Jun 29, 2018

QK Round 5 Wrap Up

Round 5. Whew! I don't know how are judges do it. The top four were whittled to two, bringing us to the championship round of the tournament. Round six is around the corner, kicking off tomorrow, June 30th thru July 1st on Kara's blog.The round starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 8:00 p.m. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us.  

Please note: there are no more opportunities to edit your entry.

Round 6 Match Ups
Got Me a Daddy Map vs Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Good Luck Finalist!

Jun 27, 2018

QK Round 5 Begins!

Get that thick skin in place because here we go! Round 5!


This round lasts until June 28st at 8 pm.

On the last day the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. In the event a tie remains, the blog host will provide the tie breaker.

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the Championship Round on June 30th! Kombatants, of course, will be unable to revise their entry for the duration of the tournament.

You may comment on your own entries ON the last day of the round to offer thanks or congrats. If there is a problem with your entry, please email me at my g-mail address michaelanthonyrr@. I'll reply as soon as I can. Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!). Be sure to point out the good as well as what needs work. Post under your nicknames! If you forget, just delete and repost. And judges: seriously, thank you for doing this. It's a very tough job and isn't for the faint-hearted.

Reminders for Everyone:

Try not to comment until after one of us hosts have made the first comment, then go ahead and offer your feedback. We ask everyone who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment. 

NOW THE FUN BEGINS!!! GO GO GO!!! We'll be Tweeting under #QueryKombat!

QK Round 5: Carrion My Wayward Son VS Got Me a Daddy Map

Title: Song of the Vulture
Entry Nickname: Carrion My Wayward Son
Word Count: 96K
Genre: YA Fantasy

QK Round 5: I'll Stand Bayou VS Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Title: Warden of the Lost
Entry Nickname: I'll Stand Bayou
Word Count: 99K
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Jun 22, 2018

Query Kombat Round 3 Wrap Up

Round 3 was a little nerve-wracking. From the Sweet 16 to the Elite 8, we had a lot of close matches and difficult decisions. A lot of outstanding entries have left us on our quest for the very best.  Round four is around the corner, kicking off June 24th and 25th on Michelle's blog.The round starts at 8:00 a.m. and continues until 8:00 p.m. EDT the following day. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us.  

Please note: there are no more opportunities to edit your entry.

Round 4 Match Ups
Got Me a Daddy Map vs Shiver Me Timbers

Carrion My Wayward Son vs This Wasn't in the Job Contract

GG: Found Family vs Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

I'll Stand Bayou vs Hungry Ocean Gods

Good Luck Elite 8 Kombatants!

Jun 19, 2018

Query Kombat Round 3 Begins

Get that thick skin in place because here we go! Round3


Hop on over to Mike's blogs to see round 3 in action. This round lasts until June 21st at 8 pm.

On the last day the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. In the event a tie remains, the blog host will provide the tie breaker.

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to round 4 (Elite Eight!) on June 24th! Kombatants will be unable to revise their entry for the duration of the tournament.

Reminders for the Entrants:

You may comment on your own entries after voting has ended to offer thanks or congrats. Do not otherwise respond to or explain feedback. 
If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. (@RavenousRushing) If you don't have Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling us the mistake.  Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 6 other match-ups to help share the love around! But Kombatants do not cast votes. Please do not comment until after the blog host leaves a comment for the judge votes.


Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!). 
Be sure to point out the good as well as what needs work. Post under your nicknames! If you forget, just delete and repost. (Note: It's wise to make a copy of your feedback and save it before posting as sometimes the blog eats a comment.)  And judges: seriously, thank you for doing this. It's a very tough job and isn't for the faint-hearted.

QK Round 3: Why Are You So Obsessed With Me VS Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Title: Guarded
Entry Nickname: Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?
Word Count: 76K
Genre: Contemporary Romance (#OwnVoices)


Fame and tabloid gossip are nothing new for actress Ava Madison. After all, it’s not every day someone who uses a wheelchair becomes a Golden Globe winner. So when rumors swirl she’s romantically involved with her friend, heartthrob Brett Sinclair, she doesn’t feel the need to comment—until Brett falls for someone else. Knowing the public will turn on him if they think he dumped her, Ava claims she dumped him. She expects added scrutiny after this declaration—but she never expects Brett’s overzealous fans to threaten her life because they think she broke his heart.

After someone vandalizes her car, and with Brett refusing to diffuse the situation, Ava’s manager hires a security team for her. Always striving for her independence and refusing to be tied down in any way, Ava hates the thought of having twenty-four hour protection. To make matters worse, she discovers the person assigned as her live-in bodyguard is Leo Matthews—the annoying, condescending man she encountered at a coffee shop just the day before. They immediately clash over everything, and Ava can’t wait to get Leo out of her house for good.

But as Ava is forced to spend nearly every waking moment with Leo, she can’t deny her attraction to the tall, dark, blue-eyed former Navy SEAL who seems to anticipate her every desire. Their relationship soon heats up, but the threats from Brett’s fans turn into physical violence, affecting not just Ava but hurting those around her. While she’s scared something will happen to Leo or one of her friends, independent Ava is also scared of doing the one thing she never thought she’d do—fall in love.

First 250:

Ava Madison and Brett Sinclair Getting Married!

Wedding bells are on the horizon for recent Golden Globe winner, and our favorite cougar, Ava Madison! Sources tell us that her boyband heartthrob boyfriend, Brett Sinclair, popped the question to her last weekend! They plan on tying the knot as soon as possible, creating growing speculation that she is indeed pregnant with twins, as we reported last week. One thing’s for sure—those babies are going to be gorgeous!

At twenty-eight years old, I was a cougar.

Never mind that men like Jack Nicholson and John Stamos had women one-third their age on their arm every time they made an appearance and no one batted an eye. As soon as I was ‘caught canoodling’ with Brett, five years my junior, you’d think I was a decrepit old woman robbing the cradle.

At least I didn’t look like one.

I rolled my eyes and clicked off the site before taking a sip of my tepid coffee, flashing a smile to the barista as he glanced my way. The speculation about Brett and me was crazy. It started when he took me as his plus one to the AMA’s. We never commented about our relationship, so according to celeb gossip sites we were either hooking up, engaged, already secretly married, or preparing for the upcoming birth of our twins. No one ever considered the truth—that we were just friends.


Entry Nickname: Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom
Word Count: 89K
Genre: Adult Thriller


To her family and friends, Marybeth Delay is the embodiment of the word "wholesome": she's a teacher, wife, and loving mother of two young children living in small-town Minnesota. But they don’t know that she was once, in a different lifetime, Valentina “Babyface” Nacosto, the New Jersey mob’s most prolific and mysterious killer. They don’t know that she had a child seventeen years ago, who died in a hit meant for her. They don’t know that the serenity of her new life is repressed denial of her old one.

Marybeth thinks the past is forever behind her until the morning she turns on the news — and discovers that her son is alive. Alive, and the focus of a furious FBI manhunt, along with Valentina’s ex-husband, fugitive mob boss Vincent "Nine Lives" Nacosto. 

Valentina couldn't save her son from violence seventeen years ago. But she can now. And she will. She’ll get to him before the FBI does. She’ll be his way out—and she will risk her new family, her new life, her new peace to do it.

BABYFACE is told in both past and present timelines as Marybeth/Valentina comes to terms with who she was, who she is, and who she needs to be for both her families. Complete at 89,000 words, BABYFACE evokes a female John Wick crossed with the emotional conflict of A History of Violence. It will appeal to fans of Alafair Burke’s The Wife, Riley Sager’s Final Girls, and Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive.

First 250:

I have the Minnesota winter to blame for what I did today, and for everything I know I will do tomorrow.

The kids and I got home at 3:30 from pickup. My fingers were numb. The heater in the minivan doesn’t work well, not in this kind of cold, and I forgot my gloves. It’s month two of my maternity leave and I guess I don’t have it together yet. Caroline was nagging me for Doc McStuffins the entire ride and Jacob was screaming his little head off. I knew he was hungry. I knew because my breasts felt like overfilled water balloons about to burst. But Jacob doesn’t latch; I have to pump. My stomach sank when I realized he was twenty minutes away from his meal.

Five tortured miles later, we made it home. I dragged the car seat into the living room. “Give mommy a second," I begged. No luck. He screamed louder as Caroline tugged on my hand. Doc McStuffins. Right. Maybe it would entertain Jacob, too. I jabbed at the remote, my fingers blue and slow from cold. The TV jumped to life and I pressed the numbers. 3-1-3, Disney Junior. Jacob was still screaming when I headed to the foyer to retrieve the pacifier and pump, wincing as my fingers came back to life in potent little stabs. If he hadn’t been crying, if I hadn’t been in pain, I would have noticed. I would have seen. I would have understood that I had the wrong channel.

I would have changed it. 

QK Round 3: No Heroes Here VS I'll Stand Bayou

Title: Following Shadows
Entry Nickname: No Heroes Here
Word Count: 93K
Genre: Adult Fantasy, OwnVoices


Lord Kieron Lawson is a dashing hero on a quest to save the damsel in distress...in his dreams. In reality, he’s a socially awkward man with a penchant for heroic fables and an aversion to touch. Determined to have an adventure, he makes a deal with his controlling father: in exchange for permission to travel across the Kingdom of Alros, he’ll finally choose a bride.

Chasing down a thief in the kingdom’s capital earns Kieron a private meeting with Princess Adelina, and when she slips into a deep sleep after being poisoned, he’s promised her hand in marriage if he can retrieve a cure from a forbidden wasteland. Confident his own tale is about to unfold, Kieron convinces himself that, like any brave hero, the princess and the crown are what he wants.

But the fairytale falls apart when Kieron’s company abandons him, and the only person willing to guide him on his quest is the aforementioned thief, Eidolon—a man of masks and shadows, who inspires feelings Kieron doesn’t understand and can’t control. When a cave-in traps the men underground, cornered by beasts that look like they stepped out of a storybook, Kieron finds himself faced with a choice to be the hero and save the princess, or follow his feelings and save the thief.

FOLLOWING SHADOWS (93,000 words) is an #ownvoices adult fantasy novel with romantic overtones and strong series potential. Imagine a classic medieval fairytale, in the vein of Sleeping Beauty, except the charming prince is an asexual man on the Autism spectrum who falls for a male companion, instead of the princess he sets out to save.

First 250:

Kieron Lawson stared out the lancet window, sympathizing with the strawman, slouched sadly in the wheat field. Lunch had not gone well, but he couldn’t imagine why. He’d done everything by the book.

“Must you keep doing this?” asked his father, Viscount Lawson, tapping his fingers against the table.

“Why do you assume I did anything?” Kieron kept his eyes on the horizon. Cumaro’s farmlands seemed to stretch on forever. By now, he’d all but memorized every golden stalk and hay bale.

“Lady Voss left in tears.”

The viscount’s methodical drumming sounded like a ticking clock.

“I don’t know why.” Kieron shrugged, thumbing his cold metal tankard. As his etiquette text dictated, he’d nodded politely as the lady spoke. He’d even made eye contact once. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Yes, that’s exactly the trouble. She says you sat silently for the majority of the meeting, staring at the wall behind her. Then when you did say something, you called her by the wrong name.”

“You mean her name isn’t Liza?”

The rhythmic tapping skipped a beat. “No. Her name is not Liza. We’ve known the Voss family for years. How do you not remember the girl’s name?” The drumming intensified, and Kieron’s heartbeat echoed the hurried tempo. “And did you have to tell her you didn’t like her dress?”

Kieron cocked his head at his father’s squat frame and frowned. “She asked if I liked it, and I said no.”

He’d answered a question when asked. What else should he have done?


Title: Warden of the Lost
Entry Nickname: I'll Stand Bayou
Word Count: 99K
Genre: Adult Fantasy


Thaddeus Fortier is a Warden of New Orleans, guardian and peacekeeper to all things that go bump in the bayou. The job’s got terrible benefits: zero sick days, no dental, and it comes with a sort of compulsive conscience that keeps Wardens walking the straight and narrow. Murder, mayhem, even little white lies—all off the table for the city’s supernatural guardians. Which is downright problematic for a man like Thad, who’s hell-bent on avenging the murders of his mother and brother. He’s got the whodunit down; all signs point to the city’s resident racketeer, a bougie backwater baron named Papa Ru. The trick is convincing the spirit of New Orleans that there’s more to Thad’s mission than a good old-fashioned revenge plot—preferably before Papa Ru makes good on his promise to turn Thad into gator bait.

Thad’s got a plan. Wardens and supernaturals are going missing around town, and they’re turning up dead if they turn up at all. It stinks of Papa Ru and his one-man war on all things otherworldly, and if Thad can connect the dots back to him, it might be just what he needs to convince the city to let him have his vengeance. But with Papa Ru’s threat hanging over his head, and more pissed-off supernaturals than he can stir with a stick, it might just be Thad who’s next on the list of the lost.

WARDEN OF THE LOST is a mash-up of Elmore Leonard’s whackjob crime novels and Neil Gaiman’s darkly bizarre supernatural stories, and would appeal to fans of fantasy, horror, and magical realism alike. I’m currently pursuing my J.D. from Belmont University, and I have a law review article slated for publication in Spring 2019.

First 250:

The taxi driver blinked at me in the rearview with glazed-over eyes. “Where to?” he asked. His voice had the dull monotone of somebody who’d said the same two words so many times they’d stopped sounding like words. Just reflex, now. The bless you after a sneeze that just wouldn’t quit.

Three pine tree fresheners dangled from the mirror, and I still smelled something rancid-sweet wafting up from the upholstery.

“Belle Knoll cemetery,” I said.

The driver’s eyebrows ticked up toward his hairline. “Funeral?”

“Yeah.” Not exactly tough math to do: black suit, dark tie, headed to a graveyard. It was the kind of no-shit question that begged for a sarcastic answer, but I’d lost my sense of humor with my luggage at the last layover.

I looked away from the rearview to watch the airport traffic give way to good old New Orleans highway. Flat land, green grass, that unlikely mix of palm trees and crepe myrtles growing side-by-side—I’d figured I wouldn’t ever see it again, but the city had her own ideas. And Lord, she could be a real bitch about getting her way.

“Friend or relative?” the driver asked. The question fell on the wrong side of personal, but neither of us batted an eye. Taxi drivers are the bartenders of the road: you sit in their seats, you tell them your woes, and you walk away with a lighter heart—and a lighter wallet. It’s a pine-scented taste of everyday magic, and it’s true what they say: all magic has a price.

QK Round 3: This Wasn't in the Job Contract VS Swimming with the Amoebas

Title: Warpers
Entry Nickname: This Wasn't in the Job Contract
Word Count: 100k
Genre: YA Scifi


There are three rules for time traveling:

1. Do not double warp.

2. Do not interact with people from the past.

3. Do not allow the past to catch up to the present.

Unfortunately, 18-year-old Galileo Matox is about to break them all. By accident, of course.

Galileo works for ScorpioCorp as a warper, traveling back in time to collect evidence of high-priority crimes. His latest mission? To identify a senator’s murderer. Seems simple enough.

But everything goes to shit before the mission even begins. Not only does the crew’s warp drop them eight days prior to the murder, it also badly injures a teammate. With his best friend quickly bleeding out, Galileo swaps his own warp suit for her damaged one and sends the team back to the present, initiating a (very illegal) warp within a warp. Now, Galileo’s stranded in the past—and in an alternate reality.

Enter Avaline, a gifted time-space scientist and daughter of the soon-to-be-dead senator. Galileo negotiates with Avaline (completely shattering Rule #2), and they reach an uneasy truce (which may have involved blackmail). Together, they must find a way to fix the warp suit before the assassination.

However, as the day of the murder draws near, Galileo begins to realize he may be responsible for the senator’s death. And worse—he has fallen for the victim’s daughter. If Galileo ever wants to see his team again, he’ll have to decide between killing the father of the girl he loves, or starting an interstellar war. After all, sometimes it’s the smallest change that causes the biggest ripple.

 “Inception” meets “Minority Report” in space, WARPERS is a YA sci-fi complete at 100,000 words with adult crossover potential.

First 250:


Temple City, Enora

Jumping back four days to watch a dog get hit by a hover car is a bloody waste of time. Unfortunately, that's my job.

I swallow an annoyed huff, miffed that Gamma team was assigned this joke of a mission. We could be solving that Leviathan kidnapping case, or figuring out who’s responsible for sabotaging the Interstellar Fleet’s dreadnoughts, or a million other crimes more important than identifying the license plate number of the asshole who ran over Senatori Gable’s pet dog.

Not saying said-asshole doesn’t deserve a dose of justice. But still—kidnapping case, or road rage mystery? One clearly carries more priority.

I wince as Takana’s too-loud voice crackles in my aud implant. “Hasn’t anyone told Senatori Gable live pets went out of style a billion years ago? Droids are the newest rage. Especially droid horse racing—”

“Maybe some people prefer a living, breathing companion instead of a mass of circuits and synth-fur,” I reply, tracking the dog in question as it sprints back and forth upon the lawn of the senatori’s mansion. At precisely 03:25:00, the dog will leap over the shock fence, plant its furry butt in the middle of the road, and get run over by an incoming hover car.

Tilting my head, I can't figure out why the dog reminds me of something . . . something just beyond my recollection’s grasp. An echo of a half-forgotten memory. Doesn’t matter, though. I’m not interested in dredging up old memories right now​.​


Entry Nickname: Swimming with the Amoebas
Word Count: 63K
Genre: YA Horror


Sixteen-year-old Maxine Spielman has no boobs, a fact which may ultimately save her life.

On the first night of summer, wearing a borrowed sundress and bra stuffed with toilet paper, Maxine and some friends break into Splash, the new waterpark scheduled to open in just two days. Unable to get her manufactured cleavage wet, Maxine retreats to the locker room as the others enjoy the water. It’s here that Maxine discovers one of the park’s employees slumped against the newly painted lockers. Thinking he’s drunk, Maxine steps closer until she notices the bright red puddle at his feet. She flees when he lunges at her, crying out for help as he slips on his own blood.

The next day her friends are dead, killed with the same lethal quickness as the park employee and others in their small community. The doctors say it’s meningitis, but Maxine isn’t so sure. She knows all of those infected had one thing in common: contact with the water at Splash.

After witnessing a bribe between Splash’s owner and an inspector for the water department, Maxine concocts an elaborate scheme, tricking the inspector into telling her the truth - Splash is using water from the contaminated Pearl River, and that the river is a breeding ground for Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba.

When the police don’t believe her, Maxine confides in her cute neighbor, Nathan, and convinces him not to take his kid sister to Splash on Opening Day. But Nathan caves, agreeing to take his sister when his parents cannot.

To save her town and the boy she’s fallen for, Maxine must shut down Splash. And she only has twenty-four hours to do it.

Complete at 63,000 words, SPLASH is a YA horror novel that will appeal to fans of Jonathan Maberry and Amy Lukavics.

First 250:

Whoever came up with the high school end of year survey should be shot. Buried. Dug up and shot again. I mean, you make it through the whole year without suffering any permanent damage to your social standing and WHAM, out comes this survey so you know exactly where you rank at the start of summer. To make matters worse, it has the exact same question about me as last year.

Will Maxine Spielman get boobs this summer?

I pretend to stretch so I can watch the ruffles puff out on my cami. It's the fancy one with the extra ruffles right where it counts. But they don't move much despite my best efforts. Defeated, I lean back on my stool to minimize any skin contact with the gross black surface of the lab bench and turn my attention to Mr. Johnson.

Who needs boobs anyway?

"Come on folks," Mr. Johnson says and raises his arms for quiet. Two large pit stains in the shape of crescent moons darken his shirt. "I know it's the end of the year, but we can't get through sophomore biology without at least one class on the higher vertebrates. Now Aiden, give me one of the defining characteristics of mammals. What produced the milk you had on your cereal this morning?"

"A cow?"

"Yes, Aiden, very funny. But what specifically do cows have that, say, a salamander does not?"

"A mammary gland," he groans.

"That's right! Mammals have mammary glands."


QK Round 3: Carrion My Wayward Son VS My Babysitter is a Skeleton

Title: Song of the Vulture
Entry Nickname: Carrion My Wayward Son
Word Count: 96K
Genre: YA Fantasy


Eighteen-year-old Alora Delattre should have been burned at the stake. Her power to possess others’ bodies is an ability condemned by scripture as the deepest form of corruption. Her father, the head of the church that would execute her, should have been the one to set her aflame. Instead, he hid her.

Then her mother is murdered by a heretic rebellion, and suddenly death by fire seems like a small price to pay for revenge. She takes over the body of one of the rebels, determined to hunt the killer down and make him bleed. But what she finds in their camp changes everything. For the first time, she sees her benevolent father through the eyes of the people whose blood he has spilled and whose families he has torn apart in the name of righteousness. And then there’s Chet, the quiet, passionate, maddening leader of the rebellion who she swears can see right through her even though he’s blind. She’s risking everything letting him get close—especially while she’s wearing another girl’s skin.

But Scythe, her father’s young, magical tracker, is on her trail and closing in fast. Alora must choose: get the revenge she craves by hauling Chet and his crew to the execution stage, or lead the crusade against the most terrible dictator her world has ever known—her own father.

SONG OF THE VULTURE is a YA fantasy complete at 96,000 words. It is a multi-POV novel with chapters from Alora’s, Chet’s, and Scythe’s points of view. The possession aspect hearkens back to Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, while the father-daughter relationship and the romance will appeal to readers of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse.

First 250:

You will burn, little vulture. Your secret will be discovered, and your body will crumble to ash.

Alora knew the pyre couldn’t speak, knew the words were in her own mind, and yet the threat still raised the hairs on her arms.

The pyre’s great pole shone white as a bone over the housetops behind her. Every time she and Kirsi snuck out of the temple like this, that pole watched her dart from shadow to shadow, followed her around every corner, waited for her to slip up so she could finally meet fiery death at its feet.

Alora glared over her shoulder, aimed an obscene gesture in its direction, and continued on her way.

Hooves clattered on the cobblestones behind them, and Kirsi shoved her into the nearest alley, cursing. They ducked out of sight an instant before the guards rode past. Alora’s heart thundered in her ears.

Kirsi’s dark eyes flashed as she tugged her hood to shroud her pointed nose and deep olive skin. “How in ash do you manage to talk me into this every stupid time?” she hissed once the hoofbeats faded.

“Come on,” Alora replied, breathless. “Dodging them is half the fun.” She pulled Kirsi back down the road. Faster now. The sooner they got to the Frosted Vulture, the better.

Keeping to the darkest parts of the city, they reached the slouching remains of an abandoned shoemaker’s shop a few hours after midnight.


Title: King of Sand, Queen of Bones
Entry Nickname: My Babysitter is a Skeleton
Word Count: 71K
Genre: YA Fantasy


Fifteen-year-old Patella is tired of being coddled by her necromantic cult. No one lets her help with the goat-rearing, the morning worship, or even the sacrificial blood clean-up. While everyone else has a job, she’s expected to memorize their boring history book. Desperate to prove herself useful, she ditches their desert cave for the nearby castle town, hoping to find a job and a little freedom. At least, that’s the plan until a case of mistaken identity involving Ash, the city’s reluctant young king, accidentally outs her as a necromancer. Lucky for her, Ash is running away, too, just for a little while. They flee into the desert together, leaving the cultists and guards hunting them far behind.

Unfortunately, neither of them have half a clue how to survive on their own. Their first monster attack is almost their last until a trio of adventurers pull their butts out of the quicksand. Under the adventurers’ wings, Patella learns to use both life magic and necromancy while Ash studies swordplay. Patella’s a natural, healing Ash’s training wounds as easily as she summons lizard skeletons. Finally, she’s useful to someone, someone with a cute smile who trusts her despite knowing what she is.

But Patella doesn’t know what she really is. The cult was waiting for her 16th birthday to tell her she’s the long-awaited hero of their god, and the God of Death’s not at all pleased about her last-minute change of profession. He and the cult won’t rest until she’s dragged back to complete the job she was born for: the destruction of the life mages’ last known refuge — Ash’s kingdom. Just when she was getting the crazy idea that she could be its queen.

KING OF SAND, QUEEN OF BONES is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 71,000 words and would appeal to fans of REIGN OF THE FALLEN and CITY OF BRASS.

First 250:

A sea of black hoods surrounded Patella, all eyes on the young man, the old man, and the soon-to-be-dead man in front of the enormous dragon skeleton. Talus and Father Parietal stood before the sacrificial altar, while old Calcaneus lied on it, a gleeful smile on his face. It was no secret that he was ready to go to Nymok and no surprise that he had volunteered to be his grandson’s initiation sacrifice. All the adults agreed it was the most desirable death and the greatest sixteenth rites gift anyone could ask for.

In the privacy of her own hood, Patella fumed. Her grandparents had all passed on already, her parents were far too young to be her ritual sacrifice, and Tibby didn’t count because she was already dead. She’d probably end up with a boring old goat. How was that fair? Talus was only a week older than her, but he always got the best of everything. At least no one could see her scowling under her hood and ask her what was wrong.

“Brothers and sisters!” Father Parietal raised his hands for silence, though the echo of his voice around the great dragon’s cavern was loud enough to wake the dead without any magical aid. “Centuries ago, after our founder’s destruction, our ancestors wandered the lands, aimless, directionless, brotherless. Lost and alone, they struggled—”

How could everyone else bear to keep hearing this same story over and over, Patella wondered. She’d memorized it by age eight and stopped being able to stand it by nine.

QK Round 3: GG: Found Family VS I Wish I Was White

Title: EXP
Entry Nickname: GG: Found Family
Word count: 52,000
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (#OwnVoices)


Fourteen-year-old Sai is one of the highest-ranked gamers on the Shadows of Shinobi circuit…but he can't go out in public without having a meltdown.

As a teenager with Autism, Sai battles crippling anxiety and underdeveloped social skills. But when Team Komodo asks him to become the reserve player on their semi-professional eSports team, those social skills are put to the test as he turns online acquaintances into real-life friends.

Thankfully, each member of Team Komodo is just as much of a fringe-dweller as Sai. They include a transgender jack-of-all-trades, a dating sim addict, a hyperactive community college dropout, a fake psychic and a thorny military reject. To earn his keep, Sai begins analyzing the team’s competition to increase their chances of winning. And as the team climbs to higher divisions, they’ll have to face stronger opponents.

Every member of the team knows that they can't afford to let their internal struggles get in the way of victory as they brave a grueling series of tournaments. If they win, Sai and his teammates inch closer to breaking into the pro scene. If they lose, it’s back to social isolation and working dead-end jobs. In order to keep the family together, they’ll have to beat not only the competition, but the fiercest opponents of all: themselves.

EXP is a contemporary YA novel complete at 52,000 words. This “found family story in an eSports setting” features neurodiverse characters, LGBTQ+ characters, as well as characters of color and is #OwnVoices for all three categories.

First 250:

A dim candle wavered in the summer heat, illuminating all Psy needed to know about his new employer. The low-level crime lord in his dirty brown robe gave an almost toothless yellow grin that looked orange in the light. The wood on the sliding doors rotted with mildew. Psy could smell the high definition of the effect. In this new expansion, Meiji truly outdid itself with adding in more sensory details to gameplay. It was hard to believe that this alternate version of Tokugawa Japan was constructed from ones and zeroes.

Psy fingered the sickle and chain holstered at his hip that his real self had tied to hot keys. In this world, he was a competent ninja and master poison maker. For a few hours, he could forget about the cold oatmeal and empty friends list he had waiting for him in the real world.

Through the near-total darkness, Psy could see his randomized teammates, the ones who would be completing this NPC slimeball’s mission for him. In addition to a Sumo and Assassin, there was a master and apprentice Monk duo. Psy narrowed his eyes as he thought of all of the times the master could legally switch out with the apprentice in order to train her. Did they have to keep summoning and sealing the same spirit over and over? He turned up his nose as the greenest envy washed over him when he imagined the apprentice learning everything her master knew while he was all alone.


Title: East of Maplewood
Entry Nickname: I Wish I Was White
Word Count: 80K
Genre: YA (#OwnVoices)


The day Adam Hollander, the only black kid in a predominantly white, upper middle-class school, has his first kiss is both the best and worst day of his life. That’s because Adam’s father, a white teacher, is accused of molesting one of his students, and the perfect day becomes a nightmare for the Hollander family.

Flash-forward two years. Adam, now sixteen, has relocated with his family to the extremely poor, urban neighborhood of Irvington, where interacting with other black teens at his school for the first time triggers an identity crisis. As a heavy-metal-loving film connoisseur and self-proclaimed “Oreo,” Adam knows he doesn’t fit in when he sees other students calling each other the N-word or throwing up gang signs. He wants nothing more than to go back to living a normal, happy life—meaning a life amongst white people, which is where he feels a sense of belonging. But that’s not in the cards.

When he meets some kids in a journalism club who actually look like him and have similar interests, things start to look up for Adam. His new friends help him through a rough transition, showing him that color doesn’t define a person. But when word of his dad’s prior accusation finds its way to Adam’s new school by way of a hostile classmate, their house is spray painted with the word “rapist,” neighbors work to put his dad on a pedophile watch list, and Adam’s mother has a heart attack from all the stress. This pushes Adam’s father, who has grown unhinged over the past two years, to suffer a mental breakdown. Still reeling from being railroaded for a crime he claims he didn’t commit, he threatens to go to the school and kill the student who spread the rumor—as well as many others—and Adam’s world is rocked once again. Hurting for his dad, and yet terrified of what might happen, Adam must stop him from carrying out a mass shooting before dozens of people are slaughtered—including his new friends.

First 250:

“Aren’t you worried about her dad finding out?” my best friend, Anthony, asks me. I’m sitting beside him on his bed while he plays The Evil Within on his X-Box. He gets a new game every week and shrugs it off like it’s nothing. “You know he’s racist, right?”

You see, this is why I wish I was white. Then Anthony wouldn’t say dumb stuff like this to me on a regular basis.

“Who told you that?” I ask.

Anthony’s eyes remain locked on the game, so he can’t see me biting my nails.

“Well, her dad’s a Republican, and my dad says that Republicans hate black people.”

“That’s not true. My mom’s a Republican, and she’s black, so…”

“Your mom’s a Republican?” Anthony nearly drops his controller and his eyes go wide like I just said my mom’s Emperor Palpatine. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Alright, fine. It doesn’t mean anything. But anyway, how’d you kiss Jessica today? You get tongue?”

Just my luck Anthony turns his head at the exact moment that I’m blushing. But this is one of the few instances where I like being black. He probably can’t even tell. When he blushes, his whole face turns raspberry red, and he even looks like a raspberry with all that facial hair. “I gave her my Christmas present.”


“Annnndd she kind of looked at me like—I imitate Jessica’s expression, squinting through imaginary strands of hair.

Qk Round 3: Hungry Ocean Gods VS Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

Title: Tidepool
Entry Nickname: Hungry Ocean Gods
Word count: 77K
Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy

In 1913, Henry Hamilton disappears while traveling on business. His sister Sorrow defies her controlling father’s orders to stay home and travels to the last place Henry is known to have visited – Tidepool, a shabby shore town near Ocean City, Maryland.

After corpses wash up on Tidepool’s beach looking as if they’ve been torn apart by something not quite human, Sorrow is ready to run home to Baltimore. But then she meets Mrs. Ada Oliver, a widow whose expensive black dresses and elegant manners set her apart from other Tidepool residents.

A terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement leads to Sorrow’s discovery of the town’s secret: the sacrifices Ada Oliver makes protect Tidepool from the horrifying creatures living in the ocean. And if the Lords Below don’t get their tributes, they will rise.  

Sorrow wants to stop Mrs. Oliver and get justice for her brother, but doing so will doom all the town’s residents. And the denizens of Tidepool—human and otherwise—are hell bent on making sure Sorrow never leaves. 

Gender-flipped Lovecraftian dark fantasy meets American Horror Story in TIDEPOOL, an adult novel complete at 77,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Eric Scott Fischl’s DR. POTTER’S MEDICINE SHOW and Cherie M. Priest’s MAPLECROFT.

First 250:

Sorrow Hamilton stood before her father’s enormous oak desk, feeling like a misbehaving student as he frowned up at her. The odor of stale pipe smoke—a smell she had grown to detest—hung heavy in the air of the study. 

“It is unsafe for young ladies to travel alone, Sorrow.” Winslow Hamilton folded his arms over his chest. “And unseemly.”

I’m twenty-one, for God’s sake, she dared not say. You cannot stop me

“Betsy Mueller travels alone and has encountered no trouble.” 

“Betsy Mueller is not my daughter.” 

Sorrow’s fingernails dug into her palms. Winslow had definite ideas on what young women could and could not do, and his much longer “could not” list included many of the things that interested Sorrow—such as traveling alone. 

But she’d heard nothing from her brother Henry since his stop in a town called Tidepool, and a sick, cold dread intensified inside her as each day passed with no word. Surely Winslow didn’t expect her to sit in their house like a lump of suet while Henry was missing? She intended to look for him, and this Tidepool was where she would start. 

“It’s been over two weeks. We should have heard something by now, Father.”

Sorrow often thought that Winslow’s steel-gray eyes and matching hair suited his personality perfectly. He had all the warmth of a slab of granite as he stared at her. 

 “I know that. But what exactly do you think you’ll be able to find out?”

She raised her chin. “Whatever there is to know.”


Entry Nickname: Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere
Word Count: 92K
Genre: Adult Historical LGBTQ


Under its glittery surface, Belle Epoch Paris is a brutal place where an illustrious name or prodigious bank account are almost the only means of advancement. British expat Fin Tighe has neither due to his illegitimate birth. His evenings spent in the clandestine gay community are legal through a loophole in the Napoleonic Code, but they leave him vulnerable. So the engineer proposes to find investors for his employer Gustave Eiffel's pet project: a 300-meter tower that will dominate the city's skyline. If Fin raises enough money, the commission will earn him a fortune, and hopefully, some protection. 

Capricious stranger Gilbert Duhais appears to be a boon from the gods. Gilbert is wealthy, connected, and somehow privy to the tragedy Fin instigated in his native Yorkshire. Gilbert soothes Fin's suspicions with heart-thumping charm and introduces him to every nouveau riche speculator in the city. Each provocative interaction heightens Fin's risk of exposure. But also brings Fin closer to his dream of financial security.

When a dear friend of Fin's is murdered, piecemeal clues indicate that Gilbert may have hijacked Fin's life for revenge over a man from Gilbert’s past, a scoundrel that Fin had good reason to want dead. Fin must untangle the disparate threads of his past--and his current romantic gamble--before they become his noose.

GREEN CARNATIONS is a 92,000-word LGBTQ adult historical fiction that will appeal to fans of Mackenzi Lee's Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and Cat Sebastian's M/M historical romances.

