2019 OC-Centric Play Festival Ended Today

Today I saw the last performance of the Ninth Season of the
OC-Centric New Play Festival, three one act plays, a privilege to see. Oh if only I could have seen these last week, so you’d have a chance to see them too. Please mark your calendar for August 2020 for OC-Centric’s Tenth Play Festival. It really is lovely to find quality new plays by engaging actors in an intimate theater. Our matinee was sold out, so get your tickets soon. (Side note-it’s wonderful to find a truly user friendly site to read about the plays and buy tickets. Kudos to the site designer!)

The first play BEETHOVEN AND MISFORTUNE COOKIES was based on a true story and a breathtaking solo performance by Rayshawn Chism. A riveting play of horrifying events using the music of Beethoven and Billie Holliday and their lives to dissect their times and ours. Masterful.

The other two plays (STILL MOVING and THUMP IN THE NIGHT) were diverse, fun, and a breath of relief after the intensity of the first play.

I’m thankful for these thought-provoking plays, the accomplished creative direction of Tamiko Washington, reasonable price, and artful sequencing of performances.

I’m looking forward to next year!

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Emotion: Sunday Philosophies

On Sundays, I walk without my iTouch. Instead of listening to books, I listen to what’s going on in my head. This is what developed today.

I see a worrisome lack of Whole Person self care in people around me. In school, a teacher is trained to address the Whole Child–the human states I’ve abbreviated to Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Social, and Spiritual. Do you nurture these states in yourself? I’m giving myself the challenge to do so.

For this post, I want to consider Emotional–both my own personal self care and for the characters in my latest book.

In child development, students learn to identify negative and positive emotions and coping strategies. I’m not sure what I learned has stuck. This week I plan to pay attention to my emotional states and reactions. I’d like to see if I tend to the more positive than negative, and engineer change if I’m not.

How about my fictional humans? I have a good friend who is writing a book on emotional threads and arcs in writing a novel. I’m seeking to diversify and deepen the emotional tone of my latest book, scene-by-scene, through the characters and actions.

Paul Ekman came up with six basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. He later expanded these with the help of two students to: amusement, awe, contentment, desire, embarrassment, pain, relief, and sympathy in both facial and vocal expressions. Other facial expressions showed boredom, confusion, interest, pride, and shame, as well as contempt, interest, relief, and triumph. Robert Plutchik suggested grouping emotions positive or negative, basic to complex to form the full spectrum of human emotional experience. Check out his emotion wheel here.

In my current book, am I showing the full spectrum of my characters’ emotional experience? Or at least something that feels authentic and engaging?

I’m still working on the discovery draft but wouldn’t it be fun to ensure that I show the characters not just happy or sad, bored or in love? I may just challenge myself to address Paul Ekman’s expanded list.

Humans? Are you paying attention to your Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Social, and Spiritual health? Are you content or concerned with your emotional well-being?

Writers? What are your challenges or skills in showing your characters’ emotional states?

In writing my long short story Found Dead in Arugula, I had to take Faith from finding her neighbor dead in her vegetable garden to being the prime suspect in his murder investigation to meeting the only man she’d loved after decades apart to finding the killer and finally to transforming her life. That’s a fertile field for her emotions. The book is sized for a lunchtime read at only 99 cents. Check it out here.

Thanks for tuning in! Happy reading, writing, and feeling.


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August Campers and Thirteen Vegan Meal Ideas

Prescott Dells on the Peavine Trail

Several in our July Camp NaNo cabin had chosen large writing projects. We decided to continue the momentum in a FaceBook group. With the 25K words I wrote in July, I can easily finish this cozy spy romance by August 31st. Keys to success: no road trips (see July’s distraction in the photo to your left), an easy menu plan for the week, a cohort to cheer us on, and keeping my eye on the prize–a completed discovery draft by the end of the month.

A friend who wants to lower her cholesterol asked if there was a supplement you could take for it. I dropped 175 points by adopting a vegan diet. Not sure there’s a supplement that can beat that.

I gave her these meal ideas. It’ll make a good August menu for me too.


Fridge Oatmeal: 1/3 cup of oats, heaping tbsp ground flax seed, 1 tsp of chia seeds, cinnamon (I like ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom too). Add water. Put in fridge overnight. (I usually do three jars at a time.) Next morning add blueberries, banana, and pumpkin seeds (or walnuts). If it’s not sweet enough, add a tsp of maple syrup. Don’t worry about adding nut or soy milk. It makes its own milk.

Ezekiel English muffin with peanut butter or almond butter. With Fruit.

Toast with mashed avocado. With Fruit.

Instead of oatmeal, I make porridge with leftover rice or quinoa or barley. I add the fruit, nuts, spices as above.


Street tacos with Trader Joe’s canned refried pinto beans&salsa or seasoned jackfruit. Add mango salsa or vegan coleslaw or guacamole or sautéed mushrooms or onions and peppers.

Hummus with veggies

Pita sandwich stuffed with baba ghanoush (or hummus), kosher pickle and salad

A big ole bean burrito with veggies, rice and mushrooms. Usually topped with my favorite salsa. Tomatillo is good.

Neal’s Happy Bento Box


Spaghetti with marinara sauce. I can add mushroom, spinach and or veggies to the sauce. I like angel hair pasta and many of the bean pastas.

Buddha Bowl: half cup of mung beans or lentils, 3/4 cup of a grain, add veggies, raw and cooked and top with a vegan dressing. I make a good/easy peanut dressing or a beet/basil/citrus dressing

Vegan chili in a baked potato with a salad

Bento Box: (see photo to your right) veggie patty topped with mustard/sauerkraut or olive tapenade or peppers or salsa. Then I fill the bento box with fun stuff like stuffed grape leaves, roasted potatoes, pickled beets, marinated potato salad, veggies with a vegan dip, pinwheels done with an Ezekiel tortilla and vegan cream cheese and green olives, etc.

