In Praise of Agents and Old Friends

By Louise Ure

Two weeks ago, I screwed up my courage, dyed my hair and took a taxi downtown to see old friends at Bouchercon. It was the first time I’d participated in any literary/mystery/author function since my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer ten months ago.

It felt like traveling to a country I no longer had a valid visa for.

Old friends made that easier. A warm embrace from Andi Schecter, Tim Maleeny and Tony Broadbent calmed me. Time spent with Karen Olson, Gillian Roberts, Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller grounded me. A shared moment with Lee Child made me feel at home (although, if the stories about the body double he brought in from Australia are true, it may not have been Lee at all). The grace and calmness of Rae Helmsworth (and god, she’s looking good) put me at ease.

I am sorry not to have connected with other ‘Rati family and friends over the weekend.

But the most wonderful part of the visit, for me, was the glorious two hours I got to spend with my agents, Philip Spitzer and Lukas Ortiz.

As authors, we do not often enough sing the praises of our agents.

Philip Spitzer was the quarterback of my fantasy football team of agents when I first started submitting Forcing Amaryllis. I knew there was no chance of him accepting me; he was, after all Ken Bruen’s agent, and Michael Connelly’s and had earned the respect of every writer out there when they learned that he had continued to send out James Lee Burke’s manuscript “The Lost Get Back Boogie” for NINE years. After one hundred and eleven rejections. He was an agent who believed in his authors.

What could happen? I tossed that query letter in the mail like it was a coin in a wishing well.

When Philip called and said he wanted to represent me (“This book MUST be published!”) I thought it was a stunt by friends pretending to be him and I hung up.

He’s forgiven me for that and for multiple other sins over the years. This visit was no different. It was a grand time of catching up, listening, encouraging … and caring. This is a man you want by your side as a friend and an agent.

Lukas Ortiz is his partner at the Philip Spitzer Literary Agency. I hadn’t realized early on in the relationship what a key role he probably played in selecting Forcing Amaryllis. Lukas had close ties to friends in Tucson and the book’s setting spoke to him.

He’s soft spoken, quick to smile and has an incredible ability to remember absolutely everything about every one of their authors. Still a young man, he’s putting his little brother through university back home in Colombia and you can see his pride when he talks about him.

I asked them what book they had most recently fallen in love with and they described in lush and glowing terms a literary novel they had just sent out to an editor. They could not have been prouder of the book if they had written it themselves. And isn’t that the kind of representation you want in the halls of publishing?

Business has been a bit depressed, they said. Fewer sales and lower advances, but more opportunities in epublishing and movie rights. And they’re getting more submissions than ever before. (Makes sense, in this lousy economy with more people out of work, folks finally have the time to write that novel they always said they wanted to.)

By the end of our time together, I was almost feeling like an author again. And a very lucky one to be represented by these two fine men.

So tell me, ‘Rati friends, what wonderful panels/news/gossip/friends did you find at B’con? Or feel free to sing the praises of agents today.



30 thoughts on “In Praise of Agents and Old Friends

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    Being my first Bcon, everybody I met — some I had been conversing with for over 13 years — was a gift.But I'm so sorry I missed you. I've been chatting with some regular con goers and the general consensus is the hotel was just too big and spread out. It created a sort of disconnect between fans/authors/friends. I was able to say (brief) hellos to Murderatis Cornelia, Alex, Bret, Rob, and Alafair.
    The good: The three panels I attended on Saturday were the best — there was more of a discussion than moderator/panelists. I've always liked Val McDermid's books, but after hearing her accent and her wit, I'd follow her anywhere.

  2. Twist

    Louise, I am so sorry to have missed you! Hope you are writing. Life is better with a Louise book in it. Love, T

  3. Rae

    HI PK,

    Sorry you felt the hotel was "too big and spread out". Unfortunately, if you're putting together meeting space for 1600 people, you're going to lose some intimacy 😉

    I appreciate the feedback, though, it's always good to hear what people think worked, and what they thought was less than perfect.

  4. Tammy Cravit

    Have to agree with Twist and Grace – Louise, your name appears on three books on my new Kindle, and that's not near enough. I *finally* read Forcing Amaryllis, which I bought on Kindle because my local library seemed unable to manage finding me a copy for years, and it knocked my socks off. Which, I don't mind admitting, isn't an easy task.

    Being in the as-yet-unpublished-and-unagented camp, and not having attended Bouchercon, I can't comment on either of those issues. I can, however, wholeheartedly sing the praises of old friends.

  5. PK the Bookeemonster

    Hi Rae
    Definitely need a big hotel to accomodate that number of people. You can't help the hotel's layout. This was my first Bcon. I'm just mentioning what others were saying in comparison to others they've attended.

  6. Louise Ure

    Rae, you did an amazing, incredible, out of this world job putting together that con. And you made it look easy.

    Tammy, hurray for the Kindle reading! And thank you.

  7. Debbie

    Louise, I'm glad you made it to Bouchercon. The support of good friends and the dependability of old friendsmake our walk through life a little easier. We move forward day by day, memory after memory.

  8. JT Ellison

    Louise, I second the nomination to have you in Santa Fe!

    I was so sorry to miss BCon this year, but the writing has to get done sometime. One of the things I missed was the chance to sit down with MY agent, Scott Miller, who represents half of Murderati and is one of the most wonderful people on the planet. You're right, we don't give our agents enough Hurrahs! though I do send mine cookies. : )

  9. Reine (Marie-Reine)

    Louise, I've never been to Bouchercon… someday. It sounds like a wonderful thing to do and that you were comforted by being with friends. Good friends, old friends, new friends… we keep each other going.

    I love that Tucson is a setting in your books… and that Cadence is there in Arizona. I hope that our Arizona Talking Books Library will soon carry Forcing Amaryllis, as it's sort of hell not being able to read the first of the series. It's also a surprise that it is not in our TBL in Arizona- of all places! I would buy it – of course – if it were out on CD.

  10. lil Gluckstern

    You are, indeed, a writer, and i'm glad you were able to step out, and the enjoy the support of people who love you and cheer you on. I hear your ache, and wish you peace-again with those who make your world better.

  11. Ken Bruen

    My Dear Shining Louise
    I know for a faCT, that Lukas and Philip are thrilled they got you!!!!!
    I loved our time as buddy bloggers, a gentler time perhaps
    Your posts shime, the one about your brother, phew-oh, stunning in it's integrity, compassion and.
    We shared too.
    The day of Bruce's passing, I went to the church in The Claddagh for you and Bruce aND
    beloved Elaine Flynn.
    A force of wondrous nature who we were graced to be her friends
    And James Crumley, when he blurbed your book, emailed me, said
    'You got any more great gels like this yah mad Irishman?'
    Passed too.
    We have known the best and the beautiful and I thank the Gods for sharing Murdearati with you

  12. Louise Ure

    Thanks, Lil and M-R. From your lips to the ears of the gods of audiobooks.

    Ah Ken, we have shared so much … but our losses unite us. I could not ask for more.

  13. judy wirzberger

    Louise, Sorry I couldn't be there. I sat quite uncomfortably with a frozen bag of peas on my "new" knee lad I have never been to a BCon because I could only imagine what I missed. I do hope ypu will keep the hair dye handy and turn up at the Holiday Gathering. I should be well recovered and no longer wielding a cane. How can the days be so long when the time is so short. I'm going to try to get back to writing on my novel.

    Whether it's fiction or a slice of your life I love reading your words, strung like Glen Millers pearls.

    The Hamburger

  14. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Louise….Louise….I cannot believe I missed you at Bcon. It was a swirling madness of a time and I heard from many that you had been there, somewhere, where I wasn't. I so wanted to see you. But I'll be in SF again, someday very soon I hope, and we'll hit Cafe Trieste or some other wonderful venue for an evening. I'm happy that you had such a good time with the folks you did see–I know there were many who had asked about you.

  15. KDJames

    Louise, I'm so very pleased that you screwed your courage to the sticking point and stepped back into that country full of old friends, the one for which your visa will never expire.

    Very gratifying to hear that your agents are such a good match for you. I'm joining the chorus and hoping they'll have some new work of yours to represent again one day soon. When you're ready.

  16. Fran

    While I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to give you a hug at B'con, I'm so glad you went! And let me add my voice to those clamoring for you to go to Santa Fe in March! It'll be great fun, I'm positive!

    Even if you never wrote another word, you'd be touted as a great author. But I strongly suspect that little voice deep inside you won't be silent forever, and that there's another book blossoming inside. When it's time.

  17. Robin McCormack

    I'm sorry I missed you. I did get to see Robert Gregory Browne and Brett Battles. I captured Brett on film doing the Declan Hughes reading.He was great! I went to boucoup panels on Friday and had a blast. Like PK said, the site was huge and I missed seeing so many folks. It would have helped it they put blogs and website on peoples badges.

    If you want to see a clip of Brett doing his thing for the Declan Hughes Play – go to this link:

    Glad you made it.

  18. Cornelia Read

    Louise, you are so wonderful. And I so wish I hadn't missed you at Bcon. It was such a welcome respite from bereavement for me, first time I've smiled and laughed in a good long time. I hope it was the same for you, dear one.

    I met a guy whose book you blurbed tonight at his signing in Exeter, Toby Ball. And it was such a pleasure to say, "dude! You got blurbed by Louise! She's AMAZING!!!!"

  19. Diana Orgain

    Louise, I've been thinking about you and am so sorry I missed you at B'con. My time there was limited because of my 3 little ones. But I'm happy to read your report. Hope to see you soon! xoxoxo

  20. Tom

    Good on yah, gel, you got up and went. And it felt good, didn't it?

    Glad to hear you went among the humans. May be we'll see you in Santa Fe.

    Next on the agenda? Short stories, perhaps? Collected into a Ure-ology?

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