Jun 19, 2018

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."



  1. Judges, please respond here with your votes.

    1. Discount Wonder WomanJune 19, 2018 at 12:26 PM

      I was SO HAPPY to see SPLASH made it to round 3! The query is much improved, and my only nitpick is with "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." The Nathan caves part had be thrown a bit, and I think it could be resolved simply by adding "later." Your 250 are great--and again, so happy to see it making it this far!

      This query had me hooked from the very beginning. It's polished, it's voicy, and I couldn't find anything wrong with it OR the 250. Stellar job on this one.

      It's really hard to choose. I love both so much, and I wish you hadn't been paired up. I do think the voice on Warpers is a bit more evident, and I can't pass on a good sci-fi, so VICTORY TO WARPERS!

      (I'm really sorry, SPLASH! I still love you!)

    2. The Red CardiganJune 19, 2018 at 7:10 PM

      Great job to both of you! I love the premise of warpers, and your query looks great. I'm not usually a fan of an unconventional query, but your bullet list at the beginning works. It really sets off thee voice of the piece. I'd be careful, however, about using profanity in a query. Some agents may be turned off, and the word isn't really necessary here, so why take the chance? My only complaint about the first page is that there is a lot of technical terms, and as a non sci-fi reader, I found it jarring. I would ease into the jargon until the reader is hooked, just in case they aren't used to it. Splash: What a great query! concise, stakes nicely laid out. Great voice too. With both the query and the pages, the story itself sounds grim-- all her close friends are dead, but the voice sound more lighthearted and humorous. I am afraid that the tone doesn't match the subject matter, at least in the bit I read.
      Victory to THIS WASN'T IN THE JOB CONTRACT for such a unique story!

      The three rules structure comes off a bit awkward for me. We know nothing about the book, characters, or world so there's no context for rule 1. Further, rule #2 seems like it would be impossible to follow: if you visit the past, you're going to interact with some people there. And rule 3 is just vague. Readers of time travel will be familiar with the hazards, so the rules are somewhat common-sense and don't need to be laid out here. Perhaps most importantly, if the MC's best friend is dying, who gives a shit about these "rules" anyway? There's a good story here, and it's unique enough to stand out with a standard query structure that doesn't get in the way.

      Great opening line to the query. And I'm very intrigued by the storyline here. However, the query spends a bit too much time with play-by-play that sets up the story problem. By the end, we know the problem and character goal, but we don't know the obstacles or get a strong sense of the stakes. I don't feel like Maxine is in danger, because she's never exposed. I wanted her to have a dilemma so that she faces some hard choices, rather than just a ticking clock.

      Congratulations to both entrants for making it to round 3. Victory to THIS WASN'T IN THE JOB CONTRACT

    4. THIS WASN'T IN THE JOB CONTRACT: I judged this in previous rounds, and I can see the little tweaks you’ve made since then in the query. Much better, so good job. I still appreciate the checklist that makes for an unconventional checklist because I feel like it suits the voice of your writing here. You’ve also done a great job of upping the tension of the stakes statement.

      SWIMMING WITH THE AMOEBAS: This is my first time seeing your entry in judging rounds, and I have to say that I am intrigued. The tone of the query matches your genre well, that ominous gritty feel of horror, but still a touch of teen angst as well. The sentence “But Nathan caves, agreeing to take his sister when his parents cannot” feels contradictory to the sentence before it, so maybe add something like “later” or “She finds out that he caved…” Also, I’d love you to up the urgency in the stakes by telling us a little bit more detail on how she plans to shut down Splash. The first 250 words have great voice, but I almost want just a tad more foreshadowing or hint at the horror that’s coming.

      Super hard call here, as both entries are pretty fantastic, but I think I’ll have to give VICTORY to SWIMMING WITH THE AMOEBAS!

      ~Red Ink Slinger

    5. OMG! Seriously?! What is this match up? I love both of these books and I hope they both end up on my shelf one day. I think both of the queries and first pages are super strong and I don't think I have anything helpful to suggest.

      Since I have to judge, VICTORY to SWIMMING WITH THE AMOEBA!

