#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 6: Let the Canyons Weep

Title: Let the Canyons Weep

Category and Genre: Adult Historical Fiction #OwnVoices

Word Count: 100,000

 

Query:

In the 1880s Arizona Territory, Irish immigrant Adam Donovan has inherited the gift of empathy from his Celtic forebears. From an early age, Adam has been the one his large family turns to in times of emotional crisis. His deep understanding of their needs and his ability to dissect and resolve their problems have made him their hero―their rock. His belief in the power of his gift is unchallenged until he meets and falls in love with Jesse Travers.

Deeply traumatized by abuse, Jesse needs more than the empathy that Adam has always relied upon; he solicits the help of his parents and siblings to show Jesse that real love doesn’t hurt, and real family means security. But even as she begins to trust them, and to accept Adam’s love for her, Jesse is stricken with recurrent nightmares and hallucinations about her abuser. Adam’s failure to overcome her fears pulls him into a quagmire of self-recrimination. His faith in his gift is destroyed, yet he must find a way to help Jesse before she succumbs to madness.

 

First 250 Words:

The trail split the canyon walls, walls that loomed tall and close and only gradually fell away, clearing the gloom from midday. The rider lifted his hat and drew a sleeve across his brow.

It was much too hot for April, and much too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently. His horse’s hooves, muffled by dust, sent up gray ghosts that hung in the air for an instant, then drifted back to earth. If he didn’t know better, he’d have assumed this ranch was abandoned.

The walls continued to recede until they were close to a mile apart, and the ribbon of trail wound between meadows of grass newly sprouted and already sere. Willows hid the brook from view here, and the aspens and sycamores grew more thickly. But where were the cattle, the horses? Corrals or pens? It was the most desolate place he’d ever seen.

Round the edge of a cottonwood grove, a ramshackle cabin came into view. And there in the shadow of its sagging porch, the rider glimpsed the barrel of a rifle pointed straight at his chest. Pulling the appaloosa up, he lifted his hands to show they were empty of anything but the reins.

A girl stepped out, an old Whitworth rifle gripped tightly in her hands. He said nothing, made no move toward the dark gun that hung low on his left hip.

“Donovan.” It was more accusation than query.

9 thoughts on “#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 6: Let the Canyons Weep”

  1. Hello! Kathy from #TeamRarity here to leave my comments. These are my opinions only. Hope they help, but if not just ignore them.

    In the 1880s Arizona Territory, Irish immigrant Adam Donovan has inherited the gift of empathy from his Celtic forebears. (Neat!) From an early age, Adam has been the one his large family turns to in times of emotional crisis. His deep understanding of their needs and his ability to dissect and resolve their problems have made him their hero―their rock. His belief in the power of his gift is unchallenged until he meets and falls in love with Jesse Travers. (good character set up…and his internal conflict)

    Deeply traumatized by abuse, Jesse needs more than the empathy that Adam has always relied upon; he solicits the help of his parents and siblings to show Jesse that real love doesn’t hurt, and real family means security. But even as she begins to trust them, and to accept Adam’s love for her, Jesse is stricken with recurrent nightmares and hallucinations about her abuser. Adam’s failure to *help her(?) overcome her fears pulls him into a quagmire of self-recrimination. His faith in his gift is destroyed, yet he must find a way to help Jesse before she succumbs to madness.

    I like this! This sets up a dual POV for me…Good character set up. What they want. What they fear. Adam’s faith in himself tested…Jesse trying to overcome trauma. Though I am missing stakes…If Adam can’t help her, if he can’t find faith in himself, what happens? Jesse falls under the madness of her past…and he loses faith in himself forever? Loses her love? What does it mean for him?

    First 250 Words:

    The trail split the canyon walls, walls that loomed tall and close and only gradually fell away, clearing the gloom from midday. The rider lifted his hat and drew a sleeve across his brow.

    It was much too hot for April, and much too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently. His horse’s hooves, muffled by dust, sent up gray ghosts that hung in the air for an instant, then drifted back to earth. (LOVE!) If he didn’t know better, he’d have assumed this ranch was abandoned.

    The walls continued to recede until they were close to a mile apart, and the ribbon of trail wound between meadows of grass newly sprouted and already sere. Willows hid the brook from view here*<don't need "here", and the aspens and sycamores grew more thickly (something about 'more thickly' bothers me….) But where were the cattle, the horses? Corrals or pens? It was the most desolate place he’d ever seen.

    Round the edge of a cottonwood grove, a ramshackle cabin came into view. And there in the shadow of its sagging porch, the rider glimpsed the barrel of a rifle pointed straight at his chest. Pulling the appaloosa up, he lifted his hands to show they were empty of anything but the reins.

    A girl (a bit of description?) stepped out, an old Whitworth rifle gripped tightly in her hands. He said nothing, made no move toward the dark gun that hung low on his left hip.

    “Donovan.” It was more accusation than query. (Nice!)

    Don't have much to say. I definitely want to know what is going on! Why the gun? Such great descriptions!
    Thanks for sharing your words!

  2. Query:
    In the 1880s Arizona Territory, Irish immigrant Adam Donovan has inherited the gift of empathy from his Celtic forebears. From an early age, Adam has been the one his large family turns to in times of emotional crisis. His deep understanding of their needs and his ability to dissect and resolve their problems have made him their hero―their rock.
    [New paragraph]His belief in the power of his gift is unchallenged until he meets and falls in love with Jesse Travers.
    Deeply traumatized by abuse, Jesse needs more than [I’d tighten the following] Adam’s empathy. [I’d put period instead of semicolon and] Adam solicits the help of his parents and siblings to show Jesse that real love doesn’t hurt, and real family means security. But even as she begins to trust them, and to accept Adam’s love for her, Jesse is stricken with recurrent nightmares and hallucinations about her abuser.
    [new paragraph] Adam’s failure to overcome her fears pulls him into a quagmire of self-recrimination. His faith in his gift is destroyed, yet he must find a way to help Jesse before she succumbs to madness.
    [This is really intriguing, and right up my ally! The only think I’m unclear on – is the empathy some sort of magical/quasi-magical gift, or just regular empathy? For me, it doesn’t necessarily matter: I’d read it anyway. But agents/editors will likely want to know. If it’s magical, I’d add an adjective somewhere to make that clear. If it’s not, you might reword a bit…probably in the part about inheriting it from his Celtic forebears. That makes it sound magical.]
    First 250 Words:
    The trail split the canyon walls, walls that loomed tall and close and only gradually fell away, clearing the gloom from midday. The rider lifted his hat and drew a sleeve across his brow.
    It was much too hot for April, and much too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently. His horse’s hooves, muffled by dust, sent up gray ghosts that hung in the air for an instant, then drifted back to earth. If he didn’t know better, he’d have assumed this ranch was abandoned.
    The walls continued to recede until they were close to a mile apart, and the ribbon of trail wound between meadows of grass newly sprouted and already sere. Willows hid the brook from view here, and the aspens and sycamores grew more thickly. But where were the cattle, the horses? Corrals or pens? It was the most desolate place he’d ever seen.
    Round the edge of a cottonwood grove, a ramshackle cabin came into view. And there in the shadow of its sagging porch, the rider glimpsed the barrel of a rifle pointed straight at his chest. Pulling the appaloosa up, he lifted his hands to show they were empty of anything but the reins.
    A girl stepped out, an old Whitworth rifle gripped tightly in her hands. He said nothing, made no move toward the dark gun that hung low on his left hip.
    “Donovan.” It was more accusation than query.
    [Nothing wrong with this! Beautiful imagery, good intro to the action.]

  3. Thank you both for your comments. One question is easy to answer: Jesse’s description starts on the next page. 250 is so few words and I really wanted to include that last line!

    Now for the more difficult question: In Celtic races, it’s historically accepted that certain people will have “gifts” like foresight, death prediction, empathy, etc. While people with these gifts might be more respected in their communities, the gift isn’t considered to be anything more than a special talent. Kind of like we’d view a concert pianist: just an ordinary guy, except for that one special talent.

    So would you still consider it magical?

    Thanks again for your critiques. I appreciate it!

    1. That’s really cool! I didn’t know that about Celtic society. I wouldn’t consider that magic, per se, since it’s magic that real people accept as reality, if that makes sense.

      Many agents/editors might have the same question I did, if they’re not familiar with this aspect of the culture. You might try rewording to make it clearer…I’m not immediately seeing how you’d do that, and I don’t think it’s strictly necessary.

  4. Query:

    In the 1880s Arizona Territory, Irish immigrant Adam Donovan has inherited the gift of empathy from his Celtic forebears. <> From an early age, Adam has been the one his large family turns to in times of emotional crisis. His deep understanding of their needs and his ability to dissect and resolve their problems have made him their hero―their rock. His belief in the power of his gift is unchallenged until he meets and falls in love with Jesse Travers.

    Deeply traumatized by abuse, Jesse needs more than the empathy that Adam has always relied upon; he solicits the help of his parents and siblings to show Jesse that real love doesn’t hurt, and real family means security. But even as she begins to trust them, and to accept Adam’s love for her, Jesse is stricken with recurrent nightmares and hallucinations about her abuser. Adam’s failure to overcome her fears pulls him into a quagmire of self-recrimination. His faith in his gift is destroyed, yet he must find a way to help Jesse before she succumbs to madness. <>

    First 250 Words:

    The trail split the canyon walls, walls that loomed tall and close and only gradually fell away, clearing the gloom from midday. The rider lifted his hat and drew a sleeve across his brow.

    It was much too hot for April, and much too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently. His horse’s hooves, muffled by dust, sent up gray ghosts that hung in the air for an instant, then drifted back to earth. If he didn’t know better, he’d have assumed this ranch was abandoned.
    <>

    The walls continued to recede until they were close to a mile apart, and the ribbon of trail wound between meadows of grass newly sprouted and already sere. Willows hid the brook from view here, and the aspens and sycamores grew more thickly. But where were the cattle, the horses? Corrals or pens? It was the most desolate place he’d ever seen.

    Round the edge of a cottonwood grove, a ramshackle cabin came into view. And there in the shadow of its sagging porch, the rider glimpsed the barrel of a rifle pointed straight at his chest. Pulling the appaloosa up, he lifted his hands to show they were empty of anything but the reins.

    A girl stepped out, an old Whitworth rifle gripped tightly in her hands. He said nothing, made no move toward the dark gun that hung low on his left hip.

    “Donovan.” It was more accusation than query.
    <
    >

  5. Hi, CC, I’m afraid I’m having the same problem I’ve seen others remark on: I can’t see the comments that should be between the brackets. Since there aren’t too many, maybe you could list them for me?

    I really appreciate your taking the time to critique.

  6. This sounds like a really fun idea, but I’m concerned by the setting. This is a historical, but the query could be applied to absolutely any setting anywhere, because you’re focusing on the heart of the story (family and love) rather than the action (something with canyons and guns).

    Your query is your sales pitch. It needs to set the tone and place for the book. If I read it and can’t see why the story couldn’t take place on Mars, the query isn’t doing its job.

    Why is this historical?
    What aspects of the story mean it couldn’t be set anywhere else?
    What makes this story of family and love unique?

    I need to see that in the opening chapters of the book, and the opening chapters are what you’re teasing in the query.

    From your first 250 I’d start with something like…

    “Stonesong Canyon was too hit and quiet for April, the first warning of the trouble that lay ahead. Irishman turned cowboy Adam Donovan heard rumors of fever riding through the hills and closing in on the little mining town of Paradise, Arizona Territory… Meet Jesse and the gun… first major piece of trouble.”

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