Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Real Life Hera

Above: That's me, Alysha, Glenn, and a happy book buyer at Orlando Brewing.

On Wednesday Glenn and I traveled to Orlando, but not to see Disney.  We went for a book signing at Orlando Brewing.  This was not just a regular old signing, but one where I had the opportunity to connect again with one of the first brewers I interviewed for A Deadly Draught.  Since that first visit, Ed Canty and I have become friends.  Not only has he been kind and beyond patient in his willingness to answer all my brewing questions, but he's read several of the chapters in my new book about Hera Knightsbridge and given me great technical input.

That first day at Orlando Brewing when Ed was showing Glenn and me around the place (our own private brewery tour), I met Ed's apprentice and told Alysha, "You look just like my Hera."  And she did.  Alysha is tall, slender, and has plenty of woman muscle as I imagined Hera did.  I didn't have the opportunity to get to know her at that time, but on Wednesday night she came to the signing with Ed.  It gave us the chance to reconnect and to talk for the evening and to begin our friendship.   For more information about Orlando Brewing, go to  Orlando Brewing is Florida's the only certified organic brewery and brews in accordance with the German Purity Law of 1516.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back in Rural Florida: Hooray for Cowboys, Waterfowl, Alligators, and Horses

No, this is not a picture of a palm tree on a beach with a bikini-clad babe under it.  This is what you can expect in the Florida in which I live.  And you wonder why I have set many of my short stories and my next book Dumpster Dying here!  This is what I saw in the canal next to our house as Glenn and I were having afternoon tea today.  Even better, we spotted the herd of horses that graze in the pasture across this canal.  They were too far away for me to get a good photo, but I'm pleased they are still there.  Unfortunately things do change, and our foray last evening to our favorite cowboy bar was a disappointment because we saw no one there we knew.  We'll try again another weekend.  I refuse to give up dancing to country western music.  If any of you know of a good cowboy bar around Okeechobee, let me know.  I've got a pair of boots that I'm itching to slip on and boogie to some sh-- kicking tunes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In time for Thanksgiving

Good news for me and for you.  My story entitled "Murder with All the Trimmings" was accepted for publication by and is available as part of their Thanksgiving anthology, The Killer Wore Cranberry.  You can buy it in a variety of eformats at, , or at   If you don't want the entire anthology, you can also purchase just my story.  The anthology or the story would make a nice holiday gift.

We're now in Florida for the winter and I'm working on my upcoming book Dumspter Dying for Oak Tree Press.  I hope it will come out this month, but surely by next so you can buy it for your holiday gift giving.  I was welcomed back to my home here by a variety of birds including wood storks and our resident alligator and four turtles on the canal in front of our house.

I'm jumping into the warm waters here right away with a book signing at the Miami Book Fair on November 21 at 1:00.  Stop by if you're at the Fair.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A New Book for Fall

Fall on the Butternut Creek

Fall settled in on upstate New York suddenly; last week it was late summer, but, by the end of the week, leaves were falling, and now the yard is filled with them

My new book, entitled Dumpster Dying, is due out in late October, early November from Oak Tree Press.  I thought you might like to read a bit of it to get a taste of life for my "winter visitor" protagonist in rural Florida.

Dumpster Dying                                                            

Chapter 1                           

Emily Rhodes, the new bartender at the Big Lake Country Club, blew damp tendrils of sun-bleached hair out of her face as she kicked and dragged three plastic trash bags across the sun-baked asphalt lot behind the clubhouse. A full moon illuminated the area’s lone palm tree under which sat a metal beast waiting for its nightly feeding.

“Here you go, big boy,” she said. She let go of the bags and, with one hand, lifted the dumpster’s lid on the side closest to her. The usual stench of rotting garbage assaulted her nostrils. She ignored the smell and tried to heave the bag into the container, but it tumbled back out. Too full. She shoved back the lid on the other side, and mentally crossed her fingers that she wouldn’t have to hop in there and stomp around on that stuff to make room as she did the other night.

By the glow of the security light she spotted a white object lying at the far end of the dumpster, a cowboy hat, a very special cowboy hat, a Silver Belly, expensive and worn by very few men. She’d encountered just such a man earlier in the evening. The circumstances of their meeting were not pleasant.

What the hell was that doing here, she wondered. Emily leaned in as far as she could. Her feet left the ground, and she teetered on the rim of the dumpster. She struggled to reach the hat, tugged at it, and almost went head first into the bin, head first onto the man’s face hidden beneath the hat.

Ugh! She fell back and dropped the metal lid, the clang reverberating off the side of the building in the still night. She covered her mouth with her hand, and leaned against the dumpster. That can’t be. I didn’t see that, did I?

She turned, opened the lid once more, gingerly pushed a garbage bag to one side, and peered in for another look. She remembered him from earlier in the evening when he had grabbed her blouse and tried to pull her across the bar. He had worn a brilliant white cowboy shirt with roses appliqu├ęd on the front yoke. Now the shirt front was as dark as the blood-red flowers.

She gulped hard to hold back the bile working its way up from her stomach and looked around the lot. It was empty. Help. She needed help.

She ran for the door of the clubhouse. The knob wouldn’t turn.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cooking with Beer

Now that cooler weather is here, I've been searching through recipes to see what I can make that will require heating up the oven.  Friday night I did a book singing at a local restaurant and bar, The Empire House, in Glibertsville, NY.  The bar features some of our local brews from Butternuts Beer and Ale Brewery down the road from me.  I decided to make muffins for the evening, and I've included the recipe below.  These tasty little morsels are made with stout.  I used Moo Thunder Stout, the great brew from Butternuts Beer and Ale, but you can use any stout you like.  If you don't like muffins, I've included a way you can convert the recipe to a cake.

                               Butternut Valley Ginger Stout Mini-Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 tablespoon candied ginger (finely chopped) or 1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs

12 ounces stout (I recommend Moo Thunder from Butternuts Beer and Ale)

½ cup molasses

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease mini-muffin cups. Combine flour, ground
ginger, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves; set aside.

2. Beat butter and candied ginger with electric mixer on medium speed until
combined. Add sugars; beat to combine. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after
each addition.

3. Mix stout and molasses to combine. Alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additons, with the beer mixture; beating until combined and scraping down side of bowl as needed.

4. Pour into the mini-muffin pans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes over 60 muffins.

Note: You may make this batter into a cake. Grease a 13x 9 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The muffins turned out so well, I wondered if any of you have tried cooking with beer?  Would you share a favorite beer recipe with me?  I'd like to add them to the next Hera book or complile them into a down- loadable booklet that all of Hera's fans could get by contacting me.  Of course, I would give each one of you credit for the recipe you contributed and your name might find its way into my next Hera book.
Send your recipe(s) to me at .  I'll continue to put together the recipes throughout the fall months until I get enough to use in the book or to put together in booklet form.
Try the muffins with a dollop of whipped cream.  Yummy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Announcing the Winner of the Beer Name Contest

In July, I began a contest to name Hera's newest beer, to be created in the second Hera Knightsbridge book.  I've decided on the winner.  Drum roll, please.  Throw confetti.  Open champagne.  Eat dark chocolate.  Okay, okay.  Open a bottle of stout and eat strawberries masserated in balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar with just a pinch of black pepper.  Add dollop of creme fraiche.

The name will be CLEAR CREEK, a perfect label for an ale to celebrate Hera's commitment to maintaining clean water in Upstate New York.  The individual who suggested this name was John Sullivan who wins a copy of A Deadly Draught.  Enjoy, John.

I haven't yet decided just what kind of ale this will be.  It sounds like a light one, but it could be darker if one considers the deep, cool pools in the Butternut.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  There were some great names and I had a difficult time making up my mind.  Hera may have to create many other beers in the future.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time in the "Quiet Corner" of Connecticut

Last Wednesday I sold books at Willimantic Brewery in Willimantic, Connecticut. This was like coming home. I worked at Eastern Connecticut State University in the mid nineties (It’s where I met that sexy cowboy, Glenn). The last year I was in Connecticut, Willimantic Brewery bought the old Post Office in town and set up a brew pub and restaurant. They have become a recognized brewery with many awards to their credit. I was at the brewery to help raise money for the victims of the Gulf Oil disaster to which I donated part of the proceeds from my sales. They sponsored a slurp and sip special (oysters on the half shell and a sampler of their brews). Yum. Yum. Check out the great mural on the wall in the picture.

Old friends from Eastern attended, as did my adopted family, my step daughter-in-law who is studying to be a minister, her husband, and their three great kids. You can see the oldest grandson, David, in the picture with the old salt. Mom bought the book for him, and he promised to read it. Start them reading young. He’s only thirteen, but a real fan of mine.

I also met for lunch with my publisher, Judith Ivey. What a savvy publisher she is. I wish all my unpubbed friends could have someone like Judith in their corner. All-in-all a great trip. I had forgotten what the “quiet corner” of Connecticut has to offer. It was the place where Glenn and I got lost for a night in one of the state forests. But that’s another story.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Correction on Website Address for Interview on Tuesday

The correct website address for the interview with Bill Jaker on Tuesday is  I hope you can join us.  He is a wonderful interviewer.  He'll make me look good!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Busy Week Ahead-Join Me!

This week, Bill Jaker will interview me about A Deadly Draught on his radio program, OFF THE PAGE. The program will be presented live on WSKG Radio on August 17 at 1:00 PM and repeated that evening at 7:00 o’clock. The audio will be archived on their website at and will be available for download as a podcast. The program will also be streamed live on the Web at

I will travel back to a former home in Willimantic, Connecticut on Wednesday to sign books at Willimantic Brewing Company. WilliBrew is holding an event to raise funds for the Gulf Coast oil disaster victims on Wednesday, August 18 from 5:00 until 8:00 PM. Part of the proceeds from the sale of A Deadly Draught will be donated to this worthy cause. Consider buying a good read and helping a great cause.  See you there!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday in The Book Village of the Catskills

On one of the most beautiful days of August (after our ninety degree heat passed!), Glenn and I traveled to Hobart, NY. This small village at the northern edge of the Catskills is known as the Book Village of the Catskills. It boasts five independent bookshops within a two block area. Visitors come here from New York City to find books available no place else.
On Saturday, the town had its third annual private seller day where individuals who have new and used books for sale can become a book dealer for a day. I had never atteneded the event before, but now that I have my book, I decided this might be the perfect place to sell it. And it was. All the traffic past my little table (see picture above) were people who loved books. What better place for a writer to be. Not only were we surrounded by readers, but the people in town from the Rotary Club who sent around an individual to take orders for lunch and deliver the food back to the sellers to the book shop owners and book sellers were the friendliest folks. The shop owners provided us with coffee and date nut bread in the morning and wine and cheese after the event.
I met Don Dales there and, not only did he buy my book, but he's opening yet another book store in the village, a store that will stock the kind of books I love, mysteries. He's calling it Mysteries and More. The more will be coffee and perhaps even wine and beer. I can hardly wait until next spring when he's invited me to come and do a program.
I will certainly come back to the Private Seller Day next year as well as drop in to see how Don's shop is coming along and visit the other book stores in the near future. Perhaps one of these fall days we can jump in the car and drive over the mountain for a browse through the book shops there.
The village is close enough to Westchester County and New York City for a day trip. Visit their website You can click on the logos for each of the shops to see what types of books they carry.
Now there's a weekend adventure for you: the breweries around Cooperstown, NY and the Butternut Valley near Morris, NY and the book village in Hobart. Sounds like autumn fun. And the kids will love the Baseball Hall of Fame. There's something for everyone in Upstate New York.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fun on Sunday-We Tour Cooperstown Brewery

Cooperstown Brewing is located in Milford, NY, just a few miles outside of Cooperstown. The names of their beers such as "Old Slugger" call forth the game of baseball, absolutely appropriate to the baseball village and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Glenn and I paid a visit to deliver some of my books to Stan Hall, President of Cooperstown Brewing. He's pictured left with the big grin on his face, and why shouldn't he be smiling. He makes some of the best ales in the Northeast. While there, we decided to take the tour, and I'm glad we did. I'm not a brewer, so anytime I can get information to rock my knowledge of brewing, I do it.
You must go. This tour, lead by Joe, the guy with the beard standing next to the large white vessel used to heat the water to begin the brewing process, was an excellent tour guide. He walked us through the process of crafting beer with detail, enough to understand the intricacies of the process and appreciate the creativity and science that goes into brewing. The picture at the top left shows one of the heat exchangers with a view of the fermenting tanks in the background. Remember those little yeastie beasties are busily converting the sugar to alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide, so don't think you can hang out in the room where those fermtners are located!
The picture taken outdoors shows the hops growing on the tall poles. These hops along with others from the Pacific Northwest are used in making Copperstown Brewery's "Back Yard India Pale Ale". We bought a six pack to take home with us after the tasting. Yum!

Many of my friends and readers tell me they do not like beer, but craft beer is not like manufactured beer. It's a different drink. Try one. You might like it.
Thanks, Stan and Joe and all the staff that make up Copperstown Brewery. Keep doing what you're doing. Fine ales, and the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Visit their website at

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hera's New Beer-A Contest

I am working on the second of the Hera Knightsbridge mysteries. Hera has informed me that she wants to craft another beer, but is undecided whether it should be a a lager or an ale. Go to my webpage and click on beer to find out what beers Hera already has in her brewbarn. There is a description of each of her four brews. What beer do you think she should create? A light, clean lager or a foamy, complex ale?
Help develop Hera's next brew by deciding whether it will be a lager or an ale, but, more importantly, give it a name. If I choose your name for the beer, I'll send you a free copy of A Deadly Draught, autographed to you or anyone you choose. The contest will end on August 30. Post your ideas below or send them to me

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Another book-yippee!

My college roommate recently got in touch with me to say she was reading my book. She even sent me a picture to prove it, and consented to let me use it on my blog. So here is the former Kathy Gosselink, now Kathy VanCorbet , Pella, Iowa’s most beautiful and talented Tulip Queen. She dressed with more taste than any college coed I’ve ever met. And from the picture, you can tell she still has that pizzazz. We did not know each other before we were assigned the same dorm room as freshmen in college. While I was not a fan of tulips before I met her, I came to appreciate them, and a good thing, too. Our room was usually filled with them each spring.

This week I was offered a contract for Dumpster Dying. It will be released by Oak Tree Press sometime in the fall. I’m very excited about the book because it is set in my second home, Okeechobee County, Florida where I spend my winters. Here’s a short synopsis of it:

Although set in Florida, Dumpster Dying is not just another story about sunny beaches and bikini-clad beauties. In it, Florida natives collide with winter visitors in murderous, yet often humorous ways.

Emily Rhodes, the new bartender at the Big Lake Country Club in rural Florida, lifts the lid of the club’s dumpster one night to discover the dead body of the wealthiest rancher in the county. The authorities are certain they have the killer since evidence at the scene points to Emily’s friend and boss, Clara, but Emily has doubts. She believes Clara is hiding a secret involving the dead man’s family, but unraveling how Clara and the rancher’s lives are intertwined competes with Emily’s own problems.

Emily’s life partner has recently died, and the only will she can locate leaves everything to his ex-wife. Despite the grief she feels over her partner’s death and the money problems it has created for her, Emily sets out to identify the rancher’s killer. She must outwit a vengeful widow, fend off the advances of the man she believes to be the murderer, get to know an adult daughter she’s never met, and flee a fire bearing down on the drought-ridden pastures and swamps of her adopted community. Suddenly, the golden years of retirement seem more like pot metal to Emily.

Imagine Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum surrounded by alligators while a herd of stampeding cattle close in on her.

Emily will join my more serious-minded protagonist, Hera Knightsbridge, on my blog and my website. It’ll be great to have these gals each with her unique personality add to the mix of beer, food, alligators, cowboys, and brewers on the site and blog. You’ll notice the changes on the website beginning the end of the summer. I’m sure Fred will enjoy yet another feisty female joining us on the blog. That will probably mean he’ll have to do something outrageous just to get attention.

Happy Fourth of July, however you choose to celebrate. Of course, I recommend doing what my former college roommate is doing in the picture above—reading a great book!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back to Beer

Today we are talking with Randy Thiel. When I met Randy he was the brew master at Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY, several valleys over from the Butternut where I live. He has moved on to New Glarus Brewing in New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Welcome, Randy. I guess e-mail is the only way I can talk with you now that you moved half way across the country!

Could you tell us about your background in brewing?

I have a B.Sc. in Microbiology from UW-Madison. Attended the Siebel Institute & UC-Davis for specific training in Brewing Science & Technology. My interest in brewing started by being an avid fan of beer (!) and also homebrewing. I was searching for a tangible craft that had a strong heritage.

What is your position at New Glarus?

I am the team leader for Quality Control/Quality Assurance. That may sound dry to some folks, but I love it! Besides running the lab, I get to be involved with all aspects & departments at the brewery. Kind of like playing the safety position in football.

New Glarus is a very diverse operation with respect to its brews. Tell us about them.

New Glarus puts out a wide range of beer styles. Last year, we produced 19 different beer styles. We have the same dedication, enthusiasm, and attention-to-detail making a Belgian-style Quadrupel as we do making an American-style lager. We honestly love all beer styles.

Clear up for us the distinction between microbrews and craft beers.

Our beers can be referred to as either microbrews or craft beers. Craft beer is more appropriate, though. 'Microbrewed' beer implies a smaller operation; we will produce 90,000 barrels this year, which is on the larger end of the microbrew spectrum.

I know our readers would like to know more about the difference between lagers and ales.

Ales usually have more complex (and just 'more') flavor than lagers. Lagers tend to be neutral in the flavors contributed by the yeast; so, just the hops and malt play the major roles. Ales have many flavors contributed by the yeast (think variations of fruity & spicy).

Beer can be quite complex which many Americans who drink only lagers are astonished to discover.

I believe the Brewers Association categorizes over 70 different beer styles, some traditional and some modern. Porters, stouts, and pale ales are all traditional British styles. These were/are popular amongst craft brewers in America, although American brewers tend to add more bitterness and hop aroma to the styles (thus you have categories like "American-style Pale Ale", etc.).
Porters: Dark ruby-red to black color. Soft roasted character. Medium bitterness.
Stouts: Very similar to porters, although darker and more roasted flavors.
Pale Ale: Deep golden to amber color. Assertive bitterness & hop aroma.
Pilsners: Traditional German and Czech beer style (originated in Pilsn, Czechoslovakia). Lager w/ pronounced malty character and assertive bitterness. Note: Miller Lite is NOT a pilsner, even though it is marketed as such.

Is there a proper temperature for drinking beer?

'Proper temperature' is too severe a topic. Typically, lagers should be colder (refrigerator temp) and ales slightly warmer (let the bottle sit out for 10 minutes before pouring). I encourage people to try different beers at different temperatures and notice what happens to the flavors. Rules are no fun. Experimentation and thinking about flavor is fun.

I like your philosophy, Randy. I’ve been researching food and beer pairing to see how I can incorporate this into my next book about Hera. There are some guidelines I’ve found for such pairings, but, you’re right, rules are no fun. The fun comes with trying different foods paired with different beers.

Thanks for visiting with us, Randy. Now all of us are ready to go out there and try different microbrews or craft beers, knowing that our own palates are the best rule book we can carry with us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere . . .

These pictures are of the Butternut which borders my property. Hera's brewery is also on this beautiful stream.
Hera has become increasingly alarmed by the gulf oil spill and the parallels between off-shore drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a drilling approach to obtaining natural gas. I thought I’d let her speak about her concerns as one of the residents of her valley who understands the dilemma of the people sitting on this underground wealth of gas. Getting caught in the middle of this controversy is part of Hera’s next challenge as I write the second in the Hera Knightsbridge, Master Brewer, Mystery Series.

In Hera’s words:

Seeing the globs of red crude floating in the ocean and washing ashore onto once pristine white beaches, killing wildlife and destroying wetlands got me thinking and worrying about this valley. In some ways, we could be confronting the same issues here because of energy needs. The Marcellus Shale region runs through half of New York State, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Ohio. The valley where I brew beer is located here. Within the shale layers lies trapped natural gas which can only be extracted through a process called hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, accomplished by horizontal drilling into the shale layer, then forcing water, sand, and other chemicals (the exact mixture is an industry secret) under pressure to release the gas. The run-off water contains these chemicals. Not only will this toxic cocktail poison wells should it get into ground water, but also wildlife. Gas seeping into wells can sometimes explode, as recently witnessed in West Virginia, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

My valley is poor and has been hit hard by the recent recession. Farmers are paying more money to produce milk than they get selling it. Companies have moved their operations to other places, other countries. It is understandable that people here see the gas companies’ sign-on bonuses and the promise of a monthly check as the solution to their economic woes. In addition, many see gas drilling as a way to end independence on foreign oil. Does this sound familiar, too?

What if something goes wrong as it did in Dimock, Pennsylvania where one woman’s well blew up on New Years’ day? In this community, the State Environmental Protection Agency has shut down drilling in some areas, finding over 14 wells with well water contaminated by the process. For those who signed contracts with the gas companies, the idle wells mean no monthly checks. Individuals dependent upon money from drilling now find themselves without an income. Folks in the gulf who worked in industries related to oil can surely see the parallels here.

Why would a microbrewer be concerned about fracking? We buy all our yeast and malt from outside sources. Our hops come from as far away as New Zealand or the Pacific Northwest. But our water, the most plentiful ingredient in craft beers? It comes from our wells. Contaminated wells mean we must either buy water from somewhere else or go broke, another dent in the economic health of this community. I don’t have to sign a contract with a gas company, have something go wrong, and it ruin my water supply. My neighbor can sign on while I hold out. Ground water in a large region could be affected by my neighbor’s drilling.

This is the perfect storm—the desperate need for energy and an economic recession making jobs scarce. People without jobs, small farmers whose costs may outweigh their incomes, both are sitting atop one of the richest natural gas sources in the world. We must weigh the alternatives carefully because we may be seeing our future in the frightened eyes of gulf coast residents, in the oil-covered birds and turtles, and in the dying vegetation of the wetlands.

I just want tightened oversight in the gas and oil industries, not complicity between governmental agencies and private enterprise. People’s lives and our earth are at stake, not just my brewery.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I go back to high school for an afternoon

My garden changes daily, weekly. This was last week. this week these flowers are gone and have been replaced by lilies, hydrangeas, late blooming iris, and peonies. Who knows what will be there in a few days. But this beauty makes it difficult to sit in front of my computer and write. Or go to school.

Genre Literature in High School?

This week I had the opportunity to visit a local high school English class made up of graduating seniors. The instructor asked me to talk about writing because she said some of her students were interested in writing and getting published. I usually believe adolescents would rather win the lottery and, if they did, would give up the book thing altogether.

It’s been many years since I’ve been in front of a class of young adults, but this one seemed not unlike those freshman classes I taught about ten years ago. The setting was not ideal for talking about the publishing enterprise or any other subject for that matter. These were, as I said before, graduating seniors, and their minds seemed to be more attuned to the summer ahead than to the woman sitting at the front of the room yammering away about writing, research, and the difficulty of getting work published. The room was in the new section of the school, the section the builders goofed on when putting in the air circulation system. The air conditioning did not work well (not at all), and the windows didn’t open. It was hot in there. If I had been one of the students in that room, I would have been asleep after the first five minutes, but to their credit, no one dropped off.

They were polite, but not intensely interested in what I had to say. But their questions were telling. One young man said he liked to read and where could he buy my book. His tone conveyed a sense of impatience, implying that I could have come into the room and said, “Buy this at blank store.” I don’t think he was one of those who had aspirations to write, but I was darn glad to hear he read.

Another guy asked the bottom line question. “Can you make any money at this?” I told him Stephan King did, but I didn’t. Then I doubly disappointed him by saying I didn’t think I ever would get rich off my cozy mysteries, but that I continued to write because I loved it.

When I related stories about researching my topic, microbrewing, I stirred a certain admiration among the guys sitting in the back corner. “Cool,” they said or some contemporary equivalent of that phrase in teen talk.

I asked them a few questions also, and I want to share the answers with you because their replies tell us something about how we are educating the readers of the future.

Who knew the name Agatha Christie garnered a negative response from everyone in the room with the exception of the teacher. When I asked what literature they read in class, I was told they read mainstream literature and the classics. That translated into an abundance of work by men over women even factoring in sensitivity to the gender issue in contemporary work. I was pleased to hear they had just finished The Life of Bees, which the young women liked and the young men were lukewarm about. They had read no genre literature at all, yet I suspect that some of them did read it on their own. The popularity of Harry Potter and Vampire themes is not because their parents have these under their pillows.

Do I think genre literature should be part of what seniors read in their classes? Well, of course, but I’m biased because that’s what I write. Yet we all know that’s often what we read. The other night a woman of my generation said, “I love mysteries. Always have. For me it began with Nancy Drew.”

What I’m curious about is how students today think of their private choices in literature in comparison with their assigned reading in English classes. It may help explain the attitude I encountered in one of my early writing groups. The leader told the group and me that she’d “never read a mystery.” The disdainful curling of her lips was a precursor to the attitude she displayed at each meeting when I read from my first cozy manuscript.
As an academic, I was used to the snobbery practiced by some of my colleagues. I think of genre literature as literature with guidelines or writing habits specific to the individual genre.

I hope I successfully communicated my love of the mystery genre and its particular characteristics to that class, so that its members never are made to feel defensive in choice of book to read. Or to write.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Writing groups: What's your opinion?

This week I invited my writing partner, Jan Day, to talk about her experiences with writing groups. She's been in a number of them, so I thought she was a good resource to begin a discussion about what writers can and can't get out of them.

Jan's writing credentials are impressive. She is the author of five children's picture books with Pelican Publishing Company and is a feature writer for Okeechobee, The Magazine. She has published poetry and was co-winnerof the Hawaii Film Festival of her original teleplay All's Fair. I met Jan when I moved to Okeechobee, Florida for the winter and was looking for a writing group, so we founded one together. Jan is currently at work on a mystery set on the Kissimmee River.

I've asked her to begin this discussion abut writing groups and hope all of you will chime in with your views.

Welcome to my blog, Jan.

I’ve moved around a fair amount and have had great experiences with writers’groups in Kauai, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Stuart, and Okeechobee, FL. They all were different but they all helped me improve my writing, stay motivated, and offered camaraderie of a shared passion.

The most unique group was in Kauai, where the majority of members were artists as well as writers. Our facilitator did not allow direct criticism. This would have been considered rude in that culture. But we still found ways to be instructive to each other. In Phoenix we had a group of ten writing everything from poetry to romance to literary fiction to memoir. Writing and critiquing in various genres can make you a stronger writer.

In my experience the group should be committed to their craft and of a similar level of skill or it will lose its focus. Setting your goals and standards in the beginning helps clarify your goals. A group becomes destructive when they tear down a work or try to rewrite the piece for the author. I think that sort of group rewrite happens most often when you bring writing that is in its beginning stages.

I’m a big fan of writers’ groups, not only for the help with writing but for the deadlines they provide, and the opportunity to network. If you don’t have a writers’ group near you, don’t be afraid to start one yourself. When Lesley came to Okeechobee, she found me through the library and then we put an announcement in the paper for an Open Reading. From there we eventually formed a group of six accomplished writers and have published an anthology. If we can do it in the wilds of central Florida, you can do it anywhere.

That's very upbeat, Jan. But I think she's right about being able to put together a writing group anywhere. I think the best source for beginning the process with your local library. That's where we began. The library has been generous enough to continue their support of our group by providing us meeting space and sponsoring writer's programs at the library.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I'm Baaaack! News from Fred.

I wanted to share with everyone some pictures taken on the Butternut Creek because late spring is finally here. Upstream from me is the Butternuts Beer and Ale Brewery so if you look closely at the picture to the left, you will see one of their products has traveled downstream to my place. What a wonderful delivery system!

But maybe not. Because of what has been happening around the cottage, I'm worried that the beer deposited in my backyard may be a prank played by Fred. You do remember Fred, don't you? He's our ghost, silent since last summer, but I fear he is letting us know he's still in residence.

The first few weeks when we returned from Florida, the nights were cold. We had frost often and I had to cover the delicate plants I transported back from the south. We have serveral electric fireplaces downstairs, one in the living room, one in the dining room. They not only look real with fire dancing across their burning logs (all a light show, no real fire), but they also deliver heat. The one in the living room has a remote which we set on our coffee table. Several mornings we have come downstairs to find the fireplace turned on. Because we turn down the heat when we go to bed, we figured the cats were chilly and had walked on the remote, found it turned on the fireplace, and managed to do it several more times. Well, one of our cats is that smart. And the other one is a great imitator. We worried about the safety of the cats manipulating the heat level in the hourse, to say nothing of the cost of electricity, so we placed the remote on a high shelf with the device pointing backwards. That way even if the cats walked on it, there was no possibility it would activate the device.

The other morning the fireplace was on when I came downstairs. I know it was Fred.

Just today when we were having lunch in the dining room and discussing writing as we like to do often, the lights dimmed. As soon as we both said "Fred", they came back on. He hates it when he's left out of anything.

I've been sloppy in the past, leaving my computer on "standby". Now I am careful to turn it off. I think Fred might have his way with my writing or publish something on this blog. I hope I'm not giving him ideas.

Perhaps the only way to satisfy him is to give him his own time here. I may do that sometime, but for now, the computer is off limits to him. I love a sense of humor, but I'm unclear what that may mean in someone dead.

If anyone has any ideas of how to placate Fred's need for attention, feel free to post them.

More interviews with craft brewers coming and a visit from my critique partner where we discuss writing groups and exchanging manuscripts.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Find out about the real Hera

Today I’m excited to have Ed Canty on my blog. He’s a partner at Orlando Brewing and Founder of the Florida Brewers Guild. Ed was the second brewer I worked with to learn about microbrewing. Although we have met in person only once, we established a relationship through email. I asked questions and Ed provided the answers. He has remained one of my best resources for beer, and brews innovative, tasty microbrews. He’s always involved in something new, as we’ll see.

Lesley. My book should help readers learn a little about microbrews, but most of us are unfamiliar with hand craft beers. Terms are confusing. What’s the difference between a lager and an ale?

Ed. Lagers are brewed with lager yeast at temps ranging around 45F to 55F, ales are brewed with ale yeast at ranges around 60F to 70F. Lagers tend to be very mellow in taste whereas ales tend to have a lot of fruity esthers in their taste profile.

Lesley. Are they both beers?

Ed. Yes, they are both beers.

Lesley. And we also hear the term pilsner. What’s that?

Ed. A pilsner is a type of lager originally brewed in the Czech Republic.

Lesley. We know hops go into beer, but what are they there for?

Ed. Hops are added to the boil at the beginning for bitterness to offset the sweet wort, in the middle of the boil for the flavor of that type of hop, and at the end of the boil for the aromatics of that type of hop.

Lesley. What does it mean when a beer advertizes it is “double hopped, triple hopped.”

Ed. Marketing terms meant to entice the consumer. Most beers have two to three hop additions as noted earlier.

Lesley. Hops come from all over the world including the Pacific Northwest. Now we hear on television about “Noble Hops.” What’s the difference among the types of hops?

Ed. Noble hops are these specific types: Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Polish Lublin and Saaz, grown in central Europe. Pacific Northwest hop varieties tend to be higher in bitterness with very fruity aromas.

Lesley. Many drinkers of microbrews are used to quaffing brews where malt is the grain used. What is malt?

Ed. Brewers Malt is actually malted barley. Barley that has been forced to begin germination and abruptly stopped so that the starch in the malt can be converted to sugar during the brewing process.

Lesley. Are grains other than barley used in microbrews?

Ed. Yes. Corn, rice, rye, wheat to name a few of the more widely used grains.

Lesley. I’ll sometimes read about IBUs. What are these?

Ed. IBU stands for International Bittering Units. This is a scale to describe the level of bitterness in a beer. The higher the number, the more bitter the beer.

Lesley. You recently spent some time at the Seibel Institute in Chicago. Tell us about the institute and what you did there.

Ed. The Seibel Institute of Technology is the oldest brewery training school in the United States. I was there for a two week intensive course on brewing methodology.

Lesley. You’ve been in this business for a number of years.

Ed. 21 years to be exact.

Lesley. What changes have you noticed in that time?

Ed. Everything has changed. For example, when I got into brewing professionally, there were about 400 craft brewers, today there are over 1500.

Lesley. Can you tell us what you’ve been involved in recently?

Ed. I am currently consulting on a start up Microbrewery in St. Augustine set to open this fall. Before that, I was working with Orlando Brewing (the only certified organic brewery in Florida) where I was the Director of Brewing Operations. I left there in June of 2008, but I am still a 10% owner on a silent basis.

Lesley. The brewer in my book is a woman and we don’t see many of them in the business. Is there a reason for this?

Ed. Only because women are just recently getting back into brewing. It used to be that most all the beer was brewed primarily by women (waaaaaay back in the day).
Note: When I was writing A Deadly Draught and visited Ed in Orlando, he was training a brewer, a woman by the name of Alysha Heck. I already had my picture of Hera and was shocked to find that Alysha looked exactly like her. We now refer to Alysha as “the real life Hera.”

Lesley. Speculate about your dream brew. Have you ever made it?

Ed. Still working on it.

Lesley. If so, can you tell us what it was like?

Ed. It will be a medium bodied, very hoppy India Pale Ale.

Lesley. My favorite. And Hera’s, too. We can hardly wait to taste it

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Butternuts Beer and Ale: A brewery like that in A Deadly Draught: Interview with Chuck Williamson

The brick clad vessel you see at the top is where the wort is boiled. The other pictures are taken outrside the brewery to give you a picture of what a farm house microbrewery looks like. Although these photos are of Butternuts Beer and Ale, this is the picture I have in mind of Hera's microbrewery.
Today we welcome Chuck Williamson, the master brewer of Butternuts Beer and Ale located in Garrettsville, NY. This is the microbrewery where I buy most of my microbrews, not only because it's right down the road from me, but because of the quality of their products.
I'm glad we got you on the blog, Chuck. Welcome.
Chuck was one of the brewers who helped me with background for my book A Deadly Draught. He has an interesting background in brewing, so I wanted him to share his experience and knowledge with you.

Tell us what your background is in brewing, what training, where you have brewed.

Chuck: I started my professional brewing career at the age of 21 in a brewpub in Long Island, NY. At the time I was a homebrewer (I started that a little young) and had been buying my brewing supplies from a gentleman who owned a homebrew store and was the consultant and to be head brewer at the now defunct Long Island Brewing Company in Jericho, L.I. Due to my persistance he agreed to hire me as his assistant and that is where the doors blew open. My professional training is mainly hands-on. Through the years I have been involved in industry-related courses and read my share of technical brewing material. After LIBC closed in June of 1999 I did some brewing in Brooklyn and Manhattan before looking into the possibility of opening my own brewery.

You have an interesting set-up. Your brewery is right down the road from where I now live in the Butternut Valley. How did you decide to brew where you are?

Chuck: While brewing in NYC I began to realize I had an interest in creating a farm-style brewery. Also being a city boy who had experienced many a family vacation camping and traveling I had started developing an interest in moving to the country. The catalyst was the events of September 11th. I had been brewing and warehousing malt for a small wholesale distribution business in Red Hook, Brooklyn. At the tip of Red Hook you can practically reach out and grab lower Manhattan and shake Miss. Liberty's hand. Post-disaster I began to actively search for property in upper New York State. Price was a consideration and at that time it was the peak of the real estate bubble so I began to go further north in search of an affordable piece of property. Other factors were an issue in selecting the property as well so when I had arrived at the location I am in now I felt it had a piece of everything I had needed for this project.

Folks have to come visit your place to appreciate how interesting and unique it is. You’re growing hops, aren’t you and that’s something we’ve not seen grown in upstate in years. What made you decide to do that? Do you use these hops in your brews? Are there other hops you use?

Chuck: I do have a small hop field growing. NYS was the hop capital of the world and in 1850 Otsego county was the number one producer of hops. As with any industry there were technological advancements which began pushing the hop industry west, and the final blow was the onset of prohabition. Without breweries there was no commercial need for hops and so away went an industry. One of the projects I had in mind when deciding to develop a farm brewery was to begin some agricultural projects such as growing hops. It is not feasible for me to grow hops for my year-round production brands but I do have some seasonal beers that I use the hops in. As I progress with the project at large it is my interest to expand the hop project and offer organic hops for sale to other brewers.

When you walk into your brewery, you’ll notice an interesting vessel in front of
you. It is clad in brick. What is that?

Chuck: The brick clad vessel is the kettle. This is where the wort (pronounced wert) is boiled. Wort is the liquid sugar extract that is removed from the malt after a mashing program to convert starches into sugar.

Take us on a quick tour of your place. What can we expect to see and what is happening with in each of the large vessels?

Chuck: As you enter the front of the building you will be in the Brewhouse. This is where the process for the day’s brewing begins. There are four vessels in this space each lending to the production process. The first is the mash tun. This is where cracked malt is mixed with tempid water to convert starches into sugar. After a certain process, taking about three hours, the grain is rinsed with more tempid water and collected into the kettle. At this point the solution is sweet wort because it has yet to be hopped. After the volume is collected and hops are added, the wort is boiled for a duration for hop extraction and stability. Post-boil the wort is moved to a whirlpool tank to allow the solids to settle. Once the wort is settled it is pumped through a heat exchanger into a fermentation tank where yeast is added and the fermentation process begins. At this point I lock all the doors in the brewery and make sure there is no one in the building so I do not get trapped in the fermentation room. After about 5 days the beer is cooled and ready to be transfered to the conditioning room in the back. The beer is processed for packaging and either canned or kegged.

Another fascinating aspect of your place is that you don’t bottle your brews. You can them. I’ve read that this preserves the flavor better than a bottle. Is that true?

Chuck: Canning does lend certain benefits to the beer. The package is solid so light cannot come in contact with the beer which can degrade the flavors. It is a better seal than a bottle so there is less oxygen damage.

Would you tell us the story behind the name of one of your ales, “Porkslap”? Do all of your brews have such interesting names?

Chuck: Porkslap is a play on the name Park Slope, Brooklyn.

We’ll get back to Chuck at a later date to ask him more about the farmhouse ales he brews. Meantime, the spring weather lends itself to finding a local brewery for a tour and a tasting. Enjoy with a good book like A Deadly Draught.

Monday, May 3, 2010

More information on Brewery Ommegang

The address for Brewery Ommegang is 656 Route 33, Schenevus, NY. If you're in Cooperstown, anyone can direct you to the back road that runs along the river between Cooperstown and Milford. Or you can take Route 28 out of either Cooperstown or Oneonta and follow the brewery signs.
Their website is If you click on their links button, it will take you to a wealth of information on pairing beer and food.
Stop by the brewery for a tour. The people are friendly and the tour informative. Be sure to ask them about the tank painted like a holstein cow!
Thanks again from me to all the people there who made me feel welcome on my past visits and my visit this past Friday. People who brew beer are good people!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Interview with Master Brewer from Brewery Ommegang

Today our guest is Phil Leinhart brew master at Brewery Ommegang near Cooperstown, New York.

Q Welcome to my blog, Phil.. How did you get interested in making beer, especially ales?

A I’ve liked beer since I was a teenager. I have an older brother (also in the brewing industry) who was a big influence. We used to try different beers both domestic and imported. The world of brewing did and still does fascinate me.

Q Where did you learn brewing and where have you worked?

A I attended the Doemens Academy in Germany as well as Brewing and Engineering training with Anheuser-Busch. Practically, I’ve also learned much where I’ve worked: Manhattan Brewing Co., Commonwealth Brewing Co., Harpoon, Paulaner (Germany), Lion Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch (Newark brewery) and, finally, here at Ommegang.

Q Ommegang is an unique brewery, featuring Belgian style ales. What is an ale and how does it differ from other kinds of beers, for example, from a lager?

A Ales differ broadly from lagers. Ales use top-fermenting strains of yeast whereas lagers use bottom-fermenting strains. Typically, ales are fermented warmer than lagers. Very generally, ales tend to be higher in certain yeast metabolites such as esters and higher alcohols and thus tend to be more fruity and complex than most lagers which tend to be cleaner and more raw material driven.

Q Give us a mini-tour through your facility. How are ales made?

A The brewing process for all beers is, very generally, the same: liquid extract (wort) is derived from a source of starch or sugar (such as barley malt). This wort is boiled (typically with hops but also, in some cases, other ingredients such as spices. This “hopped wort” is then cooled, aerated, and pitched with yeast which commences fermentation. Fermentation is, very basically, yeast metabolizing fermentable sugars to alcohol and CO2 as well as hundreds of other flavor/aroma compounds.

Q Where do you get your malt and what malts do you use?

A We get our malt from the US and Belgium. We use malts such as Pilsner Malt, Munich malt, Aroma malt and Amber malt. We also use adjunct grains such as maize, wheat and oats.

Q What are the different kinds of malts for?

A The different kinds of malt are used to produce different flavors, aromas and colors in our different beers. Do you use different tpes of hops? Yes, Styrian Golding Czech Saaz for example.

Q And where are they from?

A All over: the US, Slovenia, Germany, Czechoslovakia.

Q But there's more than just malt and hops in your brews. You mentioned other flavors. What are they?

A We do spice some of our beers with spices such as ginger, coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise to name a few. In addition the yeast produces much of the flavors/aromas through the previously mentioned fermentation process.

Q I understand some local farmers benefit from your brewery in what they feed to their cows. Tell us about this.

A One of the major by-products of brewing is spent grains which are very high in protein and highly prized for feed. A local farmer currently takes all our spent grains.

Q Lucky cows! Several years ago you began a process called cave aging. What is this and what does it do to the ales?

A This is a process of storing bottles of our beer in a cave which is at a constant temperature and humidity year-round. The beer ages gracefully and is not subjected to abusive conditions such as wide temperature swings. Beer flavor changes as it ages. Our darker beers can take on “port” or “sherry” like characteristics.

Q How do you bottle your brews? Can I buy a six pack? Where can I buy your ales?

A We bottle our beers with a 12-valve semi-automatic bottle filler. All our bottled beers are “bottle-conditioned” where yeast and sugar are added to the bulk beer just before it is bottled. The bottles are then put into a “warm cellar”. As the beer warms the yeast begins to metabolize the added sugar creating CO2 and thereby carbonating the beer. We don’t currently make 6-packs but you can buy a 4-pack. We are currently in 46 states. In this area our beer is sold at The Great American as well as The P&C in Cooperstown.

Q How long does it take to go from the beginning of brewing to the end?

A Approximately 3.5 weeks

Q How much ale do you make at one time?

A One brew is approximately 58 Hectoliters.

Q Tell us about your line of ales.

A Our main line includes the following: Witte is our lightest beer in the Belgian “white ale” style spiced with coriander and sweet orange peel; Rare Vos is our take on a Belgian Amber Ale spiced predominantly with Grains of Paradise; Hennepin is a Saison style farmhouse ale which contains ginger; Abbey Ale is inspired by the dark luscious Dubbel beers of Belgium; Three Philosophers is a Strong Dark Belgian-style Ale blended with Belgian Kriek beer. In addition we are making several new beers this year such as BPA(Belgian-style Pale Ale) and a Tripel style called Tripel Perfection.

Q There is an ever-growing movement to pair fine food with ale. Some of my readers may be interested in knowing what ale to pair with red meat, fish, chicken, and pork as well as with other dishes and desserts. Can you help them with this from your products. Are there other sources of information available on food and ale pairing?

A Phil suggested we go to Ommegang’s website for this information.
Q One of the aspects of your operation which impressed me was how you ferment. Many breweries use an enclosed vat or vessel. Tell us how you do it.
A We use enclosed tanks but we also have our open fermentor. This is a very traditional method of fermentation that allows us to harvest the “top” yeast that comes to the top of the fermenting beer. This yeast has a very high viability and vitality and we like to use this yeast particularly for bottle-conditioning.
Thanks, Larry.
And thanks to all the people at Brewery Ommegang. I visited this Friday and was impressed with how the operation is growing.

Cooperstown is not only known for Baseball, but for Microbreweries also. So when you drop your kids at one of the Baseball Campus this summer or visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, visit the local breweries such as Ommegang.
I’ll be back again next week with more on microbrewing with interviews and information on beer.
Come to my book launch this Tuesday, May 4 at the Milne Library, SUNY Oneonta campus, Oneonta, New York, 7 pm in the Reading Room. A short program, drawing for free beer stuff, refreshments, and a book signing. See you then!

Monday, April 26, 2010

At the Beer Festival

"I'll try the Stout."

What are all these people doing? Obviously they're braving the spring cold and wet in Hunter, NY to sample over 30 fine microbrews from around the Northeast.

In the picture to the left you can see what warriors these folks are--it's cold, it's wet, the wind is blowing, but that does not keep them from their appointed rounds at each of the brewing tents.

I'm back from Florida, back to my blog, and back to promoting and selling my book while hanging with some great people. I took these pictures on Sunday at the TAP New York, Beer and Food Festival in Hunter, NY. I heard Saturday was a sunny day, but I couldn't make it to the festival until Sunday. My friends in Florida said I brought them the bad weather this past winter. I dismissed their accusation, but they could be right. I'm beginning to think I'm cursed. I feel responsible for raining on the festival. The skies were sunny, and it was warm until I showed up!

Despite my cold feet, I loved the festival. One price admission got you both free beer samples and free food. Not just chops and pretzels, but real food, bratwurst, hamburgers, corn dogs, cheese, chili, and more. What could be better? The downside? I went on a diet this morning.

My thanks to Chuck and all the folks at Butternut Brewing for hosting Glenn and me. And providing us with great beer while we were there.

Next week I hope to have Chuck from Butternut on my blog to answer some questions about brewing his fine ales and naimingthem too. Don't you wonder how he came up with the name "Porkslap Ale"?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring and Ghosts

I thought I'd give you a picture of what early spring looks like in the Butternut Valley.
That's the picture on the left. Later in the spring and early summer the vegetation fills out along the stream as you can see above.
We are still in Florida, enjoying the warm weather here (finally!). Oh, I know. I get no sympahty from my northern friends for the cold weather we had here this winter. Across the canal from our house there is a pasture where a herd of cattle with a large Brahma Bull graze as does a herd of horses. A black stallion leads the herd. We had two presents this winter: a foal on Christmas Eve and another later in January. We're loathe to leave this paradise, but, as you can see from the pictures, we are coming home to another kind of beauty. It's why we bought our place on this trout stream.
Our cottage was built in 1874. When we first bought it, we were fortunate to be alle to talk with the man who grew up in it. I jokingly asked him if there were any ghosts in the house. He and his wife laughed at my question, then paused before they replied. "Only Fred and he's friendly."
So far we have not met Fred face-to-face, but I last year after we moved in, we experienced his sense of humor.
We originally had a huge propane tank at the back of our house. It provided the gas for us to do cooking and was much too large for our needs. However, one evening last summer when I turned on the burner to cook our dinner, it wouldn't light. We had run out of propane, an unusual happening.
After a cold supper, we sat down to watch television. The news was interrupted with a weather bulletin announcing powerful thunderstorms rolling into the area. There was also the possbility of a tornado, so I kept going out to the front porch to look at the sky. Soon it was too dark to see anything, but I persisted in gazing out the porch windows, trying to see through the rain.
The rain let up. On another visit to the porch, I heard a noise. It sounded like an engine trying to start. I called Glenn out to listen. We both thought it was coming from the tent company down the road, but, when it continued, I thought it was closer, maybe in our driveway. When I stepped to the doorway, it became clear that the engine on Glenn's truck was turning over as if someone were trying to start it. Glenn rushed out to the driveway as the truck's engine gave out its last attempt to start. An awful smell came from under hood.
Glenn ran to get a flashlight, but, as he turned the knob of the front door to get back into the house, the knob came off in his hand. We both looked astounded, thinking that such things only happened in movies, never in reality. He grabbed a pair of pliers to get the door open.
By the time we got to the truck, the smell was worse and smoke billowed from the engine. He detached the battery to prevent electricity from pouring into the shorted circuit.
When we got the truck in for repair, the garage ideintified the problem. A leak in the light on the roof had allowed water to run into engine causing a short in the wiring for the ignition. Although the mechanic had heard of similar things happening, this one he found quite odd.
We assume Fred wanted to introduce himself to us, but he did it in a showy manner. Oh well, given how bad television is on summer nights, it was an evening's entertainment. We have not heard from Fred since,but assume he's around thinking up some other tricks ot play on us. We wonder what he might have been up to while we were gone this winter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How's that for a big picture of my book cover? If you don't recognize the plants entwining around the glasses, bottle, and the body, those are hops plants, essential to producing a great brew whether lager or ale--the bitterness factor.

Now here we go with the final installment of my travels through brew. Now you know the ugly truth about me and beer.

The story of how beer betrayed me ( and how I forgave the brew).

I go to College

Here’s the betrayal part which I find hard to forgive. I had my first beer at a college party. What I remember of the party is that it was held outdoors, and I went to it with the college bad boy, a guy from (shudder) New Jersey. I don’t know how many beers I had, but enough for this nondrinking gal to feel really sick. My date told me I needed to throw up (I already knew that), and he clapped me on the back. Up everything came. I felt better, true, but, sincerely deceived by a golden liquid that seemed so innocent. No more beers for me until graduate school.

I Discover Good Beer and a Good Man

I did part of my graduate work at the University of South Dakota where an annual “Hunt Party” occurred every spring. It went on for a long weekend and included both graduate faculty and students from the psychology department. Everyone brought food and drink. The food was some of the best I remember and included squirrel, rabbit, antelope (Pronghorn), and deer, whatever was left in the fridge from hunting the previous fall. The beer was homebrew, the wine also homemade. It was my first taste of good beer—strong, rich, hoppy—sometimes necessary at the bottom of the bottle to strain the dregs through your teeth, but it was great.

I went on to the University of Georgia for my Ph. D. At the time, the university was located in a dry county. You could buy beer and wine at a few restaurants, and finally some stores came in selling packaged beer and wine. Those were the lean years. No one I knew made home brew and, looking back, I realize, for that reason and many others, I didn’t know the right people.

Off to upstate New York to teach at one of the universities there and then to spend time in Connecticut where wine is the drink of choice. I followed along with the crowd, my university colleagues, from whom I hid my secret urge for a cold one. Then I met the only cowboy in all of Connecticut. He saved me from impending yippie-ishness by introducing me to microbrews, first in Utah, of all places, then throughout the Southwest. We finally moved to New Mexico. In all that heat, those people understand the need for a cold one.

Now my cowboy (he’s a keeper) and I spend summers on the Butternut Creek in upstate New York restoring an 1874 cottage. The best part of being there is I live in an area filled with microbreweries. They are fun to visit and they make some of the best brew I’ve ever tasted.

Of course I still drink wine, and scotch, and cosmos, but there’s nothing like a hand-crafted beer on a hot summer day. In the winter? I’m in Florida. Not on the beaches. Don’t be silly. I told you I live with a cowboy. We have a house in rural Florida where you have to watch those spurs on the dance floor. And, oh yeah. They have brew pubs and how!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why beer for a scotch drinker?

I'd like to tell you a bit more about myself, to make clear why I created a microbrewer as my protagonsit in my new mystery A Deadly Draught. Let me give you a quick tour through my drinking history. I'll do this over several postings. I call it "Memories of Brew" and I'll begin with the early years.

Memories of Brew

The Early Years

Let me tell you a bit about myself. If you already know me, then the question you may ask is, why are you writing about beer? Aren’t you a wine drinker? Or a scotch drinker? Or didn’t you say you like to sip pomegranate cosmos in the summer out by your trout stream?
Yes to all those questions, but beer and me, well, we go way back. And perhaps if beer hadn’t betrayed me in my early college years, I’d have discovered microbrews a long time ago.
I was raised on a dairy farm in Illinois in a family where the only booze in the house was a dusty old bottle of Mogan David wine left over from a Thanksgiving dinner right after the war, that’s WWII. As a child of three, I found it, and then my mom found me, a little silly on the back porch floor.
A continued interest in spirits continued throughout my preschool years fueled by the attentions of my father’s sister, my Aunt Fernie, a six foot tall, redheaded, blue-eyed, opinionated woman who often baby sat for me when my mother was not feeling well, which was often (I wasn’t a bad child, but I was a trying one, much like Aunt Fernie). Fernie worked as a part-time bartender at one of the local bars called the Brass Rail. My mother discovered years later that Fernie was a creative babysitter who took me with her to work, sat me on a bar stool, and served me Shirley Temples. I found them not so exciting as that bottle of Mogan David.
I didn’t learn much about beer, but I did get insight into beer drinkers. First, you can drink a lot of beer if you run back and forth into the bathroom frequently. You can also make your beer regain its head by putting salt into it. Most importantly, beer is cheap so you can drink a lot of it and, you know, run to the bathroom. And if you want to make the brew even more healthy than it already is (think cereal in liquid form) dump in tomato juice. It’s called a red one.
By the time I entered kindergarten, I considered myself quite sophisticated. My mother considered me corrupted.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

another draught

Hi there. I'm glad you found me. This is my first post on my new blog. Let me tell you what Hera (the protagonist in my new mystery A Deadly Draught) and I have planned.

Hera is a microbrewer in the Butternut Valley of upstate New York. She's introduced me to many other brewers nearby and some in Florida. We thought you might like to meet some of them, so we plan to interview a few and have them answer questions about craft beers. In addition, I may talk a little about my connection to beer and how Iget my ideas for what I write. And we shouldn't forget that beer goes well with food, so I'll provide some recipes for you also.

If you don't have access to a local microbrewery or if the weather is too terrible to go outside and shop, let me tell you what I like to do on weekends. On Friday or Saturday night, I play bartender for my neighbors. Here's my recipe for my favorite weekend drink, a pomegranate cosmopolitan:

2 parts vodka

1 part triple sec

1 part pomegranate joice

1/2 part lime juice

Put into a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake. Pour into martini glass. Have only one.