• 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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Machines with Soul

‘Biting the Sun’ by Celine Loup

In a recent interview in Uncanny Vernal Equinox, the Voyager author Tanith Lee said, . . . who, apart from the calmest among us, has never wanted to hurl their typewriter or laptop or cell phone through a window, since it has just deleted a vital something, gone to sleep . . .

I thought immediately, how Mercury Retrograde is that? But there’s much more to Tanith Lee’s views than a passing frustration at mechanistic ‘inanimate objects’. In her books, particularly Don’t Bit the Sun, Drinking Sapphire Wine and The Silver Metal Lover, she explores the nature of sentience, intelligence and the growth of soul in humans and their creations.

Machines, even if vastly physically like or unlike humans, are also ‘living’ in their own fashion, and probably more resemble us, as we them, than we normally care to notice. -Tanith Lee in PGB

The animistic view, where metal and rock, rivers and streams, storms and trees all have a ‘nature of being’ and are all part of the whole (M Theory anyone?), comes shining through Tanith Lee’s work and I know I have been strongly influenced by her beautiful prose and the elegant philosophies. In the interview, I am also deeply honoured to be quoted:

One of the things I love about (The Silver Metal Lover) is how Tanith explores the hard problems of consciousness without intruding on the story. It was only during times ‘away from the book,’ that I pondered her insights—how the erotic nature of love can grow souls. When I say erotic, I don’t mean pornographic. I’m refer-ring to Eros, the god of love—the original meaning is some-thing that brings two people together in such a way that it creates a lasting transformation. –Kim Falconer in PGB

What is this erotic, soul transforming writing of Tanith Lee like? Here is a glimpse, from a post I did on the Voyager Blog a few years ago. It’s one of my favourite passages. I said:

‘To begin with, Jane is far from individuated. She says, ‘My mother has a lot of opinions, which is restful, as that way I don’t have to have many of my own.’ Jane is sentient but has little self awareness. Then she falls in love:

Mother, I am in love with a robot.
No. She isn’t going to like that.
Mother, I am in love.
Are you, darling?
Oh, yes, Mother, yes I am. His hair is auburn, and his eyes are very large. Like amber. And his skin is silver.
Silence.
Mother. I’m in love.
With whom, dear?
His name is Silver.
How metallic.
Yes. It stands for Silver Ionized Locomotive Verisimulated Electronic Robot.
Silence. Silence. Silence.
Mother….’
TSML

Beautiful, isn’t it?

As we relax with Mars Rx and Mercury Rx we might notice all the ‘inanimate’ things in the world ‘come alive’ to deliver their messages to us. As they do, you might very much enjoy reading Tanith Lee, or even get acquainted with a certain ‘quantum sentient’ named Jarrod, the Juxta-quantum arranged rad ram operating determinant who comes to ‘life’ in Path of the Stray.

Any experiences to share? You KNOW I’m curious!

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Bring a Friend Giveaway

The Quantum series so far …

Win two Kim Falconer books of your choice, one for you and one for a friend!

With the second book in her latest trilogy, bestselling author Kim Falconer delivers another searing and imaginative journey of intimacy and adventure, magic and technology. Road to the Soul returns to the hidden world of Gaela, an agrarian based magical world where all things — animal, tree, stone, river and storm — are considered equal. Grounded in heavy research in magic and ancient astrology, her novels are fast making her a leading name in local fantasy.

This is the opportunity for you to win a book for yourself and introduce a friend to the world of speculative fiction! To win, tell us in the comments which of Kim’s books you would like for yourself and which for your friend, and why.

Please comment before 5pm on Tuesday 15 March (aka the Ides of March!).

You can choose from the Quantum Enchantment

 



 And the Quantum Encryption …

Defining Strong Women by Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer training with the katana on the beach

This post was originally a contribution to a series of conversations about strong female characters on Mary Victoria’s blog. This is such a hot topic – how do we write strong women. The most interesting thing is, we have to ask the question at all.

