Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Zombie Barbers vs. Troglin Snot

Entry Nickname: Zombie Barbers
Word count: 51,000
Genre: MG Comedy


Twelve-year-old Duke Wellington would rather get into a mud war or a dig a hole to China than worry about washing his hair or clipping his nails, so when the mysterious Madam Roza opens a new salon in town, he could care less. His time is better spent plotting ways to undo his arch –nemesis, eleven-year old genius Maddie 'Mad Scientist' Burns. When their rivalry escalates into an epic school-wide mudball assault, the fallout lands them both in parent-mandated community service.

While serving tea to the town bigwigs, Duke and Maddie notice something fishy about Madam Roza. A bunch of high-school girls, including Duke’s sister, are tripping over themselves for the chance to clean her shop. The town council has handed over an abandoned mansion that Madam Roza plans to turn into a massive day spa. And – oh, yeah – she's using magic potions to brainwash her clients into being her mindless zombie servants. With all the grownups convinced that magic doesn't exist and that zombies aren't real, it's up to Duke and Maddie to work together, load up on dirty mop water (it's a witch's only weakness, you know) and save the town before everybody gets BRAINWASHED!

First 250 words:

"Is she looking?" I scooped up a fistful of mud and patted it into a ball. Next to me, Ryan mixed sand into our mud patch so our ammunition wouldn't fall apart as soon as it left our hands. At the edge of the school yard, on the other side of the PE track, tufts of bright yellow and brown hair moved through the overgrown grass as the girls peeked out from their base. There were five or six Harpies this time. They outnumbered us. We needed to press the attack soon, or they would have way more mud balls than we did.

"She just moved off for the swing set." Paul stood guard on my other side, scanning the yard for Mrs. Hammish, the recess monitor. He had been smart enough to wear his bright orange raincoat today. I should have thought of that. It made him look like a traffic cone, but it would keep him safe from the mud carnage about to go down. My own clothes were going to get demolished.

"Her back's turned," Paul hissed, grabbing my shoulder and shaking. "We're good. Go, go go go!"

"It's morphin' time!" Ryan's favorite Power Rangers battle cry rattled my brain. He exploded out of the ditch and hurled the first shot across the track. The dirt clod soared like an eagle and smashed into enemy territory, sending a rain of brown goo smattering across the girls' heads. A flurry of high-pitched shrieks rose to the sky.

That was why we called them Harpies.


Entry Nickname: Troglin Snot
Title: Asher Locke and the Knights of Arcadia
Word count: 54,000
Genre: MG Fantasy


Thirteen-year-old Asher Locke would do anything to be able to see his dad one more time. And when a sword-wielding wall of pecs named Gareth saves him from a bloodthirsty Grimhound, the moppy-haired seventh grader discovers that he may just get that chance.

Asher learns that his dad isn’t really dead. He’s being held prisoner by a madman named Lord Balor. And to make things worse, this slimy dad-nabber isn’t even in Asher’s world. He’s stowed away in a place called Eden Worn, the world hidden behind the middle school’s boiler room. Lord Balor is keeping Asher’s dad hostage unless he can get something Asher has – the key to unleashing the magic trapped inside the mountains of Eden Worn. Too bad Asher has no idea what in the heck that even is.

Along with Gareth, two loony enchanters, his best friend and the girl of his dreams, Asher launches a rescue mission as epic as it is insane. If he fails, he can kiss seeing his dad – and his own world – goodbye.

First 250 words:

The straight razor made a satisfying snikt as Asher freed the blade from the handle. He loved that sound.

Well, he used to anyway.

Just holding his dad’s old blade was a kick in the gut. He loved how his dad used to set him on the sink and let him pretend-shave with a spoon. Part of him wanted to forget, though. The memories were nice, but they still hurt. Because that’s all he’d ever have.

But he wasn’t going to cry. It’d been three whole years and he’d been tough for that long. No need to start boo-hooing now.

Besides, today was the Big 13. Officially a teenager. And if what Em told him was true, a thick wad of facial hair was right around the corner.

Asher glanced up at the mirror. About ten pounds of white foam covered his face. Okay, so maybe he went a little overboard on the shaving cream.

Too late to redo it. Time to become a man.

He pressed the blade against his face and a white-hot pinch of pain instantly seared his chin. Asher sucked in a quick breath, dropping the razor as a bead of blood welled up under his lower lip.

“Seriously?” Round one with the razor and he nearly sliced off half his face. This was pointless. He washed off the shaving cream and decided he’d just spend the first day as a teenager looking hairless and unmanly. And reeking of his mom’s Pink Mango-Splosion shaving cream.



