Jun 1, 2015

QK Round 1: Princess Charming Against the Beast v. Guinness

Entry Nickname: Princess Charming and the Beast
Title: The Gallant Princess
Word Count: 71K
Genre: YA LGBT Fantasy


PRINCESS CHARMING AND THE BEAST winds mythology and fairytales around the story of a princess who wants to be free of her abusive prince.

Seventeen-year-old Princess Rafi is sick of suitors eyeing her feudal kingdom – she’d rather practice sword-fighting with boys than kiss them. Too bad the neighboring kingdoms will never let an unmarried woman rule unmolested. Rafi devises a plan to stay single as long as possible by challenging each suitor to a foot race. Disaster strikes when Prince Frederick cheats. Without evidence of his guilt, she risks losing her throne or, worse, triggering a war if she breaks the engagement.

Forced to live at Frederick’s kingdom, she chafes under his restrictive rules and escalating threats. She can fight, but she can’t beat a castle full of guards. Frederick controls where she goes, what she wears, and even what she says. He’s determined to make her submit or destroy her trying. Rafi despairs until she discovers a magical passageway that allows her to sneak around with her companion Lady Bea, who she would like to kiss.

Even if Rafi wins the heart of her fair maiden and runs away, she won’t get a fairytale ending. The prince plans to use his army of mercenaries to force Rafi’s father to step down, whether their wedding happens or not. After all, cheating is fair in both love and war. Time is running out for Rafi to find a way of ending the engagement that gives Frederick no claim to her throne. If she falters in this race, everyone she loves will suffer, starting with Bea.

First 250:

Prince-what’s-his-name waited for me, slouched in front of the fireplace, chin on his hands. Firelight flickered over his sculpted face. Girls called him handsome, although I never noticed that sort of thing myself. A muscle twitched in his jaw. Probably rehearsing what he was going to say.

I coughed. He looked up, eyes wide under short black hair. “Rafaela!” Why did my suitors always refuse to call me Rafi? His voice softened. “You came.”

“What do you want?” I crossed my arms over my chest, legs shoulder-width apart, ready. The loose skirt over my trousers wouldn’t get in my way, but my hips felt naked with no sword. He wore his—as always—its ornate hilt peeking out under his cloak.

He pouted. “You’re cruel. I’ve been up all night thinking about you.” Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before. Nice try. He leapt up, reaching me in a couple strides, and nodded at Jean behind me. “Surely your servant can leave us alone for a lover’s chat?”

Jean had already slumped into an armchair near the door. Her head bent down and wisps of grey hair fell over her eyes, which closed. Usually I appreciated her naps. This one was poorly timed. “We’re not lovers, Prince…”

“Call me Reginald.” He grabbed my hand to kiss it.

I grimaced at the bristly skin above his lip. “I told you I wasn’t interested, I’ve asked you to go home.”

“Women always say that. You want to make the chase more exciting.”


Entry Nickname: Guinness
Title: Blacktop Oracle
Word count: 65,000
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy


Cooper “Coop” Lambert is a disappointment to his parents. While mom and dad graduated college with honors in medical research, the only thing Coop excels at is trouble and convincing half the town he’s bonkers in the process. After a run in with Johnny Law, the solution the D.A. offers is diversion. Put it this way, community service is a vacation compared to this gig. He’s assigned to Mac, a crotchety piece of work who Coop swears is two days older than dirt, but the guy has a way with cars and owns a 1969 GTO that is bad ass. While working with Mac to restore her, Coop discovers the one thing he’s good at:  refurbishing classic cars. What was supposed to be a punishment is now an escape, from his parents, from the law, from the rumors, until Coop arrives at the garage one afternoon to find Mac dead.

Days after burying his elderly friend Coop is still reeling, and things only grow more confusing when he finds out Mac left the GTO to him. Coop’s parents are less than thrilled, but seeing their son excel at something overcomes their reservations. Then Coop is ticketed three times for reckless driving. They think he’s regressing to his bad habits, but Coop isn’t the one causing trouble, it’s the car.  If it even is a car. No vehicle he’s ever driven goes all funhouse mirror while he’s doing 80 on the interstate. The windows wash out and instead of the surroundings he sees visions, people in trouble, people causing trouble. If that wasn’t looney toons enough, those visions start coming true, and the cops are eyeballing Coop since he’s knows details of the incidents that haven’t been released to the public. He doesn’t have to tell anyone, he can keep it to himself, keep his own fat out of the fire. Until he witnesses a murder. 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, his skin, and his eyelashes. Grit lined his nose and tickled his throat, but he loved it. Except for the tedium of bodywork.

