Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Barbara Rogan's A Dangerous Fiction: An Excerpt of this Must Read

Many moons ago, a friend convinced me to take an online writing class with this woman who she had heard was amazing.     My friend had wanted to write a book and was nervous about doing an online class where she didn't know anyone. I had written through my teen years and then bought the lie that if you were good in math you couldn't be good in language arts. Somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my being, I must have known differently, so I said "Aw what the hell, I'll do it with you." I told Barbara in my application that I had delusions of authorship. She found me mildly entertaining and ad,mitted me to a select group of ten. So commenced my first experience with Barbara Rogan and the beginning of my journey as a writer and editor.

I can never explain what Barbara's teachings, mentoring and friendship have meant to me. This small post does not even scratch the surface of my debt of gratitude. She is an amazing writer, a wonderful teacher and generous of her time and experience.

I am thrilled today to share an excerpt from NY Times bestseller author, Barbara Rogan's latest work, A Dangerous Fiction. This week it released in paperback, just in time for your summer reading list. So get a copy for the beach, the pool, the mountains...wherever you retreat to this time of year for relaxation and the pleasures of a good book.

Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. Originally from the backwoods of Appalachia, she forged a hard path to elegant lunches and parties among New York City’s literati. At thirty-five, she’s the widow of the renowned novelist (and notorious playboy) Hugo Donovan, the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town, and is one of the most sought-after agents in the business. But all this is about to fall apart, as a would-be client turns stalker, a hack shops around a proposal for an unauthorized tell-all biography of Hugo, and a handsome old flame shows up without warning.

The Excerpt



  Start at the beginning, Jo, he said, opening his pad just like a TV detective. What happened first?

As if I knew when it began. Endings are unambiguousa slammed door, a final chord, the vacant, glassy stare of the dead—but beginnings are always a matter of perspective. Sometimes you cant tell where a story begins until you reach the end. Thats fine if youre writing fiction, but in real life, its too late.

I explained this. He said, Youre making it too complicated.Just the facts, maam? I said.

He smiled as one does at an oft-heard joke. I looked at him properly for the first time. The boyishness was gone, but the lines around his eyes and mouth suited him, lending gravitas to his face. His eyes were green, but a darker, warier shade than I remembered, rain forest instead of meadow. I wondered if hed ever married. His ring finger was bare, which meant nothing. Hugo and I exchanged rings when we married, but Hugo never wore his. It chafed him when he wrote, hed said.

A series of incidents occurred, I said. But I dont know how theyre connected, if they even are.

Just tell me what happened, he said. Let me make the connections.”

How strange, I thought, that Tommy should be giving me the very advice I give my writers. Just show what happens, I tell them, dont explain it. He waited patiently, his pen motionless against the pad. I saw that he was a man who understood the uses of silence.

“It began,” I said unforgivably, on a dark and stormy night.

Chapter 1


In the well-ordered world of fiction, murder and mayhem nevearrive unheralded. For as long as men have told tales, disaster has been foreshadowed by omens and signs. But if there were portents the day my troubles began, I never saw them. True, the city sky was overcast; but if every passing rain cloud is to be taken as a sign of impending calamity, we might as well all close up shop, don sackcloth, and take to Times Square with hand-lettered signs.

If anything, the day had been remarkably ordinary. It was the first Wednesday of July, and wed all stayed late for our monthly slush-pile session, gathering in my office around a battered old conference table piled high with manuscripts and query packets. I presided at the head of the table in what I still thought of as Mollys place. To my right sat Harriet Peagoody, currently the only other literary agent in the firm. Harriet was a pale, bony, gray-haired woman with long, restless hands, an Oxbridge accent so well preserved it smelled faintly of formaldehyde, and an air of martyrdom for which I was to blamefor until my prodigal return, she had been the presumptive heir to our little queendom. Her assistant, Chloe Strauss, sat on her other side. Chloe was an Eastern cultivar of the West Coast Valley Girl, dressed in a short, swingy skirt and one of those baby-doll shirts all the girls wear these days. Opposite her sat Jean-Paul Devereaux, our intern and resident hipster. Beneath his sports jacket, his T-shirt read: eternity: when will it end? Twenty-two years old and fresh out of college, Jean-Paul was a tall young man possessed of such extravagant good looks that our bestselling client, Rowena Blair, had asked him to pose for the cover of her latest blockbuster, an offer he had declined. He had dark eyes, olive skin, and luxuriant black curls. Chloe, two years older, was pale, blond, and petite, and I thought theyd make a pretty couple, but Jean-Paul never paid the poor girl any attention.

Lorna Mulligan backed into the office clutching a loaded tray in plump, efficient hands. Today she wore a boxy white blouse and a plaid skirt, a parochial-school outfit that added fifteen pounds to her not-insubstantial frame. Although Lorna was my secretaryshe scorned the title assistantit wasnt actually her job to make coffee. Office policy was that whoever finishes one pot makes the next; it lent an egalitarian gloss to the agency, though of course the distribution of profits was anything but. Still, Lorna had herself taken on the task of fueling our monthly conferences. She distributed the mugs and handed around a box of doughnuts. I took my favorite, lemon-filled: a little tartness to balance the sweet. Harriet, as always, chose the old-fashioned doughnut with no cream or glaze, then looked enviously at mine. Chloe passed, and Jean-Paul took two. Lorna never ate any her- self, though she must have had a sweet tooth; she took her coffee with four sugars. Now she seated herself at the foot of the table and opened her notebook.

We began, as usual, with the hopeless cases. Other literary agencies dont bother keeping notes on rejects, because office time is better spent serving actual clients than discussing those wed rejected. But Molly had always kept records, saying that sooner or later every agent overlooks a great book, and when it happened in her shop, she wanted to know whom to torture. After she retired, I kept up the tradition. Eventually Id put my own stamp on the agency, and these meetings would be the first thing to go; but for now I preferred to follow closely in my mentors size-9 foot- steps.

Jean-Paul and Chloe took turns reading out titles, explaining in a sentence or two, sometimes from thwork in question, why they recommended rejecting it. They were our first readers of all unsolicited submissions, and most often they were the last.

Chloe opened with a book called The Autobiography of a Nobody. The title says it all.

Then Jean-Paul. The Secret Life of Gerbils. You dont want to know.”

Oh, but I do,Chloe said. Is it kinky?If youre into rodents.

Speaking of gross, my nomination for submission of the month: To Pee or Not to Pee, by Dr. Wannamaker.

Even Lorna the Dour laughed. You made that up,Harriet said.

I swear on my mothers urethra, Chloe said.

From A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Barbara Rogan, 2014.

Both a seasoned author and a former literary agent herself, Barbara Rogan knows the publishing world from
all angles. Fans of Lisa Lutz and Jaqueline Winspear will adore Jo Donovan and Rogan’s wickedly sharp tale that skewers the dangerous fictions we read—and the dangerous fictions we tell ourselves.

Want to read more of A Dangerous know you do. You can get your copy by clicking the book's Amazon link