Prime Writing — Bliss Bennet

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Rebel Without a Rogue

One of the most often-asked questions of a writer is “where do you get your ideas?” Sometimes, it’s from a life experience. Sometimes, something as simple as an image can set off the whole spark for a novel. Bliss Bennet is here to tell us how a minor historical footnote inspired her debut novel, A REBEL WITHOUT A ROGUE.

We have got an addition to the family since you were last here, it is a little Girl said to be a daughter of poor Harry’s, it was bro’ very much against my inclinations.John McCracken to his brother Frank, September 1798

It’s amazing how a few short sentences from a primary or secondary research source can prove to be the catalyst for an entire novel. I first came across the lines reprinted above while reading a biography of Irish social reformer and abolitionist Mary Ann McCracken. Though well-known in late 18th and early 19th century Belfast for her progressive social beliefs and her activism on behalf of the indigent and the enslaved, today Mary Ann McCracken is primarily remembered as the younger sister of Henry Joy McCracken, one of the leaders of the northern rebels during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Arrested by the British after the rebels’ failed attempt to seize Antrim in June, “poor Harry” was offered clemency if he testified against other United Irishmen leaders. He refused, and was tried and executed in Belfast on July 17, 1798.

Shortly after her brother’s execution, Mary Ann McCracken was informed that the impetuous Harry had left behind an illegitimate child, and that “his inability to make provision for her had been his only sorrow in his last moments.” Taking the burden of the four-year-old child’s provision into her own hands, the unmarried Mary Ann helped the girl’s Irish mother and family to emigrate to America, then moved the child, whom she called Maria, into her father’s house in Belfast.

What would it have been like, I began to wonder, to have been that child? To have been born the bastard daughter of an Irish peasant, to have lived with a rural Irish Catholic family for the first years of one’s life, and then suddenly to find oneself uprooted and thrust into a genteel city family, one with Scottish roots and Presbyterian beliefs? And, on top of it all, to know that one’s father had been executed as a traitor? As I thought about this “what-if,” the main character of my first historical romance, A Rebel without a Rogue, and her quest to redeem her father’s reputation and win a secure place in her father’s family, was born.

By all accounts, the actual Maria McCracken grew up beloved by her aunt Mary Ann, with whom she lived in Belfast (except for time at a boarding school in Ballycraigy) until her aunt’s death. Even Maria’s own marriage did not separate them; “it was a foregone conclusion that Maria would bring her aunt to the new home,” her biographer writes.

A happy child and adult, though, does not a romantic heroine make. I hope Maria’s descendants will excuse the major liberties I’ve taken in imagining a far different course for the fictionalized characters I’ve loosely based on her life.

Historically-minded readers can find out more about the real Mary Ann McCracken (a far more fascinating woman than I’ve depicted in my novel) in Mary McNeill’s The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken: A Belfast Panorama. Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1960.

Bliss BennetBliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Despite being born and bred in New England, Bliss finds herself fascinated by the history of that country across the pond, particularly the politically volatile period known as the English Regency. Though she’s visited Britain several times, Bliss continues to make her home in New England, along with her husband, daughter, and two monstrously fluffy black cats. Her mild-mannered alter ego, Jackie Horne, blogs at Romance Novels for Feminists (


Kind Words: A UNHCR Fundraiser

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There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.Kurt Vonnegut

The world has become distinctly unkind for a large number of people lately. Neil Gaiman writes about their experience more eloquently than I can. After looking into what it would take to sponsor a refugee here in Canada, and discovering it might be a bit beyond my capabilities right now, I decided to donate directly to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Yet I was still left feeling a little helpless, as though I should be doing more. Then I noticed Kevin Hearne running a fundraiser for UNHCR, and that inspired me to do the same thing. And maybe it’s still not enough, but it’s something, however small. The fabulously generous Camille Griep, Linda Tiernan Kepner, and the Martha’s Vineyard Science Fiction Association, which runs the Viable Paradise writing workshop, have all rallied to the call.

$150 raised so far
So without further ado, here’s the Kind Words UNHCR fundraiser. Please help us help someone who could really use a hand.

With your support, UNHCR will provide assistance such as:

  • Deliver rescue kits containing a thermal blanket, towel, water, high nutrient energy bar, dry clothes and shoes, to every survivor;
  • Set up reception centres where refugees can be registered and receive vital medical care;
  • Provide temporary emergency shelter to especially vulnerable refugees;
  • Help children travelling alone by providing specialist support and care.

