Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Remember Me vs. Leave it to Fate

Entry Nickname: Remember Me
Word count: 75K
Genre: Historical/Adult Fiction

Katya came of age in the 1930’s during Stalin’s brutal efforts to decimate her people in order to create a Communist Ukraine. She watched her family members starve to death one by one and buried her dreams of a happy ending along with the cold, bullet riddled body of the love of her life. Katya’s survival is a testament to her strength, but the choices she made came at a price. Now, in the twilight of her life, the survivor’s guilt she has silently kept buried for decades has come back to haunt her.

Summer Porter is sure of three things: she’s a disappointment to her mother, the only thing she's good at is art, and she is blindly stumbling through life with no purpose. Her great-grandmother Katya has always held a special place in her heart, but they haven’t been close since Summer was a child. Despite that, when Katya’s health begins to fail, Summer has no doubts about giving up her post college plans of studying art abroad to move in with her.

Their renewed relationship compels the old woman to do something she swore she’d never do: rip open the scars of her youth and tell her deepest secrets. Hearing these confessions awakens something profound in Summer that neither woman fully comprehends. It may be Katya’s only chance at the forgiveness she has spent a lifetime yearning for and Summer’s opportunity to understand who she really is and why her life is so important.

First 250 words:

When the first shot rang out, the basket my mother had so carefully packed for us to bring to my sick aunt slipped from my fingers. Bread spilled to the ground, forgotten, as I raced towards their house. My older sister Alina yelled out for me to stop, but her voice barely whispered in my ear. All I could hear was my cousin Sasha screaming.

Alina caught up to me with ease and tackled me to the ground. We landed in a snowdrift next to my aunt and uncle’s barn, hidden from view. I had almost made it to the yard. Her speed saved my life that day, but I didn’t thank her for it then.

“Katya!” she hissed into my ear. Our limbs tangled and the heavy cloaks we wore twisted around us, but it didn’t stop me from trying to wrestle away from her. My arm throbbed where her fingers dug into it. “Stop fighting me! We need to get out of here!”

“No!” I wrenched my left leg from under her and rolled onto my stomach. Snow made its way into my boots and under my thick skirts, but the icy crystals numbing my leg scarcely registered. “We have to try to help them!”

I yanked off my cumbersome cloak and left it behind so I could crawl away from her. Sasha’s screams had stopped, but now her quiet whimpering and my uncle’s pleading voice floated towards me through the sharp, cold air.

“Please!” Alina begged from behind me. “You know you can’t help them now!”


Entry Nickname:
Leave it to fate
Title: The Sapphire Legacy
Word count: 75,000
Genre: Historical romance


Mae Blackthorne has been taught how to ride dressage, embroider pillows and dance the waltz. So when her brother’s death puts the family’s shipbuilding business in her hands, it isn’t long before the business is in bankruptcy and Mae is penniless. Forced to take a post as a governess, she thinks she’s doomed to a life of poverty. That is, until she meets Ethan Locke, a pirate who offers her an enticing opportunity to recover her wealth.

Unbeknownst to Mae, her family used their shipbuilding business to shroud generations of lucrative piracy. Locke, who was once partners with her father, has an old score to settle. He claims that her father stole from him an object of great value: a sapphire that can give its owner eternal life. As her father’s last surviving heir, Mae is Locke’s only hope of finding it, along with her family’s secret fortune.

Agreeing to work together and split the fortune equally, there’s no denying the spark of attraction between them. But they’re not alone in their search. The original owners of the sapphire, who operate an elite secret society, are far more powerful than Mae and Locke could've ever imagined. As the dangerous men close in, Mae fears she has much more to lose than just a second chance at luxury. She could lose any chance she has for love, or life.

First 250 words:

May 1836, somewhere on the Atlantic

Ethan Locke tightened his grip on two leather bound books, ready to run. The distant high pitch screech of a whistle signaled departure. He had only a few minutes to make it back to ship so he and his crew could set sail.

But he couldn’t go. Not just yet. Mixed in with the mahogany furnishings of the captain’s quarters, he caught a flash of gold. Behind red velvet curtains swaying with the ship, a small gold chest fell in and out of view. It was hidden for a reason. Without a doubt whatever was inside would be valuable indeed.

Of course he couldn’t leave now. Greed beckoned him. Disregarding his need for haste, he inched his way to the chest, pulled back the curtain and lifted its unsecured lid.

Disappointment dropped through him. Without a lock, it might not have been valuable after all. But as soon as his eyes met the contents, his breath caught. The books he had been so grateful to find thudded to the floor.

Two items were suspended in black velvet. The first he noticed was a small blue bottle strangely attached to a silver chain. That didn’t seem worth much. But the other item, also on a silver chain, was a sapphire blue like the deepest ocean. As if in a kind of protection, it was wrapped in swirling cords of silver. Though the lamps in the cabin had gone dim, it sparkled nonetheless. Deep within, a dazzling fire blazed.


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

    1. Princess PrimroseJune 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Dear Remember Me,

      Query: The first paragraph of your query is pretty dense, and can be condensed down to one or two sentences at most. We need to get to the meat of it quickly--Katya's dwindling life and the survivor's guilt she still carries.

      In the second paragraph, I had a hard time with what Summer's mother, her lack of life plans, and her love of art have to do with her great-grandmother. They're all in the same paragraph together, and it felt like they didn't belong.

      First 250: The first 250 were great, full of action and excitement. However, we don't once get to hear what Katya's feeling during that time. We feel the pain of her sister's fingers on her arm, the cold of the snow, the heaviness of the cloaks tangling. But what does Katya *feel* about this situation? Fierce determination, cold fear, utter panic? Adding in a few of those "crumbs" of feeling could vastly heighten this reading experience.

      Dear Leave It to Fate,

      Query: I followed your query until this line threw me off (third paragraph): "Agreeing to work together and split the fortune equally, there’s no denying the spark of attraction between them." I'd definitely suggest reworking that line. Also, I'd rework the last line of the query to pack more punch. Right now, a query full of intrigue and suspense falls sadly flat at the end.

      First 250: I like that the sapphire is introduced immediately. However, from the query, I was under the impression that Mae was our MC. Therefore, I felt a bit thrown off to be reading about Ethan. I feel like you have a good story here, however, and perhaps reading past the first 250 may have given me more of an idea of why you chose to open that way.


    2. THE GOSSAMER VEIL sounds really intriguing. It reminds me of "Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah -- it may be one to consider for a comp title. The line: "Hearing these confessions awakens something profound in Summer that neither woman fully comprehends" seems somewhat awkward to me; I'm not entirely sure what that's supposed to mean.

      THE SAPPHIRE LEGACY's query opens in a way that's a bit confusing to me. I read the first sentence to mean that Mae is very accomplished and capable, but then it becomes clear that's not what you mean to imply there. I also have no concept of the time or place in which this story takes place, which is essential in a historical fic query. The wording "He CLAIMS that her father stole..." makes his story seem suspicious, but after reading the rest of the query, I don't think that's the impression you meant to give.

      Victory to Remember Me.

    3. Remember Me:

      query: Nice character portraits, but there's a lack of conflict in the query. I'm having a hard time envisioning what actually *happens* in the book. Is it a long conversation between two women? I'm also not really sure what's at stake for the granddaughter.

      I also agree that the first paragraph could be condensed. Part of the problem w/ it is that it's told from a distant 3rd, while the other two paragraphs are a close 3rd.

      250: There was a great sense of urgency and movement in this page, but I found it a little hard to follow. Who was shot--and where, exactly? Why was the second girl trying to stop the MC--to spare her the sight? I think a little additional interiority and some carefully constructed dialogue would help clear that up without weighing the scene down too much.


      Leave it to Fate:

      query: Solid query, though a little long. I would have liked to see a bit more character development of the LI, but overall I thought you painted a clear picture of the conflict and the stakes.

      250: Take a little more time developing the scene--it felt rushed. I'd also like to see the character shine through a bit more. I get that he's greedy, but only because you *tell* me he is. I also found it surprising when the opening pages were from the male MC's POV instead of the female's, since the query is in her POV. You can keep the opening in his POV, but clarify that there are 2 POVs in the query by giving Ethan his own paragraph.


    4. REMEMBER ME: I'm so intrigued by the relationship between these two women. It's clear from the query you've put a lot of thought into their characters, but I agree with Primrose that the info feels too dense. I think because there are a lot of long sentences. I would see how you could break them up/tighten for more punch. Like a couple of the other judges, the very last line leaves me scratching my head: "and Summer’s opportunity to understand who she really is and why her life is so important." What's really at stake for Summer? I love the complexities of their characters, but aside from some reluctance on Katya's part to share her story, I'm not sure what the overall conflict is.
      The first 250 is really compelling. The tension is -so- high, and you do a nice job grounding us in the scene. I would tighten a few of the sentences though, i.e. the first paragraph can be condensed to: "When the first shot rang out, the basket my mother had so carefully packed slipped from my fingers. Bread spilled to the ground, forgotten, as I raced towards my aunt's house. My sister yelled for me to stop, but her voice barely whispered in my ear. All I could hear was Sasha screaming." --- weave their relationship to Katya and their names in gradually, else it bogs down your sentences. Katya can call her sister by name, and Sasha can be identified as a cousin, in a later sentence.

      LEAVE IT TO FATE: Great query. The conflict and stakes are clear. But, I'll admit I too was thrown by the pages starting with Ethan. If it's dual POV, I think you'll want to make at least one of the paragraphs in the pitch from his POV, and open with it. Then follow with one from Mae's, as you have. Then the third should tie their stories together.
      I'm a little confused on the genre. Clearly it's historical, but is it also fantasy? The sapphire that can give eternal life throws me off, especially since it's described in the pages as having its own internal fire. If it's supposed to be a rumor/not true, I would make that clearer, or consider changing the genre to historical fantasy to show off that aspect of the story. (Since the romance piece is so clear in the pitch)
      The pages are good and you start in a very interesting place. No complaints there.

      I give VICTORY to REMEMBER ME.

    5. MRS N, the Query QueenJune 3, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      Remember Me:
      Query- Wow, your story brought tears to my eyes! Your query is filled with such emotion and is so powerful! I wouldn’t change a thing!
      250- Wow, I wouldn’t change a thing!!! This book NEEDS to be published NOW! You tell the story with such emotion and I can’t wait to read it!

      Leave It to Fate:
      Query- Your query is perfect and it blends all the things I love in a good book: history, romance, adventure, pirates and high stakes! I wouldn’t change a thing! If I was an agent, I would sign you RIGHT NOW!
      250- I really loved how you started with Ethan and the acquiring of the sapphire. I was assuming you would start with Mae. A great twist. I loved it and wouldn’t change a thing!

      Wow, you both are so great and I swear I want to be the first person to buy your books! The decision was hard and in the end I had to go where my heart leads me to. The VICTORY goes to REMEMBER ME. Good luck to you both!

    6. Allusion AssassinJune 4, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      After reading your query, I'm unclear what the conflict is and what the stakes are. For Katya it's getting to tell her story before she dies, but what I don't get what it is for Summer. You give a vague reference to how touched she is, but you don't show us what's in it for her.

      Additionally, I didn't feel like there was enough voice here of either Katya or Summer.

      Your opening moves and is well written from a setting perspective, but again, it's missing voice and emotion.

      LEAVE IT
      Your query opening is too dense and needs to move as fast as the rest of your swashbuckling story. We don't need all the back story. Additionally it lacks voice. Mae's character should come brimming through this set up. Aim for something pithier that does that like "Former socialite Mae Blackthorne doesn't understand why people are surprised she ran her families business into the ground. She was bred to spend money not make it. She was convinced she was doomed to life of a poverty until she meets..." Not that, but you get the idea. It needs some of Mae's personality. We don't need the governess factoid.

      I liked the opening scene and can only echo some of the feedback you've been given already - Consider adding an Ethan POV paragraph to the query if you are going to stick to this opening. Add more showing, less telling of Ethan's greed. Draw out the setup and setting here some. It feels rushed.

      Based on premise and clear stakes, victory goes to - LEAVE IT TO FATE.

      All tied up now. Sorry SC ;)

    7. Book Boyfriend ConnoisseurJune 4, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      Remember Me:

      Okay, the first two sentences are very long, and need to be broken up in your query somehow. I like this image, but it might be a little too much. "cold, bullet riddled body of the love of her life" even taking out word 'cold' helps simplify it. I'm confused as to what choices she made. The choice of watching family die and not doing anything about it? Maybe you need to state that in there somewhere. The word comprehend needs to be singular, not plural too. As for your first 250... Take out the word 'so' in the first line. That way the sentence doesn't get too lengthy. One word can really make the difference. After the word Yelled, there's no need to write 'out' either. The second sentence in the first paragraph is extremely long. Break it down. Simplify it the best you can. I personally get bored when a sentence lasts 24 words. Overall, I was really sucked into the action, eagerly wanting to read on.

      Leave It To Fate:

      Personally, I don't think you need that first line in your query. It's more or less descriptions than getting to the nitty gritty of the query. Start with the second line, saying something to like "When Mae Blackthorne's brother..." and then go from there. I think at the end of you should do this " she has for love...or life." Seems more dramatic to me. For your 250 I'd say take out the first of gold and then say something shiny. I'm not too crazy about using the same word twice in one paragraph. Then in the third paragraph you wrote "of course he couldn't go." You just said that exact same thing pretty much at the beginning of the previous paragraph. After the word curtain you need a comma. Next paragraph, you say "Disappointment dropped through him" I"m not sure about the word Dropped. Instead, say released or expelled? I could have used an internal thought here and there to add in a little more personality because as of right now, I don't feel much of anything for this person. I do love the premise here and I think you have an excellent start.

      Based on first 250 alone: Victory: Remember Me

    8. ghostbuster_extraordinaireJune 4, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      Remember Me:

      Normally historicals aren't my thing, but this query really grabbed me and didn't let go. I read it straight through and thought: I want more! Nice description of both women.

      I get what you're trying to say about the bread, but bread isn't a liquid, so it wouldn't spill. This could pull the reader out. I'd switch it up. It wasn't exactly clear to me what was going on in the first two paragraphs. Was there a bomb or something that threw them off course? Despite being slightly confused by those paragraphs, the first page read quickly and smoothly. I'm definitely intrigued. Since I'm just reading the first page, I don't know how things will progress in the rest of the book, but be cautious about backstory and flashbacks. Because you've started in Katya's POV I'm assuming this is a flashback. Sometimes they work well and other times they quickly turn agents/editors off.

      Leave it to Fate:

      Great query. Pirate stories don't normally grab my attention, but this one sounds unique. My only suggestion would be to tweak the bit about Locke being partners with Mae's father. I assumed by reading that that Locke was the same age as Mae's father. So when the love interest came into play I was a bit put off. Love the last line hook.

      Wow! That opening page was beautifully written. Great use of short syntax to create tension and urgency. The description was well done too. You gave a nice picture of where and what he was looking at without going overboard (ha! No pun intended).

      This was a really, really hard decision. Both entries had unique qualities and hooks; however, Leave it to Fate seemed cleaner and more ready for the agent round.

      Victory goes to Leave it to Fate!

    9. 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!
      Remember Me
      So for this, I think your hook is actually your second sentence. The current first sentence is telling, and is a bit of a slap in the face to start up, rather than drawing the reader emotionally to the story/character. Introduce the information piece by piece in the query, not right up front.
      From the rest of the query, you definitely want to hook the reader with the emotional connection. I love family history stories, and this one looks incredible.
      Excellent. Heart strings tugged.

      Leave it to fate
      Query is great. A forbidden love with a pirate is exciting.
      Your writing is excellent. Introducing the sapphire right away.

      So... wow... to choose. If only I could say both. But I will say Victory to Remember Me.

    10. Remember Me:

      The query overall could use a bit of tightening. Extra words here and there stretch the sentences and dull the sharp quality of the picture painted of these two women. Nix words like brutal in the first sentence and members in the second, they don’t add to what you’ve built. Each main character’s story is distinct, yet the place their tales intersect is clear. You hone in one the aspects of their lives that single their struggles out, but draw them together in the end. Well done.

      For the first 250, the same sort of trimming I suggested in for the query will quicken the pace a beat and heighten the tension. “My older sister Alina yelled out for me to…” I’d nix “with ease” in the first line of the second paragraph. It contradict the sense of struggle you’ve built throughout. Third paragraph “our limbs tangled and our heave cloaks twisted around us, but it…” In situations like this, people are gonna be quick in their dialogue. Lengthy sentences come across as forced. Something like, “Stop! We have to go!” and in return “We have to help them!” “You know we can’t!” or “It’s too late!” pack more punch.

      Leave it to Fate:

      The first sentence of the query doesn’t hook me, but the second is when I sit up and pay attention. Watch out for fluff words like “that”. Second paragraph, third sentence, “He claims that her father…” The rest of that sentence can be tightened as well. “He claims her father stole something from him, a sapphire that bestows eternal life to its wearer.” Another word to watch out for is “just.” Nix it from the second to last sentence in the third paragraph. I’m intrigued by what’s going on here and eager to read more. Nice.

      The first two 250, I’m confused as far as settings go. Locke needs to make it back to a ship, yet he’s in the captain’s quarters? And the curtains are swaying with the ship, so he needs to get back to the ship but he’s already on the ship? But if he’s somewhere on the Atlantic, out in the ocean I imagine, how is he gonna get from one ship to the other? Is he at a port on the coast? Where is he exactly? You don’t have to go into detail, a sentence or two to help ground the reader will suffice. Also, when he jeopardizes whatever he’s doing to search through a random chest that could very well be empty, it lessens my faith in him knowing how to be a pirate. Perhaps have him think something along the lines of “I have time for a peak.” If he rationalizes his greed, it’s more believable, if that makes any sense.

      Both stories are incredibly intriguing. I’m eager to read either and it’s clear why they were chosen. Both queries were clear, their core conflict apparent, the stakes present. While I’m partial to stories that contain an element of supernatural, the urgency in one story made me desperate to see what came next. Winner is Remember Me.

    I feel like the first paragraph of the query doesn't quite work, but I'm having trouble putting my finger on why. Part of it may be that all of the sentences are really long, which can sometimes make my eyes skip forward. I'd suggest trying to break it up with a couple of shorter sentences to vary the structure (the same is true for the entire query). Maybe it's that ghosts of the pats coming back to haunt Katya is a bit of a cliche, or maybe it's that it's all vague. What did Katya do? How did it affect her?

    So, I was so drawn into the first 250, I forgot I was supposed to be critiquing it. And now I'm annoyed that I only have 250 words. Where's the rest of the story? These are my only complaints.

    This query is just about perfect: You introduce me to the characters, show me the MC's voice, let me know what happens in the story, and show the stakes (without giving away the ending). This makes me want to read the book. Today, if possible.

    My only suggestion for the first 250 is to look out for "was" and try to use more active verbs. Instead of "it was wrapped in..." maybe "Swirling cords of silver wrapped it." Otherwise, it's an excellent opening.

    Both these entries are amazing. The judges are really going to have a hard time choosing. Good luck!

