My Official (Accept No Substitutes) Awards Eligibility Post

No Comments » Written on January 15th, 2019 by
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In the back of my mind I can hear my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Golitotti, lecturing me with some variation of “and if all the other children jumped off a cliff, would you too?” which, it should be said, is not necessarily a bad thing for a teacher to be telling her six-year old pupils.

The advice may be less sound when it comes to things like Nebula and Hugo Awards, particularly in a world where authors are expected to do more of their own promotion than in past decades (and this goes quadruple for Indie authors). With that in mind, please pardon this post where I will blow my own horn. The intention here is to inform or remind you of my work from 2018, not to praise it to the moons of barsk. If you’re a member of SFWA, you’re entitled to nominate for the Nebs. If you’re a member of either the previous and/or upcoming Worldcon, you can nominate for the Hugos.

So, with that context, for those among you who nominate in the Hugos, here’s what I’m eligible for:

Best Novel: THE MOONS OF BARSK by Lawrence M. Schoen.

This is the sequel to my Nebula-nominated and Coyotl Award-winning Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard. High-concept anthropomorphic science fantasy, so, yeah, not like much else out there. Arguably the best thing I’ve ever written.

|| Hardcover || Ebook || Audio ||

Best Novella: INVASION (SEEDS OF WAR, VOL. 1) by Jonathan P. Brazee and Lawrence M. Schoen.

My big leap into the life of being a “hybrid author,” this is the first volume of a novella trilogy I co-wrote with military SF veteran and retired Marine colonel Jonathan P. Brazee. One marine battles alien vegetable daikaiju to save a world!

Best Novelette: THE RULE OF THREE by Lawrence M. Schoen.

Last June I traveled to China as part of a workshop sponsored by FAA and the Wanda Group. Along with several Canadian and Chinese authors I toured sites that were part of a poverty abatement program. “Remarkable” doesn’t begin to describe the experience. I came home and wrote this novelette. I sent it to Alex Shvartsman and he published it as the lead story in the premiere issue of Future SF in mid-December, which also means few people may even be aware of it yet. I think that’s a shame because it’s the best novelette I’ve ever written.

Best Fanzine: EATING AUTHORS by Lawrence M. Schoen.

For the past seven and a half years, I’ve spent every Monday interviewing authors and asking them to share their most memorable meals. The intention has been to give fans a glimpse at the writer behind the books they read. Whether it’s Hugo-worthy is up to you to decide.

Note: While the Eating Authors blog makes me technically eligible, please do not consider me for the Best Fan Writer category. I simply produce and edit this series, with my guests doing all the real writing. But do remember to nominate for the fan writer category, as there is plenty of good stuff out there!

Best Related Work: SUNZI’S ART OF WAR translated by Agnieszka Solska

Last summer I published the long awaited Klingon translation of Art of War. But this isn’t just a Klingon translation. It includes a new English translation from the original Chinese is loaded with pages upon pages of scholarly notes about the different versions of previous Chinese translations over the years and the difficulties of bringing them to Klingon. It’s also worth noting that none of these languages —Klingon, Chinese, or Klingon — are Professor Solska’s native language.

Best Professional Artist: VICTO NGAI

And finally, please consider the incredible Victo Ngai when you’re nominating artists. I’m incredibly grateful to have had her do the covers for both of the Barsk novels, and her work has graced so many other fine books.

The Moons of Barsk
Invasion
Future SF #1
Art of War

Eating Authors: Mel Gilden

No Comments » Written on January 14th, 2019 by
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Mel Gilden

As we close in on the midpoint of the month, I have to say that I am loving the new year. I’m sleeping better, eating better, exercising more, and (most importantly) writing a lot more. Life is good, so much so that in a few days I’m treating myself to a bit of travel and heading off to Detroit for ConFusion where, according to the current version of the schedule, I have several panels, a signing on Saturday at 4pm, and a reading on Sunday at noon. Stop in and say “howdy” if you’re going to be at the convention.