How Kind Words works:

  • You make a donation to the UNHCR, in whatever amount you like. The link provided is international, but if you scroll down you’ll find a “Give Through Your National Office” button, which will get you proper tax receipts.
  • You send me a screen cap of the UNHCR acknowledgement e-mail (which looks like the featured image on this post) to kindwords [at] katrinaarcher [dot] com as proof of donation. Please don’t send me your PDF tax receipt, as it will contain personal details. If you also tell me how much you donated, I’ll try to keep a running tally of how the fundraiser’s doing.
  • I enter your name into a draw for one of the prizes below. If you win, I will contact you for shipping details.
  • You do a happy dance when you receive your prize in the mail. A refugee gets a start at a new life outside a war zone.
  • The fundraiser will run until September 26th.

And what, you may ask, are the prizes?

Letter to Zell - Camille GriepOne of two signed copies of Letters to Zell, by Camille Griep.

Everything is going according to story for CeCi (Cinderella), Bianca (Snow White), and Rory (Sleeping Beauty)—until the day that Zell (Rapunzel) decides to leave Grimmland and pursue her life. Now, Zell’s best friends are left to wonder whether their own passions are worth risking their predetermined “happily ever afters,” regardless of the consequences. CeCi wonders whether she should become a professional chef, sharp-tongued and quick-witted Bianca wants to escape an engagement to her platonic friend, and Rory will do anything to make her boorish husband love her. But as Bianca’s wedding approaches, can they escape their fates—and is there enough wine in all of the Realm to help them? In this hilarious modern interpretation of the fairy-tale stories we all know and love, Letters to Zell explores what happens when women abandon the stories they didn’t write for themselves and go completely off script to follow their dreams.

Griep-wsbCoverMED-509x763One of two copies of the anthology Witches, Stitches & Bitches, signed by Camille Griep

A STITCH IN TIME… IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY. Exquisite revenge and knitted doppelgängers; heartbreak and happy endings; unicorns, doomed dogs, and penitent frogs; steampunk fairies, conflicted stepmothers, and baseball—you’ll find it all here. Our literary alchemists weave a spell of fascination, drawing you deeper and deeper, tale by tale, until escape is impossible. But you’ll enjoy every minute of the plunge.  These sixteen deft and delightful stories involving witches, stitches, and bitches run the gamut from darkly disturbing to just plain fun. They will each take you out of the ordinary and into the world of magic, where older, weirder, or merely other rules apply. And just when you think things are all sewn up… some bitch may have a surprise for you.

LindaTiernanKepner-PlantingWalnutsCoverA copy of Planting Walnuts, by Linda Tiernan Kepner

Brannon, ex-Confederation Space Fleet Marine, blacklisted and broke, dodges an arrest warrant by joining an operation that needs money desperately enough to take the worst surveying jobs on the books. The team of Gonderjhee and Company, Surveyors, includes a cheated and bankrupt owner, an elderly office manager, an over-excitable intern, a clinically-depressed alien Fleet Captain, and a staff with a host of formidable handicaps, weaknesses – and strengths. Brannon’s goal is to keep them all alive long enough to pick up his share of the profits. But they aren’t the only ones getting an education out of this adventure.


Untalented-Web-MediumOne of two signed copies of Untalented, by yours truly

Saroya: Untalented, a stain on her family’s honor. Orphaned and barred from the Guilds, she has nowhere to go when her Talent fails to emerge. Loric: Brother-in-law to the king. Thwarted in his ambitions, he’d do anything to usurp the throne. And he finds just the scandal he needs when he unearths Saroya’s hidden pedigree. The Kingdom of Veyle: Where all power flows to the Talented, and where the Guilds and the Order of Adepts control the destinies of Talented and Untalented alike. When calamity strikes the capital city, with Untalents blamed and on trial, Saroya knows that proving her Talent and parentage means saving more than just her own life. A tangle of lies hides secrets that force Saroya to choose between her future and Veyle’s.

VPSwagOne of three writer care packs from the MVSFA, which consist of a Viable Paradise water bottle + pen & pencils, a Viable Paradise messenger bag + pen & pencils, or a Get Writing pack of pen & pencils

If you are a writer or other creative who would like to contribute an item to the prizes, please contact me prior to Sept. 26.

Please repost freely.

Paradise Lost 2015 (AKA PL5)

KatrinaEvents, Workshops, Festivals & ConferencesLeave a Comment


I spent last weekend chumming around with old friends and making new ones at the Paradise Lost Writers Workshop in San Antonio, Texas. It was a weekend both invigorating and exhausting. I don’t think I went to bed before midnight any night there (and had a couple of 2-3AMers too). I got introduced to Cards Against Humanity, toured the Riverwalk, saw the Alamo, bought the most skookum pair of cowboy boots, ate some great Tex-Mex and steak, drank tasty margaritas, and oh, yeah, workshopped my writing.

