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 30, 2013

Chuck Dreams of Love while in Honfleur

Honfleur - the loveliest of port cities with the old buildings in the foreground


                  I admit that I can’t and never will be able to read Chuck’s mind. Why he wants to come to Honfleur, this very popular tourist attraction in France, I can’t say.  I know why I want to be here.  

Honfleur is one of those unique places where you feel you’ve stepped back in time. Yes, the shops are modern.  You can see cars, etc.  That’s not what I mean.  In Honfleur, the essence of the place hasn’t changed.  The place that Monet came to paint over a hundred years ago is still here, waiting to be captured by the eye or the brush. 

Located near the Seine River, in northwestern France, Honfleur is the lovliest of port towns with a rich historic importance. What attracts me is the role the town played in the arts. Honfleur has been called the birthplace of Impressionism.  Monet came to this enchanted place to paint, and by doing so, he started the movement--encouraging artists to get out of their studios and into the light. 

Why this city is called the birthplace of Impressionism

As Chuck and I stand near the port, we are struck by the world we see: the lovely old brown buildings which contrast with the brightly painted timber framed architecture that is also so prevalent in this town . . . the ancient carousel . . . the bright red and yellow cloth awnings on the buildings . . . the gray wood of the stairways . . . the glistening blue water in the port . . . the white skinny boats . . . the cobblestone streets and walkways . . . the plaid blankets . . . the blue skies with the white clouds . . . the Church of St. Catherine built with a roof that looks like a boat. 

An ancient - turn of the century carousel

Timber frame house

Historic hotel

This town, thankfully was never bombed during World War II.  

A typical lunch is a crepe and a glass of cider, either dry or sweet.  After all, this is Calvados country, that lovely liquor made from French apples.

Where Chuck and I had our lunch

Tourists take in the sights.  They shop.  They eat.  Chuck relaxes beside me as I enjoy my crepe.  The sun is out full force.  It bounces off the water.  

Suddenly, I know why Chuck wanted to come to Honfleur.  He wanted some time to relax and dream.  I have this plaid blanket that he’d laying on, all comfy.  Eyes are closed.  No one is bothering with him.  Everyone must assume he’s a French cat.  

Monsieur Charles de Honfleur dreams of sailing on a skinny French boat with a lovely French cat while eating caviar and French fries.  

Oh yeah.   

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chuck Sets His Sights on a Ruined Medieval Castle

I will admit that at times it’s difficult to understand the mind of my rascal cat, Chuck.  While we were traveling around France, in the Upper Normandy region, near the Seine River, one day I happened to mention the ruined medieval castle of Chateau Gailiard because I found the history of the place fascinating and thought that Chuck might like to sniff around a place like that . . .  

After all, Chuck knows a bit of history. He’d heard of Richard the Lionhearted, who was both the King of England and the Duke of Normandy, and how he wanted to build this castle in France to protect his interests even though he promised he wouldn’t. Nevertheless, despite the expense, it took him only two years to construct this castle which sported quite an advanced design from a fortification perspective.

Chateau Gailiard had what was known as a concentric fortification, which consisted of three enclosures and a moat. It also boasted a system of defense--very modern--where the floors could open so rocks and stones and other materials could be dropped on attackers.  Just in case there were attackers, which Richard the Lionhearted suspected there would be.  The battlements were made of stone, a vast improvement over the wood used in most castles, and this meant they were practically fireproof. 

Well, this design would have worked, but unfortunately, even these improvements couldn’t prevent Chateau Gailiard from being captured in 1204 by King Phillip II, the French King, after a lengthy siege. Not for the obvious reasons but more for humanitarian ones. The locals nearby begged to be let into the castle for protection against the French soldiers.  Their admittance was the downfall of the castle. They literally ate up all the stores.

The castle suffered much in later years and eventually was deliberately destroyed as a precaution. Nevertheless, what is left of it is a marvel.  

I walked around and thought about life over one thousand years ago. It would have been cold and drafty inside. Chuck trotted alongside me, and I guessed he was busy picking up all the smells, probably able to get a much better idea of the history than me.

I was taken with the beauty of the old stone against the gray sky and wasn’t really paying much attention to him, which explains how one minute he was there, and the next, he was gone.

Up to his old tricks.

Not on purpose, of course. Chuck follows his nose. But this castle ruin is an extensive place; and it wouldn’t be easy to find the kid. 

He is a bit of a meanderer, and he couldn’t have gone too far ahead, unless he was spooked by someone or something. Then he can run, and he could be on the other side of the historic site.

