Wednesday, June 1, 2016

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 1: BLOOD AND BAGUETTES vs. CROISSANTS KILL!

Title: Postcards of Ruin
Entry Nickname: Blood and Baguettes
Word count: 80K
Genre: Adult Thriller Romance

Query: 

Paralegal Bri Fortes quits her job and moves to France to pursue her deceased father’s footsteps. If she passes the fluency test at the end of a summer program in Rouen, she’ll clinch entry to the same law school he attended. She brings along postcards of Rouen her dad saved from his time abroad almost thirty years earlier, reading the backs only at their locations. Standing in the same spots he once stood, while pursuing a J.D. from his alma mater, lessens the guilt that has followed Bri since she was ten – the age at which she killed him.

The study program pairs her with a language tutor, Alexandre. He challenges her, dripping sex appeal while correcting conjugations. When admirers out him as the heir apparent to Monaco, Bri’s world transforms. Prince Alexandre provides a personal tour of Normandy, connecting with Bri across barriers, but red flags make her question his intentions. Rumors reach Bri of women disappearing around him then she is threatened by an unknown aggressor; she realizes being with him makes her a target. When Alexandre tries to trick her into facing her greatest fear, she breaks up with him.

Devastated by Alexandre’s actions but determined to uncover the truth, Bri finds herself in the middle of a plot extending all the way home to California. She must decide if following her father's path will provide forgiveness or if ignoring the present will lead to the same fatal mistakes. 

First 250: 

Blood oozes from my index finger, bright red against the scuffed tile of the train station lobby. A pool forms along the nail bed. I close my eyes, unable to look even now, fifteen years after the fact, but the flesh throbs. The smell of iron reaches my nostrils and wets my tongue, piquing the outer taste buds. This can’t be happening. Not here, not yet. My fingers fly to each jeans pocket until I withdraw a napkin and press it to the paper cut. A red blot spreads across the absorbent square but it’s only when the throbbing slows do I release the breath I’ve been holding. I raise my gaze to the glass entrance then translate bronze letters above with a frown.

Welcome to Rouen.

French conversation echoes from down the cavernous hall and announces a new wave of arrivals. I retreat off to the side then notice I left my father’s bundle of postcards in the middle of the lobby. Clutching my napkin in hand, I sprint back to the center and grab the bundle’s twine bow as the fastest walkers step around me. A spot of blood marks the postcard on top. As the crowd carries me to the mouth of the entrance, I take a deep breath and repeat my mantra. 

I can do this. I have to do this. 


Sunshine warms me all over in my light t-shirt, the heat still mild at the beginning of June. 

~ VERSUS ~

Title: Coded For Murder
Entry nickname: Croissants kill!
Word Count: 73,000
Genre: Adult Mystery

Query:

As the early morning mist lifts from Montreal’s quaint riverfront, a cry bleeds across the water. There’s been a murder.

Even jaded and renowned Chief Inspector Derek James of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal is shocked by the faceless corpse hanging from a tree. But not as shocked as when his car explodes at the crime scene, and he realizes his boss is trying to kill him.

The corpse leads James to a health tech startup -- a company celebrated for its success in customizing treatments for each patient. But James knows that glamour and innovation have their price, and secrets can burn through lives like acid through the corpse’s face. Enter razor-sharp CEO Holly, a gay black woman driven to sell the startup at all cost. Frightened of losing the acquisition, and revealing her secret that she was once a man, she destroys vital evidence and sabotages James’s case, aggravating his tentative cease-fire with his boss.

There are suspects all around: Holly, the founders, genius engineer Jimmy, his barista girlfriend Kate, the corpse’s widow -- all of them liars more concerned with the startup than the truth, and one of them the masked assailant who strung up the body from the tree. 

With Holly attacked and Jimmy poisoned before he can confide in the police, James must choose his path -- light or dark -- to unearth the killer, to save a twelve-year-old witness, to expose a conspiracy coded for murder.

First 250:

April 2, 6:50 am

Strung up by the river? Without a face?”

Chief Inspector Derek James of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal tucked his cold hands into his pockets and looked up. A rope looped over the middle branch of an oak in the urban beach park. Above him hung a body with an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. The face was stripped to the bone with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.

