Jun 30, 2015

Query Kombat Championship Round!





Time for the battle to the finish!!! 



After a MONTH from Round 1 to here, we've dwindled down the 250 or so submissions to the final two standing. They are Elephants Never Forget and Best(iary) Western, two AMAZING entries.

Have fun with that judges! Both are winners, but you decide the Grand Champion! 

It's the home stretch! In the week coming up, it's all about Query Kombat wrap-up: presenting the badges to the winners of each age category, thanking the judges, and starting the Name That Judge game on Michelle's blog.

Jun 28, 2015

QK Round 5 Begins!!!

Team Platypus will rock your socks off!

Team Platypus is Awesome!!!! Podunk for the win!
THE FINAL FOUR have been crowned. Three from Michelle's team, one from Mike's. These are the top FOUR out of over 250 entries--an amazing accomplishment by these authors. Team Platypus for the win. Go Podunk!!!




Good Luck Kombatants!

(And by that I mean Team Platypus:o)

QK Round 5: Best(iary) Western v. Life Sucks-I'm Stuck in Podunk

Entry Nickname: Best(iary) Western
Title: Fugitive Motel
Word count: 90K
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

Query:


By day, fifteen-year-old Iris Vox sleepwalks through high school. By night, she plays a grown-up behind the reception desk of her father’s Kansas hotel, checking supernatural Others in and out. Quick with a dart gun or a convenient lie, Iris provides her guests with live food, fresh blood, or a quiet place to spin a web.

It’s the only life Iris has ever known, but it was safer when her dad didn’t spend so much time as a human smoothie. Born with a hereditary curse, he liquefies then pupates back to his normal shape. Dad’s metamorphosis used to happen on a schedule. Now it comes without warning, leaving Iris to hold everything together.

Just as sleep is a luxury to Iris, so is the truth. Her father won’t admit that something’s changed in his curse, or where her mother went. Enraged by her father’s silence, Iris turns to her guests for human contact. Consoling a vampire’s fading blood moll, soothing the self-hate of werewolves, and helping a handsome insect learn to fly, Iris finds her role as listener and solace. While Iris navigates her anger, the curses that fuel the Other world get stronger and stranger. Deeply buried magic is rising to the surface, bringing with it ancient beings who lack the “humanity” that makes Others worth protecting.

Faced with how these new beings will corrupt and endanger the world of Others, Iris finally learns her father’s secret, and its cost to her family. Now she has to decide whether she wants to become the next Innkeeper, or leave the Other world behind.

First 250:

5:45 a.m.

A man staggers in through our automatic doors. Glad for some action, I slide last month’s National Geographic under the counter to focus on my customer. Nothing special about him; anyone else would see a regional salesman coming in after driving all night. An older man with skin like a re-used paper bag.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks weave. This guy lurches forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.

Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours, but I have to be sure.

“Can I help you, Sir?”

“Have you got a room, Miss?”

The man grips the rim of the counter to steady himself. His well-groomed fingernails point toward me. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s half the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing.

“What are you looking for exactly, Sir?” I prompt.

There’s a long anxious pause as he tries to remember. He grips so hard that his nail beds turn whitish gray. My right hand creeps under the counter so that my index finger can rest on the pebbled steel of the trigger. I feel it and my heart rate drops.

“Rest and feed,” the man answers finally, fishing the words from some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them out heavily on the counter.

Bingo.


The words before the knocks would have better though. Doing it backwards means he’s starving.
 
V.

Entry Nickname: Life Sucks—I’m Stuck in Podunk
Title: Middle of Knowhere
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary

Query:


Truck-driving, tobacco-chewing rednecks. That’s what seventeen-year-old Hailey Nelson pictures when her dad decides to up and relocate their family from vibrant Chicago to the middle of God-Knows-Where. She plans to hate this small, rural three-stoplight town. But what she doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with a Pepto-Bismol colored antiques store and the quirky woman who runs it. A woman who shows her more love and affection than Hailey's always absent, TV journalist mother.

Misery does love company, and when Hailey finds out her parents are getting divorced, anti-social Ryker Evans—a local teen outcast and bearer of hideous posture—is surprisingly supportive and understanding. Probably because his family is even more messed up than hers. When Hailey gets a glimpse of what Ryker could look like with a little TLC, Project Ryker is on. Only she doesn’t expect Ryker to be hot with a capital “H.” Or sweet and fun, writing her songs and taking her dumpster diving for donuts. Now she has more to worry about than her parents’ divorce and her mother’s abandonment. She has her own stupid feelings for Ryker to work through too.

But falling for Ryker could present a whole new set of problems. Because ever since his mother took her own life, Ryker has blamed himself. And if Hailey tries to find out the truth of what happened that day, she could lose him forever.

First 250:

This is what hell looks like.

I stare out the window of Dad’s Ford Explorer. Along the curvy road, dilapidated double-wide trailers that look like they belong in some independent film version of a horror flick, litter the sparse lawns. An old couch, unused tires, and even a rust-stained toilet lay strewn next to one particularly neglected trailer.

“Please tell me no one lives there,” I mutter.

Dad glances in my direction, his mouth set in a firm, disapproving line. “Now, Hailey, try to remember that these people aren’t as fortunate as you and I.” His eyes grind into me, like a pestle trying to turn me into bits of shame. “They do the best they can.”

I sigh and turn back to the window as another trailer comes into view, this one even more unkempt. Amazingly enough, one of the occupants is sitting on the sagging porch steps blowing a cloud of smoke into the humid summer air. The man is grease personified. Like if someone wrung him out, they’d have an entire vat of frying oil. I wrinkle my nose and look down when I make eye contact with him. Suddenly, my nails are desperate for attention.

“How long until Mom joins us?” I ask, digging at one particularly bothersome cuticle.

Mom’s been gone for weeks now. As a broadcast journalist, she jet sets around the world while Dad acts as homemaker extraordinaire. Not that I’m knocking my dad’s skills. He can make a mean BLT.

QK Round 5: Elephants Never Forget v. Librarians, Curses, and Magic

Entry Nickname: Elephants Never Forget
Title: THE IVORY NEEDLE
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Query:

Only two are yet remaining,
Precious magic ever waning . . .

That’s just part of the mysterious message 16-yr-old Chessie receives when she’s forced to visit her great-grandmother for the summer. Bad enough Gram lives in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant, things take a total left turn toward weird. Communicating with cryptic songs and strange symbols, Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: if someone cannot save the last of her once-immortal tribe, the Earth may pay an unknown price. Freaked out and overwhelmed, Chessie shuts down, breaks communication, and refuses to help.

Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.

Chessie finally comes to a decision. She wants to be the kind of person who, as Gram would say, “grabs life by the tusks.” But by the time she finds the missing elephants, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize a dangerous opportunity to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.

First 250:

When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.

Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.

And she was cooking, for the first time in months. “Mom? What’s going on?” I dropped into a kitchen chair and watched her pull something from the oven.

“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned across the table, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep sniff. “Look, Chessie, mac-n-cheese, too.”

Mom set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down, still beaming. “Your great-gram has invited us to visit her. In Africa.”

I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow. I had the feeling no amount of mac-n-cheese was going to fill it, not even one with four gourmet cheeses and a crispy crumb topping. “Can you get enough time off for a trip like that?”

