Sunday, June 30, 2013

Query Kombat Picks

I had a request to spill the beans on all my picks for Query Kombat. Writers have that 'need to know' syndrome. Closure and all that. I've certainly been there myself so I can sympathise. Plus, I'm sure there have been guesses and you'd like to establish whether those guesses are correct so you can feel smug.  (I also like to feel smug.)

I just want to say that I loved all of the entries in Query Kombat. It was a very tough competition, hard to choose between them. Every week I had to vote against entries I really loved, both my picks and the picks of Mike and SC. 

So to the best of my memory (because I lost my list), here are my picks in no particular order:

Burrito Thief

Avenging Angels
Whispering Willows
Too Many Legs
Jungle Vendetta
Interstellar Pez
Zombie Barber
One-Eyed Cat
Space Mafia
Minna Gray
Not Odette
To Die For
Dream Pirates
Spirit Slayer
Repo Girl
Mississippi Crazypants
Knight in Shining Armani
History Hound

Sway Me Buble was my best nickname pick.

Please, please let me know on twitter or by email if you have any luck on your query journey. This goes for all the Kombatants. If you get a full request, an offer, or have any other success with your revised query let us know. We'd like to brag about your success and all the hosts would really like to cheer for you. Best of luck, and I believe Mike has plans to repeat this contest in the future.

And speaking of bragging: Mike, SC who pick three of the top four Kombatants?  Who's the queen of contest picks? What's that I can't hear you bowing down to me! Sorry, I just had to get that out there again. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Crutch or Clutch Words--Put Them in the Trash

There are words out there I call crutch words because they pop up repeatedly in stories, as if the writer is leaning on them. I also call them clutch words because they are words a writer clings to, even when keeping them makes no sense.

Crutch words are filler. They float along in the sentence, but they add nothing to its meaning. Nothing except a ratcheted word count. They cause wordy sentences. Bet your bottom dollar that an agent will recognize them for what they are--a waste of space. And we are all guilty of them. Many times, they creep in without the writer being aware. 

So what are these crutch words and how can a person recognize them. Some of the biggest abusers are: just, very, only, even, that. And they also include a whole host of directional words such as up, down, back. (Back being my own personal kryptonite. It's embarrassing but my first manuscript's word cloud had "back" in huge letters.) 

While it's not possible to keep them from a first draft, an editing run through is the perfect place to track and eliminate these crutch words. For some reason these words have a deep place in writer's hearts (especially just), but you have to be ruthless.

What's that? You don't even think it is fair to cut out all your very favorite words. It's not like they add up to so much more word count. It's just the way you write. Editing is only for losers and people that don't have a life.

So my example is extreme but you get the idea. How does that look without the crutch words?

What? You don't think it is fair to cut your favorite words. It's not like they add much word count. It's the way you write. Editing is for losers and people without a life.      

People sometimes add crutch words to dialogue to achieve a particular voice, usually a younger voice or an uneducated one. Remember, too much of it and you are going to drive your readers crazy. 

Be aware and don't let the crutch words have control. 

Confess. What is your crutch word kryptonite? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cover Reveal for Query Kombat Judge Lizzy Charles

I'm thrilled to reveal the cover for EFFORTLESS WITH YOU of our dedicated Query Kombat judge, Lizzy Charles. This lady has gone out of her way to ensure Query Kombat is a success, including encouraging her agent to take part. She is one of those writers that loves to give back and help her fellow writers. I'm so glad to be able to do something for her in return. And her cover is simply beautiful.

Effortless With You:
School is out and Lucy is ready for the perfect summer: lazy days at the pool, invitations to the most exclusive parties, and romantic dates with her hot new boyfriend. That is, until she lands in trouble one too many times and her parents issue the ultimate punishment: a summer job. Suddenly, the summer can't end fast enough.
To make matters worse, the job is painting houses with Justin, the most popular, egotistical guy in school. Spending all summer with Justin might be other girls' dreams, but definitely not Lucy's. After all, Justin is cocky, annoying, and a jerk. So what if he's the most beautiful jerk Lucy's ever seen? Or that his grin makes her forget she’s mad at the world? Or that maybe, just maybe, there's more to Justin than Lucy realizes. Only one thing is certain: it won’t be the summer she wanted, but it might be exactly the one she needs.

About Lizzy Charles:
When Lizzy Charles isn’t scrambling to raise her two spunky toddlers or caring for premature and sick babies as a neonatal intensive care nurse, she’s in a quiet corner writing or snuggled up with a novel and a few squares of dark chocolate. Black tea keeps her constant and she loves guacamole. She married her high school sweet heart, a heart-melting musician, so it’s no surprise she’s fallen in love with writing contemporary YA romance novels. 

Social Media:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

QK Round 4: The Decapitator versus Minna Gray

Entry Nickname: The Decapitator
Title: The Art of Severance
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


ATF Special Agent Alexandra MacPherson can’t decide which is worse -- a witness who dies or a suspect who won’t stay dead.

A routine investigation escalates to FUBAR when one of the accused turns up dead, his body untouched, but drained of blood. Within a month, three more have died. The only link among the victims? Wounds mirroring the attacks of creatures that Alex can't believe exist: a vampiric witch, a revenant, and a bogeyman.

It’s the ugliest, messiest case of Alex’s career, but she can more than handle that. Maybe it will keep her from jogging the streets of Philadelphia at two in the morning or drunk-dialing her dead husband’s cell phone number. When her only viable lead is killed, Alex is forced to accept that some myths... aren’t.

Finding the man responsible is easy. Killing him and his spawn won’t be. Alex is fighting time and an enemy that no human can match. If she’s not up to the task, she won’t stay human for long. 

First 250:

Sometimes it all came down to the gun. SIG Sauer P226 .40 S&W or Rossi .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel. I’d picked the SIG. I should have gone with the Rossi.   

I stole a look at the battered clock on the wall of the loading dock. My dealer was only five minutes late. Not so long I worried he’d had second thoughts, but he needed to show soon. Before my unease fermented into something harder to conceal.

“He’s late,” Mike said.

I shrugged, and played like I hadn’t noticed and didn’t want to hiss at Mike for his observational skills.

“You watch the game last night?” Mike asked.

“What game?” 

“The Sox.”

A Sox fan. God help me. I’d kept hundreds of mindless details straight for six months but couldn’t for the life of me remember whether Kate Campbell gave a crap about the national pastime. “I don’t follow baseball.”

“They play the Yankees tomorrow.”

“Well, I do hate the Yankees.”

“Who doesn’t?” Mike dropped the remnant of his cigarette to the floor of the dock and crushed it under his shoe.

Kate Campbell was a vegetarian who sold lattes at an internet cafe and lived in a dump near Temple University. A fugitive from the United Kingdom for alleged involvement in a train derailment in North West England, she fancied herself a modern day Guy Fawkes.

I was done being Kate Campbell, the annoying twit.


Entry Nickname: Minna Gray
Title: The Awakening of Minna Gray
Word count: 89,000
Genre: YA Futuristic Fantasy


Sixteen-year-old Minna Gray’s life in SilCorp’s Emerald District is shattered when the two boys she’s babysitting are kidnapped. But guilt turns to panic when she discovers no one is looking for the boys. No one even remembers them.

It’s as if they’ve been erased.

Fortunately, Minna’s not the only one who remembers. Corrin, a boy whose path always seems to cross hers, knows about the disappearances. He tells her they aren’t isolated events: every day more people are erased.

Corrin says Minna has a magical ancestry and that her inherited power over the elements could put an end to the ghants – the gray men who perform the kidnappings. To harness these powers, she must travel to the Outlands – the pest-infected waste beyond the city walls. But no one survives the Outlands, and Minna’s not sure she’s ready to trade life in Emerald for a slow suicide. She’s not even sure she can trust Corrin.

But soon she’ll have to decide. She must race to stop the ghants before all hope for the missing boys is lost, and before anyone else she loves is erased.

First 250 words:

She’d seen one once before - years ago, with Cameron, by the seaside. Its little round body flitted between palm fronds like a tiny jeweled fairy. They were supposed to turn it in. But they hadn’t. They’d watched it all afternoon, until finally it leapt into the sky and flew away, back over the Outer Wall. Their secret.

This one seemed even more out of place, amidst the asphalt and the early evening glow of the podcar lines. For a second, she thought she was imagining it. But then Ethan saw it too.

“What is it?” he asked, gaze transfixed on the emerald blot making its way across the dull bronze shine of the hood.

“A beetle.”

His brown eyes widened. “A real one?”

Minna nodded. “Don’t touch it.” But she was mesmerized too.

He frowned, waving his PestDetector wand over it. “It doesn’t beep.”

“Maybe it’s not infected.” Yet.

They watched its twiggy, spindle-legged progression from latch to windshield. “I don’t want anyone to kill it,” Ethan whispered as he backed away.

Technically it was a vector. Technically they were supposed to destroy it. But it was so small and round and innocent. Suddenly, it lifted off. Humming, it vanished into the protective green and white flurry of the nearby jasmine. Minna exhaled.

“Probably escaped from a DomeZoo.” Ethan said, glancing at her with a shaky laugh.

“Probably, but you still need to disinfect.” Minna puffed her emergency spray into the air, enveloping them in shivering white mist. Silently they counted out the seconds ... eight, nine, ten. Safe.

QK Round 4: Mississippi Crazypants versus Lies and Lovers

Entry Nickname: Mississippi Crazypants
Title: This Side of Crazy
Word Count: 86,000
Genre: Women's Fiction


Cissy Pickering swears that shooting her daddy in the back was the smartest thing she’s ever done. After surviving more than eight years of his abuse, she had to prevent him from having the same secret with her two baby sisters. What she didn’t count on was being sent to the Greater Mississippi State Hospital instead of prison.

When a caring, yet unorthodox, hospital psychiatrist tries to unlock the family secrets that led to Cissy’s crime, the 16-year-old retreats to a world of make-believe and compulsive counting. Meanwhile, three generations of women struggle to understand and forgive Cissy while coming to terms with the loss of their son, husband and father.

But when the psychiatrist digs too deep and Cissy retreats even further from reality, her maternal grandmother uses her wealth and connections to help Cissy escape the hospital. On the road, and with no plan, Grandmother doubts her ability to ensure Cissy’s emotional survival. Their tender relationship and an unearthed secret from Grandmother’s past force Cissy to decide what’s best for her own future — and whether she wants to keep running.

THIS SIDE OF CRAZY is told from two viewpoints: Cissy’s and Grandmother’s. This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed the strong female Southern voices in Secret Life of Bees.

First 250 words:

My sisters and I had already consumed an impressive stack of books since school let out, reading long into the sticky June nights, even under threat of punishment. We’d needled Mama until she finally agreed to take the three of us to the Biloxi library this morning. Her chief argument against getting more books — and a flimsy one at that — was that we read too fast and the books we had should have lasted all summer. I ignored her complaining. It's one of my special talents.

“Cissy! Get your butt down here right this minute! Your Corn Flakes are getting soggy!” Mama’s voice carried easily from the kitchen, down a long hallway and up a flight of stairs. That was her special talent. As was prematurely pouring milk into cereal to punish her daughters’ lollygagging.

I slipped into a plaid cotton sundress and my pink plastic sandals that squeaked when I walked and rubbed blisters on my little toes. The sound irritated Mama just enough to make those blisters worthwhile. Some might call this childish behavior for a 16-year-old but I took fun wherever I could find it.

Mama and our housekeeper, Bess, were locked in a battle of wills over one thing or another. I tuned them out, rushing out of my room and down the hall toward the bathroom to brush my teeth. What I saw stopped me short, the plastic of my shoes sticking fast to the wood floor.


Entry Nickname: Lies and Lovers
Title: Lies My Father Told Me
Word Count: 34,000
Genre: Contemporary YA (in verse)


When fifteen-year-old Eden Thompson’s dad dies, poetry is her only escape. Her friends are distant and her mother spends most of her time shut away with a bottle of wine. Desperate for a connection with other people, Eden shares her words online. Just beyond the screen she finds Mason, a university student who leaves her long poetic messages that fill the empty space in her life. Having also lost a parent, he understands her pain and quickly becomes her one constant.

When they finally meet in person, Mason’s passionate words and the heat of his fingertips against her skin awaken a part of Eden she didn'tknow existed. But she swore to her dad that she would wait until marriage to have sex, and she doesn’t want the last promise she made to die with him. Uneasy with Mason’s desire for more, Eden struggles to untangle her own conflicting desires from her fear of losing him if she says no.

On the anniversary of her dad's death, Eden's mom drunkenly slurs a secret that changes everything: her dad wasn’t the person she thought he was. Her family, her life, her promise to him––all of it was based on a lie. Now that everything she knew is broken and betrayed, she turns to Mason, hoping for an escape from her pain. Torn between what her father wanted for her and what Mason wants from her, Eden must finally decide what it is she wants for herself.

First 250 words:
This Is The Part Where My Father Dies


At the funeral, 

everyone laughed,
but my mom’s voice—
it sounded more like a cry. 

She drank too much wine
and laughed too loud at the stories 
my dad’s
family and colleagues and friends and students told, 
their voices rushing 
to fill the emptiness 
with anecdotes. 

They were all 

Her lips and teeth were stained 
with red, 
and when I looked at her, 
all I saw was 
an empty shell,
a book
without any pages. 
Dead but not dead.  

She was a stranger,

Sometimes there was a glance
in my direction
for a few moments
too long.

Like sweat,
I could feel it on me.

Nobody said anything. 

I had lost
my words.  


I couldn’t understand how 
there could be 
an afterwards
now that 
he was gone.

The car swerved
to avoid

a deer

my dad

it was ten months later.
I was fifteen 

and ready for high school:
with my knee socks and their elastic bands
slipping down my legs, 
with my tartan kilt in green and blue, 
with my ring and 
my promise 
I made him 
only weeks before
            he died.

I want you 
to keep this
until you get

The ring slid on 
so easily.
It fit 
so perfectly. 

But it was so much heavier
than the metal it was made of, 
and the way it wrapped itself
around me, 
like it could never leave.

Like it would be there

QK Round 4: Jungle Vendetta versus Colorblind

Entry Nickname: Jungle Vendetta
Title: Savage Jungle
Word Count: 60,000
Genre: MG Science Fiction


Twelve-year-old wimp and self-designated videogame pro Kreith Briggs’s birthday is off to a great, but scary start: a wild safari with his Uncle Tonas through the most treacherous jungle in the whole universe. The tour’s real fun, if not a bit creepy, until Kreith discovers he and his uncle have been set up.

The jungle’s got seven of the ten most exotic—and most lethal—animal species in the universe, including the super-sneaky electrocat and the giant land squid. But Wilmur Banx, the host of the tour, holds an old, even more lethal grudge against Uncle Tonas and the other twenty-four safari guests. That’s why he strands each pair of victims in separate places in the jungle with zero protection from the universe's fiercest beasts.

Kreith and Uncle Tonas head toward an old research facility where they can call for help and get off the planet alive. Only Kreith gets separated from his uncle and now he’s got no plan at all. Armed with a trusty new guidebook and his knack for all things techno-nerdy, his and his uncle’s survival—not to mention the lives of any remaining safari guests—rests squarely on his puny shoulders.

First 250 Words:

My heart rate doubles as Uncle Tonas hands me what I’ve been waiting for all day. Heck, all year—a present about the size of my fist. He always gets me the coolest gifts, like that fluorescent slug from planet Zambor last year for my eleventh birthday.

I rip the wrapping paper off the present without removing the bow, lift the lid off the cardboard box, and peer inside. A small electronic chip rests on the bottom.

“What’s—?” I ask.

“It’s a book,” Uncle Tonas says, eyes wide in his huge, muscular face. “Go on, download it.” He leans forward with those monstrous shoulders of his, a cigar between his pointer and middle finger. The total opposite of me. Sure, I’m only twelve years old, but my overly large black sweatshirt and baggy jeans hide the fact I’m as skinny as Uncle Tonas’s pinky finger.

“Uh…okay.” A book? That’s what he got me—a book? I try not to show my disappointment as I pick up the tiny chip and insert it into my Multipurpose Bracelet, my parents and Uncle Tonas looking on from the couch. I should really try to be grateful. It’s the thought that counts, after all.

“Would you like to download the book The Top 200 Most Treacherous Creatures in the Universe?” the MB asks in a voice as gruff as Uncle Tonas’s. I set the MB’s voice to that because it sounds like his and he’s the man, though I’m starting to doubt that after this sorry present…


Entry Nickname: Colorblind 
Title: An Uncommon Blue 
Word Count: 65K 
Genre: YA Sci Fi 


In Télesphore, the glowing color of a person’s palm determines their place in society, and touching hands with another mixes the colors permanently. For the first sixteen years of his life, rugby star Bruno Nazaire hasn't had any trouble keeping his hands to himself. But when a Green boy sneaks into Blue Campus to get Bruno's autograph and is attacked by a guard, Bruno falls into defense mode.

And kills the guard.

Whether or not the slaying was accidental, the rule of law has not been challenged in fifty years and the Steward is determined to make an example of Bruno. That is, if he can catch him.

Bruno's only chance at survival is to become someone else. That means a haircut, a change of wardrobe, and most important, getting rid of his once cherished Blue. Now he’s visiting parts of town he never knew existed, and making friends with people he would've crossed the street to avoid only weeks ago. But the officials hunting him are getting smarter, and in a city enclosed by jagged iron fences, there are only so many places to hide.At the last minute, Bruno’s parents arrange a deal to clear his name and get some semblance of his life back. All Bruno has to do is abandon those in the Red slums that look to him as a leader and let a familiar Green boy die in his place.

Or there's always offense.

First 250 words: 

There are three unspoken rules in high school rugby. 

1. Your team members are family. 

2. You support your family. 

3. This support must be shown periodically with an affectionate slap on the butt. 

After four years as the starting right winger, I had almost gotten used to this. 

Almost. At least I no longer felt the urge to bloody my teammates' noses when they tried it. But in the middle of the hall? No way. During school hours my glutes were off limits. 

I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me. 

Instead, I found myself face to face with an attractive redhead. 

“Hey, Bruno,” Drea said with a smirk. “Ready for the test?” 

I opened my mouth but no sound came out. 

Even with her super-short hair, Drea was stunning. Before last summer she’d often been mistaken for a boy. But that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists.

I recovered from my embarrassment enough to nod. 

She leaned against the lockers. Her face reflected the light from her blue palm as she twisted an earring. “History should be a breeze compared to pre-calc. I wanted to stab myself in the eye when I got to that section on antiderivatives.” 

I grunted and fumbled with my combination. 

Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut. “I know someone that likes you. If you hurry up with that lock, we might have time to talk before the final.”

QK Round 4: Elementary Girl versus Supergeeker

Entry Nickname: Elementary Girl
Title: However Improbable
Word count: 72,000
Genre: YA Alt History Mystery


“People see, but they do not observe.” And to Marigny Sheridan, that is elementary. The Saturday night Sherlock Holmes radio broadcast is a staple in the Sheridan household for one simple reason: deciphering people provides all the entertainment she’ll ever need. That is until the Queen’s 50th Jubilee Contest twists the knickers of every eligible teenager in the Empire, and Marigny is unexpectedly selected to become the Colonies' new Saturday night entertainment.

Marigny has no interest in some cockamamie contest. After all, there’s no need for celebration when the British Empire is still going strong well into the 21st century. All she cares about is that her fellow contestants are easy to read. Especially the bitchtastically annoying girl from Australia and the street-smart player from Hong Kong. But as soon as she settles in, her Sherlock senses start to tingle. Something doesn’t smell right. And it’s not the smog over London.

The contest wouldn’t be so ridiculous if she could win riches to support her family. But no, the prize is marriage and Marigny isn’t quite ready for that yet. Even if it is to an heir to the throne.

The only boy she bothers to trifle with is Simon Whitaker, a cocky Islander with a dashing smile and slick charm. In the midst of lock picking the contest host's hotel room and butting heads with constables, they discover someone is pulling the contest strings. But when Marigny unearths an Empire secret, she must either bury her inner Sherlock to avoid exile or follow her hunch and lose Simon forever. As far as Marigny's concerned, winning is just as bad as losing.

First 250 words:

Given the time I’d had to consider it, I would much rather be sentenced to death. Poison or hanging, I had no preference. Yes, it’d be slow and agonizing, but really, that would be merciful compared to what they had in store for me. I wish I hadn’t ever won the damn Sweepstakes for the Colonies. Really, I wish I had listened to my gut and stayed in Maryland.

"Marigny Sheridan,” the brown haired man said, catching my attention. Mostly because he butchered my name. Mare-ig-nee? He said it like I was some horse and iguana hybrid. I wanted to say, “The ‘g’ is silent, idiot,” but I doubted that would have helped my case. I swear he even smelled holier-than-thou, like some volatile mix of expensive perfumes and the dirty stench money leaves on your hand. 

With a sharp breath, the man said, “Before we proceed, do you have anything to say for yourself?” If I spoke, it would undoubtedly seal the likelihood of my exile.

Gazing down at the sloppy clothes I’d thrown on that morning, only one thought came to mind: “I wish I could go out in something a bit more flattering.” But then again, I was all out of wishes at that point.


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


Fifteen-year-old Talis Brooks has been called a lot of things. Geek. Sad Virgin. Chesty McNoBoobs. 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 knows what could happen if she doesn’t keep her new powers a secret (government conspiracies! Lab experiments on her brain! Uncomfortable probing!) But when pretty boy Cole is almost stabbed by rogue band geeks, a masked Talis can’t help but save him. Cole and his friends have become targets of a mysterious gang of social misfits, out to take down the popular elite. With her classmates in danger, Talis creates a secret identity to protect them-- even the mean evil bitches out to socially destroy her.

Now Talis is stuck in a love triangle between her, Cole, and her superhero alter ego, her every super move is being tracked and tweeted, and, oh yeah, there’s that psychotic gang situation.

As the gang’s attacks spiral out of control, Talis must figure out a way to stop them before someone, you know. . . dies.

First 250 words:

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 in with the Beautiful People. 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 helmet. 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. I pull up my gym shorts, which are always sliding down, even with the top rolled. I try to look busy, pretending to read the safety guidelines listed on the wall. While I’m admiring the rules and regulations, I get a weird tingly feeling on the back of my neck, like someone’s staring at me. When I look, I lock eyes with just about the worst person possible.

“Are you lost little girl?” Shawna Soto, tyrant of the sophomore class, master of the well-timed slut bomb, purveyor of eating disorders, is talking to me.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Query Extravaganza #6 & Query Kombat Matchups

I'm super excited to host the Fourth Round of Query Kombat featuring the Elite 8! The voting will start tomorrow so that means this is the last Query Extravaganza for awhile. I'll try to start them up again in July but no promises.

Tomorrow's matchups will be:

The Decapitator versus Minna Gray

Mississippi Crazypants versus Lies and Lovers

Jungle Vendetta versus Colorblind

Elementary Girl versus SuperGeeker

Cheer for your favorites, and see if you can pick who will be the last Kombatant standing. Voting for the Elite 8 runs from June 20 - 23. The judges are going to agonize over this one.

Query Kombatants, please stick around and leave a comment on query #6!

Dear Ms/Mr. [Agent Name here]

Charlotte Grimly does a decent job pretending she isn’t schizophrenic.(What if you changed 'pretending she isn't' to hiding her? That would cut out the negative and a word.) Except when she’s trying to ignore the white noise buzzing in her ears and make coffee at the same time.(The first two should be one sentence.) All she wants is to be normal, but when a series of murders staged as suicides shakes her small town of Bellingham, the police place the blame at the resident loon’s feet. (Could cut the name of the town. It just adds words and is a less important sort of detail.) I think you might need to include a stronger link here. Why do they put the blame on her? There has to be a stronger reason, especially if she is doing such a good job of covering herself.

Things don’t look any better when her childhood friend Elizabeth shows up and drops another bomb in Charlotte’s lap: Lizzie’s finally losing her sight. I'm debating whether the 'finally' hurts you or is needed. The sentence would be stronger without it. You don't have to be 100% true to the story in a query. Lights out. Charlotte’s heartache over her friend and the looming threat of a killer at large trigger the onset of a series of hallucinations. (The s on hallucinations implies a series. You could save yourself from extra words.) Waking up in odd places and discovering mysterious bruises and broken fingernails becomes the least of her worries when her hallucinations turn from menacing shadows and harsh voices in her sleep to grotesque waking visions of mutilated friends. Even Charlotte begins to doubt her innocence, wondering if her mind is playing a deadlier trick on her. (Try cutting the last part of this sentence as it's understood. The first part is a stronger place to end.)

Something lost in Charlotte’s past seems to be clicking into place and aligning with the suicides. ('Seems' is a word that weakens. I'd avoid it for a stronger verb. Maybe starts or begins.) Flashes of buried memories hold the key to solving the series of crimes (Cut 'series of ' to tighten. You already used it above), but Charlotte has to hold herself together long enough to figure out the answer, especially with her life disintegrating around her.(Again tighten. but Charlotte has to hold her disintegrating life together long enough to figure out the answers.) If she can’t decipher the events of her past, real and imagined, she’ll be convicted, or worse, committed. Great stakes!

THE KILLING TYPE is a 71,000 word stand-alone Adult Thriller. I'm not sure, but the word count seems a little low. Adult thriller is not my strong point.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I'm sensing a trend here on closings.

To me this is a strong query that should get you some requests. Tighten it and it'll be even better.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Query Extravaganza #5

To become my next participant you need only comment on the queries that come before you and contact me on twitter to volunteer for this valuable opportunity. There are no spots left, but I may do this again next month so keep commenting and ask me nicely on twitter! Chocolate bribes wouldn't hurt either.

Please keep in mind that I'm no query guru, but I have read a considerable amount of query slush thanks to Query Kombat. (And that is a lot of repeating of the word query.) I might have an edge on what works and what doesn't.  But as in all such critiquing, the suggestions are mainly subjective. Or in other words, take it with a grain of salt and see if others agree with me.

Here we go with Mambo #5:

Mr./Ms. Dream Agent: I use 'my future agent' myself.

I would like to offer for consideration, my YA fantasy novel, complete at 63,000 words. WHEN A ME-OK SINGS was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2010, and a finalist in the National Association of Elementary School Principals’, Children’s Book of the Year Award in 2011. I hope you enjoy the magical world of Me-oks as much as I enjoyed creating it. A little too much beat but nice credentials. I would probably go straight for: WHEN A ME-OK SINGS is a YA fantasy novel, complete at 63,000 words... Also maybe leave out mentioning enjoyment until they issue a request.

Fifteen-year-old Rayanna’s mother and teachers think she’s too old to be living in a fantasy world. But not all troubled teens act out. Her reality sucks, mostly because of a group of girls who have been bullying her for years. Rayanna’s not sure if her two new companions are real, but only she can see them and they have tails! Hmm. A 'woe-is-me' character opening. I've been there and done that. This means your character seems to be focusing on the bad side of things. An Eeyore. Nobody wants to spend time with an Eeyore. Consider trying to keep things positive. Don't change the situation, just change the way you present it. Positive but with conflict, if you know what I mean. Also the last sentence is abrupt. 'New companions' are throw at us without any setup. To me, they are still associated with the bullies of the preceding sentence.

Coming-of-age Me-oks Chet-ok and Stew-ok are as surprised as Rayanna about the awakening (when a human can see Me-oks). Centuries before, a teenage boy named Byron enslaved Me-oks and forced them to do his bidding using their magic—which ages Me-oks faster. After Byron was overthrown and imprisoned, the old Me-ok purpose of helping young people was abandoned and their magical abilities hidden. … until now. A little bit of Me-oks in my life. I like this except for the 'coming of age' part, which makes that sentence loaded down. Try something like 'young.' I'd suggest you lead with this, except agents appear to want a human main character so you better start with Rayanna.

After a tense meeting with the Me-ok elders, it is decided that the young Me-oks will become the first of the next generation of awakeners. Many do not support the decision, and an adventure involving kidnappings and the escape and recapture of Byron follow. During Byron’s escape, a serendipitous meeting with Rayanna results in Chet-ok and Stew-ok having to convince the Me-ok elders that Byron is their best bet for helping Rayanna. It could also lead to redemption for Byron. This spins off the dance floor for me. It is more like a synopsis and doesn't focus on Rayanna. WHAT DOES RAYANNA WANT? Keep this paragraph about her and make it specific.  

WHEN A ME-OK SINGS was highly influenced by some of my favorite characters from my childhood—The Littles and Pippi Longstockings; my own childhood; and my belief that we too often leave young people to deal with bullying and need to support them more. I also believe in redemption. It is a gentle, humorous, and playful telling of a story about a girl having to cope with severe bullying at her school. It is up to the new apprentice awakeners to help Rayanna to reach the adults in her life. I'm no expert, but spelling out your agenda might make agents fear this is a preachy story. Entertainment first, preachy undercover. Feel free to disagree. Also you've overcharged your limits. One bio/genre/word count/comparables paragraph.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Same to you!

Specifics! Specifics! Specifics! That's your chorus! Make Rayanna positive and be specific in the first paragraph. Just saying bullies is boring. It might look something like this: 

Fifteen-year-old Rayanna prefers her daydreams of talking trees to the reality of her head in the school toilet bowl. When the girls throw mashed potatoes down her dress at lunch, she focuses on visiting her version of a fairy woods. She agrees with her mother and teachers that it's all a fantasy, until two new companions appear and these have tails and like to steal her pudding.

Give the fourth paragraph a make-over so that it focus on Rayanna and her stakes. It's okay to include Byron, but make him fit into what Rayanna wants and what she has to do to get it. Good luck and dance on!