• 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!



Karen Miller pushes through the pain barrier at Conflux

I had such a wonderful time at Conflux. Met with lovely people, some great conversations, some writing, some panels. I travelled there and back with my solid gold Voyager editor Stephanie, and her husband Jim, who I hadn’t met. What great value he is! We talked spec fic books and tv and film the whole time, and it was great. He now has a viewing list as long as my arm … *g*

Friday was the workshop, on creating dynamic characters. I love talking about this kind of stuff, so I had fun — mostly — but truth be told, I was a little taken aback by the lack of in depth character knowledge of the participants. See, for me, if you want to write stories you should love stories, and if you love stories then you should love characters, and you should have a mile-long list of characters you’ve met and loved and get all excited about. But … not so much. However, be that as it may, we got down to the nitty-gritty of working out how to create a character, and what information a writer needs to know, and how that information about the characters can inform and develop plot. Single most useful insight, I think, was this one:

What is the source of your character’s pain?

Once you know that, you’re well on your way to making them compelling and truly human. Because we all have pain, secret or otherwise, and it’s our pain that spurs us to do or not do things in our lives. And therein lies the seeds of great story.

The bad thing about the workshop was the fact that on the drive down from Sydney we stopped for a break in Goulbourn and I had a vanilla thickshake. Now I don’t know if the milk was off, or if my system has been without milk in it for so long that it had a nervous breakdown, but partway through the workshop I started having … let’s just call them internal ructions. *g* So I had to keep running for the bathroom praying I wasn’t going to throw up everywhere, or worse. The participants were great, and took my many abrupt departures well and truly in their stride. And you know? It never hurts to be afflicted with serious gut pain and the almost overwhelming urge to throw up because if you don’t know how that feels, how can you write about it with any kind of authenticity? Still. It made things interesting for a while.

Friday night I had dinner with two wonderful people, Ron Serdiuk of Brisbane’s Pulp Fiction bookshop and Angela Slatter — one of Australia’s up and coming writers. Fab time, much hilarity and thoughtful conversation. Good company. Man, why do so many of the cool people not live in Sydney????

Saturday was writing and panels and chatting with various bods, and Saturday night was dinner with Stephanie and many other folk from Voyager and fellow writers. Again, so much wonderful conversation and hilarity. Sunday was more panels, including a super one with Tor editor Liz Gorinsky and my editor Stephanie and Zoe, children’s publisher for Random House, and Russell Blackford and Keith Stevenson on the relationship between editors and writers. Magic group of people to share a table with. Although maybe that was Monday. Things are very blurred … And I had a sit down coffee with one of the finest writers Australia has ever produced, Kim Westwood, whom I met at Clarion. She’s a gem, is Kim. Her work is challenging to read, but provides such visceral pleasure in its execution. Sunday also saw the very silly what to look for in an evil overlord panel, out of which came the stunning realisation that there is no opposite term for ‘wenching’. I mean, boys get to go wenching. What do girls get to do? Trudi Canavan suggested wrenching, but I wasn’t going to touch that one. *g*

It was lovely to catch up with GOH Cat Sparks, who participated in a terrific panel about making the jump from short fiction to long fiction. Also Deb Biancotti, yet another superlative writer who will be a household name once she makes the break into longer format, I’m sure. And Margo Lanagan, an absolute superstar. Her first novel is out now, Tender Morsels, and while I haven’t read all of it, what I have read is delicious. Also, thanks to the wonderful Fiona McLennan, I got to hang with the aforementioned Zoe from Random House, and with Sarah, who’s also involved in the children’s publishing part of the company, and they were magnificent value. It was delightful watching Bill Congreve with his 5 month old son. It’s so lovely to see that our culture has evolved to the point where a man can parent affectionately and enthusiastically in public. Josh is very lucky to have such a great dad. It was lovely to have a little bit of time with that powerhouse Jack Dann. He’s so supportive of Australian spec fic, it’s delightful. I had a blast chatting with Tim and Natalie from Voyager — and wanted more time with them, too.

But there’s never enough time to see everyone at a con. They need to go for a whole week, to catch up with everyone cool that’s there. I should’ve written more than I did, but twice this year I’ve had to work at a con and this time I really wanted to see some people. Hence the need to really buckle down now!

So congrats to the folks who put together this year’s Conflux, Karen Herkes and Nicole Murphy in particular. It’s hard work, and often thankless, but we’d be the poorer without them. I’m sorry to be missing next year’s, but I have a date with Jude Law in London’s West End.

Right now, things are slowly gearing up for the Natcon in Adelaide, to be held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Please, if you can, support the convention. You’ll have a great time, and it’s so good for Australian spec fic scene. The website is http://conjecture2009.org, which is still gearing up for business – but at least it’s a start!

Besides being a fantastic panel participant at Conflux, Karen Miller has written numerous books – including her latest, The Accidental Sorcerer, published by Voyager. And she’s a BIG fan of Supernatural, so if you happen to have access to the latest episode … give it me and I’ll pass it on … at some point.

Karen’s also written plenty more in her blog (including some Supernatural stuff that will make you understand just why this season is so damn good! Whoops – keep forgetting this is the Voyager blog, not the Supernatural one).

Conflux 5 – The Alternative Brown Shades of SF and Fantasy by Tim Miller

Tim was one quarter of Team Voyager at Conflux. He blogs on his experience:

11.40am Check in at the exclusive Canberra Gateway Motel. The world shifts into a state of brown shades – the building, the room, the art on the wall, the covers on the bed – all brown. I glance over my shoulder to have a look and see if I have passed through some kind of portal. Nope, it’s just Canberra. I think what the hell, I go with it and immerse myself in all things fantastic.

My Friday at Conflux involved two workshops, Finishing the First Draft with Maxine McArthur and Creating Dynamic Characters with Karen Miller (our very own Voyager author – Accidental Sorcerer anyone?). Stepping into the first was like stepping straight back into all the creative writing classes I did at uni, and the nostalgia instantly set in. We discussed the most common traps why authors never finish the elusive first draft, from the problems starting, that mess in the middle, to all that tricky stuff at the end. Karen’s workshop was awesome, it was set up to look at all the research and character building that goes into all those beloved characters that we read on the pages of book.

Friday night we all attended the launch of Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann. Let me just say something here, he is one of the most interesting writers alive. As soon as he opened his mouth the entire room was captivated and would have happily listened to him for hours singing the praises of the talented writers that contributed to DA.

Saturday was the day for some engaging panels. With so much to choose from, the three of us split up to go our separate ways. My favourite for the morning would definitely have been Making a Living as a Writer – But Not Necessarily a Novelist with Gillian Polack, Mark Shireff, Liz Argall (Chair), Margo Lanagan and Karen Simpson-Nikakis. The consensus was that it was very hard to, but really the writer in me was kind of hoping. Of the panel it was only Mark that could make a living and he works as a script producer for television. The others revealed exactly how they could afford to write – working part of the year, writing the other, having jobs that let them research for their writing, or teaching and consultation work.

Of the afternoon’s panels, Rewriting – The Real Art of A Good Story drilled home some truths that all writers need to be aware of. I believe Cat Sparks said it best – Don’t hand in shit. If the first thing an editor or publisher sees is a piece that not only doesn’t meet the guidelines, but obviously needs more work, then the next time they see your name they aren’t likely to take you seriously. Some friendly advice, put the ms away for a bit, a week, a month, whatever, then come back to it with fresh eyes and rewrite it – it will make it better.

Ok Saturday night at Conflux gave me the rare opportunity to mingle with some authors. A little unknown fact, they don’t walk around the evil HQ every five minutes, nor do they stop in for a chat. Stephanie Smith, Publisher of all things Voyager, invited Nat, Sarah and myself out for a Voyager dinner with some authors – Karen Miller, Kim Westwood, K. J. Taylor and Adam Browne. I had a good chat with Adam about Conflux in general before the topic turned to writing. At the end of the night he gave me some encouraging words and told me he would be looking out for my novel when it comes out. I also chatted with Karen Miller, discussing the workshop of Friday and Accidental Sorcerer before it turned into writing in general and Supernatural. I think a good night was had by all.

Sunday saw our last day at Conflux, so with my copy of Dreaming Again in my hot little hand, I sucked up my courage and went about asking some of the contributors to sign my copy. Not only did they sign, but they were happy to and to have a chat as well. To name a few: Jason Nahrung – ‘Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn’, Aaron Sterns – ‘The Rest is Silence’ and Jason Fischer – ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’.

We also got up to a few other things while in Canberra. We visited Floriade, and with the help of a quick coffee fix took some interesting photos, I’m sure Nat will put up the more interesting ones [No! Big Merino was embarrassing enough!]. We walked a lot, our motel was down the road from Conflux and Nat kept assuring us 3kms were a lot shorter than 100kms [whole other story here about the Oxfam Trailwalker] . Although there was the one night were the heavens opened up and we got drenched, but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits. I had a great time, at Conflux and with the company I went down with, Nat and Sarah are top ladies and if the chance comes up again next year I wouldn’t dream of going with anyone else.

Tim Miller works in the Sales department at HarperCollins. He’s part of the Voyager Cabin Crew and works on the Voyager Newsletter as well. And he’s working on a novel and short stories, when not being forced to blog for Voyager Online!