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A SUDDEN GIFT OF FATE has just made it through the first round — the story pitch — in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award. WOW! The novel joins 1,999 other works selected from a pool of 10,000 entries.
     In the second round of judging, Amazon editors and Amazon Vine Reviewers will be reading an excerpt of the novel (roughly the first 5,000 words). They’ll narrow the field down to 500 quarterfinalists to be announced around March 23.
     This moment is HUGE. Last year when I entered THE TERMINAL DINER in the contest, it failed at the pitch stage. That was so frustrating because no one read a word of my work. Not this year, buíochas le Dia!
     So say a few prayers, light a candle or raise a glass of Finger Lakes wine and send good thoughts toward my novel.

atwater     Tonight, as I savor a manuscript done, I’m thinking about that scene in the movie “Sideways,” when Maya tells Miles why she loves wine so much:

“I like to think about the life of wine, how it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the years the grapes were growing, how the sun was shining, if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And, if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now….”

     That really struck a chord with me, one that reverberates now after a year of studying what goes into the production of wine, especially all the challenges of weather, soil, disease, birds, insects, chemistry, etc.
     I admire the courage of Finger Lakes winemakers, and those around the world. I also admire how they marry viticulture & chemistry into potable art. Sláinte (Irish for cheers!).

Thanks to the FLX wine Twitter community, you can watch videos of this year’s grape harvest and crushing, have questions answered by winemakers and learn about special events celebrating the start of the ’09 vintage.

     Here’s a cool video from Red Newt Cellars on the East Side of Seneca Lake (called the Banana Belt for its warmer microclimate). They’re crushing green cabernet franc grapes for verjus, an acidic juice used in salad dressings.
     These green grapes were culled to let the vines focus on ripening the rest of them for wine production. Normally these would be trimmed off and left to rot. This same crushing method will be used for the wine grapes.
     To follow FLX harvest updates on Twitter, follow @flxcrush. Winemakers will be answering your Q&As on Twitter weekly too. Here’s the current schedule:

roseofclare_labelFinished, finally, tweaking the novel’s manuscript late, late last night. Once the cover is completed and the proof approved, the novel will be available at local bookstores, gift shops and on Amazon.com. I’ll announce details of the launch, to be held at RiverRead Books in downtown Binghamton, when the date is set.
     I love how a novel becomes a tapestry of all the people and things you encounter. This novel, as an example, would not have been written if not for the kindness of my great aunt Mary Reilly O’Keefe who let us stay at her cottage on Keuka Lake every summer.
     Over the years I have spoken with many people involved in the Finger Lakes Wine industry. When it came time to write this novel though, Vinny and Kim Aliperti of Billsboro Winery (he’s also the winemaker for Atwater Estate Vineyards), were very generous with their time in answering detailed questions I had about the day-to-day operations.
     As for the scenes set in Ireland, I owe much gratitude (míle buíochas— a thousand thanks) to the very talented Irish author/blogger Eddie Stack whom I met through Amazon.com. Here’s a delightful twist of fate — Eddie also happens to be from Ennistymon, County Clare, the hometown of a main character in the novel, Fergal Griffin. He patiently translated expressions into colloquial Clare-speak and explained the details of terrain to match what I’d remembered from my last trip there. Up da banner, Eddie!
     Finishing touches added to the story were influenced by the great community of Finger Lakes Wine Region promoters, winemakers, tasting room guides and critics found on Twitter. Follow the #flx, #flwine and #flxcrush hashtags for quite a learning experience about one of the most beautiful regions on earth. (Not the least bit biased.) Wondering if your favorite FLX winery is on Twitter? Check this great list on Ithacork blog.
     This concept of a novel as a tapestry of your life reminds me of a saying on the sweatshirt I received for Christmas a couple of years ago:

Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.

     Consider yerself warned….

delaware     Yesterday the results of the 2009 New York Food & Wine Classic competition were announced. Two Finger Lakes wineries, out of competitors from the FLX, Lake Erie, Niagara Escarpment, Hudson Valley, Long Island and other regions across New York, won the coveted top two prizes. Cayuga Lake’s Sheldrake Point was named winery of the year and Seneca Lake’s Anthony Road Wine Company’s  2008 Semi-Dry Riesling won the Governor’s Cup for best wine of the year. I’ve visited both wineries and can vouch for their high-quality wines. This year I visited Sheldrake’s Simply Red Bistro with friends and had an outstanding lunch there, too.
     I was very pleased to see the work of talented winemaker Vinny Aliperti garnered several prizes (Best of Class: Billsboro Winery 2008 Riesling for Best Medium Sweet Riesling, Billsboro Winery 2008 Pinot Gris for Best Pinot Gris; Double Gold Medals: Atwater Estate Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc, Billsboro Winery 2008 Riesling, Billsboro Winery 2008 Pinot Gris; Gold Medals: Atwater Estate Vineyards 2008 Riesling and Atwater Estate Vineyards 2008 Gewürztraminer). Vinny is the winemaker for both Atwater and Billsboro — an estate winery he runs with his wife, Kim.
     Vinny and Kim were kind enough to answer many questions I had for this novel about running a winery. Their kindness, patience and good suggestions were truly appreciated! Congrats, well deserved!

book jacket

$20
Available NOW at my e-store (Amazon.com),
Amazon.com;
Barnes & Noble;
Powell's Books
What readers are saying:
"This endearing foursome, that so many readers of the first book fell in love with, face new challenges with Irish wit and a generally upbeat outlook on life. They're a group of friends that anyone would want to hang out with."
"After finishing it, I kept thinking of the characters and wondered how they were doing. I had to remind myself they weren't real and had to let them go..."
"I couldn't put it down."
"Pure dead brilliant!"

The Prequel

book jacket

Buy it @ my E-store; Amazon.com; and Powell's Books.

Cost: $20

The story

Irish couple Fergal and Brídgeen Griffin get an intriguing wedding gift: the chance to manage a Finger Lakes winery. When they move to Keuka Lake from Queens, see the rundown winery and meet its surly winemaker, they realize it will be quite a challenge getting from grapevine to bottle.
Meanwhile their friends Maeve and Andy face a challenge of their own, separation as he pursues experimental therapy for his paraplegia.
As the two couples face the challenges ahead, will they be able to keep hope alive?

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A Sudden Gift of Fate: Sequel to the novel The Cyber Miracles

Podcast Interviews

* Listen to my interview with Bill Jaker on his WSKG radio show, "Off the Page" here.
* Listen to my 10/21/2009 interview with Morgen McLaughlin on her BlogTalk Radio show, "Finger Lakes Wine Talk" here.

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