Her smile flickered like the lights during a thunderstorm, right before the power went out for good. “I . . . I can’t go. But you two will go without me.”


V.



Entry Nickname: Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries – Oh My!
Title: The Curious Curse of the Lonely Library
Word Count: 56k
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Low Fantasy

Query:

The Pickettsville library has moldered in silence for two hundred years, but Theodore Plumford can sense that it’s special. Not just any library was founded by a madman.

Left with relatives one summer, twelve-year-old Theodore coaxes his reluctant siblings to explore the unusually grand town library with him. Though the rest of Pickettsville refuses to darken its doors, the majestic building and its lively librarians soon enthrall the children. But when they discover that characters from the books are haunting the halls, an investigation into the founder’s mysterious life reveals a curse causing the library’s present predicament.

As the Plumfords and librarians unravel the past, the library’s future seems brighter. But Theodore’s impetuous brother Hugo would rather have an adventure than help the others, even if it throws the library into chaos. With the town clamoring to demolish the building and the characters fighting for their freedom, Theodore’s mettle will be tested when their lives and the library are endangered because of Hugo’s foolish choices. The bookworm who has always lived through others’ stories must learn how to be his own hero if he’s going to save the day.

First 250:

Theodore’s neck prickled when they drove past the building on their way into town. The rest of Main Street was a collection of shabby stores, but this place stood apart like a wild beast among tabby cats.

Six white columns guarded a wide double door, and cold, silent windows rose between the pillars. On top of the building, rosy light streamed through the panes of a glass dome. It looked like a ball of fire upon a mammoth block of ice.

“Mom, what’s that?”

Mrs. Plumford twisted in her seat to follow Theodore’s pointing finger. She squinted into the sun. “I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask your aunt.”

Theodore’s younger sister Lucy squirmed around to look at the building before it disappeared from view. “It looks scary,” she whispered.

“It looks boring,” said Hugo Plumford, elbowing Lucy in the center seat to make more room for himself. “Are we there yet?”

“Almost,” said Mr. Plumford. He turned the car into a neighborhood of prim houses in tidy rows, each so alike they might have been pressed from the same mold.

Hugo squashed his nose against the glass and groaned. “Can’t I go with you? I don’t wanna stay here.”

“No,” said Mr. Plumford. “I’d prefer you weren’t eaten by a crocodile.”

“But I wouldn’t!”

“Hugo, you’d be trying to measure its teeth the minute I turned my back.”

Theodore stifled a sigh and hunkered over his book, determined to ignore the hundredth round of this debate.

Jun 24, 2015

QK Elite Eight Matchups




Here we are-- THE ELITE EIGHT! The PB, MG, NA and Adult Champions have all been determined. We're heading for the final countdown. The BEST OF THE BEST!


All entries that were knocked out should have all their requests unlocked. If you've been knocked out and your requests aren't unlocked, please contact the blog host. Those requests will send 50 pages!

Below you will find Round 4 match-ups. I'm feeling very sorry for the judges. They are going to be pulling their hair out. 

Round four will be hosted at SC's blog. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet me @Michelle4Laughs.

The Round starts on Thursday and only lasts two days. There will be 10 judges assigned this round and next but all judges are welcome to vote. Then we will jump quickly to round 5 on Sunday and the Finals on Wednesday.

Round 4 Match-ups




Eavesdropping Monkey vs Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries
Give a Girl a Redo vs Life Sucks, I'm Stuck in Podunk
Best(iary) Western vs A Girl and Her Serial Killer
Queen of Drones vs Elephants Never Forget


Good Luck Kombatants!

Jun 18, 2015

QK Round 3 Match-ups



By this time, all entries that were knocked out should have all their requests unlocked. If you've been knocked out and you're requests aren't unlocked, please contact the blog host.

Below you will find Round 3 match-ups. Trust me when I say this is going to be a tough round to vote. Just matching these entries was tough. Best of luck judges. You have your work cut out of you.

Round three will be hosted on Michelle's blog. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet me @RavenousRushing

You will have ONE more chance to revise after this. Just one. So make it count and have your entries in by Friday at 8PM EST.

Round 3 Match-ups


Give a Girl a Redo v. A Thousand Miles
Paper Girl/Yesterday v. Librarians/Curses/Mysteries
Middle Grade Leverage v. Evesdropping Monkies
Fake Heirs v. Elephant Never Forget
Guinness v. Best(iary)
Guilt by Asso. v. A Girl and her Serial Killer
Life Sucks-I'm Stuck in Podunk v. Forget You Stalin
My Monster is Rotting Twin v. Queen of Drones

Good Luck Kombatants!

Jun 15, 2015

Query Kombat Round 2 Begins!



Here we go! Round 2!


Hop on over to SC's blogs to see the rest of the match-ups and entries! This round lasts until June 17th at 8 pm.


On Wednesday the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. 

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the third round on June 21st! Kombatants will one more chance to revise after this round. Winner have until 8PM on Friday to resubmit entries. Please following original submission guidelines.

Please read this post to remind yourselves of the rules and guidelines of commenting and judging if you have forgotten. Below I've reposted the main ideas:



Reminders for the Entrants:

No commenting on your own entries!!!!!! Not until the last day of the round, so Wednesday. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. (@RavenousRushing) If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling me the mistake.

Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 6 other match-ups to help share the love around!


Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames!


Reminders for Everyone:



Try not to comment until after one of us hosts have made the first comment!

QK Round 2: Guilt by Association v. Twin for the Win

Entry Nickname: Guilt by Association
Title: Skeleton Key
Word Count: 80K
Genre: Adult Mystery

Query:

Locksmith and security consultant Foley Munion’s life starts spinning out of control when her felon father breaks out of prison. Though he claims he’s escaped to protect her from being framed, Foley suspects he’s really after one last score. Soon the police and FBI show up to question her about a bank robbery. Since Foley installed the security cameras at the bank, local cops are convinced she’s involved. To make matters worse, the current robbery mimics another heist at a bank where Foley also installed the cameras. During that crime, Foley’s business partner was taken hostage, her charred remains later found in the desert.

As the daughter of a safecracker and B&E man, Foley is used to police scrutiny, but this time she’s their prime suspect. With her locksmith business already on the brink of failure, a police investigation could be the final blow that closes her doors. Getting arrested won’t help things either. While the authorities focus on linking her to the robberies and her partner’s death, Foley hunts for the real perpetrator, hoping to clear her name.

The more she digs, the more Foley questions what she’s being told by the police, the FBI, and her father. When her quest to clear her name uncovers the person behind the robberies and murder, Foley finds her own life on the line.

First 250:

Foley Munion glared at the name on the window: Manley and Munion Lock and Key. The last time she had the plate glass replaced, she should’ve told the painter to leave off Allison’s name. Even if it still brought in the occasional customer. Foley opened the door and sighed. The way business was going, the point could be moot by the end of the month.

The small lobby felt colder than the parking lot. Foley nudged up the thermostat then lifted the walk-through section of counter. Metal shavings from the key grinder sparkled on the worn linoleum. Inside the back room, she froze, the nape of her neck prickling.

