• 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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Voyager Book Club Chat transcript now up

The Chaos Crystal
On Tuesday 16 December we held our most successful Voyager Book Club yet, with Jennifer Fallon and a host of fans talking about The Chaos Crystal, the fourth and final (for now … ) book in the Tide Lords series. Some people lurked and listened, but lots of others threw questions at their fave author and were rewarded by lots of discussion.

Click here to read the transcript from the chat.

It’s slightly edited to take out some off topic bits and pieces but all the good stuff about the book is there! Jennifer Fallon is keen to do another chat, probably in February, so leave a message on the blog if you’d like to take part.

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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: Why you need a stunning first page

My agent (and my editors), if you can get them to open up after a vino or 3, will admit that most books are rejected on the first page. Not all, mind you, but probably 90% of them. Maybe more.
This irks authors no end, particularly those who believe the work should be judged as a whole, and if that evil agent/editor/whatever had bothered to read on, they would have discovered the brilliant twist in Chapter 27, which makes this book a sure fire bestseller.

Trouble is, nobody is going to pick up a book, open it at Chapter 27 and decide, Wow! This is brilliant!
Potential readers are more likely to open it at the first page while they’re browsing in the bookstore. If you haven’t engaged them by the end of page 1, the chances are good they won’t read on. They certainly aren’t going to plonk good money down on it.

So, what is a good hook…

If only I could tell you. I have written some that are better than others.

“It’s always messy, cleaning up after a murder.”

This is the first line of Wolfblade. I wish I could think up lines like this all the time. It says there is danger. A murder has happened. The reader is plunged straight into the action.

My first book Medalon started with a funeral. Lion of Senet starts with a volcanic eruption and a madman standing on the edge of a cliff.

The Immortal Prince, Book I of the Tide Lords series, starts with the end of the world:

“As the last of the stragglers stumbled into the cave, Krynan looked back over his shoulder at the end of the world, wondering vaguely why he felt nothing.”

A good opening often involves an act or event that lets the reader know something important is going on (Armageddon fits the bill nicely, btw). A funeral, a wedding, a birth, a death, being fired, starting a new job… all of these things are pivotal events that impact on people’s lives. Sometimes, even very ordinariness of the day can be a precursor to something happening, but generally, you need to engage your reader right away, and the more the reader can relate to the event, the better the chance you have of sucking them in.

When it comes to where to start, the most important questions you need to ask yourself, however, are:

“Why am I starting this story today? What happened to my character that makes this day different from yesterday or tomorrow? What event, action, decision, thought, accident or weather condition (there’s no limit here) changed the status quo?”

When you can answer that, you have something to hang your hook on.

Hope that helps.

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: Silly polls – cast your vote now!

The Chaos Crystal

The Chaos Crystal

A few months ago, I put up a poll on my site, asking readers who they thought Arkady would finish up with, in the last book of the Tide Lords series, The Chaos Crystal.

The results are as follows:

Cayal – 41%
Declan – 35%
Both of them – 11%
Neither of them – 6%
A new character we haven’t met yet – 7%

I found this very interesting, because for a long while there, Declan was in the lead. Wonder what he did to change people’s minds?

And what’s with all you kinky people voting for a threesome?

Alas, for those of you who have not yet got hold of your copy of The Chaos Crystal, this poll is of no use to you, whatsoever.

There’s a new poll up now, asking your opinion on the ending.

I love silly polls 🙂

To do list this week: Visit Jennifer Fallon’s website, vote in the new poll, buy the book if you haven’t already or read it if you have!

Read The Chaos Crystal before anyone else gets the chance …

You Know You Want Me

That’s right, Voyager is giving away 5 copies of The Chaos Crystal, book four in the Tide Lords quartet.

You’ll have to login to the website and go to the competition page to enter. The competition ends at midday next Friday, so you’ll have to be quick! You do have to be an Australian resident to enter.

Keep an eye out for the next edition of The Captain’s Log where you’ll have the chance to win the entire set of the Tide Lords quartet … and of course for tomorrow’s Fallon Friday post from Jennifer.

Fallon Friday: Jennifer Fallon talks about redundant modifiers

Getting rid of all those useless, unnecessary and pointless, redundant modifiers.

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between “tight writing” and “wordiness” is (besides the criminal overuse of adverbs), it’s often the use of redundant modifiers.

Tight writing doesn’t waste words. It certainly doesn’t throw all caution to the wind and chuck in extra description where none is needed, just to make up the word count.

Redundant modifiers are words you absolutely, positively think are driving home your point, when in fact they are driving your readers to distraction. They are words or phrases that mean the same thing and deceive you into believing you’re writing descriptively, when in fact you are just filling up your narrative with useless words.

A few examples of redundant modifiers:

  • basic fundamentals
  • consensus of opinion
  • hesitate for a moment
  • actual facts
  • past memories
  • really glad
  • honest truth
  • end result
  • terrible tragedy
  • free gift
  • separate out
  • personal beliefs
  • final outcome
  • start over again
  • symmetrical in form
  • future plans
  • narrow down
  • seldom or ever
  • each and every
  • full and complete
  • first and foremost
  • various and sundry
  • true and accurate
  • questions and problems
  • any and all
  • completely finish
  • future goals
  • each individual
  • anticipate in advance
  • past history
  • ultimate outcome
  • continue on
  • revolve around
  • split apart
  • large in size
  • heavy weight
  • bright in colour
  • period of time
  • short in stature
  • shiny in appearance
  • various differences
  • accurate in alignment
The Chaos Crystal

Extract!

Now… go back and find out how many of these you are guilty of in your writing and get rid of them.
Be strong. You can do this.

Jennifer Fallon’s next book, The Chaos Crystal, comes out in December. Click on the book image to read an excerpt from the prologue and first chapter – but be warned – it contains spoilers if you haven’t read the other three books. Pick up The Immortal Prince to start the quartet.

Fallon Friday: The never-written sequel to the Demon Child trilogy

I have blogged at some length on why there is no sequel yet to the Demon Child trilogy. The links are below and may offer you some insight.


The reasons I write about other worlds and don’t stay in the first world I created is as follows:

I’m not a big fan of never-ending stories set in the same world.

I find them limiting and believe that as a writer, my horizons are much broader than one world or one set of characters (their children, their children’s children, their children’s children’s children… ad nauseum).

Once the story is told, a writer can very quickly grow bored and this is always reflected in the quality of the work. The best analogy I can think of is working in the same office for 20 years. The faces may change over time and you may even give the place a coat of paint every now and then and update the furniture, but essentially, at the end of the day, you’ve still been plugging away at the same job for twenty years…

I love what I do and never want to wake up in the morning thinking… God, do I have<to go back to that world today?

Hats off to writers who can do this (and some have made squillions doing it very successfully), but it’s not my thing. The challenge for me is creating new worlds and new characters. Perhaps I have a short attention span, but once a story is told, I very quickly feel the need to move on.

I have many other stories to tell.

Hundreds … nay thousands of them. Medalon, the countries surrounding it and the people who live there are only one story of many trying to get out. My head will explode if I don’t let the other characters and worlds out to play.

The publishers aren’t all that interested…

Significantly (at least if I want to keep, well, eating), my publishers have shown no raving enthusiasm for any future stories set in this world. (What I mean is – nobody is ringing me with 7 figure offers for a sequel – at least not for this series… hehehe). The Powers That Be are much more interested in the new worlds I have created. This may seem odd, but look at it from their point of view. The six books of the Hythrun Chronicles, although very, very successful, still haven’t done as well as say… the Tide Lords series, which has been a mainstream bestseller and blown all my previous records out of the water.

If you want to change their minds about this, an email campaign that crashes their server might work, but if you do that, I never suggested it, okay? LOL.

I only write stories I’m passionate about

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – although I get regular requests from fans for more stories set in this world, before I visit it again, I’d need to have a story so worth telling it keeps me up at night.
That hasn’t happened yet, so I’ll keep working on the stories that do, and see what happens in the future.

I’m not saying there won’t be a sequel, I’m just saying that all the above factors would have to change and the stars realign significantly for me to plunge into that pool again.

Jennifer Fallon’s next book, The Chaos Crystal, will be out in December. You can read an excerpt of it on her website.