Down the research rabbit hole

ResearchCommando

by Christine Kling

Research is both a joy and a curse for a thriller writer. I have this insatiable curiosity, and I like to get my facts right so I spend hours finding and ordering books, then reading and searching on the Internet. Some people think that the Internet is all you would need today, but there is still so much more information that has not made it into the digital realm that I find books are a necessity.  I can easily lose myself for hours — or days even reading fascinating bits of information or history, most of which I will never actually write about, but it informs the make-up and the decisions of my characters. Lately, I’ve been lost down this research rabbit hole about an aspect of the Second World War that I never knew existed.

Today, Britain has her SBS, Special Boat Service, their elite Special Forces unit that is similar to America’s U.S. Navy Seals. This unit can trace its history back to 1940 when Winston Churchill knew Britain was not in a situation to launch a land attack across the English Channel yet, but the British public would need stories of success to keep their morale up. He decided to create “specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast.” At that time, these men were to be called commandos.

When I used to think of commandos, I thought of guys parachuting in behind enemy lines and blowing up bridges — stuff like we’ve seen in all those WWII movies. I never pictured a commando as paddling around in a kayak, but that was what the guys in the Folboat Troop did.

In July of 1940, a commando officer named Roger Courtney suggested to the Admiral of the Fleet that men in these small folding kayaks could be very effective. He basically got laughed at. So, he decided deeds would work better than words. Courtney paddled his folboat out to a troop ship, climbed aboard, wrote his name on the door to the captain’s cabin and stole a cover off of one of the deck guns. Then he walked into a meeting of several high-ranking Navy officers meeting at a local hotel and he presented them with the wet gun cover. They promoted him to captain and gave him his unit, renaming it the Special Boat Section.

These folboats were framed with light-weight wood and were covered with waterproof fabric. My area of research is Malta, but these were used everywhere from Europe to SE Asia. In Malta, the commandos shipped out on one of the submarines of the 10th fleet which was based out of Malta. The sub would head off to a secret predetermined location very close to a shore. Initially, the commandos only went after land-based targets. The sub would surface in the black of night, and the commando would put together his little folding kayak on deck, climb into it, and sit there waiting. Then the sub would simply submerge beneath him, thus launching the boat. The commando would paddle his way in through the surf, hide his boat, sneak around and blow up a bridge or a railroad line or whatever, and then paddle back out to his rendezvous with the sub. Suddenly, as the damage mounted the Navy brass became very impressed with what one man could do from these little boats.

Later, the commandos of the Special Boat Section started going after shipping by paddling their little boats right into enemy harbors and placing magnetic limpet mines on the hulls of enemy ships. But one of the coolest things I discovered was the guys back in the weapons lab designed and built some mini-torpedos for these kayaks. They were 21 inches long and meant to be fired at close range from the kayak. They were propelled by modified windshield-wiper motors that turned twin opposing propellors, and were powered by special batteries. These torpedos carried a charge of plastic high explosive, and they were activated by a single button in those wobbly boats in the open ocean! I can’t imagine paddling into enemy waters with one of those clutched between the knees!

So, of course, as you can imagine a nautical thriller writer like me can’t resist this little corner of history. The new book will have a commando character who carries his little folboat onto the submarine UPHOLDER, and his is a top secret mission. Of course, I will have get out of this research hole and finish the book for you to find out what that mission is.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

 

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Immersion and mis-estimates…

 

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Crime novelist P.D. James

C.E. Grundler

For the last few weeks I’ve been neck deep in a round of edits so immersive that it’s all I can do sometimes to pull myself free and return to the ‘real’ world. I’ve been working in eight to ten hour binges. I used to set a timer to remind myself to stop to take a break now and then, but I’m finding the ‘puppy’ system works even better, because puppies don’t have snooze buttons and unlike my older boys, when Emma needs a walk that’s not negotiable. And while she plays and snoozes, I work.

I have to admit, for me, this is when the real writing fun begins. All the heavy lifting is over. The story is solid, cohesive, and now it’s just a matter of tidying things up, tweaking the flow of scenes and dialog, indulging in all that scenery previously flagged with a simple <<ESTUARY/DUSK>> or the like.  The first time around I didn’t invest time into those details — no sense dressing up scenes that might not make the final cut. But now everything that lacked the drive, didn’t pack a punch or paint the right picture is gone, the structure is rock-solid. Now it’s all fun and games, at least until someone gets hurt…then the real fun begins! True, this is also the phase when I have the tendency to switch from moderately reclusive to full-blown shut in, wearing the same ratty sweater for days while surrounded by an ever-changing collection of cold, half-empty coffee mugs, a bowl of popcorn, and a half-eaten apple.  And that’s why the quote at the beginning of this post made me smile.

I’ve always considered writing a solitary endeavor, at least, the way I approach it, and that meshes perfectly with my solitary ways. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad one. As writers, we’ll all fall into our own comfort zones on the spectrum of social vs. solitary, and each has its own advantages when it comes to writing and marketing. Personally speaking, my contentment with isolation works for me. And when I read that quote I thought, “Lonely? Not in the least.” I’ve never felt lonely, surrounded by a world of characters with lives unfolding as they’re faced with trials and tragedies intended to push them to their limits. True, it is me throwing them into the fire, off a rooftop, or under the bus, (in this book I take that metaphor semi-literally.)  I don’t have time to be lonely — I’m too busy herding crazy characters.

On another note, after decades of living with assorted variations of mutt varieties, the universe decided to play a fun one on me.  I’ll start by saying Emma has to be one of the sweetest, most well-mannered dogs I have ever encountered. She’s curious, playful, and all around as delightful as any puppy, but she’s also surprisingly intelligent and quick to learn commands. In the past, the dogs who found us were normally full grown, so you have a general idea what you’re dealing with, size-wise. My entire life, that size has always been large and up, and I’ll be the first to admit, this 10 pound bundle had me stumped. As you can see by the photos, she looks like a baby pit-mix.  Moxie was a pit-mix, and Moxie was seventy-five pounds. Surely if Emma was so tiny, it was just because she was so young…

It certainly looks like a pit-pot-luck.

Blur-Dog certainly looks like a pit-pot-luck.

Well, not quite as young. Yes, Emma has a mouth full of pinchy puppy teeth — about four months worth, according to the vet.  She’s older than we first thought, and she’ll likely top out at twenty pounds.

Twenty pounds??? But thats… a LITTLE dog!

Normal dog sized Loki beside carry-on size Emma

Normal dog sized Loki beside carry-on size Emma

Okay, all of you out there with those itty bitty dogs, stop laughing. Twenty pounds IS little, when over my entire lifespan, dogs ranged from 55 pounds up to 90. Despite being only 5’2″ myself, I’m a  ’big-dog’ person; it’s just what I’m used to. A cat-sized dog is taking some adjustment, though I will admit with each passing day I’m discovering the advantages to a tote-bag dog. Such as…

BATHS:

Easiest dog bath I've ever done. Ever. EVER!

Easiest dog bath I’ve ever done. Ever. EVER!

Anyone who ever wrestled 90 pounds of reluctant, miserable, dejected dog around a bathtub knows what I mean. Nothing about that task is easy, and the older I get, the more my back curses me. But not with porta-dog! Simply place in sink, wash, rinse, repeat. Work at counter level — no strained back lifting or leaning over.  Fast, fun, and easy!

STORAGE/PORTABILITY:

Confuse-A-Cat! (Anyone?)

Confuse-A-Cat! (Anyone?)

Big dogs require big spaces. Rex regularly lays directly beneath my chair when I write, and there isn’t exactly enough space for my feet and sixty or so pounds of fur. But not with mini-dog. Mini-dog can share your lap, or simply tucks itself into the nearest boat-bag, which also serves as easy transport. In fact, hot-pink boat-bag has become a favorite dog bed. On the boat, where space is a commodity, smaller is definitely better!

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FEEDING:

Little dog = little meal portions.  Food doesn’t come in 50 pound bags, and it doesn’t cost as much. Less food goes in, which, in turn, leads to…

POOP PICKUP:

…Less to come out. Being one sixth her big brothers’ size, she deposits 1/6th sized treasures.  With the boys, sometimes it’s like picking up after ponies. Emma could use the cat box and I wouldn’t know who left what.

EXTREME CUTENESS:

Without any point of reference, Emma’s proportions could be that of a dog many times her size, and that’s what makes her diminutive stature so insanely adorable. Still, I’m training her with the same rules as everyone else: Know our commands, no jumping, cats get absolute respect, and only calm, polite dogs get pet. I expect the same manners from everyone, regardless of size or how cute they are. And as of this morning, she’s losing the pointy hip bones and ribs skinny puppy look. The scale read a whole 12 pounds.

And on that note, it’s time to take the kids for a walk, then back to my edits.

 

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Movin’ on up.

By Mike Jastrzebski

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This week we moved up from ball #32 to ball #1 in the St. Augustine south mooring field. Not only does this mean that our dinghy ride from the boat to the dinghy dock only takes us 2 minutes instead of the 8-10 minutes it took us to get there from #32, but it also puts us behind the break wall when the nor’easters hit.

Even in thirty knot winds we should be able to get to shore and back with just a little discomfort. This means that Mary can get to work and we can get off the boat and to the store if we need to.

On the writing front things are moving ahead. I should have my editing of Stranded Naked Blues completed by the end of the month. After that Mary will do her editing and we will be ready for a cover.

As far as the weather goes, it’s been down into the low 40′s at night this past week but our wood/charcoal stove manages to keep things nice and toasty inside the boat. The only real discomfort is in the morning when we get up. By then the stove has gone out and it takes a bit to restart it and warm things up.

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Author/Entrepreneur

ST on Amazon

by Christine Kling

This month marks three years since I followed Mike J’s lead and took the plunge into self-publishing my then-new novel Circle of Bones, so I’ve decided to take a moment to share where things stand for me. As a writer on the water, I should note that I did much of this work from a sailboat while also working at writing my next book. While I do need an Internet connection, and that’s meant we’re not cruising the outer Marshall Islands at the moment, I can work here in Majuro in spite of my struggles with the local wifi.

SeaBitchActually, in September of 2011, I first published what I called my baby book: Sea Bitch, my collection of four short stories, and I blogged about Going Indie. It was supposed to be my training program for formatting and uploading books. I didn’t do any marketing for it, but a few people found it and to date that little book has sold 2,411 copies and made me over $4,000.

I consider Circle of Bones my real first effort to self-publish and then market a novel. It has been quite a journey. I have self-published seven different titles now, including Bones (which is no longer available in the self-pubbed version) and the boxed set of the Seychelle series. Across all titles I have now sold 59,793 books and made more money than all the advances and royalties I had made previously on these books from the world of traditional publishing. Getting to that level of sales has been helped by my new non-traditional/traditional publisher Thomas & Mercer because when they promote my Cole & Riley books — that rising tide floats all boats.

Throughout these past three years I’ve done my best to educate myself about this business as a writer/entrepreneur. I’m not one of those self-publishing millionaires, but I have found a level of success that has enabled me to keep provisions in the galley. We authors always have to keep things fresh and seek new ways to find new readers. In 2014, I expanded my business in several major ways.

CC_full_coverFirst, I decided it was time to make paperback books available through CreateSpace. The formatting turned out to be quite a task involving weeks of tweaking, but I certainly learned lots by doing it myself. The great thing about paperbacks is that the Kindle page now shows the price $14.75 with the slash through it making the Kindle edition look like such a good buy. I don’t expect to sell many paperbacks, but it was a marketing strategy.

Paperback books also meant I would need full front and back covers, so my second big investment in time and money was a cover refresh. I had all new covers designed by the wonderful Filipino graphic designer R’tor John Maghuyop whom I found through my 99designs contest. He only charges $200 per book for the ebook, paperback, and audiobook covers, and I really like how he has given my books a common branded look.

All covers

Once I had all the new cover art, I had R’tor design a Facebook cover photo, and I started a new Facebook author page. It takes more time to have the two pages, but I have utilized the ability to advertise on the business page, and I have already seen the benefits.

I also started an account on Google Play and uploaded all my books there making that the fifth vendor after Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo. It takes a whole lot of time to update six books with new cover art across five vendors, but I believe in trying to make my books available in as many places as I can. Android is a huge market and Google puts you into the store they shop in. I haven’t sold many books there yet, but I’m in this business for the long term.

And finally, I have started the process of getting the last three Seychelle books produced as audiobooks. Back when Surface Tension was first published, Brilliance Audio bought the rights to Surface Tension and produced it. (By the way, Audible’s Surface Tension audio on sale for $1.99 at the moment). They never did the other three books in the series, however. So I’m learning my way through ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange), and I’ve partnered with the wonderful Rosemary Benson who is the narrator/producer for the books. Cross Current should go live just after the first of the year, and the next two books will follow shortly thereafter.

All of these efforts were leading up to doing something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I decided to make Surface Tension free (as you can see in the screenshot above), not just for a day or two, but for several months. I ran a Book Bub ad on December 9, and I’ve scheduled other ads over the holidays. Here, I’m thinking like a drug dealer. Give them a free taste and hopefully, I can hook ‘em and sell more of the other books. So far that is working and sales of my other books have tripled since ST went free. It remains to be seen how long that will last.

As an author/entrepreneur I am already looking ahead at many of the big changes that are coming in 2015. Authors are still trying to figure out the impact of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service, on overall book sales. Many bestselling self-published authors like Holly Ward and Marie Force are speaking out on how it has devastated their sales. Starting Jan. 1, the EU is going to require that their VAT tax be included in prices of ebooks meaning author’s royalties on EU sales will go down if we don’t increase our prices to reflect the included tax. Facebook is changing the way it distributes and charges for advertising on business pages. But more significant than any of these is the overall downward movement of prices of traditionally published books. I don’t know whether the publishers are setting these prices or whether it is Amazon discounting, but take a look at the prices of the top books on Amazon now. These are all traditionally published books.

Bestsellers

When readers can get Michael Connelly’s latest for $3.99 or Laura Hillenbrand’s latest or Gone Girl for $2.99, we self-published authors have just lost our best sales pitch: price. We really are going to have to up our game in 2015. Our books must be good enough to compete against these heavy hitters by being great stories, well-edited and professionally formatted with great looking covers.

Hey, I’m up for the challenge. I’m an author/entrepreneur.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

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Unusual Writing Aids…

C.E. Grundler

In a quest to maximize writing productivity, which of these items do you think is LEAST CONDUCIVE for increasing focus, flow, and overall output?

A.)

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Caffeine

B.)

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A cottage on Walden Pond

C.)

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An eight week old puppy.

Seems obvious, right?  Puppies and writing go together like alcohol and firearms — or so you’d think. I can assure you that’s the first thought that crossed my mind as I found myself faced with a little bundle of hungry, lonely, confused baby dog. There’s no denying puppies are adorable, but that adorable comes along with a whole lot of teething, peeing, and generally not knowing how to behave like a big dog. Puppies don’t listen like my two very well-mannered boys, who can stroll the boatyard with me off leash and are constantly complimented on their social graces. A puppy was definitely not on my agenda. Puppies are LOTS OF WORK, and writing is LOTS OF WORK, and I had to stay focused on finishing. But sometimes fate has other plans — during Tuesday’s northeaster the canine population under my roof rose by one and I braced myself for the inevitable anarchy. Sleepless nights. Chewed shoes and furniture. Crying. Piddles and poops… lots of piddles and poops.

Yet two days in, there is an eleven pound bundle all played out and snoozing contently at my feet. She hasn’t had a single accident in the house. She followed the lead of my boys and caught on that outside is the place to go, and she immediately caught to sit by the kitchen door and give a soft bark. She only wakes me once in the night to take her out, then settles back to sleep. I’ll give credit where it’s due; she’s a quick learner and she has two great teachers. And I’m using a training method I’d learned from a friend years ago. His dog is always at his side, always off leash, as he travels from yard to yard fixing boats. She responds to him almost intuitively, and he trained her using one simple item — a four foot piece of old dock line. One end hooked to the dog, the other to his belt, and that’s how he went about his normal day.

The idea behind this system, technically known as ‘Umbilical Cord Training,’ is that in the earliest days, the dog is never out of your sight. It works best when the dog is with you 24/7. which she is. Lonely, bored puppies become destructive, but puppy-on-a-rope is never alone, and instead moves with you and follows your lead in a way more in tune with their canine instincts. Any wrong behavior can be instantly redirected to better alternatives. And puppies instinctively know not to soil their den, but unless you’re close by to offer an alternative, their little bladders can hold only so long.

Okay, so as dog training goes, that’s great. But how on earth could this help me write? Simple. When I’m sitting and writing and she’s playing contently with her toys and friends, I’m less inclined to wander away from the computer. And while puppies might seem to have endless energy, their little bodies are growing fast. They need 14-20 hours of sleep a day.  I’m good with 7-9, which means I have a whole lot of hours where I’m tethered to a sleeping puppy. Again,I’d rather keep typing then get up for some snack or to re-heat my tea for the nth time. No, I just keep typing.

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When I cook, I ‘anchor’ her clear of the stove for safety reasons, but she’s still where I can see her.

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I placed an old towel on the threshold to keep balls from rolling out of range, and she passed out mid play. I have plenty of ‘sleeping puppy’ pics, but most awake ones come out as a blur, like the tail in the previous photo.

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So here you have my new writing companion, Emma. We’re still trying to figure out what mix she might be and how big she’ll get, but for the moment she’s sporting a hand-me-down cat harness, which is getting tighter by the day. Interesting behaviors I’ve noted so far: she doesn’t chase thrown balls, but can spend hours ‘nosing’ them around the room. She doesn’t bolt after the cats, but sits as they approach, then goes lays in a non-threatening ‘down’ position. Same for outside, when she sees squirrels or birds. I’m thinking there may be some herding dog instincts at play here. So what are your guesses, everyone? What variety of Heinz 57 does this look like to you?

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Distracted Driving – Land & Water

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Distracted driving. Could the problem get any worse? Erratic lane changes, oncoming traffic bearing down on you, last minute braking. It seems the only remaining hope we have is that all these drivers will some day hit the road simultaneously and exact pain on each other.

The widespread prevalence of this problem got me thinking about time on the water. Plenty of distractions there, too. Fortunately, though, life on the water has a way of weeding out the truly reckless. You can be distracted when you’re at the helm, but in time Mother Nature will toss you aside if you aren’t paying attention. Strong currents, rogue waves, and meandering channels will be your undoing if you don’t pay attention.

You might be a distracted boater when you leave your south Florida dock, but by the time you attempt to scoot out of this well-known inlet (see below) your mind will be 100 percent focused on navigation. Or else.

jupiter inlet

Or consider a departure in and out of this famous New Jersey inlet. Sandbars, channel switchbacks, this area has it all. You can be a distracted, just not for long.

barnegat-light-700x510

Come to think of it, maybe Mother Nature isn’t the only one keeping us honest on the water. Are those folks in the Coast Guard and Army Corp of Engineers messing with our minds when they place channel markers? And all of those complaints about unmarked hazards on the Intracoastal – could it be that someone is working double-time to make navigation enough of a challenge that distracted yahoos will stay at port, tied up to their dock?

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The sea humbles us, but for whatever reason, driving appears to create hubris, stupidity, and recklessness. Perhaps this indicates a solution for the problem we are all experiencing on our highways. A few hairpin turns or some high-speed serpentine stretches of highway might weed out the distracted driving offenders. Worth considering, don’t you think?

by John Urban

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Conflict

By Mike Jastrzebski

It’s true that a good book needs conflict, but that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the conflict that arises from trying to write and living the cruising lifestyle.

As an example. Saturday I finished the third draft of my work in progress, Stranded Naked Blues. This is good, so what’s the problem? Nothing major, but one of the big problems with living aboard is lack of space so I never buy more than one ream of paper at a time. Yesterday I went to print up the manuscript so that I could read the manuscript out loud and do one more edit before Mary gets to the line editing. Unfortunately, I was thirty pages short and that meant that the first thirty pages were not available for me to get started.

Again, not a big deal. It was mid-afternoon and I figured I’d go into St. Augustine today, Monday, and pick up another ream of paper. Alas, it was not to be. We woke up to high winds and whitecaps in the mooring field. Since the wind was supposed to stay at 20-30 knots throughout the day we decided not to take the dinghy in and we called for a shuttle pickup. Wouldn’t you know it, the marina cancelled the shuttle for the day. They figured they could get us into the marina all right, but they were afraid that once the tide changed they might not be able to get us (those of us on mooring balls)  back to our boats.

That  meant no paper, and worst of all Mary couldn’t get to work today. Hopefully the weather will settle down by tomorrow and I can get into town and get some paper, but the editing will have to wait for another day. So goes life when you live on a boat.

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Island Walkabout

Shoes2

by Christine Kling

Today, I decided to do something different with my blog. I’ve been feeling a bit boat bound out here at Eneko in the Marshall Islands, doing too much sitting at my computer and not enough walking. I didn’t want to add blog writing time to it all today, so I decided to swim ashore with my camera, dress and shoes on our boogie board and then circumnavigate the island on foot to see what sort of interesting sights I could find.

Fishoffstern

Just climbing down the ladder, I enter the water with my first critters, the little guys who live under our boat and the big guys who come to eat at the Learnativity café.

startwalk

Once I got ashore, I stashed my board in the trees, put on my shoes and dress and ducked under this tree to turn the corner from the lagoon side of Eneko to the the ocean.

Birds

White terns fussed at me most of the day. They lay their eggs on open branches without any nests to protect them. They didn’t like me on their island.

Hermitcrab

I admit I got a bit obsessed with the funny black eyes of the hermit crabs.

Flotsam

There was lots of flotsam, most of which I couldn’t figure out what purpose it had originally served.

Hermit2

And more hermit crabs.

Oceanside

In a few places the walking got easier as there was a bit of sand over top of the coral.

Cocosprout

It’s easy to see how these islands got the many coconut palms growing right at the high water line.

Tidepools

Most of the coral flats that dry at low water are this brown dead coral, but in the tide pools there was loads of life from little fish to crabs to various sea snails.

Hermit3

And more hermit crabs.

Islandcut

When I reached the other end of the island, I stopped for a while to watch the fast flowing current. As an atoll, Majuro is like a necklace of small islands many of which have breaks between them. The tide races through these gaps.

cominground

As I came around the corner, I saw Learnativity moored down off the other end where I’d started. Now I’d walk the length of the lagoon side.

Localhouse

There are several families that live on the island as caretakers. Their houses are one room buildings.

localsboat

They have a nice boat for traveling the 5-6 miles back to town for shopping or for fishing.

hammock

And comfortable sleeping arrangements.

garden

They have a garden.

powersource

And a power source for lights at night.

mamachick

And a renewable food source (note the baby chicks around mama).

flower

Back down the beach, just before getting into the water, I noticed some lovely tiny flowers that look like little orchids.

spider

But there is someone else hiding in the bushes trying to look like an innocent orchid, too.

bowon

Time to grab my board, swim back to the boat and post my blog.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

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Declared Accidental…

C.E. GrundlerIMG_20141204_082708359

I love warning labels.  They advise us that lighter fluid is highly combustible and ‘harmful’ if swallowed. They warn us a nice glass of rum will impair our ability to operate a motor vehicle and shouldn’t be consumed during pregnancy… while they neglect to warn that consumption of said rum may ultimately lead to said pregnancy in the first place. They warn us not to put plastic bags over our heads, that deodorants are only meant for external use, (..uhm?) and Q-Tips should never be used within the ear canal. And in case you weren’t sure, don’t use a hair dryer WHILE bathing, and playing around the transom of a running boat can lead to a whole bunch of bad ‘accidental’ type things.

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These informative little messages are intended to steer us clear of hazards that seem ludicrously obvious, yet each time I see one, I consider that it came into being for some reason. Companies and organizations are warning us for our own protection, and theirs as well, because individuals out there have done the ‘don’ts’, and it never ends well.  Those labels are there to keep the general population out of trouble, and to keep the lawyers at bay. And it’s these labels that give me oodles of material for my ‘how to burn/blow up/kill/whatever’ writing file.

But not all potential mayhem comes with a warning, and that’s the stuff I’m ever on the lookout for. The news is a good source, and whenever I hear some fire, explosion, asphyxiation, overdose, etc, declared ‘accidental’, I go into research mode. Trust me, if you’re looking for inspiration, just Google “declared accidental.”  Accidents are recipes for ideas. What went wrong, why, how?  If you’ve read my books, you know why you should NEVER put an nice oversized exhaust hood in your glitzy kitchen. I’ve demonstrated fun ways to use spray foam, and the next book will show why you really don’t want to wear rings. Ever. (Finger Avulsion. Google it. Bonus points if you click ‘images’) This morning’s gem involves ordinary household items commonly found lying around. In fact I had them only drawer apart. I wanted to share it with you all because it’s so simple, common, benign, and holds the potential for so much death and destruction. And yes, I was testing this in the driveway at 6:30 this morning, with a hose at my side. It’s delightfully terrifying just how well it works. Here’s all you need:

2014-12-04 09.20.10

The package for the steel wool does warn: “CAUTION: When working with steel wool, stay away from live electrical current,” and most would assume it’s to avoid risk of shock.  But no. It’s so much more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnVDayI-gwI

And thats all it takes.

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Cruising through the holidays

By Mike Jastrzebski

St. Augustine Nights of Lights.

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The holidays are a favorite time of mine for cruising. Maybe it’s because eleven years ago on Thanksgiving day when we were new to cruising and making our way down the Tenn-Tom waterway from Minnesota we stopped at Midway Marina in Mississippi and were promptly invited to their pot-luck. Our contribution was a store bought pumpkin pie that we expected to eat by ourselves that evening. Instead we ate a full blown turkey dinner and had a great time.

Since then we’ve enjoyed many such gatherings as we’ve lived and cruised aboard Rough Draft over the years. The latest was the St. Augustine Cruiser’s Net Thanksgiving pot-luck. About fifty cruisers attended. Most of those attending were passing through on their way to the Keys or the Bahamas and we hope to run into them as we head south ourselves in February.

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That’s right, barring any unexpected problems we plan to leave St. Augustine in mid-February and head to the Bahamas. St. Augustine is a nice city but definitely colder than we are used to after living in South Florida for nine years.

So why are we waiting until February and not heading out now? Part of the reason is that I am still waiting to complete my dental work. The root canal is done and the new bridge is ordered, but it will be another two weeks before the work is completed. Mary and I decided that we should go ahead and take care of some other doctor’s appointments before we leave the country and Mary did take a part-time job and she feels she should at least work through the holiday season.

So if any of you reading this are down in the Bahamas and you come across  Rough Draft, please dinghy over and say hi.

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