May 31, 2014

Query Kombat Match Ups

Michelle, SC, and I thought the Kombatants would like a chance to fight find their opponents on twitter and do a meet and greet today. You know, before the bloodshed starts... Some friendly trash talk and well wishes all around.

Here they are in no particular order and without reference to where you'll find them tomorrow. Match-ups will be spread on all three blogs for round 1. 

Best of luck to everyone tomorrow. May the feedback provide insight and the friends you make lift you through the kicks to the gut. Battle on!

Make a Baby w/ Socks On vs. Michigan Yankee
Palm Beach vs. She Wears Bruises Like Trophies
Waltz #2 vs. Reality Star
Attempting Average vs. Cold War Grunge
His Little Human vs. Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper
Remember Me vs. Leave it to Fate
A Bit of Code vs. Daughter of Lilith
Can’t Keep a Bad Girl Down vs. Memento Mori
Burning Down the House vs. The Connecting Thread
The Past is Back vs. E=MC[squared]
Lavender Marriage vs.#Droolworthy Landry
Dead Princesses Don’t Kiss vs. A Cozy for Geeks
Mechano Cat vs. Making Boys Cry
Have Sword Will Travel vs. Strange Fruit
Licks the Dandruff vs. RV Arya
Patience Fell vs. Guerrilla Geek
One Spotted Girl vs. World on a String
Who Cut the Cheese vs. Trailer Trap
Nobody’s Sidekick vs. Girl Destroys World
Star Light, Star Bright vs. Axual’s Leprechauns
Deadly Nightshade vs. Tag, You’re Dead
Sunnyside Up vs. Lowlife Extraordinaire
Amnesiac vs. An Endangered Species
I Babysit My Mom vs. A Burning Dilemma
Caprice No. 13 vs. Fireflies Live
Shalom Sasquatch vs. Search for Eden
In the Black Room, with White Shadows vs. Mini Mutants
WEEL vs. Lumanatti
Maidens, Monks, & Murder vs. Loving Logic
Oh Sweetcrabmeat vs. A Few Quick Hellos
Skateboarding Sherlock vs. Split Sisters
Secrets in Green vs. BingBamBoom

May 30, 2014

Read What's In Orange

The time is finally here! Time to release the Kombatants onto the unsuspecting public!

There was nothing easy about going through the slush pile. Nothing. Each of us agonized over every pick, weighing this query against that. This first page against that. We've all heard the dreaded 'S' word so many times we want Webster to strike it from the dictionary, but it rings true with Query Kombat. Slush was very subjective. I allowed my personal taste to run rampant this year BECAUSE there was so much talent. 
To those who didn't make it into the tournament, you donned your armor and dared to dreamed of victory. You boldly walked into an arena filled with 230 gladiators, and you didn't so much as flinch or break a sweat. There are none braver than those who try, fail, and try again. I'm begging you to be brave, because all you need is talent and drive. Luck and success will follow. Don't give up. Don't doubt yourself.  And...if you do, tweet me. I'll find an army to come and lift your spirits if I have to.

You will succeed. All you have to do is believe in yourself. 

To those who made it--CONGRATULATIONS! Out of 230 entries, you made it into the top 64. You bit, you clawed, you bled, and you MADE IT! I want you to take to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Wikipedia, don't care. Celebrate! And do it loud. And in the midst of your celebration, I want you to help me lift the spirits of those who didn't make it. Use the QueryKombat hashtag to connect with and celebrate your fellow slushies. Tweet your sagest query advice, or that quote that kept you going when you were down and out, or your grandmother's secret tapioca pudding recipe ('cause everyone love tapioca!). We're more than a community; we're a family. So spread the love.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and everyone who made the Twitter party so fun!

We don't have any fancy brackets to showcase the match-ups. In fact, the match-ups for Sunday aren't really finished yet. Kombatants must wait for Sunday to find out who they will face. Just another surprise in the list of surprises.

(Yes, we have surprises up our sleeves having to do with the agents! And we have more surprises for the agent round itself! That's three surprises, if you're keeping count.)

Now for  my picks for the contest. To see Michelle's and SC's picks, check out their blogs. 

Kombatants don't miss the rules on judging and commenting included at the bottom of this post.


Burning down the House
A Bit of Code
Powered By Souls
Lavender Marriage
Make a Baby with Socks On
Dead Princesses Don't Kiss
Can't Keep a Bad Girl Down
Memento Mori

Young Adult:

Searching for Eden
Oh SweetCrabMeat
Shalom Sasquatch--Free Pass
Love is Hell
Tag, You're Dead

New Adult:

Mechano Cat
Making Boys Cry

Middle Grade:

Nobody's Sidekick
Who Cut the Cheese-Free Pass
Skateboarding Sherlock
Licks the Dandruff

Important Information for Kombatants:

The first round will start on Sunday, June 1st on all three blogs. We will try to post all the match-ups by 8:00 am EST, but please don’t rush to comment for reasons we will spell out under the judging section.

There will be 64 Kombatants (including four automatic Free Pass winners) and these will be paired into 32 posts for the first round. Yes, we will try to match age categories  and genres together. This will totally depend on numbers. As you can imagine, we received a much lesser number of NA entries and a much greater number of YA entries. We’ll do the best we can to make the match-ups fair, but we are not limiting our Kombatant picks by requiring so many numbers of each age group. We are picking what we think are the best entries. 

In the event a Kombatant has to drop out of Query Kombat there will be two possibilities. If they drop out before the first round begins, they will be replaced with an alternate Kombatant contestant chosen by Mike. (Alternate Kombatants will not be announced beforehand. We don’t want people hoping someone drops out. We may announce them after the contest ends.) If a Kombatant drops out after the contest has started, their opponent automatically advances to the next round. Any Kombatant that receives an offer of representation will please notify us so we may withdraw them. Receiving a full request or partial is not grounds for withdrawal.


Our fantastic judges will give their votes under their assumed nicknames in order to be able to vote honestly and freely. Go here to see the nicknames they have chosen. The voting for the first round will take place from June 1st until June 4rd at 8:00 pm EST. (For more information on the dates of the other rounds go here.) The winners of the first round will be announced on June 4th.

Judges will vote as follows: VICTORY to Kombatant nickname  Then they may give more information as to why they voted that way. How much feedback they give is completely up to that judge. There are a lot of entries to read and a lot of rounds to go through. This is a long contest. But we’re sure the judges will do a fantastic job of sharing their thoughts.

To prevent favoritism, the judges have agreed not to vote on match-ups where they are close friends to a Kombatant or where they have beta read or critique partnered. Due to the length of this contest, judges have been assigned to rounds and may decide not to vote in all the rounds. 

In the event of a matchup vote tie, we'll call for more judges, then the round host will cast the tie-breaker vote if necessary. 

Now here comes the unique and important part!  We would like the judges’ votes to be easily located. Therefore, we are asking the judges to place their votes as a reply to the first comment in each match-up post. As soon as all the match-up posts are live, the round host will go through and made a first comment. Something like: This comment is reserved for judges’ votes. Please do not reply to this comment unless you are a judge. Then the judges can do their thing and leave their votes as replies to that comment.

BUT in order for this to work, people cannot rush to comment. The hosts have to have time to get the first comment up on all 10 or 11 posts of the first round and subsequent rounds. No matter how excited you are to share your feedback, please give the host time to get the first comment done before you comment. Any other first comments but the hosts’ will be deleted.

We understand that everyone is human and votes may not end up in the proper spot. All judges’ votes will count no matter where they end up.


Due to the nature of the head-to-head competition, commenting is a delicate subject. We don’t want feelings hurt. We don’t want people to go away angry. 32 people will be knocked out in the first round. That is brutal. And like any contest of this nature, the results will be subjective. Wonderful entries will be eliminated. Because not everyone will be seen by an agent, we do want to allow commenting as that may be the only feedback a query and first 250 entry will get.

