Big news kids! I’m going to give an invaluable gift of cruising to one of my Patrons. If you all help just a little, I can give something very BIG to one of YOU. I believe this is the best way to use my Patreon funds to give back. Get inspired. Get on board. And GIVE!
I hope you’re excited about this idea because Phillip and I sure are. We kept beating our heads against the wall trying to think of a better way to use Patreon, which is an awesome platform, in a new, creative way to really help people. I wanted to set up some rewards for my supporters and, to be honest, I felt guilty saying “Help us get to $100 so we can get a drone,” “Help us get to $200 so we can go to Cuba,” etc. Why? Because, it’s not about us and our needs. It’s about you.
Many of you may agree and many of you will find when you begin cruising that cruisers are some of the most helpful people you will ever meet. I will continue to share our journey and progress through blog posts and videos, because I love doing it and I believe in it. The free sharing of helpful information is one of the best aspects we have found about the cruising community. Hundreds have helped us and we want to give back. We want your dollars to enable us to help others not just help ourselves.
Phillip and I made the decision a long time ago to cruise and we are working very hard to do that because we have found it to be an incredibly rewarding lifestyle. Life on the boat is smaller, more meaningful. In my view, it is an infinitely better way to spend the only commodity I believe we really have─our time. I have had many people who read Keys to the Kingdom and wrote to me expressing the same sentiment. They also want to change their lifestyle, focus on living with less while enjoying more and finding a more meaningful way to spend their time. In short, they too want to cruise, so I have decided to use Patreon to help them.
I am going to give the Gift of Cruising to one of you.
My ultimate goal in all of this, the videos, the books, the blogs, is to share cruising with others, make folks understand the ups and downs and realities and rewards of it and get more people out on boats exploring the world. We each have our own hurdles and obstacles holding us back and I want to give one of you that little nudge that makes this year the year you make the shift to really do it─go cruising.
So, what’s the first step? We need to find you a boat! I have many followers ask me what kind of boat I think they should get or what I think of certain models and layouts. While I appreciate the credence they are giving me, I have to admit I feel like such a novice when it comes to this because I am truly only familiar with one type of boat─our Niagara 35. For this reason, coming soon in the videos I plan to take you all on tours and show you the different types of boats we see out on the water and talk to their owners a bit for you so you can learn why they chose the boat they chose, how they use it or how they would improve it. Learning about the different features and systems on different boats is key to helping you choose the right boat for you. But, while learning about boats is key, it’s not enough. What I really want to do is see one of you find your boat this year. Hell, maybe you’ll be rigging and readying your boat to toss the lines when Phillip and I do this October. I would love to see that happen. With your help, I can.
Here’s what I plan to do. One of the first things I always recommend to anyone looking for a boat is to contact Pam Wall.
For those of you who do not yet know Pam, she is a seasoned forty-year sailor, a circumnavigator, a speaker at all of the big time sailboat shows and the most knowledgeable boat owner I have ever met. She was the cruising consultant for West Marine for years and she now offers her highly specialized skills in finding the right boat to folks just like you who are getting ready to go cruising. Her “Find Your Boat” package is $1,000 and well worth every penny.
Pam will help you determine what types of boats will be right for your cruising needs. She will scour boat listings, review and provide her opinion on any boat you want to consider. If you want to bring her out to the boat, she will inspect the vessel from bow to stern and provide you with her detailed thoughts and opinions. Pam will also help you line up a surveyor and vendors whom she knows and trusts to perform repairs if necessary. She will essentially be with you─an expert sitting on your shoulder─through every step of the boat buying process. I mean, really?! While we had a fantastic broker when we found our beloved Niagara, I know we would have benefited from Pam’s input as well. Heck, she might have lifted the floorboards and found our rotten stringer. Ha!
I want to give the gift of Pam’s knowledge and cruising skills to one of you to help you find your boat and follow your dream. I want to see one of you in a boat this year accomplishing your cruising dreams, be it dropping the hook with your family for weekend outings or small trips or shoving off like Phillip and I for southern climates this coming season. That is my goal, and I can do it with your help. I’m going to do my part by donating toward Pam’s “Find Your Boat” package, Pam is going to do her part by stepping in to help one of you find your boat. Now all we need is you, just a small donation from each of you to help support the cause. Once my Patreon level reaches $200, your contribution will be enough to match my donation to get Pam working with one of you to help you find your boat. Thousands of folks are watching these videos. If you’re watching because you, too, have the desire to cruise, then I’m talking to you. If only a fraction of my viewers give just a few dollars a week, I can do this. What an awesome thing to be a part of!
And, we will follow the lucky Patron as Pam connects with him or her and starts working her boat-finding magic! We all will get to see the different boats they consider and watch as they inspect certain vessels, reject others and ultimately decide on and purchase a boat. You will get to watch the entire journey develop.
And, I won’t stop there. After the first gift, I’m going to give more. I will set another goal and seek out other cruising “gifts” to give. If you have any ideas or want to donate something for me to give one of my Patrons, I’m all ears and open arms. This is about getting everyone “inspired and on board.” I hope, at the next benchmark, perhaps I can send one of you to an on-the-water sailing seminar at one of the big boat shows, or give you a free ASA certification course or perhaps send you on one of Andy Schell’s offshore passages. How effin cool would that be?! It just takes a small donation on your part to help me give a very big gift to one of you. You never know, it could be you! Get inspired. Get on board.
So, Phillip heads out one day to grab us some fish at Joe Patti’s here in Pensacola. If you have not been to this place … My God! It is like the fish mecca of the southeast. I’m serious, there are at least 30 different types of fish splayed out. Many I have never heard of and some I can’t properly pronounce (although that doesn’t really stretch things), but they also have oysters, lobster, crab, scallops, squid, lizards eyeballs (probably, if you asked them), and the whole process of getting a number, being called in order, often by Frank Patti himself (and often with a little quip about your appearance that rhymes with your number: “Seventy-Four for the gal by the door” and which get more inappropriate the ‘purdier’ you are) is mesmerizing. There are so many walks of life milling about, polished businessmen, bumbling little old ladies, loudmouthed redneck couples, big jovial black folks. There are about as many different types of people as seafood. The workers all tromp around in big white rain boots and if you peek in the back you’ll see an army of skilled Vietnamese women hacking up huge seventy-pound tunas like they were conducting an orchestra. Honestly, you just never know what exactly you’re going to see when you walk in the door. Lucky for you, I had GoPro with me one day. Here’s a glimpse:
So this is the melting pot of people that Phillip dove into one fine day to pick us up some salmon to cook for dinner. He’s milling about in what I call the “pantry” area, where they keep an impressive stock of spices, seasonings, sauces and such to doctor up all those fish, and he gets a tap on the shoulder. Phillip turns around to face a total stranger, seemingly harmless but a stranger all the same. He looks to be about mid-fifties, curling his hat in his hand and looking curiously at Phillip.
“‘Scuse me, are … are you a lawyer?” the man asks Phillip.
Phillip laughingly told me when he relayed this story back to me at home that he was in no way wearing “lawyer clothes” (whatever those are) so he wasn’t sure what tipped this guy off other than perhaps the bag he was carrying. Phillip is an attorney and, in an effort to help locals shop a little greener, his firm had some insulated re-usable grocery bags made up that we often use when we’re out shopping. Phillip thought maybe the law firm logo on his bag made the guy guess at his occupation.
“Yes,” he said, wondering where this was going.
“Do you have a sailboat?” the man asks.
Now Phillip is really intrigued. While his lawyer bag may have been a clue as to his occupation, what on his person screamed “I have a sailboat” he really could not say. That I’m buying fish?, Phillip thought. But so is everyone else here, his mind bantered back to him.
“Yes, I have a sailboat,” Phillip answered slowly, debating whether to ask “Why?” or just to let this play out.
“Is it called Plaintiff’s Rest?” the man asks, offering yet no explanation for how he knows Phillip has a sailboat and now how he knows it’s called Plaintiff’s Rest.
“Yes,” Phillip replied, leaving a bit of an awkward silence between the two men.
“Well,” the man starts in, a slow grin finally starting the melt through, “you’re famous!” His hand lands firmly on Phillip’s shoulder as he tells him he’s been following my blog and now the videos for a while and that he recognized Phillip the minute he walked through Joe Patti’s door as the esteemed Captain of s/v Plaintiff’s Rest and he just couldn’t let him leave without telling Phillip how much he’s been enjoying our adventures. “That Annie. She’s a hoot,” he says. Phillip and I got a hearty laugh out of the exchange when he came home and told me about it. Turns out, I’m not the famous one. Phillip is.
But, while that story is fun, I share it to tell you this: fame is not at all what we’re after. However, because it seems we have, by sharing our journey, built an audience, we want to use it to help bring more people into the simpler, more meaningful lifestyle of cruising. That’s right. We want to help people who want to cruise toss the lines and get out there, and we have BIG PLANS we will be announcing soon on the videos to do just that.
One of the things we have found most rewarding about cruising, writing and sharing our adventures is the connections we have made and continue to make with other cruisers. It is the sharing of knowledge, similar experiences and lessons learned that has really enriched this adventure for us and has motivated us to continue to share our journey. We have had so many fellow cruisers help us, by lending a tool at the anchorage, referring us to a trusted marine vendor, sharing a learned-the-hard-way work-around when we’re facing a difficult boat project, or even just inviting us over for sundowners and sea stories. Phillip and I have found the cruising community to be one of the most welcoming, helpful, rich bodies of people we have ever met and we want to use those connections and our audience to help more people follow their dream of cruising, even if it’s just one person at a time. To all those who have lent us a dinghy pump, referred us to a great marine repair guy, shared a hard-learned modification, had us over for cocktails and the hundreds of others who have helped us along the way, know that we are incredibly grateful and that we plan to pay it forward. For those of you dreaming of cruising, get ready.
Big news will be splashing soon kids. Stay tuned!
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
It seems the boys at the shipyard like to pick on the DIY’ers. But, we can take a few light hits. We’ll probably need their help along the way when it comes time to disassemble and fix all this stuff, so bring it on boys! Many thanks to the www.perdidosailor.com guys for giving us hell.
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
Another interview? You’d think I would have run out of things to talk about. But, Jeffrey Wettig with Shooting the Breeze Podcast by EscapePods.com definitely hit me with some very interesting questions that made me think twice. One was whether I had always had a dream to cast off and cruise or whether it was a newly-discovered desire during my adult years. I found it hard to say, really. In my childhood days in the flats of New Mexico I would have imagined myself riding off on Star Bright’s rocking rainbow pony and starting a Dude Ranch. Doesn’t quite look like cruising, but maybe there’s a common vibe there in that I was drawn toward breaking away from the norm.
Jeffrey also got me talking about what I worried about in writing Keys to the Kingdom which was an interesting conversation. I often wonder whether perhaps I’m too young and inexperienced in life to try and inspire people to consider cruising but the drive to share this lifestyle with folks always takes over and I just put it out there anyway. There will always be people who don’t like what you do no matter what you do. It has touched me to hear from even just the handful of people who have reached out to me and told me what an impact Keys had on their lives and outlook. That, in my book (no pun intended), is the ultimate measure of success, so thank you all for the continued support and encouragement.
Overall, I had a great time chatting with Jeffrey and discussing some of the more unspoken elements of my writing and lifestyle change. I hope you enjoy it. Big thanks to Jeffrey, again, for reaching out to me and putting this together!
It’s sad to see our mast lying lonely on her side at the shipyard. She loves to be standing tall, with lots of folks “hanging around.” But I sleep soundly knowing she’s got sunny, silky dreams to keep her warm.
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
“With a female lawyer lead, perhaps she drinks a lot and has a dark past, something like that.”
A follower recently told me this after reading Keys to the Kingdom and I had to laugh at the irony of it (and share it with you all, of course). Here’s the thing: I already have. See!
I thought I would take a moment─when I have finally found time to take a breath after completing Keys, publishing her and the epic launch─to sit down and tell you all yet another story, about the beginnings of my writing career (I feel bold enough now to call it that) and my very first book. This may surprise you, but it was not Salt of a Sailor. So, where did all of this writing mess begin? Did I spend my elementary days scribbling little stories and tidbits and telling my teachers and peers I was going to be America’s next great novelist? No. I didn’t know what the word ‘novelist’ meant in elementary. But I did scribble! Often and in excessive, erratic bouts. Seriously, I did write an awesome little five-chapter Sweet Valley High Twins-type drama when I was ten (complete with cover art) and wrote to my favorite children’s book author, Jan Brett─author of The Mitten, best children’s book EVER!─telling her how I wanted to someday become a writer!
The point is I did have the desire, when I was a child, to make a living writing stories. I recently had a podcast interviewer (shout out to Jeffrey Wettig with Shooting the Breeze Podcast) ask me a question I had yet to be asked in an interview: “Did you always have the desire to write and travel and did it just lie dormant for some time or was it a desire that was only born recently?” Particularly with the writing, my answer had to be “Yes.” I had wanted to write as a child. There’s undeniable proof in my stack of tattered scrapbooks buried in the closet. But, why exactly this desire grew dormant was hard for me to answer. As I told Jeffrey, I believe it just seemed too whimsical and silly. Growing up in our little ranch house in New Mexico, we lived paycheck to paycheck so one of my primary goals was to go to college, get a degree so I could embark on a lucrative career, make good money and live a comfortable life. It just seemed that was what you were supposed to want to do and so I did it. You can read how well that turned out for me in Keys to the Kingdom.
While the decision to implode my life as I then knew it and start anew was easy to make, what exactly I wanted to do with my new-found freedom, however, was not. My only goal was to live a life that made me happy. Meaning, whatever I did to make money needed to be something I enjoyed doing. While writing always flitted on the outskirts of my brain as a distant possibility, thinking with my frontal lawyer lobe at the time, it seemed laughable, a fool’s goal, not something I could really be successful at. I pushed the thought aside and without any other serious, more respectable prospects on the horizon, I stayed with the practice a while longer, shuffling day to day in this wasteful purgatory, knowing I didn’t like what I was doing but not knowing what else I could feasibly do to … you know … not starve. What you may know from my Salt of a Sailorand Keys that it was around this time that I met Phillip (thank the ever-loving stars above) but what you may not know is it was his idea that I should write.
As I was living in Mobile, Alabama at the time and he in Pensacola, our relationship started out a bit long-distance as we began communicating daily via email. I would usually start my stress-racked lawyer day, around 6:00 a.m. at my desk, by writing him a quick email recounting what I felt were pretty mindless, meaningless happenings─a woman I watched in the grocery check-out line the night before, an interaction with a witness I had worked with yesterday, a boy I saw standing outside my apartment. Just little things that I would tell him about, adding my own observations and insights and, after several weeks of this, Phillip said something that really surprised me.
“You should write.”
I should write … It was as if the thought struck me for the first time. As if I hadn’t spent my childhood dreaming about that very prospect. As if I hadn’t boldly written my favorite author and told her I was going to do just that! Where had I gone? Where did I stow that desire? Surely it had been here all these years? Sitting somewhere, dusty on a shelf in my mind? Those types of deep-seated aspirations don’t just disappear. But it felt as if I was considering the premise for the first time. I guess in a way I was─as an adult. I should write, I finally let the thought marinate around a bit. Write what? That was the first question that sprung to mind. I didn’t yet see any real future in it but without any other income ideas and in desperate need of a creative outlet, my only hold-up was the “what” not the “why.”
The first idea that popped into my head? A legal fiction, with a female lead who perhaps drinks a lot and has a dark past, something like that. Now you see the irony! Whoever “they” are, they say it: You have to write what you know. This is true because a) it’s just easier, if you know it, it pours out of you; but also b) if you don’t know it, it shows. So, what did I know? I knew legal battles, courtroom drama, the day-to-day struggles of a female associate in a male-dominated firm. I was going to be the next John Grisham! No one had ever written a book with a female lawyer lead and a juicy love plot. EVER! I was delusional. But I was also motivated. I was inspired and invigorated by this new prospect. And, so I did it. I started writing, again in excessive, erratic doses and I felt so young again. It was the first time in my adult life that my creative side was finally, once again, truly awakened. Any spare time I had at work, I would shut my door and write. I wrote in the mornings, on my lunch break, sometimes over the course of the entire evening and two bottles of wine.
Phillip got me a book around that time that I devoured in one day and that I highly recommend to any budding author out there: No Plot, No Problem. It is the book that began the now widely-acclaimed annual publishing contest, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The premise of the book? Just write. Let it pour out. Let it be crap. Let it embarrass you how bad it is. That’s fine! Just get it out. That book unlocked me and I shocked both myself, Phillip and several of my closest friends by writing an entire novel over the course of about one month. Was it the best book I will ever write? Probably not. But, was it crap? Surprisingly no. Far from it. It was just grossly unedited. But, had I done it? Written a serious, 90,000 word novel with actual characters who went places and did and felt things and who interacted and created a plot with a legitimate beginning, middle and climactic end? Yeah, I had. I really had. I give you … (drumroll please) … A CIVIL AFFAIR.
I knew then and there, when I had completed her that Phillip was (well almost) right. It wasn’t that I should write. I must!
With this simple goal now in mind and an over-zealous confidence in my ability to write books that would actually sell, I finally made the decision to leave the practice and take the first big steps toward this new lofty writer/world-traveler goal. So, what happened with that earth-shattering masterpiece that was going to turn the literary world on its head? Surely A Civil Affair was picked up by an agent, published in fourteen countries, translated into two languages with movie rights in the works. Yeah, that’s what happened. Except that it didn’t. I simply must say, in my humble experience, which may differ greatly from that of the truly talented scribes out there, if you want to make it as a writer (and, I mean, really make it), there is one word you have to get extremely used to. That word is “NO.” Because you’re going to hear it. A lot. Especially in the beginning. I sent many queries off for my novel. If you’re not familiar with those, they’re basically a little three-paragraph preview (think a trailer for a movie) of your novel and why you think it’s the next great thing, and why you’re going to be the next great literary all-star. You email that little blurb to literary agents, and if they like your “book trailer,” they may ask to see a couple chapters of the book, and then perhaps the whole thing, and then perhaps they’ll sign you up and try to get you published.
After I completed the novel and felt like it was sufficiently edited, (which meant I read through it a couple of times but which I now know requires approximately 28 read-throughs, 2 backwards and THEN still a final read-through and thorough edit by a paid editor) I sent dozens of queries off. In batches of ten at first, then batches of twenty. As I sit here writing this blog post today, I believe I have sent over two hundred queries total for A Civil Affair. Which doesn’t mean I received two hundred no’s. One of the more excruciating aspects of the query regimen is that most agents don’t have time, even, to tell you no. If they’re not smitten with your eQuery, they simply delete it. No response. So, you, the nail-biting, budding author, have to simply make a chart of the queries you’ve sent out and after a certain period of silence, assume those that did not respond, aren’t interested. Sounds heartless, but it’s really not. As some of these agents’ websites advise, they often receive hundreds of queries a week, if not a day. It seems lots of people out there think they’re good at this writing thing and all eighty million of them are sending in queries just like you. The agencies simply don’t have the manpower to respond. So, I get that. And, that’s fine. I spent months and months, which eventually added up to two years’ time, sending in queries. And, while I had a few agents bite and three agents ask to read my complete manuscript, the final answer was, “You’re a strong writer with a unique voice, but it’s just not the right fit for me.” Pish tosh.
I had a lot of friends tell me then, “Well, they say the lady that wrote The Help was turned down like a hundred times before she got published.” And, that was encouraging, until my “turn-down” number approached one hundred and sailed right on by it. Each time, it was no, no, no. It definitely gave me a nice humble base to work from when I read another one of my favorite books about writing─Stephen King’s On Writing─an exceptionally motivating tool for any other budding authors out there. This is like writing advice in the form of your best friend telling you you’ve put on some unsightly pounds and you need to get your fat ass off the couch and go jogging. You know it already. You don’t want to hear it, but you know you need to heed the advice. And, once you get up and start jogging and looking better, you’re infinitely grateful for the kick in the ass. King’s premise: Writing is hard. There is no shortcut. It takes a ton of time and patience and a hundred rewrites. If you’re not up for that, sit back down on the couch.
But what Stephen King said about his experience with the no’s really grabbed me. He used to keep every rejection letter he received for short stories he submitted, mostly to sci-fi magazines and other similar publications, and punch them onto a nail in the wall next to the desk where he wrote. He received so many rejection letters, King finally had to upgrade to a railroad spike which he hammered into the wall where the nail once stood and started pressing the letters onto it. Now, if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. I kept picturing King hammering away on that spike, the sound of the hammer hitting the head, over and over, splintering through his attic, thinking Jesus! This man believed so completely in himself and his talents that he was practically building a shrine to the idiots out there who were telling him no. And, that worked for me. Screw those fools! Where’s my hammer?
Unfortunately, all of the no’s I received were via email, so they didn’t make quite the visual appearance as King’s physical letters jammed on the spike, but my own teetering eStack was at least a sign of my continued attempts and the agents’ continued idiocy (or their mere personal, and likely well-founded, dislike of my first attempt at a novel─po-tay-to, po-tah-to). I finally decided, whether I’m good enough to make a living out of writing is not what I needed to focus on. I knew I enjoyed doing it, good or not, so I was going to continue to do it, agent or not. I had been writing this blog for about six months at that time and felt I had finally found my voice. While fiction can be fun, I believe my talent is in telling my real-life stories in my natural voice, as if I were speaking to a friend over some rum drinks, with all of the necessary curse words and Annie-isms. Frankly, when I began writing initially, I just didn’t know you could do that. Write just like you talk. Apparently you can. Apparently you can write however the hell you want. Who knew? But if you want the book to actually sell, you have to be smart about the marketing. With the blog stroking my mojo, I decided to shelf A Civil Affair for a while so I could write a non-fiction humorous sailing book and─Voila!─Salt of a Sailor was born.
Rather than beat my head against the wall of two hundred no’s this time, with Phillip’s continued encouragement and creative business perspective, I decided to self-publish. Free from any restrictions, contractual obligations, complicated licensing grants or deadlines, I simply put my work out there, when I want to and in the manner I want to, for the masses to enjoy. If some folks buy it, read and enjoy it, great. If not, c’est la vie. It’s like throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. Highly liberating if you ask me. And, once I did it with Salt, I knew I wanted to dust off my first book─my initial writing warrior─edit her the right way and put her out there as well, whether she sold or not, simply because I was proud of her. You never forget your first, right? Who says that?Is it those annoying “they” people again? How do they know so much?
See! She goes with me to all the book signings!
I tell all of you this because I have so many followers reach out to me and say they, too, want to write a book and I always tell them─”Awesome. I can’t wait to read it.” Because I can’t. I think anyone who feels so inclined should write their own book. Everyone has a story to tell but not everyone wants to make a living out of story-telling. Why? Because the writing is easy. It’s the other 90%─the marketing─that’s the real bear. I often refer these budding authors to an article I wrote recently for a fellow blogger: Market First, Write Second. If my two-hundred no’s and lackluster launch of Salt of a Sailor have taught me anything, it’s that. The marketing is 90% of it. While I do not plan to ever put together a big marketing launch for A Civil Affair, I am always proud to talk about her, my first book, my first attempt and my first big lesson in writing.
The same is true about sailing. It’s all about trying. The only way to learn what works (and, more importantly, what does not) is to try your hand at it, make some mistakes and learn from them. I sure learned a lot from my first book. There she stands, high and mighty, right next to my two bestsellers, not nearly as well-read, but with her chest puffed out just the same.
Is she a good read? Absolutely. Is she comparable to a John Grisham thriller? I’ve been told so. Now, do I plan to write more fiction? Probably some day. Unless I’m untimely plucked from this grand earth, I’ve got decades of writing days ahead of me, so why not? Although it will be some time as I have already begun my third sailing book in the same voice and tone as Salt and Keys─more on that to come!! But, maybe I should ask that question of you. As is the case with any of my books, shoot me an email asking for a free copy and she’s yours. Feel free to give A Civil Affair a FREE READ and let me know if you agree:
Should I write fiction?
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.