Sunday, June 24, 2018

QK Round 4 Match 2: Carrion My Wayward Son vs. This Wasn't in the Job Contract

Title: Song of the Vulture
Entry Nickname: Carrion My Wayward Son
Word count: 96K
Genre: YA Fantasy

Eighteen-year-old Alora Delattre should have been burned at the stake. Her power to possess others’ bodies is an ability condemned by scripture as the deepest form of corruption. Her father, the head of the church that would execute her, should have been the one to set her aflame. Instead, he hid her.

Then her mother is murdered by a heretic rebellion, and suddenly death by fire seems like a small price to pay for revenge. She takes over the body of one of the rebels, determined to hunt the killer down and make him bleed. But what she finds in their camp changes everything. For the first time, she sees her benevolent father through the eyes of the people whose blood he has spilled and whose families he has torn apart in the name of righteousness. And then there’s Chet, the quiet, passionate, maddening leader of the rebellion who she swears can see right through her even though he’s blind. She’s risking everything letting him get close—especially while she’s wearing another girl’s skin.

But Scythe, her father’s young, magical tracker, is on her trail and closing in fast. Alora must choose: get the revenge she craves by hauling Chet and his crew to the execution stage, or lead the crusade against the most terrible dictator her world has ever known—her own father.

SONG OF THE VULTURE is a YA fantasy complete at 96,000 words. It is a multi-POV novel with chapters from Alora’s, Chet’s, and Scythe’s points of view. The possession aspect hearkens back to Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, while the father-daughter relationship and the romance will appeal to readers of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse.

First 250:

You will burn, little vulture. Your secret will be discovered, and your body will crumble to ash.

Alora knew the pyre couldn’t speak, knew the words were in her own mind, and yet the threat still raised the hairs on her arms.

The pyre’s great pole shone white as a bone over the housetops behind her. Every time she and Kirsi snuck out of the temple like this, that pole watched her dart from shadow to shadow, followed her around every corner, waited for her to slip up so she could finally meet fiery death at its feet.

Alora glared over her shoulder, aimed an obscene gesture in its direction, and continued on her way.

Hooves clattered on the cobblestones behind them, and Kirsi shoved her into the nearest alley, cursing. They ducked out of sight an instant before the guards rode past. Alora’s heart thundered in her ears.

Kirsi’s dark eyes flashed as she tugged her hood to shroud her pointed nose and deep olive skin. “How in ash do you manage to talk me into this every stupid time?” she hissed once the hoofbeats faded.

“Come on,” Alora replied, breathless. “Dodging them is half the fun.” She pulled Kirsi back down the road. Faster now. The sooner they got to the Frosted Vulture, the better.

Keeping to the darkest parts of the city, they reached the slouching remains of an abandoned shoemaker’s shop a few hours after midnight.


Title: Warpers
Entry Nickname: This Wasn't in the Job Contract
Word Count: 100k
Genre: YA Scifi


There are three rules for time traveling:

1. Do not double warp.

2. Do not interact with people from the past.

3. Do not allow the past to catch up to the present.

Unfortunately, 18-year-old Galileo Matox is about to break them all. By accident, of course.

Galileo works for ScorpioCorp as a warper, traveling back in time to collect evidence of high-priority crimes. His latest mission? To identify a senator’s murderer. Seems simple enough.

But everything goes to shit before the mission even begins. Not only does the crew’s warp drop them eight days prior to the murder, it also badly injures a teammate. With his best friend quickly bleeding out, Galileo swaps his own warp suit for her damaged one and sends the team back to the present, initiating a (very illegal) warp within a warp. Now, Galileo’s stranded in the past—and in an alternate reality.

Enter Avaline, a gifted time-space scientist and daughter of the soon-to-be-dead senator. Galileo negotiates with Avaline (completely shattering Rule #2), and they reach an uneasy truce (which may have involved blackmail). Together, they must find a way to fix the warp suit before the assassination.

However, as the day of the murder draws near, Galileo begins to realize he may be responsible for the senator’s death. And worse—he has fallen for the victim’s daughter. If Galileo ever wants to see his team again, he’ll have to decide between killing the father of the girl he loves, or starting an interstellar war. After all, sometimes it’s the smallest change that causes the biggest ripple.

“Inception” meets “Minority Report” in space, WARPERS is a YA sci-fi complete at 100,000 words with adult crossover potential.

First 250:


Temple City, Enora

Jumping back four days to watch a dog get hit by a hover car is a bloody waste of time. Unfortunately, that's my job.

I swallow an annoyed huff, miffed that Gamma team was assigned this joke of a mission. We could be solving that Leviathan kidnapping case, or figuring out who’s responsible for sabotaging the Interstellar Fleet’s dreadnoughts, or a million other crimes more important than identifying the license plate number of the asshole who ran over Senatori Gable’s pet dog.

Not saying said-asshole doesn’t deserve a dose of justice. But still—kidnapping case, or road rage mystery? One clearly carries more priority.

I wince as Takana’s too-loud voice crackles in my aud implant. “Hasn’t anyone told Senatori Gable live pets went out of style a billion years ago? Droids are the newest rage. Especially droid horse racing—”

“Maybe some people prefer a living, breathing companion instead of a mass of circuits and synth-fur,” I reply, tracking the dog in question as it sprints back and forth upon the lawn of the senatori’s mansion. At precisely 03:25:00, the dog will leap over the shock fence, plant its furry butt in the middle of the road, and get run over by an incoming hover car.

Tilting my head, I can't figure out why the dog reminds me of something . . . something just beyond my recollection’s grasp. An echo of a half-forgotten memory. Doesn’t matter, though. I’m not interested in dredging up old memories right now


  1. Judges, please vote here. Good luck.

    1. First off...thanks for the ear worm, author of Carrion My Wayward Son (and awesome choice for a nickname because the lyrics are pretty rad for your query!)

      This is my first time reading Carrion My Wayward Son. You've gotten lots of feedback on your query already and I think you've sharpened it up well. I love that you're taking on a triple POV book. I think some will scoff at that (likely worried about muddied voices and keeping them distinct) but it can be done and I applaud you for doing it.

      Your first 250 are great--my interest was held and I was drawn into the story immediately. Your words made it easy to visualize where the characters were and what they were experiencing. Nicely done!

      This Wasn't in the Job Contract: I read your query and opening paragraphs in round one and I must say, you did a fantastic job of revising. The query is tighter, the extras (while important to the story) were trimmed nicely and you still created a great understanding of what the reader should expect. And like my original comments--I still love that check list at the beginning!

      Your first 250 also does a great job of painting a great picture of what the characters are feeling/experiencing. Sci-Fi isn't my go to genre--and those I have read often cram too much stuff into the opening pages so it's easy to get lost. You do a great job of weaving in the cool, techy stuff without leaving me wondering who or what something is.

      This is another well matched round and you should both be proud of how far you've gotten and I hope you know that this is not an easy decision.

      My vote goes to: Carrion My Wayward Son

    2. In My Wayward Son, great opening line for your query! I was a little confused as to why the dad is hunting her down after he hid her but I assume it's to protect himself once he realizes she's out for revenge. It definitely makes me want to read more.

      For This wasn't in the Job Contract, interesting query opening, I liked it! I would like to know a little more about how he might be responsible for the death though. Enjoyed the first 250, it drew me in.

      This wasn't in the Job Contract for the win!

    3. Wow! Another nice pair of entries!! First time seeing Job Contract, and I like the vibe. I like Carrion, too. Nice touches to the query since last round.

      This is tough, going with:

      Victory to WAYWARD SON!!

    4. Carrion My Wayward Son
      Query: I believe you have a solid query already. I do wonder, however, if you can incorporate more of her ability to possess others’ bodies into the stakes.
      First 250: I loved the tension you build in your excerpt through visceral reaction. Could you show us what the obscene gesture is to deepen pov? Perhaps via Kirsi’s response (would she snicker, chide Alora?).

      This Wasn't in the Job Contract
      Query: I’m a query purist, which means I’m not keen on 1, 2, 3 in the query. However, I see excellent changes to your query that clarifies your story since I last read. It’s hard to write a succinct sci-fi query with so few words, and you’ve done a great job.
      First 250: I enjoyed the set-up for what looks like an interesting and unusual take on time travel.

      Now, to vote, which is always the biggest challenge in QueryKombat.

      Victory to: CARRION MY WAYWARD SON!

    5. Such great entries! I've seen them both already, and I think both queries shine now. Honestly, these are both so good, at this point it's down to personal preference. And although I'd love to read both of them, one of them edges ahead for me for the spunky female character.

      Victory to CARRION MY WAYWARD SON!

    6. Ooh, two I haven't seen before. You both have really intriguing premises with complicated plots, and I applaud you both for handling all that information succinctly. As the queries feel evenly matched, I'm going with the one whose world-building in the 250 drew me in more...


    7. CARRION: Huge improvement from round 1 when I read this last. I really, really like what you did. The first 250 feels so much tighter and clearer. Well done. The query motivations are also much clearer.

      JOB CONTRACT: Very fascinating premise, and I love the query setup with the rules. You accomplish a lot of world building on page 1, which I like. I think the last paragraph could be stronger or more specific to really land the point you are trying to get across, and the intrigue you are trying to build.


    8. Carrion: The work you've put into rewriting this query shows. A great stakes sentence!

      Job Contract: You're unique take on the query is great, but I think your last sentence is still a little vague on stakes.


    9. No one of consequenceJune 25, 2018 at 12:04 PM

      I've done critique on both of these already, and I voted for both of them in the previous round. It's that time of the contest when we have to kill our darlings.


    10. The query for CARRION MY WAYWARD SON tells me it has everything I could possibly want in a novel. A protagonist who is going to have to make a difficult decision, unique world-building, and some really impressive personal stakes. I love the opening line of the first 250 as well.

      Likewise THIS WASN'T IN THE JOB CONTRACT possesses some similarly difficult decisions toward the end. For me they were just were just a little bit more difficult to connect to, and the world-building not quite as precisely explained in the query.

      Both great sounding stories, but one is just a little stronger: VICTORY TO CARRION MY WAYWARD SON!

      I love this query because it clearly sets out the stakes, and they are great stakes. I suggest you change your comp titles as they are not very recent, and I think there are other fantasy novels that could fit better. Maybe even some from this year. Your first page is good. It does a great job of setting up a mysterious feeling. I think making the POV a little closer, so we can get a definitive sense of who Alora is through her narrative voice, would make it even better.

      Oh, time travel. I love it so much, even when it's complicated (which is all the time), but it can hard to follow for that very reason. My main problem with your query is that I don't understand what double-warping is. However, your query does a marvelous job of setting up stakes that rise like a roller coaster. I'm all for that.

      Your first page is great. I love the dry scifi humor. I'd just be careful not to overdo it in the following pages. Too much exposition too early can distract from the story.


    12. Um, can I just not pick? I want to read BOTH if these right now!

      CARRION, I read and voted for you previously. I think you've done a great job of cleaning things up. I adore this premise and can see the stakes so clearly. I love books where the line of good and evil isn't so easy, where the characters can see the boys...but they still love a person so it's not simple at all. I see a lot of this here, and I think it's great!

      This is my first time reading JOB DESCRIPTION. Your voice is fantastic! It draws me straight in. Personally, I'm a huge fan if the list in the query, especially as we see each rule get blown out of the water later. I also think you did a great job landing us right into the world you've created without being too heavy on up-front world building. Well done!

      This is such a hard decision! Both sound like great stories...since I HAVE to choose, I'll go with the first page that pulled me in more. Victory to JOB DESCRIPTION

  2. Sorry, above comment on June 25 at 10:03 is The Red Cardigan.

  3. I think these are both in excellent shape and should get lots of requests, so awesome job, writers! The character's goals and conflicts are clear in both. As both of your main characters are 18 and in adult roles, it may help to make sure you work in some details about the themes that make your work YA vs. adult fantasy and adult sic-fi. It's more than the age of the characters and the voice, it's about the character development, i.e. finding your place in the world, dealing with adult conflicts for the first time, realizing that adults don't have all the answers etc.