• 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!



Nicole Murphy at Melbourne Science Fiction Club

Melbournians – here’s you chance to meet the author of the Dream of Asarlai trilogy in person!

Nicole Murphy will be speaking at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club this Friday night, the meeting starting at 9pm. Her topic is on why romance is important in science fiction and fantasy. It might be controversial. It might be funny. It will be interesting.

Nicole would love to meet you and chat about your views on literature’s two great stomped upon genres – romance and speculative fiction – so come along!

More information at –  http://www.msfc.sf.org.au/

Threshold and Tutankhamun

So, the other weekend, I had a trip to Egypt.

From the website for the exhibition: http://kingtutmelbourne.com.au/

Not the actual Egypt– oh, how I wish it had been. But I went to Egypt in terms of the artefacts and the culture via the Tutankhamun exhibition in Melbourne. I also went to Egypt in the literary sense by re-reading one of my favourite books – Sara Douglass’ Threshold.

 Re-reading Threshold was not just about paying a kind of homage to Sara, but I was interested to see the impact it would have on me when I then went to the exhibition.

 First, for those few who haven’t read Threshold, a quick recap – A young woman and her father are forced into slavery by his unpaid gambling debts. Because of their skills in working glass they are taken from their homeland to a place far south – a place of sand and heat and where the spectre of Threshold, a giant pyramid, looms over all. There, the horror of Threshold unfolds and along with new and discarded loves, she must fight to defeat the evil and restore balance and peace to the land.

 Oh, there’s so much to love about Threshold. Not just the uniqueness of the Egyptian-based setting (and when this was published in the 90s it was truly unique) but also the idea of number and mathematics as the basis of a magic system. Fabulous!

 Threshold the structure was created by a mountain of slaves – first when making the building, then the artistry as theentire thing is encased in glass. I was struck on this reading as to how difficult it must have been, particularly for those doing the most intricate work, to have faced the fact they had to destroy their creation to save themselves. A piece of you goes into everything you create – years later it still resonates and you see where you were, what you were needing and feeling at the time.

 There was a sense of that wandering around the exhibition and seeing the extraordinarily beautiful things that were there. Honestly, we in our day and age tend to think we’re pretty damn cool, with what we can create. Then you look at the delicate, precise, astonishing things that could be done 3000 years ago, without all our so called technology and education and think – art really does surpass all of that. And those artists put their heart and soul into these pieces, to honour a man they considered a god.

 And yet, they were doing all this and it was going to be locked away, never to be seen again. Art is meant to be viewed, is it not? Admired and seen and interacted with and loved. So it must have been a bitter sweet thing to both spend all those days and hours creating these incredible objects, and know that few people would ever get to admire it.

 The whole push of the building of Threshold is about the search for immortality. This is where it divulged from the Egyptians – their belief was that you were already going to be immortal, that this was just a step to the next life. You’re going to live forever, so let’s make that next life a good one by being good in this one.

 In Threshold, there was no sense of thinking of the implications beyond that of having what had been dreamed of for generations. I think that some of those chasing had plans for what they would do when they were immortal, but I didn’t get the sense that they thought through all the practicalities.

From the website for the exhibition: http://kingtutmelbourne.com.au/

 In this, the ancient Egyptians were to be admired. The tombs were filled with everything a good man or woman could need to have a comfortable life in the next place. Tut had games buried with him. Don’t want to spend the afterlife without something fun to do – how boring would that be?

 But most interesting was that Tutankhamun came to power at a terrible time for Egypt– his father had tossed out the old gods, established a new one and it had caused ructions throughout the empire. In just the nine years he was pharaoh, Tutankhamun turned all that around and left Egypt once again in touch with its pantheon of gods.

 At the beginning of Threshold, the people of Ashdod are under a thrall to The One, but that is tearing the country apart. It’s easy to see that Threshold may indeed have been heavily influenced by the story of Tutankhamun and his need to rebuilt his fractured country and make them whole again.

 Unfortunately, I’ll never have the chance to ask Sara Douglass if that was the case.

Nicole Murphy is the author of The Dream of Asarlai trilogy: Secret Ones, Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda

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.

Voyager authors at AussieCon – Events

Edited on 24 August with the first half of the program.

Border crossing: YA authors writing for adults and vice versa
Thursday 1500 Room 212
Speculative Fiction is notable for the number of authors who readily cross borders and write for both Adults and Young Adults. Some of our finest practitioners discuss the differences and similarities in writing for these two distinct audiences.
Bec Kavanagh (mod), Marianne de Pierres, Pamela Freeman, Cory Doctorow

Breaking the fourth wall: Supernatural and its audience
Thursday 1500 Room 211
What happens when a television series begins to break down the “fourth wall” that divides the characters from the audience watching them? Supernatural has arguably demolished its wall, leading to an uneasy and uncomfortable relationship between the creators and their fans. What other series are playing directly with their audience in this fashion, and who is doing it well? How do you directly connect with your audience, and is it a good idea to do it at all? How does the current climate of Internet communications and social media affect the distance between the shows
that are made and the viewers who watch them?
Karen Miller, Jeanette Auer, Seanan McGuire

Thursday 1700 Rm 201
Peter V Brett

Continue reading

Ten drafts and you have a book: Nicole Murphy on writing

Those of you who read and loved Secret Ones will be delighted to hear that on August 2 I turned in the manuscript for book three of the trilogy to the Queen of the Voyager universe (aka Stephanie Smith). If you haven’t read Secret Ones – go on, you know you want to.

I thought this might be a time to talk a little about how the series came to be, and how I write. It all started way back in 2003, when I had a dream – literally. Dreams by themselves don’t make stories, but the image I had of this girl, indulging in a hot affair while trying to keep secret that she could do magic, wouldn’t let me go.

So I did some planning. I worked out a backstory for how she secretly had magic (the gadda) and because of my background as a teacher (and because I was deep into reading Harry Potter at the time) devised the educational levels that people went through to develop their power.

In the process of doing that, I came up with two follow-up stories – both set in the world of the gadda and modern society, sharing characters but with their own romances. Note – these books were romances that just happened to have a fantasy aspect of the setting.

I was also reading books about revising and editing your work. It was something I was utterly TERRIBLE at and I needed to focus on it. So I came up with a schedule of activities to help me revise and devised my plan – a month for the first draft of each book (then just sixty thousand words each), a month for the first round of edits of each book, a month for the second round of edits. At the end of nine months, I’d have three edited books, ready to send out.
The first stage of the revision process was macro-level. I would write a short description of each scene, what its place in the book was, what it achieved and whether it was worthwhile. I did character outlines to learn more about them. I read the dialogue alone out aloud, to ensure it made sense and then I read the entire book out aloud.

The second stage was micro – it was about sentences, work choice, spelling and punctuation.

However, I was wrong about the books being ready to send out – they weren’t. I learnt to revise, which is an all important skill, but I still didn’t know enough to be able to look at the books critically and make really sound judgements.

For the next four years, I came back to the books on occasion but developed my craft editing and being a journalist. Finally, at the end of 2007 (after having Secret Ones, then called Love in Control, critted) I sat down and with everything I’d learnt turned it into the book that in July 2009 was bought by HarperVoyager.

Over the past twelve months, having to deliver another two books has been a steep learning curve. The schedule I originally devised to help me revise has become an organic part of me. I now use forms such as colour charts to help me take an objective look at narrative flow and ensure that the plot is satisfactory and the story balanced.

All of this happens with very little initial planning. Instead, I write – a lot. Secret Ones went through ten drafts before I submitted it. Power Unbound had eight drafts, Rogue Gadda seven (see, I am getting better). At a rough estimate, I think that I’ve written somewhere in the vicinity of 500,000 words since July last year. That’s a whole lotta time and effort.

My method of writing – getting a general idea of beginning, middle and ending and then blasting your way through and working out the details later – is known in the business as pantsing (as in ‘writing by the seat of your pants’). I don’t like the idea of being a pantser – see the above 500,000 words in thirteen months.

It seems to be that I’d have to write much less words if I planned more. That the schedule I originally developed to help me revise would, at the beginning of the project, be a brilliant way to plan a novel before it’s written.

Except – what if I can only write well if I do pants it? What if planning kills the excitement and makes me stilted?

Maybe I just have to accept the fact that I’m going to spend the rest of my life writing at least three times the amount of words I need to, in order to write the words that count.

I will try planning for the next project I want to pursue, but I’m ready to ditch it if I find it doesn’t work. Even thought the idea of doing all that writing makes me very, very tired.

Good thing I love it.

Nicole Murphy has been a teacher and journalist, but is now concentrating on the other two books in the Dreams of Asarlai trilogy. She has had many short stories published, and has edited speculative fiction magazines. She lives in Queanbeyan with her husband Tim.

Australian Fantasy SnapShots 2010

Snapshot interviews are being conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction.
The interviews are from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and will be acrhived at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus.

Some of our Voyager authors’ SnapShots – more to come!

Jack Dann
Kim Falconer
Karen Miller
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Glenda Larke
Nicole R Murphy
K J Taylor
Jennifer Fallon
Rhonda Roberts
Kylie Chan
Jack Dann
Tracey O’Hara

You can read interviews at: