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Query: THE RIVER WE SEE, Literary Suspense

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#1 RobynJC

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Posted 22 February 2017 - 07:06 AM

Current version is #12 in this thread:

 

http://agentquerycon...pense/?p=335247

 

-- To the community; all critiques are welcome! Thank you! -- 

 

Dear Excellent Agent,

 

(Personalized information to go here)

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart contributed to the violent death of his best friend and fellow pastor. Now he is a broken man leading a fading church deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father.

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota with an old anger, comes to town.

 

Jacob’s first target is Peter’s church. Second is the Helm, an evangelical empire that runs the town of Gashes Creek and whose leader has his own secrets to protect.

 

Determined to defend her father as the tension escalates, Lia begins to fear the truth she finds may leave her just as unable to forgive her father as he is to forgive himself. Worse, as Lia and Jacob draw closer to the buried secrets of the town’s faith leaders, they threaten the sanctity of the Helm, whose followers will do anything to protect the leader they believe in. 

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense story of family secrets and the shadow side of faith. It is comparable to Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of the modern church and the sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit.

 

We are married co-authors with direct experience in this world. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained Presbyterian minister who leads a progressive church in North Carolina. Robyn, a Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, has worked for firms including _____ and _____ where she was global director of behavior change marketing. 

 

Our experience intersects on the question of how charismatic leaders can manipulate truth to fuel their followers’ beliefs and behaviors. In today's America, this question has a new urgency and we believe the book is more relevant now than when we started. 

 

In alternating chapters, Robyn writes Lia’s quest to unravel the events of the present day. Steve narrates as Peter relives the sins of his past, until past and present collide in a final showdown.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is complete at 91,500 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



#2 RosieSkye

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Posted 22 February 2017 - 03:20 PM

-- To the community; all critiques are welcome! Thank you! -- 

 

Dear Excellent Agent,

 

(Personalized information to go here)

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart contributed to the violent death of his best friend and fellow pastor. Now he is a broken man leading a fading church deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father.  (I think you need more detail here.  How did the friend die, and was Peter's involvement accidental or intentional?  Do many other people know what he did?)

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota with an old anger, comes to town.

 

Jacob’s first target is Peter’s church. Second is the Helm, an evangelical empire that runs the town of Gashes Creek and whose leader has his own secrets to protect. (Is Gashes Creek where Peter lives? Is Peter the leader of the Helm, or is it someone else? In what way is Jacob targeting them?)

 

Determined to defend her father as the tension escalates, Lia begins to fear the truth she finds may leave her just as unable to forgive her father as he is to forgive himself. (The wording of this sentence is clunky.) Worse, as Lia and Jacob draw closer to the buried secrets (Are they working together? Why is Lia associating with someone who's out to get her father?) of the town’s faith leaders, they threaten the sanctity of the Helm, whose followers will do anything to protect the leader they believe in. (What kind of secrets? You need to give at least an idea here, so agents know what they're dealing with.)

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense story of family secrets and the shadow side of faith. It is comparable to Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of the modern church and the sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit.

 

We are married co-authors with direct experience in this world. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained Presbyterian minister who leads a progressive church in North Carolina. Robyn, a Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, has worked for firms including _____ and _____ where she was global director of behavior change marketing. 

 

Our experience intersects on the question of how charismatic leaders can manipulate truth to fuel their followers’ beliefs and behaviors. In today's America, this question has a new urgency and we believe the book is more relevant now than when we started. 

 

In alternating chapters, Robyn writes Lia’s quest to unravel the events of the present day. Steve narrates as Peter relives the sins of his past, until past and present collide in a final showdown.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is (move your genre here) complete at 91,500 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

You need to expand on your story a lot, and cut most of the biographical information and the explanation of how your story fits into today's society.  Those things are fine for down the line, but you have to sell your story first.

 

I'm afraid I don't have a good feel for any of your characters, how they connect with each other, or what they're actually doing.  The vast majority of your query should be about the story, with the bio as just a small mention at the end.

 

Hope this helps!



