• 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!



Retreat retreat retreat!

Phwoar! Some of the FWOR pose for a pic. They are: (back row) Cat Sparks, Kylie Seluka, Donna Maree Hanson, Matthew Farrer (front row) Russell Kirkpatrick, Nicole Murphy, Trudi Canavan - FWOR Berry 2010.

There are lots of reasons to look forward to January – holidays, time with family, cricket (although not at the moment…), sitting outside and watching the sun slowly set while sipping on a cool beverage…

For the past couple of years, one of the reasons I most look forward to January is the annual FWOR get-together (Fantasy Writers on Retreat and yes, that is pronounced Phwoar!!!!!!). For two weeks, I get to leave the majority of responsibility behind and just write.

Well, not just write. There’s also eating, and drinking, and watching terrible movies and going on day trips. But it’s all done with writers, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Unlike most occupations, writing is a solitary one, so you don’t often get the opportunity to talk shop. So whereas if you’re a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer you don’t want to talk about work outside of work, we writers grab almost every opportunity we can to discuss the craft and business of writing when we can.

The two weeks with my friends at FWOR are as close as I get to nirvana – we share household duties, so there’s entire days where I don’t have to do anything. I’m with people who think it’s perfectly normal to suddenly disappear in the middle of dinner/movie/shopping to start scribbling madly. I can turn around and ask about a character’s motivation, or an opinion on whether I should use a certain point of view or not and end up in a fascinating conversation.

Then there’s how much work I get done – on my first FWOR retreat in 2009, I wrote 60,000 words, and that was after forgetting my power cord and only have a few hours a day to write in for the first week. Last time, I finished the copy-edits of Secret Ones and then finished and polished Power Unbound (and angsted over titles for them all).

This time, I’m looking at that 60,000 word effort from two years ago and thinking that would be very handy this time around. It would enable me to finish the draft of the novel I’m currently working on and get started on the next.

This year, a total of nine writers will be taking part over the course of the two weeks. There’s the core of myself, Donna Maree Hanson, Matthew Farrer, Kylie Seluka and Russell Kirkpatrick (unfortunately Trudi Canavan won’t be joining us this year). We’ll be joined at various times by Cat Sparks, Ian McHugh, Alan Baxter and Joanne Anderton.

The internet access will be spotty (we’re staying in Oberon this year) but we’ll be blogging at http://fantasywritersonretreat.wordpress.com/ when we can, so pop on over to catch up with the wordcount race, the extreme competitiveness of the ping pong tournament and various other frivolities 🙂

When not playing competitive ping pong 😉 Nicole Murphy (as you will have read above) writes. She is the author of Secret Ones and Power Unbound and the upcoming Rogue Gadda. Nicole and her husband live in Canberra. You can catch with @nicole_r_murphy on Twitter too.

How Shauna Connell came to open the story of Power Unbound

Dream of Asarlai: Book Two

‘There’s something wrong with the beginning,’ said the Queen of Voyager aka publisher Stephanie Smith to me of Power Unbound. ‘It’s missing the lovely emotion and connectedness of Secret Ones.’

My heart sank. I’d already done one round of edits on Power Unbound, which was proving to be a difficult book – surely everything was fine now.

We discussed it and the word that came up several times was harsh. It’s true – the first action in Power Unbound is a pretty horrible one. However, it was an important action for the rest of the story and couldn’t just be dumped.

I had read just prior to this of Scott Westerfeld writing a story from two entirely different points of view. I believe Scott did this because he couldn’t find the original version, but when he did it ended up guiding him to a very interesting story.

The opening scene had been written from Asarlai’s point of view, as happened in Secret Ones, but there were two other participants in the scene. Perhaps, I thought, one of their voices would be the right way to tell the story?

So I sat down and wrote the entire scene twice more – first from Brian’s side, then from Shauna’s. Of the two, Shauna had the softer view. She worships Asarlai – would do anything for her.

It turned out to be a brilliant idea, because in the writing of it I realised that I could tweak a couple of things later in the book. So as a result, Shauna plays a vital role in Asarlai’s quest to keep her identity secret from the guardians as long as possible.

However, I learnt a lot about Asarlai and Brian in writing the other two versions of the scene and I don’t regret it. It was interesting to see how easily Asarlai could separate herself from the terrible acts she’s planning – I hadn’t realised she was quite so cold. And Brian turned out to be much less confident than I first thought, and stupider :).

I’ve put the other two versions of the opening scene up on the website, so after you’ve read Shauna’s story in the book, take a look at the other two ways it could have been shown.

But that, in a nutshell, is how Shauna came to be the only other person apart from Asarlai or the hero and heroine of each book to have their own point of view scene in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy.

Power Unbound is now on sale in bookstores and as an e-book via A&R, Borders, Kobo, Amazon and Apple. Looking for a late Christmas present? Look no further :). Nicole Murphy is now working on the third book in the series, Rogue Gadda, due to be published in July 2011.

Hard Heroes: Part I

Samurai Champloo ‘Sunset Warriors’ by Starxade

Recently Tarran Jones ask how do you manage to make your characters harder without being too hard? I immediately thought of three things—truth, goals and flaws.

Truth: If you want a character to be edgy, capable, ingenious, impervious AND believable, you have to start with a grain of truth and that means knowing their history. A good question for the writer to ask is how did they become thus?  A strong or hard-edged character gets that way because of something—a combination of things usually—both in and out of their control. The reader needs to able to at least speculate on what that ‘something’ was. They need to know the why.

In my Quantum Enchantment series, Kreshkali is tough as titanium.  She’s completely engaged in her cause but seems for a long time to be disconnected when it comes to love, particularly when that love is in the shape of a young man named Teg. The reader knows why she has such thick skinshe’s been whoring for water since she was fifteen and it’s taken the shine off her romantic notions. Kreshkali’s history makes her actions believable, and that is the place to begin.

Sometimes the ‘hardness’ of a character is developmental. It plays out before the reader’s eyes. This is the case with KJ Taylor’s Arren. (he) doesn’t actually start out as a particularly strong character. He’s immature – a characteristic he never really loses – deeply insecure, and a bit too proud for his own good. But he is brave and resilient, enough to survive things that would have destroyed a lesser man. He becomes hardened by what happens to him. He survives, but loses his heart. I think that’s the real tragedy of his story, and it’s what always kept me fascinated by him.

Whether it’s back story or current events, the why of a character becomes their truth and that gives them soul.  Tracey O’Hara’s  Antoinette has a lot of edge—physical skill, strategic intelligence and street smarts, yet most of her life has been in the single minded pursuit of the enemy . . . she’s had little time to actually form relationships, making her rather emotionally naive and vulnerable . . . We think of single-minded focus as an attribute until we see what Antoinette had to sacrificed to achieve it. It’s almost as if her goals are the driving force that moves her, and the story, forward.

Goals: The character’s goals are the next ingredient in writing ultra strong personalities. Kreshkali’s trying to save Earth from a totalitarian regime and keep the magical lands of Gaela from becoming contaminated in the process. Antoinette is out for justice. Arren’s just trying to survive in a world that’s done him wrong. When Nicole Murphy wrote Maggie, she had this character’s goals firmly in mind.

I wanted to show a woman who was prepared to make her own choices and wear the consequences  … Maggie has little concern about what others think  . . .  she also doesn’t have a lot of respect for authority  …  she’ll do things just to ‘stick it to the man’, so to speak, rather than because it’s the right thing to do. Giving characters a history and making their goals clear shows the reader the why. No exposition is necessary because it’s implicit in everything they say or do.

Special thanks to K J Taylor, Tracey O’Hara and Nicole Murphy for their input and contributions to this topic.

What part does a character’s history and goals play for you as readers, writers and editors? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Part II explores the complexity of strengths, weaknesses and flaws with thoughts from Traci Harding, Stacia Kane, Kylie Chan, Mary Victoria, Duncan Lay and Satima Flavell.

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

Power Unbound … the trailer!

1 January 2011

For centuries, the gadda have worked to keep their identity secret from the rapidly expanding human race. All this is now at risk – the most terrible of gadda teachings, the Forbidden Texts, have been stolen and the race is on to find them.

Ione Gorton may have got her best friend back from Australia, but Maggie’s elevation to the ranks of the guardians means that she’s not around as much.

And when Stephen O’Malley, almost the youngest (and definitely the hottest) ever candidate for the sixth-order test, needs a place to stay after still more strange violence hits Sclossin, Ione is all too happy to lend a hand …

But Ione, like Maggie before her, is soon a target for the forces behind the theft of the Forbidden Texts, and the now-urgent search for the artefact will change life for gadda and human alike.

The trilogy that’s a romance series

Dream of Asarlai: Book Two

I know from readers comments that a lot of people are expecting to pick up Power Unbound and keep reading the story of what Asarlai is doing and what’s happening with the gadda from Maggie and Lucas’ point of view. Maybe there will be other POV characters introduced but still – this is a trilogy, so things will keep on, right?


Yes, this is a trilogy but it’s not a typical fantasy trilogy because it didn’t start life that way – originally, it was a romance series.

For those of you who don’t read romance – series are very popular. You come up with a conceit – a family, a gentleman’s club, a werewolf pack – and then you write books in that setting, but each book tells a different story and feature whichever couple will be the focus of the romance.

I was introduced to series in the 90s by Johanna Lindsey. She had two series I loved – The Ly-San-Ter series (three books, sci fi romance) and the Malory series (up to ten books now, regency romance). The books share characters and share the world, but each plot is new and each tells the story of a new couple falling in love.

That’s what Dream of Asarlai first was. The gadda was really the setting, and the books were about three romances – Maggie and Lucas, Ione and Stephen and Hampton and Charlotte.

When I added the overarching storyline, it became a trilogy – one story told over three books. However, each book is also still a stand-alone romance, with the point of view unique to that couple.

So when you pick up Power Unbound, you’re going to read about the continuation of Asarlai’s plans from Ione and Stephen’s perspectives.

Dream of Asarlai: Book One

Don’t worry, Maggie and Lucas are still there – Maggie is Ione’s best friend so we couldn’t lose her even if we wanted to (and we don’t). You even get cameos from Siobhan Shaunessy and John O’Hara. Most of the Secret Ones cast based in Sclossin are in Power Unbound, and you get to see a lot more of the guardians.

The fun part from the author’s perspective is that with new characters telling the story, you get to explore it from different angles. Ione and Stephen are far more connected with gadda society than either Maggie or Lucas were, so you get a better view of what Asarlai’s plans are achieving.

Then there’s the joy of exploring two new characters. Ione and her son Jack are the two best characters in the trilogy to write because they’re both fun and very irreverent. You never quite know what either is going to say next – I certainly don’t.

Stephen was a challenge, because initially he comes across as very dour. It took time to get to know him well enough to see the softness and thus to show it to the reader and Ione.

One thing to love about romance series is that you get to see characters after the happily-ever-after ending of their own book and hopefully people who enjoyed seeing Maggie and Lucas work things out will be happy to see that relationship growing.

If you enjoyed Secret Ones, I feel very confident you’ll love Power Unbound too – just don’t expect to read it from Maggie and Lucas’s side of things,

Read the first chapter of Power Unbound. Power Unbound will be available as a paperbook and e-book on 1 January 2011.

Nicole Murphy lives in Canberra, Australia with her husband. Tim. She is the author of Secret Ones and Power Unbound and has written many short stories as well as editing speculative fiction magazines. She is now working on the third book in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, Rogue Gadda.

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!

Sneak Peek: Power Unbound by Nicole Murphy

If you’re at AussieCon4 you can catch Nicole Murphy at 10am in the fabulous Girl meets boy meets dragon: Romance in fantasy panel

Fantasy and romance have always seemed natural bedfellows. What can romance bring to the fantasy story, and
what do fantasy elements provide to the romance? What are the challenges of writing a story that combines both
genres – neither of which seem to get the critical respect that they deserve? Is there a common element between the
two genres that makes their combination work so effectively?
Tracey O’Hara, Darlene Marshall, Fiona McIntosh, Nicole R. Murphy

Can’t make it? Here’s a sneak peek at the follow up to Secret Ones, read the first chapter of Power Unbound!

Shauna Connell pressed her hands into her armpits to keep herself from grabbing the potion from her fellow student and doing it herself. Star above, but Brian Mochrie was a nervous twit. He came across initially as all arrogant and confident but put him in the spotlight, make him test himself and suddenly he was like a virgin on a first date — shaking with anticipation and fear.
She almost smiled as his trembling hand extended over the beaker, and the dropper he was holding jerked up and down. She glanced sideways to see Asarlai watching him carefully and hoped their teacher realised how undeserving he was.
‘Nervous much?’ she thought at him.
He slid a glare at her from the corner of his eye. He probably wanted to call her every name under the sun, but didn’t dare in front of Asarlai.
Despite the fact she and Brian were both members of the League of Purification and dedicated to separating gadda from the pestilence of humanity, she’d never liked him. Brian came from one of the richer families in Sclossin and didn’t understand the value of work, effort and persistence. Everything he wanted had been handed to him from the moment he was born. Shauna thought that made him weak; Shauna was strong.
Brian squeezed the rubber and three drops slipped into the grey emulsion in the beaker. Stillness; Shauna wondered if he had actually failed. Star, let it be so. Then the liquid began to bubble and steam, turning from grey to a purple so dark it seemed black.
As much as she hated Brian, Shauna was pleased to see the potion had worked. The texts had again lived up to their promise.
‘It’s ready,’ Brian said.

Read on