Monday, July 28, 2014

Laura H - Query Kombat 2013 SUCCESS STORY!!!

What's that? ANOTHER SUCCESS STORY? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Take it away, Laura!

You hear that finding an agent takes forever. And you hear those awesome stories about people getting offers overnight. For me, it was both very quick and very slow (and completely awesome).

I’ve always loved writing. I have random first pages of unfinished novels saved all over my computer. But I never really got the push I needed to finish a novel - life always got in the way. Then, in 2013, when I was on my honeymoon, an idea gripped me that wouldn’t let go. I raced to put it on the page when I got home. Soon, the words just poured out of me.

The first draft took about six weeks. Then I walked away, researching publishing for a few weeks before editing. I sent it to a friend for fact-checking while I revised. Then I edited it again. But my next step was what many new writers do: I queried too soon. Those two revisions weren’t enough. It took weeks of rejection to figure out what was wrong with the manuscript. Finally, I stumbled across the idea of getting a creative partner (how did I not know about this earlier?). After a couple of false starts, I found an awesome CP, and we went through the manuscript, chapter by chapter. Finally, after two more full rewrites, it was ready to go out again—about four months after I finished the first draft.

Starting in March, I sent groups of query letters. I entered contests, and as my manuscript slowly improved, so did my contest luck: I was runner up in Sun vs. Snow (between rewrites), featured in NestPitch (with no requests), and made it to the agent round in Query Kombat (with two requests). Each time, feedback helped me make my query and opening pages stronger.

I knew not to expect The Call within a couple of days after querying: everyone knows those stories are the exception. Still, every time I sent a query, part of me hoped, this time, I’d be the overnight success story. I even walked around Target for an hour once, constantly refreshing an agent’s Twitter feed because she said she liked a MS she’d just gotten. (The fact that cell phones barely work in my local Target did nothing to diminish my excitement.) It wasn’t mine. But I kept querying, incorporating feedback as necessary, and I started to get a lot of full requests.

July 7 was a crazy day. Around 9:30 a.m., I got a rejection from a partial I’d sent months earlier. At 9:45 a.m, I sent a query letter to an agent I’d heard good things about. At 10:30 a.m., she sent me a full request. (Yes, that’s right. 45 minutes later.) This was the fastest request I’d ever gotten. Still, I’d gotten requests in a couple of hours that didn’t pan out, so I knew not to get too excited. About 10 minutes later, I received a rejection from another agent, helping me keep my feet nailed firmly to the floor. If usual querying is a roller coaster, that hour was like being inside a martini shaker. I wondered if I was going to make it.

Tuesday, I happened to pull up my email while at the gym. (I swear it was an accident—usually, I go to the gym to unplug and de-stress, not think about queries.) The agent I’d queried on Monday wanted to know if I had time to chat about my manuscript.

Of course I did! I raced out of the gym to charge my dying phone (didn’t even finish my workout). We scheduled a call later that night. I asked a friend if they ever called to personally reject you. Then, I calmed down enough to speak coherently, the phone rang, and less than 36 hours after I sent that query, I had an offer from an excellent agent. It really can happen that fast.

I danced. Cheered. Screamed. I remembered that I had other full manuscripts out (plus some regular queries). So, the next step was to sit down and let the other agents know that I had an offer. To agents that had the manuscript more than a month or so, I offered a slightly revised version. Some replied right away to let me know they’d read it next. Some bowed out politely. Some didn’t reply at all. One emailed back to request the most updated version.

The next morning, I found a message from one of my friends. “Did you leave [often misused word] in your manuscript? I think this agent is reading it now.” The same agent I’d once tracked walking around Target. My heart plummeted. I’d forgotten to cut that problem word before sending. I clicked on the agent’s Twitter feed nervously. But she liked it! She tweeted about how much she loved the manuscript she was reading. My hopes soared. It had to be mine, right? It was. I opened my email and found a message asking if I was free to talk about the manuscript.

We arranged for a time the following afternoon. Then we talked, and I absolutely agreed with everything she had to say about the manuscript—including removing things I’d added because I thought the reader would like them. (Note: Don’t try to write for other people.) Before we even got off the phone, I knew I’d found my agent. The first agent I spoke with was great, but the second really got me and my work. I still had some full manuscripts out there, and I waited for responses before signing, but there was never really a question in my mind who I would pick after that conversation.

The day I’d promised to give my decision, I woke at 5:00 a.m. My phone was in hand before I decided that my new agent probably wouldn’t appreciate hearing from me in the middle of the night (especially since she’s not on the East Coast). I couldn’t contain my excitement, though, so I scanned the contracts and sent her an email at around 5:30 a.m. Then I sent another email to the first agent, who was very gracious and sincere in responding with her congratulations. I know that I would’ve been in good hands with either of them, but my gut told me to pick Jen Karsbaek, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Laura writes women’s fiction, represented by Jen Karsbaek at Foreword Literary. She wrote her first "short story" when she was five years old, detailing a family's Saturday morning on their Commodore 64 (it may have somewhat auto-biographical). She’s been writing ever since. In her spare time, she loves playing board games, baking, and binge watching anything by Joss Whedon. She also really likes parenthetical phrases (but not in fiction) and the Oxford comma.

Follow her on Twitter.

CONGRATS LAURA!!! You're an awesome presence on Twitter during our contests even when you already have an agent. It means a lot to us, truly! Congrats again and good luck with everything!!!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

6 Things I Learned From Hosting Contests

I'm a guest over at the awesome Operation Awesome! Head over to their blog to read my complete post.

First up, my credentials, so you know I'm not just pulling this out of thin air. I've co-hosted "Query Kombat" twice and "Nightmare on Query Street," hosted "The Writer's Tank" and twice hosted "Become an Agent," and I was a slush reader in "In With the New." So, yes, I've went through...dang, nearing a thousand queries and first 250 words.

When going through the slush to pick entries for the contest, we usually have a hashtag that we slush-readers use on Twitter. On this hashtag (different for each contest) we tweet our thoughts as we go through the slush, but I've never done a blog post on the subject.

1. It is SO, SO, SO subjective.

Maybe you need to be a slush-reader to truly understand this, but picking entries (and, to an extent, requesting material) is so subjective. We're not trying to make you feel better by saying this, we're not babying you: IT IS THE TRUTH. Very rarely do I ever feel 'satisfied' when I make my final picks. Most of the time I'm torn apart because there were so many others I wanted to pick but because of the limit on entries, I couldn't.

The same is true for agents. They can, technically, request a ton of material, but that means they'll fall behind on their own clients' work. No human can read five manuscripts a day. Agents must be picky for their clients' sake and their own sake.

2. In picking entries, it came down to "I MUST MUST MUST have this entry on my team."

This is related to point #1. Ultimately, especially with "In With the New" where I could pick only 4 entries from a slush of 191, I picked the entries that I just had to have on my team. Subjectivity played a huge deal.

This must be true for agents as well, and I've seen many echo the same sentiment: they must be dying to request. You've got to force them to request. Otherwise, if they find any reason to pass, they will. Of course, different agents act differently, but I've heard this sentiment many times and as a contest host, I do the same thing.

3. Follow submission guidelines. Please.

I automatically passed on an entry that forgot its header of Title, Word Count, Genre. I didn't even read the entry. I passed on one that had 200 sample words instead of the required 250.

Do yourself a favor and follow agent guidelines. They're there for a reason, and it's annoying and frustrating when submissions don't follow guidelines. It doesn't help you, either; it's an automatic pass.

Want to see the last three? Head over to Operation Awesome's blog to read the full article!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Picks and Maybe's for "In With the New" Contest

Here were my picks for Michelle's "In With the New" contest going on right now!!!

Before you read, know this:

I read almost all of the 191 entries, but not all. There is a chance I might not have read yours! But don't worry, one of the other five slush readers did.

Also, this was INCREDIBLY subjective and hard to decide (if you follow me on Twitter, you know). More about this in tomorrow's post.

My Yes's:

In Between Them 
Ratman’s Revenge       

My Maybe's:

Supernatural Freak
His Game, Her Rules
Barnswallow Summer
Life As I Knew It
Deadly Triggers
Dead Man’s Watch
Life Set Sail
The GAP Project
Summer Confessions
The Black Dragon’s Mate
The Truth About Two Shoes
Perfect Together
The Front Range
Land of the Free

Some of my Maybe's were picked as Yes's by other slush readers! Just shows how subjective it all is.

Good luck in the contest!!! Hope you get awesome requests.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Best Mentality to Write With

I rarely ever say something is the 'best' way to do something. Quite simply, there are many ways to do anything and one way could work best for one person and another way for another. But what if I told you what I believe to be the best way to write?

It all started when I read the article, "The Secret of Effective Motivation". Read it quickly then come back, to this page.

Basically, the article summarizes a research project studying motivation. The researchers surveyed about 11,000 cadets at West Point, asking them to rank their motives to attend the academy. The motives were split into internal motives like being trained to be an officer (basically, goals that are inherently related to the journey itself) and instrumental motives like finding a job later on (goals that aren't inherently related to the journey).

The researchers expected that the cadets who would become officers, got early promotions, and stayed in the military longer would obviously have strong internal motives but also strong instrumental motives. The most surprising thing was this: the cadets that had strong internal and strong instrumental motives "performed worse on every measure than did those with strong internal motives but weak instrumental ones."

What does this mean for your writing journey?

Obviously, we probably all want to be published, become NYT bestsellers, etc. The idea of winning prizes, holding a physical copy of our books in our hands, etc. drives us to write. We love to write, sure, but we'd love recognition. In fact, what might be best to getting that recognition is not running after it at all.

It's a hard mentality to switch to, but I think it's necessary. Could JK Rowling really have spent nine years simply in planning the Harry Potter series and writing the first book if all she desired was publication? Nine years is a long time to wait for something. What must have driven her was the journey itself; the intrinsic goals of writing the book, being with the characters, discovering her world, and crafting prose.

The funny thing is that there really shouldn't be a balance between intrinsic and instrumental motivations. To be successful, as the study shows, your intrinsic motivations must outweigh your instrumental ones by a lot. Don't try going for the best of both worlds; pick the better world and your world will become better as a result. Don't go for a 50-50 balance unless you're absolutely certain it works for you (I'd be skeptical, because the study proves that weak instrumental motivations and strong intrinsic ones win out every day).

This also helps a lot in keeping your chin up through the rejection-heavy process of writing. If you don't long for winning contests, prizes, even being published, rejections won't hurt nearly as bad. It might be scary to think, I don't need to be published, but think of it as: I need to create the best book possible for myself, as a writer, and publication will come as a side effect.

If you are intrinsically motivated to create the best book possible, publication itself shouldn't be the goal (just think how many bad books are published). If you want publication alone, you might just do the bare minimum to get a book deal instead of pushing your writing the furthest it could go. I highly doubt that writers like Hemingway, Angelou, Hugo, Salinger, Rowling, Tartt, and more just wanted to be published. They pushed writing to a new height, and it couldn't have happened unless they were intrinsically motivated to be the absolute best they could be, instead of just publishable.

I know, it's easy to say 'forget about your dream goals'. I still long to be published, win prizes, etc. It's hard to get out of that mentality, but it might be necessary. Don't shut down or ignore your instrumental motivations, that's just dangerous. Just let it flow through your mind like water. Acknowledge them and move on. Obsess over your intrinsic motivations instead: creating the best prose possible, fleshing out your characters, tightening that plot. And, as a result, you'll be on your way to success.

I loved that article - it completely changed the way I think about motivation. What do you think about the study?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Christina K - Nightmare on Query Street SUCCESS STORY!!


I'm very very happy about this one, too, because Christina was on my team (the Spooks) for Nightmare on Query Street!!!! I picked her entry based on my gut reaction to how much I loved her query and 250; and lo and behold, it worked. She got the MOST requests out of all the Spooks!


The second novel I completed, and the first I queried, was called EMMY & MARI. It was inspired by the friendship between two students at my school that I had observed for a couple years. It was dark and somewhat depressing - full of death and drugs and general unpleasantness - but I loved it. Nightmare On Query Street was the first contest besides #pitmad I'd ever entered and I was understandably terrified. I sent in my characters' fears, query and 1st 250 and watched the slush talk like a hawk. SC tweeted something about a YA contemp that had a pitiful fear answer but great writing and it turned out that was me! The fear answer was definitely sad, but I was tickled beyond belief that someone saw something in my words.

I was completely over the moon to find out SC had picked me for his team, the Spooks. I met so many wonderful writers through NOQS, learned a ton about what makes a good query and opening, and told myself that even if I got zero requests from the participating agents, I'd come out on top. Well, I didn't get zero. Over the course of the request period, and even a bit later on, I ended up with 8 requests. I was completely shocked and flattered and thought that maybe I wasn't fooling myself that I had a shot at this writing thing. Those requests ended in mostly passes, a couple of no responses (booo), and one R&R with an amazing agent who ultimately didn't offer but went to the top of my list for the next project.

So I wrote another book, and another one, and the 4th book, VALEDICTIONS, found its way into the hands of the agent who made my dream of representation come true - Kevan Lyon. Kevan is fantastic and I can't wait to start this journey with her!

I am more grateful than I can express to SC, Michelle and Mike for holding NOQS, and all their other contests, and spending time on fledgling writers. This experience was so very positive and gave me the confidence to keep going. I never expected to form so many connections with this generous and supportive writing community when I started, but I know I would not have gotten this far without them. Writing, for me, is not a solitary endeavor, and is made richer by the people who have influenced my words. So, thanks. :)

Christina writes YA contemporary fiction when she's not writing college recommendation letters. She loves to read, travel, and hopes to one day be bi-coastal - the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland.  She is represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary and tweets. MAKE SURE TO  CONGRATULATE HER!!

CONGRATS CHRISTINA!!!! Can't wait to see what the future holds for you. (GO SPOOKS!)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lara Rectenwald - Query Kombat 2014 SUCCESS STORY!!

ALREADY WE'VE GOT A SUCCESS STORY FROM THIS YEAR'S QUERY KOMBAT!!!! I'm so so happy. The entry was Lavender Marriage (go read the entry). It's truly an amazing story and ended up being the adult co-champion....with NO agent requests.

Yup. None.

And now, Lara is our first QK 2014 success story. Talk about subjective? Talk about never giving up? 

Here's the story from Lara's words!

By the time I finally decided to write this book, I had been thinking about the story for ten years. I had originally conceived of the idea as a piece of ballet choreography while in college. At the time, I didn't have the courage to execute the idea and so it followed me around, stuck in the back of brain. In September of 2013, I decided I needed to get this idea out of my head for good, so I sat down and started writing. It was the first thing I had ever written and I finished the first draft in four months.

By February of 2014, I decided that after one full draft revision it was ready to be queried - it wasn't. The first 40 queries were not productive. At the end of April, I stumbled on Pitch Slam and decided to enter. It was a great experience and I made several new writer friends. I made the cut and did reasonably well, receiving one partial request from an agent, but the critical feedback I received from the judges caused me to completely rethink the beginning of my book. I cut the prologue and rewrote my first two-fifty, which led into the fifth full revision of the manuscript. All the while, emails from agents politely declining my queries continued to trickle in.

After Pitch Slam, I saw that Michelle was running another contest called Query Kombat and I decided to enter that one too. Spurred on by this new contest, I started from scratch and wrote my third and final query. I loved it, but wasn't sure if anyone else would. Reception was mixed - I was picked for Mike's team and ended up the Adult Co-Champion, but I didn't get a single manuscript request. It was disheartening. I had a few fulls and partials outstanding with agents, but I was feeling burned out on querying and decided I'd send one more before taking a break. Lucky 82.

I queried Brianne on July 1 and she responded on July 2 asking for 50 pages. I sent the 50 pages, with no great expectations. At this point, no partial request had ever turned into a full. On the morning of July 4 I woke up to see that she had sent an email at midnight requesting the full manuscript. I sent it immediately and went about my Independence Day activities. All day I surreptitiously checked my phone, looking for a confirmation that she received the full manuscript. At 4:30, while helping my mom cut watermelon, I checked my phone and there was The Email. She loved my book and wanted to talk on Monday!

My pessimism had me convinced it would be at best a request for an R&R. But it wasn't - it was The Call. Brianne really “got” my story and her excitement was contagious. I loved her suggested edits and I accepted on the spot. I quickly let every other agent who had a full, partial or query know that I had accepted representation. I am relieved to be done querying and thrilled to move on to the next steps toward publication!

Lara Rectenwald writes historical fiction and is represented by Brianne Johnson of Writers House. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two cats and has degrees in History and Political Science. When not reading or writing, Lara enjoys fixing up her old house. Follow her on Twitter and CONGRATULATE her!

Congrats Lara! I'm so happy for your success - and more to come!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"How to Date Dead Guys" Rafflecopter GIVEAWAY!!!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

How To Date Dead Guys by Ann M. Noser

How To Date Dead Guys

by Ann M. Noser

Giveaway ends August 14, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

A book release from a Query Kombat 2013 (last year's!) Kombatant!!!! If the book appeals to you (just read the title!) enter the  Rafflecopter giveaway

Or, if you don't want to wait...

Barnes & Noble:

Congrats Ann!!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vote for a London Bench to be Painted in Harry Potter Art!!!

Look how awesome the benches look at this link or in the beautiful pictures below taken from that same link (I don't own the pictures!).

Dr. Seuss
Mrs. Dalloway
The Time Machine


There's a chance that we can! BUT WE HAVE TO VOTE BEFORE 6 PM EST.

Harry is lagging behind in second place by a few percentages; we need votes, a LOT of them. Please please please! "Harry Potter" does deserve a bench in London; the series is classic and has cemented King's Cross station and other London landmarks in the global mind.

If you believe as I do that "Harry Potter" deserves a spot, please vote for it in 

using your phone, laptop, desktop, everything and everything! And please please share this message on Twitter or anywhere else! We must vote before 6 pm EST TODAY (July 14th)!!!!

Vote to get a Harry Potter artistic bench in London! Voting ends 6 pm EST TODAY! [Tweet this!]"

Want to see a a Harry Potter artistic bench in London? VOTE!! Voting ends 6 pm EST TODAY! [Tweet this!]


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Secret to a Great Book Title

I recently read If I Stay by Gayle Foreman. The main reason I bought it? I'm obsessed with the premise. The second biggest reason? The title.

As of yet, I don't think I've ever heard of a better title for a book (of course this is just my subjectivity speaking). Why do I think it's a good title? How about we ask the bigger question:

What makes a good title?

Basically, one thing: It makes you want to find out more about the book.

It makes you pick up the book from a bookshelf lined up with only the spines of the book facing you. It makes you ask, "What's it about?" genuinely when someone mentions the book's title in passing. It makes you stop in your tracks when you come across it at a bookstore and you think, "Hey, I heard about this book before."

It makes you want to read the blurb (and hopefully, the blurb and the first few pages will make you buy the book).

If I Stay as a title accomplished all that and more for me. I still can't stop thinking about the title and what it means. (Basically, the book is about a girl who gets in a car crash and is comatose. She has a big choice to make... and as the book's blurb doesn't tell you what the choice is, I won't either, but the title should make it pretty obvious. Don't worry, knowing what the choice is doesn't ruin the book at all; I bought the book because I wanted to know how she'd make the choice.) But anyway, back to the title!

If I stay. The main character is thinking, what will happen if she stays?

But notice there's no question mark at the end of "If I stay."

It's not framed as a question, it's framed as an option. "If," the most powerful word, maybe ever, in my opinion. "If I Stay."

And the thing is, it's not even "If I Go" which is the other option and, technically, just as viable of a title. But you see, I was thinking about this and wondering exactly why I like 'stay' better than 'go' and I think it's because 'go' is much more...stereotypical, for lack of a better word. One can always find reasons to go. But by having "If I Stay" be the title, it shows that the main character is thinking much more about that option - not because she wants to live or is just so happy, but because she's trying to find reasons to stay. To me, trying to find reasons to stay is much more heart-breaking and thought-provoking than finding reasons to go.

That's why I bought the book. A good title is everything, folks. A mediocre title is fine - just make it memorable. A bad title can kill your novel. But an incredible title - it can make it.

So what's the secret to a great book title?

Here's what everyone knows:

1. Unique (don't let it show up if you Google it or Amazon it)

2. Memorable (short and sweet, usually, unless it's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" or something like that; case in point: I just tried looking up the title to another book that I thought was memorable. I kept Googling different versions of the book's title (it's something like "A Great Work of Epic Proportion" or something like that, I have no clue) and no books show up. Only links like 'great works of art' show up. I can't ever find the book now unless I try really hard (and I won't). There goes one potential buyer)

3. Related to the Book in Some Way The title can't be gimmicky; it has to be related to the book's overall purpose/main idea/plot/character/anything big about the book. It can't be called, "How to Cure Hangovers in Ten Minutes" and then be a MG Thriller.

But if everyone knows these three things, they're not a secret. Those three bullets are crucial, I would say, but the way to have a great book on.

4. Thought-provoking. Just the right amount of confusion to get the reader to pick up the book, just the right amount of detail to give the reader some idea of what the book is about, and hinting at big questions or ideas. Notice how If I Stay is not forced. Thought-provoking also could be, for that novel, 'Live vs. Die' and that could be the title. But that freaking sucks. It's nasty. It's preachy and too themey. Which is why the next bullet-point (in conjunction with #4) is:

5. Natural to Your Book's VoiceIf I Stay was written in the first-person, and so is the title. You get a hint of the character's voice in the title and thus, the reader immediately connects with the main character (which is why great titles might be slightly more achievable for writers in the first-person). The title gels with the book; it's seamless. Make sure yours is too.

Now it's time for me to take my own advice with my mediocre, quick-and-easy title of 'Saving Penelope'. Sigh.

How about you? How do you come up with your titles? What title is your favorite? Do you have a favorite?

By the way, it's 7/7/14!!!! Two sevens and then a 14 (7 + 7!). LUCKY NUMBER WOO!!!! It'll be a good day :)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Query Kombat MG Champion!

Wade White

A final congrats to the last, but not least, author in our awards ceremony! 

Wade hails from Nova Scotia, land of wild blueberries and Duck Tolling Retrievers. He teaches ancient languages, dabbles in animation, and spends the rest of his time as a stay-at-home dad. It is also possible he has set a new record as the slowest 10K runner. Ever. He owns one pretend cat and one real one, and they get along fabulously. He has been writing fiction for over thirteen years.

Mid Grade Championship Entry:

Entry Nickname: Girl Destroys World
Title: MAGICK 7.0
Word count: 85,000
Genre: MG Fantasy


In fourteen-year-old Anne’s opinion, there are two kinds of quests: the kind that lead to unicorns and lollipops, and the kind that get you and everyone you love killed, horribly and painfully (possibly by zombie sharks). She knows this because her budding magick abilities have accidentally entangled her in a quest, and so far she hasn’t encountered any lollipops.

She could opt out, but then as per Paragraph 5 Subparagraph 3 of the Official Questing Regulations she’d be exiled forever and all of her friends would be tossed into a dungeon. She’d rather kiss a Steam Troll than let that happen.

Her task? Slay a silver dragon that doesn’t exist. In just three days. With only the guidance of a wizard with a platypus for an arm and a sassy holographic sparrow. It’s all pretty straightforward (“straightforward” being a relative term) until she meets Lord Oswald, a weirdo in a cryogenic chamber who wears a lab coat and comfortable loafers. As the duly licensed Antagonist, he should be trying to stop her. Instead, he swaps roles and steals her quest.

That’s when Anne learns she wasn’t on a mission to save the world, but to destroy it (so not exactly environmentally-friendly). And Lord Oswald seems more than happy to see it through to completion. With the atomic clock counting down, Anne must figure out why she’s suddenly the villain of her own quest and pray to all things platypus-related that her unstable magick can defeat Oswald’s ten-thousand-year-old “technology.”

If she stops him, she might yet become a HeroTM

If she doesn’t, everyone dies (in which case, definitely no lollipops).

First 250:

At Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children they didn’t play favorites. Each orphan was treated with the same amount of disdain and neglect. They were provided with one threadbare tunic, one pair of ill-fitting shoes, and one dusty and moth-eaten overcoat. They were given a daily ration of gruel, and they were bathed exactly once per month, just before going on duty in the coal mine. This, incidentally, was consistent with the advice given in the popular self-help guide, How to Raise Orphans and Make Money.

There were three ways to leave Saint Lupin’s. The first was to get adopted. Perhaps by a nice family who would whisk you away to your long dreamed-of castle on a hill—one surrounded by forests and glens, filled with interesting and friendly people, rich with history and bright with promise and hope. The board of governors was extremely pleased with its track record in this regard as it had managed to prevent all adoptions since the Institute’s foundation.

The second way was to reach the age of fourteen and be unceremoniously kicked out on your bottom.

The third way was to embark upon a quest. Although quests were heavily regulated (so they could then be heavily taxed), there were no restrictions regarding age or background and thus anyone could apply. The secret to a successful application was first to fulfill a prophecy (also heavily taxed). At Saint Lupin’s, both of these topics, that is, quests and prophecies, were considered particularly taboo subjects of inquiry.

Fantastic job! Good luck! Don't forget to send him a congrats on Twitter!!

Query Kombat YA Champion!

Judy Clemens

More congrats are in order for YA Champ Judy Clemens!!! Her awesome entry made it all the way to the finals.

Judy Clemens is the author of the Anthony- and Agatha-nominated Stella Crown mysteries and the Grim Reaper series, as well as the stand-alone LOST SONS. She loves YA & MG literature and hopes to soon be published in those categories, with help from Query Kombat! Judy lives in an old Ohio farmhouse with her husband and two kids, and spends her days writing, shuttling her kids to various events, and working part-time at a recycling yard. 

Young Adult Championship Entry:

Entry Nickname: Tag, You’re Dead
Title: Tag, You’re Dead (originally The Game)
Word Count: 80K
Genre: YA Thriller


When six teenagers play Tag in present-day Chicago, there’s a twist from the childhood version…if you get Tagged, you get Dead.

The three "Its" have their reasons for buying a place in the Game: surgically-enhanced Brandy is dying to destroy a naturally beautiful girl; untalented Robin desires his target's position on the school basketball team; and brainiac Charles craves a battle against an intellectual equal.

Three hand-picked innocents play as “Runners,” under threat to their loved ones should they refuse to participate: lovely, small-town Laura; superstar athlete William; and Amanda, gamer extraordinaire. These three want only one thing…to survive.

As soon as the Runners receive the “Go” on smart watches locked onto their wrists, the Game rockets them through the city, from the El to Michigan Avenue to the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is no time to rest; every thirty minutes the Runners’ coordinates are transmitted to the Its, which diminishes the Runners’ chances of ever reaching Home Base alive.

The Game will not end until someone is Tagged, so the Runners must choose how to play: will they accept death, murder their Its, or find a way to use their individual strengths to stop the Game before anyone dies?

TAG, YOU’RE DEAD alternates among the POVs of all six players in the Game – who will live to see it end?

First 250:

Friday, 8:00 PM

“I can’t choose,” Brandy Inkrott said. “I want to kill them all.

“Tag,” her mother said from her brocaded antique chair. “You want to Tag them all.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Either way,” her father said, “I’m afraid you have to pick one.”

Brandy studied the images of the teenage girls on the screen. Brunettes. Blondes. Asians. Hispanics. Light-skinned. Dark-skinned. Every one of them gorgeous. Every one of them middle-class. No-names. None of them like her. “They’re all so perfect. Can I pick more than one?"

A woman’s voice pierced the air, emanating from Surround Sound speakers. “The price for two would be extravagant, Ms. Inkrott. Plus, Tagging more than one Runner would be difficult. Almost impossible.”

“I don’t care. I can do it.”

Her father shrugged. “If that’s what you want.”

“I suggest this,” the woman said. “Play this time with one. If you are successful you may play again, and then you can go after two. I know it’s tempting when you see all those beautiful faces, but you’d be setting yourself up for disappointment.”

“What do you know?” Brandy said. “You’re probably some fat old lady in a trailer park somewhere. I could Tag you.”

Silence sizzled over the speaker.

“I’m sorry, Madame Referee,” Brandy’s father said. “She didn’t mean it.”

“Did so,” Brandy said.

“Bran, honey, please."

The girls’ faces on the television disappeared, replaced by only one, which took up the entire surface of the eighty-inch screen. The woman shown there was incredible.

Amazing story; congrats Judy!! Make sure to congratulate her on Twitter!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Query Kombat NA Champion!!

Max Wirestone

Yes, we had NA entries as well - and we had amazing ones!! Congrats to Max for making it the furthest of any other NA entry (and especial congrats for being an awesome Writerbee!! We Writerbees are the best :D).

Max Wirestone lives in a small town in New England with his husband and son.  When he's not running his town's library or chasing a toddler, he is usually reading or writing.

New Adult Championship Entry:

Entry Nickname: A Cozy for Geeks
Title: The Genuine Fake
Word Count: 75,030
Genre: Mystery Cozy


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, 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:

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 who 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'd thought he was hitting on me. “I’m in a non-dating phase," I'd 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.

An awesome story; you better tell us of any good news!!! Congrats, and be sure to say congrats on Twitter to him as well!

Query Kombat Co-Champions of the Adult Category!!

 Lara Rectenwald

Now that we've congratulated the Champions, it's time to congratulate the champions of the Adult section! These two entries tied by making it the furthest (Round 5) in the contest. I'm especially excited because one of them, Mallory, was a Writerbee!

I live in Pittsburgh with my husband and two cats, Chicken and Duck. I hold a B.A. in History from Baldwin Wallace University.

Adult Championship Entry

Entry Nickname: Lavender Marriage
Title: The Well-Adjusted Household
Word Count: 86,000
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.”

Their reputations, their fortune and the custody of their children all depend on this one, grand lie. They are well-aware that the truth will not set them free.

First 250:

“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?”

Ben rolled to his back, coughing from the impact. “Left. You were on my left.”

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

Ben sat up slowly, poking at his cheek where a shard of glass had lodged. His vision was blurry, though his spectacles were still somehow perched on his nose. Perhaps he had been concussed.

“Please, 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 dusted off his trousers, struggling to keep his temper in check. “I find that hard to believe, sir. Furthermore, I–” The words died in his throat as he took in the full visage of his assailant. He was beautiful, with an easy smile and grey eyes. “I, um, my class...” Ben gestured to the mess of books and glass on the ground, struggling to regain his train of thought.

“Your class?” The young man leaned in closer, inspecting Ben's wound. “I'm afraid you have blood all over you.”

He smelled lovely, like Eau de Quinine. Ben exhaled sharply. “Be that as it may, sir–”

“– it's Iain, actually,” he laughed.

 Mallory Crowe

Mallory Crowe lives in the suburbs of Detroit with her husband and three dogs where she’s a CPA by day and romance author by night. She’s a member of RWA and STEALING FIRE recently placed third in the Central Florida’s Romance Writers of America’s Touch of Magic contest. When Mallory's not writing or cuddling with the pups, she’s indulging her obsession for pop culture and binge watching obscure shows on Netflix.

Adult Championship Entry:
Entry Nickname: Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper
Title: Stealing Fire
Word count: 75,000
Genre: Paranormal Romance


Ella’s life for her father’s. It’s the easiest decision she ever made.

When Ella traces her missing father to a decaying mansion, she's shocked to find him being held captive by a devastatingly handsome man. He offers to let her father go free, but only if Ella stays behind.

Lucian isn't just a crazy kidnapper wrapped in eye candy. He's the head of a species who live as humans by day and monsters by night. Desperate to discover why none of his kind have been born in centuries, Lucian stole Ella's father, a scientist who’d worked with Lucian on the fertility crisis before abruptly quitting decades ago. When Ella shows up and is immune to Lucian's powers, he sees a chance to get answers, certain the scientist hid them in Ella’s DNA.

Ella willingly trades places with her father and becomes Lucian’s prisoner. He gives her everything she could possibly want except her freedom. The more time she spends with Lucian, the harder it is to deny he’s a ruthless monster. Even so, with every sideways glance and accidental touch, she becomes more confused and Lucian comes closer to forgetting she’s not his.

But their days together are limited. Lucian has enemies, and they’ll do anything to keep his species from expanding. As they close in, Lucian realizes the safest place for Ella is far away from him, and Ella must decide if her old, normal life is really where she belongs. But a true beast would never give up so easily.

First 250:

Ella shoved open the door to the sheriff’s office, slamming it against the wall. So what if all the deputies were staring. Let them know she was angry.

Tyler glanced up from the paperwork scattered across his desk, a lazy grin planted on his face. “Ella, if you really want to see me, all you have to do is call,” he said with his signature drawl that had all the women in the small Maine town of Pine Springs drooling.

All the women except Ella.

“Have you found him?” she asked, trying to make her five-four frame appear as large and imposing as possible.

Tyler stood up from behind the desk, towering over her. “We were able to track your father’s car down, but couldn’t find any sign of him. Like we told you before, he’s probably with someone at that conference you mentioned.”

“I filed the report over a week ago, and you’re the one who said he never checked in at the Lexington Hotel.”

Tyler nodded like he was listening, but she recognized the glazed-over look in his eyes. He’d already written her off. “Normally, that would be troubling, but you can’t exactly call Dr. Murray ‘normal’.”

What the hell? Sure he was exasperating, but he was a great sheriff. Why would he ignore an official missing persons report? “You need to take this seriously,” she warned.

Tyler moved around the desk and set a hand on her shoulder. “How about I swing by your place after my shift ends and we can discuss this over dinner?”

Congrats :DDD You guys rocked it! Make sure to congratulate them on Twitter here and here!

Introducing the Query Kombat 2014 CHAMPIONS!!

Betsy Aldredge & Carrie DuBois-Shaw

 Let's congratulate the Query Kombat Champions and co-authors of Shalom Sasquatch!!!

Betsy Aldredge is a former magazine editor turned museum professional. She’s worked at a library and at two independent bookstores including Shakespeare and Company. Born a book nerd, she is happy to pass on the tradition. Her four-year-old daughter is named after a Harry Potter character (HOLY CRAP THAT'S FREAKING AMAZING!) and already insists on sleeping with piles of books in her bed. She lives and works in New York.

Carrie DuBois-Shaw has had two plays for young audiences produced in New York City and spearheaded the new play development program at The New Victory Theater, a performing arts venue in Times Square dedicated to engaging and entertaining kids and families. She recently relocated to San Francisco, where she is enjoying the abundance of independent bookstores, sour dough bread, and fog.

Betsy and Carrie are members of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). They met at NYU where they lived in a haunted dorm, studied theater, and were secretly delighted to be mistaken for English literature majors.

Now, here's their amazing Query Kombat 2014 Championship Entry:

Entry Nickname: Shalom Sasquatch
Title: Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things
Word count: 77K
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Berger is pretty sure most nice Jewish girls don’t have parents who force them to hunt Bigfoot, especially on national T.V.  Just when Sam thinks she couldn’t be more humiliated, she meets the competition: a team of snobby anthropology students from Yale who are set on wiping the floor with her “Squatch” loving family.

The captain of the other team, Devan Mehta, is impossibly cute in a Bollywood Romeo-meets-Sherlock Holmes sort of way — until he opens his perfect British mouth and calls her family a bunch of low-class wankers. Sam’s no longer just embarrassed. She’s livid, and determined to beat the ascot off Devan and his crew. After all, the prize money will allow her to study pre-med at the college of her dreams, far from Yetis and Yalies.

Teamed up by the producers for a special challenge, Sam and Devan bond over family pressures, geek out over fantasy fiction, and learn to rely on each other. In a moment of honesty, Devan admits he may be kicked out of his anthropology program if his team fails and Sam worries about paying for college if she doesn’t win. Before they know it, understanding leads to attraction and a steamy snogging session
. Now, as the competition heats up, Sam must choose between her ridiculous family and Devan. Suddenly, finding Bigfoot is the smallest of Sam’s hairy problems.

First 250:

On a good day, my parents were just mildly embarrassing. The day the camera crew came to our house was not a good day.

I squinted at the bright lights illuminating our dingy living room, and turned to my older sister, Sophie. “Hunting Bigfoot in private isn’t bad enough?” I whispered. “Now Mom and Dad have to humiliate us on national television?”

Sophie shrugged. “You’ve been complaining for weeks. It’s time to suck it up.”

Colin, the producer of a new TV show called “Myth Gnomers,” stood behind our scratched-up coffee table shooting pre-interviews with my parents, me, and my two sisters. The awful title of this lame reality show should’ve served as an obvious warning we were about to do something ridiculous, but nope, it sure didn’t.
Instead of running like hell, all five of us were squished together on our stained, saggy brown couch, smiles frozen in place. At least our butts hid the holes in the upholstery.

“Checking. Checking one, two. Your mics should all be on now.” Colin peered over the camera at my parents’ matching neon green shirts that read, “Ohio is Bigfoot Country.”

My mom’s smile tightened. She glared and gestured at me until I put on a Northern Ohio Bigfoot Society hat like my sisters. Each Sasquatch club designed their own logo. My tacky trucker cap had a cartoon footprint and a motto on it in Latin— which probably translated to “We have nothing better to do.”

I pulled the brim over my eyes and slumped down, wishing I could join the pennies and crumbs hiding in the crevices of the sofa.

CONGRATS!!!!!! You can use the badge wherever you wish, it's yours to keep :) Make sure to congratulate them on Twitter!

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Beauty of Fireworks, and International Fun Facts About Them

Happy 4th of July!!!

I'm a proud American (although our country does have its faults and makes me upset sometimes).

What I think is the best part of Fourth of July is watching fireworks. I truly think fireworks are incredible, much like the time in "Friends" when Rachel's telling the story of how her entire family would bicker and fight right up until the fireworks went off and they'd all shut up and listen. That's how my family and friends are (except, thankfully, we don't bicker and fight).

Watching fireworks is so...peaceful. Very rarely do my friends and family talk over them - everyone is just so dang mesmerized.

As we watch fireworks tonight and go to festivals and barbecues, let's remember as we see the fireworks what this country stands for and all the amazing opportunities it has given us - even think of how USA could be better, if you want. Free speech is something we writers live on.

But I just love fireworks. I love painting, too (I oil paint!) and I've always thought it'd be amazing to do a painting of fireworks. But really, it's too hard of a light to capture realistically without succumbing to cheap tricks (which is why I haven't seen a good painting of fireworks to this day). It's the elusive painting I long to do!

Some international fun facts about fireworks, I've picked some of the best and put them below!

1. Invented 2000 years ago in China! (Imagine ancient fireworks, holy crap that'd be freaking awesome.)

2. Fireworks are also a patriotic celebration in England where they're set off on Guy Fawkes Night (a guy (hehehe) who failed to assassinate the King on that day, November 5th).

3. The French use it to celebrate Bastille Day! ("A Tale of Two Cities"!)

4. The biggest annual show is in Edinburgh at the International Festival concert, where a million fireworks are set off in less than an hour.

What do you love most about fireworks? Fourth of July? Any special memories?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

THANK YOU to the Query Kombat Judges!!

Now that Query Kombat is over, IT'S TIME TO THANK THE JUDGES!! 

Click this link to see the original judges' reveal post and read all their bios; this post will reveal their nicknames (Judges, if you don't want your nickname revealed, contact me by Twitter or commenting on this post ASAP so I can take it off!).

I know from personal experience (last year's contest) how hard the job of judging was. Endless over-thinking, second-guessing, and a LOT of time. But this contest revolved around the votes acquired. There is no possible way this contest could have run without a trust group of talented, generous writers.

Here they are below. Be sure to thank them on Twitter, buy their books, follow them, etc. Because they truly deserve it.

Angie Sandro was Apple.


Lauren Spieller was Luna Lovegood.

L. L. McKinney was Gundam Girl.

Amanda Heger was Jessie Spano.

Wendy Nikel was River Tam.

Ingrid Seymour was Pen Dreamer.

Karen Bynum was ghostbuster_extraordinaire.


N.K. Traver

Sarah Glenn Marsh was Khaleesi.


Aimee Hyndman was Girl with the Golden Pen.

Pinterest: Aimee Hyndman

Tatum Flynn was OmarComin.

Naomi Hughes was Artemis.

Carla Luna Cullen was Invidia.

MJ O'Neill was Allusion Assassin.


Tracy Jorgensen was Sprocket.

Book Blurb
Win a copy of the book!

Heather Van Fleet was Book Boyfriend Connoisseur.

Amber Mitchell
was Papercuts.

Amy Trueblood was Tiny Tornado.

Stacey Trombley was Short Stack.

Katie Teller was The Hybrid.

N.N. Light was Mrs N, the Query Queen.


 S.K. Falls was Princess Primrose.

Jessika Fleck was Chelsea Morning.

Ami Allen-Vath was Sally Draper.

Amy Pine was Captain Yawp.

Katharyn Blair was Mrs. Malcolm Reynolds.

Richard Taylor Pearson was DivaDeconstructed.

Also, a HUGE sorry and special thanks to Susan Keogh whom we forgot to mention in the original post announcing the judges! Because of that, we'll include her bio here so you all can read! Again, huge sorry!

Susan Keogh was Baniac.

From her website:

When Susan Keogh won an elementary school writing contest and a trip to a regional young writers conference, she hadn’t realized that experience was the beginning of a love affair with words. Keogh was raised in a large family where reading was encouraged. Through her mother’s interest in history, Keogh grew to admire such authors as Michael Shaara and Bruce Catton, a fellow Michigan writer who focused on the American Civil War. So it was no wonder that her first writing credit was a featured article in the magazineAmerica’s Civil War. Keogh’s particular interest in the Civil War led her into re-enacting for several years as a field musician.

Keogh's most recent time period of historical interest is early colonial America and the age of piracy. She is crafting a series of novels that center around the adventures of Jack Mallory, a young Englishmen who is both pirate and eventually the patriarch of a large rice plantation in the colonial province of Carolina.

Outside of her writing life, Keogh works in the health care field and enjoys travel (preferably to warm places outside of her native Michigan!), the arts, and equestrian activities.

I know, I know, it seems like a lot of names. It is - 29 amazing judges who gave up their valuable time to help with this contest.

The least we can do is thank them on Twitter and follow them!

I'm going through and following everyone on Twitter who I wasn't following before - especially you Kombatants, try doing the same! They deserve it.

Also, we'd absolutely love it if you picked 3-5 judges (even more, if you wish!) who critiqued your entry and thank them on Twitter, detailing who you are, what they said, and why it was so helpful. It might not seem like much, but it can very possibly make somebody's day, somebody who gave you the critiques for free.

Feel free to Tweet under the hashtag #QueryKombat so judges can see your tweets even if you don't @ them (if it's directed towards a specific judge, please @ them!).

THANK YOU SO MUCH JUDGES! We could not have done this at all without you.