      Okay, this is high concept at its best. This query is just hook after hook

      This is good writing, and good humor. I lean slightly to the opinion that discussing the AI pets is a little bit of forced worldbuilding, but that may just be personal taste instead of solid advice. I'd still keep reading, for sure.


      Sixteen-year-old Maxine Spielman has no boobs, a fact which may ultimately save her life. [OMG that's opening-line GOLD]

      The concept and writing in this query are great. But I worry that the query gives away too much while simultaneously raising too many questions. Like, if a bunch of kids and an employee all die of meningitis at a single water park, how would people still be taking their kids there?

      I also feel like I have half the plot of the story already, with only the climax in question. That said, I’d still read it.

      Will Maxine Spielman get boobs this summer? [Wait. I know I must be old, but I have no f’n idea what this survey is, and yes, it sounds absolutely horrible.]

      [Always love a good boob-heavy beginning :D]

      Another super-tough choice. There's one that I have slight worries about plot inconsistencies/suspension of disbelief from the query, though - worries that may or may not pan out, but as it is:



      Great premise. It’s got a lot of potential and I weirdly love that you begin the story with a dog about to be run over by a car and that the hero is pretty disinterested by the whole thing. It sets a darkly funny tone.

      The query loses me a bit in the cause and effect of things. I’m not totally sure how an Interstellar war fits in. But the story sounds like a lot of fun.


      Oh wow, you managed to put some of the horror into the query itself. Kudos. I love that a basic insecurity is the reason that the heroine gets put in a position of “power.” This also sounds like a darkly humorous novel.

      I really like both of these. They’ve got a wicked sense of humor.


    8. This is the first time I've read both these entries, and OMG QUERY KOMBAT TEAM, YOU ARE MEANIES!!!!! :( These two are amazing!!! It's so hard to choose *cries*

      Seriously. I really can't choose. I can't even bring myself to pick one based on voice (because I love BOTH). So, for the first time ever, I will leave my vote up to FATE (guys, I literally flipped a coin over this decision): VICTORY to THIS WASN'T IN THE JOB CONTRACT

    9. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 21, 2018 at 11:49 AM

      This Wasn’t in the Job Contract

      I would cut “By accident, of course.” I think that clarifying sentence actually weakens your strong opening. Same with “completely shattering Rule #2” and “which may have involved blackmail”- both of those asides are implied and I think they slow your momentum. A few things that could use clarification: Is part of the agreement that they’ll save Avaline’s father? You say his only purpose in going back is to identify the murderer, but I’m assuming she would agree to help him in exchange for saving her father? I think it would also help to give us a very quick reason why he has to choose between killing her father and an interstellar war. It’s clear what your stakes are, but it’s not clear WHY. Does he find out the senator is going to cause the war? We don’t need all the details, but if you can quickly give us that reason, it would clarify your stakes even more. Overall, killer query!

      Swimming with the Amoebas
      I was a huge fan of this entry from round one, but I have to say that I miss the pizzazz of your old query! It did need a little clarifying and a little more explaining, but I think this version is a little too drawn-out/ play by play. I think we've lost some of the voice from the earlier version. See if you can find a happy medium between the two, and I think it will be perfect.

      Gah... this match-up has been the hardest to decide yet!


      This is a nice SciFi story. The query is good and the first 250 are engaging.

      This felt more like a thriller than a horror novel, so you might want to reexamine your genre.

      This is another case where the first 250 words won me faster than the queries, and the voice in SWIMMING WITH THE AMOEBAS caught my attention the fastest.


  2. Both entries have strong queries. I still love the voice in Job Contract and the humor in Amoebas. Nothing constructive to really add to either that hasn't been said before. I find myself wanting to read one more than the other based on the Q+250, so this is the most subjective of decisions, but alas, Highlander, Thunderdome, etc etc.


  3. No one of consequenceJune 19, 2018 at 2:02 PM

    The query for Job Contract is amazing. This is a confusing, time-travelling plot, and somehow I came away understanding all of it. The stakes are clear, the character is defined. It's great.

    The first 250 isn't bad, but you've got some punctuation mistakes that threw me out of it (that's probably just me...I'm weird like that.) Also the car is oncoming, not incoming, which is an easy enough fix.

    Love the voice in SWIMMING, and I think the concept of a water park as the source of an outbreak is very clever. I just don't see how it works for an entire book, and I don't understand how people are dying and it's somehow up to a teen to convince people. It seems like one statement of 'we broke into this park, my friends all died' would shut it down pretty quickly.


  4. Great job writers!!

    I love both of these.

    I do tend to think both queries could be a touch shorter. For instance, in Swimming, I'm not sure we need to know the details of the plot about the inspector. Also, while this version of the query is good and clear, I feel like the first version had a tad more voice in it. Is there a way to incorporate some more of it in? Because the 250 is really awesome.

    This was a tough choice, but because the other entry is already there with voice consistency in the query and 250, VICTORY to JOB CONTRACT

  5. Love and SqualorJune 20, 2018 at 8:58 AM

    There's a lot to like in both of these entries, and both have a lot of potential. This one, for me, came down to which book I'd be likely to read all the way through, and while the concept in JOB CONTRACT is interesting, I feel it doesn't entirely stand out in the crowded time travel market, even though the writing is excellent. For that reason...


  6. This Wasn’t In The Job Contract
    I’m a little thrown by the first sentence under the three rules, “Unfortunately…” I think since you start off saying unfortunately, we assume it would be by accident. I’d consider removing either unfortunately or “by accident, of course.” I’m also wondering if you need everything in parentheses in the paragraph about Avaline. It helps with the tone, but you’ve already done a fine job with the query anyway. Your fist 250 sucked me in and I love how you packed so much into so few words. Well done.

    Swimming with the Amoebas
    I confess – I’m not a horror fan. But this story drew me in. I do think the query can be tightened a bit. Though humorous, I’m not sure if we need to know her reason for not swimming with her friends in the query. Also, although Nathan is important since he’s the love interest, I feel like we already know what happens to him—Maxine confides in him, convinces him not to take his sister, but he takes her anyway. Let us know more about Nathan but don’t give his entire story away. The voice in your first pages though—wow! I honestly don’t have any suggestions for you there.

  7. This Wasn’t In The Job Contract
    I like the concept and I love time travel stories. Had a ton of questions about this query though. I was a little confused by the rules b/c I don't know what warping is when you first mention it (though I think I do by the end of the query) and I don't get how you can collect evidence without interacting with people? So I was kind of thrown from the start. Also don't understand how our pg could be responsible for the death and not even know it? Finally how could one collect "precrime" evidence (yes I loved Minority Report!) without disturbing the crime and before the crime occurs? Maybe give an example of this kind of evidence b/c I have a hard time picturing it.
    First 250 were a bit expository and techie but I got a good sense of place and I really like your voice!
    Swimming with the Amoebas
    I think this a cool, straightforward concept. I love the boobs angle! Very fun. This seems more humorous than horror though, so I'm confused on tone. First 250 I really liked and I liked the immediate "callback" to the query (e.g., boobs) which I think is v. important for the first page. Again though, I don't see the horror tone here, so just food for thought.

  8. Fellow Kombatant leaving (admittedly late) comments...


    Still sounds like an awesome and creepy-in-a-good-way story! I think this version of the query makes it a little more clear why she can't go into the water. The second paragraph does a nice job of showing the steps she's taking to solve the mystery without overcrowding the query with a laundry list of details. I had to re-read the query to remember where the 24 hour deadline came from, but on second read, I think it was just my brain shutting over instead of any issues with query itself. The first 250 are still great and full of voice. Nice work!


    Dang it! So many good stories! I remember enjoying this one, too! I think this query has more parenthetical comments than the last version did. Personally, I love that style of writing and use it pretty often myself. However, I know a lot of people aren't fans of it, so just something to keep in mind. In the first 250, I don't think there's supposed to be a comma after "kidnapping case." I don't really have any more suggestions for improvement. Your story sounds exciting, I love the twist how he might actually be the killer, and I love the voice, too. Good luck!