Monthly Archives: March 2012

Watching the thermometer…

One of the oddest but most vital tools we keep aboard Annabel Lee is a cheap little thermometer masking-taped up to the salon window. It’s nothing fancy, but presently, that little device and the readings it provides determine all else that occurs on and around the boat. And while we’ve had some unusually warm weather over the last few weeks, it hasn’t been consistent enough to risk mixing epoxy just yet, so we’re waiting a bit longer before launching into the next phase of boat work. However, from past experience I’ve come to be wary of the weather when it comes to any project that involves epoxy — in fact that was the subject of my  3/29/12 post at Write On The Water: Murphy was a Meteorologist

Meanwhile, Evacuation Route is taking shape quite nicely, and I’ve located some excellent contacts to guide me along with some fascinating and twisted research that plays into the plot, and brings me back to my 3/22/12 W.o.t.W. post regarding the inspirational mayhem the marine environment offers:  Thanks for the inspiration, but…

Mayhem and balls!

Andrew Donaldson of The Times in Johannesburg, South Africa, had something concise and very nice to say about Last Exit:

IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK. . .

‘Last Exit in New Jersey’, by CE Grundler (Thomas & Mercer), R175

BRASH and antisocial, you’re going to love 20-year-old Hazel Moran, the heroine of Grundler’s debut. She drives trucks and sails boats but needs help with the people skills – especially when bad guys come looking for a relative about a missing trailer. Offbeat, darkly humorous fare with mayhem and balls.

Darwin in Metropolis..

I was amused to learn that scientists have determined a unique and previously unrecognized species of Leopard Frog has been residing here in the tri-state region, “Croaking away in plain sight,” according to the New York Times.

Most times, when you hear about the discovery of a new species, it’s from somewhere remote and exotic, usually some mountain or rainforest on the far end of the globe. But this amphibian’s home territory falls in and around New York City. They’ve got ‘em in Staten Island. They’ve got ‘em in the Meadowlands, in Connecticut  — in fact, if you stuck a pin in the center of their limited range, it would fall not far from Yankee Stadium, though so far none have been spotted in the Bronx.  And these frogs are nothing new — they’ve been around for years, and I’m sure I probably caught my fair share as a kid — but they so closely resemble another species, the Southern Leopard Frog, that they were believed to be one and the same. It wasn’t until a scientist noticed that their vocalizations were quite distinct and different that they took a closer look and found the two frogs had completely different genetic lineages. Apparently, (thought not surprisingly for anyone who lives around here,) southern frogs have a different croak than ones living in commuting distance of NYC.  I guess we wouldn’t know the difference, that’s just what our frogs sound like. (Tri-State frog: “Accent? Whad’a you talkin’ about? I don’t got an accent. You got an accent!”)

Customer Service at its finest…

In case anyone missed it, yesterday at Write On The Water I blogged about the outstanding if somewhat unusual customer service I’ve received from my long-time boat insurance company, BoatUS. And apparently they have a good sense of humor as well — they actually posted my post on their Facebook page!

So, if you haven’t already read it:  Hello, BoatUS?

Research…

These days, my life cycles between various modes: plotting, research, writing, and editing. And oh, the plotting I’ve been doing! Evacuation Route is looking to be a lot of fun, still dark and twisted, but in a more upbeat, caper-style way. Last Exit set the strange tone, and No Wake Zone, which picks up only weeks later in the time-line, is somewhat more introspective. The humor and violence are still present, (would you expect anything less?) but this is a point where my key characters regroup as they sort out recent events and they find themselves faced with new (old?) threats, and readers will see more of what makes Hazel, Hammon, Annabel and even Stevenson tick – and just how screwed up they might truly be.

Jump forward to the following summer. Things have been almost quiet, at least for a little while — but then the shit hits the fan fun begins. Murder charges, police investigations, a con, and a heist the likes of which I’ve never seen done before… a heist, Jersey-style. Yep. I’ve been plotting and scheming, and I’m quite pleased with the results. In fact, the last few days I’ve been walking around grinning and giggling manically. Which brings me to my current position: knee-deep in the research on a grocery list of top-secret topics (I could tell you, but then… well, they could be spoilers,) that will involve a truck-load of books and many upcoming road and water trips. Research is fun. Lots of fun. Especially with the things I’m researching – which is why I’ll stick to my variety of madness and mayhem over other genres.

Banging my computer against the wall…

Not literally. I wouldn’t do THAT! But I am trying to set up an Author page on Facebook, and link it with my blog and books. I’ve been blogging for years, mostly about boats and other random topics, maintained multiple web sites since 2001, yet some of the inner workings of FB elude me. But there’s no denying zillions of people migrate there to connect and interact, and I’ll be the first to admit I keep up on the comings and going of many of my favorite bands through Facebook. And with enough people reminding me I really should set up a page focused on my writing, well, here I am, trying to set up links to my blog and books.

So technically, this is a test. Let’s see what happens. And if you do happen to read this and find your way to my still evolving ‘Fan Page’, take a minute to click the little ‘LIKE’ button!

Spring has arrived… (whatever floats your corpse, revisited)

The following is a re-post of my post last Thursday at Write on the Water, where it received a resounding lack of comments. Perhaps the subject matter may have been a bit questionable. Judge for yourself… I felt it would be of interest.

 

While the calendar claims that it’s only the beginning of March, there’s no denying it’s been an unusually warm winter here in the northeast. Buds are swelling on the trees, the crocuses have been blooming for weeks, even hyacinths have been clawing their way through the dirt, reaching upward like green zombie fingers towards the sunlight, all well ahead of schedule. And this leaves me wondering: will Floater’s Week come early this year?

