Excerpt from Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

My photo
When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

#1 Cruise Ship Novel at Amazon

#1 Cruise Ship Novel at Amazon

Friday, October 28, 2011


I love books that tell a great story but I want to learn something at the same time. I knew that since Linda Ballou was a travel writer that I would learn about Hawaii but what I didn't realize is that she is a beautiful writer. This story takes place at the time in history where the Hawaiians are introduced to the Europeans as seen from the Hawaiian viewpoint. It is a lush story about a strong woman living in a warlike country. Just get that picture of peaceful Hawaiians out of your head. She weaves a tale that keeps you intrigued all the way to the end. This is a great read about a fierce heroine.

Say hello to adventure travel writer Linda Ballou
A love triangle of extremes has proven to be a solid base for my writing. From my roots in Alaska I received strength, centeredness, and respect for the awful power of nature.  While living in Hawaii I found nurturing, a spiritual awakening, sensuality and the heroine for my historical novel, Wai-nani High Chiefess of Hawaii: Her Epic Journey. In proud California I obtained a degree in English Literature from Northridge University and a doctorate in urban savvy. My non-fiction book Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is a spirited collection of travel narratives. I live in Los Angeles where I continue to enjoy exciting contacts, and friends.

Smelling the flowers at Bridal Vale Falls Telluride

                 My novel is fabled history couched in magical realism that combines truth with folklore and myths of a heroic past. Ka’ahumanu was a woman in history that stirred my imagination. Brave, athletic, strong, passionate, caring and centered in herself, I saw her as a role model and forerunner to the modern woman. She became the inspiration for my character, Wai-nani. I was first introduced to this character in history in the 70’s –a time when women were breaking out of accepted molds. Her literal journey follows the rise of Kamehameha the Great, but her more important mythological journey takes her to her own truth and discovering the extent of her own powers.

Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawai’i is the culmination of my long-standing love affair with the Islands. When I was 28, I took one blissful year off and spent it on north shore of the Island of Kauai. I took a job as a cub reporter on the local paper. It happened that they ran a 200-year anniversary issue spotlighting the arrival of Captain James Cook on Kauai in 1778. This is where ano ano, the seed, was planted and the story took root in my heart.  Historical accounts often speak of the savage Hawaiians stabbing the great navigator in the back.  This prompted me to learn more about what was happening in the Hawaiian culture in 1776. What I learned disturbed me. It’s true that they did stab the good captain. It is also true that Cook’s men trespassed on sacred ground, trampled on religious beliefs and generally ate the natives out of house and home. I was so impressed with the powerful personage of Ka’ahumanu that I determined to tell the story of Cook’s demise and what followed through her eyes.

Women in the ruling, or ali’i class, were separate but equal. Ka’ahumanu was a very high ranking chiefess with privileges, but even she had to eat separately from the men and was not allowed to eat certain foods. The character I have drawn listens to her inner river, acts out her of personal needs and desires and bucks a system with harsh punishments for doing same.  She rises to become the most powerful and best-loved woman in all of old Hawai’i. In the end she brings down the 2,000 year old kapu system and was responsible for the burning of the gods!

Like all Hawaiians, Wai-nani is a water baby finding sustenance and solace in the sea. It is reputed that Ka’ahumanu swam 18 miles a day---- so it is not a stretch to think that she would have made friends in the sea. Tales of dolphin rescues and relationships with humans go back to ancient Greece. When I was on Kauai I interviewed a woman named Bo Bo who swam the wild waters of the Napali Coast. She told me dolphins often joined her and wanted to play.  Wai-nani’s best friend is a dolphin named Eku who saved her from drowning when she was a girl. Much of her time is spent in the sea. Indeed, her name means Beautiful Water. Wai-nani listens to voices whispering in the winds off the velvet green sea cliffs lining the shore, fears Pele, the goddess of the volcano in her fiery home and speaks to gods in every rock flower and tree. She tells us what was happening in her beautiful world when Cook landed on the Big Island bringing new weapons and spreading disease in his wake.

People equate Hawaiians with warm aloha which is what they receive when visiting what Mark Twain described as “The loveliest fleet of islands ever to lay anchor in the South Pacific.”  Indeed, Hawaiians are a generous and loving people in a community where no child goes unloved. However, the “people of old” were constantly warring against one another. They called a truce each year during a four month festival called Makahiki when they rested, honed military skills and feasted. The battle scenes depicted in my book were taken from actual accounts of battles that took place during Kamehameha the Greats rise to power. Kamehameha fulfilled the centuries old prophecy that a chief would be born whose cloud would rest over all of the Islands ending the wars between tribes.

Hula chants, and legends are interwoven thoughout the text. I attempted to mimic the poetry of the Hawaiian language which adds to the transporting affect of the story. The goal of every travel writer is to convey a sense of place. It is my hope that I have captured the sensuality, pageantry and poetry of a time gone by and that Wai-nani serves as a portal into a world you can’t get to any other way.

My travel collection Lost Angel Walkabout is an eclectic mix of stories filled with chills, spills, giggles and squeaks. One reader told me “You book was my salvation. It took out of myself while I as going though a through a very bad patch.”  As an adventure travel writer I hike, horseback ride, raft or kayak in pristine wilderness areas.  Today, my focus is on getting to as many beautiful places I can before they are gone! I have a host of articles and photo essays on my site along with more information about my books. You will also find a free download “How to Make Travel Writing Work for You” along with an invitation to sign up to receive my blog posts.

Overlooking Nelson Lake in New Zealand

I just returned from a spin around The San Juan Skyway through the most splendid country Colorado has to offer. Have Boots Will Travel will appear in RealTravelAdventures.com in Jan. I have several articles set in the Wild West on my site.  I grew up in Southeast Alaska and have articles set there as well as essays in Lost Angel Walkabout. New Zealand remains the most phantasmagorical of the places I have visited thus far. I have a couple of stories set on the North Island in my book and an article or two on my website sharing how to get around the South Island.  I would love to return to NZ and go to Stewart Island-the least disturbed in the environmentally conscious country where only 400 people live year round. Patagonia is on my ever growing list along with Botswana. Places that are less touched by civilization are what inspire me to start packing.


Sunday, October 9, 2011


Revital Shiri- Horowitiz is an Israeli-Iraqi author who has lived many years in the United States. Some years ago she decided to write a novel about her family's exodus from Iraq to Israel. She would  like to share a little bit you about her novel, Daughters of Iraq, and what inspired it, but first she will tell you a  little history about the Jews in Iraq, because not many people know it. I have read this novel and it is beautifully written, and I learned so much about the Middle Eastern immigration to Israel. But now I will let Revital tell you her story.
The history of the Jews in Iraq has been documented from the time of the Babylonian captivity c. 586 BCE. Iraqi Jews constitute one of the world's oldest and most historically significant Jewish communities.
The Jewish community of Babylon included Ezra the scribe, whose return to Judea was associated with significant changes in Jewish ritual observance. The Talmud was compiled in Babylonia, identified with modern Iraq.
From the Babylonian period to the rise of the Islamic caliphate, the Jewish community of Babylon thrived as the center of Jewish learning. The Mongol invasion and Islamic discrimination in the Middle Ages led to its decline. Under the Ottoman Empire, the Jews of Iraq fared better. The community established modern schools in the second half of the 19th century.
In the 20th century, Iraqi Jews played an important role in the early days of the Iraq's independence, but the Iraqi Jewish community, numbered at around 120,000 in 1948, almost entirely left the country due to persecution following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Most of them fled to the newly founded state of Israel, and today in the early 21st century, fewer than 100 Jews remain.
Even though I haven't visited Iraq, I did research for my novel. Since there isn't much out there, I mainly used my family as my main resource.
All the Jews who left, like my parents and grand parents, were never able to go back to Iraq. I must mention that the Iraqi government took over all their belongings and properties left behind. Jews were not allowed to leave Iraq even with cash, and only with a very limited amount that left them basically with nothing when they arrived in Israel. My family left Iraq the way I related it in the novel. That part is all true. It is also true that they came from very nice houses, where they'd had servants, but in Israel they had to live in tents for a few years. Many people never got over this very traumatic move. I can tell you that the relationship between my grandparents was never the same after they left Iraq.
My grandfather who worked for the Iraqi government was a very well known person in his community. Coming to Israel with no money or language at the age of almost 50 years old had a great impact on the way his own family members looked at him, not to mention the fact that he could not find a job for a long time. His young kids had to stop going to school and find jobs. My mom worked since she was 17 and was never able to complete her education. My grandmother, who had adored my grandfather before leaving Iraq, just couldn't stand him anymore. He lost his family status, his community status, but actually never regretted moving to Israel.
In his eyes he was so fortunate to be the chosen one, the one from many generations, able to fulfill the dream of living in the holy land, his forefather's land. After so many generations forced to live abroad, he was the one who could live with his family in the Promised Land.
The Wailing Wall - One of the most sacred spots in Jerusalem

All the women play an important role in Daughters of Iraq, including the mother. She is the one tells the family story. She's a composite and a great tool for me to bring the women's story of the Jews in Iraq, and to share about the Jewish Iraqi traditions. I had to kill her in order to justify her. After all she is telling her story to her kids, so why do that unless she was dying. In doing the research for my novel, I would have loved to travel to Iraq, but the situation there is unfriendly to Americans and to Jews specifically. My guess is travel there is not going to happen anytime soon, though I would have loved to go there with my mom, uncles and aunts. It would be a visit to the places of their youth, and a way to uncover even more family stories.
Essentially, I wanted people to learn about Jewish Iraqi history, and especially about the women, and what better way than through a novel.

I laughed, cried, and found myself relating to this beautifully written novel of a family in a world far away. It's a lovely story of humanity, a mother's adoration for her children, and a family's dream for the future. One a scale of 5 stars, I give it an 8. I highly recommend it to both men and women alike. -- Jackie Madden Haugh, Author of My Life in a Tutu

About The Book
Daughters of Iraq is the story of emigration of a Jewish family from Iraq to newly-established Israel as experienced by two sisters: Violet, whom we learn about through a diary she kept after being diagnosed with a critical illness, and through Farida, whose personality unfolds through her relationship with her new surroundings and herself. And through Noa, Violet’s daughter and a student in her twenties in the late twentieth century, who is searching for meaning. Noa embarks on a spiritual quest to the past, so that she can learn how to build her life in the present and for the future. While each of the three women is struggling with her own issues, they are all looking for the same thing: happiness. They have a strong sense of family and of their deep roots. They are all inextricably linked to each other. By the book’s end, the author has painted a powerful and moving canvas of the whole family.

This is a photo of one of my favorite spots to travel to. It is Mount Rainier in Washington State. My family lived there for several years and we loved hiking the great outdoors.

Links for Revital Shiri-Horowitz: