. But when his LMI sanctioned cell phone buzzed the night before, he was forced to do something he loathed – visit the mall during the holidays.

Mandatory meeting at Barton Mall for SX-6209. Be on the bench in front of Dottie’s Dogs tomorrow at noon. No indication what the meeting regarded. With six months left on his Kansas shift, it couldn’t be about a transfer.

As Leon sat on the bench, the hair prickled at the back of his neck. He recognized the warning sign—his survival instincts sending him a "beware text.”

Experience, another old friend, taught him to always scope out a rendezvous. Mentally silencing the endless loop of Santa Baby that blared from the loudspeakers, he kept his eyes open for details that didn't belong.  It’s the little things that kept one out of prison, and alive.

On this unseasonably warm Monday, he’d donned a sports jacket, tie, and light tan khakis. Nothing that said “I kill people who need to die.” The mall was sweltering, though, and he was ready to shed the jacket. The damn sunlight beaming in through the windows didn’t help matters.

Christmas shoppers brushed by one another, focused on the next big sale. A woman, pushing a stroller, collapsed next to Leon on the bench. Doubtful she was a Like-Minded Individual.  However, after several encounters with fellow LMI clientele, Leon never discounted anyone.


Entry Nickname: The Decapitator
Title: The Art of Severance
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


ATF Special Agent Alexandra MacPherson can’t decide which is worse -- a witness who dies or a suspect who won’t stay dead.

A routine investigation escalates to FUBAR when one of the accused turns up dead, his body untouched, but drained of blood. Within a month, three more have died. The only link among the victims? Wounds mirroring the attacks of creatures that Alex can't believe exist: a vampiric witch, a revenant, and a bogeyman.

It’s the ugliest, messiest case of Alex’s career, but she can more than handle that. Maybe it will keep her from jogging the streets of Philadelphia at two in the morning or drunk-dialing her dead husband’s cell phone number. When her only viable lead is killed, Alex is forced to accept that some myths... aren’t.

Finding the man responsible is easy. Killing him and his spawn won’t be. Alex is fighting time and an enemy that no human can match. If she’s not up to the task, she won’t stay human for long. 

First 250:

Sometimes it all came down to the gun. SIG Sauer P226 .40 S&W or Rossi .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel. I’d picked the SIG. I should have gone with the Rossi.   

I stole a look at the battered clock on the wall of the loading dock. My dealer was only five minutes late. Not so long I worried he’d had second thoughts, but he needed to show soon. Before my unease fermented into something harder to conceal.

“He’s late,” Mike said.

I shrugged, and played like I hadn’t noticed and didn’t want to hiss at Mike for his observational skills.

“You watch the game last night?” Mike asked.

“What game?”

“The Sox.”

A Sox fan. God help me. I’d kept hundreds of mindless details straight for six months but couldn’t for the life of me remember whether Kate Campbell gave a crap about the national pastime. “I don’t follow baseball.”

“They play the Yankees tomorrow.”

“Well, I do hate the Yankees.”

“Who doesn’t?” Mike dropped the remnant of his cigarette to the floor of the dock and crushed it under his shoe.

Kate Campbell was a vegetarian who sold lattes at an internet cafe and lived in a dump near Temple University. A fugitive from the United Kingdom for alleged involvement in a train derailment in North West England, she fancied herself a modern day Guy Fawkes.

I was done being Kate Campbell, the annoying twit.


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes only.

    1. Victory to THE DECAPITATOR
      Both excellent entries, and nicely polished. I found Alexandra more relatable right from the start, and loved the fresh humor as well as the promise of a bizarre mystery.

    2. Love the changes, LMI. You and your mentor blew that query out of the water. Way to add voice!

      Still gotta love the attitude going on in The Decapitator's first 250. The voice there suited my tastes just a little bit better.

      Victory to THE DECAPITATOR!

    3. I really liked the addition of voice in LMI's query but I didn't connect quite as much with the voice in the first 250. I noticed some tense issues there as well. I have to give victory to THE DECAPITATOR because the voice in the query and the first 250 really grabbed me!

    4. Victory to THE DECAPITATOR

      LMI: Although I love some of the changes to the query, it now reads a bit more uneven for me. Like it's trying too hard in some spots and not hard enough in others. I was also brought up short by "justifiable homicide." I think of that as killing when there's an immediate threat to someone, not necessarily vigilanteism. For me, that took some of the punch out of the MC. The 250 has a couple of tense issues, and again it felt more uneven than droll noir. Instead of perking with interest after I read the query package last time, I had a more lukewarm reaction this time. It's a cool concept, though!

      Decapitator: Nice polish and voice in both query and 250. Solid!

    5. Victory to THE DECAPITATOR

      Ditto to everyone. While I really love the changes to LMI, Decapitator is still my pick.

    6. Victory to THE DECAPITATOR

      Both queries have improved significantly. They are easy to understand and lay out the stakes. I liked LM’s query better, but the voice in The DECAPTITATOR’S 250 really captures the attention.

      It was a hard choice since I adore both you. Good luck!

    7. Victory to the Decapitator!

      To LMI, your query has improved so much! It's really awesome now. I'd work a bit more to make yoru first 250 pop, that's the only place your competitor trumped you. But barely. Just barely. Good luck!

    8. Victory to THE DECAPITATOR

      Wonderful job on revisions for both. The Decapitator won me with the first 250-words. It hooks more. Love the premise and query of LMI but I didn't feel as connected to the main character in the opening.

    9. Victory to THE DECAPITATOR.

      I really loved the focus on the awesome concept in the Decapitator, and I LOVED the injection of voice in LMI. However, I felt the 250 dragged a bit near the second half.

      These were both great, though. Honestly.

  2. LMI
    I like the new edits a lot. I would lose the “quote” marks because it denotes sarcasm. Especially since you use them in the query and the text.

    It seems very sudden that LMI turns on Leon. We don’t have a reason why. I like the introduction of additional characters and you are succinct about it.

    I like your new selection. It has nice tension and a contradiction in the weather vs. the holiday. Good job!

    Love the first sentence of your query. You give us wonderful hints into character without overstating. However, I am not sure how you specify between a vampire and a vampiric witch. I am sure you show us but it tripped me up in the query. Love the last line too.

    I completely glossed over your first paragraph though because gun names mean nothing to me. I like the tension in the setup but the question of whether she liked sports pulled me out. For the first 250, I’d try to make the dialogue really count. Excellent changes.

    Good job to you both and good luck!

  3. LMI: Wow, what a change you've made in your revisions. I love how clever you are and the turns of phrase you use. The details in your query are great (the names of the killers, the voice of your MC, etc.) I wondered a little bit about the balance between setup and plot in your query, as I felt the setup was a little heavy, but it's still a killer idea and (No pun intended?) and would make me interested in reading the book. I enjoyed your new 250, and I totally understand why you switched away from the flashback you used before, especially since it didn't match up with the query as much as some may like. I think the new 250 is still very compelling, though I wish it had a tiny bit more tension and was maybe a touch more ominous. Maybe it's just because I would've liked to have seen LMI defined, at least a little, in that opening.

    Decapitator: I love the changes to your query. The first sentence is so fantastic because it immediately hints at who the MC is, what the genre is, and what the plot is going to be about. I wish the mystery of what the killer is was a little less mysterious, but that's purely because I think it might help differentiate your book from so many others. I also love the first line of your 250. I'm immediately interested. I wish she went on to say why she should've chosen a different gun, but perhaps that's later in the chapter. I think it's smart to use how the MC feels about her current alias to show things about who the MC is, and I think the last line makes me want to see who she becomes next.

    Good luck to you both!

  4. LMI: I love your query. It hints to so much but never gives too much away. I kept wanting to know why Leon would need to join an organization such as that and expecting the query to reveal it later on. But when it didn't, I didn't feel cheated--just intrigued and needing to read to find out why. I think that's exactly what you want to happen in a query, so good job! My only suggestion in the first 250 would be to spell out LMI the first time it's mentioned. If I hadn't read the query I would've had no idea what it was. After we know what LMI stands for, the acronym works perfectly.

    Decapitator: Great first line of your query! Like the others have said, I'm not sure what distinctive marks a revenant or bogeyman leave when they attack or how an ATF agent would recognize them. But that'd be a minor and quick fix if you needed to change that. The first 250 sucked me right in and I really enjoy the voice you have there!

    Awesome job to the both of you! Good luck!

  5. Congrats, Decapitator! You absolutely decapitated me and my decapitators! Your book sounds, um, killer and I can't wait to read it. Good Job!

  6. Yay Decapitator!!! That's my girl!!! Proud Mentor-Mama here! You kicked butt and made such awesome changes! I'm so proud of you!!!

  7. I'm actually surprised at how not-close the voting was here. Decapitator, hope you don't mind me saying that I'd vote LMI if I were a judge. That query is frigging fantastic. Color me impressed. As someone else said, you and your mentor blew this out of the water. You'll get requests no doubt. So good luck! And of course good luck to The Decapitator too, clearly your query is great as well.

  8. Stacey - I'm not offended at all. I think the query for LMI is amazing.

    Huge, huge thanks to Rebecca for helping me with my entry!

  9. I agree with Stacey that LMI will get some requests off this revised query and the punchy language and dark humor (The Good Samaritan Killer, The Mad Doctor, and Donnie and Marie!).

    Congrats to Decapitator, and hope that the agents are kind to you both.