Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Villainous Wizard versus Supergeeker

Entry Nickname: Villainous Wizard
Word Count: 87,000
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy


Chris Chappell is doomed to life as a Norm--a normal 17-year-old, that is--until his wizard father develops an amulet that grants even the most un-magical of people wizard powers. After years of being the family pariah, Chris has the power he always wanted and his father is finally proud of him.

Since Chris is finally a wizard, he's eligible to attend Southeast Paranormal High School with his siblings and best friend, Jeremy. At Para High, popularity and power are intrinsically linked, and after Chris saves his classmates from attack by a vicious spirit, he takes his place as the most popular student at the school.

When Jeremy discovers Chris's powers are unnatural, he demands that Chris give up the amulet, because it puts Chris outside of Para law as he is technically still a Norm. But Chris will not go back to his previous life: being a reject in his own family and a second-class citizen. With the amulet he's the most powerful wizard to ever live, and he will do whatever it takes to keep his power.

After all, what's a little mind control between friends?

First 250:

My shoulders hunch under the weight of my backpack as I near the front door, and I tighten my grip on my trumpet case. I shouldn’t stress. Odds are no one will notice me slipping into the house. Dad’s probably in the basement. Mom’s car isn’t even here so she must be at work. And the twins know better than to get me in trouble—especially about this.

And yet my heart beats unevenly. At this moment, I would sell my soul for the ability to know if anyone stood on the other side of the door.

I reach for the knob, but the door opens before I touch it. I stumble back. My father stares down at me with his magical, silver eyes, catching my gaze before I can look away.

At first my dad’s expression is worried, but then a scowl replaces fatherly concern. His hand shoots out, pulling me inside before I can think to protest.

“Chris! Why aren’t you wearing your contacts?” he demands, the door slamming shut magically behind me. I imagine a normal father would show concern about my bloodshot eyes, questioning whether I’m getting enough sleep, if something is stressing me, or if I’m on drugs. Not my father. His only concern is that people might have seen my normal, gray eyes. That someone might know the truth he’s so carefully hidden for over a year now.

I am not a wizard.


Entry Nickname: Supergeeker
Word Count: 60,000 words
Genre: YA Fantasy


Fifteen-year-old Talis Brooks knows she’s a socially irrelevant, puberty challenged dork. The closest she’s ever come to physical activity is being a Mathlete. But when puberty kicks in overnight, Talis doesn’t just go up a cup size, she gains the strength and agility of a superhero. Suddenly she can toss around 250-pound bullies, fight like a ninja and her butt totally fills out her jeans.

Talis has seen enough movies to know she has to keep her powers a secret. But when pretty boy Cole is brutally attacked by band geeks, Talis is the only one who steps up to save him. With her school in danger, and a hooded gang out to get her popular classmates, she forms a secret identity to protect them. Now there’s a blog tracking her every superhero move, the mean girls are out for her blood and she’s stuck in a love triangle with Cole and her superhero alter ego. Plus there’s that whole psychotic gang situation.

As the attacks spiral out of control, Talis must find the mastermind behind them, and figure out how to stop them, before her superhero secret is exposed.

First 250:

I just don’t want to die. Of humiliation. Besides getting straight A’s, that’s pretty much my only goal this year.

Coach Marshall, evil fiend in tiny man shorts, is out to thwart my plans. When he divides us up for volleyball, he puts me with the people voted “Much Cooler Than You.” This is not where I belong.

Marshall busts me sneaking onto my usual court—the one with my asthmatic friend Jane, Weird Cape Billy and the kid wearing a back brace. My people. He waves me over to the last court. “Talis, I told you, you’re over there today.”

“Coach—” I say, but he’s already moved on, yelling at two freshmen beating each other with the soft baseball bats.

Obviously whoever made PE mandatory isn’t an easy bleeder with little to no physical coordination. I put it off until sophomore year, hoping I’d get breasts before having to engage in the horror of group showers. Unfortunately, puberty is eluding me.

I take my time walking over. Standing on the edge of the group, I try to look busy, pretending to read the safety guidelines listed on the wall. I firmly knot my shoes. I pull up my gym shorts, which are always sliding down, even with the top rolled.

When I look up the Trifecta are only a few feet away.


  1. This comment is reserved for voting. Judges, please reply here. Thank you.

    1. Victory to Supergeeker

      Both of these had great pitches, fun premises, and wonderful opening pages. The match was tough! It all came down to the voice, and Supergeeker made me laugh several times.

      Loved them both!

    2. Victory to Supergeeker

      What great match-ups. Both of these were amazing. The tipper for me was the fact I laughed several times while reading Supergeeker.

      Nice job! Good luck to you both.

    3. Victory to Villanious Wizard. Your premise really engaged me, query well written, and the wizard father scared me. Well done.

      Supergeeker-- yours was great too. Solid, and made me laugh. This just came down to query for me. I felt Villanious's was a bit easier for me to follow.

      Good luck to you both!

    4. Victory to Wizard

      Honestly, both were awesome, and I had questions about each. I just felt like Wizard's was all around a bit stronger.

      Wizard: Okay. I LOVE fantasy, but I have some questions about this. Your query comes across to me like a list of events. I'd love to get more of a sense of how Chris FEELS about everything. And I was confused as to why his best friend would sell him out so quickly. That didn't resonate well with me. Your 250, on the other hand, were fan-freaking-tastic, and I loved it. His dad creeps me out.

      Geeker: First, this needs to be called Superhero Fantasy, or Urban. Your query falls flat, and has little to no voice to it. Especially your last line. Your 250, on the other hand, are BRIMMING with voice, so I know you can do it, it'll just take some work :)

      Good luck to both!

    5. Lol, superhero vs supervillain. How could this get more awesome!

      Victory to Villanious Wizard

      Your premise is very intriguing and left me wanting so much more. Not often do I the origin stories for villains.

      To Geeker: You have a solid entry as well, but two questions came up for me in your Query: Where did this hooded gang come from, and why is Cole attacked by bandgeeks? I felt like I missed something.

    6. Victory to Geeker

      Geeker: I have to disagree with a previous comment- I thought your query had so much voice- I was smiling halfway through and laughing aloud by the time I came to the 250. Fantastic entry!!!!!!!!

      VIllanious: I like the concept of a friendship tested by this type of conflict and of the regular kid turning bad boy but the query seems like it could use just a little more oomph to make it sparkle.

    7. Victory to Villanious Wizard.

      Wizard -- I LOVED how you totally made us feel sympathetic and RELATABLE to the 'evil' MC in the query. It seems so natural to do what he does! Reminds me of the movie Chronicle. Awesome voice and deep, brooding tone.

      Geeker -- I loved you entry as well, and you were up against a tough opponent. I love the humor in the query and the 250. A LOT. This is INCREDIBLY unique, but just not as unique as Wizard's. This will get agent interest, I know. This is SUCH A HARD PICK. I wish you both could advance, and I truly mean that :(

    8. Victory to Supergeeker

      I had to think about the query for THE DESCENT OF CHRIS CHAPPELL some. Something really, really wanted me to like it. But something else kept whispering trope in my ear: The amulet that grants power that we've seen a thousand times. But wait, it turns the hero into an anti-hero. Chris is Gollum succumbing to the power. What a great premise! And that's what finally hit me. It's a premise. We see him starting to rise in his power. We see him starting to think like a shark. And then ... nothing. What's the conflict? What's the story? As for the first 250, the voice is good, Dad is shaping up to be a bad guy you love to hate and the roots of of Chris' metamorphosis are visible. I just wish I could find the story and not just the setup in this query package.

      The query for SUPERGEEK has a lot of cheek. I think, overall, that's what sold this for me over the patent origins story. The different gang mentions bothered me a bit as I wasn't sure if they were the same gang or not. And I'd like to know what the consequences are other than Talis' secret ID being exposed. Or, if that IS the major consequence, what does it mean for her? Or is she more afraid of what it MIGHT mean for her? The cheek is carried through in the 250, and Talia's awkwardness is painfully obvious. Well done.

  2. Villainous Wizard - Dude, I hate present tense, but you're doing a good job with it :D Really like your premise and the voice from the query totally matches the voice in the first 250 words. Loved where your page cut off, totally want to keep reading!

    Supergeeker - Your narrator's voice is awesome. She's funny and self-depreciating but I don't get the whiny teen angst from her. Which means I can totally relate to her even though I wasn't a band geek, just a geek of a different flavor. I admit, your query lost me a little when you say, "But when pretty boy Cole is brutally attacked by band geeks..." because that didn't seem correct with everything else going on. But I'm sure it makes sense in the actual story. And I'm kinda torn over the concept she's now protecting the popular kids since the "Mean Girls" are out to get her. But that could just be me. I did like your 250 words though, a lot.

  3. Villainous Wizard: I'm intrigued by how you've set up a sympathetic anti-hero in your query. It's a hard thing to set up but I think you've done it well, and your first page is very good. For that alone I think you'll get requests if/when you hit the query trenches, because there aren't too many YA books out that make the antagonist the mc. Great job!

    Supergeeker: I love the voice of this one!

    Both entries have strong writing and unique premises. This will be a battle!

  4. I'm really glad I'm not one of the judges. These are both really great. The voice in supergeek is spectacular, and I love the twisting the MC into doing some not so nice things in Villainous. Wonderful!

    The only thing I'd warn Villainous about is that I've heard agents complain about the magic item of choice always being a necklace (I bet twenty years ago it was rings!). If it's an easy fix, you might want to think about it going into the query trenches.

    Great entries guys. I do not envy the judges in this!

  5. I thought these were both pretty solid entries and I'd be happy to read more of each.

    Geeker: I wasn't too taken in by the query, the premise seemed a little too typical for my tastes. Your voice, however, NAILED IT, and by strength of voice alone, I wanted to read more.

  6. Wizard: I like this premise a lot. (Probably not the first time you've heard this before, but yeah, what about all those Squibs!? What is their story!?). I also like the first 250. You set up the dynamic well and introduce a question for the reader to want an answer...why isn't he a wizard? What does that mean?

    My only concern with the query was that I was a little afraid I wouldn't like the MC :-/. Of course it could just be me, but I would like to see a little more motivation for his manipulating his friends other than just his greed.

    Still, sounds great and good luck!

    Supergeek: This is great. There are so many parts of the first 250 I adored, like her reading the safety guidelines (um, who hasn't done something like that while in an awkward moment). And the tiny man shorts. Awesome! I also love the Clark Kent/Lois/Superman love triangle you are setting up.

    My only concern with the query was this line: "Talis has seen enough movies to know she has to keep her powers a secret." My MC also has powers she wants to keep secret cause her mom is afraid she will be carted off for scientific testings if she is discovered, and I have routinely heard that that is not enough motivation for her to keep them secret (still trying to work on building that up). So if her only reason really is from watching superhero movies, I think you need to flesh that out more, perhaps even in the query.

    Also, for the sake of keeping things uber tight, not sure this line is needed: "Plus there’s that whole psychotic gang situation."

    Good luck!

  7. Villainous Wizard: I think your query did an excellent job of showing the MCs motivation and the 250 are very strong.

    Supergeeker: I enjoyed the voice in the query and the 250. The humor is well done and not over whiny.

    Good luck to you both!

  8. Wizard: I'm intrigued by your premise! I like that the relationship between Chris and his best friend turns sour over the means by which Chris got his magic. And the query promises some tension in between Chris and his dad as well. But the best part for me is how your MC seems to end up as an anti-hero! First 250 were snappy and left me wanting to read more.

    My one suggestion would be to explain a little more, if possible, why the amulet makes him 'the most powerful wizard to ever live.' That left me wondering and I would've liked to see it fleshed out just a bit more.

    Supergeek: Love the hook in your query. And absolutely adore the voice in your 250! 'Evil fiend in tiny man shorts' had me cracking up after a long day. Thanks for making me smile! If I saw this in a bookstore, I'd snatch it up. Great job!

  9. Victory to Supergeek - Ultraviolet
    Wizard - Though I liked certain elements of your concept, particularly the idea of friction between friends, I wasn't particularly engaged by the voice. That is such a subjective thing, so please don't conclude I thought your writing was weak, it's not. Also I wondered why the dad had only been hiding his son's lack of magical powers for a year? And what makes Jeremy, the supposed bf, demand that Chris relinquish the amulet? Is he super-moral? Jealous? It seems atypical for a teen bf not to keep secrets, so I want to know why he doesn't.
    Supergeek - You are FUNNY. And yet also able to convey teen mortification without resorting to tiresome snarkiness or annoying whininess. Great writing and voice in the 250. As for the query, great voice there as well. I had a hard time visualizing a brutal attack perpetrated by band geeks, but I found myself wanting to read how it happened. Your query seemed to spin out of control a little in terms of trying to tell us about all the conflicts and intrigue, it could probably be simplified a bit.

  10. Villainous Wizard:

    Great query. It's tight, it gives us some plot points, a hook, and leaves us hanging. I love the question at the end - questions don't always work in queries but this one does for me! I also would like to know why the amulet makes him more powerful than another "real" wizards.

    Your 250 words are great. The only thing I stumbled over was "magical, silver eyes." I'm not sure why because obviously his eyes *are* magical, but I wondered if there's a more lyrical way to say this as it seems to fall flat when it should be grabbing my attention. Otherwise, great job! I'd love to keep reading because you set up some wonderful tension in your query. And for some reason, it made me giggle that he plays the trumpet. I don't know why. ;)


    HA! I totally laughed out loud at this query. Putting "fight like a ninja" and that her butt fills out her jeans in the same sentence is awesome. My only question is, are the hooded gang and the psychotic gang the same thing? If so, I might suggest dropping the sentence about the "psychotic gang thing" because you've already mentioned them as a challenge she faces. Other than that, I think the query is perfect!

    The voice - oh my goodness. LOVE it. I love me some self-deprecation and I'd love to read more. "Evil fiend in tiny many shorts" wins for best phrase out of the lot for me so far! "Weird Cape Billy and the kid wearing a back brace" is brilliant. This is fabulous stuff. The judges have their work cut out for them!

    Good luck to both!!

  11. Geeker: "Evil fiend in tiny man shorts" made me laugh and fall in love with your MC. I feel like your 250 is perfectly voicey and genuine without being over the top. I agree that your query felt a little less than unique. It's not poorly written, but it lacks that spark that your 250 delivers.

    Wizard: I love the idea of the amulet and really feel for your MC from the opening of the query, because who doesn't want to make their parents proud? I thought the third paragraph of your query could use a little tightening. Your first page is solid.


    I think the concept of this is fantastic, and the query lays it out well. You really get at the ethical dilemma that Chris will be facing, which in my opinion is the most important part of a query. I also like the idea of there being a "Paranormal High School"--a nice twist on the inevitable Hogwarts comparisons that makes the "wizard school" seem more contemporary.

    The 250 are solid as well. At some points I wonder if the voice is too formal for a 17-year-old ("and yet my heart beats unevenly"), but I don't have a firm grasp on whether Chris is the type of character who would have that voice or not yet, so that may not be a concern. We get into his plight fairly quickly and already I am able to sympathize with him.


    The query is hilarious. I love the mathlete line. The one line that confused me was "she forms a secret identity to protect [her popular classmates]." Intellectually, I know what this means (that she forms a secret identity for herself which she uses AS she protects the popular kids), but the first time I read this I kind of wondered if she formed a collective secret identity for the popular kids, with the identity serving as protection. Maybe this could be clarified?

    The 250 is also hilarious. Weird Cape Billy made me laugh--every high school had one of those, didn't it? (although at my high school it was a girl) I would definitely keep reading.

    These both sound like great stories. Good luck to you both!

  13. Supergeeker - As a former Mathlete, I could totally identify with Talis. Thanks! And I think you have an original twist with the geek being forced to protect her natural enemies. I also really admired the way your narrative voice came through in the query. That said, there was a lot going on in the second paragraph of the query. You might either expand on why she needs to keep her powers secret, or leave that idea out of the query. The first 250 were solid. My only suggestion is to hyphenate "man-shorts." I initially read that phrase as tiny-man shorts, which didn't make a lot of sense.

    Villainous Wizard - Both the query and your excerpt were great. The only thing I'd change in the query is the last line. The mind control idea seems to come out of nowhere, and I understand that agents tend not to respond well to rhetorical questions. I couldn't find anything to criticize in the first 250. Kudos for ending on a great reveal!

  14. I'm glad I'm not a judge! I loved them both.
    Wizard: awesome concept and perfect query! Loved the last line! Great stakes. Very clear.
    Geek: the query and 250 were a little all over the place, but you've got great humor and loved the concept.

  15. This isn't much of a crit (or not one at all) but I LOVED both of these and want to read them both so bad!!! If I was a judge, I'd pronounce it a TIE and just be done because there is no way I could choose. Great job both of you!!!