REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

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arielswan
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REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

Post by arielswan » April 7th, 2010, 2:40 pm

Thanks to everyone who gave feedback. It was enormously helpful. I have cut almost 100 words and I have tried to make it more specific . The historical bit mentioned at the end is that in the mid-1700's the town this story takes place in refused burial in consecrated ground to a man "of uncommon learning" whom they suspected of being a wizard (True). My story is inspired by and makes its way to that history (although it is not the full solve of the mystery)- and I have imagined him an alchemist left over in the age of reason. Should I include this in a stronger way in the query? Also - I need help with the genre. I have always loved the description of a writer's work whom I seek to emulate as New England magic realism. But I don't know if that counts. It is a ghost story - but - it is from the first person POV - so...there is question.
Anyways - here is the revised version:

Dear Agent:

Alice Towne has walked away from what seemed a perfectly rational life. She is eager to leave behind her unfaithful lover, and hoping to avoid the so called wisdom of Josephine, her mother that fancies herself a witch. So, Alice takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house in western, Massachusetts for the summer. There she intends to decide her own fate in solitude.

Quickly it becomes clear that Alice will not get what she wants. Taken in by the townspeople, Alice finds out everyone in Ashfield seems to have an agenda, from the twins who own the hardware store, but also deal in spells, to Teddy Shepherd, the town historian. When Alice learns the house has a history of sick children and suicide, she is not concerned; she has other things on her mind. Josephine, in need of a place to wait out her most recent drama, announces she will visit. And, Kyle Erickson, a young man hired to paint the barn, is slipping beneath Alice’s resolve to be on her own.

Soon though, the pervasive smell of peppermint, the haunting songs in the night, and the woman lurking around the garden, become too much to ignore. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice sets out to discover what happened. Everyone knew the house had a history, but history is usually not the whole story.
I am a teacher of literature and creative writing in Massachusetts. DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism. It is my first novel and is complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.arielswan

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Quill
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Re: REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

Post by Quill » April 7th, 2010, 3:20 pm

Your revised is much improved.
arielswan wrote:
Alice Towne has walked away from what seemed a perfectly rational life. She is eager to leave behind her unfaithful lover,
I would omit "perfectly" and move "behind" ahead to the end of the clause.
and hoping to avoid the so called wisdom of Josephine, her mother that fancies herself a witch.
I would omit "Josephine" and replace "that" with "who fancies..."
So, Alice takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house in western, Massachusetts for the summer.
Omit comma.
There she intends to decide her own fate in solitude.
I would put "in solitude" after "decide". That would end the sentence with "fate", a stronger word, and dispel any confusion as to whether she was considering living alone in the future.
Quickly it becomes clear that Alice will not get what she wants.
I don't think starting this paragraph with an adverb is putting your best foot forward. How about "It soon becomes clear..."?
Taken in by the townspeople,
Find a stronger action verb. How about "Adopted..."? or, "Welcomed"?
Alice finds out everyone in Ashfield seems to have an agenda, from the twins who own the hardware store, but also deal in spells, to Teddy Shepherd, the town historian.
Interesting and I like it, but if you hint at the twins' agenda, shouldn't you also say something about Teddy's?
When Alice learns the house has a history of sick children and suicide, she is not concerned; she has other things on her mind.
A bit disconcerting, and also awkward. Might improve by putting the not concerned part at the beginning of the sentence, but I'm not sure concerned is an accurate or exciting enough word. Maybe not swayed or not distracted. (Although it sounds like she's plenty swayed/distracted by the townies.)
Josephine, in need of a place to wait out her most recent drama, announces she will visit. And, Kyle Erickson, a young man hired to paint the barn, is slipping beneath Alice’s resolve to be on her own.
I'm not either of these subplots need to be mentioned just now. Maybe just have her go from not impressed to impressed by the phenomena.
Soon though, the pervasive smell of peppermint, the haunting songs in the night, and the woman lurking around the garden, become too much to ignore. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice sets out to discover what happened.
Strengthen "sets out" maybe by replacing with "becomes determined" or some such. Verbs are your best selling points in your query. Examine each noun also; maybe replace "infant" with "baby".
Everyone knew the house had a history, but history is usually not the whole story.
I see this as a summation or tagline. Strengthen it. Maybe instead of "everyone" how about "she"? How about "but there is more to the story." Definitely omit "usually." Not a strong word for your finish-up.
I am a teacher of literature and creative writing in Massachusetts. DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism. It is my first novel and is complete at 97,000 words.
A decent little blurb. Definitely put it in a separate paragraph. Not sure about "genre of." And not sure "New England magic realism" is a genre. How about just "ghost story" or "Gothic ghost tale" or some such.

Interesting story and I like the setting. Hope it has enough to make it stick out from other ghost stories. Kind of sounds like it follows a pattern, although I am no expert on ghost stories. Maybe that's a good thing if it is a genre book.

Good luck!

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Re: REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

Post by Emily J » April 7th, 2010, 3:51 pm

arielswan wrote:Thanks to everyone who gave feedback. It was enormously helpful. I have cut almost 100 words and I have tried to make it more specific . The historical bit mentioned at the end is that in the mid-1700's the town this story takes place in refused burial in consecrated ground to a man "of uncommon learning" whom they suspected of being a wizard (True). My story is inspired by and makes its way to that history (although it is not the full solve of the mystery)- and I have imagined him an alchemist left over in the age of reason. Should I include this in a stronger way in the query? Also - I need help with the genre. I have always loved the description of a writer's work whom I seek to emulate as New England magic realism. But I don't know if that counts. It is a ghost story - but - it is from the first person POV - so...there is question.
Anyways - here is the revised version:

Dear Agent:

Alice Towne has walked away from what seemed a perfectly rational trying to figure out how a life can be rational...? life. She is eager to leave behind her unfaithful lover, and hoping to avoid the so hyphen called wisdom of Josephine, her mother who instead of "that" that fancies herself a witch. So, don't like the "So" that starts this sentence, maybe drop it and connect these two sentences? just a thought Alice takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house two-hundred-year-old house in western, why is there a comma here? Massachusetts for the summer. There she intends to decide her own fate in solitude.

Quickly it becomes clear that Alice will not get what she wants. Taken in by the townspeople, Alice finds out everyone in Ashfield seems to have an agenda, from the twins who own the hardware store, but also deal in spells, to Teddy Shepherd, the town historian. what do you mean everyone has an agenda? in regards to her? everyone has some kind of agenda, I have an agenda... When Alice learns the house has a history of sick children and suicide, she is not concerned; she has other things on her mind. hmm this inadvertently makes your MC sound like a jerk to me, "bah sick children? i'm not concerned..." i mean I know they're already dead, but still, jerk! Maybe say the suppose curse doesn't concern her? Josephine, in need of a place to wait out her most recent drama, announces she will visit. And, don't need comma here Kyle Erickson, a young man hired to paint the barn, is slipping beneath Alice’s resolve to be on her own. not sure how you slip beneath someone's resolve, a bit less figurative, a bit more literal here I think

Soon though, the pervasive smell of peppermint, the haunting songs in the night, and the woman lurking around the garden, become too much to ignore. ooh i like this, spooky and specific! good stuff When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice sets out to discover what happened. now she cares eh? :) Everyone knew the house had a history, but history is usually not the whole story. unless something happened in the past... i don't think this phrase works for me (i'm an over-thinker tho)
I am a teacher of literature and creative writing in Massachusetts. DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism. I don't think there is such a genre It is my first novel and is complete at 97,000 words. you might want to leave out if it's your first novel, opinions vary tho

Thank you for your time and consideration.arielswan

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I'm nitpicking, this isn't bad. But I think you could make it even better with another go round.

Joel Q
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Re: REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

Post by Joel Q » April 9th, 2010, 5:55 pm

arielswan wrote: Alice Towne has (delete, passive) walked away from what seemed a perfectly rational life. She is eager to leave behind her unfaithful lover, and hoping to avoid the so called wisdom of Josephine, her mother that fancies herself a witch.That sentence is long, can you make it two? So, Delete Alice takes a position sitting a two hundred (two-hundred-year-old) year old house in western, Massachusetts for the summer. There she intends to decide her own fate in solitude.

Quickly it becomes clear that Alice will not get what she wants.Delete the sentence, it doesn't add anything to the query Taken (someone suggested adopted, I'd agree, Taken in, needs to be changed) in by the townspeople, Alice finds out everyone in Ashfield seems to have an agenda, from the twins who own the hardware store, but also deal in spells, to Teddy Shepherd, the town historian. When Alice learns the house has a history of sick children and suicide, she is not concerned; she has other things on her mind. Josephine, in need of a place to wait out her most recent drama, announces she will visit. And, Kyle Erickson, a young man hired to paint the barn, is slipping beneath Alice’s resolve to be on her own.

Soon though, the pervasive smell of peppermint, the haunting songs in the night, and the woman lurking around the garden, become too much to ignore. Nice When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice sets out to discover what happened. Everyone knew the house had a history, but history is usually not the whole story.

You have some good lead in sentence, descriptions... but I want to know the story question, the character's task and what is there to stop it. You have some interesting secondary characters and subplots, but I think you can cut some of that to make a better query, more about ALice, her task, motivation and what person or force she will be up against.

I am a teacher of literature and creative writing in Massachusetts. DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism. It is my first novel and is complete at 97,000 words.

Leave out the first novel info

Thank you for your time and consideration.arielswan

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A.M.Kuska
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Re: REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

Post by A.M.Kuska » April 12th, 2010, 8:56 pm

What an intriguing story. :) This is just the sort of book I would want to read. Not much to critique here, just a few suggestions.
arielswan wrote:
Dear Agent:

Alice Towne has walked away from what seemed a perfectly rational life. She is eager to leave behind her unfaithful lover, and hoping to avoid the so called wisdom of Josephine, her mother that fancies herself a witch. So, Alice takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house in western, Massachusetts for the summer. There she intends to decide her own fate in solitude.
I don't find leaving behind an unfaithful lover irrational. Especially not if she sprinkled a liberal amount of wasabi powder in his boxers before departing. >_>
Quickly it becomes clear that Alice will not get what she wants. Taken in by the townspeople, Alice finds out everyone in Ashfield seems to have an agenda, from the twins who own the hardware store, but also deal in spells, to Teddy Shepherd, the town historian. When Alice learns the house has a history of sick children and suicide, she is not concerned; she has other things on her mind. Josephine, in need of a place to wait out her most recent drama, announces she will visit. And, Kyle Erickson, a young man hired to paint the barn, is slipping beneath Alice’s resolve to be on her own.
I don't believe you need the underlined sentence.

Soon though, the pervasive smell of peppermint, the haunting songs in the night, and the woman lurking around the garden, become too much to ignore. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice sets out to discover what happened. Everyone knew the house had a history, but history is usually not the whole story. [/quote]

Again I don't think you need the underlined. Also, "I am a teacher..." should be its own paragraph.

It really looks good. I wish I could read it. It sounds wonderful. :)

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wilderness
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Re: REVISED QUERY: Distillation - a New England ghost story

Post by wilderness » April 13th, 2010, 4:36 pm

It sounds pretty good to me - very intriguing ghost story! But I think you could leave out most of the first paragraph. I don't really understand the first line -- "a perfectly rational life" doesn't fit an unfaithful lover. I would go with something like this:
arielswan wrote: Dear Agent:

Alice Towne has walked away from what seemed a perfectly rational life. She is eager to leave behind her unfaithful lover, and hoping to avoid the so called wisdom of Josephine, her mother that fancies herself a witch. So, Alice takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house in western, Massachusetts for the summer. There she intends to decide her own fate in solitude.

Quickly it becomes clear that Alice will not get what she wants.


Alice Towne takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house in western Massachusetts for the summer. Still getting over her unfaithful ex, she wants to spend her time in solitude. However,
Taken in by the townspeople, Alice finds out everyone in Ashfield seems to have an agenda, from the twins who own the hardware store, but also deal in spells, to Teddy Shepherd, the town historian. When Alice learns the house has a history of sick children and suicide, she is not concerned; she has other things on her mind.Josephine, in need of a place to wait out her most recent drama, Alice's mother, who fancies herself a witch, announces she will visit. And, Kyle Erickson, a young man hired to paint the barn, is slipping beneath Alice’s resolve to be on her own.

Soon though, the pervasive smell of peppermint, the haunting songs in the night, and the woman lurking around the garden, become too much to ignore. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice sets out to discover what happened. Everyone knew the house had a history, but history is usually not the whole story.

I am a teacher of literature and creative writing in Massachusetts. DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism. It is my first novel and is complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration
Hope that helps! Good luck!

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