This week’s EATING AUTHOR guest is a particular delight to have. I first encountered Mel Gilden’s work back in the late 80’s when I acquired a paperback of the newly released Surfing Samurai Robots from the Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks. An alien detective named Zoot Marlowe, surfing robots, the California sun, and an industrial genius with a name like Knighten Daise — what more could you want? The book was a wacky mix of Raymond Chandler and Douglas Adams and I loved it. It was only in preparing this introduction that I discovered that Mel had returned to the series a few years later and written two more books. I’ve already added them to my overburdened To Be Read list.

Mel’s other fiction includes children’s books, various media tie-in novels (everything from Beverly Hills 90210 to Star Trek), and television cartoons. He’s been a consultant for both Disney and Universal, developing theme park attractions. And for five years he was the co-host of Hour 25, an SF radio interview show in Los Angeles. Given that I grew up there (well, okay, in Culver City), I’m a little flummoxed that our paths never crossed. But hey, I’ve got him here now, so it’s all good.

LMS: Welcome, Mel. What stands out as your most memorable meal?

MG: Thanks for asking. I do in fact recall a meal, or rather a whole set of meals:

I was going to write about the wonderful dinners my sweetie puts together, often at the last minute. But we are both still alive and healthy, and I live in hope that other, even more spectacular, dinners will appear as time goes on. So I decided to write about my grandmother—my mother’s mother—who was known to everybody as Ma, no matter how they were actually related.

Dr. Big

Back when I was a kid in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ma would invite local family members to dinner once or twice a year. She must have been 60 or more by then, but as far as I know, she did all the cooking herself. She and her husband had come from Latvia in their twenties, so everything she made had an East European aroma and flavor. This was okay with me. I love that stuff. On the rare occasions when I experience such an aroma now, I spend a lot of time just inhaling.

In those days, nobody in the group worried about fat, sugar, or gluten, so the table was loaded down with so much meat, starch, and a selection of vegetables that you could not actually see the table.

Dinner always began with chicken soup – homemade, of course. I still remember the little puddles of chicken fat floating in the soup among the alphabets and thin noodles – always both because we kids liked both. The soup was very good, but I never ate as much of it as I wanted because I knew what was coming.

The meat I liked best was the egg-shaped hamburgers, perhaps because each of them contained bits of carrot and spinach that gave them an extraordinary flavor that I still haven’t forgotten after all these years.

Surfing Samurai Robots

There were potatoes, of course, but I preferred to eat the noodles in various forms, my favorite being noodle kugel. Kugel means pudding. It was put together in a big baking pan, mostly filled with noodles that had been mixed with raisins and spices and perhaps an egg or two to hold the whole thing together, then baked until it was a solid mass. I have never been too sure about the preparation details. I only know that I loved it.

You may be surprised to learn that dessert was not my favorite part of the meal. The honey cake was all right, but Ma used to make something called teiglach. This was an enormous knot of thick pretzel-like dough that had been cooked, or at least dipped, in honey. I’ve never been a big fan of honey, and you could crack your teeth on the dough part, and besides, the honey got all over everything. I think some of the adults ate it.

Calories were not a concern. I know that I myself had seconds of my favorite dishes and occasional thirds. Nor was I alone in this. After a while, lifting a full fork or spoon to our mouths was more than we could manage.

The Jabberwock Came Whiffling

When dinner was over, the female members of the crowd gathered in the kitchen to wash dishes and make expert commentary on the food while the males sprawled in the living room with their belts, and frequently their pants, undone. There was a lot of moaning and groaning. What little conversation there was consisted of promises never to eat again.

When the dishes were done, Ma would enter the living room and announce, “Nobody ate! Look at all this food left over!” Everybody departed from the house with a CARE package full of what we liked best. The leftovers might last for days, but it was never long enough.

In later years, I tried to get my mother, and now my sweetie, to attempt some of the food that Ma used to make, but it is a difficult job. I’ve even tried it myself without much success. There are no recipes. She never used them. Though she may have made a few extra grocery purchases, mostly she just used what she had in the house.

We have had some success with kugel and beet borscht, but the secrets of Ma’s hamburger and chicken soup are still mysteries, and probably will be forever.

Thanks, Mel. I feel like we must surely be related. Reading of Ma’s cooking has stirred up memories of my own maternal grandmother’s cooking (don’t get me started on her knadles). On her first visit to Los Angeles, she got off the plane carrying two shopping bags. One contained a giant bottle of homemade kosher pickles, and the other a massive container of chicken fat (in case she couldn’t get that in California).

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors – 2018 Recap

No Comments » Written on January 11th, 2019 by
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There were fifty-three Mondays in 2018, beginning on January 1st and ending on December 31st, 2018. Which means some fifty-three writers stopped in and shared their most memorable meals here on EATING AUTHORS.

Below you’ll find an alphabetized list of 2018’s authors, with each name linking to the respective meal. My thanks to the many authors who shared their time and tastes last year, and thanks also to all of you who came by to dine with them.

A: Omar El Akkad, Michael Anderle, Dyrk Ashton :A

B: Richard Baker, Josiah Bancroft, Sue Burke, T. J. Berry, Gustavo Bondoni :B

C: Bryan Camp, Ryan Campbell, Gwendolyn Clare,
Russ Colchamiro, Liz Colter, Ellison Cooper :C

D: Indrapramit Das, Delilah S. Dawson, David Demchuk :D

F: Terri Favro, Jeremy Finley, Jason Franks :F

G: Jasmine Gower, Mareth Griffith, Leigh Grossman :G

H: Kate Heartfield, Leanna Renee Hieber :H

K: Christopher Kastensmidt, Chris Kennedy, Sarah Kuhn, Derek Künsken :K

L: William Ledbetter, Henry Lien, Jane Lindskold :L

M: Craig Martelle, J.D. Moyer, Michael Moreci :M

N: Jeannette Ng, Wendy Nikel :N

P: David Pedreira, Vina Prasad :P

R: Jessica Reisman, Rebecca Roanhorse , Kelly Robson, Amber Royer :R

S: S. L. Saboviec, Catherine Schaff-Stump, N. J. Schrock, Caitlin Seal,
Peng Shepherd, Delia Sherman, Andrea G. Stewart :S

T: R. J. Theodore, Brian Trent :T

W: Nick Wood :W


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Eating Authors: Edward Willett

No Comments » Written on January 7th, 2019 by
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Edward Willett

Welcome to the first installment of EATING AUTHORS for 2019. The weather’s still pretty mild in my corner of the world, and of course I’m tempting fate by typing that (which, given that I’m flying to Detroit in ten days may be quite risky indeed). Still, less than a week into the new year and things are looking pretty good on both personal and professional fronts. Is Fate lulling me into a false complacency or am I simply cashing in some of the backlog of karma accrued in 2018? I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, please welcome this week’s guest, Edward Willett, who’s up in Canada (Regina, Saskatchewan, to be precise) where it’s about 20° colder. The lower temperatures up there may explain why he keeps so busy. Sure, he writes novels, including a multiple YA series under his own name and as E.C. Blake, but in addition to novels he also writes plays and nonfiction, performs as an actor and singer, and also hosts local television programs and emcees public events.

His latest book, Worldshaper , is the first in a new series, and has what may be one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long while. I’ve added it to my to-be-read stack for 2019.

LMS: Welcome, Edward. What’s your most memorable meal?

EW: How hard a question can that be? Harder than you’d think. There’s not even an easy out, like, “I can’t remember my most memorable meal.” English lets us write that sequence of words, but they’re self-contradictory: it’s impossible to forget your most memorable meal, because by definition, if it’s memorable, you remember it.

Worldshaper

Yes, I’m stalling.

Okay, so, I remember lots of meals, which makes them all memorable. But which one rises to the very top?

The question is complicated by the fact that my wife and I make a point of seeking out interesting restaurants—like the one in Spearfish, South Dakota (to give one example) run by an ex-New York chef who had moved back home (all I remember of the meal, though, is the South Dakotan wine—pear, not grape—I couldn’t have a glass because I was driving and we had my elderly mother with us and there was no way even one glass would not have earned motherly disapproval). We’ve eaten at Top Chef-contestant (and winner) restaurants, great hotels, mountaintop patio restaurants, and the now sadly departed International Wine and Food Festival at the Banff Springs hotel, where the meals were remarkably memorable, considering there would be flights of four or five (or more) different wines to accompany them.

But ultimately, I think I’d have to go with a meal that ties closely to my writing career: my very first DAW dinner.

Marseguro

DAW Books has a wonderful tradition of arranging an extremely good meal for whichever of its authors are present at the World Science Fiction and World Fantasy conventions. My first original novel for DAW, Marseguro, came out in February 2008, and although I’d talked to my editor/publisher, Sheila E. Gilbert, I’d never met her. WorldCon was in Denver that year, a not-unreasonable distance from our home in Regina, Saskatchewan, so we drove down…and for the first time, I got to attend a DAW dinner.

The location was spectacular: the Independence Room in the Brown Palace, a beautiful private room whose panoramic wallpaper, painted by Jean Zuber et Cie in Rixheim, Alsace, France, in 1834, is one of only two existing original painted wallpapers in America (the other is in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House). (And no, I didn’t remember all those details off the top of my head, but isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?)

The company was engaging: it was the first time I met, not only Sheila and Betsy, but other DAW authors, such as my fellow Canadian Tanya Huff.

The food, I know, was equally wonderful, although I don’t remember exactly what it was (I’m sure we still have the menu tucked away somewhere, but I can’t put my hands on it), with one exception that also made the experience stand out.

When plans for the dinner were being mooted, I’d told Sheila that Margaret Anne and I would be there, but that we would be traveling with our seven-year-old daughter, Alice. Would she be able to attend?

Song of the Sword

Sheila was a little hesitant, explaining that it was a very grown-up dinner, but I assured her Alice was used to attending grown-up dinners (in fact, from time to time she complains about the number of grown-up dinners she’s had to attend) and would be fine. And she was, making a hugely favorable impression on Sheila and Betsy and the others—and also illustrating for me how a truly fine restaurant deals with unusual situations.

While, as I’ve noted, I don’t remember the details of the menu, I do know that very little of it was designed to appeal to a seven-year-old girl’s palate. But that wasn’t a problem at all: the waiter asked her what she’d like, and she said macaroni and cheese, and the chef made it for her—so well, in fact, that she still remembers that as some of the best macaroni and cheese of her life, and that dinner is one of her most memorable ones, too, even though she’s now in her last year of high school.

The dinner, though held in a historic room in a high-end restaurant in a historic hotel with people I’d never met until then, felt very much like a family dinner, and it was my introduction to what Betsy and Sheila like to call the DAW family: the family I’ve been thrilled to be a part of now for nine novels and counting.

There have been more memorable DAW dinners since then, and all of them rise high on my list of the best meals of my life—but that first one, to which I and my family were so warmly welcomed, remains a highlight, not just of my adventures in dining, but of my entire career.

Thanks, Edward. I have several fond memories of meals during the Denver Worldcon, but yours makes me want to nudge my agent to push for selling my next book to DAW. Heh, if only it were that easy.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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My Tentative 2019 ConFusion Schedule

No Comments » Written on January 6th, 2019 by
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Despite my insistence that I’m cutting waaaaaay back on my convention travel, later this month I’m treating myself to a trip to Detroit to attend ConFusion, or more properly, Storming ConFusion. Why? Because it’s freaking awesome, okay?

The theme this year is The Princess Bride, so expect swashbuckling, princesses, giants, iocain poisoning at the bar, everyone having Inigo Montoya on their name badges, miracle pills, rats of unusual size, and a creepy guy with six fingers (not that I’m judging).

Here’s my schedule as I currently understand it to be. Which is not to say that it won’t change or that my understanding isn’t horribly, horribly flawed:

Friday, January 18th
04:00 p.m. | Erie | An Author’s Guide To Newsletters
Keeping up with the shifting landscape of social media can me a tall order for busy writers. E-mail newsletters are a simple, effective way to let your most engaged fans know where to find you and your work. Our panelists have tips on how to set up and maintain an effective newsletter.With Angus Watson (M), Marissa Lingen, Natalie Luhrs, and Patrick S. Tomlinson.

Saturday, January 19th
12:00 p.m. | Erie | Showing Your Work: Showcasing Research in Genre Fiction
Authors are often cautioned to avoid info-dumps in our work: lengthy explanations of science and history have fallen out of fashion in favor of subtly weaving in relevant research without drawing attention to it. But William Goldman broke this rule throughout The Princess Bride; most memorably in Wesley’s fight scene with Montoya, where the two spend the entire fight discussing real swordsmen who influenced the theory and practice of renaissance fencing. Panelists will discuss when it’s a good idea to shine a light on your research, and recommend examples of research-dumps that manage to entertain and delight readers.
With A. Carina Spears (M), Michael Cieslak, Nino Cipri, and Lucy A. Snyder.

