Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Query Kombat Round 5




Here we go! Round 5!


Entries are on Michelle's Blog! This round lasts until June 28th at 8 pm.


On Wednesday, the host will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. 

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the final round for the championship on June 30th!



You know the drill. Judges, wait until after the host comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames! And use the entry nicknames instead of the titles. 

QK Round 5: Bounty and the Beast vs. Book Boys Gone Wild!

Title: Dangerous Beasts
Entry nickname: Bounty and the Beast
Word count: 85,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance

Query:

Exiled beast charmer Leena Edenfrell is in deep shit. Empty pockets force her to sell her beloved magical beasts on the black market—an offense punishable by death—and the Charmers Council hires a lethal assassin to exact punishment. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes him an offer he can’t refuse: a promise to procure a handful of mythical creatures in exchange for her life.

For assassin Noc, murder comes easy and pays well. But only fools pass up the chance to own rare and powerful magical beasts, even if that means lying to one enchanting charmer. Agreeing to Leena’s terms, Noc plans to keep the bounty live on her head until the creatures are his. Two paychecks, one job, no sleep lost.

To hunt for creatures, Noc and Leena embark on a quest across the countryside of Lendria. But traps capture more than beasts, and ensnared hearts are hard to untangle. Banished by the people she loved, Leena has no desire to take her heart out of exile, yet Noc is nothing like the monsters on the Council—or so she thinks. Bound by the magic of the assassin’s oath, Noc can’t renege on the contract for Leena’s head unless he’s willing to sacrifice his own. But neither can tame their growing feelings, and the ever-watchful Council demands blood. With Noc’s hands and heart tied, and Leena dodging enemies at every turn, no manner of beasts or money can protect their hides.

First 250:

By the time evening fell, three things were certain: the gelatinous chunks of lamb were absolute shit, my beady-eyed client was hankering for more than the beasts in my pocket, and I was being watched.

Two out of the three were normal for my after-hours dealings.

Sliding my meat to the side, I propped my elbows against the heavy plank table. My client lasted two seconds before his gaze roved to the book-shaped locket dangling in my cleavage. Wedging his thick fingers between his shirt collar and neck, he tugged gently on the fabric.

“You have what I came for?” Nasally and high-pitched, his voice grated along my skin. A businessman. A rare visitor in Midnight Jester, my preferred black market bar. My pocket hummed with the possibility of money, and I fingered the copper key hidden in my pants.

“Maybe.” I nudged the metal dinner plate farther away, and the gray meat jiggled. “How did you find me?” Dez, the bartender, sourced most of my clients, but a businessman? Neckties and Midnight Jester didn’t mingle. Shady with a side of grime, the regulars were as dirty as the floors. I shifted in the booth crammed against the shiplap wall, and the cracking black cushions creaked.

The unseen pair of eyes lingering in a dark recess of the bar burrowed further into the back of my head. Faint movement from the shadows flickered into my awareness. Movement that should have gone unnoticed, but I’d learned to be prepared for such things. 



VERSUS


Title: Paper Seeds
Entry Nickname: Book Boys Gone Wild!
Word count: 109k
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Query

When seventeen-year-old Harlow Jackson gets dumped at her grandma Minny's wake, she's devastated, pissed as hell, and without an escort for the debutante season starting the very next day. But then Harlow finds something Minny left her: paper seeds. Minny always told her that if you place a magical paper seed in a book, and plant it in the ground, you can grow anything you desire from its pages.

In a fit of desperation, revenge, and, okay fine, a little too much funeral punch, Harlow grows teenage versions of Mr. Knightley, Sherlock Holmes, Dorian Gray, and Dracula to be her and her friends' debutante escorts. Because everyone knows there's only one thing better than a handsome, well-groomed, drawling Southern beau... an English gentleman. Harlow is tired of feeling second rate in her small Southern town, and vows to use the boys to beat her ex, and the mean-girl debutantes, at their own game. Frankly, she'd love to burn their perfect curls off their pretty little heads, but that would just be gravy. Instead, she'll settle for winning the debutante crown and the accompanying cash scholarship prize, which she badly needs.

Harlow passes the boys off as four rather eccentric foreign exchange students, and everything goes according to plan until the book-boys discover their own origins and run amok. At the same time, the town witch, Madame LeRoux, comes after Harlow for the paper seeds, claiming that planting them will have dark consequences for Harlow and the people she loves. Harlow must uncover the origin and twisted history of the paper seeds to discover a way to undo what she's grown. But as generations of town secrets and lies begin to unravel, Harlow discovers it was her beloved grandmother Minny who may have been hiding the biggest, ugliest secret of them all.


First 250
:

If I hadn’t been standing in the middle of my grandmother Minny's wake, I would have whacked that boy in the man parts so hard, people would be looking at pictures of his children in years to come and say—see the funny ear that kid has? Harlow Jackson did that.

But Jonathan took my hand and squeezed it, like he was bestowing some sort of warm comfort on me. He wore the gray shirt I'd saved up a week's wages for, the one that was the exact color of his eyes.

Now, I wanted to rip it off him.

And not in a good way.

I took a deep breath and tried to be civil. “Your parents will get used to the idea of us. I have a way of winning people over, you know.” I smiled my most becoming smile and flashed my dimple. Jonathan loved my dimple. Everyone loved my dimple.

He closed his eyes. “It’s not that, Harlow.”

“Then what is it?” I said, too loud.

Madison Pace cocked her ear in our direction as she scooped bean dip onto her plate at the food table. Nosey was not an adjective in this town, it was a given.

I tugged Jonathan’s hand, and he followed me out onto the front porch. The sky was gray, just waiting to burst open, the air heavy and thick. October in Georgia was not a cool, crisp autumn. It’s more like standing over a pot of boiling pasta. Or maybe more like being the pasta.

QK Round 5: Alabama Witch Hunters vs. Delicious Vicious Cycles

Title: Southern Fried Witch Hunters
Entry Nickname: Alabama Witch Hunters
Word Count: 45,000
Genre: MG Horror

Query:

Twelve-year-old José Villa wants to be brave like his best friend, Bubba, but he’s more terrified than a fresh bass at a fish fry. So he accepts his role as sidekick in Bubba’s daring, and mostly harebrained, schemes and adventures.

But when José sneaks into a pasture with Bubba in the middle of the night, he encounters a horror he couldn’t have imagined: zombie freaking cows. Oh, and the evil witch Agatha Winters, back from the dead and ready to get revenge on the town that killed her. Not knowing what to do, José and Bubba team up with a young witch expert. Together, the trio works to stop Agatha, encountering a creepy undertaker, an incompetent sheriff, and a horde of demonic squirrels along the way.


When his friends get locked up, it’s up to José to become the hero of the story. He must overcome his fears and stop Agatha before she hoodwinks the whole town into jumping from the same cliff they pushed her off of years ago. 

First 250: 

An angry wind echoed through the night as I read the cracked wooden sign nailed to the fence. “Warning: Trespassers will be skinned alive and deep fried.”

A chill rattled my shoulders. It’d be a miracle if I lived to see the seventh grade.

Bubba sniffed the fresh manure in the air and grinned. “It’s tipping time.”

In Trout Bend, Alabama, cow tipping wasn’t just a hobby. It was an art form. All the best tippers came from our town, but the greatest of them all happened to be my best friend, Bubba, better known around these parts as the da Vinci of the Dairy.

Unfortunately, like most great artists, Bubba had started to go a little bit loco. Actually, scratch that. There was nothing little about it. That boy was nuttier than a pack of rabid squirrels on a cashew binge. I mean, why else would he have dragged me out to Buck Miller’s pasture in the middle of the night?

I gulped. “Bubba, are you sure this is a smart idea?”

He laughed as he squeezed his round body between a couple strands of barbed wire. “Course it ain’t no smart idea, José. But it’s like my daddy always says, ‘Ain’t nobody ever have any fun being smart.’”

I wanted to point out that nobody had ever been arrested for being smart either, but Bubba didn’t like talking about that. I took a deep breath and slid my way through the fence.



VERSUS



Title: VERA WITH A VENGEANCE
Entry NicknameDelicious Vicious Cycles
Word count: 74K
Genre: YA Contemporary, Own Voices (Jewish and sexual assault survivor)

Query: 

Seventeen-year-old entrepreneur Vera Davis starts a business to sell revenge in VERA WITH A VENGEANCE, a 74,000-word young adult contemporary novel.

When a car accident paralyzes Vera’s older brother and kills her parents, she's suddenly in charge of the medical bills, the mortgage, and her own anger and helplessness. Vera's always been good at getting back at people who hurt her, but she can’t exactly get revenge on the curve in the road where her father lost control of the car. 

Meager insurance payouts leave Vera desperate for money, so she starts a business: when the traditional justice system fails her clients, Vera wrecks wrongdoers’ careers and cars, relationships and reputations. She revels in taking down racists and sexual assaulters, but her crush--her brother’s best friend--thinks her style of vengeance is morally wrong. 

Then, while helping a client get payback for a leaked nude picture, Vera finds new evidence about her family’s “accident.” Turns out there is someone for Vera to blame, but the perpetrator had her own very good reason to seek vengeance. 

Now Vera must decide whether getting even is worth getting blood on her hands. 

First 250:

This creeper keeps staring at me with this little half smile, like he thinks I want his eyes undressing me. His face, all chin and cheekbones, reeks of always getting what he wants—women, money, free drinks in first class en route to Ibiza. I want to walk away, but his wife is shopping for an evening gown, and I need the commission to pay the energy bill.

I focus on her, and hold up a green dress to hide my body. “This would look great with your eyes.”

Her eyes are blue, but the green dress sells well, and if she buys it, I’ll hit the monthly quota for a higher commission percentage. I can only work so much after school, and I have to make the hours count.

She turns to Creeper. “What do you think?”

“I’d like to see more.” His eyes flicker down to my calves and back up to my chest. For all his wife can tell, he’s checking out the dress, but his gaze burns my skin.

I hold the dress higher to cover my chest and look at my boss for rescue. He mouths work it. If I didn’t need this job so badly…I force myself to smile.

Creeper’s gold smartwatch buzzes, and he glances away from me. Those watches cost three grand. Three grand would keep the lights on and pay for a month of the mortgage. Three grand could keep Levi and me from losing the house our parents raised us in.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Query Kombat Moving on to Round 4 Matchups




Round 3 of this tournament is officially over. All kontenders fought valiantly, but alas, half of you must be knocked out. Win or lose, thanks for officially making QK the toughest query tournament in all the land. Be proud of yourselves for making it this far.

A standing ovation to those of you who fought and came out victorious. A full 48 entries out of the 64 that started this tournament have been eliminated. Those left can practically smell the title of QK Grand Champion. Best of luck in round 3, kontenders. You're going to need it.

Round 4 will be hosted on Laura's blog from June 24-25. Below is not only a list of who made it into the 4th round, but who entrants be match against as well. Orange entries are on team Rebel Scum. Is boy versus boy this round!

Bounty and the Beast vs. From Gutters to Galleries
Boy Band Ninja Assassins vs. Book Boys Gone Wild
Delicious Vicious Cycles vs. Hero By Default
Alabama Witch Hunters vs. Be Grateful for Cookies

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Query Kombat Round 3 Has Started




Here we go! Round 3!


Entries are on Mike's Blog! This round lasts until June 22nd at 8 pm.


On Thursday, the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin.

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the fourth round on June 24th!



Kombatants will not have any more chances to revise for the rest of the contest.


Reminders for the Entrants:

No commenting on your own entries until the last day of the round. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on Twitter as soon as you can. If you don't have Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling me the mistake.

Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 4 other match-ups to help share the love around!


Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Query Kombat Round 3 Matchups








Round three is coming up in just a few days. The round starts on June 20th at 8:00 a.m. and continues until June 22nd at 8:00 p.m. EDT.



Round three will be hosted only on Mike's blog. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us: @ravenousrushing @michelle4laughs @lh_writes.



Round 3 Match Ups


Bounty and the Beast vs. Switcher
Mother of all Custody Battles vs. From Gutters to Galleries
Super Powers and Problems vs. Boy Band Ninja Assassins
Delicious Vicious Cycles vs. Life as a Dumpster Fire
Hero by Default vs. This Selkie Can't Swim
Book Boys Gone Wild vs. Nowhere Land
Girl of Your Nightmares vs. Alabama Witch Hunters
Perfectly Imperfect Princess vs. Be Grateful for Cookies

Good Luck Sweet 16 Kombatants!



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Query Kombat Round 2





Here we go! Round 2!


Entries are on my blog and Laura's! This round lasts until June 16th at 8 pm.


On Friday the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. 

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the third round on June 20th! Winners may send in a revised entry to the Query Kombat email by Monday, June 19 at 8:00 am. Use the same format. 


Kombatants will not have any more chances to revise for the rest of the contest.


Reminders for the Entrants:

No commenting on your own entries until the last day of the round. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling me the mistake.

Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 4 other match-ups to help share the love around!


Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames!

QK Round 2: Beards vs. Bounty and the Beast

Title: Chai, Beards, and Harmony
Entry Nickname: Beards
Word count: 71K
Genre: Contemporary Adult Rom-Com (Own Voices)

QK Round 2: Mother of All Custody Battles vs. Three Men and an Actuary

Title: FINDING SETH
Entry Nickname: Mother of All Custody Battles
Word count: 73K
Genre: Women’s Fiction

QK Round 2: Delicious Vicious Cycles vs. I Fell for a Convicted Felon

Title: VERA WITH A VENGEANCE
Entry NicknameDelicious Vicious Cycles
Word count: 74K
Genre: YA Contemporary, Own Voices

QK Round 2: The Barringer Museum vs. Switcher

Title: We, Freaks
Entry Nickname: The Barringer Museum
Word count: 78K
Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction

QK Round 2: Asteroid Snacks vs. Super Powers and Problems

Title: The Crows of Phobos
Entry Nickname: Asteroid Snacks
Word count: 84K
Genre: Adult Science Fiction

QK Round 2: Girl of Your Nightmares vs. Cheshire Hearts Alice!

Title: Lucid
Entry Nickname: Girl of Your Nightmares
Word Count: 93K
Genre: YA Psychological Suspense (ownvoices)

QK Round 2: Nowhere Land vs. Estella +Ayron

Title:  FOLLOW THE SUN
Entry Title:  Nowhere Land
Word Count:  78,000
Genre:  #ownvoices historical YA (MC is biracial w/ black father, white mother)

QK Round 2: Perfectly Imperfect Princess vs. Bust the Bubble Wrap

Title: Penelope Charming and the Poisoned Glass Slippers
Entry Nickname: Perfectly Imperfect Princess
Word Count: 53K
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Starting a Novel Using Short Stories from Katrina Carrasco

Starting to write a novel can seem daunting. How to get from 0 words to 100,000? Every time I begin a new book, it feels like I’m staring up the side of a mountain, wondering how I’m going to survive the long, long climb. I imagine that, in my metaphorical rucksack, all I have is my love for writing, a few ideas for the story, and an interesting character or two. Sometimes that doesn’t seem like much -- but it’s got to be enough to get me going.

As I’ve become more comfortable with my own novel-writing process, I’ve discovered a few ways to give myself a head-start. (Think: beginning a hike at a 2,000-meter base camp rather than at sea level.) One of my favorite ways to world-build a book is to write short stories. Whether a story spends time with a character or explores my setting, it brings me into the world of my novel and asks me to think about that world in a different way.

I stumbled upon this process through trial and error. About eight years ago, when I started the draft that would eventually become my first completed novel, I envisioned the book as a family saga. So I wrote 50k about one generation, then 50k about the next (somewhere around here a family curse got thrown in, naturally), and then 50k about the next … only to discover that the great-granddaughter (who appeared in generation No. 3) was actually the character I wanted to write the book about. So then I wrote the actual novel about her. In essence, I’d done 150k of prewriting. Ouch!, I thought at the time. What a waste! Of course, as most authors will tell you, no writing is a waste, especially with early books. Those were hours logged that served to hone my craft and help me find the real story I wanted to tell. Plus, I had a rich family history written out that I used to bring depth and complexity to my protagonist’s story.

That manuscript is shelved now, always special to me because it was my first completed book. It wasn’t until my third completed manuscript that I had a novel strong enough to capture interest from my agent and my editor. By then, I’d figured out that writing a whole other novel was not the most efficient word-building exercise, and I’d reined that in to the technique I’m sharing here: world-building through short stories.

What this looks like is completely flexible, depending upon your needs and your style. I find it most helpful to write a world-building short story (WBSS) either about a character or the setting. A WBSS can be a piece of flash-fiction or a fleshed-out, 5,000-word narrative. I like long-form pieces (yes, I’m a novelist at heart), so I’m usually comfortable with 5,000-word WBSSs. But it can also be a useful challenge to myself as a writer to build a story in 2,000 words or less. Go with what works best for you!

Stories About Characters

When writing a WBSS about a character, consider choosing one of your secondary (or even tertiary) characters. This will help you avoid the trap of flat, unremarkable supporting characters. Consider a book that has a crime boss as a secondary character, and this crime boss has henchmen (tertiary characters). You could have one of her men be a Large, Slow Henchman and not much else. But what if you wrote a story about him, and along the way discovered something about his family; what drove him to violent, underpaid work; what his favorite smell is, and his least-favorite part of his body? Now when he appears in scenes as you draft your novel, he will have tics and unique reactions to situations and a history with roots that extend far off the page.

Another benefit of choosing a secondary or tertiary character is that they will likely have a totally different personal and situational POV than your main character. Take L.S. Henchman again, and consider what parts of your book world he would know and see versus those your main character (say, a middle-class professor) knows and sees. When you explore your book world through L.S. Henchman’s eyes, you’re making it richer by default by using such a different lens -- and you can draw upon that richness when drafting the novel itself.

Stories About Setting

When writing a WBSS about your setting, consider it an opportunity to do research. Look for anecdotes or information you might not otherwise have woven into your story. This is a great way to come across other (real) stories that might spark episodes or events in your book. For historical novels, looking into a town’s past might bring you to old newspaper articles about disappearances, celebrations, or conflicts that you can incorporate into your own story. For contemporary novels, reading up on the politics or residents of an area can give you a deeper understanding of your setting in the context of the larger world. (Note: Researching may not be applicable to certain genres, like fantasy or some SpecFic. In cases where there is no research possible, try using WBSSs to set and explore world rules or other things you must create, like topography, language, or social norms.)

Benefits of This Method

On top of the world-building benefits, there are other reasons to write WBSSs. Depending on how much you care to polish a certain piece -- and how well it stands on its own -- you may want to submit it to magazines or websites for publication. I strongly encourage you to submit short fiction to these outlets. Why? 1) It’s practice for pitching your work. 2) It helps you get accustomed to rejection (a fact of life in the writing world). 3) It helps you get accustomed to acceptance (celebrate your successes!). 4) Publishing short fiction will start building your reader base. 5) Publishing short fiction will build your creative resume/portfolio.

Another benefit of writing WBSSs is that they are relatively low-commitment. Say you have an idea for a book, but you’re not sure if it’s enough to charge ahead with and pour countless hours into. (Think back to the mountain I mentioned, and being intimidated by the sheer scale of starting a novel from a blank page.) If you write a WBSS, you’re only committing to a short story. Some of the pressure -- and some of the fear -- is taken away when you think in increments of 5,000 words, rather than 100,000. And if you complete the story and love it, you’ll have 5,000 words of material to draw from for your book draft.

I hope this post inspires you to try the WBSS method. Have you tried writing short stories as a world-building technique before? What other world-building methods work for you when you’re starting a new novel?

______________________________________________ 



Katrina Carrasco is a queer Latinx writer, born and raised in Southern California and now living in Seattle. In her novels and short stories she explores the ideas of passing, performance, and belonging: what is gained and what is lost by conforming to societal expectations of gender, race, class and sexuality. Her short fiction has appeared in Witness Magazine, Post Road Magazine, Quaint Magazine, and other journals. Her debut novel, CIPHER, will be released in Fall 2018 by MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. CIPHER follows Alma Rosales, a queer woman and ex-Pinkerton detective, as she switches between female and male disguises to investigate an opium-smuggling ring.


Goodreads Page for CIPHER: goodreads.com/book/show/34041372-cipher

Monday, June 12, 2017

Query Kombat Agent Round Wrap Up and Round 2 Matchups


The Agent Round of Query Kombat 2017 has come to a close with a grand total of 123 requests spread across 35 entries!









I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to all the agents who came out to help make the Agent Round a success. And thanks to the Judges who whipped our Kombatants into shape!



Below you will find Round 2 match-ups. The round starts on June 14 at 8:00 a.m. and continues until June 16 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Round two will be hosted on my blog and Laura's. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us: @ravenousrushing @michelle4laughs @lh_writes.


Remember, only sixteen of you will advance. Good luck Kombatants, and good luck Judges. Both groups have a tough road ahead.









Agent Round Stats:



Highest number of requests for an entry: Michelle's blog 14
Number of Wild Cards played: 17 
Most requested host: Mike





Round 2 Match-ups

Laura's Blog


From Gutters to Galleries vs. Stands By Until He Doesn't
The Nose Knows vs. Life as a Dumpster Fire
Alternative Facts vs. Hero By Default
Book Boys Gone Wild vs. he Half-Orphan's Handbook
This Selkie Can't Swim vs. We Kinda Destroyed Paris
Boy Band Ninja Assassins vs. Kaza
Be Grateful for Cookies vs. Dogs and Chickens and Dragons, Oh My!
Alabama With Hunters vs. Super Space Nerd

Michelle's Blog

Bounty and the Beast vs. Beards

Three Men and an Actuary vs. Mother of All Custody Battles
I Fell for a Convicted Felon vs. Delicious Vicious Cycles
Switcher vs. The Barringer Museum
Super Powers and Problems vs. Asteroid Snacks
Cheshire Hearts Alice vs. Girl of Your Nightmares
Estella + Ayron vs. Nowhere Land
Bust the Bubble Wrap vs. Perfectly Imperfect Princess



Good Luck Kombatants!