After four years of work, multiple drafts and rewrites, I have judged my novel, the Lion of Babylon, ready to face the public. All I need now is an agent, publisher and contract. If it only worked that way.
In case anyone has checked the bestseller list lately, there isn't a lot of Iraqi war fiction on there. There isn't much Afghanistan war fiction either. Evidently, the American public is not interested in those kinds of stories. That's all right. Someday they will be. In the meantime I have entered my novel in four contest. Contests are good in that if you win you can add the credit to your query letter to an agent. Contests are bad in that you might lose, because there are a lot of good writers out there. That's okay. I'm a good writer, too.
In February I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel, sponsored by Amazon.com. The top 500 entrants will be announced on March 16th, and an excerpt from their novel posted on the Amazon web site. By April 16 the 500 will be cut to 100 and by May 16 the 100 will be cut to three. The following week the grand finalist is named, and that person gets a publishing contract with Penguin. Such a deal.
To enter the ABNA contest I had to submit a 300 word "pitch" on my novel. All of the initial entrants are narrowed down to two thousand based on this pitch. They read an excerpt of the first 5,000 words of the novel for these two thousand and select the 500 based on the excerpt. So the pitch is important, only until you make the two thousand, when the excerpt becomes important.
If I make the top 500 on March 16, you will be able to read my excerpt. In the meantime, here is my Pitch:
"The Lion of Babylon", an 83,000-word novel, is a fable of men and women, Muslims and Christians, Americans and Iraqis, who look into their futures during a time of war to decide what will become of their lives. Haider, an Iraqi boy who can see the future, foretells the coming of the American Army and of a man who will help him complete his lifelong dream. The Lion of Babylon, a statue in the ruins of the Biblical city, is the source of Haider's power and the key to unlocking the secret of his past.
Haider meets Dan Murphy, a soldier with a personal mission to win the war, but can't tell if he is the man foretold by the Lion. In desperation, Haider teaches Dan to see the future, but the man and the boy envision two different versions of life and death for Murphy and his fellow soldiers. Haidar's quest has its parallel in the wartime struggles of an ensemble of characters that includes an indecisive Army colonel, a young lieutenant out of her element, and a religious soldier with a crisis of faith. As they navigate both personal and military battles in a war zone, they discover the humanity that lies within the Iraqi people and their own reserves of strength. The Lion of Babylon touches their lives and grants Haidar the answer to his past and his future.
This novel will resonate with readers of "The Kite Runner". My inspiration for this story came from the ten months that I served as an Army officer near the ruins of the city of Babylon. My essay on the Iraq war was selected and recorded by the "This I Believe" Project, and was featured on National Public Radio's web site during Veteran's Day in 2007 and 2008.