Friday, June 1, 2018

QK1 Match 5: My Babysitter is a Skeleton vs. A Deep Choice

Title: King of Sand, Queen of Bones
Entry Nickname: My Babysitter is a Skeleton
Word count: 71K
Genre: YA Fantasy


Query:

Fifteen-year-old Patella is tired of being the most useless person in her entire necromantic cult. No one will let her help with the goat-raising, the morning worship, or even the sacrificial blood clean-up. Desperate to prove herself, she ditches her desert cave for the nearby castle town, hoping to find a job and a little freedom. At least, that’s the plan until Ash, the city’s reluctant young king, accidentally outs her as a necromancer during his own escape attempt. Together, they flee into the desert, leaving the castle, the cultists, and the guards hunting them far behind.

Unfortunately, neither of them have half a clue how to survive on their own. Their first monster attack is almost their last until a trio of adventurers pull their butts out of the quicksand. Under the adventurers’ wings, Patella learns to use both life magic and necromancy while Ash studies swordplay. Patella’s a natural, healing Ash’s training wounds as easily as she summons lizard skeletons. Finally, she’s useful to someone. Someone with a cute smile who trusts her despite knowing where she came from and what she is.

But no one ever told Patella what she really was: the God of Death’s Chosen One, and said god is not at all pleased about his hero learning life magic. He and the cult won’t rest until she completes the job she was born for: the destruction of the life mage’s last known refuge - Ash’s kingdom. Just when she was getting the crazy idea that she could be its queen.


First 250 words:

A sea of black hoods surrounded Patella. All eyes were on the young man, the old man, and the soon-to-be-dead man at the stone altar in front of the enormous dragon skeleton. The first two, Talus and Father Parietal, stood between the dragon and the altar, while the third laid on the altar, a peaceful smile on his face. It was no secret that old Calcaneus was ready to go and no surprise that he had volunteered for his grandson’s birthday sacrifice. All the adults agreed it was the most desirable death and the greatest sixteenth rites gift anyone could ask for. It made Patella jealous. Her parents were far too young to be her ritual sacrifice, she’d never known her grandparents, and Tibby didn’t count because she was already dead. She’d probably end up with a boring old goat. How was that fair? There was only a week between their birthdays, but Talus always got everything better.

“Brothers and sisters!” Father Parietal raised his hands for silence, though the echo of his voice around the great dragon’s cavern was loud enough to wake the dead without any magical aid. “Centuries ago, after our founder’s destruction, our ancestors wandered the lands, aimless, directionless, brotherless. Lost and alone, they struggled, they sought, and eventually, they found each other. They gathered here as we do today at the site of our fallen founder, where all that remained was the Book of Nymok and the founder’s faithful steed.” He gestured at the dragon skeleton behind him.

VERSUS

Title: Aiko's Dive
Entry Nickname: A Deep Choice
Word Count: 78K
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Query:

If given a choice between orphan and slave, Aiko would choose orphan every time. Each adoption day, she watched other children dragged away by the monstrous Kaisin, relieved to be left behind.

Then, Fletcher adopts her.

Though not Kaisin, he’s just as strange, and Aiko isn’t sure whether to be fearful or hopeful. But when Fletcher receives a message from the mentor he watched die thirty years ago, Aiko is forced to push those feelings aside and dive to the bottom of an alien ocean. Half-buried in silt, they find a wrecked craft and Fletcher’s mentor alive, but not well.

Crazed by a mysterious affliction, the mentor, a Kaisin, attacks the duo, separating them. Now alone, Aiko must put aside her misgivings and make a choice: will she risk her life to save the stranger who adopted her, or leave him behind? Assuming, that is, if she can survive on her own.

First 250:

Today is adoption day.

That thought filled Aiko with fear as she stood in a line with the other children. Each wore a shapeless smock that covered them from neck to ankle, but did nothing to ward away the cold or the damp.

The headmistress saw Aiko shiver and scowled.

On adoption day, they were expected to be perfect, and any misstep was punished.

That was the unfortunate case at Alphanax Orphanage. Deep in the heart of Kaisin space, the orphanage was a place for unwanted children. Most were Kaisin - pale, hairless, and tall, with jittery blue eyes - but there were a few other species besides.

Then, there was Aiko.

What she was, no one could really say. To some, she looked like a Kaisin, but instead of bleached skin, hers was darker, almost yellow. Her hair was black, as were her eyes, which were slanted and narrow, the exact opposite of the Kaisin’s bulbous blue.

The headmistress, a Kaisin as well, often said that Aiko was an aberration, and the children teased her for being different.

But Aiko considered it a blessing because it kept her safe.

Only Kaisin came to Aphanax looking for children. They terrified her, and rightly so if the Headmistress’ tales about what Kaisin did with the children they adopted were true. Each time one lumbered through the doors to Alphanax, she felt a knot in her stomach so tight she feared her insides would collapse. But, as many times as she had flinched under a Kaisin’s shadow, none wanted her.

23 comments:

  1. Judges, please respond with your feedback and vote here! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thaddeus SpinsterJune 1, 2018 at 6:45 PM

      My Babysitter is a Skeleton: I enjoy the subtle humor in your query. Just because I’m weird and maybe nobody else will pick up on this but I stumbled on the line “The God of Death’s chosen one.” Now I preface it by saying I am strange but at first I thought she was the God to the chosen one from Death and not that she is the chosen one from the God of Death? Does that make sense? My only other suggestion is to ramp up the stakes. As it is it’s vague. The cult won’t back down. But what will happen if she defies the cult? That is what I want to know. The first thing that got me is the name Petella. Isn’t that the kneecap, nope, I’m wrong it’s Patella? I really have nothing of value to add to the first 250. It is funny with great writing. I really liked the part how Petella would probably be stuck with a lousy old goat for a sacrifice. Great job, I can’t wait to read this someday.

      A Deep Choice: There is more room in your query, maybe you should add a little more. A few notes: At first, I thought Kaisin was a person, but finding out the mentor is a Kaisin makes me think it’s a race, or species or something else and not a person’s name. Maybe make it clearer. How did the mentor survive in the bottom of an alien ocean for thirty years? I would like more detail. You have the room for more words so give me more. Now that I read the 250 I’m clear on the Kaisin. Aiko reads as younger in the start of the 250 maybe Middle Grade age. Most of the first 250 is informative but doesn’t give me much sense of the story other than telling a story. I would suggest less tell and more show in your first 250 such as instead of saying the Headmistress called her an aberration and the children teased her, show it.
      VICTORY TO MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON.

      Delete
    2. Love and SqualorJune 1, 2018 at 10:46 PM

      MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON: The query is good, with just enough information to set the stakes and what Patella must do. Two things threw me off: first of all, the name Patella means kneecap, which was all I could think about. Was this intentional? Also, the tone didn't quite seem to match the type of story I assumed this was. Phrases like 'pull their butts out of the quicksand' sound much more contemporary than fantasy. But, if the tone of the book is light and humorous, this kind of tone in the query wouldn't be a problem. If it is, I'd suggest making sure the query's tone matches throughout, so the one-off phrases like that one isn't so jarring. I loved the first 250. I was pulled into the story right away and the world-building is already getting going, despite not having many words to play with. Nice job.

      A DEEP CHOICE: The query seems a little short, which means you've got some additional words to play with. That's good, since I think you could include both a little more world-building and a little more about what Aiko's journey actually entails. Right now, both are a little vague. I was also a bit confused about what Kaisin is. In the first mention, it sounds like an individual, and it took me until I was reading the pages to realize it's a subset of humans. The first 250 is nicely written, but it's a lot of telling. Especially if you're writing in third person, I suggest getting us as close to the main character as possible. Show us her fears, her trepidations, her hopes. Show us what she's seeing, hearing, smelling. It's a good premise, so the 250 needs to do its job to immerse the reader in it as quickly as possible.

      VICTORY to MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON!

      Delete
    3. Fifteen-year-old Patella is tired of being the most useless person in her entire necromantic cult. No one will let her help with the goat-raising, the morning worship, or even the sacrificial blood clean-up. Desperate to prove herself, she ditches her desert cave for the nearby castle town, hoping to find a job and a little freedom. At least, that’s the plan until Ash, the city’s reluctant young king, accidentally outs her as a necromancer during his own escape attempt. Together, they flee into the desert, leaving the castle, the cultists, and the guards hunting them far behind.

      Unfortunately, neither PATELLA NOR ASH have half a clue how to survive on their own. Their first monster attack is almost their last until a trio of adventurers pull their butts out of the quicksand. Under the adventurers’ wings, Patella learns to use both life magic and necromancy while Ash studies swordplay. Patella’s a natural, healing wounds as easily as she summons lizard skeletons. Finally, she’s useful to someone. Someone with a cute smile who trusts her despite knowing where she came from and what she is.

      But Patella's Death’s Chosen One, and he is not pleased about HIS HERO'S CHANGE IN PROFESSION. DEATH and the cult won’t rest until PATELLA completes the job she was born for: the destruction of the life mage’s (who is this?) last known refuge - Ash’s kingdom. Just when she was getting the crazy idea that she could be its queen.
      MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON: REALLY strong query. The voice is strong in this one. Love it. I switched up a few nonessential things to smooth it out. 'Death' is less unwieldy than 'the God of Death', but that's just MHO. My only nit-pick: what's this about the life mage? You seem to pop it in as an after thought. Maybe just: '…PATELLA completes the job she was born for: the destruction of Ash’s kingdom.'
      Your 250 are great. Patella comes off as a wee bit petulant. I like that. That means there's room for character growth. Loved '…on the young man, the old man, and the soon-to-be-dead man…' Take out the bit about Talus for later. And check laid vs lay. It rings incorrectly to my ears, but grammar is not my strong point. (Thank heavens for real copy editors.) All in all, very nicely done.


