Friday, June 1, 2018

Query Kombat Round 1: Fire, Magma, & Metal vs God's Dead, Now What?

Title: Serf of the Mountain

Entry Nickname: Fire, Magma & Metal

Word count: 152K

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Query:

Manservant Ig appears to live the perfect life in service to the magnate. But no one knows of the flesh magic that will kill him if he disobeys a single command. Nor of the throats he’s slit and the bodies he’s burned to silence the whispers of rebellion.

Ig can control the magma running through the underground city’s arteries, and enslaved through his flesh binding, he works as the iron grip to Magnate Elías’s rule. With every addition to his hit list, the more Ig fantasizes about melting his master’s bones—anything to cure the festering conscience he thought he lost. But as Ig learns the identities of those calling for reform—and worse, befriends them—only death awaits his new companions. For none can stand between him and his victims.

After riots erupt in the city streets, Ig must find a way to aid the friends he is tasked with hunting down. He’ll also have to defy the one man he is powerless against, or bloody his hands executing anyone courageous enough to stand against him.

SERF OF THE MOUNTAIN is epic fantasy, complete at 152,000 words.

First 250:

Tonight was the night I would put an innocent man to death.

“Death by ash, or by ice?” Magnate Elías Adriann asked as he stood over the convict on a granite stage. I watched from beside the raised platform, among the magnate’s handpicked procession. It was impossible to find a resemblance between Elías and the kneeling prisoner; without knowledge of the scandal, no one would have guessed they were cousins.

Brian Adriann, now tasked with deciding how he wanted to die, only shivered in response. Ice crusted his beard and hypothermia had left his extremities black and gnarled like overcooked meat. A starry sky illuminated alcoves at the top of the sink hole, where Brian had roomed for the past week. Weeks of malnutrition up there, so close to the chasm’s lip, had already turned him into half a memory.

“Death by ash, or death by ice?” Magnate Elías repeated. He twisted the ring on his forefinger, expression grim, as if taking no pleasure in the trial. But I knew the truth.

Brian whimpered, and the sound provoked vivid imaginings of how I would kill him. Would he care I had no choice in the matter? Of course not. But what about those crowding the street, intently watching the trial? Would they ever realize I couldn’t say no?

Shame left acid on the back of my tongue. I didn’t want my part in this trial to affect how they saw me, even when an innocent man was about to die.


VERSUS


Title: Sleight of Spirit

Word Count: 125K

Entry Nickname: God's Dead, Now What?

Genre: High Fantasy (#ownvoices LGBT and ADHD)

Query:

A God draws their power from the will of their people, a Demigod from the will of the self, and a human mage out of the land. From across the six major planes of existence, worlds in their own right, Gods, Demigods, and mages migrate to the Arcane Institute on Meratain. There, advancement of knowledge erases all debts, oaths, and citizenships. It is the seat of power for Demigods and Gods alike, acting as a neutral, stabilizing body for all of its allies.

Selene Areste is a student at the Arcane Institute and the only priestess of Tenebris, the gender-neutral God of Beatified Darkness. Together, they shelter those who see darkness as s sign of safety. When a fellow student entreats Selene and Tenebris to help his dying world which refuses the Institute’s help, Tenebris is eager to help.

But the ritual ends in disaster. Tenebris is driven insane. Their followers die of suicide in droves. Selene must take responsibility for her role in the disaster and determine why her God failed. With the help of a girl with a memory disability and a woman possessed by a demon, Selene learns the price of a God’s hubris, the weakness in a Demigod’s will, and the human courage to kill her own God.

Sleight of Spirit is a completed, high fantasy novel told from multiple viewpoints which will appeal to fans of Magic: The Gathering stories, Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series, and anime such as Fairy Tail.


First 250:

The official color of the healers of the Arcane Institute was white. Selene found that funny; in her home country, white was the color of death. Elsewhere, it was the color of purity. To the God she served, Tenebris, white was the color of absence. The head healer said that white just helped him know when someone was bleeding.

Selene pulled a black silk scarf over her white robes to be sure that no one mistook her for a healer as she made her way through the hospital. It was a large, open space, and Selene marveled at its welcoming atmosphere. It smelled pleasantly of jasmine flowers today. The windows were tall and wide enough to let in ample sunlight, but strategic curtains allowed total darkness and privacy to any bed. About a quarter of the beds were filled, which for the Institute was good. After all, there were more than five hundred thousand students who access to the wards.

Around her, magical ether wards shimmered if she looked for them. The wards were active throughout the Institute. They were usually a communication structure, able to alert students to changing classes, jobs, communicate messages and even locate people if allowed.

In the hospital ward, they did all of that, but added health and comfort alarms for heartbeats, bleeding, and fever. Selene was glad to hear that none were active as she reached the Hospice area.

It was quieter here, more cozy. Selene knocked at the door labelled Farrel. “Animere?”

19 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FIRE, MAGMA & METAL

      Opening two lines read slightly off, and I think they'd flow better if you combined them. Other than that, this query sounds great! I wouldn't mind a touch more information regarding Ig's new friends, just to give us a way to humanize and thus sympathize with them more (and root for Ig to do the right thing).

      Great opening line for your 250. I think I'd prefer a touch more interiority from Ig. For example, instead of saying "the sound provoked vivid images," actually show Ig imagining how he'd have to kill this man, and then the reaction it provokes within him. Think you've also got a rogue comma that needs to go ("sink hole, where Brian"), but that's nit-picky. Really solid opening, overall.


      GOD'S DEAD, NOW WHAT?

      Hah! Love your nickname. Okay, onto the critique!

      Your query is front-loaded with a lot of worldbuilding. The opening line hooked me, but then some of the infodump got a bit too infodump-y for my tastes. I think if you can tighten up the first paragraph, it'll make it snappier and flow more easily into talking about Selene.

      As for Selene, this is all really interesting stuff that sounds right up my alley (and yay for MtG!), but I'd like more details. What kind of ritual does she help Tenebris with? What, exactly, are the stakes? The final line in paragraph three is intriguing, but too vague. What's the choice Selene faces? What are the outcomes for the results that push her one way or the other?

      I enjoyed the little worldbuilding details in your 250's opening paragraph, and appreciated the bit of tongue-in-cheek humor with the bleeding comment. That said, the worldbuilding and details in the subsequent paragraphs feel like they go on a little long. Don't get me wrong, it's all good stuff, but I want be grounded in a character at the start, not the world. Put us inside Selene's head and/or stick her in the room interacting with this Farrel person, then tell us about wards and the hospital and such later.


      Another very close pair of entries, but this is Kombat, after all, so there can be only one.

      Victory to FIRE, MAGMA & METAL!

      Delete
    2. ------------------------------------------------
      Fire, Magma & Metal
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      First thought, before i even read your query is “152K word count is a lot! That’s likely two novels even for an epic fantasy!” Okay onto the rest:

      Query: For a novel so long, congrats on giving us a concise query. My only real question is: If Ig is just going to die if he disobeys his master, what’s the real choice here? Does Ig figure out a way he can attempt to defy his master? Or is he just hoping his master won’t notice he isn’t doing what he’s told? For a novel so long, the stakes feel a bit low. I don’t get the sense this is EPIC Fantasy.

      First 250 Words: Decent writing, information is well placed. The novel is so long I assume there is more to this, but I’m not entirely sold on it.


      ------------------------------------------------
      God's Dead, Now What?

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      Query: Again a high word count, and given it, a surprisingly concise query! The incident that causes Tenebris to be driven insane could be clarified a bit (how? Also is it Tenebris’ followers who die? Or the ones of the student of the dying world? Also you have a typo in “who see darkness as s <--THIS SHOULD BE “a” -- sign of safety.” Also Arcane institute is related to Magic the Gathering (as well as “The Adventure Zone!”) so...maybe change that name? Given that your reference MTG I’m worried this is fan fiction.

      First 250 Words: Another typo in the end of the 2nd paragraph. You have far too much info dump going on. I’m sadly bored, which is odd because I’m a sucker for magic schools. However, I need to be invited in, and right now, I’m not. You might need to start with someone new to the world/school, because right now Selene seems to be begrudgingly explaining stuff to the reader.
      ------------------------------------------------
      Victory to: I don’t love either of these as is. However, between the two, I’d rather read God's Dead, Now What? So victory to them. I hope both authors take to heart they need to really rework some stuff.

      Delete
    3. The Red CardiganJune 3, 2018 at 5:18 PM

      Fire, Magma & Metal: Great Query. Tight and fill of tension. Looks like some stellar world building— I’m intrigued. I’m curious is there are more major characters. There is a mention of friends he has to aid, but I have no idea who or what they are. I’d like to have more specifics as to why he changes sides. Guilt? Because of a loved one? These are small things that could make this query even stronger. First page: The first line is great. Love this one too: already turned him into half a memory. When the magistrate repeats his question, I would change the wording a bit. Maybe even add a hint of emotion. Something like, “I said, will it be ash or ice?” Right now, there are only two lines of dialog and its very jarring that they are exactly the same. I like the last paragraph— I had a great understanding of Ig’s discomfort of his situation. Well done.

      God's Dead, Now What?: The worldbuilding here sounds great, but I admit I had to read the query a few times to figure out who was who. That may just be a high fantasy thing, though. The conflict is clear, and the stakes are laid out, but I don’t have any feel for who Selene is, and why I should root for her. I think another paragraph, or even a line telling more about the character would help. First page: This is very well written and I like the voice. I thought the descriptions were very good, but did feel there was a bit too much of them in the first page. A reader needs to be hooked right away, and excessive description immediately can drag the story. I loved the entire first paragraph, though. This sounds compelling, well done.

      Tough call. Both were quite good. But for a more exciting first page, I’ll award Victory to Fire, Magma & Metal!

      Delete
    4. Fire, Magma & Metal


      Query:

      With every addition to his hit list, the more Ig fantasizes [the way this is worded is cumbersome. I’d say, “The longer his hit list, the more…” or else “With every addition…Ig fantasizes more…”] about melting his master’s bones—

      But as Ig learns the identities of those calling for reform—and worse, befriends them[why would he do this? Is it part of his job?]—only death awaits his new companions.

      After riots erupt in the city streets, Ig must find a way to aid the friends he is tasked with hunting down. He’ll also have to defy the one man he is powerless against, or bloody his hands executing anyone courageous enough to stand against him [these stakes are a bit unclear. He has to either find a way to defy the one who has him enslaved and aid the ones on his hitlist, or kill his friends and anyone else courageous enough to stand against his deadly tyranny – something like that, right? Not those words, but that’s the concept].


      First 250:

      This is good worldbuilding, and good character development. I’d keep reading!

      God's Dead, Now What?

      Query:

      From across the six major planes of existence—worlds in their own right— [set off with em-dashes]Gods, Demigods
      When a fellow student entreats Selene and Tenebris to help his dying world which refuses the Institute’s help [I stumble over this phrase. I’d reword, something like, “A fellow student begs Selene and Tenebris’ help. His world isn’t an ally of the Institute, and it is dying [maybe give a hint as to why. Also, how is he a student there if his world isn’t an ally of the Institute?]

      But the ritual ends in disaster. Tenebris is driven insane. Their followers die of suicide in droves [Instead of telling us this, hint at it…maybe hint at what exactly went wrong, so we can see how the magic works, but don’t tell us exactly what happens, so it doesn’t spoil it].
      With the help of a girl with a memory disability and a woman possessed by a demon [you may not need to bring these characters into the query – they just complicate things. You rarely want more than 3 characters mentioned in the query, and you already have Selene, Tenebris, and the “fellow student”],
      First 250:

      The head healer [I think this should be Head Healer, not to be confused with head-healer] said that white just helped him know when someone was bleeding.

      After all, there were more than five hundred thousand students who [should this be with?] access to the wards.

      It was quieter here, more cozy [should be cozier].

      Wow! You really drew me into a world that promises to be very complex. Good job.

      These are both cool entries. One drew me in a bit more.

      VICTORY TO GOD'S DEAD NOW WHAT

      Delete
    5. Let me start by saying that as a fantasy author myself, you both have some of the hardest queries out there to write, and you’ve both got solid starts. Fantasy is really, really hard. I’m genuinely impressed that neither one of you made rookie mistakes like overloading with plot or characters. So cheers.

      FIRE, MAGMA & METAL

      QUERY:

      There seems to be some punctuation issues, or at least I think some sentences are broken up or combined in slightly awkward ways. For example, I think the first sentence of the second paragraph represents two ideas and should probably be two sentences.

      Content wise, you do a good job of keeping things simple, but I’d like to know more clearly who the antagonist is. I'm assuming it's Magistrate Elia, is that the one man that Ig is powerless against? I shouldn't have to guess.

      Also, why can’t anyone stand between Ig and his victims exactly? Is he controlled that thoroughly. I got the impression it was a choice between doing his job and the flesh magic. I guess I want to understand the main conflict a bit better, as it sounds like it could be very compelling.

