• 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: 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 “How Jennifer Fallon was Born” story

Medalon

Medalon


Is Jennifer Fallon your real name?

The short answer is “no”. The long answer is …

Once upon a time, there was a hopeful writer who was married to a person with a name very similar to Tolkien, who made lots of noises about supporting her efforts as a writer, right up until the day he made the comment: “I wish you’d quit writing and be a better housewife because you’re never going to get published.”

This was not the devastating blow you might imagine (although it is among the many reasons he’s now the “ex” husband). More like a red rag to a bull. The very next day she started writing Medalon

Anyway, by the time Medalon was sold to a publisher, he really was the “ex”, and because he’s the sort of person who would have gone around telling all and sundry he’d been my rock and my greatest supporter for the past 20 years and that I couldn’t have done it without him, I decided I wasn’t going to use his name on my book. Not ever.

I reverted to my maiden name and rang my agent, proudly informing her that I would now be using this new name.

Dead silence greeted my announcement followed by the comment: “It’s kind of, well, boring…”

Fair enough. But I wasn’t going with my married name, even if it would have put me right on the shelves next to Tolkien in the book shops.

“I’ll pick another name,” I said, and hung up the phone.

So how does one choose a new name?

Well, at the time, I had three teenage kids and they told me how to work out what your name would be if you were a porn star. The secret, apparently, is to take the name of your first pet, and the name of the first street you lived in, and that’s your porn name.

My porn star name, incidentally, is Mittens Blake.

So, applying this highly scientific formula to my search for a pseudonym, I started listing all my pets and all the streets I’d ever lived in.

The second street on my list was Fallon Street. Jennifer (my real name) Fallon, sounded pretty cool. And then it occurred to me that in the bookstores, the books would be put in the following order… Eddings, Fallon, Feist

Thus was Jennifer Fallon born 🙂

If I ever write something in a different genre, maybe I’ll publish it under Mittens Blake. .. LOL

Maybe some vampire porn, perhaps … 😀

Jennifer ‘Mittens’ Fallon is the author of thirteen bestselling fantasy novels , all of which are available throughout Australia (and the majority worldwide). Medalon is the first book in the Demon Child trilogy.

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 — A word about world building and DNA

Fallon Friday back for 2009, with useful advice on how to write, and how not to write, from bestselling author Jennifer Fallon.

The following is a series of questions all people with a God-complex (er… I mean fantasy writers) need to ask themselves before they start creating their worlds.

If you’re halfway through your epic already and you can’t answer most or all of these questions, then I have five important little words for you: back to the drawing board.

The Big questions

  • Is your world Earth-like?
  • If it isn’t Earth-like, how do humans fit in?
  • Are the animals, plants and insects the same as Earth?
  • If they’re not, are they all different, or only some of them?
  • Have they evolved on this world or do they come from somewhere else?
  • If you have creatures not of this world, where do they fit on the food chain?
  • How many sentient races do you have (human, dwarves, elves, etc)?
  • How do the various species interact with one another?
  • Who is the dominant species?

Warning… we are human and we live on a world with a complex eco-system of which we are a part. Look around you. All our animals have 4 legs, all our birds have 2, all our spiders have 8, all our insects have 6. There is a natural symmetry to our world, so before you go patting yourself on the back for your awesome creativity and your six legged horses, or your two legged talking cows, you’d better be damn sure all the other creatures in that classification are built along the same lines.
It’s fine to have a different type of fish, because, it’s well, a fish. We have fish. They fit nicely in the food chain. But a mammalian beast with three eyes, when every other mammal on your world has two (or four – whatever), doesn’t make sense and you’ll pull most readers who’ve managed to make it past the first two years of high school, right out of the story because —unless you’re writing about the Island of Dr Moreau – such a thing is just plain silly.

Bear something else in mind… we are only a few DNA strands away from being cats, ourselves. If you’ve got six legged horses, and six-legged dogs, more than likely, you’re gonna have to start thinking about six-legged humans.

And if you do decide to go the two-legged cow route, be careful the reader doesn’t get so swallowed up in your fabulous detailed descriptions of your yellow-spotted gurglebeast, that they lose sight of the real story.

Bottom line — don’t go messing with the eco-system unless you’re very sure your seven-legged, three-eyed, fire-breathing, giant dust mites, are going to fit naturally into the world.

Jennifer Fallon is the author of thirteen fantasy books, comprising three trilogies (the Demon Child trilogy, the Hythrun Chronicles and the Second Sons trilogy) and one quartet (The Tide Lords series). You can read more from her at her website and blog, or check the Voyager blog on that wonderful day after Thursdays when her Fallon Friday posts go up.

Read the 2008 series of Fallon Friday posts.


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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: 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…”