Third time’s the charm…

C.E. Grundler

It’s been that kind of week. Let’s see. I saw one crocus yesterday, many weeks late, pressing its way through the mud and melting snow, kicking off the start of MUD SEASON.  Yippee.

Boat work – pending. Last Saturday the world looked, yet again, like a Currier and Ives Christmas scene. Not that I was shoveling my way down to the boatyard. I’m supposed to monitor my blood pressure, which normally tends to run low, often in the 90’s over 70’s.  That’s normal for me. 80/55  is not. So more visits to the cardiologist, and several more ‘ists’ of one variety or another in the days to come. If anyone has any thoughts, theories, or insights, I’d love to hear them. I really, really would.

The silver lining to all this frustrating down-time is that it leaves me oodles of writing time. And while I’m waaaaay behind schedule for getting Evacuation Route wrapped up, I’ve been making headway fast, and loving every second of this story…at last. Two days ago I wrapped up my second read-through/edits, which left a bloodbath of cut chapters, dead darlings and a stack of notes, back-track reminders, and whatnot that I’ll be cleaning up and shuffling into order. When I started this book I worked off what I’d taught myself in the first two, which, to be honest, wasn’t a whole lot.

It wasn’t long before writing stopped being fun and got hard — way harder than I ever imagined, and if I didn’t like what I was writing, how could I expect anyone to enjoy what I’d written? I had a choice: give up, keep beating the same dead horse, or scratch it and start over. What to do? Well, Sandy answered that, flattening round one of Evacuation Route with one large tree in the middle of my home.  I wasn’t happy with the story or how it was unfolding, and truth be told, even at the time I had a feeling that oak had done me a favor, writing-wise, at least.

Through the months of rebuilding I kept telling myself I was starting over with the book, not that I was ever entirely convinced. Before the storm I’d been trying to project the theoretical damage, had Irene made a direct hit. Sandy solved that as well, and provided me more material than my first manuscript could absorb. Trying to merge the new ideas into the old was yielding something unmanageable. Actually, ‘Train Wreck’ was my name for it, and finally, I made the grim decision to scrap Round 2.

I wasn’t throwing in the towel. Far from it. But I knew if I couldn’t make this work — not the story so much as my writing methods — I might as well admit defeat. So this time, before I dove back in I decided to give myself a crash course in REALLY writing, devouring everything I could get my hands on, dissecting different approaches for going from concept to completion in the most effective and efficient way, telling a fluid, cohesive and entirely unsettling tale of murder, mayhem, and psychological — uhm, let’s just call them ‘problems’.  I analyzed what worked for more prolific writers I admired and what would work for me, efficiency-wise. I figured out what was and wasn’t working. I found new ways to herd these cats — I mean characters — and everything began to fall into place. I decided that rather than try to sort out the mangled remains of the first two rounds, I would simply ignore everything I’d written to that point and start fresh. From that emerged Evacuation Route, Round 3. And while I would rather not have taken the scenic route to this point, the trip was a necessary one and the knowledge I gained along the way was invaluable.

So now it’s back to Book Three, round three, edit number three. I’ll let you all know how it works out.

Oh, yeah. And 80/55. Any insights, anyone?



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And the winning cover is!

By Mike Jastrzebski

Before I go any further I want to say that picking a cover for Stranded Naked Blues was hard. 38 designers submitted 318 cover designs. Now this included revisions on some covers, but still, that’s a lot of covers to decide between.

So what did I do? First, I turned to my wife Mary for help. We selected two covers by the same designer. One was for Stranded Naked Blues, the other was for a new cover for The Storm Killer. I held two polls over two weeks and many of our friends and blog readers contributed their opinions. By far the greatest number of votes went to the cover we chose for The Storm Killer. We chose this cover for The Storm Killer because the book is a darker thriller than Stranded Naked Blues.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]

We chose the running man cover for Stranded Naked Blues because the book is slightly humorous, like Key Lime Blues and Dog River Blues, and we felt this cover is a better fit with the other covers in the series. Here’s the cover and the other covers in the series.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]

Key Lime Blues-Apple Cover

Dog River Blues-Shrivener

Stranded Naked Blues will be available shortly.

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Wanted: Used Snark

C.E. Grundler

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read Christine’s post from the other day, composing comments in my head that never reached the screen. Let’s start with a belated Happy Birthday, Christine, and I hope you had a great one. And I hope the conference turned out to be less stress-inducing than you imagined.

