Wednesday, June 1, 2016

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 1: CUDDLES AND COUPS vs. INSERT SHAKESPEARE JOKE HERE

Title: The Dictator’s Wife
Entry Nickname: Cuddles and Coups
Word count: 82K
Genre: Adult Dark Romantic Suspense

Query:

A military dictatorship governs Britain. The First Lord of the Treasury, Julien St John Helmsley, is charming, charismatic, and utterly ruthless, particularly towards the resistance group known as the Treaty. Melanie Bonham, an officer of the Treaty and enemy of the state, has signed up for a deadly last-stand. She’ll become the First Lord’s mistress, learn his secrets, and then assassinate him. Failure will mean torture, death, and vicious retaliation against the rebels, but success could restore democracy.

But “Melanie” has a secret: before she fled to the Treaty, she was Julien’s beloved but brutal wife, Marianne Helmsley, who’s long been assumed dead by all sides. Marianne fears the First Lord will have her shot on sight. Instead, he rejoices at her return. In love with the man she’s meant to kill and tempted by absolute power, Marianne must choose between freeing the country and breaking her heart or ruling at Julien’s side and losing her soul – before both sides seek to have her murdered as a traitor.
  
First 250:

I became a triple-agent on the eighth anniversary of the military coup that had replaced Britain’s centuries-old democracy with an absolutist dictatorship.

That morning, I strode into the Treaty’s underground control room, then pushed through the crowd until I reached our leader.

“Good of you to finally join us, Melanie.” Without another word, David set our hacked CCTV feed to show Somerset House from the Strand.

The elegant arches and columns of the Regime’s London headquarters formed a stark contrast to this utilitarian network of abandoned mines. I dutifully studied the soldiers guarding the archway and the helicopters hovering above the courtyard, but the façade’s larger-than-life portraits demanded my attention.

Honour the First Lord demanded the painting on the left, which depicted a striking man in replica nineteenth-century military uniform. Remember the Eternal Blessed First Lady mourned its companion on the right. My co-conspirators considered its subject a she-devil in life and their most high-profile victim in death.

“We need to stop the Regime once and for all,” David intoned. Years of outdoor living had given him muscles and a hearty glow When he spoke, people listened.

I ignored him.

My eyes lingered on the second portrait until I was content the so-called Eternal Bless First Lady’s curves, red lips and Dior gown bore no resemblance to my soldier’s body and weather-beaten face. Besides, Marianne Helmsley’s defining feature had been her Rapunzel curls, and I’d cropped my hair to the skull the night I fled to the Treaty.

~ VERSUS ~

Title: Mounting the Marquis
Entry Nickname: [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]
Word count: 81K
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Query: 

Sick of hearing a woman her size can’t be a leading lady, Vi started her own theatre company and proved everyone wrong. But when there’s finally enough money to hire an artistic director, the board chooses Lucian, a local actor whose only qualification is being so good looking that old ladies love to give him money. If the board thinks Vi will be so busy swooning that she hands over control peacefully, they’ve got another think coming. If only Lucian would stop wearing those tight jeans to work.

Lucian’s been the muse of a brilliant but tyrannical director since he was fifteen. Desperate to get away from her, and certain he’s got creative vision, he lands the job of his dreams: artistic director of Vi’s up-and-coming theatre. He's admired Vi for years. She’s poised and passionate—but when she’s wearing a corset, his rational mind shuts down. Why did he choose two corset plays? He needs his brain in working order to show everyone he's more than just a leading man.
  
As Vi and Lucian rehearse Miss Julie, a sexy play about hierarchy, their growing attraction screws with their intentions and challenges their objective: be the one who ends up on top.

First 250

Eavesdropping on my rival from behind a hedgerow signaled a new low for me: I was accidentally method acting. Yes, my situation—in both life and snooping—undeniably paralleled the Eighteenth Century farce I would star in later that summer. 

“Vi’s a high functioning actress,” Perry, the president of the board, said. 

Perry’s diagnosis of my personality boomed through the neighborhood with the resonant clarity of his famous voice. The sound bounced off the front wall of the school where I substitute taught. It poured through the grossly overgrown shrubbery separating Perry from the porch of my apartment where I stood. It echoed in my head, bruising my already wounded confidence.

Everyone in the Berkshire theatre world already knew Perry thought me unqualified to run the theatre I’d founded. Now the whole neighborhood knew, too. Fantastic. I needed to go inside before I lost my temper and proved him right.

“I don’t think you’re giving her enough credit,” Lucian said. Lucian’s voice carried, but it didn’t bellow; it penetrated, beguiled with an enticing smoothness, all Jeremy Irons and Benedict Cumberbatch. It was intellectual, precise, but with a growling sensuality purring under the crisp articulation.  

The heat building inside me was no longer simply temper. Lucian may have taken my dream job and acted like a corporate robot most of the time, but certain things about him—namely his voice and his body—sometimes managed to distract me from my righteous indignation.

20 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cuddles and Coups: I absolutely love the premise of this story. Romance, secrets, and murder, plus a new take on a dystopian-type society is definitely interesting.

      Query: Some of the wording in the query letter makes for a rough read. I found it difficult to follow at times, and had to reread many sentences to understand exactly what you were trying to get across. For example, the first sentence of the query feels incomplete. The information about a military dictatorship governing Britain is important, but what does it have to do with the characters in the story or the plot? With a little tweaking, the query could flow much better.

      A military dictatorship governs Britain, and Julien St John Helmsley is the First Lord of the Treasury. Julien’s charming, charismatic, and utterly ruthless towards the resistance group known as the Treaty, which is why Melanie Bonham is going to kill him. As an officer of the Treaty and enemy of the state, Melanie...

      With query letters, clarity is key. I would suggest going through the query letter to find any spots that may be vague, or intentionally mysterious, and trying to clear them up in the most suspenseful way possible.

      250: I found it hard to connect with the story. There wasn’t much of a setting presented. The first sentence seemed unnecessary. I feel it would be more beneficial to use this prime literary real estate to describe who the character is and where they are. If you show through Melanie’s eyes, what she’s feeling in all senses as she moves through the scene, it could really help pull the reader into the world.

      [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]: This is a great nickname! I love the concept of your story, and the fact that it has a real-to-life main character.

      Query: I think you have a great voice in this query letter, but I’m not seeing much in the way of personal stakes for Vi. You mention the board chose Lucian in the hopes of Vi handing over control, but there was no reference to the board disliking Vi beforehand. Didn’t Vi start this theatre company, and pick this board? Why all of the sudden do they want her replaced with a vain, inexperience actor? Lucian’s section, however, shows more about what drives him and what’s holding him back from achieving his goals, which is Vi. I would suggest adding more personal stakes for Vi, and trying to put some urgency into the final paragraph.

      250: You have a very engaging writing style. It pulled me right into Vi's world. The wacky punctuation in the first paragraph threw me off a bit, but after that I was able to slip right into the story. I would suggest slowing down the first paragraph. Right now, for me personally, it’s a little hard to follow the statement about method acting and how it connects to the next sentence about Vi’s upcoming play. Also, you used a lot of detail to explain Lucian’s voice, a whole paragraph’s worth! You want to be careful not to overwhelm the reader, especially in the first 250.

      Both entries are amazing. Personally, I liked the concept of Cuddles and Coups better, but the voice and the way the author showed through the MC’s eyes in [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here] drew me in more.

      Victory to [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]

      Delete
    2. Cuddles and Coups...
      This is a KILLER concept, and a great query.

      I’m of two minds about using the pseudonym in a query, and having it change halfway through. I think it provides an unnecessary complication. I might just say that, years ago under a different name she was his beloved and brutal wife.

      Pages – third to last paragraph, missing a period between “glow” and “When”.

      Next paragraph, “I ignored him.” I love this. I get such a feel for the character here.

      Last paragraph, “Eternal Bless” – should this be “Eternal Blessed”? (Should probably be Eternally Blessed, but I like it better as Eternal, actually).

      This is great writing, and a great beginning. You’re showing stellar world building and character development. The only part that stops me because I’m not getting a visual of what you’re talking about until later is when you say “…the façade’s larger-than-life portraits demanded my attention.” I would say, instead, “the larger-than-life portraits hung/painted on the building’s façade.” That way I have a visual right away.

      SUPER.

      [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]
      Oh, my serious gosh, you had me at the title here. This sounds like it has some REAL spice. And I also LOVE seeing a heroine – ESPECIALLY in a novel like this – who is described as “a woman her size”…and then no other allusion to her size is mentioned in the query. Nothing about Lucian being attracted to her “despite her weight”. Awesome.  She sounds like a confident, interesting woman who goes after what she wants, and is successful.
      Your hero also sounds interesting – a pretty boy who wants to be more than a pretty boy. I do get slightly disconcerted at the POV change in the query, though a dual-POV romance is common and the query just seems to reflect that. However, I’d start that paragraph out “Lucian, for his part, has been the muse of a brilliant but tyrannical director since he was fifteen.”
      Pages – This is great writing. I love the imagery here. It is, for me, a bit wordy for a beginning. I don’t mind this style, and I think it will work well for later on into the novel, but I want to be pulled into the story first, and (for me), the style is slowing the pacing here and telling me too much about the characters when I’m itching to get to know them through the action.
      “Yes, my situation—in both life and snooping—undeniably paralleled the Eighteenth Century farce I would star in later that summer.”
      I think you can remove “—in both life and snooping—“ because it’s implied.
      “It was intellectual, precise, but with a growling sensuality purring under the crisp articulation.

      The heat building inside me was no longer simply temper. Lucian may have taken my dream job and acted like a corporate robot most of the time, but certain things about him—namely his voice and his body—sometimes managed to distract me from my righteous indignation.”

      I think you can remove all of this. You show me through “…; it penetrated, beguiled with an enticing smoothness, all Jeremy Irons and Benedict Cumberbatch” that she has a little thing for him. Show me more slowly how strong that attraction is. Let it build.

      This is a HARD VOTE, but I'm going to go with Cuddles and Coups.

      Delete
    3. CUDDLES AND COUPS: Ooo, I really like this premise. The query is concise and well thought out. I feel like I really know what’s going on, and what the book is about. You state the conflict well, without going into too much detail. Just a couple of questions: The query talks about Melanie being “brutal” in her past. Was she brutal to Julien, or the people, or everyone? Just that one word makes her almost unlikable…is that what you want? Secondly, in the last sentence you say failure will mean torture, etc. Would you consider using “would” instead of “will?” When you say will it makes me think it is going to happen – would makes it more of a question. Great job! Your 250 is also enjoyable and well-done. Again, just a couple of little things: While I understand the first line, it is quite heavy, and it took me a few slow reads to get through it. Any way to simplify it a little bit? Secondly, in the last paragraph I think you meant to say “Blessed” rather than “Bless.” Easy fix! Congrats and great job!

      [INSERT SHAKESPEARE JOKE HERE]: Wow, this is so fun! I really love the back-and-forth of the query, which I assume will be how the book plays out, one chapter for one, one for another. That, plus the fun characters, remind me of Jennifer Crusie’s romance novels, and I know she’s a favorite among romance readers! Just a couple of things about the query. I know “that” is usually a word to cut, however, I’m wondering if it would help the first line to add it. “Sick of hearing THAT a woman her size…” What do you think? Otherwise it sounds like she is sick of hearing a woman her size say something. Also, in the first paragraph, should good-looking have a hyphen? The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs read great to me. Super job! Your 250 are so, so fun, and the only thing I can say is that I think high-functioning maybe needs a hyphen. Isn’t that silly that’s they only thing I can think to say? Vi is immediately lovable and funny, and your way with words is captivating and endearing. I really love it. Congratulations!

      Both entries are very, very well done, and I wish you both all success. I expect to see both in print soon!

      Victory to [INSERT SHAKESPEARE JOKE HERE]

      Delete
    4. Katherine PierceJune 3, 2016 at 10:42 AM

      Cuddles & Coups

      Query: Overall, I think this is a pretty solid query. I like how the first line sets up the query, but I’m not sure it’s compelling enough or how it connects to the MC. It feels too short and clipped. As I read through it, I was also wondering if this story is single POV or dual because if it’s not dual I’d recommend moving the first line about Julien until later. Let us get to know Melanie first and then introduce Julien through her eyes. The last sentence in the first paragraph—using words like “she’ll” and “will” sound to me like you’re giving away what’s going to happen in the story. Can you phrase this more to the effect that this is their plan rather than this will happen? I’m also curious on why you’d describe Melanie as “brutal,” it sounds important and would almost like to know more about why she left Julien. My only other recommendation might be to give us some insight into when this takes place. Initially I thought it would be historical, but the 250 clearly shows it isn’t.

      250: I like what you’re doing with the opening line, but it’s very wordy. Can you simplify it at all? Other than the missing period after “hearty glow” and “Bless” instead of “Blessed” in the last paragraph, I think this is really well written. The only thing I’d like a little more of is setting. We’re getting the basics of where they are and what she’s looking at, but I’d love a few more detailed tidbits. Also, as someone not really familiar with England, I’m not really sure what “the Strand” is.
      ___________________________________________________________________________

      [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]

      Query: Up front I’d love to know how old Vi is. Perhaps that’s just a personal preference. All in all I think this is really well written, but where I struggle is with Vi’s paragraph. I’m not sure I understand how, if she started the theatre, she’s now being controlled by a board she doesn’t like, has minimal input, and why she needs to hand over control? Julien’s paragraph really gives us a good sense of who he is, but I’m not understanding the stakes for Vi, or really, what the larger overall stakes are that will drive the plot. Also, there’s one minor typo I found in the first paragraph—“another think” instead of “another thing.”

      250: This writing sample is absolutely dripping with voice which I love. I think you can probably lose “in both life and snooping,” I’m not sure it’s really necessary. But the writing here is really fantastic. Where you lose me a bit is in the descriptions of both Perry’s and Lucian’s voice. It’s a bit heavy-handed on the pretty details (which I think would work better later on once we’re more absorbed in the book), but on the first page I think it’s too much and slows down the initial pacing.
      ___________________________________________________________________________

      This is a tough one for me. Shakespeare has a great voice bleeding through the sample, but without understanding the stakes that will drive the story, I have to declare VICTORY TO CUDDLES & COUPS!

      Delete
    5. CUDDLES AND COUPS has a great query with an awesome premise that made me sit forward. The only thing I’m missing is a hook or logline at the beginning. Setting and conflict are set beautifully for me. I didn’t get a good sense of the voice though. LOVE the hook at the end. Seriously, a conniving and double-double-agent?!? I couldn’t wait to get to the pages.

      The first page didn’t blow my skirt up as much as I wanted. The voice isn’t my favorite, but I do like how the story unfolds. The writing is clean, but the story-telling feels a bit belabored to me. For example, I found myself skimming the 5th paragraph and I think if I were a CP for this author, I’d try to convince him/her to cut it.

      MOUNTING THE MARQUIS has a nice hook at the beginning of the query. There’s an extra comma in the 2nd paragraph (Desperate to get away from her, and certain he’s got) I like this romantic conflict and the setup feels a little humorous, especially with that last line. It made me giggle! Overall the query’s good but maybe add a little voice in there and rewrite that rhetorical sentence in the 2nd paragraph into some kind of voicey statement.

      The first line set the tone and mood perfectly! Oh how I love a great first line, and this has it! I enjoyed the setup, but I didn’t feel the attraction coming through. It’s almost a little soon to go from angry to attracted on the first page, and I wasn’t feeling it. I think the romance would blossom better if I first got hold of the anger-passion simmering inside Vi first, and THEN see her get all hot and bother and realizing it’s not just anger. I feel like a better 6th paragraph would be Vi’s righteous indignation—period. Let her be angry and maybe sneak a thought about Lucian’s body in there and promptly dismiss it. And then let the romance build. I feel like this romance is rushed for me, as if we’re already past the part where she discovers she actually might like this guy who is also her nemesis.

      Victory to CUDDLES AND COUPS

      Delete
    6. Coming in as an extra judge here! I think both of these are super strong and I'd love to read each for different reasons. CUDDLES has the intrigue and the impossible situation I'd love to see work out--somehow--in the end. SHAKESPEARE practically crackles with tension and I love the idea of a curvy heroine and women in power positions.

      Victory to SHAKESPEARE!

      Delete
  2. Cuddles and Coups:
    I love things set in England (can you tell by my Sherlockian name?) and this seems like a very interesting premise!

    Query:
    I think introducing Melanie *before* Julien might make it easier to connect the dots...You can start with the world (the Treasury vs the Treaty) and not introduce Julien straight away. Awesome stakes in 3rd sentence!

    I tripped up a bit with Melanie/Marianne being such close names... only use one for her throughout the query. Probably want to use her new, fake name. That is who she *is” now, unless she is posing as the wife-back-from-the-dead? Or is she posing as a new person named “Melanie” who will be his mistress? Again, awesome with the stakes at end of paragraph 2.

    First 250:
    I like the first sentence. I found it intriguing, but I would immediately like to know more about the character.

    I wouldn’t necessarily break paragraphs between “Strand. The elegant...” because I had trouble connecting Somerset House = the Regime’s London headquarters. That’s key and the closer they are together, the better. (Also, for any not-familiar-with-London reader, the phrase “from the Strand” might be hard. Not everyone knows that is a road, and therefore it might be a tripping point. Try it on a few betas... it might be easier to just take that out. Or “from across the Strand” might be more helpful.)

    I had a little bit of trouble connecting that the portrait was of her.If you are comfortable with it, save that last paragraph until a little bit later... give me more about what is happening NOW. We will get to her dual identity thing... I want to feel urgency about OMG WHAT IS GOING ON.

    I think you could punch up the second line from David – he could really drop something EXCITING here. Draw me in. Make me worried. What horrible crap thing has the Regime just done that brought them all to the war room? Urgency!!!!
    And just a couple of little typos: Missing period after “...a hearty glow” and the second time you say “Eternal Bless” instead of “Eternal Blessed”
    I do really like “when he spoke, people listened / I ignored him” – Melanie seems like a pretty badass person.

    [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]:
    Query:
    I think that people who are outside the theater world may be a little bit confused on the mechanics of she started the company, then made money, and now someone else will be hired to take it over.

    The stakes are really clear and I LOVE THE LAST LINE.

    First 250:
    Although I get that she is an actress and she is eavesdropping, there is a lot of description on this page about the voices. I don’t think that we need quite so much description on page 1. I’d rather know more about Vi through what she does (she is eavesdropping... that is awesome. Dangerous and brave!) rather than how much she thinks about the voices of the men she is eavesdropping on...

    Paragraph 4 is good! (although the last sentence “I needed to go inside” could introduce the real threat: “...before I got caught eavesdropping”)
    Personal preference, but I was taken out of the story when I read the names of real-life actors. Other people may disagree.

    My preference is always to have more action / dialogue than description. That is, again, personal preference, but I was just wondering when something more would happen or be said. Can she move closer/ worry about getting caught? Eavesdropping is dangerous! Especially on these 2 dudes who are a total threat to Vi’s dreams. I do feel like I can picture this happening...

    SUCH a tough call here. I really really like both, and they offer very different premises.
    Victory to Cuddles and Coups

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  4. Insert Shakespeare Joke Here:
    Query: Fantastic! Really sets up the personal and professional stakes for both Lucian and Vi. That’s hard to do in a query, so well done. I also love the voice that you managed to infuse into the query, for both your MCs. I’m intrigued to read on!
    250: This is great setting and introduction of Vi. Great job! My one complaint is you shift to her sensual thoughts of Lucian with a very quick transition – “The heat building inside me was no longer simply temper.” It’s a quick change from her frustration and wounded pride. I think your 250 could benefit from eliciting that same response in the reader by letting Vi undress him etc. with her eyes and tell us about him.

    Cuddles and Coups
    Query: Very intriguing but it became muddled for me in the second paragraph. I had to re-read several sentences several times. I think it would help my comprehension and the flow of the paragraph if you combined “Marianne fears…” with “Instead, he rejoices…”
    250: How does the Treaty’s leader know to call Marianne “Melanie” without her introducing herself with the fake name? When did she come to that new identity? How did the Treaty leader know that already? Also, the first sentence is packed with information. I had to re-read several times and I’d suggest you split it in two to allow the impact to fully hit the reader. A very intriguing package altogether!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Two great entries. Nice job.

    I love the first line of Insert Shakespeare Joke Here. The voice promises humor and tension, which serves to draw in the reader and invest them in the scene. You want to proof read and eliminate typos(would already knew). Query sets up a fun romcom premise. My only advice would be to trim unnecessary description.

    The high stakes in Cuddles and Coups shine through in both the query and first 250. I am impressed by how you managed in so few words to provide a history of the two main characters. Very well done.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cuddles and Coups: Good query, muddled in the second paragraph, I had trouble determining why he would want his 'brutal' wife back.
    250: I'm afraid you lost me. I had to reread several lines to grasp understanding, and I didn't 'feel' the character, even though it's written in 1st person. I love the premise, feels very much like V for Vendetta with a more obvious romance and stakes that are just as high. Well done on capturing the atmosphere.

    Shakespeare joke here. (Love the nickname, and if the title weren't so good I'd say use that instead, but the title is fantastic!) Query, Very strong, great hook, I know what the stakes are and I love it that Vi is plus sized, we don't see enough body diversity in romance. I love how your hero is a pretty boy who has made it on his looks, but knows he's so much more deep down. The corset comments cutting off his brain, LOVE it.

    250: I really enjoyed the voice of this first page. It drew me in right away. I enjoyed the references to real life actors because it gave me a place to put that voice of his. I love the detail given to his voice (my gods can a nice voice really do it for me, so that point is great). Well done, and I want to read it now!

    Good luck to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  7. CUDDLES & COUPS
    I thought your query rocked. Set up the characters, conflict and stakes beautifully. I had no trouble with the two names for one character: the transition using “Melanie” clued me in to that.

    When I got to the 250, however, the first sentence threw me a bit. Eighth anniversary, centuries-old, democracy/dictatorship – all of these, I think, are facts that can come later, after we've been introduced to the characters. And I agree that David's first line should be more dramatic: “such-and-so was the final straw – we have to stop them now!” Or words to that effect. As it is, he sounds a little tame and more than a little self-righteous.

    INSERT SHAKESPEARE JOKE HERE
    The query is well done, and the 250 (though a little wordy for me) was very good as well.

    In the query, I felt it would be great to meet Vi – that she's a strong, self-aware woman whose made a name for herself. When the story opened with her not only eavesdropping, but less than confident and on the brink of losing her temper over something she's evidently heard before, I was disappointed. I wanted the character you set forth in your query.

    So my (immaterial) vote goes to Cuddles & Coups for this round.

    Good luck to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Cuddles and Coups

    Query: This query is very intriguing. Great job at presenting all of the world building and complex character introductions in a clear way!

    250: Here are some thoughts I had while reading:
    --I have to admit, I read the first sentence three times. It's quite a mouthful, and I had trouble taking it all in. Would you be able to break this up a little?
    --I'm definitely curious how she's a triple agent, which makes me want to read on!
    --I love the "I ignored him" line. Its placement is very effective and voicey.
    --At one point you say "Eternal Blessed First Lady" but then you say "Eternal Bless First Lady". Which is it? (I assume the former is correct.)
    --I love the way you describer her apperaance in the final paragraph! It feels natural.


    [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]

    Query: The voice of your character really stands out in this query! I also really like the stakes here. Well done. One thing that concerns me, though, is the mention of Vi's size followed by Lucian prefering her in a corset. It implies he only likes her when she's wearing something that makes her thinner, which will both a lot of readers.

