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Oh hai!

phone june 2014 084

My loyal crew, taking a peek over the stern. Why are we still in the same position?

So, what have I been up to lately?

Writing. Lots and lots of writing, though obviously, very little of it here. Yes, Evacation Route WILL be completed — soon. That’s the most I’ll say at this point. Soon. I’ve learned not to project completions, as inevitably that sets some guy named Murphy into giggling fits, at which point a part can’t be found/someone gets sick/computers crash/I find a large tree in the middle of my little kitchen. But this Murphy dude, he’s a got one thing going for him — he’s one hell of a teacher, whether you want to learn or not. And the lesson of the last year (+)?  Don’t waste a second.

Time is a sneaky thing. Ignore the seconds slipping by, and they start to group together, form minutes, then hours, days, years…you get the idea. It’s like an avalanche — it all starts with one pretty, delicate, innocent little flake. So fragile and fleeting, barely worth the notice. But let them start building up, and gradually they begin to blanket every surface, silently growing in weight and force. Eventually you have something massive enough to scour a mountainside of every tree or structure in its way.

In my life, there’s plenty of dust, but it rarely settles for long, and the minute it does, the minute I sweep it up, I’m right back to making more. The boat is a perfect example.  But at some point in the dust-loop (at least that’s what I’m calling it,) it occurred to me that I don’t get this time back. I suppose that comes along with my odometer creeping up on the half-century mark. And I started to realize many of my seconds were evaporating, with little to show for them.

Not anymore. Now, I have plenty to show for my time. I just haven’t shown anyone yet. (That day is approaching, and I’ll be putting a call out for a few beta readers to give me their feedback.) Yes, there’s all the good, bad stuff. Plenty of murder and mayhem, plenty of twisted humor and twisted plot twists. My top priority for every free minute is WRITING. These days, I have more on a page by ten in the morning than a full day’s worth in the past.  A story far stronger than anything I’d ever written is taking shape by the day. And even when I’m not writing I’m still writing, jotting down notes even as I make dinner or walk the dogs.

In the past I posted here more. I’d like to hope in the future I will again, but for the time being, I’m staying right where I am, in my self-imposed interweb exile. There are only so many hours in the day, and the majority of those hours are going into chapters of writing, with occasional breaks for working on the boat, walking the dogs, eating, and sleeping.  Don’t get me wrong, we all need some downtime, and I’m giving myself that as well, catching up on some long overdue reading. And occasionally I even sleep…in moderation. Everything is good in moderation.

Except writing. And caffeine.

Caffeine is my friend.


Solid to the core…

I’ve been promising these pictures, so at long last I bring you (drum roll please) COMPLETELY re-cored (and very solid, but pre-glassed) decks!

decks 039   This photo was taken before the final lapped ‘plank’ of 1/2 marine ply was lagged into place. Every thru-deck (cleats, fuel, water, waste lines) have been set with reinforcements that will keep water from reaching the new core.  Next, two layers of biaxial from bow to stern, and all deck leaks will have been banished!

Snow, snow, thunder, rain, and yet more snow.


2/13/14 – It snowed. A lot. Again. The above photo was taken sometime after breakfast yesterday morning. Rex seems to be enjoying this winter, and if I had a coat like his I’m sure I wouldn’t mind half as much. My other dog, Loki, on the other hand, is not built for this weather and had little interest in being outdoors. Can’t say that I blame him. And this photo was taken a few hours later, during a lull in the storm. Note the patio table and the railing from one photo to the next.  One day’s snow, and the day, and the snow, are far from over.  We’re expecting another 6 inches before dawn, then another round of 4-6″ from Friday night to Saturday morning.

yet more snow

And me? I just spent the last two hours clearing the latest layer from the driveway and walk. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m curling up in my favorite arm chair with a nice glass of brandy while I watch the Olympics. Which, ironically, was held in Russia rather than New York City, in part because, well, you know. It’s the Winter Olympics, and for that you need a whole lot of top quality snow and ice.  Maybe we could ship some of this white stuff to balmy Sochi — I’m sure they could put it to good use, and I for one, would be happy to see it go.

