Jun 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Lavender Marriage vs #droolworthy Laundry

Entry Nickname: Lavender Marriage
Title: The Well-Adjusted Household
Word Count: 87,000
Genre: Adult Upmarket Fiction

Ben has been called a lot of things: doctor, husband, father, deviant, liar. His wife Alena calls him friend and her brother Iain calls him lover.

They live in Prohibition-era Pittsburgh and booze isn't the only thing that's illegal. Homosexuality is a felony and Ben and Iain don't care to spend the next ten years behind bars. Luckily, their sham marriages to Alena and her paramour Margaux are the perfect cover.

In public, they are the wealthy and powerful Blackburn family, heirs to a steel fortune. But behind closed doors, they are an improvised household of artificially conceived children and secret passageways between bedrooms. Everything is orchestrated. Nothing is as it seems.

When a conniving maid discovers their secret, Iain and Ben are arrested on charges of sodomy and homosexual behavior. The men and their constructed family are put on trial and it is up to their wives to convince the world of their “innocence.”
With an unjust law and an unsympathetic jury, they are well-aware that the truth will not set them free.

First 250:

“On your right!”

The bicycle appeared from around the corner while Ben was lost in thoughts of covalent bonds and chemical reactions. There was no time to avoid impact. His beakers hit the pavement first, followed by his face.

“Jesus Christ, I've killed him. Hello? Can you hear me?”

As Ben regained consciousness, he assessed his injuries. Pain, but no broken bones. He rolled to his back. “Left. You were on my left.”

“Pardon?” The offending cyclist hovered over him, surveying the damage. “Goodness. You're bleeding.”

Ben sat up slowly, his ears ringing and his vision blurry. He poked at his cheek where a shard of beaker glass had lodged. “Shit.”

“Here, let me help you,” the young man said. He grabbed Ben's arm and pulled him to his feet. “I do apologize. I've never run over anyone before.”

Ben wobbled slightly. “I find that hard to believe.”

“My apartment is just there,” he offered, disregarding Ben's comment and pointing to a building across the street. “Would you care to come up? Use the washroom? That gash is quite a sight.” The young man leaned in closer, inspecting the wound. He was beautiful and smelled like Eau de Quinine.

Ben exhaled sharply. “I, um, don't think–”

“Please. It's the least I can do.”

“Well...if you insist.”

“I insist,” he said, grinning. “I'm Iain, by the way.”

“Iain. Pleased to meet you. I'm afraid I can't say the same for your bike.”


Entry Nickname: #droolworthy Landry
Title: Piece of Your Soul
Word Count: 57,000
Genre: New Adult Romance
It’s the late 90’s and times are different. There wasn’t any real use of cell phones yet, certainly not by college kids. They couldn’t afford them and were stuck with pagers.  People still wore watches. MTV still played music videos. Lots of things were different.  Social media wasn’t even invented. But, some things will always remain true. Flips flops will always be cool. Tattoos will always be sexy on the hot, chiseled bodies of the “boys of summer”. And the first painful break up with a boy you’ve only just now realized never loved you at all, will inevitably try to smother your spirit.
Emily Thymer is trying to break free from this very kind of assault on her spirit. She is at her breaking point with cocky, self-absorbed, heartless guys. And is desperately ready to find a way to start over, and put an end to the pain of allowing one particular arrogant boy to use her and her body. Little does she know that she is already set on a collision course to crash smack into drool-worthy Landry McMann. 
Landry is the polar opposite of any guy Emily’s ever met, and she realizes her brokenness begins to heal with every second spent with this man.
But, summer’s at its end already. Fate must be playing a sick joke. They have exactly two weeks together before fall arrives, and Landry leaves. Will their relationship be over before it really begins?
First 250 words:
“Chad, Emily. Can I see you both in the hall please?” Mrs. Bowman, our British Lit. teacher, snapped me out of my daydream, and addressed us from her desk.
I glanced at Chad and it seemed that he avoided my eyes. “Sure.” I spoke up, getting out of my seat and heading over to the door while Mrs. Bowman gathered up some papers and gestured for me to go on out to the hall.
Once we were all out there, she shut the door, like all the way, so we could all talk in private.  When she began her reprimand, her words left me in a complete state of shock.  If anyone passed us in the hall right then, I know they’d see my mouth hanging open. I knew Mrs. Bowman was lecturing us, but I couldn’t really hear what she was saying.  I could only focus on the tears that had welled up in her eyes, threatening to break free and stream down her face. 
Besides being my Lit. teacher, she was also my Varsity cheerleading coach.  She had quickly become my favorite teacher.  And now she was on the verge of tears over of something I’d done. Or, rather, something she’d thought I’d done. 
“So, what kind of excuse do you both have for turning in the exact same final essay?” Mrs. Bowman could barely ask us.
As she went on, the realization of what must have happened nearly suffocated the breath from my lungs. In her mind, she had caught my boyfriend, Chad, and I cheating on our final essay.


  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

    1. Lavender Marriage: Nice clear query and this sounds like an interesting story. The only thing I’d say is that it’s a bit dry – I’d like a bit more of Ben’s voice (presuming it’s told from his POV) in it to make it sound less like a history lesson and more like a real person struggling with his difficult life.

      Nice meet cute on your first page. I like this opening, it’s sweet, and the bit about left and right made me smile, as did the last line. I’d just tweak a couple of things – even with the mention of science just before, I had to reread the line about beakers, so I might just change it to ‘The beakers full of formula he was carrying...’ or something, to make it clearer. And then I think there needs to be a little doubletake when Ben goes from being hurt and irritated to noticing that his assailant is good-looking. Perhaps just ‘The young man leaned in closer, inspecting the wound. Ben suddenly noticed that he was beautiful and smelled like Eau de Quinine.’ Overall, I’d definitely read on, I’m charmed by them both already, so well done.

      #droolworthy Landry: The first para of your query is very clunky. We know the 90s were different to now, although not that much for it to be a big talking point. I’d suggest taking that out and putting the rest in present tense so it comes alive better, plus cutting it down so we get to your MC more quickly. Eg: ‘It’s the 90s, era of pagers, MTV, and no social media. But some things never change, like the first painful break-up with a boy who never loved you at all. And college student Emily Thymer isn’t enjoying that part of the decade one bit.’

      This is an interesting opening scene, with the lecturer catching them cheating (am guessing Chad is her boyfriend and the sod has copied her essay behind her back). But the prose could do with a bit of work. We don’t need ‘and addressed us from her desk.’, or a precise description of them going out and closing the door. I also think it’s be much more dramatic if the teacher held out their essays and/or said in dialogue that they’re both the same, so we discover what’s going on at the same time as the MC. If you polished it up a bit it could be a gripping opening, and also one that immediately makes the reader feel for Emily.

      Victory to Lavender Marriage.

    2. Allusion AssassinJune 1, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      I have nothing really constructive to say to you. This query is terrific and your opening is great. If I had to find nits, it would be not to state the cliched obvious "nothing is as it seems". I agree with Omar on the beaker thing and also that you could draw out the suspense of this meet a bit. But those are nits. This is lovely. If it hasn't been picked up yet, I really feel it's just because you haven't found the right agent or you need to look deeper in the book. Excellent job.

      I don't feel like your first quite works. It's an almost there for me. It's too long for one. I'm left thinking that if it takes you this many words to get to the point in your query, your MS might have the same issue. Really try to hone in on the meat of your hook - the break up. You don't to tell us the '90s were different. Trim, trim, trim and then sock us in the gut with the break up.

      I don't know why Landry is special. You tell us that he is, but you don't give us any reason to believe you. And I'm left not understanding the stakes here. So she doesn't get to keep new guy, she's off to college with plenty of new fish. Why should we care? What are the stakes and what bad things happen?

      Your opening scene is strong. Emily is likable from the start. We need to see more reaction from her though when Chad doesn't look at her. She should notice. She should be curious as to why she's being called in the hall etc. I agree with Omar that you could add more drama here to get more sympathy for Emily. Like your query, this could use a bit of tightening, but overall I think it's in pretty good shape. Good job.

      Ultimately, though, Lavender Marriage is to overpowering. Victory Lavender Marriage.

    3. Lavender Marriage: Wow. I had chills from reading your query, and the stakes at the end make me think this is the sort of book over which I'd shed quite a few tears! This is really great work, and I'm having trouble finding anything wrong with your query. As OmarC mentioned, it would be even stronger if you put some of Ben's voice into the query.

      In your first 250, I'd encourage you to spend a little more time on the fact that Ben is injured/give more description of how much pain he's in before he realizes how good-looking Iain is, but that's just my personal preference/a nitpick. I also wanted to point out that your dialogue sounds authentic to the time period, yet still accessible. I know how hard that is to do, so great job!

      I have to say, I'm surprised this doesn't have representation already, and I'm going to cross my fingers that an agent signs you soon because I want to read this beautiful story!

      #droolworthy Landry: The 90's were definitely awesome, but this query opening isn't gripping me the way it should, and I think that's because you don't even introduce your MC until the second paragraph. Instead, give us one brief sentence about the 90's (I could go on about how great those years were for paragraphs, too!), and then jump right into Emily and her predicament, which is the focus of your story. Also, what makes Landry so different aside from his appearance? I think giving us some other information about him would also help entice agents to keep reading. Telling us something about their connection might help, too.

      I also didn't quite follow the stakes at the end. There are plenty of folks who do long distance relationships- I know many- and so I wasn't sure what the true conflict/risk in the story is supposed to be. Also, two weeks doesn't feel long enough to me for this girl to be desperately in love already, but that could be purely subjective.

      I did love the voice in your query. Just work on trimming down the 90's part at the beginning so we get to Emily and Landry immediately, and make sure you tell us more about their relationship and set up higher stakes at the end.

      In your first 250, watch the 'it seemed he avoided my eyes' bit. You could have Emily be more certain that he's avoiding her eyes for added tension, and we need to see her reaction to this. I think you need more tension throughout this first page to really make it shine (for instance, have Emily panicking more about being called into the hallway?). However, you write very well and I enjoyed the scene!

      And for the vote, because I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on this book someday-

      Victory to Lavender Marriage!

    4. Lavender Marriage: You have a really well constructed query here. I immediately know the characters and what's at stake. That being said your sinker reads clunky to me. I think your last line would be much more powerful if you spelled out what being convicted would cost both men - perhaps prison and a life without each other?

      As for your 250, I think the interaction is well done, but I would draw out the conversation for a bit before having Iain invite Ben to his apartment to clean up. That felt rushed to me.

      One other comment: I have done a lot research on this time period, and would say you need to be careful about your use of language. It is your call, but it was rare for men to curse in public (even when they were in the military).

      droolworthy Landry: I think you have a good contemporary premise here, but the beginning of your query reads like backstory. I think you can start with your second paragraph and add in some details so we know your story takes place in the 1990s.

      While I like the voice, I can't really tell what is at stake here. Is it losing Landry at the end of summer? Why is it already summer's end? Did she spend most of the summer trying to get up the courage to talk to him? I need a little more detail about their relationship in order to have your sinker make sense.

      Your first 250 starts with good tension with the cheating set up, but I'd like to see some more emotion from Emily, especially since this is her favorite teacher. It would also make the scene more intense if we got a hint of Chad's reaction to the teacher's accusation.

      One last thing, I thought this was New Adult, but your characters still seem to be in high school (teacher instead of professor - varsity cheerleading). Was this marked wrong?

      Victory goes to: Lavender Marriage

    5. ghostbuster_extraordinaireJune 4, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Lavender Marriage:

      Wow. Fantastic query! I definitely want to read this. Great job.

      The 250 flows nicely and is holds my attention. My only concern is that it's a flashback. That's a hard sell for an agent. I'm still intrigued though.

      #droolworthy Landry

      Make sure to put the period inside the quotation marks. The repetition of spirit was distracting to me. The first paragraph in the query reads like an info dump. The information is important, but try to weave it in more organically.

      The 250 words need to be tighten slightly. Overall I liked the section though, and was intrigued by the cheating accusation.

      Victory to Lavender Marriage

      The opening paragraph confused me a bit -- if their arrangements are such a well-kept secret, who's calling him a deviant and liar? Also, the line about "artificially conceived children" puzzled me, because I'm pretty sure IVF and artificial insemination are more modern medicine than that era.

      I'm not a fan of the first paragraph. I know you're trying to set the scene, but the people reading your query were probably alive during the 90s and really just want to know about your story. What is it that sets this story apart from any other NA romance?

      Victory to Lavender Marriage

    7. Girl with the Golden PenJune 4, 2014 at 1:31 PM


      The query- You've got a killer concept here. I immediately perked up at this premise. The conflict is clear and interesting and I always love historical fiction with lots of secrets and intrigue. You have some really great lines that convey the tone of your novel. Good hook and great last line. Not sure about the artificially conceived children line. Could you do that back then?

      The first 250- This is a cute though painful meeting. I like the way these two characters interact and there were a few lines that made me laugh. A great way to throw us into their relationship. It also does a good job of establishing their characters right off the bat. The covalent bonds line gives us a hint of Ben's interests and lets us connect with him immediately. Strong first words.


