• 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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Rituals for the Solstice

For thousands of years, the ceremony at mid-winter solstice has been the most important of the yearly festivals. It is a turning point, symbolic of endings and new beginnings. In the southern hemisphere, we go to bed June 21 and experience the longest night of the year. The sun ‘dies’ to be reborn the next morning as it crosses 0 degrees of Cancer.  From then on, the days begin to lengthen and all is renewed.

One way to celebrate this event is to light candles on the eve of June 21st, sit in a circle and throw our old stories into a pot. This is symbolic of letting go of all the things we tell ourselves and each other that no longer serve us. We’ve heard these statements so often they have become patterns of belief: I can’t get paid for doing what I love. All the good ones are taken. I have to work hard to get anywhere. There is never enough . . . Whatever stories we tell that are holding us back, into the pot it goes. Then blow out all the candles and meditate in silence and darkness.

When the candles are relit, music, food and new stories are shared—stories that are full of hope and possibility: There is always enough. My art supports me well. There are more ‘good ones’ available every day . . . And so it begins. Hail to the new sun!

RAM: Clean the house, wash the windows, clear the air, especially with family. Ask: is your home a true reflection of you?

AUROCHS: Start a new course of study, join a community project, get friendly with the written or spoken word. Ask: is there anything you’d like to learn?

TWINS: Indulge yourself in sensuality –baths, long walks, massage, fine food, good vistas. Ask: Do you know the world by touch?

COBRA: This is a new chapter in your life. Open the door to your dreams by showing up! Ask: is your life an accurate reflection of who you want to be?

LION: Commune with your unconscious. Take time to record and reflect on your dreams. Ask: are you deep in the well of your creative heart?

CERES: Friends and likeminded others are a source of inspiration if you’re hanging out with your own kind! Ask: are these birds really of your feathers?

BALENCIA: Your career takes a turn for the better with a chance to take on more responsibility for greater reward. Ask: Do you light up in a smile when you think of your life work?

 SCORPION: Take your mind, body or spirit somewhere it’s never been before—meditate, travel, read, learn. Ask: are you holding yourself back from your real dreams?

ARCHER: Intimacy and intensity is what will like your fire now. Go ahead and take a risk. Ask: are you playing it safe with your emotions?

SEA-GOAT: Partnership is the focus and you will benefit by assessing the relationships in your life. Ask: do you feel free to be who you are?

WATER-BEARER: Putting energy into the body, health and physical wellbeing brings great results! Ask: are you getting enough exercise every day?

FISHES: Creativity springs from a well of romance. Write, play, choreograph, sing, act. Ask: are you allowing for love in your heart.

Kim Falconer’s latest series is Quantum Encryption. Book #1, Path of the Stray, and book #2, Road to the Soul are out now. Book #3, Journey by night is out Sept 1. Currently she’s writing an entirely new series. You can find out more about her at KimFalconer.com.

Image caption:  Rituals around Stonehenge appear speculative fiction including Traci Harding’s Ancient Future and recently in Jennifer Fallon’s The Undivided. Photograph by Richard Nowitz/Corbis

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Interview with a Witch

Image of Kreshkali

Nordinho’s Sophia

I had the chance to catch up with one of my favourite people from the Quantum Enchantment series, Kreshkali Richter. She’s not an easy woman to pin down so I took the opportunity, with her consent, to record our conversation.

KIM Kreshkali, it’s an honour to have you here in my home.

KRESHKALI Not a problem. You checked out.

KIM *clears throat* Many of our readers have asked me about your relationship to the Earth’s underground. In the first three books, you seem to be a loner, yet . . .

KRESHKALI *interrupting* It’s all about illusion. A glamour. To ASSIST, I look like a streetwise whore, scratching out a living on the edge of a ruined city. That’s the mask. After the underground was infiltrated by ASSIST, our leaders were killed. It was up to me. Pecking order, you know? I was next in line.

KIM And you’ve held it together very well indeed. But what about the magic? Did you really learn that on your own? From your mother’s grimoire?

KRESHKALI Not alone. I had Nell with me. Most of the time as kids, we studied together. Then there was the night in the sewer. Things went dark for sometime after that. But between Nell, and my mother’s books, ya, I learned the craft.

KIM And now you teach, of course. Can I ask who’s been your most challenging student?

KRESHKALI *chuckles* That would be Teg.

KIM Can you tell us a bit about him?

KRESHKALI Teg’s a Lupin. You know the term? Of course you do. He’s got wolf DNA merged with his own. A powerful shape-shifter, as all Lupins are, but Teg’s got something else. He’s a brilliant student. Drives me crazy sometimes . . .

KIM Because . . . ?

KRESHKALI *Surprised* If you met him, you wouldn’t have to ask! It’s like there’s no air in the room when he looks my way. Those eyes . . . He’s my apprentice though, so I keep it together.

KIM How do you cope with that?

KRESHKALI We train hard, fight dirty, study, debate, elude, detect and travel the many-worlds at the speed of light. It keeps me focused on the task at hand.

KIM Which is?

KRESHKALI Saving Earth and Gaela, what else?

KIM Ah yes, Gaela. How did you feel when you first woke up there?

KRESHKALI #%^@ing blown away! You can’t appreciate it, because your Earth is still healthy, but for me, waking up to see the sun shine, to see stars overhead at night and not a muddy vault, to drink water fresh from a stream and walk among trees was like opening my eyes for the first time. Fresh air that doesn’t smell like death, rain that doesn’t sting like demon’s piss, people who live and train and practice magic in the open . . . seeing that did it for me. I knew then and there. . .

KIM Knew what, Kali?

KRESHKALI I would do anything to bring Earth back to life.

KIM Beautiful. Thank you. *looks at the wall clock* Do you have time to take some questions from our readers?

KRESHKALI *winks* I thought you knew by now. I’ve got all the time in the world.

There will be a lot more of Kreshkali come September with the release of the third book in Quantum Encryption, Journey by Night.  Meanwhile, you can ask any questions here!

Tweet and the Art of Social Media

'Technology' by Vladimir Moldacsky

 A recent post by Robin Hobb got me wondering about the importance of an online presence. Robin was saying that to get her manuscript delivered, she disconnected from the Internet and wrote. And wrote and wrote.  And for her it was a wonderful experience of immersion, with no little ‘pings’ interrupting the flow.

All good an well for an international bestselling author, but what about those who are just starting out? Can they ignore their online presence? Erik Qualam says no, they can’t. ‘Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate . . .  word of mouth has now become world of mouth.’  Like many others, he urges authors, artists and businesses to get connected online. How much time is ‘enough’ to build an engaging presence? I asked my  Facebook and Twitter friends their opinion on the topic:

 @jolantru Twitter shouldn’t become just a platform for self-promotion. We are real!

@mlvalentine  People are online to engage, not to be barraged with BUY MY BOOK.

@AnonymousAuthor  Please buy my book.

@Angus Robertson Edwardstown . . . it does pay off in the long run. We have generated a lot of interest we wouldn’t have had before.

@roguemystic you don’t need one (online presence) but it’s nice to have so fans know what’s happening and see you as a person not just a (brand)

@Lisa Mayers My marketing/PR/networking time on social media sites adds up to hours every day . .  it’s easy to get distracted here. . .

@Andrew J McKiernan & @Devin Jeyathurai Read this post by Maureen Johnson! (great minds think alike)

@Melanie Hope Greenberg it does take time away from creativity. Yet, I was selected for things that I would not have gotten otherwise through being on Facebook.

@Tani ‘Thunderballs’ Teschendorf I run a boutique, and on average I spend an hour a day. Ps, Shoppe At Blue Attic! ….

@Mary Victoria An hour a day? Two? It depends on whether I’m in ‘new release’ mode . . .

@Bhadrena Rose (I spend) too much x but is a great source for links. Personally I love your availability …

@JodyHedlund it’s not all about us. Rather it’s about socializing—communicating and building relationships with others.

@KimFalconer I find it supportive to connect, otherwise it’s so isolating as a writer. But I also make sure I unplug for my daily writing sessions. #bestofbothworlds

@J_Dalgliesh LOL can’t believe I went offline & missed the convo! Amen re engagement, not barrage! #bestofbothworlds

 If you really want to know what some of us professionals tweet about, listen in on a little conversation between bookseller, author, editor and reader:

 @fangbooks  *snort* it says something about my life that I receive an email titled ‘Die for Me’ and automatically open it

 @KimFalconer  That’s so funny! You probably thought it was from Eric Northman . . .

 5 minutes later . . .

 @KimFalconer  OMGs! Somebody call the sheriff! @Eric_ofArea5 is following me! @timorene

 @timorene phwoar – I wouldn’t mind a bit of Eric …!

 @KimFalconer  me 2 . . .

 @J_Dalgliesh Waiting sucks . . .

What about you? How much time do you spend on social media and why? I would love to hear your views. Comments welcome!

Kim Falconer lives in Byron Bay with two gorgeous black cats. She’s on Facebook, on Twitter and runs not one but two websites: KimFalconer.com and Falcon Astrology.

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.

Creating New Souls by Kim Falconer

Quillian the Were-fey over Timbali Temple, Southern Continent by Aaron Briggs

Quillian the Were-fey over Timbali Temple, Southern Continent by Aaron Briggs

The inspiration for Road to the Soul came like a match strike, lit by my publisher Stephanie Smith in the spring of 2008. I wasn’t looking for ideas at the time or even thinking about new characters. Far from it!

Stephanie and I were going over the ‘proof reader queries’ for The Spell of Rosette, a gruelling process of discussing the copyedit questions. My first novel was nearly ready to print, save for these scribbles and marks still waiting in the margins. We got to page 131, a moment in the story where Rosette stops to collect herself. She sits under a jade statue of a Were-fey, a winged serpent-like creature leaping out of an ‘angry’ sea.

Quillian protecting Tryn from a rogue Lupin, Northern Continent by Aaron Briggs

Quillian protecting Tryn from a rogue Lupin, Northern Continent by Aaron Briggs

Steph asked, ‘Kim, why is the sea angry?’

I said, ‘Because it surrounds the Southern Continent which is  . . .  in trouble.’

‘Really?’ Steph was interested. ‘What kind of trouble?’

‘Big,’ I said to HarperCollins Voyager’s Associate Publisher. ‘Big, big trouble.’

‘I see . . . Will it appear in future books?’ she wanted to know.

Pause . . .

‘Yes.’ I said. ‘It will.’

And that was it. The story of the lost Southern Continent and a magical Were-fey named Quillian had begun.

Archaeopterx the ‘first bird’—a dino with feathers.

Archaeopterx the ‘first bird’—a dino with feathers.

In the end, the Were-fey statue at Treeon Temple wasn’t depicted in a roiling sea, but the story had gotten a foothold and there was no stopping it. The deeper answer to the question—‘Why is the sea angry?’—has turned into the Road to the Soul and one jade Were-fey has come to life in full Technicolor.

Were-fey are amazing creatures and like most of my ideas, they began with a grain of truth. I wanted to portray a sentient, non-human being with a sharp mind, agile body and Shakespearian wit. This Were-fey had to be adept in four elements–land, sea, air, and time. He had to be special, the last of his kind.

The beautiful Bird of Paradise by Tim Laman

The beautiful Bird of Paradise by Tim Laman

My first reference for creating him was Archaeopterx, the Greek name for ‘ancient wing.’ This first ‘bird’ was a sharp toothed, claw-winged, feathered dinosaur that lived in the late Jurassic period, 150 million years ago. I mixed in the Bird of Paradise for a brilliant plumage and the Loon for underwater grace and fishy appetite. Thus was born Quillian, a perpetually hungry, telepathic, highly vocal risk taker, bonded to the young apprentice Tryn and the pivot on which Road to the Soul turns.

I had a very clear picture of Quillian in my mind but it wasn’t until my cover artist, Aaron Briggs, interpreted the depictions that I trusted readers would see him vividly as well. I hope they continue to engage with this character as book two in Quantum Encryption unfolds its epic journey.

Loons and cormorants dive down to 45 metres!

Loons and cormorants dive down to 45 metres!

Speculative fiction is full of ‘made-up’ creatures and environments from Tanith Lee’s Silver, Glenda Larke’s myriapedes, Karen Miller’s Vampire Butterflies and Mary Victoria’s World Tree. What are some of your favourite beings? What makes them so believable? I would love to hear more about it.

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.