Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going the Wrong Direction?

I feel like I'm spinning my wheels this week.

I'm falling behind in my target word count and going whole days without touching my WIP! Yikes!

BUT…I AM getting something done. I'm getting ready for a rare visit by all three of our grown child--at the same time. All three in one place.

This is a mother's dream. At least a mother whose children don't live nearby. Mine are flung from Tucson AZ to Austin TX to Washington DC with a granddaughter in Dallas at college. It's not easy for them to congregate and I appreciate that they are making the effort and that the stars aligned for this to happen.

So, no, I'm not getting much writing done, but I AM going in the right direction.

Photos: wheel by Christopher Ziemnowicz from Creative Commons
children dancing by Yann from Creative Commons
night sky by Pieter Kuiper from Creative Commons

Monday, March 15, 2010

Agent Research--Who to Query?

One path to publication is through the forest to the cottage of the agent, who will lead you to the sunshine of the publisher. How do you get there? This is a long, twisty road, and can take years to travel. But there are things you can do.

A friend recently attended a conference and met up with someone who paid an outfit to put together a query, and to do the querying. My friend was horrified that someone would actually fall for this. I'm horrified, too.

And I had a friend who hired someone to submit a screenplay a few years ago. She was paying this guy $400 a year! She said, "It's OK. He sends me a list of all the places he's submitted." I asked to see it. When I pointed out all the duplicates from month to month, she decided to fire him.

If you're researching agent querying, or if you're listening to what the agents talk and blog and twitter about, you'll eventually hear of queries addressed to Dear Agent. Those are from the paid packagers, and the queries are immediately rejected. As they should be.

A writer needs to do her own querying and research agents for herself. OK, how does she do this? The tools are there. One of the best is Patrick, who puts this together, must never sleep! Each member can suggest an agent for him to add, but he researches each one before he or she goes onto his site. Here's how it works. You sign into QT and start your project. You can have multiples going at once. Then you can ask his search tool which agents represent the type of writing you're trying to get published. It's an extremely handy way to keep track of who you've queried, how long the response time was, how many partials and full requests are out, even if you've queried another agent at the same agency.

There is a premium version of QT available for a small annual payment. I subscribe, partly because I want to see this site stay around for a long time, but partly because I like the services.

In addition, a writer should research each agent at his own site, providing he has one. If not, searches may yield some info, such as online interviews, chatter about the agent, or notes on conference appearances.

Other places to find agents online are (, which is free, and Publisher's Marketplace, (, which is not. You should always check to see if the agent belongs to AAR, the Association of Authors' Representatives, at, although a new agent will not have made the sales to qualify yet, even if that agent adheres to all the ethical standards required for membership. Preditors and Editors ( and Absolute Writer Water Cooler ( are other places to check before you query an agent.

There is also the tried and true Jeff Herman's Guide, a physical book that lists any agent you think of, and then some. This book is updated every year. It's a little pricey to buy, but your library may carry it.

Above all, NEVER PAY AN AGENT. Or even worse, never pay anyone to find you an agent.

Next week, how to handle the query process.

photo by Andrew Tatlow from Creative Commons

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Conferences and Conventions

The travel that I do for my writing is mostly to conferences. I LOVE to go to conferences. Several reasons.

(1) I always get to meet someone I've known online, but have never seen--a real thrill.

(2) I get to associate with other crazy people--um, I mean other writers. But let's face it, we're not normal, especially mystery writers. We get together and discuss efficient, hard-to-detect methods of killing, places to hide bodies, personality disorders, fascinating stuff like that.

(3) I get exposure for the time when I will have a book to sell. It's good to have other authors know who you are, even better to have readers and mystery fans know who you are. Conventions are better than conferences for this, but they're both fun.

(4) It's a getaway that I don't have to feel guilty about, because it's for my writing career.

(5) It's a legitimate tax deduction.

books by Peter Kemp from Creative Commons
hotel room photo is public domain by Derek Jensen

Monday, March 1, 2010

This is a big fishie!

This airplane caught my eye when I first spied it at the airplane museum in Tucson. As we drew closer, looking at all the other planes on the way, I realized its nickname is The Guppy! It's a NASA aircraft, so I assume it was used to carry shuttle parts until the practice of piggybacking the shuttle on an aircraft came into use. Don't quote me on that, it's my guess. Anyway, it's a cute, but BIG airplane.

Since I'm a longtime member of the Guppy chapters of Sisters in Crime, I had to pose.

The Guppies were my lifeline when I moved out of Dallas and away from my other mystery writer friends and members of my Sisters in Crime chapters. The romance writers in Wichita Falls were a friendly bunch, but they weren't mystery writers. Since moving to Austin, I've found I'm among my own kind again, but I've formed such close bonds with online Guppy members, it would be hard to pry me away from that group!