Mercy in Every Place by Carolyn Baker
The inhospitable southern Arizona desert lies between Lucetta Stanley and her seven year old son, Eula, gone missing after playing on the banks of the Colorado River in 1885. Pulled from her steady Quaker home in Indiana to move West a daily ordeal demanding all the courage she can muster, but now her child is missing in this vast, mysterious landscape. Her husband had schooled her on the potential dangers out there in the tiny silver encampment of Picacho. Wresting their survival from the capricious silver mine and the always moving river, the young pioneer family must deal with the threat of their daily demise from the harsh environs, fatal illness, greed, and tragic loves marked by despair and loss. Lucetta, with her husband and young sons, is alternately spurred on and undermined by her unique and extremely determined cousin, Elias “Lucky” Baldwin, a fellow pioneer. Lucetta and “Lucky” each confront seemingly insurmountable obstacles to not only survive but thrive in the West. Based on the true written and oral stories handed down to the author by the pioneer women of her family, Mercy In Every Place is a western fiction novel about the indomitable nature of the human spirit as experienced in the life and times of the Stanley’s and the Baldwin’s – two Quaker families from North Carolina in the 1800s. “There is mercy in every place, mercy in couraging thought gives even affliction a grace, and reconciles man to his lot.” 15 March, 1897.
The Book Doctors: I really like the fact that this is based on true written and oral stories from pioneer women in the author’s past. It’s fantastic that a mother has to go through terrible peril to rescue her son. Stakes are high! And lots of people (myself included) love a good Western. But please, I beg you, NEVER call your work a “fiction novel.” A novel by its very definition is fiction. It just makes you look like an amateur. And there is some awkward writing in this pitch. For example: “Pulled from her steady Quaker home in Indiana to move West a daily ordeal demanding all the courage she can muster, but now her child is missing in this vast, mysterious landscape.” These are good thoughts, but I’m lost by the time I get to the end of the sentence. And some of it doesn’t quite make grammatical sense. Plus it’s too vague. I find this happen too often in this pitch. Generalities over specificity: “the harsh environs, fatal illness, greed, and tragic loves marked by despair and loss.” I want to see word pictures of what the harsh environs are, what kind of fatal illness, and how the greed manifests. How is your tragic love, despair and loss different than all the other tragic love and despair and loss I’ve seen in countless other stories? I don’t know what “spurred on and undermined” means in this context. It leaves me cold. It’s not a piece of action that moves me. “Inhospitable southern Arizona desert” is an idea, not a reality. Show me sand and snakes and dying of thirst and baking sun and fever blisters. I think you have a great project on your hands; it just needs more fleshing out.