R & R & R–Relaxation, Recreation, and Research

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Ah the life of the traveling author. :) This past weekend, I had the privilege of visiting one of the Mid-west’s most highly regarded museums. The reputation of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways is well deserved. The displays are accurate and fascinating as are the voice-overs for each life-size diorama, which are given first in the native language and then in English. The history of the Anishinabe peoples is populated with truly remarkable prophecies, many of which have already come to pass. I can’t wait to finish my current WIP to find out what story is brewing in my head from this inspiring place and the people who created it

Where I’ve Been, Where I Am, and Where I’ll Be — The Author Travels

KEcoverSo you may wonder where I’ve been while all these guests were visiting. Well for a while my DH and I were in beautiful downtown Indianapolis where I met with my terrific CR editor. We’ve returned home now, and I’m making a cyber visit to The Romance Studio’s Release Day Party (that’s TODAY). I’m celebrating the Aug 17th release of Knight Errant by playing games at the party. Check it out here http://wp.me/p5egwl-mIE ; you might win some free chocolate. Feel free to share the link. Tomorrow, I’m headed to central Michigan and The Soaring Eagle Casino/Hotel with my DH and some friends. Yes, I might do a bit of gambling but my main interest is the Native American Museum located on the property. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back next week.

 

Journey to “The Star World Colonies” with Author, Catherine E. McLean

CatherineEMcLeanKIFEL SPACE STATION

“The Jewel of Sol”

“The Gateway to the Star World Colonies”

In the vacuum of space far from Earth, beyond the colonized Centauri Star System, between the feared Dethramossan Territory and the mineral-rich Empire of Triangulum Australe, hovers Kifel Space Station, guardian of a galactic portal (a star gate jump point).

Kifel is also a city, a commercial port, a pseudo pleasure palace, and a military fortress. The space station is the gateway for thousands of maritime space traders and colonists seeking their fortunes and a new way of life. But some say the station is a taskmaster to the crews that man and maintain her.

In truth, there are a million stories to tell of those beings, human and aliens, who pass through the portals and walk the labyrinths of Kifel Space Station.

The above was jotted down in 1993, when I first conceived Kifel Space Station for a short story. Over the years, and several short stories and novels later, I ended up with a three-ring binder for all things Kifel that included: the history of why, who, and how the station was built, sketches of deck layouts and compartments (which are crude because I’m no artist), the personnel requirements, the caste system of jumpsuit colors used by workers on the station, and whole lot more.

That binder is my “bible” that keeps things consistent when I write a new story. And, yes, new stories sometimes add things to Kifel or makes me rethink areas. The binder also allows me to update the oldest stories so they are consistent with the published ones.

A writer is told to write what they know, but that’s difficult when you’re writing about the future and outer space. Yet, there is a trick a writer can use to extrapolate a future that seems believable to a reader. That trick is to base the future world, in this case, a space station, on what currently exists or will exist in the near future. To get an idea of the size and look of Kifel, I did research. I extrapolated data from cargo container shipping yards (and how much room they needed to store, stack, and move containers about). From city layouts, I got various ideas of infrastructure. Cruise ship layouts showed me how compact compartments were and how many quarters could fit in a given area. Then there were the waste management-recycling facilities, hospital-emergency care facilities, hydroponic farming, and a whole lot more. The results kept making the space station bigger and bigger. I even took a look at the Star Trek technical manuals (the ones done by real engineers), but I did not use them for designs, only verification that what I was doing was feasible, realistic, believable.

As to the shape of Kifel Space Station, I knew from my engineering husband that circles were most efficient in space and so Kifel ended up being a circle divided into twelve pie-shaped wedges, with a center core through which energy (power, etc.) flowed. Beacons, communications dishes-antennas, scanners, etc. were necessary and went at the top and bottom of the station. Other communication and scanning devices were also needed about the landing-departure decks and for the military.

Then I started from the top and went down a sheet of paper listing one item per line that represented appropriate footage. For the massive warehousing and freight decks, I put in additional lines proportioned for their heights. When I was done, a pattern had formed on the page of an elongated “diamond” – like a kite.

I could envision that “diamond” glittering with all its exterior lights as it spun in the blackness of space to maintain its gravity— like a diamond in the sky.

And thus was born the phrase “The Jewel of Sol.” Sol being a poetic term for Earth’s star, the sun.

A lot of romance writers gloss over setting details in their futuristic/sci-fi worlds because the plot of the lovers journey is more important. However, a writer should take the time to look at, sketch out, and find the little things that bring their setting to life for the reader so the reader suspends disbelief.

