Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Like-Minded Individuals vs. Dangerous Politics

Entry Nickname: Like-Minded Individuals
Title: The Secret Society Of Like-Minded Individuals
Word count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Comedic Dark Thriller


Being an accountant by day allows Leon Garber to pursue his true passion. He has his reasons for scourging the world of abusive people. But justifiable homicide is a tricky, risky business.

Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of people like Leon to pursue their “projects.” LMI sets their clientele up with new identities, security, and even lists of potential candidates. A grand business model for today’s increasingly expanding and changing economy. All for a price, of course. Some things are worth the cost. For Leon, it’s a dream come true.

But sometimes a killer business idea is simply…killer.

Leon finds himself out of favor with Like-Minded Individuals for reasons unknown. LMI, the police, sanctioned hit-men, and a vicious psychopath are after him. Heads are chopped, dropped and swapped as Leon fights for his life and freedom. All of which keeps Leon from finishing his current project. But as a consummate professional, Leon can’t leave a job incomplete.

First 250 words:

The child knew when to hide. Anytime his father opened a bottle of liquor. He’d known that for years, just as he knew the burning lash of a leather belt followed the accidental breaking of a dish or a glass. It was part of his world. Accepted as normal.

Until a day in late May. The day everything changed. The day he came home from school to find his mother backed against the refrigerator, his father’s hands wrapped in a vice grip around her neck.

“How long you been screwing around in Bill Arnold’s bed, you whore? How long? Always knew you were nothing but a whore! That little bastard’s not even mine, is he?” The hands jerked and his mother’s body shook like a ragdoll. “Shoulda made you abort him when I told you to!”

The boy raced across the kitchen. His father's hand lashed out and he crashed to the floor. The heavy work boot kicked and cracked his nose. Half-blinded, he saw his father latch onto a kitchen knife. The blade plunged into his mother's chest, again and again. And again. Chunking like a watermelon chopped into quarters. One more flash of the knife and her throat opened up in a red grin. Blood showered out. His father dropped the knife and staggered out of the kitchen.


Entry Nickname: Dangerous Politics
Title: We the People
Word count: 71,200
Genre: Adult Thriller


Reilly Grant is important, but she has no idea why. All she knows is that the United States of America has fallen to a man everyone once called President.

The Emperor has stripped away everything that had once made the USA great and replaced it with despair and tyranny. The suburbs, once part of the American Dream, have become veritable ghost towns – museums of the lives people once had. Having once worked for the Emperor, Reilly knows how dangerous he can be. It’s one of the reasons she defected from his army and joined the rebels in an effort to fight back.

But what Reilly doesn’t know – or can’t remember – is that she participated in a sleeper agent program aimed at stopping the former President prior to the transition from democracy to tyranny. Somewhere along the way her handler failed to activate her. Left in the dark she’s vulnerable to retaliation from the Emperor who’s learned of the program and her involvement.

In a fight for her life, Reilly has to choose who she can and can’t trust. If she gets it wrong it could mean her life.

First 250 words:

The water was black. It wasn’t brown or milky tan, but pitch black. I discarded the water over my shoulder and trudged forward. Mara and I had been searching for a viable water source for ten days now, but ... nothing. Not a drop had been clean enough. It wasn’t necessarily surprising, but it was discouraging nonetheless.

“Rei, I think we should move on to the next sector. One we know might have water.” Mara threw her backpack down, dug out a bottle of clean water, and pushed her unruly black curls away from her face so she could take a sip. Even swigging from a bottle, her face looked delicate, but nothing else about her was delicate. Short as she was, she was well-muscled and built for speed and strength. Next to her, I felt plain. My face wasn’t as delicate as hers, nor was I built for swiftness or force, but I did have stealth. Or at least I felt like I did. Lately, it seemed stealth wasn’t even on my side.

“Hex won’t be happy if we do that, and you know it. I’m not about to deal with one of his bad moods, Mara.”

She snorted. “What a hack. He thinks he runs the operation, when everyone knows you’re the brains behind it.”

