Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The winner is!

Summer comes to the Butternut  Valley

The winner of a copy of Poisoned Pairings is Marta Chausee.  Please contact me so I can send you your copy of the book.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Protagonist Speaks about Beer and Fracking

Today I asked my protagonist, Hera Knightsbridge, to talk about her stance on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial gas drilling technique that forces water and chemicals into the ground under pressure to shatter shale and release trapped gas.  In my murder mystery Poisoned Pairings, the microbrewers in the Butternut Valley are concerned about what this horizontal drilling technique will do to the valley.  I thought I’d give Hera the opportunity to speak for herself and her colleagues and tell you how she sees the issue.

This is Hera's Valley

I brew beer, so why should I worry about fracking?  I have my business.  I don’t own enough land to lease any of it to the gas industry.  Why should gas drilling be of concern to me or to any of my microbrewing friends?  Here’s what I think.

When you think of microbrews you probably think of hops and malt, but microbreweries use enormous amounts of water to produce their product and to clean their vats after brewing.  Some people forget it is the main ingredient in beer.  Hops, malt, other flavor enhancers such as orange, coriander and the like and yeast are the necessary additions to the water to produce lagers and ales. 

Fracking uses even more water than we do, and it comes from the same sources, the water supplies in the local region.  One of the larger brewers, my friend Teddy, is successful enough to buy water if his wells go dry, but, for smaller operations such as my brewery, that’s not an option even though I have two wells on my property.  The supply of water in any area is not endless. 

The issue of fracking aside, we all need to be concerned with conserving water.  I’d hate to see us fighting over water like ranchers and settlements did in the west.  And still do.  Water may be the battleground for the next great war, but I don’t want it to begin in my backyard if we can prevent it.

The water we use in beer needs to be clean, free from most chemicals, certainly free from those proprietary chemicals used in fracking.  I worry, despite assurances to the contrary, that our water could become contaminated. 

And what of the fracking ponds?  Where does that water go?  It cannot be cleaned, so it must be disposed of in some way, trucked out.  And that brings me to an additional concern, the heavy equipment on our country roads, hauling equipment into the area, hauling contaminated water out.  Many microbreweries like mine offer brewery tours or tastings, events to drawn in people to see how me make our product and to taste it.  We want our roads to be safe for visitors, in good repair.

It’s not just a matter of getting our customers in here to our microbreweries.  We know they come for other reasons also, reasons that have to do with the beauty of the area.  They don’t spend the day sipping ale in our tasting rooms.  They travel the area to local restaurants, fairs, shops, camp grounds and parks.  The natural beauty here draws them to us.  They certainly don’t come here to see drilling rigs settled into valleys denuded of trees and other flora.

Microbreweries are part of the communities in which they are located.  They support it by offering jobs and pair with tourism concerns and colleges to further the economic health of the area.  The sell a product made locally, and some of the ingredients are also local now that hops growing is making a comeback in this area.

So, yes, I am concerned about fracking.  It appears it would be here only long enough to extract gas until the supplies diminish or extraction is not cost effective.  I am aware there are individuals, many my neighbors, who would profit from a lease.  But I don’t believe we can frack ourselves into a healthy economy.  That will take the cooperation of numerous people, many of them small business owners like me, adding their individual input to the overall economic growth of this region.  If I grow, I add jobs, but I need the right environment, one filled with the beauty of our stream and lakes, forest and meadows, one people want to visit and live in.  I think we can make that possible by working together and not fighting each other.

Lesley's note: Hera and I welcome your comments on this issue.  And I'd like to know if you like hearing from Hera on my blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Queen Rules Quietly

I promised you last week I would allow my girl, the female feline, to speak about how she inspires my writing.  She got a bit off topic in this blog, but, since she feels so strongly about her brother Marley, I let her have her rant. After reading last week's Marley contribution, someone suggested I temporarily give up writing mysteries and pen a work about Marley and me.  I could only do that if it included Squeal too.  It's a thought.

You may have seen the picture above, but she insisted I share it again since she insists it shows off her literary bent, both for reading good literature and inspiring it.  Marley thinks she's just showing off.

Squeak's Turn to Meow

Mom says it’s my turn to talk about life in the home of two writers and one other, totally inadequate cat.  He’s so uncatlike, he might as well be a dog.  Not that I mind dogs.  I just don’t want an ersatz hound masquerading as a feline in my bed!  Oops, Mom reminded me I’m getting off the subject.  I do that a lot where Marley is concerned.  It’s his fault.  I’m walking over to my water bowl for a cool drink, hoping he hasn’t drooled in it or deposited one of his favorite bugs in there, and he jumps on me from behind the chair.  I then spend the rest of the morning plotting my revenge.  It’s exhausting.  What?  Oh.  Mom says I did it again.

So about this muse thing.  Neither one of the parents will admit it, but I know I am the inspiration behind their writing.  Mom babbles on about muses because she thinks it’s cute, and she likes to write cute things.  Dad is the silent type, like most human men-cat males being loudly yowly—but he writes real good, and he loves me to distraction.  He even admits it out loud to others.  I think sometimes Mom wonders if he loves me more than her.  And sometimes when he’s aggravated with her, he does love me more.  I make certain of that by doing my best cute thing.  Ha!

I used to write on the computer, but I found it difficult to get my paws on the right keys.  Everyone in the house said I wrote “5, 5” and “8, 9”, but that just isn’t so.  I began my autobiography and due to the paw placement difficulty, only numbers came out.  The opening went something like, “so what does the most beautiful cat in the world do when she’s adopted by human parents who are illiterate in her language?”  Upon reflection, I thought I was being too impatient with them, so I` decided I should give it some time and try to teach them how to communicate with me.  Things are going as well as can be expected given the raw material.  They prove food on cue and vacate their laps when I give the signal of claw-into-your-thigh.  After many trips of going back and forth to our home in Florida (I’m a Florida native), they seem to understand my requirement of a clean and well appointed motel room.  I like spacious bathrooms and coverlets that I can crawl under without inhaling dust.

The parents thought I wouldn’t like traveling because the first time they took me on the road in my travel carrier, I threw a little fit of sorts.  Mom had covered the bottom of the carrier with newspaper—like she thought I’d do something dirty in there, in my own space for heaven’s sake.  I took the humiliation of having to sit on that paper getting newsprint all over my damp little paws (I was a little nervous at Dad’s driving, I’ll admit), then I decided to let them know how I felt.  I howled and tore that paper into tiny shreds.  At the next rest stop, Mom removed the shreds.  They refer to it as my snit-fit.  The only other time I made a fuss was when they mistakenly put me in Marley’s carrier.  Did I yell about that!  Mom said to Dad, “You put her in the wrong carrier.”  “So what?” Dad replied.  Mom gave him one of her looks, and he stopped so they could switch me.  Sometimes you have to be firm.  Can you imagine how it felt being trapped in that thing with Marley’s smell all over it?  Horrible!  Since that time I don’t think I’ve complained once about the trips.  Marley yells all the time, and he used to throw up until Mom got him pills.  The wimp.

Sure I’m referred to as “the little beauty” and “Queenie Queakie”.  I am gorgeous.  I do not have stripes like Marley.  They are so nineties.  I have dark grey fur that is black at the roots, grey in the middle, and beige at the tips.  It is as soft as bunny fur.  Hence my full name Squeakie Wigglesworth Bunnifurd.  Mom tells me Marley was named after Bob Marley because he was born in the Keyes like me, and we heard a lot of island music there.  But she really missed the cruise ship on that one.  He has no sense of rhythm.  She used to dance around with the wonderful and orange Mickey in her arms and he loved it, purred in time to the music.  Marley doesn’t like to be held except on his terms.  He kneads and nuzzles and it’s so embarrassing.  I think you could play a talk show, and he’d get the same thing out of it as Bach.  I’m a jazz and classical gal myself.  I’m surprised at his lack of musical appreciation.  Mom told me her dad played opera and country when he milked the cows.  They liked it.  All animals appreciate music.  Marley is oblivious.  I don’t know what he thinks, probably doesn’t do much of that anyway.

For the longest time I thought Marley had no personality.  He just ate a lot, slept, annoyed me, and peed over the side of the litter box.  Boy, that got Mom’s attention.  Then his personality emerged about two years ago at age four.  Talk about a later bloomer.  When Mom and Dad bought our cottage and began renovations, he became Dad’s helper, now referred to as “Dad’s little buddy.”  Auggh, makes me want to puke a hairball.  He just sits there and watches.  Now, I ask you, how is that helping?  Gosh, humans are odd.  He’s just sitting there.  His brain probably isn’t even engaged.  I watch.  Am I anyone’s “little buddy?”  Oh well, it’s good to be the queen and to know I rule, albeit quietly from the bed upstairs.

Lesley's note: Do you have an animal inspiring your work?  Or perhaps ghost writing for you?  Share your story.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cat Speak

Note from Lesley: Since I'm dedicating recent blogs to animals, my two cats complained that animals should be allowed to speak for themselves.  So here goes.  Marley is first.

Who’s Behind the Literary Curtain?

Hi!  My name is Marley.  I was the cat pictured at the end of last week's blog.  But here's another great picture of me in case you forgot how handsome I am. I’m the younger of the two cats in the house.  My older sister’s name is Squeak.  Isn’t that the dumbest name?  Of course, sometimes the parents (our human ones) call her “your highness” or “The diva cat.”  I think of her as the bi... er witch.  We don’t get along well.  We are both grey and distantly related since we were rescue animals from the same campground in Key Largo Florida.  According to Mom, we are a special breed of cats known as Keys Grays.  I am, of course, the cuter of the two of us, being striped grey with gold eyes and large feet Mom calls “thumpers.”  Sister is small and round (fat, in my book) and has funny colored eyes, green you call them.  Mom thinks they are beautiful, and so does Dad.  There’s just no accounting for humans’ tastes.

I came into the family when the most famous cat of all time in this family, the orange and wonderful Mickey died.  The parents thought Squeak could use a companion, that she was lonely.  Humans are quite stupid about cats, a fact pointed out to them by one vet who told them female cats look forward to the day when the kids leave home.  “She doesn’t like Marley because he never got the word he should depart.  He keeps hanging around.”  I think she should be the one to leave.

For much of my young life I knew the parents and probably my older sister secretly compared me to the orange and wonderful Mickey.  I fell short, I know.  I could tell by the looks on their faces, and, yes, cats too can give disgusted looks.  Ask my sister.  But I’ve come into my own.  I can do “cute” as well as and sometimes better than my sister (pronounced in cat tongue as “sisser”.  I have a beat-up toy which was once a bell (now missing its clapper and smashed flat from Dad’s big feet crushing it when he steps on it at night) and a feather tied to a furry blob of something human manufacturers think cats might find interesting.  It got interesting only after the bell was nothing other than a shapeless piece of metal and the furry thing was matted like a dead muskrat, the feathers long gone.  I call it my “bell and feavver”.  Oh, did I tell you I cannot pronounce “th”?  This speech impediment must be a character of the Keys Grey breed since sister is always telling Dad to put his legs “togevver” when she jumps into his lap.  I digress, but cats speaking human language is something humans should study more closely.  It could tell you where your language has gone wrong.  Anyway. 

Late at night I hover over the thing and yowl as if my heart is breaking.  I have perfected this cry over the years so that now it is truly saddening and gets all humans’ sympathetic attention.  Then I pick up the mashed mess and carry it lovingly in my mouth, usually upstairs to the parents’ bedroom and drop it on the floor beside the bed.  By now everyone in the house is awake, and I get attention.  They think I am lonely or hungry.  Either is remedied by petting or food.  I then go to sleep and they, fully conscious, turn on the light and read for an hour or so and complain in the morning of little sleep the night before.  Sister plays her part by yelling at them to feed her breakfast early the next morning.  She foolishly does not do this in a charming fashion and they blame her for their lack of rest.  Works for me.

I taught them to accept my finer qualities like my playfulness.  I hide around the corner, and, when she least expects it, I jump on my sister who is half my weight, and I knock the wind out of her.  I love it.  She doesn’t seem to get the fun of the move.  Sometimes she gets revenge by sitting in a chair and when I come by, she hits my tail or bites my butt.  I think she doesn’t mean this playfully.  She has a mean streak in her that the parents just don’t see.  They say she has attitude, which in her, means something positive while the same stance in me they label as nasty.  Well, as I was saying, I think I’ve convinced them I was the right choice as a second cat.  Sister says she would have preferred a plain, homely little black cat they considered.  She thought she could whip that little guy into shape.  She’s never forgiven me for being so cute Mom adopted me instead.

After six years in this house, I’m learning things too.  I’m coming around to sitting on laps for five or so minutes, and I kiss.  Mom just loves this.  I try very hard to talk to them in their own language producing pathetic sounds somewhere between meow and “feed me, dammit”.  My favorite game is “feetsis in the air” played under a blanket where I lie on my back with feet straight up in the air.  The parents then rumple me around under the cover, and I grab their hands.  Then I run away.  And meowing of running, I love to do “whacko bananas”.  I dash from room to room, stopping only to lower the front of my body to the floor and throw my butt and tail high up in to the air while twitching my head from side to side.  The parents find this amusing.  I find it a necessary way to get rid of excess energy.  Sister looks at me like I’m crazy.

For a time Mom called me clever and sister smart.  Dad has almost convinced Mom that I’m smart too, but I know she secretly believe sister is brighter than I because sister can use a computer.  At least, she used to use the computer.  Mom thought she might become the first feline writer of espionage novels because sister typed “5, 5” and “8, 9” several times.  At first we thought she was writing poetry, but, since it didn’t rhyme and has no rhythm or any kind, we seized on the possibility it was a short story, kind of a flash fiction thing.  Now Mom thinks it was a code of some kind, the first provocative line in a spy novel.  We are still waiting for her to get on with it.  So far nothing.

Mom and Dad are both writers.  Dad never mentions a muse, but Mom goes on and on about having Fred, the ghost in our house in upstate New York as her muse here and an alligator in Florida as her muse there.  An alligator!  I mean if you have to pick an animal as a muse, why not pick one you can get close to?  Why not me?  Even sister would be somewhat better than a scaly old alligator.  I don’t get too worried about the alligator muse thing, and I’m not at all certain Mom believes in ghosts.  This is all literary folderol.  Given the cat that I am, if Mom needs inspiration, she can always count on me.  I do cute, I am cute, I play cute, I’m better than any old muse, wouldn’t you say?

Mom says sister gets a turn at this next week.  Gotta run before she bites my tail--sister, not Mom.