Home Brewed

clear glass mug with brown liquid
Image from Unsplash, taken by Pradnyal Gandhi

“Are those your new neighbours?” Cerne waved a hand at the lads setting up some speakers next to a barbecue in the garden next door.

Taranis nodded. “They moved in last week. I think they’re sharing the house while they’re at college.” He took a slow sip of his home brew. “I’ve given them the first word, and I’ve let them have a housewarming, and now we see what happens.”

Cerne looked sideways at his old friend, “You just go looking for trouble living next to student housing. I never get any trouble from any of my neighbours.”

“And where’s the fun in that?” Taranis drained the last mouthful of his beer. “This batch of homebrew came out pretty well. It’s much easier to get the ingredients these days.”

Cerne nodded. “I used to have to grow a lot of stuff myself. It’s much better now there is that internet.” He looked down at his glass, filled with golden liquid that glowed in the last of the days’ light. It tasted of summer and sunsets, with spices and lightning as an undertone, and filled a heart with wild wind and thunder and warmth of heaven’s fire. It was a brew for the gods, not frail mortals. “Are these the glasses we stole from that pub in Brighton?”

“I knew we were going to get kicked out anyway.” Taranis stood up creakily. “Especially after those bikers started.”

Cerne caught him eyeing the lads in the garden next door. “Remember, no paperwork.”

“That’s always my motto. Whatever you do, no paperwork.” Taranis wandered into his kitchen and came out again with a couple of bottles of his home brew and a plate of sandwiches, thick with roast pork. “Lisa sent some more pork around, after I sorted out the people parking in front of her house.”

“You had a word with the council, didn’t you?” Cerne said, grinning and throwing some pork to his dog, Garm, who sat patiently next to him.

“And no paperwork,” Taranis said. He poured himself another drink and topped up Cerne.

“Hey, grandpa!” The redheaded lad from next door hung over the fence, far too close to Taranis. “You want to switch your hearing aids off now. We’re going to party.”

The scruffy one with dyed dark hair slouched over the fence next to him. “And my dad’s in the police, so there’s nothing you can do. Just get used to the loud music.”

“It won’t be that loud, will it?” Taranis said, allowing a slight hint of weakness in his normally booming voice.

“This kit cost more than you ever earned in your life, grandpa,” The redhead laughed. “They’ll hear it all the way down to the Estate.”

Cerne put his hand on Taranis’ arm. “No paperw- Bloody hell!” The dark-haired lad had switched on the sound system and it vibrated through the houses and gardens, making Garm yelp in dismay.

The redhead laughed again as he turned the music down, though keeping it at a level that could rattle windows. “We’re starting off quiet, grandpa, but don’t expect it to stay this level.”

“Well I never did.” Taranis sounded frail. “That’s a very loud system.”

“Don’t overdo it,” Cerne muttered to him.

“I tell you what, young man,” Taranis mostly hid his grin from the lads. “Why don’t you have a drink on me? I’m sure we can work things out.”

“Homebrew?” The redhead looked sceptical.

“It’s a bit stronger than average, so take it steady,” Taranis said. There was a brief rumble of thunder, unnoticed by the lads, but Garm hid under the table and Cerne grinned.

“We can manage more than your cocoa, grandpa.” The redhead took a large swig and looked at the bottle. “Hey, this is the good stuff.” He passed it on to his nearest friend.

Cerne watched the redhead. “It’s taking it’s time kicking in.”

“I went for smooth rather than strong,” Taranis said. “It’s not like it’s for a proper feast.”

Cerne checked his watch. “Perhaps it was the ingredients,” he said. “Even with a smoother brew it normally hits quicker. Ahh, there it is.”

One by one the lads started shivering, huddling into themselves and staring at sights that only they could see. The dark-haired lad was rocking slowly to and fro and his blond friend was sobbing. The redhead was noisily sick in a planter next to the patio door.

“Look at me!” Taranis commanded, all trace of the frail old man gone. He waited until all their frightened eyes were turned to him and then pointed at the sound system. With a sharp crack, a bolt of lightning did several thousand pounds of damage and left an echoing silence. “Now go inside, sleep it off, and remember to think of your neighbours next time.”

Cerne watched them slink off. “That was a bit harsh, wasn’t it?”

Taranis fondled Garm’s ears as he slunk out from under the table. “They’ll be fine tomorrow. It wasn’t the really strong stuff, and there won’t be any paperwork.” He fed the huge dog another piece of pork. “Another glass?”

A little warm up to my entry in the Grumpy Old Gods Anthology, out today, which you can find here

National Meteorological Day

It’s World Meteorological Day and I found this quote:

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for use to ignore it and wrong to often for us to rely on it

Patrick Young

I’ve been thinking of the myths and stories about gods recently and it’s led me to all sorts of snippets. For example, did you know that there is evidence for a thunder god in the reconstructed Indo European language of four thousand years ago? There is a whole section on weather gods from prehistory here in Wikipedia.

I don’t believe in weather gods and thunder gods, but I can see the appeal. When you’re counting on the harvest to keep you alive as the first farmers did, being able to appeal to a deity that might help must be a comfort, even if they are capricious. And, despite knowing the science, a thunderstorm feels supernatural. If you are in the middle of a loud one, when you can barely hear yourself for the thunder and the rain and hail is battering the windows, it doesn’t help to think about electrons and convection movements. It feels like something primeval. I’m not surprised that there is evidence of huge sacrifices of horses and cattle to appease the destructive force.

And I am fascinated that stories and myths can be traced back all those thousands of years to a people whose language we can’t fully know but which developed into so many different tongues as far apart as English and Bengali. That the stories that they told are still echoing around and finding their way out. Thor, who is definitely a thunder god, is still having his stories told in cinemas around the world.

In the flash fiction that I posted on Monday, here, I wrote about a retired thunder god. I can imagine that a retired weather deity wouldn’t be a comfortable neighbour, but I bet he wouldn’t be boring.

Christmas Tradition

It’s that time of year. People are dusting off their Christmas traditions and huddling inside away from the cold, dark days. In Iceland, there is a tradition of Jolabokaflod where people give each other gifts of books on Christmas Eve and then settle down to read them straight away. The more I hear about Iceland, the better it sounds.

Mind you, knowing how people are, those books may be read with different degrees of enthusiasm. I honestly think that there will be lots of happy people curled up with their favourite author, or a favourite genre, or even a completely new type of book that is perfect for opening up new ideas and thoughts in a wonderful and well-received way. I also suspect that there will be people muttering in corners, ‘My mother-in-law got me a book on Swedish Death Cleaning and I know exactly what she means by that!’

We don’t have that tradition in our family, mainly because my lovely husband has mostly audio books and I read a lot of books on a reading app, so we don’t usually buy physical books. Son reads in fits and starts and I just let him get on with it. Besides, he’s old enough to raid our bookshelves now when he feels like it. I also don’t want to force reading on him because he is overloaded with schoolwork and I would feel guilty trying to make him do anything more.

Speaking of schoolwork, son has been blessed by some amazing texts for his school syllabus, and one of them is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We don’t have many Christmas traditions, but one of them is watching A Muppet Christmas Carol every year. We snuggle in, have the room nice and toasty with a scented candle, pile up snacks and drinks and enjoy. It’s years since I read the original, but I dipped in again the other night. I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the original work made it into the Muppet version. I have watched dozens of versions over the years, but I think that the Muppets get it the closest. Drop a comment if you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear what you think.

One thing that struck me was the original story, written in nineteenth century London, doesn’t have much to do with religion. It refers to Christianity, but that was natural for a nominally Christian writer in a nominally Christian country. However, it doesn’t really bother with theology. It talks about people, and a reminder that people are important. That it is worth cherishing the bonds of love and friendship. That it is a human duty to look out for others who cannot look out for themselves.

The language of the original is dated. Some of the expressions are unfamiliar to a modern reader. It’s a cracking story, though, and the dozens of films inspired by it (some a lot better than others) take up the sentiment. It seems that there is a deeply ingrained impulse to have a celebration at the darkest time of the year and to remember those who need a little help. I have watched A Muppet Christmas Carol so many times I can practically repeat the dialogue along with the film. I’m still looking forward to it though. It’s not a bad Christmas tradition.

Katy van Cuylenburg: Response to the Writing Prompt!

This is the response from Katy van Cuylenburg to this week’s prompts, which is also in the comments.

Oh wow, that sunrise is…is. I always enjoy a sunrise.It’s so beautiful. Now I have to deal with my sister. I don’t want to do this ever. She killed somebody. She just went out there and killed somebody…a guy. Sliced him to death. She said it was self defense. I believe her. I believe she was left to her own defenses…and her own weapons.

So I’m pulling up in front of the cottage to see her. We have always enjoyed being by the ocean. The rhythm of the tide and waves has always been our zen.

Dinner is on! The bbq is working. Loving this beach house. Okay Sis, tell me…
What gotcha there…How hard did he hurt you? Glad she didn’t go to jail.

This is a great space. Fine house. Beach, tide, sand. I’m happy being here. Glad to have this space. How wonderful she puts on the music.

And then the uniformed contingent arrived. Okay. I can listen. It’s time for alternative situations. Good grief, my sister has always been convinced quicker than me.

I say No! Nee! Nien! Nyet! She yells at me. I don’t care. I feel the need to be me.

I do not run. I do not hide. I leave. I

I love the madness of this!

Weekly Writing Prompt: 8th July 2019

The reason I’m posting a writing prompt is because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

Photo by Christopher Harris on Unsplash
Please credit this photo if you use it

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?

Ursula K LeGuin

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Writing Prompt Response by Marianne Gustavson Madson

Mr Suave

Here is Marianne Gustavson Madson’s response to the writing prompt. Due to similar technical difficulties to Katy, I’ve posted it onto my blog so it can be shared, and I think it is amazing, and I want to know what happens next.

It was the summer of 1974 when Mr. Suave strolled into the popular Hollywood Restaurant’s bar where I sat at a darkened corner table. My head had been bent over my journal as my hand scribbled but the paper suddenly wafted as if struck by a breeze.

My eyes lifted to the sight of a very attractive man whom I immediately named ‘Mr. Suave’. He leaned causally against a bar stool and faced the bartender as if they knew each other.

“Welcome back, the usual?” The bartender said with a smile as he reached where the expensive liquor was stored.

Mr. Suave nodded yes as he gracefully eased onto a bar stool.

My eyes secretly admired Mr. Suave in his expensive black suit which he wore comfortably as if he were in an old shirt and jeans. His body looked agile and lean and he was tall and graceful yet very masculine, I thought as I drank him in.

As if he felt my gaze upon him, he casually looked over his shoulder … at me. His dark chocolate bangs hid one eye while the other checked me out. I blushed from being caught and half lowered my eyes so I could still see him through my lashes. He gave me a lazy smile as he shook his glass in greeting.

I didn’t answer but instead bit my lip as my pen hovered and then froze midair when I saw the chair across from me move.

“Mind if I join you?”

I looked up into a handsome face that made my eyes fully dilate, he looked like a young Cary Grant.

“What are you writing?” He didn’t wait for my answer as he went ahead and sat across from me.

“Just stuff, thoughts.” I said as my eyes met his. “Let me see,” his right hand reached for my journal but stopped …when I said.

“You have pianist hands.

” He looked at me and then at his hands. “I am a pianist, a composer.”

“I knew it, may I?” I asked to hold his hands. He let them rest in my mine as I studied his. I explained with envy in my voice, “you have the right length, that extra tip to play Chopin.”

He laughed, “I can and do, and I know what you mean.”

“What did I say that made you laugh?” “It wasn’t what you said, it’s like the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“So you’re saying I look like a dull book?”

“No, yes, I mean, it’s Hollywood and you look normal to be sitting in a bar.”

“I’m sitting in a dark corner,” I said as if that held weight.

He gave me a long look as he held his glass in front of his lips, he suddenly took a sip and then said. “I want you to hear a piece I’m writing, come back to my place with me.”

I rolled my eyes at him, “I don’t know, I’ve heard tortuous killers can also be good-looking.”

“Harve, please assure the lady she’ll be safe with me.” Mr. Suave called out to the bartender without turning around.

“He’s good,” Harve assured with two thumbs up

Writing Prompt Response from Katy van Cuylenburg

There were some technical difficulties with Katy’s response, so I’m posting it here, but I can’t claim credit. This awesome story is from Katy van Cuylenburg

You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve – JK Rowling

I knew this day would come. I didn’t sleep all night. Awake mostly for the celebrations, dancing, embracing. Including the trepidation of what was to come, the journey.

I must have dozed off. ‘Wake up! Get up!’ yells my Mom shaking me. ‘You’ll be late’. My Mom is a stickler for the rules, old fashioned some would say. She’s okay, she keeps me in line…and goodness knows I need to be kept in line sometimes.

I’m up, dressed, and psyching myself up for the journey. I’m looking forward to the ceremony. I get to see Sadepisara. She’s also making the journey. She’s really cute. I hope I end up in her group. My friend Rankkasade is coming too.

‘How late can you be??’ ‘Stop daydreaming and get you brother ready, your father is waiting for us’. Snapped out of my daydreams, I get my brother into the tram and we head off for the Village Square. The bells are just beginning to ring.

I can hear the roaring coming from the square. The bells are ringing. Have to admit, I’m starting to feel special. I worked hard for this and was chosen. It just seems a bit overwhelming. I don’t like I have to leave, but I’m happy a couple of friends are going with me…and Sadepisara. I’m hoping she notices me.

‘Hey Lumi!’ ‘Over here’ yells Rankkasade. He’s standing with a few I don’t know. I think I recognize two of them. I’m busy looking for Sadepisara.

‘ATTENTION ATTENDEES, ATTENTION’ comes from the podium. A lull falls over the square. The bells ring out the anthem and then also fall silent.

‘Time to form your groups for the journey’ ‘This is special. You are special. Please make sure you report to your group by 1200’

The drums start beating!! The lights flash, flash, jagged lines, and then more drums. They are harder now. I’m looking for my family to wave at them. We are in our groups. ‘Lumi! Lumi! Over here Lumi!’ It’s my Dad. I wave. I think he saw me.

I’m scared. I don’t know what’s at the end of the journey. The lights are bigger now. The drums louder. It’s almost time. A few groups have already gone. We were kept back. We are the biggest, strongest. We are ready! I am ready! Jump!!!!

Here we go….I am the downpour in your Thunderstorm! I am the strongest raindrop you will ever know.

But my future is undecided in what puddle or place I arrive.

Souls of the Dark Sea: A little something to keep you warm

A guest post by AF Stewart, author of the compelling Saga of the Outer Islands series

Bottles of Rum and Drunken Sailors

Now, what seafaring story would be complete without the rum?

Certainly not my Saga of the Outer Islands series.

Rum, or alcohol in general, and sailors (or pirates) is fairly synonymous, as is the scenario of sailors having a bit of a tipple on shore leave. The tradition arose with the old sailing ships keeping men at sea for months at a time, and alcohol becoming a ship ration to ease the trip. However, early stores of liquor for the lowly sailor were wine and beer, (that often went bad) not rum. It was about 1650 that rum become the drink ration of choice, due in part to economics, a surplus of rum, and the durability of the liquor to not go off. The rest is history and good movie lines.

Which leads me back to my book series. Of course, as a seafaring fantasy, the crew of the Celestial Jewel and her Captain like a good drink from time to time. And my books, Ghosts of the Sea Moon and Souls of the Dark Sea, do have plenty of flowing booze, with not only rum but port and other wine, cordial, beer and ale. Even the traditional grog. So here’s a little insight into some of the characters and their favourite drinks.

Captain Rafe Morrow: He can most often be seen with either a glass of wine in his hand or a glass of rum. As a god, alcohol doesn’t affect him significantly, so he drinks quite regularly.

Elliot Blackthorne:  His tastes are a bit more refined with his preferred alcoholic beverage being a good wine or port, though he will take rum with his Captain when asked, or indulge in an ale with the crew at the local tavern. Rum and other spirits tend to go to his head quickly though, so he generally does not imbibe much.

One-Eyed Anders: He likes his ale (and boasts he can drink any man save his captain under the table) or a good glass of rum.

Pinky Jasper: The preferred drink is grog, though he won’t refuse an ale at the tavern.

Lord Merrill: More of a social drinker, he drinks almost exclusively wine, port, or cordial, but has been known to sip whiskey or rum on occasion.


Now for a couple of drink extras.

What is Cordial?

By definition, cordial is a sweet fruit or floral flavoured syrup, but can also refer to a low-alcoholic liqueur or other alcoholic beverage that uses cordial syrup. In my book, a cordial refers to a fruity liqueur.

Here’s a site with a recipe for a berry cordial made with vodka: Berry Cordial

And one for a cordial syrup: How to Make Cordial


What is Grog?

Grog began as a way of keeping sailors from over inebriating from the highly intoxicating rum and for spreading out rations by simply watering down rum. As one might expect, sailors were not happy with this, so later they were allowed to add lime juice, spices and sugar to make it more palatable.


Here’s a good basic grog recipe:





Add all ingredients to a mug with ice and stir to combine.

And another one:

2 ounces dark rum

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon brown sugar

4 ounces hot water

Slice of orange and a cinnamon stick

Mix the rum, lime juice, brown sugar, and hot water in a mug. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.


I hope you enjoyed a little insight into my sailors and rum. Please come join me on the high seas.

Set sail on a new adventure with gods, ghosts and sea monsters. You can find ‘Souls of the Dark Sea in all amazing book shops including Amazon, and it is currently at an offer price of 99p.  Check out the YouTube here and for further wonderful tidbits, check out AF Stewart’s website here