Celebrate Halloween with a Spooky Good Read!

Hey, readers and writers! Need a good spooky read for Halloween? Don’t want to toot my own horn, but…oh, what the hell. Here’s what the Washington Post said: “SUSPICION had its way with me from start to finish….If you can put this book down before you’ve finished it, it’s possible that your heart may have stopped beating.”
And my favorite comparison ever:  “Rogan’s smart reinvention of the haunted housewife, mad or menaced or both, is a honey…. Like Shirley Jackson, Rogan brings sophistication, skillful writing and subtlety to the business of ghosts.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

 

SUSPICION combines ghosts, chaos physics, and soccer. Yeah, soccer. If you haven’t read it yet, there couldn’t be a better day.

Suspicion: A Novel by [Rogan, Barbara]

Happy Halloween, all! Stay safe out there.

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We’re Having a Twitter Party!

Great news! Penguin (@ReadPenguin) has chosen my latest mystery, A DANGEROUS FICTION, to be its book of the month, which entails two book chats on Twitter. It’s just come out in paperback, which also brings the ebook price down, so it’s an auspicious time for the book to be featured.

Here’s the announement from Penguin:

“Every month we’ll be inviting our @PenguinUSA Twitter followers to join us in reading and discussing a book selected by the staff here at Penguin. We’ll be checking in on Twitter periodically throughout the month, letting followers know where we are in the book, and opening the forum for discussion (but please, no spoilers!). We invite users to ask questions about the book as they read, and to look out for tweets about when we’ll be dedicating time for “mini book club meetings” during the course of the month.

Be sure you use #readpenguin when you tweet.”

Naturally this good news fills me with anxiety. What if they throw this party and nobody comes? If you Tweet, I hope you’ll jump in. First chat’s on Sept. 9 from 3-4PM ET. Please mark your calendars! The book’s a murder mystery set in publishing world, so highly cathartic for the peons in that cosmos (that would be us writers.) Here’s an excerpt. Hope to see you there!

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A DANGEROUS FICTION is out in Penguin paperback!

Dear Friends,

As you know, this blog generally focuses on the business and craft of writing, but this time I have some important personal news to share: As of today, A DANGEROUS FICTION is out in paperback!

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Seeing the Penguin imprint on my book is particularly meaningful for me. Many years ago, before Amazon was even a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye, I lived in Ein Gedi, a nature preserve near the Dead Sea. It is one of the most pristine, beautiful places on earth, but it had one huge drawback: the closest bookstore was hours away in Beersheva. Once a month or so, I’d hitch a ride to the city and head straight for that bookstore, where I scooped up every novel I could find with the orange Penguin logo. I might not have known the author, but for me, the imprint itself was a guarantee of quality. I’m quite proud that A DANGEROUS FICTION will bear that logo.

Publishing, as readers of A DANGEROUS FICTION know, is murder. You might think that once a writer has broken into print, it’s easy sailing. Not so much. Without the support of loyal readers and the opportunity to find new readers, writers cannot exist (i.e. publish, which is existence for a writer.) Because I think of you all as my cadre, I’m turning to you for help in launching the paperback edition of A DANGEROUS FICTION. Help me make this one a success, and there will be more to come in the series of Jo Donovan mysteries.

How can I help, you ask? A few things can make a huge difference, with number one being the most impactful.

  1. alex eating bookIf you can, buy a copy today. Sales on launch day in particular are tremendously important in positioning a book to succeed. If you already own A DANGEROUS FICTION, consider buying a copy or two for friends who love mysteries, via Amazon, B&N, or a brick and mortar bookstore near you.
  2. If you belong to a book club, online or in person, consider recommending A DANGEROUS FICTION. Viking put together this very useful reader’s guide for book clubs. If your book club does choose the book, let me know and I’ll do my best to drop in via Skype for your discussion.
  3. 20130821_130753_1Talk about the book to friends who read, both in real life and online via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums or other social media. Publishers always claim that word of mouth is what sells fiction; with your help, I’d love to prove them right.
  4. Review the book on Amazon and/or Goodreads. These reviews directly influence readers’ choices.
  5. Take pictures of the book, in the wild or in captivity, the more imaginative the better. Post them online and send me a copy 1012440_10200362644900845_1675904216_nand I’ll share them as well. As a small thank you, I will choose one (U.S.) photo at random; the sender will receive a personally autographed copy of A DANGEROUS FICTION or another of my books.  [Insert book pix)

Please understand that I’m not asking anyone to do all these things. I know you all have busy lives that, strangely enough, don’t revolve around me. But if you can do any of the things on this list, you’ll be helping more than you can imagine.

Thank you!

Cafe Nevo Revisited

When published books are reissued, it’s unusual to get any critical attention at all, so I was thrilled when I learned that Ellis Shuman recently reviewed CAFE NEVO for “The Times of Israel.” I think I enjoyed his review as much as he enjoyed the book–so much so that, with his kind permission, I am sharing it with you today.

A little background first. CAFE NEVO was my second published novel, and to this day, it remains my family’s favorite; not just theirs, either. Among the writers who were kind enough to praise the book were Alan Silitoe, author of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, who wrote: “Wonderfully vivid and well-constructed…I couldn’t put it down. Barbara Rogan is that rare writer who creates equally credible male and female writers; a great talent for the souls of people, which is what writing novels is all about.” Madeleine L’Engle called it “a wonderful novel, with richly developed characters acting and interacting… the café and its clients will long remain in memory.” And Alice Hoffman said, “From the very first line of CAFÉ NEVO we are in the hands of a real storyteller. Barbara Rogan writes with compelling grace.”

Throughout my writing career I’ve been blessed with some wonderful reviews, but the critical response to CAFE NEVO was something special. Here’s a small sample:

“An inspired, passionate work of fiction…a near-magical novel.”—Kirkus Review

“A wonderful novel … vivid … unforgettable.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Fresh, funny, tragic, violent, sexy, mystical and romantic…Barbara Rogan’s style is utterly engaging…works beautifully.”—Christian Science Monitor

CAFE NEVO, originally published by Atheneum and New American Library, was out of print for a long time until my friends at E-Reads brought it back into the world in a brand-new ebook and paperback edition two months ago. To me it feels as if not only the book has been resurrected, but also its characters: Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz, the waiter and proprietor of Cafe Nevo, and its other cantankerous, argumentative, but brilliant habituees. I love these characters dearly, and I’m so glad that new generations of readers will now have the chance to discover them. I know that there are endless new books coming out, clamoring for attention, and rightly so. But I’m hoping that readers who know my work will make some time for CAFE NEVO.

Ellis Shuman has this and a number of other reviews and posts on his interesting blog; I encourage you to check it out for yourselves. Here is his review of CAFE NEVO:

“The Aroma of Tel Aviv’s Coffee House Culture

I am writing these lines on my laptop as I sip my morning cappuccino. Like many who work in Ramat Gan’s Bursa district, my day begins with a cup of steaming hot coffee professionally prepared; there are many coffee shops and cafes in the neighborhood. Some people linger over their coffee, catching up on iPhone messages and answering emails; while others, like me, pull out their laptops and type away, undisturbed by the grinding of coffee beans; the hiss of steam escaping as milk is heated; and the swish of credit cards as orders are recorded.

Go back twenty five years. The fictitious Café Nevo of the Barbara Rogan novel of the same name is the “oldest and certainly the grungiest of the Dizengoff cafés”. The coffee shop, originally established by two enterprising Polish brothers, attracts not only common workers, but “writers, actors, and artists who by virtue of their socialist ideology styled themselves members of the proletariat, but who in fact constituted the Tel Aviv elite of their day”.

“If they were that good they’d be working,” one of the characters of the novel says of Café Nevo’s clientele. “Nobody with any serious work to do hangs out in cafés”.

Quirky and colorful regulars

Café Nevo has quirky and colorful regulars – they hang out in the coffee shop for hours at end. Each of them has an opinion about the establishment. “Nevo was like some great puzzle whose pieces wandered around of their own accord,” one says, while another notes that “Nevo was a place where events and chance meetings broke over one’s head like waves. One could duck or jump them, but swimming for shore was not one of the options, not unless one chose to opt out completely.”

The man serving Café Nevo’s patrons, when he bothers to do so, is Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz, a “jealous and exacting waiter.” Sternholz “was the keeper of Nevo, no more, no less. If Nevo was a stage, and all his customers protagonists in their separate dramas, then Sternholz’s roles were manifold but uniformly subsidiary. He was the propman, the janitor, the Greek chorus, and the machinist of the deus ex machina; he was everything to others and nothing to himself.”

The_philosopherTourists are often turned away from the Café Nevo tables, as Sternholz feels they might disturb the regulars. But “a customer on whom Sternholz deigned to wait” would not always get “what he asked for, for the waiter reserved the right to edit all orders. He gave his customers what they needed, not what they wanted.”

The café serves as just the center of this wondrous stage. Rogan’s novel takes us into the lives of its regular customers one by one. We meet a cabinet minister with secret real estate deals in the West Bank; a celebrity prostitute who only takes on Jewish clients and ends up pregnant by one of them; a disillusioned kibbutznik who walked away from his Israeli army service, upsetting not only his IDF general father but the entire kibbutz; a young painter who sets up her studio on Sheinkin when that street was still affordable; a famous Israeli author at odds with his Palestinian collaborator on an anthology; and the author’s estranged wife, who has a casual affair with that same Palestinian.

Sternholz doesn’t hesitate to sit down with his customers, listening to their life stories and offering solutions to their problems. Frequently he tries to kick them out of the café, to get on with their lives. As one of his regulars observes, “He was always telling customers, ‘Go home, get a job, get out of here.’ Sometimes they went, but they never stayed away. Whatever changes, growth, or petrification took place in their outside lives, they kept on coming back, as if Nevo were their spawning or their burial ground.”

Tel Aviv’s legendary Café Kassit

breaking_upRogan admits that the Café Nevo of her novel was modeled on Tel Aviv’s legendary Café Kassit, which was also located on Dizengoff Street.  An Israeli documentary a few years ago featured Cafe Kassit, which for five decades served as a home and meeting place for the best artists in Israel. According to an article in Haaretz about the film, the cafe “helped Hebrew creativity flourish thanks to a constant flow of alcohol, food and regular or incidental muses.”

As Rogan adds on her blog, “If a missile had struck the cafe on a Friday afternoon, Israeli culture would have been pulverized.”

“My café was modeled on Kassit, not the thing itself, which could not have been encompassed in a novel; but it was also a tribute to an institution I’d thought would last forever,” Rogan writes. “But Kassit was gone, long gone. It existed only in the memories of its patrons…and, in a way, between the pages of my novel, where its fractious customers are forever presided over the café’s tyrannical waiter and secret owner, Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz.”

Coffee culture

Café Nevo, the book, transports readers to Café Nevo, a coffee house that was trendy long before there was a trend to visit gourmet coffee shops on a daily basis. Today Israelis flock to the local Aroma, Arcaffe, and Café Café chains and drink their espressos, their café hafuch, and their simple, instant nescafe, without worrying whether a jealous and exacting waiter will refuse to take their orders.

As for me, I will finish my cappuccino, think about the memorable Café Nevo, close my laptop and continue to my office.

Café Nevo was originally published in 1987 but has just been re-released in both e-book and paperback editions.  Barbara Rogan lived in Israel for many years and was the founder and director of the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency. During that period, she served on the Board of Directors of the Jerusalem Book Fair. Her new novel, A Dangerous Fiction, will be published in July.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.”

CAFE NEVO is available on Amazon or B&N or your favorite online bookseller.

It’s no secret, by the way, that I based my fictional Cafe Nevo on a very real cafe in Tel Aviv called Kassit. Last time I was in Israel, we had an interesting encounter with that site. I wrote about it here– have a read, if you’re interested.

 

BREAKING NEWS: If you’re on Twitter, let’s make a date! I’m appearing on #LitChat this Friday, Sept. 6, between 4-5, to talk about A DANGEROUS FICTION and my checkered career as a writer/editor/literary agent.

Don’t know about you, but audio books are as essential to my car as gas. I wouldn’t get much cooking done without them, either. So I’m delighted to announce that A DANGEROUS FICTION  is now available as an audio book, just issued by Audible.com. I understand that you can get it free if you join the service.

 

Launching a Novel, Then and Now

Last week my new novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION, was published by Viking Books. Exactly ten years ago, Simon & Schuster came out with HINDSIGHT. The contrast in these experiences, from this writer’s perspective, is astonishing.

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I’m not talking about the difference between the publishers. Each book launch is a unique experience, depending on the team members. I’m talking about the difference ten years has made to the publishing scene. HINDSIGHT came out before the explosive spread of social media.  Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter didn’t exist. Ebooks didn’t exist. Amazon was just an online purveyor of print books. Writers didn’t blog; few even had websites. There was no way for readers to contact writers except through letters sent via their publishers; nor could writers reach out directly to readers. The only time I ever met my readers was at personal appearances, book signings and the like. The only reviews were newspaper and magazine reviews, which took weeks, even months to appear. Once the book was published, it was totally out of the writer’s hands. Consequently, the period immediately following a book’s publication was a curiously barren one, empty-nesthood for writers. There was nothing to do but sit and wait for print reviews to trickle in, or not.

What a difference ten years has made! The first reviews of A DANGEROUS FICTION came out before pub date—not just in PW, Library Journal and Booklist, which review for the trade, but also on popular blogs and sites like Goodreads. On pub date there was an avalanche of dammed-up reviews, followed throughout the week by a steady stream as more people read the book and blogged about it.  Dozens of readers contacted me directly through email, twitter, and comments on my blog. Others posted reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The feedback was immediate—and, I will add, deeply encouraging. I can’t share all the reviews in full here, (much as my ego would love that!) for copyright reasons and also because really, who but a mother would want to read every word of every review of mine? Instead I have taken brief excerpts from all the reviews I’ve seen so far and compiled them here to share with you. If you’ve seen any others, do let me know. Many thanks to the authors of these reviews for spreading the word.

I know writers who claim they never read their reviews, and I’m sure some of them are telling the truth.  I’m not of that camp. If someone has taken the time to read my book, think about it and write a review, I want to hear what they have to say.

So here are the reviews, along with a few pictures from the events surrounding the book launch. Speaking of which, I have a reading  in NYC at the Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren St. NY Wed. Aug. 7 at 6 PM. Do come if you’re in the area. You don’t want me reading to empty chairs and answering my own questions, do you?

A Dangerous Fiction launched!

“Required Reading: A glamorous New York literary agent has a lot to fear — and not just from really bad novels. In Rogan’s thriller, uber-agent Jo Donovan finds members of her uptown inner circle brutally murdered shortly after she rejects a manuscript. But things may get worse: She is certain the detective sent by the NYPD is not New York’s finest. In fact, he’s her ex-boyfriend. You might want to lock your door.” —New York Post

“Rogan does a masterful job of juggling the mounting suspense with a full-bodied portrait of New York literary life and Jo’s complex backstory as the widow of a major novelist in the Norman Mailer/Philip Roth mold. The fresh setting, the tricky plot, and the strong characterizations make “A Dangerous Fiction” one of the outstanding mysteries of 2013.” —- CT News http://blog.ctnews.com/meyers/2013/07/29/a-dangerous-fiction-stalking-murder-in-manhattan/

“VERDICT: This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone …and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.” —Library Journal http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2013/05/books/genre-fiction/mystery/mystery-reviews-may-1-2013/

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“You won’t get much argument from anyone (including writers) that writers are crazy — but the writer stalking New York literary agent Jo Donovan seems especially bent on harm….Rogan does give readers a lot of insider publishing tidbits and provides a very likeable and believable protagonist in Jo.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2013/07/karin_slaughter_mike_lawson_an.html

“Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing word, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin (1995).”—Booklist

“Someone in the New York publishing world is targeting literary agent Jo Donovan, the appealing, empathetic narrator of this clever mystery from Rogan (Suspicion), herself a former book editor and agent. “ —Publishers Weekly http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-670-02650-0

“If you love a tautly-spun web of deceit and revenge, put A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan at the top of your summer reading list….Rogan’s book takes you by surprise as she deftly reveals the publishing world, sprinkles around red herrings, and makes you question the secrets you may have forgotten from your own past.”– Dolce Dolce http://www.dolcedolce.com/?tag=a-dangerous-fiction-by-barbara-rogan-review

“Barbara Rogan (Hindsight; Suspicion) provides a fascinating glimpse into the New York publishing world…Fast-paced and witty, full of deftly drawn characters, Rogan’s literary mystery introduces a tough but compassionate heroine and an entertaining new series.” —Shelf Awareness:  http://www.shelf-awareness.com/readers-issue.html?issue=218

2013-07-29_19-44-03_747“I read a lot of great books, but this one is outstanding! I resented every moment I had to be away from it—and I read it from cover to cover today….A Dangerous Fiction will get my vote for best mystery novel next year.”—Meritorious Mysteries, http://mysteryheel.blogspot.com/

“We love this new series from Barbara Rogan—how can you go wrong with a literary agent turned PI? Jo Donovan is one of the most successful literary agents in New York City, and she’s being stalked by one of her clients. When her stalker starts to harass her other clients, Jo finally turns to the police—where an ex-lover is now an NYPD detective. This is one you won’t want to put down.”—Shelf Pleasure http://www.shelfpleasure.com/news-new-releases-7-23-11/

“This story had me turning pages at a fast and furious pace. I finished last night and could hardly wait to start spreading the good word for A Dangerous Fiction… If you’re searching for a smart and snappy summer read, this is the one to watch for, folks.” — http://livingreadgirl.blogspot.com/2013/07/barbara-rogan-opens-page-to-dangerous.html

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“I loved getting behind the scenes of the publishing world, from the agency’s monthly ‘slush-pile’ meeting where submitted manuscripts are waded through (and mostly discarded), to glittering book launch parties.” —Crime Fiction Lover http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2013/07/a-dangerous-fiction/

“It’s cliched to say ‘I couldn’t put it down!’, but that’s how I felt about A Dangerous Fiction. Rogan brings an insider’s keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman’s need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she’s the target of malevolent foes she can’t identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship–A Dangerous Fiction has it all.”  —Darlene Marshall http://darlenemarshall.blogspot.com/2013/07/review-dangerous-fiction.html

“A Dangerous Fiction is a witty and intense mystery full of twists and turns and a few omg moments. …One minute I was laughing and the next I was crying….I recommend this book to everyone, but especially those of you who are avid readers, writers, or interested in the publishing industry.”—It’s a Book Life http://itisabooklife.blogspot.com/2013/08/review-dangerous-fiction-by-barbara.html

“Sometimes, but not often, you open a book, read the first few pages, and know without a doubt that you will thoroughly enjoy a book. A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan was just that sort of book.” —The Picky Girl http://www.thepickygirl.com/?p=3134

“There is behind-the-scenes quality to the book that is fun and informative.  The thriller aspect of the novel had me jumping at noises in my house…This is a good, solid mystery with great characters and I hope there is a sequel in the works.”  —Shari’s Book Notes http://sharisbooknotes.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-dangerous-fiction-by-barbara-rogan.html

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“Smashing new thriller…Every aspect of A Dangerous Fiction works together and works so wonderfully well. Rogan’s experience as a literary agent provides a fascinating look at how the business works….marvelously realized….Just make certain you have time set aside when you start A Dangerous Fiction because this fast-paced novel is the kind you don’t want to put down until the last page is read.”— Lynne’s Book Notes http://lynne-booknotes.blogspot.com/

“Readers who take this one to the beach should find themselves engaged, entertained, and enlightened.”—Reviewing the Evidence, http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/review.html?id=9753

“I have never read a novel from cover to cover at one sitting in my life…until last night.”—Donna Rubino blogspot  http://www.donnarubino.com/recent-reads-2/#comment-42

 

If you’ve read A DANGEROUS FICTION and you’re waiting for the next Jo Donovan story, be assured there’s one on the way. In the meantime, you might enjoy one of my other books. Five of them have been reissued as ebooks and paperbacks, including SUSPICION, a mystery and a ghost story combined, and CAFE NEVO, my family’s favorite and a book that earned praise from Alan Sillitoe, Alice Hoffman and Madeleine L’Engle.

A DANGEROUS FICTION is out today!

