• 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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The Reign of Beasts has Begun

    Reign of Beasts, the third book of the Creature Court trilogy, is about to land!  I’m crazy excited about this.  There’s something incredibly satisfying about lining those three books up next to each other.  Possibly I carry them around the house, arranging and re-arranging them in fake casual poses…

Other authors do that, right?

If Power and Majesty was the book that set up the city, the characters and the magic, and The Shattered City was the book that tore it all down and hurled the bits at the feet of my poor characters… well, Reign of Beasts is the book that puts it all back together, but it’s not an easy path for any of them.  Another city is going to pay the ultimate price… because yes, I don’t just go around destroying individuals in this series, I tear down whole cities.  That’s just how I roll.

As well as visiting some new geography, indulging in a little steampunk, and allowing certain characters to get hot and heavy with each other (in between battles) Reign of Beasts also slips into the past, revealing all manner of secrets through the eyes of one of the more mysterious members of the Creature Court: the one with many names, and far too many guises.

Back when I was regularly teaching creative writing, an exercise I would suggest early on was to make your ‘list of awesome,’ a stack of bullet points about your favourite themes, topics, hobbies, obsessions, historical periods, nouns… basically everything you think is awesome.  And then, of course, to write something that crams as many of those things in as possible.

I think that experienced writers often do this as a matter of course, without bothering with the list – we build up all our favourite obsessions, and spread them across our writing, trusting (as much as we CAN) that we can spend our themes freely and there will be new ones along to fill up the well… and if not, well, it’s not like it hurt Dick Francis or John Grisham to always be writing about the same thing, right?

I never made that list of awesome when writing the Creature Court books – they grew far more organically than that – but if I had, then the list would look something like this:

frocks
secret society of sexy shapechangers
Rome, Rome, Rome
gothic city with many rooftops
secret underworld
women who craft
roaring twenties
sentinels with paired weapons
blood magic
more frocks
Victorian music hall, pantomime & commedia dell’arte
steam trains
bisexual heroes and villains and… other
a sky that’s trying to eat you
flappers with swords

All ideas, themes or images that I love, or have been wanting to write about for years.  I’m particularly happy that, having seeded the importance of theatre in the lives of some of my charactes, I spend a lot more time in and around a certain theatre in the city of Aufleur, as well as getting outside the boundaries and visiting a new city, and introducing my readers to Ashiol’s home and mother, before we spiral into the final, devastating battle.

Also, words cannot express how delighted I am that the final cover of this trilogy features a flapper with a sword. It sums up the books themselves very clearly in my mind.

Reign of Beasts is in stores this week and if you’re in Tasmania she’s launching at The Hobart Bookshop on Thursday 2nd Feb!

Tansy’s Writing Blog – http://tansyrr.com
Crunchy SF Feminist Podcast – http://www.galacticsuburbia.com
Pendlerook Designs, Tasmanian Hand-painted Dolls – www.pendlerook.com

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The Ancient Future Family Tree

Just as a little Holiday treat we thought we’d share something special! Ancient Future fan Rebekah Apelt created an amazing family tree from Traci Harding’s Ancient Future series. She’s working on an expanded version that includes the new books too. Check it out!

Go for the Unrealistic: Five Tips for Emerging Writers

Learning to fly by Silesti ( http://silesti.deviantart.com/ )

It’s unrealistic to bend a piece of metal and fly people over the ocean in it but fortunately the Wright brothers didn’t think so. – Will Smith

A lot of advice for emerging writers centres on ‘being realistic, like you can’t get an agent if you haven’t published, you can’t get a major publisher without an agent, writing is very hard work, only write what you know, what $$$, rejection du jour, it’s tricky for Australian authors to publish their works overseas, keep your day job  . . .  and many more. Such advice is enough to sink an emerging writer into a bout of depression! Is the advice realistic? Probably. Do you let that guide you? No!

I highly recommend these five unrealistic steps to landing the publishing deal of your dreams.

