Saturday, June 30, 2018

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


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.



Entry Nickname: Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Word Count: 89K

Genre: Adult Thriller


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

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

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

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

First 250:

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

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

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

I would have changed it.


  1. Judges, vote here for the final time. Good luck!

    1. This boils down to personal preference and nothing else, so I am hoping that Got Me a Daddy Map finds the right agent and the right publisher.

      However, I love everything about Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom--from the query to the voice of the first 250 words, and I would buy this book to read for pleasure. It simply pops with tension from the first word and carries on right to the hook.

      Victory to Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom.

    2. No one of consequenceJune 30, 2018 at 7:13 AM

      I voted for both of these to advance in the previous round, so I suppose I'm at fault for having to pick between them. It's hard. Very different books. One of them (Daddy Map) has the voice. One of them (Assassin Mom) has the tension. Voice and tension are two of the hardest things to do in writing, and two of the most important.

      In the end, I'm going with tension. Making people want to turn the page is what it's about, and I want to see the next page of Assassin Mom.

      Victory to ASSASSIN MOM

    3. So, I voted earlier but my comment didn't show. Please delete this one if it's a duplicate.

      WOW. Two of my favorite entries have made it to the final round. Soon, one will be crowned the best of Query Kombat! I wish it could be both of you.

      The time for comments on your query and first 250 has passed. Instead, I say ...

      Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!!

      All the best to both of you. I can't wait to see your books in the bookstore and buy my copy!

    4. I've already critiqued both in the last round, so no need to be overly detailed here. These are both great concepts. DADDY MAP, you really, really need another sentence to establish the MC's goal and stakes at the end of your blurb. It's so important. I can't emphasize it enough. Not "What DOES she do?" but "What MUST she do?"

      I also can't say enough that these are both excellent and I want to read them someday soon.

      It's been a fun competition.


    5. Ahhh, I loved both of these entries from the previous rounds! The voice is absolutely stunning on both, and both have amazing concepts.

      It’s going to come down to query and stakes for me, as one of these entries just seems a bit clearer plot-wise.

      Victory to ASSASSIN MOM!

    6. Congratulations!!! You both have solid queries that I think need minor tweaks (see comments from the last round), so I'm going to let voice claim my vote here...


    7. Love both, as I've said and voted before. One intrigues me a bit more though, and so, since I have to pick one over the other:


    8. Congrats to both of you to making it to the championship. Well deserved. You are both great writers and I predict great things for both of you. There is one that I loved since I first read it so VICTORY TO GOT ME A DADDY MAP.

    9. Discount Wonder WomanJune 30, 2018 at 11:56 AM

      Both these entries are just... WOW. Got Me A Daddy Map exploits much important issues through the lens of a child, and Don't Mess With Assassin Mom seems like a great thriller.

      Two great entries, but only one can rule supreme. It's really just personal preference, and although I'd buy both these books (and definitely watch the Assassin Mom movie!), I have to pick one, and because I think we sorely need an MG book in this vein, VICTORY TO GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

    10. Wow, these are SUCH good entries! Congratulations to both of you for making it this far. I love them both, but the voice in the first 250 of one just grabbed a hold of me and would not let go. So ....

      Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

    11. This decision is SO DIFFICULT--I voted for both of these entries in previous rounds, and I'm so impressed by both of you and couldn't be more thrilled at how far you've made it. These are exemplary queries for your genres and age groups, so be plenty proud of yourselves! My choice is...

      Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

    12. Congrats you guys! These are two stellar entries.

      I’m choosing on voice here. VICTORY TO DADDY MAP!

    13. Two amazing entries that deserve a round of applause! Truly this came down to subjectivity... I loved both entries but for me it's victory to Daddy Map!

    14. Congrats on making it to the final round. These are both stellar entries, so now the true Thunderdome can finally commence! Two entries enter, one entry leaves.


    15. Sweet Baby Moses in a River Basket--I hate having to chose!!!

      I've read and reread these entries looking for SOMETHING that could be used as a "strike" but honestly? I can't find one thing wrong with them.

      So. You know that means my trusty coin flip.

      Victory goes to DON'T MESS WITH AN ASSASSIN MOM

    16. Congratulations on making it this far! It's a huge achievement.

      I love both of these entries so much, and it's so difficult having to choose one. The voice in DADDY MAP is fantastic, while ASSASSIN MOM appeals slightly more to my taste in genre. This is so subjective, but since I'd be more inclined to keep reading ASSASSIN MOM, I must vote:


    17. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 30, 2018 at 7:19 PM

      I love both of these and wish you both the very best with your careers, but since I have to pick one:

      Victory to DADDY MAP!

    18. These are both winners in my eyes! So hard to pick, but just down to personal preference. I think they are both so well written and would love to see both on the shelves (and don't doubt that I will do so soon!) Congratulations to you both, seriously, as you have wonderful books on your hands!


    19. Congrats to both for making it to this round. They both sound great. My vote goes to Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom. Best of luck to everyone who entered.

    20. This was such a hard call. Both of these entries were so fantastic and they're different enough that it's hard to judge between the two of them. Congratulations to both of you for making it to the final round!

      However, I must vote for one, and I just felt that the voice was a bit more compelling in Assassin so...


    21. Ugh. When I voted for these two, it didn't mean I wanted them pitted against each other! But, here we are, and I must choose no matter how hard it is for me to do. Great job, you two! :) this is a very subjective vote...

      Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

    22. Jumping JellybeanJuly 1, 2018 at 6:57 AM

      This is so difficult because both of these books are so different and so good in their own ways. You've both done a great job, but it's VICTORY to DADDY MAP.

    23. Bravo to both entrants for their hard work throughout this fantastic contest. Congratulations on making the final!

      DADDY MAP has improved the query significantly, addressing my primary concern is that it came off as Mama's story. This query clearly presents the story as Allie's. The tone of it comes off as more Southern than Chicago to me, and while it's absolutely a unique presentation, I feel it might be over the top by one jar of dumplings.

      ASSASSIN MOM's query continues to tighten, neatly presenting the dilemma faced by Geena Davis, whoops I mean Marybeth. The opening gives just enough current reality to set up the initiating event. I find both queries good, but this one more dramatic.

      Victory to ASSASSIN MOM!

    24. Congrats to both Kombatants! I think both of these entries have turned out so marvelously. I'd gladly read either of these books! But I have to say, my heart belongs to Got Me a Daddy Map.

      Victory to Got Me a Daddy Map!

    25. Congrats on making it to the final round! These entries both have so much potential, and I sincerely hope they find agents and oodles of book signing goodness.

      My vote is ... VICTORY TO ASSASSIN MOM!

    26. Congrats and good luck with the rest of your writing careers. I look forward to seeing these pop up again in the future, and if not these books, then hopefully something else from both of you

      I voted for both of these already, so I've been going back and forth all weekend, but


    27. I've already critiqued both in the last round, so I'm going to cut to the chase and pick a winner :)


      Both queries still need work, but first 250 of "Got Me a Daddy Map," is enchanting enough to make me assume the author can fix their query.

    28. I loved both of these when I saw them in the first round, and I'm really happy to see that they both made it through to the end. I don't think I need to rehash my prior critiques, so I guess I'll just get straight to it. Assassin Mom looks like a page turner, but I'm a sucker for setting and voice.

      Victory to Daddy Map.

    29. I love both of these, but ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, and I'm DYING to read one in particular.

      Victory to: ASSASSIN MOM!

    30. I just came back to see how the votes were going and realized mine didn't post for some reason. So it's late in the game, but let's try again!

      I love both of these, and have previously voted for both of them. So in this final vote, it's going to have to come down to subjectivity, because they are both super solid.

      I love ASSASSIN MOM and hope to be able to read the whole thing soon, but VICTORY TO DADDY MAP!

  2. The Queen of ThornsJune 30, 2018 at 6:55 AM

    Congratulations on being in the final round, Kombatants! Your work has stood out, earned praise and admiration, and you've earned your place here.

    This will be a terribly difficult vote for me because I have both strong reasons to like each of these entries and be excited by them, and some rather strong misgivings, too. As these are (looking back on past feedback) not so different from what you've already heard from other judges, I'll spare you the preliminaries and get to my thoroughly subjective vote.

    Given the choice between which of these books I'd want most to read, either to my children or for myself, my vote is for Don't Mess With an Assassin Mom.

    Good luck, and congratulations once again!

    The Queen of Thorns

  3. Both of these are fantastic queries. I think both of these queries are right where you want them to be, with at most minor tweaks.

    I just follow the thread on one of them that much more...


  4. These are both really strong entries and I'm not surprised to see them both here in the final! For me, it all comes down to voice, and I have to go with the entry with the voice that grabs me and won't let go. For that reason...


  5. These are both great, and honestly, both of you are winners. I am sure both of you will go far with these entries. At this point it’s just personal preference but one of these entries gives me chills whenever I read it.

    Victory to GOT ME A DADDY MAP

  6. WOW! What a ride! Thanks so much to all the judges! My query is better for it, and my confidence in Allie's story has been fortified!