Jun 1, 2015

QK Round 1: The Past Is My Future v. Greek Gods are the Best Kind of Trouble

Entry Nickname: The Past Is My Future
Word Count: 105K
Genre: Adult Science Fiction


Horatio’s passion is science. As a quantum data physicist, he has everything figured out, everything that is, except for people. Research is his solace against humanity. There, Horatio slots the Universe into neatly stacked equations, fortressed in his lab until his discovery of time travel. But the ability to wield time and space is meaningless without purpose. In perfecting his machine, he finds such a purpose—returning to the past to save those who have needlessly perished. Now he must test the variables.

Every experiment requires a control, and Horatio can think of none better than the RMS Titanic; a ship isolated and lost at sea. Banding together with his friend, Hendley, they devise a plan to travel through time and correct a flaw in the ship’s original build, ensuring that she’ll survive a collision with an iceberg. But 1909 Belfast poses problems that science cannot solve.

Century old engineers, coupled with money hungry shipbuilders, force our heroes to rethink their strategy. Teaming up with Kat, a company typist, provides the men with a needed edge to guarantee success. But it’s evident she also holds sway over Horatio’s heart, jeopardizing the mission. If science cannot be separated from emotion, not only will the Titanic be lost again, but Horatio and Hendley may spend the remainder of their lives jailed in the past.

First 250 words:

Warm air greeted me that cold January morning at Biggington University. Breathing in the pungent smell of burnt wood, I pivoted full circle in search of the source. Students pushed past, bumping into my haversack in their haste, knocking me off balance. Confused, I followed the rabble at a distance, all heading in the same direction. Rounding a corner, I spotted a dark cloud of billowing smoke hovering over the snow-laden campus, drawing them to the Lindenbrook Geology Building. Their wayward presence only served to alter the tone of the drama to that of a rock band concert, which made the firefighters’ task all the more difficult—and dangerous. The centuries-old building was an easy target for the flames, its ancient wiring and wooden framing almost begged to be set ablaze.

My boots crunched snow, kicking up powder as I jogged over to catch sight of the spectacle. Arriving at the north side entrance, I pushed my way through the tangle of coats and backpacks, ignoring staccato protests from their owners to gain a front row seat. Parked before the seven-story building was a small fleet of emergency hover-vehicles, all cordoned off behind an endless strip of fluorescent yellow tape. Spilling out from their sides were tentacles of hose, snaking their way through the well-trodden snow. Flashing lights reflected off the stone and brick in scorched hues of red, white and blue.

The heroes of this story were the firefighters. Assembled in aluminized bunker gear and crimson helmets, they stood like sentinels against the blaze, protectors of the boisterous crowd.


Entry Nickname: Greek Gods are the Best Kind of Trouble
Title: Not Set in Stone
Word count: 94K
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


New York City is a far cry from Medusa Kalypto’s drab ancestral gorgon homeland. Her city bursts at the seams with humans and the disenfranchised Greek gods. Here, Zeus is a barista, Hermes is famous for being famous, and Hades is a best-selling poet. The city is also where she’ll discover which life she's fated to live.

For humans, turning thirty involves reevaluating their lives and having mini panic attacks between celebratory margaritas. For Medusa, a gorgon with an all too common name, it entails finding out if she has the gorgon curse. The curse means banishment to the Isle where her mother and other bitter judgmental gorgons reside. A fate worse than death.

At least she thought so until the curse stirs up the illegal blood oath she took with her ex-boyfriend Ares, revealing an ugly side effect, telepathy. Now she’s bonded to her ex by telepathic transmissions. Sometimes a gorgon can’t catch a break.

This telepathy stirs up dangerous feelings for her drama-fueled ex threatening the budding relationship with her new human boyfriend Adam. Even worse, it has sparked an investigation putting her immigration status at risk. With deportation and heartbreak looming in the distance, Medusa must find a way to untangle this new mess with her toxic ex. If she doesn’t, her snakes might learn might learn another “S” word for screwed.

First 250 words:

I twirled a single snake around my index finger like a long green ribbon. The other snakes on my head nipped at the bobbing zipper on the back of my blue dress as I power-walked down the sidewalk surrounded by a mass of fellow New Yorkers. Sidewalks here were like a benevolent god we bowed our heads to but never acknowledged, and our sole prayer was to keep moving forward. The gorgon deep within me fought hard to keep me still, especially today on the birthday I feared the most. Did humans hate turning thirty as much as I did?

Hell, I'd take a slice of existential crisis with a regretful hangover crust instead of registering with the government. Imagine if the first time you saw yourself might be the last time you took a breath. The safer option was never to leave the gorgon homeland, the Isle of Stone, in the first place. Never try to live among humans and the fallen Greek gods and make a life for yourself.

But I was never one to play it safe.

Immortal friends and student loans would be my financial death. My Brooklyn death, on the other hand, now loomed ahead, blurring in the distance like a dark and murky nightmare.

The Center of Sorrow and Sisterhood or CSS was a bleak gray building with a lone black door at the front. It was both a savior and destroyer for young gorgons like me.


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

    1. Overall query notes:

      Not a terrible query, but it could use some punching up. You spend an enormous amount of space in the query defining Horatio, but he never comes up as more that just a ‘type’. Science guy who can’t get people—we get it, we’ve seen that before. That’s not a problem, per se, but I question if you need to spend the first paragraph describing someone that the reader will ‘grok’ pretty immediately.

      You also do the same thing with the invention of the time machine—you waste a lot of the query going over it, but us readers get it: it’s a time machine. Other books have used this idea before. Just open the query with both in place:

      Reclusive quantum scientist Horatio Sanz has finally done it: he’s invented a damn machine. All he needs now is to test it.

      Or some such.

      There's also some real mis-allocated details in there-- you take the time to explain to us what the Titanic is, for example-- but not what it's relationship to Belfast in 1909 is.

      The bottom of the query has the opposite problem as the top—all sorts of stuff is happening—angry workers! Belligerent engineers! We’re in Belfast! Horatio has a pal! And a love interest! They could go to jail! – and you just sort of squeeze it all into a paragraph. You have this all backwards. Expand the exciting stuff, and take the trope as given.

      And don't mention Hendley in the final sentence-- focus on the MC. I don't care if Hendley goes to jail-- I can't tell you a single thing about him other than his name. Focus on Horatio.


      I have some issues with the writing in this 250. I get that the overuse of adjectives is meant to provide voice for the character, but it didn’t work for me. It just made the thing feel overwritten. I would really have loved some of the direct thoughts of Horatio here, which might have helped cut through some of this.

      It's also a terribly laconic opening for what is essentially a BUILDING ON FIRE! It should read zippier.

      Every sentence in the ‘my boots crunched snow’ paragraph has a clause, most of which begin with gerunds. There needs to be more sentence variety here, and you should use short sentences for impact. A building is on fire! Elsewhere you have three almost consecutive sentences that use the same construction. X, I did this. X, I did this, I did this. You need to carefully audit this.

      And, while it's a smaller detail, I’ll also mention that Horatio is chastising the students for the exact thing he is doing, but I’m guessing that’s a conscious character choice on your part, and part of his journey. Be careful though, because at the moment he doesn’t seem like someone I’d want to spend a book with. Give me SOMETHING, in the query or the 250 that humanizes him a little.

      ICE ICE OUTPOST (Vote to follow)

    2. Query:

      I love, love, love this query. It's not without it's flaws, but it seems like you know what you're doing and it's fun. Details: the second sentence is problematic, because you don't immediately know if Medusa's city is NYC or her homeland.

      Also, maybe I'm an idiot, but I don't know what the other "S" word for screwed is. Hopefully the other judges will join in if they are confused on this point. It has the cadence of a joke, as Perd Hapley would say.

      But it's strong.


      And here I have problems.

      To a certain extent I have some of the same problems I had with your kombatant-- some of it feels overwritten. There's a real effortlessness to the query that I don't sense here. Take the sentence: The other snakes on my head nipped at the bobbing zipper on the back of my blue dress as I power-walked down the sidewalk surrounded by a mass of fellow New Yorkers. 32 words, no commas, lots of descriptors. The opening image-- which should be awesome-- gets eaten up here. As if you're racing to describe it all in one breath. I found the line about sidewalks interesting, but a little difficult to parse, and sort of felt like all of the sentences in the first paragraph were good one-ofs, but didn't necessarily flow together.

      Some of the rest of the 250 I find confusing-- it feels info-dumpy, like you're throwing a lot of worldbuilding at us at once-- and I don't know that I would follow all of it without the benefit of having read the query.

      I think the 250 needs some real re-drafting, and needs follow up on the voice and clarity of the query.

      It's a close call, but for the excellent query, the winner is GREEK GODS ARE THE BEST KIND OF TROUBLE


    3. Past is My Future:
      Okay. I love the Titanic. I've read every book about it I can get my hands on. I wrote a research paper on the cause of its sinking back in school. I actually know the supposed cause of the sinking as of today: flawed rivets in the hull. I also love time travel. So your concept has my name written all over it. If I were an agent, I'd request. And that, my friends, is subjectivity at work. Both your query and your 250 have issues you need to address, however, and the main one is overwriting. Your voice is very science-academic. That may lose you some readers. You use a lot of $10 words and adjectives. You may want to try to simplify your language some. I've read writing advice that says that the simplest word is almost always the best. Still, the concept has hooked me.

      Greek Gods:
      Okay. The year before my Titanic obsession took off, I saved up all my allowance to buy a book on Greek mythology. So, yay! Your concept would also be an auto-request for me! Subjectivity!!

      Query: It's really good. Really, really good, but I think it would be better if you could cut it by about a third. Try to really get across the characters, conflict and stakes as simply as possible. Voice you already have in it in spades.

      250: I had a little trouble following what was going on. You have a breezy, kind of sassy voice, and that kind of voice goes with a simpler style. Reduce your adjectives. Shorten your sentences. Punch it up a little. I do not understand what you mean by "my Brooklyn death." Literal? She is a gorgon. Figurative? Brooklyn is that bad? Or total snark? It could be anything, and I don't know this character well enough yet to be able to tell.

      Because I thought the query had the edge, though as I say, I'd request both these books because of their concepts,

    4. Princess ButtercupJune 3, 2015 at 9:31 PM

      The Past is My Future

      As a geology and science fiction nerd, I am heartbroken that no one has given you the serious props you deserve for creating the Lindenbrook Geology Building! Do you have any idea how fast I’d go back to college just to get to walk in those doors? Kudos, kudos, kudos.
      Yet as much as I loved the idea of the Lindenbrook Geology Building, I have to also admit there were serious questions forming as I read your query—and possibly not the questions you were hoping for. I’m hoping against all hopes that these issues are addressed in the MS because if they are, you can merely add them to your query and completely erase any doubt.

      First, the mainstay in science fiction about time travel is the potential disaster that could arise if even one historical event were to be changed. And your MC plans to not only keep one person from dying, but over 1,500? My nerd-self can’t even wrap my mind around the possible ramifications. Which brings me to my next question, has your MC done other trials? Part of my brain is screaming, “Of course he did!” but the other part of my brain is having a complete panic attack.

      So automatically, as much as I desperately want to love this, my major problem is that I can’t suspend my disbelief. And I really, really wanted to!

      First 250
      I was hoping that somehow, some way, you’d have alleviated some of the world-building concerns I had from the query in your first 250. Not completely, obviously, but if you’d opened with your MC returning from a successful test trip I’d at least have known some of it might be addressed in one way or another.

      Unfortunately, some of the wording was a bit overwrought. One example was, “The heroes of this story were the firefighters.” That line pulled me completely out of the story and made me think my screen had jumped to something else. I had trouble imagining someone describing a raging fire in such a manner. I wanted to connect with your MC, but I didn’t get much of a feel for them in this scene.

      Greek Gods are the Best Kind of Trouble

      My first question as I read your query was about Hermes, who’s famous for being famous, which made me wonder if his last name was Kardashian. This is good, because my brain is already interacting with your world and it’s only the third sentence.

      There’s voice in spades in your query, which automatically makes me a fan. I did trip up a little in the third paragraph and had to read it several times to understand what it was saying, so I’d suggest revising for clarity there. Also, you need a comma before “Adam.”

      One question, what’s the other “S” word for screwed?

      First 250
      Again, voice in spades! Well done in the 250. However, you have some areas you need to clarify. The good news is a little punctuation could probably do that for you. I had to read your second sentence a couple of times to make sure I was understanding it. Also, “or CSS” in the last paragraph should be set apart by commas.

      The biggest place I think you could improve on the 250 is to show us Medusa in line at the CSS. Show us what she’s feeling as she approaches her 30th birthday, instead of telling us. That, combined with your voice, would be something I’d love to read in a heartbeat!

      This is such a hard decision to make. I want to love The Past is my Future so much! But the world building questions and overwrought wording give me pause. Greek Gods has excellent voice, a few issues in punctuation in places but those are easy fixes, and snakes, I mean STAKES, that are clearly stated. Did I mention I also love Greek Mythology?


    5. The Past Is My Future:

      The first line in your query needs some pizzazz. Passion for science doesn’t really hook the reader. The second has more punch. Consider tweaking the second to start it off with a bang.

      Research is his solace against humanity, but then he wants to go back and save people. Why? I need more clarity. And why the Titanic? As a data physicist, I imagine everything he does is carefully planned and well thought out. I was a bit surprised to find he had a friend when he seemed like a hermit in the first section of the query. Does he maybe have everything figured out but women?

      I like the idea of the men getting stuck in the past, and jailed for that matter. I’d like to know more about Kat other than the fact that she’s a typist. Did they meet her on the ship? Does he hope to bring her to the future with him?

      I like the concept, and with some tweaks I think this could be a very strong query.

      I didn’t connect with the voice in the first 250. You could vary your sentence structure more, but really, I think this story might need to be in 3rd, and I really didn’t understand what the fire had to do with the story. Obviously this is only the first 250, but it felt like he was watching something happen and nothing was happening to Horatio.

      Greek Gods are the Best Kind of Trouble:

      I love the idea of Greek Gods forced to live among us, and the image of Zeus selling coffee made me smile. Do Zeus and Hermes have the curse too? Is that why they’re all in New York?

      I feel like there are pieces missing from this query to help clarify what’s going on. And can she truly be deported if she’s cursed?

      Great opening line in the first 250. But can everyone see the snakes? I’m guessing all they see is hair? Clarify this so the reader isn’t distracted by wondering. The first section started out all right, but then I feel like the voice shifted.


    6. Princess of LlamasJune 4, 2015 at 1:28 AM

      PAST IS MY FUTURE: Your query is well written, but doesn’t say much. The first paragraph tells us that Horatio is a scientist who has social issues. That’s not an original concept that deserves an entire paragraph. Explaining it in one sentence will free up a lot of space for details on your story. I have the same issue with the second paragraph. Everyone knows the Titanic—no need to elaborate and say it’s lost at sea or going to hit an iceberg if Horatio can’t fix it. The heart of your story lies in the Horatio-Kat relationship and how that interferes in his mission. THAT is where this story differentiates itself from other time travel or Titanic stories. How does her “sway” over Horatio’s heart jeopardize the mission? Be specific. And why are they in jail if they fail? Here is where you use the room freed up by shortening the first two paragraphs to describe conflict and stakes.

      For the first 250, it reads as though you’re trying too hard--overwritten in the sense that you take a lot of space to describe a scene that has no emotion to it. The key to successful first person POV is getting the reader invested in the MC. Horatio is boring. He’s describing a fire using a bunch of flowery language completely devoid of emotion. I wonder if you’re starting in the wrong place. Is this fire scene the best way to introduce us to Horatio? We haven’t an inkling of his personality.

      GREEK GODS: The voice in this query is outstanding. Where is it in your first 250??!! My only real comment regards the last paragraph. I’m not sure how the telepathy “stirs up dangerous feelings for her drama-fueled ex threatening the budding relationship with her new human boyfriend Adam.” Do you mean that since Adam can read her thoughts, he’s mad she’s not thinking about him? I’d make this clearer. I’d also say how/why it’s prompted an investigation. Finally, I confess I don’t know the other “S” word for screwed. (Sorry!)

      For the first 250, my comments are very similar to your competitor’s in that it comes off as overwritten. Your sentences are really long, and you’re skipping around a lot, which makes it hard to understand what’s going on. She’s power walking (with real snakes on her head?) and thinking about her birthday, but you’ve also thrown in a gorgon, an existential crisis, registering with the government, and the CSS--all in the first 250 words. I think if you take a step back, simplify and alter your sentence length, it would flow smoother.

      I like both of these concepts, and there are glimpses of great writing and imagery here. I think with revisions, these queries and 250s could really shine. As of now though, one is further alone. Victory to GREEK GODS ARE THE BEST KIND OF TROUBLE!

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


      I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of time travel and have always been fascinated with the Titanic, so this is definitely right up my alley.

      My only suggestion would be to cut the first line. Otherwise the first two sentences end up being redundant.

      Also, is there a way to clarify succintly why Kat's affection for Horatio jeopardizes their mission?



      I love the concept of the Greek gods trying to get by in modern day NYC!

      You've got a lot of neat stuff going on in this query, but it leaves me wondering what the main conflict is -- finding out if she has a curse (more of a fantasy quest)? Ridding herself of her telepathic connection with her ex (more of a paranormal struggle)? Dealing with feelings for her ex vs feelings for the new guy (romantic entanglements)?

      Also, how is Medusa's name "all too common"? Is that simply in regards to people knowing who she is by her name alone? Or are there really a bunch of people named Medusa wandering around NYC?

      Victory to... THE PAST IS MY FUTURE!

  2. Deferred due to conflict

  3. THE PAST IS MY FUTURE - Query: the premise of rebuilding the Titanic to avert the tragedy is a fresh one, so I'd lead with that. But I'm not sold on your character or stakes, at least as they are presented in the query - "socially clueless genius" is a cliche, and science and emotion coexist symbiotically on a regular basis. I'm sure there's more to your book than that - it needs to come out in the query. 250: The voice seems off to me, or at least at odds with the query. I was expecting a third person POV (which provides distance); if it was going to be in 1st person, I expected very clinical descriptions. For someone who doesn't get people, Horatio's observations are very human, almost poetic.

    GREEK GODS - Query: very cool premise! I find myself a bit disoriented by the tone: finding out if one has the gorgon curse is serious stuff, but much of the query reads as glib ("Sometimes a gorgon can't catch a break"). 250: I love the play on the hair-twirling habit in the opening sentence! This opening, though, reflects the tone issue I had with the query. Medusa comes across as chatty and sardonic, but the stakes are high right out of the gate - she's talking about death - so I'm not sure sure how seriously I should take her. (Maybe that's deliberate, but with nothing past the first 250 to go by, I'm feeling a bit dizzy.)

  4. THE PAST:
    Query: I think your first sentence and last sentence in the first paragraph are unnecessary. You do a good job setting up, but I felt time travel was hidden at the end of a sentence. I think it needs to stand out more. I love this premise. Great stakes! 250: Great description! However, I feel it’s lacking intensity. A building’s on fire, but I feel relaxed as if it’s no big thing.

    Query: I LOVE THIS! First of all, I love Greek gods, but you do a fabulous job teasing us. I love your voice even in the query. Great job! 250: Interesting. I wasn’t pulled in as much as I was in the query, but I definitely want to read more.

  5. The Past,

    I have to agree with Ice Ice Outpost for most of her observations. Your query is well written, but most interesting in that last paragraph. I'd also like a hint of what might happen if they CAN save the titanic. Will the world be better, or worse and how?

    The 250 is well written, but you do need to mix up your sentence length and construction. I'd also like to see more of the scientist's emotions. He does come across as a fairly average guy. If he doesn't like people, would he really push himself to the front of a crowd? How does he feel about the building catching fire? He describes it, but he doesn't react to it. Was his time machine in there? Are they related? Would he worry about this? You have beautiful words, but now you need to go back, and make sure your character's voice didn't get lost.

    Greek Gods,

    Haha, I love this concept. Greek gods wandering around in New York city where they live semi-average lives. What a great premise! The query lacked a certain smoothness, and there was a little bit of redundancy, but overall I like it and the tone. Though, Like Ice Ice Outpost, I have no idea what this other "S" word is.

    I enjoyed your 250 as well. I'm a fan of the sassy-even-though-life-is-hard tone. You may want to work on shortening some of those sentences, but over all, I liked the details involved (especially the snakes nipping at the zipper). I did want to see a glimpse of how the regular humans treat the MC (just how many snake-headed people wander around NYC?). Seeing how others treat her (even if its just a glimpse) helps ground her to the world around her. Unlike the other reviewers, I didn't feel the first 250 was an info dump. I think you could simplify your query just a little by removing the line about sidewalk-gods (had to read that a few times to make sense of it, and then wonder why it was important enough to be in the opening paragraph of your story) and then connect your two last paragraphs if, as I assume the CSS building is the "murky nightmare" mentioned. Overall though, I really enjoyed it.

    Good luck to you both!

  6. The Past Is My Future

    I like this premise a lot since I love the Titanic! More than that, your story seems unique to other Titanic-related stories. Already, I'm pondering about what would have happened if the Titanic didn't sink... other than no James Cameron Movie. ;) There should be more emphasis on the time travel discovery since right now it's buried at the end of a sentence. Also, the last paragraph was too vague for me. How does falling for Kat jeopardize the mission? Also, where will the main action take place in the story i.e. are they going to be on the ship or are they going to be in the offices in Belfast going through engineering paperwork? Makes for two very different stories so it might be good to clue us in.

    I wondered what the connection to the fire was to the rest of the story. After reading your query, it seemed like an odd place to start and I didn't get a good sense of who the character was and more importantly how he felt about the fire. There were a couple of vocab choices that threw me--the emergency hover-vehicles, sentinels. It made me wonder if the story was set in the future. This is sci-fi, right? If that's the case, then that definitely needs to be addressed in the query. I hope this helps. Good luck!

    Greek Gods are the Best Kind of Trouble

    This is a fun premise. IMO, the strongest part of your query is the voice--playful, snarky, and something fun I would like to read. In the first paragraph, I wanted to know why the Greek gods were disenfranchised and living in New York since that's obviously unusual. Also, when you say "Her city" in the second sentence it's confusing since I kind of thought it was someplace back in Greece? It wasn't immediately clear that you're still talking about NY.

    It's nice to see that the voice matches your query! I did have some stumbling spots while reading. When she was walking down the street with her snake hair, I had so many questions--can the people see her? How come they don't react to her hair? You may address this later but while reading, it took me out of the believability of the scene. Also, I think we need some more info about what turning 30 means and registering with the government. Why do they have to do that? Are these gods known to the general population? There's a lot of great stuff. Maybe thin out some of the background info-heavy areas and focus on just a few ideas? (Like her snake hair--awesome!) I hope this helps! Good luck!

  7. Ahh, now this feels like home! Finally back in my old stomping grounds...

    Query Matchup:

    Past is Future, look carefully at the tone and style of your query. While a query should reflect the way your ms is actually written (and, based on the sample provided, it seems it does), there's a lot of overwriting in here, and that contributes to a deadening of the urgency the stakes should make us feel. For example, the first and last sentence of your first paragraph are unnecessary. Work MC's name into the second sentence and you're off to the races without either of these. In the final paragraph, you refer to Kat's presence as a kind of guaranteed edge in the conflict, but clearly that can't be true, or there would be no conflict. The reader of a query should not feel that things are getting sewn up nicely, as we get deeper in to the conflict. Rather, we should feel that the whole damned thing is unraveling and this MC and crew are in for a storm of trouble.

    Greek Gods, you have a fun premise, a la Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS, and that's a fine thing. I'm very interested, though, in why your query seems to not address something that the sample writing makes obvious: Medusa doesn't LOOK normal. She's got snakes for hair, for cryin' out loud! Given that, I wonder as I compare the sample and the query if you're missing something key. Is this a world where former gods and mythical beasties are understood and semi-ordinary, thus making boyfriends for a snake-headed lady with Mike Wazowski's girlfriend in MONSTERS, INC. totally workable? Is the real problem not that people will say, "Hey -- I never noticed SHE HAD SNAKES ON HER HEAD BEFORE! AHHHHHH!" but that they'll say, "Sorry, miss. We're a free country and accept all immigrants who obey our laws, but this whole turning folks to stone thing is where we draw the line"? It seems that way, and that's a HUGE flavor element of your world and world-building. Don't pass up the chance to let an agent know about that.

    250 Matchup:
    Past is Future, perhaps it's that your MC is a physicist who isn't good with people that drives your language choice, etc., in this 1st person POV narrative... But I found it hard to get through the writing, because there's not a lot of life in this voice, for me. First person is a valuable tool when you have a distinctive voice, style, and personality to drive it, but here, this just sounds like a highly-detailed 3rd person style with "I" in place of "he." I'm not feeling your MC just yet. If this sample is representative of your style overall, I'd really think hard about whether 1st person is really serving you as well as it could, and whether that signals a need to deepen the intimacy of voice, or a need to revise the ms into 3rd.

    Greek Gods, I really don't know quite where I am in place or space until the very end of your sample, for quite the opposite reason as I struggled with the first person POV of your opponent: this is SO deep in the narrator's headspace, beyond the presence of a gray sky and a sidewalk, I'm unrooted. The sample ends with this CSS place being mentioned, and that gives me hope for a sudden emergence of clear setting and action, so I know I would turn the page to see what's up. But: this lack of real dug-in action and defined space in the very first page may mean that this particular opening is better suited to your chapter as a whole, and not to a contest that prioritizes Page One.

    A tough one, for me, because I keep looking back at both elements of the entries and wishing they were just a little more polished and toned -- but they're close.


  8. THE PAST IS MY FUTURE: I like the idea of saving the Titanic. I think you have a promising story here but I think there are a few problems with your query and 250. First, the query. I think you've got the right info included but you spend too many words describing the scientist and not enough laying out the plot and dilemma. For example, why does he fall in love with Kat? Since his feelings for her jeopardize the mission and their lives, it's critically important to show us why he's so smitten. You're wording is sometimes vague (what does "Now he must test the variables" mean?) and sometimes a bit off ("Century old engineers" for example. They're not actually a century old but engineers from a century ago. Though even this isn't correct as the scientist is in 1909 so the engineers are where they belong time-wise). Finally, I don't think saving the Titanic could be considered a scientific control as there are too many uncontrollable variables involved. Maybe call it a test-run instead? As for your 250, the writing is nice. Maybe a touch of find-and-kill-adjectives needed. My only real concern (as someone mentioned above) is that is sounds a bit poetic for the thoughts of a clinical scientist. Maybe he's more repressed than clinical? This would fit with his love for Kat. I think tweaking the query to make him sound less unemotional would fix a lot.

    GREEK GODS: I like your premise and your voice is quite charming in spots. I especially love the idea of Medusa swaggering down a NYC street, the one place on earth where she wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. Great city, great people, anything goes. Good job finding the perfect marriage between place and character. I think there are a few problems with your query and 250, though. Query--I think there's a little too much going on here and I'm a bit confused. First off, if she doesn't have the gorgon curse yet, why does she have snake hair? What will change for her if she does have the curse (besides relocation)? Then suddenly we have an illegal blood oath, telepathy, and deportation. It's a lot and they're dropped in too suddenly for us to know why. Why does she have an illegal blood oath? Why does it make her telepathic? Why is she subject to immigration if she has powerful god friends? Is the INS more powerful than the gods? I'd believe it, but explain in any case. 250: mostly good, just a little more clarity needed in parts. Eg. "Immortal friends ... would be my financial death." Maybe change to something like "My immortal friends--boozers and gamblers--would be my financial death."

    A bit more polish on both of these and they'll both be really good. Great premises with interesting times and characters.

  9. The past is my future

    The query: Fundamentally love the concept, especially with the Titanic still in Belfast and not yet launched. I’m a little troubled by the trope of the man of science who doesn’t get people. If Horatio doesn’t get people why does he want to save them? I want to see a little of that change in the query. I’d almost like it better if he went back simply to test his own theories then got sucked into the lives of the people there (this was the driver in Jack Finney’s Time and Again, which I loved as a teenager). As to Hendley and Kat, they’re barely more than names in the query. Are they that unimportant (and therefore not worth mentioning by name)? Or do they need a little fleshing out? Why would Hendley go with Horatio? Does Kat know they’re from the future?

    The 250: Great image, not sure how it connects to the story. What is this scene meant to tell us about Horatio as a person? I want, want, want to love this because I love time travel stories, I just need to be more engaged.

    Greek Gods are the best kind of Trouble

    The query: For me the tone of this is spot on. I’m in awe of how you created a completely believable world in those first two sentences. I like the rest of it too although by the end there’s enough going on that I’m not sure about what the real threat is. Minor grammatical quibble, I think it should read “Even worse, it sparks…”

    The 250: So fun. Great imagery. Why aren’t people noticing the woman with snake hair? I mean I know it’s Brooklyn, but tourists go there now, and they’d be snapping pictures. My “how does this fantasy work” senses are tingling want an answer. Other than that, I just want to read this.

  10. The past is my future
    Query: I thought the 3 sentences of backstory at the beginning of the query were a bit excessive. They have important information about the character, but I feel like they could be condensed into 1 sentence--and thus get us to the exciting time travel parts sooner. I was most excited by the time travel.

    I didn't 100% understand the conflict/stakes at the end. How does Horatio having a crush on Kat jeopardize their mission or potentially end with him in jail? Why can't he love her and still save the Titanic? Those things don't seem mutually exclusive to me.

    First 250: This felt overwritten to me. I also couldn't figure out why we were starting here. Does the fire actually impact anything that comes after it? The MC is just walking around--he has no goal and therefore nothing to grab me and make me care about him. The query led me to expect a scientist doing something exciting. Inventing something. Maybe even discovering time travel (since that does seem to be the inciting incident...). Instead, he's watching a fire? Sorry, but it didn't work for me. My expectations from the query made this a jarring opener for me.

    Greek Gods
    Query: I generally like this one a lot! It sounds like fun. The only thing was that I was a bit confused as to if Medusa had the gorgon curse. It sort of seemed like she did--but then the telepathic link with Ares seems like the bulk of the conflict. Which while being linked to your ex would definitely suck, even if she fixes that, she'll still be deported because of the curse. Won't she? (I think I missed something)

    First 250: I liked this opening, but I felt like it jumped around between a lot of topics for 250 words, which gave me a bit of whiplash, and left me a little confused on the details of anything. She's walking down the street--I got that much. And she doesn't want to turn 30. And she's going...somewhere. I don't understand where, but I sort of feel like some of the sidewalk god or island of stone asides could be removed for more clarity on what the CSS is and why that matters. Because I think that's what's important on this page (but it is a bit hard to tell).

    But I really do like the voice here!