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, we concocted a plan to take Chuck with us--my husband and I--when we travel around the world, which we do frequently. Not an easy task. First, we have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when we arrive, we 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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chuck and Five Wild Girls--Can Never Go Home Again


      

Karen and Caroline relaxing before the arduous pilgrimage to our hometown.

This is me, your blogger, relaxing in my sister's new luxurious tent.

My sister, Cheryl, relaxing before we make the long journey back to our childhood home.

Our youngest sister Cyndi relaxing before we leave.

        You can never go home again.
The moment I said something to Chuck about what I wanted to do, he gave one of his low guttural moans.  
        Bad idea.  
How many poets, authors, and I guess people who are a lot smarter than me would have agreed with my rascal cat?
So why didn’t I listen?
No, instead, I talked my four sisters, my four wild sisters, and my rascal cat into pilgrimaging back to our hometown--a tiny no nothing town in New Jersey--yes, Bruce Springsteen land--no, we’re not on the Jersey shore but close enough to it --yeah--to revisit our old haunts because it was the tenth anniversary of our father’s death--and we wanted to somehow pay tribute.  
We would visit the house we’d grown up in, the church we’d attended as kids, the school we’d gone to, and the cemetery that now held the remains of our parents.  
So we met at my sister’s house, piled into my other sister’s car--which was big enough to hold all of us (although the minute we squeezed in, Chuck let out a SIGH that reverberated off the leather seating) and we set off for lunch--our first stop.  Food to nourish the soul and to give us time to plan our itinerary.  
We decided to go to a diner, which we’d gone to growing up and which was still there.  Thank God.  Because, of course, I was already dreading that so many things would be different . . . changed . . . since we’d last been to South _________.  So we pulled up --anticipating the food would be less than, well, perhaps a little too GREASY.  Determined to ignore that aspect, we each ordered some type of sandwich because every sandwich came with--and had come with for over 50 years--cucumber salad and coleslaw.  That was the traditional appetizer that we longed to eat.
The waitress arrived and plopped the cucumber salads down.  What??  My first disappointment.  
I wasn’t going to say anything, but then I couldn’t hold it in. 
“It’s disgusting.  They put the cucumber salad in plastic cups.  It’s come to this.”
The fact that it tasted different didn’t even matter.  It was those plastic cups!

They used to serve their cucumber salad on real plates.  
We, somehow, made it through the meal.  
My sister Karen tried to cheer us up.  “Let’s go visit Sacred Heart.”
She meant the Church and the school we went to as kids.
       A private Catholic school that, unfortunately, had closed the year before.  The building was still there, but it had been taken over by someone else.  We drove half a mile from the diner into the parking lot, parked the car, stared at the school, which looked the same, ignored the new owner’s sign, and then went into the Church.  Safe haven?  At least the Church was still the same.  

From the outside, the Church looks exactly the same.


The school looked the same, too, if you didn't look at the new sign plastered on the front of the building.  This is where I went to first to eighth grade.  All my brothers and sisters went here, too.  

Or so we thought.
Inside, we winced when we saw that the pews we used to sit in, on the left side of the church, had been removed to make way for the Choir.  


You can see where the chairs are--that's where we used to sit in the pews.  Just another disappointment!  Another change!
        What!    
        Here’s my memory.  Every Sunday we’d pile into the car, go to the bakery, then park on the street near the Church, enter in through the side door at exactly 9:20 for the 9:30 mass.  But now the pews were gone.  

Caroline, deciding whether she should protest about the missing pews, by manning the pulpit.
   
Cheryl and Karen eagerly wait to hear what she has to say . . .


Cyndi arrives just at the perfect moment, but Caroline decided not to speak out after all.  



              Chuck peeked out of my smart bag.  I tried to explain why I was upset.  (Meanwhile, we were hoping a priest wouldn’t see a cat in church.)
My sister Cheryl broke the silence.  “Let’s go home.”  She meant it was time to visit our childhood home.  My other sister Caroline chimed in, “And let’s drive around to the back of the house and see what they did to the back yard.”  She meant the new owners.
We had a plan.
We drove the route we used to walk as kids.  It was only a mile, but it had seemed much longer than that when you’re in grade school and have to walk through rain and snow.  
The house we used to live in had been sold years ago when my mother died.  It looked completely different.  We parked one house away and stared at it.  My sister Cheryl and I both took a picture.  Then we drove around to the back, where there used to be woods, where we played as kids.  The town had now built a park.  We drove through and parked the car.  It started to rain, but we didn’t care.  Now, like peeping toms, we snuck up and surveyed our old back yard. 
My memory of our yard: Hedges surrounded the yard.  There was a giant oak tree.  A sand pile with swings.  A pool.  A garden.   
Now the yard was small--so small.  Someone had removed the giant oak tree.  There was no pool or garden.  Only grass.  Just grass.   And a tall white fence replaced the hedges.  
We climbed back into the car in near silence.  
We have three brothers.  One is a captain of the police department in our hometown.  We stopped on a whim and by some miracle he was in the parking lot, leaving to go home.  We told Matt about the missing oak tree.  He said that maybe it had been hit by lightnining in a storm and that’s why it had been removed.  Maybe.  But seeing him buoyed our spirits.

Matt took this shot as we gathered together in the parking lot of the police station.

Then it was onto the cemetery.  My mom and dad are laid to rest--side by side--in the mausoleum.  I always say the same thing when we come to visit as a group.  I repeat what my youngest sister Cyndi said so many years ago when my mother died.  “It isn’t fair,” she'd said.  “You had her for so much longer than I did.”  
“Do you remember what you said, Cyndi, when mommy died?” 
She nods.  

The mausoleum where my parents are buried.
The one thing we don’t talk about this time is the dream we all had about a year after she died.  We all dreamed she came back to our childhood home and knocked on the front door.  She came to visit for a day.  She came back from heaven for a day because we’d all said--if we could only have her for one more day.  We all had the same dream.  
You can never go home again, or rather you should never go home again.  
Let the memories stay as they were.  
Those childhood memories shouldn’t be disturbed.  
I know that now.  The Chuckster knew that before we started.  
I write novels for a living.  In Wild Point Island, my heroine--Ella Pattenson--returns to her childhood home with her sister, Lily, to rescue her father from imprisonment.  Twenty years have passed since she’s been on the island.  But when she arrives at her childhood home, everything is the same.  There’s not even dust on the furniture.  
That’s my fantasy.  
I wish that somehow, there could be a way to return to your childhood home, and it would look exactly the way you left it.  
Wouldn't that be lovely??
Well, as I’m riding home, back to my home now, with my husband and five cats, I turn to Chuck.  
“I have to say, Chuck, you were remarkably well-behaved today.  No funny business.  No jumping around.  No unruly behavior.”
He just rolls around onto his back and strikes that famous Chuck pose.


  
I read his mind.  “Yes, you can.  As soon as we get home.  Extra cat snacks and nice long walk in the backyard.  I promise.”
         
        If you'd like to read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com

        Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available, in paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

                 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Blogger Book Fair

        
        Thanks for coming to visit me.  My name is Kate Lutter, author of Wild Point Island, my recently published paranormal romance.   I'm so excited to be part of the 2012 Blogger Book Fair!


Please keep on reading . . . the blurb for the book . . . an excerpt . . . a blog about how I broke the rules and almost got the book published . . . and finally a contest where I'm giving away two gift cards and a free copy of Wild Point Island.  






                  What is Wild Point Island about?  The blurb on the back cover reads like this:


     Banished from Wild Point Island as a child, Ella Pattenson, a half human-half revenant, has managed to hide her true identity as a descendent of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.  Thought to have perished, the settlers survived but were transformed into revenants--immortal beings who live forever as long as they remain on the island. 

      Now, Ella must return to the place of her birth to rescue her father from imprisonment and a soon to be unspeakable death.  Her only hope is to trust a seductive revenant who seems to have ties to the corrupt High Council.  Simon Viccars is sexy and like no man she’s ever met. But he’s been trapped on the island for 400 years and is willing to do almost anything for his freedom.

