Holiday Query Blog Hop

Below is my *revised* entry for Michelle4Laughs Holiday Blog Hop.

True Horizon is a WIP, Contemporary Romance, at approximately 73,000 words.

Dear Fabulous Agent,

After a decade of fighting, Special Forces soldier, Heath Carter, is living with war’s tragic consequences. Struggling with anger and guilt, he embarks on a journey across Texas, adrift and alone. When he jumps into a river to rescue a drowning woman, his fortunes start to change. Offered a temporary job on a cattle ranch by her grateful father, he slowly begins to open up to Grace, the woman whom he saved.

Grace Murray, former ugly duckling…now turned swan, has moved back home to her family’s ranch in order to prepare for her wedding. When she accidentally performs a head dive into a river, a  strange drifter, covered in tattoos and a scruffy beard, saves her life. Now they’re both living on the ranch and she can’t help but be drawn to the troubled Heath Carter. As days go by, Grace begins to question her choices and starts to crave the freedom she had growing up on the ranch. Only her fiancé won’t hear of it. He wants her to move back with him to Dallas, just like they’d planned.

Grace’s time spent at the quiet country ranch and Heath’s steady companionship leave her ready to trade one dream for another. Only Heath’s past is standing in the way. He sees himself as tainted by the tragic mistakes he made in Afghanistan, not worthy of Grace’s love. Now, Grace needs to decide if she can stand by Heath’s side and share his burden, or are the realities of life with PTSD too much for their new relationship to overcome.  

True Horizon is written as a standalone novel, but also has series potential. I believe it would appeal to fans of Nicholas Sparks’ The Lucky One and Karen Rock’s Someone Like You. Thank-you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

Kind Regards,

Laurie Hoffman

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23 thoughts on “Holiday Query Blog Hop

  1. Contemporary isn’t my genre, so please take this with a grain of salt!

    ====================

    After a decade of fighting, Special Forces soldier, Heath Carter, is living with war’s tragic consequences. Now out of the military, he embarks on a journey across Texas, adrift and alone. When he jumps into a river to rescue a downing woman, his fortunes start to change. He is offered a temporary job on her family’s Texas Longhorn cattle ranch. There, he slowly begins to open up to the family and especially Grace, the woman whom he saved. A small seed of hope is planted, that he can come out of the darkness and once again live in the light. —{I like this}—

    All Grace Murray’s dreams are coming true. In less than two months, she is marrying her high school crush, moving off the ranch and back to Dallas. When she clumsily falls into a river, a scruffy looking drifter saves her. Now there’re both living on the ranch and she can’t help but be drawn to the troubled Heath Carter. With her fiancé busy with work, Grace begins to question what she really wants out of life. Suddenly, marriage to her fiancé and living in Dallas don’t hold the appeal they once did. She craves the life she had growing up on the ranch. —{I like this two person point of view for this story!}—

    Grace’s time spent at the quiet country ranch and Heath’s steady companionship leave her ready to trade one dream for another. But, when Heath finally confesses his past to Grace, the truth threatens to tear them apart. —{What truth? The fact that he was in a war?}—

    Can love light the way to forgiveness, or will darkness reclaim its hold on Heath’s heart? —{I’m not sure I really understand the stakes here}—

    All in all, I like the query, and even like the idea of the story (which is saying something, because, as warned beforehand, contemporary really isn’t my genre! 😉 )

    Hope this helps!
    Good luck! 🙂

  2. Sooooo much to love here. The writing is clean, smooth, and inviting. And the format of the paragraphs (Character #1, #2, then synthesis) helps me get a feeling for both characters, their individual storylines, and how those stories come together. I only have a few nit-picky things to point out, cause this baby feels good to go.

    – I think “Longhorn” is lowercase unless you’re talking about the football team. lol. In fact, to a non-Texan like me, Texas Longhorn makes it sound like your talking about the team. I’d just say cattle ranch, unless the fact they’re longhorns makes a huge difference.

    – “Moving off the ranch and back to Dallas…” moving off the ranch implies to me she’s finally leaving some place she’s never left before, but “back” means she’s lived in Dallas before.

    – How does the truth of Heath being a soldier threaten to tear them apart? Unless that’s not the past you’re referring to? I’d rather have more info here and skip the rhetorical question. Just a warning, asking questions will sometimes lead snarkier agents (and readers, lol) to start coming up with unintended answers.

    – In the bio, I’d nix “I believe.” Just say it will appeal. Confidence can’t hurt 🙂 Also, you don’t need to say you are an “avoid reader and writer.” That’s implied by you, well, writing a book.

    Really great job with this. I wish you the best with it and Happy Holidays 🙂

    @AshleyHearn

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Firstly, romance isn’t really my thing so take that into account when reading my comments.
    Overall, I get the sense of “love” but I’m no getting the connection with his new life and his time as a soldier. I think this could be easily fixed by removing some of the more generic sentences and replacing them with something more active and/or concrete.
    For example:
    (i) “is living with war’s tragic consequences”
    Yes was has tragic consequences but I’d like to know what Heath’s are. Did he watch a friend die? Did he commit an atrocity or witness one/several? Was he forced to shot/bomb children/a school? I’d like to bond with one of the tragedies of war that haunts him.
    (ii) “come out of the darkness and once again live in the light”
    This reads very cliché and again doesn’t help me understand where his darkness comes from and/or what he thinks is ‘light’ – is it hope of a family or not having nightmares, or is it some sort of redemption for something he did.
    This first para could be strengthened by giving us a tragedy and giving us a concrete hope. As I don’t know the story, this may not be a simple thing because you don’t want to give away the ending, but perhaps you could give a hint of what Heath would like to overcome and why?
    (iii) “All Grace Murray’s dreams are coming true”
    Again, this sounds very cliché and kind of means not much. I would suggest removing the line and going on with “in less than two months Grace has married her high school crush and…”
    **Also be careful not to go into too much of a synopsis style of QL. There’s a lot of telling here and mixed with the vague hopes, dreams, tragedy and a few cliché’s you are making it harder for yourself.
    (iv) “truth threatens to tear them apart”
    Again sounds a little cliché and a lot vague. Because you haven’t given us anything concrete to connect with Heath’s desperation, the reader doesn’t understand what part of his past life as a soldier could tear them apart.

    As I say, romance isn’t my thing, so I’ve looked at this as a 101 of QL writing and tried to point out the things that stand out as red-flags.
    Hope this helps,
    Nikola

    • Thanks Nikola for your wonderful feedback! Much appreciated.
      I have an awful habit of being vague in my queries. I need to slap my hand every time I start heading in that direction. 😃

  4. Hi Laurie,

    I was instantly drawn into your story about a tragic brooding hero who saves the heroine, who possibly in turn ends up saving him 🙂

    I also liked how you have presented the query, the story neatly evolves from paragraph to paragraph. And you have done a great job outlining your main characters.

    Only a few things to suggest:
    I wasn’t clear what truth it is that threatens them apart. The only thing known about his past is that he is a soldier. You may want to give a little hint as to what causes the rift? What is there to forgive?

    And why would Grace begin to question her relationship with her fiancé, only because of Heath’s presence?

    Also I second Nikola about avoiding the clichés!

    Good luck!

  5. I really like the sound of this story! It would definitely be something that would appeal to me if I saw in a bookstore. Overall, I could tell that your writing is clear and thoughts are organized. I just had a few comments, which may have already been brought up. War’s tragic consequences is too vague for me. I would like to know at least one detail. Also, maybe clumsily and scruffy in the same sentence sounds too wordy. Also, the question at the end about can love light the way…I would consider leaving that out or beefing it up. (I am guilty of having similar things in my query). The other thing I would leave out is the I am an avid reader and that you want to be a full time author. I think that is a given! Great job and I wish you luck in getting an agent and getting published:)

  6. I’m not entirely sure what “war’s tragic consequences” are… PTSD? Something else? I’d really like this to be a little more clear/specific so I have a better idea of who your MC is at the beginning of the story… phrasing like ‘out of the darkness’ is another one that’s too vague. When it’s too vague, there’s not a good sense of who the character is, which makes it harder to establish an emotional connection. ‘Troubled returning soldier’ is a pretty common type of character, so what makes Heath stand out? Why should I, as a reader, follow him around for a couple hundred pages?

    Even though you have done an excellent job in showing the character arcs, I don’t get a good sense at all of the plot points in your story, other than the river-rescue. What, specifically, happens that Grace and Heath need to overcome? What struggles/barriers/etc?

    Also, the fact that Grace’s only problem (apparent in the query) with her fiancé is that he works hard… so it doesn’t really make me like her as a character when she’s straying to another man without a specific/good reason.

  7. Laurie,

    Very interesting premise. I have never seen a multi-point of view query, but I think it works great here. You manage to move from one to another and it still flow, so kudos!

    I’m a little confused on some of the references to location. I know there’s Dallas but is Grace’s hometown that she’s moving away from the same one where Heath’s ranch is located? I think it’s fine not to call it out by name, but just wanted to raise to make sure my interpretation is correct.

    The paragraph beginning with “All Grace Murray’s dreams are coming true…” has a lot going on. I feel like there’s more here that’s not being said. Maybe she’s not so happy? It’s hard to see her go from excited about one man to wanting to be with another one so quickly. I feel like there’s more here to explain the conflict. I really want to understand how her desires/motivations can shift so drastically.

    Perhaps to make it read less synopsis, I’d tighten the Heath paragraph and the Grace paragraph. The most important is the paragraph that puts them together and showing that conflict.

    “But, when Heath finally confesses his past to Grace, the truth threatens to tear them apart.”

    Perhaps there you can go into something about Grace having to choose knowing she will have no home to go back to … or whatever the stakes may be. His seem to be really emotional but she’s choosing to potentially give up the most of if she chooses him. That’s a strong way to end this paragraph!

    “Can love light the way to forgiveness, or will darkness reclaim its hold on Heath’s heart?”

    I almost feel like that if you add the stakes in the prior sentence, then you could almost do without this one.

    Again, love the idea. Hope this is helpful and best wishes to hon on the road to publication!

    • Thanks for your feedback.
      Grace spent her young adult years living in Dallas, but moved back to her parent’s ranch in preparation for her wedding. True Horizon Ranch is set in a small Texas town. Now that she’s back, she starts to understand the value of the life she had growing up, and that her change of heart might not jive with her fiancé’s goals.

      All these wonderful comments are so helpful.
      Happy Holidays!

  8. Well, I love the query. I would avoid the vagueness of some phrases. I noticed a lot of agents talking about that. Dreams of happiness, fears of evil, etc.

    What is his truth? It doesn’t have to be spelled out.

    Oddly enough, I had a friend who went through something like this a while back and it’s gut wrenching. Maybe ratchet up a little more about what she’ll be giving up if she chooses the ranch life and Heath. Though I find nothing wrong with ranch life, it’s not a life of ease.

    I think you’re 95% there to be honest.

    Good luck.

    Julie

    • Thanks Julie!
      Grace is a country girl at heart and part of her character’s arch is coming to terms with that. She has made herself into a classy city girl in order to catch the eye of her now fiancé. What make Heath so special is that he accepts her for who she is, manure covered jeans and all. And she does the same for him. Neither have to pretend to be someone their not when they’re with each other.
      Appreciate your comments and Happy Holidays.

  9. Great job! I think you can really make it sing with an example of the darkness of Heath’s past in the first paragraph. A minor detail and just my suggestion, I like the way “Heath Carter, is living with the tragic consequences of war” sounds vs. “Heath Carter, is living with war’s tragic consequences.”

    Good luck! You have a good story line and query

  10. After a decade of fighting, Special Forces soldier, Heath Carter, is living with war’s tragic consequences[THIS IS VAGUE. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?]. Now out of the military, he embarks on a journey across Texas, adrift and alone. When he jumps into a river to rescue a drowning woman, his fortunes start to change. He is offered a temporary job on her family’s Texas Longhorn cattle ranch. There, he slowly begins to open up to the family and especially Grace, the woman [DELETE WHOM] he saved. [A small seed of hope is planted, that he can come out of the darkness and once again live in the light.-THIS SENTENCE IS PRETTY, BUT DOESN’T REALLY ADD MUCH. COULD YOU ADD SOMETHING HERE THAT SHOWS THE STAKES? WHAT DOES HE SEE IN GRACE, WHAT DOES HE WANT, AND WHAT STANDS IN HIS WAY? MAYBE, “GRACE MAKES HIM WANT MORE FROM LIFE, BUT COULD SHE EVER ACCEPT HIS PAST?]

    [DELETE ALL]Grace Murray’s dreams are coming true. In less than two months, she is marrying her high school crush[CRUSH MAKES IT SOUND LIKE THE FIANCE DOESN’T RETURN HER FEELINGS], [moving off the ranch and back to Dallas-BACK TO DALLAS IS CONFUSING SINCE IT’S NOT CLEAR WHY SHE’S BACK ON THE RANCH OR WHY SHE WAS IN DALLAS. AT THIS POINT IT FEELS LIEK THE FIANCE IS JUST A TOOL TO GET HER OFF THE RANCH AND INTO THE CITY.] When she clumsily falls into a river, a scruffy looking drifter saves her. Now they’re both living on the ranch and she can’t help but be drawn to the troubled MAN [DELETE Heath Carter]. With her fiancé busy with work, Grace begins to question what she really wants out of life. [Suddenly, marriage to her fiancé and living in Dallas don’t hold the appeal they once did. She craves the life she had growing up on the ranch.-THESE LAST TWO LINES FEEL LIKE YOU’RE GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH. IF HER FIANCE IS SUPPOSED TO BE AN OBSTACLE KEEPING HER AWAY FROM HEATH, I THINK YOU NEED TO ADD SOME OF HER FEELINGS INTO THE OPENING BECAUSE IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE HE’S IN THE WAY. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT SHE THINKS SHE WANTS AND WHAT’S STANDING IN HER WAY. ALSO, CHEATING ON A FIANCE WOULD MAKE GRACE SEEM UNLIKEABLE, SO I’D DEFINITELY MENTION IF HER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FIANCE IS A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE.

    Grace’s time spent at the quiet country ranch and Heath’s steady companionship leave her ready to trade one dream for another. But, when Heath finally confesses his past to Grace, the truth threatens to tear them apart. Can love light the way to forgiveness, or will darkness reclaim its hold on Heath’s heart?
    THIS LAST PARAGRAPH DOESN’T REALLY ADD ANYTHING FOR ME. THE FIRST LINE SAYS THE SAME THING AS THE ENDING SENTENCES OF THE 2ND PARAGRAPH. THE SECOND SENTENCE GIVES THE OBSTACLE THAT I THINK FITS BETTER IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, AND THE LAST LINE IS FLOWERY AND PRETTY BUT I DON’T THINK YOU NEED IT.

    I HAVEN’T READ CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE IN A LONG TIME, SO THAT THAT INTO CONSIDERATION, BUT I THINK A FEW MORE DETAILS WOULD HELP SHOW WHAT MAKES YOUR STORY SPECIAL.

    GOOD LUCK.

  11. Hi Laurel 🙂

    You RT my pitch in SFFpit last week, so I wondered what you were up to on you blog.

    Hey, so you’re querying too. I’m far from an expert (I wish I were) and I don’t normally read romance, but I’ll try to give you my impression.

    I think the query is quite clear, I can see the story very easily. What it’s more difficult to see, for me, is the main character. I assume it’s Grace, because you spend most of the query talking about her, but you did start with Heath, so I’m not sure who the MC is supposed to be. Do you have an alternating POV? Maybe make this a bit clearer.

    I also think you could trim the first part of Grace’s first paragraph, because it basically repeats what you’ve just said about Heath. That’s fine in a novel, but in a query you might want to be more streamlined.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with your query 🙂

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