Plot Queens Prattle

Proof that writing kills brain cells.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

These are fun!

These are fun!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thou PC has pissed off the gods.....

So, last week, my desktop computer had a virus. Cleaned it up after a few days of being terrified to even turn it on, and it seemed to be ok.

Now? Humph!!!!!
Last night, I'm putting edits into the computer and I get an error message. "Insufficient Memory."


I check my computer stats. Plenty of memory. Haven't even used half. Turn off computer. Reboot. Save.

"Insufficient Memory"

Bastard. We're not talking about ME here. We're talking about my computer, whose memory is quite fine, damnit. Let me save my edited chapter!!!!!!!!

"Insufficient Memory"

KYLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Save the computer!

He tries. He really does. Then, he goes to bed without telling me the fate of my third child (fourth if you count my laptop. Is my computer fixed?

"Insufficient Memory"

Well. Now I have insufficient patience. Anyone have a clue what's going on?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Days 1 & 2 of a Quitting Smoker

So, I quit smoking yesterday. I had 3 cigarettes left in a pack, finished the last one around 2:30, and haven't had one since.

Honestly, it's been pretty simple. The only real bad moment I've had was after dinner last night. I REALLY had a hard time at that moment. But otherwise, as long as I don't think about wanting a smoke, I'm ok. I've been keeping so busy that when I realized it's been 25 hours since my last smoke, I was a bit shocked.

No headaches yet. No coughing. We shall see what days 2/3 bring tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Goodbye to you........

I just got the news that Mickey Spillane, author of the Mike Hammer mysteries, passed away. This saddened me. Although I never read any of his books, he occupied a prominent place in my childhood.

When I was between 7 or 9 years old, a new family moved in across the street from us. The father was a hunk, and it was love at first sight for my young heart. I found any excuse I could to go over there and play with his kids just so I could see him.

One day, they announced that company was coming, the man's brother and his family. It was Mickey Spillane at the height of his Mike Hammer mystery fame, and I came to adore him because he always got down in the dirt and played with us kids. (I found out later, he lived across the street from my aunt.) It wasn't until years and years later that I discovered I'd been playing hopscotch, hide-and-go-seek and touch football with one of the most famous mystery writers of the time and his nephews. If I'd only known.....

Nevertheless, I have some really fond memories of the man that everyone equated to his literary character, Mike Hammer, a hard-hitting, no-nonsense detective, who was rough-around-the-edges, harshly-spoken and the possessor of a whole repertoire of curse words. I know differently because I saw another side of him. A soft-spoken, patient, fun-loving, gentle man who loved kids and treated them with a respect and understanding that few adults are capable of.

Rest in peace.
Queen Marge

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Who's the boss?

I just finished reading a blog that said, in essence, when an editor asks for a revision, you have no choice but to make it. In short, it's written in stone. I respectfully disagree. If a requested revision will not benefit the book, then I think we owe it to ourselves as the creators of the book to discuss the matter with the editor asking for that revision.
For example -- a writer friend of mine was asked to make her heroine an undercover agent posing as a prostitute. Not a problem. The editor not only wanted the heroine to masquerade as a lady of the evening, she wanted her to actively indulge in the oldest profession. Yes, she wanted the heroine to be a practicing prostitute.
Now, if you dissect the character's designation as a HEROine, you'll need to take note of those first four letters. To attain that hero status, the heroine must act like a HEROine, not a street slut. Keep in mind that aside from catching the bad guy, which could have been done another way without a problem, there was no good reason for this woman to start earning her living on her back. When the author talked to the editor and pointed this out, the editor worked with her to change the revision to something feasible that would allow the heroine to retain her "hero" status and still catch the bad guy.
This blog also stated that once the contract is signed, the book belongs to the publishers. Once the contract is signed, the publisher has the "rights" to the book, not ownership. That's why the copyright in the front is in the author's name and not the publisher's. That gives the author the right to "discuss" revisions if she/he feels they won't work for the book.
NOTE: the word DISCUSS. Synonyms for this word are not demand, tantrum, threaten, or any other form of non-adult, unprofessional behavior. You may be wrong about your feelings. The editor may be wrong about the revisions. You'll never know if you head into this with the red flags flying.
Publishing is a profession that, like all other professions, demands professional behavior on all sides. As my husband's grandmother sued to say: You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.
Queen Marge

Monday, July 03, 2006

Preparing for Take Off

Ok, so I'm stashing a bunch of movies right now, waiting until my veg period after national conference before watching them. They include: Old School, Walk the Line, Kingdom of Heaven, Passion of the Christ and everything else I get my hands on until then. Why stash the movies? Because I really want to quit smoking, and watching movies will help with that. Two hour intervals with my mind enganged on something that I can't smoke while doing, since I don't smoke in the house.

Besides, right now, I'm way to busy shopping for conference, working on my deadline book 2, and making lists of household "crud" that has to be done before I can leave my family for a week. House cleaning, food to prepare for the kiddos and hubby, chore lists of things that must be done while I'm gone.

Men don't go through this. They can pack up and leave on a trip in the blink of an eye. No "to-dos" to make a one week trip turn into two weeks worth of preparation. They leave and know we'll take care of things while they're gone. But WE know better. We know that dishes are likely to go unwashed until 5 minutes before we return home. Laundry will pile up. Dust will accumulate. The kids might live on peanut butter and jelly, go unbathed, and end up with rotten teeth. We know the dog will be fed table scraps, bedtimes will be forgotten, and beds won't be made. But, I think our vacations away from them turn into their vacations away from us, as well. It's good for them to have a week here and there without someone nagging about taking care of everything. Let the house fall apart, I say, and maybe they'll appreciate me a bit more when I return!
Queen Heather

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I lost my whistle .....

I might be the only Plot Queen still breathing. Not sure. (If you're out there PQ's.....HI!)

So, I lost my whistle. Huh? My son, 8, came to me the other day, trying desperately to whistle (something he taught himself several months ago). All he was getting this time, however, was air. Not loud, shrilly air, either. Dead, gust of wind air. Poor kid. He tells me, "Mommy, I lost my whistle." (can you tell why I love him so much?)

After I chuckled my expanding booty off, I quietly tucked those words into my Mommy Memory Bank and went about my day.

What does this have to do with anything? Well.... I'VE lost my whistle. I haven't done any new work on my second, contracted story in a couple of weeks. I was on a roll, loving rereading the story I'd written two years ago, adding fresh elements to it. I don't dread going back to it. I actually look forward to "getting time in" each night. But then night comes, I sit on my patio with the best of intentions, and.... lose the whistle.

I'm quite certain that, to get it back, I'll only need to work on another chapter. But how do you get to that chapter when you can't find the willpower to stop doing what you're enjoying (time-killers) and get to work. I know, I know. Just do it. I have a pretty long deadline before this book is due at the publisher, and I think that has a lot to do with it. I like a deadline. I like KNOWING if I don't sit down and write, I'm in trouble. (No, I'm not into S&M, either. That's Queen Laura's territory). Having so much time between now and my deadline of 12-1-06 means I get to kill a lot of time. It's a wrapped reason for procrastination I suppose.

Anyway, if anyone has seen a shiny blue whistle laying around, give me a yell. Will let you all know when and where I find it again.

Queen Heather

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

That New Book Smell

It's been a while since I went out shopping for new books. Usually, I have enough free ones from contests I judge, friends passing them over to me, conference goodies etc. I used to have monthly subscriptions to some book services until I found out how little authors get paid for those sales. Now, usually, I may pick up an interesting title at the grocery store or Walmart, but other than that, it's the occasional buy off Amazon.

This week, however, I've been craving to hold a new book in my hands, to smell that yummy, woodsy scent of never-been-read stories. So, I shopped.

First, a stop at Books-a-Million before taking my daughter to see Over the Hedge. I picked up Squeeze Play by Kate Angell and Bloody Mary by JA Konrath.

Then, I came home and preordered Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich, Master of Desire by Kinley MacGregor, The Dragon Lord's Daughters by Bertrice Small and Dark Lover by J.R. Ward. I haven't yet received this order, and it's killing me! I want Stephanie Plum! Plus, I've heard so much about J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series that I'm dying to see what it's all about...if I'll enjoy it the way I love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunters.

There's nothing like holding a much-awaited title in your hands, smelling it, and reading that first line.

What books have you bought lately that you could wait to paw through?


Wednesday, June 14, 2006


On behalf of the Plot Queens, we offer agent Pattie Steele-Perkins a hearty THANK YOU for her generous giving of time and advice! It's been a great pleasure having her guest blog with us!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Does my agent need to be in New York?

By Literary Agent, Pattie Steele Perkins

The group of agents I belong to fondly referred to as The Cartel unanimously agree that with the new technologies being in New York is not critical to making deals. Most of our day is spent on the phone or on the Internet. We see editors at conferences and regularly visit New York.

I think more important than being in New York is how much experience does your agent have selling your kind of work. I have a long history in the field of romance and women’s fiction. It’s all I do. Editors know that’s all I do so when I send them something its something they are looking for. The members of The Cartel keep each other abreast of when editors move and what they are looking for.

Is my agent doing a good job for me? You should be able to say yes to all of these.
Do they keep you up to date as to where your work is submitted and do they send you rejection letter? I recently took on a client and I was following up on the work her former agent said she submitted. Every publisher I contacted had no record of any submission.
Do they evaluate the rejections with you? Is it a form rejection? Is there something specific you need to address before sending it elsewhere? Are you discussing why the work is missing the mark?
Are you receiving your advances and royalties in a prompt manner?
Does your agent keep abreast of the current trends in the business? A former client was very put out when I suggested her next proposal for a category line wouldn’t fly because the guidelines had changed. She submitted it anyway and she was asked to make revisions.
Is your agent looking out for new opportunities for you?
How responsive is your agent to your emails and phone calls? Do they have a limit on how long they can talk with you?
When your agent says they will contact your editor for you do they?

But an agent is so hard to get shouldn’t I be grateful someone wants to take me on? NO a bad agent is worse than no agent at all? An option clause that is “next work of fiction” means you are tied to that publisher and not able to pursue different work with another publisher.

An agent who is not following up on your work on a regular basis and making sure that the terms of the contract are being upheld is slowing your career down.

My agent isn’t getting me the advances I want would changing agents help? What you want and what an agent can get are not always the same. Previous sales and the book have more to do with the advance than the agent.

Thanks for inviting me to this forum. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Career Hazards - as seen by a literary agent

There are a lot of hazards on the road to successful career in publishing some can be avoided some cannot.

One of the major bumps in the road can be an editor change. The new editor may not be as excited about your work as the editor who originally bought you.

Another career hazard is genre’s come and go. Paranormals are hot now Historicals are cool. What’s here today can be gone tomorrow. Some authors have been able to switch from genre to genre but it’s not easy and it means starting over again. I represent Jade Lee AKA Kathy Grill who just hit the USA Today list five years after switching genres.

A major career hazard that can be avoided is shooting your career in the foot.

A few years ago we had an offer from a major house and my author where we walked away from the table because they the publisher wouldn’t agree to our terms.

Both the author and I sent nice notes to the Editor A saying we were sorry the deal didn’t work out and hoped that we would work with her in the future.

A few weeks later we completed a deal with another publisher and Editor B. Two weeks after the deal was complete Editor B left the company and Editor A from the previous house moved into her slot.

The author is still working well with Editor A because she didn’t burn any bridges when the deal failed to materialize.

An author got a copy edit from hell. She called me and I called the editor. At first the editor was a bit defensive and then I said “All I ask is you take a look at it.” Fifteen minutes later she emailed me back to say she was taking the manuscript home for the weekend and redoing it.

In another case of copy edit discontent the author went through the copy edit and used a foul phrase rather than stet. When the publishing house merged with another and authors were let go she was on the list.

Similar situations but the first author just signed a three-book contract with a major publisher and the other is unemployed.

Through the aid of technology some authors have found a new way to shoot themselves in the foot…vitriolic rants about editors and publishing houses on the various private loops. More than one editor has told me that they know everything that happens on the loops.

My advice is to avoid what can be avoided and be willing to take detours along the way.
Pattie Steele Perkins
Steele Perkins Literary Agency

Friday, June 09, 2006

An Agent's View on Changing Publishing Houses

I watched with fascination as the new Katie Couric deals with CBS evolved. First it appears as if everyone has left the table happy. Katie’s old boss, Katie’s new boss and Katie.

Katie’s old boss knew he could not give her what she wanted…the anchor position that belongs to Brian Williams.

It wasn’t about the money for Katie. It has been reported that she will be making less at slightly CBS. OK what’s a few million less you say but what would she have gotten if NBC thought they had a chance of keeping her. Katie knew what she wanted and was willing to take less to get it .The other specifics of the deal have not been reported to the best of my knowledge.

There are several lessons to be learned from how this deal was conducted. Even Kathie said that when she was negotiating with CBS it was the “worst kept secret in America”. From what I understand she got permission to negotiate earlier than her NBC contract would let her. And during the negotiations Katie didn’t let slip to Star magazine through “people close to her” the specific details of the progress of those negotiations. She didn’t use her platform at NBC to make her negotiation points and even when she finally made the announcement that she was leaving she said she was leaving to “work on the CBS evening news”. The conventional wisdom is that part of deal for her leaving was NBC would not allow her to say what position she was taking at CBS.

So what are the lessons you ask?

First know what you want and be willing to stick to it. The entire world will be watching in the fall to see if “Cute” Katie can anchor. If you want to change genres for instance as Nora Roberts did are you willing to take a pay cut and a lower print run to do it? Are you willing to put up with bad reviews and readers leaving because its different from what you normally do? For Nora JD Robb worked out. The jury for Katie is still out.

It is always good to have a confident sometimes referred to as an agent to bounce things off of when you’re making a critical career move. But a deal isn’t done until it’s done. Either side may walk away from the table. Discussing deal points or the process of the negotiations on line while the deal is in process may kill the deal.

Most authors have an option clause. If you want to leave the house you are currently with you must live up to the terms of that option just as Katie couldn’t negotiate with CBS earlier than her contract allowed unless she got permission.

If your changing houses leave your former home as graciously as Katie did. You never know you may want to go back at sometime. Complete all the work you still owe your former publisher in the same timely and meticulous way you have done in the past. All the time Katie’s deal was in progress she went to work every day and did her job as she always had. She didn’t slip into the anchor chair just to show CBS what she could do. When the deal was done she made the announcement the way NBC wanted her to.

Steele-Perkins Literary Agency
26 Island Lane
Canandaigua, NY 14424

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Life in Literary Land. . .

or Why I didn’t Read Your Proposal Today as I said I would.

Okay, you submitted the perfect Query letter…why does it take so long to get a response.

The good news is you did do the perfect query letter and the agent or editor is interested in your work if you are waiting for a response. You have proceeded to the next step in getting published. Form rejections within weeks of submitting the material usually means you have queried the wrong editor or agent or there is something wrong with the material.

But why does it take so long? (To be said with a WHINE)

As hard as it might seem to believe agents are looking for great stuff. It’s every agent’s nightmare to see a book they could have acquired be picked up by another agent. So there is some urgency to the slush pile.

So why does it take so long? (To be said with a WHINE)

Where and when we read something is critical to giving it a good read. Everyone gets a good read when I am reading on my back patio overlooking the lake. I am in the zone. But some days it rains.

What I love most about being an agent is everyday is ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN DAY. I never know what I am going to hear when I pick up the phone. But that also means that when I have planned a reading day that can go right out the window when I hang up the phone.

The ringing phone could be the next big deal that will take days to negotiate. Each deal is unique to the author and the work that is why they call it the “art of the deal”. Most deals I am prepared for but then there was the day the editor called and asked, “How much do you want?”

Then there was the phone call from the editor the hero needs to do less “erecting” in the first three chapters. How much is less. I immediately read the three chapters and counted the erections. There were 8. I asked the editor how many she wanted? 3. But that’s not the end of the story. My assistant told her teenage daughter and her friend the story while she was driving them home from school. By the next day it was all over my small town that I count erections for a living.

And author D called one morning to say the person who gave her a quote for her previously published book was not going to let the publisher use it on her current book. Author D was worried the publisher would have to strip the covers of her current book that was hot off the presses. I said that I was sure the publisher would work it out. The editor assured me they would work it out. By five o’clock that same day they were stripping covers.

Then there is the normal stuff. Intellectual property disputes, sub rights sales, authors delivering late, authors having surgery, checks to process, royalties to review, bad covers to discuss, changing editors, contracts to review, bad copy edits, conferences, writing blogs, contests, career planning calls, calls from authors asking how you blow up a boat and make it seem like an accident. Answer: If you mix the diesel and gas at the pump that is very easy to do the boat will explode and burn to the waterline with no evidence.

So it’s impossible to read in the office. Editors read on the train. There is nowhere I go that I don’t take something to read. I actually got annoyed at my doctor for taking me on time because I didn’t get to read.

The scariest part of this job is missing the next New York Times best seller because I didn’t take the time I should to see its potential. Finding the time is the next hardest part of the job.

The best part of the job is reading something and saying OH MY GOD…this is sooooo good. It’s like finding the Holy Grail.

Pattie – Please feel free to ask me questions.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Agent's POV - The Query Letter

Think of your query letter as a job interview.

For a job interview you’d wear the appropriate clothes for the job. Dress your query to get a job as a writer.

Your query letter should be one page long. Use plain white bond paper. Binders, folders and gimmicks like putting it in a small garbage can should be avoided. Yes this has been done!

Make sure the manuscript pages are formatted properly. A manuscript that is bound like a book confuses things. Use the traditional manuscript pages.

If you are going to email query make sure your subject heading will not go into spam or cause the person to delete the query before they open it. “Looking for Literary Agent” works better than “The End is Coming” even if it is your title. Make sure the agent/ editor takes email queries.

Make sure the font size and style in the query is easy to read.

Include your address, contact information and a SASE.

There appears to be services that will send out queries for you. Make sure they target the editors/agents know who handle what you do. Ask how they present the material.

Tell the reader of the query letter what job you are applying for.

The first paragraph should describe what you are writing… romantic suspense… historical romance…women’s fiction for instance. Be as specific as you can such as “paranormal Scottish historical romance” and be sure to include the word length.

The second paragraph should be a brief synopsis.

The third paragraph should give your writing credentials...for instance if you are a member of RWA include it. At my agency RWA member go to the top of the reading pile

If you are making multiple submissions make sure you include it in the letter.

Do not have any misspelled words or grammatical errors.

Do not use another agent’s name with my address

Do not call to discuss the project.

Do not drop the project off.

Do not phone when following up. A polite email after about 6 weeks is appropriate.

Do not leave messages or emails that threaten or demand the material be read immediately. Your material will most likely be promptly returned.

Do not leave messages that Ron Howard has contacted you about film rights.

Use delivery confirmation but do not require signatures. With delivery confirmation you can assure yourself it got there without disrupting the office.

If an agent/editor says they can’t find your submission, politely offer to resend it. If you feel the agency is disorganized don’t resend it they won’t miss it. Refrain from making suggestions on how the office should be run.

If you send it right before the National Conference or after Thanksgiving add six weeks to the response time. August is for vacations and once the holidays arrive nothing happens until January 10th.

If you receive a rejection you feel is unwarranted do not email the agent/editor and try and make your case or worse than that question their ability to do their job.

If you receive revision suggestions and an offer to resubmit the partial this means they are interested in the project.

If you disagree with the revision suggestions do not call and or email the agent/editor to argue your position.

Here are some real quotes from real query letters:

My book is original, does not fit any of the current genre and I don’t want it edited to fit one. Actually, it requires no editing except for a careful proof reading of my quotation marks.

I am looking for a suitable publisher; one I will be proud to have published my book. I designed this book to be a best seller, if their advertising and marketing departments are capable of making it one.

And last but not least:

My husband requested that I send you this first chapter to a literary agent with fallopian tubes. From the research that I have done, I would say that you do qualify.