Jun 1, 2015

Qk Round 1: Dolyn Pierce’s Headphones v. My Monster Twin is Rotting

Entry Nickname: Dolyn Pierce's Headphones
Word Count: 97,000
Genre: Young Adult Horror


OVERHEARD tells the story of Dolyn Pierce, who can stand in any room and listen in on conversations that took place there days, weeks, even years earlier. She can tell you who cursed, who lied and, when the police summon her to a crime scene, who committed murder. Her gift, if you want to call it that, never gives her a moment's peace and she often teeters on the brink of madness. Her official records list a suicide attempt, electro-shock therapy and more than one stint in the psych ward, not to mention Juvenile Hall.

After numerous unsolved ritualistic stabbings puts the city’s residents on edge, Dolyn discovers a package containing eighteen seeds inside a trash can. As she shoves the seeds into her pocket, the trash can explodes into a pentagram-shaped bonfire, nearly incinerating her in the process.

Dolyn is soon tracked down by Eli Porter, a century-old immortal who knows more about Dolyn’s forgotten past than he’s willing to let on. He explains that the seeds were picked from a stolen shoot of the Tree Of Life, of which he is a guardian, and each represents the soul of one of the murder victims. Had Dolyn not rescued the seeds, the fiery pentagram would have merged with the souls to open a portal to the Underworld. Now, Dolyn must use her hyper-sensitive hearing as well as her unintended connection to the deceased to help Eli find the souls, which have taken refuge in new bodies. If they fail, the man who stole the Tree of Life will reclaim the souls and follow through with his world-ending plan.

In the midst of everything happening around her, Dolyn's repressed memories begin to resurface: her happy childhood with Eli, the troubled times during the Great Depression when they felt they had no choice but to Bonnie-and-Clyde a bank, how one of them died fleeing the scene of the crime, how the other got the electric chair.

But that's nothing compared to the fate of the daughter they left behind. For Dolyn Pierce, life is about to be Hell.

First 250:

“Somebody die up there?” I mutter under my breath.

I’m standing in line at a coffee shop in a part of the city I rarely venture. There are three people ahead of me, six behind. All of us moving like molasses up a steep hill.

Quit looking over your shoulder, Dolyn, I tell myself. He won’t find you here. Be patient and listen to the noise coming through your headphones.


That’s something no one calls me unless they’re referring to the kind of ‘patient’ who has spent time in a psych ward.

Yeah, I’ll own up to it. Just don’t expect me to own up to being crazy.

I’m not. I was only trying to drown the voices.

It didn’t work. Nothing does.

The line shifts, and I take a step forward. Everyone is gawking at the menu board hanging on the wall behind the cash register. Well, everyone except for me and the guy in the next line. He’s staring down at the floor, hands thrust deep in his pockets and fidgeting like a high-octane squirrel. Not a bad-looking guy, though. Maybe twenty-one, twenty-two years old. Tall with curly black hair. Dressed in jeans, a Wasted Youth t-shirt and a black trench coat that looks like it was confiscated from his dead uncle’s closet.

I can’t say I’m in much better shape, what with my ratty jeans, dark gray hoodie and handmade leather wristband. But hey, I’m only seventeen. It’s my right as a member of Gen Whatever-Letter-Of-The-Alphabet-Is-Trending-This-Week to look scruffy.


Entry Nickname: My Monster Twin is Rotting
Title: A Savage Miscreation
Word count: 87,000
Genre: YA Gothic Horror


When Talmage True was born, the 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 and sinister eyes from those who condemn him for being unnatural.  But a chance meeting with his uncle, a traveling curiosity peddler hawking the medically grotesque, brings Talmage a spark of hope within his dismal existence.  For the first time, Talmage feels a kinship with the bizarre creatures on display--the taxidermied kitten with eight-legs and two tails, and the dog preserved in chemicals 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 welcomes it as a brother.

Talmage finally has someone to love but soon he discovers the world is no place for a clockwork boy--a boy even more monstrous than him.  His concerns deepen after meeting Alice, a girl scarred by fire, who shows him kindness and how to see beyond someone’s outward appearance.  With Alice by his side, Talmage realizes the error of his ways and for the first time regrets building his clockwork brother.  The mechanical boy, however, who has already begun to rust and rot, will fight to the death in order to live.

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 laughed a bitter cry.

Inside the metal brackets that held his body together, I knew his chest was empty.


