Wednesday, September 14, 2016



I'm honoured to be sharing a Poetic Justice reading on Sunday, September 18, 3 to 5 p.m. with Ottawa poet Henry Beissel. At the age of 87, Beissel is touring western Canada to promote his latest book. www.henrybeissel.com/

Poetic Justice meets on Third Sundays of each month in Boston Pizza's party room, Columbia Square, New Westminster.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Growing Up Weird in Grindrod


(Note: the original version of this article was published in an anniversary issue of the BC Science Fiction and Fantasy Association newsletter,  BCSFAzine)

A confession; long before I had any notion of writing science fiction or fantasy, I was a Fan. Not just a casual reader, but a committed, card-carrying member of International Fandom, represented in North America by the National Fantasy Fan Federation. I learned the secret coded language (BEM- for Bug-Eyed Monster, CON for convention, FEMFEN for female fan) I read subversive magazines like Thrilling Wonder Stories. I received mail from far-off places like Toronto and the East Kootenays, bearing cryptic messages (It is a Proud and Lonely Thing to be a CanFan)


That last sentiment was no mere affectation. There are probably more science fiction writers in Canada in 2016 than there were Canadian readers of SF  in 1950.


To be a fan in Grindrod, BC was more than lonely. It was like living on an asteroid somewhere in deep space.


Grindrod does not appear in Dent’s Canadian School Atlas.  Grimshaw, Alberta is there, and Grimsby, Ontario, and even Grindstone Island, Quebec – but Grindrod BC has somehow been overlooked. It sits at the north end of the North Okanagan Valley, on the banks of the Shuswap River, and you may have driven through it if you were headed for Revelstoke. In 1950 it had a population of about three hundred people, and quite a lot of cows. It was still on a CPR branch line in those days, and if you had a ticket to Grindod the train would hesitate just enough for you to jump off.

It was quiet in Grindrod, but not backward. There was electricity, indoor plumbing and even TV Or to be more precise, there was a TV. It belonged to Art Tomkinson, who ran the general store. Art had also been the first man in Grindrod to own a radio. There was no tv transmitter in the valley, and wouldn’t be for at least ten years, but Art believed in keeping up with technology. Every afternoon he would turn on the set and sit patiently watching the screen. From time to time other people would join him. Eventually, they knew, the Honeymooners would appear. People in Grindrod had spare time, and a touching faith in the future. Personally, I preferred the John Deer Equipment movies at the Farmer’s Hall.

We did have radio, and when conditions were right we could pick up some US signals.This was the golden age of radio theatre. On a good week I could tune into The Adventures of Superman, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Inner Sanctum (my favourite because of the creaking door) Richard Diamond Detective and Mystery Theatre. 

And then there were the comic books—purchased used, in bulk, at the Enderby secondhand store. Superman, Batman, the Marvel Family, Sheena Queen of the Jungle – all of them still around after nearly 70 years. Best of all when you could get it was Tales from the Crypt. Before I was allowed to read any second-hand comics my mother baked them in the oven to kill the polio germs.At some point I discovered the enormous cache of pulp magazines my uncle had left behind in the empty cottage next door to our farmhouse. There, surrounded by cobwebs and peeling mildewed wallpaper, I worked my way methodically through the piles. First, Weird Tales, dating back to the thirties: Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, all the greats. Then Black Mask Detective. Finally, when there was nothing else left, Ranch Romances.Here was everything Grindrod noticeably lacked: high adventure, distant planets, exotic landscapes. Decadence. My appetite was insatiable. My uncle, who ran the grocery store, fed my addiction with coverless copies of Thrilling Wonder Stories  and Startling Stories. I discovered Jack Vance, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, A.E. Van Vogt.
 This was better than Art Tomkinson’s TV, the Armstrong Fall Fair and the John Deer Equipment movie all combined.

