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

My photo
Growing up in a strait-laced Southern family, I was always fascinated with casinos. In my twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina, I drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. Well, I can tell you that after teaching high school, handling an unruly gambler was a piece of cake. My mother highly disapproved of my working in a casino, "a place so bad it has 'sin' in the middle." I wanted to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. I spent the next five years circling the globe for Princess Cruises. Sometimes life exceeds your dreams. I was awed by the wonders of Venice, the fjords of Norway, and the Northern Lights in Leningrad. I returned from ships with a very special souvenir, my Scottish husband Ray. We went to work in Palm Springs. We now live in Hollywood, Florida, where I write about my casino years while wistfully gazing out at the ocean.

#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.



  1. Thank you Cara for such a lovely response to my work. It is very gratifying to know when Wai-nani entertains and informs the reader. Writing her story became a beautiful obsession for me.
    Mahalo nui

  2. The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

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