Query Contest and Critiques!

Yesterday I posted about my favorite things that don’t cost a fortune…or anything at all.  As promised, today I’m giving away something that I think is pretty darn valuable even though you can’t put a dollar figure on it.  My time! 

I don’t need to tell any of you that time is a commodity and that I try to use it wisely.  But because so many great people offered critiques for both my book and my query letter, I’d like to pay it forward.  So here’s the deal: 
  1. Post the synopsis from your query letter (that’s the most important part anyway) in comments (include your name, genre and word count).  
  2. The ten best/most interesting queries will receive a ten page critique and line edit. 
  3. For three of those ten, I’ll read, edit and critique the next fifty pages.
  4. One writer will receive a critique and line edit of their full manuscript. 
Honestly guys, I’m a pretty good editor.  It used to be my full-time job.  And my totally awesome crit partners seem to like working with me and appreciate my opinion.

The Rules
  • Your synopsis should be less than 250 words.  If it’s longer than that, you probably need to rewrite your query letter anyway.
  • Your manuscript should be complete or at least pretty close.  What’s the point in entering if you don’t have ten pages to send me?
  • For every twenty entries, I’ll add an additional ten page critique. 
  • If there are fifty entries, I’ll add a fifty page critique.
  • And if there are seventy-five entries, I’ll read another full manuscript.
  • Only blog followers can participate! 
  • All entries must be submitted in the comments section of this post by Tuesday, July 19th
There are no losers!  If your query isn’t picked and you want to know why, send me an email and I’ll critique your query letter too!

Go brush up your queries.  I can’t wait to see what ya’ll are working on!


  • prerna pickett

    Prerna Pickett:

    Kale and Shelly are partners in a magical underground world known as the Circle of Elements- too bad neither of them know it.
    After a not so random run-in on a crowded sidewalk, that all changes. Kale learns of the hidden family secret his parents have kept from himm and he dives into the world of the Circle, where being a superhuman with elemental power is the norm. It’s there that he learns of his secret partner that was given up for adoption, the girl he ran into on the street- the girl he can’t get out of his head.
    Shelly’s biggest problem used to be fighting with her mom about her future college endeavors, that is until she starts to spontaneously combust. Now all Shelly wants is to be normal again- no fire, no secrets, no fear
    When chance brings these two together again, it‘s clear that the spark of attraction from their first meeting is still there and getting stronger.
    To top it all off Shelly is receiving mysterious e-mails that threaten her very existence and she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Even though Kale is there pushing her towards him, the hidden shadows that shroud the Circle in mystery are only getting darker, and things are going to go down whether they’re prepared or not.
    Complete at 125,000 words, Fire and Ice is a young adult paranormal romance.

  • Mflick1

    The telepathic Owens twins find out truths of their family history, their loves, and themselves when factions at Evermore Academy battle over the revelations of an ancient prophecy, which deals with their special heritage. Piper has gotten herself kicked out of yet another school, the fourth in three years. This time though, she knows her sister Ryder likes Evermore, and she vows to stay out of trouble. Piper meets Victor Mira, who fascinates her with his mysterious ways and dark good looks, while Ryder likes Finn Michaels, who may know the twins are telepathic, especially when he laughs out loud at something the girls say telepathically. Headmistress Lamia isn’t who she portrays herself as, playing a major role as the girls learn more about their past, causing Piper to question everyone around her, straining her previously unbreakable relationship with Ryder. Ultimately, the twins confront their inevitable future due to an ancient prophecy that requires Ryder to be a sacrfice, forcing Piper to make a decision, which lets the past change the future.

    Manuscript complete – check
    mf060784 at gmail dot com

  • Taryn

    Oooooh, this is awesome 🙂

    Name: Taryn
    Email: tarynalAThotmailDOTcom
    Genre: YA Spec Fic
    WC: 75K


    When humanity learns its writers can create, or “Animate,” their own worlds, people have the final nail in the coffin of religion. God is now dead, but not everyone is happy about that.

    For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Kalyn has had one goal: become the thirteenth Animator, one of the revered people who can Animate their written works. When her brother gets that distinction first, she finds herself breaking away from the conventional aversion to religion and instead befriending a girl who has religious sympathies.