Like Marlee and Deacon, when you read HEARTS AKILTER, you’ll feel right at home on Kifel Space Station.

Hearts AkilterHeartsAkilter_w9882 high resolution

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb…No reason to panic.

When a medical robot insists he’s having a heart attack, Marlee Evans, a pragmatic maintenance technician, has every reason to panic. There’s a bomb inside him.  Since Marlee can’t risk the bomber discovering she’s found the device, her only option is to kidnap Deacon Black, an unflappable bomb expert, and secretly convince him to disarm it.  Things go slightly awry when Deacon sets a trap for someone who is trying to kill him, and inadvertently captures Marlee instead.  Instantly intrigued by her refreshingly forthright and gutsy attitude, he’s smitten.  Unfortunately for Deacon, Marlee recently hardened her heart and swore off men, especially handsome ones with boy-next-door grins.  But as Marlee and Deacon attempt to identify and prevent the bomber from detonating the device, they discover that love may be the most explosive force of all.

Available Now

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1faTnHp

Nook: http://bit.ly/1HDMrii

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1fhzVIp

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/1GvpqqT

The Wild Rose Press: http://bit.ly/1HDhwAT

About Catherine E. McLean

Besides Catherine being a wife and mother, she has ridden and exhibited Morgan Sport Horses. She’s an avid clothing and costume designer, an award-winning amateur photographer, a 4-H leader, and a Red Hatter who loves bling.

She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal stories where a reader can escape to other worlds for adventure and romance.

Her short stories have appeared in hard-copy and online anthologies and magazines. Besides having two novels published, soon to be released is her lighthearted fantasy/sci-fi romance HEARTS AKILTER. Catherine also gives writing workshops, both online and in-person. A schedule is posted at http://www.writerscheatsheets.com/workshops.html

Catherine’s website for writers is  http://www.WritersCheatSheets.com and she blogs at http://writerscheatsheets.blogspot.com/

Hub Website: http://www.CatherineEmclean.com

Connect with Catherine at: http://www.catherineemclean.com/contact-me.html

Or on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatherineMcLea7

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.e.mclean.5

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/catherinemclean/

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1Ievnjp

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1I64GqK

Jessie Clever Takes Us ‘Inevitably’ to London

JessieCleverheadshot

Pleases welcome Jessie Clever, author of Inevitably a Duchess. Jessie adds a London library to our travels. Here’s Jessie.

I’m proud to own a passport littered with stamps, but when I began writing Jane and Richard’s story, I didn’t travel far for it wasn’t the location that was important in this story.  The story unfolds in London as many historical romances do.  Having been blessed to live in the UK for a time, London will always hold a special place in my memory, but it’s a more special place that drew me to this story.

It was a library.

Specifically, the Duke of Lofton’s library.  A grand space in a London townhouse, a place that is at once well-appointed and yet cozy, welcoming, and warm.  A room surrounded by shelves of those things we love (books!), and filled with the light and love of a young family.  It was in this room that I set the stage for a story of second chance, of daring to love once more.

I will be the first to admit that I am a fan of the romances that include sweeping moors and courageous adventures across angry seas.  But there was something about this story that demanded a more intimate setting.  Settings sometimes get lost in the rich texture of the story, but I believe a setting is another tool an author can use to build the story, another layer to give the story vibrancy.  And for Jane and Richard, there is nothing better than a room that promises more than meets the eye.

Cover Art for Inevitably a DuchessInevitably a Duchess: A Spy Series Novella by Jessie Clever, 2014 Golden Leaf Finalist

Blurb: Lady Jane Haven had to find a reason to survive, a purpose to carry on when it seemed God would not just let her die. Widowed after an abusive marriage, Jane seeks solace in the arms of the one man she has always loved. But her scars run deep, and the physical comfort her lover brings does little to heal her pain.

Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton and spy for the British War Office, waited for her, watching as the agony of marriage broke the woman he loved. His instincts tell him to protect her at all costs now that she has come to him, but when Jane stumbles into his current case investigating a bodysnatching ring, his intentions prove harder to meet than he had anticipated.

As a treasonous plot threatens their chance at love, can Jane find the strength to be his duchess?

Goodreads Link:

Inevitably a Duchess: http://bit.ly/1fdAUnY

 Purchase links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1hcbOu7

Audible: http://adbl.co/1DrJ4sC

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1cGPnXV

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1i9gj9m

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1a2OAQA

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/HE1MkW

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1a1Tu0l

DOWN UNDER SIDE TRIP

Please welcome fellow author, Iris Blobel visiting from Melbourne Austrailia to tell us about her book, Fresh Beginnings. Iris is very well traveled, as her bio indicates, so ask her lots of questions, please.

