Friday, June 1, 2018

QK1 Match 7: No Heroes Here vs. Twisted Red Riding Hood

Title: Following Shadows
Entry Nickname: No Heroes Here
Word Count: 94K
Genre: Adult Fantasy, OwnVoices


Kieron Lawson is a dashing hero on a quest to save the damsel in his dreams. In reality, he’s a socially awkward lord with a penchant for heroic fables and an aversion to touch. Determined to discover his destiny, he makes a deal with his family: in exchange for permission to leave home on his own and attend the royal tournament, he’ll finally choose a bride.

Before the tourney even begins, a royal favor is stolen from Kieron’s grasp. Chasing down the thief earns him a private meeting with the princess and the hope of his very own happily ever after. When the princess slips into a deep sleep after being poisoned, Kieron is promised her hand in marriage if he can retrieve a cure from a forbidden land.

The fairytale falls apart when Kieron’s company abandons him, and the only person he can find to guide him through the forbidden lands is the thief who stole from him—a man named Eidolon, who inspires feelings Kieron doesn’t understand and can’t control. When dangerous opposition and Kieron’s own temper threaten to derail the mission completely, he finds himself faced with a choice to be the hero and save the princess, or follow his feelings and save the thief.

Imagine a classic medieval fairytale, where the charming prince is an asexual man on the Autism spectrum who falls for a male companion, rather than the princess he sets out to save.

First 250:

Hollowness spread through Kieron Lawson’s chest as he stared out the lancet window. Lunch had not gone well, but he couldn’t imagine why. He’d done everything by the book.

“Must you keep doing this?” asked Viscount Lawson, tapping his fingers against the table.

“Why do you assume I did anything?” Kieron kept his eyes on the horizon. The sun shining on the wheat field was almost blinding. Cumaro’s farmlands seemed to stretch on forever. By now, he’d all but memorized every golden stalk and hay bale.

“Lady Voss left in tears.”

Father’s methodical drumming sounded like a ticking clock.
“I don’t know why.” Kieron shrugged, thumbing his cold metal tankard. As his etiquette text dictated, he’d nodded politely as the lady spoke, though he couldn’t remember what she’d said. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Yes, that’s exactly the trouble. She says you sat silently for the majority of the meeting, staring at the wall behind her. Then when you did say something, you called her by the wrong name.”

Kieron turned away from the window. “You mean her name isn’t Liza?”

The rhythmic tapping skipped a beat. “No. Her name is not Liza. We’ve known the Voss family for years. How do you not know the girl’s name?” The drumming grew louder. “And did you have to tell her you didn’t like her dress?”

Kieron cocked his head at his father’s squat frame and frowned. He’d answered a question when asked. What else should he have done?

“She asked if I liked it, and I said no.”


Title: Amirah and the Red Scarf
Entry Nickname: Twisted Red Riding Hood
Word count: 86k
Genre: Adult Fantasy 


AMIRAH AND THE RED SCARF will appeal to fans of GRIMM and is a contemporary fantasy set in the Pacific Northwest similar to PATRICIA BRIGGS' MERCY THOMPSON SERIES.

Protected by an enchanted red scarf, twenty-three-year-old Vidjeti hunter Amirah, tracks and slays the wolf-like demons known as Kurjak. For centuries, these nightmarish creatures have inhabited human hosts, assuming their lives for one year before seeking a new victim.

When Amirah's first solo hunting mission goes awry, she returns home to witness her grandmother in the clutches of an enormous Kurjak. In a desperate attempt to save her grandmother's life, she gives it what it seeks: a sacred family book, only to watch as her grandmother is murdered. Left despondent and alone, she struggles to maintain her semblance at a normal life. However, Amirah's plans are soon shattered when an unexpected attack leaves her possessed by a Kurjak. Rescued by another Vidjeti, the mysterious and handsome Liam O’Malley. Sent to find her, Liam both opens Amirah's eyes (and heart) to an intriguing and vast world of Vidjeti outside her own.

