Jun 14, 2013

QK Round 3: Not Odette vs. Supergeeker

Entry Nickname: Not Odette
Title: Princess of Swans
Word count: 84,000
Genre: YA Fantasy


To Feyana Belmaron, heir to her war-torn country's throne, "princess" is just a synonym for "prisoner." After a traitor disfigured her and killed her mother, Feyana’s father confined her to an isolated castle to keep her safe. Ten years later, Feyana gives up hope that her father will ever let her go—and with a face like hers, no storybook prince is likely to come to her rescue.

But perhaps she can come to his.

When a volkarei witch foretells Feyana’s marriage to an enemy prince
a marriage that would not only end the war, but unite the feuding countries for goodthe princess seizes the chance to put her castle walls behind her. Eager to finally serve her people, Feyana disguises herself, scales the wall, and ventures out to find and court the prince. 
But reaching him means crossing hundreds of miles of enemy territory with only a pair of criminals, a gentle monster and a roguish thief, to protect her. Worse, her handsome prince has an ugly secret—and an even uglier temper.  Faced with a lifetime in thrall to a prince far more alarming than charming, Feyana must make a bitter choice: plunge her country back into a devastating war, or give up her hard-won freedom.


First 250 words:

Tavor Castle is beautiful, for a prison. The white stone castle is small but well-kept, and its fields and woods cover almost a square mile. Even the looming, twenty-foot walls enclosing the grounds have an odd charm to them. To protect me, Father says, but I know better. It’s to hide me. The only ugly thing in Tavor Castle is its princess.

I jam my foot into Lulari’s stirrup and glare up at the walls, wishing my hate could melt them. Only a little longer, until the war ends, and I’ll be free. Father promised that much, at least.

I turn away and cluck Lulari to a walk. The warm breeze ruffles my hair and fills my nose with the ripe scent of horse. I smile. Outside, there may still be walls, but at least there’s no ceiling. I turn my headand an ashen, black-cloaked woman unfolds like a blanket in mid-air.

Lulari rears.

The ground rises up to punch me before I can scream. Pain jars my shoulder and back, sharp enough to cut. I lie still a moment, gasping.

"Princess Feyana!"

A stablehand races toward me, her face white with horror. I draw a long, steadying breath, then probe my ribs and limbs for tenderness. Nothing broken, praise Dal.  I sit up and groan.

“I’m fine,” I say. “Is she all right?”

The mysterious woman lies crumpled beneath her cloak, her face unnaturally gray. I crawl toward her, my shoulder throbbing, but the stablehand pulls me back sharply.

The black mass I took for a cloak is a vast, dark wing.


Entry Nickname: Supergeeker
Word Count: 60,000 words
Genre: YA Fantasy


Fifteen-year-old Talis Brooks has been called a lot of things. Geek. Sad Virgin. Chesty McNoBoobs. But when puberty kicks in overnight, Talis doesn’t just go up a cup size, she gains the strength and agility of a superhero. Suddenly she can toss around 250-pound bullies, fight like a ninja and her butt totally fills out her jeans.

Talis knows what could happen if she doesn’t keep her new powers a secret (government conspiracies! Lab experiments on her brain! Uncomfortable probing!) But when pretty boy Cole is almost stabbed by rogue band geeks, a masked Talis can’t help but save him. Cole and his friends have become targets of a mysterious gang of social misfits, out to take down the popular elite. With her classmates in danger, Talis creates a secret identity to protect them-- even the mean evil bitches out to socially destroy her.

Now Talis is stuck in a love triangle between her, Cole, and her superhero alter ego, her every super move is being tracked and tweeted, and, oh yeah, there’s that psychotic gang situation.

As the gang’s attacks spiral out of control, Talis must figure out a way to stop them before someone, you know. . . dies.

First 250 words:

I just don’t want to die. Of humiliation. Besides getting straight A’s, that’s pretty much my only goal this year.

Coach Marshall, evil fiend in tiny man shorts, is out to thwart my plans. When he divides us up for volleyball, he puts me in with the Beautiful People. This is not where I belong.

Marshall busts me sneaking onto my usual court—the one with my asthmatic friend Jane, Weird Cape Billy and the kid wearing a helmet. My people. He waves me over to the last court. “Talis, I told you, you’re over there today.”

“Coach—” I say, but he’s already moved on, yelling at two freshmen beating each other with the soft baseball bats.

Obviously whoever made PE mandatory isn’t an easy bleeder with little to no physical coordination. I put it off until sophomore year, hoping I’d get breasts before having to engage in the horror of group showers. Unfortunately, puberty is eluding me.

I take my time walking over. I pull up my gym shorts, which are always sliding down, even with the top rolled. I try to look busy, pretending to read the safety guidelines listed on the wall. While I’m admiring the rules and regulations, I get a weird tingly feeling on the back of my neck, like someone’s staring at me. When I look, I lock eyes with just about the worst person possible.

“Are you lost little girl?” Shawna Soto, tyrant of the sophomore class, master of the well-timed slut bomb, purveyor of eating disorders, is talking to me.


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

    1. Victory to SUPERGEEKER
      I really love both these entries, but the humor and superhero girl-real girl-boy love triangle won me over.

    2. Victory to Supergeeker

      Another difficult choice. Both queries and first 250 are easy to understand and set up the stakes. It came down to voice. I love the humor in Supergeeker's entry.

    3. Victory to SUPERGEEKER.

      NOT ODETTE, I love it. I love it so much. But I have to be honest that SUPERGEEKER made me FEEL more than yours did. In yours I wanted to feel her pain at being imprisoned, feel her frustration, but it didn't come through. Supergeeker made me laugh where it needed to. That's what won it. Great job to both of you!!!

    4. Victory to NOT ODETTE!

      These are both so fantastic that it hurt to make a choice. Supergeeker has a really strong voice. Not Odette had my heart since the first round.

    5. VIctory to SUPERGEEKER

      Love the "girl power" in both of these!

      I went back and forth on this one, because the "kid wakes up with superpowers" thing feels a little familiar, but in the end the voice and the humor really won me over and the superhero thing in YA feels a little fresher than in MG. Only nitpick- Beautiful People seems a little cliche- I've heard the popular crowd described with this moniker in several places, so it loses some impact.

      Not Odette- you have a nice writing style and I liked the little details,such as her "clucking" her horse to a walk, that made this feel authentic. Your first 250 leaves off at a great spot that had me wanting more. In the query, the very last line felt a little too overdramatic to me- maybe move it up to the end of the preceding paragraph or leave it off entirely.

    6. Victory to NOT ODETTEE. This came down to voice for me. Both had clear queries and really presented great information in the first 250. Hard to admit, but really it's just personal preference. Both are great. Good luck to all!

    7. Victory to SUPERGEEKER

      Loved them both. It was a tough call, both completely hooked me, and I ended up choosing for the voice.

    8. Victory to NOT ODETTE.

      For SG--This line "Now Talis is stuck in a love triangle between her, Cole, and her superhero alter ego, her every super move is being tracked and tweeted," read clunky to me, and there should be a period after the end parenthesis in the query. But honestly, that didn't matter much.

      It came down to premise, but good gosh, I LOVE SG's premise!!!!! I love BOTH premises!!! This is like two awesome, NYT-bestselling premises against each other. Not Odette just seems more actiony and thrilling. And an ugly princess? That's kind of awesome.

      Good luck, both of you, in the agent round! I'm pretty sure you'll both do great.

    9. Victory to NOT ODETTE

      SG: I think your query has the most impact. Lots of voice there is a good thing. In the 250, though, I started feeling too much voice coming through. Interestingly, where it started to be a bit too much for me was in the last sentence of the 250, with its descriptive slam list, which is a change from the original version we saw. Hmmm.

      NO: Honestly, I don't think the changes to the query improved it. I like your original version better, though all-in-all, I think another stab might give it the oomph it's lacking now. OTOH, the changes to your 250 make it more immediate and give it more emotion. Subtle, but a definite improvement to a sample I liked well-enough to begin with.

  2. Not Odette

    Still a killer query. Great setup and pivot line. And still a great first 250. Very visual without overdoing it, and tight, working language. I didn’t see a lot of changes but I don’t know that you needed them. Still a strong query and entry.

    Love the changes and additions, which you kept in your great YA voice. I especially love the last line of the query. I still don’t have a full grasp of the plot but this is a case when voice trumps plot.

    And the voice kills it in the 250.

    I hope you both battle to the death so I have no chance of going up against either one of you. You are both cleverly worded and fantastic. Good luck to you both!

  3. Not Odette: This is a solid query. I like and feel for your MC. The way you transition from setup to plot in your query is really well done. In your 250, I think your first paragraph is particularly great. I didn't understand, though, why her father said she could be free after the war (except that I knew from the query she'd been attacked). Just something you might want to consider.

    Supergeeker: You have such strong voice that I just immediately fall in love with your MC. My one issue with the query is that I don't quite understand the rogue geek gang, though I think it's interesting that the MC protects her (former?) enemies. I get a strong Kick-Ass/Scott Pilgrim vibe from this. Your page is wonderful.

  4. Not Odette: The query felt clearer to me this time around. I can see the scope and stakes of the story clearer now, so great job! The first couple sentences in the first 250 still feel odd to me, because it sounds like a distant narrator is describing the castle—and then it’s suddenly revealed it’s the main character who is. I’d personally like it better if it’s established the MC is speaking up front and then relay the walls and what they look like as she’s looking at them. That’s my only quibble/suggestion.

    Supergeeker: Nitpicky things, but in the query, it seemed odd when the gang was described as a “rogue band gang” and then after that as a “mysterious gang of social misfits.” If the MC knows it’s a band gang, then I take it they’re not mysterious anymore, right? Also, the “you know, dies…” part at the end felt a bit off. I think you have it there for voice, but to me it sounded a bit too silly. If you removed “you know,” then it’d sound more serious/realistic (and better) to me. Great voice in the first 250.
    Overall, great job to both entries!

  5. I won't lie, I see Princess of Swans as another Gracling (in the best way possible) I see this on shelves and selling! Can't wait to be able to buy it. (And I'll totally voulenteer as a beta reader if you want one. For real)

    Supergeek, you're voice is great. You'll do well too I'm sure. I just see more of a niche for Not Odette. Clearly the judges disagree so congrats and good luck! You'll both be racking up requests soon :-)

    1. I hate finding typos after the fact lol. *your not you're* ;-)

  6. Not Odette: Your query and pages are much improved from the last round. Go, you!
    Supergeek: I love the punchiness of the writing.

    I'm giving an edge to Not Odette, though. I found Supergeek's language to read more like middle grade than YA. Maybe it's "young YA", or maybe I've just been reading much darker YA in general.

    Good luck to both.