Monday, June 15, 2015

QK Round 2: Queen of Drones vs. Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style

Entry Nickname: Queen of Drones
Title: The Chimera’s Snare
Word count: 85K
YA Sci-fi Postapocalyptic


After a failed scientific experiment, twenty-four settlements scattered in the ruins of North America are all that remain of human civilization. Sixteen-year-old June lives confined to an underground bunker at Alpha settlement. Her only link to the outside world is the streaming feed on her holographic monitor; her only companion is her stoic, infuriatingly secretive guard Kyle.

When flesh-eating, genetically engineered chimaeras destroy Alpha, June’s isolation is shattered. She and Kyle trek through a mutant-infested bayou to the next viable settlement, Omega, where they encounter three other Alpha survivors. But, each person remembers the attack differently and June races to piece together the truth behind their conflicting memories before the survivors turn on each other. Alpha’s damaged records could hold the key to reconciling their stories and finding a way to fight the chimaeras, but with four other settlements destroyed, June and Kyle have to act quickly, before the monsters strike again.

The two return to Alpha’s subterranean passages to search for remnants of lost data, instead they unravel a past that ties them directly to the horror of chimaeras. June discovers she is a clone, engineered to turn the world into a beehive of zombie-like drones, and Kyle is an assassin sent to stop her. An assassin, whose wiped memories are beginning to resurface. If June isn’t strong enough to override the monstrous program in her DNA, she must persuade Kyle to follow his orders and kill her.

To make matters worse, another clone would stop at nothing to rule the human beehive.

First 250 words:

June felt the vibration in her bones seconds before the emergency siren shrilled to life. The wave of sound passed through the thick layer of earth, slamming against the bunker’s titanium bearings. The walls and the ceiling shuddered and the silver chess figurines on the table knocked against each other, her careful strategy scrambled into chaos.

In a space of a heartbeat she was up, her ear pressed to the concrete, straining to catch familiar sounds beyond the blaring wail.

The main generator was silent.

We can’t stop the apocalypse, but we can survive it.
June scowled at the enclave’s oh-so-optimistic motto flickering on the holographic monitor over her bed. Grasping at straws wasn't surviving.

She climbed on the mattress, licked her fingers and reached towards the air conditioning ducts. Nothing, other than a faint scent of mildew. And apples. In the settlement apples were a luxury. Wondering which chemical compound could've produced the odor, she didn’t notice when the siren cut out.

For several long moments the walls preserved its echo, fainter with each iteration. But the air conditioner, the generator, and the intercom system didn’t come back online.

“Kyle?” June never liked the sound of her voice. It pitched childishly high and the discord between her chronological age and her frail, angular body made her acutely self-conscious.

“Kyle, where are you?”

Not in the bunker. Otherwise, he would’ve already responded.

She jumped off the bed and rubbed her bare foot against her calf. The floor was rapidly cooling and this too was wrong.



Entry Nickname:
Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style
Title: Emergence
Word Count: 66k
Genre: YA Space Opera


The year is 2088. Solar flares have turned Earth to a dusty red planet, and mankind has terraformed Mars into utopia. So far, only the lucky have migrated to a brave new world…or so it would seem.

Sixteen-year-old Joey Westen never thought she’d go to Mars. Her life of painting murals on the walls of her lead-lined home was good enough, until a golden letter arrived in the mail. She and her twin brother, Jesse, won a spot in the Emergence Program. They’ll be jetting off on the next flight to humanity’s new home, and the shuttle leaves tomorrow.

It takes only minutes in space for Joey and Jesse to realize something’s wrong, as a total ship lockdown was not in the brochure. After meeting their roommates, the Matsuda twins (notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), they discover an extremist plot to sabotage the Emergence Program. No other shuttles made the trek to Mars, their lush paradise waits empty, and the terrorist responsible is loose onboard their ship. They didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space to be slaughtered by a psycho in a high-tech tin can. These two sets of siblings will lie, hack, even kill to survive the attacks and make it to their promised land.

First 250:

Joey pulled a helmet over her head and fastened the latch to her anti-radiation suit. So much work, just to get the weekly post. Her art kit waited, the sketch of an ocean left unfinished, but chores don’t do themselves.

After flipping on her oxygen tank, she hit a red button on the wall. A buzzer sounded and the outer door of her home crept open, sucking all air from the room. Light glared off metal, shocking her eyes for a split second. The sun’s flare raged today, no different from yesterday, and the same forecast as tomorrow.

She slid down her visor. A reflection of the deep crimson sky colored the lens of her old spacesuit, which still bore the tag from Goodwill. Her boots scattered dust with each step, a cloud of scarlet haze kicking up when she stopped. While peering through tinted glass, she imagined the land as her mother described it. The reddish tint, which covered the parched countryside, transformed to crisp green meadows and pools of turquoise shaded water. Heavy layers of gray smog gave way to puffy white clouds.

Her fantasy ended when a ray of sunlight pierced through her visor. She lifted her arm, blocking the shimmer that bounced from a monstrous glass dome. Hard soil crunched as she neared the edge of a steep drop-off. She gazed down, spying into the elite A-Sector. All those people, strolling along without radon-suits, safe inside a UV bubble of riches.


  1. Judges, please reply to this comment.


      Query: The first sentence of your third paragraph reads awkwardly. I think you could make it two instead. Consider cutting your last line. For me, the stakes of Kyle potentially killing her are stronger than another clone wanting to rule the beehive. However, I wonder if the stakes of Kyle killing her would be stronger if you built up Kyle’s character in the query. Then, the idea of him having to kill her would have more impact.

      250: I think it’s “the space of a heartbeat,” not “a”. I enjoyed your 250. You do an excellent job of setting a futuristic scene and showing us June’s unease with what’s happening. Great starting point; I can tell something big is about to happen.


      Query: I’m a fan of starting a query with a character, because it tells me who I’m rooting for. While I like the backstory, I’m not sure it's vital enough to use for your first paragraph. You could easily incorporate this information (or some of it) in the body of the query by showing what this means to Joey. I think the real hook in young adult today is the voice. Yours is strongest in your second paragraph, and even stronger in your third. Consider rephrasing your last line so it’s less like you, the author, telling us what the twins need to do.

      250: I love the little details you insert in your 250 that build Joey’s world and create humor about her situation, i.e., Goodwill tag-ha. I don’t have anything to add because this is well written already.

      So, I stepped away to think about who to choose. Both entries are strong, and I’d love to see them published. Sigh. But, since I have to choose, VICTORY TO QUEEN OF DRONES

    2. So sorry SC, I posted below instead of with the other judges. I hope you can delete my other post.

      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.

      Queen of Drones

      Query: Wow! I love this and even though this isn’t my genre I would buy it. Nice job.

      One tiny critique, in paragraph two where each person remembers the attack differently, what makes that important. I’m sure that it is somehow but the query (at least to me) doesn’t show the stakes of each of them remembering differently.

      First 250:

      Your first 250 is well written, super exciting and intriguing.

      Stellar Twins


      Of all your lines, my favorite is your last one. It has such a great punch for the end of a query. I feel that the real voice begins in paragraph two. So that leaves me to wonder if that’s where you should begin. Maybe you can reincorporate the first paragraph somewhere else since it does state the problem and the timeline.

      First 250:

      Very nicely done first 250. The setting and voice is wonderful.

      I feel as though I am not the one to judge these because both of them are totally awesome, well written and way out of my league. So my decision is solely based on my own tastes. If I were to choose which one to read, which would I choose first.

      Victory goes to Queen of Drones simply because I am a fan of Postapocalyptic type movies so I would definitely read this one first. BUT I do hope both of these get published because the authors are both super talented.

    3. Bookalicious MamaJune 16, 2015 at 3:56 PM

      Queen of Drones: You've got a great query going on, but there are a couple of things I'd work on. (Just simple things.) For instance, in this part: and June races, I think you should set it as a goal for her, instead of telling what she does. How to do so would be "and June MUST race." That's, again, my opinion. I also think that last line of the query should be cut. If you can somehow incorporate it in the query further up, that might be okay, but the way you ended the last paragraph was enough to make me want to read on without it. I like your first 250, except for the additional thoughts after the first time she calls for Kyle (When she talks about her voice) That slows the pace quite a bit, and I think, for now, it's not needed.

      Stellar Twins: I like your query, but personally I think you should either rework the first line in that last paragraph or start with the second, because it just kind of hangs there. It only takes them minutes... and then BAM, your talking about the roommates. Doesn't flow well, to me. The first 250 is good, just some tense issues. I think it should be Chores didn't do themselves, but there again, that's my thoughts. Otherwise, I think you have a good voice and I'd definitely read on.

