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This startup’s industry disruption isn’t a short-term stay

The Vacasa team

The Vacasa team

New article for Palo Alto Software’s LivePlan business/startup blog

The startup dream: figuring out how to turn an industry on its head and capture the market.

I’m fascinated by people who dream big and work hard. It helps me figure out things in my own life and business, and I find it inspiring to learn about how people work together and trust their own insights to think differently and change established industries.

As automation and tech play an ever-growing role in some of the most successful startups, it pays to think about the role that humans will continue to play in growing businesses. Vacasa, a full-service vacation rental company, is a good example of how to do it right. They took advantage of a market that was ripe for disruption and leveraged both tech and the human touch in a ratio that has helped them scale their business while building an experience that sets them apart from their competitors.

The full story, Disrupting an Industry Takes Not Just Tech, but a Human Touch, is on Palo Alto Software’s LivePlan Blog.

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The heart of Oregon wine country also grows #craftbeer innovation

New article in the Oregon Beer Growler’s February issue

For five years now, I’ve been writing monthly for the Oregon Beer Growler. For both beer fans and for folks in the business, the OBG talks about all things in Oregon’s craft beer industry.

For the new February 2018 issue, I got to talk with the founders of 2 new fascinating breweries in McMinnville, Oregon. This wee place in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country is no unlikely #craftbeer hotspot though. It’s also the home to some snazzy taprooms, and to Heater Allen Brewing, one of my personal fave breweries and one of the few US breweries that exclusively brews craft lagers (email me if you want to know why that’s so impressive).

One brewery, Allegory, has some very cool plans for experimental and aged beers. The other, Evasion, is cranking out some fascinating gluten-free beers that they think of as gluten-free beers for anybody.

The OBG is available online and in print, here’s where to get it:

Oregon Beer Growler

2 events at the heart of Oregon #craftbeer

2 events at the heart of Oregon #craftbeer: New #craftbeer article in the Register-Guard

Image source: NK Beer Photography via The Register-Guard

As you know, writing about the Eugene/Springfield craft beer scene means I get to talk to some of the coolest people in the world, then share their stories with you. (Sometimes I think my cheeky-yet-true tagline should be “People pay me to talk to cool people.”)

This month in the local paper, The Register-Guard, “It’s Fe-brew-ary!” we’re highlighting 2 big area events that are at the heart of #craftbeer in Oregon: the KLCC Brewfest and Zwicklemania. Their own growth shows how craft beer has grown, and how much the industry and the people here do for one another.

Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Stars in your beer

Stars in your beer - B.S. Trotter - Rucksack Universe Anthony St. Clair

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

Okay, we all know that after a couple of pints you can, well, see things. But for Londoners they were not expecting to see strange things in their beer.

I want to make a distinction here: they are seeing strange things in their beer, not because of their beer. We all sometimes see strange things because of beer, typically because we should have stopped about five pints back.

Street lights turn weird for me. After I’ve had a few too many I always find that the street lights, instead of just shining and being bright, in fact have a sort of halo. The light hangs in cloudy rings around the light bulb, as if the lampposts were strangely camouflaged angels. Sometimes I think I’m seeing the world how painter Vincent Van Gogh saw things when he painted his famed Starry Night.

Then I realize I probably just need a kabob and my bed.

However, Londoners are seeing the strangest thing in their pints. Reports and calls and letters have been flooding in to London Rising that all over the city, when someone first picks up a brimming-full pint of their favorite blackest stout, they see a star inside.

Folks, that’s not fancy talk from a humble itinerant reporter suddenly aspiring to be a poet. That’s what people have said, over and over and over. The same thing.

A star.

They look at their pint, which is dark as night sky, and in the middle of the beer, it’s as if they see a small spark. It’s there just a moment, then it either fades or simply can’t be seen anymore or wasn’t there to begin with.

First Call Brewing declined a request to be interviewed for this story. However, the cheeky buggers did point out that no stars are used to brew Galway Pradesh Stout.

Keep those reports coming in, though. I’ve heard it said that after a good pint you can understand the universe. Like you I didn’t expect to see the universe in my beer, but I’ve a feeling the universe is a better place for it.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.

Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Brewing School Launches in London

Brewschool - BS Trotter - Rucksack Universe

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

BrewSchool has opened in London, England. Focused on “brewing brewers,” the teaching operation will train prospective professional brewers in all aspects of the beer industry. Areas of training include developing recipes; the brewing process; equipment selection, ordering, installation, and maintenance; finances and regulation; scaling business; packaging (kegs, bottles, and cans); marketing; and serving beer.

Founded by longtime homebrewer Zara Porter, BrewSchool is an interesting new initiative in the industry. “BrewSchool gives women and men the opportunity to understand every aspect of this ancient and complex process,” says Porter. “By the time students graduate BrewSchool, they will be ready to bring value to any of the world’s breweries, or start their own.”

Porter’s younger sister, Branwen, is the newly appointed second-in-command at First Call Brewing, which recently regained its independence from Deep, Inc., and left London to return to its roots in New Galway, Ireland. First Call is among over a dozen breweries that have already pledged support for BrewSchool and its first class of graduates.

In addition to setting up shop in London, Porter has also negotiated certifications and special offers for BrewSchool graduates. Students will be eligible for business planning services, apprenticeships at small breweries and large operations such as First Call, and will also be eligible for special financing offers for new business startups.

BrewSchool offers a new way to get into the esoteric industry. “Brewing will always rely in part on the apprentice model and being a self-starter,” says Porter. “However, all brewers benefit from an understanding of the full process, and they can then build on this strong foundation of knowledge and training depending on where their professional journey takes them.”

Porter is embarking on a two-month world tour to promote the school, develop and further relationships with breweries abroad, and recruit students. The first formal training sessions, each lasting six months, are expected to begin early next year.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.

New Guidebook Shows the Real Independent Scotland

Rucksack Universe - New Guidebook Shows the Real Independent Scotland - BS Trotter

A FREE Rucksack Universe Short Story

Rucksack Universe Short Stories are available for free at They may or may not be canonical, and may or may not be as polished as other stories. Enjoy.

Like what you see here? Visit the Rucksack Universe for available books in the ongoing series.

Originally published in London Rising.
From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Scotland has been a favorite travel destination for years, and you’ll soon find, Constant Companion, that Guru Deep’s new Scotland Through the Third Eye guidebook will be a favorite for your backpack or suitcase. The timing couldn’t be better: 75 years ago this month, the signing of the Treaty of Stirling restored Scotland’s independence as a sovereign nation in a post-Blast world.

Scotland is a country of hard history yet enduring romance. The rolling hills of the Highlands. The lush Lowlands. The otherworldliness of the narrow yet boundless islands. Two powerhouse cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, each pull you in its own way. There is so much to see that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, for any traveler hitting the road, there is nothing like a good guide to help you on your way.

Through the Third Eye guidebooks have become common sights with travelers over the years. This latest installment is an excellent reminder why the series has become essential to anyone from backpackers to business travelers. Available beginning this Tuesday (prepping for weekend adventures, anyone?), Deep’s Scotland is 300 pages of witty, concise, informative, encouraging travel information. At its core, an adventurous heart will have you swooning for everything from a taste of whisky in the Highlands and a romp through Edinburgh and Glasgow, to a boat ride to the Isle of Skye and a reflective moment in Stirling Castle, where the Treaty of Stirling was signed.

“Scotland is one of the most fascinating countries and cultures in the world,” says Guru Deep. “With the anniversary of independence approaching, it was time to put out the definitive guide to a country of such deep history and geographical variety.”

Deep’s singular style also accompanies you like a travel companion. Beginning with an introduction that lays out Scottish history and gives an overview of modern Scotland, the book’s organization is similar to other Through the Third Eye titles. After the introduction, a general planning guide addresses logistics such as getting there, transportation, money matters, passport and visa particulars, and other details. From there the book is organized by region: Lowlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Highlands, and Islands. Within each section, further breakdowns by region or city are included, along with well-organized chapters that cover accommodation, food and drink, top destinations, popular itineraries, and more.

Of particular note is the guidebook’s extensive history of Scotland, especially its details of Scottish independence. After The Blast, with the British Empire failing in the wake of London burning, Scotland (along with Ireland and India) was able to gain its independence through a bloodless revolution. Deep takes us beyond the history books, showing us the story behind the story that is as enthralling as a good novel. Post-Blast independence movements have been lauded as miracles. For the first time we delve deeply into the figures—and legends—that took Scotland from being part of a United Kingdom, to becoming the driving force that transformed the island of Britain into three separate countries: England, Scotland, and Wales.

“Independence movements seem like mandates only in hindsight,” Deep writes. “Scotland’s independence was not a foregone conclusion. It was a modern miracle: a confluence of circumstance, a triumph of negotiation over violence, and a legend of a singular figure who rose from the void and led a people and a country to a new vision of themselves.”

Reception among the travel community has been positive overall. Travelers have noted the ease of use that Through the Third Eye guidebooks consider a hallmark. “There is so much here that I never knew about Scotland,” says a traveler who gave his name only as Jay. “I could spend a lifetime there and still not see everything.”

Other travelers noted the quality of maps and photographs, always a friend to the traveler. There are enough photos to pique your wanderlust. The maps, especially of urban areas, are rendered with the best detail and accuracy in the industry.

Deep and his army of guidebook-writing travelers have gone over every inch of Scotland, meeting fascinating figures throughout its rural areas, villages, and cities. Never before has a guidebook on this fascinating place delved so deeply, especially into areas such as the islands, from the Shetlands and Orkneys in the north, to Inner and Outer Hebrides, such as Islay and even distant St. Kilda. You’ll see cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness in a new light. Even if you’ve been to them before, you’ll be ready to go again and experience them as if for the first time.

Legend also accompanies fact, such as tales of a mysterious leatherworker on the Isle of Lewis. Does he exist? Is his genius real? Can you pay for his wares with a dead polecat you found on the side of the road? Does he, in fact, control the fate of Scotland?

Scotland has changed much since its days in the British Empire, and Scotland Through the Third Eye bravely shows this ancient, fascinating country in the detail and respect Scotland deserves. The care taken with detail is exquisite. The writing is evocative and inspiring. And you, dear traveler, might as well pick up your copy and then immediately buy a ticket to get you there as soon as possible.

“We set out in the Third Eye books to give travelers the world over a way to feel like they were in a place, even if they weren’t there yet,” explains Guru Deep. “Once they had arrived, we wanted them to feel like we were wandering together. Our new Scotland adventure is a culmination of research and on-the-ground exploration. We get to know the real Scotland, and the real people and history who make this place what it is. Scotland remains one of my favorite destinations, and this guidebook is not only the newest in the series, it is also the fulfillment of a personal quest. I have gotten to explore Scotland the way I have always wanted to explore Scotland—and now I hope you do too.”

Rucksack UniverseThe Rucksack Universe Series

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing series of myth, adventure, beer, and globetrotting intrigue.

10 ways you can support this indie author & THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

web-TheLotusandtheBarley-AnthonyStClairA quick favor for The Lotus and the Barley? By now, you’ve likely heard about my latest Rucksack Universe novel, The Lotus and the Barley. There’s good momentum building, but the more momentum the better for my books, especially this fourth installment in the series. It’s also an exciting time because this book comes out as I’m passing the 5-year milestone of being a full-time author and professional writer. Your support is part of what makes that possible.

Long post to follow, so here’s the too-long-didn’t-read (TL;DR) version. Please… tell someone about my books; or come to the July 15 Facebook launch; or come to the Aug. 25 community launch at Tsunami Books Eugene; or buy a copy; or request from your library; or read it with your book club; or review it online. Or all of the above. Buy links and book info:

About the book

This latest book is about two sisters who have to choose between their dreams and each other—and it’s about two enemies (Faddah Rucksack and the often-mentioned, now-to-be-introduced Guru Deep) who renew a bitter vendetta. Set in a rebuilt, post-Blast London, the story is also my most “beerpunk” yet. Readers are saying they love not only the characters (especially the sisters, plus some have said Guru Deep is a new favorite villain) and a few bits with some swords, but also all the insights into the process and poetry of brewing—and enjoying—fantastic beer.

How you can help

Are you willing to help this book? Here are 10 things you can do, some of them in 5 minutes or less, most of them for free. I’d be so grateful if you’d pick just one and let me know how I can return the favor.

1. Tell someone about the Rucksack Universe.

If you know someone who is interested in… travel… fantasy… beer… complicated fascinating characters… alternate worlds… themes of decision, destiny, transformation, and identity… then that’s someone who would really enjoy my books. Spread the word.

2. Come to the online book launch on Facebook on Friday, July 15.

I’ll be on Facebook all day, answering questions, doing live video chats, talking books and beer and travel and such, and offering 5-year-anniversary specials on the Rucksack Universe.
 Here’s the event page so you can put it on your calendar.

3. Come to the community book launch at Tsunami Books in Eugene on Aug. 25.

There’s absolutely no obligation to buy a copy of the book—we just want to pack the store with support for The Lotus and the Barley, as well as for my 3 fellow authors who are also launching new books:

  • Valerie Ihsan, The Scent of Apple Tea
  • Tanya J. Peterson, Twenty-Four Shadows
  • Gina Oschner, The Hidden Letters of Velta B.

Here’s the event page so you can put it on your calendar.

4. Purchase a copy of the book for a friend or loved one.

The book is available from any online or physical bookstore. You can also purchase e-books and signed paperbacks directly from me—e-books bought from my store include versions for all devices, and signed paperbacks are available only when buying direct.

5. Request a copy from your local library.

That goes for e-books too: nowadays many libraries lend both printed books and e-books. (You can also mention that Forever the Road was a top fantasy pick for 2015 in the American Library Association’s SELF-e program.)

6. Consider reading a Rucksack Universe title with your book club.

Each title in the series is interconnected yet stands alone, so it’s easy to try out one or many. Special book club discounts are available, as are discussion materials. I’m also available for online and in-person chats. If you’d like Rucksack Universe books for your club, just get in touch with me directly.

7. Keep an eye on my Facebook author page and new YouTube channel.

I’m realizing that some people probably think I just bake bread all day. Now that I’ve (finally) gotten a post-book launch, post-kitchen renovation haircut, I’m doing more online video to talk about The Lotus and the Barley, answer reader questions, as well as to discuss my work, why I use fantasy for my stories, and lots of other things that I think you’ll find worth watching and sharing. Keep an eye on my Facebook author page and new YouTube channel for more videos, and please send me your questions too.

8. Review it on Goodreads

If you read The Lotus and the Barley and like it, post a review on Goodreads at this link: and share on social media. Heck, feel free to post if you don’t like the novel. I can take it. 🙂

9. Or post a review at your favorite bookstore.

Bookstore websites let you post reviews, so please post a review to one of these: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iBooks (or whichever is your favorite). Please share your review on social media too. Reviews sell books, and yours will help so much.

10. Follow my email list or social media for the latest Rucksack Universe news.

Sign up for my author email list, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter @anthonystclair.

Thank you for all your help. And please do let me know when I can return the favor!

It’s here! THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY, out now

The Lotus and the Barley, Anthony St. Clair

It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m so, so thrilled to tell you that, at long last, The Lotus and the Barley, the fourth Rucksack Universe adventure, is out now in e-book and paperback!

Readers are saying they were “totally blown away” and were “surprised and delighted at every page.”

You can get your copy now, or gift a copy to someone you know, all direct from me or from your favorite bookstore. And if you prefer to shop in a physical bookstore, you can request the book and they can order it in, easy-peasy.

Buying my books and telling others about the Rucksack Universe makes it possible for me to continue creating and sharing these stories. Thank you again for all your support, and enjoy The Lotus and the Barley!

The taste-off: the next-to-last sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. ClairIt’s the next-to-last sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY! I hope you’ve enjoyed these wee tastes of the fourth Rucksack Universe adventure.

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY comes out June 16. Preorder today from:

Buy now from

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

The book will also be available in trade paperback. Through June 11, you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 signed copies! (US only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the final sneak peek!


Sneak Peek: The taste-off

“ZARA KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT tasting beer,” said Branwen. “She can taste a hop substitution while stuffed up with a head cold.”

Rucksack and Zara locked eyes and grinned. Then they each took a long draw of their pints.

“You bottled this ten days ago,” Rucksack said. “And since you did the boil on your stove, there’s some caramelization.” He took a smaller sip, moving it around his palate before swallowing. “But you anticipated that and compensated by adding more hops to increase the bitterness.”

“Is that all you notice?” Zara asked.

“The New Galway Gold hops have been less bitter this year,” Rucksack replied. “All that damn rain in Ireland. Ah, o’ course. So you also bumped up the roasted barley and used a hotter roast,” he added. “That was risky. Easily could have come out too astringent, out of balance.”

It’s like he was there with us, Branwen thought. It’s like he’s reading my notes.

“But it didn’t,” Rucksack continued, and Zara’s eyes brightened as he said, “Because you lowered the temperature while steeping the malted barley, to enhance the sweetness of the sugars being drawn out!”

They all clinked glasses and drank more stout. “It’s been ages since I could talk that level o’ detail,” Rucksack said. “Thank you.”

“Same to you,” Zara replied. “I’m… impressed. You really know your beer.”

“I didn’t know we had a brother,” Branwen said, nudging her sister.

“Oh, saying I was long lost would be putting it mildly,” Rucksack said.

“You’re not going to hit on us, are you?” Zara asked. “Because to put it mildly, you’re wasting your time.”

“Thank goodness,” Rucksack replied. “For a moment I thought you were going to hit on me.” He drank more of his pint, which was now almost empty. Then he stared at a spot over Zara’s head, then Branwen’s, almost as if he were reading something?

“You two really know your stuff,” Rucksack said. “This homebrew is amazing… but it’s not a clone o’ GPS.”

The smile fell off Zara’s face. Branwen’s breath paused.

“It’s the closest I’ve ever encountered,” Rucksack continued. “It’s a damn sight better than the swill passing off for it here tonight. It’s certainly making me feel more myself. But it doesn’t have the secret.”

“So we’ve kind of made GPS,” said Branwen, “only not GPS as it’s supposed to be, but as it is right now.”

“I suppose you could put it that way,” said Rucksack.

“How are we supposed to figure out what na Grúdairí themselves don’t know anymore?” Branwen asked. “That magic, that secret—it’s gone.”

Zara snorted.

Branwen stared at her sister. Before she knew it she said, “You don’t believe in the secret, but something can be real without anyone else believing it. Existence is truth, and it doesn’t give a damn about being believed in. You don’t believe in the secret, that’s your deal, but don’t mock me for what I think.”

Eyes wide, Zara sat back and said nothing.

Rucksack stared from one sister to the other. Again he stared above their heads. Then he was silent, as if he had traveled deep inside his self, into some private world that even from the outside felt as big as the universe. “You said you had studied the lore o’ GPS,” he said slowly. “What have you learned about what it was, and what it is now?”

“For eons there has been the beer,” said Branwen, “and some have said that without the beer the eons wouldn’t have happened. Wherever there has been joy or grief, a hard day or a good day, a lonely drink or a lively party, there has been Galway Pradesh Stout. All around the world, from taps and bottles, the beer has poured. No beer has been as popular or long lived as GPS.”

“Exactly. Today should be like any other day,” replied Rucksack. “People went to the pub after work. Couples opened bottles at dinner. Friends clinked glasses as they watched the match. Some savored their last pint, some their first. Solitary drinkers ordered another GPS, thick and black, with a pillowy-white head like a snowdrift. The stout brings it all into focus, the boldness o’ life, the black and white, the grays and bright colors. It’s said that a pint o’ GPS can make the world make sense, if only for a while. So dry and bitter on the tongue, GPS snaps people back to life, but what really brings them back, time after time and pint after pint, is what’s hidden inside.”

Branwen nodded. “Something was different that day. The beer wasn’t right, but that wasn’t all of it. People realized the beer hadn’t been right for a while.”

“That’s exactly the thing,” said Rucksack, “and it’s been happening all over the world.”

“Where have you been to notice?” Branwen asked.

“Last place I stayed a while was India. I had to deal with some nasty business, but that’s another story for another time. I just got to England a couple o’ days ago. Crossing Asia and Europe I kept encountering dodgy pints, and I realized there was more afoot than dirty lines or a keg left in the sun.”

“And now you’re really noticing that something is wrong with GPS,” Branwen said. “Because this is where First Call Brewing is headquartered?”

“That’s it in one,” Rucksack said. “All this time, people have turned to GPS because it brings them a sense o’ the universe filling them up. It gives a moment when the world makes sense. That moment hasn’t been happening for a while, but people are malleable, forgiving, forgetful. They ignored it, figured it must be them. But it’s happened too many times, and what’s more, the beer is getting worse. Something’s wrong with GPS, and people know it now. But more than that. Something’s rotten in the brewery o’ London. I’ve tried and tried over the years to appeal to the brewmaster. His second-in-command, Gabsir, and I go way back, though not necessarily as best mates. They don’t want my help.”

Zara sat forward. “Because of Guru Deep, I bet.” Bitterness cut through her voice. “Branwen and I can’t stand him.”

