At Sea Days: Transatlantic Cruise Part Three


Fall 2016, I took a transatlantic turnaround cruise with three fellow writers. We ended the cruise in Orlando, Florida and Hogwarts. We started the cruise by spending two days in Barcelona which I talked about in part one. The first port stop was in the Canary Islands which was my part two report. In this post, I’ll devote to the sea days on the Norwegian Epic ship. I’ll talk about the second port stop in Puerto Rico and our time in Orlando after disembarkation in the last two posts of this series.

Yes, the photo above could be of any sea day of our trip!

Oct / Nov 2016 Cruise Days, Weather in the 70s and 80s

A Typical Day Working

Woke early, showered, dressed, and worked for two hours in the studio lounge with a cappuccino. I met a travelmate for breakfast after a nice Canadian couple led me to the elevators. It is a big ship. After talking to the ships internet guru to solve a connection issue, I took a short break to the view the bridge. Afterwards I returned to the lounge for another round of work with cookies and more cappuccinos.

Lunch was late and another round of sushi.  I think we went to Wasabi five or six times. I grabbed a book and read two chapters sitting aft in the Garden Cafe so I could stare at the sea not a spec of land in sight.

I returned to the lounge for more work, not lasting long, finishing the day editing THIRDS, the YA book I’d like to finish on the cruise. Since I haven’t worked in it since June, I’m re-acquainting myself with it and revising at the same time. Did 68 pages today.  To page 111 the next day.  Now working in the Moderno restaurant (Brazilian). After the writing started: 1130 words, 771, 2095 word days.

On the first day, I tried to take a nap, but the announcement that the Rock of Gibraltar was coming into view interrupted that. At sunset, I took a pile of pictures. The Rock was about five miles away with Spain/Europe behind the rock Starboard and North Africa on the port as we headed for the strait.

A fellow traveler and I went to dinner after that, sharing a table with two British couples. Very nice. Swordfish at the Taste restaurant and split a lava cake.

Time changes again tonight. (I think we experienced six time changes.)

Things We Faced

Exercise: Eight stair flights walked, deck walk next to lifeboats. Writing breaks.

Lots of internet issues. IM was intermittent too.

Election Day 2016: NCL was concerned riots might erupt so wouldn’t televise election news in any public area. So five of us returned to the lounge where the solo travelers watched it. The dismay was palpable when Trump surged ahead. Few were left by 1:00am. I continued to watch it in my room till 3:00. Took a 30 minute break to edit and back up the document. Slept till 5:00 am and found out then that Trump was declared the winner. I’d woken that day at peace and ended the day feeling the same.

Discovered that they had scones every afternoon late in the cruise. Found myself less interested in food and portions were getting smaller. The Irsh pub had a good baked salmon served on a Caesar salad.

Never got tired of meeting new people.

The Ways We Played

One night we saw Barricade Boys, four stage performers who had all played in Les Miz, stage and film. They sang Frankie Vallee and Beatles songs, not to mention a few from Les Miserables. A highlight for me was a song from Queen.

Another night: show was in the Epic theater. Christian Miro, an Argentinian relocated to Spain, comic, mentalist, and magician. Great show. Nice twists on traditional magic acts. Used umbrellas instead of swords.

One afternoon I watched a hypnotist. He taught a method of self hypnosis to lose weight.

Dinner with trave companions and four strangers: Mike, Rob, Sue, and John. I talked much with John and Sue who provided me with good and plentiful color for my Gibraltar section. I love when that happens.

On the last night saw Cirque du Soleil. Many moments of mouthes gaping. Some audience participation. Incredible costumes. Wonderful. Good dinner too.


Another port city in the part four post!

Till next time, this report respectfully submitted by, Michelle K

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Oranges in Valencia, Spain

I’ll return to the transatlantic stories of November 2016 after this update.

I just completed my 2017 Viking Sea cruise which included another stop in Barcelona. The Secret Mediterranean trip included Italy, Malta, Sardinia, Tunisia, Algeria, and Spain.

A special thrill to hear the Launeddas, a breath instrument, sounding similar to a bagless bagpipe in Sardinia. As the pipes appear in my YA dystopian novel, it was terrific to check facts and get a sense of the music and setting.


Here’s a brief splurge of memories of my February 2017 Mediterranean trip …

…it was not all about our room steward Von making my bed or finding my favorite hominy porridge with dates for breakfast. It’s Carthage in the sunlight, Algiers from our balcony, orange trees lining the streets in Valencia, mosaics, the shop owner in Tunis with the camels, the falcon on my arm, afternoon tea, papas bravas and the singing and Flamenco, a bravura opera in the Starlite Theater, meeting a couple from Fullerton, California while listening to Launeddas in Sardinia, that PakistanI driver, talks at dinner, passing Sagrada Familia on the way to get coffee, listening to our guide in a glade of 56 pillars, flamingoes in salt flats, green parrots in the palms, churros dipped in chocolate.

Again with the oranges in Valencia, Spain!

The streets were lined with orange trees. Such a happy sight! It made me homesick for the orange ranches back in California. While the guide talked about the medieval history of her city, I thought of our Orange County history touched by mission fathers, conquistadors, Californian Indians, and Mexican laborers. And the orange ranches.

lillian with shoes copyI’m in the early days of sketching out a novella and the second novel in the 1920s Orange Ranch Brides series. The novella will be a brief look at Sadie still trapped by her past but given a peek into possible futures. The draft will be completed before April 1st.

The novel’s beat sheet should be finished mid March. I plan to work on the manuscript, tentatively titled Sadie’s Secret Window, for Camp NaNo April 2017.

The first novel, Lillian in the Doorway (by Michelle Dutton), is available on Amazon. It makes a nice Valentine for those you love.  Including yourself!

Happy reading!  Michelle


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Canary Islands: Transatlantic Cruise Part Two

Fall 2016, I took a transatlantic turnaround cruise with three fellow writers. We ended the cruise in Orlando, Florida and Hogwarts. We started the cruise by spending two days in Barcelona which I talked about in part one. In this post, I’ll skip the first few days of the cruise on the Norwegian Epic ship. I’ll devote one post to the sea days. The ship stopped at two ports before ending the cruise in Orlando.

Oct / Nov 2016 Cruise Day Four: variable temps, Canary Islands

img_3339Realized this morning that I’d lost the battle with the cold. Couldn’t cancel the excursion as this was a key reason for taking this cruise. In my current YA novel and the one I’m toiling over this cruise, the characters make a stop on Tenerife.

K and I took the scenic drive and Mt Teide excursion, about a three hour tour. Weather varied from pleasant 70s at the port to chilly at the higher elevations. While in good condition, the road was narrow for our large, luxury bus nearly full. Looking straight down cliffs was unnerving.

The Canary Islands are part of Spain and we landed on the largest island. The people of Tenerife speak a Spanish dialect closer to South American because of immigration from there and Cuba. Traffic was slow out of Santa Cruz. Part way up, we drove through a pine forest. As we drew closer to the volcano, the landscape grew bleaker, more lunar. We stopped at Papillon, a lovely cafe, and our only toilet stop of the trip. The hot tea wasn’t enough to warm us so we crammed ourselves into the tiny gift shop till the break was over.

We did pull over for pictures of the coastline and Mt Teide, before we arrived at a caldera with interesting rock formations and our closest approach to the mountain as shown in the photo to the left.

We had a good view of an observatory where they study the sun. Not surprising that Tenerife is a popular place to film movies and documentaries that are set on Mars.

On our return, our guide talked about jobs on the island. The best are in tourism. Engineers are paid a measly $1500 per month, so most go to Spain or other locations for tech jobs.

I had a good soup for lunch, and headed for bed at 2:30. No writing today.

Trip report respectfully submitted by, Michelle K

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Barcelona: Transatlantic Cruise Part One

Fall 2016, I took a transatlantic turnaround cruise with three fellow writers. We ended the cruise in Hogwarts, Florida. We started the cruise by spending two days in Barcelona. This post talks about the first leg of the travel which included good eats, the Basilica, and a theft on the Metro.

Thursday, Oct 27 2016 / lots of getting-there details.  Our airport shuttle picked us up at 3:00am. Our flight wasn’t till 8:30 AM, and we landed at the airport at 4:30 AM. We had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee while we waited, me with a healthy pumpkin donut too. I dashed back for a Caprese sandwich to eat on the plane. It was a five hour flight and the only food was for purchase. Flight left after a 30 minute document delay.

We had a very short layover in New York, and the American Airlines flight to Barcelona went without a hitch. Plane not too crowded, eight hour flight, and great flight attendants. I saw two movies.

img_3335Friday, October 28: Landed at 7:00am. Passport control was easy: languages in Spanish, English, and Catalan. Easy pickup of luggage even with an only 30 minutes at JFK to transfer baggage.

N arrived here yesterday. We’ll board the ship on Sunday.

We’re booked for two nights at a Best Western in an industrial area. They picked us up at the airport and let us check into our rooms early. It’s 9:30am. The decor is industrial chic. Love the bathroom, shower is separated from the rest of the bathroom by glass. Rain shower head. Best part?  The bus to downtown is right next to the hotel and only cost us two euro 15 pence and 20 minutes to get to the Christopher Columbus statue. We passed the harbor where the cruise ships dock on the way.

img_3336K and I walked Las Ramblas, built in 1853, and passed many live painted statues and open air tapas eateries featuring massive cocktails. Lovely architecture that reminded me of New Orleans. Nearly noon, we wanted lunch.  After walking through the famous food hall, seeing many of the places featured on I’ll Have what Phil is Having, we stopped at another open air place. I’m in heaven as we see loads of seafood everywhere. We had black rice paella, calamari, and a lovely salad. So fresh and the best I’ve ever tasted. $46 for two. Stopped at a large chocolate stand for dessert and I had two truffles.

I love meeting natives and tourists in Barcelona. Hotel staff is wonderful with directions as are the bus drivers and people on the street. Met Rod, a business traveler from Chicago, on the way to Las Ramblas and a lovely couple from British Columbia on the way back to the hotel. They said I could live with them.

Saturday, October 29: K and I met for breakfast. Lots of carne in the hotel buffet breakfast: different sausages and cured meats. Breads were served with puréed tomato, like a non-spicy salsa. A few pastries and large croissants and small raised donuts. A cheese platter with a minimalist fruit platter that included sweet melon and pomegranate seeds. Best of all: a cappuccino machine.

Gaudi side of Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona

Gaudi side of Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona

We took the bus to Las Ramblas and then the Metro to Sagrada Familia cathedral. An incredible sight surrounded by gawking crowds. We met N on the modern side. Gaudí designed this side of the cathedral as shown in the photo to the left.

Entrance tickets were booked till Monday night so we couldn’t see inside. From here, we took the metro intending to check out Park Güell also designed by Antoni Gaudí. The park has amazing stone structures, colourful ceramic tiles and the house were Gaudí lived. You can easily spend half a day on a visit to this park. Or so the guidebook says. Chances are we wouldn’t get access to it either.

The excursion became moot as, after we changed trains in the metro, K realized his wallet had been stolen by a pickpocket. K reported it to Metro authorities, who directed us to the closest police station. After consideration, we returned to Las Ramblas and had lunch at Minos. Mine was cold shredded cod on tomatoes and baked, sliced fingerling potatoes. We went from there to a lovely chocolatier for churros and a cup of chocolate for dipping. Then we caught the bus for the hotel, where K was given good advice: report the theft to the police station at the airport as they are better equipped to deal with English speakers. The hotel also offered their shuttle service to take him there and back with no charge.

K is cancelling credit cards and ordering a new driver’s license as we speak. We’ve also developed a preliminary plan for the rest of the trip without his cards. It’s a blessing that he still has his passport, and that he had paper copies of his cards at the hotel.

As N said, what was lost, can be replaced. In reality, the worst is a temporary hassle, nothing that should taint the rest of his vacation.

Plans can change without warning, but the bad is mixed with good.

Sunday, October 30 / Cruise Day One: low 70sF
Interrupted sleep as I made several checks during the night to ensure all devices addressed the Barcelona time change.

I rose early to accompany K to the airport police station to file a report of his pickpocket incident. The policewoman who took our report said she’d also been robbed on the metro. The hotel kindly took us there in their shuttle and retrieved us also. We were at the station approximately an hour.

img_3337We went to Las Ramblas hoping to have squid on eggs but, alas, the food hall, St Josep La Boqueria, isn’t open Sundays. As the Barcelona marathon surged up the street as we arrived, we traveled under the street via a metro tunnel to bypass them.

We returned to the hotel for checkout and caught a taxi to the NCL Epic dock. Although crowded, it was perhaps the quickest check-in I’ve experienced with them. They processed 9000 passengers in approximately three hours. I’m getting the hang of unpacking in the studios, pleased that everything was neatly put away in thirty minutes. We had a late buffet lunch and an early sushi dinner with a cappuccino somewhere between. The ship sailed at 5:00pm.

In bed before 9:30.

Trip report respectfully submitted by, Michelle K

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Close to Earth: Flying from LAX to Prescott

img_3189In September, I drove to Prescott, Arizona and tried two different routes. More recently, I decided to try the newly minted service offered by Great Lakes Airlines: flying from LAX to Prescott on their Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia, a twin-turboprop commuter airliner. It boasts 30 seats, a restroom, and a flight attendant.

While working on the Space Shuttle program in the 80s, it was not uncommon for me to fly from Long Beach to Palmdale to support testing. I flew in Aero Commanders (the smallest), Twin Otters (a 19-seater), and a Fokker. The latter plane was ancient and certainly improved the fervency of my prayer life. Since then, I’ve also flown in commercial small-prop planes in Canada and in Northeastern US. So I need scarcely raise an eyebrow at a one hour flight to Arizona, yes?

As another passenger said, the most difficult part of our flight to Prescott was getting to LAX. We had seven passengers in our OC to LAX shuttle van as we headed to the airport at rush hour. Due to construction of a new train line and station, Century Blvd and environs were a war zone, causing me to hunch my shoulders in disbelief and despair.

Since I was the first to arrive for the 11:40 flight, the clerk at the check-in counter had to boot up the computer. In terminal six, I armed myself with Starbucks cold brew coffee and hovered at the bus connection gate.  Not long after 11:00, we nine passengers were ushered into a bus that traversed the same runway as a 777 Dreamliner operated by EVA airlines.  We stopped several times to allow the plane to cross in front of us because, you know, it’s huge.

We arrived at our plane, dumped our small suitcases at the door, sat in our seats, and were soon rolling to … sit in a long queue of planes waiting to take off.  We were in the air about noon. Our flight attendant Jewell served coffee and water with good humor. Between announcements by Jewell, the flight deck and trading stories with other passengers, I read an article on Malta and had just cracked open a Wired magazine when we were prompted to ready ourselves for landing.

img_3190Through the window to my left, the crags and crevices of Granite Mountain were so close I could almost touch them. Turning to the passenger across the aisle, whose eyes were as wide as mine, I said, “Don’t see that everyday!”

After an hour and thirty minutes of smooth flying, we landed and disembarked. My suitcase was waiting five feet away as if it had just then materialized there from LAX, the terminal was twenty feet away, my brother was waiting in a lounge about as big as the average living room, his car was about twenty feet from the terminal door … and we were off to the farmers market for samosas, beets, and arugula sprouts.

I can heartily recommend Great Lakes Airlines for a flight from LAX to Prescott. Now if we could only beam from our front doors to terminal six at LAX as easily.

Happy reading and flying!

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I won NaNoWriMo 2016 and a look ahead

img_3117Since my November was interrupted with a transatlantic trip and a book release, I had little hope that I could write 50,000 words. With help from friends and a large bucket of inspiration, I did it.

I’ll be talking more here about the transatlantic trip (two days in Barcelona, cruise, and two nights in Orlando). The ship stopped at two ports, so theoretically I had 11 days at sea for writing. I spent two of those days editing/proofing my Young Adult Dystopian novel. 62,000 words. I’m glad I did. I hadn’t looked at the manuscript since June and the immersion put me back in that world. I was able to write thousands of words while watching endless nautical miles of ocean roll aft.

When I returned, I jumped into the 2016  NaNoWriMo Butt in the Chair event hosted by Tari Potter-Jewett. We ran sprints day after day, all hours of the day. This is where the numbers piled up. This is where I first posted last night that I crossed the 50K line.

A great feeling! I hope you are also celebrating a NaNoWriMo win and will tell me about it in the comments below. I’ll strike up the band with my hearty congratulations. Who will sign up for next year?

Cheers, Michelle

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Last Chance for a FREE Book and to Pre-Order EGRETS, I’VE HAD A FEW


Back from my transatlantic cruise and research fest, I’m looking forward to sharing that trip with you next week. Today I’m  putting the last polish on my second Deluded Detective book.

I’m excited about the release Friday. It’s taken two years to get this novella to publication, but I hope you’ll find it worth the wait. My beta readers liked it even more than the first one, and reviews of Jack Fell Down were positive.

Which reminds me! To celebrate the release of Egrets, I’ve Had a Few, Amazon offers the enovella Jack fell Down FREE November 20-25. Only two days left!

img_2888The second book in the Deluded Detective series Egrets, I’ve Had a Few is ready for pre-order for a pittance: $1.99. The 150 page novella will be released the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday. That price won’t last!

Click on the titles below for the deals:

Jack Fell Down (FREE Thanksgiving week)

Egrets, I’ve Had a Few (available for pre-order now)

If you like the book, I hope you’ll consider leaving a review on Amazon or Good Reads. Reviews really do help the author and readers!

Happy reading!

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