First 250:

Paris, 1886

I lifted my glass to hide my unshakable smirk in another drop of wine. The terrace wasn’t empty, but I had my choice of seats facing the direction of the river, toward the Champs du Mars. Not that I saw it over the mansard roofs of my neighborhood’s apartments, but I knew where it was. I wasn’t the most creative man, my talents were concrete; numbers and measurements. Dependable things, unable to be changed on a whim. But when I lifted my gaze toward the gibbous moon, I could almost make out the iron lacework tower that would change my life.

If it were built.

Inasmuch as possible, I'd ensure it. Monsieur Eiffel would make it worth my effort.

The expanse of butcher paper serving as a tablecloth begged for some scribbles and I pulled a pencil from the pocket under my green-tinted boutonniere. With a flourish, I wrote out the sum I could've done in my head when I was six, let alone one-and-thirty, to see the answer in writing. Twenty percent.

Good Christ. I giggled, and I never giggled. Giggling was for small children and overenthusiastic young girls. Yet, there I sat, in a crowded restaurant, and something I vaguely recognized as joy burbled out.


My head whipped up at the unfamiliar male voice. I could count on one hand the people who called me Fin rather than Finley or Tighe, and none of them would hover around a perfectly bourgeois establishment like this tonight—or any night. 

QK Round 3: Planet Panic VS Shiver Me Timbers

Title: My Best Friend Runs Venus
Entry Nickname: Planet Panic
Word Count: 45K
Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction


At 12.9 years old, number-obsessed Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids "living" across the solar system through robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Nothing can hurt him this way; the adults all said so. They just never said how to survive middle school with only 1.0 friends.

Kade's friend Princess Tamika would rather plot their next prank than expand their social circle. Lucky for her, his newest scheme covers both their goals. They're taking a diplomatic joyride across the solar system using an old teleportation machine that he's reconstructed. Tamika will thank him later. He's 63.1 percent sure of it. Unfortunately, the machine's not rigged for current use, so when Kade fires it up, he unwittingly kills a major security wall and releases an infamous hacker. Panic rating: ten times infinity.

First the hacker shuts down all communications with the adults. Then she devastates the security walls protecting Tamika and the other royal avatars. If Kade doesn't want to see his best friend used as a puppet, he needs to stop the hacker fast--even if that means waking up on Earth to fight with a body he never realized could be hurt.

MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS (45,000 words) is an MG science fiction novel combining the virtual setting of READY PLAYER ONE with the adventurous planet-hopping of JACOB WONDERBAR. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number on it--and there was very little he didn't put a number on--he'd give it a 9.7. He checked the cable leading from his tablet to the blocky computer box embedded in the burnt orange mountainside. Connection: serviceable.

Tamika leaned over to inspect his work. "Hey," she said. "What do you think our real bodies look like?"

Kade tightened his grip on the cable, causing a nearby rock to flicker. The dust around it swirled to match. "I... imagine you look the same, and I look like a person instead of a gargoyle," he said. "But, hey, no complaints. I hear Mercury's princess designed her social companion to be a purple unicorn."

Tamika blushed, and Kade's gaze dropped to his tablet. He flicked his right wing, bringing an overlay of glowing text into view. Ninety-eight more seconds for the code to run. Current time: 17:03:34. He'd checked the time twenty-three seconds ago, but whenever he wasn't reading data, he felt lost. The overseeing adults called it unhealthy. Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds.

Healthy people sounded boring.

"Kade," Tamika whispered. "Something's coming."

Kade froze and scanned the area. His sensors detected a deep clunk-clunk echoing across Venus's stone-hard surface. Low volume, maybe twenty to thirty decibels. He hoped it was just a patrol robot, but it was coming too fast.


Entry Nickname: Shiver Me Timbers
Word Count: 48000 words
Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure/Fantasy


Twelve-year-old Ollie Bancroft is a kid genius and engineering prodigy, but in his sleepy coastal town of Deadmen, Newfoundland, people couldn’t care less. Ollie is a Bancroft after all, descendant of William Bancroft: the man who killed the infamous pirate Black Bart and ended his reign of terror. No matter what Ollie does he can’t escape the legendary pirate connection, and to make things worse, he’s the only one in Deadmen who doesn’t believe it. As far as Ollie’s concerned, the legend is nothing more than a fairy tale to attract tourists to a dying town.

When Ollie stumbles upon a supposedly cursed compass with the power to bring Black Bart back to life, he sees his opportunity to finally stop all the pirate nonsense once and for all. Like a serious scientist he conducts an experiment to prove the curse is bogus, only to prove that the curse is very real. Black Bart and his crew of rotten goons return from the dead — just in time to spoil the town’s annual pirate festival — hungry to wreak revenge upon Deadmen, especially anyone unlucky enough to be named Bancroft.

With the help of his best friend Emma, his sea dog grandpa, and his reluctant mom, Ollie must use his wits and considerable knowledge of booby-traps to thwart Black Bart before he resurrects his entire pirate army and plunders the seven seas.

OLLIE BANCROFT AND THE UNDEAD PIRATE PROBLEM is a MG novel complete at 48,000 words. It is fast-paced and jam-packed with adventure, combining S.T.E.M elements with actual history into fantastical, spooky fiction.

First 250:

“You know how you’re always asking why kids think you’re weird?” Emma whispered in Ollie’s ear.

Ollie’s shoulders slumped. He scuffed his boot against the glossy convention center floor. “Yeah,” he sighed.

“This, Ollie,” Emma said, patting him on the back. “Stuff just like this.”

A girl stood before them, crying so hard a snot bubble inflated unnoticed from her right nostril. Just behind her loomed her science project, a bright diorama covered with glitter, out-of-focus poodle photographs, and the title: ‘RUFFLES: EVERYDAY POODLE, OR MUSICAL PRODIGY?’

Moments earlier, the girl had enthusiastically given Ollie and Emma a sneak-peak at her presentation. She hadn’t even been a minute through before Ollie criticized it in a dozen ways, causing her freckled face to burst like a ruptured dam.

“I’m sorry,” Ollie pled with the girl. “I’m really sorry, okay?” He awkwardly put out his hand and patted the air above her shoulder. “I could be wrong. I’m probably wrong. Maybe it is a real science project? Maybe … your dog barking along to boy band songs is science, after all?”

With a whimper, the girl wiped her eyes and stopped crying. Her snot bubble burst.

“Of course,” Ollie said more to himself than to her, “a person’s musical taste doesn’t really factor in the scientific method, so I don’t see why Ruffles, would matter to any —“

“Ollie!” Emma said, smacking him on the arm.

“Ouch,” Ollie winced.

Beneath the table, Ruffles — easily identifiable by the sparkly letters on his name tag — growled ferociously behind the bars of a pink kennel. 

QK Round 3: Raspberry Moon VS Got Me a Daddy Map

Title: Under A Raspberry Moon
Entry Nickname: Raspberry Moon
Word Count: 56,000
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy


On the eve of the galactic alignment, all ten-year-old Emma Baines wants is to escape the school’s miserable bully game, Pick-Off. She doesn’t have time for rumors about the universe collapsing and the moon turning pink when the planets align. Besides, she’s a math-and-science girl. There’s no science in that load of pink baloney.

But Emma quickly changes her mind when A.C. Enniston slams into her backyard. The universe is collapsing, and it’s because this old man has been busting through parallel realities, searching for—of all things—her. Emma is the last element Enniston needs for his perfect computerized reality, a reality in which he and his dying wife, an eighty-year-old Emma, can be healthy forever.

Emma can hide like she does every day in Pick-Off, or she can figure out how to save the universe. That will take a ton of brains, courage, and an unexpected helping of advice from two very different versions of herself from parallel realities. But Enniston isn’t about to let Emma race across alternate dimensions to repair the universe and return home until his computerized reality is complete. If Emma doesn’t act smart and fast, the planets will align, the raspberry moon will fade, and the universe is toast.

UNDER A RASPBERRY MOON is a stand-alone   novel   with   strong   series   potential. My magical adventure would appeal to fans of THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES series and VOYAGE TO MAGICAL NORTH. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

First 250:

Prescott Hadley City Honors campus was too quiet for a Wednesday morning, and Emma Baines didn’t trust it for one minute.

She gnawed a raggedy thumbnail and inched through the main gate. Even when it was raining, kids hung around in jabbering bunches, waiting for the warning bell. Not today. Today they sloshed through puddles straight to the front door. Where were the footballs, Frisbees, or those lousy rubber bands? They were the smallest but nastiest, zipping out of nowhere and snapping you into next week.

She took a few tiptoe steps. Today’s game could have been called because of the weather . . . but that was way too obvious, and it wasn’t raining that hard. Narrowing her eyes, she drummed her fingers around the purple umbrella’s handle.

All this quiet was just a trick, a trap, and she wasn’t about to be fooled. She’d stick with the original plan—sprint behind the school then bolt through the back entrance, the one near the picnic shelter. It would take more time, and she’d be drenched before coming anywhere near the door, but that route completely avoided today’s Pick-Off zone.

That psychopathic bully game moved every day, and if the P.H.C.H. buzz and Twitter had it right, today’s zone was the school’s front lawn. Scores doubled when the zone was right under teachers’ noses. Picking off advanced-placement kids earned twenty points, and Dillon Block had a wicked arm. That kid was the biggest, meanest commando-wannabe in the whole school— maybe the whole county.


Title: Mama's Chicken & Dumplings
Entry Nickname: Got Me a Daddy Map
Word Count: 38K
Genre: #Ownvoices MG Historical


Ten-year-old Allie’s anger can be a hot-comb sitting on the flame of a stove. Sometimes that copper pressing comb of emotion turns red hot and she does things she later regrets. She wants to stay calm. But emotions are hard to handle, especially when people think your mama’s an improper woman. Allie knows—it’s not Mama’s fault she isn’t married yet has a child. The only reason Allie’s breathing is because of that no-good man who forced himself on Mama. Why Mama didn’t leave her on the steps of the A & P when she born, Allie isn’t sure. But one thing’s certain. Allie’s full-up with empty inside because of it, and she’s going to fill it by finding mama a decent husband.

That’s why she and her cousin Julius Caesar create a daddy map and hunt for potential suitors for Mama. When they find a good prospect—men who like to sing, have a kind smile, and most importantly love Mama's chicken and dumplings—Allie draws a red crayon heart above their names. Before long, Allie and Caesar fix their mind on Mr. Rawls, their band teacher, The One! But when Allie discovers who Mr. Rawls is related to, she throws out his jar of chicken and dumplings and covers over his red heart with a black crayon.

Mama’s Chicken & Dumplings is a 38,000-word, middle-grade novel with a colorful backdrop of Chicago's South Side’s better days of the early 1940s.

First 250:

I’m sitting on the stoop of our brownstone, brushing my old doll’s hair when the fat man comes, smiling his fat smile. He’s come to collect the rent. But I ain’t worried. Whenever Mama comes home from cleaning, she goes straight to her coffee tin and in goes her money. Clink. Clink. She ain’t spared not even a penny, not even to me, though I shed me some tears.

“Please, please,” I’d say. “Let me run down to Mr. Malone’s store and get me a Mary Jane.” Mama’s real tight with pennies, so I’m sure she’s got enough. Least, I hope.

The fat man rings the bell. Ring. Mama will know that’s for her. If he’d rung it two times together—ring, ring, like that—loud-mouth Miss Zelda in her housedress with shout-out colors and a scarf round her head would’ve come from the second floor. Had it been three times, old Mr. Potterfield, who’s up on the third floor, would’ve opened his window and hollered “Who!” And if it wasn’t anybody he knew, he’d grumble like the back of a garbage packer squeezing down trash and slam the window.

One ring is all, and Mama will be at the door, letting the fat man in.

Course, I could let him in, but since he’s acting like he can’t see me sitting here, right up under his feet, I decide I ain’t paying him no mind at all. And I ain’t letting him in. He’ll have to wait for Mama.