Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

NanoCon Mark IV Report

I’ve returned from NanoCon Mark IV and my stint as GOH. How about that?

It was a fun little con, held at the Longview Community College, just across the river from Rainier. I’d guess attendance came in at about two hundred. I’d consider it a success. I sold out of Under Strange Suns. I cut my inventory of Reunion in half. I met a number of intelligent and interesting people.

Among these I’d count James Wells, the great grandson of H.G. Wells (or the great man himself with a time machine and a convincing American accent.) We exchanged novels, so I have The Great Symmetry on my to-read pile now.

I had an engaging chat with James Omelina who runs several escape rooms in the southwest Washington area. I’m intrigued to check one out. I hear good things about the entertainment value of well-designed escape room, and James appears to have the design aspect dialed in.

I even managed lunch at the Ashtown brewery, a few blocks away from the convention. Well worth it.

The organizers were kind enough to invite me to return next year. I do hope my schedule allows it.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Once again I write from one of the dreary hardship stations where I toil in the phrase fields, reaping sentences and paragraphs for your entertainment. This particular gray, danksome locale is Playa del Carmen, Mexico. That’s right, I’m suffering the horrors of the Mexican Riviera on your behalf.

For example, just to the south is Tulum, where the Spanish first landed, assaulted the Mayan town, and were routed by that metropolis of 10,000 or so. Of course, a couple years later when the Spanish returned there were only 400 left alive in Tulum. So, whether the Mayan’s should count that a victory or not is certainly up to debate. The point is, I had to visit that nghtmarish scene of battle and disease, under the blue sky, against a backdrop of turqoise Caribbean waters. Excruciating.

And more ruins awaited. I was forced to scale the crumbling, hazardous steps of the pyramid in Coba, sight of ritual sacrifice. In this case, I sacrificed for you. I then further endangered myself, plunging into the bottomless depths of a cool, refreshing cenote, some fifty feet or more below ground. I could have drowned, assuming I suddenly forgot how to swim.

In between these labors I sit outside and write. That’s correct, I don’t even allow myself to sit indoors while working through the second draft of Boss. I mean, c’mon. I’m from Oregon. I’m not used to this sort of heat. I must resort to wading through the surf or plunging into the swimming pool to relieve the misery.

I even faced death herself in order to free bottles of tequila from their imprisonment. This I do for you!

And I haven’t yet completed writing the talk I’ll be giving next week at NanoCon Mark IV. That’s right. I proceed from one task to the next.

For you, dear reader. For you.

Well, back to the fields.

Tasting Notes

My Beautiful Wife and the Heir Apparent have been away for a couple of weeks. Too long, really. Still the time intervening between departure and return must be filled. I’ve been reading, caught up on some films, gotten a solid push on the second draft of “Boss.” Productive, I think. Stimulative to the synapses, fueling the story muscles. But a man can’t work all the time.

And so, beer.

I managed to visit a few brewpubs that I’ve missed. It’s not hard to miss a new one. They spring up in Portland like mushrooms. I posted some pictures of last weekend’s beer exploration. Today I’ll provide some tasting notes and comments about this weekend. For those of you who read this web log solely for thoughts on books, speculative fiction, sci-fi conventions and whatnot, this is a good place to stop reading.

Fat Head’s Brewery in Northwest Portland is the Oregon branch of an Ohio-based operation. But it brew on the premises and appears to develop a good number of its recipes independently. It is a cavernous space with a lot of tables. Oregon was playing Cal on the tube above the bar. And I ordered a five beer taster for $11. A bit steep I think. Perhaps someone has a spreadsheet with the price of taster trays in the greater Portland area.

The thing is, I took notes. Perhaps less detailed notes than usual, but here they are.

Built for Speed IPA. 6.3% Typical West Coast IPA, but not in a good way. Revisit — Pretty good after food.

Semper FiPA. 6.5% Oo-rah! Sorry, had to. Grassy, undistinguished IPA. Revisit — unchanged.

One for the Road IIPA. 8.5% Raisin and leather balancing a near perfect amount of hops. Near to classic beer status. Revisit — Unbalanced.

Tortuga Tri-PA. 9.25% Pineapple wallop. Aftertaste a lingering cigarette bitterness. Might grow on me, but no an immediate favorite. Revisit — Unchanged.

Pimp My Sleigh. 10.5%. Belgian Style Christmas Ale. Tastes like a near textbook barleywine. Perhaps a trifle thin/vinegary. Could use a chewier, raisin finish. Revisit — Minor improvement.

I think I’d go back there, try some more options. I find it interesting that revisiting a beer after having run some different flavors over the tastebuds occasionally altered my initial impression.

I visited Great Notion Brewing because a local publication listed one of its beers as the best beer in Portland. So of course the pub was completely sold out of the beer in question. I’d say just my luck but I probably should have seen that coming.

Great Notion is a typical example of the Portland brewpub. A smallish, re-purposed space decorated in a vaguely woodsy, Northwestern fashion. I ordered a sandwich and a five beer-taster tray. The sandwich was reasonably priced, $9 for a sandwich and generously sized side salad. The taster tray — not so much. $14! That can’t be the going rate, can it?

At least the beer was good.

Strawberry Cream IPA. 7%. Slight bite of hops to offset the smoothness. Strawberries and cream…and hops? Who’d a thunk it? Works though.

Grassroots IPA. 7%. Solid IPA. ON par with Gigantic and — almost — Breakside.

Super Ripe IIPA. 9.5%. Grapefruit and sucrose. In a good way.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice. 7%. Sour. Apricot and lemon juice. Pucker up!

Midnight Fluff. 10%. Stout. Feeling diabetic after one sip. Dip a s’more in it or pour it over ice cream. This is dessert beer overkill. Good, though.

I’d go back. But I think I’d just order a pint of something and hope for the best.

Hey, if you’re enjoying my particular brand of nonsense, please exercise the like and share functions of your social media platform of choice. Think of the children.

Somnus is AWOL

There was a period of about six months following the birth of the Heir Apparent during which I was functionally a zombie. A decent night’s sleep consisted of perhaps four hours, broken into two-hour blocks. Ah, good times. But gradually the HA began sleeping through the night on a more-or-less consistent basis.

Idle Plots

Pardon me while I ramble on a bit. This is primarily (or perhaps entirely) for my benefit. Consider it musing or work notes.

Geography dictates the battlespace. As a rule, soldiers aren’t herded together onto a broad, featureless plain, formed up into ranks and columns, and marched headlong at the opposing army doing precisely the same thing. Elevation, terrain flank anchors, concealment, lines of egress — these are considerations. This becomes obvious when one considers major battles, such as Bannockburn, Crecy, etc.

Between the Covers

“What are you reading, Ken?” I assume you are asking for purposes of today’s post.

I’m glad you asked. As usual, I have several books going at any one time. This week I finished “The Hunted” by Elmore Leonard. Typically outstanding work. It is also an example of how cell phones have changed everything. The same story could not be written as a contemporary piece. Still, excellent 70’s-vintage Leonard.

No Time to Binge, Doctor Jones

I’ll be driving MBW and the HA to a restaurant later this afternoon to watch the Superbowl with friends. In part this is to see friends. Also in part because I wouldn’t be able to watch the game at home. See, Meduseld gets crap TV reception. I purchased a 40-mile antenna. Installed downstairs it does nothing for the big screen. Upstairs, connected to the petite bedroom TV, it receives a few channels, one of which occasionally shows something worth viewing. But none of those channels is Fox (which is carrying the game this year.)

What we watch primarily comes courtesy of Netflix or Amazon Prime. I also have a Roku hooked up downstairs, providing numerous other options, when the wifi consents to filter down from the rarefied upstairs atmosphere. If the weather is bad (and this is the Pacific Northwest) Roku provides a pixilated picture, brief ten-second sections of video between two minute blocks of nothing, or simply nothing at all. So, the best bet is usually Netflix or Amazon Prime upstairs on the small screen or a computer screen.

What sci-fi/fantasy genre options do I watch, then? Well, MBW caught the Game of Thrones bug, so we’ll be picking up HBO again this summer to catch up on the nefarious exploits of Tyrion, et al. And while we’re paying the premium, we’ll check out Westworld, see if it holds up to the good reviews, despite the absence of Yul Brynner.

More Too Late Movie Reviews

I don’t get to the movie theater much, maybe once a year. So movies are a home affair, on a variety of screen sizes, and generally a matter of compromise. As I was, temporarily, a bachelor this weekend, I was able to skip compromise and select whatever I wanted. Accordingly I caught up on a few genre films. I have some thoughts on what I watched.

Rest

A few days ago I finished the first draft of the novel I’m working on. Huzzah. Glory and trumpets. Time to set it aside, gain some distance from it so I can approach it with fresh eyes for the second draft. Normally this means moving on to the next project. Now, I have a couple of books I’d like to start outlining. But which one depends on an outside factor. Meaning I need to wait. Meaning a chance to rest.

All work and no play make Ken a dull boy.

Repeat.