Believe me, I get it. While I haven’t logged anything close to the nautical miles Christine has, her trepidation upon stepping into a crowded social situation and that overwhelming desire to slip quietly away (or run screaming, at least internally) is something I can relate to in many ways. I’ve always considered myself a reasonably brave (insane?) person, always open to any opportunity for adventure. From my earliest sailing days, I quickly learned that the nastier it was, the more fun I had in my little styrofoam Snark, modified with a tiller extension, upgraded blocks and a hiking rig. The boat weighed about as much as a half-empty ice chest that had been fitted with a centerboard and rudder. I wasn’t much heavier, so I could skim across the rough waves like a maniac, determined to see just how much air I could catch between each crest.  I don’t think my parents appreciated it, but the uglier the water got, the harder it was to get me back to shore. There’s something to be said for a light, relatively indestructable, unsinkable boat, and when you’re small (both me and the boat) the wide stretch of Hudson can become an endless ocean…at least until they sent my brother in the dinghy to herd me back, because clearly I wasn’t hearing them blasting the horns. Couldn’t they see I was trying to round Cape Horn? But I knew it was head in, or lose sailing privileges, so the next game became ‘high-speed chase’, relatively speaking, while I outran that 3 hp Evinrude powered pursuit boat back to home port. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to stay out there forever…or at least until I got too hungry or cold. Just me and the boat, out on the open water, alone.

I’ve never been one for crowds. Crowds mean people. Lots of people, all bustling and chattering and mingling. For me, anything over six people in a room equals a crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shy, and I have no problem speaking with anyone. I’m confident and self-assured, and people seem to find me interesting — a little more interesting than I’d prefer at times.  For me, it’s not about any fear or self-consciousness. It’s just that I never really got that social interaction thing down in those critical years. Even then I could care less who was cool or who thought I was weird, because everyone, including me, knew I was. I was far happier alone, rather than attempting to play nice with the other schoolyard humans. That’s just me, and I’d probably live out my life never caring, if not for that ‘other’ part of being a writer, when us happy introverts are expected to emerge from our coccoons of self-imposed isolation and blossom into social butterflies. And each time I read Christine’s post I shudder the slightest bit, knowing once I’ve finished editing I’m going to have to face that gauntlet of ‘being social’, both online and in person. Writing favors the introverts, but marketing and promotion calls for a much different set of social skills. I’m ever amazed by those authors who embrace the spotlight, the signings and interactions, and I know I’ll have a steep re-learning curve to ease myself back onto the playground. It makes me want to see if anyone is selling an old Snark.

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Putin the Mystery Writer?

by John M. Urban

Where has Vladamir Putin been? Everyone from the BBC, to the New York Times, to analysts in Langley have been trying to solve the mystery. Putin’s eleven-day absence led to rampant speculation. The list of probable explanations included:

• He had a botox reaction
• He was dying
• He was with his gymnast girlfriend while she gave birth
• He was vacationing
• He was battling a power struggle
• He was just messing with us

Here at Write on the Water, we saw the answer as both obvious and surprising: he’s been away writing a novel. Yes, a Mystery Whodunit.


(My own writing space is somewhat less formal, but we all have our personal preferences)

At this point in his life, Putin has amassed a personal fortune that some say is between $40-$70 billion. Other than a handful of despots from the past, few can rival the personal and political power he wields at present. He even has sex appeal; at least he thinks he does. But has he penned a New York Times bestseller? No. Has he won an Edgar for Best Mystery? No. Have his stories been optioned by Hollywood? Nyet.

Of course he wants to be a novelist. He also has the ability to overcome a major writing obstacle – he will receive precious few rejection letters from Russian literary agents.

Putin, who served in the KGB for 15 years, wouldn’t be the first former spy to pen fiction. Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, and John Le Carre all worked as spies before they became best-selling authors. Some spies – E. Howard Hunt being an example – even used writing as a cover while they worked in espionage. That “Write what you know” adage comes in handy after spending a few years doing intelligence field work.


(Squiggles that only a KGB/FSB intelligence officer would understand)

And come to think of it, Putin does seem to have a bit of a Hemingway complex, doesn’t he. He hunts tigers and polar bears, shoots darts at whales, flies jets, races cars, rides a motorcycle, scuba dives.

However, there is a problem associated with this theory: eleven days isn’t much time to write a book. Sure, Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County in a two-week stretch, but it seems likely that President Putin is working on something bigger than 42K word love story. He does, though, possess what every writer fantasizes about – fast and accurate secretarial support.

This is, of course, all speculative on my part. But if Putin disappears again in the next month or so, remember, you heard it here first.


Who knows, we may even see an Amazon/Russia rating format that allows for 6-stars reviews.

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I am a do-it-yourself junkie.

By Mike Jastrzebski

I hate to admit it, but I think I’m addicted to do-it-yourself projects. I was in my twenties when I was bitten by the bug. My first wife, my two-year-old son, and I moved from Detroit to the Maine woods where I planned to build a log cabin, write, and live off the land. After all it was the 70’s and living off the land was a big thing back then.

We lived in a tent for seven months while I built the cabin, and after that I wrote about a dozen short stories which didn’t sell. Unfortunately, it was not a very good place for growing our own food and the jobs we were able to find paid little and satisfied even less. Eighteen months later we were back in Michigan, but neither the writing bug nor the do-it-yourself bug died.

Here are a couple of pictures of that cabin. I built the stone foundation, cut the logs, peeled them, and moved the family into the cabin in seven months. This took some help from my wife and a little help from our neighbors when it came time to put the roof on.



Between the log cabin and moving onto our sailboat, Rough Draft, I gutted and remodeled a 100 year old farmhouse and then gutted and rebuilt much of Rough Draft. I don’t have any pictures of the farmhouse but here are before and after views of the starboard interior of the boat, and of the exterior. And if you’re wondering, yes, I made the cushions and did the paint job.

Scan10020          Scan10044



Of course, living on a boat has resulted in a series of other do-it-yourself projects from installing davits and solar panels to putting in a watermaker, just to name a few recent projects.

But I didn’t stop there. When I began publishing my own books I not only wrote the books, but like many other indie writers I formatted the books, contracted the covers, and I am now in the process of redoing my website and several other projects that are above my current skill set. Fortunately, I have friends to turn to for advice, and when the going gets tough there’s always the internet, so I know I’ll get things done. After all, I’d never built a log cabin or worked on a boat before I started those projects. I guess like any other addiction, you have to want to quit, and I’m just not there yet.

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Mirror, mirror

Little Christine

Little Christine


by Christine Kling

The time is 6:00 a.m. and I am sitting in a dark corner of the lobby of the Hilton Doubletree Hotel in Portland, Oregon. I’m here for Left Coast Crime 2015, one of many crime fiction fan conferences I’ve attended since I first started down this road as a published writer. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I will turn 61 years old, but every time I find myself in this conference environment, I revert to feeling like the little girl pictured at the top of this page. She’s little, vulnerable, and most of all, she wants to be liked.

At the start of this year, I chose my 3 words for 2015 and one of them was BRAVE. I keep trying to remember that word when I walk into the lobby filled with authors and readers and scan the crowd looking for a familiar face. My heart speeds up and my palms grow slick with cold sweat. I feel just like I did back when I was a kid and I was carrying my tray through the school cafeteria looking for a place to sit. Somebody please, look my way and make me not alone.

I don’t have any problem casting off the lines and pulling out to sea in a boat. Sometimes, when I talk to non-sailors about the many miles I’ve sailed across oceans, they will say, “Oh, you must be so brave!” Hardly! I’m not terrified of the sea like I am of this conference milieu where it feels like a high school popularity contest. There are the “cool authors” surrounded by their flocks of fans, but I have never been one of them. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, content to hug the walls and corners of the room, both hoping and not that someone will recognize me.

Certainly, I have felt fear at sea, and each time I’ve taken off on a passage, I have felt a respect for the many things that could go wildly wrong. But those dangers are familiar to me. Every time we get into an automobile and hurtle ourselves through space at upwards of sixty miles an hour we are also putting ourselves into a familiar danger. We don’t dote on it. So, no, I am not a very brave person — yet. But I’m working on it.

I recognize that it takes a certain amount of courage and ego to put one’s stories out into the wild and invite others read them. It requires even more courage to go to Amazon or Goodreads and read through the reader reviews of my stories. But the most difficult thing of all for me is to walk up to a crowd of writers and readers and feel brave and confident. Most of the time I step off the elevator, see the crowd and feel this instant flight mechanism kick into overdrive. I glance at the doors that lead out to the street and think how great it would be to walk the streets of this city alone. I look around for the nearest restroom. It’s okay to be alone if I choose to be alone, but alone in a crowd feels like rejection. We writers get enough of that.

But I am here for one thing – to network and meet other writers and readers. It’s not enough to just write the books. This business also requires marketing and promotion. So, I step into the crowd.

What is it about writers that makes so many of us introverts? I guess we have to be loners to enjoy spending all the solo hours at a computer traveling through imaginary worlds. And that is what makes life on a boat so appealing to writers, I think. We can sail our home offices away from the crowds. But from time to time, we need to get out and press the flesh. I know it’s been a while since I’ve done this sort of thing when I meet a few old friends and they comment about how long it has been since I attended one of these national conferences. There’s a reason for that.

The lobby is starting to fill as people come downstairs for the first large group session in the ballroom. My panel is at 10:15 later this morning. Our topic is “Write What You Know:Personal Experiences into Stories.” There is a quote that is often wrongly attributed to Hemingway. “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” It doesn’t matter who first uttered that idea — most writers, I recognize the truth in it. In order to write stories that will keep readers turning the pages, feeling the tension, not wanting to turn out the lights, I have to be in touch with my own fears, with the vulnerable little kid who might not be the face I see in the mirror anymore, but she’s still inside me. And you know what?

She was also pretty damn brave.


Fair winds!


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Fictionally speaking…

C.E. Grundler

I’ve come to realize what I could use sometimes is a shirt that reads:


This person is a WRITER. While they may spend a large percentage of their day hearing imaginary voices, they are theoretically harmless. Please disregard any random, questionably violent, illegal, immoral or otherwise unsettling statements and/or behavior.

That might alleviate a few of the strange looks and odd glances I get from time to time. Or not. Yesterday I was passing through an electronics super-store, and I paused by the DIY home security set-up. Nifty things, these new security systems. Wireless, they set them up in minutes, and then you can use your smartphone or tablet to watch, listen, monitor and control everything from electronics to power and water within your home… or anywhere else you might have placed them. I’m just sayin’….  When I first paused next to the display, my husband asked if I was losing faith in our present alarm system, which we’d recently upgraded to the ‘3-dog’ model. And while our  MUTT system may activate for false alarms such as Squirrel or Imaginary UPS Truck, when it comes to security and affection, I’m sticking with my canine alarms. No, I was considering other, more interesting criminal and entirely fictional applications. My husband is familiar with my characters, and I replied that it wouldn’t be hard to discreetly set this up in Ricky’s house so we could mess with him and monitor him remotely. Only I didn’t realize there was a sales clerk standing directly behind me, and his expression as I turned was priceless.

That shirt might be helpful around friends and family as well, because I’ve come to realize it’s not always clear to others when my mind is off in another reality. Sometimes it’s comments I might make, or the music I’m listening to, or a sudden interest in something entirely out of character…for me, at least.  It’s perfectly in character for which ever character’s head I might be in at that moment. But it has led to confusion and concern as I alternate between a suicidal brain and a homicidal one. I’m okay, I’m definitely not suicidal, not homicidal (at least at the moment…jk ;-) ) I’m just a writer, wrapping up another round of edits, and I’m currently passing through those darkest, most bleak chapters, right before my troubled characters rally their inner strength… or just chanel their inner psychopath…and emerge questionably victorious. This third book had a steep learning curve, but I refused to let it stop me. While it took far too long to reach this point, I’ve gained a better understanding of where I was working hard rather than smart, and where I was holding myself back.  I’ve come through with a strong, solid story that takes everything to a new level, and I don’t think I could be happier.

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Cover poll-the top two designs were…

By Mike Jastrzebski

First I’d like to say thank you to all of our readers who responded to my call for help last week on selecting a cover design. Number 1 was the dark cover of a man running in the light with a lightning bolt in the background.  Number 2 was the man running on a dock between two railings.

If you have time I’d love it if you could take one more poll. This poll includes changes on the #1 and #2 covers, plus two other designs by one of the two designer finalists. These two designs were submitted after the poll so they were not on last weeks poll. Here’s the link, and remember that for a full view of any cover just click on that cover:


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A little help picking a cover?

By Mike Jastrzebski

Ever since Christine Kling ran a cover contest last year through 99designs I’ve been thinking about running one myself. Now that Stranded Naked Blues is nearing completion I’ve decided to take the plunge. I chose the Bronze, $299 package and set it up to start last Sunday. The initial stage is 4 days and is open to any designer approved by 99designs. In those 4 days I had 39 designers submit a total of 307 cover designs. This number includes covers that the designers changed and resubmitted in response to comments I made.

I was more than happy with the response and have so far narrowed the designs down to 20 covers. At this point I am able to make 8 covers available for a poll directly through 99designs. Mary and I went through the final covers and each of us picked 4 of our favorite covers, now I’m asking friends and readers of this blog to take a moment, if you have the time, to click on the following link and help us choose a cover. You will be able to rate the 8 covers with 1-5 stars and leave comments, but you’ll have to hurry because the poll closes Monday 03/02/15 at noon eastern standard time. (If the full cover image doesn’t show on your reading device, just click on the individual design to see the full cover.) If you want to know more about the book, I’ve included a book description below the poll link.

A Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller

Wes Darling is back in Stranded Naked Blues, the third Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller. Wes is searching for fun and possibly a little companionship when he joins hundreds of other boaters at the annual Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Beach Party on Fiddle Cay in the Bahamas. It’s all about good conversation, free food, and free drinks. The last thing Wes expects is to be drugged and to have his boat torn apart while he’s out cold.

Wes’s search for answers as to why he was singled out by the beautiful woman wearing the world’s tiniest bikini forces him to turn to his friend, Elvis, the phobic psychic. Wes figures good psychics are almost impossible to find, but Elvis steers Wes toward the answers. If only Elvis could have foreseen the trail of dangerous women, dead bodies, and buried treasure that would leave Wes stranded alone on a deserted island during a hurricane. When Wes realizes that not only might he lose his boat, but also his life, he sets out to find shelter with only one thought in mind, survival.

A hard boiled sailing thriller set amongst the islands and teal blue waters of the Bahamas.

Here’s that link again,, and feel free to comment on your decision or any of the covers.

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Audiobook Creation Exchange = ACX


by Christine Kling

Lots of authors, including our own Mike Jastrzebski, have blogged about the process of using ACX to create their own audiobooks. This terrific site is almost like a dating service for self-published authors and voice actors. We have the story content, and we post our books as available. The voice actors also have their own pages on the site with samples of other work they have done. They can look at what authors have posted books, and they can try out to be the narrator. Or we writers can look through the narrators, listen to their samples, and then invite them to audition.

When the Seychelle series was first published by Ballantine, Brilliance Audio made an audiobook of SURFACE TENSION, but they stopped there. I’ve always wanted to see the rest of the series made into audiobooks, and I undertook this project starting back in November.

Let me just say that I had a fabulous time auditioning the different narrator/producers, and I was blown away by the talent available. I chose Rosemary Benson, and I absolutely LOVE her work on this book. She is an amazing narrator and over the course of the next year, I hope to get the other two books in the Seychelle series done by Rosemary, too. I love how she does the Haitian accents in the book, and it’s fascinating to hear how a good actor plays these characters I know so well. She even did special effects for when they are talking on the VHF radio. She is awesome!

So, I am very proud to announce that the audiobook of CROSS CURRENT is now available from the Amazon page, direct from Audible, and from iTunes. On those pages, you can listen to the free sample and you will get an idea of what a terrific voice actor Rosemary is. If you are already an Audible member, this 11.5 hour book costs only 1 point. Or, if you have already downloaded the ebook from Amazon (even when it was free), you can buy the audiobook now for only $1.99 and use Whispersync for voice. That system lets you listen to the ebook, but if you want to switch to the ebook, it will synch to the place you stopped listening. I think that’s very cool technology.


The folks at ACX also sent me 25 codes for free downloads of the audiobook. I would be happy to send you a free code if you would go to my Facebook Author page, click to like the page, and then click on the message link there to send me a private message with your email address.

Audible (which is owned by Amazon) brings the reviews of the book over from Amazon, but real audiobook aficionados want to see reviews of the narrator. If you listen to the book, I would really appreciate it if you would post an honest review of Rosemary’s work on Audible. I have no doubt you will think she is as amazing as I do.

Fair winds!


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