Friday, November 16, 2018

Fun Announcement!

I'm teaching a class at the Storymakers writing conference next May!

I went to my first Storymakers as a baby writer, and fell in love with the camaraderie of being surrounded by fellow writers, the amazing agents and instructors that appear, and if I'm being 100% honest, getting a weekend away from being MOM. I took a couple of years off when my youngest was born, and now I attend every year. I always come home with new skills I'm eager to try, and at least one new friend.

After the last Storymakers, I stopped by one of my grad school classmates' homes on my way out. We were talking about what I'd been doing all weekend, and I mentioned some of the classes I took, including one on poisons taught by Gregg Luke, a pharmacist and author. My friend and her husband said, "You could teach a class like that, for genetics!" And thus the idea was born. I pitched the class to the conference organizers, and a few weeks ago was informed that they'd like me to teach the class!

I would highly recommend the Storymakers conference even if I weren't presenting. The faculty and special guests are top-notch. The atmosphere is inclusive and supportive. If you're considering attending a writing conference in 2019, you should definitely check it out: http://ldstorymakersconference.com. While many of the organizers and attendees are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the conference does not have a religious angle and all are welcome to attend. I'd love to see you there!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

(a version of this post originally appeared on Operation Awesome)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts Thursday. I love this time of year; I honestly get more writing done than I do the rest of the year. I write more consistently, and I take more chances. I like who I am as a writer in November.
Because NaNo is such a big part of my life, I tend to reflect on it every October. I wrote this back in 2015 to share why NaNo means so much to me, and how it transformed me as a writer. Here it is again, updated for 2018:
 
When I was in college, I worked at an independent bookstore in Fort Collins (that sadly went out of business several years ago). One chilly day, I was working in the cafe, making drinks for several people sharing a table with their laptops out. I asked them what they were doing, and they told me about National Novel Writing Month. I was in my last semester of my undergrad program, and pretty swamped with applying to graduate school, but I filed NaNoWriMo away under "Things I'd like to do someday." I liked writing, but had never gotten serious about it. I thought maybe this NaNoWriMo thing could help me out.

And then I got married, and started grad school, and had a kid, all in a twelve month period. I was busier than I ever have been in my life. And I forgot about NaNoWriMo.

Then I finished grad school, and became a full-time stay-at-home mom. My husband decided to go for a second bachelor's degree and pursue an opportunity to work for our church's education system while working the 7pm-7am shift as an emergency department admitter three nights a week. I think that was probably the busiest he's ever been in his life.

I got pregnant again during that time, which for me meant dealing with horrible nausea and near-constant vomiting. My husband was gone all the time, my one-year-old was running me ragged, I couldn't keep food down... my life was a mess. And then at the beginning of October, we lost the baby. So while my poor husband tried to keep us afloat, I was mostly alone every night; no longer sick to death, but very, very sad.

On the 31st of October, a friend announced on Facebook that he was starting NaNoWriMo the next day. I remembered the people from the bookstore cafe, and how much I had wanted to join in at the time. My husband was at work, so I signed up for NaNo and spent the rest of the night jotting down some ideas for a novel. And on November 1st, I went for it.

Spending each night writing while my son slept and my husband worked was amazingly cathartic for me. Having something to look forward to every night helped ease me through my grief. There was also a great community of NaNo writers for me to talk to--I'd never had any friends interested in writing before. When I emerged victorious on November 30th, my husband threw a party for me with several of our friends where I got to read some of my book to them. I felt special again, not just an object of people's pity.

That sense of purpose and feeling of community is a huge part of why I keep coming back to NaNoWriMo every November. It's why I love the Twitter community of writers and other publishing professionals, and why I enjoyed contributing to Operation Awesome for the three years I was with them. I believe in NaNo's power to inspire writers, so when my region needed a Municipal Liaison last year, I volunteered. I love giving back to the program, and cheering my band of writers along.

Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? What do you love about it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Plot twist!

As you may have heard, my agent, Jill Corcoran, is leaving agenting to pursue a career with the Smithsonian. This is great news for Jill, who describes her new position as a dream job. I am genuinely excited and happy for her.

Of course, it does leave me looking for a new literary agent. I thought I would be absolutely devastated at the prospect, but the truth is I'm feeling optimistic. This is just a plot twist in the story of how I become a published author, not the ending.

Cross your fingers for me, friends.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Back-to-School means Back-to-Writing

My two older kids are back in school.




I love my kids, but those two constantly pick at each other, so when they're home all day all I do is break up fights. Now, it's just me and the three-year-old at home during the day, so things are much more peaceful. My daughter likes to take naps next to me in the afternoon while I work on my computer, which means I get at least an hour of writing time every day!

It's THE BEST. THE. BEST.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a scene to revise.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Closing the Book On a Chapter of Life

I have been part of Operation Awesome, a group writing blog, for just shy of three years. Today was my last post as a weekly contributor and team member. It took a lot of agonizing back-and-forth with myself, but something in my life had to be cut out, and I decided it was time for me to leave Operation Awesome.

It can be hard to cut things out of our schedule, especially things we love. I have noticed, however, that as I've grown as a writer it gets a little easier to scale back on my busy life to make time for my own writing. I'm not sure why that is; perhaps a greater confidence that my words are worth my time?

The wonderful thing about Operation Awesome is that it manages to live on through team member turnover. It's a fantastic resource for writers, both for practical craft tips and inspiration. It'll be in good hands, even if those hands aren't mine. I hope I'll get a chance to be on it again someday--hopefully I'll be one of J Lenni Dorner's Debut Author Spotlights! A girl can dream.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Agency Update

This week, my agent, Jill Corcoran, merged her literary agency with Transatlantic Agency. This is an exciting move, but it means some changes for me. I'm still represented by Jill, but will no longer be working with Silvia Arienti. Silvia put a lot of work into RESET, and I'm grateful for all her help getting it ready for publication. I wish her well in her next endeavor!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Meet the Grand Champion of Query Kombat 2018!

Dionna Mann

Dionna is a longtime member of SCBWI who has placed nonfiction kidlit work with Highlights for Children and Cricket magazine. As a work-for-hire author with Spooky Cheetah Press, she’ll soon have two non-fiction books for the youngest of readers published—one about killer whales coming out from Scholastic Press. (WOOT!) While attempting to master the kidlit craft, Dionna has penned a slew of children’s book manuscripts—from picture book biographies to middle-grade novels, from those that are sheer fun and silly to those that tackle serious themes. Her favorite pastime is front-porch sitting while squirrels frolic in her front yard and mourning doves seize the day through song. You can find her at dionnalmann.com and on her blog, where she celebrates kidlit writers, illustrators, editors, agents, and their lovely books.



"Got Me a Daddy Map"

Query:

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 good prospects—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. He must be the one! But when Allie discovers that Mr. Rawls is related to Gwen—that thumb-sucking bully—she covers over his red heart with black crayon and throws out his jar of chicken and dumplings. Now, with her plans ruined, Allie wonders if she'll ever have that perfectly drawn family that others have.

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.

Meet the Adult Champion of Query Kombat 2018!

Tessa Pacelli

Tessa is a recovering finance nerd and the professional wrangler of one short, human-like creature known as "the child". She has a couple of fancy degrees (Harvard, Stanford) which really just translates to "I am smaaahhht" and "I can handle things!!!" As you may guess from this quote, Godfather II is her favorite movie. In books and art, she's drawn to the tragic, the sad, the honest and the heartbreaking, because she believes that Crying Feels Good (TM). She writes woman-centric thrillers that feature strong, smart female protagonists who have their feet on the ground and their eyes on the prize. 

Currently, Tessa can be found online at @tessa_pacelli 

Meet the YA Champion of Query Kombat 2018!

Jessica Olson

Jessica currently lives in northern Texas, where she spends the vast majority of her time huddling next to AC vents. Whenever her two deliciously squishy children are sleeping, she can be found typing away at YA fantasy stories or voraciously tearing through the latest bestsellers. She eats way too much peanut butter (Skippy on a spoon, thankyouverymuch), is obsessed with Insanity workouts, sings her guts out at every opportunity, and doesn't think there's anything more satisfying in the world than a well-placed comma. Having earned her Bachelor's degree in English with minors in French and editing, it's safe to say she's a lover of words and doesn't see that stopping anytime soon.

"Carrion My Wayward Son"

Query:

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.

Meet the MG Champion of Query Kombat 2018!

Ryan Black
Ryan James Black is a husband, dad and writer from the flattest part of Manitoba, Canada. Ryan has been obsessed with writing and art from a young age, and commends his family for constantly encouraging him to persue his dreams. When Ryan isn't writing Middle Grade adventures, he can be found exploring the wilds around his house or tending to his pampered chickens. You can track Ryan's writing journey on Twitter @ryanjamesblack.





"Shiver Me Timbers"

Query:

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 nametag – growled ferociously behind the bars of a pink kennel.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Query Kombat 2018 Final Round Instructions


Here it is! The final matchup! It's been a thrilling month, and an agonizing one. I am honored to host the final matchup on my blog. Kontestants, you are amazing. All the anxiety will be over tomorrow!

Judges: You have until 8pm EDT on July 1st to cast your final vote. Comment moderation is still on. If you make a mistake with your judge name or aren't sure if your vote went through, email the querykombat account. We know judges have had problems posting this year; we recommend writing your comment in an email draft before posting in case it doesn't go through.

Many thanks to all who have participated in Query Kombat 2018. We couldn't do it without you!

Query Kombat 2018 FINAL Round: Got Me a Daddy Map vs Don't Mess With an Assassin Mom

Title: Mama's Chicken & Dumplings

Entry Nickname: Got Me a Daddy Map

Word Count: 38K

Genre: #Ownvoices MG Historical

Query:

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.


VERSUS


Title: BABYFACE

Entry Nickname: Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Word Count: 89K

Genre: Adult Thriller

Query:

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.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Query Kombat 2018 Final Matchup!


WOW! This month has been intense! We know your hair has been pulled out, your nails bitten down to the quick, and your refresh button completely worn out. Don't worry, folks, the stress of Query Kombat is nearly over. Our final round is coming up this Saturday. The final match will be up for votes June 30th-July 1st at 8pm EDT. All of our fabulous judges are invited to vote, and we hope you'll all show up to cheer on the final two kontestants. Here they are:

Query Kombat FINAL Round

Got Me a Daddy Map vs Don't Mess With an Assassin Mom

Good luck!




Monday, June 25, 2018

Query Kombat Round 5 Matchups



Yet another brutal round of Query Kombat! We're sorry to say goodbye to four more amazing entries, but we wish them luck with their agent requests!

Round 5 will be back on Mike's blog. It starts June 27th at 8am EDT and ends June 28th at 8pm EDT.  We can't wait! Our fingernails may not survive all the nailbiting!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us.

Round 5 Matchups

Got Me a Daddy Map vs Carrion My Wayward Son

Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom vs I'll Stand Bayou


Friday, June 22, 2018

Query Kombat Round 4 Matchups




Round 3 was 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 4 is around the corner, kicking off June 24th 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. (For the kontest. Of course edit your work as you choose when you go forth and query!)

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!



 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Query Kombat Round 3 Matchups




Round 2 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 3 is coming up soon! The round starts on June 19th at 8:00 a.m. and continues until June 21st at 8:00 p.m. EDT. Round 3 will be hosted only on Michael's blog. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please tweet at or email us. Send your revised entries using the same format and email address by Monday June 18th at noon EDT. This will be your last chance to revise for the contest, so make it good!


Round 3 Match Ups 

Raspberry Moon vs Got Me a Daddy Map

Planet Panic vs Shiver Me Timbers

GG: Found Family vs I Wish I Was White

Carrion My Wayward Son vs My Babysitter is a Skeleton

This Wasn't in the Job Contract vs Swimming with the Amoebas

No Heroes Here vs I'll Stand Bayou

Hungry Ocean Gods vs Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

Why Are You So Obsessed with Me? vs Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom


Good Luck Sweet 16 Kombatants! 



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Query Kombat 2018 Round 2 Instructions




Here we go! Round 2!


Entries are on my blog and Michelle's! This round lasts until June 16th at 8 pm EDT.

On Saturday the hosts may 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.

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the third round on June 19th! Winners may send in a revised entry to the Query Kombat email by Monday, June 18 at noon EDT. Use the same format as the previous times. Kombatants will not have any more chances to revise for the rest of the contest.

Reminders for the Entrants:
No commenting on your own entries until the last day of the round. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on Twitter or e-mail as soon as you 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.
Kombatants should comment on 4 other match-ups to help share the love around!

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!). Make sure to post under your nicknames! I still have comment moderation on, so if you forget to use your nickname or reply in the judge thread we can fix it. Just send me an e-mail or DM.

Query Kombat Round 2: Raspberry Moon vs You Octopi My Heart

Title: Under A Raspberry Moon

Entry Nickname: Raspberry Moon

Word Count: 56K

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Query:

On the eve of the galactic alignment, all practically-eleven-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 outsmart Enniston and save the universe. As the moon blazes pink, Emma learns about being brave and gets advice from two very different versions of herself from parallel realities. Emma must race across alternate dimensions to learn how to repair the universe and return home. But Enniston isn’t about to let that happen 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, and the full manuscript is available upon request. My magical adventure would appeal to fans of THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES series and VOYAGE TO MAGICAL NORTH.


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.


VERSUS


Title: The One That Got Away: An Octopus Love Story

Entry Nickname: You Octopi My Heart

Word count: 27K

Genre: MG Anthropomorphic

Query:

For a long time, Ceph, a giant Pacific octopus, has pined after Sylvia, the octopus next door at the bottom of the sea. She’s beautiful, bold, and clever, but before he can muster the courage to speak to her, he’s captured by a human diver and imprisoned in an aquarium. It’s an awful place, with kids tapping on the glass and two taunting eels in the neighboring tank. Even worse, he’s forced to rely on his kidnapper for every meal. But unlike the other captives in the aquarium, Ceph has the ability to escape. He learns that octopuses before him have done it, though none have ever made it back to the ocean alive.

Ceph has never been the brave one—he couldn’t even tell Sylvia he loved her. In order to escape the aquarium, he must face a room full of predators, get past the watchful security guard, and figure out just how long he can hold his breath out of water. Even if he manages to get back into the dangerous ocean, he’ll have to find his way back to his den. Ceph, who has always relied on his ability to camouflage, now must employ all his fight and flight skills to get home safely, all the while wondering whether Sylvia will even care if he returns. Octopuses are solitary creatures, after all.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is a 27,000-word anthropomorphic middle grade and was inspired by the true story of Inky, an octopus who escaped from the New Zealand National Aquarium.


First 250:


Ceph stretched arm after arm after arm until all eight were awake and independently exploring his den. His dominant right eye opened. Then the left. He blinked. Pressing his arms against his favorite sleeping rock, he peeled his body off. He floated for a moment, shaking off the drowsy feeling.

Today’s the day, he thought. I’m going to talk to Sylvia.

His skin shifted from lumpy brown to smooth reddish-orange.

He glided, arms floating around his body, to the front of his home –a rock den, slightly bigger than himself. He hovered in the entrance and looked out in the sea. It was a clear, still night in the Pacific Ocean –the water barely moving and satisfyingly cold.

Nearsighted, Ceph could hardly see Sylvia outside of her own den. He stared until her skin’s deep blush color came into view. He admired the white, polka-dots decorating all eight of her arms. No matter what color she turned, her polka-dots remained.

She was the loveliest creature in the entire sea.

And she was smart. What could Ceph say to her that wouldn’t sound stupid? He breathed deeply, oxygen ballooning through his gills. Then he moved forward, arm over arm, scooching across the ocean floor, practicing what he would say: Hello? How are you? My name is Ceph . . .

Something moved under Ceph’s second arm on the left. He shot straight up into the sea, the rest of his arms flailing, scaring the ink right out him.

Query Kombat Round 2: Got Me a Daddy Map vs A Boy Named Pez

Title: Mama's Chicken & Dumplings

Entry Nickname: Got Me a Daddy Map

Word Count: 38K

Genre: #Ownvoices MG Historical

Query:

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 you live at a time when people think your Mama’s an improper woman. But Allie knows—it’s not Mama’s fault she isn’t married yet has herself a child. The only reason she’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, Allie isn’t sure. One thing’s certain. Allie’s got a hole inside her that's full-up with empty, and she’s going to fill it by getting Mama married.

That’s why she and her cousin Julius Caesar are determined to find her Mama a good man—one who likes to sing, who kind-smiles, and most importantly loves her mama's chicken and dumplings. During their hunt for potential suitors, they place a red heart on her daddy map. But soon after she and Caesar decide on the perfect man for Mama, Allie finds herself covering over his red heart with black. And she's left with nothing but believing that her insides will never feel like a bucket brimming with sweet-smelling rain. 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—crazy 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.


VERSUS



Title: You Belong Here

Entry Nickname: A Boy Named Pez

Word count: 58K

Genre: Middle grade contemporary

Query:


Matthew Miller is a precocious eleven-year-old who dreams of becoming a famous filmmaker. He’s even given himself the name Pez because everybody who’s anybody knows memorable names are a must in Hollywood.

Despite what he’s been told, Pez is convinced he’ll make it in showbiz, most likely by the time he’s eighteen since he’s getting an early start. With the help of his neighbor Jasmine, he sets out to make his first film, a rom-com entitled Dog Loves Cat. He knows for a fact that his mom, who left home three months ago, will come back if his movie shows on the big screen at an upcoming film festival.

But then things start happening. Things showbiz people call obstacles, the kind that usually kick off Act II in the movies. His mom doesn’t seem to miss him at all, his dad’s PTSD symptoms return, and Jasmine runs away. Then a hurricane hits, flooding the mobile park where Pez lives and ruining all his film supplies. With Pez’s confidence wavering for the first time, he must choose whether to finish his movie or give up on his dream and, quite possibly, his mom.

At 58,000 words, YOU BELONG HERE is a contemporary middle grade novel inspired by my childhood neighborhood in Milford, CT. While its quirky characters will appeal to fans of the TV show Young Sheldon, it explores similar themes as Katherine Paterson’s The Same Stuff as Stars.


First 250:

Goodbyes get me thinking about Mom.

She’s been away on vacation for almost three months. Which, between you and me, isn’t actually a vacation. That’s why a lump is climbing my throat as I brainstorm the goodbye scene of my film, Dog Loves Cat. When Harold the Dog tells Kitty the Cat he loves her, she replies, “Oh, Harold, it can never be.” Then she takes his paws and declares, “Now, we must say goodbye.”

And then… and then… and then a big, fat nothing.

Usually my best ideas come during my walk home from school, but today my brain is set to one channel: Mom. Is she catching some rays on a California beach? Is she snapping pics of wildflowers in Montana? Or is she on a highway heading back to Dad and me? I hope so. Three months is already way too long.

But enough of the sad stuff.

I like life the same as I like my cinema: filled with LOLs and ROFLs.

Plus, I need to get home pronto to work on Dog Loves Cat. After all, the Future Filmmakers Festival submission deadline is only three months away so--

“Yo, Spielberg!”

Before I can spin around, an arm the size of Darth Vader’s Death Star spaceship wraps around my scrawny neck.

Butterscotch.

There’s only one person these Death Star biceps could belong to and that’s Fang. He’s trouble. Trouble with a capital T. And there’s no way I’m pulling free from his Arnold Schwarzenegger grip with these string bean limbs.

Query Kombat Round 2: Carrion My Wayward Son vs I Found a Magic Stone in Paris

Title: Song of the Vulture

Entry Nickname: Carrion My Wayward Son

Word count: 96K

Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:


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. That had been a close call. She clapped a hand over her mouth to muffle a laugh.

Kirsi’s dark eyes flashed her annoyance as she tugged her hood to shroud her pointed nose and deep olive skin. When the guards disappeared around the corner, she rounded on Alora. “Stop laughing, idiot. They could have seen us.”

“Exactly,” 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.


VERSUS


Title: Mist

Entry Nickname: I found a magic stone in Paris

Word count: 90K

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Query:

When sixteen-year-old Deirdre Walsh arrives in Paris to spend the summer at her grandfather’s, she intends to get to know the city like a local, even though she’ll have to fight grandpa on everything from curfews to the rip in her jeans.

But when he tells her about a stone of infinite power he’s been hiding and how she teethed on it as a baby, making her the only one able to wield it, playing tourist is no longer high on her list. The stone is faerie-made and the fey have descended upon Paris to reclaim it from the humans who stole it from them. After grandpa suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma, Deirdre follows the clues he left for her and sets off to find the stone.

But before she can use the stone’s magic to revive her grandfather, the fey kidnap him from the hospital and issue an ultimatum: If Deirdre doesn’t relinquish the stone by midnight, they’ll murder him along with thousands of innocent civilians. Grandpa is no longer the only one she needs to save. In a city where trust is a lost currency and alliances come with a price, all she has is herself and the stone—if the dark magic it’s made of doesn't destroy her first.


First 250:

I slid my passport through the window. The immigration agent did not crack a smile as he began his interrogation. I stared back, scrambling to recall the few words of French I’d hung on to since eighth grade.

Allez-y, Mademoiselle,” he prodded. He didn’t look like the patient type.

I pulled out a phrase book from my pocket. I had studied it during the flight from New York but couldn’t remember a word of it now. My cheeks went red.

“You are here how long, Miss…Deirdre Walsh?” His French accent was thick, my name dissolving into a string of harsh consonants over his tongue.

“Two months,” I said.

“You stay where?”

“With my grandfather, in Paris.”

A door behind him opened, and a security officer entered the glass booth. The man was tall, all arms and legs, with hair so pale it looked white under the overhead lights. He whispered something in his colleague’s ear, bringing my interrogation to an end. The agent nodded, his gaze drifting past me as if he hadn’t been talking to me for the last two minutes. “Au suivant,” he called. The woman next in line walked up to the window.

The officer grabbed my passport. “Come with me, Miss.” I couldn’t place his accent but I knew it wasn’t French.

“What?” Fear prickled in the pit of my stomach. “Is there a problem?” I ran several international marathons every year and was used to traveling abroad.

Query Kombat Round 2: GG: Found Family vs #SexEd

Title: EXP

Entry Nickname: GG: Found Family

Word count: 52K

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (#OwnVoices)

Query:

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. But 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. The team will have to beat both their opponents and neuroses in order to keep the family together and make their dreams a reality.

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, somber 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 by the light of the candle. 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 the world of SoS, 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.

The candlelight reflected on the faces of Psy’s 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 him. 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 his master knew while he was all alone.


VERSUS



Title: Deafinitely

Entry Nickname: #SexEd

Word count: 79K

Genre: YA Contemporary (#own #dis #rehabilitated #WOC)

Query:

Lia Rossi plans on making the most of her junior year. Like, hello? She’s the new Social Coordinator, and her first order of business is advocating a Sex Ed program—for the Special Ed class.

This sounds sketchy coming from the town it-girl (read: party girl), but she really thinks anyone who wants safe, satisfying sex should be able to learn about it. Just as people start taking her seriously, the new girl in town, Fallyn, flat-out ignores Lia’s warm welcome into the student body. So Lia publicly humiliates her, like any sensible person at the top of the social ladder would. The only problem is, Fallyn’s Deaf, not rude.

Now, half the school, including the deaf and disabled students, are questioning whether Lia’s too shallow and ignorant to be anyone’s advocate. If she truly wants to be taken seriously—and if she truly wants to help fight a battle that’s not her own—Lia must do more than cross social divides. She must let the Special Ed students lead the way towards a sex and self revelation. No, scratch that. A revolution.

But if they fail, they will all reinforce the negative stereotypes society has placed on them.

DEAFINITELY has the air of Emma (Jane Austen), the activism of Moxie (Jennifer Mathieu), and the awareness of A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada and Reiko Yoshida).


First 251:

I’m in the center of the Student Council office. Like, literally standing before President Brooke and Secretary Emilio. They look me over as if picking me apart, searching for any flaw they can and will find. Especially Brooke.

“Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” she says. “You want to get on the Council and you’re using the Special Ed class to get there. That’s new, I’ll give you that, but—” She narrows her eyes. “You’re a silver-spoon slacker. Good ideas, but no real execution.”

I gasp, blinking hard. I mean, damn. That’s no way to talk to her future Social Coordinator. An angry blush prickles my cheeks, and unlike Emilio, my skin’s not warm enough to cover it.

But I can’t snap on them.

Under no circumstances can I blow this interview. Not only do I need the Council’s resources for my Sex Ed campaign (#prioritiesONpoint), but I can’t go home with bad news. I haven’t mastered the art of crying beautifully yet, so no way is that an option.

I raise a perfectly arched eyebrow. “I don’t know about you, but sex will never get boring for me. This isn’t some little high school project. This is life, and love, and sex.

“For people with disabilities,” Emilio says, feeling the need to point out the obvious. He’s reviewing my proposal sheet and running his knuckle against his bottom lip, back and forth, back and forth, back. And. Forth. “Your proposal looks good, but I’m curious. Why do you care?”

Query Kombat Round 2: Cowboys vs Zombie Pirates vs Hungry Ocean Gods

Title: String Theory

Entry Nickname: Cowboys Versus Zombie Pirates

Word Count: 93K

Genre: Young Adult Speculative

Query:

Music is the key to all time and space.

Teenage violin prodigy Crystal Aislen learns her mother, who went missing seven years ago, has been lost in time. When an eccentric scientist gives her a violin that can open time rifts, Crystal becomes impatient with the process of searching for her mother and accidentally flings herself into the past. The specialized violin is her only hope of returning home, but its strings were scattered throughout history as she fell through time. Unless she can find all four before the temporal energy of the time rift runs out, she will be trapped in the past forever.

Crystal’s hunt for the strings will require her to stay a step ahead of some of the most ruthless outlaws of the Old West, outwit notorious pirates, and team up with Anna Maria Mozart. Each string recovered gives Crystal more control over time and space. However, each use of the violin risks giving away her location in time to wraith-like electric guitar players from a dark and terrible future. They are hell-bent on erasing Crystal from existence, and their sinister mission seems to be related to her mother. Despite being warned not to, Crystal searches for the truth about her mother’s fate. Her only clues come in the form of pages of sheet music dispersed through time. The music resembles a lullaby Crystal’s mother used to sing, but the true purpose of the composition will only be revealed when played in its entirety. It is a melody of hope, not only for Crystal to return home, but for the future of all humanity.

STRING THEORY is complete at 93,000 words.


First 250:

“Next.”

Crystal’s violin screeched as she halted her song at the sharp command, her mouth wide in disbelief. She had barely played three measures. The faculty member had interrupted her. Why? This was her best work, an original composition, but she hadn’t even reached the melody. They were judging her without allowing the long, slow opening measures to build in intensity and speed until the fire of desperation exploded in an anthem of triumph—like a lost soul finally finding her way home. She was up against a lot of talented musicians in this audition for the West Chester University School of Performing Arts. Any one of them could play Bach or Tchaikovsky with precision, but it took something more to connect music to the pain of loss, or the joy of reunion. She would never gloat, but if they didn’t let her finish, they would never hear the deep feelings woven into this musical ode to her mother. She needed this. Three measures?

“But I—”

“Thank you, Miss Aislen. That will be all,” the lead judge said with a flippant wave of her hand. The grey-haired woman pushed her wire-framed glasses up on her nose, leaned back in her chair, and folded her arms. “We have a lot of applicants to go through today.”

Surely there had been a mistake. Did they even look at the composition she gave them? It had a complex series of layered chords. The chorus alone demonstrated every classical skill. It would have made her mother proud.


VERSUS



Title: Tidepool

Entry Nickname: Hungry Ocean Gods

Word count: 77K

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy

Query:

In 1913, Henry Hamilton disappears while traveling on business. His younger sister Sorrow, who sees Henry as her true parental figure, 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 and let her father send in the professional detectives. But then she encounters Mrs. Ada Oliver, a widow whose expensive black dresses and elegant manners set her apart from other Tidepool residents.

A visit to the widow’s home and a terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement lead 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 H.P. Lovecraft, Eric Scott Fischl’s DR. POTTER’S MEDICINE SHOW, and Cherie M. Priest’s MAPLECROFT.



First 257:


Sorrow Hamilton stood before her father’s enormous oak desk, feeling like a misbehaving student as he frowned up at her.

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

I’m 21, for God’s sake, she dared not say. You can’t stop me. “Betsy Mueller travels alone and has had no trouble.”

“Betsy Mueller is not my daughter.”

Sorrow’s fingernails dug into her palms. The odor of stale pipe smoke—a smell she had grown to detest—hung heavy in the air of her father’s study.

Winslow had definite ideas on what young ladies could and couldn’t do, and his “couldn’t” list was much longer and included many of the things that interested Sorrow—such as traveling alone.

But her brother Henry still hadn’t returned from a business trip, and she’d heard nothing from him since his stop in a town called Tidepool. 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 intended to start.

“It’s been over two weeks. He wouldn’t simply stay away with no word to us, 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, Sorrow. But what exactly do you think you’ll be able to find out?”

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

Query Kombat Round 2: I'll Stand Bayou vs Sister Witches Who Kick Butt

Title: Warden of the Lost

Entry Nickname: I'll Stand Bayou

Word Count: 99K

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Query:

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.


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.


VERSUS


Title: Destiny's Sister

Entry Nickname: Sister Witches Who Kick Butt

Word Count: 62K

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy (#Ownvoices)

Query:


Sixteen-year-old Draya has always been ‘one of the triplets’, which is weird because she and her sisters don’t get along at all. But Draya hopes that will change when they join the Ukatha, a society of African-American witches skilled in combat, weaponry, and spell-casting.

Draya is excited to learn magic, even if there are some drawbacks to using it for personal gain (who knew conjuring up a Louis Vuitton purse could get her arrested for shoplifting?). And it might not be a good idea to use her magic to get back at one of her haters at school, although she’s tempted. Besides, she can’t let anyone know she’s a witch, not even her boyfriend, if she wants to keep her people from being exposed to the world.

As Draya struggles to keep her magical and social lives separate, she tries to develop a closer bond with her sisters, but it’s not easy when they’re all so different—her sisters care about lame stuff like vegetarianism and cosplaying, whereas Draya is into fashion and going to the hottest teen parties. However, the triplets will need each other more than ever with the African male witch hunters—called kegali—coming after the Ukatha. When one kegali clan attempts to kidnap the triplets in order to use their magic to kill other witches, the girls train harder than ever to become strong enough to stop them. And Draya learns that working together with her sisters to fight against their enemies is just as important as keeping her individuality.

DESTINY’S SISTER is a YA African-inspired urban fantasy novel complete at 62,000 words. Filled with humor, magic, and sisterly bonding, this novel is like the TV show CHARMED with a mix of Zulu witch culture.


First 250 Words:


Whoever thinks triplets have an instant bond when they’re born should meet the Zennelle sisters, which I am one-third a part of, and which has driven me one-third crazy. No, maybe one-half.

“Draya, I thought you said I could wear the silver hoop earrings!” yelled my sister, Alaya, stomping across the carpet to where I sat at our vanity mirror. In the reflection, the crease between her eyebrows told me she was massively pissed.

Yep, definitely one-half.

I finished clipping the first earring onto my ear. “It’s whoever got to them first. And I got to them first.” I gave her reflection a smug smile as I put on the last earring.

“Mama! I told you I needed my own pair of silver hoop earrings! Why do we have to share everything?

Ah, disadvantage #1 of being triplets. Mama thinks she has to buy only one of everything and we can all share it. Even a car. Like, who wants to share a car when we all have separate social lives?

“You can wear my gold ones, Alaya!” Mama hollered from her bedroom.

I spun away from the vanity mirror. “What? You know, I’ve changed my mind, Alaya. You can have these earrings.”

“No, I’m fine now.” She rushed out of our room, her dress fluttering behind her.

I sucked my teeth in annoyance. I swear, after this ceremony, I might consider using a spell to zap my sisters to another country for a week. I’d try to have them back by next Friday. Keyword: try.

Query Kombat Round 2: Punk Rock Waitress Rules vs Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

Title: Someone Somewhere Summertime

Entry Nickname: Punk Rock Waitress Rules

Word count: 88K

Genre: Adult – Women’s Fiction

Query:

In 1984, punk is rampant, Warhol rules, and 23-year-old Pittsburgh art student Jessica is sick of missing the excitement. In SOMEONE SOMEWHERE SUMMERTIME, Jessica sets her heart on a grad program in England she can’t afford, to bask in new wave sub-culture and hopefully emerge as a multi-media artist. Yet hometown boyfriend Drew decides they need to see other people if he’s not enough to keep her stateside. She’s single for the first time since age 17.

Hellbent on raising London tuition, Jessica and her avant-garde roommates set out to waitress in New Hope, PA, a tourist town full of river-view eateries, galleries, and alternative clubs. The girls rent a leaky basement apartment, braving waitressing chaos, slam dancers, drag shows, and co-workers of all sexual persuasions in search of the unbridled life she’s been pining for. Then Jess meets Whit, a volatile new wave guitarist who crawls through her window and makes her head spin like a record.

Lingering ex Drew shocks Jess by announcing plans to move to California, and Whit accidentally sends Jess careening off the road in his Camaro during a jealous tiff, draining her tuition savings with an ER bill. Jess is left to decide whether her attachment to both guys is a reckless personification of her cracked-glass mosaic art projects, and whether either will hinder her dream to launch an art career by studying overseas.

SOMEONE SOMEWHERE SUMMERTIME is irreverent post-punk, coming-of-age women’s fiction with romantic, humorous, and LGBTQ elements, 88,000 words. SWEETBITTER meets a John Hughes movie.


First 250 Words:

I’m not a good enough liar to get a job on the river side of New Hope, where the real waitresses work.

A restaurateur in a lavender silk shirt interrogates me, tapping a finger against his lips.

“Jessica Addentro,” he reads off my application. This is the seventh place I’ve visited today, and I have an hour before I have to meet the girls for a ride back to Trina’s house. My feet throb like a drum kick. But I have a security deposit to pay for, so I need a job.

I sit at Capresi’s Continental Restaurant, sheltered between the canal and a creek that zig-zags as if it’s lost its way. Trina calls this town Pennsylvania’s answer to San Francisco, where the lifestyle choices are as assorted as the menu selections. It’s an artsy tourist trap sprung between multiple bodies of water, including the Delaware River.

The restaurateur pronounces my name with an Italian flourish. “Ad-den-tro. Do you know what it means?”

“Inside.”

“More like, versed in.” He winds his free hand in a circle. “As in, full of insights. Sound like you?”

“Depends on the subject matter,” I say. “But okay.” Sun-catchers glint behind the restaurateur amid a series of ceiling lanterns, revolving like some disjointed Calder mobile. Bookshelves and plants scream for a feather duster.

The man’s eyes flick down the page. “You live here in town?”

“Me and my roommates are moving into a place on Main Street this week.” Then life will begin.


VERSUS


Title: GREEN CARNATIONS

Entry Nickname: Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

Word count: 93K

Genre: Adult Historical LGBTQ

Query:


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 introduces Fin to every nouveau riche speculator in the city and soothes Fin’s suspicions with heart-thumping charm. Each provocative interaction heightens Fin's risk of exposure. But also brings Fin closer to his dream of financial security.

When Fin's dear friend 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, towards 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.

And it had to be because 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, but I needed 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.

"Fin?"

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.

Query Kombat Round 2: Tequila Mockingbird vs Don't Mess With An Assassin Mom

Title: Day of the Dead

Entry Nickname: Tequila Mockingbird

Word count: 89K

Genre: Adult Comedic Mystery

Query:

Claire Giannini is about to take the most terrifying step of her life – marriage. But she’ll have to find her missing fiancĂ© first. When Andre vanishes in colonial San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, during their annual Day of the Dead festival, Claire overcomes her fears of enclosed spaces, mummified bodies, stampeding bulls and short bald men named Cyril, in order to search for him.

Still reeling from her father’s death, Claire can’t bear to lose another person she loves. Not without a fight, anyway. Relying on her journalism skills and Italian-Irish tenacity, she finally tracks down the man who can give her answers. But he inconveniently drops dead, leaving Claire as the prime suspect and in danger of becoming the next victim.

DAY OF THE DEAD is a story of lost love and what happens when you discover more about your partner – and yourself – than you bargained for. It is a humorous mystery in the vein of Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich.


First 250:

The pregnant one frightened Claire most of all. Face twisted in agony as if the woman died mid-labour pain. Mouth frozen in a permanent scream. Midsection caved in like a collapsed soufflé.

“No epidural for you, I guess,” Claire whispered to herself. She looked around at the glass cases that lined the walls of the Museo de las momias and shuddered. When Danny said Andre was last seen in a museum, Claire pictured displays of old coins and broken pottery, not skeletal corpses with parchment skin and bared teeth. The mummified cadaver stretched out before her was naked to the ankles – resting for all eternity wearing nothing but a pair of filthy socks.

As horrified as she was, Claire couldn’t look away. Like the time her mother sang “I’m Every Woman” at karaoke.

She spun around to shake off the memory and spotted three teen girls snapping photos of themselves with the exhibits.

Mummy selfies. Peachy.

Between the jet lag and the sleepless nights since she got Danny’s call telling her that his nephew, Andre, was missing, Claire felt her head spin. What day was it again? Tuesday?

She’d intended to come down to Mexico to reconcile with Andre, not search for him. And to end up here? The thought that her plane had crashed and she was in hell crossed her mind.

What on earth had Andre been doing in this ghoulish place? He winced at the sight of a dead bird.


VERSUS



Title: BABYFACE

Entry Nickname: Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Word Count: 89K

Genre: Adult Thriller

Query:

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 a small Minnesota town. 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 child 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 back 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 really don’t have it together yet. Caroline was nagging me for Doc McStuffin the entire ride home and Jacob was screaming his little head off. I knew he was hungry. I knew because my breasts felt like two water balloons filled a hair short of bursting. 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 as he screamed louder. I felt like a PSA for birth control.

My eyes fell on the TV. Maybe the cartoon would distract him. 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 the pump, wincing as my fingers came back to life in a series of potent little stabs. If he hadn’t been screaming, 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.