• 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!



The Dictionary of the Tree

Image from the Dictionary

I’ve mentioned it before a few times, but I thought it deserved its own post! Our author of the month Mary Victoria has created an online glossary for her world in the Chronicles of the Tree series. She’s up to ‘S’ so far but there are loads of great entries, with many having beautiful illuminated manuscript images. You should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

 I have no idea if its actually true, but I remember someone telling me in high school at “eskimos have over 100 words for snow” because it its such an important part of their physical and cultural landscape. So thats part of what Mary has done, except obviously her world is centred around living in a tree the size of a continent!

  The ramification of such a specialised world-environment is to give a writer ( and reader ) complete freedom to create an entirely unique culture, which I’ve always found exciting, and Mary’s concepts of Sap, Hardwood, Fringes & Hell are fantastic.

Ever since Tolkien and Herbert ( Dune ) I’ve had a fascination with fantasy glossaries. I’ve always thought they help immerse the reader into the world of the book, by providing back stories and extra info that fleshes out the motivations of the world, and I feel their loss every time there isn’t one. (Its my only legitimate excuse to flip to the end of a book straight away!) Does everyone else love them as much as I do? Do some people not like them and prefer to come up with their own backstories, pronounciations and family trees?
The Chronicles of the Tree

Fallon Friday – Maps: an undiscovered dome of pleasure (Part 2)

We were talking last week about maps and the geography of worldbuilding. Here are a few more questions to consider:

  • How do people communicate over long distances? (A note here about pigeons. Pigeons are called homing pigeons, because that’s what they do. They fly home. You do not take a bird, strap a vital message to its leg, and whisper “take this note to Prince Shagalot who’s somewhere on the road between here and Mount Gullible” in its ear, and expect it to do anything other than look at you blankly. Pigeons, after about six weeks, think wherever they are is home. So, if you want homing pigeons to send regular reports back to your king about how your noble quest is progressing, you’ve got about six weeks to get it done, buster, or you’re screwed.)
  • If you have non-human races, what territory do they consider theirs?
  • What are the penalties for breaching their borders uninvited?
  • How have human activities affected the landscape? (A large city where everyone is cooking over open flames demands a huge amount of firewood or coal. More than likely the land around any city has long been stripped bare of trees.)
  • If you’re not on Earth, how do the differences (more than one moon, brighter sunlight, less sunlight.) affect your world?
  • Does your world have equatorial, temperate, and polar regions?
  • Where is your farmland?
  • What do they grow?
  • What animals do they farm? (If you’re dispatching messages on parchment, you’d better have sheep, because parchment is made from sheepskin. Cotton requires a lot of water. Silk comes from silkworms, which means somewhere, someone is farming them, and purple dye is very hard to make naturally and is therefore very expensive, which is why it tends to be the colour associated with royalty. Purple robed beggars, however colourful you think they might look, are unlikely.)
  • What natural resources do your countries have (e.g. gold, iron ore, gemstones, etc)?
  • Is your terrain consistent with your natural resources (So let’s not be mining the limestone White Cliffs of Grover for gold, hmm…)?
  • What resources are in short supply?
  • What is the consequence of the imbalance of these natural resources between neighbouring countries?

I could go on, and on, and on…I won’t, but I’m sure you get the idea.

So toss your rectangular world map away and think beyond the borders of the three countries you’ve thought up names for. Give your world a convincing look and feel, rather than making it up as you go along to fit the story.

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.

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 — A word about world building and DNA

Fallon Friday back for 2009, with useful advice on how to write, and how not to write, from bestselling author Jennifer Fallon.

The following is a series of questions all people with a God-complex (er… I mean fantasy writers) need to ask themselves before they start creating their worlds.

If you’re halfway through your epic already and you can’t answer most or all of these questions, then I have five important little words for you: back to the drawing board.

The Big questions

  • Is your world Earth-like?
  • If it isn’t Earth-like, how do humans fit in?
  • Are the animals, plants and insects the same as Earth?
  • If they’re not, are they all different, or only some of them?
  • Have they evolved on this world or do they come from somewhere else?
  • If you have creatures not of this world, where do they fit on the food chain?
  • How many sentient races do you have (human, dwarves, elves, etc)?
  • How do the various species interact with one another?
  • Who is the dominant species?

Warning… we are human and we live on a world with a complex eco-system of which we are a part. Look around you. All our animals have 4 legs, all our birds have 2, all our spiders have 8, all our insects have 6. There is a natural symmetry to our world, so before you go patting yourself on the back for your awesome creativity and your six legged horses, or your two legged talking cows, you’d better be damn sure all the other creatures in that classification are built along the same lines.
It’s fine to have a different type of fish, because, it’s well, a fish. We have fish. They fit nicely in the food chain. But a mammalian beast with three eyes, when every other mammal on your world has two (or four – whatever), doesn’t make sense and you’ll pull most readers who’ve managed to make it past the first two years of high school, right out of the story because —unless you’re writing about the Island of Dr Moreau – such a thing is just plain silly.

Bear something else in mind… we are only a few DNA strands away from being cats, ourselves. If you’ve got six legged horses, and six-legged dogs, more than likely, you’re gonna have to start thinking about six-legged humans.

And if you do decide to go the two-legged cow route, be careful the reader doesn’t get so swallowed up in your fabulous detailed descriptions of your yellow-spotted gurglebeast, that they lose sight of the real story.

Bottom line — don’t go messing with the eco-system unless you’re very sure your seven-legged, three-eyed, fire-breathing, giant dust mites, are going to fit naturally into the world.

Jennifer Fallon is the author of thirteen fantasy books, comprising three trilogies (the Demon Child trilogy, the Hythrun Chronicles and the Second Sons trilogy) and one quartet (The Tide Lords series). You can read more from her at her website and blog, or check the Voyager blog on that wonderful day after Thursdays when her Fallon Friday posts go up.

Read the 2008 series of Fallon Friday posts.

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Fallon Friday: Implausable Trinity Syndrome

It’s scary how many writers submit works that involve worlds (countries/alien hives/etc) consisting of millions of citizens ruled by a king, his trusty scribe and a competent general (who often wears black, and comes in two versions – with or without a conscience – depending on whether or not you need him to betray the king at a later date).

I have dubbed this the Implausible Trinity Syndrome.

To test if your world suffers from Implausible Trinity Syndrome, see if you can answer these questions about your world…

How is it governed?

  • Chiefdom (ruled by, well, a chief)
  • Kingdom (most of the countries on Amyrantha)
  • Republic (usually has elected Head of State)
  • Dictator (Julius Caesar’s title was Dictator for Life, but there’s plenty of others)
  • Democracy (Start in ancient Greece and work your way forward if you want an example)
  • Religious (Second Sons, The Vatican)
  • Communism (eg, South Pacific island villagers, Israeli kibbutz, USSR)
  • Military (eg Captain Sheridan on Babylon 5 was the military governor. Deep
  • Space Nine is another example of military rule.)
  • Genetic Hegemony (eg Sonny Whitelaw’s Stargate SG-1: The Chosen)

Who actually does the work?

  • Who makes the laws?
  • Who enforces them?
  • How do your laws differ to those of another country/planet?
  • What happens at the borders?
  • How is the bureaucracy structured?
  • Who controls transport?
  • Who controls industry? Guilds?
  • Who provides public works (eg, do Trolls control bridges)?
  • Public health (epidemics)?
  • Private medical care (doctors, dentists)?
  • What’s the education system? Who are entitled?
  • Who controls land use?
  • Who owns land?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. So take a look at your world.
Check if it you’re suffering from the Implausible Trinity Syndrome and fix it.

Jennifer Fallon is the author of 12 published fantasy novel, with number 13 set to come out this Christmas. Visit her website for more information at www.jenniferfallon.com

Fallon Friday: World Building – Does your work suffer from Postcard-Pretty City Syndrome?

What’s the biggest difference between real cities and the cities of the future (or alien worlds, fantasy worlds) particularly on TV or in the movies?

Is it the architecture? Is it the liberal use of stainless steel? Is it the number of pointy buildings? The flying cars? The level of technology?

No … when you think about it, the biggest difference is this…

CGI cities are finished. There are no cranes or scaffolding or traffic being diverted to fix the roads or carve out another lane on an overcrowded freeway. They are done and dusted. They never add anything, (or at least humans never visit during the construction phase) and they never seem to need fixing.
Real cities, on the other hand, are a work in progress. They grow and expand and are rebuilt over and over (London, anyone?) and the process never seems to stop.

If a city isn’t growing then, arguably, the population is stable, everyone is thrilled to bits with what their ancestors built and nobody feels the need to add to it or change anything. Innovation must be dead, too, because they don’t need to build any new factories to cater for new inventions or technologies. Nobody must be creating anything for that matter, because they don’t need to expand their art galleries or libraries or even add another piece of sculpture to a park…

Because, once something is finished… well, that’s the end, isn’t it?

Hmmm… you know, there’s a story in there…

Jennifer Fallon’s latest book, The Gods of Amyrantha is available in all good book shops.

Visit Jennifer’s website and read her blog.