Neil Gaiman Signing (and a short Jeep update)

I rode up to the parts store and picked up a new radiator cap at lunch today, installed it, and then got back to work. After quitting time, I beat feet down to Heather’s office to meet up with her and head over to the Majestic Theater for a reading and book signing with Neil Gaiman.

When we got there, there was a huge line wrapped around the building, and like good humans, we queued up, only to find that it was the will-call line. Since we already had tickets, we got in a much shorter line to get in, pick up our copy of the new book, and find some seats. Seating was first come first served, and thankfully we got seats on the lower level. From what the staff was saying, there were over 1,200 people there.

Once everyone was situated, Neil came out and did a short reading from his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He gave a little introduction to the book, talking about how it was inspired by some of his childhood, and how it ties in to other books he’s written. The reading was fun, he’s got a real talent for reading his books, as well as writing them in the first place. After the reading, he did a short question and answer session, and then left the stage to get set up to do the book signing.

It was a good thing we got seats on the lower level, because that’s where they started taking people, row by row, to go get their books signed. We had about an hour and a half wait before we got up to him and got our books signed. Then we headed out and drove back to the house, tired but really happy with the entire experience. This is the last signing tour he’s doing, and we were glad we didn’t miss it. He’s a really nice guy, who seems to genuinely enjoy meeting and interacting with his fans. He said he’ll still be doing appearances at cons and other events, just not the marathon book signings, as he was planning on staying until the last person got their stuff signed at each location. That’s dedication!

The Joy Of Gluten Free, Sugar Free Baking

Peter Reinhart’s new book, The Joy of Gluten Free, Sugar Free Baking, is out and he’s doing a tour promoting it. Heather and I found out about this class before we left on the cruise, and booked a couple seats at the Plano Central Market. We got over there a little early and snagged a couple front row seats and got to talk to Mr. Reinhart for a few minutes before class started. All of the recipes in the book are made using nut flours and splenda or other sweeteners, and some of them were really good. Neither of us are gluten intolerant or diabetic, but we’ve got friends who are, so it was a learning experience. Plus getting to meet Peter Reinhart was a real treat. Everyone who attended got a copy of the book, so we gave our other copy to the church library to help out some of our friends up there. Mr. Reinhart was open and entertaining, stopping throughout the demonstrations to answer questions and offer advice to people. After the class was over, we talked with him for a few minutes and got him to sign our copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Honeymoon Cruise – Day 7

Our last full day on the ship, and a sea day heading back to Galveston and the real world. We grabbed some breakfast at the buffet, finally figuring out that if you go to Cafe Caribe instead of the main buffet, you get open tables and a more logical layout on the food line. After that we went down to the International Cafe and picked up some coffee before heading over to the Princess Theater for a cooking demonstration featuring the ship’s executive chef Giuseppe De Gennaro and maitre d’ Francesco Ciorfito. They did a full meal, including appetizer, entree, drinks, and dessert while we watched, spiced with some really funny humor. After the cooking demonstration was done we got a tour of one of the galleys. That was really cool, getting to see how well the workspaces are laid out and where our food came from. At the end of the tour we picked up a copy of the ship’s cookbook, and got it signed by Chef De Gennaro.

After we got done with the tour, we went down to the photo gallery and found our pictures from the various dinners and other things. We pared them down to a pair of formal portraits of the two of us and one each of us individually. We’ve got a serious lack of good pictures of ourselves, so it was nice to finally have some good ones to hang up. Those got dropped off at the cabin before we went to grab some lunch.

After lunch we went back to the Princess Theater to meet up with the group for the ship’s tour. There were nine of us in the group, plus Jorge, our guide, and a photographer. Our first stop was the theater, where we got to get up on stage, see how the lighting and sound systems worked, as well as meet a couple of the dancers and see the dressing rooms. From there we went over to the forward anchor room where we met the second officer and learned a little about the mooring systems the ship uses. The anchors are huge, and the chain is pretty massive as well. In addition there were the forward mooring lines and their electric winches. After that we went over to one of the galleys for a more in depth tour of it than we had after the cooking demonstration. Chef De Gennaro was there, talking to us about kitchen operations and answering questions, as well as serving us some fruit drinks and delicious chocolates. We learned that everything served is made from scratch, they do not have any pre-made food, including the bread. Watching them make the rolls for tonight’s dinner was fascinating. Next on the tour was to head down the M1, the long open passage the crew uses to move fore and aft, to check out food storage areas, the print shop, and the photo lab. Next we went a little further down, to check out the ship’s laundry. That was pretty incredible, there’s an amazing amount of automation, especially machines to fold towels, napkins, and sheets. We were treated to one of the crew modeling the bathrobe that we’d each be getting as one of the tour perks. He was really hamming it up, which made all of us laugh quite a bit. After that we went to check out the main engineering control room and met the chief engineer. Getting to hear about the power output, and consumption, of the ship was neat. It makes enough power to light a decent sized town, with most of that being used to move the ship. We got to see the control systems screens, with the status of everything on the ship, down to individual valves. We also got to visit the medical center and talk to the doctor on staff. He was a really interesting guy, from England, who has been working for Princess for a few years now. They’re capable of handling most medical issues, up to very minor surgery, and can stabilize patients until they can be evacuated to a hospital on land. I’m glad we got to visit it under these circumstances instead of as a customer. Our next stop was, for me, the highlight of the tour: the bridge. The view from there is fantastic, it’s got to be the best view on the ship, especially from the wings on either side. There are no obstructions, and if I could have stayed there for a few hours, I would have been really happy. We got an introduction into the ship’s controls, how it’s steered, the radars, digital charts, and more, plus got to meet the staff captain because the captain was busy elsewhere. After the bridge tour was done, the second officer took us up to the ship’s funnels, where we got a final group shot before heading back down to one of the lounges for some champagne. We all hung out for a few, enjoying a few glasses and talking about the tour before taking our leave. It was neat getting outside of the passenger areas of the ship and in to the working sections. I’m not sure we’ll do this again, but it’s definitely something that you should consider doing at least once. It definitely puts things in perspective and gives you a lot of insight into what’s going on behind the scenes while you’re enjoying the resort-like atmosphere in the rest of the ship.

When we got back to our cabin, we had a pair of bathrobes and aprons waiting for us. The robes are super fluffy, and will be much appreciated for lounging around the house. The aprons are really nice as well, and were a pleasant surprise, because we thought that we’d be getting chefs jackets based on the on-line discussions. These are going to be much more useful than chefs jackets, so we’re not disappointed. We set about packing the stuff in our suitcases, and managed to get it all to fit. And then the other shoe dropped when Antonio showed up with our photos and two large boxed photo frames. We knew there were photos coming, but the frames were totally unexpected, and really messed up our packing. We spent some time moving things around so that we could get them in Heather’s big suitcase, but it’s going to be tight, and now we’re going to have to hit a UPS Store when we get back to Galveston.

Our last dinner on board was excellent, and we stayed a little later talking with the other couples at our table before heading back to the room and crashing out a little early so that we’d be up and moving in time to get off the ship in the morning.

Reviving Our Date Nights

With the wedding coming up and all of the stress around it, we’ve let our date nights lapse. That’s not good, so we’re starting them back up. Tonight we headed up to Denton to check out The Abbey Inn, a pub on the city square. They’ve got a great selection of local beers on tap, including the yummy IPA by (512) brewing company that I had. The food was delicious, and the service was excellent. We’ll definitely be going back there in the near future.

After that we went over to Beth Marie’s for some tasty ice cream before doing a little shopping. First we went to Mad World Records to look for some music for the wedding reception. We found the Marc Cohn and Dawes albums we were looking for, so that was time well spent. Then we hit Recycled Books and managed, somehow, to bring back even more books to add to the ever growing “to read” stack.

Tricked

Tricked is the fourth book in Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid Chronicles series. It picks up pretty much just after the events of Hammered, with Atticus and Granuaile going in to hiding to hopefully stay off the radar of a pretty angry Norse pantheon and assorted other thunder gods. And since they’ve asked Coyote to help them hide, you can imaging that things are going to get a bit rough. And oh, does it. Navajo skinwalkers, vampires, Hel, and more keep everyone on their toes. It’s been a little bit of a wait for this one to come out, but it was well worth it. This is a great series, and I really can’t wait for the next one to come out.

Book Signing with Kevin Hearne

Heather and I went out to A Real Bookstore tonight for an appearance and book signing by Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid Chronicles. I commented on the first three books in the series, HoundedHexed, and Hammered, earlier and still recommend them to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy. Appearing with Kevin was Jaye Wells, a local author who also writes urban fantasy. The two of them were great together, really playing off each other well. Listening to them talk about writing and the publishing industry was extremely informative. It’s a tough business to get ahead in, and I wonder how it’s going to change with the growth of e-books and distribution networks like the one supporting Amazon’s Kindle readers. Heather picke up one of Jaye’s books and I picked up Tricked, the fourth book in Kevin’s series. We got them all signed and even enjoyed some free drinks courtesy of the authors.

Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider was the first book I started after school finished. Neal Peart, the drummer for Rush, lost his wife and daughter within the same year. He left on a long motorcycle ride to clear his head and try to heal from those devastating losses. While riding he kept a journal and wrote letters to friends and family, which became the source material for this book. It is a tough read at times, especially if you’ve experienced similar losses, but it was a good book. Ignore the negative reviews which put the book down because he slaghed people for various reasons. Yes, he does, but you’ve got to take it in context instead of as an isolated event.

The Iron Druid Chronicles 1 – 3

I usually post book reviews when I finish them, but these were so good that I read all three (Hounded,Hexed, andHammered) pretty much back-to-back. The Iron Druid Chronicles is a series about the last surviving druid, now living in modern day Arizona, and dealing with all sorts of supernatural problems. And by problems I mean power struggles between angry gods from various pantheons, werewolves, vampires, witches, demons, and more. If you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, you’re probably going to enjoy these books too. From the author’s site it looks like books 4 through 6 got picked up so new ones will be on their way starting this summer.

Hard Magic

Do you like 1930s detective stories? Do you like the Dresden Files? What about a little action like Sky Captain or Kill Bill? Then get over to Amazon and pick up Hard Magic, the first book in the Grimnoir Chronicles series by Larry Correia. Have fun reading about magic using ninjas, gangsters, pirates, and soldiers. Blimps? Got ’em. John Moses Browning? Yep, he’s there too! This is a seriously fun book!

Dead Six

Diverging from the sci-fi/fantasy fare a little, and because I picked up a signed copy from Uncle Hugo’s, I just finished reading Dead Six. It’s a collaboration between Larry Correia and Mike Kupari, and is more along the lines of an action thriller than his previous offerings. If you liked John Ringo’s Ghost series, you’ll like this one.

It tells a single story from two different points of view, and kept me guessing until the end. The action is well written, with lots of firearms references throughout. You can read the dust jacket notes on Amazon for a better plot teaser than I could write. But like I said, if you like military thrillers, you’ll probably enjoy this one.