the new DMLA webpage

Our new page that I mentioned earlier this week — http://www.maassagency.com/thismonth.html — seems to have provoked some discussion. The Absolute Write thread has some wildly varied reactions. When we were discussing this addition to the website, the intent behind it was to assist writers in getting another peek inside DMLA’s collective mind. Many of these concepts probably come up in reaction to discussion of queries that pass through the office. This is by no means meant to be an exclusive list. It’s meant to be a brainstorming launch. Or a helpful hint at what kinds of projects would stand out. It’s also not a guarantee that if you submit a book that fits the list, you will get representation. After all, it still has to grab us and not let us go with the writing, the characters, the plot, etc. We want to match ourselves up with writers that have stories with strong ideas behind them; ideas we can sell. And we want to see well-written books, of course. 99% of what we see gets rejected (remember Slushkiller? — read the context of rejection section). So, our aim was to try and improve the odds for both sides.

***

The “ghost story that’s truly contemporary” seems to have netted some interest but people are confused about what was meant by that. I asked Donald Maass for clarification and with his kind permission, post it herewith:

So, what do I mean by a “truly contemporary” ghost story? Remember the Amityville Horror? When Jay Anson’s novel hit in 1977, it shocked in part because it introduced a haunting into a contemporary (then) suburban home. What, then, in 2007 would be a contemporary setting in which one would not expect to find a haunting? I would love to read a (well-written, of course) novel about a malevolent spirit in a mall, perhaps with a night security guard protagonist? Can you see the ghost animating toys, mannequins, shopping carts, etc? It’s always a challenge to frighten jaded readers. There are tricks to it, including long and deep build up with bridging conflicts to keep us reading until we’re thoroughly sucked in before the horror starts. (Read Jaws.) Once hooked, the unexpected can help overcome the yawns induced by old houses, fog and other clichéd devices.

What about a high tech office building? A house-techno nightclub? A NASCAR track? What about ghosts that manifest through iPhones, JPEG’s, California closets, etc.? Also, what about living protagonists who aren’t ghost hunters (yawn), suburban moms (yawn) or other obvious choices? What about skateboard dudes, ska musicians, hip-hop grrls…people you wouldn’t have met ten years ago? I wonder if there are any ghost novelists who’ve got the personal knowledge or research dedication to make such things detailed, credible and genuinely frightening?

One thing I’m not anxious to read is yet another conventional haunted house novel. Although there are wonderful classics (e.g. Hell House), the job of making that sub-genre fresh and chilling is going to be next to impossible. It would take Richard Matheson pull it off.

9 responses to “the new DMLA webpage

  1. I always wanted to write “The Haunted Cubicle” but could never get anywhere past the “it’d be a cool idea” phase.

  2. “ghost novelists who’ve got the personal knowledge or research dedication”
    To that end, I would recommend, for one, Loyd Auerbach’s “ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook.”
    Must say though I’m disappointed that Mr.Maass considers a protagonist who deals with ghosts as part of her employment as “yawn” – since my WIP is “A Malignity of Ghosts.”
    Bernita – An Innocent A-Blog.

  3. I’d love to read a book about Catholic saints who get assinged crap jobs, and give up on the saint-business. Like Saint Assisi, who recently got assigned to television. I can just picture her freaking out.
    “Okay, I understand getting assigned to embroiderers – a crap job, but I had a fair stitch in my time. But TELEVISION? Oh, come ON. I’ve had it with this sainting of stuff.”
    Then she’d go on to haunt televisions everywhere. Maybe the “Kill your TV” bumper stickers would spontaneously animate.

  4. I think the list is a great idea. I like how you list the ideas as what you’re looking for in October, which helps points out that your needs and interests change.

  5. I have a short about a haunted computer … >.>

  6. the new DMLA Webpage
    I actually became a livejournal user so I can make this post. As a client of Don’s I have constantly been amazed by how cutting-edge you guys are are. I also love the way you all work together. I don’t usually follow blogs (except yours from time to time) but I but read the one on livejournal that you highlighted and, Wow. As a former teacher, I always knew when I’d done a good job because my classroom became animated and filled with hands-up comments. This is exactly what this new enlivening addition to the DMLA website has done.
    cheers
    Brenda

  7. The new DMLA Page
    I have been wondering why no one has previously done this (or that I Have seen) – it makes an incredible amount of sense to me – and I would prefer to see this type of page – that the agencies who would like General fiction or mysteries – very generalized – who decide that your one-paragraph query doesn’t meet their requirements for that month
    Michael H

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