cats, writing

An Interview with Moi

I had an exciting weekend at the Food and WaterBowl XX-something Cat Show in Del Mar, California. I may post about it sometime soon … ish. In the meantime, perhaps you would be interested in reading an interview with me posted by the instigator creator of WIPpet Wednesday, author K.L. Schwengel. During WIPpet Wednesday, you post a snippet of your work in progress (WIP) … thus, a WIPpet. Which makes the participants the WIPpeteers. Consider joining us, if the idea appeals to you.

The interview is HERE.

writing

Trudging Along the Road of Happy Destiny

WIPpet Wednesday BannerHappy Wednesday, my friends! Today I am providing you with a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. I usually post something which relates to “today in history” but I have encountered a major brain fart today and just decided to post something from p. 22 (since today is the 22nd day of January).

This snippet is from my WIP, Dark Ages trilogy (Book 1) in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Also, I am trying to decide upon a name for this book. Please vote on your favorite!

Now then, in this scene Richende and Justus are discussing the pilgrimage to come.

“Your face is brown,” she observed. “Your arms as well. You’ve been outside the cloudy lands of your forebears for some time.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “Years.” He calculated in his head, said with surprise, “Two, now, since I’ve been gone.”

“Irish monks have come here before, when I was a child. Three of them, with stringy long hair and priests’ habits and wild eyes. I remember their fervor, and their hope. They were on a peregrinatio, a wandering, they knew not where day by day, but only went as the spirit of God directed them.”

Justus thought of the hermits in the desert, the saints sitting atop poles or rooted in the earth, the signs and wonders he had seen in the glittering cities of the Roman East. The golden icons and sweet perfume, the filth and illness and degradation that affects the poor everywhere. He had been fed by nuns and nursed in sickness by monks who lived atop a hill overlooking the ocean, in Greece. He had watched peasants stomping grapes at harvest-time, had seen others eating juicy oranges as they rested and laughed like life was sweet and full of jest.

“There are many such along the roads, wanderers for the faith,” he volunteered.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


guest post

A Travel Guide for Order of the Dimensions

At one point the tagline for this blog was: Travel, both real and imagined. This is the imagined part. Today, author Irene Helenowski provides us with a brief intro to her exciting novel Order of the Dimensions. What’s it about?

Cover art for Order of the Dimensions by Irene Helenowski When Jane Kremowski first began her graduate studies in physics at Madison State University in Wisconsin, little did she know where her work would take her. Now, she is embroiled in a multitude of dimensions all leading to different outcomes. She and her colleagues therefore must act wisely in order to take and keep away the Order of Dimension from falling into the wrong hands for the sake of her loved ones.

Irene Helenowski, the author of “Order of the Dimensions”, is a biostatistician an academic medical center in Chicago and recently received her doctorate in biostatistics. She also enjoys going to movies and concerts in her spare time. Order of the Dimensions is available as an ebook from Amazon.com and iTunes, and as a paperback from Lulu.com.

Take it away, Irene!

~Xina

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In Order of The Dimensions, I tried to create several worlds, each giving the reader a glimpse of how the characters’ lives would evolve in that place.  For instance, I attempted to re-create what Jane would experience as she cut through the park at the Smithsonian to visit her love, Randy.

She could still make the Green line Temple Hills even after a quick trip to the museum, after all.  She walked quickly past the mall, threading her way through the crowds of tourists, soon finding herself at the steps of the Natural History Museum.  She ran up the stairs and entered the museum, looking around until she spotted the entrance to the gift.  Smiling widely, she hurried to the entrance where she saw who she was looking for, a tall medium-built young man with curly, blonde hair.

Or how tempting it might be for her to stay in paradise in the realm where she  married to the dark and mysterious Anton Zelov.

Thank you.” Jane slowly made her way to the sunroom, which had a glass door opening to a garden.  Gigantic palm trees, the greenest bushes she had ever seen, and flowers of all types and colors lured her out, leading her to a cobblestone terrace.  A beautiful fountain featuring an ivory swan could be seen in the back of the garden, with Dr. Zelov just in front of it.  He was sitting down at a round, white table, replete with an assortment of fruit, slices of ham, toast, and a dish of what appeared to be scrambled eggs.  He put down the tea when he saw Jane approach.

I also hope that the reader can experience how it is to walk the medieval streets of Krakow.

“What the …” Lauren began following Jane from the laboratory and into a majestic hall with gothic-type arches. 

“Where are we?” Petra tailed behind. 

“Just follow me.  We need to lose those men!”

“What!  Jane, you have really become nuts, you know that?”   

Jane paused, looking around at the magnificent medieval architecture flanking them.  She now knew where they were, remembering the buildings from a history book she had in school.  They were at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. 

Or spend a blistery day in the Oxford countryside …

Jane and Grace went outdoors, entering a spacious yard sprawling for acres, enclosed only near the bank of the river.  The sun peered out through the clouds and a small, cool breeze  blew through the air. The scenery matched those in the paintings Jane had seen earlier in the study.  She looked around and saw Amy a few feet in front of her, petting a white pony, Anton resting on one knee beside her.  Close to the entrance, was a young Asian girl holding Richie on her lap. 

Or holiday in the streets of New Orleans,

New Orleans was indeed a magical town. Jane, Randy, and their children were enchanted by the historic mansions, the vast, colorful gardens, the clicking of the horses’ hooves on the cobblestone, all as if they were straight from a fairy tale.   Colorful masks and works from the street artists lit their path around the French Quarter during a leisurely carriage ride. They made their way down to the riverfront, watching the gigantic steamboats float by with their grand whistles bellowing through the surrounding riverbanks.  Randy was planning a trip on the mammoth river vessel …

By making such scenes as vivid as possible, I would like the reader to feel how he or she might connect to each world and connect to what the heroine is going through and perhaps choose a world that they might like to be in had they their own Multiverser. 

Intrigued? Check out the ebook from Amazon.com or iTunes, or the paperback from Lulu.com.

daily prompt, general wackiness, humor

The Story of a Man and a Pizza and a Truck and a Fish and … just read the dang thing, will you?

Today’s daily prompt is the luckiest people, and it enjoins us to write about the first person we see today. Here’s to my husband, Dave. Those of you who know him will find this by turns horrifying and hilarious.

The same for those who don’t.

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Back in the early 90’s, when our daughter was small and we were dirt poor, my husband Dave worked a night job as a Sustenance Transportation Engineer, also known as a Domino’s Pizza Delivery Boy. Not the most glamorous job in the world, but between the hourly wage and tips it helped us to get by. After his shift he usually came home late at night exhausted, greasy, and smelling of stale pizza. One night, though, he came home with something else: a good story.
Domino's and Pizza Hut stores located on Crawford Street in Queanbeyan
Several hours earlier Dave was booking around his route in our Toyota pickup when he delivered two pizzas to a house he hadn’t visited before. A man in his late twenties answered the door with a beer in his hand. As he was paying, the man peered outside and said, “Hey, you have a truck. I’ll give you twenty bucks if you help me out. I’ve got to get rid of my fridge tonight. It was full of fish and it quit on me. I can’t take the smell anymore.”

Sympathetic, Dave said, “Dude, I’d like to help you, but I can’t. I’m on the clock.”

“Come on, I’ll give you thirty bucks and my buddies and I will load it up.”

Dave was tempted. “Look, I have runs waiting for me back at the shop. I get off at midnight – I’ll come back then.”
6pack Duff Beer
“No, man, I’ve got to get rid of it now. I’ll give you fifty bucks and a six-pack of beer if you take it right now.”

Now this was too good to resist. “You got yourself a deal.”

Dave stood by while the man and his friends scooted the refrigerator out to the truck. As they were loading it in the back, the door popped open and stinky fish guts splashed over the guys’ pants. Whew! The smell was, to say the least, BAD.

Dave collected his money and his beer, jumped in the truck, and took off, wondering what to do with the disgusting appliance. Then it hit him. He stopped by the side of the road, pulled the Domino’s Pizza sign off the truck’s roof and peeled the company shirt off. He then proceeded to enter an alley behind the house of a frequent pizza customer whose house was at the edge of the delivery area, and who never tipped the drivers. Unwisely, the occupants of that house had not put a fence around their back yard.

As quietly as possible, Dave jumped out of the truck. The refrigerator was positioned in the truck bed in such a way that Dave was able, with a little elbow grease, to push it off into the customer’s back yard. The door popped open again, letting out the foul aroma.

Dave leaped into the truck and zoomed away, quite pleased with himself for this inventive solution to his problem.

He feels no guilt even today.

The moral to this story is: always tip your friendly neighborhood Sustenance Transportation Engineer.

guest post

Travel Guide to Seirenia

A Flight of Marewings Book Tour

Welcome to Journey Taker’s first guest post – and first book tour post, a very inventive travel guide created by Kristen S. Walker, author of A Flight of Marewingsin which Korinna’s life gets turned upside down when the ghost of her father suddenly appears. Her father was duke of Kyratia City and he wanted Korinna to marry his warlord, the foreign mercenary Galenos, and inherit his title–but the city’s Council has other plans. When the Council denies Korinna’s right to rule, she decides to join Galenos’s mercenary company and tame a wild marewing in order to take the city by force. But people whisper that the late duke’s untimely death was murder, an induced madness that forced him to dance himself to death–and now that madness is spreading. Can Korinna become a marewing rider and conquer Kyratia in time to save everyone?

Learn more about A Flight of Marewings at Goodreads. See below to enter a giveaway for a free copy of the novel, and to find purchase links.

Oh, and enjoy!

~Xina

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Cover art for A Flight of Marewings

This is a post about a fantasy world that I created for my epic fantasy novel, A Flight of Marewings. Some parts of it trace back to stories that I wrote when I was thirteen. Over the years, I’ve expanded and change many things to make it fit what I wanted for the story and to incorporate things that I learned about the real world, like anthropology, ecology, and sociology. I’m going to concentrate on the fun parts—the kinds of things that you would need to know if you were planning on visiting the area.

Mediterranean Peninsula

Seirenia is a long, narrow peninsula at the southern edge of the larger continent of Orn. There’s also Xynalia Island off the east coast and an archipelago of several more islands to the west, which are considered part of the same region. A mountain range fills most of the middle, running north to south. Because of the temperate weather, most of the mountains are too low altitude to get any snow. Only the largest Mount Deyos, at the northern end of the range, freezes annually, while the rest of the peaks get only the occasional dusting during cold spells.

The rest of Seirenia enjoys mild seasons throughout the year. The sixteen-month year is divided into two seasons: the hot Dry and the cool Rains. Most plant growth occurs during the rainy months, so farmers plant their fields at the beginning of the Rains and harvest at the beginning of the Dry. During the hot months, wildfires are a constant threat. Also, much of the peninsula is rocky and arid, so most of the human populations are concentrated along the coast, where more rain comes off the ocean and fishing is plentiful. Because the mountains are difficult to travel and the roads can be attacked by roving monsters, sailing is the best way to visit Seirenia: by going up and down the coasts, you can see most of the major cities in a safe and easy trip.

Independent City States

Once, Seirenia was part of the Kaldonian Empire, and some of the imperial infrastructure still survives today in some of the major city developments and the straight, strong roads that form a network all over the peninsula. But the Kaldonians were driven away by the sudden arrival of Wyld Magic, abandoning the native people to the dangerous monsters that now roam the land. In their struggle to survive, Seirenians banded together into small cities, defending small patches of farm land outside their walls, and there was no unified government.

A thousand years later, many of the original city-states still keep their independence, especially in the north. Alliances are shaky and mostly rely on pressure from the main temple of the Allfather, since they share the religion of Deyonismos. Some cities have conquered others, forming larger regions. In the south is the largest, where the flat plains have most of farmland. Not surprisingly, an agricultural-based religion called the Idarnian Mysteries grew popular among the three cities here, creating the Holy Empire of Damia. Religions and customs vary depending on where you go, so it’s important to be respectful of these differences when traveling.

Maritime Trade

Much of Seirenia’s prosperity actually comes from its centralized location in the ocean. While they have a limited number of goods to export, they’re a connection for trade routes from four major continents (Orn, Itteki, Arkia, and Eiry), so most coastal cities rely on their mercantile ships for income. And of course, traders and immigrants from other lands come to settle in Seirenia as well, so many ports are a diverse blend of many languages, cultures, and creeds. A visit to the markets can give you a taste of many foreign cultures all in one place, so be sure to make this a part of your trip!

While Seirenia does not have a lot of raw goods to export, their vibrant trade has given them the money to invest in education and the arts. Many cities have their own university, and artists such as painters, writers, musicians, and actors are supported through local guilds. Visitors can take a tour of architectural marvels such as the elaborate temples and palaces of most cities, enjoy art galleries, take in a play or concert in the local theaters, learn about the latest astronomical discoveries in an observatory, or see advancements in magic at the colleges. Be sure to ask the locals for tips to find the best of what their city has to offer.

Local Culture

The major language of most Seirenians in Meresto, and while there are some regional dialects, the constant travel between cities and relatively small size of the peninsula keeps the language recognizable throughout. The only exception is the nation of Syannata Ilnaota in the central eastern region: the area was settled by missionaries from Arkia, so the ruling priestess caste speaks Arqan, while most of the farming caste still speaks Meresto. Also, in the major cities which rely on trade, it’s common to hear other languages, and any educated citizen can speak at least three tongues fluently. It can be helpful to learn some common phrases in Meresto, but if you stick to the ports, you’ll be able to find a translator for any major language easily.

If you’re in a Deyonist area, religious festivals are common throughout the year, especially during the Dry. Celebrations can spread throughout the entire city and everyone is welcome to join in. Feasts dedicated to the many deities happen on a monthly basis, so check the local temple district to see which shrines are busy. In the Idarnian Mysteries, most festivals are not open to non-initiates, but there are a few public annual holidays. And don’t ever ask to see a temple of the Sisterhood of Syannata—they’re strictly for priestesses only!

