Posts by Lawrence:

Eating Authors: Shannon Eichorn

Written on June 24th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Shannon Eichorn

Last November, as part of my folly of doing four conventions in one month, I traveled to Indianapolis to be a guest at Starbase Indy. Inbetween my talks and panels and posing with a horta in the Dealers’ Room, I wandered through other presentations and chatted with some authors who were manning fan tables. One of these was this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Shannon Eichorn. In addition to talking to her about her book, I got to listen to Shannon during portions of the Astrophysics track at the convention, where she held forth on topics such as women in STEM and the fun of engineering.

In fact it’s her background as an aerospace engineer that informs her debut novel, Rights of Use, at least metaphorically. I’m pretty sure her day job doesn’t deal with actual flying saucers, alien abduction, or mind-erasure. But then again, you never know.

LMS: Welcome, Shannon. What comes to mind when I ask you about your most memorable meal?

SE: “If we made our vegetables like that,” I told the folks traveling with me, “American families wouldn’t have to cajole their kids into eating veggies.”

We’d travelled to the other side of the world, to a country I’d never heard of until our pastor visited two years before. When they asked for volunteers, I felt like I needed to go not only as an expression of faith but also as a writer who needed to see and understand more of the world. I had already seen travel change me for the better during my temporary work in Puerto Rico and even during my book research trip to Montana. But as a scifi writer, I also wanted to go for the newness of it.

Rights of Use

A lot of scifi draws from other cultures. Stargate draws from Egyptian and Norse lore, among others. There’s Roman- and Chicago-inspired Star Trek, and the Dresden Files features Chichen Itza. In several series, I’ve lapped up urban fantasy’s Native American influences. Speculative fiction is rich with reflections of cultures around the world.

In daily life, I’ve had pen pals in England and Germany and learned more through studying German. Just speaking English brings its own influence from its Germanic and French/Latin roots, and that informs a lot of how we connect to the world. With all that exposure, it’s easy to imagine I know something about the world.

But Cambodia was new.

With the Khmer language unrelated to any I’d known or studied, a history apart from anything I’d ever learned, and its most prominent religions ones I’d barely studied, Cambodia could test my acceptance of language, culture, and even food that wasn’t my own.

If I wanted to be the kind of person I could respect, I had to be able to appreciate people with whom I had very little in common.

That’s how I found myself sitting shoeless at a table on a church patio in Cambodia (in January), staring into the eyes of a whole, fried fish.

Swamp Cabbage

The churches in the north had come together to exchange details about their ministries with each other and with us, along with some of their best food. And it was a spread: large, roasted fish; tiny, fried fish; steamed vegetables we’d never seen before; fruit we’d never heard of before. I kind of remembered starfruit, but who’d heard of milk fruit? It was all fantastic, bursting with flavor and spices like the cuisine in nearby Thailand. I even tried almost the whole fried fish as soon as someone volunteered to relieve me of the head.

But the steamed vegetables stand out most to me. Morning glory, they told us when we asked. It looked like boiled spinach with thicker stalks. It must have been spiced with something and tasted delicious every time we encountered it. Best of all, we caught its nickname: swamp cabbage.

I fell in love with Cambodia and its kind, gracious people the same way I did with Puerto Rico. I came home humbler, with a better idea of when to check my assumptions about culture and a better idea of what things really are universal. And someday soon, it will be time to see more of the world and add to my list of memorable meals.

Thanks, Shannon. I’m a player for the fish, but swamp cabbage? Nyah, that wouldn’t have gotten me to eat my veggies as a kid, and it’s not going to work now either.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Written on June 17th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Last month I was in Los Angeles for the annual Nebula Conference. Without a doubt, the highlight of the week was getting to meet face to face with a writer I’d been introduced to a couple months earlier via first one and then a second Slack channel. We’d really hit it off, though we had very little in common, to the point where we’d begun bouncing off ideas for multiple collaborative novel projects.

I had some real concern that our budding “bromance” was all a product of online chats and would not survive our actual meeting. As it turned out, he had the same worry. In the end, we meshed even better in person. So much so that, despite both of us being stupidly busy with too many other projects, we laid plans for our first collaboration, an epistolary first contact novel based on faulty translation software.

All of the above is by way of introducing this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. When he’s not writing Nebula-nominated fiction, Yudha applies high level economic and sociological data analysis to political commentary. He’s been a tech journalist, a blogger, a TEDx Speaker. Lately, he’s been responsible for an A.I. poet that writes in old Tang dynasty style (follow the poems on Twitter). Unsurprisingly, his dayjob is at a Think Tank.

He’s currently negotiating foreign sales for several books, fielding movie options, and writing, writing, writing. If you’re not familiar with his work, go out and get it now. This is an author that is going to burn brightly.

LMS: Welcome, Yudha. Talk to me about your most memorable meal.

YW: I’ve never been what you might call a food connoisseur. If I am, it’s as an aficionado of the dark alleys and cheap, late-night stalls. For much of my formative years (2000-2011) we never had much money for food, so whatever instincts I have are fine-tuned to getting the most amount of fried rice per rupee. There was a certain science to it – if you found a place just the right distance away from a junction, and hit it about twenty minutes before lunchtime, you’d get a generously mangled knock-off fried rice that was neither Chinese nor Sri Lankan but some generic Asian lovechild born from the cheapest possible components of both.

Numbercaste

And you could pay twenty rupees more for a polythene bag full of the horribly oily chilli paste you found only in shops like that; the chilli paste set your mouth on fire and slowed down the eating so you ended up rationing out of reflex, rather than any conscious choice. A good “full buth packet”, laced thus with enough chilli could feed two of us, or last two meals for one.

My family never connected over these meals – we ate in silence, as apart from each other as possible. My mother would watch the TV, my father would sit outside the house with a cigarette pack ready, and I would stare at yet another half-finished manuscript on the clunky secondhand Pentium II computer I’d bought. That blinking cursor and those cheap, fiery meals became as much a part of my identity as anything else.

My most memorable meal was somewhere in 2015. I was in London, in Piccadilly Circus, and I was miserable.

On paper, I was doing fine. I had left poverty behind; in fact, I had a very cushy job and a very startup-ish company; they paid me far more than people my age made – and with the job came plenty of international travel. I had rented a proper house for myself and my mother, and I could afford whatever I wanted, three meals a day. I knew that all I had to do was hang on – do my duty, do it well, and eventually all the things I never dared dream of might be mine. Long before I hit thirty.

The Inhuman Race

But this comfort came at the expense of my identity. Not just as a writer, but as a person. These aspirations weren’t mine; these social clubs weren’t what I was built for. I stumbled around like a drunk – or worse, someone who’d woken up in a skin-suit not his own and was fumbling around with the controls. The conference I had come here for was done, the company so gratingly competitive that I’d left them behind and traded the fancy hotel room for cheap lodgings in Tottenham. I’d bought fish and chips, only to discover that the British preferred their food to taste like soggy cardboard.

So I sat there in the gray rain with tasteless fish and my oversized backpack and watched a man scrawl a poem from one pavement to another, building a zebra crossing made of politics and prose. Right next to me a man was selling drugs to a group of inebriated women from a hen party. I wondered, not for the first time in my life, why I should bother waking up the next morning. Surely it was easier to fall back into the old pattern, the quick vertical cut down the right wrist; and this time, unlike the last, I would do the job right, instead of just cutting slightly to the left of the vein.

Somewhere inside me the buth-packet-seeker woke. I passed the fish on to someone who needed it more and began walking.

Story Plot

I can’t tell you how long I walked for – it might have been only fifteen or thirty minutes, but it felt like a cross between an eternity and no time at all. Something led me to the side alleys and the places that well-dressed people skirted around. And at last I stood before my Grail: a cheap restaurant that smacked of the kind of generic Asianness that I knew well. And there I found a fried rice that was cheap, and asked for more chilli paste than the waiters were comfortable serving me, and I ate like I hadn’t seen food in years.

Outside, two drunks started whacking each other. One of them had a cricket bat, which I later hefted as it lay on the pavement: good English Willow, heavy, the kind of thing you want on your side in a fight. But right then I paid them no heed. I ate until I could barely move and I was bleeding chilli tears from the paste and the waiter had warned me I might get ulcers if I ate more chilli. I didn’t care. I pulled out my laptop and stared at the manuscript I’d abandoned when I joined the company. I decided right there that I would finish this thing, no matter how many cheap rices it took.

For better or for worse, I was back in my own skin. And if I wasn’t happy – well, at least I had a reason to get up the next morning.

Thanks, Yudha. Forever after, I fear I will find myself assessing my meals by asking if there’s a drunk with a cricket bat nearby.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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photo credit: Ushan Gunasekara

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Eating Authors: Elizabeth Crowens

Written on June 10th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Elizabeth Crowens

It’s taken far too much of the past week, but I’m finally over the jet lag from my visit to Beijing last month. I know this because it’s been replaced by the return of my more ordinary insomnia, which has me waking up after only a few hours of sleep, to putter around the house in the pre-dawn dark while my wife and dog blissfully slumber on.

The worst part of all of May’s travel has been the disruption to my writing regimen. I’ve still managed to write every day, but not with the same verve and vigor. I like to think this is only a temporary hiccough and I’ll soon be back on track with my long range plans for releasing multiple titles this year.

Speaking of book releases (see what I did there?), in just two days this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Elizabeth Crowens, is seeing the re-release of Silent Meridian, book one in her alternate history series of a time traveling professor (yeah, that hooked me at once!) that includes Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Harry Houdini, and Carl Jung, just to name a few. But wait, there’s more! The second book in the series, A Pocketful of Lodestones, comes out from Atomic Alchemist Productions LLC on August 1st.

If you’ve not read her fiction, you may know Elizabeth from her wildly popular interviews for John ONeill’s Blackgate Magazine, many of which have been collected in The Poison Apple. She also writes in the Hollywood suspenese subgenre, which until encountering her work I didn’t even know was a thing!

LMS: Welcome, Elizabeth. What stands out as your most memorable or favorite meal?

EC: It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite meal, and I hate to disappoint you by not knowing the name of the restaurant or exactly what I ate, but it was the whole experience… or gestalt that was superior to anything that I’ve ever experienced.

Silent Meridian

Where was it? In Plovdiv, Bulgaria of all places near the Greek border. I had been part of a film crew shooting a martial arts film in Sophia, the capital of Bulgaria, and on one of our day’s off one of the Bulgarian producers took a large van full of cast and crew out to the countryside. When we stopped for lunch, he took us to the back patio of a restaurant, ordered wine and Ouzo, and all of us sat under flowering trees and enjoyed sublime spring weather considering we had snow in the city the week before.

This was the first time I participated in one of those legendary, multi-course Greek-style, three-hour meals with a group of friends, and on movie sets since you tend to work ridiculously long hours, you tend to make friends and bond with your co-workers. Between the ambiance, the exotic location, perfect weather, the camaraderie, food to die for, and way too much of it including alcohol, that was probably the best meal experience I ever had.

Thanks, Elizabeth. There’s something surreal about an account of making martial arts films in Bulgaria, but it could just be all that ouzo.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jim Meeks-Johnson

Written on June 3rd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Jim Meeks-Johnson

In theory, I have returned successfully from being a GoH at APSFcon and staying on for a few days to explore Beijing. It’s only a theory because I’m using the internet as my personal time machine to write this post in advance because I anticipate being swamped when I get home (not to mention severely jetlagged).

Speaking of time machines (he said, segue-ishly), I’ve been reflecting on certain events in my past, among them the two weeks I spent at 10,000 feet under the tutelage of Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress as part of the 2010 Taos Toolbox masterclass. In addition to teaching me the value of hydration at high altitudes, that workshop gave me the skills of plotting and storytelling that made it possible for me to write Barsk and I’ll be forever grateful.

Which is why that as soon as I learned that another graduate of the Toolbox had just published his first novel my immediate reaction was to invite him to EATING AUTHORS. Please say hello to Jim Meeks-Johnson. He lives in Indianapolis, and as I’ll be there next month for the annual KLI conference, maybe I can lure him over to learn a little Klingon.

Like so many of us, Jim got sucked into reading SF courtesy of the works of Robert A. Heinlein. He’s used his degrees in psychology and mathematics to write software for medical research and for the past decade has been taking curious ideas from contemporary science to spin SF short stories. About five weeks ago he released Enemy Immortal, and if you like ten-ton blobs, immortal aliens, equine dance communication, sapient plantlife with laser vision, or superpowered heroes with their own rock band, then this is the novel you’ve been waiting for.

LMS: Welcome, Jim. Congratulations on your first novel. Let’s celebrate by you telling me about your most memorable meal.

JMJ: I like to travel and try new food. I’ve had many great dishes–from Fettuccine ai Frutti di Mare in Venice, to Cowboy Beans at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, to fresh-from-the-oven Crème Brule at Binkley’s in Indianapolis—but the best meal I’ve ever had? Nothing has ever surpassed Thanksgiving dinner on my grandparents’ Iowa farm.

Looking back, I can see that the preparation for Thanksgiving began before the snow thawed in March, when seed catalogs flooded the mail and farmers selected the varieties of each vegetable most loved by their family. Spring, summer, and fall, they watered and weeded the garden until the vegetables were picked at peak ripeness and canned the same day.

Enemy Immortal

Grandpa raised chickens, pigs, and cattle mostly, but he would fatten a turkey or two every year. And on Thanksgiving morning their house was rich with the steamy, mouth-watering goodness of roasting turkey and homemade sage dressing.

After everyone sang the doxology together, we sat down, and grandma sliced the juicy turkey and distributed it according to everyone’s preference–light or dark meat. I chose the dark. It always seemed to me to have more flavor and a smoother texture than the breast, and I was more likely to get a generous portion of the crispy brown skin.

The vegetables were from the garden outside. Heirloom gardeners understand more than most of us how much difference in flavor the variety of potatoes, corn, and green beans makes. The mashed potatoes were served lumpy, hearty, and flavorful, with a dollop of cream and butter from the cows in the barn stirred in. The gravy from the turkey drippings had a delightful roast turkey flavor. Acorn squash baked golden brown with butter and brown sugar was mashed and served beside the potatoes.

The salad consisted of the old Midwestern favorite, 7-layer Jello. The medley of colors and flavors was fun, as was the contrasting flavor and texture of the alternating transparent and creamy layers. Even more though, I loved the tart, crispy deliciousness of limed pickles, a rare treat because they were labor intensive even for our clan, requiring multiple baths of pickling solution.

Dessert was pumpkin pie, of course, with a heady clove smell and topped with plenty of homemade whipped cream from the cows outside.

I suspect all great chefs know this, but a lot of the goodness in food comes from selecting the perfect ingredients. Nothing beats great farm food prepared simply.

Thanks, Jim. Thanksgiving on the farm sounds like the perfect meal. Well, maybe not for the turkeys, but maybe they got to sample some practice pies before the big day.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Neal Asher

Written on May 27th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Neal Asher

As has been the case with the last few posts, this one is being prepared in advance because on the date it goes live, I’ll be traveling. Specifically, I should be recovering from my time as a GoH at APSFcon in Beijing. That ended yesterday, and I need to rest up because now it’s time to play tourist and tomorrow the plan is to visit the Great Wall, something which I suspect this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Neal Asher, could certainly appreciate.

Neal is probably most known for his Polity Universe and the multiple novels and series he’s set there (some sixteen books, to date), including his Agent Cormac series, his Spatterjay trilogy, and the Transformation books.

Much of his shorter fiction (including many novellas) can be found in six collections. He also has several fantasy novels and series that he’s still tinkering with, which we can but hope will surface in bookstores soon.

His latest novel, The Warship (the second book in his Rise of the Jain series) came out from Night Shade Books earlier this month.

LMS: Welcome, Neal. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

NA: The meal was memorable not because of wonderful food but circumstances, perspective and background. First the background: It had been decades since I’d dreamed of being a writer, of seeing my name on lurid covers like the copy of A Princess of Mars I held in my hand as a teenager. I had nearly twenty books to my name, had completed to first draft a trilogy before I needed to hand in the first book, and my wife and I were embarking on another extended and enjoyable Summer on Crete. Life was good and, even when she turned round and told me, ‘I’m bleeding, down there,’ this being some years after her menopause, life had yet to descend into a nightmare. The trilogy written was called ‘Transformation’ and to some extent concerned people undergoing nightmarish transformations. Synchronicity I guess.

The Soldier

I’ll be brief, and it was all quite brief considering how these things often run. Steady blows at doctors and in a hospital on Crete: the mass of black blobs under ultrasound, the MRI showing a growth the size of a baby’s head, the Greek oncologist never quite saying the truth, the hideous hospital where relatives cleaned down the beds and all around them before their loved one took that place, and the subsequent escape and flight to the UK. All steps ever down. In the UK: emergency rehydration and feeding through the arm, the massive operation and the news of ‘Bowel cancer, stage four’, vomited green bile measured in a jug, and recorded, another operation and the ileostomy bag, carrying my 5 stone wife to the toilet, the decision to stay at home and that final, ‘Oh no,’ as she threw herself across the bed to escape something, and did not. Seven months from that bleeding, to a coffin sliding into a crematorium.

Dark Intelligence

I came out of the other side of this walking. They say that people try to handle grief in four different ways. They take pills, hit the bottle, work excessively or exercise excessively. I chose the last of these, along with ceasing to drink to excess, as I had before, and having quit smoking using an ecig. I walked every day to try and keep the black dog from my door, starting with just a few miles and getting up to about seven miles every day. I shed weight, helped by the fact that I ate infrequently, and toughened up. Returning to Crete I continued with this, now walking steep paths in the mountains and finally settling on an eight mile walk to a place called Voila (pronounced voy-la). I considered writing a strange book incorporating SF and my experiences called ‘Walking to Viola’ – something I started then found too painful to go through with.

I added swimming to my regimen, often walking in the morning then swimming for a mile in the afternoon from a local beachside bar. How much this had toughened me I only truly realised when I started gorge walking there. Meanwhile, I went through days when my body registered its objection to running on empty. I would wake up feeling incredibly hungry, eat something then fall asleep for a couple of hours, then repeat this sequence all day. Food obviously being a necessity I could not ignore I resorted to the giros. This is pork sliced from a skewer (a giro) and along with salad and chips wrapped in a pitta bread to form a cone. They are a meal in and of themselves.

Prador Moon

One particularly hot day I went on a long gorge walk. I think this might have been ten miles through rough terrain in the mountains. Returning to the coast I swam for a mile, then relaxed. However, a Greek guy I had been joking with at one time about a swimming race, chose that day to challenge me. We raced for a mile and he won (he was 20 years younger). Afterwards, as I cooled down, I decided I really needed food so ordered in two giros. I went for another short swim and on the way back cramp hit me first in one calf and then in the other. It felt like being hit there with a hammer and I finished the swim using arms only, then limped out of the sea up to the bar. My giros had arrived and, after sipping a beer, I dived in. I ate a chip and it just did not taste right. Adding salt improved the next chip, so I added more. At the time I remembered a gym instructor once ranting about how extra salt is unnecessary and we have too much. Laughable in the circumstances. By the time the giros tasted right I could hardly see its contents for the salt, and I could feel my body sucking it up and saying thank you. I enjoyed it immensely.

My memorable meal.

One would have hoped this marked a point of transition, of transformation, as would be the case in any story well told. Perhaps now I would stop pushing myself so hard and make my peace with the past. No. The bar owner introduced a new plot element when he told me he had a kayak I could use, and the story continued in a similar vein for years, and continues still. Life can be a story, but infrequently has a satisfying denouement, I know.

Thank you, Neal. I usually close out these meal posts with some attempt at a clever remark. Not this week though. I think I’ll just sit with this one for a while. Peace.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Maurice Broaddus

Written on May 20th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Maurice Broaddus

As I’ve previously noted, May is an especially hectic month for me this year. This post is being prepared a couple weeks in advance, but if all goes as planned these words will go live mere hours after my return from the Nebula Conference in L.A. and I’ll already be repacking to travel to Beijing in another 48 hours. And yet, I’m already thinking ahead to July, which also promises to be a hectic month, beginning with the NASFiC in Utah and the qep’a’ cha’maH javDIch in Indiana soon after.

Stream of consciousness being what it is, thoughts of Indiana—and particularly Indianapolis—stir up other associations including GenCon, Starbase Indy, and this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest Maurice Broaddus who has long called the city home.

When not writing, Maurice devotes his time to community development, enhancing the lives of local residents. You likely know him for his short fiction and his Knights of Breton Court trilogy, though I first stumbled across his work with his brilliant novella Buffalo Soldiers.

Maurice is also the creative genius behind Mo*Con, which is less like a typical convention and much more like a gathering of industry professionals and über fans coming together for fine food, tasty beverages, and excellent conversation.

His latest Middle Grade novel, The Usual Suspects, comes out tomorrow.

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

MB: We as a people have notoriously short memories and notoriously hard hearts. We need rituals to drag our imagination back to certain things, to stir our affections, and to serve as reminders to what is important in life. Rituals around food play an important role in my faith (from Communion to Easter), culture (Kwanzaa), and family (especially my parents’ tradition of Sunday dinners), even going on to shape my writing community (with Mo*Con, the writing convention I host in May).

Buffalo Soldier

Writing this, I can’t help but reflect on our family meals. My dad was not one quick to say “I love you” when we were growing up. Nor was he an especially huggy person, that was just not how his generation expressed things. But he would make BBQ chicken wings. Our Sunday dinners, no matter how poor we were, were spectacles. We’d usually have a couple different meats, assorted side dishes, and something either from Jamaica or England where my family has its roots. Not all of these culinary adventures would be a hit with us kids (because, seriously, why is steak and kidney pie a thing?) However, my dad always made chicken wings and would set them in front of me for me to get first dibs on them because he knew I loved them. I always took that as him saying that he thought about me and loved me. In fact, the BIG display of love would be if any of the kids finished our plates and had eaten all of the food, but were still hungry. My dad would share the food from his plate. It was like a ritual of love and remembrance. So I obviously take meals quite seriously.

With food holding such an important place in my heart, it was more difficult that I thought it would be to choose just one memorable meal. On one occasion, the family (which included a close friend of mine, since we don’t distinguish between close friends and family) took a trip to England which culminated with a weekend excursion to Paris where we had a three-hour long meal. It started with cheese, bread, and wine, and … well, there was a lot of wine. I have a vague recollection of frog legs and something in a luscious cream sauce. There was the time me and some family went to New Orleans, where we had a meal involving crayfish, beignets, Hurricanes, and … well a lot of Hurricanes. I have a vague recollection of something spicy.

The Usual Suspects

But the meal that stands out was only a couple years ago at Palimino’s, in downtown Indianapolis during GenCon. Me and some fellow game writers had wrapped up a project. We had just finished a live performance of our game, playtesting it in front of an audience and decided to go out to eat to celebrate a job well done. Paid for by the publisher. Who started us off with two bottles of wine and by ordering all of the appetizers on the menu, so we knew we were in for a time. My meal included calamari misto, fettucine frutti di mare, chocolate tiramisu and crème brulee. That was the food I remember because the evening blurred into a flurry of shared plates, the way family does. It also marked the first time I became food drunk. No, seriously, the next day I had a food hangover so bad I couldn’t even look at a plate because I was still so full.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the relationship of food and community as Mo*Con is almost upon me again and I’m choosing the right caterers for our meals. To create the atmosphere, to set the table, for a memorable occasion. But such an affair boils down to a simple mix of family/friends (an occasion to deepen the important relationships in your life), drinks (which lowers guards, loosens tongues, thus fueling the sharing of), stories (the shared history of who we are). All on a stage set by great food.

Thanks, Maurice. One of these years I will make my way back to Indianapolis for Mo*Con. I can’t think of a better setting to become food drunk.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: E.M. Foner

Written on May 13th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
E.M. Foner

One of the things I’ve been working on this month (along with way too much travel) has been a relaunch of my Amazing Conroy series, complete with new blurbs and covers, all being handled by an experienced professional I brought in for the purpose. Along the way, I’ve been getting a good education. As part of her market research she introduced me to a number of works of light, humorous SF by Indie authors. Which is both explanation of how I discovered E.M. Foner, and a segue into his being this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest.

He’s most well known for his Earth Cent Ambassador series which he began in 2014. He claims to have started the first book as a break from his efforts on an SF epic that he’d been hacking away at for years. I’ve been unable to find any indication that he ever went back to the epic, and so we’ll all just have to wonder what might have been. It’s understandable though, he’s clearly been busy. The quiet humor and PG plot lines of the series has led to some seventeen titles!

A second series, A I Diaries, is up to three books. He’s also tried his hand at fantasy with Meghan’s Dragon, a stand alone novel. E.M. lives in Northampton, Massachusetts and is rumored to have an imaginary German Shepherd. How that rumor factors into the author photo he provided is left as an exercise for the reader.

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

EMF: Back in 2001, I was sitting in a Jazz bar that had recently been opened by a Russian friend on Helene HaMalkah street in Jerusalem. Somebody entered and asked for a volunteer to come next door to the Swiss restaurant for a minyan, the ten Jewish men required by the orthodox for certain pubic prayers. I’m not a big fan of social occasions, but I figured they must be pretty desperate to be asking in a bar. In fact, the streets were empty for some reason I don’t recall, perhaps a recent bombing.

Date Night on Union Station

The only people in the restaurant were all part of the same party, sitting around a single line of tables that had been pulled together, and it didn’t take me too long to figure out that they were celebrating Sheva Brachos, the Seven Blessings that are said under the wedding canopy and in many traditions, repeated at a series of meals the following week. Friends at these dinners tell stories about the joys of married life, assumedly to convince the new couple that they haven’t made a terrible mistake.

I took the only open seat and ate a cookie at somebody’s urging, maybe I drank a coffee as well, and then they began benching, or singing the grace after meals. This I can manage without going too far off key thanks to having heard it enough times over the years. Then they got to the part where the guests actually start singing, the seven blessings. A full glass of wine is passed from hand to hand for the singer to hold, and I should mention at this point I’ve had a bad action tremor ever since my teen years, when I discovered I couldn’t keep a soldering iron steady.

Turing Test

As soon as the first blessing began, I had a premonition that they were going to give the last one to me as an honor for being a good sport and showing up. In addition to the tremor, I’ve always had a problem sight-reading Hebrew, especially if the vowels are included. This runs the opposite from most American Jews I know, who are taught to read with vowel markings (nikudot) and don’t necessarily know what they’re saying. In keeping with my idiosyncratic personality, I learned Hebrew primarily through reading newspapers, which are published without the vowel markings.

So I flipped ahead to the seventh blessing, which unlike the previous six one-liners, runs into a full paragraph of joy, and started muttering it over and over again under my breath to try to iron out the tricky words. Fortunately, the party also followed a tradition of adding a little nigunim, or wordless singing between each blessing, which bought me some extra time.

Independent Living

Sure enough, I ended up with silver wine goblet in my shaky hand, singing a paragraph-long blessing I’d never seen before in a tune I’d just heard to a group of French/Morrocan Jews who I’d never seen before either. When I got to the end without splashing anybody with wine, they gave me a round of applause, and I have to admit that for the rest of the night, I imagined myself moving on to bigger and better things, like maybe finally getting married myself since it looked like so much fun.

Alas, my participation in the meal that I didn’t eat represents the pinnacle of my social development, but I did learn my lesson about volunteering when a stranger comes into a bar asking for a Jew.

Thanks, E.M. I’m not sure what confused me more, having difficulty finding ten Jewish men in Jerusalem, or celebrating Sheva Brachos in a Swiss restaurant. Stranger than fiction indeed.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: R. R. Virdi

Written on May 6th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
R. R. Virdi

Welcome to May, or as I call it, Crazy Month.

Every year I say I’m going to cut back on my travel, and then opportunities fall in my lap. This month it’s two trips. First, next week I’ll be heading to Los Angeles for the annual Nebula Conference and my sixth trip to the nominees’ circle. This is my first time up for Best Novelette, so who knows? I’ll fly home the Sunday after the banquet, arriving just enough past midnight to make it count as Monday. Some time on Wednesday, I’ll get on a longer flight and head to Beijing, China, where I get to be one of the Guests of Honor at Another Planet Science Fiction Convention (aka APSFcon). I’ll linger in Beijing for a few days after the convention. Watch my social media feed for pics of me on the Great Wall and other touristy venues.

But before any of that can happen, I need to run another author’s most memorable meal past you. The timing being what it is, it seemed appropriate to introduce you to R. R. Virdi, one half of the team of Wijeratne and Virdi, whose novelette “Messenger” is vying with mine for THAT big, shiny, paperweight next week.

In addition to his recent Nebula nom, Ronnie has twice been a finalist for the Dragon Award. He has two urban fantasy series out there, The Grave Report and The Books of Winter. This past March he expanded into the sub-genre of space westerns with Star Shepherd, which should resonate with fans of Firefly, Han Solo, and even a bit of Cowboy Bebop.

If you’re going to be in L.A. for the conference, come on by. We’ll be drinking milkshakes together.

LMS: Welcome, Ronnie. Spare a few words regarding your most memorable meal.

RRV: Honestly, the most memorable meal of my life happened this year a few days before my birthday as an early treat. A dear friend took me out to a surprise birthday dinner along with my hero, Jim Butcher. They treated me to an amazing night out. It was a little hole in the wall, a bit literally, as we had to enter through a narrow phone booth like entrance and go underground. The place was Alice in Wonderland themed. Down the rabbit hole we went to find a charming little place. You couldn’t ask for a better place to eat if you were a book lover. Well, maybe an abandoned library, but part of that idea seems a bit sacrilegious. Maybe sacrilicious? Anyways, I ended up ordering a rabbit pot pie. It seemed fitting. I know the idea of rabbit might turn people off, but I was a French student in high-school and learned long ago that Peter Cottontail can be taste pretty nice.

Dangerous Ways

A perfect flaky and buttery crust gave way to this thick and creamy pie filled with tender rabbit meat. I tore it apart. But it wasn’t just the food. It was the company. I had people really close to me, and the person I look up to most in the world. We shared hilarious talk. Wonderful creative ideas. And, I got to celebrate my birthday with people who cared about me, believed in me. That meant the world to be honest. Everyone has a different story. Mine, for most of it, meant forgoing my birthday, at best, maybe just ordering something out to sort of pacify a family that’s never been to supportive of my dreams and ambitions. Here? I got to spend it with people that wanted to see me succeed. And at the end of the night, I was told a secret, something I’m still holding on to… that’s a dream come true. Even if it hasn’t happened yet.

I’ll always remember that Alice in Wonderland restaurant, that rabbit pie, the people, and what happened there. Best meal, and the best birthday.

Thanks, Ronnie. Who doesn’t love a bit of rabbit on their birthday? Now, about that secret. You can tell me…

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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