Friday, June 1, 2018

Query Kombat Round 1: Capes & Clorox vs. Pollyanna Saves the World

Title: House of Heroes

Entry Nickname: Capes and Clorox

Word count: 91K

Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy/Romance

Query:

As a member of the exclusive housekeeping staff at C.A.P.E Quarters (The Crime-Fighting Association of Powered Entities), Dee’s duties include more than just windows … try cleaning up excretions of acidic slime, forgotten outwear-panties, and husks of skin left on the war simulator/foosball table.

During routine lab tidying, Dee is convinced to participate in an experiment. The laser that is supposed to make her appear invisible, instead alters her genetic makeup, rendering her able to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum. Suddenly she isn’t Dee Dalsey anymore. She trades in her apron for some spandex to become Prism, an invisible, ultraviolet-ray-wielding, forcefield-generating, bonafide superhero.

Meanwhile, her long-time crush is no longer speaking to her and Titan, the beefiest of the packing powerhouses, is doing a super job helping her to move on. Let’s be honest, who’s going to play hard to get when you’re five hundred feet in the air, legs wrapped around the country’s most sculpted torso? Sometimes spandex can be too constricting.

Dee is flying high until she realizes her powers are being manipulated to control the brainwave functions of the other heroes. Deity, a telepathic villain with out-of-control entitlement issues, has been carefully orchestrating everything. One after another, superheroes begin touting a “might is right” philosophy … even Titan. Dee must work with the crush who broke her heart to save Titan, the rest of the heroes, and the whole damn country.

A hybrid of Maid in Manhattan meets The Avengers, House of Heroes is a funny, feminine take on the superhero genre.

First 250:

Most people don’t realize that there is a right way to clean a toilet. There is a specific process. It’s practically an artform. However, when it’s your job to clean the toilet bowls of the most powerful super-humans on the planet, you become this specialized type of artist.

With a click of my thumb, the blue tip of my toilet wand plopped into the garbage bag. I pulled off my peep-yellow gloves and gave my project a final flush. Beautiful.

“Damn I’m good,” I said to myself. The solitary nature of my job always got to me by the end of the day. I ended up either having entire conversations with myself or singing without shame to the painstakingly-crafted 1980’s playlist on my phone.

“Dee Dalsey. Keeping superheroes hygienic one toilet at a time,” I said in my best Diane Sawyer voice. I raised an eyebrow and flashed a toothy smile as if posing for a headshot on the 6 O’clock news.

“Cute,” an unexpected voice answered from the doorway. My heart lurched into my throat at being caught in one of my privately weird moments.

“Henry! I didn’t see you standing there.”

He made an, “oh, please” face. I knew all his faces, and he had a whole repertoire of expressions locked and loaded in those big brown eyes. “Like you would have reined in your weirdness just because I was standing here.”

He had a point.

“Still,” I said. “It’s rude to sneak up on people. And get your dirty hand off the wall!”

VERSUS

Title: Suzannah in the Diamond’s Shadow

Entry Nickname: Pollyanna Saves the World

Word count: 138K

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Query:

Some 24-year-olds dream of making rent or finding love. Suzannah Zimri aims higher: she wants to rule Diamond, the shining capital of everything, the great beast of a city. Maybe she has the chops for it: she’s cunning and charismatic, good-natured and optimistic, and she has confidence- some say cockiness- to spare. She’s traveled the world, mastered illusion magic, broken up smuggling rings, and ran spy networks. How hard can it be?

Except Diamond already has a ruler: corruption. Industrialists smuggle in powerful drugs for the criminal syndicates, who pass it down to the people and make sure the police and government get their cut. Everyone benefits, besides the countless souls whose lives are destroyed by the beast.

Suzannah was chased out of her last city with the cops on her heels for trying to do the right thing. This time, things are going to go exactly according to plan. Suzannah goes outside the law as “The Conductor,” a masked avenger who unites the downtrodden. She gives the thieves and plunderers a taste of their own medicine, seeking justice for those caught between Diamond’s jagged teeth.

But she’s badly outgunned. Suzannah has to contend with ruthless mobsters, merciless merchants, and deadly private militaries all out for her head- with nothing to fall back on except a few friends, her magic, and her mind. If she wants to avoid getting devoured like so many others, her wits will have to be sharp. Diamond sharp.

SUZANNAH IN THE DIAMOND’S SHADOW is the first novel in a planned tetralogy. Fans of THE GOBLIN EMPEROR’S unconventional worldbuilding or THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA’S guile heroes will find plenty to love here.


First 250:

Suzannah had nothing and nobody, but she had the shadows.

It was dusk, and a haunting quiet had overtaken the areas surrounding Maurya Hill. Most days, the borough buzzed with dice games and gardening and drunken fistfights, but today there was only silence. Today, respectable people knew to stay inside.

Suzannah was not a respectable person. She was huddled in the alleyway that separated a cheap banana-leaf buffet from her third-favorite hair salon. She was trying to work up the will to duck her way through the open street and into the next alley.

Every passing second placed her things in greater jeopardy. Force Defensa had already sacked her apartments, costing her thousands of damaos, dozens of outfits, and almost everything else she owned. She had an emergency safehouse, but it was likely to be plundered too- and then she’d have nothing but the clothes on her back and her mother’s necklace.

But if she left the alleyway, she’d leave sister shadow’s embrace and be completely exposed. Then she might end up like poor Fernanda. They had been walking together to meet with Andre when Force Defensa descended. Fern was a great fighter, quick and fearless, but there was one of her and at least five ratcatchers. She had let herself be taken so Suzannah could escape- and those captured by Force Defensa were never seen again. In all likelihood, she had sacrificed her life for Suzannah’s.

The wound of losing Fern was too fresh to hurt yet.

22 comments:

  1. JUDGES ONLY: Please reply to this comment with your feedback and match decision. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CAPES & CLOROX

      There's a lot of humor in the query and I get a good sense of setting and premise. The idea feels a bit tropey and is obviously a take on a well-loved genre, but the down-to-earth, feminist vibes also make it feel like a fresh twist on that trope, and that's something that I think will appeal to agents. I did get a LITTLE confused with the characters. I had to read it a second time to figure out that the crush wasn't Titan, that they were two different people, and "Dee" and "Deity" are just very similar looking and sounding (that might just be me though; I have trouble keeping large casts of characters straight sometimes, so definitely see what other feedback you get there!)
      One thing you might want to look at introducing into the query is something in the way of personal stakes for Dee. Saving the world is great, but what's HER dream or goal for herself?

      The first 250 are fun and start in a place that lets you get in a bit of "voice" and really leave a strong impression that this isn't really a typical superhero story. Again, I don't really feel like there's a lot in the way of stakes here, though... it feels very much like a typical day at work, and other than wanting to do her job decently well, I don't get much of a sense of what Dee's goal is, either in this scene or in life in general. While I like the voice right off the bat, I don't feel as drawn into the character or story as I'd like to be.

      POLLYANNA SAVES THE WORLD
      The query is well-written and has a strong voice, but right off the bat I was asking myself WHY? Why does Suzannah want to rule Diamond? I'm also not exactly sure what stands in her way, except this vague sense of evil and/or capitalism? Who ACTUALLY rules Diamond now? Why would it be better for the city and for Suzannah if SHE were it's ruler? I just don't get the sense that there's a conflict here that needs to be resolved.

      The first 250 give me a great sense of PLACE, and I get the feeling that this is maybe a non-European-based setting, which would make me want to explore at least a little further. I definitely dig international settings and we don't get enough of them in superhero stories. But I also don't get a very strong sense that something URGENT is happening NOW. I understand that Force Defensa is AFTER Suzannah, but why? What is she trying to accomplish here? I just don't feel like the situation is clear enough for me to want to root for HER over THEM.

      This was a hard decision as both of these entries have really similar strengths an weaknesses. But the voice in one grabbed my attention a little more strongly so,

      Victory to CAPES & CLOROX!

      Delete
    2. The Red CardiganJune 2, 2018 at 12:02 PM

      Capes and Clorox: This is funny! I am excited abut this premise, as I have heard some buzz that superhero romance will be the new hot trend in romance. That being said, is this a romance? I have no feel for the hero in the story— other than that he has a sculpted torso. (not that that isn’t an important characteristic of a romance hero.) I’m also a little worried that Dee has no agency— is she driving the plot or is she just going along with all the things happening to her? Does she want to be a superhero? Would she have preferred to stay a maid? What are the personal stakes for her? First page has great voice. I was a little turned off at it starting with toilets, and I didn’t really want to be thinking about the bathroom habits of superheroes, but that might just be a personal thing. But to prevent turning off readers by starting with bodily fluids and excrement, you could think about re-writing to start with her cleaning a kitchen sink. Either way, this looks funny and I’d keep reading.

      Pollyanna Saves the World: This sounds like a great premise, but I had some trouble grounding myself in the story. Is it modern day? High fantasy or low? I think it was opening about her paying rent and finding love that pulled me out of an expectation of fantast. Also, does she want to rule the city, or carry out vigilante justice? It was unclear what her goal was. It sounds like a lot happened in this book (a lot of great things! Mobsters! Pirates! Exciting!) and I know how hard it is to take an action-packed book and narrow it to a query, but a focus on Susanna— her motivations, her stakes will help catch attention. Your wording is great and I love some of the turns of phrases. First page: Great voice, and great worldbuilding already. The tension is so well done— I felt so nervous for her. Great job.
      These were both good— this is down to personal preference.

      Victory to Capes and Clorox!

      Delete
    3. CAPES AND CLOROX

      QUERY:

      Love the voice of the query. It gives us a fresh view of superheroing (which is good because I’ve heard the superhero market is a bit saturated at the moment). I honestly don’t have much to say. The stakes are clear without being too traditional. I love the idea of a new hero having to fight other heroes.

      This sounds like a lot of fun.

      FIRST 250:

      I really, really love that she takes pride in her work as a toilet cleaner. Too often we see people in this line or work as downtrodden. It does make me wonder about the overall character arc. What exactly is driving her? Motivation doesn’t have to be dark, and from the tone of the book, probably shouldn’t be , but I’d like a little more to chew on.

      It can perhaps be tightened up a bit too. I think the third paragraph isn’t as strong as the fourth, and together they are a tad redundant. You could possibly combine them. For example. “I’m good” and “Dee Dalsey. Keeping superheroes hygienic one toilet at a time” sell the same idea, and I like the second better. But this is just a suggestion. I have a feeling pacing is important to this book. It’s got to be snappy and light on its feet and so far you’re killing it.
      Great job.

      POLYANNA SAVES THE WORLD

      QUERY:

      I’m digging the character work, even if it’s a tad direct and could use some more voice. I love how you set up your MC with great ambition and plenty of obstacles in her path. It’s clear what she wants and that she has agency(!). I’d like a little specifics to both her actions and the world building if possible. The city sounds gritty, which comes off better in your pages, but I’m wishing for just one juicy detail about Diamond that really makes it pop.


      Love the last line.

      Otherwise, I like it. Sounds like my kind of book.

      FIRST 250:

      Love the opening line. And the following paragraph is more of what I’m looking for in the query. I like the way you feel the city.

      It does start to lose me toward the end. There are some name drops and backstory that aren’t weighted in anything yet, and while you tell us what she’s doing, I wonder if it might be stronger to show us what she’s doing more specifically, and then building to the grander narrative. Your lead character sounds like a lot of fun, and I’d love a chance to get to see her showing her stuff as quickly as possible and getting more of her personality. Your nickname suggests she’s a Pollyanna, but I’m not quite getting that. I want to be in her shoes, and not just be told she isn’t respectable. Is there something she can do to show this?

      Great start. I love where you’re going with it.

      It’s cliché to say, but I hate having to choose.

      WINNER:

      CAPES AND CLOROX

      Delete
    4. CAPES AND CLOROX

      Fun opening to your query, and there's great voice here. It took me a few reads to realize Titan and the "crush who broke her heart" aren't the same person, so that could be clarified. The villain and conflict almost appear from nowhere, so maybe some early mention of Deity or some wonkiness with her powers. Also, Deity and Dee being so similar made me stop and blink, but that could simply be me. Overall, it's a good query that just needs a little tightening up/shading in of details here and there.

      Hah, again, great opening in your 250. Sort of feels like there's something missing from the first paragraph, however. Something akin to "A brush and some clorox will get the job done, but to do it right, there's a specific process" to then contrast with her needing to be an artist at it. Your 250 in general is funny and fun, but it feels like it lacks some conflict or a page turning hook at the end. Then again, hey, it's funny and fun, so that in and of itself can be enough.


      POLLYANNA SAVES THE WORLD

      I'm torn on this query. On the one hand, this world you've built sounds amazing. On the other, I'm not getting a solid grasp on Suzannah's character. You open with a list of attributes that feels more like telling than showing, and never really explain why she wants to rule Diamond? What's the point? Has she mastered everything else, so this feels like the next logical step? And what exactly is opposing her rule? Corruption is incredibly vague. That, and the opening list reads like "She can do everything! She's amazing!" which then feels at odds with her being "badly outgunned" later on. As I said, the world sounds incredible, but I'd like a better sense of Suzannah and her motivations--not just her goals and character sheet stats.

      Love your opening line and the sense of setting and atmosphere (although "sister shadow's embrace" confused me). My main concern is that there's a lot of passive voice and telling here. Granted, this is relating things that took place prior to the start, but that could be the problem. You're telling us what happened instead of what's happening right now. With an opening, grounding the reader in the moment often serves as a better hook then backstory.

      These both seem like interesting worlds and fun stories, but alas, much as in Thunderdome and Highlander, only one can leave.

      Victory to CAPES AND CLOROX!

      Delete
    5. ------------------------------------------------
      Capes and Clorox
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      Query: I rarely laugh and/or smile when reading queries, but I did both here. This sounds very funny and charming with just the right amount of heart. I’d just rework the first sentence in the 3rd paragraph because it’s phased oddly.

      First 250 Words: I adore this. I kind of wish this was told in present tense, but that’s not so much a critique as a personal preference. You just are doing so many things right! I’m just gushing! Sorry, I usually try to be picky and critical, but your query and first 250 are too charming! I might beg to read your MS after this is over.


      ------------------------------------------------
      Pollyanna Saves the World
      ------------------------------------------------


      Query: This sounds fun, but the query is a bit confusing. I wish I had a stronger idea of the main plot points, some more flavor of suzannah’s personality, and while I sort of get the stakes, I am missing them stated in a strong and compelling way that is making me want to read on.

      First 250 Words: This has a lot of telling about Suzannah instead of showing. In a madcap world like the one described you really need to give us a strong inciting incident that demonstrates a lot of what you are telling us. It’s hard, but you’re going to have to trust your reader to determine what kind of hero Suzannah is instead of telling them.
      ------------------------------------------------
      Victory to: Capes and Clorox all the way! I legit want to read this MS the second I can reveal my identity!

      Delete
    6. Capes and Clorox


      Query:

      Meanwhile, her long-time crush is no longer speaking to her, [add comma] and Titan,

      I would rearrange that last paragraph to add more mystery and suspense. Something like:

      Dee is flying high until, one after another, superheroes begin touting a “might is right” philosophy … even Titan. She suspects Deity, a telepathic villain with out-of-control entitlement issues, might be behind this totalitarian turn of events [or whatever :D]. Dee must work with…etc]


      First 250:

      Most people don’t realize that there is a right way to clean a toilet. There is a specific process. It’s practically an artform. However, [Take out the however] when it’s your job to clean the toilet bowls of

      I pulled off my peep [like the marshmallows, right? So it should be capitalized]-yellow gloves

      “Cute,” an unexpected voice answered from the doorway. My heart lurched into my throat [ I think you can take out “at being caught in one of my privately weird moments.” Assumed]


      [Great voice! Good beginning!]

      Pollyanna Saves the World

      Query:

      Everyone benefits, besides [I think “other than” would be better than “besides”] the countless souls whose lives are destroyed by the beast.


      This is a great, clever query with excellent voice. It is a tad long – if I were you, I’d just take out a few adjectives and adverbs to get it down under 250 words


      First 250:

      I’d take out the “but today there was only silence” in the first paragraph because it’s redundant, and perhaps reword/combine the first two sentences.

      But if she left the alleyway, she’d leave sister shadow’s [I’d capitalize – Sister Shadow’s] embrace and be completely exposed.
      EXCELLENT opening. Great worldbuilding, great voice, great tension

      The humor voice in the first one is very engaging for me. VICTORY TO CAPES AND CLOROX

      Delete
    7. Capes and Clorox

      This was a sheer delight ... from the query to the first 250 words. It sparkles like a clean toilet and I love it!

      Pollyanna Saves the World
      Another great query. I think in your first 250 words, you suffered from the same issue I saw in another of the fantasy entries in that you're trying to cram a bit much into those first 250 words so that the story feels forced rather than allowing it to unfold.

      You could build tension with short sentences and that would give the scene a little more energy.

      Frankly though, the humor in Capes and Clorox just wowed me, because humor is so hard to write.

      Victory to Capes and Clorox.

      Delete
    8. Capes and Clorox
      QUERY
      OMG I LOVE IT GIVE IT TO ME NOW

      First sentence of paragraph 2 is a little shaky. Can you voice that up a bit? Dee gets roped into an experimental laser test? Something more in line with the rest of the awesome voice please!

      Also tighten here: “Suddenly she isn’t Dee Dalsey anymore. She trades in her apron for some spandex to become Prism..” to “Suddenly, apron-wearing Dee Dalsy becomes spandex-clad Prism…”

      I love the twist of the ex having to help! This is great and I want to read it please now.

      First 250:
      AHHH I ALSO LOVE THIS

      “you become this specialized type of artist.” – something in this phrase didn’t sing for me. I think it is wordy? “You become something of a super-artist” or something snappier like that.

      VS

      Pollyanna Saves the World
      Query:
      Very interesting! I find Suzannah fascinating and I know lots about her. Kind of got thrown when you said she tried to do the right thing – I am getting “criminal with a heart of gold” feels here, which is great, but I wanted more warning that we were going there. At first I was thinking “power hungry dictator type”

      Love the closing!

      Just say “with series potential” rather than saying it will be 4 books. Also, make sure the book can stand alone either way!

      First 250:
      I think search for an action to highlight here. It’s a lot of thinking and walking, and not much happening in the moment. We need something more to lock onto in the first 250.

      There’s a lot of passive voice (search for “was”) and repetitive sentence structure, especially in paragraph 3. Go back and rewrite those sentences to make them more active, sharper, and tighter.

      Because of the description and flashbacks, I had a bit of trouble following what is actually going on at this moment.

      -------------
      VICTORY TO CAPES AND CLOROX

      Delete
  2. CAPES & CLOROX: LOL! The query made me laugh and really matched the voice in the first 250. I think your query does a good job establishing who and what and the stakes for Dee. I am curious to know which of the two love interests Henry is, which is good--I'd keep reading if there was more!

    POLLYANNA SAVES THE WORLD: The voice in this is nice, but I feel like the query spends too much time telling me backstory rather than what will be happening in the book. I understand she is a confident gal who wants to rule the city--but why? When I was 24, I had no such aspirations, nor did anyone I knew, so I'd like more insight on why this is her desire. I'm also a little sad to say that the bad guys sound pretty run-of-the-mill corrupt guys, so I am not sure where the fresh hook is hiding. The stakes are rather vague and don't give enough concrete things that might happen. As for the words, the first four paragraphs had me hooked, but the final paragraph was bit stuffed with unfamiliar terms/people that I don't care about yet, and I'd suggest focusing on Force Defensa or her sister without mucking it up with mention of another friend and giving the sister a nickname. It left me confused and not terribly interested in moving forward because it took away the immediacy of skulking in the alley in fear. Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  3. CAPES & CLOROX:

    There's a lovely lightness in the query tone and it's very voicey. The tone carries through to the first page which I think is important. Anyone who requests off your query will not be surprised by the pages.

    If you want to consider things to revise in the query, I was wanting to know WHO convinced Dee to participate in an experiment. Since her powers are the crux of the story, it might be something to explore how Dee was duped, so to speak. Also, It feels like it might be important to explain why Dee's crush (Henry?) isn't speaking to her since they ultimately have to team up to solve the problem. To make room for that, I'd suggest condensing some of the lines in the 2nd paragraph to get to the point faster. For example:

    When Dee is convinced to participate in an experiment, a mistake alters her genetic makeup, giving her control of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    In the pages, my only real critique is it doesn't feel like there's any tension, narrative or emotional, and I would argue that it's important to make sure there's tension in the first page so it feels like the story is pushing a direction. To me, it feels like the story hasn't begun yet which makes me wonder if you're starting too early.

    POLLYANNA SAVES THE WORLD:

    I really liked your first page. There's good tension and it feels like something bad is just around the corner. Good first line too. Although a couple lines felt confusing to me, like they were fighting the tone or contradicting themselves. An example:

    Most days, the borough buzzed with dice games and gardening and drunken fistfights, but today there was only silence. Today, respectable people knew to stay inside.

    The first line mentions gambling and fist fights which I instinctively understand to be activities associated with a more criminal element. But then you first throw "gardening" in there which doesn't seem to fit with dicing or fighting, and then you say today that respectable people stayed indoors. People engaging in drunken fistfights are not respectable people so I find it weird to use them as the comparison to the silent streets.

    There are also moments, both in the query and the first page, where you could condense the language for clarity without losing intent or voice. For example, a revision of the end of the 3rd paragraph could be:

    She was working up the will to duck through the open street and into the next alley.

    In the query, I felt myself wondering if there was an actual antagonist. There are a lot of vague threats: gangsters, merchants, military, corruption, but no one person or group that seems to keeping Suzannah from her goal. Which, by the way, seems to fall away by the end of the query. The stakes seem more concerned with her surviving these various threats, and I don't know how this fits in with her desire to run the city.

    Also, you use three colons in five sentences. The first one shouldn't even be there because it's not presenting a list. It should just be two separate sentences. The second colon I think works pretty well, but I'd consider finding a more direct or condensed way of revising the third colon. In fact, this is kind of where I was expecting to hear the name of the current ruler of Diamond. If there is a person, I hope you consider presenting them as a character. I'll still get the idea of corruption being the motivation, but I'll at least have a character to hang it on. Without a character/group, the tension and stakes feel far away and not personal. If this query were describing Daredevil, it's where you'd introduce Wilson Fisk as being the one running the town.

    Good luck to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Capes and Clorox
    This sounds like a really fun read. I love the premise! To me, it almost feels YA at some points, and I think changing the word “crush” would help with that. I’m not sure what adult-vibe word would be a good replacement, but crush felt so YA that I stopped to check the genre/age range mid-query. That might be because I mostly read MG and YA, so maybe that's just me, though. The opening paragraphs are well-written and entertaining. I really don’t have much to critique-- I’d definitely keep reading! Excellent work!

    Pollyanna Saves the World
    Love the set up. Tighten the query to give it even more punch. I was super intrigued when you reached the masked avenger part, and I’d consider starting there or getting there faster in the query. I’d cut the whole, “Maybe she has the chops for it” line because it’s a list of descriptions when the next line gives us evidence that she’s skilled. Be careful of overusing colons. I’d also cut “with nothing to fall back on except a few friends, her magic, and her mind.” If you go from all things she has to contend with directly to the next line, it flows better, I think “…all out for her head. If she wants to get devoured like so many others, her wits will have to be sharp. Diamond sharp.” That last line about diamond sharp is clever! I would not mention the planned tetralogy for a first novel. In the 250, my favorite line is, “She was huddled in the alleyway that separated a cheap banana-leaf buffet from her third-favorite hair salon.” We get so much from this one line! I’m not a fan of the word, “things” in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph. Maybe belongings would be clearer? The fifth paragraph has a lot of backstory—after mentioning poor Fernanda, move on… you don’t have to tell us yet what happened. We know it’s not good and we’re curious, but meanwhile, we have our main character crouching in the shadows, facing a problem. Let’s get back to the action, and you can weave more of the backstory in later. Lots of things to enjoy about this entry. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  5. HOUSE OF HEROES
    I have to admit while reading the query that I wished Dee had stayed a cleaning lady and saved the world rather than becoming a superhero. But, if that was her dream, and she got it, and the consequences are less than spectacular, that's good to. However, if it was her goal in life to be a superhero, I think you should state that.maybe at the end of paragraph one: Dee dreams of being a superhero herself, and (dare I say it?)ditching the Clorox for a Cape of her own. This would segue perfectly with the experiment in the lab. She wants this. Motivation clarified.
    Next up is the romance arc. I'm not a huge fan of romance novels, but the content of the paragraph hints at a pretty hot level of erotic content. There's a lot of lust there, and not much passion for her old flame. Also, there was no mention of him in her dream goal. Did she want to be a superhero not only for herself but for him? Did he truly love the Dee he used to know, and her new superhero persona bothers him? Maybe work that into her goals and show how her transformation affects him. But instead of winning the heart of her crush, he's not talking to her anymore. But who cares? She's living the dream and she has Titan.
    Last paragraph is stakes. Save the world. Typical for the genre. Save the guy. A little twist. But I am missing her own personal stakes. Does this life fall flat? Are her unnaturally acquired powers failing her? What happens if she saves the world but fails to save herself? I want to see what Dee risks and stands to lose in her quest.

    In the first 250. Good prose. Love that Dee incorporated her idea of grandiosity into her normal world.age of voice feels a little off to me. The talking to herself feels adult. The flutters feel like 15. But maybe he makes her feel that way. I don't like first person POV because I don't connect emotionally, and I didn't connect well here, typical for me. I had a sense of watching rather than being in character. Others may feel quite differently. That's probably subjective entirely on my part.

    Overall, good. Just want more of a sense of what Dee wants for Dee. Good job.
    Forgive typos. I have to do all critiques on my phone and I have fat fingers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Pollyanna

    And that's a good nickname for the character.
    First off, I don't feel attached to this character from the first paragraph. I see her pride, her arrogance, her ambition, but nothing to make me want to spend time with her, if that makes sense. Maybe see her get her comeuppance, but I don't feel the need to understand her. That first line in your 250? Instant sympathy. Instant. I would have loved to see that sadness and vulnerability in the first line of your query.
    I want to know why she wants to rule the city. Later you hint at her desire for right at any cost. Bring that up, and if you tie that to her ambition in the first paragraph, you have my attention and an interest in understanding Suzannah.
    You tell a lot of what she will be up against to get her goal, but little about what she risks for herself. Life and limb are obvious, given the plot. What about her? As a person? From the first paragraph I know she has a million things to learn about life, people and herself, and your word count tells me that there is space for her to learn it. I want some internal stakes. I want that vulnerability in that first line of the 250 here. She has no one. She's desperate for love, I think, acceptance,recognition. Show me.
    In the first 250, paragraph two feels like author intrusion. You don't have to say she wasn't respectable. I didn't understand the part about her things being in jeopardy. It feels like telling. Go right into the part about the sacking of her home. Build that sympathy.
    You give me so much to love about your Suzanna in the first 250, and you didn't need to tell me a thing. You showed her state and I loved her and wanted her to make it.
    Give me that in the query. You love this character who is so terribly hard to love based on her character traits in the query. I think if you can be more generous in the query the agents will love her too.

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  7. Hii! So I find it easier to make my feedback directly inline the query all my suggested edits and comments [will be made in brackets like this]

    QUERY

    As a member of the exclusive housekeeping staff at C.A.P.E Quarters (The Crime-Fighting Association of Powered Entities), Dee’s duties include more than just windows … try cleaning up excretions of acidic slime, forgotten outwear-panties, and husks of skin left on the war simulator/foosball table[ahaha I love this opening line. Packs a lot of voice and hooks my attention].

    During routine lab tidying, Dee is convinced to participate in an experiment. The laser that is supposed to make her [deleted a word] invisible [also question: is it to make her invisible permanently or to grant her the power of invisibility? Just because I think that’s an important difference. As a quick note, the original way the sentence was phrase made it sound like the laser would turn Dee invisibly forever], instead alters her genetic makeup, [granting] her [the ability to] manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum [ooh this sounds very cool! Just rephrased the sentence slightly so that it flowed better/sounded smoother imo]. Suddenly she isn’t Dee Dalsey anymore. She trades in her apron for some spandex to become Prism, an invisible, ultraviolet-ray-wielding, forcefield-generating, bonafide superhero.

    Meanwhile, her long-time crush is no longer speaking to her and Titan, the beefiest of the packing powerhouses[not 100% sure what you meant by the phrase ‘packing powerhouses’], is doing a super job helping her to move on. Let’s be honest, who’s going to play hard to get when you’re five hundred feet in the air, legs wrapped around the country’s most sculpted torso? Sometimes spandex can be too constricting.

    Dee is flying high until she realizes her powers are being manipulated to control the brainwave functions of the other heroes. [Deleted a sentence here. Feels rather late to be introducing another character at this point in the query, and I almost think it gives away too much and draws the tension/focus away from the conflict itself] One after another, superheroes begin touting a “might is right” philosophy … [including] Titan. Dee must work with the crush who broke her heart to save Titan, the rest of the heroes, and the whole damn country [before INSERT CONSEQUENCES HERE].[feels like outright stating the stakes of what would happen if she fails would really cinch this query :D ]

    A hybrid of Maid in Manhattan meets The Avengers, House of Heroes is a funny, feminine take on the superhero genre. [love the comps!]

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Overall, I thought this query was very well written with a good dash of dry humor that packs the voice! I think my biggest comment would be to be sure to include the stakes: what will happen if Dee fails to resolve the conflict. Other than that, this sounds like a fun and fast paced romp that I would love to read!


    FIRST 250
    I f*cking love your first 250. Love the character, the voice, the mundane-yet-not-mundane task she is doing and how it’s presented. Please don’t change it.

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  8. Quick disclaimer: I'm a bit out of my league judging fantasy, so take my opinion lightly.

    Capes & Clorox:
    Your query is great and really brings out an incredible voice that you manage to match on the first page of your ms. Two things you'll definitely want to fix:

    First sentence of the third paragraph of your query. It's a run-on sentence, and a bit awkward with the current phrasing. Lots of ways to fix it (break it into two sentences, for example), and I'm sure you'll find a fun way based on the rest of your piece.

    o'clock should be lowercase in your first page, and I'd also suggest spelling out six, so six o'clock. Most importantly, stay consistent throughout when you're spelling numbers like that.

    Pollyanna:
    As mentioned, this isn't my genre, but I was a tad confused in the query. You mention that Suzannah would replace the current ruler of the city, but the current ruler is ... "corruption?" That got me a tad confused. But my bigger issue is that I didn't get a sense why either Suzannah--or the city, for that matter--would want Suzannah to replace the current ruler.

    Your pages opens wonderfully. For me, the only struggle came near the end with the introduction of some backstory. I hope you might be able to sprinkle that in a little later, but you'll know better about that.

    Good luck to you guys. Great pieces both, and I understand how you were selected to move forward to this round.

    ReplyDelete
  9. POLLYANA

    Hiii, as mentioned before, I’ll be making my comments and suggested edits [in brackets like these]

    QUERY

    Some 24-year-olds dream of making rent or finding love. Suzannah Zimri aims higher: she wants to rule Diamond, the shining capital of [not a huge fan of the word ‘everything’ as it feels a tad too vague. Can you replace it with a specific name (ie. Name of the country/kingdom/empire of your world?] , the great beast of a city.[like this pair of opening sentence and already paints your MC as very ambitious] Maybe she has the chops for it: she’s cunning and charismatic, good-natured and optimistic, and she has confidence- some say cockiness- to spare. [deleted sentence here; something had to go to trim this down, and that felt the most unneeded as you’ve already dedicated one sentence earlier providing character information] How hard can it be?

    Except Diamond already has a ruler: corruption. Industrialists smuggle in powerful drugs for the criminal syndicates, who pass it down to the people and make sure the police and government get their cut. [deleted sentence; not plot related]

    Suzannah was chased out of her last city with the cops on her heels for trying to do the right thing. [okay, want to make a note here that THIS is where the plot seems to really start, and thus all the stuff previous to this is set up, and it’s a lot of set up. So I’m going back to see places that can be tightened] This time, things are going to go exactly according to plan. Suzannah goes outside the law as “The Conductor,” a masked avenger who unites the downtrodden. [deleted sentence to tighten things up]

    But she’s badly outgunned. Suzannah has to contend with ruthless mobsters, merciless merchants, and deadly private militaries all out for her head- with nothing to fall back on except a few friends, her magic, and her mind. If she wants to avoid getting devoured [by the city] like so many others, her wits will have to be sharp. Diamond sharp.[nice]

    SUZANNAH IN THE DIAMOND’S SHADOW [I LOVE THE TITLE] is the first novel in a planned tetralogy. Fans of THE GOBLIN EMPEROR’S unconventional worldbuilding or THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA’S guile heroes will find plenty to love here.


    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Overall, this sounds like a super fun book I would love to read with a very intricate setting. I think my biggest comment for the query is to tighten it, especially the stuff in the beginning so that we reach the meat of the plot faster.

    FIRST 250

    I loveeed the setting up of the scene, starting from the very beginning up to this sentence: “She was trying to work up the will to duck her way through the open street and into the next alley.”

    I especially adored this snippet: “Today, respectable people knew to stay inside. Suzannah was not a respectable person.”


    My only comment for up to that section is to maybe tweak the opening sentence so that it reads: Suzannah had nothing and nobody, EXCEPT FOR the shadows.

    The original way it was worded made me reread it several times/threw me off, as the second part of the sentence immediately contradicted the first.

    The fourth paragraph read well overall, though I would’ve really appreciated it if you could’ve replaced the word “things” with a more specific/descriptive word, as we don’t know the situation Suzannnah is in, and ‘things’ is so vague that it doesn’t help us out.

    The last paragraph is where things start to get a bit busy. I’m not quite sure what you meant by the phrase “sister shadow’s” though I’m sure it’ll probably be revealed through context past the first 250 words, though I’ll still note the confusion here. Three new characters (Fern, Andre, Defense) are all introduced in quick succession in the paragraph. Reading back through it multiple times, it all makes sense now, but I will admit the first time it felt a bit overwhelming. I’m wondering if you need to mention Andre at all?

    Overall, I really enjoyed the first 250, and like how you opened up with conflict!





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  10. I'm not sure I'm going to say anything here that hasn’t already been said, but I'll give it a try.

    CAPES & CLOROX

    In the query:
    I'd consider deleting "excretions of" and just let "acidic slime" sound disgusting on its own.
    "Outwear-panties" is a really awkward-sounding description.
    A combination war simulator/foosball table sounds awesome!
    First sentence of the third paragraph (starts with "meanwhile") is confusing as written. It might help if you split it into two sentences.
    Where is Deity orchestrating everything from? (behind the scenes?)
    In your last paragraph, "hybrid" and "meets" are redundant. It could/should be either or.
    In the first 250:
    I love the opening with the toilet!
    "Artform" should be two words.
    The "o" in "o'clock" doesn't need to be capitalized.

    Overall thoughts: This sounds hysterical! I love your voice and humor.

    POLYANNA SAVES THE WORLD

    In the query:
    You use colons three times in the first two paragraphs. I think I would try to cut at least one.
    You should fix the formatting on your em dashes. Right now you're using just plain dashes (which are shorter than em dashes). If you type a letter, space, type a dash, space, type a letter then you'll get the longer em dash.
    Instead of "ran spy networks" I think it should be "run spy networks"
    Suzannah sounds a little TOO accomplished…
    I would recommend replacing "besides the countless souls" with "except the countless souls."

    In the first 250:
    The last part of your first line keeps throwing me off. I get what you're saying, but only after I go back and read it again. It sounds pretty, but I'm not sure it's clear. You might consider rewording it for clarity.
    Same issue with the em dashes here as in the query.
    "Haunting quiet" – love this!

    Overall thoughts: This sounds interesting, if a bit predictable in terms of the bad guys' MO. Overall, I think your first 250 is pretty solid. You use some nice descriptive words, and I like the contrast between the loss of Suzannah's physical possessions and the loss of her friend.

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  11. Capes and Clorox
    This was hilarious. I've seen a few "real lives of superheroes" stories in urban fantasy before, but it's nice to see it from the superheroine's side, too. And I love how upbeat she is! A job like cleaning toilets could be a real drag on anybody. And it's not that she doesn't have ambition--she clearly does. She's just choosing not to get down about her situation. I love her already. Honestly, I only have one complaint about this piece and that's the title. "House of Heroes" doesn't give any hint about all the fun and hilarity inside the book. I know there's a better title out there. Heck, "Capes and Clorox" isn't too shabby. Just put some thought into it. Other than that, I think you're good to go. I want this book. ^_^

    Pollyanna Saves the World
    I really like the sound of Suzannah--she sounds like my type of character! I'm curious about her illusion magic. How it works, what she uses it for, ect. Obviously you can't go into a huge amount of detail at the query level, but maybe there's a way to hint at it when you're discussing her plans to take over? The first two and half paragraphs of the query are basically setup, and I think there's room to maneuver some of the information around while still keeping that excellent voice.

    I gotta say, the voices in both of these are incredibly strong. Very glad I'm not a judge right now.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Capes and Clorox

    Query: Love the humour that comes through in the query, and the twist on the superhero genre. My only suggestion would be to try and shorten it… for example, in the 3rd paragraph, not sure you need from “Let’s be honest…” until the end.

    1st 250: Love the voice! The first line through my off a little though, and wondered if starting at “When it’s your job to clean the toilet bowls of the most powerful super-humans on the planet, you become a specialized type of artist” would have more impact?

    vs

    Pollyanna Saves the World

    Query: Very compelling premise, and you paint a great picture of Suzannah. It left me wondering, however, why has she chosen Diamond? (Since she was “chased out of her last city”.) Is this her last chance? Or is there something about Diamond specifically that’s important to her?

    1st 250: Lots of great tension and high stakes right from the beginning. This is a small thing but I found that the mention of “her third-favourite hair salon” and “costing her… dozens of outfits” didn’t quite fit with the seriousness of the rest… or is that what you were going for? If so, go for it.

    Best of luck to both, great job!

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  13. House of Heroes:

    Love this premise! Yay for female superheroes! The first 250 fall right in line with the query. The tone is light and fun--I'm already enjoying being with the MC and wanting to commit to an entire book of her. I'd like to know more about the boy who broke her heart, especially because he comes back into the picture to help her save the world. As it reads in the beginning, I thought he was old news, and was not expecting him to play such a crucial role in the stakes. I would suggest giving him more of a focus in the query (what is his name? What makes him qualified to help guide superheroes and save the country? is there a reason for us to root for their relationship over the hunky Titan?). This looks like such a fun book!

    Good luck :)

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  14. Suzannah in the Diamond’s Shadow:

    This sounds like an exciting read! Both from the query and the first 250. I'm most interested in knowing how she came to be such a badass. Has she trained for this life? Did she fall into it? Also, there's no mention of a love interest (which is ok if there isn't one--if there is, don't hold that back). She sounds like a loner and there's only a reference to a few friends at the end of the query. I'm wondering if you're illustrating why in the opening, by beginning after one of her friends has been taken...is she alone b/c none of her loved ones survive the dangers of Diamond?

    You've done a great job letting the reader know exactly what he or she is getting: an action-packed read with a strong female hero. Is this a Robin Hood retelling of sorts?

    Good luck! :)

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