Eating Authors: Brooke Bolander

No Comments » Written on April 1st, 2019 by
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Brooke Bolander

Regular readers of this blog know that Marco Palmieri was the editor on two of my novels in which elephants were prominently featured, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard and The Moons of Barsk, both at Tor Books. What you probably don’t know is that he was also the editor of Brooke Bolander‘s novelette, The Only Harmless Great Thing, which also happens to feature elephants. Whether or not typecasting exists in the publisher world, it makes a good story and I like imagining that Marco will forever be known as the elephant editor. But, you know, in a good way.

Other than this connection, you’re not likely to mistake me for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Oh, wait, there’s one other thing we have in common. We’re both up for the Nebula for Best Novelette. And much as I’d like to win, if I have to lose I hope it’s to Bo, because, elephants.

If you’re not already familiar with her work, crawl out from whatever rock you’ve been hiding under, because it’s powerful and compelling and raw. Brooke has two previous Nebula nominations, two Hugo nominations, a World Fantasy nom, and a Locus nom. So, yeah, it’s not just my opinion here.

LMS: Welcome, Brooke. Talk to me about your best meal!

BB: The best meal I ever ate was more honestly a series of meals at a restaurant that no longer exists in Dallas, Texas.

Dallas, as you’re probably unaware unless you actually live in Dallas, has one thing and one thing only going for it, and that is a rather amazing food scene. The nightlife is shaky, the museums are sparse, but if you want to drink like it’s still illegal, eat like an epicure, and purge like Roman nobility, spend a week in DFW. I currently live in Brooklyn, and the weirdest thing in the world about it is how lackluster the food seems after spending several years in Texas. I think it has something to do with how fast restaurants have to find their feet here–no room for risks–but that’s a story for another day.

The Only Harmless Great Thing

Our home was located off a stretch of East Dallas known as Lowest Greenville. For a long time nothing much was there. Then a little chain called Trader Joe’s decided to drop its first location about two blocks from our front door, and suddenly the area became restaurant central. Before TJ’s, the biggest food spot on the block was a Taco Cabana. I once saw a cockroach the size of a baby’s foot steadfastly tugging a discarded fry into a crack in the curb by the drive-thru. Anything would’ve been an improvement, but we didn’t get just anything, we got Remedy.

(Note: That Taco Cabana is still there, long after many of the newer joints have folded and moved on. I hope it stays there forever, if only to piss off the neighbors.)

Remedy was, at first glance, your standard “New American” hipster rigamarole. The concept was “upscale soda shop”. Their menu consisted of fancy gin fizzes, fried bologna sandwiches, cheeseburgers, mile-high slices of pie, and grilled cheese sandwiches–only, y’know, done fancy. My eyes rolled as hard as anybody’s. But here’s a rule people like to tout in writing circles that’s just as valid in every other area of life: You should never ever do a thing, unless you can actually do that thing. The rules only apply to you so long as you can’t pull it off.

No Flight Without The Shatter

Remedy did the Thing.

Everything head chef Danyele McPherson put her hand to came out so perfectly executed it made your teeth grind a little. Did bologna sandwiches need perfecting? I would have said hell no, but she made them a thing you would willingly pay twelve bucks for. I have been lucky enough to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants and fancy-schmancy paycheck-munching establishments all over the globe that couldn’t touch this place for consistent quality, inventiveness, and service. The staff became our friends. Every meal was completely satisfying. Do you have any idea how rare that is–that feeling of complete satisfaction after a meal? Let alone a series of meals?

The time came for us to move from Dallas. We were pretty damn happy about it for any number of reasons. One of the few things we mourned having to leave behind was Remedy. I think we hit them up about three times a week for the last three weeks we were there, and half the time the staff was comping items. Like I said, we were pals at this point.

Remedy Sundae

Our last meal there actually came a year or two later. They closed on New Year’s Eve 2016 to “reconceptualize” and we were in town for the holidays and managed to snag brunch on their final morning open. Their brunch, of course, was the kind of menu that only exists in my vivid technicolor dreams. It made the word “brunch” worth every sub-par Brooklyn joint shoveling stale brioche & undercooked omelette onto your plate after a two-hour wait the concept has resulted in. Flavorful fried chicken coated in batter that crunched audibly when you bit into it. Waffles that somehow maintained their structural integrity beneath the weight of those crispy-ass thighs and a stream of maple syrup. Johnnycakes that were less like the sweet corn pancakes many places like to attach that name to and more like thin, creamy slices of toothsome fried grits. Perfectly cooked bacon and eggs. And then there were the ice cream sundaes, which looked as close to the platonic cartoon ideal of a sundae as I’ve ever seen without tipping over into hammy Instagram-ready overkill. We had it all. We hugged the staff. We took photos and swore blood oaths never to forget that a meal like that was possible.

