• 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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Time Travel, Tattoos & Gone With the Wind

     We’re such an ingenious species that the story of how we spread across the face of this magnificent planet reads more like a cross between science fiction and epic fantasy than real life. For that reason when it came time for me to write my series I knew it had to be based on time travel.

 I wanted to be able to send my intrepid heroine anywhere…to solve any mystery our cunning little human minds could spin! So, of course she had to be a time travelling detective…which opened up adventure in any conceivable time or place. When you throw a slightly alternate past and present into the mix, then the adventure gets really exciting because anything can happen – and frequently does.

 There are so many possibilities! What was Joan of Arc really like? What secrets are encoded in the Voynich manuscript? What were Buddha’s last words? What was written on the Mayan codices destroyed by the Conquistadors?

 So my Timestalker series is about a time travelling detective. The first book, Gladiatrix (2009) was set in ancient Rome, while the second, Hoodwink (out now) is set in Hollywood in 1939. Each book in the series solves a mystery set in a different time and place.

 Hoodwink starts with a body covered in a Mayan occult tattoo being discovered cemented into the floor of a Hollywood film set. It’s the body of a famous film director who went missing in 1939. Kannon is hired to return to 1939 to find out who killed him. While on the set of Gone With The Wind, mixing with the big stars of Hollywood, she stumbles onto a mystery that stretches back to the Civil War…

 ‘Why Gone With The Wind?’ you say. ‘Isn’t that just some old film about a Southern woman’s determination to survive the American Civil War and its aftermath?’

 Good question!

 Well…I wanted to write about a murder on a film set in 1939, the most glamorous period in the Golden Years of Hollywood. So I had to choose a movie that would give me the maximum room to explore the feeling of the 1930s as well as yield some interesting plot points I could play with.

 There was only ever one real choice…

 If you’ve ever seen any of the documentaries on the making of Gone With The Wind you’ll wonder why a murder didn’t actually happen… The producer, David O Selznick, was said to be a slave driver addicted to Benzedrine, who went through multiple directors to make the film – one of whom was supposed to have been driven to the brink of suicide. Most of the cast was hiding outrageous secrets, ranging from simple old adultery through to operating as a British spy in pre-war America.

 And that was just for starters.

 Some claim that Gone With The Wind is ‘the greatest film ever made’, whether that’s true or not it certainly seems to be one of the most watched in history. It’s still playing somewhere even as you read this sentence. Hell, the last time I caught a QANTAS flight to Los Angeles it was one of the choices on my personal viewing module…??? According to Wikipedia (with adjustment to 2010 prices) it is the highest grossing film of all time and stories abound concerning its influence on world culture in all sorts of unexpected ways… The book the film was based upon was banned by the Nazis during WW2 and was reportedly a favourite with the French Resistance who prized it as an example of courage under foreign occupation.

 But make no mistake Gone With The Wind is a paradox because it’s both incredibly inspiring and deeply racist. And such a flawed film is…of course, the perfect setting for a murder.

 A personal reason for the choice is that a key memory of my childhood is when my parents took me to see Gone With The Wind.  I was ten and at the time I wondered why they were so keenly affected by a movie that was about the American Civil War. I saw it again as a teenager and connected with the strong, central female character, Scarlett O’Hara, who out-survives all the macho men around her. But it was only when I became an adult that I realised that my parents’ attachment came from their experiences in WW2. Gone With The Wind was made in 1939 and its central theme is how ordinary people can endure and even triumph over unendurable tragedy.

 And that memory of triumph over tragedy is what my parents re-experienced when they sat there in the dark of that movie theatre.

 Who can not relate to that?

Rhonda Roberts is the author of Gladiatrix & Hoodwink, which is out now!

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Supanova recap with Kylie Chan

 

 Supanova is such a big part of my family’s life that I stop and have a moment of confusion when I actually have to explain it to people who’ve never heard of it. The whole week before the show, the newspaper had teaser articles about what visitors could expect there. My daughter’s main hobby is making costumes for Supanova, and she spends months agonizing about what she’s going to wear.

And for those who don’t know….

Supanova is a pop-culture expo held for one weekend each year. It travels from city to city, and next year is expanding to six Australian cities.

If you’ve seen news articles about ComiCon inAmerica, it’s our own version of that but not quite. There are three main reasons people come along:

– Stars of science fiction and fantasy movies are special guests, and you can collect autographed photos, have your picture taken with them, and hear them talk about their experiences. My daughter was hugely excited about going along and having her photo taken with Evanna Lynch – Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter movies.

Billy Boyd (Pippin from Lord of the Rings) came down to the stand when I wasn’t there, and had his photo taken with Ian Irvine. Ian rolled out a map he’d done for one of his fantasy novels, and it was nearly 2m by 1m – huge and detailed. The man’s a genius at worldbuilding.
 

Ian Irvine and Billy Boyd -two delightful gentlemen together!

– You can dress up. Anything you like, but most people choose a sci-fi/fantasy/anime/manga character – I counted ten Doctors on my first day and gave up counting the second. You can strut around looking awesome in lycra with green skin and red eyes, nobody will look twice, and there’s a competition for the best costume. The technical term for this is ‘cosplay’ (from the Japanese) and it’s one of the most fun parts for me. If you do an awesome costume people will stop you and ask for their photo with you.

Of course, if you’re a group that’s decided to cosplay every single Doctor, four companions AND K9, you’ll never be able to move because you’re constantly having your photo taken. Four, Five and Nine were somewhere around, probably stuck in a time vortex. I stood between ‘my’ Doctors, Two and Three. Damn, I’m old.

My daughter dressed up as a character from a manga called ‘Blue Exorcist’ which was a Japanese school uniform and a long purple wig with pigtails below her waist. The wig drove her completely nuts – it was unbelievably heavy! – but she enjoyed herself tremendously.

– The trading floor is a bad place. Very bad place. I protest loudly every time my daughter nears the Madman stand – last time I was there I bought a complete collection of both Astroboys – the black and white sixties version from my childhood, and the colour eighties version – in boxed sets. There’s traders of vintage comics, awesome t-shirts and bags (I got my Hellsing signing bag at Supanova), tryouts of new games, and collectible figures (my daughter got a matched set of 20cm Ezio and Leonardo figures).

They’re from the Assassin’s Creed game; Leonardo da Vinci on the right totally adores Ezio on the left. I suspect that my daughter’s planning to do something stop-motion with these fully-articulated figurines. After completing the game she went on a huge Leonardo da Vinci research phase.

Dymock’s have a stand on the trading floor, and that’s where I come in. You can come up to the stand and buy books from us Awesome Authors and have them signed on the spot, and embarrass us horribly by having your photo taken with us.

Left to Right: Rowena Cory Daniells, in front Keri Arthur, Tracy O’Hara, me (short), Marianne de Pierres (tall), Ineke, and Lynne in awesome hippy steampunk.

There’s a bunch of new fantasy and sci-fi to try out, and the staff on the stand are knowledgeable and all-around terrific people.

They can help you with every need.

I love Supanova because people can come up to me and actually have a chat about my plans for my new books, rather than having to line up at a signing and not have a chance to speak to me. There’s not often a line of people for signings, so if you’re in the mood to have a chat, I’m there all day.

We interviewed ourselves (Rowena did a fantastic job) for a youtube video for AskBrisbane; you can check out the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zssGViYHieU.

For the admission fee, it’s a grand day out and as a computer/sci-fi nerd long before I was any sort of author (and a Doctor Who fan since I first saw it in the late seventies) – well, I feel right at home. The other authors sometimes asked me what a particular costume referenced – and most of the time I got it right (sorry Totoro!). I’m very much looking forward to the inaugural Gold Coast one next April, and hoping that I can make a few other cities next year.

Special thanks to Ineke Prochazka, the staff of Dymock’s, Daniel Zachariou, Dion, Roland, Missy, and Quinny from Supanova.

The Supanova site is at http://www.supanova.com.au.

What happens when Steven Spelberg and Peter Jackson get together.

A Tintin movie!  Now we have some half decent trailers out ( the movie opens in Australia & NZ in December ) my previously skeptical approach has turned into quiet excitment. I was always a big fan of the comics & the animated series from the 90s and not sure Herge’s styalised characters would translate well into 3D, especially hyper-real computer generated 3D! I could be proven wrong and find the big-screen turns the characters into residents of the uncanny valley, but from the trailers I think they’ve found a happy medium between the real and the caricatured. We have the Art of TinTin out now and its packed with beautiful artwork- I’ve always been a sucker for movie art books!

There’s an article I read recently about the TinTin movie which espoused the idea that comic book stories and even fantasy/sci-fi genre stories would be better suited to this style of hyper-real animation. I must admit I baulked at that. While animation is certainly fun, I feel that the current techniques of computer assisted wizardry that allow live action fantasy & sci-fi are amazing and I think we’ll always be slightly more moved/excited/scared by something that involves real people. What do you think? Would you be happy if your favourite fantasy or sci-fi book was turned into an animated film rather than live action?

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

Nerd Rage!

A friend of mine is a big Superman fan and was outraged when pictures surfaced of the new Superman costume in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel. The costume doesn’t have the iconic red underwear on the outside!  He’s been surprisingly civil in his outbursts so far, but I just know that underneath it all simmers a boiling pot of black rage. I, for example, I find it INCONCEIVABLE that any self respecting person would not have read The Hobbit, seen Star Wars or played with LEGO as a child. And yet such people exist, in defiance of my entirely reasonable expectations.

I’ve  witnessed similar traits at a convention I went to recently where a model of Saruman’s tower from Lord of the Rings was labelled “Isengard”.  A young teenager then came up and began berating the maker of the model because the tower is called Orthanc, Isengard is the name of the compound it sits in. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY NOT KNOW THAT?!?

The bane of any any fan’s life is when someone else refuses to understand the object of their fandom. When they stare back at you blindly, blinking like an uncomprehending farm animal.  Previously restricted to loungerooms, cinema foyers, bookstores and conventions, NerdRage can now be witnessed in almost any online setting.

This type of NerdRage stems from, in part at least, the incredible dissemination of knowledge and culture that the Internet has enabled. It also comes from the fact that the Internet has enabled us to more easily find people interested in the same things, no matter how niche. As a result people are increasingly surrounded by like minded people interested in the same things, be it knitting anime characters, writing erotic Harry Potter fan fiction, swooning over fictional characters, or discussing Voyager books.

Go on.Take the bait.

    People, and I include myself here, therefore are becoming less tolerant of ignorance. Some become just intolerant in general, but I like to think most nerd/geeks are a pretty accepting lot. That said, the very definition of “nerd” or “geek” has broadened to encompass all kinds of specialist knowledge and many now self apply what was in school a derogatory slur. Hell, chunky glasses, once the signifier of visually impaired nerds the world over, are now being worn as lens-less fashion statements by hipster hotties.

Another type of NerdRage comes from when the creative folks decide to change an aspect of our fan-object. Like removing Superman’s underpants ( away with you, filthy minded fanfic writers! ), killing off our favourite character in Book 4, or not including the Scouring of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies. In the new hyper-engaged world of teh Interwebz nerd/geek fans have developed  a greater voice that the creators of our beloved books, characters, TV shows, movies or toys, are increasingly actually listening to.

   Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing! But it can help foster a sense of entitlement that we don’t always deserve. After all, we didn’t spend months of our lives writing stories and characters, or weeks of 15hr days shooting a TV show. But what is art without someone to witness it? I sometimes wonder that the super-connected world of the 21st century will not allow the idealistic tenant of “art for art’s sake”  to exist, because if something new isn’t popular it will be shouted down.

So I guess that’s the conundrum; we both need NerdRage to keep individual voices loud and proud, but that same rage can keep us from embracing anything new or different. End rant.

Science Fact or Fiction?

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation is organising an event called  Science Fact or Fiction at University of Technology Sydney on the 20th August. It  is about “engaging the general public in science via the format of watching popular science fiction films and is part of National Science Week and the Ultimo Science Festival.” Sounds pretty awesome! 

They’re screening movies and discussing the science of things like telekinesis, light sabres & time travel. See their website and facebook page. Tickets are being sold through Moshtix at $15 for adults, $10 for children and $35 for families (two adults and two children). See www.moshtix.com.au

Science Fact or Fiction

Science Fact or Fiction 20th Aug @ UTS

New Guillermo Del Toro movie!

 HarperCollins author ( The Strain, The Fall & the upcoming November release Night Eternal ) , super-geek and awesome film director Guillermo Del Toro has co-written a new film called Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  It was shot in Melbourne and stars Aussie actor Guy Pearce.  Check out the awesomely creepy trailer & website at http://www.dontbeafraidofthedark.com  Looks like its got a local release of the 26th Aug.