Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "Z" GRAND FINALE

Z - as in:
"Zzo long, Adieu, Auf Wiedersehn, Good-Bye...."
(What? That's how every Austrian sings it; surely, you've seen ze movie!)

As I plan to catch up with all my interesting co-bloggers from the A to Z Challenge, I truly hope this is not Good-Bye, but 

"Auf Wiedersehn."

Oh, yes, there is a boat in the movie. Remember?
Maria and the children come rowing up to the landing.
Excited that their father (oh, so handsome Christopher Plummer) has returned home,
they all stand up.
The rest is soggy history.

# # # # # # # #

Be sure to tune in on May 15 --
I'll be featuring a multi-day launch, review of and insight
into a new Novel by
Author Christoph Fischer

"Time to Let Go"

(A look inside family dynamics suddenly burdened 
by a wife and mother afflicted with
Alzheimer's Disease)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "Y"

Y is for "Yacht"
(as in Yum-Fabulous)

Lorenzo's Bucanero I

I used this Yacht to describe the one owned by a South American buyer of antiquities - all of dubious provenance. Especially the ones he acquires in Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea.

We meet Lorenzo Dominguez again in After the Cataclysm, where he now owns the Bucanero II - the former (real) ghost ship Lyubov Orlova.

All of this luxury was wishful thinking on my part but I had fun going along for the ride through two books.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "X"

X - as "X-Craft" (Midget Submarine - BR)

The X-Craft was a class of midget submarine built for the Royal Navy during World War II, between 1943 and 1944.

The craft were approximately 51 feet (15.5 m) long, 5.5 feet (1.68 m) in diameter, and had a displacement of about 35 tons. Maximum speed was 6.5 knots (12 km/h) surface, and 5 knots (9 km/h) submerged, with depths of 300 feet (91.4 m) were possible. Initially crewed by a commander, pilot and ERA, the later addition of a specialist diver brought the final complement to four. Up to 4 tons of Amatol (high explosive) could be carried, bolted to the sides of the craft.

XE11 Tragedy

Operation of the X-Craft was hazardous at best, but on March 5, 1945, even routine testing was to prove fatal. On this day, three of the crew of XE11 were lost during a routine operation.

A test dive, to calibrate the depth gauge was to be carried out. Two crew would normally have been sufficient, but on this day, three extra crew were being carried to gain experience. Rising in 10 foot increments from a depth of 100 feet, the craft struck the keel of the Boom Defence vessel Norma, stationary and silent, just at the moment her screws began to turn. 

The craft's pressure hull was ruptured, and she sank to 210 feet. When the hatch was opened, two crew members were swept out by the escaping air and recovered on the surface. Sadly, the remaining three crew members were unable to escape. Their bodies were recovered by divers the next day, along with the craft, and laid to rest in Rothesay cemetery.

At 210 feet, the event is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the deepest unaided ascent from a sunken submarine.

In 2005, a small memorial garden was opened during events on the island, marking the 60th anniversary of VE Day. The ceremony was attended by the surviving crew member who related the story of the escape.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "W"

W - as in Water, Water Everywhere

Swimming Hole outside Hana, Maui

Thinking back - way back - I have always liked water. Swimming lessons at five until I resembled a little fish, spending hot summer days in the muddy river with my buddies (nobody worried), jumping off the high weir towers - you just had to be careful not to get sucked against the grates! It would have been too embarrassing to have the miller come out with his long rake to haul you out; a dripping, squealing little piglet already anticipating furious parents (millers always told on you).

Austria is dotted with beautiful lakes (some are run-offs from the glaciers), 

 Austria's larges lake - the water actually gets warm - Woerthersee with the little town of Maria Woerth.

The elegant Hotel Schloss Seefels (my grandmother insisted that it once belonged to our family - but was gambled away at the nearby famous casino!)

Vacations in Norfolk, GB (huge tides). Oh, I actually swam in Loch Ness; talk about freezing! In the South of France, I managed to save a little boy from drowning.
Swam in the Dnepr in Kiev on my way to Sochi (on the Black Sea).
In (then still) Leningrad, I only took a ferry across the icy Neva to visit the old Peter and Paul Fortress on the island (creepy dungeons - most are).
Bermuda, Caribbean, Tahiti - must I go on?
Only to wind up on a lake in Arkansa
(in a pantoon boat!)

Friday, April 25, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "V"

V - as in "Valiant"

I cannot let the "V" pass me by without an ode to the Valiant, a Bob Perry designed double-ended, ketch-rigged sailboat. The fact that I spent six glorious consecutive months on a Valiant-40, "has nothing to do with it." Nor does the fact that the skipper was tall and handsome, alas elegantly gray round the edges (Can I tell you another one?)

We sailed from San Diego past Magdalena Bay (famous for cavorting and courting whales), past Cedros Island, to Cabo San Lucas. From there, 300 miles due south to a Mexican Navy Base on Socorro, part of the Revillagigedo Islands. Great fishing, fabulous diving though rocks close below the surface even in the anchorage. So were plenty of sharks - blissfully, I was only told that later on.

During our only storm at sea, we night-sailed east to a then still deserted Tenecatita. 

On to impressive Manzanillo, its hillside hotel a former little summer home a tin-baron built for himself and his friends! 

North to Nuevo Vallarta, the large-scale modern yacht basin north of Puerto Vallarta.

Across to La Paz on the inside of Baja and north to Puerto Escondido where I spent three weeks anchored, alone on the boat (there were other boats to dinghy to at cocktail time).

Back around the tip of Baja to Cabo san Lucas, from where I was told to fly home like a lady. Glad I did. The "uphill bash into the wind" to San Diego took the boat three weeks.

Just like the faithful, doomed Senta, I waited on the dock when she (the boat) and he (my "Flying Dutchman) sailed in under a following breeze and a triumphant colorful spinnaker.

End of Story?
(If  you paid attention to "B" you'll remember how it turned out)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "U"

U - as in "Uhuru"
Oh, now I've got your attention. 

"Uhuru" means Freedom, in Swahili. But why I remember the word is because of a fabulous trawler we met in La Paz, Baja California. It swung on the hook next to us in a very squirrely La Paz Bay and one always got a bit nervous if the boats would collide.

One morning, during the regular radio broadcast between the boats, Uhuru asked if anyone had a replacement high-pressure hose. You could almost hear the snickering over the airwaves. Why would any of these rather modest sailboats have a high pressure hose lying around? We never found it what happened as we soon thereafter left, sailing north into the Gulf.

Anyway, that's my story - and I am sticking to it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "T"

T - as in "Transom"

Do you know what a transom is, nautically speaking?
No? Well, let me enlighten you:

In naval architecture, a transom is the surface that forms the stern of a vessel. Transoms may be flat or curved and they may be vertical, raked forward, also known as a retrouss√© or reverse transom, angling forward (toward the bow) from the waterline to the deck, or raked aft, often simply called "raked", angling in the other direction.
The bottom tip of the transom can be approximately on the waterline, in which case the stern of the vessel is referred to as a "transom stern", or the hull can continue so that the centerline is well above the waterline before terminating in a transom, in which case it is referred to as a "counter stern" or "cutaway stern."
Merc 50 hp.jpg
On smaller vessels where an outboard motor is the source of propulsion, the motor is usually mounted on the transom, and held in place either by clamps or metal bolts that go through the transom. In this arrangement, all the power of the motor is transmitted via the transom to the rest of the vessel's structure, making it a critical part of the vessel's construction.

Aren't you glad you asked?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "S"

S = as in "SIROCCO"

Can't go sailing without wind.
Well, sometimes, it can be a little too much of a good thing... 
as it is in

SIROCCO, Storm over Land and Sea

This archaeological thriller is Book 2 of the "Legends of the Winged Scarab" series.
However, it also stands alone as a present-day novel that takes place from Boston to Cairo and Luxor, in the Red Sea (yes, sailing through a storm), to Cyprus and Crete; it is all impacted by the Arab Spring and Egypt's upcoming presidential elections (May 2012).


Trexa! Sorokos!”
Barely, the fishermen pull their boats onto shore when the storm arrives all in a rush, malevolent and laden with Libyan Desert sand.
“Run! Sirocco!” Again, the men cry the warning against the feared wind that had spawned over the Sahara. After giving birth to its unbridled son Khamsin, the Devil Wind of the Nile, it froths the waters of the Mediterranean and mercilessly claws at the islands in its path, scything the coastal shrub into stubble.
The old women of Crete call it The Big Tongue. Innocent-looking at first, a lazy yellow haze comes drifting north. It grows larger, turning the air into choking ochre mist. Its hot breath churns the sea and drives salt spray deep into the island’s interior. As if on cue, tempers turn sour and people suddenly find fault with friend and neighbor. Fights erupt over nothing. Secretly harbored thoughts of suicide and murder attack the mind as voraciously as wild goats strip young plane trees bare. All things bad can now be blamed on the Sirocco.
It is only when the cool steady meltemia breezes blow again out of the northwest that the island breathes a sigh of relief, and much is forgiven.

* * *
Have you seen this painting?
Did you know that this Rembrandt painting I used on my cover
was stolen fin an audacious art heist?
(Another of my "premonitions"?)

The FBI is Looking for it (so is the Boston Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum)

Monday, April 21, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "R"

R - is for "Ramose"

I don't know why I had such a hard time thinking of "R" when RAMOSE, the High Priest of Ptah, was practically the driving force in my historical novel. Oh, boats....I'll come to that.

Ramose was an ancient Egyptian name, meaning "Born of Ra." A variant of the name is Ramesses; Egyptologists usually use the Ramesses variant for pharaohs and Ramose for non-royals. Many notable bearers of the name followed my Ramose who lived (in my imagination) at the beginning of the First Dynasty, 3080 BC.

The office of the High Priest of Ptah was located in Memphis (the very early Ineb-hedj - City of White Walls - in my story). It was also common for the high priest to hold the title of sem priest of Ptah. The sem priest was recognized by dressing in a panther skin.

(I just read all this in Wikipedia - whew, am I glad I somehow got that right in the book.)

Now, as to boats. With the Nile the most important artery along the Two Lands, and the priesthood successfully keeping itself separate from the royal palace, it asserted its own powerful laws with the aid of legends, threats, and mysticism (sounds familiar?). Their temple boats and supply barges spread the priestly influence up and down the Nile, while collecting generous offerings to the gods. The priests ate well.

When Ramose went through the Field of Rushes, temple sistrum dancers wailed and undulated, mainly to keep mourners alert during the lengthy burial services (something boring politicians might think about).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "Q"

Q - As in "Quarterdeck"

The quarterdeck is a raised deck behind the main mast of a sailing ship. Traditionally it was where the captain commanded his vessel and where the ship's colors were kept. This led to it being used as the main ceremonial and reception area on board, and the word is still used to refer to such an area on a ship or even in naval establishments on land. Many such facilities have areas decorated like shipboard quarterdecks.

Ceremonial use

There are ancient traditions of offering special deference to the quarterdeck. Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian warships all carried shrines which were given special respect. This continued into Christian times, and in medieval British warships, the religious shrine was set up on the quarterdeck. All hands were required to salute it by taking off their hats or caps. This led to the habit of saluting whenever one entered the quarterdeck.

Today, quarterdeck refers not to a specific deck, but to a ceremonial area designated as such by the captain. As in the days of sail, it is a place where the captain has special control and prerogatives.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Luckily, I did not use this theme for yesterday's "P" - as in Poop=Deck!
Who knows what image I might have heaved upon you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "P"

P - as in "PASHA"

No, Pasha is not a boat, nor a harbor. You could say, he's my anchor.

I give you a hint (okay, a big furry hint):

"What's a pasha," I am often asked, and I reply that, just like his name-sake from One-Thousand-and-One-Nights, he sits on silk cushions and surveys his harem which - of course - includes me.

He even has his own blog to which we welcome authors and their animals.
(I wasn't smart enough then to name it after him).

And, yes, he jumped from his cage in our little animal shelter straight into my home and my heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "O"

O as in "Offshore Sailing"

(Excerpted from Moments of the Heart,
A Book of Poems and Short Prose)

Offshore Sailing

White Wings on an Ocean
            defying the moon's pull.
The sailor laughs himself
            off the harsh brown land.
His hold crammed for survival,
            he tempts death.

White Wings on an Ocean,
            straining, a billowing team.
The sailor braces against his contrary wheel
            raping the rudder as lines wail taut.
The storm flogs with malice.
White Wings on an Ocean
            screamed into shreds
that bandage the mast. 
            A halyard flails.
Lifelines gone;
            the dinghy torn off.

The sailor weeps for soft green meadows.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "N"

N as in "Not on my Watch!"

Despite our electronic gadgets, including radar, it is always practicing good seamanship to have a man on watch, especially at night. Often, it's a woman--especially when a couple is goes cruising. Then, it becomes paramount - and often the relationship (and sometimes the boat) suffers severely through sleep deprivation.

