• 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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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.

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Fallon Friday: Jennifer on Writing a Synopsis

The first question I am asked in almost every writing workshop is: do I need a synopsis?
Yes. You do. Deal with it.
A synopsis is like a road map that tells not only you, but your potential agent and editor that you have thought the story through and actually have some idea how it is going to end. Many new authors are afraid of writing a synopsis for fear of giving away the fantastic twist at the end, or fear that if the reader knows the ending in advance the impact of the story will be lost. Others fear they can’t convey the complexity of their story in one page. The bottom line is, synopses are the lifeblood of publishing and you’d better get used to them. They are unavoidable.

Why the Synopsis is so important

Imagine this:

You have the nod from the editor of Great Big Books R Us Publishing, telling you he loves your work. He has read your full MS and thinks you’re fabulous. All that has to happen now, is the proposal has to go to the “Acquisitions Meeting” a mere formality, he assures you, before an offer is made.
Now, at this meeting, in addition to the Fantasy/SF Editor who loves your book, is the Cooking Editor, the Non-Fiction editor, the Travel Editor, the Teen Horror Editor, the Pre-Teen Fashion Editor, the Post-Apocalytic Romance Editor and so on, all of whom have said exactly the same thing to the author whose work they are also bringing to the meeting.
They have a budget and have to make judgements based on the commercial viability of each work. Not all the books will get through the meeting. They will be judged by the person who knows the work and the rest who will judge it… based solely on a synopsis.
The Cooking Editor is not going to read your fantasy book, anymore than the fantasy editor is going to try every recipe in the cookbook up for consideration. Your synopsis has to be good enough for the Cooking Editor to say “Oh well, you can have your fantasy novel and I’ll pass on my cookbook, because this really is a cracker,” (no pun intended).
OK… so this might be an extreme example, but the point is, without a synopsis, you’re not even going to get to the Acquisitions Meeting, let alone have a chance to impress the cooking editor of Great Big Books R Us Publishing.

Getting to the nitty gritty…

So how do you condense your 200,000 word epic down to half a page? Well, here’s a start – do it like they do it in the movies.
There is a saying in the movie industry: “pitch it to me in 25 words or less”.
This is one of the hardest things you will ever do and yet entire movies can make or break on this 25-word pitch. You should try this with your novel.

Example:
What is Medalon about?
It’s about a girl who discovers she’s destined to kill a god. (12 Words)

Example:
What is the Seconds Sons Trilogy about?
It’s about a boy who discovers his religion is based on a lie so he sets out to bring it down. (21 Words)

Example:
What is Tide Lords about?
It’s about an immortal who wants to die. (8 Words)

Better yet:
“A suicidal immortal” (3 words)

If that doesn’t do it for you, try writing the blurb for the back of your book.
Imagine you’re trying to entice a reader to buy it. Alternatively, imagine you are writing the press release (although this requires the use of lots of adverbs and the words “original”, “groundbreaking” and “in the tradition of” all in one sentence).

The blurb on the back the Australian edition of Wolfblade:

Marla Wolfblade, princess of Hythria, is determined to restore her family to its former power and glory. But Hythria is a fiercely patriarchal society, and Marla knows power may only be gained through a man. Narrowly avoiding an arranged marriage to the King of Fardohnya, she marries Laran, Warlord of Krakandar Province, and gives birth to a son. Damin is named heir to the throne of Hythria by his uncle, the dissolute High Prince.

Settling in to life as the wife of a warlord, Marla believes the future of her family is secured but there are forces in the land that do not want the house of Wolfblade restored. Can Marla protect her son and her family, and stop the conspirators?

121 words.

A good synopsis is about the essence of the story, not the detail. You may have a whole tribe of witty dwarves your hero encounters along the way in his quest, along with a troll, a ghost and an Avon Lady, but the point is, he’s on a quest.

“He meets several interesting characters who aid him in his quest”, is what the publisher wants to know. Anything else should be saved for the book.

Jennifer Fallon’s latest book isThe Palace of Impossible Dreams, book three of the Tide Lords quartet, and it’s out now

You can read more about Jennifer Fallon by going to her blog.

Fallon Friday: Return to Ranadon…

For reasons that will become obvious next year sometime, I am currently re-reading the Second Sons Trilogy (Lion of Senet, Eye of the Labyrinth and Lord of the Shadows).

I haven’t touched this series for years … literally. Between the prequel for the Demon Child series (the Hythrun Chronicles – Wolfblade, Warrior and Warlord) and finishing off the Tide Lords (The Immortal Prince, The Gods of Amyrantha, The Palace of Impossible Dreams and The Chaos Crystal), I’ve not spared the series a thought, unless a fan emails me with a question.

So … what’s it feel like to read through it again? Surprisingly satisfying, I have to say. It’s not perfect (nothing ever is), but it’s the best I could do at the time, and I can live with the results.

I made a promise to myself when I decided to get serious about this writing gig, that I would only write stuff I wanted to read. Stuff I would enjoy. It’s a huge relief to find I am enjoying it. I have sufficient distance now, that I’m not editing in my head, or even remembering what happens next (seriously … I really have put it out of my head).

It’s a little bit like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen for years, and discovering that even though you know them very well, there are the occasional surprising things about them that you’ve forgotten.

As for the reason… no, I’m not writing another series in that world (at least not yet), but I do have to revisit it for an anthology, so there will be something there for fans who nag me incessantly about when I’m going back to Ranadon…

You know, now I think I have a title, too 🙂

Jennifer Fallon

Waiting for The Chaos Crystal to come out? In the mean time, visit Jennifer’s website or the Message Board at Voyager Online.

Fallon Friday: The joys of proofreading …

Ah… the joys of proofreading…

I have just finished the proofread for the UK edition of Warlord. When it turned up in the email a couple of weeks ago, my first thought was:

Oh no. now I have to read it again!!

You might think this an odd statement from the author, but after a while, you really do get to a point where you wonder if you can bear to read your own work another time. Medalon in particular, I have read it so many times I can almost recite it by heart.

· First there were the countless readings during the three years it took me to write it.
· Then there was the rewrites.
· Then the structural edit.
· Then the line edit.
· Then the three typeset proofreads.
· Then it got published and I had to read in book form just to make sure it was real.

And then we sold it to the US. And they had to translate it into “American English” for the hardcover edition. So we had another line edit.

Then another three proofreads.

And then the US publishers sold it to the UK. And they had to translate it back into “English English” for the UK edition. Again with the line edits.

And the multiple proofreads.

And then the US paperback was due out and they wanted another two proofreads (one before and one after the corrections were made)

And then I had to write the prequel series. so I had to read the whole damn series again before I started and at least twice during the writing of Wolfblade, Warrior and Warlord, to make sure I kept the stories straight.

And then HarperCollins says “let’s re-release the Demon Child Trilogy with new covers to match the Hythrun Chronicles!”

“Oh goodie,” says I, like an idiot. “Can I fix a couple of little things?

“No problem,” says my patient and ever-supportive editor. “How many changes did you want to make?”

“Er.438.”

Mind you, they were tiny, niggly little things that have irked me (and only me) since Medalon was first published. They are now fixed and nobody but me will even notice.

Which kinda makes me wonder why I bothered. 🙂


Jennifer Fallon