Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Mechano Cat versus Making Boys Cry

Entry Nickname: Mechano Cat
Title: Down Track
Word Count: 83,000
Genre: NA Sci-fi
Life should be lemonade and caviar for twenty-year-old Tori Montgomery, since she’s a member of the nobility of Texas. Then her daddy goes bullbat crazy, murdering her mother and little brothers before committing suicide. Left penniless, and deemed a social pariah by the rest of the upper crust snobs in her psychic world, Tori tosses away her morals. Thieving’s profitable enough for a desperate young lady, especially with her telekinetic abilities.
Kaiden Hale is a gun-slinging Texas Ranger. His psychic ability turns him into a human lie detector. Good for him, bad for Tori. But Kaiden has secrets of his own. When his brother goes missing, Kaiden decides to dirty his boots and ask his ex-neighbor, Tori, to help track him down.  
Tori thinks helping the lawman will be a quick paycheck—until they stumble over a murdered body. While investigating, Kaiden and Tori discover a pattern of kidnappings linked to a doomsday cult. Talented psychics are what the cult is after, and Tori’s name is next on their list. Kaiden is drawn to the recalcitrant Tori and determined to protect her at all cost—whether she agrees or not.
When the cult’s true intentions of releasing a deadly virus is revealed, Tori realizes it will take more than her telekinesis to save them. Trusting a person is dumber than floating in an airship leaking helium. But if she and Kaiden are going to rescue his brother and survive with all body parts intact, Tori must accept Kaiden’s help.
First 250 words:
I might be a thief from a disgraced family, but I still have my pride. Mama always told me that posture and attitude mark a lady, so I straighten my back and plaster a polite smile on my face. In thirty minutes, the National Nighttime Airship Race commences. This is the first time the city has hosted the event, and the population seems to have doubled in the last couple of days. The setting sun gleams in a pinkish-orange smear across the sky. The metal, cigar-shaped ships are anchored on the landing green, waiting for dusk to fade to dark. Fans, wearing their team colors on sashes, mill around the area like worker ants. And since it’s Texas, any crowd this size requires a Cook-off, ‘cause nothing completes a party more than barbeque, beer, and brawling. 
The aroma of grilling brisket and onions floats on the dusty wind. My stomach gurgles, but I ignore it. Business comes first. I weave around grill pits, tipsy revelers, and trucks with their tailgates down. Music blasts from a hundred different radios, drowning out the announcer on the squawking loudspeaker. I leave the good-natured melee, heading toward the iridescent force field that protects the wealthy from the peons. The field does a nifty job of keeping out mosquitos too. 
Private security protects the gate. The nearest guard’s expression doesn’t change as my dark blue silk dress, with the fashionably small bustle and frilly overskirt, is unmistakably upper class. I stole it specifically for this job.


Entry Nickname: Making Boys Cry
Title: Virtual Rebel
Word count: 90,000
Genre: NA Science Fiction


The warrior. It's a title 18-year-old Kali Ling earned bringing men to their knees -- inside video games. 


In 2054, fully-immersive virtual reality plugs a player directly into the game. So when digital fighting tournaments become a national sport, Kali's life transforms into a whirlwind of fame, fake smiles, and nonstop partying in L.A.'s hottest clubs. 

But when her teammate Nathan O.D.'s, Kali slams into the dark side of virtual gaming: drug addiction and insanity. As a gamer who's swallowed a few too many pills herself and a Chinese-American whose Taoist father taught better, reality abandons Kali at the crossroads of identity crises and adulthood. Realizing she might not last until the season's end, she trades partying for Asian philosophy and nightly sparring sessions with her team's latest recruit (who she can't help picturing in nothing but a strategically placed controller). But just as Kali finds peace within herself, the Virtual Gaming League erases Nathan from its database and whitewashes the truth behind his demise for the sake of ratings. 

For ratings? Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong.

Furious, Kali swaps fame for fighting in her friend's honor in the VGL's championship tournament. But the industry threatens to strip away everything she's become if she doesn't back down. Now, Kali must choose: keep the career, identity, and newfound peace she worked so hard to achieve or stand against an industry that cares more about its popularity than its athletes. This time it's game over. Permanently.

First 250 words:

This wasn't the first time I'd died. Sure as hell wouldn't be the last either. But while most eighteen-year-old girls studied, gossiped, and swooned over boys, there was no other way I'd rather spend my Saturday night. 

Crouched high on the tower's parapet, I overlooked a sea of wheat fields. The scent of lavender and the taste wheatgrass wove together in the air, drifting alongside the breeze that swept through my hair. I took a deep breath and smiled at the irony, as thick as the mountain air filling my lungs. Lavender. Wheat fields. Tranquility.

Peace, in a place anything but peaceful.

Movement in the fields caught my eye, down and right. A zigzag carved its way through the ten-foot tall stocks, heading straight for the tower. My smile pulled wider. Maybe this sucker had the balls to take on Kali Ling.

The warrior.

I stilled inside. Even breaths. No fear. At the field's edge, the stocks trembled violently. The air filled with the rainstick rustling of brush and dry grass. Yes. Someone would emerge. I gripped the sword sheathed across my back and waited, muscles tight, mouth watering. Come on. Give me something. A brute. Six -- no -- seven feet tall, wielding a mace. Or an axe.

Give me anything.

A rabbit scurried out from the field. Nothing followed. The grass fluttered in the breeze. Birds chirped, nestled in the nearby sycamore trees. It was the rabbit, and only the rabbit.

For now.

I punched the parapet's brick wall, but instead of frustration, irony reverberated through me again.


  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

    1. Mechano Cat: Your query is very good and lays everything out clearly. However there’s just so much plot stuffed in there that I still stumbled and had to reread it a couple of times. Texas nobility, murders, psychics, gunslingers, lethal viruses... it’s an awful lot to take in. So I’d suggest paring this down, leaving out the stuff about the virus for now, and maybe editing the first para a little a bit like this:
      ‘As a member of Texas nobility, life is lemonade and caviar for twenty-year-old Tori Montgomery –until tragedy strikes and she’s left penniless and a pariah. Luckily Tori has her telekinetic abilities to fall back on – and they come in very handy for thieving.’

      Your opening page: I literally have no comments. This is so well done! We get voice, just enough info about Tori and her thieving ways to intrigue without confusing, and atmosphere and setting in spades, the place comes alive so well. Nice work! The only thing I’d suggest is perhaps breaking up the first para into two or more paras, and the second into two, which would match your lively pacing better.

      Making Boys Cry: Whoa, this is a great query. What a cool story! I really don’t have any suggestions, I think it’s fine as it is, the only thing is I’d change is ‘father taught HER better’.

      I’m slightly less enamoured of your first page. The writing is very good, as is the scene-setting, but two things put me off a bit: that old trope of ‘I’m not like those other girls’ is a bit of a tired unfeminist cliché, even if it’s true in this case; and I don’t like openings that trick the reader. Having read your query, I know she’s inside a game, but you’re obviously waiting to spring that on the reader a bit later, and I think it’d be better to let us know upfront that she’s inside a game. Doing this really shouldn’t need to lessen the tension – it’d still be a dramatic scene – but it’ll mean your reader won’t feel cheated when they find out the truth.

      Wow, this is a VERY close call. Both of these are pretty great. By a nose, I’m giving victory to Mechano Cat.

    2. Mechano Cat: I loved your query, with psychic powers, a cult, gunslingers, and your Texas setting! It had great voice, clear stakes, and made me excited to read your opening page. However, I have some suggestions:

      First, I wasn't quite sure what you meant by "nobility" of Texas. Were you just trying to say upper-class? If so, consider rewording to something like, "the Texas elite."

      Whoa, psychic world and telekinetic powers? Sounds awesome, but I suggest moving this up so you don't surprise the reader with her powers at the end of the paragraph. Consider something like, "twenty-year-old psychic Tori Montgomery." What I wrote isn't great, but I wanted to give you an example.

      I also don't love the expression "murdered body." How about 'murder victim'? And I'd change 'true intentions' to 'true intention'.

      As far as your first 250, I have no critiques, no nitpicks, nothing. I read the page straight through, and was disappointed that I couldn't keep reading! I felt like I was standing there with Tori, smelling the brisket and onions and looking through the crowd. You engaged my senses, grounded me in the scene with description and voice, and I'm super impressed! Love this.

      Making Boys Cry: First of all, I love your hook! Kali sounds like the sort of heroine I want to read about right from the first line.

      I think you're missing a word in the second paragraph: "whose Taoist father taught HER better"-right? or maybe it's supposed to be "whose Taoist father KNEW better?" Either way, something's missing there.

      You have GREAT voice in this query ("Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong."). I also understood the stakes right away, which is nice. I would absolutely read this, and can't wait to check out your first page.

      In your first 250, consider rewording your first line. It's catchy, but your MC isn't "dead" (in the video game, I'm assuming) yet.

      I also think you could do without having Kali compare herself to other girls in a sort of cliched manner. You could go right from, "Sure as hell wouldn't be the last either" to "But there was no other way I'd rather spend my Saturday night."

      Love the descriptions of lavender and wheatgrass.

      My only big suggestion here is to let your readers know, right from the first paragraph, that Kali is in a video game. It won't take anything away from the tense scene (a huge dude brandishing an axe always makes for some serious tension!) or awesome writing. And if you delete that line where Kali's talking about other girls, you'll have plenty of room in your first paragraph to add something about being in a VR game.

      Wow, this is the most difficult matchup I've had to vote on yet. I believe there's an agent out there for each of you, and both your entries deserve to get seen and requested! I love your queries and first pages, and I'm going to make this vote purely subjective as I don't know what else to do! Since my husband and I really love video games, I'm going to give this one to Kali Ling and her VR world. (But know that I still love you, Mechano Cat writer!).

      Victory to Making Boys Cry!

    3. Allusion AssassinJune 3, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      You kind of bury the lead in your query opening. I think you should rethink here…maybe something like “As a psychic, 20 yr old Tori should have seen it coming – the massacre of her family by her father and his suicide.” Not that, but you get the idea. Then you can lay in the upper crust thing to give the reader the clue she used to be money, although I think that could also be more succinct as well – “Now a penniless social pariah in her former upper-crust circle, Tori’s using her ability to get even with her prior so called friends by stealing from them.”

      Why would Kaiden ask Tori for help? You don’t give us any reasoning to think that he would. I think these next paragraphs need to be reworked as well. They take too many words to get to the point and that makes me wonder if your manuscript is the same way.

      I found your opening a bit confusing. I really liked your descriptions, lovely pure southern flare, but I didn’t get why she would need to still have her pride? It seemed out of place with the follow on description of the race scene. Who would even notice her there?

      I thought you could have spent a bit more time in the monologue about how the scene reminds her of her old life, a life now gone.

      Finally, is this really an NA SCI FI? Seemed more NA Paranormal Romance to me. It all depends how big of a player the romance between the gunslinger and Tori is. If you end in an HEA, you might consider changing genres. I think there is a bigger market for it and might make it easier to sell.

      I liked your hook, but had a hard time understanding the rest of your query. It has good voice, but the details and the stakes seemed muddled to me.

      I didn’t quite get what “plugged directly into” meant. The “So” follow on next didn’t really follow for me. I don’t get how they are connected. I recommend changing O.D.s to overdoses. I thought O was the start of his last name at first and had to reread.

      Also, I don’t quite understand why drug addiction and insanity would be results of virtual gaming, nor did I understand how the League could erase Nate for ratings or why anyone would care. He’s dead after all. People won’t just forget him and he’s not going to keep playing.

      For the stakes here to make sense, I think you need to explain the connection between the gaming and the drugs. If the League is so shady, why would Kali care if they take away the prestige? Also, since Kali is an addict, there would have to be a really good reason for her to go back into a triggering situation. As is, you don’t really give one.

      I liked your opening page, but agree with the others that you should tell people it’s a game and that she shouldn’t compare herself to the other girls.

      Victory to MECHANO CAT

      Grammar stuff: no comma after penniless in the third sentence
      Her telekinetic abilities seem to come out of nowhere - where did she get them? Has she always had them? Later on, you refer to Tori as a psychic -- can she read minds, too? The mention of an airship in the last paragraph threw me off, too... is this steampunk now?

      Grammar stuff: "*whom* she can't help picturing..."
      I was okay with the logline until the "literally" part - I just feel like it's been overdone, and considering it was in a video game, I'd kind of figured it was literal anyway.

      Victory to Making Boys Cry

    5. MECHANO CAT: I think this query is great but the ending doesn't do it justice. IMO you should consider sharpening up your last line as it reads a bit passive. I think that by combining a couple sentences from the last paragraph will really sell it better. EX: "If Tori doesn't accept Kaiden's help, the deadly virus will..." I hope that makes sense!
      For me, your 250 worked to really set the scene. I think that an agent would definitely want to keep reading and request more it if NA Sci-Fi was on their list!

      MAKING BOYS CRY: This query was great. I also really think it was smart to bring us into the NA mindset a bit--and show us why this book would/could be categorized as YA. Which I think is very important when using NA as a category. A typo--use overdoses as opposed to O.D.'s. Also, two totally subjective notes: I love the line about the strategically placed controller so don't ever lose that. But, the on like Donkey Kong line felt a little dated to me and since this is written in 2014 but takes place in the future, maybe use a different video game or saying? Just an opinion. I like your opening page--suspenseful and the scene was definitely set with smells and sights. Great job.

      xoxoSally Draper

    6. Book Boyfriend ConnoisseurJune 4, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      Mechano Cat:

      Love the first line of your query. But I'm not convinced I like the line after. Her father goes bullbat crazy doesn't seem like it should go with the statement after murdering her mom and little brothers. Did she not care? Because that's what it comes across like to me. Humor is great in a query...when used in the right way. This, to me, wasn't. The last line doesn't make a lot of sense to me either. So she steals to make support herself? Is that what you meant? If so, that kind of needs clarified. Otherwise, the rest of the query is well written with all the stakes needed. Your first 250 clearly tells us where the heroine is, giving readers a good visual. Otherwise, I'm not picking up on her character quite yet. Maybe show her emotions a bit more somehow. You do a great job using all of her senses, but her voice feels a little dull. Maybe liven her up with a little more internal dialogue?

      Making Boys Cry

      That opening line of your query rocks. I'm very intrigued already. And I love the humor infused in there too. To be honest, the only thing I'd change is saying overdosed instead of O.D's. Otherwise, I love it and am already invested in this book (and that was before I read the first 250) Then I read your first line...and then your second, third, so on so forth. And yet, I struggled to find much of anything to critique you on. You did a fantastic job with visuals and from line one, I was hooked. Great job.

      Victory to: Making Boys Cry


      Query: Nice query. It's a bit lengthy, so you could probably benefit by paring it down to the necessities. Also, the whole psychic thing came out of nowhere for me. I even had to go back and read it to make sure. I don't know if it was the obvious southern feel that through me for a loop or what. I thought I was going down one road then you flung me down another. That being said, great use of voice and very interesting premise. Nice hooks in your opening and closing sentences.

      250: Tori's voice is wonderful and the scene you've painted is multi-layered. I would like more of Tori's emotion. We're getting a lot of what's going on around her and less looking in, but I'm pulled into the story. I'd definitely keep reading!


      Query: Very unique premise. I'm interested and your first sentence hooked me. Also, this, "(who she can't help picturing in nothing but a strategically placed controller)," made me laugh. Great use of Kali's voice. Maybe consider laying the stakes out there a little more clearly. I assume the VGL is wanting to cover up her friend's death because of the drug use, but how are those two things tied? Because something about the gaming culture produces addicts, or...?

      250: Great imagery. Nice writing. I'm hooked at the first sentence. I too say go ahead and tell the reader she's in a game, it will only add to the intrigue of how real everything is. The clichés don't bother me so much, but are unnecessary. You're already showing us she's not a typical girly girl. I'd definitely keep reading.

      Oh man, this is a tough one for sure! Both are great concepts and well written. But, VICTORY to MAKING BOYS CRY.


    I think the opening line of the query could be stronger - I did not realize the fantasy element of her world until a few sentences later (upper crust snobs in her psychic world). As it stands being part of Texas nobility is far less important/intriguing to me than the fact that there are psychic powers in her world. The rest of the query works IMHO, although I think it would be helpful to have a couple more world building details to link everything together and make it more cohesive. In the 250, the world building is very well down and integrated well. It also gives enough details about the MC's current/past status and predicament, to begin forming a connection to her and I was inclined to read on. Nice job!


    Love the voice in this and word plays. I had to reread though, to fully understand the plot. The line "...reality abandons Kali" threw me a bit. I'd like to understand more about what this means and how she ultimately gets pit against the industry and how she can threaten them, etc. Love the opening of the excerpt and thought the writing was quick and moved the pace along well. I was a little confused though, since in the beginning it seems like she is saying she died in the game, yet the rest of the excerpt indicates she's still playing.

    Best of luck to you both!

  3. Mechano Cat
    This 250 drew me in immediately. I really liked the contrast of tailgate BBQs and bustles and frilly overskirts. And it has a strong voice. I’d read on, no question.

    The query though feels a bit more like a synopsis than a hook, especially as it gives full introductions to two characters. If Tori is the main character, I’d suggest sticking with her and mentioning Kaiden only as needed to help with the flow of the hook. All the pieces are in there, I just think a little streamlining would help the overall flow and help the reader hone in on the essentials.

    Making Boys Cry
    Another strong 250. Great opening sentence. Great voice as well. Again, I’d read on for sure.

    In the query I was slightly confused how Nathan ODing would send her *towards* drug addiction. I would think it would have the opposite, more sobering effect. Also, I found the large paragraph in the query (4th) a lot to take in. I really enjoyed the overall voice of the query, but that paragraph sank it for me. I’d suggest reworking it, questioning which details absolutely need to be there, and which can go. By the end of the paragraph I’d forgotten half of what I just read. Don’t lose the voice though…

    Good luck to both entries!

  4. Mechano Cat:

    I agree on perhaps ousting Kaiden from the query. I had to scroll up mid-way through because I was like, "Is this a romance? Why did I pick a romance to read and comment on?) ;-) OR, perhaps, since that's the conflict--whether she can trust him or not, keep him in, but don't give him his own paragraph? Maybe you can mention him from Tori's POV? I enjoyed the 250, but the second sentence caused me to stumble a bit in that it's so disconnected from the first and third. Maybe a paragraph break after it or mentioning there that she is pretending to be a lady so the reader is wondering what she's up to?

    Making Boys Cry:

    For the query, everything flows smoothly until the end of the third paragraph where you raise the issue of the video game erasing Nathan from its database. From there, I'm a bid confused. Why would they care if he overdosed? Is there a nefarious reason behind the overdose? Like, they faked his overdose because he found out they were rigging the battles or something? I don't see the connection to ratings. Is it like The Running Man (the old movie with Richard Dawson and the guvnor Arnold)? Anyway, if the plot of the book is Kali's revenge against the video gaming industry, I'd like to know a little bit more specifically of how they erased Nathan/why they did it.

    The 250 is nicely paced, though I had the same issue as above where if she starts off saying she died, then it seems weird she's describing an event that might lead to her death. A simple tweak should fix that though. I do love the voice.

    The above is just my opinion, of course. I like the 250 of both and would continue reading both! Good luck!

  5. Hey writers! The reply button for where the judges are supposed to comment isn't working, so here I am!

    Ok. MECHANO CAT. Tori has telekinetic abilities??? We need to know that right away. Show us the scifi from the get go. I got to the end of the first paragraph of the query and was like, 0_0. She has powers? Can we get spruce up the first line with that info? Something like, "Tori thought telekinesis was a great ability to have, but when it doesn't save her family from her dad's murder suicide plot, she's not so sure." This is a really cool story set up here, and I'm drawn in from the beginning of the query, but the last paragraph doesn't have high enough stakes. From the last line I feel like, "Okay, if she trusts Kaiden, everything will be all right." Where's the high drama to keep the reader flipping past the book jacket? See if you can up those stakes in the end.

    I like your first 250, but I have some first and last line advice. First line I think can be omitted. Start with her mama telling her how to posture herself. Then we get that one-two punch at the end with finding out she's here to steal something. Last line, for some reason the word job is sticking out. Might sound better if she said, "I stole it especially for today." Just my silly opinion, probably. Overall, love the description in the scene. I feel like I'm there. But I'd pull back on the dress description. The bustle and overskirt description pull me out of the moment. I'd simplify the dress. Overall, great entry!

    Have you read SJ Kincaid's INSIGNIA? It's YA, but VR gaming is at the heart of it, and I loved it, which means I'm really intrigued by yours!

    You have a lot going on in this query, particularly the middle paragraph. Do we need to know about Kali falling into the underworld of gaming, getting out of it and finding peace, only to dive back in to defend the cover-up? I'm not sure all of that needs to be in the query. You have good stakes even if you don't go into all that detail because the stakes are to keep her reputation as this champion (and all the accolades that go with it) or to stand up for what's right and risk losing all she worked for. Remember the query is just to entice. We don't need to know the whole story. Only enough to make us read more.

    First 250--love starting in a VR game. When she's hoping her opponent is huge, I'm wondering myself who she is in the game. Do players have avatars, or are they themselves when they play? And agree with a comment I read about the first sentence's tense. She's not dead yet, so it sounds weird to say she died. How about, "This wouldn't be the first time I died"?

    Okay. Tough decision. These are both great and so different. VICTORY MAKING BOYS CRY

    Really like your query. Here are some of my quibbles: The 'Good for him, bad for Tori' sentence seems to come a bit out of the blue, since Kaiden hasn't joined up with Tori yet. It's only in the next sentence that he decides to ask her for help. Also, 'Kaiden is drawn to Tori' seems a bit manufactured, maybe slip in their attraction more towards the beginning eg. while he's decribing Tori as his neighbour 'attractive neighbour'. Although none of it was boring, you could tighten your query by reducing the back story for both your characters since it isn't really necessary (but amusing to read).
    Love how your 250 begins, love how it continues in the second para (amazing descriptions) but by the third para, I'm tired of the surroundings and want something to happen.

    I love your query. Really. The only things I would change are cut out the first two sentences and start off from the In 2054 para, because even though the first 2 sentences have voice, they don't really have much else. I would also cut the sentence 'For ratings? It's on like Donkey Kong' because the next para which begins with 'Furious' seems to flow really well from where you've ended the para before.
    I love the first line of your 250. Beautiful writing throughout, but I'd reduce the poetry of the sentences a bit since sometimes, they make me concentrate more on the writing than on what's happening in the story.

  7. These are both great voices.
    Mechano Cat: Loved the term "bullbat crazy". The voice really drew me in and the query was detailed enough to get a strong sense of good plot. The reference to the airship leaking air felt a bit labored, like the joke was a bit forced. Great first 250 words - a whole lot of character and setting there, which I really enjoyed. Really can't find anything to critique about it!
    Making Boys Cry: I love the idea of an 18-year-old warrior combatant who's kicking ass and taking names.
    In terms of the query, maybe switch that first sentence to more of an active voice so it flows more smoothly eg "Eighteen-year-old Kali earned the title bringing men to their knees ..." . Another little thing that jarred was seeing 'O.D' instead of 'overdose'.
    Your first para of the 250 words is genius. Can't get a much better hook than that! Just a small thing: does a smile 'pull' or would it simply 'widen'? But otherwise, this is a cracker start.

  8. I don't envy the judges on this one!! These are two amazing premises - no matter who comes out of this round I hope you both keep driving full-speed with these concepts. MECHANO CAT: I love the steampunk vibe you've got going here! I think an age for Kaiden would help, and while I get the metaphor on trust it could benefit from a little paring down (trusting . . .is as dumb as getting into a leaky airship). BOYS CRY: Again, great premise with a lot of action and nice character/plot twists. Your timeframe threw me as a bit broad, I think we're actually closer to it than 2054. So if you could not tie yourself down to a specific year that would probably be helpful, keep your ms from getting dated.

  9. Mechano Cat

    Your mention of the nobility of Texas right away has me intrigued. I think we’re talking about a dystopian or some kind of new social order. Adding the psychic powers of the main characters and the various groups collected those who have these powers makes this story a little bit like Shatter Me. A plus as far as I’m concerned. In your first 250 words, your descriptions and details help me begin to see your world and it’s one I’d like to read about.

    Also I like the conflict between your two main characters in the query. She’s a thief. He’s a lawman, who can spot all her lies, yet they must work together to rescue the brother. I’m hoping this is a romance as well as science fiction, but that might just be me.

    I have to also say I love your voice and the way you turn phrases. I’d read this just to get the narrator’s take on subjects like crowds—“And since it’s Texas, any crowd this size requires a Cook-off, ‘cause nothing completes a party more than barbecue, beer, and brawling.”

    Nice work.

    Making Boys Cry

    I love your opening lines, “This wasn't the first time I'd died. Sure as hell wouldn't be the last either.” They drew me in right away. You have an awesome voice. It’s the kind of voice that compels me to ignore everything else and keep reading until I've finished the story.

    Although this concept of being pulled into a virtual fight has been done in Tron, Real Steel and various other movies, I think you have a new twist on it and as I said before your voice would hold me in your story.


    The first paragraph was a real problem for me. It's too many surprises in a row, and by the time telekenisis shows up it felt a little like a mad-lib. Also the "Things should have been coming up roses for the mc, except for her father brutally murdering her mother, brothers and sisters, and then killing himself," is a very strange idea. I mean, you word it very well, but there's definitely an "aside from that, how was the show, Mrs. Lincoln" quality to it. You're ready to move on into psychic stuff, and I'm still going wait, what, quadruple homicide? The emotional hangover I had from that made the sci-fi stuff a little harder to take-- at least for me.

    Consider a first sentence that puts us in the fantasy world right way. Something like: "In the world of Texas Psychics, Tori MC was a marked woman." Or whatever (you can obv. do much better than that,) I guess what I'm saying is that I felt like I needed an immediate handle on the fantasy world we were in.

    "A murdered body" is an odd construction. A dead body? A murder? Or even just a body-- would all be better.

    I like the rest of the query, but I feel like mentioning the doomsday cult's plan of releasing a deadly virus is gilding the lily. You've got plenty of stakes already, and adding one more muddies the water.

    For all my complaints about the query, I really enjoyed the 250. The voice is really strong, and I can see where we're going with this.

    Making Boys Cry

    It's a strong query, but like an earlier reader, I did get a little lost in the middle paragraph. It feels like there's too many ideas there. (I think I'd maybe cut the parenthetical.) I don't love the first sentence of that paragraph either, particularly Kali 'slamming into the dark side of virtual gaming: drug addiction and insanity' - which felt a little After-School Special to me. Insanity is not a side-effect of the online-gaming world now, so I'd introduce that idea more carefully.

    I like the 250, but for whatever reason, it was very easy to stop there, if that makes any sense. It finishes on kind of an unfortunate note (which is maybe ultimately meaningless, since most agents ask for more than 250.) I'm just putting that out there.

    It's a great first line, however.

  11. Mechano Cat:

    This seems really unique to me. It took me a while to get the steampunk setting. At least I think it's a kind of out west steampunk sci-fi thing. It would be good to know that right away I think, so we can really understand the world. There's a lot to like here. The psychic abilities sound cool and I love a good Doomsday cult. The set up between Kaiden and Tori sounds juicy, but I would like to know a bit more about why he is so determined to protect her. What else is she besides recalcitrant? What is it he sees in her that he needs to protect? Also, she seems really flip for someone who had lost her entire family in such a horrific way. She has got to be seriously damaged, but I don't get that sense from the query or the 250. I like the opening at this big event, but think it might be stronger if you cut some of the lines that sum everything up for us. Like this one: And since it’s Texas, any crowd this size requires a Cook-off, ‘cause nothing completes a party more than barbeque, beer, and brawling. It's a fun line but I want to see the uniqueness of the scene and not the cliche of Texas. Very interesting mix of elements. Would like to see what Kaiden is like. Good luck!

    Making Boys Cry:

    I personally detest video games, but really LOVE this premise. The query reads so well. It's clear and full of voice. Really effective. I also like how you seamlessly introduce the heritage of the main character. The story seems to have action and emotion while making us question the kind of entertainment corporations profit from in the real world. Great combination. I also liked the first 250. It moves well. My only suggestions is to change the last line. It really sounded off to me because of the use of "irony" again. It seems like an odd bit of telling and I'm not sure how irony can reverberate. Otherwise, this is my favorite so far. Good luck!

  12. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 4, 2014 at 2:33 AM


    QUERY –
    Great voice coming through, here. I would switch around the first sentence so it flows a little better, more like… “As a member of Texas nobility, life should be lemonade and caviar”. It flows better. I was a little confused by the second parahrapg, but only because the language makes it sound like Kaiden and Tori meet twice. The “good for him, bad for Tori” line as well as the reveal of his powers should come after you’ve mentioned that they’ve paired up to find his brother.

    I would watch the grammar, here. There are a couple run-on sentences, and sentences with structuring that can be cut down: is what the cult is after vs. the cult is after psychics.

    The plot is clear, but the stakes are muddled. Didn’t Tori already accept Kaiden’s help? It seems like they are working together already, so her having to accept his help seems like a done deal. I would clarify these stakes.

    First 250 –

    Love her voice, love the setting. I would be clear on the timing, because “in thirty minutes, the National Nighttime Airship Race commences” is a little confusing, but this is wonderfully descriptive. I see it in my head, and the blend of Texas and sci-fi is remarkably fresh. Her voice is so clear, here. Fantastic.


    Awesome premise, and your voice is coming through in a big way. I would go through and cut out unnecessary details, and be careful about how many times you say that she switches things. Her life changes about three different times in the query – just make sure you’re only telling us the essentials.

    The plot is clear here, but I want the stakes to be amped up. Will the industry kill her to protect those ratings? Is Nathan’s problem rampant amongst other VGL players? I want the big-picture, here.

    Other than that – excellent. I see the world.

    First 250 –

    This is excellent. The prose and descriptions are very clear, here. However, the first line leads to kind of a letdown! She died – but she’s on a parapet? Is this a flashback that will tell me how she died? I would clarify this, because I was a little confused.

    It’s a fantastic first line, I want to give the opening justice!

    Both stories are strong ideas with juicy openings! However, I'm going to award VICTORY to MECHANO CAT for giving me a taste of a thriller as spicy as Texas BBQ!