Saturday, June 21, 2014

QK Round 3: Can't Keep a Bad Girl Down vs. Making Boys Cry

Entry Nickname: Can’t Keep a Bad Girl Down
Title: Biohunter
Word count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Science Fiction


Niobe is guilty of many things: bar brawls, affairs with married mayors, and of swaggering through life like a drunk cavalier. She is also the best biohunter east of the Rockies, a fact that has helped her avoid serious censure from the Guild of Biohunters - neutral agents who are part paramedic, part microbiologist, and part CSI.

Orphaned at a young age, Niobe joined the Guild to help other victims of the constant biological warfare over what few resources remain in a North America devastated by climate change.

But when Niobe is framed as the source of deadly new weapons wreaking havoc across the north-east, she faces execution or worse: exile from the Guild and from the closest thing to a home and family she has ever known.

As a rising and ruthless new power shows its hand and proves it will commit unthinkable crimes to achieve its goals of controlling what’s left of civilization, Niobe must prove her innocence, find the real criminals and save her new friend. If only she wasn’t handcuffed, but you can’t keep a bad girl down … at least not for long.

First 250 words:

The ambush came as Niobe hauled her dusty turbocycle saddle bags along the dimly-lit motel walkway. It had been a long day on the road, and she really didn’t have the patience for it.

She had to credit their stealth - she didn’t hear a thing until the snub nose of an ultrasound injector pressed into the exposed flesh at the back of her neck, snuck in above the worn leather of her jacket. Her neck hairs rose in ineffectual defense, and she suppressed a shudder at the contrast of cold metal on warm, sweaty skin.

Niobe mouthed a silent curse. “For Gaia’s sake, can’t we do this after I’ve had a shower?”

“Shut up.”

She eased her head to one side, hoping for a glimpse of her attackers. One stood just beyond the downward cone of light that lit the door to her room, too far to be holding the weapon to her neck. Two of them, then. There was a whiff of salty, smoky body odor that suggested a long time between washes. She heaved a sigh. “Fine. What do you want?”

Niobe could have answered the question for them. Most likely gold, or her comms unit - something they could sell to buy a meal or some water. Resources were scarce and a biohunter was an obvious target. There was precious little technology around these days, and what did exist was priced sky-high. People would kill for it if enough was at stake, and she had enough.


Entry Nickname: Making Boys Cry
Title: Virtual Rebel
Word count: 90,000
Genre: Science Fiction


The warrior. It's a title 18-year-old Kali Ling earned bringing men to their knees -- inside video games.

As an athletic avatar for the Virtual Gaming League, Kali's living a better life than any college kid in 2054: ultimate fame, zero responsibility, and nonstop partying in L.A.'s hottest clubs. But when her teammate Nathan overdoses and Kali is named the new captain -- the first female one in history -- she realizes it's time to be an adult. She gives up the parties for grueling training sessions with fellow gamer James Rooke (whom she can't help picturing in nothing but a strategically placed controller).

Rooke's love of Asian philosophy motivates Kali to rediscover her Chinese heritage, where she finds strength and maturity. But just as Kali is ready to lead the team, she uncovers a sickening fact behind the sport she loves. Too many hours inside a realer-than-life virtual world drives gamers to drug addiction, insanity, and even death. Instead of helping, the Virtual Gaming League pushes gamers to the brink and whitewashes the truth for the sake of ratings.

For ratings? Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong.

Furious, Kali fights to expose the corruption behind virtual gaming. But the industry threatens to expel her from the league if she doesn't back down. As leader of her team, it's not just her future on the line, and as a female captain, thousands of girl gamers are counting on her to prove women can compete on the same level as men. But when the industry erases Nathan from its database and spits on his memory, Kali's not sure she can back down. Role model or rebel. Either way, it's game over. Permanently.

First 250 words:
This wouldn't be the first time I died. Sure as hell wouldn't be the last, either. But while most watched this virtual world from the safe haven of reality, there was nowhere else I'd rather spend my Saturday night.

Crouched high on the tower's parapet, I overlooked a sea of wheat fields. The scent of lavender and taste of wheatgrass wove together in the air, drifting with the breeze that swept through my hair. I took a deep breath and smiled at the irony, as thick as the mountain air filling my lungs. Lavender. Wheat fields. Tranquility.

Peace, in a place anything but peaceful.

Movement in the fields caught my eye, down and right. A zigzag carved its way through the ten-foot tall stalks, heading straight for the tower. My smile widened. Maybe this sucker had the balls to take on Kali Ling.

The warrior.

I stilled inside. Even breaths. No fear. At the field's edge, the stalks trembled violently. The air filled with the rainstick rustling of brush and dry grass. Yes. Someone would emerge. I gripped the sword sheathed across my back and waited, muscles tight, mouth watering. Come on. Give me something. A brute. Six -- no -- seven feet tall, wielding a mace. Or an axe.

Give me anything.

A rabbit scurried out from the field. Nothing followed. The grass fluttered in the breeze. Birds chirped, nestled in the nearby sycamore trees. It was the rabbit, and only the rabbit.

For now.

I punched the parapet's brick wall, but instead of feeling frustrated, I realized another irony.


  1. Allusion AssassinJune 21, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    I like that you moved up the description of the biohunters. But I still don't think it goes far enough. I don't know what a "neutral agent" is. Neutral to what? I think you could easily fix this with a few more words and take away the issue.

