Forty years and counting



Last weekend I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the Founders Day celebration for Sigma Delta chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi at Huntingdon College, my alma mater.

The chapter turns forty years old on January 31. Although I was a charter member, through some scientific miracle, I’ve only aged twenty years during this period of time. I can’t explain it. I only went in the science building once while I was at Huntingdon, and that was to give someone a note. I guess it’s a time warp thing or something.

At the celebration, the college president spoke first, then the vice president and I wrapped it up. About twenty-five alumnae returned so, with the 50 some odd chapter members, there were about seventy-five beautiful women sitting in front of me as I spoke. Smiling faces. Sisters, no matter the age. I loved chatting with them.

I told them how we not only started AOII at Huntingdon, but also the Greek system and how it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright difficult. Nineteen girls were in the original colony and by the end of the term we had only seven of the original nineteen. We’d picked up three more strong members through rush giving us a total of ten. One graduated so we returned in the fall to recruit new members with only nine members.

We pledged seventeen new members and on January 31, 1976, twenty-six sisters were initiated and one was pledged to the chapter. AOIIs from Auburn, Alabama, South Alabama, Birmingham Southern and Lambuth College came for the installation of our chapter and our initiations. After a year, it was a big deal!

Of our original twenty-seven we had four Miss Huntingdon’s, two Homecoming Chairs, I’m not sure how many homecoming queens and court members–multiple ones I know, and four were president of the chapter before graduating.

I was the first president. The second president, Marsha Brown Taylor, drove up from south Alabama to attend. Two others of the original seven had planned to be there, but one was puking sick and the other had an emergency arise where she couldn’t come. Both would’ve had to drive hours to get there. Had they made it, more than half of our original seven would have been present forty years later. Both were heartbroken they couldn’t attend and were asking for pictures before I even got home.

The other three of the original seven: I don’t know where one is, one is in California and the other is in New Zealand. They get a pass. Of the original ten who finished the term I’ve lost a second one, another was moving to Texas that weekend, and the third had a work obligation in Florida.

The chapter now stands at campus total of fifty. They held a lovely reception afterwards then I went to their house and did a workshop with them. It was great being in a relaxed atmosphere and talking to some of them one-on-one. They are truly outstanding young women.

I’ve always valued them, but AOII has had some recent tragedies that makes me realize I must tell them more often. We had a chapter member from Columbia University die in an automobile accident while on a mission trip in Honduras a couple of weeks ago. The next week one of our members from Ole Miss died in a hit and run accident in her home town in West Virginia. I found out yesterday the brave principal who was killed when she pushed students out of the way of an oncoming bus in Indianapolis was an AOII and another sister was killed in a skiing accident. I know these kinds of things happen all of the time, but when it’s someone you know (or feel you know because she’s an AOII) it strikes close to home.

But the young ladies at Huntingdon were vibrant and very much alive. They’ve accomplished much in the forty years since we were a fledgling colony. I couldn’t be prouder of them!

~ Kay



Me with Anna and Farrah, two of the chapter’s former officers. Farrah was past chapter president. I’m not sure which office Anna held but it was a major one




Some of the charter members at Homecoming (not this visit)

Crowd looking at the house

Members during a former visit (ribbon cutting for the house)



IMG_3718 (1)Marsha Brown Taylor (2nd Pres. of chapter) Anthony Leigh Sr. VP of College, & me (1st president of chapter) before Founders’ Day began.

The stage set up for Founders’ Day

IMG_3749Hubby went to the balcony for a group shot.

Outgoing Chapter President Farrah Megan with a Composite of the Colony made from old yearbook pictures. It will hang in the chapter house across from the current composite. This took a lot of work and was a true labor of love.

IMG_3729Me with college Sr. VP Anthony Leigh and College President Dr. Cameron West

Until next time…

~ Kay

God bless those left behind



As I was scrolling Facebook today, procrastinating the many other things I should be doing, I saw an article about two Marine helicopters crashing during a training exercise off the coast of Oahu last Thursday. They called off the search today with no survivors discovered.

No survivors? Marines are trained to survive. They are the toughest of them all.

In googling articles from the days since the accident all of the families said the same thing. They will find them alive. The seas may be rough, but “my Marine” will figure out a way to survive. They found lifeboats, but no people. They brought in divers and discovered bits and pieces of the wrecked helicopters at the bottom of the ocean, but no human remains. They also searched the thick foliage on the shore to no avail. Mother Nature has not been kind during the searches. After almost a week, they called it off today having found no survivors on land or at sea.

I got a huge lump in my throat. My middle stepson has been a Marine for about thirteen years. He was stationed at the base on Oahu for three years (it seemed like ten). Our oldest grandson was born there. Our son probably wouldn’t be on a helicopter training mission, but with the Marines one never knows.

There were four officers and eight enlisted who perished. As I perused the list, one was a 25-year-old newlywed from my hometown in Alabama, population less than 2,000. I guess that’s why I saw it on Facebook. At least one other was a newlywed. The senior officer had four children; another had an infant.

Tears stream down my face as I write this because I know hearts have broken with the loss of these twelve brave men. Not only the hearts of their families, friends and the Corps but also the collective heart of a grateful nation.

We expect to lose our military during combat, but not during a routine training exercise; not in safe aircraft in good weather conditions; not Marines.

My sympathy to their families, friends and all who loved them. I’m sure they will be missed. And I know our this branch of our military will feel a gaping hole without the contributions of these men.

The few…the proud…The Marines.

Semper Fi

~ Kay

Just kill me now!


I’m hosting a murder mystery dinner party in a little over a week. I haven’t even been to one in over three decades. But at a planning meeting for monthly events for an organization I’m in back way in August, January seemed like it was a long way off and the theme seemed manageable–either that or I wasn’t paying attention (probably the latter). So, when the President asked who’d host the murder mystery in January, my hand shot straight up. I’ve got to remember to sit on my hands at times like this.

I know what I was thinking. If I volunteered for something in January, it’d be incentive to take down my Christmas decorations before Easter. I’m sure that’s it. My Christmas decorations are down. They are still in my living room floor, but they are down and mostly in boxes. Regardless, I’m the host for a murder mystery on the 26th, and I’m betting my Christmas decorations will have found their way to the attic by then.

Now, you know me. I can’t just order a game and follow the directions…especially since I’ve never done one before and haven’t attended one in over thirty years. NOooo… I had to write the damn thing. I wanted it to be meaningful to the organization I’m hosting. I’m a writer; it should be like writing a play, right? For the record, I’ve never written a play either.

I started working on a plot in my head in October, and that was surprisingly easy. I made notes about roles, plot, menu, setting and some other things I can’t mention in case someone who might attend is reading this. Now the trick would be execution.

At our Christmas party, they reminded every one of the murder mystery and asked for early rsvp’s because we’d have to customize it to the number coming. A young lady sitting near me (who I didn’t know) said, “Oh, I love murder mystery parties. I’ve done a ton of them.” She was a goner.

When the meeting was adjourned, I blocked her exit, introduced myself and confirmed her love for murder mystery parties. She hadn’t caught on to the fact I was pulling her into my web. I confessed to my lack of experience and asked her to be my co-chair. She enthusiastically agreed. I love twenty and thirty-somethings!

She came to my house and looked at what I’d done so far, and we fleshed out the rest of the plan. We got the rsvp list from the president and assigned roles. At this point we’re going to have over twenty guests with several maybes…My plot can work with that.

I spent the ENTIRE day yesterday composing e-mails (yes, I know how to cut and paste). I told each participant the who, what, when and where and give them a brief overview of the plot. Then I tell them about their individual character and the role it plays, a few of the character’s secrets, goals, and clues. I tell them how to dress (for their character) and ask them to bring something easy. I’m making chili and soup so we’re talking drinks, ice, appetizers, desserts…

We’ll have three rounds. At the beginning of each everyone will get a new envelope with new secrets, goals, and clues. There might be information they must share with someone. If so, it will be noted.

The murder will occur in the second round, after dinner. After the “body” has been thoroughly examined, I’m going to replace her with a body pillow covered with a blanket and allow her to join the group.

The last set of envelopes will be passed out with the final information at the beginning of the third round, and we’ll serve dessert and coffee. Then we’ll discuss the murder. I envision a free-for-all book club. People can make accusations, share secrets, whatever. Three people will know who the real murderer is: me, my assistant (we both have roles) and the murderer will have just found out in her envelope but instructed not to reveal it. After a good discussion, we’ll do a secret ballot vote…we like to vote.

I haven’t figured out how to do prizes yet. Maybe one for the person who gets the most votes, one for best costume for her role, one for best actress. Ideas, readers???

Then we’ll expose the real killer (if she hasn’t been revealed yet) and the murder mystery will end.

There are a lot of things my assistant and I are doing I can’t yet share. I’ll just say we plan to spend about a day working on props and details. This means about 3 days…maybe 4.

Flaws? Ideas? Anything goes until the 26th.Unknown

~ Kay

Client – Agent Contracts

The whole purpose of getting an agent is for them to negotiate contracts for you, but most agencies have contacts with their clients. How does that work and do you have any wiggle room?

When I got my first contract I sent it to an attorney who specialized in entertainment law. (I had been to one of his seminars or I would never have known I had an option to change the contract). He and I went back and forth making changes before we presented a very changed document to the agency. Their attorneys looked at it, said it was fine, sent me hard copies to sign and that was that. So there…lesson learned Nothing is carved in stone.

Here are some questions you might want to cover when talking contracts. Many are from where there is always excellent information.

  • What is the term of the agreement? (The ideal situation is if either party can terminate with thirty days written notice.)
  • Why would you need to terminate the contract and how would you do it? The best way is for either side to have the option to terminate thirty days after written notice.
  • What happens if your agent leaves the agency to start her own agency? Do you go with her or stay with the old agency?

I pay close attention to this one. My contract said I would go with my agent, but she left the industry. I didn’t want to do that. Another agent picked me up.

  • Is the % of the agent’s commission 15% for domestic rights and 20% for foreign rights? That is pretty much standard.
  • Does the agent-client agreement cover all your writing or just the singe title of the book listed on the agreements.
  • Does the contract require you to pay for “reimbursement expenses,” even in the event that there is no sale?
  • Who gets the commission if the book sells to an editor the prior agent engaged? (I’d think a new agent would think it fair that the old agent get the commission.)
  • Does the agent have exclusivity in all your work or could another agent represent a different book?
  • How disputes will be handled.
  • What will happen in the even of the agent’s death, disability or bankruptcy?
  • How often the agent will provide accounting to the author?
  • Can the agent sign contracts on your behalf? (Be careful here.)

These are a LOT of detailed questions, right? I’m sure there are many, many more.

Well, surprise! There are still a good number of legitimate agencies that don’t have agency/client contracts. They reason the publisher will detail all of the percentages, so their representation with the writer is a handshake deal. And it works for them. Sometimes simplicity can be good…or not.

~ Kay


Questions to ask when offered representation


We’re almost through with my series of what to do if an agent offers representation. I should probably have said this much earlier, but these are my opinions, based on my research and not the end all be all. There is no right or wrong way. Do what feels right for YOU.

If it gets to the stage where you and an agent converse there are some things to remember:

  • You are interviewing them as much as he/she is interviewing you
  • Look for a good fit in personality, style, objectives, goals, etc.

Now some actual questions many of which I got from, a great source for information about pretty much, anything, by the way. While I’m promoting, is the best writers’ community I’ve found online: kind, honest, supportive. Check them out.

Here are some questions to ask a potential agent during an initial contact:

  • Why did the agent select your manuscript?
  • Does the agent think your m/s is ready for submission or will it need revisions? If it needs revisions, are they small tweaks or major edits.
  • How does the agent do the editing?
  • See if you can get a time estimate.
  • Does she let you know when and where she will submit your work?
  • Will she forward rejection letters to you?


  • What publishing houses does agent think would be a good fit for your m/s? AQ Commentary: (hopefully the Big NYC Publishers, not just the small presses.)
  • How many editors does the agent plan to pitch in the first round of submissions? AQ Commentary: (“six or more” is average for most commercial and genre fiction. Less than “three” should give you pause. One at a time is a bad answer.)


  • How does she prefer to stay in touch (phone, e-mail, both)
  • What is the agent’s business hours?
  • How often does she touch base?


  • How many authors do you represent?
  • What % of your authors have sold their manuscript?


  • How often will the agent update you on the status of your submissions? (once a month is about average)
  • Is this agent interested in representing only this project, or all your future books?
  • Does the agent use an agent-client written agreement? (next blog is on contracts)
  • Does the agency handle the sale of subsidiary rights, like foreign, film, audio, and translation? (or do they have a relationship with a sub-agent who handles the sale of these rights on their behalf)
  • Is the percentage of the agent’s commission 15% for domestic rights and 20% for foreign rights? This is standard.
  • Does the author receive payment from publisher or or does it go through the agency?
    • If through agency, how long after the agency receives advances and royalties will they send them to you?
  • Does the agent-client agreement cover all your writing, or just the single title of the book listed on the agreement?
  • Does the contract require you to pay for “reimbursement of expenses,” even in the event that there is no sale?
  • My last agency let my attorney look over and even make some changes to the contract. Would you be opposed to that?
  • When does book get ISBN #
  • Do you get copyright?
  • Does the agency work with a publicist?
  • How does the agent help with career planning?
  • How does she feel about you switching genres (if that’s a possibility).


  • You can ask questions like what organizations they belong to (AAR, SFWA, RWA, MWA, etc), but you can get this from other sources and should really know before you query them.
  • Same thing with their list of sales and best sellers. Chances are they are plastered all over their web site. If not, check Publisher’s Marketplace. You can get a monthly membership and MWA members get a discount; other organizations probably do as well.


Next time, Contracts…

~ Kay

Preparing for “the call” with your potential agent.


After you’ve settled down from the excitement that an agent wants to chat about representation, it’s time to prepare for that call. There are questions you’ll want to ask the agent (next blog) and e-mails you’ll want to write and have ready to go to the other agents you have queried. Stop. Read this again. You’ll write the e-mails. You will not send them. My trick for this is putting the to: address at the top of the body of the e-mail so I can cut and paste it, lest I hit send by mistake.

So once again, don’t send any any e-mails until you are offered representation, but have them written and ready to go.

Look at your list of outstanding queries. Prepare an e-mail for all agents with fulls or partials and tell them you’ve been offered representation. (Remember you are keeping this as a draft until an actual offer is made.) Also prepare e-mails to the other agents you’ve queried.

When you talk to the agent and all of your questions are answered, if you are offered representation, say you are excited about the offer but would like some time to think about it–whatever you feel is workable for you–no longer than two or three weeks. This will not offend the agent. You might want to tell her you have some other agents considering your work and you want to give them a chance to make an offer.

When the offer comes, start hitting the “send” button. You already have the e-mails ready to go, right? Agents are competitive and if one wants it, that might make it more attractive to another…or not.

In the subject line put: OFFER OF REPRESENTATION – Title of your manuscript. They will either move it to the top of their reading list, ask for a few more days to read it and decide if they want to also make an offer or they will thank you for the opportunity to read it but take themselves out of the running. Also send your e-mail to agents who just have your query. They might ask for a full or they might remove from their slush pile.

Next time questions for the agent.

~ Kay


Happy birthday, Daddy







JANUARY 1, 1933 – NOVEMBER 20, 2013