Eating Authors: Clark Thomas Carlton

No Comments » Written on December 23rd, 2019 by
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Clark Thomas Carlton

The year winds down. For me that has meant lots of medical appointments, a physical therapist kicking my ass twice a week, writing nonstop like I was Alexander Hamilton, and stealing hours and minutes from all of the above so I can still have time to spend with my wife. Stress levels have been high, but also productivity. And as others have noted, I’d rather have too much to do than too little.

Looking over his resume, I suspect the same can be said of Clark Thomas Carlton, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest (by golly, that was a real segue this time). I invited Clark to share his most memorable meal here because he’s a novelist (check out his Antasy series, Prophets of the Ghost Ants and The Prophet of the Termite God), but he’s also a playwright (having won the Drama-Logue Critics Award for Self Help or the Tower of Psychobabble), a screen and television writer, a singer/songwriter (currently working on a pop opera about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon), and a painter.

None of which explains his current fascination with insects, but he’s on record as appreciating the use of science fantasy novels as the means of illustrating the human condition. Some folks do this going big (e.g., elephants), others take the opposite perspective. Go figure.

LMS: Welcome, Clark. What can you tell me about your most memorable meal?

CTC: Nine of the ten worst meals I have ever eaten were in Russia, and that includes the very worst and certainly the most memorable.

I was in Yeltsin’s Russia, a few years into Glasnost, and about to see Schindler’s List for the 400th time as a quality supervisor in Lucasfilm’s THX program. The first part of my stay was in Moscow at a modern hotel that had just been acquired by an American chain. The hotel’s restaurant served edible western dishes, but as someone who has worked in the industry, I know when I’m being served a boil-in-the-bag. Craving a pizza, I asked the waiter if they were any good and he assured me it was “the best in Moscow.” After serving it to me, he announced, “Your pizza by the Red Baron.”

Near Red Square, I found a Chinese restaurant, but it was Chinese in name only. A chicken dish featured some tiny bits of meat mixed through a mass of cooked cabbage. The dish was devoid of anything like spices or even soy sauce. Some spaghetti at a so-called Italian place was topped with a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree. Parmesan cheese was not a possibility much less fresh burrata or focaccia. I loathe McDonalds, but I came to understand why there were three new ones in Moscow with very long lines because food in Russia was terrible. Under Yeltsin, Western products were flooding the country and Russians were rejecting everything made by their state industries, even their own vodka. Bananas were the latest, exotic arrival, and every trash bin in the city was piled high with their peels.

Prophets of the Ghost Ants

The Russian film lab, also of poor quality, was an hour outside of Moscow in a woodsy village that was a mix of industry and farming. The one and only hotel was bleak and boxy and built in the Stalin era, but it was surrounded by izbas, the little country houses made of logs bound with river mud. These were on tiny family farms with livestock, vegetable gardens and a few fruit trees. Perhaps here I might eat some genuine native dishes. The Russian food I had enjoyed in New York and San Francisco included pelmeni, the Slavic cousin of the ravioli, as well as Veal Prince Orlov, and good soups like barley mushroom and root vegetables with dill. My own dinner parties had included blinis with creme fraiche and caviar as well as that standard go-to, Chicken Kiev, which was always a crowd pleaser with its gushing puddle of chive flavored butter.

The food served in this hotel was both strange and awful and was not selected from a menu. The restaurant was a barren hall with wooden chairs, wobbly tables and grease stained table cloths. My first meal was a breakfast that I shared with my interpreter, Vasily. At some other tables, we noticed men dressed in running suits that smoked Benson and Hedges as they counted piles of pink Ukrainian money. When I asked who they were, Vasily told me they were “gangsters” and we should not make eye contact with them. “Russia is now like your Chicago in the Twenties,” he said, referring to an epidemic of gun violence.

I was served my first of a daily bowl of milky gruel, the ingredients of which I never identified. The table had two kinds of sliced gummy bread, white and brown, neither of which had flavor or a crust. Unstrained tea, swirling with leaves, was poured from a pot into glasses instead of cups. I watched as the gangsters poured Swedish vodka into their gruel, stirred it, then ate it up. “They are drinking vodka in the morning,” I whispered, but the interpreter shrugged. “We have Russian expression,” he said. “A drink in the morning and you are free all day.”

Dinner that night was difficult. I was the only diner and arrived to find the gummy bread and a plate with a thick smear of ground mystery meat. Next to it were some hard, greenish tomatoes that were blemished and irregular, like troll noses. Beside them were some juiceless and stunted cucumbers, popping with rubbery warts. I tasted the mystery meat and found it gritty and greasy, a throwback to my high school cafeteria. I went back to my room and ate some of the Snickers bars I had been advised to bring as gifts for the Russian people.

The Prophet of the Termite God

On weekends, I was back in Moscow and my host and his lovely daughter, Nadia, were kind enough to show me Gorky Park. At that time, the park was a spectacular mess that had never seen the likes of a lawn mower. It stank from subterranean bathrooms with broken toilets that still had to be used for the usual reasons. My hosts had been informed that I wasn’t eating and tempted me into trying shashlik, the Russian version of shish kebab. They promised me it was delicious.

We picked a shashlik vendor whose grill and tables were in a circle of unkempt bushes. I offered to pay for the meal but never bothered to ask if it was lamb or beef. As we waited for our meat to cook, I saw the first of the feral dogs of Gorky Park. They weren’t a threatening pack, but were shy with sad eyes and they seemed in need of a handout. Nadia brought us paper plates of shashlik and on the side of each was a glop of sauce that stood on end that was the color of a fresh scab.

I tried to bite through the first chunk of meat and could not — it was like trying to chew through a bicycle tire. I gripped one end of the chunk with my fingernails then tugged the other with my teeth, and still it would not tear. “This shashlik is not fun,” said Nadia, a frown on her face, as she gave up. We had been served lumps of gristle that none of us could eat much less enjoy. The dogs, looking at us longingly, were waiting for just this moment. They gently took the meat from our fingers and quietly wolfed it down. As I wiped my fingers clean, I pondered that Communism had been a noble, maybe even necessary experiment in human progress, but clearly it had failed as badly as our shashlik.

A few days later, I learned what kind of meat we had eaten when I picked up the English language newspaper and read the headline: Shashlik Vendors in Gorky Park Arrested for Serving Dog Meat.

Thanks, Clark. Clearly Russia was not kind to your palate. I’m afraid to ask what that 10th worst meal might be, because is something exists more horrible than gobbets of dog gristle I don’t want to know about it.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Obligatory Award Eligibility Post (Delayed, But-Not-Too-Late)

No Comments » Written on December 17th, 2019 by
Categories: News
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Hey there. You’ve all seen posts like this before, from both the “cool kids” and those of us with less swag. I suspect that’s because we all suffer from imposter syndrome and award nominations give us a sense of validation, even if we have to go out of our way (with posts like this one) to remind people to love us for what we make.

And yes, I see the irony there.

The second half of 2019 is proving to quite chaotic as unanticipated health issues devour my time and energy. Life? Meh. I’m taking it day by day. Anyway, here we go.

Most of my effort this year was spent relaunching all the titles in my Amazing Conroy series. That said, I did sneak in a few new tales. Two of these, a novelette and a short story, represent the best of my original work this year. I’ve provided links to the appropriate SFWA Forums where members can download them (after first logging in).

Both works were published in obscure books that you’re probably not going to encounter in the normal course of things. Hence this post so you’d learn of their existence and have the option to look them over as your time and interest dictate.

Please note: I am not asking for your nomination or vote. That would just be wrong on so many levels, and even I’m not that crass. But I do hope you’ll choose to read one or both of them because I believe the works will speak to you more eloquently than I can. If either does so, I’d welcome an acknowledgment of it on the Nebula Reading List.

Mind Din

“Mind Din” (approx. 15,675 words)
NOVELETTE (https://www.sfwa.org/forum/topic/14101-mind-din-by-lawrence-m-schoen/)

This novelette appeared in my short story collection Buffalito Bundle in July of 2019. The rest of the pieces in the collection had been published before, but “Mind Din” was new to the collection. This tale is set in the Conroyverse and features the Amazing Conroy and his alien companion animal, Reggie, as well as a deadly virus that causes telepathy, government agents, a possible descendant of a world famous Sri Lankan cricket player, the use of pool balls as brutal projectiles, the Atlanta Zoo, and some very long medical words scattered to your unconscious mind.
Nebula Reading List link: https://www.sfwa.org/forum/reading/work/3945-mind-din/

“Crossing the Line” (approx. 4360 words) SHORT STORY
(https://www.sfwa.org/forum/topic/14314-crossing-the-line-by-lawrence-m-schoen/)

Crossing the Line

This story appeared in The Expanding Universe 5 anthology edited by Craig Martelle, released in September 2019. Some clever commenters have said it “puts the LIT in LitRPG.” Maybe. The story’s about a humanities professor competing as a piece in an alien civilization’s chess game. If she wins, she could gain access to a long lost piece of literature. If she loses, her memories are at risk and her life is over. Much like last year’s Nebula nominee “The Rule of Three,” there’s very much an ‘old school’ feel to this story. I hope you like it.
Nebula Reading List link: https://www.sfwa.org/forum/reading/work/3946-crossing-the-line/

Both works have already received a bit of love on the Nebula Suggested Reading List (indeed, “Crossing the Line” has crept up into double digits!). I hope you find them to your liking as well.

And that’s it. Thanks for reading this far.

Eating Authors: Anthony Fucilla

No Comments » Written on December 16th, 2019 by
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Anthony Fucilla

The year is winding down, but the pressure to “do all the things” continues unabated, and if anything is ramping up as the specifics of next month’s hospital stay solidify. Last week I lost a day to about ten hours of medical tests (who needs to draw twenty vials of blood? Seriously?) including having my third bone marrow biospy of the season. Also a long and very informative conversation about how the transplant process will go, what to expect during my time in hospital, and what to prepare for after discharge. It’s all taking on real weight. There’s the list of possible but unlikely complications as well as the list of likely and unpleasant side effects associated with procedure. So, in that sense, busying myself with the push to finish another book right now is probably a very good thing. As is the diversion of bringing you regular installments of EATING AUTHORS.

So, a big thanks to this week’s guest, Anthony Fucilla, for proving some much needed distraction. And yes, that was your official segue.

I confess, I was completely unfamiliar with Anthony’s work until just a few weeks ago when a social media post about his next book, Androids and the Gods, purported to “redefine metaphysics.” So, yeah, that caught my attention and fueled my imagination. Alas, that book won’t be out until next year, but I was hooked. Naturally, I reached out to him to learn more.

He’s primarily known for his short stories, which have appeared in collections such as Quantum Chronicles In The Eleventh Dimension and Silent Earth. But what really caught my attention is that he approaches his fiction from a perspective of philosophy, focusing on questions of metaphysics and epistemology, A.I. and theology. Seriously, all he needs are elephants.

Start with his short fiction but don’t stop there. His latest novel, The Mars Time-Project, came out from Swirl two months ago.

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

AF: To be honest it is so very difficult to come up with a single most memorable meal. I’ve travelled all over the world extensively, Europe, Asia, America, South America, Australasia and experienced many magical moments when it comes to food. I love food and enjoy a vast array of different cuisines. However, one memorable meal was after the 2014 LONCON-3 72nd World Science Fiction convention in London, my home town. After a very busy day at the convention (book signing / talks… etc) my wife and I went to central London and found a fabulous Chinese restaurant. One that we had never heard of… Upon entering you instantly felt as if you had just been teleported to China. The classy oriental decor, Chinese ornaments and soft sounds of China – the music, create a unique atmosphere. In the dim light of the resturant you immediately feel relaxed. The soft lights create a warm inviting ambience and the background instrumental music was enchanting to say the least. The delightful aroma of food was rich and constant.

The Mars Time-Project

As for the staff, they were very gracious, all dressed in traditional Chinese costumes. This in turn added to the atmosphere greatly. The restaurant itself was very large, elegant to say the least, with neatly arranged tables positioned accordingily. As for the drinks menu, they had a large selection of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages to choose from; Chinese beer galore like Tsingtao, Yanjing Beer, etc… Now for the food! Well the food was simply sublime, absolutely exquisite. The menu itself was a mini-book. It had a vast array of dishes to choose from: sizzling King prawns in black bean, crab in oyster sauce, lobster with ginger and spring onion, crispy seafood balls with sweet and sour sauce, traditional Chinese drunken Chicken, and every type of noodle dish you could possibly think of and of course, dim sums galore! In the end we ended up ordering a mixed selection of dishes, seafood, chicken, noddles, rice, dim sum etc! As for the service… well, it was fantastic! They were all so polite, precise and efficient. All in all, it was one of the best Chinese restaurants we’d been to, simply majestic in every sense… a memorable meal indeed after a wonderful day.

Thanks, Anthony. Having been to China three times now, I’m still stunned that what I find at so-called Chinese restaurants here in the states is nothing like the food I experienced there. On the other hand, dim sum is proof for God!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Jeffrey A. Carver

No Comments » Written on December 9th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
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Jeffrey A. Carver

As has been said before, Tempus fugit. I mention it here because I have entered the fourth (and presumably final) cycle of my chemo therapy. It all wraps up on January 2nd, and then I’ll have a few weeks to get ready for my bone marrow transplant and three weeks or so in the hospital. Too fun.

In the meantime, I’m working frantically to get a significant subset of all the things done because I’ve been assured I won’t feel like doing bupkis once I’m in hospital. That’s included reaching out to lots o’ authors so I could front load upcoming EATING AUTHORS posts so you don’t have to do without while I am otherwise indisposed.

Say, that looks like a segue (of sorts) to introduce you to this week’s guest, Jeffrey A. Carver.

So, here’s the thing I like best about Jeff: it’s not that he’s a Nebula Award finalist for Best Novel, or that he wrote a book in Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway Universe, or even that he wrote the novelization of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. Nope. What makes him so cool is that back in 1995 he developed and hosted a live, interactive TV series on writing science fiction and fantasy that was beamed into middle-school classrooms all over the country. Seriously, how many of us even come close to that kind of street cred.

I’m just sorry it’s taken me so long to get him here.

LMS: Welcome, Jeffrey. You know the drill. Recount a meal, please.

JAC: When you first asked to talk about a memorable meal, my mind went blank. Was it that really good pizza, or maybe the meal at the Spanish restaurant that someone treated us to? Or maybe a meal paid for by a publisher? Or that marvelous meal in France? No… none of those stands out enough. What about the Surf & Turf I used to serve my family when the girls were young: a delectable meal of fish sticks and hot dogs? Maybe. Maybe not.

Neptune Crossing

Then my wife reminded me: Perhaps the most memorable eating experience was not so much about the food as the entire experience surrounding it. How about that memorable dining experience in that wonderful city, London? We were in London for Loncon, the World Science Fiction Convention in 2014.

We had made a late decision to go, and by the time we signed up, all the hotels were filled. Allysen went online to find a solution via Air BnB. “Hey,” she said, after a bit. “Do you want to stay on a houseboat on the Thames? It has all the amenities. Kitchen. Onboard bathroom. It’ll be an adventure.”

I agreed enthusiastically. It would be a bit of a hike from the convention, but so what? It was a houseboat! On the Thames! What could be more romantic and exciting? We signed up.

Following a trip across the Atlantic, we arrived, weary, and even wearier after our half mile walk from the Tube station, at our home-away-from-home. It was not… quite… what we had expected. Not exactly a houseboat, if we were to be honest. It was a small, admittedly charming, sailboat. Still, it was on the Thames, right? That was exciting in and of itself. Except, no; it could get to the Thames, if it moved far enough. But it was actually moored at a huge marina, some ways up a tributary, surrounded by a high, chain link fence and the sounds of construction. We needed to memorize a passcode to get through the chain-link gate. More on this later.

The Rapture Effect

Our host greeted us jovially, but reacted with alarm when he saw our suitcases–three small carry-ons. “I’m not sure how well those will fit,” he said, as though it had never occurred to him that visitors from America might arrive with suitcases. No matter; we stepped carefully over the gunwale and made our way into the cabin for the short tour. There were several cramped bunks, and a pervasive smell of mildew. My daughter started sneezing on the spot, and immediately decided she would sleep in the open-air outer cabin and hope it didn’t rain.

But hey, this is about meals. We eagerly looked forward to the coziness of simple meals cooked in the little boat’s kitchen while we rocked gently on the Thames. Well… kitchen was perhaps too grand a word for the little sink, littler cooktop, and a toaster and electric tea kettle which, because of the boat’s wiring, could not be used at the same time. I think there was a micro-fridge. True to our host’s promise, he had provided makings for a morning pick-me-up: a jar of old instant coffee, and a box of stale teabags.

Panglor

We would make it work! I saw at once that we needed more electric, and brought out the power strip and UK plug adapters I had cleverly thought to bring. I plugged in the strip. Snap! Poof! Alas, my cleverness had not extended to checking the voltage capacity of the power strip.

But so what? Come hell or high water, I was going to make a meal in that kitchen! And indeed, for breakfast I managed to cook a couple of eggs in the toy skillet, made some toast, and—alternating use of the outlet with the kettle—heated some water. I am no tea drinker, but after spitting out my one and only cup of Jurassic-era instant coffee, I loved me my cuppa Liptons. We sat in the outer cabin and breathed in the marina air, exhaust fumes and all, and reveled in the fact that we were in London!

So that’s my most memorable meal—worldcon in all its glory! Ask me sometime about the access code to the entry gate changing without warning at midnight, when I’d gone to the bathroom building in a thin t-shirt and shorts. (Bathroom on board? Yes, there was one. But we couldn’t use it, because, well, the boat had no holding tank). Or ask about my belt breaking at the con, and how I had to walk around holding my pants up with one hand while searching in vain for a dealer who might have a belt for sale*.

Sigh. Of events such as these are some of my most vivid recollections made.

Thanks, Jeff. Further proof that context is king, and the power of reframing a situation to — as the song goes —accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Personally, I’d have probably been vindictive on my last night and made use of the head, holding tank or no. Clearly, you’re a better man than me (or you just left that part out).

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Julia Huni

No Comments » Written on December 2nd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
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Julia Huni

If you’re reading this in the USA, then the odds are good that you’re emerging from a four day weekend of culinary overindulgence, credit card abuse, and too much televised sports and/or Netflix bingeing. Somewhere in there, I hope you took a few minutes for self-examination and reflected on the good things in life and appreciated all that you’ve got. There was probably a spare moment to do that, somewhere in between reaching for another slice of pie and discovering the third can of spray whipping cream was empty and getting the fourth can out of the fridge.

