Thursday, March 30, 2006

Completely Freaked

I'm sitting here with goosebumps.

About a month ago, my husband and I decided to take a four-day weekend trip to Savannah. My current book, WHERE THE GHOULS ARE, is set in Savannah, a large chunk of the story centering around a haunted house. The idea was that the hubby and I would relax, soak up some Southern charm, have some great food, maybe take a ghost tour, maybe get some ideas for rounding out the book. We decided to splurge a little and stay in a townhouse near the historic district, to really experience the atmosphere. In preparation for the trip, I ordered a map from one of the ghost tour sites.

Guess which house is on it?

Yes, Miss Spooky has landed herself in the middle of a haunted house! Again. (Yes, this happened once before, in a Maine bed & breakfast.) There's a picture of the townhouse right here in the brochure, and here's what it says: 'Interesting paranormal reports have come from this row of townhouses, which include poltergeist activity and cold spots.' Cold spots? Poltergeist activity? Nobody mentioned that when I made the reservations!

I may write about this stuff, but it creeps me out. Weird coincidence. It's too late the cancel the reservations.


Friday, March 24, 2006

An Interview With Christina Hogrebe

Christina Hogrebe joined the Jane Rotrosen Agency in 2003. As an assistant to the company's senior agents, she's worked with such writers as Jennifer Crusie, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Michele Martinez, Victoria Alexander, Carla Neggers, Nancy Martin, and Susan Wiggs. Now, as a literary agent, she is building her own list of distinctive fiction and nonfiction authors. She is looking for commercial fiction, with a particular interest in young adult and middle-grade fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, light paranormal, mysteries, and thrillers. She also considers a few nonfiction projects that tend to be story-based, such as memoir and narrative nonfiction. Christina is a hands-on agent and strongly believes in taking on clients for their whole career. Born in Northeastern PA, Christina is a graduate of the University of Denver Publishing Institute and Franklin & Marshall College, where she studied English literature and Women’s Studies, and was therefore blissfully unemployable in any other field.


What do you like to see in a query letter? Is a simple one-page query enough, or do you like to see a sample of the writing along with it?: This is a really good question, but one that’s not always easy to answer. Certainly, my preferences differ from other agents’, so it’s good to do your homework before submitting. If you are a published author, please just call the agency and speak with me. Or, you can send me a copy of your latest book with a letter explaining your goals, including any new proposals and other relevant information. If we’ve met at a conference or if you were referred to me by a client or colleague, I will usually ask for the first 100 pages or so and go from there. Otherwise, I very much appreciate keeping the first introduction down to a one-page query letter with a one-page detailed synopsis of the whole book and SASE for my reply. I do not accept email queries, and I don’t have an eye for science fiction, manga, politics, historical fiction, or children’s picture books. Please be sure your fiction manuscript or nonfiction proposal is complete and is in the best shape possible before contacting me.

What’s the best part of your job?: Reading manuscripts. I always dreamed of a job where I could lay in bed and read. When someone told me I could turn my English major into a living, I jumped at the opportunity. While the reality of my job is nowhere near that glamorous, I do look forward to my fair share of reading in bed… and on trains… and in line… and while talking to my mother on the phone. You get the idea.

And the worst part?: Declining an author’s work. I have the highest esteem for the creative process and the years of hard work and practice that go into it. While there is a degree of merit in every manuscript I read, publishing is still a business. In order to effectively serve my clients, I must be able to really “get” their work and its place in a highly-competitive market. Without the highest level of enthusiasm, I just can’t be the table-pounder an author needs on his/her side.

And I’m not always right. Sometimes I’ll see a manuscript I passed on in print months later and I realize that another reader had the response the author needed to get published.

What was the last book you read, non-business related, just for pleasure?: The Princess Diaries. Again. I’m really into young adult chick lit at the moment. There’s nothing like revisiting my imagination and dreaming like the whole world’s ahead.

If you were sick in bed, which movie would be your ‘comfort movie’, and why?: Annie. It was the first movie I can remember wanting to watch again and again. As a redhead, I wanted to be Annie, but I probably just wanted those matching powder blue patent-leather shoes and an indoor swimming pool.

What do you think it takes for an author to become successful in this business (aside from the obvious need to write good books)?: To a certain degree, being in the right place at the right time plays a role in many authors’ immediate success. But career longevity is something that Jane Rotrosen Agency works very hard to promote. I think it’s important for an author to be mindful of the market and what’s selling while maintaining one’s unique sensibility; to be aware of his or her core audience and the trends that attract new readers; to set goals and work with your agent to achieve them. And while agents and publishing houses are tireless advocates, a successful author needs to be a constant self-promoter.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?: When it comes to choosing an agent, be sure to find someone who is enthusiastic about your material, respected within the publishing world (a member of AAR), and knowledgeable about the genre in which you write. This is a big decision. An agent will be your link to the scary world of publishing. Too often I see authors jump at the first offer of representation without giving much thought to it. Certainly the days after the first offer of representation are an exciting time, but if an agent is really interested in taking you to the next level, he or she will keep the offer on the table until you’ve had a chance to decide. Become familiar with the agency agreement, ask questions about their strategies and experience, and—when your material is on multiple submission—notify the other agents who are considering your material.

The Jane Rotrosen Agency represents authors of both fiction and nonfiction, including many New York Times bestselling authors. They are located at 318 East 51st Street, New York, NY 10022. The Jane Rotrosen Agency is currently not accepting email queries, or unsolicited queries from authors who have not been referred by a client or colleague or who have not previously been published.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dead Girls Are What?

Dead Girls Are Easy. It’s the title of my upcoming novel, a quirky look at life and death from the standpoint of a hip young woman named Nicki Styx. Poor Nicki just wanted to earn a living with her vintage clothing store in Little Five Points, Georgia, and maybe have a little fun on the side. One near death experience later, and Nicki’s life is changed forever by the ability to see and hear spirits. It’s dark humor with a Southern slant - the angst of a young woman on the edge, a healthy dash of sex and voodoo, a touch of spookiness.

At any rate, the final draft is now done, and I’m shipping the manuscript to the publisher next week. While I’m wildly excited (who wouldn’t be?), I find myself thinking about how best to get past this dreaded question with my friends and neighbors: “Dead girls are what?”

“It’s just a title”, I’ll say. “The book is about this young woman who sees spirits… um… she used to be a Goth but now she owns a vintage clothing store… it’s funny, really… ah, not that I mean death is funny but…” and so I’ll blather while they look at me politely, eyebrows raised.

You see that explanation up there in the first paragraph? It took me almost half an hour to write it. I had time to work the words into just the right arrangement until it expressed exactly what I was trying to say. Try spouting that off the top of your head when you’re looking into the face of my shocked 89 year old mother-in-law, the neighbor who thinks I’m just a stay-at-home mom, or the woman I met in Sunday school class.

All I’m saying is that by sending off this final draft of the manuscript, it’s really hit me.

Dead Girls Are Easy is about an unwilling psychic who can see the dead, but the underlying theme is about good and evil, and the choices ordinary people make under extraordinary circumstances. It’s also about love and laughter, and reminder to enjoy life while we have it.

Now I just have to find a simple way of communicating that without sounding like I’m reading from a script.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

You've Got Monk-E-Mail!

‘Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”

You know those commercials that feature the poor guy who works with chimps? The laser pointers aimed at his crotch as he tries to make a presentation… his efforts to explain that just changing the direction of an arrow doesn’t increase earnings…all done for the benefit of a room full of laughing, chattering chimps. I’m not sure why, but it works - I can’t watch them without laughing.

Anyway, the evil geniuses at CareerBuilder have now given us Monk-E-Mail, where we can create our own highly developed, super-cool, techno geek versions of monkey humor. It’s awesome, but don’t take my word for it… just take a look.

But before you do, just remember: Whether you’re an Evolutionist or a Creationist, monkeys are a reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.