Sunday, June 24, 2018

QK Round 4 Match 4: I'll Stand Bayou vs. Hungry Ocean Gods

Title: Warden of the Lost
Entry Nickname: I'll Stand Bayou
Word Count: 99K
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Thaddeus Fortier is a Warden of New Orleans, guardian and peacekeeper to all things that go bump in the bayou. The job’s got terrible benefits: zero sick days, no dental, and it comes with a sort of compulsive conscience that keeps Wardens walking the straight and narrow. Murder, mayhem, even little white lies—all off the table for the city’s supernatural guardians. Which is downright problematic for a man like Thad, who’s hell-bent on avenging the murders of his mother and brother. He’s got the whodunit down; all signs point to the city’s resident racketeer, a bougie backwater baron named Papa Ru. The trick is convincing the spirit of New Orleans that there’s more to Thad’s mission than a good old-fashioned revenge plot—preferably before Papa Ru makes good on his promise to turn Thad into gator bait.

Thad’s got a plan. Wardens and supernaturals are going missing around town, and they’re turning up dead if they turn up at all. It stinks of Papa Ru and his one-man war on all things otherworldly, and if Thad can connect the dots back to him, it might be just what he needs to convince the city to let him have his vengeance. But with Papa Ru’s threat hanging over his head, and more pissed-off supernaturals than he can stir with a stick, it might just be Thad who’s next on the list of the lost.

WARDEN OF THE LOST is a mash-up of Elmore Leonard’s whackjob crime novels and Neil Gaiman’s darkly bizarre supernatural stories, and would appeal to fans of fantasy, horror, and magical realism alike.

First 250

The taxi driver blinked at me in the rearview with glazed-over eyes. “Where to?” he asked. His voice had the dull monotone of somebody who’d said the same two words so many times they’d stopped sounding like words. Just reflex, now. The bless you after a sneeze that just wouldn’t quit.
Three pine tree fresheners dangled from the mirror, and I still smelled something rancid-sweet wafting up from the upholstery.
“Belle Knoll cemetery,” I said.
The driver’s eyebrows ticked up toward his hairline. “Funeral?”
“Yeah.” Not exactly tough math to do: black suit, dark tie, headed to a graveyard. It was the kind of no-shit question that begged for a sarcastic answer, but I’d lost my sense of humor with my luggage at the last layover.
I looked away from the rearview to watch the airport traffic give way to good old New Orleans highway. Flat land, green grass, that unlikely mix of palm trees and crepe myrtles growing side-by-side—I’d figured I wouldn’t ever see it again, but the city had her own ideas. And Lord, she could be a real bitch about getting her way.
"Friend or relative?” the driver asked. The question fell on the wrong side of personal, but neither of us batted an eye. Taxi drivers are the bartenders of the road: you sit in their seats, you tell them your woes, and you walk away with a lighter heart—and a lighter wallet. It’s a pine-scented taste of everyday magic, and it’s true what they say: all magic has a price.


Title: Tidepool
Entry Nickname: Hungry Ocean Gods
Word count: 77K
Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy


In 1913, Henry Hamilton disappears while traveling on business. His sister Sorrow defies her controlling father’s orders to stay home and travels to the last place Henry is known to have visited – Tidepool, a shabby shore town near Ocean City, Maryland.

After corpses wash up on Tidepool’s beach looking as if they’ve been torn apart by something not quite human, Sorrow is ready to run home to Baltimore. But then she meets Mrs. Ada Oliver, a widow whose expensive black dresses and elegant manners set her apart from other Tidepool residents.

A terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement leads to Sorrow’s discovery of the town’s secret: the sacrifices Ada Oliver makes protect Tidepool from the horrifying creatures living in the ocean. And if the Lords Below don’t get their tributes, they will rise.  

Sorrow wants to stop Mrs. Oliver and get justice for her brother, but doing so will doom all the town’s residents. And the denizens of Tidepool—human and otherwise—are hell bent on making sure Sorrow never leaves. 

Gender-flipped Lovecraftian dark fantasy meets American Horror Story in TIDEPOOL, an adult novel complete at 77,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Eric Scott Fischl’s DR. POTTER’S MEDICINE SHOW and Cherie M. Priest’s MAPLECROFT.

First 257:

Sorrow Hamilton stood before her father’s enormous oak desk, feeling like a misbehaving student as he frowned up at her. The odor of stale pipe smoke—a smell she had grown to detest—hung heavy in the air of the study. 

“It is unsafe for young ladies to travel alone, Sorrow.” Winslow Hamilton folded his arms over his chest. “And unseemly.”

I’m twenty-one, for God’s sake, she dared not say. You cannot stop me

“Betsy Mueller travels alone and has encountered no trouble.” 

“Betsy Mueller is not my daughter.” 

Sorrow’s fingernails dug into her palms. Winslow had definite ideas on what young women could and could not do, and his much longer “could not” list included many of the things that interested Sorrow—such as traveling alone. 

But she’d heard nothing from her brother Henry since his stop in a town called Tidepool, and a sick, cold dread intensified inside her as each day passed with no word. Surely Winslow didn’t expect her to sit in their house like a lump of suet while Henry was missing? She intended to look for him, and this Tidepool was where she would start. 

“It’s been over two weeks. We should have heard something by now, Father.”

Sorrow often thought that Winslow’s steel-gray eyes and matching hair suited his personality perfectly. He had all the warmth of a slab of granite as he stared at her. 

 “I know that. But what exactly do you think you’ll be able to find out?”

She raised her chin. “Whatever there is to know.”


  1. Judges, please vote here. Good luck.

    1. Oh hell.
      I knew this would happen. Two entries I really liked being put against one another. *shakes fist at the universe*

      I'LL STAND BAYOU: Your query tightening is on point. Get voice, great details and honestly, I would buy this book in a hot second.

      First 250: Still really well done. Right in the action, no messing around. Good dialogue and pacing, too. I honestly have ZERO feedback for you.

      HUNGRY OCEAN GODS: Your query has been tweaked and it's still strong and eye catching! But can we please talk about your 250? SO. MUCH. BETTER. AND. STRONGER. We're now in Sorrow's head, not her brothers, and we get to save those little awesome nuggets from his trip to Tidepool for later. I love her voice and how "dad like" is that comment about Betsy not being his daughter? I can't tell you how many times my own parents have said that to me growing up. ha! But in all honesty, I'd also pick up this book in a heartbeat. Nicely done.

      VICTORY: Sweet baby Jesus on a surfboard. I cannot choose. They're both great! So. That means flipping a coin. Best 2 out of 3 goes to....


    2. In I'll Stand Bayou, the query was really solid. I'm not a huge supernatural fan, so I was surprised when the first 250 words drew me in.

      In Hungry Ocean Gods, I love the line '....warmth of a slab of granite.' Interesting premise, sounds like a good read!

      This was a hard call, but I'm going with I'll Stand Bayou for the win!

    3. Nice job! Two great entries. Not much in the form of feedback anymore. It'd just be critique for the sake of critique. Both of these are good to go.

      Victory to I'LL STAND BAYOU!

    4. HUNGRY OCEAN GODS, I'm excited to see you decided to start this one with Sorrow instead of Henry, but I think you can also reflect that in your query. "When Sorrow Hamilton's brother goes missing...etc." Have you considered swapping the first two paragraphs of your 250 (starting w/ dad's statement)? It might make for a nice hook.

      I'LL STAND BAYOU, wowza! First time I've seen this one, and it's dynamite. I have nothing to add, and would love to keep reading...


    5. I'll Stand Bayou
      I absolutely love the voice in your query and first 250! No suggestions for improvement.

      Hungry Ocean Gods
      I love the feel of danger in your query; well done!
      My only suggestion for your first 250 is to put a dialogue tag after “Betsy Mueller travels alone and has encountered no trouble” so the reader doesn’t have to pause to decide who’s speaking.

      This is a tough one, because I really enjoyed both entries. Hmm… I have to pick one.

      Victory to: I’LL STAND BAYOU

    6. Tidepool: A wonderfully strong contender for sure! I still wish you could figure out how to weave some of the time period into the query with word choices or voice.

      I'll Stand Bayou: Such a strong entry from the start! Congrats for making it this far. All. The. Voice!


    7. Ugh. These are both so fabulous. Bayou's query is so tight, and the voice absolutely shines in the first page. And Ocean Gods is also great. I love how deep the POV is in the first page. Both of you have done so well with your revisions. It's a tough choice, but the voice in one of the entries is just a touch more to my liking.

      Victory to I'LL STAND BAYOU!

    8. These stories are BOTH my huckleberry. The only problem with them is that they aren't on my bookshelf this instant.

      I'LL STAND BAYOU invokes a bayou Dresden Files. The one thing I was unclear of that kept coming back to me is the "spirit of New Orleans" stuff. I wasn't sure if this was literally referring to a spirit that the wardens have to get approval from to act out against a particular criminal interest?

      HUNGRY OCEAN GODS the query and pages selected are such a vast improvement over round one. I love the changes you've made to this. My thing I keep coming back to is the "justice for her brother" line, that I'm still not sure what she needs to get justice FOR. If he was brined into Kippersnacks and devoured by a bunch of hungry Deep Ones, I wish you'd just come out and say it!

      I want to read both of these when they're on the shelves and I'll be following them. But since I have to choose one...


    9. Wow. This is the first time I can say I just have zero to say. These are both fabulous, both strong, both so well done. Congratulations. Critiquing at this point (at least to me) would be pointless.

      I can't say one is stronger than the other, so I have to go with the subjective vote. The one that spoke more to me is I'LL STAND BAYOU.

      I don't have any suggestions. This is very, very good. I especially like the phrase "pine-scented taste of everyday magic".

      The query's awesome. All I'd do is add the specific genre to the info paragraph.

      Your first page is really good, and I'm going to say something really subjective: I'd like it if you played your cards closer to the vest. This first page sets out exactly what's happening and what the MC feels, which is good, but it's done is this very matter-of-fact way that nearly plunges us right into the inciting incident. Instead of telling us right off the bat how she feels and what she wants, you could be just a little more subtle about it, and spread the info out over the next few pages. Again, so subjective.

  2. Ugh! I really need both of these in my life. Luckily, I think readers do, too.

    However, I can only vote for one. VICTORY TO I'LL STAND BAYOU, for a terrific marriage of world building and voice.

  3. I like both of these a lot.

    BAYOU: GREAT 250. And query. Really understand what I am getting into here.

    HUNGRY OCEAN GODS: Really nice query, although "A terrifying encounter with the daughter Mrs. Oliver keeps in her basement" is a lot to handle in one phrase. And it isn't specific enough for me.. keeps? is that locks? or does the daughter live there? Why is the daughter terrifying? I think you can really tighten up that part and get to the heart of what is going on.

    tough call, but

  4. No one of consequenceJune 25, 2018 at 12:27 PM

    I'd read both of these. So I based my judgment on this: If both these books were on my desk right now, which one would I read first?

    Victory to I'LL STAND BY YOU