July Tidbits

KatrinaNews, The Tree of Souls

I’ve had a string of houseguests, so haven’t been very active here. Why do you care? Well, because I forgot to tell you about the Goodreads giveaway of The Tree of Souls running until the 23rd. Get it in time for your summer beach read!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Tree of Souls by Katrina Archer

The Tree of Souls

by Katrina Archer

Giveaway ends July 23, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Also, today I’m guest blogging over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University about sustaining tone in longer works. Head on over there to get some tips.

Cycling Follow-up

KatrinaOpining

It’s been a bit of a crazy month; I’ve had visiting guests and a major writing deadline to hit, so had no chance to follow up on my cycling post, which went locally viral in the Vancouver area (the post is now responsible for about 15% of my total site views since 2006, when I started seriously tracking stats).

I’ve closed comments on that post, but apologize because the old comments are still there, just not visible. There’s a bug with my WordPress theme that I’ll have to sort out before they’ll show up again. I’m not trying to stifle the existing discussion.

I touched enough of a nerve that CBC’s On The Coast asked me in to chat, and did a companion article on CBC News. Two days later, so did CKNW’s Jill Bennett show. Even Reddit got a hold of it. So that was weird, because I didn’t set out to become the poster girl for civil cycling in Vancouver (especially given that sometimes I’m no angel, either). At any rate. Apparently I don’t suck at radio :-)

Some commenters seem to think I was personally advocating licensing with that post. That’s not actually true, although I’m not ready to dismiss some form of registration or licensing out of hand. It was that out of hand dismissal on the part of HUB, without any alternate solutions proposed, or even acknowledgement of an existing issue, that upset me.

Of the top of my head here are some things we could do.

Teach Cycling Road Rules, Etiquette and Safety in High School

I learned to bike from my parents when I was a kid. I learned the basics about road signs. But I learned many more road safety rules from driver’s ed. Many of my friends’ kids aren’t going to take driver’s ed, because our transit and cycling infrastructure is so good. So where are they going to learn about things like shoulder checks (which saved me from hitting a jogger on my bike the other day), less obvious road rules like roundabouts, proper lane position and right of way? I don’t trust parents to teach all these things either; the day after I wrote my post I caught a parent letting their kid ride their bike across the marina pedestrian-only bridge. This person thought the rules didn’t apply to their child because their child was “small”.

More VPD Bike Patrols

I know we have a bike patrol unit. If I see them once a year, I’m doing well. I see cop cars patrolling the roads regularly. I don’t see the cop cyclists.

More Studies With Better Data

ICBC does not track cyclist collisions that do not involve motor vehicles. The BICE study out of UBC looked at hospitalizations involving cyclists, but there’s a strong suspicion that accidents and other incidents between cyclists and pedestrians are underreported. If cycling is a core of the city’s transportation plan, there should be more funding to research these types of incidents, since the number of cyclists on the road will continue to rise, and we’ll see more accidents, but we don’t even know how bad the problem really is. There’s some evidence out of the UK that indicates that even though the absolute number of pedestrians injured by cyclists is lower than by cars (because there are fewer cyclists on the roads), per billion kilometres traveled, cyclists are almost as dangerous to pedestrians as cars.

Mandatory Road Safety Course Upon Citation

If you get a cycling ticket, maybe you should be required to take an online road safety refresher test. The longer you go without taking the test, the more money gets tacked onto your fine. Maybe this should also apply to car drivers.

Some of these ideas are half-baked at best, I’ll admit. But at least they’re ideas, and not outright dismissals. Discussion needs to be had, because my post obviously touched a nerve. And if you touch a nerve, there’s usually a pain point that needs resolving.

My neighbour is on the mend, but still not home. AFAIK, the cyclist who injured him has not been caught. Thanks to everyone for their concern.

Guest Blogging at Fiction University — Format Your Book With Scrivener

KatrinaArticles, Publishing, Tips

Hey there! Today I’ve got a guest post up a Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, all about formatting your book for publication using Scrivener.

So if you’ve found Scrivener too daunting until now, but are even more unsure about design apps like InDesign, head on over there because I’ve got you sorted. With pictures and everything!

A big thank you to Janice for hosting me.

Vancouver Cyclists: We Have A Problem

KatrinaOpining

[Update June 15: I’ve been told by someone who spoke to the victim that the cyclist in this incident intentionally inflicted the injury. The victim told the cyclist to dismount from his bike on the bridge. The cyclist stopped, balanced on his pedals and then thrust his bike at the victim. INTENTIONALLY.]

[Update June 14: I guess I touched a nerve: this post has gotten so popular it briefly took my site down this morning, but we’re back up! Thanks for visiting.]

[Update June 13: Since this post is going ever so slightly locally viral, I’d like to add a plea that if you are the cyclist involved in this incident, or know the person involved, or have any information relevant to the authorities, please turn yourself in or contact the Crime Stoppers / Tips Line 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca, so perhaps some good can come of this.]

Yesterday, on the very clearly marked pedestrian-only bridge that provides access to the marina where I live, a cyclist ignored the signs, mowed down my 84-year-old neighbour, sent him to hospital with a broken hip, and rode off without offering assistance or a care in the world.

In the linked video, I listened to Erin O’Melinn, the Executive Director of HUB Cycling, the local cycling rights organization, state that licensing would be expensive and ineffective. Now, perhaps because this was a short TV interview, she said more that was edited out. But I was really bothered by the fact that she didn’t even acknowledge that Vancouver has a cyclist arrogance, rudeness and entitlement problem. You know who she sounds like with a blanket statement like that? The NRA on the issue of gun licensing.

I’ve been driving cars for 30 years, and motorcycles for 3 years. I’ve also put over 10,000 km on my bicycle in the last 12 years because I use it to commute to work. And while Vancouver’s vehicle driving habits are no bed of roses, the amount of stupidity, carelessness and lack of courtesy I see daily on the part of Vancouver cyclists is appalling. Would licensing be expensive? Most likely. Would it be effective? It won’t stop every problem, but it will solve some. As a vehicle driver, I’ve taken at least 7 different written and practical road tests in my life (due to moves and the types of vehicles I’m licensed for). Those and the courses I’ve taken have all made me a more courteous and defensive driver. Licensing might not be the answer, but some type of mandatory road sense education should be part of the solution.

I’m FOR more cycling. I’m happy Vancouver is installing more cycling infrastructure. I believe in HUB’s mission. But cyclists as a group need to acknowledge we have a fundamental courtesy and road skills problem, and we need to clean our house.

I’ll readily acknowledge I’m not a perfect cyclist. I blow through stop signs. But not when there’s a car that’s reached the cross-street first and has the right of way. But I witness groups of cyclists regularly hold up cross-street traffic on the bike routes by ignoring stops.

I ride on the sidewalk occasionally (mostly on Terminal Ave where the street layout makes it hard to get to my destination without being on the sidewalk, and the traffic speeds. It’s a wide sidewalk). But I do it slowly. With a bell. And give the pedestrians a wide berth. And smile. And say thank you when they move aside to let me through.

A cyclist at Quebec and Terminal blew through the red light and nearly mowed me down because he thought, given he was riding through the top of a T, no cars would hit him. He forgot to take into account other bicycles trying to cross to Science World. He never stopped to apologize.

I’ve watched cyclists go the wrong way through traffic calming roundabouts. Cyclists ride two or more abreast on single lane roads, holding up frustrated drivers behind them. Riders holding a phone to their ear in busy traffic. Riders wearing headphones in traffic. Riders modding their bikes with electric motors, doing 50kph or more while still ignoring traffic rules. Riders failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, even if the cyclist has a stop sign. Riders knocking over and injuring children on the seawall, then yelling at the parents before riding off, refusing to help.

I’m convinced a large percentage of riders do some of these things out of sheer ignorance, because they don’t own a car and have never had to learn the full rules of the road. Then there are simply the assholes.

And if you DARE to call a cyclist out on any of this, you invariably get the finger and sworn at. Once, I tried to cross a street as a pedestrian, and spotted a cyclist coming. He had a stop. He was over 30 feet away when I put my foot into the road, thinking I was safe. He blew past so fast, without giving way, that I had to jump back or get hit. When I complained “Hey, stop!” he told me to fuck off, and called me a cunt.

When we’ve politely asked cyclists on the marina bridge to get off their bikes, they’ve sworn at us and threatened violence. Or they argue, acting completely offended, claiming that we don’t make the rules and they have a perfect right to be there. Really? That bridge is narrow. It’s not made for bikes. It’s busy. And as the co-op that manages it, we do make the rules. Is that sign not BIG ENOUGH? It’s there for a fucking reason. Because otherwise, elderly neighbours get broken hips. My neighbour has MONTHS of recovery ahead of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had to move, because boats aren’t easy when you have mobility issues. His life is irrevocably changed. So I have no patience anymore for cyclists who act like they’re god’s gift to two wheels.

SpruceSign

These aren’t isolated incidents. I witness similar things weekly, if not daily, and I’m only one person.

So Vancouver cyclists, as a fellow cyclist, I implore you: acknowledge we have a problem. And I understand: #NotAllCyclists. But there are too many bad apples among us, and something needs to be done. Check your arrogance, rudeness, and entitlement out the door. Shape up, share our spaces more safely, and show some common decency.

To HUB, I understand you run safety courses, but perhaps your core values should include something about basic cycling courtesy as well. Because I see a very great lack of it on the roads out there. We need to do more. We need to be better, and show more empathy to the other people sharing our roads.

Otherwise more people are going to get hurt.

 

A Bubble in the Gastronomic Space-Time Continuum

KatrinaRandom Thoughts

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, Uncategorized

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 Thoughts

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.