Piece by piece


Licensed for use under Creative Commons

Licensed for use under Creative Commons

by Christine Kling

There was a time when I was trying to write what I thought I was supposed to be writing. I was in grad school and it was the late 80’s. Ray Carver type of short stories were all the rage. Minimalist. I had a stack of New Yorker magazines piling up in the corner of my bedroom all still in the plastic wrap they had arrived in. You see, I didn’t actually READ those stories. No, I read mysteries, thrillers, and adventure novels, but I thought I was supposed to be writing Literature

See, I love puzzle books. Some of the books I’ve loved are Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, The Book of Air and Shadows, by John Gruber, and The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. There are lots of others.

But writing these ding dang books is a whole other story, so to speak. It’s hard, hard work. My brain hurts at the end of the day. Trying to put one of these stories together is like trying to create a jig-saw puzzle by starting with a bunch of square pieces, and then trying to paint each piece and cut it to shape. I can’t see the big picture until I shape all these little bits. But my brain just can’t seem to hold all these little bits together at once.

In addition to being hard work, though, it’s also fun. When working on the beginning of a book, it feels like anything is possible. I keep thinking up more and more complications to put my characters through hell. It’s great to throw ideas out there and not know if any of them will make it into the book. But then I do wind up with a huge mass of ideas, and the time comes to try to put them into some kind of order.

So being me, I try to find tools that will help me. The writing software Scrivener has been a huge help in the past six or seven years that I have been using it. I throw documents and web pages and all sorts of bits of information into my Research folder. It makes for huge files (my WIP is already over 50 MB), but it’s great having all that stuff at my fingertips because I just cannot remember it all. I use character sketch templates and bits and pieces I’ve found from several other authors. One of the general Scrivener templates I like can be found on novelist Caroline Norrington’s website here. I write down chapters and scenes, and I can drag and drop them as I see fit. It sure beats all those colored Post-it notes that used to be all over the wall above my desk.

Now I am trying to find the best Timeline app. To make my puzzles work, I have to make sure I don’t screw up the time sequence. I used an app called Aeon Timeline for the last book, and I’ve started agin with it on this book, but I don’t love it. The guys at Scrivener recommend Aeon Timeline, and they say there is a way to import your timeline into Scrivener, but I haven’t got there yet. Unfortunately, the software is not very intuitive, and I have trouble moving around from one decade to the next. If anyone out there is using a timeline program they like, please share in the comments here. Much as I resist, I might just have to resort to paper!

In the end, though, all the tools in the world won’t write the book for me. I need time, concentration and butt-in-chair. That’s not as easy as you might think when anchored in lagoon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Truth be told, that’s not easy anywhere.


Fair winds!


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Engine Room Acoustics…

C.E. Grundler

An important, but often overlooked area of boat design is sound levels throughout a boat. And while I’m looking forward to hearing this little beauty fire up (any day now!) an ample helping of Sounddown always kept that purring rumble confined to its cozy confines.

2014-09-10 15.04.43

But these acoustics go both ways. You never know how many hours you might find yourself spending in the company of your engine while it is silent, and a little music can fill the engine room quite nicely. Just park the computer out of the way and enjoy.

Or I can just close my eyes and play this 80 hp lehman. Mmmmh!



What’s left down here? Connect the new fuel lines, fresh and raw water hoses, belts, filters, engine and trans coolers, a few random wires and sensors, and we should be good to go. The collection of boat parts not attached to the boat is shrinking fast!


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Book release party – reason for print Vs eBooks


Today’s publish world is changing faster than I can swill a Guinness. I, like many others, have benefited from it. My last three books have been independently publish. Each has gone through the editing and cover design once offered by my traditional publisher. Two differences, I pay for the editing and cover design and like the result much better.

I have to do my own publicity, but then publishers have cut much of the PR budgets, so writers who are not on the NY Times bestseller list probably have to do that too, if they’re traditionally published. It’s time consuming until you get the routine down and then many of the markets still are hard to break into. That will change as more and more bestselling authors become independently published. The upside of going independent is the money. From Kindle I receive 70 percent and the Kindle website gives me daily sales numbers and a 30-day graph of how my sales are doing. Something the NY publishing world says they can’t do.

I still do offer my books on Amazon as POD trade paperbacks. The sales are not worth mentioning.

So why do it?

I have books to give family and friends, books to use for PR purposes and for signings. While some independent bookstores will agree to hold signings for non-traditionally published writers, here in Key West I hold my book release party for NOBODY WINS at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon in Old Town.

I don’t have to give the saloon a 40-percent cut of the sales and that’s a big thing. More money for me!


I will also be at the Kilkenny House Irish Pub in Cranford, NJ on the 20th of the month, around 5 pm, and Barry, the owner let me use his pub for a few chapters in NOBODY WINS. It’s an unofficial book signing, but I’ll have a few copies so stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.in my pocket. I will be having a book release party on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2-4 pm at the Smokin’ Tuna, so if you’re in Key West, please stop by. We’re a small community and everyone knows everyone. In this case, I know the local Budweiser man and he has donated a keg of Mich Ultra. Buy a book and get a free draft of beer. I’m not sure if anyone will be keep track of who gets the drafts, so the curious may also get a free draft. The local rep for Pilar Rum has donated a few bottles and there will be specially priced Pilar Run drinks. All this makes the book release event more of a party, Key West style.

Other than book release parties, I don’t really sell many traditional books. You would think that the big publishers would take notice. More and more writers, like me, are having good sales on Kindle. Writers that the NY publishers weren’t interested in.

While I love books, to hold it while reading, to see its spine on my bookshelf, times are changing and when my kids inherit my book collection, they will probably be inheriting antiques. The same with newspapers. I want to hold it, smell the ink and hear the rustling of pages as I turn them. Not to mention that when I spill my café con leche on the newspaper it’s still readable. Not sure what a Kindle or tablet would do with my coffee soaking it.


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The sunsets of our life

By Mike Jastrzebski

Our cruising life that is. On September 2nd Mary and I celebrated our eleven year anniversary of living aboard Rough Draft and I thought I would post some of the nicer sunsets we’ve experienced while traveling over those years.









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The vagaries of time

Fish are weighed by the basketful at Shoreline in Majuro

Fish are weighed by the basketful at Shoreline in Majuro

by Christine Kling

TourneyWe’ve now been back aboard the boat for a week and a half, and I have completely lost track of the world outside the lagoon here at Majuro Atoll. The pace of life aboard a cruising boat is very different, and it takes a while to acclimate. We work on the boat, go shopping at Payless or K&K food markets, and watch the goings on of the local scene. Yesterday, when I was supposed to be writing a blog, we got involved with watching the weigh-in at the All-Micronesia Fishing Tourney.

The rain started then and we couldn’t get back to the boat without getting soaked, so we shrugged our shoulders and settled in to watch the hundreds of pounds of reef fish that were offloaded from each boat.


While we were there, I met and started chatting with a couple off a boat from Slovenia (the first cruisers I’ve met from that country). We chatted a bit about the sailing in the Adriatic, the Med and the Aegean, and I told them how much I had loved visiting Turkey recently. The fellow told me that I should have seen that coastline 20 years ago, and again, I was struck by the vagaries of time. clocks

People get hung up by thinking about ‘the good old days’ and thinking that there were better times than these. It sometimes blinds them to the cool stuff happening today. When I was in the South Pacific 35 years ago, you didn’t see the local island people with the kinds of boats they have  today. They also didn’t have supermarkets, access to the Internet, good medical care, and many of the things we take for granted in North America. It’s not fair of us to want the world to change at our pace, according to our timeline. One of the coolest things I saw at the fish weigh-in yesterday was a local guy taking video of the weigh-in with his 7″ Android tablet.

The fact is that here is Majuro, I can’t keep up with the very real vagaries of time when trying to deal with friends and appointments and phone calls and deadlines with people who live all over the world. I keep my world clock app on my iPad set to let me know if friends, family and business associates are awake or asleep and behind me or ahead.

But even that didn’t help me this week with getting my blog up on time.

Fair winds!


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I’ll sleep on the plane…

C.E. Grundler

No, there are no major travel plans in my immediate future, at least not that I’m aware of. “I’ll sleep on the plane,” is an expression I’ve used on occasion over the last two decades, and this morning, well before sunrise, I found myself thinking that as my husband and I walked the dogs. Just make it through the next few days and I’ll sleep on the plane.

It was close to twenty years ago and we were heading off on a rare ‘get on a plane and go somewhere’ vacation,  two weeks in Alaska with my parents and our daughter, exploring Denali Park and the region’s waters aboard a small and spartan vessel that could reach areas the mega cruise ships couldn’t access. It was a trip full of wonderful memories, but one of the most vivid was my exhaustion leading up to departure. We were still in the process of rebuilding the house, which was literally in a bulldozer’s sights before we bought it. My brother-in-law would be house-sitting and dog-watching, including the then still very much a puppy Moxie, found two weeks before we were due to leave. The most difficult puppies can grow to be the best dogs, but first you must survive the ‘rotten puppy’ stage.