     With the forces of the island conspiring against her, Ella must risk her father, her heart, and her life on love.  


            E Book Reviewers recently read and rated Wild Point Island with 5 stars *****, and I quote:

"At the very core . . .(Wild Point Island) 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.  I give it ***** (5 stars)." 


            I'd like to share an excerpt from the book with you:



     We glided along until we came to a doorway, and Simon
pointed to a sign that read Area C. “Remember, there are
monitors. You can see your father, but do not speak to him.”
     I swallowed. Now that I was here, I wanted to see him. Yes,
but I also wanted more.
     “He may be in bad shape. You must prepare yourself.”
     “Please, let’s just go.”
     We passed cell after cell. This prison was like a
mausoleum, and the walls were like coffins. Simon increased
his pace as if there was something wrong.
     “He is there, Ella.”
     On my left, was a single cell in the room we’d just entered.
     My father’s name was neatly inscribed in block letters and
below it the years of his sentence. But I wanted to see other
words. The truth--that they’d entombed him. But there was
nothing else. And I couldn’t see him.
     “Where is he?”
     “Stare at the wall. Imagine him as he was. You will be
able to see him.”
     A revenant who is unnourished shrivels to dust. My father
looked the same as twenty years ago, no older, but thinner.
And there was no life to his eyes. His spirit, at least, had not
shrivelled to dust. We had time yet, but not much time,
before he would give up. The image of him faded in and out,
like stills from an old movie being shown for the last time
before they faded on the screen.
     I stood there in perfect silence and said nothing. I tried to
take in every detail so I could tell my mother what she so
desperately wanted to know. In a moment or two I knew we
had to leave. My father would never know that I had come all
this way to see him and that we were risking everything for
these few precious moments.
     I had to let him know I was there. I had to give him hope
to stay alive for just a while more.
     When we were children, he was fond of whispering a
phrase to Lily and me as he tucked us into bed each night. I
love you, he would say, infinity into the nineties. We didn’t
know what infinity into the nineties meant. Only that it
meant love. Total love.
     If I said it now, he would know he hadn’t been forgotten.
Simon waited respectfully behind me.
     “I love you, Dad, infinity into the nineties.”
     In my present state I had no eyes, which could tear, no
heart, which could break. But my spirit shook as I waited for
the consequences of my actions. I would take the blame. Not
Simon.
     “It is time to go. Now.”
     We glided back to the starting point, then began to ascend.
     I could, at least, assure my mother that my father had
survived. His spirit had not turned to dust. When we reached
the surface, we glided to the exact spot where our spirits had
been separated from our bodies.
     “Close your eyes. Your spirit and body will be joined.”
     As I readied myself, I felt a tug on my hand before I even
imagined the process would begin. My body had joined my
spirit effortlessly.
     “You can speak to me now.” Simon edged in closer.
     Reclaiming my body felt like stepping out of doors on a
perfect spring day. I didn’t care about the rules or the
promises we had made. I didn’t care that physical love
between us was forbidden. We didn’t want to talk to each
other.
     He reached for me, and his lips pressed against mine.
     Once, twice. And then in a fury of passionate kissing, we
couldn’t quell the desire that consumed both of us as we
sought out each other’s lips.
     He gripped my shoulders as he kissed me over and over.
     “I don’t want to wait anymore,” I cried. “I can’t.”
     He considered, wanting me. Trying to decide, I could tell,
whether I had logically made up my mind, or was so
desperate for him, I would say anything.
     “You don’t have to protect me. I know what can happen,” I
insisted.
     “Do you know what you are agreeing to.” His voice took on
a warning tone. “Are you willing to live here, with me, on this
island?”
     “And what’s the alternative—that we live apart? That I live
with someone I don’t love?”
     “Love. Do you love me, Ella? Does that mean you have
decided?”
    Something crashed in the woods. Suddenly, lights shined
directly on us. Voices shouted. Someone called Simon’s
name. Uniformed personnel appeared. A large beefy man
ripped me from Simon’s arms and pushed me to the ground.
Simon was grabbed from behind.
     No. No. This can’t be happening. Not here. Not now.
     “You have violated the Council’s orders.”
     I struggled to sit up. “What are you accusing us of?” I
shouted, although I could well enough guess, considering
Simon and I were parked in a restricted area and had
returned from breaking into the prison.
     “Ella, keep quiet.”
     “Simon Viccars, you must come with us.”
     “Go to your uncle. Tell him what has happened.”
     In the time it took me to climb to my feet, the men had
taken Simon away.

               I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into Wild Point Island.  If you'd like to read more, you can log onto my website www.katelutter.com and read the first chapter.  I also have an album with photos from the island and a page devoted to island history. 

            The road to writing and publishing Wild Point Island wasn't easy.  I wrote a blog about the process called, "Breaking the Rules" for Book Sparks:


                   Breaking the Rules: How I Got Published


         I was never one for breaking the rules.  I was the kid in school who always did her homework.  Who always arrived on time for school.
        Who took notes.  Studied for tests.  I was that kind of person.
When I became a writer, I still followed the rules.  Why wouldn’t I? I believed that rules prevent chaos, make the world a better place.  One of the most important rules was—never pitch a book that you’re writing until you are finished writing it.  NEVER.
But after writing four novels and not selling them, I began to grow suspicious that maybe the ideas I was writing about were not marketable.  
        And then one day . . . last year . . . I decided to do the unthinkable.
I was at a conference and for the first time in my life, I had signed up for an appointment with a top New York editor of a publishing house I respected even though I was only100 pages into writing my current novel.
Now this isn’t a good idea on many levels. 
But I convinced myself that I needed to know whether the idea I was writing about was marketable.  
I had the title: Wild Point Island.
I had the genre: paranormal romance
And I had the germ of the idea down on paper—a love story where two people want to be together but they can’t because it’s physically impossible.  
Yes, I’ll admit it—I was addicted to True Blood—HBO’s hot new drama and was a Sookie and Bill fan.  I loved the idea of Bill (a vampire) falling for Sookie (a half human, half fairy).  It was a relationship doomed from the start.  Bittersweet.  And I’d drafted a romance modeled on a similar concept.  
My hero, a revenant, who was once human, was now a different life form.  He’d returned from the dead.  He was 420 years old and was condemned to live his very long life on Wild Point Island.  My heroine was half human/half revenant.  She lived on the mainland, in North Carolina.    
        They were both descendants of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, an original English colony that was settled in 1592, but then disappeared when the mother ship returned to England for supplies. This was my hook, and I wanted to see if it was hook enough to sell a book.  
        I figured that if the editor were interested, she would request at most a partial—the first three chapters—if she requested anything at all--and that would give me time to finish the book, and then I would know that I had a marketable idea.  
So I marched into my appointment to do a very wrong thing.  I pitched the story I hadn’t really finished and waited with bated breath for her reaction. 
         Now, if you’ve ever been to a pitch session with an editor at a conference, you know you have ten minutes to sell your story.  The pressure is on.  Some writers crack under the pressure.  They become tongue-tied.  They stare down at their notes and the words swim before their eyes.  
         In truth, I believed in my story, and to my shock and amazement, the editor responded to me immediately.  She knew all about the Lost Colony of Roanoke.  She’d vacationed down in North Carolina as a child.  She loved the idea.   
        And then she lowered the boom. 
        The good news.  
        What every writer who pitches wants to hear.
        Could I send her the entire manuscript?
        She was, of course, referring to the story I hadn’t yet finished.
I smiled and said, “Of course.  No problem.”  But I was doomed.
Back home, my husband said, “Just finish it then.”
Honestly, I hadn’t even considered that possibility.  Two hundred pages in a month?  That would mean with time to edit . . . I would have to write ten pages a day straight for twenty days which would give me roughly two hundred pages and then take ten days to edit . . . I was sweating profusely.
The next day I signed up online for Book In A Month.  I set myself a schedule.  I grew determined to do this thing.  Finish the book.  
It was ugly and beautiful at the same time.  I learned two things from the experience.  One—I learned that I could write incredibly fast when I wanted to.  For the first time in my life, I entered into what writers call “the zone.”  When you write intently everyday for long periods of time, you know your story so well, you do enter into the special world of your story, and it does get easier.  Two—I learned never to do it again.  Break the rule.  
I finished.  I edited.  And I submitted.  And it was rejected.  
It wasn’t until months later when I had a chance to rewrite the story that I was able to sell it.  
So maybe I needed to have more faith in myself and my story ideas.  
Wild Point Island was published by Crescent Moon Press on June 15, 2012.  It’s available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com in paperback and ebook formats.
       And so who am I, this rule breaker?
      Here’s the typical blurb I send out:


       I believe I was born to write.  I wrote my first novel when I was in eighth grade, but then almost burned my house down when I tried to incinerate my story in the garbage can because I couldn’t get the plot to turn out right. Now, many years later, I live in NJ with my husband and five cats (no matches in sight) and spend my days writing contemporary paranormal romances, traveling the world, and hanging out with my four wild sisters.  I am happy to report that my debut novel, Wild Point Island, the first in a series, has just been published by Crescent Moon Press. I am busy writing the sequel.  I also write a weekly exotic travel blog entitled Hot Blogging with Chuck, which features my very snarky and rascally almost famous cat.  

      Wild Point Island is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com in paperback and in ebook formats.  

        I'm also running a contest back at the fair . . . 
        In 25 words or less tell me the title of your favorite novel and why.  My favorite is Wuthering Heights.  I just love the intensity of the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine.  I need your email address, of course.  
That's it.  You can leave your answer in the comments section of my blog here or email me at:
Katelutter.author@gmail.com

 FIRST PRIZE - $20 AMAZON GIFT CARD
 SECOND PRIZE - $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD
 THIRD PRIZE -  E BOOK COPY OF WILD POINT ISLAND
                                                                                              
             I hope you'll participate!

http://www.paranormallounge.blogspot.com
  Your almost famous author,

                                                                Kate Lutter
                                  









Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chuck Visits 300 Year Old Chinese House


Typical crowded bookshelf in Chinese House--just like ours

   


   I can’t speak for Chuck, my infamous cat, but the day I knew we were visiting an honest to goodness Chinese house--well, let’s just say, my curiosity level shot to the roof. 
    We’d been traveling around Beijing for days--and we’d seen the Summer Palace, the Beijing Zoo, the Great Wall, Tianamen Square, and the Forbidden City.  All famous tourist sites.  And they were great, but there’s nothing like seeing the way the real people live.
    “Chuck,” I said to him, “We’re going to be visiting a 300 year old house.  In the Hutong district of Beijing.”  Now, the Hutong district is the historic district of Beijing.  It’s the way the city used to look--narrow streets, one story houses, many of which shared a community bathroom and had a heating system which had to be manually operated--fed coal or wood.  People lived this way until quite recently (ten to fifteen years ago) when the government decided to modernize the city.  


The house we visited in Hutong district, the historic district of Beijing, China


    In fact, when I first visited Beijing and stayed there, I stayed in the Hutong district so that was my memory of the way Beijing looked.  When people asked, what does Beijing look like, I described it as very historic looking--old, quaint.  
    Now, I had returned eight years later to a completely different place.  This new Beijing looked like any other cosmopolitan city.  The streets were jammed with traffic. High rise buildings and malls for shopping filled the city.  In fact, underneath our hotel was a top notch, high end mall with a mega-sized skating rink and all the shops you’d expect as if you were in  New York City--including Kate Spade and Cold Stone creamery.    
    Beijing has a population of approximately 25 million people, so you can imagine the challenges of the housing situation.  High rise apartments replaced approximately 80% of the Hutong historic district.  Our guide Julia, who used to live in the Hutong district, explained that her family had been relocated to an apartment with central heating and a bathroom.  She had no complaints! 
    Today we were visiting a solid middle class family.  Three people lived in this house.  We were invited to a typical country style lunch prepared by the owners’ daughter and her aunt.  The food was served family style.  Platters of food were placed on the table and you served yourself.  The entrees offered were freshly prepared with an emphasis on vegetables.  
    The house itself would be considered small by American standards.  The walls were plaster and painted white.  A few paintings done by the owner were scattered about.  The furnishings were haphazard and reminded one of a college dorm atmosphere.  There was a courtyard in the back with some plants and a bicycle. 


