• 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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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.

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Fallon Friday – Maps: an undiscovered dome of pleasure (Part 1)

There’s a standing joke among the denigrators of fantasy that says the first rule of world building is that your world must be rectangular, because this fits nicely on a page.

I beg to differ. These days it’s more likely to be the unpublished fantasy that remains caught in the rectangular zone. This isn’t to say there haven’t been some very successful “rectangular world” stories published, but if you’re hoping your publicist (better yet, the critics) will ever use the word “epic” when they describe your world, start by thinking outside the box. Literally.

In my opinion, it should be compulsory for anybody wanting to write fantasy to take a class with NZ author and map-freak, Russell Kirkpatrick. This is a man who describes mapmaking as an “undiscovered dome of pleasure” (which might give you an idea of his passion for the subject, plus a few other insights into his psyche that might not be safe to inquire too closely into … hehe). If you’re planning to create a believable world, you’d better make sure you, geography and meteorology have more than a passing acquaintanceship.

So… here’s another list of questions you should be able to answer off the top of your head:

  • What is the geography of the area where your story is set?
  • How much of your world will the story cover?
  • Are there other countries?
  • Can you name at least four of them off the top of your head? (If you think this is unnecessary, take a look at an old map of Europe and check out how many countries you can cram into a relatively compact – and dare I say almost rectangular – space).
  • What are the most outstanding geographical features of your landscape (tall mountains, large deserts, grassland, etc)?
  • How does this affect the climate?
  • How does the climate affect the landscape?
  • What flora and fauna are indigenous to the area? (There’s no need to go overboard here, but unless you’re writing about Hannibal, you’re not likely to find elephants in high, snowy mountain passes)
  • How does your geography affect travel? (Horses won’t survive in the desert for long; Camels aren’t terribly useful in the snow. Remember, the climate will impact on travel considerably. Winter snows and spring thaws will change the way people move and when they move as rivers freeze or annually flood (think the River Nile).
  • Is your society compatible with your weather patterns? (i.e. does your hero ache to be a member of the Saharan Ice Hockey team? I hope not.)
  • Cities cannot survive without a reliable water supply. Where does your city’s water come from?

More of these riveting questions next week….

Jennifer Fallon’s worldbuilding does the talking – she’s the author of thirteen fantasy novels including the recent  Tide Lords quartet. The final book in the quartet, The Chaos Crystal, came out last month. You can read more from her at her website and blog.

Voyager author Russell Kirkpatrick, mentioned above, did the maps featured in the Tide Lords books. Click here to visit his website.

Fallon Friday: Why you need a stunning first page

My agent (and my editors), if you can get them to open up after a vino or 3, will admit that most books are rejected on the first page. Not all, mind you, but probably 90% of them. Maybe more.
This irks authors no end, particularly those who believe the work should be judged as a whole, and if that evil agent/editor/whatever had bothered to read on, they would have discovered the brilliant twist in Chapter 27, which makes this book a sure fire bestseller.

Trouble is, nobody is going to pick up a book, open it at Chapter 27 and decide, Wow! This is brilliant!
Potential readers are more likely to open it at the first page while they’re browsing in the bookstore. If you haven’t engaged them by the end of page 1, the chances are good they won’t read on. They certainly aren’t going to plonk good money down on it.

So, what is a good hook…

If only I could tell you. I have written some that are better than others.

“It’s always messy, cleaning up after a murder.”

This is the first line of Wolfblade. I wish I could think up lines like this all the time. It says there is danger. A murder has happened. The reader is plunged straight into the action.

My first book Medalon started with a funeral. Lion of Senet starts with a volcanic eruption and a madman standing on the edge of a cliff.

The Immortal Prince, Book I of the Tide Lords series, starts with the end of the world:

“As the last of the stragglers stumbled into the cave, Krynan looked back over his shoulder at the end of the world, wondering vaguely why he felt nothing.”

A good opening often involves an act or event that lets the reader know something important is going on (Armageddon fits the bill nicely, btw). A funeral, a wedding, a birth, a death, being fired, starting a new job… all of these things are pivotal events that impact on people’s lives. Sometimes, even very ordinariness of the day can be a precursor to something happening, but generally, you need to engage your reader right away, and the more the reader can relate to the event, the better the chance you have of sucking them in.

When it comes to where to start, the most important questions you need to ask yourself, however, are:

“Why am I starting this story today? What happened to my character that makes this day different from yesterday or tomorrow? What event, action, decision, thought, accident or weather condition (there’s no limit here) changed the status quo?”

When you can answer that, you have something to hang your hook on.

Hope that helps.

Jennifer Fallon is the author of four fantasy series, the most recent being the Tide Lords quartet. The Chaos Crystal, book four of the Tide Lords series, came out this month and is available across all good Australian book shops.