2/14/14 –  It snowed/sleeted/rained/thundered/sleeted/snowed most of the night. The snow is saturated through and through, and heavy enough that it’s caved in rooftops on some buildings. It’s clearing out now, for a few hours at least, but should return tonight for another round. Meanwhile, my table continues to disappear.


5200 and True Love…

It’s funny how certain memories can slip to the back of your brain for years, filed away so deeply that they’re all but forgotten, yet the strangest triggers can retrieve them instantly in perfect detail. In that moment of catching a few notes of a song I haven’t heard since high school, drifting from the open window of a passing car, suddenly I recall the precise lyrics as well as friends I was with one rainy afternoon so many years ago, friends I hadn’t thought about in decades. It’s something I’d all but forgotten, yet it all comes back to me in with such vivid clarity, as though it had only been yesterday.

Scents are even more powerful. One whiff of mothballs and I’m eight years old, rummaging through the trunks in the attic for hidden treasures. The right combination of a bus passing outside Starbuck’s, and my brain remembers a backdraft of diesel over the transom mingling with the aroma of fresh-ground coffee as we passed the massive neon Maxwell House cup, perpetually dripping that last drop of coffee, glowing like a beacon along the Hoboken shoreline as we motored down river. The scents of sawdust and varnish don’t have any specific moments attached to them, or perhaps it’s that there are so many years of moments that they’ve all blended together, but whatever the case, it’s not so much a single memory so much as an emotion. I smell that smell and my brain switches to ‘happy’.


So what is it about removing old 3M 5200 from Annabel Lee’s rudder components, a task I’ve been attacking with a pick, thread by thread in endless sessions and feel as though I’ll never complete, that brings to mind my late friend Butch, and leaves me with a smile? It’s not a sound or a scent. It’s a riddle Butch once said that my brain retained as surely as if he’d set it there with that very adhesive. “What’s the difference between 5200 and true love?” he’d joke.  “5200 is forever.”

*HOW* Fast???

how fast

It’s all a blur! Ah, those leaky decks bring back memories.

For years I’ve moved at displacement speed, at first under sail and most recently chugging along at six to seven knots in my stocky little trawler. Displacement speed teaches patience. The horizon hangs off in the distance with oil-painting like permanency and the shoreline changes in incremental fractions. Other boats come into view, radioing their location to friends (“I’m coming up on some slow trawler,”) as though you’re a fixed aid to navigation and then continue on to disappear into that still unchanged horizon. You have plenty of time to think, plenty of time to remind yourself you’re in no rush, after all getting there is half the fun and all those speed demons are just racing from fuel dock to fuel dock, wallets in hand. But sometimes… sometimes the ‘GETTING there’ part gets a bit old. There’s still that other half, BEING there, especially when the weather turns ugly and ‘there’ is somewhere comfortable and secure, with a hot shower, dry clothes and a warm meal.

Back when I was working in a boatyard we had a hand-full of customers with insanely high-speed performance boats stop by from time to time. And on one particular occasion a fellow had launched his rocket toy and asked if anyone wanted to join him as he tested some of the latest performance tweaks he’d made to the engines. It was a slow day, none of us were doing much of anything, and my story had some chapters with a similar boat, so I said, “Sure, I’ll go.”

The river was glassy smooth as we set out, with the faintest hint of a breeze stirring along the Saturday morning sailors. As we cleared the mooring field my friend pushed the throttle forward, the engines roared, and I was forced backwards into my seat. The world around us seemed to freeze; at that velocity we were the only thing moving as we shot between the now motionless sailboats, and for a moment I recalled that scene in Return of the Jedi, where the speeder bikes threaded between the giant trees in the forests of Endor. Time and relativity had been turned upside down; I’m certain if I’d checked, the hands on my watch had stopped. The water beneath us had gone from a gently rolling fluid to rock hard solid, the hull banging across it like a runaway bobsled on ice as we shot beneath the Tappan Zee Bridge and past the astonished faces aboard the sloop Clearwater. Within minutes we’d covered water that would have taken me half a day’s sail to navigate. I couldn’t move, I don’t think I even blinked, but my tearing eyes shifted to the GPS and it felt as though my heart stopped. We were travelling at 92 mph. At last we had gone full circle and I was returned to the dock, dazed and stunned as I tried to process the wild ride. It was a hell of an experience, and one I came away from a bit bruised and a lot wiser, with plenty of material for those chapters I was writing and a new-found appreciation for displacement speed.

Sunday morning down on the Hudson…

Haverstraw eagle 013


Haverstraw eagle 007


Haverstraw eagle 006

When trees attack…

Trick or Treat! And for this year’s costume…I’m a Sandy Victim!

I’d love to report that my boat has survived Hurricane Sandy unscathed. But as of this posting, I still don’t know. This massive storm was one for the history books, and the toll it took on the east coast is still being tallied, and around here, we’re still digging our way out of the damage it left behind. The winds that hit my area go beyond anything the region has ever weathered, and coupled with a record storm surge, much of the surrounding infrastructure sustained massive damage. Many of the marinas in my home waters have been devastated, and very few boats, either in the water or on land, came through unharmed. I’m hoping that due to her position at the highest point in the yard, protected by an old but reasonably solid shed, Annabel Lee is one of the fortunate survivors. But at this time, that remains to be seen.

As I type this, there’s a tree in my kitchen. And my spare bedroom/office. And I don’t mean a bonsai. No, I’m talking about a 100+ foot oak, formerly tall and majestic, but now uprooted and lying diagonal, balanced precariously between my yard and rooftop. It came down just as Sandy made landfall to the south and winds shifted from merely unnerving to downright terrifying. It came down with an impact that shook the house, knocking books and cups from shelves and turning pictures on the walls sideways. Several larger limbs tore instant skylights through the ceiling, sending sheetrock and shingles, leaves and splinters flying across my kitchen floor.

Fortunately, no one, human, canine or feline, was hurt, though we were all severely rattled, and we hastily rounded everyone into the relative safety of the basement. I’m grateful that whoever originally built this house seemed to construct it of doubled beams and excessively thick lumber. We’d often joked about the house’s inexplicable, almost ‘bomb-shelter’ like qualities, but as we rode out the remainder of the night, we truly came to appreciate it.

After a long and sleepless night, dawn allowed us to inspect the full extent of the damage. The weight of the tree still balanced upon the peak of the roof, with shattered limbs ripping into the roof through various points. Half our chimney was gone, beams and vents crushed. Upsetting as it was, compared to the reports coming in over the news radio, filled with horrifying and heartbreaking stories of damage and death, we considered ourselves reasonably lucky. The house can be repaired, and the only casualties we’d encountered included a vintage kit-kat clock, an old piggy-bank that crashed down from a shelf, and ironically, a weather glass that had all night been vividly displaying the dropping air pressure.

Bands of rain continued to arrive, as they had all night, and in the daylight we went onto the roof to cut away the outer limbs so we could nail a tarp down over the roof and finally dry up inside. Cars and people slowed as they passed, and neighbors came to offer any assistance they could. Thursday morning we’re scheduled for a tree service with a crane to lift the massive oak from the roof – by the way it is balanced cutting it free would cause more damage, and once that is done and the roof patched, we’ll finally be able to turn our attention to checking the boat. I can only hope Sandy has left me no other unpleasant surprises.

My kind of day…

It’s a lovely Monday, grey, foreboding and overcast, with wave after wave of thunderstorms rolling through. My kind of day.

No, that’s not sarcasm. It might sound strange, but I’m not a big fan of daylight. I prefer whatever subdues the sun’s glare, be it the night or a thick, ominous blanket of clouds. At night, shadows wash over everything, obscuring details, blending and softening the world’s harsh edges. Everything grows quiet in those early hours before dawn, when most night-owls have finally turned in and the early risers are yet to venture forth. The darkness is energizing. There’s virtually no one out and about, and it’s a great time to recharge, to really think, without distraction or interruption. I can walk the darkened streets without encountering a single soul. Only a rare, intermittent car passes and I step back, unseen as my dark attire blends with the roadside shadows. I can be invisible.

