• 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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Show Don’t Tell: Let the bodies do the talking

One thing I learned growing up in California was how to read body language. I was shy and not big on self expression so conversations were usually short and lacking in point. Out of shear self-defence, I learned to read what was really going on and to use my body to portray what words could not. I’ve got over the shyness eventually, but my body language radar has stayed, thank goodness. I use it every day in my writing.

 There are a lot of things to keep in mind when writing epic fantasy—world building, action, suspense, characterisation. Another key component is dialog and I am always looking for ways to ‘show not tell’ when it comes to my characters’ conversations. It’s tricky because they are actually telling when they speak. One way to ease back on the exposition in dialog is to use body language along with the words. Here is an example of what I mean.

 This is a short excerpt from Journey by Night, my most recent release. It’s a conversation between Kreshkali at age five and her Auntie Bess. First consider it with the body language and actions removed. Do we really know what’s going on?

 ‘What about Nell?’

‘Who?’

‘Nell   . . . we can’t leave her behind,’ Kali said.

 ‘Fine. You can bring your teddy . . .

Next here it is as written in the text.

Tears welled in Kali’s eyes. ‘What about Nell?’

‘Who?’

‘Nell,’ Kali said and pointed to her friend.

Auntie Bess knitted her brows.

‘We can’t leave her behind,’ Kali said.

Auntie Bess clicked her tongue. ‘Fine. You can bring your teddy . . .

Here the body language shows us how the characters are feeling without resorting to exposition.  We are never told what Kali or Bess feel but we’ve got a good idea. Below is the same conversation again with different body language. Keep in mind the actual dialog hasn’t changed one word. 

 Kali smiled, her hands going out to her sides as she twirled. ‘What about Nell?’

‘Who?’

‘Nell,’ Kali stopped to point at her friend.

Auntie Bess tapped her chin.

‘We can’t leave her behind,’ Kali said.

Auntie Bess gave the child a hug. ‘Fine. You can bring your teddy . . .

 There are plenty of actions that show readers what’s going on without having to literally spell it out: Rub the back of your neck and look down? Lying! Point a finger and shout? Threatening! Cross arms and take a step back? Defensive! Fiddling with small objects and avoiding eye contact? Nervous as hell!

 But not all body language is universal. For example holding hands or looping arms with a person of the same sex in public in our culture is likely to be interpreted as a gay/lesbian relationship. In Japan, it’s a common behaviour between friends (two women or two men). I’m sure when books are translated for foreign publication, the body language has to be assessed for meaning as much as the words themselves.

 How about you? Is there a particular kind of body language you spot a mile away and think, I know what’s really going on? Share it if you do. I’d love to add to my repertoire.

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Sara Douglass remembered by Karen Brooks

Sara Douglass R.I.PThe outpouring of grief that has followed the death of Sara Douglass (Sara Mary Warneke), who died on Tuesday morning has surprised no-one – except, had she lived to see the effect of her passing, Sara herself.

How do I know? Having been Sara’s close friend and confidant for twenty years – and having followed in her career-footsteps (from academic to author; as she did for many others, she both inspired and encouraged me) and being in the process of recovering from cancer myself – I’ve spent the last nine months caring for Sara, along with my husband, Stephen. We shifted to Tasmania at the beginning of the year and have been privileged to share the best and worst of times with the woman who called me her soul-sister.

Though Sara was an intensely private person, when Stephanie Smith, Sara’s editor and good friend at Harper Collins, asked me if I could write an obituary, revealing something of Sara’s last weeks, I agreed. Sara had a deep affection for her readers and fans and loved connecting with them through cyberspace – through the early years of her message board and its various discussions, to her blog and websites (her homepage and the Nonsuch garden) and FaceBook. So, without disrespecting her privacy and with a heavy heart, let me briefly invite you into Sara’s, Stephen’s and my world – a world that with her death, for us at least, has been cast adrift and irrevocably shattered.

Her final weeks were not easy; even the seemingly simple act of showering tired her for an entire day. Nonetheless, Sara maintained her wonderful sense of humour and acerbic wit, and her curiousity and concern for others. She managed to edit and see the publication of what is now her final novel, the magnificent The Devil’s Diadem and even saw (though didn’t read) the advance readers’ copies of her collection of short stories, The Hall of Lost Footsteps, which is being published in November by Ticonderoga Publications.

