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Writing in the Sun

Me and Larry Brooks at last year's conference chatting with a writer on her project.

Me and Larry Brooks at last year’s conference chatting with a writer on her project.

Wotr LogoThe Write on the River conference is now open for registration! Join us in sunny Eastern Washington wine country on the banks of the Columbia River. We’re a small, boutique conference with major presenters, a full range of topics and with time to chat.

Friday-Sunday, May 15, 16 and 17, Wenatchee WA

You’ve been to writing workshops andconferences (please say you have!) and you know how workshops with published authors and impassioned teachers can inspire and impact your writing life. If not–find one! Writing conferences abound, and there’s one near you.

Bill Headshot

William Kenower is the Editor-in-Chief of “Author” magazine, an online magazine for writers and dedicated readers.  He hosts the online radio program Author2Author, discussing the books we write and the lives we lead. He will teach Sunday’s master class on fiction.




GNine photoGenevieve Nine, with  Andrea Hurst Literary Management is looking to represent authors who weave layered tales with well-developed characters. Fiction: middle grade, YA, new adult, adult. Nonfiction: food memoir, travel memoir.




Jim Lynch

Celebrated fiction writer Jim Lynch shares the insights and tips he wishes he’d been told before he began the odyssey, so long ago, to learn how to write and publish fiction. He is the author of three award-winning novels set in the Northwest.





Louise Marley is the award-winning author of eighteen novels of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. She will present Fiction Primer: an introduction to the elements of fiction, and will join William Kenower for a special Friday evening event, critiquing first pages.





ElenaHeadshotElena Hartwell’s plays have been produced in the US, UK and Canada. She’ll present the workshop Write Dialogue like a Playwright. Watch for exciting details of free  tickets to her new play being produced at Wenatchee Valley College on conference weekend!






Andy Dappen’s articles have appeared in such venues as National Geographic, Adventure, and USA Today. He will present the do’s and don’ts of getting short nonfiction published.





publicity photo (819x1024) (512x640) (2)

Trish McCallan has been making a full-time living from her writing since January, 2012. She is published by Amazon Publishing’s Montlake Romance imprint, and also self-publishes. She will demystify the publishing world with an introductory class, and will share marketing secrets in a special panel with R.S. Gompertz and me.



Agent and editor appointments, navigating amazon, writing the middle grade novel, poetry, memoir, the nonfiction book and a class on “fearless writing,” an extra session with William Kenower.

JOIN US FOR: A Friday Kick Start to meet the presenters and mix with fellow writers at a lovely venue overlooking the Columbia River.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Write on the River is 10 years old this May! Join us for a Birthday Bash on Saturday evening with an autographing for all conference attendees.

Write on the River Conference information and registration.

The Seeds of Time is back

The Seeds of Time by Kay Kenyon

My debut novel is reissued today with a gorgeous new cover! The Seeds of Time is the story of Clio Finn, paranoid, smart-assed, and maybe doomed. What’s not to love?

Clio is a space pilot on the run from a dystopian and graying Earth toward the only future she ever wanted: the stars. Far across the galaxy, she’s found a lush paradise, with plant life so vital, its seeds could give Earth a second chance, or–as her enemies believe–seal its destruction. But she’s determined to bring her payload home.  Clio Finn’s last Dive. Earth’s last chance.

This time travel story came out in 1997 and was a popular science fiction novel, probably my most popular until until The Entire and The Rose series. Some people say it has my best female protagonist. It leads the way in a roll-out of five of my science fiction books, one every three weeks until mid-April.

In order, watch for:

  • Tropic of Creation
  • Maximum Ice
  • The Braided World
  • Rift

Click to see The Seeds of Time at Amazon and soon, most e-retailers. $3.99.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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. 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.