Sunday, May 24, 2015

On the road again: Balticon, day 3

My convention work day began with my presenting the Baen Traveling Roadshow, a fun sneak peek at upcoming Baen books.  What makes this event special is that we get to see not only the covers of the books, but the original art behind those covers.  I've led this event for some years now at Balticon, and it's always fun.  As usual, we nearly filled a big room, everyone in attendance seemed interested and attentive, and we gave away quite a few free books.

We then dashed out for lunch at at nearby Noodles & Company.  A small frozen yogurt from a neighboring shop topped off the meal. 

After a work break, I joined a memorial event for Peggy Rae Sapienza, a friend and fan whom I quite miss.  (I wrote about her death back in March, when I learned of it.)  As you would expect, the mood in the room was at best bittersweet as a large crowd of people told stories about how Peggy Rae had touched them.  I went second and discussed my first two interactions with Peggy Rae, the same two I covered in that earlier blog post.  Peggy Rae was a good woman who performed an amazing amount of work for SF fandom, and everyone I know who knew her will miss her.

In the small break available to me, I strolled through the dealers' room, said hi to some friends, and then found the location of my next panel.

This one, "It's for a Good Cause," focused on how writers can user their work to help charities.  I talked about the giveaway program I created with Children No More, my fourth novel, and I also discussed some of the charitable work that PT does.  I enjoyed learning about the ways the other panelists used their fiction to help causes of interest to them. 

My final panel of the day--and of the con, because I'll be leaving in the morning--was about "How To Keep Writing After the Workshop."  The question the con posed the panelists was how one could stay in contact with fellow workshop attendees and also keep writing after a workshop.  We focused on the writing part, with all of us agreeing that the only secret was that there was no secret:  you sit in a chair and do the work, or you don't.  The audience remained interested as the conversation wandered, so all went well.

Dinner was a good but not remarkable meal at Azumi, a well-reviewed local Japanese restaurant.  The fish was fresh and tasty, but the omakase menu did not feature any outstanding dishes, and it did unfortunately contain a few disappointing elements.  Though I enjoyed the meal overall, I feel no need to eat there again. 

And now, to sleep.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On the road again: Balticon, day 2

Despite sleeping almost nine hours, I awoke exhausted; I clearly have a lot of catching up to do on sleep.

Lunch had to be brief, and the nearby options are limited, so we ended up at a Chipotle for an unremarkable but completely reasonable meal. 

My first panel came with the title, "Reading As a Writer."  Five of us discussed how we read, what we read, and what we recommended people read to see examples of great craftsmanship in different areas.  The very small room stayed packed, people seemed interesting, and as best I can tell, it went well.

I roamed the con for a bit, checked out the art show and the dealers' room, and did some work I needed to accomplish.  I'm still not done with it, but getting closer.

My other panel today was supposed to focus on how to handle exposition, though the title, "Gadgets in Fiction: How Do You Work Technology into your Story?" made it sound more limited in focus than it actually proved to be.  We discussed a wide range of topics related to technology in fiction--and, on occasion, in the real world.  The packed room seemed interested throughout, and I generally enjoyed the discussion.

Dinner took us to Brian Voltaggio's Aggio in downtown Baltimore.  I hope to write a full review of the meal later, but in case I fail to do that, let me give you the one-line version:  Go there and order pasta. 

Party crawling and work filled the rest of the evening.

Tomorrow, my panels begin at 10:30 a.m., which is not my favorite time by a long shot, but which I agreed to accept so that I could host the always popular Baen Traveling Roadshow. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

On the road again: Balticon, day 1

Today, I slept as late as my schedule permitted.  Having the extra rest was grand.  I awoke still tired and could easily have slept around the clock, but I definitely felt better than the day before.

For lunch we headed to The Food Market in Hampden, where we enjoyed a delicious and interesting brunch.  I particularly liked a dish called The Smoky Bowl, which mixed traditional breakfast ingredients--eggs, English muffin, bacon, and potatoes--with a smoky Gouda cheese. 

At the con, I spent time with some friends and also devoted a fair amount of energy to making sure we were all set for the Opening Ceremonies.  It was once again my privilege to emcee that event, which went briskly and well, at least as far as I can tell.  (You'd have to ask the audience to be certain.)

After spending time at the various meet-the-guests events, I headed out to see Tomorrowland, which I will review separately later. 

Tonight, I will once again sleep a larger than normal number of hours, a prospect about which I am unreasonably happy.

Tomorrow, my first panels of the con.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On the road again: Balticon, day 0

Wow, was I tired today.  I awoke after two hours and forty-five minutes of sleep and felt like a zombie.  That is not enough sleep for me. 

Most of the day went to the drive from Raleigh to the con, a drive that ended up taking us through rush hour traffic--the only kind D.C. seems to have. 

Dinner was a delicious meal at Woodberry Kitchen; by good fortune, Kyle was able to come.  As I've said many times, if you're in this area, you should absolutely eat at Woodberry.  Everything we tried was very good, with the tomato soup with "adorable grilled cheese" and the sharp cheddar mac and cheese side dishes being particular favorites.

Tomorrow, the con starts in earnest.  For those planning to attend, look me up and say hi.  I'll be emceeing the opening ceremonies on Friday, and then on Saturday and Sunday I'll be participating in six panel discussions.

Now, though, I will crash!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I know Tom Cruise is supposed to be a jerk

and from what I've read, he probably is, but I don't care; I still want to see this next installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise.

If the trailer is any indication, the series has regained its sense of humor, which is a good thing.  Even when the movies were taking themselves entirely too seriously, however, I was enjoying them.  So, I very much look forward to this next one, Mission Impossible:  Rogue Nation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ample Hills Creamery: Ice cream you need to try

When I first heard about this Brooklyn shop that makes its own ice cream, I was interested but not compelled to action.  After I read a bit more about it, however, I decided I had to give it the taste test.  Fortunately, the shop's Web site offers an easy introduction to its products:  a collection of its classic flavors.

One large sum of money later, and a group of us were dipping spoons into pints in my kitchen.  (Yes, we were washing the spoons between tastes; no double-dipping in the gourmet ice creams, thank you very much.)  After sampling such flavors as Salted Crack Caramel and Chocolate Milk & Cookies, I'm happy to report that if you love ice cream, you need to order some of the delicious treats from Ample Hills Creamery.

The flavors are strong and tend toward the sweet, so a small helping of any one ice cream is probably more than enough.  Each flavor was distinctive, and all were different from what I've tasted elsewhere.

For my taste, Ample Hills Creamery is among the top ten ice cream sources I've tried--and I have tried a lot of them.  Where in the top ten is harder to say, but definitely in the top ten.

I look forward to sampling more of their flavors and encourage you to do the same.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Once more, with feeling: Go eat at Panciuto

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you're probably already well aware of how much I love Panciuto, a Hillsborough restaurant with fantastic food and a wonderful staff.  A group of us ate there recently, and the meal was once again delicious.  Among us, we sampled just about everything on that night's menu, and none of us had a bad bite.

Chef/owner Aaron Vandemark creates dishes that blend Southern and Italian cuisines in ways I've never tasted elsewhere.  He's particularly great with anything fried and with eggs, but his food is uniformly topnotch.  He regularly makes me like vegetables I think I hate, and his meat preparations are always spot on.

The place also simply makes me happy.  It's a family business with a family vibe, and I've felt comfortable in it from the first time I was there.

We're blessed in the Triangle with a wonderful and growing food scene, so we all have many wonderful options when we're considering dining out.  Panciuto should be one you always consider.  If you won't do it for the food, do it for me:  I want this restaurant to be available to me for as long as I'm alive.


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