He stopped the sander and 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 placed the sander on the ground and 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 wiped his arm across his forehead, mopping the sweat gathered there. What the hell did that have to do with anything? Mac’s wrinkled gaze had homed in on his, and he realized Mac 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 looked down at 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.

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


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

    1. Excellent concepts, both.

      Princess Charming:
      By the way. I love your nickname. And Atalanta! Love the concept, especially if this is an actual retelling. If it is, consider mentioning that in your query.
      Query: It's a little too long, but gets across your story well. I know where we're going. See if there is anything you can cut.
      250: Cute beginning. Gives us a sense of the characters and the conflict right out of the gate. I'd like a little more sense of Rafi, though. I know that sounds hard to do in the first 250, but I think you have the ability to do it.

      Your query is also too long. See what you can cut to get across the same idea. You do manage, however, to get across voice in the query, and that is hard to do. Great job on that.

      In your 250, consider rewriting the first paragraph. It's confusing. He says he loves it, except. When you unpack it, you're saying he loves grit and hates bodywork. Which seems odd. Mac is a great character, and you've already managed to get him indelibly printed. Do the same for your main character. Give us something about Coop as well. You have the voice down.

      This is another really tough one, and an example of the subjectivity agents have to deal with. Both queries need to be shortened and honed. Both concepts are great. But because the voice speaks to me,

    2. Princess Charming:

      My main question reading through this query is, how does Prince Frederick cheat? I'm also curious whether Rafi's marrying because she's worried about her neighbors or if her father's the one pressuring her. Also, what makes this passage magic? Is it just a secret passageway? What does "destroy her trying" mean - show me the threat. These are all minor things, but I feel like another read through to polish, tighten, and clarify will benefit the query overall.

      I feel so sorry for Rafi in your first page, and I hate Reginald already. The voice is really well done. I do think telling us right out that she never notices whether boys are handsome is a bit unnecessary. Something like Some girls thought he was handsome or Other girls called him handsome or something is enough. Especially if you want us to be surprised when she falls for Bea.


      I really loved Christine, so I'm intrigued by another story about a car with a mind of its own. At 346 words, your query is about 50-100 words too long. It should be trimmed and streamlined significantly. Why would a DA have Coop helping to restore cars as part of a diversion program? Right away, I'm thrown by the premise. Also, be careful about using words that could be offensive to the mentally ill - your query is littered with them. There's a typo in the second paragraph.

      Overall, I feel like the stuff that's super interesting doesn't come up until the end of your query. I want to know about the car, the visions, the murder, and who's going to die if Coop doesn't come clean. These are the things that will help get me invested in the story. I'd cut the beginning drastically and focus on what happens once he inherits the car, because that's really where your story is.

      There's a disconnect between your query and your first page. The first page talks about how disappointing Coop is to his parents and how he's assigned to community service - but then you drop me right into the community service. If that's where the story starts, then your QL starts too early. And if that's not where the story starts, if you're moving from here to a flashback, then this is a prologue that needs to be deleted. Personally, I'm not interested in cars. Christine works because the supernatural elements are established right at the beginning, intriguing me, and then the car becomes a character. If that's what's going to happen, then I want a hint early on. The first page is fine, but it doesn't really speak to me. This is 100% subjective, and the only way to really plan for personal taste is to do your research with the agents.



      Here's why: The premise is intriguing. Yes, the query is too long so tighten it up. A query should be 250 without comps and bios. Agents don't have time to read long queries. I know the word paranormal turns off agents and I'm not sure if this car is possessed like Kit from Knightrider or is a living (well...) thing. Maybe a clarification would help. I agree to be careful with terms like rubber room, bonkers and older than dirt (cliches are troublesome and mental health issues shouldn't be used in a negative connotation). I do like Mac. Consider starting your query with taking out the parents reference like so: Cooper “Coop” Lambert is a disappointment to his parents. The only thing Coop excels at is trouble. After a run in with Johnny Law, the solution the D.A. offers is diversion. And go from there. Good luck!


      I love this is LGBTQA and we need more diversity but this fell flat for me. I like that she prefers Lady Bea to the prince but even if this is a fantasy world I'm not sure she'd be living at the prince's castle before marriage. Yes, the prince is horrid. Maybe think about making him more likable because he reminds me too much of Prince Humperdink in Princess Bride. Maybe start the story when she sees Lady Bea at the contest? How does the prince cheat? And I wanted to know more about the magic passageway too. How is it magic? What does it do? How did she find it? Remember you need your main character and one plot point, include her goal, the inciting incident, the obstacles she has to overcome to get her goal (stakes). Good luck!

    4. Princess:

      I love the humor in the 250. This is a story that written differently could be very serious and I appreciate the lighter moments you give us right off the bat. I found some of the word choices in the query off-putting and they totally pulled me out, so be careful you're projecting what you really want to be projecting to the reader. I like the twist on the tired princess story and I think Rafi could really be someone worth rooting for.


      The meat of your query starts maybe halfway through, so I would consider paring it down to where your MC inherits the car perhaps. You can sprinkle in the personal details throughout, or not. The voice is very clear though and I thought your 250 was hilarious. This whole concept is something that feels fresh to me, kind of CHRISTINE meets MINORITY REPORT and I'm totally sold.


    5. Princess Charming and the Beast:

      The query is well written and I like the twist on the traditional. However, I hit the word ‘unmolested’ and had to pause. Consider rewording.
      I’d like to know more about Lady Bea—is she a servant? And where does this magical passageway lead to? How does it work?
      I like the stakes, and you’ve given us a great antagonist in the first 250.


      I like the voice in the query, and what a gut shot with Mac ending up dead in the first section. I didn’t see an age for Coop and kept wondering as I was reading. Clearly he can drive, but consider mentioning it in the first line.

      I was confused when I came to the funhouse mirror line and had to read again. I like the concept and it sounds really interesting, but that section could use some clarity—and perhaps trim the first part of your query down and focus on this as it’s the meat of your story.

      The first 250 pulled me in, and I immediately liked the relationship between Coop and Mac and thought the story flow felt natural.

      Victory goes to: GUINNESS

    6. Funky matchup here! Let's see...

      Query Matchup:
      I adore the voice behind Guinness' entry, but the author needs to be much choosier and kill some darlings. It's long, and most of it is because of sentences like the "Put it this way..." and others like it, which don't advance the plot-survey so much as drill in style. Author, you have style in spades, but queries need to be sparing. See if you can get this down to 75% its current length. Great stakes. Fun twist on the urban fantasy concept.

      Princess Charming benefits from high stakes (bad relationship necessary for political purposes; desired and possibly socially transgressive relationship, unrequited; home kingdom at risk; oh my!). It's the full lions and tigers and bears up in there! However, I'm VERY bothered by "Time is running out for Rafi to find a way of ending the engagement that gives Frederick no claim to her throne." It seems to negate part of your stakes, right? If Frederick seeks to depose Rafi's father, that's bad, but if the marriage can't actually give him a legal claim to the throne even if it IS vacated... you see where I'm going here? That was a red flag for me, and even if it's not at all what the author intended, it should be edited out or at least edited to avoid ambiguity.

      250 Matchup:
      I found myself getting hung up on Rafi's interior dialogue in Princess Charming's entry, because it sounds far too 21st century. "Yeah yeah" and so on feels like the wrong voice, and the discourse of this world feels too ordinary to register as a Ren/Medieval/feudal-style fantasy world. Leading with Frederick's come-on doesn't take me to anything the query itself hasn't already made clear. I would have wanted an opening that gives me more knowledge of the MC beyond her sexual identification; she is, or should be, a great deal more than who she falls for, after all.

      Guinness' entry puts an immediate priority on the relationship between key players: Coop, car, and Mac. It gives me a sense of the abrasive yet affectionate relationship, and even cleverly uses the device of sanding down the car's body to capture that theme. (I see what you did there, author.) As conversations go, it's more engrossing to me as a reader, and makes me want to turn the page.



      There are some query problems here. I love the first and second paragraphs of this query, which is sort of perfect. But it goes on for too long, and the third and fourth paragraphs make me glaze over a little bit. Granted, I have just read/critiqued eight entries in a row, but an agent coming of the slush pile is likely to have a similar reaction to you. The last paragraph, in particular, feels like it has too much happening in it. My usual advice would be to spin that out, but the query is on the long side as it is. Instead I’d focus on what the query is exactly about, and consider what details are absolutely necessary.

      The 250, on the other hand, is grand. I love the voice, I love the story. My only worries is if Reginald is just a tad TOO oafish, because the last line comes off as a little, I don’t know, didactic. I think you could do more with a little less. Not a lot less oafish, just dial it down from 10 to, oh, 7. :-)


      I especially like the writing of the 250, and I mostly like the query, although it feels a little overstuffed. I also see some problems with where they overlap.

      For one, you spend quite a bit time establishing Coop’s back story, and when we start the book, all that stuff has already happened. It feels unnecessary, and makes me wonder if you sort of wasting my time with all that initial detail. If that first paragraph is all backstory, it needs to be whittled down, big time.

      I do appreciate the voice in both the query in the text, and I like the way you can turn a phrase. A few things are a little vague to me (and I’m not a horror reader, and have never touched Christine) but I’m not sure I understand how Coop is entangled exactly in this mess with the demon car. Why not just walk away from it? I’d junk a car someone left me that didn’t have working heat, much less one that did traffic violations on its own and predicted murders. Why hold onto it?

      This may be convention, and the sort of question that only a non-horror reader would ask.


      Both entries have strong writing in the 250, both have a few query issues. I could go either way with this one, but I think...


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


      Definitely a unique re-telling! I really like the idea of Prince Charming NOT being so charming and Rafi having to find a way to escape.

      A lot of this query focuses on the specific politics of the situation which get a bit confusing. (Why would she risk losing her throne by breaking the engagement? If he's going to attack her kingdom anyway, why would he bother trying to marry her first?)

      A few minor things:
      "Forced to live at Frederick's kingdom" - do you mean IN his kingdom? Or at his CASTLE?



      I really like how you bring out the voice in the query, and I would LOVE to see more YA books that feature cars and mechanics and things like that that real teens are interested in.

      I don't really have a lot to suggest for this one - the query certainly grabbed my attention! The "Put it this way" was the only thing that seemed a bit out of place; I think you need a colon before the next phrase, or cut it completely.

      Victory to... GUINNESS!

  2. Princess Charming:

    Now, this is likely a personal thing, but the word Unmolested rubbed me the wrong way. It makes me think of molesters. Maybe another word would be better, because right away I'm distracted. But, that said, I like the rest of the query. I'd love more details in the first and second stanza, however. Little things unique to the story to make it really pop.


    I like the voice here, sassy, in charge girl. I think you could get a better flow in the first paragraph by letting go of the period between jaw and probably. Other than that, great job and good luck!


    I agree the query could be shortened some. And I agree about putting the fantastical stuff up-front. That's here your hook is. :)


    I love your voice here and the relationship I see between Coop and Mac. Love it! The tone is so perfect for where they are and what they're doing. I'd love to see more of Coop's personality right away, though. Also a few details of his looks. Because Mac sort of steals the show. :)

    Excellent work you two. Good luck!

  3. Princess Charming:

    Now, this is likely a personal thing, but the word Unmolested rubbed me the wrong way. It makes me think of molesters. Maybe another word would be better, because right away I'm distracted. But, that said, I like the rest of the query. I'd love more details in the first and second stanza, however. Little things unique to the story to make it really pop.


    I like the voice here, sassy, in charge girl. I think you could get a better flow in the first paragraph by letting go of the period between jaw and probably. Other than that, great job and good luck!


    I agree the query could be shortened some. And I agree about putting the fantastical stuff up-front. That's here your hook is. :)


    I love your voice here and the relationship I see between Coop and Mac. Love it! The tone is so perfect for where they are and what they're doing. I'd love to see more of Coop's personality right away, though. Also a few details of his looks. Because Mac sort of steals the show. :)

    Excellent work you two. Good luck!

  4. Oh wow, these are both so good.

    Princess Charming: I love your premise and voice, but I think I agree with the other Kristin when she said you might want to think of a different word choice other than "unmolested." I really like this line in your query: "After all, cheating is fair in both love and war." As for your first 250, I thought you did a great job of establishing Rafi's disdain for the prince, and placing us in a time of kingdoms and princes with your use of such words as "suitors" and "trousers" and "sword" and "hilt." Great job!

    Guinness: I agree with others who have said you might want to shorten your query. Remember, sometimes less is more. Give us those important elements and make us want to know more. In your second paragraph of your query, I think you can condense many of those sentences into one or two thoughts about how the car goes wonky. For example: "When Coop is ticketed several times for reckless driving, he knows something's up with his car. It goes all funhouse mirror while he’s doing 80 on the interstate. And the windows project visions of people in trouble. If that isn't looney toons enough, the visions start coming true, and the cops eyeball Coop since he knows a little too much. But when he witnesses a murder, he has a choice to make. If he keeps his mouth shut, someone he knows will die. If he talks, it’s a one-way ticket up crap creek, where his parents have a rubber room on reserve." Obviously this is just an example to show what you could do to cut some words—I just cut 69! I really love your 250 though! What a great first scene—cars are like women. Love it!

    Query: Just my personal opinion, but I like queries that dive straight into the story. This feels more like MG or a younger MC than 17. Though I love the part about sword fighting, I don’t like the use of “unmolested.” I love that the prince cheats, and I know to your MC it may feel like “disaster” but that seems a bit dramatic to me. LOVE SECRET PASSAGEWAYS! I was a bit confused by the wording of “Time…” but find the premise interesting. 250: Great voice! Very interesting. Love your MC.

    Query: It’s a bit long, but well written. The premise is very intriguing, and with a little trimming, you’ve got a solid query. I love the voice. I’d like to see you get to the “car” fun sooner. ☺ 250: Fantastic! I was pulled right in. Definitely want to read more.


    Very cute and sweet, love the premise. I was surprised to see it was YA though, the opening seemed MG, I think this sentenced did it: “She’d rather practice sword-fighting with boys than kiss them”, perhaps the use of “guys” instead of boys…? For me, there’s just something in the whole tone of the query that very much gives an overall impression of a much younger targeted reader. Why would she be already living at his castle when they’re only engaged? I like the simplicity of the query, I’ve read several now that I feel are just unnecessarily wieldy, and I’ve had to go back and re-read sentences to understand what the author’s trying to say. I doubt an agent will do that. Frederick trying to bring her dad down no matter what, kind of takes away the urgency of her problem with him…? Well whatever, Frederick sounds like a true dick – hope she deals with him most effectively!
    I loved “Prince-what’s-his-name,” it said a lot I thought, fab opening. Again, reading the 250 there’s something too simplistic about the dialogue, and it makes me think it’s for a much younger reader. The style of writing reads too much like the prince/princess stories that are MG. If it’s going to be a YA, then I think you need to work on the style and dialogue a bit, somehow without taking away any of the lovely charm you already have going on. It definitely feels very fairytale, so you have no problem there, but yeah, just feels too young for a YA – upper MG at best, imo. Magical passageways… yay!


    Strong voice, great & interesting premise. So much of the 1st paragraph could be cut though, and maybe a little more elaboration on the visions etc instead? Typo “…Coop since he’s knows…” Whoah, tons of references to poor mental health that just make me sad. For some reason I had to re-read to work out if Mac was a guy or the name of the car after I read this: “While working with Mac to restore her.” It confused me a bit and I had to go back.
    Loved where it started, loved this line especially “Mac was famous for causing whiplash with his topic changes.” Consider changing the second use of “Mac” in the following sentence: “Mac’s wrinkled gaze had homed in on his, and he realized Mac wanted a response.” Maybe change to ‘the something man/guy’. I thought it was a great and very strong 250, fab sense of characters, tone and place.

    Thank you and good luck to you both, and may the best Kombatant go forward ☺

    London Skye

  7. Princess Charming and the Best

    QUERY: ‘Unmolested’ got me too. I would use a different word. Also, the end of the second paragraph feels rushed. “Frederick cheats--and wins so they become engaged.” I know it’s implied but I think it needs to be spelled out in order to flow better. The other place I stumbled was “destroy her trying.” I see what you’re getting at but it doesn’t read. Otherwise, I thought it was clear and a great premise!

    250: You set the voice up right away with the very first word! I like that first paragraph a lot. I think the overall tone matches the query too. Very nice.


    QUERY: The first paragraph blew me away! You have such a strong voice that matches what I would imagine Coop’s would be. It flowed very well and I literally gasped when I found out Mac was dead. Check your comma use in the first sentence of the second paragraph. And what a great ending! I love the humor in this and again the voice is superb.

    250: So happy to see that the voice matches your query! I love this. I have nothing more to say.

    Good luck to both of you! Two very strong entries.

  8. Princess Charming and the Beast
    Query: I liked this premise quite a lot! And the conflict and stakes are very clearly laid out, in my opinion, so good job there. I can't tell if there's a typo in the second-to-last sentence "that gives Frederick no claim to the throne." I thought the engagement gave him claim to the throne--and that was the whole point? That was why it's not easy to end? Otherwise, I don't understand.

    Ohhhh wait. I think I might get it. Is it trying to say she's trying to find a way that won't give Frederick a claim to her throne that will end the engagement? Either way, I think this needs to be rephrased because it's a bit confusing as is. (as in "that gives Frederick no claim etc etc" is modifying/describing the engagement, whether that's what it's meant to modify or not).

    250: Clear writing with an interesting voice. The one thing is that the prince is so ridiculous as to seem comical rather than like he's seriously trying to get her attention (I mean, guys can be oafs, but usually if they have half a brain and want to get in a girl's pants, they'll at least call her by the name she wants to be called...). He feels a bit cardboard in that respect, but if that's what you're going for that's fine. It does make it feel a bit younger than YA, though.

    Query: Definitely intrigued by this premise. It sounds very creepy! Almost horror. I do think the query is a bit overwhelming, though. Since the 250 start with working with Mac, I don't think the query should have so many details on how Coop ended up there. I think it's better to start the query where the story starts--and remove those first 4 sentences (or condense them down to 1 at most). It'll help make this query a more manageable length. I also think the voice occasionally muddies the meaning of things. Voice is great, but some of it left me a bit confused. Most specifically: "After a run in with Johnny Law, the solution the D.A. offers is diversion." He breaks the law and then the DA offers...? I don't understand.

    First 250: This is great! While the voice muddled the query a bit for me, here it's crystal clear and fantastic! I'd keep reading.

  9. Wow great work guys! Just to show the subjective nature of a contest, I actually thought Charming was stronger. I thought that because I feel like almost all of the fairy tales we use to teach our children are slanted in men's favor. Also, I feel like domestic abuse is really a thing that needs to be addressed, and thank you for putting out a book with a tough topic. On to the queries!

    Charming: While I love the topic (do not think for a second I'm not buying this book when it comes out!), there are definitely things to do to clean and tighten. strangely, if you de-emphasize the domestic bit of it and make it more about the underlying story (surely it can't be good for her kingdom if this guy who wants her obedience is the ruler, right?), it might appeal to more people. When you tell a story that involves something so skewed to women, make sure to sell the rest of the story as well. That being said, consider starting in a place where we can identify and feel for the MC more quickly. When you start with a woman rejecting a man, studies show that the men (and about half the women!!!) tend to empathize with the man, not the woman. It's stupid, but it's going to be an issue you run across (email me if you have any questions, I'm at DrFaerieGodmother.Blogspot.com, if you need answers or commiserations). And I mean it, if you have a question, need a reread, let me know. I will be glad to offer an extra set of eyes.

    Guiness: This is strong. I know I just told you I thought your competition was stronger, but that's because I'm a mandated reporter, and I've had to report too many domestic abuse cases this month (for the record, any case is too many, but I've had way more than one in the last thirty days). This reads like men in a man's world. I say that because you talk about fixing up a car that needs to be touched in the right ways and because "A car is like a woman."
    No, we are not like cars. Just to be clear, women are not sold, and our titles cannot be cleared at DMV.
    It's swell that guys think that, but does it need to be your first page? I feel like there are other ways to talk about women and how men feel about woman rather than comparing them to objects that are owned. I doubt you meant it to come off that way, but pitted against an entry that's about a woman trying to stake her freedom, it makes it feel like two sides of Taming of the Shrew.
    Having said that, your query is strong, if long. I don't like the first 250, but not because it isn't well written; it is. I don't like it because you've written it in a way that sexualizes cars and women's bodies by extension. Maybe you didn't mean to, but this is a big struggle for young women to overcome (the idea that their bodies are theirs and not meant to be touched "in ways that soothe" for the profit of others--and if you doubt me, I ask you this: does the car gain anything by this? Last time I checked, we use a hammer to pound out the dents in a car's body. I cringe to think about that analogy here. Also, because it's a car, it cannot care. Is that how you want young women to think about themselves?).
    Regardless, one way or another, these are both really well written. I wish we lived in a world where women weren't compared to objects so regularly that no one else seems to see this as a problem, but I've seen too many women beat up to ignore literature that shore up this idea that women are things to be "stroked" rather than talked to. I really wish writers would work harder on envisioning a world where men could respect women for more than their sexuality. Try talking to the ladies (and yes, try talking to them in the books too!). If we can't even write fiction where women are equals, how will we ever build a society where over half the people aren't utterly denigrated based on their plumbing?

    In short, I'm not saying it isn't good. I'm saying try harder to shape the world you want to live in.