Jun 1, 2016

QK Round 1: A Dark Charade vs. Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh

Title: CODA
Entry nickname: A Dark Charade
Word Count: 89,000
Genre: YA Thriller


When an identical twin becomes the victim of a serial killer, the surviving sister must find who did it before she’s next on his list.

For all their differences, Mia and Ava are entwined together with an inner bond forged by loyalty and love. Ava will do anything for Mia, so when Mia is too sick to attend the Homecoming dance and claim her crown Ava steps in. The sisters have traded places for years, but this time tragedy strikes and Mia is the one home when a killer comes for Ava. Lost in grief and the suspicion she was the intended target, Ava doesn’t reveal her true identity. When other girls show up dead, it becomes clear a serial killer is stalking girls just like her.

Ava is determined to put a stop to the murders and find justice for her sister, even if it means pretending to be Mia. Finding love isn’t part of the plan, but she’s drawn to enigmatic Finn despite her better judgment. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of lies with a sneaking suspicion: she's not the only one with a secret. And the very boy she's been kissing could be plotting to kill her next. 

First 250:

My sister used to read the end of a book before she even looked at the first page. She hated not knowing how something would finish. To me, the beginning was the best part, the unknown potential of something new.

I trailed my fingers along the rough edges of lockers, shadows threatening to overtake me. Voices thundered and whispered all around, everyone in their insular bubbles. Everyone else’s lives had returned to normal. But how could I care about cheerleading and parties – or school at all – without her?

I pretended. I tried.

I attempted to live her life and tossed mine aside; I owed it to her.

The little things screwed with you the most. A favorite song, strawberry-flavored lip-gloss, the smell of gardenia shampoo. Even though it was necessary to perfect my cover, the combination of it all threatened to overwhelm me. I nearly walked right past Bunky, his shouts barely breaching the haze of my memories.

“Mia!” He leaned out the passenger window of a yellow jeep, waving me over, his face a cross between trying to act cool, and happy to see me.

“Hey.” I switched directions, not noticing Finn in the driver’s seat until the last minute.

“We’re going to the beach. You want to tag along?”

“I need to study,” I said, memories still tangling with my concentration.

I realized my mistake as soon as I saw Bunky’s mouth drop open. “Since when do you care about studying?”


Title: Lost Inside Her
Entry Nickname: Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh
Word Count: 71,000
Genre: YA Thriller


To seventeen-year-old Violet, Gabby is a lifelong friend. To her doctors and parents, she’s a dual personality disorder to be treated with meds and therapy. Now, Gabby is making Violet physically sick. In a plea for help, Gabby convinces Violet to stop her meds.

Violet is secretly struggling with med withdrawal the day she meets Neil. Normally, she shies away from classmates, but Neil’s down-to-earth, gentle nature draws her closer. When he takes her to sacred Indian land, the purple field is straight from her recurring dreams. And when she tells him the friend in her head is in trouble, he’s the first to believe her.

Gabby doesn't trust Neil. She rebels, sending Violet to the hospital for blackouts and bruises. Now, they want to put Violet away. Feeling betrayed by everyone, Violet trusts Neil, who knows someone with the power to help her.

At Neil’s reservation, his shaman grandfather performs an Ojibwe ritual around the medicine wheel of life. In a trance, Violet enters a human cell to witness the entangled electrons that connect her body’s cells to another person, a real person. To Gabrielle. It explains her blackouts and bruises—they’re really Gabrielle’s. And Gabrielle is in trouble. If Violet can’t save her, she not only jeopardizes her own safety, she risks losing her lifelong friend and the first guy who ever believed in her.

First 250:

Three days since I’d secretly quit taking my meds. Or was it four? This might rank as the stupidest thing I’d ever done. Huddled in the back seat of Dad’s SUV, I forced my eyes open. Swirling gray clouds dumped more rain onto the street, already flooded from a week of late-September storms.

That spot where Gabby lived in my head was empty. For now, anyway. After all her drama, insisting I “stop the drugs,” she hadn’t even popped in since I’d quit. Maybe it was better that way. Because just thinking about how weird she’d been acting lately made me sweat all over. I didn’t even know my best friend anymore. I stared out the window, my tears blurring with the falling rain. I almost wished she’d never visit me again.

A gust whipped fat drops against the windshield, forcing Dad to slow down and lean forward. We crawled through the downpour and turned into the mini mart’s lot. While Dad ran in for our drinks, Mom flipped down the visor’s mirror and smeared on blood-red lipstick. She saw me looking at her. “You still mad at me?”

“I was just tired, okay? I didn’t mean to yell.” I’d swear she was more concerned about being yelled at than why I was so upset when she woke me for church. I’d barely slept all night, and I really wanted to tell her why. Tell Dad. Tell someone.

Gabby’s mantra echoed: Keep it inside, where it’s safe with me and you.


  1. Judges, please leave votes and comments as a REPLY to this comment.

    1. Congratulations to both these authors for awesome entries! I sent feedback to both of these authors in another contest, and I'm delighted to see the stellar revisions! Bravo! I wish both of these could go to the agent round!

      First my thoughts, then my vote.

      Both queries have a great hook in the beginning, though I like the succinctness of the hook in A Dark Charade. It’s got punch.

      In Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh, I feel like there’s a flow gap between “Now Gabby is making Violet physically sick.” And “In a plea for help, Gabby convinces Violet to stop her meds.” I felt like the first sentence here would lead me to think that Violet (being sick) would be the one pleading for help. So that didn’t flow logically for me.

      Both have a concise synopsis that describes the plot arc, conflict and characters well. Both, too, have an intriguing hook at the end of that synopsis. Both are very well done. I do like the hook at the end of A Dark Charade better as it connected all the logical dots for me. The hook at the end of Lake Nevaeh made me wonder how not saving Gabby would cause Violet to lose Neil.

      I do love the mystery and secrecy of A Dark Charade. I can feel the tension of the premise. I also love the DARKFEVER feel of this story. Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh had me intrigued as well, and I loved how the elements of mental health and a love interest from a different culture.

      A Dark Charade feels more commercial and more familiar whereas Meet Me feels a bit fresher and more cerebral. Both are books I’d buy and devour.

      First pages:

      In A Dark Charade, I felt like the first paragraph was from a different story, and it didn’t lead me into the second paragraph at all. It was more like two different starts than a flowing narrative I could get myself wrapped up in. At the end of the first page is a nice tidbit, but I’ve already read that Mia is attempting to live another life, so it felt like I got the punchline before the joke. Also, I didn’t know why it was important that she didn’t notice Finn till it was too late, and there wasn’t a hint as to whether that should feel ominous or because she had a crush on him. I felt like I wanted a hint there, because I didn’t know why then she didn’t want to go to the beach. I really didn’t know what she was feeling other than that she was having trouble concentrating, and so I didn’t really get a good bond with Mia on this first page.

      In Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh, I got an immediate sense of Violet’s teen voice. The first paragraph set the mood and tone for me perfectly. Plus the narrative flowed very well for me. The pace was perfect, and though there wasn’t a gasp-moment hook at the end of these 250 words, I still felt pulled along beautifully and would’ve turned the page to find more.


      While, A Dark Charade has the better overall query, I didn’t enjoy the breaks in the narrative of the 1st page or the way the story unfolded, intriguing as it was. I felt like that first page just needed a few more tiny tweaks and maybe a different opening paragraph. Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh had a great query with two slight logic gaps that need a tweak, but the first page unfolded beautifully with an awesome voice and tone-setting opening that hooked me immediately and didn’t let go.

      Victory to: MEET ME AT LAKE NEVAEH

    2. Congratulations to both Kombatants for making it this far! The author of CHARADE immediately sets up the story hook and showcases its unique angle: identical twins who often trade places with one another. The query has a nice structure in terms of content, giving us character and conflict and possible consequences. For Mia, there's not only danger but guilt that she might have been the intended target.

      The word count might be a touch high for YA thriller, and I feel that the end of the hook could be rewritten with something stronger than becoming "next on his list." Promise us a gruesome death at the hands of her sister's murderer. I'd encourage the author to work on cadence a bit by varying sentence length (shorter, not longer). The first 250 tells me this is a "something happened and here's how I feel" opening. That seems like a missed opportunity: show us your MC getting the news, or finding the body, or her last moment of real-life interaction with her twin.

