Buying a liferaft.

By Mike Jastrzebski

When I buy new equipment for the boat I like to do a little research online. I particularly like to search out reviews. This has proven to be a challenge with liferafts because so few boaters actually deploy their liferafts. Instead, most opinions on rafts seem to be based on what the writer of the review purchased.

Let me say that I was working on a budget. I wanted an offshore liferaft and wanted to keep the price around $2000.00. This restricted me to a 4 person raft, but since Mary and I mostly sail alone and we do not plan to sail offshore with a crew, I did not see this as a problem.

From my reading I was leaning towards a Revere Offshore Commander liferaft, mostly because most of the comments I found online were from people who had purchased Revere rafts and were happy with their purchase. Whether they’ll feel the same way if they ever have to deploy their raft is anybody’s guess.

With this limited information in hand Mary and I set off yesterday to the Palm Beach Boat Show in search of a raft.

The first liferaft we came upon was a Revere Elite offshore raft. This raft was displayed on top of several inflatable dinghies so that we could neither inspect the raft’s construction or the interior of the raft. When we approached the salesman and told him we were interested in the Offshore Commander he looked up the show price ($1795.00 plus $100.00 plus dollars for shipping) and offered us no other information. Disappointed, we continued on with our search.

The next raft we encountered was a Winslow, but it was out of our price range. Finally we stopped at the Viking booth.

The Viking reps were extremely helpful, even explaining the difference between the Revere and Viking construction. (I know, they were selling their raft, but the Revere salesman had his chance). To be honest we were impressed by the rubberized construction of the Viking raft. The Viking raft also had a couple of extra flares, fishing gear, and a water catcher. The cost, $2100.00 plus free shipping.

We were almost sold, then they sealed the deal with the additional show offerings. 10% down guaranteed the show price and allowed us to take delivery anytime within the next year. This was good for us because Mary may need surgery on her knee before we can take off again, and since the raft has to be serviced every three years, we can take delivery just before we leave. Also, we have the option to upgrade to the self righting RescYou Pro (additional $750.00) up until we take delivery. The final kicker? If something happens during that year before we take delivery (remember Mary’s surgery) they will refund our 10% deposit. It really was a no brainer for us.

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Why do we call it research?

The fortified city of Valletta in Malta.

The fortified city of Valletta in Malta.

by Christine Kling

You know what I mean? It seems as though the word research means to search all over again.

So here I am on Day 4 in Malta where I have come to do research for the third book in my new series. We arrived at noon on Tuesday after 3 flights and 17 hours of travel time. We were picked up at the airport by our first host Ben who manages the apartment I had rented via Airbnb, the online rental source for rooms in people’s houses and individual homes and apartments. I like to let my explorations guide my travels, so we arrived for what will be a 2 month stay in Europe with reservations only for the first 2 nights. The apartment was in a 500+ year old building in the gorgeous, fortified capital city, Valletta. The day was beautiful and sunny and the temperature was in the 70’s but inside those thick sandstone walls of that ancient building it was freezing! Once we were settled, we took off walking and exploring the city, taking photos and marveling at the incredible walls and vistas around the city.

Anyway, back to my question. So here it is Day 4 of this research trip and I’m discovering everything here in Malta for the first time. I’ve never been here before and I’ve not read as much as I would like beforehand. I’m not RE-doing anything. So I decided to look up the word ‘research’ and see what I could discover.

On the site, they define research thus:  “The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.”

Yes, that is what I’m up to. I’m here to investigate the Knights of Malta, also known as The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. This is the world’s oldest surviving order of chivalry and as our new Airbnb host, Alex, told us when we checked into our our room in his little B and B in Gzira-Sliema yesterday afternoon, “The knights were very naughty.” CanonYesterday we visited the Grand Master’s Palace (the supreme head of the Knights of Malta) in Valletta and we spent a ton of time in the armory checking out all the cool armor, crossbows, swords, canons and muskets. I’d never seen anything like it!

