Help me pick a new cover and cover artist!


by Christine Kling

I’ve decided it’s time to refresh the covers of the four books in my Seychelle series, and given that I am not a graphic artist myself, but I am a geeky, techie sort, I decided to try something new. It’s called 99designs. There are over 322,000 designers on the site, and you can see their portfolios and connect with them for 1 to 1 jobs where you simply hire them for a project — or, like me, you can run a contest.

From the sharing economy (like AirB2B or Uber) to crowd funding, I like the new ways that the world of business is now working. It used to be that graphic designers needed to get a job at a big fancy marketing firm in order to work. But today, just like the digital age has made it possible for me to self-publish these Seychelle novels, graphic artists can find work through sites like 99designs. Any of them can have a chance to compete, and they will be judged on the quality of their work, not who they know who can help them get a job. This is much the same way that readers can now decide what books they like instead of the gate keepers in the high rises in Manhattan.

I started my contest a week ago. I paid $499 and I was surprised to learn that only $290 goes to the designer, so 99designs takes a good bit for their work of maintaining the website and for their tech support. To be fair, I called them with a question on a Saturday and I got an easily understood human right away, and we all know in today’s world, that’s saying something. And as a result of that call, they offered to promote my contest to their designers for free.

I wrote up a brief describing what I was looking for, and I explained that the designer who wins will then get the additional work of designing the covers for at least three more books. I will need covers for the ebooks, paperbacks, and the audiobooks for all the books in the series and I will need a new boxed set cover. I will also be looking to get a cover photo done for a Facebook author page.

I ended up with 134 entries from 34 designers from all over the world. Throughout the week, I rated the designs and gave comments s to what I liked and what I didn’t like. Often, the designers went back and tweaked their designs or submitted a wholly new design based on my feedback. Yesterday, that first phase of the contest ended and I selected five finalists, some of whom are from Malaysia, Serbia and the Caribbean.

Now comes the crowd sourcing part of my plan. I’ve created a poll, and I am asking all of you, my friends and readers, to go to the site and vote for the cover you like best. Help me find the best graphic designer to give my books a fresh new look.


Fair winds!



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Classics, Plastic, and Boats that Endure…

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.30.15 AM

So. Much. Varnish.

C.E. Grundler

The other night, my other half and I ventured onto the interwebs in an exhaustive Google search for exhaust configuration inspiration. Annabel Lee’s heavy old cast iron arrangement left something to be desired, and as the engine room comes together, there’s plenty of literal and figurative room for improvement. So we’ve been online, intently studying engine rooms aboard other old diesels, searching the specs by ‘image’ results.

Hey! I can see my engine from here!

Hey! I can see my engine from here!

I’m continuously amazed by the images that do come up. Search ‘Lehman Diesel’ and the page fills with thumbnails of little red engines. And I’ve discovered that like a mama penguin returning to the nesting grounds, I can spot the pictures of my baby, or even just a small portion of my baby, amidst the mob of seemingly identical machinery. In these searches I’ve seen engine rooms that make me cringe and engine rooms that make me drool, along with the boats housing them. Some of the most beautiful boats are the oldest, and the love and care they’ve recieved is apparent.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.32.59 AM

Around here, we call this surfing the ‘Boat Porn.’

Like everything else, the more boats age, the more care and consideration they require, which is why I can’t help but admire well-maintained or restored boats in their golden years. A late friend and original owner of a lovely Pacemaker sedan often told me that most of the old boats we see around were never meant to last as long as they have. A decade or two, he said, before the dominos start falling and you spend more time on upkeep than use. Not all boats, but many of the ‘production’ wooden boats of their day, built as quickly and economically as possible. What we see as classics were simply the everyday boats of their day. And it’s true the ones that remain are the exceptions, but they have survived, either by virtue of superb craftsmanship and/or diligent maintenance by owners who went above and beyond through the decades.

No snot here. Just a whole lot of maintenance. But it's pretty to look at.

No snot here. Just a whole lot of maintenance. But it’s pretty to look at, and has stood the test of time.

L. Francis Herreshoff compared fiberglass to “frozen snot,” and I’d have to agree, but as Don Casey pointed out, while wooden boats regularly die early deaths of natural causes, fiberglass boats must be assassinated. Fiberglass grew in popularity as a building material during the sixties to become the standard through the seventies, though boats built of resin and glass date back into the early forties. What defines a ‘classic’ boat is no longer limited to wood alone.  Many antique groups and associations now include funky fifties fiberglastics, as they’re known, early glass Hinckleys, Bertrams, and countless others. Several vintage boat groups I’ve seen drew the line between antique and classic boats and modern, contemporary boats somewhere around 1976. One more year and Annabel Lee will qualify for ‘classic’ status!

This is not to say that all fiberglass boats will stand the test of time, a fact that is evident around the fringes of any dirt-road boatyard. The hull may endure, but everything within it is subject to the ravages of time. Anyone following my progress aboard Annabel Lee should know that by now. And we all know not all fiberglass boats are built alike, and in the years to come, I’m willing to venture many seventies boats will outlast ones built today. (Certainly on styling as well.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.41.12 AM

Oops! These are not boats. But the confusion is understandable if you’re searching by image.

Can you envision these boats (note the styling cues) at the fifty and hundred year mark?

Can you envision these boats (note the styling cues) at the fifty and hundred year mark?

No one truly knows how long fiberglass will last. There are wooden boats two centuries old and still going strong.  They’ve outlasted generations of sailors who all played a part in their collective histories. It’s conceivable to imagine a boat show fifty years from now with graceful plastic sloops, sporty runabouts and sportfishers… and maybe even an ancient trawler or two.

On my end of the boatyard, word seems to be spreading that Annabel Lee might actually be afloat in the still undetermined (I’m not committing to anything at this point) but approaching future. I’ll be honest, there were many times even I had my doubts, so I can’t blame innocent bystanders for their skepticism. But these days her condition is no longer frightening unwary boat owners who unsuspectingly wander into the shed; in fact I’ve had an increasing number of friendly interruptions by curious onlookers, fascinated by the transformation taking place. And as I head out for another day of boat work, I do it with a mind towards the future…and the past.

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Beach Day

Beach 2

Today is a beach day. Not a writing day, not a work day, not even a boating day. Just the beach.

From my angled-back canvas chair I watch parades of boats crossing the edge of Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound. A dragger heads to Georges Bank to scrape the bottom for scallops that go back to New Bedford to be shucked, processed, and shipped around the globe. A series of 100-plus foot motor yachts power from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to Newport, a few, perhaps, carrying their owners, some likely ferrying charter clients, and many, I know, holding only their crew. I watch, too, as a middle-aged man launches a small red kayak from the beach, a fishing rod in his hand, setting off in search of a striped bass that might offer a down-sized version of a Nantucket sleigh ride. And sailboats, large and small, head westward, beating against the wind, others set with a spinnaker, enjoy the easier path east.

Beach 1

It’s easy to imagine the stories unfolding ahead of me on the ocean. More so when I consider the many ships that passed this point of land in years past. Vikings, some say. Explorers for sure, Bartholomew Gosnold’s trip in the early 1600s being well-documented. And whaling ships by the many. Slavers, too, as well as packet cruisers that sailed into the 1900s.

These boats, current and past, hold many stories. But on this day, it is all about the beach. No story arc, no plot advancement, no character development. Just a simple beach day.

by John Urban

Beach 3

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Up a creek and loving it

By Mike Jastrzebski


Right now we’re anchored on Jackson Creek across from the Deltaville Marina in Deltaville, VA. It’s a quiet anchorage, especially during the week, and is very well protected on three sides. But it gets a bit lumpy if the wind is blowing from the SE.

We’ve decided to stay here for a month so that I can work on the rewrite of Stranded Naked Blues. I believe I can get the second draft of the book done in that time and Mary is starting on the editing.

The nice thing about the marina here is that you can pay to use all of the marina services. This includes internet, the lounge, the laundry, the pool, bicycles, and even the courtesy car. The cost to use the facilities for a month is very reasonable, only $138.00. The daily rate however is a bit steep at $11.00 per person per day, but that does still include use of the car.

Typically I split my day up between writing in the mornings and doing boat chores in the afternoons. We don’t have any major projects to work on right now, but we do have to make water a couple of times a week and as anyone who lives on a boat knows there’s always something that needs to be done. Many of these projects could be put off for a couple of weeks which would allow me more time to write, but I really don’t want to have a slew of things to do before we take off at the end of our month.

If all goes well, we plan to leave here around the 9th of September and head over to the Potomac River and up to DC. We hope to spend a couple of weeks in DC taking in the museums but we have no definite plans beyond that.

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Boat fever

Waiting for our flight at the Majuro International Airport last February

Waiting for our flight at the Majuro International Airport last February

by Christine Kling

We packed up our bags and left LEARNATIVITY on a mooring in Majuro on February 21st, and while I thought I would be returning, but it was by no means a sure thing, so I didn’t leave anything behind.

My first view of LEARNATIVITY at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji

My first view of LEARNATIVITY at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji

That was about six months ago now, and we have been living on land just far too long. Not only do I miss life aboard a sailboat, but I’m ready to settle in and turn Wayne’s boat into our home. Two months ago, we shipped off all those boxes of my possessions after I sold my boat — and hopefully, they are still there in General Delivery at the Majuro Post Office. I’m sooo ready to turn the forepeak into my work office. It’s time to move past the research and outline stage and get started writing on the new book.

Some people get boat fever when they are thinking about buying a new boat. They become obsessed with the search and spend hours pouring over the brokers’ pages on the Internet. For others, it is dreaming of sailing during the long winter months.

The galley is a couple of steps down from the main salon.

The galley is a couple of steps down from the main salon.

For me, it is the desire to get back out on the water and smell that air, feel the gentle rocking from wakes, to enjoy the peaceful quiet of our own boat out in our own corner of an anchorage — and to settle in and unpack.

In Florida, I packed up lots of my favorite kitchen utensils off my boat, and I plan to merge my things into Wayne’s already fabulously well-equiped galley. The stainless steel countertops and tiled backsplash are lovely and the stove is less than a year old. I can’t wait to get back to cooking meals I’ve planned  in a place I can call home instead of trying to figure out where things are in someone else’s kitchen. I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who have kindly invited us into their homes and fed us these many wonderful meals, but there comes a time when you just long to be home.fwd-stateroom-desk

But most of all I am ready to move into this office in the forepeak. It has been my dream for years to have a real office and desk in a boat. There’s no question that writing is difficult, but it is especially difficult when you don’t have a dedicated space where you can go off and be on your own. I can’t wait to get to the boat and make it my own space where I will write this next book.

Pretty awesome, eh?

Fair winds!


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C.E. Grundler

The other night, as I wrestled with the complexities of my storyline, spread across Scrivener in a chaos of color-coded files, the parallels of writing a novel and restoring a boat came to mind yet again. That, and mountain climbing.

I’ve never understood why individuals choose to climb massive mountains. I know, “Because it’s there,” they say. Risking life and limb because it’s there? Sorry. I just don’t get it. Why would anyone voluntarily submit themselves to such an undertaking. Why would someone willingly subject themselves to a task where it will take thousand upon thousands of seemingly endless steps, over and over, ever drawing you closer to your goal… or setbacks standing between you and your goal. Then again, I suppose many intrepid mountaniers would regard my painstaking progress at restoring Annabel Lee and ask the same question. Why? I suspect if your added all my treks up and down ladders, scaffolding and side decks, I could be halfway up Everest by now. But as with mountain climbing, (or in my case, local hiking,) until you reach the top, all you can see is the stretch of ground you’d already covered and what still waits ahead. Often, I imagine, there’s no sight of the end until there’s no higher you can climb. And the only way you’ll get there is one step at a time. One more foot of deck. One more word, sentence, passage.

The world is filled with dreamers. Climbing that mountain or writing that novel, or even fixing up a beautiful old boat. Of those, a percentage will move from dreaming to action, and of that group, a few will actually reach the summit, or the open sea, or ‘The End.’ What separates the dreamers from those who reach their goals is that perserverance to keep pushing on, pushing through obstacles and never giving up.  Perserverance,  delusional optimism, or perhaps a touch of insanity. Either way, I know only too well how hard it can be at times. Then again, if it were easy… well, you know.

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New book is out and other things . . .

Posted by Michael Haskins

Last Friday NOBODY WINS was released and is now available as a trade paperback on Amazon and my website and as an eBook at the Kindle Store.

I ran into a lot of delays in writing this one. The trip to Ireland for research, helping put together the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest and my job writing for the Key West Weekly.

Now I am working on an idea for my next Mick Murphy Key West Mystery and it’s going to involve a week-long road trip to the Florida Panhandle or Panama City (still deciding) and New Orleans.

I can begin writing the book soon, because the opening chapters happen in Key West and with a gruesome event that, I hope, will make all readers really hate the bad guy. Doing that from the beginning will be a new twist for me. I hope it works and doesn’t come back and bite me in the ass.

I don’t usually have another book in mind when I finish one. I get to work on a short story and it’s kind of a vacation of the mind. But this story came to me while riding and listening to ole Waylon Jennings on a CD. I can’t remember the name of the song, but it had something to do with getting out of Tulsa before sunset. Find the song, listen to it and you might have an idea of where the story plot is going. Timely and gruesome, trust me. Anyway, like I often do, I take the idea in the song and wonder “What would Murphy do?” By the time I’d returned home I had the story kind of worked out in my head and have kept adjusting it, even while still writing NOBODY WINS.

I had another surprise too. Maybe I just have too much time on my hands. I have the book following the next one kind of thought out too. I guess any short stories I had hoped to work on will have to wait. All I can tell you on the 2nd book is this time Mick has to come to the aid of his black-bag friend Norm. It’s usually Norm coming to save Mick’s butt.

Other than that, I am busying working on the 2nd annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest for June of 2015. Wanna help? What Florida writer would you like to see as our Saturday guest author and luncheon speaker and why. Would he/she be reason enough for you to come to Key
West for the event?

I am looking forward to hearing from the dedicated three readers following my posts on this one!

Oh yeah, if you buy NOBODY WINS, please write a review on its Amazon page, it really helps.

Thanks and remember, a book a day keeps the mind busy and you out of trouble . . . live vicariously through mysteries!


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A few thoughts about Active Captain

By Mike Jastrzebski

Now that we’ve reached the Chesapeake and are anchored in Deltaville, Virginia, I’ve had a little time to reflect on our trip up the intracoastal.

Besides our chart plotter, VHF radio, and autopilot, I would have to say that Active Captain has proved itself to be indispensable. During the trip we never once opened our Skipper Bob’s anchorage book or our printed guide books, although we did use the Dozier’s Waterway Guide book once we arrived at Charleston, SC and Beaufort, NC for local information. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of information about these towns on Active Captain, but we had the guides so we used them.

We use Active Captain on our iPad with the Garmin Blue Charts and find it very easy to use. We came to especially appreciate the shoaling warnings along the intracoastal since we draw 6’4″, and I’m sure we would have gone aground at least once without the warnings.

In planning our daily travels we found the anchoring information to be particularly helpful along with the marina information to help plan our fuel stops.

That said, there were a few issues I had with Active Captain and Blue Charts. First, since we made two jumps outside of the intracoastal I had to worry about Active Captain automatically updating as I came into a port and needed it most. I suspect that this is a problem on the Garmin side of things, but it would be nice if Active Captain would work with Garmin to set up a delay button for the updates.

The second issue is very minor. Periodically we came across a warning that a red or green marker was missing with a request that the note be removed if the problem was corrected. Twice the markers had been replaced and I was unable to figure out how to remove them. I also was unable to leave reviews. Again this might be a Garmin issue rather than an Active Captain issue.

Overall, I highly recommend Active Captain to anyone who doesn’t already have it downloaded to a computer or tablet.


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Nom de plume

What's-her-name on the island of Rhodes in Greece

What’s-her-name on the island of Rhodes in Greece

by Christine Kling

One of the questions that people often ask me is if I write under my own name. What they are really asking is, “Do you write under a pen name?” I almost always feel like they are disappointed when I reply that I do write under my own name. I think they feel that if I were “really famous” then I would have to write under an assumed name. That idea always makes me laugh.

In today’s world, very few authors are really famous. Even huge, bestselling authors like Lee Child, Nora Roberts and Dan Brown are completely unknown to the majority of Americans. A Pew Research report on Reading in America in 2013 tells us that 76% of adults report having read at least one book in the last year, but only 50% have read five or more. Compare that to the amount of time people engage with films or music, TV or video games or the Internet. We authors are not exactly rock stars.

But all the same, given the right circumstances, there are strangers out there who feel that they have come to know us. We do get fan mail, and I know I speak for almost all authors when I say we LOVE to get fan mail. It is great to know people are really reading your books. And we do get reviews on sites that sell our books and in places like Goodreads and on book blogs.

But when Wayne and I first “met” via my blog post on November 22, 2013, we started chatting using the Facebook message system. After a few days, I told him I was switching to email because in a sense I was two different people. There was the public author persona Christine Kling, and then there was the real me. I have over 2,000 friends on Facebook (which isn’t all that many for an author), but they certainly aren’t all people I really know — in fact most of them are strangers. And let’s face it, we tend to put on a public face when surrounded by strangers. When in public, an author has to be “on” all the time. It isn’t dishonest, but it is a type of performance.

So when you have this public face, privacy also becomes a bit more of a concern. Where do you draw the line? What do you share with the public and what do you keep private? In newsletters, on panels at conferences, on Facebook or Twitter, what is interesting to readers and what is TMI?

I’ve been struggling with this issue during these past eight months during which I have lived this amazing fairy tale life of flying off to Fiji and falling in love. I’ve turned my life upside down and become engaged to a man I didn’t even know last year when I returned from the Bahamas. I’ve sold my boat, packed up all my belongings and made a new life for myself. Do readers care about that scene of me sitting in the Orlando Airport crying after I’d sold my boat or about that glorious day in a field of flowers in Malta when Wayne popped the question? Some days I want to share everything, other days, nothing at all.

Last week I was faced with several private issues from my dog Barney the Yorkshire Terror having cataract surgery (it was successful), to me getting a biopsy, to my great guy flying out to Florida to be with me during these trying times. When my post for this blog was due, I simply shut down. Everything that mattered to me was private, and I didn’t want to share anything with the world. When they are talking about the Big C it is difficult to think of anything else (I’m pleased to report that the test came back benign). I felt I didn’t want to put on a big fake smile. Instead Wayne and I shared quiet private moments talking about our future, and one of the things that came up was whether or not I would take his name when we got married.

And that was when it clicked. The name Kling came from the man I married almost 40 years ago. We divorced long ago and Jim died in 1997. But I have been publishing under that name for decades if one counts all the magazine articles I wrote for the sailing magazines back in the 70’s and 80’s. So Kling is about to become my pen name.

And then if anybody asks me if I write under my real name, I won’t disappoint them. I’ll smile and say, “No, I don’t. Kling is my nom de plume. My real name is Christine Hodgins.”


Fair winds!


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The right tool for the right job…

C.E. Grundler

If there’s one thing my recent computer headaches have taught me, it’s you should always use the right tool for the right job. A tool that may have been ideal a few years ago may no longer cut it or there may be better ones out there. When I’m working for the boat I’m what might be described as a bit obsessive about my tools. My father (Hi, Dad!) Is a graduate with honors from the School of You Can Fix Anything with a Leatherman and some Duct Tape. And while I’ll agree with duct’s tape versatility, we’re still divided on the one-size-fits-all tool thing. I’ll admit in his hands, Annabel Lee would have been back afloat in half the time it will ultimately take me. On the other hand, she’d likely be floating with the aid of whatever BandAids and bubblegum he had on hand at the time. In truth neither approach is right or wrong. We all work in a way that feels right for us.

Still, it was becoming apparent to me that when it came to writing, I’m still my father’s daughter, as evidenced by my previous computer. And the one before that. And the one before that as well. I take care of my things and I make them last, but sometimes even though things last, they’re long past useful. Less ideal tools may get the job done, but it might take twice as long and be a struggle the entire time. When that’s the case, it’s time for a new tool.

With the computer no longer fighting me, it gave me a moment to re-evaluated my tool box. I’ve been making some changes, and one has made a dramatic improvement my writing productivity. It’s helped me to see clearly and I have an all new level of focus keeping me on track. It blocks out any unnecessary distractions and keeps my fingers glued to the keyboard and my butt to the chair better than crazy glue… or even 5200 for that matter.

So what is this wondrous tool? Quite simply, the ugliest pair of glasses I’ve ever seen. Until now I’ve done fine with a single pair of glasses, but lately the closer I am, the fuzzier everything becomes. I get it — I’m not getting any younger and this just goes with territory. But I have work to do and squinting at a screen wasn’t helping. It’s subtle how eye strain wears you down. Off for an eye exam I went, and the verdict was a pair of progressives in funky frames, which should be ready in a few days. The optometrist suggested that for reading and writing, supermarket “cheaters” of the right prescription would be perfect. I picked up a pair that afternoon. A really ugly pair, but the prescription matched and I wasn’t shopping for fashion.

They may be ugly, (ok, hideously ugly would be more accurate,) but I can see again. The computer screen is crisp and clear, and I can read even the smallest fonts. Such a simple change, one I’d been slowly compensating for without even realizing. But these horribly ugly glasses (yes, too ugly for pictures,) have another benefit beyond what I can see — what I can’t.

Yup. While the computer screen is sharper than it’s in years, everything beyond my laptop is now a dizzying blur. Standing to walk across the room can induce a head spinning feeling of disorientation that has become a powerful incentive to simply remain seated, fingers on the keys and eyes on the screen. It’s a surprisingly effective form of aversion training, and every day that I’ve worn the ugly glasses my word counts are double or triple what it was prior to improving my eyesight. While I’ll credit part to less eye-strain, I will admit that it’s unpleasant ‘fun-house’ effect keeping me seated for longer stretches.

I’ve heard you should write in the same spot every day to stay in a work mode. I know some writers have a lucky sweater or coffee mug to get them into that writing state of mind. It’s a matter of whatever works for you. As for me, I can’t wait for the new glasses to be ready, but I’ve already made up my mind. When it comes to Butt-Crazy-Glued-To-Chair concentration, these hideously ugly glasses are beautiful writing tools.

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