      Last but not least, I want stronger verbs. By my count, the query alone has 14 instances of the verb "to be."

      The author of NEVAEH promises a unique story about a teen struggling with schizophrenia. Adding to the novelty are the inclusion of an indigenous tribe and what sounds like a crazy-ass spiritual journey. The word count is just right for a YA thriller.

      Although I think there's a compelling story here, the query was difficult to understand. The first paragraph works too hard to tell us two things: (1) the MC has a multiple personality disorder, and (2) she and her parents disagree on whether or not it should be treated.

      I think there might be an opportunity to make this more of a hook: first, tell us that she's got a lifelong friend who's in trouble. String us along a bit, and THEN reveal that the friend is actually a separate personality inside her head. Just a thought.

      The shaman ritual offers an intriguing angle, but almost goes into too much detail. I'm still confused as to whether it suggests Gabby is another living person walking around, or just a distinct biological person somehow fused to the MC (the name confusion may contribute to this: choose Gabby or Gabriella and stick with it). This query also could benefit stronger verbs (9 uses of "to be").

      I think the query could be streamlined A LOT to remove some of the confusion, showcase the unique angles, and set up the book. Two paragraphs:
      1.) MC's lifelong friend is in trouble: the meds forced on her by her family and doctors only make her sicker, black-and-blue bruises mottle her body, and for the past few days she's been uncharacteristically quiet. Oh yeah, and she's inside Violet's head.
      2.) Enter Neil, who's the first person to believe her and try to help. Although Gabby doesn't trust Neil, his grandfather's shamanic ritual provides a vital insight: Gabby is a real person, and if Violet doesn't find a way to save her, SOMETHING REALLY BAD will happen.

      Both of these are stories I'd love to read someday, and I think have promise to attract an agent's attention. That said, this is Query Kombat, and I have to give victory to the author with the stronger query. Victory to A DARK CHARADE.


      Thoughts while reading the query:

      "Lost in grief and the suspicion she was the intended target, Ava doesn’t reveal her true identity. When other girls show up dead, it becomes clear a serial killer is stalking girls just like her."

      – Who is she pretending to be Mia with? Everyone? Parents too? I find this passage vague. What does “just like her” mean? You have room for detail.
      - You say she’s pretending to be Mia twice. You can use the second instance to share something else.
      - I want to know how she meets Finn. Is he a boy at school? Did she pick him up at the mall? This type of detail will give the reader additional context.
      - There’s a lack of transition between meeting Finn and the tangle of lies. Another sentence to help us out here would be great.

      250: I really like the first paragraph but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the scene. Maybe adding some kind of transition like “too bad she couldn’t have skipped to the end of her own story, she could’ve prevented her tragic death” might help. Otherwise, I like it. Strong voice. It is obvious she’s struggling to pretend.


      Thoughts while reading the query:
      -When did Gabby show up? Has she always been there? What kind of sick is Violet now?

      "When he takes her to sacred Indian land, the purple field is straight from her recurring dreams. And when she tells him the friend in her head is in trouble, he’s the first to believe her."

      - Here’s where you lost me. This sounds very much like “Native American boy uses his native-ness to save mentally ill white girl.” IMO this a problematic plot. If this is not the plot, you need to spend some serious time finding a new way to express the important pieces. I can see the publishing community taking issue with this. The stakes are great and it sounds like there's a lot of tension, but this issue could overshadow the rest of your hard work.


      Voice is solid. I like the descriptions of the rain, the mom’s lipstick.

      Victory to A DARK CHARADE


      Query: When I began your query, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of an identical twin who must trade places with her deceased sibling to hunt down her sister’s killer. Your pitch hooked me and made me want to keep reading. This is such a fascinating story idea, and I feel like you can really make it shine by clarifying a few things in your query.
      I would like to get a better idea of the serial killer’s motives in the story, because when I first read it, I thought that he was targeting identical twins. When I read it a second time, I suspected that he was just targeting girls like Ava instead. I also want to know who Finn is. Just a little more detail there would be nice.
      I love your last line! It’s an excellent way to end a query.
      First 250:
      I enjoyed reading your first 250. You begin with an interesting anecdote. It establishes that the protagonist has a sister and that their personalities differ. I think that it would also be a good place to mention that the sister she is referring to is her twin, unless you want to keep that from the reader until later.
      I’m slightly surprised by Bunky’s reaction. If I was Bunky, I would assume that “Mia” was grieving for her murdered sister and used studying as an excuse to avoid socializing. However, at this point I don’t know how much time has passed since Mia’s death or the personalities of the characters, so I don’t think I’m a very good judge of this.

      While I enjoyed your query, I found it slightly confusing and difficult to follow. What you have here is a great plot, and what sounds like interesting characters, but the story is being smothered by details that aren’t relevant to it.
      For starters, I was thrown off guard by the dual personality disorder and assumed that you meant dissociative identity disorder. But what it sounds more like to me is schizophrenia, since I didn’t get the impression that Gabby actually takes control of Violet’s body. If she does, I want to know about it.
      In the second paragraph, I advise removing the part about how she remembers the purple fields from her dreams. While it may be pertinent to the plot, it also adds a speculative element that further muddles my impression of the story.
      I really become interested in your last paragraph, but at the same time, it’s the paragraph that I found the most confusing. When I think of a “human cell” I think of a blood cell. I had to reread this paragraph to make sure that you hadn’t added the word “human” in by mistake and meant a prison cell. Now, I realize that you mean they’re physically connected, but I didn’t get that impression during the first or the second read through. This can easily by fixed by rewriting the paragraph.
      First 250:
      You have a great voice that fits the character, and your description of the setting really puts me in the scene. In this first page, I know who Gabby is to her and how she feels about her. I can visualize the ride home and the rain flowing down the windows. The only line I found slightly confusing is the part where you mentioned how her tears blurred with the falling rain. I can’t really visualize that.

      While I found both stories compelling, I felt that A DARK CHARADE’s query was better written and held my interest longer. On the other hand, I did prefer the voice shown in the first page of MEET ME AT LAKE NEVAEH a little more. In the end, it was a tough decision, but I ultimately have to award the VICTORY TO A DARK CHARADE.

    5. Query:
      Wow! I wish I could read this right now. I love thrillers!
      First 250:
      I liked the first paragraph, but it was jarring with the rest of the scene. The transition doesn’t flow together well. I do like your voice. I really felt the character's pain and loss. I'd keep reading, because I want to know what happens.

      Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh
      The query worked its magic and hooked me. The pages sealed the deal.

      Victory to Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh

    6. A Dark Charade: This story sounds very exciting. I especially like twin sister swapping aspect.

      Query: This is a very good query letter. Your logline caught my attention instantly. The first sentence in the last paragraph feels a bit repetitive, since you already mentioned how Ava is pretending to be Mia. Perhaps if you just said she was continuing to pretend that would clear the issue up.

      250: I really liked the opening in this sample. With only a few sentences, you managed to show how the two sister's personalities varied. I really enjoyed your voice, the tone was very fitting for a YA thriller, and the writing style felt so natural it pulled me right into the story. My only suggestion would be to watch your pronouns (he, she), especially when there are multiple characters in a scene, as it can sometimes be hard to tell who's saying what. If that last bit of dialogue was Bunky speaking, I would suggest dropping the line to its own paragraph and adding a dialogue tag.

      Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh: I was very excited to see a story featuring MPD. They're rare, and usually mind-twisters, which are great qualities in my opinion.

      Query: Your query letter started out very good, like a psychological thriller, but ended sounding somewhat like a magical realism pitch. I would suggest giving some thought as to what the overall plot of your story is, and crafting the query letter to reflect only the meat and bones of the most significant plot points. If you need some help selecting between psychological thriller and magical realism genres, check out this site: http://www.litrejections.com/genres/

      250: You have a great voice, and the writing was very immersive in this sample. I felt you showed the setting, and gave a nice glimpse into what makes Gabby unique. My only comment is with the use of the word "smeared" when describing Gabby's mother putting on her lipstick. It gave me visuals of this woman literally smearing this bright red lipstick all over her face like a crazed clown. But otherwise, I really enjoyed this sample.

      Both of these entries are amazing, and I would definitely read both if available in a bookstore. Since I can only vote for one, I'm going to choose the entry whose main character I connected with more.

      Victory to Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh

    7. A Dark Charade


      I LOVE THIS HOOK! It engages and draws me right in. I’m already intrigued and can’t wait to know more.

      Also thing you have a strong second paragraph that tells me exactly what the inciting incident is. Though it probably could be condensed, taking away the long explanation of switching places. You throw a love interest in last minute in the last paragraph. I’d like to know a little bit about that as opposed to the way it is now. It just seems an afterthought. Since Finn is the possible killer, I feel like this needs to have more detail. Why does she think Finn is the murderer?

      So in the second paragraph you can just go into the inciting incident like:

      When Mia is too sick to claim her homecoming crown, Ava steps in pretending her to be twin. While Ava dances with a tiara, Mia is murdered in their home.

      It gives you a lot of space to bring Finn into the fold. How do they meet? Is he there to comfort Ava, who he thinks is Mia? There definitely needs to be more with him especially if he’s part of the stakes.

      First 250:

      I can feel Ava’s grief, so I think this is a really strong opening. I wouldn’t address the audience with ‘you’. Stating that it messes with ‘me’ works just as well and keeps the reader close to the protagonist. Overall I don’t have much to say about the 250. It has the voice, the emotion, the setting, and something happening. So great job there.


      Meet Me At Lake Nevaeh

      The first paragraph has me hooked. Since it’s supposed to be a hook, you’ve done a great job right there.

      It continues really well into the second paragraph. Just watch out for repetition. Meds and Neil are used close together. Since Neil is the only male you can use a pronoun no problem. Withdrawals also works well without the word ‘med’ in front of it.

      The only thing, I feel the stakes are a little bland. Why is Gabby in trouble? (Also stick to Gabby or Gabrielle, but don’t use both) What does Violet have to do to save her?

      Over all though, I think you’ve got a strong query here. I’d make a request for sure.

      First 250:

      This is a really great first 250. It draws me in, engages, let’s me get inside the strife in Violet’s head. I know she’s off her meds, know her relationship is tumultuous with her parents, and I know Gabby is there too. In all honestly, I really don’t have anything to add to this. It’s really well done.

      A Dark Charade: I love both the query and the 250. With some minor tweaking to get more info on Finn I think this is going to be great. The first 250 drew me right in as well. Excellent job all around.

      Lake Nevaeh: Another one that I love both the query and the 250. The hook was spectacular and drew me in, and you just need to tighten up the stakes a bit to make it solid. The first 250 has great voice, and everything you need to draw in a reader. Also excellent job.

      You both have mad this one very, very hard, so really it on this one it comes down to subjectivity on my part.


  2. A Dark Charade

    Query: I actually had to read this query twice to get a full grasp on what was happening. I was confused at first whether Mia actually died, especially since you spend time talking about her just being sick. I was also thrown off by the first line; while it's a great tagline by itself, it doesn't fit chronologically with the query. I found myself confused about what happens when. You might be able to incorporate parts of this first line into the rest of the query (but save that sentence for when you need a tagline later!). Also, I'm not sure you need the whole thing about Mia being too sick to attend Homecoming; because it's placed so early in the query, it seems integral to your plot...but I get the suspicion it's not.

    Despite everything I just said, I really liked this query! I think the plot sounds great, and the stakes are pretty clear.

    250: This is a cute intro with a lot of voice. My only hangup is the first paragraph; it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the excerpt. I believe your beginning could be much stronger if you start with "I trailed my fingers along..." and incorporate the first paragraph elsewhere in your story. (If you do this, "without her" should be changed to something like "without my sister").

    Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh

    Query: The first paragraph is striking, and I instantly wanted to know more after I read it. Then I kept reading, and the query kept getting better and better. I love the stakes at the end. This story sounds very original and intriguing!

    250: You've done a fantastic job introducing us to Violet, and an especially great job showing how her disorder affects her. I would definitely keep reading this.

  3. I love both of these. I thought I wouldn’t have to make as many tough choices in the first round. Geez!

    That said, I think the other judges made great points.

    Dark Charade:

    I think the stakes are nice and high, but I would recommend focusing on Ava’s choices. I.e. she must do X or Y or else Z will happen. I’d also ramp up the voice in the query.

    I also don’t understand what you mean by “stalking girls just like her.” Twins? Teenagers?

    In the 250, I think it’s a little telling vs. showing. It’s a great premise, but it takes a few paragraphs to get into it. Can you start with something more startling? Put us in the action right away.

    Meet Me:
    Love the first paragraph of the query. I think the other three could be streamlined. I.e. the first graph is the hook, the second one is the character/conflict and the third is the stakes. I.e. Now Violet must choose between X or Y or else Z. I think you’re almost there, but some clarification on plot points and streamlining will help.

    In the 250:
    I love the tension. It’s right there in the beginning. The first sentence sets up the mystery and it just goes from there. However, I think you can draw it out even more. I.e. have Gabby “visit” her rather than say she lives in her head. Make us guess and feel disoriented, like the main character.

    I’m going to say VICTORY to MEET ME

  4. A Dark Charade: The first line of the query is amazing. I was pretty much sold after that but then the twist of (ongoing) mistaken identity made me even more excited. The 250 immediately sets up Ava’s grief, how she’s having trouble keeping up her ruse, and connects very well to the query. I would read this book immediately.

    Meet Me at Lake Neveah: I think the proper term is Dissociative Identity Disorder. This might be just me, but I had to read the first paragraph more than once. How is Gabby making Violet physically sick if they share the same body? Why did Gabby need help if she’s the one making Violet sick, which I assumed was on purpose? Why bother if Gabby is just going to *ask* Violet to stop taking meds? The last paragraph somewhat explains my initial questions but I think the setup can be clarified. Maybe focus on how their personalities differ before revealing the disorder. The 250 is intriguing--Violet has a great voice!

  5. Now that a lot of the real judges have commented, I'll add my 2 cents.

    A Dark Charade: Query was pretty clear and easy to follow. Maybe it's because I'm a guy but I did groan slightly at "the enigmatic Finn". This seems kind of like the stereotypical guy in these kind of stories. Maybe Finn could be described in a way that makes him more unique?

    The first 250 read fine. It did take me a minute to realize that her mistake was that she's really the studious one, while the sister she's imitating is the party girl. However, would anyone expect her to be partying with her sister being dead?

    Meet Me at Lake Neveah: Like some of the others, I was a little confused at first as to why Gabby was making her sick as a plea for help. The last paragraph made me wonder if this is more supernatural than psychological thriller. Is Violet really a split personality or is she psychic? Also, is this an accurate accounting of Ojibwe ritual and beliefs? I was a little confused by her being "put in a human cell".

    The first 250 are well written. I'm curious how this interaction between two personalities in one head works. Maybe starting the story with some kind of interaction between the two would pull the reader in harder.

    Good luck to both of you.

  6. A Dark Charade

    Most intriguing premise laid out in the query, like "Parent Trap" gone horribly wrong. And so much *voice* in the first 250. Nearly choked up reading Ava portraying Mia--or the other way around? Feels like I've gotten to meet them both already, though I mourn for the sister who has already been killed.

    Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh

    WOW. That was all I could think reading the query. A book exploring a concept like this cries to be published. Begs the question--say those "imaginary" friends from our childhoods weren't "imaginary" after all? I'm not an expert on aboriginal traditions though I find their introduction here captivating. Some great information included in the first 250 which allow us to get to know Violet and her parents. We even get to meet Gabby herself though she's conspicuous in her absence.


  7. A Dark Charade: Query: Intriguing first line, but it does feel more like a pitch or logline than a first sentence of a query. Overall very clear and concise query – it’s done its job of making me want to read this! First 250: Ha! I used to do that too, look at the end of a book before I read the beginning. Very well written 250 – I am already connecting with the MC. Just one thing I would add: specify in the first line that it was not just her sister, but her twin sister.

    Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh: Wonderful job on both query and first 250. I love that the story is about more than just a personality disorder, that there is something else going on – what an original idea!

    I would love to read both of these! Good luck!

  8. A Dark Charade. It's intriguing with a really fantastic first line. Hooks me right off, but it really felt too much like KMM's Fever series. I'm not a judge, just a writer and a reader, and I won't pick up books that sound or feel too much like something I've already read. (I'm in the minority in that.) I liked the concept of the lots of paranormal activity in a town that embraces it.

    Meet Me at Lake Neveah: A little confused at first in the query as to who was who, I would have liked a little more clarity there. I love the premise, very unique (or at least I've not encountered it before.) I'd have continued reading after the first page. Good luck to you both!

  9. A Dark Charade: This is one heck of a query letter. I love how you put the premise & hook right there into the first sentence. It’s like bang! We know exactly what this story is about. Well done! And it’s clear you really know how to write. I love the twists you reveal in the query, such as the wrong sister is killed and the other still won’t reveal her identity. It really makes me want to read more. The only comment I could add would be the dialogue in the first 250. Especially Bunky’s comment, it almost doesn’t seem like something someone would say to someone who’s been through such a tragedy. However, it’s really hard to gauge this only reading the first 250. Really nice work! Seems like you’ve written quite the thriller.

    Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh: This sounds like a wonderfully gripping story. I love the ties to Native American rituals. Your query is very well written. There’s so much detail to your story, I’m not sure it’s possible to condense any of it in your query, but I almost feel like there are too many details in the query, especially regarding Neil. However, all of the details might need to be there. It might just be a matter of cutting a few words here and there to make it all a bit more concise. The first 250 is great! I really like how you get into Violet’s head, so to speak, and really know who she is & her personality right off the bat. Well done!

  10. Another match-up where I want both books NOW! Great job, both of you!

    A Dark Charade: What an exciting premise! In your query, it wasn't clear to me until the end of the first full paragraph that Ava was your protagonist. It also took a couple of reads for me to figure out who had actually died and who was supposed to have died. I also think you could tighten up the first few sentences of that paragraph and make it a little clearer what happened. I'm a little confused about why Ava is pretending to be Mia, as well - is it just so the killer doesn't realize his or her mistake and comes to correct it? If so, that could be stated a little more clearly, and I would leave out the part about "in her grief." If a serial killer is killing girls just like Ava/Mia, why would he have one specific twin as a target? Wouldn't they be similar enough to both be targets? If not, what about Ava made her a target but not Mia? Love your first 250, and Ava's slip-up at the end has me on the edge of me seat wanting to know if she'll be found out!

    Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh: Wow! Your query had me hooked from the beginning, and when it took an unexpected turn to a shaman and inner-body travel, I followed right along willingly! Very cool. I was a little confused as to why you started referring to Gabby as Gabrielle in the last paragraph. I would keep it the same throughout or make it clear why she's "Gabby" in Violet's head but "Gabrielle" in her real life. I'm totally hooked though! And the first 250 was great as well. The one thing I would change is in your first paragraph you mix up tenses a bit, so I would change "This might rank as the stupidest..." to "This might have ranked as the stupidest..." to keep it in past tense. Love Gabby's mantra and I'm desperate to see how this continues!

  11. Maybe I shouldn't say anything because I don't have anything particularly constructive to say. Honestly, I sat down with a pen to mark up the printouts and was blown away by both queries and both 250s. I did have to read Dark Charade query twice to figure out which twin was dead and why (still not sure of the why but I figured that's why I'm intrigued enough to want to read the rest of the story). And with Meet Me, switching from Gabby to Gabrielle was the only tweak I'd noticed. Great ideas, great writing :)
    Kudos to both of you! These are both fantastic!

  12. A Dark Charade:
    This is really an intriguing concept. Not only do you have a girl who's lost her twin but everyone think's it's heard who's dead. I love it. I felt that in your query, there was a gap. You suddenly switched us over to Finn and I wasn't sure who he fit in with this murder plot. I would just focus on the idea that there is a murder out there. Your 250 is really good and I definitely want to keep reading more. However, I was wondering if you started at the right place. I'd like to see what happens when she learns that her twin is dead.

    Lake Nevaeh: There is so much going on in this story! I would actually start the query at the second paragraph. There was a repeat when you said she stopped taking her meds and went through withdrawl. If you start right where she's going through withdrawl, then you can introduce us to the voice inside her head. I am a bit confused on who Gabby really is. The last paragraph could use some clarification.
    Your first 250 words are stellar.
    Good luck to you both.

  13. WOW. Seriously, wow, you two!

    A Dark Charade: Well, as an identical twin, you have me thoroughly depressed. ;) That's good, because it means I cared, immediately! Your opening 250 is EXCELLENT. The query needs some work. Most of the second paragraph felt like too much--I see your conundrum because you need to establish their bond, but it sounded like we were back in time and then present again, based on the murder timeline.

    Lake Nevaeh:

    *jaw drop* Gimme this book! Gimme! Your query was stellar. I disagree with many of the negative comments above: I thought all the information was critical and intriguing. Do NOT cut the first paragraph! It's the hook, and it's fabulous! You will leave a hole in what's nearly ready if you do.

    As for your words, I loved them, but there's a LOT of background info you're trying to squeeze sneakily into a short space. I would start with a clear, sharp, lesser problem and then have an entire conversation with Gabby, otherwise our heads are going to be reeling. One little thing: blood red lipstick make me instantly think her mother was evil. Like step mother veil. Blood is usually a dangerous word. ;)

    LOVED both of them! I want to give you guys hugs for being so talented!

  14. WOW. Seriously, wow, you two!

    A Dark Charade: Well, as an identical twin, you have me thoroughly depressed. ;) That's good, because it means I cared, immediately! Your opening 250 is EXCELLENT. The query needs some work. Most of the second paragraph felt like too much--I see your conundrum because you need to establish their bond, but it sounded like we were back in time and then present again, based on the murder timeline.

    Lake Nevaeh:

    *jaw drop* Gimme this book! Gimme! Your query was stellar. I disagree with many of the negative comments above: I thought all the information was critical and intriguing. Do NOT cut the first paragraph! It's the hook, and it's fabulous! You will leave a hole in what's nearly ready if you do.

    As for your words, I loved them, but there's a LOT of background info you're trying to squeeze sneakily into a short space. I would start with a clear, sharp, lesser problem and then have an entire conversation with Gabby, otherwise our heads are going to be reeling. One little thing: blood red lipstick make me instantly think her mother was evil. Like step mother veil. Blood is usually a dangerous word. ;)

    LOVED both of them! I want to give you guys hugs for being so talented!

  15. This is a brilliant pairing. I really love them both.


    I have a weird love for stories about twins, so this totally caught my imagination. The switching identities part, the fear, the romance – it all sounds great.

    I don’t think this query needs to change much at all, but there are a few things I’d like to know a little more about, without drowning it in detail: what does “girls just like her” mean/why did she think she was the intended target? What’s so enigmatic about Finn/could we have a hint of his secret? In the pages, I get the sense that the two twins have very different personalities, so that pretending to be Mia is quite difficult – that’s definitely worth mentioning.

    Not sure there’s anything I’d change about the opener – I’d totally read this.


    This query intrigued me. Like some other commenters, I was a little bit puzzled about whether this was a realistic YA about mental illness or a supernatural YA about someone being possessed/having a mystical connection with a real person. Or perhaps it’s a bit of both. It’s pretty interesting either way, but I think you need to make it totally clear, or really bring out that “is gabby real or not?” is at the heart of the plot.

    I was a bit confused by the “sending Violet to the hospital for blackouts and bruises,” line. If I’ve understood what’s going on correctly, I think it should be, “She rebels, leaving Violet bruised, unconscious and ultimately hospitalised.” Or words to that effect. Otherwise it sounds a bit like she gets bruised etc in hospital due to brutal staff.

    Most of the query reads like Gabby is rather malevolent, deliberately making Violet sick and bruised either to make a point or protect herself. But the last para implies these things are happening to Gabby and automatically happening to Violet in turn.

    Finally, I thought the line about “the purple fields straight from her recurring dream” sounded a little bit cheesy. It probably works well in context, but I’d consider leaving it out of the query.

    Sorry if this sounds like a lot of criticism. I actually really loved the premise, and I just feel like a little bit of clarification could make it absolutely brilliant.

    The first 250 were great, nothing much I’d change.