The heater whooshed on. Foley flinched, then took a slow turn. The bins of wire and alarm components sat undisturbed. But something was off. Hurrying to the safe, she crouched and spun the dial. When the lock clicked, she yanked the handle and pawed through the contents. Money untouched. Schematics secure. She leaned forward to sniff the locking mechanism. No tell-tale odor of oil or graphite. So why the heebie-jeebies? Standing, she closed her eyes and breathed deep.

Oh no. That smell. Soft, but with a slight edge. Partagas. Dad’s favorite cigar. Why’d she smell it now? A faint scuff came from the left. Her eyes popped open.

Her father stepped from the storeroom, unlit cigar in hand.

“Dad.” Foley’s right eyelid twitched while she did parole math. Even with good behavior, he shouldn’t be out yet. “Tell me you didn’t escape again.”

V.


Entry Nickname: Twin for the Win
Title: Come to Paris Your Sister is Dead
Word count: 72K
Genre: New Adult Thriller

Query:

Devastated by the news of her twin sister Angela’s death, twenty-two-year old Shayna Daniels arrives in Paris to collect her belongings, identify the body, and get back home before medical school starts in two weeks. But, police are baffled by the strange Gemini symbol tattooed on Angela’s ankle and the utter lack of clues. When Sebastien, Angela's boyfriend, shows up pleading for closure, Shayna agrees to re-trace Angela's footsteps, hoping to discover more about the sister she hasn’t spoken to in two years.

While searching Angela's apartment, Shayna finds a message that makes her blood run cold: ALIVE. TRUST NO ONE, written in their childhood twin language. Taking these words to heart, Shayna must navigate the back alleyways of Paris with her shoddy French, dodge Sebastien's insistent help, and decipher why Angela's hot neighbor keeps crossing her path. Unfamiliar with Angela's recent life, their communication having thinned since their parents’ death, Shayna must follow her gut and channel the deep twin connection Angela always believed existed between them in order to locate her. Quickly. Before someone else does. 

First 250:

Come to Paris. Your sister is dead.

The rest of the words from Sebastien’s email asking me to come and clean out Angela’s apartment all fade against these opening sentences. If ever there was a more stark framing of the facts, I’ve never seen it.

On est arrivĂ©, mademoiselle.” We’re here. The taxi driver speaks to me through the rearview mirror, an Arabic accent marking his speech. My French was never as good as Angela’s, but I get by.

I lock my phone screen then count out exact change, placing it in his weathered hand. That’s one thing I truly appreciate about Europe. Euro coins correlate in size to their value. Unlike illogical American dollars and coins. Whose bright idea was it to have the dime be smaller than the nickel and twice its worth?

Merci, monsieur.” I climb from the car, turning in time to catch his greedy eyes leave my ass. I slam the door a bit harder than intended and don’t look back.

The first email from Sebastien seemed excessive. I ignored it. Your sister is missing, you must come to Paris to look for her.

The second one seemed like a movie plot. There was a shooting at school. She would not leave without saying goodbye.

But that’s the thing. She would, and she has in the past. Always with the same sad dolt left wanting more.

This time was different.

QK Round 2: Brain Gourmet v. Monster Twin is Rotting

Entry Nickname: Brain Gourmet
Title: BrainZ
Word count: 60K
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
 
Query:

Sixteen-year-old Jill has been disguised as a zombie since second grade. It’s the only way she can stay with her family, since mixed living/zombie households are not accepted in her community. Even decades after the zombie apocalypse – and the coexistence made possible when “brainchow for zombies” replaced fresh brains  -- “zits” (zombies) and “pumpers” (living) don’t mix.

Keeping her secret while growing up in an all-zombie neighborhood hasn’t been easy, but things get tougher when Jill transfers into a new high school. It’s integrated, one of three schools bringing together zombie and living kids and an important test for equal rights. There's new hope for a world where zombies are not routinely oppressed and where Jill can be herself and still stay with her family.

Unfortunately, Jill finds, though undead and living kids are in some of the same classes, they don't sit together. And each day, a new restriction is put on the zombies. The atmosphere is tense and growing more so.

The one bright spot for the school is the integrated football team. If she can form a cheerleading squad that includes both zombies and the living, Jill hopes it will be a catalyst for tolerance and lead to more equality before things get dire.

That means stepping out of the shadows and increasing the chance she'll be exposed. If that happens, she knows it could trigger a riot and the failure of the integration experiment. And she is likely to be pulled away from the family she loves. Keeping her secret is harder than she imagined when she is so close to the music of the living, the food they eat, and, of course, her first interactions with living boys her own age – including Dave, the football team’s quarterback, who has athletic grace no zombie boy can match.

Every success makes Jill more conspicuous, raising the chance she’ll be torn away from her family and they will become outcasts. And her biggest challenge is her longing to be herself, a living girl.

First 250:

Jill sat on the edge of her bed and fingered the tray of zombie prosthetics. A gouged cheek. Part of a lip. The shoulder scar she’d hated since fifth grade.

She snatched up the ragged nose and placed it in front of her own small nose. She looked in the mirror. Most of one nostril had been torn free. She should have known. Each year, her disguise showed more decay, pacing her mom’s decomposition.

Ugh.

“I’m not wearing this,” she told her mom. “Not on the first day of junior year.” Not when living boys were there to gawk at her.

She dropped the nose back onto the tray. Her mother shambled over and aimed her good eye at her. “Then you’ll have to stay home. We’re all zombies in this family.”

“I’ll wear last year’s nose, okay?” That was fair. If her mom wanted more rot to show, she could do it with make-up.

“I recycled it.”

Jill scowled. This was the price of her secret. She strode over to the makeup chair, but hesitated. 

“I’ve still got the old molds,” her mom said. “I’ll make a replacement nose. It’ll be ready in three days.”

Three days was a lifetime. She hadn’t seen Betsy all summer. Worse, she’d have to wait to meet the living boys she’d been dreaming about.

Impossible.

Jill threw herself into the chair, slumped, and folded her arms. Her mother went right to work, her hands practiced at turning her daughter into a zombie.

V.



Entry Nickname: My Monster Twin is Rotting
Title: A Savage Miscreation
Word count: 86,000
Genre: YA Gothic Horror


Query:

When Talmage True was born, people said it was a mercy that his mother died for the child’s razor-sharp teeth would have torn her apart.  He was born with a full set. 

Now fifteen, Talmage hides his misshapen face from those who condemn him for being unnatural.  But a chance meeting with his estranged uncle, a curiosity peddler hawking the medically grotesque, brings Talmage a spark of hope.  For the first time, Talmage feels a kinship with the bizarre creatures on display--the eight-legged taxidermied kitten and the dog whose body ends in a shell.  After all, Talmage, too, is an aberration.

Talmage is drawn into his uncle’s dark world and together they create a clockwork figure in his exact likeness--a mechanical boy made of metal, covered in the flesh of stolen corpses.  Late one night, the figure comes to life and Talmage--who has never had a friend before--welcomes it as a brother.  But the world is no place for a clockwork boy especially when its body starts to rust and rot.  Desperate to stay alive, it turns to murder to harvest fresh body parts.  When it sets its sights on Alice, a girl scarred by fire who sees beyond Talmage’s monstrous appearance, Talmage must decide: dismantle his clockwork brother or watch it kill the only person who has ever shown him kindness.