Therefore, especially in the first round, we want a ton of comments. And we want those comments to be super constructive and helpful. In other words, be specific. Don’t just rave about a Kombatant’s entry like a fangirl/guy. Tell us why you liked it. Mention things like the query set out the mc’s motivation and stakes clearly, the query had a super voice, the query was confusing because…, the pages really showed the mc’s personality because…, the page felt flat because…, the concept was unique because…

Please no cheerleading comments in the first round or second round. (Friendly cheerleading will be allowed in the final rounds.) In the early rounds, if you want to cheer on your friends and CPs, do it on twitter. Try and give equal time to both Kombatants in a match-up. Don’t let someone be left out. If you see a match-up that isn’t getting many comments, we ask that you jump in and do your stuff.

We don’t want this contest to only be about fun and agents. We want all the entries to get helpful advice to make their queries and page stronger. Please remember this and be kind and thoughtful. Writers are amazing people. They go out of their way to help. We are sure we can count on you.

Enough preaching. Here are some more commenting rules:

We would like each Kombatant to give feedback on at least 6 match-ups. You’re on your honor system here, we won’t be monitoring this. We’ve got enough to do. (lol!)  We’d also like each person who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment on a match-up, but feel free to do many more! And please we ask that Kombatants who are eliminated, come back and leave comments on the next round. We still want to hear what you think.  We need you to make this contest a success!

Kombatants, please don’t comment on your own entry, whether that is to thank people or to explain/rationalize your entry. There will be so many comments that we ask you to wait until the last day of voting to offer thanks or congratulate someone, or leave any other type of comment on your own entry. If you want to thank people before the last day of voting, twitter is the place.

We are counting on there being no hard feeling comments. If there are, they will be deleted. We warned you’ll need a thick skin and it’s true. But we believe this can be done in a friendly manner.

Getting knocked out of the contest or not getting picked is no indication of a story’s quality. After all, we only have snapshots to go upon. All the hosts are very excited for Query Kombat to start, and we hope you are too. Feel free to leave us questions in the comments or just shout out your excitement. Follow us on twitter for more updates. 

May 27, 2014

How Nightmare on Query Street Helped Me (Guest Post)


Our goals for Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street are twofold. First, and most important, is we want everyone who enters to have fun. The querying process can turn dismal in an instant, but contests remind us (even as hosts) that the writing community is a great and uplifting one. Contests remind us that we're not alone in the struggle, and that if we need a helping hand, it's just a tweet away. So whether you make it or don't make it into one of our contests, remember everything you got out of trying. Remember everything you learned from trying. Remember the friends you made from trying. THAT is the true measure of success.

Whoa... great speech, dude!

The second goal for our contests is to HELP make dreams come true. That help can come in different and unexpected ways. Scoring a request is only one way contests help. Below, Caitlin Sinead shares her story, and how Nightmare On Query Street helped her in a way a request never could.

Take it away, Caitlin. I'm out.

In order to share how great Nightmare on Query Street was for me, I need to back up a smidge.

I got a revision request on my first full manuscript (which was also a contender in Query Kombat, btw!), and while it ended in a rejection, the agent said he was open to seeing my next project. He really liked my voice and he really seemed to “get” my writing.

So I had a “request” before I even finished my next book! I was very excited about this. Knowing that at least one agent would take a look at it, and an agent who already appreciated my writing, motivated and drove me.

I eagerly sent it to him in mid-October and also started sending out queries. He asked me questions about comp titles and we had a back and forth dialogue on genres, which, of course, got me even more excited. This is it, I thought. This really is it. It’s happening.

But, a few days later, he got back to me and told me it just wasn’t for him. In fact, he didn’t even read that much of it. This was the same agent who read my other project twice! And he didn’t think this one was worth even delving into.

