Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #42

Dear Agent:

BAY OF SILENCE (adult contemporary; 81,000 words) centers on an African-American diplomat who jeopardizes his career, marriage, and life to search for his son's remains in the chaos of post-Castro Cuba. After sacrificing everything he values most, he learns that the child, by some miracle, may still be alive. 

Vincent Lucius gets recalled to Washington after losing his seven-year-old in a windsurfing accident off Cuba's north coast. With his marriage fraying and his older son refusing to believe his little brother drowned, Vincent finagles a solo assignment back to strife-torn Cuba. His day job is attempting to prevent the outbreak of civil war. At night he haunts the morgues. Within a few months, the U.S. ambassador banishes him for disregarding embassy priorities. Vincent is boarding the flight home when he hears of a boy resembling his son who drifted onto a remote barrier island. Alive. At the risk of alienating his wife and getting bounced from the foreign service, he pursues this murky hope across Cuba's dangerous terrain. An informant tips off a vengeful real estate mogul whose plans Vincent had thwarted. Whether Vincent’s son or not, the child's fate hinges on who finds him first.

My fiction and humor have appeared in Potomac Review, Hot Hot Phone, and SpliceToday. I am a former U.S. diplomat. My foreign service experience included embassy tours in Moscow, Santo Domingo, Skopje, and Tokyo, plus a stint in Havana. Among my Washington duties was a two-year assignment on Secretary of State Clinton's policy planning staff.

Thank you for considering BAY OF SILENCE. Please find the first page copied below. I look forward to sending you more if the story stirs your interest.



Dimming light, November chill. In a neighborhood outside Washington, D.C., a man raked. Long, smooth strokes. Vincent Lucius normally did his brooding at the dining room table, staring out the window into the thicket of bushes behind the property. The distraction of yardwork provided no relief. Still, there was something pleasing in the motion of his shoulders and hips, a reminder of his physicality. He elevated his right elbow and tucked his left arm close to his torso, the way a gondolier might handle his oar. Not that Vincent had ever been to Europe. After embassy assignments in Guatemala and Venezuela, plus the partial one in Cuba--truncated by tragedy and post-Castro chaos--the State Department saw him as a Latin America guy. Or Africa, of course, if he wanted.

Vincent cleared the walk that led to the front door, creating a channel. On either side lay a sea of yellow, red, and brown. He worked down from the house toward the curb, building up lines of leaves that stretched across the lawn. Little leaf bodies, curled up and dead. He maneuvered the rake with a certain tenderness. The lines turned into waves and the waves grew and by the time they reached the street they were tsunamis.

He could give a rip about protecting the grass, if that was what raking was for, or about which of their Takoma Park neighbors approved and which were fine with leaving things natural. But he figured Sarah would notice. It wasn’t much, he knew. A gesture.


JP said...

Holy guacamole, Batman. I would read.

The only quibble might be that the query is too long.


At first I thought Vincent was ogling the landscaper.

Otherwise, this is good.

JP said...

Also, might want to add a sentence about why Africa is considered a good option. Clue the reader in on Vincent's ethnicity.

Casey Costra said...

Your bio "platform" is strong.

"Centers on" is a horrible squishy first verb. Which led me to take note of the many "ings." Which took me to a stereotype about Washingtonian writing needing more vigor.

The plot seems compelling.

I may not be an unbiased judge. I know that world and even lived in Takoma Park. For instance, the Africa remark was obvious to me, but apparently not to others.

Lonna Seibert said...

Your query sounds amazing! I would love to read a book like this. I'm a bit confused as to how he hears about the boy on the island, and how that information made it out--the island is inhabited, I assume. Is they boy still there? Why is so hard to get there and check it out? Thwarted plans sounds a bit like a cliche here, but I am sure the story itself will spell it out and give it meaning.

I love your evocative language. I can visualize the man and his rake. I can relate to using physical activity to assuage guilt or pain. I love how he is likened to a gondolier. I wonder, though, if too much attention is given to the leaves. Eventually I am waiting for him to do something else but he's still raking. And the little leaf bodies might be just a touch too over the top, I don't know. That didn't work for me. I was too abrupt. But I love that he is trying to please his wife.

I would definitely read this. Good luck!

Courtney Lott said...

Let me start by saying that I got chills in the first paragraph. My eyes actually widened when it said his son might still be alive!

I got a little confused when it said that he was banished, but that might be my own lack of knowledge. Is he banished from Cuba back to the U.S.?

I love the stakes! SUPER high and immediately generate tons of empathy.

So cool you are a former diplomat! This isn't normally my genre but I would totally read it, particularly based on your real life experience.

First 250:
Love the pacing of the beginning. The short sentences really increase the beat and rhythm of this first bit.
Laughed at "Vincent Lucius normally did his brooding at the kitchen table..."
Love "truncated by tragedy". Great alliteration!
My only criticism is that initially I thought Vincent was watching the man raking. Only realized halfway down that he was the one raking.

So good!

Perrin said...

This query was spot on. It grabbed me from the start and made me want to hightail it over to Amazon to buy the book. Then I read the opening.

For such an enthralling query, I wanted more from the opening. Too much time is spent on description and details and raking. The voice is wonderful. It's just, nothing is happening, which reminds me more of literary. When I read the query, I got the feeling of suspense or thriller. When the opening lives up to the query, you'll have an absolute hit that I'm ready to go out and buy.

Roller Coaster Robot said...

Wow! Loved it. I agree the query is a *tad* long, but honestly I think it works. Sometimes length is ok if it gets the job done.

Loved the expert too!


The Agent said...

Great start! You tell me everything I need to know and I love the setting and the concept.

This is a very well written query - intriguing and it hits all the right points. I would consider trying to break up the big paragraph into two, but not because it isn't well written - just because it's a lot for one paragraph.

I love even more that your have the background and experience to write this from an insider's perspective! I'd definitely read on!

The text:

I'd make clearer that he is raking in a garden? At first I didn't understand what you meant by "a man raked"

I do think you go on a bit too long about the leaf piles and the rake, I'd like a little more action here, even though I know you are trying to set the stage.

But I'd definitely read on. It's well written so far, even if it doesn't yet feel anything like a thriller.