Title: A Child’s Last Hope
Entry Nickname: Child and Family Services
Word Count: 71K
Genre: Adult Crime/Psychological Thriller

Altruistic social worker, Ethan Harper, navigates atrocities on a daily basis working for Child and Family Services in Citrus County (CFS), California. Children subjected to physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation are tragic common occurrences that Ethan tirelessly combats by treating every case as if his own child were in danger. Children are innocent of the crimes committed against them, and as a social worker, he is a child’s last hope of rescue before it’s too late.
Over a six-year period, Ethan saves a young girl from the neglect of her hoarding, heroin addicted parents, brazenly liberates two children from an abductor’s horrific dungeon, and liberates a drug-induced teen that has been sexually exploited by her own mother—all while starting a family of his own. As heroic and selfless as his actions are, the methods he uses to perform his duties become unlawful and arguably immoral—triggered by unintentionally killing an abusive father in self-defense.
Initiating a personal war with Roger, a child molester that attracts the attention of an FBI Special Task Force agent, Ethan is forced to make a vital decision. Should he protect his family and others by admitting his illegal actions to law enforcement, or attempt to stop the threat on his own at the risk of everyone’s lives?
Making a choice that could result in a prison sentence, the dismantling of his family, the loss of a career that he has dedicated his heart and soul to, his own death, or all of the above, will unquestionably change his life forever.

First 250:
The 101-degree heat of an unusually warm June day in Onett, California, permeated the minivan’s air conditioned interior as Ethan Harper opened the sliding door. He placed his hand on twelve-year-old Kevin’s back as soon as the child climbed out of the van, jumping down onto the hot asphalt of the parking lot. “Are you ready for this, buddy?” Ethan asked confidently.
Kevin looked ahead at the entrance to the Onett Community Courthouse and nodded his head hesitantly. “Yes, sir. I’m ready.”
After shutting the van door, Ethan gripped Kevin’s shoulder as they walked toward the courthouse. “You’ll do fine, Kevin. After today, everything is going to change for the better. I’m sure of it,” he insisted. 
Ethan kept pace with Kevin, who deliberately walked as slowly as he could toward the front door of the courthouse. He knew Kevin was just prolonging the inevitable—having to testify against his own father.
Craig Shillman, Kevin’s attorney and a Citrus County Deputy District Attorney, stepped through the two mahogany and glass front doors of the courthouse to greet them. The shiny, smooth surface on the top of his head reflected the sunlight, causing a glare that was too bright to look at directly. Ethan shook Craig’s outreached hand, noticing that it was dry compared to his own clammy palms, which was reassuring knowing that the attorney was much less nervous than himself.
“How are you two doing this morning?” Craig politely asked, though Ethan knew it was rhetorical.
“As good as we can be,” Ethan responded.
Title: The Henchman
Entry Nickname:  Stands By Until He Doesn’t
Word count: 98,000
Genre:  Literary Thriller
Rye wants to get through his shift without getting his ass kicked, arrested, or shot—after all, he’s in his good suit.  As a henchman in a ruthless gang, Rye doesn’t have high hopes.  After all, contending with bent cops, hitmen, vigilantes, and even a few heroes usually puts a guy in prison, in the hospital, or in the ground.  As the bodies stack up around Rye, his best hope of survival is looking the other way, not asking questions, and not getting attached. 
But Gwen, a woman risking everything to search for her missing sister, draws Rye into her pursuit.  Even as he helps Gwen, he sinks deeper into the New York City underworld as his boss, Brian King, jockeys for power and hunts for a troublesome young hero.  With each body Rye helps King bury, the less he can avoid the consequences of looking away.
When Gwen’s quest puts her in King’s sights, King abducts her in a twisted attempt at redemption.  Rye, confronted with a crime so heinous that he can’t look away, must choose between saving the last shreds of his soul or the woman he’s come to love.
First 250:
I should’ve worn a different suit.  But it was an important meeting, so I wore my best one.  Now I was standing in a drizzle, among the dumpsters in a dark alley strewn with trash, hoping that it wasn’t getting ruined.  If they had told me that I’d be out there with the garbage, I would’ve worn something that would blend in.  Maybe something off the rack.  But I was there in a thousand-dollar suit.  So were Vlad and the two Korean guys that Ko had out there with us.  Four guys, in a back alley, in thousand-dollar suits.  If a cop looked down that alley, he’d have all kinds of probable cause.  Probably because one of the Korean guys was carrying a submachine gun.  And wearing sunglasses.  At night.  In the rain.  Then again, any cop who passed this alley was probably on the take.  Maybe he’d even have an umbrella he could lend us.
Vlad lit a cigarette, then held it in his cupped hand so it wouldn’t get wet.  Water beaded on his shaved head.  He offered me one, but I declined.  He offered one to the Korean guys.  The one with the sunglasses took one.
“You guys know how long this is going to go on for?” I asked.  “If this is going to be a while, we should probably put someone at the street end of the alley.  Right now, an entire SWAT team could be down there and we wouldn’t know.”

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      Query: Overall I understand what your core premise is. However, I feel in some places, specifically between the second and third paragraph, we are missing some vital information in how he ended up in a personal war with a child molester. And why would he need to admit his illegal actions with law enforcement if he goes after Roger himself? I guess I'm missing the connection there. And I also feel this query is missing a gut punch of an ending. I think rhetorical in query letters tend to distract rather than entice. Go with a more concrete statements verses questions. I feel the meat of your story is in fact about the war against the child molester. Your query should be focused around that if that is a correct assumption. Most of the second paragraph could be summed up, which would leave you more room to explain the part about Roger. Hope this helps.

      First 250: This part is pretty good. We get a sense of who Ethan is and what his job entails. Though I might have him touch Kevin less. For some reason that stood out to me. There are a few other areas where I was pulled out of the story. Watch out for "said bookisms" which are words used other than "he/she said". For example, "he insisted", "Ethan asked confidently". Use these sparingly. Like one a page if that. Dialogue attribution should almost be invisible to the reader and using "said" can achieve that end. Also, I feel the opening sentence is a bit clique. Starting out with the temperature doesn't lend to strong opening. You want to hook the reader instantly. Overall, good job!

      Query: The first sentence drew me in pretty quickly. I get who Rye is and what type of world he's living in. But I do feel the second paragraph needs more explanation in how he and Gwen end up working together. You really have a lot of room to flesh this part out, which will round this query out some more. And the last sentence, I read it several times, but I can't figure out the connection between saving Gwen or his soul by not doing, what? Perhaps maybe explaining a bit more about Gwen's sister might answer some of these question. I know in a query you don't want to give away any secrets, but if there is any way to define this connection somehow, it might make for a stronger ending.

      First 250: The voice is pretty spot on! I'll admit I laughed. Honestly, I only have a couple nitpicky things I noticed.
      "Now I was standing in a drizzle, among the dumpsters in a dark alley strewn with trash, hoping that it wasn’t getting ruined."
      In this sentence, I would mention the suit again. For example: "Now I was standing in a drizzle, among the dumpsters in a dark alley strewn with trash, hoping my suit wasn’t getting ruined."
      There really should only be 1 space between each sentence. Good job on this!

      Victory to: THE HENCHMAN

    • Wow! Very dark and awesome entries.

      A Child's Last Hope: I appreciate the moral dilemma. It's very clearly spelled out and makes for a good query because we know the stakes, character, and conflict. I'd watch the overuse of the word "liberated." I think it can be tightened a bit. I.e. He's liberated children from hoarders, drug addicts, and hostage situations. We don't need more details unless it's the central conflict.

      In the first 250, you generally want to keep it to a couple of characters. It feels a little rushed. Maybe just focus on an interaction with Kevin and go deeper?

      The Henchman: I adore the first line of your query. Great hook and set up for the character! I know exactly who he is in that one line. Overall, it's a very good query. I agree that I'd like a more clear relationship and conflict between Rye and Gwen.

