Using Science to Build a New World – Part 3

Building a Beta World

I did a LOT of research for Tangled Planet. This is the last of three posts on how I used some of it in the book.

DISCLAIMER! I have stretched, tweaked and in some places rabidly mauled the current tech in my book – the second half of science fiction is the fiction part, after all. Astrophysics shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.

Problems with Interstellar Colonization

The challenges that would face colonizers of any planet outside our solar system are kind of ridiculous. Firstly, it’s highly unlikely there would be a naturally-occurring atmosphere that would support human life, since humans could only thrive with a fairly narrow range of oxygen content and low enough levels of everything that could kill us (carbon monoxide, various carcinogens, poisons that are plentiful in the universe, etc) as well as enough atmospheric pressure to keep blood gases dissolved and allow us to breathe easily. Then there are likely to be particles in a planet’s dust that we could be violently allergic to or could be cancerous or poisonous in inhaled doses. And if there is life on our future home, even the tiniest bacteria could be (or mutate to be) deadly. Continue reading

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Using Science To Create a New World – Part 2

Surviving En Route to a Beta World

I did a LOT of research for Tangled Planet. This is the second of three posts on how I used some of it in the book.

DISCLAIMER! I have stretched, tweaked and in some places rabidly mauled the current tech in my book – the second half of science fiction is the fiction part, after all. Astrophysics shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.

Suspended Animation or Generation Starship?

A direct, manned interstellar flight that will take hundreds of years gives you two main options: suspended animation or a generation starship. Suspended animation would either take the form of adult passengers in sleeper ships, or frozen embryos. While both have fascinating narrative possibilities, I was drawn to the generation starship idea because I’ve read/seen so many variations on the theme – generation starship as dystopia, generation starship as luxury liner, generation starship as hoax, generation starship as world that has forgotten that it is actually a generation starship. Frankly, in fiction, it’s rare to have a generation starship just be a straight-up generation starship that actually reaches its destination. Continue reading

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Using Science To Create a New World – Part 1

Finding & Reaching a Beta World

I did a LOT of research for Tangled Planet. This is the first of three posts on how I used some of it in the book.

DISCLAIMER! I have stretched, tweaked and in some places rabidly mauled the current tech in my book – the second half of science fiction is the fiction part, after all. Astrophysics shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.

Finding a Planet for Settlement

Because planets in other solar systems (exoplanets) are tiny (relatively speaking!), they’re tricky to spot. The main ways in which we discover the existence of a planet around a distant star are through transit photometry or Doppler spectroscopy.

Transit photometry is looking at the small drop in brightness of a star as a planet passes in front of it, like a teeny, tiny version of an eclipse – or holding up a grain of sand in front of the sun. We can measure regular dips in the light coming from a star, and get quite a bit of information about the planets that must be in orbit around it. Continue reading

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OLA Super Conference, Elora Writers Festival & First Reviews for Tangled Planet

This blog is overdue an update. Firstly, I have been remiss in not mentioning that I’ll be attending the OLA Super Conference NEXT WEEK (that really crept up on me). I’ll be signing on Friday Feb 2 at  in the Ontario Book Publishers Pavilion from 1.20-1.50pm, and I’ll be wandering around all day, as I’ve always wanted to go to an OLA Super Conference, and this will be my first.

I’m also looking forward to the Elora Writers Festival on Sunday May 6th – I’ve heard wonderful things about this festival, and I’m very excited to be taking part! I’ll talk more about that as it gets a bit closer.

I had a great launch – many people came and indulged me by playing my ‘land a shuttle on Beta’ homemade game.  But now the fun is over. Now we have reached the most terrifying part of any new release. My baby bird of a book is out there, and the first reviews are in.

And they are… rather lovely, actually.

Tangled Planet got a STARRED REVIEW in School Library Journal, which made me do a literal happy dance. Continue reading

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Tangled Planet Book Launch & Goodreads Giveaway!

So, the details of the book launch have been finalized, and it’s at 2pm on October 29th at Bakka Phoenix. It’s my favourite bookstore – a SF/Fantasy treasure trove with incredibly knowledgeable staff who are expert bibiomancers – from just a few simple questions, they can predict (which excellent accuracy) what books you will love.

The Facebook event with all the details is here, and there will be games, silly space things, and entertainments for children (since I’ll be bringing two of my own anyway). Please do come.  It’ll be fun, I promise.

The Canadian Goodreads giveaway is up now too! It will run until the day of the launch, so you have a couple of weeks in which to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tangled Planet by Kate  Blair

Tangled Planet

by Kate Blair

Giveaway ends October 29, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

If you read the book and enjoy it, please do review it! You probably have no idea how much nice Goodreads/Amazon/Chapters reviews help (and brighten my day).

I hope to see you on the 29th!


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Tangled Planet and Anxiety

One of the questions that Angela Misri asked me at our panel at Word on the Street was about the reaction of Ursa (the main character of Tangled Planet) to her new world – particularly her fear at aspects of living on a planet that we see as normal. In my answer, I talked about something I’ve never mentioned publicly before – my own anxiety, which had a big role in shaping this book. I was surprised by the number of people who spoke to me after to say they had been through something similar – I felt less alone, and was so glad to speak to other people who had the same experiences. So I thought I should be brave, and post something about it here.

I wrote Tangled Planet when I was struggling to adapt to a new world of my own – parenthood. That sounds cheesy, but the change in my life came as a bigger shock than I expected. In becoming a mother, I went from being someone who traveled the world and wasn’t afraid to jump out of a plane or move to a new continent on my own, to someone who was terrified of going to the park down the road.

After having my children I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), and for a while I couldn’t stand some everyday tasks, like giving my little ones a bath. It was unbearable – I’d be consumed with fear of them hitting their little heads and drowning, even though I was right there and would never let that happen. It’s hard to express how tough this terror made everyday life. Simple tasks and outings were agony. Taking them to the playground was painful. I was constantly on high alert, scanning the world for threats and seeing them everywhere. It was emotionally bruising and utterly exhausting, yet at the end of the day, I couldn’t rest. Fears chased each other around my head, leaving my pulse hammering and me wide awake, in spite of the fact that I desperately needed sleep.

It also affected my feelings about my writing. I felt huge shame and embarrassment about my first book, and about putting it out there.  And that’s something I’m still working through. And the anxiety also touches on social interaction, with me constantly reliving conversations, wondering if I said something awful to make the person I was talking to secretly hate me.

I got help, and I’m a lot better. The fog of pain and exhaustion has lifted. I also know the signs of when I’m getting anxious, and have check-ins with my psychologist to nip things in the bud. I was able to use what I’d learned when my anxiety bloomed again after the election of Trump. Watching the resurgence of the forces that ripped the world apart in the 1930s and 40s, I spent sleepless nights wondering how I could protect my children if the worst happened. I was not alone, either – my psychologist said she’d been inundated with people afraid for the future after Trump’s election.

And in spite of all my strategies, I still worry way too much. I will always work to reduce risk where it makes sense to do so, but I struggle with the impossible desire to eliminate all dangers to my children. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that complete safety does not exist. Trying too hard to protect my children can limit their experiences and stunt their independence, so I have to let them do things that terrify me.

Since this was a huge part of what I’ve been going through, it had to come out in what I was writing. Although I didn’t want a main character with anxiety  – that felt too close to home – I still wanted to explore the emotional truth of what I’d been going through. Because most of the symptoms that come with anxiety (heart racing, adrenaline flood, constant scanning for threats, etc.) are a healthy and useful reaction when you are in real danger – they only become an issue when you are reacting in that way to non-threatening, everyday situations.

So I wrote my SF hero as someone who was also struggling with a new reality – a world that looks familiar to us, but one that holds unseen risks that leave her feeling out of her depth. Ursa, like me, is trying to protect the people she cares about most. But Ursa is dealing with dangers far more real than those I’ve been facing.  Dangers that threaten her whole crew, their future on Beta Earth and their very survival.

I know my children are as safe as I can make them. I know they aren’t facing a strange new planet, light-years from help, with a murderous monster in the alien forests surrounding them.

But, in spite of everything, that’s sometimes that’s how it feels.


***The Facebook event for the Tangled Planet book launch is up! It will take place at Bakka Phoenix on October 29 at 2pm – more to come on that and a Goodreads giveaway in a later post.***

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Tangled Planet

My new book is working its way into Canadian stores (it’ll be out in the US in May 2018). It’s published by the wonderful people at DCB – an imprint of Cormorant. Yay! You can find it at my favourite book store – Bakka Phoenix – right now and official launch details will come soon, as well as info on a Goodreads Giveaway.

So, it’s probably time to say a bit more about it.

It’s called Tangled Planet, and it’s a YA SF.


Here’s the blurb from my publisher’s website:

It’s taken 400 years of travel, but the starship Venture has finally arrived at its destination. Beta Earth is an uninhabited, untouched planet that seventeen-year-old engineer Ursa has to colonise with her crewmates.

The first night Ursa is on Beta Earth her world goes out of control when she encounters a dead body. She’s positive she saw a large creature with sharp teeth, something that shouldn’t even be on the planet, but nobody believes her. As injuries and bodies start piling up, Ursa must figure out who to trust when her fellow crewmates start taking sides between Venture’s safety and the hope of creating a home on Beta Earth.

If Ursa and her people can’t find out what’s really going on in the forest, their already fragile society won’t survive.

And here’s how my agent, Lydia Moëd, described it:

After 400 years of travel, the generation starship Venture has arrived at its destination planet: Beta Earth, pristine and uninhabited. But 17-year-old engineer Ursa and her crewmates are not prepared for the rigors of colonization. Deadly accidents and unexpected hardships threaten to tear the group apart. Then Ursa discovers something lurking in the overgrown alien forests of their new home. Something that shouldn’t be there. Something that’s killing the colonists, one by one.

Ursa needs to convince her crewmates to return to the safety of the Venture, but when she tries to tell people about the giant, fanged creature she saw, they assume she’s lost her mind – or worse, that she’s committing the murders herself to sabotage the colonization process. As conflict threatens to tear the crew apart and evidence of a conspiracy comes to light, Ursa doesn’t know who she can trust. But she knows that if they don’t pull together and find out what’s really going on in the forest, their fragile society won’t stand a chance of survival.

From the award-nominated author of Transferral, TANGLED PLANET is a tense, compelling read that combines the big ideas of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora with the pace and intrigue of The 100.

Tangled Planet is available to order from the normal places online, and should be on the shelves of all good Canadian bookstores soon. It’s out there. And I’m back to being all nervous as I wait to find out if people like it.

(I hope you do).

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Word on the Street – Born a Sci Fi Hero Panel

Word on the Street Toronto is coming up! It’s on Sunday September 24.

I am, as usual, terrified/excited for this. Terrified because I will be on a panel and speaking in public, and excited because I love Word on the Street, and have gone almost every year since I emigrated, long before Transferral came out.

So in 2015 it was particularly wonderful that it was my first public appearance as an actual, official author. I ‘accidentally’ wore my Word on the Street lanyard all the way home on the TTC, and would have kept it on for the next week if there had been any plausible way I could make it look unintentional. Continue reading

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Six Ways to Write A Book When You Are Already Stupidly Busy

I have a full-time office job, two young children (3 & 5) and I volunteer. Time is a constant challenge. My second book is coming out now, so I’m often asked how I fit in writing. The answer is – with some difficulty.  Yet I’m more productive than I was before I had children.

Continue reading

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Ajax Library and Word on the Street

I will be at Ajax Library on August 23rd at 4pm to talk about writing, Transferral, Tangled Planet and trying to be brave. You can find the details here. Please come by if you are in the area!

And on Sunday September 24, I’ll be back at Word on the Street, which I am so excited about.  (I will continue to be excited about it until about two weeks before, when I will start to get nervous, a feeling that will slowly grow until the day of, when I’ll be terrified, nauseous, and wondering what on Earth possessed me to agree to stand on a stage and speak in the first place.)  But for now, excitement – eeee!

Word on the Street is one of my favourite festivals, and I’d been going for
years before I became an author. This year, I’m on the ‘Born a Hero‘ panel on the Teen Spirit Stage from 12.30pm-1.30pm with Sarah Raughley  and Cherie Dimaline.

I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow panelists – I’ve wanted to read Cherlie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves since I first saw it on the DCB website, and this starred Kirkus review obviously bumped it up my to-read list – I’ll make sure I’ve made time before the panel.

I’m currently reading Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley, and loving it. (How could I not? It is as exactly as she described it – ‘PACIFIC RIM meets the AVENGERS with a SAILOR MOON cast’). Strong female protagonists, monsters, conspiracies and the world in the balance – hugely fun and compelling.

As usual, I’m going to be totally in awe of my fellow panelists. It’ll be a fascinating session, and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about their books.  Please come and sit in the audience and send me supportive looks so I feel slightly more comfortable about the whole public speaking thing.

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