So I went back to the Oxford dictionary site and I looked at the origin of the word. They wrote:

Origin: late 16th century: from obsolete French recerche (noun), recercher (verb), from Old French re- (expressing intensive force) + cerchier ‘to search’

So, just when we think we understand a word, we’re proven wrong. The ‘re’ in research isn’t saying to do something again. In French it means to do something with intensive force. I like that. That is how I do my research. I like to dive in and explore and let serendipity guide my adventures and hence the storyline of the novel I’m plotting. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a bread, cheese and wine picnic at the water’s edge or shuffling through a museum, it’s all research.

selfieHere’s an example of how that works. It turns out that Alex is a wonderful host and a fascinating man. We are going to spend 5 days here in his home where he rents out two rooms. He also teaches hotel management at the local university and he calls his home his “baby hotel.” This morning we were eating the fabulous breakfast he had put out for us with Muesli, milk, a cup of fresh cut fruit, bread and jam, cakes and coffee when Alex stopped by the breakfast room to ask us how we slept. He started regaling us stories about the history of Malta and Gozo in his beautifully accented English, and when he said that the island of Gozo was where the Knights (who were supposed to be celibate) sent the girls they got pregnant, my brain got fired up and I think I am going to write about just such a young woman. A character was created in my mind by the serendipity of choosing Alex’s Bed and Breakfast place on Airbnb.

Today on the agenda of my search of intensive force is the Shipwreck Museum of St. Paul and the Archeological Museum. Who knows what character is likely to appear before this day is done.

Fair winds!


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So what do you do…

C.E. Grundler

… when your writing hits a dead-end? When you have nothing to write. Well, technically not nothing. I’ve got plenty to write, and I’ve been doing just that, at all hours of the day and well into the night. But not for posting here. Plot-wise, madness and mayhem-wise, I have a wonderful multicolored Scrivener binder full of notes, drafts, and happy chaos. But as for today’s post, nope. Nada. Nothing. Simply put, I’m drawing a great big blank.

So let’s think. Topics. Hmmm.

I could talk about the weather. It’s still cold. Not freezing anymore, so that’s good, but it’s still well below proper epoxy-working ranges. Which means there’s nothing much to report in the boat-restoration department either. And as for writing — well, there’s far to much to even know where to begin. So here’s the Reader’s Digest version, for those of you who have written me, wondering what’s going on in that realm of my existence.

I’m writing.

I’m writing a lot.

A real lot.

And this time I’m keeping my laptop by my side day and night, and I’m keeping all my notes on my laptop, not a desk that a tree can flatten. And backed up on two separate flash drives, and a cloud, just for good measure. Yes, I’m WAAAAAAAY behind schedule, but gaining headway fast. In hindsight, I’m glad Sandy decided to send me back to GO, less the $200, but with a mailbox full of reality checks instead. I’m in a different place than I was, pre-storm, and my characters gained plenty of insight in the process. It would have been hard to scrap a nearly completed story, and for more time than I should have, I tried to resurrect something that I now see was headed the wrong direction. It took a while, but once I reached that realization, once I let it go and stopped trying to rebuild something shaky at best, suddenly my muses were happy to talk to me once again.

So, in answer to my original question, you just keep writing. The words will come. Sometimes, (such as today,) you’ll end up with a post after all. Sometimes you’ll end up with a chapter, or a nearly complete draft. Just write. It might be great. It might be terrible. A tree may fall on it. And if you’re lucky, if you step back long enough to see it, you’ll eventually realize that tree was very lucky.


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The Mystery of Flight 370

by John Urban

Like many readers across the globe, I have been glued to every report and update on Malaysia Flight 370. My heart goes out to the families who are enduring this unexplained tragedy. At the same time, I cannot help but think of the unfolding events from the perspective of a writer.

At some point, we will likely understand what has taken place, but today the events remain a mystery. Stepping back to look at this story from the perspective of a mystery writer, I see many familiar elements.

First, any good mystery is based on a plausible occurrence leveraged on the question “what if?” Unfortunately, the tale of Flight 370 is not only plausible, it’s factual.

Second, the best mysteries are written with a series of reversals – the technique of turning the plot in a new direction just as a fact pattern suggests a likely outcome. Flight 370 has been all about these types of twists. A crash in shallow waters, high-jacking by passengers with stolen passports, possible pilot suicide, the prospect of the plane landing to be re-used later for some bad deed, the possibility of the plane flying around on autopilot…it’s been one reversal after another.

Third, any good book requires a level of empathy for the characters. There is no shortage of empathy in the case of Flight 370, in no small part because it is so easy to imagine ourselves as the helpless victims of this type of tragedy.

Fourth, the element of suspense is a key to any strong mystery. As we know, we are seeing plenty of suspense taking place every day as we wait to hear more.

A mystery has two other key elements: a protagonist and an antagonist. In the case of Flight 370, we still don’t know who the villain is or who the hero is/heroes are. We have heard news accounts that provide details of some of those aboard the aircraft, but we have no conclusions. Mystery books, on the other hand, are much clearer when it comes to identifying the good guys and bad guys.

If only Flight 370 were a great tale, as opposed to a real event. If only it were a new release by a thriller writer. Unfortunately, the underlying fact is that this mystery is real, not fiction. So too is the loss. Despite the unknown ending that awaits, we hope for the best and say a prayer for the passengers of Malaysia Flight 370 and their families.

This one would have been better left to fiction.

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Tick, tock

Me with Wayne and our friend Genna high atop Pic Paradis on St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

Me with Wayne and our friend Genna high atop Pic Paradis on St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

by Christine Kling

Okay, so I’ve blown my blog deadline again. I always try to get my blogs posted by 3:00 a.m. so my Friday blog appears all day on Friday, but I’m finding that time is slipping away from me these days. Minutes, hours, days, whole weeks pass, and I look back and wonder where they went.

What’s changed? I’m not flying solo through life anymore. When I used to talk to the Yorkshire Terror, he never talked back. The conversations were all one-sided, and it was so easy to keep on track and focused. This relationship stuff is certainly a challenge when it comes to getting things done (GTD).

All writers struggle with finding the time to write, and most of us here at Write on the Water have written about how difficult it is to work on a boat while writing a book. We’ve often said that we need to focus on one or the other, so we do boat work in spurts between writing our books. Since returning from our week-long trip to St. Maarten, I’m trying to move all my gear off Talespinner (boat work) and get her ready to sell, do research on my new book, keep sales up on my current books (book work), and hold up my end of the conversation. And I’m trying to get ready to leave on a two-month research trip in Europe. This is exhausting!

But lest I give you the impression that I am having second thoughts about this new tandem lifestyle I’m leading, let me also share this. Tomorrow is my birthday and I’m turning the big SIX-O. Tick tock, indeed. Where has the time gone? I don’t feel sixty and thanks to this new life and the joy I find in it, I don’t think I look sixty either. I used to think that sixty meant being a little blue-haired old lady, not a strong, fit sailor.

When I was a child and looking at my grandmother when she was a little old lady at age sixty, the life expectancy of Americans was only that they would live until they were in their sixties. But modern medicine has changed all that and the age keeps climbing. According to this country list on Wikipedia, an American female can expect to live until 82.2 years old, and the USA is number 35 on the list! Canada is #12 and Japan is #2 with a life expectancy for women of  87.2 years. I think the laid-back sailing/cruising lifestyle could add another decade onto that, so if I am going to be around for another 30 years or so, I have plenty of time to figure out how to get my books written with another human being around.

So while this IS going to take some getting used to, and I am struggling with finding the time and the discipline for GTD, I wouldn’t go back to being solo again for one minute!

Fair winds!


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The Magic Writing Button…

C.E. Grundler

I have a magic button on my computer.

I’m serious.

Push it, and ideas flow. It’s that simple. One little tap, and my daily word count climbs.

What is this button? It’s the anti-distraction button, my ‘Walden’ button, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the button that silences the world outside my screen, the one that isolates me from everything beyond my fictional world.

When it comes to writing, the issue, at least for me, is a matter of information. Not just information, but too much information, and too easily attained. Thanks to the internet, smart phones, satellite TV, DVRs and such, information is everywhere. Years ago, you could spend an evening out with friends, debating “What was that song Tom Petty sang, you know, with the Road Warrior style video?” Conversations would flow and grow from there. But try that now. I’ll venture you won’t make it more than two minutes into the discussion before someone whips out their smart phone and smugly replies the correct answer. Sometimes it’s even a race to see who can Google it first. The mystery, and the fun of arguing it into the night, are a thing of the past.

As I sit here in my favorite diner, in my favorite booth, the tiny one in the corner that has NO view of the thankfully silent, closed-caption TV perpetually looping the news. A quick glance around tells me, as usual, that a good fifty percent of the patrons are gazing down at their devices, rather than the people they’re with. True, I’m staring at this computer. I’m happy to say it recovered from its little tantrum the other day, but as I write this it’s not online. (I’ll go on to post this, then retreat again.) I’m not on Facebook, I’m not tweeting and I’m certainly not ignoring my companion, because my only companion at the moment is the laptop.

My point is this: information is everywhere. It’s invaded countless aspects of our lives. Based upon the commercials I see, most modern cars are as connected as your average teenager, and kitchen appliances boast more circuits and faster CPUs than the first lunar capsule. As a writer, that’s a wonderful thing — and an awful one. Trust me, I think it’s fantastic that I can sit in bed at eleven p.m., watching recorded episodes of Top Gear on my DVR while I research the most horrific and monstrous crimes imaginable. But that same limitless information can be as much a obstacle as it is an asset.

I’m not saying information is a bad thing, just like I’m not saying rum is a bad thing. Trust me on that one — I’d never say a good aged rum is a bad thing. But everything in moderation. A nice glass in the evening is lovely, but not if I want to hit my daily word-count goal.

We live in the information age, but honestly, how much of this information is truly useful? How does it advance us? Again, I look around the diner. The couple beside me are interacting, but only to update each other on the latest Hollywood gossip and who posted what on Facebook. While I may avoid those regions of the web, it’s a slippery slope from doing legit research to idle surfing. The thing about information is that it’s insidious. It nibbles away at our time relentlessly, slipping in as emails on our computers, alerts and texts on our phones, intriguing links on the footer of a page we’re viewing. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, and next thing you know, hours are gone.

I suspect Thoreau was onto something at Walden Pond. And while Walden might not be an option for me at the moment, with the exception of Evernote and Chrome, I’ve put my smartphone on a short leash, internet-wise. Oh, and as for that magic button on my computer? It’s the one that shuts down all data transmissions.

One tap, and my productivity skyrockets. It might not be Walden Pond, but at least it gets me off the information super-highway for a while.

Give it a try. Push that button. Disconnect for a while. Take that exit, and watch how the scenery changes.

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Dissecting “To Beat the Devil” – Part 3

Michael Haskins

To Beat the Devil cover designThe chase has gone from South Florida to Mexico as Mick Murphy and his friends are trying to find the location of Alexei, the Russian gang boss. The search takes them to Tampico, Mexico. Tampico is where Mick’s friend, and ex-drug smuggler Pauly, sometimes worked out of and where he decided to leave the business. Read the book and you’ll find out what caused Pauly to make a run for it!

It is also at Tampico, where they discover Alexei’s journal that will take them back to Key West. So, how factual is it that Iranians would use a Mexican cartel to sneak Palestinians into the US? You’ll learn about the plan in my book. Let me explain what my intel contact told me. Iranians are not Arabs, they are Persian. You don’t hear about Iranian suicide bombers. But the Iranians pay Hezbollah to do the dirty work and Hezbollah recruits Palestinians.

Has it happened before, Iranians using Mexican cartels for smuggling people into the US? No one can say for sure, but Iranian militants, as well as other Muslin terrorist groups have a foothold in South and Central America. That’s a known fact, so American intelligence probably keeps an eye on them. Might make another good book.

So, my premise is possible.

The Russian gangster’s journal is a throwback to his days in the KGB. Again, it is known the KGB kept good records. That was proven when East Germany’s government went the way of all Eastern Communists bloc. It is still not know what facts were found at the Stasi HQ, but it made a lot of West German politicians nervous. Yes, Alexei’s journal would be a prize.

But, ain’t there always a but? The journal is in Russian (come on, Alexei is Russian so of course he’d write in Russian) and no one among Mick cohorts speaks the language. Mick and Pauly know that their friend in Key West, Burt, has a relationship with a Russian woman. Escaping a Mexican Navy attack on the cartel’s smuggling base, and facing off threats from another cartel, the crew get airborne. While in flight, Murphy flips the journal’s pages and comes across the longitude/latitude numbers and realizes they designate Key West Harbor (remember, he’s a sailor and would know his home ports coordinates).

This discovery brings them back to Key West, to warn the authorities, but not until they get Burt’s friend to translate the journal. What they discover shocks them. What happens when they bring the time sensitive material to the authorities shocks them even worse.

Just a quick side note here, if you’ve been watching the news about the Malaysian Airline that has gone missing (as I write this), you may have heard that an Iranian bought the two men using stolen passports their tickets. That news has the world’s intelligence agencies paying close attention now. As in “To Beat the Devil,” Iranian agents are behind many terrorist actions, even if it’s a terrorist act performed by an Arab, or other non-Iranian.

Truth can be as strange as fiction. We’ll talk about what the Iranians wanted the Palestinians trained for and why it was scheduled for Key West, next time.

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Two thrillers for .99 cents.

By Mike Jastrzebski

My boxed thriller set, A Deadly Two-Fer, is on sale through Thursday March 13th for .99 cents. This set includes my historical thriller, The Storm Killer, and Mind Demons (A Psychological Thriller).

Here’s the description: Two complete thrillers -The Storm Killer and Mind Demons

Storm Killer—-Time: 1935. Place: New York City. Crime beat reporter Jim Locke gets sucked into a quagmire of death, deceit, and danger when his actress sister is murdered – and he becomes the prime suspect. When he uncovers a pattern of similar murders, he is convinced that a serial killer is on the loose. But the police aren’t buying it, and it’s up to Jim to stop the madman. The hunt takes him from the grimy streets and smoke-filled bars of Manhattan to deceptively laid-back Key West, just as a killer storm bears down on the island. THE STORM KILLER has it all: hard-boiled narrative, gripping suspense, period detail, an unlikely hero battling his inner demons, and a stunning conclusion that you won’t see coming. Highly recommended!–Miriam Auerbach, author of Dirty Harriet Rides Again

—-Mike Jastrzebski’s stunning historical debut takes readers back into the hard-boiled world of Chandler and Hammett — and brings Ernest Hemingway back to life in a book as big as the man himself. The Storm Killer, a top grade thriller with a heavy dose of noir, hurtles you from New York to Key West at a pace that will leave you breathless.–Christine Kling, author of Surface Tension, Cross Current, Bitter End, and Wrecker’s Key

—-Jastrzebski’s hard-boiled thriller storms through New York’s gritty streets down to Prohibition-era Key West with Ernest Hemingway providing the tailwind. A crisp, fast-paced detective story, which Humphrey Bogart would have loved to play the lead in.– Award-winning author Sharon Potts, In Their Blood.

Mind Demons—What happens when your therapist is more screwed up than you are?