Step #1 Forget about being realistic. Stop thinking about the practical advice and the ‘cold hard facts’ and develop your craft. If you have a dream, something you are enthusiastic about, develop the skills to deliver it. All the storytelling talent in the world won’t fly if you don’t have the skills to communicate your vision. Develop them!

Step #2 Think in terms of component parts. You don’t set out to write a 500,000 word, three book series. You don’t even set out to write a single novel. You get up in the morning and you write five hundred words. You do that for a time and get some confidence and maybe after a while you find yourself writing a thousand words a day. Then two thousand. In a year, you have a solid manuscript. In ten years, you have more than you dreamed possible.

 Step #3 Say you can do it. He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both correct. Confucius. Think about that for a while.

 Step #4 Know your motivations. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ motivation for your artistry. It might be that you want to prove something to the world. You might want to feel of value. You might be obsessed with telling a story that will touch people’s hearts. Whatever your motivation is, know it. Know thyself. The awareness of what drives you is your touchstone. Use it.

 Step #5 Decide, devote, deliver. Just decide that you will do it, that you will achieve your dream. Devote your whole heart to it, and allow for compassion for others and the planet to be part of that devotion. Deliver what you promise to yourself and to others—your daily word count, your article deadline, your publisher’s request.

Bonus tip. Remind yourself to go for the unrealistic. I mean, what if we’d listened to any of this ‘realistic’ advice?

 Everything that can be invented has been invented.  Charles H. Duell, an official at the US patent office, 1899

 The singer (Mick Jagger) will have to go; the BBC won’t like him. -First Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching them perform.

 I’m sorry, Mr Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language. The San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a submission by Rudyard Kipling in 1889

 You better get secretarial work or get married. -Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modelling Modelling Agency, advising would-be model Marilyn Monroe in 1944.

 With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself. Business Week, August 2, 1968.

 There will never be a bigger plane built. – A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.

 If anything remains more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women. David Riesman, conservative American social scientist, 1967. (Of boy!)

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!

In the beginning there was … The Ancient Future


      When I first wrote ‘the Ancient Future’, I could never have imagined all the amazing places that story and its characters were going to take me.  We’ve been to the dark ages in ancient Britain, the golden age of Atlantis, into the otherworld, outer space, into the future, the next galaxy, and most recently into a whole other universe and back again!

 It became clear in the Triad of Being that this latest trilogy had links back to the first two trilogies.  Nine epic books and the Chosen are still finding new frontiers to explore!

 So to commemorate the release of “the Light-field’ – the ninth chronicle in the adventures of the Chosen Ones, I  thought I’d give you all on a little trip into the past and a peek at where it all began.

 In 1994, when I first sat down to write the tale about a female martial artist, brought back to ancient Gwynedd by a time-hopping Merlin, I really expected that it would be a short story.  By the time I got to the end of that short story, I realised that what I’d written was only Part 1 of a very long book!  My close friends were very pleased to hear this, as they had been following the story chapter by chapter, and coming around regularly for readings.  I do believe I read my first book out loud at least five times!  This was a very good exercise for me, as I could see how the suspense effected people, if the jokes made them laugh and the romance made them swoon.  Their positive feedback made me eager to see how other people would take to my story.   So, I decided to print up my tale, in a big three part story book, complete with maps and castle layouts – which were later used in the book.


The Above become Part 1,2 and 3 of the Ancient Future – the Dark Age

For Christmas 1994 I gave every member of my family, and a couple of close friends, a copy of the Ancient Future – the Dark Age.  


Above : The Ancient Future Character lists

My lovely mother passed her copy onto her actress friend, Lynne Rainbow, who knew TV series writer and novelist, David Sale, who kindly recommended my manuscript to author agent, Selwa Anthony.  Selwa called me after reading Part 1, to tell me I had myself an agent, and as my big fairytale style presentation had worked a charm with everyone else, I decided to send it to the publishers as it was.  This is the first time I have ever shared the images included in this blog with my readers, and I hope you enjoy the little glimpse inside the manuscript that secured me a publishing deal and spawned so many other books.

Degannwy, Gwynedd – 519 AD

 

The Castle layouts and Maps were exactly as they were shown in the book, nothing much new to see.  However, to my delight, one of my readers sketched Degannwy and the Aberffraw, from the floor plans in the book, and these sketches I really do have to share.  Credit for these wonderful etchings go to Andrew Vasey and I use these images with his permission.  You can see more of Andrews fantastic work at my Trazling site : http://www.trazling.net/cgi-bin/Blah.pl?m-1302577254/s-0/

Aberffraw Gwynedd – 519 AD

Upon being accepted for publication with HarperCollins Publishers, everything was going swimmingly well with my MS, until I received the draft of the cover (or jacket) for the book (image 1) which really wasn’t at all what I had in mind.  This was the era when 3D graphics were on the rise and as my husband at the time, David Harding, was dabbling in 3D graphics, fellow author, Caiseal Mor suggested we try creating something more dynamic.  So we sat down with KBT Bryce and created a draft (image 2).  This concept, after a very steep learning curve for Dave became the eventual jacket (image 3).  I believe much of the success of this first novel came from people being attracted to the cover graphics, and then spreading the word about the story.  The Ancient Future went into its first reprint within a month, and has been reprinted in Australia over 35 times.  ‘Eye Candy’ we call it, and I have learned to never underestimate the power of it, as with both the covers for my books, and that first manuscript, it has certainly worked for me.

I wrote the Ancient Future with no intention of ever writing a sequel, and had began researching ‘the Alchemist’s Key’ which at that time was set to be a very different book to the one I did eventually write.  Still, my muses had already began to formulate a tale about Atlantis, and when my publishers offered me a contract to turn ‘the Ancient Future’ into a trilogy and publish the stand alone I was working on, how could I refuse?  The story for ‘an Echo in Time’ was already there, along with a desire to revisit my characters who had such ambition to explore history – past and future – other dimensions, galaxies and altered states of consciousness.  Anywhere I wanted to explore, any mystery, these characters were more than keen to go there and where prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to do it.

 Even after nine books, the possibilities are still endless, as long as their is another incarnation, another planet, another timeline, another universe, the Chosen will continue to strive to comprehend the greater mysteries of creation.

See more from Traci on her new blog!  Traci’s latest book, The Light Field, will be out in February next year!

 

Out of Oz is out!

I’ve always loved reading a different author’s take on an established idea or world; I guess it comes back to my love of adaptation in general. One of the best examples of this in recent years has been Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years series based on Frank L . Baum’s classic Oz books. The fourth and final volume is out now, Out of Oz:

” Once peaceful and prosperous, the spectacular Land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who’s knocking at the door. It’s none other than Dorothy. Yes. That Dorothy. Yet amidst all this chaos, Elphaba’s granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now it is up to Rain to take up her broom—and her legacy—in an Oz wracked by war.”

How good does that sound?? I think it also speaks to my love of deconstruction and giving a relatively simple children’s book a more adult, political & complex edge. In a sense “adultifying” something from your youth helps you to re-experience it with a new sense of satisfaction, while still giving you that nostalgia hit. Does anyone else get that feeling?

Here’s the awesome trailer for it. Stirring music also helps get me going!

In the Game of Food, you win or you wash the dishes..

Ever wanted to eat like a king? Or at least how George RR Martin thinks a king should eat? This is probably old news to some, but I think this blog is fantastic! The Inn at the Crossroads. They have nearly 160 recipes from the first 4 books of A Song of Ice & Fire alone! That said, there’s stuff even they won’t touch! Olives stuffed with Maggots? Pass!

There’s also nice writeup on BoingBoing that directed me there: http://boingboing.net/2011/10/31/inn-at-the-crossroads-a-game-of-thrones-cooking-blog.html