Editors and agents are forever telling writers to give us something fresh, something new, something we haven’t seen before.  But then again, you don’t want to be too different.  Because there still has to be a kernel of familiarity in there to remain accessible to the readers. 

I was so excited about the new version of Robin Hood with Russell Crowe because I thought it would be the perfect balance of a familiar story with a new twist—billed as a prequel to the Robin Hood legend we all know.  Unfortunately, after reading a number of tepid reviews, it’s unlikely I’ll go see the movie.  The key elements of what makes Robin Hood so enjoyable—namely the slightly cocky attitude and the genuine sense of fun—seem to be missing from the movie.  I have no problem with gritty, but it also needs to be balanced with light. 

So the lesson here: If you’re going to take a familiar theme and twist it, first figure out the main elements of what makes that theme so popular and enjoyable.  Keep those!  Then twist the character or the setting or add an unexpected piece from another recognizable theme or story.

Figuring out these elements will then making pitching your project a breeze.  “It’s this but with a dash of that and set in there.”  Of course, once you come up with the right juxtaposition you have to deliver.

One project I recently acquired is a perfect example.  At the moment, we’re tentatively calling it NO PROPER LADY (April 2011) and it’s by debut author Isabel Cooper.  The juxtaposition: “Terminator” meets “My Fair Lady.”  Every time I say it in the office, people raise their eyebrows, but they always want to hear more.


The flowers are starting to pop up, and so are a load of new deals.  The latest:

Rose Lerner’s historical debut, IN FOR A PENNY, in which a dashing and feckless lord enters a marriage of convenience with the lovely and practical daughter of a wealthy merchant in an effort to salvage the family fortune, and they find themselves unprepared for the challenges they face: scandal, revolting tenants, a menacing neighbor and in the end a love more heartfelt than either expected.


I give agent Kevan Lyon loads of credit for that blurb, because I never would have been able to sum up the book so well.  What made me love IN FOR A PENNY is the humor and the rather unconventional element of two young people thrust into the position of learning to make solvent his family’s lands so the tenants can prosper. Reading that back, it doesn’t sound very intriguing, but you have to trust me.  😉 


Before I made the offer for this book, I was looking to buy a historical for our schedule.  And I was starting to despair that maybe I was being too harsh; nothing was resonating with me.  This book made me remember how the good ones really stand out from the pack.  After five pages, I knew Yes!  This is the one.  Certain aspects reminded me a bit of Elizabeth Hoyt’s RAVEN PRINCE. 


IN FOR A PENNY is scheduled for March 2010.


Emily Bryan’s STROKE OF GENIUS, which she describes:

Grace Makepeace, an American heiress, is determined to marry a titled English gent, but her Bostonian bluntness is severely impeding her chances. When she takes flirting advice from the acknowledged artistic genius who’s engaged to sculpt a marble model of her hands, she garners the attentions of a duke.
A cynical, but brilliant artist, Crispin Hawke is a keen observer of the ton and enjoys the challenge of helping Grace beat them at their own game. But he begins to wish he was the object of her passion.     


Emily called it a Pygmalion meets Cyrano de Bergerac story with a happy ending (of course!) for all.


STROKE OF GENIUS is scheduled for Summer 2010



Lisa Cooke – A MIDWIFE CRISIS, summarized by Lisa:

Katie Napier is happy with her life as a midwife and healer in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. She has spent most of her thirty years caring for those in need, and though it hasn’t been a glamorous life, it’s suited her fine. So why has Katie’s family all of a sudden decided she needs a husband?  Not that she’s averse to it, mind you, it’s just by her experience men are more of a hindrance than a help, and her new dilemma only supports her belief.  Three of her well meaning though zany family members have managed to find her a fiancé.  Unfortunately, they each found her a different one, and now she has to sort through the well-intended suitors to decide which one’s worth keeping.

Dr. John Keffer has returned to his roots in Wayne, West Virginia after he is unable to save his wife’s life due to a carriage accident.  He knows nothing of the life in the hills, but when he inherits his grandparent’s home, he decides to leave New York and the painful memories of his personal failure as a doctor.  But the locals are reluctant to trust the outsider and keep returning to their healer, a woman who surprises the doctor from the first minute he meets her.  Uneducated and poor, she’s the type of woman he would’ve hired in New York to work in his kitchens.  A woman whom he never would’ve bothered to even learn her name.  But now he’s forced to work with Katie in order to earn the trust of the locals.  What he’s not expecting, however, is her request that he help her decide which fiancé she’s going to keep.  A task complicated when he finally realizes he wants to keep her for himself.

This isn’t at all related to Lisa’s debut, TEXAS HOLD HIM, but I love that both books take a chance with something you don’t see it too many Americana romances (I can’t even call them Westerns): 1. no cowboys (gasp!) and 2. a great sense of humor.  I can’t think of anyone else doing much like that, though if there’s something I’ve missed, please let me know in the Comments.

A MIDWIFE CRISIS is scheduled for February 2010.



Speaking of Westerns, in my not-so-secret life as a Western editor, I also have some exciting news to share.

THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES by Forrest Carter will launch the next set of books in our Classic Film Collection in March 2010.  This novel served as the basis for the movie starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.

We will also be doing its sequel, THE VENGEANCE TRAIL OF JOSEY WALES. 

Luke Short, a giant of the Western genre, joins the Leisure list in April 2010 with the re-release of his classic BLOOD ON THE MOON, which was made into the famed noir Western film starring Robert Michum and directed by Robert Wise. BLOOD ON THE MOON will also be part of the Classic Film Collection.

Also coming from Luke Short will be AMBUSH and VENGEANCE VALLEY.

We will have Johnny D. Boggs’ Spur Award-nominated novel KILLSTRAIGHT coming in mass-market paperback in January 2010.  Bestelling author Tony Hillerman has said, “Johnny Boggs has produced another instant page-turner, but this one, KILLSTRAIGHT, grabbed me in a particular way. It took me right back to my childhood in Indian Country… don’t put down the book until you finish it.”

The New York Times has more on Audrey Niffenegger’s new book, A FEARFUL SYMMETRY, which is scheduled for an October release.

The book is a supernatural story about twins who inherit an apartment near a London cemetery and become embroiled in the lives of the building’s other residents and the ghost of their aunt, who left them the flat.

Niffenegger’s agent gives an inside look at the deal over on agent Kristin Nelson’s Pub Rants blog.

For those who asked whether I enjoyed Rebecca Dean’s PALACE CIRCLE, the answer is yes.  I had a horrible head cold last weekened and spent all Saturday on the couch reading, only taking a break to watch The Duchess because I was intrigued by the plot similiaries even though the setting was hundreds of years apart.  PALACE CIRCLE is a soap-opera, guilty-pleasure kind of book.  It makes me feel like I’m learning something amid all the who’s-sleeping-with-whom drama.  So in that respect, it was similar to Philippa Gregory.  And I’d also say Carolly Erickson’s novels.  However, though I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it, the end left me a bit unsatisfied.  I wish Dean had stuck with one character’s POV throughout instead of giving the main heroine, both her daughters and then the men they loved separate sections.  I felt as though some of the characters were discarded once she deemed them no longer interesting.  It made the book a bit uneven both in tone and plotting.  Then again, I did devour the 400+ page book in less than a day.

An excerpt for Elissa Wilds’ September release, DARKNESS RISING, has been added to the Coming Soon  page.  This is a sequel to her debut, BETWEEN DARK AND LIGHT, which is currently available.

And don’t forget the special DearAuthor sale ends Sunday.  So if you haven’t yet taken advantage, now’s the time to do so.

Speaking of sales, BooksOnBoard is running a 30% rewards offer until Tuesday. I find their ebook prices already lower than just about anyone’s (or least for folks with no Kindle) and now they’re offering 30% credit back to your account for future purchases.

Clearly I’ve been way too busy partying with Barbara Vey over at Beyond Her Book and that’s why I didn’t post yesterday. 

Audrey Niffenegger–author of THE TIME-TRAVELER’S WIFE, one of my all-time favorite books–just signed a $4.8 million deal with Scribner’s for her next book.  I haven’t been able to find any details of what it’s about yet.

Closer to home, we’ve recently signed Angie Fox on for the third book in her New York Times bestselling Demon Slayer series, this one tentatively titled A TALE OF TWO DEMON SLAYERS and scheduled for release in February 2010.  Angie’s second book, THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR DEMON SLAYERS, is coming out in May and available for preorder now.

Daniel Keyes’ psychological thriller The Asylum Prophecies slated for October release from Dorchester Publishing


asylum-propheciesNEW YORK—Millions of readers around the world fell in love with Flowers for Algernon, which went on to win Nebula and Hugo awards, was adapted into the Academy Award–winning film Charly, and has become a classroom staple in dozens of countries. The iconic and unforgettable novel firmly cemented Daniel Keyes’ place in literary history.


Now Keyes returns to the realm of the mind with his first novel in nearly 30 years, a riveting psychological thriller.


“It’s exactly the kind of thriller you’d want from Daniel Keyes. He’s combined his knowledge of the workings of the human mind with a page-turning plot,” says Executive Editor Don D’Auria, who acquired the book from Mel Berger at the William Morris Agency. “It’s timely, thought-provoking and definitely worth the wait.”


In The Asylum Prophecies, a disturbed young woman with multiple personalities has learned the details of an impending terrorist attack against the United States. To save thousands of innocent lives, an American agent races across the globe to find the key that will unlock her trapped memories before the terrorists silence her for good.


“In my books, especially The Asylum Prophecies, I try to understand the characters I think I am creating,” Keyes says. “But it turns out that my characters helped create me.”


Keyes, honored as Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2000, also explored the intricacies of dissociative disorders in the novel The Fifth Sally (1980) and the nonfiction best-seller The Minds of Billy Milligan (1981).


Keyes, 81, currently lives in southern Florida and holds a B.A. in psychology and M.A. in English and American literature from Brooklyn College. He has held teaching positions at Ohio University and Yale, and early jobs included being an associate editor under Stan Lee at Marvel precursor Atlas Comics and working in fashion photography. His other books include The Touch; Unveiling Claudia; and Algernon, Charlie and I: A Writer’s Journey.


Dorchester Publishing, founded in 1971, is the oldest independent mass-market publisher in America. Dorchester publishes a wide range of genre fiction under the imprints Leisure Books (romance, horror, thrillers, Westerns), Love Spell (romance), and Hard Case Crime (noir mysteries).