• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

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Kicking ass and dating Dark Lords: Kylie Chan guest blogs

Click here to browse inside the pages of White Tiger!Kylie Chan answered a few questions for us – which give fans an insight into how she came up with the Dark Heavens trilogy (White Tiger, Red Phoenix, Blue Dragon). If you haven’t yet read the series, click on the image of White Tiger to the left to browse inside the pages of the book!

Where did you get the idea for writing the Dark Heavens trilogy?

I’d lived for twenty years with my Chinese husband, ten in Australia and then another ten in Hong Kong. The culture had completely soaked into me – I would do and say things terribly Chinese (aiyaa!) without even thinking. We originally went to Hong Kong just for a year, that stretched into a three-year contract, and then eventually he took a permanent, and extremely well-paying, position there.

After ten years of Hong Kong, he was making a lot of noise about never returning to Australia. He enjoyed the lifestyle, this was his home. He went golfing across the border in China every Friday afternoon directly after work, and came home Sunday afternoon. I was thoroughly sick of Hong Kong – the crowds, the noise, the pollution, and mostly the fact that when we went to the Mall on a Sunday there was such a crush of people that it was impossible to actually buy anything – a fun family day out turned into a stampede and a massive headache. I’d had enough.

I came back to Australia by myself, with the two kids. To breathe fresh air, and see the blue sky again! Complete bliss. My husband still supported us, and I found myself with quite a bit of time on my hands, concentrating on running these two over-booked children to and from various sporting and intellectual activities.

Finally, I had easy access to my beloved fantasy novels – in English! – and to my delight discovered that there was a bright and flourishing fantasy powerhouse here in Queensland. I bought a lot of Ikea bookshelves and proceeded to quickly fill them. I’m a fast reader, and it didn’t take me long to run out of things to read.

At that time, the news was full of J K Rowling, the Writer That Made It Good. I thought about what she’d done to be successful, and decided it was that she’d made a story that was different from anyone else’s. Well, I knew an awful lot about Chinese culture, so why couldn’t I write a story that’s different as well – but in a different direction?

Then I thought about what my sister Fiona, in her cubicle in a government office, would like to read. She’d love some romance, a serious dose of ass-kicking, some intriguing fantasy elements, and of course some delicious angst, a Love That Can Never Be. Sexual tension and a strong female lead – so she can imagine herself in the position of this love-torn ass-kicker – would just make it better.

Just for fun I decided to add the love triangle of the strong hero, and the woman and man who both love him – and are also best friends. I was hoping for some jealousy between the two but they turned out to be BFF’s (Best Friends Forever!) and Leo was so noble about it I wanted to slap him.

It started with the mental image of the strong Chinese man in black, clipping his sword to the wall next to the front door of his Hong Kong apartment. I looked for a god who fitted that description, so I started doing a massive amount of research into the Chinese deities. I discovered Xuan Wu, the Dark Lord, whose colour is black and is the God of Martial Arts. Who is also a combination of a turtle and a snake. How weird was this? I delved deeper into his history and mythology, finding out more and more intriguing things about this very unusual god. And the story took off from there.

Kylie Chan

Read about Kylie’s next book, Small Shen!

We’ll have Kylie’s answers to more questions – on martial arts, and upcoming books – tomorrow!

Too far away? Go and visit Kylie’s website to read about her books, or visit Voyager Online for news on other great fantasy authors.

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New Space Opera Anthology: Locus Awards shortlist announced

The Space Opera AnthologyCongratulations to Jonathan Strahan and Gardner Dozois who edited The New Space Opera Anthology for HarperVoyager. The 2008 Locus Awards shortlist has been announced and there are five listings associated with this anthology.

* Dan Simmons features in the novella category for his story “Muse of Fire”

* Ken Macleod’s terrific “Who’s Afraid of Wolf 359?” is in the short story category.

* The anthology itself features in the Best Novella category

* Gardner Dozois is listed in the Best Editor category

* The wonderful cover artist Stephan Martiniere is in the Best Artist category.

Stephanie Smith

Getting it right … Fiona McIntosh guest blogs

Click for more info on GODDESSGetting the world right for Percheron felt relatively straight-forward, especially once I’d visited cities such as Istanbul, Ephesus, Tunis, Dubai, Rhodes; each of them so different and yet that blending of the Eastern Med and the Gulf made Percheron feel so real in my imagination. I tend to do this for all my worlds. The Quickening, for instance, was a melding of all the places I’ve visited over many years of travel through northern Europe. I draw constantly on the real world rather than completely designing my story world from scratch. I like being anchored in that sense of reality whilst I allow my imagination to soar on the plot that the world supports.

So my worlds arrive in my mind relatively complete but the characters do not. Half the time I don’t even know what they look like. They must emerge, develop, mature … and then they flourish or die, depending on my moods, various whims and wherever and whatever situations they blunder into. I freely admit that I am one of those writers who punishes her characters with abandon and it does distress readers, I know. But I want to assure all reading this that I do not plan pain or death; I never set out to hurt a character or make them suffer. What happens simply happens because the story goes that way.

I take the approach of allowing back of brain to take care of business. I guess you could call me a “freefaller” – I turn up at my desk each morning with no preconceived idea of where the story should go or even who should be in that chapter. I begin to write and it’s as much a mystery to me as it may be to you reading my story for the first time, where it goes or what happens. I like it that way. It keeps me interested for starters. If I knew where the story had to go I genuinely believe I’d lose interest. I don’t like planning. I’ve tried it and failed. I set out on walks to plan a scene and before I know it I’m thinking of a movie I’ve enjoyed or making a mental grocery list, or planning what to cook for dinner! It just won’t gel in my head. And yet with my fingers poised over a keyboard, my eyes riveted on my Mac’s screen and I’m lost in the story and it comes to life for me. I see it in my mind’s eye like a movie unfolding and that’s another reason why I tend to write in a chronological manner.

Not planning can be scary – I’m sure it terrifies my editors, so I hope they don’t read this piece. I struggle enough with the synopsis that rarely gives them what they need and they know I’m lying anyway. But although not being able to plot ahead has its pitfalls i.e. I am often in book 2 and thinking how much better it could have been if I’d set up such and such in book 1, it also has the main advantage of giving me complete freedom to take the story wherever it wants to go. It keeps the storyline unpredictable and the reader unsure of who may survive from chapter to chapter…let alone book to book.

My favourite characters are usually ‘wounded’ men; aloof, secretive, passionate. I suspect Lazar in Percheron is a composite of all my favourite male characters rolled into one. I really enjoyed being with him in this story. In fact it’s rather amazing he made it through the trilogy but there was a sense of balance to the series that began with Lazar and also ended with him, although he was a changed man by the end.

Now why there is always a bird character in my tales is beyond me. Perhaps it’s because my writing room looks out across our garden and I’m forever watching the wild birds going about their daily business from season to season. The blackbirds are the greatest fun – so industrious, they just never stop and their babies are hilarious balls of fluff that nest beneath the eaves of our verandah. It’s always a big day in our household when a baby blackbird ventures out onto the grass and starts foraging around on its own. So that might explain why birds are part of my stories because they do seem to share our life – but I only realised this somewhere through writing Percheron and now it’s a sort of signature and I imagine there will always be a bird in my tales. There’s certainly one coming up in volume one of Valisar.

Royal Exile features a rather magnificent raven, who is modelled on a wonderful, huge young crow we nursed back to full health a couple of years back. I knew he’d have to feature in one of my stories. I hope you enjoy him when Royal Exile is released.

Fiona McIntosh

Visit Fiona’s website to find out more about her previous series.

Royal Exile will be released in Australia in September 2008

Fallon Friday: The 51 Sub-genres of Speculative Fiction

I am currently a mere 5 chapters from the end of The Chaos Crystal (Book 4 of the Tide Lords), so I’m shamelessly cheating here by reprinting a list I found on a booksellers site a couple of years ago. It blew me away when I saw it and a still can’t quite get my head around The 51 Sub-genres of Speculative Fiction.

Seriously … 51 of them.

Here is the list, along with a brief explanation of each. Read them and weep (with mirth).

Alien Beings — So… would an alien edition of Hamlet read “to being or not to being…”? Just a thought.

Alternate & Parallel Worlds — That would be stories set in the worlds where I am Mrs Pitt, yes?

Alternate History — That would be the one where in 1970, when they were laying the telephone cables in my street, someone from Telecom said, hang the expense, let’s use the good stuff in Number 15…

Apocalypse — The inevitable result of the next telemarketing call I get from Telstra offering me Broadband that they can’t deliver.

Arthurian Legend — Men in protective armour going after a precious cup while women swoon… hang on, isn’t that a football final?

Based on a Game — Please, anything but football…

Bestiary — Also known as anthropomorphism… giving human characteristics and the power of speech to animals. You know, like in parliament…

Bioengineering — Where they invent a vacuum cleaner that cares.

Colonization & terraforming — Isn’t that what we’re doing to our planet ? Completely buggering up the climate to suit ourselves?

Computers — Ah… Binary for Dummies and all other computer self-help books.

Cyberpunk — Computers, Mohawk haircuts, and body piercings, I’m sure.

Detective — It’s a crime they included this one on the list.

Dystopia-Utopia — A Utopia is where everybody is happy. A Dystopia is where they’re not. Sort of like the difference between medication time in a mental asylum and Iraq.

Ecology — Where the blood of your enemies… makes for really good fertilizer.

Fairy Tales — Of course, Ms Fallon, we can connect broadband to your home… Galactic Empires & Space Operas — Home of all the really cool evil overlords.

Graphic Novels & Comics — For boys who love comics but want to appear grown-up and edgy.

Hard Science — Because it often is.

Heroic — See Galactic Empires & Space Operas. Has a disturbing tendency to involve goat herders, prophesies and quests.

Historical or Fictional Characters — There’s a sentence that makes sense…

Human Comedy — Which is so much funnier than, like, rodent comedy.

Humorous — Anything else that’s funny which doesn’t involve humans, I suppose. Like cockroaches. There’s a chortle.

Immortality — Isn’t that where they put The Never Ending Story?

Inspirational — The Power of Positive… what… Space Travel? Spell Casting? I dunno… (Who made up this silly list?)

Lost Worlds — They’re always in the last place you look.

Love & Sex — Where you learn what it’s really like to do it in a zero-g environment, maybe?

Magic — Ta Da! Broadband in my house!

Messianic -Religious — Any book that inspires you to ask: Dear God, how did this get published?

Militaristic — Space Opera with bigger guns and people who say “siryessir!” a lot

Nanotechnology — One for the Little People.

New Wave — Because Old Wave is just sooo last year…

Parody — Plagiarism with jokes.

Political — Where the really nasty evil overlords lurk. The ones who can orate.

Psionic Powers — I’ll have to think about this one.

Quest — Involves rings, ancient swords, grails and prophesies. And often a hero.

Rites of Passage — Always starts with a teenage hero. Often ends in blood. May also involve goat herders and a quest.

Robots, Androids, Cyborgs — Because they’re machines and that way you don’t have to deal with that pesky characterisation thingy the publishers keep insisting on.

Saga, Myth, & Legend — Bit like the E! Channel with swords.

Science Fantasy — Scifi that ignores the basic laws of physics. Think Star Trek.

Shared Worlds and Franchise Universes — McScifi or McFantasy. Take your pick.

Short Stories — Not so much “world building” as “room building”

Social Criticism — Bad society, naughty society… you will have to be punished

Space Travel — Only if you’ve got FTL otherwise it’s very long and very boring… and please, do not, under any circumstances, mention the effect of time dilation.

Steam Punk — OK, you will never convince me that some publicist didn’t just make this category up because it sounded cool…

Superheroes — Without whom, the Lycra industry would have gone bust.

Sword & Sorcery — Where the spell is mightier than the sword.

Time Travel — Where you get to go back (or forward) and do it all again.

Urban — Fantasy set in cities… you know, where parking is free and public transport runs on time… that sort of thing.

Virtual reality — You just think you’re reading these books…

Women in — Women in? What sort of ridiculous genre is Women in?

Time Travel — see… I warned you…

World of Faerie — Fairy stories for the grown-ups who’d be reading graphic novels, if only they’d put more magic and cute chicks with wings in them.

Jennifer Fallon

Visit Jennifer Fallon’s website

Faster than Lighting …

Karen Miller will be doing an interview with Wolfgang from Faster Than Light in WA on Wednesday 7 May!

That’s at 12 noon for Sydney-siders (sorry, am biased since that’s where I am) … and if you’re not in WA then you can tune in through their website.

If Empress of Mijak was a film …

Empress of MijakAt the My Book, The Movie blog, Karen Miller speaks on the subject that everyone loves to discuss … if my book was a movie

Starring Karl Lumbly (from Battlestar Galactica), Taye Diggs, Denzel Washington and more, coming to a movie screen near you, this summer (we wish!):

Empress of Mijak as a movie
 

Fallon Friday: Jennifer tells us about getting the language right

Welcome to the first of our ‘Fallon Fridays’ where fabulous author Jennifer Fallon writes about whatever is on her mind for the Voyager blog!

In my humble opinion, there shouldn’t be a single word in your MS that doesn’t advance the story, the plot, the characterisation or the world building (although there are authors who disagree with me). The key to good writing is to be clear and concise.

Just because you researched the ancient art of making glass beads out of recycled dung beetles so well that you can actually do it yourself, it doesn’t mean the reader needs to know about every minute step of the process, too, just because the queen appears briefly wearing a belt made of the aforementioned dung beetle glass beads on page 146.

Example:

“The sky overhead was heavy and dark. The ground squelched beneath his feet as he moved stealthily and silently towards the large, ghost-infested, mansion that was haunted.”

Hmmm, what have we here…

The sky overhead was heavy and dark.

Where else would the sky be?

The ground squelched beneath his feet

Where else would the ground be?

as he moved stealthily and silently

Two adverbs in a row… just shoot yourself now and be done with it, if you think this is a good description..:) And I’m sure I don’t need to point out that by definition, someone who is moving stealthily is not banging a drum as they go.

towards the large, ghost-infested, mansion that was haunted.

OK… even if we ignore the fact that by defintion, anything that is “ghost-infested” is also haunted, this is passive voice, something that belongs only in academic papers and is the reason they are so wretchedly boring to read, btw…

Corrected:

“The sky was heavy and dark. The ground squelched as he moved stealthily towards the haunted mansion.”

The other trap of genre writing in particular is the inappropriate use of language. Nothing will jerk a reader out of your sword and sorcery epic faster than your hero replying “Right on, dude!” when he’s asked to save the damsel in distress, (unless your story involves Keanu Reeves being sent back in time to bring the lost art of surfing to Roman Britain… hey, there’s a story!).

The language and references must reflect the character, the character’s knowledge, surrounding world and the setting. The village idiot isn’t likely to report that the enemy is advancing “in numbers commensurate with our enemy’s stated intention of annihilating us, my lord”, any more than the well-educated scribe the king has on stand-by would inform him that “there’s biggest mobs of them, boss.”

Be aware of the origin of words. Unless your story is set in our time, avoid identifiably 20th century words like “OK”, and be prepared to fight for the inclusion of others. I once had an argument with an editor over the word “artillery” because to her it meant modern warfare with guns. I had to prove it was a common reference in Roman times to win the fight.

The most classic and appalling misuse of language I can think of, however, is from the master himself. In The Hobbit, Tolkien describes Bilbo as being overwhelmed with a feeling of alarm:

“…he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel.”

Steam trains? In Middle Earth? I don’t think so…

Jennifer Fallon

For more from the brain of Jennifer Fallon, visit her website and blog.

And for more on her wonderful books – including her current series The Tide Lords – visit www.voyageronline.com.au