    Wow, what a difference in this query. You have stakes in spades now. Good job!


  2. Princess PrimroseJune 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Love both of these feminist-themed stories. It's down to personal preference again, and since the world definitely needs more female gamers, I'm going to go with...


  3. Biohunter: Love the first line of your query, makes me instantly think I'm going to be in for a fun ride with your MC. This line: 'Orphaned at a young age, Niobe joined the Guild to help other victims of the constant biological warfare over what few resources remain in a North America devastated by climate change.' is too long-winded and I had to reread it to understand. I'd cut it in two. Similarly I'd change 'If only she wasn’t handcuffed, but you can’t keep a bad girl down … at least not for long.' to 'If only she weren't handcuffed. But you can’t keep a bad girl down… at least not for long.' Otherwise this sounds like a fun, gripping story. (Although I wonder if you can't think up a more compelling title than Biohunter?)

    First page is good - the line about the shower is great voice and made me smile - but I think it'd be much better if the ambush were told in real time in the opening lines. It'd be more compelling if we were scared for a moment along with the MC, before seeing how cool and blase she is about it. Seems a shame to remove the potential drama. Also watch for repetition - most of your sentences begin with 'she' or 'Niobe'.

    And keep an eye on adjectives (and surplus words generally) - there are an awful lot of them which slows the pace, and clutters the prose. For example, there's no need to say 'pressed into the exposed flesh at the back of her neck, snuck in above the worn leather of her jacket.', just say 'pressed into the back of her neck above her leather jacket.'

    Otherwise I like this, it sets up her job and life and personality well.

    Making Boys Cry: You've reworked the query again since I last read it, and I think it's really excellent, if a bit too long. I'd try to edit it down a touch. For example, I don't think we need the sentence about Asian philosophy. First page is very good as before, but am still confused about the irony part - what was the first irony? That she'd rather be doing this on a Saturday night? Or the rabbit? I'd clarify.

    These are both very good, but VICTORY TO BOYS DON'T CRY.

  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 new ending sentence in the query sounds a bit forced/cliche, and the issues I had with the first 250 still apply (flow of the first sentence, word choice of "patience," vague setting).

    The changes in the query really help clarify some points that were unclear. I still don't really get the irony at the end of the 250, but maybe it cuts off too soon?

    Victory to MAKING BOYS CRY

  5. BIOHUNTER: I hadn't seen your entry before, and I enjoyed both your query and page! My only suggestion is, in your page, to make those first few paragraphs happen in real time. Meaning, we're being told about the ambush, but let us feel and sense things with Niobe instead so there's tension leading up to the point where she sees her attackers!

    MAKING BOYS CRY: Fantastic job on revisions. Loved this before, and love it even more now.

    This was a tough choice, and I wish you both so much luck with your stories!!

    Victory goes to: MAKING BOYS CRY!

  6. I still like your entry Can't Keep a Bad Girl Down but this is a tough match up and I'm totally impressed by your opponents revision. Good luck!

    Victory to Making Boys Cry

  7. CAN'T KEEP A BAD GIRL DOWN and MAKING BOYS CRY both seem to be on an even playing field in terms of query polish and a suspenseful first 250 that works on drawing the reader into the setting. I'm doing another read through and based on best query and 250...

    xoxoSally Draper

  8. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 23, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    Can't Keep a Bad Girl Down -

    Great premise! I really like your voice, and your query gives me an excellent picture of your character. That being said, I would put that line before the line about her being framed - it would flow nicely, I think. The voice is so strong in that first line but really needs to carry throughout the query. Somewhere in the second paragraph, I feel like I lose her! The first 250 are the perfect balance between showing, telling, and description. I feel like I'm there, and I love that.


    Still love this premise, as well. However, the query still feels a little stilted, to me... the snark seems to stop and start, and the line about her finding her heritage seems out of place, a bit. Maybe you could color it to fit the rest of the query? Your writing is extremely clever and Kali's voice trumps all the other aspects of this query - lace it throughout. The first 250 are wonderfully descriptive, though it feels a bit slow... I'm on the edge of my seat! That being said, I would keep reading.

    Tough, guys! Though I'm giving victory to CAN'T KEEP A BAD GIRL DOWN for a transporting 250!

  9. Can't Keep a Bad Girl Down: Really solid first 250, though the voice didn't strike me as particularly unique. Also a great query, the but "Orphaned at a young age" paragraph felt sudden and unnecessary. I'd cut it.

    Making Boys Cry: Um, I LOVE this query. Video Games + Girl Power? SIGN ME UP.
    Lovely first 250, though I'd end on "For now" and cut the last line.


  10. Girl with the Golden PenJune 23, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    BAD GIRL- This is a unique sci-fi concept. It has strong voice and you definetily give me a good introduction to the world. I was especially attracted to the character of Niobe. The first line of the query is good but I'd delete the 'of' before swaggering.

    MAKING BOYS CRY- This is a good query with high stakes but its LONG. It definetily could use a little trimming. That being said, I fell in love with the concept, the character and your voice in the first pages. Gamer girls are awesome and I love reading about them!

    Personal preference here, but I've got to go with MAKING BOYS CRY

  11. Victory to Making Boys Cry