Monday, March 25, 2013

Become an Agent #19

Title: Without Borders
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Word Count: 75,000

Amanda Smith’s grandpapa taught her the language of his birth country but died without revealing anything of his life before America. 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-- Gypsies. Excitement flutters inside her when Luca, a Gypsy dancer, moves his hips with 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 Gypsy 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 75,000 words.
I am a regular attendee of DFW Writers’ Conference and have recently spent time in Pécs, exploring the city and its culture.


  1. No. Your query is well-written, but the fact that you use a racial slur (G*psies) repeatedly to describe Luca and and his family, coupled with the apparent plotline trope "privileged white woman 'discovers herself' through a man of color and his 'exotic' culture," suggests that I would be very uncomfortable with the portrayal of the Romani in this book.

  2. No, only because the "discovering the past of a deceased relative" plot is something that always gets on my nerves. Simply living in a place will not give any answers; the only time such a thing has any real merit is in a mystery with clues to be discovered.

  3. I try to give my own critique on these queries, but I think Princess Sara hit the nail on the head with this one. It is every well written, but I've seen this before and the racism towards the Roma people is a big turn off. My answer is no.

  4. No. The only standout for me is the writing of this, which is well done indeed. Otherwise, the plot and the way it was explained threw me off. I agree with being uncomfortable about the racial slur. If the plot is about a white woman discovering herself through the exotic culture with a man of a color--as Princess Sara outlined, and as the query seems to suggest--I do not know if I could invest in this more. Also, the past of a dead relative is something so overdone, and that plot device just doesn't work for me. Best of luck.

  5. No. This lacks a hook and a clear goal. IMHO, skip the first paragraph and go to the meat in the second. Suggestion: When Amanda travels to Hungary to discover her past, she finds a Gypsy, marriage and a history that her grandpapa didn’t want her to learn.
    Sorry, my re-write kinda stinks since I don’t know the point of no return in your ms. :) Good luck.
    CD Coffelt ponders at Spirit Called
    And critiques at UnicornBell

    1. I doubt if it matters but I'd never heard that the word 'gypsy' was slang or derogatory. I am of two minds about this; irritation/shrug or take it under consideration if ever I use the word.

  6. No, though this does sound interesting. I was kind of turned off by the "precision" of hips in the second paragraph and "odd" marriage proposal. While I think this has potential (with some name changes) I am not totally sold.

  7. I'm on the fence with this one. I think the premise has that "take you away" effect going for it. This line jarred me and made me laugh: "Excitement flutters inside her when Luca, a Gypsy dancer, moves his hips with precision." Maybe state she's attracted to a Gypsy dancer and drop the hip reference. The last paragraph might have sold me if there were more specific hints toward the mysterious grandfather. It was too generic, even if it did promise a deep, underlying conflict.

  8. I'm going to go with No, but I'd like to see more. In reading this, i get a sense that some element here is personal for you. I am guessing that comes through in the book and I suspect, that if you explore that a bit more, or reveal it a bit more, this would become a powerful piece. What's your connection to Pecs? To this story? Why did you write it? Some of that emotion, focused around the primary conflict of the story would be compelling. Of course, I might be wrong and you just vacationed in Pecs once.

    Best of luck.

  9. The story problem isn't really addressed until the last paragraph and, while her quest starts with a goal, things get muddled quickly and I'm not sure where this story is going. So this one is a no.

  10. No, I feel like you need a stronger hook, and although there are parts of the query I found intriguing, it didn't stand out enough for me.

  11. If you change "gypsy" to "Romani" or "Roma" except for when you want to make it seem a racial slur, I think you will have better luck with this. People really bristle at the word gypsy these days, so only use it if you want negative connotations attached. Otherwise, the story is rather interesting. I've already cast my votes, but just wanted to offer some critique on this one.

  12. I think I need more of why she would leave her own life to follow this adventure. What is motivating her to discover her grandfather's past? She obviously feels her own life is lacking in something. Happy people don't go off like this.

  13. No because the stakes aren't high enough. Amanda needs a deeper reason besides curiosity for traveling to Hungary. I see a good story buried under this query. The premise makes me want to read your manuscript, but the query is lacking.