Don’t get me wrong, he was incredibly gracious and generous with his time and thoughts, so I am not bitter or anything, but it was a hard blow. In fact, it was the hardest blow I have had yet in my publishing process.

I thought if this agent didn’t like it, no one would.

I stopped querying.

I wanted to hide and lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself and sip red wine dramatically and stare out the window while looking morose.

…But this was two days before NMQS.

While I was still excited and grateful to be part of the contest, I was no longer optimistic about the project. But NMQS forced me to rejoin the twitterverse and chat with writers. It forced me to get excited about my project once again and to realize there are other agents out there, other agents that maybe would like the project! It forced me to read other queries, which helped remind me that I’m part of a community and that everyone has ups and downs and we’re all in this together! (Or at least it feels that way sometimes :o)

So even though NMQS didn’t directly result in my getting an agent, it lifted my spirits at a time when my spirits really needed some lifting.

And, a couple of weeks later, when an agent told me she wanted to talk, I was able to enter that conversation with a much more open mind than I might have otherwise. I was able to believe her when she gushed about my writing and my book and I was able to whole heartedly do happy dances when I got the offer.

So, yes, I am very thankful to Michele, Mike, and SC for putting together such fun contests that help connect and support writers and lift us up when we’re down.

And that project I decided no one would like? It will be published next year. :o)

Caitlin Sinead’s debut novel will be published by Carina Press in 2015. Her writing has also appeared (or is forthcoming) in The Alarmist, The Binnacle, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine, among other publications. She earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. She tweets at @CaitlinSineadJ.

May 23, 2014

The Accidental Socialite (QK Success)

Last year, Stephanie Wahstrom was a Kontestant in the Query Kombat tournament (My pick, might I add. Go Team Michael!). Her entry nickname was Champagne and Hot Dogs, and I remember it was that odd combination that caught my eye. Now, she has a two book deal and an agent!

Stephanie's book, The Accidental Socialite, was recently released, and the QK crew wishes her immense success

Quirky and clumsy twenty-two-year-old Paige Crawford arrives in London on a cold Saturday in January. Just when Paige starts to think that moving thousands of miles away from home with no real plan was a bad idea, Jason Frost appears. Confident and classy, Jason is the complete opposite of Paige and just what she needs in her life, or so she thinks. 

But before their romance has time to blossom, Paige trips and falls into the arms of a mysterious man on a drunken night out. She’s snapped by paparazzi, and newspaper headlines the next day suggest that she’s having an affair with a married footballer. 

Paige finds herself instantly elevated to tabloid celebrity status which isn’t exactly a picnic, particularly when trying to juggle her new job at Fashionista magazine, a catalog of dating disasters and a nagging doubt that she maybe she can’t conquer London after all. 

When a trip back to Canada for Christmas reminds Paige why she left her old life behind, she returns to London with renewed vigor realizing that while jobs, flats and men may come and go, friends in London are forever.

My Journey:

When I started writing my book almost 3 years ago, I never thought I'd see it in print.  Writing a book is one of the hardest things I've ever done, especially when you are still starting out because there isn't a publisher there to say, hey we loved the first book so much, here is more money and a deadline to write the second. There is no motivation to keep doing it and sooo much motivation to quit. So for me, anyone who has written 80k ish words in a row that mostly make sense is a hero and a success because I know how hard that is. Snap cups all around.

Once my book was 'finished' I started to query with no success because it really needed editing. I stopped querying, did an edit overhaul and then started querying again. But the whole thing felt overwhelming. I was scared they would all tell me what I was already telling myself in my head: this is a terrible book. 

So, I started entering competitions. I felt more comfortable with it because I didn't feel like I was bugging an agent or wasting their time. If they liked it, they could request it and they were there looking for books. 

Pitch Madness helped me find the heart of the story which then helped me get into Query Kombat. That's where the value of comments came in. The only people who had read the book up to that point were my friends and nobody would tell me anything but, Oh, I love it! I loved them too, but what I needed was real feedback and I got that in Query Kombat. My mentor helped me hone my first 250 words and the query letter (which really needed help). Another turning point was one particular comment that mentioned the character felt younger than 25, the age I made her because I stupidly read somewhere that books with characters between 18-25 didn't sell.  Spoiler alert, they do and are called New Adult.

I changed my MS, cried through a further bazillion rejections from agents and then entered one final comp before I was going to quit. That comp was PitchMas and in the end I ended up with 4 requests from PUBLISHERS.  

Even though in the end I had 3 offers to deal with, I still had further rejections from agents, which was still pretty depressing. But the yes I got from my agent Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown (and subsequently Tina Wexler at ICM as a co-agent) was the right one and I figured that's why I had so many nos.  Just like signing with Swoon Romance was the right decision for North America. You need people around you and the book that love it because the actual being published road is a bumpy one. It was late nights writing my second book (THE ACCIDENTAL NEW YORKER - out later this year) and guest blog posts, edits for the first book, my bio and all that extra stuff that didn't even cross my mind when I was writing THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE alone at 2 am. But it was all worth it because I was going to see my dream come true. 

Stephanie, the super agent she is, also got me a UK (incl Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India) deal with Piatkus Entice (a division of Little Brown). 

IT WAS ALL HAPPENING! The launch date was pushed back from February to do a global release and on April 15th 2014 I woke up a published author. I had a book launch party where I had a cake with the book on it and got to wear my sparkly Jimmy Choos I'd been saving for the occasion. I still can't believe it all happened. When I walk by my bookshelf and see my book next to Margret Atwood and Helen Fielding I tear up a little. 

Things keep going and I'm now prepping for more PR and the release of THE ACCIDENTAL NEW YORKER. I've also written a short story being included in a summer beach reads anthology called SUNLOUNGER 2 along side some mayjah writers. If someone had told me this would be my life in one short year from the day I entered Query Kombat, I wouldn't have believe them! Keep going because dreams do come true!

Growing up in Edmonton, Canada, a significant amount of Stephanie’s time was spent making up and acting out stories. She graduated from the University of Alberta with an English and Sociology degree and she also has a Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts from Red Deer College. She moved to New York on a whim after University and has written a variety of TV shows including an environmentally friendly lifestyle series and a tween magazine style show about celebrities. Stephanie moved to London in 2008 and aside from being obsessed with Eggs Benedict, shoes, Fruit Roll Ups and traveling, she also works in children’s television. THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE is her first novel starring Paige and Lucinda and is out now. The follow up, THE ACCIDENTAL NEW YORKER is due out later this year.

Twitter: @bacon_N_legs

May 22, 2014

Important Query Kombat 2014 Info

The Query Kombat submission window will open at noon EDT on Thursday, May 22nd. Below is a refresher of the submissions guidelines. Please, please follow them.

Entries sent before the submission window opens will be deleted unopened. Entries that don’t follow the guidelines will also be deleted (though we might be nice and let you know you need to resubmit). Knowing how writers worry, confirmation emails will be sent to ensure we got your submission and it didn’t end up in Mordor. If you don't receive an auto-response within one hour of sending, tweet me @RavenousRushing and I will investigate

Still love that joke.

You should know that Michelle, SC, and I have very different tastes, so that should insure a large variety of entries make it in the tournament. 

Now, on to the fun stuff.


Listen close, because things have changed from last year. To minimize the workload for the judges, we will use only eighteen of our twenty-seven judges for the first round. Each blog (there are three) will have six designated judges commenting and voting on each match-up hosted on that blog. That being said, any of the other judges can swing by to cast votes and leave comments. It's completely up to them.

Since the kontestants get to invent amazing nicknames, naturally the judges want one, too! To recognize our wonderful judges and know the vote is legit, here is a list of the nicknames they have chosen:

Girl w/t Golden Pen
Allusion Assassin
Tiny Tornado
Glen Coco
River Tam
Luna Lovegood
MRS N, the Query Queen
Princess Primrose
The Hybrid
Chelsea Morning
Sally Draper
Captain Yawp
Mrs. Malcolm Reynolds
Book Boyfriend Connoisseur
Jessie Spano
Gundam Girl
Pen Dreamer
Short Stack

And for the second year in a row, we sound like a cuckoo version of the Justice League--only bigger.

The tournament is open only to unagented writers seeking representation for complete and polished novels. Submissions for MG, YA, NA, and Adult works will be accepted. No picture books or non-fiction. 

The submission window will open at Noon EDT on Thrusday, May 22nd and close at 11:59:59 PM on Friday, May 23rd, OR WHEN WE RECEIVE 225 ENTRIES. Kontestants will be revealed May 30th and the tournament will kick off on June 1st. 

The first round and agent round will be held on all three blogs (Mike, SC, Michelle). The second round will be hosted by Michael and Michelle. The third round will be hosted by SC. The fourth round will be hosted by Michael. The fifth round will be hosted by Michelle. The final round will be hosted by SC. Have no fear, each blog will have links to all rounds so you will not get lost.

In order to enter the contest, you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow those guidelines will be considered. In the event that we receive more than the available spots, hosts will savagely raid the slush pile and attempt to snatch up all the best entries. No worries, we're more civil than we make ourselves out to be... barely. Sixty-four total queries will enter into the tournament. We will also select three or four alternates.

Note: If you make it past the first round, you may submit a revised entry. Revised entries MUST be submitted before 11:59:59 PM on June 5th. We will not accept late entries under any circumstance. When submitting a revised entry, please follow the original submission guideline.

Send entries to: QueryKombat (at) yahoo (dot) com

Formatting guidelines:

Times New Roman (or default font for gmail users), 12pt font, single-spaced with ONE space between each paragraph. No indentations.

Subject line of the Email: Your name [colon] a short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. Example:

Michael Anthony: Death isn't so Bad: YA Magical Realism

For the nickname, make it as unique as possible so that there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament post headings, so keep it PG-13 and try to have it relate to your story in some way. Nicknames are limited to 25
 characters! But it would be awesome if they are shorter.

***The four Free Pass winners should include “Free Pass” after their genrein the subject line to ensure their spot.

In the body of the email (bold where bold):

Name: Michael Anthony
Email address:

Entry Nickname: Death isn't so Bad

Title: My Best Friend Death
Word count: 67,000
Genre: Magical Realism


Damien Crown devotes his life to being his brother's superman. Like all heroes, he's locked in a deadly war with a formidable foe—his brother's depression. Instead of perishing in a climactic battle as comics suggests, he dies at the screech of tires and the blare of a car horn. But in those last precious moments, he regrets not taking off the cape and living his own life.

But those regrets don't last long when Death volunteers to be his life-coach.
Given a new body and one more year to live, Damien seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself. Forbidden by Death from making contact with his old family, he knows the trek will be hard, but he's happy to leave behind the pressures of his old life.
Until his brother attempts suicide.
The only way to save his brother is to break Death's rules, and Damien finds himself stuck between who he was, and who he wants to be. With a life any kid would kill for, he has an impossible choice before him—don his cape and die for his brother, or hang it up and finally live for himself.

Only include the meat of your query. No bio. Queries may be up to 350 words, but 250 is strongly preferred. Names and email address of Kontestants will not be posted.

First 250 words:

(Don't include the chapter title and please, don't stop in the middle of a sentence.)

Simple, huh?

warning gif photo: Green Warning a_trennlinie_gruen17.gif

All queries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send. Unless you make it past the first round, you will not have an opportunity to edit your query or first 250 words. You have several days to polish your work. Take advantage of it. Competition will be fierce.

Put on your thick skin and get those submissions—Ready! Set! Go on May 22nd!