  1. Judges, reply here with your comments and votes.

    1. Dolyn Pierce:

      Don't say "This story is about." Your first sentence should be "Dolyn Pierce can stand in any room and listen in on conversations that took place there days, weeks, even years earlier." Because that is incredibly awesome and you want my first thought when reading to be "Wow, that's really awesome." The last sentence of the second paragraph would be better with When or After, not As. Otherwise, you've got an amazing start to your query.

      I'm sorry to say, after that, this query loses me. There's a LOT going on, and it's about 50-100 words too long. If Eli's a century-old immortal, how did he die in the Great Depression? The last sentence is really confusing - Dolyn Pierce is the reincarnation of her own mother? She's the daughter of parents who died in the 1930s? How is that possible? She'd have to be about 80 years old, in which case this can't be YA.

      I wonder if this first 250 is really the best place to start your story. We've got the main character standing in line waiting for coffee. Be careful with the fourth wall break of "Yeah, I'll own up to it. Just don't expect…" It pulls the reader out of the story. And I don't think we need to know how many people are standing in line. With some trimming and tightening, you may be able to bring more of the story onto that first page (or start somewhere else entirely unless that guy is about to become really important).

      My Monster Twin is Rotting:

      Awesome hook. Great way to start a query. This query just has everything for me: concept, voice, conflict. I'd combine the third and fourth paragraphs (and try to avoid starting so many sentences with Talmage), but overall, this works for me. You completely blew me away. Well done.

      The first 250 reads like a prologue. In fact, it has to be, because it's talking about things the QL tells me doesn't happen until the middle of the book. And that means you're starting in the wrong place. Delete this bit and move your first page to where the story begins. Agents typically don't like stories told primarily in flashback. The writing's solid, and I like the imagery. But this isn't the right first page.

      This is an impossible choice. The second query is much stronger. The first page is much stronger. Ultimately, I think the issues in the first query can probably be fixed, and I have no idea what lies beyond that prologue, so I have to give VICTORY TO DOYLN PIERCE'S HEADPHONES.


      Here's why: Excellent use of just the right amount of voice, conflict and plot. I felt sympathy for the boy right away and I can sense his loneliness. The clockwork boy is so creepy, I got shivers. The line: --a mechanical boy made of metal, covered in the flesh of stolen corpses.is so deliciously creepy, I love it! Your 250 is good but the last line threw me so I'd cut it since you said the same thing in the line above. Good luck!


      Your query is too confusing. I'd cut the first paragraph because it feels like backstory. And if you bring in Hell and the Underworld it falls more into the paranormal category rather than horror. Maybe start your 250 with her finding the seeds because standing in line getting coffee is too mundane. The seeds are what makes this story interesting and a trash can exploding into a pentagram-shaped bonfire is intriguing. Don't start with: this story is about, just get into the meat of it. Good luck!

    3. Dolyn Pierce:

      Query: You have an enormous amount of stuff in this query, each of which alone would make a full-length novel: paranormal hearing, Tree of Life, immortals, forgotten lives. I feel like I could go on. I'm not sure you need all this in the query. It feels unfocused. Intriguing, but unfocused. Try streamlining. Your query is on the long side anyway, and I worry you're giving away too much in the query.
      I'm bothered by the incorrect use of the word "venture" in the second paragraph. I know you're trying to avoid a dangling preposition, but leaving it off is jarring. Also, the physical description of your main character on the first page feels shoehorned in. Move it to later when it will feel more organic. I don't need to know this early.

      Monster Twin:
      The query is well done. You have a few small things: I don't think you need "the" before "people" in the first sentence. "A boy even more monstrous than him" is not grammatically correct. But you get across the story. To improve it, I'd try to infuse a little more of the sense of horror that you have on the page in spades.
      250: I don't read horror. Ever. But yet this is one of the finest, best-written, and gripping first pages I've seen yet in this contest. I would keep reading. I'd have to. Even though it makes my skin crawl.


    4. Dolyn - The first line of the query is unnecessary. No need to tell us what you're about to tell us, just jump right in. I think the query is on the long side--I see you want to give the reader lots of details about the world and the situation but you can slim it down without losing the effect. In the 250, your first line is repetitive, no need to say mutters AND under her breath. Overall, I get a lot of voice and I think the concept is quite strong. This is a case where I think the mash-up of genres can really work.

      Monster -

      Your query, for me, really gets going after the second paragraph, which says you can probably shorten the first two considerably. Why doesn't he know his uncle before the chance meeting? How are these monsters conceived? Where/who is his father? Just questions I had while reading. Super opening to the book, it really grabs me and it is just graphic enough not to skeeve me out and want to keep reading.

      By just a hair, as these are both in really great shape IMO, VICTORY TO DOLYN.

    5. Query Matchup:
      The query for "Headphones" has a number of issues, big and small, to address before it's really ready for the big, bad world. At the granular level, it needs more careful proofing: there's a subj/verb agreement error in the first sentence of paragraph two that a read-aloud would catch and clean up right away. Also, there's no reason for paragraph one to lead with "tells the story of," etc etc. Just get to what the story is. Small gestures like this add to the overall length of the query (which is already pretty substantial and should be cut down). At a broader level, there's confusing information, too. Is the daughter mentioned at the end Eli's and the MC's? And what's going on with time frame in this story? The query names the MC as having lived through the Great Depression, but the 250 gives the MC waiting in line at a restaurant behind a guy with a Wasted Youth tee. And we're told the narrator is seventeen. I'm not sure of what's happening... is there an error here, or is the MC in fact quite old and only looks 17? Or, is this a different Great Depression unique to this world? When are we, exactly? Finally, the motive of the villain being to end the world seems problematic. It's a trope I always question, because I wonder, "If the world ENDS, where will you be, villain? Why is this desired?"

      Monster Twin has a fascinating premise, but the query has some issues, too, most of which aren't hard to address. There should be a comma in the first sentence between "died" and "for." We are given no specific reason Uncle and MC make this automaton. Is it to be a companion? Out of morbid curiosity? What inspires this act? Once we know what the MC wanted from this creation, we'll have a deeper appreciation of how its going wrong is both a practical and a personal loss.

      250 Matchup:
      First person narratives aren't my favorite mode, largely because (unless there is a very strong voice or style behind them), they all tend to sound the same. That said, these two first person narratives are very different, indeed.

      Headphones' 250 starts in a low-stakes situation, where the attitude and perspective of the MC as she looks at the world around her is supposed to engage us. However, being frustrated about waiting to order a meal doesn't take me to a novel or interesting conflict. I do this, too, and when the main character is so growly about it and automatically moves from thoughts about this to thoughts about her own dysfunctions, it seems forced, not like the organic, natural way someone who has had a lifetime to deal with being troubled gets through the day.

      The inside of Talmage's head in Monster Twin's entry, though, is full of eerie atmosphere, pain, fear, and high stakes. We are already "in media res," in the thick of action, and the voice of the narrator still tells me a great deal about the style of this story and his personality, all at once. It's lovely work.


    6. Dolyn Pierce's Headphones:

      I would jump right to the point and cut the ‘tells the story’ in your query: Dolyn Pierce can stand in any room and listen to conversations that took place there days, weeks, or even years earlier.

      I’m not sure as to why she was looking in a trash can and why’d she take seeds out. That seemed rather odd, and it didn’t really flow with the stabbing big right before. Was she searching for something after a stabbing? Connect these parts to help clarify.

      There’s a lot going on in this query, and while I find it intriguing, consider tightening or maybe even end on the reclaiming of the souls.

      I like the first 250, but the part where she describes his clothes--and then her own--felt forced.

      My Monster Twin is Rotting:

      You bring the world to life in the query and I’m intrigued. Does the uncle not love Talmage? Curious why he needs a brother to fill that void when he has his uncle, however, I like where the story is going and love the last line: who has already started to rust and rot, will fight to the death in order to live. Very nice. I wasn’t too keen on the ‘error of his ways’—show us exactly what the brother is doing to make him feel this way.

      I’m not a fan of how the book starts. It has a prologue feel. I’d rather get to know the characters—both him and his mechanical brother—before I learn about the death. Make me care about it by drawing me in first.

      This is another tough one for me. Based on the query, Victory goes to: MY MONSTER TWIN IS ROTTING


      A very solid query. That is how it is done, sir. (Or Madam.) I like almost everything about it.

      But, of course, there are a few quibbles. The sentence: “After numerous unsolved ritualistic stabbings puts the city’s residents on edge, Dolyn discovers a package containing eighteen seeds inside a trash can.” is only slightly less ridiculous than say, “Following the turmoil around the assassination of John. F. Kennedy, Susie finds a small apple tree inside a Dumpster.” It comes out of the blue, is what I am saying. The most immediate question is why is Dolyn searching in a trash can? I don’t doubt that you have reasons, but in the query it is sudden and distracting. Either cut the detail of the trash can, or explain it more.

