The Substance

courtesy Bissell Bros.

I cannot remember where my love of beer started. It was not the first adult beverage I was exposed to, but living 4 blocks from my town’s craft brewery cemented by love for the frosty beverage.

My appreciate and enjoyment of beer grew when I took a job in the beer business with the top US company that produces draught beer equipment. I was a sales rep that covered the territory of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and West Virginia. No, that isn’t a typo, they were all of similar market size, so they were all one territory (Fun fact: At one point, West Virginia had 16 Budweiser Distributors, 4 alone in Morgantown, home of WVU. They were one of the first institutions of higher learning to allow beer sales at college football games).

Part of my duties were to arrange for draught beer 101 sessions in my territories for 1-2 weeks per year. I would visit my customers and one of my training staff colleagues would put on a class. In turn, I got to sample a lot of great beer. Not only did I love beer, but a lot of the offerings in New England are not available in PA (some of that is due to our VERY backward liquor laws, but that’s another blog post).

About three years in, I learned about Bissell Brothers Brewing. On my next trip to Maine, I met one of their top employees, Seth Vigue, at their first brewery, which was in a strip mall-style industrial park just outside of Portland, Maine. We helped them with draught issues, some parts orders and they sent down staff to attend our three day intensive draught school at our office.

I made my next trip to Maine about seven years ago and they had moved into a new facility in Thompson’s Point, an entertainment venue just outside the city of Portland. And in the midst of a tour of the facility, I learned two awesome things: first, they are fans of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. (English Football Team).

The exterior of the brewery at Thompson’s Point
Bissell Bros Tasting Room – courtesy Landry French Construction

Second, I was introduced to their flagship beer: The Substance.

I took one sip, and after tasting well over one hundred different beer, I fell in love.

This amazing beverage has hazy golden color with a thin white head. The aroma is balanced between tropical fruit with some wheat or oats in the mix I think() that makes for a smooth mouthfeel and softens the landing on the palate overall.

The biggest shock to me is that this is considered an IPA. And I do not like IPAs. Unlike a lot of beers, which have a citrus or wheat type taste – at least the ones I like – IPAs tend to be bitter. The more hops they have, the more bitter the taste.

It is a great beer and I get it every time I am in Maine, which is the only place I could get it, as they only distribute in their home state.

Fast forward to 2019, and I left that company for my current situation. I am very happy I made the move for many reasons, and it turned out the timing was great – they revamped the company and eliminated my positions two weeks after I left.

That means that it’s been almost five years since I last had The Substance.

Cut to August. Michelle and I earned a trip to Boston for our work in 2022, and we went. Our friends live near Portland and we made arrangements to visit them over the weekend after our Boston trip.

We had a sweet Chevy Malibu rental car in Boston and drove almost two hours to our friends’ home in Saco. We had a great time eating pizza from their home wood-fired pizza oven and playing board games. And we made plans to go to Bissell Brothers Saturday for lunch.

The area around Thompson’s point changed a little bit – they had a children’s theater and some of the building occupants changed. This included Bissell Brothers, who took the adjoining building and made another tasting room.

And, for the first time in five long years, I enjoyed two pints of The Substance. It was just as good and smooth as I remembered. It was such a great experience having my favorite beer again. And I was determined not to wait another five years.

I wouldn’t.

To that end, Michelle and I had discussed cancelling our flight home from Portland and driving back. That morning, we confirmed that we would drive home, making stops along the way.

This also allowed me to transport The Substance back home. Two cases, to be exact. Our friends allowed me to borrow two cooler bags and ice packs to keep it cold.

And I got another welcome surprise – Bissell Bros is expanding, and they have it in Philly and just outside DC!

So when the two cases I have are gone, I won’t have to wait another five years to drink it again.

But for now, I am enjoying my favorite beer in my home, and am thankful for the great memories I made during the trip.

Time to Write

courtesy Zazzle

The most common question I’ve been asked lately is “How do you have time to write?”

I’m not as prolific as I’d like to be, as I have a full-time job with a lot of responsibility, plus I am a dad as well (though my kids are older), so I can sympathize with writers who have to raise kids, do household chores and other things that command as much attention as writing.

There are those out there that will share ‘hard truths’ about what you need to do in order to write, but I’m not going to share that, because I find it negative.

I will say I don’t have any crazy secret, no alchemy that I perform to get my writing done (though alchemy is cool). I don’t write every day, and on some days that I am able write, it’s devoted to newsletters, marketing copy and my blog. I also write screenplays, which is a totally different animal altogether and requires a different skill set.

But I think my secret is simple, but not easy, and I truly believe that everyone can do it.

What is it?

I commit to 250 words a day.

Why 250?

A printed page of a book is roughly 250 words. I forget where I heard that, and while it doesn’t apply to every book out there, it’s a standard I’ve aimed for and used as a guide since I began writing. I know (on days when I write), that I can write 250 words.

A page a day.

I can hit that goal. And extrapolating that out, if you write 1 page a day for a year, you have a 365-page book.

Like I said, simple. I won’t claim it’s easy because it’s not and I will add three caveats to that.

First of all, I don’t edit as a I go (which I know a lot of authors do). There is time to edit later. You need words to edit, so getting them on the page is paramount.

Second, I am not a discovery writer. I have (some of semblance of) an outline I work with for every book. I don’t necessarily know every story beat, but I always know my ending, a fully formed scene often near the beginning of the story, and the midpoint. I have those for every story I write, in any medium.

The final caveat is I am referring to writing the book itself. Coming up with the plot, characters and my outline is not a hard-and-fast process. Some days, these things flow out of me like water out of a ruptured dam, and others, I may only get a two-sentence paragraph. I don’t feel – unless you’re on deadline – that you can rush and force this.

So that’s it. Commit to a page a day. It may take awhile at first, but the more you do it, the faster it will go. And I tend to get more than a page done during most of my writing sessions. But I commit to a page.

For my fellow writers: what do you think about this? Can you commit to this simple goal? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

All for One, and More for Me!


My favorite novel is The Three Musketeers. I fell in love with the book as a teen – the swashbuckling, the swordfights (I am thinking of maybe trying fencing as a result), the spying, intrigue, all wrapped up in one tiny package. I visited the final resting place of Alexandre Dumas in Paris when I visited in 2019.

The version I fell in love with was the old Barnes & Noble Classics edition, which contained notations on the translations and backgrounds, etc.

He wrote more stories of D’artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, including the Man in the Iron Mask (which I didn’t read until a few years ago; my knowledge of the tale came form the 1998 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio) and Twenty Years After, which got a Barnes and Noble Classics release as well.

I am saddened to say that I couldn’t get into the story in that sequel. Admittedly the translation and the omission of key story points made it seem disjointed and less than entertaining. I couldn’t finish it.

Enter Lawrence Ellsworth.

Photo by Nina Harwick, courtesy

Mr. Ellsworth, who made his name as a game writer and designer in the 70s and 80s, produced live-action role-playing weekends for 50 to 100 players, specializing in historical productions with romantic themes. While writing and researching The King’s Musketeers for this troupe, he became fascinated with early 17th-century France. This rekindled his interest in swashbuckler fiction, and he has since become a noted reviewer and authority on the subject.

Ellsworth learned French so he could read Dumas’s novels, and Richelieu’s memoirs, in the original language. In the process he did a translation of The Three Musketeers for fun and practice. This led him to compile a full translation and reconstruction of Alexandre Dumas’ “lost” novel The Red Sphinx, published in 2017.

I got a gold of the Red Sphinx last year and read it. While it was not as robust an adventure as Three Musketeers, it was still an entertaining classic tale in the genre. I had looked up Ellsworth again to do research on a future story (not Garrison Chase, but a screenplay this time), I came across his website.

Since Red Sphinx proved to be popular, Simon & Schuster commissioned him to translate the remaining tales in the Musketeer Saga, nine in total, some of which included material previously thought to be lost to time.

My jaw and laptop hit the floor when I read that. My favorite book not only had more stories, but nine in total!

My excitement grew when I read that six had already been published, including Twenty Years After, which included a lost chapter. And the reviews said Mr. Ellsworth’s translations were the best they had come across.


It’s not every day – at least in the book world (films are different) – that you get a continuation of your favorite story. To be able to not only get more, but thousands of pages of material, is a dream come true. I cannot wait to revisit the Musketeers and continue their adventures.

Have any of your favorite books received this treatment? Please let me know in the comments below!

Invisible Hand

courtesy ScreenRant

This past Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Without spoiling it, I will say that if you disliked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (I enjoyed it), you will be happy. It contains plenty of nods to the other films, and has some funny moments that are due to the time (the bulk of the movie takes place in 1969) and also deals, in a realistic way, with Indy’s age (he’s 70) – more on that in a minute.

It also falls in line with the rest of the films in the saga: Indy doesn’t play a strong hand, as most protagonists do, in the fate of the story. Usually, a supernatural force does that.

This is a recent criticism, at least from what I have seen, to the film series. Usually they are from young millennials and Gen Zs, such as Athena Scalzi, daughter of renowned author John Scalzi.

What she, and I’d wager many other, young cinephiles fail to realize, or perhaps are ignorant of, is that Indiana Jones is a character inspired by the serials of the 30s and 40s, where such deus ex machina and elements were common.

She was also, and I admit this is conjecture, raised on the Marvel films, where men and women with superpowers and other unique gifts utilize them to save the day or the world.

But that’s not Indy. In fact, George Lucas deliberately made him different from the heroes of his childhood serials – like Flash Gordon and Doc Savage.

He’s a lot like us.

For every weekend fighting a Thuggee cult, there are countless months in which he’s just at home on a Saturday eating soup in front of the TV. He’s a professor. He grades papers and gives lectures, and attendance lectures. All the trappings of academia and mediocrity.

Since he doesn’t have superpowers, Lucas, Philip Kaufman and Steven Spielberg needed to give their hero other attributes to help him succeed. For Jones, they gave him heart. He doesn’t always win the fight. In fact, he gets his ass kicked on the regular. He doesn’t take a thrashing and walk away like nothing happened. He aches. He gets hurt. He makes mistakes.

In fact, that’s one of the main characteristics of Indy. He just won’t stay down. Maybe even when he should, he keeps fighting.

We’ve all had our asses kicked at some point. Maybe not in a literal way, but at some point you will face those odds that seem insurmountable. Unwinnable. Someone faster, or smarter…or just more powerful than yourself.

And in the case of these films, that power is usually a supernatural force that makes itself known. And, what Ms. Scalzi is unlikely aware of, was part of what the 30s and 40s serials were known for. So naturally, they made their way to Indy’s world.

In Raiders, the Ark of the Covenant’s destructive power was turned on the Nazis. In Temple, the Shankara stones took care of Mola Ram. Donovan fell prey to the false Holy Grail. And Irina Spalko thought, incorrectly, that she could know all the interdimensional beings knew.

And in Dial…well, you’ll have to see the film.

The larger point, is, this happens in life as well. There are always things that are out of our control that happen to us. Despite our best efforts, fate, the universe, or unseen forces do what they do. Sometimes they help, other times they don’t. Maybe we can take a cue from Indy and stay down, but keep fighting.

Maybe that’s one of the lasting themes of that saga.


I have to say thank you to everyone who came out to my signing on Thursday. I am beyond grateful for everyone who took the time out of their day to support me and grab their own copies of Garrison Chase’s adventures!

A special thank you to Amber DeLouis for hosting me at Hippie Girl Collection! Despite the fact that she is closing her store and making it mobile she made me feel welcome and greeted everyone who came in with her trademark smile and sunny disposition. I can’t thank you enough.

She even took this wonderful photo my friend, Josh, and me.

For those that couldn’t make it, my next signing is Friday, August 4th, from 6-8 at Gather 256 on 256 W. Philadelphia Street in York.