Thursday, July 30, 2009


I've never claimed to be the sharpest sword in the stone tech-wise. I have not yet figured out how to tweak this blog so that comments can be seen without going to another page. So, for you guys who don't like to jump pages, I'm going to post one here today and will continue to do so until I figure out a more streamlined way to bring these good comments to your attention. The following is from a reader in response to the post about an author I now call "Abused Guy," the writer who queries me and lots of other agents EVERY DAY with the same query:

What is UP with the abused woman composer guy? I just today saw some slightly older posts from J. Lyons and J. Faust about this exact same query. And there are at least two more reputable agents who posted in the comments that they're getting the same thing.Where did he get the idea that constant badgering was going to work? I'm fascinated, yet repulsed.

I'm fascinated too, and often, p---ed off! I've deleted Lee W's query over 20 times this month. Someday, maybe we'll know the whole story. Until then, I keep my delete button polished and at the ready.

It's been a chaotic time here on Cricklewood Cove. Jon's dad is now under hospice care in Chicago and Jon returned yesterday, sadder but wiser about hospitals, docs, and the mishmash we call our health system.

I've been less than efficient in running our businesses in his absence and I apologize to all of you whose partials or manuscripts are in our possession. Next week we'll be better, I assure you.

Jon came back with several "airport books," those titles that you wouldn't buy ordinarily, but now that you're in an airport, well.....

I asked him about one by Lee Child that was tossed out of his briefcase. "It's not nearly as good as several of the partials we're considering," he said.

Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it? We are becoming extremely picky about what we take into our agency because the editors we pitch are so picky. Yet Jon said the protagonist in the Child book was like a bad, featureless paper doll. "There was nothing there that made me want to read on," he said.

I shouldn't be too hard on Child. (I've never read his books.) Jon had just finished the newest James Lee Burke novel and who can come up to that? But I guess the message here is to craft your characters well. Lee Child writes to a formula, but it's not a formula that resonates with Jon or me. Do you have a formula?

Monday, July 20, 2009


This must be my summer for personal revelations. But when business and personal life intersect as often as ours do, ya' gotta be candid. Our workload is mounting and because of Jon's continual absences, we are getting further and further behind. We love that fact that we are a "two-man" shop, but, at times like this it would be helpful to have a staff we could rely on. But that's not in the plan at this stage. Perhaps in the future?

Jon's dad in Chicago is 97 years old, and failing. He's led a full and rich life and has not slowed much until recent months. Now he's having trouble walking and eating and the only thing that makes him feel better is having his son at his side. Problem is his son lives 700 miles away. Jon just returned on Tuesday after a full week there and his dad called again a few days ago. He needs him again. So, Jon will pack up partials and manuscripts and head back to Illinois in a few days. The experience of dealing with his mom and dad saps his energy and emotions and at the end of the day he doesn't seem to get much work done.

To complicate matters we had committed to "entertain" our grandsons Max (age almost-2) and Rob (age 4) for the past four days so their parents could attend the Woodstock-like outdoor concert in Albany, NY that featured the Disco Biscuits and others. Did we work during those 4 days? Please!!

I vow to read like crazy this week in an effort to bring down the piles. Just wanted to let y'all know what was shaking here on Cricklewood Cove.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I'm muttering to myself this morning because the cats are out sunning themselves and Jon is still in Chicago.

I'm catching up on queries so I can then catch up on partials and finally get to manuscripts. Today's mantra in my mind is, "Sometimes it's just not fair!"

It's not fair to authors that we agents have our own little quirks, likes and dislikes and that we can dismiss a perfectly good query--maybe a great query--because of our biases. I have so many queries to go through each day that I have a standard "boiler plate no thank you." I very seldom diverge from this. But I just rejected a fine query for a police procedural and it gave me pause. The author may truly be the next big thing, but I rejected him. Why? Because the topic of the novel is the kidnapping and murder of little girls. Can't do it. Sorry. It's my own little problem. I can't deal with child abuse.

I can't deal with animal abuse either, nor most religious topics, nor angels, nor swords and dragons. It's not that those topics aren't hot stuff with some editors and publishers, it's just that I can't stomach them. Yet I continue to get scores of queries each week on these topics.

So, my words for the day are, "Take heart." When you get a rejection it may not be that you have a lousy query. It may be that the agent simply hates your topic, not your writing. It happens! Don't take it personally. Read agents' write-ups in the books; read their websites and blogs and then send to those who really like your topics. It will save us all a lot of muttering.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


It's Query Tuesday--gird your loins, for I'm on another rant!
  • Three more "abused woman composers," my personal burr under the saddle.
  • Several queries to "Kate," "Kay" and K. "Treinster." Does it really take that much time to get the agent's name spelled correctly?
  • Oh, the bad grammar out there. It's even worse in some cases, than the spelling. Forgive me if I'm harsh, but if you're querying me you want to be a writer, correct? And, as a writer, you know the tools of your trade, correct? Then why or why do we continue to get queries that an 8th grade grammar teacher would throw out?
  • I'm still getting "querries," "quaries" and "quares." Huh?
  • "I have a fabulous fantasy about a wizard and dragons. Interested?" NO. Contemporary fantasy only.
  • Guilt trips, oh, my heavens, do I hate guilt trips. "Dear Ms. Tienstra: I'm at the end of my rope; you my last hope. Please, please take my book."

OK. I'm done. I love queries, I really do. But what I really love is when y'all get it right!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


"Fireworks, who needs stinking fireworks?"

By the look of my inbox, lots of folks have taken off for the holiday weekend. (I emailed a press release yesterday to 200 health editors at newspapers and 20 bounced back as "out of the office.") We're not going anywhere this weekend, preferring to use the time here. Jon's got a stack of partials and manuscripts to read and so do I.

OK, even though Norton opposes it, we will go to a nearby park for the fabulous fireworks display brought to us each year by the local mortician. Yep, that's right, the mortician. Think about it--it's great PR! Blast off with us...before you blast off for good!!

Since it's the start of the holiday weekend, I have some random thoughts to air, some book-related, some not.

  • On the query front--another "abused woman, greatest composer." When will it end?
  • We've always asked for partials and manuscripts in hard-copy format. We're beginning to change that policy. I'm asking for manuscripts to be sent electronically and partials will follow soon, I expect. Jon is wedded to his hard copies, and he's not unlike a large ocean liner, difficult to turn around. But eventually, he too will be reading online I suspect.
  • I want to get an electronic reader that allows me to load in partials and manuscripts. Any suggestions? Does Kindle do this?
  • As I've mentioned before, I read constantly--not just partials and manuscripts, but books. I'm reading Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes now. It was published over 10 years ago, but it is worth your time if you like cozies. Grimes is so brilliant in relating back story.
  • I'm also reading an advance copy of a book I picked up at BEA called Friend of the Family, published by Algonquin. The author writes with a precision and flair that keeps me turning pages. She's not Jodi Picoult, but she's every bit as good. I'll give you her name in another post.
  • Jon's off to Chicago next week. I'll be busier than ever here.
  • When Jon returns we'll gear up for 3 days of grandsons Rob (age 4) and Max (age almost 2) while their parents go camping.

Happy Fourth of July everyone! Take a break from your writing. Eat a hot dog. ENJOY YOURSELVES!