Jun 27, 2018

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


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: 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.


  1. Judges, please vote as a reply to this comment.

    1. No one of consequenceJune 27, 2018 at 9:26 AM

      Of course you put my two favorites against each other. You monsters.

      So yeah. I'm going to go against my own tendencies here. I'm more likely to read Carrion when it comes out, because that's my thing. But the voice in Daddy Map is so good.


    2. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 27, 2018 at 9:51 AM

      I thought about this match-up for awhile before voting because they are both so good.

      I can't get over the stakes and conflicts of Carrion...it just sounds so intriguing! I can't wait to read this book someday.

      For Daddy Map, I still think you need one more conclusion sentence telling us what the character must achieve and ending on the stakes, not just what the character has already done. However. If we're judging this as we think agents would, I think the voice of Daddy Map is so good that ultimately it might be the stronger contender.

      I love you Carrion :(

      Victory to DADDY MAP!

    3. The Queen of ThornsJune 27, 2018 at 11:04 AM

      Greetings, brave Kombatants! Congratulations to making it to this late stage in the game. You should be very proud.

      I'm delighted to see these entries, as they are entirely new to me, so I get to have OPINIONS. The short version is: I vote for DADDY MAP.

      Now here's why. Like other judges, I'm engaged by the voice in both query and pages and the very personal stakes of the MC's conflict. However, just as important, I'm also troubled by the seeming use of the "blind seer" trope in CARRION MY WAYWARD SON entry. If the author is not familiar with it, here is a link to an explanation of it and some related disability superpower tropes: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlindSeer. It's entirely possible this isn't the direction the author intended the entry to go and the reference to the blind character seeing through the MC is just intended to be a way to incorporate a notation of his disability. But even so, how that is incorporated and spoken about should be considered carefully.

      Queen of Thorns.

    4. If I were in a bookstore with a gift card, I'd buy both.

      Your query is amazing. I could just read this query over and over. I feel like you've told such a compelling story just in these few paragraphs. I like the mysterious air of your first page.

      I want to hug your MC and tell her things are going to be ok. To make a reader identify and sympathize with a character so much in just a few paragraphs is a feat. I'm having trouble with your stakes at the end of the query. What will happen if Allie fails? I've said this before, but your first page has great voice.


    5. Hi Contestants! You should both be so proud of yourselves for making it this far :)

      Ooh these are both such intriguing concepts! In CARRION MY WAYWARD SON I feel like the query is as tight as it can get with three different POV's and the plot it seems to have. Bravo on getting it condensed into a solid query. The voice in the opening is spot on and the opening line gives you enough intrigue to continue reading along.

      GOT ME A DADDY MAP your query is so perfect. You've got a lot of voice and I could tell it was 1940s even before you said it. I don't think there is a thing you can change to make it stronger! And your opening is so beyond perfect. I felt like I know Allie and her little doll.

      This was tough, but victory for me goes to GOT ME A DADDY MAP. I just felt like Allie's voice popped off the page and I wanted to continue on just to get more of her little voice.

    6. Congrats on making it this far! That’s a huge accomplishment.

      OK, so I haven’t seen either of these entries since round two, and hot damn. You both did SO WELL at making revisions that I’m having a tough time coming to a solid decision! Way to make it hard on me.

      I’m more likely to pick up Carrion on a shelf (just my personal reading tastes), and the stakes are right there. Clear as day. And I SO WANT TO READ THIS. But the voice in Got Me a Daddy Map … Holy cow. I’d like to get a bit more stakes at the end, but seriously, you paint such a beautiful and vivid picture. I just. How? HOW DO YOU WANT ME TO MAKE THIS DECISION!?

      I’ll stick to my guns and go with voice. VICTORY TO GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

    7. Thaddeus SpinsterJune 27, 2018 at 4:08 PM

      I like both and it is so hard to choose. I am only picking one over the other because it is dripping in voice. so my choice is

      Victory to: I got me a Daddy Map.

    8. Earthbound MisfitJune 27, 2018 at 4:13 PM

      I'm so impressed with these!! Congrats to you both, and I'd definitely read them both, too.

      Carrion: The writing of the 1st 250 is great, with a ton of atmospheric detail and great word choice—you set the scene immediately with a sense of tension and illicit behavior on the part of the main character. However, the query left me with some questions regarding Alora's motivation and view of herself in the larger context of Church vs. heresy, as well as why her father suddenly decides to start tracking her in the 3rd paragraph—I wasn't clear on what plot events occurred that effect his change in attitude.

      Daddy Map: I love how the query gives us an immediate sense of the writing style of the book, the narrator's voice, and the overall atmosphere of the story—very well done. The one thing that felt like it was missing to me was a little more hint about where the end might be headed. (e.g. is there something that might change her attitude about Mr. Rawls?) The 1st 250 live up to the query's promise in terms of an immediately clear voice, quickly establishing a sense of the narrator's attitude and surroundings.

      This choice was hard, because both are very strong contenders in very different genres, and floated to the top of the group for a reason, but…

      Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

    9. These both sound absolutely amazing!

      Carrion, I think you've done a great job in the query. It presents itself, but I also feel like it might be lacking a bit in the stakes department. I'm missing the sense of urgency that I so desperately want to feel. The first 250 is well written and but it feels so very far away from our protagonist. While you have 3 POVS, they can still be close when we are in that characters view.

      Daddy Map, the voice is absolutely amazing! It carries from the query right into the 1st 250, and I feel like there's a fat man looming over me, not paying me no mind. You did a really great job bringing me in close to the character. This sounds like an amazing story that has so many levels, but I feel like the stakes are a bit vague. I want to know what the secret is, and I want to know what happens because of that. What's the big dilemma? That's missing a bit.

      You two did not make it easy.

      Victory: Daddy Map!

    10. Jumping JellybeanJune 28, 2018 at 12:17 AM

      Both of these entries had me wanting to read more after the 250 words.

      I love the spunk and atmosphere in Carrion's entry. I want to go to the Frosted Vulture! The writing felt well done and effortless.

      Daddy Map oozed voice and really captured me. I did however have a few nit-picky comments-- like paragraph and 2 and 4 felt unnecessary to me. It made me impatient and want to skim. I love these kinds of details, but think you can wait after page one to add these in.

      Overall, I'm a sucker for voice and VICTORY goes to DADDY MAP!

    11. This match is TOO hard. Seriously, both of you remember me some day when these are bestsellers. But since I have to judge, here we go. Carrion My Wayward Son, you have such a killer first line and I love you.

      But Got Me a Daddy Map just has so much heart! Victory to Got Me a Daddy Map!

    12. What a pleasure to see two of my favorite entries in the Final Four!

      Carrion My Wayward Son:
      Everything is solid, so I'm forced to nitpick. In the query, I'd cut the comma between "young" and "magical tracker." The last two paragraphs have a lot of possessives, which I'm noticing, but I suppose that's not a big deal. Like I said, I'm nitpicking.

      Got Me a Daddy Map:
      OK, so I see the word Mama a lot and it's cumbersome. It also makes me wonder if this story is about Mama rather than Allie. My other concern is that the voice in the query -- with phrases like "improper woman" and "emotions are hard to handle" -- is too mature for a ten-year-old. And I have no idea what the comb stuff means.
      Minor point: There's no need for a hyphen after "Allie knows."

      I love the partial, though, and I'm drawn to the story right away.

      These are both compelling. Victory to CARRION MY WAYWARD SON!

    13. Both of these are really good, but Carrion My Wayward Son has my heart for the sheer darkness of the themes.

      Victory to Carrion My Wayward Son!

    14. Title: Carrion My Wayward Son

      Happy to see this one still is around! Lots of improvements here. I love the improvements, I honestly see everything I need here. I probably would revise edit the beginning sentences of the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs as they are a bit clunky, but the rest is good.

      First 250 Words:

      The first 250 words are better, but I note the following areas/things to improve:
      1. You name check Alora and Kirsi a lot. This is especially annoying as in the first page we don’t know who either of them is.
      2. “aimed an obscene gesture,” is vague. It seems like a missed opportunity to give us something real
      3. You stage manage/direct your dialogue a lot. You use a lot of adjectives where you could likely get away with, “she said,” and move on. It’s better for the dialogue to be written in a way that it, itself, conveys how something was said, rather than to tell the reader how it was said.

      Still, a big improvement, and there is lots of great things going on here. I like the pace!

      Title: Got Me a Daddy Map

      This query is adorable. I think you kind of hit the hot comb stuff too hard. Also hot combs later became electric, so imagining it on an open flame was kind of rough. I like this for the most part, though I don’t get a good statement of stakes at the end. I get that it presumably is Allie overcoming Mr. Rawl’s being related to a rapist, but….I wish we had something stronger there.

      First 250 Words:

      This is wonderfully done. Somewhat slow, but well written in a way that I trust the author will get to the point. The fact that it’s not too childish, but child-like is truly a marvel.

      Victory to: Got Me a Daddy Map
      I struggled here. Got Me a Daddy Map lacks a major element in the query, but it’s close enough. Carrion My Wayward Son has a great query, but I feel like there is still some work to be done with the actual novel.

    15. Congratulations! These are two of my favorites. It’s so hard to vote. In the end the only thing that’s swayed me was where the books fit into their genres.

      I have a little concern that rape as a plot point could be problematic in middle grade as children often “read up.” 12 year olds mostly read YA, while I don’t think an 8-10 year old is ready to deal with the subject. However, the voice and character is so, so compelling and I wish you only luck.


  2. These were both so good. I really enjoyed the tension and the stakes in both Carrion's query and first 250, but I loved the voice and the world that came through so vividly in Daddy Map's first 250.

    Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

  3. The Red CardiganJune 28, 2018 at 7:10 PM

    These are both fabulous, but the voice in one shines so bright everyone I read it!

    Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP