QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

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JTB
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by JTB » March 29th, 2010, 5:40 am

My only thought to what seems a thought-out story is -

"As their marriage begins to crumble and it seems the farm will fail, Gus and Rebecca ...find/discover/come across/get caught up in (something happens) .... and must put aside their private agonies and work together to survive."

- something esle besides themselves, outside of themsleves needs to intervene, some natural disaster maybe to lift the story to another level

j

GeeGee55
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by GeeGee55 » March 30th, 2010, 6:31 pm

This is what happens plotwise:

The baby is dead and buried as the book opens. The mother has fallen into a life-threatening depression. Because of their isolation the father, who is barely into his twenties, turns to his animals for companionship and comfort. New neighbours who have two children take over the homestead close to theirs and he walks there to seek help. The neighbour takes his wife to their place and eventually she returns home, but a bitter, unhappy woman. He becomes friends with the neighbors while his wife stays withdrawn. He goes to the closest town, a 15 mile wagon ride, and puts up a sign advertising his horse at stud. There he meets a former boss who offers him a job come harvest. Things go badly in the relationship. A hail storm damages the crop and the horse he planned to put at stud is killed, leaving him without a companion or a source of extra cash. The neighbours invite him to attend a local fair with them, and he does, but his wife refuses. There he meets a married woman who also has a special affection for horses and she tempts him to have an affair with her. A few days later, the neighbours horse goes missing and while helping search for it he finds a suicide, a fellow he had met at the fair and who was down because of the loss of his crop to army worms. The young father is reminded of his wife's former depression. The crop comes back somewhat, harvest comes and with no other source of cash, the father leaves with the harvest crew. By this time, he's very unhappy with his relationship and thinking about not returning. One day, while the mother is home alone, the baby's spirit comes to her and she leaves the farm in the neighbour's care and goes to seek the father.

That's pretty long-winded, and pretty rough, but it's the essence of the plot.

JTB
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by JTB » March 30th, 2010, 6:39 pm

GeeGee55 wrote:This is what happens plotwise:

The baby is dead and buried as the book opens. The mother has fallen into a life-threatening depression. Because of their isolation the father, who is barely into his twenties, turns to his animals for companionship and comfort (Gross, less i'm imagining the worst here!). New neighbours who have two children take over the homestead close to theirs and he walks there to seek help. The neighbour takes his wife to their place and eventually she returns home, but a bitter, unhappy woman. (Dont follow) He becomes friends with the neighbors while his wife stays withdrawn. He goes to the closest town, a 15 mile wagon ride, and puts up a sign advertising his horse at stud. There he meets a former boss who offers him a job come harvest. Things go badly in the relationship. A hail storm damages the crop and the horse he planned to put at stud is killed, leaving him without a companion(?) or a source of extra cash. The neighbours invite him to attend a local fair with them, and he does, but his wife refuses. There he meets a married woman who also has a special affection for horses and she tempts him to have an affair with her. A few days later, the neighbours horse goes missing and while helping search for it he finds a suicide, a fellow he had met at the fair and who was down because of the loss of his crop to army worms. The young father is reminded of his wife's former depression. The crop comes back somewhat, harvest comes and with no other source of cash, the father leaves with the harvest crew. By this time, he's very unhappy with his relationship and thinking about not returning. One day, while the mother is home alone, the baby's spirit comes to her and she leaves the farm in the neighbour's care and goes to seek the father.

That's pretty long-winded, and pretty rough, but it's the essence of the plot.
OK, so in the end it becomes a ghost story? is that right? the ghost of the baby brings them together? is that right?

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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by GeeGee55 » March 30th, 2010, 11:50 pm

Not really a ghost, she has an experience in which her child's spirit is present and she feels compelled to find her husband and tell him about the experience. And, yes it brings them back together in the end. You have a dirty mind! lol

JTB
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by JTB » March 31st, 2010, 10:34 am

compainionship and comfort sends out a signal, what you mean - in the context of the story - is that it provides him a distraction, keeps him busy etc.

I still think that an external event needs to unite them, something so big they can forget about their own problems. otherwise (in my mind) they're just a depressed couple quietly getting over it, no dramas, no dilemmas, no sacrifices, very very low key - it can be done

(check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housekeeping_(novel) HOUSEKEEPINg by m Robinson)

but the writing has to be expectional.

The phrase 'the normal applauseless life of us all' comes to mind - Richard Ford. If your writing is good, maybe in the query you need to say something along the lines of : this haunting, poetic tale is a meditation on what it means to be haunted by the love of a dead child, to mourn the loss of an imagined future and then quietly, applauselessly, find hope

etc etc - you know what i mean

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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by GeeGee55 » March 31st, 2010, 5:40 pm

This is the query that I sent out to about 20 agents. So far, have received mostly automatic e-mail responses saying the agent contacts only if they are interested, one was a personal response saying though it seemed like a strong project she didn't think it fit with her list of editorial contacts - so I chose to see that as encouraging. About ten have not responded at all.

This is the query as revised:

In the spring of 1938, a baby boy dies on a remote farm in the drought-stricken province of Saskatchewan. His father, Gus, immerses himself in his daily chores, avoiding thoughts of his son’s death and the part he played in it. The infant’s mother, Rebecca, loses the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband could walk away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She can’t bear to be touched, not emotionally, not physically. She swears an unspoken vow: no more babies. As their marriage begins to crumble, and it seems the farm will fail, Gus devises a plan that might be their salvation if only his wife and Fate will cooperate.

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for your time and attention.

I'll give strong consideration to your suggestions, JTB. Thanks for your interest and help, and for the link, I'll check out that book.

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Kirril
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by Kirril » May 21st, 2010, 12:12 pm

I read through the entire post including the various revisions.

The last one you posted seems stronger than the rest. I think you need to start with the protag in the first sentence, not the baby boy. How about something like: In the spring of 1938, Gus loses his baby boy to death, his wife to depression, and his farm to drought. The rest of the query seems pretty strong, so I'd leave it much the same.
In the spring of 1938, a baby boy dies on a remote farm in the drought-stricken province of Saskatchewan. His father, Gus, immerses himself in his daily chores, avoiding thoughts of his son’s death and the part he played in it. The infant’s mother, Rebecca, loses the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband could walk away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She can’t bear to be touched, not emotionally, not physically. She swears an unspoken vow: no more babies. As their marriage begins to crumble, and it seems the farm will fail, Gus devises a plan that might be their salvation if only his wife and Fate will cooperate.

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for your time and attention.
And by the by, I notice you're having issues using quotes. It's pretty simple. Just start one with the word quote in brackets, and end a quote with the word /quote in brackets. You can nest them, one inside the other if you want, but it looks kinda funky. Like:
Hi!
Hi!
Hi!

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rainbowsheeps
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 21st, 2010, 12:37 pm

GeeGee55 wrote:This is the query that I sent out to about 20 agents. So far, have received mostly automatic e-mail responses saying the agent contacts only if they are interested, one was a personal response saying though it seemed like a strong project she didn't think it fit with her list of editorial contacts - so I chose to see that as encouraging. About ten have not responded at all.

This is the query as revised:

Now that finals are over... well, I'm back to work. I haven't read the rest of this thread. So, this is only in response to your latest version.

In the spring of 1938, a baby boy dies on a remote farm in the drought-stricken province of Saskatchewan. His father, Gus, immerses himself in his daily chores, avoiding thoughts of his son’s death and the part he played in it. The infant’s mother, Rebecca, loses the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband could walk away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She can’t bear to be touched, not emotionally, not physically. She swears an unspoken vow: no more babies. As their marriage begins to crumble, and it seems the farm will fail, Gus devises a plan that might be their salvation if only his wife and Fate will cooperate. (I would probably read this if the pages were good. Unfortunately, you haven't seemed to have gotten the response you wanted from agents. One meek bit of advice I'd offer is that... this is clearly going to be a fairly bleak novel. I think agents are looking for the answer to, "why should I care about this character?" in the query. You've set up a really stark conflict here, and one might pity or sympathize with Gus, but I'd say even a line or two to flesh out why we would like him would help. For instance, since he works on a farm, if he talks to his animals to get some of the companionship he's not getting from his retreating wife, you might mention to incite even a modicum of humor or optimism from him.)

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for your time and attention.

I'll give strong consideration to your suggestions, JTB. Thanks for your interest and help, and for the link, I'll check out that book.
The story is clearly going to be depressing. For some odd reason, the query reminded me slightly of Cormac McCarthy. Perhaps it's the southern, literary nature and the promise of absolute agonizing bleakness. Mmm agonizing bleakness! But seriously, I think this is pretty tight already. I'd say... try infusing a tiny bit more character to Gus for why we'd like him, rather than just pity him. It might not work, but it's the only idea I have right now, unfortunately :/

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