• 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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New free novella by Nicole Murphy!

Dream of Asarlai Book Three

Nicole Murphy has written a free novella continuing the story of her Dream of Asarlai trilogy, and she’s given us an extract  and a little intro to share with our fellow Voyagers:

It’s been twelve months since Rogue Gadda hit the shelves and the Dream of Asarlai trilogy came to an end.

It was a happily-after-ever ending. But it was never my intention for everything to go back to normal. That’s not how life works, when major events occur. Things change. We change. The fate of the world shifts and new possibilities and threats rise.

That meant that there was room for more. More about the guardians. More about the world of the gadda. More about the tension that arises from trying to keep your existence secret in a world where you’re the clear minority.

The first of those stories, answering the ‘what happens next’ question, is a novella ‘The Festival’. It was released on July 12, an auspicious date as it marks the Festival of the Star, the greatest day in the gadda calendar.

With the blessings of Voyager – I’ve self-published it and until the end of July, it’s available for free.

So if you’ve not been game to try the Dream of Asarlai trilogy – here’s a chance to do so without it costing you anything. I’m pretty confident that once you’ve read it, you’ll be running out to grab the other books and see how this story began.

***

Dream of Asarlai Book One

IT’S BEEN A YEAR SINCE ASARLAI WAS CAPTURED, BUT THINGS ARE FAR FROM SETTLED IN THE GADDA WORLD…

If you were the member of a secret magical race, how would you hide from humans?

The bardria and its guardians have decided to hide in the open by showcasing the gadda stronghold

 of Sclossin to the humans as a tourist destination, in the process proving the residents are normal.

The purists, however, believe the best solution is to remove the gadda from all contact with humans. The Festival of the Star, the biggest celebration of the year, is the perfect place to begin their campaign.

The guardians are sure they’re ready for anything the purists throw at them. But are they ready for the resurrection of an old enemy?

WARNING: The Festival contains spoilers for the Dream of Asarlia trilogy, and hot steamy sex.

***

July 11, 8pm.

It was time.

The meal had been superb. Many bottles of wine had been consumed. The atmosphere around the large table was convivial, with laughter and raised voices and the occasional thump on the wood to punctuate a story.

Councillor Robert Yarrow gestured to his butler, who left the room. The councillor stood and waited for the noise to die down and for all attention to come to him.

With every head that turned, Yarrow’s back got straighter, his shoulders more relaxed, his chin higher.

“My friends,” he said, smiling at the twenty faces that looked at him. “My most wonderful friends. Your sacrifice will be lauded for generations.”

Twenty faces took on varying hues of green and white as they recalled why they were here.

The door opened, the creak shocking in the silence. The butler came forward, bearing an ornate silver bowl on a matching tray. He placed it on the table before Yarrow and then stood at his master’s shoulder.

Yarrow lifted the lid and the rank odour assaulted his senses. He fought to maintain a stoic appearance—he wouldn’t convince anyone to eat if he showed the scent alone was this terrible.

Dream of Asarlai: Book Two

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one close enough to smell it. Lisa Jane gasped and held her napkin to her face.

“We can’t eat that,” she said.

Everyone leant forward, the people at the far end of the table standing to do so. All recoiled, although Yarrow knew they couldn’t possibly all smell it.

“I understand your concern.” As he spoke, Yarrow used a pair of tweezers to pick up one rancid piece of beef. The green coating on the meat was foul. He lay it on the pile of cheese slices that rested on the other side of the silver tray and pulled the corners of the top slice around the meat. “But we agreed that your food poisoning be natural rather than an incantation, so the guardians won’t suspect a plot.”

He rolled the morsel between his palms so the cheese encased the meat. Then he dipped the ball in a small tureen of mustard, before laying it on a small plate and handing it to the person on his left. As he made more, the plates were passed around the table until everyone had one. Meanwhile, the butler refilled the wine glasses.

All twenty of Robert’s guests stared down at the poison pill before them and their thoughts were clear on their faces—dread, fear, disgust.

“We do this to save Sclossin and all gadda,” Yarrow said quietly. “We do this to ruin the festival and so reveal how terrible the plan to invite humans into our village is. You will be revered for your actions tonight.” He lifted his glass in a toast then swallowed, both to mask the smell with the bouquet of the wine and to hide his smile. He was so glad he wouldn’t be eating the meat.

As one, his guests picked up the poison and swallowed. None chewed, and each grabbed their wine and used it to wash the horrid meat down their throat.

“Now, I suggest you all go home and make yourself as comfortable as possible. I pray that you will not suffer too much tonight.”

One by one, they transferred away, disappearing from view in the blink of an eye. Yarrow put the lid back on the silver bowl and his butler took it away to safely dispose of it. No one in the Yarrow household was to be harmed by the tainted meat.

Yarrow went to his study and sat in his armchair. His port was open, a crystal glass standing ready. He poured himself a drink and sipped it slowly, easing into the leather upholstery with a relaxed sigh.

Everything was in order. Each of his different groups had their task and combined, they were going to spell disaster for the festival tomorrow. The bardria would have to re-consider making the town of Sclossin more accessible to humans and the next step in cutting all access to humanity would be taken.

Yarrow shook his head. It astounded him that it wasn’t clear to all gadda that for the sake of their survival they needed to cut ties to the human race. At the human population bloomed and their technology improved, the chances of them discovering that in their midst lived a secret race with powers beyond imagining grew.

It would be disastrous. Everyone agreed on that. Either there would be gadda who would use their power to try and rule humanity, or there would be humans who would find a way to use vulnerable gadda for their own vices.

Some people thought the answer was to hide in plain sight. Be right in amongst the humans. People wouldn’t conceive of the concept that their neighbour, workmate, friend wasn’t human.

Robert’s entire being quaked with the stupidity of that idea. The only salvation was to leave the humans to their lives, their world and hide the gadda away.

It was the right way. Tomorrow’s decimation of the festival would prove it. And the best part of his plan was the guardians couldn’t stop it.

Robert Yarrow downed the last of his port with a smile.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/181532
Thanks Nicole. You rock!

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Cool Find!

      I just came across a cool site all about Gadda from Nicole Murphy’s Rogue Gadda series! Pretty awesome 🙂 Its kinda like a real-life glossary for the series actually..

And so the story ends…

 

Finishing a trilogy is a strange experience. It takes years to write, years more to edit and get published and you live with these characters, this story, this world constantly on your mind.

Then, it’s over. Sometimes, you don’t leave the world or the characters wholly behind because the next work will also be there, but sometimes that is really the end. You don’t have any other stories to tell there. You’ve got all these bright shiny ideas that have been clamouring at you from the corner for AGES, hoping that you’ll pick them and start creating.

And yet, for the readers, the experience is far from over. I said my first goodbyes to the Dream of Asarlai story in August last year, and did my final bit of editing in February. It’s been months since I’ve given any of them any thought.

And yet for you readers, this is all still a future sensation. You’re still coming to the point of saying farewell. You’re still excited about what could happen, curious about how it’s all going to end.

And somehow, I’ve got to find the headspace to remember what that feeling was like for me as I was writing it, so I can empathise and celebrate with you.

It’s a very good thing that we authors are well practiced in living with a divided brain or this might just do us in.

So, what can I say to you all about the conclusion to Dream of Asarlai (without spoilers, of course).

The hero of Rogue Gadda is Hampton Rourke, aka the Sabhamir. Hampton’s become a bit of a favourite with a lot of people over the course of the series. He’s a great character to work with – he’s very charming and genuinely likes people, so his interactions with others flow smoothly. Yet Hampton is also a man struggling with his place in the world, riddled with doubts that he dare not let anyone else see.

His foil in this book is Charlotte Haraldson. Charlotte is a member of the long lost race of gadda who split from the bardria centuries earlier. For a lot of quite good reasons, Charlotte has come to hate gadda, power and everything it stands for.

So OF COURSE her perfect match is going to be the most powerful gadda alive.

As for Asarlai – there’s still a few twists left in her tale, but her dream of exposing the gadda to humanity and elevating them to ruling the planet is still very much on course.

Unless Hampton can stop her.

I’ve had a blast writing the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, and I hope you all have a blast reading it.

 

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.

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?

Wrong.

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.

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
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

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.