Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Amanda Smith’s grandpapa had never been the type to invite trouble or stand out in any way. Yet, his refusal to talk about the scars on his face and shoulder spoke loudly. Determined to find answers, Amanda leaves her home in Texas for the city her grandpapa grew up in, Pécs, Hungary.

Captured by the beauty and history of the walled city without cultural borders, Amanda embraces all of its aspects, including the people ostracized by racial barriers--Romani, known to many as Gypsies. Excitement flutters inside her when Luca, a Romani dancer, moves his hips in rhythmic precision. And she yearns to know him more when she observes him caring for his dying sister. After a short, summer fling she agrees to an odd marriage proposal.

Before the wedding, her grandpapa’s brother visits. He exposes the real reason his brother fled Hungary for America. Secrets open old wounds and reveal a connection with Luca’s clan. The Romani family rejects Amanda, and even her fiancé walks away because of clan loyalties. Now she questions everything she knew about her beloved grandpapa and must repair the wounds she didn’t intend to open.

WITHOUT BORDERS is multicultural/women’s fiction set in Pécs, Hungary. It is complete at 80,000 words.

I am a regular attendee of DFW Writers’ Conference and have recently spent time in Pécs, exploring the city and its culture.

Included are the first page per the contest guidelines.

Thank you for your consideration.



Amanda sat on the steps of the monument for Europe’s great plague. Behind her stood the mosque that had been later converted into a Catholic church. The only feature that set it apart from the only true mosque in the city was the cross that had been stuck on top of the crescent moon. She had been walking through the section that was partly enclosed by the ancient wall, gazing up at the well-kept buildings and reading their plaques. Now she sat on the steps studying a tourist map.

The county hall was closer than she had realized. The plaque on the four-story white building to her right had identified it as a national association of colleges during the late forties. She stood and looked at it wondering if the information she sought would be there or in the courthouse. Amanda stuffed the map into her backpack and headed toward the county hall. She doubted anything about her grandpapa’s earlier years could be in either building. A birth certificate but nothing more. Grandpapa had never been the type to invite trouble or stand out in any way. Yet, his refusal to talk about the scars on his face and left shoulder spoke loudly. She only needed to learn the language of his silence. Even if she couldn’t find his past buried among the documents of the official buildings, maybe a clue would lead in the right direction.

The rhythmic pounding of a drum echoed behind her, which was soon accompanied by other instruments.


Laura Edwards said...

Hi Lanette,
I hadn't read your query before and I must say you did a good job. Not overly long and setting out the plot of your story in a concise manner. Wish I could do as good a job. I also think the unusual subject matter piques interest.

Having read the whole novel, I know you have a real knack for teasing a reader's interest and making them want to read on. I love all the little unexpected twists which crop up in the story. Good luck it!

Rosalyn said...

I like the concept here--not least because I lived in Pecs for about four months (granted, that was nearly fifteen years ago!). Some suggestions: I would reword the first sentence in the query so that Amanda, not her grandfather, is the subject of the sentence. I think, in general, you could condense the first paragraph to one sentence: Determined to find answers to her grandfather's silence about his past, Amanda Smith leaves her home in Texas . . .

I'm a little unclear, at the end of the query, what the main focus is here--if it's Amanda's relationship with her grandfather or her relationship with Luca. Maybe if you could clarify that a little?

I love the little detail about the cross on the crescent moon, particularly as that church is one of Pecs's defining landmarks. I did feel, though, like the first two paragraphs were a little heavy on detail and backstory. I'd like to get a little more into Amanda's character (through her actions and thoughts) before we learn so much about her grandfather.

dianelashdecker said...

I agree with Rosalyn. I enjoyed the query more than the 250 pages. The story theme sounds great and intriguing but the first paragraph was uneventful !!! I want to feel more attached to Amanda right away. Good luck.

Lanette said...

Rosalyn, I fell in love with Pecs when I visited last year. It is such a beautiful, historic city, and I wish I could go back.

And thank you for the suggestion for the hook.

Jessica Peterson said...

I think Rosalyn made a great suggestion for your hook because the way it stand now, your first line doesn't grab me. The part about his scars does, but I'm guessing he's not really the main part of the story, so switching the focus to Amanda in the beginning, like you have for the rest of the query, would definitely work well. Also, the jump from 'dying sister' to the next sentence feels kind of disconnected. Maybe the last sentence, with some more information, (how did the two get together?) would work better tacked onto the next paragraph. For your last paragraph, it might work if you kept the focus on Amanda again.

Before the wedding, Amanda discovers a secret connection between her family and Luca’s clan, suggesting the real reason her grandpapa fled Hungary for America. With hidden secrets laid open, the Romani family rejects Amanda, and even her fiancé walks away because of clan loyalties. Now she's questioning everything she knew about her beloved grandpapa and what she must do to repair the wounds she didn’t intend to open.

Something like that, but better. :)

Your 250 got going for me a bit more when Amanda stuffed the map into her backpack. I think the very beginning is too much description for a place the reader doesn't yet care about. Also, these lines: 'Grandpapa had never been the type to invite trouble or stand out in any way. Yet, his refusal to talk about the scars on his face and left shoulder spoke loudly. She only needed to learn the language of his silence.' felt a bit out of place for me. The last sentence didn't flow well into this part. I think if we're introduced to the Grandpa, that would be a better place to tell us about his scars. Is he alive? Why does she feel the need to learn more about him?

You've got a strong idea and I think with a bit of tightening, this query would do well.

Best of luck. :)

Melissa Sarver said...

I think you can start your query stronger with the scars and her need to find out about them. You can skip the first sentence. Tell the reader how old Amanda is so there's no question she is an adult and this isn't a YA novel. Try to avoid vague lines/descriptions like "Amanda embraces all of its aspects." You can introduce the Romani through Luca - no need to mention them twice separately. Third paragraph does a nice job of revealing plot and also detailing the central conflict.

I like the first sentence of your 250 but the transitions from sentence to sentence in this paragraph are a bit choppy - try to work on the flow a bit more. The second paragraph moves on to talk about a different building (or is it the same as the monument mentioned in the first paragraph? Confusing.) You say she doubted "anything" of her grandpapa's would be in the building but then say obviously his birth certificate. But that is "something" so she assumes there is something in there. I think you jump the gun in this second paragraph, revealing too matter-of-factly what she's there to learn. I think it would be good to develop the intrigue more for the reader, make me curious what she's there for.