Wednesday, June 1, 2016

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 1: GREEK OUT WITH ME vs. ESCAPE THE FATE

Title: The Blind Sculptor
Entry Nickname: Greek Out with Me
Word Count: 95,000
Genre: YA Fantasy

Query:

When Medusa discovers her head is worth a king’s dowry, she knows she’s in trouble.

She’s been in trouble before—the gods call her monstrous, gorgon—on account of her mortal form. And when they can’t kill her for being deformed, she’s banished. Soon after, a powerful God entangles Medusa in his divine bid for power. Bereft and alone, Medusa is besieged on every side. She longs for peace and finds it on a mysterious island, but not for long.

Bastard-born Perseus is a prince without standing, biding his time under the harsh rule of King Polydectes. When Perseus’ mother shuns the King’s marriage proposal, Perseus is blamed. The King takes his revenge by tricking Perseus into embarking on a dangerous mission of mythic proportions—to procure Medusa’s head. 

As Perseus narrows his hunt, he discovers how much he and Medusa 
have in common. She may be gorgon—but she’s no monster. Even so, the pair are caught between warring realms. With their fates intertwined, Perseus must murder her to pacify his king, and Medusa is desperate to find a way to live among the gods. 

THE BLIND SCULPTOR is a re-telling of the Medusa myth that, for the first time, gives us Medusa's side of the story.

First 250:

Before I was born, there were rumors. 

Mother had a difficult pregnancy. Bedridden for months, her waiting women plied her with elixirs, staving off the nausea and cramps. Even her window overlooking the wine-dark sea was a torment. On her orders, servants surrounded her with rosemary bushes in clay pots, their sharp scent hiding the tide’s aroma. By midmorning, when the sun’s rays had coaxed perfume from the oily needles, she’d sink exhausted into her pillows and rest, murmuring about her suspicions that I was cursed. To her relief, she didn’t carry me to full term. I came four weeks early. 

My birth confirmed the rumors, and her suspicions.  She refused me. A wet-nurse was brought in.

I wasn’t like my sisters, Sthenno and Euryale. Or anyone else in my family for that matter: I was a healthy, pink skinned, copper haired girl-child born into a dynasty of divinity. Even if she’d overlooked my appearance, one small, extremely important fact set me eternally apart: I was born a monster into a family of Gods. 

I was born mortal. 

My mother would have dealt with the situation better if I’d resembled her, but I neither favored her complexion, nor carried her immortal blood. But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps no degree of resemblance would have helped, after what she went through—confronted with the worst after tamping down for months the fear every pregnant woman carries alongside her unborn child: the fear of birthing a monster.

~ VERSUS ~ 

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

Query:

Cursed to see the future and never be believed, Cassandra of Troy High is pretty chill, all things considered. Instead of suffering from madness and torturous hysteria, she’s a fiercely loyal, amoral punk who runs a popular website. There she puts her power to good use--under the pseudonym, ProphecyPunk, she uploads videos of her prophecies when they come to pass because clicks equal coins. (What? Did you miss the word amoral?)

However, her prophecies aren’t always cute animal moments or funny accidents. She also sees murders in dark alleys and war zones on the other side of the planet. So really, who has time for a Love triangle (which Cass is avoiding like the plague. She can’t seem to get her ex-boyfriend Apollo out of her head and the gorgeous transfer student, Elyse, is calling her name like she owns it) when her prophecies begin pointing toward a horrific future much closer to home. 

A feud is brewing over her sister, Helen. A school shooting is inevitable. Death is coming. Cass is willing to do anything (lie, cheat, steal, blackmail, assault, you know the drill) to save Helen, but sometimes, you cannot escape Fate.

First 250 words:

“Are you going to stand there all day?” Diana asked, standing behind Cass with her green apron slung over arm. Foggy plumes of breath formed in front of her face with each impatient huff.

Without moving from her spot behind the side of a brick wall of The Java Joint, Cass winked at Diana over her shoulder. Her lips curled into a mischievous smile that only she could wear and make a person want in on whatever was about to go down. See, Trouble and Misfortune followed her like an adoring puppy. Cass had enough charm to make even the most boring, heartless and couch potato-prone souls love dogs.

“Keep your voice down or you’ll mess up my video.” She pressed the camera icon and switched it to video mode.

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

It had always been we, not you.

Up ahead there was a dangerous patch of early morning ice.

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

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

“Did you just say something?” she asked.

27 comments:

  1. Judges, please post your feedback and comments as a reply here:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greek Out:
      Query:
      “…worth a king’s dowry…” I like this line, but I’m slightly put off because women usually are the ones with dowries. Is it his daughter’s dowry, or do things work differently in this world? I’m a little without context.
      “…they can’t kill her for being deformed, she’s banished.” I’m not really for sure if you mean “they” as the gods, because of the reference to “mortal form”. Also, is this one of the times that she was in trouble before, or is it now? I’d reword to clarify.
      Pages…I’m left a little confused if Medusa is the narrator…if so, do the gods consider her a monster solely because she’s mortal? Or because she’s Medusa the way we know her from mythology with snake hair and will turn you to stone if you look at her? I may be off on my mythology, I don’t recall a lot of it. Your description of a normal human child completely conflicts with the “monster” description as well as the Medusa I know; and I don’t know what the gods look like in your world yet, so I’m having trouble forming a picture.
      These first pages could be made more compelling with a bit more context – it’s great imagery, and slightly eerie, which I like – but I’m left a bit wrong-footed, with too many questions. It’s also possible you’re starting in the wrong place. I’d have to read more to form a solid opinion on that.

      I love the vibe you're setting here, and this is a great concept.

      Escape the Fate:
      Query:
      “Cassandra of Troy High”… I’m a bit discombobulated because I’m not sure for a moment if this is a high school. Is that her last name? I love what you’re doing here though.
      “…aren’t always cute animal moments or funny accidents…”
      I’d say, “…aren’t always about cute animals or funny accidents.”
      “…So really, who has time for a Love triangle (which Cass is avoiding like the plague. She can’t seem to get her ex-boyfriend Apollo out of her head and the gorgeous transfer student, Elyse, is calling her name like she owns it) when her prophecies begin pointing toward a horrific future much closer to home.”

      This is good voice, but a little convoluted. I’d reword… You might put the lighter-hearted stuff about the love triangle at the beginning, before bringing on the darker prophecies. It might flow better.

      Pages:

      “…her spot behind the side of a brick wall of The Java Joint…” This is confusing. Is she behind a brick wall? Is she standing beside it? You might just say she leaned against the brick wall and winked at Diana…You don’t have to make it clear that she isn’t moving. Just tell me when she does.

      “only she could wear and make a person want in on whatever was about to go down…” This is a little wordy. You could tighten it and/or clarify. “…her patented mischievous smile, that had the ability to draw people in even if their instincts screamed at them to stay out.” Or whatever.
      Really creative, good concept here.

      This is WAY hard, but I'm voting for Escape the Fate.

      Delete
    2. Greek Out with Me: I'm a huge fan of mythical retellings, and it's very exciting to see a story from Medusa's perspective.

      Query: I thought your query letter was very good, brief yet packed with crucial information about the story's plot. I would've liked to see more at stake for Medusa though. The myth tells us it was a Goddess, Athena, who turned Medusa into a gorgon, for having the nerve to get rape in her temple. I would think Medusa would be all vengeancey, wanting to destroy the Gods instead of live with them.

      250: You have a very interesting voice, and flowing writing style, but the opening seems to start with past events. When an author begins with backstory, it can be hard for the reader to connect with the world. The reader needs to see the main character as they are now, not as they were in the past. It's best to start with one or two paragraphs to set the scene, introduce the MC, then slide into the inciting incident that kick-starts the plot. Let details of the past come out through the course of forward-moving action, so it feels more natural.


      Escape the Fate: This is a very neat concept. I especially like the modern twist with the social media aspect.

      Query: The first sentence in your query letter stumped me up a bit. I have a hard time understanding how a person can see the future, not be believed about it, and be pretty chill. I would think Cassandra would be pretty high-strung, having everybody doubt her and leaving her helpless to stop the visions she sees. Otherwise, I really liked your query letter. It presented key details in a suspenseful manner, and had sufficient stakes.

      250: Personally, I'm opposed to openings that start with dialogue, as I find it hard to settle into the world and connect with the main character. I would've liked to see just a tad bit of setting, through Cassandra's eyes, before the dialogue kicked in. Overall, you have a great voice, natural dialogue, and engaging writing style.


      I am very, very interested in both of these entries. To pick one is torture. They both have killer concepts, are full of voice, and are well written. But in the end, I have to go with the entry that I felt had a more developed plot based on the query letter.

      Victory to Escape the Fate

      Delete
    3. Katherine PierceJune 3, 2016 at 3:19 PM

      Greek Out With Me

      Query: A Medusa retelling from Medusa’s POV? Count me in. However, I am a bit confused by the query, though I get the general idea. “Worth a King’s dowry”—aren’t dowries something women normally have? I like this first line, it’s punchy, but I’m wondering how they know her head is valuable? “They can’t kill her for being deformed”—as in they literally cannot kill her or they’re not allowed based on that reasoning? My next question is whether this MS is single or dual POV. If it’s single, then I’d recommend reworking the third paragraph so that we’re getting all this information from Medusa’s perspective. I don’t think we need so much background on Perseus either. Honestly, a lot of this information seems to be background info, and I’d love to see more in this query about the actual meat of the story. Toward the end I’m getting a romance vibe between the two, which I love, but you may want to be clearer about if that’s the case or not. And then at the very end, “for the first time,” I’d be careful with that unless you’re 100% positive this spin has never, ever been done before.

      250: I think this is well-written, flows well, interesting. Is the only reason Medusa is considered a monster because she’s mortal? Most of us think of Medusa with the snake hair so I think you want to be very clear about whether she was or wasn’t born that way and what exactly her mother’s objection to her is. That being said, this feels like it might be a prologue and I’m wondering if this is starting in the right place. You’d likely be able to show us her familial relationship and how she’s treated in present times depending on where the story picks up.


      Prophecy Punk

      Query: A unique concept here, very voicey which I love. In the first paragraph—“instead of suffering from madness and tortuous hysteria”—this makes me wonder if these kinds of things are common at her HS? Maybe even consider skipping that line altogether and go straight to the website since I’m not sure any of the information in that sentence is really necessary. Second paragraph, why is Love capitalized? As for the love triangle, they’re not super popular right now, so consider not emphasizing it. Instead possibly something like “Who has time for a relationship?” Then you can skip the “avoiding like the plague” line. I’m a bit underwhelmed by the last paragraph. Can you amp up the (personal) stakes for Cass any more? My last thought is that I like the little asides in the parentheses, but using it in every paragraph lessens the impact. Consider just picking one or two spots where it really works and sticking with that. Oh, and is this a retelling too? I’ve read through it a couple times and I think it might be, but I’m not entirely sure (Apollo is tipping me off, and the Helen bit). I’d definitely specify that if it’s the case because, personally, I’m not super familiar with this story.

      250: This is a strong 250. I don’t love starting it off with dialogue though. I’d like to see another line before that to clue us into what’s going on. “Her spot behind the side of a brick wall” confused me a little, can you rephrase it to make it clearer? In the same paragraph it’s a little heavy on the telling about Cass, which I think you can just show us later on. That last line in the same paragraph really tripped me up and I’m not entirely sure what you mean or how being a couch potato has anything to do with a person’s feelings on dogs. Other than that I really enjoyed that. Although it did make me wonder how if no one can remember her prophecies, how the website actually works? Is it just a website of funny videos? I thought it was more along the lines of her uploading videos to prove her prophecies.

      Another tough choice, but VICTORY TO GREEK OUT WITH ME!

      Delete
    4. Greek Out with Me

      Query:
      Such a neat concept! I would read the heck outta this.

      Confused by “Soon after, a powerful God entangles Medusa in his divine bid for power.” I think just explain what this means outright…
      Stakes are very clear which is great!

      I don’t think you need “is a re-telling of the Medusa myth that, for the first time, gives us Medusa's side of the story.” – avoid saying your book is the first time of anything. I would guess there is SOMETHING out there that did it before… which doesn’t mean your book isn’t original. It just puts you at risk of looking like you missed a comp. Better to not say that either way.


      First 250:
      “I was born a monster into a family of Gods. “ is AMAZING like WHOA. (reminds me of Laini Taylor) Boom. I think the next line could just be: “Mortal.” One word. (or “A mortal.” Or “Only mortal.”) It says it all. The shortness contrasts well with such a GORGEOUS sentence.

      Also unsure on “the fear of birthing a monster.” – having never been pregnant myself I do not know if that is really every pregnant woman’s fear, but it doesn’t feel like it. Maybe “every pregnant goddess’s fear” because that’s really what you are talking about right? I dunno how pregnant women or moms (in the here and now) would feel about that sentence.


      Escape the Fate

      Query:
      Wow this is a firecracker of a query. Into it. Really into it. Love the update to the story.

      “A school shooting is inevitable” sounds flippant to me… I would rethink that sentence because although it’s like being on the edge, I think school shootings are a real fear and esp if one features in your story I am sure you don’t make it a joke….

      Can you reword that part? “A feud is brewing over her sister, Helen, and [tell me about who is the person we are scared of. Does he talk about guns? Has he threatened people before? Do we know he owns a gun and brings it to school?]… make the threat real and show us the stakes. If Cass doesn’t [what?], then Helen will die.

      I like the last sentence but I think we need to loop back to the heart of the Cassandra tragedy. Cass knows that Helen is going to get shot. But this time she has to convince everyone it’s not a drill. Somehow. Right?

      First 250 words:
      Can we get a more unique first sentence? (It’s always we, not I…. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) (but seriously I think from your query that you could nail it. Some cool think about Cass and really the heart of it. “She knew no one would ever believe her” is the heart of her. The heart of the story. Can you build around that (but obvs make it way cooler than what I just wrote? )

      Lights, Camera, Traction = genius. LOVE.

      I got caught up in paragraph 2 with the extended metaphor about the dog. Simplify it because although it could be a nice bit of writing, it is kind of confusing. I think the whole description of the smile is a bit too long for page 1. Keep the material though because it is fun… maybe just distribute it farther on in the book. I wanted to get to the next beat quicker.

      Echo of “video” in paragraph 3. Maybe “record” mode?


      OH NO another “impossible to judge between the two” match up. This is so hard. I AGAIN WANT BOTH.

      Victory to Escape the Fate

      Delete
    5. Greek Out With Me:

      Query:

      Great lead in sentence. The second sentence is a little confusing. Why would the Gods calling her a monstrous gorgon mean she’s in trouble? Somehow, the ‘being in trouble’ needs to be tied in right away to the second sentence instead. Cause and effect—she’s a monsterous gorgon and can’t be killed because she’s deformed. That is why she’s in trouble, from what I read.

      2nd Paragraph: You say Perseus is to blame. Be more straight up about who blames him and why.

      3rd Paragraph: That first line, As Perseus narrows his hunt… That makes it seem like he’s still looking for her. BUT in the very next sentence he talks about the two of them being alike. Maybe it would be better if you say something like: Once Perseus finally tracks down Medusa…

      250

      The first sentence, albeit intriguing, feels like it’s missing a very key element. I understand you were probably trying to write that suck-you-in first like, and I think you’re almost there, but it feels like it’s missing a certain element to it. Even adding what one of the rumors were and having her reaction to it.

      2nd Paragraph: So, are these first few things that help to explain the first line? In other words, are these the rumors? Because this doesn’t connect well to the first sentence, at least to me it doesn’t. This line: murmuring about her suspicions that I was cursed. I’m not a fan of it. I’m not sure if it’s the word about thrown in there, or what. It feels too wordy, guess you could say. In fact, a lot of this paragraph feels wordy. I would definitely simplify it. You don’t need to say stuff like: By midmorning, when the sun’s rays had coaxed perfume from the oily needles. That feels very out of place.

      3rd paragraph: Maybe it’s because I’m not big on mythology, but I guess I don’t see what the big deal about being pink-skinned, copper-haired girl. Sounds like a pretty enough description of a baby to me. (Again, ignore me if I am completely off base of this. I don’t know many mythological stories)

      I love the line: I was born a mortal. It’s perfect.

      The last paragraph holds the same repetitive ideas as the previous one. Yes we know she’s different. Yes we know her mother doesn’t accept her. It’s redundant.

      Delete
    6. Escape the Fate

      Query

      1st Paragraph: This line: Cursed to see the future and never be believed… The latter half of that doesn’t flow right with the first part. If anything, maybe something like: but never to believed might be better? The line, Instead of suffering from madness and torturous hysteria… I feel as though, after this, you should say something like: from madness and torturous hysteria like a lot of her classmates are. That word ‘there’ throws me in the next sentence. It implies a location, but the website isn’t an actual location.

      I like how you’re trying to add voice to this one. But the end, clicks equals coins, is a bit confusing. Are we literally talking money here? If so, then could you say clicks equal cash instead? Just a thought.

      2nd Paragraph: I don’t see the need for the parentheses here. Also, cut that line in half—the love triangle one. It’s a bit too long.

      3rd Paragraph: There are lots of things thrown in on the first line. I’m assuming these are prophecies she’s having? Clarify.

      250

      1st Paragraph: I am having a hard time discerning where the foggy plumes of breath are coming from. Diana? Clarify it a bit more.

      2nd Paragraph: If Diana is behind her, how does Cass see her foggy plumes? Does she look over her shoulder to see them before she looks over to wink at her? Also, whose lips curled into a mischevious grin that only she could wear? Even told in 3rd person, it’s not a natural thought to think that about one’s self. Unless you are telling the story in 3rd omni pov…

      Throughout this whole scene, I’m not always getting a good sense of who is speaking, who is doing what action, who is saying what. Like the line: she pressed the camera… Who is the she in this moment? Cass?

      The line: It had always been we not you. It feels sort of mean and not the way I want to get to know the main character off the bat. It portrays her as unlikable to me.
      When Cass says the line with: ten seconds of pure hilarity, that sounds to me like more of an internal thought. I don’t know anyone who would say ten seconds of pure hilarity out loud, especially a teenager.

      This one was tough for me, but in the end, I have to go with the entry I’m pulled into more. Subjectivity is real here.

      Victory to: Greek Out With Me

      Delete
    7. I’m a round 2 judge jumping in to help with ties, but won’t read the other comments to avoid being influenced. I apologize if I repeat.

      Geek Out With Me

      WOW. Fantastic first line. And Greek mythology? Yay.

      I’m confused in the second paragraph. She’s considered deformed because her body resembles a mortal’s? Or, are you suggesting she’s actually mortal and can die? A little clarity might be good here.

      I’d love a little more detail about how the god entangles Medusa in his bid for power. It’s intriguing that he does so, but showing us how he entangles her would add to your query, because you seem to lose this as the query progresses.

      I think your stakes risk falling flat. Their fate is intertwined, and I’m excited from the query to find out how. Perseus must murder her. She wants to live among the gods. How do their goals conflict, other than the obvious? What does each truly stand to lose here? Delving into that in your last line could really make this pop.

      250: I wonder if starting with the mother is the wrong place, and if you’d do better starting with the line that she’s unlike her sisters. Then play with it to make it a hook. Because, you better show how Medusa’s mother rejects her in the next section.

      Escape the Fate:

      Another excellent first line in a query. And more mythology!

      To me, the use of parentheses in a query (or MS) is a fun writer’s tool, but they need to be sprinkled in lightly, or you risk jarring the reader. Consider removing the parenthesis in your query’s second paragraph and incorporating this nicely-worded detail in a different way.

      250:

      More wonderful voice here.

      In your first sentence, Diana is standing behind Cass, but Cass doesn’t look over her shoulder at her until the second paragraph. How can Cass see what Diana looks like, let alone her breath? (great breath lie, by the way). Consider putting Diana beside Cass.

      “It had always been we, not you.” I really like how this suggests conflict between D&C here, but I’d love to see it followed up with internal on Cass’s part. How does she feel about this fact? It’s a great chance to delve into her pov.

      Now, to judge, which just about kills me. But, this is a contest, so I have to award Victory to:

      GEEK OUT WITH ME

      Delete
    8. This was a hard pick, because both of the entries were very strong!

      Greek Out with Me:

      I mentioned this in another entry, and I think it bears repeating: there is nothing wrong with doing a twist on a familiar myth or legend, but if you stray too far from the myth, you're going to confuse the readers. Here, it seems less likely that you're telling the Medusa legend from Medusa's point of view, rather than you're actually rewriting it, and that is an important distinction.

      The first 250 words drew me in so beautifully, but for a moment, it seemed the query referred to one story, and your first 250 words were a different story. I read them a couple of times and still had that impression. I also felt that calling Medusa's form "mortal" was a misnomer given what I know of the legend. So while the sample got me right into the characters and story, the entire Medusa theme of the query left me off-balance.

      Escape the Fate:
      I liked both the query and the first 250 words of this piece. Anyone with passing familiarity with the Greek legends can get the gist of what is going on here, and it reminded me of Monster High (in the way in which the author placed familiar creatures in a modern context). I loved the fact that Cass is bisexual, and that you make it sound very casual in the query.

      The first 250 words were snappy and they popped. The pacing of the opening really grabbed me, and I could tell that you are very confident of the characters and the story. With the two (query and story) working so well together, I had to give this one to:

      Victory: Escape the Fate

      Delete
  2. Hi guys!

    Greek Out with me: What a GREAT idea and a great concept. The query is very straight-forward. The stakes for each of the characters could be a little clearer - I'm guessing it has a little romance, so I'd suggest you focus the query in one character only (Medusa, since she's the most interesting and what caught my attention).

    Escape the Fate: The beginning of your query was very interesting and I love the Cassandra myth so bonus for me. The part about Apollo and Elyse was confusing, and the last paragraph is convoluted, with a lot of information about her sister and death and school shootings. Maybe you could start with 'when Cassandra has a vision of the school shooting, she needs to decide..." or something like that, so the stakes and the motives are clear. I really enjoy your sample, and it looks like a great story!

    Best of luck to both of you, you got awesome ideas (:

    ReplyDelete
  3. Firstly, I like the fact there are two Greek mythology themed stories paired against each other!

    GREEK OUT WITH ME
    I love mythology and Medusa’s always been one of my favourite characters since I was a kid, so this caught my attention straight away. for those less familiar with the legend, it’s probably worth explaining in a line or two just what her deformity is and why her head would be helpful for someone to procure.

    Is there an implication of a romance between Medusa and Perseus? If so, I’m intrigued, but I think that needs spelling out a little more.

    Immediate thought – is this really the first time something “gives us Medusa’s side of the story”? I haven’t read anything that does, but you might want to triple check before making such definite claims.

    Lovely intro. Interesting voice, clear sense of place. Sets the mother’s character and the narrator’s situation up well. I was a little confused about what she looked like versus what she should have looked like and how this happened. I’d read this though.


    ESCAPE THE FATE

    Really liked how you managed to bring out the voice in the query. I like the idea of a modern day retelling of this story and Cassandra seems like a great character.

    I’d possibly lose the “What, did you miss the word amoral?” line. Though that’s quite subjective. It amused me, but felt a little forced – perhaps let her actions speak for themselves.

    The line about the love triangle first made me laugh, then made me pause. Personally, I have a massive soft spot for a well done love triangle, but they are a little overdone. Though the bisexual element makes this sound a bit more original and intriguing (incidentally, perhaps you could spell that out a bit more – I missed Elyse’s gender on the first skim read). Either way, the lines about the triangle felt a little bit clunkily worded.

    Enjoyed the opening lines. Really gave a good sense of the character’s personality and predicament. One tiny point – shouldn’t it be “Trouble and Misfortune followed her like adoring puppies.”?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Greek Out with Me

    Query -- I love the concept of Medusa's side of the tale. You might want to trim the third paragraph that gives a synopsis of the classic Perseus myth, since that's not original to your story.

    250 -- In your story, Medusa is normal-looking, but she's a "monster" because she's mortal? (That'd be a pretty drastic change to the original myth, if I'm not mistaken. But perhaps in your story, she gains the snake hair later, or something -- it's so hard to just read 250 words!!) I might change the "wine-dark sea" phrase to something unique to your story. It's used pretty often in stories and articles referencing ancient Greece, and it might give an agent the impression that you aren't going to develop your own descriptions. (Which is too bad, I know, because it's such an evocative phrase!)

    Escape the Fate

    Query -- I love this concept, too! I think you could cut the "Instead of..." phrase; the reader should recognize the contrast between the classical Cassandra and your Cassandra without that. You might choose a word other than "good" when you say she puts her power to "good use" -- it was a little jarring after the amoral characteristic was introduced.

    250 -- The "trouble and misfortune" sentence feels a bit out of place. You could probably go straight from Cass smiling to the dialogue. The phrase "deleted itself" makes it sound a little bit like Diana is a robot. I know she's not, but maybe a less computer-ish word would be better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Medusa is the child of Phorkys and Keto (Gaia and the Ocean) she was the only mortal of the three daughters (the other two being Sthenno and Euryale) She was born beautiful with golden hair. She vowed to be a chaste priestess of Athena, who then fell in love with and married Poseidon. Due to her betrayal Athena cursed her with deformity (turned her gentle eyes to blood shot orbs, golden hair to snakes and milk-white skin to loathsome green. The first time we come across the story is in Hesiod's Theogony. She's always been mortal. She's monstrous from a curse and what the curse made her into personality wise.

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  5. Geek Out with Me: Oh my goodness, I love the idea of telling Medusa's story! I so want to read this! Your query is very strong, setting up the characters and showing how their lives will intertwine and collide. Already the tension is super high because we know only one of them can have what they want.

    Your 250 is also very strong. The only thing I'm unclear about is whether she is an actual monster or just that the God's consider her a monster because she's human. I'm getting the sense that it's the latter and that she was born a normal, healthy human. If that's the case, make sure that is clarified (as I'm assuming it is) very soon in whatever comes in the first chapter. Reader's will know that Medusa has the snakes for hair and kills on eye contact. So if this doesn't happen right when she's born, make sure you drop some hints so the reader knows you'll be getting to that soon and that there's a perfectly good explanation. And then you'll have them hooked and they won't be able to stop reading. :)

    Escape the Fate: I really love this concept. And the writing in the query perfectly fits the mood I think you're trying to achieve. It feels like I'm in the Mc's head already. I'm not sure about the bits in parenthesis. The first one works, and definitely lends voice to the query, but the second one is awkward, since it's two sentences inside of another sentence. It's a bit convoluted. I like it, because if she has a convoluted way of thinking if kind of puts us in her head, but it's also a little confusing.

    I really like how you've shown Cass's predicament in your first 250, how it ends with her giving a prophecy to her friend, and her friend forgetting it immediately. Great job with that. I think your second paragraph needs some work. The first line is a bit wordy 'her spot behind the side of a brick wall' needs to be tightened. Also, I'm not sure the puppy metaphor is working. I really like that you call Trouble and Misfortune puppies (it should read "followed her like adoring puppies"). And I like what you're trying to do in the next line, but it's a little unclear. I think you're saying that Cass can make anyone a fan of Trouble and Misfortune, but it took me a few reads to work out what you were saying. I stumbled over it. Otherwise, I think the 250 is strong. Nice job!

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  6. Great entries. Good luck to you both.

    Greek out with Me--I absolutely love the idea of retelling Medusa's myth from her point of view. The first sentence of your query is a great hook. The last part of your query focuses on Perseus which makes me expect two points of view. If that happens later on, then the query works. The first 250 words sets up backstory in a gripping way. I look forward to seeing this in print one day:)

    The query promises an updated take on Cassandra and the first 250 words of Escape the Fate delivers. So many twists and turns that make this feel fresh and relevant. If you tighten paragraph two, it will read more smoothly. Very clever idea. Can't wait to read it in book form.

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  7. I despair at the thought of choosing between these two. They are both so great. Congrats to both of you, and I can’t wait to see them each on the shelves.

    GREEK OUT WITH ME:
    I really love the idea of this book from Medusa’s POV. She’s been hated too long. ☺ Query: I really like the first line, and I feel the majority of this is very strong. I was a bit confused about the timeline in par. 2. When was she in trouble, and when was she banished? Had she grown up with the gods, only to be banished when she was a teenager? A little clarification would help this already very strong query. I really like the Romeo and Juliet feel of the struggles Medusa and Perseus have! 250: These are wonderful and I enjoyed the segment very much. All I’ve got for you are nitpicks! 1) 3rd paragraph there is an extra space after “suspicions.” 2) In the 4th paragraph I would change the colon to a period. 3) 6th paragraph you don’t need the comma after “complexion.” 4) The very last sentence is kind of a mouthful. Any way to make that into 2 sentences to make it easier to take in? See, nitpicks! Great stuff. Congratulations, and I will look forward to reading it! ☺

    ESCAPE THE FATE: I love this idea! Cass sounds great, just from the first paragraph of your query. I love the voice that you pass on here. The query is to-the-point, and I feel like I really know where the story is going and what the main conflict is. The only hesitation I had was the part in-between the parentheses about the Love Triangle. It seemed a little long and hard to take in. 250: These are fun, and I really enjoyed them a lot. The dialogue and voice are both well done. The only hesitation I had was the first sentence of the 2nd paragraph, about the brick wall. I had to read that a few times to understand where exactly she was. Is she around a corner? Also I had a question – the query says she is cursed to never be believed…is the fact that Diana forgets part of the curse? Or does Cass make that happen?

    I can’t believe I have to choose between these two. It’s not fair. I’ve re-read them several times, and I will go with…

    Victory to ESCAPE THE FATE

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  8. Greek Out With Me: oh! This sounds awesome. For your query I think you should stick to one POV, preferably Medusa. You can always put at the end that it is written in multiple POV.
    Your 250 is gorgeously written. There's a dark tone to it which captivates the reader. I'm wondering if you started us off in the right place. It does feel like a lot of backstory. I'd rather see Medusa and where she is now right before she discovers there's a price on her head.
    Escape the Fate: I just beta read a Cassandra retelling so it's really interesting to see the different take. For your query I would get rid of the love triangle part, it convolutes the paragraph. The last paragraph also feels really choppy and odd. I'm not sure we need it.
    Your writing is great. We get brought into the story in the right place and we get into Cass' head. Nice job.

    Good luck to both of you.

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  9. First of all, I want to say that both of these are really interesting concepts. I've never been all that into mythology, but both of these books made me want to read more.

    GREEK OUT WITH ME

    Query: I enjoyed it! There were good stakes and Medusa was definitely portrayed as sympathetic, which always makes me want to read. My only question/comment is that if this is a retelling told from Medusa's point of view, why does Perseus make an appearance? I found his character interesting, but like Dana said, maybe sticking to one POV is best, especially if your selling point is that it's the first time we're seeing this from Medusa's POV. It left me wondering if there were two POVs or one. If there are two POVs, maybe explain that as well? It might make it even more unique.

    250: I really have no criticisms for your first page--they're what made this entry so strong for me. I love your writing style. The voice seems spot-on, and the descriptions are fantastic. :)

    ESCAPE THE FATE

    Query: You definitely have great voice here. I'm wondering, though, what makes her video-making amoral? You go into it more in the next paragraph, but taking videos of prophecies for profit doesn't seem too terrible. (Maybe this says some things about my character.) I got much more a sense of it in the pages why this could be considered morally... indecent, but maybe give an example of a type of video in the query, even if it's just including some of the info from the second paragraph in the first. I agree with others, too, who said that the love triangle seems a little out of place since you've just talked about murder. I get that you're trying to set up the idea that she's got bigger things on her mind, but it does feel a bit jarring. Overall, though, I enjoyed the query.

    250: Again, you've got great voice. My only comment is that the second paragraph kind of loses me. It took me a minute to work out the dog thing. It's clever, but it also makes me stumble. I think if you cut the "couch-potato prone" descriptor, it might flow better and connect the metaphor of Misfortune and Trouble as puppies to Cass's ability to make people like dogs, i.e. Misfortune and Trouble. Maybe I just have a short memory, but I think bringing those ideas just a little closer will help. Otherwise, again, your biggest strength is your MC's voice, and that's the biggest part of the battle!

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  10. GREEK OUT
    Query: I love that you’re humanizing Medusa with this. The query hints at a great twist on the Greek myth. In reading it, I would be intrigued enough to check out the book. The concept is great.
    Issues:
    - I’m not sure if dowry is the best word in that first sentence. Maybe “fortune” instead?
    - “mysterious island” is a bit vague. Maybe just a few words saying examples of why it’s mysterious.
    - When you say “Medusa is desperate to find a way to live among the gods”, I think you might want to add a bit more to her goals. In the query the only other goal she has is she “longs for peace.”
    - The claim that this is the first time anyone has shown Medusa’s side of the story grates on me a bit. I suspect there’s media out there that feature a gorgon and humanize Medusa. I’d scale back on that claim.

    250: I love the mood you create with these words. To me, this is an awesome opening. The hook “Before I was born, there were rumors” sucks you in right away. The pacing is great as is the imagery

    ESCAPE THE FATE
    QUERY: I like the flippant voice of the query. The concept of the website is unique and really sets up a lot of intriguing plot lines. I would definitely pick this book up based on your query.

    - Cassandra of Troy High School, maybe? I didn’t get the sense it was a school until second read.
    - Love triangle sentence is sort of wedged in there. Might need to flesh this out a bit more, or remove this altogether. It’s just too much in one sentence for me.
    - Since saving Helen is her motivation, you might mention Helen earlier, and why she means so much to the MC.

    250: Funny (Lights, camera, traction) and a great last line to pull me in. I love that you showed in here how the person forgets after hearing about the prophecy.

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  11. GREEK OUT WITH ME
    Query - This sounds like so much fun, and I love the choice of characters. I'm afraid I found myself pretty confused by the second paragraph, though. I found myself asking a lot of questions--why can't they kill her? Law of the gods/moral concerns, or physically can't? Why does she get in trouble on account of her *mortal* form--does she have an immortal form? Who's besieging her from all sides, and why, how? I'm sure the novel explores these with a lot of nuance, but I think the need for brevity in a query sometimes forces too much vagueness. Maybe better to boil it down even more? Perseus's section, however, I thought was very strong.

    250: Is it the window that's a torment, or the view from the window? The premise of her being born mortal to a family of gods clears things up from the query (maybe that could be explained in the query?). The only difficulty is I have no idea what the gods look like so I'm not sure how she's different.

    ESCAPE THE FATE
    Query: I loved the set-up here, especially foreseeing the school shooting and the whole idea of trying to avert disaster close to the heart. In her description, I had to wonder what she's loyal to and why that's worth mentioning. "Fiercely loyal" always strikes me as a somewhat generic character trait so I'd like to know more about why it matters. Another thing that stood out to me is that with an opening like "Cursed to see the future and never be believed," I never once thought her prophecies would be cute animal moments or funny accidents, so when you say "it's not ALL that" I'm thinking, "I didn't realize there was any of that in the first place." It makes more sense in hindsight after reading how the story starts, but without that context it was curious.

    250: I felt a bit disoriented about the setting. It took me a while to get my bearing and set up the picture in my mind. Also, "love dogs" seemed to come out of nowhere. Maybe I'm missing something, but I was wondering, why dogs of all things? Otherwise, intriguing start, and good way to quickly establish her abilities.

    Great job to both entries!

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  12. Greek Out With Me: I think your concept is awesome! And I love the first line of your query. It really piques my interest and draws me in, wanting to read more. The same goes for your first 250—the first line is incredible. It is really hard for me to find anything to offer to help make the query or the first 250 any stronger, but one suggestion for the first 250 might be introduce more action early on. Maybe find a scene to show that’s part of Medusa’s history. That’s really nitpicking, though. I think both query and opening are great! Nice work!

    Escape the Fate: I think this story would really go over well with a YA audience. I get a good sense of who Cass is from the query alone. Your voice shines in the query. It might be helpful to add a line or two in the query to explain the background of the story (the mythology it’s based on). For the first 250, I think it’s really hard to start a story with a quote, but I think you pulled it off. I think there are times in the opening when it’s unclear who is being referred to (Does Cass have the green apron slung over her arm or Diana? Etc…) That’s really minor, though. I think it’s wonderful that you open with action and that we see Cass’s special abilities right from the start. It really draws me in immediately. Well done!

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  13. Greek Out With Me: I think your concept is awesome! And I love the first line of your query. It really piques my interest and draws me in, wanting to read more. The same goes for your first 250—the first line is incredible. It is really hard for me to find anything to offer to help make the query or the first 250 any stronger, but one suggestion for the first 250 might be introduce more action early on. Maybe find a scene to show that’s part of Medusa’s history. That’s really nitpicking, though. I think both query and opening are great! Nice work!

    Escape the Fate: I think this story would really go over well with a YA audience. I get a good sense of who Cass is from the query alone. Your voice shines in the query. It might be helpful to add a line or two in the query to explain the background of the story (the mythology it’s based on). For the first 250, I think it’s really hard to start a story with a quote, but I think you pulled it off. I think there are times in the opening when it’s unclear who is being referred to (Does Cass have the green apron slung over her arm or Diana? Etc…) That’s really minor, though. I think it’s wonderful that you open with action and that we see Cass’s special abilities right from the start. It really draws me in immediately. Well done!

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  14. Awesome to see these fresh takes on classic tales.

    Greek Out

    This seems really interesting, the idea that Medusa starts off as a fairly normal "pink skinned, copper haired" young woman. The idea that her monstrousness comes from being mortal, NOT from the snakes and tusks and turning men to stone. Makes me want to read more. But this query and 250 do leave me wondering - does this Medusa HAVE the snakes in her hair? DOES she turn people to stone? Maybe later in the story?

    Escape

    Very fresh, fun writing. But I can't get past the fact that the basic premise of this story makes no sense. You have a person making predictions, and putting them on a "popular website", with videos that show the predictions coming true. And earning money from this - OK cool, that makes sense so far. (I would pay to see that!)

    Then you say that she is "never believed". Really. With prediction after prediction, all coming true, and documented on video. With solid proof for us all to see, over and over, on a widely-viewed website. The idea that nobody believes her predictions just, doesn't work. If you can fix that, this fun and young-feeling story should do very well.

    Good luck to all!

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  15. Greek Out with Me

    Oh, wow, yes! I wasn't familiar with the Medusa fable but I find the perspective of the query and story very interesting. Tragic anti-heroine for the win! Who has snakes for hair. And wow, the first 250! On the edge of my seat already, feeling for this poor girl faulted for simply being born. The background of the secondary antagonist in my own novel parallels hers, making it easy for me to be drawn into Medusa's plight by the author's skillful hand.


    Escape the Fate

    The query begins with a stark contrast--these two things are so diametrically opposed I have to exercise strong suspension of disbelief just to read on. Although when I do, I read how Cass uses her "talent" for financial gain. Now THAT's a believable motivation worth reading about! "What? Did you miss..."--I'm not a fan of writers addressing the fourth wall. How do the things she sees *not* drive her mad? Do kittens outnumber killers? URK. "Love triangle" and "avoiding like the plague" strike me as cliche, and I believe "Love" shouldn't be capitalized in this context. Where did that stray parenthesis come from? Can you show us a little more about what this "horrific future" is of which you speak? Who is feuding over Helen? Why? "You know the drill": that fourth wall again. I think the list reads stronger without it. And I believe the query's closing would be stronger if the author asserted his or her characters cannot escape Fate rather than suggesting same to the reader. "Trouble and Misfortune", etc. strikes me as authorial intrusion. The link between puppies and dogs was lost on me. A lot of telling in between showing Cass wink and her reply to Diana. The proposed video caption was hilarious! We don't know the relationship yet between Diana and Cass, so would it be in character for Cass to consider Diana's brown eyes beautiful? Unfortunately there isn't enough space to account for why Diana zoned out, but in the novel I hope there is an explanation. By itself it seems confusing. Should this piece be entered in another contest you might consider ending the sample after Traction.

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  16. Ooh—I’m a complete sucker for retellings. And mythology?! Count me in, both of you!

    GREEK OUT WITH ME

    Query

    I’ll jump down to the paragraph with your stakes. Even though murder and living among gods are high stakes subjects, the way this is written, neither feels as urgent and important as they truly are for your characters. Perhaps something along the lines of “Desperate to find a way to live among the gods, Medusa proves to Perseus that she’s no monster, making Perseus’ task all the harder [or Herculean, if you want to play on the whole thing]. Whether he chooses to murder the gorgon he’s come to love or disobey the command of the king, the fate of the intertwined pair…”

    250
    Your first sentence is so catchy! It definitely makes the reader want to know about those rumors. The paragraph that follows is written well and in the tone of someone who has been raised beside royalty (or divinity), even though she, herself, isn’t considered such.

    Your third paragraph reads stronger if cut after “suspicious.” Though this 250 is well written, it’s also all backstory. Is there a way to get into the “now” of Medusa and disperse and develop this material a bit later?

    I’d love to know more. It reminds me of Elphaba’s birth and early childhood. Good luck!


    ESCAPE THE FATE

    A modern teen retelling of Cassandra and her visions of the Trojan War that touches on her relationship with Apollo? Such a neat premise!

    Query

    Jumping to the second paragraph, “avoiding like the plague” is too cliché for this anything but un-cliché tale. Last paragraph / last sentence, the stakes will ramp up without the word “you.” A little tweaking will strengthen this paragraph.

    250

    Is Diana in this story a play on Apollo’s sister Artemis’ Roman name? If not, or if it’s unintentional, might this cause confusion?

    Second paragraph, what do you think of changing “a mischievous smile that only she…” to “the mischievous smile that only she…” to make it a definite talent she has, rather than something that might only happen this once? Also, replacing “and make” with “to make” will remove the awkwardness of that line.

    Kieran is a Gaelic name. If your intention is to keep with the Greek legend vibe, this might be something to rethink. Easy!

    Again, you’ve got the premise for a great story here—I want to read more! Good luck!

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  18. Hi all!!

    Thank you for your insightful and helpful comments. It's given me a new perspective on my query and 250 words.

    For those who don't know the Medusa myth in its classical form... she is born mortal. She isn't born with snakes in her hair or with the power to turn men into stone. Legends say Athena cursed Medusa while she was serving as a temple acolyte. Why? Perhaps Medusa said she was more beautiful than Athena, or perhaps Medusa had sex with Poseidon in Athena's temple. Or perhaps neither of these legends is true.

    You'll have to read THE BLIND SCULPTOR to find out!

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