• 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!



Much Ado About Review Part II –10 Tips for Writing Reviews

Some journalist report the best way to write an eye catching review is ring up the author’s ex and ask them the questions. In lieu of this second hand (or under hand) approach, here are ten tips to consider when writing a review. Additions most welcome!

  1. Know your audience. If you want to capture the readers’ interest by using tone, vocabulary and references that make sense to them, you need to know who they are.
  2. Know your publication. Whether you review for a blog, newspaper, magazine or online forum, familiarize yourself with their previously published reviews. What do the editors/moderators want? Word count? Tone? Emphasis?
  3. Review the book, not yourself. It’s easy to talk about how you might have handled a certain character, dialog or event differently than the author. These kinds of anecdotes are fun in forums but they aren’t the best way to present the book review unless it fits the tone of the publication. It may help to avoid using the first person. Keep in mind that the review, read against the grain, may tell more about the reviewer than the actual book.
  4. Take notes as you read. Gather examples of characterizations, world building, action, style, sensuality, (sound, taste, texture) passages that grab you, or not. These are the aspects of the review that will give it distinction.
  5. Adjectives. Most writing does better without them. Instead of a poignant, stunning, breathtaking, awesome surprise ending, consider ‘the end will leave readers smiling for days to come.’ Also avoid redundant modifiers like final ending. See Jennifer Fallon for further insights.
  6. Things to exclude. Spoilers, slander, personal judgments, biases, typos, unfair comparisons, anecdotes, rewrites, recipes, ten movies you liked better, what the dog had for breakfast.
  7. Things to include. Impact, immersion, ideas, gender roles, innovations, POV, voice, writing style, theme, plot, sub-plots, character development, setting or lack there of.
  8. Remember the Author. It may be appropriate to note something about the author. Is this their first novel? What else have they written? Qualifications? Are there more works coming?
  9. Remember the Reader. Give readers enough information so they can assess the book’s appeal. Objectivity is the challenge here. Think matchmaking.
  10. Develop your own Voice. The review is a composition with its own style, tone and impact. It is your voice, your freedom of speech. Polish and revise until it’s the best it can be. Remember, publishers will be reading it too!
Kim Falconer practising for her next book!

Kim Falconer practising the sword

Well written reviews give attention to new works and authors. They also bring attention to the genre. Mostly, they can engage you with a readership, bringing an invitation for further discussion, a gift offered to those who might want it. (see Part I) Have you written any reviews lately? Read any memorable ones? Voyager authors, would you like to share your best/worst review experience? Discussions welcome!

Read Much Ado About Review: Part I

Kim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette (Quantum Enchantment Book 1), which was published this month by HarperVoyager. Kim lives in Byron Bay and runs the website Falcon’s Astrology as well as a website dedicated to the Quantum Enchantment series.

Read the Australian Bookseller & Publisher review of The Spell of Rosette.

The Specusphere interview with Kim and a review of her book.

Much Ado About Review Part I by Kim Falconer

Author Kim Falconer

Author Kim Falconer

The word review comes from the Latin revidere, meaning to see again. In the literary world, a review examines with the purpose of critique. It’s a judgment, usually including two parts—summation and evaluation. It’s also a relationship.

Margaret Atwood uses biblical imagery to describe this relationship between the writer and reviewer. She places the author in the role of divine creator, drawing a blank page from the maw of Chaos and turning it, one day at a time, into a detailed narrative. On the 7th day (or perhaps 700th) it is handed over to the critic who spends considerably less time analysing it.

The critic looks ‘after the fact’ to discern if the novel has value, meaning, authenticity and plausibility, situating it in the context they believe it was written and finally giving it a result. The crucial point that Atwood makes is the novelist is distanced from the process of critical analysis. They are concerned with the act of creation, asking what will happen next and what is the right word. The critic has a different question. They ask, what does this mean. When the reader gets a hold of it, it’s something else again. They are asking what does this mean to me. In this way, the critic, reader and novelist can be at odds, each seeing the work from a different angle.

Marylaine Block, a librarian for over 22 years, pictures a more romantic relationship between author and critic. She likens reviewers to matchmakers, saying their primary function is to bring readers together with their perfect mates, books that they can appreciate and enjoy. Jonathan Marshall, a Research Fellow at Western Australian’s Edith Cowan University, takes it a step further. He sees the review as an invitation to discussion, a gift offered to those who might want it, rather than a bludgeon to instruct the insensitive masses.

Whether searching for meaning, matchmaking or creating an open forum, literary critics seldom miss the opportunity to exercise their authority. Not many reviews are free of criticisms and some can be brutal. Bruce Mazlish, a professor of history at MIT, highlights the reviewers’ power over the author. Reviews can affect careers, reputations, positions, salaries and self-esteem. He points out that a publisher’s ‘reader review’ can impact the decision to offer a contract. That’s significant power. Yet with all this weight given to the reviewer, very little training is required to become one. Mazlish sums it up neat. ‘Reviewing is regarded as a democratic practice: anybody can do it.

What do you think? How important are reviews to you? Do you write them? Read them? Do they sway your opinion of an author or affect your reading choices? Share your experiences here! Part II will follow tomorrow: 10 Tips for writing reviews.

Kim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette (Quantum Enchantment Book 1), which was published this month by HarperVoyager. Kim lives in Byron Bay and runs the website Falcon’s Astrology as well as a website dedicated to the Quantum Enchantment series.