• 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!

     

     

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

Creature Court Contest!

 

Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of Power & Majesty and The Shattered City is having an awesome contest through her blog:

THE CREATURE COURT
FASHION CHALLENGE CONTEST.

Design or describe an outfit for one of the characters of the Creature Court novels to wear.

EVERYONE’S A WINNER:

Everyone who enters the contest & provides me with a postal address (to creaturecourt (at) gmail.com – please don’t post addresses in comments) will receive a Creature Court postcard with a juicy snippet from Book 3 hand-written by me.

I’ve always thought costume design ( whether for film, stage or cosplay ) is an underrated skill, so hopefully this will help some folks get their designs out there!  Just head over to the Contest post , comment & email Tansy your entry to creaturecourt (at) gmail.com to enter!

Tansy Rayner Roberts: Craft, Magic and “women’s work”

There's a lot of hard work behind the glamour ...

I have been asked many times since the release of Power and Majesty whether I sew myself – in particular, if I can make dresses like Velody can.  If only!  Dressmaking is one of those astounding skills that I romanticise in my head, but am incapable of actually doing myself.  It’s not that I don’t love to sew, I’m just not very good at measuring.  Or straight lines.  When it comes to actually measuring straight lines, my head goes out the window.

You know how they say ‘measure twice, cut once?’  Well, my sewing technique is more along the lines of ‘think about measuring, remind self that measuring is really important, then throw measuring tape out the window and just APPLY SCISSORS’.

My pet craft, luckily enough, is quilting.  Where cutting fabric into tiny pieces and sewing it back together again is a feature, not a bug!  I love to hand piece (folding fabric over paper templates is the one way I am capable of sewing a straight line) because sewing machines freak me out, just a little.  I love to machine quilt because it’s all about wavy lines, and it looks good even if you get a little madly creative, and who doesn’t love a machine with a laser pointer?

The owner of the quilting machine, who is something of a mentor to me, despairs of my ragged hems and a style that can only be describes as ‘slapdash,’ but admits I’m quite good with colour.

Crazy quilts are my favourite – you can throw in every half-baked sewing technique you’ve ever learned, blag the rest, and if you use enough velvet and kimono silk scraps, somehow it ends up looking like art.  I’m currently working on a crazy quilt about The Creature Court – piecing a square for each character, like a jumbled scrapbook of who they are and what is most important to them.  At the rate I’m going, the quilt will take me far longer than the books did!

I love to read about women who craft, too.  Just about the only mainstream fiction I read these days involves women and quilting circles, or knitting yarn.  Sometimes they fight crime, as well!  You don’t find a lot of it in fantasy – though it is there, at times, around the edges.  Most fantasy worlds are pre-industrial, and so clothes are hand-made and woven, food is cooked from scratch (even if, as the late great Diana Wynne Jones pointed out, it’s mostly stew) and every tool is clanged out from a real forge, by a blacksmith.

It always drives me crazy when the only person you see pick up a needle in a fantasy novel is the motherly type (cough, Polgara, cough) who does everyone’s mending, or a soppy damsel whose embroidery is a symbol of how useless she is.  Before we had factories, sewing a straight line was an essential life skill, and while women have always taken on the majority of the domestic craft (it was often the only way to earn money from home, so you could mind the children at the same time) there’s no reason why we shouldn’t also see men fixing their own tunics or darning socks. 

I also love it when crafting techniques are used in descriptions of magic.  Sure, people call magic a ‘craft’ all the time, but I like it best when that is taken a step further, giving a realism to magical technique.  One of my favourite books of 2010, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, placed magic as an important lady’s accomplishment in the Regency period, along with playing the piano, drawing, and dancing prettily.  Her descriptions of ‘glamour’ make it feel like a real, tangible thing, and I thought it was particularly clever the way she showed that the few men who excelled at glamour were accorded professional status, while the women were expected to use it only to catch husbands

In Power and Majesty, I introduced three characters: Velody, Rhian and Delphine, who were each practicing craftswomen.  This gave them jobs and a grounding in the world I was trying to convey, and also tied closely to the importance of religious festivals in their city of Aufleur.  It also meant that I was able to write what I knew – about the pleasures and practicalities of making something, even if I did have to run the dressmaking scenes past someone who has actually done it.  Having a dressmaker heroine also gave me the metaphors and descriptive defaults to reach for when she is trying to explain magic to herself for the first time. 