James’s gut tightened, but he stilled the reaction in an instant, regaining his calm.

I’m sure we’re thinking the same thing, Derek.” Forensic Pathologist John Seymour exercised professional restraint, but his eyes were bright and keen. “What could this poor guy have done to deserve this?”

James took his time responding. Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. A damp cold sank through his coat and into his bones. It was amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence River choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.

What can you tell me, Doctor?”

18 comments:

  1. Judges, please post feedback and votes as a reply to this comment:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blood and Baguettes: You have a very neat premise. It has the promise to deliver an exciting, complex storyline.

      Query: Your query letter ran a bit on the long side. It actually reads more like a synopsis than a query letter. Since agents/editors review multiple query letters a day, it’s best to keep the information brief yet suspenseful. Only highlight the key factors of your overall plot, while showing what makes your characters unique so they stand out in the slush pile. Also, your query left me with a lot of questions. How did Bri kill her father at age ten? Why did she suddenly decide to quit her job and follow in her father’s footsteps? How does reading the back of her father’s postcards relate to the overall plot, and is that information really important to know in the query letter?

      I would suggest trimming down this query, and only presenting the relevant information that pertains to the overall plot. Introduce the main character, and describe what makes her special in her world. Show her goals and obstacles, the hardships or choices she’s faced with to achieve what she most desires. Then lay down what’s at stake for Bri if she fails, or succeeds, in completing her objective.

      250: The description of how Bri reacts to the scent of blood is a bit off-putting. Is Bri a vampire or some other supernatural being? If so, you really need to include that fact in your query letter. If not, then Bri is coming off a little bloodthirsty. Was that your intention when introducing this character? Because readers often judge a character based on their first impressions. Also, some of the information presented comes off as vague. For example, in this sentence:

      I close my eyes, unable to look even now, fifteen years after the fact, but the flesh throbs.

      It’s important to be as precise as possible. Right now, this sentence reads like Bri’s had a paper cut for fifteen years and it hasn’t stopped bleeding yet. I would suggest combing through your manuscript to look for any instances that may come off as confusing and try to clear them up.

      Croissants kill!: This is a very interesting premise. There are a lot of aspects to this story that I find intriguing.

      Query: This is a very suspenseful query. I think you highlighted the overall plot and described the uniqueness of the world perfectly. Just a few things. You’re supposed to insert an En dash (–) not two dash marks (--) to either sum up or put emphasis on a statement, and you seem to have a lot of dashes in the query. If possible, I would recommend restructuring a few sentences to remove the repetitive use of dashes, as it can be distracting. Also, the information about James having to save a twelve-year-old witness comes out of left field. With no mention of it beforehand, it feels as though it’s just thrown in for dramatic effect.

      250: Personally, I’m quite opposed to stories that begin with dialogue, as it leaves me with no starting point to connect to the world or characters. I like your writing style. It is engaging, but at times can come off a bit stiff. For example:

      Forensic Pathologist John Seymour exercised professional restraint, but his eyes were bright and keen.

      This sentence reads like somewhat of a report, pulling me from the story. I would suggest opening this story with a bit of introduction to the character and setting, then drop the dialogue. This could help to relax the beginning scene, and fully immerse the reader into the world.

      This is a tough one. Both of these entries are interesting and well written, but I have to go with the one that I feel explained the overall plot of its story best.

      Victory to Croissants kill!

      Delete
    2. Blood and Baguettes:

      This is an interesting and layered concept. The query is a little dense for me, and reads more like a synopsis. I would bring the main hooks more into prominence and clarify them.

      I think you should move that hook about ten being the age she killed her father up to the front, and maybe tighten. Something like: “Bri Fortes wants to connect with her late father, and to escape the guilt that has followed her since she was ten – the age at which she killed him.

      She quits her paralegal job and moves to France to pursue her father’s footsteps. If she passes the language fluency test at the end of a summer program in Rouen, she’ll clinch entry to the same law school he attended.”

      “She brings along postcards of Rouen her dad saved from his time abroad almost thirty years earlier, reading the backs only at their locations. Standing in the same spots he once stood, while pursuing a J.D. from his alma mater, lessens the guilt that has followed Bri since she was ten – the age at which she killed him.”
      – I don’t think you need this in a query, though others I’m sure will disagree. I think the concept that she’s trying to connect with her late father is enough for a query.

      “He challenges her, dripping sex appeal while correcting conjugations.”
      - I think this can read “He drips sex appeal while correcting conjugations.” That shows us that he’s challenging her.

      “When admirers out him as the heir apparent to Monaco, Bri’s world transforms.” How does it transform? Show us with a brief specific or two. Does she get media attention? Then you can take out the “Bri’s world transforms” part and just show us.

      “…connecting with Bri across barriers, but red flags make her question his intentions.” These sentences are a bit vague, in my opinion. I’d remove them. You show us these things already.

      “When Alexandre tries to trick her into facing her greatest fear, she breaks up with him.

      Devastated by Alexandre’s actions but determined to uncover the truth…” This is vague for me, too, because I’m not sure what her greatest fear is. And “Devastated by Andre’s actions…” in tricking her? I’d reword.

      The beginning doesn’t hook me very much, and I’m a bit lost- I need more context. Why is her finger bleeding? I’m assuming she has a blood phobia, but I don’t know if this is important enough to begin the novel with it.

      Croissants Kill:
      The first paragraph of the query is a beautiful image, but I forgot for a second that I was reading the query, and thought I was in the pages. You might consider removing it. The next paragraph sets the scene for the query very well.

      The corpse leads James to a health tech startup –
      How? Did he work there? I get a bit lost in context if you don’t hint toward the reason.
      “and one of them the masked assailant…”
      I would phrase this, “…but only one of them can be the masked assailant…”
      Pages…
      “…skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.” I love this. And I love this opening in general. Good imagery, good tension, good writing.
      This is a great, fun, dark concept, and it sounds like it has some really complex (and diverse) characters. Love it.

      Both great entries. My vote goes to Croissants Kill!

      Delete
    3. Blood and Baguettes:

      Query:

      1st Paragraph: The first line doesn’t grab me the way I’d hoped. It’s very passive and uninformative. I would rather know what she wants to do and why right off the bat. I suggest spicing it up a bit, maybe something like this: After quitting her job as a paralegal, Bri Fortes decides it’s finally time to follow in her father’s footsteps. Plus, I’d love to know right away what her father did that she’s striving to do. If you do that, then you won’t need the next line about clinching entry into the same law school. I love the twist at the end of this paragraph. It definitely makes me want to keep reading.

      2nd Paragraph: I love the line: He challenges her, dripping sex appeal while correcting conjunctions. After that, everything feels scrambled together. This sentence: ‘Prince Alexandre provides a personal tour of Normandy, connecting with Bri across barriers, but red flags make her question his intentions’ is long and disjointed to me. Also, the fact that you jump right in and say Prince feels off. You should do a lead up to that. Something like: “Known as Prince Alexandre to the rest of the world, Bri agrees to a personal tour of Normandy with him, though red flags make her question his intentions.” The line after also feels disjointed as well. Reword it a bit. Something like this might be better: But when rumors reach Bri of women disappearing around Alexandre, and a secret aggressor starts threatening her along the way, she soon realizes that being with him makes her a target. I would also reword the last sentence. Don’t’ tell readers they break up. For me, knowing this, it makes me less interested in reading it.

      3rd Paragraph: Not sure if ‘plot’ is the word you want to use. If anything, this could be easily replaced with mystery.

      250:

      1st Paragraph: I would cut the part that says: ‘but the flesh throbs. This feels off to me. As though it’s an afterthought. The next line, about the scent and the nostrils and what not? I don’t care for it. I know you’re trying to build with the senses, but it doesn’t work. It feels like a filler. Also you say: My fingers fly… Be careful of those floating body parts. Fingers don’t fly on their own. The person makes the fingers move.

      2nd Paragraph: Be careful of statements like: I notice. They are passive and telling. Talk about what’s there. Say something like: Out of the corner of my eye, I see my father’s stack of postcards I’ve left behind.

      Delete
    4. Croissants Kill:
      Query:
      I love that first line. It pulls me right in.
      1st Paragraph: I lose a little interest when it comes to this one, more so because it reads strange for a query, at least to me. I think something like: Jaded and renowned Chief Inspector, Derek James of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, is shocked by the discovery of the faceless corpse hanging from a tree. THEN I need to know why he’s shocked. What’s so different about this murder than any other? You jump into the next line about the explosion and his boss, and that is filled with voice to me. Problem is, it doesn’t feel as voicey as the line before.
      2nd Paragraph: I’m confused by this paragraph. Like, what’s going on? That’s what I find myself asking. Why does the corpse and his boss trying to kill him lead to this? And isn’t he trying to stay maybe incognito now that he thinks his boss is trying to kill him? Also, I’d try to avoid say ‘a gay black woman.’ Yay for diversity, but it feels like you put that in there just for the fact that she’s gay and black. Personally, I would just say: Enter razor sharp, CEO Holly, a woman driven to sell the start up at any cost. If an agent reads on, it’s an added bonus to discover that there are diverse characters in the story. The last line in this throws me. The tentative cease fire with the boss? From the first paragraph, I thought they would be at war for the guy trying to kill Derek.
      There are a lot of characters introduced in this query. Less is more to me, unless the story is told in more than one point of view.
      250:
      1st Sentence: You need to tell us who is talking right away. Is it the Chief? Clarify.
      1st Paragraph: Great descriptions. Good use of the senses too. Super creepy, but it makes me want to keep reading.
      2nd Paragraph: Watch for use of character names in the dialogue. It’s not really necessary.
      3rd Paragraph: This line: James took his time responding… It’s passive. I need more of a visual here. How did he take his time to respond? Did he rub his hand over his mouth or chin? Show me what he looks like.
      You really do a great job setting the scene. The thing is, you have to remember to still add in voice when you’re doing it. That is what sells the story, bottom line.

      Victory to: Croissants Kill.

      Delete
    5. BLOOD AND BAGUETTES: Congratulations on your entry! It’s an intriguing premise. Your query gives a good idea of what the book is about, and I think the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are pretty strong. The first paragraph feels a bit wooden, like a summary being recited. Is there a way to change up the sentences, get more of the feel of your other paragraphs in there? That would make a huge difference. 250: You give a good sense of place here, and I can picture where she is, and the colors and scents. Great job with that! Just a few nitpicks: 1) You could use a comma after “square,” in the first paragraph, and in that same sentence “do” should be “that,” or else get rids of the “it’s” so it reads “it’s only when the throbbing slows that I release the breath I’ve been holding.” OR “but only when the throbbing slows do I release the breath…” 2) The last sentence of par. 1 and the 2nd of par. 3 you use “then.” I would suggest changing one of them, and the one you keep you need a comma before “then.”

      CROISSANTS KILL: Congrats on your entry! Creepy and suspenseful. Query: I feel like there’s a lot of information in here, so much that it dilutes the query. The first sentence feels atmospheric, but maybe not for a query? And with the information in the following paragraphs about the separate suspects and Holly’s transformation, it feels like the query needs to be focused a bit more, like this is more of a summary than a query. We get to the final paragraph and learn there is a choice James must make, but it is the first we hear of it. Can you focus more on him and his choices rather than figuring out the mystery in the query? We hear about the witness and other things there, when those might be more important than all the details about the suspects. Make sense? Also, just a note – having a James and a Jimmy could be problematic, unless it has something to do with the plot. You might want to consider changing one of the names. 250: I really like your entry here. Very smooth writing and a good sense of setting. A couple of nitpicks: In the 2nd paragraph there should be a comma after “perpetual grin.” In par. 5, I’m not sure the use of the colon is correct – you might want to ask some good grammar person to be sure. ☺ Great job, and good luck!

      Victory to Croissants Kill

      Delete
    6. Katherine PierceJune 3, 2016 at 11:26 AM

      Blood and Baguettes

      Query: All in all, I think this query gives me a really good sense of what’s going to happen in this book. However, the phrasing of it seems to be lacking in voice and comes across as stiff. Almost more synopsis-like. You really want to intrigue the reader/agent and tempt them to want to keep reading. I’d suggest taking the line about her killing her father and giving it up front as the first sentence. That will definitely hook attention. Is the information about the postcards necessary for the query? If it really is, tie it in there so we understand how it connects. For the second paragraph, show us how Bri’s world transforms, give us a hint as to the red flags. You’ve got some vague wording throughout (and you don’t want to give away all the secrets) but give us enough to understand what’s happening. Personally, I think you can trim the first paragraph, and spend those words letting us know how and why Bri gets wrapped up in this plot that leads her back to CA.

