Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Like-Minded Individuals versus Nostalgic Dreamer

Entry Nickname: Like-Minded Individuals
Title: The Secret Society Of Like-Minded Individuals
Word count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Comedic Dark Thriller


Being an accountant by day allows Leon Garber to pursue his true passion. He has his reasons for scourging the world of abusive people. But justifiable homicide is a tricky, risky business.
Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of people like Leon to pursue their “projects.” LMI sets their clientele up with new identities, security, and even lists of potential candidates. A grand business model for today’s increasingly expanding and changing economy. All for a price, of course. Some things are worth the cost. For Leon, it’s a dream come true.

But sometimes a killer business idea is simply…killer.

Leon finds himself out of favor with Like-Minded Individuals for reasons unknown. LMI, the police,
sanctioned hit-men, and a vicious psychopath are after him. Heads are chopped, dropped and swapped as Leon fights for his life and freedom.  All of which keeps Leon from finishing his current project. But as a consummate professional, Leon can’t leave a job incomplete.

First 250 words:

The child knew when to hide.  Anytime his father opened a bottle of liquor.  He’d known that for years, just as he knew the burning lash of a leather belt followed the accidental breaking of a dish or a glass.  It was part of his world.  Accepted as normal.

Until a day in late May.  The day everything changed. The day he came home from school to find his mother backed against the refrigerator, his father’s hands wrapped in a vice grip around her neck.

“How long you been screwing around in Bill Arnold’s bed, you whore?  How long? Always knew you were nothing but a whore!  That little bastard’s not even mine, is he?”  The hands jerked and his mother’s body shook like a ragdoll.  “Shoulda made you abort him when I told you to!”

The boy raced across the kitchen. His father's hand lashed out and he crashed to the floor. The heavy work boot kicked and cracked his nose. Half-blinded, he saw his father latch onto a kitchen knife. The blade plunged into his mother's chest, again and again. And again. Chunking like a watermelon chopped into quarters. One more flash of the knife and her throat opened up in a red grin. Blood showered out. His father dropped the knife and staggered out of the kitchen.


Entry Nickname: Nostalgic Dreamer
Title: Man of My Dreams
Word count: 78,000
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance


Mia Murphy is married to the man of her dreams. But the man in her dreams is the one that got away. 

The only thing saving Mia from her monotonous routine as a stay-at-home mom is her perfect husband, Declan. He’s gorgeous, he adores her, and the man melts her heart with his sexy singing voice. Mia feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she discovers that Mr. Perfect had a brush with infidelity. Mia is devastated; everything she once believed about him and her marriage is now covered in a big cloud of doubt and regret.

While she and Declan are on a break, Mia receives an invitation to her high school reunion. Although her heart still belongs to her husband, inescapable thoughts of her crush, Noah, resurface. And ten years later, Noah is finally ready to make his move. When the build-up of fantasies and ‘what ifs' comes to a head, sparks fly and it’s Mia’s turn to question if her marriage is everything she wants out of life. Searching for answers, Mia dives head first into dating Noah, falling further away from her husband and closer to her old flame. But Declan’s not giving up so easily. Mia is his one and only and he’s not about to let another man win her heart.

A contemporary romance complete at 78,000 words, MAN OF MY DREAMS is Mia’s nostalgic, humorous, heartwarming story about what happens when life gives you a second chance to consider what might have been.
First 250 words:

I pace the pale green carpet in my room, back and forth, over and over, twirling a chunk of my hair into an unruly knot. “Do you think he’ll be there, Grace? I really don’t want to go if he’s not.” I don’t have to hide the embarrassing fact that I have no desire to attend this thing if Noah isn’t going. Grace is my best friend, the one who knows all the awkward details about my unsuccessful swooning over the hottest guy at my school. 

But this is my last shot.

High school will officially be over soon. Sure, I’ve done my job of cozying up to Noah. We’d swapped calculus notes a bunch of times, sat together in the cafeteria for lunch on occasion and even attended the same parties and get-togethers on the weekends. He may even consider me a friend, but there is nothing special that ties the two of us together. And soon we’ll graduate and go our separate ways.

“You have to go, Mia. Even if he’s a no-show. Everyone else will be there. Some of those friends you’ll never see again. You owe it to them, at least. And besides, you’ve spent the last four years popping up where you knew he’d be. Look where it got you.”

I take the cordless phone away from my ear, and stare at it, practically snarling. I don’t need a reminder of what a loser I am. “I know. You’re right. But I won’t be able to live with the regret of what if. This has to happen. I have to kiss him before he leaves for college and I never see him again.”


  1. This comment is reserved for the judges' votes

    1. victory to Like-Minded Individuals

      To Nostalgic Dreamer: I agree with SavageBlue, the first line of your query threw me. It set up a completely different story than what you have. Apart from that, you have a great query and first page.

      To Like-Minded: I think you have a solid query and your first page (though it doesn't seem to set up a comedic story, but no worries about that) left me wide-eyed and wanting more.

    2. Victory to Like-Minded Individuals

      This was hard to choose from the stories are so different, but LMI was so chilling and intriguing - loved it!

      Nostalgic Dreamer, I liked your first line and feel it hooks. The premise was just too familiar to me, but the writing is strong. Even so, I would totally read this because I love this kind of going back and reuniting with a high school flame (might be my fantasy, not saying that though).

      Great job!

    3. Victory to Like-Minded Individuals: Strong writing in both query and 250. If Leon was the little boy, I can see why he has his "projects".

      Nostaligic Dreamer: After reading the query, I expected to meet the main character and her perfect hubby, Declan. It kind of threw me a bit. I loved your writing.

      Good luck to you both.

    4. Victory to LMI. Not something I would keep reading, personally, but definitely strong writing and a great concept. Well done.

      Nostalgic Dreamer, I also felt like the first page was out of place. From the query, I wanted to meet Declan and see their happy life together, but your 250 took me back too far. Maybe adding in a bit to the query about losing her chance in high school, and "ten years later..." etc. would fix that?

    5. Victory to Like-Minded Individuals

      LMI: Comedic noir sounds fun, assuming the story hits a nice mix of camp and thriller, which will take sharp focus and writing. I don't think the "grand business model" sentence is necessary in the query, and "for reasons unknown," sounds like too much of a throwaway. And the last two sentences could likely be combined to better effect. My advice is to go hard for the dark humor in that last paragraph. As for the 250, it's really good, but I think there's opportunity for you to take it even one step more into a SIN CITY type feel with little tightening and adding a little more noirish voice.

      In the MAN OF MY DREAMS query, I'm not seeing the humor come through. Also, a convention for the romance query is to introduce the complexities of the hero(s)' live(s) as well. So paragraph 1 would be about Mia and her world view, 2 about Noah and what he wants from the relationship, 3 about Declan and why he had that brush with infidelity and why he wants Mia back, and wrap up with the choice Mia now faces. And keep each paragraph to just a couple of sentences to set the stage. Right now, I don't know what to think of Noah and whether he's just flinging with her or is serious. The 250 reads nice and easy. The voice isn't particularly strong but it's comfortable. It just needs a great love story to wrap into.

    6. Victory to Nostalgic. I thought I’d swing the other way, but now that I think about it, Nostalgic is a story with emotions that I feel will stay with me for a while. I loved yours too, though, LMI. Just concentrate on character development in the query.

      Like-Minded: I LOVED your query, and although I cringed at your 250, it’s what enticed me as well (no, I’m not a psychopath, don’t worry). You lost me a bit in your query when Leon can’t keep the job incomplete. I mean, he’s freaking getting attacked. I would think that’d be good reason to quit! The thing you need is more character development in the query.

      Nostalgic: I love this premise. I love books that tackle hard subjects (and cheating is one of them!). And it seems like this topic is well-handled and developed, by reading your query. Your 250 has a lot of telling, though, especially through dialogue (the only place I felt this was a problem was the fourth paragraph, “’You have to go, Mia….’” Also, I thought this was an Adult novel? The start to a high school scene is a bit jarring. Maybe it’d be better if you start from the adult point of view? I think it’d be INCREDIBLY effective and emotional to have it start as an adult looking back, so we’d be just as longing and desperate as she is to see Noah.

    7. LMI: I’m not sure comedic belongs in the same sentence with dark thriller. I think I’d cut comedic as I didn’t see any of that in the first page. It was definitely dark. I’m also not sure that being an accountant by day necessarily mean that you’re busting with free time. People pick on that profession so much it’s a huge cliché.

      But your concept of a corporation financing people’s weird hobbies is killer. It’s the last paragraph of the query that loses it a bit for me. It lacks specifics. Without those specifics I’m afraid it’s just not as engaging. I can’t say that about the first page, however. That was gripping.

      Nostalgic Dreamer: I found your query to be stronger than your first page. The query had direction and purpose and honed in on exactly what the conflict is and how Mia is torn. I’m afraid the voice in the first page didn’t sound adult. It didn’t hook me on the character as a romance must in order to stand out.

      Victory to Like-Minded Individuals!

    8. Victory to Nostalgic

      I love the idea of this story, and I think it's something I'd read. I would recommend changing the first line of the pitch though. It read like I was reading a supernatural thing, like a man actually IN her dreams.

      LMI is amazing. The writing is strong and the story sounds cool. I think the only thing that pushed me away was that it said comedic and holy crap was there nothing in the 250 that backed that up. Really strong entry though.

  2. Victory to Like Minded Individuals. Dark comedy is not my normal read, but you obviously have great writing skills and your concept is intriguing.

    To Nostalgic Dreamer, you also are undeniably a great writer. When it came down to it though, it was your first sentence of your query that threw me. It didn't really add anything and did more confusing than hooking for me.

    This was a hard pairing to judge simply because the genres are so different. Good luck to both of you.

  3. LMI: Chilling opening. I didn't get much of the comedy yet, but I really enjoyed the imagery. The watermelon thing, particularly, I loved. I liked how the query separated your story from Dexter and the other murderer-as-hero stories I've seen, but I wish it opened a tiny bit stronger.

    Nostalgic Dreamer: Great, relatable concept and character. I don't love that you start with a flashback, but I enjoyed your 250 and thought your MC felt genuine. In your query, I got a good sense of the nostalgia and heartwarming aspects that you mention in the last line, but I didn't see any humor. I think adding a bit of that might give the query a little more texture.

    Good luck to you both!

  4. LIKE-MINDED: Your query is so interesting! I love the idea of a corporate business FOR hit men. Small nitpick: I feel the line should read something like, “Being an accountant by day allows Leon Garber to pursue his true passion by night.” Leading with “by day” feels the same as leading with, “first off” – you need to follow through with the natural progression.

    NOSTALGIC DREAMER: I feel this is a story many people could relate to, even if (especially?) they don’t want to admit it. My fave part of the query is when you bring up the fact that Declan’s “not giving up”. Feels good. Feels realistic. I worry that the line, “only thing saving Mia from her monotonous routine as a stay-at-home mom is her perfect husband” might be a bit offensive to stay-at-home moms (implying that their lives revolve around their partners). I know what you were trying to say, so is there another way you could phrase it? Starting with the flashback in this story doesn’t bother me, especially for this genre.

  5. Victory to Like Minded Individuals - Ultraviolet
    LMI - I LOVED your query and the vibe reminded me of the Bourne movies which I also love (fast, hard-hitting, expect the unexpected). Having said that, I think your first 250 need a little work. I don't really like flashbacks at the beginnings of stories (ditto for Nostalgic Dreamer). I also felt the use of "whore" 2x was kind of heavy-handed and that the scene forced me into sympathy with the MC. When the MC is a hit man I prefer to be led into sympathy, almost against my will - it's more interesting. Nostalgic Dreamer I did like your writing style in the first 250, I'd just have preferred if wasn't a flashback. You definitely have talent. I found certain elements of the query confusing (the first line, the idea that he's "perfect" and yet he's a cheater, and the idea of her "dating" her former heartthrob while still married).

  6. Victory to Like Minded Individuals from Judge Interrobang.

    LMI has the stronger query for sure, and the opening is awesome. The one thing I would say is the idea that the MC is tossed from LMI "for reasons unknown" makes me wonder whether it's a set-up or something where the author wasn't plotting well enough. Hard to say w/out reading the entire ms, of course. Definitely the stronger show here, well done.

    Nostalgic Dreamer - perfectly fine query, the genre is just not for me at all, so it could be a personal choice. Also, the beginning of the first 250 didn't have my attention. You were up against a really well crafted hard hitting entry.

  7. LMI - Intense first 250. Emotional. Visceral. Good work there. Your writing is great. With that said, the query makes the MC sound a bit Dexter-ish. I got a little confused as to what sort of business LMI is in. Do they set up serial killers with people to kill? Or are they just hiring hitmen? Perhaps you might want to just be a little more straightforward with things in the query. Instead of mysteriously calling things "projects" etc.

    Nostalgic - People are commenting that the first 250 seems like a different book than the query, but come on, we're only given the first page to go on. I just assumed while reading that this was the MC dreaming back to her time in high school with the one that got away, given the information you provided in the query. I think you did a great job in that first 250 to lay out stakes with some intensity. I think most people can relate to the "do or die" moments with a crush.

    So the protagonists husband cheated on her, and they're on a break, but she still loves him? Then why doesn't she just forgive him, or try to seek counseling instead of the break? I just picture Ross from Friends screaming "We were on a break!" Why not just make them officially separated? I don't know, I'm a guy, these labels (and their rules) confuse me haha.

  8. LMI-This is a dark and original premise. You call it a comedic dark thriller, though, and I'd like to see that come out in the query a bit more. Your opening 250 is really dark and well done, but that also makes it hard to see how the comedy is going to come about. Obviously there is much more to read to find out. Great start!

    Nostalgic-First off, I love that you have a character named Noah. Love that name, which is why he's a love interest in my entry as well. I also love the idea of getting a second chance with a high school crush. How many of us have that "What if?" that we'd secretly like to revisit? This is why I can understand Mia's desire to see Noah, even if she still loves Declan, because Declan has made her question her choice. I don't know if I can pick a winner because these are so different, but Nostalgic is the type of book that is right up my alley.

    Good luck, writers!

  9. LMI- I really love your premise here, and your writing is vivid. I can see it (which is good). I think my favorite part of this is that I haven't read a bazillion books like this.

    Nostalgic, I love your concept. I think most people really have a desire to know what could have been, and I think your premise really speaks to that well.

    I also feel like this match up is really hard because your works are SO vastly different. This is some very excellent writing but from very different genres. I don't know how that's going to pan out, but these are both really good entries.

  10. LMI- I love your query! Well written and great voice. I love chopped, dropped, and swapped (but I think you're missing a comma!). The whole idea about Like-Minded Individuals is strange and interesting and I wonder how you make it work which makes me want to read it. The sample was a bit gruesome for my taste though. *shudders* One thing that made me pause was the child had known it for "years." Really- years? How old is this child??? Maybe this is a personal thing, but those two words didn't mix.

    Nostalgic Dreamer- I love this query and connected with the story right away. Like Rena said, we all have moments of "what if" and the fact that this explores that really speaks. I think you can cut that first para though. Also, a nitpick- I would make "Mia is devastated" it's own sentence- it'll have more impact that way. I loved the sample but I was a bit confused. I assume it's a flashback or prologue. It was just hard to make the query and sample match because the sample read YA all the way and that threw me.

  11. LMI: Wow, creepy setup! I don't typically read these types of books, but it's an intriguing idea. Like someone else said, I was a bit confused by what type of "biz" it is- hit men? "Potential candidates"--to be murdered? I think you should be more straightforward here so that agents are clear on your concept. That said, your 250 is gripping and visceral. Really awful scene of mom's death, which could certainly work to motivate your MC.

    ND: I love romance, so I was ready to really like your pitch and 250. As some others have said, I had a bit of trouble with Mia "dating" while she's still married. And I totally heard Ross screaming, "We were on a break!" also! :) Maybe you're going to have your couple separate for awhile and then Mia will date Noah? Not sure, but I hope it's set up so that we don't see Mia as a slut :). The idea of the old crush is an effective trope and can work well! Your first 250 was great- flowed well. I had no problem with it being set in high school- you're showing us the crush, which is key. I wondered if this was a prologue? Could work well that way.

    Tough battle since these entries are such different genres! Best of luck to you both!

  12. Like Minded Individuals: Cool concept and great writing. Your query could benefit from a few things being more straightforward and clear on exactly what Leon is doing, I had to read it a few times and I think I mostly get it now, but not completely sure. I agree with above comment that "for unknown reasons" should be explained more, if possible. Your first 250 were graphic. Dark, yes. Comedic, not in the slightest. I'm also assuming the boy is Leon, but you don't directly say so, so again I'm guessing. ;)

    Nostalgic Dreamer: Good query, it was solid, clear, and to the point. I also liked the fact that your first 250 showed strong writing and voice for you MC. What I didn't like was the fact that this is an adult romance, and the first scene is about teenage angst. I was a lot more interested in hearing about the adult Mia and her Mr. Perfect husband (who isn't so perfect after all). That is what I, as an adult reader, would want to know about first.

    ~The Little Red Head

  13. I know we're not supposed to comment on our own so I won't but I couldn't go without commenting on my opponent's entry. Dude, you're killing it and you deserve it! As soon as the entry went live and I read your query/250 I was like...shucks, I'm done for! You're query rocks and your 250 is gripping. I really love the premise and I so want to read this, even if it's not the fluffy, sexy romance I'm used to reading/writing. Well done, my new writer buddy! I'm so happy to see you go on to the next round and I'll be rooting for you throughout the competition!!

    1. THIS comment almost made me cry this morning. You are incredible.

    2. And I'd like to give kudos to the incredibly AWESOME Faith Andrews! Faith, it ain't over yet. And I can't think of anyone I'd rather lose to. Your writing's strong and if nothing else comes of this, I'm thrilled to have met you and consider you a great new friend. Good things are right around the corner for you!

      -Like Minded Individuals

  14. Even though my favorite thing to read is romance, I have to give victory to LMI in this instance because I think the writing and hook are much stronger.

    In Nostalgic, I think the first 250 could be tightened- in particular I had an issue with the dialogue. It was too much telling and didn't sound like the way teens would talk to each other (even ten years ago).

  15. Hey, gang. Like-Minded Individuals here. Just wanted to do a quick drive-by and let y'all know how AWESOME Nostalgic Dreamer is. Her writing's stellar and she's my new BFF. She's gonna' go far and I can't wait to read her book. Go, Nostalgic Dreamer, go!

  16. Well, crap, I'm such a lame competitor, I was rooting for my opponent, Nostalgic Dreamer. She's the greatest. You guys buy her book when it gets pubbed, 'kay?

    I'm taking all of the great advice to heart. Y'all don't think "comedic" belongs in the description. I think you're right. It is a thriller. And I thought some of the set-ups are darkly amusing. But maybe it's not a selling point. Also, people might look at me funny if I think it's humorous that a head gets traded back and forth.

    Thanks to all of the judges and the nice folk who dropped a comment. And the blog-hosters. Y'all are awesome.

  17. Thank you to everyone who commented and to the two judges who voted for me :) I'm taking all the great advice into consideration to make this work better. I am so appreciative to the three creators of this competition for all of their hard work in making this possible and for even giving my entry a shot in the first place. Thanks to all the judges and commenters again, for taking the time out to read our entries and give such honest, helpful insight.

    To my new friend Stuart West...your entry rocks and I am rooting for you to go all the way!!! I couldn't have lost to a better Kompetitor!!! xoxoxoxo Good Luck!