Fresh Beginnings Cover ArtFRESH BEGINNINGS

By Iris Blobel

The small town of Hobart in Tasmania has witnessed many beginnings in recent years. At yet one more beginning, the wedding of a friend, Jared Fraser decides it’s time for some fresh beginnings to come his way… And he sets out for a holiday to the US to travel along the Route 66 in a motorhome.

Ivy Bennett thought leaving her boyfriend would be the hard part. It doesn’t take long to figure out how wrong she was. As she struggles with making a new start in her life, the last person she expects to lead her to happiness is a laid-back Australian on holiday.

Then the arrival of family friend Mia Levesque and her boyfriend, Josh, turns Jared’s holidays upside-down when he’s forced to play arbitrator between the two teenagers.

Scroll down to find an excerpt.

 

About Iris Blobel: Iris Blobel 2013BIOpic

Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she actually had met her future husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only recently emerged, but now her laptop is a constant companion. Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her beautiful two daughters as well as her dog. Next to her job at a private school she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.

Buy Links:

Amazon Australia: http://bit.ly/1y0N4bo, Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1s7xTiq, Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1pBrpEY

Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/1nqaT6t

Where to Find Me:

My Blog: www.iris-b.blogspot.com, Facebook: www.facebook.com/irisblobel, Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4067254.Iris_Blobel, Twitter: @_iris_b,

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/iblobel/, Google+:  https://plus.google.com/107759085454255573026/posts

Excerpt:

“G’day!” He stared at her and for some reason something tugged at his heart. Not that he wanted that. He had no room for women, let alone American ones. They all were on earth to make life complicated. Mark was constantly running around for Sophie or Hope, even though Mark’s wife was one in a million and little Hope was simply adorable, especially when she was asleep.

“Ya know it’s dangerous to hitch a ride,” he finally said when she was still quiet.

She stared at him for a moment, but then replied with the typical American twang in her voice. “I know you said something, but I have no idea what.”

He chuckled. “It is dangerous to hitchhike,” he repeated with exaggerated pronunciation.

The woman stepped a bit closer to the window. “Are you from Austria?”

He laughed aloud.

“Australia, I meant,” she added, seemingly embarrassed by the mistake.

“I am indeed.” He watched her looking ahead towards the horizon. “So you wanna hitch a ride?”

Jared had a feeling she didn’t want to, but her current situation didn’t give her many choices. There they were in the middle of nowhere, with the next place a fair few miles away.

“Name’s Jared,” he said and then he opened the door and walked around the motorhome. Leaning against the vehicle, he looked at her. She was pretty. Thin, but pretty. When her brown eyes met his, he experienced another one of those heart tugs and wasn’t impressed at all. He tried to look right past her. It wasn’t happening though. They were like magnets.

“Jared,” he repeated and held out his hand.

Her look went right past him into the distance, and he assumed she was fighting with herself, part of her wanting to get off the road, the other part being worried.

“Anybody else travelling with you?” she asked quietly.

He shook his head. “Nope.”

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and, after a brief moment, reached for his hand. “Nice meeting you.”

Acknowledging that she wasn’t much into sharing details like her name, he opened the door for her. “Where are ya headin’?” he asked.

A smile started in her eyes and played with the corner of her lips. He felt himself smiling back. There was an appreciation in her smile.

“Could you drop me off at the next stop?” she asked hesitantly.

“Most certainly, but where are ya headin?”

She shrugged. “Kingman?”

“Is that on this road?”

Nodding, she said. “Yes, it is. It should be less than a hundred miles along this highway.”

“Then hop in.”

She turned to get into the motorhome, and he took in her small stature and the narrow shoulders which seemed even smaller in her tight, red T-shirt. Jared noticed her cargoes were just hanging onto her hips. A nice steak wouldn’t go astray on these hips. Suddenly she stopped and moved to look at him. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“No worries mate.”

Jared held her gaze and wasn’t sure what to say or do. She simply stood in front of him like frozen.

“My name is Ivy,” she said after a long moment.

“Hedera. An evergreen climbing or ground-creeping woody plant in the family Araliaceae.”

With a frown, she stared at him. “I really didn’t understand that one.”

He laughed. “Sorry, mate. I got carried away. I’m a landscaper. Ivy is a climbing plant.” Scratching the back of his head, he added, slightly self-conscious, “And, of course, a beautiful name.”

There was a small laugh as she stepped into the motorhome. He went around and slid behind the wheel before driving back onto the road. There was a long silence, and Jared wasn’t really sure what to do or say. Usually, he was good with silence. Actually, he loved it. But at that moment, the silence made him uncomfortable.

“So, what brings ya out into the middle of the sticks?”

When there was no reply, he turned and looked at her. There was a big frown on her face, and he sighed.

“I thought you all speak English as well?”

“We do,” she said with a slight giggle. “But I’m not so sure about you Australians.”

With a grin he replied, “Now, don’t be cheeky, Ivy.”

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, my mom always said.” She laughed. “No way would I make fun of you.”

“So, you’re expectin’ a meal as well?”

There was a moment of silence again, and he glanced over. The smile was gone and panic was written all over her face.

“I… I didn’t—”

Quickly he reached out for her hand. “I’m pulling your leg.” And when she didn’t reply again, he muttered, “This thing with you Americans not understanding English is turning into a problem. I was kiddin’.”

“Pulling your leg?” She shook her head. “Never heard of it.”

A bark of laughter filled the small space. “Anyway. Talkin’ about food. There’s a small place ahead. Want some lunch?”

Guess where this is?

‘Good English Porridge?”

Today we are still in Northwest Scotland where the characters in my current WIP are involved in a scene that has ‘good English porridge’ at the center and around which all the action revolves. The minute my Scottish hero’s disapproving English step-mother insisted on feeding him a ‘good English porridge,’ I had to know what the difference was. (By the way, the step-mom is a terrible cook so her ‘good English porridge’ is actually pretty bad. My apologies to English cooks everywhere, but I am writing fiction.)

ScottishPORRIDGEAfter a review of several websites, I probably know more about porridge than I could ever want to know. Nonetheless for your benefit and that of my characters let me share what I learned.

First, for those travelers who might imagine I’m writing about oatmeal allow me to clarify. Porridge and oatmeal are not exactly the same thing. Oatmeal is a porridge made from oat grain. Porridge is made from any type of cooked cereal grain. Thus in Northern Scotland during the late 13th century—the time when the book is set—barley is the most likely form of porridge since that grain was the most easily grown in highland soils. Oats are a close second in Scotland and much more likely in England where arable land is more plentiful. Fortunately the scene I’m writing doesn’t require that I specify which grain is used. However, the differences noted above would imply that the step-mother’s offering would be made from oats, whereas a Scottish porridge during this time might well be made from barley or a mixture of available grains. You can read more about this at http://www.buzzle.com/articles/porridge-vs-oatmeal.html.

Also please note that porridge need not be breakfast food. This highly useful dish could be and was served at nearly every time of day with various sweet or savory additions depending on what meal was being served and what sort of flavor was desired. In fact the Castles and Manors website http://www.castlesandmanorhouses.com/life_04_food.htm#cerials says, “Another common sight at the medieval dinner table was the frumenty, a thick wheat porridge often boiled in a meat broth and seasoned with spices. Porridges were also made of every type of grain and could be served as desserts or dishes for the sick, if boiled in milk (or almond milk) and sweetened with sugar.”

Last I went to http://www.scottish-at-heart.com/porridge-recipe.html in search of ‘porridge trivia’

  • Traditionally, porridge is stirred with a wooden rod called a ‘Spirtle’ or ‘Spurtle’, which looks a bit like a drumstick (not the chicken variety!)
  • Superstition has it that Scottish porridge should always be stirred clockwise – and preferably with your right hand – otherwise the Devil will come for the person doing the stirring!
  • Porridge is traditionally served in wooden bowls, and eaten standing up. Each spoonful should be dipped in a bowl of cream that’s shared by everyone at the table
  • Porridge could well have been the worlds’ first ‘take-out’. Centuries ago, an authentic porridge recipe such as this one would be used to cook up a big pot and what wasn’t eaten for breakfast would be poured into ‘drawers’ or another container and allowed to cool.  Once it was cooled, the porridge could be cut up into slices or blocks, wrapped, and taken along on the days’ work to be eaten for lunch, dinner or a snack!

The humble porridge has even been immortalized in print! The famous Scottish Bard, Robert Burns, described it this way… “But now the supper crowns their simple board, the halesome parritch, chief of Scotias’ food.”

For an excellent discussion of modern oat porridge preparation visit http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/nov/10/how-to-cook-perfect-porridge

Do you have a porridge story or recipe you’d like to share with your fellow travelers? Can you identify the building in the featured picture of this post? Please leave a comment and share, this blog is for all who read romances or love to travel.

OH MY! Just a little side trip, then back to Scotland

I just received the cover for Knight Errant (release date August 17, 2015) from my publisher. I would do anything to be able to travel to Palermo, Rome, Northumbria in 1294, or any other time and place, if I could meet this guy. He’s the embodiment of Sir Robert Clarwyn a knight-errant in service to Edward I. Robert is tasked to retrieve the adventurous (and somewhat rebellious) Lady Juliana Verault so their king can hand her over in marriage to an unsuspecting Scot. Robert pitys the poor man, until he meets and gets to know Juliana.
KEcover

Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous?

By the way, this news went out first to subscribers of Rue Allyn’s Very Occasional Newsletter. If you’d like to receive this announcement only communique click here to subscribe.

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What do you think?

Hmmm! With all the changes going on here (see the new blog title and header image) what do you say we add a little fun. Instead of putting a caption on the header image (which will change as we travel), I’d like you to guess what the image depicts. I’ll announce the answer just before we move to the next stop on our travels.

SUITcase

So this blog is changing and changing a lot. The name and URL–authortravels.com, The purpose–a place to share and dream for all who love travel and traveling. The focus–personal adventures and fictional settings. As an author, I am always traveling. Every setting (past, present or future) is a journey that I take both before I write and with my characters as a story develops. After my family, writing and traveling are my passions. So please join me on my travels, and we’ll tell each other stories along the way.

When will the change happen? Could be any day now. A few technical matters must be addressed, but we’ll definitely begin the voyage before August 01, 2015.

Where are we going? Our first destination is Northwest Scotland the setting for my current work in progress. Then we’ll be off to Italy and a brief stop in Northumbria to celebrate the release of my new medieval romance Knight Errant.

I look forward to seeing you there.

The Adventures of Princess Traveler, Nicaragua: Sorry, Parakeets not Parrots

PARAKEEThomes

Parakeet Homes

ELbrujo

El Brujo Waterfall

Today we ventured off the ‘beaten path’ [Waaaay off—well given the rough road and the number of farms it felt like ‘waaay off.’ In reality our destination was only 30 kilometers from Managua] to Chocoyero – El Brujo Natural Reserve, intending to view hundreds of wild green parakeets in their natural habitat—a sandstone cliff side near the lovely 400m El Brujo (The Wizard). The waterfall, is so named because it disappears underground, leaving no trace at the bottom of the fall. We saw the waterfall and the holes
the parakeets had chiseled in the cliff side but not a single parakeet. The only parakeet we saw during our trek through the subtropical rain forest that surrounds the cliff was completely unwilling to pause long enough to be photographed. I didn’t mind too much, since for me, the footpath through the rain forest was much more intriguing than the missing parakeets.

INTOdarkness

Into the Woods

We started with a short visit to the park guide station, where we viewed the preserved remains of all the poisonous snakes we might encounter on our trek. [Nice to know what to look out for.] Then we proceeded on our walk through the subtropical forest. The approach to the path was somewhat forbidding and definitely worth fictionalizing in a novel.

TERMITEnest

Termite Home

Once inside the verdant cave the temperature cooled considerably, but the humidity rose. Despite dripping with perspiration we weren’t really uncomfortable. Among the fascinating things we encountered were a couple of termite nests; a village of snake burrows [Thankfully no snakes emerged to greet us.]; gorgeous flowers; and the screams of howler monkeys. [The monkeys must have been visiting with the parakeets because we never caught sight of one of those either.]

SNAKEvillage

Snake Village (Look carefully, the holes are in the ground.)

YELLOWflowers

Gorgeous Yellow Blossoms

Is this a Morning Glory?

Is this a Morning Glory?

We enjoyed the walk, despite the absence of parakeets, but I was hot and tired by the time we reached our car. Ulisses suggested we drive to La Laguna Apoyo  and have lunch there. I’m very glad we took his suggestion. The Laguna (read lake) is a gorgeous spot where rains LAGUNAapoyoand underground springs have filled the crater of a dormant volcano. Public and private beaches dot the otherwise rocky lakeshore which rises sharply from the lake. Small hotels and private homes are scattered along the rim. We chose to eat at ?? Abuela (read Grandma’s) and were thoroughly delighted. I’ve never had fried fish as light, crispy and greaseless as I had today. I am now a huge fan of Nicaraguan cookery as well as their excellent coffee. Still weary from our walk and sated from an excellent meal we decided to return to our hotel.

Tomorrow we head to the Gran Pacifica resort, one of the communities we are considering as an investment and a retirement home. Please leave a comment and tell me about some of the gems you’ve visited, especially those with unusual names.