A Hard Drinking Era: Guest Post by Eleanor Kuhns

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Spirits or distilled liquor were consumed so enthusiastically during the 1790’s (and before and after) that tourists and important men alike began to decry the habit. The U.S. was a nation of drunkards. George Washington, a whiskey distiller himself, referred to the heavy drinking as the ruin of half the workmen. And John Adams complained about the length of time it took to get something built. One day’s work earned a man enough to stay drunk all week so they worked one day out of seven. Women, of course, were never supposed to be seen intoxicated.

How did we get into such a pickle? Well, part of it was cultural. Cotton Mater (of Puritan fame) declared,  “Drink itself to be a creature of God.”

Water tended to be dirty. It was frequently contaminated and just plain unappetizing. In Natchez water from the Mississippi River had to be set aside so the sediment could settle. (ugh!) Milk was unpasteurized and if the cow ate something like jimson weed the milk would be poisonous. Alcoholic beverages made with boiled water were safe. This was not only true in the United States. Throughout the Middle Ages and continuing onto the eighteenth century, just about everyone drank beer. Even children. They drank ‘small’ beer with an alcoholic content of 4% or so. (Without modern controls, the alcohol content fluctuated wildly. I saw beer being made as would have been done in the 1700s in Colonial Williamsburg. They are not permitted to sell it because the results vary so much. The alcohol content ranged from the 3 or 4% range all the way up to 8 or 9% or more.)

In times where the food supply could be erratic at best, beer – and other alcoholic beverages – supplied a significant portion of the day’s calories. Unfiltered beer especially has a higher nutritional content than leavened bread, more protein and B vitamins and fewer phytates (chemicals that bind to minerals such as calcium and prevent them from being absorbed in the intestines).

Also the cereal grains from which beer and whiskey could be transported from the western frontier (like Pittsburg in 1793) to the east in the form of whiskey and sold for more than four times the price for the grain itself and without adding to the cost of transportation.

Everyone drank. Ben Franklin is quoted as saying if God wanted men to drink water He would not have given him an elbow to bend a glass with. Toddlers were put to sleep with alcohol or the sugary residue at the bottom of the glass. (This makes my hair stand on end.) In the early days of the 1700s, the favorite drink was rum, sweet and alcoholic. Rum was made from molasses. Part of the triangle trade (slaves, molasses and rum) it was distilled at first in Maine and Massachusetts. Later the distillation was moved to the West Indies to be closer to the sugar cane. After the Revolution, however, it was not patriotic to drink rum. Whiskey, especially rye whiskey, was all-American. The grain was grown in the United States and it was distilled into whiskey here as well.

Early opposition to drink came from the Quakers. By 1777 they were ordered neither to distill nor to sell distilled beverages. The Shakers (i.e. the Shaking Quakers) practiced restraint and drank mainly water.  They were, however, famous for their cider and it went from ‘kind’ to ‘hard’ very quickly in an age before refrigeration. The Methodists saw drinking as a barrier to purifying the church and society so they joined the crusade. A number of doctors also spoke out against the perils of heaving drinking. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a doctor famous for his work during the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793 was a leader.

So what about Will Rees, my detective? He doesn’t drink whiskey or rum. His favorite drink is coffee. (After the Boston Tea Party, tea was considered unpatriotic.) Lucky for Rees, coffeehouses, popular in England especially after 1660, crossed the Atlantic to the Colonies. Like the taverns, they were very important to the War for Independence. The rebels met in both coffeehouses and taverns to air grievances and to plan strategy. Coffee became a popular drink and was widely available. To this day the United States is the leading consumer of coffee.

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EKuhns credit to Rana FaureEleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel. A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.

 

 

Website URL: http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com

Blog URL: http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com/blog

Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/Eleanor-Kuhns

Twitter: #EleanorKuhns

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/eleanor-kuhns-36759623

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Dam Witherston: Guest Post by Betty Jean Craige

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Dam Witherston is the third of my Witherston Murder Mysteries. The others are Fairfield’s Auction and Downstream. They are all set in a fictive town in the north Georgia mountains where everybody knows everybody else and few people are bad. However, even in this idyllic community of four thousand souls somebody is murdered every year or so, and Mev the police detective, Aunt Lottie the online columnist, and Mev and Paco’s teenage twin sons Jaime and Jorge and their friends collaborate to identify the murderer.

After Black Opal Books accepted Downstream for publication and took on the series I learned that I was writing “cozies.” A “cozy mystery” is a category of crime fiction in which the characters, often eccentric or comic, are well developed, their actions involve little violence or explicit sex, and the events take place in a closed environment. The author tacitly agrees to play fair with the reader by giving appropriate clues to the crime’s solution—not so many as to lead the reader to guess what happened early on, but enough to enable the reader to figure it out by the end of the novel if he or she thinks hard. And the reader must have fun participating in the detection.

In my mysteries I provide information about the events not just through the narration but also through an online newspaper called Witherston on the Web, locally known as “Webby Witherston,” to which Lottie, the boys, the police, and other folks in town contribute. Webby Witherston includes Breaking News, Announcements, Editorials, Lottie’s “North Georgia in History,” Cartoons, Letters to the Editor, Police Blotter, and the Weather.

Why do I enjoy writing cozies? Because I like creating a puzzle for readers to enjoy solving. It’s a game we play together. I only wish I could hear my readers laugh, or at least say, “Aha!”

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BJ Craige and CosmoDr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973. Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. Her first non-academic book was Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010). After retiring in 2011, she published a column about animal behavior in the local paper titled “Cosmo Talks” and began writing fiction. Her Witherston Murder Mystery series includes Downstream (2014), Fairfield’s Auction (2016), and Dam Witherston (2017).

Buy links:

Dam Witherston  https://www.amazon.com/Dam-Witherston-Murder-Mystery/dp/1626945985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487542092&sr=8-1&keywords=dam+witherston

Downstream http://www.amazon.com/Downstream-Witherston-Murder-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00OSXPV4A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458158780&sr=8-1&keywords=downstream+craige

Fairfield’s Auction http://www.amazon.com/Fairfields-Auction-Witherston-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01AXN3546/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458158803&sr=8-1&keywords=fairfield%27s+auction+craige

On the Subject of Humorishness: A Guest Post by Gino Bardi

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“Where do you get your jokes?”  This question came from a well-intentioned woman who had asked me to sign one of my books for her. The fact that someone just asked me to sign a book, screwed me up a little, so I had to think about it a few seconds.

“A joke is when a priest, a rabbi and a kangaroo go into a bar, and the bartender says… something which I can never remember,” I explained. “I don’t write jokes.”

“What do you write, then?”

“Humor.”  Surprisingly, this was not a satisfactory answer. I could tell this by the metamorphosis of her facial expression. Her bright, eager smile drooped like a candle in a microwave oven, which is exactly the wrong place to keep a candle.

“Is there a difference?” She said this in a tone that told me any answer I gave her would be the wrong one. I spent the rest of the day, and long past my 8 PM bedtime, pondering the question. ‘What, really, is humor?’ I asked myself. “Don’t ask me,” said myself. “Ask the ladies.”

So I brought my question to Cortana, Siri and Alexa. They know everything, after all. Hang on, this will only take a minute.

(Talk amongst yourselves)

Okay, I’m back. Waste of time. Not to mention how much they sound suspiciously alike. Don’t ever ask the ladies anything unless you’re prepared for a lecture featuring lots of big words like cognitive and perspective and experiential. I had to figure it out myself. That’s okay. I’m a writer. I make stuff up all the time.

Here’s what I think: Humor is whatever is funny. And funny is everywhere and everything. Okay. Almost everywhere and everything. You only have think of a subject…then think just a bit harder, push just a little, and the mundane becomes funny. Or funnyISH, which is close to funny. And funnyish is way better than not funny.  Mel Brooks, a very funny man, puts it like this: You only have to exaggerate a little bit.

For example…let’s say you’ve decided that your next automobile will be a self-driving one (and while we’re imagining stuff, let’s for a moment pretend that someone has offered you, say, forty grand for the 2003 Saturn you’re currently driving, so you can afford to buy it.)  There are plenty of concerns and considerations you might have about self-driving cars. Big important life changing stuff that everyone is worried about.  But there is also a lot of stuff no one is thinking about.

You can pick the color of your new car, of course, but how about the sex? Would you want your car to be a man or a woman? What if you were sitting at a stoplight in your very macho Jeep Cherokee, and a cute hot pink Corvette pulled up alongside…would your car even notice when the light had changed? Or would it be flirting as hard as it could with the pink Corvette? Would the car behind you start honking it’s horn, embarrassing the owner?

And what about gasohol? How much gasohol can a self-driving car consume before you shouldn’t ride in it? Would you let a self-driving car fill up on gasohol and drive your daughter to the prom?  Would the owner get in trouble for buying gasohol for an under-aged car?  

Are you even worried about this kind of stuff? You should be. When you worry about this stuff all the time, and find yourself writing it down, then you can stop worrying about “what is humor?”  Or are you still wondering what the bartender said to the priest, the rabbi and the kangaroo?

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Gino BardiGino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: “Bad decisions make good stories,” and Mel Brooks’ advice that “You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT.”

The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015, followed by the Best Humor Novel of 2016, also from the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Gino-B-Bardi-247107555622707/?fref=ts

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/ginobardi1

LinkedIn:  Gino Bardi

Skype:  gino.bardi

Buy links:

Three on a Match https://www.amazon.com/Three-Match-Gino-B-Bardi-ebook/dp/B0711LXSGG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496103622&sr=8-1&keywords=three+on+a+match+by+gino+bardi

The Cow in the Doorway http://www.amazon.com/Cow-Doorway-Gino-B-Bardi/dp/1519493398/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461959101&sr=8-1&keywords=cow+in+the+doorway

Use the Force

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In honor of Star Wars Day (you know, May the Fourth…get it?), I thought it was totally appropriate to review this book! I even dressed the part today.

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Have you ever wished that you could be a Jedi and harness the powers of The Force? Joshua P. Warren has uncovered the secret…and it’s probably something you already know about: The Law of Attraction. Warren says you can “improve your finances, health, and relationships by controlling the reality around you”. As a person who doesn’t read self-help books, this seems like a stretch to me. However, going into this with an open mind, I have indeed learned some things and am trying to apply them to my life.

I really loved the idea of weaving Star Wars references into a self-help book. Being a nerd myself, I thought this was a wonderfully creative idea. Also, it really makes me want to rewatch the series. Don’t judge me too harshly on not seeing Episode VII or Rogue One! I need a marathon first!

While I was reading, there was a particular quote that spoke to me:

If you want to attract good things to yourself, you must begin by believing that the universe is a friendly place.

I really like that idea. If you have a negative view of the world all the time, all you’re going to attract is negativity. As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Warren talks about repeating a certain mantra throughout the day, everyday, to reaffirm that thought: I live in a friendly, supportive universe that loves me, and wants me to be happy and succeed. I took it to heart and I now have it pinned to my cube wall at work.

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Warren seamlessly used Star Wars references to enhance his points throughout the book. It didn’t feel as though  he was arbitrarily throwing Yoda quotes around; the references built upon his thoughts and ideas.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. For not being a self-help reader, I’m more inclined to try more books like this. I especially loved the nerdy twist. Give this book a try!

Beastly

Meaning Beyond Words

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster. 

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell. 

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly…beastly. 

If you haven’t already seen Beauty and the Beast in theaters, I’m going to need you to do that ASAP. It was so good. Emma Watson did such a great job, and the whole movie was magical. *swoon*

I found this book through a great Instagram page, Quoth The Raven Bookshop. They find awesome books and post them so you can buy them! I’ve purchased a few books from them already, and they’re really nice to work with. I suggest you go check them out!

Since Beauty and the Beast is in theaters and is the best thing ever, I decided to read a spinoff of the story! Well, more like a modern retelling rather than a spinoff.

Beastly is a fairly accurate retelling of the classic BatB story. We follow Kyle Kingsbury (I really hate the name) and how he treats other students in his 9th-grade class. One student in particular, Kendra, receives the brunt of Kyle’s arrogance and attitude. After Kendra is jilted at prom, she curses Kyle and transforms him into a beast, with the caveat that the spell could be broken if he finds true love within two years. Kyle starts to believe that he won’t find anyone to talk to him, let alone love him…until Lindy comes along (or rather, until he kidnaps Lindy and forces her to live with him).

Overall, this version of the BatB story is ok. I wasn’t blown away with any of the modern updates. I did think that the use of chatrooms was pretty fun and interesting. Kyle is in the Unexpected Changes support group, which is run by a Mr. Anderson (see what author Alex Flinn did there?) and has participants with screennames like SilentMaid, Froggie, and Grizzlyguy. If you’re a fan of fairy tales, I think you can figure out where they’re from.

Something that I had an issue with was the age group of the characters. Granted, I know this is a YA novel and the characters are geared more toward those readers, but Kendra is expecting Kyle to find true love when he’s in 9th grade. I could barely figure out what to do during school…forget trying to find my one true love! I just feel that that aspect is really unbelievable (even though this story is about a witch transforming a boy into a beast).

In the end, I thought this was an ok book. This is the first in a series that follows Kendra. Will I go and get the rest of the books? Probably not. Do I regret reading this book? No. Flinn does a great job of hooking you from the beginning and I sped through this book. Now I really want to read other BatB books!

The Kingdom of Oceana

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Five centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic. 

When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to descroy their tropical paradise.

As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerors that threatns to erupt – just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano.

With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki’s spell.

Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge Disney fan. I try to go see every Disney movie that comes out in theaters. When I heard that the newest one was Moana, I knew I wanted to see it. Typical me, though…I haven’t. However, when I saw this book, I knew it would fill the Moana void. I don’t want you to think that this is a straight-out Moana story. The Kingdom of Oceana is a totally great story. Right after I finished the first chapter, I knew I needed to read this as fast as possible; I needed to know what happened to everyone!

The Kingdom of Oceana is a sibling story at its core. I like reading about siblings because I like to imagine what’s it like to have them. I feel like Mitchell Charles did a great job creating that relationship. Ailani is always trying to measure up to his older brother Nahoa, and Nahoa likes to remind Ailani that he is the little brother. I really enjoyed the character development throughout the story. I feel that Ailani grew up not only because of necessity, but because he was starting to see his potential.

As a new mom, I feel like I pay more attention to parent-child relationships in stories. As I was reading, I found that I most wanted to be like Father and definitely not like Mother. Father tries to do right by his family and his people, even if that means making decisions that he might not think are great. He always tries to teach boys lessons, not just about how to become the next leaders of their people, but also about being good people in general. I hated how Mother played favorites. If I ever have more than one child, I want to be able to love them equally.

When I was in college, I took a Mythology course. When I first signed up for it, I thought it would be only about Greco-Roman mythology. Boy, was I wrong! I was learning about Celtic, Chinese, Native American…and Hawaiian. As I was reading, I was recognizing some of the terms used throughout the book (just in case, Charles includes footnotes, which I think is an added bonus to the story). I was trying to think of why things sounded familiar, and I remembered back to my Mythology class. If anyone wants to check out my textbook, I highly recommend it!

Speaking of class, since The Kingdom of Oceana is geared toward younger readers (think middle school age), there are educational materials that go along with it! As a former ELA teacher and new mom, I think it’s awesome that there are pre-made materials that enhance the reading experience. I can’t wait ’til my son is a little older and I can teach him about this book. There is a glossary of Hawaiian words and two study guides focused on earth science and humanities. If there are any ELA teachers out there who read my blog, contact me and I might be able to hook you up!

The Kingdom of Oceana is a fast-paced, fun read that gets you interested right from the beginning. I’m really hoping Charles is working on a sequel, because I need to know what happens next!

Final Exam

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The Society Agent series examines human society a few thousand years hence as people expand through our galaxy. In this future, there is no dystopian dictatorship, no cyber-menace overlord, and no inter-species warfare. Humanity faces its historic enemy, humankind, but under different skies. Even as civility and civilization advances through the millennia, greed, gangs and human malice remain as wolves chasing down the weak and vulnerable.

Final Exam begins the series, written in the classic sci-fi style of Asimov and Heinlein. The series protagonist, Shane O’Ryan, is an idealistic, rich kid, and a recent graduate of an elite college that trains special agents for the Society, a quasi-judicial galactic power. Shane and his secret fraternity investigate infractions of the colonization charter that protects vulnerable intelligent species and their planets. They risk their lives to make sure that the tragic aftermath of 1492 in the Americas never happens again anywhere humans go.

In Final Exam, Shane and his student partner visit a snowy vacation planet to solve a mystery—how could a sub-intelligent species leap 50,000 years in evolution in months to harness fire and develop a language. Their investigation leads them into deadly conflict with a sophisticated gang trying to gain control of the planet for its mineral riches. Shane’s instructor also challenged him to lose his virginity as soon as possible, leading to some awkward and comical moments.

It had been a pretty long time since I read something that was truly sci-fi. I think the closest might be The Lunar Chronicles series (which I still haven’t finished!), so when I read the description for Final Exam, I knew this would be a good change for me.

Shane O’Ryan is about to graduate from a secret special agent college. He has to complete one very important mission before he graduates: learn about the native population on a nearby moon and figure out why they’re evolving more quickly than they should. Oh, his side mission is to lose his virginity, but I’ll talk about that later.

Shane and his mission partner, the very pretty and exotic Alana, learn about the planet Goldilocks and its three moons: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. Shane and Alana are to go to Mama Bear and learn about the indigenous people. After the last survey fifty years prior, they’re close to cavemen; no real language or society. Now, they have a full language and learning skills they shouldn’t be yet. That seems kinda fishy to the government. Shane and Alana pose as a newlywed couple while discovering what’s really going on. There’s a lot of action and awkward humor (which is a good thing), and it was a fun read.

I couldn’t help but think that Final Exam is kinda similar to Ender’s Game. Kids going to school, learning fighting and espionage skills, going into an intense final battle…I don’t mind the similarities. I really enjoyed the pop culture humor (like Goldilocks); it was fun and unexpected.

What I didn’t like was the major push to have Shane lose his virginity. I feel that was really unnecessary. It also made me feel a touch uncomfortable (you’ll understand more at the end). I also didn’t like how short it was. I wasn’t expecting it to be a novella. The ending seemed rushed to me, and I wonder if McLaughlin would have made some changes if he decided to write a full novel.

Final Exam is the beginning of a series, and I’ll be on the lookout for the rest of it. If you’re into sci fi, definitely give this one a chance!