Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Have Sword Will Travel vs. Strange Fruit

Entry Nickname: Have Sword, Will Travel
Word count: 115,700
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Professional demon-hunter Lazarus loves his job. He loves the adrenaline rush, the clarity of combat, and the chance to be more than a broken thug. Most of all, he loves his angelic handler, Rebecca, who scraped him out of the gutter and gave him a purpose. For her, Laz would punch out the Sun.

Which is fortunate, because his current target is almost as formidable: a nigh-invulnerable necromancer, living on time stolen from his undead thralls, who's easily dispatched every other demon-hunter who dared face him. A more rational man would be worried, but Laz sees this mission as an opportunity. Killing this guy is sure to impress Rebecca. Maybe she'll even reconsider her "no fraternization with humans" policy.

But the shameful truth is that Laz's battle prowess isn't entirely his own. Five years ago, Laz promised his body and soul to a charismatic demon in exchange for immunity to demonic magic—and promptly skipped town without paying. Now, while Laz is hip-deep in the toughest mission of his life, his demon finally tracks him down... and it won't let him escape again.

First 250 Words:

Laz stared at the ceiling above his cot at three AM and decided that the worst thing about prison was the other prisoners. Five years of increasingly close pursuit by Hell's demons and America's cops had made it impossible for him to sleep when he could hear so many strangers nearby. So many potential threats.

His brothers in adversity had stiff competition for the title of Worst Thing, though. There was the physical discomfort: "One Size Fits Most" always meant "Way Too Small For You, Lazarus," but prison furnishings took that to an extreme. And the idleness: his internal engine ran hot at the best of times, but now, with no work to vent his energy on, he felt close to boiling over.

His eyes refused to shut. He covered his face with his hands, calloused palms pressed against battle scars and broken nose, and tried to force himself to relax. No good. He bit back a frustrated oath and rolled over onto his side, as if that would help.

Metal scraped against concrete as the computerized lock on his cell door slid open. The door swung outward in obedience to the ventilation system's constant draft, letting in a stripe of washed-out light.

Laz rolled out of bed to confront whoever had opened it, but there was no one on the other side. He crept to the entrance and looked up and down the dim corridor. Everyone's door was open, not just his.


Entry Nickname:
Strange Fruit
Title: Juice
Word count: 70K
Genre: Adult Contemporary (Darkly Humorous)


Reluctant hero Dan obtains a juicer that turns out to be possessed by the spirit of an ancient, evil necromancer. Dan finds that he can extract knowledge and abilities from whatever he juices. He learns what it is like to be an orange, absorbs information from newspapers and gains climbing abilities from a mix of ingredients that includes climbing DVDs and a Spiderman toy. However, the more he uses the juicer, the more the necromancer’s evil grows within him, causing his actions to become extreme.

Dan, as his friends are acutely aware, has been in love with Stephanie for as long as he can remember. When she dies, he is driven by a combination of remorse and the necromancer’s influence to juice her finger. When he drinks this ghastly concoction, he experiences the last moments of Stephanie’s life and discovers that she was murdered. Dan begins to question both his own sanity and the veracity of the visions he has been receiving. In a race against time, Dan tries to bring Stephanie’s murderer to justice without unleashing a far greater evil on the world, for should the necromancer free himself then nobody will be safe.

First 250 Words:

The feeling, initially, was not unlike flying. Proper flying that is, not flying inside a pressurised metal cylinder on a long-haul flight. The sort of flying you can only manage in a dream, or perhaps for a short period if you were to fall off a cliff. Much like falling, Dan felt little control over his velocity.

With a jolt (not a splat), the flight ended, and Dan was no longer Dan. Or at least, he was still Dan, but some kind of origami Dan; he was folded in upon himself again and again, both mentally and (seemingly to fit into a much smaller perimeter) physically. Despite these contortions, he felt fine; in fact he was warm and comfortable. There was a cool breeze, but it was refreshing rather than chilling. He was at one with his environment, swaying slowly with the air as it brushed past. He was plump, ripe and ready. He was orange. He was… An orange? An orange. A sweet, juicy fruit of the Citrus sinensis variety, commonly found in tropical and subtropical climates or, more frequently to Dan’s mind, on the shelf in a supermarket. As far as he could remember, though, he hadn’t been an orange before, had he? And oranges weren’t conscious, were they? Dan knew some vegetarians who would be seriously pissed off if turned out he was wrong about that.

The sensations of orangeness, of orangicity or whatever you might call it, were very strange. As well they might be, considering that Dan was fairly sure he was human, and therefore had human senses that had no fruity analogue.


  1. Judges - reply to this comment to cast your votes.

    1. CHAINBREAKER's query is very clear and concise. I get a really good feel for Laz and the problems he's running into in this story. The only part that has me scratching my head a bit is the deal with the demon -- what good is immunity against demonic magic if he doesn't have his body or soul? If this is an oversimplification of a more complex deal, it might be better to leave the terms a bit more general -- just saying he made a rash deal with a charismatic demon and skipped out before paying his dues gives enough info to intrigue the reader.

      JUICE sounds like a really awesome premise, but the query could use a bit more flavor (pun intended). Being less than 200 words as written, there's plenty of opportunity to play around with the wording and infuse some dark humor into the query itself so that it doesn't read so much like a synopsis. Best of luck!

      Victory to Have Sword Will Travel!

    2. Have Sword, Will Travel: Very good query, if not wildly original-sounding - clear and enticing, with nice high stakes. The only thing that confused me was that 'Killing this guy is sure to impress Rebecca. Maybe she'll even reconsider her "no fraternization with humans" policy.' made me laugh, but the rest of the query - as well as your first page - is straightforward with no humour, so am wondering what kind of tone the rest of the book is going to have.

      The first page is good, and the ending particularly gripped me - am dying to know why all their doors have opened, am guessing it's not a good sign :) But I think the first few paras could have a bit more specific info in there about why he's in prison, or about the demons after him, instead of him trying to sleep or complaining about his cell being small. But overall, I'd definitely read on.

      Strange Fruit - I literally burst out laughing at the first line of your query, and then continued to laugh out loud all the way through. No other query (or first page) has done that to me yet. Absolutely love this, it's hilarious, exactly my sense of humour. And then, even better, this isn't just a straight fantasy spoof novel, it also has interesting stakes in his having to find Stephanie's murderer and keep the necromancer locked up. So really well done. Oh, but one thing - your genre is definitely not Adult Contemporary, it's firmly fantasy - perhaps 'Humorous Adult Fantasy'?

      Similarly, your first page is excellent, so funny, reminded me of Douglas Adams, I don't think I'd change a thing, again it made me laugh out loud. HOWEVER... I don't think you should start your story here. It's too confusing. I think you need some build-up, him briefly going about his normal life about to use the juicer for the first time, us getting to know who he is a bit, plus a hint that there's maybe something evil about the juicer (I still can't write evil and juicer in the same sentences without snorting :) - and *then* you can go onto this scene, which as I said, is great as is. But I'd definitely recommend a bit of an introduction/preamble/build-up first.

      Both of these are really good and I'm sorry they've come up against each other because I think they both deserve to progress to the next round. But I have to give victory to Strange Fruit for being so crazily original and making me laugh so much!

    3. Princess PrimroseJune 2, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      Oh, man, this was a tough one. I've avoided scrolling through comments so as to not influence my decision either way. I'm taking solace in the fact that I am SURE the one who doesn't win this round will still get picked up by an agent. They were both stellar.

      Dear Strange Fruit,

      Query: This query's fascinating premise piqued my interest right away. You didn't pull any punches about how disturbing the story gets (juicing a finger?? Ahhhh! Love it!), which worked in your favor. Sadly, there was no real voice to this query, and, for me, that worked against it. I'd say you have a real opportunity here to relay this in Dan's quirky, sure-to-be-strange-as-f*ck voice. The last line, especially, definitely needs to be reworked.

      First 250: Your story started out well, with an entertaining, humorous introduction to Dan and his strange...hobby. However, I felt like the absolutely bizareness of what was happening could've been played up more. I felt more removed from what was going on, as if Dan wasn't nearly as gobsmacked as he should've been by the fact that he was experiencing what it was like to be an orange. I think picking up the pace of his ruminations would really lend that OH MY GOD WHAT IS GOING ON punch. I think you could go into the longer, deeper ruminations shortly afterward, but that would be a great initial hook to show us more of Dan's personality and what makes him tick.

      Dear Have Sword, Will Travel,

      Query: Your query was one of the best I've seen. You effectively used Laz's voice to pull us into his world, while at the same time entertainingly conveying his stakes and the major conflict he'll face in the course of the novel. Bravo! I feel this query is agent-ready.

      First 250: Just like the query, this first 250 is polished, polished, polished. We get to know a lot about Laz in a few short lines, and we know what his immediate conflict is as well. My only suggestion? Tweak that last part where his prison door swings open of its own accord. I had to read it twice because Laz's reaction isn't documented. Does he think, "What the actual f*ck?" Does his heart race just a bit quicker because he's suddenly faced with the unknown? Is he just too confused to have a real reaction? Let us know. Otherwise, fantastic job!


    4. Arg, this is one of those matchups where I wish I could choose both of you. But I must choose one. So here we go...

      HAVE SWORD, WILL TRAVEL: This query is excellent. Very clear, and just the kind of anti-heroish er... hero that I enjoy reading about. I have a very clear sense of who Laz is and what he's running from, and what he has to lose.
      The pages are also very strong. I have no suggestions in that regard beyond echoing Primrose's advice.

      STRANGE FRUIT: Wow, this is really... a wacky, unique premise. And I mean that as the best compliment. The only comment I have for the query - I'm left confused at the end how Dan could avoid unleashing the necromancer into the world. It seems like it's just a matter of time. Which leaves me wondering whether solving Stephanie's murder or stopping the necromancer is the Big Problem, or if they're connected. What would he have to give up to stop the necromancer?
      The genre is incorrect. Echoing OmarComin, it should probably be humorous fantasy. (Or darkly humorous fantasy?)
      The pages are well-written and interesting, but I'll admit to feeling lost. I wasn't sure what Dan was doing, or where we were, and though I snickered once I realized we were with Dan the orange, I still had a really hard time picturing the scene. Would love to see this back up a bit and give us more context before the transformation.


    5. Have Sword Will Travel

      query: Excellent query. No suggestions. Also--I've never, ever had no suggestions. Excuse me while I take my temperature.
      250: Again, excellent. There are a few phrasing issues, but overall: great. Paragraph 2 was a little hard to follow (I had to reread it) and the line should read "with no work ON WHICH to vent his energy."


      Strange Fruit

      query: I didn't connect with the MC in this query. I also needed more out of the conflict/stakes. "...causing his actions to become extreme"--what does this mean? I'd like to see you introduce the LI in the first paragraph, so that her death in paragraph 2 doesn't seem like simply a way to introduce conflict in the story. Avoid the "women in the refrigerator" trope!
      250: This was a great scene, but it doesn't work as the first 250 of a book. I need to connect to the character, see him go through the transformation, see him become an orange. Only then can I really appreciate how unique this scene is.

    6. Allusion AssassinJune 4, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      Re-posting because I put my post in the wrong place.

      This was a really tough match up. I thought both of these entries were really terrific

      I loved the opening to your query. especially the last line. It had oodles of voice and the stakes were clear.

      I didn't understand the "no fraternization with humans" line and I thought your last paragraph introduced way too many questions. Why would he make a deal like that and then why would he not pay? Why would he not think that would all catch up to him at some point and why, if he has feelings for Rebecca would he risk involving her in his troubles. It made him seem reckless and that made him harder to like and root for.

      The opening of your 250 felt forced to me through the back story info dump. I loved the ending, but wonder if there's a better way you could get us to the same place. I also had a hard time following the second paragraph, had to reread a couple of times.

      What a terrific premise.

      I felt like your first paragraph could be...tightened maybe. I feel like the sentence structure seems to slow the pace. The transition to the second paragraph feels abrupt and disconnected. Is there something you can do in the first paragraph to create a smoother transition into the second? As is, I feel like I'm reading two disconnected things.

      I love opening scene, but agree with the other comments here that you need to back up and to some introduction. There isn't enough setup for us to appreciate what is happening.

      Such a tough one to judge, as I think they are both really great. Sword had the better query, but I feel like Fruit has the better concept. The 250 were both great.