What is Floater’s Week? It’s a local event on the waters surrounding New York City. NYC and its neighboring communities hold the title as the nation’s largest metropolitan area, with roughly nineteen million people living in a region bordered by the Atlantic and laced with harbors, bays, vast rivers and hidden creeks. It’s a city of bridges and tunnels, over two thousand, in fact. Lots of people, lots of water, and lots of access to that water.

With those statistics, it’s a given that over time, a certain percentage of deceased bodies might eventually find their ways into said waters. Drowning victims, boating accidents, bridge jumpers, and unfortunate fatalities of criminal activity. As air in the lungs is replaced with water, a body will sink to the bottom, and so long as that water is cold, decomposition is slowed and the corpse will stay put, more or less. But once the days grow longer and water temperatures rise, bacterial activity and decomposition speed up, producing gases that make them buoyant, bringing these bloated bodies bobbing back to the surface in a synchronized resurrection.

So there you have it. Floater’s Week. Annually, that perfect mix of conditions usually arrives sometime around mid-April, though, like fishing, it varies based upon a number of factors including position of the body in question and whether or not they may have been additionally ‘weighted’, so to speak, as well as depth, current, hours of sunlight and so on. And yes, in case anyone is wondering, I have encountered a floater or three in my time on the Hudson. Around here, we see it as a sign of spring.

(And here’s a nice, upbeat song by Justin Townes Earle, titled ‘Harlem River Blues’, about taking a permanent swim in the Harlem River.)
 

Madness, Mayhem… and Flowers? Yup!

I know… two posts in one day.  Still, it’s not every day I receive flowers from my publisher, editor and marketing team. And I’ll admit, it feels great! That, and I was the guest author on the Kindle Daily Post, Amazon’s Kindle Blog: Plotting Madness and Mayhem.

Updating the playlist…

In fiction, I suppose it’s inevitable that a certain degree of the author’s personal reality will weave its way into the stories. A passage requires an old car or a small boat, and it’s only natural that the writer will resurrect some long gone clunker or a favorite little fishing boat. As a writer, we’re building this particular world, and we build from our imagination, combined with own experiences. I’ve often wondered about the story behind Travis McGee’s Miss Agnes, the electric blue Rolls Royce pickup. Last Exit In New Jersey is loaded with fragments of my personal history. Joe’s blue Buick. Kindling. Gary’s Dodge. RoadKill’s numerous quirks — all drawn together from countless beaters I’d owned over the years. Even my own boat sneaks in for a brief cameo. And the music mentioned throughout the story comes directly from my own personal collection –including the Shooter Jennings CD permanently looping on the radio in RoadKill’s cab. But last night, Shooter Jennings was playing somewhere else – right across the river in New York City – at Hill Country over on West 26th Street.

The food alone is enough to lure me in, but combine the most mouth-watering barbeque with exceptional live music, and you have one first rate destination. We’d been at Hill Country only days earlier with a group of friends to see a portion of the Randy Rogers Band, who put on a great show and played till around one in the morning. But last night was the record release show for Shooter’s new album, Family Man, out on March 13th. Needless to say, I was there. Quite early, in fact. I’d allowed for transit delays, but every train and subway transfer flowed seamlessly, and I met up with my husband in Queens and from there we arrived in no time. But this gave us plenty of time to eat and then settle downstairs… right in front of the stage. It was really early and the room was still fairly vacant, but among the few other bodies was Mr. Jennings himself.

And that’s when the nerves hit. You see, I’d brought along a copy of Last Exit in New Jersey, with full intention of presenting it to him.  I’d even bookmarked the pages with his name and music, (though I’d forgotten to grab post-its, and instead used coupons for a complimentary Lone Star Beer.) But now… what would I say? It was the perfect time: quiet, not many people around, everyone relaxing.  But still, I felt strangely self-conscious. I kept stalling – until my husband pointed out that Shooter was standing alone, right behind me. It was time to nut-up or shut-up. So I introduced myself, explained how I was a long-time fan, (and felt silly – of course I am, or why would I be there, well before the show, no less,) and how my husband had taken me to one of his father’s concerts back when we were first dating, (translation: many years ago.) Then I picked up the book, explaining how I’d mentioned his music in the story. And that’s when I learned I had something unexpected in common with Stephen King: mine was the second book to include mention of Shooter Jennings. It made my day when he asked if I’d sign on the first page where his name appears! My only regret, I wish I’d gotten the nerve to get a picture with him.  Maybe next time!

And finally the  room began to fill. This was everyone sitting behind me. In front of me… the stage. Sorry for the dark pics — my camera was being a bit cranky. But the night was only getting started, opening with a very talented trio known as Poundcake.

You could see they were having fun, which was infectious. They did some amazing covers and got the now-packed room going, and were even joined by Shooter’s pedal steel player. And yes, I added one of their CDs to my collection.

Then Shooter and his band came up and they put on one first-rate show. They moved between some of their more known material and played some tunes from his upcoming album(s) as well. Watching the performance, I was fascinated by the mechanics of creating such a range of sound from instruments, including the keyboard and steel guitar, which gave the music such variety and depth. (Boats, I know. Engines, I know. Music and instruments amaze and baffle me.) I had to smile when Shooter paused between songs to inform “the owner of the blue Buick, your car has been towed, and they found the body in the trunk.”  (Had he peeked into the pages of Last Exit?) Satisfying from start to finish, Shooter demonstrated impressive versatility, shifting from raw and gritting to soulful and introspective in a way that has me looking forward to his upcoming releases. Oh, and then in the encore he treated us all to Fourth of July — the very song playing in RoadKill’s cab in the start of Last Exit, and again at the end.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better night to celebrate my own little personal launch, and it looks as though I’ll be adding a few new albums to RoadKill’s playlist.