• 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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What’s in a Name?

Francois Rabelais in the 16th Century cautioned against reading too much into a title. (A book’s) ‘title is usually received with mocking laughter and jokes. But it’s wrong to be so superficial when you’re weighing men’s work in the balance.’ Good advice, but now day titles sell books. It pays to consider them carefully.

The purpose of the title is to attract, intrigue and compel. It’s the headline, the very first sentence and its job is to hook the reader. It wants to sound good—to roll off the tongue—but not be overly predictable or clichéd. A good title can have double meanings, though it’s best to be careful there. For example, Mouse Work’s 1995 title, ‘Cooking with Pooh’ is questionable. Catchy can work, like Big Boom’s ‘If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs’ but that’s not quite the style speculative fiction readers are after.

Who wouldn't want to cook with ... er ... Pooh?

Who wouldn't want to cook with ... er ... Pooh?

Titles have to fit on the book cover. I’m not sure how Crown got ‘Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam‘ squeezed together with the author, Pope Brock, and a billygoat (I’m serious) but they did. Short titles can be preferable. George Orwell first called his masterpiece The Last Man in Europe until changing it to 1984. Good move.

Apparently there are rules to follow for selecting titles. Some writers ignore them, to their great success: Rule one—don’t use a proper name in the title. (Harry Potter?) Rule two—don’t use words like Bane, Barbarian, Bard, Battle, Book, Chaos, Crown, Crystal. ( Jennifer Fallon’s bestselling The Chaos Crystal?) Rule three—don’t use adjective-noun titles. (Sara Douglass’ bestselling Twisted Citadel?) Rule four—don’t use needless complexity. (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (The bestselling SF by Philip K. Dick!)

Rules aside, there is a website where you can put your title to the test. This program generates the odds a title has of becoming a bestseller. If it’s accurate, my book #4 is going to sell a zillion copies! However The Da Vinci Code shows only a l4.6% chance, so maybe take it with a grain of salt. I didn’t use it in any case, only because I didn’t know about it!

My first two books were named organically, like pets. Book #1, The Spell of Rosette was just ‘Rosette’ for years. She got ‘The Spell’ as the story matured. Book #2, Arrows of Time was named for the narrative structure. It’s based on the theoretical notion that time is fully symmetrical—arrows going both ways and around in circles! I named Strange Attractors before I wrote a word of it. I had to write something in the proposal and the quantum theory concept of ‘strange attractors’—a pattern that appeared chaotic until seen from the right perspective—intrigued me. I didn’t know then how literal it would become!

Has anyone a good ‘title story’ to tell? Is there one that particularly compelled or repulsed? I’d love to hear about it. Comments welcome!

arrows of timeKim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Book 1. She lives in Byron Bay in Australia with two black cats. As well as writing, she runs Falcon Astrology, The second book in the Quantum Enchantment series, Arrows in Time, is out now.

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Fallon Friday: What’s a blurb between friends …

The US edition of The Gods of Amyrantha is due out in a couple of weeks. This is the blurb:

How do you go about killing yourself when you are an immortal? Is it even possible? Jennifer Fallon explores this tantalizing puzzle in The Gods of Amyrantha, the second in her Tide Lords series.

The Tide is turning and the Tide Lords’ powers are returning with it. Cayal, the Immortal Prince, hero of legend, was thought to be only a fictional character.

Cayal sure wishes that he was a piece of fiction—anything that would help him shuffle off this mortal coil. But even though he longs for a final death, things in the world keep pulling him back. Such as Arkady Desean, an expert on the legends of the Tide Lords who has discovered the truth about Cayal…and captured his heart.

Yes, the Tide Lords will walk upon the earth once more and, with the power that surges through the cosmos, stand poised to wreak havoc on all that humans hold dear. Cayal will have to decide if he wants to go on living just a little longer and if he is willing to risk his fellow immortals’ wrath in order to save the world.

I have no idea who penned this, BTW.

This is the Aussie blurb for the same book:

Arkady is exiled to the repressive Torlenian capital, where she makes some unexpected friends and some powerful enemies, all of whom seem bent on using her to wreak vengeance on each other.

Things are not going smoothly for Declan Hawkes, the King’s Spymaster, either, and not just because the Empress of the Five Realms has turned up in Caelum with her family. Jaxyn Aranville is determined to quash any opposition to his plans for the Glaeban throne and Arkady’s husband, the Duke of Lebec, is in his way.

And in the stark deserts of Torlenia, a meeting between two powerful Tide Lords could put to rest eight thousand years of enmity … or not …

Fascinating differences, I thought. I’d be interested in your thoughts about the differences between the two…

Jennifer Fallon lives in Alice Springs, Australia. She is the author of three trilogies: The Demon Child, The Second Sons and The Hythrun Chronicles, as well as the Tide Lord quartet. She is published in the UK, US and in many translations.

Fallon Friday: 10 Things authors should never blog about

I was asked for some advice recently, about authors and blogging, which made me think (never a good thing), and from which I compiled the following list

Never say rude things about your publisher online, even if they are irritating, slow, inefficient, unprofessional and flat-out unbelievable in their dealings with you. Even if every word of your tale of woe is true, they don’t think they are any of those things and they will demonstrate their resentment of your poor opinion of them by dropping you like a hot brick.

Never diss editors. (See Rule 1). Editors may not have the power to kill your writing career yet, but they move on. They move up. They remember.

Never blog about your bowel movements (unless you’re writing a medical blog about IBS symptoms)

Never rant about how much you deserved an award (whether you won it or not). Humble is good. Even if — in your heart of hearts — you believe your work is the greatest literary masterpiece ever committed to paper, it is uncool to say so. Shock, delighted surprise and humility are the best reactions. Fake it, if you have to.

Never identify friends and family without their permission. You can be the biggest publicity-hungry media-whore on Earth if you want, but your friends and family are not you. They deserve their privacy. Blog about them by all means, but do not identify them by name, where they work, link to their Facebook page, advertise where they hang out, or post their cell phone number without their permission. It is the short road to losing friends and pissing off family.

Never blog endlessly about your flatulence problems. Too much information, dude. The same goes for most chronic non-life-threatening conditions. You will get sympathy at the outset for the poor quality of the pedicure that caused your problem, but after a while, blogging every other day about your ongoing battle with the yellow spotty fungus that is discolouring your toenails will turn people off.

Never provide specifics about how much you earn. There are some out there who think authors should talk about their income to get rid of the popular fallacy that all publishing deals are six-figure windfalls that will set you up for life. My approach is more pragmatic. There is a vast difference between an author’s gross income and their net income due to things like currency exchange, tax-deductible expenses (of which I am an awesomecollector), commissions, and a million other little things that go into calculating our earnings. So, do I brag that I grossed a million bucks last year, or explain how I finished up with a taxable income of $127? My solution – neither. We simply will not speak of it again.

Never blog about cleaning the kitty-litter tray. I mean… what’s to say?

Never attack reviewers who didn’t like your work. It’s OK to blog about the reviews, but it’s dangerous to start attacking reviewers. I will point out factual inconsistencies if they exist in reviews of my work, but I’ll do that for the good reviews as well as the bad. If the review is particularly silly, I might also question the credentials of the reviewer.

I believe a reviewer’s credentials are fair game, because when you set yourself up as a critic you are claiming some expertise in that area, so you should be prepared to stand by your opinions and back it up with something, like, you know… a basic command of the English language, for example. But the bottom line is, reviews are just reviews. They will be good and bad. Suck it up.

Never blog personal attacks on other authors. It’s OK not to like another author’s work; it’s not OK to diss the author. I am not a fan of Dan Brown’s books, but I’m sure he’s a very nice person and I am in awe of his storytelling ability, even if I’m not a fan of his writing style. I could (but I won’t) list a score of other writers whose work leaves me cold.

That doesn’t make the authors bad people, it just means I’m not a fan. As some readers have trouble understanding the difference between a person and their work, it’s best not to give them any fodder for their paranoia.

Jennifer Fallon lives in Alice Springs and has more than thirteen fantasy books to her name, she is currently at work on her next series. Her books have been published worldwide, and translated into Russian, German and French. Jennifer regularly updates her blog and her Twitter page.

Fallon Friday: Jennifer Fallon on Getting Published

I want to get published – where are the markets?

Mainstream publishers are publishers who commission work from authors and pay them an advance and/or royalties for published worked sold. They range from the large commercial enterprises, such as HarperCollins to smaller, specialty publishers, such as the Qld University Press.

Publishers have various different banners under which they publish different genres. For example, HarperCollins publishes fiction under their own banner, but publishes Fantasy and Science Fiction under the Voyager imprint and Romance under the Avon Imprint.

It’s vital to know which publisher does what. It is absolutely no use sending your blood and guts horror epic to Mills and Boon, any more than you should send your heart-rending romance to Voyager. They will simply send it back unread and all you get for your efforts is another rejection slip to add to the pile.

Rule 1 – Pick your publisher!!!!

Do your homework.
Check if the publisher to whom you’re sending your MS, is actually publishing the genre you’re writing for.
Check if they accept unsolicited manuscripts (some publishers no longer do).
Find out the name of the editor responsible for the genre you work in, ie the children’s editor, or the romance editor. All you need do is phone the publisher and ask the switch operator.

Some publishing houses only want to see sample chapters and an outline, so you need to find that out before you send the whole MS.

Some publishers will only accept work from agents. Some will only accept unsolicited work assessed by a recognised Manuscript Assessment Service. All of them have their submission requirements on their websites. Check them out before you start ringing editors. A phone call asking for information already provided on a website is liable to promt the reaction: How can this person write, when it’s clear they obviously can’t read!