    As Kalyn wonders if religion is less dangerous than the government insists, she stumbles across an old abandoned chapel which leads to a series of clues. She’s on the trail of something that could break open the government’s lock of religion and maybe even prove Animation is an elaborate hoax. But three powerful factions have interests in keeping that hoax alive, and Kalyn is presented with bribes, decisions, and danger as she forges toward a truth that just may destroy the only goal she’s ever had.

  • Sharon Bayliss

    Name: Sharon Bayliss
    Genre: YA Sci-fi/fantasy
    Word Count: 70,000

    Thank you for the great opportunity!

    With only days to go until seventeen-year-old Lena Lowell ages out of the foster care system, the superhuman royal family from her childhood home returns to reclaim the throne…and moving out into the world alone is no longer her biggest problem.

    With a skyrocketing career as a pop idol and a boyfriend who is the heir to the most powerful political dynasty in the nation, Lena has the most charmed life of any foster child in the Republic. But happiness is not that simple. Her boyfriend’s father dropped the bomb that destroyed her home nation of Stormland, and the nightmares about the fire in the sky don’t look like they’re ever going away.

    Then members of the Wilde family, the genetically engineered aristocrats of Stormland, appear on live news and throw Lena’s life into chaos. Not extinct as people thought, their return brings the threat of war along with a handsome and reckless young Wilde who is drawn to Lena. Swept up in political intrigue and a dangerous love triangle, Lena is already in over her head when both of the men in her life are kidnapped. Lena dives into a centuries old rivalry between the world’s most powerful ruling families to save the men she loves. With the two countries playing a game of chicken with bombs, Lena knows one false step could ignite war.

  • Erin L. Schneider

    Thanks so much for the opportunity – a true definition of paying it forward!

    Name: Erin L. Schneider
    Genre: YA Contemporary Thriller
    Word Count: 89,000


    Sixteen-year-old Blakely Sullivan has big plans for her life. Boy, does she ever.

    It helps that she’s pretty darn cute, and minus the solid six inches she lacks in height, she well more than makes up for in personality alone. She also happens to be the sole heir to billions, thanks to her father who single-handedly created Sullivan Enterprises – the largest private aeronautics defense company in the world. And following in the footsteps of her recently murdered mom, she’s destined to become one of the most brilliant bio-chemical engineers to ever grace the planet.

    Only that last part, she doesn’t know yet.

    For over six hundred years, 99.9% of the world’s most powerful and influential leaders, scientists, CEOs – and yes, even most of Hollywood’s elite – successfully achieved greatness because of one thing…they were chosen. When a mysterious invitation shows up at Blakely’s door, she can’t help but wonder what she’s gotten herself into now.

    Little does she know, she’s the next in line.

  • Redleg

    Sounds great. Thanks for the opportunity.

    Name: Steve Kozeniewski
    Genre: Horror/Mystery
    Word Count: 62,000

    Zombie private eye BRAINEATER JONES vows to find out who killed him and why. He remembers waking up facedown in a swimming pool, but nothing about his former life or how he died. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.

    Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, Jones finds that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. Only one speakeasy in the city caters to the post-mortem crowd and it’s run by The Old Man, a pickled fetus in a Mason jar.

    As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones begins to suspect that The Old Man ordered his death. His suspicions are confirmed when his partner goes missing. Jones desperately wants to find his partner and avenge his own death, but if he kills The Old Man he risks cutting off the flow of alcohol to his own kind.

    If the liquor dries up, Jones will lose the last scrap of humanity he’s been clinging to, and the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism. It’ll be a tall order cracking this case, but nothing’s ever stopped Braineater Jones before, not even being dead.

  • Louisa

    Thanks so much for this cool opportunity. I hope to do the same one day too!

    Name: Louisa Clarkson
    Genre: MG Fantasy
    Word count: 55,000

    Twelve year old Isabelle Tresdon doesn’t have a magical bone in her body – but she does have a freaky, silver strand of hair.

    C’mon, pull the other leg. A strand of hair connected to magical powers to transform particles of energy into matter? An invitation to study magic at Mastermind Academy, a secret school inside the earth’s core? Her mother hides her own hair, along with other secrets from her past? It all sounds like a tale from a storybook on Isabelle’s bookshelf. It’s too bad it’s not, and her strand has withered and will drain her magic and life in five days.

    Poor Isabelle’s problems double when she trusts two silver-stranded tricksters – the mysterious and bossy, Esme, and Boldrick, the vain gentleman trapped in a cat’s body. And boy do they make her suffer to revive her strand. She must survive as a toad for two days and dodge her toad loathing father’s garden spade; draw the portrait of a grumpy dragon that threatens to roast her on a spit; and shoot a feather into a dartboard. Yeah, a real cinch.

    It’s not until Boldrick and Isabelle are imprisoned as traitors in Agartha – the land inside the earth – that she discovers the tricksters aren’t helping her out of the kindness of their hearts. What they need from her exposes family secrets, threatens her survival and future at Mastermind Academy.

  • Jess

    This is so generous of you! Thanks for the chance to win a critique 🙂

    Name: Jess Lawson
    Genre: Upper MG Adventure
    Title: Tripp Parker Vs. The World
    Word Count: 60,000

    Query Synopsis:

    Eccentric debate club champ Tripplehorn Parker is certain he’ll be dead by next week, his body rolling around the stomach of a vicious African beastie. He might be right. While his hippo-researching parents are thrilled to be entering the field again, Tripp can only mourn the inevitable loss of his limbs. Unfortunately, nobody will listen to reason from a friendless twelve-year-old, even one with a large vocabulary. The night before leaving home, Tripp receives a cryptic message ending with: Only you can stop them.

    An eight-fingered woman and her eyepatched sidekick follow the Parkers from America to the Ugandan bush. The guide is a suspicious meanie. The support workers are twitchy. Warnings and symbols continue to appear in Tripp’s backpack, finally prompting him to do a very scary thing—he teams up with a Ugandan girl to determine why hippo territory is so popular. Clues and village folklore point to a hidden hippo shrine containing power and gold galore. Unfortunately, ancient legend calls for a human sacrifice (or three) to access the treasure. If the shrine is found, the research trip may become a rather uncivilized hunting expedition, with the Parkers as prey. With parents too busy to pay attention to anything without 12-inch tusks, it’s up to Tripp to outwit a herd of really, really bad guys—the fate of the world may depend on it.

  • doramitchell

    Name: Dora Mitchell
    Genre: MG paranormal mystery
    wds: 50,000

    There’s something strange in the town of Thedgeroot. If you ask anybody at school, they’ll tell you it’s the new kid, Spaulding Meriwether. But Spaulding suspects there are much stranger things than him around. Like the man-eating boa constrictor next door. Or the unidentified beast attacking people in the woods. And the new swim coach, with her clammy hands and long, green teeth? Let’s not even talk about her.

    As the school’s resident weirdo, no one takes Spaulding’s suspicions seriously—until he gets a warning from beyond the grave that a shadow is coming to devour him. Now that he’s got the added credibility of Speaking to the Other Side, he convinces some neighborhood kids to help him investigate. And when they find a body in the woods, they realize he’s not the only one in danger.

    Time is running out, not just for Spaulding, but maybe for all of Thedgeroot. Still, he’s sure he can find out what’s behind it all (assuming he doesn’t get eaten by shadows or boa constrictors first). He’s not so sure he’ll have any friends left once it’s over—especially since they’re totally going to act like it’s his fault if it’s the end of the world.

  • tfwalsh

    Name: Tania. F. Walsh
    Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
    Words: 75K

    All her life, Daciana has walked the line between two worlds – humans and wulfkin. Born a werewolf, she has the power to control her inner wolf, an ability never seen before. But at the upcoming Lunar Eutine she must choose a side – become a human or transform into a wulfkin forever. On one hand she’s given her heart to Connell, a detective who knows nothing of her secret life, and on the other, her inner wolf demands she protect the pack.

    When the alpha wulfkin confesses he unleashed a man-eating wolf, and dead bodies start turning up in the woods, Daciana embarks on a deadly quest to stop the beast before humans uncover the pack’s existence.

    The beast drags away her hunting partner, who just happens to be her ex-lover, to his death, and the alpha blames her for the loss. Devastated, she finds comfort in the arms of her human boyfriend, but when a dead body turns up in her apartment, even he starts to suspect her. Saving herself is the least of her problems, so she hunts down the rogue wolf.

    The alpha, whose leadership is threatened by Daciana’s choice, kidnaps Connell to ensure she chooses humanity. Except, she discovers her destiny is already set in motion. She emerges as a wulfkin and slays the alpha after he attacks her, becoming the new alpha, at the expense of the human life she’s always wanted.