    250: I love the first sentence! We're getting a great introduction to Vi's personality in this opening scene. But the mention of Jeremy Irons and Benedict Cumberbatch strikes me as a bit of a cop-out; we'd rather read your description of the voice than read who you think it sounds like. I'd cut that part of the sentence, because the rest of the paragraph describe the voice very well!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Both of these are great ideas and I'd pick up both of these books to take home with me!

    Cuddles and Coups:

    I love the idea but my inner skeptic has trouble believing that Marianne/Melanie can pull off this transformation when there is a portrait of her hanging in front of everyone all the time. The stakes, the tension, and the desperately doomed scenario are fantastic, but I have to get past the idea that she's able to live this double life. Something as simple as editing the query to say that she's unrecognizable now might help.

    Also, if you make it to the next round, make sure you correct the reference to Blessed/Bless First Lady.

    [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]

    Love your nickname, love your premise; it made me think of "Slings and Arrows" right away. I would eat your novel with a spoon.

    I agree with some of the other commenters, though, that the Vi of the query and the Vi of the first 250 are not quite the same ladies: Vi in the query is sassy and sure of herself while Vi in the first 250 seems so uncertain and concerned about what others think (though I feel like she's going to give Perry what for in the next 250!).

    I'd give the edge to "[Shakespeare]" for how solidly the query nails its characters and the stakes and the way it masters voice. "Cuddles and Coups" needs just a bit of clarification and tightening.

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  10. Cuddles and Coups - Interesting concept, but I wonder how she would ever explain away being gone for that long. Wouldn't her husband be suspicious? The 250- Pretty gutsy of her to stand right next to a picture of herself! Even if she looks different. I liked the line where she says she's a triple agent. I would read this!

    Shakespeare joke ( love the name) - I loved this! Vi sounds like my kind of heroine. I'm not sure you need the tight pants comment, that took me out of your query a bit. The 250- were great. It shows despite her confidence, she still has her hangups and is struggling with how she views herself. I loved it.

    Great job both of you!

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  11. Cuddles and Coups

    Quite a chilling concept. Very Orwellian. Conspicuous in its absence here is a sense of Marianne's motivation to become Melanie in the first place. Would be thrilling to know whether her fellow Treaty members know who she is (or was.) Perhaps instead of you telling us it's morning, David could address Melanie by saying "Good morning." I'm not a fan of descriptive dialogue tags. Some punctuation missing. Seems rather self-aware for Melanie to comment on her weather-beaten face. Maybe she runs her hand across her face's rough skin, contrasting starkly with the First Lady's luscious complexion?

    [Insert Shakespeare Joke Here]

    Love the tension in the query's opening lines! Oh, and double POV it seems. Appears to work nicely. "be the one who ends up on top" Just a *tiny* bit of double entendre there? ;) Well played! And Vi's fixating on Lucian's voice this early? Wow, does she have it bad! Enjoyed reading her mental battle she had to avoid doing something stupid. I don't mind seeing colons and semi-colons used where they seem to work, like they do here. Other have a distinct antipathy toward them though.

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  12. Cuddles and Coups: Great 250! Really got a strong sense of voice and was quickly drawn into the world of intrigue you created. Like others, I was confused reading some of your query, particularly the first paragraph. Perhaps you can write it from a clearer POV so that the great voice of your 250 can shine through more. Also agree that your first sentence is interesting but I think could be more compelling and lyrical. Great job!!

    Shakespeare: Great voice in your query! Fell in love with the heroine just from that and was already rooting for her to succeed and win the guy. Your 250 had that same great voice, but I wonder about starting with something more action-y and maybe holding off bringing the love interest so quickly in right away in such a clear way. Just me, though.

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  13. I love both of these so much. I will read them when they are published, promise!

    For Cuddles and Coups

    For me, your query was great! Made sense. Good stakes.

    For your first 250, again, you set the stage really well. I wonder if you might try to show more of you MC's personality. I'm not yet getting a sense of her as a person.

    Shakespeare

    Another great query! Perhaps you could give us a clearer idea of the stakes or find a way to elevate them in the query?

    Great first 250! Really nice sense of personality and sensual details -- sound of the voice!

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