I let out a sigh. “Hex is military. Of course he thinks he’s in charge. We are at war."

Mara shoved the bottle back into her backpack and started marching toward the next empty house.


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes


      To be honest, the real deciding factor for me was the way LMI was billed as a comedic thriller. I didn't see the humor in the query (and definitely not in the first 250) and that really threw me for a loop and made me wonder if the author had a handle on his or her genre. If the comedy is there, show us in the query!

    2. Victory to Dangerous Politics!

      I agree with Hedgegog, I didn't grasp the comedic thriller aspect of your query or your opening 250.

      To Dangerous Politics, I loved the voice in your first 250. Well done.

    3. I'm not sure either one of these has the genre right. Dangerous Politics sounds like a dystopian while Like-Minded isn't so comedic.

      Victory to Like-Minded! It gives me the creeps, but the concept was like a Kickstarter gone mad.

    4. Victory to Like-Minded

    5. Victory to LMI.

    6. Victory to Like-Minded Individuals

    7. Victory to Like-Minded Individuals

      Great job by both!

    8. Victory to like-Minded Individuals.

      This is SO rough, choosing between such amazing entries!!!

    9. Victory to Dangerous Politics
      LMI - There was a lot to like about your premise, but I found the 250 a little predictable and heavy-handed.
      Dangerous - there's some vagueness that needs to be addressed, but I found your concept intriguing and I liked the scene you opened with, though I still want to know how they've survived 10 days without potable water.

    10. Victory to LMI

      I love the concept and the opening is strong, vivid, voice-filled.
      Dangerous Politics - like Ultraviolet said I like the concept but there are still issues with vagueness that let LMI edge you out.

    11. Victory to LMI

      Although I still don't see how that is comedic, ;)

      Great job on both entries!

  2. LMI
    Your first sentence made me think accounting was his true passion. “Dream come true” is cliché but “a killer business idea is simply…killer” is a great tag line.
    Comedy is subjective so we need to see your brand of comedy from the get go.
    Be careful about incomplete sentences. When used sparingly, it lends itself to your voice. But when overused, particular in the beginning, it seems amateurish. Compelling start.

    Dangerous Politics
    What POV will you be using, if she is not privy to information about herself? I’m intrigued by the premise but I feel like the last sentence of the query states the obvious.
    Be careful about using the same word in a sentence twice or more (i.e. delicate.)
    So can she still be activated? Is that why she is still a threat? You have a lot of room for tension so I would ratchet it up, particularly in your 250.

    Good job and good luck to both of you!

  3. Some suggestions to streamline LMI's query:

    Leon Garber may put in 9-to-5 days as an accountant but his real passion is best pursued after dark: scourging the world of abusive people. Justifiable homicide, though, proves a risky business.

    I'd delete: All for a price, of course. Some things are worth the cost. For Leon, it’s a dream come true.

    After this line: But sometimes a killer business idea is simply…killer.
    Add: Suddenly, the price for passion is a little too steep to pay.

    FOR DANGEROUS: I left comments for you in the first round!

    Good luck!

  4. LMI - I think there's something missing from the first sentence of your query. Being an accountant by day allows Leon Garber to pursue his true passion by night. (Needs to be clearer that accounting is not his true passion.) Otherwise, great voice in the query and your set-up is clear. It just becomes a little muddled to me at the end. Why is it so important to Leon to finish this particular job? Seems like he needs a stronger motivation than professional pride to risk his life.

    The first 250 were gut-wrenching, but this looks like a prologue, and that's going to be a hard sell for some agents and readers.

    Dangerous Politics - I got a little confused in the third paragraph of your query about why the Emperor was after Reilly. It took a few reads to grasp that "former President" and "Emperor" were the same person. I'd suggest sticking with one name, and maybe rewording the first sentence of that paragraph as, "What Reilly doesn’t know – or can’t remember – is that back when the U.S. was still a democracy, she participated in a sleeper agent program aimed at preventing the Emperor from seizing power." Or something like that.

    The first 250 were fine, but the pace slowed significantly when you paused to describe Mara's features. I wonder if you should defer that description for a page or two.

    I'd give this one to LMI for a more original concept, but it was very close.

  5. Hey LMI, here to root you on. I still think your concept is killer and your writing is stellar. Dangerous Politics is definitely another great entry though too. Good to see two thrillers matched up against each other, and even if it's not my genre (romance girl here)I am still intrigued by LMI's dark, creepy concept. BTW, don't fret about the comedic aspect not coming through yet...I think it's safe to assume that the first 250 words are only a glimpse into what this is all about. I'd be a little weary if a thriller opened up with anything but the eeriness you poured onto your first pages.

    Good luck to the two of you!

  6. LMI: I love the atmosphere you've created in this piece. The very idea of an organization created for serial killers is kind of comedic, but it took me a couple of readings of your query for that thought to hit me.

    DP: I think it's always a challenge when the reader knows things that the MC doesn't know, so I appreciate what you're doing in your query. I'm really interested in the implications of the line "Somewhere along the way her handler failed to activate her." Also, I really like the MC's name.

  7. Like-minded Individuals: Nice query. I feel like maybe it’s worth expanding a bit on why his current project is so important to him. I imagine it’s more than his diligence (finishing every project). There has to be something personal about it, too, right? I feel that’d add to the stakes of the query/story. Regarding the first 250 words, I feel a little lost. Is this the MC as a child? Is it one of the abusive predators the MC is trying to hunt down, and then how would he be viewing this occasion? If this is a flashback to the MC’s life, then we need some emotion from him. The lack of emotion is making it tough for me to connect with him and the story.

    Dangerous Politics: I think you might be revealing a bit too much in your query, which has led it to being vague in some parts. I think it’s more important to focus on how (concretely, that is) Reilly realizes she’s important (which sounds vague as is, and doesn’t transition well into the rest of the query)—does she see Emperor secret agents snooping around her neighborhood or office or something? How, specifically, does she learn this? I’d stick to her personal journey for this query—what she knows/how she finds info out—and not mention the stuff about what she doesn’t remember, like participating in that program. I think that will make the reader want to read the book to find out why she’s getting all this Emperor interest and what not, you know? That’s my two cents, anyway. Regarding the first 250, the “I discarded the water over my shoulder” sentence jarred me, because I couldn’t visualize it. I didn’t know if it was in a bottle or his hands or how he was doing it. I like that you mention the MC’s main strength (stealth), but it’s very telly here. I’d have the MC use it in action within the first couple pages rather than just tell the reader.

    Awesome job by both entries, though!

  8. Both entries have really interesting concepts!

    LMI-- I'd agree with the judges that if it's comedic you should showcase that in the query or remove the comedic part of the tag. If the novel is comedic you have a real opportunity to make this query really fun, considering the premise. Also I'd agree that the first 250 are a bit heavy handed. It feels a little like your shoving the murder of his mother at us, it feels rushed and I'm not feeling any real emotions from the boy.

    Dangerous Politics-- I'd agree that the President/Emperor should have one name-- if he calls himself the Emperor just go with that. Also I'd like to see more explanation about the plot in your query. I feel like you spend a lot of time setting up what the world is like but I'd like to get a sense of when she finds out she's in this group and what happens when she's in danger. That feels like the meat of your story but the query spends a lot of time on pre set up, it feels like. Also I think there's a lot you could do to your 250 to make it sparkle. I agree that the descriptions of her friend are slowing it down a little. And the water thing threw me as well, what do you throw over your shoulder? A container of water? Maybe some action here, her bending down to look at it so we get a clear idea of where she is physically and what she's doing. Also her friend saying 'we should go to a place we know might have water.' know and might seem weird together, either you know there's water there or there might be water there. Also the line 'we are at war' felt a little stiff and expositiony to me. It felt like you were trying to tell the reader something rather than having a natural conversation.

    But both great concepts and I feel like with a little more work they could really shine! Good luck!