Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Zone Tripper versus History Hound

Entry Nickname: Zone Tripper
Title: Zone Trippers
Word count: 90,000
Genre: Adult SciFi


Owen MacIntyre already lost his wife to cancer and now his daughter is missing. But he can’t just file a missing person’s report—Eve is infected with Zone Tripper’s disease, which causes people across the globe to involuntarily swap souls en masse. Eve’s body remains at home, serving as a revolving door for other zone trippers, while her soul leaps into other trippers all over the world.

In quick progression, Eve finds herself in a Chinese slave laborer, a blind French woman, then in a dying woman. Only a train stop away from home, Eve’s soul jumps once more and she hasn’t been heard from since.

Owen struggles with the strong personalities rotating through Eve’s body as he continues to search for Eve’s soul, using the website he co-creates with one of Eve’s visiting souls, Humberto.

Meanwhile, the world has segregated itself into two camps—the trippers and the statics. The survival odds for zone trippers are falling fast, with horrific conditions waiting on the other side of a bad trip.

And to further complicate their fates, a tasteless reality show, Identity Theft, debases victims on international television while zone-tripping serial murderer, called the Infinity Killer, has put other trippers in his cross hairs.

Owen must risk his own safety—and soul—before he loses his daughter for good. But how do you find a missing person when it's her soul that's left?

First 250 words:

Home is where the heart breaks, my wife had always said.

She wasn’t wrong.

The garage door opened its jaws and swallowed my car whole. Each time I pulled into the drive, it’s a fist to the gut. My daughter Eve’s Toyota sat in the third bay, seemingly miles away. A small ghost of an oil stain marks the center spot.

Walking out to the bricked mailbox in the frigid March air, I leafed through today’s bills, which included a tuition payment. I had agreed to pay for Eve’s frivolous photography degree, but only if she factored in a few business courses, achieved stellar grades, and lived at home.

Photography is a hobby. Taking pictures isn’t a career. How many times had I told Eve that?

A junk mail letter with Penelope’s name caught between the tuition statement and a flyer. I stopped rifling and swallowed hard. Shouldn’t this have stopped by now? It had been three years. Ironically, it was an ad for life insurance.

Viewing the house from the outside made it seem emptier. Penelope had stood here almost every day, gathering the mail—until she was too sick to walk outside. The house held 5,200 square feet of broken memories. Her fingerprints could still be seen on her vanity mirror but her absence echoed from every corner. Her love seat held air, her bedside table sat naked, and her painting studio was empty now except for dust. Every night I forced myself to enter this tomb for Eve’s sake.


Entry Nickname: History Hound
Word Count: 85,000
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction


Elizabeth Tudor is born into dark and dangerous times. She disappoints her parents by being a girl and when her mother is executed for treason she becomes aware that not only her sex but her status of bastard place her in a precarious position. Growing and witnessing her father’s relationships to four further wives, and affected differently by each unfortunate woman, she is thrown into adulthood abruptly by an attempted rape when she is just fourteen.

While growing she meets a boy who will become her lifelong friend, Robert Dudley. Robert is the one constant in Elizabeth’s life; her confidant and advisor. He watches her grow into a gloriously intelligent woman and helps her to make the decisions that shape the type of ruler she will eventually become.

Always potentially a figurehead for rebellion, Elizabeth witnesses her brother Edward’s feeble reign and then endures the constant threat of death at the hands of her sister, Mary Tudor. Mary, driven mad by a false pregnancy she so desperately wanted, tries to return the realm to the old faith, thrusting the protestant-raised Elizabeth into a light she despises and fears. With the help of her friends and supporters she survives intrigue, plots, months living under the threat of death in the Tower of London and years of house arrest to finally ascend the throne of England.

First 250 words:

The screams that had for hours echoed through the halls and corridors, forcing themselves into every corner of the palace, were now still. In the birthing chamber the smell of burning candle fat mixed with blood and sweat. Ladies-in-waiting hurried back and forth between the bed and the washbasin; stumbling occasionally, unable to see in the room darkened by the heavy tapestries covering the windows. After a day and a half of labour the queen had been growing weak but the midwife had refused to summon a surgeon to cut the child from its mother’s body. Just as the queen’s chief lady was about to overrule the midwife, the screams had abruptly stopped. The room held its breath as the midwife cleaned and swaddled the newborn. She now faced the queen, the silence in the room broken by a small wail coming from the bundle in the old woman’s arms.

“Tell me! Is it a boy or a girl?!” The nervous silence that followed her question elicited from the queen, worn from childbirth and delirious from exhaustion, a shriek at those present. “I demand that you tell me! NOW! Is the child a boy?!”

The queen looked expectantly at the woman’s face. The midwife stood still, her eyes cast down. Finally she shook her head, the fear sharp in her features. The queen’s agonising wail drowned out those of her child.


  1. This comment is reserved for the judges' votes

    1. I had to give both of these queries a good second read because there is a lot of information present. In premise, both stories sound great. A soul hopping sci-fi and a his-fi (I tried) about Queen Elizabeth. What's not to like?

      Both first pages set the tone of the scene very well. There are some extra 'hads' littered throughout each first page.

      Victory goes to Zone Tripper.

      You set up the father's angst very well in your first page. History Hound, you did a great job of this too. I didn't vote for your entry because the opening line of your first page is worded oddly IMO.

    2. Victory to Zone Tripper

      Both had excellent queries. I enjoyed Zone Tripper's first 250 more because of the originality of the premise. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t read History Hound’s story. I also enjoy historical fiction and I’m sure this would be a new take on the life of Elizabeth Tudor.

      Another tough choice.

    3. Victory to Zone Tripper - Ultraviolet
      This was definitely an apples to oranges matchup for me in more ways than one. Ultimately I felt that Zone Tripper was a more original premise and therefore more interesting. There have been numerous Elizabeth/Robert Dudley books written so I was looking to see what makes this one different. The query really didn't tell me that - only the Tudor history that many historical fiction buffs already know. I also felt as though starting off with a disappointing royal girl-child birth scene is something I've read before. In third person it really didn't draw me in the way such an agonizing scene should. I found Zone Tripper's first person descriptions of the ghostly oil stain and dusty art studio very touching and evocative. Zone Tripper I did get a bit lost in your query though, and would recommend some fine-tuning.

    4. Victory to Zone Tripper.

      This just happens to be a case of what premise was more intriguing to me. I loved both entries, but Holy Mac-N-Cheese, Zone Tripper sounds trippy and I want to read it NOW! But don't get me wrong, I was pulling my hair on this one cause History Hound sounds awesome too!

      And it's another "me too" moment...

    5. Victory to Zone Tripper.

      I loved the pages for both. In fact, the 250 for History Hound were MUCH more compelling to me than Zone Tripper. But the Query for Zone Tripper was far more intriguing. I felt like History Hound's query was all tell and no show. I was TOLD there was intrigues, plots, and threats, but got no sense of what they were. And since this is QUERY Kombat, I've ultimately gotta go with the query.

    6. Victory to Zone Tripper

      I think I like the premise that I made up in my head while reading the query for ZONE TRIPPERS perhaps more than what's actually the case. The query has some tense issues and I'm entirely unclear how Owen has "heard from" Eve when she's in the Chinese slave laborer, et al. Seems he would have lost contact with her on her first jump, not when she jumps from the dying woman. I can see her contacting her dad if she's in a middle-class Londoner's body, for instance, who has access to the web, phones, etc. But a slave laborer or someone on the verge of dying? The Infinity Killer sounds cool, though. Tense issues continue in the 250, but there are some quite nice moments in it, which help to salvage some of the lack of detail in the query. I'd read on, but with an eye toward whether the logic issues I fear manifest or not.

      From History Hound, I think I need something more than Elizabeth's life story. Why should YOUR book be the one I would read given the number of books about her out there now? And why would I read a fictionalized account when I could read an engaging biography instead? In the 250, some of the sentences are cumbersome and the punctuation off.

    7. Victory to History Hound.

      Zone Tripper—I loved your 250 a LOT, but the query fell just a little short of the awesome 250. The query was a source of a lot of confusion for me and I had to read some parts three times to understand it. What year is this? Maybe that would make it clearer—I thought it was modern times and was confused as to how the world suddenly ‘accepts’ soul-hopping. Some plot events aren’t relevant to the query and don’t need to be there, I think (like the reality show). I just felt the query was confusing (but the 250 IS AWESOME.)

      History Hound—maybe it’s just because I saw part of “Elizabeth” (the movie) yesterday but I really want to read this book. Not only that, the query was clear (although a bit dry, to be honest, and not evocative of the awesome 250). The 250 is what won me over in the end and but you in the top. I loved the drama of it (and I can TOTALLY understand how crazy and hard it’d be to not have a boy son, due to the next-in-line desire you showed in the query (Mary, right?).

      Great job, both of you. Honestly. Your 250’s shined.


    8. Zone Tripper- You have a lot of information in this query so I needed to read twice, but it is a really interesting concept and I liked that the book can explore so many scenarios and characters. Sort of reminds me of the tv series Quantum Leap. Nice language in the first 250- love the image of the garage door.

      History Hound- It's challenging to write queries for historical fiction because you can't exactly alter the facts of Elizabeth's life, so I was looking for what might this so different from other stories about her life that have been done by very established authors like Philippa Gregory. I wasn't sure that it came across in the voice or content presented, though both are very good. I just think you might have a hard time standing out in a crowded field where very established authors are publishing. In the query, I would be careful of word repeats (particularly grow/growing) and capitalize Protestant.

      Victory to ZoneTripper for a unique concept.

    9. Zone Tripper: What a unique concept! This one has so many elements to love. I do think you need the word ‘a’ before zone-tripping serial murderer. The first page threw me a little because there were so many subjects touched upon. You go over both the wife and daughter in only 250 words. It might do better if you focused on one of them, until the reader gets it straight. And I could be totally wrong about that.

      History Hound: This is a subject with so many possibilities. I think maybe you need to zero in more in your query. It might be taking too broad an approach to her life. Perhaps focus it more on the wit and intelligence she needed to escape so many times from a public execution. Make her feel alive in the query instead of a figure of the past. Your first page is stronger than the query. I could feel the emotion.

      It’s hard to choose between these simply because they are such different genres. While the subject of History Hounds calls to me, the query for Zone Tripper was stronger. Victory to Zone Tripper.

    10. Victory to Zone Tripper

      I had to read the pitch twice to really get the premise (I'm sci-fi stupid...) but the 250 was heartbreaking in the best way.

      History Hound was awesome. I loved a lot about this. There were a few flaws that had me wondering how the rest of the book would read though, mainly punctuation and that Protestant should be capped.

  2. Victory to Zone Tripper.
    Oh man, this one was incredibly difficult for me. Such a tough match up! Ultimately, I choose Zone Tripper. I thought that idea was very original and I haven't read about the father/daughter dynamic in a Sci Fi before. The soul swapping hooked me. I really loved the historic aspect of History Hound. Both queries read well and had great pros to follow. Again, super hard choice for me. Good luck to you all!

  3. Zone Tripper: Okay, I really like your hook. Zone Tripper’s disease sounds pretty dang cool (as far as diseases can be considered “cool” – right? lol) and I’m kind of a sucker for father-daughter tales. The switch between POV’s in the query threw me – is the story told from both Owen and Eve? There’s a lot at stake here, you have both internal and external conflicts (good!). But I’m not sure what / how Owen is going to get his daughter’s soul back, like at all. Could you hint at what he might do or where he might go? “The house held 5,200 square feet of broken memories” is a brilliant line, love it!

    History Hound: Love Elizabeth, love everything about the Tudors and that time period. You’ve obviously done a lot of research, everything sounds right – but I’m not sure what is unique about your story vs. the other existing historical fiction about Elizabeth. What is different? What new details do you go into? What aspect of Elizabeth are you going to explore that no one has before? Put these details into your query.

  4. Victory to Zone Tripper from Judge Interrobang

    Zone Tripper has a fantastic premise and a very strong opening query. History Hound's query opens without the BANG of a great hook, which Zone has. Also I felt like Zone had a very thoroughly planned and executed first 250.

  5. First off, kudos to you both for making the first round!

    Zone Tripper gets my vote because of the original, intriguing premise and terrifically crafted first 250.

    History Hound's query read more like a non-fiction query to me, however the 250 words were very atmospheric and read like fiction, which I enjoyed.

    It's tough with these match-ups of different genres.

    Hope you both find representation and publication!

  6. I actually prefer History Hounds. I haven't read many historicals and I'm not THAT familiar with Queen Elizabeth's story although I have seen a movies from this era that I really enjoyed. The query and the first 250 compliment each other--although I would agree with previous poster who said to make sure you illustrate what stands out and what's different about your story than others about Elizabeth.

    I will admit, I'm not really into Sci Fi--but a good premise and story could win me over. The premise does sound really cool, and my only complaint was that the whole vibe of the query felt so different than the first 250 that I actually scrolled up to make sure I was reading the same story. But, that's probably not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It sounds like it would make a good series on cable and I'm sure my husband will try to get me to watch it--and then I will--and then I would be hooked!

  7. Zone Tripper- this premise sounds extremely intriguing. In the query, I don't know if its necessary to mention that his wife died of cancer when she isn't mentioned in the rest of the query. Also, based on the query, I'm wondering if this is in dual POV? And the very last sentence doesn't make sense to me, because isn't he looking for her soul, NOT her body? But the way I read it sounds like he's trying to find her body. The sample is great but some of the hads were distracting to me. And I think you switched tenses a couple of times? (Each time I pulled... it's a fist- should be each time I pulled... was like a fist.)

    History Hound- 1st off, I love historical like crazy! I do wonder though if this might be a hard sell because it's been done before. I agree with whoever who said that the query sounds a bit non-fiction. It reads like this and this happened but gives no reason why we would want to read about it. Why should we care about Elizabeth? How are we going to connect with her? Also, a nitpick- "Always potentially" is super awkward. I love the imagery you present in your sample- I'm already right there in that room with the midwives. Most of your sentences are really long though- some could use commas, others could be broken up. This is also a nitpick and a personal preference so feel free to ignore!

  8. Zone Tripper -

    This sounds like an interesting premise. One thing tripped me up in the query: when you said that Eve's body remains at home, I pictured it lying in some kind of catatonic state, but that appears not to be the case. Perhaps you could give a clue as to what the other souls do when they inhabit her body. I'd also like to know more specifically what "horrific consequences" result from a bad trip.

    In the first 250, I appreciated the way you showed that Owen's wife was gone through the oil slick and unfortunate junk mail. The last paragraph became a bit maudlin, and I didn't feel I needed it to understand what was going on. There were a couple of technical errors as well: you have verb tense shifts in the third paragraph, and in the fourth paragraph, Owen is sorting his mail while he walks _to_ the mailbox. Clean those things up, and I'd probably read more.

    History Hounds -

    I know nothing about querying historical fiction, but when you're writing about someone as famous as Elizabeth I, I'm not sure that recapping the major events in her life is the way to do it. Not to jump on the bandwagon here, but what new spin does your book put on her story? If the book focuses on her ascent to the throne, then your query should do likewise, and leave out her childhood. I also wonder if the book is focused enough. 85,000 words seems a little short to cover everything you have in the query and do the kind of world-building that is expected in historical fiction.

    The first 250 conveyed a compelling scene, and you worked in just enough historical detail to put me there, but some of the sentences were a little too long and convoluted. For example, "The nervous silence that followed her question elicited from the queen, worn from childbirth and delirious from exhaustion, a shriek at those present," might be more clear as, "No one answered. The queen, worn from childbirth and delirious from exhaustion, shrieked, [dialogue]." It would be even better if, instead of telling us she was worn and delirious, you showed it through her ragged face and dripping hair (or something similar).

    Good luck to you both!

  9. Zone Tripper - really like your premise. I don't have much to say about the query because I'd definitely want to read on. As others have pointed out, you have a few tense changes and a bit of reworking to do (it reads as if he's sifting through the mail before he reaches the mailbox, for example). One thing stuck out at me, which was the size of the house - that's a huge house. The following bit about the tuition and her having to live at home seemed odd. I wasn't sure if there was a financial issue or he was hoping she'd change majors if she had to stay home. But it sounds like it would be a great read.

    History Hounds - I love historical fiction. And I love that specific era of history. What I think your query lacks is telling the reader what sets your Elizabeth I story apart from the others. I really loved your first 250. Lots of nice detail and you set the scene well. But I think you need to clear that first hurdle of how this is different from the other novels that have covered this story.

  10. Zone Tripper-What a great concept. The conflict is so clear because, hello? How do you find someone just by searching for their soul? Crazy intriguing idea! The English teacher in me does want to clean up some comma and tense issues, but the story is there.

    History Hounds--Strong writing. I just want to see more conflict in those first 250. We know of the issue of Elizabeth being born a girl in your query, so the first 250 is exposition that we might not need right off the bat. I'd love to see it start with the MC and some of her conflict. But like I said, strong writing and well researched material, I'm sure.

    Hard to choose between these two because they are SO different. The only reason I'd pick Zone Tripper is because scifi is more my thing than HF. Best of luck to both of you!

  11. Zone Tripper - your query is very succinct and easy to understand considering your quite complicated premise. Well done. One small thing - and it might just me -but reading through I presumed Owen was seraching for his wife, then at the end you mention the daughter, so I go back up and check and sure enough the daughter was there. I hope there isn't any indecision about whose story it is. If it's about losing Eve, don't make it about losing Owen's wife as well but it looks from your 250 that you will be skilled enough to get away with whatever you have in mind. Like the description of the garage.

    History - I love this era in history and could not put Phillipa Gregory's novel down. I feel like your query is too much a rundown of the history without actually giving it an angle that makes your story different and original. Nice writing in the 250.

  12. Thank you all, Kombatants and judges, for your wonderful feedback and votes. The second you hit send, you start seeing error after error, and you want to make just a few more tweaks. And with any workshop or critique session, you learn the most by shutting up and sitting there while everyone else talks.

    So I have a better insight into what works and what doesn't, thanks to each of you. I look forward to moving on to the next round but this round more than earned itself a place of gratitude. I appreciate the opportunity to play.

    Thank you again. And good luck to you, History Hound. You were a worthy opponent, and I hope you got the same encouragement I received and you continue to keep writing!

    Zone Tripper

  13. Thank you to all the judges, the feedback was fun and very useful! And congrats to Zone Tripper!

    History Hound