• 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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A Tour and a Mission

Duncan Lay is on a mission to Save Our Bookstores as part of a tour to promote his new book Bridge of Swords, the first in the Empire of Bones trilogy. Duncan has been visiting bookshops to meet readers, sign copies and help boost bookstore profits. He is aiming to speak to as many people as possible about how important bookstores are.

Duncan Lay’s Tour blog

So, one week of the “official tour” is completed and now I kick off the interstate side of things, heading down to Adelaide to hit a whole bunch of new stores.

I say “official” as I went out to stores while I was working, notably my local Dymocks at Erina and Tuggerah, Unleash Books Kotara (formerly an A+R store), Galaxy and Kinokuniya in Sydney city and North Sydney Dymocks.

But the first big week of stores is over and it was generally very good. There were highlights at every store and that’s the way you have to look at it.

Every time you appear at a bookstore, stand out the front and try to talk to passersby, you are going to get knockbacks and sneers. That’s the price you must pay for speaking to people and, after all, acting like a kind of spruiker. It’s a price I’m always happy to pay but that doesn’t make it easier. For instance, Unleash Books Miranda was a case in point. Just 50m down the shopping centre was a pair of spruikers trying to flog people Oral B products. Naturally the glare from their white teeth was eye-piercing, while their patter was just as persistent. I quickly discovered people walking up from that direction were already in a bad frame of mind to respond to my line about reading. That swiftly proved a drawback, as half my traffic flow was coming past me having been assaulted with toothbrushes and tangled up in dental floss.

I also discovered that, for all its high socio-economic benchmarks, there was nobody wanting to try out the special deal on the original trilogy that Unleash was offering. It was interesting, because their I sold 40 books at their sister store at Kotara, in Newcastle, on a similar deal. Perhaps, if one believes Ten’s TV show The Shire, they need it all for surgical enhancements. More likely they are seen as well off because they don’t rashly hurl their money away by buying multiple books from authors, no matter how winning their talk is!

In the face of multiple knockbacks, not to mention negotiating the devilish car park at Miranda Fair, it would be easy to become dispirited. But instead I focused on the positives, of which there were many. For starters Bridge Of Swords was sitting at Number Five on the Unleash Top 10, one spot ahead of George RR Martin’s latest bestseller. And the people I did chat to in Miranda were wonderful – from Bel Every, who came in specially and has even created a Facebook page for me, to Ursula who couldn’t make it in that day but bought and left a copy of Bridge Of Swords for me to personalise, to all the others who bought books or just spoke to me.

Bookstore appearances are very much a “glass half-full” experience. It’s easy to get down but vital to focus on the good things.

Having said that, I struggled to find any negatives at Penrith Dymocks. Honestly, I could happily go back there every week. If you are an author on tour, put Penrith on your list. Forget about your inner-city trendy areas. Not only did I sell a record number of books that day (necessitating a frantic dash for resupply by the store owners) but the people were wonderful and genuinely interested to meet an author. I truly find the outer areas, such as Penrith, Campbelltown (when it had a bookshop), Rouse Hill and Tuggerah are always the most successful. Forget Leichhardt and Bondi – head west or north and reap the benefits!

Book Bazaar Umina was my Saturday shop, a small bookstore in a sleepy main street. But store owner Mandi is fantastic and has been a great supporter of mine from the start. Tellingly, almost half the books I sold were to readers who were coming in specially. That percentage is higher than anywhere else!

Then it was on to Dymocks Carlingford, a lovely shop run by a great bloke called Kosta but stuck in an unfortunate corner of a busy shopping centre. I was delighted to see Bridge Of Swords sitting at Number Six on his store’s Top 10 Bestsellers … beating all fantasy books and a huge swathe of general release fiction as well. We started slowly but moved closer to the escalators and finished strongly. I had some marvellous conversations with people here, several of them quickly “friending” me on Facebook or following me on Twitter afterwards, as well as a couple of budding authors. I hope to see them in print some day!

So the first week ended with more than 100 books hand-sold!

Now for the interstate portion, which will see things kick up a gear. I hit four stores in that first week and I was at SIX over the first weekend in Adelaide alone!

Read more about Adelaide on Duncan’s own blog!

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Folly from the Newtown Review of Books brilliantly reviews both Bridge of Swords by Duncan Lay and The Dark Divide by Jennifer Fallon. Thanks guys!

The Newtown Review of Books

Celtic and Japanese cultures give visual and emotional charge to two recent fantasy novels.

There is much richness and complexity on offer in fantasy writing, as well as extraordinarily varied and layered resources available to the writer. Two recently published books demonstrate this for me with heaps of panache. Interestingly, they both use aspects of Celtic and Japanese cultures, in very different ways, to give a visual and emotional charge to their narratives.

Bridge of Swords  (Part One of Empire of Bones) opens with an elf thrown from his hidden land, Dokusen, as a result of machinations within his realm concerning the decay of magic and the bitter rivalry between his brutal father, the tyrant at the head of the council, and the equally untrustworthy controllers of magic, the magic-weavers. His name is Sendatsu. He must leave behind his adored motherless children and his unattainable love, Asami, and seek the…

View original post 1,412 more words

National Bookshop Day and a fantasy author’s guide to reviving the bookshop.

When he’s not writing awesome fantasy epics, our Voyager author of the Month Duncan Lay is a journalist and masthead chief at the Sunday Telegraph. Last Sunday his article entitled “The Death of the Bookshop?” and his own editorial column appeared and  it makes for a great read ( not surprisingly!) For those struggling to understand the changes in the book marketplace and the role of ebooks, Duncan’s article, and those he interviews, could help explain them.

In his accompanying column (the header of which is on the right) he suggests a few key things to keep bookshops alive, most essential of which is to simply foster in children a love of reading.

This Saturday 11th August is National Bookshop Day and many bookshops around the country are celebrating with local authors coming for signings or other special events, so put it in your calendar and be sure to head down to your local store and support them by buying a book!

Duncan Lay’s Bridge of Swords is out today!

The ever awesome Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney have posted up a great interview with Duncan about Bridge of Swords on their blog!  In it, Duncan talks a lot about the themes that inspire and drive his characters, as well as his writing. Great stuff! He also has loads of great backstory about the nations and world behind his new series, Empire of Bones, up on his own blog.

Voyager and Swancon – a happy combination

Voyager authors, family and friends gathered at Chez Pierre for wine, food and great company

This time last week, I was in Perth, preparing for the start of Swancon 36, the 50th National Science Fiction Convention. At that point, it was just a blur of potential, a string of days that could either be great or not.

Now, it’s over and I’m happy to report that the word ‘great’ doesn’t even begin to describe Swancon. It was a particularly great con for Voyager – A.A. Bell’s Diamond Eyes took out the Norma K Hemming award and Tansy Rayner RobertsPower and Majesty won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel.

On Saturday afternoon, Tansy, Glenda Larke and I sat with HarperCollins WA rep Theresa Anns on a panel entitled ‘Meet the Voyager authors’. After giggling over Theresa’s question of how Voyager queen Stephanie Smith hogtied us to get our novels (if you’ve ever met Stephanie you’ll know how ridiculous an image that is – although I’m still having issues with the rope burns…) we discussed the journey to becoming part of the Voyager clan and how we’ve been enjoying it.

Someone (I think it might have been Theresa) asked if being a Voyager author meant being part of a community. At first, we answered no – the three of us had known each other before Voyager took our books and our friendships extended beyond.

Jonathan Strahan obviously enjoying himself

But as we kept talking, we realised that in fact, there was a community of authors out there. There are folks that we’ve only met the once or twice but feel we know through the internet, such as Mary Victoria or Kim Falconer. Then there’s the people we get to meet just through being with Voyager, such as Duncan Lay and Bevan McGuiness. Then there’s the authors that aren’t published with Voyager Australia any more but are still part of the clan at these events – Simon Brown, Sean Williams, Trudi Canavan.

All this became clear later on Saturday when we Voyager mob (with a few ring-ins) went out for dinner. It’s something that happens often at conventions – a chance for us all to sit and chat and you know what – there is definitely a family feel to these things. We catch up, we laugh, we joke, we have fun.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, bookseller Robin Pen and myself ordered the snails - how could you not? Tansy loved them.

My snails, before they were devoured. Delicious, my friends. The venison was good too.

And that’s just the authors – I know that there’s a network of readers out there as well. I wasn’t part of the famous Purple Zone – the forums that used to run on the Voyager website – but I know a lot of those folks are still in touch and at Worldcon, there was a Purple Zone dinner. And this blog is now the heart of the Voyager community in Australia and it’s great to be able to share news and ideas and find out what is going on in each other’s lives.

Later this year is another convention that will prove to be a highlight for Voyager. At Conflux (Sep 28-Oct 1, Canberra) Voyager web-mistress and HarperCollins digital editor Natalie Costa Bir is going to be a guest. I’m looking forward to another opportunity to connect with the Voyager family (authors, editors and readers) and continue to celebrate the fabulous work that Voyager is publishing.

Nicole Murphy lives in Canberra with her husband Tim. She is the author of the Dreams of Asarlai trilogy, which starts with Secret Ones and is wonderfully active at Conflux and other conventions.

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.

Hugos, swords, readings and dreamers

Sunday morning we bumped into Peter V Brett looking slightly pale outside the dealers room on Level 2. He was preparing for his reading from The Great Bazaar and by all accounts did very well. We gave away some Voyager party bags with the v15 hardbacks inside to some lucky tweeters and passers-by, celebrating both our anniversary and hitting 1000 followers on Twitter! Duncan Lay wandered over on his way to his kaffeeklatsch and said he was enjoying himself and also preparing for a reading later that day. Haven’t heard yet how it was but I’m sure it was fantastic!
Then your correspondent went to a ton of panels: the artist’s paradox with GoH Shaun Tan, Cat Sparks and Nick Stathopoulos was especially interesting. Robert Silverberg’s panel with Peter Ball, Alan Baxter and Keith Stevenson also provided food for thought on the novella form – hard to sell? Hard to write? Growing in popularity? Increasing the number of small press publishers?
After a brief break for lunch it was time to see our own Stephanie Smith, Voyager Publisher, on the Dreaming Again panel led by Jack Dann, with Janeen Webb, Jason Nahrung, Angela Slatter, Richard Harland and Jenny Blackford. Jack was in fine form and asked if everyone else had turned up for a roast Jack panel! 🙂
Then it was a discussion on crowns and monarchies with interesting insights from a whole panel of Voyager authors! Duncan Lay, Jennifer Fallon, Glenda Larke, Fiona Mcintosh with guest appearance by Joel Shepherd, duked it out – and one good point they made is that by settling on a monarchy as your governing system, you can concentrate on telling the actual story.
After this it was off to rm 519 to listen to Mary Victoria read from Tymon’s Flight and -bonus- from Samiha’s Song. Mary read beautifully and had us all under her spell.
We had a lovely Voyager dinner with our authors and then a few of us headed to the Hugos, where Garth Nix was doing a fab job of MCing. We’re all thrilled that Peter Watts won a Hugo for his story in New Space Opera 2 and Peter’s speech thanking Jonathan Strahan, editor of the anthology, was nice. We also enjoyed George R R trying to run off with a Hugo he was presenting and Robert Silverberg’s quips about editors and wombats!
Finally, it was off for one final evening in the Hilton Bar accompanied by Peter V Brett to join Jennifer Fallon and Glenda Larke, Stephanie and HarperCollins account manager and fantasy fan extraordinaire Theresa Anns. Then bed!
Today we’re off to Mary V’s panel at 10 on Writing Strange Lands, and then dropping into Nicole Murphy’s reading, where she tells us she will not be reading from page 310!