Here is a brief excerpt from AFTER THE CATACLYSM:

   The last thing Jonathan ever expected to happen to him was to drown on a sailboat anchored in a river. He looked at Sam and Maria, snuggled together, their lips moving. It took him a while to figure out that they were praying. He almost envied them their blind Catholic faith.
   “Not on my watch,” he defied Neptune over the rattling, and the creaking, and the howling. His fist hit the table so hard that it startled the others from their terror-gripped stupor.
   “Nobody’s going to die tonight. Not on my watch.”
   He slid from behind the table and handled himself forward on the well-spaced overhead hand-holds. The wheelhouse, he felt, was the only place for him to prevent them from running afoul of danger. This was where he placed his faith. He checked that everything was secured and tight. Glancing back out into the cockpit, he barely made out the shadow of the mizzen mast. It was still upright.
   Breathing a small sigh of relief, he wondered how bad the inevitable storm surge was going to be. Unable to do anything about it at this point, even Jonathan now retreated back into his half-hidden fear caused by sleep deprivation, mixed with an almost unreasonable hope that they would live to see another day. 
* * *

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z challenge - "M"

M for "Mayday,Mayday."

Researching the purported sightings of the real ghost ship I am fictionalizing in my novel “After the Cataclysm,” I came across an official website that warns mariners of hazards at sea. The dangers that lurk on an apparently empty ocean are as diverse as they seem to be numerous.

Hence, whether you are a sailor or an aviator—or even a radio amateur monitoring those frequencies--these distress signals must instill fear and empathy in your heart especially if the indication is that there is danger of loss of life. You immediately realize that someone, somewhere is in peril. Unless, of course, you are the one sending an SOS out into the ether. Then your fear becomes eclipsed by pure terror.

Most dispatches are banal, devoid of urgency and only those familiar with the way of the sea know what is behind them. Somebody out there is in trouble, and an “assist if possible” and a “sharp lookout” – they always add - may not be sufficient to save someone's life.

These daily messages read something like this:

IN 25-34.73N 078-28.33W.

My heart goes out to those in peril. The sea can be a merciless mistress to those who love her. I may have turned into an armchair sailor, but I still hear the ocean’s siren song. I must follow it; but these days, I do it through my writing.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "L"

L as in "Lyubov Orlova"
(A Ghost Ship)

Headlines from the Daily Mirror (London) - January 24, 2014

We must stay vigilant":
Ghost ship adrift for a year and crewed by CANNIBAL rats 'heading for Britain'

The hulk of cruise ship Lyubov Orlova
has been adrift in the North Atlantic since 2012
with nothing on board but hungry vermin

The hulk of cruise ship Lyubov Orlova has been adrift in the North Atlantic for the past year after being cut loose off the coast of Canada. But now coastguards are reportedly worried the recent storms may have driven her thousands of miles towards our own coastline.
The 300 ft vessel, built 40 years ago in the Soviet Union, has nothing aboard but packs of disease-ridden rodents who are forced to prey on one another to survive. Her current position is unknown despite several high-level searches. Last year satellites picked up an unidentified blip off Scotland large enough to be the ship — but search planes found nothing.
As well as the authorities, salvage hunters — after the 4,250-ton vessel's £600,000 value as scrap — are scouring the seas for any trace of her. They believe the liner is still afloat because its life-raft transmitters have not been activated. If the ship makes landfall it is likely to be on the west coast of Ireland, Scotland or the far southern tip of England.
One searcher, Belgian Pim de Rhoodes, told The Sun: "She is floating around out there somewhere.
"There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other.
"If I get aboard I'll have to lace everywhere with poison."

Named after a Russian actress, the Lyubov Orlova carried up to 110 passengers to destinations across the globe, including the polar regions. However, in 2010 she was impounded in Newfoundland, Canada in a row over debts and deserted by her unpaid crew.
After two years tied up in port, the decision was taken to tow her to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean where she would be scrapped. But in heavy seas, the tow-line to a tug broke, prompting the Canadian government to send out another ship to drag her far out to sea and release her.
"There have been huge storms in recent months but it takes a lot to sink a vessel as big as that," said Irish coastguard chief Chris Reynolds.
"We must stay vigilant." 

* * *

Unbeknownst to me that this "drama" would hit the news, I was putting on the finishing touches to Book 3 of my "Legends of the Winged Scarab." 

I needed a ship, and - somehow - had found this supposed Ghost Ship months earlier when nobody was paying any attention to her.

I gave her a new name, a new homeport, and a new purpose (not all good),
with a new crew:
"Rats" with two legs, if you will.

Too bad my book launch was only two months later.
I would have enjoyed capitalizing on the brief hype for
"After the Cataclysm."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "K"

K - as in "KHAMSIN"

Can't let this little self-promo opportunity slip by without showing off 
Book 1 of my "Legends of the Winged Scarab" series...

after all, the Khamsin (or Khamseen these days) is a devilish wind that plagues eastern Africa, from its deserts to its shores.

I was  pleased indeed when this Historical Fiction saga was selected an

Editor's Choice at Historical Novels Review, Quarterly Issue, August 2012

If any of you would like to read (and review) this novel (450 pages),
I'd be more than happy to send you a free mobi-file,
or e-pub if you prefer.
Just let me know on my contact page.

Here - to wet your whistle - is the Prologue:

Rih al-Khamsin!”
It was an eerie howl rather than a cry. It multiplied, and it traveled fast. The urgency of the warning sent the inhabitants of the far-flung settlements scurrying. In great haste, children were collected, drinking wells covered, and home sites secured. All against the onslaught of the feared wind whose turbulent airs had gathered strength from far away.
Its father, the Sirocco, was spawned over the hot desert. Before it abandoned its cyclonic origins to reach across the vast stretches of the Great Green Sea, clawing young islands along the way, racing toward the densely forested virgin coast of the primitive Northern Continent, it gave birth to its unbridled son Khamsin, the Devil Wind of the Nile.
This new turbulence then grew into adolescence over the desolate sandy expanses of the great desert, gathering strength and hot dust, reaching merciless maturity as it slammed into the broad Valley of the Nile. With the Khamsin’s arrival, the populace knew to expect accompanying sand storms; and swarms of vermin covered the ground bringing widespread devastation to the already parched land.
Only when the Great Wind’s hot fury was spent, did its evil spirits seem appeased, and the land and its people could breathe anew, and anticipate the life-giving flooding of their river once again.
Just as once again, the principles of Ma’at would be adhered to. It was their cornerstone of all life, of all culture. Its teachings were to suppress all chaos stemming from ones emotions, feelings and reactions. To keep life in absolute order. No deviation was permitted. Those who offended its strict laws were severely punished—often by a cruel death.
But during those enervating days when the incessant wind raged, Ma’at was often breached; usually calm tempers flared; violent crimes were committed. And it was said, that people vanished without a trace.
* * *

Also available in Print (from Amazon)
And in this novel are plenty of boats, from the falucca to temple boats,
to the royal bark;
supply and war barges were rowed up and down the Nile, even in 3080 B.C.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "J"

J - as in "Jamaica"

When I was still young, wholesomely round and adventurous, I flew to Jamaica (shortly after that country's independence; things were a bit dicey for tourists). Staying at a small Jamaican run hotel in Montego Bay, I signed up for a bus tour.

"You are lucky. You the only one today," said the native driver as he honked the horn of his small car. Too embarrassed to say 'no,' I got in. Off we went, chicken and children fleeing in panic across the road.

"Do you mind if we drive into the hills? I need to visit my old school for a certificate." What does one say? These hills, by the way, were called "You no come, me no see." I was a little apprehensive, I grant you that.

After an hour's drive, an open air structure appeared around a bend -- fifty little children stopped their recital of the alphabet. When I sat down among them, we all giggled and recited our tables together (it wasn't easy - I only know them by rode in German).
They 'did see' and 'I did come back.'

It was a most delightful day that included hiking way up into the waterfalls of Ocho Rios, stopping by a family road stand and other sites that I would have never seen on a bus. Things back then were still fairly undeveloped and all there was on Negril Beach was an old lighthouse.

What - no boat story?

That evening, treating myself to a nice dinner out, I met the captain with his executive officers from the aircraft carrier Independence. 

And, yes, one of them was a handsome Top Gun pilot. So there! A most delightful evening.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "I"

I - As in "Interludes"

Sometimes, my curiosity gets the better of me and I reach for stories that are usually out of my comfort zone. True - but, oh so funny and (again) so true.

These are short satires about love, lust and life told with humor - but do they hit home (been there, done that).

There are several other titles, all of which depict the sadly funny side of romance.

I am glad I found this author - who incidentally is also from Austria (which made me curious in the first place) - even though she writes in such a different style than I do; as well as on different topics, to say the least.

I am still grinning - forgetting all about boats (besides, the "I" post I had planned was REALLY boring--unless you were an ocean racer - which I am not).

PS: I stumbled upon this author on Goodreads - but here is the Amazon link to the author page: