Red over Red

Red over Red

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Readers Doing it Right!

If you are going to read Fin Gall (and you should read Fin Gall) then reader John Budd demonstrates how to do it correctly. His father, Russ Guibord, of Bristol, Maine gave him a copy to read on a recent trip to Ireland. John sent some pictures of the book in its proper setting....

Here's the book at Kilfenora Cathedral in Kilfenora

And it's truly proper setting, O'Connor's Pub in Doolin, County Clare.
The bloody book gets bought a Guiness and I don't!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Do You Love This Guy, or What?

For some reason I was thinking of this quote. It's one of my favorites, and  every time I read it, it inspires me to drag my sorry butt off the ground and do what needs to be done.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who
is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives
valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without
error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great
enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best
knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least
fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt
April 23, 1910

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview With Maritime Author Lincoln Paine

Here's a recent interview with Lincoln Paine, a friend and fellow Maine author. He's talking about his new book The Sea & Civilization, a monumental work that looks at world-wide maritime history from the time that there was such a thing. This is a book that you have to buy at the very least so that people can see it lying around your house and marvel at your erudite reading material.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh, Now I Get It...

When we did this Blog Hop, and Helen Hollick who organized it said it was supposed to end on September 21, she meant September 21 of this year!

I thought I had a lot more time than I did...

Okay, that might not be strictly true. I may have had an idea that the Blog Hop was supposed to be over the course of one week. But I didn't get to it. That's the problem with all this social media - how is one supposed to blog/Tweet/Snapchat/Snapple/Twaddle and write books at the same time? At least it's not like the old days, when you had to write with a feather (okay, true confession, I do in fact use a feather for blogging. Maybe that's what's slowing me down...)

Well, if anyone still cares, I'll continue this saga, begun during the Bog Hop, of some of the ships I've worked aboard...

I signed aboard the Golden Hinde II (see below) with the idea that I would be gone for half a year and then return to Hollywood and resume my promising career in the Entertainment Industry (promising to turn me into one of the winos on Hollywood Boulevard, that is). Anyway, I was off on the Hinde for a full year and when I got back to Los Angeles I sold everything and headed off for my next ship. Looked like the career change, which was supposed to be just a reprieve, would be semi-permanent.

Problem was, I didn't have a new ship. But my former Hinde shipmate Lisa had moved to Washington State, and, as a worthy boatswain I once worked with was fond of saying "A woman will drag you further than gunpowder will blow you!" He was right. Though he didn't say "woman." He used another word.

So off to Washington, where they had just completed the replica 18th Century brig Lady Washington in Aberdeen. Lisa and I were in Bellingham, but she ran off to work aboard the ship Edna in the South Pacific (another great story - but hers) so I went to Aberdeen to join the Lady Washington.

Lady Washington

The bad news was, the ship was broke, the town had no idea what to do with her, and they were not hiring anyone. The good news (for me) was, when they had initially rigged her they made a bad choice in the cordage they used, and all her standing rigging from the lower shrouds up, and much of the running gear, would have to be replaced. So they would be hiring folks real soon.

With money from the sale of all my stuff, including my boat, I was able to live in Aberdeen (not an expensive proposition) and volunteer aboard the Washington until they were ready to hire a rigging gang (ah, youth! and it's blessed freedom from obligations!)

Finally (I don't remember when - Spring of 1990? Fall? Hell, I don't remember what year it was last week) they hired on a rigging gang, first under the direction of Jamie White (who is now Director of the Texas Seaport Museum) and then under the able command of C. A. Finger, who supervised a majority of the work. It was a big job. The ship was entirely rigged when we started, so everything had to come down, her rig stripped off entirely until there was nary a rope on her. Then we spent months in the loft, building the new rig and finally setting it all up again.