      250: I like the writing here, but as an opening I’m not sure it’s working. It’s taking awhile to really get going, and I think you can definitely trim the first paragraph. The phrase “fifteen years after the fact” confuses me—has she had a paper cut for that long? And “but the flesh throbs” reads really weird in my head.

      ___________________________________________________________________________

      Croissants kill!

      Query: The first line here tripped me up and made me think I was reading the 250 rather than the query. I’d recommend cutting/rephrasing it. Overall I think there is a lot going on in this query and we’ve got too many characters. In regards to the characters, I got really confused when you introduced Jimmy since it’s a common nickname for James, and you really don’t want to name more than 3 characters maximum in a query. While I have an overall idea of what’s happening in this story, in the end I’m generally confused. My biggest piece of advice would be to simplify your query, really hone down what details need to be included, and streamline it.

      250: Personally I don’t mind starting with dialogue, but I know this is a pet peeve for a lot of people. It might be better to switch the first and second paragraph, or at least tell us who’s saying the first line. The mention of “ears on either side” seems unnecessary to me, can you give us another more intriguing detail? I also found it confusing that you’re referring to the MC as James, but the pathologist is calling him Derek. Since they’re both first names I thought these were two different characters. I do really love the descriptions in the second to last paragraph, especially about the children’s playground, but it does run a bit long so you might consider cutting one or two lines there.
      ___________________________________________________________________________

      I’m a sucker for royal romances and layering it with suspense really hooked me. VICTORY TO BLOOD AND BAGUETTES!

      Delete
    7. BLOOD AND BAGUETTES

      Query:
      Intriguing premise. I wonder if there is a way to bring the BOOM that SHE KILLED HIM OMG up closer to the front… I do like it being the twisty end of the paragraph, but I think that’s when I really sat up straight and wanted to know more.

      “. She must decide if following her father's path will provide forgiveness or if ignoring the present will lead to the same fatal mistakes. “ –this is kind of vague. “same fatal mistakes” – I don’t know what that means. Can we find out anything about how she killed him without it spoilering things?

      I feel like we have 3 good conflicts. (1) she killed her dad and wants forgiveness(?) (2) she has to learn French (3) tutor ends up being a hottie in disguise. Is #3 the center of the plot or is more #1 or #2? I am having trouble getting a sense which is our main conflict. They are all awesome and all tie together well but I guess I want to know which is what the story is really about. I think the 3rd paragraph needs to make that really clear. Especially the last sentence.

      I like this a lot.

      First 250:
      “the breath I’ve been holding” (I am glad she knew she was holding the breath! And it wasn’t “the breath I didn’t know I was holding”!!! yesssss)

      Starting with blood is a good hook. Feels exciting.

      I didn’t necessarily get that she doesn’t understand French when you first mention it. Is there a way to express that she doesn’t speak the language on this first page? I like the description but I would love to get more of our central conflict (or at least a hint of it)

      Love the mention of the postcards. I want to know more about them already! But like would she really forget something so important? And also I think MORE PANIC there. “then notice I left” – I want more FREAK OUT in that moment. “sprint” does give some sense of urgency, but what is the real feeling when you realize you lost your most important thing? Imagine the moments when you think you lost your cell phone/diamond ring/wallet. There is heat and your stomach drops and how does it feeeeeeeel physically? (I don’t really care about the napkin. In fact, her dropping the napkin would give me more urgency. These postcards are really important!) (at least I am assuming they are. They seem really important from the query)

      Then I want a real sense of relief in her physical body that the postcards are still actually there. Setting is nice and all but I want to hook more in to the character. So like mention the sun and the weather but also “as my heartbeat started to slow back down” . The deep breath is good but go deeper.

      Really nice overall!

      CROISSANTS KILL!

      Query:
      “his boss is trying to kill him.” – LOVE it

      “a gay black woman driven to sell the startup at all cost.” Is there a way to tell us about her without being like SHE IS DIVERSE? (not that you are doing that on purpose, but it could come off that way) I know it is key to the plot but maybe there is a way to smooth it into the sentence. Character descriptions in the query are hard. Others might have better suggestions here.

