A Very Valhalla Q&A

A Very Valhalla Q&A

While #Norsevember rages on, I’m back today with a Q&A from Raphael Bonato, co-owner and Jarl of the Valhalla Bar in Basel, Switzerland. I had the great pleasure of visiting a the bar few weeks ago – Review can be found here.

With Valhalla’s unique concept and striking execution, I had to know more about the man himself.

Raphael Bonato is the closest thing to a modern-day Viking. Known to his friends and patrons as a true son of Odin, he runs the bar with style and a great deal of fierce passion. Raphael was very gracious and answered every question I had, so without further ado, let’s dig in!

So, please tell me about yourself. Who are you, and what made you decide to open a bar that is Viking themed?

My name is Raphael Bonato and I live in Basel.

Before Valhalla I was a manager in a Rock/Metal Bar. Working in this bar brought me up with the idea to mix a place for people who are into Viking, Metal, Rock, and Medieval music. It just felt that there’s no other place like this. I started the project together with friends to realise it. Valhalla is open now for a bit more than one year.

It just felt that there’s no other place like this. I started the project together with friends to realise it.

Were you interested in Vikings and history before?

Yes. I am really interested in Norse mythology and also of the way the Vikings lived.

Tell me about the bar itself. What is the best thing about running Valhalla? Is there a lot of enthusiasm from patrons about the theme?

The best thing in my opinion is that we are a big family and everyone is accepted. We have a lot of people who are into the medieval scene, and there are also a lot of regulars who are here every week. They support us a lot.

Translation: “Welcome to Valhalla’s walls, where neither fear nor discord lurk. Be our friends and enter to be equal among equals. Drink our drink. Linger the night. Receive the old gods’ power.”

The best thing in my opinion is that we are a big family and everyone is accepted.

Do you get curious people who come in from the street to ask what it’s about? What about the locals? Do they think this place is interesting?

Because we are a bit away from the city centre, not really. Mostly people know the place or hear about it from friends. We don’t get a lot of tourists, mostly because of the situation with Corona the last year.

When are the busiest times for you?

The busiest time is the winter.

I see that you have a lot of quiz nights. I would have loved to come to the Lord of the Rings quiz! I’m really good at that kind of trivia. Do you have many of these events during the year? Are they very popular?

Yes, we do this every month. The last one was about Harry Potter. There were so many people that a few teams needed to sit outside!

What other sort of events do you host? Do you have many artists or creative people who are involved with the bar?

We have medieval nights often. Everyone can come in their Viking/ Medieval dress. Soon we will also have live concerts, comedy nights, burlesque shows, Dungeon & Dragons, Metalnight, etc. There is a lot in planning now. Before it was not easy to host an event because of the Corona Rules.

What is your favourite part of running Valhalla?

The medieval nights are always really cool to see all the people in their Viking clothes walking around with axes and horns. Also the comic strip night which mixed Comedy and Burlesque together. That is a relly big highlight from this year. The next one is on December 17th.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect you and the bar? What was the most challenging thing, and what was the easiest thing? Did anything good come out of it?

Nothing good came out of the pandemic. It was and still is challenging. We couldn’t organize normal events. It was hard to bring the people in with all the rules. Even now with the certification requirement, it is challenging to host people without the certificate.

What are your big ambitions? Do you see the bar expanding?

We want to bring up Valhalla Basel to become the one place to be in the city. The idea is to open other bars with the same concept throughout Switzerland.

We want to bring up Valhalla Basel to become the one place to be in the city. The idea is to open other bars with the same concept throughout Switzerland.

Finally, if you could serve a drink to any of the Norse gods or famous Viking heroes, who would you choose?

My favourite god is Baldur, because he is one of the most peaceful gods in the whole Nordic Mythology.

From our world, it would be the Berserker of Stamford Bridge who fought alone against the whole English army with just an axe in his hand. He gave the Viking army under Harald Hardrada enough time to reform and build a shieldwall against the English.

Valhalla Bar Basel can be found on Instagram and Facebook. Events are  posted weekly.

*all photos of Raphael taken with permission from his personal social media

Announcement – Althingi

Announcement – Althingi

Hello friends!

After many months of hinting, vague tweeting, and an overuse of the eyes emoji, I can finally spill the secret about the project I’ve been working on all summer!

I am thrilled to announce that I have been brought on-board with Outland Entertainment and Joshua Gillingham to write a full-length, historical fiction novel, set in the Althingi Universe!

Here is the press release.

Inspired by the fierce character of Gyda the Grim from the game Althingi: One Will Rise and my short story Wave Runners in the anthology Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star, this project will explore Gyda’s quest for power and the loyalty she bears to her sea-going crew – Rán’s Daughters.

More details will be revealed as time goes on. For now, please sign up on the Wave Runners mailing list to receive updates and sneak peeks as they are released.

May the wind ever fill your sails, and the ocean bear you to prosperous shores.

Until next time,

Kaitlin

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Althingi Anthology Project

Althingi Anthology Project

It’s finally announcement time!

I have been keeping this secret for MONTHS, but seeing some others spill the beans, I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer!

A few months ago, I was approached by the excellent co-editting team of Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad and Joshua Gillingham (a good friend of mine, and the author of The Gatewatch.) These two legends offered me the incredible privilege to contribute a rip-roaring, Tenth-Century Viking tale for the Althingi Anthology, set to release in Spring 2021.

The Althingi was an annual gathering in medieval Iceland, whereby the Viking landowners and nobles used their influence to settle disputes, create laws, and hand out judgments.

The Anthology will tie in with the Althingi board game, a “quick set-up, fast-play game of strength and influence for 2-4 players based in Viking-Age Iceland. Each player takes on the role of a powerful Chieftain and tries to take control of the annual gathering known as the Althingi through bribery, coercion, and intimidation.”

The publisher is the venerable Outland Entertainment, known for many SFF genre projects with some incredible creators.

This particular project is truly epic in scope and concept. Currently there is a Kickstarter campaign for the game, with some amazing stretch goal upgrades available, so please check it out and share with your friends!

I’m so grateful to be counted among a host of talented and exceptional contributers for Althingi. I can’t wait to read their stories!

More details as the release gets closer, but for now, I am excited to share this news with you, and so pleased to be a part of such a wonderful and history-focused project.

Recent Work

Recent Work

Here is a list my most recent work.

Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star

My short story – Wave Runners – features in this wonderful Muslim/Viking intersectional anthology set in the 10th Century. The anthology ties in with a tabletop game. For sale in October 2021.

Review of At the Foot of the Mountain by TAK Erzinger at The Latino Book Review

I was kindly given the opportunity to read and review this beautiful poetry book. March 2021. You can buy the book here. Follow the author on her website here.

The Seeing Trees

Audio Drama produced and created by Alternative Stories and Fake Realities Podcast. Released June 2020.

Tea for Two

– personal essay to be released on March 19, 2019. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Mom Knows Best

The Gate – short story published in 2018. Appearing in Kyanite Press’ Winter Digest 2018: Fables and Fairy Tales. No longer available in print.


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Audio Drama – Out Now

Audio Drama – Out Now

After six months of hard work and research, the audio adaptation of my Norse-inspired folktale The Seeing Trees has landed!

“In the forests of Scandinavia a family is besieged by a malicious raven which watches and follows them everywhere they go.  How will they escape from this curse and at what cost?  The Seeing Trees is a dark nordic mystery with elements of violence, peril, horror, language and elements that some listeners may find disturbing.”

Fascinated by Viking mythology and history, I wanted to bring a darker angle to this story. Here is a short interview I did with the podcast, covering the influences and inspiration. You can also hear a fantastic monologue by Charis McRoberts (Follow her here!) My interview starts at 10:30 min.

From the Press Release:

“The Alternative Stories And Fake Realities Podcast has produced an audio drama based on a dark, psychological short story by American writer Kaitlin Felix, “The Seeing Trees”. Working with a team of actors all recording their lines separately from their homes, we’ve pieced together a production that is compelling and immersive and made entirely under lockdown.”

Watch the trailer here:

We had a range of brilliant actors for our cast. Here are a few, and a full list with links to their social media profiles:

Tiffany Clare, Charlie Richards, Lewie Watson, Amy Forrest

Charlie Richards as Trygve 
Lewie Watson as Harleif
Tiffany Clare as Mother
Amy Forrest as Freja
Chris Gregory as Magnus and Townsman
Annika Kordes as Townswoman 1
Karen Cooper as Townswoman 2
Kelli Winkler is the presenter

The Old Norse incantation is performed by Charlie Richards, Tiffany Clare, myself and Chris Gregory, who is the excellent director and podcast runner. He also created the original music and soundscapes.

Below, I have included the Old Norse text of the “Sigrdrifa prayer,” which is located in the Sigrdrífumál section of the Poetic Edda. The translation is by Dr. Jackson Crawford. We used the Reconstructed Medieval Pronunciation, taken from his youtube video here.

Old Norse:

Heil dagr
Heilar dags sýnir
Heil nót ok nipt
Oreiðum augum
Lítið okkr þinig
ok gefið sitjöndum sigr

Heilir æsir,
heilar ásynjur,
heil sjá in fjölnýta fold,
mál ok mannvit
gefið okkr mærum tveim
ok læknishendr, meðan lifum

Modern English:

Hail the day!
Hail the sons of day!
Hail to night and her sister!
Look on the two of us here
with friendly eyes,
and give us victory.

Hail the gods!
Hail the goddesses!
Hail the hospitable earth!
Give the two of us
eloquent speech, and wisdom-
and healing hands, while we live.

Alternative Stories and Fake Realities Podcast is totally free to listen, and you can find them on any podcast provider. You can also follow on various social media platforms. Click the image below to find them. Happy Listening!

I am incredibly grateful to Chris Gregory and to the entire cast for making the Seeing Trees a truly remarkable experience! I’m blown away by this production, and all the hard work that went into it. I am looking forward to working with Alternative Stories and Fake Realities podcast again!

Summer Update

Summer Update

It’s July, and I have so much to share!

First piece of news:

If you haven’t seen on my social pages yet, I recently had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Joshua Gillingham. (Shout out to you, Joshua!) He’s fascinating, and a great source of mythological knowledge. A bit of a Renaissance man, really. In addition to writing, he’s a musician, game designer, and an educator. His website is chock-full of cool stuff, so head over to check it out. His debut novel, with one of the most KICKASS covers I’ve ever seen, is due to release this Fall. It’s titled The Gatewatch, available from Crowsnest books.

Photo taken with permission from Joshua’s website.

My full interview can be found here. You will learn a bit more about my writing process, the inspiration for my novel Draugr, and get a rare peek at my workspace!

Second piece of news:

Update on my current WIP:

Draugr is finished! It’s been 9 months or so since I began, according to last year’s update. I typed The End about three weeks ago, and after a (very short) period of letting it lie, I am well into my first revision. If all goes well, the first round of editing should be done by the end of this month or next.

I have mentioned this before, but I have found K.M. Weiland to be an excellent resource towards understanding story structure, outlining, and plotting. I am a pantser by nature, but with Weiland’s help, I’ve become much more of a “plantser.” As a result, the revision process feels much less daunting than it did for Wergild. This novel is structured using the Three Act plan, and so my struggle has been to keep everything as tightly-wound as clockwork.

The biggest obstacles I’ve faced so far:

  • My opening chapter was weak, and too short. I just wasn’t satisfied with the introduction to Leif and his “Normal World.” So as much as I hated to dive back into the drafting process (I just want to be done!) I wrote two brand-new opening chapters. We’ll see how beta readers react, but I’m pretty confident they do the job they’re meant to.
  • Currently, I’m working on three new scenes at the end of Act One, which should launch my Act Two much more effectively. If I do this right, the scenes should fit together like puzzle pieces and make the transition into the main body of the story much more smooth.

Third piece of news:

Back in April, I performed a reading of my short story The Gate. Through that performance, I connected with and started attending the AWCZ Writer’s Group here in Zurich. They hold a meeting once a month, and I’ve really enjoyed each one.

With these activities, I have made some fabulous new friends. One is a truly gifted poet and illustrator, named TAK Erzinger. She’s been such a ray of light and inspiration! You can check out her new book of poetry here. Her website can be found here.

My other new friend is Lorraine Curran-Vu, a former teacher and current personal essayist. She’s also my new writing buddy! We try to meet once a week, which has been fantastic for productivity. This past Monday we met on Lake Zurich and wrote for an hour. Who wouldn’t want a view like this?

Fourth piece of news:

Two weeks ago, I met my writing buddy in Geneva for a wonderful workshop on revision, taught by Michele Bailat-Jones. She is a wonderful teacher and I learned so much from those two hours. It was especially relevant with all the revision work in front of me. I was also lucky enough to network with a bunch of professional writers, and I’m really excited to see where some of these connections go. Writing can be so isolating, so I’m excited to finally emerge from my darkened office.

Me and my writing buddy Lorraine Curran-Vu in Geneva

That’s my update for July. As I get further along in my revisions, I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Follow me on Twitter for everyday flimflam and chicanery. 

Publishing, Gremlins, and Angry Eyebrows

Publishing, Gremlins, and Angry Eyebrows

Summer in Zurich is stubborn this year, with its hornets and its sunburns.  It’s a slow dying, like the way a party runs down when there’s no more food. But still, I hear the death-rattle. October is almost here.

The richness of Autumn always invigorates me, and this one is especially enlivening. I can finally share all the NEWS I’ve been saving up for months!

I’M GETTING PUBLISHED!!!!!! 

*Not the final cover*

That’s right, everyone. A life-long dream, finally coming true! It’s just a short story, but it’s my very first work to be featured in a real-life, actually-touchable, not-making-this-up PUBLICATION! My short story, titled The Gate, will feature in the Kyanite Press Winter Digest, 2018. This issue follows the theme of Fables and Fairy Tales. Click the image to see their other issues. The special double-length Halloween Issue is out Oct. 1!

And I HAVE to tell you – everyone at Kyanite has been purely awesome to work and communicate with. Each one is super encouraging and creative. The best part is that they’re all writers themselves, so they KNOW. They get what it means to trudge though a project and do battle with trying to get published. 

Kyanite has three imprints for longer works: Glass (Digital format, speculative or niche fiction), Kiss (Romance), and Crypt (Horror). All three have releases up and coming in the next few weeks and months, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

AND!!!!!! Look at these cuties I got in the mail!!! Seriously, I love these guys.

Literally, I squeaked when I opened the package. Thank you, Kyanite! 

So, with the biggest news out there, I can tell you a little bit more about how this never-ending summer unfolded for us. First of all, THIS:

My gremlin son started his first year of Kindergarten about 6 weeks ago, and my mama-heart about burst. From equal amounts panic and pride. I gotta tell ya, nothing I’ve encountered this year has been as intimidating as a school system I am totally unfamiliar with, in a language I barely have a grasp on most days. After a rocky first couple of weeks, my crazy kid is more or less THRIVING now, bar the occasional refusal to speak German with his classmates. We’re getting there, though. I also enrolled him in an after-school English program to give him a bit more mother-tongue practice.

At the end of August, I flew to Atlanta, GA (by myself! In an airplane! ALONE! Minus gremlin kid! Heaven.) for my sister’s wedding. The trip was fantastic, and short, and probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a wedding. I served as the maid-of-honor, and many sisterly antics happened. The comedic highlight is most assuredly the legendary Angry Eyebrows. This photo isn’t for the faint of heart, so look away if Southern-style Grouch Marx eyebrow scare you.

Angry Eyebrows. So Angry.

My sister and I laughed our asses off…only after we sped home 20 MINUTES BEFORE THE CEREMONY!!!! to wipe off all that mess and redo my face. (Seriously, sister, thank you for not making me walk like this. I owe you a life-long debt of gratitude.)

And now for the last bit of news, and probably the most uncomfortable for me. Here it goes. Deep breath. Inhale.

I’ve abandoned my novel. 

Exhale. Yep, you’ve read that right. Wergild just isn’t happening right now. Some of you might notice that I’ve taken down the Excerpt I posted in July. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up or trashed my novel, but to keep a long story really short, I just had to face the fact that my book, the baby I’ve been working on for 7 years, just isn’t meant to be. At least in the form it is now.

The plot is solid, and most of my characters are too. But I’ve changed as a writer since I first began the story, and therefore the backbone of the book became problematic. With all the rewrites I’ve done, the editing, the restructuring, and the crying, the main idea I began with got lost in the mire of it all. I got burnt out, big time. You’ll recall I talked a little bit about that a few months ago. I am placing my novel on the back-burner, for good, or at least until I no longer hate the damn thing. 

I really really hate it, you guys. 

Instead, to cool some tempers that I know will get raised because of this news, may I submit to you something a bit more positive?

You all remember my poem from a few months back, this one? Well, it’s from my novella, titled Draugr. 

This novella is set before the events of Wergild, and features my favorite immortal asshole Viking, Leif Halfdan. The story is complete and stand-alone, but I’ve always had this niggle to expand it into a novel. Leif has so much more of his story to tell, and this story is so damn FUN to write.

So, I’m expanding it. Draugr will be novel-length, which just excites me to no end. Once I decided to set Wergild down, the way forward on this one became so clear to me, and I dove right in. I’ve already got the new first chapter written and in review. The rest of it will only be a matter of time before its ready for beta reading. Watch for an excerpt coming in October! 

Thanks for reading! Till next time, 

Mother of Gremlins and Keeper of the Angry Eyebrows, 

Kati Felix, *Actual Published Author*

Past Work

Past Work

Llueve Mucho Donde Vivo, It Rains A Lot Where I Live, 2008 – Self-published joint project with Rebekah Dornberger and Jennifer Hester-Nita. Children’s book, compiled for victims of a severe flood in Panama.

Various articles, 2008-2011 – appearing on a now-defunct internationally-reaching humanitarian aid platform.

2007 Regional Fine Arts Festival – Short Story awarded a Superior with Invitation to the National level.

Dumpster Fires and Whiteboards

Dumpster Fires and Whiteboards

Happy Independence Day! We’re well and truly entrenched in July now, and I find myself in the middle of my fifth year of living in Switzerland. And even though it seems that America might be a dumpster fire behind a seedy downtown hotel that never changes it sheets, that hasn’t diminished the pride and gratitude I feel as an American. And it’s with the classic American spirit of hope depsite the odds, that I’m making rather exciting plans for the second half of this year.

June saw us visiting the UK for a quick weekend with family, and then on to the Red Sea in Egypt for a week. Spring held a lot of stress and frustration for us, with many late work nights and not a few emotional breakdowns. As I mentioned in a previous post, I deal with some anxiety issues, and the last three months have been rough. With a view like this, though, all that stress melted off lickety split!

 

Jungle Aqua Park, Hurghada

 

While we were gone, I took a moment to examine my productivity and habits from the last few months. Being away gave me no further opportunity to distract myself with my own busy work; so all this self-reflection while poolside made me come to an unhappy conclusion:

I have not been juggling life very well, guys.  Dumpster fires aren’t only reserved for post-capitalist countries.

I don’t know if its stress and anxiety, or the combination of those two with good old-fashioned distraction, but my writing productivity has suffered and halted. I’ve been unable to work on anything for a few months, and it shows.

As I wrote in my post back in March, I began a period of rest and self-care, in the hopes that my creativity would rejuvenate and come back all the stronger, but unfortunately that period turned out to be more stressful than I anticipated. I couldn’t even read, and that was almost a greater shame. Thankfully, while packing for my trip, I had the presence of mind to pack a few books I picked up from the W.H. Smith in Gatwick airport, and – holy cow, guys – I devoured them like they were warm, fragrant bread and I was a starving peasant. Seriously, you should read them. I’ve included their covers and links to where you can buy them. 

Circe, by Madeline Miller

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

 

Overall, I’ve been holding true to my own advice:

My work would wait for me to be ready. And it was ok to not be ready for as long as it took.”  

These words have helped to silence my recriminations. So, in that spirit, this week has seen me put a few wheels into motion. If there’s anything I’m terrible at, it is organization, and that deficiency is largely the reason why productivity in all spheres of my life is down. So the logical step forward for me was to buy a whiteboard, of course.

 

“All of humanity’s problems are fixed now, guys! We have a whiteboard. *Cue the rejoicing*

Maybe if I can see my schedule in front of my face everyday, I’ll actually be inspired to create a realistic routine and therefore reduce my stress! Win-win!

But in all seriousness, these next six months will hold a lot of change for me, and the goals I have are realistic and not difficult to achieve. My son will attend Kindergarten in the mornings, beginning in August. I hope to use those mornings to plot out the first draft of my second novel and to plan for more frequent posts here.

There are a few other exciting changes in the works, and I’ll be posting about them soon. Keep an eye out for an excerpt from Wergild, my first novel, to be posted next week!

Until then,

May your fireworks be colourful and your barbecues hot. May your dumpster fires be extinguished and your whiteboards full of productivity. Happy Independence Day!

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