      FIRST 250:

      I quite liked this. The internal conflict you present is nice and I think it’s well written. I don’t actually have much to suggest, except maybe to get into Ig’s head just a tad more. It’s not until the end of the sample that we get much of him.

      GOD’S DEAD, NOW WHAT?

      QUERY:

      Being that this is multiple POV epic fantasy, you have even more work cut out for you trying to make a great query, so well done for the most part. This could be much more complicated than it ended up being. (there are a few typos though, just a heads up)

      I like the way you compare and contrast the God, demigod and human ways of being. I’d think about starting with Selene though, as having a character with which to enter a world helps most readers. I’d also like to know a bit more detail about the disaster. Causing people to commit suicide sounds like it’s really bad, but how did that happen exactly?

      Also, minor, but you don’t need to say it’s completed. That should be implied by you querying people.

      FIRST 250:

      I love this opening. Some nice subtle world building and the last sentence is great. The whole sample overall, however, is a bit burdened with exposition. We don’t get a lot of Selene shining through the explanations, and I’d like to have her be a bit more active in the scene. With fantasy, it’s actually a good idea to set the scene and not just jump straight in, but I’d like to have an idea of why she’s in the hospital and what she’s doing.

      I like both of these, but I’m going with the one that’s a bit more polished and is a bit more character driven for me. I think you both should keep going. Best of luck!

      WINNER:

      FIRE, MAGMA & METAL

      Delete
    6. Fire, Magma & Metal
      I speak to you from experience when I say my heart breaks for epic fantasy authors when it comes to the query. How to involve worldbuilding and character stakes with the fewest words possible!

      You did a good job with the query. I felt like you were trying to cram too much information into your first 250 words. This is the other difficulty with basing a decision on the first 250 words with an epic fantasy. These things take a while to build (both in terms of worlds and with characterization).

      God's Dead Now What
      Religion is my thing ... well, not religion per se, but stories that twist religious themes and give them a new spin, which is precisely what you seem to be doing here!

      The query needs to be tightened and the focus needs to be geared toward the protagonist. I also got a little lost in the names. That's another difficulty when writing queries for epic fantasy (I've had to deal with that, too, so I feel your pain). In your case, I would recommend trimming as much extraneous information as possible and bringing the query in line to focus on Selene.

      Yours is a case of you've got all the right stuff, but just in the wrong order. Start with Selene, then segue to the Institute and then to the mass suicides.

      I'm not sure if it's necessary to tell us that the god is gender-neutral in the query unless it makes a definite impact on either characterization or plot, which you intend to show in the query.

      Queries are a bitch for fantasy writers for this reason. You've both got a ton of worldbuilding and great characterization; however, this is one time that it came down to word counts for me.

      Judging by the query for Fire, Magma & Metal, I'm having a hard time envisioning it as a 152K novel. Whereas, God's Dead Now What comes in at a 125K, which is more in line for a tight fantasy.

      Victory to: God's Dead Now What

      Delete
    7. Fire, Magma & Metal
      Query:
      Some of the phrasing is confusing. The first sentence of paragraph 2, for example. The order of the phrases… can you change to 2 sentences?

      I think that there is a lot here that is vague (the rebellion – what are they rebelling against? Magnate Elais? Why? What does he do other than have his hit man Ig kill them for disobeying… what? Laws? Does he have high taxes? Is he the only one with magic?) We need a clearer sense of the world. We have a very clear sense of Ig, his wants, and his situation and relationship with Elias. Set this more in terms of the plot.

      Can we get one of the rebellion folks who he befriends to have a name and description? That might help to personify what is going on, and to clarify.

      First 250:
      First line very cool but take out “was the night” because you don’t need it

      Take out the rhetorical questions, and reframe as statments. Do this throughout the manuscript.

      “It was impossible to find a resemblance between Elías and the kneeling prisoner; without knowledge of the scandal, no one would have guessed they were cousins.” – I didn’t get this at first, because you explain it after. He doesn’t look like his cousin anymore because he has been a prisoner, right? Or are you implying they have no resemblance anyway? If the latter, not sure why that is relevant and I would take it out. If the former, move to after you explain that he looks different.

      VS

      God's Dead, Now What?

      Query:
      I got confused at the end of paragraph 2, mostly in the phrase “to help his dying world which refuses the Institute’s help” – can you just say “to help his dying world” or better, explain the help he needs (help hide his dying world in darkness, or whatever the ritual is)

      “With the help of a girl with a memory disability and a woman possessed by a demon, Selene learns the price of a God’s hubris, the weakness in a Demigod’s will, and the human courage to kill her own God.” – This is a bit too vague in the second half of the sentence. You are at 212 words and could totally go up to 250 words on the main query section, and I suggest you flesh it out around this part. What is Selene trying to do after the disaster? Who is standing in the way of her doing this (is it Tenebris?)? And what happens if Selene fails to do the thing she is trying to do?

      First 250:
      Love this. Such a nice opening. Cool magic tech! Love the world building.

      I’d like a little bit more about Selene and a little less set description in paragraph 2.

      “students who access to the wards” – I think should be “students with access to the wards”

      Really good!

      -----------------------
      BOTH have great features.

      VICTORY to God's Dead, Now What?

      Delete
  2. Serf of the Mountain

    I think I like Ig. I might like him more if I felt he wanted more than to salve his conscience. He really is in a bad spot. I wonder about what he would do if he had a choice. I get that he will have to defy his master to stop the killings and that could result in his death, but if he was dead, his conscience wouldn't trouble him anymore. I think what I want to see is what's in it for him if he wins? Other than that, I liked the query.

    The first 250 give a clear picture of Ig as a pretty nice guy. I am curious as to why he considers the crowd's opinion of him to be so important. I couldn't figure out if he wants to be seen as terrifying or as a guy doing what he is told. Good tone. First person POV isn't my favorite but you did a good job in reducing the distance from the character for me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. SERF OF THE MOUNTAIN

    I dig your query letter and first 250, the writing is clean and evocative. You do a great job of using evocative details, like the ones about hypothermia.
    I think my primary concern is that Ig seems a bit thin as a character based on this sample. He seems defined by his relationship to the Magnate, to who he is enthralled- but why does he want to be free? If he's so overwhelmed with guilt, why not sacrifice his own life? I'm sure we get more of him throughout the novel, but a better understanding of him now would be helpful.
    The novel might hinge on the Magnate, I think. You have the opportunity to put your protagonist and antagonist in frequent interaction, which is a rarity in the genre. If he was a one-dimensional tyrant, I think I'd probably come away from this feeling pretty disappointed- and I saw nothing in this sample to suggest otherwise.

    SLEIGHT OF SPIRIT
    The opening paragraph of the query letter is cumbersome, too many nouns, too many concepts, no characters or stakes. I think you should start with Selene, except the second paragraph is similarly proper noun-infested. The last paragraph is really intriguing- focus on Selene and Tenebris as characters. I might do away with setting details entirely, or at least cut them down.
    I found the opening paragraphs a trifle dry as well. The meditation on the color white doesn't really tell me much about Selene or the school, and the bleeding line is good but not clever enough to grab me by the throat or anything. It feels like a very lazy beginning, like something from 30% of the way through the book. I'd consider starting with something more dynamic, or at least a character beat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Err, SLIGHT OF SPIRIT. SLEIGHT OF SPIRIT sounds like some sort of Christmas-themed horror story about Santa being stalked by a spectral Santa and his ghost reindeer... there's a non-zero chance that will be my next novel.

      Delete
  4. Slight of Spirit

    You about lost me entirely with the first paragraph of the query. I feel like I am drowning in world with no character to cling to. Additionally I was confused by the use of the modifier their in connection with the god's power. With the differentiation explained later, I don't know that you need it.
    You have a typo in the second paragraph to clean up, an extra s.
    Curious about why the student asks for help when his world didn't want it.
    I'm having trouble figuring out what Selene risks here. She learns a lot of valuable lessons but at what cost to herself? Is the loss of Tenebris and her faith her greatest risk? What does she stand to gain by killing the god?
    All questions your query raises for me when I read it.

    My main feeling on reading the first 250 is that I was floating in world again. I felt the author was telling me the details more than I was being immersed in them with Selene. Also, not much emotion or sense of change was there, although it is such a short bit to gauge the story on. The details were fantastic. Grounded with a character's emotion along with her thoughts, I'm there.

    Good query, good writing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Slight of Spirit: There's a nice feeling of the grandiose in the query that is very appealing, right from the beginning, so you've succeeded in incorporating the tone of the book. It opens by classifying the hierarchy of the culture, though, when as a reader I'm more hungry to hear about the characters and their journey. Fave line in the 250: the shimmering of the ether wands, I think that's a nice bit of "showing" us mysticality (hush--spellcheck, that is too a word! Isn't it?) One thing that pulled my attention is opening with a reference to the official color of the institute being white... only because in this political climate that almost sounds Aryan--especially with a set-up talking about Gods and Institutions. And maybe rather than the language being she "thought that was funny," something more of a show than a tell, such as it made Selene... conduct some gesture that showed confusion. You'd have to decide what suits the upcoming narrative-- I'm not a fantasy writer so can't dictate what that might be. But don't slide past opportunities to show us in unique ways what makes the character tick instead of just stating it outright. Note that it's our job to try to find something constructive to say, so know that I think you're very talented!

    Serf: Right off, there's a terrific sense of power, and the query shows a mastery of language without us having to wait for us to read it in the 250. ""...magma running through the underground city’s arteries" and the following lines are wonderful images while furthering the narrative. I almost felt the 250 could benefit a bit from the tightness and urgency of the language in the query. E.g., it opens with, "Tonight was the night I would..." What if it were just "Tonight I would put an innocent man to death." Succinct and powerful, and gives us this poignant statement with more of a punch instead of extra passive verbiage. I love the balance of Ig's potency and capabilities, and his conflict, which is immediately clear. Nice work!

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  6. Serf of the Mountain

    Immediately my first thought was: wait, if this Ig guy has killed a bunch a people, why should I root for him? And then I continue to read...and I still kinda think the same thing. It goes along with the first line of the 250. But then as I read I see why he isn't the bad guy. And I start rooting for him. I think the 250 show this more than the query. In the query I was still confused on him killing others so maybe adding in a sentence after the second in the query about him wanting to not kill the innocent, but he has no choice? But just a suggestion.
    Besides that, I like the style, it shows very adventurous and a book that is long but wouldn't feel like it.

    Sleight of Spirit
    First off, there are too many words I don't know in the query. And that to an agent could show extreme and epic world building, but to me it is a little confusing. I would like to connect to something, even when the world is not our own. The 250 starts a little slow for me. I like that she finds it funny, but instead of just saying it...maybe have her chuckle and then the reader will know it is funny. Then the rest is pretty solid, good writing and strong sense of place.

    I'm glad I'm not the judge, both are very good!
    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fire, Magma & Metal
    I think the query does a good job of laying out the plot for your story. We get Ig’s central conflict, and what he risks to resolve it. That being said, there are some weird sentence structures throughout. You have stacked sentence fragments in the first paragraph, which makes it read a bit choppy. And the “With every … the more …” structure sounds off to me. I’m also left kind of wondering why Ig is willing to risk his life for these people, when he wasn’t before. You tell us that he befriends them, but I think I’d like to know more about what sets them apart from all the other victims he hasn’t spared. What is the inciting incident? What causes him to change, when he’s been doing things a certain way for so long.

    As for the first 250, you’ve got a heck of an opening line. It’s always good to see a solid hook—something to make the reader want to keep reading, and yours definitely accomplishes that. I was curious about the “nobody would know they were cousins” thing. I’m guessing they don’t announce the convict’s name, because that might make some people scratch their heads. I also wasn’t really sure what to make of the last line, about Ig not wanting to change how people see him. Above, he’s wondering if they’d realize he couldn’t say no, but there, it seems like he wants them to think he’s the heartless executioner. It gave me pause a second. On the whole, though, I think it’s a very strong opening. You work a lot of tension into very few lines, which is hard to do and great when done. Good work!


    God’s Dead, Now What?
    This might just be a personal taste, but I always prefer to see a query start with something about the character and let the background follow. Yours is kind of inverted. You put the background at the beginning, and it’s not until the second paragraph that we get to the character. While your background is interesting and paints a picture for a cool world, I’d rather see that world in the context of the character up front and center. Also a few nits: “as s sign of safety” is just a little typo; I’m not sure I would call it a “memory disability”; and I feel like the biggest part of Selene’s adventure is summed up in two or three sentences at the very bottom. Altogether, I think it’s well-written, but I’d like to see more focus on the plot and characters, and perhaps a little less emphasis on the background and world-building.

    For the first 250, I didn’t feel especially strongly one way or the other about the opening. It doesn’t give us a strong foothold in what’s going on or what kind of character your MC is, but it’s well-written. It lets the reader build up some momentum. Play around with it, though. See if you can find a way to put more of your character into it. Give it more oomph. And I think I’d like to see more vivid descriptions. “Large, open space” isn’t the most evocative language. If you could be a little more specific, choose words that have crisper visuals, I think that would help strengthen this portion.

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  8. First off, I am not a big reader of epic fantasy, so keep that in mind as I critique!
    FIRE, MAGMA, & METAL: Query--I was a bit confused by this line "Ig can control the magma running through the underground city’s arteries, and enslaved through his flesh binding, he works as the iron grip to Magnate Elías’s rule." I did,e ventually, but it made me stop and re-read a few times. Again, it could be my lack of familiarity with SFF, but it felt to me that the first clause and the second could have been in their own sentences. The second paragraph could be expanded with more about the friends Ig makes because I think that is a large part of your story, and your query is rather short, so you have the room to do it. Page: Well, I was sucked right in and could see the scene unfold well. (Even shuddered a bit at the choice). I think Ig can be a compelling character and I'd keep reading!

    GOD'S DEAD, NOW WHAT? Query: I will not beat a dead horse over the opening paragraph, but I do think beginning with Selene is more interesting. I like the set up of the god she worships, but the echoing of help in paragraph two was not effective to me. I think that weaving the world-building into a bit more information about the disaster (and how it is perceived will help with showing the world rather than telling us about it) would be valuable so we get a better sense of the plot. Why does she have to take blame, for example? The god made the decision, and she was a priestess, so that made me pause. I am sure there is an answer and perhaps it is too long for the query, but a deeper understanding of this would clarify a lot for me. Page: I chortled at the line about blood, and the scene was well painted. I am intrigued to find out why she'd prefer hospice rooms--it feels like it could be some good character building.
    Good luck to both of you!

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  9. SERF OF THE MOUNTAIN: Such an interesting concept! I think you might want to but some of the world details earlier in the query to give the reader more of a frame of reference. I really enjoyed the writing in the first 250, though, and I know this is REALLY hard in first person, I want to know more about Ig and his personality/feelings. The writing though is SO strong and feels natural. Super intriguing and sounds like a great read.

    Sleight of Spirit: The concept and world seem really cool from the query. I think though, the stakes could be a little clearer and stronger. The first 250 was interesting though a bit passive. Some of it can be jazzed-up a little to give it more umph and move it forward faster (though really hard in 250). Great job though.

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  10. Serf of the Mountain_ I really like this query. It's concise, informative and pulls me in. The sentence about Ig controlling the magma of the city threw me though. The way it was worded made it hard for me to figure out on first read. Also I had to reread the hyphenated sentences in order to figure out their meaning,.
    250_ The first 250 words are very well done. They drew me in. He has to kill his own cousin. How awful! There were a few places where you could maybe tighten, for more effect? "Brian Adriann, now tasked with deciding how he wanted to die, only shivered in response.""now tasked with deciding how he wanted to die" took away from the power of this sentence for me. Brian shivering said it all. Also "blacked and gnarled" was enough for me. I didn't need the "like overcooked meat" part. I would definitely read this story. I love the nickname too. It's powerful. I prefer it to Serf of the Mountain. Great writing.Good luck!

    Sleight of Spirit I love the idea of this whole world. Well done on a concise query for a high word count story. I love Tenebris and the part of the story I get to see unfold. The writing is great, very descriptive. But it felt like there was a lot of description and information given, which took from the action. I would rather have the descriptions thrown in as the story moves along. I know it must be incredibly hard in 250 words to introduce a world building story and get action going too. You created a very strong and definite atmosphere. Good job and best of luck!

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  11. Fire, Magma & Metal

    You do a great job describing the novel, and it sounds interesting and unique, like it's from the POV of a sort-of villain. The query is so well done that I only have one suggestion. You should delete the line "For none can stand between him and his victims." because it confused me at first, although I believe the 'him' you mean is Death. I also don't have anything to critique in the pages. The imagery is so nicely done! I love the simile, "gnarled like overcooked meat". I would definitely read more of this novel!

    God's Dead, Now What?

    My eyes glazed over the first paragraph of the query. It's just a bunch of info-dumping, which I wonder if most of it needs to be in the query at all. Maybe you could cut it all to just one line about the institute? And your first page is solid, maybe don't go on so long about the atmosphere around her so we can jump right into something actually happening a bit sooner. Your writing is very good though.

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