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Mahoney: Historical Fiction


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#1 Andrew Joyce

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 04:37 AM

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

 

 

MAHONEY is the story of the Mahoney clan—a story that starts in Ireland in 1849 and concludes in Washington D.C. in 1963. Three generations of Mahoneys take us on a journey through one hundred and fourteen years of American history. History we all know about … and some we don’t.

 

In the second year of The Great Famine, nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney is the last of his family left alive. His only hope for any kind of a future is to go to America and start a new life. However, first he must make the arduous and dangerous ocean voyage on a “coffin ship” where typhus runs rampant and a great storm decimates the ship. Once in America, he works hard to get established, but runs afoul of a murderous gang and must run for his life. He settles in a new location and goes to work as a laborer for the Railroad. Devin prospers, marries, and has a son. All is good until the outbreak of the Civil War. He feels duty-bound to fight for his adopted country and goes off to war where he is mortally wounded. It now falls to his son Dillon to establish the Mahoney clan in America.

 

At twenty years of age, Dillon heads to California to make a new start. The year is 1880. He steps off a train during a water stop in a small Western town, but never makes it back onto the train. Through a series of events beyond his control, he makes an enemy of a local gunslinger. Dillon cannot run away from the problem, he has to face it head on. Over time, he becomes proficient with a gun. But before he can take a stand against his nemesis, the killer shoots him in the back and leaves him for dead. When he recovers, he sets out after his assailant and along the way makes a name for himself as the new fast-gun in the territory. After the showdown with the killer, Dillon heads to California, to escape his reputation, where he becomes rich in the oil business. He too, has a son, David.

 

David’s mother dies in childbirth and Dillon spoils David to the point where he thinks the world owes him a living. He becomes estranged from his father at the age of twenty-one when he comes into an inheritance from his maternal grandfather. They do not speak for years, until 1929 when the bottom falls out of the stock market. Now broke, David goes to his father for financial help. But Dillon, who is dying of cancer, has also lost everything, cannot help. That leaves David, at thirty-five, without funds, without any marketable skills, and out on the street. It’s now up to David to Establish the Mahoneys in America.

 

MAHONEY is an historical fiction novel of 173,000 words written in the spirit of NEW YORK by Edward Rutherford.

 

 

 

 

 



#2 NerdWitch

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 05:07 AM

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

 

 

MAHONEY is the story of the Mahoney clan—a story that starts in Ireland in 1849 and concludes in Washington D.C. in 1963. Three generations of Mahoneys take us on a journey through one hundred and fourteen years of American history. History we all know about … and some we don’t.

 

I would start here. In the second year of The Great Famine, nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney is the last of his family left alive. What happened to the rest of his family? His only hope for any kind of a future is to go to America and start a new life. However, first he must make the arduous and dangerous ocean voyage on a “coffin ship” where typhus runs rampant and a great storm decimates the ship. Once in America, he works hard to get established, but runs afoul of a murderous gang and must run for his life. He settles in a new location where? and goes to work as a laborer for the Railroad. Devin prospers , marries (who), and has a son (sons name?) All is good until the outbreak of the Civil War. He feels duty-bound to fight for his adopted country and goes off to war where he is mortally wounded. It now falls to his son Dillon to establish the Mahoney clan in America.

 

At twenty years of age    At twenty-years-old, Dillon Mahoney heads to California to make a new start. The year is 1880. He steps off a train during a water stop in a small Western town, but never makes it back onto the train (why?). Through a series of events beyond his control (what events?) he makes an enemy of a local gunslinger (who and why?). Dillon cannot run away from the problem, so he has to face it head on. Over time, he becomes proficient with a gun. But Before he can take a stand against his nemesis, the killer shoots him in the back and leaves him for dead. When he Dillon recovers, he sets out after his assailant and along the way makes a name for himself as the new fast-gun in the territory. After the showdown with the killer, Dillon heads to California, to escape his reputation, where he becomes rich in the oil business (how?). He too, has a son, David.

 

When David Mahoney's David’s mother dies in childbirth, Dillon spoils David to the point where he thinks the world owes him a living. He becomes estranged from his father at the age of twenty-one when he comes into an inheritance from his maternal grandfather. They do not speak for years, until 1929 when the bottom falls out of the stock market. Now broke, David goes to his father for financial help. But Dillon, who is dying of cancer, has also lost everything and cannot help. That leaves David, at thirty-five, without funds, without any marketable skills, and out on the street. It’s now up to David to Establish the Mahoneys in America.

 

MAHONEY is an historical fiction novel of 173,000 words and would appeals to readers of written in the spirit of NEW YORK by Edward Rutherford.

 

At the heart of this, I think there's an interesting story but this query reads more like a synopsis. It needs to be shorter and talk more about each character's stakes. I'm wondering if the query should focus more on Devin because the story starts with him? I thnk it sounds interesting but it needs a bit more work. My comments in red are just some thoughts and minor changes :)  


Here's my latest query :) http://agentquerycon...turn-critique/ 

 

 


#3 mwsinclair

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 07:42 AM

NerdWitch said what I was thinking: this is a synopsis. They have their place, but it's not in a query.

 

Think of a query as a sales letter. You don't have to put on a cheesy suit or grease up your mustache, but in essence you're saying to an agent, "What'll it take to get you into this story and take a test drive?"

 

More often than not, the agent replies, "Sorry, just looking."

 

You have something to offer here, but I don't see a hook. Again, this is a sales letter; you need something that latches into the reader, something that says: I know you have a need and this will address that need.

 

As a person of Irish descent, I might pull this off the shelf, but if this is your blurb on the back, I probably return it to the shelf.

 

The comments in red from NerdWitch contain some good ideas to pursue, especially "What happened to the rest of his family?"

 

Perhaps something like: "As Devin Mahoney's father, his last living relative, lay dying of starvation, his final breath implored his son to not let their dreams end. "America," he sighed." ...

 

ok, that's probably kinda cheesy, actually. But the idea is provide something an agent can hold on to.

 

I'll admit that 173,000 words is rather daunting, too. I know it's historical fiction, but you're talking about a paperback that automatically costs upwards of $17 or more, and a hardcover that costs far more than that.

 

An agent needs to know that a manuscript can sell. And most people don't plunk down $20 or more on an author they've not yet heard of.



#4 Andrew Joyce

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 03:36 AM

NerdWitch and Elephant. You both make great points. So, now it's back to the old drawing board, so to speak, and incorporate your advice into my letter. Thanks for taking the time to read the thing and respond. 



#5 Robin LeeAnn

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 02:22 PM

(At first glance, I can tell you that this is too long. Also, the title is supposed to be in the last paragraph with the word count, genre, and previous writing experience (like if you've published before). I'll list a couple of sites to look into:
I hope these help.) 
 
MAHONEY is the story of the Mahoney clan—a story that starts in Ireland in 1849 and concludes in Washington D.C. in 1963. (Oddly specific. But, the first two sentences - really the first sentence - is supposed to have a hook that makes the literary agent have to keep reading. What's something super interesting about the plot that would grab someone's attention in like two seconds?) Three generations of Mahoneys take us on a journey through one hundred and fourteen years of American history. History we all know about … and some we don’t. (What genre is this? Is this more of a historical book or fiction? Because if historical, you don't need queries. I used to work at a press that published those kinds of books.)
 
In the second year of The Great Famine, nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney is the last of his family left alive. (This is more of a query hook. This could be the start of a first sentence in your query.) His only hope for any kind of a future is to go to America and start a new life. However, first he must survive a the arduous and dangerous ocean voyage on a “coffin ship” where typhus (what's that?) runs rampant and a great storm decimates the ship to get there. Once in America, he works hard to get established, but runs afoul of a murderous gang and must run for his life. (This sounds like it's too far into your story. You want to give the agent a sense of what is going on, but at the same time, you don't want to give anything away. I say about the plot of the first 30 pages or so is what you want to tell. For specific details and anything that happens after, leave it for the book. You want to give enough information to get the agent reading it, but you don't want to tell the agent the whole story if that makes sense.) He settles in a new location and goes to work as a laborer for the Railroad. Devin prospers, marries, and has a son. All is good until the outbreak of the Civil War. He feels duty-bound to fight for his adopted country and goes off to war where he is mortally wounded. It now falls to his son Dillon to establish the Mahoney clan in America.
 
Honestly, if you have any query questions, let me know. I'm always glad to help. I hope this gives you a sense of where to go though! Queries are tough, but you can do it!
 
If you can, please return the favor: http://agentquerycon...ique-in-return/


#6 Andrew Joyce

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 06:31 AM

Second attempt:

 

Dear

 

MAHONEY is a Homeric-like tale of three generations of the Mahoney clan that takes us from 1849 Ireland to America of the early 1960s.

 

Nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney has lost his entire family because of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine. He now has one overwhelming desire, get to America and get rich so he’ll never have to go hungry again. But Fate has other plans for Devin Mahoney. He’s on his way to fulfilling his dream when the Civil War intervenes and he is mortally wounded. It now falls to his son Dillon to fulfill his father’s dream.

 

On his way to California, Dillon steps off the train during a water stop in a small Western town where a local gunslinger shoots him in the back and leaves him for dead. When Dillon recovers, he sets out after his assailant and along the way makes a name for himself as the new fast-gun in the territory. After the showdown with the killer, Dillon, to escape his reputation as a “fast gun,” continues on to California where he gets rich in the oil business. It would seem the Mahoneys have, at last, fulfilled their dream.

 

But not so fast. Dillon’s only child, David, is a spoiled lay-about who thinks work is beneath him. But all that changes when his father dies and the Crash of ’29 wipes out the family finances. At age thirty-five, without funds, without any marketable skills, and out on the street, David, the most unlikely of the Mahoneys, is the one tasked with fulfilling his grandfather’s dream of establishing the Mahoneys in America.

 

Complete at 173,000 words, MAHONEY, a historical fiction novel, will appeal to readers of NEW YORK by Edward Rutherford.

 

One of my first short stories was awarded the Writing Spirit Award and was published in an anthology of short stories entitled The Best of 2011 (I even got paid for it!). My first novel was named Best Western of 2013 by Book N Tech. A subsequent novel received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and named Best Historical Fiction of 2016 by Colleen’s Book Reviews.

 

Thank you for your time,



#7 JessicaBerg

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:20 PM

"will appeal to readers of NEW YORK by Edward Rutherford": seems like a short comp list...

"The Best of 2011 (I even got paid for it!)": I would leave this out.



#8 Andrew Joyce

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Posted 02 March 2019 - 12:00 PM

Thank you, Jessica.



#9 London C

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 06:54 PM

Second attempt:

 

Dear

 

MAHONEY is a Homeric-like tale of three generations of the Mahoney clan that takes us from 1849 Ireland to America of the early 1960s.

 

Nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney has lost his entire family because of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine. He now has one overwhelming desire, get to America and get rich so he’ll never have to go hungry again. But Fate has other plans for Devin Mahoney. He’s on his way to fulfilling his dream when the Civil War intervenes and he is mortally wounded. It now falls to his son Dillon to fulfill his father’s dream. [This is much better than the first version!]

 

On his way to California,[Why is he going to California?] Dillon steps off the train during a water stop in a small Western town [I'd specify the state so it's clear Western is California] where a local gunslinger shoots him in the back and leaves him for dead. When Dillon recovers, he sets out after his assailant and along the way makes a name for himself as the new fast-gun in the territory. After the showdown with the killer, Dillon, to escape his reputation as a “fast gun,” continues on to California where he gets rich in the oil business. It would seem the Mahoneys have, at last, fulfilled their dream.

 

But not so fast.[That reads as flippant to me] Dillon’s only child, David, is a spoiled lay-about who thinks work is beneath him. But all that changes when his father dies and the Crash of ’29 wipes out the family finances. At age thirty-five, without funds, without any marketable skills, and out on the street, David, the most unlikely of the Mahoneys, is the one tasked with fulfilling his grandfather’s dream of establishing the Mahoneys in America.

 

Complete at 173,000 [!!!] words, MAHONEY, a historical fiction novel, will appeal to readers of NEW YORK by Edward Rutherford.

 

One of my first short stories was awarded the Writing Spirit Award and was published in an anthology of short stories entitled The Best of 2011 (I even got paid for it!). My first novel was named Best Western of 2013 by Book N Tech. A subsequent novel received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and named Best Historical Fiction of 2016 by Colleen’s Book Reviews.

 

Thank you for your time,

 

This is much more engaging than the first one. I have a strong sense of all three parts. The only concern I might have is if you can make the overarching thread deeper than making the family fortune. While that motivates a great many people and you give good reasons for it to drive each of the men, I think this would be even stronger if the through line was more personal. 

 

Since you've published multiple novels, you may know more than I, but my understanding is that agents expect adult novels in the 70-90k word range and they often don't bother with the pages for very lengthy ones. That might only apply to authors who haven't been published, but I'd verify that this isn't a project that would be easier to publish as a multi-book proposition.


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#10 Stephen G. Bria

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 11:42 PM

Second attempt:

 

Dear

 

MAHONEY is a Homeric-like tale of three generations of the Mahoney clan that takes us from 1849 Ireland to America of the early 1960s.

 

Nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney has lost his entire family because of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine. He now has one overwhelming desire, get to America and get rich so he’ll never have to go hungry again. But Fate has other plans for Devin Mahoney. He’s on his way to fulfilling his dream when the Civil War intervenes and he is mortally wounded. It now falls to his son Dillon to fulfill his father’s dream.

 

On his way to California, Dillon steps off the train during a water stop in a small Western town where a local gunslinger shoots him in the back and leaves him for dead. When Dillon recovers, he sets out after his assailant and along the way makes a name for himself as the new fast-gun in the territory. After the showdown with the killer, Dillon, to escape his reputation as a “fast gun,” continues on to California where he gets rich in the oil business. It would seem the Mahoneys have, at last, fulfilled their dream. I would trim this down and just set up the stakes. "These are the obstacles he must overcome to get to California." We don't need to know every blow by blow. Highlight the interesting parts and condense it. 

 

But not so fast. Can't speak for anyone else but I am not a fan of this transition. It feels like Billy May's ghost is trying to sell me something. Dillon’s only child, David, is a spoiled lay-about who thinks work is beneath him. But all that changes when his father dies and the Crash of ’29 wipes out the family finances. At age thirty-five, without funds, without any marketable skills, and out on the street, David, the most unlikely of the Mahoneys, is the one tasked with fulfilling his grandfather’s dream of establishing the Mahoneys in America.

 

Complete at 173,000 words, MAHONEY, a historical fiction novel, will appeal to readers of NEW YORK by Edward Rutherford.

 

One of my first short stories was awarded the Writing Spirit Award and was published in an anthology of short stories entitled The Best of 2011 (I even got paid for it!). Don't belittle yourself. If its an award you are proud of you put it out there and let it stand on its own. I would also be a little more clear what this is. You want your claims to be able to be fact checked. "Best of 2011" Could be anything. My first novel was named Best Western of 2013 by Book N Tech. A subsequent novel received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and named Best Historical Fiction of 2016 by Colleen’s Book Reviews.

 

Thank you for your time,  ​Ironically enough, thanking someone for their time actually wastes it. Don't waste the agent's time. 

 

Overall, I'd say this is a very solid query. I like the structure, and I think you just need a few tweaks to get it over the finish line. 

 

And to address the length since it was touched on above: 173,000 is a hard sell but doable for a reputable author with verified successes under their belt. 






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