4:00 p.m. | Erie | Autograph Session
Meet your favorite authors and get your books signed! Limit 3 items per person, please. Bonus points if you bring a copy of The Moons of Barsk for me to sign. Also, I’ll be giving away copies of my trading card. Such a deal!
With E. D. E Bell, Delilah Dawson, T L Greylock, Sarah Hans, Derek Kunsken, Cassandra Morgan, Cherie Priest, John Scalzi, A. Carina Spears, Ferrett Steinmetz, James L. Sutter, and Phil Tucker.

Sunday, January 20th
12:00 p.m. | Rotunda | Reading
Three authors, one hour (well, probably only 50 minutes), and lots of words spoken aloud.
With Jeffrey Chapman, and Cat Rambo.

Flying to Detroit in January is always potentially fraught, but I think it will all work out. Mind you, I’ll still be making an offering to the weather gods.

See you at ConFusion!

Eating Authors: Leanna Renee Hieber

No Comments » Written on December 31st, 2018 by
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Leanna Renee Hieber

Congratulations. We’ve made it through to the last day of another year. High fives all around. I’m not going to comment on 2018. Nope. Just point it toward the exit and focus on the potentials that lie ahead in the new year. And yet, even as we move forward, EATING AUTHORS returns home, specifically with this week’s guest, Leanna Renee Hieber, whose meal occurs here in Philadelphia.

Leanna is not merely an award-winning (four Prism awards as well as RWA’s author of the year), bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy, but also a playwright and actress (performing her one-woman show as 19th century designer Clara Driscoll). But wait, somehow she also finds time to be a licensed ghost tour guide in New York City.

Her most recent book, barely a month old, The Spectral City, sports the tagline “Solving crime isn’t only for the living” and offers up a teenage medium helping the police in turn-of-the century NYC. Best of all, it’s only the first book in a promised new series!

LMS: Welcome, Leanna. Thanks for being here to close out the year. Please share your most memorable meal.

LRH: I’m a historical fantasy author focusing on the 19th century. I’m also a vegetarian. So, whenever I can mix my love of history with my passion for vegetarianism, it’s a really great day. 

The Spectral City

One of the most memorable meals I’ve had was at the City Tavern in Philadelphia with one of my dearest friends. We discovered, to our delight, that there was a Tofu dish on the menu. City Tavern, one of Benjamin Franklin’s old haunts, a building and history dating to the pre-revolutionary period, prides itself on authentic Revolutionary Era cuisine, being so near to Independence Hall. This isn’t a cuisine known for particularly adventurous offerings. When I excitedly asked about the Tofu, our waiter, matching my enthusiasm, told us that in examining letters from Benjamin Franklin, the Tavern staff recently discovered an entry about enjoying a Tofu dish in France that he wanted to bring back to America and include in new dishes here. Due to this historical account, City Tavern created a flavorful, filling, breaded tofu dish stewed in a rich tomato base with fresh vegetables.

Paired with the warm, powerful goodness of a Tavern Warmer, a heated alcoholic beverage rich in brandy and spices, it was an incredible meal in a very historic space that admittedly felt a bit haunted. Considering I write historical supernatural suspense, this is a welcome perk. The warmth of the food, the cozy atmosphere of candles and fireplaces and the rosy cheeks created by the Tavern Warmer together provided a dynamic contrast to the allure of the building’s spectral chill.

Given that my latest novel, The Spectral City, a Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy full of ghosts and mystery set in 1899 involves a vibrant historic East Coast, I love taking the opportunity to do a bit of time travel in my work and research, and this meal at City Tavern was exactly that.

Thanks, Leanna. Franklin and tofu… I have no words. I’m completely agog. I’ll never look at Poor Richard’s Almanac the same way again.

Next Monday: Another year, another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jeremy Finley

No Comments » Written on December 24th, 2018 by
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Jeremy Finley

As part of the year winding down, last week I blew out a tire on my new car. When I bought the car a couple months ago, I sprang for the ten-year, bumper-to-bumper package. Alas, this does not cover tires. The whole affair, completely with replacement tire scheduling stupidity, has left me feeling sour. This is not how I want to end the year, which admittedly, has been one of both highs and lows. So instead, I’ll draw your attention to something else that happened last week, the release my novelette “The Rule of Three” in the premiere issue of Future SF. Give it a read; I think you’ll like it.

Segueing now into other things I think you’ll like, allow me to introduce you to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Jeremy Finley. Those of you from the greater Nashville area already know Jeremy, as he’s the chief investigative reporter at the NBC affiliate there. His many accomplishments include eighteen Emmys and Edward R. Murrow awards, a national Headliner award, and two IRE awards. In 2016 the Tennessee Associated Press named him journalist of the year. How this man doesn’t have as wikipedia page I’ll never understand.

And now he’s turned his powers to fiction. His debut novel The Darkest Time of Night was released this past June to rave reviews. The sequel, The Dark Above is already schedule for July.

LMS: Welcome, Jeremy. Tell me about your best meal.

JF: I don’t remember what I ate during the best meal I’ve ever had.

To explain, I have to liken meals to books, and writers and chefs may not appreciate the comparison.

We have multiple bookshelves in our house, all stacked mostly with novels that carry significance. A high percentage have already been read once, and I cling to them, pausing occasionally to look at the spine, the font of the title, the color of the jacket. It was only when my family made our latest move did my wife, Rebecca, who has spent eighteen years hauling books from one house to another, gently suggested, perhaps, it was time to thin the herd.

It should have been easy, as I pride myself in not getting attached to physical objects, not houses, not furniture, not cars. The parting from the books, though, was like ripping off a band-aid each time a novel went into the library donation pile.

The Darkest Time of Night

“But you’ve already read them,” my wife mentioned, certainly fighting the urge to smack me on the back of the head with the three volume collection of Michael Crichton’s novels that weighs more than she does.

What I didn’t explain was that I know exactly how I feel about the book, but not much else.

Which is how I feel about meals. Nashville, the city in which we’ve lived in for fifteen years, has become a foodie town, so much that restaurants pop up like musicians on open mic nights trying to score a record deal. Even after we sample them, even if I truly enjoy the food, I don’t remember what I ate. It drives Rebecca nuts, as her brain is wired to remember exact details of most things (translation: she’s much smarter).

“How can you not remember that delicious chicken we ate at the 404 Kitchen?” she’d ask.

I’d probably just stupidly grin, thinking that I definitely recall how you can sit on the front patio of the restaurant and watch the bachelorette parties cruise by on party barges screaming at people on the street. I remember laughing with her, and how the towering office buildings and condos capture the kind of constant breeze reminiscent of downtown New York or Chicago.

Like books, I remember how the restaurants made me feel. I love to eat out, just like I love to read. I do both as often as I can. But it’s the details I’m hazy about. I will talk for hours about my love for certain books, but unless I’ve re-read them several times, the names of characters, major plot twists and developments, are foggy. It honestly bugs me, as I want to be able to rattle off the fine details of the work that a writer has toiled so repeatedly over. Just as I want to remember the spices, the seasonings, the presentation of the meals, a lingering homage to the chef’s work.

The Dark Above

I do wonder if, in these extremely tense and volatile times of ours, that when we have a great experience, and we are so relieved and thrilled to find something that brings us joy that we become so deeply entrenched and we let our minds relax. For that moment, all we know is that what we’re eating or reading is really, really good.

Which is why I don’t recall a single detail about the food during the meal that I believe was the best I ever had.

But I de remember the place, and the cooks, and the people who gathered. How my wife was nine months pregnant with our first daughter, and our doctor didn’t want us to travel to go home to Illinois for Thanksgiving. With no family in town, our friends down the street invited us into their home.

We lived in East Nashville at the time, a neighborhood filled with baristas with curled mustaches in skinny jeans; where people smoke and drink wine by candlelight on their front porches, held aloft by 100 year old Victorian pillars in desperate need of painting.

It’s the kind of urban image completed that the Thanksgiving invitation was from a lesbian couple universally adored on our street. From the moment we entered, there was laughter and booze and the smell of turkey. We sat at their large dining room table, next to our neighbors with their young son who repeatedly rested his head on our shared fence to discuss Star Wars trivia. Our British friends, from a few streets over, regaled us with stories of their favorite horror movies to watch on Christmas.

I do wish I remember the food, but it’s OK that I don’t. I actually don’t need to. I just know that afterwards, I was full, I was content, and I was happy.

Which is exactly how I felt in the completion of certain books, why they remain on my bookshelf, and in dark times of uncertainty, I can walk by them, see their titles, and briefly remember how it feels to be truly nourished.

Thanks, Jeremy. I understand completely, and I’m much the same way. A fine meal, like a fine book, is the very definition of feeling replete for me. But yes, it’s hard, particularly when one’s wife is a chef and friends are all authors.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: N. J. Schrock

No Comments » Written on December 17th, 2018 by
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N. J. Schrock

Most years at about this time, I’m chomping at the bit for the calendar to finish so I can move on and start all over again. But instead, as the last of my major obligations has just been completed, I’m wishing the remaining days could stretch out further. I long for lazy days punctuated by the occasional nap. Why is it that our perception of time is so relativistic and kooky?

Which is not the best of segues to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because N. J. Schrock is neither relativistic nor kooky. She was a Ph.D.-carrying chemist with a quarter century experience in the private sector before deciding she wanted more, went back to school and picked up a Master’s in English. The combination shows in her writing, and is on fine display in her debut novel Incense Rising, though, I confess, she had me from the very beginning by naming a scientist Incense Rising.

LMS: Welcome, Nancy. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

NJS: In the late 1980s, I was working as a research chemist on a product development project, and I was invited to go to Italy to meet the customer and witness how a plastic product was manufactured. I met up with two colleagues in technical service, one from the U.S. (Nick, a Midwesterner), and one from Belgium (Paul). In the hotel lobby earlier in the day, Paul proposed that we meet at 9:00 p.m. to go to dinner. Nick was adamant that 9:00 was way too late for dinner, but Paul knew the Italians, and we agreed to a compromise of 8:30. The late hour was only the first of many things about this dinner that made it unique.

The Italian salesman, who I think was named Giorgio, drove us to the venue on winding, narrow roads. I sat in the passenger side back seat and kept expecting the passenger-side mirror to be taken off by the sheer rock walls. The road had no shoulder, and the driver’s speed seemed excessive for the road, but he knew what he was doing. Nick sat in the driver’s side of the back seat and was visibly edgy and probably glad he didn’t have my side. But the proximity of the cliff and the speed that it was passing us was not what made it so memorable. At places along the wall, people had made memorials to dead loved ones. When we pulled off the road into a small parking lot, we had a chance to examine one. Pictures, votive candles, and statues filled a recess in the wall, connecting us with the people who had spent their lives in this place. Their presence was almost palpable.

Incense Rising

Looking around, I wondered where the restaurant was. We were high above the lake. The sun had set, and the lights across the lake reflected in the water, making for a beautiful scene. What I soon learned is that we had to walk to the restaurant, which was down the slope and through a Medieval-looking village. The houses were stone and set into the slope, and people were going about their evening lives. I would like to have seen it in the daylight.

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was a cozy family-run business. I don’t recall what the dishes were, but we had several, brought out in small portions and not in the order that we might typically expect in the U.S. If I recall correctly, the salad might have been last. The weather was perfect, the food and wine were excellent, and the lights on the other side of the lake came across the water and mingled with the congenial company.

After dinner, we toured a Medieval chapel on the property. I was struck by how little the structure of a chapel has changed in hundreds of years. I felt the connections through the years from the chapel, to the village, and to the memorial all the way up the cliff as we climbed back through the dark village at about midnight to the place where the car sat waiting for us and our lives spent in other times and places.

I’ll never forget that meal even though I don’t remember what I ate. Someday I’d like to try to find that restaurant again if it’s still there. Through a quick google search, I did find a website that warned Americans not to try to drive that road. And rightly so, it’s probably a road I’ll never see again because the most memorable meals are not repeatable. They’re caught in a time and place like the memorials in the cliff walls.

Thanks, Nancy. It’s probably a bit morbid or me, but I wonder how many of those roadside shrines were to people who met their end either coming or going to that restaurant.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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