Monday, June 15, 2015

QK Round 2: Fake Heirs Do it Better vs. My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen

Entry Nickname: Fake Heirs Do It Better
Title: The First Law of Loyalty
Word Count: 97k
Genre: YA Fantasy


Every night, seventeen-year-old Arun climbs above the mud and grime of the streets into the grand hotels to steal the foreigners’ gold. The gang she serves follows the old philosophies, demanding strict obedience to elders and superiors. Arun is proud to serve them loyally, as her father does, too.

When her cousin, Jaruk, is one of several boys kidnapped by a Grand Duke as part of a plot to put a fake prince on the throne, her loyalties are torn. Gang rules forbid her from meddling with nobility or politics. Disobedience means death for her and dishonor for her father. But Arun loves Jaruk like a little brother, and the duke is torturing the boys in his attempts to recreate the long dead royal family’s magic.

What the gang doesn’t know, they can’t punish. Behind their backs, she trades information with some nobility, but she quickly realizes that even if she gets Jaruk out of the Grand Duke's hands, there will be nowhere to hide when his "prince" controls the country. To protect Jaruk, Arun must outwit the duke and discredit his prince with her own more convincing fake heir. It's a con too high-profile to hide. If she fails she's dead, and Jaruk will suffer, but success will bring the gang's wrath down on her, Jaruk, and her father.

First 250:

I would've rather been with my brothers, slinking through darkened hallways and snatching treasures from empty rooms. Instead, I sat at the back bar of a dockside inn. The stench of booze and sweat strangled me, the pressing heat like chains. Through the smoky haze, I stole glances at the unfortunate pair of foreign sailors beside me, their misfortune being they were idiots about to lose a bunch of money. At least, that was the plan.

They watched my accomplice, Petch, move three cards in circles on the bar top. Their thick, hairy arms folded across their chests gave them an intimidating edge, but the ignorant curiosity plastered on their pale faces indicated they'd make fine marks.

Petch stopped shuffling the cards. "Which one is the queen?" he shouted. The din of the off-key piano and the men bellowing along nearly swallowed his words. I placed a silver coin on the middle card. He flipped it, showing me the face of our country's first queen. Black smudged the edge of her gold headdress. I sent a silent apology her way for Petch shoving her face into the bar’s grime like that.

Petch pushed me two silver coins. Now came the part where I persuaded these sailors to throw money at the game, and therefore convinced Boss Suttirat I wasn't a completely incompetent con artist.

"You look intrigued." I turned to the sailors, tried to make my voice feathery and cute—not so easy with all the noise.


Entry Nickname:
My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen
Title: Bones of the Rabbit
Word Count: 88,000
Genre: YA High Fantasy


Eighteen-year-old Uriel Edan knows what people say about her. She’s a killer, a child of destruction, more like a savage dog than human--and the last heir of a dying line of sea lords. Uriel’s sure where she stands when it comes to her own people’s hate and fear of her. With her newly betrothed, she’s not just uncertain, she’s clueless.

Uriel knows her father is desperate to get rid of her—the daughter that killed his wife and son—but she expects poison, not a proposal to Askeladden Nyström, a powerful man from an ancient seafaring family. With Askeladden, Uriel expects lonely days and painful nights, but is surprised when he treats her with kindness. Slowly, she finds herself falling in love with the only person who sees her as something other than a murderer.

Her fragile peace is shattered when Askeladden reveals his plan to destroy the sea lords’ ocean kingdom and rebuild it from the ashes—a plot he urges Uriel to join. Joining Askeladden may give Uriel the respect and love she’s always craved, but she must decide if it’s worth her kingdom, culture, and proving the killer reputation she’s longed to leave behind.

First 250:

As my captor forced me to his master, I at least had the grim satisfaction that I’d put up a hell of a fight before going down. The bag covering my eyes didn’t stop me from guessing where I was headed. When I was pushed down on the coarse floorboard, the warship rocking beneath me confirmed my suspicious.

From across the cabin, I heard his voice. “It took all this?” Disapproval dripped from his voice. No change there. He sounded like he had six months ago.

My captor said, “She’s not one to come quietly.”

“Leave us.”

Footsteps retreated until a door slammed shut. I swallowed as the sack was lifted from my head, blinking away at the lights of my father’s quarters.

Jorah Edan stared at me with more fury than any storm. Father like daughter, I gave him the same look back.

Finally, he spoke, “Well?”

I observed him. “You’ve grown bald.”

My father sat down on his berth with a huff. The bed creaked and groaned; it was older than both of us combined. “Six months. Six months and all you can say is I’ve grown bald?”

“It was on my mind,” I said, pulling at the bindings on my wrist. He noticed, but made no effort to untie me. I longed for my dagger; the ivory-handled weapon sat beside my father. A bit of dried blood colored the brown leather.

At least I managed to cut the bastard. He won’t be using his hand the same again.


  1. Judges, please reply to this comment.

    1. Another tough call!

      Fake Heirs: I love the voice in the 250. A teenage girl as con-artist is very intriguing. I wish the voice could cary over to the query. Is there a way to infuse it with Arun's personality? I also think the third paragraph of the query is a little convoluted. I'm not sure you need all of it. I would think about starting that paragraph with "To protect Jaruk."

      Pirate Queen:
      I think the query spends a lot of time on her falling in love and not enough focusing on the conflict and the stakes. I.e. I think you only need one line saying she has a fiance, and did the surprising thing of falling in love with him. Then get to why that's a problem. The query also starts off strong with voice and then peters out a bit. Can you try to maintain it? The pace and voice are both perfect in the 250.

      I think these are both wonderful, but I have to go with the one I would pick up right away.


    2. Fake Heirs
      Query: You do a good job of setting a dark tone with your opening paragraph. Words like “grime” and “grand hotels” and “strict obedience” make this stand out. I’m always impressed when people take a fantasy and boil down all the world building and plot to a single page query, because it seems like so much to include in such a small space. I feel like you’re almost there, but right now there’s a tad too much going on. I’d cut the mentions of her father since dishonoring him, etc feels more like a subplot. The last paragraph is confusing for me, and I feel like I’m having to work too hard to connect the dots—particularly the last two lines. I’d look for more ways to simplify this.
      First 250: Great job. A fantastic first line and good use of sensory details. I’m definitely intrigued and would want to keep reading. My suggestions are very minor. At the end of the third paragraph, I’d rather hear the actual silent apology than be told there was one—there’s nothing “wrong” with the way you have it, but I think this is a chance to give us a little something unexpected and to enhance the MC’s voice. The last paragraph I’d swap the dialogue with the action. Right now it reads as though the MC speaks then turns to them, but I’m assuming the turning happens first.

      Teenage Pirate Queen
      Query: Wowza, this sounds amazing. Great job of boiling down high fantasy into an easy to follow query. Only a couple of very minor suggestions: In the first paragraph, I’d cut the last two sentences. They don’t add anything that you don’t cover (very well, I might add) in the second paragraph, and the info about her newly betrothed is confusing because it comes out of nowhere. The last line doesn’t flow as well as it could because you have noun, noun, and verb. A simple fix would be something like “…worth losing her kingdom or culture. Or proving the killer reputation she’s longed to leave behind.” (I feel like there’s a better word for this than proving, but I’m blanking. Sorry.)
      First 250: You do a good job of drawing the tension through this page. For the most part, you revealed just enough information. I wanted to keep reading because I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I knew enough about what was happening that I didn’t feel frustrated. However, there were a couple of parts where I thought you held too much back. In the second paragraph I wasn’t sure who was talking—the captor or the master. I’d hold out until the end of this paragraph and then tell us it’s the father. “No change there. My father sounded just like he had six months ago.” (This is a justified use of “just” IMO.) Also, separate the next line with the captor’s dialogue into a separate paragraph. You have some typos here (I know they seem to multiply after a revision), so make sure you read it aloud and have someone else take a look before you send out your pages. Be sure you aren’t saying the same thing in two different ways. For example, in the paragraph that begins “Jorah Edan stared at me…” I’d cut the “I gave him the same look back” b/c it’s implied by the “father like daughter.”

      Well done both of you! Victory to Fake Heirs.

    3. Princess of LlamasJune 17, 2015 at 1:57 AM

      I’ve read both these entries before, and I think these queries and 250s are much better. Nicely done.

