Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Mrs. Sarver,

The End of September is the story of a Russian spy who sacrifices his career to save a young American woman from a rogue U.S. defense contractor.

When her brother dies in a horrific auto accident, Christine Taylor’s life is turned upside down. Not only do her parents blame her for the wreck that killed him, they pressure her to join Aether Services to sober her up. But Aether isn’t rehab. It’s a defense contractor that supplies the CIA with undercover operatives.

Inside Aether’s training facility, Chris befriends Alex Berezin, an ex-Marine just back from Afghanistan. As administrator of the company’s experimental program, Alex knows Chris will be drugged and brainwashed, sent on an impossible mission that will cost her life. So, he decides to help her escape--but not before they steal a cache of incriminating documents off the company’s computers.

They flee to Moscow and Chris learns the truth about Alex’s connections with Russian intelligence. She vows to go public with the stolen documents--anything to save the women still bound to the company’s illegal programs. But Alex is betrayed. Aether’s security forces are sold the location of their hideout, and mercy is not their recourse. Not with millions in government contracts at stake.

The manuscript is complete at 93,500 words. It’s literary fiction. A thriller, but also a love story about two incredibly damaged people trying to make peace with the demons of their past.

I recently received my BFA from College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. As an artist and photographer, I believe the principals of visual art are just as useful in creating atmosphere and mood on paper as they are behind the lens.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
S.D.


THE END OF SEPTEMBER

In the past year, Chris had woken up in some very unusual places: a pile of musty laundry in Keener’s basement, a canoe floating down the AuSable, a field of spruce seedlings at Bailey’s Tree Farm. That was the genius of alcohol. Always a surprise ending.

But this was different.

She was on the floor of a locker room, her wrists zip tied together across her stomach. Her flannel was gone, replaced with a t-shirt with the word DOME splashed across the front. Her jeans had been exchanged for black sweatpants, her Converse for white Keds. Am I dreaming? she wondered, struggling to her feet. Did I smoke something rotten? But then she saw it plastered to the door: the globe-like logo of Aether Services.

Her skin burned as she rinsed the cut on her forehead, caked with dried blood. She looked like hell. Felt like hell. Her dark eyes were bloodshot and puffy and her head pounded as though she’d just woken from a long night of partying. A few too many drinks around the campfire, a few too many cigarettes. She splashed more water on her face, in her mouth. The water tasted disgusting.

In the mirror, Chris saw the door open. Two men walked in. The first was dressed head-to-toe in desert camouflage, no rank insignia or patches to distinguish him, just a nametape across his breast that for all her squinting she couldn’t make out.

5 comments:

Laura Edwards said...

All right, the plot intrigued me. The third paragraph of your query, however, grew confusing. Who are "the women" referred to? It's not clear since only Chris and Alex are mentioned up until that point.

Liked the 250 word submission. Kind of scratching my head because I thought her hands were secured by cuffs of some sort, then she's splashing water on her face. However, I realize the situation might be addressed in the very next paragraph. Not everything can be explained in the first 250 words. I would continue reading this if given the chance.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I like the premise, but was also confused how her hands were tied and she was washing her face. I had to go back and re-read to discover they were across her stomach because that (as far as I know) isn't a typical way to tie someone's hands together. If you gave just a little more detail about the problem of washing her face with hands tied together, it would help solidify the image for me.

Also, if the people are damaged and there is a love story, I would like to see that unfold in the query body itself. I guess I was surprised at the romantic element being mentioned when there wasn't anything in the query to suggest that.

Jessica Peterson said...

I think you've got a good start to your query but I think it needs a bit of reworking. For me, you didn't really have me hooked until you mentioned that Christine's parents blame her for her brother's wreck, I think this might be a better place to start.

After 'inside the facility' your query gets really confusing for me. I think there are a lot of things going on and perhaps it might help to focus on the most important.

Also, when you mention that it's 'a love story about two incredibly damaged people trying to make peace with the demons of their past.' you caught my attention again because I'm left wondering who loves who, especially since your first line mentions a Russian spy who we don't hear of again, unless of course this is Alex...? If the love story is the main part of the plot, maybe you should focus on this in the query, otherwise maybe just leave it out since it just offers up more questions.

Your 250 was interesting. The only part that bothered me was the part where she was thinking to herself. This seems like a different narrative POV and it pulled me out of the story.

Best of luck!

Ann Noser said...

Liked the 250--but agree with the difficulty of washing face with tied hands.

query: rec'd starting here:


When her brother dies in a horrific auto accident, Christine Taylor’s life is turned upside down. Not only do her parents blame her for the wreck,CUT SOME they pressure her to join Aether Services to sober her up. But Aether isn’t rehab. It’s a defense contractor that supplies the CIA with undercover operatives.

KEEP NEXT PARAGRAPH--GOOD
Inside Aether’s training facility, Chris befriends Alex Berezin, an ex-Marine just back from Afghanistan. As administrator of the company’s experimental program, Alex knows Chris will be drugged and brainwashed, sent on an impossible mission that will cost her life. So, he decides to help her escape--but not before they steal a cache of incriminating documents off the company’s computers.

SUGGESTIONS:
They flee to Moscow and Chris learns the truth about Alex’s connections with Russian intelligence. THIS IS WHERE I THINK THE QUERY GETS CONFUSING. I'D PICK ONE THING TO EMPHASIZE AND DROP THE REST. DON'T KNOW WHO THE WOMEN ARE, ETC AS THE OTHERS SAID. ALSO BEGINS TO FEEL LIKE A SYNOPSIS RATHER THAN A QUERY HERE She vows to go public with the stolen documents--anything to save the women still bound to the company’s illegal programs. But Alex is betrayed. Aether’s security forces are sold the location of their hideout, and mercy is not their recourse. Not with millions in government contracts at stake.

The part about her parents blaming her for her brother's death is REALLY strong--I'd let that take precedence.

Good luck!

Melissa Sarver said...

Query: The first sentence of your query makes this seem like this is Alex's story but then the rest of the query and the 250 focus on Christine, so that's confusing. Seems like she's the main character who meets Alex and things transpire between them; but it's mainly her story - or at the very least equally weighted. Do her parents and the outside world THINK that Aether is actually rehab and it just turns out that it isn't? Did Aehther target her to be an operative or is it random that she ended up there?
The third and fourth paragraphs can be tightened to focus on the most important parts of the conflict.

The intro grabbed me (though I, too, wondered how she washed her face with her hands bound). I loved the first paragraph about all the places she's wound up after a drunken night.
"But this was different." - I would tweak this line to be more specific - this what? Even just saying "this time" feels more grounded.

Are you categorizing it as literary because the focus isn't on the espionage and it isn't a fast-paced, plot-driven story? Otherwise I would simply say it is a character-driven thriller with a love story, or something like that (if that's accurate).