Wednesday, June 13, 2018

QK Round 2 Match 1: Why are You So Obsessed with Me vs. Lady CEOs are Sexy, Too

Title: Guarded
Entry Nickname: Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?
Word Count: 76K
Genre: Contemporary Romance #ownvoices (physical disability)

Query:

Being the center of attention and the subject of tabloid gossip isn’t anything new for actress Ava Madison. After all, it’s not every day someone who uses a wheelchair becomes a Golden Globe winner. So when she tries to help her friend, heartthrob Brett Sinclair, by telling the world she broke up with him after a whirlwind romance, she expects the added scrutiny. But she never expects Brett’s fans to threaten her life because they think she broke their idol’s heart.
After someone vandalizes her car, Ava’s manager hires a security team for her. Always striving for her independence and refusing to be tied down in any way, Ava hates the thought of having twenty-four hour protection. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, she discovers the person assigned as her live-in bodyguard is Leo Matthews—the annoying, condescending man she encountered at a coffee shop just the day before. They immediately clash over everything, and Ava can’t wait to get Leo out of her house for good. But as she’s forced to spend nearly every waking moment with him, she can’t deny her attraction to the tall, dark, blue-eyed former Navy SEAL who seems to anticipate her every desire. Their relationship soon heats up, but the threats from Brett’s fans turn into physical violence, affecting not just Ava but hurting those around her. While she’s scared something will happen to Leo or one of her friends, independent Ava is also scared of doing the one thing she never thought she’d do—fall in love.

First 250:
Ava Madison and Brett Sinclair Getting Married!

Wedding bells are on the horizon for recent Golden Globe winner, and our favorite cougar, Ava Madison! Sources tell us that her boyband heartthrob boyfriend, Brett Sinclair, popped the question to her last weekend! They plan on tying the knot as soon as possible, creating growing speculation that she is indeed pregnant with twins, as we reported last week. One thing’s for sure—those babies are going to be gorgeous!

At twenty-eight years old, I was a cougar.

Never mind that men like Jack Nicholson and John Stamos had women one-third their age on their arm every time they made an appearance and no one batted an eye. But as soon as I was ‘caught canoodling’ with Brett, five years my junior, you’d think I was a decrepit old woman robbing the cradle.

At least I didn’t look like one.

I rolled my eyes and clicked off the site before taking a sip of my tepid coffee, flashing a smile to the barista as he glanced my way. The speculation about Brett and me was crazy. It started when he took me as his plus one to the AMA’s. We never commented about our relationship, so according to celeb gossip sites we were either hooking up, engaged, already secretly married, or preparing for the upcoming birth of our twins. No one ever considered the truth—that we’re just friends.


VERSUS

Title: Swaying Magnolia
Entry Nickname: Lady CEOs Are Sexy, Too
Word count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance (#Ownvoices F/F)

Query:

Twenty-two-year-old Maggie Reyne has never felt more like an outsider than when she moves from her small town to start an internship at a San Francisco tech company. It seems like a Lord’s miracle that she landed this coveted spot, and she’s determined to be hired on full-time. That would mean enough money to save her family home.

On her first day of work, she nearly gets herself fired. She comes face to face with the CEO of the company, Victoria Citron, a twenty-nine-year-old prodigy and tech industry celebrity, infamous for demanding perfection. Not realizing who she’s talking to, Maggie lets slip a piece of gossip she heard about Victoria. Maggie believes her gaffe is going to be the end of her career—goodbye family home—but instead Victoria asks her out to a fancy rooftop lunch.

Maggie, who has lived her sheltered life with the assumption that she’s straight, cannot ignore her growing attraction to Victoria. The lunches turn to real dates, to an actual relationship. In order to keep up appearances with her Baptist family who checks up on their baby girl any chance they get, Maggie begins to dig herself into deeper and deeper lies. When Maggie’s family arrives in San Francisco for a surprise visit, Maggie has to make a choice. Deny her feelings and retreat back to the world she’s always known, or find the courage to dive headfirst into her relationship and this new identity, even if it means losing her beloved family.
First 250 words:

From where I stood on the elevated train platform, the Bay Bridge stretched out like an arrow, pointing to towering skyscrapers wrapped in fog. So this was San Francisco in August. Bright sun teased the East Bay and San Francisco’s surrounding areas, but a spell of clouds had been cast over the city. Two hours away in the central valley, summer meant warm evenings lazing by the pool, iced lemonade, bloodshot sunsets. I’d never known anything else. I couldn’t call that home anymore, though. This gloomy place had snatched the title, and there was nothing I could do about it.  

Shaking the thought away, I lugged my bags downstairs to the street. I hailed a taxi and we drove off to my new house. Well, my cousin George’s house.  

The freeway afforded another unobstructed view of the city, its towers looming like jagged teeth. My hand darted to the simple gold cross around my neck. A gift from my parents on my sixteenth birthday, it was the only nice piece of jewelry I owned. I rubbed the smooth metal of the cross until it became warm, and I became aware of my posture. Had I been sitting bolt upright this whole time? Relax, Maggie. Yes, I longed for the lush fields of infinite almond trees back in Redford, but this was the right thing to do. The right thing to do—my courage-rallying mantra these last few weeks.

My phone rang. “Home,” it read, as if taunting me.

11 comments:

  1. Judges, please reply here. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Queen of ThornsJune 13, 2018 at 10:42 AM

      Greetings, Kombatants! Judge Queen of Thorns here. Let's dive in, with the caveat that all of this is subjective analysis and should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt.

      Why Are You So Obsessed With Me:

      Query: You've done a fine job of making the stakes clear here, but what isn't clear is why your protagonist entered into this relationship ploy with her friend in the first place. What's in it for both of these celebrities, to fabricate a relationship and its dissolution? Without knowing how it "makes sense" in that world to do this for a friend, it's hard for me to relate to the problem that follows after.

      First 250: I'm not generally a great fan of first person but the voice here is strong enough to get me past that usual reservation.

      Lady CEOs:

      Query: Some awkward phrasing ("a Lord's miracle" -- the use of "a" makes me wonder "which Lord?" which isn't what you're trying to use this descriptive phrase to do) takes me out of the query. I'm also not sure how the idea of this being "a new identity" sits with me, personally, as it suggests that your MC has been transformed when the truth is she might finally be discovering something about herself that's always been true. It may inadvertently play into the phobic language of "gay propaganda" and "the gays trying to recruit" that sometimes circulates in the very communities you're trying to separate your MC from.

      First 250: I mentioned above that I'm not a huge fan of first person POV, and in this case, I'm not sure that the voice of the first page helps me get past that. The attention to detail in describing landscape, etc., seems more appropriate to a close third person pose, which could just as effectively capture your MC's internal tumult and homesickness.

      Overall, because I think the query and 250 are more polished and ready, my vote is for Why Are You Obsessed With Me? But it's a narrow call. (FWIW, I'm more interested in the premise of Lady CEOs, but since I'm bound to go with the materials in front of me, this is my call.)

      Good luck, Kombatants!

      Delete
    2. Why are you so obsessed with me?
      Query: Great query! I love how you clearly explain the stakes and keep the tension high throughout it. Since you begin by talking about her Brett, I believe that it would be helpful to add in a line about his side of things. Why does she believe that announcing their supposed break-up will help him? Did he ask her to do so? Were they dating in the first place? Although you explain this in the first page of your manuscript, I think that answering this questions will help in clearing up some confusion for agents who only receive the query.

      First 250:
      I would have liked a little more tension before you explain that she and Brett are not actually dating and have never dated. I feel like they would have set the rumors straight before they could spiral out of control like this, and I don’t see why neither of them would have mentioned in an interview that they are not, in fact, dating.


      Lady CEOs are Sexy, Too
      Query: You do a great job of getting us to sympathize with the protagonist from the first paragraph. Just your characterization in the query is fantastic. However, without a little more explanation, I have a bit of trouble believing that Maggie wouldn’t have had at least some same-sex attraction prior to encountering Victoria. I would like to know what in particular draws her to Victoria, compared to other woman she has met, and why Victoria is the right woman for her.

      First 250:
      Fantastic first 250 words. I love how you immediately immerse us into the setting, and show Maggie’s unease and fear at being in a new city through her actions. Still, I feel like the tone of these first 250 words is slightly too dramatic, as if I’m preparing for an adult suspense or mystery novel instead of a romance. Perhaps consider toning down on descriptions like “its towers looming like jagged teeth?”

      This is a hard choice! Both of these entries are excellent, but I’m going to have to go with the one that I felt was slightly more polished: VICTORY to LADY CEOS ARE SEXY, TOO!

      Delete
    3. Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?
      Query: Great work on the query. I thought it was quite strong. I particularly liked the first two lines. I would like to know a bit more in the first paragraph of why Brett needed help. I think that would make Ava’s choice a bit clearer. I also think the second paragraph could use a bit of tightening up, but overall great job!

      First 250: I also really liked your first 250 words. The tabloid text at the top did seem just a touch over the top, though (of course, tabloids are meant to be over the top, but it seemed a bit much for the start of a novel). I would almost prefer you start with the cougar line because that is such a fun line. And you really let us get a sense of Ava over the next few paragraphs, which was great.

      Lady CEOs Are Sexy, Too
      Query: Great query! I liked how many levels this query had, with Maggie’s feeling of displacement, and her budding relationship with the CEO, and her Baptist roots. I’m not sure you need the second sentence because we already get Maggie’s drive and motivation from other parts of the query. I’d also like a bit more emotional oomph in the third paragraph. This seems like a big revelation to Maggie and I’d like a bit more about what she actually feels about all this.

      First 250: Usually, I’d advise people away from describing weather right at the beginning of a novel, because it’s been done so often, but I thought your opening was quite strong. That being said, as the 250 words went on, I would have liked a bit more character and a bit less setting, especially when Maggie talks about going to her new house. I think you could dig a bit deeper there. But I really enjoyed it!

      I thought both of these entries were great.

      Victory to Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?

      Delete
    4. Posting for Jumping Jellybean. My blog is giving this judge trouble.

      Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?
      Query:
      3rd line: I wanted you to expand how breaking up with Brett was going to help him. Maybe also some clarity that it’s a fake break-up.
      I really love the conflict between her independence and having to have 24hr security.
      BUT some of these seems outlandish. What is Brett doing? Can’t he make a statement or get a few tabloid shots with another actress to get his fans off Ava?

      1st 250:
      I like this, but I’m getting a YA vibe from it. That’s not a bad thing. I like the tabloid heading and think this would be a fun read.

      VS

      Lady CEOs Are Sexy, Too
      Query:
      In your 2nd paragraph I’d get rid of “she nearly gets herself fired.” Just let it read “On her first day of work she comes face to face…”
      I’m also not really liking “new identity” in the last line of the query. She’s the same Maggie, just one who is now giving herself the right to feel things she’s never been allowed to before.

      1st 250:
      I was really sucked right into this story. I’m a sucker for religious tension and questioning.

      VICTORY to Lady CEOs Are Sexy, Too

      Delete
    5. Lady Acacia here!
      I'm going to start with WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME. I hope you find some of my comments helpful.

      Overall, this query is super solid! I would watch starting your sentences with "Ands and buts" and be more specific about why she ends her whirlwind romance (Maybe by deleting that line and putting in the specifics) I've mentioned are nitpicks. I really think you've got a strong contender here! As for your first 250, they are spot on! I think they are full of voice and charm from Ava that will keep your characters interested and reading. I know I was wanting more :)

      SWAYING MAGNOLIA COMMENTS:
      Twenty-two-year-old Maggie Reyne has never felt more like an outsider than when she moves from her small town to start an internship at a San Francisco tech company. It seems like a('the' might sound better) Lord’s miracle that(Delete that, its usually not needed) she landed this coveted spot, and she’s determined to be hired on full-time. That would mean enough money to save her family home. (I like this stake, but it seems tacked on with no explanation. Since it is such a driving factor in her motivation, we need to understand what is going on back home)

      On her first day of work, she nearly gets herself fired.(I'd delete the "nearly gets herself fired" and start the sentence with "she comes face-to-face.". Since you mention later you're afraid the slip will get her fired) She comes face to face with the CEO of the company, Victoria Citron, a twenty-nine-year-old prodigy and tech industry celebrity, infamous for demanding perfection. Not realizing who she’s talking to, Maggie lets slip a piece of gossip she heard about Victoria(I'd be specific here. What's the gossip?). Maggie believes her gaffe is going to be the end of her career—goodbye family home—but instead Victoria asks her out to a fancy rooftop lunch.

      Maggie, who has lived her sheltered life with the assumption that she’s straight, cannot ignore her growing attraction to Victoria. The lunches turn to real dates, to an actual relationship. In order to keep up appearances with her Baptist family who checks up on their baby girl any chance they get, Maggie begins to dig herself into deeper and deeper lies. When Maggie’s family arrives in San Francisco for a surprise visit, Maggie has to make a choice. Deny her feelings and retreat back to the world she’s always known, or find the courage to dive headfirst into her relationship and this new identity, even if it means losing her beloved family.(Why would her coming out destroy her chance at saving her family home? That seems unclear).

      AS to the 250, I feel like it's missing Maggie's voice. I got a great sense of setting, but her actual pulse of her as a person seems like it needs pumped up a bit.

      I really enjoyed reading both of these entries! I cast my vote for WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME

      Delete
    6. Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?

      Query:
      Ooh, I really like this! Consider splitting it up into three paragraphs by taking your longer second paragraph and cutting it into two. That will help the query flow better. I would use the third paragraph to introduce the idea that she’s falling for her bodyguard, and then to up the tension with the info that the violence from Brett’s fans is increasing. So I’d split it after “…Ava can’t wait to get Leo out of her house for good.”

      250:
      I love, love, love this first page. You’ve got some great details and an infusion of humor, which I really like. The part about her being a cougar is hilarious.
      Tiny nitpick: In your final line, you should split “we’re” into “we were” so it doesn’t sound like you’re slipping into present tense there. Also, it would be great if we got some indication that Ava is in a wheelchair in this first page. You could make some mention of it when she’s flashing a smile at the barista. How he has to look down to see her in her wheelchair, or that she frequents that bar over others because of the open floor plan that gives her space to maneuver her chair around. I can’t imagine it’s easy to be in a wheelchair in a bar. If you can’t work that detail in quite so soon in the story, that piece of info should surface fairly quickly after this 250.


      Lady CEOs are Sexy, Too

      Query:
      Okay, you set up the conflict and the stakes nicely. But this query is missing a little something extra for me. It could just be that romance is really not my favorite genre, but I feel like we need some indication of what is going to set this story apart from other romances that have come before (other than the fact that it’s a F/F relationship). There should still be some quirky detail that endears us to the character or a unique plotline or some other hook that sets this story apart from others. Think about what drove you to write this story—what you were passionate about—and make sure that that passion comes through in the query.

      250:
      You set the scene nicely here. I can see San Francisco, with its fog and its “jagged teeth” buildings. I also like that we get a sense of how hard she’s trying to convince herself that she’s made the right decision, but that she’s having a hard time settling into it. And I really like the phrase “bloodshot sunsets”.
      I feel that this 250 needs a little pop of character, too, as I suggested in the query. An infusion of voice or a hint at a unique aspect of Maggie’s personality would go a long way to really making this first page shine.

      These are both pretty solid entries, but one drew me in just a little bit more than the other, so …

      Victory to WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME!

      Delete
    7. WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME? is the story of actress Ava Madison, her ex-Navy Seal Bodyguard and a deranged fancult out for vengeance. Please forgive me for this, but I was confused why Brett needed to be in this story at all? His inclusion isn’t really explained in the query, and his inaction over the second half of it confuses me. To provoke such over the top ire by his fanbase, I would have to assume that Ava lets him down in some brutal, public way—and yet why would she? It doesn’t feel congruent with her character. I could see Brett’s fanbase reacting negatively if this hadn’t been some mutually agreed on plan, and Brett was on Facebook and Twitter every night whining about the harpy who broke his heart.
      It feels like I’m missing something in the early going of this query.
      I enjoyed the second half and the tension between her and her new bodyguard sounds steamy. I will add that the “annoying, condescending man” seemed an odd contrast with the “anticipate her every desire.” These traits would seem to conflict with each other unless she finds Leo knowing what she wants to be annoying and condescending. Of the two descriptors I like the condescending one best as it was easy for me to picture.
      In the first 250, I loved the cougar joke. The tabloid bit speaks directly to your audience, and I could definitely hear it on an episode of TMZ. I don’t know if the first paragraph of your book before you’ve introduced Ava is the best place for it, but I like it.
      --
      LADY CEOs ARE SEXY TOO presents an interesting character conflict as Maggie, a small town kid from a Baptist family falls for the CEO of a San Francisco tech firm. Maggie needs this job to save her family’s home, but she fears that her feelings for Victoria may cause her family to abandon her entirely.
      From this query, I’m left wondering if the power dynamic between Maggie and Victoria will be addressed in this novel. Victoria is not only Maggie’s boss, but further along in her career, more knowledgeable of the city they live in and the industry they are in, and Maggie is completely dependent on staying in her good graces for her own financial security.
      I would have also have liked to see a single line about Maggie’s past relationships included in this query. It’s implied this is her first same sex relationship, but I’m curious if it’s her first serious relationship entirely.
      There is a ton of room for character growth and exploration, and I hope the novel gets just as in to Victoria’s struggles as this query gets into Maggie’s.
      I really enjoyed the first 250 words for this piece. There isn’t a ton of movement in them, but most of the descriptions are wonderful and you sneak in elements of Maggie’s goal, her struggle throughout the book, and make her sympathetic to the reader. The descriptions that didn’t evoke the note you were looking for from me were ones with adjectives that didn’t quite fit which made their sentences run long (see jagged, lush).
      --
      I changed my mind twice while I was reading these, but I’ve settled on a favorite.
      VICTORY TO LADY CEOs ARE SEXY, TOO

      Delete
  2. (I’m a fellow Kombatant leaving feedback.)

    ====================================
    WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME?
    ====================================

    Query:
    I’m not always up for a wish-fulfillment kind of romance, but this sounds very good. From the characterization to the conflict that goes beyond Ava and Leo, you got my attention. My biggest suggestion would be to split the second paragraph to create more white space.


    First 250:
    How is this story not published yet? I’m hooked, and I have a strong feeling the story could keep me that way until the end. ~Excellent job!~ By the way, I’m not sure if you can, but have you considered making your entry’s nickname the actual title? It’s only my opinion, but the nickname seems to have more personality. At the same time, I know it matches the lyrics of a certain song and the quote of a certain movie—but I still wanted to toss out the idea.



    ================
    LADY CEOs
    ================

    Query:
    Another query with clear characterization and conflict. For the stakes, how does Victoria react to Maggie digging herself into so many lies? I’m wondering if Victoria will fire, transfer, or demote Maggie if she denies their relationship—which would affect Maggie’s financial situation. On that note, I think it’s interesting how the query starts off with Maggie fearing the loss of the family home, but at the end of the query, she fears losing her family.


    First 250:
    Good details that have a certain charm. The atmosphere of this piece matches the query! Really good job.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fellow Kombatant here

    Why Are You So Obsessed With Me

    Query

    I've been following WAYSOWM since the first round, and I see that the query is definitely cleaner. The second paragraph isn't nearly as cluttered with Leo as the first time around, and it makes it that much more succinct and to the point. Great work.

    First 250

    Like I said the last time, I really do think that the line, "At 28-years-old, I was a cougar," would be a much better start to your story. It's just such a perfect line. It has mystery, intrigue, the whole nines. That said, I do like where your 250 ends, so I'm torn. I think it works for this kompetition, but I would like to know what happens next, so you've won me over there.

    LADY CEOs

    Query: Strange. I feel like these two were matched up last time, but I know they weren't. Anyway, I've followed this one, too, and again, I love the idea of a character finding out that they're gay. I would like more books like that. I think your query is straightforward, but I would like to know earlier on the inner turmoil that exists. That's your hook. But judging from the other comments, I wouldn't really take heed of my comments. They're right. It's all very seamless, and doesn't take too long to get to that concept. Good work.

    First 250: I like this better, too. I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly, but I believe you started off with your protagonist already in the vehicle. I may be mistaken, but I like the idea of waiting, almost like your protagonist is waiting internally for something she's not certain that is going to come, but feels that it probably will, which is almost thematic. I like both of these, and would read both of these. Excellent job.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Tessa (fellow Kombatant)

    WAYSOWM
    This feels like "The Bodyguard", which I loved and I like your character's personality! Cool idea but I think this query needs more / higher stakes, like one scary really obsessed homicidal fan maybe? Also it seems extreme to have security move in with you after getting a car vandalized, but maybe I'm missing something here. Also death threats just because she supposedly broke someone's heart also seems a bit out there for me, even for major fans, maybe give some detail why this guy is so amazing that women are that obsessed with him (tho if they were obsessed wouldn't they be happy he was single?)

    250 is too narrative / voice over-ish for my taste. I'd like more action. I like the line about being a cougar but the line about "at least I didn't look like one" isn't for me. Felt a tad boastful / snarky.

    Lady CEOs
    Query: I would address the power imbalance. Interns & CEOs really don't mix so well as romantic partners. Also is the issue primarily about coming out as gay to a conservative family? I like that but it's been done alot, so I would raise the stakes, e.g. she also will pass up her career, etc..
    First 250
    Nice. I like. Dreamy and uncertain and thoughtful. Slight preference for some action v narration but I like your style!

    ReplyDelete