Rain has a similar effect. It keeps people indoors, and if they do venture out, it’s with heads ducked down as they dodge puddles and scurry from one doorway to another, or hunch beneath umbrellas and hoods. People pay less mind to those around them. Sunny summer days, on the other hand, draw most people out. They raise their faces to the sun’s warmth, they look around…they interact. And for a textbook introvert like myself, someone who for the most part avoids interaction and cherishes solitude, sunny days can be downright exhausting.

If any of this sounds reminiscent of a certain character in my stories, there’s good reason. Many of our characters draw upon pieces of who we are. Left to my own devices, I likely would have shifted to a nocturnal schedule years ago. I could turn this into a discussion regarding the nuances of an introverted personality, but there are already plenty of excellent discussions on that topic, such as this one. It suffices to say, a nice stormy day like today is my idea of perfect.

Please stand by…

I’d meant to post something yesterday and today, but things got hectic. I did, however, post to Write on the Water yesterday, so for anyone who missed it, here’s How did you guess?

It’s the weekend, which means another round of limited internet access and itchy fiberglass/epoxy fun. With luck, by Monday I’ll have some interesting pictures to post and the interior structure of the cabin will be complete at long last.

Priorities and persistence…

A sad reality, (and no, this is not my boat,) but with some skill, persistence, time and work, she could be beautiful.

It’s Friday, and I’m back down to the boat, getting a head start on the weekend’s projects. Today: some tedious prep work, but it’s one of those chores that I can really immerse myself into, and it won’t matter if my notebook is smudged up with epoxy – in fact, the scribbling I put down on days like this often outshines hours spent parked at my desk.

I’ve been making some changes lately, shifting my work routines, both in my writing and aboard the boat, into high gear. It’s a matter of priorities, of focusing on what matters. I see boats tucked in the furthest corners of the yard, backed to the brush and overgrowth. At some point in their existence, each had been someone’s pride and joy. Now they stand as silent reminders of failed aspirations and testaments to abandoned dreams. Perhaps their owner had fallen upon bad times or eventually the reality of boat ownership outweighed the dream, draining and straining finances and relationships, sometimes past the point of no return. Like a novel in a desk drawer, these grand dreams fell victim to the harsh realities of life.

To keep a dream going strong, to make it a reality that endures, be it a boat, or a book, or eventually a shelf full of books, requires persistence. Believing, and never giving up on what you believe. It’s been a long road, but the boat is coming together nicely at last. And along that road, I managed to write two novels. Now it’s time to really dig in and complete the third book, and the fourth, and the fifth, and to keep going. There were other ways to fix this boat. They might have been easier, faster, cheaper. But I’m in this for the long run. I plan to keep this boat around for a long time to come, and to travel far beyond where I am now. I’ve got plenty of work ahead, but I’m already well on my way. One plank, one layer of cloth, one word at a time…it’s just a matter of sticking with what you truly believe, and never quitting.


Sometimes it seems that going forward requires several steps backwards, and that’s where we stand at the moment. After a long winter’s break, assured that the temperatures had now warmed enough to proceed with epoxy resin, (and equally as assured that the weather would immediately go to hell the minute we began,) we set forth to tackle the salon overhead. But a fresh perspective made us realize this might be more effectively accomplished if we could tilt the new overhead core down inside the salon, prep the areas where it would rejoin the salon bulkheads/base of the bridge, then raise it in place. If this doesn’t explain what we have in mind, don’t worry. All will be revealed in the coming weeks. But it suffices to say that there was one obstacle to this plan: the inner frames of the salon windows. The VERY leaky salon windows, the same windows I’ve been vowing to remove and re-bed before the boat leaves the shed, so…you guessed it. We were going to do it anyhow, so why not now?

I’ll tell you, that’s easier said than done.  These windows are set in teak frames, both inside the cabin and out, and even if the previous owner didn’t have a fixation with excessive though ineffective amounts of exceedingly tenacious caulk, these frames required first excavating the fasteners from beneath teak plugs and *very carefully* separating the teak frame from the boat by delicately hammering heated putty knives into the hardened black goo, (5200?) That then revealed yet more screws, also buried beneath copious amounts of caulking, and these screws secured the inner frames from the outside. From there it’s another round of putty knife/heatgun/hammer to remove the inner side. This stretched over two cold, damp, rainy days while we worked by the glow of droplights and the electric heater.

Below: First round of screws removed, commence prying.

Well, there’s your problem. (Below) Globs of caulking, silicone and bubblegum won’t keep the water out if not evenly applied. A single, narrow, clean bead of sealant would have been far more effective, not to mention kept me from cursing the misguided soul that made this mess to begin with.

No. More does NOT equal better if large areas are not evenly distributed.

The logic behind this baffles me.

Oh are my arms going to look good by the time this project is done.

Below, keeping the putty knives 2nd degree burn hot. It made caulking removal only a little less unbearable.

The galley. Isn’t it pretty?

Stay tuned. More fun (insanity) to follow!

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!

On this day in history…

… on a blustery and fateful day in 2007, we threw in the towel on sanity and bought Annabel Lee.  Enough said.

On another note, it’s Thursday!

A bit of humor…

It’s been a crazy year, both in my personal existence, (writing deadlines, boat projects, life in general,) and in New Jersey, (earthquakes, hurricanes, rain, rain, rain, floods, more rain, Halloween snowstorm/massive power outages, all of which have disrupted my personal existence to one degree or another.) Needless to say, posting here is on a all time low, though it is yet again THURSDAY.

Meanwhile, I bring you:


My brain…

It has melted. Not sayin’ that’s entirely a bad thing. In fact I’m quite please with where things are headed at the moment. But right now it kinda feels like this…

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up for the moment.  And the more your stare at it, the worse it gets. I want clothes printed with this pattern!

Another week…

I know. I haven’t been posting here much lately. I’m nearing the end of one round of deadlines, and I’ve spent so much time editing that I’ve reached the point where words just look wrong, like I’ve misspelled them, and the longer I look the more wrong they appear. Stare at enough letters long enough, and they start to morph into weird hieroglyphics.  I suppose it’s my brain telling me I could use a bit less time at the keyboard and a little more time with my head on a pillow. But here’s the score. Last Exit, which started at 122,000+ words, now is skimming just under the 107,000 mark.

Oh, yeah.  Work on the boat is about to move into another phase, so I’ll have to the post about.

And yes, it’s Thursday.

The Last Exit ‘Director’s Cut’ Giveaway…

Busy, busy, busy. That’s my life these days.  Anyone following this blog should know that. My calendar is filled with deadlines, my days with non-stop writing and editing, and it’s going to stay that way well into the foreseeable future. Not that I’m complaining – in fact I’m having a blast. I promise as some of the dust settles I’ll start posting here a bit more regularly, but until then, I’ll just say it’s Thursday again.

This week, it’s all about the edits, and I’m clearing out some space in my office, giving away a limited number of signed copies of Last Exit In New Jersey.

Where Should We Put This Body…

I couldn’t resist… what a great heading! I can’t take credit for it, though; it’s the caption from a wonderful review J.P. Hansen posted on his blog for Last Exit In New Jersey

He followed up with a few interview questions with me.

Be sure to check out his site and his other reviews as well!

Oh, hey – It’s Thursday…

Today, tugboats, Darwin Award candidates and the perils of navigating the internet.

And with that, I return to my non-internet distracted writing.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention…

The boat’s battened down, the car and truck topped off, the shelves are stocked, the barbeque safely stowed and we’re all set to hunker down. But between the earthquake and the impending hurricane, I nearly let today pass without mentioning that it’s once again Thursday.

Today’s topic: Natural disasters!!!