Friday, June 1, 2018

Query Kombat Round 1: Carrion My Wayward Son vs The Kids Aren't Alright

Title: Song of the Vulture

Entry Nickname: Carrion My Wayward Son

Word count: 96K

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy


Eighteen-year-old Alora Delattre should have been burned at the stake; her power to possess other people’s bodies is an ability long 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.

But then Alora’s mother is murdered by a rebel force, and death by fire suddenly seems like a small price to pay for revenge. She takes over the body of one of the rebels and sneaks into their camp, but seeing the world through their eyes changes everything. She finally catches a glimpse of the blood and manipulation the world has suffered at her father’s hands. 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. But, curse her to ash, she can’t stay away from him. She’s risking everything letting him get close—especially while she’s wearing another girl’s skin.

But Scythe, her father’s magical assassin, is tracking her, and he’s closing in fast. Alora must choose: avenge her mother’s death 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 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:

There it was: the Pyre where Alora should have been burned alive.

The great pole that marked it shone white as a bone over the housetops as she and Kirsi slipped through the city’s slumbering shadows. That pole drew forth a slew of emotions every time Alora saw it. The strongest was the fear. Light and slippery as a whisper, it slithered just under her skin. But she clung to the spite that crackled in her bones, and she held her head high.

Hooves clattered on the cobblestones behind them, and Alora shoved Kirsi into an alley. They ducked out of sight an instant before the guards rode past. Her heart thundered in her ears. Excitement thrummed in her bones.

When she was sure they were gone, she pulled Kirsi back down the road. Faster now. The sooner they got to the Frosted Vulture and out of these deserted streets, the better.

Kirsi cinched her cloak tighter around her face. “I swear, if we get caught again—”

“We’re not going to get caught.”

Kirsi grumbled under her breath but kept tight to Alora’s side. They waded through garbage and urine in the gutters as they darted from one ramshackle building to the next.

They reached the crumbling remains of an abandoned shoe factory sometime around midnight. A sleepy-looking boy barely older than Alora barred her way and demanded the password. Taking care to keep her features hidden, she whispered the words in his ear. He let them pass.


Title: Dark Galaxy: Emerge

Entry Nickname: The Kids Aren't Alright

Word count: 105K

Genre: Own Voices/ YA Fantasy


DARK GALAXY: EMERGE is a diverse YA fantasy with sci-fi elements. Complete at 105,000 words, it is a standalone novel with series potential.

Alexia Jacobs—a sixteen-year-old black activist—has electrocuted her father. He’s on the edge of death, laid out in a ravine after her hidden powers got the best of them both. And if Alexia wants to stay free from death row, she better run from the Black Coats—a regime her politician father built to police superhumans like her.

During her escape, a guide promises her a cure that lies in The Grove—a realm ruled by superhumans. After arriving there, Alexia doesn’t feel like an abomination. She has real friends, a teleporting boy and a pyrokinetic prankster, that almost make her want to stay. But The Grove is a lie, with no cure. Worse, her single gene variation will cause her to gain a new power every few years. Making any hope of returning to her old life, or blending in to her new one, a pipe dream.

Alexia still longs of going home to reconcile with her family but knows it’s impossible without a cure. When she hears about Knox-Oxley Labs, a group that offers the genetic cleansing she desires, she believes she’s found the solution to her problem. But Knox-Oxley Labs are more than what they seem: they’re a secret fraternity of Voodoo hitmen. Giving them her ever-evolving gene means handing them the power they need to become the master race in all realms and start civilization from scratch.

Devastated, Alexia now knows she will never be normal. Nor will she give up her powers to hurt innocent people. But when Knox-Oxley begins abducting her new friends in their search for her, Alexia must master her abilities to fight for her new world, and the one she can never return to.

First 250 Words:

Poor Faye Woods murdered her boss with her bare hands. Straight up squeezed her fingers through his skull and painted the walls red. At least, that's what they say...

The wolf.

The press.

The jury.

All the Normals.

They've served up so many lies, they've started to believe them themselves. "It's so sad what she did to that man. I just can't believe it." Stasi, my intern director, clicks her tongue. Both of our eyes are glued to the news screen. We haven’t been able to focus on anything since the trial started. "Without Croix Bullock’s testimony, she would've gotten away with it. Any one of us could've been next."

Except, this all started with Croix—the wolf, who's just as slinky and sharp looking as an actual wolf—and his fugazi witness account. He's the one who really did it. That's what poor Faye Woods confessed on the stand.

Everyone goes quiet and I hear Stasi scoff. "Don't tell me you still side with her, Alexia." Apparently, out of all her interns, I'm the only one who hasn't sad-grunted in agreement. All their eyes are waiting on me.

"I just...don't think she's guilty." I shrug. Suddenly, everyone's sad grunts shift to annoyed ones. I tuck a frizzy coil behind my ear. "Why is that shocking? None of her DNA was even found at the crime scene."

Russell, a fellow intern, rolls his chair out from his desk. "She's a Varien! All she has to do is use her abilities and walk away​."


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


      Okay, first off: your nickname is amazing. You absolutely earn both your Pungeon Master merit badge and a tip-of-the-hat. Well played.

      Onto the critique! Your query is solid. I think your opening line could benefit by being split in half at the semicolon, because "burned at the stake" is a great opening hook. The voice is great, particularly the second paragraph (love that "curse her to ash" bit). My main feedback concerns Scythe and Alora's father. Why, if her father hid her and presumably knows about her heretical ability since he did so, does he send Scythe to kill her? What powers does Scythe possess? Also, is it just Alora's ability that is heretical or all magic? Overall, very strong query. I think it simply needs a few more clarifications/details to push it over the edge.

      I'm digging the dark vibe in your 250 as well. Strong opening line and striking visual with the pyre pole. Your ending hook could use a shade more tension (maybe ending on someone demanding a password, or even Alora having a "Am I remembering the right phrase?" moment--something to serve as a dramatic hook to entice agents/readers to flip the page).


      Your query sounds intriguing, but it bounces between a lot of worldbuilding details with little explanation. Gene mutations, superpowers, new friends, her superhuman-hunting father, other realms, various organizations, etc. While interesting, these details also leave the query feeling a bit unfocused. My suggestion is to try and home in on Alexia and her arc.

      What does "got the best of them both" mean? How exactly did they end up in that ravine? Given that its her father, I think this sort of detail could provide a good emotional hook to let us get further inside Alexia's head. Also, the stakes as presented read less like a choice she must make and more of a foregone conclusion. It feels like you're telling us she's already realized that she won't be normal, so she's going to embrace her gifts and fight Knox-Oxley. Maybe rewind a step in the plot and end the query with her discovery of Knox-Oxley's miracle cure and subsequent realization it might not be as it seems.

      Love the opening to your 250. Very visceral and vivid. And the voice as Alexia watches the news really drew me in. My only suggestion for this might be to move mention of Faye Woods being a Varien up sooner, but that's minor. Your 250 is fantastic and I would absolutely read more of this. Well done!

      Ugh, I am so mad these two entries are paired together because I'd read both of these books in a heartbeat. Highlander got it wrong, there can be two, right? Right? No? Bah! Fiiiiine.

      Victory to CARRION MY WAYWARD SON!



      Your first line is a fantastic hook and you definitely have plenty of familial conflict in the plot. The second paragraph works, but I had to read it a couple of extra times to sort of get what was going on. There is something dry about it that I can’t put my finger on. It almost feels like a synopsis. But the information conveyed seems necessary, so I’m not sure what I’d change. Perhaps try to convey more specifically how this effects Alora emotionally.

      Multiple POV queries are really hard, especially on top of fantasy. So I’m impressed you made it flow this well. Good job.

      FIRST 250:

      Your opening has a great hook, just like your query. The pages rely a bit too much on telling us things when we could be feeling them. For example, you tell us she feels fear, and excitement, which you elaborate on with some good sentences, but since we don’t know yet what the characters are really doing, it might be good to really dive into how their surroundings make them feel, so we can get a sense of tension even if we don’t know the plot yet.



      Wow, you got a great hook too. I like the way you elude to other characters Alexia meets, while not letting them bog the query down. I do think the query as a whole is a bit long. Since both the Grove and Oxley Labs are places she turns to that don’t end up working out, there is a sense of redundancy in the personal stakes. You might try to find a way to combine the two into the same thematic paragraph. Perhaps you can focus it even more on Alexia.

      But overall, I really liked it. Nice job.

      FIRST 250:

      I like this sample, especially with the beginning where you clearly set up the character at odds with …well, sounds like everyone. The main problem is we’ve lost sight of Alexia. I wasn’t sure that she was our perspective. If I’d read this without the query, I’m not sure I’d be grabbing onto any one in particular. Perhaps try and make it clearer who we’re following.

      This one took me a long while to choose because they are both great, but so similar in style, tone, and plot. I connected with one of the characters a bit more than the other, because they seemed to drive their own story more (which I know isn’t fair, but I'm stuck.)

      Good luck to both of you and congrats on getting here.



    3. ------------------------------------------------
      Carrion My Wayward Son

      Query: For a YA Fantasy Query this is very good. Not a lot of crazy details. You sort of hit the same point more than once, so I’d revise that a bit. We get that Alora’s power is forbidden, etc., so no need to hit us over the head with it more than twice. I like the idea, and the stakes seem well orchestrated. I am a bit scared of a 96K word count for a YA novel though.

      First 250 Words: you describe “____ in her bones” twice in this first 250. That signals to me that this is in need of a full editing pass. This really just describes the same beat over and over again, which makes me, again, feel like the author could stand to edit/revise/rewrite this to make it have more impact by being more concise. Other than that, the basic mood as set, it good. This Kirsi person is not listed in the query, so I assume she is not important.

      The Kids Aren't Alright

      Query: Your statement of novel type/wordcount should be last not first. Also much like Carrion, 105K is a LONG book for a YA novel, even a Fantasy one. It makes me assume you need to review/cut/edit/revise/rewrite.

      Beyond that, you’ve basically given us a lovely one page plot synopsis. It’s well written, and with minor tweaking could be used as your one page plot synopsis, but that’s not what a Query is. A Query needs to give us a taste of the characters, a very rough sketch of the major plot points, and tell us the stakes. The stakes appears to be learning to accept and control her powers to save her friends. If that’s true, about 1\2 this query can be cut, and you can use that now free space to give us more of an idea of what Alexia Jacobs is like. Also the first bit about who she’s electrocuted her dad feels like it is supposed to be a more evocative image than it is. I am certain in the novel it is, but here the details feel flat because we don’t know enough about Alexia to care yet.

      First 250 Words: The beats here are strong, good bones, but it feels a bit overwritten (particularly for YA.) I think a solid rewrite/revise could do it a world of good. There is a lot of text going on between the actual lines of dialogue (far more than a tag) so that could be edited down for clarity.
      Victory to: Carrion My Wayward Son
      Both of these are in need of some pretty serious work, but Carrion My Wayward Son’s query is much better, and for that, they get my vote. First 250 words are just hard, they take a long time to get right. Just remember this is your introduction and you need to put your best foot forward. Every single word should count, and start building something for the reader to really be able to hang their hat on. Neither author is really doing that for me here. Given the high word counts on both, I bet both could be able to cut things down with a strong editing/revising/rewriting pass.

      As an aside, both nicknames are amazing!

    4. Whoa. Both of these are really, both the concepts and the stories.

      Carrion My Wayward Son
      Holy cowz, what an awesome opening paragraph on the query. You had my attention with that last sentence, because it wasn't what I was expecting. The query is nice and tight and follows the character arcs beautifully.

      The first 250 word indicates a strong voice and also that you know where the story is going.

      The Kids Aren't Alright.
      The query in this one needs a lot of work. I get a great deal of plot and actiony themes--kind of like an Avengers movie-- but not a lot in terms of characterization. It's also a bit of an information overload in a couple of places.

      Multiple POV stories are difficult to query, and part of the reason why is that the author often feels the need to put ALL the plot issues into the query, rather than focusing on a specific character. Pick one character ... the one who all the others revolve around ... and trace her character arc through the query. That's how you get around it.

      All the other stuff is definitely cool, but you can't cram all of that into a query without overwhelming the reader.

      I thought the first 250 words gave a good hook and I would have been willing to keep reading for a little while longer to see how the story is presented.

      Victory to: Carrion My Wayward Son

    5. Carrion My Wayward Son

      you lose points for getting Kansas stuck in my head (just kidding, that song's pretty badass honestly)

      amazing stakes

      This query has hooked me completely.

      First 250:

      Kirsi grumbled under her breath but kept tight to Alora’s side. They waded through garbage and urine [ICKY. WHY DID THEY NOT JUST HOP OVER??] in the gutters as they darted from one ramshackle building to the next.

      [This is great writing, a great beginning. I…wish I had more to stay, but I just don’t. I want to read the rest of this immediately]

      The Kids Aren't Alright


      During her escape, a guide promises her a cure [for her superpowers? Or for her father?]

      Worse, her single gene variation will cause her to gain a new power every few years, [comma instead of a period] making any hope

      Alexia still longs of going [should be longs to go] home to reconcile

      [This book sounds amazing, ok. The query is long, though. I’d take out a lot of the detail: concentrate just on the fact that Alexia is looking for a cure so she can return to her family (is her father alive? Does she even know?), or else give up on that and learn to love her new life…then introduce the stakes that she has that choice taken away when Knox-Oxley starts abducting people. Drop some more specifics in about why Knox-Oxley might be after her specifically, and whether she might see a way to integrate her two worlds (maybe that’s the sequel?)]

      First 250 Words:

      [This is a very interesting beginning. Would definitely keep reading.]

      THIS IS NOT FAIR. I WANT TO READ BOTH. But in the end, one is just more ready at the moment.


    6. Carrion My Wayward Son
      It is obvious you have done a lot of work on this query. Good job.
      “She finally catches a glimpse of the blood and manipulation the world has suffered at her father’s hands.” – for some reason this sentence just made me stumble. I think it is “blood and manipulation” – somehow those 2 don’t seem congruous to me. Maybe it’s just the word manipulation in this context. Look at that word again, I think.

      “curse her to ash” – I get the desire to infuse voice, but I think this is too in-world for the query. Others may disagree. (it just distracted me, since it is such a long swear)

      “She’s risking everything letting him get close—especially while she’s wearing another girl’s skin.” – is there a way to reorder this and get specific? Letting him get close risks [what specifically? Her life? Her father’s plan? Her heart?].

      And is there risk to the people she is inhabiting? Are they alive in there? What is the risk to them?

      Sounds very cool!

      First 250:
      Neat world setup. I like the opening image. I don’t love the start of “there it was” – I wonder if there is a way to write the sentence but make it active. The second half is so strong, but the first few words are so passive.


      The Kids Aren't Alright

      Wow this sounds so cool! As it stands, it is just a tad too long (want to aim for about 250 words, and you are at 284). That usually means there is about 1 too many elements in a query, and that is how it feels to me. Not sure what could be cut down, but my gut is the Knox-Oxley paragraph is the too-long one.
      Maybe “they’re a secret fraternity of Voodoo hitmen, and with Alexia’s ever-evolving gene they could become the master race in all realms.” (just tightening it up there… you can probably do better, but you see what I mean?)

      I love the last sentence but I think the first two sentences of the last paragraph can be stronger… more action maybe? Or maybe just take them out and start with “When Knox-Oxley begins abducting her new friends…”

      GREAT job.

      First 250:
      I think that there are maybe too many names for page 1. I had to read it a couple of times to really lock onto what’s happening. But once I did, I found the scene really interesting. I wonder if you can tell us the trial is on screen just a bit earlier? I needed something physical to ground me before the dialogue and did not have it.

      I really like the rhythm of the opening.

      I am on the fence about the repetition of “poor faye woods” Was that intentional?

      REALLY TOUGH CALL. I want to read both, really really really. wow. I think the query on CARRION is stronger but I think the first 250 on THE KIDS is stronger.

      I really want to see where the query for THE KIDS goes.


    7. No one of consequenceJune 4, 2018 at 11:23 AM

      CARRION: The first paragraph of this query is so perfect. If you mess with it, may a thousand biting moths infest your underwear drawer. It loses some momentum after that. You start both of the next paragraphs with 'but,' which isn't ideal. The second paragraph reads a bit like it doesn't know what you want to do with it. Kind of a 'and then this. Also this. And this...' sort of thing. Stick with the main character and the things that have impact on her, and try to keep the focus there. What happens isn't nearly as important as how it affects the character and what she must do/overcome.

      You are a good writer. Your first page has a lot of urgency and pulls the reader into the action. Tons of potential. If I can offer a few minor things, I might pull back a bit on the backstory in paragraph 2, reinserting that somewhere later in the first chapter. Get us into the story first, THEN explain. Also, if you could give a couple words embedded in the action that describe Kirsi, but without slowing down the action. Tie the description into an action that's already happening rather than stopping and giving us a descriptive sentence. For example, if you say 'Bill grabbed Suzie's arm' there's no description. If you say 'Bill grabbed Suzie's slender arm' you get a bit of a picture and only use one extra word.

      The Kids: The story promised in the first major paragraph of the query...kid electrocutes dad and now is chased by the organization that dad created...brilliant.

      The rest of the query confuses me a bit. You have The Grove and you have Knox-Oxley...both seem the same. Both are things promised as a cure that end up not. So it almost feels like it's a story that repeats the same thing in two different ways. For the query, I might focus in on the one that drives the plot, which I think is K-O, but I'm not completely sure. If the Grove is kind of a side plot, or a thing that happens quickly enroute to the main plot, I might leave it out of the query for clarity.

      On the first page...I love the writing and the voice, but I get lost a bit in what's going on. There are a LOT of names and concepts here. It's one of those things that's tough to gauge from just 250 words, as it might all iron itself out on the next page, so I hesitate to tell you to change it. But this might be a case where a slightly slower opening would help your story by giving your reader a chance to better understand what is going on.

      This is a super tough call, as both of these entries are strong. I think either entry would beat a lot of the other ones I've read, and just had the misfortune of going up against each other in round one.

      These are both projects that I can see finding success. But they tell me I have to pick.

      I'm going to say VICTORY to CARRION by a narrow margin.

  2. Song of the Vulture:

    Query- I really like the first paragraph. I would cut out 'people's' to make it tighter. As for the second paragraph, I would rework this sentence, "She takes over the body of one of the rebels and sneaks into their camp, but seeing the world through their eyes changes everything," but only because it starts out sounding too synopsis-y, after having read the preceding sentence. Other than that, you do a fantastic job setting up the stakes and the conflict. Good job.

    First 250- Love the first sentence, but I think it can be tightened. Maybe something like, "There it was: the Pyre where Alora should have burned."

    So, for this part: "The strongest was the fear. Light and slippery as a whisper, it slithered just under her skin. But she clung to the spite that crackled in her bones, and she held her head high." These prose sound too purple for me. Emotions should certainly manifest into physical reactions, but I would be careful getting too carried away with metaphor.

    I don't have anything to say about the rest of the excerpt because it sounds strong. However, I do have one thing to say about the first 250 as a whole. What is she trying to accomplish? I know it's only the first page, but we don't know what her goal is beyond traveling through the city. Why does she want to get to The Frosted Vulture? It would be nice to get an idea there. My suggestion would be to cut the excerpt earlier where you go into detail describing her fear, and use that extra room to mention what their immediate goal is.

    Dark Galaxy: Emerge:

    Query- There's a lot going on in this query. So much so that I think you can cut quite a bit out. To start, it sounds like there are two elements of the story that the query was set up to build toward; Alexia's conflict with her father, and Knox-Oxley trying to take over civilization. You should only focus on one. This will tighten the query up and reduce confusion.

    First 250- Honestly I would delete 'The wolf' when you list off all the people who don't believe Faye Woods's innocence, since we have no context for what the wolf is. This causes confusion. I know you explain who he is further down, but first pages are especially tricky because you want to intrigue a reader without making them feel lost. This borders on the latter. Readers are very sensitive to confusion in the beginning of the story, so you can't be as free about throwing out mysterious phrases knowing they'll get an explanation later on. However, if you did want to keep 'The wolf' in your list, then I would bring him to the end of it, then have the proceeding paragraph explain who he is. Eliminate the space between when he's mentioned to when he's described.

    Also, 99% of the time, you can delete all instances of the phrase "I hear." In your excerpt, "and I hear Stasi scoff" can be changed to "and Stasi scoffs."

    Hope this helps!

  3. Carrion My Wayward Son—First thing: awesome nickname! Your query is tight and compelling. The first words are nicely lyrical. One suggestion: I think I’d go straight from seeing the pole to letting us feel those feelings… you tell us, “That pole drew forth a slew of emotions every time Alora saw it.” But that line lifts me from her POV, so I’d cut it and just let us experience the sight of the pole with her, the fear slithering under her skin and if there are other emotions, either mention them or don’t mention the slew of them that she always felt because you only describe the fear. Otherwise, I was engaged throughout. I was a a bit taken aback by the abandoned shoe factory, which felt very modern compared to the rest of the piece. The genre of fantasy does not lend itself to the same mental images for me as urban fantasy or maybe dystopian. Nothing else in the query or opening pages has that modern vibe to it, so if it doesn’t matter, I might make it a different kind of building, but that's minor. I’d definitely keep reading. I loved The Host as a comp, and I think there’s some deliciously wonderful tension described here!

    The Kids Aren’t Alright—Another awesome nickname! I love the premise of the story, and I’m always happy to read superpower stories. I think that the query is very interesting, but on the long side, so if you can put the blurb into three paragraphs instead of four, I think you’d get a stronger result. First paragraph—nicely done. Second, good. Third and fourth, I feel like need to be combined and hit on only the most important parts of the tension. In the 250, that first paragraph is great and attention-gripping. You set up the conflict nicely and show that in this world, people without these abilities are not trusted and are being set up to take the fall for other people’s crimes. Nicely done!
    Best wishes to you both!

  4. Huh, two stories with politician dad-types. I see why these two got matched.

    Carrion My Wayward Son

    Excellent hooks abound. From Alora’s familial situation to one of the POV character being blind, this is gripping and curiosity-inducing. Only potential issue is that I’m already assuming the rebel force has been framed for her mother’s death. If that’s actually the case, it’s too obvious. If it’s not… well done. You have an excellent dramatic tension in Alora’s choice.

    First 250, I’m wondering what they’re doing to get caught. It sounds like it’s after she’s supposed to have been hidden by her father (based on the query) but she seems to have a lot of freedom for someone in hiding or else getting burned alive. I’d also like to see the conversation with the guard instead of it be told in a distant voice. Otherwise, though, the voice is good and there’s nice tension right off the bat.


    The Kids Aren’t Alright

    It’s strange. This one is just a little longer than the recommended query wordcount (280 vs 250), but it feels much longer. There’s a lot going on here, and I don’t really know what Alexia does as the main character. She’s an inactive protagonist in this query. She electrocutes, she longs, she hears, she believes, she knows. Electrocuting her dad is the only this she actively does. Think about your novel and what Alexia actually does in it, not just what she thinks and feels, and bring that forward in the query. Make sure it’s not just things happening around her and the worldbuilding.

    I also got confused as to what the cure she was told about was for: her father or her powers

    First 250, damn good start. I don’t have much to recommend for the first page. I had to look up what “fugazi” meant, but then, I’ve been mostly out of touch with high school slang for over a decade, so I’m fine with that. Some people might not be. Consider if you want to keep the voice it adds provided that it also confuses and might not age well.

  5. Carrion My Wayward Son

    Query: This entire story sounds interesting. Your stakes are incredibly clear and make me want to read this book. I was a little thrown off by the introduction of a new character right before the stakes, though. I’d add another sentence or two about him to tell us why he’s so important to the story since we’re getting his POV too.

    First 250: The writing is so vivid and I can easily see this world in my mind. The only thing that tripped me up a bit was the timeline. “Slumbering shadows” implies this happened at night, and then we know they got to the shoe factory at midnight. Did this trek take a few minutes? A few hours? Maybe specify a little bit more on that.

    The Kids Aren’t Alright

    Query: Love the stakes, and they are clear in this entry as well. The first paragraph is strong and very interesting. I do feel like there’s a lot going on in this query, though. A few of these details can probably be removed and we’d still get the story. Right now it feels a little like a synopsis. Also, the last two sentences in the third paragraph should probably be combined.

    First 250: Your first line is definitely an attention grabber. However, I was a bit thrown off by the POV. I’m assuming this is from Alexia’s POV, so I was expecting to either see her name or get into her head before getting to another character (Stasi, in this case). Though it’s just the first 250 words, I’d like a little more characterization or internal thoughts to help show us Alexia’s personality.

    You both have interesting stories and I'd love to read these books. Good luck to you both!


    Right off the bat, I gotta ask, is this a Supernatural reference for your nickname?!?!?! Cause I totally dig it if it is! <3 I also love your story idea! So good! I love how there is so much at stake and the inner turmoil that you've set the stage to for your MC.

    General comments on query:
    - One question I had here is because it's a YA novel is Scythe a YA character (which he should be); I would change his section to "father's young magical assassin".
    - In the second paragraph, I would include what the rebel force wants "is murdered by a rebel force that wants to rid of the church" or something of that sort.
    - In this paragraph: "Alora must choose: avenge her mother’s death 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." I would also add in how she is also throwing herself to the execution stage, cause if she goes back, she dies too, right? Definitely add that in as a high stake!

    General comments on page:
    - I would add in a couple small details about what Kirsi looks like. When she presses her cloak tighter around her face, what does her face look like? Small pale face? Shocked mocha-colored face? Just a couple little details that help us envision this character.
    - I would also show instead of tell when the young man asks for the password. I think it will help put the reader in to the moment for sure.


    I am a sucker for stories like yours! I would read it in a heartbeat! So good!

    General query comments:
    - I would change this line: "During her escape, a guide promises her a cure that lies in The Grove—a realm ruled by superhumans." to say that she is promised safety instead of a cure (since the realm is ruled by superhumans I found it a little hard to believe that they would be giving out a cure instead of advocating for superhumans to remain super).
    - I would actually move a line up in your fourth paragraph to your third. Ending like: "a pipe dream without a cure." And then starting your fourth paragraph at "When she hears."

    General (and just super picky since I didn't spot much I would suggest changes) comments on the page:
    - I wasn't sure what a fungazi was ???
    - I notice you used ellipsis a few times. I would just use periods instead make the moments more concise.

    I really loved both of these entries, and I can honestly see why there hasn't been much commentary yet (I'm sure judges are going to have a hard time picking!). G'luck to you both with querying!!!

  7. Song of the Vulture

    First of all--loved the shout out to Kansas. I like that song.

    The query made me automatically say poor kid. I had a little pause at the plausibility of her falling for the people who murdered her mother, regardless of how hot or charismatic the leader. That actually made me dislike the protagonist somewhat.Made me wonder if she had a good relationship with her mother.
    Scythe sounds darkly cruel, but I wondered why he would be hunting her if her father had protected her in the past?I didn't get the feeling that her father was a tyrant, but I assume she comes to that realization with the help of her new friends. The name Chet threw me. It didn't feel right with the other names in the story. A little modern?

    Stakes are plenty high, but I'm not sure I could identify well with the main character based on the query. Three POV characters would push me as a reader, but that might not be an issue for most fantasy readers. I don't know if that many is customary for YA fantasy.

    The first 250 were fine, but didn't exactly make me want to sympathize despite the visual of the burning post. I wasn't sure why she was sneaking around. But it is a short sample and I am sure it is explained quickly. Suggestions for the query would be to show more of the internal struggle the MC feels over falling for someone who murdered her mother. I think that would help me appreciate her more as a character.

  8. Dark Galaxy

    First out, that count sounds high for YA. I approve. Agents might not. Not sure, but if it takes that word count to tell the tale, it takes the word count.

    First impression I had was that the protagonist was a murderer! Very relieved to hear it sounded more accidental, but then her father is listed as political and it made me wonder again. I am not predisposed to feel an emotional connection with the character at this point, but I felt more sympathy after reading about her struggles. I ended up feeling a little hopeless by the end. Poor kid. I was left with the feeling that regardless of how it turned out in the end, she was going to be miserable. Dystopian? Is there a ray of hope? Not sure.

    The first 250 didn't work well for me.I was immediately confused to be confronted with a name not in the query, and people I didn't have a real idea of what they were doing or what was going on. Then I saw the first person POV! Okay. Takes me much longer to get into this POV than third, and bonding with the character is harder for me.
    Maybe see if you can't move that dialogue higher to get the name in the reader's head faster?


    For the query, I think the first sentence is a little long. I would cut it, instead of the ; just make it a . and I think it will really grab my attention. Because I'm reading and still reading without thinking. But it is super strong, but a little long...the whole query. I would aim for less than 250 words, really, because if felt a little like a synopsis. You don't need to describe the relationship with the love interest so much, it is interesting he is blind, but it is YA so we know there will be lovey dovey stuff. The main attraction is the family dynamic and I think cutting some words would really help you out.