Pro lecturers Delilah S. Dawson, Chuck Wendig, Robert Bennett and Marko Kloos were all informative and entertaining. We had the largest gathering of VP XII alumni since 2008, in the form of me, Marko, Claire Humphrey, Steve Kopka, Jeff MacFee, Tim Keating, and Julia Reynolds. I read a lot of great stories by up and coming writers in my critique track. If they are any indication of the future of speculative fiction, readers will be in good hands. I got some nice new data points on how I’ve progressed as a writer since Viable Paradise in 2008, as I haven’t been to a workshop since. It was gratifying to learn that I don’t appear to have regressed, and have, in fact, improved in many areas I’ve been working hard at over the years.

All in all a worthwhile trip. Now, to process all this feedback and get on with the writing!


The Alamo


Riverwalk Amphitheatre


Claire sums up the general feeling about PL 5


La Villita


We needed a LARGE table at Mi Tierra


Pools on the Riverwalk



Traipsing Off To Texas

KatrinaEvents, Workshops, Festivals & ConferencesLeave a Comment


I’m winging my way to San Antonio today for the annual Paradise Lost Writers Workshop, where I shall marinate and steep myself in other writers and their work, and hopefully have mine torn apart (in a nice way).

I haven’t been to a workshop since 2008, when I attended Viable Paradise on Martha’s Vineyard. Incidentally, applications for VP are now open, and I highly recommend the experience. Yes, I kind of had a writerly meltdown afterwards, but I learned a ton of stuff that once my mind was able to absorb it, vastly improved my writing.

I found that my first workshop sort of broke me down to build me back up, but it’s where I found my tribe. I’m excited about PL because it will be a mini-reunion of several VP friends I made, and new ones I’ve only met online.

I fully expect to return with a brain of mush. I know I’m not selling it very well, but I’m practically bouncing in my seat in anticipation as I type this.

Creative Ink Festival

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Creative Ink Festival

On Saturday, April 25th, I’ll be attending the Creative Ink Festival‘s one-day sampler event out in Burnaby, BC, a preview of the larger 3-day inaugural event to be held in 2016.

I’ll be on several panels, and will be doing a reading from Untalented as well. I and a host of other local and international authors would be very pleased should you decide to join us.

Complete details about my schedule are on my event calendar and listed in the sidebar.

Hope to see you there!

Blood Moon

KatrinaRandom ThoughtsLeave a Comment

I hadn’t really planned on checking out the blood moon, but my body clock (read, “bladder”) woke me up a half hour before today’s lunar eclipse was supposed to start. I debated trying to get back to sleep but I have the type of brain that would just lie there whispering “you’re practically up, and you’re missing the eclipse”, so I hauled my butt out of bed and wandered downstairs to the big picture window.

Astronomical events are pretty hit and miss here in British Columbia: the recent auroras were a bust because of all the cloud cover. There was partial cloud cover when I first started looking last night, and for a while I thought the sky was telling me “fuggedaboutit”, because even though I could see the reflection of the moon on the cloud tops, the moon itself was obscured. The article I’d read said the eclipse would happen at 3:15 AM, and that it would be one of the fastest lunar eclipses ever, only lasting a few minutes. Which puzzled me, since eclipses are pretty slow occurrences. When the clouds finally sauntered away at around 3:23 AM, I thought I’d missed the main event.

Ironically, the clouds are what kept me looking. As they kept scudding across and filtering the moon’s light, they dulled its brightness enough for me to finally determine that yes, the Earth’s shadow was slowly covering the moon’s face, and totality had not been achieved. I guess by “fast”, the article had meant totality, not the full process of the eclipse.

And lo! the sky magically cleared completely, and I got to see my blood moon somewhere around 5 AM. Though I didn’t have my good camera with me, I did remember that on the table behind me there was a perfectly serviceable pair of binoculars I’d just inherited from my in-laws. I’m not sure we got complete totality around here. To my eyes there was always a small bright bead of light visible just near the top edge. But it sure was cool. Sometimes I feel really dorky for losing sleep over this type of thing. And then I lose that sleep and it was all worthwhile.

Happy Blood Moon everyone.


So Long, Douche Ram

KatrinaRandom Thoughts1 Comment

For the last many months (perhaps even a year or more), there’s been an individual, I presume male, who parks his Dodge Ram pickup truck outside a construction site that sits along my route to work. He seems very proud of his truck, to the point where he’s got bumper stickers extolling its “virtues”. He’s also got another sticker on it, which shows a woman bent over and “presenting”, and which makes a misogynistic pun involving the words “Dodge”, “Father”, “Ram” and “Daughter”.

Every morning as I cycle past, there’s been no avoiding these words. Oh, sure, I could take another route to work, but that route would not be along the bike paths, and thus would entail assuming slightly more risk due to less favourable intersection management and more traffic, which, as a cyclist in Vancouver, I try to avoid. So every morning, I would start my day just a little bit grumpy. Because even if I look away, I know the sticker is there, I know what it says, and it’s Just. So. Gross.

It seems the building construction has finally moved past the phase that needed this person’s services, and I haven’t seen the truck in a while. My days are once again beginning without douchery. It’s really nice.

In a minor coincidence, my husband and I recently upgraded our own truck to what we’re affectionately calling a British Bush Tractor.

So I’ll just leave this video here as my final statement.

(Direct link to YouTube in case the embedded version doesn’t load)

The Thing That Scares Me

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(I’ve been mulling this since the New Year and have finally decided to get off my duff and post it. You may have noticed me being “louder” in my social feeds about this subject. This is why.)

I’m a pretty loud person. I can cheer and yell at sports events with the best of them. But one thing that’s been pretty constant since I was a kid is that the more frightened I get, the quieter I get. It’s like my throat closes up so I can’t emit a sound. On my first roller coaster ride at the age of seven, I didn’t emit a peep, because I was too terrified to scream. When I heard an intruder in the house once, I hid under the sheets and couldn’t articulate what was wrong to my partner. And I realized recently that I’ve almost completely stopped talking about climate change.

Because climate change is the thing that scares me the most.

An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006. At the time, global warming was on everybody’s lips. It was an existential threat. The human race was running out of time. We needed solutions, and we needed them yesterday. It’s eight years later, and where are we? The problem itself hasn’t changed or gone away. My country’s planning the extraction of some of the dirtiest carbon-intensive fuels on the planet, and emissions are up, not down, worldwide. And the mainstream media has gone mostly silent on the issue.

Lots of people tell fiction writers not to get “political” on their blogs. That people get upset if you’re too controversial. Well, screw that. Climate change isn’t political. Granted, many of the solutions to it involve politics, but the issue itself, being one of species survival, is bigger than just politics. It’s THE moral issue of our time. If we’re not talking about this, then what is worth talking about?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no green angel. I own a guzzler of a car, heat my home with fossil fuels, use air travel, don’t particularly buy local food, the list goes on. But neither am I the biggest offender, and if we’re going to win this battle, we need to start calling the biggest offenders to account.

By some measures, we only have TWO YEARS to tackle emissions before it’s too late to keep us past the dangerous 2 degree warming target often bandied about.

It’s quite clear that our political leaders and the media have abandoned us on this issue. If that’s the case, the responsibility lies with the rest of us. So I’m not going to be quiet anymore. Because being quiet will get us all, in the near term, a lower quality of life. Quiet plays into the hands of the fossil fuel industry that wants everyone to think business as usual, and lower oil prices are a good thing. Quiet is what this lovely, loud, boisterous and exuberant planet will all too be if we keep going as we are now.

So I’ll be talking about climate change more. Here, on my social media feeds, probably, for the first time ever, to my elected officials. If that costs me readers, at least I’ll know I’ve got my priorities straight.

I do not want my silence to be interpreted as consent. To paraphrase a great poet: I will not go quietly into that good night. None of us should.


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I’ve been sad and a little teary all day. The first thing that came up in my social feed was news of Leonard Nimoy’s passing.

Star Trek was a major Sunday morning family ritual in our house. We didn’t have cable, and it was one of the few science fictional universes I had access to on television (Dr. Who never aired on a channel available to me in Montreal in those days). But the CBC ran Star Trek for years, and no matter how many times I’d seen those syndicated reruns, I always sat rapt in front of the TV on Sundays.

My cousins and I would spend holidays and summer vacations together. We were a 6-kid posse, 2 boys and 4 girls. One of our favourite activities was role playing characters from TV shows: The Six Million Dollar Man, Emergency, Battlestar Galactica. But the one we turned to most often was Star Trek. My eldest cousin always played Kirk, and I, as second eldest, played Spock. Always Spock. Spock was the science officer, the person I aspired to be. So I knew Spock. I was Spock.

I miss Spock.

I never met Leonard Nimoy, but he was and always will be my friend, the one that fired my imagination as a kid. He most definitely contributed to that engineering ring you see on my finger, by inspiring in me a love of science and space. Also, a love of travel and exploration. Star Trek normalized life on a ship, and guess where I live now?

Go boldly across that final frontier, Mr. Nimoy, and thank you for the wonderful memories.