Tag Archives: Columbus

Surreality – The Irish Eggroll

My main character and I have at least one thing in common, we are both on a search for the perfect Reuben.

My quest began as a combination of family memories of my Grandpa Trube making Reubens and one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants going out of business. It was this little place called Pacific Eatery and it had a combination of American faire and a really good shrimp dish with brown sauce. And the owner, David, made a pretty delicious Reuben. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

It’s a Z Pizza now.

I’m not bitter.

I mean, our neighborhood already has six good pizza places, but whatever.

So far the best contenders have been this place in Indiana and a deli in Cleveland that used coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. But one of the better steps in my culinary journey came from one of my old campus haunts, The Blue Danube.

Behold the Irish Eggroll:


That my friends is an appetizer. That’s thousand island horseradish in the little cup. It also happens to be the sandwich my main character eats in Chapter 2.

Despite lacking one of the key components of a good Reuben (a toasted dill rye), the sandwich really holds up. It’s very hot, you basically need to eat all of the fries before it’s at a temperature you can eat without burning your mouth. The dough is flaky so it’s better to spread the horseradish on with a knife rather than actually dipping the sandwich (a lesson I’ve forgotten both times I’ve eaten it). If you wait for the sandwich to cool a bit, it will be solid enough to eat without too much of a mess, but you’ll probably still get sauerkraut juice running down your hand. But it’s not greasy, despite being fried.

The sauerkraut surrounds the corn beef, keeping it moist and flavorful. Corned beef is a tricky meat. Sliced and cooked perfectly it’s pretty good, but it’s also really easy to over cook and make tough. And ratios matter. Too much meat or too little sauerkraut and it isn’t a sandwich worth eating. But the ‘Dube gets it right.

The horseradish is mostly sweetened by the thousand island, and lacks some of the bite of pure horseradish, but it gives a slightly different tangy flavor than what you’d get on most sandwiches.

Pair this “appetizer” with a Guinness draft and you’ve got a good meal. And a backache from the ‘Dube’s terrible booths.

Most likely Keenan’s and my journey will continue throughout the series. If you live in Columbus, OH and have a suggestion I’d love to hear it. I work in Delaware too, and my character might be willing to drive for the right sandwich.

I think it says something about me as an author that one of the ways that I portray local color in my book is through food. Mainly it says that I get to eat a lot of good food for “research.”

Read about this and many other Columbus foods in my new mystery, Surreality, releasing next Tuesday.

Have a delicious weekend.

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Surreality – The Cover Shoot

So here it is, the cover for Surreality:


That’s our friend Jessica serving as our cover model. We did the cover shoot about a month ago in four different locations: Goodale Park, the Scioto Mile (the location that made the cover), in front of City Hall and in the Short North. It was a pretty overcast day, but thankfully the rain you see in the picture is an after effect.

My wife took most of the photos with either her cell phone camera and a couple with the nicer camera. I took a few test shots for angles and recording the process for posterity. It took about 400 shots to get the one we liked over the course of about three hours (we had to get home for the OSU football game after all). Jessica was a real trooper, standing through costume changes, and slight adjustments in pose as my wife tried to get just the right shot.

What’s funny about the whole process is what you like in person doesn’t always match what looks good when you try to play with it. We were working with two wigs, two fedoras, two dresses (though we only shot with one) and two trenchcoats (thanks to Jessica’s Mom for the coats). The black coat was a little shorter (about the length of the dress you see in the cover) and looked good in a lot of the shots but ultimately the longer coat just fit the mood better.

The dress and shoes came from Rag O’Rama, an upscale thrift store on High Street (they don’t just take anything like Goodwill), and we had to look through probably two-thirds of the dresses to find the ones we wanted, even though as you can see, we don’t actually see much of it in the shot. The book is set in modern times but we’re going for a noir 1920’s-30’s sensibility of what is “sexy”. Think Katherine Hepburn or Mary Astor.

We got a “goddess” wig from O’Rama as well, which turned out to be kind of difficult to work with. It had a lot of curls that we tried to tie up or style. Ultimately the wig you see we picked up at Party City the night before (about 15 minutes before close).

Most of the effects work was done in Pixlr by my wife. She really did a wonderful job capturing the mood of the real and virtual world of Surreality. The final composition work was done in Photoshop after only about eight different tries (some of them really bad, like seriously … what was I thinking?).

Of course I sent a copy of the cover to my copy-editor, Brian, who responded with this suggestion:


At least my name is on there somewhere.

What are friends for?

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Where My Character Lives

The campaign for Surreality ends November 14th 2015. Vote at the link below, and get a free copy if Kindle Press decides to publish it:



This morning I’m writing to you from the Einstein Bros in downtown Columbus. I’m on jury duty for the rest of the week, so it’s a bit of a change in routine for me. I’m not a giant fan of real rush hour traffic (I drive in the “opposite” direction for my regular job) so I’ve been getting down here pretty early, which gives me time to walk around and take in this city I’m trying to write about.

downtown commission

I’ve lived in Columbus for 23 years, since I was five years old, but in many ways the downtown is a mystery to me. Columbus is really three cities: downtown, OSU Campus, and the suburbs. Some of those suburbs are now the “exurbs”, a mixed conglomeration of municipalities and jurisdictions with no clear government to appeal to for services. OSU Campus culture bleeds into everywhere, as this is a town obsessed with college football. And the downtown area is going through a revival, with the Columbus Commons, Scioto Mile and potentially a new Vets Memorial, this is an exciting time to be living in this city.

I’ve placed my character in the Short North, an area between Campus and Downtown, the perfect blend of both cultures with the cosmopolitan hipster attitude on the one hand, and the arts, cheap bars, and good food of the other. Even getting him a good cup of coffee is tricky, as he’s decidedly not a “hipster” and yet he isn’t going to stoop to White Castle coffee. The more I write him, the more I wonder exactly why he’s living where he is, and yet it’s the “fish out of water” quality (even in his own home) that I think will help him be a good surrogate for the reader in getting to know “my city”.

Columbus is the state capitol, home of a nationally talked about (if not national championship playing) football team, and a world-class university. It’s got one of the largest Somali refugee populations of any American city, and is one of the more gay friendly cities, especially in the midwest. And Ohio’s a swing state in elections so we’re talked about nationally at least once every four years.

I started with writing Sci Fi, and I will continue to come back to it. But one of the joys of working on this mystery has been the excuse to research where I live, to really become a native as opposed to someone who just lives here. It’s a different kind of work. Instead of making everything up from scratch, I’m doing a lot of research, walking the streets with Google maps, looking up websites, and taking pictures wherever I can.

Every city has a story, every city has a culture. And I’m happy I’m setting my story here, and not in New York, Washington, LA or San Francisco. One day I might even write about Youngstown, which back in the day was Bombtown, USA. This is a territory mystery writers have been treading for a while, writing the city they know, giving readers an authentic view of their world. Hopefully, you’ll get some of that from me when you finally read Surreality.

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I’m back, this time for good

So my whole plan of writing a travel log for each day of my writers retreat didn’t really work out did it?

Sorry about that. I promise now that I’m back to the 7-4 grind I’ll be a little better about saying hello.

Last week was not really what I expected, but in a good way. I did spend some time on Tuesday working on the outline for Surreality, though I’m still having a debate with myself about the benefits of outlining a book that’s been through 3 revisions. I might just be putting off the real work of rewriting. We’ll know in a week or so.

Location scouting went well on Wednesday and Thursday. The Athanaeum was gracious enough to let me and the little haired girl wander around and snap some pictures. We even rushed through alleyways and out onto the street tracking the path of our criminal. Thursday found me walking to the Short North from Campus to visit Goodale Park, and to go apartment shopping for my character. I think I’ve found the perfect place, but the coffee places in the area are a little artisan so I need to find a good diner for my character to actually get something drinkable.

Most of last week was walking or putting up posters for the fractal book. If you’re on OSU Campus in Cockins, Dreese, The Math Tower, PRB, Smith, Hitchcock, Baker Systems, Caldwell or Boltz you might see one of my posters, designed by my researcher/publicist/editor “the little red haired girl”. If you’re interested you can download the poster here.

Along those lines I had a little idea I could use your help with, if you’re interested:

1) If you download and post ONE poster, I’ll send you a unique piece of fractal artwork (made especially and exclusively for you). You can put the poster up in a public place like a coffee shop, or down at a university like me, or anywhere you think someone might like fractals. Just send me a picture of the poster wherever you hung it to bentrubewriter@gmail.com and I’ll send you a fractal.

2) If you post TEN posters I’ll send you a free eBook copy of the “Fractals You Can Draw” eBooklet (for Nook, Kindle and PDF).

3) For those of you who go above and beyond the call of duty I might be able to think of something else special.

While Supplies Last (supplies are infinite).

If you’re wondering how to do the tear-away tabs, we used a pumpkin cutter (the little wheel you use to score the outline of whatever you want to carve). Use the cutter along the line above the tabs, then cut each tab with scissors. My wife did this 50 times on Wednesday (not including the test sheets).

Thanks so much in advance. It’s good to be back. See you tomorrow!

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