• 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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UnConventional & the full Sir Julius Vogel Awards Wrap-up

Via Mary Victoria’s own site: http://maryvictoria.net/

Well, now that I’m home and have emerged from under a pile of unanswered email and unwashed laundry (or is it the reverse?) I can finally give you the promised Con report.

This was my first real experience of a New Zealand fantasy and science fiction convention and I must say, it was lovely. The panel discussions were engaging, the company excellent (of course) and the turn-out and interest high. We could barely all fit into the main hall when everyone gathered together. I’m happy to report that NZ fandom is alive, kicking, and often fetchingly dressed in steampunk finery.

I arrived on Saturday after a short delay to my flight, just in time for my first panel, ‘Women in SFF.’ Trudi Canavan, Helen Lowe, Lyn McConchie and I yakked for an hour or so on subjects ranging from how to define strength of character to the vexed issue of chainmail bikinis… I could see some audience members gazing at us quizzically, perhaps asking themselves what we had against chainmail bikinis. I mean, all the vital bits are covered, right?

Saturday evening was about unwinding a little, catching up with friends and a sumptuous Indian dinner! I didn’t make it to the zombie ball but did dodge many of the undead on my way to bed.

     Sunday dawned uncomfortably early (and perhaps may be termed a Dawn of the Dead without inviting too much heckling…) with a 9am panel on the subject of ‘Armageddon as Allegory.’ I took one look at the faces of my fellow panelists gathered in the cafe – Darusha Wehm, Simon Petrie, Beaulah Pragg and Phil Simpson – and thought, “yes, I know exactly how you feel.” But despite our need for sleep and largely due to the valient efforts of Simon as panel chair, we actually came up with a game plan for the discussion! It turned into a fantastic one – I think my favourite panel of the lot. We talked about the different approaches to ‘end of world’ scenarios in fantasy and science fiction, collective responsability vs. the mechanism of a Dark Lord and other interesting subjects.

By two o’clock, it was time to head back to the trenches at a ‘Geography in SFF’ panel with Russell Kirkpatrick, Trudi Canavan, Stephen Minchin and myself debating the merits of fantasy maps. Trudi and Russell both had some slides to show of maps in their own books, as well as some older efforts. The audience seemed passionate on the subject, with most falling in the ‘we love maps’ category but a vocal minority standing up for themselves in the opposite camp. We talked physical geography, geography as an influence on society and finally mental or idea maps… we could have gone on for twice as long, I think.

But all good things come to an end and thereafter it was signing and reading time. I read from ‘Samiha’s Song’ and Alma Alexander’s ‘River’ for a very appreciative audience sitting in leather armchairs. That’s the way to do it.

Sunday evening rolled around and it was time for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards. These were presented with great flair – Kiwis have style! – by the Con organisers, Trudi Canavan and Helen Lowe. Trudi was channeling some great 1940′s Jessica Rabbit style with her cropped jacket and black gloves. As for me, I arrived at the ceremony somewhat flummoxed as I’d just heard my daughter was running a 40 degree fever (she has since recovered, never fear.) I had all the maternal angst and distraction going, therefore, and was totally unprepared when they announced ‘Samiha’s Song’ had won Best Novel…

Well, I’m afraid I lost it. I managed to say something resembling ‘thank you’ when collecting the statue but waterworks were threatening. In order to avoid general embarrassment I hightailed it back to my chair as soon as possible – only to have to come forward again to collect Frank’s award for artwork!

So if I look a little odd in these photos, forgive me. But it was an absolute joy to congratulate my fellow winners. They are, from left to right, below:

Kevin Berry for New Talent, and after Trudi, Lee Murray for Best YA Novel, yours truly for Best Novel (Adult) and Alicia Ponder for Best Short Story. (For some reason Anna Caro wasn’t in this photo with us but I was stoked to see her and Cassie Hart take away the award for Best Collection for ‘Tales For Canterbury’.)

The full list of all winners including fan categories can be found on the SFFANZ website.

So there we are! I’m home now, with a convalescing daughter and two spiky awards. I can’t tell you how happy and proud this makes me… the ‘Chronicles of the Tree’ were a NZ endeavour, very much inspired by the vegetation and landscape in New Zealand, so it’s doubly satisfying for me to strike a chord with Kiwi readers.

As to the artist who won a well-deserved award for his artwork on ‘Oracle’s Fire’ – he was suitably appreciative. I think he found the button to turn the award on, too. He looks evil in this photo – Frank, have you discovered a way to end the world, again?

Via Mary’s own site: http://maryvictoria.net/ Check it Out!

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George R.R. Martin interview with Jane Johnson – Part One

GRRM in conversation with UK publisher Jane Johnson At the Bloomsbury Theatre in London this Tuesday night, 500 George R.R. Martin fans had the opportunity to listen to the man himself in conversation with his UK editor (and Voyager Publishing Director, and successful author in her own right) Jane Johnson.  Here’s the first part of the conversation transcript!

Jane: I’ve heard you say that historical fiction and fantasy are “sisters under the skin”. Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?

George: Historical books are a little grittier, which is one of the things I wanted to do when combining the two; to take that sort of gritty realism you find in a historical novel and combine it with the imagination and wonder of Fantasy.

I have thought about writing historical fiction myself, when I interviewed Bernard Cornwell for Harper a few months ago we talked about this.  For me the frustration in writing real historical fiction is that if you know history you know how it comes out. You can write about the actual Wars of the Roses and you know what’s going to happen to those princes in the tower and you know what’s going to happen at the battle of Bosworth Field. With my books I like to keep them a little off balance. Ultimately you don’t know what’s going to happen to the kids in my books or who’s going to live or die or end up with their head on a spike.

But the reading experience can be quite similar. Jane has been reading the Accursed Kings series by the great Maurice Druon – a wonderful series of historical novels.  One of the great things for me when I read them was that I didn’t know a lot of the history. You know, French people may know all of this but for me it wasn’t something that was covered on our history courses, nor presumably, in history courses here. I didn’t know who these people were, even only the most abstract terms, or how this was going to come out. That was a very similar reading experience to a fantasy novel.

Jane: They read incredibly fresh. We’ve just bought the world rights to publish them because they’ve been out of print since the sixties, I think it’s going to be great fun to make them available to people. They read as if they were written yesterday, they’re really sharp and funny, as well.

The brothers Goncourt said: “History is a novel that has been lived…” I think that’s a really good quote but I feel also that with A Game of Thrones, you feel that every character in your books has a life that goes on behind the scenes: they’re not just walking out on stage and playing out what you want them to play out. You do see them as real people. How much of that elaboration do you have in your head before you set out writing your characters?

George: I’m not actually deluded enough to think that they are real people. I know that I’m making them up. It seems obvious but I’ve met some writers over the years that have peculiar views on the subject and seem to think they’re receiving emanations from other dimensions or something. I don’t buy into that but certainly when I’m writing these characters and living with them they achieve enormous reality to me.

You know, many years ago I wrote a short story, a novelette actually, that won the Nebula award called “Portraits of His Children”. It is about a writer and his relationship with his characters. Its sort of a cliché that characters are a writer’s children but there’s a great amount of truth to it. At least for a writer like myself; the characters I have created over the years are a part of me, are a part of my life. They are not me, but they are created by me and are a part of me. The analogy with the children has a certain apt-ness to it.

Jane: Well you’re a cruel father

George: I take after the Romans; they had the whole “paterfamilias” thing going on there. If you were a disappointing son “I’m sorry son you’re disappointing me would you please commit suicide”…“Yes dad I’d be happy to”. We’ve lost some of these traditions over the years.

Stay tuned for the rest of the interview!

AWESOME Fan-made interactive Song of Ice and Fire map

A Song of Ice and Fire & Game of Thrones fan ‘Ser Mountain Goat’ has created an amazing interactive map of the world of George RR Martin’s epic series, from the continent of Westeros to the Dothraki Sea and beyond! They’ve even made a Google-Earth style planet view (Though its a bit big for slow internet connections.)

Demoiselles and Beamish Boys

Natalie Costa Bir is guest-posting over at David McDonald’s blog on the topic of vocabulary, and how exactly the right word can help convey a magical (or SFnal) world to the reader.  I was chuffed to see her mention my Creature Court series and some of the word choices I made, because I put a lot of thought into the use of vocab in those books.  My biggest nightmare (ha) was the decision I made early on that I would use the word ‘nox’ instead of ‘night,’ as one of the carefully chosen differences in the way my characters spoke, and because the night was so important to the story.

But the number of times I had to check AGAIN with search and replace, only to then discover I had to think about how to represent ‘nightgowns’ and ‘nightmares’, not to mention fortnights and knights on white chargers, and so on…  I stuck to my guns, but it was trickier than I had imagined.

Mary Robinette Kowal, who writes gorgeous Regency fantasies set in the era of Jane Austen, embarked upon a project to ONLY use words in the entire text of her novels that existed at that historical time.  Which is… rather more committed than I think I would ever be to authenticity.  On the other hand, I’m the first one to wince when I think I’ve spotted an anachronism.  One of my bugbears is ‘okay’ or worse, ‘OK’ in invented worlds.

It’s hard for fantasy authors who are also word nerds because they tend to know the origins in OUR world of so many words that then feel out of place when used in Magical Universe. So it makes sense a lot of the time to replace those with made up words – but you have to make that choice judiciously or you end up with a writing technique that’s a little too close to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (a marvellous poem, but would you want to read it as a novel?).

Names are another tricky issue.  I love naming characters and go to a lot of trouble to find the ‘right’ name for characters (that is, I get stuck on the writing until I find the right one).  But the ‘right’ name isn’t just about their character or their personality, it’s about their family, history and the world they belong to.  Why is it that we feel more relaxed about Victorian, Medieval or Ancient Roman names in fantasy worlds, but would tilt our heads at more ‘modern’ names?  You rarely find Jasons and Kylies in imaginary worlds (though Jason at least is a very old mythological name).  Can you have a fantasy queen called Wendy if you know that J.M. Barrie invented the name after a cute child lisped ‘my friend’ as ‘my fwendy?’

Then there’s the names that are ‘taken’ – you can’t write a story about an Alice without evoking Wonderland, Frodo without Lord of the Rings fans leaping for your throat, or Conan without tagging on ‘the Barbarian,’ and so on.

One of the first fantasy authors I loved was David Eddings,who we later discovered co-wrote his books with Leigh Eddings, his wife, and I liked very much the way that the names of those characters told you a lot about who they were and where they were from.  The depiction of the various countries in that world were problematic from the point of view of racial essentialism (looking back on it, I do wince a bit about how you have one country of drug addicts, one of farmers, one of thieves, one of slaves who feel empowered about being slaves, one of downtrodden slaves, one of Bad Guys, etc.) but I loved the way that you got hints of the various languages and vocabulary styles of those countries through the naming of characters.  Ce’Nedra, for instance (that’s not one you’re likely to see anyone re-using in a hurry) – as a princess, her name had been chosen in honour of their country’s god, and even the apostrophe was a common linguistic choice.  Likewise, the family of sorcerers all chose names that connected to each other with the prefix ‘Bel’ except the female Polgara – we were told ‘Pol’ was an honorific like ‘Bel’ but it was hard to tell as she didn’t share it with any one.

One of my favourite namers in all of fantasy writing is the legendary Terry Pratchett – the names he chooses come from a complex and clever cauldron of historical knowledge, metatextuality, and a tangled, inventive vocabulary.  From Rincewind the wizard to Conina the barbarian’s daughter, from Mort the apprentice of Death to Granny Weatherwax the witch, from Agnes-and-her-inner-Perdita to Magrat who was so traumatised by her own name that she ended up accidentally giving her daughter the middle names ‘Note Spelling,’ Pratchett’s names always sound absolutely right.  You can tell that Vetinari is evil and imposing, that Nanny Ogg is a salt-of-the-earth type, that there’s something very odd indeed about Moist Von Lipwig.  Pratchett’s Discworld is full of characters who not only live up to their names, but sometimes fail to live them down, or struggle to change them, or feel set on a particular destiny purely because of the syllables laid down for them at birth.  Names are important in all fantasy, but the Discworld makes them so much more!

Of all of his names, though, perhaps ‘Susan’ is the cleverest.  Death’s grand-daughter, destined for great and terrible things – but as Death himself noted when he first set eyes on her, the name ‘Susan’ (in a world where people are generally called things like Mustrum and Esmeralda) tells us that her parents wanted something normal and safe and ordinary for her.  Funnily enough, though, when you have ‘Death’ as a surname, no one’s ever going to think you’re ordinary!

Tansy Rayner Roberts is the Voyager author of the Creature Court series. Check out her blog here!

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

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!)