I quickened my pace and followed what seemed to be the logical way around--looking down, not up, missing what I should have been noticing, on the look-out for . . . and there he was.

At some point he’d realized that he’d lost me so he’d stopped in a  frozen position and waited for me to find him. 

I scooped him up in my arms and held him close. “It’s alright. No wandering off, okay?”

Within the next minute or two, he was his old self again, sniffing the ground and the walls. 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Day Wish

Occasionally when you travel, you arrive at a place you know is special. The buildings look old and from another time. The vegetation is lush and a bit overgrown. Even the air feels different. A peace and calm overtake you as you wander the grounds. 

When Chuck, my rascal cat, and I arrived in Normandy, France, and made our way to the Abbaye Saint Wandrille de Fontenelle http://www.st-wandrille.com/, we expected, but were hardly prepared for, how very special this Benedictine monastery was going to be. 

Immediately I regretted that my father wasn’t with me to see the Abbaye. He, of all the people in my life, had a special connection with God. I imagined that in this place he would have felt as if he was in heaven.

St. Wandrille was a 7th century count who held a high position at the court of his King before he decided to give up the power and the fame and retire to the Abbey at Montfaucon in 629.  For ten years he dedicated himself to God before returning to Normandy and establishing the Abbaye at Fontenelle. 

The original basillica was dedicated to St. Peter, but it was destroyed by fire.  The Abbaye was built and re-built after it was destroyed over the centuries by Viking raids, lightning, fire, and even bombings during World War II.

In its heyday, over 300 monks lived there. It was known for its library and school. In 811 a monk and celebrated Mathematician hand copied four copies of the Gospels.  Today fifty monks live at Wandrille.

Over its long history, Fontenelle has produced thirty saints and “blessed persons,” which is quite astounding until you walk its grounds and breathe its air.  

We were lucky that day.  A group of us -- including Chuck, of course --were escorted inside the Abbaye to see the cloister, which is rarely shown to visitors.  A French monk led us into this sacred space, but there was no talking allowed.

We glimped the chapel where there are services still held.

We saw the ancient bells that still called members of the Abbaye to services.

As we wandered around, I thought of my dad.  He would have loved all of it.  The deep penetrating quiet.  The sanctity of the air, even. 

My dad passed away over ten years ago now, but I still think of the wonder he would have felt if he’d had the opportunity to see the Abbaye.



Sunday, June 9, 2013


Check in to the Blogger Book Fair,
and book your trip to far away places!

July 22-26, 2013

Authors and Book Bloggers,

Sign ups for the July 2013 Blogger Book Fair will close on June 15 at midnight central time, so get your registrations in to participate!

As of 5/31/2013, we have:

Authors: 89
Books: 233
Bloggers: 14

If you haven't yet registered, you can find all of the information on the Blogger Book Fair page.
  1. Check out the Code of Conduct
  2. Fill out either the Author Sign Up form or the Blogger Sign Up form (Deadline June 15)
  3. Kayla will match everyone with hosts and send out this information to you after sign-ups close
  4. Check out the events--all authors are eligible to participate in the events, and if you have an event you'd like to host, just fill out the simple Event Sign Up Form--all of this information can be found on the Events! page (Deadline July 8).
  5. If you're interested in hosting a giveaway to drive traffic to your site, sign up via the Giveaway Sign Up form (Deadline July 15).
  6. And if your book will be FREE or $0.99 for the duration of the Fair, you can sign up on the Free and $.99 Book Sign Up Forms (Deadline July 15).


as of 5/31/2013

Art Fiction Gala hosted by Lucie Smoker

Does your fiction promote the visual arts--through featuring an artist, painting, sculpture, performance art, etc? Then, consider entering Lucie's Art Fiction Gala.
The Art Fiction Gala is a virtual celebration of fiction that highlights the visual arts. Dress up in your finest, pick up some friends--a bottle of wine--and sample mind-blowing fiction that crosses the line between literary and visual art. Plus a gallery of art featuring reading.
More information & entry instructions

Three Wishes hosted by Kirstin Pulioff

Introduce your characters to the world.
Kirstin Pulioff invites you to ask your main character, "If you found a magic genie lamp, what would be your three choices?"
More information & entry instructions

Flash Fiction Challenge II hosted by Thomas Winship

Get ready to exercise your flash fiction muscles.
For the Flash Fiction Challenge II, Thomas Winship will provide an opening line.
From there, entrants will craft a flash fiction piece of approx 500 words. Entries will be displayed on Thomas' blog Vaempires during the BBF, spread out evenly across the five days, in order of receipt.
More information & entry instructions
Snapshot Synopsis Contest hosted by Fel at The Peasants Revolt
Challenge: chisel your synopsis down to 50 words or less.
Voting will be open throughout the fair for visitors to vote on their favorite Snapshot Synopsis.
More information & entry instructions

Reader's Choice Awards hosted by Sherri at Shut Up & Read

All books registered for the Blogger Book Fair are automatically entered into the running for the Reader's Choice Awards. Voting will be open from July 22 to July 25.
More information

Indie Soap Box Files hosted by Shah Wharton

Take a turn on the Soap Box.
Shah invites speculative fiction writers to write a guest post about being an indie (or hybrid) writer.
More information & entry instructions
Restrictions: Speculative fiction writers only

Monster Menagerie hosted by Noree at Trip the Eclipse

What's your favorite monster or supernatural creature?
Feature your creature in a flash fiction piece (500-800) words to be featured on Trip the Eclipse. Visitors will vote on their favorite piece.
More information & entry instructions

Ways to Help:
Blogger Book FairDonate to the Blogger Book Fair via the BBF Donation Fund. To help get the word out about BBF, we would like to place ads on Facebook, Goodreads and other places, but to do, so we need a little help. We'd also like to have some BBF sponsored giveaways, so money donated would also go toward prizes. NO MONEY WILL BE KEPT BY ANY ORGANIZER OR PARTICIPANT.

Spread the word! Share the Fair on your social media accounts and show off the Blogger Book Fair logo in your blog's sidebar.

Join us on:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gargoyles Trump Joan of Arc in Rouen,France


When you travel with a rascal cat, things rarely go as planned.

Case in point.  We were in France.  Heading toward Rouen, the capital of the Haute Normandie region, which is in northern France, near the River Seine. If you are up on your French history, you know that Rouen--besides once being the largest and most prosperous city in medieval Europe--was also the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. 

I’d told Chuck the story of Joan of Arc. She was both a folk heroine and Roman Catholic saint who had begun her life as a peasant girl but who claimed to be guided by God and led the French army to several victories, enabling Charles VII to be crowed King of France.  She was captured and executed at 19 years old, but twenty-five years later she was declared a martyr by Pope Callixtus III.

Chuck wanted to see the place where Joan of Arc was laid to rest so we traipsed into Rouen, on our way to her gravesite, and passed the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral.  

The cathedral has a long history dating back to the 4th century when the first church was present, but over the years, the cathedral has been struck by lightning several times, raided by Vikings, burnt down, blown down by fierce winds, reconstructed, damaged during War, damaged during hurricanes, bombed . . . well, you get the idea.  

           But still the cathedral survived, was transformed and even immortalized by Claude Monet in his painting Notre Dame Cathedral which now hangs in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.

On our way to see Joan of Arc, Chuck stopped. He was gazing upward at the cathedral wall, with that typical “cat quizzical look” on his face.  He sniffed once, then again, as if he could sniff out what he had spied.

“What are you looking at?”

Chuck couldn’t take his gaze off the wall.
I followed his gaze, intrigued at what was holding his attention. 

Suspended from the wall was a gargoyle.  

             I’d heard about gargoyles on buildings.  They were put on churches to frighten off evil or harmful spirits.
Chuck moved closer to get a better look, and I thought he needed an explanation.

“Chuck, the practice of putting gargoyles on buildings like churches actually started here in Rouen.  Many years ago St. Romanus,” I said, beginning the tale of the France legend, “who was eventually made Bishop of Rouen, had the job of scouring the countryside around Rouen and finding the monster called Gargouille.  Now Gargouille was a typical fire breathing dragon with batlike wings and a long neck.  St. Romanus, smart man that he was, used a crucifix to subdue the Gargouille, and he brought him back to Rouen and burned him. The head of the Gargouille was mounted on a newly erected church to scare off any other evil spirits that were lurking out there.  This was the first instance of a gargoyle used for protection.”

Chuck continued staring at the strange monster-like creature which was plastered on the wall of the church.  

“Are you ready to go see Joan of Arc?”

He glanced at me, and we turned away from the Cathedral.  We walked down the street, when suddenly Chuck stopped again.  He was staring up at a building this time. 
“Chuck, honestly.”
Two more gargoyles reared their ugly heads away from the building.  I had to admit they were interesting to look at.

             Finally, we reached the place where Joan of Arc was laid to rest.  No more gargoyles.

“She was killed a long time ago, and people still come to see her.”

Chuck looked up at me with that disappointed look.

“Excuse me.  People and cats still come to see her.”

And it hit me then, Joan could have used a gargoyle or two for protection.