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OBLITERATING HISTORY (literary fiction)NINTH REVISION: POST #69


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#1 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:15 AM

NINTH REVISION: POST #69

Hello -- I'm new here. I would be grateful for opinions on my complete query. I will be reading and critiquing in return. Thank you!


Dear __ __,

My name is Jean Smith. I would be grateful if you would consider my novel Obliterating History -- a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage.

Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of the Martin acoustic guitar factory, is about the last place you'd think a fifty-year-old man would have a submissive sex slave in his newly-renovated garage.

literary fiction
75,700 words

SUMMARY:
Veronica Dorval, the fifty-five-year-old Wall Street stockbroker exploring domination and submission with carpenter Frank MacLean, is having difficulty reconciling her sexual inclinations with her feminist beliefs. How, she wonders, can she be strongly opposed to injustice and oppression and yet crave discipline and restraint? Understanding the basis of the power exchanges she's engaging in, Veronica recognizes her need to let someone else be in control. She needs to let go. Frank's wife Carol is not coping well with her mid-life return to the small town she grew up in. Raised by a single, teenage mother in the 1960s -- Vernalee Withers' name is synonymous with a legacy of shame. The townsfolk, and in particular Vernalee's sisters, seem unaware of the notoriety she achieved in the field of human sexuality at Princeton University. While cleaning out the attic of the house she grew up in, Carol discovers notebooks filled with her mother's song lyrics, wry humor and the burgeoning anarchist's observations on feminism, artificial intelligence (AI) and the 1968 Democratic Convention. Also in the attic -- a guitar and mysterious tapes from the 50s and 60s. Local music history buff Finn Lambert is over the moon about the master guitar player on the tape, but he says the recordings of this man's immense talent cannot pre-date Jimi Hendrix. But they do. Even wilder -- its eleven-year-old Vernalee's explosive guitar playing that re-shuffles rock 'n roll history from Howlin' Wolf to Riot Grrrl. While pondering the fate of her marriage, Carol plugs in her mother's electric guitar and the wall of feedback it emits becomes a cathartic conduit for the vitriolic performance Carol didn't know she had in her. This profound connection to her mother's history inspires Carol to use music as a method for living happily, perhaps not ever-after with Frank, but within herself.

BIO:
- Author of two published novels, The Ghost of Understanding (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998) and I Can Hear Me Fine (Get to the Point Editions, 1993)
- Two-time recipient of $10,000 Canada Council for the Arts awards (2000 and 2007) as a professional writer of creative fiction
- Awarded a $5000 writing grant from the British Columbia Arts Council (2000)
- Singer and manager of the critically acclaimed underground rock duo Mecca Normal
- Mecca Normal has released 13 albums in the US.
- 25 Shows in 25 Days (2009) included a lecture in university classrooms, bookstores and art galleries
- 25 years handling tour booking, press and radio promotion for releases and tours
- Existing publicity platform includes a clear plan for utilizing connections in publishing, music, education and culture
- I am in an excellent position to assist a publisher in generating sales.
- Excerpts of my fiction and articles on culture have appeared in Magnet Magazine, Village Voice, American Book Award (1996) winning anthology Sounding Off!: Music as Resistance / Rebellion / Revolution, Globe & Mail, Raygun, New York Foundation of Art, Rolling Stone, Your Flesh, Review of Contemporary Fiction, McSweeney's and 3 a.m.

Leaving the titillation-factor of sex slaves to the bodice rippers, Obliterating History -- a guitar-making mystery, domination & submission in a small town garage is told using references to culture, history and politics -- from the 1950s to present day. With the illumination of plausible correlations between childhood experiences and sexual proclivities, come answers to the question -- why do people engage in these behaviors?

The complete manuscript, synopsis, reviews of published novels, publishing history and preliminary marketing proposal are available.

Thank you for your time,
Jean Smith

CV:
http://jeansmithcv.wordpress.com

Mecca Normal Newsletter:
http://meccanormal.wordpress.com

#2 Pete Morin

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:27 AM

Jean, this sounds fascinating (especially to guitar players), but I think your first stop ought to be the pinned articles at the top of the Query Critique forum thread that discuss the standard structure of the query letter.

I'll leave a more thorough commentary for the next draft, but I am confused by one fundamental fact:

You mention the Martin factory in your hook line, but the discovery of the master tapes appear to feature one wailing on an electric - and Martin doesn't make electrics. So I'm left wondering if the reference to the Martin factory is a bit of a red herring?
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#3 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:59 AM

Hi Pete,

I have studied the standard structure of the query letter, here and else where online. Hook (one sentence), Mini-Synopsis (one para), Bio (one para). Hook, Book, Cook.

