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Pulse – events & entertainment

I love hearing stories about self-published authors who go on to reach millions! One such person is Andy Weir, author of The Martian. His debut novel puts the science back in science fiction—in the most fascinating, engaging way.

Weir, a self-proclaimed “nerd,” funneled his interests in space travel, orbital dynamics, relativistic physics, astronomy and manned spaceflight into this riveting, science-based story. It documents the experiences of astronaut Mark Watney, who finds himself stranded on Mars, with his crew and everyone on Earth thinking he’s dead. His struggle to survive and contact Earth—through his ingenuity, engineering skills and sheer force of will—is entertaining and educational at the same time.

Weir self-published The Martian in 2011. He first released it on his website, where he offered it for free. Then, at the request of a few readers who wanted a Kindle version, he released it as an e-book on Amazon. It sold more and more copies, becoming an online phenomenon. Then came a print publishing deal and movie deal.

The movie, which will be released October 2015, is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon. I can’t wait to see how the screenplay portrays Mark Watney’s solitary, desperate, sometimes humorous struggle to survive against impossible odds. If you haven’t yet read this book, you still have a couple months to dive in before the movie hits the theaters.

P.S. Love the reference to “Martian vampires” on p. 33!

Pulse – events & entertainment

Local bookstores provide a huge benefit to the local community. When you buy books in your local bookstore, a large chunk of that money stays in the community. Buying locally means less packing and transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint. It also means more local events, local interest books and local authors.

Take Bookshop Santa Cruz, for example. If you’ve never been to their website before, visit it now, http://www.bookshopsantacruz.com. They have events, book groups, staff recommendations for books, newsletters and much more.

One event I’m really excited to attend is their newly launched Books & Brews Passport Series, which combines a love of literature and a love of craft beer—2 of my favorite things. The next Books & Brews event is a book talk & signing with William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, 7 p.m., July 28, 2015 at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, 402 Ingalls Street in Santa Cruz. Special offer: Buy a copy of Barbarian Days at this event and get a pint for a penny! What a great deal!

You can pick up a Books & Brews Passport at Bookshop Santa Cruz or print one online. Get it stamped at at least 2 events in the series and you’ll be entered to win a $150 Bookshop gift card.

Bookshop Santa Cruz is also a huge supporter of local authors. They have a consignment program and even offer an additional promotional package to help get the word out.

You can find my DARK SURF novel on the Bookshop Santa Cruz website and in the bookstore. Since a couple chapters are set in Santa Cruz (and a major event occurs there in the story), it’s a great fit!

Speaking of the bookstore, it’s a fun place to wander around—for hours. Located at 1520 Pacific Avenue in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, it fills over 20,000 square feet with a wide selection of new, used and sale books along with magazine, card and gift sections. Be sure to visit (often) and buy a book (or several). It’s up to us to support locally owned, independent bookstores—especially ones like Bookshop Santa Cruz, which do so much to support local readers and writers.

Dark Surf front cover

Dark Surf front cover

Crave – food & drink

Another gem for you in Lake County, Calif. is Brassfield Estate Winery. The grounds alone are worth the drive up the hill and the wines are truly amazing.

Brassfield Estate Winery & Vineyard is located in the western section of High Valley at High Serenity Ranch. I had the opportunity to tour the gorgeous estate, which spans 2,500 acres across the eastern and western sections of High Valley, including the Round Mountain Volcano. The estate includes 270 acres of grapes—all planted since 2001. The east-west transverse valley, bordered by Clearlake, creates 40 to 50 degree temperature swings from warm days to cool nights. Elevations range from valley floor vineyards, which sit at an 1,800-foot elevation, to higher vineyard blocks that rise to nearly 3,000 feet. These microclimates allow for a range of grape varietals; Brassfield currently has 16. Many of the white varietals are planted on the valley floor around the oak trees, while the reds are planted on the hills.

Brassfield Estate Winery vineyards

Brassfield Estate Winery vineyards

The beautiful winery, tasting room and visitor center is Early California style, inspired by Spanish and Italian influences.

Brassfield Estate Winery and Tasting Room/Visitor Center

Brassfield Estate Winery and Tasting Room/Visitor Center

The tasting room decor is exceptional, creating an elegant ambiance ideal for tasting fine wines. The bars and doors were even milled from English burl walnut trees harvested from the land.

Brassfield Estate Winery tasting room

Brassfield Estate Winery Tasting Room

Brassfield wines are estate grown, produced and bottled. In the tasting room, a flight of 5 wines can be purchased for $5—which is a bargain for wines of this quality. My favorites of the day:

  • The 2013 Muscato ($22) bursts with aromas of juicy peaches & honeysuckle, and fruit-forward flavors of candied figs, honeydew & pineapple. It finishes with soft, ripe nectarines. This wine smells and tastes like summer in a glass!
  • The 2012 High Valley Appellation Petite Sirah (Volcano Ridge Vineyard, $40) is rich & inky-dark with aromas of huckleberries & blueberries. On the palate, it’s anything but petite. Blackberries, mixed berries, dried herbs & stewed black plums mix together in this bold, polished wine.
  • The 2006 Zinfandel Elevado ($40) may be my all-time favorite port-style fortified dessert wine. It’s that good! (And since I’m half Portuguese, I know a good port-style wine.) The brandy used in the fortification was made from Brassfield’s estate-grown Zinfandel. This wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black plums, figs & date pudding. The rich flavors pair well with chocolate, blue cheese & aged gouda.

My companions and I brought home a bottle of each. Full disclosure: I drank most of the Elevado. I wish I had brought home more. Next time!

Brassfield Estate Winery tree and vineyard

Brassfield Estate Winery tree and vineyard

Fun fact: Even the wildlife in the area find Brassfield wines irresistible. Bears from the adjacent 1,000-acre wildlife preserve snuck into the vineyard and devoured the 2013 Tempranillo grapes. Smart bears! But, sadly, no Tempranillo that year for the humans.

Crave – food & drink

Here is the first of 2 winery gems in Lake County, Napa’s neighbor to the north: Steele Wines.

Steele Wines has 5 labels and 20 wine varietals. I had the opportunity to sample a few from the Steele label, the namesake label for owner and winemaker Jed Steele.

  • Steele 2013 Carneros Chardonnay (Durrell Vineyard) is oaky, buttery and awesome—a perfect Chardonnay ($24).
  • Steele 2012 Lake County Zinfandel (Catfish Vineyard) is well-balanced with juicy, wild berry flavors ($24). Originally planted in 1901, the 7-acre Catfish Vineyard is one of the few Lake County survivors of Prohibition. This rustic Zin, which is grown in the red volcanic soils of the Kelseyville Bench, would pair well with a wide array of dishes.
  • Steele 2012 Lake County Cabernet Franc ($18) has aromas and flavors of soft cherries. I had the opportunity to barrel-taste the 2013 and 2014 Cab Franc—and I’m already looking forward to the release of both.
Sampling wine in the Steele Wines tasting room

Sampling wine in the Steele Wines tasting room

The Steele label wines are known for being full-bodied, rich and complex—and I agree. In fact, my companions and I enjoyed our tasting so much, we brought home a bottle of each of the wines I mentioned above.

The Steele Wines tasting room is located at 4350 Thomas Drive in Kelseyville, just off Highway 29. Stop by & tell them Dark Surf Nightly sent you.

Barrel tasting at Steele Wines

Barrel tasting at Steele Wines

Crave – food & drink

Here at Dark Surf Nightly we like to explore the “dark” side of the coast—including hidden gems and secret tips. Wow, do I have a hidden gem for you! The wineries of Lake County, Calif.

Lake County is located just north of Napa County. Napa, of course, is a renowned & wildly popular wine region that attracts millions of oenophiles each year. Some locals even say Napa gets more visitors than Disneyland in the summer. (And when you’re sitting in traffic on Highway 29, it’s easy to believe.)

So what’s cool about Lake County? Plenty. It has California’s largest natural freshwater lake, dormant volcano Mount Konocti, and—unlike its neighbor to the south—no traffic between wineries.

In my next 2 posts, I’ll talk about two stellar wineries I visited in Lake County: Steele Wines and Brassfield Estate Winery.

In the meantime, here are 2 quick tips for restaurants in Lake County:

Saw Shop Bistro – Located at 3825 Main Street in downtown Kelseyville, Saw Shop Bistro features a seasonal menu and wide selection of Lake County wines. We were there on a Tuesday, which meant there were $5 local wines and $5 food specials. We shared several delicious small plates, including a Caesar Salad ($5 special), Rangoons ($5 special), and a small Salmon Pizza ($12). I’ve never had a salmon pizza before but this was incredible. And I got a glass of juicy, berry-filled Steele Zinfandel (Catfish Vineyard) for only $5 (more on this wine in my next post).

Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe – Located at 9550 Main Street, the Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe is adjacent to the historic Tallman Hotel in the country town of Upper Lake. The restaurant is a re-creation of the town’s original saloon built in the 1880s and demolished during Prohibition. We chose the outdoor garden seating to enjoy the balmy evening. Since this restaurant also features local wines, we ordered a bottle of Wildhurst Reserve Chardonnay—oaky butterscotch perfection. Wanting something fresh & light for dinner, I ordered the Mediterranean Plate ($14). It has tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives & feta in an Italian dressing with quinoa tabouleh. I enjoyed it so much, I’ve made it my goal to replicate this dish at home this summer.

And to top it all off, we stayed in a gorgeous house in Lucerne on Clear Lake. Enjoy the view…

Dock on Clear Lake in Lake County, Calif.

Dock on Clear Lake in Lake County, Calif.

View of Clear Lake from Lucerne in Lake County, Calif.

View of Clear Lake from Lucerne in Lake County, Calif.

Sunset over Clear Lake in Lake County, Calif.

Sunset over Clear Lake in Lake County, Calif.

Book Buzz – DARK SURF news & goings-on

The DARK SURF ebook is only 99 cents June 19–21 with this special Smashwords coupon!

To celebrate International Surfing Day 6/20 and the Summer Solstice 6/21, you can get the DARK SURF ebook for only 99 cents—67% off the $2.99 retail price—with a special coupon code at Smashwords!

Your coupon code is: SQ97P

This coupon code is good only at Smashwords June 19–21. Please feel free to share this code with your friends & family!

How to redeem your coupon code:

  • Visit https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/535860 OR visit Smashwords.com & enter DARK SURF in the Search box
  • Click the “Buy” or “Give as a Gift” button
  • Sign in or create a free Smashwords account (it’s super-easy!)
  • Enter the Coupon Code SQ97P & click “Checkout”
  • Choose your payment method (credit card or PayPal)

What better way to kick off summer than with a juicy beach read? DARK SURF, the novel, is also perfect for summer trips, lounging poolside, lying on the sand after hitting the surf, or curling up in bed with a cool glass of your favorite summertime beverage.

Dark Surf front cover

Dark Surf front cover

Book Buzz – DARK SURF news & goings-on

As a loyal DARK SURF Nightly reader, you already know you can find the DARK SURF paperback & e-book at Amazon

But did you know this fun & fast-paced novel is now available at multiple online retailers? 

Yes! You can now find DARK SURF, the novel, at:

And with summer coming, it’s an ideal time for a good “beach read” or fun book for travel. So … “Do you wanna surf forever?”

Crave – food & drink

It’s hard to leave the coast but I make the sacrifice every once in a while if I have a good reason. Alpine Beer Company in Alpine, Calif. is a good reason. This tiny brewery is in East County San Diego—a straight shot across Interstate 8 East, just over 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

On this trip, I discovered the best brown ale I’ve ever had—Koffee Sutra. This coffee brown ale, which weighs in at 6% ABV, smells and tastes like an iced coffee—with a kick. A seasonal beer, this brown ale is cold-brewed with coffee, which imparts a whole lot of flavor. It’s definitely growler-worthy so, yes, I got a growler to go. I really hope they have this on tap on my next visit; I might get 2 growlers. It’s that good!

Alpine Beer Company

Alpine Beer Company

Tip: Just a few doors down from Alpine Beer Co. is Tapatio’s Mexican Grill and Seafood. Here, I always get the fish burrito ($5.25). Big beer-battered chunks of fish are served in a soft flour tortilla, along with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and a tangy white sauce. ¡Muy bueno!

Tapatio's Fish Burrito

Tapatio’s Fish Burrito

Book Buzz – DARK SURF news & goings-on

The DARK SURF novel just earned a review rating of 5 out of 5 stars on Readers’ Favorite!

Check out what Readers’ Favorite reviewer Anne-Marie Reynolds had to say:

Readers' Favorite 5 Stars “Dark Surf by TC Zmak is a horror story with a difference. Jake Ryder’s life changes in an instant when his best friend is killed by a great white shark while surfing. This isn’t the first shark death though – the numbers have been steadily rising for some time. Lani Marley is an FBI agent and is investigating the shark-related deaths while she is on vacation. There seems to be a link between these deaths and a group of surfers called the Nomads, a completely new breed of vampires who are led by Tristan Pierce. Jake and Lani become involved with the Nomads – Lani to find out what they have in connection with it, and Jake to try to find the last surfer to see his friend alive. Neither of them banked on falling in love with members of the surf group, and neither of them could ever have imagined the truth and the consequences of playing in the surf at night.

“Dark Surf by TC Zmak was an amazing story! I was hooked right from page one and could not put it down until the very end. I have always loved vampire tales; this was something so completely different, such a unique take on an age-old story, and that is what will give this book the edge over all the other vampire stories on the market today. Exceptionally well written, with a fantastic story line and well developed characters. TC Zmak allowed us regular insights into the background of each character in a measured manner, drawing out the details and giving the story some real depth. Absolutely loved it, can’t wait for part two!”

Thank you Readers’ Favorite & Anne-Marie Reynolds!

Read the full review at: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/dark-surf

You can find more reviews for DARK SURF, the first book in the DARK SURF series, at: http://www.darksurf.com/books/reviews

Book Buzz – DARK SURF events

You’re invited to a DARK SURF Happy Hour & Book Signing, May 20, 2015, 5-7 p.m.!

The Otter’s Den
3166 Vista Del Camino (next to Wells Fargo Bank; cross street is Reservation Rd.)
Marina, CA 93933
(Ages 21+)

Wanna have some fun? Join me for a special Happy Hour & Book Signing to kick off summer “beach reading” season. The Otter’s Den will be pouring Mermaid’s Red from Coronado Brewing Co.—one of my favorite West Coast-style red ales & one of the beers mentioned in DARK SURF—along with a selection of other beers, wines and cocktails.

DARK SURF books & T-shirts will be available for sale. If you’ve already purchased a book & would like it signed, please bring it and I’d be happy to sign or inscribe it for you. We’ll have free drawings, and give away free bumper stickers & bookmarks too.

This event is open to the public, so tell your friends!

Free drawings • Free bumper stickers & bookmarks • DARK SURF books & T-shirts for sale • No host bar