  • Laura

    Sixteen-year-old burn victim Rissa McCall expects sand and sun when she’s shuffled off to Egypt with her little brother Andy during their mother’s honeymoon. But while staying with older sister Sophie, Rissa barely has time to enjoy the luxurious resort before a man is killed and someone locks Rissa and her brother in a burning building. The only non-sucky part of the vacation is when she meets seventeen-year-old Rutgar. He ignores her scars and treats her like a ‘Normie’ (a non-burned person). At first, she’s totally psyched a hottie is interested in her, but crashes back to earth when clues point to him being the murderer.

    The resort community is hiding a dark secret, but so are the McCalls—each sibling has special powers. When barracudas attack divers and dead birds fall from the sky, Rissa discovers a fabled pharaonic artifact, the Black Ankh, is behind many strange events in the seaside town. She must decide who to trust and outwit enemies who are determined to gain the Ankh’s power. If she manages to find the ancient relic, she must re-bury it—unless the whispers in her head can tempt her to use it, which will damn her soul forever.

    Laura Chesterson — YA Dk Fantasy/Mystery — 70k.
    (This is great! I’m telling all my friends! :-D)

  • Kate Larkindale

    Kate Larkindale
    Chasing the Taillights, YA Contemporary, 87 K

    Tony and Lucy share nothing except their genetic code and a love of rock music. Tony’s the driven high achiever, the champion diver destined for greatness. Lucy’s biggest concern is getting Cute Guy from the burger joint to ask her out.

    When a car accident kills their parents and leaves Lucy scarred – both physically and emotionally – she and Tony are thrown together and forced to overcome past conflicts and jealousies.

    Taking on an emotionally unstable teenager is probably not the smartest thing Tony has ever done. Between diving practice, classes and homework, not to mention concealing the crush he has on Jake, his best friend, Tony needs to find room in his life for his sister.
    Lucy has her own secrets, and the one about the accident is so devastating it sends her into a spiral of self-destruction. Only Tony’s strength can save them both, but his own stability dwindles with every passing day.

  • Margo Berendsen

    Name: Margo Berendsen
    Genre: YA historical fantasy
    Title: A Handful of Scars
    Word count: 87,000

    Sidain is sixteen years old, clever with horses and building miniature aqueducts, and bitter over the betrayal that killed her father and destroyed her family’s reputation. Once nobility, now she and her mother are nobodies, all their wealth and status lost. Sidain has no intention of staying that way.

    Her first attempt to regain her place in the Greco-Roman kingdom of Thessaly ends in even deeper disgrace and her hands scarred with the brand of a traitor. But in the process Sidain obtains a magical relic. It’s not exactly Aladdin’s lamp from that old story of Araby, but close enough, she hopes. Instead of a genie at her command, her relic contains two spirits who are immortal enemies, and more trouble than a Greek tragedy. So much for three wishes.

    Managing a couple recalcitrant spirits can’t be all that hard: after all, Sidain is a descendant of great generals, philosophers, and architects. Maybe even a god or two. But controlling Las and Sil is like handling two cats with their tails tied together. Their millennium-long feud complicates her efforts to restore her family and messes up her fledgling love life. Meanwhile her father’s betrayer is still determined to destroy her, even if it means opening Greece’s borders to the Huns that are tearing apart the Roman Empire.

  • Rebecca

    Middle Grade Science Fiction
    32,500 wds.

    Twelve-year-old orphan Poppy Southway doesn’t believe in love or trust or any of that mushy stuff. So when her big brother is accused of a galactic crime it’s not like she loves him or anything, but she knows she has to discover the truth.

    Poppy and her ex-best friend run away from school, following clues off-planet. Along the way a telepathic animal tries to bond with Poppy but the bond is imperfect. Instead Poppy finds her thoughts randomly broadcast to everyone, making clue-seeking difficult. Another hindrance is a disabled young prince who wants the animal for his own.

    Pursued by the prince and the Galactic Police, discovering facts that seem to point to her brother’s guilt, Poppy must open her emotions and trust again, or she’ll never learn the truth and get everyone home safely.

    Rebecca Rector

  • Red Boot Pearl

    What a fun contest, thanks 🙂

    Thirteen-year-old Skylar Clark doesn’t like to dumpster dive, but when she sees an EPT in the trashcan, she can’t help but pull it out.
    Grabbing something that’s been peed on is the least of her worries when she figures out the test is positive. Her mom is PREGNANT. Gross.

    Dealing with a brand new step-dad is enough for Skylar but now she’s being replaced by a parasite. And then there’s Mom, whose happy-go-lucky personality is overtaken by someone who reminds Skylar of Mr. Hyde. Combine that with all the baby sitting, baby showers, and changes in travel plans that are spurred by the upcoming bundle-of-love, now Skylar wants to go back to pre-step-dad, pre-baby days.

    When Mom has to be rushed to the hospital six weeks early, Skylar realizes that although the baby is the last thing she wanted, it’s exactly what their family needs. PARASITES DON’T WEAR PINK is a middle grade novel complete at 35,000 words.

    E Barrus

  • ErikLehman

    Erik Lehman
    Novel: ONE
    Word Count: 90,000
    Second draft complete.

    Elle had waited two years into Eckhart’s (her husband’s) third life to follow him—to join him on Earth. They lived a glorious Earth life together, bound by love. The fateful day arrived; Eckhart ripped away from her—killed in a mysterious bombing. The life Elle had loved turned dark. She must find him. She must be with him. He will wait for her in the dimension of Light and order of the Ascension Federation, as a Captain of light and process. She must find a way to hold onto herself while clinging to the edge of an abyss, while he waits for her in the light. Their memories of Love tying them together through many lifetimes, entangled as one. However, there is a force—the Grays, and they have other plans. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance between light and a darker purpose to overthrow divine rules and spread a cancerous disease to the very source of life. The choices become blurred: Will Eckhart Namhel and the Ascension Federation find a way to stop the plague from reaching Source? Will Elleria (Elle) find her love in the light? Will they go home together as ONE?

  • carrieannebrownian

    (Pen) Name: Carrie-Anne Brownian
    Genre: Historical fiction
    Length: 350K

    Seventeen-year-old Lyuba Zhukova’s plans for her life never included being left behind in Russia when her mother and aunt immigrate to America, or having to go into hiding from the Bolsheviks. She also never anticipates becoming an unwed mother. But she still has her best friend and soulmate Ivan Konev and a band of friends, and together they’re determined to survive the Bolsheviks and escape to America.

    As Lyuba runs for her life, she never loses track of protecting her daughter or staying together with Ivan, the man who’s raised her child as his own since the night she was born. The race to get out of Russia, into Estonia, and over to America intensifies after Ivan commits a murder to protect her from a deranged admirer and becomes a wanted criminal. In spite of the increasing danger, they’re assisted by a dear friend who’s double-crossing his prominent Bolshevik father.

    Once in America, Lyuba discovers the streets aren’t lined with gold and that she’s just another Lower East Side tenement-dweller. Ivan brings in dirt wages, forcing them to largely live off the savings they brought from Russia. And though the Red Terror is just a nightmarish memory, Lyuba still has to outwit the personal demons that have long prevented her and Ivan from becoming husband and wife.

  • Theresa Pocock

    Theresa Pocock
    Urban Fantasy

    Julia’s life is typical: mom who’s an abused lunatic, dad who’s addicted to porn, baby sister who’s always in need of protection from said abusive and perverted father, boy friend, and semi sassy, mildly OCD, characteristically hormonal attitude about it all.
    Then the atypical happens.
    A supposed mythical being abducts Julia, for her own good, of course. Who is this super-charged, power-wielding hotty? A God, naturally, but not your run-of-the-mill Greek or Roman variety. To be precise, he’s the grandson of Ahura Mazda; ancient Persia’s supreme god of heaven and earth. And he ain’t just on earth to impregnate every beautiful mortal he can find. He’s here for Julia, though he isn’t exactly sure why… yet.
    Of course he isn’t completely clueless. He and the other “good gods” are on the forsaken planet of earth to complete a sort of godly practicum. Unfortunately, for Julia, these immortals get distracted when the god of darkness —one of the bad gods— becomes obsessed with several primordial artifacts miraculously still on the earth. These objects seem to hint at things too dastardly for even gods to come up with and after a bit of digging, the plot line of this little story gets epic.
    Especially for Julia.
    She finally finds out that not only is she the key to the maniacal plan hatched by death and darkness, but with her inevitable sacrifice, she makes it possible for the evil gods to kill every other mortal with even a drop of her same blood.

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