Monday, November 16, 2015

BORROWED TIME release and launch photo report!

As of November 10, 2015, BORROWED TIME (the sequel to CHRONAL ENGINE) is now available in bookstores everywhere as well as online (in hardcover and ebook)!  Signed copies are available from BookPeople.

In an article titled, 'Borrowed Time' mixes paleontology and fantasy, Saturday's Austin American-Statesman had a great review of BORROWED TIME, stating it's "a slam-dunk for dinosaur aficionados and will appeal as well to those who are fans of literary time travel and outdoorsy adventure."

Sunday was the launch party at BookPeople! I had great fun doing a presentation discussing the connections between the book, Charles Umlauf, dinosaurs, Johnny Weissmuller, and me (really).

The dinosaur standees for the photo booth were a hit, as were the refreshments including water, soft drinks, wine and cheese, and crackers. (The wine, from the Languedoc region of France, is made from grapes grown in Cretaceous clays where dinosaur fossils have have been found).

But the real eye-opener was the mosasaur cake by author/cakelustrator Akiko White. About two feet high, it featured a mosasaur sculpted from modeler's chocolate on a chocolate cake base with buttercream frosting! She'll be doing a youtube video on the making of it soon (and I'll link when it's available).  Suffice to say that still pictures don't do it justice -- it was mounted on a motorized turntable and illuminated with a blue strobe that made it look like it was underwater!

Here are the pics:

Me and cake

Carmen Oliver and T.rex
Akiko assembles! (photo courtesy Akiko White)
Presenting (photo courtesy Akiko White)
Frances Hill and Lindsey Lane (photo courtesy of Shelley Ann Jackson)
Shelley Ann Jackson and Lindsey Lane (photo courtesy Shelley Ann Jackson)
 Many thanks to BookPeople for hosting the event, to everyone who came for the event, and to everyone who helped out: Akiko, for making the awesome cake; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Carmen Oliver; Lindsey Lane; Shelley Ann Jackson; and Cory Putnam Oakes!

Cake topper in its natural habitat

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mississippi Book Festival

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being a panelist at the first annual Mississippi Book Festival at the State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi!

For me, the weekend started with the plane flight out on Friday and a lovely reception that evening at the Eudora Welty House. Representatives of the Eudora Welty Foundation were on hand to provide tours and answer any and all questions about Jackson's favorite daughter.  It was a great chance to talk to the organizers and volunteers, as well as other authors.

The next morning was breakfast at the Winter Archives Building, where the staff gave us a tour and showed us the forthcoming Museum of Civil Rights and Mississippi History Museum.

Then we were off to opening ceremonies, where the Jackson State University Marching Band performed on the Capitol steps, and then the panels!  The Harper Lee Reconsidered panel, held in the old Supreme Court chamber, was lively and fascinating (and also covered by C-SPAN).  I wasn't able to make it to the picture books panel due to the long line, but hear it went well, and I'd had the chance to talk with the presenters the night before :-).

My panel was the Young Readers panel, and featured moderator Margaret McMullan, and panelists Kimberly Willis Holt, Taylor Kitchings, Deborah Wiles, Carolyn Brown, and Cassie Beasley.  Margaret did a great job as moderator and kept the conversation going and on track. :-).

Many thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, and attendees for making the event such a success!

Altogether, it was a fantastic event, with standing-room-only crowds and a terrific venue!  Here's a report on the festival from the Clarion-Ledger: Book Festival Attendance Outpaces Projections.

And here are some pics from out and about festival weekend:

My duffel bag leaves the jetway in Houston
Art deco Greyhound Station, downtown Jackson
Kerry Madden, Susan Eaddy, Hester Bass, Chris Barton in the Eudora Welty House Garden

Deborah Wiles, Kerry Madden on the Eudora Welty House lawn
In front of the Eudora Welty House
MS State Capitol
Kerry Madden, Kimberly Willis Holt
W. Ralph Eubanks, Margaret McMullan
Jackson State University Marching Band

View from the Capitol steps
Capitol interior and dome
Dome in House of Representative Chamber
Dome of Senate Chamber
Mayflower Cafe
Kimberly, Taylor, Deborah, Margaret, Me, Cassie, Carolyn

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: The Backspace

The Backspace, located at Fifth and San Jacinto, was recommended to me by author Margo Rabb:
It's a relatively small space, with correspondingly limited seating.  All seats have a good view of the bar and the brick oven, though (They're bigger than they look).
I ordered the asparagus appetizer and a fennel sausage pizza and really liked both.

The appetizer came in a cast iron skillet with a fried egg, basil pesto, and prosciutto, and had a nice, earthy quality.  In the future, I fully intend to try some of their other appetizers...

The pizza's crust was somewhat soft, but it had a good chewiness and rich flavor from the slight char/caramelization.  The sauce was chunky and the fennel sausage was really amazing.  I also liked the "blobs" of mozzarella that worked better on this pizza than an entire layer would've (I suspect the effect would've been to steam the crust a bit too much).

Although their web site doesn't specify, they also do carry out, which could be dangerous...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: Pieous

For today's Pizza a Day Diet experience, I went way out west -- nearly to Dripping Springs -- to try out Pieous with authors Brian Yansky and Frances Yansky
The place was packed -- and inside seating is limited to a handful of cafe tables, picnic tables, and seats at the bar.  There's more outside, though, and we didn't have trouble nabbing spots.
The pizzas are about 12 inches, so we ordered three: the Smoky Italian (crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, house smoked Italian sausage, and spicy onions), the White Pie (mozzarella, basil, garlic, and olive oil), and a bacon pizza.
I didn't have the bacon, but I enjoyed both of the others.  The crusts were soft but chewy, and the cheese (and sauce on the sausage) were flavorful.  The White had a rich, almost Alfredo-like taste, and the Smoky Italian sausage was also really good.  I particularly liked the hint of spiciness that you got in every mouthful.

And fans of TOFU AND T.REX will appreciate the old-school deli slicing machine:

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: Cajun Pizza Place

At first, I was a bit skeptical about Cajun Pizza Place, partly because of its relatively remote location: 183 and McNeil (aka, South Canada), but I was in the area so decided to try it. 

I ordered a mushroom, onion, green pepper, and crawfish (yes, crawfish) pizza.
As you can see, the toppings are present in abundance and evenly distributed.  The crawfish was actually really good and had excellent flavor and body (I was prepared for frozen, textureless mush) and the pizza on the whole was quite rich and tasty.  I also liked the crust: thin, crisp and flaky in a way that reminded me of the thin crust pizzas from neighborhood joints I had in Chicago growing up.

They are a bit far from me but if I'm ever in the neighborhood again, I'll definitely go back.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: Marye's Gourmet Pizza

Marye's Gourmet Pizza Pub is located somewhat out of the way in a strip mall on Bee Cave Road in West Lake Hills and offers pizzas, sandwiches, and other Italian favorites in a new, modern setting.
I ordered a 14-inch sausage, green pepper, and mushroom pizza.
I ordered this one carry out and it took me a while to get there and get back home, but it held up well.  The crust was nicely thin with crispier edges.  The cheese was great and there's a lot of it.  The sausage was crumbled but tasty and nicely caramelized, and the green peppers and mushrooms were conspicuously abundant.  Altogether, a most enjoyable pizza.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: Via313

Via313 offers what they call "Detroit-style pizza."  Now, being a Chicagoan and having spent considerable time in Michigan, I'd never heard of "Detroit-style pizza."

It turns out, it's not dissimilar to Chicago-style, in that it is a deep dish, with the cheese properly underneath the sauce. (This prevents the crust from getting soggy -- recently to my disappointment, I ate at a franchise Uno's and they had the cheese on top of the sauce. It was revolting. And heretical.).  Intriguingly, the Via313 pizzas are rectangular, allegedly because they were originally baked in auto parts pans, which is one of those stories that, if not actually true, should be.

Via313, which gets its name from the Wayne County (Detroit) area code, has two trailers and one brick and mortar location.  I went to the trailer at Craft Pride on Rainey Street.

I ordered the Omnivore, with mushroom, onion, green pepper, pepperoni, and sausage.
I was very impressed.  The crust was crisp without being cracker-y and had that chewiness and almost confectionary quality I associate with a good Chicago-style crust (And, of course, it was not soggy). The cheese had a good flavor, as did the toppings.  The sauce was plentiful, but as you can see from the picture, did not cover the entire surface of the cheese layer.

All in all, an exceptional pizza, and I confess I approached the thing with a certain degree of suspicion...:-).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: Little Deli and Pizza

Little Deli and Pizza is located in a mid-century strip mall in a residential (Crestview) neighborhood of north-ish Austin and, as the name suggests, doesn't have a lot of dine-in space; it does have a number of outdoor tables which were packed when I picked up my sausage, mushroom, and onion pizza.

This was another where I really liked the sausage -- it had a good, meaty texture and flavor and came in large chunks.  It's thin crust, not extremely crispy, but with enough body to support the weight of the toppings, and was satisfyingly chewy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pizza a Day Diet: Bola Pizza

Today's pizza comes from Bola Pizza.  Actually, it comes from Thom's Market grocery store, because Bola Pizza is a home-grown Austin catering-only outfit (they'll bring the oven to you, which sounds kind of awesome) that also offers some of their selections frozen

I bought the Mushroom, one of four varieties -- all vegetarian -- available in the freezer case (Their catering menu features eleven, including some with meat :-)). The Mushroom pizza has a "crimini mushroom ragu, mozzarella, and ricotta."  Here's what it looked like out of the box:
And here it is straight out of the oven:

Judging from their web site, one of Bola Pizza's points of pride is their crust, billed as being made with a "three day, cold fermentation" process.  And I have to say, it was pretty fantastic.  Extremely thin, straight out of the oven it had a terrific crispness (Part of this might be because it was a "white" pizza, i.e., no sauce so they can go a little thinner.). The edges (is there a term for those?) were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

The rest of the pizza was really good, as well, with a light, flavorful, non-greasy texture.  Even better, the cheese tasted the way cheese should (not just a waxy, gooey substrate) and the mushroom ragu would be terrific by itself. On the whole, this might be the best thin-crust frozen pizza I've ever had, better than some in-store or delivery.

The pizzas are available at stores in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.  Click here for the complete list.

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