Make vegan lasagna with cashew sauce instead of cheese and thinly sliced squash instead of lasagna noodles. Use diced and sautéd eggplant rather than ground meat.

Pinterest is a good place to find vegan recipes.

What are your plans (working, traveling, eating or otherwise) for August? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy writing and eating,

Michelle Knowlden

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Winner at July 2019 Camp NaNo

At 5:19 PDT, I completed my Camp NaNo project. My goal was 25,000 words covering the first half of a new cozy spy romance. My final word count today was 25,177 words.

Taking into account that NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo manuscripts are discovery drafts, these were my first lines.

Not the crack in the master bedroom wall. Not the shattered water pitcher in the kitchen. Not the books fallen from the shelves.

It was the child’s shoe that undid her.

This was the last line I wrote tonight:

When she returned from Palomar tomorrow, she’d leave. She’d sneak away without saying good-bye.

I will be doing the following to celebrate:

Eat a large Mother’s Market pluot

Buy vegan sushi

Try a new vegan Thai restaurant

Find a frame for a Channel Islands watercolor

See the Scorpion pilot for the 11th time.

Anyone else a winner tonight? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy reading, writing and eating,


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2019 Post Independence Day FREE BOOK

Have you read Michelle Dutton’s Lillian in the Doorway? Did you know that Alice and her detective boss had a case in California three years earlier? That mystery was documented in a novella called The Admiral of Signal Hill. I’m offering it FREE Saturday, July 06 to Monday, July 08, 2019. FREE for those who like Lillian, FREE for mystery fans, FREE for our military and FREE for those who are remembering someone they lost to war. Yes, it IS FREE for everyone for the next three days. The novella includes doughboys from WWI.

Here is the book description.

In 1922, Alice and her private detective boss leave their Chicago office to consult on a bootlegger’s death in Long Beach, California. Discovering that Robbie’s murder is linked to two others, Alice and Joe meet with a housekeeper having a litany of opinions and stories, an unforgettable handyman, a rich man’s mad wife and the Admiral who lives under Signal Hill.

In the shadows of trenches and prehistoric whale bones, this mystery novella tells of WWI survivors, their friends, and the ghosts that haunt them.

Click on the title below for the deal:

The Admiral of Signal Hill (FREE for a limited time)

If you like the novella, 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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2019 July Camp NaNo Prep and Notes on Lake Havesu

I spent two hours making these Camp NaNo Mason Jar salads this evening. Later I’ll make two jars of fridge oatmeal. If the writing goes well, I hope to convert bags of pluots and apricots into freezer jam.

After finishing a YA contemporary first draft last weekend, I worked this past week on Udemy’s Nina Farrington’s class Outline a Romance Novel Fast. After four lessons, she recommends doing a 15,000 word discovery of the first stage. I’m at 3K now. I’m liking this new novel, a sweet, espionage romance set in California.

I’m in a cabin at Camp NaNo! It all starts tomorrow, July 1st.

For those who keep asking, yes, I made some progress on my third Deluded Detective novella. Here’s a link to the first one if you’re wondering what I’m talking about.

In May, I went to Lake Havesu with my family and two dogs. We stayed in a four bedroom VRBO near the London Bridge. It had a pool and a pool table. We took the dogs to the lake for swimming, enjoyed shaved ice, and even attended an art exhibit at the tourist information center. Partly hidden behind my mason jar salads above is a sample of Irene J. Schultz’s work.

The weather was delightful and I enjoyed the desert landscape. Another highlight was taking the ferry from east shore to west shore and back again. Or was it the other way around?

These past few months I chewed through more classes at Master Class. I enjoyed or am taking instruction from astronaut Chris Hadfield, violinist Itzhak Perlman, country singer Reba McEntire, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, television writer Shonda Rhimes, writer James Patterson, storyteller Neil Gaiman, conservationist Jane Goodall, economist Paul Krugman, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and food philosopher Alice Waters. I’m getting my money’s worth with an annual all access pass!

Questions? Share if you’re attending Camp NaNo. Please leave your favorite Camp NaNo recipes and prep plans here!

Happy noveling, Michelle

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FREE Book for 2019 April: A Sweet Cozy Mystery


27 April to 01 May 2019

The Last Storyteller (Ravenscar Shifters Book One)

Michelle Dutton

Book Description:

A squall is coming.

Miri abandoned her tribe of raven shapeshifters and the only man she’d loved when her sister betrayed her. Now, fifteen years later, she returns to meet the nephew Trey raised and to investigate Elise’s death. Had her sister flown into a squall to kill herself or had someone driven her to it? No longer the storyteller her people needs, she searches the story keepers’ treasures for answers before she must leave Trey again … until a storm threatens everyone she loves and everything she believed to be true.

The Last Storyteller is a cozy mystery and a sweet paranormal novella set in Central California.

And now for the second book, a novel!

Michelle Dutton is the pen name I use for my romance line. For anyone who has visited California’s coastline, you might recognize this spot. The Foreign Story Collector takes place in central California in a raven shapeshifter community called Ravenscar that stretches from the beach to the Sierra mountains. Some of the action takes place on an island used for military defense during WWII.

The Foreign Story Collector’s book description begins with:

A story collector working among raven shapeshifters? It’s got disaster all over it. In spite of the sweet complication of a handsome widower, she shouldn’t have been surprised when it led to her arrest.

The Foreign Story Collector a full length novel, is available now.

Click on the title below for the deal:

The Last Storyteller (FREE for a limited time)

The Foreign Story Collector

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

Happy reading! Michelle

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