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 Wannabeone's Query for THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION

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rkollman
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PostSubject: Wannabeone's Query for THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION   Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:38 pm

This is wannabeone's query for THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION, which I copied from the Reading Room thread to this, the Query thread, for comments: 

Dear Ms. 

After twenty years of uninspiring fieldwork, archaeologist Nora Mathews has become obsessed with the prospect of recovering the greatest secrets of antiquity. A horrific fire in 48 BC consumed the library at Alexandria and all its contents. Nora believes some of those priceless scrolls were rescued, only to be lost again when the ship carrying them sank in the now silt filled ancient seaport of Ephesus. Thrilled when she receives her sponsor’s permission to excavate the shipwreck, Nora cannot wait to get her hands dirty once again. As she and her team begin the tedious task of preparing the dig site, they have no idea that members of a mysterious cult, who consider the precious scrolls their property, are watching every step they take. The cult believes the scrolls are worth millions on the black-market, but being ill equipped to carry out the dig are happy to let Nora do all of the work. 

Nora digs closer and closer to the treasure, forcing the cult to launch a campaign to scare her off so that they can remove the last shovels of dirt themselves. Break-ins, blackmail, abductions, car chases, and ultimately the murder of a colleague wear down the passionate archaeologist. Disregarding her boyfriend, ex-mercenary Bill Johnson’s insistence to call off the dig, she convinces him to protect her and her team from the withering attacks. What began as an exciting excavation has become a race for possession of the lost knowledge of the ancient world. Nora must decide whether to risk both her life and the lives of her team to continue the undertaking or give up the discovery of her lifetime. 

THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION is a thriller complete at 90,000 words.

In accordance with your submission requirements, I have included my synopsis below. 

Thank you for your consideration.

-------------------------------

Here are my comments:

Wannabeone, let me commend you for crafting an intricately plotted thriller, and since you mentioned elsewhere you've gotten one request for a full, you're obviously on the right track here. I really get a sense of the book, which is what the query game is all about.

That being said, I'll pass on what others have tap-danced on my head in helping me query my legal thrillers: less is more. I think you might be including too much plot detail (believe me, I know how hard it is to let go of what you feel sells your story) better left to the synopsis on some points, and too little in others.  

In fact, the more detail you include about the dangers Nora faces, the more confused I become, because on the opposite side of the coin, you may be saying too little about the dilemma Nora faces; we don't know enough about the ambition that's driving her. She's been content all these years to be relegated to "uninspiring field work" in the trenches; why now is she suddenly risking her life and the lives of everyone around her for the possibility of a major archeological find? People don't turn blindly ambitious overnight. Either she harbored a secret ambition all along, or something happens to lift the rock under which she's been living. Whichever, I think your query needs to disclose what it is, or her character arc rings false, and agents pick up on it. Also, you describe Johnson as an ex-mercenary, which to me is an odd choice of BF for (formerly) safe and sedentary Nora. So I'm thinking there's more to her, and I want to know in the query what it is that has propelled her to this crisis. Otherwise, I know what the answer will be: she'll walk away rather than risk all she holds dear, because nothing you've shown me establishes her as a risk-taker; quite the reverse. No mystery, no thrills, and I'm not particularly interested.   

A similar problem surfaces in connection with the "cult." To me, a "cult" implies a group that is spirtually oriented, even if off base. So I would expect it to want to acquire the ancient artifacts for its own use, to keep, or perhaps to prevent their sale and exploitation by others, but not to sell and profit from itself. Again, it doesn't ring true to me that the cult wants the artifacts only for their extrinsic value. If you have written a plot development that explains the cult's profit motive, I think it should be included in the query. 

Just my initial response, for what it's worth. Here's an Accolade for posting. Let's keep working! Anybody else?
   
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PostSubject: Re: Wannabeone's Query for THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION   Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:46 am

wannabeone, after reading your first chapter, posted in the Reading Room thread, I understand your comment about being not really happy with your query because it didn't "includ[e] both of [your] MCs." I think an agent reading this query and then reading the first chapter you have posted will wonder why so much of your opening focuses on Bill Johnson when he seems from the query to be a supporting character. Does your novel give them equal billing? If so, I think you're right, and Johnson needs equal treatment in the query. If not, then the disconnect is in the opening. If I remember correctly, starting your first chapter with a scene that does not immediately introduce your protagonist is one of the "pet peeves" in one of the the "Opening Remarks" articles I posted in the Fiction Writing thread
 (http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Agents+Chapter+1+Pet+Peeves.aspx).

Let me know how Johnson fits in, and I'll give you my input on your first chapter. It's a pleasure to read work by someone who pays such close attention to all those pesky old-school rules like grammar and syntax. It makes focusing on structure and character and plot development a joy.


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PostSubject: Re: Wannabeone's Query for THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION   Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:51 pm

Okay, I've roughed out a revision to my query and begun working on my synopsis. Please help me whip them into shape.

Dear Ms.

The pursuit of lost knowledge of the ancient world pits archaeologist Nora Mathews and her boyfriend, former CIA agent Bill Johnson, against the archaic Cult of Tanit. This cult, once a proud religious order, is now only interested in the treasure for its immense value. Priceless scrolls believed to have been rescued from the famous Library at Alexandria in Egypt, may be buried in the silt-filled harbor of ancient Ephesus, Turkey.

As Nora’s team gets closer to finding the lost scrolls, members of the cult launch a campaign to scare her away. When one of Nora’s colleagues is murdered, Bill’s training kicks in to keep Nora and her team out of danger. Escalating attacks include a deadly car chase followed by a break-in of Nora’s hotel room, and then the excavation team is rocked by the abduction of another team member. Nora, consumed by her ambition, keeps the greatest dig of her life going. Shovels of dirt away from her career-making discovery, Nora ignores Bill’s plea to give up the excavation. Instead, she faces down the cult and its psychotic leader.

The Carthage Connection a 90.000 word thriller set in the ruins at Ephesus. I have attached my synopsis In accordance with your submission requirements.

Thank you for your consideration.



THE CARTHAGE CONNECTION SYNOPSIS

Archaeologist Nora Mathews needs to restore her sagging reputation. Working with a colleague, she is excavating a boat in the silt-filled harbor of ancient Ephesus, Turkey. Nora believes the boat’s origin is Carthage. Her boyfriend, former CIA operative Bill Johnson is joining her for a working vacation.

When Bill’s plane begins its descent into Istanbul airport, it lurches violently. The starboard engine is belching flames and smoke. Bill thinks the fire must be the result of a rare malfunction. His seatmate, Mossad agent Rebecca Schuler believes the fire is the result of a terrorist attack intended as a warning to Bill. Although damaged, the plane lands safely.

The Mossad has been following the activities of the Cult of Tanit from Tunisia, which has joined forces with a Turkish terrorist group. The Cult believes the boat Nora is excavating contains priceless cargo rescued by their ancestors and that now rightfully belongs to them. Mossad’s concern is that the Cult is after the treasure to raise money to fund actions in Israel.

As Nora and Bill drive to the excavation site, they are attacked. Nora guns the engine and they race to the site only to learn that her colleague has been murdered. A police investigation reveals a symbol found at the murder scene that Nora identifies as the sign of the Cult, providing legitimacy to Rebecca’s claim. Bill, fearing more attacks, wants the dig called off. Nora refuses, believing the Cult’s activity is a sign she’s on the verge of a career-making discovery.

The team’s work is interrupted by a gaunt, bent stranger. He identifies himself as a representative of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities. He recites a tale regarding the possibility of a fabulous discovery. In 48 BC, Julius Caesar was at war in Egypt. Outnumbered at Alexandria, he orders his ships burned to frustrate his enemy. The fire spreads to the dock and then to the Great library. A merchant ship manned by members of the Carthaginian Cult of Tanit is enlisted to help rescue some of the priceless scrolls.

Stories of the treasure, handed down through the millennia, become muddled. Eventually, both the location and the substance of the treasure are lost. Now descendants of the Cult are desperate to obtain the prize to fund their extremist activities. The recovery of this lost history of the ancient world becomes an all-consuming passion for Nora.

Work on the boat reveals little and the team begins excavating the debris field. Traveling back to their hotel, Nora, Bill and Rebecca notice they are being followed. On an empty stretch of highway, a fiery accident takes the lives of their pursuers. The police examination reveals that all four occupants had the symbol of the Cult burned into their palms. Bill’s growing concern forces him to again press Nora to call off the dig. Nora refuses, believing the Cult’s escalating activity means she’s getting closer.

The Cult seems to know the status of the excavation. The team discovers the warehouse used to store artifacts has been broken into. In addition, the excavation site is recklessly dug out. One of the graduate students explains that a member of the Cult is blackmailing her for information.

With their source compromised, the Cult breaks into the team’s hotel rooms. Rebecca walks in on them and is abducted. The Mossad agent manages to escape before being interrogated. The Cult leader, faced with no alternatives, meets with Nora. Claiming the treasure for his group, he alleges it was never his intention to hurt anyone, blaming the attacks on renegade members of his group who are now in police custody.

Sixteen large wooden crates of Egyptian origin are discovered. In the presence of representatives from Turkey and Egypt, Nora opens the artifacts. They contain hundreds of scrolls, proving the legend true. The wealth of documents will provide Nora the credibility she so desperately needs to sustain her place in the archaeological community.



Last edited by wannabeone on Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:26 am; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : revision)
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