• 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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Highlights from the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2012

Yes, we are both Gemini; no we didn’t ring ahead to colour coordinate! Isobelle Carmody (left) and Kim Falconer (right) at the Byron Bay Writers Festival 2012

Last year, HarperVoyager had a strong presence at the Bryon Bay Writers’ Festival. I shared the stage with Fiona McIntosh and Traci Harding, and we had the time of our lives. We enthralled audiences with talk of magic spells, quantum physics, time travel, totems and how best to portray the sounds of screams from the dungeon. With our then Voyager publisher in the audience, Stephanie Smith, we were all on fire. The memory was so buoyant, I wasn’t sure how this year’s festival would measure up.

Being the only Voyager author, I wasn’t sure who I would connect with this time around, but that all changed in a flash. There was another speculative fiction author present and when I met her I was immediately reminded of the binding tie that makes fantasy authors kindred spirits no matter what ‘house’ they hale from. Sharing the stage on topics of fantasy, creativity, dreams and the spirit of the written word was the well known and loved fantasy queen, Isobelle Carmody. I had the pleasure of being ‘in conversation’ with her to a packed house of YA fans, a most enjoyable session. I can attest without doubt, the love of speculative fiction is alive and well! What a fabulous experience.

Other highlights included Wild Things, a tribute to Maurice Sendak. His books have expanded the way we think about children’s literature and what is possible to write, treating children as ‘people’ with strong emotions, drives and desires. On similar topics were panels addressing education, literacy and the future of books. A personal favourite of mine, ‘The Perfect Pitch’ was a lively panel where publishers, including HarperCollins publishing director Shona Martyn, listen to six hopeful writers try to sell their work. Very exciting!

At the extreme end of the reality scale was the ‘Righting the World’ discussion with Australian environmentalist Ian Lowe, author Niromi De Soyza, who ran away from her family home in Sri Lanka at 17 to join the Tamil Tigers and fight for her country’s freedom; Indonesian author Andrea Hirata; and American author Katherine Boo, who is known for her works on the disadvantaged and poverty stricken. They shared horror stories but every one of them ended in hope, a most moving and uplifting panel.

I was pleased to see again this year how every session at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival began by acknowledging an empty chair. This is part of the PEN program and represents a writer who is in prison for writing what someone in power, somewhere in the world, believed is ‘off Limits’. Acknowledgement of the Pen empty chair reminds us all the freedom of expression we otherwise take for granted. Sobering.

On the nuts and bolt of writing side of things, I gave a workshop on writing, selling and promoting genre fiction. You can see the PowerPoint presentation with live links here. All in all, though I missed my Voyager sisters, it was a wonderful Byron Bay Writer’s Festival 2012.

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Watch Traci Harding’s trailer for her new book The Light-Field!

Check out the trailer on Traci’s website http://traciharding.com.  Even more impressive is that she made it herself! Talk about multi-talented! Read all about The Light-Field here. In stores in February.

FREE Traci Harding e-books

To celebrate the release of Traci Harding’s 15th book The Light-Field we’re individually publishing the 6 short stories from Ghostwriting as FREE special edition e-books, one book a week from the 9th January until the 1st of March 2012! Free only until the 1st March. Head to Traci’s site  for more info.

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!

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!

 

Feeling the Passion- Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2011

Fiona McIntosh

Fiona McIntosh

Voyager authors Fiona McIntosh, Traci Harding and Kim Falconer lit up the fifteenth annual Bryon Bay Writers’ Festival with explanations of quantum physics, the relationship between myths and fantasy, authors and editors, animal totems and how best to portray ‘the sounds of screams from the dungeon.’ They certainly kept some of the literary minded on their toes with spontaneously insights and new perspectives.

 Ideas about writing and the how-to of publishing were bantered about and questions like what is speculative fiction exactly . . . and how do you go about world building . . . were answered in depth. One panellist nearly fell out of her chair when the Voyager authors started talking about their daily word counts (three thousand words a day an upwards) and their rigorous publishing schedule (between one and three books a year). It’s quite a contrast to some of the other writers and made for a lot of spirited debate.

kim_traci

Kim Falconer & Traci Harding

 Sessions from the Nuts and Bolts of writing workshop, the how-to of online presence to Bad Boys: Writing Dark Heroes to Die For gave emerging writers plenty to think about over the six consecutive days of events. Thursday the 4th was the secondary school day- think crowded tents, attentive audiences and wildly varying questions. One young girl asking Traci Harding for advice on when to start a new paragraph and her answer had the teachers taking notes.

 The main panels and events were held over the weekend, August 5th  – 7th  under a warm sunny sky and big high top tents. As always, it was a festival not only for the mind but for the senses as the theme of passion infused every topic. Byron Bay is one of the favoured festivals of the region not only for the beautiful seaside venue but for the moments captured that can never be repeated with their conversations unscripted and panels uniquely composed. Congratulations to the new director, Candida Baker on a marvellous achievement!

kim_traci_fiona 

 

 

 

 

Kim Falconer, Traci Harding and Fiona McIntosh

Hard Heroes: Part II

 

Linda Hamilton plays hardcore hero Sarah Connor in Terminator II

 How do you manage to make your characters harder without being too hard? Part I

Along with goals and history, flaws are an essential ingredient in writing strong, engaging characters. As Stacia Kane, author of the Downside Ghost Series, says, I don’t like characters who are just naturally strong and brave and smart and wonderful. To me it’s the flaws–and what they do with them–that make a person strong, and that makes them human. And the stronger and braver and tougher they are to the outside world, the more their flaws and weaknesses matter.

 ‘The flaw’ can move the story forward and make characters believable. For example, Tryn Bistoria in my Quantum Encryption Series is a capable, smart, talented apprentice but ruthless in the lengths she’s go to keep her familiar a secret.  It’s the flaw that draws the reader in and keeps the pages turning—the chink in the armour counts.

Sometimes the flaw is meshed with the character’s strength. Duncan Lay points this out when referring to Martil in the Dragon Sword Histories: (His) strength is also his greatest weakness in that he is a warrior without peer, a warleader even but he hates and despises what he is forced to do to win battles, both individually and as a war captain. Often the ‘flaw’ is the thing the character will try to hide. It’s internalised and that can lead to even deeper issues.

But strength isn’t always physical, as Mary Victoria, author of the Chronicles of the Tree series, reminds us. Samiha is strong precisely because she’s weak. Her flaws and her humanity give her insight. Her lack of physical strength gives her moral power. . . Playing with the way the character handles power can be very revealing and it gives us a chance as writers to explore some of the deeper elements of human psychology.

Jennifer Fallon reminds us not to forget the external factors as well. She says, when characters are required to make hard decisions, slam every other door open to them, so their path, no matter how hard or awful, is the only logical one to follow, then your readers will accept it and forgive that character anything you want/need them to. I have a character in The Second Sons series, who murders his father and arranges for the murder of his mother, and everyone reads this series and says “poor baby”, because I left him with no other honourable alternative, so the act, far from making him unsympathetic, made him a hero.

Environment, history, goals, flaws, Satima Flavell, author and editor, sums it up. To be memorable, a character needs to be complex. We need to see flaws as well as virtues, and we need to see, over the course of the book or series, just what has caused those flaws and how the character deals with them. A certain degree of self-awareness and self-acceptance is usually found in truly memorable characters, no matter how troubled or apparently conscienceless they might be.

Sometimes that self-awareness can rise spontaneously, without the author planning it. Traci Harding’s Tory from The Ancient Future Series demonstrates this:  I think the attraction with Tory is that she the observer in all of us . . . She is not compelled by religion to do the right thing, but has an appreciation for different cultures and draws from the beliefs of all, and her own common sense, in her search for the answers to the greater mysterious in life . . . I’m not too sure if I took Tory on a great adventure or she took me, but I feel I have my Tory’s boots when I’m writing her character. She taught me so much and is still teaching me as she morphs herself into other characters and other tales.

Have a comment on the topic? We’d all love to hear from you. 

Special thanks to Traci Harding, Stacia Kane, Jennifer Fallon, Mary Victoria, Duncan Lay, K J Taylor, Tracey O’Hara, Satima Flavell and Nicole Murphy for your input and contributions to this discussion.