Query: AMÉRICA! (Hist. Fic.) - New Version Top of Page 2

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Query: AMÉRICA! (Hist. Fic.) - New Version Top of Page 2

Post by dgaughran » March 6th, 2011, 6:44 pm

NEWEST VERSION POST #16, TOP OF PAGE 2

Hi all,

I've been around the block a few times already with this query, and have used several different versions to snag a few partial/full requests. After a couple of close shaves, I'm getting ready to send a new batch out again.

My novel has 7 MCs, but I only refer to one here (and allude to others). Please give this both barrels and we'll see what's left at the end.

Dave

*** QUERY ***

Dear [AGENT],

When José de San Martín deserts the Spanish Army, he is desperate to free his homeland. But first he must free himself from his opium addiction.

In Buenos Aires he forms a rag-tag army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts. Over the next twelve years they scale the Andes, liberate Santiago, and attack Lima by sea, frustrating Napoleon’s secret plan to conquer South America. On the verge of victory, San Martín resigns, leaving others the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, his motives have remained a mystery, until now.

AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. I am an Irish writer, living in Sweden, and my stories have appeared in The Delinquent (UK), Short Story America, and will be published as part of a collection in 2011. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely,

[ME]
Last edited by dgaughran on March 9th, 2011, 5:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

User avatar
Quill
Posts: 1059
Joined: March 17th, 2010, 9:20 pm
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by Quill » March 6th, 2011, 7:43 pm

dgaughran wrote:
When José de San Martín deserts the Spanish Army, he is desperate to free his homeland.
What's his homeland? Spain?
But first he must free himself from his opium addiction.
Why "must" he do this? (what will happen if he doesn't?) Does he succeed? And an aside: how did he manage this addiction within the ranks of the Spanish Army?
In Buenos Aires he forms a rag-tag army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts. Over the next twelve years they scale the Andes, liberate Santiago, and attack Lima by sea, frustrating Napoleon’s secret plan to conquer South America. On the verge of victory, San Martín resigns, leaving others the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, his motives have remained a mystery, until now.
Is this an actual historical figure? Might be good to say.

So basically they have lots of adventures yadda yadda, then he resigns, read this book to find out why? This doesn't work for me as the hook. I think we need more reason to read the book. You've given us the setting, and some setup, but not a taste of what the body of the book contains (other than war experiences, presumably, and some personal reasons for ducking out of the last battle.) You've certainly got space to fill this out a bit more.
AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. I am an Irish writer, living in Sweden, and my stories have appeared in The Delinquent (UK), Short Story America, and will be published as part of a collection in 2011. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.
Might want to say who is publishing this collection, the title, and release date even if month only, so the agent can look it up.

Sleeping Beauty
Posts: 87
Joined: May 21st, 2010, 2:51 am
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by Sleeping Beauty » March 7th, 2011, 2:44 am

To be honest, I think the line in your signature would work as a pretty good hook! :)

User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by dgaughran » March 7th, 2011, 5:59 am

Ok,

Quill - you always were a hard task-master.

It seems my last version went in the wrong direction - it definitely seems cheesier to me. I'm going back to an earlier version as my starting point, here's an attempt to incorporate some of the above comments and spin it in a different direction. It might not be there yet, but at least it's no longer going in the wrong direction. I think.

This version is short (about 180 words), which is great, the shorter the better. But it also means I have some room to play with. Do you guys think I need to accentuate San Martin's motivation ? Do I need more information on Bolivar? There is room for that stuff, I just didn't want to bog down an already detail-heavy query, and Bolivar only really appears in the last chapter.

Thanks all,

Dave


*** VERSION 2 ***


Dear [AGENT],

Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín deserts the Spanish Army, desperate to free his homeland, and to conquer his opium addiction.

Returning to Argentina, he forms a rag-tag army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts. Over the next twelve years they scale the Andes, liberate Chile, and attack Peru by sea, frustrating Napoleon’s secret plan to conquer South America. On July 26, 1822, the two rebel leaders, Simón Bolívar and San Martín, meet for the first time. They speak alone, and no record is made of their meeting. San Martín resigns to become an anonymous farmer, leaving Bolívar the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery, until now.

AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. I am an Irish writer, living in Sweden, and my stories have appeared in The Delinquent (UK), Short Story America, and will be published as part of a collection in 2011. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely,

[ME]


Alternative bio section (if those credits aren't considered query-worthy - and I don't have the details on the collection yet):

AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, written over two years in Peru and Argentina, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.
Last edited by dgaughran on March 7th, 2011, 7:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by dgaughran » March 7th, 2011, 6:09 am

Quill - San Martin is a real historical figure. I thought that was made clear (particularly by the sentence "For two hundred years..."), it it's not, maybe I should do something about that. Or maybe it's not important. I don't know

sleepingbeauty - that line was from my old query, it survives in some form now in my synopsis, but thought it wasn't working here because I only want to focus on one MC for the query
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

User avatar
androidblues
Posts: 134
Joined: September 30th, 2010, 5:59 pm
Location: Albuquerque,NM
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by androidblues » March 7th, 2011, 10:42 am

Dear [AGENT],
Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín deserts the Spanish Army, desperate to free his homeland, and to conquer his opium addiction.
This line isn't really doing anything for me. It's probably just me though. Why does he need to conquer his opium addiction? I'm assuming that he is Argentinian, but he joined the Spanish Army? Was he forced? Maybe you could focus on the conflict of his choices.

Returning to Argentina, he forms a rag-tag army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts. Over the next twelve years they scale the Andes, liberate Chile, and attack Peru by sea, frustrating Napoleon’s secret plan to conquer South America.

After deserting the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín returns to Argentina and forms a rag-tag army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts to liberate his homeland.

I'm thinking that's the gist of your novel, or your log line right? And the next paragraph is the big mystery? I'm thinking that there's too much summary and not enough pull. The last paragraph isn't grabbing as much as it should, and the hook itself just isn't very hook like.

On July 26, 1822, the two rebel leaders, Simón Bolívar and San Martín, meet for the first time. They speak alone, and no record is made of their meeting. San Martín resigns to become an anonymous farmer, leaving Bolívar the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery, until now.

This is a historical adventure, but this paragraph isn't sounding very adventurous to me. I'm interested in how he formed the army, but I don't really care about his meeting with Simón Bolívar. It sounds diplomatic and political, not adventurous and exciting.

AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. I am an Irish writer, living in Sweden, and my stories have appeared in The Delinquent (UK), Short Story America, and will be published as part of a collection in 2011. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.

A few agents find that presumptuous.

Yours sSincerely,

I hope I helped. I think you have a story, but you need to present it in a more extravagant light. Make the rebellion apparent. What are they fighting against? Why are they fighting? Show the struggle.
http://www.thebooklantern.com

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

I never want to hear the screams of the teenage girls in other people's dreams.

In the real word as in dreams, nothing is quite what it seems.

longknife

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by longknife » March 7th, 2011, 12:31 pm

I agree with androidblue. I need something more to find this interesting [although almost everything historical interests me]

I need to empathize with St Martin from the beginning.
I don't care, at this point, what army he's part of.
How/why did he become addicted and what major jolt in his life brings him to understand he's got to kick the habit?

Having done a lot of research on 16th, 17th and 18th century new world, where did he serve in the Spanish army? I know Brazil and that area had been partitioned off to the Portuguese.

The problem with a story like this is a tendency to find yourself emphasizing the historical aspects and not the character that should drive a novel. I want to know about HIM. What HE thinks. What HE feels. What MAKES him special. And, after going so far, why does he give it up? You don't have to detail it but give us a hint!

User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by dgaughran » March 8th, 2011, 8:52 am

Thanks guys - great comments, you are really making me think.

I'm gonna post a new version soon.

lvcabbie - San Martin served for 20 years in the Spanish Army. He moved to Spain (from Argentina) when he was 6 or 7, joined the army as a cadet at the age of eleven (!), fighting in North Africa, France and Spain. It was not unusual for South American officers to be serving in the Spanish army in Spain at the time, many of them deserted when the war broke out in South America, but San Martin was certainly the highest-ranking officer to do so.
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by dgaughran » March 8th, 2011, 9:08 am

This was tough.

Thank you for all these comments, they are really forcing me to think.

I tried to pull it apart and put it back together again. I think the log-line is a lot better, and I tried to make the query sound less like one for a non-fiction work. I've tried to play up his motivations a little more, and link it all together better so it doesn't just read like a laundry list of events.

Am I going in the right direction?

Dave


*** VERSION 3 ***


Dear [AGENT],

After twenty years in the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín is ready to desert, but he's not running from a fight, he's running towards one.

Returning to Argentina, San Martín is desperate to free his homeland, but first he must free himself from his opium addiction. While recuperating in Mendoza, he forms a secret army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts who scale the Andes and liberate Santiago in a surprise attack. San Martín hires a disgraced British officer to build a navy to take Peru by sea, but after the fall of Lima, they clash, and San Martín loses his fleet before he can finish the war. His only hope lies with Simón Bolívar, the rebel leader advancing from the north.

On July 26, 1822, Bolívar and San Martín meet for the first time. They speak alone, and no record is made of their meeting where San Martín resigns to become an anonymous farmer, leaving Bolívar the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery, until now.

AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely,

[ME]
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

User avatar
Quill
Posts: 1059
Joined: March 17th, 2010, 9:20 pm
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by Quill » March 8th, 2011, 10:05 am

dgaughran wrote:

*** VERSION 3 ***


After twenty years in the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín is ready to desert,
"Is ready" is not a grabber. The verb "is" does not excite.

but he's not running from a fight, he's running towards one.
The repetition of "he's running" is not a catchy hook.

For one thing I can't picture a 20-yr veteran running.

Returning to Argentina, San Martín is desperate to free his homeland, but first he must free himself from his opium addiction.
Awkward: "returning, (he) is desperate."

And so far the main verb in the query is "is" (is ready, is running, is desperate). "Is" does not signify action, which is what we need here.

And also, free his homeland (presumably Argentina) from whom? This is important.
While recuperating in Mendoza, he forms a secret army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts who scale the Andes and liberate Santiago in a surprise attack.
As written this secret army scales the Andes while he is recuperating in Mendoza. Is this so? If not maybe put a period after "convicts" and start a new sentence.
San Martín hires a disgraced British officer to build a navy to take Peru by sea,
Interesting, but why are they now attacking Peru? I thought he was trying to liberate Argentina.
but after the fall of Lima, they clash, and San Martín loses his fleet before he can finish the war.
"Finish the war" is awkward. Even losers finish their wars. Whenever it ends it's finished. It's not saying much.

Plus it feels tacked on. Seems to want a period after "fleet," which completes the thought.

And again, it is unclear what is the scope of this war (and who it is against) (as mentioned above).
His only hope lies with Simón Bolívar,
His only hope for what? Finishing the war? Winning the war? Why is this his only hope? Is his army to small to attack? Are they about to be crushed in defense?
the rebel leader advancing from the north.

On July 26, 1822, Bolívar and San Martín meet for the first time. They speak alone, and no record is made of their meeting where San Martín resigns to become an anonymous farmer, leaving Bolívar the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery, until now.
A shift in focus and voice, basically, is a bit disconcerting. You went from ragtag army having successes and setbacks, to this historical set piece, complete with date and recognizable figure (Bolivar). And complete with an unexpected crux (apparently) of your entire book -- why did San Martin defer to Bolivar. There is no setup for this, so it doesn't elicit the kind of curiosity needed to pique interest. Couldn't you give more of San Martin's personality or motives so we know the man better. The earlier part of the query is more broad canvas and war adventures by the sound of it. And then we come to this very personal crux, with no support previous. Makes me wonder what sort of read this book really is.

And it brings up questions. Is San Martin an actual historic figure? Was there an actual historic meeting? Have you done scholarly research upon which to credibly speculate what was said? Do you have evidence (letters, etc)? Or are you simply taking a fictive approach, which is also fine. I think you need to put this in the query, to give us some context for this very interesting sounding story of yours.

User avatar
Quill
Posts: 1059
Joined: March 17th, 2010, 9:20 pm
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by Quill » March 8th, 2011, 11:07 am

dgaughran wrote:

*** VERSION 3 ***


After twenty years in the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín is ready to desert,
"Is ready" is not a grabber. The verb "is" does not excite.

but he's not running from a fight, he's running towards one.
The repetition of "he's running" is not a catchy hook.

For one thing I can't picture a 20-yr veteran running.

Returning to Argentina, San Martín is desperate to free his homeland, but first he must free himself from his opium addiction.
Awkward: "returning, (he) is desperate."

And so far the main verb in the query is "is" (is ready, is running, is desperate). "Is" does not signify action, which is what we need here.

And also, free his homeland (presumably Argentina) from whom? This is important.
While recuperating in Mendoza, he forms a secret army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts who scale the Andes and liberate Santiago in a surprise attack.
As written this secret army scales the Andes while he is recuperating in Mendoza. Is this so? If not maybe put a period after "convicts" and start a new sentence.
San Martín hires a disgraced British officer to build a navy to take Peru by sea,
Interesting, but why are they now attacking Peru? I thought he was trying to liberate Argentina.
but after the fall of Lima, they clash, and San Martín loses his fleet before he can finish the war.
"Finish the war" is awkward. Even losers finish their wars. Whenever it ends it's finished. It's not saying much.

Plus it feels tacked on. Seems to want a period after "fleet," which completes the thought.

And again, it is unclear what is the scope of this war (and who it is against) (as mentioned above).
His only hope lies with Simón Bolívar,
His only hope for what? Finishing the war? Winning the war? Why is this his only hope? Is his army to small to attack? Are they about to be crushed in defense?
the rebel leader advancing from the north.

On July 26, 1822, Bolívar and San Martín meet for the first time. They speak alone, and no record is made of their meeting where San Martín resigns to become an anonymous farmer, leaving Bolívar the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery, until now.
A shift in focus and voice, basically, is a bit disconcerting. You went from ragtag army having successes and setbacks, to this historical set piece, complete with date and recognizable figure (Bolivar). And complete with an unexpected crux (apparently) of your entire book -- why did San Martin defer to Bolivar. There is no setup for this, so it doesn't elicit the kind of curiosity needed to pique interest. Couldn't you give more of San Martin's personality or motives so we know the man better. The earlier part of the query is more broad canvas and war adventures by the sound of it. And then we come to this very personal crux, with no support previous. Makes me wonder what sort of read this book really is.

And it brings up questions. Is San Martin an actual historic figure? Was there an actual historic meeting? Have you done scholarly research upon which to credibly speculate what was said? Do you have evidence (letters, etc)? Or are you simply taking a fictive approach, which is also fine. I think you need to put this in the query, to give us some context for this very interesting sounding story of yours.

User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by dgaughran » March 8th, 2011, 11:26 am

Quill, you eviscerate queries like a school of frenzied piranhas.

I take your point on the logline. Maybe something like this would be better "As Lieutentant Colonel in the Spanish Army, Jose de San Martin has had men shot for desertion, but when he flees to Argentina, he's not shirking a fight, he's starting one." Not sure about the shirking/starting thing there, but you get the idea.

I also take your grammatical/style points on the next paragraph. Re. the content, Spain was continually launching reinvasions of Argentina (and Chile) from Peru. To ensure Argentine freedom, he had to break Spanish power in South America once and for all, and the only way to ensure this was to take Peru.

And you are right, there is a shift in tone in that final paragraph. It's probably because it's the only thing that survived my old query (which read like non-fiction) as I tried to make the rest of the query sound more like an adventure novel. I need to work on this.

As a side note, yes, San Martin is a real historical figure (along with Bolivar), and the events happened as described. And yes, I have done a lot of scholarly research on the war and the meeting (which did take place). There were no witnesses to the conversation between Bolivar and San Martin, and neither man spoke of it much afterward, and, as such, what occurred in the room is a matter of huge debate among South American historians, and has caused a lot of controversy over the years.

I have my own take, but it's grounded in some evidence (such as a letter San Martin wrote to Bolivar chastising him for misrepresenting their conversation), and what I have been able to learn of the two men involved, their personalities, their motivations, and the circumstances they were in. An educated guess, if you like.
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

longknife

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by longknife » March 8th, 2011, 12:37 pm

After twenty years in the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín is ready to desert, but he's not running from a fight, he's running towards one.
Lieutenant Colonel José de San Martín deserts from the Spanish Army after serving twenty years. He desperately seeks to free his beloved Argentina from harsh Spanish rule.

Returning to Argentina, San Martín is desperate to free his homeland, but first he must free himself from his opium addiction. While recuperating in Mendoza, he forms a secret army of Indians, freed slaves, and ex-convicts who scale the Andes and liberate Santiago in a surprise attack. San Martín hires a disgraced British officer to build a navy to take Peru by sea, but after the fall of Lima, they clash, and San Martín loses his fleet before he can finish the war. His only hope lies with Simón Bolívar, the rebel leader advancing from the north.
San Martin returns to Mendoza where he forms a secret army of indians, freed slaves and ex-convicts while struggling to overcome an addiction to opium incurred from doctors curing serious wounds from other battles. [this instantly give one a feeling of emphasizing with him IMHO] Hale and ready to fight, San Martin leads his ragtag army across the towering Andes and catches the Spanish by surprise to liberate Santiago. Without ever meeting the man, San Martin tries to form his tactics to be in accord with the onslaughts let by Simon Bolivar [there an accent in there somewhere I think] Go ahead and put the bit about the British officer here. ... When Lima falls [to whom?] he faces disaster, his only hope lying in aid from Bolivar.

On July 26, 1822, Bolívar and San Martín meet for the first time. They speak alone, and no record is made of their meeting where San Martín resigns to become an anonymous farmer, leaving Bolívar the glory of the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery,. Until now.

AMÉRICA!, a 97,000 word historical adventure, may appeal to fans of Patrick O'Brian and Ken Follett. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.

If you check QueryTracker.net or AgentQuery you will find each has different requirements for submissions. Most was a synopsis and many want first pages to show your writing skills.

Good Luck - perhaps we can arrange to review/critique each other's work. I'm in editing/revising on my second Father Serra novel.

Joel Q
Posts: 131
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 12:11 pm
Location: The other side of Pikes Peak
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by Joel Q » March 8th, 2011, 2:07 pm

I'm stuck trying to figure out if the book is about the battles he fought or his decision to step down.
JQ

User avatar
dgaughran
Posts: 295
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 6:26 am
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Query: AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction) - New Version

Post by dgaughran » March 8th, 2011, 2:19 pm

JQ - the book is about both, the battles he fought, and why he stepped aside on eve of immortalising himself in history.
Image   Image Image   Image <---NEW RELEASE!!!
Download the FREE PDF version at my blog: Let's Get Digital

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests