• 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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Fallon Friday – Maps: an undiscovered dome of pleasure (Part 2)

We were talking last week about maps and the geography of worldbuilding. Here are a few more questions to consider:

  • How do people communicate over long distances? (A note here about pigeons. Pigeons are called homing pigeons, because that’s what they do. They fly home. You do not take a bird, strap a vital message to its leg, and whisper “take this note to Prince Shagalot who’s somewhere on the road between here and Mount Gullible” in its ear, and expect it to do anything other than look at you blankly. Pigeons, after about six weeks, think wherever they are is home. So, if you want homing pigeons to send regular reports back to your king about how your noble quest is progressing, you’ve got about six weeks to get it done, buster, or you’re screwed.)
  • If you have non-human races, what territory do they consider theirs?
  • What are the penalties for breaching their borders uninvited?
  • How have human activities affected the landscape? (A large city where everyone is cooking over open flames demands a huge amount of firewood or coal. More than likely the land around any city has long been stripped bare of trees.)
  • If you’re not on Earth, how do the differences (more than one moon, brighter sunlight, less sunlight.) affect your world?
  • Does your world have equatorial, temperate, and polar regions?
  • Where is your farmland?
  • What do they grow?
  • What animals do they farm? (If you’re dispatching messages on parchment, you’d better have sheep, because parchment is made from sheepskin. Cotton requires a lot of water. Silk comes from silkworms, which means somewhere, someone is farming them, and purple dye is very hard to make naturally and is therefore very expensive, which is why it tends to be the colour associated with royalty. Purple robed beggars, however colourful you think they might look, are unlikely.)
  • What natural resources do your countries have (e.g. gold, iron ore, gemstones, etc)?
  • Is your terrain consistent with your natural resources (So let’s not be mining the limestone White Cliffs of Grover for gold, hmm…)?
  • What resources are in short supply?
  • What is the consequence of the imbalance of these natural resources between neighbouring countries?

I could go on, and on, and on…I won’t, but I’m sure you get the idea.

So toss your rectangular world map away and think beyond the borders of the three countries you’ve thought up names for. Give your world a convincing look and feel, rather than making it up as you go along to fit the story.

Jennifer Fallon’s worldbuilding does the talking – she’s the author of thirteen fantasy novels including the recent  Tide Lords quartet. The final book in the quartet, The Chaos Crystal, came out last month. You can read more from her at her website and blog.

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The Price of Magic — Devon Monk blogs for us

Devon's first book

Devon's first book

Let’s talk magic. In Magic to the Bone, magic is piped through the city with iron and glass glyph-worked lines and is as easy to access as electricity or water.

Want your house to look freshly painted? Use magic. Want to learn a new language in a day? Use magic. Want to make your annoyingly chatty co-worker come down with laryngitis? Use magic. Easy, right?

Well, there is one drawback. Every time you use magic, it uses you back. You may not always pay for magic with money, but you will always pay for it with pain.

That changes the whole game, doesn’t it?

And it’s not just nice people with good intentions who use magic. Desperate people, or people with bad intentions, deadly intentions, use magic too. People who have found a way to make others pay magic’s price for them.

Enter Allie Beckstrom, who not only pays in pain for using magic, she also loses bits of her memory. Birthdays, lover’s names, her first kiss, are all offered up on the chopping block every time she casts a spell.

Yet she keeps using magic. She keeps trying to make life safer for herself and for the people she cares about. Why is she willing to pay such a high price? Better yet, why can’t magic just be free?

Let’s face it. Life isn’t free. Everything we do, every choice we make, costs something. We pay with money, time, effort, patience, faith, grief, joy, health, happiness, but every day we make small choices, trade-offs, sacrifices. And each small price we pay, changes and shapes us. Makes us grow into who we are and gives us the chance to learn who we want to become. Making these choices, paying these prices, helps us understand what kind of life we want to live.

When Allie decides how to use magic, and when to use it, and who to use it for, it shapes who she is too. It forces her to decide what and who is worth risking bits of her life, and enduring pain for. It makes the very idea of using magic, or of having it used against her, a dangerous thing indeed.

For Allie, magic isn’t the only dangerous thing she has to deal with. She must face betrayal, murder, mysterious strangers, strange companions, and a double-cross or two. But magic, it’s power and it’s price, makes all of it, even the question of who is worth trusting, and who is worth loving, all the more interesting to answer.

Magic to the Bone is now available across Australia and the lovely Devon Monk will be blogging a bit more for us in the next weeks, including some very interesting to do with deadly knitting needles! Devon is also taking part in the Deadline Dames website. Devon Monk has sold over 50 short stories to magazines and anthologies which have been published internationally. She lives in Oregon in the US.

Lynne Green: Starstruck at the Aurealis Awards

Fantastic Queensland should be very proud. The running of the Aurealis Awards showed how an awards ceremony can be both sophisticated and fun. The awards were everything you expect from such occasions: beautiful women in fabulous frocks (too many gorgeous women to name names), dashingly handsome men (Sean Williams suits up nicely), and civilised drinks at a posh venue.

Then again, it had all the unique twists you would expect from a community event of SF writers. Some of the attendees were wearing eye-catching items of clothing; a black kilt – and I have to give an honourable mention the pair of very nice legs so revealed; enviable purple, velvet cloaks that glowed like gems, pink shoelaces for breast cancer awareness; and Simon Higgins was sporting a rather swish coat. There were Star Trek jokes flying all over the place, and that pun is very much intended. Whenever someone was announced as a winner, the audience was just as thrilled as the award recipient, which is a most delightful experience.
However, you can probably get all this information from other sources. So I will share my personal impressions of the function.

My biggest thrill was meeting with people who had just been virtual acquaintances; hello Trudi, Angela and Kathleen! Trudi had her book launch before the ceremony, and was also one of the presenters on the night. Because I know that Trudi is a mad knitter, I was expecting someone more mumsy and not such a glorious glamour puss. I was able to recognise Angela because of her hair and glasses; she is attending Clarion at time of writing and looked wonderful for a woman under the stress of continuous creativity. Kathleen recognised me from my Facebook photo. I have been requested to put up a right-side-up photo on Facebook to make recognition easier in the future.

As well, I was able to meet up with Natalie, one of my fellow judges. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch up with the other two judges attending the ceremony. That was disappointing, as we had worked well as a team and I was hoping to chat with such perceptive, cooperative and charming people.

To be truthful, I was star struck on the night. At one point I was standing next to Jack Dann, and I couldn’t make my mouth open to say ‘hi’. I felt the same when I saw Sean Williams, even though I give him cheek on Facebook – I’ve been known to make fun of his love of baked goods – I felt too shy to go up and chat. I was stunned when I spoke with Trudi, even though Trudi is as nice and approachable a person as you could ever meet.

Everyone talks about a ‘Golden Age’ or era for Science Fiction or Fantasy or Horror. For me, Australia is going through a ‘Golden Age’, and I am so lucky to meet with SF Australian authors, who are among the best writers in the world. Proof was provided last night, with stellar names accepting or presenting awards. I was walking with the stars.

So, my highlights of the night: Alison and Simon as presenters, because they were relaxed and had fun; watching the winners struggle up and down the stairs, because they weren’t expecting to win and so sat up the back; the sudden intake of breath from the couple behind me as the husband was announced as a winner; mixing with ‘the SF community’, though they are more like a family.

So, if you get a chance to attend the awards in the future, do go. I relished the opportunity to see the hardworking writers and illustrators receive their well-deserved recognition. All the nominees were of the utter, soaring, pinnacle of Australian talent, and they all deserved to win. I still feel like I’m gleaming with stardust.

(And thank you to my husband, who is painfully shy and loathes crowds, for attending with me. (((Hugs))) sweetheart.)

Lynne Green writes under her own name, as the Voyager Science Queen, and under the pen name of Lynne Lumsden Green for everything else. Though she already has a B. Sc. in zoology, she is currently studying Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her long term goal is to become a respected writer and academic in the fields of Fantasy, Popular Science Fact, and Science Fiction. Her favourite authors are Diana Wynne Jones, Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, and all of the Voyager authors, with Terry Pratchett as her personal hero. Recently, Lynne has had some quiet success with her short stories, and hopes this will lead to her ultimate domination the world.

So, who won an Aurealis on 24 Jan?

Learn more about the Aurealis Awards

Sara Douglass: Escape from the Starship Enterprise

I’ve escaped my evil abductors and made it back home! I went into hospital on Wednesday morning and awoke to find myself trapped on Starship Enterprise – honestly, the nurses station of the High Dependency unit reminded me of the bridge of Starship Enterprise – it was so cool! I had a serious case of ex-ICU-nurse envy! They controlled everything from great sweep of a bridge from where they surveyed their domain of about 6 captives.

We were all tied to our beds by a variety of strange communication devices that were wired into our bodies (seriously, I still have the holes to prove it, I am covered in plastic patches from where they took out wires) and we were all surrounded by Machines That Go Beep! Occasionally … actually, fairly often … the Machines That Go Beep! would become Machines That Go BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! and then that got Captain Kirk and his cronies moving, let me tell you. It kept all of us captives awake and in torture, too.

I had an epidural pre-op and the main problem was that epidural which firstly caused a crisis during the op when it caused my BP to drop out of control and the next few days were spent trying to get the BP back above 60/20 (we were aiming for 100 over anything at all, we’d take anything, but that 100 was pretty damn hard to achieve) and by the fact that about 6 hours post-op the epidural began to fail. By 10 hours post-op I had all my sensation back, I was in agony, and they couldn’t give me anything apart from Panadol (oh, Plu-eeeeze!) as my BP was so bad. So I spent a serious night in agony and don’t want to go back there any time soon.

Captain Kirk also had devised a super form of water torture called “let’s drag the ice block down Sara’s body again and see if any of the numbness has returned” and so every hour out would come the ice block and torture would commence. Dick Cheney would be seriously envious of this kind of torture.

I honestly kept trying to phone home to people but Kirk’s communication devices sensed every time I tried to use my mobile – I tried to ring friends five or six times but every time one of his lieutenants would inform Capt Kirk that the Alien in Bed 104 was trying to communicate with her fellow aliens and they’d cut off all signals. They could do all kinds of cool things from their bridge!

High dependency was staffed by some of the kindest people – and the hunkiest – most of the staff were male and they were GODS. Honestly. Gods. And they offered to take off their clothes to help raise my BP! Wasn’t that just the sweetest offer? 🙂 (Having got me in a lustful frame of mind they then refused to come through on their offer, which I decided was yet another form of torturing the poor, captive aliens.)

So gradually I got better and the staff found out my secret place for stashing my hated nasal probes (in the lifting mechanism of the bed, which seriously stuffed it up). They eventually put me on a morphine infusion which I controlled which wasn’t as cool as it sounds, but it was better than the stuffing panadol! LOL

Every day they got me out of bed which was so painful that I would literally burst into tears when they said it was time to get out. Better than the ice cube torture was the get out of bed torture. (Truly, the getting out of bed torture always left me sobbing, morphine or no morphine.)

On Saturday things started to get better and out came all the tubes and devices and off I went back to the surgical ward which was a strange and silent place compared to the Starship Enterprise. And yesterday I came home!

Surgeon said there was less cancer than she’d anticipated (you should have seen me in Recovery trying to feel about for a colostomy bag! LOL) and that she has got 99% of it out, and there is just a teensy tiny bit left in a couple of places on my bowel but that chemo should clean it up. She gave me the double thumbs up on the operation and ‘stuff’.

Oh yeah, and the epidural – it took the anaesthetist three frigging goes to get it in and by the end they had to have 3 people holding me down as it was so agonizing (the pain wasn’t in my back but everywhere else as the guy kept hitting nerves). After my horror experience I would not recommend them for anyone else – the side effects are appalling. I managed to have a chat to the alien in the bed next to me on Starship Enterprise and her anaesthetist had to have 3 goes to get hers in, too, but at least hers was working.

Once the Alien in the bed next to me and I were transferred back to a ‘normal’ ward we got quite friendly – she also has ovarian cancer (she was diagnosed 8 years ago) and has had two tussles with it since).

Three Cheers for the Starship Enterprise! 🙂

Hip hip hooray! I’m sure you’re all as pleased as we are to hear about how Sara is doing — and that her sense of humour is still very much in place! For more info on Sara and her books, or what she’s up to at the moment, click here to visit her official website. And don’t forget to join her rake squad!

Rejection and Underpants Part 1 by Kim Falconer

Ask any writer and they will tell you that rejection is part of the job. It happens all the time. If you’re unsure why, read Jennifer Fallon’s list. Note that poor writing is only one of many possibilities. A form rejection letter stating your work does not fit our editorial needs at this time may be telling the truth. It isn’t necessarily code for you suck.

Being tough is one way to handle rejection—thick skin, take it on the chin, all that. But there is another way. Instead of seeing rejection as a sign of inadequacy, consider it a sign of progress. It’s like shopping for boots—trying on as many as possible, sending back the ones that don’t fit or look right. Rejection in this case is no fault of the art. It is simply a matter of style and finding a good match.

Becoming breezy with rejection mean moving away from defence/despair and towards hope/awareness, realizing rejection leads to success. With comments, rejection slips also offer insights into how the work might be improved. (Take note of Jennifer’s point that authors submitting over and over until they make a sale are most likely revising the manuscript between submissions.) We might say perseverance and revision bring success.

It did for Stephen King. Before he sold his first novel, he’d sent several manuscripts to Doubleday. They were all rejected. He started working on yet another, a story about a high school girl with Psi but he gave up, tossing it in the bin. His wife fished it out, begging him to finish. Eventually he submitted the manuscript to Doubleday and Carrie was published the following year.

Thinking about rejection in a positive way helps writers relax, lighten up and improve their narrative. My favourite way to shift any negative thoughts about rejection is to substitute the word manuscript with one that has no ‘charge’, one that creates no reaction. The new word allows me to see the ridiculous in rejection. Substitute underpants for manuscript and you’ll get what I mean.

‘They would have made an offer, but they didn’t like my underpants.’ ‘It’s easy for published authors; they’ve already sold their underpants.’ Or even, ‘Thank you for sending your underpants. Unfortunately they do not fit our current editor’s needs.’ In the case of Ursula Le Guin it’s more like, ‘I had to wait until they invented the genre to fit my underpants.’

Reconsider what a rejection slip means—you have written a novel! Congratulations! You are one step closer to being published! Part II will continue this theme with specific examples. Meanwhile, does anyone have a rejection story to tell? Voyager authors? Please share!

Rejection and Underpants Part II

Kim Falconer‘s underpants were accepted by Voyager some time ago, and you can find her first book, The Spell of Rosette, in all good bookshops in Australia. Kim lives in Byron Bay and is currently working on the follow up to The Spell of Rosette, Arrows of Time.

And the results are in … 2008 Aurealis Awards

What a spectacular night it was! Apologies for how late this entry is, but your awards correspondent was busy flying to and from Brisbane for much of the weekend 🙂 and then distracted by Australia Day.

The full list of winners:

best science fiction novel: K A Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

best science fiction short story: Simon Brown, ‘The Empire’, Dreaming Again, Harper/Voyager

best fantasy novel:Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, HarperCollins

best fantasy short story: Cat Sparks, ‘Sammarynda Deep’, Paper Cities, Senses 5 Press

best horror novel: John Harwood, The Seance, Jonathan Cape (Random House Australia)

best horror short story: Kirstyn McDermott, ‘Painlessness’, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), #2

best anthology: Jonathan Strahan (editor), The Starry Rift, Viking Children’s Books

best collection: Sean Williams & Russell B Farr (editor), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams, Ticonderoga Publications

best illustated book/graphic novel: Shaun Tan, Tales From Outer Suburbia, Allen & Unwin

best young adult novel: Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock, Viking Penguin

best young adult short story: Trent Jamieson, ‘Cracks’, Shiny, #2

best children’s novel: Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo, Omnibus Books

best children’s illustrated work/picture book: Richard Harland & Laura Peterson (illustrator), Escape!, Under Siege, Race to the Ruins, The Heavy Crown, The Wolf Kingdom series, Omnibus Books

Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence: Jack Dann

I also strongly recommend reading the judge’s reports – the link to each category’s report is here, as it gives a further insight into the process.

There will be more blogging to come on the weekend, but for now, we’re extremely proud of Jack, Simon and Alison, and congratulations to all the winners, and shortlisted authors, because you really are all fantastic. Alison Goodman was also co-host of the night alongside a very amusing Simon Higgins and looked gorgeous in red. Stephanie Smith (Voyager Publisher) was there (and almost impossible to extricate from the post-Awards party so we could go to dinner! And lovely Voyager authors Karen Miller and Kim Westwood, who were both judges in the awards, also took part in the weekend.

The awards were fantastic (it was my first one) – there was a great slideshow in the background introducing each category – and the intro for the hosts was especially clever! There were also vids of the convenors talking about their experience of judging the awards and their feelings towards spec fiction in general – and I was very amused by Beau from Pulp Fiction when he was talking about how he got roped into the awards!! (Working with Ron must have that effect!)

Of course we were tremendously proud of Jack being awarded the Peter McNamara Convenor’s Award – and forced Jack to open his ribbon-wrapped box before dinner so we could admire the award (which is very snappy looking and made of concave glass – Jack promised not to break it now that he knew what it was). Melina Marchetta’s speech was particularly moving — Finnikin of the Rock is her first move into speculative fiction and she talked about the process of writing it, and what she called her ‘ten year mini-break’ from writing!

And as mentioned above, Alison Goodman looked gorgeous and -was- gorgeous, even when Simon Higgins was trying to give her ideas to make the sequel to The Two Pearls of Wisdom better, involving enterprising ideas if ever I heard them! And her acceptance speech for her award was very funny – she was lost for words.

Stephanie and I had dinner with Jack Dann, Karen Miller, Kim Westwood, Cathie Tasker (who judged the fantasy novel award) and her partnet, Alan, as well as writer Angela Slatter and her fellow Clarion South classmate, Lisa, and upcoming Voyager author, Will Elliott. We had a good time, although both Karen and I were suffering from early starts, having flown in from Sydney that morning. I got to quiz Karen on Empress of Mijak (amazing book), and there being four Aurealis judges at the table, we had a good chat about the whole process, too.

Anyway, there’s plenty more to blog on from the weekend, so keep an eye on the Voyager blog this week!

And one more thing to add – a link to Cat Sparks Flickr photo album of the night – Cat‘s short story ‘Sammarynda Deep’ won the Aurealis for the short fantasy category.

Second Life for Kim Stanley Robinson

Voyager author Kim Stanley Robinson recently spent some time in Second Life, chatting with some of the residents there. You can read a log of the chat (click here).

(from an email from AussieCon4  where Kim will be Guest of Honour, Melbourne 2010)