View Full Version : Beta needed for Historical Fiction set in 1800s South America

03-31-2010, 06:45 PM
Genre: Historical Fiction - more commercial than literary. Like a less wordy, more action Louise de Bernieres, or a literary, historical Tom Clancy. Think multiple perspectives, lots of dialogue, with the occasional poetic pretension. Predominantly set in Argentina, Chile and Peru, but with tangential beginnings in Cadiz, Rochefort-sur-mer, Baltinglass, Pernambuco and London. This is the story of San Martin's rag-tag army of Indians, mercenaries, slaves and ex-convicts as they free South America.

San Martín, Argentine but raised in Madrid, deserts from the Spanish Army, and is smuggled into his homeland by the British Secret Service to raise the flag of rebellion against his former masters. Zé, an African slave in the sugar plantations in northern Brazil, escapes, stowing away aboard a ship bound for Buenos Aires, haunted by the death of the guard he killed. Catalina Flores de la Peńa flees the death of her parents in Valparaiso and contributes her charms to the war effort in Mendoza. Diego and Jorge Ramirez, two young boys from a hamlet in the foothills of the Andes, run away after a tragic accident and get caught up in the independence struggle. Lord Thomas Cochrane, a brilliant Royal Navy officer, is disgraced in the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814, and leaves Europe to build the rebel forces' fleet.

By 1822, after twelve years of brutal war, Spain is on the verge of losing her Empire. The two greatest figures in South American history, José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar, meet for the first and last time to discuss the conclusion of the conflict. They speak alone, and no historical record is made of their meeting. To the consternation of his supporters, San Martín steps aside, leaving the final glory to Bolívar, and retires from public life to become an anonymous farmer in France. For two hundred years San Martín's motives for stepping aside have remained a mystery. Until now.

The novel was written over three years, completed in September 2009. Revised heavily for four months. Latest revision completed Jan 2010. Have been querying since then. Have three fulls out and ten partials. Not sure if I will get anything from that, but even if I do, revisions will be required.

It's 107,000 words, on the button, and I can take harsh criticism, where necessary. I want to be told what's wrong with the book, not what's right with. However, I will say this. I am trying to right something quite light (and hopefully subtle) in style. Yes, there is a lot of action and dialogue, but that doesn't mean it can't be clever and well written. I don't like laundry list descriptions, and I don't like telling people exactly what my characters look like. I try and give just enough detail so that the reader can draw their own pictures. Whether I have succeeded or not is another matter. This is what I have always responded to in fiction, but I know it's not to everyone's taste, and there is a nagging voice in my head wondering if I have left the descriptions a little too bare. Maybe, maybe not.

This is where you guys come in.

I am at the point now when I can't see anything, good or bad, when I read my work. It's time to hand it over to a beta reader or two for some feedback. If anyone is willing to give it a bash, or if you have any questions, or if you would like to read the opening chapter or two to get a taste, send me a PM or post below.

You can read a little more background to the book on my website, and an earlier version of Chapter One is on the site too.

If you are interested, let me know.