  3. Hi guys, these both sound like fantastic stories! REMEMBER: I agree, the query could use some paring. There's so much background it makes me wonder if this is alternating POV? It also makes me wonder what a veil has to do with it, does Summer find one her grandmother still has? I think your first page is great. It takes us right the action and I can see it happening. You might want to take a look at your -ly words, there are quite a lot. LEAVE: Great premise, the dressage threw me as I don't equate that with 1836 myself. You have a nice dramatic close, I think you could tighten that last sentence up a tad with just "life". I like your mix of short and long sentences in your 250. I agree with the previous comments, the description of the treasure is a bit passive.

  4. REMEMBER ME: I enjoyed your query and 250, but as others pointed out, the query feels a bit dense. The reader doesn't necessarily need to know Katya's deepest secret in the first paragraph of the query. Perhaps there's a way to insert some intrigue so this line makes more sense: "Their renewed relationship compels the old woman to do something she swore she’d never do: rip open the scars of her youth and tell her deepest secrets."

    LEAVE IT TO FATE: You had me at pirates. However, I would like to know the time period and there's one other thing that stopped me. If Mae's family "...used their shipbuilding business to shroud generations of lucrative piracy," and if Ethan was her dad's business partner - then how old is he? I don't need a specific age, but when I read about Mae, I assumed she was a young woman. When I read Ethan's paragraph with "an old score to settle" and the fact that he's looking for something that offers eternal life, I assumed he was a much, much older man (almost grandfatherly) and the hint of a relationship kind of threw me. I'm cool with age differences in relationships, but I'm not sure this is the effect you're going for.
    I loved your 250. The only suggestion I have is that instead of telling me the bottle is strangely attached to a cord, show me. I had a hard time visualizing how it was attached.

    Good luck to both of you!!


    I think the current first line could be integrated later in the query - the space is valuable real estate and I think it would be more effective with a stronger hook. The second paragraph feels a little tell-y to me. For me, the query really shines in the last paragraph. If this could be moved up somehow, I think it would have a lot more impact. I really enjoyed the 250, the writing was compelling and I wanted to read more. The only complaint I have is that I would have liked a tiny clue about what was going on, but on the other hand, as it stands it would have kept me reading to find out :)


    This query reads a little like a synopsis to me. I'd like to see some more stakes, and a lot more voice integrated, maybe flushing out the romance angle a bit? The first paragraph, up until the pirate is introduced seems a little bland to me. The pirate aspect made me sit up and take notice, but I'm not sure you want to bank on an agent reading to that point, better to start with what makes your book stand out, IMHO. The 250 threw me a bit, since I assumed we'd be starting from Mae's POV. A small point but the line "fell in and out of view" was distracting to me - I had to read it a couple times. There was good visualization in the scene, however, particularly with the books "thudding" to the floor. I'd advise limiting some of the details on the books, bottle, gem, etc., and instead concentrate on building tension. Could someone interrupt the heist? Is he nervous he's going to get caught? Is the ship going to leave? etc.

  6. Remember Me : I love the detailed imagery in sentences like this: “She watched her family members starve to death one by one and buried her dreams of a happy ending along with the cold, bullet riddled body of the love of her life “ but then it gets vague with sentences like “the choices she made came at a price.” I’m really missing the hook in your first sentence, so perhaps starting with a variation on “in the twilight of her life, the survivor’s guilt she has silently kept buried for decades has come back to haunt her” may be better. The stakes don’t seem dire enough, maybe because they’re not specific enough?
    The first 250 are very good. Perhaps just make the sentences a bit shorter to mimic the urgency in the action.

    Leave it to Fate: The first two sentences don’t seem mutually exclusive to me as they’re written right now. Why can’t Mae know how to ride, embroider and waltz AND be a successful businesswoman? If it read “Mae Blackthorne has ONLY been taught how to ride…” it would have flowed better for me. Plus, that first sentence is very passive.

    The first 250 from Locke’s POV wasn’t as strange to me as they seem to have been for the other readers. It was a bit wordy “The first (he noticed) was a small blue bottle”, but it was – I think – an excellent place to start the story.

    Great queries. Good luck to you both!