Cuisine also varies depending on the local crops. In the north, expect lightly-seasoned foods that highlight local fruits and vegetables, like artichokes, olives, and lamb. Syannata Ilnaota keeps a strict vegetarian diet and is the major grower of rice. Seafood is popular along the coast and in the islands. In the south, watch out for the heat—they love spicy peppers! Ask for suma, a fruit-flavored yogurt drink, to cool your tongue if you get burned.

Come Visit Soon!

I hope that I’ve piqued your interest in Seirenia, because it has a lot to offer. Don’t let the rumors of monsters or roving mercenaries drive you away—city walls keep out everything but the rare dragon attack, and mercenary companies are regulated by strict laws in most areas. As long as you travel with a little knowledge and caution, your trip can be both rewarding and safe!

Giveaway and Purchase Links

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway, or purchase the title at your favorite online outlet: SmashwordsAmazoniBooks, or Barnes & Noble.

Photo of fantasy author Kristen S. Walker

Author Bio

Fantasy author Kristen S. Walker dreams of being a pirate mermaid who can talk to sharks, but she settles for writing stories for teens and adults. Her new novel, A Flight of Marewings, tells the adventure of a duke’s illegitimate daughter who must stop her father’s murderers–by taming a dangerous monster. A Flight of Marewings is now available in print from Amazon and digitally from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. To read a sample chapter or check out Kristen’s pirate pictures, please visit kristenwalker.net. You can talk good books, cats, or medieval cooking with Kristen anytime on Twitter (@KristenSWalker) or Facebook.

history, writing

Battle at the Bridging of Two Worlds

WIPpet Wednesday BannerIt’s Wednesday! I took a two week hiatus, but I’m back again on this hump-day to bring you a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Most participants do various mathematical formulas to come up with the amount of words or sentences or whatever to post, but I decided to draw inspiration from today’s date in history.

History.com informs me that on January 8, 1877, Crazy Horse fought his last battle. Crazy Horse is the Native American leader who famously defeated General George Custer with a force of Cheyenne and Sioux six months earlier. Alas, he was not to remain successful long, for the U.S. Calvary in Montana outnumbered them and forced them to retreat, ending their organized resistance.

My work in progress, Book 1 of the Dark Ages trilogy, in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, has no Native Americans, but it does have cavalry and battles. Here is one particular battle which takes place at a bridge …

This close, everything sharpened and slowed as only happened when Justus found himself fighting for his life. He made out the curly gray hairs in the barbarian’s beard, and smelled the rank scent of his unwashed body. The strong, nervous horse had froth bubbling from the corners of his mouth, and his sides heaved with the effort of the run and the melee of combat. The horse pranced back and forth, making the rider struggle to control him and causing Justus to pay attention to its steps lest he find himself crushed beneath heavy feet.

The barbarian, a Lombard from the cut of his tunic and fringe on his boots, passed the axe to his left hand and swung at Justus from that angle. Justus countered by chopping at the wooden axe handle with all his might, trying to break the head off, but succeeding only in lodging his blade in the wood. With his other hand he grabbed the back of the axe head and yanked, ripping the weapon free from the barbarian’s startled grasp. He flung the axe and his sword both–joined together–to the ground and snatched his dagger from the sheathe at his waist. The barbarian, now disarmed, let loose a stream of curses in a guttural Germanic dialect that Justus could not identify, and pulled the reins of his horse to the left, simultaneously urging the beast to carry him away from Justus.

Justus heard a harsh burst of laughter–realized it was his own–and applied his boot to the axe in an effort to free his sword. A few quick yanks did the trick, and he spared the time to grab the axe handle and stomp down on the blade, causing the head to break off. The last thing he needed was someone else picking that thing up and splitting his head with it.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


cats, general wackiness, humor

Kitties in Motion

It has been far, far too long since I posted some of my favorite cat gifs. Behold the majesty:

There is the eating:

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And the drinking:

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The playing:

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The stalking:

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The resting:

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Let’s try that again. The resting:

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And, after a while, the visit to the convenience store:

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Glorious, isn’t it?

If you liked this post, please follow me!

Go on, follow me, will you? I’d hate to have to send a tiger after you …

*Most of these images were obtained from that most worthy Internet achievement: cheezburger.com

cats, photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginnings

Young black cat on chair

Over at the Daily Post they have a Weekly Photo Challenge that I will probably be participating in only sporadically. The first theme for 2014 is “Beginnings.” Initially I thought I would post a picture of the newest baby in my family – 4 month old Michaela. But when I saw this picture of teenage kitty girl Maya I decided to choose it instead. I love how young, sweet, and slinky she is – those big eyes and ears and the dangling, too-big-for-her collar. There’s something so heartwarming about a living being just starting out in life. In the words of Commander Spock: may she live long and prosper. Oh, and I should speak to her about The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior, since she lives in a household of five of the vexatious creatures …