Fallon Friday: Silly polls – cast your vote now!

The Chaos Crystal

The Chaos Crystal

A few months ago, I put up a poll on my site, asking readers who they thought Arkady would finish up with, in the last book of the Tide Lords series, The Chaos Crystal.

The results are as follows:

Cayal – 41%
Declan – 35%
Both of them – 11%
Neither of them – 6%
A new character we haven’t met yet – 7%

I found this very interesting, because for a long while there, Declan was in the lead. Wonder what he did to change people’s minds?

And what’s with all you kinky people voting for a threesome?

Alas, for those of you who have not yet got hold of your copy of The Chaos Crystal, this poll is of no use to you, whatsoever.

There’s a new poll up now, asking your opinion on the ending.

I love silly polls 🙂

To do list this week: Visit Jennifer Fallon’s website, vote in the new poll, buy the book if you haven’t already or read it if you have!

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 Fallon talks about redundant modifiers

Getting rid of all those useless, unnecessary and pointless, redundant modifiers.

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between “tight writing” and “wordiness” is (besides the criminal overuse of adverbs), it’s often the use of redundant modifiers.

Tight writing doesn’t waste words. It certainly doesn’t throw all caution to the wind and chuck in extra description where none is needed, just to make up the word count.

Redundant modifiers are words you absolutely, positively think are driving home your point, when in fact they are driving your readers to distraction. They are words or phrases that mean the same thing and deceive you into believing you’re writing descriptively, when in fact you are just filling up your narrative with useless words.

A few examples of redundant modifiers:

  • basic fundamentals
  • consensus of opinion
  • hesitate for a moment
  • actual facts
  • past memories
  • really glad
  • honest truth
  • end result
  • terrible tragedy
  • free gift
  • separate out
  • personal beliefs
  • final outcome
  • start over again
  • symmetrical in form
  • future plans
  • narrow down
  • seldom or ever
  • each and every
  • full and complete
  • first and foremost
  • various and sundry
  • true and accurate
  • questions and problems
  • any and all
  • completely finish
  • future goals
  • each individual
  • anticipate in advance
  • past history
  • ultimate outcome
  • continue on
  • revolve around
  • split apart
  • large in size
  • heavy weight
  • bright in colour
  • period of time
  • short in stature
  • shiny in appearance
  • various differences
  • accurate in alignment
The Chaos Crystal

Extract!

Now… go back and find out how many of these you are guilty of in your writing and get rid of them.
Be strong. You can do this.

Jennifer Fallon’s next book, The Chaos Crystal, comes out in December. Click on the book image to read an excerpt from the prologue and first chapter – but be warned – it contains spoilers if you haven’t read the other three books. Pick up The Immortal Prince to start the quartet.

Fallon Friday: Jennifer on Point of View

Point of view is the voice of the character telling the story.

Changing the POV shouldn’t confuse readers. If it’s done well, making it clear who you’re dealing with, you can view a story from multiple points of view, which will give the reader a much greater insight into your story, and better yet, a much greater insight into your characters.

First person narrative gets you right inside the head of your protagonist, but you are limited to what they know, see and experience. It can be difficult avoiding the “remind me of where we’re up to in our evil plan to rule the world, Throckmorton…” type of exposition dumps to help your hero along.

Romances and horror tend to be written from one point-of-view. Science fiction and fantasy are often told from multiple points-of-view.

Omniscient POV is when a narrator unconnected to the action is telling the story. This can be effective but the danger is that it can distance your reader from a character. It’s like a wide shot in a film and has the same emotional impact. Use it wisely.

Head hopping, (my pet hate) which is the term given to the technique of jumping from one character’s POV to another’s in the same paragraph, can be very effective if it’s done well, and a nightmare if it’s not.

Having all your heroes sitting around a campfire the night before a battle and examining what each one is feeling might be very powerful, but only if you handle the transitions well. Having the characters say it aloud will achieve the same thing and not confuse the reader.

Example:

Henry knew he was going to die, and thought of his one true love, waiting for him at the border. George knew he was going to die too, and wondered if he’d remembered to turn the iron off before he left home.

Alternative:

Henry knew he was going to die, and thought of his one true love, waiting for him at the border. He glanced at George, whose expression betrayed the same fear, but when he realised he was being observed, he grinned and said, “Cripes, I hope I remembered to turn the iron off before I left home.”

Unless you’re very experienced, stick to one point of view, and don’t change it unless you have a chapter or a time break so that the reader can clearly delineate, in their own mind, that someone else is now telling the story.

It’s like changing camera angles in movie, only in writing, you need a break before changing whose eyes you’re looking out of.

Jennifer Fallon’s latest series, which began with The Immortal Prince and will end with The Chaos Crystal in December, does involve some changing POVs – but you’ll have to read the series to find out how she does it!

Click here to visit Jennifer’s blog.