I’m still looking for a place that matches up, five years and a world-class city on. I’m afraid I may be looking for the rest of my life.

Thanks, Brooke. Recollections like this one are cruel — glorious meals from restaurants that only exist in memory, or, if we’re lucky, in an author’s fiction. Get to work on that, okay?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: A.K. DuBoff

No Comments » Written on March 25th, 2019 by
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A.K. DuBoff

As you know, Bob, I have the pleasure of being on the Nebula ballot once more. It’s a heady experience, not least because it typically introduces me to other writers whom I’ve never met and/or read before. This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, A.K. DuBoff, is just such a writer.

Amy writes space opera. She does it so well that her readers have nicknamed her the “Queen of Space Opera” (which has me wondering if she has an orb and scepter, or at least a crown, stashed away somewhere). Her focus is on character-driven stories and her work often wanders into that fuzzy domain we like to call “science fantasy.”

When not writing the next book, she can be found binge-watching TV series, traveling the world, and indulging in wine tasting.

Amy’s YA novel, A Light in the Dark, book two of her Dark Stars trilogy, is a finalist for the Andre Norton award.

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

AKD: Note: Vegetarians/vegans and anyone opposed to alcohol may want to skip this one.

My favorite meal memory was a home-cooked dinner prepared by my now-husband. To be fair, Nick is a great home chef (one of the many reasons I married him), but this was a meal where some mysterious ‘X Factor’ came into play, and it went from ‘good’ to ‘we still talk about it years later’.

Mindspace: Infiltration

By all accounts, it was going to be a regular Saturday night. At the time, Nick and I lived in a house within the strange zone where the urban City of Portland transitioned into the southern suburb of Tigard, Oregon. I’d spent five years living in small apartments at the center of downtown Portland before we met, so I was still getting used to the pros and cons of residing in a house again. One of the clear pros (until moving, that is) was having ample room to stock up on things, which provided a gateway to a Costco membership. We’d gone to our local Costco warehouse earlier that day to pick up our regular months’ worth of supplies and a few food treats, most notably a pack of fillet mignon.

My parents had gifted us (read: pawned off) their old gas grill when we’d moved into our house, so we were often looking for excuses to use it. I won’t digress into the merits of propane versus charcoal (clearly my parents sided with Hank Hill), but I will say that we eventually ended up getting a supplemental charcoal grill. But anyway, grilling steak was in order!

I went about doing… something—probably writing—for the evening while Nick worked his magic in the kitchen and on the back deck.

Crystalline Space

At some point after dark, I was summoned to the kitchen/living area, where Nick presented me with a glass of wine (as all good meals should begin, in my opinion). The wine is of particular importance, as we credit it for making the meal such a transcendent memory. Both of us loved wine, and it was one of the things that had brought us together (we later got engaged in Napa and married in Oregon wine country). Nick had come to the relationship with a wine club membership to Dry Creek Vineyard, which had enabled him to purchase a couple bottles of 2007 Endeavor (a cabernet sauvignon blend), the flagship wine for the vineyard only available to club members. Since we were having a spontaneous fillet mignon night, clearly one of the ‘good bottles’ of wine was in order. Little did we know that the 2007 Endeavor would turn out the be the best wine either of us have ever had, to this day.

The first sips of wine hinted at great things to come, but it was clear it needed to breathe for a while. We chatted in the kitchen while Nick finished platting up the dinner of the fillet, garlic mashed potatoes, and asparagus. Since I love potatoes as much as I love wine, I was already in a great mood.

Architects of Destiny

We took our plates into the dining room and got settled in. The first bites of the steak were… wow. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but this fillet reminded me why I hadn’t given up on steak completely. I still have no idea what Nick did during the preparation, but the steak was fork-cutting tender and bursting with flavor. Where it really came alive is with the wine pairing. The wine had opened up, and the combination was incredible. To the best of my recollection, we spent the whole meal in near-silence, only murmuring “Mmmmm” and “This is sooo good” between bites.

My favorite memory from the evening is what came afterward, though. We cleared our plates and then took the remaining wine to the couch, along with a bar of the Lindt cabernet-infused chocolate. Cozied up on the couch together, we sat in dimmed lights, letting the chocolate melt in our mouths between sips of the incredible wine. The buzz remains the best I’ve experienced—full body happy tingles. Completely relaxed, we were content to be in each other’s company, not needing to say anything to fill the silence.

“This is perfect,” Nick said to me.

“It really is,” I agreed.

I will never forget that feeling of complete peace and comfort. For that reason, it remains my best meal.

Thanks, Amy. I think you’ve described the early stages of the perfect food coma. What’s not to love?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Michael Mammay

No Comments » Written on March 18th, 2019 by
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Michael Mammay

Every March I’m reminded of that John Belushi sketch from SNL about weather. Here’s a link, take a moment to watch it, I’ll wait. So, yeah, March weather. If Belushi wasn’t trying to warn us about global warming, well, I don’t know.

None of which has anything to do with Michael Mammay, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest (unless it’s that bit about the anaconda). Michael’s a former soldier who nowadays writes science fiction. He also mentors, and alongside Dan Koboldt, participates in Pitch Wars, helping other authors bring their visions into print.

Michael’s first novel, Planetside, has been described as Military SF that’s not just for Military SF fans, and it made the Best Book list from LibraryJournal. The sequel, Spaceside, comes out from Harper Voyager in late August.

LMS: Welcome, Michael. What strikes you as your most memorable meal?

MM: I don’t spend a lot of thought on food. It’s not that I don’t appreciate good food when I have it, but I don’t really go out of my way looking for things. I’ll happily eat whatever is in front of me. Despite that, I’ve had a number of memorable meals, and it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve lived overseas for several years of my adult life, and as an army veteran, I’ve been deployed to a lot of different places.

Planetside

One meal that stands out was from 2008, south of Baghdad, Iraq, east of Mamuhdiah in an area sometimes referred to as the Sunni triangle. It was a rough area in 2006 and 2007, but by late 2008 it had calmed down quite a bit. I was a battalion commander there, and most of the people who lived in my area of responsibility were Sunni. As you may know, the Sunni lost power with the fall of Saddam, and the Shia majority now ran the government. For that reason, the Sunni farmers in my area were on the outside looking in, and didn’t feel that the government really represented them. We were trying to bring the country together, so I wanted to try to bridge that.

I proposed that the Sunni towns get together and throw a dinner and invite the governor. The problem is, pretty much no Shia crossed highway one, which was the major road that ran south from Baghdad. There was too much bad blood, and it wasn’t safe for them. To get past this, I offered to escort the governor to the dinner (my escort included my security detail, and we had pretty free movement). He agreed, and we set out for the dinner in armored HMMWVs, and joined a group of maybe 200 or so important local leaders at what we in the US would call a picnic. It was a fancy picnic, to be sure, with the best that the locals could put out. I was new to the area, so it was my first such event.

Spaceside

Everything was going well. We weren’t accomplishing much—there were decades of bad feelings on both sides—but it was peaceful and people gave speeches and made platitudes, and all in all it was a good start. Then we had dinner. It was several hours later, because in that part of Iraq, it was tradition not to start cooking the food until your guests arrived, so that the honorees could see the meal slaughtered and know it was done properly. We were having lamb, so it took a while to cook.

I was seated with the governor at the head of the table when they brought out the first tray. It was the head of one of the lambs, and they put it on the table, looking at us, to honor us. Thankfully, they didn’t expect us to eat it. But it sat there, flies buzzing around it all through the meal, staring at me. As they served us lamb. Not going to lie, I stuck to rice and vegetables that day as much as possible, but there was no way to avoid the meat without offending the hosts.

It wasn’t the best dinner I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. And while I’d like to say that because of those efforts, everyone started getting along, but that’s not true either. What I can say is this: I’ll never forget that meal.

Thanks, Michael. I think I’d file this one under “no good deed goes unpunished.” Certainly that lamb would think so.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Cesar Torres

No Comments » Written on March 11th, 2019 by
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Cesar Torres

I’m rather pleased with myself. I’ve been getting huge amounts of work done this year. It still croggles my mind when I think of it, the ease with which the words have been coming and across a range of different projects. That may be the key for me, taking a very well monitored approach to how I’m spinning so many plates at once as opposed to past efforts of just spinning them and dashing back and forth as needed. This method has more accountability and so far it seems to be working.

Which has almost nothing to do with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, except to note that Cesar Torres keeps himself plenty busy with different projects that range from his series The Coil (planned at nine volumes), his How to Kill a Superhero series (four books, under the pseudonym of Pablo Greene), his documentary on Quads, Chicago’s famous bodybuilding gym, and his line of fitness wear.

Cesar was born in Mexico City but has lived in New York, Dublin, Osaka, and Berlin. He now makes his home in Chicago. Curiously, Pablo Greene was born in Buenos Aires and now lives in New Orleans. I’m not sure how he manages this trick, but it could explain why you never see them together.

If you like reading about dystopian futures, social justice, and the Aztec pantheon (and c’mon, who doesn’t?) then you should be reading Cesar’s work.

LMS: Welcome, Cesar. What’s the best meal you remember?

CT: In my all my novels, I explore the nature of time — how time works, which direction it moves in, and its non-linearity. That means that the best meal I remember having is one that explores the nature of time. The best meal is the one that my family has been making together every Christmas across decades and featuring a very specific dish.

13 Secret Cities

This meal has been prepared primarily in two cities: in Mexico City, the amazing capital of Mexico. Mexico City (or CDMX as Mexican refer to it nowadays) is where I was born, and where my family is from. It was there that I watched my mother cook bacalao as a traditional Christmas dish since I was just a boy. Bacalao is a regional specialty for Christmas in Mexico City. It consists of Mediterranean salted cod that is prepared with rich, high-quality olive oil, tomatoes, lots of garlic, potatoes, parsley, olives and garnishes with yellow peppers for acidity and balance. It’s served on bolillos, which are small baguettes you can find at Mexican bakeries.

The taste of bacalao is rich, savory, like silk and ocean on the tastebuds. Bacalo is also a dish that defies the limitations of time. It is originally an import from the Mediterranean region, and the Spaniards brought it to the Americas when they colonized Mesoamerica. This holiday dish speaks volumes about the joys and the horrrors of human history. It’s both a reminder of the brutal and violent nature of Mexico’s colonized past, but also a celebratrion of mestizo culture, which is what makes up the Mexican national identity so vibrant and creative.

9 Lords of Night

Bacalao brings to mind very specific memories of the Christmas Eves I lived in Mexico City with my parents and two brothers, in a setting that was focused on the religious aspect of the holiday and the coming together of families. My parents brought the tradition of Bacalao with them to Chicago when we moved here in the 1980’s. Our new setting in the United States also introduced new variables: The labor-intensive dish eventually recruited my father into the kitchen. He’s not afraid of cooking, but in our family my mother has historically been the one that cooks. But soon, my father took a special interest in the preparation of bacalao each Christmas. Nowadays, my father joins my mother with enthusiasm (and a somewhat alarming eagerness) to chop and prep the many ingredients, to de-salt the cod, and to simmer carefully for hours to get the right flavors out of the dish.

How to Kill A Superhero

Time is a funny thing, and human memory is even funnier. Neither is fixed, and both flow like water. And my memories of bacalao at Christmas flow across many decades. Some years when we cooked it, the weather was mild and sunny, because we lived in CDMX. Other years, snow storms raged outside out house in Chicago. Lately, as climate change alters weather patterns, we have experienced warm weather without snow in Chicago. But one thing remains constant: Bacalao seals a family experience at my house. My parents are both professionals with advanced degrees, and that means that our conversations wander into areas of secular intellectualism, as well as those of popular culture and music, and then back again to topics about theology and the nature of god, even if as adults, parents and children have each diverged in their spiritual paths and identities. This meal that repeats every year is like a tunnel that bores through the walls of time and connects my family. It’s a magical feat. On the lips, bacalao is soft and rich, and the crisp outer edge of the baguette is the perfect vehicle for its magnificent flavor. As we share that meal, I am reminded each year of how much I have to be grateful for in my life. Our Christmas dinner table encourages book reading, the arts, the free nature of the human spirit, and although my parents practice a devout Catholicism, the meal encourages a secular freedom among our family that leads to a single place in the universe that is timeless: love.

Thanks, Cesar. I’ve written about time-traveling cod myself, and yours sounds so much better. Set a place for me next Christmas?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Martin L. Shoemaker

4 comments Written on March 4th, 2019 by
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Martin L. Shoemaker

Back in January I attended the annual ConFusion convention in Detroit. I did a couple panels and a reading, attended a few other readings, but mostly just hung out with other authors, which is what one tends to do at cons, but moreso at this one than any other I know. The only downside of the convention was the weather, which was so cold (Detroit in January? Go figure) that I never got away from the hotel restaurant. On the final night, I fell in with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Martin L. Shoemaker, and some of his friends. That dinner lasted about five hours, I think, and believe me we didn’t stay there because of the food.

Somewhere in the midst of great conversation I learned that Martin had his first novel coming out soon, with a second on the way as well. Since we’d shared a meal, I naturally invited him to come on this blog and share another.

By day, Martin is a programmer, though to hear him tell it, he’s not sure if he’s a programmer who writes science fiction on the side, or the other way around. I can’t comment on his code (pun intended), but one look at his story telling makes the answer clear in my mind. His short fiction has been selected for multiple Year’s Best anthologies, made him a finalist for the Nebula award, and earned him the WSFS Small Press award. Tomorrow he follows this up with the release of his debut novel, Today I Am Carey from Baen Books.

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

MLS: This is the story of why I have to get Richard Johnson very drunk.

In 2012 I was delighted to learn that my story “Scramble” had received second prize in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award, a contest aimed at promoting interest in space exploration (a topic near and dear to my heart). Second prize included a year’s membership in the National Space Society, which is pretty cool! And considering to that point I had sold only two stories, a second place in a prestigious contest was a pretty good boost to my ego.

But in the same conversation, contest administrator Bill Ledbetter informed me that first place winner Richard Johnson couldn’t attend the International Space Development Conference to accept his prize – due to living in Australia and being unable to travel that far. He asked Bill to ask me if I would attend in his place, read his speech, and accept on his behalf – and Bill added that Ben Bova (http://benbova.com/) would be presenting the award.

I Am Carey

There’s a scene in “From the Earth to the Moon” where Deke Slayton asks Jim Lovell if he’d like to join the astronaut corps, and Lovell answers, “Well, Deke, I’d have to think about that yes.” I pretty much reenacted that scene. I wasn’t going to give Richard or Bill time to realize their mistake. And that’s when I vowed that if I ever get to Australia, I owe Richard Johnson a beer.

So I flew to Washington, and I met Bill for the first time – forming a strong friendship that continues to this day. I got dressed up in my best suit, and we went to the ISDC lunch, where a number of awards were to be presented. (Bova himself would receive a lifetime service award that day.) It was an elegant affair, a delicious lunch in a delightful setting. Unlike science fiction conventions, this was a business conference for people who actually work in the space industry. So we were surrounded by people who actually do what I only write about. It was a science fiction writer’s dream, a chance to research simply by listening to the arguments while enjoying a fine meal.

And oh, did they argue! Or at least the group at our table did. Bill and I were seated with a group of around six or eight professionals in the field; and every one of them was firmly confident that their plan for space was the plan that would take mankind to the Solar System and beyond. The discussion was spirited; but I noticed something odd. There was one older gentleman at the table with very strong, very vocal opinions; and I noticed that while others clearly disagreed with him, they did so very deferentially. He was someone they didn’t want to offend. I didn’t know why… until I leaned over my salad, scooped up some lettuce on my fork, turned my head sideways, and happened to read his nametag.

It read Buzz.

And I can tell you exactly what went through my mind at that moment: Don’t drop that fork do NOT drop that fork PLEASE WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T DROP THAT FORK!

I was cool. I was calm. I didn’t miss a beat. I didn’t show a single tremor at the realization that I was having lunch with the second man to walk on the Moon.

Blue Collar Space

But I did decide right then and there that I owed Richard Johnson two beers.

Then the time came to deliver Richard’s speech and accept his award. The speech opened with a joke, paraphrased: “I apologize for not joining you today. It took 43 years to get from Kitty Hawk to the Sea of Tranquility; and yet now, 43 years later, you still haven’t gotten me my space plane.”

And yes, there’s a math error there, though I never caught it. And to be fair to Richard, I don’t think 43 was the number he used; but he did use the wrong number of years, whatever number he used. I know, because after I sat back down, Buzz leaned over and asked, “Did you write that?” I explained that no, I was just reading Richard’s speech. “Ah,” he answered. “It’s wrong, you know. It was 66 years from Kitty Hawk to Apollo 11. And 66 years later would be 2035. I think that would be a fine year to land on Mars, don’t you?”

So thanks to Richard Johnson, I actually talked with Buzz Aldrin! But since Buzz corrected Richard’s math… no extra beer scored.

After lunch were a number of presentations by various experts. These were yet more great opportunities for research. I took lots of notes. And when I saw that Buzz was giving a talk on his Mars mission plan, I had to attend that one! That was the first time I ever heard about his Mars cycler plan. I was so enthralled, I only took time to write one note, and I remember it to this day: Something aboard a Mars cycler.

And after that, we had dinner with Baen editor Tony Daniel and his family, and with Ben Bova. The chance to dine with a legendary former Analog editor and a Baen acquisitions editor? Another beer for Richard Johnson! After that we spent a fine night in the bar with Ben and his then-fiancée. Four beers for Richard Johnson!

The Jim Baen Memorial Award

And since the ISDC was in Washington D.C. that year, the next day I finally got a chance to see the Air and Space Museum and the Apollo 11 Command Module. Five beers for Richard Johnson! Quite a lot of beer earned for one lunch.

Postscript: But the story continues long past that lunch. Three months later, I started thinking about that scribbled note: Something aboard a Mars Cycler. A story started to form. By that time, I had sold my first story to Analog, and I wanted this to be my second. By the time it was done, though, it was a novella. Conventional wisdom said Analog would never buy a novella from a practically-first-time author.

Analog bought it. Six beers for Richard Johnson!

And then a year or so later, “Murder on the Aldrin Express” came out. And that fall, at FenCon in Dallas, where Bill Ledbetter had encouraged me to attend as a science panelist), I sat down to another lunch. Not so fancy, just a small hotel restaurant, and no astronaut this time. I was eating alone, so I checked my email. And there was a message from… My eyes must’ve failed me, Gardner Dozois? “Dear Martin, I quite enjoyed Murder on the Aldrin Express, and I’m considering it for Year’s Best Science Fiction…”

After I pinched myself several times to confirm I was awake, my first thought was: A keg of beer for Richard Johnson!

And after that I wrote several more Aldrin Express stories, and sold most (but not all) of them to Analog. And then I added material to turn them into a novel. The Last Dance will be published by 47North in November. And Tony Daniel bought my other novel.

So… Does anyone know how I can ship three kegs of beer to Australia?

Thanks, Martin. I suspect your real goal in publishing these novels is to get a distribution deal in Australia and have them pay your royalties in beer. If you accidentally give them Richard’s address, it’s a win-win.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Daniel Potter

No Comments » Written on February 25th, 2019 by
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Daniel Potter

As I’ve mentioned previously, last November I foolishly participated in four different conferences. The first two ran back-to-back, so I started the month with nine straight days of travel, professional, and social stuff. The second of these was 20Booksto50K® Vegas, which was focused less on the craft of writing and more on the art of selling what you’d written. It was intense with 800 Indie authors who ranged from folks who’d never published a book to writers earning seven-figure incomes.

I mention this because it’s the most recent time for running into Daniel Potter, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. I’ve been around as a fan and author for decades, so at most conventions I know lots and lots of people. But this was my first Indie Author event, and I doubt there were two dozen people present who knew me and vice versa. So stumbling over Daniel — who I’d met before at Nebula conferences and Worldcons — was an oasis in a desert of unfamiliar faces.

By day, Dan uses the powers of his doctorate to save the world via vascular biology (or at least, that’s how I remember his explaining it to me, but I may be fudging a bit). You may know him for his furry trilogy Freelance Familiars. On Thursday, he goes from cougars to dragons with the release of Dragon’s Price, volume one of a new fantasy series.

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

DP: There is nothing like six legged winged terrors to forever fix a meal in one’s memories. But that’s getting a head of myself, so lets set the scene. My wife, Amanda, and I were driving home after a long weekend celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary in Eureka, California. We’d done some hiking in among the redwoods, but mostly puttered around the town exploring and eating. One of the many finds that weekend was a bagel place that sold smoked salmon by the tub full. We had a great time and planned to do a bit meandering on our way back along the five-hour journey home. So we packed the cooler with fresh bagels, creme cheese and a tub of very delicious smelling smoked salmon.

Off Leash

As lunchtime approached, we had mostly appreciated the beauty of the forests from within the car and decided that we needed a change. We drove quite far out of our way to a state or national park that, according to the internet, had a killer view for a picnic spot. I wish I remembered the name of it, but I do remember the way the roads banked around mountains as we approached. Like driving on the back of a snake. I recall lots of wood and railings as I dragged the cooler up a flight of stairs to the overlook. The view proved to the be worth the drive. Green hills cradled lakes that reflected the clear blue sky; the sort of spot that makes you sigh contentedly. We appreciated the view for the half moment it required and then settled on the important thing. LUNCH!

The overlook had one picnic table, a very long one that was occupied by small group of tourists on one end. We setup camp on the other end with their somewhat grudging permission. As we spread out our food, we noticed a wasp buzzing about a bit. Big yellow and black fella who was making the other group nervous. I hoped he’d leave us alone. We popped open the tub of smoked salmon and the bugger was on it like, well, a very angry hornet; circling around the tub with that menacing buzz that only wasps can pull off. I try to shoo him away but he zipped around and put on a Dirty Harry act except I definitely know that stinger’s loaded.

Dragon's Price

So I’m like fine, fine. It’s one wasp. But before I could cobble together an adequate swatting implement, he landed on the salmon, daring me to try something funny. He had my number. I couldn’t squish him without ruining the main component of our lunch. Resigned we watched the little yellow and black bandit rip off a chunk of fish about the same size as he was and fly off with it, clearly straining under the weight. I had hoped that would be the end of the mugging, but apparently that victory put blood in the water and three more of the little bastards showed up not thirty seconds later. Hoping an offering would let us eat our lunch in piece, I set a bit of the salmon on the lid of the tub and put it on the railing. That held them off, but they still buzzed us as if protesting that I had not slathered the salty meat with cream cheese. It’s never enough for the black and yellow buggers. As more of them joined the party, me and my wife sounded the retreat. I finished my bagel sandwich with a wonderful view of the steering wheel of our Honda fit.

And that made for quite a memorable meal. Want your own? Just add wasps.

Thanks, Dan. This sounds like a stressful meal, but let’s look at the silver lining. Some things transcend religion. It’s nice to see Wasps enjoying lox and bagels and a little schmear.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Congratulations Nebula Nominees!

No Comments » Written on February 20th, 2019 by
Categories: News
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Nebula Conference

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has released the list of finalists for this year’s Nebula Awards. It’s an especially powerful ballot, bearing a stellar list of incredible work and talented authors.

Congratulations to all of the nominees! I hope you’ll all be able to attend this year’s conference in southern California. All evidence suggests that the Events Team has outdone themselves and we are in for the very best conference yet.

I’ll confess, part of my delight at this year’s list of finalists stems from seeing my own name listed as a nominee for Best Novelette for “The Rule of Three.” I am exceedingly proud of this piece. I believe it’s the best thing I’ve ever written at less than novel length, and it shows the maturation of my abilities as an author over the years.

This is my sixth Nebula nomination in seven years, and my first for novelette. The competition is particular fierce, and as always, win or lose, it really is an honor to find my work listed among such incredible writers.

But I didn’t get there by myself, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and express my gratitude to the people who’s efforts contributed to my nomination.

Zangaogao Terraces

I wrote “The Rule of Three” in response to a visit to Guizhou, China. I was part of the first Danzhai workshop sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration and the Wanda Group. My experiences there will live forever in my memory, as will the incredible conversations I had with Derek Künsken, Kelly Robson, Alyx Dellamonica, Lucia Liu, Bo Jiang, Lucia Liu, Bao Shu, and especially Vera Sun, and FAA co-founder Ji Shaoting, all of which contributed to the shaping of the novelette.

Alex Shvartsman, longtime friend, convention roommate, and editor of Future Science Fiction Digest bought the story and featured it as the premiere piece in the first issue of the online magazine. His backing and belief in the novelette, basically launching the magazine with it, means more to me than I can properly express, and his continuous championing of it has been wonderful. He’s also responsible for catching a glitch in which my software (not me, I tell you, it was the software) deleted one scene and duplicated another in the manuscript. Good catch, Alex!

Elektra Hammond was my copyeditor on this novelette and she’s great. Really, it’s that simple. She’s come to know my voice from her work on other projects of mine (most notably both books in my Barsk series) and I believe that makes a huge difference. Thank you, Elektra.

Wulf Moon produced the podcast version of the novelette, doubtless providing greater saturation and allowing the work to reach more people than the print version could. He asked all the right questions and his results were excellent. Thanks, Wulf.

And finally, 脱团猫 (aka Isaac), has been handling the translation of “The Rule of Three” into Chinese. Like Alex, he also caught the twin problems of a duplicated and missing scene (and thankfully, I had the fix in hand about a day before he did so I could send it to him). His comments have been insightful and helped shaped the final manuscript before Alex published it, and will surely yield a great translation when the novelette is released in China later this year.

So, yes, my name appears on the novelette and the nomination list, but it wasn’t just me. If anyone reading this ever has the opportunity to work with any of the people I’ve listed and thanked here, know that you are in good hands and you’ve involved yourself with people of incredible talent and skill.

And again, congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Lawrence

Eating Authors: Sam Hawke

No Comments » Written on February 18th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
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Sam Hawke

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of the founding members of Codex, an online community of authors created by Luc Reid. I’m not as active there as I used to be, but it’s incredible to see how much the group has grown over the years, and especially to see new members report in when they’ve published their first novels, or to get to know writers who live so far away that I’m unlikely to actually encounter them face to face (with the exception of dizzying and pseudo-random encounters in Helsinki and similar exotic locales).

This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest hits both those criteria. Sam Hawke lives in Canberra, Australia, or so she claims. Details of her life suggest that, at least in that regard, she is an unreliable narrator. She insists she’s lazy, but two novels sold to Tor suggest otherwise. And while her alleged distrust of ducks is certainly plausible, I feel less confident about claims of martial arts skills given some hints of wounds caused by a cheese slicer (though whether these were self-inflicted or purely defensive is unclear).

Her debut novel, City of Lies (the first volume in her Poison War series) came out from Tor Books last summer. Volume two is set for a release in early December.

LMS: Welcome, Sam. So when and where was your most memorable meal?

SH: I went on my first overseas trip, to Thailand, with my then-boyfriend in 2002, equipped with no recommendations but a Lonely Planet guide – based on these quick paragraph descriptions of places we’d decide where to eat, where to go, whether or not to accept that side trip to the temple the tuk-tuk driver swears is the prettiest in town, only can we just stop at this amazing jewelry shop he knows that is having a one day only sale?). I can’t remember what it was about this particular description that so excited me, but across the island we went to find this mysterious restaurant based on a description but no precise street address.

City of Lies

It was… not a smooth journey. Our tuk-tuk broke down part way, in the middle of nowhere; it was sauna-hot and we were hungry and anxious about how much the replacement tuk-tuk was going to charge (we didn’t have mobile phones back then so we were at the mercy of the replacement driver), then the replacement one ran out of petrol and had to refill, so by the time we did eventually make it into town the hangry levels must have been pretty high. A different person – perhaps a more rational person – might have cut their losses and just eaten at the next place we saw, but no! Let no one accuse me of being rational.

We got to the street after another long hot walk but there were no numbers. All we had was the street name and a description of the restaurant’s appearance, in what now seemed like a deliberate attempt to personally sabotage us by the book’s editor. We had, I think, walked past the restaurant no less than 6 times before one of us realized the name was hidden behind some greenery. Hurray! We’d done it! We did not need to fight to the death and eat the loser’s corpse! (I may be exaggerating the extent of my bad temper and stubbornness vector at the moment but then again, maybe not. I really, really like food).

I remember stepping inside and knowing straight away we’d made the right call despite everything. It was one of those places that just ooze charm. It was insulated from the street noise and heat by overgrown plants, and it had eclectic décor in a mix of Thai, Chinese and what seemed to be South American styles (which explained itself when the smiling husband-wife owners introduced themselves). Everything was going to be allllll right.

Hollow Empire

And it really was. I wish I could remember what we ate, exactly, but I don’t, I just I remember that the dishes were labelled like boring bog standard westernized Thai/Chinese dishes – ‘sweet and sour pork’ and ‘lemon chicken’ and such, but when they came out it was like the difference between a sun sweet strawberry picked wonky and ripe from your own garden compared to the enormous, stiff, empty ones in shops. Everything had so much flavor, so much nuance. Every dish was better than the last. But it wasn’t just the food, it was the staff as well. While we were waiting for our first course, the waiter arrived with little samplers of other things on the menu – “The Chef thought you might like to try these while you’re waiting.” Not just at the beginning but between every course. “I know you didn’t order this but I thought you might like a taste.” “Here’s a little palate cleanser sorbet so you can properly enjoy the next one.” It was like being fed by loving relatives rather than complete strangers.

Even after we had paid the bill, already tipped, past the point at which there was any possible financial incentive to keep bringing us things, we were still being given cups of thick sweet tea and hard biscuits and urged to stay longer. The owners moved the tables to the edges and suddenly everyone was impromptu Latin dancing like we were in a movie (not a musical, thankfully, because I think I might have drawn the line at impromptu group songs). We stayed there dancing ’til it closed. Afterward, we walked along the beach and Boyfriend found a mysteriously abandoned – but flawless! – rose lying on the beach to give to me.

The whole thing, looking back on it, was so ridiculously perfect it could have been scripted. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about food (aside from the fact that it’s delicious, obviously), that even if I can’t remember exactly what I ate, all these years later, I remember how it felt and the surprise and delight as our evening turned around. The turning point between ‘terrible afternoon of doom’ and ‘perfect evening of almost embarrassing levels of happiness’ was just that: one good meal.

Thanks, Sam. I’m a big believer in serendipity and paying attention when the universe sends flashing neon signs. That rose on the beach? You never had a chance.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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