In 1848, Jack Numont wants his paradise on Beaver Island, Michigan back from the invading Mormon hoard. He refuses to convert or comply with Mormon ideology which puts him in the crosshairs of the new Mormon sovereign. (paragraph break here will help us see this guy as the antagonist) King Strang hates gentiles and has outlawed U.S. currency, whiskey, and all other religions—except his. Using God as a bludgeon the King coerces teenage girls into polygamous relations with his gray-haired cronies and decrees all women must wear thin, loose bloomers in public. (put this next sentence at the end of the first paragraph--->) Jack wishes the Mormons to go back to hell where they spawned.
Here's what the revised formatting would look like:
In 1848, Jack Numont wants his paradise on Beaver Island, Michigan back from the invading Mormon hoard. He refuses to convert or comply with Mormon ideology which puts him in the crosshairs of the new Mormon sovereign. Jack wishes the Mormons to go back to hell where they spawned.
King Strang hates gentiles and has outlawed U.S. currency, whiskey, and all other religions—except his. Using God as a bludgeon the King coerces teenage girls into polygamous relations with his gray-haired cronies and decrees all women must wear thin, loose bloomers in public.
The King’s thugs, the Marshals, are charged with driving off all nonbelievers, including the new tavern-owner, Meri. Jack’s a young shopkeeper and Meri’s business acumen has him considering a merger—personal and financial.
One thing I was confused about is that King Strang means he's a king. For some reason I thought it was a name. Why**? Cause I don't associate Michigan with kings at all. Last I saw Michigan was a state of these United ones, since 1836
** or too much devotion to the James Garner character in Victor/Victoria!
The Marshals escalate their violent persuasions after the last ship departs the island for the winter. They implicate Jack in a murder and bullwhip him when they can’t prove his guilt. Meri nurses Jack’s wounds, and he loves her for her tenderness. For her trouble, the King bombs her tavern.
This is just more exposition of the same plot point: Jack opposes the bad guys.
Jack longs to be with his new sweetheart, but his first love, Beaver Island, requires his help to eradicate its current Mormon infestation.
Jack’s rage points him toward regicide. While the King believes he has God’s ear, his ultimate weakness is megalomaniacal madness. The Marshals prefer Jack impale himself on something sharp--with their help, of course and preferably yesterday.
That last line is terrific.
Who destroys and who self-destructs is left to history.
Which is ok but that's the end of the novel. We don't need the whole book, we need the plot. It's not what happens to your characters (that's a series of events) it's how those characters respond to what happens to them (I learned that from a commenter on one of the Queryshark posts! You bet I stole it and posthaste!) What choice does Jack have to make. What are the stakes of that choice?
THE LADY OF THE LAKES is a alternative history novel of 110,000 words.
Alternative to what? Alternative history is usually a well-known event or time, turned inside out. We have no sense of that here. It's not something we can intuit from text either (other than knowing there really wasn't a king in Michigan) You need to start out your query with what this is an alternative history for.
This is a totally different novel than the one you queried for earlier. I like this one a lot more. I have the utmost admiration for writers who don't give up, don't have their posts taken down in a huff, and press on to improve.
Very good revision.
Dear Query Shark,
In 1679, Meri du Sida must choose between an island tribe of Native Americans and French explorers demanding her return to Quebec.
The explorers aspire to the moral high ground by repatriating Meri, but they do not recognize her penchant to strike out and kill on a whim.
Then you fall off the right track and go splat. The second sentence needs to be about Meri, not the explorers. Meri is the protagonist. What's at stake in this choice for HER?
Recognize is the wrong word here. It means either they see it but don't know what it is, or they see it and give it no credence or authority. I think you mean they don't know she does this. And if they did, would it encourage them to decamp from high moral ground?
Meri is petrified of water and has not left the island since being orphaned as a child. She is a skilled shaman, a mother and tribal pariah. The villagers adore her child, but Meri, not so much. Men die around the derisive and vindictive woman.
And here is a big huge splat. If Meri is the protagonist you've described her in terms that make me want to avoid the hell out of her, not spend 110,000 words getting to know her better.
Bad can be enticing but you're missing the enticing part here. You make your protagonist enticing by showing us why she's all these bad things.
The father of Meri's child is a malicious Indian deity, and he does not want his precious to leave with the white devils. He would rather see her, and them, dead.
You cannot use the phrase "his precious" without conjuring up Lord of the Rings. That's probably something you don't want to do because it makes me wonder if I'm going to read pages that are derivative or thinly disguised fan fiction.
Also, another malicious character? Is anyone the good guy here?
Meri's decision (what decision?--you mean her choice) is nullified when she is kidnapped and held captive aboard the French ship. She believes sailing the Great Lakes means her death, like her father's before her. The young mother's last wish is for her child to be raised by the family she loves, and the tribe that despises Meri's existence.
I am now totally and completely at sea...and not in a good way. What family? Is Meri the "young mother"?
Her devine lover, unable to free Meri, commands her to execute a human sacrifice aboard ship and place a curse on the French voyagers.
I think you mean divine unless greenery is somehow coming in to play. And who is this lover? Is it the same person as the father of Meri's child?
And human sacrifices? Yikes!!!
If Meri does not complete the curse and satisfy the demands of her spirit paramour, he will remove her daughter--permanently.
Yea, but isn't she already separated from the kid?
Meri's choice may be obvious, but the curse will plunge Meri into a campaign for survival against the explorers in perpetuity or until the curse is broken.
THE LADY OF THE LAKES is a low fantasy novel of 110,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Well, this is an improvement but there's still a ways to go.
Refer to your characters by name as much as possible without overdoing it. In short form work like a query, you don't have time to for your reader to recognize characters by more than one name or more than one description usually.
Clarity is the most important thing in a query. If I don't know what you're talking about, I'm not going to be enticed to read it.
Start again. Simplify. Focus on the first choice Meri makes, and the stakes for THAT choice. Give us a reason to care about what choice she makes.
Dear Query Shark,
Merida must kill herself to place a curse on the sailboat Le Griffin, and all aboard her. Merida is an auburn haired beauty with a poisoned soul. She hears voices in her head and the voices tell her to kill herself to initiate the curse. Merida intuitively believes the voices are her Spirit Gods and acts on their directions.
In 1679, Cavalier de La Salle's Le Griffin became the very first Flying Dutchman above the Niagara Falls as Merida fulfills her obligation to the Spirit Gods. The curse not only sinks Le Griffin and kills all aboard; it spreads its evil intentions to all of the future ancestors of those aboard.
The curse causes deep seated unfathomable feelings of hatred in some of the children of Le Griffin. This will lead to murder and mayhem among the future children of the crew. The curse can be broken with the aid of a few benevolent Spirit Gods, but even they cannot decipher the condition for nullifying the curse placed by Merida.
In the end
One by love
One by hate
Will end the fate.
Merida is the adopted white daughter of an Indian medicine man and has learned Indian lore. Merida cursed the ship and all aboard when she was made to leave her home and was forced to return to the colonies of her birth. Merida's unbending fear of water tipped her over the edge and into psychosis when she was confronted with a long sailing trip back east.
Lt. Proto, a French explorer with La Salle, and Wasaga, an Indian interpreter, found themselves on Le Griffin trying to prevent Merida from fulfilling the curse. The two men were caught up in the curse when Wasaga was thrown overboard to his death and Lt Proto was killed by Merida just before her suicide.
In 1679 La Salle, the builder of Le Griffin watched as she sailed away from Le Gran Bay in Lake Michigan to complete her maiden voyage. In the age of sail an overdue ship was cause for concern and speculation. Speculation is rife with stories of good and bad intentions. This multigenerational tale starts with Le Griffin and ends with the most well known sinking of a ship on the Great Lakes in the latter half of the twentieth century.
The future generations of the crew of Le Griffin have strikingly similar names, odd quirks and descriptions to those people lost in 1679. This was done to maintain the continuity of the main characters as they progress through the centuries. The ancestors of Le Griffin wind their lives through the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Mormon King of Beaver Island, sinking ships and shipwrecks on inhospitable shores. Eventually they fulfill the requirements of the curse and end it nearly three hundred years later.
THE LADY OF THE LAKE is 250,000 words long and is historical fiction. Thank you for your time and consideration.
P.S. I have read the rules and I know this part does not belong in a query. I have read the vast majority of your query critiques and I have found them very enlightening. Up to a week ago I had never heard of a query as it relates to seeking an agent. I am positive I would have made all of the typical mistakes plus a few new ones. So thank you for your help. I have also realized in reading the queries that the genre and length of my work does not seem to fit into the literary mode your agency typically represents. I will value any help you can give me in honing my skills. I hope my query will be a good teaching tool if you chose to critique it. I'm thickening up my skin as I write and I promise not to call or stop by...ever.
That PS made me laugh. It also made me choose this letter.
You know this is a mess, but you're willing to learn. That's good.
First, 250,000 words is just too long.
It has to be cut in half. Even epic fantasy novels from debut authors can't be more than about 125,000 words these days.
So, first thing: chop.
Then start with: who is the heroine? What choice does she face? What are the consequences of that choice? Write that in 250 or fewer words. You don't need the entire plot. You need to compel me to read the first five pages. That's ALL you have to do in the query.
Form rejection (but you knew that)