      There are a LOT of characters mentioned in the last 2 paragraphs. I am a bit overwhelmed. Can we make that fewer / synthesize the threat into more “this is what is at stake”?

      First 250:
      Powerful contrast with the corpse and the swings

      I think starting with dialogue can be a bit tricky / sometimes make it hard for the reader to get grounded. Others may disagree, but I would move the dialogue down. And start with the character I think… or put a sentence before the dialogue.

      Another tough choice. Such good elements to BOTH...

      Victory to Blood and Baguettes

      Delete
  2. Blood and Baguettes:

    This is absolutely one of my favorite entries.

    Query: I love the first paragraph here. You have to grab the reader quickly. Bri’s responsibility for her father’s death immediately draws me in and raises the stakes.

    I’m intrigued by Alexandre and the reveal that he is the heir apparent to Monaco! I’m definitely intrigued by the juxtaposition of your two MC, royalty and a foreign exchange student! What fun!

    Your query continues to build nicely. You already had me with your first two paragraphs, but now you add in a potential murder plot involving Alexandre! I’m in, well done!

    First 250: Great job setting up Bri’s journey throughout Rouen! Nice work including “…fifteen years after the fact,” within the first couple of sentences. That’s a juicy hook including very early in the MS that grabs the reader. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the postcards. I hope when you publish this book, you’ll include the visuals. I think that would add a nice wrinkle to the novel.

    I’m a huge fan of this entry! I can’t wait to read it!

    Croissant’s Kill:

    I feel like your query reads more like a first 250 and it’s a bit scattered for me. You’re doing a nice job of setting up the MS, but personally, I like a query to offer more content, rather than visuals. You should save some of those details and work in a bit more of a concerted punch.

    I’m a bit confused by your second paragraph. It seemed as though you were setting up a murder investigation with the faceless corpse hanging from the tree. I like this, really intriguing, but then your MC’s car explodes and he realizes his boss is trying to kill him.

    I’d love to know a bit more about that detail, but then we jump to a health tech startup. You introduce a new character, CEO Holly, who ends up aggravating his tentative cease-first with his boss. I assume you’re talking about your MC’s boss, but didn’t he just try to kill him in the previous paragraph? How did we jump to a cease fire, did your MC confront his boss, did they make a deal? Again, it seems like you’re burying some really juicy details and missing opportunities to flesh out the relationship between your MC and his boss. That’s what I want to hear about, not CEO Holly’s involvement.

    Ultimately, I would like you to include some personal stakes for your MC. I think you missed an opportunity to set up more of the relationship with his boss and tease the reader on why he would be a target for murder. We heard more about the start-up company and its character than the complex relationship your MC has with his boss.

    First 250: I really enjoyed your first 250 and it certainly makes me want to read on. Excellent writing and nice job on the visuals. I think your 250 is solid, but I would revise the query.

    Congrats to both combatants!

    ReplyDelete
  3. BLOOD & BAGUETTES
    I liked the query, but wanted a bit more info on the “red flags” and “her greatest fear”. In the 250, I didn't quite understand how a paper-cut would create such a strong reaction in her, evidenced by “this can't be happening”. And I'm not quite sure why she went from sitting in the lobby to going outside. In a word, though I admire the writing skill that you have and your use of description, I was confused.

    CROISSANTS KILL
    Your query was very good. It put forth the characters and the plot concisely and understandably, though I didn't quite get the meaning of the “light path” James can choose: it seems to me it was a very dark path regardless of the outcome.

    The 250 gave me not only a clear idea of the scene, but created an atmosphere of tension and drama that made me want to read on.

    Good luck to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. BLOOD: This one intrigued me quite a bit. I think the query buries the hook though. I was reading along when all of a sudden, boom...she killed her father? I'd start with that. The first 250 are descriptive but why focus on a paper cut?

    CROISSANTS: Your query was also intriguing but I was confused when the MC knows his boss is trying to kill him because his car blows up. We need more info here, how does he know? Has his boss tried to kill him before? Your first 250 set up the story well. I love detective stories and set in Montreal??? Yes, please.

    ReplyDelete
  5. BLOOD: This one intrigued me quite a bit. I think the query buries the hook though. I was reading along when all of a sudden, boom...she killed her father? I'd start with that. The first 250 are descriptive but why focus on a paper cut?

    CROISSANTS: Your query was also intriguing but I was confused when the MC knows his boss is trying to kill him because his car blows up. We need more info here, how does he know? Has his boss tried to kill him before? Your first 250 set up the story well. I love detective stories and set in Montreal??? Yes, please.

    ReplyDelete
  6. BLOOD AND BAGUETTES
    Query: I felt like things really kicked up a notch when you hit the "the age at which she killed him." That made me sit up and pay attention more than what came before it. I wonder if you could somehow lead with that sooner? I got a little muddled in the second paragraph, maybe too much going on at once for me. Then with the last line, I'm not 100% clear with the stakes--what exactly "provide forgiveness" and "ignoring the present" really mean.
    250: I love the imagery. Something about the blood is just so vivid. The only thing that throws me off is the relationship between a bleeding finger and the seemingly out of proportion reaction ("This can't be happening. Not here, not yet."). Sounds like there's more going on, but the connection isn't immediately apparent.

    CROISSANTS KILL
    Query: I LOVE this query. I don't tend to read mystery, but I'm already wanting to read this one. Great voice and exciting stakes--the query has a lot of momentum. One thing that seems at odds is the first sentence. It feels out of place, and I don't like "a cry bleeds." I also wasn't sure whether we're meant to root for Holly or not.
    250: The first line here doesn't carry nearly the punch that the first line of your 2nd para in the query. I feel like it would be more powerful to open with the imagery, with him observing the corpse. The dialogue in the first sentence is underwhelming for me given the context.

    Great job both entries!

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  7. Blood and Baguettes

    She killed her father at age ten--wait, WHUT? And no more said about it?! The lovely details in the next query paragraphs are overshadowed by this lingering question enough to seem trite and superfluous. Breaking up with a man of Alexandre's connections is going to have ramifications. Maybe mention them in the query? First 250 has adequate voice; not sure I know the character all that much more by the end though. We know she's jumpy, but can you give us a hint of what is making her so?



    Croissants kill!

    Interesting way to set the scene in the query and to introduce the main character. "Customizing treatments for each patient"...for what, exactly? The acid analogy was chilling and provided great imagery. Some of the first 250's phrasing struck me as awkward.

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  8. Blood and Baguettes,

    Start by saying this query has great voice, and one which is matched in the first 250. Really strong. Romance is not a genre I normally read, but this entry is so strong, I am hooked and want to know more. The only point of confusion is that she killed her dad at age 10? I think if it was an accident that she blames herself for and not that she took a machete to his head, this needs to be clarified, because one way dramatically sets me against the character and the other sets me on her side!

    Croissants kill!

    Query: I think that there is a little too much going on in the first few sentences and I get distracted from the main plot. 250: I also agree that starting the 250 with the mc’s response to the hanging corpse would do way more than dialogue (even just cutting the dialogue and starting with the next sentence), but it is just a suggestion! A dead body, particularly one without a face commands more attention than someone’s comment on it! I think you have a really strong query and awesome 250. I can’t wait to read this one on the shelves, it is one of my favorite entries!

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  9. Blood and Baguettes
    This sounds like a story that would keep me up all night! In the query, I wonder if all of the details are necessary, and maybe you can provide more about why she killed her dad, which is one of the most intriguing elements of the plot. The first 250 definitely has a thriller feel to it right away, and we know something is really upsetting her about this blood. But when I find out it’s just a paper cut, it loses a bit of impact. I wonder if starting with her worried about the postcards, and weaving in the cut, might increase the tension in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I love how you weave in that cut/blood, I just think some other element about her dad might amp up the tension. Congratulations and good luck!

    Croissants Kill
    First, this title is so clever. And wow, there is so much happening in this story. With so many potential suspects, it promises to be a real nail biter to the end. The only thing with the query that tripped me up a bit was toward the end, when new characters and details are thrown in, and it’s hard to really keep track of all the pieces. Your first 250 is great. Your writing is amazingly vivid, and the setting details put me right there. I can see the body hanging there. I’d love to have a bit more sense of what he’s feeling inside. Otherwise, awesome entry and good luck!

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  10. Blood and Baguettes

    Query – It has character. It has hints of conflict. It has hints of stakes. It has voice.

    I like the concept. I like the love conflict, but I’m confused by the action conflict. Also by the stakes. Bri wants forgiveness from killing her dad, which you say at the end of the query and that if she ignores the present, it will lead to the same fatal mistakes, but I’m confused as to what those could be. Will she kill someone else? I’d like to get more detail on what the specific conflict is and what will happen if she fails.

    250 – I love this opening from the second paragraph on. In fact, that’s where I’d start. The first paragraph left me trying to picture a bloody scene that seems so important but then it’s a papercut. I get that you’re trying to show the memory there, but I think there’s more intrigue with that blood stain on the postcard than the first paragraph. Might just be me, though. Overall, nice opening.

    Croissants Kill

    Query – It has conflict. It has character. It has hints at stakes. It has voice.

    I’m intrigued by a faceless corpse. I’m confused about why this faceless corpse jeopardizes the acquisition.

    Wait, when did Holly get attacked? And Jimmy poisoned? What do you mean light or dark? And who is this twelve-year-old? That last paragraph confuses me.

    250 – Reads well. Interesting. Good imagery. Not much I’d change here. Well done.

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  11. Two very different queries with intriguing ideas. I wish you both luck.

    BLOOD AND BAGUETTES: I love your book title. Postcards of Ruin is gorgeous. My overall impression of the query letter aligns with some things already said. It does read stiff. I think you may have a more formal voice which is not a bad thing at all, but combined with the synopsis-style of your query it wasn't doing the job of drawing me in.

    Others have said to move the bit about killing her father closer to the top, and I agree. I think you'll also find that it will make the study program plot flow more seamlessly into Alexandre. As it is now, the first two paragraphs don't transition well.

    I think the main problem in the query is a lack of focus. It's like two different stories- the postcard/guilt story and the shady Prince of Monaco story. I really don't get how they relate to each other. I'm equally interested in both, and I'm sure there is a connection, but from what I have to go on, I'm not able to discern it.

    The lack of specificity is also a problem. "across barriers" "red flags" "unknown aggressor" "greatest fear" "uncover the truth". I don't think you need to give everything away, but when you say something as specific as her killing her father when she was ten, I wanted another few nuggets of what is actually going on. It's so hard to boil a plot down to one page. It can be difficult to see your story from a distance (forest for the trees, you know). What does the person reading this query NEED to know? And how do you convey that information in the most efficient way possible?

    This line: "Devastated by Alexandre's actions but determined to uncover the truth, Bri finds herself..."
    If I knew what she is trying to uncover the truth about, I think that would really help. The way it's written, it's not clear. I don't understand the stakes.

    First 250: Since the postcards are important and blood is clearly something that strikes a deep cord with Bri, I really love the imagery of the drop of blood on the postcard. As an opening image, I think it's beautiful and dark. Bri does come off sort of unstable though, and I'm not sure that's your intention. I wish you the best of luck with your revisions!

    CROISSANTS KILL!

    For the query, you have a very cool story line, an interesting cast of characters, and a stand-out opening line. It could also use a lot more focus. There is just too much going on. It's a lot of information, and it doesn't feel like the information I actually need. For example: Why the heck is his boss trying to kill him? And they also have a cease-fire? How? He tried to blow him up! Also, it's not important what the healthcare startup actually does. What I would like to know is who is the corpse that led James to the startup? I'm assuming they identified him for the investigation to be so focused on this one company. I'd rather know who the corpse is than Jimmy's barista girlfriend's name. However, I do like your merry band of suspects. They sound like they'll be a lot of fun to read about. I don't think you need to get so specific about them.

    The last paragraph of the query is too vague-- light path or dark? I don't get it. Also, I understand that the last sentence is a reference to your title, but it feels out of context. I think all this is totally fixable. Your story has got the goods, and your writing tells me you can pull it off too.

    First 250: Your descriptions are great. I think if you tighten up some of the sentences you'll have an awesome first page. The only thing that bugged me was the colon in the 5th paragraph. The writing is perfect for a crime novel. Gritty, raw, with a bittersweet edge. Good job and good luck!

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