Entry Nickname: Samba and Surrender
Word count: 100K
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance with Erotic Elements
Brazilian federal enforcer, Ana Mendes, doesn’t have the heart—or the time—for relationships. After losing her father at a young age and watching the world crash down around her because of the Radiant virus, she’s devoted her life to maintaining public order in a post-pandemic Brasilia where half the population is terrified of catching something and the other half seems hell bent on tempting it.
In a time when police enforce laws requiring citizens to wear infection-detection bracelets, and guerrilla vaxxers inoculate those who resist vaccination, getting close to anyone is high-risk. But one reckless kiss with a sexy American expat starts the slow unraveling of Ana’s defenses. For Will Hardwin, a wounded ex-Army medic, persuading Ana to surrender her heart might just bring him out of the darkness of his past.
When locals blame a fabled urban bogeyman for a string of child abductions, Ana and Will embark on a dangerous chase across Brazil to uncover the truth. Ana resents being paired with a consultant, even one as qualified as Hardwin, but the growing trust between them awakens an explosive passion, and together they confront the hidden scars of their pasts when they discover the shocking truth behind the abductions.
Now, the ruthless predator they’ve been chasing is hunting Ana. With time running out, and children’s lives in the balance, she’ll have to choose: face her shadowy enemy alone and probably end up dead, or risk the life of the man she’s falling for to take down a mythical killer and destroy a biological threat even deadlier than Radiant.
First 250:
Clube do Choro screened B-Well bracelets at the door, but Ana still felt uneasy walled-in by so many people. She slipped through the crowd, holding her evening bag close to her body. The light inside Brasilia’s premier dance club was muted, the air thick with perfume and cigar smoke. Young professionals and couples thronged the bar and packed the tables near the dance floor, empty between sets.
As she searched for Marcelo, the house band took the stage to a surge of whistles and applause. Ana hoped that her informant, who had ties to various crime rings in Brasilia, would know something about last night’s ambulance hijacking. A baby boy inside the vehicle had been scheduled for a life-saving operation, but had never arrived at the hospital in Brasilia. Police found the ambulance abandoned outside the city limits, wiped clean of prints, and minus its three-hundred-pound transport incubator.
They probably just wanted the incubator, she reasoned. Theft of medical equipment was rampant since the Outbreak, as fear of catching Radiant from contaminated equipment in hospitals resulted in an explosion of devices being sold on the black market for home use. If their objective was the incubator, Ana had to believe, the baby was probably dead.
Several couples moved closer to the dance floor as the musicians warmed up, leaving space at the bar. Ana took an empty stool, glancing at the B-Well bracelet on the woman seated next to her and the green LED light that indicated she wasn’t contagious. 


Title: Big Town
Entry Nick Name: What’s Luck Gotta Do With It?
Word Count: 77,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Lena Huertas grew up hearing only the dead were welcome in Big Town, but it’s the only place she believes could save her life.
After her father is murdered by the Forty-Niners who claimed California, she becomes desperate to trade streets consumed by violence, and starving folk, for security among the modern royalty of the most successful boomtown in 1879. It doesn’t matter that the city lies hidden in the Sierra Nevada, or that the borders are protected from outsiders by a marksman of legendary skill. Bodies from the poorest regions of the West are shipped to Big Town for an unknown purpose, and Lena aims to follow to ensure her pa gets a proper burial and to seize a brighter future for herself.
She boosts her chances with the charity of Rolando Tavares, Big Town’s one-eyed, possibly two-faced, sheriff – along with the power of a mysterious pair of golden dice capable of granting favor to those who need it most.
But what she doesn’t know is that Rolando’s false eye allows him to enter minds, and that within the home she’s always dreamed of awaits outlaws and lawmen who desire corpses and are willing to kill for the magic luck she possesses. Because to a populace who take their wealth for granted, control over the future is worth more than gold, and neither the living nor the dead are welcome to leave.

