Every summer of my life I have visited Keuka Lake, a Y-shaped lake in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes. On its vineyard ridged hills, the area’s world-renowned wine industry took root, first being heralded as a center for sparkling wine.
Keuka is a supporting cast member in four of my seven published novels, with four more to be published as part of the Caviston Sisters Mystery Series. Why is it so important to me?
First of all, it’s the crystal lake water. Spring-fed, the lake follows a glacier-carved path through beds of shale. Its waves smooth stones into prized skipping tools. You could watch its surface the entirety of daylight and never be bored by the constantly shifting colors and patterns. Glasslike in the morning, roughed up by breezes and boats during the day, then gently calming as the world slumbers — it’s mesmerizing. Even storms are magnificent on the lake. Curtains of driven rain billow across the lake from the south, churning muddy swells that lash through spaces between rickety wooden boards on the dock. When the wind shifts from the north, the lake turns chilly blue as it froths up whitecaps.
Keuka has always been a place of conversations. In my early childhood, it was a place for listening to my great aunts and uncles recall their childhood stories. It was where my siblings and cousins sat around bonfires on its shore listening to my parents and aunt and uncle sing in harmony. It was a place of happy memories as well as retelling tales of catastrophic floods and tragic drownings.
We’d stay there in August with my aunt. In the mornings, “guns” of hot gases shot off repeatedly throughout the vineyards in an effort to keep birds off the ripening grapes. Most of the day would be spent swimming or wandering up a creek to find salamanders and frogs. It was an ideal location for a child’s imagination to bloom.
As adults, we have enjoyed watching the wine industry grow from major operations to smaller, “indy” wineries. We’ve seen the trends shift from savoring native grapes to trying to earn worldwide respect for wines made with vinifera grapes, and now a shift back to appreciating what grapes always did well here.
Of course I am not alone in being inspired to write by the Finger Lakes. On October 21, I will join four other women writers to celebrate Finger Lakes Litspiration at Fulkerson Winery on Seneca Lake. Kristan Higgins, Laurie Gifford Adams, Roz Murphy, and Katie O’Boyle and I will discuss how these lakes inspire us, we’ll read samples of our work and then meet with readers to sign books and answer question.