Saturday, June 25, 2016

Query Kombat Round 4!



Round 4!

This round lasts until June 26rd at 8 pm.


On the last day the hosts may call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. In the event a tie remains, the blog host will provide the tie breaker.

The four entries with the most votes for Victory move forward to the fifth round on June 28th!
  

There will not be any more opportunities to revise for the remainder of the tournament. Good luck!

Now before we begin:

 
Read this post again to remind yourselves of the rules and guidelines of 
commenting and judging. Below I've reposted the main ideas:

Reminders for the Entrants:

 
You may comment on your own entries ON the last day of the round to offer thanks or congrats. If there is a problem with your entry, please tweet me @LH_Writes. I tend to be around slightly less on weekends, but I'll reply as soon as I can. If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling us the mistake. Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Reminders for the Judges:

 
Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!). Be sure to point out the good as well as what needs work. Post under your nicknames! If you forget, just delete and repost. And judges: seriously, thank you for doing this. It's a very tough job and isn't for the faint-hearted.

Reminders for Everyone:


Try not to comment until after one of us hosts have made the first comment, then go ahead and offer your feedback. We ask everyone who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment. 

NOW THE FUN BEGINS!!! GO GO GO!!! We'll be Tweeting under #QueryKombat!

QK ROUND 4: MADAM BUTTERFLY vs. MY BOYFRIEND RIGGED THE LOTTERY

Title: The Absence of Butterflies
Entry Nickname: Madam Butterfly
Word Count: 80K
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Query: 

Will Kavanagh is the only one who knows the truth about the drug overdose that killed Christy Talbot. Not that he’s telling. The world famous actress may have starred in the film adaption of his novel, but that doesn’t mean he wants to go to jail for giving her illegal drugs. Troubled by a mounting sense of self-loathing and guilt, Will returns to the only place he has ever felt something other than lost: home. Not that everyone in town is rolling out the red carpet for Cherrington’s prodigal son—especially not his former fiancĂ©e, Jessica Locke.

Following the unexpected death of her father, Jessica needs something—anything—to keep herself busy, and fixing up a property for Will’s mother sounds like just the ticket. The only hitch is her ego-fueled ex-fiancĂ© is back—the one who left her in the rear-view mirror on his way to literary fame in NYC. Will is the last person Jessica wants to talk about, let alone see. The trouble is, she never could resist those piercing blue eyes and tortured writer’s soul. It isn’t long before things heat up between them once again.

Each dealing with death in very different ways, Jessica and Will navigate conflicting emotions and their undeniable attraction to find something worth saving. Too bad Will, haunted by the knowledge of how Christy died, isn’t exactly relationship-ready. Neither is Jessica. She knows Will is hiding something and she’s determined to find out what.

Then Will realizes that unless he’s willing to reveal his secret to Jessica, fast, he could lose her trust—and her love—all over again. Because, as it turns out, Will isn't the only one who knows the truth behind Christy’s death.

 First 250:

When Will Kavanagh stepped out of the coffee shop, his eyes were drawn to the bookstore window like a magnet.

Just get back in the damn car, he commanded himself.

But his legs seemed to move of their own volition, taking him over to the book display. He would have recognized those red and gold splashed covers anywhere. Bold black letters at the top of each one proclaimed Now a Major Motion Picture. Underneath was a snapshot of the two main stars. The one on the right gazed back at Will, her full lips curved in a wide smile. His gut twisted into knots of guilt.

As he stood transfixed on the sidewalk, the world around him faded away. He didn’t see Christy Talbot with her arm around her leading man. Instead his mind burned with the image of the actress as she lay sprawled on the floor next to an upended pill bottle, her eyes empty. Those eyes had haunted him every day for the last two months.

“Excuse me.”

The voice made him snap back to the present. A man stood beside him, holding out the bag that contained Will’s bagel. “You dropped this.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”

Will stiffened. “No.”

He strode back to his BMW. With a tightness in his chest, he drove past the downtown stores, this time making damn sure his eyes faced forward. He needed another reminder of Christy like he needed a hole in the head.


~ VERSUS ~

Title: Windfall
Nickname: My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery
Word Count: 83K
Genre: YA Contemporary Suspense

Query:

In Marina’s culture, dumplings are thought to bring wealth and good fortune to anyone who eats them. But she’s been eating dumplings her whole life and good fortune remains as elusive as a good boyfriend. She’s a Chinese-American piano prodigy with no say in her future, and the pressure to be perfect is crushing her.  

On her eighteenth birthday, Marina plays Windfall—a new lottery game promising large payouts every day for life. When she wins and her dad inexplicably forbids her from claiming the prize, she feels newly entitled to defy her parents and reject their plans for her life. She accepts the money against their wishes, cutting her family ties in the process. As she lets new friends in, including a sexy guitar player named Sean who represents everything that’s missing from her musical life, her old friends get pushed to the side.

But Marina’s lottery win comes with strings attached. She was hand-picked to win because of her family connections, and because those on top thought she’d be easy to manipulate. If she fails to do her part and the scandal is exposed, she’ll be removed. Since it’s a for-life prize, the company only has to pay out as long as she’s … well, alive. When Marina finds evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But Sean’s arrival in her life was suspiciously close to the announcement of her lottery win and there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him, including the fact that he’s the CEO’s nephew. To keep her family and friends out of the crossfire of the scandal, Marina must figure out who to trust and who’s pulling the lottery strings—before her prize becomes a noose.

First 250:

My best friend’s raspberry spritzer sat dangerously close to the edge of the table, a twitch of the elbow away from tumbling to the floor. It was non-alcoholic, of course. The staff at Valer Prep made sure that alcohol was only consumed by parents (preferably ones with fat checkbooks) at the annual fundraising events.

I reached over Darya and slid her drink to a less precarious spot in the center of the table. She didn’t even notice—she just kept staring at the phone in her hands.

Okay, I was staring at it too.

“The draw was at six. Why haven’t they posted the numbers yet?” Darya’s eyes were wide, and her dark hair hung in thick waves down her back. She had the tiniest hint of a Spanish accent, but it only came out when she was stressed or upset. Like now.

“Relax, it’s only been five minutes.” My leg bounced up and down under the table, upsetting the floor-length tablecloth.

The parents in the decked-out ballroom were dressed like they’d gotten lost on their way to the Oscars and ended up at our high school’s silent auction by mistake. They mingled about, bidding on rounds of golf at exclusive country clubs and dinner cruises around the San Francisco Bay. What they really should have been bidding on were self-help courses like: Connecting with Teens For Dummies, or How to Break Your Workout Addiction in Ten Easy Steps.

Despite what I'd said to Darya, I felt anything but relaxed.

QK ROUND 4: AND I FEEL FINE vs. HOT SAUCE IS BAD FOR WOUND CARE

Title: Starborn
Entry Nickname: And I Feel Fine
Word Count: 85K
Genre: Adult Science Fiction

Query:

Numbed and heartless, 24-year-old Sherman Logan has saved every life but his own. He's damn good at pelting in from between galaxies and rescuing as many people off their dying planets as possible for the Enders Agency, an interstellar first-responders team. Over. And. Over.

When Sherman’s last real friend and comrade goes starborn – or dies on the job – to save a suicidal man and his brave and beautiful daughter named Bennett, Sherman falls for her hard.  She wakes him from apathy - but waking means feeling the horror of every victim he didn't save. Soon, he discovers, the carnage won't end at his faraway deployments: Armageddon is about to hit right at home.

On Sherman's resident planet, a poltergeist ruler struggles to retake the podium from beyond the grave. It murders current officials and speaks through intercoms by eerily weaving together clips of its old speeches. Just when Sherman and his comrades realize they may be the only ones able to halt the phantom's violent course to resurrection, Ender agents begin to disappear. With Bennett's help, Sherman must confront the dictator-poltergeist and the root of these vanishings before they come for him too and destroy the Enders for good. On top of the incomprehensible death that haunts his everyday life, he'll have to venture deeper into his crashing universe – and himself – than he could have ever imagined.

But hey, apocalypse doesn't faze him. It’s his job.

First 250:

The vehicle jumps and knocks my hand off the wheel.

I slam it back. Sarge says keep on the wheel. Don’t let go of the wheel.

Fuck that. Sarge ain’t here. The grey leather jerks in my grip and I keep my foot hard against the pedal. My eyes are dead ahead as the blizzard pushes us aside before I can jolt the wheel steady. But the bridge is falling apart beneath us; concrete crumbling from our tires into the steel colored ocean below. Hail flashes like daggers off the headlights.

I glance into the overhead mirror at the huddled children in the backseat. Siblings. They always give those to me for some reason.

“Sherm!” The mic attached to my shoulder buzzes.

Instinctively, I look out the driver’s window, expecting to see someone cruising next to me. Unc’s two lanes over, looking asleep again. His wrinkly old hand holds the wheel and his eyes droop, but nothing stirs, no emotion when his car jostles past a pothole at ninety miles per hour. More concrete railing sinks into the sea far below.

Wasn’t Unc. Of course. I know the voice.

I scrunch up my shoulder and speak into the mic, keeping my eyes on the road as we finally peak at the bridge’s arch and head for the descent. “Talk, Grant.”

Fuzz. Heavy breathing as Grant messes with his shoulder sleeve to speak.

“What’re we gonna do if this thing blows?”

“I’m gonna die. What’re you going to do?”

Always freaks him out.

~ VERSUS ~

Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word Count: 63K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense

Query:

Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday's first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.

As Grayson debates whether or not to kill, some of his victims begin to see the cycle as a blessing instead of a curse, and in order to ensure it continues, they increase their cruelty to outrageous levels. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor and member of that group treats him as a fellow human that signs of a possible end to the cycle begin to appear. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his other victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medications, and friendships he needs. Otherwise, he will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.

Although the manuscript is narrated by a second-person voice in Grayson’s head, his is not the only story being told. Since Grayson is unaware of the temporal loop, so is the voice, leaving the reader to only feel the presence of the loop through Grayson’s interactions with the group of students he kills. While Grayson’s outlook resets with each chapter, the group members’ memories continue across the length of the manuscript, allowing their individual outlooks and attitudes to evolve, or in some cases, devolve. These secondary arcs are as seen by the voice in Grayson's head who keeps saying "you" when any rational, reliable narrator would clearly just say "I." 

First 250:

TUESDAY 7:59 A.M.

You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.

But still.

That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –

Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.

You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.

Yet.

QK ROUND 4: LIKE ATLANTIS, ONLY TOTALLY CREEPY vs. CEMENT GARGLING 101

Title: Under the Surface
Entry nickname: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy
Word count: 64K
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is a professional mother-disappointer… but losing her sister in an eerie underwater town sets a whole new standard. 

When Lauren hears the legend, she’s intrigued; exploring the lost town under Lake Modoc is the perfect adventure to take her mind off of her mounting stack of detention letters. Together with her two best friends, she hops on a boat (somewhat illegally) and sets out to discover the Atlantis of Owego County. 

One problem: Lauren must bring her eight-year-old tattletale sister, Roxie, along for the ride. In the split second Lauren and her friends find the creepy, algae-covered church steeple under the lake, Roxie disappears from the boat. Silently, impossibly, Roxie is gone.

With her sister missing, Lauren is wracked with grief and uncertainty. She becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind Roxie’s increasingly mysterious disappearance. But when the police can’t see the steeple Lauren leads them to—the place where Roxie vanished—she takes matters into her own hands, scuba diving into the deep.

Lauren finds out too late that the town under the lake was abandoned there for a reason. By opening its doors, she unleashes the its dark, magical ability to lure away children—and if she doesn’t find her sister soon, she might have more than one lost kid to answer for.

With Roxie’s life hanging in the balance, Lauren must piece together the secrets of the town under Lake Modoc—or live under the weight of Roxie’s death forever.

First 250 words:

Whenever I stand on the shores of Lake Modoc, I scour the horizon like I’ll find something out of the ordinary. Today I do the same, letting my eyes skip over the dark blanket of water as the wind plays with the ends of my hair. On the edge of my vision something bobs some twenty feet away, but the moment I squint harder to see its shape, it disappears.

“Ugh, damn it! These test tubes are impossible,” Carly shouts beside me, breaking my reverie.

“Jesus. You ruined my yoga vibe.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I can totally see you doing downward-facing whatever. Can you help for two seconds?” Carly pushes her red curls out of her face, bent over the water’s edge.

As I step toward her, movement flashes in the water again. My stomach drops out, leaving a vague sense of dread in its place. Whatever’s out there avoids my glance, so I force myself to take up my time-honored duty: talking Carly down from insanity.

“Hey,” I say. “It’s a simple assignment. We’d be fine using tap water.”

“Tap water is too easy. I want a challenge.” The glass tubes she’s struggling with tumble into the lake, causing her to swear under her breath.

“Well, consider yourself challenged.”

Carly has been my best friend since that time we had the misfortune of being dressed in the same hideous sweater on picture day in the second grade, but at times like these I reconsider our actual compatibility as human beings.

~ VERSUS ~

Title: The Siren Episode
Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:  

Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.

Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable. 

Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, Lenora’s a siren. Worse, she’s a murderer. And Lenora hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco, not the monsters. If opened, the safe’s contents could ruin his family, leaving humans unprotected against nightmarish creatures. Arlen’s parents want the siren dead, and Arlen faces an impossible choice: kill Lenora to bury the secret, or trust the siren and expose the truth. 

First 250 words:

Arlen Boggs hopped his neighbor’s fence and slipped past the protestors. They’d camped in front of his house again, picket signs raised. He tried to keep his footsteps light, but the rain puddles didn’t help his cause.

Two blocks, he thought. You can do two blocks without getting recognized.

The morning air chilled his neck, and he buttoned his father’s trench coat, too big for his lanky frame. Arlen wore the coat, baseball cap, and sunglasses to keep himself hidden. He hoped it would work this time. 

Head down, he hurried along the narrow sidewalk. Trees rustled on either side of the street, and he glanced up at the sycamores. Nothing but windblown leaves.

A woman’s voice came from behind him: “There he is.”

Arlen turned to look at the protestors, five houses back. “Great,” he muttered.

Two of their poster boards read, “GO AWAY, MYTH SLAYERS!” and “MYTHS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO!” Despite the wet September morning, the crazy zealots surged onto the road and shouted at him.

A few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, Arlen still didn't have his driver's license. His parents never had time to teach him, always out filming their TV show. Otherwise, he would have driven himself to school and avoided the daily hate-fest.

Another tree rustled and a branch snapped. 

Could be a monster.

The protestors sped up, chasing after him with their hand-painted signs. 

Arlen broke into a jog. Monsters in the trees, protestors on his tail. Why were mornings so complicated?

QK ROUND 4: ONE-HANDED WONDER vs. JELLO POEMS

Title: The Windup
Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40,000
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Contemporary

Query:

Kyle Whalen, a southpaw Little League pitcher, had enjoyed a typical adolescent boyhood until a car crash took his right hand, his twin brother, and his passion for life. Now, three years later, Kyle is fourteen and determined to play ball again in memory of his brother and fulfill the dream they shared: win the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament, a feat his home team has never accomplished.

Kyle practices hard with his catcher Hailey—the girl he’s crushing on and best friends with—but he struggles to pitch and bat one-handed. Those challenges mount when he discovers she likes a rival ballplayer. Things get worse when his coach and several of his teammates bail, leaving his team ineligible to compete. It’s game on, though, when Kyle convinces his estranged dad to take over as coach and his troublemaker cousin joins the team. 

As Kyle leads his ragtag club toward the championship, he grows closer to his father, the man he thought no longer cared—about anything, not since the crash. Kyle also begins competing for Hailey’s heart. When Kyle settles a score with a bully by whiffing him each at bat and bouncing his team from the tournament, he thinks the torment is over. He thought wrong. The bully pulls a nasty prank on Kyle a few hours before the big game, and Kyle must choose between keeping the dream alive and keeping his family together.

First 250 Words:

I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down.

“Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. She was my age, fourteen, and a cutie. Ponytailed blond hair. A freckled nose. Full lips. Yeah, I had a crush on her, but it was just a tiny one. Really. Okay, a big one.

The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My tired pitching arm sagged at my side. I dug my cleat into the soft dirt in front of the pitching rubber, wound up, and slung a fastball. After my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and got into fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. I had no doubt teams would test me by hitting comebackers.

“Nice pitch,” Hailey said, hopping up. “You’re ready for this.”

I shook off my glove. “I hope so.”


It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin teammate to double high-five.

~ VERSUS ~ 

Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37,500
Genre: MG Humor

Query

Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays of Jello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all. 

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.” 

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.

Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Query Kombat 2016 Round 4 Match-ups



Round 3 of Query Kombat has officially come to a close.

Our numbers have been cut in half yet again. The Sweet 16 becomes the Elite 8 fighting for just four spots in the next round. Round 4 promises to be the toughest round thus far. I have no idea how the judges are going to do it. Good luck to all!


Below is the list of round 4 entrants and who they will be matched against. Happy taunting. McWriterfaces are in purple.

Madam Butterfly vs My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

And I Feel Fine vs. Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs Cement Gargling 101

Jello Poems vs. One-Handed Wonder

CONGRATS AND GOOD LUCK KOMBATANTS


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Query Kombat 2016 Round 3 Match-ups

 



Round 2 of this tournament is officially over. All kontenders fought valiantly, but alas, half of you must be knocked out. Win or lose, thanks for officially making QK the toughest query tournament in all the land.

A standing ovation to those of you who fought and came out victorious. A full 48 entries out of the 64 that started this tournament have been eliminated. Those left can practically smell the title of QK Grand Champion. Best of luck in round 3, kontenders. You're going to need it.


Please have your revised entries to us by Sunday,
June 19th at 8 pm EST. Use the same format and send to the contest email:
QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com.


Round 3 will be hosted on Mike's blog from June 21st-23rd. Below is not only a list of who made it into the 3rd round, but who entrants be match against as well. Purple entries are on Team Writey McWriterface (and yes, I cried over the first match-up).


Happy Editing!

Madam Butterfly vs. Irish in America

The Ghost and Ms. Clair vs. And I Feel Fine

Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs. Meet Me at Lake Neveah

What's Luck Got to Do With it vs. Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

One-Handed Wonder v. The Order of Black

Jello Poems v. Partners in Magic

Escape the Fate vs. Cement Gargling 101

My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery vs. Ticket to Ride


GUEST POST: That Big, Scary Decision You’re Pondering? It Doesn’t Really Matter

Today, I'm excited to share with you this guest post by Leigh Himes, author of the amazing "The One Who Got Away," which is available now. I was lucky enough to get to read an advance copy of this book, and I just adored everything about it. 


That Big, Scary Decision You’re Pondering? It Doesn’t Really Matter 

One evening in my late twenties, I found myself standing immobile in the pouring rain beside a large metal FedEx collection box, unable to put the document I had just signed—an official acceptance letter for a snazzy tech job in Boston—inside. I knew the last pick-up was at seven o’clock and I had better decide, and yet I couldn’t move, frozen with anxiety and doubt. I was so fearful that this one flimsy cardboard envelope—this one decision—would affect my entire life. And I was certain that the right choice would lead to a lifetime of happiness, whereas the wrong one would find me broke, alone, and miserable, roaming the back alleys of my hometown in a robe and slippers mumbling “If only, if only….” 

The problem wasn’t the job, all the unknowns, or even the thought process that got me to that point. The problem was that, like always, I gave life decisions like this way too much power and way too much of my time. I’d make infinite lists of pro’s and con’s, taking long walks looking for “a sign,” and asking anyone and everyone—from colleagues to friends to blind dates—what they would do. And even post-decision, I would continue the endless ruminations, questioning each choice and wondering about the road not taken. 

That night at the FedEx drop-off, the man I was dating kindly drove over and pulled me out of the rain. “If you’re not one hundred percent sure you want the job, don’t take it,” he advised. I conceded he was probably right, trashed the letter, and went home slightly relieved and mentally exhausted, but still unsure. 

But guess what? Today, I can’t even remember what the company was or what the position entailed. In fact, I rarely think of it, and when I do, it’s only to laugh. 

Because that’s what happens when you get older and wiser and you have decades, not just years, of choices behind you. It’s not that decisions become easier, or you get better at them. Or even that there are less of them. (In fact, when you have kids and a spouse, you have to help with all their big decisions, too.) What changes is that you finally realize—write this down, all you over-analyzers, out there—it doesn’t really matter

Let me repeat. It didn’t matter that I decided not to take that glamorous position. It didn’t matter that I stayed in Philadelphia, took a lesser-paying job, and eventually moved to the boring suburbs. It didn’t matter that I broke up with the man who talked me down off the FedEx ledge, and quickly dove into another ill-fated relationship. Either way, I am now where I was meant to be and doing what I was meant to be doing (for now, at least). 

Life isn’t as black and white as we think, and one decision, or even several, doesn’t send us down irreversible roads we can’t find our way off of. There is no giant fork in the road, with one path leading to the gleaming castle and the other to the haunted woods. And even if there is, it doesn’t determine our happiness. Only you, not your circumstances, can do that. 

And, the even crazier thing is that sometimes “wrong” decisions are actually right ones in disguise. Case in point: I loved living in downtown Philadelphia so much I vowed I would never leave. But with my new husband---the same guy who rescued me from my rainy FedEx hell, and who came back into my life years later---and I both working from home and a baby coming, I found myself moving to a sleepy, stuck-in-the-1950’s commuter town. It’s also where, after baby number two, that I suffered post-partum depression so severe that sometimes it would keep me up literally all night long. 

It was during one of those excruciating nights, my mind racing with equal amounts of hormones and regret, that I opened the magazine and read the article that sparked the idea that would become my first novel. A twist of fate that has not only given me a new career, but a greater appreciation for all that I have and all the twists and turns of life that had gotten me to this point. Had I never “mistakenly” moved to the ‘burbs, this novel of which I am so proud—the story of a young struggling mother who gets a chance to live the life she always thought she wanted—would not exist. 

Like everyone, I still have trouble with big decisions. But instead of agonizing and reaching for my faded, battered copy of “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda,” I pick a lane and hit the pedal. I know that there’s no one decision that leads to a life of unhappiness, and no regret worth more than a few moments of your time (murder, heroin, and pixie haircuts excepted). 

Maybe sooner than you think, you’ll be able to see that the road you have chosen may not be smooth, but it’s still getting you where you need to be. Because—take it from me—moving in the wrong direction, falling on your face, or even standing motionless in the rain, can still be a step forward. 

Leigh Himes’ debut novel,“The One That Got Away,” is the story of a struggling working mother who gets the chance to live the life she always wanted with a man she almost dated years before. Called “brilliantly realized” by Booklist and “a rewarding investigation of how all that glitters may not be gold” by Library Journal, The One That Got Away is in bookstores and online everywhere May 31st. (Hachette, 384 pgs.). 

Author Accounts

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Query Kombat Round 2




Here we go! Round 2!


Entries are on my blog and Michelle's! This round lasts until June 17th at 8 pm.


On Friday the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. 

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the third round on June 21st! Winners may send in a revised entry to the Query Kombat email by Sunday, June 19 at 8:00 pm. Use the same format. Kombatants will not have any more chances to revise for the rest of the contest.

The same rules for commenting and judging apply. Below I've reposted the main ideas:



Reminders for the Entrants:

No commenting on your own entries until the last day of the round. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling me the mistake.

Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 4 other match-ups to help share the love around!


Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames!


QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 2: MUSTACHE HEAD vs. JELLO POEMS

Title: Split Down the Middle
Entry Nickname: Mustache Head
Word Count: 46,000
Genre: Upper MG Contemporary

Query:

As a veteran Child of Divorce, twelve-year-old Becca has developed a highly specialized set of coping skills, such as the ability to negotiate ceasefires and to maneuver between houses without losing her math books...or her marbles.   It isn’t exactly easy, but after so many years in the trenches, it’s at least familiar.  Predictable.  Mostly manageable.

But when Becca’s helicopter mom announces she is moving from Philadelphia to North Carolina, Becca must go to court and choose which parent she wants to live with - permanently, and who she must leave behind. Complicating her Decision Day dilemma are the minefield of truth bombs the universe suddenly drops on the battlefield of Becca’s life.  Some, like the news that her soulmate (aka secret crush) Jake actually like likes her, are thrilling.  Others, such as her freewheeling dad’s announcement that his newish girlfriend is pregnant with twins, are just plain confusing.  All of them convince Becca that her difficult decision may be an impossible one.

Becca’s life is about to be carved to pieces, and her parents are forcing her to wield the knife.  If she doesn’t get the courtroom miracle she’s praying for, she’ll have to find another way to put herself back together again...since she may just be stuck on the front lines forever.

First 250:

You know those memories you try to bury in the underwear drawers of your brain, but that sneak up on you when you least expect it?  

Like last year when Tim Vasquez sat next to me on the fifth grade aquarium trip, stared at my face in a super creepy way, then announced to the entire bus, “Becca, you totally have a mustache!  You’re like...a Mustache Head!”  When I came home in tears, Mom brought me to Aunt Jo, who told me almost all women secretly have mustaches but just pretend they don't.  She makes good money as a lip waxer in the suburbs, so she’s kind of an expert.  

Thankfully, she now does mine for free.

But since my parents dropped this whole Decision Day bomb on me, the memory I can’t shake is when I started third grade as The New Kid, right after the divorce.  While the rest of my classmates reunited, hugging and high fiving, I hung back and haunted the cubby room like a weird ghost, waiting for rescue.  It arrived in the form of two ponytailed girls named Jenna S. and Jenna P.

Or so I thought.

Turns out the Jennas were more frenemies than friends, and soon I was opening crumpled notes that said things like, “Promise to only play with me at recess!”  I should have run for the hills, but instead I began doing the same thing I’d done with my parents since I was in diapers: anything and everything to keep the peace.  


~ VERSUS ~ 

Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37,500
Genre: MG Humor

Query

Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays of Jello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all. 

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.” 

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.


Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 2: PLAY CHESS, NOT CHECKERS vs. ONE-HANDED WONDER

Title: The Chess Girl
Entry Nickname: Play Chess Not Checkers
Word count: 66K
Genre: MG Historical Fiction

Query: 

To win her family’s freedom, Ruchel must play the greatest chess match ever.

As World War 1 begins, 7 year old Ruchel’s father is forced into the Austrian Army just before the Russian Army invades her border town.   To survive, her mother opens a tiny cafe.  Business is terrible until Ruchel challenges and defeats a customer in a chess match.   Soon, the restaurant is packed with people coming to watch her play.

Ruchel hopes to use her newfound celebrity to discover what’s happened to her father, who’s been missing in action since the war began.  Unfortunately, as different armies take turns occupying her hometown, it’s all she can do to help keep her family from starving.

When civil war breaks out and both sides start hunting Jews, Ruchel must beat a Polish chess champion to win her family a chance at a new life in America.  

First 250 Words:

Poland - 1919

Ruchel’s opponent carefully pushed his knight forward then left using the two fingers remaining on his right hand.  He nodded to Ruchel as he pulled the hand back.  The burned side of his face remained frozen, as did the milky white eye sunken within, but the other side of his mouth tried to turn upward.  

Once Ruchel would have felt both pity and horror at his appearance, but she’d seen so many ruined men in the last couple of years.  Besides, the stakes were too high.   The fat constable by the window kept playing with the holster around his waist, grunting every so often in case she hadn’t noticed him.   “Pig,” she mumbled in Yiddish. 

She looked away.  If he realized what she’d said, it wouldn’t matter who won this game.   Fortunately, he was focused on the Jewish shopkeeper across the street struggling to remount his store’s smashed in window frame.  The grin on his face made her say pig again, but this time only to herself.

She looked back at the board, started to reach for a piece then stopped. She liked to play fast to force her opponents into mistakes trying to match her speed, but she wasn’t at home and there would be no second chances.  Whatever the damage to the old soldier’s body, it hadn’t taken his skill.  She’d only played two men this good and been crushed both times.  


She was already down a pawn and the shadow hovering behind her wasn’t helping.

~ VERSUS ~

Title: The Windup
Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40,000
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Contemporary

Query:

Kyle Whalen, a southpaw Little League pitcher, had enjoyed a typical adolescent boyhood until a car crash took his right hand, his twin brother, and his passion for life. Now, three years later, Kyle is fourteen and determined to play ball again in memory of his brother and fulfill the dream they shared: win the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament, a feat his home team has never accomplished.

Kyle practices hard with his catcher Hailey—the girl he’s crushing on and best friends with—but he struggles to pitch and bat one-handed. Those challenges mount when he discovers she likes a rival ballplayer. Things get worse when his coach and several of his teammates bail, leaving his team ineligible to compete. It’s game on, though, when Kyle convinces his estranged dad to take over as coach and his troublemaker cousin joins the team.

As Kyle leads his ragtag club toward the championship, he grows closer to his father, the man he thought no longer cared—about anything, not since the crash. Encouraged by the enthusiasm and support of his cousin, Kyle begins competing for Hailey’s heart. But when a bully on an opposing team pulls a nasty prank intended to put an end to Kyle’s comeback, suddenly nothing seems sure.

First 250 Words:

I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down.

“Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. She was my age, fourteen, but she could have passed for sixteen.

The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My tired pitching arm sagged at my side like a wet noodle. I dug my cleat into the soft dirt in front of the pitching rubber, wound up, and slung a fastball. After my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and got into fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. I had no doubt teams would test me by hitting comebackers.

“Sick pitch, Kyle,” Hailey said, hopping up. She pulled off her mitt and approached me. “You’re ready for this.”

I shook off my glove. “I hope so.”

It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin teammate to double high-five.

Three years.

A lifetime ago.

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 2: TO BE A MAN vs. ESCAPE THE FATE

Title: THE EVENTIDE
Entry Nickname: TO BE A MAN
Word count: 97,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:

Val has studied, fought, and completed her sailing expedition—faster than anyone else—to become chieftess of her tribe. Returning home, she discovers her twin brother has been kidnapped by the foreign conquerors of Airylle and if she doesn't find him soon her tribe will go to war and be massacred by their enemies. However, the only way to get to Airylle is aboard one of their ships and their laws prohibit girls from joining a crew.

Assisted by Airylle’s only female mage, Val disguises herself as a boy and is hired aboard The Eventide. Surrounded by the people she believes are her enemies, her sole focus is locating her brother. But on the ship, Val discovers that not all Airyllens are pale-faced demons. As she earns Captain Devon's trust, Val is torn between her loyalty to the tribe and her newfound love for the captain—whose affections lie with the lady mage.

If Val doesn’t reveal her true identity, Devon will never return her true love. But if he learns who she is, he has an obligation to report her to the king and Val risks losing her brother, the war and her life.

First 250:

No one witnessed the tears staining my ocean-weathered face. Like my ancestors before me, I made this trip alone. If they still lived, I’d personally see them to the spirit realm for creating this rite of passage.

The purple mountains jutted into the sky, glistening as magic cascaded off them like an early morning fog encompassing the land. I leapt out of my seat. For most the Pass represented the boundary between the southern tribes and the pale-faced invaders. For me it meant home.

My rash movements caused the port side of my sailing canoe to dip under the water.

“Spirits!” If I capsized this close to the end, I’d die of humiliation.

Tonight, after eighty-two long days, the elders would name me chieftess. Chieftess Valerian. My mother had trained me for this moment all my life.

You’re only chieftess if you beat Shecayah home, a voice in my head reminded me.

The elders say the spirits whispering in your ear is a sign. I’d say my exhausted body wanted trick me.

Letting my sail out, I tied the mainsheet and moved from the stern to the bow, the wind pulling strands of my black hair out of its braid and into my eyes.

I sat cross-legged and loosened my drawstring pouch. Dust the color of the stars lay at the bottom. When I’d started my trek, Elder Fire gave me a full bag. I dumped the remnants in my hand. The silver stood out against my dark skin and I blew the powder away.

~ VERSUS ~ 

Title: Prophecy Punk
Entry Nickname: Escape the Fate
Word Count: 65,000
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Query:

Cassandra of Troy received the gift of divine prophecy from the Greek God Apollo. He also cursed her--no one would ever believe them (Trojan horse, anyone? Cassandra totally saw that coming).

In this contemporary retelling of the Greek myth, instead of suffering from madness and torturous hysteria, Cassandra is devoted to her family, a high school student (who needs a serious attitude adjustment), and runs a popular website where she puts her power to good use by recording benign prophecies as they come to pass.

While ProphecyPunked.com is a much-needed money-maker, Cass’ prophecies aren’t all viral video worthy. Buried beneath the funny accidents, incredible feats, and curious glimpses of her girlfriend-to-be, the gorgeous new transfer student, Elyse, she also foresees a deadly rivalry brewing. A foreboding vortex of violence has begun to swirl around her beautiful, and beloved sister, Helen.

With the sinister threat of a school shooting looming, Cass must turn to her morally bankrupt ex-boyfriend, Apollo, for help. She swore to never speak to him again after their prophecy-fueled blackmail business resulted in a suicide, but she’d do anything (including lie, cheat, steal, commit felonies…) for Helen. But not even the intervention of the Gods will be enough to help Cassandra, Helen, and Troy High School escape their fate.


First 250 words:

Cass had warned Kiernan this would happen. Up ahead there was a dangerous patch of early morning ice.

“Are you going to stand there all day?” Diana asked. Foggy plumes of breath formed in front of her face with each impatient huff.

Cass lounged against the Java Joint's brick wall. She winked at Diana, lips curling into a mischievous smile that only she could wear and make a person want in on whatever was about to go down. 

“Shut up before you mess up my video.” She pressed the camera icon on her phone and held it up toward the spot she had seen in her prophecy.

“Ooh!” Diana rushed to her side, peeking over Cass’ shoulder to watch the screen. “What are we recording?”

It had always been we, not you.

“In about ten seconds, Kiernan is going to come running out of the building, slip and almost fall for about seven seconds of pure hilarity in a stunning show of balance and luck. It’s going to be great. I’m thinking about calling it Lights, Camera, Traction.”

Diana’s eyes glazed over with an opaque sheen. Her face slackened while the memory of Cass’ prophecy erased itself from her mind. When she blinked, her eyes returned to their normal dark brown.

“Did you just say something?” she asked.