But puppies and construction zones aside, the bottom line is I’m just a tad OCD, and taking me outside my usual zones of control can be an interesting experiment in human behavior. I have to make absolutely certain that everything I can possibly determine is in place during my absence, and that all will run smoothly over that time. Needless to say, as the days ticked down I become consumed with making certain everything was in order, both in trip preparations and home operations. In the case of the Alaska trip, I had lists of lists, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Once I’m on the plane, in the air, I can’t do anymore. It’ll be out of my hands. I’ll sleep on the plane.”

In theory, at least.

Reality. Boarded at dawn. Settle into my window seat, look out at the Newark sights. Plane takes off. Rising sun streams through my window. Pull the shade. Plane turns slightly, and now the sun streams through the window one row up. Plane remains on the same heading for hours, following the low sun across time zones and latitudes. Somewhere over those flat, square states they put between the coasts it hit me. It was summertime and we were heading towards the land of the midnight sun. I recall standing on an airstrip in Anchorage, staring straight up at the sun, now directly overhead. I never slept a fraction of a second on the plane, or even the second connecting flight. According to my watch, still on NJ time, it was four A.M., and that bleeping sun was thumbtacked in the middle of the damned sky and not moving. I like the dark. A lot. I never realized how much, though, until that moment.

Sleeping on the plane has evolved to mean whenever I set myself deadlines, and then push myself harder and harder as that date draws near. Writing and editing brings out the “I’ll sleep on the plane” mentality in me, and so does working on the boat. Add to that downsizing 30+ years of life, sorting and inventorying my existence to only what matters most. The dates I’ve imposed on myself are unofficial and will not be announced. They’re simply a great motivation, within reason. And that sleeping on the plane thing — it comes with no guarantees. Sometimes all you manage to do is arrive exhausted.

Writing, boats, and life in general. All best tackled one step at a time, taking things as they come, and occasionally taking a nap. And next time I travel far north, I’ll do it when the sun is back in setting mode.

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Lessons Right On The Water

Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Winds blowing from the south at 10 to 15 knots, blue skies from the tip of the Vineyard to Aquidneck Island. Seas at the edge of Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound a modest 2 to 3 feet. A perfect day and a perfect sail.

(Sally enjoying time the helm)

Time on the water. I wish I had more of it.

I am thinking, too, of something I recently read about a Native-American belief that important decisions should be made in consideration of the impact created on seven generations. Imagine that, the consideration of seven generations – 120 years. Imagine if we were to apply a test of the impact of just two generations. Heck, imagine if the test were but the consideration of how our important decisions impact a significant portion of those who share our planet.

Even a simple wooden boat guy would have problems applying this test. Sure, wind power is renewable energy, wood is more environmentally friendly than fiberglass, and through my labor I minimize the taking of new resources by keeping a 69 year-old boat going year-in and year-out. But before anyone tries to raise an environmentally friendly flag from the halyard of our old wooden boat, know that bottom paint – at least the type that works – leaches, my old cans of paint and vanish end up in the trash, and the 27 HP Yanmar auxiliary coughs out fumes when she’s running.

But on this perfect day my carbon imprint on this planet is very small. And along the way Sally and I have the treat of spotting a large beautiful fish running just below the surface. Then, not much later, a dolphin leaps through the air and descends back into the deep blue water – a sight that’s fairly unusual up here along the lines of 41 degrees North. Perhaps it’s the fish and dolphin that have me thinking about my environmental impact and the seven generation consideration of important decisions.

(Back at the F.L. Tripp & Sons boatyard in Westport, MA)

As much as I love being on the water – and I do – boating sometimes seems like an act of selfish leisure. Maybe not, though. Maybe the lessons waiting for us out there are about anything but being selfish.

By John M. Urban

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Ah that smell!

By Mike Jastrzebski

I have to admit that on occasion I miss the smell of paper books. Don’t get me wrong, I do all of my reading on my Kindle. In fact I’ve had a Kindle since the Kindle 1 came out, and I never read paper books anymore. I was one of those people who had to wait for that first Kindle to be delivered because Amazon did not have enough Kindles in stock to meet the demand when they first came out.

But the other day I picked up Mary’s dictionary and when I opened it a little whiff took me back to the past.

For most of my life, until I moved onto our sailboat, I was a book collector. When I was young it was the Hardy Boys, The Black Stallion, Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island.

In my twenties I opened a used book store in Detroit called The Hidden Nook Bookstore. I sold any and all types of used books but I specialized in science fiction and comic books. At one time I put together a nice collection of Edger Rice Burroughs first editions along with various other first editions. The biggest problem I had with owning a used book store was that I had a hard time letting go of the best books I bought for the store.

Later in life, when I got serious about writing, I collected first edition mysteries by writers that I met at conferences and book signings. So you can see that I’ve always had an affinity for paper books.

But alas, once we began living on a boat the books were boxed up and stored for years before I bought my first Kindle. When I discovered that I could keep thousands of books on the Kindle I stopped buying paper books. I got rid of all of my paper books a couple of years ago. I still read as much as I used to, maybe more, but always on my Kindle.

I don’t really have any regrets about exchanging paper books for electronic books, but every once in awhile I get my hand on a paper book and when no one is watching I open it up and take a sniff for old times sake.

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Home at last!

You've heard of a container ship, well this is a "container dinghy"!

You’ve heard of a container ship, well this is a “container dinghy”!

by Christine Kling

We’re back! I’m sitting here once again at the Tide Table Restaurant in Majuro watching a tropical rain shower beat against the windows. This is home.

We left Ontario, California on Tuesday at noon, and with layovers, stops in San Francisco and crossing the International Dateline, we arrived in Majuro at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. The boat was in great shape – just that fine film of dusty mold on everything – not bad after more than six months away. The outboard wouldn’t start though, so, after we visited the Post Office, the captain had to row the “container dinghy” back to the boat with 10 boxes weighing close to 900 pounds. Yesterday, we were unpacking all day and we’re both a bit overwhelmed by merging the contents of my boat onto Learnativity. But hey, what other woman moves aboard and brings her grinder, heat gun, Rule bilge pump complete with float switch, voltage regulator, two VHF radios, a complete set of lock picks, Sailrite sewing machine, etc?

And believe it or not we have more packages on the way! We bought an inflatable kayak and shipped it just before we left CA, and of course, as things would have it, we shipped the new spark plugs in a package at the same time and we completely forgot to order the carburator rebuild kit that was on the list.

Slowly, we are sorting through all the stuff, and I am settling in. I have been living out of a suitcase since I flew off to Fiji last December. It is wonderful to unpack at last. Wayne’s to do list is growing daily and once I finish cleaning and unpacking, I’ll start to organize the office. My goal is to be writing in two more days.

The sunset last night was spectacular, as if the tropics were welcoming us back.  Wayne and I sat on the coaming, sipped our glasses of red wine, and watched Barney and Ruby playing together on the foredeck. The whole family is glad to be home.

Fair winds!


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C.E. Grundler

It’s not on the list of words used to describe my boat’s current condition, at least not until the other day. But I think I’m going to start a new list, for the new words I’m hearing. Such as:

- Pretty

- Really solid

- Even

- Damn!

- Wow!

I like that last one the best, and I’ve heard it a few times over the last week. The collection of engine parts is shrinking, while the engine room is really starting to take shape. Alternately, I’ve been fairing the now rebuilt deck rails, which needed much new structure. In many places nothing of the original contours remained. I created a template of the mostly correct dimensions, and it amuses me that I built it from mixing sticks, a ruler, and some popsicle sticks. I say mostly because I’ve discovered something about a ‘one-off’ boat. *Everything* is off. It’s subtle, but unlike a mold-built boat, dimensions and angles vary from one side to the other. My choice was to either duplicate the original (slightly off) measurements, or figure out an average and adjust accordingly. Which approach do you all think I took? :-)

For longer than I’d care to admit I’ve heard people telling me, not always that convincingly, that my little boat will be ‘beautiful when she’s done.’ I’m not nearly done yet, but the beauty I’ve never questioned is starting to finally shine through bright enough that others can see it too.

Yeah, boat restoration really is like writing a novel. It’s not always readily apparent what you’re doing, where you’re headed, or why, and most sane people (rightly) figure you’re out of your mind, walking around mumbling to voices in your head. It’s lonely work, but if you truly believe in what you’re doing, (and keep doing, because without persistence dreams rarely float,) eventually you can launch that dream and show the world what you alone knew was there.

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