  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes

    1. Have to recuse myself from this one as I know one of the participants.

    2. Victory to Troglin Snot
      Brainwashed - as I mentioned in Round 1, I did enjoy the mudball fight as an opening scene, fun and active. However the premise and the voice didn't grab me as much as those of your opponent's. There's so much subjectivity involved in "voice" that you shouldn't be overly discouraged. I'm also not a big fan of zombies, though I love ghosts. Again, subjective.
      Troglin S - I loved the humor and pathos mingling like shaving cream and hot water in the sink of your 250 ;)

    3. Victory to Zombie Barbers

      Zombie, I love the comedy in your query, and the mud fight scene gets me every time.

      Troglin, I am SO SO SORRY. I had to be picky, and I kind of felt like your query had a few too many new names and places, and might come off as confusing to some. I wish I could vote for both of you!!!

    4. Victory to Troglin Snot

      Good luck to you both.

    5. Victory to Troglin Snot

    6. Victory to Zombie Barbers!

      Two great entries that sound so fun.

    7. Victory to Zombie Barbers

      *Curses the match-ups* Love both again! There's always just one element that tips the scale for me when deciding.

    8. Victory to Troglin Snot.

      I've seen this one before and I love the opening lines - you think one thing, and get another. Also the entire concept of another world in the boiler room will appeal, for sure.

    9. Victory to Troglin Snot! Both entries sounded so fun! It just came down to what one I connected with more.

    10. Victory to Troglin Snot...and can you tell us where that name came from? It's so much fun to say. Troglin Snot...Troglin :)

    11. VIctory to Zombie Barbers

      I just love the voice in this entry so much. Both entries are stellar though!

  2. I can totally see myself reading Brainwashed to my son (6 yrs old), and him reading Asher Locke on his own when he's a bit older. The first is fun and sound like it would hold shorter attention spans well along the lines of a slightly more mature Captain Underpants, and the second sounds like it would be perfect for older boys getting ready for the roller coaster of puberty.

    The voice is great in both excerpts, and both made me laugh. I would have no idea which one to vote for.

    Good luck, and let me know when these hit the shelves so I can get them for my little guy!

  3. I really love both of these. Brainwashed catches me more on the query, but I stumbled in the first 250 over the orange raincoat. I just saw it as a huge beacon and had to re-read. Otherwise, really sounds fun.

    I've seen Asher Locke a few times and know I'd love to read it. There's a lot going on in the query but it really sounds like a fun romp. The first 250 doesn't pull me in - seriously, straight razors give me the willies, and well, shaving facial hair just wasn't on my list of activities as a teenage girl!

    Good luck to you both!

  4. Brainwashed: I loved the reference to digging a hole to China. (That takes me back.)I don't like that your first paragraph is a run on sentence (almost like you wrote it for a pitch contest and pasted it into your query as well.) And pet peeve: the phrase is correctly said: "couldn't care less" I won't get into the whys and hows. That said, I love the idea of the witch's weakness being dirty mop water. I don't usually go for MG, but this sounds fun. 250: I love that his friend's name is Ryan! I love that they call the girls "harpies" (and the reason). In general I found the 250 pretty slow, but I think that has more to do with my distaste for MG than your writing.

    Snotty: "Wall of pecs" priceless. The whole rescuing a missing parent is a little (okay a lot) cliche, but I suppose that's the name of the game. Still, your query flowed well and I found myself interested despite my prejudice. 250: Loved the line about a thick wad of facial hair. Love the whole shaving fiasco. But I'm confused about why giving up would mean he has to be hairless. Wouldn't giving up on shaving mean you had to remain hairy? I mean, I know the hair is imaginary, but something still doesn't seem right about it.

    Both great entries, but I'd have to go with Snot because it made me chuckle a couple times. (I'm not a judge, so don't get excited.)

    Good luck to both of you.

  5. I don't read MG but I found both these entries fun to read. Just a few comments:

    ZOMBIE: As Ryan mentioned, the phrase is "couldn't care less." That alone might have turned off an agent.
    I also don't get how serving tea is community service? Maybe cleaning up the mansion's yard?
    Love the idea of a salon using potions (shampoo) to brain"wash" clients. Cute.

    TROGLIN: You have some great phrasing(wall of pecss, slimy dad-napper).
    I, too, think the dead parent thing is overdone (but I've done it as well!) but I think you could get away with it if you didn't start the story with trying not to cry about the death, etc.
    I'd change "wad of hair" to "mask of hair" or something like that. Wad doesn't seem to fit.

    Good luck to you both. I think you're evenly matched (as the voting suggests).

  6. ZOMBIE BARBERS - This sounds like a fun read. You have great voice in the query and the plot is clear. Just a couple of nits: "could care less" in the first paragraph should be "couldn't care less," and in the second paragraph it wasn't clear to me how serving tea led to the discovery about Madam Roza. Are Duke and Maddie serving tea in her salon? I guess I also question how serving tea to bigwigs translates to community service. Is there a charitable aspect to it?

    The first scene was engaging. I can't find anything to criticize there. Just a question, because I don't have kids in this age group: do they still watch Power Rangers? That was popular when I was kid, which is a looong time ago.

    TROGLIN SNOT - You have a compelling premise. Who couldn't feel sympathy for a fatherless 13-year-old boy? And I love the idea that the portal to this other world is through the middle school boiler room. I can't see anything to criticize in the query, except that describing Asher as a "moppy-haired seventh grader" is a minor break in voice.

    I saw a different version of your first 250 on another blog. This is much better. The first shave is a great coming-of-age moment, using the straight razor is an excellent way to establish a connection to his lost father, and the kicker at the end, that he was using Mom's mango-scented shaving cream, actually brought a tear to my eye. Nice job!

    These two are both so strong, I hate to pick a favorite, but I guess I would go with TROGLIN SNOT, for the mango-scented shaving cream.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Rebecca. I feel like I have to address the issue of Power Rangers, since a lot of folks have commented that it's 'dated'...Yes, the series is almost 20 years old, but there are still new seasons in production and broadcasting numbers say it's still a very popular show.

    2. SacredIbis,

      Haha! I'm glad there's someone out there who enjoys saying it as much as I do. :)

      Troglins are big, nasty creatures that Asher and his friends run into a few times on their way to his dad. Okay, so maybe nasty is putting it lightly, but rest assured they're gross.

      Oh and if I wasn't supposed to answer that here feel free to delete this comment or make me do it. I replied up above and deleted it and immediately realized it was in the wrong spot...

  7. I can tell you from personal experience that 1st graders still talk about Power Rangers. The ones in my class do. But they are more keen on Iron Man. I doubt that older kids would care for PRs.

  8. These both sound very fun! When (notice I said "when") they get pubbed, I'll buy both!

    ZOMBIE BARBERS! I love the idea of a zombie tale for middle-graders. I usually associate zombies with grue, grit and gore. So, the juxtaposition of the two, plus humor, makes it a winner! Um, do kids these days still have mud fights? Nit-pick time: please, PLEASE change "could" care less to "couldn't" care less, okay? Otherwise, stellar!

    TROGLIN SNOT! "Sword-wielding wall of pecs" is an AWESOME description! Well done! A great sense of humor always appeals to me when dealing with fantasy. I've read many well-written fantasy books that miss out on that. Your first 250 words are very well-written.

    Gah! Both are great! And both are funny. Good work to both of you. Both winners.

  9. Zombie: Your story is so fun! I really like the Harpies bit. I'm really curious about how the MC gets wrapped up with the villain. I felt like the voice seemed a little young for a 12yo MC in parts, though.

    TS: This intro is so tender and relatable. It feels almost nostalgic. My one piece of criticism would be that the query feels like everything happens to the MC. I wish I got to see a little of the rescue mission and what the MC has to do in order to succeed.

  10. Zombie Barbers: I second everyone above about "COULDN'T care less," but beyond that, your query is great. The conflict is clear, and you've got voice and humor in spades--well done! Your first 250 have great voice as well, but I think the Power Rangers reference (although it may still be culturally relevant) just isn't necessary. That paragraph could begin with "Ryan exploded up out of the ditch" without losing anything.

    Troglin Snot (love that nickname): Your query could be tightened up in a few spots, particularly in the first two paragraphs. For instance, "And when a sword-wielding wall of pecs named Gareth saves him from a bloodthirsty Grimhound, the moppy-haired seventh grader discovers that he may just get that chance" could be "After a sword-wielding wall of pecs named Gareth saves him from a bloodthirsty Grimhound, he may just get that chance." And the second paragraph would read more smoothly if you condensed it a bit:

    "As it turns out, Asher's dad isn’t really dead. He’s being held hostage in Eden Worn, the world hidden behind the middle school’s boiler room. To make things worse, the slimy dad-nabber, a madman named Lord Balor, wants something Asher has: the key to unleashing the magic trapped inside the mountains of Eden Worn. Too bad Asher has no idea what the heck that is."

    Your query and first 250 have great voice (love love love "sword-wielding wall of pecs), and I would read more!

  11. zombie: i love that this book starts with an epic mud fight. The premise is fun and I can see kids loving it.

    Troglin -I loved the voice in your 250 and the query was also good.

    If i had to choose though I would probably go for zombie barbers. Just personal preference, really and I like comedy.