As for me, I had lots to be thankful about, including your tolerance for what I laughingly refer to as segues on this blog. Oh, look, there’s one now. Ahem. Last month while attending the 20Books conference in Las Vegas I met Julia Huni in person. She was in the company of A.M. Scott who also recently shared a meal here, and that’s when I discovered the two women were sisters. Sneaky.

Julia’s done a little bit of everything: nine years in the US Air Force, worked at both NASA and NATO, done IT, been a professor, and even a stint as a stay-at-home mom. As for her fiction, she’s probably best known for her Funny Sci-Fi Mystery Space Janitor series. On a more serious note, there’s also her Recycled World books, set on an abandoned Earth.

LMS: Welcome, Julia. What stands out for you as your most memorable meal?

JH: When I was in my late twenties, I served in the US Air Force. After four and a half years on active duty, I was transferred from smoggy Southern California to Sembach Air Base in Germany.

I was assigned to a NATO air operations centre, along with military folks from the US, the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. According to the organization chart I worked for a German, but in reality I reported to the senior US officer, a Vietnam veteran and fighter pilot named Colonel M.

The Vacuum of Space

The colonel had been a POW at the end of the Vietnam war, spending ten months in captivity before being liberated. He didn’t care much what others thought of him, he didn’t worry about the future, and he loved good food. He was a foodie before the term was coined. Although he rarely referred to his experience in Southeast Asia, the occasional comment about pumpkin and rat soup gave me a good idea why he savored every meal. He thought nothing of driving across the border into France for a $300 meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, but he also didn’t hesitate to say yes when a co-worker invited him home for dinner.

One day at work, Col. M. asked if my fiancé and I would like to go on an adventure for lunch—in Luxembourg. It’s not often you drive to a foreign country for lunch, but that was exactly what he had in mind. At some point during his seventeen years in Europe, he and his wife had discovered a little place that served prawns. Only fifty Deutsch Marks for lunch. Each.

For a junior captain back in the day, that was a lot of money. Hell, for a science fiction author today that’s a lot of money for lunch. 50 DM in the mid-nineties is about $52 today. For lunch.

Saying no to Colonel M. was difficult. After all, it was just money. What was that compared to an adventure with friends and excellent food?

Recycled World

So a few weeks later, six of us climbed into two cars and drove to Luxembourg. The morning was sunny and cool, with the promise of warmer temperatures ahead. The drive—about two hours on well-maintained autobahn—was delightful. Luxembourg, a city of about 90,000 people, is situated in a network of deep gorges, and is famous for its medieval fortifications. But we didn’t tour them on this trip. This trip was about the food.

We parked a half block up from one of the rivers, and crossed a busy street. The narrow sidewalk fronted a row of unremarkable buildings. We found the correct door and walked into a small room. Two square windows looked out at the street. The tiny space was crammed with four rows of wooden picnic tables covered with strips of white paper. You can imagine my thoughts. Fifty marks for this?

It looked like an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, European style.

The six of us, Col M, his wife, another couple, my fiancé and I sat at the end of a table against a roughly plastered wall. The colonel ordered a couple bottles of Spanish white. The waitress brought the wine and we toasted. We sat and chatted, while others filtered in, filling the long tables, sliding in next to strangers. As the wine went down, the volume went up.

The Dust of Kaku

I don’t remember what else they served. I believe there was bread—there’s always bread. And perhaps a salad. But the piece de resistance—the reason we’d driven 175 kilometers—was the prawns. The waitress brought out a heavy pan for each pair of diners. The scent of garlic roasted in butter filled the air, and the sizzle could be heard over the conversation. The pans were about four inches deep and the size of an iPad. Inside, resting in what was probably an entire stick of bubbling, melted butter, were six enormous shrimp.

To this day, I’ve never seen prawns that size again. Each was the size of my hand—larger than the “rock lobsters” at the Red Lobster. (It’s an insult to even mention them in the same sentence.) I don’t know where they came from, or exactly how they were cooked, but they were ah-mazing. Buttery, garlicky, sweet and salty at the same time. Nothing short of fantastic. With the Spanish wine, the crusty bread and the company of good friends, they were the most incredible meal I’ve ever eaten.

After lunch, we took a walk through a German cemetery, then stopped in a pub for a beer. I don’t remember the drive home. I’m a bit of a light-weight. But I will never forget that meal. I only wish I could find that restaurant again. Or maybe not. Sometimes, it’s better not to revisit the past. It can live on in glory in my memory.

Thanks, Julia. Oxymorons of “enormous shrimp” not withstanding, it’s hard to go wrong with giant prawns. Except when they’re so big that they threaten to take over the city, mostly because of how much butter you need to really take them down.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Marie Bilodeau

No Comments » Written on November 25th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
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Marie Bilodeau

As November winds down, I find myself pushing harder than ever. Medical needs are looking like they’ll be eating between two and four months of my productivity starting somewhere in mid-January, and there’s so much I need/want/must get done before then. Some of these tasks have been part of the plan for a while now, others increased in urgency as a function of my recent trip to Las Vegas for the 20Books conference, but almost all of them are about putting more fiction out into the world. Keep watching this space to see how it goes.

More immediately, there’s the weekly posting of EATING AUTHORS, which thankfully requires much less mental acuity than writing a novel and so should not experience any real negative impact as the new year unfolds. And that’s both proof and as good a segue as you could ask for to this week’s guest, Marie Bilodeau.

Marie is Canadian. She lives in Ottawa, which I have never visited but have been assured is a magical land. Her fiction has won multiple awards and has seen translation into both French and Chinese. More than just an author, Marie self-describes as a storyteller and has captivated audiences across Canada in theaters and tea shops, at festivals and under disco balls.

She’s also co-host of the Archivos Podcast Network, co-chair of Ottawa’s speculative fiction literary convention CAN-CON, co-chair of Ottawa ChiSeries with Nicole Lavigne and Matt Moore, and can be found blogging for Black Gate Magazine.

Her latest novel is Hell Born, Book One of the Guild of Shadows, and it comes out on Friday!

LMS: Welcome, Marie. Please tell me the tale of your most memorable meal.

MB: SCENE — 2011. Tunisia lies in disrepair following its revolution. The United Nations is working with them to help rebuilding efforts even as carcasses or burned out cars still lie where they burned.

CUT SCENE — 2011. Canada is kinda chilly as it always is nearing November. A communications manager of a national non-profit association gets invited to share Canadian best practices on marketing the skilled trades as a desirable career path.

CUT SCENE — 2019. You’re on Lawrence M. Schoen’s blog just wanting to read about Eating Authors, and wondering if you’re in the wrong place. You are not. You are exactly where you’re meant to be.

Hell Born

TUNISIA

The invitation to come to Tunisia was sketchy at best. Canada had been selected as a lead example of creating awareness of skilled trades careers. Our organization was one of the creators of the national awareness campaign. I was the project manager. I spoke French, too, the second language in Tunisia.

I said yes. I received weird plane tickets. I boarded a flight they promised would get me to Europe, and then should get me to Tunisia depending on the stability of the nation. I was okay with that. Europe!

NOT EUROPE

Okay, I saw the inside of Charles de Gaulle airport. Then arrived in Tunisia. Despite my scene setting efforts on this blog, I had not actually prepared for my trip, aside from making sure I would be properly attired and culturally aware (to some degree). And so, dimly aware of the revolution, the machine guns, barbed wire, and tanks surprised me. I hired a reputable driver and tourist firm and did one day of amazing touristing. Carthage!

Then the new president could make the conference one day early, so we were all called in to a secluded and heavily defended resort. I gave a presentation, made friends, outdrank a Frenchman (French Canadians rule!), and ate lots of appetizers in a kitchy bar with a German UN representative.

But those weren’t my favourite meals. Oh no. Because, you see, my friends, I was on a mission.

MISSION PARAMETERS

See a camel. …that’s it. I was in Africa, and I wanted to see a camel. Except I was in Tunis, in northern Africa, against the Mediterranean Sea. Camels weren’t just wandering into our highly defended (so. many. guns.) “resort.” Still! The conference ended at noon. I intended to see me a camel that afternoon. Flight was off the next morning. There was limited time. I needed to focus.

Nigh

THE ALLY

I arrived on time for the closing ceremonies, and so was first and alone in the room (my cultural research had apparently been lacking). A middle-aged woman entered and came to sit right beside me (it’s what they do, both spies and Tunisians). She greeted me in Arabic. I greeted her in French. We barely spoke the other’s language, but she got that I wanted to see a camel.

“Follow me after this,” she said, this strange woman whose name I did not know, who spoke a language I did not understand, in a country I knew very little about. So, of course, I followed her.

THE ONE CAMEL

She brings me to the heart of Tunis in her blue Ford Focus. We head into a café, where I am informed lives the one camel in Tunis. A Café Camel, as it were.

There is a well in the middle of the open-air café, and I observe it as she speaks loudly in Arabic (I knew that one was cultural) with the owner. She reports back that the camel is on break. We would go look at the Sea while we wait, beautiful and sparkling below. I did not know camels took breaks, but it’s nice to know that, even in Tunis, they’re unionized.

THIS IS HOW YOU GET KIDNAPPED

Or so I think as she grabs my hand, shouts “CAMEL!” and tugs me in the market area. Like in Aladdin, with all those tents. And, like in Aladdin, we’re going through the tents, not in front of them. My polite Canadian self is mortified, my (small, mostly silent) smart self is worried.

She drags me all the way through with her frenzied grip, and then we arrive on the beach. There is the camel. It’s eating rotten veggies out of a box. It’s suspicious. I’m suspicious. My self-assigned host is grinning wildly. I have found my camel.

WAIT ISN’T THIS A POST ABOUT FOOD

I did not eat the veggies, no. They were gross and I did not want the camel to beat me up.

Now lost in Tunis and having no idea how to do anything or where my resort was, I follow the woman home (I know, I know, my personal brand is “how are you even still alive?”). Her visiting niece speaks perfect French and we hit it off. We laugh, share stories, look at pictures. And then, they say the magical words:

Destinty's Blood

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A PERFECT CUP OF ALMOND TEA?

I had not. I was certain I hadn’t had anything resembling what they referred to. All I knew then were cheap tea bags and slightly mouldy tea taste. Off to adventure again. They stuff me in the car. As the sun sets, we drive out of Tunis and up a nearby hill. For an hour the wild beauty of Tunis stretches around me, until we reach a small village, where they made the finest cup of almond tea.

TEA IS NOT A MEAL

Oh, but how wrong you are, my friend.

This cup fits perfectly in my hands, warming me against the cooling Tunisian night, the breeze flowing from the Mediterranean which shimmers below the mountains as the last rays of sunset vanish. I hold the tea near my mouth and the fumes enrobe me with calmness and the sweet fragrance of almonds. I close my eyes, bask in the scent, the only interruptions coming from the gentle nudge of sea and mountain air, stealing some of the fragrance for their own ancient rituals. Then I take a sip of the somewhat thick honey-like liquid, large clumps of almonds lazily waltzing along, demanding that I gently chew their softened exterior.

As the night cools and we silently watch the sea below, the noise of the nearby street, filled booming with laughter, like a background orchestra of joy, I eat more almonds than I ever had in one sitting, still not clear what honeyed tea I drank, but enjoying every gentle caress on my taste buds.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

I met a camel. I had the most perfect cup of tea ever. I made some friends. I did not get kidnapped. I did not get shot. I barely had a difficult time getting back to Canada.

And, somewhere in the hills near Tunis, in a village whose name I do not know, I imagine that you can still get the perfect cup of almond tea.

END SCENE

Thanks, Marie. I am reminded of the phrase “one lump or two” that I associate with adding sugar to tea, which transformed to a query about humps while reading your adventure. Was your cafe camel a dromedary or Bactrian?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

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Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Rachel Ford

No Comments » Written on November 18th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
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Rachel Ford

In theory I returned late yesterday without incident and am sleeping in today after my travels and this post went out as scheduled at 7:30 am. That’s the plan. I tend to lock these posts in days in advance anyway but it seems especially ominous to do so when I’m traveling. One of these days it will catch up to me and something will show up on this website after I’ve been killed in some freak aviation accident or struck by a bus or eaten by penguins (don’t ask). With any luck today is not that day and I’m actually just getting some sleep as planned. Fingers crossed.

The good news is that because I’m officially asleep, I can’t be expected to provide a segue. Instead I’ll just tell you that this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is Rachel Ford, a software engineer during regular business hours and a writer when she’s not punching that clock. That alone wouldn’t necessarily be sufficient to invite her to this blog, but she’s also an enthusiastic Star Trek fan and, well, there you go. Plus, she lives in Wisconsin, and I’m hoping some cheese curds might come my way. You never know.

Rachel is the author of the Time Travelling Taxman series (currently at eight books), which is as great a premise as I’ve heard this month. Her latest book, Safe Passage, is the first volume in her new Black Flag space opera series featuring privateers — because who doesn’t love letters of marque?

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

RF: My most memorable meal was during the first official date between me and my girlfriend (we’d met up before, and talked a lot, but this was an Official Date). We’re long distance, so we made a weekend of it. We visited a beautiful spot on Lake Superior as we’d been planning for a while — but it just so happened it was hatching season for black flies.

T-Rexes & Tax Law

You know Hitchcock’s The Birds? It was like that, only with flies. After being swarmed and figuring out that there was nothing we could do to fend them off, we retreated posthaste to the car — and spent the rest of the drive shooing stray flies out of the car.

It was hilarious, in a romantic comedy/horror film crossover sort of way. But it definitely went up from there. We stopped for brunch further up north. I don’t remember what I ate. (Probably, butterfly larvae, because there were definitely butterflies playing around in my stomach).

The day went really, really well, and we were definitely touristy that weekend. By the time dinner rolled around, we were starving and wanted something quick. We found a little pub and ordered burgers. They were very good, but what I remember most was the conversation and décor.

The town we were in had been an old logging town, and the pub’s ceiling had been decorated with chainsaws and logging equipment.

We talked about UFO’s and UFO sightings and conspiracy theories; and the Hindenburg, and conspiracies surrounding its destruction (this wasn’t as random as it sounds; I’d been researching zeppelins for a book I was writing at the time, and UFO stuff was playing on TV – we couldn’t tell what exactly was going on, as the TV had been muted).

Safe Passage

It was a great mix of weird science, weird history, and crazy theories.

And then the décor reminded me of an old Grimm Brothers fairytale my parents used to read when we were kids, about Clever Elsie (a fable about taking action instead of complaining and procrastinating; Elsie sees a pickaxe in the ceiling of her future husband’s home, and worries that it will kill their potential child if it falls upon his head. But only weeps about it instead of removing it. Yup, it’s a strange one LOL). So we talked about that, and the books and stories we read growing up.

It was a conversation that ranged from light-hearted to deep, from fact to fancy. It had been a great day, but as the night went on and we talked, I had a really, really good feeling about us.

The next day she asked me to go steady (and we have been since).

Thanks, Rachel. I’m thinking it’s probably a good thing you were in pub. I’m not saying that leading with anecdotes about the destruction of the Hindenburg isn’t necessarily romantic, but I suspect I’d need some alcohol to believe it was the best way to go.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Terry Mixon

No Comments » Written on November 11th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
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AUTHOR

I don’t know about you, but I’ve a pretty full day today. It begins with an early morning visit to my cancer center for a blood draw and some chemo — because who doesn’t like starting the week with a belly injection? Then I have a plane to catch for Las Vegas where I’ll be spending the week attending the 20Books conference, an intense event that focuses on indie author life, self-publishing, and the business of selling books. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends there, and meeting up with new people whom I’ve only known online or in the pages of shared anthologies.

And in the way suggested by segues since the dawn of time, one of those new people just so happens to be this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Terry Mixon. He writes Military SF, doubtless drawing on his experience from having served in the 101st Airborne Division and later working in the Mission Control Center at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Like a lot of indie authors, Terry doesn’t just write novels, he writes series, or as he prefers to call them, “sagas.” If you’re not already familiar with his work, check out his Humanity Unlimited saga, as well as his Empire of Bones saga (currently at ten books!).

Other than that, all I know about Terry is he has cats and lives in Texas. I’ll try to learn a bit more over the next few days. Maybe we’ll even have time to share a meal, though as you’ll shortly read, he sets a pretty high bar.

LMS: Welcome, Terry. Before we both head off to Las Vegas, tell me about your most memorable meal.

TM: I’m not much of a gourmet. Honestly, I’m a picky eater that despises vegetables and just doesn’t have much interest in food beyond the boring basics, prepared the way I like them. I’m the proverbial meat and potatoes man. So, it probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that knows me that my favorite meals (two of them) have nothing at all to do with the food served at them, but rather the company sharing it with me.

Empire of Bones

Earlier this year, I attended a three-day gathering of writers in Napa, California to talk shop and let our hair down. We had a couple of fancy meals together as a group, one catered and the other at an upscale restaurant.

The foods served were beyond the pale of my plebian tastes. I’m sure they were excellent, but I couldn’t even tell you what the dishes were. Heck, I don’t really remember caring as I was eating them. I was too engrossed with the tablemates that I had corralled by deftly stalking them as they were sitting down.

The first meal was with a writer that I absolutely adore: David Weber (and his lovely wife Sharon). I honestly want to be him when I grow up, and I can hardly hazard a guess at how many times his work has inspired and entertained me.

I sat directly beside him for hours, listening to him talk about his creations and other anecdotes that delighted me as a writer and storyteller. He was a raconteur without equal and held me spellbound the entire time. I doubt I said more than a dozen sentences all told, which would shock all my friends.

Liberty Station

The meal ended far too soon, even though we stayed until they kicked us out, and even then, I stood in the hallway and listened to him regale a few of us for a few hours more. I only left when exhaustion dragged me to my bed.

The other meal was with the incredibly prolific and talented Kevin J. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta, who is also a writer. I sat across from them in a fancy restaurant talking business and any number of other topics. Basically, wherever the conversation led us. I think I managed to actually hold up my end of the talking this time. It was great fun.

Those two meals eclipse any others that I’ve had before or since. For me, moments like those are far more satisfying than some transient bits of food that are easily forgotten. Those conversations had a lasting impact on me that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. Now, isn’t that what a great meal is all about?

Thanks, Terry. And yes, it’s conversations like these that can take any meal and elevate it to greatness. Personally though, I kind of like the food portion too (though again, we’re in total agreement about the vegetables).

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro