• 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!

     

     

Fallon Friday: 10 Things authors should never blog about

I was asked for some advice recently, about authors and blogging, which made me think (never a good thing), and from which I compiled the following list

Never say rude things about your publisher online, even if they are irritating, slow, inefficient, unprofessional and flat-out unbelievable in their dealings with you. Even if every word of your tale of woe is true, they don’t think they are any of those things and they will demonstrate their resentment of your poor opinion of them by dropping you like a hot brick.

Never diss editors. (See Rule 1). Editors may not have the power to kill your writing career yet, but they move on. They move up. They remember.

Never blog about your bowel movements (unless you’re writing a medical blog about IBS symptoms)

Never rant about how much you deserved an award (whether you won it or not). Humble is good. Even if — in your heart of hearts — you believe your work is the greatest literary masterpiece ever committed to paper, it is uncool to say so. Shock, delighted surprise and humility are the best reactions. Fake it, if you have to.

Never identify friends and family without their permission. You can be the biggest publicity-hungry media-whore on Earth if you want, but your friends and family are not you. They deserve their privacy. Blog about them by all means, but do not identify them by name, where they work, link to their Facebook page, advertise where they hang out, or post their cell phone number without their permission. It is the short road to losing friends and pissing off family.

Never blog endlessly about your flatulence problems. Too much information, dude. The same goes for most chronic non-life-threatening conditions. You will get sympathy at the outset for the poor quality of the pedicure that caused your problem, but after a while, blogging every other day about your ongoing battle with the yellow spotty fungus that is discolouring your toenails will turn people off.

Never provide specifics about how much you earn. There are some out there who think authors should talk about their income to get rid of the popular fallacy that all publishing deals are six-figure windfalls that will set you up for life. My approach is more pragmatic. There is a vast difference between an author’s gross income and their net income due to things like currency exchange, tax-deductible expenses (of which I am an awesomecollector), commissions, and a million other little things that go into calculating our earnings. So, do I brag that I grossed a million bucks last year, or explain how I finished up with a taxable income of $127? My solution – neither. We simply will not speak of it again.

Never blog about cleaning the kitty-litter tray. I mean… what’s to say?

Never attack reviewers who didn’t like your work. It’s OK to blog about the reviews, but it’s dangerous to start attacking reviewers. I will point out factual inconsistencies if they exist in reviews of my work, but I’ll do that for the good reviews as well as the bad. If the review is particularly silly, I might also question the credentials of the reviewer.

I believe a reviewer’s credentials are fair game, because when you set yourself up as a critic you are claiming some expertise in that area, so you should be prepared to stand by your opinions and back it up with something, like, you know… a basic command of the English language, for example. But the bottom line is, reviews are just reviews. They will be good and bad. Suck it up.

Never blog personal attacks on other authors. It’s OK not to like another author’s work; it’s not OK to diss the author. I am not a fan of Dan Brown’s books, but I’m sure he’s a very nice person and I am in awe of his storytelling ability, even if I’m not a fan of his writing style. I could (but I won’t) list a score of other writers whose work leaves me cold.

That doesn’t make the authors bad people, it just means I’m not a fan. As some readers have trouble understanding the difference between a person and their work, it’s best not to give them any fodder for their paranoia.

Jennifer Fallon lives in Alice Springs and has more than thirteen fantasy books to her name, she is currently at work on her next series. Her books have been published worldwide, and translated into Russian, German and French. Jennifer regularly updates her blog and her Twitter page.

Fallon Friday: Jennifer on reading her own work

Someone asked me the other day if I read my own work after I’ve written it.

Of course, I said, thinking it an odd question…

More than once?

Well, let’s put it this way… with Medalon in particular, I have read it so many times I can almost recite it by heart.

First there were the countless readings during the three years it took me
to write it.
Then there was the rewrites.
Then the structural edit.
Then the line edit.
Then the three typeset proofreads.
Then it got published and I had to read in book form just to make sure it
was real.
And then we sold it to the US. And they had to translate it into “American
English” for the hardcover edition. So we had another line edit.
Then another three proofreads.
And then the US publishers sold it to the UK. And they had to translate it
back into “English English” for the UK edition. Again with the line edits.
And the multiple proofreads
And then the US paperback was due out and they wanted another two
proofreads (one before and one after the corrections were made)
And then I had to write the prequel series… so I had to read the whole
damn series again before I started and at least twice during the writing
of Wolfblade, Warrior and Warlord, to make sure I kept the stories
straight.

And then HarperCollins says: Let’s re-release the Demon Child Trilogy with new covers to match the Hythrun Chronicles.

Oh goodie, says I, like an idiot. Can I fix a couple of little things?

No problem, says my patient and ever supportive editor. How many changes did you want to make?

Er…438…

Never fear, they are tiny, niggly little things that have irked me (and only me) since Medalon was first published. They are now fixed and nobody but me will even notice.

Which kinda makes me wonder why I bothered…

Read Medalon with your friends – using the reading guide here.

Jennifer Fallon lives in Alice Springs and has more than thirteen fantasy books to her name, she is currently at work on her next series. Her books have been published worldwide, and translated into Russian, German and French. Jennifer regularly updates her blog and her Twitter page.

Fallon Friday: Five things myths about being an author

1. All authors drink to excess. Not true. We owe Hemingway for this fallacious belief, I suspect. There is a small minority out there who, I’m sure, give this writing technique a good run for its money, but it doesn’t really work that well. Writers tend to be hard-working, self-motivated little bunnies who work hard for their money, and mostly when they’re sober. Really.

2. Authors have the final say on their covers. You’re lucky if they even consult you. I often see my overseas covers for the first time on Amazon. I have a book from Russia with a pole dancer on the cover (Glenda Larke has the same pole dancer on the cover of one of her books). Others have a fortune-teller, a chick in a leather bikini and a unicorn in books that have neither fortune-tellers, chicks in leather bikinis nor unicorns in them. Don’t get me started on the matter of palm trees…

3. Editors will re-write an author’s work if they want changes. Nope. They have far too much of their own work to do. They’ll send it back with their suggestions and make the author do the hard work. And most of the time, they’re right, too. Curses.

4. All authors are rich. Rich in ideas? Absolutely. Rich in language? Of course. Rich in the folding stuff? Depends very much on your definition of rich. And how much you drink. And in my case, how much time you spend on eBay. And if you manage to sell the movie rights.

Which brings me to myth number 5 …

5. All authors who sell movie rights are rich. If only. You don’t get rich off the movie rights unless someone actually makesthe movie. I remember reading somewhere once that Wilbur Smith had optioned the movie rights on every book he’d written and they’d only ever made two of them into movies. The rest just sent him a small cheque each year to keep the option open with a note saying “some day…”

Fallon Friday: Jennifer on Writing a Synopsis

The first question I am asked in almost every writing workshop is: do I need a synopsis?
Yes. You do. Deal with it.
A synopsis is like a road map that tells not only you, but your potential agent and editor that you have thought the story through and actually have some idea how it is going to end. Many new authors are afraid of writing a synopsis for fear of giving away the fantastic twist at the end, or fear that if the reader knows the ending in advance the impact of the story will be lost. Others fear they can’t convey the complexity of their story in one page. The bottom line is, synopses are the lifeblood of publishing and you’d better get used to them. They are unavoidable.

Why the Synopsis is so important

Imagine this:

You have the nod from the editor of Great Big Books R Us Publishing, telling you he loves your work. He has read your full MS and thinks you’re fabulous. All that has to happen now, is the proposal has to go to the “Acquisitions Meeting” a mere formality, he assures you, before an offer is made.
Now, at this meeting, in addition to the Fantasy/SF Editor who loves your book, is the Cooking Editor, the Non-Fiction editor, the Travel Editor, the Teen Horror Editor, the Pre-Teen Fashion Editor, the Post-Apocalytic Romance Editor and so on, all of whom have said exactly the same thing to the author whose work they are also bringing to the meeting.
They have a budget and have to make judgements based on the commercial viability of each work. Not all the books will get through the meeting. They will be judged by the person who knows the work and the rest who will judge it… based solely on a synopsis.
The Cooking Editor is not going to read your fantasy book, anymore than the fantasy editor is going to try every recipe in the cookbook up for consideration. Your synopsis has to be good enough for the Cooking Editor to say “Oh well, you can have your fantasy novel and I’ll pass on my cookbook, because this really is a cracker,” (no pun intended).
OK… so this might be an extreme example, but the point is, without a synopsis, you’re not even going to get to the Acquisitions Meeting, let alone have a chance to impress the cooking editor of Great Big Books R Us Publishing.

Getting to the nitty gritty…

So how do you condense your 200,000 word epic down to half a page? Well, here’s a start – do it like they do it in the movies.
There is a saying in the movie industry: “pitch it to me in 25 words or less”.
This is one of the hardest things you will ever do and yet entire movies can make or break on this 25-word pitch. You should try this with your novel.

Example:
What is Medalon about?
It’s about a girl who discovers she’s destined to kill a god. (12 Words)

Example:
What is the Seconds Sons Trilogy about?
It’s about a boy who discovers his religion is based on a lie so he sets out to bring it down. (21 Words)

Example:
What is Tide Lords about?
It’s about an immortal who wants to die. (8 Words)

Better yet:
“A suicidal immortal” (3 words)

If that doesn’t do it for you, try writing the blurb for the back of your book.
Imagine you’re trying to entice a reader to buy it. Alternatively, imagine you are writing the press release (although this requires the use of lots of adverbs and the words “original”, “groundbreaking” and “in the tradition of” all in one sentence).

The blurb on the back the Australian edition of Wolfblade:

Marla Wolfblade, princess of Hythria, is determined to restore her family to its former power and glory. But Hythria is a fiercely patriarchal society, and Marla knows power may only be gained through a man. Narrowly avoiding an arranged marriage to the King of Fardohnya, she marries Laran, Warlord of Krakandar Province, and gives birth to a son. Damin is named heir to the throne of Hythria by his uncle, the dissolute High Prince.

Settling in to life as the wife of a warlord, Marla believes the future of her family is secured but there are forces in the land that do not want the house of Wolfblade restored. Can Marla protect her son and her family, and stop the conspirators?

121 words.

A good synopsis is about the essence of the story, not the detail. You may have a whole tribe of witty dwarves your hero encounters along the way in his quest, along with a troll, a ghost and an Avon Lady, but the point is, he’s on a quest.

“He meets several interesting characters who aid him in his quest”, is what the publisher wants to know. Anything else should be saved for the book.

Jennifer Fallon’s latest book isThe Palace of Impossible Dreams, book three of the Tide Lords quartet, and it’s out now

You can read more about Jennifer Fallon by going to her blog.

Fallon Friday:Dispelling some myths about getting published – Part 2

You don’t have to be commercially viable if you’re talented

Tolkien died a millionaire. Dickens was a bestselling author. So was Mark Twain. Shakespeare was an Elizabethan celebrity. I’m pretty sure Harper Lee has never had to work another day in her life after To Kill a Mockingbird came out. I can promise you, Neil Gaiman ain’t living hand to mouth, either.
You might have to die to get your art acknowledged, but there aren’t too many literary masters out there starving to death. Publishers aren’t knocking back talent. They’re praying (and paying) for it.

The Godfather was rejected by 52 publishers, so I’ll just keep sending mine in…

Mario Puzo’s novel went through scores of publishers before it found one game to publish his work, not because of his writing, so much, but the subject matter. You hear about these things because they’re the exception rather than the rule.
One or two, even five rejections before being picked up is not uncommon, 52 is rare. Once you get past 5 rejections, luck is no longer a factor. It’s time to sit back and take a long hard look at what you’re sending out.
Something else you rarely hear is that after each rejection, the author often went back and worked on the book again until it was done. It wasn’t the five ignorant publishers at fault, it was the five much needed re-writes that got the book up and running.

I have a great idea and if I believe in myself enough I’ll eventually get published.

Yes and no. You can’t give up at the first hurdle, but you have to learn the difference between believing in yourself and accepting reality.
I never doubted I would be published some day. I am also the first to admit that my first twenty years worth of writing was junk. I didn’t even bother sending it out, so sure was I that it was junk.
Real writers have more than one idea in a lifetime.
Five rejections down the line and it’s time to move on, not keep re-working the same old story. Think up a better one. It may not be that one that gets published either, it might be the next one after that, but if you’re going to do this for a living, you might as well get used to the notion of having more than one story to tell.
So what if you love the characters and think your idea is brilliant and original? Nobody in the publishing industry agrees with you so you might as well move on.
Believe you’re not a “one hit wonder”. You’ll find that far more useful that the blanket “I know I’ll get published some day” affirmation.

Come back next Friday for part three of Jennifer Fallon on myths about getting published.


Click here for part one.

Click here to visit Jennifer’s website.

Fallon Friday: Jennifer on Calory-free Cookbooks

Talking about my favourite books a couple of weeks ago, got me to thinking about what was on my bookshelf. In addition to a fairly impressive fiction collection, I also have a shelf of cookbooks (why?) and diet books, for those times when I decide that I really should lose weight and surely there’s a better way than this tired old “eat less, exercise more” formula that everybody goes on and on about…

Finding The Retox Diet** on my shelves (alongside Dr Atkins and Dr Phil’s take on weight loss — not to mention the Sweet Temptations cookbook I found beside them), was a joy, but then I found a folded bit of paper between the books, given to me by a masseuse some time ago, of the diet she recommends. I’m not sure of the original source (neither was she) but not only is it full of great food, it also had the best set of lifestyle rules attached to the eating plan… Rules I have very successfully incorporated into my daily life.

Let me share them with you:

  • If you eat something and no one else sees you eat it, it has no calories.
  • When eating with someone else, the calories don’t count if you eat less than they do.
  • Calories in food used for medicinal purposes never count: i.e. hot chocolate, brandy, cheesecake, etc.
  • Movie related foods do not count. They are part of the whole entertainment experience and therefore popcorn, soft drinks and candy purchased and consumed at a cinema are not technically foods, at all.
  • Cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breakage causes calorie leakage.
  • Things licked off knives or spoons in the process of preparing food have no calories.
  • Foods with the same colours have the same calories. For example, white chocolate and mushrooms, spinach and mint ice-cream, etc.
  • Since brown is a universal colour, chocolate may be substituted for any other food colour.
  • Foods consumed while depressed are not fattening. The process of crying consumes the equivalent amount of calories consumed. If you are concerned about maintaining the balance, either eat less, or cry harder.
  • Diet soft drinks cancel out any calories in the fast food you consume at the same meal.
    Between these rules and the Retox Diet, I’m all set, and what’s more, I don’t even have to worry about the popcorn I ate at the movies last night 🙂

  • ** Which offers marvellously sage advice about nutrition such as French-fries are made from potatoes (that’s good), cooked in vegetable oil (more vegies, even better), and then sprinkled with salt (which comes from the sea, ergo, it’s a seafood – even more better), so French-fries are really vegetables and seafood, therefore they must be good for you… right?

    Fallon Friday: Return to Ranadon…

    For reasons that will become obvious next year sometime, I am currently re-reading the Second Sons Trilogy (Lion of Senet, Eye of the Labyrinth and Lord of the Shadows).

    I haven’t touched this series for years … literally. Between the prequel for the Demon Child series (the Hythrun Chronicles – Wolfblade, Warrior and Warlord) and finishing off the Tide Lords (The Immortal Prince, The Gods of Amyrantha, The Palace of Impossible Dreams and The Chaos Crystal), I’ve not spared the series a thought, unless a fan emails me with a question.

    So … what’s it feel like to read through it again? Surprisingly satisfying, I have to say. It’s not perfect (nothing ever is), but it’s the best I could do at the time, and I can live with the results.

    I made a promise to myself when I decided to get serious about this writing gig, that I would only write stuff I wanted to read. Stuff I would enjoy. It’s a huge relief to find I am enjoying it. I have sufficient distance now, that I’m not editing in my head, or even remembering what happens next (seriously … I really have put it out of my head).

    It’s a little bit like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen for years, and discovering that even though you know them very well, there are the occasional surprising things about them that you’ve forgotten.

    As for the reason… no, I’m not writing another series in that world (at least not yet), but I do have to revisit it for an anthology, so there will be something there for fans who nag me incessantly about when I’m going back to Ranadon…

    You know, now I think I have a title, too 🙂

    Jennifer Fallon

    Waiting for The Chaos Crystal to come out? In the mean time, visit Jennifer’s website or the Message Board at Voyager Online.