    Dark Galaxy
    I think your query is great...but again, a little long. I would find places that are more synopsis to cut than the actual story, because you have a great premise, but it is too much all at once. For your 250, I think get rid of 'Poor' and I think is will really add a punch, because poor makes it seem like I should feel bad for her, but only because you are telling me. Let me find that out! Other than that I like.

    Great job both! I would read both!!!!!!

    I think your query is very good, and nearly great. You did a good job of establishing stakes and tension in the story without giving too much away as to how the story goes or getting embroiled in needless plot summary. The one exception to this is Scythe, who feels very tangential to all of this- like the details about him were only in there to explain that there are chapters from his perspective. I think you could cut him in favor of the main thing I wanted but didn't get: Alora's personality. I got a much better sense of her father and Chet's priorities than hers.
    Starting your story midchase was a good call, I think (I did it too!) but the narrative voice feels kinda distant in places. The paragraph about the guards is resolved really fast when you could have used that moment to engender some tension and give us a clearer picture of Alora and Kirsi's mental and emotional states. I also think the paragraph that starts "the great pole" is in need of rewriting: The sentence structure is too staccato and the lines about Alora's mental state were a little awkward.


    I think your query is overstuffed at present. There are a lot of proper nouns, places and organizations, and few seem actually necessary to understanding what's going on. Worse, this creates confusion: Alexia is referred to as a "black activist", which I took to mean an African American civil rights activist, but later in the paragraph we learn about the Black Coats which made me wonder if "black" and "activist" had different meanings in that context. The entire paragraph about The Grove feels a bit pointless too because you could skip that paragraph entirely and lose no crucial context to the plot, stakes, or characterization. A "secret fraternity of Voodoo hitmen" sounds awesome but I don't get why they seek world domination or have such incredible gene-splicing technology, it's again a confusing descriptor.
    Your first 250 are pretty solid, I like that you immediately establish Alexia as more critical-thinking than her peers. That said, I'd move the "the press/the wolf/the public" bit to a little later on because our first shot across the bow with Alexia is her sounding a little... creepy, honestly. I also groaned when I saw "The Normals" as a proper noun- even by YA standards, that's cheesy. Instead, tell us WHO Croix is because I have no idea. A detective? Some sort of prosecutor who's also allowed to testify? Even just a word about what his testimony about would be helpful.

  11. Carrion My Wayward Son

    First of all, I love the clever nickname of your entry. Second, I love the concept and I would definitely read more! The first 250 seemed perfect too, and I couldn't find anything to critique. Guess that's a good thing!

    The Kids Aren't Alright

    You do a good job explaining the novel in the query, but there are too many details that make the query long. I think you could cut a lot from paragraphs 3 and 4, then combine them. As for your first 250, I don't see anything major wrong with it. I like how you set the scene. The writing is well done.

  12. Carrion My Wayward Son

    There's a lot to like in this query. I do feel like evil churches are a little cliche, though. (Actually, I don't think I've ever seen a *good* church in YA.) But that aside, I love the possession magic thing. And then add in the moral dilemma of the romance? I can feel the conflict in this book already, and it's got me excited. I'm impressed how much info you were able to get in the query and yet I never felt lost or confused. It's very solid. Onto the 250 words... dumb question, but does Pyre need to capitalized? Or is that something that's specific to this world? I wouldn't find it that odd if it was--just curious. Honestly, I don't have a lot of complaints about the sample. The eerie images set the tone really well. I can picture myself there. I'm wondering if there's some way to hint what she's up to, though. Why are they worried about being caught? I could see if that info is held off for too long, it might be annoying, but it didn't bother me at this point. Great work!

    The Kids Aren't Alright
    Whoa, that is an attention-grabbing opening line in your query! I was drawn to Alexia and her struggles right away. Small nitpick, I think this later line would be better as a full sentence rather than a sentence fragment: "Making any hope of returning to her old life, or blending in to her new one, a pipe dream." The query was easy to follow, though it did leave me wondering at the end how much of the story is being told here. It sounds like you almost get to the end of the book. I'm wondering if the query might leave readers in more suspense if you stop when she finds out about the Knox-Oxley Labs. Then you can show she has a chance to run and keep searching or stay with the friends she made. Just a thought. As the to the first page, I felt a bit disoriented in the beginning. I didn't even realize the story was in first person when I began reading. I think a few lines earlier to make clear they're watching TV would really help. Best of luck!