• 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!

     

     

Fallon Friday: Fallon’s Six Rules of Characterisation

There really is no secret to good characterisation, there is just sticking to the rules.

Rules? What rule?

Well, I’m glad you asked. I have 6 of them, so here they are:

Fallon’s Six Rules of Characterisation

1. Have some idea what your character looks like.

This is not to say you need a detailed description of every single character in your book. But you do need to know if he’s black, white, brindle or covered in purple polka dots. Are they tall, short, fat or skinny? A person’s physical appearance affects how they see the world and how the world perceives them. A short fat person is unlikely to be performing athletic feats of heroism without it impacting on them somehow (breathless, more prone to injury…?). People who perceive themselves as plain can sometimes resent those considered “beautiful”. Short people can resent others being tall. Tall people (particularly women) are often self-conscious about their height. These are all hang-ups that come with physical appearance and will add depth to you characters.

I play a game sometimes, called: “If this was a movie my dream cast would be…” in which I “cast” the major characters if the book like it was a movie. This gives me an idea of who I see the character as being most physically like. I may never describe them the same way in the book (although perceptive readers will find George Clooney and Brak have a great deal in common…hehehe), but in my head, I know, and that’s what really counts.

2. Know your character’s past.

Despite being largely formed by a genetic makeup, we are still creatures of our environment. If you don’t know what that environment is, then how will you know what has made your character the way they are? People are moulded by their past, either by being pulled down by it, or by rising above it. If your characters have no past, however, you have nothing to work with.

3. Know your character.

This may seem like I’m repeating myself but this is quite different to the other rules. Knowing a character means not having to think about what they’d do, because it’s self-evident. And it’s not always easy to find them. When I was writing The Immortal Prince, I was really struggling to get a grip on Arkady, until I wrote the line: “The Duchess of Lebec knew how to amputate a finger”. (It’s several chapters in… can’t remember exactly where.) At that point, she suddenly blossomed into life and I’ve never had to wonder, from them on, what she would do in any given situation.

4. When writing from a character’s particular point of view, write in their voice.

If you were writing a chapter from the point of view of a child, you probably wouldn’t write…

“Pandora cautiously lifted the lid on the valuable antique rosewood chest with it’s intricately inlaid mother-of-pearl and gilt decoupage design (which would have fetched a fortune at Christies), and gasped as all the deadly plagues of the world were unleashed upon humanity.”

Design features and consequences come from an adult’s perspective. The child would see a pretty box. You’d probably do something more like this…
“Pandora cautiously lifted the lid on the pretty box with its shiny flowers that seemed pressed into the polished wood by magic and gasped as something dreadful burst out of the box.”

The latter is a child’s perspective, and if you write your characters using language they wouldn’t use in dialogue, then it doesn’t gel. It is for this reason that I despise “head-hopping” so much. Only a very few, very-skilled practitioners (and I do not claim to be one of them) can do this and maintain characterisation without confusing the reader.

5. Evil is merely a matter of perspective.

There is a saying – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and there was never a truer word spoken. Good people might think they’re good. But bad people, more often than not, think they’re good, too. This is the fatal mistake many would-be writers make writing their “bad guys”. They make them bad for no apparent reason. Or have them rejoice in their “badness”, and people following them (whole populations often) with no apparent goal in sight, other than world domination, just because they can. Being an Evil Overlord just because you like the idea of being an Evil Overlord only works if you’re Mike Myers and planning to clone a Mini-Me.
In my experience, all the complete assholes I’ve ever met think they’re doing the world a favour by merely breathing. And they’d be shocked, in most cases, to realise that people thought they were anything other wonderful human beings.

6. Give your characters shades of grey.

My agent brokered a stunningly fantastic advance for one of her (literary) writers last year, and the last I heard, they were into seven figures. (Yes, that’s over a million dollars.) The reason? It’s because, as one enthusiastic publisher gushed, “the characters have so many shades of grey”.

To give you an example of what I mean, let me paraphrase the story of The Good Samaritan for a moment.

• A good character without shading would stop and help the wounded man lying on the road, for no other reason than he is good and it’s the right thing to do.
• An evil character without shading would not stop to help the wounded man lying on the road, for no other reason than he is evil and it’s the wrong thing to do, although he may stop and spare the poor dying mugging victim a muwahahaha for dramatic effect, before moving on to other random acts of violence and mayhem.
• A fully realised character will see the wounded man, turn away because he doesn’t want to get involved, be swamped with guilt a few steps further on and go back to aid him, resent the poor victim for causing him trouble, even while giving him the shirt off his back, which he then has to explain to his wife when he gets home that night.

It’s not the best example, granted, but you get the idea. Heroes are often accidental. In fact, there’s an argument that only a fearful man can be a hero. If you’re not afraid of anything, what is there to overcome? Courage is doing something in spite of your fears, not blazing ahead fearlessly because you’re too stupid to know the danger.

Jennifer Fallon is the author of four fantasy series, the most recent being the Tide Lords quartet. The Chaos Crystal, book four of the Tide Lords series, came out this month and is available across all good Australian book shops.

Fallon Friday — The question of magic

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of magic. It gets you into all sorts of trouble when you’re writing, particularly of you can’t answer the following questions:

  • Is there magic?
  • How does it work (wands, spells, farting …)
  • What are the rules?
  • What are the consequences of using it? (Exhaustion, opposite and equal reaction, uncontrollable need for sex …etc)
  • How many people can wield the magic?
  • How do they screen for magic users?
  • Are they reviled or revered?
  • Are they natural or do they need to be taught?
  • Is there a dark side?
  • Is the magic unlimited or will it run out eventually?
  • What are its limitations?

You see, the problem with magic is that it’s, well, magic.

If you can light a candle using magic, why would you use a match? If everyone can light a candle with magic, chances are, matches haven’t been invented.

Your magic system needs to have limitations, ethical, physical or moral. There has to be a reason why your hero doesn’t just turn the Evil Bad Dude into a frog, the moment he starts getting a bit snippy.

If your characters can wield magic, it will affect everything they do, and often how they do it. It must have consequences, and there have to be times when they’re going to have trouble with it, otherwise, you don’t have a story.

Above all, once you’ve made your magic rules, stick to them. You can’t have your magic-wielding hero wreaking havoc all through the first half of your story, only to have him unable to do a damned thing later on when he’s captured by the aforementioned Evil Bad Dude, because he can’t use magic on Thursdays. We need to know, pretty much from the outset, that Thursdays are a problem for our boy.

If your reader ends up tossing your book across the room with “that’s silly, he could have just snapped his fingers and killed the guy ‘cause it’s Tuesday”, you have a serious problem.

There’s a reason Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite, you know. Think about it.

Jennifer Fallon may not be a fan of magic, but she has plenty of fans spellbound with her latest series, The Tide Lords quartet. The final book in the quartet, The Chaos Crystal, came out last month. You can read more from her at her website and blog.



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Lovers love the Immortal Prince

The Immortal Prince

The Immortal Prince

There’s no shortage of love to be found … as long as you don’t get killed by a Tide Lord first …

The Immortal Prince, book one of the Tide Lords quartet, has been shortlisted in the US by the Romantic Times in the Epic Fantasy category of the Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

Congratulations to Jennifer Fallon!

Fallon Friday: 10 Pitfalls Waiting to Trap Potential Fantasy Writers

Not having any idea of how big a whole world is. Think for a moment about how big planet Earth is. Now, pick a hero, send him on a quest. Oh, and while you’re at it, take away all but one continent, two or three countries, all languages but one, give Earth a temperate climate all over said lonely continent, with maybe some snowy regions a few days from the one of the only three cities you have left, and populate the entire animal kingdom with only horses, dogs, the odd cow and no insects. And when you get your MS back with “thanks, but no thanks” scrawled across it, take a moment to wonder what the editor meant when they said your world building lacked “depth”?

Trying to imitate someone else’s plot. This is a double-edged sword. You can be totally unoriginal and make bucket-loads, provided you can present an old idea in a new way. It takes talent, however, to do this, so be very careful before you try it.

Trying to be too original. There’s innovation… and there’s being so far off the rails nobody but you and the three friends you were sharing the bong with when you thought up your epic storyline get what you mean. Be original, by all means, but do it sensibly.

Forgetting epic fantasy needs more than one plot. Big epic trilogies tend to need big epic plots with multiple characters and intersecting plot lines. By all means, have a major thread running through your story, but you’d better be a cross between Shakespeare and Elmore Lenard if you think you can squeeze a three book deal out of a publisher for a story about two people alone on a raft looking for the magic talisman that’s going to save the world at the end of book 3.

Forgetting pack/transport animals need to eat, drink, and rest occasionally. Trust me, even if you manage to get this past an editor, you will not get it past the various animal experts out there that populate the world of fantasy readers. They will know. And they will scoff at your ignorance. Loudly. On their blogs. And to everyone they meet.

Assuming everything you see in the movies is true. I had a young writer assure me once that you could knock a person unconscious by simply tapping them on the head because that’s what they do in movies. Let me assure you this is not the case. I know this because I once (accidentally, of course) dropped a 15lb bowling ball on my ex’s head from about 6′ off the ground and it didn’t even crack his skull, let alone knock him out. Nor do people ride at a gallop for miles with a bullet wound in their leg, win a fist fight after being shot in the shoulder, or solve complex mathematical problems in their head, ten minutes after being brought back from the dead. Physical violence has consequences. And not just bad guys die from it.

Thinking that because fantasy is all you read, you’ll be able to write it, too. I was asked once, at a con, what was the best thing a fantasy writer can read to help them write better fantasy. My answer was: a newspaper. Sad, but true, kiddies. How can you write a convincing imaginary world, if you have no idea what makes the one you live in work? Without exception, all the successful fantasy writers I have ever met are grounded, practical people capable of holding a conversation just as easily about politics, religion or current affairs as they are about magic. In fact, most of them prefer to discuss politics, religion or current affairs (except Trudi Canavan who prefers to talk about knitting). And not a single one of them believes in magic. But damn, they can write about it well.

Breaking your own rules. In its own way, magic is a force like any other. It has certain rules and you have to stick to them, even if you’re the one making up the rules. If your magic is lunar, then you’d better not have anyone working it by day. If you’ve said it’s impossible to make pigs fly in chapter 1, you’d better not have your enemies launch an airborne pig attack in chapter 57. Make up your own magic rules, by all means, but don’t go changing them half way through the story because you’d discovered flying porkers would be handy, after all.

Stereotyping. JK Rowling has made poo-loads of money writing what is, essentially, a story about a kid in boarding school. What separates her bank account from the wannabe’s is that she found a way to make her hero different. Isn’t her first chapter of Book 1 titled “The Boy who Lived”? Enid Blyton never thought that one up. Fantasy with a drop-dead gorgeous virgin princess who needs rescuing from an evil sorcerer by a handsome goat-herder (who is really a lost prince) and his amusing sidekick will get you nowhere. It’s not that you can’t use the plot, but you’d be better off with the amusing princess and her drop-dead gorgeous sidekick rescuing the evil sorcerer from the psychotic goat-herder… you get the idea? It’s not the plot, it’s the woefully written characters that’ll kill your epic every single time…

Overwriting. There is absolutely no need to ever use the words “very”, “really” or “suddenly” in your narrative (you can use them sparingly in dialogue if you promise to be careful). Nor should you need to qualify your dialogue with adverbs. In fact, try not to use anything other than “said”. And watch out for redundant writing. Things like ‘the end result” or “hesitating for a moment”. And read every single sentence with the word “that” in it. And then read it again leaving out the “that”. You will be amazed.

Jennifer Fallon shares her tips on writing every Friday and she is -not- a potential fantasy writer, having thirteen fantasy novels published with Voyager! Her latest book is The Chaos Crystal and it’s available across Australia, right now!

Fallon Friday: The life fantastic of Jennifer Fallon

12 things I have done that you (probably) haven’t:

Been paid $150 an hour to be the gymnastics coach for the male strip revue Manpower
Been chauffeured to work every day for six months in a US Embassy limo when I lived in Canberra
Gotten totally wasted drinking bourbon at a police station with a couple of detectives
Hugged Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester from Supernatural)
Been through an earthquake, a cyclone and a flood
Took 137 kids to the cinema at the same time
Been a jury foreman on a rape trial
Had a book launched in a wrestling ring by John Rhys Davies
Prepared a business plan for an escort business for a “lady” who was on the game
Had 50 + foster kids
Sailed around Singapore Harbour with Robert J Sawyer and Norman Spinrad
Owned a gold mine in partnership with an ex-con who turned out to be on parole for armed robbery

Ok… so my life hasn’t been a complete bore… 🙂

Understatement alert! If you *have* somehow managed to do one of these things, by all means post a comment and tell us about it!

The Chaos Crystal, Jennifer Fallon’s latest book, will start hitting shelves next week – yes! So don’t delay in getting a copy so you can find out what happens to all the characters in the Tide Lords quartet.

You can also visit Jennifer Fallon’s site, where she regularly updates her blog.

Fallon Friday: The Tide Lords Pronunciation guide – Part One

I’ve tried to make it as spoiler-free as possible, so no posting other info in the comments from readers who know stuff people who haven’t read books 2 and 3 don’t know yet, OK?

Arkady Desean

(Ark-a-dee De-shawn)

Duchess Of Lebec

Human

Aleki Ponting

(Alek-ee Ponting)

Duke of Sommerton

Human

Amaleta

(Amma-leeta)

Character from the Tide Lord Tarot. Legend holds she was the Immortal Prince’s one true love

Human

Ambria

(Am-bree-ah)

AKA The Goodwife

Ex-wife of Krydence

Lesser Immortal

Amyrantha

(Amma-ran-tha)

The world of the Tide Lords

Arryl

(Ah-rill)

AKA The Sorceress

Lesser Immortal

Boots

(Boots)

Runaway slave living in the Lebec slums

Canine Crasii

Brynden

(Brin-den)

AKA The Lord of Reckoning

Tide Lord

Caelum

(Cay-lum)

Country in the northern hemisphere of Amyrantha.

Separated by the Great Lakes from Glaeba

Cayal

(Kye-al)

The Immortal Prince. AKA Kyle Lakesh

Tide Lord

Chikita

(Chick-ee-tah) Warrior in the service of Lebec

Feline Crasii

Chintara

(Chin-tah-rah)

Imperator of Torlenia’s Consort

Human

Clyden Bell

(Clye-den Bell)

Owner of Clyden’s Inn

Human

Coron

(Core-on)

AKA The Rodent

Lukys’s rat. The only known immortal animal.

Lesser Immortal

Crasii

(Cray-sigh)

Part-animal/part-human hybrid creatures. The slave races of Amyrantha. There are a number of different subspecies, the most common being the canine, feline and amphibious races.

The Chaos Crystal

She's talking about ME

The final book in the Tide Lords quartet by Jennifer Fallon is nearly out! The Chaos Crystal hits shelves in early December … you ccould win an advance copy by taking part in the competition at www.voyageronline.com.au

Visit Jennifer Fallon’s website.

Fallon Friday: Making War Not Peace

Conflict, as any writer worth their salt will tell you — regardless if you’re writing a romance or an action thriller— is the key to an engaging story.

Wars are conflicts on a grand scale but they must happen for a reason. If there is no logical reason for your war, then your whole world starts to look shaky.

So… let’s look some of the reasons people go to war. Megalomaniacal wizards wanting to dominate the world are convenient archetypes in an ageless ‘good versus evil’ story. Jealous or jilted princesses and ambitious sibling princes vying for a slice of the kingdom also work. But in reality, two more commonplace and far more powerful motivators are:

Resources. (Oil…Iraq…?) Combatants are usually more willing to fight (to acquire or protect) resources necessary to their survival than because some king/prince/wizard is greedy/evil/jilted. Resources can be land, energy (eg oil), trade access (eg harbours), fresh water (eg civil war over the Murray/Darling anyone?), food, building materials, technology, etc. Ideology. Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate and Physicist once said “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people do evil things, that takes religion.” Think about this. For the same reason people will spend lifetimes building monumental structures to gods, they will also go to war to protect their beliefs or increase the number of believers.
There is a fabulous line in the musical Pippin, where Charlemagne tells his son he is “devoted to bringing Christianity to the whole world, even if he has to kill every non-believer to do it.”

So, here are some points to remember when designing conflicts:

Wars, battles, and fights are not the same as one another.
If your entire country believes in a religious ideology promoting pacifism, your people are not going to fight to protect anything. (Think about that for a moment)
Weapons (defensive and offensive) do not evolve in isolation; rather, in evolutionary response to the enemy’s technological capabilities. High tech will not always defeat low tech.
Ensure your hand-to-hand combat scenes make anatomical sense. This is especially true of sword-fights.
Research your weaponry and tactics! If you design new weapons, make certain they make sense.

 

Jennifer Fallon’s latest book is called The Palace of Impossible Dreams. Visit her website for more information at www.jenniferfallon.com