My agent, Pat Teal of the Patricia Teal Literary Agency, died shortly after 3:00 a.m. on Valentine's Day. How appropriate for an agent who dealt primarily in romance. I am brokenhearted.
Pat and I first connected in 1985. I had just completed my third book for American Romance, who wanted me to change everything. I didn't want to. My first book had been the best-selling American for 1983, and my second one wasn't doing too badly. I thought if I found an agent, she'd sell it for me the way it was. I sent her the ms., then she called to tell me to remember that the publisher, in the person of my editor, wanted only what was best for the book, just as I did, and I should trust them to know what they were doing. So much for ego. We agreed to work together, I changed the book, and she sold it promptly.
That began a working relationship that lasted until her sudden last chapter. She complained of a pain in her hip, finally admitted herself to the hospital in the middle of the night when she began to have trouble breathing. Her family said her heart began a downward spiral and she was gone in a day and a half. I think she was 85. I can't believe she'll never call me again at 6 a.m. to tell me I've made a sale. Marie Ferrarella, also her client and one of our Heartwarming sisters, says she's sure we can stay in touch with her if we could just get her heavenly email address.
Pat lived in Fullerton, California, just a few miles from where my husband's family lived. Every couple of years when we visited, Pat took us to The Cat and the Custard Cup for lunch - an elegant, gastronomic experience! She drove a brown Corvette Stingray with a vanity plate that read, QUERY. One of my fondest memories of her was of riding together to an RWA meeting in another county, flying down the freeway at some outrageous speed, while she talked and laughed the entire time, turning to me occasionally to make a point or judge my reaction. I recall looking out my window and all I could see were the giant wheels of a semi. I grew up in an L.A. suburb, but had lived in small-town Oregon for ten years by that time and was terrified of the traffic. But she was queen of the freeway-fighters, dodging in an out of freight traffic while she talked.
She shared a story with me about having to tell one of her male authors that he'd been rejected. Pat received flowers the next day with a card that said, "Ha! I laugh in the face of rejection." I loved that, particularly since my response to rejection is to pout.
We worked together until about 2004 when my career stalled and I went to work for an accounting office. We kept in touch for the next eight years through cards and phone calls. I remained on her author list at Christmas time and received my yearly box of See's Chocolates. I'll be forever grateful for that.
When Victoria called in 2012 and invited me to submit a proposal for Heartwarming, I was beside myself with excitement. Pat was the first call I made. She was as excited as I was. When I sold the proposal, she sent me a bouquet of sunflowers and a card that said, "They're playing our song again!" She was like a big sister and a good friend rolled into one sunny, supportive person. I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss her.