Featured sale:

Antonio Veciana and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Carlos Harrison’s MY SECRET LIFE, detailing Veciana’s transformation from asthmatic banker in Cuba to a bomb-making, CIA-backed anti-revolutionary heading multiple assassination attempts on Castro and guerrilla attacks in Havana, later building the infamous Anti-Castro exile group, Alpha-66; the story including important puzzle-pieces connecting Lee Harvey Oswald, a CIA officer and the JFK assassination and other Machiavellian Cold War-era espionage plots and ultimately the personal price he paid, to Tony Lyons at Skyhorse, with David Talbot editing, in a nice deal, for publication in 2017, by Greg Aunapu at The Salkind Agency (World).
February 2, 2016 at 10:38 p.m. Eastern

20 (usually) Fatal Query Mistakes

Reposting this from my Publisher’s Marketplace Blog


It’s now 2016 and thousands of authors will be embracing their New Year’s resolutions to send out their queries. So this is a probably a good time to address the subject.

From the questions I receive and the thousands of queries I wrangle every year, this seems to be a subject fraught with mystery and angst.   But it’s really pretty simple.

Be yourself… but be your best self.   Be confident, yet modest.  Don’t be afraid to show some personality without going over the top.   Agents  want  your query, and the project you are pitching, to be wonderful.   So, you don’t need to go overboard with self-praise trying to convince them to read it.

Don’t tell me how good your book is.  Show me.   No one cares if your whole family thinks you are a genius.  Make me admire your cleverness for myself.Calvin-on-his-Genius-debate-


If the book is a thriller, the query should be exciting.  If it is humorous, it should make me laugh.  If it is wise and philosophical, make me nod my head in appreciation.  And don’t be coy.  None of this, “Is the killer Sarah’s own husband, and can she stop him before he murders all his high-school bullies?  Read the manuscript to find out!”

Make sure to look up each agent’s submission guidelines.  Many, like me, place a lot of importance on a synopsis and writing sample.   That’s because I have had terrible queries for really good books that I have sold easily, and great queries for books that turned out to be full of problems.  Either the author spent more time on the query than they did on the manuscript, or they paid a professional to write it.   So, the query can only tell you so much.

Therefore, I usually scan the query to get a sense of the project, then jump directly to the writing sample.   If the writing is promising, then I go back up to the query.

Your work might be excellent, but still being passed on because there will be certain memes and scenarios that may seem fresh or marketable to the author, but which agents have seen, in one form or another, many times.    I’ll go into these in another post. Continue reading

A Clancy-esque thriller by James Grundvig

Author of two forthcoming non-fiction titles, Master Manipulator: The Scientist Who Seduced the CDC and Breaking van Gogh: The $100 Million Fake Masterpiece at the Met, James Grundvig’s DOLPHIN DRONE, the first in a series featuring conflicted dolphin whisperer, Merk Toten —  a Navy Seal torn between military code and his love for marine life – who, along with his cherished pod of dolphins in the Marine Mammal program, must disrupt a sophisticated ship-based terrorist plot against New York City by a super-alliance of Gulf-based terrorist organizations, to Alexandra Hess at Skyhorse, in a nice deal, for publication in 2016, by Greg Aunapu at The Salkind Agency (World)


A Life of Lies and Spies review…


By Alan B. Trabue

Thomas Dunne Books, $26.99, 320 pages

Fairly or not, polygraph examiners for the Central Intelligence Agency and other institutions that require security clearances for staff are not necessarily the most popular guys in the coffee shop. And for good reason: much of their professional lives are devoted to ferreting out secrets their subjects would prefer to leave untold.

Alan B. Trabue, a polygraph specialist for 38 of his 40 years with the CIA, aptly terms the process a “mental colonoscopy,” and he became accustomed to seeing subjects become so nervous that they “fainted during their tests and slid out of their chair.”

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/26/book-review-a-life-of-spies-and-lies-tales-of-a-ci/#ixzz3cDlj5WXP


The Great Sweepstakes by Mark Shrager to Lyons Press

March 23, 2015
Mark Shrager’s THE GREAT SWEEPSTAKES OF 1877, about an iconic post-Civil War horse race so polarizing that the members of the United States Senate postponed all business for the day so that they might attend; while the press politely described the race as an “East” vs. “West” competition, most people, still recovering from the depredations of the Civil War and the Reconstruction that followed, recognized it as a North vs. South encounter, pitting New York’s powerful thoroughbred Tom Ochiltree and New Jersey’s Parole against the already legendary “Kentucky crack,” Ten Broeck, to Keith Wallman at Lyons Press, for publication in Fall 2016, by Greg Aunapu at The Salkind Agency (World).

A Life of Lies and Spies by Alan Trabue

Alan Trabue’s “A Life of Lies and Spies” due out June 2015.   Click on the book to go to Amazon page.

About the Author

A second generation CIA officer, Alan Trabue traveled extensively in Central America, South America, the Far East, Southeast Asia and Europe interrogating foreign spies.  For five years, he directed the CIA’s world-wide covert ops polygraph program.  He served as Director of the CIA Polygraph School for six years and as an adjunct instructor at the current federal polygraph school for eight years. He retired in 2011. He currently lives in Virginia.


Lies and SpiesAlan Trabue chose a bizarre, dangerous way to make a living. In A Life of Lies and Spies, Trabue exposes the often perilous world of polygraphing foreign spies in support of CIA espionage programs. He recounts his incredible, true-life globe-trotting adventures, from his induction in the CIA in 1971 to directing the CIA’s world-wide covert ops polygraph program.

A Life of Lies and Spies brings readers into the high-stakes world of covert operations and the quest to uncover deceit, featuring a high-speed car chase, blown clandestine meetings, surreptitious room searches, tear-gassing by riot police, and confrontations with machine gun-armed soldiers. Liberally sprinkled with side anecdotes—such as debriefing an agent though a torturous swarm of mosquitoes in a jungle shack—Trabue’s story highlights both the humor and the intrinsic danger of conducting CIA covert activities.

Writing from a unique perspective framed by his uncommon longevity and broad experience, for which he was awarded the Career Intelligence Medal, Trabue’s memoir unveils the CIA’s use of polygraph and interrogation to validate recruited spies’ bona fides and information obtained through their acts of espionage.

“Like a John LeCarre novel, Al Trabue gives you a unique glimpse into the world of a CIA Covert Ops Polygraph Interrogator.  The experiences he has captured and shared are intense.  In his book, Al takes you on a journey into the dark world of covert operational polygraph around the world.  It is a must read for those who are interested in the complexities of intelligence operations around the world.”—Dr. Barry McManus, VP Global Operations of Patriot Group, retired CIA Chief Polygraph Interrogator and author of Liar: The Art of Detecting Deception and Eliciting Responses

“Alan’s accounts of the CIA’s operational use of the polygraph are eye opening; fascinating; and absolutely amazing.  During his outstanding career, Alan’s superb management and oversight of the operational polygraph program was unsurpassed and as a result of his efforts, the program played a very critical role in keeping our nation safe.  He is truly an unsung hero!”—Phil Houston, New York Times bestselling author ofSpy the Lie and former CIA Polygraph Examiner

Congrats to Alan Trabue! “A Life of Lies and Spies”

March 24, 2014 – A LIFE OF LIES AND SPIES by Alan Trabue

Non-fiction: Memoir


Alan Trabue's A LIFE OF LIES AND SPIES: Tales of a CIA Covert Ops Polygraph Interrogator, about the author's 38-year career testing foreign agents in 40 countries, including five years directing the CIA's world-wide covert ops polygraph program, revealing the CIA's use of polygraph and interrogation to validate recruited spies' bona fides and information obtained through their acts of espionage, to Rob Kirkpatrick at Thomas Dunne Books, by Greg Aunapu at The Salkind Agency (World).