Tuesday, July 1, 2014

QK FINAL ROUND! Tag, You're Dead vs. Shalom Sasquatch

Entry Nickname: Tag, You're Dead
Title: Tag, You’re Dead (originally The Game)
Word count: 80,000
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 words:


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.


Entry Nickname:
Shalom Sasquatch
Title: Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things
Word count: 77,000
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 words:

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.


  1. Allusion AssassinJuly 1, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Congrats to both of you! I know we'll be seeing you both in bookstores soon.

    But there's only been one for me since the very start.

    Victory to: TAG, YOU'RE DEAD

  2. I reread these very closely for the nth time, because it's such a hard choice, and noticed two little things:

    TAG: I wish the reasons behind the Its' taking part were a little darker and more complex, especially Robin's. A beauty, an athlete and a brain is a bit of a cliche. (Having said that, it's all in the execution and I already love to hate Brandy, so...)

    SASQUATCH: As a Brit, a tiny thing that bugged me a bit: I don't think Americans realise how rude the word 'wankers' is (or what it actually means :) I guess the nearest US equivalent would be 'assholes'. Also, it isn't an insult that's ever levelled at girls, so it doesn't make sense for him to call her mostly-female family that. It does make me worry you won't get British Devan's dialogue right in the book.

    Overall, wow, this is an impossible choice. They're both fantastic. In the end, subjectively, I'm not a huge fan of romance, and objectively, I can see Tag being extremely marketable. So...


  3. Loved both of these entries and would love to read more. The only way I could come to a decision between the two was by imagining both of them in the table in front of me and trying to figure out which one I'd reach for first right now, so this vote is entirely based on personal tastes/interests. That would be...

    Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD

  4. Both great, but I have to go with the one I'd personally want to read first. (I want to read both of them, but one before the other).

  5. Princess PrimroseJuly 1, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    This is an impossible choice. IMPOSSIBLE, I SAY. I've been dreading voting for only one of these entries. Ultimately, after hours of vacillation, I went with the entry that completely floored me with its humorous plot line, diverse characters, and punchy writing.


    *rocks in corner*

  6. As much as I like a dark, thrilling premise, I agree with OmarComin--I'd have liked to see more complex motivations on the part of the Taggers. And being the sucker for quirk that I am...


  7. Both of these are great, but I'm voting for the one that captured my geeky heart.


  8. ghostbuster_extraordinaireJuly 1, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    Wow. This decision was extremely difficult. First of all, congrats to both entries for making it to the FINAL round! You deserve a mega round of applause. Great job for all the hard work and dedication. BOTH of your stories sparkle, and I want to read them both! Seriously, when they're published, I will buy them. But, only one can be the victor. For me, the concept, title, opening line, and pacing in this story wins out...

    Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD!!!!

  9. Am I seriously supposed to vote on these? Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! I love them both. Hmmm... I wish I could pass on this round. Okay, let's just do it like a band-aid and get it over with.

    Victory to... SHALOM SASQUATCH

  10. DivaDeconstructedJuly 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    I mean...these are honestly too good to justify a choice between. In situations like this it comes down to pure subjectivity. I think SHALOM SASQUATCH has a super great voice and a strong query, but TAG, YOU'RE DEAD is equally well written and pitched. The thing is...I really want to read a story similar to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD next, so for me...that puts it a fraction of a percent above SHALOM SASQUATCH.


  11. Congratulations to both of you in making it to the final round!

    In the end, this came down to personal preference for me. I am partial to "ticking clock" style stories so TAG stuck out to me. My only suggestion would be that you clarify how big the Game is. The query reads as if this was some underground teen gang activity, but the first page made it clear this is a huge financial corporation. I think that would have piqued more of my interest in the query, because for outlandish premises I like to see the realistic tether holding it to our current reality. Even with this suggestion, the pages sang for me. In just a few short lines of dialogue, you created a character I would love to hate. You show the reader she's a self-obsesses little rich girl, whose parents give her whatever she wants and clean up her messes and bad behavior with excuses and money. Perfect.

    Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD

  12. Girl with the Golden PenJuly 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Congratz to both of you for getting this far. You both have really strong, awesome entries. But as I've been saying from round one- TAG stole my heart. It has everything I love and if I saw it on a shelf I would pick it up today.

    Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD!

  13. Congratulations on making the final round! I was really impressed by both entries and I'd love to read more of both :)

  14. Victory to SHALOM SASQUATCH!

  15. Both of these entries are unique and have great potential. At this point, I'm basing my votes on premise and how the first 250 grabs me. Tough one, but...

    Victory to SHALOM SASQUATCH!

  16. Uggh, no, seriously I have to pick between these two amazing entries?

    First, I think both writers should be VERY PROUD of what they have accomplished. The competition in this QUERY KOMBAT has been brutal and to get this far is a credit to both your premise & writing skills.

    In my previous comments, I stated how much I love the idea & writing in TAG, YOU'RE DEAD. While I love the query for it's "grab you by the throat" feel, the first 250 didn't pull me in as much.

    As far as SHALOM SASQUATCH, I have to say that voice grabs me every time, and this query & 250 is dripping with it.

    In the end it's a HARD choice, but victory goes to...


  17. Congratulations to both participants! My word, out of 230 submissions, no small feat AT ALL. I really enjoyed both submissions, TAG sounds dark and I absolutely love dark thrillers. That said, the premise for Shalom Sasquatch really pulled at my 'personal taste' strings, so I would have to say, victory goes to...


  18. For me this is easy. Not because both entries aren't AMAZING (they are), Shalom Sasquatch has some serious voice that's tough to beat but there's something about Tag, You're Dead that just pulls me in. I don't know if it'll sell because it does seem to get close to Hunger Games and even the newer Murder Complex (which I haven't read yet.) (I HOPE this worry is unfounded but I know how this industry can be) But while Shalom Sasquatch has this amazing voice I would definitely love to sit down and hang out with for a while, its Tag, You're Dead that I feel I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. Both of these will do great things. Both of these authors are talented so never give up! But for now I'm casting my vote in the only way I can: pure subjective personal taste.

    Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD

  19. I DO NOT WANT TO VOTE. I love the query the best for SHALOM SASQUATCH and the pages the best for TAG. I am rooting so hard for both of these stories and can't wait to hear about their deals in the upcoming year!!
    I'm only voting because I've been assigned to this round and have a commitment so I am saying VICTORY TO...
    Shalom Sasquatch
    Congrats to you both! Both of these would look so great on the shelves and I wish you two best of luck in your journey to pub!!
    xoxoSally Draper

  20. Both plots seem incredible and I absolutely cant wait to read more about both of them! I love the diversity presented in shalom sasquatch and even the writing struck me as a laid back, fun summer read.
    That being said the plot for TAG seems absolutely delightful. Im already intrigued and cant wait to figure out more about it. My only question is, is getting tagged synonymous with being dead? And who exactly does tje killing, the 'its'? Or is there a third party involved.
    Either way kudos to both plots. Simply fantastic
    winner: TAG

  21. Victory to SHALOM SASQUATCH! Congrats to both entries!

  22. They both sound like great reads, but personally, I'm more drawn toward Sasquatch so...

    Victory to SHALOM SASQUATCH!

  23. Congratulations to both of you!


  24. Book Boyfriend ConnoisseurJuly 1, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    From the beginning, I've had my eye on one of theses queries more than the other. Not because I believe it's better written, more so because the premise is more appealing to me. So based on my personal preference...


  25. I've gushed about both of these before - these are both books I would definitely read. For me, what decides this victory is the relational complexities of the pairs in TAG, which I'm dying to see play out. I can't wait to have both of these on my shelf.


  26. At this point, everything really comes down to subjectivity. I think TAG, YOU'RE DEAD sounds like a fabulous premise, but am still worried about the potential cliche-ness of the brain, beauty and athlete characters. I love Shalom Sasquatch and think it has a really strong, unique, fun storyline (a Jewish family that hunts Sasquatch on TV? UM YES PLEASE). So I say... VICTORY TO SHALOM SASQUATCH!

  27. Both of these entries are so wonderful and I would happily continue reading both. That makes picking an ultimate winner really tough. Both writers should feel so proud to have gotten this far.

    TAG has an amazing premise backed up by a first page that sucks me right in. The first 250 words completely changed my mind about following Brandy in a narrative.

    SHALOM has a voice that sucks me in. I'm pretty much obsessed with it and I love the quirky premise.


  28. LOVE both these entries. It's so hard having two favorites paired together! I wish you both every success. :)

    Victory to...SHALOM SASQUATCH!

  29. Both of these are well written so it came down to content preference for me. TAG, YOU'RE DEAD is too dark for this ol' gal, though I'm sure there is a HUGE market out there for it, so I'm confident you will find publishing success with it. I liked the balance of irony and humor in SHALOM.


    Congratulations to you both!

  30. Congrats to both entries. I adored the humorous voice in Shalom Sasquatch and I can definitely see this being a fun, quirky story, but something about Tag, You're Dead just gave me goosebumps. I agree that I'd like to see a little bit more in the query that shows how this is much more than a bunch of kids playing a deadly game but the implication of a bigger hand. Like Sara mentioned, the sample was amazing. I have a character I want to hate, and without knowing her yet, a character to root for.
    Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD

  31. Victory to TAG, YOURE DEAD for most improvement!

  32. Congrats to both! Both seem really fun and I would love to see both of them! I would say victory to Tag by a slim margin.

  33. These are two great entries but my vote goes to the one I'd most like to read.

  34. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJuly 2, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    Guys, both these entries are amazing, and it's incredibly hard to choose. But I'm going to have to award VICTORY to SHALOM!!