Saturday, June 25, 2016


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


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.


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


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:


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.



  1. Judges, please post your votes as a reply to this comment.

    1. Congratulations to you both for your well done entries. I wish you each the best of luck as you move forward and your QK requests are revealed!


    2. Two entries with strong voices, both in the query and the opening paragraphs! This is largely personal preference at this point, but...


    3. I'm drawn to both of these. I'm not sure I'd be able to read the 2nd person POV in HOT SAUCE for very long. But it's such a fantastically weird project, I might. I really want to flip to the middle of that book and see what the writing's like.

      AND I FEEL FINE has got a voice, such a strong voice, and even though I'm mightily bugged by the mic thing, I like this strong character. Again, though I'd want to flip to the middle and see what the writing's like.

      Victory to AND I FEEL FINE

    4. These are both wonderful entries. AND I FEEL FINE, I still have a feeling of vagueness with regard to the query and 250. HOT SAUCE, I still am bugged by the last paragraph of the query, but then again it DOES make me want to read it more, since the way you've organized it sounds incredibly fascinating.


    5. Solarpunk GoddessJune 25, 2016 at 10:38 AM

      Once again, I love these both. This might be the hardest match-up for me since they're in genres I love and with voices I completely connect with.

      AND I FEEL FINE: Not sure if we're supposed to offer critiques at this point, but I feel you could drop "named" from the first sentence of the second paragraph. It felt like an unnecessary word and jolted me from the query a little. Besides that, fantastic job.

      HOT SAUCE: I judged your entry a few rounds back and I'm amazed at how far the query has come. I always loved your 250 but felt the query was lacking. Not anymore. You hit this one out of the park.

      Ugh. I'll have to go with the entry that grabbed me just a little more than the other (but both would be at the top of my TBR pile).

      Victory to AND I FEEL FINE

    6. Katherine PierceJune 25, 2016 at 1:47 PM

      And I Feel Fine: This is my first time seeing this entry, so I hope you don’t mind if I leave a little critique. I tripped up on the wording “pelting in from between,” maybe just pelting between? I also like the way things sound in threes, so I almost want another And over in there. First sentence in the second paragraph, something about the way this is worded confused me a little. When his friend dies, he falls for his friend’s target’s daughter? I think I’d also love just a smidge on Bennett, and how she’s able to help him (what she brings to the table) in the home situation. I’d like to see the stakes a little more clearly defined, we know what he has to do, but what does he have to lose? For the 250, I really enjoyed this. I think there might be a punctuation issue with, “Wasn’t Unc. Of Course. I know the voice.” My only real issue is, since this is the opening of a book, I’m trying to figure out whether this is an intense, serious situation (which it seems to be with the bridge crumbling and all the craziness) or if it’s not since Unc is practically sleeping? I guess just the seriousness of the situation seemed out of sync with the characters’ reaction, but I guess that’s probably expected since they do this all the time?

      Hot Sauce Is Bad For Wound Care: I’m still not in love with the whole “victims are all jerks” line, but I do really like the changes you’ve made in the second paragraph to make this more clear. I also like what the last paragraph is trying to do and let us know that it is in 2nd person, but I think you can really just zero this down into one focused sentence, maybe two. The Gray Hole, a YA Magical Realism, is complete at 63k words and is narrated in 2nd person by Grayson Dell. Or something like that.


    7. And I Feel Fine: This is an amazing concept, very complex, but you've done a good job summing up the main plot points of the story. The 250 was very exciting, yet had enough description to allow me to settle into the story. I would definitely read more of this if it were available at my local bookstore!

      Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care: I think you've done a great job clearing up this query letter. It reads much more suspenseful now. The 250 is wonderful. I love second person when it's done right, and you've pull it off very well.

      Both stories are amazing, but I have to go with the one that excited me more. Victory to: And I Feel Fine

    8. Strawberry ShortcakeJune 25, 2016 at 2:53 PM

      Hi everyone! Just wanted to give props to you both for putting yourselves out there like this! That’s not easy! Just so you know, I deliberately kept my nose out of previous rounds so I could come in with fresh eyes. Here we go!

      I have to admit I’m a little lost in the query. It starts with a battle-numb MC who’s falling for a girl and then there’s a poltergeist and Armageddon by the end (and I happen to write paranormal with scifi elements, so these elements aren’t foreign to me). I also have a mental image of vintage Scifi with the rough-cut hero saving the damsel in distress, since Bennett’s only personality description is “brave” which is given right alongside “beautiful.” This could also be because their relationship is a subplot and not part of the main story. If so, I might consider cutting that from your query and just focusing on the central conflict surrounding your MC.

      The first 250 however, is crisp and definitely has voice. I would certainly read on, with the caveat that I would be looking for how well-developed Bennett’s character is because of my concerns with the query.

      I’m a teacher by day, so I’m always wary of school shooting stories. I know they’re needed and unfortunately, a very real part of our current society, but it’s hard to read about one of your worst nightmares. I’m not sure you need quite that much explanation in that last paragraph of the query, but agree that you’ll probably need some for a project as unique as this. Otherwise, your query definitely does its job of making me dive straight from the query and into the pages.

      I’m also completely drawn into your first page. I was surprised that the second person narration didn’t bother me, as I expected it to. Instead, you dropped me right into the MC’s head and I really wish I could read the rest of this right this second!


    9. Bernadine HarrisJune 25, 2016 at 4:00 PM

      Two super strong entries.

      AND I FEEL FINE. I believe this is my first time seeing this. What a story! I will admit that I felt like you had a LOT going on in the query. However, I loved the voice in the pages. I don't read Sci-Fi at all but the voice just drew me in and made me want to read more.

      Hello again! I still love this story so much. I'm a bit torn on the new paragraph in the query where you describe things. It's so technical and at odds with the voice of the rest of it. However, because this is such a complicated story, it's needed.

      I still love the opening pages.

      A tough choice but going with...


    10. Posting on behalf of Cat Wrangler:

      Another tough match up. Both entries are strong and I look forward to reading when they're published.

      Victory: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

    11. AND I FEEL FINE: The 3rd paragraph of the query was a little dense for me. I think there might be a bit too much info in there. I also had a little bit of trouble connecting the voice to Grant with the Unc paragraph in the middle. (I liked the Unc paragraph a lot! so then i got distracted and kind of lost track that there had been a voice interrupting him) I think make it as easy as possible for a total newbie (1t time reader like myself) to follow along. Can we get a more specific identifier than "the vehicle"? That might help ground the situation as sci fi straight away.

      HOT SAUCE: This makes so much more sense reading now. Thank you for the 3rd paragraph in the query. Totally digging it! And I think agents will be like ohhhhh I got it! which is a great thing. (one possible change: "secondary arcs are as seen by the voice" maybe "secondary arcs are NARRATED by the voice"? or "judged" or "presented" to make it a bit more active? I stumbled on "are as seen" for some reason.)

      Victory to HOT SAUCE

    12. You've both had feedback from me and I can't really offer much more. These are both really unique premises and I think they're a lot of fun. I wish you both the best of luck in the future!


    13. These two entries. Wow. Just amazing. I've not read either of them before this round, but feel a strong sense as to what the stories are about. The voices are great too. BUT, this will be subjective for me in the end so...

      Victory to: AND I FEEL FINE

    14. Voting subjectively here, as these are both terrific. One concept and voice appealed to me slightly more than the other...

      Victory to: AND I FEEL FINE!

    15. Congrats to you both! Great job making it this far!

      I really would read either. Hot Sauce, since I haven't seen yours before, I think you can lose the last paragraph of the query. I don't think you need to explain the choice of voice.

      And I Feel Fine: Great job on your revisions. I think it's really tight now :)


    16. Job well done to both of you on revisions. Both are full of voice and I'm sold on the first 250 for each. I would be delighted to read these one day. The query on HOT SAUCE is a little tighter, though, so for that reason...


    17. I don't have much to add by way of critique. Both entries definitely deserve to have made it this far. I had to pick which one is slightly more intriguing to me.


    18. Congrats to both entrants! These are both fantastic. Good luck to everyone. I'm just so in love with the concept of Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care. So victory to Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care!

    19. I'm not sure if the third paragraph in Hot Sauce is entirely necessary, but I also found the final paragraph of And I Feel Fine a bit hard to follow (this is my first time reading either one). So based on an overall clearer query and an interesting opening 250, I'm giving victory to HOT SAUCE IS BAD FOR WOUND CARE!

    20. I think both of these entries will find enthusiastic readers, well done each of you. The voice is going to win me over every time. Victory to I FEEL FINE!

    21. Both of these are really great. I loved the premise of And I Feel Fine, but this was a case where the first 250 words won me. Since the smoothest writing goes to Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care, which surprised me, because 2nd person is hard to pull off.


    The query still feels a little muddled to me. However it is intriguing and I wish I could ask you some questions!

    Just hoping reading this wouldn't be a lesson in frustration of watching people repeat the same mistakes (or new ones) over and over...but I love the writing sample.


  3. Nice job, folks! Really getting into subjectivity here! Even though I"m not a big sci-fi reader, the voice in I FEEL FINE grabbed me and wouldn't let me go! As for HOT SAUCE, I'm not a big fan of second person, though I do want to commend you on the revisions to your query. I think it reads much better, and the last paragraph truly does pique my interest.


  4. Excellent entries. It gets harder to vote each round, because I love them all.

    But, this is Query Kombat, so . . .

    Victory to : I FEEL FINE!

  5. SCOWLING DISCONTENTED JUDGEJune 26, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    Some really helpful revisions to Hot Sauce. I've got a Much better sense of what this query is about and I'm intrigued. I do have some questions about the technical paragraph – I don't think it's necessary, but you're on the right track. Maybe split the difference and have a little explanation. A comp title might help here too-- have you read AND THEN WE CAME TO THE END?

    I Feel Fine, on the other hand, I haven't seen yet. I'm worried that the query is a little by-the-numbers, but it works. It's the adventurous voice of the 250 that really speaks to me on this one.

    It's really close, but:

    Victory to I FEEL FINE

  6. Congratulations to both entries! I love both of these entries, and I'd buy both if they were available. It's a difficult choice, but I'm intrigued by the premise of Hot Sauce. I loved the writing and humor in the first 250, plus the sense of heartbreak and menace at the end of the scene grabbed my attention.