A Bubble in the Gastronomic Space-Time Continuum

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When you move away from a city, you stop being able to keep up with its restaurant scene. But after we left Montréal for Vancouver in the early nineties, on a return trip, one of our friends brought us to YoYo Restaurant, a French cuisine establishment at 4720 Marquette.

We liked it so much, and had such a great time, that on subsequent visits, time permitting, we’d try to eat there. I think we wound up going three or four times over the years.

Family visits back east are always whirlwind tours, and I often don’t let friends know I’m coming because of the family commitments. We went back this past weekend to celebrate my grand-mère’s 100th (!!) birthday, and the cascading series of family engagements threatened to preclude any other nights out. But I carved out an evening, only to discover YoYo’s had closed four years ago.

So I put out a call on Facebook for eats suggestions, and got many great ones. The problem: many, many Montréal eateries are closed on Sunday nights, our one free night. One, however, was not: Maison Publique, located on … Rue Marquette. 4720 Marquette, to be precise.

The food was great. We went with the original friends who’d turned us on to Yoyo’s. The only blip in the evening was that as a tapas place, the dishes came up randomly, which meant that the person in our party with severe dietary restrictions wound up watching the rest of us eat for much of the evening, as their dish came last. But aside from that, we had a lovely time with delicious food. I even ran into a former colleague. The circular coincidences were on their way to becoming uncountable.

I am forced to conclude that 4720 Rue Marquette is a fixed point in gastronomic space-time. Next time I go I’ll be on the lookout for the foodie TARDIS.

Creative Ink Festival Wrap-up

KatrinaEvents, Workshops, Festivals & Conferences, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Creative Ink Fest is fading into the past, but my memories of it aren’t.

This was my most packed conference as a pro writer. I did four panels (including my first as a moderator), a reading, a signing, and Blue Pencil critiquing sessions for four writers.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced writing conference with quality panelists and presentations, then you should consider this one for next year. Sandra Wickham ran an exceptionally smooth weekend, the volunteers were lovely, and the venue was also great.

I had the opportunity to meet several online writer friends in person for the first time, which is always a blast, reconnect with old ones, and consume too many libations.

Creative Ink Festival 2016: an all-round good time.

(The giggling fit that resulted from this photo also garnered me and my friend Claire the most epic side-eye from a Canadian SF icon)

Ennui, or, The Unspeakable Horrors of the Literary Life

Ennui, or, The Unspeakable Horrors of the Literary Life

Stop Mocking Tiny Homes

KatrinaOpining, Random Thoughts2 Comments

This is a tiny rant.

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of mocking of tiny homes, across my Twitter feed and the blogs I read (BTW, you can play Chuck’s drinking game and get quite soused just by reading what’s coming next. See score below). I think it’s because of the Tiny House Hunters show (which I don’t watch). The general slant is that tiny house hunters are all crazy, and they are damaging their families and relationships by choosing the lifestyle. To be fair, the initial criticism and hilarity is aimed more at the show, and the naïve reactions of people who are looking for these kinds of homes. But some of the mockers on Twitter call the people who attempt this lifestyle idiots and nut jobs.

Ok then, I’m an idiot and a nut job. I live here. Admittedly, it’s not a tiny home, it’s a boat. It’s 46′ by 12’10” (at its widest). Due to the shape of the boat and the amount it tapers, I guesstimate it’s ~400 sq. ft. of living space.

I live in this space with my spouse and two pets. No children. And yes, when I first started looking at boats as a possible home, I reacted exactly like the people described on the show. But I have been living in my boat since 2000. In the six years prior to that, I lived in an even smaller boat, for a grand total of 22 years of tiny space living.

I don’t feel particularly maladjusted. My marriage is intact. I don’t smell. I don’t run around other people’s homes with my arms starfished wide singing odes to how much room they have. I’ve had multiple opportunities over the years, and the financial means, to abandon this lifestyle, and have actively chosen to stay in it (full disclosure: since 2007, I also own a rural cottage at which I spend a couple of weekends a month). Will I always want to do it? Probably not. But for now, it works, and it works well, for my family.

We initially chose to live aboard because Vancouver’s pricey real estate market would have forced us into the ‘burbs and a long commute. The rental market in Vancouver is also extremely unfriendly to pets, and owning let us get around that restriction. We also have plans to go offshore sailing, and this is the boat we’d do it in.

I have a 15 minute bicycle commute to work. I walk to complete most of my errands. I use less water than the average Vancouver resident, and less energy, so my carbon footprint is better (with the exception of heat, which unfortunately is still fossil fuel for us, but we’re working on that). I have cable and high speed internet, and lack for nothing except, perhaps, for a bathtub and dishwasher (but hey! less water, remember?).

I live in a marina where multiple families with children of all ages also dwell. In my experience, kids raised on boats tend to be well adjusted, care for their environment, are extremely community-minded, and are less prone to fall for the worst of the consumerist bullshit out there.

So I’m asking the mockers: why this need to tear people down because they want to downsize? The response is: “Oh, we’re not mocking you, we’re mocking the hipsters.” But why snicker at people who are simply trying something different on for size (see what I did there)? It may not be for you, but it just might be perfect for them, after they get over the initial adjustment. All of the critiques sound super-judgey to me, and that’s what’s getting my goat (the one I don’t need to crop the grass I don’t have to mow).

No, it’s not a lifestyle for everyone. I’ll freely admit that. It’s not perfect, and has its drawbacks (my closet is microscopic). But it’s definitely NOT crazy, or stupid. Especially in a world where we’re encouraged every day to spend more, buy more, told that bigger is better and consume, consume, consume, where McMansions contribute to urban sprawl and our fossil fuel addiction. A world under existential threat because of our unsustainable consumption habits.

From where I sit, it’s the rest of you who don’t quite seem sane.

Drinking Game Score:

  • Regularly bonks head on cockpit hatch or shins on winches
  • Parks boat in front of other friends’ homes
  • Home is a vehicle
  • Toilet is inside the shower
  • No appliances
  • 2 pets
  • Dog is horrified by the actual act of sailing
  • Awkward bed in/out clambering arrangements
  • Can’t sit up in bed without hitting head
  • No privacy
  • I mentioned hipsters?
  • Mentioned downsizing
  • Got sanctimonious about the environment
  • Traveled because of home
  • Teeny-weeny closets
  • I have a cottage

Goes off to mix 17 drinks, because that recipe sounds really yummy.

The Tree of Souls: Launch Day!

KatrinaThe Tree of SoulsLeave a Comment

The Tree Of Souls

It’s that most exciting and nerve-wracking day for an author: launch day!

The Tree of Souls is now available online at your favourite bookstore, in trade paperback, and ebook formats. Order it from Amazon, or check the book page for alternate and international stores.

A murky past. A forbidden love. A deathly power.

When the river spits Umbra onto its bank, naked and shivering, the only clue to her identity is the arcane brand seared into her skin. A brand hunted by both a murderous necromancer and a handsome stranger. A brand that thrusts Umbra into a simmering conflict between the ascendant Clans and the nomadic Gherza. A brand that may make her the key to averting all-out war.

The Tree of Souls weaves an intimate tale of dark sorcery, doomed love, and implacable revenge, amid an age-old clash of nations, with all the souls of the living hanging in the balance.

There were times that I thought this story might never make it out into the great wide world, so I’m thrilled to see it finally spread its wings. And especially happy about the reception it’s getting from early readers.

As I’m an independent author, I appreciate all the word of mouth I can get. So tell your friends! Write reviews! Post pics of your copy!

And maybe plant a tree. The world needs more trees to shade our souls.

A Special Thank You

KatrinaNews, The Tree of SoulsLeave a Comment

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The Tree of Souls launches on May 1 (4 days!), and as part of the launch festivities I want to thank my newsletter subscribers. I’ll be giving away a free ebook of your choice (either Untalented or The Tree of Souls, you pick!) to one confirmed subscriber to the KatTales newsletter. All active subscribers as of 6 PM Pacific on May 15, 2016 will be entered into the random draw, and I’ll announce the winner in the May mailing. Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

(No purchase necessary. Etc.)

The Spirit Lives On

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By the time I found out Spirit of the West would be performing their final concerts, it was too late to get tickets. I’m sad that this quintessential west coast band will no longer be performing live, but it’s totally understandable given the band’s health issues.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone whirling and stomping around a dance floor to Home For A Rest. It was a must-play at my wedding. When I’m traveling internationally and wind up at a dance venue, I like to test the DJs by requesting this song. Ninety percent of the time, they don’t have it, but if they do, that’s when the party really starts.

I’m getting old enough that it’s hard to find the leg stamina to do this song justice, but if you ever want to see someone whip around a dance floor doing a really brutal imitation of a jig (because really, what do I know about jigs?), just play this song when I’m around. It’s pretty much the most free I ever get on a dance floor.

I’ll miss you SOTW. But you’re on my Happy Music playlist, so the Spirit lives on.

(If you don’t see an embedded YouTube video above, here’s Home For A Rest)

Newsy Tidbits

KatrinaNews, The Tree of SoulsLeave a Comment

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There’s lots of stuff going on leading up to The Tree of Souls launch, so here’a s quick round-up:

  • I’m running 3 (yes THREE!) LibraryThing giveaways, one each for the Kindle, ePub and paperback editions. If you’re a LibraryThing member, head on over to this link and search for “The Tree of Souls“. Make sure you pick the giveaway for the format you want. Giveaway ends April 15.
  • The Tree of Souls is still up on NetGalley if you’d like a review copy, but only until the end of this month.
  • I have a BookBub profile you can follow to stay on top of new releases and deals.
  • Thank you to everyone who made last month’s Tree of Souls Goodreads giveaway my most successful ever. Did you miss it? Not to worry, I’ve got another one running until April 18th! Click on the widget below to enter.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Tree of Souls by Katrina Archer

The Tree of Souls

by Katrina Archer

Giveaway ends April 18, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

My Murdered Darling — “The Crazy Flirty Lady” by Curtis C. Chen

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WaypointKangarooI’ve roadtripped with Curtis Chen, so can vouch for the fact that he knows all about the tensions of long voyages in small confined spaces with questionable travel companions. Here Curtis tells us who walked the plank in one of the many drafts of his debut novel, WAYPOINT KANGAROO.


One of the many things I love about writing genre fiction is playing with the tropes of a particular story type. But sometimes you have to make a tough choice: do you “lean in” to an expected trope, or do you work to subvert a cliché?

When I started writing my novel Waypoint Kangaroo, I knew I wanted to set most of the story aboard a cruise spaceship traveling from Earth to Mars. I also wanted the main threat to be the runaway ship crashing into Mars–a planet which, in this future, has close to twenty million permanent residents. (Speaking of kinetic projectiles, check out Charles Stross’ “Towards a taxonomy of cliches in Space Opera” blog post for additional trope awareness.)

There is, of course, a long tradition of adventures in which a motley group is thrown together by disaster. In this case, since we’re talking about a cruise ship, the obvious comparison is The Poseidon Adventure–in space! Except that the protagonist here is a trained operative, and there are actual bad guys, so it’s a bit more like Die Hard.

And therein lies the problem: your story can’t be both Die Hard and Poseidon Adventure. Either you focus on the hero’s journey, or you focus on the ordinary people who get swept up by extraordinary circumstances. Maybe the hero runs into a few feisty bystanders, like in Speed, but they’re still just comic relief.

(Aside: we shall never speak of Speed 2: Cruise Control. NEVER. Moving on.)

I knew my story would revolve around Kangaroo, the superpowered secret agent, but the idea of an interplanetary pleasure cruise was too much fun not to play with. I had imagined a propulsion system that could simulate close-to-Earth-normal gravity by accelerating the whole way–speeding up for the first half, then slowing down again to get into Mars orbit. And if you need to stop the engines and turn the ship around at midway, why not allow the passengers time for some fun and games in zero-gravity?

The problem was, Kangaroo wasn’t enjoying this so-called vacation–his handler had ordered him to leave Earth while their department was being audited. So Kangaroo wouldn’t choose to indulge in any of the frivolous activities offered aboard the cruise ship. I had to find ways to force him to experience those moments of wonder.

Enter Laura Ann Monroe.

The Laura Ann character was a “woman of a certain age” who pursued Kangaroo around the cruise ship, thinking he was just another young, unattached, male passenger and looking to score a quick and dirty vacation romance. This amused me because:

  1. It inverted the hoary (and problematic) “Bond girl” trope;
  2. it allowed me to show just how bad Kangaroo was at pretending to be a normal human person on vacation; and
  3. it was literally a cougar chasing a kangaroo y’all.

The problem (pointed out to me by a literary agent I was querying at the time, but that’s another story) was that Laura Ann’s prominence in the middle of the story made her absence at the end all the more conspicuous. The agent’s precise words were:

“The crazy flirty lady drops out of the story with no resolution. She’s such a presence that I thought she was part of the plot.”

That was, as the kids say, my bad.

When shit got real, there simply wasn’t anything for little ol’ Laura Ann to do. She was only a passenger, and didn’t have any particular skills that would help save the ship–certainly nothing that would cause her to continue interacting with Kangaroo. I brainstormed a number of ways to modify the character or convolute the plot to require her presence at the climax (NO PUN INTENDED), but I just couldn’t make it work to my satisfaction (AGAIN, NO PUN INTENDED, GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER).

Ms. Monroe had to go. And I had to find other ways to drive Kangaroo to those same story beats.

It took a lot of rewriting, but I did find ways to hit most of the thematic targets above using other characters and situations. In fact, during later rewrites, I got pretty good at hollowing out and refilling individual sequences: the plot framework was already set (and pretty finely calibrated), so each scene had to start and end in roughly the same place, but the actions and emotional beats therein often needed extensive rewiring. I did lose a great slapstick bit involving a hundred-pound concrete ball in zero-gee, but overall I believe the story works better now. It’s more Die Hard than Poseidon Adventure by design. And only a little bit like Fifth Element.

But that wasn’t even the biggest revision I made! I later rewrote the entire second half of the book based on three words my editor said to me–but explaining that would get us into serious spoiler territory. If you want to hear about that whole thing, read Waypoint Kangaroo first, then ask me in person later.


CurtisCChen800Once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, CURTIS C. CHEN now writes speculative fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO, a science fiction spy thriller, is forthcoming from Thomas Dunne Books on June 21st, 2016. Curtis’ short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, the Baen anthology Mission: Tomorrow, and The 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide. He is a graduate of the Clarion West and Viable Paradise writers’ workshops. You can find Curtis at Puzzled Pint Portland on the second Tuesday of every month. Visit him online at: http://curtiscchen.com.