Saturday, June 21, 2014

QK Round 3: BingBamBoomBFF vs. Star Light, Star Bright

Entry Nickname: BingBamBoomBFF
Title: Sucker Punching Magic
Word count: 75,000
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy


Home-schooled Jude Kozlowski, whose allergy to light causes him to shift into a troll, wants the world to accept him as a decent guy, not the “who’s that tramping over my bridge” stereotype. But his huge frame and pistachio skin scare normal humans and his shyness keeps him from meeting anyone else. Even his part-time paper-pushing job has him working alone. Fitting in seems hopeless.

Until Luz Bangor crashes into his cubicle at First Metro Finance, thugs on her heels. The Fairy Syndicate kidnapped her brainiac brother, Eric. Attention deficit and out-of-control magic pasting a ginormous loser L on her forehead, Luz is his last choice for a rescuer. But she and her unpredictable magic are his only hope. Like a runaway wrecking ball, her miscast spell puts her and the kind troll-shifter she just met straight into the path of her brother’s powerful enemies.

Smitten and glowing over the unexpected chance to be a hero, Jude vows to help Luz rescue her brother. When the villains snatch Luz, Jude pursues. He braves neighborhood vigilantes, a spoiled poodle and a troll biker gang to track Luz to Underhill, the fairy fortress. There, the unlikely pair must square off with the Fairy Godmother or lose Eric—and each other—forever. 

SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC is a YA urban fantasy of 75,000 words told alternately in Jude’s and Luz’s point of view.

First 250 Words:

The Number Ten shot by, ruffling Jude Kozlowski’s hair. At the stop, nose deep in calculus homework, he jerked his head up. He could blame a lot of things on The Fairy Tale Effect, the mutations magic’s resurgence caused, but missing the bus wasn't one of them.

At 4:35 in the afternoon, on a clear day in downtown Milwaukee, 6’2” Jude made a big target. Hard to believe the bus driver hadn't spotted him. Yet the guy hadn't even slowed.

Jude leaped to his feet. Book, paper and pencil in hand, he barreled down the sidewalk in pursuit.

He needed his job. The order and routine. The chance to be normal. If he waited for the next bus, he’d be late.

Heart racing, he dodged the parking meters and the guys who cradled cheap wine in paper bags outside the military surplus store.

Down the block, the bus’s brakes shrieked. Its axles groaned. The side doors disgorged a bearded dwarf in a trench coat. Jude bounded over the dwarf and reached the curb as a woman wearing a Hamburger Heaven uniform hurried through the bus’s front doors.

Jude followed, but before his foot touched the step, the gnome at the wheel flinched. Eyes wide, he hastily cranked the Plexiglas doors closed. The reflection of Jude’s lumpy, pistachio green skin played over the window.

“I need a ride.” Going for friendly, Jude grinned. Wrong move. In the glass, his smile appeared strained—too full, a baring of teeth.


Entry Nickname:
Star Light, Star Bright
Title: Sadie Scottsdale and the Wasted Wish
Word Count: 40,000
Genre: MG Fantasy


In a world where wishes come true, ten-year-old Sadie Scottsdale wishes they didn’t.

Ever since the international Wishing Council identified her thirteen-year-old sister, Becca, as one of the world’s six Wishers, Sadie’s felt like a big, fat nothing. All everyone wants to talk about is how Becca’s upcoming Wish is sure to do something spectacular, like re-establish an extinct species or clean their town’s polluted river.

Sadie understands all the attention toward her sister—to a point. Wishes are important. They’re granted only every eight years when the Sister Comets re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. But it would be nice if someone—anyone—admitted the obvious: Becca ruined Sadie’s awesome summer. Instead of movies and the mall, Sadie's stuck in a boarding school in the Wishing Village with other kids unfortunate enough to be related to a Wisher. Worse, the Village isn’t a real town—it’s a bunch of buildings on a farm in Nebraska.

Then, as everyone waits for the Wishes to be granted, rumors swirl that Becca broke the rules by making a selfish Wish. Becca swears she didn’t, even as evidence mounts against her. With the Sister Comets rapidly approaching, Sadie bands with her new friends and comes up with a plan to clear Becca’s name and salvage her summer. Problem is, Sadie’s going to break the rules to do it, and if she gets caught, she’ll be joining her sister in the detention center until the next time the Sister Comets return.

First 250 words:

She had to stop soon, Sadie thought. No one could possibly sing that long, especially about something so stupid.

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.

Sadie winced as the sound of her sister’s high-heeled shoes striking the ceramic tile grew louder. Clapping her hands over her ears, she stared at her book. Maybe, just maybe, if she looked like she was concentrating really hard, Becca would leave her alone.

The shutter doors to the kitchen banged open.

“It’s Wishing Day! It’s Wishing Day! Come one, come all, it’s Wishing Daaaaay!” Becca sang, prancing into the sun-drenched room.

Don’t look.
Sadie pressed her palms against the sides of her head and mouthed words she pretended to read.

Becca remained undaunted. “Wish-ing Day! Wish-ing Day! Every-body’s com-ing to Wish-ing Day!”

Sadie slumped and lifted her eyes. Becca twirled across the floor, her brand new white-flowered dress swaying as she spun.

“Hurry up, Sade. We can’t be laaaate,” Becca crooned.

Sadie waited until Becca stopped. Making sure her sister was watching, she gave her eyes a good roll and flipped the page.

Becca arched an eyebrow and smirked. “Mooom,” she sang. “Sadie’s not dressed!”

Sadie groaned, knowing what was coming.

“Sadie!” Mom shouted from the living room. “Move it!”

Sliding off the kitchen stool, Sadie sighed and grabbed her bowl of pineapple. She tossed a chunk into her mouth and trudged toward her bedroom.

Her sister skipped by and gave a light push. “Come on, Slow-mo.”

With a flick of her wrist, Sadie grasped the satin ribbon on Becca’s dress and pulled.


  1. Allusion AssassinJune 21, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    This is a really fantastic rewrite.I think you can eliminate this: Luz is his last choice for a rescuer. But she and her unpredictable magic are his only hope. It's vaugue, tells doesn't show and is redundant to everything else that follows. Plus it slows your pace.

    Also, for YA we really need the MC's age in the opening line. The fairytale elements and quirky feel almost make this feel more upper MG than YA. And I'm not sure "urban" works for your genre. It ends up in a fairy fortress.

    I still swoon. Well written and a great premise.

    Either way this goes, these are two entries I see getting a lot of agent attention. I changed my vote three times before I hit publish.


  2. Princess PrimroseJune 21, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    Arrrgh! Two amazing entries--AGAIN. Okay, so I love both so, so much. I ended up voting for the one I'd pick up off the bookshelf, leading me to say...


  3. BingBamBoomBFF: Your query rewrite is good for the most part and it makes much more sense to begin with Jude, and I'm glad you've told us that it's alternating POV. The second para still needs work, however, because as it stands it's very confusingly written and repetitive, hopping back and forth between Jude, Luz and Eric. A suggestion:

    'That is, until a girl called Luz crashes into his cubicle at work, thugs on her heels. The Fairy Syndicate have kidnapped her brainiac brother, Eric, and Luz and her unpredictable magic talents are Eric's last hope. Until Jude decides he's smitten with her.

    Glowing over the unexpected chance to be a hero, Jude vows to help Luz rescue her brother.'

    Also, you still haven't clarified the setting: how exactly do humans and fairy tale characters and magic all go together in this world?

    Your first page is excellent, as before. I'd just smooth the first lines a touch, taking out surplus words, adding in a 'that' to divide the 'm' words so it reads more easily, and also putting magic's resurgence into the past perfect. Perhaps something like:

    'The Number Ten shot by, ruffling Jude's hair. He jerked his head up out of his calculus homework. Dammit. He could blame a lot of things on The Fairy Tale Effect, the mutations that magic’s resurgence had caused, but missing the bus wasn't one of them.

    On a clear afternoon in downtown Milwaukee, 6’2” Jude made a big target. Hard to believe the bus driver hadn't spotted him.'

    Star Light: This hasn't changed since I last saw it. The query is still good, and lays out a nice MG story. The opening page, however, still doesn't quite do it for me. I like the sibling bickering and that you set up the concept of Wishing Day straight away, but it still feels like you could get rid of quite a bit of repetition and cut down what you have here and move onto telling us more new info. We don't need to waste valuable first page real estate on her eating a piece of pineapple, for instance.


  4. This late in the game, I'm basing my picks solely on which book I'd be most likely to dig into first if both were on my shelf.

    The query rewrite starts out strong -- the first paragraph is definitely clearer. The second paragraph still loses me there for a bit (what is a Fairy Syndicate?), but the stakes in the third are clear.
    Great changes in the first 250.

    Didn't notice any big changes, still really like the premise and voice.

    Victory to BINGBAMBOOM

  5. These stories both have wonderful queries and pages. I'm so impressed!! This was another really difficult choice for me, as I'd love to read both books. However, based purely on the fact that the premise for one book appealed to me (subjectively!) ever-so-slightly more...

    Victory to BINGBAMBOOMBFF!

  6. BINGBAM: Super job fixing up the query! It reads much better, now that it starts from Jude's POV. And the first 250 are great. I really sympathized with Jude and wanted to keep reading.

    STAR LIGHT: This is the first time I've judged this entry. I like the premise, and I love the voice on the first page, but I wasn't that drawn to Sadie as a main character, because she gives off such a negative vibe at the beginning.


  7. This is a tough one but I was drawn a bit more to one.

    Victory to BingBamBoomBFF

  8. BingBamBoomBFF--great query, great sample, but this feels like Upper MG to me b/c of the fairy tale elements. If there's any way to age these characters down (maybe to 13?) you might want to consider it, b/c I can't see today's YA audience picking this one up, but I *can* see an older MG audience LOVING it.

    STAR LIGHT: Great query, nice sample. I'd like to see you set the scene a bit more, develop the character's interiority. This felt a little heavy on the dialogue.
    Despite the fact that I would call this MG instead of YA, the sample leads me to give VICTORY to BINGBAMBOOMBFF

  9. BING BAM: This query and 250 has a lot of action and seems really fun--the only thing I would critique is that the voice does sound a little MG. But that's totally subjective--it still sounds fun and I bet it'll do well!

    STAR LIGHT: This query really shined, for me. So did the pages--My only issue is the first lines--IMO, you should start with the sound of a high-pitched croon or shrieky boastful belt that grates on Sadie's ears--or the clickety clack. The first 2 lines don't do enough--to sell the greatness you've got coming up. What you have reads slightly unclear. But that's subjectivity! I do rather like Sadie's honesty and am drawn to her character.

    xoxoSally Draper

  10. BINGBAM: I think this query is a lot stronger this time around and I like that it focuses mainly on the character the story starts with. That is a good move even if this is a dual perspective story. I agree with some of the other judges that the second paragraph reads a little rough. For me, it is the line introducing Luz that reads strange. I also find the second sentence in the third paragraph jarring. However, this is much closer and I still love the opening pages!

    STAR LIGHT: I love this concept and the query is killer. While I think the opening page is good, Becca reads younger than Sadie in it. It's her dancing around and singing. I had to check to see Sadie's age because she seems more mature. This isn't really an issue but something I wanted to point out.


  11. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 23, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    Love me some awesome fantasy ideas!


    I love this idea, but I need to know more. Is he always a troll? Is it a Shrek-esque thing where he transforms at night? Also... is this the real world? Can everyone see that he is a troll? Why is he reading a calculus book at the bus stop if he's a paper-pusher? Is it an internship? (I ask these questions because I have the EXACT same problem with my stuff). I love his voice, and I love the opening. The query also does a great job of laying out the plot at the stakes. Excellent.


    Gorgeous idea. Whimsical and fun while still being so touching and original! I see the world when I read the query, and I see the world when I read the first 250. Wonderful wonderful.

    Amazing job to both of you, but I'm awarding victory to STAR LIGHT!