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My great big new fantasy novel

Publishing a new book is always a cause for celebration, and especially for this one.

Queen of the Deep by Kay KenyonQueen of the Deep is a book that was seven years in the writing, and seeing it in print is quite a thrill; I believe it’s the first time that I’ve laughed with pleasure on seeing one of my books. Today I’m reflecting on the long journey it made from the first kernel of an idea to a 348 page novel.

Beginnings

I sat on this very couch seven winters ago and wondered where my story would take place. For me, a story usually begins with place, because of the allure I find in world building. I love stories set in an intriguing world, a wondrous, even numinous, locale. But where would I go next? Then I imagined an ocean, and a great ocean liner like the Queen Mary. Or you know, the one that sank.

I began to explore the Palazzo, a palace of a ship . . . on an alien ocean . . . with a theatrical cast of characters conjured from the mind of a child raised in Minnesota who had to play in the basement when there was too much snow. . . That would be Janet Zabrinski, later the aspiring actress Jane Gray, or possibly a SF writer who almost became an actress.

Wandering

This was actually my first fantasy novel, after ten science fiction books. With Queen, I was testing the waters of fantasy, seeing where I could take an untraditional story with magic at its core. Some of you may remember me reading from this novel at cons past. Yes, I was testing it out! I listened to feedback, and I kept shaping the story. Months became years as I turned my attention to other projects, always circling back to Queen with fresh insights. When I finally finished the story, I looked around to find that the publishing world was undergoing a profound change.

Indie publishing looked like it had a place in the changing ecology of publishing. Traditional publishing was still a force of nature–but other life forms clearly existed and were thriving. Certainly the economics of indie publishing were intriguing to me. But would readers find my new novel if I put it out there myself? I decided to experiment with this novel. But how do you even begin?

Heroics and Helpers

You begin by vowing to learn how indie publishing works. You tiptoe into the new landscape and see what others are doing. You keep your eyes wide open, knowing that nobody knows where this new wild west of publishing will end up. No guarantees. But then, were there ever?

Despite all the talk about eBooks, e-retailing and book discovery, I was a rank beginner. No longer, I must say! But I did rely on fellow authors for outright favors and pointing the way. They recommended stuff, critiqued covers, proofread, and answered endless questions about things like keywords, pricing, ISBNs and marketing. Thank you, Trish McCallan! And Sharon Shinn, David Marusek, Amy Atwell, Terry Persun, Jim Thomsen, Leeann Smith, Elaine DeCostanzo, and Mike Resnick. And Frauke Spaneth, for my gorgeous cover. Thanks for believing in me and helping this book go out on its journey into the world!

Celebration

So, today I’m celebrating. The book is available in trade paper and, for a limited time, an exclusive Kindle edition. Raise a toast! To um. . . well, how about to Jane Gray, who started out as make-believe and became real in fiction, and who learned about love, perseverance and the stars?

For more details, including story description, please click here.

Best to you all. And happy reading, whatever the books may be!

–Kay

PS: the Write on the River Conference in Wenatchee on May 15, 16 and 17 will have several sessions on indie publishing. Watch for the line up here. Registration opens January 20 for members, February 1 for nonmembers. Agent Editor appointments available!

 

Character Through Line

Sam Gamgee

Sean Astin as Sam Gamgee.

Can you describe your character’s essence or their raison d’etre, in a short phrase? How about Sam Gamgee’s “Some things are worth fighting for.” Or Scarlett O’Hara’s “I’ll never be hungry again!”

Often we think of our characters as being so complex we need a whole novel to flesh them out. And we probably do. But what do they want above all else? What limitation do they always fear and fight against? What gives their lives meaning, in their own Gone with the windestimation? Can’t such things be stated simply? We’ve always been told to know these things about our characters, but the dictum proved most valuable for me when I turned it into dialogue.

Although it does take many pages to bring these fears and aspirations to light in a novel, the author must know them more directly. For this reason, it may be helpful if a writer creates a visceral handle for central characters, to keep their through line clearly in view. Something the character would say.

Recently I tried boiling down my words to one phrase for each of eleven characters in my paranormal novel of the interwar years in England. I was surprised at how quickly the essence of each important character came to me.

Here was the product of that exercise:
Kim (protagonist): For the innocent.
Julian: Never again.
Martin (a teenager): I always screw up.
Antagonist: Revenge is sweet.
Rose: I have my part.
Gustaw: Fight them in the shadows.
Owen: We will out think them.
Lloyd: I got screwed.
The spymaster: My hands are tied.
Elsa: Appearances deceive.
Walter: I’ve got your back.

I keep coming back to these lines and relying on their wisdom and clarity. Now I just have to write these characters onto the page!

I think it works best not to labor over it, just write quickly and see if your subconscious “knows” these people. You may find that there is a sentence, a defining line of dialogue, that you can imagine them saying with passion and even heart-breaking honesty.

 

Kay’s Best SF/F/H Reads of 2014

Categories: Musings |

Here’s my list. The SF/F/H books I enjoyed the most out of the–um, hundreds?–of books I read this year! Not all published in 2014.

completely fine

 

We Are All Completely Fine. Daryl Gregory. Delicious horror, carried off with such a deft touch, all you can say is, “Well, damn. I’m yours.” A completely spooky and believable  story,  both deeply human and gorgeously entertaining.. Gregory defies description. Just read it.

 

 

 

 

Leviathan

 

Leviathan. Scott Westerfeld. Highly entertaining and satisfyingly intricate, even though for a YA audience. Highly imaginative, gorgeous steam-punky milieu, World War I historical setting, and fun characters set this one very much apart from the pack.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Isles

 

The Summer Isles. Ian McLeod. Gorgeously written World War I alternate history novel. Dark and elegiac in tone, it sweeps you into the claustrophobic reality of a gay protagonist in a dystopian world. Must read more by this author!

 

 

 

 

 

bloody red baron

 

Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron. Kim Newman. Smart, original, and fast paced  story that positions vampires in a unique manner: neither an alienated creature nor monster, but a vampire as an alternative, ambiguous human. And in World War 1, no less. Intriguing read.

 

 

 

I admit I was on a World War I tour of the literature this year. For a great read on the World War I you never understood, read:

to end all wars

 

To End All Wars. Adam Hochschild. Brilliantly delivered summation of what led up to the Great War, and the story of the war told in larger context and that of fascinating individuals. If you aren’t an historian, and wonder about World War I and what it was about, this is the only book you need to read.

 

 

 

Favorite Places of England, 2

There are some trips that you look forward to all your life, and some that end up being unforgettable. This trip was both. After World Science Fiction, my husband, myself, and our friends spent 3 days in Yorkshire, 4 near Oxford and Bath and five days in London. Here are the last few highlights.

The famous Minster in York. Underneath it, in undercroft, Roman soldier artifacts!

The famous Minster in York. Underneath it, in undercroft, Roman soldier artifacts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The standing stones at Avebury, a much larger neolithic site than Stonehenge.

The standing stones at Avebury, a much larger neolithic site than Stonehenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North York Moors, spare and vast and redolent of lavender and Bronte stories.

The North York Moors, spare and vast and redolent of lavender and Bronte stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blenheim Palace. This is the mudroom.

Blenheim Palace. This is the mudroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blenheim was Churchill's birthplace. "We will NEVER surrender!"

Blenheim was Churchill’s birthplace. “We shall NEVER surrender!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulteney Bridge, that spans the Avon River in Bath.

Pulteney Bridge, that spans the Avon River in Bath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Circus (circle) in Bath. Gorgeous townhouses in the Georgian style.

The Circus (circle) in Bath. Gorgeous townhouses in the Georgian style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson's plinth in Trafalgar Square, as tallas  the shipmast of the HMS Victory.

Nelson’s plinth in Trafalgar Square, as tall as the main mast of the HMS Victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the lions at Trafalgar (that went on a rampage in A Thousand Perfect Things!) St Martin's in the Fields church in bkg.

One of the Trafalgar lions (that came alive in A Thousand Perfect Things!) St Martin’s in the Fields church in bkg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on England, please friend me on Facebook and check out photos there.

Favorite places of England

In mid-August, I toured England with my husband and two dear friends. The trip included Worldcon in London, and then off we went for fun and . . . research! My work in progress is a paranormal novel set in England, and  I was excited to really take in and experience  the places I am writing about.

England did not disappoint. As in all travel, we encountered unexpected marvels and mishaps. Trying to get to London from Bath we nearly ended up in Portsmouth, except for the kind intervention of a bunch of rowdy guys sitting in back of us who, when they learned we were heading to London, said “Oh no you’re not!” But not to worry, they worked for the railroad and told us not only where to get off but how to make the right connection, and when. Whew.

Arriving at what I hoped would be the highlight of the trip, the ruined Rievaulx Abbey  on the North York Moors, the gate came down. They were closing! Our schedule did not permit us to drive the long way to come back, but the man kindly let us through, and we had this fabulous ruin to ourselves. The climactic scene of my WIP takes place there, and I would have been heartbroken to have missed it.

Here are some highlights, and more in a future post.

Paddington

Arrival from Heathrow at Paddington Station. Beware, travelers, you need British coin to use the bathrooms!

 

St Pauls at dusk from Blackfriars Bridge.

St Pauls at dusk from Blackfriars Bridge.

 

The Thames from the Arab Emirates gondola.

The Thames from the upper walkway of the Tower Bridge.

Machine Room at Tower Bridge with Victorian apparati to raise the bridge.

At Tower of London, poppies memorializing the fallen in World War 1.

At Tower of London, poppies memorializing each of the fallen from the Great War.

The unearthly and wonderful Rievaulx Abbey on the North York Moors. A Cistercian Abbey so far from towns that it is preserved so much better than most. A haunting, fabulous place.

The fabulous Rievaulx Abbey on the North York Moors. A Cistercian Abbey so far from towns that it is preserved much better than most. A haunting, numinous place.