Whipping a line aboard the Lady Washington

Charlie Finger, who was a great rigger but an ungodly pain in the ass to those in charge, told the Board of Directors, "We can do this job two ways, we can do it quick or we can do it right." Of course, they opted for doing it right. And that's what we did. Under Charlie's direction and through the efforts of some very talented riggers (I don't necessarily put myself in that category) we did a hell of a job. Charlie was a stickler for authenticity and getting it right, but he would also rein us in when we were getting a little carried away. You lose authenticity if you try to be to precise as much as if you are too sloppy, and Charlie would remind us of that with his regular cry of "Hey, we ain't engineering the f**king space shuttle!" I have honestly not seen many 18th century sailing ship replicas better rigged than the Lady Washington. Endeavor is, but there aren't many that can beat Washington.

That rigging job was a great experience. Nothing can teach you better how a ship's rig works than to help build one from scratch. With that done we set out on sea trials and a lot of local sailing, but nothing too exciting. The Gray's Harbor Historical (Hysterical?) Seaport still had a world of financial hurt and they weren't doing much.

Here I am in front of Lady Washington when the rig was done and we had set everything to check the lead of the running gear. And no, I did not just have one shirt and one pair of pants, even though I'm wearing the same ones as in the picture above. I probably owned three shirts at that point in my life.

Not too long after the ship was re-rigged, there commenced a great pissing match/struggle for control of the Seaport by various factions, the usual sort of small town (or big city) BS that happens with organizations such as this. Many of us were soon persona non grati. And that could only mean one thing - off to another ship!

Coming soon - Chapter Three, the Rose!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

One Long Two Short...

Sailing Vessel Making Way in the Fog...

Okay, here we go for Post II of...

When last we saw our unlikely hero (that would be me) he was living aboard a Newport 27 (sailboat) in Marina Del Rey, sick of the Los Angeles scene but unsure what to do next. Then, one fateful morning, he read about the imminent arrival of the replica Golden Hinde II.

Golden Hinde II

Reading about this sailing ship, I realized that this is what I had always wanted to do (notice the subtle transition from third to first person? Writer's Tip #2: Don't do that, it's actually pretty awkward.)

Which leads to Writer's Tip #3: Don't try writing, as I am doing, before your first cup of coffee.

Where the hell was I?

Oh, yeah. So the day the ship comes in I took a long lunch from the TV production company I was working at and went down to see her arrive. Magnificent. What a beautiful ship, coming in with those big topsails set, guns firing. Then I look down on the dock, and there is this beautiful woman dressed in 16th Century sailor garb, her great mop of hair done up in a bandanna, pistol in her belt. (For more on women going to sea - in the bad old days - see Linda Collison's terrific article on her blog) For some reason it had not occurred to me there would be women on the crew. This lovely creature had come in on the support vessel and was standing by to catch dock lines.

Support Ship Sea Surveyor - we loved her as much as we loved the Hinde

Wow! thinks I. And even as I write this, that lovely woman, Lisa, is now making lunch for our four kids on the other side of the house and getting them ready for school. So girls, let this be a lesson to you. Not sure what the lesson is, but let it be a lesson...

Beautiful women, beautiful ship, what's not to like? I didn't even know where the ship was going, but I talked with the owner and he said to come by the next day for an interview. Next morning, early and as bright as I get, I stepped into the office aboard the support ship Sea Surveyor and saw a schedule board on the wall with "Los Angeles" blocked out for a few weeks, then "San Diego" for a month and then "Panama Canal Trip" for two months and I thought Yesssssss!!!

The Hinde was (is) a beautiful ship. She was built by traditional shipwrights in Appledore, England and launched on April 5, 1973 (my eleventh birthday. Coincidence? I think not) She was sailed to San Francisco for the 400th anniversary of Drake's having landed in that area and then no one knew what to do with her. She hung around the Bay Area for a while and then in 1979 she sailed across the Pacific to appear in the TV miniseries Shogun  (you date yourself if you admit to remembering that one). Then she returned to England where she festered in a marina for years until the marina owner, Roddy Coleman, bought her and took her back to the US for a five year tour. That's when I joined her, under the ownership of the notorious Roddy.

