Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Query Kombat Round 2: Punk Rock Waitress Rules vs Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

Title: Someone Somewhere Summertime

Entry Nickname: Punk Rock Waitress Rules

Word count: 88K

Genre: Adult – Women’s Fiction


In 1984, punk is rampant, Warhol rules, and 23-year-old Pittsburgh art student Jessica is sick of missing the excitement. In SOMEONE SOMEWHERE SUMMERTIME, Jessica sets her heart on a grad program in England she can’t afford, to bask in new wave sub-culture and hopefully emerge as a multi-media artist. Yet hometown boyfriend Drew decides they need to see other people if he’s not enough to keep her stateside. She’s single for the first time since age 17.

Hellbent on raising London tuition, Jessica and her avant-garde roommates set out to waitress in New Hope, PA, a tourist town full of river-view eateries, galleries, and alternative clubs. The girls rent a leaky basement apartment, braving waitressing chaos, slam dancers, drag shows, and co-workers of all sexual persuasions in search of the unbridled life she’s been pining for. Then Jess meets Whit, a volatile new wave guitarist who crawls through her window and makes her head spin like a record.

Lingering ex Drew shocks Jess by announcing plans to move to California, and Whit accidentally sends Jess careening off the road in his Camaro during a jealous tiff, draining her tuition savings with an ER bill. Jess is left to decide whether her attachment to both guys is a reckless personification of her cracked-glass mosaic art projects, and whether either will hinder her dream to launch an art career by studying overseas.

SOMEONE SOMEWHERE SUMMERTIME is irreverent post-punk, coming-of-age women’s fiction with romantic, humorous, and LGBTQ elements, 88,000 words. SWEETBITTER meets a John Hughes movie.

First 250 Words:

I’m not a good enough liar to get a job on the river side of New Hope, where the real waitresses work.

A restaurateur in a lavender silk shirt interrogates me, tapping a finger against his lips.

“Jessica Addentro,” he reads off my application. This is the seventh place I’ve visited today, and I have an hour before I have to meet the girls for a ride back to Trina’s house. My feet throb like a drum kick. But I have a security deposit to pay for, so I need a job.

I sit at Capresi’s Continental Restaurant, sheltered between the canal and a creek that zig-zags as if it’s lost its way. Trina calls this town Pennsylvania’s answer to San Francisco, where the lifestyle choices are as assorted as the menu selections. It’s an artsy tourist trap sprung between multiple bodies of water, including the Delaware River.

The restaurateur pronounces my name with an Italian flourish. “Ad-den-tro. Do you know what it means?”


“More like, versed in.” He winds his free hand in a circle. “As in, full of insights. Sound like you?”

“Depends on the subject matter,” I say. “But okay.” Sun-catchers glint behind the restaurateur amid a series of ceiling lanterns, revolving like some disjointed Calder mobile. Bookshelves and plants scream for a feather duster.

The man’s eyes flick down the page. “You live here in town?”

“Me and my roommates are moving into a place on Main Street this week.” Then life will begin.



Entry Nickname: Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

Word count: 93K

Genre: Adult Historical LGBTQ


Under its glittery surface, Belle Epoch Paris is a brutal place where an illustrious name or prodigious bank account are almost the only means of advancement. British expat Fin Tighe has neither due to his illegitimate birth. His evenings spent in the clandestine gay community are legal through a loophole in the Napoleonic Code, but they leave him vulnerable. So the engineer proposes to find investors for his employer Gustave Eiffel's pet project: a 300-meter tower that will dominate the city's skyline. If Fin raises enough money, the commission will earn him a fortune, and hopefully, some protection.

Capricious stranger Gilbert Duhais appears to be a boon from the gods. Gilbert is wealthy, connected, and--somehow privy to the tragedy Fin instigated in his native Yorkshire. Gilbert introduces Fin to every nouveau riche speculator in the city and soothes Fin’s suspicions with heart-thumping charm. Each provocative interaction heightens Fin's risk of exposure. But also brings Fin closer to his dream of financial security.

When Fin's dear friend is murdered, piecemeal clues indicate that Gilbert may have hijacked Fin's life for revenge over a man from Gilbert’s past, a scoundrel that Fin had good reason to want dead. Fin must untangle the disparate threads of his past--and his current romantic gamble--before they become his noose.

GREEN CARNATIONS is a 92,000-word LGBTQ adult historical fiction that will appeal to fans of Mackenzi Lee's Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and Cat Sebastian's M/M historical romances.

First 250:

Paris, 1886

I lifted my glass to hide my unshakable smirk in another drop of wine. The terrace wasn’t empty, but I had my choice of seats facing the direction of the river, towards the Champs du Mars. Not that I saw it over the mansard roofs of my neighborhood’s apartments, but I knew where it was. I wasn’t the most creative man, my talents were concrete; numbers and measurements. Dependable things, unable to be changed on a whim. But when I lifted my gaze toward the gibbous moon, I could almost make out the iron lacework tower that would change my life.

If it were built.

And it had to be because Monsieur Eiffel would make it worth my effort.

The expanse of butcher paper serving as a tablecloth begged for some scribbles and I pulled a pencil from the pocket under my green-tinted boutonniere. With a flourish, I wrote out the sum I could've done in my head when I was six, let alone one-and-thirty, but I needed to see the answer in writing. Twenty percent.

Good Christ. I giggled, and I never giggled. Giggling was for small children and overenthusiastic young girls. Yet, there I sat, in a crowded restaurant, and something I vaguely recognized as joy burbled out.


My head whipped up at the unfamiliar male voice. I could count on one hand the people who called me Fin rather than Finley or Tighe, and none of them would hover around a perfectly bourgeois establishment like this tonight—or any night.


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

    1. Punk Rock Waitress Rules: Wow, I love this premise even though I don’t often read women’s fiction. I’m not sure why Drew moving to California is shocking, so maybe clarify that. Also the statement “Jessica sets her heart on a grad program in England she can’t afford” is awkward. Maybe remove “she can’t afford” and add a word to describe the grad program instead. Also, don’t capitalize any book title except the one your pitching to keep the focus on your manuscript. I really love the vivid picture you paint with your first 250 words, especially your first line. I think this looks and sounds fantastic and doesn’t need much editing. It even ends in a great cliffhanger of attitude. Bravo!

      Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere: The few tweaks you made in this query have made it stronger. I’m a little concerned about how passive the first few sentences are, so I’d encourage you to try to use some stronger verbs if you can. Other than that, great job!

      These decisions are getting harder each round, and this was no exception. VICTORY goes to UNNATURALLY DYED BOUTONNIERE.

      ~Red Ink Slinger

    2. Congrats on making it to round two of QK!

      Punk Rock Waitress Rules

      Right off the bat, I’d cut the reference to the title in the first paragraph. Save that for the info at the bottom. I also don’t think you need the “She’s single for the first time” line — it’s a bit jarring and interrupts the flow of the paragraph.

      The second paragraph is wonderful, but I’m a tad confused by the opening line of the third paragraph. What does Drew moving to California have anything to do with Whit and Jess? It could just be the way the sentence is structured, but I’m wondering if it’s even necessary. Right now, there are so many different geographical locations referenced — Pittsburgh, London, New Hope, California — that I’m having trouble keeping up with the stakes of a long-distance relationship (possibly?)or moving (or not moving so she can stay with one of them).

      I also don’t really get the feeling that Jess is still attached to Drew in your query — it seems like once he announces he’s ready to move on, Jess throws herself into waitressing and meets Whit. So if the stakes really are about her deciding between the two, as well as launching her art career, then it needs to be made clearer throughout.

      So I like the first line, but because we don’t get back to the potential hidden meaning behind it in the first 250, it’s a little jarring. This could be moot, as I don’t have your full first chapter on hand, but I’m left wondering why. Has she never waitressed before? So she’s lying on her resume? Why does she think like this?

      I love your use of details throughout — you really paint a clear picture of the scene. There are a few instances where I crave a bit of internal reflection — like when he asks her if she’s full of insights — but that’s an easy beat you could add. Overall, nice work!

      Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

      I’ll be the first person to admit that I typically don’t read historical, but I think you do an excellent job throughout crafting a setting and using language that lends itself to your genre. I knew immediately, without having to reference the “genre” details above, what you were aiming for. Props.

      That said, the passive language in the opening lines is a bit jarring for me. Is there a way to weave in those details or condense them down and filter them through the POV of Fin? Food for thought. I’d also like to know what he’s left vulnerable to?

      In the second paragraph, I’d cut the use of the em dash. Also, what tragedy did Fin instigate? You don’t have to spell it out, but it’s a little vague so I’m not sure if it ties into the stakes noted at the end. Right now, the light references to “disparate threads of his past” don’t reveal much either, so I’d see if there’s a way you can strengthen those stakes.

      Again, I’m extremely impressed with your use of language to ground us in your desired setting. I have the utmost respect for historical writers, so props for nailing this!

      These two are so different, but I do feel like one is a tad cleaner than the other…


      Great concept! I feel like your query has too many lists. There's the "punk rock rules..." list toward the beginning, the "eateries" list, and the "waitressing chaos" list. It may just be me, but it feels like you're trying to force too much info in too few sentences. I also don't recommend putting the title in the first paragraph amidst the summary. It takes us out of the story. It's sort of breaking the fourth wall.
      Your query feels the slightest bit distant to me. I'm not quite getting a sense of narrative voice. Also, I don't understand why it matters where Drew is moving if he already broke up with Jessica. You could note briefly that she still has feelings for him. I don't get a sense of that being the case until that moment in the query. I like the part about Jessica meeting Whit and the subsequent car accident. That makes it easy to sympathize with Jessica. The last part, about cracked glass mosaic art projects, I'd eliminate the phrase "a personification of" and replace it with a clearer phrase. Ex: "a cracked glass mosaic akin to the ones she designs, and just as capable of ruining her grad school dreams". That's probably a bad example, but you get the idea; not personification, because her attachment is not a person, and a more direct comparison might be preferable.

      Your first page is interesting, but a little on-the-nose. Don't have your character come right out and tell us that she needs a job. Show us her feelings about the interview, and we'll infer that if she's desperate for the job, it's because she needs money. As of now, other than foot pain, I don't know what she's feeling at all.
      With all this said, I've made lots of suggestions, but your query and first page are already really good. I'm rooting for your book to be on shelves soon.

      I just love this so much, okay? Your query clearly sets out the stakes, and it's improved a lot in clarity since the first round. My one suggestion is to change the sentence starting with "When Fin's dear friend..." The sentence is long and confusing. I don't know if the deceased is the same person as the man Fin wanted dead. (After reading it again, I guess not, since that was his dear friend, haha.) You just might want to detangle the info a little.
      Your first page=yes. Show me the voice. SHOW ME THE VOICE, BABY!

      Love, respect and best wishes to both entries! They really are both great.



      The query could be clearer. I’d delete that second sentence where you mention the title and just keep going with the query. On that note, the query does read a lot like a synopsis. I would subtract some of these details, concentrate on Jessica, and then focus on either Whit or Drew. Right now, I’m just not sure how it all comes together.

      For the 250, it read a bit out of order? Like the second paragraph could be worked into the third paragraph more smoothly. I wonder about the fourth paragraph too, wondering if where she’s sitting can be moved to immediately after the waiter says her name. Right now, he says her name, then we have a paragraph of exposition, and then we go back to how he’s mispronouncing her name. I just think it can be smoother. I do love your details, just sprinkle them in more organically.


      I was with this query until the last paragraph, where I became confused. “When Fin's dear friend is murdered, piecemeal clues indicate that Gilbert may have hijacked Fin's life for revenge over a man from Gilbert’s past, a scoundrel that Fin had good reason to want dead. Fin must untangle the disparate threads of his past--and his current romantic gamble--before they become his noose.” Does this mean that Gilbert is framing Fin for the murder? Some clarity on that point would clean up everything.

      I love the 250! No real suggestions.

      Congrats to you both! I hope you got great agent requests! Because I think it’s a bit cleaner at this point . . .

      Victor to DYED BOUTONNIERE!!

    5. Punk Rock Waitress Rules

      I love the voice and premise on this one! It’s a well-written query too. You might want to reword the sizzle a bit to show more of the stakes, but other than that, great job!

      First 250:
      Love the voice! It’s really consistent with the query. I got confused a bit who’s Trina, but the context of your next paragraph clears this up for me.

      Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

      Interesting premise! You might want to lessen the names you throw in though, as it gets hard to keep track who’s who and who’s doing what.

      First 250:
      I love how you’re able to bring me into the scene and making me feel like I’m actually there.

      This is a totally subjective vote, as the voice in one speaks to me more… VICTORY to PUNK ROCK WAITRESS RULES.

    6. Punkrock Waitress Rocks
      Great query with an excellent voice! I love how you’ve chosen to set it in the 80s! I’m not sure how much I care for the phrase “braving waitressing chaos, slam dancers, drag shows, and co-workers of all sexual persuasions.” I know that it’s meant to be humorous, but if I were an agent reading it, I would be concerned that the LGBTQ+ characters would be used for cheap laughs.

      First 250:
      Love this! I would like to know a little more about how Jess is feeling during the interview. Is she weary because it’s her seventh one? Does she begin to sweat or feel frustrated at the interviewer’s demeanor?

      Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere
      Query: I love how you’ve worked the historical setting into this query. It sounds like a great book. I would like to know a little more about Fin’s friend before you introduce that he was murdered. A sentence about his friend would help show me how Fin feels about his death.

      First 250: Awesome intro. The first paragraph feels a bit too big and drags on about the river, preventing me from getting into the story. I would recommend condensing “Not that I saw it over the mansard roofs of my neighborhood’s apartments, but I knew where it was. I wasn’t the most creative man, my talents were concrete; numbers and measurements. Dependable things, unable to be changed on a whim.” And instead focus on the sentence about the Eifel Tower. Otherwise, I think the first page is perfect!

      Although I loved both entries, I am going to have to go with the one that pulled me in and made me want to read more. VICTORY to UNNATURALLY DYED BOUTONNIERE!

    7. I'm having internet problems, so I will post a comment with feedback later.

  2. This genre is admittedly out of my typical arena for a good book-romp, but I’m going to comment here anyway because they both sound so interesting.

    Punk Rock Waitress:

    I reviewed this last time, and short of going back and comparing what you changed line by line – I don’t THINK You changed much, and I think that’s probably a good thing. Sounds really great. I love the idea of a coming of age story in this tumultuous and fascinating time in pop culture history. I love that it’s in Pennsylvania. (Seriously – what happens in PA? Lots. Yay, Pittsburgh!)

    My only question is – why does she care that her Ex moves to California? Is she just mad that he moved, but wouldn’t move FOR HER? Is she still hung up on him? I’m sure the answers to these things are clear in the book, so I’m not sure if they NEED to be clear in the query or not. In the end, I’m already hoping she finds herself – regardless of these two bozo men. ��

    Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere

    Can I just say that I have SO MUCH RESPECT for people who write about actual time periods and actual scenarios that are a piece of history. (I write fantasy – so no one can fact check me, haha.) I love this premise as it is something that is so unfamiliar to me, I feel like I could finish this book having expanded my horizons.

    The only thing that tripped me up was “Fin’s dear friend is murdered…” I thought you were talking about Gilbert. It took me a second to realize this must be someone else and Gilbert is still around as part of the plot.

    Great job to both of you. I’m so impressed.

  3. Waitress:

    Liked the way you capture the punk era and I already like Jessica and want to follow her adventures. You have a knack for description/metaphor, “whether her attachment to both guys is a reckless personification of her cracked-glass mosaic art projects”… love it! My only recommendation is to tighten up the query, trim down some of the sentences to the essentials.

    First 250:
    Great voice and feel for the character and place. Could probably be a little tighter in just a few spots, i.e. maybe the last line of dialogue could be trimmed to start with, “Moving into a place….” … unless it’s important to your story to mention the roommates.



    You had me at “Eiffel” and “tower” :) … very intriguing premise! I had to read the query over a few times, however, to get a sense of the story, and even then was confused because there’s so much going on. If there’s a way to streamline and clarify without losing any of the great colour, could be worth the effort.

    First 250:
    Definitely get a strong sense of the main character and what drives him, well done! Consider beginning with, “When I lifted my gaze…” etc. Not sure you need what comes before and I found it a little confusing, thought he was smirking because he was with someone… if not, why would he need to hide it?

    Best of luck to both, great job!

  4. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 16, 2018 at 8:54 PM

    Punk Rock:

    I am in love with the way that you set up your world in the query! You set the tone of the culture beautifully. Where you lose me is the very last paragraph. A lot happens and I'm wondering if it would be wise to reveal that plot point of Whit sending Jess into the ER. You could play with it, but I think it might be revealing too much. In the 250, I'm digging the voice! I can get a real sense of who Jess is through her thoughts and how she responds to the guy who's reviewing her resume. I'm wondering if WHAT they're talking about is absolutely necessary. If it's meant to be slight getting to know you banter, then keep it.

    Unnaturally Dyed:

    I'm going to give the same feedback that I did your fellow kombatant: You lose me in the last paragraph. A lot of things happen at once, and I don't know how Gilbert is using Fin. I'm in love with the last sentence of that paragraph, though, as well as how you introduce the characters in the query. One small quibble: It may be helpful to include the year of when this takes place, because I was wondering about that and it was distracting me. Your 250 is very nice! I like Fin's internal pondering and I'm interested to see who that mystery man is. ;)