• 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!



Jason Fischer: On Dreaming Again, the Birth of Undead Camels, and That Song

Firstly I’d like to give another plug to the Adelaide Natcon in 2009. I’d love to see heaps of people get onboard and book their tickets here and there is a LiveJournal community for those who want to receive updates here.

What can I say, Conflux was great fun, and it was nice to see so many people get involved in the various events, book launches, and general zaniness. Apart from the Marque’s Random Bar of Doom and the only huddle of eateries laying just beyond a comfortable walking distance, it was an excellent event. There were some brilliant panels this year, and I even participated in a couple of them. (The panel on Utopia, and Has Science Fiction Lost its Sense of Fun?) As the modern author is expected to be a toastmaster as well as a word-factory, it was great to get up in front of an encouraging audience, many of whom joined in the discussions. I don’t think I saw a dead or dull panel once during the whole weekend, and the organisers and convenors should be very proud of their efforts. They thought up some great topics, and lined up some very knowledgable and articulate folks to explore them.

More bloggings of my Conflux experience can be found here: http://jasonfischer.livejournal.com/115983.html

And my AMAZING SWAG of books can be seen here, it is a doozy:

(Secret subliminal message: Everyone should buy lots of books, especially from Voyager.)

For me, the most amazing part of the whole convention was the Dreaming Again stuff. Let me tell you about this book: it’s bloody outstanding. There is something for everyone in this book. You’ll see some of Australia’s premium SF novelists putting their hands to shorter fiction. There are also several new talents in this book, many sourced from the organised insanity that is the Clarion South literary bootcamp. It’s a powerhouse of a book, and if you don’t read Dreaming Again this year, you’re seriously missing out. Every word you’ve heard is true, and this book is literally and figuratively HUGE.

There was the actual book launch on Friday night, as shown earlier in the Voyager blog. Words can’t describe how it feels to be published in a book with several of your heroes, and the Voyager crew and Stephanie Smith deserve many kudos for making this all happen. We authors got spoiled good and proper, what with book signings and Jack Dann in raconteur mode, pimping this book to the heavens and back, until finally the moment where he revved the crowd up and got them to sing That Song.

You know the one, it’s got Undead Camels and a whole heap of Doo-Dah  a moment forever to be remembered! So let me tell you fine people about my Dreaming Again experience, and how I came up with a story called ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’, and how the song was born.

An un-undead camel

Watch out ... they're coming for you ...

Join me in the distant beyond of early 2007, when a bunch of emerging writers trekked to muggy Brisbane for six solid weeks of the mind-stretching Clarion South writing workshop. We emerged from the system with life-long friends, but that’s Stockholm Syndrome for you. One of our tutors was the legendary Gardner Dozois, longtime editor of Asimov’s magazine and, as it turns out, my long-lost dirty old uncle (DNA test pending). I wanted to write a story that would impress this man, and a few ideas were played with and discarded.

I promise I will never be that guy that poo-poohs the question, “where do you get your ideas from?” I’ll tell you true, my fair readers: we’d bought the supercool Lee Battersby a going-away gift, a book of schlock movie posters and such. One of the posters spoke of a movie called “Weasels Ate Their Flesh”. The next day, I read a wiki article on feral camels in Australia, giving their number at anywhere between 500 and 700 thousand. That’s a whole lot of dromedary. Somewhere, the Brisbane humidity baked the two ideas together and with every 2nd clarion story being a zombie piece, they became very undead.

When it was Gardner’s turn to crit my work, he launched into the Undead Camels song, and after a moment of stunned silence everyone joined in. I had the presence of mind to record this song, either on this occasion or one of the other 50 times. One of our convenors remixed it into a techno track. But apart from us Clarionites and Mister Dann, this recording shall not leave our sacred trust.

The awesome one-woman author-squad known as Margo Lanagan encouraged me to send this piece to Jack Dann, who advised story revision. And thank god he did, because the final product has perhaps 2% of the original swear words, and is missing a whole extra plot-arc involving a Danish secret agent, an unreliable Cessna, and a revived Danish Empire on the island formerly known as Tasmania. Just when you thought a story about zombie camels couldn’t get any more ridiculous…

Jason Fischer is based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is a graduate of the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and a recent finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. He has a story in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again, and stories in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Aurealis Magazine (forthcoming). Jason likes zombies and post-apocalyptic settings, and when he’s not writing he wishes he was. He can be found lurking online at http://jasonfischer.livejournal.com, and is a contributing member of the Daily Cabal.

Finding out more about Dreaming Again.

Fallon Friday: Jennifer on Writing a Synopsis

The first question I am asked in almost every writing workshop is: do I need a synopsis?
Yes. You do. Deal with it.
A synopsis is like a road map that tells not only you, but your potential agent and editor that you have thought the story through and actually have some idea how it is going to end. Many new authors are afraid of writing a synopsis for fear of giving away the fantastic twist at the end, or fear that if the reader knows the ending in advance the impact of the story will be lost. Others fear they can’t convey the complexity of their story in one page. The bottom line is, synopses are the lifeblood of publishing and you’d better get used to them. They are unavoidable.

Why the Synopsis is so important

Imagine this:

You have the nod from the editor of Great Big Books R Us Publishing, telling you he loves your work. He has read your full MS and thinks you’re fabulous. All that has to happen now, is the proposal has to go to the “Acquisitions Meeting” a mere formality, he assures you, before an offer is made.
Now, at this meeting, in addition to the Fantasy/SF Editor who loves your book, is the Cooking Editor, the Non-Fiction editor, the Travel Editor, the Teen Horror Editor, the Pre-Teen Fashion Editor, the Post-Apocalytic Romance Editor and so on, all of whom have said exactly the same thing to the author whose work they are also bringing to the meeting.
They have a budget and have to make judgements based on the commercial viability of each work. Not all the books will get through the meeting. They will be judged by the person who knows the work and the rest who will judge it… based solely on a synopsis.
The Cooking Editor is not going to read your fantasy book, anymore than the fantasy editor is going to try every recipe in the cookbook up for consideration. Your synopsis has to be good enough for the Cooking Editor to say “Oh well, you can have your fantasy novel and I’ll pass on my cookbook, because this really is a cracker,” (no pun intended).
OK… so this might be an extreme example, but the point is, without a synopsis, you’re not even going to get to the Acquisitions Meeting, let alone have a chance to impress the cooking editor of Great Big Books R Us Publishing.

Getting to the nitty gritty…

So how do you condense your 200,000 word epic down to half a page? Well, here’s a start – do it like they do it in the movies.
There is a saying in the movie industry: “pitch it to me in 25 words or less”.
This is one of the hardest things you will ever do and yet entire movies can make or break on this 25-word pitch. You should try this with your novel.

What is Medalon about?
It’s about a girl who discovers she’s destined to kill a god. (12 Words)

What is the Seconds Sons Trilogy about?
It’s about a boy who discovers his religion is based on a lie so he sets out to bring it down. (21 Words)

What is Tide Lords about?
It’s about an immortal who wants to die. (8 Words)

Better yet:
“A suicidal immortal” (3 words)

If that doesn’t do it for you, try writing the blurb for the back of your book.
Imagine you’re trying to entice a reader to buy it. Alternatively, imagine you are writing the press release (although this requires the use of lots of adverbs and the words “original”, “groundbreaking” and “in the tradition of” all in one sentence).

The blurb on the back the Australian edition of Wolfblade:

Marla Wolfblade, princess of Hythria, is determined to restore her family to its former power and glory. But Hythria is a fiercely patriarchal society, and Marla knows power may only be gained through a man. Narrowly avoiding an arranged marriage to the King of Fardohnya, she marries Laran, Warlord of Krakandar Province, and gives birth to a son. Damin is named heir to the throne of Hythria by his uncle, the dissolute High Prince.

Settling in to life as the wife of a warlord, Marla believes the future of her family is secured but there are forces in the land that do not want the house of Wolfblade restored. Can Marla protect her son and her family, and stop the conspirators?

121 words.

A good synopsis is about the essence of the story, not the detail. You may have a whole tribe of witty dwarves your hero encounters along the way in his quest, along with a troll, a ghost and an Avon Lady, but the point is, he’s on a quest.

“He meets several interesting characters who aid him in his quest”, is what the publisher wants to know. Anything else should be saved for the book.

Jennifer Fallon’s latest book isThe Palace of Impossible Dreams, book three of the Tide Lords quartet, and it’s out now

You can read more about Jennifer Fallon by going to her blog.