• 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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How to Write What You -Don’t- Know

Monster Dragon from How to Train Your Dragon

The adage write what you know works well for how-to manuals, cookbooks, auto repair guides or medical text. With such topics, writers need a certain level of expertise. When it comes to speculative fiction, however, it’s another story. No one on Earth can know what a were-beast, off world portal or post apocalyptic witch is really like until the author creates it from the blank page. Sometimes that process can be a challenge so I’ve put together four quick tips for writing what you don’t know.

Tip #1: Research. If you have a world that is primarily desert, you don’t have to live in the Sahara to write it convincingly (just ask Glenda Larke!). You do have to ‘know’ what it is like to have three millimetres of rain a year and dust storms so blinding you can get lost between your camel and your tent. In other words, research the ecology of desert life. You can’t have bright green grass and furry platypuses, unless you explain a turf that goes eleven and a half months without water and a river mammal that swims in sand.

Tip #2: Savvy proofreaders. Research can take the place of direct experience, especially in world building, but there are exceptions. Horses are one. If you don’t know horses, you can learn about them, but if they are going to do more than graze in the paddock, you’ll need a proof-reader with horse sense to check your work. Readers who are also riders will spot ineptitude a mile away. Jolt! If it’s going to be a feature in your novel, get an expert to proof and/or offer technical advice.

Tip #3: Hands on. If you’re going to give some art, animal, dance, ritual, music or machine a big role in your script, immerse in it, hands on! As a bonus, your life will become richer for the experience. In my first two series, I researched quantum computing, physics theory, geo-engineering, bio-engineering and were-animal mythologies. I joined a local dojo and learned to wield a sword. Already on board were things like felines, horses, witchcraft, magic, astrology, gender studies and astral travel. I wove together the elements that were second nature to me with the ones I studied and learned. Anything else, like falconry, was proofread by an expert in the field.

Tip #4: Start with a grain of truth. No matter how wild and farfetched your story becomes, that grain of truth is what you build on and what will give your prose more weight. In my most recent series, Quantum Encryption, a main character takes my love of the Gray Wolf, an endangered species, and comes up with a solution to their looming extinction. I also look at possible results from geo-engineering projects that might do more harm than good. It’s all about the speculation, but begin with something real.

Any other tips? Favourite fantasy worlds or beings? I’d love to hear about them. Comments always welcome.

Kim Falconer is the author of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption trilogies, set in the worlds of Gaela and Earth and exploring all manner of ideas, people and places. The latest in the series is Road to the Soul, which will be published 1 March. Visit Kim’s website and find out more about Kim and her books!

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Fallon Friday: 10 Pitfalls Waiting to Trap Potential Fantasy Writers

Not having any idea of how big a whole world is. Think for a moment about how big planet Earth is. Now, pick a hero, send him on a quest. Oh, and while you’re at it, take away all but one continent, two or three countries, all languages but one, give Earth a temperate climate all over said lonely continent, with maybe some snowy regions a few days from the one of the only three cities you have left, and populate the entire animal kingdom with only horses, dogs, the odd cow and no insects. And when you get your MS back with “thanks, but no thanks” scrawled across it, take a moment to wonder what the editor meant when they said your world building lacked “depth”?

Trying to imitate someone else’s plot. This is a double-edged sword. You can be totally unoriginal and make bucket-loads, provided you can present an old idea in a new way. It takes talent, however, to do this, so be very careful before you try it.

Trying to be too original. There’s innovation… and there’s being so far off the rails nobody but you and the three friends you were sharing the bong with when you thought up your epic storyline get what you mean. Be original, by all means, but do it sensibly.

Forgetting epic fantasy needs more than one plot. Big epic trilogies tend to need big epic plots with multiple characters and intersecting plot lines. By all means, have a major thread running through your story, but you’d better be a cross between Shakespeare and Elmore Lenard if you think you can squeeze a three book deal out of a publisher for a story about two people alone on a raft looking for the magic talisman that’s going to save the world at the end of book 3.

Forgetting pack/transport animals need to eat, drink, and rest occasionally. Trust me, even if you manage to get this past an editor, you will not get it past the various animal experts out there that populate the world of fantasy readers. They will know. And they will scoff at your ignorance. Loudly. On their blogs. And to everyone they meet.

Assuming everything you see in the movies is true. I had a young writer assure me once that you could knock a person unconscious by simply tapping them on the head because that’s what they do in movies. Let me assure you this is not the case. I know this because I once (accidentally, of course) dropped a 15lb bowling ball on my ex’s head from about 6′ off the ground and it didn’t even crack his skull, let alone knock him out. Nor do people ride at a gallop for miles with a bullet wound in their leg, win a fist fight after being shot in the shoulder, or solve complex mathematical problems in their head, ten minutes after being brought back from the dead. Physical violence has consequences. And not just bad guys die from it.

Thinking that because fantasy is all you read, you’ll be able to write it, too. I was asked once, at a con, what was the best thing a fantasy writer can read to help them write better fantasy. My answer was: a newspaper. Sad, but true, kiddies. How can you write a convincing imaginary world, if you have no idea what makes the one you live in work? Without exception, all the successful fantasy writers I have ever met are grounded, practical people capable of holding a conversation just as easily about politics, religion or current affairs as they are about magic. In fact, most of them prefer to discuss politics, religion or current affairs (except Trudi Canavan who prefers to talk about knitting). And not a single one of them believes in magic. But damn, they can write about it well.

Breaking your own rules. In its own way, magic is a force like any other. It has certain rules and you have to stick to them, even if you’re the one making up the rules. If your magic is lunar, then you’d better not have anyone working it by day. If you’ve said it’s impossible to make pigs fly in chapter 1, you’d better not have your enemies launch an airborne pig attack in chapter 57. Make up your own magic rules, by all means, but don’t go changing them half way through the story because you’d discovered flying porkers would be handy, after all.

Stereotyping. JK Rowling has made poo-loads of money writing what is, essentially, a story about a kid in boarding school. What separates her bank account from the wannabe’s is that she found a way to make her hero different. Isn’t her first chapter of Book 1 titled “The Boy who Lived”? Enid Blyton never thought that one up. Fantasy with a drop-dead gorgeous virgin princess who needs rescuing from an evil sorcerer by a handsome goat-herder (who is really a lost prince) and his amusing sidekick will get you nowhere. It’s not that you can’t use the plot, but you’d be better off with the amusing princess and her drop-dead gorgeous sidekick rescuing the evil sorcerer from the psychotic goat-herder… you get the idea? It’s not the plot, it’s the woefully written characters that’ll kill your epic every single time…

Overwriting. There is absolutely no need to ever use the words “very”, “really” or “suddenly” in your narrative (you can use them sparingly in dialogue if you promise to be careful). Nor should you need to qualify your dialogue with adverbs. In fact, try not to use anything other than “said”. And watch out for redundant writing. Things like ‘the end result” or “hesitating for a moment”. And read every single sentence with the word “that” in it. And then read it again leaving out the “that”. You will be amazed.

Jennifer Fallon shares her tips on writing every Friday and she is -not- a potential fantasy writer, having thirteen fantasy novels published with Voyager! Her latest book is The Chaos Crystal and it’s available across Australia, right now!