Mar 21, 2009


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

(Personal reference to agent/agency), I invite you to consider representing my picture book manuscript, HENRY HAS NO HAIR.

Life should be hard for Henry. It’s his first day at a new school and he has nothing to wear—nothing to wear on his bald head, that is. But that does not stop happy-go-lucky Henry. When a classmate asks him the inevitable, but awkward question, he responds in stride. Being bald is actually pretty great. There is no hair to get in his face or provide a target for his baby sister’s reaching hands to pull. Hats always fit and the heat never bothers his neck in the summer. Above all, Henry is happy to be Henry—and that makes others happy, too.

HENRY HAS NO HAIR, complete at 375 words, illustrates how a young boy allows the cosmetic debility of alopecia areta to not only define who he is, but to empower him. A subject close to home, my husband and I have the joy of raising our first son, a balding toddler with the spirit to take on the world.

Per your submission guidelines, the full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration and time. I look forward to hearing from you.

[I posted a shortened version of this pitch paragraph on Bookroast's March 17 Pitch Party and received several comments. See ]


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.


R. Battles


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 Proven├žal 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.

QUERY - BAGASTANA (Revision 1)

Click here to read the original query.

There is a huge grizzly bear in the bedroom.

Mina and Darwin don't have time to think much about this before they and the bear fall through the portal into another world, Bagastana, "the place of the gods," where the supernatural beings from all the world's mythologies live. Getting back home is going to be a challenge, even with Bear's grudgingly offered assistance. The only known portal back is far away; it is guarded by a powerful creature who calls himself “The Maker,” and he will kill Mina and Darwin if he discovers who they really are.

Along the way, the twins encounter shape-shifting animals who worship a deceitful tiger; they are kidnapped by giant ants, forced undercover by misogynist horses, nearly devoured by eagles, and asked to make a great sacrifice by evangelizing fish. Mina and Darwin begin to develop their own magical abilities, and as they grow in power and knowledge, they begin to understand why the Maker would want them dead. They also learn how the Maker imprisons some of those who challenge him in his Living Clay, where they are unable to see, hear, breathe, or die.

BAGASTANA is the story of two young people who, while trying to get home, discover who they really are. The story is multi-layered with deeper religious and political meanings, and this YA fantasy novel is complete at 73,000 words.

I was born and raised in suburban New Jersey, but I managed to escape. After attending Yale as an undergraduate and getting my Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers, I taught in several different countries and cultures, many of which I've drawn on for this novel. I moved back to the U.S. in December.