Mar 21, 2009

QUERY - WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT

A revision of this query has been posted. Click here to read it.

Dear (Agent’s Name):

If making women laugh and think were Olympic events, seventy-four-year-old Liz McCall would win the gold. If she could change anything about her life, she’d change damn near everything.

WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT, a 79,000-word novel written for the commercial and women’s fiction markets, centers on an agnostic beauty salon denizen, the influence she has on the lives of saints and sinners, and the six things in life that are free.

Born in Mississippi, divorced from several well-heeled Texans, and a source of wit, wisdom, and imperious advice for the black and white staff and clients at the salon, Liz takes a special interest in Leah Starks, a twenty-six-year-old whose life has been burdened by abandonment issues and doubts about her self-worth. When Leah’s emotionally distant mother is killed in an automobile accident, her life changes for the better after Liz unravels a family secret that lies in the spelling of Leah’s name. With her health deteriorating, and estranged from all but the youngest of her six sons, Liz has to decide to whom she will bequeath her wealth—if, when, and how she should reveal the family secret she has kept for almost fifty years—and how she will want her epitaph to read.

The third of five sons of a Pentecostal preacher with a BBA from the University of Texas at Arlington, I’ve had a standing Saturday appointment with the same hairstylist for the past twenty-five years and a standing appointment every other Saturday with the same nail technician for the past fifteen years.

Some of life’s greatest lessons and best kept secrets can be learned at the beauty salon.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

Regards,

R. Battles

FIRST FOUR PAGES

August 1998

Standing near the receptionist’s station jacked on caffeine, Margie had watched Liz McCall circle the parking lot six times while hammering on her steering wheel and cussing with her windows rolled up.

“Mornin’ Liz. You doin’ okay?”

“Fair to middlin’.” Liz patted the sides of her hair, the color of which resembled an uncirculated silver dollar and stiff enough to withstand an F-2 tornado. “I swear . . . some of those fools must’ve gotten their driver’s license out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”

Parking usually wasn’t a problem, but a new Tuesday Morning store in the strip mall was conducting its grand opening.

“Why didn’t you take that spot?” Margie said, pointing to an empty parking place only a few feet from the salon.

Liz took a big Barney Fife-like sniff. “Do you really think I’d park my Cadillac next to that big old bucket that Vivian’s husband is driving?”

The familiar, black, 1968 Mercury Parklane Brougham had a faded, fourteen-year-old REAGAN-BUSH rear bumper sticker and looked like one of the cars Steve McGarrett drove on Hawaii Five-O.

“I understand. C’mon back,” Margie said in a rush. “We’re busy today. I’ve been running my ass off.”

“Dear, you ain’t got no ass, but I know whatcha meant.”

Possessing an average build, an eye for trendy apparel, a cultured, heavy-pitched voice, and a dowager’s hump attributed more to age than anything else, Liz’s striking blue eyes had faded to a smoky, bluish-gray as the years had gone by.

Teal, salmon, and beige wallpaper, a sandstone tiled floor, white antiques, art, and an assortment of bric-a-brac gave the salon a quaint, 19th century charm. Three hair styling stations eight feet apart lined one wall. Each station included a large, French Provençal commodore. One of the stations belonged to Margie. One was leased to Dorothy Curtis. The third was leased by twenty-four-year-old Dekoda Mills, a former waitress, a former bartender, and a former dancer at places where men drool and women rule.

On the opposite side of the room were three antique white, single pedestal shampoo basins. Four hair dryers were situated on a third wall that separated the main part of the salon from the customer waiting area. In the nail room, which was located at the back next to the break room, were two manicure stations and three armchairs. For the comfort and privacy of Leann Wells’ and Cookie James’s customers, two plush, Italian designed pedicure stations with adjustable reclining seats and drop-in, self-cleaning basins resided in an alcove.

Liz took a seat at one of the shampoo basins and leaned her head back as Margie released the leg rest.

“We missed you last Saturday,” Margie said. “I believe it’s the first Saturday that I haven’t seen you in . . .”

“Seven years.”

“How was your trip to D.C.?”

“It was good. I had planned to get back Friday night so I wouldn’t miss my appointment, but my flight was cancelled at the last minute due to bad weather somewhere between Washington and Dallas.”

“Thanks for calling to let me know you wouldn’t be coming in. I wish all of our clients were as considerate. Didcha go visit some of your people?”

“No. Just a nice family that I’ve known for many years. A husband, a wife, and their two daughters. The girls are almost grown now. When they were little, they used to call me Miss Liz.”

“I’m sure they all love you,” Margie said, showing a toothy smile. “You have a way with women, young and old.”

“Humph. Too bad I wasn’t as good with the opposite sex.”

Margie shampooed, rinsed, and conditioned Liz’s hair, then escorted Liz to her styling chair.

* * *

Vivian Dewese’s husband came in to use the restroom. An elastic band held his black-framed, trifocals tightly to his head and face. Victimized by male pattern baldness, a few unusually long strands of hair on the right side of his head were combed over to the left side. Otherwise, the top of his head looked like a sun roof. His yellow and kale plaid beltless pants were pulled damn near up to his chest. Black argyle socks barely covered where his anklebones connected to his leg bones. The scent from the excessive amount of Old Spice he was wearing hung in the air.

Margie, Liz, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s walk-in client held their breaths and avoided looking at each other to stifle their snickering.

Moments later, Norbert and Vivian ambled out of the nail room. Five years into her sixties, plump, low breasted, sallow complexioned, and garbed in a loud red and yellow pants suit and a matching fanny pack around her waist, Vivian’s wide, yellow, Minnie Mouse looking orthopedic pumps had seen better days. Born and raised in a town in East Texas where cattle outnumbered people, and more familiar with Oscar Mayer than Oscar de La Renta, the small, tight curls in her cayenne pepper colored hair were just the way she liked them, although they didn’t flatter her at all.

“Vivian, your hair looks good.” Margie took a purposeful step forward to give Vivian a hug. But with her small frame, and barely standing five feet with her shoes on, she was unable to get her arms completely around Vivian’s waist and back. “We’ll see you in two weeks.”

“I’ll be here,” Vivian said, “if my arthritis ain’t acting up.”

Assaulting the senses of everyone who was in their path or in their direct line of sight, Vivian pulled up the elastic waistband of her all-you-can-eat pants and scratched an itch that appeared to reside somewhere between her anus and her small intestines.

5 comments:

Rick Daley said...

I like this, it has good voice and it's well structured. I didn't have too many questions after reading the query. I have a few, but they are questions that make me want to read more, not questions that overshadow the query itself.

One suggestion is to move the second paragraph with the title and word count to after the story description and before your personal description. It helps provide a breaking point in the query. When I started to read "The third of five sons..." I thought it was still the story description.

R. Battles said...

Rick,

Thanks so much for the quick posting and for your comments.

R. Battles said...

REVISED QUERY - WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT

Here is a tweaked revision of my query.

Dear (Agent’s Name):

If making women laugh and think were Olympic events, seventy-four-year-old Liz McCall would win the gold. If Liz could change anything about her life, she’d change damn near everything.

Born in Mississippi, divorced from several well-heeled Texans, and a source of wit, wisdom, and imperious advice for the black and white staff and clients at the salon, Liz takes a special interest in Leah Starks, a twenty-six-year-old whose life has been burdened by abandonment issues and doubts about her self-worth. When Leah’s emotionally distant mother is killed in an automobile accident, her life changes for the better after Liz unravels a family secret that lies in the spelling of Leah’s name. With her health deteriorating, and estranged from all but the youngest of her six sons, Liz has to decide to whom she will bequeath her wealth—if, when, and how she should reveal the family secret she has kept for almost fifty years—and how she will want her epitaph to read.

WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT, a 79,000-word novel written for the commercial and women’s fiction markets, centers on an agnostic beauty salon denizen, the influence she has on the lives of saints and sinners, and the six things in life that are free.

I hold a BBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. Privy to the humorous conversations, philosophical musings, and stories women tell while getting clipped, rolled, tinted, permed, manicured, and pedicured, I’ve had a standing Saturday appointment with the same hairstylist for twenty-five years and a standing appointment every other Saturday with the same nail technician for fifteen years.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

Regards,

R. Battles

M. L. Kiner said...

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.
www.StrategicBookPublishing.com/TheHongKongConnection.html

Rick Daley said...

M.L. Kiner,

Is this a submission? If so, please submit in the comments for the following post:

http://openquery.blogspot.com/2009/03/submit-queries-here.html

Thanks!