Joe Collins Datemaker
For a special time, call Joe.
But, be forewarned: He won't whisper naughty words in your ear for $3 a minute. And he can't find you some curvaceous "escort" with the IQ of a Hershey's Kiss.
As the owner of Special Times, Joe Collins can, however, arrange imaginative dates for you and your significant other.
For $200 and up, he'll cart a hot tub to your backyard, pitch an 8-foot anniversary card on your lawn or even arrange a romantic kidnapping for two.
"We make every day Valentine's Day," says Mr. Collins, 27, who lives in Elkridge. He's already fielded seven requests for Feb. 14 from amorous couples who want to do everything from ski to take intimate helicopter rides.
But those pale compared to the woman who celebrated her boyfriend's birthday by asking Mr. Collins to charter a sailboat for the couple, book them a room at an Annapolis bed and breakfast and fill it with scented candles, chilled champagne and fresh strawberries with whipped cream.
Mr. Collins, who happens to be single, formed the consulting company (1-800-762-9697) a year ago after growing frustrated at the difficulty of planning his own romantic evening in Washington.
"It's not magic," he says of his ability to play Cupid. "It's just the little things that make the night go well." In the morning, you're likely to find Linda Hayes on the phone haggling over her latest contract. During lunch, she'll usually peruse a steamy romance manuscript. And, if she's lucky, she'll pass the afternoon helping sample recipes at a cookbook author's home.
Such is the life of a literary agent, says Ms. Hayes, 43, who lives in Ellicott City.
As one of the founders of Columbia Literary Associates, she's come to oversee nearly 50 writers. Since the company began more than 10 years ago, she's represented hundreds of books, but the genre for which she's often best known is romance novels. Over the years, she says, there have been dramatic changes. "In the old traditional Harlequin, there was the macho moody hero and the meek heroine. As women's rights grew . . . suddenly you were seeing the women who were the corporate executives and the men who were sensitive," says Ms. Hayes, who is a wife and mother of a teen-age daughter.
A former newspaper and magazine writer, she entered the business side of the industry after successfully helping friends get their work published. But how does she escape the pressures of the intensely competitive book business?
"I hate to say it," she says with a laugh, "but I read."