• 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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Bringing Characters to Life (Why zombies make rotten lovers …)

Cast of characters from HBO’s True Blood (Based on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Series

It takes more than a description and a few lines of dialogue to bring characters to life. They must be fleshed out in believable ways—grow, change, exhibit emotions (or repress them), have likes and dislikes, flaws and attributes. Basically, they have to be ‘real’ people. If characters are not fully developed, they won’t engage the reader, and that means the story ends before it even gets started.

If characters feel like cardboard cut outs, the story will fall flat on its face. No matter how brilliant the plot, characters have to have a potency of their own—driving and charismatic. If they don’t feel alive they might as well be zombies, and that’s not going to make anyone’s’ heart throb. If a main character can be replaced by one of the flesh-eating undead, it’s time for a radical makeover.

Lao Tzu said character is destiny and it holds true in fiction as in ‘real’ life. How characters think, what shaped their past, what hopes excite them, as well as their physicality, combine to create what will happen to them in the future. Achieving this level of characterisation boils down to one thing—know them inside and out! (Read Jennifer Fallon’s rule number three.)

When a new character pops into my head, (for me it is just like a light bulb going on) I see them in a scene. They might be in a fight, making a spell or making out. No matter. With that first look comes an idea, a name and then a horoscope. I create a ‘star charts’ for each one of my people. It’s more instructional than a Myers-Briggs personality test!

Example: I’ll randomly assign planetary placements for a new male character: Sun (individuality) Virgo, Moon (feelings) Scorpio, Mercury (brain power) Leo, Venus (relationships) Gemini, Mars (actions) Taurus, Jupiter (beliefs) Sagittarius, Saturn (boundaries) Aquarius, Uranus (group consciousness) Aries, Neptune (spirituality) Libra, Pluto (authority) Gemini.

Male character from Gaia Online

With chart in hand, I can say this character acts cocksure of himself but isn’t. He’s fun at parties; sacred of true intimacy. He takes orders if he respects the authority, bucks the system if not and has father issues up the yin-yang. Lonely childhood. He hides his vulnerability behind clever words, has intense eyes, holds a grudge and has no idea (yet) that he longs for something deeper, richer and more fulfilling that winning the next battle and yet another lass. His boots are always polished, favourite colour’s red, hates spiders, has a full head of hair (always will) and his friends say he thinks way too much . . .

I’ve discovered I’m in good company with my Astro approach to character development. Spec fiction writers Satima Flavell and Margaret Atwood use astrology to get to know their characters too. The idea is to treat them like people, friends and relatives you love (or hate). Know their history, their favourite breakfast cereal and how old they were when they first had sex. Get to that level of detail and you’ll never be accused of writing zombies (unless you mean to!).

I’d love to hear how other authors develop and keep track of their characters. Editors and proofreaders?

How do you do it? Comments most welcome.

Kim Falconer is the author of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption trilogies, set in the worlds of Gaela and Earth. The first book in the Quantam Encryption, Path of the Stray, is out now and the sequel, Road to the Soul, will be out in March 2011. Kim is also an astrologer and runs Falcon Astrology. She is based in Byron Bay in Northern NSW, Australia.

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Fallon Friday: What’s a blurb between friends …

The US edition of The Gods of Amyrantha is due out in a couple of weeks. This is the blurb:

How do you go about killing yourself when you are an immortal? Is it even possible? Jennifer Fallon explores this tantalizing puzzle in The Gods of Amyrantha, the second in her Tide Lords series.

The Tide is turning and the Tide Lords’ powers are returning with it. Cayal, the Immortal Prince, hero of legend, was thought to be only a fictional character.

Cayal sure wishes that he was a piece of fiction—anything that would help him shuffle off this mortal coil. But even though he longs for a final death, things in the world keep pulling him back. Such as Arkady Desean, an expert on the legends of the Tide Lords who has discovered the truth about Cayal…and captured his heart.

Yes, the Tide Lords will walk upon the earth once more and, with the power that surges through the cosmos, stand poised to wreak havoc on all that humans hold dear. Cayal will have to decide if he wants to go on living just a little longer and if he is willing to risk his fellow immortals’ wrath in order to save the world.

I have no idea who penned this, BTW.

This is the Aussie blurb for the same book:

Arkady is exiled to the repressive Torlenian capital, where she makes some unexpected friends and some powerful enemies, all of whom seem bent on using her to wreak vengeance on each other.

Things are not going smoothly for Declan Hawkes, the King’s Spymaster, either, and not just because the Empress of the Five Realms has turned up in Caelum with her family. Jaxyn Aranville is determined to quash any opposition to his plans for the Glaeban throne and Arkady’s husband, the Duke of Lebec, is in his way.

And in the stark deserts of Torlenia, a meeting between two powerful Tide Lords could put to rest eight thousand years of enmity … or not …

Fascinating differences, I thought. I’d be interested in your thoughts about the differences between the two…

Jennifer Fallon lives in Alice Springs, Australia. She is the author of three trilogies: The Demon Child, The Second Sons and The Hythrun Chronicles, as well as the Tide Lord quartet. She is published in the UK, US and in many translations.

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 Fallon on Getting Published

I want to get published – where are the markets?

Mainstream publishers are publishers who commission work from authors and pay them an advance and/or royalties for published worked sold. They range from the large commercial enterprises, such as HarperCollins to smaller, specialty publishers, such as the Qld University Press.

Publishers have various different banners under which they publish different genres. For example, HarperCollins publishes fiction under their own banner, but publishes Fantasy and Science Fiction under the Voyager imprint and Romance under the Avon Imprint.

It’s vital to know which publisher does what. It is absolutely no use sending your blood and guts horror epic to Mills and Boon, any more than you should send your heart-rending romance to Voyager. They will simply send it back unread and all you get for your efforts is another rejection slip to add to the pile.

Rule 1 – Pick your publisher!!!!

Do your homework.
Check if the publisher to whom you’re sending your MS, is actually publishing the genre you’re writing for.
Check if they accept unsolicited manuscripts (some publishers no longer do).
Find out the name of the editor responsible for the genre you work in, ie the children’s editor, or the romance editor. All you need do is phone the publisher and ask the switch operator.

Some publishing houses only want to see sample chapters and an outline, so you need to find that out before you send the whole MS.

Some publishers will only accept work from agents. Some will only accept unsolicited work assessed by a recognised Manuscript Assessment Service. All of them have their submission requirements on their websites. Check them out before you start ringing editors. A phone call asking for information already provided on a website is liable to promt the reaction: How can this person write, when it’s clear they obviously can’t read!

Rule 2 – Read the guidlines on their website and adhere to them or you will immediately be dismissed as a dimwit who can’t follow simple instructions

Bear in mind that publishers rarely offer a contract to a first time author based on a query letter. They have no proof you can produce the final goods.
Many publishing books say to send a letter first, outlining your idea, but in my experience, editors shy away from unknown authors with bright ideas.

Send the query letter, by all means (along with the first 2 or 3 chapters) but get your MS finished first. And be very careful saying ‘nothing like this has been published before’ because that might be a warning signal that perhaps a demand for your book does not exist.

In the non-fiction area it’s essential that you know what your book does that competing books in the area do not, and what it does better than the existing books. Be aware that in this highly competitive industry there will be competing books and that your publisher will be aware of them.

Jennifer Fallon blogs every
Friday here at the Voyager blog, on matters on writing, books and …
more! She is the author of thirteen bestselling fantasy novels
including the recent  Tide Lords quartet
. You can read more from her at her website and blog.

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: The Reason they call it a “slush” pile

Once upon a time, during dinner with some very clever industry insiders, we got to talking about how hard it is to find “publishable” new material, and the quality of work coming off the slush pile. And yes, there was alcohol involved.

Now I’ve seen a few slush piles, and they are scary places indeed. My agent has closed hers off, she’s so over it, and an editor was telling me she was appalled by how many people can bang off a 100,000 word MS and send it in, often without even reading it through before they print it out! As a writer who re-writes endlessly, I find this almost incomprehensible, but apparently there’s a whole sub-species of humans out there who believe that if you own a computer and you can write that many words, then you ought to be published, even if you don’t know how to use the spell checker.

The moral of this story, of course, is that is you’re not having any luck getting published, then maybe it isn’t because all editors are ignorant corporate bastards who don’t know a good story from a donut. It might be because you haven’t submitted something they consider “publishable”.

Spare a thought then, for the editors at Clarkesworld  Magazine. They’ve gone so far as to post a list in their Submission Guidlines of stories they’re not going to publish, no matter what, (they call it “a hard sell” but they really mean “we’ll publish this when Hell freezes over”) and it’s as funny as it is scary…

“Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:

  • stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
  • stories in which the words “thou” or “thine” appear
  • talking cats
  • talking swords
  • stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
  • stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
  • time travel too
  • stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a’ comin’, Communion wine turns to Christ’s literal blood and it’s HIV positive, Satan’s gonna getcha, etc.)
  • stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals
  • stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
  • stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
  • stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
  • your AD&D game
  • “funny” stories that depend on, or even include, puns
  • sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates
  • stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange
  • stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one
  • your trunk stories ”

If you think that list is terrifying, check out the even longer list over at Strange Horizons, the online speculative fiction magazine. They have a whole page dedicated to Stories we’ve seen too often.

You really have to wonder what sort of tales have come off the slush pile at these magazines to prompt lists like that. Clearly, they have a sense of humour at Clarkesworld, but then, in my experience, for an editor, it’s an essential job requirement and the only thing keeping them sane*:)

*Assuming they are sane to start with, of course, which is debatable, given they’re working as, well, editors…LOL

Delve further into Jennifer Fallon’s mind at her blog. Jennifer Fallon is the author of thirteen fantasy novels published by Voyager, including most recently The Chaos Crystal, published in December 2008. She’s currently at work on her next series.

Fallon Friday: Music that Inspired the Tide Lords

Every time I do an interview, someone invariably asks what inspires me. My rather glib answer is usually: “I am inspired by everything, because that way, everything is tax deductible”. *grin*

In the case of the Tide Lords, however, there are a few other non-deductible of sources of inspiration I can pinpoint, and some of them are songs.

I was reminded of this when I discovered Meat Loaf’s 1977 overwrought Bat Out of Hell album in my iTunes files and found myself singing along with the epic (did Meat Loaf do anything other than epic?) Paradise by the Dashboard Light, which the Amazon staff reviewer refers to as a “breathless nookie-quest”.

Nookie-quests not withstanding, the lyrics from the very end of that rather long and really quite absurd song, always struck a chord with me…

I couldn’t take it any longer, lord I was crazed
And when the feeling came upon me like a tidal wave
I started swearing to my God and on my mother’s grave
That I would love you to the end of time
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!

So now I’m praying for the end of time, to hurry up and arrive
’Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don’t think that I can really survive
I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now
I’m praying for the end of time
It’s all that I can do
Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you

I always thought the idea of being stuck with someone you can’t stand until the end of time because of a thoughtless promise was, besides being quite a scary notion, fodder for a really interesting plot.

As a consequence, much of the series deals with the shifting relationships between my immortals and how they deal with the idea of being stuck with each other until the end of time.

And I’m pretty sure that means my remastered copy of Bat out of Hell is now tax deductible, too:)

Find out more about the Tide Lords series at Jennifer Fallon’s website and read her blog. Jennifer Fallon is the author of thirteen novels published by Voyager plus she writes Stargate tie-ins with Sonny Whitelaw. She’s now at work on her next series.