Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Agent,

Assistant Curator, Claire Raffen, is anxious to meet her idol, rock-star artist, Sinjin Reid. She’s desperate to pick up his masterpiece to hang in her exhibit, Victorious Steam. If she doesn't acquire the sculpture, she can kiss her job at the Lafferty Museum good-bye. But when Claire arrives at Sinjin’s estate, tucked in the wooded shores of Lake Michigan, there is no sculpture.

Sinjin Reid hid his metal sculpture, Coal or Steam, after his greedy ex-wife desired it, more than him. He holes up in his studio with his battered ego, until Claire interrupts his brooding and tries to steal the piece of art. After he catches her, Sinjin bribes her. With Claire, he’ll be able to get rid of the bloody thing and make sure it doesn’t get near his ex or any museum.

They abscond with the exhibit and move it to Sinjin’s gallery. Their sketchy alliance deepens. Claire and Sinjin rediscover trust and find love. But before the debut opening, a Steampunk send-off for Coal or Steam, the ploy goes awry. A museum toady makes off with the sculpture. And Claire is kidnapped…at knifepoint.



Claire fiddled with the knobs in the museum’s old VW bus. No air conditioning. Instead, she found an eight-track tape player and a cigarette lighter. Neither were a help on this unexpected Indian summer day.

Since she drove out of the university parking lot, Milwaukee’s sticky heat clung to her like a second skin. She tugged the ill-chosen black turtleneck from around her neck. “The sculpture’s worth it. After the exhibit, I won’t have to play Lawrence Chambers’ indentured art servant anymore.”

She swerved onto the Lake Bluff exit, unused bungee cords and carabiner hooks scraped across the van’s cavernous belly. Heading east on County N toward her destination, the voice on her phone’s GPS announced ten miles to Reid's residence on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The prospect of meeting the rock star of modern art, Sinjin Reid, reduced Claire to a giddy groupie. He was a mixed-media artist, not a pop idol. But his wall sculpture, Coal or Steam, was off the charts.

Her phone rang with the Funeral March. She batted her silver chandelier earring out of the way with her headset and slipped it on.

“Hello, Lawrence.”

“Ms. Raffen, have you retrieved Mr. Reid’s Steampunk, ah, sculpture. I mean the donation, yet?”

Claire heard him snort his phlegm back up into his sinus cavities. She grimaced. “I’m almost at his studio to pick it up. Victorious Steam will open on Thursday night as scheduled. There won’t be any delays.”

“If you’re unable to procure that mass of metal for your new-age dog and pony show, I’ll have to take over the exhibit.”


Robin said...

careful with anxious and then desperate in the 1st two lines. Also, for simplicity, do we need all the specific names of people and museums?

I'd advise focusing on 1 POV for your query even if the MS is in 2.

It's been a long time since I've read adult fiction (and I'm 33, so, well I won't think about what that says) but I like her annoyance at the VW bus, though I think she'd have ridden in it before (maybe something about cranking down the windows instead of searching for AC? Also, I thought it was just an eight-track player, but I could be wrong here.

You have lots of specific details, I can envision your 1st page.

Good luck!

Kristy Shen said...

Nice voice!

The query was a bit confusing for me because it had too many names and art related terms I wasn't familiar with.

My suggestion is to simplify it and only include the most necessary details.

250 words are great!

Deserae McGlothen said...

Like Robin and Kristy, all of the specific names thrown in the query confused me. I'd cut out "Victorious Steam" and "Coal and Steam" for sure, and would play with the idea of shortening the one sentence to "...she can kiss her job goodbye."

The query overall loses focus in the second paragraph and I think that needs to be reworked, but the last paragraph regains the lost momentum. There isn't a paragraph the gives title, word count, genre and we need that. But the first 250 was well written and filled us in on the specific details that felt too forced in the query.

Good luck, Author,

Christine L. Arnold said...

I agree with the above comments about the query losing focus. It's important to make it unique and keeping from sounding too generic, but at the same time you don't want to turn it into name soup, or plot soup. It's a really fine line and I'm not sure you've crossed it here, but I do think it could be improved by focusing it a bit more.

Also, be careful of too much telling. It's hard since it's the first page and you want to set the scene, but you flat out tell us that Sinjin is her idol and she's excited to meet him etc. Show us this instead. Maybe she's bouncing in the car as she gets closer to his estate, maybe she's picturing what his estate will look like and more importantly, his artwork. And maybe she pictures what this will do for her career. Maybe not all this, or exactly this, but something that SHOWS us who Claire is instead telling us.

Georgia Lyn Hunter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Georgia Lyn Hunter said...

First off, love your voice.

The query is intriguing, a little tightening will make it better. Maybe remove the unnecessary names.

Reading the rest, I like your style of writing. The Funeral March gives me an insight to Claire's sarcastic mindset,love that. With her thoughts of Sinjin, show something similar, the man is her idol.

Good luck, T.

Meredith said...

EEK! Another I LOVED LOVED at writeoncon!! I wish you could post the first 5! I love the voice in this, I love the premise! I know you've revised the query already, so I'm not going to critique. GOOD LUCK!!!!

mingreader said...

I'd love to read more.

Nazarea Andrews said...

I'm so confused by this query. You throw too many images at me and I haven't got a clue what era this is. I'm confused enough by the query that I didn't read the 250 words. Maybe work on creating a clear picture for us in the query?

The Agent said...

I think there's a kernel of a good idea here, for a humorous mystery, but I'm afraid the query really didn't catch my interest. Partly, I think it starts with too much description: rather than take a paragraph to get to the missing sculpture, I'd like to see that in the first sentence. But I was also confused: does Sinjin know where the sculpture is? How does Claire find him or the sculpture? Why is she trying to steal it? Why does Sinjin need to abscond with the exhibit? I'm afraid I didn't have a clear sense of the plot set-up, which I think could be told much more simply. I was also surprised that the query ended with Claire's kidnapping--if she's the main character, I expect the query to end with her choice or her action somehow.

This is important because if the writing in a query is unclear I expect the writing in the book to be as well. It sounds like there may be an exciting story here, but if I can't tell what it is, I don't expect the book to be clear enough to want to read more.

I do think the first page is stronger than the query. However, I didn't get a very clear sense of Claire's voice from this page, and I'd like to know a little more about her, and why she's so excited to meet Sinjin Reid, before the conflict with her boss starts.