Saturday, April 23, 2016

Texas Library Association Conference (#txla16)

Just back from the Texas Library Association Conference in Houston! 

As always, it was great to see fellow authors and illustrators, as well as the librarians who've supported our books through the years.  And I always enjoy seeing what's new at the publisher booths.

We had a great time for my panel Tuesday afternoon, "What's New with Texas Middle Grade and YA Authors," organized by Susie Kralovansky, featuring Jessica Lee Anderson moderating, and fellow panelists Paige Britt, Cory Putnam Oakes, P.J. Hoover, Cynthia Levinson, Liz Garton Scanlon, Jennifer Mckissack, and Joy Preble.  Conversation was entertaining and enlightening.  

Many thanks to everyone who puts in the work to make TLA the best state library conference in the country!

Here are some pics:

Hitting the road
Rainy Houston from the hotel
Me, Cynthia Levinson, PJ Hoover
Carmen Oliver signs
Jennifer McKissack, Jennifer Ziegler, Joy Preble
Paige Britt and Donna Janell Bowman
Me and the world in the lobby of the Hilton
Janet Fox and Jennifer Ziegler
PJ, Jessica, and Joy
Me and Elaine Scott
Buffalo Bayou on my early morning run
Back in Austin!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lone Star Book Festival!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being one of the authors at the inaugural Lone Star Book Festival in Kingwood, Texas (just outside Houston)!

Here are some pics:

Edward Carey, Emma Virjan, Jennifer Ziegler, Bethany Hegedus, Carmen Oliver, and me
Jennifer Ziegler and Jo Whittemore discuss encouraging reading
 Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors, and attendees! It's on its way to becoming a grand, annual tradition!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pizza a Day Diet Archive [January 2015 Edition]: Home Slice Pizza

Today's ‪#‎PizzaADayDiet‬ occurred at Home Slice Pizza -- Don Tate joined me for the sausage, mushroom, and green pepper pie! This was the thickest thin crust I've had so far, and was sufficient to be not -floppy, yet not doughy, with a good, chewy texture. The cheese was flavorful and the toppings were each present in every bite.

Altogether, a most excellent pizza -- and they put the leftovers in a tinfoil swan (I've never seen that before in real life :-)).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pizza A Day Diet Archive [January 2015 Edition]: Southside Flying Pizza

Day 8 of ‪#‎PizzaADayDiet‬ is another thin crust, this one from Southside Flying Pizza. They call it “Neapolitan style,” which I guess is a really thin crust. I chose the whole wheat crust and it was pretty good – it stood up to the ingredients but I wouldn't have minded if it had been a tad crisper. The cheese was thoroughly melted and excellent, though, as were the toppings. The sausage had a good flavor and the peppers were nicely al dente. And the side salad was really good, as well.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pizza a Day Diet: Maggiano's Little Italy

Today's Pizza a Day Diet pizza is technically not a pizza.  It's a flatbread. NB: All pizzas are flatbreads but not all flatbreads are pizzas (A flatbread has an unleavened crust).

I happened to be up north during rush hour so I decided to find the closest Italian place and see what they had that resembled a pizza. :-). This happened to be the Maggiano's in the Domain.  The place has sort of a Disney-fied feel of a downtown Italian restaurant, which is not surprising since the first Maggiano's was founded in Chicago by the Lettuce Entertain You chain whose specialty is theme restaurants. 

Anyway, I took a table in the bar and ordered a Caesar salad and the sausage flatbread.  The sausage was removed from the casing but still distributed in large chunks and had that good Italian-sausage flavor.  The cheese was also abundant and flavorful.  And the crust? Nice and crispy at first and then steamed through. 

Here are a couple pics:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pizza a Day Diet: Homemade Chicago-style

Today I went back to the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook for their Chicago-style pizza recipe (No, they're not from Chicago, but their recipe is actually pretty close to others I've used in the past.). 

They've got a technique where you "laminate" the crust with butter to make it crispier.  It worked well with the sides, but I'm not sure that it quite worked with the bottom, but the crust did turn out pretty firm and full-bodied.  And rich.  Next time I might let it cook a little longer to see what happens.

The recipe for the sauce and the cheese were a bit different than what I've done before: using shredded mozzarella and diced tomatoes instead of mozzarella slices (or a fresh ball) and crushed tomatoes, but it turned out pretty well.  Next time, though, I think I'll go back to crushed with slices.

And the Star Trek pizza cutter is actually big enough to use on deep dish...

I had Brian Yansky and Frances Yansky over to share the results, so I didn't end up taking too many pictures, but here are a couple:

Pizza! And the Star Trek pizza cutter!
Frances poses with a slice.

The cat inspects the table.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pizza a Day Diet: Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. (The ABGB)

Today's pizza a day diet pizza came from the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. at 1305 W. Oltorf (right next to the train tracks).

I hit the place in mid-afternoon, so it was pretty empty (Happy hour is from 3 pm to 7 pm, though, so it filled quickly :-)).  You order food and beer at the bar and they bring it to your table.  Inside are long wooden tables with benches, for social/communal beer-gardening in the Bavarian tradition.  Outside are round tables under the live oaks for beer gardening in the Austin tradition. :-).

I ordered a sausage pizza (boring, I know :-), but I like to try new places out on the basics).  It was delivered hot and fresh; the crust was somewhat soft but firmed up after I let it cool a little.  It had a nice chew and stood up to the ingredients.  The sausage had a more subtle flavor than I was expecting, but I really liked it and its freshness.  The cheese and sauce were also quite good.

One of their "by the slice" choices had also caught my eye, so I ordered it as well.  This was venison, spinach, pesto, white bean, roasted tomato, roasted garlic, and ricotta.  This one was amazing (not that the sausage was bad).  The crust had just the right amount of crispness and chew, but the combination of toppings really made it.  It had a richness from the venison without being gamy or overwhelming, and the remaining ingredients provided a terrifically contrasting texture in every bite.

Oh, and the beer was darn good, too. :-).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pizza a Day Diet Archive [January 2015 Edition]: Hoboken Pie

This is a post I originally put only on Facebook in January 2015.  Click here for background.

And the first pizza of the January 2015 #PizzaADayDiet comes from Hoboken Pie! A thin crust sausage, mushroom, and green pepper -- all the ingredients were fresh and in abundance. The sausage and sauce were slightly spicy and the crust was really thin. It could have had a tad more body, but I liked the fact that it didn't feel like I was filling up on bread. Delivery was prompt and the pizza was warm out of the box. I will definitely order from them again.

Pizza a Day Diet: Star Trek Pizza

A few years back, when Cynthia Leitich Smith was off to Vermont for the VCFA residency, I undertook an exploration of Austin pizza joints and pizza blogging: the rules were these: aside from a dinner salad prior to the pizza, my meals were pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For ten days.  For the record, the first time I did it, I lost five pounds; the second time, two and a half.

Here's the inaugural post from 2009:  A Pizza a Day and Other Weird Activities.

I tried this again January 2015, but posted only to my Facebook account (I'll be reproducing the posts here along with this edition, with the term "archive" in the header).  I also did it in July 2015.

To view the entire line-ups, just click the "pizza a day" label.

This time, I decided to do something a little different, since I'm on the verge of exhausting Austin's specialty pizza places:  I'm going to see how many pizzas I can make using various techniques.  I'll also take a look at some of the places I've missed or have recently opened.

And, for Christmas, I received this nifty little item:

Yes, it is a starship Enterprise pizza cutter.  So of course I had to make a couple Star Trek-inspired pizzas:
(You can see the Enterprise if you squint real hard).  The saucer section was Canadian bacon with an olive for the bridge.  The nacelles were scallions and the engineering section Belgian endive.  The pizza didn't turn out so great but the cutter worked fantastically.

I also made a pizza in honor of our Klingon allies:

This one sort of drifted apart due to migration of the mozzarella, but it is a Klingon D7 class battlecruiser.  The main hull was a green pepper, while the nacelle supports were red onion.  The nacelles themselves, and the neck section, were scallions, and the bridge was a mushroom slice.


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

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