The third week of the Haunted Writing Clinic is now in progress, and participants are posting revamped queries and first pages. I’ll be so glad when October is over, since I’ve had such a high volume of blog posts I’ve had to write for October!
This is my query for my historical Bildungsroman, which by now I seem to have received a majority of advice suggesting this seems more like an adult novel in spite of the teen protagonist. (I still may query it as upper YA in a few places.) Please keep in mind that it’s more a character-based book, not primarily plot-centric. It’s the journey of a boy becoming a man during a very turbulent time, and then readjusting to so-called normal life.
Dear Super Villain,
Jakob DeJonghe can think of nothing but revenge when the Nazis coerce his father into suicide and his little sister mysteriously disappears the day before Yom Kippur. As conditions in Amsterdam worsen, Jakob is determined to fight back and be the master of his own destiny, just as his heroes the Maccabees did in ancient times.
While en route from Westerbork, Jakob seizes an opportunity to jump from a death train, breaking his foot as he lands. As he limps for his life towards a forest, he’s found by four young resistance fighters and taken to a safe house. Even though Jakob has been left with a permanent limp, he’s still determined to defend his country and track down the men who killed his father.
He thinks his dream has come true when he joins his new friends’ resistance group, but after a chance meeting with a spirited young woman on one of his missions, he’s jolted by emotions he thought he’d buried. After he’s recruited into the Princess Irene Brigade and made a real soldier, Jakob realizes his battle is only half-won. Neither he or the world will ever be ordinary again, and if he wants to survive this changed world, love and not hate will have to carry him through. But if he finds his dream girl again, this painful readjustment just might be easier.
And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away, a historical fiction Bildungsroman set in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies between 1940-46, is complete at 120,000 words. Though it works as a standalone, it has family saga potential.
I have a BA from UMass Amherst in history and Russian and Eastern European Studies, with a focus on 20th century Russian history and the World War II/Shoah era, and worked in the production room of an Albany, NY-based newspaper, The Jewish World, for five years, writing, researching, and proofreading articles.
Thank you for your time and attention.
For my revamped first page, I decided to add a few brief descriptors of the murderers. They’re described in more detail several times later on, but I thought it might be a good idea to describe their appearance a bit up-front.
Jakob DeJonghe looked away from a German soldier as he and his mother Luisa headed home from the Waterlooplein market. Tomorrow, at Yom Kippur services, he planned to pray for these fiends to leave his country. Five months of occupation were about all he could take. But in the meantime, he was looking forward to making chocolate cake when they got home.
“You’re the world’s best cook, Moeder.” Jakob shifted a heavy bag of groceries to his other arm. “I wish I were still as little as Emilia so I could lick the spoon.”
He and Luisa halted at unfamiliar voices coming from the open back door of their home. His father Rudolf sat on the floor sobbing as three Nazis stood above him. One had an oddly-shaped nose, another was chubby and had a face full of measles or chickenpox scars, and the third was a bit short for a man and had a scar on his forehead. So much for so-called Aryans being the master race, Jakob thought as he drew back.
Jakob grabbed Luisa’s arm and pulled her back. “Don’t go in there, Mama,” he whispered. Since his bar mitzvah last year, he’d stopped calling his parents Mama and Papa, but he sometimes still called Luisa Mama in emotional situations. “They can’t see us. It might make more trouble if we go in there. I don’t want anyone to hurt you.”
Luisa looked towards the man who’d been her husband for thirty-four years, then back at the firstborn child she’d waited forty years for. She stepped back to Jakob, shaking.
“No matter what happens to Vader, I’ll protect you.” Jakob felt sick to his stomach as he observed the scene inside the house, unable to believe he’d just been thinking of something as trivial as chocolate cake.