  7. Glad I don’t have to judge this one either…

    Remember Me
    This sounds like a very touching story. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but I’m very much intrigued by this entry. My one comment would be that there are a lot of long sentences here. I would suggest looking for places where words could be trimmed and sentences shortened. I get that the overall tone of the story isn’t exactly short and snappy, but I still think the query would flow better with briefer, more concise statements.

    The 250 was absolutely gripping. My only quibble is again with longer sentences, especially in an action scene, and particularly the opening line. Personally I would suggest making the first line here short and snappy (i.e., given the context of what’s going on). Something like “When the first shot rang out, the basket slipped from my fingers.” or something along those lines. Overall though, well done.

    Leave it to Fate
    Wow. This one captured me completely. So well done. The only thing I tripped on was a possible point of logic: Locke believes her father has “a sapphire that can give its owner eternal life” and yet her father died. Might that not suggest the sapphire does NOT in fact act as claimed? :-)

    Still, nits aside, I just really enjoyed this query.

    Really enjoyed the 250 as well. One nit though: since the heading states they are on the Atlantic, I found this line confusing “He had only a few minutes to make it back to ship so he and his crew could set sail” since the image it brings to mind is that they are on land (took me a minute of back and forth to figure out they were on another ship). Maybe consider making that fact more apparent.

    Best of luck to both!

  8. Remember Me: I love historical fiction! The problem with a lot of is people pick and choice what history they want to listen too. I don’t see this problem with your query, mostly because there isn’t a lot of history in it. That could be good or bad depending the tone of your book. You know it better than me so I won’t say if it’s too much or too little.

    Katya’s part of the query is really strong, emotionally its powerful but that tone seems to settle down into family drama. Maybe from Summer’s POV make it her life is sooo normal in whatever year it is now, until--. The query is good but it could be all tired together a little more smoothly.
    Moving onto the first 250, the first line is really compelling. I think the line, “I had almost made it to the yard,” should come before Alina tackling her since that is the logical flow of action.

    Leave it to fate: Wooo more historical stories! I feel like the second line should be more, “However when her brother… she isn’t ready to take over.” Ok, maybe not exactly that but something to show the contract between what she was taught and what the death leaves her unprepared for.
    I really like the twist that Locke already have a connection to her, it’s stronger than just strange hot guy comes in to save the day. But I think you can smooth the paragraph out a little maybe. “Unbeknownst to Mae, her family already has connections with piracy, and has been using their shipbuilding business to shroud generations of it.”

    Also think you can hype up the next paragraph. “They agree to work together, claiming that they desire to only spilt the fortune, but…” I’ve been told to almost always over hype the query letter for that drama.

    The final twist is great, since it adds more of a race factor which ups the sakes. However you leave it a bit vague of how those mean are dangerous and more powerful. You can just change the adjective. Make them powerful or violent.

    The start of your 250 is really great. Near the end I feel like the wording gets a really less fluid. Ethan reacts, in surprise then looked at an item not worth anything. If the second item isn’t important mention it second, as an afterthought. Something like there was two items but only the sapphire blue item caught his attention.

    Both: Both are really good, and it seems like a tight race I wish you both luck in the contest!

  9. I can see why these two are tied - they are both fantastic queries and samples!

    Remember Me: I think you could condense the first two sentences of your query and flip them so you start with the tragedy of her life and then give the context for why it has happened. eg watched her family starve to death, buried bullet-riddled body of love, all victims of Stalin's brutal attempts to ...
    I really love the idea of this book and it taps into my own experiences with my Hungarian grandmother. You make me want to write!
    The first 250 is potent with grim terror and makes me afraid to read on even as I know I will. I really hope this book gets published.

    Leave it to Fate: I'm not normally interested in romances of any kind but I reckon your query is the first I've ever read that made me want to read the book! I love the backstory of your MC and she sounds like an interesting survivor with serious guts.
    The only quibble I have is that the 250 starts from Ethan's perspective, when the query gives the impression the story is told from Mae's point of view. Made me wonder if the opening is a prologue, or if not, maybe you can give more of a hint in the query that there is story from Ethan's point of view?