Jul 7, 2015

2015 Query Kombat Picture Book Category Champion: Niki Schoenfel

Niki Schoenfel

Niki Masse Schoenfeldt grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts where she began writing stories as soon as she could pick up a pencil. Now, a displaced New Englander living in the south, she is a stay-at-home mom and is finally able to pursue her dream. Besides being a full time writer, Niki considers herself a wife, a mom, a friend and a professional beach bum. She is happiest with her toes in the sand and a book in her hand. She has a love for American History, baseball, (Go Red Sox!) nature and animals. She even once saved a sheep from drowning. You can follow her on twitter Twitter or check out her blog .

PB Championship Entry:

Entry Nickname: Eavesdropping Monkey
Word count: 650
Genre: Children’s Picture Book - Funny


The elephants are planning a family reunion. When the monkeys overhear, they decide to have one, too. But they’re not the only ones. The whole family reunion concept is too good to miss out on and it spreads across the jungle like a Savanna grass fire! Soon the watering hole is filled to capacity with animals of different species; which causes a real bungle in the jungle. Tempers flare as each species fights for their right to reunite with their own kind. Finally, a wise frog speaks up with a whole new concept that blows the family reunion idea right out of the watering hole! FAMILY REUNION is an amusing tale of diversity and acceptance. It is approximately 650 words and is written mainly for the 4-8 age range.

First 250 words:

On a hot, steamy day in the Jungle of Kree,
A sly, nosey monkey swung from a tree.
He was eavesdropping on a large elephant herd,
And he hung there and listened to every last word.

“We’ll invite all our cousins from near and afar,”
Said the matriarch queen named Ali Dalmar.

2015 Query Kombat Mid-Grade Category Champion: Kairlin Hundscheid

Kaitlin Hundscheid

Kaitlin lives and teaches in Alabama. Though she prefers Earl Grey to sweet tea, Kaitlin is a staunch Southerner who believes in the power of y’all, yes ma’am, and darlin’. She spends her free time writing, reading, and harassing her cat. One day she’d like to own a brace of corgis and enough sheep to keep them entertained.

Congratulate her on Twitter and visit/follow her blog

MG Championship Entry:

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


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

Determined to spend the summer reading, twelve-year-old Theodore coaxes his reluctant siblings to explore the unusually grand library with him. Though the rest of Pickettsville refuses to darken its doors, the majestic building and its lively librarians soon enthrall the children. But when they discover that characters from the books are haunting the halls, an investigation into the library’s secrets leads them deep into one family’s peculiar history and one man’s troubled life.

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

First 250:

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

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

“Mom, what’s that?”

Mrs. Plumford twisted in her seat to follow Theodore’s pointing finger. She squinted into the sun. “We’ve never been there. You’ll have to ask your aunt.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But I wouldn’t!”

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

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

2015 Query Kombat Young Adult Category Champion: Leslie Miller

Leslie Miller

Leslie Miller grew up on a steady diet of Dr. Seuss until graduating to Nancy Drew. She is still on the lookout for wacky words and important clues, even to this day. Currently, Leslie lives near Denver, Colorado where she works as a ghostwriter and developmental editor by day, novelist by night, and watercolor artist whenever she has time. An incurable bookworm growing up, Leslie is surprised it took her so many years to start writing her own stories.

Leslie loves color and tries to incorporate it into her writing as vividly as in her paintings. A native New Yorker, Leslie worked in NY’s fashion industry as a dress patternmaker. She says, “You can take the girl out of fashion, but you can never take the fashion out of the girl.” Leslie’s novels incorporate her sense of whimsy and adventure. She hopes to take readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.

In her spare time, she paints watercolors, tramples merrily through thrift shops, binge-watches Shark Tank, and loudly out-sings contestants on The Voice.

Check out Leslie’s paintings on her Pinterest page. Contact Leslie for developmental and content editing or ghostwriting services. Check out her Facebook, Twitter, and YoutTbe!

YA Championship Entry:

Entry Nickname:
Elephants Never Forget
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy


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

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

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

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

First 250:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Query Kombat New Adult Category Champions: Sarah Emery & Carlyn Greenwald

Since one entry switched age-category mid-way through the contest, we've got TWO NA Champions that will share the badge/award :D (No fighting.)

Sarah Emery & Carlyn Greenwald

Sarah is a mom, army wife, and vegan baker. In her spare time, she cleans pug hair off all surfaces and wishes her migraines would let her drink more coffee. A New Englander by birth, she's thrilled to live in northern New York after sweltering away in the south for five years. She loves writing YA and NA because that age represents a time of hope and change, and she believes we could all use a little more of each. She can usually be found wasting time on twitter.

Entry Nickname: A Thousand Miles Astray
Word Count: 60,000
Genre: NA Contemporary


Eighteen-year-old Lotus Adams has no interest in college. The classes are boring, the frat boys are slobbery, and the beer is downright nasty. She’d rather be on the open road in her dad’s vintage RV, Flora, but without some costly repairs, Flora is unlivable. Her mom doesn’t want her to go traipsing around the country like her long-gone dad, so she makes Lotus a deal. Finish her first year of college with a 3.5 GPA, and mom will pay for all Flora’s repairs.

For eighteen-year-old Aaron Kim, the anonymity of college is a relief. After finding his girlfriend in bed with a friend, he threw himself into homework, work, and working out. Aside from his family and his best friend, he’s cut himself off from everyone. But after meeting free-spirited Lotus, he wonders if he was wrong to drop out of life. Already committed to his education, he decides to give love another chance.

Only Lotus knows their time together is limited. When she finishes the year and gets Flora, she’s never going back to college, never going back to live with her workaholic, absent mom. Instead of school, she’ll tour the country, and Aaron will stay at college. With freshman year ticking to a close, Aaron has to stop Lotus from dropping out of school and their relationship. If he fails, they’ll lose each other forever.

First 250:

The grassy quad stretched out in front of me, an endless sea of students adorned in Crandall State’s colors. I was too busy sweating my ass off to look for my new roommate, so I plopped down on the edge of the lawn.

“Like sheep,” I muttered. This was too much. I needed space and the open road. I needed to know where dad was, not waste another year at school.

“What’s that?” asked the guy next to me.

“We’re sheep. What’s the point of all this, anyway? Some form of torture?”

“I think they call it ‘freshman orientation,’ actually.” He sounded amused and I sneaked a peek at him, wondering why he was wasting his breath. He stared at me from under black Ray-Bans, his white hat turned backwards. Dumb. “I take it you aren’t a fan of higher learning?”

“It was my mom’s idea. You know, if that hat was on the right way, you wouldn’t need the sunglasses.”

He smiled broadly, his shiny perfect teeth flashing at me. “I always need the sunglasses. This way, the hat stays out of my way.”

Ridiculous. “Then why wear the hat at all?”

“Bad hair day.” Everything in me said turn away, kill this conversation now.

“What, out of mousse before the first day?”


“Maybe I misplaced my flat iron.” He yanked off the hat and pulled his hand through glossy black hair. It fell into place immediately.

Not a bad hair day.

Carlyn Greenwald is a writer, student, and decently sized superhero, mystery, and animation nerd. Her writing passion lies in the problems of 14-24 year olds, within a range of subgenres from mystery to historical. Anything that has at least one murder, a nice-looking guy, and some witty banter will do. When not writing, she enjoys reading, swimming, drawing, and running multi-fandom blogs (Tumblr: thewittywriter). She splits her time between Manhattan Beach, CA with her family and University of Southern California with various wacky roommates.

Visit her Website and congratulate her on Twitter!!

Entry Nickname:
A Girl and Her Serial Killer
Title: The Confidant
Word count:
NA Thriller


18-year-old Stella Stokes has a secret: Gideon, a dashing English serial killer in the novels she writes, actually talks to her. He’s been by her side, offering somewhat twisted peanut gallery commentary, advice, and affection for every pathetic turn in her adolescent life. Sure, some of his darker suggestions scareher, she’s never been worried about his presence. After all, she’s the only one who can interact with him; he can’t really kill anyone.

The summer following high school graduation, Stella and her best friend, supernatural-obsessed, trans-man Quinn, decide to take a few weeks to explore California. However, their first stop at an idyllic beach town isn’t quite as calming as they would’ve hoped: a local’s prank gone horribly wrong leaves Quinn and Stella standing dumbstruck over four dead bodies. As they clean up the mess and flee town, Stella can’t help but notice Gideon’s signature all over the murders.

Now, Stella has no choice but figure out what Gideon is: ghost, demon, byproduct of mental illness, or something else entirely. Because if Gideon is more than an imaginary friend, not only could he really begin a murder spree, but maybe he really could force her to kill with him. As bodies stack up around them, Stella has to keep one step ahead of the authorities, keep Quinn safe, and most importantly, prove that the writer is more powerful than the creation.

