• 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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Tansy Rayner Roberts: Craft, Magic and “women’s work”

There's a lot of hard work behind the glamour ...

I have been asked many times since the release of Power and Majesty whether I sew myself – in particular, if I can make dresses like Velody can.  If only!  Dressmaking is one of those astounding skills that I romanticise in my head, but am incapable of actually doing myself.  It’s not that I don’t love to sew, I’m just not very good at measuring.  Or straight lines.  When it comes to actually measuring straight lines, my head goes out the window.

You know how they say ‘measure twice, cut once?’  Well, my sewing technique is more along the lines of ‘think about measuring, remind self that measuring is really important, then throw measuring tape out the window and just APPLY SCISSORS’.

My pet craft, luckily enough, is quilting.  Where cutting fabric into tiny pieces and sewing it back together again is a feature, not a bug!  I love to hand piece (folding fabric over paper templates is the one way I am capable of sewing a straight line) because sewing machines freak me out, just a little.  I love to machine quilt because it’s all about wavy lines, and it looks good even if you get a little madly creative, and who doesn’t love a machine with a laser pointer?

The owner of the quilting machine, who is something of a mentor to me, despairs of my ragged hems and a style that can only be describes as ‘slapdash,’ but admits I’m quite good with colour.

Crazy quilts are my favourite – you can throw in every half-baked sewing technique you’ve ever learned, blag the rest, and if you use enough velvet and kimono silk scraps, somehow it ends up looking like art.  I’m currently working on a crazy quilt about The Creature Court – piecing a square for each character, like a jumbled scrapbook of who they are and what is most important to them.  At the rate I’m going, the quilt will take me far longer than the books did!

I love to read about women who craft, too.  Just about the only mainstream fiction I read these days involves women and quilting circles, or knitting yarn.  Sometimes they fight crime, as well!  You don’t find a lot of it in fantasy – though it is there, at times, around the edges.  Most fantasy worlds are pre-industrial, and so clothes are hand-made and woven, food is cooked from scratch (even if, as the late great Diana Wynne Jones pointed out, it’s mostly stew) and every tool is clanged out from a real forge, by a blacksmith.

It always drives me crazy when the only person you see pick up a needle in a fantasy novel is the motherly type (cough, Polgara, cough) who does everyone’s mending, or a soppy damsel whose embroidery is a symbol of how useless she is.  Before we had factories, sewing a straight line was an essential life skill, and while women have always taken on the majority of the domestic craft (it was often the only way to earn money from home, so you could mind the children at the same time) there’s no reason why we shouldn’t also see men fixing their own tunics or darning socks. 

I also love it when crafting techniques are used in descriptions of magic.  Sure, people call magic a ‘craft’ all the time, but I like it best when that is taken a step further, giving a realism to magical technique.  One of my favourite books of 2010, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, placed magic as an important lady’s accomplishment in the Regency period, along with playing the piano, drawing, and dancing prettily.  Her descriptions of ‘glamour’ make it feel like a real, tangible thing, and I thought it was particularly clever the way she showed that the few men who excelled at glamour were accorded professional status, while the women were expected to use it only to catch husbands

In Power and Majesty, I introduced three characters: Velody, Rhian and Delphine, who were each practicing craftswomen.  This gave them jobs and a grounding in the world I was trying to convey, and also tied closely to the importance of religious festivals in their city of Aufleur.  It also meant that I was able to write what I knew – about the pleasures and practicalities of making something, even if I did have to run the dressmaking scenes past someone who has actually done it.  Having a dressmaker heroine also gave me the metaphors and descriptive defaults to reach for when she is trying to explain magic to herself for the first time. 

In that first book of the trilogy, Velody’s craft and her fellow workers belonged to the daylight – they represented the part of her life she loved most, and what she wanted to protect from the darkness and magic of the new world she had been introduced to.  But in the second book, The Shattered City, Velody’s two worlds are going to collide with a vengeance.  Something as simple as a needle and thread could get people killed…

The Shattered City is out now and continues the story of Velody and the Creature Court. You can follow Tansy on Twitter, visit her website AND visit the official Creature Court website (don’t turn your back on anyone …)

And catch Tansy talking about her writing career and the Creature Court on Galactichat!

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Interview with a Witch

Image of Kreshkali

Nordinho’s Sophia

I had the chance to catch up with one of my favourite people from the Quantum Enchantment series, Kreshkali Richter. She’s not an easy woman to pin down so I took the opportunity, with her consent, to record our conversation.

KIM Kreshkali, it’s an honour to have you here in my home.

KRESHKALI Not a problem. You checked out.

KIM *clears throat* Many of our readers have asked me about your relationship to the Earth’s underground. In the first three books, you seem to be a loner, yet . . .

KRESHKALI *interrupting* It’s all about illusion. A glamour. To ASSIST, I look like a streetwise whore, scratching out a living on the edge of a ruined city. That’s the mask. After the underground was infiltrated by ASSIST, our leaders were killed. It was up to me. Pecking order, you know? I was next in line.

KIM And you’ve held it together very well indeed. But what about the magic? Did you really learn that on your own? From your mother’s grimoire?

KRESHKALI Not alone. I had Nell with me. Most of the time as kids, we studied together. Then there was the night in the sewer. Things went dark for sometime after that. But between Nell, and my mother’s books, ya, I learned the craft.

KIM And now you teach, of course. Can I ask who’s been your most challenging student?

KRESHKALI *chuckles* That would be Teg.

KIM Can you tell us a bit about him?

KRESHKALI Teg’s a Lupin. You know the term? Of course you do. He’s got wolf DNA merged with his own. A powerful shape-shifter, as all Lupins are, but Teg’s got something else. He’s a brilliant student. Drives me crazy sometimes . . .

KIM Because . . . ?

KRESHKALI *Surprised* If you met him, you wouldn’t have to ask! It’s like there’s no air in the room when he looks my way. Those eyes . . . He’s my apprentice though, so I keep it together.

KIM How do you cope with that?

KRESHKALI We train hard, fight dirty, study, debate, elude, detect and travel the many-worlds at the speed of light. It keeps me focused on the task at hand.

KIM Which is?

KRESHKALI Saving Earth and Gaela, what else?

KIM Ah yes, Gaela. How did you feel when you first woke up there?

KRESHKALI #%^@ing blown away! You can’t appreciate it, because your Earth is still healthy, but for me, waking up to see the sun shine, to see stars overhead at night and not a muddy vault, to drink water fresh from a stream and walk among trees was like opening my eyes for the first time. Fresh air that doesn’t smell like death, rain that doesn’t sting like demon’s piss, people who live and train and practice magic in the open . . . seeing that did it for me. I knew then and there. . .

KIM Knew what, Kali?

KRESHKALI I would do anything to bring Earth back to life.

KIM Beautiful. Thank you. *looks at the wall clock* Do you have time to take some questions from our readers?

KRESHKALI *winks* I thought you knew by now. I’ve got all the time in the world.

There will be a lot more of Kreshkali come September with the release of the third book in Quantum Encryption, Journey by Night.  Meanwhile, you can ask any questions here!

Farewell Diana Wynne Jones

Late on Saturday night, I saw the news that Diana Wynne Jones had died. She had been diagnosed with cancer some time ago, and her official website said that she had stopped chemotherapy, so I think all her readers knew this day would come. Over the past two weeks I’d had a nagging thought about one of her stories. Which one was it? There was a fete and a girl and a mean wizard and possibly a pig. I’d kept meaning to look it up but hadn’t. I looked it up today and it’s ‘The Fat Wizard’. Her stories have a habit of doing that, popping up and nudging you, for whatever reason. And I had reread Archer’s Goon just a couple of weeks’ ago.  I was thinking of Howard bounding up those steps and becoming seven feet tall and realising himself.

Diana taught me a number of things about writing and about life.

The thing that lingers most in my mind is Polly and Laurel in Fire and Hemlock; Polly needing to ignore her own embarrassment over her feelings for Tom in order to not forget the situation and stop being a hero. In fact, at a pivotal moment in the book, she succumbs to a perceived embarrassment over her actions.  I hadn’t thought before then that a hero must overcome their own preoccupations or sense of what is decorous. After all, most of us sit and squirm through difficult situations rather than risking standing up and speaking out, because what if we’re wrong? A true hero, a New Hero, must let the adrenalin flow and forget about going red in the face and assume they are doing the right thing as they leap into the fray.  And perhaps train by lifting up their bed every day, at least three legs off the floor.

One of the most wonderful and endearing things in Diana’s writing is that she writes the everyday and familiar but with a twist. In Archer’s Goon the Sykes family’s most pressing frustrations are the lack of electricity, lack of sleep because of noise, lack of food. The fact that megalomaniac wizardy types may be running their town takes a backseat to their everyday needs. A lot of the story circles around getting the basic necessities so they can live. And Howard, again, has moments of cringing and shame that he has to fight against to get things sorted out. Diana notes all those idiosyncrasies that make up a family, whether it’s Quentin stealing Howard’s boots or Awful salting the tea. In Castle in the Air Abdullah finds his elaborate daydreams are not so wonderful when they interfere with his everyday life, thanks to the great djinn, but he’s more annoyed by the fact that everyone seems to be getting the better of him. In Dogsbody, Sirius realises that Kathleen loved his ordinary dog-self, the creature with boundless enthusiasm and a clumsy tail, not this towering, powerful celestial being.  Diana made me realise that fantasy and magic wrap around the everyday and that the everyday likewise wraps itself around magic. You can find both things everywhere.

Diana’s writing brought magic into thousands of people’s lives, and you can see this in the outpouring of emotion that has come with the news of her death, as well as the many discussions boards and websites where readers discuss the threads running through her amazing books and characters. Thank you, Diana, for the magic that continues to live on in your writing.

I’d love to hear about how Diana has been a part of your life, please share any comments you’d like.

Natalie (Editor)

Tracey O’Hara: Why I Write Urban Fantasy

Image of Dean and Sam from Supernatural

We read UF because it's fab but watch UF because ... see above!

With the rise of T.V. series like True Blood (based on the Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series of books) The Vampire Diaries (based on the LJ Smith series) and Supernatural, more and more people are becoming aware of the Urban Fantasy genre. UF is not action adventure, fantasy, romance, horror, or a blood thirsty thriller. UF can often be a story with all of those elements. Well at least the ones I like can. While some say the Twilight Saga started the whole supernatural phenomenon – UF and paranormal romance were well and truly alive and kicking ass way before sparkly vampires came on the scene. Anne Rice, Laurel K Hamilton & LJ Smith are just a few of the authors who have been writing it for quite a while.

I grew up loving action/adventure stories. From the very first time my third grade teacher started reading Enid Blyton’s, The Magic Faraway Tree, I was hooked. And if my action adventure had monsters and supernatural creatures too, then the more the better. I can remember hating Scooby Doo cartoons because the Scooby Gang always uncovered the all too human bad guy behind the clever ruse who would then utter the inevitable line “I would have gotten away with it too if not for those darn meddling kids”. I always felt cheated. I really wanted the ghosts and monsters to be real and that one day, Scoobs and the gang would come up against something that simply wasn’t just some old meanie dressed up in a costume.Then I discovered fantasy, horror and eventually UF. Now, I’m not going to go into the origins of Urban Fantasy or get into the debate of what is and what isn’t considered UF. There are too many differing opinions on both topics. Back in 2005 I started writing a vampire book. I had no idea where it fit, I didn’t even know about genres back then. I’d watched horror movies, read Stephen King (over and over again) and I just had this story in my head that I had to get out. I started writing it as more of a romance, but it kept trying to get darker and I had to keep reining it in.

Then I picked Dead until Dark, the first book in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series. And I thought WOW – this is terrific. Scary, funny, serious and light all at the same time. This I liked. This I could connect with. Then I read Keri Arthur’s Ripple Creek werewolf books and was just hooked. While the latter is more paranormal romance, especially when compared with her Riley Jenson series, I found I really liked the relationship elements too. So I gave Mary Janice Davidson a go. While I started out liking the books, I came to realise I craved the dark and gritty more than light and humorous. I know, I’m a sick puppy.

So I started working on my story in earnest. Before then I didn’t really have much direction of where it was going or if what I was putting in there was going to work. But I realised I could have romantic elements and also have horror – in the same book.  I could have seriously dark component and light moments too. While I am now working on my third book, I’m still finding my way through the genre, still trying to work it all out. But one thing I do know for sure – I love playing in alternate worlds.

Tracey O’Hara grew up reading Stephen King, Raymond E. Feist, and J. R. R. Tolkien. As you can see above, her tastes also embrace other types of fantasy now. Tracey lives in Canberra but you can catch her and fellow Canberra UF author Nicole Murphy at the Australian Romance Readers Convention THIS SATURDAY!  It’s at the Swiss Grand Resort  and Spa at Bondi Beach and Tracey and Nicole will be doing the mass signing from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. Don’t be late, because they’re roadtripping back to Canberra that same day!

Image of Death's Sweet Embrace, an urban fantasy book by Tracey O'Hara

Romeo meets Juliet, supernatural style

 

A sneak peak of Death’s Sweet Embrace.

The excited babble of female voices floated down the hall toward Gideon. He turned and faced the wall, then pulled a mop from the cleaning cart and began running it over the already shiny floor, pretending to clean.

What are they doing here? 

The academy didn’t open for classes until this evening. The institution was still officially closed for the holidays.

As two girls neared, he tugged the brim of his cap down over his forehead, keeping his head low as he continued to mop. They walked by without even a glance in his direction, too lost in their own self-important chatter. Maintenance men were invisible, especially janitors, which suited him just fine.

The girls soon disappeared around the corner, talking and giggling, totally oblivious to his presence.

WELL DONE, MY CHILD.” Ealund’s translucent form floated across the floor, his ethereal beauty reflecting on the shiny black floor tiles.

With a quick glance to make sure the girls were gone, Gideon dumped the mop in the cart and pushed it toward his original direction. The incorporeal apparition glowed, his pellucid form surrounded by a silver-blue aura—and Gideon’s heart ached just looking upon such ethereal beauty. Ealund only showed himself to Gideon.

He was the image of angelic magnificence with waist-length gold hair floating around his head, pale flowing robes, and terrifyingly exquisite azure eyes—all that was missing were wings. And yet, Ealund’s presence of absolute and pure evil almost brought Gideon to his knees.

Apart from the girls, the hallways were deserted. He kept his head down and peered at the security camera in a corner just above a classroom door. They’d been set up everywhere around campus after the first murder several weeks ago, but he had the schematics and knew how to get around most of them.

HURRY, MY CHILD,” Ealund intoned.TIME GROWS SHORT.”

Death’s Sweet Embrace is published on 1 April, and if you see Tracey this Saturday at the ARRC you could get your hands on an early copy.

Congratulations to Glenda Larke and Tansy Rayner Roberts

A huge congratulations to Glenda Larke and Tansy Rayner Robert who are both shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel this year.

Of course, we think they BOTH deserve an award.

Join in the fun at the Aurealis Awards and see Australia’s best fantasy writers in their finest feathers in Sydney later this year, when the awards will be announced.

In a dry land, water is gold ...

In a dry land, water is gold ...

 Glenda is nominated for Stormlord Rising, the second book in the Watergivers trilogy.

 Shale Flint is forced to help the devious rainlord, Taquar Sardonyx, in his quest to create rain – even though Taquar’s lust for power threatens to consume all that stands in his path.
Terelle leaves the Scarpen with her great-grandfather, Russet … his painting of her future has trapped her into doing his will. Obsessed with regaining his status as a Watergiver lord in his homeland, it seems that Russet will go to any lengths to attain his goal.
Meanwhile, Ryka Feldspar has been captured and taken as a concubine by a Reduner tribemaster. Desperate to escape, she discovers her Rainlord husband, Kaneth, in the slave lines … but, to Ryka’s despair, he has no memories of their time together.

Tansy is nominated for Power and Majesty, the first book in the Creature Court trilogy.

Enter the world of the Creature Court ...

 She almost missed the sight of a naked youth falling out of the sky. He was long and lean and muscled … He was also completely off his face.
A war is being fought in the skies over the city of Aufleur. No one sees the battles. No one knows how close they come to destruction every time the sun sets.
During daylight, all is well, but when nox falls and the sky turns bright, someone has to step up and lead the Creature Court into battle. Twelve years ago, Garnet kissed Velody and stole her magic. Five years ago, he betrayed Ashiol, and took his powers by force. But now the Creature Court is at a crossroads … they need a Power and Majesty who won’t give up or lose themselves in madness …

Lost in Translation

Image of 'Naufragos' by Eugenio Recuenco depicting two characters calling to each other - but what they say may be lost in translation ...

Naufragos (Shipwrecked) by Eugenio Recuenco

With each new book release comes the season of the interviews. Suddenly, after writing for months in relative isolation, reviewing and reworking and proofing, the book is out and newspapers, magazines and pod casters want to hear about it. It’s an exciting time, the icing on the cake.

 I’ve had some fabulous interviews, from my very first in The Specusphere to a recent interview in The Fringe Magazine. But sometimes an interview can go a little hinky. I’m not sure how it happens but somewhere along the line, the words get lost in translation. You can hear the pen scratching away on the other end of the line, or the keyboard clicking, as the journalist tries to keep up with the flow but they don’t always get it down exact.

  ‘I never said that!’ is not such an uncommon phrase. As a matter of fact, there’s a new book by Oxford University Press with virtually the same title.  It’s a collection of misquotations, adaptations and fabrications ranging from Napoleon’s ‘Not tonight, Josephine’ to our beloved

‘Beam me up, Scotty.’ (not what Kirk said!) Misquotes can be a anything from funny to slanderous. Fortunately for me, it’s been mostly funny! Here are some random examples of questions I’ve been asked, my answers and what actually made it into print.

 Interviewer: You weave astrology and stars into your Earth/Gaela books. Where did you learn this?

 Kim: My father was an astrologer before me so it was part of my upbringing. I’ve been studying it all my life, both ancient forms and contemporary.

 The misquote Kim’s father was an astronomer and so is she.

 Interviewer: Where does your new book fit in the series?

 Kim: It’s the second book in the Quantum Encryption series. There’s one more to come before the conclusion . . .

 The misquote Road to the Soul is the final book in her first series, Quantum Entanglement.

 Interviewer: Have you thought of expanding into other genres?

 Kim: I write and read spec fic because I love it. It has all the landscapes of every great genre combined—historical fiction, crime, magical realism, adventure, romance, suspense, thriller, mystery  . . . Why would I ever want to write anything else?

 The misquote: We can expect to see Kim Falconer writing historical fiction in the near future. 

 And my current favourite (because how cool would it be if this were true)!

 Interviewer: Is there anything new in the works?

 Kim: Indeed, I’m plotting a new series right now! It’s just at the proposal stage so fingers crossed my publisher will love it as much as I do and offered a contract.

 The misquote: Kim has an ongoing contract with HarperCollins Publishing for whatever she can produce.  

 How about you? Ever been misquoted? Have some funny interview story to tell? What about tips to keep the story straight? Comments always welcome!

Kim Falconer is the author of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption trilogies, set in the worlds of Gaela and Earth and exploring all manner of ideas, people and places. The latest in the series is Road to the Soul, which will be published 1 March. Visit Kim’s website and find out more about Kim and her books!

Full Moon in Virgo

Full Moon Rising Leopard image by John Seerey Lester

‘Full Moon Rising – Leopard’ by John Seerey Lester

New York March 19, 14:10
London March 19, 18:10
Sydney March 20, 05:10
LA March 19, 11:10

ARIES: A friendship tests integrity as you are put on the spot. This is a time to be who you in all relationships. If you keep adjusting to others there will be none of the real you left! There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do. ~Freya Stark

TAURUS: Anything you’ve been holding together with glue and paperclips is going to unravel. Perfect for rebuilding new models for work and home, ones you can respect. Every day, tell at least one person something you like, admire, or appreciate about them. (Start with yourself!) ~Richard Carlson

GEMINI: This full moon tests the balance been your work and home life. The question isn’t so much are those around you happy with it but are you? Take a moment and discover the truth. Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~Gandhi

CANCER: Tensions may come in the form of a communication—letter, message, text, post—and you might just say, ‘Oh, not this again!’ Experiment: Try facing the thing straight on. Anything in life that we don’t accept will simply make trouble for us until we make peace with it. ~Shakti Gawain

LEO: Push comes to shove and you find yourself ready to make a choice. It looks like it’s about financial security, but it’s not. The only choice you ever have to make is to be happy. The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy. ~Malcolm Forbes

VIRGO: The inner critic has you examining every decision, word and intention. If you must measure, put away the yard stick and take stock of what really counts. The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. ~Hellen Keller

LIBRA: If hackles are up, the best action right now is kindness. It may not be the quickest retaliation to hand, but it is the most surefire. Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate. ~Albert Schweitzer

SCOPRIO: Intensity accompanies this full moon showing you a side of yourself you’ve been longing for — the numinous. Before you were conceived I wanted you. Before you were born I loved you. Before you were here for an hour I would die for you. This is the miracle of life. ~Maureen Hawkins

SAGITTARIUS: Passionate desires awaken on the full moon and revolve around what you always wanted to ‘do’. If it feels like you’ve missed the boat, it’s time to shift to a new perspective. Nothing is over until it’s over, and that ain’t yet. It’s never too late to be what you might have been. ~George Elliot

CAPRICORN: Retrospective analysis can give great insights, and looking over the past has offered its pearls and gems. But enough of that now. Put your eyes where you want to be, and appreciate the moment! Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. ~Soren Kierkegaard

AQUARIUS: Intimacy, intensity and the merging of energy with another are top of the list this full moon. Extremely creative! You won’t want to go it alone so think about building a bridge. There’s really nothing to lose. To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground. ~Stephen Covey

PISCES: The full moon puts you in the mood to distill all relationships down to their one true essence. The goal is to answer the question, why is this person in my life? Be ready for the answers. Be ready for change. I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Kim Falconer is the author of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption trilogies, set in the worlds of Gaela and Earth and exploring all manner of ideas, people and places. The latest in the series is Road to the Soul, which will be published on 1 March. Visit Kim’s website and find out more about Kim and her books!