Accompanying her to every medical appointment, ensuring she had meals, clean clothes and well-fed cats, Stephen and I spent as much time as we could with Sara and did what we could for Sara. And typically of her, she was incredibly undemanding and often apologised (for what, we still don’t know!). I don’t know how many times she thanked us. We didn’t feel (and still don’t) that we deserved her thanks … we loved her and still do love her and it was a joy to see and be with her, as others who know her can attest.

While she sometimes appeared aloof, it was often because she didn’t hear what was said – Sara was quite deaf and relied on hearing aids – but distant she was not. On the contrary, she was one of the most loving and affectionate people I know who would embrace you in the warmest of hugs and squeeze you tight. I will miss those hugs more than I can say.

Visited by a few dear girlfriends (she was selective about who she let into her life) who travelled to Tasmania to see her, she very much enjoyed their company, but was also glad to be by herself again. She was a very solitary person who lived in her imagination as much as she did in the real world. I think she would be overwhelmed by what people are expressing on various forums now; she would be laughing in her unrestrained and contagious way and shaking her head in bewilderment.

Her final days were, by her choice, in a palliative care ward in Hobart. Despite what she wrote in her forthright and amazing blog, ‘The Silence of the Dying’, Sara chose not to die at home. After two weeks in hospital and then just over two in palliative care, she made the decision, despite everything being set in place (care teams organised, doctor ready, and I was to move in with her), not to return. I think it was emotionally too hard for her – the distancing from her old life had begun. The palliative care ward was comfortable, the ambience was warm, the staff caring, frank and compassionate: just like Sara. There was a garden on the balcony outside her window.

At first she felt guilty that she experienced relief at her decision not to go back home, but we quickly assuaged that and told her it was both normal and perfectly all right to feel such things.

After that, she seemed to find inner peace.

Then, she died.

She died as she lived – on her own terms, in her own time. Her death was quick.

She looked peaceful, serene even, her alabaster skin glowing, her hair softly framing her face. It’s an image that will live in my mind forever.

In accordance with Sara’s wishes, there’s no funeral or formal celebration of her life. She wanted ‘no fuss’. That is so Sara! As I promised, I’m following these wishes – it’s the least I can do.

Sara will be cremated on the 29 September at 10 a.m. There will be three people present. I will read from both BattleAxe (the part where StarDrifter sings the Star Song) and from page 511 of The Devil’s Diadem to the end. I will also read selections from the various tributes that family, friends and fans have left. I will make sure you’re all there with Stephen and me as we say another goodbye.

Then, as the sun sets on Friday the 30th of September, I will spread her ashes over her beloved garden with her cats and a bottle of bubbly as witnesses. I ask that, wherever you are in the world – real and virtual – you raise a glass or pause, and for just a moment, help us send Sara on the first steps in the eternal dance of stars.

I know she’s poised to soar and once she departs, she’ll twinkle brightly forever – in our hearts, minds and every time someone picks up her books and reads her astounding and beautiful words.

Vale Sara.

Karen Brooks was Sara’s friend & carer for the past 9 months.

Sara Douglass

As I’m sure many of you now know, Sara Douglass, the bestselling Australian fantasy writer, died this week after a battle with cancer. Sara was the first Australian signed to HarperCollins’ Voyager list in 1995 . Everyone at  HarperCollins Publishers send their deepest condolences to Sara’s family, friends and legions of fans. Sara’s publisher and long-time colleague Stephanie Smith will be posting a more in depth message later on, but we wanted to assure all our readers how much her passing means to us.

The three most frustrating words for any Fantasy Reader – to be continued…

Nazgul!Just picture this – you are loving what you are reading and haven’t been able to put it down and so, despite the 7am meeting in the morning you are still reading at 2am to get to the end of the story but you are starting to get that sense of dread (similar to the approach of a Nazgul) because there don’t seem to be many pages left in the book and the story doesn’t seem to be winding down – and then you see those horror words:

 TO BE CONTINUED.

I have long considered this to be one of the most frustrating things about modern fantasy – the increasingly rare published stand-alone book. I was on my soapbox preaching this to some friends on the weekend when (I think as they were tired of hearing about for this for the 1 billionth time and were seriously starting to consider if I was caught in some sort of time paradox doomed to repeat the same problem every time I had an alcoholic beverage) they pointed out to me the flaws in my arguments which I thought were worth sharing:

  1. Its not just modern fantasy

The Grandfather of them all – Lord of the Rings – is a trilogy (plus the extra books like the Hobbit in the same world) and as we know in the commercial world that we live in – as soon as something makes money the word sequel get’s bandied about – in the movie business we can take the example of Transformers 1, 2 & 3 (and I believe 4 is going in production now) so the concept of a standalone hasn’t existed in movies, film or tv for quite some time (if ever)

      2.  You like revisiting the same world.

 It’s true – I really do. I loved Kylie Chan’s books and the vivid world she has created and each new book is a new opportunity to immerse myself in the incredible worlds she creates. I have been reading Robert Jordan & George R Martin’s respective Wheel of Time & A Song of Ice and Fire series for over 10 years now – and I’m still waiting in line to be first when a new book comes out.

       3.   If you don’t like it – why don’t you wait till the whole series comes out before you start reading.

That’s fair – and sometimes I do – having said that if I followed that rule then I would never have read either Martin or Jordan yet and that is a horror not worth contemplating.  

 So in summary I don’t think there is any great insight except that I have to stop bemoaning the loss of the standalone book (which may have never existed as a fantasy genre except as a fiction in my head) as I do really want to read series – I just hate the wait between books and can’t wait for the next one!

by guest blogger and sometime HR manager Jonathan Connolly

Writing Villains that Rock

Once upon a time, villains were bad to the core. They did bad things for evil gain and that was all there was to it—soulless, unaccountable, wicked.

 This is no longer the case.

A contemporary villain, like the shape-shifting Daos (pictured left) from Quantum Encryption, is fully fleshed out and has all the ingredients that makes a good hero—they are on a journey, they have strong motivations, much is at stake, much is risked, the choices are hard, they believe in their cause and they are believable to the reader. In this way, the villain is just like the hero/heroine only they have contrary goals/moral/cultural conditioning. The writer these differences and uses them to challenge, test and block our hero. This only rings true if the villain is authentically formed and fully actualized. These villains come in many forms.

The Shadow Villain. Like Gollum in LOTR, this character represents the ‘dark side’ of the hero/heroine. He is a nemesis but a personal one. The readers ‘gets’ where he’s coming from—boating accident leads to finding a ring that haunt him for the rest of his life. This kind of villain can be a key player in the story, elucidating the history, world building and nature of an ‘evil’ object (the power of the one ring). In the end, this shadow villain may guide the hero through the darkness and like Gollum, succeed in the quest, even unintentionally, where the hero could not. The chance for redemption is always present. We are saddened by their demise.


The Betrayal Villain
. Like Cyper in the Matrix or Darth Vader in Star Wars, this type of villain was once on our hero/heroine’s side. As betrayer he creates the opportunity to do bad things AND tell the ‘other side’ of the story. The reader gets to hate this one particularly because it feels like they had a choice and made the wrong one—to go against our hero. The chance for redemption is present up until the end. If they make the ‘wrong’ choice, we cheer their demise. Standing ovation.

Super villain. Like Sauron in LOTR, the Dark Side of the Force in Star Wars, or the Machine Mind in the Matrix, the super villain is all powerful. There is an impersonal quality to them, like a force of nature. We do not ‘know’ them unless they have a representative with a growth arc or history (Darth Vader, Agent Smith). Only through these individuals is the super villain accessible in a personal way. As a force of nature, the super villain is the obstacle for the hero/heroine and one that is usually woven into the world building.

The Anti-Hero. Like Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six and Patrick Süskind’s Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume, these are serious ‘villains’ but the story is told from their POV. Sometimes they do ‘bad’ things (terrible things) but only to ‘bad’ ( like Dexter). In this case we love that justice is served. They may also be bad, or mad, and do terrible things for no good reason at all, but we are riveted to their story because it’s so interesting. The anti-hero is a way to tell the villains side of the tale while suspending judgment. The concept of the anti-hero is discussed more on Writing Excuses, a great resource. Also see my notes from a recent hero/villain workshop.

Who is a favourite villain on your bookshelf right now? In film? I’d love to hear about them. Comments welcome.

Kim is the author of the Quantum  Enchantment and the Quantum Encryption series. Her new book ‘Journey by Night‘ is out September 1, 2011. Read more about her books at KimFalconer.com

Pass the accelerator, please.

Is time moving faster — or are we?

How many times have you found yourself saying: “I don’t have enough time?”

 As a yoga teacher I’m in the habit of encouraging students to breathe deeply, slow down and create space. This, however, appears to be at odds with an increasingly accelerated lifestyle; a curious jumblebag of emotional expectations of how/who/what we should spend our time on set to the relentless beat of escalating technological change — curiously labelled as “time savers”.

 Even the frequency between technological waves is decreasing so they’re breaking over us more often dumping gadgets, gizmos and widgets, all impatient to be the “—est”, the next Gee Whiz, while we push harder on our own personal accelerators to catch up, perpetuating the cycle.   

 So, how much change can we cope with?

 Imagine being whisked fifty years into the future. Not only that but what if technology had continued to escalate so that while only fifty years may have passed on the sundial, new wave tech had continued to advance exponentially so that the equivalent of hundreds of developmental years had elapsed?

 This is the challenge I set for my protagonist in the second book of the Helix Prophecy, The Emerald Tablets, where Callum discovers that time has become an even more valuable commodity.

The Emerald Tablets    In The Emerald Tablets time can be traded, transferred from one body to another, bent and manipulated. Time becomes a magical extensor of pleasure, for those with the capacity to pay, so that multiple lifetimes, lifestyles and choices can all be pursued.

   Like most “what if…?” questions that authors ask the projected outcome is firmly rooted in today’s experience.

  Can we possibly break this cycle and begin to maximise our enjoyment? For despite all the technology and myths surrounding time scarcity many of us use an inordinate proportion of it trudging through the mud of an unchangeable past, or projecting worry into a possible future instead of being fully aware of the only space that is actually alive for us— the right now. What if we could be fully present through all of our senses for the next second and the next? What if we could be totally aware of what each breath feels like as it flows through us and in doing so allow space to arise?
Perhaps then we may realise that it is our choice how hard our foot is pressing down on the accelerator. Now — that would be magic.

Paul Garrety is the author of The Seventh Wave  and the just released follow up The Emerald Tablets.

Kim Falconer and Castle Plaza Books – A Virtual Signing this Thursday!

Kim Falconer Virtual Book Plate

On Thursday, September 15, between 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm something new is happening.  We’re calling it a virtual signing, an innovation thanks to global technology, the internet and great minds thinking alike.

In one reality, this event will be held at Castle Plaza Bookshop
Shop T54 Castle Plaza, 992 South Rd Edwarstown
Adelaide, South Australia.

In another reality, it will be held wherever you are –  anywhere in the entire time space continuum that has a computer and a phone line.

The Virtual Signing is a way for readers to connect with their favourite authors, chat, ask questions, share revelations and get a signed copy of their latest book. Not so new an idea? It is when you take into account the author may be thousands of kilometres away from said reader.

Castle Plaza books, (and perhaps a books store nearer you), are bringing  authors and readers together who can’t physically make it into the store for signings. Instead, they will be having a Skype session at the store! You walk in, browse the bookshelf, select the next book in the series you’re after and sit down in front of the shop computer to chat, face to face in real time, with Kim. She will sign a bookplate (by cover artist Aaron Briggs) just for you that comes with your purchase while chatting about all things Earth and Gaela!

Not in the area to get your book? You can still SKYPE on the conference line and not miss out!Kim on Skype

 Castle Plaza Books says: The first Skype signing will be with the lovely Kim Falconer. All of Kim’s books will be available to purchase on the day and she will be sending out signed bookplates to be put into the books or you can pick up one pre-signed on the day!
Kim is the author of the Quantum  Enchantment and the Quantum Encryption series. Her new book ‘Journey by Night‘ is out September 1, 2011.
Quantum Enchantment Series