Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Query Kombat Round 2: Cowboys vs Zombie Pirates vs Hungry Ocean Gods

Title: String Theory

Entry Nickname: Cowboys Versus Zombie Pirates

Word Count: 93K

Genre: Young Adult Speculative

Query:

Music is the key to all time and space.

Teenage violin prodigy Crystal Aislen learns her mother, who went missing seven years ago, has been lost in time. When an eccentric scientist gives her a violin that can open time rifts, Crystal becomes impatient with the process of searching for her mother and accidentally flings herself into the past. The specialized violin is her only hope of returning home, but its strings were scattered throughout history as she fell through time. Unless she can find all four before the temporal energy of the time rift runs out, she will be trapped in the past forever.

Crystal’s hunt for the strings will require her to stay a step ahead of some of the most ruthless outlaws of the Old West, outwit notorious pirates, and team up with Anna Maria Mozart. Each string recovered gives Crystal more control over time and space. However, each use of the violin risks giving away her location in time to wraith-like electric guitar players from a dark and terrible future. They are hell-bent on erasing Crystal from existence, and their sinister mission seems to be related to her mother. Despite being warned not to, Crystal searches for the truth about her mother’s fate. Her only clues come in the form of pages of sheet music dispersed through time. The music resembles a lullaby Crystal’s mother used to sing, but the true purpose of the composition will only be revealed when played in its entirety. It is a melody of hope, not only for Crystal to return home, but for the future of all humanity.

STRING THEORY is complete at 93,000 words.


First 250:

“Next.”

Crystal’s violin screeched as she halted her song at the sharp command, her mouth wide in disbelief. She had barely played three measures. The faculty member had interrupted her. Why? This was her best work, an original composition, but she hadn’t even reached the melody. They were judging her without allowing the long, slow opening measures to build in intensity and speed until the fire of desperation exploded in an anthem of triumph—like a lost soul finally finding her way home. She was up against a lot of talented musicians in this audition for the West Chester University School of Performing Arts. Any one of them could play Bach or Tchaikovsky with precision, but it took something more to connect music to the pain of loss, or the joy of reunion. She would never gloat, but if they didn’t let her finish, they would never hear the deep feelings woven into this musical ode to her mother. She needed this. Three measures?

“But I—”

“Thank you, Miss Aislen. That will be all,” the lead judge said with a flippant wave of her hand. The grey-haired woman pushed her wire-framed glasses up on her nose, leaned back in her chair, and folded her arms. “We have a lot of applicants to go through today.”

Surely there had been a mistake. Did they even look at the composition she gave them? It had a complex series of layered chords. The chorus alone demonstrated every classical skill. It would have made her mother proud.


VERSUS



Title: Tidepool

Entry Nickname: Hungry Ocean Gods

Word count: 77K

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy

Query:

In 1913, Henry Hamilton disappears while traveling on business. His younger sister Sorrow, who sees Henry as her true parental figure, defies her controlling father’s orders to stay home and travels to the last place Henry is known to have visited – Tidepool, a shabby shore town near Ocean City, Maryland.

After corpses wash up on Tidepool’s beach looking as if they’ve been torn apart by something not quite human, Sorrow is ready to run home to Baltimore and let her father send in the professional detectives. But then she encounters Mrs. Ada Oliver, a widow whose expensive black dresses and elegant manners set her apart from other Tidepool residents.

A visit to the widow’s home and a terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement lead to Sorrow’s discovery of the town’s secret: The sacrifices Ada Oliver makes protect Tidepool from the horrifying creatures living in the ocean. And if the Lords Below don’t get their tributes, they will rise.

Sorrow wants to stop Mrs. Oliver and get justice for her brother, but doing so will doom all the town’s residents. And the denizens of Tidepool—human and otherwise—are hell bent on making sure Sorrow never leaves.

Gender-flipped Lovecraftian dark fantasy meets American Horror Story in TIDEPOOL, an adult novel complete at 77,000 words. It will appeal to fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Eric Scott Fischl’s DR. POTTER’S MEDICINE SHOW, and Cherie M. Priest’s MAPLECROFT.



First 257:


Sorrow Hamilton stood before her father’s enormous oak desk, feeling like a misbehaving student as he frowned up at her.

“It is unsafe for young ladies to travel alone, Sorrow.” Winslow Hamilton folded his arms over his chest. “And unseemly.”

I’m 21, for God’s sake, she dared not say. You can’t stop me. “Betsy Mueller travels alone and has had no trouble.”

“Betsy Mueller is not my daughter.”

Sorrow’s fingernails dug into her palms. The odor of stale pipe smoke—a smell she had grown to detest—hung heavy in the air of her father’s study.

Winslow had definite ideas on what young ladies could and couldn’t do, and his “couldn’t” list was much longer and included many of the things that interested Sorrow—such as traveling alone.

But her brother Henry still hadn’t returned from a business trip, and she’d heard nothing from him since his stop in a town called Tidepool. Surely Winslow didn’t expect her to sit in their house like a lump of suet while Henry was missing? She intended to look for him, and this Tidepool was where she intended to start.

“It’s been over two weeks. He wouldn’t simply stay away with no word to us, Father.”

Sorrow often thought that Winslow’s steel-gray eyes and matching hair suited his personality perfectly. He had all the warmth of a slab of granite as he stared at her.

“I know that, Sorrow. But what exactly do you think you’ll be able to find out?”

She raised her chin. “Whatever there is to know.”

16 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!

      Cowboys Versus Zombie Pirates

      Query:
      Personally, I don’t think you need the logline. I’d strip it and get right to the meat and potatoes of the query. That said, there’s a LOT going on in this query, and I’d do what you can to parse it down. In fact, the ending of the first paragraph read like the final stakes, so I was a bit stunned when I realized the next graph was still part of the query.

      I’d maybe try structuring it a bit differently:

      “When an eccentric scientist gives teenage violin prodigy Crystal Aislen a violin that can open time rifts, she doesn’t hesitate to pick up her bow — not when her mother was lost in time seven years ago. But playing with time isn’t as easy as her favorite concerto, and Crystal accidentally flings herself into the past, scattering the violin’s magic strings throughout history.”

      (Obviously your words are going to be better, you’re the author! :) Just trying to articulate what I mean by restructure.)

      And then you move into the action-packed high stakes, the ruthless outlaws and notorious pirates, and learning about her mother’s time-traveling past. Make sense? I feel like you have all the juicy info here, it just needs to be reworked a tad for clarity.

      250:
      Great 250. That first graph is a bit heavy, but that could just be the way it looks on a blog instead of a word doc/page. Maybe consider splitting it, maybe not — dealer’s choice. I also want to feel what she’s feeling. In other words, show us how she’s handling the situation instead of just running through the internal dialogue. You want to avoid being too telly.

      Hungry Ocean Gods

      Query:
      There’s a lot of setup in the first graph and I’m not entirely certain it’s necessary. Things really get moving in the second graph, and I think readers will care more about what’s going on in Tidepool than how the MC got there.

      Also, I had to double check that this was an adult entry. The language and tone of the query, also the reference to Sorrow as “younger,” made me think this was YA. I’d pay close attention to the words you choose and see if there’s a way you really ground us in an “adult” POV. Furthermore, I want to know how she plans on getting justice for her brother. Even if it’s not spelled out, since it appears he’s gone the way of sacrifice, how is she going to exact revenge, and what are the ramifications for going through with it? Or not going through with it?

      250:
      Again, until I get to the point where she announces her age (internally), the word choice and situation makes me think YA. That’s not to say you can’t start in this place or have this kind of dynamic between the father and daughter (given the historical vibe, it makes sense). That said, I don’t read a lot of historical (though I do read a lot of adult), so if this is a common way to treat language/setup for historical novels, then disregard.

      I guess I was also expecting a bit stronger reaction, from Sorrow or her father. How is she feeling about her brother’s disappearance? How is she feeling about her father’s reaction to her brother’s disappearance? Does that make her rebel more?

      I like your use of sensory details with the stale pipe smoke, and the reference to the long “couldn’t” list — nice touches.

      VICTORY TO HUNGRY OCEAN GODS

      Delete
    2. Cowboys versus Zombie Pirates
      Query: This is a lovely premise. I adore the idea of magical musical instruments. That being said, I feel like your query is slightly convoluted. It is hard for me to imagine how she would be able to find violin strings strewn throughout multiple universes, and I would like an idea of how she is able to accomplish such a feat.

      First 250:
      I’d like to see a little more of Crystal’s feelings and reactions in this moment. Does she feel mortified that she’s being stopped? Does her face go red and she beings to sputter? Otherwise, this fist page is really strong.

      HUNGRY OCEAN GODS
      Query: I love the eerie atmosphere that your query is filled with. I would love to see a little more emotion in this piece, such as how Sorrow feels about what is happening. Also, what happened to her brother? Your query makes it sound like she finds out what happened to him, but his disappearance loses focus as she discovers the rest of the town’s secrets.

      First 250:
      I like Sorrow already! I love how you describe her father’s overbearing atmosphere and filter it through her POV. Perhaps consider a bit of internalization on her part?

      I’m going to have to go with the piece I feel is stronger.

      VICTORY to HUNGRY OCEAN GODS!

      Delete
    3. Cowboys Vs. Zombie Pirates: WOW! I am seriously impressed with the premise of this story! I thin for the query, the initial sentence may not be necessary. You use “time” a lot in the first paragraph, and that makes reading it really awkward. I’d encourage you to try to rewrite a few out. I thought the last sentence of the first paragraph was your stakes sentence because it seems that way, so perhaps work that into the bottom of the query and woven in with the information about the melody it will make it that much stronger. I could not stop reading the first 250 and wanted more. You’ve done a great job of pulling us into the story and getting to know your character. I want to know more about her mother. I’d like a few more sprinkled details to help ground us in the moment with Crystal, but overall, well written!

      Hungry Ocean Gods: I really appreciate the details you put into this query after previous rounds of suggested changes, and at the same time, you’ve streamlined the stakes. Well done! I also love the new starting point of your novel that is now focused on Sorrow and her relationship with her father. I love how you’ve grounded us in the time period with your word choice and dialog. I have a few edit things for you. I love the metaphor about a slab of granite, but I’d remove the tail-end of the sentence “as he stared at her.” Also, be aware of the passive and repeated phrases in this new beginning, especially in paragraphs 6 & 7. Overall, great job!

      Man, these both sound amazing and I can see the potential in both, but VICTORY goes to COWBOY VS. ZOMBIES PIRATES.

      ~Red Ink Slinger

      Delete
    4. COWBOY ZOMBIE PIRATES:

      I like the concept—music, multi-universes, specific quest to find strings with time constraints—all great. BUT I do think the query could be clearer. I wonder about ending the first paragraph with the sentence that ends in “fell through time.” That sets up the conflict nicely. Then, for the second paragraph, keep it concise—just tell us specifically how she’s getting these strings and what stands in her way. Then you can wrap up with a line about stakes. I think shortening it will add some needed clarity.

      For the 250, I wonder about that first, rather long paragraph. It reads more like a summary to me than an in-the-moment scene where I can get to know the MC better. This has a bit too much backstory. Save it and sprinkle it in as you go. Let’s see her in this moment and feel her anger/frustration.

      OCEAN GODS:

      This sounds YA to me. (Just checked the other comments, and I’m not the only one, whew!) It’s not just her age either, it’s the voice. Just my two cents.

      The query is a bit long, but I’m not sure how to shorten it. You want that 1913 in there, but is the father important to the story at all? He’s not mentioned after that first paragraph. I wonder if you can skip him or shorten that part? For example, do we need to know Sorrow thinks of her brother as a parental figure?

      I like the 250. I think it’s a good starting place. I just think it sounds YA, which is not a bad thing.

      Overall, two strong entries. I think one is a bit further along, so . . .

      Victory to OCEAN GODS!

      Delete
    5. Cowboys Versus Zombie Pirates

      Query:
      Love the premise of this one! You might want to mention how old Crystal is exactly, because age can be an indication of where your book will fall under—lower or upper YA. Also, you might want to consider adding a bit of voice to the query too.

      First 250:
      Your first 250 clearly shows that you have a good grasp of music. I won’t be surprised if you’re a musician yourself! You might want to fix the second paragraph a bit though—it’s just too long, and borders a bit on being tell-y.

      Hungry Ocean Gods

      Query:
      This is a very interesting premise! But you might want to focus the query more on Sorrow, and perhaps even start it by naming her, not her brother. I honestly thought the main character is Henry Hamilton. It might be clearer if you say something like, “In 1913, Sorrow Hamilton’s older brother disappears while traveling on business.” This way, our focus will be on Sorrow, not on Henry. Personally, I’ll keep the villain unnamed so the focus will totally be on Sorrow.

      First 250:
      Love the voice and the imagery you invoke here. I can almost feel like I’m in the scene with Sorrow and her father. Just a small nit-pick—spell out 21, like “I’m twenty-one, for God’s sake.”

      VICTORY to HUNGRY OCEAN GODS

      Delete
    6. Princess FalafelJune 16, 2018 at 4:44 PM

      I'm having internet problems, so I will post a comment with feedback later.
      VICTORY TO HUNGRY OCEAN GODS

      Delete
    7. To The Sword 159June 16, 2018 at 5:58 PM

      Cowboys vs. Zombie Pirates:
      Wow! This concept is so original, and I like it. Your query is really good, and I really love the part toward the end about the lullaby. At the beginning, I’d like to know a little about what Crystal’s life is like before she learns this information, and how she learns it. Just be careful not to overload your query with complicated details that might confuse the reader. I don’t think it’s there, but borderline. If you’d like comp titles, you might want to try Lindsay Champion’s Someday Somewhere meets The Time Machine.
      Your first 250 are really strong. I’d add just a tiny bit more showing of Crystal’s feelings, rather than her concrete thoughts.

      Tidepool
      Great query! The stakes are clear. Your first 250 are really good, too. I like the comparison of Sorrow’s father’s eyes to a slab of granite. I can’t think of any suggestions.

      Excellent job to both of you!

      VICTORY TO COWBOYS VS. ZOMBIE PIRATES.

      Delete
  2. Cowboys vs. Zombie Pirates
    Query: First of all, I love the title String Theory. It’s a great play on words for both the scientific and musical aspects in the story. One concern I have is that the query felt too long, even though it’s well within query word count standards. I think there might just be too much information here. For example, your second sentence could probably be changed to something like “When an eccentric scientist gives her a violin that can open time rifts, Crystal uses it to search for her mother, but accidentally flings herself into the past.” It’s fewer words, but conveys the same thing. I think if you go through the rest of the query and just condense a few like that you’ll be in excellent shape.

    First 250: Great opening lines, and great closing lines. I feel there’s a lot of telling versus showing in your first paragraph, though. You’ve done an incredible job of showing, like the flippant wave of the judge’s hand, and even the violin screech, so I’d try to do a little more of that in the paragraph. Maybe show us how Crystal felt – was her heart pounding? Her blood boiling in anger? Did her shoulder drop? Weave a little more of that into the paragraph.


    Hungry Ocean Gods
    Query: I have to admit – I’m not a big dark fantasy person. But I’d read this. You have a really interesting concept here. I’m confused by what you mean about getting justice for her brother though. Was he one of the ones killed? Is he being held captive? That line, without any indication as to what happened to him, kind of sticks out to me. I’d try to vary the length of your sentences as well. Some are very long (like the second one in your first paragraph) and could be broken up into two.

    First 250: I think we need to know a little more about Sorrow’s personality beforehand. If I were her father, and my child had gone missing, I’d be hesitant about letting my other child (no matter their age) go somewhere alone. Show us a bit more of her determination to find her brother—that she’s not just someone who wants to go out on her own for the sake of going out on her own. You’ve done a great job creating this world, though. I instantly felt like I was transported back in time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. COWBOYS VS ZOMBIES (side note, have you read the book Unicorns vs Zombies?)

    Hi! So I find it easier to make my suggested edits and comments [in brackets like this] inline the query :D

    QUERY

    Music is the key to all time and space. [different from standard query opening but I love this line!]

    [X-year-old] violin prodigy Crystal Aislen learns her mother, who went missing seven years ago, has been lost in time. When an eccentric scientist gives her a violin that can open time rifts, Crystal [makes a rash decision in attempt to find her mother/throws caution to the wind in search for her mother/put-the-appropriate-phrase-here] and accidentally flings herself into the past. [just trying to find a phrasing that shows more of WHAT the character does instead of “become”, which is a bit more passive in phrasing imo; also edits read smoother/flows smoother I think!] The specialized violin is her only hope of returning home, but its strings were scattered throughout history as she fell through time. [I moved this last sentence and tweaked it to the end of the query, because it reads like an excellent STAKES summary to wrap everything up]

    Crystal’s hunt for the strings will require her to stay a step ahead of some of the most ruthless outlaws of the Old West, outwit notorious pirates, and team up with Anna Maria Mozart [OOH]. Each string recovered gives Crystal more control over time and space. However, each use of the violin risks giving away her location in time to wraith-like electric guitar players from a dark and terrible future [deleted stuff here] hell-bent on erasing Crystal from existence. [Furthermore,] their sinister mission [suggests they may be responsible for her mother’s disappearance—and now, Crystal’s next on their list.] [deleted couple sentence here] [Crystal must find all four [violin strings] before the temporal energy of the time rift runs out, and she’s trapped in time-space forever, like her mother.]


    STRING THEORY is complete at 93,000 words.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Music and time-space—what an interesting concept and I love it! It sounds like you have a very complicated plot (as someone who also writes time-travel, I totally get the struggle of trying to cram so much ((we’re dealing with multiple timelines people!!)) into a query) and thus, I think it’s so critical to focus on the most important aspects of the novel, which seems to me, is: Crystal recovering the strings and escaping the people responsible for her mother’s disappearance. I think the last bit with the music composition miiiight be adding on too much/take away the focus from the central conflict. OR, if you really wanted to include that, I’ll try to weave that plotline earlier into the query.


    FIRST 250

    Love the first 250 words! I can totally feel myself in Crystal’s mind, and her passion and disbelief and everything. My only nitpick would be to split the second paragraph into 2, since it’s rather long. Perhaps after “ding her way home.” Would be a good place to break the para.

    ReplyDelete
  4. HUNGRY OCEAN GODS

    As noted above, I’ll be making my comments and suggested edits [in brackets like this]

    QUERY

    In 1913, Henry Hamilton disappears while traveling on business. His younger sister Sorrow, who sees Henry as her true parental figure, defies her controlling father’s orders to stay home and travels to the last place Henry is known to have visited – Tidepool, a shabby shore town near Ocean City, Maryland. [excellent set up for conflict, no complaints here :D ]

    [However, when] [this is totally a nitpick, but I think changing the phrasing here helps transition from the first para into this one, like it’s less of a “jump” in the timeline if that makes any sense] corpses wash up on Tidepool’s beach looking as if they’ve been torn apart by something not quite human, Sorrow is ready to run home to Baltimore and let her father send in the professional detectives. But then she encounters Mrs. Ada Oliver, a widow whose expensive black dresses and elegant manners set her apart from other Tidepool residents.

    A visit to the widow’s home and a terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement [reveals] [just to streamline] the town’s secret: The sacrifices Ada Oliver makes protect Tidepool from the horrifying creatures living in the ocean. And if the Lords Below don’t get their tributes, they will rise.

    Sorrow wants to stop Mrs. Oliver and get justice for her brother, but doing so will doom all the town’s residents. And the denizens of Tidepool—human and otherwise—are hell bent on making sure Sorrow never leaves.

    Gender-flipped Lovecraftian dark fantasy meets American Horror Story in TIDEPOOL, an adult novel complete at 77,000 words. It will appeal to fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Eric Scott Fischl’s DR. POTTER’S MEDICINE SHOW, and Cherie M. Priest’s MAPLECROFT.

    [OMG THOSE COMPS <3]

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    I thought the query was very polished and love the concept of the novel! I really only have minor nitpicks to make inline!

    FIRST 250

    Reads smoothly and I have a good feel of Sorrow’s personality and character! No comments here!

    ReplyDelete
  5. STRING THEORY:

    I don't like the log line. I think you can cut it and jump right into the meat of the query. This query is much improved from last round, so well done! My only recommendation would be to streamline it a bit. As it stands, there's a lot of "this happens and then this and then that" and we don't get much insight into your character. I think you could make the plot explanation much more concise and have space to weave in some kind of voice that would give us insight into your character.

    Your first 250 is really strong. I like it. I would recommend splitting up that second paragraph, though, because I got lost in it. I think it's all great stuff, but split it up into at least two--maybe three or four breaks. Also, I'd love some physical reactions. Shaking hands, gritted teeth, that kind of thing.


    HUNGRY OCEAN GODS:

    I love this idea and the query is super strong! My only complaint is that starting with Henry had me thinking he was the MC and then I got confused when you started talking about Willow. Since you have such a short amount of time to get across your story, start right off with your main character. It could be as simple as "Sorrow's older brother, Henry Hamilton, has disappeared" or whatever. Other than that, I think it's super strong.

    Great 250. No complaints there!


    Good luck to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cowboys Versus Zombie Pirates
    Query: Something about the first two lines doesn’t flow well, for me. I think it’s because they sound like they should be combined into one line. Like, “When an eccentric scientist gives teenage violin prodigy, Crystal Aislen, a violin that can open time rifts, she flings herself into the past, looking her mother, who went missing seven years ago.” Not those exact words, but something that ties the two ideas together. The last line of the first paragraph sound like your overall stakes, so I think they might be in the wrong place. The next paragraph is quite long and has a lot of details. I got a little lost in her journey. You may want to consider cutting some of the extra details and just telling the reader what they really need to know to understand the timeline. Then, I’d end with the stakes about being trapped in the past forever, and the last hope for all humanity. Overall good query, interesting and unique story, I just think there are one too many details, and a few of your lines are out of order.

    First 250: I like the edits you’ve made to this. There’s a lot of text contained within one paragraph, so I’d consider breaking it up a bit. Also, a lot of the text is in Crystal’s head, which I don’t mind, but you could move things around so we get a better idea of the setting, external influences, etc. I like how you end on “would have made her mother proud.” Gives the reader the idea that something happened, but we’re not sure what.

    Hungry Ocean Gods
    Query: I really like the changes you made to this query. I get a much clearer sense of the timeline, stakes, etc. Though, I have to say, in reading everything, I thought this was YA. Something in the word choices: “younger sister,” “parental figure,” etc, made me think I was reading about a sixteen-year-old girl. I’d expand on the “send in professional detectives...to look for Henry.” Also, if Henry was among the sacrifices, I’d just say so. Since you say Sorrow wants to get justice for him, it suggests she found him and he’s dead, so it wouldn’t give anything away. Overall, this query is much cleaner.

    First 250: So glad you decided to start with Sorrow this time! That way, the mystery and eerie atmosphere are fully intact! My only critique is that it still reads like YA to me, as did the query. If she hadn’t thought to herself, “I’m 21,” I would have thought she was sixteen. There’s just something in the word choices, but I’m having trouble putting my finger on it. I read mostly adult, and this doesn’t read like an adult novel to me. Others might feel differently, though. Other than that, I like this 250. I like that Sorrow is headstrong and intent on finding her brother.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fake Invisibility T-ShirtJune 15, 2018 at 8:45 AM

    Cowboys vs Zombie Pirates

    I don't have a strong feeling about the opening log line in the query...it works fine, but if you needed to conserve space, you could probably cut it. I wished there was a little more specificity. For example, "the process of searching for her mother" is vague, and you could use the same space to say something more pointed.

    Specificity could help you pare down the word count a bit as well. Another example: "Crystal’s hunt for the strings will require her to stay a step ahead of some of the most ruthless outlaws of the Old West..." --> "Crystal's mission leads her into Doc Holiday's saloon..." (I'm aware Doc's not technically an outlaw, but he's one of my fav Western characters :)

    In particular, I think you could cut down the number of time you used the words "space" and "time." After the first use or two, they started acting as verbal speed bumps. One last question to consider: If you want to pare and simplify the query further, I'm not sure you need to introduce the plot line about her mom's missing composition. You've already got plenty of conflict to work with, even without bringing that in.

    I enjoyed the first 250, and liked how we were immediately immersed in her world and thought process. I wonder if some people might take exception with how *interior* it is--but it worked for me. Nicely done.

    Hungry Ocean Gods

    The query is engaging and pulled me in, up until this paragraph, where I needed to slow and re-read a few times:

    "A visit to the widow’s home and a terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement lead to Sorrow’s discovery of the town’s secret: The sacrifices Ada Oliver makes protect Tidepool from the horrifying creatures living in the ocean."

    I think you could cut one or the other of those opening phrases because having them both side by side muddies the momentum--the second one is innately more scary. Daughters held captive in basements tend to have that effect. :) You might also think about putting the next sentence in active voice, not because I'm part of the Active Voice Police, but because it might become more clear: "Ada Oliver makes human sacrifices to protect..."

    Your 250 is clear and compelling. Some people might ding you for using a filter word in your opening sentence--"feeling." Works for me, but something to keep in mind. Great work!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Cowboys VS. Zombie Pirates

    Query:
    First off, your title is amazing. I love the concept behind string theory, and this fits your book perfectly.

    I notice that your query focuses heavily on concept. However, because it is a high-concept story, I feel like that works. (Who doesn't want to read a book about a time-manipulating violin?) And I laughed out loud at the phrase, "wraith-like electric guitar players." The book sounds like a wild ride. My one critique on the query. You already have the idea of the strings being scattered through time. It's a plot I've seen before, but the musical instruments put an interesting twist on it, and it didn't bother me. However, when you went on to say that there are also pages of sheet music scattered through time that she has to find, I started to worry that the plot might just repeat itself in the second half of the book. I would stick to mentioning that she searches for the truth about her mother, despite being told not to, and endangers her mission in the process. I think that's enough to keep readers wanting more.

    First 250:
    Small nitpick: Gray is a color. Earl Grey is a tea.

    I like the way the story opens. I felt so bad for Crystal getting cut short like that, and I loved the hint of snootiness in her voice as she listed all the subtle details the idiot judges were missing. However, I wish I would have gotten to see the next beat, if you will, of the story. Crystal's frustrations about being cut off and her thoughts about the brilliance of her own work take up all the space you have. I think a little bit of trimming could go a long way. But again, I like your concept and your character, and I've think you've got a solid entry here.

    Tidepool

    Query:
    I'm always up for a creepy dark fantasy, and this sure sounds like it will deliver. I think my biggest point of confusion was Sorrow's age. For some reason, I thought she was around thirteen when you first mentioned her, but then I started to doubt if a thirteen year old could run off and live with a stranger without getting sent back home.

    The line that begins "After corpses..." is pretty long, and I'm wondering if there's a way to break it up. Maybe take a separate sentence to mention that the culprit doesn't seem to be human? I love the fact that there are real stakes, and I can't tell which path Sorrow is going to take. That can be tricky to pull off.

    First 250:
    For some reason, the phrase "for God’s sake" sounded very modern to me. I can't quite place why, but it threw me out of the historical feel of the rest of the sample.

    I'm not sure you need the line about how "Winslow had definite ideas on what young ladies could and couldn’t do." You already did a fine job of showing his feelings in the dialogue, and given the year, the audience can assume that Sorrow's gender keeps her from doing many of the things she wants to do. The way she argues for herself shows her frustrations very well. Trust your audience. :)

    I have to say, I love the line you end on. It tells us so much about Sorrow's character.

    These both sound great. I hope my comments are helpful!

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  9. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 16, 2018 at 8:22 PM

    Cowboys:

    I honestly think that the first sentence in the query isn't necessary. I'd start with the introduction of the characters like you do in the second sentence. I'm really liking how you explain Crystal's problem and the stakes in the query, but it seems as though there are two quests: Find her mother and find all of the strings. It gets a little muddled on which is the main conflict. For the first 250, I think opening with Crystal beginning to play the piece would have been less confusing. I didn't know what was going on until about the third or fourth sentence. I'm loving that last line, though!


    Tidepool:

    Your query gave me chills! Especially at the "not quite human" part. I apologize for not having much practical advice to say about the query, because I think it's perfect the way it is. Honestly, for your 250, I think you could make this stronger by starting with the sensory detail of the pipe smoke and then work your way toward Sorrow standing in front of his desk. I'm also curious to know how Sorrow sees her father visually--is he a tall and imposing man, adding to the air of control? I think the way you opened your 250 might be a little too matter-of-fact. I'm more interested to see what Sorrow is experiencing sensory-wise.

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