• 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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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…

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The Aurealis Awards 2012

Last Saturday The Independent Theatre in North Sydney played host to the 17th Annual Aurealis Awards*. Harper Voyager Australia again sponsored the awards along with Galaxy Bookshop. It was a chilly windy night in Sydney so scarves & shawls were the fashion accessory of the evening!  We’re super-proud to announce that The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood (HarperAU) won best Sci-Fi Novel and Ghosts by Gaslight (HarperUS) edied by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers won best Anthology! Creature Court author Tansy Rayner Roberts’ podcast Galactic Suburbia also won the Peter McNamara award- go Tansy!The Courier's New Bicycle

As always, it was a great evening and a chance to catch up with all our authors, blogger friends, Tweeples and fans of spec fiction everywhere. Discussions ranged from the future of spec-fic publishing  and cover designs to Star Wars and hypothetical murder mystery plots.  We were also very happy to see Stephanie Smith, who presented the Best Fantasy Novel Award, before her imminent move to Tasmania. She took time to introduce our new Voyager publisher, Deonie Fiford, to the audience too!

Congratulations to our shortlisted authors as well –  The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon, The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts & Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke for the Best Fantasy Novel of 2011, and Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy for Best Sci-Fi Novel of 2011.

Stephanie Smith with 2 of our winning authors: Kim Westwood and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Susan Wardle, co-convenor of the awards, said that with approximately 700 entries across the thirteen categories, the judges had a challenging task. “The winners represent the best of Australian fantasy, horror and science fiction writing in 2011 as judged by a pannel of their peers.  This year’s winners join the likes of Sara Douglass, Garth Nix, Isonelle Carmody, Trudi Canavan, Shaun Tan and Sean Williams, all of whom are multiple Aurealis Award Winners.”

Congratulations again to our winners!

*The Aurealis Awards were established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis magazine, to recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

Deonie Fiford and Stephanie Smith
photo by Cat Sparx ( http://www.flickr.com/people/42956650@N00/)

Aurealis 2011 finalists announced!

The finalists for the 2011 Aurealis Awards have just been announced and lots of Voyager authors have been selected! Congrats to Jennifer Fallon, Glenda Larke, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Kim Westwood!

This is from the official press release:
‘ Winners of the 2011 Aurealis Awards and the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony, on the evening of Saturday 12 May at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney. Details of the evening and a link to the online booking website are available at www.aurealisawards.com

An after party will be held at Rydges, North Sydney, following the awards presentations.  Accommodation is available at Rydges for $149 (room only) or $174 (including full buffet breakfast).  To take advantage of these rates please use the code ‘Aurealis’ when making your booking.

For further information about the awards please contact the convenors at: convenors@aurealisawards.com

The 2011 Aurealis Awards are sponsored by HarperVoyager and Cosmos Magazine and proudly supported by Galaxy Bookshop.’

Here are the Australian Voyager finalists:

FANTASY NOVEL

The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon (HarperVoyager)

Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood (HarperVoyager)

For the full list head to www.aurealisawards.com

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.

HarperVoyager sponsor 2010 Aurealis Awards

 

SpecFaction NSW Inc, the new organiser of the Aurealis Awards, is delighted to announce that HarperVoyager will be the exclusive sponsor of the 2010 awards presented in May next year.

Awards Co-convenor Nathan Burrage said, “The Aurealis Awards are Australia’s premier awards for Speculative Fiction and we’re delighted to be working with one of Australia’s top publishers, HarperVoyager, to present them for the first time in Sydney.”

“SpecFaction is a not for profit organisation and all our members are volunteers. Without the support of a sponsor like HarperVoyager, we could not hope to host the awards.”

HarperVoyager publish some of Australia’s biggest names in Speculative Fiction.

Stephanie Smith, Associate Publisher of HarperVoyager, said “HarperVoyager is delighted to be the sponsor of the Aurealis Awards in 2011. The awards have been instrumental in the development of the speculative fiction genre in Australia and are a source of pride for the genre community. Many Voyager authors have won, or been shortlisted for, the Aurealis Awards over the past 15 years, including such bestselling authors as Sara Douglass, Glenda Larke, Jennifer Fallon and Kylie Chan. Voyager’s enthusiasm for the genre and our commitment to seeing it grow and expand is as strong as ever.”

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for genre fiction, are for works of speculative fiction written by an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 November 2009 and 31 December 2010.

Entries close on Friday 31 December 2010. Finalists will be announced in late March 2011 and winners will receive their awards at a gala evening ceremony held in Sydney on Saturday the 21st of May 2011.

All entries are read by an independent panel of judges.  As with past awards, sponsorship arrangements do not influence the judging process.

For more information on the Aurealis Awards, or how to enter, please visit www.aurealisawards.com

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.

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!