Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: The Decapitator vs. McTavish Academy

Entry Nickname: The Decapitator
Title: The Art of Severance
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


ATF Special Agent Alexandra MacPherson can’t decide which is worse -- a witness who dies or a suspect who won’t stay dead.

A routine investigation escalates to FUBAR when one of the accused turns up dead, his body untouched but drained of blood. A pregnant college student is found, minus her ten-week fetus and internal organs. A mother and daughter are smothered in the nursery. The only link among victims is their wounds mirror the attacks of creatures that don’t exist: a vampiric witch, a revenant, a bogeyman.

Bodies make it a big case with bigger problems. Alex can live with that. Maybe it will keep her from jogging the streets at two in the morning or drunk-dialing her dead husband’s cell phone number. Then her only viable lead is killed and Alex is forced to accept that some myths... aren’t.

Finding the man responsible is easy.

Killing him and his creations won’t be.

Surviving may be impossible.

First 250 Words:

Sometimes it all came down to the gun you chose. SIG Sauer P226 .40 S&W or Rossi .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel. I’d picked the SIG. I should have gone with the Rossi.

I sneaked a look at the battered clock on the wall of the loading dock. My dealer was only five minutes late. Not so long I worried he’d had second thoughts. I needed him to show soon, though, before my unease fermented into something harder to conceal.

“He’s late,” Mike said.

I shrugged. Played like I didn’t care, hadn’t noticed, and didn’t want to hiss at Mike for his observational skills.

“You watch the game last night?” Mike asked.

“What game?”

“The Sox.”

A Sox fan. God help me. I’d kept hundreds of mindless details straight for six months but couldn’t for the life of me remember whether Kate Campbell gave a crap about the national pastime. “I don’t follow baseball.”

“They play the Yankees tomorrow.”

“Well, I do hate the Yankees.”

“Who doesn’t?” Mike dropped the remnant of his cigarette to the floor of the dock and crushed it under his shoe.

Kate Campbell was a vegetarian who sold lattes at an internet cafe and lived in a dump near Temple University. A fugitive from the United Kingdom for alleged involvement in a train derailment in North West England, she fancied herself a modern day Guy Fawkes.

I was done pretending to be Kate Campbell, the annoying twat.


Entry Nickname: McTavish Academy
Title: McTavish
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


He wanted an education. They gave him a gun.

On a quiet hilltop outside of Boston, a stone fortress rises up from the suburban sprawl. The McTavish Academy is renowned as a top-tier military school. People call it exclusive. They call it mysterious. Eighteen-year-old Michael Solomon doesn't care about any of that. When he arrives at the gargoyle-adorned front gates it's simply the means to an end--his last chance at keeping a death-bed promise to his beloved mother. But when he's greeted by a ninja with a sword on his back and taken to a Knight Templar for orientation, he discovers he's in for a whole lot more than lunch lines and math homework.

In over his head yet determined to keep his promise, Mike finds himself the newest operative in The Alphabet Corps, a motley band of troubled youth handpicked to defend the school and its dangerous secret against an army of nightmares hiding in plain sight.

Now, a Turkish ghoul from the First Crusade stands outside their gates, unshakable in his ambition to take the school and its secret by force, even if it means destroying the structure, its residents, and the very fabric of civilization in the process.

First 250 words:

She just wouldn't stop crying. Ugly, choking gasps for air between exaggerated sobs. Kneeling there on the dining room carpet, snot dripping down her rather plain face, she looked up at him and babbled incoherently. Something about not hurting her boy. Çöl Çelik found it repulsive. Examining her with his jet black eyes, expressionless, he tried to relate, tried to recall a time he had ever been so weak. But after a thousand years, he could only vaguely remember ever being human at all.

Sitting back in his chair, old wood and well made, he turned from the woman to brush away flakes of dried skin from his robe. To his left the woman's son, only a small child, sat in quiet concern where they had tossed him, knees tucked tightly to his chest. The boy was courteous enough to keep his tears to himself and for that Çelik was thankful. In gratitude, he drew an old pistol from his robe and pulled the trigger.

The mother shrieked, crawling to her son’s body and drawing his tiny corpse into her arms. Çelik did his best to ignore her, running a long, boney finger down his polished armrest. From this room. From this chair. Here the one they had mocked, the one they had dubbed ‘The Traitor King’ so many centuries ago would finally take what he deserved. But the crying was getting to be too much.

“Oh stop it," he groaned. "I did him a favor. You have no idea what's coming."


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes

    1. VIctory to DECAPITATOR

      Dang this is hard!!! Both samples are strong but I'm voting for Decapitator because I liked the voice in the query and first 250 so much.

    2. Victory to the Decapitator!

      This is indeed hard. I feel like both the first pages are fantastic. One so dark and the other so sarcastic. The Decapitator has the stronger query. The query for the McTavish Academy left me with questions, which I detailed in the last round.

    3. Victory to McTavish Academy!

    4. Victory to The Decapitator

      Difficult match-up. I didn't choose McTavish because though I like your first page, I really would have liked to meet your MC.

    5. Victory to McTavish Academy.

      I loved both of these.

    6. Victory to The Decapitator

    7. Victory to The Decapitator

      I LOVED both of these, just saying.

    8. Victory to McTavish

      Personal preference won out. Both of these are awesome :)

    9. Victory to The Decapitator
      McTavish - I LOVE your writing/voice. Awesome work. I didn't find your premise quite as intriguing as your opponent's and that's the only reason I didn't vote for you again.
      The Decapitator - Love the mixture of humor and suspense. Strong writing in both query and 250.

    10. Victory to Decapitator.

      It has the gritty crime-noir opening feel with realistic dialogue that I think can elevate it above MacTavish, which I like, but I can't get past the fantasy school aspect.

    11. Victory to Decapitator

      I love both these entries. My vote here is based totally on subjectivity and what I think has the best shot moving forward. McTavish sounds brilliant, and I'd read it if I came across it on the shelves.

  2. Decapitator: When I first read your entry in round 1 I loved the idea. After rereading I still love the story idea, but I'm a little confused is Alex Kate Campbell? And if she is how did she ever pass a background check under an assumed name. It's not impossible, but highly unlikely.

    McTavish: I assume Çöl Çelik is your Turkish ghoul. With him being in your first 250 I feel we should know a little bit more about him in the query.

    Both entries are AWESOME. Great Great Great job guys.

  3. I think these entries are evenly matched but that Decapitator does a better job with the query. It's tight with great voice.

    McTavish just needs to snip here and there to make the query flow a bit better. For example:

    On a quiet hilltop outside of Boston, a stone fortress rises up from the suburban sprawl -- McTavish Academy. People describe the top-tier military school as exclusive, mysterious, even disturbing. Eighteen-year-old Michael Solomon doesn't care what people think. He's only there to keep a promise to his dead mother. When a sword-wielding ninja escorts him to a Knight Templar for orientation, Michael suspects he's in for more than long lunch lines and too much homework.

  4. Great entries!

    This is so nit-picky of Decapitator - would the first sentence read better if it were present tense:

    "Sometimes it all comes down to the gun you choose."

    The past tense with the first word being "sometimes" threw me off in the last round, and is doing the same now. This is clearly just a personal preference - so just a though. Other than that, LOVE that sentence.

    And I still love mcTavish as well!

  5. I commented on both of these in the last round. I'll only say here that, while both are exceptionally well written, I'd choose Decapitator purely as a matter of taste. It has a combination of grit and humor that reminds me of Janet Evanovich. McTavish is dark, dark, dark. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not what I read--and finding no technical basis to choose one over the other, that's what I have to fall back on.

  6. Wow these both sound pretty badass. Right in my wheelhouse.

    Decapitator - Why is an ATF agent investigating homicides and hunting killers? That's not ATF's jurisdiction. Neither is drug trafficking. That kind of confused me a little. Seems like FBI might be a better fit. Maybe mention what kind of case she's initially investigating in the query? Like "a routine gun-runner case gone wrong".

    I'd also like to know where the story takes place. I assume "Sox" are the Red Sox since theyre playing the Yankees, but then you say "Kate" lives near Temple, which is in Philly. If the scene is in Philly the guy would prob be talking about the Phillies game, right? And is Alex undercover with a fake British accent? Or is she actually British?

    McTavish - I didnt have a problem with the story starting out with the bad guy. Lots of stories do that and for all I know we meet Mike on page 2. Not a big deal. I thought your first page was pretty gripping. I like dark stuff. Might want to know a little more about Mike and his friends in the query. Is it a war story? Whats the dangerous secret? Either way, I like it a lot.

  7. Decapitator: Your heroine sounds heroically flawed, which I love. I would love a hint at least that she is using an alias and why in the query. You paint her very vividly in the 250.

    McTavish: This premise is actually even more appealing to me, but the 250, although beautifully written, didn't have any clear connection to the query. You might want to open with the central story?

    Usual Disclaimer: I am not an expert!