Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Historical Science, Mar 1, 2016.
Yankton is a town in South Dakota or at the time Dakota Territory
That makes a bit more sense as written, then. Maybe add something to indicate that it's a place name like 'his new home, Yankton'. Just to avoid that same confusion from an agent.
This is why it's great for other people to read your work! I have totally taken for granted how well I know western American geography but other people may not. From the Black Hills, he is traveling east to Yankton where the characters do not arrive there until the end of act 2 and is certainly not his new home. With new knowledge found there, they then travel to Omaha (a larger town/becoming a small city) where act 3 concludes. I will do better to clarify this.
I'm not usually a fan of alternative universe stories, but this one sounds very interesting to me ...as a huge fan of stories about the American West and the people who lived there.
I think it's basically a good summation of your story, and you've let us in on the main character's goal (find his family) and the problems he will encounter (he's a wanted man.)
However, I would make it clear at the start of the query—rather than the end—that this is an 'alternative universe.' I was stopped cold by the attack by the Confederate States on the Lakota tribe ...because, of course, that never happened. It was very confusing, because steam engines did exist for real in 1868, and had done so for many years before that, but would have seemed strange to any Lakota who had never seen one before. I began to 'get it' later on, when suddenly some other steampunky elements surfaced ...zeppelins and all that. But before that, I was scratching my head a bit.
I would also be careful about the use of pronouns. Make sure it's obvious who the pronoun refers to, especially in that first long paragraph. There were a few times when it wasn't clear on first reading if the 'he' referred to Red Cloud or Dwyer.
Other than that, it's a story I would probably read, despite my aversion to alternate universe stories. So well done.
I would have figured the mention of the Confederate States and 1868 would have immediately sent a flag that it is an alternate universe as the nation only existed during the Civil War (1861 to 1865). I would like to communicate the idea without flat out saying it's a alternate universe in the beginning.
I added an extra sentence to the beginning of the second paragraph that perhaps will drive this fact harder into the reader. Let me know your thoughts.
After winning the Civil War and dismantling the Union, the Confederate States military focuses their attention on the Western Frontier. An attack on Red Cloud's tribe...
Actually it did send a flag. It sent a flag that perhaps the writer's research was faulty. My first thought was ...but the Confederate States had nothing to do with Red Cloud.
It certainly wouldn't hurt to state in the first paragraph that this is an alternate universe sci-fi book. Why leave that statement to the end? Don't most query letters state the book's genre early on?
Some of my research is probably faulty but not that part! I will definitely look more into queries. I hadn't looked at them at all until very recently and a lot of them seemed to leave genre, etc at the end which I mimicked but this is definitely a work in progress. I appreciate you taking the time to help!
No problem. And it might be just me.
There's no universal agreement on whether housekeeping goes at the beginning or the end. Every agent I've seen state a strong preference has wanted it at the beginning. Some (notably the Query Shark) prefer it at the end, but it's not a deal breaker.
Personally I'd want to know the genre right off the bat, and in this case it's essential to stop people having the same reaction as @jannert. So I see no reason not to put it at the beginning.
For what it's worth, all mine went out with the line at the beginning and I've had plenty of requests. It isn't holding my query back.
Separate names with a comma.