      The 250 is also really good. I have to admit I like the first line of the query better than the first line of the 250. Some really good voice and imagery.

      Victory to: THE HENCHMAN

    • A Child’s Last Hope:

      Query: Overall, I have a general sense of what this book will be about, but I think we’re missing out on some vital information. You can axe the CFS abbreviation in the query since you never reference CFS again. I’d also recommend combining the first and second paragraphs since both seem to be about his background. Give us a flavor for it so we can understand the character and his job, but not too much that it’s dominating the query. Also, be careful with overusing the word “liberate.” It seems like the bigger focus should be on his movement into immoral and unlawful actions and the central conflict with Roger. Give us more on how this personal war came about, how the FBI plays into it, and most importantly what the stakes are. Why is he considering admitting what he did? Is Roger blackmailing him? What’s leading to this change of heart?

      250: While I find this opening to be intriguing, I feel as though it’s being weighed down a bit by too much description. For example, the first sentence feels very heavy with so much information in there—the month, temperature, location, etc. As well, be careful about over explaining things to the reader. We can make the connection between Kevin dragging his feet and trying to prolong the inevitable, and that a dry palm vs. a damp one likely means one person is nervous. I’d recommend focusing more on the relationship between Ethan and Kevin, let us get invested in the character and feel the emotions that are clearly happening here.

      The Henchman

      Query: What stands out to me here is the voice you’ve managed to sprinkle into the query, which is great. I love the first line, but, and this may just be the way I’m reading it, I’m almost reading it as he doesn’t want his ass arrested or his ass shot. One thing that really took me out of reading this though was how many lists you’ve included (kicked, arrested, shot / cops, hitmen, vigilantes / prison, hospital, ground). Try to mix it up a bit. You lose me a bit when you hit the second and third paragraph. Tells us more on how Rye and Gwen meet, why he’s helping her, and in general what’s happening here.

      250: Again, I’m enjoying the voice in this sample. For me, there’s just too much focus on the suit in the first paragraph. I snickered initially, but then felt like it was dragging on, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure what’s happening here—other than he’s ruining a really expensive suit and hanging out with some shady characters. Here, be careful with using too many short and choppy sentences. They definitely have their use, but it was drawing me out of the scene.

      Two really different and interesting entries, great job!



      Query: I think the first paragraph could be streamlined a bit by cutting the last line.

      The second paragraph gives too much detail to things that (it sounds like) happen before the story starts. See if you can’t condense that down to one or two sentences, something like – “After six years of saving children and starting his own family, an accidental death triggers something inside Ethan, and his own actions turn towards the unlawful.”

      Make sure the turning point in the third paragraph stands out: “But when he initiates a personal war with a child molester…”

      250: Be careful of adverbs and dialogue tags! In most cases, it’s obvious from the dialogue itself how the words are being spoken, and it’s usually best to stick with “said” and “asked.”


      Query: There’s a few things I would like more fleshed out. What exactly is Gwen risking (career? her life?) Is King’s hunt for this hero important to Rye’s story in a specific way (if not, I’d cut that detail)? In the last paragraph, is King’s abduction of Gwen the “crime so heinous”? The twisted act of redemption left me a little puzzled…

      But overall you’ve done a great job of showing your voice!

      250: Just a tiny critique — the second paragraph uses “one” four times in quick succession. Otherwise, the voice and situation are cracking me up. Great voice!


    • A Child's Last Hope

      Query: I think the query could benefit from both trimming back and expanding. In the first sentence, he 'navigates atrocities on a daily basis' — which I think you can cut because the abuses are listed in the next sentence. If I'm the only one who says this — ignore! — but I would cut the 'Children are innocent' sentence as it comes across as a lecture from the author, not part of the set up for the story. In paragraph two, I don't think we need the specifics of his various child rescues — I think the fact that he bends and breaks the rules to do so is the crucial factor. Perhaps shift the focus to the effect six years on the job has on Ethan — on his temper, spirit, ethical code — to set the stage for Ethan going to war with Roger. Also, I wondered if there was a tragic triggering event. A super-picky point: 'liberate' is used twice in the 2nd paragraph — suggest mixing up word choices here.

      250: I'm not sure that opening with the weather is the best way to serve your story. Perhaps trim back so we start with the heat's impact on the main character? e.g., 'Heat permeated the minivan's air conditioned interior as Ethan Harper opened the sliding door.' The location and month can be folded into the story later. Also suggest cutting adverbs used in combination with speech tags (confidently, politely), conveying mood/attitude through dialogue and action. On a similar note, I suggest sticking with 'said' for speaker attributions as it's more transparent. Nice detail of Ethan noting the lawyer's palms aren't clammy, reassuring him of the lawyer's confidence – and a hint that Ethan is, for some reason, not as sanguine.


      Query: I liked the wry humor in the opening, but I did wonder if 'shift' is the right word? It sounds like he clocks in and out (super picky point!) where I’d expect him to be at his boss’ beck and call at all hours of the day. I suggest trimming out two of the 'ins' in the following: '…in prison, (in) the hospital, or (in) the ground'. I did want a little more information about Rye — what is his role as a henchman? Why do the bodies stack up around him? Is he an enforcer? Or? I'd also like a bit more in terms of how he and Gwen intersect. Gwen's 'risking everything' was a little vague for me — since I don't know what her 'everything' is. That said, I think the stakes are clear.

      250: Again, I enjoyed the humor. Rye's a fun narrator. I suggest trimming filler words like 'that' where possible, e.g., '…hoping (that) it wasn't getting ruined'; 'if they had told me (that) I'd be…' Also suggest reordering the following: But (I was) there I was in a thousand dollar suit.'

      Two engaging beginnings. Well done!




      I like the stakes you portrayed in your query, but I found that your first two paragraphs lagged a little. I believe you would benefit lots from getting to the MC's "unlawful methods" a lot earlier–that's the part that made me stop and take notice, and I'd love to see you punching it up. I'd cut the last sentence in your first paragraph, then pare down the examples of his actions during his 6 years of career. I'd definitely keep than he's trying to start a family of his own, but then I'd jump right into his methods becoming unlawful and immoral. I'd also considering kiboshing the last paragraph–you really don't need it, and given the stakes, ending with Ethan's choice would be stronger, IMHO.

      First 250:

      I really don't have much to contribute–I thought your beginning was fairly strong! I might just kill the adverb in the first dialogue tag (it weakens it–especially since it's so close to your opening). I might also tighten the description of the lawyer a tiny bit, but other than that, I didn't find any major issues with your opening!



      Loved the voice in this and how it conveys right away exactly the kind of person the MC is.

      My quibble would be with the way you introduce Gwen–I get that it's near impossible to fit everything in a 250-word query, but I'd like to know how Rye ended up involved with her, even if it's just a couple of words to tell us where she came from.

      I was also confused by the whole third paragraph: Why is King's motive to abduct Gwen: a twisted attempt at redemption? Again, I get that you can't include everything in a query, so in this case, I'd just say he kidnaps her for reasons of his own (or something like that), and leave it at that. I also found the reference to the heinous crime kind of confusing: is that what King does to Gwen? Or to her missing sister? Or something else entirely? I'd really just simplify that last paragraph to what King does and how it changes Rye's views and forces him to make an impossible decision.

      First 250:

      Like with your opponent, I don't think I actually have much useful feedback! I really enjoyed the voice and it pulled me right in. The focus on the suit worked really well for me because it made me smile, but it also told me exactly who your MC is right away.

      Two very good, strong openings! I'm impressed!


      Query: Big kudos to Ethan and the job he does! Here are some suggestions for your query: First paragraph–I’d cut your first sentence completely and make the second sentence your first, adding “…social worker Ethan Harper…”. You can also lose “…and as a social worker” from the last line of the 1st paragraph as it’s repetitive. Second paragraph: While I like hearing about Ethan’s heroics, I wonder if there is a way to simplify and give us more of what you’re discussing in sentence two—THAT’s the conflict we need to see so we can understand what the cause/effect. Third paragraph: drop the rhetorical questions and turn them into factual statements. Final paragraph: I don’t think you need it. In fact, by the end of the 3rd paragraph I was ready to jump into the first 250. If you cut that, you’d have 43 more words to play with in paragraphs 2 & 3 to discuss conflict & stakes!

      First 250: Ethan is my hero being in child protective services—it is a hard job and not for the faint of heart!

      My favorite part was how Kevin purposely walked slow, and Ethan fell in line—not rushing him, totally getting him there on Kevin’s timeline.

      Suggestions for improvement: There are a lot of repetitive words in your query and 250. A way to get around that? Read your story out loud (or if you have a Kindle, use the text to speech option). In the 250, there are a lot of “Ethan”, “Kevin” and “courthouse” use. I know it’s tough to use pronouns when the characters are all male, but you can get around that with words like, “the kid’s shoulder”, for example. I would also encourage you to cut the use of names in dialogue. For most of us, it’s not natural.

      I’d also look at how you’re setting up the scene. There are some instances where you tell us, rather than show us. Example: Ethan asked confidently. Show us that confidence…sitting tall in the van seat, giving Kevin a shoulder squeeze rather than just a hand on his back, etc. But there are also some instances where you show us A LOT where you could draw back a little (it’s a fine balance—show vs. tell can be frustrating can’t it?). For example: the last paragraph has lots of descriptors for the door, the attorney’s head, clammy palms, etc.

      Query: The VOICE in this query is incredible! I really don’t have any suggestions for you. The stakes and conflict are clear and I’ve definitely got my interest piqued into what is going to happen next! My only suggestion is small: repetitive word use in the phrase “after all”. I’d cut the second one.

      The first 250: Again…the voice here is AWESOME. I love Rye’s “You gotta be kidding me” attitude. A few things: second paragraph: use of the word ‘one’ 4 times. You could shore up that whole interaction in a combined effort. Something like, “He offered the pack to each of us. The guy with the sunglasses took one.”

      The first 250 is hard to try and drop in some emotion because it’s probably in words 251+. But, one of the things I keep wondering is what Rye is feeling. Is he indifferent? Cool under pressure? Peeved that he’s with these three jokers, including a guy wearing sunglasses at night? You get the idea. The conversation about the suits I actually liked (I chuckled!), but you could add in here some body language on how Rye is feeling about being there–especially when he’s looking down the alley. Is he nervous? Worried? Show us that.


    • What a great matchup! Both authors have done well to present a sympathetic character facing a true dilemma.

      What this essentially boils down to is a vigilante story, which by itself tells us a lot about the main character and the conflict he faces. That said, it takes us a long time to get there.

      In the first paragraph, you might tighten and look out for forms of the "to be" verb. You need not introduce him as "Altruistic" social worker, either. It's redundant :-). All we need to know is that you have a social worker who's not afraid to blur the lines facing off against a predator, and trying to figure out if he's gone too far. I suggest you cut most of the details of cases he's handled — these are run-of-the-mill anyway — and focus on the main conflict.

      The first 250 aims to do the right thing by showing us your MC in his element. That said, for a thriller, it might be a little slow. A courthouse is ho-hum. I want to see him going into a house to get a kid out of a bad situation. At the prose level, you could lose a few adverbs.

      What a great story setup with the classic bad-guy dilemma. In the first paragraph, I like the content and voice, but was distracted by the number of comma-delineated lists. A bit of sentence structure variation would help. I love the line about burying bodies, but it may need a little rewrite to make sense (right now it's "with each A, the less B"). Also, I'm confused about the way you pose the dilemma. Isn't helping the woman going to be what saves his soul? I felt the phrase "looking the other way" is over-used here, and maybe too passive as well.

      In the first 250, you open in the perfect type of scene and I'm already loving the voice. The line about the cops on the take is great world-building. That said, I felt you hit on the nice-suit-in-the-rain joke about three times too many. Overall though, I want to read more.


      Two strong entries here. Congratulations to both.



      The Query:

      You definitely give us a reason to root for your protagonist, even if his methods become unlawful. You could maybe cut the last line of the first paragraph, as ending with “treating every case as if his own child were in danger” is a stronger sell and the followup is redundant.

      You could also tighten up the second paragraph. I appreciate the more in depth summary, but I don’t know if we need to know it was over six years, and everything he did. Saving children is already shorthand for “good guy”. Likewise, maybe skip the “altruistic social worker” description as well and just jump into naming the protagonist and explaining what he does.

      Other than that, the stakes are clear, and you have a named antagonist who we get to know a bit about! A lot of the other queries I’ve read the antagonists have either been mysterious or something personal the hero has to conquer, which is fine, but this was a little refreshing.

      Nice job.

      The first 250:

      You do well setting the scene. It’s hot, its sunny, but there’s a bit of hesitation that contrasts which I like. I would cut as many adjectives as possible. For example “Ethan asked confidently” should just be Ethan asked. Let the words he says sell whether or not its confident.

      Also, the way you describe him touching the boy sounds a bit more like manhandling than affectionate or supportive. I’d tread lighter on this, maybe just have him do it once to really punch when he needs to be extra supportive.

      I like the detail of the opening, but maybe start with something that’s more of a hook. Maybe describe the courthouse and how imposing it could look. Then you can use the heat to express the anxiety.

      Good work.


      The Query:

      Sounds like a fun story. As I’ve pointed out in other queries, having a curse word in your query is potentially something to avoid, and I think you could come up with something more clever than “ass kicked,” but otherwise I really like the first sentence.

      If there is anything more unique or “good” about Rye, I think it may help to learn so we root for him a bit more. I get he’s a Henchman, but is this a redemption arc? You mention redemption, but it sounds like King is seeking redemption, which is a bit confusing. I’d explain better how Rye gets drawn into Gwen’s quest if you can and why he chooses to have a change of heart now.

      The sentence “Even as he helps Gwen, he sinks deeper into the New York City underworld as his boss, Brian King, jockeys for power and hunts for a troublesome young hero. “ should probably be two sentences. A "As someone does something sentences" isn't usually the strongest option and should be used sparingly. Maybe say, “Meanwhile his boss, Brian King…” or something similar.

      Nice solid query with clear characters and plot and semi-clear stakes. The only thing it could use a bit more of is motivation.

      The first 250:

      Great start. I think you’re striking the perfect tone. Dangerous, but also self-aware enough to showcase that these are probably terrible people who are also strangely charming. It’s very Hollywood, in a good way. Maybe tighten the first paragraph a bit. The suit joke wears out its welcome just a bit (pardon the pun). For example, citing how much it costs could come way before instead of just “best” suit. But overall nice job.



      – Outer Space Potato Man



    I really like the premise of the story. It kind of has that Dexter feel to it.

    The last sentence in paragraph one is not necessary. That’s implied, so I think you can remove it.

    Also, I think there are too many stakes listed. Pick two and stick with them.

    Good work!

    First 250:

    This is a great start. We immediately see Edward’s character.

    I’m wondering why Kevin has an attorney. Generally speaking, if he’s just testifying, he would have a Victim’s Advocate from the county attorney’s office.

    Also, there were a few too many adverbs.

    Other than that, this is strong!



    You have a great start here, but the last paragraph was a bit confusing. Could you clarify a bit?

    This has great voice and a good premise.

    First 250:

    I love the voice here and the set-up. And I love how concerned he is about his suit.

    My biggest concern is repetition. You use the word “alley” a lot. And you have “probable” and two uses of “probably” all within a few lines of each other. Plus, repetition of ideas. I think you could cut 1/4 of this and still get your message across.

    But overall, great job!

  2. Child & Family Service
    Query: Not much to contribute, great work. The personal war, maybe flush that out a bit, is the guy threatening his family, hence help is needed? I would look at ' all of the above', a bit cliche.

    250: First sentence I would reverse the order, he can't know the heat in the van until he opens the door, so it was a speedbump for me. Also in your first 250 words there are a lot of sentences with the 'as' construction, too many for me. Might want to check if this flows through the rest of the MS. Good luck!

    Stands by Until He Doesn't:
    Query: great query, only question- the line 'Even as he helps Gwen…' do you need the word Even? Seemed to flow better without it for me. Loved 'off the rack' line. Great voice. Well done.

    This sounds like a really intense but interesting read. I like the conflict that you've set up and I'm genuinely curious to find out how Ethan resolves his dilemma.
    Your query could maybe be trimmed just a little. The first paragraph feels a little repetitive (I get that you're setting him up as altruistic, but it just reads as a bit long).
    I like your opening page, but I think you rely too much on adverbs. Adverbs need to be used carefully, and in your first page I'm finding them distracting, especially when they're used to modify dialogue tags.

    I LOVE the voice in your query. Very engaging, and it makes me like his character already. My only though is that the sentence "saving the last shreds of his soul or the woman he’s come to love" is confusing to me. It sort of implies that he'll be a worse person if he saves her? Why is him preserving his soul mutually exclusive from saving her?

    In you pages, my only thought is that the first paragraph feels a little too like it's written in present tense. I'm not sure if there's a fix really, but it almost feels like your book would flow more naturally with his voice if it was in present tense. That's hugely subjective though, so feel free to ignore!

  4. Child and Family Services: Two paragraphs into the query and I feel so bad for Ethan. Social services can be a tough place to spend you physical and emotional energy, and I felt that you gave us enough about the challenges of his job to justify his illegal and maybe unethical methods. Well done. A little more information about the conflict with Roger would help alleviate some confusion about the plot. First 250: Good job of setting the stage for the tension at the beginning. I can see that Ethan is sympathetic and caring, based on his actions towards to boy. Love the reflection on the guys head blinding him, but I think you have a little too much description in the first few paragraphs. Focusing more on the characters and their reactions/body language will help readers connect better. Good job overall, this is a sensitive topic and it seems you’ve handled it well.

    Stands By Until He Doesn't: Ooh, an anti-hero! Love the first line of the query, sets the stage of a complicated character with maybe a touch of humour. I’d like to know more about Gwen, and why Rye becomes involved with her goal. What’s in it for him? First 250: Unless the thousand dollar suits are important to the whole story, I would compress the first few sentences. Not necessary for the reader to spend so much time thinking about his suit while wondering what’s really going on. I like short sentences to increase tension, but I think you can alternate them with longer ones for better flow when reading. I love the description of the guys with machine guns and sunglasses, sets the stage well of what kind of story this will be. Well done.

  5. From a fellow Kombatant:

    Child and Family Services: Gotta love a vigilante main character! You do an excellent job of setting the scene and establishing the stakes. If I had to make a suggestion, I would tighten some of the writing — "on a daily basis" can be simply "daily" just as "a child's last hope of rescue" can be "a child's last hope."
    First 250 – Strong descriptions, tight dialogue. I got a knot in my stomach just thinking about a 12-yr-old boy having to testify against his own father. Would love to hear how this turns out. Best of luck to you!

    Stands By: Your query is tight and punchy. Love the "take-no-prisoners" language. The only phrase I don't love is Gwen, "a woman risking everything." Please please tell us exactly what she is risking! Her life? Her husband? Her soul? All of the above?
    First 250 – Super solid. You paint an excellent image. Love the concept of thousands of dollars in tailoring getting wrecked in the rain. Your descriptions are vivid without overkill or apology.

    I wish there was a way you both could continue on in the Query Kombat!! Very best of luck to both of you. Seriously solid entries. Outstanding.

  6. Thank you to the judges for taking the time to review and comment, and to everyone else who commented. And thanks to Child and Family Services! I didn't get a chance to meet you, but best of luck going forward!


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