• 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!



Fallon Friday: The “How Jennifer Fallon was Born” story



Is Jennifer Fallon your real name?

The short answer is “no”. The long answer is …

Once upon a time, there was a hopeful writer who was married to a person with a name very similar to Tolkien, who made lots of noises about supporting her efforts as a writer, right up until the day he made the comment: “I wish you’d quit writing and be a better housewife because you’re never going to get published.”

This was not the devastating blow you might imagine (although it is among the many reasons he’s now the “ex” husband). More like a red rag to a bull. The very next day she started writing Medalon

Anyway, by the time Medalon was sold to a publisher, he really was the “ex”, and because he’s the sort of person who would have gone around telling all and sundry he’d been my rock and my greatest supporter for the past 20 years and that I couldn’t have done it without him, I decided I wasn’t going to use his name on my book. Not ever.

I reverted to my maiden name and rang my agent, proudly informing her that I would now be using this new name.

Dead silence greeted my announcement followed by the comment: “It’s kind of, well, boring…”

Fair enough. But I wasn’t going with my married name, even if it would have put me right on the shelves next to Tolkien in the book shops.

“I’ll pick another name,” I said, and hung up the phone.

So how does one choose a new name?

Well, at the time, I had three teenage kids and they told me how to work out what your name would be if you were a porn star. The secret, apparently, is to take the name of your first pet, and the name of the first street you lived in, and that’s your porn name.

My porn star name, incidentally, is Mittens Blake.

So, applying this highly scientific formula to my search for a pseudonym, I started listing all my pets and all the streets I’d ever lived in.

The second street on my list was Fallon Street. Jennifer (my real name) Fallon, sounded pretty cool. And then it occurred to me that in the bookstores, the books would be put in the following order… Eddings, Fallon, Feist

Thus was Jennifer Fallon born 🙂

If I ever write something in a different genre, maybe I’ll publish it under Mittens Blake. .. LOL

Maybe some vampire porn, perhaps … 😀

Jennifer ‘Mittens’ Fallon is the author of thirteen bestselling fantasy novels , all of which are available throughout Australia (and the majority worldwide). Medalon is the first book in the Demon Child trilogy.

A Kiss from the Muse – Kim Falconer

Recent comments on What’s The Most Difficult Part of Being a Writer have highlighted the challenge of simply getting words down on the page. For many writers, it’s hardest part, but it wasn’t always so.

In ancient time, we had a lot more support. Forget that it was an oral tradition—no pages involved, blank or otherwise—the storytellers of the past didn’t have to struggle for content. All they had to do was show up with the right attitude and wait for the Muse. What is the ‘right attitude’? Their opening lines tell all.

Hesiod and the Muse

Hesiod and the Muse, by Gystabe Moreau, 1891

Muses of Pieria who give glory through son, says Hesiod at the start of Theogony, come hither . . . Homer does it too. Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy.
Tell me . . . Come hither . . . That’s the key. The Muse must be invited in!

The classical poets and bards did not create out of thin air. Neither did they plagiarise. They gave credit to their source, the Muse, acknowledging her sacred part in the process of imagination. It was a completely different relationship to creativity than we have now and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love gives an engaging talk on this topic. We expect the ‘impossible’ from artists and geniuses, she says, sharing the notion that, instead of the rare person ‘being’ a genius, everyone has a muse that expresses ‘through’ them. What a wonderful idea.

A way to better understand the Muse is to look for her signature in myth and fairytale. I liken her to the mermaid—a tale made popular by Hans Christian Andersen. These stories always begin with a deep dark lake or sea—the collective unconscious—our source of creativity. The fisher dips a net into the depths and one day he, or she, catches the mermaid. Usually they fall in love. It’s an impossible arrangement, so the mermaid agrees to enter the fisher’s world, on one condition—a box can not be opened or a key must not be used or a question must not be asked. The fisher (consciousness) can bask in the creative flow as long as he respects the mystery.

While he does, life prospers. Children are born of the union—a sign of something creative coming from the experience. But, when curiosity overtakes and he questions her secrets, she vanishes, returning to the sea of the unconscious, children in tow. The fisher is left alone, sitting on the shore, staring into the depths, waiting, hoping she will return.

Creativity is an inside job, but within us is the spirit of the muse. Awakening her liberates the imagination and allows the words to flow. Part II & III (next week) offer ways to get that first kiss from the Muse, and many more. Has anyone a story to tell about their Muse? What do they look like? How do they inspire? I’d love to hear!

Kim Falconer has found her muse, having completed the edits on her second book, Arrows of Time, just recently. You can find her first book The Spell of Rosette in all good bookshops across Australia, and overseas readers can buy it online from Australian booksellers. Kim lives in Byron Bay, which seems like the perfect place to commune with your muse …

Introducing … The Gene Thieves by Maria Quinn

The Gene Thieves

The Gene Thieves

Hi everyone I’m very excited because this is my first blog. I’m trying to figure out whether ‘blog’ is a noun (my blog, your blog, our blogs) or a verb (I blog, you blog, we blog.) I assume that now I’ve started one, I’m ‘a blogger.’ What does that make you, as you read this…a ‘bloggee’? Have you just been (or are about to be) ‘blogged’? Crazy word game of course, but it’s just the kind of thing every writer needs to distract her from the task in hand, the kind of game that lets the characters in her head write the novel they want to write, while she mucks about with the words.

Writing The Gene Thieves taught me this scary lesson; we, the writers are not alone! Everyone talks about what a solitary pursuit the writing life is. But when you’re writing a book peopled with characters like Dancer, Piggy, Molly and Jack Lee, you’re never alone. They live in the back room of your brain, beavering away, determined to make you put their story down, the way they want to tell it. Even when you think you’re sleeping, they are in bed with you. (As I’m dreaming of seeing Hugh Jackman on screen as Dancer…well…being a writer may have some perks).

Kirribilli Books obviously have taken to Piggy Brown, a major force in The Gene Thieves. Love their book display!

Kirribilli Books obviously have taken to Piggy Brown, a major force in The Gene Thieves. Love their book display!

Early on, I thought I was in charge of The Gene Thieves. I thought I knew just how the story would evolve. Then one of my characters committed suicide. I had no warning, I just kept tapping at the keys and there it was on the screen! Stunned, I walked away from my desk and went and poured myself a stiff drink. What the hell was I going to do, play God and raise this person up like Lazarus?

When I found the courage to go back and read the chapter I immediately knew the character was right to do it. Resurrection was not an option. I had no idea where the story was heading from here. Then I got it, they knew! I just had to trust the fascinating people I had given life. I knew them all intimately, I became each one as I wrote their dialogue, so I just did what came naturally…to them. They told me a terrific story and it became The Gene Thieves.
Now I’m living with a whole new group of people, as I write my next novel. But that’s okay; there are still plenty of backrooms for rent in my head.

Maria Quinn

Maria Quinn

The Gene Thieves by Maria Quinn will be hitting book shops from today onwards. This is Maria’s first novel but you can find links to her short stories by going to her website. Watch this space for more from Maria and make sure you lay your hands on the book asap!

Jack Dann blogs for the SLV

“It really is summer again.
Time to sneak away and…read.
I want to reread E. F. Benson’s coy and cozy Map and Lucia trilogy and P. G. Woodhouse’s exquisitely silly Jeeves novels. I want to take another look at Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and try to figure out how the hell she did it…and I want to finish The Gnostic Gospels, read the Folio editions of Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio, illustrated by Blake and Dali respectively, and the last two volumes of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. I’ve also got my eye on Hilary Mantel’s historical novel A Place of Greater Safety and Anathem by Neil Stephenson. I’m going to read a lot more science fiction and fantasy, and I think I’ll reread Henry Roth’s 1934 stream-of-consciousness masterpiece Call It Sleep.”

Jack Dann is blogging for the State Library of Victoria as part of their Summer reading program. Dreaming Again has been chosen as one of the books for the program.

Fallon Friday: Fallon’s Six Rules of Characterisation

There really is no secret to good characterisation, there is just sticking to the rules.

Rules? What rule?

Well, I’m glad you asked. I have 6 of them, so here they are:

Fallon’s Six Rules of Characterisation

1. Have some idea what your character looks like.

This is not to say you need a detailed description of every single character in your book. But you do need to know if he’s black, white, brindle or covered in purple polka dots. Are they tall, short, fat or skinny? A person’s physical appearance affects how they see the world and how the world perceives them. A short fat person is unlikely to be performing athletic feats of heroism without it impacting on them somehow (breathless, more prone to injury…?). People who perceive themselves as plain can sometimes resent those considered “beautiful”. Short people can resent others being tall. Tall people (particularly women) are often self-conscious about their height. These are all hang-ups that come with physical appearance and will add depth to you characters.

I play a game sometimes, called: “If this was a movie my dream cast would be…” in which I “cast” the major characters if the book like it was a movie. This gives me an idea of who I see the character as being most physically like. I may never describe them the same way in the book (although perceptive readers will find George Clooney and Brak have a great deal in common…hehehe), but in my head, I know, and that’s what really counts.

2. Know your character’s past.

Despite being largely formed by a genetic makeup, we are still creatures of our environment. If you don’t know what that environment is, then how will you know what has made your character the way they are? People are moulded by their past, either by being pulled down by it, or by rising above it. If your characters have no past, however, you have nothing to work with.

3. Know your character.

This may seem like I’m repeating myself but this is quite different to the other rules. Knowing a character means not having to think about what they’d do, because it’s self-evident. And it’s not always easy to find them. When I was writing The Immortal Prince, I was really struggling to get a grip on Arkady, until I wrote the line: “The Duchess of Lebec knew how to amputate a finger”. (It’s several chapters in… can’t remember exactly where.) At that point, she suddenly blossomed into life and I’ve never had to wonder, from them on, what she would do in any given situation.

4. When writing from a character’s particular point of view, write in their voice.

If you were writing a chapter from the point of view of a child, you probably wouldn’t write…

“Pandora cautiously lifted the lid on the valuable antique rosewood chest with it’s intricately inlaid mother-of-pearl and gilt decoupage design (which would have fetched a fortune at Christies), and gasped as all the deadly plagues of the world were unleashed upon humanity.”

Design features and consequences come from an adult’s perspective. The child would see a pretty box. You’d probably do something more like this…
“Pandora cautiously lifted the lid on the pretty box with its shiny flowers that seemed pressed into the polished wood by magic and gasped as something dreadful burst out of the box.”

The latter is a child’s perspective, and if you write your characters using language they wouldn’t use in dialogue, then it doesn’t gel. It is for this reason that I despise “head-hopping” so much. Only a very few, very-skilled practitioners (and I do not claim to be one of them) can do this and maintain characterisation without confusing the reader.

5. Evil is merely a matter of perspective.

There is a saying – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and there was never a truer word spoken. Good people might think they’re good. But bad people, more often than not, think they’re good, too. This is the fatal mistake many would-be writers make writing their “bad guys”. They make them bad for no apparent reason. Or have them rejoice in their “badness”, and people following them (whole populations often) with no apparent goal in sight, other than world domination, just because they can. Being an Evil Overlord just because you like the idea of being an Evil Overlord only works if you’re Mike Myers and planning to clone a Mini-Me.
In my experience, all the complete assholes I’ve ever met think they’re doing the world a favour by merely breathing. And they’d be shocked, in most cases, to realise that people thought they were anything other wonderful human beings.

6. Give your characters shades of grey.

My agent brokered a stunningly fantastic advance for one of her (literary) writers last year, and the last I heard, they were into seven figures. (Yes, that’s over a million dollars.) The reason? It’s because, as one enthusiastic publisher gushed, “the characters have so many shades of grey”.

To give you an example of what I mean, let me paraphrase the story of The Good Samaritan for a moment.

• A good character without shading would stop and help the wounded man lying on the road, for no other reason than he is good and it’s the right thing to do.
• An evil character without shading would not stop to help the wounded man lying on the road, for no other reason than he is evil and it’s the wrong thing to do, although he may stop and spare the poor dying mugging victim a muwahahaha for dramatic effect, before moving on to other random acts of violence and mayhem.
• A fully realised character will see the wounded man, turn away because he doesn’t want to get involved, be swamped with guilt a few steps further on and go back to aid him, resent the poor victim for causing him trouble, even while giving him the shirt off his back, which he then has to explain to his wife when he gets home that night.

It’s not the best example, granted, but you get the idea. Heroes are often accidental. In fact, there’s an argument that only a fearful man can be a hero. If you’re not afraid of anything, what is there to overcome? Courage is doing something in spite of your fears, not blazing ahead fearlessly because you’re too stupid to know the danger.

Jennifer Fallon is the author of four fantasy series, the most recent being the Tide Lords quartet. The Chaos Crystal, book four of the Tide Lords series, came out this month and is available across all good Australian book shops.

Peter V Brett at ComicCon

Here’s our Peat at ComicCon doing one of a series of interviews/signings last week. I strongly recommend you head over to www.petervbrett.com and have a look at Peat’s posts on the con – it’s looks amazing.

But wait, there’s more! Click here for the exhaustive listing of Peter V Brett at ComicCon.

Below is a slightly older vid of Peat talking about The Painted Man.