TICKLE: "Get rid of those ribbons.

Convinced that there is "a real shift in religious sensibility among Americans" and that the "liturgically challenged" would welcome a return to the disciplines of daily prayer, Phyllis Tickle, a PW contributing editor on religion topics, has signed a big six-figure deal with Eric Major of Doubleday to do a series of breviaries to be called The Divine Hours. Tickle said they will be published in three volumes, each covering four months in the year: Summertime, to appear next February; Wintertime, in August 2000; and Springtime, early in 2001. Along with them will be a volume of Tickle's own account of her life with prayer, Prayer Is a Place. Tickle acknowledges it is a huge task but rejoices in the help of her daughter, Rebecca, and son, Sam Jr. The idea behind the series, Tickle said, is to guide people to pray as a daily act and "get rid of all those ribbons in the prayerbook." She was represented in the deal by agent J Durepos of Chicago. Major said that interest in the package was such that he had to make a preemptive offer to secure it.


GINGER: Important story to tell.

The name Geri Halliwell may not immediately ring a bell, but perhaps her better-known public name, Ginger Spice, will sound loud and clear. It did for Lesley Schnur at Dell/Delacorte, who came up with the top bid to acquire the memoirs of the leader and best-known member of the now-disbanded but briefly famous-as-the-Beatles British girl group. Halliwell's book is to be called If Only, and it tells a story, according to Schnur, that is important to young women everywhere: that they shouldn't give up, even if, like Halliwell, they had a difficult childhood, and that even if they make it, "getting there is not the end of it." Schnur was one of several publishers who met Halliwell during a recent flying visit to our shores. She was represented here by Kim Witherspoon in a deal for U.S. rights; publication is scheduled for this fall.

Bestselling thriller novelist Clive Cussler, who only recently signed for a new series at Pocket Books, will publish his next two novels about his hero Dirk Pitt with Penguin Putnam, in a deal personally worked out with president Phyllis Grann. Cussler's agent, Peter Lampack, told PW that although Cussler had been well published at Simon &Schuster since 1983 -- "he's enjoyed tremendous growth there, and they've done very well by him" -- he and his author both felt it was time for a change. Grann, Lampack said, had presented "an extremely aggressive marketing plan" to the author, traveling out personally to discuss it with him at his Arizona home, "and it was that, rather than the very considerable financial offer, that decided us." Lampack said the deal with Penguin Putnam, which is hard/soft for world English-language, was a conventional one, not the kind of shared-profit arrangement Cussler had at S&S, and with Pocket in the newest deal. Cussler should deliver the first book to Penguin Putnam in late summer, Lampack added. Grann was not available at press time, but a spokesperson said the house was "truly delighted to have Clive and Dirk join our family."

Michael Chabon, still best known for his ecstatically received first book, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, seems to have a magnetic attraction to Hollywood deal makers. His Wonder Boys is currently in production for Scott Rudin, starring Michael Douglas and Frances McDormand. Meanwhile, his next novel, Kavalier and Clay, due for delivery shortly to Random, has been optioned, also by Rudin, and set up at Paramount for what will be a seven-figure buy. Chabon's agent, Mary Evans, also reports that one of the stories in his recent Random collection, Werewolves in Their Youth, has been optioned for a strong six figures by Jill Arthur at Ballyhoo for Columbia Tri-Star, in a deal made in cooperation with Sally Wilcox at Creative Artists.

This is the story of a book, left hanging for years, that finally snared three six-figure deals on the basis of a still-unfinished manuscript. It's a novel titled The Burning Times, about witches in 14th-century Europe, by Jeanne Kalogridis. Her agent, Russ Galen at Scovil, Chicak &Galen, had sold it to HarperCollins in 1993 on the basis of an outline and sample chapters. Then writer's block set in and, after years had passed, Harper canceled the contract. Finally, Kalogridis began writing again; when she had 60,000 words -- about one-third of the book -- done, she sent it to Galen for comment. He was meeting at the time with sub-agent Danny Baror, who said that Doris Johnsen of Germany's Econ List was looking for just such a book. He sold it to her for six figures in dollars, then, as word spread, offers poured in from elsewhere. In the end, Baror sold U.K. rights to Jane Johnson at HarperCollins UK, and Galen sold U.S. rights to Airie Dekidjiev, a new editor at Simon &Schuster, in a hard/soft deal with Scribner paperback. The considerably richer, more relaxed author now hopes to finish by October.


MOORE: Two book deal with Dutton.

Jean Naggar has sold a first novel called Land of the Young to Audrey LaFehr and Carolyn Nichols at Dutton, in a two-book deal said to be worth nearly a quarter of a million. The author is British-born Anne Moore, now living in Washington State, and her book, which Naggar describes as "romantic and tragic and beautifully written," is the story of a poor Irish girl who marries into wealth, with dreadful consequences. A sequel will take the heroine to the U.S.... Sarah Burnes at Little, Brown seems to have won the race to commission an account of the recent disastrous Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race in Australia. Her author is the Wall Street Journal's Bruce Knecht, also a yachtsman, who will tell the full story of the race that cost six lives and ended with 55 sailors rescued from stormy seas. Bill Clegg at the Robbins Office agented.... Last week we said that Meaghan Dowling had been Beth Gutcheon's editor at Harper; although they worked together, Diane Reverand was the editor.