      Based on uniqueness of premise victory to STRANGE FRUIT

    7. So I'm running out of time so my feedback with be brief. I'm so sorry! There's just too many great entries and not enough time in a day. So!
      Have Sword, Will Travel
      Wow holy word count batman! That number will put you on the revise and resubmit list, if not a flat out rejection. Try to cut that baby down.
      I don't think I have anything to add for your query. Looks good to me
      That first sentence can be split and made into something much stronger. Maybe something like... Three A.M and Laz still can't sleep. The worst thing about prison is the prisoners... Refining sentences like that will help with bringing down your word count.

      Strange Fruit
      Well that's interesting. Definitely caught my attention.
      pressurised is the non-American spelling. If you are going for that, then disregard this.
      sinensisvariety needs a space :-)
      I love this! The voice is so clear and the way you describe his being an orange is fabulous.

      Victory to Strange Fruit

  2. These are both so good!

    Have Sword, Will Travel - Your 250 has such energy. The little details that you use to show us Laz are spot on. I definitely wanted to turn the page and keep reading. I like that your query matches the voice in the 250 and how it flows from one paragraph to the next so seamlessly. You nailed the premise, stakes and voice.

    Strange Fruit - I love your odd premise. Your 250 is a pleasure to read. I love your writing style and the word coinage for the odd situation of finding oneself in the position of being an orange. On the query, you do a great job laying out the premise and the stakes. You do have one statement that begs more specificity: "causing his actions to become extreme." Well done!

    Good job both of you and good luck!

  3. Have Sword Will Travel:
    I would read the rest of this novel in a heartbeat. I love the cliffhanger at the end of your 250. I think the majority of your query is polished. The bit about the deal with the demon is a bit confusing though. Was there some kind of time limit on his immunity? It doesn't seem like he made a very good deal for himself if the demon gets to claim his body whenever it wants. I think you should gloss over the details here and let the novel explain the deal in full. Maybe just say he skipped out on the debt he owed and move forward. That's the important bit anyway, it lets the reader know why he's being hunted.

    Strange Fruit:
    This is a very unique concept. Dan's voice (especially when trying to determine if he is, in fact, an orange) is just fun to read. I think it's an interesting start, and it's intriguing enough to make me want to read longer. I think your query is short and sweet, although the last sentence runs on a bit. If you drop the "for", and begin a new sentence with "should," it's a bit stronger, but I feel like the last bit could use some tweaking to really nail the hook.

    Good luck to both of you! I enjoyed them both!

  4. Have Sword Will Travel:
    I loved the line "For her, Laz would punch out the Sun". That single sentence reveals so much about Laz's character and also gives some great clues about the nature of his relationship with Rebecca.
    The query is great - clear outline, nice characterization, and I love the sense of building tension. And it's a great story too! The one word that jarred a bit for me was 'hip-deep'. I don't know if that's a more American term but I'm more familiar with the notion of someone being 'neck-deep'. It could just be a cultural thing though. The opening 250 words are great too - you end on a perfect cliff-hanger, which is either just happy coincidence or the whole book is like this. Either way, nice work!

    Strange Fruit:
    Your premise is brilliant and quirky and so imaginative. The part where he juices his dead girl's fingers and drinks it is so high on the yuck-o-meter that I actually shivered - nice work! But I also felt the query read a but like a synopsis. Perhaps you could start with the thing about Dan juicing his dead girlfriend's fingers because that is such a major sucker-punch. I also wanted to get more of a sense of Dan and who he was as he's a bit shadowy so far.
    The first 250 words are excellent, really intriguing. I love that you start in Dan's head as he becomes an orange. Definitely one of the more out-there intros I've read in ages and I love it because it immediately draws me in. Great work :-)

  5. Both of these entries are fabulous.

    Have Sword Will Travel, your query is one of the tightest I've seen. That punching out the sun line says it all, and I feel like that alone will get you requests. The only line that tripped me up was "living on time stolen from his undead thralls." I didn't quite understand that, but I also don't read much in this genre, so I might just be being thick.

    First 250 is also great, carries the same great voice through. The first sentence of paragraph 2 was a teensy bit awkward and I think you could tighten up that whole paragraph a bit, just to keep the sparse, tough-guy-ness of the voice. Otherwise, no criticisms, loved the way this ended, would absolutely read on.

    Strange Fruit: Gah! I am both repulsed and way into this premise! Like, I want to read it so badly because it's like nothing I've ever heard of and super creative. But I'm also a giant gore wimp and not sure I could read a scene of him juicing her finger. I'd probably read it anyway and read that part with my eyes closed ;) Anyway, I agree that you should try and infuse more of the voice from your pages into the query. And there were a few lines that I think you could cut:

    1. "causing his actions to become extreme." This feels a little wishy-washy. I think you could cut this entirely because the necromancer's evil growing stronger sort of implies it, or maybe say something like "the more the necromancer’s evil -- and his control -- grows within him."

    2. "as his friends are acutely aware" Since you don't mention the friends before or after this, this feels unnecessary.

    As for the first 250, I loved everything about it, especially the bit about being folded up like origami. It's whimsical and weird and wonderful. I'd absolutely keep reading to find out why the heck this guy is an orange.

    Good luck, you two!

  6. MRS N, the Query QueenJune 2, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Both of these entries were intriguing and made me want to read more! Let's start with the query letter:

    HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL- I was sucked into your story with the first paragraph but you kind of lost me with your second and third paragraph. I had to read them three times to get what you were trying to say. I think if you tighten the second paragraph, you will this competition hands down. Less is more, I have learned. I absolutely LOVED this line, "Killing this guy is sure to impress Rebecca."

    STRANGE FRUIT- I love the premise for your story! A possessed juicer!! No wonder I hate them! LOL! Truth be told, I found your query letter too wordy. Less is more, I say. Think of it like the back of your book. You've got to draw the person in and don't let go!

    Here is your first sentence as you wrote it: "Reluctant hero Dan obtains a juicer that turns out to be possessed by the spirit of an ancient, evil necromancer. Dan finds that he can extract knowledge and abilities from whatever he juices." I would condense it down to the bare bones to something like this: Dan unknowingly obtains a juicer possessed by an ancient, evil necromancer and extracts knowledge and abilities from whatever he juices." Do you see what I did there? Taking out the few extra words makes it more powerful.

    Now onto the 250:

    HAVE SWORD- I really loved your intro and i made me want to know more about what was going on. More words! More words! I need to know what's going on!!! Excellent grabber! :-)

    STRANGE FRUIT- I loved the humor and oranginess of it! It made me want to read more and now I am looking at my apple curiously! :-) I wanted to read more and to find out why he was an orange and flying.

    It was a hard decision but VICTORY goes to...


    Good luck to the both of you and keep after your dream! :-)

  7. Have Sword, Will Travel

    Query: I’m a huge Urban Fantasy buff, so my gushing is most likely going to be biased. But I loved your query! Not only does it set up the stakes and the plot and the character motivation, but it does so with great clarity. I also enjoy the voice you’ve instilled into it – not too much to detract from the quality of the query, but enough to give us a sense of who Lazarus is (cool name, by the way). I also love that detail of Rebecca’s “no fraternization with humans” policy, and I think that says a lot about what’s important to Lazarus. You subtly imply his personality through the query, which is awesome. Character details are great. I’d love to read this.

    First 250: I think you do a great job getting the reader interested without having a “grab-you-by-the-throat” type of hook, which is (honestly) something I’d usually expect from this genre and from the tone of the query. So nice surprise there – you got me interested in learning about Lazarus through somewhat timid action, rather than me seeing him stuff a demon full of a bunch of pointy things before I even know what type of person he is. Plus, if I had to guess what’s going to happen next, I’m going to say this is where Rebecca appears and offers him the chance to leave jail so he can hunt demons? Normally I’d like a story more ‘in medias res’ than that, maybe after he’s already in the role (since that is what the query implies), but I’d really need to read more to make a further judgment (you can always cover past events through flashback). But anyways, Lazarus, yes. This opening scene focuses on him, specifically his mentality and temperament (not being able to sleep), and I get a really good feel for him right away. I feel like I might be fan-girling a bit too much, haha. I hope at least some of this is helpful!

    Strange Fruit

    Query: My initial reaction: “What?” Which made me have to keep reading, because…what? I love this humor! Very funny. And I love how you’re able to infuse a rather serious plot into what seems to be a comedy novel: this plot of trying to find Stephanie’s killer and stop the Necromancer from freeing himself…from the juicer. I really have no suggestions here. Totally hilarious concept. :) This sounds like it would make an awesome movie, too.

    First 250: I’m a little torn on the first 250 words. Like another commenter had suggested, I think it might be worthwhile to have some set-up before Dan uses the juicer. Maybe even as he’s putting it together. Or right before he puts the orange in there, his hand hovering over its top. It will help with confusion or clarity, which is always something to consider. HOWEVER, I really do think the opening you have is attention grabbing and I love the surreal tone. I think this opening would totally work if the reader read the summary first, that way they’d have an idea of what’s going on. But sometimes you gets readers (like me) who read a summary in the bookstore, and by the time they get the book home they don’t remember what the summary said, haha. So while I do love it, I wonder if you’d be able to concoct a different opening just as entertaining, but clearer. While I didn’t have any trouble understanding what was going on (because I had just read your query), others might. The tone, though…I love the tone. And the narrative distance – I think it's a really wise decision to get this close to Dan’s POV during this scene so that the reader can experience everything Dan experiences, while he’s experiencing it. It really adds to the humor and immersion.

  8. Another very tough call…

    Have Sword Will Travel
    Wowzers! That query had me from start to finish. So well done. Someone else may well find something to pick on in it, but I have nothing. Except to say where’s the book? :D

    I also enjoyed the 250, but thought it could be just a little snappier in places. For example, personally I think “Laz decided that the worst thing about prison was the other prisoners” would be a much stronger opening line. Work the 3 AM part after if necessary, or drop it altogether. Just a little reworking here and there will make the opening zing.

    Strange Fruit
    Ha ha! Such a weird, twisted concept. Right up my alley (as in, man, I wish I’d thought of it). I think the query could drop “as his friends are acutely aware.” It kills the flow. But other than that, it worked for me.

    And yeah, the 250 brings it home. What a great opening page. Confident voice. This is a book I want to read, no question.

    I wish I had more to offer you both, but these two might just be my very favourite match-up of the entire contest.

    Well done, and good luck to both entries!

  9. Chainbreaker:
    This sounds like a great concept and your query is very clear and easy to understand while maintaining a humorous and voice-filled edge. The only thing I might change in the query is the last sentence, specifically the words "his demon" because they imply an intimacy between the MC and the demon that I wasn't sure actually exists.
    I think you start us off in a great place with the 250. You instantly have action and a great scene to showcase your character's voice. To nitpick once again, I stumbled on the words "competition for the title of Worst Thing..." The wording seemed awkward here. In general, though, it was immediately entertaining. I would just mention something about prison in your query so that the two flow together a little better.

    Strange Fruit
    First, I love the humorous tint to your story. The humor definitely lands and your 250 reminds me of the writings of Douglas Adams. I love the first 250 but with the query I find a disconnect between the first few paragraphs and the last paragraph. What started as a fun fantasy become more of a murder mystery and I would like to see those blended a little more. Ex. maybe explain a little more about how his visions play a part in him solving her murder.

  10. Have Sword, Will Travel

    I feel like there are two plots happening in the query, and I'm more intrigued by the skipping town on the demon deal plot. The formidable hunt sort of comes with the territory to me, being that Laz is a hunter. By the 250, I'm guessing he is chosen to be a hunter while he's in jail, but it was a bit of surprise for me to have it opening on him in jail. Maybe try to get that into the query?

    Strange Fruit

    (Makes me want to sing the song.) A very eyebrow raising query. I definitely can see where the humor comes into this story. The transition between the first and second paragraph feels a little disjointed to me, though, but I see that they're connected by the extreme actions. The 250 paints a very surreal picture of Dan's life as an orange. I'm guessing it started with the orange falling from the tree? Very original.

    Good luck to you both!

  11. [From the author of JUICE]

    Thank you to everyone for your comments, advice and votes. I didn't win this time, but I'm happy to have lost to a worthy opponent. I'm looking forward to reading CHAINBREAKER as much as everyone else I think!

    I know my query needs a little work, but thanks to you lot I have plenty of tips. More than one of you have compared my writing to Douglas Adams, which is about the nicest compliment I can imagine! I know I need to get a bit more of that voice into the query as well as the main material and I'll work at that. I'm much happier about the first 250. I know some of you have said that it needs some context and might not currently start in the right place, but there are (spoiler-filled!) reasons for it being the way it is. You only need to read a little further, following Dan's thoughts as he recovers to get that WTF moment as he tries to piece together what has happened to him and why it has happened. Earlier drafts started prior to Dan's first juice experience and it just didn't work.

    If any of you want to read more, contact me on twitter @karlequin and I'll be happy to send you a chapter or two.

    I do hope that one day you will all get to read it in published form. And I really think that this competition will help to make that a reality. Thanks again - I couldn't have hoped for a better group of people to help shape my creation. :)

    1. FWIW, I think you made the right call by starting with the juice. They say you have to start the story with the inciting event, and having your consciousness spontaneously transmitted into that of an orange is pretty dam inciting.

      I did wonder how one extracts juice from a DVD, though. Is it in a carrier? Like, does he put it in with an apple so he ends up with something drinkable? Or is this like a Halloween episode of "Will It Blend?"

      I like the concept, I think it's clever, and the query has some serious WTF moments. Juicing a human body part, particularly someone you cared for, is one of the most casually horrifying acts I can imagine. And saying it so briefly nudges it into black comedy. It reminds me of a chapter in Chuck Wendig's BLACKBIRDS (which I think you'd enjoy, if you haven't read it) that consists of one single line: "I chopped up my husband and ran him through the garbage disposal," which, in context, is shockingly hilarious. You've got a real bomb to drop in the query letter with that plot point. I don't think you'll have any trouble getting agents' attention!

      Looking forward to seeing this on shelves :)

  12. [Author of CHAINBREAKER]

    Oh, wow, you guys! You all rock! Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time and energy to give us such detailed and constructive feedback.

    In all honesty, I botched following this contest, I had written down the schedule and where to look TOTALLY WRONG. So I get an email today from the incomparable Michelle telling me I'm late and my heart about went through the roof: I had no idea this was here, or that so many people were reading and kindly commenting on my query.

    I'm sure at some point my heart rate will slow down to slightly lower-pitched whine and I might have something more intelligent to say at that point. In the meantime, though, I'm stuck at "Wow!"

    Except for one thing - "Holy word count, Batman!" made me laugh out loud because the original word count for this manuscript was 167,000. Yeah, you read that right. The editing process involved the loosing of hungry wolverines inside Scrivener. Word-blood gushed from my laptop's USB ports. I know it's still long, but imagining the judges' faces if they'd seen the original number made me smile.

  13. Okay! I edited the living s*** out of paragraph 2 of the 250. Almost everyone had a problem with it and you know what? So did I, once ya'll were so kind as to point it out to me. This involved moving mention of Laz's stature to a bit later in the story, just past the cut-off of the 250. You won't see it anymore, but it's not lost, just moved.

    The previous sample was 244 words; now it's 260, because the 250 point lies in the middle of a sentence now after all the trimming. Hopefully it's still as good of an end point :)

    I also trimmed paragraph 2 of my query and removed the specifics of his deal with the demon. River Tam's guess that this was an oversimplification was correct. The reality is so much more complicated that this is almost absurdly oversimplified, but it had not occurred to me that I could simply leave the terms unsaid. I think you're right and it is improved by leaving the unnecessary details out.

    When originally writing this query, I wrestled long and hard with trying to get some kind of bridge into the query that would prepare readers for the story starting in prison. But, ultimately, I was not able to shoehorn that in anywhere without it becoming a huge distraction. I really hope that it is not too jarring, because I've tried, and I'm not capable of inserting this detail elegantly. I'd have to go level-grind the Query Crafting skill tree for a while and then come back to it. No time to do that before the contest deadline :(

    Quick comment to those who thought this scene introduces Rebecca: If the sample were a teensy bit longer, it would be clearer that the story is taking place 5 years into his career and he's got a lot of history both with Rebecca and with the forces of Hell. In other words: don't worry, this isn't an origin story. I tried to spread this info out rather than front-loading the first page too heavily with backstory. I realize that's not helping me in this particular contest, but I feel like that information fits much better on page 2.

    You're close to the mark, though. Laz has a rich history of getting bailed out of jail by spiritual entities with wildly varying motivations. One of them was, indeed, Rebecca... but this one is not so friendly.

    Allusion Assassin, just FYI, he made his deal with the demon BEFORE meeting Rebecca. You are correct that he would never do such a thing now that he has her to think about. I used to have more details in the query about the timeline of who-met-who-when-and-did-what but it was confusing; like the prison, I was not up to the task of fitting that in neatly. I'm sorry!