Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Knight in Shining Armani vs. Elementary Girl

Entry Nickname: Knight in Shining Armani
Title: Catch My Breath
Word count: 74,500
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance


Lia Meyers' plan for a relaxing Scottish vacation is short-lived. One uncharacteristic moment of clumsiness lands her in the arms of a dangerously attractive Englishman.

Still reeling from a bad breakup with a controlling, possessive boyfriend, Lia doesn't have the time or patience for Alastair Holden's seduction. Enigmatic and charming, he's exactly what she wants to avoid but can't. He hides behind an impenetrable mask, never allowing anyone to see passed it. The mystery is too tempting for Lia. His quiet intensity lures her, easily breaking apart her attempts to resist him.

Drawn to him, Lia battles with her insecurities. The closer they become, the more she recognizes her own weaknesses as she peels away his layers. Discovering that Alastair is tormented by a painful past, Lia must decide if they can heal one another together or if their deepest fears will tear them apart.

First 250 words:

“Amelia Grace Meyers. Nap time is over. Let’s go. We’re getting picked up at seven for the benefit. I don’t want to be late.”

The blankets were unceremoniously ripped from my body, destroying the warm cocoon I’d wrapped around myself. I sat up with a start, blinded by the bright light spilling from the bedside lamp. Wisps of an unpleasant dream nagged at me. Grabbing the blankets, I flopped back onto the mattress.

“You’re mean,” I whined into the pillow, trying to figure out what the hell my best friend was talking about. And more importantly, where I was. I opened a sleepy eye and saw Stephanie Tempe, all perfumed and primped, standing at the foot of the bed. Oh right. Scotland.

“What time is it?” I yawned.

“Quarter past six. Get up.”

I crawled out of bed, shooting a half-hearted glare in her direction. Why I agreed to go to this event with her tonight was beyond me. I stumbled toward the bathroom, deftly avoiding suitcases that were scattered in a schizophrenic maze on the floor. I’d been in Glasgow for two days and still hadn’t technically seen the outside of this room. Who knew jet-lag could be so vicious?

Twenty minutes, and a furious effort on my part to look presentable, later, our heels clicked in unison on the marble floor in the hotel lobby.

“You totally set a new record for getting ready,” Stephanie remarked as we waited for our ride. I nodded, yawning.


Entry Nickname: Elementary Girl
Title: However Improbable
Word count: 72,000
Genre: YA Alt History Mystery


“People see, but they do not observe.” And to Marigny Sheridan, that is elementary. The Saturday night Sherlock Holmes radio broadcast is a staple in the Sheridan household for one simple reason: deciphering people provides all the entertainment she’ll ever need. Until the Queen’s 50th Jubilee Contest twists the knickers of every eligible teenager in the Empire and Marigny is unexpectedly selected to become the new Saturday night entertainment.

Marigny has no interest in some cockamamie contest. After all, there’s no need for celebration when the British Empire is still going strong well into the 21stcentury. All she cares about is that her fellow contestants are easy to read. Especially the bitchtastically annoying girl from Australia and the street-smart player from Hong Kong. But as soon as she settles in, her Sherlock senses start to tingle. Something doesn’t smell right. And it’s not the smog over London.

The contest wouldn’t be so ridiculous if she could win riches to support her family. But no, the prize is marriage and Marigny isn’t quite ready for that yet. Even if it is to an heir to the throne.

The only boy she bothers to trifle with is Simon Whitaker, a cocky Islander with a dashing smile and slick charm. In the midst of lock picking the contest host's hotel room and butting heads with constables, they discover someone is pulling the contest strings. But when she unearths an Empire secret, Marigny must either bury her inner Sherlock to hide the truth or follow her hunch and lose Simon forever.

First 250 words:

Given the time I’d had to consider it, I would much rather be sentenced to death. Poison or hanging, I had no preference. Yes, it’d be slow and agonizing, but really, that would be merciful compared to what they had in store for me. I wish I hadn’t ever won the damn Sweepstakes for the Colonies. Really, I wish I had listened to my gut and stayed in Maryland.

"Marigny Sheridan,” the brown haired man said, catching my attention. Mostly because he butchered my name. Mare-ig-nee? He said it like I was some horse and iguana hybrid. I wanted to say, “The ‘g’ is silent, idiot,” but I doubted that would have helped my case. I swear he even smelled holier-than-thou, like some volatile mix of expensive perfumes and the dirty stench money leaves on your hand.

With a sharp breath, the man said, “Before we proceed, do you have anything to say for yourself?” If I spoke, it would undoubtedly seal the likelihood of my exile.

Gazing down at the sloppy clothes I’d thrown on that morning, only one thought came to mind: “I wish I could go out in something a bit more flattering.” But then again, I was all out of wishes at that point.


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes

    1. VIctory to ELEMENTARY GIRL

      Still a little confused by the stakes in Elementary but the alternative setting and the concept of the US under British rule is fun and different, as is the Sherlock twist. And the voice is killer in query and 250!

    2. Victory to Elementary Girl
      Knight- still wishing there was more to the story and that it was less predictable...but I'm not necessarily your target audience since I don't tend to read contemp romance, so don't be disheartened.
      Elementary - I did enjoy your voice very much and your story promises to have plenty of fun and excitement

    3. Victory to Elementary Girl

    4. Victory to Elementary Girl

    5. Elementary Girl: I don't see the connection between losing Simon or hiding the truth. I don't believe you've given us enough detail for that. Perhaps consider cutting Simon altogether and using different stakes. I don't see that he is necessary.

      Though Elementary Girl has a fantastic concept, I'm so drawn to the voice in Knight. Sorry to be subjective again.

      Victory to Knight!

    6. Victory to Knight in Shining Armani

    7. Victory to Knight in Shining Armani

      This is tough - great premises in both!

    8. Victory to Elementary Girl!

      I love both, but I can't pass up a good Sherlockian story!

    9. Victory to Elementary Girl.

      Love the concept, great opening line in your 250.

      Knight in Shining Armor, you may just be a victim to my personal tastes :)

    10. Not voting due to conflict, but good luck to both entries!

  2. Victory to Elementary Girl. The voice and premise were too much fun not to push your forward. Congrats.

    Knight- the second paragraph of your query begins with me liking your character but it ends in a way that makes me go, "What? She was spunky, no patience, but then just totally fell for him?" "How'd that happen!?" And then I get frustrated. Is there a way to make that paragraph grasp more of that struggle of her falling for him for the reader to understand that's not so cliche?

  3. Knight: As someone who is also attracted to dangerously attractive Englishmen, I do love your premise! I think in your query you could maybe tighten up the part where you're describing him. You take up at least 2 sentences, maybe even 4 depending on how you look at it, describing him or his attributes, that I think you could condense. Use those sentences to add more to the conflict or the meat of the plot.

    Elementary: I love me a good mystery, and a historical (even if alt) makes it even better! Your voice in both the query and the 250 is great. I would work on tightening up your query, it seems a little wordy to me and sometimes it's hard to weed out what's important and what's not, but I would focus on the main conflict of the story and leave most of the backstory for the actual novel.

    Congratulations to both of you for making it to the 2nd round, I can definitely see why. Good luck! :)

  4. Victory to ELEMENTARY GIRL.

    KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMANI. Love the story’s nickname! Think it would make a great title. I like the voice of the MC, but the writing needs to be cleaned up. An agent or an editor may not bother to look beyond a query with a mistake like “never allowing anyone to see passed (past) it.” Other suggestions:

    Query: “One uncharacteristic moment of clumsiness.” Go ahead and say what the clumsiness is. Hook the agent/editor with the humor.

    Story: Tag the first line so the reader isn’t held in suspense (and avoid passive at the same time): “My best friend, Stephanie, unceremoniously ripped the blankets from my body.”

    “Why I agreed to go to this event.” “We waited for our ride.” Tell us what the event is, who the ride is, where they're going. Give us details, color! Make us anticipate it even if Lia doesn’t.

    If she’s “stumbling” she wouldn’t be doing anything “deftly”.

    ELEMENTARY GIRL. Here, too, I like the nickname title better than the actual title. The writing in the first 250 words is strong and I like the MC’s voice, so this one gets my vote. But I have to say, the query had me all over the place. Don’t make the reader (especially an agent or editor) work so hard to figure out the setting. You say in the 21st century and 50th jubilee indicates 2002 (for Queen Elizabeth anyway), but radio broadcasts imply an earlier time. The last big smog in London was in 1961, but television was certainly around, so why radio? The prize is marriage to an heir to the throne. Are we in a fairy tale now?? And where is the empire vis a vis the colonies? You do say this is an alternate history, but at least ground us in the “world” of the alternate history.

  5. Knight
    Be careful about having an odd occurrence launch your book. It’s stronger if this was a common occurrence which perhaps happened at an inopportune time. The description of Alastair is a bit cliché and very vague. Give us some concrete, telling details.
    I get nothing of an actual plot or story in the query. I don’t read romance but I critique it and it still needs levels of complications, foes, and difficulties. She can be ONE of the complications but there still needs to be a basic plot.
    Naps and whining in the first 250 makes me think she is two. But I assume she will meet her moment of clumsiness in the next few words.

    I’m not a fan of a quote starting your query. I didn’t connect with your query. I’m assuming this is a Queen Esther type setup. I like the language in the query. I particularly like the last line of the query. But I didn’t grasp the actual storyline plot.
    I still don’t know how to pronounce her name.
    You seemed to have started the story later in the timeline. I would need to read more to see if that worked for me. The first 250 just didn’t capture me.

    Good job and good luck to you both!

  6. Knight - The writing in your query and first 250 was solid, but I'm afraid the query left me wondering whether there's enough of a story here. Lia doesn't seem to have any goals other than getting the guy. Then her behavior in the first 250 killed it for me. I just can't connect with someone who would spend two whole days in Glasgow hiding in her hotel room, unless she's deathly ill. I've suffered my share of jet lag, but when you have a limited time in a foreign city, you get out and see it, no matter how tired you are.

    Elementary - I commented in yours in the last round.

    Elementary would be my pick of these two.

  7. Knight-- I commented on yours already but I think you could use less description of him and more talk about the plot.

    Elementary- I think your concept is great and I like your flashes of voice like bitchtastic. For me I'd like to see the query be much more clear. I feel like the setting for the alternate reality wasn't clear enough. And I'd like to get a clear idea of what the contest is much sooner. And I'd agree not to open with a quote. I did like the first line of your 250, though.

    Interesting stuff! Good work.

  8. Knight: I'm not much for adult romance. (In fact I've never read one.) So I'll try not to let my lack of enthusiasm for the genre cloud my crit. (But it will anyway.) I love the nickname but not the real title. (Can you switch?) The query sounded too vague and, well, like every other adult romance query I've ever read. Maybe that's unavoidable. The 250 were professional and smooth (except, I don't know how a maze can be schizophrenic).

    Elementary: I like the query a lot. But "deciphering people" seems kind of vague and "huh?" After reading the rest of the first para I was like "what in the world?" I get that there is a contest? But why was she picked? What will she be doing? This better get explained fast cause I'm drowning. Love your made up (and retro-slang) words. Great voice. Just needs to be a little clearer with what the heck the contest is in the beginning. You finish strong when she has to decide between her integrity and her boy toy. Nice stakes. The 250 was a little rough as far as prose, but you can't argue with all that voice. :)

    I'd vote for Elementary. (But then I read mostly YA, so I'm totally prejudice.)

    Nice job to both.

  9. Knight in Shining Armani (love that nickname, by the way): I agree with prior comments that your query needs some work. You spend an entire paragraph describing Alistair, but in terms so vague that I still have no feel for him as a character ("he's mysterious and doesn't let anyone see PAST his mask" could mean anything from "he has daddy issues he tries to bury under a layer of bravado" to "he's a serial killer"). Mysterious, seductive guys are a given in the romance genre--what sets Alistair apart from all the others? And what, exactly, is the plot? Especially in a genre like romance, specific details are crucial in a query.

    Elementary Girl: Your query has a lot of nice details and specifics, but it's oddly unfocused. You also spend two paragraphs discussing the contest before getting around to telling us what the contest even is. I would also avoid opening with a quotation. I'd suggest tightening your query to something more like this:

    "To [insert age here] Marigny Sheridan, observation is elementary. Other teenage girls might dream of winning the Queen's 50th Jubilee Contest and marrying the heir to the British Empire, but Marigny has no interest in cockamamie pageants. Between the Saturday night Sherlock Holmes radio broadcast and the oh-so-decipherable minds of everyday people, she has all the entertainment she'll ever need.

    So when Marigny is chosen to represent [insert whatever locale she represents] in the Jubilee Contest, she's more frustrated than honored. Winning riches to support her family would be one thing, but marriage? Tedious. Even more tedious are her easy-to-read fellow contestants, like the bitchtastically annoying girl from Australia and the street-smart player from Hong Kong. But as soon as she settles in, her Sherlock senses start to tingle. Something doesn’t smell right. And it’s not the smog over London.

    With the help of Simon Whitaker, a cocky Islander with a dashing smile and slick charm, Marigny sets out to investigate. In the midst of lock picking the contest host's hotel room and butting heads with constables, they discover someone is pulling the contest strings. But when she unearths an [insert adjective/description here] Empire secret, Marigny must either hide the truth or follow her inner Sherlock and lose Simon forever. [Is losing a boy really the biggest stake for a girl uninterested in marriage? What is the risk to the Empire?]"

  10. Knight--I love your 250, but your query left me feeling that the hero is ALL the story is about. I'd like more plot hooks in the query, hopefully with either outside problems the pair will have to fight together, or outside problems keeping them apart.

    Elemenatary--I love Marigny and your alternate history. I like the romance hints with Simon, and that being true to who she is could cost her that romance...trusting, of course, that no romance worth having can be got by denying yourself. ;) I think for people potentially less used to alternate histories, you might want to throw in a few more details about THIS reality--twenty first century, check, Queen--Elizabeth 2 or someone else? Heir--who and how old? Love the teaser that the Americas are still colonies!

  11. Knight in Shining Armani= This sounds awesome, I'd totally read it. Just two comments- 1. the stakes don't seem quite high enough. I think you just need some more specifics about the major conflict. 2. I'd cut this line "Drawn to him, Lia battles with her insecurities." It felt like you were just repeating yourself. you don't need it.

    Just a little more conflict and you have a winner *Ding ding ding*

    Elementary Girl- I'm really not into Sherlock so some of this is lost on me, but I love the voice. The story itself sounds pretty cool.

    Good luck!