      But this is a quibble, and it’s strong.


      The 250 is good, although not as strong as the query. There were a few awkward constructions that could stand to be smoothed out. I also found the sequence of short paragraphs (I’m not… Nothing does.) to be less impactful that you might imagine. Consider condensing some of those into one paragraph, and just have the single short paragraph. I suspect it will play better that way.

      My main quibble with it is that I’m left wondering if this is supposed to be a period piece. If it’s not, I’m wondering if you are a Gen Xer. Between the Wasted Youth reference, and the “Gen Whatever Letter is Supposed to Be Trending This Week” line, I feel a little out of time. We haven’t called anyone Gen anything in a while now-- Millennials are the term of the moment, no? “The guy was a Baby Boomer, or a Toddler Boomer or whatever the boomers we were up to now.”

      Anyway, I’m picking at you now, but I’m doing it because I’m pretty won over by this entry. Fix your problems, and you will rock the agent round.


      Gah! Okay, I was perhaps being a little snarky to DOLYN, but I figured, since I’m almost certainly voting for it, I could stand to snark a little. But now I read this entry, and I am gutted, because it is completely awesome too.

      In contrast to DOLYN, your query is the weaker half of the entry-- I feel like there’s just a scootch too much going on. It’s a lot to take in, and as colorful as the backstory is, I’m wondering if its why I feel like we’re fighting for air. Is Alice necessary to mention here? She complicates the query without bringing any extra value to it. I’d keep things as focused on Talmage as possible.

      But it’s still good query, and I love the creepy ONE OF US, ONE OF US vibe I get from it.

      The 250 is masterful. I am completely digging the horrified Victor Frankenstein vibe I’m getting here. I am all over this.

      I do quibble over: “a laughed a bitter cry” which is more telling than showing, and is a little purple, even for Vic Frankenstein. I get you’re going for elevated, but be careful. It’s strong work.


      These are both great entries, and I am HEARTBROKEN to choose between them…. Grr.

      When in doubt, I almost always go with the best 250, but there’s something about DOLYN that I can’t quite shake.

      My (extremely conflicted vote) is for DOLYN PIERCE’S HEADPHONES.

    8. Princess of LlamasJune 4, 2015 at 2:43 AM

      DOLYN PIERCE: This query is too long, and it reads like a synopsis. A stronger first sentence is simply, “Dolyn Pierce can hear conversations that took place days, weeks, and even years earlier.” And from there, just cut out the filler, leaving only the essentials, “The voices never stop, and after a failed suicide attempt, electro-shock therapy, and several stints in the psych ward, Dolyn is resigned to find a way to live with her so-called gift. She takes a job as a police consultant, visiting crime scenes to identify the assailants.”

      With something like that (and granted, it needs work), you’ve told us who she is, a glimpse to her troubled past, and set the stage for the battle to come. From there, you can go straight into the conflict, “While investigating a series of ritualistic stabbings, Dolyn encounters Eli . . .” I’d revise and tighten the seeds and Tree of Life part. I had to re-read those sentences a couple times because it didn’t make sense to me. Why would she count how many seeds are in a bag? And why is she picking up a bag of seeds? It seems so random. Since the point is that she has to save souls and find the thief, focus on that. Finally, I don’t think you need the last two paragraphs at all. Up until then, you don’t mention anything about repressed memories so that throwing it in at the end just muddles up the conflict and stakes.

      As for the 250, I like the voice here, but it kind of fell flat for me. I’m not sure this starts in the right place. A line in a coffee shop? There’s not much going on. Also, I’m not seeing why it’s important to know how many people are ahead and behind her. Is there somewhere else you can start this so we can see more of her character right off the bat? And we don’t need her physical description so soon either. This is precious space—you really have to engage the reader.

      MONSTER TWIN: I really like this query! Except for the first sentence! Lol. I think it can be a tad smoother. Maybe, “When Talmage True was born, people said it was a mercy his mother died, as the infant’s razor-sharp teeth would have torn her apart.” Otherwise, just re-read to tighten. In the second paragraph, you don’t need, “within his dismal existence.” That sentence is already long, and you’ve already established his life sucks. Same thing with the last sentence in that paragraph. I’d cut it entirely. We already know he’s an aberration. And in the last paragraph, “realizes the error of his ways” is the same thing as, “regrets” so pick one phrase or the other. With the newly-added space, I’d tack on a closing sentence that packs a punch as to what will happen if Talmage can’t destroy his brother.

      As for the 250, I’m confused. This seems to start in the middle of the story. He already has his brother and is trying to kill him? That seems so inconsistent with the query, which makes it seem the story starts with Uncle and build-a-brother. Also, this scene seems odd because wouldn’t he have a plan as to how he’s going to kill clockwork before dragging him behind the trees? Is he really first now determining if it’s via rock, via saw, etc.? Taking all that aside, the writing is good, has great imagery, and voice. You can lose the last sentence though, as the sentence before that tells us he knows there’s no heart.

      This is tough one. I like both ideas, and I’d read both of these books. Since both of these 250s start in the wrong place, I’m going to place more emphasis on the query, and in that case, one is really near perfect (to me). Victory to MONSTER TWIN!

    9. Note: For round 1 since there's so many entries, I'm judging based on the query only!


      Very cool concept for a supernatural power.

      Jump right into the query. No need to tell us "OVERHEARD tells the story of" - that's just extra words!

      The second and third paragraphs seem a bit drawn out and synopsis-y. Give us the conflict clearly and concisely: She finds a strange package of seeds and discovers that they're the seeds of the Tree of Life. She then has to ___ or else ___.



      Creepy! (In a good way!) and I definitely get a feeling for the voice, characters, and conflict. Well done. I want to read this one right now. I really have nothing else to add or suggest!

      Victory to... MY MONSTER TWIN IS ROTTING!

  2. Doylan - I agree with cutting the "Overheard is about" and getting right to the meat of the matter. I'd consider doing a little tightening in the third paragraph of your query. When you mentioned she can tell who the murderer is I wondered if she's involved with the police. How else is she getting access to the crime scenes mentioned in the query? I'd like to see a little more happening in the 250. Less waiting and more doing.

    Monster Twin - your 250 feels a bit like prologue to me and I wonder if you could do with out it. Just jump into the now and the why,

  3. OVERHEARD: I love this concept and your voice is already quite strong in the query. However! I feel like I didn't know what was going on until the Eli paragraph. The earlier stuff led me to believe she's a regular girl with paranormal powers (ehhhh) but in fact she's an immortal. Right? Or she's been reincarnated? An old soul? I guess it's a bit unclear for me still. And she has a daughter? Still bit confused. BUT, you have a great voice in the 250. My only suggestion would be to remove the spaces between one sentence paragraphs. I get you're giving each line a beat and more weight, but I found it disjointed. Otherwise, I would definitely read on to find out more about this snarky, special girl.

    MONSTER TWIN: Query was great! I was intrigued and creeped out and wanted to jump in to the 250. Your 250 feels a bit retarded, in the sense that it's delayed, and delaying the real action. Once you get to the real action, dragging the monster's body into the forest or trees, then it seizes the reader's attention. Also, you switch tense here - so choose one, please. I'd suggest starting with the body dragging and move the first paragraphs of background beneath that. Great work and compelling premise!

  4. Well. I'm glad I didn't read either of these before bed!

    DOLYN PIERCE'S HEADPHONES - Query: Fantastic premise. I'm having a bit of trouble following the narrative thread, though. Why is Dolyn finding the seeds? I gather from the first paragraph that she's been recruited to help solve the stabbings, but it's not entirely clear. Also, the query is much longer and detailed than it needs to be. The details of the incineration could be left for the manuscript. And while the particulars of the Tree of Life are more than I can absorb at this point, I *would* like to know a little more about what put Eli on Dolyn's path. 250: Excellent voice, and great job establishing the setting. One minor quibble: "high-octane squirrel" is a great image, but it's not one that I see coming from a damaged 17-year-old girl.

    MY MONSTER TWIN IS ROTTING - Query: another deliciously creepy premise, with fresh, dark twist on the bullied-outsider theme. The only suggestion I'd have is to give us a bit more about Talmage's background. "Chance encounter" suggests he's never met his uncle. Why not? Who's raising him? 250: Top-notch atmosphere. I'm confused by when this takes place, though. The first paragraphs suggest that the story took place a long time ago, and Talmage is reflecting on it. But then we're at the killing. If you're going to keep this opening (and I see some of the judges have recommended getting rid of it), you should have a transition between "If only I had" and the next part.

  5. Dolyn Pierce's Headphones/ Overheard

    I love this concept, the psychometry, ritualistic killings, it's great. There are a few things about your query that concern me. Most importantly is the length. I feel like the presentation would be more captivating if you trimmed down the unnecessary information and showed more about Dolyn's stakes. Another thing, you never state your MC's age. I notice this is a YA novel but I can't understand how a minor can be allowed to work on crime scenes with the police, especially where murder is involved. Have you considered the possibility that your novel is new adult, or even just adult, your word count would be fine for either.

    The writing in your 250 is excellent. I liked the flow and tone but again it didn't feel very YA to me, more NA. Have you done any research on new adult? It seems to be booming right now and with horror, it would leave you open to more grim content.

    Overall, I think you have a strong voice and great sentence structure. This is gonna be a tough one for the judges.

    Good luck!

    My Monster Twin is Rotting/ A Savage Miscreation

    This is a very interesting concept, like a scary Pinocchio. I would've liked to see more stakes, peril for Talmage in the query letter. Is his clockwork brother dangerous? Does Talmage fear for his or his new girlfriend's life?

    Your 250 is very good, I can definitely see the horror aspect. Although, it kind of feels like you’re setting up a flashback and that's usually seen as a cliché for novel openers. While I like the flow of your writing, I do worry about where it's leading me. Again, this is gonna be a hard choice for the judges.

    Good luck!

  6. Headphones:
    Query: First, I would definitely read this book! Great premise. The query is well-written, but I think it needs to stop after the “if they fail” line. That seems like the natural ending, and the query continuing after threw me off. I even think, too, that the preceding portion (although interesting) should be trimmed. What can you streamline and still get the point across?
    250: I LOVE your idea, and I think the voice of the character comes across strongly. That being said, I’m not sure starting in line at the coffee shop, musing over past experiences, is quite the right jumping off point. I wonder if you couldn’t move it closer to your inciting incident and carry on from there. Other than that, a solid start!
    Query: You do a good job explaining what might be a complicated premise. Well done! However, the first paragraph is a little confusing, and I had to read it twice to get the intention. I sort of expected the kinship he felt to be with living creatures, or the uncle moreso, instead of what is actually presented, but I think you do a great job after noting the creation of the boy. I think you might show how the MC has done wrong since the query says he needs to atone, whereas right now it seems the primary villain is the creation. Interesting premise! Would love read to more.
    250: I love the tone you’ve struck. Formal, spooky, entrancing. Great job with delicately balancing all of these elements without being overboard! I was confused about the timing in the first 250 and what was happening. Did he kill him? Are we starting with a present inner dialogue then a flashback? I would love to see this in-scene, later in the novel. If it’s right up front, if the threat is destroyed (I think) the tension is sucked out of the piece. Other than that, good beginning to your work!

  7. Dolyn Pierce’s Headphones

    I think I love your nickname even more than your title. Love the concept and for the first two paragraphs of the query I’m completely with you. Then, as other folks have said, it starts to feel like too much. I think you should try rewriting the query leaving out as much of Eli’s backstory as you can, and anchor it in being Dolyn’s story. I like the snarky voice in the 250, you’ve got that down, but I too am wary of the non-contemporary references. It’s a tough problem, YA is my genre at the moment and trying to create a voice that sounds young but not dated is tricky. For me it works better to keep the snark and drop the references.

    The image of teenage girl wandering around wearing headphones to block out the echoes on conversations past is very cool, very Gaiman-esqe.

    My Monster Twin is Rotting

    This does what it says on the box. Creepy and gothic. Teeth and metal. It’s not something I’d pick off the shelf naturally, but I can now see the spooky appeal of it. You’ve expressed Talmage’s loneliness really well in the query. What I felt was missing was why his clockwork brother is evil. He can’t help that he’s covered in corpse skin and saying that he’s “even more monstrous” than Talmage doesn’t work because Talmage clearly isn’t a monster. I think I’m missing what the threat to Talmage really is. Or maybe I’m just pro-robot. Tell me what’s wrong with the brother.

    I was thrown by the ending as prologue too. Since the first paragraph of the query is about him killing his mother, I thought the first paragraph of the 250 was about that too. I can see the concept behind building suspense by letting us know the conflict is going to come, but that means missing out the slow build of horror as we learn about Talmage’s appearance and his loneliness, then the joy as finds his brother, then the renewed horror as he realizes that his brother is evil. I like slow-build horror.

    Seriously good luck both of you. I read these two entries late in the first round when I was weary and they got me excited again. Revise and query. These both cool, original ideas.