Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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

Title: Song of the Vulture

Entry Nickname: Carrion My Wayward Son

Word count: 96K

Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:


Eighteen-year-old Alora Delattre should have been burned at the stake. Her power to possess others’ bodies is an ability condemned by scripture as the deepest form of corruption. Her father, the head of the church that would execute her, should have been the one to set her aflame. Instead, he hid her.

Then her mother is murdered by a heretic rebellion, and suddenly death by fire seems like a small price to pay for revenge. She takes over the body of one of the rebels, determined to hunt the killer down and make him bleed. But what she finds in their camp changes everything. For the first time, she sees her benevolent father through the eyes of the people whose blood he has spilled and whose families he has torn apart in the name of righteousness. And then there’s Chet, the quiet, passionate, maddening leader of the rebellion who she swears can see right through her even though he’s blind. She’s risking everything letting him get close—especially while she’s wearing another girl’s skin.

But Scythe, her father’s young, magical tracker, is on her trail and closing in fast. Alora must choose: get the revenge she craves by hauling Chet and his crew to the execution stage, or lead the crusade against the most terrible dictator her world has ever known—her own father.

SONG OF THE VULTURE is a YA fantasy complete at 96,000 words. It is a multi-POV novel with chapters from Alora’s, Chet’s, and Scythe’s points of view. The possession aspect hearkens back to Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, while the father-daughter relationship and the romance will appeal to readers of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse.


First 250:

You will burn, little vulture. Your secret will be discovered, and your body will crumble to ash.

Alora knew the Pyre couldn’t speak, knew the words were in her own mind, and yet the threat still raised the hairs on her arms.

The Pyre’s great pole shone white as a bone over the housetops behind her. Every time she and Kirsi snuck out of the temple like this, that pole watched her dart from shadow to shadow, followed her around every corner, waited for her to slip up so she could finally meet fiery death at its feet.

Alora glared over her shoulder, aimed an obscene gesture in its direction, and continued on her way.

Hooves clattered on the cobblestones behind them, and Kirsi shoved her into the nearest alley, cursing. They ducked out of sight an instant before the guards rode past. Alora’s heart thundered in her ears. That had been a close call. She clapped a hand over her mouth to muffle a laugh.

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

“Exactly,” Alora replied, breathless. “Dodging them is half the fun.”

She pulled Kirsi back down the road. Faster now. The sooner they got to the Frosted Vulture, the better.

Keeping to the darkest parts of the city, they reached the slouching remains of an abandoned shoemaker's shop a few hours after midnight.


VERSUS


Title: Mist

Entry Nickname: I found a magic stone in Paris

Word count: 90K

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Query:

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

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

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


First 250:

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

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

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

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

“Two months,” I said.

“You stay where?”

“With my grandfather, in Paris.”

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

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

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

15 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congrats on making it to round two of QK!

      Carrion My Wayward Son

      Query:
      I love everything about this query. The language and voice you use, the stakes you’ve set up — amazing job.

      250:
      So sign me up for when this book comes out, because I’m hooked. I think you have some brilliant language in here — I love the “slouching remains” descriptor. And you build a great sense of both suspense and rebellion. Props!

      I Found a Magic Stone in Paris

      Query:
      Congrats on making it to round two, I remember this from round one! I like the changes you’ve made. I’m still a tad caught up on “getting to know the city like a local” juxtaposed to the “playing tourist” in the second graph, though. The seem counterintuitive to me, but you know your characters/story best!

      I’d also consider varying up the first sentences of your second and third graph so they both don’t start with “But”.

      In the third graph, I’d think about cutting “Grandpa is no longer the only one she needs to save,” as I think it’s implied with the “thousands of innocent lives” in the previous sentence.

      I’m a little fuzzy on the stakes — if she doesn’t relinquish the stone, Grandpa and thousands die. OK, that makes sense. But what happens if she does relinquish? Maybe grandpa lives, but only to see their world descend into darkness? What’s the flip side of the coin, here?

      250:
      I like what you did with the accent changes this go around — nice work. There are a couple places where you have the same, repeated sentence structure back to back, but that’s a tad nitpicky on my end. If you vary it up a bit, it creates a nice flow and gives you the chance to layer in details as they’re viewed from the MC’s perspective (instead of just relying on “i” phrases). I’d also take every opportunity you can to slip in a few more details here and there, really ground us in the setting.

      I really like the progress made by Magic Stone, but I was just simply swept away by the story and writing of Carrion.

      VICTORY TO CARRION MY WAYWARD SON

      Delete
    2. Carrion My Wayward Son
      Query: What an intriguing premise! I love how your query is filled with world-building details and how you’ve shown the story’s stakes and tension. I would have liked to know a little more about the world and religion, especially if this story takes place in our world. A hint of that would have been helpful.

      First 250:
      Your first line draws me in and makes me want to read more. I love the tension and fear in the beginning, along with the sight of the Pyre. My one critique is that Alora’s humor and laughter offsets the seriousness of the first page and makes the tension level fall fast.

      I Found a Magic Stone in Paris
      Query: This sounds like a great story, and the tension remains consistent throughout the query. I would have liked a little more idea about why her grandfather had the stone and how he is connected to the fae.

      First 250:
      I love your first page, especially the nervousness and agitation that she felt waiting to be let through customs. However, I also feel like we’re missing some dialogue here. You say that she has been talking to the officer for two minutes, but there isn’t even enough dialogue between them to fill half a minute. That disoriented me a bit.

      Although I love both entries, I have to go with the one I feel is more polished.
      VICTORY to CARRION MY WAYWARD SON

      Delete
    3. CARRION SON & MAGIC STONE:

      I’m going to group the queries together because I have the same thought on both, which is that I wish things could be a bit clearer. However, in reading the other comments, I think this might be *my* issue. For CARRION, there is a LOT going on in that second paragraph between mom, dad, rebellion, and Chet. Revenge on Chet would help Dad? And is Scythe trying to protect her? Or is he after her—wouldn’t Dad tell him not to track her? For STONE, I’m not quite sure what the stone is supposed to do and what power she is able to wield, so some clarification there would be helpful.

      The 250s on both are fantastic. CARRION has more of a literary feel, and I hate literary, but it’s not over-the-head literary, and I liked it. STONE is great too, more commercial feel, but again the voice was spot-on. The only thing that made me hiccup a bit was that if she is used to international travel, I’m not sure her at the passport station with some confusion is the best place to start the book because it would be old hat to her and not garner the concern we’re reading about. Until that last sentence, I felt like this was her first time abroad. After reading her international experience, it didn’t make as much sense to me.

      OK, two stellar entries. This really is a toss up. It really could go either way. Good thing is you both were in the agent round, so HUZZAH!!

      Victory to CARRION SON!

      Delete
    4. CARRION MY WAYWARD SON: Your query is a little long, but the details you manage and the stakes you build up in it are pretty spectacular. I really appreciate your comparison titles paragraph, but the POV sentence is a smidge awkward. I’d leave it at “…mult-POV novel from Alora, Chet, and Scythe’s perspectives.” The first 250 words deliver a perfect punch of sass and setting details, slipping the reader into the world and Alora’s perspective. I adore your writing style and the visual impact your writing has. I am adding this to my future read list!

      I FOUND A MAGIC STONE IN PARIS: This query is great, but I almost want some voice infused in it. I think you can remove the sentence “Grandpa is no longer the only one she needs to save” because that is implied in the previous sentence. I’m also unclear as to how or why the dark magic of the stone is trying to destroy her. Earlier in the query, it says she is the only one that can wield it because she messed with it as a baby. That needs some clarifying to hold weight in this stakes sentence. Be careful of telling. Show us how the immigration agent wasn’t patient or the face he made. Also you have a few passive spots that I’d encourage you to use stronger verbs in. Example: “I had studied it during the flight from New York but couldn’t remember a word of it now” could become “I had studied it during the flight from New York, but every word escaped my mind now.” Little things like this can make a big difference. I almost want this entry to end on the sentence “Is there a problem?” because doing so would up the tension and make the editor or agent want to read more, read request! Overall, well done!

      Both of these sound fantastic, but I can only choose one. VICTORY goes to CARRION MY WAYWARD SON.

      ~Red Ink Slinger

      Delete
    5. Carrion My Wayward Son

      Query:
      OMG. Your first paragraph is just AMAZING. Actually, the whole query just SINGS.

      First 250:
      I love how you described the scene, though the “Pyre” made me confused a bit. I thought the Pyre was a person, not an actual pyre. You might want to lessen the names of people and places you’re throwing in—it can be a bit confusing, I had to read back a couple of times to figure out what the names were pertaining to.

      Also, I feel like Alora’s humor is a bit out of place in the mood you’re trying to set. There’s great tension seeing the pyre, then it just plummets down with the inclusion of the humor. While it’s good that you’re trying to show the reader Alora’s personality, remember that you’re also still trying to hook the reader with your scene and establishing the overall mood at this point.


      I Found a Magic Stone in Paris

      Query:
      This is an interesting premise. I generally don’t like fae, but your plot might actually change my mind. However, I think it’ll be better if you also include what bad will happen if Dierdre relinquishes the stone. Because right now, if it feels like she just needs to hand it over and all will be well. We need to know what will happen if she DOES hand it over, that way, the stakes are higher and we can truly grasp the predicament that Deirdre is in.

      First 250:
      I love how you played out this scene. It’s very consistent—I worry for Dierdre all throughout, and I can feel her stress. I totally get that the feeling of being used to traveling but still worry about things when you’re at immigration, though I think there’s more sizzle to this scene if you end it with “Is there a problem?”

      This is a hard one. I totally love the query on Wayward Son, but while the first 250 are well-written, I just really can’t get past the out-of-place humor and found it really hard to keep up with the names. This is totally a subjective vote: VICTORY to I FOUND A MAGIC STONE IN PARIS.

      Delete
    6. Princess FalafelJune 16, 2018 at 4:46 PM

      I'm having internet problems, so I will post a comment with feedback later.
      VICTORY TO CARRION MY WAYWARD SON

      Delete
    7. To The Sword 159June 16, 2018 at 5:40 PM

      I love both of these concepts so much! They’re very creative!

      Carrion my Wayward Son:
      This is a great query! I love the voice. I feel invested in the plot. I don’t really have any suggestions for your query or first 250. I think your first 250 are professional quality. Maybe you can add 2-3 more sentences to describe the parts of the city the girls are traveling through.

      I found a magic stone in Paris.
      I love this query. The stakes are compelling. Your first 250 are interesting. I’m basically giving you the same suggestion as the other author: a little more description of setting would be helpful.

      VICTORY TO CARRION MY WAYWARD SON.

      Delete
  2. CARRION MY WAYWARD SON

    Hi! So I find it easier to make my feedback and suggested edits directly inline the query in [brackets like these]

    QUERY

    Eighteen-year-old Alora Delattre should have been burned at the stake. Her power to possess others’ bodies is an ability condemned by scripture as the deepest form of corruption. Her father, the head of the church that would execute her, should have been the one to set her aflame. Instead, he hid her. [nice clear opening with good stakes]

    Then her mother is murdered by a heretic rebellion, and suddenly death by fire seems like a small price to pay for revenge. She takes over the body of one of the rebels, determined to hunt the killer down and make him bleed [random question: is this with or without her father’s blessing that she goes on this revenge quest? Might be cool to mention. Ie. “With her father’s blessing/against her father’s wishes, she takes over. . . “]. But what she finds in their camp changes everything. For the first time, she sees her benevolent father through the eyes of the people whose blood he has spilled and whose families he has torn apart in the name of righteousness. And then there’s Chet, the quiet, passionate, maddening leader of the rebellion who she swears can see right through her even though he’s blind [interesting! Love this]. [Yet, she can’t help but be drawn to him, despite the fact] she’s risking everything by letting him get close—especially while she’s wearing another girl’s skin. [or something—I feel like it would read smoother with some sort of transition that bridges the jump from describing Chet to WHY Alora is letting him get close to her (closer than the other rebels, from the sounds of it anyway)]

    But Scythe, her father’s young, magical tracker, is on her trail and closing in fast. Alora must choose: get the revenge she craves by hauling Chet and his crew to the execution stage, or lead the crusade against the most terrible dictator her world has ever known—her own father. [good closing stakes]

    SONG OF THE VULTURE [I love this title] is a YA fantasy complete at 96,000 words. It is a multi-POV novel with chapters from Alora’s, Chet’s, and Scythe’s points of view. The possession aspect hearkens back to Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, [there should be a space here] while the father-daughter relationship and the romance will appeal to readers of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse. [and I love the comps]

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Overall, I thought this query was excellent and effectively conveyed the stakes and conflict in an engaging manner. I only have small nitpicks to make, as noted inline.

    FIRST 250

    No complaints here! Everything read smoothly, and that opening line was nicely creepy. I wonder why Alora is referred to as a “vulture”? Wondering if it’s some symbolism/meaning with the in-world religion?

    ReplyDelete
  3. As mentioned before, I’ll be making my feedback and suggested edits in [brackets like these]

    QUERY

    When sixteen-year-old Deirdre Walsh arrives in Paris to spend the summer at her grandfather’s, [she’s determined] [sounds stronger when phrased this way, imo] to get to know the city like a local, even though she’ll have to fight grandpa on everything from curfews to the rip in her jeans.

    But when he tells her about a stone of infinite power he’s been hiding and how she teethed on it as a baby, making her the only one able to wield it, playing tourist is no longer high on her list. The stone is faerie-made and the fey have descended upon Paris to reclaim it from the humans who stole it from them. After grandpa suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma, Deirdre follows the clues he left for her and [finds] the stone. [feels like it would be smoother to state that she actually found the stone so that in the next para, it makes more sense that she has the stone in possession but just didn’t get the chance to use it]

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

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Awesome job with the revised query! It’s much more compact, streamlined, and still conveys the stakes and conflict. Most of my feedback are already inline, though I will make a quick note that I would urge you to find a way to rephrase/restructure “But when he tells her about a stone of infinite power he’s been hiding and how she teethed on it as a baby, making her the only one able to wield it, playing tourist is no longer high on her list.” A bit to make it flow better. The part about teething on it as a baby in particular sounds a little clunky to my ears. But other than that, nice work!

    250 WORDS

    First 250 read smooth as well and only have a couple nitpicks. “…couldn’t remember a word of it now.”  “remember a word FROM it now” Also, since we’re in 1st POV, saying that “My cheeks went red” makes it sound like something an outside observer would say/3rd POV. Maybe consider switching it up to like “My cheeks heated/grew warm” because that’s something the MC could actually /feel/ (since she wouldn’t be able to see her cheeks actually going red unless she had a mirror or something). Like how you’re introducing conflict right away early on, as well, with the strange, pale-haired man!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, Fellow kombatant here (A Boy Named Pez)

    SONG OF VULTURE
    I'm a real fan of this, so I don't have much to offer in terms of criticism. Your query is really clean and the plot is great--love the choice about turning against her father. For your 250, your chose a wonderfully tense moment to start and yet somehow infused it with lovely humor. Plus, your writing is stellar. Love the opening line and how the Pyre becomes a character in the story. The one line that tripped me up was 'Kirsi’s dark eyes flashed her annoyance.' I'm not exactly sure why, perhaps I'm just not certain eyes flash. Could just be me. But this is an impressive entry. Kudos.

    MAGIC STONE
    This also sounds really interesting! For the query, I was wondering about the missing paragraph with word count and comps, however maybe this was omitted because it included your personal info? I really like the choice that your story involves and you highlight it well in your query. Great writing in your 250! Your dialogue is really nice. I was wondering if this was the right place to start? Perhaps you could start in the same scene but add more tension? Maybe if there was more internal thought or something else to set up why this could be a tense moment? Like is she hiding something? Is this a routine procedure? If I knew what was at stake, I could be more invested. Or, if it's nothing tense, a little humor or voice could help perhaps. It could just be me so I'd see what others say. The cheeks turning red also stood out to me as well, so I would change that. Either way, this story has so much potential! Oh, I also love this setting! Overall, nice work!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fellow Kombatant feedback (so feel free to take / leave whatever advice I give!):

    Carrion My Wayward Son

    Query: Oooo! I literally got goose bumps reading this! It reads so well. I was with Alora from the start, and totally didn’t see the switch of allegiance coming, but I felt it in the very core of my being! The second para is a bit dense, but all it needs is splitting in two. Great stuff!

    First 250: Nice voicey opening. The opening lines set the tone nicely in terms of the threat, and them dodging the guards too. Although, Alora’s attitude towards the Pyre seems a little at odds with the tone of the query where she seems like she is very much sold on her father and mother’s beliefs at the start—even if she would be condemned by them if they hadn’t hidden her away. So either you want to clarify the character arc in the query or change the opening, so she feels more cowed by the Pyre’s accusations at the start. Not all YA characters need to be full of spunk & attitude to be likable.


    I found a Magic Stone in Paris

    Query: I remember this from the first round. I still feel like the first paragraph doesn’t really tell the agent what kind of story they’re getting into. They may be hungry for a magical realism story just like yours, but first glance will have them thinking contemporary coming of age story, and agents looking for a contemporary coming of age story will read on, only to be disappointed that it’s magical realism. You’ve done a really good job focusing in on the main conflict this time though. The only other suggestion I can add is that you can take out ‘Grandpa is no longer the only one she needs to save’. It doesn’t add anything, & it’s a bit clunky.

    First 250: There’s definitely more intrigue here, still no magical element working its way through, but I get a better sense that something’s afoot. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Carrion My Wayward Son

    Query: This sounds like such an interesting story, and you do a really good job of setting up the stakes and the character’s conflict with your query. We also get a good sense of the world we’re dealing in, without squandering a big chunk of your query for world-building. The only bit that really threw me was the “Alora must choose:” bit. It felt very formulaic, like “insert conflict here,” whereas the rest of your query felt very smooth. Just a little nit, but I think you could be a little more subtle with that line.

    First 250: I love the glimpse we get at the world, even within the first few paragraphs. Cobblestones and temples, the mythos of the Pyre—like the query, you do a good job of building up the world around the reader without setting aside whole paragraph chunks for expositive world-building. It makes it flow very smoothly. There were just a couple of places (i.e. the sentence that starts “Every time she…”) where I felt you strayed close to a run-on, and I would’ve liked to see it broken up. But other than that, I think you’ve got a very clean opening. Good job!

    ----------

    I Found a Magic Stone in Paris

    Query: I’m such a Francophile, so you piqued my interest the second you mentioned Deirdre is going to Paris. You also make your stakes really clear, which is a big plus for a query. That being said, I had a few issues with the structure/grammar. I think you should consider varying your sentence length. Right now, you have a lot of longer sentences, so it makes the query a bit dense. You also need to capitalize “Grandpa” anytime you’re using it as a name (so anytime it’s just Grandpa and not “my grandfather”). Awesome last line, though. “Trust is a lost currency” was such a great phrase!

    First 250: I like the whole “stranger in a strange world” vibe we get from the opening chapter. Even though it’s something fairly pedestrian like going through customs, it’s something that causes a lot of people discomfort, so it’s really easy to sympathize with the MC’s nerves. One thing that kind of took me out of the narrative was the sentence structure. You have a lot of subject-verb-object, subject-verb-object going on, back to back. Try playing around with some introductory clauses and gerunds, even some fragments with conjunctions, just to see if you can vary the structure and smooth it out. The problem with starting every new sentence with the subject is that it reads a bit choppy. I think you do a good job of building up some tension in your opener, though; I want to know what happens to her after she follows the officer!

    Great job, and good luck to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Carrion

    Query:
    The query got me caught up in Alora’s struggle, and the stakes couldn’t be higher, so I definitely want to read more! Her “Sophie’s Choice” dilemma is very compelling, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

    First 250:
    Teeny tiny suggestion… maybe change “that pole watched” to “that pole stood watch”? At first, I thought the pole actually had the ability to “watch” as some sort of surveillance tool. Otherwise, loved it! Great tension and drama right off the bat.

    versus

    Paris

    Query:
    Clearly outlines your story and main characters… I was a little thrown off by “faeries” being a dark force but I’m sure you explain that in the book.

    First 250:
    Nice dramatic opening. I was just puzzled as to why she doesn’t know any French if (a) her grandfather lives in Paris, has she never visited him before? (b) she is “used to traveling abroad” … is this explained later?

    Captivated by both stories, good luck to both!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 16, 2018 at 5:23 PM

    Carrion:

    I get that your query has to include a lot of different people, but I think you did this really well! I'm a little confused and curious to find out why Alora switched over to the rebellion's side so easily when she has that relationship with her father and the rebels murdered her mother. I'm guessing it's explained in the text. The style in your first 250 is gorgeous. You can feel the sense of danger from the Pyre and the people hunting Alora and Kirsi. Alora's lightheartedness, I'm guessing will be short-lived once she goes through everything outlined in the query. Nicely done!


    Magic Stone:

    My favorite part of the query, oddly enough, is how you established the relationship between Deirdre and her grandfather. He comes off as stern because of the whole ripped jeans thing, but they seem to have a close, loving relationship. Your stakes are completely on point and clear--I'm loving the double threat of the fey and the dark magic. I really like the cliffhanger that your first 250 ended on! It definitely makes me want to read more!

    ReplyDelete