Through this window, you can see the courtyard--the plants and bicycle




The corner of the living room area which shows the paintings hung on the wall.
One of the two bedrooms in the house

    I was struck by the contrast.  This simple house--representing the typical middle class Chinese lifestyle--stood in contrast to the expanse of the Great Wall or the breadth of Tianamen Square or the sheer massive square footage of the Forbidden City.  
    I don’t know what Chuck thought of the house.  He sniffed around, as usual, then growled because the family also had a dog--which was a change from eight years ago.  
    Eight years ago, it was forbidden in China to own any kind of pet other than a bird.  No dogs or cats.  Now, however, one dog is allowed per household.  There is no longer any limit on cats.  
    China, in this regard, has become a kinder and gentler place. 
    But now, we had a definite problem--dog versus cat.  
    Chuck was in the tiny kitchen, sniffing around, when the owner’s daughter walked in with a yapping dog on her heels.  


The tiny, super crowded kitchen where Chuck meets the Chinese dog
Side view of refrigerator--looked amazingly like ours


    Chuck froze.  Then he growled.  
    I have to say--for a cat--he’s got plenty of guts.  
    The dog barked.  But then he also froze.
    We had the typical stand-off, like in the Hollywood movies. 
    Who would be fast enough to draw their gun first and shoot the other fellow down?  Or in this case--jump on the other guy?? chase the other guy??
    I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
    But, in truth, nothing did.  Or, had a chance to.
    I grabbed onto Chuck.   The owner tackled her dog.  We both smiled at each other.  She spoke no English,  and I speak no Chinese.  
    She disappeared into the other room with her dog.   
    “Chuck, is that any way to behave?  Think of American-Chinese relations.  What did that poor dog do to you anyway?”
    But the Chuckster really wasn’t listening.  Once the danger had dissipated, Chuck went back to what he was doing before--sniffing around--looking for the Chinese version of --yeah, you guessed it-CAT SNACKS.  We don’t call him the “belly-boy” for nothing.


    If you want to read more about Chuck and his antics, log onto www.katelutter.com.  


Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance novel, is now available for purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com in both paperback and ebook formats.  E Book Reviewers gave it 5 stars.  Readers have called it a real page turners.  Even Chuckie likes it when I read it aloud.  


    
     


     

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chuck Rides A Rickshaw in Hutong District of Beijing



Rickshaws lined up and ready to go in Hutong District, Beijing 


Let me make this perfectly clear.
        Riding in a rickshaw down narrow, historic streets in Beijing, China, was not Chuck’s idea.
People may consider riding in a rickshaw fun.  
Cats consider it one unholy nightmare.
Cramped inside my smart bag, allowed to peek out only when we’re well on our way, careening around corners and such, Chuck, no doubt, assumed he would get sick.   
I felt sorry for the kid for being so pessimistic.    
While Chuck moaned and groaned as we made our way to where the rickshaws were being kept, I reveled in the fact that first, I was in China, which is no small feat for a girl from Jersey.  Second, I was in the Hutong district of Beijing, much of which had been destroyed in the last ten years or so to make way for new construction.  And third, and I guess this was the obvious part, I was about to ride in a rickshaw, an authentic Chinese rickshaw, a mode of transportation that pre-dated the turn of the century.  
I was curious to know what that would be like. 
If you read my blog, you know I do my homework.  Of course, I’d researched the history of the rickshaw, and to keep Chuck’s mind off his impending feelings of doom, I
began to explain just what an historic means of conveyance he was about to ride in.
“Chuck,” I said, “the rickshaw is almost always made of bamboo so it’s light in weight.  Nowadays it’s outlawed in most countries due to concern for the workers.”
        Here, I had to admit, I was concerned.  China didn’t have a good human rights policy, and I was anxious not to be part of a group which exploited Chinese workers.
I needn’t have been concerned.  The worker assigned to pull our rickshaw was smiling.  He was happy to have a job. 


Our runner for our rickshaw, happy to have a job in Beijing
  
“Rickshaw comes from a Japanese word meaning ‘human powered vehicle.’”  I explained to him that the word first appeared in 1887 in the Oxford English Dictionary.  There was some dispute as to the real inventor.  Some say it was an American blacksmith by the name of Albert Tolman who invented the rickshaw in 1848 for a missionary.  Others dispute that claim.   
“The first rickshaw was seen in Japan in 1868, but by 1872 there were over 40,000 of them in Tokyo.”  By 1914 the Chinese applied for permission to use rickshaws to transport passengers.  Being a runner for rickshaw was often the first job for a peasant migrating to a big city. 
Chuckie listened intently to all I said.  “So, what do you think?  Are you ready to ride in a rickshaw?  It could be fun.”
He shook his head no.
“Chuck, c’mon.”
They’ve never made a cat more stubborn than Chuck.
“Then keep your eyes closed.  It’ll be over before you know it.”
Bob and I climbed into the rickshaw, and I put my smart bag between us.  One by one the rickshaws took off down the street.  We were traveling at a stready pace on a level street.  After a minute or two, I glanced over and noticed that Chuck couldn’t resist peeking out and looking around.  Then he inched out a bit further.  The slight breeze ruffled his whiskers.
Was the Chuckster actually enjoying himself?
Everything was rolling along fine UNTIL we started going down hill.  The speed picked up.  We transitioned from a wide main street into narrower streets that truly define the nature of the Hutong district.  We passed Chinese houses and small shops.  


Typical Chinese houses and shops in Hutong District
        The wind velocity increased. The turns became sharper.   A few times we almost tumbled out of the rickshaw into the street below.  I grabbed the one side of the rickshaw with my right hand and my smart bag with the other and clung tightly.  
This rickshaw ride was beginning to feel more like an adventure ride at an amusement park.


The streets started whizzing by faster and faster
The blood drained from Chuck’s whiskered face.
His worst case nightmare was unfolding before his very eyes.
“It’ll be over soon,” I whispered to him, like a mantra, more for myself than him. 
But the rickshaw wasn’t stopping.  
Our runnner made a sharp left.  We squeezed down a narrow lane, which reminded me a bit like being shoved down the chute of a cannon.  Suddenly, the momentum building, we shot out of the lane down a cobblestone street.  The rickshaw bumped up and down, and we bounced UP AND DOWN.  
“Hold on.”
A lake appeared on our right.  
For a split second, I had this horrible thought that the rickshaw, our rickshaw, would suddenly careen out of control and topple straight into the lake.


The lake where we almost ended up in . . .
I turned to Chuck--trying to make eye-contact, but he was gone.  My bag was there, but my cat was gone.
IN THE LAKE?  ON THE STREET? 
“Bob, where’s Chuck?  He must have . . .”
Panic closed my throat.  
“Bob, I think Chuck . . .”  But I couldn’t finish the horrible thought.
Bob reached over and grabbed my hand.  “He’s okay.”
“But--”
“He’s in your bag.”
“What--”
Sure enough.  Chuck--my not so fearless cat--had crouched way down into my smart bag.  
By this time, the ride was over.  We came to a halting stop.
My knees were still shaking as I climbed out of the rickshaw.
Chuck gave me his usual Chuck look.  I told you so. 
I turned to Bob. 
“This was a lot of fun,” he said.  “A lot of fun.”


 To read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com.  


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."