Saturday, June 21, 2014

QK Round 3: Lavender Marriage vs. Make a Baby With Socks On

Entry Nickname: Lavender Marriage
Title: The Well-Adjusted Household
Word Count:
Genre: Adult Upmarket Fiction


Ben has been called a lot of things: doctor, husband, father, deviant, liar. His wife Alena calls him friend and her brother Iain calls him lover.

They live in Prohibition-era Pittsburgh and booze isn't the only thing that's illegal. Homosexuality is a felony and Ben and Iain don't care to spend the next ten years behind bars. Luckily, their sham marriages to Alena and her paramour Margaux are the perfect cover.

In public, they are the wealthy and powerful Blackburn family, heirs to a steel fortune. But behind closed doors, they are an improvised household of artificially conceived children and secret passageways between bedrooms. Everything is orchestrated. Nothing is as it seems.

When a conniving maid discovers their secret, Iain and Ben are arrested on charges of sodomy and homosexual behavior. The men and their constructed family are put on trial and it is up to their wives to convince the world of their “innocence.”

With an unjust law and an unsympathetic jury, they are well-aware that the truth will not set them free.

First 250 Words:

“On your right!”

The bicycle appeared from around the corner while Ben was lost in thoughts of covalent bonds and chemical reactions. There was no time to avoid impact. His beakers hit the pavement first, followed by his face.

“Jesus Christ, I've killed him. Hello? Can you hear me?”

As Ben regained consciousness, he assessed his injuries. Pain, but no broken bones. He rolled to his back. “Left. You were on my left.”

“Pardon?” The offending cyclist hovered over him, surveying the damage. “Goodness. You're bleeding.”

Ben sat up slowly, his ears ringing and his vision blurry. He poked at his cheek where a shard of glass had lodged. “Blast.”

“Here, let me help you.” The young man grabbed Ben's arm and pulled him to his feet. “I do apologize. I've never run over anyone before.”

Ben wobbled slightly, adjusting the spectacles still somehow perched on his nose. “I find that hard to believe.”

“My apartment is just there,” he offered, disregarding Ben's comment and pointing to a building across the street. “Would you care to come up? Use the washroom? That gash is quite a sight.” The young man leaned in closer, inspecting the wound.

“I, um, don't think–” Ben suddenly noticed that his assailant was beautiful and smelled like Eau de Quinine.

“Please. It's the least I can do,” he laughed, gesturing to the mess of papers and glass at their feet.


“I insist.” He offered his hand. “I'm Iain, by the way.”


Entry Nickname:
Make A Baby With Socks On
Title: You Can Still Make A Baby With Your Socks On
Word count: 60,000
Genre: Women's Fiction


When her husband announces to their entire New Year’s Eve party that having sex with her feels hollow and empty, Aida realizes that she just might be the kind of person who makes truly terrible decisions. Especially about men. What’s even worse is that her divorce therapist believes Aida’s hilariously nosy eighty-year-old Italian grandmother pen pal might be the key to turning her life around. When Aida shares in session her grandmother’s recommendation to go out on a date before her breasts droop, her therapist sees that this woman can change everything. It’s in that moment that she offers a unique challenge to Aida – to follow one piece of advice from each of her grandmother’s letters and see where life takes her.

From telling her to join a co-ed bocce ball league where she is old enough to be everyone’s mother, to having sex without taking her socks off, Aida soon learns that good things actually come when she follows her grandmother’s advice. It’s because of her that Aida finds love again in the most unlikely of places, and realizes that her grandmother knows more about life than just how to make meatballs and go to confession.

But after that love leads to everything she ever hoped for, tragedy strikes and she’s faced with the hardest decision she’s ever had to make. Her gut tells her one thing, but her grandmother says another. Now she’s left doubting the one person who has helped her the most. A wrong decision could spiral her back into a deep depression and potentially end her new found love, but the alternative jeopardizes a relationship that has transcended every obstacle in her life.

First 250 words:

Dear Aida,

I hope you got the socks I sent you. When I first mailed them, they were in a regular-sized envelope with one of those return address labels from the Easter Seals. I always feel bad using those since I only donated $5 back in 1992, and since then they've sent me enough labels to cover the Great Wall of China. Of course, I would never actually use those labels on the Great Wall because I wouldn’t want that many people knowing where I live, but it doesn’t matter because two days later the letter I wrote to you was returned for not having enough postage and I had to switch the tube socks out for trouser socks so I wouldn't have to pay more.

How is the new apartment feeling? I know it will take a while to feel like home, but you will heal from this, Aida. You will.

I never liked him. I know you thought it was because he wasn’t Italian but that’s not true. I didn’t like him because he drank too much. It would be different if he was Italian and enjoyed a few glasses of wine at night, but he liked all that beer and I heard that beer is the drink that turns most people into alcoholics. I think that’s why you don’t see any Italian alcoholics.

You’re too young to be sad. Wear one of those bodysuits you used to wear in college, the one that snaps down in the crotch (it’s really amazing you never got an infection down there with how tight those things are). You’re beautiful. Go have some fun before your breasts droop.

Loving you always, 


  1. Allusion AssassinJune 21, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    This was the other match up I wasn't looking forward to having to decide.

    LAVENDER - Still swoon. I know you're trying to work down your ending so it doesn't give so much a way. I think you've now gone too far the other way. It's seems so doomed. Is there no hope for our heroes? If so, leave us with that.

    While this does now clear up the ambiguity of the therapist, it's now really long. I think you should take the whole thing out. WHY she ends up following her Grandmother's advice really isn't important to the query. What matters is that she follows it. So it would be something like this - after "especially about men" it would be "But Aida's spunky 84 year old Grandmother is sure she can change Aida's fortunes if only she'd agree to follow her advice." And then in the next paragraph would open something like "Aida is a skeptic about the weird advice at first, but reluctantly agrees. Her life really can't get any worse."

    While I adore Aida's grandmother and think your premise is terrific, I feel it still needs one more revision. Lavender Marriage is ready to go. Because of that:


  2. Princess PrimroseJune 21, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Both of these stories sound amazing, but I connected with the first 250 of one better than the other. Unfortunately, Grandma's letter just doesn't pull me in like it should.


  3. These haven't changed since I last saw them, except the query for Make A Baby has improved again. I still think it could be shorter and funnier, but well done, you're getting there. (I also still think the query for LM needs more voice.)

    These two are very close, I really like them both. Make A Baby loses out, despite the great voice on the first page, because I've only had the grandmother's POV so far, so I can't tell if I'm going to like the MC's voice as much.


  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.

    Two great premises, clear queries. Not much to add. Again, it comes down to personal tastes.

    Victory to MAKE A BABY

  5. Another tough one...

    I am loving your premise and your first 250 totally pulled me in and made me swoon. You've really captured the time period. One thing, the last paragraph of your query is a bit vague.

    This is a cute/fun premise. While I love Grandma's voice, I'm not sure you should begin your story with a letter from her. It didn't pull my in like I'd hoped.

    Victory to LAVENDER

  6. LAVENDER and MAKE A BABY, I'm crushed that these two beautiful entries were put together! This is the toughest match-up yet for me. I would read both of these books today.

    LAVENDER: Consider making the stakes clearer at the end of your query. The very last line bothers me a bit.

    MAKE A BABY: Consider opening with a paragraph or two about your MC *before* she opens this letter from her grandmother. I'd like to get a sense of her voice before getting to know her grandmother.

    Best of luck to you both!! And based on which of these awesome books I'd read first:


  7. Both great entries but I'm still incredibly taken by this concept in the 20s era. Victory to Lavender Marraige

  8. This is another tough pairing.

    LAVENDER MARRIAGE: Whoa--great hook! And then MAKE A BABY: Damn--I love this hook too! Great query and a polished 250 on LM. MAB...great query but I was put off a bit by the 250 being a letter--although I do love the humor in it. Haha to the bodysuit line!

    CRAP. This is a TOOOOUGH call. Doing another read through and giving VICTORY TO: LAVENDER MARRIAGE. Gorgeous writing and I really do want to read on after the 250!
    xoxoSally Draper

  9. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 23, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    Lavendar Marriage -

    The query gives me a clear picture, but I think you could use a little bit of a closer look at the structure - you seem to be widening and narrowing the lens throughout instead of starting small and widening the picture in order to leave the reader wanting more. The hook is strong, so do it justice.

    The first two-fifty give a clear sense of the characters, but could benefit from a smidge more placement - tell me a little more about where I am.


    I love this title... and the query starts out very strong. That being said, you could really use a little trimming. Really streamline this and don't give me too many details. While I really hate starting a manuscript with letters - I LOVE THIS. It works well with the premise.

    Tough call, guys! But I'm awarding victory to MAKE A BABY for a strong voice!

  10. Girl with the Golden PenJune 23, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    LAVENDER: I've read this one before and it was a favorite from the first round. It hasn't changed much but I didn't think it needed to be changed in the first place. Still SO intrigued by the concept and loving the cute meeting in the opening.

    MAKE A BABY: I've seen this before too but I'm glad to see you have made your query a bit more conventional. It has a lot of great voice. That being said, it is pretty long and could stand some trimming. Definitely keep the hook but pick and choose your favorite funny lines and whittle it down. Still LOVE the letter. Its super funny and engaging!

    Again, both of these are very strong but I have to go with personal preference again and also a more concise query letter. Victory to LAVENDER MARRIAGE!

  11. Lavender Marriage: Intriguing query--I'd definitely want to read this book from the description. However, the pacing in the first 250 is off (he regains consciousness within seconds of falling? Was he really even knocked out?) and it was dialogue heavy without really focusing on character.

    Make a Baby With Socks On: This query was a little heavy in plot. I think you could easily get it down to two paragraphs, and I'd like to know a little bit more about the conflict in the final paragraph. It's a tad vague right now. That first 250 cracked me up. Great voice.


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