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, August 26, 2012

Chuck Protests Dog Bar in Long Branch . . . Almost



The Long Branch beach with palm trees 



    I took one look at the palm trees, situated sporadically on the well-groomed beach, and thought, “This will be the perfect place for the Chuckster to relax.”
    Not that I was that worried, but my rascal cat had been under a bit of strain lately, and this place . . . Pier Village in Long Branch, New Jersey had things to recommend it.
    1.   It was close by to where we would be visiting friends for the weekend.

    2.  It boasted a restaurant McCloone’s with good food and an excellent  
      view of the water.
    
    3.  It had shopping--cute little trendy boutiques, all built with a Victorian- 
      styled storefront that is both nostalgic and classy.

   4.  AND it had a boardwalk.  Now, the boardwalk wasn’t as long as the one
      in Seaside Heights, but still you could get a decent walk if you started   
      at one end and went all the way to the other.


The boardwalk at Long Branch



    5.  There was a beach with a lifeguard in attendance, which was important    
           because the week before, a body had washed up on shore.


The beach


    6.   It also seemed a bit of a happening place, and we weren’t  disappointed 
           when we arrived.  Music drifted through the air, compliments of a 
           beach club. A crowd had also gathered on the boardwalk, facing   
           the ocean, excited because a wedding was about to take place.  

     7.  And, finally, the place had history.  Years before in 1987 a fire had   
          destroyed Long Branch Pier, the place where seven United States  
          Presidents had vacationed in Long Branch’s glory days.  It wasn’t until
          2005 that developers, using the rights granted them by eminent  
         domain, rebuilt the boardwalk and created Pier Village. 
     
      Not that any of that history mattered to Chuck, but I think he was excited to see the ocean and the seagulls. 
     
      We parked the car in the over-priced lot and decided to go for a quick jaunt down the boardwalk before dinner. 

      We passed the stores and snuck a peek, but we were window shopping only.


Pier Village offers an array of stores--mostly boutiques

    
      Further down the boardwalk, the crowds thinned out. It was going to be a nice night--cool and breezy.  
    
      Chuckie had jumped out of my smart bag and was trotting along side, enjoying the ocean view.  When we reached the end of the boardwalk, our plan was to turn around, walk back to the restaurant, then hop on the beach for a few minutes of relaxation before dinner.

Can you imagine yourself lounging on one of these chairs?



      A few people had dogs with them, but everyone was behaving themselves.  

      And, of course, that’s when you can always be sure something is going to happen.  Something bad.

      I should have known.  I should have expected it.

      Chuck glanced to his right and froze on the spot.

      I saw the sign, too, at the same moment and issued a silent prayer that no one else would see the sign and impetuously read it aloud.   

      Chuck tilted his head sideways as if he were trying to figure it out.

       Chuck can’t read, but he knows certain words by sight. 
  
       The word DOG, for example.  He knows the word DOG.  

        Just as I turned to signal silence to my husband and my two friends, I saw my husband--as if in slow motion--point to the sign.  He was smiling, amused by the audacity of some people, I supposed, to be so . . . 

       “Hey, look at that sign--”

       “Bob,” I shouted, in my best warning tone of voice.

        Chuck now stared directly at my husband’s face.

        “Do you see that?  Do you see what it says?” Bob said, completely oblivious to the impending doom of his words.

        Here it comes.  

        “Dog bar.”  He paused, as if perplexed.  Then, “Oh, I get it.  You can bring your dog to the bar.”


The sign that almost made Chuckie PROTEST . . .


        It was what he didn’t say that cut Chuckie to the bone.  You can bring your DOG to the bar, but not your CAT?

        Darn it, I thought.  Why does the world have to be this way and favor dogs over cats.  I hate that!

         I scooped Chuck into my arms.  “I wouldn’t go to that stupid bar anyway.”

         He blinked at me.
   
         “Probably,” I added, trying in my own way to make sense out of the world, “they figure that cats are too sophisticated to go to bars.  Am I right?  Anyway, you’d rather have your snacks at home.”

          I started to walk away from that bar toward the restaurant and the beach.  Chuckie wiggled a bit in my arms and I knew what he wanted to do.  I could see it all now.  Chuck wanted to jump down onto the boardwalk, scamper over to the board and in his own inimitable way, let the owner know that he was offended.  

          Chuck wanted to PROTEST that sign.  

         “It’s not worth it,” I whispered as I held him close in my arms.  

         Finally he sighed, and we left.    

         When we reached McLoone’s, I smuggled Chuck into our booth.  

         There’s certainly nothing wrong with that!

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 from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
    
   
    
    

    
        
     

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chuck is Hero During Baby Crab Attack


 





        I’ve lived in Jersey all my life and I love the Jersey shore, but I’ll admit it here and now, I’m no fan of crabbing and fishing.
Every year when my sister rents a shore house near the bay, with the express intention of crabbing and fishing, I know I’ll face the pressure to finally learn how to set a trap or bait a line or do whatever they spend hours doing on the dock.
I was prepared to withstand the pressure.
But this year I brought the rascal Chuck with me, and the kid seemed curiously interested.  He kept wandering over to the dock and sniffing around.  He sat mesmerized watching as my nieces and nephews did all the "fishermanly things", hoping to catch a crab or two or three or four, enough for a delicious feast.  He became fascinated with the concept of the crab cages being lowered into the water with chicken wings used for bait.  




            He insisted on perching on the built-in benches facing the water while one of my nieces walked from line to line, which were hanging off the dock, checking to see if a crab was clinging yet to the bait (the sorry heads of fish) that someone had strung to the lines.




I figured what could it hurt.  After all, Chuck has always been a curious cat.  An adventurous cat.  I’d been a bit concerned that he’d be bored staying at a beach house, but luckily this crabbing and fishing caught his interest. 
And things were rolling along quite smoothly until they weren’t.  
Imagine a beautiful evening.  The day had been hot, in the high eighties, but now a cool breeze swept through as the sun began to set.  This is my favorite time of the evening, and my niece had just wandered out of the house to check the crab traps and lines AGAIN, hoping that something had finally either latched onto a line or crawled into a trap.
Chuck scampered out of the house, too, following my niece and perched as usual on one of the benches, his eagle eye watching her every movement.  
She yanked up line after line, but there was nothing on the end but the bait.
Then, as went to pull up yet another line, she stopped and met my gaze. 
“I think we’ve got something,” she said, stilling the upward momentum.
“I’ll get the net.”  
After all, maybe the weight of the crab had clued her into its presence, and we would need the net to help capture him/her.  Suddenly, I imagined this gigantic crab clinging to the head of the fish, chomping away and none too happy that we were disturbing his meal.  
And, of course, Chuck came closer.  He probably sensed that something was about to happen.  Or maybe he could smell the crab on the end of the line, and didn’t want to miss out on anything.
I skedaddled down the dock toward the net that someone had carelessly thrown on the stones that lined the dock.  Of course, I almost killed myself because there was a step down that I didn’t see until it was too late.  But I didn’t lose my balance.  It was awkward, but I managed to maintain my stride.  I grabbed the net and ran back to where my niece stood there in a kind of suspended animation.
“Ready?” she asked.
I nodded and tilted the net toward the water. 
Yeah, I can guess what you’re thinking.  It was as if we were on some desert island somewhere and we hadn’t eaten in weeks and this one crab would be the difference between life and death, but you don’t know our family.  There is no glory in telling the story of the crab that got away.  We wanted the glory!
“Okay.”  And I glanced at Chuck and gave him the eye, which meant--don’t do anything weird.  Just sit there.  Be a good cat.  
She pulled up the line.
Oh my God.
There it was. A baby crab clinging to the fish head.  




I scooped the crab into the net and my niece took control of the operation, which allowed me to take my camera out of my pocket and snap away.  
Baby crab in net.  Niece extricating baby crab from net.  Niece holding baby crab in fingers.  And finally niece posing with baby crab.  













She didn’t seem at all disappointed that it was a baby crab.  A tiny crab.  A minuscule crab.
Nor was I alarmed that she was holding the crab in her hand.  It seemed harmless.
Until . . . until . . . it . . . he . . . she . . . decided to fight back.  
Maybe a crab lives in a family unit and didn’t realize that we were going to throw him/her back into the bay after the photo shoot.  Maybe he/she panicked. 
Somehow, the crab twisted around in my niece’s fingers.  She felt something.  A bite?  Was this a man eating crab?
My niece screamed and began shaking her hand, trying to dislodge the crab, but the crab now seemed crazy-glued to the palm of her hand.  The more she shook her hand, the tighter he/she clung.
“Help,” my niece cried.  
My Chuckster jumped into action. He leaped into the air, and with his paw, swatted the crab out of my niece’s hand.  It flew into the air and landed into the water with a splash.  Immediately, the crab disappeared under the water.  The entire incident seemed surreal.
We stood there for a minute, staring at the water in the bay.   
“I can’t believe . . .”
“It’s lucky that baby crab didn’t eat your hand.”
        "Thanks, Chuck."
Chuckie gave a soft meow.  
         I cleared my throat.  “I think the kid wants his reward,” I said, thinking to myself that in Chuck’s world, it always always comes down to SNACKS.

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

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







 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chuck Goes to School in China

When we first arrived, we were greeted by the students, who were very excited
Outside view of the school buildings we visited in the countryside of China
Inside view of rural school in China
Some of the younger students who attended the school who came out to greet us


           If cats had to go to school, I don’t know if Chuck would have made it.
He’s stubborn.  He doesn’t like to be bossed around.
The thought of Chuck sitting in a classroom for six hours, doing classwork in a notebook, writing on the chalkboard, or spending time on homework . . . well,  knowing Chuck as I do, the only thing I could imagine was he’d be great at playing hooky from school.
So when we were in China, and we had the chance to see a school in action, I said to Chuck, “What do you think?  Would you like to see what a school looks like?”
Chuck nodded his head, which I took for a yes.
I have to confess.  Years ago, on my first trip to China, I’d been a guest of the Wuhan School District, which is considered one of the wealthiest school districts in China.  I’d visited an elementary school that had marble floors and a wide-screen video display in the classroom that was more upscale than what I was used to seeing in the states.  
But what I’d seen in Wuhan was not typical for China.
This time, as we drove down narrow bumpy dirt roads, somewhere in the China countryside, we were going to visit a more typical school setting-- a small elementary school that served around 60 students.  This school did not have running water, nor electricity.  In the winter, the classroom was heated with coal.  
This is the look of a typical rural classroom in China--very basic.  No electricity.  No running water.
Stone floor.  Chalkboard in front of the room.  

          The students were dismissed at noon and they walked home for lunch.  There was no cafeteria nor gymnasium.   They were studying reading, writing, arithmetic and ENGLISH.  


Outside view of the school building that we visited

When we approached the school, the students, ranging in ages from five to ten, were gathered outside the building.
         They had planned a performance for us.  They sang some traditional Chinese songs, and then they sang a song in English. 

        A welcome song.  They also moved around, their movements totally synchronized.

They had practiced for our visit.  
We then followed the older students-the fifth graders-back into the classroom.  The teacher tried to engage them in conversation to “show off” their English, but the sight of visitors standing in the back of the room was too much of a distraction.  
Plan B was more successful.  We mingled with the students, with the goal of speaking to them in English.  I approached three fifth grade girls.  



“What is your name?” I asked.  “My name is Kate.”
Each of the girl’s responded.  “My name is ____.”
         “What is your favorite food?” I asked.  “I like pizza.”
“I like _____.”  Each girl responded between lots of giggles.
Of course, they stared at my blonde hair.  They also wanted to touch it.  It seems that blondes are very rare in China, and they don’t often see that hair color.  They were also fascinated with my camera and wanted me to take their picture, which I did.
We were having a great time until Chuck peeked out.  
I don’t know what the girls thought.  Was it normal in the United States to have a cat stuffed in your bag?  
They laughed and giggled.
“This is a cat,” I said.  “His name is Chuck.  Do you like Chuck?”
“I like Chuck,” they repeated back to me. 
“It was nice to meet you,” I said as I was leaving.
“It was nice to meet you,” they said, giggling some more.
We said goodbye.  
As we drove away, I said to Chuck, “Do you realize, Chuck, that in the middle of nowhere, sixty Chinese children are learning to speak English at a school that has no electricity or running water?  That’s pretty amazing.”   

To read more of Chuck's amazing adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com

Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, has recently been published by Crescent Moon Press and is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.   E Book Reviewers gave it a 5 star review.  To read reviews or to order, go to Amazon.com.




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chuck Visits the Terra Cotta Warriors


 
This photo captures the immensity of Pit 1, the first of four pits that encompass the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit.

           Sometimes the only way I can get Chuck to do something is to trick him by making it seem as if it were his idea.  
When we flew into Xian, the home of the Terra Cotta Warriors, I had a plan.
I knew that the Chuckster would have little appreciation for an exhibit filled with clay figures if we dragged him to it, but if we made it seem as if it were his idea . . . 
So first I had to do my research and then try to lure him with the facts.
This is what I discovered about the Terra Cotta Warriors:
The terra cotta figures were buried in 210 BC by the first Emperor of China because he believed he needed protection after he died.  He also wanted someone to rule over in the next life.  The historians say the Emperor began this project when he was thirteen years old.  
That’s pretty cool, right?
So, imagine, these figures were buried underneath the ground until . . . a group of farmers were digging a well in 1974 and discovered them.  How many? 
All in all, once the archaeologists and scientists were alerted to the find, they found 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, 130 cavalry horses and other non-military figures of musicians, acrobats, etc.  The figures were built to be life-size and were brightly painted.  Experts believe that the figures were put together in a kind of assembly line production, long before we used that method of production in the western world. 


Although the figures were made in a kind of assembly line production style, their faces were each styled to be unique.
They also discovered weapons that would have been used by the soldiers, including swords that even after 2,000 years were rust free because of the way they were constructed.  
The most amazing statistic of all is that history documents that the Emperor used 700,000 workers to complete this mausoleum, which also included a miniature version of his palace.  
I wasn’t sure how much of this story Chuckie would appreciate, but I underestimated the kid.  He was enthralled.  And it seems that he’s not alone.  There are several historic collections that can draw a big crowd these days.  Wikipedia reports that the Tutankhamun exhibit in 1972 and the RMS Titanic exhibit, along with the Terra Cotta Warriors, are the three most popular exhibits and draw record crowds wherever they go.  
The Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit, as it is called, grew up around where it was discovered, where the Emperor decided to place his mausoleum, in the countryside outside of Xian.  It’s still in the process of being excavated and is comprised of four separate pit areas filled with terra cotta figures. 
When we arrived and entered the first pit, the crush of people straining to see the figures was intense.  But then as we walked around the pit, the crowds thinned out, and we were able to see the figures up close and in more detail.  


This figure was taken out of the pit and encased behind plastic so that you could see him up close and personal.

Not that close, of course.  You can’t actually touch them.  In fact, only high dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth are actually allowed inside the pit to see them up really close. 


You can see the workers in blue busily assembling the Terra Cotta Warriors in the pit as the "tourists" observe from above.

That’s what Chuckie wanted to do--sniff around inside the pit.  But cat behavior like that was completely out of the question. 
Nevertheless, Chuck had two favorites.  He liked the horses.  Toward the back of the pit, out of eyeshot of most visitors and guards, Chuck was able to really see one horse exhibit in particular.  Craning his face out of my smart bag, he could see the intricate markings on the skin of the horses, designed to make them appear real.


Chuckie just loved the horses.

He also liked looking down into the pit and seeing the broken fragments that hadn’t yet been unearthed and put together yet.  Some of what you could see was a bit eerie.  Heads sticking up out of the ground, as if the soldiers had been buried in the ground, alive, their bodies hidden in the dirt.  But, no, you are only seeing a fragment lying there in the pit that will eventually be reassembled with other fragments to make a whole soldier. 


A good shot to illustrate the broken pieces that are unearthed by the archaeologists.


This figure looked as if he'd been buried alive.

  As we traipsed around the pit, Chinese archaeologists in blue outfits were busy working below us.  
After we had circled around the first pit, there were three other pits to see.  This mausoleum was immense. 
During the entire time, I continued to harbor this strange feeling that Chuck was itching to get out and run down there in the pit and sniff around a bit, but I held onto him.
         Sometimes he has the craziest ideas.  

To read more about Chuck, the rascal cat, log onto www.katelutter.com.

My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  I promise you a fun read. Click here to read the reader reviews.  Average: 4 1/2 stars.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Announcing Jenn Nixon's Lucky's Charm


            JENN NIXON'S LUCKY'S CHARM
                         RELEASED ON
                          JULY 31, 2012



                               Blurb from the back of the book:



          To protect her family and find a killer, Felicia “Lucky” Fascino assumed her adoptive father’s identity and joined the network, an organization of moral assassins to finish the job he began. Eliminating the man responsible for murdering her mother has consumed her for the last five years. While keeping her Uncle Stephen and cousin Elizabeth at arm’s length, Lucky begins to feel the weight of her career choice and reclusive lifestyle. Then a chance encounter with an enigmatic hit man, during one of her jobs, turns into a provocative and dangerous affair. Distracted by the secret trysts with Kenji Zinn and mounting tension within her family, Lucky makes reckless mistakes that threaten her livelihood and almost claim her life.


                                                Excerpt:



Lucky “unwinds” after her last job…


         Lucky unzipped her suitcase and pulled out the wigs. She placed both on the foam heads and then brushed them out. At last count, she had twenty-two. Bet once called her Sydney Bristow, some TV chick who wore disguises and kicked ass for the CIA. She kicked ass and wore wigs, but working for the government was the furthest from reality.
         Well, not always.
She flipped the second switch. The dungeon—three big bunker-like rooms and a long corridor that led to the end of the block—hummed with life. This was her domain. Here, she kept her weapons and equipment, practiced with her guns, and hid when she needed to be alone.
        In the main room, she kept several fireproof cabinets full of wigs, contacts, theatrical makeup, special clothing, guns, knives, lethal drugs, ammunition, and other odd things like night vision goggles and jamming equipment. She hardly used them, but they were there.
        Her father had stocked the basement of his house with enough shit to take over a small city. They didn’t have any fancy automatic gun racks or James Bond technology, and the room looked like any other dull gray command center for a local police department—surrounded by cabinets. She checked the security system to see if anything happened while she was gone and was pleased with the results flashing back.
Most of the heavy technical work happened here: communications while in the field and real-time support. It didn’t happen often, but even she needed help sometimes.
Shutting the door to the wig cabinet, Lucky walked into the back room: her space. It used to be her father’s office. She’d mildly redecorated it with a couple of posters and a small, rarely used sofa but kept the beautiful cherry wood desk. Three frames sat on top. The images flashed in her mind without looking. One of her parents, another of her and Bet in Kuwait, and the last of the whole family. Lucky smiled and moved around the desk.
She unlocked another cabinet in the corner and replaced the unused Canadian money. Phen was proactive. He stocked thousands of dollars from several countries. Although she only used money from Mexico, US, and Canada for jobs, he had plenty from across the globe in case of an emergency. Her IDs, passport, and other records—both fake and real—rounded out the contents.
After locking it back up, Lucky grabbed her suitcase and changed. She had one clean T-shirt left and tucked it in the black jogging pants. Back in the main room, she fished the cell phone out of her canvas bag. It was time to replace the number, so she took care of switching to the next active SIM card and sent Bet and Phen a text.
        When she glanced at the clock, she still had time to kill, and she knew exactly what to do.






JENN NIXON

   

        Jenn’s love of writing started the year she received her first diary and Nancy Drew novel. Throughout her teenage years, she kept a diary of her personal thoughts and feelings but graduated from Nancy Drew to other mystery suspense novels.

       Jenn often adds a thriller and suspense element to anything she writes be it Romance, Science Fiction, or Fantasy. When not writing, she spends her time reading, observing pop culture, playing with her two dogs, and working on various charitable projects in her home state of New Jersey.


       Jenn can be found:

                                      www.jennnixon.com 
                                      www.facebook.com/JennNixonAuthor
                                      Twitter: @jennnixon 


       Lucky's Charm can be purchased as an ebook on Amazon.com


Log onto:


http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Lucky's+Charm+by+Jenn+Nixon&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3ALucky's+Charm+by+Jenn+Nixon&ajr=0