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THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: Revision # 2

Posted: November 27th, 2010, 7:51 am
by Inglory
* THIS IS MY ORIGINAL QUERY. THE LATEST REVISION IS ON PAGE 2, ALONG WITH THE FIRST TWO ATTEMPTS *

Dear all,

I've written this query so many times, I've totally lost perspective. This is the latest version. I wrote it as literary fiction, but some people in my writing group described it as a thriller. Anyway, here goes:

It's fifty years since Ángel Valdés led the revolution that made him leader of Caribbean Zamora. Now in his twilight years, he has respect, a loving family, and absolute power. All he wants is to die in peace and leave a stable country to his daughter Haydee.

But as death draws near, Ángel starts to worry that his long-dead comrade Juan La Roca has become a greater hero than him. So he forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, and bans any worship of him.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude, and refuses to retract. Instead, he resorts to increasingly bloody measures to silence his critics, bringing his country to the brink of civil war. But when Haydee puts herself in the firing line in protest, Ángel has to decide just how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory.

THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA is a literary novel complete at 70,000 words. Its themes are love and vanity.

Thanks for any advice you can give me,

Faye

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 27th, 2010, 9:01 am
by sbs_mjc1
Inglory wrote:
It's fifty years since Ángel Valdés led the revolution that made him leader of Caribbean Zamora. Now in his twilight years, he has respect, a loving family, and absolute power. All he wants is to die in peace and leave a stable country to his daughter Haydee.

But as death draws near, Ángel starts to worry that his long-dead comrade Juan La Roca has become a greater hero than him. [why? This seems to come out of the blue].So he forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, and bans any worship of him.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude, and refuses to retract. Instead, he resorts to increasingly bloody measures to silence his critics, bringing his country to the brink of civil war. But when Haydee puts herself in the firing line in protest, Ángel has to decide just how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory.

THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA is a literary novel complete at 70,000 words. Its themes are love and vanity.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 27th, 2010, 10:02 am
by chris13
This sounds like something I would read. I do think you need to start with the hook, however. Who, stakes, consequences in the first graf.

I also would like to see MC's world fleshed out a bit, since it sounds so interesting. The query is pretty short, which is good, but I don't think it is doing your book justice, as far as enticing an agent to read more. I think you can build it out a bit. The issues with Juan are actually just the inciting incident--need more on what happens from then. Which sounds like it would be exciting.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 27th, 2010, 10:10 am
by Quill
Inglory wrote:Dear all,

I've written this query so many times, I've totally lost perspective. This is the latest version. I wrote it as literary fiction, but some people in my writing group described it as a thriller. Anyway, here goes:

It's fifty years since Ángel Valdés led the revolution that made him leader of Caribbean Zamora. Now in his twilight years, he has respect, a loving family, and absolute power. All he wants is to die in peace and leave a stable country to his daughter Haydee.

But as death draws near, Ángel starts to worry that his long-dead comrade Juan La Roca has become a greater hero than him. So he forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, and bans any worship of him.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude, and refuses to retract. Instead, he resorts to increasingly bloody measures to silence his critics, bringing his country to the brink of civil war. But when Haydee puts herself in the firing line in protest, Ángel has to decide just how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory.

THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA is a literary novel complete at 70,000 words. Its themes are love and vanity.

Thanks for any advice you can give me,

Faye
I like this. Clean and simple. I can fill in the blanks.
Its themes are love and vanity.
Definitely omit this.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 27th, 2010, 3:14 pm
by Mark17
I really like this. It's tight, original and the title is awesome.

It seems the main crux of the story is hid relationship with his daughter. I wonder, does she remind him of La Roca in any way? Why is she going against her father, when it seems they have a fairly loving relationship?

Also, in the first paragraph you say he led a revolution, now he's in his twilight years, etc. Second paragraph you talk about Juan La Roca. If Juan La Roca is central to what Valdes is doing now, could you combine these paragraphs. Something along the lines of what La Roca and Valdes did 50 years ago to take power? Why is that people today are resonating with La Roca.

It seems your plot is fairly complex, I know that can be really tough to boil down. Good luck.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 12:26 pm
by glj
This is succinct and gives a good picture of where it is going.


It's fifty years since Ángel Valdés led the revolution that made him leader of Caribbean Zamora. Might give a hint that "Caribbean Zamora" is a country, such as "the isle of Caribbean Zamora". You don't want the reader to stop and re-read Now in his twilight years, he has respect, a loving family, and absolute power. All he wants is to die in peace and leave a stable country to his daughter Haydee. Maybe hint at his ego here, as the following paragraph shows that Ángel will go to great lengths to be remembered as the top guy of the revolution

But as death draws near, Ángel starts to worry that his long-dead comrade Juan La Roca has become a greater hero than him. So he forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, and bans any worship of him.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude, and refuses to retract. Instead, he resorts to increasingly bloody measures to silence his critics, bringing his country to the brink of civil war. But when Haydee puts herself in the firing line in protest, Ángel has to decide just how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory.

THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA is a literary novel complete at 70,000 words. Its themes are love and vanity. I can't help but wonder, how does the title tie in? It suggests to me that Ángel will have to "kill" Juan again in order to put the conflict to rest, so it seems that it would be intriguing if the query letter tied in to that in some way (assuming I'm correct in my assumption). It might add a bit more curiosity to the reader and make the query more effective. Just a thought.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 2:49 pm
by Inglory
Thanks, all, for your insightful critiques. I'm going to mull it over a bit before revising.

Meanwhile, does anyone have any thoughts on the genre? I really struggle here. I wrote it as a kind of modern Shakespearean tragedy (storywise), with the hero a cross between Macbeth and Fidel Castro. Some people at my writing group classed it as a thriller. But I'm not sure. What I'm gather is that agents like you to know!

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 2:53 pm
by Watcher55
Inglory wrote:Thanks, all, for your insightful critiques. I'm going to mull it over a bit before revising.

Meanwhile, does anyone have any thoughts on the genre? I really struggle here. I wrote it as a kind of modern Shakespearean tragedy (storywise), with the hero a cross between Macbeth and Fidel Castro. Some people at my writing group classed it as a thriller. But I'm not sure. What I'm gather is that agents like you to know!
Just a thought but based on your query and this description doesn't it fit the definition of literary fiction?

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 3:16 pm
by Inglory
I thought so! But I posted it in another forum and they thought definitely not (and also that I'd have more chance of selling it as something else). Thanks for your vote though. Maybe something like: 'literary fiction with elements of suspense'...

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 3:23 pm
by Watcher55
That surprises me because I spent about six hours just eliminating agents to query and I was surprised at how many were looking for, LITERARY FICTION. Just like that, in all caps. I don't know much about the genre but it seems if there are so many agents who specify it that way, and indicate that they are not looking for any commercial fiction, then there must be a market for it.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 3:52 pm
by Inglory
Interesting. Thanks. I'll seek them out. Where were you looking?

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 4:00 pm
by Watcher55
This is where I started:
Association of Authors' Representatives http://aaronline.org/ As a matter of fact, this is the site that turned me on to Nathan's blog. From there I followed the links into various agency web sites and other database type resources. Sorry I didn't bother to put the other resources in my favorites folder but I think this one site can keep you busy for quite some time.

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: November 28th, 2010, 11:29 pm
by fishfood
Hi there!
First of all, I totally understood the plot first read through and I think if you left it as is, you'd probably get requests! I wouldn't feel too much pressure to change this since everyone has different opinions. I'll offer a few suggestions which will probably second some of the other reader's opinions. Sounds like a great story and I do think you could label it as literary. And if you don't get any bites querying it as literary, then try a different genre!
Inglory wrote:Dear all,

I've written this query so many times, I've totally lost perspective. This is the latest version. I wrote it as literary fiction, but some people in my writing group described it as a thriller. Anyway, here goes:

It's fifty years since Ángel Valdés led the revolution that made him leader of Caribbean Zamora. Now in his twilight years, he has respect, a loving family, and absolute power. All he wants is to die in peace and leave a stable country to his daughter Haydee. Awesome set-up. We know the character, setting, and his goal.
But as death draws near, Ángel starts to worry that his long-dead comrade Juan La Roca has become a greater hero than him. Since you have a little bit of room to flesh this out, could you maybe throw in a sentence as to why and how Juan La Roca is becoming a greater hero? Are people on the streets telling stories, re-enacting plays with Juan as the hero? So he forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, and bans any worship of him.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude, and refuses to retract. Can you add a bit here to his vanity and why he thinks they're ingrateful? Maybe: Their memories have grown stale of what he accomplished to bring about peace--for them. Or: they have been fooled into thinking it is Juan that has saved them from a life of poverty and slavery, not Valdes! Instead, he resorts to increasingly bloody measures to silence his critics, bringing his country to the brink of civil war. But when Haydee puts herself in the firing line in protest, Ángel has to decide just how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory. Perfect ending, he has a choice to make.
THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA is a literary novel complete at 70,000 words. Its themes are love and vanity.
Thanks for any advice you can give me,

Faye

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: December 14th, 2010, 6:35 am
by Inglory
REVISION 1

Thanks again, everyone, for your fantastic advice. I've tried to take everything you've said into account without losing the tone or bloating the query. Is this an improvement?

-----

"People's memories are short. And life is so damn long."

Fifty years ago Ángel Valdés co-led the revolution that made him president of the Caribbean island of Zamora. Now he wants only to die in peace, leaving a stable country to his daughter - and an indelible mark on history.

But as the country prepares to celebrate a big anniversary, Ángel worries that his dead comrade Juan La Roca has eclipsed him as Zamora's greatest hero. La Roca, who died young and handsome, and ignorant of the hard realities of leadership.

So Ángel forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, tears down his statues, and bans the mention of his name.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude and refuses to retract. Instead, he takes increasingly brutal measures to silence his critics, pushing his country to the brink of civil war. But when his daughter steps into the firing line, Ángel has to decide how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory.

THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA is a literary thriller complete at 71,000 words.

-----

I'm thinking of changing the name of the island from Zamora because a couple of people thought it gave the story a sci-fi feel. And the last thing I need is another genre!

Re: THE SECOND DEATH OF JUAN LA ROCA: lit fiction query

Posted: December 14th, 2010, 5:46 pm
by Joel Q
Inglory wrote:REVISION 1
"People's memories are short. And life is so damn long." (Some agents don't like quotes in queries.)

Fifty years ago Ángel Valdés co-led the revolution that made him president of the Caribbean island of Zamora. Now he wants only to die in peace, leaving a stable country to his daughter - and an indelible mark on history.

But as the country prepares to celebrate a big anniversary, Ángel worries that his dead comrade Juan La Roca has eclipsed him as Zamora's greatest hero. La Roca, who died young and handsome, and ignorant of the hard realities of leadership. (you need to make this an actual sentence.)

So Ángel forges evidence exposing La Roca as a traitor, tears down his statues, and bans the mention of his name.

An outcry follows. Ángel sees this as proof of his people's ingratitude and refuses to retract. Instead, he takes increasingly brutal measures to silence his critics, pushing his country to the brink of civil war. But when his daughter steps into the firing line, Ángel has to decide how much he's prepared to pay for a final shot at glory.

(I want to know more about the daughter and her role against him. Because right now as a reader, I don't care. Sure father vs daughter should strike a cord, but I need more. Just how evil is Angel to kill his own daughter and just how brave is she to fight against him? Does she know the truth? Does she just hate him? Why is she doing this?)

I don't see any major errors in the query, I just want to know more, so I feel more.
JQ