When investigator Linda Morgan begins asking that question, she discovers that someone thinks the answer is worth killing for.

Women are dying, and as Linda races to expose their crazed killer, she unwittingly puts herself in line to be the next victim. A psychological thriller sure to appeal to fans of Harlan Coben and James Patterson.

(This book was originally titled Weep No More when it was released in 2011)

And the cover

A Deadly Two-Fer-Shrivener

Click on one of the following links and grab this .99 cent deal while it lasts. Buy for Kindle. Buy for Nook


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Giving thanks

Our friend John giving us "the tour" of Simpson's Lagoon and the Sint Maarten YC, home to the Heineken Regatta.

Our friend John giving us “the tour” of Simpson’s Lagoon and the Sint Maarten YC, home to the Heineken Regatta.

by Christine Kling

The other day someone posted a comment under one of my Facebook photos. It went something like this – “I wish I could live your life for just one day.”

I get it. really I do. You see, on Tuesday, Wayne and I flew to the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten to visit his best friends – a family of six cruising aboard a Lagoon Power Cat. The four kids range in age from 5 to 13 and they are smart, fun kids, while their parents are brilliant and fascinating folks who are cruising, working and home schooling their way around the Caribbean. It’s now Friday, and we’ve been having a blast with them.

Helping John's friend by towing his boat across the lagoon.

Helping John’s friend by towing his boat across the lagoon.

Although we didn’t plan it this way, we’ve flown into the middle of the Heineken Regatta, the biggest yachtie party on the island.

There was a time when I might have made the same comment to someone else. A time when I thought I wanted someone else’s life. I simply can’t believe how lucky I am to be living this life now, one week short of my 60th birthday, and I try to say thank you to the universe every day.

I remember working as a waitress over 30 years ago at the Pierpont Inn, a beautiful old historic inn located on a bluff overlooking the Channel Islands in California. My then-husband Jim and I spent 3 years building a big 55-foot boat, and I’d work in the fiberglass and wood dust all day long, then go off and wait tables at night. On my breaks, I would go up to a storage room on the second floor and sit in the window watching the fancy European cars pull up to the front of the restaurant. I’d make up stories about the lives of the ladies with the dead animals draped across their shoulders. I imagined them jetting off to foreign lands and seeing the world outside Oxnard. It seemed a distant dream of a life that would never be mine.

The thing is, I had to live that and all the other times that weren’t so much fun — in order to get to this place where I am today. So I am thankful for all the curses and tears and fears of my last 60 years that brought me to this day sitting at this cockpit table watching the sunlight play on the boats anchored out in the lagoon, listening to the laughter of these beautiful children and preparing to go watch the round island race from the terrace of an apartment high on the side of the island.

Each time I feel that shiver go through me, that feeling that I am so lucky to be here, I whisper, “Thank you.”

Fair winds!


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This is not my computer…

C.E. Grundler

At least, the one I’m posting from at this moment isn’t. My computer is sitting right here, humming happily away, but apparently it doesn’t want to talk to the rest of the world today. I can certainly relate to an anti-social computer, but it’s Thursday, and the post I wrote is tucked somewhere within those bits and bytes, and it’s not coming out to play. (Guess I should have brought a flash-drive.) I thought the connectivity situation was isolated to my home, but relocating my laptop to a new WiFi hasn’t improved its disposition. Which means, on the positive side, the interwebs at home are likely operating properly. The bad news is I’m going to spend the rest of my evening banging my head against the settings to determine what’s up with my ‘puter. That, and spending some quality time with Mr. Nortons.

File this under the lesser-known aggravations of being a writer, on the water or otherwise. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t write on a computer, and when those little buggers act up, writing all but grinds to a halt. Then again, I may now be in the possession of one of the finest writing laptops made. Scrivener is installed, as is Word. Technically, that’s all I REALLY need. And without that distracting rabbit-hole known as the internet, I’d bet this’ll definitely boost my productivity.

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