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2It’s been a long time a’coming, friends, but A DANGEROUS FICTION is out at last!

In the past few days, there have been a bunch of wonderful reviews from bloggers and online book-review sites. I won’t cite them all right now, because I have to run, but there was one that particularly touched me and got to the heart of the book as I saw it and hoped it would be seen. That’s a review by blogger Lynne Perednia, and you can read it here if you like.

I promised you a surprise, and here it is: the prologue and first chapter of A DANGEROUS FICTION, available on line. If you like what you read, there’s a “buy” link on the site. You can also purchase the book from Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, or your favorite local bookstore.

Would love to post photos of readers with the book, so if you do get a copy, please send me a picture of you holding it, or your dog reading it, or whatever pose you like (Anthony Weiner-style poses excepted), and I’ll share it on the blog. You can reach me at barbararogan at msn dot com.

Happy  reading!

T Minus Two and Counting!

Most of my posts on In Cold Ink focus on writing and publishing, with lots of advice and not a few opinions drawn from my own checkered history as a former agent and editor. Today, though, I’m wearing my writer’s hat. In two days, A DANGEROUS FICTION (my first new novel in nine years!)  is coming out with Viking Books. I need to share some news about that. If you’re allergic to anything resembling self-promotion, turn away now; I won’t hold it against you. But if you’re interested in learning about this huge event in my life, then read on, McDuff!

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2Viking has done a beautiful job packaging the book. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect cover or one that better captures the spirit of the story. The pre-publication reviews have been wonderful. From Library Journal: “This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone…and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.” From Booklist: “Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing world, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin.” Publishers Weekly loved “literary agent Jo Donovan, the appealing, empathetic narrator of this clever mystery from Rogan (Suspicion), herself a former book editor and agent.” PW also interviewed me.

I’ll be doing a few readings and signings in the New York vicinity. I love meeting readers. It’s one of the best part of the whole book-writing enterprise, especially for slow writers like me who spend years at a time locked in our caves.  I hope you’ll come out and say hi if you’re going to be in the area.

Monday, July 29, 7PM:

Barnes & Noble

Old Country Rd., Carle Place, NY

 

Wednesday, Aug. 7 , 6-8 PM

The Mysterious Bookshop,  58 Warren St. New York NY

 

Saturday, Aug. 17 (Aug.. 18 raindate) 3-5 PN

Berken residence, 60 Bayview Dr. East, Sag Harbor, NY

For those of you outside the New York area, I have a special offer. If your bookclub chooses A DANGEROUS FICTION or any of my other novels, for that matter, I’ll drop in on your meeting via Skype or phone. Of course, visiting that way means I’ll miss the refreshments, but one can’t have everything. Contact me to make arrangements,

Right about now I imagine you’re saying to yourself, “I’d love to help Barbara launch her book successfully, but her fancy New York publisher seems to have things well in hand; and besides, what could I possibly do to help?” (If you’re not asking yourself that question, why is that, exactly?) But in fact, there’s a great deal you can do to help, not just me, but your favorite authors whoever they may be. Here are a few things readers can do:

1. Buy their books. Doesn’t matter what format. Writers live and die by their sales.

2. Write a review and post it on Amazon and your favorite social media sites. Tell your friends, too. Word of mouth sells books. It always did, but the internet is a huge multiplier of that process. I know writing reviews takes time, that precious commodity, but it’s one of the most helpful things you can do for a writer. Reviews needn’t be long, literary masterpieces. Just think of what you’d say to a friend who asked about the book, and write that.

Writers read those reviews, btw, and they can be wonderfully encouraging. I found this new review posted for “Rowing in Eden” from a reader named “Kheseygirl,” which I quote here in its entirety: “I love, love, love Barbara Rogan’s writing. I hope her new book, due this summer, tips that balance for her in getting the kind of widespread readership her writing so deserves.” Thanks, Kheseygirl, whoever you are. You totally made my day!

3. Books make great gifts. Not only are you doing something nice for the recipient, you’re supporting your favorite writer.

4. Look for other books by the author. I’ve got five other books that were re-issued this year as paperbacks and ebooks, and if you liked A DANGEROUS FICTION, I’m pretty sure you’ll like them too.

suspicionRowing in Eden coverSaving-Grace510x680p

I have a major surprise that I’ll be sharing in just a couple of days, so if you haven’t already, you might want to subscribe to the blog via a link on the right. Thanks for reading!

A DANGEROUS FICTION giveaway

I’m excited to announce that Viking is giving away 20 galleys of A DANGEROUS FICTION, the first book in a series of mysteries featuring literary agent Jo Donovan.  Only three weeks to pub date, but you could be among the first to read! Sign up here on Goodreads for your chance to win a free copy.

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Today Penguin and Random House completed their merger, so I guess I’m now a Random House author. The combined company with all their imprints will account for about 25% of all books published in the U.S. Pretty exciting!  It’s just a shame, as my friend Darlene Marshall pointed out, that they didn’t name the new company Random Penguin.

Good luck on the draw! Let me know if you win a copy.

Happy Birthday, In Cold Ink!

It’s been just over a year since I started In Cold Ink. Like most anniversaries, this seems like a good time to reflect on the experience.  As you can see in my first post, I started out with some trepidation. I juggle a lot of jobs, and when I write I’m prone to obsession.  I worried that a blog, in my hands, would become just one more thing to neglect. And you can’t neglect a blog.  It’s like babysitting the neighbor’s kid, except that you can’t plop the blog down in front of the t.v. and expect it to amuse itself.

But I had things to say, as a writer but also as a longtime publishing professional. Before I gave it all up to write my own books,  I was an editor in a large New York publisher and a literary agent. My career path has given me a multifaceted perspective on the industry, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned and demystify an industry that from the outside can seem remote, strange in its ways and potentially hostile.  I also wanted to learn from others. Publishing is an industry in turmoil, on the cusp of profound change, and I wanted to explore that evolving world.

The results have exceeded my expectations. A surprising number of readers found their way to the blog: nearly 24,000 visitors last time I checked. Many left comments, and I’ve met some smart, interesting people through the blog. I’ve had the opportunity to interview some publishing pros, who’ve shared valuable insights and perspectives, including literary agent Gail Hochman,  Viking editor Tara Singh, and Editor-in-Chief of S&S, Marysue Rucci. Among the writers who’ve graced my doors are Diana Gabaldon, Tiffany Allee, Lorraine Bartlett and Mika Ashley-Hollinger.

dianagabaldonIt was interesting to see what posts attracted the most reads. The most popular by far is my two-part interview with bestselling author Diana Gabaldon, of Outlander fame…and I do mean fame. Her fans would follow her anywhere, and they followed her to my blog.  Second in popularity is my interview with literary agent Gail Hochman, also a two-parter, and very meaty in terms of how agents work, what they look for in new writers and what they avoid. Third is a post called “Ten Things Writers Should Expect from Literary Agents,” which I wrote because, while lots of writers are busy hunting for agents, few know what to expect once they nab one.

Looking over the list of posts also reminded me of some of my favorites, which I’ll mention just in case you missed them. “What if J.K. Rowling Had Self-Published?” is one. It’s my fullest answer to a question I hear frequently: “If I have a choice, am I better off seeking an agent who will then seek a publisher or self-publishing?”

Medicalert: The Scourge of Premature Submission” is a comical piece with a serious message. “Digging up Blurbs” shares some of the Dickensamazing blurbs my latest book received posthumously, from writers like Jane Austen, Hemingway, and Dickens. (I thought it was funny, anyway, even if one reader took it way too seriously and accused me of literary grave-robbing. )  “Too Much Body Language, She Said, Frowning” focues on the essential matter of craft in writing. Finally, this one has nothing to do with writing but is so worth reading: “A Former Slave Writes to His Master.

The last year has been a momentous one for me, with a new book on the way and five (five!!!) earlier books reissued. Happy events; but like other Happy Events, very time-consuming. If it weren’t for the support and engagement of this blog’s readers, I would never have been able to keep it going, but now the blog is a part of my life.  I look forward to an exciting year ahead, with lots more interviews with publishing insiders, writing advice, and reflections on our changing industry. I also look forward to sharing with you all the events surrounding the publication of my new novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION, coming out in less than a month with Viking Books… including all the fun stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

Thanks for reading.

Diana Gabaldon Interview Part 2

I promised you the second half of my interview with Diana Gabaldon, the internationally bestselling author of the Outlander series, and you shall have it in just a moment. First, though, I have some exciting news of my own to share, and a confession to make.

The confession is this: I used to envy Diana. Not her work—I love her books, but they are hers and I have my own. No, what I envied was the fact that they were all in print, all the time. Readers who aren’t also writers may not realize how rare that is. Publishing is a bottom-line business, and shelf space is valuable; books that don’t sell very well are quickly replaced by new books. Just a few years ago, there were only a handful of living writers whose entire body of work could be found on the shelves of bookstores, even virtual ones. For the rest, the most one could hope for was to have a new book in hardcover while the one before it was still available in paperback. Once the stores started returning copies, the books were essentially dead, except for copies circulating in libraries and used-book stores. They’d be remaindered and declared officially out of print. Writers could then get their rights back, but there was nothing much they could do with them.

The explosion of ebooks has changed all that. Now it costs nothing for publishers to keep every book they’ve ever published in print perpetually, so long as they own the rights. And writers who have regained the rights to their old work can reissue it with an ebook publisher or on their own: the literary equivalent to the elixir of life.  One year ago, Simon & Schuster published ebook editions of my last three books, SUSPICION, HINDSIGHT, and ROWING IN EDEN, and since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them out in the world, making friends and finding readers.

And now for the news I promised. Two of my earliest books, CAFÉ NEVO and SAVING GRACE, have just come out in e-book editions with E-Reads. Print editions will be available within a week. I’m quite proud of those books, and when they first came out other people seemed to like them too. Saving-Grace510x680p

cafe-nevo-510x680pKirkus called CAFÉ NEVO “An inspired, passionate work of fiction…a near-magical novel,” and Madeleine L’Engle praised it as “a wonderful novel…with richly developed characters acting and interacting…the café and its clients will long remain in memory.”

Library Journal wrote of SAVING GRACE: “Readers are quickly enmeshed and will be staying up all hours to see what happens next…what BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES tried to be.”

I know you’re all waiting for MOBY, as I am. In the interim, may I commend SAVING GRACE and CAFÉ NEVO to your attention?

And now, back to my interview with the delightful Diana Gabaldon, whom I no longer envy but admire as much as ever. If you haven’t already read Part 1, you can find it here. In Part 2, the second half of the interview,  Diana talks about her life as an international literary star, her relationship with her fans, the book industry’s attitude toward women writers, and lots, lots more. Enjoy!

Q: I read some time ago about certain fanatical GAME OF THRONES readers who were furious that George Martin doesn’t churn the books out faster, ignoring any possible link between quality, time and effort.  They seemed to feel he was holding the books hostage and could release them in the blink of an eye if he chose.  The Outlander series inspires equal devotion among its readers. Have you ever had to deal with overzealous or irrational fans?

A: Deal with them?   Well, they’re there, certainly.  Most people have no idea how writers work, and many of them seem to feel that a writer is a sort of artistic Pez dispenser:  all the stories are stacked up inside, one on top of the other, and all you have to do is bonk the writer on the head hard enough to make them spit one out.

(In re which, James Patterson and his marketing machine have done a lot to promote this injurious notion.   For the record, folks—when the cover says, “by JAMES PATTERSON and someotherperson”,  it was someotherperson who wrote the book.  Don’t believe me?  Google “James Patterson ghost writer.”)

That is, of course, not how it works. <cough>  I explain, periodically, how it does work, and most of my readers are intelligent, well-meaning people who are happy to direct new readers to the places where I’ve explained my working methods.

dianagabaldonBut as for dealing with people who clamor for the next book, all I can be is honest.  I.e., it’s my name on the front of the book, and with luck, said book will be out there for a long time.  Ergo, it’s going to be as good as I can make it before I send it to the publisher.

 

Barbara: Would you like to have lived in the world you created?

Diana: To a point. <g>  That point stopping well short of life-threatening disease, warfare, injury, extremes of temperature or gross poverty.

Barbara: Lord John Gray is one of my favorite characters of your invention. What made you choose a gay man in particular as a series character?

Diana: Well, that was an accident. Some years ago, I was invited to write a short story for a British anthology: historical crime stories.  “Well,” I said to the editor, “it would be an interesting technical challenge, to see whether I can write anything under 300,000 words.  Sure, why not?”

The obvious first question was—what or whom to write about?  I didn’t want to use the main characters from the OUTLANDER series for this story, because—owing to the peculiar way I write—if I were to incorporate some significant event in this story (and it would need to be, to be a good story)—that would make the event a stumbling block in the growth of the next novel.

“But,” I said to myself, “there’s Lord John, isn’t there?”  Lord John Grey is an important character in the OUTLANDER series, but he isn’t onstage all the time.  And when he isn’t…well, plainly he’s off leading his life and having adventures elsewhere, and I could write about any of those adventures without causing complications for future novels.   Beyond that obvious advantage, Lord John is a fascinating character.  He’s what I call a “mushroom”—one of those unplanned people who pops up out of nowhere and walks off with any scene he’s in—and he talks to me easily (and wittily).

He’s also a gay man, in a time when to be homosexual was a capital offense, and Lord John has more than most to lose by discovery.  He belongs to a noble family, he’s an officer in His Majesty’s Army, and loves both his family and his regiment; to have his private life discovered would damage—if not destroy—both.   Consequently, he lives constantly with conflict, which makes him both deeply entertaining and easy to write about.  So I wrote the short story—titled, “Lord John and the Hell-Fire Club”—for the British anthology.

Well, it was a good story; people liked it.  But just as word was spreading into the US about it, the anthology went out of print (it was called PAST POISONS, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, for those bibliophiles who are curious).  People kept asking me about the story, though, and I thought, “Well, I enjoyed writing it—maybe I should write two or three more short pieces about Lord John, just as time an inspiration allow…and when I have a handful, we could publish them as a book, and all the Lord John fans could get the stories easily.”

So I did that.  I began writing the second Lord John story after returning from a book-tour, as a way of easing back into my writing routine, and continued working on it, picking away with one hand whilst picking up the threads of my novel with the other…and six months later, I’d just about finished it.  Well, at this point, I left for another book-tour, in the UK, and stopped in New York on the way, to have lunch with my two literary agents.

I was telling them all about what I’d been doing, and casually mentioned that I’d nearly finished the second Lord John short story.  “Oh?” said they.  “How long’s this one?”

“Well, I knew you’d ask,” I said.  “So I checked last night.  It’s about 85,000 words; I need maybe another 5000 to wrap it up.”

The agents looked at each other, then looked at me, and with one voice said, “That’s the size normal books are!”

“I thought it was a short story,” I said.

“Well, it’s not,” they said—and proceeded to take it off and sell it all over the place.  Publishers were thrilled.  “It’s a Gabaldon book we weren’t expecting—and it’s short!  Can she do that again?” they asked eagerly.  To which my agents—being Very Good agents—replied, “Of course she can,” and emerged with a contract for three Lord John Grey novels.

scottish-prisoner-3wide-200x300Now, the Lord John books and novellas are in fact an integral part of the larger OUTLANDER series.  However, they’re focused (not unreasonably) on the character of John Grey, and—Lord John not being a time-traveler—tend not to include time-travel as an element.  They’re structured more or less as historical mystery, but do (like anything else I write) include the occasional supernatural bit or other off-the-wall elements.  (Yes, they do have sex, though I don’t consider that really unusual, myself.)  And they do reference events, characters (particularly Jamie Fraser) and situations from the OUTLANDER novels.

In terms of chronology, the Lord John books fall during the period covered in VOYAGER, while Jamie Fraser was a prisoner at Helwater.  So if you’re wondering where to read the Lord John books in conjunction with the larger series—you can read them anytime after VOYAGER.

In terms of further chronology:  As well as the three Lord John novels under contract, I’ve also written several novellas for various anthologies.  Three novellas (two previously published and one written specifically for the volume) are included in a book titled LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS, while two further novellas have appeared or will shortly appear in anthologies.   The original short story (“Hell-Fire Club”) preceded the first novel, and—just to be confusing—the novellas fall between the novels.

The books and novellas do stand alone, and can be read separately in any order.  If you do want to read them in strict order, though, here it is:

“Hell-Fire Club” [short story. Originally published in PAST POISONS, ed. Maxim Jakubowski.  Collected in HAND OF DEVILS]

LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER [novel]

“Lord John and the Succubus” [novella, originally published in LEGENDS II: Short novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Robert Silverberg.  Collected in HAND OF DEVILS]

LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE [novel]

“Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” [novella.  Published only in HAND OF DEVILS]

LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS [book-length collections of three novellas: “Hell-Fire Club,” “Succubus,” and “Haunted Soldier”]

“Lord John and the Custom of the Army” [novella, originally published in WARRIORS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.]

LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER [novel.  This one is actually a hybrid, as it’s half John, half Jamie.]Gabaldon-Outlander-220x322b

“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” [novella.  Published in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois,  2011.]

NB:  “The Custom of the Army” and “A Plague of Zombies” are both available (in the US and Canada) as standalone ebooks (as are a couple of other non-Lord John novellas).

Barbara: Was his sexuality or your portrayal of it an issue for any of your publishers, domestic or foreign?

Diana: I think some of the foreign publishers may have boggled slightly at it, but no one’s ever said anything directly to me about it, no.

Barbara: The upside of great literary success is plain to see: millions of books sold, legions of devoted fans, awards, invitations to the White House, the opportunity to inhabit a wider world full of interesting accomplished people. Is there a downside?

Diana: The major drawback is the sheer amount of travel and appearances (both in person and online) associated with being very popular in a lot of different places.  I really like to talk to readers and sign books—but I could do without the enormously time-consuming (and energy-sapping) travel involved in getting to them.

Then there are the constant demands for “content”—updates to websites, phone interviews, interviews for blogs <g>, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  (though I know how to deal with Twitter and Facebook; I spend an average of 10-15 minutes a day on each, and that’s It.  I have no Friends <g>, and I don’t follow anybody).

And there are the readers who think they’re entitled to dictate when and what a favorite writer writes, and yap at me in public about why am I writing all this Other Stuff, when THEY only want Jamie and Claire?  And why am I gallivanting all over the place, when I should be home WORKING?   These people are, of course, sadly mistaken about the importance of their opinions, but can be a little annoying.  Luckily most of my readers are very intelligent and have beautiful manners.

Barbara: What do you know now about writing that would have helped you when you first started out?

Diana: I’m not sure I actually know anything more about writing now than I did when I started—though I like to hope that I improve with experience.  Most of the novel (sic) things I do, in terms of ambitious structure, time-juggling, and playing with literary devices, are things that are the result of experience; I couldn’t have done them when I was first writing, whether I knew about them or not.

Barbara: What do you know now about publishing that you wish you’d known earlier?

Diana: Just who has the power in various situations.  For example, it took me eight years of hassling with Barnes and Noble in an attempt to make them move my novels out of the Romance section—until I finally got fed up and wrote a rude letter to Steve Riggio, then the CEO.  Twenty-four hours later, I got a call from the B&N VP of Marketing, telling me they were moving the books to Fiction, where they’d belonged all along.  Had I know that Mr. Riggio was the only person in that company who could change the diktat on where books went, I’d have started with him.

Barbara: Do you think women writers are taken as seriously as men by the literary/critical establishment?

Diana: Of course not.

Barbara: What’s the most common misconception readers have about you? (Here’s your chance to correct it!)

Diana: Well, they all seem to think I’m much taller than I actually am, and they can’t pronounce my name, but neither of those misapprehensions is actually offensive. <g>  (For the record:  I’m five-foot-two-and-a-half.  And my name has two pronunciations, both accurate:  If you’re speaking Spanish (it is a Spanish name, and it is my own, not my husband’s), it’s pronounced “gaah-vahl-DOHN” (rhymes with stone).  If you’re speaking English, it’s “GAH-bull-dohn” (still rhymes with stone).

That’s it, folks. Thank you, Diana!

Looking for something good to read between Outlander titles? Diana Gabaldon recommends A DANGEROUS FICTION: “A terrific read! A thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.”