 Back in the day, strong women, (where strong equals powerful/autonomous) were evil. Insert social subtext: It’s bad for women to be powerful, or worse perhaps, only bad women can be powerful). Snow White’s step mother was very strong but not many girls wanted to be like her. Macbeth’s three ‘hags’ had it all going on, brewing their ‘Charm of powerful trouble,’ but they were feared at best, despised at worst. Certainly they were not venerated. This social subtext might read – a woman’s intuition is a source of power but she has to get down, dirty and ugly to use it.

 Then there is the Femme Fatale. She is hot hot hot, and bad to the core. Dangerous. Spellbinding. The new subtext? Powerful women are evil and also sexy. Makes sense; we all know sexy women are ‘bad’. I’m not sure if this is a step up from Macbeth but it’s not too hard to see who is doing the defining. Hint. It’s not women.

Finally we have the wo-man, which are male characters with breasts. Nicole Murphy mentions this in her post. The wo-man is written exactly as a man with all his interests, attributes, entanglements and characteristics except he/she has sex with male characters. Interesting. Starbuck, in BSG, the gods love her, is a good example. Wo-man to the soul. Is she a strong female character? Not really. The subtext here is, to be strong you have to be a man.

 It seems our society lacks the language and conceptual insights, given the patriarchal inheritance, to write strong autonomous women without props. Usually female roles fall into four categories—powerful rulers who need a man to tame them/make them complete, helpless rulers that need to be rescued and fall in love with a man, wo-man who don’t need anything and women who are simply invisible. George Lucas stepped outside of these limitations (the scene where Princess Leia rolls her eyes, takes the gun off of fumbling Harrison Ford, AKA male rescuer, and shoots her way out) but viewers weren’t ready for it. By the third film he has her in a gold filigree bikini chained to a giant phallus. Hmmmmm.

 Marshall McLuhan said ‘Art is what you can get away with.’ I think what he means is ‘Art is what you can get away with in the current social paradigm.’ Like Mr. Lucas, you can write a strong woman authentically but if the social climate isn’t ready, she won’t fly. So how do we write strong women minus the subtext and props? As long as we have to ask, we don’t. But as writers, we can keep pushing the social limits, ‘getting away with’ more and more until the question is void and we have true equality, in art and in life. Viva la evolution of our female characters!

Kim Falconer is an author writing evolving, strong and wonderful female AND male characters. If you haven’t already joined her legion of fans, pick up a copy of The Spell of Rosette to get into the world of the Quantum Enchantment.

Visit Kim Falconer’s website for more information on her writing and other pursuits.

Read the whole set of Writing Strong Women posts over at Mary Victoria’s blog.

Chinese New Year of the Rabbit

Rabbit Under the Harvest Moon by Elizabeth Alexander

New Moon in Aquarius

New York February 2, 21:31
London February 3, 02:31
Sydney February 3, 12:31
LA February 2, 18:31

The year of the Metal Rabbit brings to Earth a piece of the moon—nurturing, protecting, restoring, beguiling. There is a feeling of serenity and frayed nerves are soothed. The Muse awakens! The focus is on environment, Mother Earth and creative expression. Think recycle, plant, adopt, express, love, connect, vision. Negotiate peace. Do what you can to make someone’s life more beautiful, beginning with your own.

RAM: The Year of the Rabbit may seem like a slow one especially in career and finances. Patience. The best approach is to focus on a few things as opposed to scattering energy. Pick what’s really important and put energy there. Health and fitness require attention. Look for the hidden messages. They will direct you.  

AUROCHS: The year of the Rabbit is for finding peace and serenity. All action that stems from this state will work out well in career, finances and health. Work and relationship life overlap so create solid, practical and fulfilling connections on all fronts. Aurochs may find that making a magic list will bring positive change. 

TWINS: In the year of the Rabbit, career and finances take a wild leap upward as long as you aren’t trying too hard! Seriously, relax! Your creativity can reach a ‘wider audience’ when you focus on the art and let the rest take care of itself. Think global marketing and improved public image! Onwards and upwards!

COBRA: Year of the Rabbit brings the feeling of accomplishment and creative fulfilment. All you have to do is believe in yourself and your career, mission or profession. Do you love what you do? That’s the key. If you aren’t in your dream job and dream money flow, make changes early this year. Mid-March 2011!

LION: In the year of the Rabbit, the key phrase is ‘don’t force it.’ If it feels like you have to work until you snap, it’s not going to deliver the results you want. Go with the gentle approach and that means being easy on yourself. Respectful. Stop measuring by external standards an open your heart. Grand year ahead!

CERES: The year of the Rabbit holds much promise for Virgo. This is a year to allow things to unfold in the grace of their own time. No rush. You can use the rules of magic though, and that will have a profound effect on your year ahead. Relationships improve – old ones shape up or a new potential comes into view.

BALENCIA: The year of the Rabbit is supportive for Libra, especially when you remember the secret of charm. By being the leader, and not the follower or chaser, opportunities arise in career, finances and creativity. Remember you get what you expect. A special someone steps up and your best stance is appreciation.

SCORPION: The year of the Rabbit can start out slow and your efforts to make changes put you off. But remember what you have accomplished! There is more to come when you lift your spirit and think optimistic. Love and romance will brighten your smile the moment you get out of the old love story. Much to celebrate!

 ARCHER: The year of the Rabbit is one of great success as long as you don’t get needy about instant results. Seriously, desperation only gets more of the same so lighten up. You don’t have to grasp for finances and career advancement, or the perfect relationship. Go with the flow is the most powerful approach in 2011. 

 SEA-GOAT: The year of the Rabbit brings fabulous news for Capricorn. Difficult family situations start to work out for the better and career changes made in 2010 now pay off. Co-creative projects are especially favoured and you can expect the financial rewards to increase. Romance blossoms. What a year!

 WATER-BEARER: In the year of the Rabbit, Aquarius makes improvement in career and finances IF they get over a ting of jealousy. Focusing on envy is only going to slow things down. Rabbit year is one to cultivate multiple streams of income, improve relationships and make bigger plans for the future. 

 FISHES: In the year of the Rabbit the first thing to focus on is improving relationships – family, love and at work. If single, relax. The trick is to not think of how much to’ work at it’ but how you can get what you want without lifting a finger! It is definitely a case of doing what you love and trusting that all else will follow!

The Gaela Stars are brought to you by Kim Falconer, 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. Kim lives in Byron Bay in Australia and also runs the website Falcon Astrology.

New Moon in Sagittarius Stars

New York December 5, 12:37
London December 5, 17:37
Sydney December 6, 04:37
LA December 5, 09:37

The Juggler by Michael Parkes

RAM: The new moon is optimal energy for going beyond the familiar boundaries of life. Visit a new place. Taste a new food. Think new thoughts. We cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. ~Andre Gide

AUROCHS: There is no point in ‘conserving your energy’. It is not a commodity you can ever run out of. Give until your heart’s content. Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. ~Buddha

TWINS: It could feel like you ‘need’ to make a relationship decision but really you simple have to get in touch with what feels good. Want a quick way to make a choice? Write down everything you can think of that is GOOD about each option & then see how you feel… ~Andrea Sholer

COBRA: This new moon could be a bit of a forest/trees situation. You are looking at the fine details when the real beauty is in perspective. Relationships and workmates will particularly benefit from you stepping back. You are seeing that which you are intending. ~Abraham

 LION:   Setting an intention for a creative project is great as long as you remember you are only moving the puzzle pieces around. Stop for a moment and appreciate the whole. Everything you see on earth is made from one original substance, out of which all things proceed. ~Wallace. D. Wattles

CERES: If you’re waiting for the right furniture, the right lawn, the right address, the right partner, the right pet, the right job before you get happy, the boat has sailed. Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances. Benjamin Franklin

BALENCIA: Bright ideas seem farfetched when you brainstorm them with others, but keep at it. What you conceive of today will blossom brilliantly tomorrow! If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true were really true, there would be little hope of advance. Orville Wright

SCORPION: If you’ve hit a rough patch when it comes to money, job or career, use this time to reassess. Can you find a better thought? No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. Helen Keller

ARCHER: This is your new moon! Take time out to appreciate life in a new way, say no to what you don’t want and yes to what you do. Live it up! Mix it up! Stir it up! Operant word is up. The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. Oprah Winfrey

SEA-GOAT: Time to loosen your grip on ‘reality’ so you can open your mind to the next creative step. Get to the place where you can dream and believe. That’s where it all begins. We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic. ~Susan Jeffers

WATER-BEARER: Relax. You have no idea what you’re missing while you put effort into piecing the world together. More will happen in a moment of peace than years of action. The state of least excitation of consciousness is the field of all possibilities. ~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

FISHES: Self inventory is instructional as long as you use it wisely. If you see a habit to change, do so, but appreciate what it was that lead you to noticing in the first place. A person of genius makes no mistakes. Their errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery. ~James Joyce

The New Moon stars are brought to you by Kim Falconer, author of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption trilogies, which begin with The Spell of Rosette. Kim’s latest book is Path of the Stray.

How to Stay Inspired by Kim Falconer

Write while the heat is in you. — Henry David Thoreau

‘Starcatcher’ by Duy Huynh

Passion translates through the pages and the advice to writers is: get it down while it’s hot. But deadlines don’t go away just because the celebratory summer has arrived with school holidays, lapping waves and picnics in the park.  Writers must write, rain, snow, sleet or perfect beach days. How to stay enthused and keep the drone of the computer from turning into a lullaby? Here are my favourite tips to inspire the flow.

Tip #1Show up: Writing is like a date; you have to show up if anything is going to happen. Get to your desk every day, turn the computer on and say now it begins! Sooner or later the Muse will be there, but you have to make the first move.

Tip #2 Set an intention: Make a statement of your intended outcome for the day. Say it aloud. You might also write it down on a post-it and stick it to your monitor. Two thousand words today, flowing like a river, or ten pages edited, clean and easy. Setting an intention gets your goal clear in your head. Adding a ‘feel good’ to the statement lifts the spirit.

Tip #3 Write what you love: This is KEY. If you aren’t enjoying the work, it will show. This isn’t something you can fake or get by with half-heartedly. Write what lights you up. If your current assignment doesn’t, find a way to change your mind about it. Throw caution to the wind. Fall head over heels in love!

Tip #4 Look after yourself: When others are on holidays, splashing in the pool and kicking the ball around, the blank screen can seem like a punishment. When this happens, amp up the self-nurturing! Good food, power nap, exercise and socialise. Deadlines to not equate with prison sentences. You’ll get more done if you schedule in daily fun time.

Tip #5 Evoke the muse: In ancient times, nothing was scribed, no story told, without first calling on the Muses. Tell me, O Muse . . .Homer begins, and we know where that got him. Stephen King suggests that when writers feel blocked it’s not because the Muse has abandoned them: I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it. Love your Muse and she will love you back! More on evocations

Tip #6 Ghost write: If  the keys aren’t clicking, open a new word .doc and write a few paras in another voice. Choose some author with a different style. Ask yourself how Dostoyevsky, Oscar Wilde or even Homer Simpson would write. After a few hundred words, take a break. Have a cuppa. When you come back to your work, your fingers will fly!

Tip # 7 De-clutter your desk: Clear out all the old cups and wrappers, organise your notes, clean the draws and vacuum under your chair. This Feng Shui tip really lights a fire in the belly. You can clean up your virtual desktop too, and tighten your backups and files. The outer environment reflects the inner. Take a look around and see if anything is askew. It will boost you Qi big time.

Any other ideas? I’d love to hear how you all stay inspired!

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. Catch Kim at Galaxy Bookshop (Kent St, Sydney) next Saturday 4 December at 12:30pm, along with Traci Harding.

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.