Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?
I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Chuck knew next to nothing about the Forbidden City when we arrived in Beijing, a city of 25 million people. All he knew when we landed in China was that I had a list of places I intended to see and no amount of meowing was going to talk me out of it!
The Forbidden City--the Chinese Imperial Palace located in the middle of Beijing--has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and is the largest collection of ancient wooden structures in the world.
The size of this walled city is staggering.
I think this is something Chuck should see.
Chuck has this heartfelt sigh that he lets loose when he knows he’s defeated. That sigh only makes me more determined to make Chuck want to see this impressive piece of history.
When the day arrives, we walk through Tiananmen Square on our way to this home to the Chinese Emperors for over 500 years. My plan is to WOW him with facts.
“Chuck, this city was built primarily of wood and marble.”
He seems determined to ignore me.
“Chuck, construction of the Forbidden City was started in 1406, but it took fourteen years to complete and required over a million workers.” I know these facts but as I say them, I’m amazed myself.
“The City contains 980 buildings and 9,999 rooms.”
I see the look in Chuck’s eye. He’s wondering if we’re going to have to visit the close to ten thousand rooms.
“Unfortunately, we can see only a small portion of the city now because they’re still in the process of renovating.”
“Chuck, 24 emperors have lived in the Forbidden City. The last one was evicted in 1924 after a coup.”
By this time we’ve reached the impressive wooden gate that we must pass through along with the thousands of other visitors.
From then on, there’s a lot of walking, a lot of people, and way too much to see. Despite the haze that seems to always hang over China--the government refers to it as clouds--the sun still manages to break through.
“Chuck, there is something up ahead I think you’re going to want to see--a genuine throne. Where the Emperors used to sit.”
Chuck looks interested. And, of course, that’s where everyone seems to want to go.
There is no way you can go into the “throne room.” You must stand outside the very large opening that allows you access to the room, shove your way through the crowds, and then peer in. It would seem almost mission impossible to get Chuck close enough and high enough to see without being seen and then to get a photo of the throne myself, but people are amazingly oblivious to their surroundings as they, too, struggle to find the best place for their shot. No one notices Chuck, or if they do, no one reacts.
Maybe it’s because only eight years before when I visited China for the first time--without Chuck--the Chinese were allowed no pets--no cats, no dogs--only birds. Now, because their economic situation has improved, the government restriction has also let up. Each family may have one dog. There are no restrictions as to the number of cats.
The place is jam packed.
Chuck is really into the throne, and as I boost him above my head so he can see it (Bob is snapping the photo), I feel a wiggle and know exactly what Chuck is thinking.
He wants to sit on that throne.
King Tut. King Chuck.
Is he crazy??
I grab hold of him tighter, my hands clutched like a vise, but he wiggles out of my grasp and lands on the ground with a thump.
The worst case scenario pops into my mind.
Chuck leaping up and over, through the enclosure, and then racing to the throne. Sniff. Sniff. And by the time he’s ready to ascend the throne, the Chinese police would have the poor kid in handcuffs and off to the pokey.
I shout out, “Help.”
Strong hands pull Chuck up and shove him back into my arms. A fellow tourist, a complete stranger, assessing the situation, rescues my cat from a certain fate.
“Cats are not allowed here,” he says.
I’m so mad I can’t even look at Chuck. Instead I turn to Bob. “Did you get the picture? Of the throne?”
Then we both give Chuck a dirty look.
The Chuckster. He’ll never change. Not ever.
Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go. This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."
Monday, June 18, 2012
Visiting the Great Wall of China was not Chuck’s idea.
It was mine.
Chuck came to China to see the Panda Bear eat bamboo.
But since we were in Beijing, AND since the Great Wall is considered one of the Eight Wonders of the World AND since it’s been claimed that the Great Wall can be seen even from outer space (the moon, to be exact), I managed to convince Chuck the Castronaut that the Great Wall was worth seeing.
But was it true? Can you see the Great Wall from the moon?
I digress, I know, but this claim was first made in 1754 and repeated several times over the years until in 1932 it even appeared in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. The truth is that--despite the immensity of the Great Wall--it cannot be seen from outer space. According to Wikipedia, trying to see the Great Wall from the moon would be like trying to see a single shaft of human hair from two miles away.
As we hike the stairs to reach the Great Wall, I share what I know about the Great Wall with my intrepid rascal traveler:
1. The Great Wall was built to protect the Chinese Empire from invasions from nomadic tribes and military groups.
2. Several walls were built as early as the 7th century and later joined together to form the Great Wall.
3. The Great Wall stretches 3,889 miles long.
4. Before the use of bricks, the Chinese used earth, stones and wood to construct the wall.
If you’ve ever been to the Great Wall, it’s like any other tourist attraction. You have to buy a ticket. And then walk, walk, walk to what appears to be a gigantic stone staircase where you have to begin to climb. You notice that the place is mobbed. There are people everywhere. And basically what everyone is doing is climbing steps to reach the Wall, which is more steps.
There is more than one access point to reach the Wall. When I was last in China, eight years ago without Chuck, I climbed and climbed steps and never technically made it to “the wall.” This time I climbed for approximately an hour, with Chuck, of course, in my smart bag, peeking out, and did make it to the wall.
It wasn’t easy. The steps are uneven. It is hot. You are part of a line of people all climbing upward. It is very slow going. Some people are climbing up the middle of the steps, attempting to move more quicky, but if you choose that path, you have nothing to hold onto.
The view is fantastic. The wall was built along the highest ridge of mountains which is why you must climb upwards to reach it.
When we finally reach “the wall,” we come to a kind of landing with an enclosed building of sorts, with windows that look out over the magnificent views. At least there’s some degree of shade. We celebrate briefly and take photos. We’re totally exhausted. And people are pushing past us. There is no place to sit and order a cool drink of anything. The water I’m carrying is warm and almost depleted.
We have the option of continuing to walk along the wall, and I actually thought that once we reached the wall, it would even out and become like some fantastic walkway with lemonade stands and souvenir shops, etc. But I’m wrong.
Perhaps, way far up, the stairs will even out to a walkway, but that is miles away. Someone tells me that if I climb to the next landing, it will look exactly the same as this one.
I’m feeling exhilarated because I made it to “the wall,” but disheartened too.
Should I turn around and go back down?
Chuck is nodding “yes.”
Bob wants to continue onward. His ego is at stake.
But, of course, with guys that is what it’s always all about--the competition. I didn’t want it to be about that.
It’s then that something magical happens.
I spy a group of two couples posing for pictures on the landing where we’ve stopped. The two women are obviously sisters, and they're standing together and posing in such a way that they lean into each other with their one arm reaching up to form half a heart. Together the two arms, one from each sister, form a whole heart.
I’ve never seen that before. It’s so sweet.
I speak no Chinese but I motion--asking if I can take their picture.
They nod. Then Bob and I strike the same pose, and they take our photo.
They spy Chuck. They are enthralled that we have our cat with us.
In China, each Chinese household is limited to only one dog. Thankfully, there is no limit on cats.
We smile. Then we all laugh together, start down the steps, and I know I’ll always remember the Great Wall, our trek up the stairs and the two sisters who made the heart with their arms entwined together.
PS That photo of Chuck--he was not posed on the Great Wall, but rather on our couch in the Great Room. Ha. Ha. Chuck is very vain and would allow no photos of himself on the wall. Rather he needed to "over groom" as usual and look his best. The handsome kid!
Thursday, June 14, 2012
DEBUT NOVEL INSPIRED BY LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE MYSTERY
Wild Point Island, debut novel for New Jersey resident Kate Lutter, will be published by Crescent Moon Press and will be available for sale as of Friday, June 15, 2012, on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.
Wild Point Island is a paranormal romance tied to the famous historic event—the Lost Colony of Roanoke—referred to by historians as one of the greatest American mysteries of all time. The novel answers the question: What if the colonists survived by relocating to another island, and then their decision to eat the local plant life transformed them physiologically and granted them immortality, but at a price?
For the last 420 years most historians believed that the colonists who landed on the Island of Roanoke off the coast of North Carolina perished because of drought, starvation, or hostile native American attacks. Recently, however, a closer examination of a 425 year-old map of the Roanoke Colony, housed in the British Museum for over 100 years, tells a different story. The Huffington Post reports that two patches on the map were covering up symbols that indicate the colonists relocated, the first new clues in centuries. An investigation as to the fate of the Lost Colony is continuing.
Kate Lutter has been writing for ten years. Wild Point Island is her first published novel. “The timing of my novel Wild Point Island is ironic considering the events occurring at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill,” said Ms. Lutter. “I always believed the colonists survived.”
Prior to writing full time, Ms. Lutter was the principal of an elementary school, and she taught English on the middle and high school levels. Currently, she is writing the sequel to Wild Point Island and an exotic travel blog detailing her adventures with her rascal cat named Chuck called Hot Blogging with Chuck which can be found on her website: www.katelutter.com
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I know what you’re thinking.
I’m sure that after you read the title--Chinese Panda Bear--you have to be asking yourself--did the Chinese Panda Bear fly here to the states or did Chuck fly to China??
This was not one of Chuck’s finer moments.
He did not enjoy being stuffed into my carryon for fifteen hours (all the air deflated out of him) as we flew non-stop across the oceans and over the top of the world to a place where people use chopsticks rather than forks and knives.
What induced Chuck to even consider the grueling journey was the thought of meeting what I would consider one of the great wonders of the world--at least of the animal world--the giant panda bear.
Chuck had only seen one panda before--at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and if you remember that incident, he jumped into the panda’s den area and tried to instigate a show down. This time, we had a long talk before we arrived at the Beijing Zoo. There would be no jumping into the den area. Not at the Beijing Zoo. Not in China. Not in this particular tense political climate.
The Chuckster would have to be content with watching the panda bear from afar.
But that was okay with him.
The panda bear from any distance is mesmerizing.
At the Beijing Zoo, there are signs everywhere announcing the existence of the panda bear. When we first spot him, he is not doing much of anything, but we were warned he might be sleeping or resting.
I took this opportunity, as we were gazing at the panda through the glass, to tell Chuck the top five interesting facts about panda bears:
1. 99% of a panda’s diet is bamboo--a diet heavy in protein.
Pandas will also eat honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, bananas, etc.
2. Panda bears live in the lowland areas of Sichuan Province in China. It is estimated that approximately 1590 pandas live in the wild as compared to 239 bears who live in captivity.
3. Male panda bears can weigh up to 350 pounds. Females can weigh up to 280 pounds. But when born, a baby panda weighs only 3 1/2 to 7 ounces.
4. Pandas are solitary animals. After a baby is born, the father panda leaves the mother to raise the panda on her own.
5. Panda bears live approximately 30 years in captivity and 20 years in the wild. Ming Ming, in captivity, lived to be 34 years old.
When I’m finished, I knew that I hadn’t answered the one question on Chuckie’s mind.
“No,” I said, “there is no record of a Panda ever attacking and eating a cat.”
Chuck sighed in relief.
“You don’t taste like bamboo,” I added to reassure him. “Plus panda bears are not aggressive by nature. They only attack someone or something who annoys them.”
At this time, the panda bear finally got up and went over to the door that led to the outside area. With his back to us, he stood there on his hind legs for at least ten minutes, facing outside. What was he thinking?
Finally, he wandered outside, and Chuck and I scooted out of the building so we could see what he was up to.
And I knew what Chuck was thinking. And hoping. He wanted to meet Mr. Panda. He wanted that panda bear to wander over to where we were standing. He wanted that bear to acknowledge us in some way. A friendly wave. A giant nod of his head. Something. Anything.
Chuck has no patience.
I was fascinated just watching the panda move.
Chuck was not.
Then it happened.
I had come to this exhibit with no expectations.
Chuck had come expecting everything.
Suddenly, the panda grabbed a bamboo branch and started eating it.
And eating it. And eating it.
I guess when pandas weigh hundreds of pounds, they need a lot of bamboo to feel satisfied. It takes them a long time to eat enough bamboo to fill their bellies.
I pulled out my iphone and started videotaping the panda eating the bamboo.
What a wonderful thing to watch.
Chuck began to get restless.
“Can you wait?” I shouted out.
But Chuck figured that panda could be sitting there for hours eating that bamboo.
I clicked off my iphone, ended the videotape, and glared at Chuck.
“You are the biggest baby.”
He glared back at me, impatience all over his face.
I mean it.
It was time to leave. I took one last look at the panda eating the bamboo. WOW. You don’t see this in the states everyday. WOW.
To see some remarkable video of the panda eating bamboo, log onto www.katelutter.com and click on the link on my homepage that will take you to my You Tube video. Enjoy!