Reading the letters in the back pages of Thrilling Wonder Stories was a revelation, Apparently in other far-flung parts of the world like Texas and California and even Washington State, other people were reading these magazines. I might be peculiar but perhaps not, after all, unique. I studied these letters and composed one of my own, carefully emulating their brash, flippant style. I didn’t ask for pen-pals, just commented on some of the stories. But once my letter was published, mail began to arrive. I heard from a soldier in Houston Texas, a struggling writer in Florida. A mathematics buff in the remoter reaches of the Kootenays. In those days before internet scams and facebook trolls, a soldier in Huston probably was a soldier. And lived in Huston. My correspondent  in the Kootenays asked if I was interested in ellipses. I was twelve and hadn’t quite figured out the decimal system yet, and I thought he was talking about eclipses, which must have puzzled him.

I was also contacted by – and became a somewhat bewildered member of – The National Fantasy Fan Federation. The members of this organization were prodigious letter writers. For months I was bombarded with mail from something called the Welcommittee. (I vaguely recall that Marion Zimmer Bradley was somehow involved) The mind boggles to think what these people would have done with e-mail and social media.

And so I discovered, in that uptight era of the Korean War, and the Cold War, and McCarthy, that somewhere out there was a vast network of open-minded, endlessly curious, interesting people, ranging in age from about 10 to abut 85, all of whom seemed perfectly at home in hyperspace and the fourth dimension. It was a world in which age, sex, nationality , religion and politics were totally irrelevant. Their only standard of judgment was whether you read and enjoyed speculative fiction. And a great many of these people wrote it, or tried to write it – even 12 year old girls from Grindrod.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Resource Links review of Sophie, in Shadow




..."The setting of this novel is excellent and the reader will be easily drawn into the foreign sights, smells and tastes of the India of a hundred years ago. Dialogue is sharp and cleverly advances the plot and character development. A strong message about class inequality runs throughout the novel... the ominous news of WWI battles, the horror of the number of dead, and the personal sadness of losing friends to PTSD (or shell shock at it used to be known) set a sombre anti-war mood and will stir the hearts of junior high readers."   -- Jan Alarshall. Resource Links, October 2014:29
Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly  Web 17 Jan. 2016

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Winter's Tale


Before there was Frozen, there was The Snow Queen (Thistledown Press  2004 ) --  now available  as  an e-book


https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/the-snow-queen-8

amazon kindle e-book\


Snowdrifts clung to the window ledges of the Snow Queen's palace. The tall arched panes glittered with a wintry, ice-blue light. The great doors of crystal and silver stood ajar, unguarded; a powdering of snow filmed the milk-white marble tiles of the courtyard within.

No hearthfires burned in those vast, chill rooms -- only the cold and eerie flames of the aurora borealis, blazing down through crystal skylights, flickering across the icy floors. They could hear the faint glassy tinkle of chandeliers, the whistling of the wind down endless, empty halls. There was a kind of music too -- high, keening, crystalline notes infinitely, piercingly sustained, like tones struck on a goblet's rim. The sound was like a knife blade in the base of Gerda's skull.   She clapped her hands over her ears to shut it out.

Nothing had prepared Gerda for a palace so magnificent -- and so utterly devoid of warmth and comfort. No one human could live in this place, she thought.


From a review of The Snow Queen by Denise Dumars:

In her version of The Snow Queen, Eileen Kernaghan takes us to another time and to a place few of us will ever visit: the far northern reaches of Scandinavia, where the glacial ice is blue and the northern lights color the sky in rainbow hues and where the cold is, for many of us, almost unimaginable....

Kernaghan uses the Andersen tale as a starting point for her story and takes it farther. The character only known as 'the robber girl' in Andersen's tale is here called Ritva, and Gerda and Ritva form an uneasy friendship. Ritva, whose relationship with her mother in the Andersen tale can only be described as dysfunctional, is here the unhappy heir to her mother's psychic powers. Meanwhile, Ritva's mother's psychic visions are starting to appear to Ritva, and it is clear that when her mother passes on she will take her place as the tribe's shaman, whether she wants to or not. So when Gerda asks her to help continue her journey and save Kai, she jumps at the chance to get away for a while and have an adventure....

Along the way we see the extraordinary strangeness of the far northern clime, and learn the ways of the Saami people's mysticism. It is this glimpse into a completely alien world contained right here within our own that makes this story so special.


 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Accidental Adventurers: The Heroines of YA



 

 Mix Hart and I will be reading from our YA novels at the Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, on Thursday, October 22, 7 p.m. Admission is free, there'll be a book signing to follow, and everyone is invited.

Queen of the Godforsaken, by Mix Hart.  Thistledown Press, ISBN: 978-1-77187-063-4
Lydia Buckingham is an ice queen. She wasn’t always that way, but after her parents uprooted the family to move to an isolated and rundown farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, she has been forced to adapt this personality in order to survive in rural Saskatchewan. Despite her interest in the local history at Batoche, Lydia finds herself unable to relate to her peers at school or to her surroundings. To top it all off her parents are constantly fighting and abandoning Lydia and her younger sister Victoria for days on end. Soon the sisters have had enough, and they decide to set out alone into the brutal Saskatchewan winter.
 
Sophie, in Shadow,  a story of spies and conspiracies in India under the Raj, was shortlisted for a BC Book Prize and for the  2015 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. 
 
On the long journey back to Gangtok, it came to Sophie that she had been part of a great adventure, a secret mission from a Kipling novel. The mission had been accomplished with no lives lost (or one, perhaps, but happily not one of their own). The hostage was safely rescued. She, Sophie Pritchard, had acquitted herself well.

On one side rode Darius, the dark-eyed scholar with the face of an Indian prince, and on the other, fair-haired Will, the wounded hero. In a different kind of story, Sophie would be the brave, adventurous heroine who by saving the day had earned their respect and admiration. Some surprises might wait for the denouement, but if you turned a few more pages all would be tidily resolved.

Sadly, in the world that Sophie knew, there were no storybook endings.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jeannie and Alexandra: the backstory.




(From Sophie, in Shadow) What a strange friendship they shared, this ill-matched pair: Jeannie Grenville-Smith, with her Scotswoman's steadiness and common sense, doing her best to conform to the claustrophobic rules of this still-Victorian world; and Alexandra, to whom the rules, it seemed, were mere inconveniences, to be ignored altogether if they interfered with her plans.

And yet was Jeannie entirely what she seemed? There were the veiled hints of something strange in Jeannie’s past; and the glances between Jeannie and Alexandra, as though they shared some special knowledge. There was much more about Jean Grenville-Smith that Sophie had yet to learn.

They recognize no limits to their power —What did those words mean to Jeannie, and why did they frighten her so much?

Some of the answers can be found in my earlier novel, Wild Talent: a Novel of the Supernatural. It's the story of the young Jeannie Guthrie (later Grenville-Smith) and Alexandra David Neel, caught up in the occult worlds of London and Paris, twenty-six years before Sophie, in Shadow begins.

“The greatest strength of Wild Talent is its vivid portrayal of the tumultuous times in which Jeannie lives. The drudgery of rural poverty, the decadence of absinthe-soaked artists, the glamour of the Paris world’s fair, and the spiritual debates among London’s occult circles are all handled with skill. When I finished Wild Talent I felt that I’d paid a visit to the late 19th century, that I’d be there with Jeannie right along.” -- Fantasy Literature Net


Wild Talent: a Novel of the Supernatural (Thistledown Press, 2008)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sophie, in Shadow makes the finalist list for the 2015 Sunburst Awards

Excellent news this morning: Sophie, in Shadow is on the shortlist for this year's Sunburst Awards, in the YA category.

2015 Sunburst Awards finalists announced

The Sunburst Award Society has announced the shortlists for the 2015 Sunburst Awards for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, which honours speculative fiction in three categories: adult, young adult and short story.

The five short-listed works in the adult category are:

The Troop by Nick Cutter (Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster)
The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd)
My Real Children by Jo Walton (Tor Books)
Will Starling by Ian Weir (Goose Lane Editions)




Honourable Mentions:

The First Principles of Dreaming by Beth Goobie (Second Story Press)
Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall (ChiZine Publications)
Echopraxia by Peter Watts (Tor Books)

The five short-listed works in the young adult category are:

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (Amulet Books)
Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci (Roaring Brook Press)
A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey (Bloomsbury Press)
Sophie, In Shadow by Eileen Kernaghan (Thistledown Press)
The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet (ChiTeen)



Honourable Mentions:

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong (Doubleday Canada)
Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica (Tor Books)
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (Harper Trophy Canada)


The jurors for the 2015 award are S.M. Beiko, Gerard Collins, Paula Johanson, Corey Redekop and Sherryl Vint.

The winner in each category will receive a cash prize of $1,000 as well as a distinctive Sunburst medallion. 

Winners will be announced in the fall of 2015.



Monday, June 1, 2015


I opened my e-mail this morning to read the announcement of the Long List  for the 2015 Sunburst Awards (Canadian Literature of the Fantastic), and was thrilled to find Sophie, in Shadow on the YA list. 

From the official website: The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a juried award which recognizes exceptional writing in three categories: adult, young adult and short story. The awards are presented each fall to the best Canadian speculative fiction novel, book-length collection, or short story published any time during the previous calendar year.

Named after the first novel by Phyllis Gotlieb (1926–2009), one of the first celebrated writers of contemporary Canadian science fiction, the award is a cash prize of $1,000 for each of the Adult and Young Adult categories. All awards are presented with the distinctive Sunburst medallion. The awards are presented in the fall of each year.
 I'll be reading from Sophie (along with my friend and fellow historical writer Ruth Kozak) at the Vancouver Public Library Main Branch on June 10, 7 p.m.

Monday, April 27, 2015

From Babylon to India


Ruth Kozak and I will be reading from our recent historical novels, Shadow of the Lion and Sophie, in Shadow,  June 10th at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch.





Friday, April 24, 2015

Analogies and Myths


David C. Kopaska Merkel reviews my 2009 poetry collection Tales from the Holograph Woods at Amazon. com. " This is a wonderful book and I think you need to read it. After you do, it will probably stick with you."  From "Wild things":

 


out of the midnight forest
they follow you home like shadow
they live in your walls and rafters
in forgotten backs of cupboards
you know their shapes
but will not name them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

From 49th Shelf: Quick-Hits Strange and Otherworldly " In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sophie, in Shadow is reviewed in the  University of British Columbia's  2015 Ubyssey Book Supplement. "In an endless sea of pale girls peering out from under dark bangs plastered on every book cover in the young adult section of Chapters, Eileen Kernaghan’s newest novel, Sophie, in Shadow, stands out against the masses."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

May 2nd writers' workshop at Port Moody Library



 "Get Published: Explore Your Options"

" Calling all writers: are you working on a manuscript and need some help with editing and query letters? Are you wondering which publication method is best for you? There are so many choices with traditional, self and e-publishing options available."

On Saturday, May 2, bring your questions to the Port Moody Public Library’s interactive event, and take the next step towards becoming a published author.

For more information: 
http://www.thenownews.com/community/library-hosts-events-aimed-at-writers-1.1795746

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Darkness. The air frigid, the sea an infinite expanse of black glass. The sky glittering with stars. Somewhere music — a lively dance tune, ragtime — growing faint with distance as their lifeboat drifted away from the dying ship. The dark, the bitter cold, the sickening awareness of unthinkable loss. The ship’s stern a monstrous finger pointing skyward, its ghostly lights still glimmering beneath the water. The music slow and sombre now, a familiar hymn. And then that terrible rising din of voices.


Sophie woke, shuddering and crying out. She sat up among the tumbled bedclothes, teeth chattering, throat clenched around a hard knot of terror and grief. The dream never changed. How many times was she doomed to relive in every detail the horror of that night?  (Sophie, in Shadow, Thistledown Press, 2014.)

Sophie, in Shadow is shortlisted for a B.C. Book Prizes Sheila A. Egoff award in children's literature.