Are we THERE yet???

C.E. Grundler

It’s been said countless times; writing is, at its core, a very solitary activity, and one of the most effective tools for getting a book complete is the simple equation of time spent with rear-end firmly planted on a solid surface and fingers on keyboard.  That’s a great thing when, as a writer, you find your activities curtailed. Just keep typing.

BUT that only gets you so far.  Stories don’t happen in a vacuum. They have settings, and while we writers may have fantastic imaginations, there’s only so far that, along with visits to Google Earth, can take you. Sometimes writing actually involves setting foot in actual locations. But that isn’t always an option, and even if it is, every time you step away from the keyboard, that’s writing time lost. What’s a writer to do?

Take the Mad Libs approach. Just throw in a place-holder. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m partial to these brackets: << >>. They’re easy to type, easy to spot, or round up with a search, and work for anything from <<location>> to <<emphasize distrust>> or anything else I’m not clear on or happy with. These <<useful>> brackets are invaluable for letting me maintain writing momentum. And in the process, I’ve discovered other benefits to this approach.

As I wrote, I wasn’t able to travel to the places I’d chosen. Frustrating, yes, but then again, I’m not sure how many visits Tolkien paid to Middle Earth, so I didn’t let it stop me. I simply threw in yet another <<TBD>> and just kept typing. The story evolved, developed, grew. Chapters were cut, others emerged in their place. Characters and settings from the first draft stepped out of the picture, while others became critical to the story. If a location changed, it was no big deal. It’s easier to edit these <<TBD>> into the story then change what’s already been determined on the page. And I realize now that had I been able to drop everything, jump in the car and head down the shore, (yeah, that is how we say it around here in Jersey,) 3/4 of those destinations would have never made the final cut. Much of the geography I’d planned to include didn’t work anymore, didn’t need to be there. And in the end, those placeholders saved me the time and expense of travelling to research ultimately un-used locations, time spent writing pages that would ultimately be cut, and let me instead focus on the big picture.

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Spring at Last

by John M. Urban

End of winter

Winter’s end on our front lawn – the last of the season’s snow hung on all the way to Opening Day at Fenway Park.

It’s amusing, and predictable, to learn of babies born nine months following a major regional power outage. Given this logic, obstetricians may want to ready their schedules following the recent break of Spring that followed the longest winter in memory. December thru March, everyone in the northern half of the country was busy shoveling snow, raking roofs, and buying ice melt. Finally, though, we have time to relax and enjoy.

All that winter hardship is now in the past and it’s time to enjoy life fully, smell the roses and get the outdoor grille going. Yes, the sun is out, the days are long, and warmer temps are upon us. It hit 70-degrees in Boston this past weekend, the trees are blossoming in DC, and the mid-west is similarly breaking from the cold.

And as far as the obstetricians? Get out the calendars and do some math, I think we may be looking at an all-time record for January babies come 2016.

There are other important activities ahead, as well. Writing stories would be one form, readying a boat for the season another. With my days now spent at Mystic Seaport, I am seeing a lot of the latter. I hope the below photos add joy to your sense that the spring season is now upon us.

(Western-style Dragger Florence)

Banks Dory
(Grand Banks Dory alongside the LA Dunton)

(The Amistad, which was was built at Mystic Seaport and then featured in the Steven Spielberg movie of the same name)

Small Boats
(Some small boats prepped for the season)

Youth Sailing
(Youth sailing dinghies at the ready)

(Tall ship spars of the Joseph Conrad and Charles W. Morgan in the distance)

Yes, there is much work to be done. Canvas covers are coming off, paint and varnish are being applied, and sails and spars are being rigged. Come to think of it, with all this time spent readying boats, maybe the obstetricians won’t need to worry.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

In any case, Happy Spring 2015!

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Free book offer

By Mike Jastrzebski

It’s not all about the writing. Right now I’m spending more time getting ready to publish Stranded Naked Blues than I am actually writing. For instance, in the past three years I haven’t done much to generate a mailing list so I’ve spent the last two weeks redoing my web site and setting up a mailing list signup form. I’m offering a free copy of my psychological thriller, Mind Demons,  to anyone who signs up to my Readers’ List. Just go to my web site to sign up and get your free book. Here’s the link:

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Nautical language

Painting from the Malta Maritime Museum

Painting from the Malta Maritime Museum

by Christine Kling

I am on a research rant today. I have a love/hate relationship with the historical aspect of this series I’m writing. The photos I took while we were in Malta and Turkey have been a huge help with this book — like when I write scenes that take place in 1798 on the very dock pictured above, I just look at that painting and it help my imagination create that world for my characters.

It’s always been important to me to get the language right in the books I write, especially the nautical language. I hate it when I read sailing books and the authors prove how little they know about boats. But now, I am writing more historical chapters in my novels, and it’s very difficult to figure out what they called these things back in the 18th century on boats that are far different than anything I’ve ever sailed on.

So, with this blog post I’m am seeking help from the collective wisdom of our sailor readers. I’m asking for help with my research on the new book. You see, while I know pretty well what to call the parts of the boats I’ve sailed on, I’ve never sailed on a xebec like those picture above or the one shown in this photo of a model in the Malta Maritime Museum.


I know enough to say that it is a lateen rig, but would you call the spars on the sails yards or booms or some other word entirely? And this model above shows a tiller on this vessel. Really? I thought they had wheels on most boats in the 1700’s. Here is a close-up of the aft deck.

aft deck

Imagine the strength it would take to move that tiller in rough seas! I want to put a wheel on my boat, so that a young woman can steer it. Generally, wheels used blocks to give a mechanical advantage. I’ve steered smaller boats both with a tiller and a wheel and I know how difficult it is to stand even a two-hour watch while steering a boat in heavy seas with a tiller. I haven’t been able to find a photo of a xebec on the web that has a clear enough picture of the after deck to know if any of them had wheels.

And what did they call that aft deck there? Was it the quarterdeck or the poop deck?

The deeper I get into this historical tale, the more I ask myself, why do I have to make it so hard on myself. Will anyone really notice if I get it wrong a few times? The problem is — I will.

So, help me if you can. If you can let me know if they used a wheel on these vessels or what you called all the parts of the rigging, post it in the comments, please. Until then, I’m back to work on this draft.

Fair winds!



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Good News Everyone!


C.E. Grundler

I’m going to keep this short, because there’s way too much to explain. I’ll throw in some links for anyone curious and adventurous, or maybe looking for a unique and obscure way to torture or kill a character.

You all may have noticed a reoccuring theme creeping into my posts over the last year: ‘undefined medical issues.’ Undefined because no one really knew what was wrong, but for years the random syncope (the medical term for your brain hitting the ‘and now you’re unconscious’ switch) was manageable. Not so much anymore, to the point that work on the boat ground to a complete halt, and it was taking a toll on my writing, which is why my third book progressed so slowly. And then it got really bad, but let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant, and skip that part.

The good news is one doctor finally connected the dots, and here’s where we ended up. I have an autonomic dysfunction (aka: Dysautonomia) brought on by what appears to be adrenal insufficiency, (Click the links for all the fun details — they’re fascinating.) and my body wasn’t properly retaining sodium. Bodies need salt to function. Without enough salt, dehydration follows. Everything from the brain on down starts shutting down, and that isn’t pretty. There’ll be more testing in the coming weeks to figure out what underlying condition is causing this, but now we’re getting somewhere, including a treatment.

Fludrocortisone. One unassuming little white pill, but with it, my body can process sodium. Blood pressure is up to a nice normal level, stable, and for the first time in longer than I can recall fresh blood is reaching the top floors. The dizziness, the fatigue, the brain-fog — they’re all gone. It’s like being on No-Doz to the tenth power, less any caffiene-jitters. I’m up and writing at five in the morning, because I wake rested and full of energy. I’m writing till all hours of the night, stopping not because I’m tired but because I’m not going to let myself burn the candle at both ends. But I feel as though I’ve got my life back. And this weekend, work on the boat resumes, at long last. And oh is it great to have my brain cells back!

And for all you Futurama fans, I leave you with a little Hypnotoad.



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Wrapping it up.

By Mike Jastrzebski

I’m trying to wrap up my final edit of Stranded Naked Blues and I’m having a little problem with something that doesn’t affect most writers. You see, it’s cloudy today and the solar panels just don’t keep up with the electrical output when the sun is hiding. This means that I have to run the generator for at least 3 hours so that the batteries will charge enough to fill our energy needs for the day.

It’s a small generator, a Honda 2000, and it’s relatively quiet, but it’s still there. I have it mounted on top of the cabin and even with headphones on and my favorite oldies playing on my iPod the generator is distracting. You see, it’s not just the noise, it’s the vibration. The door to my wood heater rattles, the tea kettle on top of the stove rattles, in fact just about anyplace where two metallic items touch rattles, and let’s not talk about the vibration that seems to run up my body to my head.

I guess what I’m trying to get at, is that those of you who wish you could trade places and live on the hook should think about what you’re asking for. This isn’t a bad thing, but remember that there are always trade offs.

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Home again

Home again!

Home again!

by Christine Kling

We made it back to Majuro after very long layovers in San Francisco and Hawaii. We left Ontario, California at noon on Sunday and arrived here around noon on Tuesday.


Not fair! We lost a day by crossing the International Dateline.

Then I remembered that for my deadline of April 15th, I get it back. I don’t have to deliver until the 16th.

I love flying in over the atoll. You can really see the way these islands are like a necklace of small islands atop a coral reef. The white waves are on the ocean side and few shallows are on the lagoon side. Most of the lagoon is over 100 feet deep. That’s why we are usually on a mooring here. Some of the gossip upon our return was of two different boats having moorings break. Scary stuff when you leave your boat unattended on a mooring. But all was well with LEARNATIVITY. Now Wayne is hard at work doing the dozens of little jobs that we must do to get the boat ready for a passage after over a year of sitting here in Majuro. If all goes according to plan, we hope to be en route to Fiji by May.

The deadline has me working like crazy — so much in fact that I was up at midnight last night, so I got to enjoy the full eclipse of the moon.

But also so much that this blog and next week’s will be super short. If only writing were as easy as typing. There’s still so much that I’ve yet to figure out about this story. But I am jamming.

Wish me luck!

Fair winds!


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Block out some free time…

C.E. Grundler

This’ll be short, because I’m swamped, and honestly, nothing I can think of right now is all that post-worthy, writing or boat-wise. Much of my week’s been more fun in medical-land, though I may be making some headway — time will tell.  But I’d like to share a site I discovered the other day:

It’s full of fun and unique insights into writing, as well as some great resources and links.  But don’t expect to take it all in through one sitting, if you want to get anything else done.

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Disney – Mystery Writers of America Theme Park

by John M. Urban

MWA Park

Building off the success of Universal Studio’s Harry Potter theme park, Disney and The Mystery Writer’s of America (MWA) have announced the creation of a new Orlando theme park attraction based on the works of leading popular mystery writers.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened at Universal in June of 2010, has been an enormous success. Universal expanded the Harry Potter theme park in late 2011 and again in 2014, adding Dragon Challenge, a pair of inverted roller coasters, a new family roller coaster, and a 3D dark ride/simulator based on Gringotts Bank. Well over $200 million has gone into the 20 acre site and it has become one of the prime revenue generators in the lucrative Orlando.

Harry Potter

Disney’s partnership with MWA is seen as a needed response to what is a highly competitive business.

MWA Land of Mystery will be built in two phases, the first will involve re-purposing some existing rides, the second brand-new phase set for completion in late 2016.The MWA theme park is located in the north east corner of Epcot and when launched next month it will feature rides and attractions capturing the worlds of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, Elmore Leonard’s Jackie Brown, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and Robert Parker’s Spencer, all as part of Phase-One construction.

The Agatha Chrtisie ride is a remarkable reenactment that takes you on a captivating experience aboard The Orient Express with Inspector Hercule Poirot.

Robert Parker readers likely know that the author was a huge fan of roller coasters, and he certainly would have enjoyed the one bearing his name as it climbs a peak modeled after Bunker Hill, dives down into a double twist that resembles Boston’s Sumner Tunnel and passes other sites, familiar to readers, with 3D images of Spencer, Susan and Hawk.

Roller Coaster
(The Spencer Coaster)

The Disney Imagineers were able to create outdoor environments for almost all of the exhibits. For example, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is featured with a zip-wire that takes you over a re-creation of New Jersey with depictions from the Meadowlands to Trenton that incorporate live action scenes below featuring the characters of Plum, Morelli, Ranger, Grandma Mazur, and, of course, an exploding car.

(Disney’s Janet Evanovich Zip-wire takes you above the world of Stephanie Plum)

Disney believes that its biggest attraction will be the Stephen King Cyclone Coaster, a modern, exceptionally fast roller coaster that is modelled to look like a remnant from an old Maine theme park featured in one of King’s first books. According to Disney’s spokesperson, Wendy Pan, “We’ve had some people refuse to get on the ride because they fear that it’s run-down, but looks can be deceiving, and once people ride on the Cyclone they come back again and again.”


Fans of Michael Connelly will be pleased to know that Disney is blending both the Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller series. When asked about the ride, Connelly told the LA Times, “I’ve taken the ride many times myself and I couldn’t be happier with the level of verisimilitude established by Disney.”

(A 12-minute ride through the scenes of Micheal Connelly’s books via a simulation of Mickey Haller’s Lincoln Towncar)

(Patrons waiting in line at the Disney/MWA Lincoln Lawyer Ride)

Some readers will be disappointed that their favorite authors aren’t included. For example, Chandler, Hammett, and Poe were, in the eyes of Disney, too dated. In addition, Ian Fleming’s James Bond won’t be there either, as the intellectual property rights were previously committed. But that’s not to say that more writers won’t be added as plans for the park expand.

According to the Orlando Sentinal, one such author is Dennis Lehane who confirmed that his agent is in discussions with Disney. The Sentinal reports Lehane as saying, “We looked at Mystic River, but the execs at Disney shied away from the content. The same for Shutter Island. But we figured out a way to make it work.” Lehane, who has long credited the Hardy Boys as an early influence, is said to be releasing a young-adult series in 2016 coinciding with a new Disney attraction by the same name.

A James Patterson ride is currently being designed and Disney watchers expect that this will be a marketing centerpiece. James Patterson himself was brought in to work with designers on every detail. Patterson, who resides in Florida, spent a full morning with Disney architects and several Patterson co-writers have moved to Orlando to finalize the particulars.

News reports indicate that several planned rides were replaced due to Disney’s extensive consumer research. Two examples of this turn-about resulted when Disney’s marketing department excluded Robert Crais and Carl Hiaasen after focus groups revealed that customers struggled repeatedly when attempting to pronounce the authors’ names. Crais wasn’t available for comment, nor was Hiaasen, who is reportedly working on a re-release of his book Native Tongue.

According to Disney’s EVP for New Project Development, Jim N. E. Cricket, they were even able to work in a dynamic ride for new independent writers. A double cyclone coaster was created in partnership with Amazon in which riders sit on a flat car shaped like a Kindle Reader. A back rest comes up for support, belting you in, and in seconds you are shot out at 60 miles per hour, passing real-time cover images from the Amazon Best Seller list.

In addition, we are pleased to announce that under a special agreement between the Mystery Writers of America and Disney, for a limited time only, Disney is opening its entire park to any reader of Write On The Water who brings a printed out version of this April 1st blog posting.

MWA Disney

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Wed on the water


by Christine Kling

With sailboats and square riggers in the background, on Saturday, aboard the California Princess in San Diego harbor, I wed Wayne on the water. (Try saying that three times fast without sounding like Elmer Fudd). We had a great time with sixty friends, family, kids and dogs in attendance.


Ruby and Barney might have gotten married as well. At least they were dressed for it.



As proof that I married someone who is just as much of a tech geek as I am, as part of his vows, Wayne read a poem – off his phone – while someone raised their mainsail in the background.




Then during the reception, Wayne showed on the big monitor how he had employed CAD 3D modeling to design our mobius strip wedding rings and then had them 3D printed in wax for lost wax casting in white gold. When was the last time you saw that at a wedding?

We went completely paperless using an app for our wedding invitations, and instead of hiring a professional photographer, we asked our guests to be our photographers. We encouraged them to use a free app called Wedpics which they could download directly to their  smart phones, and if they used the app during the wedding, the photos were uploaded to the site in real time. Friends who were not able to attend were able to see some photos as the event took place. There are now over 600 photos on the site and people keep adding more. If you want to take a look at Wayne and Christine’s wedding album click here.

Wayne asked me to choose the song we danced to for our first dance. He gave me a list, but I didn’t get any farther than this song, Lucky sung by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat. If you listen to the lyrics, you will see why.

Wayne and I met through a post I made on this blog, and we started by talking (via email and then Skype) across the sea. I cannot get over how incredibly lucky I have been in the past year and a half as we traveled in the South Pacific and Europe. And now, I really did get to marry my best friend.

We get to go back home to the boat in Majuro on Sunday, and while I have asked for and received a bit of an extension, the book is now due April 15, so I need to stop scrolling through the wedding pics and get back to work!

Fair winds!


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