      The query- This concept seems very generic for NA. She's a girl who's been broken one too many times and now there's a boy who can heal her and they are running out of time. But the ticking clock and her damage have been done before time and time again. There needs to be some other type of conflict to give the query more originality. As of right now, it just doesn't stick out among the increasingly crowded NA market. Think about what makes your NA romance unique and show case that. Also the first paragraph about the 90s is a little long since... well... your audience grew up during the 90s. They KNOW.

      The first 250- There's a lot of telling in these first words, and filtering 'he seemed to avoid my eyes' can become 'he avoided my eyes' and instead of talking about how the teacher began her lecture just show us the lecture. You don't have to set it up too much. Showing will also tighten this beginning up and make it stronger.

      Overall, in concept and writing, LAVENDER MARRIAGE grabbed me more. I need more on what make #DROOLWORTHY unique in its genre where as LAVENDER MARRIAGE sticks out. Victory to LAVENDER MARRIAGE

    I'm reading your query just saying, "Holy $hit" over and over. You've caught my interest immediately and I already want to keep reading. My primary suggestion is to rewrite the last sentence to make it more vague, something more like, "They fear that the truth will not set them free." As is, I feel like it's giving away the ending, which usually is reserved for the synopsis.

    I like the first 250, but I've seen a lot of agents say not to start with action or dialogue. Maybe add a sentence or two to set the scene and let us know what's going on before Iain shouts the warning?

    I'm torn here - I like the tone and the voice, but really want to hear more about the book and less about the 1990s, since you'll presumably show what it was like in the book. Plus, I know about the 1990s - I was there. I don't know about Emily and Landry. What makes him drool-worthy? How do they get together?

    I like that you're starting by showing the MC with the wrong guy. There are a few places where the right could be tighter - you don't need phrases like "I knew". Just show what she knew. And instead of "could barely ask us", consider something like "The words stuck in her throat" to give more of a visual. And you don't need a comment between "daydream" and "and" in the first paragraph - those aren't independent clauses. But overall, I'm outraged for the MC and interested to see what she does next.

    These both sound like books I'd love to read. Good luck to both of you!

  3. Lavender Marriage: So well done! I love the query and your first 250. I would read this book for sure! Just a couple of suggestions, if they strike you right. First, in the query, the sentence "But behind closed doors, they are an improvised household of artificially conceived children and secret passageways between bedrooms." threw me. I went back to see if the genre was paranormal. I'm still not sure what it means -- have they had children that way? Are they test tubes babies themselves? I'm not sure.

    In your 250 the only quibble I had was that you could get rid of "the young man said" and have it just be "Here, let me help you." The young man grabbed Ben's arm..." Great stuff and good luck!

    Droolworthy Landry: A fun start -- it's a flashback! I would suggest trying to use longer sentences if your query. It has a choppy feel, and while I understand you're listing things and wanting to sound modern, it sounds more abrupt. Make sense? I feel sort of the same in your 250 -- if you haven't, try reading your words out loud and see what feels natural. It's about the flow, is what I'm saying.

    A fun entry, and I want to know how they both turned in the same paper!!!!! Good luck!

  4. Lavender -

    Your query is amazing. I think it is arresting and startling and promises a book that is not like anything out there. I'd be shocked if you didn't get a 75% request rate with this one.

    Your 250 is good, but you can do better. A little more narrative, even one paragraph, would be helpful to help us know who Ben is, where, or what he is doing, and why we should care. Still, great meeting. I would love to read this book.


    I agree with the other commenters: you could cut a lot about the 90s out. We were all there and we remember. The last sentence of the first paragraph is where your query begins. I'd like to know more, however, about what makes your plot move other than girl meets boy.

    Your 250 is great. This exact thing happened to me in college (though I didn't know the cheater who copied), and it is terrifying. I would definitely keep reading.

    Great job to you both! Good luck!

  5. Lavender Marriage

    You have an interesting premise and your writing promises a most interesting read. It’s really good. I’m kinda awed at your tight and evocative prose, something I strive for and hope to someday achieve.

    But anyway, just so I get the story I have a clarifying question about the time period. You’re talking the 1920’s right?

    The first 250 words draw me in. I loved the cute meet with the biker on the left and not the right. I agree with the other comments in that you could add what Ben’s injuries were if you wanted, but it’s not essential.

    Thanks for entering QueryKombat and letting me get to read your work.

    #droolworthy Landry

    I agree with the other comments about the beginning of your query. I’m guessing you’re trying to set the mood with all the 90’s references, but I’m not sure it works. Consider replacing some of those references with details about Landry and how his character is different than Chad. I like how you've limited the time to a two week countdown, but also I was a little confused (and it might just be me) by the seeming contradiction in time between the query and the story’s start. In the query summer is winding down and in the story Emily has turned in an essay as a final. I’m guessing the first words are almost like a prologue to the query and she’s looking forward to graduating or (in this case not graduating) from High School. This misunderstanding on my part may be a really good thing because I think it helps me figure out what might be a fix for your query.

    A suggestion: start your query at the same point as the first words—with Mrs. Bowman confronting Chad and Emily about copying the essay. Then tell what the consequences are specifically instead of the general, “She is at her breaking point with cocky, self-absorbed, heartless guys. And is desperately ready to find a way to start over, and put an end to the pain of allowing one particular arrogant boy to use her and her body, ” then tell how she meets Landry and what happens/how they fall in love and then spring the fact he’s leaving in fall.

    And yep, I liked the tension in the classroom scene and your voice—to my mind you’re starting at the right place and I think this story is worthwhile, something I’d be excited to read.

    Thanks for putting your work out there and I hope I've helped.

  6. Lavendar Marriage: Wow. Are you sure you didn't just paste the first page of an already published book here? Because this is seriously, seriously good. I'm kind of struggling for something constructive to say. Oh, here! "They are well-aware" shouldn't have a hyphen. There you go!

    #droolworthy, I am a total sucker for doomed and limited-time-frame love stories, so this is right up my alley. I agree with everybody that you should cut the stuff about the 90s in your query (most agents will remember them pretty well, I'd think) and start with your character. Your first 250 starts in a good spot, with them getting caught for cheating. Right away, Emily is in a terrible predicament, which is great and tells us a lot about her. There was some repetition in the language (for example, you don't need to say she was shocked and then mention her mouth hanging open -- one or the other will do it). And there are quite a few "see" verbs that are filtering your narrative and making it less immediate. Otherwise, I like the way this flows, and I really want to find out how Emily is going to get out of this!

    Good luck!

  7. Lavender Marriage: Wow! Great voice, great arc. The query is perfect. In terms of the 250, I agree that it's best to start with something other than action or dialogue. I've also heard a lot of agents say you shouldn't start with any sort of accident, just something to keep in mind, even though I think it's really well done.

    Droolworthy Landry: I agree with the posters who said you don't need the first paragraph about the 1990s, especially since those who read new adult tend to be a little older. Many of them/us remember the 90s. Also, is the story told in flashback? With the set up, it sounds like it is. I'm a little confused about the opening scene as well. If it is a lit professor, you would refer to her as professor or Dr. Bowman, and not talk about varsity cheer leading. Also, why is Landry leaving and what are the stakes? I like where you are going with Emily's journey, but I'd like more details. Nice job!

  8. Lavender marriage - great premise. Your query is excellent. your open ing scene is really cute, but I am left feeling something is missing. Perhaps a bit more time/place reference.
    Droolworthy Landry - This sounds like an engaging read. My suggestions: I would drop or vastly shorten the first line of your query for reasons mentioned above. I concur that its best not to open with a bit of dialogue. A clever scene/mood-setting first line would lead us in. Maybe something about the teacher's steel gaze - you know,the one that makes you shrink down in your seat. Something along those lines before the dialogue. Also, an English teacher is probably not going to say "exact same" as it's redundant.

    Good luck to you both.

  9. Lavender Marriage
    I don’t have too much to say on this one. The query clearly lays out the elements and drew me through from start to finish. The opening line/paragraph is a real zinger. Likewise, the 250 was well written and quite fun. I think my only quibble is that we’re in Ben’s POV and yet we seem to hear Iain’s words while Ben is still unconscious.

    #droolworthy Laundry
    I really liked the 250. It’s tells us a lot in a short span of time, and thrusts us into the midst of conflict right from the start. We know by the end of the first page that Chad is bad news. I do think though, that a little more confusion on the part of Emily at the first might be in order. Chad obviously knows what’s going on. She doesn’t yet.

    The query is okay, but I think the first paragraph is unnecessarily long. I’d suggest condensing it down to a sentence or two at most. Also, lines like “Lots of things were different” are unnecessary in general. It’s unneeded telling when everything else in the paragraph already conveys that perfectly well.

    Good luck to both!