The Origins of the Critiki Party

There’s a saying, which goes sorta: The best ideas are stolen.

And I stole the idea for our CriTiki Party from fellow horror writer Dan Wells. I learned that he was one of seven authors who host a popular podcast, Writing Excuses. Their show discusses writing craft, the publishing business and includes interviews with other writers.

Besides providing a service to the writing community, I thought that such a web presence might be a good promotional tool for the members of my critique group. I suggested we could riff on the Writing Excuses premise by offering critiques of works-in-progress by new authors.

My second twist was that we make it a Tiki-themed party. Right away, everyone jumped on board. Interestingly, the idea really sparked Warren Hammond, normally reserved and taciturn. He not only jumped aboard–he grabbed the tiller and yelled at the rest of us to get an oar and start rowing. When he replies to emails, his comments are pointedly abbreviated. But on the subject of our cocktail-themed podcast, his directives ran for volumes.

The most cerebral member of our pandilla, Hammond immersed himself in Tiki cocktail culture with the obsession of a serial killer. His carefully tended aquarium was tossed out, replaced by a Mid-Century bar with all the period accoutrements. He studied books of vintage cocktail recipes and forced his wife Angie Hodapp to take a second job so he could buy the exotic liquors (25 yo Guyanese rum, who knew?) and ingredients (like sugar from rare Oaxacan beets) necessary for his concoctions. Hammond dubbed himself the chief Intoxicologist, but little did he comprehend what he had wrought upon the group.

The rest of us delved into the logistics needed for the podcast. Josh Viola worked on the design and webpage. Travis Heermann honchoed the technical details. Jeanne Stein kept us on task by rapping our knuckles with a ruler whenever we slacked off.

At last we were ready for our first podcast.

To set the mood before we started recording, Hammond prepared an inaugural cocktail–what seemed like a simple daiquiri but made exactly to the original Cuban recipe. The drink proved to be transcendental. Had Ernest Hemingway been alive, he would’ve demanded a glass.

But if one drink loosened us up, then a second would really awaken the Muse. And if you have two drinks, what’s the harm in a third? And cocktails this delicious, why not a fourth?

Needless to say, that night we didn’t record a damn thing. Hammond’s daiquiris flattened us like palm trees smashed into kindling by a tropical cyclone. He proudly acknowledged that this gift as a bartender was his long realized evil superpower.

In retrospect, we’ve learned to hold off on his cocktails until after recording our podcast. And only then do we imbibe, reluctantly limiting ourselves to just one.

Posted by Mario Acevedo