When Liam is captured, Amirah is forced to make a terrible decision. For a chance to save Liam from certain death and reclaim her family's book, she must forfeit her magical red scarf. Problem is it's her only defense against the evil creature now living inside her from assuming complete control.

First 250:
The sweet aromas of freshly baked baklava and cinnamon buns swirled around Amirah and her grandmother as they stepped out of the bakery and into the chill evening air. Amirah's grandmother placed her hand on her elbow. Startled by the unexpected touch, Amirah turned to face her.

Shadow clouded her grandmother's face as she spoke. “Here, Scre,” she said, calling Amirah by her Serbian nickname, meaning “heart”. “You will need this tonight. ” She untied the red scarf from under her chin, gently removing it from her silver-colored hair.

Amirah looked down as her grandmother held it out to her, the red silk draped over the old woman's gnarled fingers. “What are you talking about, Baka? You’re coming with me.”

Shaking her head slowly, her grandmother looked up toward Amirah with deep brown eyes, a shade darker than Amirah’s. She sighed. “No, not tonight, Srce.”

Furrowing her brows, Amirah pressed, “But you always hunt with me?”

I know,” she said and gave her a warm smile. “But you’re ready now. I’ve taught you everything I can. My eyes do not see as clear as they once did. I fear my presence during the hunt this year would only place you at great risk. You’re a woman now, Srce. You knew this day would come. Tonight, you must do this on your own.”Her grandmother placed the scarf in Amirah's hands, forcing her fingers to close over the silk fabric. A shiver of magic rippled through the scarf, tingling Amirah's palms.


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

    1. NO HEROES HERE: I really love this idea. My only note on the query is that you could add a little to show the reader what world we're in and where Kieron's coming from. Is this our world, a fantasy world, past/present/future? Does Kieron come from a wealthy family (I assumed so, because he's being forced to choose a bride)? But that's really it. Good query. I have no notes at all on the first 250. I thoroughly enjoyed this sample and would keep reading, no doubt. Great job.

      TWISTED RED RIDING HOOD: While this sounds like an intriguing premise, the query had a few issues that kept me from truly engaging in it. In the first paragraph, it should be 'Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series,' since only names of book titles need to be in all-caps (and none of those books are actually called Mercy Thompson, since that's the name of the heroine). You don't need a comma after 'Amirah' in the second paragraph. You also don't need to put the words 'Vidjeti' and 'Kurjak' in italics, since the reader will know these are invented words based on the unfamiliarity, and the italics makes it a little hard to read. I'm also wondering about the significance of the family book. You say it's sacred, and Amirah seems to want to get it back, but I'm not sure why. Does it help defeat the Kurjak? Or is there some other reason it's important? 'Maintain her semblance at a normal life' is awkwardly worded: 'maintain a semblance of a normal life' works better. The sentence that begins 'Rescued by...' is a sentence fragment, so make sure you complete it. And you introduce good stakes at the end, but I also want to know what happens if the Kurjak inside Amirah does get complete control. Do those people end up dead? Something else? Go through the query again with a fine-tooth comb, and I think you'll end up with something really strong. The first 250 does a good job with world-building, and you use all the senses to situate the reader in this world. I did get a little confused about Amirah having a Serbian nickname, since from the query, she's living in a fantasy version of the Pacific Northwest? A little more clarity on whether we're actually in a fantasy world, as opposed to an alternate version of our own, would be helpful. But the sample is well-written and the premise is intriguing.


    2. No Heroes here: Great first line to the query. The query is nice and tight, but it reads a bit like a synopsis. I’d love it if the voice from the first page was revealed in the query as well. One question: was he not allowed to leave his home alone before this? Why was his family sheltering him? Also, I wanted to know more about Eidolon. What draws Kieron to him? What are his motivations? Overall, I really, really love the premise here, and love that your last paragraph that tells me exactly what I’m getting. First page: Amazing. Love this. Great job in showing us inside his neurotypical brain and showing us the difference between how others see him, and how he sees himself. Fabulous.

      Twisted Red Riding Hood: This is a great premise. I had some trouble grounding myself in the setting— it says pacific North West, but the character names are Serbian. I love diversity in North American stories, but I think it should be mentioned that the story is based on a Serbian folk tale as well as Little Red Riding hood. (is it based on a Serbian tale?) Also, is there a romance plot with Liam? If so, I’d like to know more about him in the query. How does he open her eyes? What draws Amirah to him? First page: You had me at baklava and cinnamon rolls. Sold—I’d buy it. One comment— watch the stage directions. She untied the scarf. She looked at her grandmother. She furrowed her brows. The pace can be picked up to keep readers engaged if you limit them at the beginning. Great job, though.

      I honestly love these both and would be happy to read them both. Unique premises, and compelling characters. But in the end, I thing one of the first pages wowed me just a tiny bit more. Victory to No Heroes here!

    3. Kieron Lawson is a socially awkward lord with a penchant for heroic fables and an aversion to touch. HIS FAMILY WANTS HIM TO SETTLE DOWN. KIERON WANTS ADVENTURE AND A CHANCE TO ATTEND THE UPCOMING ROYAL TOURNAMENT. KIERON AND HIS (FATHER? MOTHER?) MAKE A DEAL: IN exchange for permission to leave home on his own, he’ll finally choose a bride.

      Before the tourney even begins, KIERON HAS HIS ADVENTURE. Chasing down A thief earns him a private meeting with PRINCESS NAME and A CHANCE AT his very own happily ever after. When NAME slips into a deep sleep after being poisoned, Kieron is promised her hand in marriage if he can retrieve a cure from a forbidden land.

      BUT THE fairytale falls apart when Kieron’s company abandons him, and the only person he can find to guide him ON HIS QUEST is the BEFOREMENTIONED THIEF—a man named Eidolon, who inspires feelings Kieron doesn’t understand and can’t control. When dangerous opposition and Kieron’s own temper threaten to derail the mission completely, he finds himself faced with a choice to be the hero and save the princess, or follow his feelings and save the thief. (Love this!)

      Imagine a classic medieval fairytale, where the charming prince is an asexual man on the Autism spectrum who falls for a male companion, INSTEAD OF the princess he sets out to save.

      NO HEROES HERE - Your 250 are perfect. I love it as is. Are you on the spectrum? If not be sure and have the MS sensitivity read. And send me the book when it's published.


      Protected by an enchanted red scarf, twenty-three-year-old Vidjeti hunter Amirah tracks and slays the wolf-like demons known as Kurjak. For centuries, these nightmarish creatures have inhabited human hosts, assuming their lives for one year before seeking a new victim. (Creepy. Love it!)

      Amirah's first solo hunting mission goes awry, AND she returns home to witness her grandmother in the clutches of an enormous Kurjak. In a desperate attempt to save her grandmother's life, she gives THE KURIAK what it seeks - a sacred family book - only to watch AS IT MURDERS HER GRANDMOTHER ANYWAY. Left despondent and alone, AMIRAH struggles to maintain her semblance at a normal life.

      Amirah's LIFE IS FURTHER DISRUPTED BY an unexpected attack THAT leaves her possessed by a Kurjak. AND BY THE APPEARANCE OF ANOTHER Vidjeti, the mysterious and handsome Liam O’Malley. Sent to find AMIRAH, Liam OPENS BOTH HER EYES AND HEART to an intriguing and vast world of Vidjeti outside her own.

      When Liam is captured, Amirah is forced to make a terrible decision. For a chance to save Liam from certain death and reclaim her family's book, she must AGREE TO forfeit her magical red scarf - THE SAME SCARF THAT KEEPS HER SAFE the evil creature now living inside her from assuming complete control.

      TWISTED RED RIDING HOOD – Intriguing query! I smoothed it out some. Remember not to get too casual in a query. Agents and editors want to see complete sentences. I love the idea of the Kuriak, and the red scarf as protection. The 'werewolf' twist is perfectly creepy. You don't have an obvious first line hook, but your intro and comps do well as a set up. I love Patricia Briggs and I live in the PNW, so I'm totally game from the start.

      Your 250 are lovely. My heart breaks for Amirah knowing what's in store; you paint her grandmother beautifully. The passing of the scarf is really well done. I have nothing to quarrel with.

      Again, another really difficult choice. You both deserve to move on. I have to cede VICTORY TO NO HEROES HERE - again, only because their query is just that tiny bit stronger. On this match, especially, I wish I could send you both to the next round. Be very proud of your work.

    4. No Heroes Here: The first paragraph sets up the story and Kieron nicely, I get a great feel for who Kieron is and his quirks. I know space is limited but I would like to know more about the forbidden land. Again, I need more than just dangerous opposition. I really like that Kieron has to choose between what is expected, saving and marrying the princess or following his heart. Nice Job, it is a great fairytale. In the 250, “Father’s methodical drumming” is weird to me to refer as father. The rest is more piece is more formal. I love how he gets the girl’s name wrong, but I really love the part where he is honest about the dress. I really like this A LOT!!

      Twisted Red Riding Hood: Just a personal preference for me, but I prefer the housekeeping, such as comps and descriptions at the bottom. I like to jump right into the story. You set up the story well and it has quite the premise. A few things stuck out. I’m not a true fan having Amirah having to be saved by Liam. I also don’t understand why she has to surrender her scarf to save Liam and get her family book back. You do a very good job of raising the stakes. In the first 250, your writing is fantastic maybe even beyond fantastic. As I read I’m pulled into your story. There needs to be a space between own and her in the last paragraph.
      I’m glad I don’t have to choose one over the other…I do? Damn. I liked both entries. Both are great fairytales, one a retelling and one an original. I guess if Michelle, Mike, and Kara are going to make me choose, I pick one over the other by just a slight margin. VICTORY TO NO HEROES HERE.

      Oh my goodness! I really enjoyed this query! Here’s some feedback: In the first paragraph, a royal tournament is mentioned. I’d encourage adding a sentence about that tournament. Is it something that surrounding kingdoms attend every year but he’s dreaded going? Give us a little more with that one. And I’ve rearrange the sentence about him being socially awkward to give his full title. In the second paragraph there are a few word choices I’d consider revising: “royal favor” doesn’t work (is there a way to tell us exactly what was stolen instead), “the princess” is contradictory since the opening paragraph said “a bride” (so is it “a princess” suggesting multiple choices? Or “the princess” meaning she’s picking someone like she’s on The Bachelorette?). The last paragraph is great information and should absolutely be put into your official query letter—but I’m not sure if it’s needed here. I say cut because it’s clear based on your set up.

      First 250:
      I love this. Great set up, great visualization. Here are my few suggestions: I’d add “his father” to this sentence: “Must you keep doing this?” asked HIS FATHER, Viscount Lawson…

      There is also a tense shift from third to first person with the sentence that starts “Father’s methodical drumming…” Easy fix is adding “his”.

      Ohhh! This sounds like a great story! I love retelling/twists on classic stories! Here’s some feedback on your query: For adult category fiction, you don’t need to list the age of the character. That’s more of a YA characteristic. In the second paragraph, I could help but feel like Amirah let her guard down. Here’s this wolf who wants something in exchange for granny’s life and then she was double crossed!

      First 250:
      Awww. I love the relationship you’ve depicted here between Amirah and her granny. My heart breaks knowing what’s in store for them! Here’s a little feedback: First, watch the use of names. In our everyday conversations, we don’t normally use each other’s names. You also have two spacing issues: after the word tonight, there’s an extra space between the period and the quote. And between “own” and “her grandmother” there is no space.

      This was a HARD matchup to pick. I loved them both and it was clear that the authors took their time to craft strong openings and queries. My vote goes to NO HEROES HERE.

      Query: Such an intriguing query! I do love the premise and the twist of him falling for the thief who guides him through the forbidden land instead of the princess. My only suggestion would be to include a bit more about the fantasy elements in your story.
      First 250: Such a gripping first 250. I have no suggestions for improvement.

      Query: I love your unusual twist on one of my favorite fairy tales. You did a great job introducing your world and characters. Consider showing a few more details about the family book, however, so it has more impact in your stakes.
      First 250: Excellent use of senses and solid worldbuilding. I really enjoyed this excerpt.

      Now comes the time to choose a victor, and this one’s a toughy. But…


      Wow. This is definitely an unexpected twist on the classic fairytale, and I like it a lot. Your query does a nice job of easing the reader into the tale and twisting things at the right time. The only thing I would change—and this is being nit-picky—is in the final paragraph. Instead of saying “Imagine a classic medieval fairytale…” I’d just use the name of the book in that place. So it would read “FOLLOWING SHADOWS is a classic medieval fairytale…” Using the word “Imagine” slightly changes the tone of the query in that you are now directly addressing an agent, whereas up to that point it was a more distant third person voice.
      This is a solid first page and I enjoyed it. My only note is with the first word…
      “Hollowness” is an awkward word to start on. I’d try to restructure your opening so you don’t start out on that. You could do something like: “Keiron Lawson stared out the lancet window, hollowness spreading through his chest.” Or re-word more extensively and take the word “hollowness” out altogether. “Kieron Lawson started out the lancet window. It was hollow—just like his chest.” You could probably find an even smoother way to do that, if you spend some time on it.
      I love the part about Keiron telling Liza he didn’t like her dress. Made me giggle. Really nice job on this entry!

      I love that the Pacific Northwest is the setting—that has great potential for a unique fairytale retelling. And I love fairytale retellings! The opening of the query sets the scene well and establishes the groundwork for the stakes to hang on, so that’s good.
      I would combine the last two sentences of your third paragraph into something like this: Rescued by another Vidjeti—the mysterious and handsome Liam O’Malley—Amirah’s eyes (and heart) are soon opened to an intriguing and vast world of Vidjeti outside her own.
      The way you have it structured right now, the first of those sentences feels incomplete. Also, I’m not sure why your mc needs the family book back. Is there another reason other than sentimental value? A hint of why she really *needs* this book back will up your stakes. The last line of the query is great—that she needs the scarf to keep the monster at bay, but that she’ll have to give it up to save Liam and the book—creates an impossible choice, which is always a good thing in a book. 
      Lastly, put your comp titles at the end of the query, not at the beginning. Some may disagree with me on this, but I believe you should start right in with the query so that the reader has some context by the time you list your comp titles.

      This is a quiet opening, and I like it. The scents from the bakery, the mention of your mc’s Serbian name, and the obvious connection with grandma are all good. I do wonder, though, if you could up the tension level in this opening. Maybe starting off with Amirah saying something along the lines of, “You’re not coming with me? But you always come with me on demon hunts.” This type of opening would make the reader stop and really pay attention. Wait, they’re going hunting? They’re hunting demons?? Why isn’t the mentor going along? Then you can pull back and include the scents from the bakery as Amirah (and the reader) is reeling. Grandma giving her the scarf will be like gift-wrapping a present Amirah doesn’t want and will seal the deal. That’s just one example of how re-structuring the order in which things happen could up the tension in your opening.

      I really enjoyed both of these entries and these both sound like amazing books. But …
      Victory to NO HEROES HERE

    8. No Heroes Here: This query is pretty spot on. You do a great job of ramping up the tension and showing us how the hero deals with his story problems. I feel like the summary at the end isn’t necessary: we get most of this from the query. If you’re concerned its not clear enough, sprinkle some of it into the query details or make the details already in it less subtle. Maybe add a few more details to really ground us in a medieval world so we know its literal and not figurative “hero” and “damsel in distress.” The voice in the first scene is wonderful. I love how the character’s quirks are blended seamlessly into the scene. If I was nitpicky, I’d say you use the word “drumming” a few too many times, so maybe switch that up a bit like you did with “rhythmic tapping.” Also, there are a few passive lines you could rewrite, such as “The sun shining on the wheat field was almost blinding”, which could become something like “Blinding sunshine reflected from the wheat field.” If you’re going to write #ownvoices, this is how you do it!

      Twisted Red Riding Hood: Personal preference, but I would put the first paragraph as the last and get right to the character you want us to root for. I was a little confused as to why there are these cultural names in Washington, and why the made-up words were italicized. I’m also unsure of the importance of the family book, so I’d encourage you to show this somehow, especially since it comes up in the stakes again. It’s odd to me that after her grandmother is murdered, she would try to keep a normal life? No reaction? No vow of vengeance? From a hunter? That felt like a stretch. Also, why isn’t she trying to get rid of the Kurjak inside her? Shouldn’t this be part of the stakes? The first 250 words are vivid and haunting, but it struggles with the use of pronouns in a singular gender character type. For example: “Amirah's grandmother placed her hand on her elbow.” Maybe “Amirah’s grandmother placed a knotted hand on her smooth elbow.” Take out those -ly words and use stronger verbs to make it even more vivid. Example, “slowly” in: “Shaking her head slowly, her grandmother looked up toward Amirah with deep brown eyes, a shade darker than Amirah’s.” Overall, this scene intrigues me enough to want to read more.

      ~Red Ink Slinger

  2. FOLLOWING SHADOWS had me with this query line: *he finds himself faced with a choice to be the hero and save the princess, or follow his feelings and save the thief.* I think that the follow-up opening words support the voice in the query well. I enjoyed the hints of Kieron's inability to gauge social cues and if the rest continues like this, I believe it would be a very enjoyable read!

  3. AMIRAH AND THE RED SCARF: Though I am sure this is a lovely piece, I was left a bit confused by the query and wondered a bit more about a few of the elements. How does the red scarf protect her and what does *Vidjeti* mean? (I looked it up and I see it's a verb) In the query, it felt like a confusing word that isn't explained but is used as a descriptor for Amirah, and then used a few more times. Not understanding it left the query slightly vague to me. Also, I wondered what protection the scarf and book could give? Since the stakes at the end are about losing her scarf, it would have been nice to have that fleshed out a bit more. The opening 250 were very pretty and the keen sense of senses were ignited, so well done on that part! Best wishes!

  4. Amirah and the Red Scarf
    I think I would move you comps and metadata to the end of the query and let the story lead, because it is fascinating. The story language threw me but not enough to distract me. The one element that stood out for me was the grandmother's murder. I thought the Kurjak possessed their victims first? I also felt I wanted to know why the book was important to retrieve, if it might be more than a family heirloom.

    The first 250 felt just a little formal and stiff to me. I wasn't quite feeling the emotion between these two characters although they must be unbelievably close given the task Amirah is about to undertake.
    A lovely query and what looks like a good story to me.


    I love your premise! The first and last lines of your query definitely show off your personality and humor. I think I gave a little chuckle when I read the last part of the first line. And I really enjoyed your first page and how uninterested in dating your MC was.

    General query suggestions:

    - Because "a royal favor" seems a little vague, I would say the favor of a princess so the reader knows for sure that it belongs to her
    - I also wasn't sure if he is determined to find his destiny (like it says in the query), or if he's trying to avoid it (it being getting married since he obviously didn't try with the woman mentioned in the first page)

    General page suggestions:

    - I would try to add in some indication of his father's age. Since I write YA, my mind automatically goes to oh, this is a young man speaking, but since it's adult, I think it would help to age his father up, so the reader gets an idea of his age and that he's not YA
    - I don't know if a lunch date is a term for a medieval setting, but I think adding in that he was on a date instead of just at lunch would help situate the reader into the situation
    - I would also add in why he was willing to look out into the sun even though it was blinding (even something small like he didn't want to meet his father's eyes)


    I love your story idea and how it has the potential to be super action-packed! I also love how you're obviously bringing in Serbian elements in. And your opening lines were so good at setting the scene!

    General query suggestions:

    - You should totally comp this to GRIMM and SUPERNATURAL (I'm a giant Supernatural fan and this premise totally reminded me of the show!!!)
    - I also was not sure what Vidjeti meant, so I Googled it. It would mean that she is Serbian, right? If so, I would use Serbian instead, since I think this is a much more familiar term
    - At times I felt like you were telling two queries in one (1 where you query a story that starts with her losing her grandmother, and 1 where you tell a story about her being saved by a man who opens her up to this new world) I would suggest going back and seeing if there is a story you rather tell than the other and focus in on that

    General page suggestions:

    - One of my main questions was how old is her grandmother? I was kind of surprised she would still be fighting monsters at her age (which I guess is why she is trying to retire though!)
    - The line where you say "But you always hunt with me?" I would change the "?" to a period and state it as a fact
    - I would also maybe considering adding in a line where Amirah tells her grandmother that she's only borrowing the scarf. I would assume that she'd want her grandmother to be protected, so she wouldn't really want to take it from her

    Kudos you both on your awesome stories! G'luck!

  6. No Heroes Here: Like others, I’d like to know more about the setting -- is it somewhere in the real world or a land of your own invention? I love your concept, though; I know people a lot like Kieron and I'd love to see them represented more in these kinds of stories.

    Twisted Red Riding Hood: I’m a sucker for fairy tale retelling and I really like your premise. However, the last sentence of your query is awkward. I’d rewrite it as something like “But the scarf is the only thing stopping the evil creature inside her from assuming complete control.” And as others said, you might want to make the setting clearer; is this a Serbian family living in the Pacific NW?

    Good luck to both of you!

  7. No Heroes Here: First off, I think you could get rid of your entire first paragraph in the query, its long and there is no action in it. The first part should really punch me in the gut! I would start with the second and add in the first later on. Because its good...just not punch gut style. Then your first 250 there is too much describing in the beginning. You don't need to describe the window, just say it is a window because my mind just tripped over the word and slowed me down. Also his inner dialogue is redundant as well, from him movements we know he is confused, I don't think we need to know he thinks that too. But that is just my opinion. It is well written and I can see lots of people liking it.

    Red Riding. Your query got me right away, well it would have if you didn't have those comps. I would put the comps at the end, because you have a solid query start. Then for your first 250, your first sentence is long. Too long. Have one smell and then add in the other later. It is very descriptive, but a little long. Other than that, I really enjoyed your writing. I could defiantly read this.

    Great job both of you!

  8. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 2, 2018 at 9:46 PM

    No Heroes Here:

    I stand by what I said when I told you I wanted this book in my hands. The very last sentence ties the query up beautifully. You establish the stakes excellently in the second to last paragraph. My only suggestions are to clear up how chasing down the thief earns him a meeting with the princess, as well as the royal favor bit. I wasn't quite following those two parts.

    Your first 250 made me over the moon happy. I have Autism myself, and I loved the way that Kieron was characterized. He didn't understand any of the social cues with "Liza", he was honest about it with his father and he was noticing the drumming of the fingers getting louder and louder. This is so authentic, and I appreciate that so much!

    Twisted Red Riding Hood:

    You've got an exciting story on your hands! I'm in love with the details of this retelling! In your query, you've got a lot going on--I think you might be explaining too many of the plot points right out of the gate. I also don't know why the Kurjak want the magical red scarf, or the book for that matter. I don't know what these things do or why they're important. Other than that, you set up the tension and the conflict beautifully!

    In your first 250, you have a lot of really great sensory details! I love the relationships between Amirah and her grandmother. My only suggestion is to make it clearer that Amirah is about to hunt--as far as I knew while I was reading it, they were just standing outside until you mentioned hunting. I would also hint as to what they are hunting and why it's so important, but I'm sure this is included in the part of the chapter we can't see.

  9. No Heroes Here


    I love the voice in this query.

    The second paragraph is a little confusing.

    Why does chasing someone who stole something of his earn him a meeting with a princess? And when is the princess poisoned?

    I love that he struggles to choose between saving the princess and the thief!

    250 words:

    Your writing is stellar!

    I would use “his father” instead of “Viscount Lawson” in the first dialogue tag.

    Also I would say “His father’s methodical drumming…”

    Other than that, this is great! I especially love the last bit.

    Hope some of this help!
    Good luck!

    Twister Red Riding Hood


    The query left me with a few questions:

    How does the scarf protect her?

    Why does the Kurjak kill her grandmother instead of possess her?

    I don’t like the use of parentheses, and I don’t think you really need them.

    Also I would have liked to know why the book is so important.

    I love the stakes, but I wish there was another item keeping her safe. A scarf is such a trivial thing, and also so easily stolen.

    250 words:

    The first sentence threw me a bit. It sounds like the aromas from the baked goods appear as they step out of the bakery.

    I don’t think you should explain the nickname. It takes the reader out of the story, and you don’t want to do that on the first page.

    I think I would have chosen another setting for their talk. It seems a bit strange for the grandmother to give Amirah the scarf and tell her she’s going hunting alone this year on the way home from the bakery.

    Hope some of this help!
    Good luck!


    Nice tight query and to the point. I see that the MC has a dream of saving a princess and living happily ever after. Situations arise that make that impossible. I have to admit that when I see follow his feelings to save the thief vs saving the poisoned princess, I wonder if she has to die? Or maybe she has to sleep forever?
    Plot seems easy to follow, so very good. I didn't come away with a good sense of the two main characters. In particular the love interest Eidolon doesn't seem to be fleshed out enough for me to understand why Kieron falls for him. I also don't get a sense of what the dangerous opposition is and whether it goes with the quest to find the cure for the princess or if it applies to the romance arc. I also don't get a great sense of what Kieron risks with his choice. Just his dream? I feel it should be more.

    The first 250 seemed stiff to me, very formal, and not like a father-son conversation. I liked the content, but I felt you could have skipped the first sentence and started with Lunch had not gone well, and Kieron couldn't imagine why." That might be a stronger book than starting with his emotion. If the visceral touch comes afterwards, I think it could be more powerful.

    Good query, just needs more stakes and more character IMO. The first 250 are good.

  11. No Heroes Here

    You query was fantastic. I knew exactly what was going on and had no problem following the progression of the story (which sounds equally fantastic). I don’t feel like you need the last sentence. I could tell from the writing that it was about a hero on the autistic scale. I think ending the query at his choice is perfect.

    First 250:
    Great first page! I don’t really have anything to critique. You revealed enough of Kieron’s character to make me curious about him and want to read more. Well done! By the way, I think I like No Heroes Here as the title better than Following Shadows.

    Twisted Red Riding Hood

    Your last paragraph of the query is the strongest. It really captures the stakes, which are incredibly high. The third (longest) paragraph had me confused in the middle. It talks about a normal life, but I thought she was a demon hunter? Maybe she stopped doing that and then was possessed? One more thing, in the second paragraph you said that the Kurjak inhabited human hosts for one year. That felt so specific that it took me out of what I was reading to wonder why exactly one year? Maybe you could just say “a year”? Not a big deal.

    First 250:
    I like how the first page starts right into the story. I don’t have anything to critique here. The excerpt made me instantly like both Amirah and her grandmother. Great job!