#3 RobynJC

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 08:22 AM

To Rosie Skye and DV77 -- thanks so much for your feedback.  It's amazing how much perspective a fresh, seasoned eye can bring. Here's a revised version...

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart’s betrayal led to the death of his best friend and fellow pastor. Now Peter is half dead himself, preaching a faith he no longer believes in to a fading church deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father.

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota with an old anger, shows up one afternoon and trashes Peter’s tiny church—an act of violence that is deeply personal, and leaves Lia reeling to discover her beloved father is not telling the truth about her church, or his life.

 

Later, when Jacob fires a gun into the sanctuary of the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved their town and now runs it, Lia begins to realize that Jacob is not just acting out. He’s asking for justice. And he might not be entirely wrong.

 

Because as Lia discovers, it’s not just her father who has something to hide. The charismatic leader of the Helm has his own secrets, including a startling connection to Peter and the tragic events that cost a good man his life. 

 

The truth of that story threatens the entire sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Jacob and Lia come to it, the more they stoke the fury of the Helm faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader who saved them. When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is given one last chance to redeem himself — even though it might cost him all he has left.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense novel complete at 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. 

 

We are married co-authors who write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. As an ordained minister leading a progressive church in rural North Carolina, Steve has deep experience in the messy world of modern faith. And as a PR professional, Robyn has seen first hand how a good story can be used to stoke not just fervor but fear. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#4 DV77

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 08:36 AM

-- To the community; all critiques are welcome! Thank you! -- 

 

Dear Excellent Agent,

 

(Personalized information to go here)

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart contributed to the violent death of his best friend and fellow pastor. It's hard for me to put a finger on why I'm not as intrigued by this as I should be. This is the kind of opening that would typically excite me, but as the above person said maybe it needs to get more specific. Now he is a broken man leading a fading church deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father. Is Peter the protagonist or is it Lia? My first impression is that it's Peter but a bit further down I'm starting to think it might be Lia. Unless it's a multi POV I would try and keep it from the protagonist's perspective.

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota with an old anger, comes to town.

 

Jacob’s first target is Peter’s church. Second is the Helm, an evangelical empire that runs the town of Gashes Creek and whose leader has his own secrets to protect. I think we are diving into too many characters now. We are jumping from Peter to Lia to Jacob and I only really know the basics of what each person wants. The two problems with this are that there are too many characters and we're not really getting to know any of them.

 

Determined to defend her father as the tension escalates Am guilty of this myself as well but how so? 'The tension' is a little vague. It needs to get specific. , Lia begins to fear the truth she finds may leave her just as unable to forgive her father as he is to forgive himself. If the sentence before this was a little more specific I can see this one having a lot more impact. Worse, as Lia and Jacob draw closer to the buried secrets of the town’s faith leaders Do you mean Peter? Otherwise who have I missed? , they threaten the sanctity of the Helm, whose followers will do anything to protect the leader they believe in. 

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense story of family secrets and the shadow side of faith. It is comparable to I'd use something more like 'It will appeal to fans of..' Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of the modern church and the sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. Personally I quite like this last sentence.

 

We are married co-authors with direct experience in this world. Do you mean the world of religion or experience in the church etc? If so I wasn't getting that impression by the way it was written. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained Presbyterian minister who leads a progressive church in North Carolina. Robyn, a Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, has worked for firms including _____ and _____ where she was global director of behavior change marketing. 

 

Our experience intersects on the question of how charismatic leaders can manipulate truth to fuel their followers’ beliefs and behaviors. In today's America, this question has a new urgency and we believe the book is more relevant now than when we started. 

 

In alternating chapters, Robyn writes Lia’s quest to unravel the events of the present day. Steve narrates as Peter relives the sins of his past, until past and present collide in a final showdown. I'd use something more along the lines of 'this is told from the POV of both Peter and Lia.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is complete at 91,500 words Round to nearest 1000. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

First of all thanks for taking the time to have a look at my query. Much appreciated. With regards to this one I think there is a good story in here but at the moment it feels like the meaty parts are being skirted around. If Jacob is not a protagonist I'd avoid mentioning him by name. The query also feels short. For the story part it's typically advised to write somewhere between 200-250 words. I'd use a bit more of it and spend the first paragraph explaining Peter, the second Lia, and then the third one tying their stories in together. If you followed that structure this query would have a lot more spice.



#5 anathebookworm

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Posted 24 February 2017 - 05:11 PM

To Rosie Skye and DV77 -- thanks so much for your feedback.  It's amazing how much perspective a fresh, seasoned eye can bring. Here's a revised version...

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart’s betrayal led to the death of his best friend and fellow pastor. Hmmm, this is a very good hook! I like it, :-) Now Peter is half dead himself, preaching a faith he no longer believes in to a fading church deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father.

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota What is this? with an old anger sounds awkward, shows up one afternoon and trashes Peter’s tiny church—an act of violence that is deeply personal, and leaves Lia reeling to discover her beloved father is not telling the truth about her church, or his life. What? She's angry with her father, and not worried about his safety?

 

Later, when Jacob fires a gun into the sanctuary of the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved their town and now runs it, I really don't understand what this means Lia begins to realize that Jacob is not just acting out. He’s asking for justice. And he might not be entirely wrong.

 

Because As Lia discovers Discovers what?, it’s not just her father who has something to hide. The charismatic leader of the Helm has his own secrets, including a startling connection to Peter and the tragic events that cost a good man his life. Who?

 

The truth of that story threatens the entire sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Jacob and Lia come to it When did they start working together? And why are they working together? You need to explain all of this, the more they stoke the fury of the Helm faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader who saved them. When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is given one last chance to redeem himself — even though it might cost him all he has left. This is too vague for me to want to run to the sample pages. I think you need something more punch-y.

  

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense novel complete at 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. 

 

We are married co-authors who write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. As an ordained minister leading a progressive church in rural North Carolina, Steve has deep experience in the messy world of modern faith. And as a PR professional, Robyn has seen first hand how a good story can be used to stoke not just fervor but fear. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

I think if you work on your query some more, this will shine in no time! I wish you luck - and I'll keep checking this topic for more drafts, :-)

 

If you have the time, I'd love your thoughts on my query -- http://agentquerycon...e-4#entry335032



#6 SAVE

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Posted 24 February 2017 - 05:49 PM

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart’s betrayal led to the death of his best friend and fellow pastor(What betrayal, exactly? This isn't something you have to answer if it's not necessary, but if you can do it without ruining your flow, it wouldn't be a bad idea. That aside, this is actually a pretty good hook). Now Peter is half dead himself, preaching a faith he no longer believes in to a fading church(What does this mean exactly? "Fading church" why is it fading?) deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father.(All in all, this is a good paragraph, it paints a pretty good picture of Peter Stewart, it kept me intrigued the whole way through)

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota with an old anger, shows up one afternoon and trashes Peter’s tiny church—an act of violence that is deeply personal, and leaves Lia reeling to discover her beloved father is not telling the truth about her church, or his life. (This part is interesting, but I don't like the fact that you started with "Until." It's kind of awkward to read, and I think it and the following two paragraphs could definitely be combined and reworded. There's a lot of information there and it all flows smoothly together, so it's a good start!)

 

Later, when Jacob fires a gun into the sanctuary of the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved their town and now runs it, Lia begins to realize that Jacob is not just acting out. He’s asking for justice. And he might not be entirely wrong.

 

Because as Lia discovers, it’s not just her father who has something to hide. The charismatic leader of the Helm has his own secrets, including a startling connection to Peter and the tragic events that cost a good man his life. (Refer to the blue in parenthesis above this for the previous three sections)

 

The truth of that story threatens the entire sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Jacob and Lia come to it, the more they stoke the fury of the Helm faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader who saved them. When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is given one last chance to redeem himself — even though it might cost him all he has left (This is good! But what is "all he has left?" be more detailed, clearly explain your stakes to the agent!).

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense novel complete at 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. 

 

We are married co-authors who write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. As an ordained minister leading a progressive church in rural North Carolina, Steve has deep experience in the messy world of modern faith. And as a PR professional, Robyn has seen first hand how a good story can be used to stoke not just fervor but fear. (I'm not sure what to say about this, I don't think you need anything aside from being married co-authors and whether or not you have any experience in the field. I'd cut it if it's not particularly relevant)

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

You've got a good, interesting story here. All you need is to tighten it up. Your details are smooth and flowing, but they almost feel too stretched out.

Good luck!



#7 RobynJC

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 10:26 AM

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Latest version is in #12 below

 

http://agentquerycon...pense/?p=335247

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart’s betrayal led to the tragic death of his best friend and fellow pastor. Paralyzed by shame, Peter now spends his days preaching a tepid faith to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Lost in the shadow of the Helm, the evangelical empire that runs his town, he would quit life altogether but for the stubborn joy of his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes —so sweet, so wrong — in the goodness of her father and the world around her. 

 

When a troubled young Lakota destroys his sanctuary and urinates on his old friend’s Bible, Peter knows this attack is personal. Reeling from the assault on her beloved church, against Peter’s orders, Lia seeks answers on the desperately impoverished Indian reservation, where she is stunned to discover her gentle father has a mortal enemy.

 

But that’s not the worst part. Because it’s not just Peter who has something to hide. The charismatic leader of the Helm owes his extravagant success to the events of that tragic night thirteen years ago. The truth of that story threatens the entire sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Lia gets to it, the more she stokes the fury of the faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader who saved them. 

 

When Lia provokes a confrontation she cannot control, Peter has one last chance to make amends to the man he betrayed so long ago. But up against the righteous anger of a desperate mob, his courage may come with a terrible price.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel of 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. It’s a great choice for book clubs.

 

We are married co-authors who write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. An ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina, Steve has deep experience in the messy world of modern faith. And as a behavioral economist, Robyn knows first hand how the right message can trigger both fervor and fear, and how volatile that power can be.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#8 Carney

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 12:15 PM

To Rosie Skye and DV77 -- thanks so much for your feedback.  It's amazing how much perspective a fresh, seasoned eye can bring. Here's a revised version...

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart’s betrayal led to the death of his best friend and fellow pastor.<-- I read this three times before I figured  out what bugged me: you open with a mystery - what betrayal? Since you don't show this, the reader is left questioning how this fits into the main story. Later, you once again reference the death of the fellow pastor, but again, you tell us nothing about how this fits into the story. This leads to confusion - who is your MC? Peter? Jacob? Lia? Where does the story begin?  Now Peter is half dead himself, preaching a faith he no longer believes in to a fading church By "fading church" do you mean the church is dying due to lack of members?  deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His only light is his teenage I'd be specific as to her age daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of the world and of her father. 

 

Until Jacob, a young Lakota [Because this type stuff bugs me -- but probably won't even be noticed by most readers -- if you are setting this in the Black Hills, it is more likely Jacob would be either Oglala or Rosebud Sioux] with an old anger, shows up one afternoon and trashes Peter’s tiny church—an act of violence that is deeply personal, and leaves Lia reeling to discover her beloved father is not telling the truth about her church, or his life.This is an over long sentence. You might consider breaking it down into parts. 

 

[Later, when Jacob fires a gun into the sanctuary of the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved their town and now runs it, Lia begins to realize that Jacob is not just acting out. He’s asking for justice. And he might not be entirely wrong.

 

Because as Lia discovers, it’s not just her father who has something to hide. The charismatic leader of the Helm has his own secrets, including a startling connection to Peter and the tragic events that cost a good man his life. 

 

The truth of that story threatens the entire sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Jacob and Lia come to it, the more they stoke the fury of the Helm faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader who saved them. When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is given one last chance to redeem himself — even though it might cost him all he has left.] I found this confusing. Please see my notes below:

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is a literary suspense novel complete at 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. 

 

We are married co-authors who write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. As an ordained minister leading a progressive church in rural North Carolina, Steve has deep experience in the messy world of modern faith. And as a PR professional, Robyn has seen first hand how a good story can be used to stoke not just fervor but fear. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

The purpose of a query is to entice the agent to want the rest of the story. In order to accomplish this goal, the query must answer these important questions: who is the MC? What is important about the MC? What does the MC want/need? What stands between the MC and the goal? What is at stake for the MC? What happens if the MC doesn't achieve the goal? If you include secondary characters, they must show the MC striving for the goal and why the second character is essential to the story. Most of all, the reader must come away from the query with a clear idea of the story. 

 

I understand you wrote this from alternating POV's, but you concentrate on the secondary character of Jacob and his action. We only see the surface of Peter and even then, the story is behind him (as in the past). If the past betrayal is an essential story element, than it needs to be shown here. How does this relate to the main story? Lia is the other MC and her role is daughter, but you barely touch on her before going to Jacob. Then you introduce this other entity - the Helm - and this is where I got confused. If Peter is a minister, then how does the Helm factor into that? You hint at a conflict, but that conflict is never shown and this lack of detail fails to show the story clearly. Conflict is story and I'm unsure what story you are telling. 

 

You give hints as to story -- Peter's past that somehow resulted in the death of a colleague and friend; Jacob's anger - that may, or may not, be justified and the history of the Helm. All of this is good, but it doesn't really do your story justice. For me, this is what makes writing a query so hard: we have to somehow show an entire story within two paragraphs while somehow enticing the agent to ask for more without snowing them under too much information. I'm not sure you are there - yet. I'm left wondering what the core story is and how each character relates to the others. 

 

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend visiting Janet Reid's excellent website: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/   I find her site the most comprehensive and helpful query site around. If you have time, read the archives, I think you will learn a lot and be better able to get your own query right. I hope this proves helpful, feel free to ask any questions and good luck! 



#9 strangeface

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 12:16 AM

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Another pass below....

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart’s betrayal Who's doing the betraying? Peter or someone else? led to the tragic death of his best friend and fellow pastor. Paralyzed by shame, Peter now spends his days preaching a tepid faith to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Lost in the shadow of the Helm, the evangelical empire that runs his town What? I think you should explain a bit more what you mean by this. How is he lost? What exactly is "the Helm," and why does it have such an ominous name. What does it even mean to be an "evangelical empire?", he would quit life altogether You mean he'd kill himself? Quite murky what you mean here. but for the stubborn joy of his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes —so sweet, so wrong This side comment feels more from the pastor's perspective, which is okay in the story itself, but I don't think it works that well in the context of a query. — in the goodness of her father and the world around her. 

 

When a troubled young Lakota What? There was no build up to this. Really came out of nowhere. You shouldn't mention someone by name if they're not going to be relevant to the rest of the query. destroys his sanctuary and urinates on his old friend’s Bible, Peter knows this attack is personal. Reeling from the assault on her beloved church, against Peter’s orders, Lia seeks answers on the desperately impoverished Indian reservation What? What does an Indian reservation have to do with any of this?, where she is stunned to discover her gentle father has a mortal enemy.

 

But that’s not the worst part A bit cheesy.. Because i It’s not just Peter who has something to hide. The charismatic leader of the Helm owes his extravagant success to the events of that tragic night thirteen years ago. The truth of that story threatens the entire sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Lia gets to it, the more she stokes the fury of the faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader who saved them. 

 

When Lia provokes a confrontation she cannot control, Peter has one last chance Where did that chance come from? to make amends to the man he betrayed so long ago His best friend?. But up against the righteous anger of a desperate mob, his courage may come with a terrible price. This could be an intriguing end I think, if you're a bit more specific with what's going on here. I know it's quite hard to be specific with so few words, but see if you can make something work.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel of 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. It’s a great choice for book clubs.

 

We are married co-authors who write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. Don't know how relevant this is. An ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina, Steve has deep experience in the messy world of modern faith Don't know how relevant this is. You should ask someone who may know more about that than me.. And as a behavioral economist, Robyn knows first hand how the right message can trigger both fervor and fear, and how volatile that power can be I'm fairly certain that's completely irrelevant..

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

I think you definitely have a good query waiting to come up. You're almost there I think, but I was wondering what was going on at too many points during this query. Keep working though; I'm sure it'll be fine pretty soon. Good luck!



#10 RobynJC

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 07:45 AM

NOTE: Current draft is #12 below.

 

I keep thinking we've got it, and you keep showing me why we're not there yet.  Here's another go. Thanks so much!!

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart committed an unpardonable sin, and it cost his best friend and fellow pastor his life. Now, paralyzed by grief and shame, long given up on grace, Peter spends his days preaching a faith he no longer believes to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His life’s only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes — so sweet, so wrong — in the goodness of her father and her quiet little town.

 

Until Jacob, a troubled young Lakota, desecrates Peter’s sanctuary and urinates on his old friend’s Bible. Peter knows this attack is personal, and long overdue. When Lia seeks answers at Jacob’s reservation, she is stunned to learn her gentle father has a life-long enemy. Jacob next breaks into the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved their town and now runs it. The town faithful set out to hunt him down, but Lia wonders if they might all be missing something.

 

For Peter and the Helm’s charismatic leader share more than a profession.They share a troubled past. The truth of their story threatens the sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Lia gets to uncovering it, the more she stokes the fury of the Helm faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader they believe in. When Lia provokes a confrontation she cannot control, Peter might have one last chance to redeem his sin, and reclaim his faith. But up against the anger of a righteous mob, his courage may come at a terrible cost.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel of 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country, our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. 

 

As married co-authors, we write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina. Robyn is a Brown University graduate and a national leader in social marketing, the practice of using communications to drive social change.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#11 hermitage

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 09:50 PM

Guys, I read through this a couple of times looking for obvious flaws, and found none. This is clearly a polished, professional piece of work. I'll see if I can offer some thoughts and suggestions, but I wanted to say at the outset that you probably wouldn't be far wrong in sending this out as is.

 



I keep thinking we've got it, and you keep showing me why we're not there yet.  Here's another go. Thanks so much!!

 

Thirteen years ago, Peter Stewart committed an unpardonable sin, and it cost his best friend and fellow pastor his life. Now, paralyzed by grief and shame, [having?] long given up on grace [I'm just wondering about this minor grammatical point -- given up vs. having given up. With "having", you might also want to reverse the order of the clauses? Not sure -- food for thought I guess.], Peter spends his days preaching a faith he no longer believes to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His life’s only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes — so sweet, so wrong — in the goodness of her father and her quiet little town.

 

Until Jacob, a troubled young Lakota, desecrates Peter’s sanctuary and urinates on his old friend’s Bible. Peter knows this attack is personal, and long overdue. When Lia seeks answers at Jacob’s reservation, she is stunned to learn her gentle father has a life-long enemy. Jacob next breaks into the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved their town and now runs it. The town faithful set out to hunt him down, but Lia wonders if they might all be missing something. [Okay, here's something that you might want to think about. We get the detail about Jacob peeing on a Bible, but we don't get the detail of what he does that angers the Helm. I don't know if I love the urinating bit on its own, and of the two break-ins, it seems to be the less consequential to the plot. I wonder if it's possible to leave out the urinating and maybe even the first break in entirely, and focus on the second one which leads to the manhunt and the need to really take sides in a consequential way.]

 

For Peter and the Helm’s charismatic leader [I've taken a lot of guff on these boards for introducing more than one or two characters in my query. I've pushed back against that criticism at times, but I do see the point of it: with fewer characters, you can develop them in more depth. You seem to have four: Peter, Lia, Jacob, and the leader of the helm. Should you give the Helm leader a name, since you're naming the other three? Maybe... he seems at least as important as Jacob.] share more than a profession.They share a troubled past. The truth of their story threatens the sanctity of the Helm, and the closer Lia gets to uncovering it, the more she stokes the fury of the Helm faithful, who will do anything to protect the leader they believe in. When Lia provokes a confrontation she cannot control, Peter might have one last chance to redeem his sin, and reclaim his faith. But up against the anger of a righteous mob, his courage may come at a terrible cost.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel of 92,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. In a time when faith and its role in public life is causing such a deep rift in this country [when was the last time that this wasn't causing a rift?], our story offers an insider’s view of modern church and the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit. 

 

As married co-authors, we write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina. Robyn is a Brown University graduate [is it common to say where we went to school in this things? or is there something special about Brown in particular?] and a national leader in social marketing, the practice of using communications to drive social change. [I generally like the idea of complementarity here. It's a good part of the pitch.]

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Okay, so again I think this is strong as is. Definitely the writing flows well, which I think puts you and the book in a good light from the start. If you want to adjust it a little, I've made a couple suggestions above. If you want to adjust it more deeply, you might want to think about shorting it just a bit and focusing more tightly on your two main characters, Peter and Lia. I'm not sure that you want to mention Jacob by name. If you don't name him, you might not have to name the Helm leader either.

 

You place your novel in the "suspense" genre, and I encourage you to highlight that element as much as you can in the pitch. Maybe a little less emphasis on how we get to the middle of the story, and more emphasis on what we're afraid might happen? In general, I wonder if you might have slightly more synopsis here than is strictly ideal. On the plus side, what you do have does at least flow well. But if you could replace some plot details with a tighter focus on a smaller number of powerful, unique ideas, it could lead to an even stronger impact. 



#12 RobynJC

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 11:15 AM

Awesome feedback, Hermitage, and you pointed to a solution for something that had been puzzling us.  Another shot.  Thank you!!!

 

Thirteen years ago, the Rev. Peter Stewart committed an unpardonable sin, and it cost his best friend and fellow pastor his life. Now beyond grace, paralyzed by grief and shame, Peter spends his days preaching a faith he no longer believes to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His life’s only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of her father and her quiet little town of Gashes Creek.

 

When a troubled young Lakota first desecrates his church and then attacks the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved Gashes Creek and now runs it, Peter knows the attack is personal, and long overdue. Pastor Liam, the forceful, charismatic leader of the Helm, rallies his followers to “fight back for faith,” and they set out to hunt the Lakota down. Seeking answers on the local reservation, Lia is devastated when a startling discovery puts her at odds with her father, and her faith.

 

For her gentle father and the powerful Pastor Liam share more than a profession. They share a bitter history, the truth of which threatens the sanctity of the Helm itself. As a broken-hearted Lia uncovers old sins and secrets, the Helm followers rise up to protect the leader they believe in and Peter cannot hide in his tomb any longer. When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is compelled to make one final grasp for grace, even if it comes at a terrible price.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel and family drama of 92,000 words for readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. With a unique perspective on the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit, it’s a timely choice for book clubs as well as anyone questioning the role of modern faith in public life.

 

As married co-authors, we write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina. Robyn is a national leader in social marketing, the practice of using communications to drive social change.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



#13 DV77

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 12:33 PM

Thanks for the feedback on mine, Robyn. Let me try and repay the favor here.

Awesome feedback, Hermitage, and you pointed to a solution for something that had been puzzling us.  Another shot.  Thank you!!!

 

Thirteen years ago, the Just a minor thing, but is that word needed? Rev. Peter Stewart committed an unpardonable sin, and it cost his best friend and fellow pastor his life. I like this opening a lot more. It's clear but there is also an element of mystery. Now beyond grace, paralyzed by grief and shame, Peter spends his days preaching a faith he no longer believes to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His life’s only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of her father and her quiet little town of Gashes Creek. Yes. Overall I really like this paragraph. I know what's going on and I'm intrigued enough to want to read more.

 

When a troubled young Lakota first desecrates his church and then attacks the Helm, the evangelical empire that once saved Gashes Creek and now runs it, Peter knows the attack is personal, and long overdue. I'm a little concerned about the number of names, including locations. So far we have Peter, Lia, Black Hills, South Dakota (up to then those were fine there is no real confusion, but then it starts talking about Gashes Creek and the Helm. Maybe it would be better if in the first paragraph you said 'Peter spends his days preaching a faith he no longer believes to a fading congregation in the quiet town of Gashes Creek, South Dakota' Pastor Liam, the forceful, charismatic leader of the Helm, rallies his followers to “fight back for faith,” and they set out to hunt the Lakota down. Seeking answers on the local reservation, Lia is devastated when a startling discovery too vague puts her at odds with her father, and her faith. I'm thinking maybe introducing pastor Liam is a name too many, especially since he's not one of your protagonists. It could be done without having to use his name, anyway. There's also an opportunity to get more specific with what is affecting Lia.

 

For her gentle father and the powerful Pastor Liam share more than a profession. They share a bitter history, the truth of which threatens the sanctity of the Helm I think this is a missed opportunity to up the stakes. The helm is just a place we know about, but if you have a way for it to affect Peter or Lia I think that might be more powerful itself. As a broken-hearted Lia uncovers old sins and secrets, the Helm followers rise up to protect the leader they believe in and Peter cannot hide in his tomb any longer. When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is compelled to make one final grasp for grace, even if it comes at a terrible price.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel and family drama of 92,000 words for readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. With a unique perspective on the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit, it’s a timely choice for book clubs as well as anyone questioning the role of modern faith in public life.

 

As married co-authors, we write from alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina. Robyn is a national leader in social marketing, the practice of using communications to drive social change.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

This is definitely a big improvement on the first iteration. Especially the first paragraph. That was razor sharp. Personally for the 2nd and 3rd I still think there is too much going on with too many characters and at least for me it got a little muddled up. I think Pastor Liam can be mentioned without having to use his name and the ways in which things are affecting Lia feel vague. Some more details about how this revelation is affecting them would be very helpful. I appreciate you want to keep some mystery but it's possible to do that with giving us a few more specifics and hints.

 

Good job. With some minor tweaks I'd say this will be almost there.



#14 smithgirl

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:37 PM

Thirteen years ago, the Rev. Peter Stewart committed an unpardonable sin that and it cost his best friend and fellow pastor his life. Now beyond grace, paralyzed by grief and shame, Peter spends his days preaching a faith he no longer believes to a fading congregation deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His life’s only light is his teenage daughter Lia, who still believes in the goodness of her father and their her quiet little town of Gashes Creek. I really like this. It has a lot of feeling. I'm just unsure if Gashes Creek is same the place Lia's father lives. If it is, I would change to their.

 

When a troubled young Lakota first desecrates his the Reverend's church and then attacks the Helm, What is the Helm? the evangelical empire that once saved Gashes Creek and now runs it, Peter knows the attack is personal, and long overdue. This sentence is too long and unclear. Pastor Liam, the forceful, charismatic leader of the Helm, rallies his followers to “fight back for faith,” and they set out to hunt the Lakota The individual or the whole tribe? down. Seeking answers on the local reservation, Lia is devastated when a startling discovery puts her at odds with her father, and her faith. This last sentence is unclear again. Why is Lia suddenly investigating the situation?

 

It's tricky having two main characters with such similar names: Lia and Liam. People recommend your main characters not even share a first letter. This might be an issue for down the road, but it's something to be aware of, and to very clear in your query.

 

For her gentle father and the powerful Pastor Liam share more than a profession. They share a bitter history, the truth of which threatens the sanctity of the Helm itself. I am unsure what Peter's relationship is to the Helm. As a broken-hearted Lia uncovers old sins and secrets, the Helm followers rise up to protect the leader they believe in and Peter cannot hide in his tomb any longer. What? When Lia provokes a confrontation that spirals out of control, Peter is compelled to make one final grasp for grace, even if it comes at a terrible price. Also too vague.

 

THE RIVER WE SEE is an upmarket suspense novel and family drama of 92,000 words for readers of Peace Like A River or Ordinary Grace. With a unique perspective on the seductive, sometimes dangerous power of the pulpit, it’s a timely choice for book clubs as well as anyone questioning the role of modern faith in public life.

 

As married co-authors, we write from the alternating perspectives of Peter and Lia. Steve is a Rhodes Scholar and ordained minister serving a progressive church in rural North Carolina. Robyn is a national leader in social marketing, the practice of using communications to drive social change.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

I really like your first paragraph. It is lovely and emotional. After that, I get lost in the story. I just can't follow what's going on. I'm also very unclear on how the Helm relates to Peter. You need to go back and really simplify the basic sequence of events and then expand back outward from that basic core. Good luck! If you get a chance, could you please take a look at my query? Thankshttp://agentquerycon...rade-critiques/







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