First 250:
Three coffins rested near the railroad beneath a sky as gray as a weathered barn. Sealed with rusty nails, the wooden boxes were reused anytime someone from Skidmore dropped dead, or was murdered, and had no kin to give them proper burial.
Or for those who, like Lena Huertas, had nary a penny in their pocket.
The young woman’s dry hair was bunched under her father’s Stetson. She sat in a ticket booth that was boarded up on one side and gutted open on the other, and watched a beetle scuttle between her boots across a cracked stone platform. The bandana covering her face helped shield her from the dirt and mud swallowing everything else, including most of the sign welcoming would-be passengers of Skiddy’s Wagon to her quaint mining town.
She folded her arms on her knees and ignored the mosquito bites begging for a scratch. A wind cut through the ticket booth, making her shiver and hug her knees tighter. The pale afterglow of the sun peeking up over the walls of the Sierra Nevada was fading, but she’d yet to find the courage to step closer to the railroad, put her hand on her pa’s box, and bid a last farewell.

She was surprised and grateful no one ever tampered with the coffins. They were usually left on the platform for days awaiting their journey. She supposed superstitions got the better of folk. No chance it was out of respect.
Posted in Blog and tagged .


    • What’s Luck Got To Do With It


      I like the hook, but I feel like it’s a little choppy. I think it’s ‘hearing’ maybe ‘knowing’ instead. Play around with the syntax, but keep the core of it because it’s really good at drawing the reader in.

      Over all, I really like this query. It’s detailed, to the point, and draws me in. I want to know more about Big Town, and the plot. I feel like a few of the sentences can be broken up, as they are very long, and some of them read a bit choppy, but it’s still done well enough I’d request. The only thing is, I’m not quite sure overall of her stakes. I get people want her dead for the magic luck, but that doesn’t tell me what she’s trying to do with it, or what she has to do to get out of the situation. I think if you clear up the stakes some, it’d be even better. I’d still request just from this though.

      First 250:

      I love this first 250! It sets the scene really nice, with the heavy tone and feel that she’s saying goodbye to someone she really cares about. The first line really grabbed me.

      Another, over all I really like it, and honestly, I just don’t have much to offer in way of crit, because I’d have already requested the full.


      Samba and Surrender


      Everything is great up until the last line of the second paragraph. It throws me that you suddenly jump to someone else’s POV in the query as the last line of a paragraph that has been from Ana’s. If you’re writing it from Ana’s POV, keep it that way. We’ll learn about Will once we request.

      Hidden scars and shocking truth is both vague and, at least to me, cliché. So many queries have those phrases in one form or the other. I feel like you can strengthen that and be more detailed. What is the shocking truth behind the abductions? I’m assuming them figuring it out is the catalyst for the predator to come after them.

      I also feel like the last line is jumbled. It needs to be broken up. Also not sure that’s the mains takes, considering, from what I can tell she’s been doing this with Will the whole time. So what changed that suddenly she’s all like, ‘this is too dangerous for him’? It needs to be cleared.

      First 250:

      There’s some great setting going on here, but it’s also dropping backstory. I feel like if you start it with her meeting Marcelo, instead of waiting for him, we can have interaction, as well as something happening that would draw the reader in a little bit more. It’s an enticing premise, and I’d probably still read more, but I think showing us why she’s there with the informant through conversation and such, would be better than just dropping the backstory of the baby boy.

      What’s Luck Got To Do With It: Over all, I don’t have much to offer. I think both query and first 250 are fantastic. Like I said, I’d have already requested the full.

      Samba and Surrender: The query starts out strong, but loses the momentum at the end, and the stakes aren’t clearly defined. Work on the flow and it’s going to be great. The first 250 is also a bit slow for me, and I’d like to see something more happening. Play around with starting it as she’s meeting the informant, instead of giving us the lay of the land while waiting for him.


    • Samba and Surrender


      Overall, your query is very solid, and I love the premise.

      I’m not quite seeing the connection between the virus and the predator they’re stalking, however. I’m confident by your writing that both ideas blend well in your MS, but I wonder if you’re trying to fit too much into your query by tackling both plotlines. If you get a good response when querying, all's good, but if you find you’re not getting as many requests as you’d like (especially from query-only agents), consider reworking to focus on just one plotline for the query.

      Is your MS dual pov? I ask because this sentence is Will’s pov: “For Will Hardwin, a wounded ex-Army medic, persuading Ana to surrender her heart might just bring him out of the darkness of his past.” Switching pov jars a little.

      My only other suggestion would be to tighten the last sentence, because it’s long and you risk confusing the reader at the most vital part of your query.


      Consider reworking to feed the story of the baby/incubator theft in once she has met the informant, perhaps through their conversation.

      Otherwise, I really enjoyed this.

      What's Luck Gotta Do With It?


      I found your query confusing.

      I’m not sure you need the legendary marksman here, since this person never comes back in the query. Why is Lena allowed to go with her father’s body to a town that seems so well protected? And I don’t understand why she has always dreamed of living there if she grew up hearing only the dead were welcome.

      I think we lose Lena in the last paragraph. Is there a way to make the stakes more personal to Lena?

      First 250: No suggestions; very well done.

      Now comes the hard part: Picking a winner of this round.
      Hmm. I think both have a lot to offer, but, since this is Query Kombat . . .

      VICTORY TO Samba and Surrender


      This is a compelling query and I think you've picked just the right specific details (I'm thinking especially of the first line of Paragraph 2) to bring this world to life. It also tells me that you know what you're doing with your world-building, which is so important in a book like this.

      The last line of Paragraph 2, however, is jarring because suddenly it's no longer Ana's POV but Will's. I'd suggest introducing Will here, but from Ana's POV.

      There are also a lot of cliched phrases throughout this query: "doesn't have the heart for…" "world crash down around her," "reckless kiss," "shocking truth," "ruthless predators." I'd suggest finding fresher ways to phrase these sentiments.

      Overall, I liked your first 250 words. You've done some great world-building here. I do think the incubator theft feels a little too much like it's there solely for the purpose of telling us about Radiant and setting up the story. I'd suggest weaving it in a little bit better with some forward motion in order to have it feel more natural and less "hand of author."


      There's a lot of great material packed into this query but I think the language could be tightened considerably. Also, at times it's a little awkward/choppy.

      I'm also confused about why Lena believes the town could save her life when she's heard only the dead are welcome.

      Also, what are the stakes for Lena? In the last paragraph you move from a focus on Lena to a broader focus on the town. The focus should stay on Lena. What must she do by the end of the book and what does she stand to lose if she fails?

      Your first 250 words are stellar. The voice feels authentic to the time period, it's engaging, and you set the scene beautifully. I have no suggestions.


      Another tough one, and these are so different, but…


    • YIKES! Two powerhouse entries.

      Samba and Surrender

      Love this query, with a small bump on the sentence that seems to be in Will's POV. I did notice a few cliches but was so sucked into the story already they hardly bothered me. Hidden scars, shocking truths. Perhaps rewrite adding more specificity? Very strong query!

      250: Didn't love the first line, because it contains two things I could't reference. One I can handle, two is too many for a first line. But the writing is strong, evocative, polished. I got an immediate sense of place and setting and mood. I would definitely read this. I like that the virus is the backdrop with which they live, and the child abductions are the actual plot that takes place within that backdrop, as opposed to just another deadly virus book. Outstanding! Kudos on concept and execution.

      What's Luck Gotta Do With It
      Query: This is flat out spooky and mysterious and unique and I kind of loved it. Strong writing. Every single sentence is equally mysterious! Wow. I could ask for more clarification in a few places, but somehow, I don't want it! I want the story to reveal itself.


      Beautiful writing. Evocative and atmospheric, with just enough tension and mystery to have me turning the page.

      Not sure how to choose between these two. I would put both of them on my nightstand right now… this one is really a killer.


    • SAMBA AND SURRENDER: I saw this the first round, and you have really made this much tighter. It reads very well. Congrats! The only suggestion I would have for the query would be that the sentence about Will in the 2nd paragraph feels a little off, since the start of the query is about Ana. I’m wondering if you need that sentence, or can just leave it out, and have Ana be the subject of the query. Will gets brought in later in the query as part of Ana’s story. Just a thought. The 250 read great – much more detail and intrigue. Like it a lot!

      WHAT’S LUCK GOTTA DO WITH IT? Interesting premise here, and I like that it’s an adult fantasy that feels like it’s in the wild west. Fun! There is a lot of information in your query – it made me feel a bit overwhelmed. I think maybe part of that is that the sentences are very long and complex. Would you consider breaking the sentences down some? I think that would make it more easily readable, since you do have a lot of info you’re imparting here. Also, I think if you used the word “can” instead of “could” it would make the first sentence clearer. The imagery in your 250 is quite stunning. I really love the atmosphere you create, and I feel like I can see it. As in your query, I felt a little lost in some of the long sentences. One or two would be okay, but it feels a little overwhelming to try to keep track of everything without a “breather.” Does that make sense? But really, your entry is well done, and I wish you the best of luck with it!

      Victory to Samba and Surrender


      Samba and Surrender

      The query for this is very muddled. Each paragraph practically sounds like a different book, as if the pitch is an entire series. The various plots are convoluted and not connected to the point I’m not sure what the plot of the book is. Many authors suffer from trying to make a query a plot synopsis, this needs a lot less of the plot and a lot more explaining what makes the manuscript unique as well as an explanation of the stakes.

      First 250 words:
      That’s a large infodump in the first 250 words. I’d recommend rewriting the opener and spreading this info out over the first chapter (or two). I love the name of the disease detecting bracelet, and I think that there are some good points here. However, the goal of the beginning is to make the reader connect to the character not the backstory.

      What's Luck Gotta Do With It?

      This query suffers from too much plot synopsis. Furthermore, I assume Lena makes it to Big Town, so the transition of “She boosts her chances” is a bit odd. If the gold dice are important, they might want to be introduced earlier. Are they a gift from her father? A small thing: “in the Sierra Nevada,” might benefit from “in the Sierra Nevada mountains,” Ultimately this query leaves me with a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. Cut the plot synopsis down, tell us why the book is special, and give a clear statement of the stakes.

      First 250 words:
      I like this. Generally I find a lack of inner narrative or dialogue in the first 250 words a bit of a warning sign, but this reads very well and I’d continue to read. Seems to me the author is very skilled, and just needs to do a strong rewrite/revision to the query.

      Victory goes to: What's Luck Gotta Do With It?

    • Samba and Surrender

      Query: This definitely pulled me in. I want to read it now, actually? I would like to know more about Will. His bit is thrown in at the end of two paragraphs about Ana, and is extremely vague. Ana’s affections also seem to jump back and forth. The query mentions the kiss and unraveling of her defenses, and then jumps back to the plot, where she resents being paired with Will. I’d like to see a more logical progression, from resenting to kissing to the stakes of possibly risking the life of the man she’s come to love. OR, if the kiss happens first, more about how she didn’t expect to see him again or have it go any further. Or does she resent him because her defenses are unraveling. Just a bit more clarity. The rest of the plot sounds very intriguing.

      Opening: This is a really strong opening. I love the scene you’ve set, the crowded bar and the bracelets as part of a new reality. The one thing missing is a sense of who Ana is at this point. It’s very informative, and you’ve set an interesting scene, but she mentions the baby being dead as if she’s commenting on the weather. Does that bother her? Is she immune to it now after so much death? Does she have any speck of hope that the baby lives? What is going on in her mind as that thought crosses it? It’s such a small sample, but I need to know HER at least a little.

      What’s Luck Gotta Do With It?

      Query: I’m just very confused about this query. I love love LOVE the hook, and the first paragraph is straightforward enough (though I wonder at the mention of the legendary marksman if he doesn’t come up again, and is it really important that her father was murdered by Forty-Niners?), but then suddenly it’s magic and dice and outlaws and I’m lost. How does she get to the town? How does she get the dice? Are the dice tied to her in some way, or does she possess some other sort of magic? How does Rolando’s magic eye enter into the story? The last sentence is wonderful as well.

      Opening: Solid opening. I don’t really have any suggestions, except I wonder if those bodies in coffins left for day started to smell at all. It sounds like it might be a bit chilly but still…


    • Samba and Surrender

      Query: I remember seeing this one last round, and I really like the changes you’ve made. Some thoughts: consider cutting everything after post-pandemic Brasilia in that first paragraph. I like the end of the sentence, but it’s making it really long. Second paragraph, maybe put “the” in front of police in that first sentence. Only because my brain kept trying to make it police enforcers. The last sentence in that second paragraph still feels really out of place to me. The whole query is about Ana so this sentence is really jarring. I’d recommend just talking about Will from Ana’s POV. Third paragraph, you could probably cut either “fabled” or “urban” just to streamline. That second sentence in that paragraph, you might want to consider breaking in two, just stopping after passion, starting the next sentence with “together.” “Hidden scars” is very vague. I’d love some more detail here. I like the ending stakes, but I think the last sentence is too wordy.

      250: Lots of improvement here, love it!! First paragraph I’d cut “empty between sets,” it confused me more than anything. I’m definitely getting a better sense for Ana now, but my concern is that there’s a bit too much of an info dump up front about the case. Especially since she’s meeting an informant at the bar I feel like this information can be brought about more organically through dialogue.

      What’s Luck Gotta Do With It?

      Query: It may just be me, but I’m really confused by this opening. I’m not a huge history buff so that may be the problem, but you’ve lost me in the first two sentence. In the first sentence do you literally mean the dead? Since it’s fantasy I’m not sure if it’s spirits, bodies, souls, etc. I’m missing the connection between that sentence and the next one. Second paragraph, you mention the Forty-Niners but other than the football team, I’m not sure who they are (sorry). The first sentence in the second paragraph took me a really long time to figure out, but here’s what tripped me up: when you say “trade streets” I thought this was a thing, like where people trade things, I wasn’t reading it as a verb (you also don’t need that comma after violence, that threw me off too). Also, I think it would be really helpful if you cleared up the setting. We’ve got Big Town, California, boomtown, city, and Sierra Nevada all in one paragraph. With all of these terms, I’m not sure which of them go together. Is Big Town the boomtown? Or the city? Neither? I’d also like some more clarification how Lena plans on seizing a “brighter future.” Does she think that brighter future is in Big Town? Is she following her father’s body to see what happens with it? If yes, I’m not sure why a city of dead is appealing? What does the charity have to do with it? Are the dice hers or the sheriffs? When you say “desire corpses” do you mean for magical purposes? Because I wasn’t entirely sure if you were going the necrophilia route. I really think that there’s a really great story in all of this (city of the dead, magic dice, wild west!), I’m just struggling to understand it.

      250: I really enjoyed this opening. The voice is really good and I love your descriptions. Just a few suggestions: first paragraph, I’d cut “or was murdered.” It really disrupts the flow of that sentence and technically murdered people drop dead too, right? I’m wondering if in the third paragraph you should say Lena instead of the “young woman,” just so we’re 100% clear that’s who you’re referring to since it isn’t mentioned in the rest of the page. Third paragraph, second sentence, instead of saying “and watched” you can just say “watching.” Same paragraph “dirt and mud swallowing” tripped me up a little. You could simplify by saying “the dirt that swallowed everything else.” Other than that I think this is really strong. Great job!

      This is a really tough one. Very different stories. One with a stronger query, the other with a stronger 250. *shakes fist* This is so hard! Alright, so after going back and forth I have to give VICTORY TO WHAT’S LUCK GOTTA DO WITH IT?

    • Samba and Surrender

      Strong ‘voicy’ query with so many great turns of phrase and clear stakes. Even if Ana and Will kiss before heading out after the bogeyman, I found the order of the information provided in paragraphs two and three a wee bit unsatisfying. I thought going from paragraph 1 directly to paragraph 2 would serve to build the tension. I also thought elements of paragraph 2 could be folded into paragraph 3. Not to rewrite, but I’ve moved things around to show what I mean: ‘Locals blame a fabled urban bogeyman for a string of child abductions. Ana embarks with Will Hardwin, an ex-Army medic, on a dangerous chase across Brazil to uncover the truth. Ana resents being paired….Hardwin, but trust grows between them. In a time when police enforce laws requiring citizens to wear infection-detection bracelets, and guerrilla vaxxers inoculate those who resist vaccination, getting close to anyone is high-risk. One reckless kiss with the sexy American expat starts…defenses. For Hardwin, persuading Ana…past. Together they confront the hidden….abductions.’ Just a thought.

      Good scene setting in the first 250 as Ana moves through the club. I didn’t think you needed ‘in Brasilia’ in the 3rd sentence of the 2nd paragraph – since the city name is included in the prior sentence. I liked how the search for her informant gave a chance to fold in information about the black market for medical equipment. We also learn a lot about Ana – how tough she is (the baby’s probably dead – no shudder, just acceptance) and her discomfort that comes from the risk of crowded places and potential contagion. Looks like a gripping read.

      What’s Luck Got to Do with It?

      I admit I found the stakes in this query confusing. Lena may have more than one goal, but what’s the primary one – ensuring her pa gets a proper burial? Or is it her dream of a better life? The line about finding ‘security among the modern royalty’ made it seem as if Lena expects to be welcomed by them – which I don’t think was the intent. If it is, I need to know why she’d expect to fit in with them. The final paragraph makes reference to others wanting to take her ‘magic luck’. Since there’s nothing prior to this in the query telling us she possesses such a thing, I was a bit confused – especially since her life in the opening paragraph seemed pretty unlucky. If her ‘magic luck’ is something she discovers during the course of her journey, perhaps fold that into the query. Suggest changing ‘marksman’ to ‘marksmen’ – or alluding to a team of marksmen – I couldn’t picture how one person could guard the border of an entire town.

      The opening 250 with the description of the reused coffins is poignant – as is the way we slowly learn her pa’s inside one of the boxes. Descriptions of the town, along with details like the beetle, are well drawn. You do a great job showing how harsh this place is – which will make Lena wanting to leave – when that time comes – credible.

      Winner: Samba and Surrender

    • Victory to What's Luck Gotta Do With It?

      *Critiques coming later this evening.


      Great nickname, btw.

      There’s a fullness to this query that I find a little tiring. Granted, I have been doing a lot of these in succession and I’m getting fatigued, but that’s often the state that your agent will be in, when he or she goes through their query box, which will have HUNDREDS of these.

      I really like the picture of the world you’re creating here, the the bracelets and the guerrilla vaxxers. But the third paragraph starts to lose me— Will himself feels very by-the-numbers— and there’s a lot of purple and indistinct language here. “Hidden scars” “shocking truth” and so on.

      I get this is a romance, but maybe pair down the Will stuff? Can’t he just be a sexy expat with a past? For the purposes of the query. Regardless, I think there’s one idea here too many.


      I like the 250 a lot. A lot. I blanche a little at the B-Well bracelet, which is a little cute for my tastes. (Also, that pun surely wouldn’t work in Portuguese.) You also mention the word Brasilia one too many times, but this is small stuff. Good work.


      The opening line is like a word away from being perfect. If I only I could tell you the word!

      It’s a strong query, one I peeked at in the first round, although i wasn’t judging there. If it falters I’d all, I’d look to the final sentence, which I want to be read in grand Sam Elliott voice in his cowboy proclamation mode. This isn’t quite that. The final sentence is a little overly fussy, and I want something that would look good on a tombstone. 🙂


      You had me a three coffins. Honestly, I think this is very confident opening and it feels to me, even though not a lot is happening, that you’re in firm control of the story. I’m in.


      I think if you’ll look through my other votes, that I have not continually blustered about how hard it is to choose between these entries. I held my fire. So when I say that now, please know that I really mean it, and I’m not just being nice. There are some entries upstream I’d axe to make space for both of you two. 🙂

      But I can’t, and so:


    • This is one of my favorite matchups.
      Samba and Surrender: very clear and engrossing query. The only quibble I have is the sentence that switches into Will's POV. Threw me off. As for the 1st 250, again, very clear and engrossing. I don't even mind the bit of backstory thrown in because it is so compelling. I want to know what happened to the baby. My only glitch is the two unknown references in the first sentence. One, maybe, somewhere in the first paragraph, but definitely not two in the opening line. All in all, I would love to have this book on my nightstand right now. One of the smoothest and most polished entries in the competition.

      What's Luck Got to Do With it:
      You're writing is eerie with a unique voice. I didn't get that Big Town is the boom town, does it have another name? Really creepy, in a good way, and left me eager to know more.
      First 250: Love your writing style. This is clean, crisp, evocative, and powerful. Another book I'd like on my nightstand right now.

      Honestly, two very different entries and so hard to pick a winner. I wish you hadn't been paired against each other, but whoever goes out has the goods to be successful with this book.

      Victory to Samba and Surrender

    • Sorry for the delay! We were trying to get votes in under the wire. Here is my critique as promised…

      Samba and Surrender


      I love this concept, but I got a little bogged down in the details.

      The opening line feels a bit cliché to me ("doesn't have the heart or time for relationships.") Instead, I'd say that having a relationship could be deadly, and then explain why with the Radiant virus. THAT is so much more unique.

      The second sentence in the query is a whopping 52 words. Is there a way to break it into two or three shorter sentences? By the end, I was a little lost. Also, I'm not sure we need to know that Ana lost her father (at least, maybe not for the query.)

      I felt like the second paragraph is a little overloaded as well. I don't feel it's necessary to know about the bracelets and vaccines in the query. That comes out itself in the 250.

      The last two paragraphs read well to me. Good job.


      I enjoyed how you set the scene and I thought you recreated the Brazilian night club well. However, I couldn't quite connect with Anna as a character. I understand why she'd be uncomfortable around that many people given the circumstance, but felt she could be conveyed with a little more empathy. Maybe something about how her job and finding the boy is more important than worrying about her health. Judging by the query, Ana wants to help people, but that wasn't coming across as much in your 250. I think if you could work that in, the reader would admire her that much more.


      What’s Luck Got To Do With It?


      Love the hook here. I like how you get right down to meat of the story with the first line.

      My only nitpick is the second line. It feels a little long to me, and there is a lot of info packed in there. I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed. Is there a way to break it down into two sentences? Other than that, I enjoyed this immensely. If I were an agent, you'd be getting a full request from me based off the query and concept alone.


      I love the opening line: great imagery, and it sets the tone.

      At the beginning of the third paragraph, when you called Lena "the young woman" it threw me at first. I thought you were introducing a new character. I'd scrap this and just call her Lena.

      Also, it seems like the voice is slightly lacking here. I felt it with the "nary a penny" line but then it dried up. Is there a way you could work in some more 1870s slang? It could really cement the mood and the narrator's voice.

      Besides that, good job. You set the tone and scene well. It played like a movie in my mind.

      I've already voted, and it went to What's Luck Got To Do With It? for these reasons: overall, I connected with the character and concept more. Samba and Surrender is an excellent entry and this was a hard choice. But, the clarity and brevity of What's Luck Got To Do With It? allowed me to get more into the story and wonder what would happen next.

  1. Not a judge, sorry! Samba and Surrender, nice revisions! Loved your query so much – totally the kind of action-packed romance I would devour. I do agree with the judge who suggested keeping one POV, and my vote is for Ana's. Those first two paragraphs hooked me on her character and the romance completely! Love the overall premise – lots of interesting conflicts, especially in this era of conflict over vaccines. Very topical.

    The 250 didn't draw me in quite as much as your query, though I am impressed by how much you packed in! I had to reread your opening sentence a few times. I would consider changing the name of the club a bit to maybe one word, since right after that you also encounter unfamiliar vocab in the B-Well bracelets. Loved the ending about the woman being contagious!! Totally want to buy this book, like for realsies.

    What's Love Got to Do with It: Another awesome premise!! I love your integration of fantasy into an Old West/Boomtown milieu. I am totally drawn in. I'm confused on some elements, though, so some tweaking might smooth those out. Do people assume that a town that wants corpses isn't using them for a nefarious purpose? That alone would probably deter me. Or, if they do suspect some darker motives, is Lena just so desperate for a new life she'll go there anyway? It sounds like her main drive is to give her dad a burial, but I'm not totally sure why she would go through all that, and risk death via the gunman, for that outcome. But these are just things I am wondering about so intently because I absolutely love your story and premise!

    Loved the writing in your 250. Had a strong voice – felt her desolation, her unwillingness to let her dad go, and her despair at being stuck in such a dry, dusty life. Well done. Another one I can't wait to read!!

  2. Samba and Surrender – Query: Is this really paranormal? I didn't get a sense of that, it seemed more sci fi. The query read well but I think the lines "In a time" and "With time running out, and children’s lives in the balance," sound a bit cliche. Some of the info on her relationship with Will seems duplicated in paragraphs 2 and 3. It might be possible to tighten that up.

    First 250 read very well. Really got a sense of character, place, and problems. This seems like a timely story, good luck.

    What's luck got to do with it: I read this query last round. It reads much better now. I do think the part about Rolando's false eye power just sits there and doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the paragraph about outlaws and lawmen laying in wait.

    First 250: This also seems improved as Lena seems much more sympathetic. Good luck.

  3. Samba and Surrender:

    Query: You've really set up the current situation in the opening paragraph–I'm impressed! And by paragraph 2 I'm even more in love because you've showed me a love interest that sounds risky and exciting.

    250: I love the way you're showing a mix between serious and fun, a great way to set the scene. I do think you can remove the second instance of "in Brasilia" in the second paragraph to avoid redundancy.

    What's Luck Gotta Do With It?

    Query: I like the mysterious nature of your query; it definitely makes me wonder how this story is going to play out.

    250: I love the voice in the opening! It's very engaging and visual.

  4. Yay adult entries!

    Samba and Surrender: I read this one in round 1, and holy crap you did awesome revisions! (Query) This is soo much clearer. The only comment I really have is that the jump from Ana to Will in the second paragraph seemed a little out of place. It may be as simple as adding an "And". (And for Will Hardwin…) Also I don't think you need the commas around Ana Mendes to start. (250) This is a really strong opening. Minor quibbles only: I think you could strike the "she reasoned" from the third paragraph, and the second comma in the last sentence of the third paragraph seems unnecessary.

    What's Luck Gotta Do With It?: I'm still a little confused on the genre of this one–is it alt-history? historical magic realism? Not a huge issue but it helps frame the query for me. (Query) I like the first sentence, it is clear and provides a set goal for Lena. The first sentence of the next paragraph lost me though. I had to re-read it a couple times to get that the most successful boomtown is the same as Big Town. Because if it's only for the dead, then how is it a successful boomtown? The details that follow are neat and interesting, but without grokking the Big Town thing it doesn't quite work for me. Love the "Big Town’s one-eyed, possibly two-faced, sheriff" line! Although then I'm wondering how she is getting help from the Big Town sheriff when she can't get to Big Town? I also feel like the magic luck should be mentioned earlier, since it is what makes Lena a target and seems to be an important point in her story. (250) The setting here is very well-painted and gives me a strong feeling for the place and time. I'm a little confused about the coffins. At first it says they are reused, but then it says the coffins are left for days awaiting their journey. Do they go full and come back empty? Or do they stay and get emptied at that place? This is a minor thing but I couldn't stop wondering about it.

    I read both of these entries in round 1 and am impressed with the revisions (come do my revisions plskthx). Well done to both Kombatants!

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