Under the heading of "Youth is wasted on the young" I was way to inexperienced to appreciate what a great ship she was, so authentic in every detail. She even smelled the part with copious amounts of pine tar. Despite my lack of square rig experience I was made boatswain a few months after joining. Lisa wanted the job, but I got it. That's when she swore she would marry me and make me pay for the rest of my life.

We sailed from San Diego in October of 1988 and transited the canal. Beautiful as the ship was, she was the slowest vessel and the poorest sailor, with the most unkindly motion at sea of any vessel I have been on. I recall being passed by a massive oil tanker on the approaches to Panama. They radioed over and informed us they were nine days out of Alaska. We told them we were twenty-eight day out of San Diego. Slow boat.

The Hinde in heavy weather in the Gulf of Tehuantepec in Mexico
Finally got into Brownsville, Texas, in December, 1989. My intention had been to sail with the Golden Hinde for six months, get the whole sailing thing out of my blood, and go back to resume my career in Hollywood. Instead, I was gone for a year, and when I did finally return to Los Angeles it was to sell everything I owned, pack up the motorcycle and head off to the next ship.
Me and Lisa aboard the Hinde. She's wearing my shirt. I've know the girl
for a month and a half and already she's stealing my clothes.
The sailing bug was far from cured.
Next post (when I get back from a quick trip to New York): :Lady Washington

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Long Blast - Vessel Getting Underway!

Okay, the Nautical Blog Hop is underway and I'm just 12 hours behind! I've been agonizing over what to write, have thought of and rejected a few ideas, in other words I have, as usual, been way over thinking this whole damned thing!

My latest book is Fin Gall about Vikings in early medieval Ireland.

It would make a lot of sense for me to write a blog about Vikings in early medieval Ireland. That way you, dear reader, would be tempted to click over and buy a copy of Fin Gall. Which is my latest book. But I decided not to do that. Instead, I will give away a signed copy of Fin Gall (latest book - did I mention that?) to a randomly selected person who posts a comment on this blog.

(That kind of business thinking, by the way, is the reason that I am in the financial state that I currently am in, and why I must now get up and wash the dinner dishes, rather than simply instructing my French maid to do them.)

Here's how it will work (the give-away, that is). I'll number the comments #1 to whatever, write those numbers on a piece of paper and have my scrupulously honest wife choose one from a hat. Then I'll give a free book to whoever said the most flattering things about me in their comment.

Just kidding. As far as you know.

So I've been agonizing on what to write. I thought about writing an article on the famous naval battle of the War of 1812 between the USS Enterprise and the HMS Boxer, the most significant naval action to take place off the coast of Maine (it ain't much but it's all we got). And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, Boy, does that sound boring!

And kids, here's an important tip for writers - if you think its boring, it's a good bet your readers will, too. Trust me on this, I'm a professional.

Boxer and Enterprise: Not as interesting as you might think...
Actually, the story of Boxer and Enterprise is fascinating, but being the 200th anniversary of the event, I have been talking about it nonstop and I don't think I can muster the energy for more.
And then I thought, why not write about my favorite subject - me!?
Okay I'm not really that egotistical, or at least I would not admit to it. But seeing as this is a Nautical Blog Hop and I've had the good fortune to do some nautical stuff, I thought I would write about some of the ships on which I have sailed.
A little backstory (that's what we writers call all the stuff that happened back before the story started)...
As a kid I always loved ships. Where other kids were into dinosaurs, for me it was always ships. I would spend recesses looking at pictures of ships. In middle school I built a 12 foot skipjack, my first boat.
Me, pre-beard, with my skipjack
Then, in high school, I discovered a) beer and b) girls and that was about it for any other interests. I ended up going to UCLA Film School to be a Big Time Movie Director. One day I was walking across campus where the sailing club had a 12' dingy set up and they were handing out fliers for sailing lessons. I looked at that boat, and it was like the moment in the movies when the clouds open up and a stream of light comes down on the protagonist and heavenly voices sing and you just know a piano is about to drop on his head.
I started sailing with the UCLA Yacht Club and all that passion for the sea awoke from its slumber and I developed a serious sailing habit (should have got into drugs - it would have been cheaper and healthier in the long run) Once I graduated and was making (for me) good money I bought a 27' boat and was living aboard it in Marina Del Rey. Then one day I read an article saying that the Golden Hinde, a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship from 1577, was sailing in and they were looking for crew. And I thought, Hey, that's what I've always wanted to do!
And my life swirled off in yet another unexpected direction.
The Golden Hinde II - Who could resist?
Coming Next - Adventures on the Golden Hinde II 
Hopefully I have not killed your interest in the nautical Blog Hop, because there are a number of other blogs which actually have real, informative content! Check them out on the right hand side panel of this blog!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You...

