Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Revenant vs. Colorblind

Entry Nickname: Revenant
Word count: 70,000
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Cailyn Cooper wishes she inherited the wicked cool ability to form ghost-destroying orbs of psychic energy. Instead, she got saddled with the ability to heal by touch. A talent that either kills the women in her family before they reach twenty, or if they choose not to heal, drives them insane. And since Cailyn hears whispering from her hands when no one else does, she’s doesn’t need a crystal ball to see a straitjacket is in her future.

Cailyn’s family belongs to a group of psychics, the Sentries, who protect the world from malevolent spirits escaping purgatory. Without the ability to form orbs, Cailyn watches from the sidelines as her parents risk their lives, and then heals them before they die. When her parents are kidnapped, Cailyn turns to Sentries-in-training, seventeen-year-old twins, Eli and Tristan Parker, for help.

Cailyn and the Parkers discover a splinter group has formed in the Sentries—a group bent on controlling the world with their powers. To rescue her parents, and protect the brothers, Cailyn has to choose: straitjacket or body bag?

First 250 words:

I knocked on the partially opened bedroom door with one hand, while shaking the box of frosted shredded wheat with the other. “Hey Mama, want some breakfast?”

When she didn’t answer, I peeked inside her bedroom. The French doors leading to the backyard stood wide open, and my neck tingled as I hurried across the room. I stepped barefoot onto the night-cooled wood of the deck as the morning breeze ruffled my hair. My palms began their whispering, and then I smelled blood.

The cereal box hit the ground as I ran toward the deck stairs. Before reaching the top step, I slid on a mixture of blood and dew. I slammed into a wrought iron chair and knocked it over, but managed to stay on my feet. Mama stood in the grass next to the flower garden. The indigo glow from her hands shone faintly in the dawn’s light. The whispers from my palms became louder, and my fingertips tingled.

I darted down the stairs and raced toward her. The smell of blood increased, intermingled with a rancid, spoiled milk odor.

“Mama! Where are you hurt?”

She whirled toward me with her pink cotton robe fluttering around her legs. “Cailyn, get down!”

A movement to my right caught my attention. A shadow slid from behind the Mountain Laurel bush in the middle of the flower garden. I dropped to the ground, banging my left elbow on a rock in the grass. The shadow took solid form—grey opaque now, instead of a translucent mist.


Entry Nickname: Colorblind
Title: An Uncommon Blue
Word Count: 65K
Genre: YA Sci fi


A week before graduation, sixteen-year-old Bruno Nazaire accidentally murders someone outside his seventh period class. Even if the guy deserved it, now Bruno must become someone else to avoid being identified as the killer. That means a haircut, a change of wardrobe, and most important, getting rid of his once cherished Blue.

In Télesphore, the glowing color of a person’s palm determines their place in society, and touching hands with another mixes the colors permanently. Once a member of the Blue elite, now Bruno must do the unthinkable and dilute his color to stay one step ahead of the investigators. Suddenly he’s visiting parts town he never knew existed, and making friends with people he would’ve crossed the street to avoid only weeks ago.

But the officials hunting him are getting smarter, and in a city enclosed by jagged iron fences, there are only so many places to hide. At the last minute, Bruno’s parents arrange a deal to clear his name and get his life back. All Bruno has to do is turn his back on those in the Red slums that look to him as a leader, dump his new smoking-hot girlfriend, and let a Green boy die in his place.

First 250:
There are three unspoken rules in high school rugby.

1. Your team members are family.

2. You support your family.

3. This support must be shown periodically with an affectionate slap on the backside.

After four years as the starting right winger, I had almost gotten used to this. Almost. At least I no longer felt the urge to bloody my teammate’s nose when they tried it.

But in the middle of the hall? No way. During school hours my glutes were off limits.

I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me, only to find myself face to face with an attractive redhead.

“Hey, Bruno,” Drea said with a smirk. “Ready for the test?”

I opened my mouth but no sound came out.

Even with her super-short hair, Drea was stunning. Before last summer she’d often been mistaken for a boy. But that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists.

I recovered from my embarrassment enough to nod.

She leaned against the lockers. Her pale white skin reflected the light from her blue palm.

“History should be a breeze compared to pre-calc. I wanted to stab myself in the eye when I got to that section on antiderivatives.”

I mumbled something incoherent and fumbled with my lock.

Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut. “I know someone that likes you. If you hurry, we might have time to talk before the final.”


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes

    1. Victory to COLORBLIND because the premise is really cool- I love when sci fi comments so well on contemporary issues and this is a great one to explore. Plus, it reads very contemporary in the first 250, which I like.

      Also, this---> "But that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists."

      GREAT voice!

    2. Victory to Colorblind
      Revenant - I did enjoy some of the imagery in your 250, as I commented in Round 1. Unfortunately I wasn't as drawn into your MC's life and in part this was due to her lack of pain reaction to slamming into the chair and falling on a rock. It made her seem "unfeeling".
      Colorblind - I liked the genuine YA voice and the concept of palm color dictating social class.

    3. I won't be voting due to a conflict. Good luck to you both.

    4. I can't vote due to conflict. :( Good luck!

    5. Victory to Colorblind


      I love both SO much. Revenant, your action is thrilling and I love the little details like the cereal box hitting the ground. And Colorblind, you have a YA voice that I just can't get over. Both premises are amazing, queries are strong, and the writing is smooth. This seriously all comes down to preference for me.

      Victory to Colorblind.

    7. Victory to Colorblind

      Wonderful job to both!

    8. Victory to Colorblind for an impressive and fresh concept.

    9. Victory to Colorblind

    10. Victory to Colorblind

      I think the story sounds solid and the pitch and sample were really well done. Both very good and interesting entries!

  2. Victory to Colorblind! Totally awesome, I want to read this!

  3. Revenant: Your query does a great job of laying out the conflict, and I would love to read this! That said, be mindful of how you use commas. In the third sentence of your query's first paragraph, the comma should go after the word "or," not before. In the second paragraph, there shouldn't be a comma between "risk their lives" and "and then heals them," nor should there be one between "seventeen-year-old twins" and "Eli and Tristan Parker." In the third paragraph, there shouldn't be a comma between "rescue her parents" and "and protect the brothers."

    Colorblind: Love the concept! As a criminal law paralegal, the phrase "accidentally murders" bothers me (murder can be reckless or intentional, but accidental death cannot be murder by definition), but I'm more concerned about the mixed message you're sending by calling the murder "accidental" but then emphasizing that the victim deserved it. Was it really an accident? What actually happened? More information would be helpful, especially since this seems to be the inciting incident. More detail about the murder will also help keep your protagonist from seeming unlikeable.

    On that same line of thinking, I would drop the "smoking hot girlfriend" from your stakes--the objectifying description is a turn-off, as is the idea that your protagonist is more concerned about his love life than the fact that another boy may have to die for him. I don't think that's really how you meant Bruno to come across!

  4. Revenant- Query wasn't really selling me but Wow on the 250. I think your query begins with a confusing paragraph and can be restructured to include much of the same information. It just came at me out of order and I found myself thinking too hard to find a flow. I like the concept and your 250 fit me just right. Great action and stakes immediately palpable. I would read further.

    Colorblind- Notes in round 1. I do like the fact that a girl smacks him on the ass. Wasn't too sure upon first read in round one. But it has grown on me and probably helps define her character.

    Good luck to you both!

  5. Revenant
    Work on your first paragraph. I love the premise and the whispering. But sentence 3 is convoluted. So she chose not to heal—or a strait jacket wouldn’t be inevitable. So her parents can both throw orbs AND heal?
    I love the last line in your query but you mention the brothers too late, which I momentarily thought were the twins.
    Your first 250 are intriguing.

    As I read your first paragraph, I don’t follow how disguising himself is going to save him from identified. Wouldn’t a new random student raise red flags? So touching another permanently changes the color? How are they not all muddled brown by age two?
    What color was the guy he killed?
    Love your 250 but it has nothing to do with your premise, except a brief mention of blue. “With both fists.” doesn’t ring true to me.
    Really interesting premise but I need some of the logic worked out right away, rather than the rules of rugby.

    Good job and good luck to you both!

  6. Revenant - this is good - I really like most of your query. The biggest thing that leaves me hanging is in the query - it's not clear why she wouldn't just use her magic to avoid the straightjacket. Otherwise, cool worldbuilding.

    Colorblind - I feel a disconnect between the query and first 250, so much so that I had to go re-read and make sure I hadn't confused 2 story lines. I like the first 250 a lot actually, it just didn't connect me to my expectations. And yeah, I had the same reservations as Nicole in wondering how any color stayed pure very long. Might be worth addressing in the query just so that unanswered question doesn't turn off an agent.

  7. REVENANT -- I commented on yours in Round 1.

    COLORBLIND -- Very intriguing premise. I'm sure the mechanics of color mixing get explained in the book, so that didn't throw me, although perhaps it would be worth clarifying. I imagine it's something indoctrinated from birth. Sara already made the point about "accidental murder" being impossible by definition. Change "murders" to "kills" and you're fine. That was my only quibble with the query.

    As the two commenters before me mentioned, I couldn't see the connection between the query and your first page. I think you need more than a blue palm (which I completely missed on the first read) to clue readers in to what's different about your world. Also, the flow was choppy for me. Why mention rugby, if it has no immediate relevance to the scene? That seemed like a lot of words to set up a small surprise. I think the space could be better used for some world-building.

    I would pick REVENANT, because I think the first page was more coherent and did a better job introducing the fantasy element.

    Best of luck to you both!

  8. Revenant-- I liked your query but it was a little confusing in places. I had to reread the line where she watches her parents and then heals them, at first I thought her parents were healing people. Love the touches of voices in the query, although wicked cool feels dated for teenagers to say. Love that your 250 starts right off with action.

    Colorblind-- Interesting concept, although I am a little confused about mixing and how it works. But I like the concept of him having to go down a couple class ranks to hide.

    Love the "both fists" line.

    Good work and good luck to you both!

  9. Dang! Tough to decide! Both had intriguing premises, but I gotta say, the colored-palm caste system was pretty original. Victory to REVENANT for the story. Victory to COLORBLIND for the query. (Can I do that? We’re not actually voting, are we?” Somebody asked “Why did I agree to this?” Did we have to sign up? I just jumped in!)

    REVENANT. Query: Very cool premise! But not sure how ending up in either a straight jacket or body bag is going to help rescue the parents and protect the brothers. Is it that Cailyn has to decide whether she can best help them through healing, BEFORE she gets too weak and dies, or by finding another way to help before she goes bonkers? (And, of course, discover a way to avoid her fate while she’s busy rescuing her family.)

    Story: Your 250 hooked me. I wanna know what the gray shadow is!!!

    COLORBLIND. Query: Also a very cool premise.

    Story: Good MC voice, but a few details don’t work for me. Not sure I like: “…puberty hit. With both fists.” “Her pale white skin reflected the light from her blue palm.” (Reflected isn’t the right word, unless some part of her white body is close enough to the palm to reflect its blue light.) “Her hair smelled like coconut.” (Don’t just give us a detail. Tell us how it makes your MC feel or react.) “She came up close.” She was leaning against the locker. She’d have to straighten up and then lean closer.

  10. Revenant: I commented on your entry in the last round. I’m not sure if I mentioned this then, but in your query I’m confused about why Cailyn needs to choose between a strait jacket and a body bag. What forces that decision? I just don’t see what brings it about, but it could be just me.

    Colorblind: Really cool idea here! The query left me feeling like the story was resolved, though. Even though he has to do all those sucky things to clear his name, it made me feel like “OK, so that’s the solution.” Maybe look for something that will provide more of a stomach drop and make readers wonder what’s going to happen. Nice 250. Regarding the “History should be a breeze” dialogue, it’s not clear who’s speaking this. I’d put it in the paragraph above, since Drea is the subject of that paragraph.

    Good job and good luck to both entries!