Saturday, June 21, 2014

QK Round 3: A Cozy for Geeks vs. Maidens, Monks, and Murder

Entry Nickname: A Cozy for Geeks
Title: The Genuine Fake
Word Count: 75,000
Genre: NA Cozy Mystery


You'd have to be drunk or crazy to hire Dahlia Moss as a detective, and her client was conveniently both. Drunk was verifiable-- there was a wine glass in his hand. Crazy was self-evident: Dahlia had no experience, no money, and the only thing she'd been reliably good at finding were pink slips.

The details of the job only make it seem stranger. The client wants her to recover the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing, a powerful and breathtakingly gaudy weapon from the online game "Kingdoms of Zoth". The pay is insane, a thousand bucks just for looking, and double for finding it. Dahlia thinks the job is certifiable, but pragmatically signs on; two thousand bucks buys a lot of Ramen.

Her investigation takes her through the student slums of St. Louis and into the on-line jungles of Zoth, interviewing aggrieved gamers, out-of-work actors, drunken fire-mages, misogynist golems, and an extremely petulant tree. But just when she gets a handle on the case, her client turns up dead-- skewered by a 3-D printed replica of the very spear she was looking for.

Suddenly, the police are involved, and Dahlia is in the middle of a murder investigation. Gamers are showing at her doorstep, detectives are trailing her, and more 3-D printed spears are mysteriously showing up in the mail. It's exactly the wrong time to learn that her client's decision to hire her wasn't so random after all.

First 250 words:

The only time I ever met Jonah Long he was wearing a fake beard, a blue pinstripe captain's outfit and a toy pipe that blew soap bubbles. He did not seem like someone that was about to change my life.

"I have a proposition for you," he had told me. Admittedly, that does sound like the kind of thing a life changing person might say. It's right up there with "it's dangerous to go alone-- take this!" and "you are the chosen one." But a plastic bubble pipe really takes the edge off this sort of thing.

It was a nautical themed party, which partly explained his ridiculous outfit. I had thought he was hitting on me. “I’m in a non-dating phase," I had told him. Not entirely true, but I repeat: bubble pipe.

"A financial proposition, Dahlia."

I had no idea who he was. I was irked that he knew my name but it was clear from the way Charice was hovering over him that my roommate was involved. She was wearing an over-sized mermaid's outfit that made her look faintly seal-like-- especially with her mugging at me as Jonah spoke. Eh? Eh? I felt like I should throw a fish at her.

But really: what could I do? I had seventeen dollars and twenty three cents in my bank account at the time of this exchange, with less in savings. I could only use ATMs that dispensed tens. Despite my correct sense that Jonah was 1) ridiculous and 2) trouble, at the phrase "financial proposition" he had my undivided attention.


Entry Nickname: Maidens, Monks, & Murder
Title: A Serpent in the Garden
Word Count: 60,000
Genre: YA Historical Mystery


When a young woman is killed near the abbey of St. Nicholas, fifteen-year-old Eva von Hirschburg is moved by similarities between the victim and her own dead mother. She vows to find the culprit and convinces peace-loving Brother Clement to help, but the two clash when Eva accuses a man Clement wants to protect.

As she hunts for evidence, Eva is courted by the charismatic Lord Friderich. Eva admires Friderich’s wit and vitality, but fears he is only looking for an indiscretion. Worse, Friderich distrusts Clement and wants Eva to relinquish her obsession with the murdered woman.

In pursuit of justice, Eva defies her abusive uncle, exposes family secrets, and confronts a dangerous knight, but figuring out Friderich’s motives is more difficult. She cannot capture the killer alone, but trusting the wrong person could cost Eva her heart and her life.

A SERPENT IN THE GARDEN is a YA mystery set amid the grit and pageantry of twelfth century Germany. It’s a medieval Veronica Mars with the lush, sexy feel of Anna Godberson's Luxe series.

First 250 words:

No one prayed for my mother's soul. No one spoke of her. My uncle Baldric forbade it. But I refused to forget her. She died fifteen years ago when I was only a babe, but every morning, before the rest of the castle woke, I went to the chapel to plead for her deliverance.

Darkness filled the room, intensifying the smell of incense and the aching in my legs as I knelt on the stone floor. I recited the De Profundis, the Miserere, and the Requiem Aeternam, prayers suitable for someone suffering in Purgatory. I considered praying that my uncle Arnulf might finally drink himself to death, but decided against it. I stood and walked out to the chapel garden.

On my right loomed the bergfried, a defensive tower and, in troubled times, a holding place for prisoners. On my left, the battlements of the south wall clawed at the sapphire sky. I walked toward the archway that led to the main courtyard. A voice cried out. “Judge thou, O Lord, them that wrong me. Overthrow them that fight against me. Take hold of arms and shield, and rise up to help me.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I looked at the bergfried. Was the soul of a long-dead prisoner demanding vengeance? I crossed myself quickly. The voice coughed. “Ghosts cannot catch chill,” I whispered. I scolded myself for being so childish. A flesh and blood human being was crying out for help, but who could be trapped in the bergfried?


  1. Allusion AssassinJune 21, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    My only last advice to you would be to pair down some of the lists in your query. They slow down the pace and no one can accuse you have needing more voice :).

    Your query is one of the few I haven't judged yet. I think you've done a really terrific job revising through the rounds.

    That said, I think your hook be stronger. As is, you could completely eliminate Brother clement from this opening. We don't know anything about him, so we aren't compelled to care that she accuses a man he wants to protect. Plus you don't give us any clue why he wants to protect him. It's a vague generalization of a man with no description so it packs even less of a punch. Additionally Clement only becomes relevant in the query because you mention that Freidrich doesn't like him. You could introduce him at that point as "a monk she teamed up with." If Clement is more important to the story, you need to find a way to show that in your query.

    Finally, by the end of this the stakes and conflict are clear, but I have no idea who Eva is. Stories stoic voice comes through well, but none of Eva does. Is she spunky, quirky, charming, sweet, scrappy, intelligent...give us some reason to root for her. You tell us a lot of what she's doing in the story, but haven't given us even a peek at how she feels about any of it.

    For me, your opening is much stronger than your query. This has all of Eva's voice that isn't in your query. If you could find a way to pull some of this into your query I think you would up your agent request rate.


  2. A Cozy For Geeks: This hasn't changed since I last saw it, so I don't have any new comments, except for one thing I forgot to mention - I don't think you need the 'Eh? Eh?'. It threw me a bit, and when you tell us her friend is mugging we already know what you mean. Overall, this is voicey, original and funny, both query and pages, and I really like it.

    Monks, Maidens and Murder: Your query hasn't changed too much, but I like the addition of comps in the last line, I think they help bring it alive more.

    The revisions on the first page are good, I like that you've taken out the few lines of telling that you had before. Keep an eye on repetition - you have a lot of sentences that start with 'I', including three in a row in the second paragraph which make it read a bit awkwardly. You also repeat 'walked' twice, I'd change one. I think you could add a touch more humour into the part where one minute she's terrified and crossing herself, and the next minute the 'ghost' is coughing, just by having her think the medieval version of 'Wait, what?' :) I'd also have her think that ghosts can't catch a chill, rather than say it out loud, which sounds a bit off to me.

    These are both really good, and of course utterly different, which I think makes it pretty subjective. Subjectively, while there is loads to like in the latter entry and I think it's done well, the first is more the kind of thing I might read, and the bubble pipe and 'petulant tree' crack me up. Objectively, I think Geeks has the voice nailed down whereas Maidens needs just a little more tweaking, and the premise sounds more original in the first, so VICTORY TO A COZY FOR GEEKS.

  3. Princess PrimroseJune 21, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    Dear Maidens, Monks, and Murder,

    I think I liked your previous query a bit better. It had more atmosphere and a lot more voice. This one seems like a quick run-down of the plot points of your story, and failed to inspire me.

    Dear Cozy,

    Lovely! Here is the one thing I'd fix (happens to be a wee pet peeve of mine): "He did not seem like someone that was about to change my life." It should be "someone who." Use "that" for non-humans and "who" for all humans. :)


  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.

    A COZY
    I like the changes you made to the query; I think that the voice really comes through now.

    The query is clear and the stakes are there, but it doesn't seem to flow as well as the 250. I think if you cut out some of the details/subplots and focus on her main goal, that might help.

    Victory to A COZY FOR GEEKS

  5. Maidens, I think what this is missing now is more voice. You have historical voice down but don't forget character personality, it needs to come off strong early

    Victory to Cozy For Geeks

  6. A COZY: A NA mystery sounds like a lot of fun. This being round 3, I was thrown off a bit by no mention of college or age at the beginning of the query. I really think it'd help to have that info upfront. I like the humor (and bubble pipe) in your sample! One thing I'd advise is that you go through and perhaps wipe a few "that" and "had" words out of your pages though. It'll clean it up a bit. : )

    MAIDENS: I think this is a pretty clear query and pages as well. Right away I was drawn in, even though I do think you could do a little more to make that hook really grab your reader! Great setting, I'm immediately pulled into the dark chapel and the garden. Feel free to add some more color to it, though. I think you have some great suspense going in your first 250 as well--one nit-pick is that you could get rid of a couple things that are more "telling" and "show" them instead. (example: "I looked..." "I scolded myself...") Overall, great job!

    It's a tough call but I'm going with VICTORY TO: A COZY FOR GEEKS
    xoxoSally Draper

  7. COZY: I love the voice in your query, and that same voice really shines in your first 250! I was having fun reading and didn't want to stop.

    MAIDENS: I think your query needs more voice and more of Eva's personality. As is, it felt a little flat and summary-like to me, and going into your first page, I didn't feel like I knew anything about Eva. Your 250, however, were excellent!! I want to know who's crying out for help!

    This is tough, as I loved both first pages, but Cozy had the stronger query.

    Victory to...A COZY FOR GEEKS!

  8. COZY: Still love the premise, the humor, and the voice, especially the the first page. This is an entry I'd definitely keep reading!

    MAIDENS: The first page is beautifully written, and I feel for Eva, but the query didn't quite grab me as much as I'd hoped.


  9. COZY
    The first paragraph struck me as a bit long on form and short on function. It was cute, but I think you could cut to the chase a bit more. Great voice and use of humor in the sample.

    The query accomplishes everything I wanted to see, but it feels heavy in plot and light in character, ultimately making it difficult to connect. You've done a great job setting the scene in the sample, but it's overshadowing the character's voice.


  10. COZY: This is such a killer concept and I'm obsessed with the voice in this one! I'd totally keep reading to find out what was going to happen and I think it was good advice to clear up what the 3D printed spears were all about!

    MAIDENS: I like this query even more than the last! I would agree with the other judge who said it might be a good idea to drop Brother Clement since he doesn't show up in the rest of the query. The mystery with Friderich is really good and I love the first 250!

    This is rough because I would keep reading both. Because of the voice though:


  11. Girl with the Golden PenJune 23, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    COZY: This is the first time I've seen this query, but it did get me to chuckle to myself multiple times. It has great voice. I think said voice served you best in the opening pages. In the query, I think you laid it on a little thick. You can make your query quicker and more concise. I recommend condensing the first two paragraphs especially because the meat of your query is at the end. Still, really a funny entry with an original concept.

    MAIDENS: Your query is concise and easy to understand and the idea of a Veronica Mars set in the 12th century is interesting. I will say it might be beneficial to mention the setting and location a bit sooner because it took me until the end to find out where it was taking place. I enjoy your prose as well as they have a haunting quality fitting to your genre.

    Both of these are strong entries and this is a tough decision but I have to go with my gut and go with voice and a slightly more original concept


  12. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 23, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    COZY -

    Love this query - you made everything very clear. However, it is a bit wordy. I would cut down the info and focus on what the other judges have said... I want to know more about those 3-D spears! Awesome first 250. If I had to say one thing I would ask that you tell me where I am! Is this a club? Frat house? It's not a big note, but it might help round out the world.


    Love the premise and I LOVE the first line of the opening... I would carry that throughout the query! The query feels like it needs to benefit from the amazing voice in the first line. Make sure you don't stay so true to the time period that you wind up sounding lofty. That first line is an amazing blend of the time period and a genuinely intriguing character.

    VICTORY TO COZY for solid voice throughout. Well done, gous!


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