Rule 2 – Read the guidlines on their website and adhere to them or you will immediately be dismissed as a dimwit who can’t follow simple instructions

Bear in mind that publishers rarely offer a contract to a first time author based on a query letter. They have no proof you can produce the final goods.
Many publishing books say to send a letter first, outlining your idea, but in my experience, editors shy away from unknown authors with bright ideas.

Send the query letter, by all means (along with the first 2 or 3 chapters) but get your MS finished first. And be very careful saying ‘nothing like this has been published before’ because that might be a warning signal that perhaps a demand for your book does not exist.

In the non-fiction area it’s essential that you know what your book does that competing books in the area do not, and what it does better than the existing books. Be aware that in this highly competitive industry there will be competing books and that your publisher will be aware of them.

Jennifer Fallon blogs every
Friday here at the Voyager blog, on matters on writing, books and …
more! She is the author of thirteen bestselling fantasy novels
including the recent  Tide Lords quartet
. You can read more from her at her website and blog.

Fallon Friday: Music that Inspired the Tide Lords

Every time I do an interview, someone invariably asks what inspires me. My rather glib answer is usually: “I am inspired by everything, because that way, everything is tax deductible”. *grin*

In the case of the Tide Lords, however, there are a few other non-deductible of sources of inspiration I can pinpoint, and some of them are songs.

I was reminded of this when I discovered Meat Loaf’s 1977 overwrought Bat Out of Hell album in my iTunes files and found myself singing along with the epic (did Meat Loaf do anything other than epic?) Paradise by the Dashboard Light, which the Amazon staff reviewer refers to as a “breathless nookie-quest”.

Nookie-quests not withstanding, the lyrics from the very end of that rather long and really quite absurd song, always struck a chord with me…

I couldn’t take it any longer, lord I was crazed
And when the feeling came upon me like a tidal wave
I started swearing to my God and on my mother’s grave
That I would love you to the end of time
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!

So now I’m praying for the end of time, to hurry up and arrive
’Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don’t think that I can really survive
I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now
I’m praying for the end of time
It’s all that I can do
Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you

I always thought the idea of being stuck with someone you can’t stand until the end of time because of a thoughtless promise was, besides being quite a scary notion, fodder for a really interesting plot.

As a consequence, much of the series deals with the shifting relationships between my immortals and how they deal with the idea of being stuck with each other until the end of time.

And I’m pretty sure that means my remastered copy of Bat out of Hell is now tax deductible, too:)

Find out more about the Tide Lords series at Jennifer Fallon’s website and read her blog. Jennifer Fallon is the author of thirteen novels published by Voyager plus she writes Stargate tie-ins with Sonny Whitelaw. She’s now at work on her next series.

Fallon Friday – Maps: an undiscovered dome of pleasure (Part 1)

There’s a standing joke among the denigrators of fantasy that says the first rule of world building is that your world must be rectangular, because this fits nicely on a page.

I beg to differ. These days it’s more likely to be the unpublished fantasy that remains caught in the rectangular zone. This isn’t to say there haven’t been some very successful “rectangular world” stories published, but if you’re hoping your publicist (better yet, the critics) will ever use the word “epic” when they describe your world, start by thinking outside the box. Literally.

In my opinion, it should be compulsory for anybody wanting to write fantasy to take a class with NZ author and map-freak, Russell Kirkpatrick. This is a man who describes mapmaking as an “undiscovered dome of pleasure” (which might give you an idea of his passion for the subject, plus a few other insights into his psyche that might not be safe to inquire too closely into … hehe). If you’re planning to create a believable world, you’d better make sure you, geography and meteorology have more than a passing acquaintanceship.

So… here’s another list of questions you should be able to answer off the top of your head:

  • What is the geography of the area where your story is set?
  • How much of your world will the story cover?
  • Are there other countries?
  • Can you name at least four of them off the top of your head? (If you think this is unnecessary, take a look at an old map of Europe and check out how many countries you can cram into a relatively compact – and dare I say almost rectangular – space).
  • What are the most outstanding geographical features of your landscape (tall mountains, large deserts, grassland, etc)?
  • How does this affect the climate?
  • How does the climate affect the landscape?
  • What flora and fauna are indigenous to the area? (There’s no need to go overboard here, but unless you’re writing about Hannibal, you’re not likely to find elephants in high, snowy mountain passes)
  • How does your geography affect travel? (Horses won’t survive in the desert for long; Camels aren’t terribly useful in the snow. Remember, the climate will impact on travel considerably. Winter snows and spring thaws will change the way people move and when they move as rivers freeze or annually flood (think the River Nile).
  • Is your society compatible with your weather patterns? (i.e. does your hero ache to be a member of the Saharan Ice Hockey team? I hope not.)
  • Cities cannot survive without a reliable water supply. Where does your city’s water come from?

More of these riveting questions next week….

Jennifer Fallon’s worldbuilding does the talking – she’s the author of thirteen fantasy novels including the recent  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.

Voyager author Russell Kirkpatrick, mentioned above, did the maps featured in the Tide Lords books. Click here to visit his website.

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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