• 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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Exciting news for UK fans of K E Mills

Waterstones UK has chosen The Accidental Sorcerer , book one of the Rogue Agent series for their January book of the month, the same month the book is released in the UK and US. You can read an interview with Karen Miller (she writes under K E Mills for the Rogue Agent series) here and learn more about the other books she has written (including the bestselling Star Wars novels). The Accidental Sorcerer is available in all good books in Australia and is a fantastic alternative fantasy – we at Evil HQ are eagerly awaiting the follow up, Witches Incorporated (coming in April 09).

And whilst we’re talking about excellent overseas news, read a Guardian article about Cory Doctorow here, talking about his writing changing the future, and getting people to think. And as a point of interest for those of you following the Clarion South Writers Workshop posts, the article mentions that Cory attending the CS workshop (presumably the US version) in 1992 and was taught by James Patrick Kelly. Cory’s book Little Brother will be released in Australia in January (which means it will be in stores in late December) and it’s a cracker of a book.

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Conflux 5 – The Alternative Brown Shades of SF and Fantasy by Tim Miller

Tim was one quarter of Team Voyager at Conflux. He blogs on his experience:

11.40am Check in at the exclusive Canberra Gateway Motel. The world shifts into a state of brown shades – the building, the room, the art on the wall, the covers on the bed – all brown. I glance over my shoulder to have a look and see if I have passed through some kind of portal. Nope, it’s just Canberra. I think what the hell, I go with it and immerse myself in all things fantastic.

My Friday at Conflux involved two workshops, Finishing the First Draft with Maxine McArthur and Creating Dynamic Characters with Karen Miller (our very own Voyager author – Accidental Sorcerer anyone?). Stepping into the first was like stepping straight back into all the creative writing classes I did at uni, and the nostalgia instantly set in. We discussed the most common traps why authors never finish the elusive first draft, from the problems starting, that mess in the middle, to all that tricky stuff at the end. Karen’s workshop was awesome, it was set up to look at all the research and character building that goes into all those beloved characters that we read on the pages of book.

Friday night we all attended the launch of Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann. Let me just say something here, he is one of the most interesting writers alive. As soon as he opened his mouth the entire room was captivated and would have happily listened to him for hours singing the praises of the talented writers that contributed to DA.

Saturday was the day for some engaging panels. With so much to choose from, the three of us split up to go our separate ways. My favourite for the morning would definitely have been Making a Living as a Writer – But Not Necessarily a Novelist with Gillian Polack, Mark Shireff, Liz Argall (Chair), Margo Lanagan and Karen Simpson-Nikakis. The consensus was that it was very hard to, but really the writer in me was kind of hoping. Of the panel it was only Mark that could make a living and he works as a script producer for television. The others revealed exactly how they could afford to write – working part of the year, writing the other, having jobs that let them research for their writing, or teaching and consultation work.

Of the afternoon’s panels, Rewriting – The Real Art of A Good Story drilled home some truths that all writers need to be aware of. I believe Cat Sparks said it best – Don’t hand in shit. If the first thing an editor or publisher sees is a piece that not only doesn’t meet the guidelines, but obviously needs more work, then the next time they see your name they aren’t likely to take you seriously. Some friendly advice, put the ms away for a bit, a week, a month, whatever, then come back to it with fresh eyes and rewrite it – it will make it better.

Ok Saturday night at Conflux gave me the rare opportunity to mingle with some authors. A little unknown fact, they don’t walk around the evil HQ every five minutes, nor do they stop in for a chat. Stephanie Smith, Publisher of all things Voyager, invited Nat, Sarah and myself out for a Voyager dinner with some authors – Karen Miller, Kim Westwood, K. J. Taylor and Adam Browne. I had a good chat with Adam about Conflux in general before the topic turned to writing. At the end of the night he gave me some encouraging words and told me he would be looking out for my novel when it comes out. I also chatted with Karen Miller, discussing the workshop of Friday and Accidental Sorcerer before it turned into writing in general and Supernatural. I think a good night was had by all.

Sunday saw our last day at Conflux, so with my copy of Dreaming Again in my hot little hand, I sucked up my courage and went about asking some of the contributors to sign my copy. Not only did they sign, but they were happy to and to have a chat as well. To name a few: Jason Nahrung – ‘Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn’, Aaron Sterns – ‘The Rest is Silence’ and Jason Fischer – ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’.

We also got up to a few other things while in Canberra. We visited Floriade, and with the help of a quick coffee fix took some interesting photos, I’m sure Nat will put up the more interesting ones [No! Big Merino was embarrassing enough!]. We walked a lot, our motel was down the road from Conflux and Nat kept assuring us 3kms were a lot shorter than 100kms [whole other story here about the Oxfam Trailwalker] . Although there was the one night were the heavens opened up and we got drenched, but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits. I had a great time, at Conflux and with the company I went down with, Nat and Sarah are top ladies and if the chance comes up again next year I wouldn’t dream of going with anyone else.

Tim Miller works in the Sales department at HarperCollins. He’s part of the Voyager Cabin Crew and works on the Voyager Newsletter as well. And he’s working on a novel and short stories, when not being forced to blog for Voyager Online!  

On Writing: Finding the Moments by Karen Miller

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know I have a fondness for televised drama. Most particularly I love watching it on dvd – not only because you’re not constantly interrupted by ads, but because often you get really nifty extras like writer/director commentaries. And these can provide the most fantastic insights into the writing process.
You might think that writing straight narrative for a novel, and a script for performance/filming, don’t have anything in common … but you’d be mistaken. Certainly there are major differences, but the aspects they do share are pretty crucial to successful storytelling no matter the chosen medium.
Recently I got the 5th season of NCIS on dvd. And one particular episode of that season, Requiem, deals with an important element of backstory for one Jethro Leroy Gibbs: namely, the murder of his young daughter. That event is in the past, but he’s forced to confront it in the present when a friend of his dead daughter comes to him for help.
The commentary on this episode is provided by star Mark Harmon and executive producer Shane Brennan – an Aussie, as it happens! And there was one comment by Brennan that really stood out for me. Actually, it leapt out and smacked me across the face – in a good way.
Brennan says that when you ask someone to tell you what happened in a book or a movie or a TV show, they won’t usually tell you the plot … they’ll tell you the moments. In other words, what they recall is specific incidents in the story that have made a profound impact on them. And, he says, as a writer that is what he strives to do: he strives to find the moments, the memorable sequences, the emotionally impactful incidents in a story and write towards them. In other words, to construct the entire narrative so that those important moments drive the story and the characters and provide the emotional impact that you’re looking for.
When I heard him say that, a chandelier’s worth of light bulbs went off in my head.
Almost without exception, the things I remember most about a book or a film or a TV drama that I love are those moments: Doctor Who, season 3, ‘42’, where the Doctor admits to Martha that he’s scared; Stargate SG-1, season 2, ‘A Matter of Time’, when Jack finally confronts Frank Cromwell and shows us he’s more than a few smart-arse comebacks; ‘Pawn in Frankincense’ by Dorothy Dunnett, when Francis chooses which child will die in a human chess game … I could fill pages with my favourite moments in drama.
See, Shane Brennan’s comment crystalised something crucial to my understanding of my own writing processes: that when I’m working on a new story, if I don’t have at least some of those moments in my head, if I haven’t found some of them before I begin writing, then I can’t begin writing. That until I’ve found them, I’m just not emotionally engaged in the story, and if I’m not emotionally engaged then I’m not ready.
Because it seems to me that if it’s those moments that engage me as a member of a story’s audience, then those are the things I should be focusing on as a story’s creator. Especially since the first draft is me telling myself the story (in the words of the wonderful Terry Pratchett) – which means it’s vital that I keep myself entertained. That I write with emotional passion, that I plunge my heart and soul into the story. Because if I’m not feeling anything, how can I expect a reader to feel anything?
There is, of course, a hitch with this approach. It’s bloody exhausting. If you’re writing drama, and if you’re writing to the moments, then you are most likely putting your characters through the wringer. That means you’re also putting yourself through the wringer, because for a reader to feel, a writer must also feel and capture those feelings on the page, in words.
Which would explain why writing a tough scene can make you feel as though you’ve been chewed up and spat out.
Apart from creating a memorable emotional experience for the reader, the other thing that writing to the moments does is give your narrative pace and drive. If you know where you’re heading, story-wise, your writing has purpose and energy. Now that’s not to say you have to know every moment of the whole story. If you’re my kind of writer, a loose outliner and discover-the-story-as-you-go type, it’s not possible to know every moment. Part of your process will be the discovery of those moments as you discover the details of the story and its characters.
But I believe you do need to know a few to get the ball rolling. Me, I always know the end moment before I start writing – I know where I’m heading. And I usually know a couple of significant ones along the way. Sometimes the story idea will come to me as an isolated scene – the first two Kingmaker, Kingbreaker books, for example, started with the moment of Gar presiding over Asher’s execution. Once I had that in my head, I had to then work backwards to find out how we’d reached that defining event, and then forwards to find out how the story ended.
But it all started with a moment. And as the story unfolded within me, I found more and more moments to write towards – significant emotional beats and events that kept me engaged with the story, and gave me somewhere to head for in the narrative.
So, without realising it, I’ve already been doing what Shane Brennan was talking about. Which is lucky for me! But the thing is, now I understand what I’m doing. And now I understand that when a story is bogged down, when I’m stuck, or when I can’t get started … the chances are good that I’ve not being paying sufficient attention to the moments. The minute I rectify that mistake, the story flow returns and so do the words.
But here’s another thing: moments are very personal. What you as an audience member – and by extension, a writer – will respond to emotionally isn’t necessarily the same as what I’ll respond to, or your friends will respond to. Of course, if a writer manages to capture something universally affecting then a great many people will respond the same way and lo! A hit is born.
Trouble is, it’s hard – if not impossible – to predict which stories will resonate with a large audience. I mean, how many agents and editors didn’t get Harry Potter? And yet those books resonate on a scale that’s almost unimaginable. But Rowling wasn’t thinking about that, she was telling a story that resonated with her. And that’s the key.
As writers, we can’t control how our work is received. All we can do is write the most honest, the most emotionally resonant story of which we are capable – a story that engages us – and keep our fingers crossed that what engages us will engage a lot of other people as well. That’s it. That’s our job. The rest is a crap shoot.
But if we take Shane Brennan’s advice, and always keep the moments in our mind, always look for the moments to illuminate as we tell our stories, then I truly believe we won’t stray too far from the track.

Karen Miller will be at Conflux this Friday and over the long weekend. So hie thee down to Canberra if you can. Karen’s latest book, Hammer of God, is available in all good bookshops, as is her latest book written as K E Mills, The Accidental Sorcerer. But wait, there’s more! You can read this post in Karen’s blog as well as catching on what she’s been up to – visit http://www.karenmiller.net/.

A special guest joins the Voyager Cabin Crew for lunch

Today, at work, at our monthly Cabin Crew meeting, we had a fabulous surprise guest!

 

Here are some clues as to who it was:

  1. She’s an author.
  2. She’s written, let’s see, three series so far for Voyager.
  3. One of those series is written under a mysterious psuedonym …
  4. She was also the author whose work was chosen for the first Voyager Book Club.
  5. She’s at work on book two of her latest series … the Rogue Agent trilogy.

 

 

Yes, it was Karen Miller, also known as K E Mills, author of the Kingmaker/Kingbreaker duology, the Godspeaker trilogy, and of course the Rogue Agent series.

She chatted to us for about an hour and then signed copies of The Accidental Sorcerer. You may think that, being hardened publishing folk and all, this is everyday stuff, but it isn’t! We don’t get to meet authors face-to-face that often, although we correspond with them a lot, so seeing Karen in person was just dandy and we acted appropriately as eager fan girls and fan boys.

 

Karen talked about all sorts of things – from her favourite authors (who include my own favourite, George R R Martin) and books, to the rather whirlwind session she had at Denvention/WorldCon due to a surprise deadline, and she spoke in depth about The Accidental Sorcerer, which we had all read earlier in the year and had lots of questions about. Our most important question was answered: there will be more Monk, lots more Monk, in the next two books! She’s working on book two of the Rogue Agent, Witches Incorporated, as I type this entry! I did, in fact, write down her top five authors, but left my notepad at work – so I can’t transcribe it, but keep a look out here and I’ll add it. And since Karen plans to hand over Witches Incorporated very soon – she may have time to embellish the list for you, dear reader! I didn’t get to ask her my question (due to other eager fangirl/boys elbowing me figuratively – okay they didn’t, I was too busy eating sandwiches), which was: How come you know how to present a stable for royalty? (a fact she presented in the 2008 Voyager Diary) But I plan to demand an answer sometime soon!

Afterwards, we all milled (ha! No pun intended) around saying things like, ‘She’s so nice!’ – because she really is. If you haven’t yet read a Karen Miller book, or a K E Mills story, now is the time to start. And look out for a review of the first book in Karen’s most recent fantasy series in the next Captain’s Log.

 

This is your local hardened publishing liaison signing out.

Taelian (Captain’s Assistant)

A Successful First Voyager Book Club

Click here to visit Karen Miller's websiteLast night we had the first ever meeting of the Voyager Book Club, and a rousing success it was!

We had the luck to actually have the author of the first book present, K E Mills, author of The Accidental Sorcerer. We started off by discussing the upcoming books in the Rogue Agent trilogy – which might give you an idea of how much everyone enjoyed The Accidental Sorcerer, as we would all like to read more.

We discuss all manner of things, from the main themes of the book (for example, the way almost all of the characters are in disguise, one way or another), to what constitutes actual ‘evil’, to the best actors to play key roles in a film version of the book!

If you’re interested in taking part in further book club sessions, please visit the message board at Voyager Online.

Thank you to Nyssa from http://aboygoesonajourney.com for providing us with a chat room to have the discussion.

AlannaFor those of you interested in reading more from K E Mills, her first series (written as Karen Miller) is called Kingmaker Kingbreaker and starts with The Innocent Mage (I couldn’t resist putting up the Spanish publication image) and ends with Innocence Lost. Her second series, The Godspeaker trilogy, begins with Empress of Mijak, continues with The Riven Kingdom and concludes with Hammer of God (which is out in June).

Visit Karen’s website for more information, or go to Voyager Online.

K E Mills tells all re: Sorcerer and Accident …

This interview appeared in the March 2008 issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine, visit www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au for more details.

K E Mills—AKA ‘Kingmaker, Kingbreaker’ author Karen Miller— has a new series on offer, come April. She tells Jarrah Moore about writing, imagination, and ‘falling madly in love’ with the 10th Doctor Who …

You mention David Tennant, the 10th Doctor, in your Acknowledgements. I approve. Do you think he’s influenced your writing style?

In a funny way, yes. I think he had. Long before I was a published author. I was a fan—of books, TV, film. And as a fan, I was constantly bubbling with passion and enthusiasm for characters and worlds other people had created, that I fell in love with. I’m still a fan, but with the focus now on creating my own characters and worlds much of the passion of late has been poured into my own creations.

Discovering the new Doctor Who, falling madly in love with David Tennant’s 10th Doctor, has reminded me of how wonderful that pure fannish passion is … and it’s reminded me of why I’m doing this in the first place. For the passion, the excitement, the sheer mad joy of diving headfirst into these fantastic worlds and living there for a while, in my imagination.

There’s a definite change of tone in the book, from the light-hearted, comic opening to the darker themes and higher stakes of the ending. Will this darker shift be reflected in the rest of the series, or do you mean to revive the comedy in the next book?

You’re right, there is a change, I feel it reflects the journey that Gerald goes on—his life was quite safe, a bit fraught at times, but not actually dangerous. And then he discovers that where there’s sunshine, there are shadows. But life is always a mix of both, so the following books won’t be all dark, that’s for sure. Yes, he’ll be facing more dangerous situations, but given that Reg and Melissande will still be a large part of his life, the prospects of humour remain pretty good, I think! And poor old Gerald is the kind of person who ends up dealing the ridiculous soon or later.

So the other principal characters of this first book—Monk and Princess Melissande—will be coming back?

Absolutely. Reg, Mel and Monk will be playing very important roles in Gerald’s life. Also Monk’s sister. And as the series progresses—if it does, which I really hope!—other characters will come in.

Who was your favourite character, in writing this book?

Probably Reg. I guess she’s my alter ego. She says out loud all the crabby, rude things I say inside my head but don’t let past my lips! She’s fearless, which I’m sure not, but I get to present I am when I’m writing her.

The Accidental Sorcerer being in a modern (though alternate-world) city, but then the setting moves to a more recognisably fantastic one. Do you plan to explore more urban settings in the series, or are you more interested in a world of swords and kingdoms?

My hope with the series is that I’m able to hop around to all kinds of settings. Just as our world contains societies of incredible sophistication and others of timeless traditions that haven’t changed in centuries, so does the Rogue Agent world. I find all kinds of societies interesting and the fun thing with this series—I think—is the chance to put the characters into a wide range of really different and challenging situations, and then see how they cope.

What would you say the theme of the book is? Is it different to the theme of the series as a whole?

The theme of The Accidental Sorcerer is: Be careful what you wish for. Because Gerald wants to be a great wizard, and he finds out that comes with a pretty hefty price tag.

The series theme is (and I’m probably mangling the quote): All that is required for evil to flourish is that good men do nothing. Obviously that should be good men and women, but the sentiment holds. There are bad guys out there, and the world needs good guys to fight them. But it’s not always pretty, and that’s what I want to explore with these books. And have some fun along the way!

Visit the Rogue Agent Blog