Wednesday, June 1, 2016

QUERY KOMBAT ROUND 1: SAMBA AND SURRENDER vs. DEFINITELY NOT ABOUT DONALD DRUMPF

Title: Radiant City
Entry Nickname: Samba and Surrender
Word count: 100K
Genre: Adult Erotic Thriller with Paranormal Elements

Query:

Brazilian federal enforcer, Ana Mendes, doesn’t have the heart—or the time—for relationships. After losing her father at a young age and watching the world crash down around her because of Radiant, she’s devoted her life to maintaining public order in a post-pandemic Brasilia where half the population is terrified of catching something and the other half seems hell bent on tempting it.

Getting close to anyone is high-risk when Fitbit-style wristbands flash red if wearers are contagious, “crowding” is the new thrill, and guerrilla vaxxers inoculate those who resist vaccination. But one reckless kiss with a sexy American expat starts the slow unraveling of Ana’s defenses. For former Army Special Forces medic, Will Hardwin, whose tattoo is an inked wound from a tragic mission, persuading the driven female agent to surrender her heart might just bring him out of the darkness of his past.

When locals blame a mythic deity of death called Obalu Aye for a string of child abductions, Ana and Will embark on a dangerous chase across Brazil to stop him and rescue a disabled newborn. The growing trust between them awakens a scorching passion, and together they confront the hidden scars of their pasts when modern and mystical worlds collide in a chilling scheme that reaches beyond Brazil’s borders.

Everything Ana thinks she knows about what it means to be a hero will be tested when she and Will uncover the shocking truth behind the abductions, and she becomes the target of a ruthless predator who guards a scientific discovery so monumental those in possession of it will do anything—even kill each other—to protect it.
  
First 250:

Ana Mendes slipped through the crowd at Clube do Choro, holding her evening bag close to her body. The light inside Brasilia’s premier dance club was muted, the air redolent with perfume and cigar smoke. Young professionals and couples thronged the bar and packed the tables near the dance floor, empty between sets.

Wearing an elegant black dress that emphasized her slim curves and upswept black hair, Ana might have been just another single woman, come to socialize and listen to traditional Brazilian music. But her purpose for being at the club wasn’t pleasure. She was here to meet a police informant.
           
As she searched for the man she knew as Marcelo, the house band took the stage to a surge of whistles and applause. Several couples moved closer to the dance floor as the musicians warmed up, leaving space at the bar. Ana took an empty stool, glancing at the B-Well bracelet on the woman seated next to her and the green LED light that indicated she wasn’t contagious. In the five years since the Worldwide Control of Disease Act had been enacted, checking B-Well bracelets had become as routine as saying hello.


She ordered a caipirinha, a cocktail of sugarcane juice and lime, and took a sip as the band started their set with a brisk chorinho that had the listeners undulating their hips and shoulders. The combination of flute, guitar and mandolin was festive and joyful, leading Ana to wonder why the style was known as the “little lament.” 

~ VERSUS ~

Title: Nineteen Hours
Entry Nickname: Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf
Word count: 80K
Genre: Adult Commercial 

Query

Twenty-four-year-old Libby Little has spent the last eighteen months as the bodywoman for Catherine Jefferson, the first black, female presidential nominee. When she arrives at work on the morning of Election Day, Libby expects to enjoy the relative calm before the exciting storm of results. But before the first hour is through, she realizes this will be the most difficult day of the entire campaign.

Powerful political donors have discovered Cat’s most personal secret – something she’s hidden since her days serving in the First Gulf War – and they blackmail her for control over her future Administration. Rather than bow to their threats, Cat risks losing the election by exposing the truth herself.

Over nineteen hours, the campaign contends with the fallout: angry protestors, backstabbing Party leaders and even domestic terrorists. Lives are endangered and principles tested to the breaking point. Cat must convince the nation she should be president before the last polls close if she is to save the country from corruption, and Libby’s dreams of life and love in the White House.

First 250:

5:14 a.m.

I was fourteen minutes late on the day that changed the country. The taxi dropped me off in front of Senator Catherine Jefferson’s brick mansion and with my head buried in briefing notes, I stumbled out of the car by the wrought iron gate. I reached up to press the intercom on the gatepost, but froze before I touched the button.

It wasn't the crisp bite of November in New England that stayed my fingers; it was two matching, silver Bentleys idling at the end of the driveway, intimately close to the front door. My mouth dropped open and I fumbled for the phone in my pocket. Its logo taunted me, slowly spinning round while I waited for the finalized Election Day schedule to load. When at last it did, it confirmed what I already knew – the senator had not planned to meet with the Roche brothers. Certainly not at 5:14 in the morning.

I wracked my brain, trying to remember if anyone had mentioned Waldorf and Statler, as the biggest of the big donors were unaffectionately known to our campaign. Had I missed something at the briefing last night? I took a deep breath and pressed the intercom.

“Come on in, Big Red.” The muffled voice that answered belonged to our campaign manager, Carter James. 

Carter loved nicknames. Prided himself on them. But Big Red was too obvious – drawn from my alma mater Cornell and the fact that I am six foot two.

25 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Samba:

      This is a KICKASS first paragraph of you query. Good worldbuilding and character development. I don’t know what or who Radiant is yet, but I’m willing to keep reading to find out…you never do clarify it, though. Is it the name of the pandemic virus?

      “Getting close to anyone is high-risk when Fitbit-style wristbands flash red if wearers are contagious, “crowding” is the new thrill, and guerrilla vaxxers inoculate those who resist vaccination. But one reckless kiss with a sexy American expat starts the slow unraveling of Ana’s defenses.”

      There is a lot going on here, and I’m getting lost and not seeing how everything is connected. Wouldn’t the flashing red light make it less high-risk to get close to people, since you’d know which ones were contagious? And “crowding” – is this contagious people trying to give it to people on purpose, or people trying to catch it? Since you say people seem “hell-bent on catching it”, I’m not entirely sure which it is. I’d also like a clue why people would want to catch it and why they’d resist vaccination.

      The “But one reckless kiss…”, I’m not seeing how that’s tied with the “but” into the rest of the paragraph, so I’m disoriented.

      “When locals blame a mythic deity of death called Obalu Aye for a string of child abductions, Ana and Will embark on a dangerous chase across Brazil to stop him…”

      Locals blame the deity, but is it really the deity? You say that modern and mystical worlds are colliding, and I’m getting a super awesome magical realism vibe from that (I heart MR with big hearts), but I’d reword it so it’s clearer. Hint if it’s really the diety, and if this is a surprise/bizarre/chilling for your characters, or just normal everyday stuff – that will give me a better sense of your world.

      I would also like some connection of why the hero and heroine are brought together – does he work with her? I’d also like some connection between the abductions and the ruthless predator, because your last sentence seems a little out of left field otherwise. I’d like a clearer sense of the stakes here, also.

      I can’t find much fault with your pages, except you might add more tension by giving me a sense of your MC’s mood…I’m not feeling very close to her. I don’t know much about her except how she looks, and getting the reader a tad bit in her head would draw people in more, I think.

      DRUMPH (lol):
      This is a great query, with great tension and stakes…if Cat were your MC. I need the query to be about Libby – what the stakes are for her as all of this goes on around her. “Life and love in the White House”. What would that look like for her? Why is it her dream? Love with whom? It still sounds like something I’d love to read, but I want to know your MC more so I don’t miss the meat of the plot.
      Pages:
      “…Catherine Jefferson’s brick mansion and with my head buried in briefing notes…” I’d like it better as “…brick mansion. With my head…”
      I can’t find any other beefs with the pages. Good work!

      Tough call, but I'm voting for Definitely Not About Donald Drumph.

      Delete
    2. Samba and Surrender

      Query:

      1st Paragraph: I love how, right away, you show this is going to be a romance themed book. The first line is catchy to me. In the second sentence, though, I’m confused because you mention Radiant and I have no idea what that is. I think it should be clarified straight away. I don’t want to read on if it’s not explained. Is it the disease? If so, it’s not clear to me.

      2nd Paragraph: That first sentence should be a standalone sentence. Then in the next sentence, you should explain right away what you mean by crowding. Another thing I’m wondering. Is this book told in two pov’s or just one? If one, then the last part of this paragraph should be cut. If it’s told in two, I think this sentence should be expanded into its own paragraph talking more about Will and his ‘darkness’

      3rd Paragraph: There are a lot of things pointed out in this paragraph, leaving me scratching my head. A deity of death, child abductions, mystical worlds beyond the Brazil border… That’s a lot to take in for me. Also, the last sentence, especially, should be clearer. I’m not sure what the scars from their past have to do with a child abduction and what not. I probably would, if I read the book, but it needs to be clearer for me.

      4th Paragraph: The stakes are not really there. For anything romance related, especially, I need to know what’s at stake if the pair get together, or don’t get together. What’s at stake if they discover their pasts? What’s at stake if they don’t discover their pasts? This is intriguing, and I would definitely read on, but it could be so much clearer.

      250:

      1st Paragraph: This could just be me, but a sentence that starts off with a characters full name bothers me. There has to be a better way to pull a reader in here. An example: With her evening bag tucked close to her body, Ana Mendes slipped through the crowd at Clube do Choro. Also, I’d like to know Ana’s physical reactions to the club’s environment. Does she inhale the perfume and smoke? I mean, yes, that’s obvious, but you need to build on her senses and reactions to help with character development right off the bat.

      2nd Paragraph: This paragraph is passive to me. You’re telling me what she’s wearing and what she’s doing, but I’m not feeling her yet. How does the space feel? How does her skin feel? Itchy from the tight space and the dress rubbing against her body? Is she nervous? Are her hands trembling? Show me this.

      3rd Paragraph and 4th Paragraph: This is the same as the above paragraph. You’re setting a scene with the environment, but I have no sense who Ana is yet. It’s sad, because I really want to. This story sounds sooo intriguing and exactly like something I’d read.

      Delete
    3. Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf

      Query:

      1st Paragraph: First off, there are lots of actual numbers going here. It’s distracting and not something that pulls me in. Also, I’m not feeling the intensity of the upcoming conflict either by the end of this paragraph. You can rectify that with a few simple word changes. Example: After spending the last year and a half as the bodywomen for the first black, female presidential nominee, twenty-four-year-old Libby Little expects to enjoy the relative calm before the exciting storm of results the morning she arrives to work on election day. This last line? It doesn’t work for me. I need there to be more of punch. You use passive words like realizes and difficult. Those are not words that make me want to keep going.

      2nd Paragraph: I love it. It sets up the stakes, and really packs a punch. I’m also curious if this story is told in more than one pov too.

      3rd Paragraph: You say: Over nineteen hours, and I’m just like, yeah…yawn. I think something like: Over a precarious period of nineteen hours… Also, you throw in that last line about life and love in the Whitehouse and I’m like, uh…where is this coming from? Love with who? Isn’t she just a bodywoman? So, yes, if there is romance involved, you really need to add that into the query sooner. Like, is she in love with the nominee? Do they have a relationship?

      250:

      1st Paragraph: Fantastic first line. Really pulls me in.

      2nd Paragraph: I’m envisioning this with clear detail in my head. You’re setting the scene and adding in bits of character already. Well done. My only suggestions here are, spell out five-fifteen, clarify what logo is taunting her. On the phone? The Bentleys? I’m confused. Also, the words ‘at last’ trip me up a bit. They feel too formal for the moment.

      In the end, I have to go with the voice I connected the most to in the 250…

      Victory to: NOT about Donald Drumpf

      Delete
    4. Samba and Surrender: The concept of this story is incredible. I especially like the part about wristbands flashing red if the wearers are contagious, and guerrilla vaxxers who run around inoculating people.

      Query: This query ran a bit on the long side, and actually didn't grab my attention until the second paragraph. There were many spots that came off as vague. For example:

      After losing her father at a young age and watching the world crash down around her because of Radiant, she’s devoted her life to maintaining public order in a post-pandemic Brasilia where half the population is terrified of catching something and the other half seems hell bent on tempting it.

      This sentence was very hard to understand. Aside from the reference to Radiant (which isn't explained so I'm not sure what exactly it is), the length of this sentence, and sudden rush of information, was hard to digest. I would suggest looking for anything unnecessary to the plot and trimming it out to shorten this query letter. That way, you'll only be presenting the most suspenseful elements of the story. For example, this sentence:

      When locals blame a mythic deity of death called Obalu Aye for a string of child abductions, Ana and Will embark on a dangerous chase across Brazil to stop him and rescue a disabled newborn.

      could be condensed to:

      When locals blame a mythic deity for a string of child abductions, Ana and Will embark on a dangerous chase across Brazil to uncover the truth.

      250: I was really drawn in by your voice and writing style, and wish I could keep reading. The only thing that stumped me up was a few of the word choices. In the first paragraph, the use of "muted", "redolent", and "thronged" gave me pause, pulled me out of the world so I could say, "Huh?"


      Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf: I was hooked by this concept with the first sentence of the query. What a neat idea! I hardly ever see a story about a body-double, and one with politics involved is extra interesting.

      Query: This query letter starts with Libby, but all the stakes seem to rest with Cat. I would suggest trying to gear the personal stakes more toward Libby throughout the pitch. What is Libby risking? How is she in peril because of her job? What will she sacrifice and gain by making it through the next nineteen hours of fallout?

      250: I loved your opening, and I thought you had a very unique voice. My only comment would be to watch the length of your sentences. Many of them were quite long, and often you had two long ones back to back. This can make for a tough read. By varying the length of your sentences you can somewhat lull the reader into the story, much like a song. I would suggest looking for any run-on sentences that you could split, as I believe this will help the narrative flow better.


      Even though these two stories were from completely different genres, they were equally matched in talent. This is a hard choice, but I have to go with the entry who's writing pulled me in more.

      Victory to Samba and Surrender

      Delete
    5. Katherine PierceJune 3, 2016 at 12:42 PM

      Samba and Surrender

      Query: Whoa do I love this premise. For the most part I think this query is real done, but there a few spots you can tighten and clarify. Second sentence in the first paragraph: this is a bit on the long side, can you trim and/or cut into two sentences? Also, I’d love for you to spell out what Radiant really is. Second paragraph, first sentence: there’s a bit too much happening here for me since I don’t understand what “crowding” is or why people wouldn’t want to get vaccinated. The wristbands though—awesome. I’m also not understanding the transition from that sentence to the one about Will. Give us more so we can really understand how he connects to the story. Also, the last sentence in that paragraph reads really strangely and is super vague. Show us Will from Ana’s POV. Third paragraph: I think you can cut “Obalu Aye”. And the end of that sentence confuses me a bit. Are they actually chasing the deity because you’re use of the word “him” made me question who they’re really chasing. I’d also like a little more on the final stakes and what kind of hidden scars they might have.

      250: This is a really strong sample, but I’m lacking the connection to the MC that I’d really want. I’m not hearing her voice or really getting any emotion from Ana. The last paragraph specifically might be a bit too much detail upfront. Give us a better sense of Ana and her purpose there before delving too much into superfluous details.


      Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf

      Query: Another concept that I really love. It’s got a Scandal vibe going on that I’m really digging. The biggest issue I have with your query though is that it’s all about Cat where the MC is Libby. It makes me wonder why the book *isn’t* told from Cat’s perspective and what we’re really going to get from Libby. It may just be me, but I’m not entirely sure what you mean by bodywoman—is that like a bodyguard, assistant, something else? It’s not a term I’ve ever heard before. The last sentence in the first paragraph is really vague to me, can you be more specific? The last paragraph again seems very vague, more an overview than anything specific, and seems to be lacking in stakes. I’m also curious, but confused, about the “life and love in the White House.”

      250: Overall this is really strong. I’d caution you to be careful with the use of so many long sentences, make sure you vary your sentence length. My only bit of confusion was over the “logo.” Which logo? The only other thing I’d like to see here is more of a reaction from Libby over the Roche brothers being there. I can tell she’s surprised, but is she worried? Is it a bad sign they’re there? I think that small addition will really help us to connect more with Libby.

      Another tough choice, but VICTORY TO SAMBA AND SURRENDER!

      Delete
    6. Samba and Surrender
      Word count: 100K
      Genre: Adult Erotic Thriller with Paranormal Elements

      Query:
      A lot of your sentences are just a little too long and complicated. I also think there’s a lot of information in this query. Really narrowing it down to a few elements will help.
      Who is the MC
      What does she want
      What happens if she fails in her goal

      “the driven female agent” – this is awkward. Just say Ana.

      No need to name the deity. Just get to the issue – there are children being abducted!

      Are children dying? Are they failing at this mission? A greater sense of urgency / stakes can help. I think really break it down to the important elements and readers will have a better idea of what is going on.

      Like ““crowding” is the new thrill” – I don’t know what this means (sorry!)

      It sounds like SUCH a good story and streamlining will help!

      First 250:
      Does she have a gun in her evening bag? Or some sort of concealed weapon? Can you give us that sense of danger up front?

      Love the description. You can clearly see the scene. If you can add in a sense of urgency / danger, you will really have your readers.

      ~ VERSUS ~

      Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf
      Word count: 80K
      Genre: Adult Commercial

      Query:
      I would call the president Cat in the first sentence. I got a little thrown in the transition from Libby to Cat. Also, I feel like Libby is lost after the first paragraph. What is she doing in the rest of the book? Is Cat the MC or is Libby?

      “Powerful political donors have discovered” I would say that they are with the her or with the opposition because I got confused here (if they are her donors, why are they blackmailing her? Or are they her own donors? Make this clearer)

      “Libby’s dreams of life and love in the White House.” – I have no idea what Libby is about or why I should care about her. Give us a real reason we care about her. I care about Cat already, but I am lost on Libby.

      First 250:
      Great opener. I am intrigued already!

      Something here trips me up / slows it down “Waldorf and Statler, as the biggest of the big donors were unaffectionately known.” I like it, it is cute, but I think maybe it would be better saved until we meet the donors. I want to get moving into the next section. (also I think people usually say their names the other way around. That might have been what tripped me up)


      Victory to Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf

      Delete
    7. Samba and Surrender

      Query:

      The hook sounds like a hundred other queries where someone doesn’t have the heart or time for love. I would change that into a stronger hook that sounds more unique, but I like how you condensed a lot into the second paragraph, giving me enough setting and backstory in one go.

      The second paragraph is confusing. The first and last sentences are both somewhat jumbled and I had to read it a few times to grasp the concept. I think you’re tossing in some interesting turn of phrases, but they’re just not translating well on the paper for me.

      The last paragraph is one long sentence as well. I’d break it up. Honestly, I think everything is in the query that needs to be, but the sentence syntax for most of it is throwing me. I’d look into making it clearer over all, and a lot of it has to do with the structure of your sentences. If I have to read two or three times over multiple aspects of a query, it’s going to make me leery about the novel itself.

      First 250:

      I love the voice, and I like the setting, but I feel like the pacing is a bit slow. She’s there to meet a police informant, great. Don’t tell me that though, show me.

      ‘As she searched for the man she knew as Marcelo’—that confuses me. She knows him as that because it’s not his real name, or it is his real name and you’re just phrasing it that way? If his name is Marcelo, I’d just say she’s searching for Marcelo.

      The voice carries it, but I’d like a little bit more to draw me in, as opposed to ‘she sat at the bar and ordered a drink’. Show me her walking through the crowd, describing as the action happens. The first 250 are important, so you want to give something strong to draw the reader in.

      VS

      Nineteen Hours

      Query:

      So your query is only 174 words, making it short. Generally you want at least 250-350 words. That’s the standard. If you’re going to make it that short, it better convey a lot of information in a kick ass way to make me want to read it.

      As this query stands, I think it’s entirely too vague. It also somehow jumps from Libby to Cat, so I’m not exactly sure who the protagonist is. If it’s Libby, keep it from Libby’s perspective. What is it that Libby has to do? What happens if she doesn’t? I don’t quite understand why we start with her, but go into Cat’s predicament. Even so, that also seems vague. She has a secret. A lot of people in novels have secrets, so why is Cat’s different?

      For me, there just isn’t enough information to carry the query.

      First 250:

      I like the intro. It pulls me in. I also like the sensory details. It reminds me of how someone who’s just been through a trauma can recall such minute things as well. It makes me feel like something horrible is coming. It sets the tone really well, and I love that we’re thrown right into the inciting incident.

      To me there’s a little bit of voice lacking, which probably comes as you settle into your writing. It might be because of the details, but they don’t have to be quite as stiff either. It can be in the protagonist’s voice, which I think it would help carry this. Right now, I just feel like it’s almost a checklist. Add a little something. If the character said this out loud, what would her voice sound like? How would she say it? I think once you toss that in, it’s going to make a great start.

      Samba—over all I think you have everything needed for the query, but the syntax makes it too jumbled. The first 250 has a great voice, but the pacing is a bit too slow to pull me in.

      Nineteen Hours—the query is too short and lacking too many details. It’s so vague I don’t know what sets your novel apart from other political thrillers. The first 250 has great pacing, but lacks a bit of voice.

      Overall, I wouldn’t read the first 250 without a query first pulling me in. That said:

      GO GO GADGET VICTORY TO: SAMBA AND SURRENDER

      Delete
    8. Samba & Surrender:

      Phenomenal voice. And I love the Brazilian setting steeped in legends. Ah, a caipirinha! That’s my favorite drink. Again, your character’s voice jumps off the page. I’d definitely read more.

      Definitely Not About Donald Drumpf:

      What an exciting and unique premise. First black woman president? Yay!

      I’m a little confused about your query, because you lead with Libby Little, but the majority of the query is about Cat. Since it’s obvious from your 250 that Libby is the MC, consider rephrasing the query so it’s more about how Cat’s actions impact Libby.

      Both of you should know how HARD it has been to choose a winner with each round. As a PW mentor, I’d truly be thrilled to see any of the QK entries in my inbox.

      But, judge I must, so, I'll have to go with my gut:

      Victory to Samba & Surrender!


      Delete
  2. Just mainly a comment about Samba and Surrender: I'm Brazilian and I was really excited to see this entry and the setting, but the query raised some flags, especially regarding the said diety, which is a real diety from a marginalized religion here in Brazil. I was just wondering whether you're Brazilian yourself, have familiarity with the issue or hired a sensitivity reader?
    Representation is important, and good representation is essential. (:

    ReplyDelete
  3. DEFINITELY NOT ABOUT…
    Love the premise – the female president and female bodyguard combo sounds great. And it sounds like there’s tons of tension
    Not sure her expecting calm on election day rings true – I’d expect that to be a crazy day for a presidential candidate.
    I wonder if it might be better to give a bit more info about Cat’s secret. Similarly, I’d like slightly more specifics on how lives are endangered and what principles are tested.
    The last sentence reads slightly awkwardly.
    Finally, is this mostly about Libby or about Cat – or is it a dual POV? Because at first, I definitely thought Libby was the heroine, but then in paragraph two and three, she doesn’t seem to do anything, as all of the action sits with Cat. Maybe instead of “the campaign contends with…” you should say “Libby contends with…”

    Love the dramatic first line. However, there are a lot of names and places mentioned in this opening and I wonder if it might be best to feed some of the info in more gently.


    SAMBA AND SURRENDER

    Immediate thought – that’s a lot of genres. Even if it has all those elements, it might be best to stick to only using one or two to describe it.

    Absolutely love the first paragraph and a half of the query – brilliant scene setting and the pandemic and society’s response to it sounds fascinating.

    It lost me a bit after that. The rest of the query didn’t seem to have anything to do with the pandemic you’ve so beautifully set up. I assume it does in some way – people sacrificing kids to stop the disease? The mythic deity caused the disease – but while you don’t have to spell it out, I’d like to see some connection between the first and second halves.

    The line “whose tattoo is an inked wound from a tragic mission” through me a bit. In a story with futuristic disease elements and paranormal elements and realistic elements, I couldn’t tell if this was symbolism or a very weird tattoo. It also seemed a bit too detailed a point to focus in on.

    The first 250 words give an amazing sense of time and place, both conjuring up the Brazil a reader would expect and adding the jarring sense of something being wrong (with the bracelets). I’d possibly lose the description of her “slim curves and upswept black hair” – I’m guessing how she looks isn’t the most interesting or important thing about her, and this risks making her sound like a cliché.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jumping in on feedback here because I really love NINETEEN HOURS.

    What hooked me: Love strong female main character running for president! Timely issue, right? Also, a strong female narrator (if I'm following this correctly, Libby who's voice we're in?) is super awesome! I learn so much about Libby within those first 250... really excellent character development there, not easy to pull off so quickly, so the author does that extremely well.

    I love political thrillers so reading about the nineteen hours of Election Day grabs my attention. Add to that a scandal and I'm probably going to read this in one sitting. The author mentions love in the last line of the query, and that tells me the author has taken into consideration what readers want, what is satisfying. I personally like reading more books right now that don't have the love angle in them, but the author clearly has a good idea of what sells.

    The writing is smooth, flows well. I was pulled in instantly into Libby's life and I want to know more about the scandal and if Cat will become POTUS! Well done. I'm a bit surprised this isn't considered to be more literary genre? Anyway, good luck. With American politics dominating the news, this book couldn't come at a better time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Samba and Surrender

    I like the first query paragraph a lot. It says so much in a few lines. You write very well. But the query is telling me too much, and as a newbie to your world, I’m lost. It jumps from the romance to abduction. Both are relevant, but the details surrounding them got me a little confused. Did she kiss him even though he has a red bracelet? Is she contagious? I didn’t have time to figure this out before the abduction details. It would have helped me if there were a bridge between the two paragraphs before you discuss the deity and abductions. I felt like I was reading a new query.

    This seems like a well-written book with lots of complex twists and turns. I’d focus on the main plot points for the query and not try to get everything in.

    Great job on the 250


    Definitely not about DT

    I like the query a lot, but as others have said, the query isn’t about Libby. I didn’t know who the MC was from your query. I’m more invested after reading it with Catherine than with the heroine.
    It jumps from Catherine being blackmailed to having to placate the nation. Meaning her secret was revealed? A bridge there would help, as well as framing it from the MC POV.
    I love your crisp, professional writing style.
    The 250 is great. I don’t have much to add. Great work both Kombatants. So glad I’m not a judge.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As Lissa I also love DNADDrumpf and its strong premise.

    Query - I think the query is excellent but perhaps to increase the tension even more it could go from 'When she arrives at work on the morning of Election Day, Libby (straight to) finds out that powerful...

    Pages: Bang! The first line really hauled me in and the tension built quickly but clearly in the following paragraphs. I also found Libby really likeable and could relate to her - hardworking yet slightly clutsy... I definitely want to read on, discover Cat's secret and find out what happens as the day unfolds.

    I also love that there are 2 strong female protagonists and one in the most powerful job in the world. We need more novels like this. Bearing mind Mr Drumpf this book couldn't be more relevant and timely. Bravo!

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  7. Two very strong entries! It was a pleasure reading both.

    SAMBA AND SURRENDER: What a great entry. You’ve obviously put a lot of time into this. It’s also rather relevant, what with the zika virus and everything! Query: Not a lot of criticism about this query. It’s very well thought out. Only two questions – in the first paragraph, could you put in a little explanation of what Radiant is? I understood later that it was some kind of pandemic, but it stopped me a bit. Just a few words would do it. Also, the description of Will’s tattoo is a bit odd – is it actually a tattoo, or is it a real wound that he got work done on?
    250: These are so polished and well-done I really don’t have anything to say except good job! This could be a published book in no time if the rest of the manuscript looks like this. Congrats and best of luck!

    DEFINITELY NOT ABOUT DONALD DRUMPF: A really great idea, especially in this year of political chaos! Congrats on the premise. I see you listed the genre as Adult Commercial. I don’t think that’s really a genre – Could it be a Thriller, or Suspense, or Mystery? Query: Not sure what a “bodywoman” is. Is it a stand-in? A bodyguard? Also, in the first paragraph there should probably be a comma after female. A bigger question about the query. Libby seems to be the protagonist in the first paragraph, but then she isn’t in the query again until the last sentence. The query needs to focus on Libby and how it affects her while these things are happening around her, and how it’s going to change her life in the midst of the other issues. Make sense? 250:
    I enjoyed these, and the atmosphere they presented! Some nitpicks: 1) In the first paragraph there should be a comma after mansion. 2) 2nd paragraph, the semi-colon should be a hyphen, since the two parts of the sentence aren’t both complete sentences. Other than that, it reads very well! Congrats and I wish you luck.

    Two strong entries! Thanks for sharing with us all!

    Victory to SAMBA AND SURRENDER

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  8. Really well done on both entries. The premise is definitely fun and lively in DNADDRUMPF. I was really drawn to Samba, though- the fine details of near future mystique blended with Brazilian culture is a fiery combination. Impressive and tantalizing.

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  9. My feedback is for DNADD. Regarding the first 250 pages,I love the first line: I was fourteen minutes late on the day that changed the country. As a reader I know that this is not the day to be late and that it will hold dire consequences somewhere. I further like how Libby mentions the time precisely. Without you having to tell me, you've shown me she would be a details person.

    By the second paragraph, we already have further tension and conflict: the two Bentleys. We know whoever arrived in these will impact the protagonists in some way, and I would think lead to the the inciting incident mentioned in the query ( the secret being exposed )

    With regards to the query, the last paragraph creates tension with a preset timeframe ( what a clever way to build up to a climax) but I think that if Libby's lovelife is mentioned at the end, then it could be set up earlier in the query :)

    Good luck guys!
    Sorry, I couldn't get my wordpress to link :S

    Lorelle Page: lorellepage.wordpress.com

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  10. Thanks for sharing! These are both outside my usual wheelhouse, and I love how fresh that makes them feel to me (without being able to speak for how it might be relative to the genre). These are both fantastic entries, IMO, and I don’t envy the judges having to choose.

    Samba and Surrender: (Query) I think just adding one or two words to clarify Radiant will help. After reading, I *think* it’s a disease, but I’m not quite sure. I got lost in the second paragraph. I would pick just one thread to focus on here, maybe. Obviously your book has a lot of layers, which is awesome, but they don’t all need to make it into the query. Overall, I felt the query was too long and trying to pack in too much info. You don’t need to sell the whole book here—just make us want to read! (250) I like your opening paragraphs, you write well and cleanly, but I felt like it lacked a sense of urgency. I’m thinking thriller, I want at least a little tension, while this has a more languid feel. I do like the Brazilian touches, although in the last paragraph they felt like they were coming a little too close together. Good luck!!

    Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf: (Query) This is a personal thing of mine, but I don’t know that Libby’s age is really that relevant here. I’d rather see something more descriptive. I felt like the first paragraph could be streamlined a little bit, leaving more room to develop some other details. What is Cat’s secret? Then at the end, the sudden change to Libby’s dreams of life and love is a bit jarring. The query focuses mostly on Cat, but I feel like that is probably table-setting, and that the MC is actually Libby? I’d like that to be a little bit clearer. (250) I really like the writing here. The detailed touches are nice. There might be a little bit too much exposition. Also I have to give a fist pump for a female MC that is (almost) my height! Good luck!!

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  11. Thanks for sharing! These are both outside my usual wheelhouse, and I love how fresh that makes them feel to me (without being able to speak for how it might be relative to the genre). These are both fantastic entries, IMO, and I don’t envy the judges having to choose.

    Samba and Surrender: (Query) I think just adding one or two words to clarify Radiant will help. After reading, I *think* it’s a disease, but I’m not quite sure. I got lost in the second paragraph. I would pick just one thread to focus on here, maybe. Obviously your book has a lot of layers, which is awesome, but they don’t all need to make it into the query. Overall, I felt the query was too long and trying to pack in too much info. You don’t need to sell the whole book here—just make us want to read! (250) I like your opening paragraphs, you write well and cleanly, but I felt like it lacked a sense of urgency. I’m thinking thriller, I want at least a little tension, while this has a more languid feel. I do like the Brazilian touches, although in the last paragraph they felt like they were coming a little too close together. Good luck!!

    Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf: (Query) This is a personal thing of mine, but I don’t know that Libby’s age is really that relevant here. I’d rather see something more descriptive. I felt like the first paragraph could be streamlined a little bit, leaving more room to develop some other details. What is Cat’s secret? Then at the end, the sudden change to Libby’s dreams of life and love is a bit jarring. The query focuses mostly on Cat, but I feel like that is probably table-setting, and that the MC is actually Libby? I’d like that to be a little bit clearer. (250) I really like the writing here. The detailed touches are nice. There might be a little bit too much exposition. Also I have to give a fist pump for a female MC that is (almost) my height! Good luck!!

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  12. SAMBA & SURRENDER
    I love this concept. When your query started, I thought the story was going to be about Ana and the sickness. It then evolved into a romance. It seems the heart of your story is the abductions, though they don't get mentioned until the third paragraph. While introducing the character is critical in a query, I feel the focus should be on the abduction and search for the child if that's the backdrop for most of the story.

    I enjoyed the way you described the club and its atmosphere, but wonder if it might be more effective for the first page to give us Ana's reactions to the smoke and noise, have her elbow through the crowd or sneeze at the perfume. Just some little touches to make me feel connected to her.


    DEFINITELY NOT ABOUT DONALD DRUMPF
    Another great and timely idea. But the first line of your query threw me off, wondering if a “bodywoman” was a trainer, masseuse or bodyguard. The rest is very clear, but the last line left me baffled again: there's no mention of a love interest prior to it.

    The first line of your 250 captivated me, but then everything wound down into a sea of details. These are nicely written and very evocative, but I feel they're in the way right here. The really vital information is that they weren't expected: I think it would be effective to get to that point right away.

    Good luck to both of you!

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  13. Samba and Surrender

    Chilling near-dystopian opening in the query! Lots of stuff going on here between the main character and her lover. The antags are revealed late, nearly to the end, and I'm left not knowing much about them. Is the predator responsible for the abductions? Without any apparent connection to Ana and Will, the predator's scientific discovery knowledge seems unrelated. Ana mulling how the dress flatters her figure seems too self-aware--perhaps she might think about how it feels against her skin in the sweltering nightclub? Grateful she put her hair up because of the heat? The first 250 reveal Ana to us although I think she could tell us much more about herself with several changes. This would be a first chapter worth reading as we've seen no conflict yet.


    Definitely NOT About Donald Drumpf

    There are some great concepts here--a woman veteran from the First Gulf War running for President? Wow! I'm drawing some conclusions about her connection to Libby, her bodyguard, but I'm not sure if they're the right ones. The first 250 had some great touches like watching the circle twirl maddeningly on one's phone before displaying the information one wanted. Loved the reference to the occupants of the Muppet Show's peanut gallery. The 250 length wouldn't allow for it, but I'd like to see in the final novel Libby express her behest at her handle in dialogue with Carter.

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  15. Can't thank everyone enough for the compliments and the constructive feedback. What a wonderful community this is. Thank you all so much!! And congratulations to my amazing "opponent" on her wonderful book. Very deserving of all her votes! Here's to great samba and her "no surrender" book!

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  17. Thank you to the Query Kombat hosts and judges and everyone who took the time to comment on my entry. Congratulations and best of luck to my opponent who I was totally cheering on because her story is so awesome!!! I can't wait to read it! I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of QK 2016 and part of this wonderful community of writers. Thank you!

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