      Every adoption day, Aiko watches other children dragged away by the monstrous Kaisin, relieved to be left behind. Then, Fletcher adopts her.

      Though not Kaisin, FLETCHER IS just as strange, and Aiko isn’t sure WHAT TO THINK OF HIM. WHEN Fletcher receives a message from (NAME) - the mentor he watched die thirty years ago, Aiko is forced to push HER MISGIVINGS aside and dive to the bottom of an alien ocean IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS. THERE SHE FINDS (NAME) ALIVE, but not well, TRAPPED IN A HALF-BURIED SHIP WRECK.

      Crazed by a mysterious affliction, (NAME) attacks AIKO AND FLETCHER, separating them. Now alone, Aiko must make a choice: will she risk her life to save the stranger who adopted her, or leave him behind?

      A DEEP CHOICE – I hardly ever say this, but I think you can add to this query. I want to know why Aiko would choose to save Fletcher. Tell us a little about the bond that forms between the adoption and the dive. What makes saving her own life and leaving Fletcher behind a difficult choice for Aiko? Also, at first I thought Kaisin was an individual. Maybe add 'tribe' to the first sentence? Or clan? Otherwise, I think you're almost there.

      Your 250 are strong! Good job. I can feel Aiko's terror, I hate the headmistress at once, and the Kaisin are vividly portrayed. Totally pulled in from the beginning. I want to know more, and I'm ready for Fletcher to make an appearance. Have a CP read through to tighten a few things up, and you're good to go.
      This is the hardest choice yet. I want to pick both! You are very talented, and I want to CP both manuscripts. They're like little jewels waiting to be polished. But I have to vote VICTORY TO MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON on the strength of the unique voice in their query.



      Delete
    4. MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON Feedback
      QUERY:
      This story has a really cool premise—I love books where characters are going through their own self discovery! Here’s some feedback on your query: First paragraph, in my opinion, is strong. Clear understanding of the character’s flaw and stakes. Second paragraph, though, could be tightened up. The first and last sentences are great, but the middle (where you outline some specific instances from the plot) are giving us a spoiler alert.

      First 250:
      In your first paragraph it took me a second to realize that Patella was in the crowd—not the center of attention. Is there a way to make that clearer to the reader? It’s clear that Patella feels like she’s getting the raw end of the deal when it comes to birthday sacrifices. Show us that with her—is she angry? Bitter? Frustrated? Give us some emotional/physical cues for us to feel what Patella is feeling. Also—a friendly reminder to watch repetitive word use. A helpful suggestion is reading your work out loud (if you have a Kindle, you can send documents to your kindle and have it read aloud) as it helps to catch repeated words. There are a couple uses of “alter” that could be reworded.


      A DEEP CHOICE FEEDBACK
      Query:
      Wow! That’s quite the set up and my interest has definitely been piqued! Here’s some feedback for you on the query…first, it’s no easy task getting an almost 80K book into 250 words! And there is no rule that says you HAVE to have 250 words in your query, but for yours left me wishing there was a little more “meat” to what I’m in for as a reader. You’ve got about 100 words to play with (if you want!), and I would say you could use a few more. Readers want to know (a) who the character is, (b) what problem they’re facing and (c) what is standing in their way from being victorious. Right now, your query is giving us some really cool nuggets of what’s happening to them in the story, but it’s skimming over the three main pieces. I don’t know who Aiko is (other than a slave who has a shot at being adopted—but would rather not). I want to know what she’s up against. Why is adoption a bad thing? And even more, why is adoption from a Kaisin the worst thing ever (note: the first use of Kaisin in your query makes it sound like a person’s name—not a group of people)? And while the person who adopts her has a problem they’re facing—how is that Aiko’s issue (other than being forced to go along?)? Also, no rhetorical questions. Put that question into a statement. You’ve got a good start, but with some revising that answers these questions, you could have a really awesome query!

      First 250
      You have an incredible voice to your words!! I was drawn right into your story and I’m bummed there isn’t more to read! The only thing I found was I’d move the line “On adoption day…” to the line above. I’ll admit that I also had to look up the word aberration. Not saying you have to change it, because from the context of the sentence my hunch on the definition was correct. However, just tossing it out there that if others flag that or wonder what it means, then it may be worth looking for a different word (but again, I’m probably the only one. Go figure. Ha!). As I mentioned in the query feedback, I’d stay consistent with how you use Kaisin so that the reader is clear it’s a group of people/creatures not a singular person/creature.

      VERDICT
      Another tough match up, both with their own strengths and areas for improvement. I had to flip a coin for this one and with the best two out of three, my vote is for MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON.

      Delete
    5. My Babysitter is a Skeleton:
      Query: I love how well you show the worldbuilding of your story in your query. And I think you’ve got a great premise; very unusual. I was thrown a bit with 'the God of Death’s Chosen One'. It seemed to come out of nowhere compared to the rest of the query. Consider introducing this component of your story earlier in the query, so it has meaning and heightens the stakes.
      First 250: I loved the humor in your first page and don’t have any suggestions.

      A Deep Choice:
      Query: With your short word count, you could definitely add more to your query. It sounds like you have an interesting and complex world, but you have many proper nouns in the query, so it might help to either cut some or feed them in with more explanation.
      First 250: I really enjoyed your first 250. The voice did sound a bit young, so you might want to scrutinize your word choices to make the voice sound older. Also consider showing us a bit more of the setting. Sci-fi gives an author a perfect chance to develop a rich, unusual world. Don’t skimp on those extra details.

      Tough choice here, because I really enjoyed both of these entries. But…
      Victory to A DEEP CHOICE!

      Delete
    6. MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON
      Query:
      Okay, this is quite possibly the best opening to a query letter I have *ever* read!! Funny, weird, and totally lets us know who this character is right away. Love it! And the stakes in this query are off the charts. That last line just really drives the knife in for how screwed this young heroine really is. This is so well done, I wouldn’t change a thing!
      250:
      I really enjoyed this passage. You might consider breaking it up into shorter paragraphs, especially since this is the opening of your book. Long paragraphs tend to get skimmed over and slow tension down. I love how dark and weird this is. That the people in this culture are volunteering to be the birthday sacrifice for their beloved grandkids is so bizarre, but because it’s so different, it piques my curiosity right away and I have to know more about these people. Really well done!

      A DEEP CHOICE
      Query:
      This query is concise, which is generally a good thing. But I’m afraid you’re not including quite enough meat here. I like your opening lines. But when you mention Kaisin, make sure it’s clear that this is a class/race/group of people. On first read, I thought Kaisin was a person.
      When the duo gets separated, I have no reason to believe Aiko would choose to save the person who adopted her. Why would she choose that? There hasn’t been any indication in the query that the two have grown close since Aiko was adopted. All we know is that Fletcher forced her to dive to the bottom of an ocean for him. Why would she even think about trying to save him when she can get away and be free?
      In order to really set the stakes in your story, you need to make it clear why this choice would be hard for Aiko. The reader needs to feel the agony of this decision. Once the reader feels that, the stakes will go way up.
      250:
      Good decision to start with adoption day—I’m assuming this is when Aiko will get adopted and the story will kick into gear. I like the structure of this opening, and the writing is clean. I do worry about the physical descriptions you give of your characters. Aiko is very clearly Asian, and she’s shunned for being an aberration as compared with the paler, blue-eyed Kaisin. With racial tensions so high right now and the push for #ownvoices in publishing, I’m worried that pointing out the racial differences so obviously and setting your character as a minority who is shunned is opening a big can of worms for yourself. Just something to consider.

      Victory to MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON

      Delete
    7. MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON
      Great opening and good structure overall to the query. My principal concern is that the query hints at a passive, reactive main character. Someone else outed her as a necromancer, someone else saved her from quicksand, and now she's also The Chosen One. It dampens my enthusiasm to cheer for her. Minor point: I'm a little thrown by all of the characters named for bones. The opening is a little slow: a willing, calm, and elderly sacrifice victim robs the story of tension. I have a feeling this story will have dark edges and that should be announced right in the opening.

      A DEEP CHOICE
      Excellent nickname; I like it more than the actual title. The opening is strong: it starts in the right place, with both world-building and emotional tension. The former might be a touch heavy (working in the detail about where the orphanage is located and what it does feels unnecessary and distant). Also, describing the character's physical appearance in this way, and so soon, will throw many readers out of the story. I want the author to bring us closer in to the POV and focus on the tension. I have similar concerns about this query as the other: that it paints the MC as passive and reactive. There's too much focus on the ordering of events, and not enough getting us invested in the MC or her motivations to care about the outcome. The sentence about Fletcher adopting her gets its own line, but by itself delivers no impact because we don't know who Fletcher is. And from that point on it's mostly Fletcher's plot, Fletcher's stakes. For this to be Aiko's story, it needs to be centered on her.

      Congratulations to both entrants for making it this far. Victory to MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON

      Delete
    8. MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON: Oh man! What a great premise. This query letter is in pretty good shape. The only sentence I really stumbled over was “Someone with a cute smile who trusts her despite knowing where she came from and what she is.” Also, how does she discover she’s the chosen one? I feel like you just need to finish the last sentence with Patella’s hard choice: Just when she was getting the crazy idea that she could be its queen, Patella must decide whether to brace her life’s purpose or risk death to save her king.” Not the best, but I hope you get the idea. The first 250 words are a bit clunky, with quite a lot of repeated description (dragon skull/ alter) and long sentences. However, the voice that comes in 1/3 of the way through really work. If you can write out some of the passive verbs in those sentences, it might help break it up a bit. Also, I’m not sure what the purpose of the sacrifice on a certain age means for the one who’s birthday it is. Can you show more of that? I’d also encourage you to try to break up Father Parietal’s speech with some sensory details, such as what he does or what Patella does. Does she scoff, scratch an ear? Does he sweep his arms as he talks? Spit a little as he yells? Do people lean back or cower at the unnatural loudness? Hope this helps!

      A DEEP CHOICE: I appreciate the uniqueness of a deep ocean dive in an alien world in this premise. This query is really short, but that leaves you room to give more details and voice that will make it shine. I wasn’t aware until I got down to the third paragraph that the Kaisin was a race. For some reason, I thought it was a specific person. Can you give us Aiko’s age to give a sense of audience and category in that first sentence? Show us if you can what makes Fletcher strange and how he gets the message from the mentor? Why or why not does Aiko not feel aligned with him or how does she start to? This will help increase tension and the stakes at the end. Why do the Kaisin attack? Up until now, we’re under the impression they adopt slaves, but nothing else. What do they use the slaves for? Why would they attack an underwater exploration? These details might help us better understand the situation and the choice Aiko has to make. The first 250 words didn’t draw me in right away. My first thought was “do they only have one adoption day and its rare or special?” Is this another adoption day that they have often? Be weary of using passive verbs and repeating words in so short a space. Also, be careful with filtering such as “she felt.” The last paragraph here really grabbed my attention, so maybe you could move that up closer to the beginning?

      Seriously, this was my hardest choice yet. VICTORY to MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON!
      ~Red Ink Slinger

      Delete
  2. My Babysitter is a Skeleton
    Now, when you say goat-raising, do they raise goats from the dead, or rear goats? Since they’re necromancers, you could read it either way. Is there a reason why the MC is kept out of everything? Just because she’s young? I’d love to have a better sense of who she is and why she’s “useless.” I do like the last sentence of the first query paragraph, sets the tone for the rest of the story. The bond that forms between the two characters is sweet and presented well, though it still begs the question of why Patella was so useless before, especially considering who she ends up being. You could probably tie those two points together, ie, the cult kept her out of things because she’s special, and that’s why she felt useless. Not in those words, of course, just a connection between how she’s initially treated and who she ends up being. This is a picky point, but in the third paragraph I’d just say “he’s not at all pleased,” rather than “said god,” since the latter read as awkward, to me. Then, the following sentence, I’d replace “He,” with “The God of Death.” These are minor points! I like the last sentence of the query—you lay the stakes out well, again.
    You pages are super dark and creepy, and read well. The last sentence of the of the first paragraph, “got everything better,” is phrased a little awkwardly. I understand the intention behind the line, but it could be phrased better. Overall, though, the opening gives the reader a good idea of the mindset the MC has grown up with—most kids that age want a car when they turn sixteen, not someone to volunteer as a ritual sacrifice!

    A Deep Choice
    I’m not too keen on the opening line of the query, because I’m not sure who’d choose to be a slave. If the choice was between being orphaned or being a slave, then it’s be a harder choice to make. I like the second line more. It could probably be reworked to be the opening. Since it’s YA, it’s probably helpful to state the MC’s age. You could be a little more specific in the second paragraph as to the nature of the message. I assume it’s a call for help. Also, do they physically dive, as in swim, to the bottom of the ocean, or use a vessel of some sort, because that drastically changes the nature of the whole story. Can they somehow survive, without gear, under the water? Your query is pretty short—you could definitely add more details to give a better sense of the world around the characters.
    In the pages, the physical descriptions of the Kaisin’s and the physical description of Aiko sound completely opposite, so I’m not sure how anyone could mistake her for one or think she looked like one. The last line is a good one, and I assume it’s leading into more about who Aiko is and how she feels.

    ReplyDelete
  3. King of Sand, Queen of Bones
    Query: In paragraph one, how does the king “out” her? In the last paragraph, I don’t know what specific obstacles Patella faces, or her goals when facing them. I thought the query otherwise described the plot smoothly, and bringing out the stakes at the end would help.
    First 250: I enjoyed Patella’s disappointment at no one being sacrificed for her. Toward the end of the section, Father Parietal starts going on about the society’s past, and I hope in the paragraphs after the 250 he doesn’t do too much of that at once, because it would start to feel like an info-dump.

    Aiko’s Dive
    Query: I thought Kaisin was a person’s name until the last paragraph. Other than that, a few more details about where they are at the end, where Fletcher was taken and how far, may help clarify the uniqueness of the journey ahead of Aiko. I want to know what the alien ocean is like!
    First 250: The opening effectively lays out Aiko’s predicament. A detail or two about the setting may help—are they actually in space, or simply on a planet in Kaisin territory?

    ReplyDelete
  4. My Babysitter is a Skeleton
    This query sets up a compelling story that I’d totally read. The tone was really interesting to me—rather modern for a fantasy necromancer story, with phrases like “pulls their butts out of the quicksand.” It brings to mind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if she were a necromancer, which sounds AWESOME. The 250 words were well-written and clear, though they had less of the irreverent voice that the query did. I’d be cautious about using the ceremony to deliver any more history/backstory. You’ve kept it nice and concise here, no problem. This sounds like a great story!

    A Deep Choice:
    I think you’ve got a very dramatic storyline here, under the ocean, with definite high stakes. I’d like a little more clarity about the dive and how separated are they? Like, if they are on a ship that allowed them to dive so deep, how separated can they be? Or are they able to breathe under water somehow? An underwater novel sounds really interesting! In the last paragraph, I think this line needs smoothing: Crazed by a mysterious affliction, the mentor, a Kaisin, attacks the duo, separating them. There’s a lot of starting and stopping as I read that line with four commas. I’m not sure if it matters at this point that the mentor is a Kaisin, so just removing the “, a Kaisin,” would help a lot, I think. Then we could better follow along to see all the exciting action happening. Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  5. MY BABYSITTER IS A SKELETON:

    OMG, your story sounds sooo good and right up my alley. And also hilarious. I also enjoyed your first page a lot and how it flowed from the query to page.

    I only have a couple comments (on your query):

    - I think I would add a line that's like "Now she must choose between X and X" somewhere into the last paragraph just to make sure the stakes are super obvious.
    - I would also try and find some comp titles. Reign of the Fallen could be a good recent fantasy.



    A DEEP CHOICE:

    First of all, I so appreciate the pun in your nickname!!! So funny! I also love how unique your story is! And it's totally something I would pick up in a heartbeat.

    General comments on query:
    - I would be more specific as to what people say happens when someone is adopted. Don't hold this juicy detail in! It'll help people understand even more why she doesn't want to be picked.

    General comments on page:
    - There's a paragraph where you say that to some people Aiko looks Kaisin, but then the description you give her is very unlike them. I would consider taking out that some people think she looks Kaisin.



    I loved both of these stories, and I can't wait for you both to start querying! So much fun here. G'luck!!

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  6. My Babysitter is a Skeleton

    I love the first line of the query, and the whole thing is very clever and entertaining. The first 250 is off to a great start. I might rewrite the first paragraph of the query though. It is a dense paragraph and most grabbing part - Patella wishing her parents were old enough to be the ritual sacrifice on her birthday - is buried in the middle.

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  7. King of Sand, Queen of Bones:

    Okay, I must admit this is the first query I'm commenting on that I'm not going to do a LBL on. I like everything about it: the voice, the premise, the stakes and the way they're presented, the humour, and the cleverness. I'm not a fan of the Chosen One trope, so that paragraph did make me less excited for a bit, but the last line did a good job saving it—and the rest makes me confident enough the trope is handled in an interesting way as well.

    Ditto for the pages. Lovely voice, lovely worldbuilding. The speech, while it's believable and understandable since it's a ceremony, still reads info-dumpy, so I hope it doesn't go on detailing the history of their philosophy/world for very long. Since it's a regular occurrence, I'd assume the MC is pretty used to hearing this stuff, so I'd argue there are wittier ways to weave in the necessary bits for us.

    I'm really interested in this one, and even a fan of the title.

    ***

    Aiko's Dive:

    If given a choice between orphan and slave, Aiko would choose orphan every time. Each adoption day, she watched other children dragged away by the monstrous Kaisin, relieved to be left behind. [Solid, strong opening. Makes me want to know more.]

    Then, Fletcher adopts her.

    Though not Kaisin, he’s just as strange, and Aiko isn’t sure whether to be fearful or hopeful. [I'd like some specifics there] But when Fletcher receives a message from the mentor he watched die thirty years ago, Aiko is forced to push those feelings aside and dive to the bottom of an alien ocean. [Definitely more specifics up there! This query is short enough; you can afford to add in a line that shows us their relationship and Aiko's struggle more clearly, so this comes with a stronger impact] Half-buried in silt, they find a wrecked craft and Fletcher’s mentor alive, but not well.

    Crazed by a mysterious affliction, the mentor, a Kaisin, attacks the duo, separating them. Now alone, Aiko must put aside her misgivings and make a choice: will she risk her life to save the stranger who adopted her, or leave him behind? Assuming, that is, if she can survive on her own. [these stakes aren't strong enough for me. I love the potential I'm seeing for interpersonal conflict, as well as the MC's internal one, and I want to see it upped to 1000%. Without seeing the specifics of their relationship, and understanding what the world is like for a kid/teen alone, I have no reason to care about Fletcher, and no idea why Aiko would go back to him]

    The 250 are good, but I recommend another editing pass. There's some filtering and telling in there you can safely get rid of, and places where you'd benefit from more sensory input to really experience the setting and the MC's place in it. I'm wondering about the MC's age, also, and whether there's a timeskip or if the story follows directly after. It says YA, but she reads much younger to me here.

    *

    I really like premises in both of these! There are great points and potential in each, and I wish luck to you both!

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  8. My Babysitter is a Skeleton

    Query:

    I really like your premise!
    The query left me with some questions:
    How does the reluctant king know Patella is a necromancer? The first part of the query implies the two of them would have moved in very different circles.
    Why is Patella so useless if she is actually good at magic?
    In the last paragraph, I would change “what she really was” to “what she really is”.

    250 words:

    This is a great start!
    Only one thing threw me a little: Why has Patella never known her grandparents? Hers must be a small community. If her grandparents are dead, you should rather say so.

    Hope some of this help!
    Good luck!

    A Deep Choice

    Query:

    You should tell us your MC’s age.
    Your query is very short. You could use the extra words to make it a little clearer.
    The choice between being an orphan or a slave should be embellished a little more.
    Why does the message force them to dive into an alien ocean?
    I love the stakes!

    250 words:

    I would change the second sentence to: “The thought filled Aiko…”
    I would remove this sentence: “That was the unfortunate case at Alphanax Orphanage.”
    I do wonder what the other species are, and I do find it a bit disconcerting to use the term species about humanoid creatures.
    Other than that I liked your first page!

    Hope some of this help!
    Good luck!

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  9. My Babysitter is a Skeleton

    Query: Great 1st sentence! And “reluctant young king” paints a great picture of the character. It seems fun with high stakes — my favourite combination! :) But I did wonder why the young king and Patella escape together when he’s the one who “accidentally outs her” … or is that the point? the source of tension between them? Maybe make this a little clearer? Also why is she supposed to destroy the “life mage’s last known refuge” and not just the life mage? Seems like overkill, or is it supposed to be?

    1st 250: Great opening with lots of tension yet humour and glimpses of Patella’s character. The first line though, “A sea of black hoods surrounded Patella” seems misleading … makes it sound as though she is in danger and then there’s no payoff. Maybe something like (bad example): “Patella surveyed the sea of black hoods”?

    vs

    A Deep Choice

    Query: Succinct but full of conflict, drama and character, great job! Nitpicky thing: Would tighten up the last line so it reads, “Assuming she can survive on her own.”

    1st 250: Excellent opening, such a chilling scene. Small thing: I know you will probably get to Aiko’s age in the first chapter but I was curious to know how old she is right up front. And the age range of kids in the orphanage. Maybe something as simple as, “the orphanage was a place for unwanted children under 12” or whatever the cut off is?

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  10. King of Sand, Queen of Bones

    Great title! I get why Patella is the Queen of Bones, but would love to know what makes Ash the King of Sand. I really enjoyed how the names in Patella's cult reference bones! Terrific opening paragraph with the reluctant King escaping and the unlikely pairing of these two. Killer last line in a final paragraph that nails the conflict in the star-crossed lovers trope. I will read this for sure!

    A few thoughts: 1) I had to reread the God of Death’s Chosen One, because it sounded at first like she's the God. Maybe consider reversing? The Chosen One of the God of Death. It's still correct as is, though. 2) Should "no one ever told Patella what she really was" be changed to "really is"? Since it's her current status? 3) There's so much power in the line, the destruction of the life mage’s last known refuge - Ash’s kingdom. Not that you need to answer these questions, but it raised quite a few for me...Will she be pitted against Ash specifically? Who is the life mage and why is there only one remaining refuge?

    Good luck! :)

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  11. Aiko's Dive:

    Very unique plot! I like that the query is succinct while still getting the major plot points across. It would be helpful to know Aiko's age. I would also like to know more about Fletcher. What are his redeeming qualities? I don't feel invested in their relationship, so as a reader, I'm not sure if I should celebrate that they've been separated and Aiko has her freedom, or root for their story to unfold. Also, what types of obstacles will make survival a challenge? Maybe add a few into the part where she dives into the Alien ocean (fraught with x, y, and z...)

    Good luck! :)

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  12. My Babysitter is a Skeleton

    Query:
    Your query is really strong. If I were reading it at a book store, I would take the book home with me on the spot. The stakes at the end were perfect and the entire query gave me a good idea of the plot. My only critique is the sentence where Ash outs her as a necromancer. It seems like a detail that probably makes sense in the book, but here it feels like a leap in the next sentence when they flee together. Since that detail doesn’t make a reappearance in the query, you could just have her form an alliance with the king who is attempting his own escape.

    First 250:
    You did a great job of setting the scene in the first two paragraphs without giving much physical detail. I could picture it very well in my head. I love Patella’s voice, especially her comparisons of the current ritual sacrifice to her own.

    I would find a way to break up the two paragraphs. I think it’s too much for a first page. Agents (and readers) like to see white space.

    Overall, terrific job!

    Aiko’s Dive

    Query:

    While you story sounds interesting and unique, I think you need more information in your query. It felt very short and the different events that happen don’t feel quite connected. For instance, you say they get separated, but I can’t understand why Aiko would care about rescuing Fletcher, since she would choose orphan every time plus she didn’t seem to like him.

    I have a feeling that the story is good, and all of these events make sense there, but it’s not being shown in the query—because queries are so freaking hard!

    First 250:
    I really liked your first page (like I said, I had a feeling the story was good!). I could feel the tension and pictured the scene very well in my head. The only thing that made me pause was in the last paragraph where it said that the Headmistress told tales about what Kaisin children did. It just didn’t feel like what would happen, simply because as Headmistress, she would need to keep order and make the kids think being adopted was a good thing, so they would behave (especially on adoption day). If anything, Aiko would have heard tales from the other children. This isn’t a huge deal, just something that made me pause and question.

    Great job on both the query and the first page. I think some tinkering with the query will help get it where it needs to be.

    Good luck to both entries!

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  13. My Babysitter is a Skeleton: Great opening line in your query. Cracked me right up. Solid query. I loved how casually morbid your first 250 were. We already get a nice snippet of some rivalry between Patella and Talus, and the line "the echo of his voice around the great dragon’s cavern was loud enough to wake the dead without any magical aid" is fantastic.

    A Deep Choice: The first line of the query could be crisper. I understood it, but it could have a more clear-cut distinction that the children being taken away are going off to be slaves since we're thrown right in with no other context. I assumed when you mentioned "Kaisin" you were talking about a guy's name, but then the mentor is described as a Kaisin later on, making me think this is a race of beings. Also at the end, why would she be torn about rescuing Fletcher when you stated she would rather be in the orphange? This query is on the shorter side, so the middle paragraph could flesh out her and Fletcher's relationship more to make us understand why she would want to rescue him. You could also add a few more in more world-building details as well.
    For the first 250, the descriptions are great, but I wonder if you dive right into what's happening and sprinkle in the descriptions throughout. They felt too dumped in for the very start of a novel.

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  14. My Babysitter is a Skeleton_ I love,love this query! The voice of this quirky character drew me right in.I wouldn't change anything. In the 250, I wasn't so pulled in, off the bat. There were too many characters and descriptions for me. Though Patella is there in the very first, very well written, line. it felt slow and didn't grab me until the second paragraph when Father Parietal raises his hands to speak. This is a great query and sounds like a great story. Good luck!


    Aiko's Dive_ The query definitely makes me want to read on.I love the whole idea of this story. It intrigues me. Aiko as a character really appeals to me. I feel for her. I just needed more detail and to feel more connection to her, and what she's thinking and feeling. And to know more about what or who Kaisin is. It would help me to know how she feels about Fletcher. Maybe that paragraph in the query could be fleshed out more?
    The opening to the 250 is very strong! After the headmistress scowls, there is a lot of description though. I would prefer to have the action continue though and discover the descriptive details as the story progresses. Great writing. I think you have a wonderful story here. The best of luck!

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  15. King of Sand, Queen of Bones
    Wow. Not much I can find to suggest any changes to here. The voice is amazing, the plot and stakes are clear, and Patella is a character with plenty of agency. The romance arc is introduced nicely in the query, letting us know it's there but without making it sound like your heroine's life starts and ends with her love interest. The opening page has some solid dark humor to it. Not my type of thing per se, but I know plenty of people who appreciate it. Best of luck!

    A Deep Choice
    Good opening line on this one. You can feel the dread from Aiko right away. I also liked the line, "Then, there was Aiko." It makes me curious as to how she looks different, so when you delve into describing her (something that mostly authors are told not to do in an opening page), you've got a good reason for it and you've piqued my interest. I'm afraid the query left me a bit confused, however. For one thing, I thought Kaisin was an individual's name, not the name of a species. It's also not clear how receiving the message leads to diving into the ocean. Your query is not long and I think taking a few lines to flesh things out will help it immensely. I hope this is helpful!

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