Martin did, for a few years in the 1960s, make electric hollow-body guitars.



Thank-you for your comment!
Jean

Oops, didn't know the video would land right there !!

#4 Lori Sjoberg

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 11:34 AM

Hi Pete,

I have studied the standard structure of the query letter, here and else where online. Hook (one sentence), Mini-Synopsis (one para), Bio (one para). Hook, Book, Cook.

Martin did, for a few years in the 1960s, make electric hollow-body guitars.

Thank-you for your comment!
Jean


Please go back and review the suggested format. Your query is way too long and the current format is a bit disjointed. There's a good story in there; your challenge is to lay it out in a quick, organized manner.

Good luck!

#5 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 12:37 PM

Thanks for the comment !

Agent Query guidelines say the Mini-Synopsis should be between 250 and 300 words. Mine is 303.

Jean

#6 Litgal

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 12:51 PM

Yes, but you are missing the point -- your letter needs to look, well, like a LETTER. No funky subheadings ("summary" "bio"). And you need to START with the hook not an obsequious plea to consider your book. Forget the articles for a moment -- go and read a dozen (or two) actual query letters (preferably ones that worked). Then reformat the information (or some of it) that you have here into an easy to read letter that flows.
Lit. (aka Sophie Perinot)

#7 Lori Sjoberg

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 12:55 PM

Thanks for the comment !

Agent Query guidelines say the Mini-Synopsis should be between 250 and 300 words. Mine is 303.

Jean


The word count for the body of text starting after "Dear ___" and stopping right before "Thank you for your time" shows 645. Way. Too. Long.

#8 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:00 PM

Yes, but you are missing the point -- your letter needs to look, well, like a LETTER. No funky subheadings ("summary" "bio"). And you need to START with the hook not an obsequious plea to consider your book. Forget the articles for a moment -- go and read a dozen (or two) actual query letters (preferably ones that worked). Then reformat the information (or some of it) that you have here into an easy to read letter that flows.


I understand the point(s).

A letter needs to begin with an intoduction to its recipient. The agent I'm using as a protoype for my quey format says she wants a query to begin with "I would be grateful if you would consider my novel."

I will do what this agent requested.

I will go and re-post the information I seek input on.

Thank you for your comment.

Jean

#9 Litgal

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:05 PM

I cannot believe any agent wants you to begin with "I would be grateful" but hey, live and learn. I think you will find 99% of the agents out there want you to get to the point because they know exactly why you (and the 300+ other writers who e-query them in a given week) are writing.

Best of luck.

Lit. (aka Sophie Perinot)

#10 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:08 PM

Betsy Lerner radio interview, December 2010. In taking questions from listeners, someone asked how she wanted a query to start, and that's what she said.

It's downloadable here:
http://penonfire.blo...tsy-lerner.html

If I can find out how each agent I query wants to be addressed, I'll follow those guidelines, case by case. It's a good way to show that you have done some research on them.

Jean

#11 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:13 PM

(same as text above; this is the content I'm seeking feedback on)

Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of the Martin acoustic guitar factory, is about the last place you'd think a fifty-year-old man would have a submissive sex slave in his newly-renovated garage.

Veronica Dorval, the fifty-five-year-old Wall Street stockbroker exploring domination and submission with carpenter Frank MacLean, is having difficulty reconciling her sexual inclinations with her feminist beliefs. How, she wonders, can she be strongly opposed to injustice and oppression and yet crave discipline and restraint? Understanding the basis of the power exchanges she's engaging in, Veronica recognizes her need to let someone else be in control. She needs to let go. Frank's wife Carol is not coping well with her mid-life return to the small town she grew up in. Raised by a single, teenage mother in the 1960s -- Vernalee Withers' name is synonymous with a legacy of shame. The townsfolk, and in particular Vernalee's sisters, seem unaware of the notoriety she achieved in the field of human sexuality at Princeton University. While cleaning out the attic of the house she grew up in, Carol discovers notebooks filled with her mother's song lyrics, wry humor and the burgeoning anarchist's observations on feminism, artificial intelligence (AI) and the 1968 Democratic Convention. Also in the attic -- a guitar and mysterious tapes from the 50s and 60s. Local music history buff Finn Lambert is over the moon about the master guitar player on the tape, but he says the recordings of this man's immense talent cannot pre-date Jimi Hendrix. But they do. Even wilder -- its eleven-year-old Vernalee's explosive guitar playing that re-shuffles rock 'n roll history from Howlin' Wolf to Riot Grrrl. While pondering the fate of her marriage, Carol plugs in her mother's electric guitar and the wall of feedback it emits becomes a cathartic conduit for the vitriolic performance Carol didn't know she had in her. This profound connection to her mother's history inspires Carol to use music as a method for living happily, perhaps not ever-after with Frank, but within herself.

#12 Pete Morin

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:22 PM

OOo nice, didn't know that.
Is the idea that this electrified hollow-body (love the sunburst) is the type of electric guitar from which a wall of feedback is emitted, explosive and Hendrix-like?
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#13 Pete Morin

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:40 PM

(same as text above; this is the content I'm seeking feedback on)

Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of the Martin acoustic guitar factory, is about the last place you'd think a fifty-year-old man would have a submissive sex slave in his newly-renovated garage. [does this imply incorrectly that the man is the protag?]

Veronica Dorval, the fifty-five-year-old Wall Street stockbroker exploring domination and submission with carpenter Frank MacLean, is having difficulty reconciling her sexual inclinations with her feminist beliefs. How, she wonders, can she be strongly opposed to injustice and oppression and yet crave discipline and restraint? Understanding the basis of the power exchanges she's engaging in, Veronica recognizes her need to let someone else be in control. She needs to let go. [shifting mid-paragraph to another character's story] Frank's wife Carol is not coping well with her mid-life return to the small town she grew up in. Raised by a single, teenage mother in the 1960s -- Vernalee Withers' name is synonymous with a legacy of shame [Vernalee is being raised or doing the raising? Is her name synonymous with, or did it leave, a legacy of shame?] . The townsfolk, and in particular Vernalee's sisters, seem unaware of the notoriety she achieved in the field of human sexuality at Princeton University. [back to Carol now - who's the MC?] While cleaning out the attic of the house she grew up in [her childhood home?], Carol discovers notebooks filled with her mother's song lyrics, wry humor and the burgeoning anarchist's observations on feminism, artificial intelligence (AI) and the 1968 Democratic Convention. Also in the attic -- a guitar and mysterious tapes from the 50s and 60s. [where in the story arc does this event occur?] Local music history buff Finn Lambert is over the moon about the master guitar player on the tape, but he says the recordings of this man's [Who? What's his connection to Vernalee?] immense talent cannot pre-date Jimi Hendrix. But they do. Even wilder -- its eleven-year-old Vernalee's explosive guitar playing that re-shuffles rock 'n roll history from Howlin' Wolf to Riot Grrrl [I'm feeling a bit whip-sawed here If this were the case, how could Vernalee's talent be such a secret?]. While pondering the fate of her marriage, Carol plugs in her mother's electric guitar and the wall of feedback it emits becomes a cathartic conduit for the vitriolic performance Carol didn't know she had in her. This profound connection to her mother's history inspires Carol to use music as a method for living happily, perhaps not ever-after with Frank, but within herself.


Again, this does sound like a fascinating story, but as it is, I think it needs a bit more clarity and simplicity.
Pete

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#14 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:50 PM

OOo nice, didn't know that.
Is the idea that this electrified hollow-body (love the sunburst) is the type of electric guitar from which a wall of feedback is emitted, explosive and Hendrix-like?


No, the feedback-y guitar is a solid body that a young aurally-gifted kid builds -- Martin is very interested in the prototype.

Are you a guitar player, Pete?

#15 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:52 PM

Again, this does sound like a fascinating story, but as it is, I think it needs a bit more clarity and simplicity.


Thank-you very much Pete !! I surely apppreciate your notes.

#16 Pete Morin

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:16 PM

No, the feedback-y guitar is a solid body that a young aurally-gifted kid builds -- Martin is very interested in the prototype.

Are you a guitar player, Pete?


Very much so, Jean.

This is a complex weave you've got going on - and the vexing thing with this damn query letter exercise is striking the right balance in the level of detail and which of the elements you can weave into one paragraph while maintaining clarity. I wonder if the mention of Martin is necessary with all else you've got going on.

On the other hand, perhaps it is worth a few words to describe this guitar - particularly its home-madeness (Posted Image) - since it is going to be a conduit to Carol's impending spontaneous performance.
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#17 EMDelaney

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:29 PM

Very much so, Jean.

This is a complex weave you've got going on - and the vexing thing with this damn query letter exercise is striking the right balance in the level of detail and which of the elements you can weave into one paragraph while maintaining clarity. I wonder if the mention of Martin is necessary with all else you've got going on.

On the other hand, perhaps it is worth a few words to describe this guitar - particularly its home-madeness (Posted Image) - since it is going to be a conduit to Carol's impending spontaneous performance.


