Jun 25, 2014

Qk Round 4: A Cozy for Geeks VS Lavender Marriage

Entry Nickname: A Cozy for Geeks
Title: The Genuine Fake
Word Count: 75,030
Genre: Mystery Cozy


You'd have to be drunk or crazy to hire Dahlia Moss as a detective, and her client was conveniently both. Drunk was verifiable-- there was a wine glass in his hand. Crazy was self-evident: Dahlia had no experience, no money, and the only thing she'd been reliably good at finding were pink slips.

The details of the job only make it seem stranger. The client wants her to recover the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing, a powerful and breathtakingly gaudy weapon from the online game "Kingdoms of Zoth". The pay is insane, a thousand bucks just for looking, and double for finding it. Dahlia thinks the job is certifiable, but pragmatically signs on; two thousand bucks buys a lot of Ramen.

Her investigation takes her through the student slums of St. Louis and into the on-line jungles of Zoth, interviewing aggrieved gamers, drunken fire-mages, misogynist golems, and an extremely petulant tree. But just when she gets a handle on the case, her client turns up dead-- skewered by a 3-D printed replica of the very spear she was looking for.

Suddenly, the police are involved, and Dahlia is in the middle of a murder investigation. Gamers are showing at her doorstep, detectives are trailing her, and more 3-D printed spears are mysteriously showing up in the mail. It's exactly the wrong time to learn that her client's decision to hire her wasn't so random after all.

First 250:

The only time I ever met Jonah Long he was wearing a fake beard, a blue pinstripe captain's outfit and a toy pipe that blew soap bubbles. He did not seem like someone who was about to change my life.

"I have a proposition for you," he had told me. Admittedly, that does sound like the kind of thing a life changing person might say. It's right up there with "it's dangerous to go alone-- take this!" and "you are the chosen one." But a plastic bubble pipe really takes the edge off this sort of thing.

It was a nautical themed party, which partly explained his ridiculous outfit. I'd thought he was hitting on me. “I’m in a non-dating phase," I'd told him. Not entirely true, but I repeat: bubble pipe.

"A financial proposition, Dahlia."

I had no idea who he was. I was irked that he knew my name but it was clear from the way Charice was hovering over him that my roommate was involved. She was wearing an over-sized mermaid's outfit that made her look faintly seal-like-- especially with her mugging at me as Jonah spoke. Eh? Eh? I felt like I should throw a fish at her.

But really: what could I do? I had seventeen dollars and twenty three cents in my bank account at the time of this exchange, with less in savings. I could only use ATMs that dispensed tens. Despite my correct sense that Jonah was 1) ridiculous and 2) trouble, at the phrase "financial proposition" he had my undivided attention.


Entry Nickname: Lavender Marriage
Title: The Well-Adjusted Household
Word Count: 86,000
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.”

Their reputations, their fortune and the custody of their children all depend on this one, grand lie. 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?”

Ben rolled to his back, coughing from the impact. “Left. You were on my left.”

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

Ben sat up slowly, poking at his cheek where a shard of glass had lodged. His vision was blurry, though his spectacles were still somehow perched on his nose. Perhaps he had been concussed.

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

Ben dusted off his trousers, struggling to keep his temper in check. “I find that hard to believe, sir. Furthermore, I–” The words died in his throat as he took in the full visage of his assailant. He was beautiful, with an easy smile and grey eyes. “I, um, my class...” Ben gestured to the mess of books and glass on the ground, struggling to regain his train of thought.

“Your class?” The young man leaned in closer, inspecting Ben's wound. “I'm afraid you have blood all over you.”

He smelled lovely, like Eau de Quinine. Ben exhaled sharply. “Be that as it may, sir–”

“– it's Iain, actually,” he laughed.


  1. Judges, please cast votes as a reply to this comment.

    1. Princess PrimroseJune 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Like Assassin, I had to pick one and vote because I WANTED BOTH IN THE FINAL ROUND DAMMIT. Okay, I ultimately decided on...


    2. This is so difficult!! Like my fellow judges, I expected both these entries to make it to the end! Basing my vote on which book I'd read first if I had them in my hands right now...

      Victory to LAVENDER MARRIAGE!

    3. Both so good! But since I love the idea of the historical perspective (as well as the story concept) ...
      Victory to LAVENDER MARRIAGE

    4. A Cozy for Geeks:
      Still a great query! One thing: the period should go inside the quotation marks after "Zoth." In your first 250, there is SO MUCH awesome voice, and I LOVE the idea of a such a unique, fun NA cozy mystery.

      Lavender Marriage: Wow, this is really good--great plot, great first 250, I have no doubt that this'll be snapped up by an agent so fast it'll make your head spin.

      This one comes down to subjectivity for me (and I'm sure for all the other judges as well), but because of the awesome voice and the fun uniqueness of the audience/genre combo, VICTORY TO A COZY FOR GEEKS.

    5. MRS N, the Query QueenJune 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      Excellent queries, both of you! I so want to read them both when they get published. I loved the premises and the voice was so alluring. Ultimately, I had to go with what captured me the most. A bubble pipe? How ingenious!

      Victory to A COZY FOR GEEKS!!!

    6. Are kidding me? These are both so good and incredibly different! All right, here goes...

      This is the first time I'm reading this entry and I'm hooked. That dang bubble pipe sealed it for me! Wonderful voice.

      I'm still a fan and love the feel of your first 250, you suck me right in with your beautiful words.

      Hardest decision yet.

      Victory to COZY FOR GEEKS!

    7. Wow! I haven't seen either of these before and was blown away by both. I will say the query for Lavender Marriage drew me in more than the query for A Cozy. BUT I adored the 250 for A Cozy. I mean, a bubble pipe? Yes, please.

      Great job both of you.

      Victory to A COZY FOR GEEKS.

    8. They are both great. Merely subjective at this point.

      Victory to A COZY FOR GEEKS.

    9. Premise for both of these is fantastic and so different. But I'm still won by the voice in Cozy's first 250.


    10. These seem so different, but that's how it goes now. So onwards and funwards, eh?

      I kind of get the different tense in the first paragraph. I mean its set-up and all. But I also kind of don't. It reads just fine without it. In the moment yes, he is drunk, and even after all of that, she'll still have no experience. But your voice is strong and everything clips right along. I'd be hard-pressed to find any issues with it that aren't subjective. So I'll say that, if you're not getting any requests in this thing or querying, then its probably subjective. You're doing great. Sidenote: have you ever tried to hurt someone with a 3-D printed part? Not sure it could be that sharp...well I suppose if you filed it. But that would have to be a HUGE 3d printer...unless it was just the head, and then you added things. 3D printers are expensive (I own one in case you couldn't tell). I know this is random and side-notey but I'm a judge so you have to humor me. :D The power is going to my head, I can tell. Anyways, I imagine I need to read more. Which would be lovely. :D

      LAVENDER MARRIAGE well isn't this just such an intriguing premise. I see your research already in the query and 250. Not that I know a ton about this time period, but more that I used the mighty google to see if they even artificially inseminated back then. And they did! It was new, but there you go! Well, you probably already knew that. So I'm impressed. You have a delightful little meet-cute there, though it gives me pause as if this is a prologue. And is it necessary. Not enough to say no, but enough to see how committed I am, which you'll learn soon enough.

      VICTORY TO LAVENDER MARRIAGE because the market is looking for more stories like this one, not because Cozy for geeks is bad in any way. (I promise it has nothing to do with my 3-D printer rant)

    11. Girl with the Golden PenJune 25, 2014 at 4:09 PM

      Both of these are great entries for different reason. GEEKS is funny with a good voice and LAVENDER is romantic with a thoroughly intriguing concept. Since I fell in love with it from round 1...

      Victory to LAVENDER MARRIAGE

    12. Guest Judge Green Velvet here. Sorry I can't give lengthy feedback, I'm making do technologically speaking and having all kinds of problems. Victory to COZY FOR GEEKS, even though I'm not a cozy-reader, your voice and humor really drew me in and I got a great sense of your narrator from the beginning. I felt kind of confused by things like "artificially conceived children" in LAVENDER MARRIAGE and the character descriptions in the query didn't give me enough sense of who these people were other than being clandestinely gay and at risk because of it.

    13. Both of these entries are incredible. I love the whole tabloids scandal aspect of LAVENDER MARRIAGE and I think the tweaks to the query have just made this entry stronger. A COZY FOR GEEKS has a voice that I just can't get out of my head and feels like something I'd pick up. This is super close but...


    14. Ugh. These are so good. And so different. And WHY DO I HAVE TO CHOOSE???

      Sigh. I just have to go with personal preference here, and it's voice that gets me every time.

      Victory to A COZY FOR GEEKS.

    15. I remember A Cozy for Geeks from an earlier round and I still love it! In fact, it's better.
      Lavender Marriage is an interesting concept, and I love historical fiction!
      But I will have to give
      Victory to A Cozy for Geeks.

  2. GEEKS: There are still some little tweaks this could do with. Contractions would sound smoother ('He didn't seem like...' and 'he'd told me'). And I still think you only need one use of the past perfect to slide into the flashback before using the past tense, which would read more smoothly ('I thought he was hitting on me', 'I told him'). These words should be hyphenated: life-changing, nautical-themed, twenty-three. And I think these phrases should begin with a capital: It's right up there with "It's dangerous to go alone-- take this!" and "You are the chosen one."

    LAVENDER: I like that you've expanded this just a little, it brings it alive more and takes us into Ben's point of view more. I still think you need to say something like 'The beakers I was carrying' for clarity, and I'm not at all a fan of 'the full visage' which pulled me right out of the story. I'd just delete it and say 'The words died in his throat as he took in his assailant.'

    This match-up is insanely hard for me to judge. I would really love to read both these books. Lavender has a lovely Christopher Isherwood feel, and Geeks is so voicey and fun and off-the-wall. In the end, the small difference to me is in the queries - I have a much better idea of what kind of overall story to expect from Geeks' query. Lavender's query leaves me wondering how much of the book will deal with Ben and Iain and co's love story, and how much will be about the court case. I'm not quite sure what the arc will be. So, both fantastic writing, but in the end:


  3. Allusion AssassinJune 25, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    I'm just closing my eyes and voting on this, cursing that life is not fair as I do. I had these two pegged for my final four. The consolation prize being that whichever one loses will be going to agents that much quicker.


  4. Wow, this is really tough, because I've been rooting for both of these since the beginning. I'm making my pick based on which one I'd grab off a shelf, and it's purely because I love the voice so much

    Victory to COZY FOR GEEKS

  5. Go Cozy For Geeks! #writerbees represent!

  6. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 26, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    I love the historical research behind Lavender Marriage, but I can't get the voice for Cozy for Geeks out of my head -- so engaging and funny!