Bookseeker Literary Agency

Introducing authors and publishers.


A connection with the creator of Dracula…

cmt picThe agency is now representing Scottish-based writer Constance Tonge. Constance says she has been a writer by calling from an early age, having swapped her swing for a typewriter at the age of five! The daughter of an Isle of Man TT racer, and a descendant of Bram Stoker, she is a graduate of St Andrews University. After a career specialising in dementia, she did postgraduate study at Aberdeen, and is now pursuing her Doctorate at Newcastle University where her thesis will be on Phenomenology.

Constance’s debut novel, Wisp, is set in Scotland. She says of it:

At the heart of this novel is a topical issue in that Wisp is concerned with people suffering from microcephaly – the phenomenon which has recently been connected with the Zika virus in Brazil. It is a novel which will, additionally, appeal to a core audience of readers who appreciate character-led fiction as well as those interested in the workings of modern science. Set in the ancient University of St Andrews, it features the everyday subjects of personhood, consciousness, religion, ethics, genetic engineering, afternoon tea, mushrooms, and magic.

Her second novel, Men who Play with Lightning, is currently being prepared. It is the story of a conscientious objector in World War II who joins Bomb Disposal. The agency is very excited about having this excellent writer with us.

1859507403

 


Pitlochry, as the dread hour approaches…

theatre

Brightly lit though Pitlochry Festival Theatre might be at night, buzz though festival-goers might around such visiting celebrities as Ronnie Browne, Gregor Fisher, and Charlotte Green, there comes a time when a hush falls over the handful of brave ones who stay behind for the storytellers’ lock-in. Collars are turned up at the suggestion of icy fingers at the neck, and there are anxious glances over the shoulder at the hint of a presence walking through the River Room. Attention is then fixed on the storytellers – actors Dougal Lee and Helen Logan – as though to draw comfort from them. But there is no comfort there. They have us under their spell!

article2This is how it is at every ‘Fearie Tales’ event during Winter Words. Eight chilling tales are read to us in four late-evening sessions. The stories themselves are selected from submissions by contemporary writers from Scotland and beyond. On Friday 12th of February I was there myself. I spoke above of a lock-in, and indeed one of the stories told to us was set at a remote inn after drinking hours, where a stranger told the small company of the nightmares that had beset him since he was a child, as we feared for his mortal safety. The scene in the cold morning light, however, was a plot twist that stunned…

To an extent you never know what to expect at ‘Fearie Tales’. I was there in anticipation of hearing client Marie Marshall’s ‘The Ice House’ – was that you, Marie, lurking by the door of the River Room, flitting away when the applause came? Really you are too shy.

article1‘The Ice House’ was read by Helen, who put layers of character into her reading. The story itself was a tribute to M R James, arguably the greatest writer of ghost stories in the English language. James himself makes an appearance in the story, as an avuncular mentor to the narrator – a young, female, law student at the time of the action – and provides, though he doesn’t realise, the denouement in the form of a letter. The story takes us, via a discussion about humankind’s deepest terrors, a sense of dread in a lonely place, and the delirium of a fever, to the revelation of a brutal crime. The construction of the story is very Jamesian – a typical Marie Marshall emulation – and the sense of period and place is perfect. I do hope there will be some way in which this story can be read more widely, whether Marie places it on her web site, where she does showcase a handful of her stories, or in a collection.

I shall be back in the River Room at Pitlochry on Saturday 20th, when another client’s story is due to be performed. This time it will be by Lucy P Naylor, the Queen of Quirk, and the action will range from a Dundee ‘pletty’ to the city’s ancient Howff graveyard.

The canny short-story-writer knows to pen and submit something written with Dougal’s or Helen’s voice in their ear, to structure their story to suit reading aloud, and to consider each actor’s strength in characterisation. Nothing facile gets through the selection process at Winter Words, and you know that by the time each ‘Fearie Tales’ session comes, that you will hear what is probably la crème de la crème of the Macabre. The festival as a whole is worth a winter break here in the Scottish Highlands.


