Home Brewing

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HOME BREWING BLOG- August 19, 2016

IMG_3981          Stout grains, malt, and barley.


You know how everyone thinks they can sing and they get on TV and look bad? Real bad. The same is true of those who think they can write or do some other craft without putting in the work and studying what it is they wish to be good, even great, at. I’m putting my 20-plus years of beer drinking, sometimes heavy, behind my latest adventure, HOME BREWING. Since I have no plans to be the-next-big-thing and only want to share my wares with friends and family, I’ve decided to document the entire process.

Let’s begin.

I’ve sunk a few hundred into a home brew set-up from HopTech in Dublin, CA. Well worth the dough. Jade and the staff there are helpful, courteous, and craft some seriously amazing beer. I’m hoping some of their expertise and experience filters down to me.

Finding a place to brew was difficult. I basically muscled my way into my wife’s kitchen (even though I built it for her with her dad). As an interesting side note, I usually have to clean up the kitchen and do dishes to get enough room to work. I haven’t heard any complaints yet about that part of my home brewing.

I started with a kit I got as a gift. The list of what the kit had was about eight items. The list of what the kit “suggested,” and altogether was required TO ACTUALLY BREW, was about ten other items. That’s where HopTech filled in the blanks and sold me some cool stuff.

My first beer, a standard IPA, in a one-gallon batch came out awful. I realize now that I did pretty much everything wrong. I was clean, I didn’t sanitize stuff, and I used my mouth to siphon beer from the kettle to the bottles. All those nasty germs in my mouth got into the beer and turned it sour. Sour beer is huge right now, but those brewers making it know what they are doing and make it sour intentionally. Me. Not so much.

My second attempt, the one I thought would propel me to the level of let’s say, Russian River Brewery, Ballast Point, Green Flash, and Sierra Nevada, came out remarkably better. Lots of sediment and it’s not entirely what I expected, but I bit off more than I could chew and the result shows. I am powering them down; however, which left plenty of empty bottles around. Empty bottles need filling, so I rolled over to HopTech and picked up a recipe for an Imperial Stout.

I just got the wurt with yeast into the fermenter last night and the air lock is already chattering. I’ll keep you guys posted.



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Writing contest for Mystery / Thriller stories “Fated Paradox” Inkitt’s latest contest is open for submissions!

What is Inkitt?

Inkitt is a free writing platform that helps authors reach their full potential. Users collaborate with fellow writers and readers to give each other feedback and improve their work. Inkitt’s vision is to help writers get the exposure they deserve and the publishing deals they covet, without having to jump through the fiery hoops of traditional publishing or wade in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing. They are opening a new writing contest for entries in June.

Mystery and Thriller – Fated Paradox

The theme for the contest is “Fated Paradox: Tales of gripping suspense”. They want you to keep them on the edge of their seats with your best mystery and thriller stories. Submit accounts of murders and red herrings, or have them biting their nails over stories full of adrenaline and espionage. Leave them breathless with your tales of unmatched suspense.

What are the guidelines?

They accept original fiction stories of any length. Entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The contest opens on June 4th and closes on July 4th. The contest is completely free to enter, and authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contest. The top 10% based on reader votes get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize.

What are the prizes?

1st Prize: $50 cash, 5 printed copies of the winning story with custom Typography (created by Inkitt’s designer).

2nd Prize: $40 cash

3rd Prize: $20 cash

All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction.

Contest URL:

Twitter Handle: @Inkitt

Hashtag: #FatedParadox



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Perched above the light radiating anger he stalks, clenching fists and grinding his jaw muscles fiercely. A man in blue wearing a star, oblivious to the ticking time bomb, coasts to a stop preoccupied by time slipping by.

The tormented man hears a voice, “Yes, do it!”

Another of his voices says, “You can’t, you mustn’t!”

Zombie-like, he slowly grabs the luke-warm handle of his safety blanket, and cooler than the other side of a pillow, marches on to entertain the war that rages.

The traffic light remains red longer than normal, causing the unsuspecting man to curse and examine his surroundings. He peers left, and then right, noting nothing spectacular.

Again the voices scream, “Do it!”


“Do it you coward!”


The volley of pain finally consumes him. He lifts borrowed steel, aims, and fires. The crackle erupts, scattering feet drowned only by screams. The waiting cop never had a clue. At the foot of his cruiser, weathered life escapes the victim, while a mixture of gunpowder and smoke become one. Slowly they ascend to salvation seeking refuge for his soul.

Appreciation Leads to Giving Back.

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Fourteen years ago I set out to write a novel.  It wasn’t on my bucket list then, but after a few years it rose to the top because of how difficult it had become.  I wrote and re-wrote my manuscript for Gray Ghost at least thirty (30) times, many of those coming AFTER I had a traditional publishing contract and was only a few months from the scheduled publication date.  I had every opportunity to quit on this project, and if I shared with you how things went down when it came time for Gray Ghost to actually see print, you’d probably wonder why I didn’t just give up.

The thing is, I was raised by my parents and family NOT to give up.  I used every single criticism and hundreds of rejection letters to push me.  It forced me to write better, which is what it’s all about when you are an author.  I studied my craft AND the industry and quickly realized writing, or more accurately, publishing, is a cut-throat business of very few HAVES and millions of HAVE-NOTS.  Once I realized that, I was better suited to develop a plan of attack.

I will feature what I did to become a marginally successful author through a series of blogs on this site.  I am not charging for this information.  Everyone thinks I’m crazy for giving my ‘secrets’ away, but there is a method to my madness.  So, this won’t be the first time I’m called crazy, nor will it be the last.

First, my modest stats:

Beginning on October 31, 2013, Gray Ghost reached #13 on the Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Crime Fiction, #41 for Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Mystery, and #48 Amazon best sellers list (Paperback) for Mystery.  As of right now, it’s still ranked #48 on the Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Crime Fiction.

Second, my appreciation statement:

Thank you everyone who helped me reach my goal of becoming a best-selling author. I really hope I write the second book well enough to honor my fallen friend and that it sells like Gray Ghost has. Stay tuned for updates about the second book, Collectors, as I am as excited as all of you are for its release!!!

I appreciate everyone who has helped me. I’ll be doing a drawing sometime this week (after today when the sale ends), for FIVE lucky people to receive a signed copy of Collectors when it’s released!!

Third, the first tid-bit:


If you are reading this right now you are on the right path when it comes to promotion because you are on a social media site (WordPress) and you are trying to learn something to help you formulate a plan of your own for success.  That’s the nice part, the not-so-nice-part is there are literally THOUSANDS of fake agents and fake publishers (traditional and self-pub) praying on your unbelievable need/want/desire to get published.  So what do you do to prevent getting scammed?

First, you need to research the heck out of the agent or publisher.  Start by running their name through Google’s search engine.  If they don’t pop up, they could be new, but they could also be fake.  Almost immediately you will see in your Google search results whether ANYONE has a complaint about the agent or publisher.  Read those carefully.  Many times a rejection letter will be the issue, not the legitimacy of the agent or publisher.  Everyone thinks they can write and should be the next big thing.  It stings when someone tells you otherwise (and even worse when the truth is you may not be a strong writer, yet).

Next, try to put a face and person to the name.  This means you will need to meet up, face-to-face, with an agent or publisher.  This can be done fairly easy at writing conferences.  There is a much higher probability that someone saying s/he is an agent or publisher at a writing conference is in fact one or the other. This is the case usually because most cons are done over the internet and e-mail scams and other REAL agents and publishers tend to ferret out the impostors at these conferences.

Then ask OTHER writers, agents, and publishers (that you know are legitimate) if the person or agency you are researching is legitimate.  Writers groups, on-line groups, bookstores, and other writers tend to be close-knit groups.  Sort of like a neighborhood watch.  So, bounce your thoughts off them to see what you can learn or what they think.  If they give you a thumbs-up, then you can feel a little better about the important decision you are about to make.

Lastly, NEVER pay any money up-front.  There are various costs associated to self-publishing which you will have to pay, but make sure you have a contract with a reputable publisher before you dole out cash.  In addition,  there should be no up-front costs to an author in a traditional contract.  If a publisher says they need YOUR money for promotion and production costs, you should have red flags popping up.  You need to read and re-read the contract you may have with the publisher.  If, and I say this very lightly, the publisher has increased your royalty percentage it’s normally because they ARE NOT providing promotions for your book.  So, why would they ask for money upfront for promotion if they are not (per the contract) promoting your book?  All I’m trying to relate to you is don’t be so blinded by your desperate need to be published that you get sucked into a scam.  It’s easier said than done, but I’m at least one person in your corner.

So, what we are doing here is building a strong foundation for your writing and getting you set up to move forward in the right direction so you can focus on your writing, not getting scammed before your work in progress ever sees print.  Stay tuned for more tid-bits.

c. L. Swinney

Daily Rant#2

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So, I like pets, dogs and cats mostly, but I’ve got a daily rant today that I MUST get off my chest.




Yesterday, after working 22 hours, I was at a stop light waiting for it to turn green.  A car pulls up next to me with its window down.  I saw it out of my peripheral vision, I was too tired to look over! Next thing I know, “Fifi,” about 7-pounds soaking wet with a scarf on lunges out of the car and starts barking at me!  It was like a cartoon, you know when there is a regular size person, they get shrunk, then their voice gets super high.  Well, that was Fifi!  An angry full size dog in a mini body.  The owner tried to capture the little barking torpedo and made all the cars behind her miss the light…  As I drove closer to home, I thought, she should buy that thing some of those cool paw least the dog’s feet would be nice and comfy as it attacks the tires of cars!!!!!!

I’ll only accept it if your dog is like this: