Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Query Kombat 2017 is HERE!!!

The submission window is NOW OPEN until May 19 at noon EDT. There is no cap on entries.

If you don't receive email confirmation within an hour of submitting your entry, contact us via Twitter and let us know. Kontestants will be revealed on May 26, and the tournament will kick off on June 2.

IMPORTANT: The Query Kombat team reserves the right to disqualify any entrant at any time for any reason. If an entrant is disqualified before the agent round, an alternate will take its place. If an entrant is disqualified after the agent round, the opposing entry will automatically advance to the next round. The only time we will ever disqualify an applicant is if you say or do something to blemish the spirit of query contests. Query Kombat is supposed to be fun… 

So none of this!

In order to enter the contest you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow said guidelines will be considered. 

In the event that we receive more than the available 64 spots (this is highly expected), Michelle, Mike, and I will savagely attack the slush pile in attempts to build the best team. We will pick (and announce) three alternates in case a submission is disqualified.

Entries should be sent to:  QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com.

We're asking for a $5 - $10 donation with each entry so we don't have to start charging a fee for the contest. Donations may be sent via the Query Kombat icon in the sidebar.

Formatting Guidelines:

Font: Times New Roman (or an equivalent), 12pt font, single-spaced with spaces between each paragraph. No (I repeat: NO!) indentations.
Subject line of the Email: A short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. (ex. I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll: Adult Erotica). Nicknames should be 25 characters or less. Make it as unique as possible so there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament, so keep it PG-13 and make it relate to your story.

In the body of the email (with examples):

Name: Michael Anthony
Email address: myboyfriendwasbittenbyashark (at) gmail (dot) com.
Twitter Handle: @BarbforSenate36

Title: Eunuchs and Politics
Entry Nickname: I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll
Word count: 68K
Genre: Adult Erotica
(Note Ownvoices here if applicable only)


Barbara B. Doll seemed like a woman who had it all, from the perfect body to her own dream house, McDonald's, and a variety of vehicles. She even managed to become a U.S. Senator and go to the moon! However, something seemed missing. She didn't have any idea what it was until she met Ken.

Ken Dahl is funny, good-looking, and may have ties to the Illuminati. Barbara is immediately drawn to his shiny, perfect hair and teeth. When he offers to teach her surfing, they hit it off instantly. Everything seems to be going perfectly until Barbara discovers Ken has no genitalia. She must search within herself to determine whether love can overcome plastic, non-removable underwear.

EUNUCHS AND POLITICS is adult erotica, complete at 68,000 words.

First 250:
Words, words, words. 250 of them, in fact.

Don't include the chapter title and please, don't stop in the middle of a middle of a sentence. If the 250th word puts you in the middle of a sentence, you may go up to 258 to finish that sentence. Do not abuse this rule. Both Pages and Google Docs will return incorrect word counts if you have hyphens, em-dashes, and ellipses. Microsoft Word counts correctly. 

Please use this site to give you an accurate word count if you are concerned about your standard word counter: https://wordcounter.net/. If you must, count by hand. A properly hyphenated word is one word. Words separated by an em-dash or ellipse are two words.

Do not include a bio or comp title in the query.

All entries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send. Competition will be fierce.

Best of luck in the tournament!


Contests need to be fun. To help keep you from worrying as the hosts read through the emails, we're having a party! These are the daily topics, but feel free to start your own as well.

May 16th    Before the big day arrives tweet your category and genre. Ask questions about genre if you’re unsure where your manuscript fits.

May 17th  After 8:30AM tweet when you’ve submitted your entry to our QK email. Nerves and jitters can be calmed by sharing with others. All day long tweet out what your entry Nickname is and why you chose it.

May 18th   Day 2 of submissions! Judges get fun secret names. Entrants get to create nicknames. Your poor hosts are left out. Create nicknames for Laura, Michael and Michelle!  (Keep it clean. We blush easily.) And tweet your favorite comp title.

May 19th    Last day to submit. We close at noon. Tweet your main character’s name and a special tidbit about them. See what sorts of names are popular and if anyone else shares MC’s names with you.

May 20th    Tweet what you find the hardest about writing. Is it keeping out telling? Writing action scenes? What’s hard for you? Anyone have tips for making them easier?

May 21st   Say hi to an entrant you’ve never talked to. Wish them luck in the slush round. If you need to let out some nerves, see if your new friend will lend an ear.

May 22nd     Tweet something about how you write. Do you use music or prefer silence? Morning or late at night? We celebrate our differences.

May 23rd     Tweet us your villain’s name and something evil about them.

May 24th      If you’re looking for some beta readers or CP, now is the time to tweet about it.

May 25th     Tweet us your favorite line from your novel. If you read any you like, favorite it. Have any favorite lines from a novel that’s not yours? Tweet those too!

May 26th     Tweet your thanks to the agents, editors, and judges of Query Kombat 2016. They’re dedicating a lot of time to help out. The least we can do is take a day to celebrate them! The big reveal is today! (We'll be running around like crazy gerbils getting everything ready.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Guest Blog: Writing Diversity by Nia Davenport

In the days leading up to Query Kombat, I'll be featuring guest posts from the judges on a variety of writing topics, from ways to polish your writing to common openings. Check back and follow me on Twitter to stay updated. Today's post is from Nia Davenport.


Diversity is important because we don't live in a homogeneous world. We live in a world that's rich with differences. Those differences should be more than recognized and depicted. They should be celebrated, uplifted, and positively portrayed. When you don't promote and encourage and believe in diversity, you get the unfortunate result of story after story being produced that only features one kind of individual out of the multitudes that comprise our world. Deciding against or simply not caring to make your fictional world diverse is both toxic and harmful to readers.

Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye explores and engages in a literary conversation with this issue in a much more poignant and heart-wrenching way than I ever could. If you have never read it, I urge you to do so—especially as a writer who is creating characters and content for people to absorb. The story’s  protagonist is a young Black girl named Pecola. Pecola loves Shirley Temple, believing that whiteness is beautiful and that she is ugly. Her belief comes from the very real-life fact that whiteness is what every form of media, including books, bombards consumers with as the gold standard of beauty. Pecola lives a very difficult life. Her father is an alcoholic, her mother is distant, and she often sees domestic violence between her parents. Pecola believes that if she had blue eyes, like Shirley Temple, she would be loved and her life would be transformed. Pecola is a fictional character but her experience represents the experience of too many people of color. Non-diverse stories tell any reader other than the standard white, able-bodied, cishet individual that they are unwanted. They are ignored. They don’t matter. They are not beautiful and the world does not see them as so either.

In addition to the toxicity and harm non-diverse stories commit against readers in regards to standards in beauty, they also do readers a disservice in regards to the roles and positions any reader other than the white, able-bodied, cishet reader see themselves as being able to fulfill. Growing up, the heroes, the princesses, the saviors, the queens, the kings, the explorers, and the adventurers of 99% of the stories I read were white. I never saw myself reflected as the hero in the pages of the stories I read or the movies I watched. This lack of diversity basically says to any diverse reader, YOU CANNOT FULFILL THE ROLE OF THE PRINCESS OR ADVENTURER, OR EXPLORER, OR HERO, OR SAVIOR. YOU ARE NOT WORTHY. Over time, it makes readers, especially young readers, start to hate the skin they live in. It makes them begin to reject who they are in favor for looking like or being like the protagonists in the stories they read.

              Equally as toxic is the fact that non-diverse stories reinforce to the entire would that there is only one type of good guy. One type of hero. One type of protagonist. Non-diverse stories set up a psychological construct where white, able-bodied, individuals are the heroes, the good guys, and the saviors. Furthermore, when you only think to include diversity when it comes time for a villain, you do even more harm by reinforcing bigoted notions that vilify diverse individuals.

 The only way to combat the negative stereotypes in the world is to tear them down by bombarding the world with images that speak counter to them. One step towards doing that is with the heroes in our stories. Let them be diverse. Let them reflect the uniquely rich world we live in.

I don't know what you write for, but I write for my readers. So if I don't write diversely and then as a result have a reader who questions their identity, questions if they're valued, questions if they matter, questions if they're loved, questions if they’re beautiful, questions if they can be a hero…I HAVE FAILED AS A WRITER. I HAVE FAILED MY READER.

Nia is a YA and Adult SFF writer represented by Caitie Flum at Liza Dawson Associates. She is an alumni of the University of Southern California (Fight On!) and the University of Texas. She has an undergraduate degree in Biology and graduate degrees in Public Health and Teaching. By day she teaches English and Biology, by night she writes strong, kickass heroines who are perfectly capable of saving themselves, and by way of dreams she is the Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, sailing to Westeros to seize the Iron Throne. Hey, a girl can daydream right?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guest Post: Motivation/Reaction Units

In the days leading up to Query Kombat, I'll be featuring guest posts from the judges on a variety of writing topics, from ways to polish your writing to common openings. Check back and follow me on Twitter to stay updated. Today's post is from Teresa Richards.


Hello lovely writers! I’m here today to talk about motivation-reaction units.