Client’s book reviewed

fmcuhHard on the heels of news of our client Marie Marshall’s success at Winter Words comes a review from an enthusiastic reader of her YA vampire novel From My Cold, Undead Hand. Here’s an extract:

“… Marshall does a fantastic job with creating an alternate world for us, where the action happens at a breakneck pace. From using technology that isn’t developed yet, to using weapons not designed yet, to using language and phrases not spoken yet, she creates a universe that is strangely familiar to us, yet it’s a place where you have to watch your back or you’ll be dead. Vampires aren’t glamorous, it isn’t romantic to meet a vampire in the alley behind the school, and they most certainly don’t sparkle. Marshall also does a remarkable job of tying in the classic vampire novel, Dracula, but makes you believe that it’s all real. This is a book that will leave you breathless for more!

You can read more about it here.


An evening of chills in Pitlochry

Ice House

Well, more a series of evenings, as the ‘Fearie Tales’ stories get under way at the Winter Words festival in Pitlochry, on Friday 12th February. The Friday and Saturday evenings of each Festival weekend are rounded off by a brace of macabre or ghostly tales, the winners of an annual competition run by the festival organisers.

One of the most consistent story-writers in the competition is our client Marie Marshall, whose weird stories have been amongst the winners almost without a break since 2008. Her stories, each with a Scottish setting, have included:

Chagrin – in which an elderly man is haunted by the memories of an old love every time he sees anyone with red hair.
Vae Victis – the testimony of a Roman Legionary on the Empire’s northernmost frontier, of a nameless terror that comes in the midwinter night.
Place of Safety – the tale of a young man who loses his love to a magician.
On The Platform – waiting, waiting for morning, but who is the ghost and who the ghost-hunter?
Da Trow i’ da Waa – a writer, having taken a remote cottage in Shetland, finds truth in Carnacki’s saying, “There can be no safety when the monster breathes through wood and stone.”
Voices – the audio diary of an Australian academic on a Highland mountain-top, listening for Random Voice Phenomena.

This year’s winning entry from Marie is The Ice-house, in which a young woman awakens an old evil in the dunes of Tentsmuir. If you want to hear it read aloud by Scottish actor Helen Logan, make your way to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre and grab a seat in the River Room for 9.30pm.

Marie hopes to have a collection of her short stories published this year, so watch this space!

 

 


Meet Tich Ennis

tich1

David ‘Tich’ Ennis – not a client as such, but a bod we happen to like here – is an Irish poet, man of humour, and general all-round ‘good egg’. He’s tich3a one-time resident of the lovely Vale of Avoca. His poetry is simple, and has been simmered over a low flame of of dry wit. It rhymes a bit too. He reads it out in public, sometimes accompanied by a man with a gong.

So far so good. Anyhow, Tich has joined us in the 21st century, and now has a YouTube channel all of his own. He vows to make it grow, and we’ve promised to give his vow a little boost here.

So, why not go for a little visit? Pull up a chair. Make a habit of dropping in to see him…

I met a metaphor today
it said I haven’t much to say,
you see, I mean to things at once
and may be taken for a dunce.

tich2


‘You Are Your Own First Editor’

American author Sherry D Franklin has kindly allowed us to share the following article she wrote, addressed to her fellow-writers. She doesn’t mince her words.

__________

Sherry D FicklinI’ve noticed a disturbing trend, particularly facing my author friends working with smaller publishers and I think it’s a conversation worth having.

Just because you have a multi-book contract with a publisher or agent does not give you permission to turn in unedited first drafts.

Really, this should be obvious. Just like you shouldn’t shop/submit a manuscript that hasn’t been thoroughly edited, scrubbed, and polished, landing you a contract does not give you permission to hand over whatever brain vomit you first smear across a page. Just because you are now working with a publisher paid editor does not mean you can skip the basic steps of self editing, beta editing, and polishing.

No matter what your status is as a writer, whether you are just out of the gate or are on your hundredth novel, your first draft will always be garbage. That’s the point of first drafts. You barf out the idea and then, in editing, you clean, smooth, polish, and refine it. THEN you submit it. Every. Single. Time.

I’ve gotten to the point where most of the time, my first drafts are decent. But never would I dream of handing it to my agent, editor, or publisher without first editing it myself. And nearly every time, I also have my (wonderful, amazing) beta readers do an editing pass with me as well.

On average, before I turn in a draft I will run it through a minimum of five self-edit phases. If that sounds like a lot to you, then you are either a rookie, a NYT prodigy, or just plain wrong. I see my weaknesses as a writer, and I know, specifically, what I need to tighten after an initial draft. I sweep through once to add detail (my first drafts are very bare bones with setting and description), then I do a pass looking for pacing problems. Then I do a pass where I run thorough a set of editing worksheets that deal with emotions and dialogue. THEN I send it to my beta readers for a pass. Then I gather all those notes and suggestions, make a final edit pass and ONLY THEN do I hand it in. And even with all that, I still realize that I’m due three rounds of edits with my editor and her team. Because that’s how you know you are putting out the best possible project. The more sets of eyes on a draft, the better the final product will be. And you will end up with a much cleaner finished product if they can focus on catching every stray comma or double space rather than wasting all their time helping you work through basic story problems.

Now, I’m a firm believer that there is such a thing as over editing, of having too many cooks in the kitchen. This is why you have to find beta readers who are familiar with the genre you write in and can be brutally honest when giving feedback. Why you should look for an editor who shares your vision for your work and doesn’t want your contemporary romance to read more like a space opera. And the best way to have a firm grasp on your book, to be able to both keep true to your voice and your artistic control while still being able to receive feedback and criticism, is to know your book inside and out. To have combed through every inch of it, making it as perfect as you possibly can.

And I’ll tell you a secret. No matter how good your first book is, if you start turning in your crappy, unedited first drafts, your publisher/agent may very well decide they are tired of doing your work for you and drop you like a hot potato. I’ve seen it happen.

So that’s my tough love. Don’t be lazy. Don’t cut corners. Put in the work. Let your editors rave about how much they enjoy working with you because you turn in such clean drafts. Then roll up your sleeves and do it all over again. Congratulations. You’re an author.

Sherry D Ficklin, author

__________

Of course this agency would go further and recommend a professional editor, if you really want to submit a manuscript with confidence; but for those of you who work on a shoestring, the kernel of Sherry’s advice is valid and sound. Her web site and forthright blog is here.


‘Split Decision’ for all to see!

carmen smallOur client Carmen Capuano got in touch in great excitement yesterday, with some important news. She’ll be counting the cars racing by on the Aston Expressway this autumn, when the large digital billboard located there is displaying an advertisement for her latest book.

“I really can’t believe that my novel will be up there for everyone to see – it’s almost beyond my wildest dreams!” said Carmen, whose reputation as an author is gaining momentum as her popularity grows. “Thousands of cars pass that spot every day – and now they will see the cover of Split Decision!”

To add further to Carmen’s excitement, WHSmith will be stocking the newly released book on its shelves, facilitating its shoppers’ searches for a good read. Said a WHS spokesman, of the decision to put Split Decision on display in a prime spot in the window, “We are aware of exactly what our customers are looking for in a book. They want something they can fully immerse themselves in; good writing with a great plot. So if they haven’t already discovered Carmen Capuano for themselves, we are happy to bring her to their attention.”

So things may not quite be ‘written in the stars’ yet for our client, but they are certainly getting higher in the sky.

split decision


Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

If there is any author whom other authors cite as an influence, or look up to generally, then surely it’s Kurt Vonnegut. It doesn’t matter what genre you work in, Vonnegut seems to be the guiding light of the author’s craft. So, how does he see the construction of a story? The answer is with simple humour, that’s how. Click the picture to find out more.

vonnegut


A Thunderclap for ‘Polly Pink Witch’

kitty2

Pink Wish Ice Cream, a lovely children’s book by Andrea Kaczmarek, illustrated by Eva Kuenzel, is due for launch soon, and we are promoting it with another Thunderclap. Please click here and join in – we need 100 people, again, to make this promotional tool effective.

pink-wish-catPink Wish Ice Cream deals with a sweet, rounded, good-natured Polly Pink Witch teaching some brats to be nice.  It is a classic kiddies book with classic morals, the type your mum, grand-mother and aunt would have instilled in you.  It’s really simple:  Say “please” and “thank you”, and your wish will be granted; be rude and obnoxious and you forfeit your wish.  This even applies if you’re a mommy trying to bend the rules a little for the sake of your kid…  I’m curious which lessons the other witches will be instilling in potential sequels.