• 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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The three most frustrating words for any Fantasy Reader – to be continued…

Nazgul!Just picture this – you are loving what you are reading and haven’t been able to put it down and so, despite the 7am meeting in the morning you are still reading at 2am to get to the end of the story but you are starting to get that sense of dread (similar to the approach of a Nazgul) because there don’t seem to be many pages left in the book and the story doesn’t seem to be winding down – and then you see those horror words:

 TO BE CONTINUED.

I have long considered this to be one of the most frustrating things about modern fantasy – the increasingly rare published stand-alone book. I was on my soapbox preaching this to some friends on the weekend when (I think as they were tired of hearing about for this for the 1 billionth time and were seriously starting to consider if I was caught in some sort of time paradox doomed to repeat the same problem every time I had an alcoholic beverage) they pointed out to me the flaws in my arguments which I thought were worth sharing:

  1. Its not just modern fantasy

The Grandfather of them all – Lord of the Rings – is a trilogy (plus the extra books like the Hobbit in the same world) and as we know in the commercial world that we live in – as soon as something makes money the word sequel get’s bandied about – in the movie business we can take the example of Transformers 1, 2 & 3 (and I believe 4 is going in production now) so the concept of a standalone hasn’t existed in movies, film or tv for quite some time (if ever)

      2.  You like revisiting the same world.

 It’s true – I really do. I loved Kylie Chan’s books and the vivid world she has created and each new book is a new opportunity to immerse myself in the incredible worlds she creates. I have been reading Robert Jordan & George R Martin’s respective Wheel of Time & A Song of Ice and Fire series for over 10 years now – and I’m still waiting in line to be first when a new book comes out.

       3.   If you don’t like it – why don’t you wait till the whole series comes out before you start reading.

That’s fair – and sometimes I do – having said that if I followed that rule then I would never have read either Martin or Jordan yet and that is a horror not worth contemplating.  

 So in summary I don’t think there is any great insight except that I have to stop bemoaning the loss of the standalone book (which may have never existed as a fantasy genre except as a fiction in my head) as I do really want to read series – I just hate the wait between books and can’t wait for the next one!

by guest blogger and sometime HR manager Jonathan Connolly

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Writing Villains that Rock

Once upon a time, villains were bad to the core. They did bad things for evil gain and that was all there was to it—soulless, unaccountable, wicked.

 This is no longer the case.

A contemporary villain, like the shape-shifting Daos (pictured left) from Quantum Encryption, is fully fleshed out and has all the ingredients that makes a good hero—they are on a journey, they have strong motivations, much is at stake, much is risked, the choices are hard, they believe in their cause and they are believable to the reader. In this way, the villain is just like the hero/heroine only they have contrary goals/moral/cultural conditioning. The writer these differences and uses them to challenge, test and block our hero. This only rings true if the villain is authentically formed and fully actualized. These villains come in many forms.

The Shadow Villain. Like Gollum in LOTR, this character represents the ‘dark side’ of the hero/heroine. He is a nemesis but a personal one. The readers ‘gets’ where he’s coming from—boating accident leads to finding a ring that haunt him for the rest of his life. This kind of villain can be a key player in the story, elucidating the history, world building and nature of an ‘evil’ object (the power of the one ring). In the end, this shadow villain may guide the hero through the darkness and like Gollum, succeed in the quest, even unintentionally, where the hero could not. The chance for redemption is always present. We are saddened by their demise.


The Betrayal Villain
. Like Cyper in the Matrix or Darth Vader in Star Wars, this type of villain was once on our hero/heroine’s side. As betrayer he creates the opportunity to do bad things AND tell the ‘other side’ of the story. The reader gets to hate this one particularly because it feels like they had a choice and made the wrong one—to go against our hero. The chance for redemption is present up until the end. If they make the ‘wrong’ choice, we cheer their demise. Standing ovation.

Super villain. Like Sauron in LOTR, the Dark Side of the Force in Star Wars, or the Machine Mind in the Matrix, the super villain is all powerful. There is an impersonal quality to them, like a force of nature. We do not ‘know’ them unless they have a representative with a growth arc or history (Darth Vader, Agent Smith). Only through these individuals is the super villain accessible in a personal way. As a force of nature, the super villain is the obstacle for the hero/heroine and one that is usually woven into the world building.

The Anti-Hero. Like Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six and Patrick Süskind’s Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume, these are serious ‘villains’ but the story is told from their POV. Sometimes they do ‘bad’ things (terrible things) but only to ‘bad’ ( like Dexter). In this case we love that justice is served. They may also be bad, or mad, and do terrible things for no good reason at all, but we are riveted to their story because it’s so interesting. The anti-hero is a way to tell the villains side of the tale while suspending judgment. The concept of the anti-hero is discussed more on Writing Excuses, a great resource. Also see my notes from a recent hero/villain workshop.

Who is a favourite villain on your bookshelf right now? In film? I’d love to hear about them. Comments welcome.

Kim is the author of the Quantum  Enchantment and the Quantum Encryption series. Her new book ‘Journey by Night‘ is out September 1, 2011. Read more about her books at KimFalconer.com

Nerd Rage!

A friend of mine is a big Superman fan and was outraged when pictures surfaced of the new Superman costume in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel. The costume doesn’t have the iconic red underwear on the outside!  He’s been surprisingly civil in his outbursts so far, but I just know that underneath it all simmers a boiling pot of black rage. I, for example, I find it INCONCEIVABLE that any self respecting person would not have read The Hobbit, seen Star Wars or played with LEGO as a child. And yet such people exist, in defiance of my entirely reasonable expectations.

I’ve  witnessed similar traits at a convention I went to recently where a model of Saruman’s tower from Lord of the Rings was labelled “Isengard”.  A young teenager then came up and began berating the maker of the model because the tower is called Orthanc, Isengard is the name of the compound it sits in. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY NOT KNOW THAT?!?

The bane of any any fan’s life is when someone else refuses to understand the object of their fandom. When they stare back at you blindly, blinking like an uncomprehending farm animal.  Previously restricted to loungerooms, cinema foyers, bookstores and conventions, NerdRage can now be witnessed in almost any online setting.

This type of NerdRage stems from, in part at least, the incredible dissemination of knowledge and culture that the Internet has enabled. It also comes from the fact that the Internet has enabled us to more easily find people interested in the same things, no matter how niche. As a result people are increasingly surrounded by like minded people interested in the same things, be it knitting anime characters, writing erotic Harry Potter fan fiction, swooning over fictional characters, or discussing Voyager books.

Go on.Take the bait.

    People, and I include myself here, therefore are becoming less tolerant of ignorance. Some become just intolerant in general, but I like to think most nerd/geeks are a pretty accepting lot. That said, the very definition of “nerd” or “geek” has broadened to encompass all kinds of specialist knowledge and many now self apply what was in school a derogatory slur. Hell, chunky glasses, once the signifier of visually impaired nerds the world over, are now being worn as lens-less fashion statements by hipster hotties.

Another type of NerdRage comes from when the creative folks decide to change an aspect of our fan-object. Like removing Superman’s underpants ( away with you, filthy minded fanfic writers! ), killing off our favourite character in Book 4, or not including the Scouring of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies. In the new hyper-engaged world of teh Interwebz nerd/geek fans have developed  a greater voice that the creators of our beloved books, characters, TV shows, movies or toys, are increasingly actually listening to.

   Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing! But it can help foster a sense of entitlement that we don’t always deserve. After all, we didn’t spend months of our lives writing stories and characters, or weeks of 15hr days shooting a TV show. But what is art without someone to witness it? I sometimes wonder that the super-connected world of the 21st century will not allow the idealistic tenant of “art for art’s sake”  to exist, because if something new isn’t popular it will be shouted down.

So I guess that’s the conundrum; we both need NerdRage to keep individual voices loud and proud, but that same rage can keep us from embracing anything new or different. End rant.

The world first publication of an unknown work by Tolkien

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock … 🙂


Browse Inside this book

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Presented for the first time, The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún will transport readers to the heroic landscape of the nameless North of Sigurd the dragon slayer and the Völsungs, a mythic world of ancient Scandinavia, when gods walked the earth and dragons were real.

The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, written by J.R.R. Tolkien some years before the publication of The Hobbit, was inspired by Norse legends contained within the poems of the Elder Edda and depicts drama and adventure in language only Tolkien could have written. Comprising two complete works of narrative verse, the book has been edited by Christopher Tolkien, who provides detailed commentary on the verses as well as a sketch of the complex history of the legend.

“That the ancient poetry in the Old Norse language known by the names of the Elder Edda or the Poetic Edda remained a deep if submerged force in his later life’s work is no doubt recognised. It is at any rate well-known that he derived the names of the dwarves in The Hobbit from the first of the poems in the Edda, the Völuspá. But it is certainly not well-known, indeed scarcely known at all, that he wrote two closely associated poems treating of the Völsung (or Nibelung) legend, using modern English fitted to the Old Norse metre, amounting to more than five hundred stanzas: poems that have never been published until now, nor has any line been quoted from them.” – Christopher Tolkien

The first full flourishing of a rich narrative style, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún showcases the powerful and dramatic storytelling that was destined to become famous throughout the world.

Available NOW

Talking all that Tolkien – Richard K Morgan

For all you fans (or non-fans) of Tolkien, author Richard K Morgan has written a very interesting  (and perhaps provocative for die-hard fans) essay on The Lords of the Rings, and the parts/characters/things that, although he may not love Tolkien’s work, he did love about it. It’s started joyueous debate (LOTS of debate!) storming around the internet.

What’s very lovely about the essay is that RKM has found parts of Tolkien’s work that he really engages with, like little jewels in the er … mud, not that I think LOTR or any of Tolkien’s work is mud or related substances, and wishes that Tolkien had focused on these parts and drawn them out for what they signify. Lovely because these characters are the orcs. Not traditionally thought of as the nicest creeturs in the world – but that’s what he likes. They aren’t nice, but that makes them very human. I think more and more people identify with characters with bad intent in them, not because we’re all evil murderers at heart, but we aren’t infallible and it’s good to know we’re not the only ones. That’s why I like George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, because the characters are as ‘shades of grey’ as any one of us. I’d never have the guts to go on a quest beyond all I know to confront the heart of evil, I don’t think … and even if I did, I’d complain and whinge and think ‘Why me?’. But I still like to read about people who would. But I like it even better when they complain – like Eustace in The Voyager of the Dawn Treader before he became all born again.

Haven’t you ever read an author’s work and wished they had developed a character more, one that you feel you could really relate to or want to know more about? When I read Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Dragon Reserve, Home Eight’ – a short story, I longed to read more about the characters in it, a girl whose world is suddenly invaded by horrible creatures who, through invasion, have unwittingly saved her from a death order. Of course, wanting a longer novel from a short story is a fairly common urge from readers, I believe, whereas if it’s about characters in an epic novel, it’s a bit different. What do you think? Have you experienced this?

Go and read the essay, which is posted at Random House’s Suduvu blog.

The Captain (now off for a blissful weekend and going to watch Watchmen at IMAX)