Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Champagne and Hot Dogs versus Beelzebub Basher

Entry Nickname: Champagne & Hot Dogs
Title: The Accidental Socialite
Word count: 75,000
Genre: WF Contemporary


When small town Canada collides with the glitz and glamour of London, someone’s lady parts trend on Twitter.

THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE follows quirky and a little clumsy Paige Crawford who leaves Edmonton, Canada for London because she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life living in a city best known for it's big mall and above average murder rate. So, she makes an impulsive decision: she's moving to London to find a dream career, cultured friends and preferably, a hot foreign boyfriend. Forty-eight hours into her adventure, Paige ends up at a club and having one too many, trips out of the front doors only to be caught by a notorious and married footballer. Waking up in a foreign country is hard enough, waking up to find yourself on the front cover of a national newspaper being labeled a home wrecker is… well, not ideal. 
But, Paige is an optimist.  Being pseudo famous has its perks:  free champagne, parties, goody bags - oh, and more free champagne.

In the haze of her first days, Paige begins to date Jason Frost.  He seems perfect, knows Paige isn’t a harlot and introduces her to the kind of fancy things she’d only seen onGossip Girl.  Ultimately, cracks start to show in Jason’s façade and Paige finds out that some people in London aren’t exactly who they appear to be.

From mistaking the word sommelier as a derogatory term for someone from Somalia to narrowly escaping deportation for assaulting the second in line to the throne with a Star Wars toy, London teaches Paige lessons she didn’t know she needed. With heartbreak, humour, culture clashes and a bit of edge, THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE is an international fish out of water story that takes the reader through one girl’s journey to make the most out of her life.

First 250 words:

It was 3 A.M and all I wanted was a cheeseburger.

“Miss, we sell only Big Mac after midnight,” said the Bangladeshi McDonalds employee.

“Yes, I understand that and I will pay for a Big Mac, but I would like a cheeseburger, so can you,
like, remove a patty and mid bun and hold the secret sauce? Please?”

“Miss I am sorry but we do not have this item now.”

A tall, drunk and incredibly beautiful blonde South African girl appeared at the till next to me.

“I’ll have a hot dog.”

That’s my new best friend, Lucinda.

We walked out of McDonalds still drunk and without our respective food, just a small fries to ‘split’, which really meant Lucinda was going to watch me eat them. As I was elegantly shoving eight fries into my mouth at once, not unlike a four-year-old, I became the unwitting participant of a photo-shoot. I looked around for the celebrity garnering all this attention and it wasn’t until Lucinda slapped the second fistful of fries out of my hand that I realized that celebrity was me.


Less than twenty-four hours earlier, my eighteen-hour flight from Edmonton to London connecting in Denver landed at 9:38 A.M on a grey, drizzly Saturday in late January. I struggled to get my large carry on bag out of the overhead compartment, not just because it was heavy, but also because I had inadvertently rendered myself immobile.


Entry Nickname: BeelzebubBasher
Title: Chasing Eternity
Word count: 77,000
Genre: Historical Fiction


Colin is an English peasant from Canterbury. Swept up by events over which he has no control, he finds himself a squire to Robert, Duke of Normandy. Crusading in Robert's retinue, he meets an ancient man that forces a cursed scarab necklace into his hands. Later, he settles with the woman of his dreams. Only then does he learn that the necklace is cursed. He has not aged since his return from the Holy Land, twenty years ago. The people of Dover threaten to burn him at the stake as a witch.

He only wishes they had succeeded. Colin Harcourt survives the harshness of war, pandemic, famine and multiple wives, as he must constantly watch the people he loves wither and die. Enslaved to the cursed necklace he wears, he tires of remaining 32. He is drawn to danger, hoping to meet his demise. Instead, he meets his soul mate during the tumultuous early years of the American nation. He leaves her, unable to watch her die. However, heartbroken, he returns, determined to fight the curse. He loses the battle. She dies of consumption, shortly before his good friend, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. He finally finds the one thing that may kill him—grief.

Colin Harcourt is doomed to follow the tragedy of time and blessed to live through events that define our daily lives.

First 250 words:

Fate is the coincidental act of one’s lifestyle colliding with time and circumstance. A grieving widower, a heroic Civil War general, and a great president struck down in the prime of his life are on the same coincidental collision course headed towards their own separate fates. The universe stands still for a brief moment just long enough to listen to the widower’s life story designed by fate and written by the hands of destiny.

Colin and his wife were fervent patrons of the theater.

Colin read the invitation with excitement. “Dear, we have been invited to the theater. They are performing, Our American Cousin at Ford’s on Friday.” Noticing tears running down the cheeks of his wife of sixty-years, he said, “There is no need for tears. The war is over. You are feeling better and we have an invitation to the theater from our friends. It will do us good to get out and mingle. This infernal bout with pneumonia has passed.”

Beth pressed her fingers against his lips. “Colin, that’s just it, I have not told you the truth my dearest husband. You do worry so.” Beth attempted to subdue a cough but it exploded into a wracking, body-wrenching convulsion culminating with expectorating into her fine handkerchief. “It was never pneumonia, my darling. I lied.” She opened the handkerchief now stained with fresh blood.

Colin’s eyes watered, his legs collapsed, the bloody handkerchief confirmed his loving wife’s secret. “Consumption? But the doctor said…”


  1. This comment is reserved for the judges' votes

    1. Victory to Champagne and Hotdogs

      To Champagne and Hotdogs: I chose your entry because I thoroughly enjoy your voice and MC. You have a very interesting premise and a killer first line for both your query and your first page.

      To Beelzebub: I like your entry because the conflict is internal. There aren't assassins, or demons, or anything like that. It's one man facing the curse of immortality. The reason I didn't choose this entry is because there are a lot of questions that aren't answered. How does he become a squire? why is the necklace forced on him of all people? Why doesn't he just give the necklace to someone else?

      I really like your first page, though I have reservations about the first paragraph. I had to read it five or six times and I'm still not sure I fully understand all of what you're trying to convey.

    2. Victory to Champagne and Hotdogs.

      To Champagne and Hotdogs,your opening line of your query was a great hook. It showed me voice and humor, and I loved that.

      To Beelzebub, I really enjoyed the historic aspect of your query, especially Collin's relation with Abe Lincoln. But the query was a bit misleading, the first paragraph alludes to his history, so I expected to begin the novel when he's being burned at the stake, not the theater. Also, you never explain in the query the reason he can't remove the necklace. I think filling in this piece of information would help the reader "buy it" a bit more. I wonder if the first paragraph should be a brief prologue? It just doesn't make sense to begin the chapter that way. Good luck to you!


    3. Victory to Chasing Eternity - Ultraviolet
      While I liked the opening hook to Champagne and Hotdogs, I felt let down by the rest. The second line was way too long and there were times the humor seemed a bit forced. I will also say that the bit about the McD's employee came across to me as snark bordering on racism and it bothered me. It was probably not intended to sound that way, but that's how it felt to me. Having said that, I think the premise is great and has lots of promise for being genuinely funny. On to Chasing Eternity - I really like your premise too, but I didn't care for the opening paragraph of your 250, it read like a rather pompous prologue. I too am hoping that the book dips into his earlier life because I'd be more interested in his medieval life than his 19th century American life. But that's just me.

    4. Victory to Champagne and Hotdogs

      Both queries read more like outlines to me. They conveyed the information needed, but I wasn't drawn to either. The first 250 of Champagne gave enough that I'd read the book to find out what sort of chaos the character gets into.

      The first 250 of Chasing Eternity felt a bit stilted. Perhaps it loosens up as the story unfolds. I do think this is an interesting premise, and I'd be interested to learn about his earlier life.

    5. Victory to: Champagne and Hot Dogs

      Champagne and Hot Dogs: Your query sounds VERY fun, I really like the premise. But I didn't get a very good feel of the conflict in the story. Aside from making in idiot of her Canadian-self in London, what does she have to overcome? Is it to do with her new boyfriend? I get that vibe, but I'd love to have a clearer picture of it. (Also, I'm not a fan of a quick look into the future before bumping back in time. If it's only 48 hours, I can't imagine it would take that long to get to the action.)

      BeelzebubBasher: I love the concept here, but I felt like the query was a list of things that happen to him rather than the STORY. I'd love to get more sense of the actual story. The page didn't give me much either, and the voice felt very generic to me.

    6. Victory: Champagne and Hot dogs

      I had a hard time deciding between these two. I love both premises. The queries could be more hooky and enticing. A query only needs to grab the attention of the agents and tell the agent who are the characters, conflict/stakes, and what they have to do to resolve them. It should, of course, not tell the ending and should leave the agent wanting to read more. Neither has that zing. I'd work on tightening the queries and get yours to sound like what's on a book flap - make it exciting.

      With that said, the opening page for Beelzebub Basher (Not sure about this title) did not draw me in enough. The voice and opening is a little dry. Are you sure you're starting the story in the right place? Again, the premise sounds amazing, so I'd just work on that query and lighten up the voice a bit.

    7. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs

      To CandHD: I loved everything about this. If I picked this up in a bookstore, I'd buy it and devour it whole that night.

      To Beelzebub: The sample words didn't pull me in, and I didn't connect with the voice. I think the premise sounds incredibly cool, but it just wasn't for me.

    8. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs!

      Champagne and Hot Dogs: Love that first line. I loved the rest of the lines from query to first page. Sorry not to be more helpful, but I can’t think of anything I’d change. I’ll bet it would make a fantastic movie.

      Beelzebub Basher: I love the idea in your first paragraph. It’s the sort of journey though history that I would definitely pick up. I just think the query could be worded with more voice and enthusiasm. More active verbs would be a great first step. And I see this as more of a Historical Fantasy than Historical Fiction. I believe you’ve heard lots of opinions on the first page. I’d have to agree that it needs tightening, but I can easily see this shining after some changes.

    9. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs

      I'm going to be very honest and say neither query worked for me and neither of the 250s persuaded me that they query alone was at fault.

      The humor in the THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE - both in the query and in the 250 - fell rather flat for me. For example, the "well, not ideal" phrase is a huge letdown from the buildup. Give us something big and less cliche there. There's voice in the 250, even if it doesn't really work for me, which is why it edged out the other kontestant.

      CHASING ETERNITY has a trope premise. Nothing wrong with that, but to succeed, the execution has to be flawless. There just wasn't anything compelling here for me, though I suspect much has to do with the writing style and word choices. For example, what does "threaten to burn him at the stake" mean? That they didn't follow through? Or do you mean they actually lit the fire but he didn't die? I also want to know what's special about him that he was given the necklace or why he doesn't pass it on the way it was passed to him. Or, if his conscience won't allow that, then a mention of that in the query will help us see the MC in a more sympathetic light. As for the 250, aside from some rather stilted-sounding rather than period-sounding dialog, I couldn't suspend my disbelief that he would say her bout of pneumonia had passed when clearly she's still hacking up a lung. The blood she could hide from him, but not the cough.

    10. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs.

      Champagne—I loved LOVED the humor and voice in the query AND the 250. This is really a winner, and I can see it on the shelves. I kind of was a bit pulled back by the stereotypical grammer problems of the Bangladeshi employee, and I’m not a fan of the “Let’s rewind a few hours to show how this awesomely fantastic scene came to play” but that’s probably a personal thing.

      Beelzebub—I love the historical aspect of this. I’m a fan of historical fiction (although I should start reading it more!). The query did slightly feel more like a synopsis than a teaser, though. But I love the premise for this. I don’t think a comma comes after “They are performing” but I love the writing. The dialogue feels a little stilted, though.

  2. I'll come back and comment more in depth on this one, but just wanted to chime in that I lived in Edmonton for 8 years and HELLS YES I know where Paige is coming from. :)

  3. Gotta love the tagline "someone’s lady parts trend on Twitter", so I vote for Champagne & Hotdogs!

  4. Victory to Champagne and Hotdogs

    Fantastic voice and the hook made me snort out loud- Paige sounds very Bridget Jones! I think you could capture the voice even more by making the query a little zippier. Shorten the sentences and let the funny parts shine. The sentence starting with "Forty-eight hours" read a bit awkwardly. I would also be careful to avoid too many alcohol references (one to many, free champagne, haze of first days, wasted in the first 250) because we want to see her as the likable fish out of water, not as a sloppy lush. Also, she supposed to be drunk but she seems very lucid when she's quipping with the employee. Other nitpick: "That's my friend" should read "that was my friend" to stay in past tense. I would DEFINITELY read this- in fact I want it right now!

    I think the conflict in staying young forever is intriguing and one of the compelling concepts that vampire novels explore but I found the query itself to be a bit "this happens, then this happens" and lacking in oomph. With regard to the first 250, I think its not all that obvious that the first paragraph is a narrator's aside and not part of the story itself.

  5. Wow! Both of these are very good and completely different from one another!

    Champagne And Hotdogs! Humor's always a plus for me. And as GSMarlene said, "someone's lady parts trend on Twitter" is a GREAT line! The McDonald's employee was a bit much, though. Tone him down a little and make him less of a cliché, maybe?

    Beezlebub! I'd suggest taking out the opening paragraph completely. Or set it further into the book maybe. It's just not a real grabber. Other than that, though, it's very good. But as someone once told me, always start with action.

    Gah! If I were forced to choose, I'd probably go with Champagne and Hotdogs. Even though it ain't my cuppa' joe type fiction. But humor works and the author appears to have a clear idea where she's going. But, honestly, I'd still read Beezlebub's book as it intrigues.

  6. Champagne: Who doesn't love free champagne? I’m all for a cross-culture romp. I enjoy how Paige’s goals feel like something from an everyday-could-be-you-or-me person; she’s aware of her hum-drum life, wants something more exciting, and goes for it. Excellent. In the query, the sentence “Ultimately, cracks start to show…” feels a bit vague. Could you give a specific example of what Jason does, and/or a specific hint as to who he really is? In the first 250 words, you introduce Lucinda by mentioning that she’s drunk and then mention that they are “still drunk” three lines down. The second mention is unnecessary telling. You’re already doing a good job of showing me their drunk actions.

    Chasing Eternity: I've always been a sucker for epic immortal tales, especially ones that span decades and continents. I’m intrigued by the mention of the ancient with the cursed necklace, so much I feel its importance should have more weight in the query. So far, we know who Colin was, what he does, and why he is sad – but we don’t have the real conflict of the story or the antagonist. As is, the query reads more like a synopsis. I feel the opening paragraph in your first 250 words is not needed. It’s like a mini prologue and I’d rather be plunged in Colin’s world straightaway. The last line is a great hook, however, enticing me to read more.

  7. Champagne: I loved your query. It's quirkiness and your voice shine through and the concept is actually really adorable. I too love the line about her lady parts on Twitter. Just from the query alone, I want to know about Paige; she seems really fun and RELATABLE! I love a relatable character! I think the first 250 is good, humorous too. I know its only a small sample of the big picture, but if the rest showcases the voice in the query...I'm reading this when it comes out.

    Chasing Eternity: Historical Fiction is no not my thing and I never thought it would be, but I love your premise. Reminds me a lot of "My Name is Memory," which I ADORED! I think your query gets your point across well, but I would try to make the last paragraph sound a little less like a synopsis. Maybe not give it away that the woman he loves dies. I love the last line in the query though!

  8. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs from Judge Interrobang

    Fantastic query with a great hook and excellent voice. The first 250 are a little clumsy, and also include what looks like an immediate flashback, which says to me the ms itself probably needs work - BUT with the voice I see in the query I'm sure that you're capable of it.

    Beelzebub Basher: Query needs a really great hook, and it's just not there right now. It opens with a matter-of-fact statement that is not going to stop anyone in their tracks. And the first 250 open with something that reads like narration or voice over leading into the action. It wasn't working for me.

  9. Champagne and Hot Dogs, that opening line of your query is magnificent. That's all it took to make me want to read the entire book. Haha! Your query and first 250 are superb as well as content. My only suggestion is to fine tune it for punctuation. I'm an English teacher by day, which makes me a comma stickler. But commas aside, I want to read your book!

    Chasing Eternity, I like your query, but I want your first 250 to get right to the story. Your first paragraph reads more like a query, giving exposition that's not needed yet. You can jump right to the scene with the wife and get to all the background later.

    This is tough, guys. Such different stories and styles of writing, but I have to say my vote goes to Champagne and Hot Dogs.

  10. I read both subs, but I really don't have much useful to add that hasn't been said already. They're both intriguing for very different reasons. I love the quirky chick lit voice in THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE, but the drinking needs to be toned down just a smidge, and I don't know what the stakes are. However, the query did what it's supposed to do-- it makes me want to read it.

    In CHASING ETERNITY, I love the weariness of being immortal, but the query rambles too much, and the two different love interests were mentioned in cliche terms, which gives me pause because I wonder if the romance aspects in the novel are explored in depth or if they're treated as nothing more than plot points. Actually, the first love interest doesn't need to be in the query. I also want to know where the story in the novel actually begins. I know it starts just before Lincoln is shot, but is this in medias res in which it starts with Colin losing his friend and then goes back to the beginning to tell his whole life, or does the novel focus on the post-Civil War period with back story interwoven? The answer to this question will determine how the query letter is to be written.

  11. Champagne and Hot Dogs - as others have said, the comic voice in your query and first 250 is great. This isn't a genre that I typically read, but you left me wanting more -- just like that poor woman trying to buy a cheeseburger at 3 AM!

    BeelzebubBasher - I think you have a great premise, but I'm skeptical that you can do justice to such a sweeping plot in 77,000 words. I was skeptical, too, about the timeline involving the MC's soul mate. He falls in love with her "in the early years of the American nation," which to me means circa 1776, and then finds her again in 1865 -- 90 years later? How is she still alive?

    As others have said, I think your first 250 would be stronger without the first paragraph. I also have to say that, even allowing for the fact that this is historical fiction, I found the dialogue unnaturally stiff and the overall tone too melodramatic. I wouldn't read on. Sorry.

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  14. Champagne and Hotdogs-- I love your comic voice and this sounds like a fun read. Love the first line in your query, I think it really captures your voice. I do think you could make the stakes of the story more clear, it kind of seems like things are happening to her in the query instead of her doing things. But the voice works well!

    BeelzebubBasher-- I felt like your query was summarizing the story instead of really laying down why we want to read it. It felt more like an outline to me than a query.

  15. Beelzebub - Your query is too much like a synopsis. You need to sell the originality of your premise to an agent which, I think, is immortality and in the end the hope that grief will kill Colin. While I love the idea, I am worried you might want to cover all the time periods and spread yourself too thinly.
    As others have mentioned, I'd junk your first paragraph. It's too hard to wade through.

    Champagne - sounds like it could be a fun premise. Someone asked what your protag's goals were. To make the story resonate at a deeper level don't skim over that. I also felt occasionally that the humor was a bit forced. You're definitely on the right track though.

  16. I loved reading both query's and the other comments. It's a good reminder of how subjective this all is. With that being said, C & H's query sounds great, but for me, the stakes weren't high enough. It feels like a coming of age story for adults, who should have already come of age. But I loved the voice in it, and your hook was very well thought-out. Beelzebub - I absolutely love the concept of your story. But as everyone else above said, it reads more like a mini-synopsis. You need a good hook to draw the reader in. Also, I understood your first paragraph just fine, I just wonder if your first 250 would shine more if you start it in a scene. Personally, I'd love to see this start either at the stake, or when the woman of his dreams is on her deathbed, then we get to look back on how he got there.

    Fantastic job, both of you!

  17. Champagne & Hot Dogs– I love your 250 and the voice your book obviously has, just wanted a tad more of that voice in the query itself. It sounds like a really charming and hilarious story, and I feel like the book would be very fun to read.

    Chasing Eternity– the query was very synopsis-like to me and didn't really engage me or excite me to read the story, even though there was some exciting stuff going on. Your 250 didn't hook me in, especially the opening paragraph which sorta seemed like the voiceover in a movie, but part of that is personal preference maybe since I don't read much historical fic.

  18. Thank you all so much for the feedback! It's been so so so helpful especially with suggestions that didn't even occur to me, so thank you!! I can't wait to implement changes, thank you all for helping make my query and 250 as strong as it can possibly be. And Chasing eternity, although I don't usually read historical fiction, I love the idea of being immortal and living through some of the biggest events in history. Great concept!