QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

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arielswan
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QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by arielswan » April 10th, 2010, 5:32 pm

Dear Agent:

Alice Towne refuses to be like her mother. Infidelity having tarnished the life she planned, the last place she wants to be is home with Josephine, who pines over bad decisions and waits for fate to deal a better hand from the tarot deck. Determined to prove she is strong and independent, Alice heads for the hills of western, Massachusetts where she takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house, intending to plan her next steps in solitude.

Like all old houses, this one too has a history, one of sick children and suicide, which the townspeople are more than willing to tell Alice about. In fact, they eagerly draw her in to their world. Teddy Shepherd offers her a part-time job at the local historical society, neighbors entangle her in gossip, and Kyle Erickson wants to get in her pants. All of which enables Alice to ignore what is really going on.

Despite the warnings of the witchy women who own the hardware store, Alice tries to explain away the round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odor of peppermint lingering in every corner, and the figure of a woman lurking beside the garden. But by the time Josephine comes to visit, escaping her most recent drama, Alice is unwell. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something is wrong. If she wants to survive the summer, Alice will have to prove that history is not the whole story.

DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism and is complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

GeeGee55
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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by GeeGee55 » April 10th, 2010, 6:49 pm

Hi, A:
I haven't seen your original attempts, so this is my first impression:

arielswan wrote:Dear Agent:

Alice Towne refuses to be like her mother , Josephine, who pines over bad decisions and waits for fate to deal a better hand from the tarot deck.When the man/woman she planned to marry is unfaithful to her, Alice heads for the hills of western Massachusetts where she takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house.

Like all old houses, this one has a history, one that includes sick children and suicide. The townspeople eagerly draw Alice into their world. Teddy Shepherd offers her a part-time job at the local historical society, neighbors entangle her in gossip, and Kyle Erickson wants to get in her pants. All of which enables Alice to ignore what is really going on. These first two para I rearranged some phrases to improve the flow and took out some things that I thought were not necessary- Just something for you to think about

Despite the warnings of the witchy women who own the hardware store, Alice tries to explain away the round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odor of peppermint lingering in every corner, and the figure of a woman lurking beside the garden. But by the time Josephine comes to visit, escaping her most recent drama, Alice is unwell. I'm not sure we need the mother here, if you think you do then she has to be tied in more smoothly, does she interfere, try to use the tarot to predict what's going to happen? And it's not quite clear what you mean when you say Alice is unwell When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something is wrong. If she wants to survive the summer, - what follows here is not quite clear, why is it the history itself that is important? Alice will have to prove that history is not the whole story.

DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism and is complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Hope you find this of some help. Good luck with it.

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theWallflower
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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by theWallflower » April 12th, 2010, 11:11 am

Alice Towne refuses to be like her mother. Infidelity having tarnished the life she planned, the last place she wants to be is home with Josephine, who pines over bad decisions and waits for fate to deal a better hand from the tarot deck. Determined to prove she is strong and independent, Alice heads for the hills of western, Massachusetts where she takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house, intending to plan her next steps in solitude.
-Not the greatest opening line--not very catchy or intriguing--but not the worst. I think you can do better.
-Long second sentence
-Does the tarot deck reference mean she's a tarot reader? It's not clear.
-Infidelity isn't clear enough. Was it her infidelity? Her SO's?
-Sitting is not a word I like. Caretaking sounds better.
-What next steps is she planning?
-What is the motivating factor that puts her over the top to go out like "The Shining"? Where is this house?
-Who is she proving she's strong and independent to?
-Who is Josephine? Her mother? Sister? Crazy aunt?
-What was the life she planned?
-I have no sense of who Alice Towne is at this point--what is her personality/archetype?
Like all old houses, this one too has a history, one of sick children and suicide, which the townspeople are more than willing to tell Alice about. In fact, they eagerly draw her in to their world. Teddy Shepherd offers her a part-time job at the local historical society, neighbors entangle her in gossip, and Kyle Erickson wants to get in her pants. All of which enables Alice to ignore what is really going on.
-Kyle Erickson means nothing to me. Tell me what his charcter archetype is, that why I get a feeling for who is in this book.
-I thought this paragraph was going to have something about the house, but you end up talking about the townspeople.
Despite the warnings of the witchy women who own the hardware store, Alice tries to explain away the round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odor of peppermint lingering in every corner, and the figure of a woman lurking beside the garden. But by the time Josephine comes to visit, escaping her most recent drama, Alice is unwell. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something is wrong. If she wants to survive the summer, Alice will have to prove that history is not the whole story.
-I'd lead with the infant buried in the cellar -- first paragraph. Nothing get's a reader's sympathies going like a dead baby.
-I like the idea of witches owning a hardware store.
-I don't get the phrase "despite the warnings... Alice tries to explain away". The sentence isn't logical.
-Still don't know who Josephine is, so her recent drama means nothing to me.
-Surviving the summer doesn't make sense--so far it doesn't sound like she's in any threat.
DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism and is complete at 97,000 words.
-Usually, I don't make comments on titles, because they're subjective and easily changeable. But this one sounds as boring and irrelevant as the rest of the story.
-"A true incident of Ashfield lore" means nothing to me. I don't even know where Ashfield is.

OVERALL:
-As you can see there's a lot of unknown factors about the pre-story that make this hard to latch onto. Your prose is purple. You're trying to hard to write literarily, but you end up avoiding the concrete facts.
-The book sounds like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. Because you haven't introduced the conflict. It's just a woman doing things because she feels the need to be validated. Yawn. What does the main character want? What is the problem she is facing? What is trying to stop her? What is she going to do about it? The answers to these questions are what drives your story, and thus, your query letter.
-I recommend going back to the drawing board, read some example query letters and back-of-the-book summaries and try to formulate your summary based on those.
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brandi_fey
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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by brandi_fey » April 12th, 2010, 12:43 pm

arielswan wrote:Dear Agent:

Alice Towne refuses to be like her mother. Infidelity having tarnished the life she planned, the last place she wants to be is home with Josephine, who pines over bad decisions and waits for fate to deal a better hand from the tarot deck. Determined to prove she is strong and independent, Alice heads for the hills of western, Massachusetts where she takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house, intending to plan her next steps in solitude. This just reads like backstory to me. I feel like you're trying to ease us into the story, but you don't have to do that. Dump it over our head like a bucket of cold water. You could probably condense this to one sentence.

Like all old houses, this one too has a history-- one of sick children and suicide-- which the townspeople are more than willing to gossip about tell Alice about. In fact, they eagerly draw her in to their world. Teddy Shepherd offers her a part-time job at the local historical society, neighbors entangle her in gossip, and Kyle Erickson wants to get in her pants. All of which enables Alice to ignore what is really going on. (This, too, can be condensed. Maybe something like: ...more than willing to gossip about. But their cheery chatter veils a darker secret, one that Alice can't afford to ignore.)

Despite the warnings of the witchy women who own the hardware store, Alice tries to explain away the Round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odor of peppermint lingers in every corner, and the figure (I think you can be more specific...maybe the "wraith" or "ghost") of a woman lurks beside the garden. (While I get the sense that these events are supposed to be eerie, they don't really affect me. Stones, peppermint and women aren't scary to me. You need to spice this up.) But by the time Josephine comes to visit, escaping her most recent drama, Alice is unwell. When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something (what? be more specific) is wrong. If she wants to survive the summer, Alice will have to prove that history is not the whole story. (With this kind of ending statement, I should have gotten the sense that Alice is in real jeopardy. I didn't. From what you have here, it sounds like more of a woman-finding-herself story than a ghost story.)

DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield, State, lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism (this can be condensed) and is complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
I think there is a lot more juicy stuff here than you've mentioned. And that's what the agent wants (in my opinion) is the juicy stuff. While it's great that Alice is trying to find herself and all that, that is not the main focus of the story. The focus of the story should be on the house's creepy past and the fact that Alice's life might be in danger. This is a good effort. Best of luck!

JTB
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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by JTB » April 12th, 2010, 1:50 pm

yes, cut to the juicy stuff - cut to the action, tell the agent what the story is about : I've had a go .... (still needs embellishing)

---------------

Desperate to get away from home, Alice Towne heads for the hills of western Massachusetts. There, drawn into the lives of the people around her, she ignores the strange goings on: round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odour of peppermint, the figure of a woman lurking in the garden.

But when she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something is wrong and if she wants to survive, she will have to prove that history is not the whole story.

DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism and is complete at 97,000 words.

-----------

I think the last line is weak 'prove history is not the whole story' is confusing' - i wonder if you might want to make it more action orientated 'in order to survive the summer she must .... or be .....'

hope this helps -

Joel Q
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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by Joel Q » April 12th, 2010, 9:34 pm

JTB wrote: ---------------
Desperate to get away from home, Alice Towne heads for the hills of western Massachusetts. There, drawn into the lives of the people around her, she ignores the strange goings on: round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odour of peppermint, the figure of a woman lurking in the garden.

But when she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something is wrong and if she wants to survive, (We don't know why her life is in danger or by who...yes, it's implied, but not enough for me.) she will have to prove that history is not the whole story.

DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism and is complete at 97,000 words.

-----------
I personally think you cut too much... but it is short and sweet.
JQ

JTB
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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by JTB » April 13th, 2010, 4:19 am

i don't mean it literally - i mean cut back and then see what can be added, embellished etc - maybe I should state that more clearly

and agree - re the story Ariel - survive what?

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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by Emily J » April 13th, 2010, 10:31 am

arielswan wrote:Dear Agent:

Alice Towne refuses to be like her mother. Infidelity having tarnished the life she planned, the last place she wants to be is home with Josephine, who pines over bad decisions and waits for fate to deal a better hand from the tarot deck. I like this sentence a lot, nice imagery Determined to prove she is strong and independent, Alice heads for the hills of western, not sure why there's a comma here Massachusetts where she takes a position sitting a two hundred year old house, two-hundred-year-old house intending to plan her next steps in solitude.

Like all old houses, this one too has a history, one of sick children and suicide, which the townspeople are more than willing to tell Alice about. this could be a semi-colon In fact, they eagerly draw her in to into their world. Teddy Shepherd offers her a part-time job at the local historical society, neighbors entangle her in gossip, and Kyle Erickson wants to get in her pants. All of which enables Alice to ignore what is really going on. "enables" sounds like psych jargon, is there another way to phrase this?

Despite the warnings of the witchy women who own the hardware store, Alice tries to explain away the round stones appearing in the kitchen, the odor of peppermint lingering in every corner, and the figure of a woman lurking beside the garden. maybe "spectral figure of a woman" otherwise it just sounds like her neighbors are stealing carrots, (to me anway) But the "But" seems unnecessary) by the time Josephine comes to visit, escaping her most recent drama, Alice is unwell. How? why? on the edge of a nervous breakdown? Or like a cold? This could be more specific When she unearths the bones of an infant buried in the cellar, Alice can no longer deny that something is wrong. If she wants to survive the summer, Alice will have to prove that history is not the whole story. I like this revision better

DISTILLATION, inspired by a true incident in Ashfield lore, is in the genre of New England magic realism maybe "tradition" rather than genre? People are pretty categorical about genre and is complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Good! Maybe a bit more fine tuning but this is in pretty good shape. You were able to condense the character list and eliminate some of your weaker sentences.

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Re: QUERY: DISTILLATION - REVISED AGAIN

Post by kenpochick » April 13th, 2010, 4:38 pm

I would take JTB's revision and add a little more.

Your version now doesn't get started at all until the 3rd paragraph and you name other characters without mentioning why I should care about them or who they are to the story. I'm assuming that Josephine is her mother but I have to assume because you don't say it. The infidelity mention as well doesn't seem to have any purpose and I can't even tell whether she cheated, her mother cheated or a lover cheated because of the passive voice used.

Good luck!

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