      FAKE HEIRS: The only issue I have with the query is the stakes. Right now it reads as though she “loses” no matter what she does. If she beats the duke, the gang hates her, and if she doesn’t beat the duke she dies. That’s kind of depressing, and almost creates a feeling of hopelessness in that who cares what she does/why get invested if she’s sure to meet her demise? I’d suggest re-working those last couple lines to offer a glimmer of hope. I think you can scratch, “It's a con too high-profile to hide” and work that part in the stakes:

      “To protect Jaruk, Arun must outwit the duke and discredit his prince with her own more convincing fake heir—all without the gang discovering her plan. Because if either the duke or her gang catch wind of her scheme, Jaruk will be put to death and it’ll be the last con Arun ever runs.”

      OK, I realize this isn’t great. It’s actually quite bad, but my hope is that it’s enough to show where I’m coming from. I think if you can close with an awesome hook, you’d have an incredibly powerful query!

      I love the 250. I think I said before this starts exactly in the right place. Great voice, great action, descriptions without bogging down the plot. Etc. Nicely done!

      PIRATE QUEEN: I like this revised query a lot. You’ve ousted those vague lines and put in some great details. My only issue (as with your competitor!) is the murky stakes. I’m still wondering what it is that Uriel is doing for what I imagine is a good portion of the book. Picking a side is what exactly? Telling her hubs she’s with him and against her father? Then what? If she’s the MC, certainly she’s actually doing something in the book other than watching her hubs fight her father. I’d like to know what that is. Your 250 shows us she’s someone prone to action, so I can’t believe she’d be on the sidelines no matter which side she takes.

      Also, I’m not really seeing why she’d care what her old kingdom thinks of her anymore based on how you set it up in the first sentences of the query. If they really think she’s a savage dog, and her dad ships her away, why would she fight for them or protect them? Why wouldn’t she want to show them she’s a force to be reckoned with and they never should have mistreated her? If there’s a reason she still longs for dear old dad, you might want to re-think the query’s opening because it’s so anti-dad and anti-kingdom, it’s hard to believe she’d ever want to fight for him.

      The 250 is strong. There’s a typo—suspicious vs. suspicions, and a little of the dialogue reads clunky: “My captor said,” and “I observed him” are examples. We know she’s observing him, you’ve already mentioned the stare down. Plus, we get such a great sense of her in the opening paragraphs, snark included, that her retort, “You’ve grown bald” seems out of place. I can see her throwing the “Well?” right back in his face: “Well, you’re bald” or saying something else in line with her attitude thus far: “Well, your ship still stinks and the floorboards still creak,” which would let the reader in on the fact she knows the ship so well too. Just a thought. Overall though I’d keep reading!

      Another tough match-up!! You both made significant changes, and these are a lot better. I’d read them both. On a purely subjective basis though, one entry holds more interest for me. Victory to FAKE HEIRS!


      Query: Excellent job. Your query is concise, making it easy for a reader to follow along. Often, fantasy writers try to stuff too much information into the 250 and sacrifice clarity. I think you could tighten this by removing the father from the query. I realize he’s significant in the story, but he’s doesn’t play a huge role in the stakes. Taking him out will give you words to add more voice. There’s nothing wrong with what you have here, but I’d love to see a more of Arun shining through.

      First 250: Great voice and sensory details. Phrases like “sweat strangled me, the pressing heat like chains” paint a fantastic picture in my mind. I feel like I’m with her in the bar. The “I stole line” is awkwardly phrased. Maybe break it up.


      Query: The second line of your query is perfect. It really draws me in. I wonder if you could rephrase the first so it also pops; perhaps by combining the second sentence with the first. Saying she knows she’s a killer is much more interesting than saying she knows what people think of her. Your third sentence repeats the first. I realize it leads to her uncertainty about her betrothed, but if you rephrase the first paragraph so you won’t need to repeat.

      I worry when an MC spends time knowing or expecting things in a query, because it suggests they’re not active. You use knowing to start your first two paragraphs. Consider showing the active role your MC plays in your 250.

      First 250: You have a typo in your first paragraph; it should suspicion. It’s hard sending revising entries in a contest like this. You tweak a billion times, and sometimes miss things. Consider putting the entry in a different font and/or getting another CP to look it over before hitting send.

      To avoid the repeat of voice, you could use: “From across the cabin, he spoke.” Or rephrase to include the disapproval in the first part.

      I’d love a little more internal from her. Is she frightened, cocky, ready to challenge him? Her actions speak to challenge, but don’t hesitate to add internal just to save words.

      Otherwise, I really enjoyed this. Your MC’s voice is loud and strong.

      I needed to step away and think about this. Both of these entries are strong and I imagine they got multiple requests in the agent round. I’ve seen many agents looking for pirates in the last six months, which makes me wonder if the market will soon be saturated. Because of that, I choose: VICTORY TO FAKE HEIRS

    5. First off, both of these are way out of my league of writing and critiquing so please take my comments with a grain of salt. That said, I’ll do my best to give helpful feedback.

      Fake Heirs

      Query: Your query is strong and pulls me into the story. But I am left wondering if Arun wins either way. That last paragraph makes it as though fail or succeed she still loses.

      First 250:

      Fantastic first 250! The voice is wonderful and setting is clear.

      Pirate Queen

      Query: Ohh! This is so terrific! I want to read this and it isn’t even a genre I read so nice job. I do wonder why she is hated though. If she is a killer and child of destruction can you elaborate more on that?

      First 250:

      The first 250 is strong and well written. I agree with another commenter. Wouldn’t she know where she was before the creaky boards? Try to include her surroundings. Seagulls. Ocean sounds. Breeze blowing. Salty air. That sort of thing.

      Both of these entries are amazing and I hope to see them both published. In the end, which one would I read based on the first 250 and query?

      Victory to Pirate Queen

    6. This is a tough choice! Both are fantastic and the authors should be proud!

      Fake Heirs:
      Query: The one issue I have with this query is the way there doesn’t seem to be any option for Arun—I’m sure that in the story, she finds a resolution but there has to be a sense of that somehow within the query itself. The stakes are high (clearly!), but the reader needs a little hope. I think the mentions of her father might be something you can cut. I wonder if the last line in the query could be changed in a way that summarizes the stakes but doesn’t make it seem like there’s no way out at all.

      First 250:
      Great imagery! This is fantastic.

      My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen:
      Query: What a GREAT query! You really did a fantastic job of weaving in two story lines and making the query easy to follow. I know this is small, but in the second line where you mention Uriel’s certainty with her role when it comes to her people…adding a “But,” before “With her newly betrothed” might add more contrast. Then for the second paragraph, I would perhaps restructure those to provide the contrasts between what Uriel expects each time and what she is surprised by. Each time, you’ve written “She expects,” and “but”. Mix up the variety in word choice to drive home the difference in what her expectation is versus what the outcome ends up being. I love the way you close this query.

      First 250:
      Wow! Loved it. It was compelling and I could really see what was happening.

      Victory goes to MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE PIRATE QUEEN.

    7. This was the toughest match-up I've seen yet!

      PIRATE QUEEN: I remember your query from the last round, and it's greatly improved! My only remaining suggestion is that the next time you revise, make us more aware of your MC's actions. She sounds quite passive in the first two paragraphs of your query, and I'm certain that's not the case in the story, so you should make sure your query reflects what she's doing rather than just what's happening to her. Hope that makes sense!

      I love the voice in your 250, because I think it has a slight contemporary note that will draw in readers who don't necessarily gravitate toward fantasy! I'm also a sucker for anything with a sea setting.

      FAKE HEIRS: Love the premise in your query, and those are some dire stakes! Is there any hope for Arun having a happy outcome? If there is, make sure you hint at that toward the end of your query. But either way, this sounds like a fast-paced and exciting read!

      I slipped right into your first 250; the writing style really appeals to me. I also think you've got a great title.

      Both of these are such strong entries, and both have really polished writing...(can you tell I'm torn?). Going by a slight preference for the premise and writing style to make my final decision.

      Victory to...FAKE HEIRS!

    8. Tough match up. I’m getting called in here on my ‘round off,’ as it were, so I won’t be as verbose as I have been in previous entries. Also, these are both excellent entries, and issues I have with either of them or both quibbles.


      I haven’t seen this entry yet. Cute nickname, by the way, which always puts me in a receptive mood.


      High fantasy, such as this, I think is one of the hardest genres to query well. As others have noticed, I think you do an excellent job of making the stakes and stories very clear. And I absolutely love your hook of dueling fake heirs. It seems like great fun.

      For me what I’m missing from this query is voice-- the tone of the story is a little amorphous from the query, and while I’ve got a handle on the plot and Arun’s dilemma, I’m not as sure I get as much of a sense of Arun or the style of the piece itself. If you’re going to ‘win’ QK, (or just go crazy with agent requests) you’ll want to get some more of Arun’s personality into that query.


      I love this 250. Having your MC playing “Find the Queen” in a story about fake royalty is very clever, and yet not oppresively thematic. Good work! You should be proud of that little detail. I like just about everything about this (save for an odd overlong sentence or two) and I am ready to go on this journey with you.


      This entry I have seen before. I liked it then, and I like it now. It’s been improved, but do I think its fundamental weaknesses are the same. The query is good, but not really amazing. Wheras the 250 is awesome. Romilda said upstream that she thought the love interest comes a little out of the blue, and I would echo that.

      I also desperately want a “But” to begin the final sentence in the last paragraph.


      Like your Kombatant, you’ve got a great 250 here. The first line, I think, is especially killer, and I want to follow this character through on their journey.


      The Verdict:

      It’s very close. The good news is that you’ve both been in the agent round, so we’re just quibbling here anyway. When I get cornered like this, however, I spring for my favorite 250.


    9. Fake Heirs Do It Better Query:

      Nice job with the query. The world building and stakes are clearly defined. In the first paragraph, I wanted to get a hint of why she was loyal enough to steal. I can assume family loyalty, but that extra detail of why is a good place to add voice and show the uniqueness view of your character. The only other spot that gave me pause was the word “some” in some nobility; it’s a weak word that could be replaced by a more specific word choice. Or you could cut that whole line and begin with “If she gets Jaruk out…” Very well done.

      First 250:

      A really solid opening! There’s immediate conflict with the character wishing she were somewhere else. Lots of sensory and setting details to orient the reader, and a goal right away. This reads easily and is very engaging. The tone pairs well with the query. I really can’t find anything to pick apart other than I don’t know the character’s name yet. I think the name can wait for page 2 since enough is going on.

      Entry Nickname: My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen
      Title: Bones of the Rabbit
      My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen Query:

      The opening line to this is great and says so much. The stakes are both personal and external, which is captured really well here. I like that several times it’s stated what Uriel wants or expects so we get an idea of her motives. The work put into this really shows.

      First 250:

      I still love this first line. It’s great. This is immediate action that is at least slowed down enough to have time to show the details needed. I like the slow reveal that this is her father. Lots of great setting details, and the focus on the relationship. That drew me in right away.

      Ok, so remind me again why we have to pick only one? This match-up is dang near impossible. I have not seen a Kombat so evenly matched in all my 2 days here. I realize deciding votes are needed. Please know that one choice over the other is not at all indication that the one not chosen is lacking. Both of these are strong. But there can only be one.


    10. Fake Heirs Do It Better

      I judged this one the first round, so I’ll try not to repeat myself :)

      I really like the changes. It was already pretty good, and now reads even stronger. If I was to nitpick, I would point out that the two lines…

      “Disobedience means death for her and dishonor for her father”


      “… but success will bring the gang's wrath down on her, Jaruk, and her father”

      … more or less say the same thing using somewhat similar language. I like the hook as it now reads, so would suggest maybe rewording the earlier line (like I said, super-picky). Well written queries are so tight that any repetitions tend to stand out. Also, if you leave the last line as is, I would suggest cutting “and Jaruk will suffer” not because it isn’t accurate to the story, but more for the rhythm of how the hook reads (and although Jaruk may well suffer consequences regardless of which path Arun chooses, you don’t necessarily have to mention him both times in a query; the focus is Arun).

      Also, to my ear “as her father does, too” would sound better as “as does her father.”

      First 250:
      As with the first round, I don’t have too much to say on this 250. It feels pretty solid to me. One nitpick though:

      “You look intrigued.” I turned to the sailors — Having her speak before she turns feels weird to me. I would have her turn first, then say her line.

      My Life as a Teenage Pirate Queen

      This one is new to me. Another well written query overall. The stakes are clear and it has a powerful hook (protect a family that rejects her vs. let the one person who accepts her destroy her family).

      A few nitpicks:

      With her newly betrothed, she’s not just uncertain, she’s clueless. — This introduces her betrothed, but then he sort of gets a second introduction in the next paragraph as well.

      Uriel Edan knows / Uriel’s sure / Uriel knows / Uriel expects — Any one of these is fine on its own, but in such a tight space the repetition stands out. Intentional repetition can be good, but unintentional repetition should be sought out and destroyed :)

      Point of logic: if Uriel is “the last heir of a dying line of sea lords” and Askeladden is seeking to destroy the kingdom, why not just kill her (since from the rest of the plot he seems to have no qualms about destroying an entire kingdom).

      First 250:
      And another strong entry. Nicely done. My only comment here might be to make even better use of the five senses. A scene set aboard a warship begs to be heard, smelled, etc.


      When I was pushed down on the coarse floorboard, the warship rocking beneath me confirmed my suspicious. — If the warship rocking is what gives it away, not sure what being pushed down to the floor has to do with it (as it now stands, the sentences feels as though it’s trying to tie these two things together; could just be me though).


      Well, well, this is indeed a tough one. Honestly, I’d be happy to read either one, as I find both stories intriguing and both narratives engaging. But since I have to choose, and since I think the query for the first one is maybe just a little tighter and the 250 has a slightly stronger narrative voice, I’m going to say VICTORY TO FAKE HEIRS DO IT BETTER!

  2. Fake Heirs:

    Query: (Yay, no more capitalization of grand hotels!) Don’t think you need the too in the first paragraph. The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs feel a little too much like a summary.

    250: “Through the smoky haze, I stole glances at the unfortunate pair of foreign sailors beside me, their misfortune being they were idiots about to lose a bunch of money.” is a confusing line. Otherwise I like it.

    Pirate Queen:

    Query: Maybe “Uriel knows where she stands” instead of “Uriel’s sure.” Oh wait, but then I get confused. She knows where she stands with her people, she’s unsure where she stands with her betrothed, and then it seems to back track to her dad wanting to get rid of her with the proposal. So, maybe ditch the last line of the first paragraph.

    250: Space between “covering” and “my.” And “suspicions” not “suspicious.” Missing a space between paragraphs, and need a space between “my” and “father’s.” Watch the little things, because otherwise it’s a good 250.

  3. Fake Heirs

    I keep reading “Fake Heirs” as “Fakirs”, and thinking the book is about Hindu or Sufi mystics. It would be satisfying to find out that there is one hiding in the text somewhere.

    The query:

    This needs a little bit more clean up. I actually think the second paragraph would be a better place to start; the first sentence of the second paragraph is gripping and sets the stakes immediately. You also include much of the information about the gangs’ thieves’ code in a much more concrete way in the second paragraph, and I prefer that to the vague threat in the first. All you need to do is weave in Arun’s identity as a thief and her father as the one leading her into crime (and I’m not even sure about that because he’s not really mentioned again until the last line of the query).

    The third paragraph is full of plot elements and characters, but they all flash by too fast to catch onto. I wonder if it might be better to begin with a sentence saying she’s going to have to pull off the con of a lifetime, fooling both the brotherhood of thieves and the crown court itself, in order to save Jaruk. That gives you more room to introduce the idea of the fake heirs (are they characters as well?).

    Small thing – I like to see the name of the character written the first time it appears in a paragraph rather then “she”. It takes me a few paragraphs in any book to get names into my head, and I think other readers would like the help as well.

    The 250:

    I really, really like this. I actually think your query is currently underselling the quality of your writing. I might change “the pressing heat like chains” to “the heat pressing like chains”, but that’s a judgment call.

    Go forth and “con”quer!

  4. My life as a teenage pirate queen

    First off: I love a romantic pirate story and I was keen to read on after the 250.

    The query:

    There’s a lot going on in the first paragraph, yet it’s vague, and it leaves me with questions. Why do her people hate her? Who did she kill? Then there’s a reference to Uriel’s betrothed, but that’s a story that gets told in the second paragraph of the query (and that’s the right place for it). I’m not sure if this first paragraph is meant to be a logline, or meant to lead into the second paragraph. I think it would work better as a lead in. I would move the fact that Uriel murdered her mother and brother up into the first paragraph, where it sets up her character and her conflict with her father.

    In the second paragraph: should it say “proposal from” rather than “ proposal to”? As to “Her fragile peace is shattered…”, nothing about Uriel’s situation sounds that peaceful. You might say her “new-found happiness” instead. I also stumbled over “proving her reputation”. Maybe “solidifying” her reputation?

    The 250:

    There are some words that need fixing (“confirmed my suspicious” -> “confirmed my suspicions”; “floorboard” -> “floorboards” or even “decking” since it’s a ship). I also think it should say “Like father, like daughter”. These are all small things, but many small mistakes start to cloud a reader’s vision.

    My biggest quibble with the 250: Does Uriel only identify that she’s on a ship from the rocking once she’s on board? For a pirate’s daughter, even one with a bag over her head, there should have been so many clues before then. The sound of seagulls. The smell of the sea. The feel of the dock under her feet (if in a harbor). The rowboat trip (if moored further out). Climbing the gangplank or the rope ladder to board the ship. If it’s a case of recognizing her father’s ship rather than any other ship, then that needs to be clearer. Every ship, like every home, should have it’s own smell. The rocking of a specific ship might be recognizable, but it would have to be in choppy enough water to rock noticeably. Someone who’s been at sea for most of her life might not even notice the rocking of the boat that much – it would be a more familiar motion than the stillness of dry land.

    Heck, caring this much means I’m invested, and that’s a good thing.

    Deal with these – ultimately minor - fixes and I think the query and 250 would sparkle.

  5. Fake heirs
    Query: How awesome! This is my first time reading this entry and I adore it. You set up a really strong main character and there’s a lot of detailed imagery that drew me into the world you’re creating. For the most part, everything read very smoothly for me. The only hiccup was in the third paragraph: “there will be nowhere to hide when his “prince” controls the country.” I think it will read better if you put ‘fake’ or ‘created’ (or something) in front of “prince” just so we know for certain that’s what it is.

    250: I like where you’ve started the story. The scene is tense. I feel for Arun as she’s trying to pull off a con. Great atmosphere. Nice work!

    Teenage Pirate Queen
    Query: There’s a lot of new information in here that kind of throws me. What is a sea lord? Also, I think you should explain how Uriel killed her mom and brother otherwise I don’t have that much sympathy for her. Was it an accident? I love the romantic aspect of Uriel falling for her arranged husband. When Askeladden wants to destroy the ocean kingdom, I think we need more info as to why--is it for power? So he can rule? Because the kingdom is corrupt? Or is he just a destroyer of things? It makes a big difference in how I feel about him if I know his motivation and, consequently, it adds to the weight of Uriel’s decision. On the whole, this sounds like a pretty juicy story and one I’d like to read!

    250: A lot of great sensory imagery in this! The blood on the knife. The creaking bed. The rocking of the ship. You instantly transport us into the scene and it is rich with detail! Check for the typo in the first paragraph: suspicions. Also, I was kind of thrown with the dialogue tag: My captor said, “she’s not one to come quietly.” It seems oddly formal. Otherwise, great work!

    This one is going to be tough for the judges. Good luck to you both!

  6. Fake Heirs: Love concept – it’s like a reimagined Aladdin in some ways. As far as the query, I don’t think you need the “too” in the sentence “after father does.” Also, I had to read the last sentence of the query a few times – I think it could be reworded to be clearer. I enjoyed your first 250 – it drops us right in. The only thing I hope is that we get a description of Perch soon so we’ll know more about the narrator through her accomplice.
    Pirate Queen: Still love the 250. I’m not sure you need the last two lines of the first paragraph of your query, though. I think you could just segwue from the last of the dying line of sea lords to her father getting rid of her.
    No wonder this one’s tied – great concepts, both!

  7. Both stories sound interesting, but the Heir story sounds stronger - a tighter plot.

    My vote goes to Fake Heirs Do It Better. The writing is better, the query's better and the stakes are more dire...death...can't beat that.

    Plus, it would seem the decision for the MC in the Pirate Queen story should be fairly easy to make....stick with someone who is the first to treat her like a person, someone who wants her, or the society that has treated her like dirt and includes a man (father) who wants to be rid of her...and according to her, she suspected he might poison her to do it.

    Something else that confuses me about the Pirate Queen story (maybe this is answered in the MS) is that if the father is set to be rid of her, why would the father find her, bring her back, just to get rid of her again by arranging a marriage? If he'd just left her wherever his henchman had found her, he would have been rid of her.

    For the Pirate Queen story, watch for repetition. In 250 words, 'six months' is used 3 times, and 'grown bald' twice. I realize there are times when a repeating of words are necessary, but I think in this instance, the repetition is not needed. And fix your 'suspicious' to 'suspicion' and eliminate the passive voice in the 3rd sentence of your first paragraph to make that scene stronger.

    Again, both stories sound interesting, but my vote goes to Fake Heirs Do It Better.