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AMÉRICA! (Historical Fiction)


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#21 kevinmont

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 11:34 PM

This is non-fiction, right? And it's about the meeting of Simon Bolivar and San Martin, and how that meeting affected the lives of SA people for 200 years, that nobody knows about, right? Because about 1/2 of the query is that topic.

Or is it a historical adventure, with the Indians, and the slaves, and the prisoners, and the ships, and Napoleon, and the 12-year fight?There's no such genre as "Historical Adventure."

I wouldn't concentrate on your bio, except to eliminate, "written over two years..." because who cares about that? I'd concentrate on, and clarify, your genre, and what is the nature of your story?

#22 dgaughran

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 07:56 AM

This is non-fiction, right?


This is fiction. If that's not clear then there is something very wrong with my query.

Or is it a historical adventure, with the Indians, and the slaves, and the prisoners, and the ships, and Napoleon, and the 12-year fight?There's no such genre as "Historical Adventure."


It's a historical novel. It's not a historical romance, or a historical mystery, or even a historical thriller. It's an adventure novel, with a historical setting. Hence "historical adventure". The Conte of Monte Cristo and Treasure Island would be considered "adventure novels". If they were written today, they could be classified as "historical adventure" novels.

It might not be the most widely-used term, but Wikipedia seems to know what it is, Amazon has 13,000 books listed under that category, and I'm pretty sure an agent will know exactly what I am talking about.

And it's about the meeting of Simon Bolivar and San Martin, and how that meeting affected the lives of SA people for 200 years, that nobody knows about, right? Because about 1/2 of the query is that topic.


I think you may have pinpointed a weakness in my query here. The meeting of Bolivar and San Martin forms the climax of the novel. The mention of "200 years" was an attempt to create a "non-fiction hook" - something real that piques interest in the story, in this case a real mystery "solved" by my novel. If the query is giving the impression that my book is about what happened to South America for the 200 years afterwards, then this query has failed, spectacularly.
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#23 dgaughran

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 09:06 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 5 ***


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]

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#24 S.K. Keogh

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 10:26 AM

After twenty years in the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín is ready to ("is ready to" is passive) desert(s), but he's not running from a fight, he's running towards one. (I like this hook better than the other.)

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. (good paragraph)

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. (This is the paragraph that suddenly makes it sound like non-fiction. Is Bolivar a real person? Is San Martin a real person? Forgive my ignorance of that history surrounding your story, but an agent might very well be as ignorant as I. If nothing really comes of their meeting, then why even mention it? You need to give us the reason why this is significant in the MC's personal journey.)

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][/size][/font]


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#25 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 08 March 2011 - 10:33 AM

"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. (This is the paragraph that suddenly makes it sound like non-fiction. Is Bolivar a real person? Is San Martin a real person? Forgive my ignorance of that history surrounding your story, but an agent might very well be as ignorant as I. If nothing really comes of their meeting, then why even mention it? You need to give us the reason why this is significant in the MC's personal journey."

S.K. I think the point is after the meeting this man, who has devoted his life to fighting for freedom for South America WALKS AWAY and leaves the final battle and the glory to "Simon the liberator." That is a HUGE something to come out of the meeting, imo. I would be like if George Washington met with someone right before the end of the Revolutionary war and just slipped back to his plantation, without an explanation to anyone and was never heard from again. Or like if Lenin just dropped his participation in the Soviet Union and left Trotsky to finish things up on his own. The world of San Martin's time must have thought "what the heck?" Answering that "what the heck" (even now) is a pretty exciting prospect if you ask me.
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#26 S.K. Keogh

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 10:35 AM

"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. (This is the paragraph that suddenly makes it sound like non-fiction. Is Bolivar a real person? Is San Martin a real person? Forgive my ignorance of that history surrounding your story, but an agent might very well be as ignorant as I. If nothing really comes of their meeting, then why even mention it? You need to give us the reason why this is significant in the MC's personal journey."

S.K. I think the point is after the meeting this man, who has devoted his life to fighting for freedom for South America WALKS AWAY and leaves the final battle and the glory to "Simon the liberator." That is a HUGE something to come out of the meeting, imo. I would be like if George Washington met with someone right before the end of the Revolutionary war and just slipped back to his plantation, without an explanation to anyone and was never heard from again. Or like if Lenin just dropped his participation in the Soviet Union and left Trotsky to finish things up on his own. The world of San Martin's time must have thought "what the heck?" Answering that "what the heck" (even now) is a pretty exciting prospect if you ask me.


But if I read through a whole book about a guy trying to liberate his country who then just gives up and becomes a farmer...well, not very compelling to me. Anti-climactic.

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#27 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 08 March 2011 - 10:40 AM

But if I read through a whole book about a guy trying to liberate his country who then just gives up and becomes a farmer...well, not very compelling to me. Anti-climactic.


IT'S THE MYSTERY OF WHY and I presume the reasons are going to be damn compelling (or you are right it would be anti-climactic). If you were an agent you would not be the agent for this book. But I have to tell you I would read it. I am always interested in what makes great leaders (male or female) do totally unexpected things. Besides lots of great books end with "failure" (from the perspective of the larger world) but "validation" from the POV of the MC
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#28 dgaughran

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 11:48 AM

Hi Susan & Litgal,

Great discussion, good to hear both sides. I'll jump in if I may.

First re. the hook. Yes, "is ready" is weak. I propose the following:

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

Or this:

As Lieutenant-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.

Re. the meeting between Bolivar & San Martin. First of all, they are both historical figures, and everything happened as I described. For me, this is the "non-fiction hook" that draws me into the story. As Litgal said, the fascination (for me at least), is the "why". Why would someone walk away, and hand all the glory to someone else?

History can't answer the question for us, there is no record of what was said, no witnesses, and neither man spoke much about it afterward. It's a matter of great contention among South American historians, and has caused huge controversy over the years. Litgal's comparisons are valid. Imagine if Washington had handed power to someone else on the eve of the last crucial battle and faded into anonymity. That's what first got me interested in this story, and answering that "why" is what drove me to write the book.

With regard to it being an anti-climax, surely that depends on how it is written, and whether I give a convincing reason for his sacrifice. Not every story has to have a happy ending, but I believe it should have a moral one, in the sense that the MC has achieved something, or pulled back from the brink in some way.

Also, as a side note, this novel actually has 7 MCs, of which San Martin is only one, so while his narrative might have an element of the anti-climax about it, other narratives pick up the slack in that regard, so the reader still has a "pay-off" in the manner you refer to.

I, of course, restricted the query to one MC, as is almost universally advised.
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#29 S.K. Keogh

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 04:01 PM

[i]After twenty years in the Spanish Army, Lieutenant-Colonel José de San Martín deserts, but he's not running from a fight, he's running towards one.

With regard to it being an anti-climax, surely that depends on how it is written,


I like the first choice of openers.

I'm not attacking your book; I'm analyzing the query. Like you said, the climax (or anti-climax) and how it is written is what is important. Through the query I get none of that. It just sounds like they meet, he disappears, book ends. To me that's not appealing. I want something more appealing in that paragraph of the query. I don't give a damn about happy endings. However, Lit gives you another perspective that doesn't care if there's more to the paragraph, so ultimately the choice, of course, is yours. Send the query out as is and that will tell you all you need to know. If you find an agent like Lit, you're golden; if you find one like me, you're going to be re-sending the query to others.

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#30 dgaughran

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 05:12 PM

Can't decide between the openers myself.

I'm not attacking your book; I'm analyzing the query.


Don't worry, I didn't take it as an attack. I'm not dismissing your opinion, the end of the book was a worry from start to finish, for just the reasons you have highlighted. And your point is valid, if it's not interesting in the query, then that part of the query is not doing its job. You have given me something to think about. I think there may be a shift in tone in that paragraph too, it suddenly sounds like non-fiction again. Maybe I need to dramatise it a little, give it some colour.

If you find an agent like Lit, you're golden; if you find one like me, you're going to be re-sending the query to others.


That sounds painful. I won't pry, but good luck.
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#31 S.K. Keogh

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 06:16 PM

That sounds painful. I won't pry, but good luck.


:laugh: Actually that must have sounded wrong. I don't mean my agent is painful. :wink:

I agree with your take that the paragraph sounds more non-fiction than not.

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#32 dgaughran

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 12:49 PM

:laugh: Actually that must have sounded wrong. I don't mean my agent is painful. :wink:


Oh I completely misread what you wrote!

Makes more sense now. Sorry.

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#33 dgaughran

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 05:17 PM

Hi all,

Thanks for all the help so far, it's genuinely appreciated. There was something wrong with the last version. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I know it needed a rewrite.

Latest version below. Have at her!

Dave

*** VERSION 6 ***


Dear [AGENT],

Why did Jose de San Martin, who led a twelve-year campaign to liberate South America, resign and allow Simon Bolivar the glory of the final victory?

In 1810, San Martín deserts the Spanish Army and returns home to Buenos Aires. When he joins the independence fight, he clashes with his superiors and wrestles with an increasing dependence on laudanum. The revolution falters as the rebel army fail to advance; San Martín is transferred to a provincial backwater, far from the front. His career seems finished, but San Martín has a secret plan. Enlisting the help of refugees, freed slaves, ex-convicts and mercenaries, he scales the snow-covered Andes and liberates Santiago in a surprise attack. As enemy reinforcements land again and again, San Martín realises that to break Spanish power he must take Peru, and hires a disgraced British officer to launch an attack by sea.

After the fall of Lima in 1822, the two greatest South American generals, Bolívar and San Martín, finally meet. Neither army is large enough to finish the Spanish; they must come together. To the consternation of his men, San Martín resigns, leaving Bolívar to immortalise himself in the final battle. For two hundred years, San Martín's 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. Thank you for your consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely,

[ME]

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#34 bkeats

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 07:44 PM

Hey there, Dave. Sorry for being late to the party again, but this was a long thread to get through :biggrin:

We'll start off at Revision #6 (the best by far, IMHO)


Dear [AGENT],

Why did Jose de San Martin, who led a twelve-year campaign to liberate South America, resign and allow Simon Bolivar the glory of the final victory?

In 1810, San Martín deserts the Spanish Army and returns home to Buenos Aires. When he joins the independence fight for independence, he clashes with his superiors and wrestles with an increasing dependence on laudanum. The revolution falters as the rebel army fails to advance; San Martín is transferred to a provincial backwater, far from the front. His career seems finished, but San Martín has a secret plan. Enlisting the help of refugees, freed slaves, ex-convicts and mercenaries, he scales the snow-covered Andes and liberates Santiago in a surprise attack. As enemy reinforcements land again and again,(I don't have an alternative here, as I don't know the details as they appear in the book, but this phrase definately needs some revision.) San Martín realises that to break Spanish power, he must take Peru, and hires a disgraced British officer to launch an attack by sea.

After the fall of Lima in 1822, the two greatest South American generals, Bolívar and San Martín, finally meet. Neither army is large enough to finish the Spanish; they must come together. To the consternation of his men, San Martín resigns, leaving Bolívar to immortalise himself in the final battle. as the sole commander of the combined army. (The deleted text already appears in your hook.) For two hundred years, San Martín's 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. Thank you for your consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely,

Well, that's all I've got for now. Standard disclaimers apply.

#35 dgaughran

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 04:28 AM

Thanks bkeats!
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#36 dgaughran

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 01:20 PM

I have a question to ask about my query above.

Reading it again today, I am wondering if it is a little dry. After all, it's supposed to be an adventure novel. Is the query exciting?

I'm not sure.

Dave
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#37 jwmstudio

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 03:14 PM

I don't like starting with a question, and I agree with litgal's comments. I understand why you changed what you did, but I liked what you wrote here:
"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.'
This makes me want to be in the room with them and see what happened. It also shows the crux of your question without you having to ask it.
It's exciting to me. :happy:
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