First 250:

I always supposed it would be difficult to kill someone you love.  More than difficult.  It would be impossible, a gut-wrenching, mind-numbing horror that, if achieved, would haunt your soul forever.

It has haunted me every single waking moment of my wretched life.

You see, I did.

But if I had the opportunity, I would do it again.  I would tear his body limb from limb, extracting bone from delicate socket and shattering them into a thousand pieces.  From those shards, I would grind what was left of him into powder and then bury it miles apart so that there would be no chance his body could ever come together again.

If only I had.

His chest weighed against the curve of my back, his breath rasping into my ear.  Gripping one arm, I dragged him down the rickety stairs, his bare feet knocking against the planks.  Outside, amorphous shadows clawed at the edges of the cobblestone street--only the moon would be witness to my heinous act tonight--and so, without looking back, we slipped into the trees.

He was not awake and yet his lips began to murmur.  I must move quickly but how to do it?  How to kill?  A swift stone to the temple?  His skull was too thick.  Saw his head off his shoulders?  The spinal column too wiry.  A blade, then, through the center of his heart?

“But he has no heart,” I whispered into the night.

A fire then, the thought suddenly dawned.  Yes, a fire would do.

QK Round 2: Grandma Guardians v. Middle Grade Leverage

Entry Nickname: Grandma Guardians
Title: Wings, Wrinkles, and Wrappers
Word Count: 44K
Genre: Middle Grade paranormal

Query:

For Kate, it's been six months and twenty-three days since the sadness made her dad drive away and not come back. Seventeen days since she last spoke to her once-best friend Sophia. And an entire lifetime of eleven years without ever knitting a single hat. When Kate accidentally prays for help she ends up stuck with two old ladies who happen to be her long-dead grandmothers. They provide more caustic and silly commentary than actual assistance and Kate wants them gone. But getting back to heaven isn’t so simple. First, Kate must help them actually improve her life in some way.

From knitting to winning back a best friend with a chain of gum wrappers, Kate goes along with her grandmothers' "lessons” in hopes that they’ll hurry up and leave, until she realizes their stories could hold the key to bringing her dad home. But when the rescue plan backfires and only drives him further away, Kate has to learn her grandmothers’ biggest lesson of all: when to love and when to let go.

Told in epistolary format as a series of letters in a Father-Daughter notebook, Kate’s journey explores the binding nature of family stories and relationships through generations.

First 250:

2/10
Dear Dad,
Grandma Bev never gave up on Grandpa Henry and I’ll never give up on you. So, I knitted you this hat.
Love, Kate

6/15   Kate, It’s Wednesday. I’m sure you’ll be leaving another hat on my doorstep today. Hopefully you see the notebook. Just wanted to say thanks for the hats. All of them.
Dad


6/16
Dear Dad,

You missed my birthday last year. I know that’s not the best way to start a note but my next birthday’s in 33 days and it’s all I could think to say.

July 21st, remember?

I was sure last year when I turned eleven you would be at my party. You’d only been gone ten days and I guess I thought you were just taking a vacation. And if you were coming back soon, my birthday would have been the perfect day. It would have been like a surprise party, but not really a surprise because I knew all along you wouldn’t miss my birthday.

Mom made a shopping list that morning. “Air mattress, popcorn, pizza…anything else?”

It was a sleepover party with Sophia, just like always. And just like always, I knew you’d make my special, birthday tradition cake. So I said, “Strawberry ice cream and Kool Whip.”

Mom tapped her pen on the counter but didn’t write it down. “Why, Katydid?” She wouldn’t look up from that shopping list so I knew she was just pretending not to understand.

I played along anyway. “In case Dad forgets to go shopping.”

V.


Entry Nickname: Middle Grade Leverage
Title: Team L.O.S.E.R.
Word count: 49K
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Contemporary


Query:

I am seeking representation for my upper middle grade contemporary novel complete at 49,000 words. When the world fails you, Team L.O.S.E.R. has your back.

Eighth grade president, Corbin Webster is used to hard work. But when he’s forced to accept the position as mentor to a team of outcast sixth grade delinquents, reality smacks him upside the head. It is one thing to be told to teach his team right from wrong. It’s quite another to discover that they’re a car thief, a pick-pocket, a hacker, and a girl who cosplays a different character each day and who refuses to answer to her real name.

To foster kindness and team spirit, Corbin has them find a student who needs their help. When they choose a boy whose lunch is stolen daily, Corbin stages an intervention. There they find that this bully has his own bully at home, and that his father controls his family by starving them. In order to get proof of  the real abuser’s criminal activities, and to put him away for good, Corbin must use the illegal skills that landed his group on Team Loser in the first place.

First 250:

The early morning light hit the small, old houses in my neighborhood until they glowed like pastel jewels. Gramp’s scrambled eggs were a perfect bright yellow so I scooped them from the pan, and onto his plate. “Come and eat before I throw it away,” I yelled.

“Corbin Webster, do I look like a track star to you?” His cane made crabby thunks on the worn linoleum but he had to duck his head to hide a smile. He might fool the salesmen at the front door, but I knew better. Gramps put the great in great-grandpa. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be in some random person’s foster home.

“I don’t need any eggs,” he said. “Coffee is fine.”

“You’ll eat them and like it.” I tried to sound stern instead of worried. “Besides, there’s plenty.” If I didn’t watch him, he’d starve himself to make sure I didn’t go hungry. “Mrs. Sanchez brought over a dozen this morning when she dropped off the suit. She said her chickens lay too many for her to eat.”

“That’s different.” He picked up his fork and shoveled some into his mouth. “It would be a crying shame for food to go to waste.” I finished my coffee and carried my plate to the sink. Two birds perched in the mimosa tree outside the kitchen window and sang like they were in the opening credits of a Disney movie.

Gramps whistled low. “Dang boy, you look sharp. Turn around.”

QK Round 2: Papergirl/Yesterday v. Musical Mirror Mayhem

Title: The Last Paper Dahl
Entry Nickname: Paper Girl in The Land of Yesterday
Word count: 63K
Genre: MG Fantasy

Query:

On Monday, eleven-year-old Cecelia Dahl had a little brother who was alive, a mother and father who didn't blame her for his death, and a pleasant house in Hungrig, Norway. She was made of skin and bones and happiness, not crackling paper and sorrow. She had a soul that lived inside her body, not a miserable blue one that ran out through a door in her chest. But then Tuesday swept in with its terrible claws and ripped her life to shreds.

Cecelia’s mother has left for The Land of Yesterday to find her ghost brother. Her house, now a dark and crooked thing called Widdendream, absorbs her father into its walls as punishment for making her mother leave. Just before it eats her as well, two mischievous gnomes whisk her away in their hot-air balloon. The gnomes, soul-catchers by trade, claim they know the way to Yesterday, and also how to capture her runaway soul. They say its absence is why she’s turning into a paper girl, but that finding it won’t be easy. Now Cecelia must survive the harrowing voyage in order to find Yesterday and bring her mother and ghost-brother home. If she doesn’t, Widdendream will never give her father back, and Cecelia’s transformation to a full paper Dahl will be irreversibly complete.