In that first book of the trilogy, Velody’s craft and her fellow workers belonged to the daylight – they represented the part of her life she loved most, and what she wanted to protect from the darkness and magic of the new world she had been introduced to.  But in the second book, The Shattered City, Velody’s two worlds are going to collide with a vengeance.  Something as simple as a needle and thread could get people killed…

The Shattered City is out now and continues the story of Velody and the Creature Court. You can follow Tansy on Twitter, visit her website AND visit the official Creature Court website (don’t turn your back on anyone …)

And catch Tansy talking about her writing career and the Creature Court on Galactichat!

Sneak Peek: Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts

If you’re at AussieCon4 now, you can catch Tansy Rayner Roberts reading from Power and Majesty at 3pm. If you’re not, or you have a spare block of time, read this sneak peek of the beginning of Shattered City, Creature Court Book Two.

1.
The Day after the Nones of Felicitas (nefas)
The silk was cool to the touch. It was a magnificent gown: flame-orange, trimmed with soft charcoal-black leaves of silk that tumbled from the Duchessa’s shoulders to her knees. A perfect festival dress for the chief day of sacrifice, the centrepiece of the sacred games which would shortly be taking over the city.
It was the last fitting, and Velody was just managing to make the alterations — a stitch here, a stitch there – without her hand shaking on the needle.
There was no reason to be nervous. Sure, her entire professional career hung in the balance – a word from the Duchessa in the right circles could ruin her – and yet there were so many other things to worry about.
Velody could think of one person at least, if not an entire Court of them, who would laugh at her if they knew how anxious she was about this one every day event. The world was so much bigger and more dangerous than she had ever known, and here she was fretting about the effect of a dropped waistline.
The slender, nineteen-year-old demoiselle who ruled the City of Aufleur gazed at herself in the mirror, lifting the weight of her long blonde hair. ‘Should I bob it?’ she asked idly.
Velody’s own hair was bundled back in the snood. She still refused to have what most demmes these days referred to as ‘the chop’. The very thought of it made her neck cold.
‘The city fathers would implode, my lady,’ she said with a polite smile. ‘But you would look exceptional.’
The Duchessa gave her an impish grin worthy of her age. ‘I would, wouldn’t I?’
The curtains in the room shifted as the door was opened abruptly. ‘Ladies,’ said the Ducomte Ashiol Xandelian d’Aufleur, striding through the room and hurling himself on the nearest
floral sofa. He was dark, dangerously handsome, and held himself as if the city revolved around him.
Velody would not look. He was playing games with her, and she refused to allow him to put her on edge.
The Duchessa sighed dramatically. ‘You will have to forgive the rudeness of my cousin, Mistress Velody. He was raised in the wild.’
‘He does not disturb me, high and brightness,’ said Velody, plucking pins from her mouth and ignoring the deep shiver that went through her flesh at the man’s presence.

Read on

Get a taste of Power and Majesty …

Don’t miss out on the debut novel from Australian Tansy Rayner Roberts … click the cover below to read the first chapters today!

Click to read the first chapters!

 

‘Just read 1st chaps Power & Majesty by Tansy Raynor Roberts. A definite keeper!’ — Glenda Larke, author of the Watergivers trilogy, via Twitter.

Power and Majesty ticks all the boxes for great dark fantasy and a few more for good measure. Roberts evokes an exotic, renaissance-tinged city full of stylish and decadent characters. Charming, mysterious and occasionally grim, this is a silky and sophisticated new entry to Australian fantasy. I would recommend this to anyone who likes the darker end of the genre, particularly fans of Anne Bishop or Jacqueline Carey.’ — Stefen Brazulaitis, Bookseller, in Australian Bookseller & Publisher

Tansy’s pretties: (AKA inspiration for Aufleur)

I love to hear about what other writers are using to inspire them visually (and aurally) in particular projects. Jennifer Crusie always creates a collage of inspirations for each book in progress which struck me as a great visual aid to keep you on point. I’ve never been organised enough to do that, and yet I always get the urge to make a quilt inspired by each book… heh, maybe someday.

I did enjoy Rowena’s post on the visual images she used to inspire King Rolen’s kin, though. My current project, the Creature Court trilogy I am writing for HarperCollins Voyager, is bursting with visual influences and inspirations, to the point where I am closer than I have ever been to making fabric art using some of the pictures.

The city of Rome is one of my biggest inspirations – it’s one of the few genuinely old cities I’ve ever spent any time in, and having spent a month tramping around it looking at temples and statues for my doctoral thesis, it lodged itself firmly enough in my mind that I was able to transform it into a fantasy city that has weight to it in my head – with a few fairly recognisable landmarks and far too many liberties, using a real place to centre it made me believe in the city of Aufleur far more than any imaginary location I have devised before.

Woodcut in grey and back - M C Escher

Woodcut in grey and back - M C Escher

(also setting my books in a single city means I get to indulge in horseless fantasy, my favourite type)

The fashions of the 1920’s are one of the most powerful influences – not only because of the look of many of the characters, but also because my heroine is a dressmaker and pretty much sees the world through clothes. The style of the city of Aufleur does not correspond exactly to any aspect of 1920’s Europe, America or Australia, but I have tried to use as many evocative elements as I can to create a world that at least indulges in some of the lesser-used historical iconography. I’ve been using bits and pieces from the 1930’s and 40’s, Victoriana and Ancient Rome as well, but it’s the 1920’s that seals the ‘look’ of the characters to me and I have great hope that the publishers will agree when it comes to cover art time.

'Where there's smoke, there's fire' by Russell Patterson

'Where there's smoke, there's fire' by Russell Patterson

(plus, AWESOME FROCKS)

Then there are the creatures – I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic animal lover (my daughter’s daycare recently took the kids to a pet shop on an excursion and I freaked out she might want a pet, luckily she’s robust and held out because um NO) but this whole story was sparked off by a little brown mouse I came upon unexpectedly in my writing room one day (halfway up the printer table leg, looking guilty as hell) and given that the story revolves around oh, shapechangers then it’s kind of important that I get to grips with the animalistic side of my characters. I have been collecting old fashioned illustrations of the various animals featured in the books (woodcuts of werewolves are my favourite) and once spent an entire day looking at pictures of, yes, mice. It counts as work, okay!

W. W. Denslow.  Mice pulling lion, 1899.  Pen-and-ink drawing.

W. W. Denslow. 'Mice pulling lion' (from illusration for The Wizard of Oz), 1899. Pen-and-ink drawing.

I don’t just use images to spark off inspiration and keep my head firmly in the city of Aufleur, though. I’ve been using music pretty heavily, collecting a writing soundtrack over the last several years which includes musicals (Moulin Rouge, Cabaret, Chicago), Berlin cabaret music, World War II songs (anything that makes me think of the Blitz is relevant!), and a lot of modern music which just conveys the right feel for characters or scenes.

My play list includes songs ranging from Cody Chestnutt’s “Look Good in Leather” and Pony Up’s “Dance For Me” to Grace Jones singing “Storm” and the amazing Ute Lemper singing anything she wants to. And um yes, it’s getting so every single character has their own individual playlist…

The best benefit for me of using music is I can put on the earbuds and instantly be in the right mindset for my characters. While I love to collect images suitable for Aufleur, it’s the music I reach for when I need an inspiration top-up. A year ago, I would have laughed at myself.

This post was originally published at the ROR (Ripping Ozzie Reads) blog. Reproduced by permission of author.

Tansy Rayner Roberts lives in Tasmania with her partner and daughter (with a new baby rather imminent). She has a PhD in Classics and runs a small family business from home, selling the Deepings Dolls. Power and Majesty, the first book of Tansy’s Creature Court fantasy trilogy featuring flappers, shapechangers and bloodthirsty court politics, will be released from HarperCollins Voyager in July 2010. Tansy blogs at http://cassiphone.livejournal.com and with a group of other wonderful Australian writers at http://ripping-ozzie-reads.blogspot.com. She can be found on Twitter and Facebook as tansyrr.