“What the what?” You say. “I’ve heard about plot and pacing and world building and character development, but what is this motivation-reaction witchcraft you speak of?”

Well. I’m so glad you asked.

Have you ever had a scene with a big reveal or shock or scare, but once your big bang happened, things just felt sort-of off? If so, there’s a good chance your motivation-reaction units need looking at.

At it’s core, a motivation-reaction unit, or MRU, just means that when something happens, there’s a motivation (a stimulus) and a reaction (how the characters react to the stimulus). We have Dwight V. Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer to thank for identifying this little nugget of knowledge we call the MRU.

The motivation part is pretty easy. Something crazy happens. Done.

Problems often arise, however, in the reaction part of the MRU. When something crazy/scary/shocking happens, humans react in several ways. These feelings happen in such quick succession, that it’s often hard to separate them out, but they are all different parts of a reaction. And they happen in this order:

1: There’s an unconscious internal reaction—a feeling
Nervous. Happy. Terrified.

2: There’s an unconscious physical reaction—a reflex in response to how we are feeling
We gasp. Our palms start to sweat. Our blood rushes to our face. We freeze in place.

3: Then there are conscious physical reactions—what we say (if anything) and what we do.
“I can’t believe you forgot my birthday,” and the character starts to cry.
“I can’t believe she wore socks with her Chacos,” and then the mean girls blast a picture out on Instagram.
Or, if the motivation is a rabid werewolf apparition, a la ghostbusters, the physical reaction will just be to run.

Now, all of these things happen in our reactions, but you don’t need to list every single thing in a character’s reaction every time there’s a motivation in your book. Actually, please don’t. If you do, it will clog up the flow and slow the pacing way down. It’s okay to let the reader imagine one of more parts of the character’s reaction when something happens in your story. But in pivotal scenes, when the tension is high, the reaction you include on the page should contain more than one of the three parts above.

And—here’s where many beginner writers go wrong—THE REACTIONS MUST BE IN THE RIGHT ORDER, and THEY MUST COME AFTER THE MOTIVATION!

We never react to a stimulus before feeling that initial burst of fear or anger or whatever, and when our characters do this, something feels off.

As an example, let’s take our undead werewolf monster from above.

Lucy heard a noise.
She crept around a corner and when she rounded it, the sight made her scream.
She ran, her blood racing through her body, as an angry werewolf apparition jumped out at her.
It roared, its yellow eyes hungry for a kill.

Something about this passage seems off, yes? The first problem is that Lucy’s reaction comes before the werewolf actually jumps out at her. As a writer, it’s really tempting to keep our readers in suspense, so we make our characters react first, and then reveal the horrible motivator behind their reaction in hopes of getting a bigger reaction out of our reader. But this doesn’t work for a reader, because if we do this, they are no longer experiencing the story along with the main character. It starts to feel inauthentic, and will pull the reader out of the story.

So. Always put the motivator first.

Then, in the reaction part of this example, Lucy reacts physically (screaming and running) before she reacts internally (her blood racing through her body). In other words, she reacts on purpose before she reacts automatically. And this never rings true. The first thing that should happen when Lucy sees the apparition is her blood racing through her body. This is an immediate reaction that she doesn’t control and takes no thought for. She hasn’t really even processed what she’s seeing yet. After that visceral reaction, then she starts to think. Her brain kicks into gear, and she can then scream and run away.

Here’s a better version of the above example:

The undead werewolf jumped out at her, roaring, its yellow eyes hungry for a kill.
Lucy’s blood turned to ice. Her lower lip trembled, the only part of her that seemed able to move.
The monster roared.
She screamed, and her limbs unfroze. She ran.

Can you see the difference? First the motivation happens (the werewolf jumping out at her). Then her response is 1: a feeling of fear, which manifests by her blood turning to ice, 2: an immediate physical reaction in response to the fear—her lip trembling, 3: conscious action—screaming and running away.

This example was one of fear, but MRU’s come into play all the time, whether your motivation is something sad like losing a pet, something embarrassing like a bad Instagram post going viral, or something climactic like when the romantic tension peaks and they finally kiss already. Anytime something happens—especially when it’s something big—make sure your characters’ reactions happen in the right order so that they ring true.  

If you really want to have some fun, pay attention to what happens inside you the next time someone surprises you or scares you or ticks you off. Break down your reactions in order (after you’ve cooled off) and study them. It will make you a better writer.

For some more reading on MRU’s, see the following two articles:

Teresa Richards writes speculative and contemporary YA. She is the author of Emerald Bound, a dark twist on the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. She found her agent through Query Kombat 2016, and her manuscript (nicknamed My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery) is now on submission. When Teresa's not writing, she can be found chasing after one of her kids, driving one of her teens around, or hiding in the house with a treat she'd not planning to share. She is represented by the amazing Mallory Brown of Triada Literary Agency. You can connect with Teresa on twitter @byutm33 or visit her website www.authorteresarichards.com.

To buy: Amazon I BN

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guest Post: Writing LGBT Characters

In the days leading up to Query Kombat, I'll be featuring guest posts from the judges on a variety of writing topics, from ways to polish your writing to common openings. Check back and follow me on Twitter to stay updated. Today's post is from Aden Polydoros.

Writing LGBT Characters

There are certain things to be mindful of when writing about LGBT characters, particularly if you are a heterosexual and/or cisgendered author. One of the most important things is to represent LGBT characters in an honest, non-stereotypical manner.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Meet the 2017 Query Kombat Agents!

The big reveal is HERE.

Want to know what agents and editors we have for Query Kombat? WE HAVE THIRTY-TWO, AND COUNTING!! There are so many publishing professionals participating, we can’t fit them all on one blog! View one-third of them below, then click on over to Michelle's and Michael’s blogs to see the rest. We’ve got both well-established agents/editors and some newer professionals who are actively seeking to build their lists. Query Kombat 2017 is going to be an AWESOME Kontest. 

For more information on how to enter when the window opens, please click here

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Query Kombat Judge Nicknames

Since the kontestants get to invent amazing nicknames, naturally the judges want one, too! Plus it lets them vote with more freedom. To recognize our wonderful judges and know the vote is legit, here is a list of the nicknames they have chosen:

Guest Post: Going Deeper: A Few Pointers on Using Deep POV in a Manuscript by Lisa Koosis

In the days leading up to Query Kombat, I'll be featuring guest posts from the judges on a variety of writing topics, from ways to polish your writing to common openings. Check back and follow me on Twitter to stay updated. Today's post is from Lisa Koosis.

Going Deeper: A Few Pointers on Using Deep POV in a Manuscript

I can still remember learning the basics of point of view (POV) back in fourth or fifth grade. We learned the difference between first-person POV and third-person POV, the difference between the all-knowing, all-seeing, godlike narration of third-person omniscient, and the much narrower, third-person limited. I remember learning, albeit more briefly, about the rarely used second-person POV. And that was pretty much it.

As I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve learned that point of view isn’t quite so simple and straightforward. There are other choices to make when considering a point of view for your story. You could go with an unreliable narrator, for instance, or you could head-hop, moving from point of view to point of view of multiple characters at random (I shudder at even the thought). Or maybe, you might like to try deep POV.

So what is Deep POV exactly?
Deep POV is a style of narration that erases much of the narrative distance in a story, bringing the reader as close as possible to the POV character. It’s a style of narration that takes the reader directly into the heart and mind of your narrator.
Deep POV is a particularly effective technique for creating intimacy and immediacy in a manuscript. And though many people will tell you that this is primarily a technique to use with third-person POV stories, I’d argue that it can also enhance a first-person POV narrative.

How is Deep POV accomplished?
There isn’t an instruction manual for creating deep POV. Or maybe there is and I just haven’t seen it. Regardless, one of the great things about deep POV, is that there are some easy ways to take your manuscript deeper without extensive rewriting of scenes.
Let’s take a look at a few.

Eliminate filters. This could arguably be the most important first step when creating a deep POV.
But what are filters? Filters (sometimes called markers) are words or phrases that identify how your character is perceiving the world around him/her/them—phrases such as: “he saw,” “I thought,” “she heard,” “they felt,” etc. More often than not, these aren’t needed, and create unnecessary and potentially unwanted distance between reader and character.
So instead of saying, “He felt like the whole world had gone crazy,” you would just say something like, “Had the whole world gone crazy?” See the difference? It’s a small change that can have a big impact, not only adding immediacy to your words, but also helping to strengthen voice.

Internalize. In a deep POV, your character’s thoughts are an integral part of your story—in a way, your character’s thoughts combined with your character’s actions really are the story. In deep POV, we want to feel as close to your character as possible. Better yet, we want to be directly in his/her/their head. Your character’s thoughts can be woven right into the narrative, twined in and through the story’s action, inextricable.
And again, remember: no filters! You don’t need the words “I thought” for your reader to understand that that is indeed the case.

Vocabulary. The vocabulary throughout your narrative should be your character’s vocabulary, not yours. If your character wouldn’t use a particular word, it doesn’t belong in your story when you’re writing in deep POV.

Account for perspective. One filter you do want to use is that of your POV character’s own perspective and perceptions. Everything your character interacts with—people, places, objects—should reflect his/her/their own experiences and personal history. Think of it this way. Nobody (except maybe a newborn baby) is a blank slate. We all view things through a different lens. Someone who loves the beach will have a different emotional temperature when it comes to sand between their toes than someone who hates the beach.

Or take this example. Three characters interact with a lily. For one, maybe that lily reminds them of the tiger lilies they picked as a child spending summers at a lake house. The second character might have recently lost a loved one, and the lilies bring him, emotionally, right back to the funeral. The third, well perhaps she was a gardener in younger days, taking immense pride in growing prize-winning lilies…until a flood destroyed them all. These three people are going to have very different perspectives on that present-day lily they’re interacting with.

Those perspectives or emotions should color the vocabulary in your narrative. Maybe for the first, nostalgia for a lost childhood might lend your narrative a sweet, slow rhythm. For the second, maybe it might show a shying away from lingering grief. For the third, perhaps regret, or resentment, or maybe anger. Obviously, it depends on your character, but regardless, you should account for such perspectives in your choice of words. Use strong words, emotionally charged words, judgmental words. For example, instead of saying something is “bad” it might be “sucky” (if that’s a word your character would choose).

Put setting to work. What does setting have to do with deep POV? Well, one good way to go deeper with your POV is to paint the setting through your character. This goes hand-in-hand with perspective. Basically, you never want to simply describe the setting. You always want it to be colored by your POV character’s interactions.
For example, rather than stating, “There was a stubborn stain on the countertop of his apartment,” you could say, “He added more cleaner to the scrubbie and tried again to eradicate his nemesis.” (Okay, okay, so that’s a little hokey, but you get the idea.)

Voice. This is the big one.
Think, for a minute, about dialogue. Some of the best advice you’ll hear when writing dialogue is that each character’s dialogue should sound distinct—distinct enough that you should know, without a dialogue tag, who is speaking.

Now take this a step further. When writing deep POV, your whole narrative should sound similar to your POV character’s dialogue. After all, it’s your POV character telling their story, right?

A few things to consider with voice:

  •         Sentence length. Does your character speak in short, choppy sentences…or is he/she/they poetic and wordy?
  •       Catch phrases. What words and phrases is your POV character fond of using? Does your character have a penchant for sports metaphors, or does he/she/they use cosmic references to illustrate a point?
  •        Culture, education, socio-economic background, age, state of mind, and so on. All of these things influence patterns of speech and thought, and, therefore, voice.
Minimize use of personal pronouns. These would be he, she, they, I, you, them, him, her, me, us, we. I may be missing a few, but you get the idea. This one is pretty self-explanatory. In deep POV, the fewer personal pronouns you use, the better.

That’s not to say that you’re going to eliminate them. Certainly, you’re not going to do that. But if you can cut them down by half, that will go a long way to helping achieve a deeper POV. This is particularly true for first-person POV narratives where that pesky “I” can be quite obnoxious if overused. (For more on that, I highly recommend Chuck Palahniuk's Submerging the 'I' essay.)

Wrapping up.
This is, by far, not an exhaustive checklist, but more a place to start if you’d like to explore deep POV. Like so many other things in writing, deep POV is a stylistic choice, and it isn’t always the right choice. If you’re looking for a dreamy, fairytale feeling, deep POV probably isn’t the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re trying to craft an intimate story, one that dives deep into the emotional landscape of your main character…or if you’re revising a manuscript and finding too much of a disconnect in your book, then deep POV may be what you need.

Creating a deeper POV can also be a great writing exercise. One fortunate side effect I’ve found is that these techniques tend to foster outside-the-box thinking. I’ve noticed that working in deep POV engages a more analytical part of my brain, which sometimes adds a little something-something to my writing. (Note: These same techniques are also helpful if you’re struggling with “showing not telling.”)


So go ahead and snuggle up a little closer to your characters. You might be surprised to find out where your new, deeper relationship may lead you all.

In addition to writing novels for young adults, Lisa A. Koosis in a prize-winning short story writer, whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Family CircleThe Poughkeepsie Journal, and the Hugo-nominated Abyss & Apex. Lisa is a member of the SCBWI, an ambassador for National Novel Writing Month, and an active member of her local writing community. She’s also a complete sucker for weird science facts. Her debut YA sci-fi novel, RESURRECTING SUNSHINE, came out in 2016.

Resurrecting Sunshine Buy Link: http://amzn.to/2q3Kkyg