First 250:

Cecelia hated Tuesday, and Tuesday hated her back. On Monday of last week, Cecelia Dahl understood the world. She resided in Hungrig Norway, in a crooked house called Widdendream. Daisies that bloomed in both grass and snow circled the shimmering lake outside her window. Sharp mountains loomed over her town. Dogs barked. Cats meowed. Cecelia’s midnight blue hair grew long and fast and cantankerous. Her skin was dark and bronze and oddly freckled, just like her mother’s. Widdendream loved her family, as all good houses should, and her family loved her the same way. Indeed, on Monday of last week, these were all true-to-life facts.

Then on Tuesday, one week ago today, Cecelia did the bad thing. Her little brother died and she took the blame, and now Tuesday had come again. And Cecelia dreaded what it would bring.

“Cecilia?” Miss Podsnappery pushed up her horn-rimmed glasses. “What ever do you call that instrument in your hand?”
Every eye in class turned on Cecelia. Expressionless gazes traced her charcoal sweater and the black-and-gray striped dress beneath it, judging her frayed tights and scuffed boots too, no doubt. Her teacher, bewildered as always, cast looming shadows. Cecelia forced a smile. She must keep her answer as succinct as possible, forgoing any miscommunications. Teachers were simple creatures, after all. And easily confused.

“Miss Podsnappery,” Cecilia answered, speaking with extra care as not to confuse the poor woman, for she did try exceedingly hard to please. “This,” she continued, holding up the device in question, “is what is called a Pen.”

V.


Entry Nickname: Musical Mirror Mayhem
Title: The Fantastical Tale of Mirrorland: The Musical
Word count: 59K
Genre: Lighthearted MG Fantasy

Query:

Twelve-year-old Jack tells his soccer buddies he’s auditioning for the middle school musical because he needs an easy performing arts credit. He'd be mortified if they found out how badly he wants to be on stage. But if Jack had known that The Fantastical Tale of Mirrorland would be such a poorly-rhymed, nonsensical mess, he might have joined the band instead. Things go from embarrassing to just plain weird when rabbits invade the rehearsal room, the music director passes out on the piano keys, and Jack finds himself transported to the real Mirrorland.

Only, the musical got it all wrong. The Jester can't tell jokes. Jack's character, Leroy the Slayer, is not a villain, but an overweight magical repairman, and the true bad guy is the fairy queen. She'll do anything–even kidnap Jack's brother–to restore her status in the kingdom. To top it all off, thanks to a casting glitch, Mirrorland itself is trying to kill one of Jack’s cast mates!

When Jack discovers that he has the same magical powers as the real Leroy, it’s up to him to save his friends, his brother, the citizens of Mirrorland… and the middle school musical.

First 250:

Run, thought Jack. It's not too late to escape! He stared at the red exit sign as forty nervous middle schoolers whispered and fidgeted around him.

Jack commanded his body to stay put. He unfolded the damp sheet of paper clutched in his hand, and reviewed the words for the thousandth time.

You WILL return me my enchanted stone
Or you will wish you’d never taken that throne


The verse sounded stupider each time he read it, but it was what he was given to recite for the audition. Mrs. Harper said the words might seem less silly once they were set to music.

Singing. He wished he hadn’t remembered that part. He crumpled up the paper and plucked at the fuzz lining the edges of his dull red auditorium seat.

Jack's buddies thought he was auditioning because he needed a performing arts credit for his seventh-grade year. They’d expect him to be cast as an extra and get off easy. He hadn’t mentioned to them that he’d always dreamed of being on stage–making people laugh, cry, rise to their feet cheering–they wouldn't understand. They might laugh him off the soccer team, but Jack was going for a lead role. Jester? Too goofy. Villain? Yes.

“All right, everyone!” Mrs. Harper yelled over the buzz, startling Jack to attention. The students fell into a jittery silence. Auditions were about to start.

QK Round 2: Elephants Never Forget v. Paranormal Fear

​Entry Nickname: Elephants Never Forget
Title: THE IVORY NEEDLE
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Query:

Coming from such different worlds, Chessie Charlton and Daniel Jomo Olanga should never have crossed paths.

Which would have been just fine with Denver teen Chessie. Bad enough Mom’s shipped her off to spend a summer with her ancient grandmother in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. No phone. No friends. No fair. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant matriarch, things take a total left turn toward weird. Filling Chessie’s head with cryptic songs—and totally flipping her out—Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: save the last of her once-immortal tribe before their species vanishes forever and the Earth pays a deadly price.

Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.

By the time Chessie gets over herself and agrees to help Jhelani’s tribe, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize any opportunity (and any rifle) to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.

The IVORY NEEDLE is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two protagonists.

​First 250

When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.

Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.

I winced and eyed the kitchen table, covered in our favorite foods. Mom’s cooking and smiling? My mouth watered, my stomach rumbled, and my heart clenched. Something wasn’t right.

“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned in, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep melodramatic sniff. “Look, Chessie, your favorite mac-n-cheese, too.”

“Are you sure this isn’t a mirage?” I teased. I dropped into the chair across from him and watched Mom pull something else from the oven, her hair frizzed out in all directions from cooking in the early summer heat. “Mom? What’s going on?”

She set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down. “How would you kids like to meet your great-grandmother Esther?”

Bent whooped. “Does she still live in Africa? I want to meet her!”

I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow.

V.


Entry Nickname: Paranormal Fear, An Exorcist's Murder Trial
Title: King of Skins
Word Count: 91K
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Query:

Zhao Ling, a flippant St. Louis criminal defense attorney, faces the toughest case of his career: acquitting an accused murderer who only has a supernatural alibi.

His client, Wayne Liebesman, is a professional exorcist whose only crime was banishing a spirit from an already dead body. So it only looked like he bludgeoned an old man to death. Who wouldn’t believe that? Zhao certainly doesn’t until he’s visited by his client’s employer and paranormal mob boss, The King of Skins. As a body lender, The King allows anyone to take a ride in someone else's body for a price. Knowing that Wayne might cut a deal with the FBI’s classified, paranormal task force, he threatens to add Zhao to his collection of skins unless Wayne is found innocent.

As if things couldn’t get worse, Zhao is kidnapped and taken to St. Louis’s hidden supernatural underground, a bizarre place of preternatural street thugs, obsidian guardians, and emotion brokers. There he is confronted by a rival paranormal gang leader, a broker by the name of Lady Sorrow. She reveals that Zhao’s life isn’t the only one on the line. The King has made a deal with a horror from outside our reality, and if left unchecked, he’ll unleash a plague of otherworldly monsters upon humanity. Now Zhao must be prepared to sacrifice his own life and the freedom of an innocent man to prevent all of mankind from joining the King’s collection.

First 250:

The King of Skins strolled into my office late one night, the lingering scent of death his cologne. I had forgotten to lock my office door. Not that it would have made a difference, not to him. I’ve dealt with murders, rapists, and gang lords, and yet something about the man made the lizard part of my brain scream at me to flee in horror.

Of course, when confronted with such an auspicious character it’s only appropriate to address him correctly, “Who are you and what the hell are you doing in my office at eleven p.m.?” No one has ever accused my mouth of coordinating with my brain.

He stared down his nose at me as if I were a nasty stain on his alligator skin suit. I felt a flash of heat. No one disrespected me in my office no matter how piss your pants scary I found him. Without as much as a “may I?” he sat in the chair opposite mine. Off came his fedora. The dim light glinting off his brown skin stretched too tightly across his clean-shaven skull.

“Mr. Zhao Ling?” he asked. I nodded in response. “You recently agreed to represent Wayne Liebesman in his murder trial. He is a very useful contractor of mine, and you will acquit him.”

“Well Mr.­—”

“I am called The King.” His eyes glowed faintly in the dark like two smoldering coals, “The King of Skins.”

“Okay, that’s just plain weird,” I muttered under my breath.

QK Round 2: Guinness

Entry Nickname: Guinness
Title: Blacktop Oracle
Word count: 65,000
Genre:  Supernatural Fantasy

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Cooper “Coop” Lambert excels at mischief. After a run in with Johnny Law, the D.A. offers diversion. He’s assigned to Mac, a 92-year-old crotchety piece of work, but the old guy has a way with cars and owns a bad ass 1969 GTO called Sybil. They’ve nearly finished restoring it when Coop arrives at the garage only to find Mac dead. Days after burying his elderly friend things only grow more confusing for Coop when he discovers Mac left the GTO to him.

Coop’s parents overcome their reservations until he’s ticketed three times in one week for reckless driving. Only Coop knows he isn’t the problem; it’s the car. Mac failed to mention that Sybil goes all funhouse mirror while doing 80 on the interstate. The windows wash out and instead of the landscape he sees visions of people in trouble. If that isn’t enough to get him committed, the prophecies start coming true, and the cops eyeball Coop for knowing more than he should. He doesn’t have to tell anyone, he can keep it to himself. But when he witnesses a murder, he has a choice to make. If he keeps his mouth shut, someone he knows dies. If he talks, it’s a one-way ticket up crap creek, where his parents have a rubber room on reserve.

First 250:

Dust swirled around Coop’s head like pollution, clinging to his hair, skin, and eyelashes. Grit lined his nose and tickled his throat, but Mac kept reminding him that restoration was an art form, a way to bond with the vehicle.

The sander cut off and he ran his gloved hand across the fender. A grunt got his attention, and he turned to Mac, sitting with his cast up on a case of WD-40.

 Coop pulled the dust mask from his face. “What?”

“Don’t go on many dates, do you?”

Mac was famous for causing whiplash with his topic changes, but Coop had learned to go with it.  “Huh?”

“A car is like a woman.” Mac shifted in his chair to ease the pressure on his leg.

Coop mopped away the sweat on his forehead with one arm. What the hell did that have to do with anything? Mac’s wrinkled gaze homed in on his, and he realized the old guy wanted a response. “Yeah, how so?”

“A woman must be handled gently.” Mac ran his calloused hand lightly, almost lovingly, across the fender. “Stroked in a way that soothes rather than offends. A car is the same way.” Mac was full of…little bits of wisdom.

Coop eyed the sanded spot, his mind struggling to follow.

“Take that blasted glove off.” Mac’s gravelly voice landed on Coop’s last nerve, but he ripped the glove off.

“Run your hand across that spot you’re sanding, from right to left.”


QK Round 2: Best(iary) Western v. Skins of the Father

Entry Nickname: Best(iary) Western: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Title: Fugitive Motel
Word count: 90K
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy

Query:

By day, fifteen-year-old Iris Vox sleepwalks through high school. By night, she plays a grown-up behind the reception desk of her father’s Kansas hotel, checking supernatural Others in and out and making sure they have live food, fresh blood, or a safe place to spin a web.

Keeping the Other world safe and secret is the only life Iris has ever known. She’s handy with dart guns and convenient lies. It was just safer when her dad didn’t spend so much time as a human smoothie - his curse makes him liquefy then pupate back to his normal shape. Dad’s metamorphosis used to happen on a schedule. Now it comes without warning, leaving Iris to hold everything together.

Just as sleep is a luxury to Iris, so is the truth. Her father won’t admit that something’s changed in his curse, or where her mother went. Deeply angry at her father’s silence, Iris turns to her guests for human contact. Consoling a vampire’s fading blood moll, soothing the self-hate of werewolves, and helping a handsome insect learn to fly, Iris finds her role as listener and solace. As Iris works through her anger, the Other world begins to change. The deeply buried magic that fuels it is coming close to the surface, bringing with it nameless creatures banished a millennia ago, creatures without the “humanity” that makes Others worth protecting.

Forced to bear witness to this change, Iris finally learns her father’s secret. Now she has to decide whether she wants to become the next Innkeeper and face this new danger, or leave the Other world behind.

First 250:

5:45 a.m.

A man staggers in through our automatic doors. Glad for some action, I slide last month’s National Geographic under the counter so I can focus on my customer. Nothing special about him, anyone else would see a regional salesman coming in after driving all night. An older man with skin like a re-used paper bag.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks weave. This guy lurches forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.

Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours.

“Can I help you, Sir?”

“Have you got a room, Miss?”

The man grips the rim of the counter to steady himself. His well-groomed fingernails point toward me. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s half the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing.

“What are you looking for exactly, Sir?” I prompt.

You have to say it or you can’t come in!

There’s a long anxious pause as he tries to remember. He grips so hard that his nail beds turn whitish gray.

“Rest and feed,” he answers finally, fishing the words out of some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them out heavily on the counter.

Bingo.

Although the words before the knocks would have been better. Doing it backwards means he’s starving. Keeping a watchful eye on my guest, I check our availability.

“Have you stayed with us before?”

V.


Entry Nickname: Skins of the Father
Title: The Sumerlin Curse
Word count: 66K
Genre: YA Southern Gothic

Query:

Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin is a boy, no matter what he looks like. Born under a wicked family curse, he has the wings of a bat, horns of a bull, and the scaly tail of a lizard. While it doesn’t stop him from dribbling a basketball, it does keep him trapped on his family’s derelict plantation. He calls it prison. Mama calls it protection. The islanders would not understand him. They would kill him.

After George botches an escape attempt, pictures of him surface online and catch the eye of Grace, a young hoodoo-doctor hell-bent on capturing the beast terrorizing her village. She sneaks through George’s window, convinced he’s it. Now he must prove his innocence in order to save his tail.

He offers Grace a deal: he will track down the real monster—something she calls a Boo Hag, which haunts the marshes—if she will help him escape. His scaly butt is worth risking, at least until their search exposes a twisted secret about the Boo Hag, Mama, and the Sumerlin Curse that not only puts Grace’s soul in the monster’s sights, but proves George is more of a beast than he realized.

First 250:

Today, the third Wednesday of July, is a good day to run away.

Everything has gone according to the routine.

This morning, my caretaker, Clarence, came from the village, taking the dirt road I can just make out through slits in the fence. I’ve never been to the village—I’ve never left the yard—but I know where the road leads because I’ve stared at its serpentine line on the map pinned to my bedroom wall.

Clarence passes the ball. We always play basketball after morning studies. Today we graphed quadratic equations—snore—and finished our unit on the War of Northern Aggression. Because even when time is the only thing I have in unlimited quantities, there’s never enough to kill on learning about the South’s “glorious cause.”

I dribble the ball between my legs, avoiding my scaly tail, and float it off my claws. Swish! Clarence claps and says something about how good I’m getting. It’s a small consolation for being trapped here like a rabid animal.

A magnolia-scented breeze hits me like the air blowing out of Mama’s hair dryer. The million degrees of south Georgia heat and humidity bake the tips of my leathery wings. Sour moisture pools on my brow, curling the hair around my horns.

I dribble…dribble…again. Then a loud slap! reverberates off the reflection pool. I look up and squint. Mama’s on the patio, her lips smothered in gloss, a black pocket book clutched under her armpit. The third Wednesday of the month, the day Mama goes to the salon.

QK Round 2: Give a Girl a Redo v. Orphan Red

Entry Nickname: If You Give a Girl a Redo
Title: The Art of Almost
Word count: 105,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction

Query:

32-year-old Anna Marin already carries too many regrets. She’s still pining for the one who got away and can’t forgive herself for the fallout from her mother’s stroke. On a flight home to marry the wrong man, Anna realizes she must take control of her life and stop living in the past.

But when she wakes as her 20-year-old self en route to her semester abroad in Australia, it seems fate has a different idea: a second chance with Charlie Beckham, the older man she was drawn to but never pursued. This time Anna falls hard, and being with Charlie is even better than what she’s spent more than a decade imagining.

Yet if the rest of Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke. And Anna’s baby sister will begin a downward spiral from which she never recovers. When Anna’s efforts to change the future from across the Pacific fail, it soon becomes clear that she must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and abandon her family.

Adding to Anna’s distress, her on-and-off college boyfriend (and future fiancĂ©) flies to Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she fell in love with, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling.

As he shows a side Anna’s never seen, and complications emerge in her relationship with Charlie, Anna’s even more confused by what the past, present, and future hold. All the while she wonders when her time in the past will run out, or whether the clock’s been rewound for good.

First 250:

I would have given anything to be in a different moment. Any moment but that one.

I searched the audience surrounding us for red satin, careful not to let my gaze rise above neck level. To see his face. Finally I caught a flash of crimson and looked up. My eyes met my sister Claire’s and I immediately regretted it. Hers held a question; mine, a plea.

I had to look away or I’d cry. Or scream.

I tried to steady my breathing as Nick lowered down on one knee. A cool spring breeze blew petal confetti toward us, so gently that bits of white and pink remained suspended in midair before fluttering to the ground. Even the river, humming low and deep like a bass line just beyond the hotel courtyard, slowed to a crawl.

And yet I couldn’t hit pause, take a second to reflect on how I’d let it get so far.

“Anna Jane, you are my past and my future. You’re all of my best memories and the center of every great moment to come. And so to you I present—” here he paused to allow sufficient time to appreciate his pun—“this ring. It’s time we made it official!”

The choreography was perfect.

I tried to speak, to tell him it felt like I was disappearing. That putting a ring on my finger would sever the last threads tying me to the earth. But the words went sliding down some shadowy passage, piling on top of all the other things I never said. 

V.

Entry Nickname: Orphan Red
Title: Callback
Word count: 90K
Genre: Women's Fiction

Query:

After years spent trying to make her marriage and acting career work in New York, Claire Dowler returns home with no husband, no career prospects and a mountain of debt. When her former high school drama teacher falls ill, she asks Claire to start the school year as a long-term substitute, both teaching drama classes and mounting a successful production of the musical “Annie.”

But unbeknownst to Claire, she’s cast freshman Kimmy Ralstin - an actual orphan - in the lead role, and Kimmy’s adoptive parents are furious. Claire’s also naively adopted a pit bull in the hopes of turning him into a stage star by playing the role of Annie’s dog Sandy, and she must convince the school administration and her parents that Danger Fosse is a sweet, trainable dog. She’s also trying to break into the clique of the popular teachers, but a new school counselor seems to have an old ax to grind and wants to derail any of Claire’s friend or romantic prospects.

Claire must save her production and her job, and figure out how to make peace with leaving behind her New York childhood dreams. She’s just hoping the sun will come out “Tomorrow.”

First 250:

The only difference between being a high school theater geek and a long-term substitute teacher is, instead of sitting with drama queens at lunchtime, I’m about to sit with faculty queens who love drama.

The teacher’s lounge is where you find your allies, or so I’ve been told. Teachers are always at war with someone: An administrator, a parent, a student, their own child who pretends to not know them in the hallway. Whether you’re the aggressor or the victim, Russia or Poland, it’s important to remember there are other soldiers on your side.

“Remember,” I thought as I stared at the lounge door. “Pretend you’re Stalin, but, you know, friendly and cute.”

As I tried to gather my courage to walk in, I was tackled by Spanish teacher Taylor Whistler.

“Oh my gosh, so happy to see you!” Taylor squealed as she hugged me. “Simona and I were just talking about you. It’s going to be the best.year.ever.”

If the teacher’s lounge were an ocean, I’d imagine choir director Simona Martin would be a beautiful seal teaching little seal pups to use their flippers and sing in unison, while Taylor is a sea lion entertaining other marine life. I am a penguin in this scenario: occasionally amusing, good when wearing black and white, and trying not to get my throat ripped open by Simona.

“Awesome,” I murmured. I thought, “Yay! Maybe I am moving from penguin to porpoise!”

“I’m a porpoise with a purpose,” I said. Out loud.

Jun 14, 2015

QK Round 2 Match-ups

The agent round was an IMMENSE success this year. A total of 125 requests were made, with TEN of those going to the highest requested entry.

Below you will find Round 2 match-ups. Since the entry 'Fed to the Crocodiles' received an offer of representation during the agent round, we have 31 entries going into the second round instead of 32. The unmatched entry will advance to round three automatically, but we ask that kombatants and judges still offer feedback for the lone entry.

Round two will be hosted on SC and Michael's blog. Orange match-ups will be posted here while SC will post red match-up. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet me @RavenousRushing

Round 2 Match-ups


Give a Girl a Redo vs Orphan Red
Zip vs. A Thousand Miles Astray
Best(iary) West. vs Skins of the Father
Evesdropping Monkey vs The Impressionistic Cow
Elephant Never Forgets vs Paranomal Fear
Greek Gods vs Forget You, Stalin
Papergirl/Yesterday vs Muscial Mirror Mayhem
Queen of Drone vs Stellar Twins
Grandma Guardians vs. Middle Grade Leverage
Teenagers Make Poor James Bond vs. A Girl and Her Serial Killer
Brain Gourmet vs. My Monster Twin is Rotting
Broadway Baby vs. Life Sucks-I'm Stuck in Podunk
Guilt by Association vs. Twin for the Win
Sand Dollar vs. Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries
Guiness
Fake Heirs Do it Better vs. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen

Good Luck Kombatants!

Jun 8, 2015

Query Kombat Agent Round!

Here we go! The agent round! Before you dive in, please - agents and entrants - read this post!




Agents, entrants are spread out over all three blogs. You can also find them at Michelle’s blog and SC’s blog. Blog assignment does not necessarily indicate who picked them.

Agents will request by saying, “I want to see more of this!” and leaving their submission instructions. (Kombatants: Don’t forget to put QUERY KOMBAT Request in your subject line when sending material!)

As you remember, agent requests will stay hidden until an entry is knocked out of the tournament. 

What you didn’t know is that the number of pages you’ll send depends on how far you go in Query Kombat! 

