Cheri's Blog


Street art. One figure walks with a backpack. Another consults a map. The figures are cartoony, almost like a drawing from a Dr. Seuss book.

Greetings from Madrid's Bajaras Airport where we are waiting for our next flight. There are two kinds of people I hope to avoid in the airport. The ones that cluster in front of staircases and thoroughfares, blocking all progress, and the ones that mow you down in their rush to be at the front of the line. As much as I love Spain and her people, this is the worst country for walking in a crowd. Pedestrians bounce around like pinballs and stop suddenly, with no rhyme or reason. Straight lines become impossible. Moving through the city is akin to playing roller derby, minus the hip checks. Despite the colorful chaos of humans being human, this is one of my favorite airports. It's clean and easy to navigate.

Transit days are full of small tasks that make life interesting. How do I add an “airport supplement” to my metro card? How many stops until we get off? Do we need to take our computers out at security? Where is our gate? I feel like I'm playing a real life video game, hopping and dodging, solving puzzles. We're at the midpoint now. After the flight we'll do it again in reverse. Airport, metro, then the walk to our hotel. Can I beat my high score? I award myself points for maintaining my inner chill. Stress is the enemy, and I want to fling myself onto a bed later tonight and let it all go.


Good morning, fellow bookworms.

Have you read anything great lately? I'm still nibbling my way through Martha Wells's The Witch King. I started it a few months back, but I wasn't in the right headspace for it at the time. It's really good, though! Very different from her Murderbot novels.

I’m penning this letter on a train to Madrid, watching the green and tan patchwork quilt of agricultural Spain fly by. We just passed a huge field of wind turbines, calling to mind that most famous Spanish novel Don Quijote, whose titular hero mistook windmills for his enemies and attacked them, his sword drawn.

I have yet to read Don Quijote, but it's on my someday list. 😌

Patrick and I enjoyed (and should I say, survived?) the culmination of the Fallas festival in Valencia. There were loud marching bands and loud pyrotechnic explosions right outside our window until five in the morning, all week. We had a blast (ha ha literally) and by the end, my brain felt like it had been pushed through a cheese grater.

While Fallas is most known for the enormous monuments, which are burned on the final night of the festival, I was most impressed by something else. Outside the main cathedral, an enormous wooden woman (the local aspect of the Virgin Mary) was erected, and over a course of two days, locals in traditional garb (called falleras and falleros) paraded through the streets carrying red and white carnations. Climbers filled the wooden body with the flowers, forming a beautiful cape and gown. More than 100,000 people participated in the ceremony, which is called La Ofrenda, or in English, the offering.

The four story wooden framework of the virgin Mary and child. Her head, baby, and crown are detailed and complete, and the body below is wooden slats.

Spanish ladies in traditional dress. Large silk embroidered skirts in an 18th century style with lace veils.

Mary's body is full of red and white flowers, forming a beautiful cape with floral patterns.

I kept looking around and wondering what Ellie Tappet might make of all these happenings in Valencia. I'm pretty sure she'd love that flower ceremony. As for the demon children throwing lit fireworks into crowds all week? Well, perhaps not so much. 😏 And as for me, I was grateful for the chance to experience something new.

Even if it meant losing some sleep.

Oh, and Happy Easter to all who celebrate! Do you have any springtime traditions? Back home in Seattle, I’d be walking down to Pike Place Market to pick up fresh tulips from the flower vendors, enjoying the explosion of color that occurs down there this time of year. Or maybe slicing open a package of marshmallow Peeps to get them perfectly stale before I eat them.

Hey! It’s traditional. 😜

I’m still scribbling away, making progress on my books. Speaking of which, I have some time until our stop, so I should make the most of it.

Until next time!

Cheri B.

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#travel #spain #news #books

We're three days from the culmination of the Fallas festival here in Valencia and the mood around the Baker household is... exhaustion? This isn't a complaint, for we came here for the cultural experience and we're certainly getting one. Last night, the partying and the drums went on until 5am. Silence reigned until about nine-thirty, at which point several more marching bands came down the narrow street outside our window, drumming and making joyful music. It's so so loud here. We went out for a cup of coffee, trying to hype up our weary minds, and on the way back we walked past more children lighting and tossing fireworks into the walkways. One of them (the firework, not a child) bounced off my leg like a hard pebble. Ow!

Last night, P couldn't sleep at all. I managed to sleep through much of the revelry because the night prior, I'd been up all night, and I was too wiped out last night to keep my eyes open. So we've been alternating, with one of us too pooped to think and the other one doing okay.

Teamwork! At least one of us is awake enough to function. :)

My only struggle is that when I can't sleep, I can't write. The brain won't make words in a state of duress. So I haven't been all that productive this week. Still, there's been a lot to enjoy and absorb. Yesterday afternoon I grabbed my camera and we walked around town to admire the artworks set up in intersections all around the city. They're so beautiful and so enormous. Too big for my phone to capture! The Falleros and Falleras are parading through the streets in their traditional clothing, looking beautiful, and even the native tourists have dressed up with handkerchiefs and hats in the traditional blue-and-white plaid pattern.

In the Plaza de Vergin, municipal workers have set up an enormous wooden structure of a woman, the patron saint of the city, and starting this afternoon, the Falleras (queens of Fallas) will parade down the street from every neighborhood, bearing flowers, and they'll bring those flowers to the wooden saint, where her wooden dress will be filled in with living blossoms. Later, after a nap, maybe, we'll make our way through the throngs of people to see that for ourselves.

I've often noted that I love the people of Valencia because of their zest for life. Any evening after work can feel like a festival here, so when there is actually is festival, it's almost too much. Like Mardi Gras for nineteen days in a row. Like a Superbowl parade that goes on for weeks. Like all the nights you can't sleep because people are cheering and chanting and drumming outside your window until five in the morning.

It's amazing. It's exhausting. I'm glad I came.

#travel #spain

Bits and pieces from my time in Valencia, Spain

A City in Mourning

Our flight was circling Valencia, preparing to descend, when across the aisle, a guy with a red beard was filming the view with his phone, pointing it at the window to his right. After a moment, he leaned across the central aisle to show his friend the video he’d taken. It showed black smoke boiling out of a high rise. Our plane banked to the right, and I saw it too. A residential tower had been engulfed in flames, and it was sending a dense column of black death high in the air.

After we landed, we turned on the news. Already, people were drawing comparisons to the Greenfeld tragedy in the UK. Here in Valencia, a cheaply constructed apartment building with flammable cladding had gone up in less than an hour. The contractor had long since gone bankrupt, dissolving the business. That fire tore through 173 homes and cost fourteen lives, including a family with a newborn baby. A couple who’d barely escaped the war in Ukraine were rescued off a balcony by firefighters.

The start of the Fallas festival was postponed for three days of mourning, and it seemed the whole city swept their arms around the affected survivors, piling up clothes and childrens’ toys and food. Festival preparations halted, and the once-bustling streets felt lonely, save for clusters of tourists wandering around, taking photos.

Exhibition of the Ninots

We walked through Turia park, the long, ribbon-like parkland that wraps around central Valencia like a scarf. The park was built in a riverbed after the river was diverted, and as we made our way ever closer to the City of Arts and Sciences we passed outdoor cafes, museums, soccer fields, and playgrounds. The biggest playground has an enormous plastic giant, Gulliver, and his body had been transformed into slides, ladders, and other climbing toys. The children become Lilliputans, climbing over the body, laughing, running around. After Gulliver we arrived at the Arts and Sciences complex, passing the futuristic architecture and the low blue pools that reflected each building like a mirror. We’d found the Exhibition of the Ninots.

Ninot is a Valencian word (in the Valencian language) and I don’t know what it means exactly. But they are sculptures, no bigger than eight feet tall, and as diverse as anything you can imagine. Some show family scenes of traditional Valencian life. Others are political statements. One showed (in eye-blistering detail) two politicians having sex. Another showed an Israeli tree decorated with wax doll heads, and many of the heads had bullet holes in them. Some Ninots were cartoon characters. Others were characters from movies or cartoons. The one that made us scratch our heads seemed to be nothing more than a piece of luggage. Ninots seem to be smaller versions of the large artworks (Fallas) that go into the town squares near the end of the festival to be admired, then burned.

With our admission to the exhibition, we were allowed to vote for one ninot to be “pardoned” from the fires. The artwork with the most votes is saved, and goes into a museum. The rest are burned. Fallas is a festival of fire, and there’s something unique about a city that explodes with art every year, only to burn it all down.

Kids with Explosives

March in Valencia is full of fireworks. Every day at two p.m. there’s the mascletà, a ceremonial fireworks display. The daytime fireworks give off cannon-like booms and bursts of colored smoke. And every weekend there are huge, traditional fireworks displays at night, right in the town center. As peak Fallas week approaches, it seems everyone is getting in on the fun. Explosions ring out intermittently, all day and all night.

Every time there’s a fireworks show, the streets absolutely fill with people. It’s as if everyone walks out of work, or their houses, and yacks loudly with their neighbors in the street until the party starts. It’s loud and lively! As the crowd recedes, there’s trash everywhere in the streets, an oddity for what is generally a very clean city. Yet just as quickly, a small army of municipal workers arrive, restoring things to sparkling. In the center square, after the mascletà, a dozen street sweepers zoomed in, running around like car-sized roombas, picking up all the dust and paper.

As an outsider, the thing that surprises me the most is how the children are involved. Small kids, perhaps seven or eight years old, run around town with boxes of fireworks in their hands. They’ll pull out a three-inch firecracker, light it with a lighter, and toss it into the street or plaza. BANG. They laugh like maniacs, and the adults around them pay almost no attention. The streets are full of eager demon children, lobbing explosives into busy areas. BANG. BANG. BANG.

Babies sleep in their mothers’ arms, completely indifferent to the noise and the smoke. As I heard one person say, in Valencia, children are born with polvo (gunpowder) in their veins. It’s quite the thing to see. Back home, we’d never trust little kids with fireworks. Back home, tossing a firecracker around people would get you into significant trouble with your parents. Of course, back home, you jump and duck for cover when you hear a big bang. Back home, a sudden bang is more likely to be gunfire than a firecracker.

Random Acts of Tuba

The other noisy delight this time of year are the bands marching through the streets. Randomly, several times a week, a band shows up nearby and begins playing enthusiastic music in the street. There are lots of tubas. So many tubas. I peek out the window and see dozens of people dancing, jumping, cheering.

The Valencian zest for life is why I love this city so much, and why I keep returning. You can feel it during Fallas, yes, but also during the rest of the year.

#travel #spain #research

Friends and Readers,

Good morning from sunny Valencia, Spain where I’m waist deep in imaginary worlds and making good progress on my next two novels.

A cup of coffee next to my laptop

Valencia is the second city of my heart, and as soon as we landed, I felt all my stress float right out of my body. While we're here, I'll be doing some book research, focused on Valencia's annual cultural festival, called Fallas. (Pronounced FY-YAS)

Fallas lasts about a month, and it incorporates artwork, beauty pageants, parades, the sewing of traditional clothing, religious iconography, and daily fireworks. The festival culminates with an event called la Crema where the artworks are burned in a huge fiery spectacle all around the city. I'd love to set a murder mystery here, but I'm still in the research phase, so for now, that means taking lots of pictures, attending events, and scribbling down notes.

A couple days ago, the first pieces of the “Municipal Falla” arrived in City Hall Square on a flatbed truck. It's huge, and this is only one piece of it! 🤯

A large sculpture of a dove on a flatbed truck. It's upper body is as big as the box of a delivery truck.

If you're curious about Fallas, here's a documentary in English that talks more about the festival and its history.

Let's talk about books! Today, I wanted to tell you about a type of story that you may not have heard of. It's called a “braided novel” or “braided narrative” and I read an excellent one recently.

What's a Braided Novel?

One of my favorite reads this winter was The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler. It won the Locus award for best novel in 2023, and it's one of those books that are difficult to describe without giving too much of the story away. The book is speculative fiction (asking “what ifs” about the future) and the themes include: cyberpunk, marine ecology, anthropology, and artificial intelligence.

Book Cover for the Mountain in the Sea. It shows an illustration of a red octopus

The Mountain in the Sea is a good example of a braided novel. Rather than containing a single story, it contains three separate stories. The novel alternates between those stories, weaving them alongside each other, and the connection is revealed only at the end. Think of that connection as being the tight rubber band at the end of the braid. There's a little snap of “aha!” as the different strands come together.

So what happens in the Mountain in the Sea?

  • A scientist is invited to an island to assist in secret research.
  • A hacker is hired by a mysterious woman to complete an impossible task.
  • A man exiled from his home fights to survive.

For much of the novel, these stories don’t seem to intersect. We skip from one to the other, to the other, unsure of their connection. Braided novels require patience, and there are times when the stories are tightly connected, and other times when the connection is loose. In the end, I was glad I’d persevered because three distinct stories came together in a kind of tapestry.

A braided novel can do things that a traditional narrative cannot. We may see events unfold over the breadth of an entire society. Some braided narratives are told from different points in time, showing how the past, present, and future connect. A braided novel can have more than three strands, but three or four is typical. I’ve even heard George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones books called “braided”, because they often follow different groups for long periods of time before connecting them together.

Anyway, if you’re into cyberpunk, artificial intelligence, and anthropology, check out The Mountain in the Sea. It was a challenging read, but if you enjoy speculative fiction, highly worthwhile. Also, if you have a favorite “braided novel” – tell me about it!

Until next time,

Cheri B

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#travel #spain #news #books

Airport day, airport day! Let's pack our bags and run away.

Today, I say goodbye to Portugal. We've had two beautiful weeks of tourist time, running around, taking pictures, huffing and puffing up the steeply sharp hills. I'll remember Portugal as a country that exists at 45°, and so beneficial for the glutes. Full of views that seem to come out of nowhere because you're always summiting. Seattle is fairly hilly but we have nothing on Lisbon or Porto. San Francisco could take notes.

What will I remember, exactly? The fairytale beauty of Northern Portugal around the Douro River, for sure. Wine country, with all those hillside terraces cut like ribbons into the soil. I'll remember billows of gray smoke from the carts of roasted chestnut vendors. My first time spotting a brass seashell on a sidewalk – a signpost of the Camino de Santiago. All the brightly colored building along the river and the hillsides of Porto. That wonderfully derpy Sunfish at the Oceanarium in Lisbon. How hard it rained the night we arrived. Tile in thousands of patterns and hundreds of shades, covering everything. I loved walking among the big wooden ships at the Navy museum, marveling at the complexity of the rigging. And I admired the incredible talent many Portuguese have with language, switching from their native tongue, to English, to Spanish, to French. As one of our tour guides told us, “We don't do dubbing here. We watch everything in the original language, with subtitles only, to help us learn.”

Obrigada, Portugal! Thanks for letting us visit.

#travel #portugal

Cheri Baker. Books for Adventurous Readers

Friends and readers,

Greetings from Lisbon, Portugal, where I am writing you from my hotel room, laptop propped on my knees. 😎  Patrick and I are back on the road for a springtime adventure, mixing work and play, and I'm writing to share some book recommendations and a few of the interesting sights I've seen.

A small bookstore called Letra Livre on the lower level of an old building in Lisbon. The building is on a steep hill, and the sidewalk in front tilts sharply down. The inside looks small, organized, and welcoming.

A typical small bookstore in hilly Lisbon

In preparation for this trip, I loaded up on novels with a connection to Portugal. I read an entertaining (but rather improbable) thriller, Two Nights in Lisbon, by Chris Pavone, and I dipped my toes into the multiple literary award winner, Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. But my favorite of the bunch was The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques, a gritty police procedural with a paranormal tilt.

While not related to Portugal, I kept myself entertained on our long flight reading Death on Board by Anita Davison. Davison has a nice knack for description, and the story is set on a transatlantic voyage from New York to England in the early 1900s. The sleuth is a British governess.

Literary Lisbon

During our brief time here, I learned of Luís de Camões, considered the “Portuguese Shakespeare,” whose influence was so profound that the Portuguese language is sometimes called “The Language of Camões.” I haven't explored his poems yet, but you can learn more about his interesting life here, including his adventures and misadventures at sea.

And imagine my delight when I learned that the world's oldest continually operating bookstore was a short walk from our hotel! The original Livreria Bertrand (now part of a chain) has been selling books since 1732. We went inside and found a surprisingly modern collection, well-organized and welcoming.

The book cover for outlaw justice. It shows a small spacecraft flying away from Mars. The subtitle reads: The First Guardian Book One

292 years of bookselling history, right here.

I'm unlikely to learn Portuguese anytime soon, so I picked up a charming copy of Alice in Wonderland. A grim-faced saleswoman at the desk applied an “official” Livreria Bertrand stamp to the book before glaring at me like she wished I'd die of a painful disease. Perhaps my tastes were too basic?

Visiting a country for the first time is indeed like visiting Wonderland. You're lost. You don't know how things work. Don't offend the queen of the bookstore, or she'll lop off your head! Ha.

With my head firmly attached to my neck, I headed back out into the rain. Rumor has it that our next stop, Porto, has one of the prettiest bookstores in the world. (Video Link)

Literacy as Resistance

ut when it comes to the power of words in Lisbon, what moved me the most was my visit to the Museu Do Aljube Resistência e Liberdade (The Aljube Museum of Resistance and Freedom). It's dedicated to the activists who struggled for decades to overthrow Portugal's former dictatorship, and many of the exhibits were about communication and literacy.

From the ways the authoritarian government strove to suppress literacy (because an uneducated populace is easier to control), to the explosion of underground magazines and hidden printing presses that kept pro-democracy movements alive, the museum was a powerful reminder of the importance of language and communication, not to mention the dangers of government control over books, media, and communication.

The book cover for outlaw justice. It shows a small spacecraft flying away from Mars. The subtitle reads: The First Guardian Book One

Antifascist activists used “muffled typewriters” like this one to avoid being hauled off to jail for sharing their ideas.

Portugal is a young democracy, compared to the United States. As one local told us, “Young people can be tempted to give up on our system, especially when life is difficult. It's important we show them our history, so they understand how dangerous authoritarianism is.”

Reading helps to build up our critical thinking skills while at the same time building empathy for others. My time in Lisbon reminded me that when it comes to literacy, there's far more at stake than entertainment. Words can bring us together, and from time to time, they have the power to change the world.

Until next time...

All my best,

Cheri B.

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#travel #portugal #news #books

A rough-textured wall painted with many realistic human eyes. They're all looking to the right.

I’m never so productive as I am on the road. At home, I’m apt to struggle with motivation, even when the “things I need to do” equal the “things I want to do.”

Each day here contains roughly the same routine. Up early to grab a cup of coffee from a nearby cafe. Three or four intense hours of sightseeing, walking 5 or 6 miles, taking lots of photos. Eat a big, healthy lunch. Take a big nap. Wake up and write for several hours, lost in the story until it’s dark outside. Another walk, shorter this time, to grab a snack and stretch my legs. I haven’t been hungry enough for dinner. Just that big lunch, after which I crash like a hibernating bear.

Sometimes the day is reversed, with writing in the morning and sightseeing in the afternoon. Either way, I’m surprised at how much I’m getting done. Lots of exercise. Eating less junk. Getting my words in, and enjoying them. Less time for boredom, for self-doubt, for getting distracted.

I wish that I felt “like this” when I’m at home. I wish I was walking six miles a day, and eating better, and feeling so productive. Yet I’ve never found the knack of being travel-Cheri when I’m home-Cheri.

Perhaps I’ll figure it out? When I only have two or three hours to write, I certainly spend less time faffing around. And it’s good to be busy, I think, to keep the body as active as the mind. If only I could figure out how to keep it all alive when I’m back in my comfortable rut.

I’ll leave this post here as a reminder to think on it.

Photo: Lisbon Street Art, Alfama Neighborhood

#travel #lisbon #writing

We'd been awake for 24 hours when our flight began descending into Lisbon International Airport. Outside the oval window, I could see only a flat gray sheet, impenetrable and featureless, but the sounds were familiar. The hydraulic whine as wing flaps extended, breaking the shape of the wing, increasing drag, slowing the aircraft down. That, followed by the whir of landing gear extending.

Without warning, gravity pressed us into our seats, hard. The plane’s engines roared all around us. We were climbing, clawing our way up through the sky, feeling the weight of our bodies and the plane beneath us. Alarmed chatter burst out, punctuated by a few laughs, and then faded away. We waited. Surely the pilot would speak to us soon.

Slowly, the pressure on our bodies eased. The windows still showed nothing but dull gray, but now, with my attention sharpened, I could see little flashes of white in the grayness, lights from the wings reflecting in the clouds.

The pilot spoke. There was no need to worry. It was storming in Lisbon, with 40 mile per hour winds, and the approach had been bad. We were circling around for another attempt, to come in from the north. It seemed to take forever to get down. We sank through the clouds, centimeter by centimeter.

Everyone applauded when we landed. Sometimes, you're keenly aware that the pilot's skill makes the difference between arriving safely at your destination and getting smeared across the runway. A covered staircase spit us onto a blustery tarmac where a bus waited to take us to the terminal.

Wild weather aside, arrival in Lisbon was easy. We breezed through passport control, followed signs for the metro, and bought a pair of navegante cards from the machine. Past-me had written down our directions, so we knew which metro lines to take, always helpful when you're running on fumes. Everything was clearly laid out. Everything worked. The stations were clean and well-lit. A foursome of twenty-somethings laughed and joked in Portuguese on the opposite side of the platform while we waited for the metro. In their divergently stylish clothes: sporty, pretty, preppy, and dark, they looked straight out of a John Hughes movie.

We climbed out of the station and into the rainstorm. A massive statue of a man on a fat horse loomed overhead, slickly black in the rain. The sidewalks and even some of the roads are covered in little white and black tiles, like a bathroom (so strange!) and as we trudged uphill with our backpacks, doused in water, dodging puddles, we realized we'd gone the wrong direction. It took us a while, circling, to find our hotel. In the moment when I felt the most lost, I was ready to drop my pack on the ground, burst into tears, and tell Patrick that I was done. Finished! I would sleep right there, on the wet sidewalk, for I was so so tired.

That’s when he squinted. Pointed. Our hotel! It was right across the street.

Too exhausted for dinner, we took showers, texted our parents, and collapsed into bed. In the morning, feeling almost human again, I used a towel to wipe condensation off the window.

“Look at the castle,” Patrick said.

I looked up high, above the rooftops, and saw the wall surrounding São Jorge Castle. Small flags flapped in the wind. The city is spread all around us, red tile roofs rising and falling in time with the steep hillsides, and the rain had stopped.

“I found a place to get coffee,” Patrick said.

He was singing my song.

#travel #lisbon

A cabin on a cruise ship. Above the bed, a square porthole window shows a pale gray sea.

Long time readers may remember that I came up with the idea for the Ellie Tappet Cruise Ship Mysteries during a voyage to South America aboard the Norwegian Sun. I have many fond memories of that trip, so I was delighted when the Sun showed up at Port 66 in Seattle. And last month, Patrick and I went aboard for a late-season voyage to Alaska.

I figured I could do some research for The Case of the Paper Horse and revisit the cruise ship that started it all. This was a vacation, yes, but I was also a writer on a mission. Norwegian was offering a “behind the scenes tour” to the areas of the ship guests aren't normally allowed to see, and I couldn't wait to see how the inner workings of a cruise ship.

I wondered, how did the ship of my memory compare to the world I'd built up in my imagination?

A wide deck going around the ship. Blue sky and water at sunset to the right. A huge escape raft hangs overhead.

The promenade deck was much as I remembered it.

Well-lit bookcases in a library. The carpet has quotes from famous literature.

I love visiting the ship's library! Such a fun space.

On the day of our tour, accompanied by a guide and a security guard, we descended to the lower decks, where the crew work and live. The sheer scale of the kitchen operation boggled my mind. The soup pots in the galley were the size of bathtubs!

A shiny steel room with steel floors, ceilings, and counters. Soup tubs big enough to boggle the mind. A female chef works at the counter.

Running several restaurants aboard a ship is quite the logistical operation! Here, a chef showed us the daily menus for the main dining room. They called the kitchen 'the galley” and it was enormous, with dozens of chefs overseeing the work.

A chef in a tall hat inspects a huge wall poster showing hundreds of dishes, organized by meal

I was fascinated by the laundry operation deep down on deck one. Each washing machine holds 400 pounds of linen per load, and there was so much specialized equipment. Sewing machines, steamers, and a long machine for cleaning sheets called “the mangler.”

I wouldn't want to get my hand stuck in one of those! The machines were massive, and the air in there was pleasantly warm.

An industrial Laundry room with 10 foot tall metal machines and blue tubs on wheels large enough to hold a body or two.

There are so many interesting job titles! We met the “Laundrymaster” and the “Provisionmaster” as well as the ship's engineer. He reminded me a bit of Scotty on Star Trek, only Italian rather than Scottish.

The Provisionmaster does all grocery shopping for the ship, and I was gobsmacked by the size and scale of their freezers and fridges. Here is a photo of their ice cream freezer. That's right. This one is just ice cream.

An apartment-sized ice cream freezer full of giant brown tubs.

I didn't meet any colorful characters on our trip to Alaska, but thanks to my time on board I have a mind full of images, sensations, and even smells.

Fiction is... well, it's *fictional*, but I love adding sprinkles of realism to bring a story to life. And there's so much dynamism on a cruise ship. So many levels! The guests, the crew, the ports, the activities and personalities.

At one point, when I was circling the ship and making notes on what I saw, a security guard began eyeing me suspiciously. So I asked myself: What would Ellie Tappet do?

I put my pencil away with exaggerated care and went to the cafe for a cup of tea. Tea is the ultimate sleuth camouflage, don't you know.

It was a good trip! I'm glad to have a better picture of life aboard a cruise ship, and you can bet some of these fun little details will end up in my next book.

Ready for fun, friendship, and mysteries at sea?

Check out the Ellie Tappet Cruise Ship Mysteries, starting with book one,The Case of the Missing Finger.

#EllieTappet #travel #alaska