So, I'm taking part in what is apparently called a "Blog Hop", one more aspect of the blogosphere which I only vaguely understand, but yet feel compelled to do. Actually, it sounds like fun. My friend and fellow historical novelist Helen Hollick has organized this deal where a bunch of us who write this kind of stuff (maritime themed fiction) all post some original essay on our blogs, then we all link to one another.

Actually sounds kind of kinky when I put it that way...

In any event, the idea is you can cruise around the various blogs and check out what other writers are up to. Some folks are doing a give-away, which I might as well, though I'm pretty damned cheap.

I'll be posting an essay tomorrow, and hope to do another by the end of the week. I'll also be posting the links to the other authors, who you should check out.

Here's the logo for the blog hop. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 2, 2013

All Boxer and Enterprise (all the time)

This week marks the 200th Anniversary of the battle between the H.M.S. Boxer and the U.S.S. Enterprise off the Coast of Maine. It was another in the series of ship-to ship (in this case brig-to-brig) actions in which the Yankees wiped up the floor with the vaunted British navy. And in this case they Brits couldn't complain that the American vessel was significantly more powerful (though they did). It is also the most significant War of 1812 event to take place in Maine (we were and are still sort of off the beaten track).

Enterprise crosses Boxer's bow near the end of the battle

I'm taking part in two great events commemorating the battle. The first is September 4th at the Maine Historical Society where I'll be part of a panel discussion with three other distinguished authors (or should I say, there will be three distinguished authors and me). That will be 6:00 - 8:00.

Next is a commemoration on the actual anniversary of the battle, September 5, at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Along with my talk, there will be music by Castlebay, poetry, remembrances from eye witnesses and a blessing. Program starts at 3:00. Should be a good time, so please come by if you can!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wild and Crazy circa 1813

Last week I took part in a fun program at the magnificent Pemaquid Point Light House with my friends Fred Gosbee and Julia Lane, the most excellent musicians of Castlebay. The program was centered around the historic battle between U.S.S. Enterprise and H.M.S. Boxer, Maine's biggest War of 1812 battle, which took place on the waters just off the point. We'll be at it again, back at the lighthouse on September 5, the actual anniversary of the battle. Also on hand will be David Hanna, author of Knights of the Sea, the history of the fight. So if you are around, come by.  You won't be disappointed!

Me, Julia, Fred, Lighthouse (in background)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Funniest Thing in SomeTime

Okay, this really slayed me. Might not be to everyone's taste. My kids didn't think it was that funny, which I take as a good sign. If you have teens or had teens you might appreciate it more. Anyway, I thought it was well wroth sharing.

From that greatest of news sources, The Onion...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

One of my Top Five Favorite Activities...

...signing a contract for a new book. I (and by "I" I mean, "my agent") just completed a deal with St. Martin's Press for the first of a new maritime historical fiction series. Alert readers will recall that Isaac Biddlecomb, hero of my first series, lo those many years ago, had a son named Jack. Well, Jack is all grown up (or at least he is in the book proposal) and captain of a merchant vessel as the Quasi War with France begins to heat up. This book will follow Jack's adventures as he, like his father, gets drawn into the naval service.

Signing a contract - one of my favorite activities. Cashing big advance checks is another.
Other favorite activities will just have to be imagined, but you probably don't want to go there.

For those of you with your fingers hovering over the "Buy Now" button on your favorite book web site, be patient. Book will likely have a release date of some time in 2015.

Meanwhile, Fin Gall, my novel of Viking Age Ireland continues to chug along nicely, wracking up all sorts of kind comments on

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Next Stop, Hollywood!

My new book Fin Gall: A Novel of Viking Age Ireland (official motto: "It has ships and swords, what's not to like?") has been immortalized by my 12-year old son Jonathan, who created a Lego depiction of the opening scene, in which the Vikings aboard the longship Red Dragon attack a small Irish ship and battle the crew to the death. In the vividly rendered recreation below, the main character, Thorgrim Night Wolf, discovers a mysterious crown aboard the Irish vessel.

Once the big-time movie producers get a sense from this layout of how visually exciting the book could be, I'm expecting the offers to come rolling in.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bounty Photos Found

I've been doing a big shovel out/remodel of my office the past few days and came across these photos which I had forgotten about. They must have been taken about ten years ago when I was visiting Robin Walbridge aboard Bounty in Portsmouth, VA. I was working on the book Reign of Iron about the Monitor and the Merrimack. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard would not let me in to see the dry dock where USS Merrimack had been converted to CSS Virginia, so Robin (Bounty's captain) suggested we take Bounty down the river so I could get photos. I climbed up into the main top and Robin took the ship past the dry dock and I snapped away. The folks at the naval shipyard were not happy to see the photos (the dry dock is in a classified area of the yard) but there was nothing indicating you could not take photos from the water. I was hoping they would arrest me (great publicity!) but beyond a few terse words over the phone, that was all I heard.

That kind of thing, the eagerness to help out, the mischievousness, was so typical of Robin. I love the picture of him standing on the rail. I think that will always be the way I remember him, standing there, conning the big blue boat into a tight spot with a bare minimum of maneuvering and fuss.

For those of you who don't know, Robin was lost at sea when Bounty went down in Hurricane Sandy. He is very much missed by the many, many people he touched.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hey, I got Interviewed in a Blog!

So, I'm announcing on my blog that I was just interviewed by another blog. Somehow that all seems vaguely cannibalistic. But what the heck. It was quick and I didn't feel a thing. Interview was courtesy of Mary Jane Adams who writes books that are a wonderful mix of romance and American History, with covers that are steaming. If you want to read it, and who wouldn't, you can do so here.

Hey, did I mention Fin Gall? Sixteen customer reviews on, all four and five stars. Nice to see, but it's costing me a fortune, paying all these people off. The worst part is, even my kids charge me. Down in the four thousands for "Best Seller Rank" on the Kindle Store, which might seem like not a great number, but four thousand out of the approximately three hundred billion Kindle Books is not bad.

The cover of Fin Gall. It has nothing to do with this post, but I have to keep mentioning it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Not to be Missed!

The new issue of The Quarterdeck is out. For anyone not familiar, this is the newsletter put out by McBooks Press dedicated to maritime fiction in particular, with a smattering of nonfiction as well. It's a great newsletter, well worth reading, and I would say that even if my mug was not on the cover, and it did not feature a review of my new novel Fin Gall (my publicists always tell me to mention books such as Fin Gall often in any interview or article, which is why I mention Fin Gall now, and not a book that is not Fin Gall. Fin Gall).

Among other things, the newsletter has an interview I did with editor George Jepson, discussing, you did guess it, Fin Gall and some thoughts on the current state of publishing. Also has one of my favorite quotes from my daughter, which she will be furious to see in print (we parents live for such moments, don't we?) but you have to read it to see what it is.

Have a great Fin Gall, everyone!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Web Site!

My old, old web site died with my old computer. When I called my ISP and told the tech guy I had built it using FrontPage he literally laughed. Not a good sign. My old web site was more than a little lame. But I just got the new one up, and I'm pretty happy with it. I never updated the old one because I couldn't stand looking at it, but I should be able to keep this one current.

The address is

For those of you who got to the blog via the web site, sorry to send you back.

I discovered the other day that my kids, wired as they are, don't know what "www" stands for. I think you have to be between the ages of forty and sixty to know that. Any younger and you've never heard anyone talk about the "world wide web," any older and you missed it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dangerous Habit

I was going through some old photos and I came across this one. It reminded me that I once seemed unable to shake this dangerous, filthy habit - namely working aboard traditional sailing ships. I get so upset seeing this it makes me want to go have a drink and a smoke.

This was taken aboard the Golden Hinde somewhere off the Yucatan Peninsula. I hate to say what year.... Okay, 1989. There, I said it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Okay, here's the problem...

My wife came across this interesting graphic showing what an average American family spends on what per year. You will notice that, in a society that has largely abandoned smoking, people still spend 0.7% of their income on tobacco and only 0.2% on reading! And we writers wonder why we can't make a living. From now on, I'm offering a free packet of Camel Filters with every copy of my book.

You will also notice folks spend 0.9% on booze. Could it be that people are drinking so much that they forget to read? Still, that's just a little more than $38 per month on booze. Are we becoming a nation of non-drinking, non-reading lightweights? What would Papa Hemingway say?

I know I'm ready for a little 0.9% right about now.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oh, Brave New World...

Hey, this self-publishing stuff is fun! The new book, first one I've tried to publish myself, is out and getting some great feedback (example of feedback" "Did the guy who took the cover photo do it by accident after stabbing himself in the foot?")

Not quite sure why I'm finding this so exciting. I've published seventeen books in the traditional manner. I guess one advantage is that I can go to my account on-line and see how many copies have sold, which is more direct feedback than you could ever get with a publisher. Another, I suppose, is having so much control over the process. Whatever it is, I'm enjoying it. Reminds me of driving the golf cart at Maine Maritime Museum. I'm not sure why for a guy who drives a real car every day driving a golf cart is so much fun. It just is.

This self publishing thing would be even more fun if everyone who has not yet bought a copy rushes out and does so immediately. That can be accomplished by clicking here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Got hit pretty good here on the Coast O'Maine! It was still snowing when my son and I went out to dig our way to civilization, such that it is around here.

The view out the front door. The wind made a weird vortex between the house and garage, piled all the snow on the porch and left some pretty spectacular geometric shapes. Note the snow 3/4 up the garage doorin the background. But on the other side of the driveway, my daughter's car didn't have a speck of snow on it, and no snow even surrounding it to a distance of two feet! God loves her and does not want her to have to scrape her car!

I guess the tarp and strongback on the boat will need a little adjusting. My daughter's car on the right with not a flake of snow on it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Getting there...

The slow progress of self-publishing my Viking novel, Fin Gall: A Novel of Viking Age Ireland goes on, in much the same manner as one of my favorite Far Side cartoons, pirated above. Cover art is done, but for some reason I can't seem to copy and paste it, but I'm sure I will be able to down the line. I'm having quite a bit of fun with this process, I have to admit.

I've been thinking a lot about the great upheavals in publishing these days. Publishers are getting cheaper and not doling out the advances like they once did, and I have to guess that has to do in part with e-books cutting into their profit margins, never great to begin with. The ease of self-publishing removes the traditional filters of agent and editor, which means anyone can get their books in print, for better or worse, but also puts more books in the marketplace, thus making it harder for any one individual to earn a living. Illegal distribution is suddenly a real problem like it never was when books were just in print format. It's like pick-up sticks, you can't move one thing without effecting everything else.

But don't get me started....

I've been talking with my old friend George Jepson about an article along these lines in his wonderful newsletter The Quarterdeck, put out by McBooks Press, and an absolute must read for anyone who loves maritime fiction. You can follow the link to subscribe.

All right, coffee break is over. Back on your heads.