• 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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Rogue Gadda: An excerpt

 

The following is an except from Rogue Gadda, the third book in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy by Nicole Murphy. Rogue Gadda comes out on 1 July 2011. The series started with Secret Ones and continued with Power Unbound.

The trilogy is set in the world of the gadda, which is really our world. But the gadda aren’t human, they are descended from different ancestors and have access to the power of the world around them and use it to perform what we humans call magic.

They look human. They act human. They live ostensibly human lives. But they are also beholden to the council of the gadda, the bardria, and the rules of the gadda which are policed by the six guardians – Sabhamir, Heasimir, Garramir, Firimir, Coiremir and Ceamir.

The most paramount thing in the life of any gadda is keeping their true identity secret from humans – being known would just be too difficult and dangerous, for gadda and humans alike.

For centuries, this has been the case. However, Asarlai has a dream – she can’t see why the gadda, with the power they can wield, aren’t rulers of the world …

****

Asarlai

 Tension hummed through her body, but the woman who called herself Asarlai didn’t dare let Rogan Connor see it. The only relief she, the sorcerer, could find was to clench her toes in her shoes. Otherwise, she kept her hands resting on her knees and her expression blank.

Connor held the amulet up to the light, looking at the crystal suspended in the middle of the knot of wood and silver. He turned the piece around, pulled it close to his eye, held it away.

‘The gem is flawless, Anna. It should work well for your needs.’

‘Thank you, Patrick.’ They had agreed at all times to use the names they’d adopted for their human personas – Connor thought there was less risk of their real identities being revealed if they refused to use them at all.

Asarlai saw the sense in it, although it was no concern of hers. Rogan Connor thought her real name was Lisa Booker, so the mistake on his part would affect her little.

However, if the guardians found out that Rogan Connor, banished murderer, was still alive, and that he had regained some use of his powers …

She looked down at her hands to check they still looked relaxed. Every day, she cursed how her genius had backfired.

She’d experimented on Ione Hammond Gorton to finally give the young woman the power she deserved. Somehow, the incantation had gone wrong and instead, Asarlai had been robbed of her power. Continue reading

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Voyager and Swancon – a happy combination

Voyager authors, family and friends gathered at Chez Pierre for wine, food and great company

This time last week, I was in Perth, preparing for the start of Swancon 36, the 50th National Science Fiction Convention. At that point, it was just a blur of potential, a string of days that could either be great or not.

Now, it’s over and I’m happy to report that the word ‘great’ doesn’t even begin to describe Swancon. It was a particularly great con for Voyager – A.A. Bell’s Diamond Eyes took out the Norma K Hemming award and Tansy Rayner RobertsPower and Majesty won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel.

On Saturday afternoon, Tansy, Glenda Larke and I sat with HarperCollins WA rep Theresa Anns on a panel entitled ‘Meet the Voyager authors’. After giggling over Theresa’s question of how Voyager queen Stephanie Smith hogtied us to get our novels (if you’ve ever met Stephanie you’ll know how ridiculous an image that is – although I’m still having issues with the rope burns…) we discussed the journey to becoming part of the Voyager clan and how we’ve been enjoying it.

Someone (I think it might have been Theresa) asked if being a Voyager author meant being part of a community. At first, we answered no – the three of us had known each other before Voyager took our books and our friendships extended beyond.

Jonathan Strahan obviously enjoying himself

But as we kept talking, we realised that in fact, there was a community of authors out there. There are folks that we’ve only met the once or twice but feel we know through the internet, such as Mary Victoria or Kim Falconer. Then there’s the people we get to meet just through being with Voyager, such as Duncan Lay and Bevan McGuiness. Then there’s the authors that aren’t published with Voyager Australia any more but are still part of the clan at these events – Simon Brown, Sean Williams, Trudi Canavan.

All this became clear later on Saturday when we Voyager mob (with a few ring-ins) went out for dinner. It’s something that happens often at conventions – a chance for us all to sit and chat and you know what – there is definitely a family feel to these things. We catch up, we laugh, we joke, we have fun.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, bookseller Robin Pen and myself ordered the snails - how could you not? Tansy loved them.

My snails, before they were devoured. Delicious, my friends. The venison was good too.

And that’s just the authors – I know that there’s a network of readers out there as well. I wasn’t part of the famous Purple Zone – the forums that used to run on the Voyager website – but I know a lot of those folks are still in touch and at Worldcon, there was a Purple Zone dinner. And this blog is now the heart of the Voyager community in Australia and it’s great to be able to share news and ideas and find out what is going on in each other’s lives.

Later this year is another convention that will prove to be a highlight for Voyager. At Conflux (Sep 28-Oct 1, Canberra) Voyager web-mistress and HarperCollins digital editor Natalie Costa Bir is going to be a guest. I’m looking forward to another opportunity to connect with the Voyager family (authors, editors and readers) and continue to celebrate the fabulous work that Voyager is publishing.

Nicole Murphy lives in Canberra with her husband Tim. She is the author of the Dreams of Asarlai trilogy, which starts with Secret Ones and is wonderfully active at Conflux and other conventions.

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.