Rucksack smiled a thin, sharp smile. “That makes three o’ us. I’m going to sort this out. From the brew kettles o’ First Call, all the way up to Guru Deep’s office at the top o’ the feckin Lotus if I have to.”

“But Deep Inc. took over First Call decades ago,” Branwen said. “What with Galway being destroyed in The Blast, First Call was weakened, had lots of problems, and eventually Deep Inc. took advantage of that. Brewmaster Samara was still in charge when it happened, before she passed leadership to the current brewmaster, Arthur Celbridge. Now Deep Inc. owns two breweries. First Call makes Galway Pradesh Stout, and Deep Brewing brews Deep’s Special Lager. Are you thinking Guru Deep is trying to do something to First Call and GPS?”

“Yes,” said Rucksack, “because it will do what he seeks: hurt me and hurt the world.” A darkness had fallen over Rucksack’s eyes. Long-simmering hostility radiated from him like heat from a boiling brew pot.

“Sounds like you two go way back,” said Zara.

“I’m a thorn he can never quite get out o’ his side, though I try harder.” Rucksack grinned. “I’ve been opposing Deep Inc. since the company’s early days, back when it was run by his grandfather. I’ve always considered the Deeps a pack o’ shysters at best.”

“Deep Inc. began about fifty years after The Blast,” said Branwen, glaring at him. “You look pretty young for a hundred and thirty.”

“It’s not nice to ask a fella his age,” replied Rucksack. “Deep Inc. was mostly fake medical cures then, and tent-revival sermons about the illusion of the world, but always accompanied by the reality o’ the collection plate.” Finishing his pint, Rucksack leaned forward. The clamminess had left his skin and the sweat had dried. His eyes were clear. Behind the darkness, a fire burned. “A few decades ago, Guru Deep came up in the company, doing inspirational talks and self-help books, got famous for his ‘Find Your Third Eye In Half The Time!’ feel-good enlightentainment shite. Today he’s got that, the breweries, his travel guidebooks, and various complicated financial dealings. Over the past few decades he’s built a global empire. Now we’re at a culmination. I’d bet a year’s pints that Guru Deep took over First Call precisely so he could eventually destroy the brewery and the beer.”

“He’s just a big business blowhard,” said Zara.

“Some say Guru Deep is ridiculous, a sparkling nothing with a big smile and a bright suit,” said Rucksack, lowering his voice. He looked over his shoulder and scanned the pub, then turned back to the sisters. “He’s a showman for sure. But make no mistake. He does far more than all the things we just said. For months I’ve been disrupting Guru Deep’s operations. At three in particular—in Marrakech, Mexico City, and Moscow—I saw things that made me wish I was having a nightmare: experiment pits. I shut them down, but the people there… those who had survived… I did what I could, but I can only hope they’ll find a way to live again without screaming. Guru Deep had huge labs where shady and discredited scientists were using people as lab rats. It’s not fake cures anymore. He’s experimenting with reality. Poking at it. Trying to tear it. And seeing what happens to people when you do.”

The sisters leaned back. The air in the pub and the blood in Branwen’s veins felt cold. “Why… Why would he do that?”

“Some people want to rule the world,” said Rucksack. “Guru Deep considers that a lack o’ ambition. He has his sights set far higher. There are those who say the world is an illusion, the dream o’ a sleeping god.”

“That would figure,” said Zara. “Let me guess: Guru Deep doesn’t want to wake the god. He wants to take its place.”

Rucksack nodded. “He hides it well, but everything he does conceals his true self and his true purpose. Guru Deep is one o’ the most dangerous people in the world. Whatever his ultimate plans are, he’s setting them in motion.”

“What can you do about it?” Branwen asked.

“Luckily,” said Rucksack with a smile, “I’m one o’ the most dangerous people in the world too.”

“Who are you, anyway?” Zara asked.

“I’m Faddah Rucksack,” he replied. “The world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage. The hero o’ old and the hero o’ now. He who flew and he who fell. He who lost and he who is trying to regain and restore. I am ten thousand years old. I am the fire o’ life, the tiger’s roar. Time and again in history, I have been the one who kept this world not only turning but thriving, saving lives and ensuring tomorrows. And I am the one who, yet again, will stand against Guru Deep.”

Branwen grinned. I’ve been searching for the secret, she thought. I think I might have found it… And now I have also found someone who can tell me I’m on the right path. She looked at her sister—and even Zara had a brightness in her eyes beyond her usual smoldering hardness and skepticism.

Rucksack’s smile fell away. “I’ve a horrible feeling that I can’t stop him though.”

“What?” said both sisters.

“You are amazing brewers,” said Rucksack, “and I believe we’re meeting for a reason. I trust you—it’s in the beer, who you are, how you make it. You know something I don’t. Something Guru Deep doesn’t. Something even na Grúdairí and the brewmaster don’t know anymore. I can’t stop Guru Deep.” He looked from Branwen to Zara and back to Branwen. “But I reckon we can.”

“How?” Zara asked.

Rucksack nodded at the briefcase. “How about I show you?”

Want more?

Pre-order THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY e-book from:

Buy now from

Get it on iBooks

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Enter the Goodreads Giveaway from a chance to win 1 of 10 signed paperbacks (US only):

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the final sneak peek!

Irish voice with a Tibetan face: a sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. ClairWe’re almost to the end of our sneak peek adventures with THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY. Here’s today’s.

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY comes out June 16. Preorder today from:

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The book will also be available in trade paperback. Through June 11, you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 signed copies! (US only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the next-to-last sneak peek!


Sneak Peek: Irish voice with a Tibetan face

TAKING HIS BRIEFCASE, the man got up and Jade the bartender followed. When she came out from behind the bar, the two walked side by side, and she carried an empty pint glass. They seemed to know and respect each other, yet a wariness lay between them. As they approached, Branwen thought she heard the bartender say “ghost,” and the man shook his head and tapped the top of his skull. The bartender only shrugged in reply, as if acknowledging good effort to avoid saying it wasn’t quite enough.

“Good evening,” said Jade. “Zara Porter and Branwen Porter, meet my friend Faddah Rucksack. He is finding our current GPS stock a bit… disappointing.”

“You think my opinion o’ it is merely disappointed?” Rucksack’s accent clipped the “th” sound into a mere “t.”

What’s his story? Branwen thought. Irish voice with a Tibetan face. Even here you don’t come across that every day.

“I’ve drunk horse piss that tasted better than that sour swill. I’d bet my two old swords there isn’t a worse keg in all the world.”

“What a safe bet,” Jade replied, “since you don’t have those swords anymore.”

“And how I wish I could find them and get them back.” Rucksack waved his hand. “Details, details. But off the point. How in the world could you put that keg on, Jade-bloody-London?”

Jade’s elbow moved so quickly Branwen almost missed the dig into Rucksack’s ribs.

Zara stared hard at the man. Then she smiled. “I hated to tell you, Jade,” she said, “since you were so nice to let us have our homebrew tasting here. But there is something off about the GPS. It’s not just the Mirror & Phoenix, though, and we know you’re the best in the city about storage and cleaning. At least the past year, every pint of GPS we’ve had hasn’t been right. But lately, and especially today, it’s just been terrible. The balance is off. The sourness isn’t just a note; it’s a whole damn out-of-tune band. And what’s up with the bitterness? There’s hardly any lately. It’s like they’re not getting enough hops for the brew.”

“I’ll talk to my supplier,” Jade said, coolness in her dark eyes. “In the meantime, I thought if my beer was unacceptable, Rucksack might be interested in your homebrew.”

Rucksack grimaced. “Now, come on, Jade, you know I only drink GPS.”

“Not at the moment you don’t,” Jade replied. “Though if you’re going to be so damn stroppy, I suppose I could always give you a Deep’s Special Lager on the house. Not like you pay for anything anyway.”

“The source o’ my credit always compensates you,” Rucksack replied. “Just because I have drunk horse piss doesn’t mean I want to repeat the experience.”

Zara laughed. “That would be preferable. At least horse piss would taste like something. Deep’s Special Lager is like eating snow. About all you can say for it is it’s cold.”

Rucksack stared hard at the sisters, then he smiled too. “All right, all right, Jade,” he said. “You’re trying to do me a kindness. Please forgive my rudeness. I’m not exactly at my best right now.”

For a moment Branwen thought Jade was going to smile. “Given the circumstances,” Jade replied, “I’ll give you a pass. But remember, you even being here is still… tentative, as far as The Management goes.” Branwen could hear the capital letters, as well as a lot unsaid in the silence that followed. “No one has forgotten Hong Kong,” Jade added. “And what just happened in India will be remembered for many years to come.”

“As, I hope, will be the fact that there continue to be years to come,” replied Rucksack. “But I promise I’ll be a nice lad.”

Jade chuckled. The lights of the pub danced on the dark skin of her high cheekbones. “Sure. And I’ll just go fall off the beer truck.”

“And what do you have to do with this beer?” Rucksack asked.

Jade smiled. “It’s all the sisters,” she replied. “It’s out of my influence.”

Rucksack said nothing, but his eyes widened. He and Jade stepped back as some men came to the table. “Ah,” Zara said, “your timing is perfect. We were just closing up.”

Branwen looked at her sister. “I thought we were—”

Zara poked her in the ribs, then handed over homebrew samples.

Branwen glanced back at Jade and Rucksack, who were talking about something, but too low for Branwen to hear anything except Rucksack saying he would leave the briefcase with her later. Then Jade and Rucksack stared hard at each other, as if reading something.

Zara and I have been coming to the Mirror & Phoenix for years. I’ve never seen Jade act like this before. Who is this guy?

Then Jade went back to the bar, and Rucksack walked up to the table. Closer to the man in black now, Branwen could see the pain and weariness in his face, an agony in the brown-black eyes like a dying fire begging for more fuel. “Are you okay?” Branwen asked.

“You’re kind to ask,” Rucksack replied, pulling up a chair, sitting down, and setting the briefcase on the table. “Suffice to say that I’ve had a rather busy day and it took more out o’ me than I expected.” He smiled. “Sometimes I forget I’m not as young as I was. That… sometimes things are different.”

Zara removed the empty sample cups and pulled off the tablecloth, revealing an ordinary pub table. “Well, it’s not GPS,” Zara said, “but we think it’s pretty darn close.” She picked up the empty glass Jade had left. Reaching under the table, Zara pulled out a large plain brown glass bottle and another empty pint glass. “The little keg is empty. Fresh one for you, sir.” She popped the cap and a hiss made Rucksack smile. Then Zara began to pour stout into both glasses.

“You pour it like GPS,” Rucksack said.

Branwen nodded. “My sister and I clone it at home.”

“That’s quite a challenge. I’ve encountered, shall we say, attempts at it, both commercial cons and homebrew hopefuls. No one has ever been able to clone GPS.”

Zara paused to let the initial pour settle. “And how would you know that?”

“GPS is a… passion of mine.” Rucksack nodded his approval at her pour.

“There’s a line between passion and obsession,” said Zara. “When it comes to GPS, which side are you on?”

“Never was much for lines,” Rucksack replied. “I’ve had my share o’ other beers, for what they’re worth, which combined doesn’t add up to one perfect pint o’ GPS. If you name a pub anywhere in the world, I can tell you how the GPS tastes there. Who pours it best, who rushes, who needs to clean their lines. I can tell you which brewery the keg came from. I’ve drunk GPS in just about every place in this world there is to drink it, for longer years that you’d care to count. It’s been quite a while since I was in London, and I’ve had a… difficult day. Let’s just say you have no idea how ready I am for that pint.”

“It’s almost ready,” Zara replied, topping up the pints. “You should know the pour can’t be rushed.”

Rucksack smiled, but he still trembled. “GPS has a secret,” he said, “something special that makes it unlike any other beer. Trouble is, no one knows.”

Zara let the full glasses settle again as the rich foamy head collected on top. “Don’t get all mythical and mystical on me. There is no secret to GPS. We just make damn good homebrew, and First Call makes GPS. They’re the biggest brewery in the world, and they know what they’re doing. Brewing GPS is all just impeccable ingredients, perfectly designed and fabricated equipment, and flawless brewing technique. That’s all you need to make a perfect GPS.”

“The First Brewer invented GPS thousands of years ago,” said Branwen, glaring at her sister. “There’s lots no one knows, but we’ve learned as much of the lore as we could. It’s hard to separate fact from myth.”

“That line is far blurrier than most people realize,” said Rucksack.

“So you think you know GPS?” Zara asked.

Rucksack nodded.

Zara handed over one pint of homebrew and raised her own. “Okay,” she said, “then tell me about this beer.”

Want more?

Pre-order THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY e-book from:

Buy now from

Get it on iBooks

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Enter the Goodreads Giveaway from a chance to win 1 of 10 signed paperbacks (US only):

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the next-to-last sneak peek!


Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

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