      Still, this is subjective, and because I enjoy a little more action in my first 250, so...

      Victory to: Queen of Drones

    4. Queen of Drones:

      You did an amazing job improving this query. The plot is so much more clear to me now. Well done. I still think it may be stronger without the last line, though. You've got a strong character, clear conflict, and crazy stakes - the MC may have to convince someone to kill her. It seems much stronger to end the query there OR mention the other drone sooner and make the stakes about that conflict.

      I really love this first page. You've done a good job setting up June's isolation, and I feel like I'm right there in the bunker with her. Would absolutely keep reading. Good job.

      Stellar Twins:

      Every time I read this query, I love it more. I am suddenly wondering if having two names so similar "Joey and Jesse" is a good idea for your main characters - think about changing one of them. But that's not a huge deal and is something you could always discuss with your agent or editor later.

      The first page totally hooks me. Love the world-building, love the voice, and I want to read more.

      A totally subjective VICTORY TO STELLAR TWINS, because I prefer spaceships to genetically-engineered creatures.

    5. Queen of Drones
      Query: Great tone in this query. I love the twist of the survivors all remembering the attack differently. The second paragraph left me a little confused. When we get to the part about the damaged records I got lost because I didn’t understand that would require them to go back. I’d actually cut the last sentence of that paragraph all together. Then I’d tweak the first sentence of paragraph three to say something like “The two return to Alpha to search for clues, but instead they unravel..” I’m not sold on the very last line. You already have a ton of conflict and stakes here. It feels unnecessary. I’d also delete the “zombie-like” from the description of the drones. While it does paint a good image, you mention a lot of otherworldly things here that actually have to do with the plot, so using one just to add voice feels like overkill.
      First 250: Great setting. Great use of sensory details. Very easy to follow with a good hook at the end—I definitely want to read more. Look at your sentence structure and be sure you mix in long sentences and short. Especially in the beginning they felt a little too similar. Very well done.

      Stellar Twins
      Query: Great imagery of Joey painting murals on her lead-lined home. Actually, I thought the entire second paragraph did a good job of conveying the plot basics. I’m not a fan of the first paragraph, however. It feels too detached from the characters for my taste. I’d see if you can work in the most necessary information into the next paragraph and delete paragraph one. I’d also delete the information about the Medusa twins. They don’t feel necessary to the query and the extra information muddies the waters.
      First 250: Some really fascinating stuff in here! I love that there’s a Goodwill in this version of earth. I’m also a sucker for a good story that examines differences in socioeconomic status, so that last paragraph really hooked me in. I’d like to see a little more conflict earlier here—it doesn’t have to be a ton, but this feels like pure backstory and I don’t get any hint of what’s to come. I’d trim the fantasy about what her mother says Earth used to be like. While I think this is a great device and would like to see it elsewhere, I don’t think we need it in this first page. Save it for later and use the space to give us some conflict.

      Victory to Queen of Drones.

    6. Queen of Drones:

      Great concept. The query is very tight, but I worry it reads way too much like a synopsis. Certain worldbuilding details can be left out for the sake of showing the reader what the MC wants, the struggles she faces to get there, and what the ultimate cost will be if she chooses wrong. Also, your tag on of another clone at the end felt off. Maybe think about working that info into an earlier paragraph as part of your stakes or cut completely.

      First 250: Like the way you start with action, but if you're going to have her call out to Kyle, the reader needs to have some indication as to why that person is important. Maybe think about a small mention of who he is before she calls out for him.

      Stellar Twins:

      This is a really unique idea and I like some of the details in your query. Making your first paragraph all worldbuilding through me off though. I'd recommend starting with who your MC is and then giving us setting.

      First 250:

      Your writing is tight in this first page, but as with your query, most of it feels like backstory/worldbuilding. I'd suggest focusing more on your character and what's she's facing first, then sprinkle in a few clues about setting.

      Victory to Queen of Drones

    7. Haley James ScottJune 17, 2015 at 1:14 PM

      Queen of Drones
      This is in-depth! I love that everyone remembers the events differently and June has to piece it all together. I think you can combine the first two sentences of this query so the reader is introduced to June first, with the information about the twenty-four settlements coming after. It might pack a bigger punch for the second sentence about having only one link to the outside world, i.e. “Sixteen-year old June lives confined to an underground bunker at Alpha settlement, one of twenty-four bases scattered across North America that house the only remains of human civilization. I also feel the last sentence about making matters worse is really out of place. There isn’t enough detail to be intrigued by it, but I feel like it could be a huge way to raise the stakes.

      First 250 words:
      Thrilling! I like the description of the sound slamming against the bearings. Just one typo, “In THE space of a heartbeat,” not “in A space of a heartbeat”. Nice job.

      Stellar Twins:
      Query: I would break up the third paragraph a little bit—right now, the revelations are buried underneath sentences of information but they’re cleanly written and deserve attention. Even adding an emdash or colon after “sabotage the Emergence program” will make the explanation about no one making the trek really dramatic. Also, the Matsuda twins seem to play an integral role in the plot but you don’t find that out until the last sentence. Instead of saying “They didn’t travel,” and “These two sets of siblings,” perhaps mention “Joey and Jesse didn’t travel” and “Together with the Matsuda twins” to make the characters’ relationships more cohesive.

      First 250:
      There’s a lot of world building here. I like the descriptions of different social classes and the way the earth used to be—but the descriptions of the sun really take up a lot of the room. The backstory to this is important but I don’t think it needs to be told immediately.

      Both of these are great! Solely out of personal preference, victory goes to STELLAR TWINS.

    8. Haley James ScottJune 17, 2015 at 2:09 PM

      Queen of Drones
      My first suggestion would be to combine the first two sentences—introduce June first and then add the first sentence to the end of the introduction. “Sixteen-year old June is confined to an underground bunker at Alpha settlement, one of only twenty-four settlements scattered across North America which house the remains of human civilization.” The twist about everyone remembering the attack differently is fantastic and ups the stakes. Because of the different creatures and settings, there is a lot to cram into the query. The last sentence in particular seems very out of place because while intriguing, there are more questions than answers—who is another clone? Does this clone play a big role? It seems like a big plot line but there isn’t any description and that’s crucial.

      First 250:
      I really like the description of the alarm going off. This is intriguing and brings you into the story quickly! Also, I think it should be “In the space of a heartbeat” not “In a space of a heartbeat” because of the repetition in words. Great job!

      Stellar Twins:
      This is a well written query! Love the concept. My main issue is with the last paragraph, which crams a lot of information in. Firstly, I’d break up the first sentence in the last paragraph to give it more gravity. “It takes only minutes in space for Joey and Jesse to realize something’s wrong. A total ship lockdown was not in the brochure.” Secondly, break up the extremist plot as well. The fact that no one has made the trek and survived yet is BIG and that should be conveyed. By adding an emdash or colon after “sabotage the Emergence Program”, it breaks up the sentence but also gives weight to the very scary meaning of this sabotage. Finally, the Matsuda twins are brought up and then abandoned until the last sentence, where I assume they play a larger role in the story than initially implied. You can fix this pretty easily. Instead of saying “They didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space”, if you change it to “Joey and Jesse,” it gives the feeling of them being in it together, and ties that into the next sentence, where you can say “Together with the Matsuda twins, this foursome will lie…” and tie in all the characters in a clean way. I hope that helps!

      First 250:
      This is a lot of world building but I think that can be done slowly throughout the first few pages of the book, rather than the first 250 words. I love the mention of how Earth used to be, as well as Goodwill and the SES of different groups—but the mentions of solar flares takes up a good chunk of the introduction and I think describing what Joey is doing or all she HAS to do to get the mail is better to use.

      Overall, tough call but victory goes to STELLAR TWINS.

    9. Queen of Drones: Flesh-eating, genetically engineered chimaeras? Mutant-infested bayou? Clones? Oh wow, this sounds amazing! I also really enjoyed the first 250. My only thought about this is that you should maybe think really hard about calling your protagonist ‘June’. June is the main characters name in Legend, and hearing it here made me think about Legend and I instantly started comparing the two. It’s just something to think about.

      Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style: This sounds amazing! I love the details, and I am SO curious about the fact that they are two sets of twins on the ship. Why is that? I am so curious about that tiny, subtle detail, and it makes me really want to read this book! My main comment would be that I’m not sure why they get their golden letter. It says that they won it, but did they do something to win it? Or was it random? I think the query should make this clear. Also, from what I can see of this, Space Opera is not the right genre. Space Opera is like Star Wars (with huge space battles and stuff). I view this as closer to something like Alien. As in, it’s set in space, but it should be classified as Sci-Fi. But still, this sounds amazing.

      Both entries are super strong, but VICTORY to Stellar Twins Kickin it Cosmic-Style.

    10. Dear super-awesome judges,

      Thank you all so much for dedicating your time and energy to help usher along us hopeful writers. I've never seen such a supportive bunch of people as those in the #amwriting community, and it warms my heart.

      While I might not have made it to the next round, I was able to strengthen my query and entire manuscript based on your collective feedback. I am truly grateful for all the comments and suggestions, they did not fall on deaf ears, and so happy to have been a part of this exciting ride.

      Thanks again, you guys are the bomb!
      Jamie Zakian

  2. This was a really tough one. I loved them both.

    Queen of Drones: This is really well done, but can be streamlined. Which is the main conflict. I don't think we need the searching for evidence to take up so much space. I also think it is stronger without the last sentence of the query. The 250 was really great. I especially loved the motto blinking on the hologram. Overall, I was very intrigued.

    Stellar Twins: The writing is so clear and the voice is so good in the query. I'm not sure you need the first paragraph though. I think you can work it into the second paragraph and not lose anything.

    I think there is some great world building in the 250 but I think you could play with the voice a little to match the awesome one in the query.

    I wish I could pick you both, but I have to say VICTORY TO STELLAR TWINS

    1. Dear amazingly awesome judge,

      Thank you so much for choosing my entry, Stellar Twins, and thank you for donating your time to provide feedback to us all. I'm so incredibly grateful for your compliments and suggestions and while I didn't make to round 3, I will keep revising and begin querying.

      Thank you again, this has been a wonderful experience for me!

      Jamie Zakian

  3. Drones - I read this before and this version of the query does a much better job of stage setting. Picky point -- suggest cutting 'and' in 'But, each person remembers the attack differently. (and) June races...' and turning the one sentence into two shorter ones. In the first 250, very picky point -- perhaps delete the 2nd 'the' here: 'The walls and (the) ceiling....' I like the way you wove in so many sensory details to show us the wrongness of this moment and why the MC is on alert.

    Stellar Twins - I thought the query read well, setting out the storyline and stakes. In the first 250, I had a much clearer sense of the world in this version, what it looks like and the effort simple tasks require -- which seems essential to have built in order for the reader to be excited when the MC gets an opportunity to leave.

  4. Hi, Queen (or should I address you as Your Majesty?)
    This has a wonderfully harsh premise, with a tangled dilemma. The heart of this story, and what makes it different from a lot of other post-Apocalypse tales, is the roles the two main characters have received by fate. Putting the focus on this, without the travel and chimeras (which really are a standard threat to force action) will make this story distinct and intriguing.
    Some of the details (chess pieces, apple odor) work well in the beginning. I like being in an emergency situation, but I was pulled out by elements (like the thinking about her childish voice) that seem unlikely to fit such an urgent moment.

    Hi, Stellar Twins
    We've got lots of pressure on Joey, and a wonderful turn from golden ticket to potential victim. Also, the worldbuilding is evident in the query. It does feel a little young, but I think tweaking can take care of that.
    The beginning is mostly setting, and it works in presenting that clearly. I'm not clear what Joey has as a chore or how this is important. For her, it's routine, which can be turned by the unexpected within a page. If so, okay. If not, starting in a different place might be better because people rarely reveal themselves, their attitudes, or their character when they do routine work.

    Both stories are fun and the kind of books I read and enjoy. Good luck!

  5. Queen of Drones:

    Query: I’m stuck on the genre. Sci-fi Postapocalyptic isn’t a genre, and the chimaera implies some sort of Magical Realism or Fantasy? Her isolation is shattered—so she liked being isolated? Okay, I was confused by the 2nd paragraph, and in the 3rd paragraph, I realized the problem—way too much summary. She’s a clone, Kyle’s an assassin, it’s all too much. I’d cut that whole 3rd paragraph (and that last trailing line) and just clarify the 2nd paragraph a little.

    250: Confusing lines: Grasping at straws wasn’t surviving. For several long moments the walls preserved its echo, fainter with each iteration.

    Stellar Twins:

    Query: Would prefer “After meeting their roommates, notorious hackers, the two sets of siblings discover an extremist plot…” And I’d add an “and” before “even kill.”

    250: Great job fixing the problems with the A-sector.

  6. QUEEN OF DRONES: Wow! Great query! My only suggestion would be to remove the last sentence or find a way to weave it into the final paragraph. As is, it reads like a dangling modifier, and there's SO much juicy detail waiting to be plumbed from it. Either embed it in the last para, plumbing those depths a little, or remove it because it seems like an after-thought here that kind of derails the drama and rhythm you've set up. Your 250: Are impressive. Great opening, great setting, and giving us a glimpse into the world we've entered in a very short amount of time. My only qualm is regarding the apples. I want to know more and yet this seems kind of out of place. Like you could use another five words to situate or embed this better. Otherwise, it's a great opening!

    STELLAR TWINS: Your query is great! In Round 1 I was reluctant to go with you on the all-twin-space-ride but you sell the circumstances here (I think I said I thought it was too convenient that all invitees were a set of twins). Whatever small changes you made, they tie together your stakes without any hiccups for me. Your 250: Fabulous setting and imagery. I believe you cut off earlier in Round 1 and the addition of the elite Section A piques my interest even more so. The imagery here is effective without being overdone or hogging too much of your opening 250. And they manage to present a very likable MC born into dire circumstances. Great job!

  7. Queen of Drones - I definitely feel like this is a unique concept and the query set up the stakes very well. I did feel, however, that the query jumped around a lot. I would spend more time talking about the clone/assassin reveal than the traveling, so try to put that reveal closer to the beginning. The way it's written now, it feels like you're revealing almost a twist near the end of the book, which felt odd. As for the 250, I thought it was excellent. If you wanted to change anything, I might cut out the line about June complaining about her voice. It felt a bit too obviously like backstory, and everything else is flows so well.

    Stellar Twins - Honestly, I love this query. I think it's fabulous, and I can't think of anything to change. Someone mentioned that maybe you'd integrate the descriptors of the other set of twins without using the parenthesis, and I could see that making it flow smoother, so maybe do that. As for the 250, I agree that it's a bit too description heavy, but it's well written and gives us a feel for the MC, so it's really up to you if you really wanted to revise that down the line. I just feel like it's a lot of time spent on a planet that the MC will soon be leaving. Perhaps it'd help to start right as they get onto the spaceship.

    Overall, two excellent entries! Great job to you both!

  8. DRONES: I got a little lost in the third paragraph of the query. For me, I felt the first two paragraphs set up the characters and the stakes really well. There will be different opinions on this, but something like "As June unravels her past, she discovers a horrifying secret about her - and Kyle" makes me want to keep reading. The first 250 work - In the sentence of "the silver chess figurines on the table knocked against each other, her careful strategy scrambled into chaos" - whose strategy?
    DRONES: There is some lovely world-building in the first 250. The Goodwill line and A-sector are A+. With the query, I had to read it a few times to really grasp your vision, and I agree any influx of the voice from the 250 into the query would be great. So it won't be for everyone, but there will be an agent(s) who loves this.

  9. Oh man – two awesome concepts!
    Drones: All I really have is that I found this sentence confusing: “If June isn’t strong enough to override the monstrous program in her DNA, she must persuade Kyle to follow his orders and kill her.” I think it could be written more clearly so that the reader doesn’t have to go back over it.
    Twins – I felt a change in tone between the second and third paragraphs of your query that threw me a bit. Also, I would take out the word “shaded” after turquoise, just because I had to reread it a few times and it’s not necessary to the sentence.
    I want to read both of these books!

  10. Oh wow, these are both awesome concepts! I don't envy the poor judges on this one! :)

    Queen of Drones - I think you have a great query! The stakes are high and clearly shown and you've given me a good map of what I can expect from the book. I do think I agree with the one commenter who suggested that you could add "must" to make the sentence read: "June must race to piece together..." I thought your 250 was very well-written. One little nit-picky thing: There should be a comma after "In the settlement". Good luck with this!

    Stellar Twins: Love your query! I don't usually read space opera, but you have me wanting to read this one! Just one thought, 66K seems a little short for a space opera, but perhaps you know better than I do. I think your 250 is very well written, and I honestly can't think of anything to add. Good luck!!