Agree
If you continue to think the way you've always thought, you will continue to get what you've always got!

#18 Jean Smith

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:54 PM

REVISION

Veronica Dorval, a fifty-five-year-old Wall Street stockbroker exploring domination and submission, is having difficulty reconciling her sexual inclinations with her feminist beliefs. How, she wonders, can she be strongly opposed to injustice and oppression and yet crave discipline and restraint? Understanding the power exchanges she engages in with Frank MacLean, Veronica recognizes her need to let someone else be in control. Frank's wife Carol, raised by a teenage mother in the 1960s, thinks her mother's name is still synonymous with shame. Her mother, Vernalee Withers, achieved notoriety in human sexuality research at Princeton University, but her accomplishments went unnoticed by her family. While cleaning out the attic of her childhood home, Carol discovers notebooks of her mother's song lyrics and the burgeoning anarchist's observations on the origins of feminism. Also in the attic -- an old guitar and mysterious tapes from the 50s and 60s. Local music history buff Finn Lambert is over the moon about the tapes, but he says the recordings cannot pre-date Jimi Hendrix. But they do. Even wilder -- its eleven-year-old Vernalee's explosive guitar playing that re-shuffles rock 'n roll history from Howlin' Wolf to Riot Grrrl. While pondering the fate of her marriage, Carol plugs in her mother's electric guitar and the wall of feedback it emits becomes a conduit for a performance Carol didn't know she had in her.

#19 Pete Morin

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 03:11 PM

I'm going to ask what might be a dumb question - not for the very first time, mind you.Posted Image

What is the connection between Veronica Dorval's compulsion to explore S/M with a married man and his wife's discovery of the guitar and its aftermath?

How are these two characters connected?
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#20 Juls Duncan

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 03:27 PM

HI, Jean...

Welcome, and I'm not sure how much help I can be but I'll give it a shot...

As for your Hook - Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of the Martin acoustic guitar factory, is about the last place you'd think a fifty-year-old man would have a submissive sex slave in his newly-renovated garage. I like it, makes me want to read more of the story.

Mini-Synopsis -

Veronica Dorval, the fifty-five-year-old Wall Street stockbroker exploring domination and submission with carpenter Frank MacLean, is having difficulty reconciling her sexual inclinations with her feminist beliefs(a little wordy. I start losing interest).

How, she wonders, can she be strongly opposed to injustice and oppression and yet crave discipline and restraint? Understanding the basis of the power exchanges she's engaging in, Veronica recognizes her need to let someone else be in control(Too wordy I have to force my self to read on). She needs to let go.(let go of what?)

Frank's wife Carol is not coping well with her mid-life return to the small town she grew up in.(Do we need to know about Carol in the query?)

Raised by a single, teenage mother in the 1960s -- Vernalee Withers' name is synonymous with a legacy of shame.(is this part of the conflict?)

The townsfolk, and in particular Vernalee's sisters, seem unaware of the notoriety she achieved in the field of human sexuality at Princeton University.(Why is it important for everyone to know this in the query, is it part of the conflict?)

While cleaning out the attic of the house she grew up in, Carol discovers notebooks filled with her(Who's mother? Carols?) mother's song lyrics, wry humor and the burgeoning anarchist's observations on feminism, artificial intelligence (AI) and the 1968 Democratic Convention.(Why do we can that she discovered these things, is this also part of the conflict?)

Also in the attic -- a guitar and mysterious tapes from the 50s and 60s. Local music history buff Finn Lambert is over the moon about the master guitar player on the tape, but he says the recordings of this man's immense talent cannot pre-date Jimi Hendrix.(very wordy, and shows no interest to me other than she found a guitar and some old tapes.)

But they do. Even wilder -- its eleven-year-old Vernalee's explosive guitar playing that re-shuffles rock 'n roll history from Howlin' Wolf to Riot Grrrl.(What? you lost me here. is she playing the guitar on the tapes?)

While pondering the fate of her marriage, Carol plugs in her mother's electric guitar and the wall of feedback it emits becomes a cathartic conduit for the vitriolic performance Carol didn't know she had in her. This profound connection to her mother's history inspires Carol to use music as a method for living happily, perhaps not ever-after with Frank, but within herself.(Very wordy, and there is nothing exciting to keep me focused)

Over all, your query’s way too wordy, has to much tell, and not enough show... Too many names that confuse what's happening, I would base the query on the MC, if there's more that one, then pick one and focus your query on that one's POV. I also didn't get a feel of what the conflict is, or even what the plots about...

Sorry to sound so critical, and remember this is just my thoughts on it... Good luck... Juls




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