First 250 words:
"You're barmy if you don't think a paid professional screwing up your haircut is enough reason to kill them.”

I open my drawer and snatch the first two pieces of water-friendly fabric I see. The unsolicited advice comes from Gideon, who lies on my bed tossing a dragon figurine from hand to hand. We’ve been talking for five minutes, and I’m so done.

“No, Gideon, you’re…whatever you just said if you think I'm going to murder someone because she cut my hair too short,” I say. “Besides, you’re English. Your people would rather suffer in silence than complain about a subpar haircut. Turn around.”Gideon rolls his eyes and turns his back to me. I slip into my bikini.

“This figurine is a good density. An ideal bludgeoning weapon—”

“Don’t change the subject.”

I reach for my cover-up, but stop as Gideon wraps his arms around my waist.

“C’mon, poppet. Have I steered you wrong before?”

I resist a smile as he presses his lips to my throat. The moment almost lasts, but a thunk from inside my bathroom brings me back to reality: my best friend Quinn is changing in there, and when he comes out, he won’t be able to see Gideon.

After all, I'm the only person who can interact with him.

I pull away and return my figurine to the shelf, hoping Gideon gets the message. His words roll around my mind, and my eyes linger on the golden dragon.

It is dense.


2015 Query Kombat Adult Category Champion: J.A. Bellinger

J.A. Bellinger

J. A. Bellinger lives in her hometown of Indianapolis, a sweet city whose appeal only occurred to her after she had lived in six other places. Brisbane, Australia, where she spent a semester during college, provides the setting for her first novel, The Art of Almost. Bellinger still loves to travel, despite having once awoken to a cockroach scuttling across her cheek and having lived for months in a thinly walled mountain cabin, where a wood-burning stove provided both heat and a lovely substitute for TV. It was huddled by that stove that she met her husband, whom she wooed with the dozens of CDs crammed into her backpack. Bellinger is fascinated by why people make the choices they do and by what happens when regret creeps in, when the what ifs take over. In The Art of Almost, she gives readers the chance to live out those possibilities through the protagonist, Anna Marin. 

Congratulate her on Twitter!

Adult Championship Entry:

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


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

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

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

Adding to Anna’s distress, her on-and-off college boyfriend (and future fiancĂ©) flies to Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she fell in love with, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling. As he shows a side Anna’s never seen, and it becomes clear Charlie cannot leave Australia, Anna wonders whether part of her mission is rewriting her first love story.

First 250 words:

I tried to steady my breathing as Nick lowered down on one knee. A cool spring breeze blew petal confetti toward us, so gently that bits of white and pink remained suspended in midair before fluttering to the ground. Shushing spread through the people surrounding us; suddenly it made sense why our family and friends all happened to show up at the same benefit. Even the river, humming low and deep like a bass line just beyond the hotel courtyard, slowed to a crawl.

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

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

The choreography was perfect.

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

Nick’s speech kept going, though not a word registered. I searched the gowns and tuxedoes for a flash of crimson and looked up. My eyes met my sister Claire’s and I immediately regretted it. Hers held a question; mine, a plea.

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


2015 Query Kombat Grand Champion: Katherine McIntyre

Katherine McIntyre

Kate McIntyre is a former geologist turned scientific editor, parent and fiction writer. She’s the author of De knikkelares, a middle grade fantasy, published in Dutch. Kate lives with her family in a crooked house in a small city in the northern Netherlands. In her rare free time she likes to sew while listening to very loud rock music. If she had a punk band it would be called “Seam Ripper”.

Congratulate her on Twitter!

Champion Entry:

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

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

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

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

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

The 250:

5:45 a.m.

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

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

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

“Can I help you, Sir?”

“Have you got a room, Miss?”

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

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

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

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


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


Jul 3, 2015

The Query Kombat Champion

MASSIVE congrats to the undisputed, undefeated, 2015 Query Kombat Grand Champion, Kate McIntyre. The query and first page of her novel, Fugitive Motel beat out over 250 others kontenders to get here. That's a truly amazing accomplishment.

Fear not Kate (and category winners), this is not the official awards ceremony. That happens tomorrow. I can't wait to see your QK badges up on your blogs, twitter, etc. You've earned them.

Congrats and good luck to everyone with requests out. We'd love to hear your success stories, so don't forget us!