SURPRISE!


It's because we're super evil. Here's how the system words:

Host Saves + Round 2 knockout = 30 page request
Round 3 knockout = 50 page request
Round 4 knockout = 100 page request
Round 5 knockout = 150 page request
Round 6 knockout = 200 page request
GRAND CHAMPION = Full request



For instance, getting knocked out in the third round means an entry will send 50 pages to any agent who requested their work. The grand champion winner from the final round will see their requests bumped up to a full. Host Saves will be allowed to see their requests immediately as they are not continuing to the 2nd round.

So, do not submit your requests to the agents unless you are knocked out!

Oh. And you know it’s coming. It wouldn’t be normal unless SC, Michelle, and I have another super top secret surprise all planned. After all, where’s the fun in having straight rules with no twists. We’re all about the fun!





SURPRISE #2


Query Kombat is a tough tournament. Some really great entries that deserve full requests might get knocked out early. Therefore, each agent gets 2 wild cards! (In the case of a wild card, said wild card is displayed immediately, giving Kombatants a reason to watch the blogs!)

If an agent sees an entry where maybe getting the minimum of 30 pages isn’t enough, they can play a wild card and name their amount of pages and get their request immediately! If they fall in love and absolutely want a full, the wild card will let them do that.

However, only two wild cards can stand per entry. That means only the first two wild cards count. After that the agents will have to wait.



The Kombatant may send their material as soon as they are ready to the WILD CARD agents! The All wild card requests made after the second one must wait until the Kombatant leaves the tournament.

So that’s it! The rules for the agent round. Commenting on entries is only allowed for agents. Kombatants can mix and mingle on twitter but can’t comment, with the exception of this post where they can leave questions.

ALSO: We want to know how Round 1 went! Please, feel free to comment on this post with your experiences (and any questions you have about the agent round). I have set the comments on to moderation (so I'll have to 'approve' any comments before they're displayed - that way, I can keep the agent requests hidden until the appropriate time). Comments won't display until I approve them.

Best of luck and May the Requests Be With You!  

BATTLE ON! 

Here's a master list of all the entries, split by age-category, so you can easily access all of them! Thank you so much, agents!


PB:


MG: 


YA:


NA: 


Adult:

QK Agent Round: YA Southern Gothic--Skins of the Father

Entry Nickname: Skins of the Father
Title: The Sumerlin Curse
Word count: 66K
Genre: YA Southern Gothic

Query:

Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin is a boy, no matter what he looks like. Born under a wicked family curse, he has the wings of a bat, horns of a bull, and the scaly tail of a lizard. While it doesn’t stop him from dribbling a basketball, it does keep him trapped on his family’s derelict plantation. He calls it prison. Mama calls it protection. The islanders would not understand him. They would kill him.

After George botches an escape attempt, pictures of him surface online and catch the eye of Grace, a young hoodoo-doctor hell-bent on capturing the beast terrorizing her village. She sneaks through George’s window, convinced he’s it. Now he must prove his innocence in order to save his tail.

He offers Grace a deal: he will track down the real monster—something she calls a Boo Hag, which haunts the marshes—if she will help him escape. His scaly butt is worth risking, at least until their search exposes a twisted secret about the Boo Hag, Mama, and the Sumerlin Curse that not only puts Grace’s soul in the monster’s sights, but proves George is more of a beast than he realized.

First 250:

Today, the third Wednesday of July, is a good day to run away.

Everything has gone according to the routine.

This morning, my caretaker, Clarence, came from the village, taking the dirt road I can just make out through slits in the fence. I’ve never been to the village—I’ve never left the yard—but I know where the road leads because I’ve stared at its serpentine line on the map pinned to my bedroom wall.

Clarence passes the ball. We always play basketball after morning studies. Today we graphed quadratic equations—snore—and finished our unit on the War of Northern Aggression. Because even when time is the only thing I have in unlimited quantities, there’s never enough to kill on learning about the South’s “glorious cause.”

I dribble the ball between my legs, avoiding my scaly tail, and float it off my claws. Swish! Clarence claps and says something about how good I’m getting. It’s a small consolation for being trapped here like a rabid animal.

A magnolia-scented breeze hits me like the air blowing out of Mama’s hair dryer. The million degrees of south Georgia heat and humidity bake the tips of my leathery wings. Sour moisture pools on my brow, curling the hair around my horns.

I dribble…dribble…again. Then a loud slap! reverberates off the reflection pool. I look up and squint. Mama’s on the patio, her lips smothered in gloss, a black pocket book clutched under her armpit. The third Wednesday of the month, the day Mama goes to the salon.

QK Agent Round: YA Contemp--Fed to the Crocodiles

Entry Nickname: Fed to the Crocodiles
Title: The Second King
Word count: 84K
Genre: YA Contemporary

Query:

Sixteen-year-old Prince Alexander spends his time planning his future reign the way others might plan their wedding day. He knows he'll never have a dream wedding of his own. Although twenty-first century princes have the luxury of marrying commoners, there's a catch. Said commoner is expected to be female.

Hard working but poor Declan Blythe is the polar opposite of Alex. Where Alex is labelled as a bad boy by the media, Declan's never so much as failed an exam. While Alex's future is bound by rigid expectations, Declan is determined to use his musical talent to claw his way out of the working class. So when Declan receives a scholarship to attend the country's most prestigious boarding school, he expects to spend his days hunched over a piano, a pariah amongst the precious spawn of society's elite. Instead, he meets Alex.

Hopelessly taken with one another, reality sets in for the pair when Alex's father gives him an ultimatum: keep their romance a secret, or give up the throne. But staying out of the tabloids is easier said than done - particularly after a paparazzo photo of Declan goes viral and he becomes a celebrity in his own right. With cameras recording each glance he and Alex share, and a devoted fan base analyzing their every word, Alex finds himself under increasing pressure to choose responsibility and propriety over love.

When Declan begins to receive anonymous threats, Alex realizes that someone is willing to harm his boyfriend to protect the reputation of the royal family. Alex could never imagine a future where he wasn't king. But he's starting to wonder if a future without Declan is any future at all.

First 250:

 The soldiers stood silently, one eyeing me through the window, the other monitoring the front yard. Their breaths came out in almost opaque puffs of mist. I frowned and averted my eyes, succumbing to a pang of guilt for causing them to stand out there, stranded on the front porch of Zane's mansion. They were sheltered from the heavy snowfall, at least, but not from the bitter cold.

If Zane's parents had been home I would've insisted the soldiers come inside in shifts to watch from the warmth of the kitchen, perhaps with a cup of coffee. I'd done it before; it's what my parents would have wanted. Around them I was ever the hospitable, thoughtful role model.

Today was different, though. Today was a gathering of sixty or so Bramppath College students. A select group of girls from our sister school, Ashford Academy, had also been invited. Although the room was filled with, for the most part, the precious offspring of the upper class, none of them needed armed guards to follow them between various appointments. If downplaying that meant not inviting the security inside, well, so be it.

That, and I was a little bit too high to be bothered making coffee.

Rohan, son of a prominent business lawyer, and one of my closest friends, draped himself over the top of my armchair. He dangled a half-smoked joint in front of my face as though I were a horse he was enticing with a carrot. I snatched it from his loose grip with a grin.