books, Cover reveal, general wackiness, historical romance, history, humor, romance, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Cover Reveal is Here! Woo hooooooo

Today is the day for the cover reveal of my novelette! I’m flailing around like Kermit the Frog. What do you think? Does it look like the best thing in all of creation, everywhere, at all times? (Errr, okay, maybe I got a little carried away there). My cover designer is Yoly from Cormar Covers, who is not only talented, but also reasonably priced.

Please share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter Instagram, what have you. Links are below! The story’s release is one week from today, July 5th.

 

Whiter Pastures
Xina Marie Uhl
Publication date: July 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance

A romantic novelette in the Icebound series, an ongoing collection of polar delights.

Behold dogsleds and penguins. Howling winds and cold, pitiless wastes. This is Antarctica, where the intrepid inhabitants of the frozen ends of the earth battle the terrain, and each other, to find love—in a past much like that of the early 1900s.

Reluctant spinster Florance Barton fled to the British Antarctic base to escape a scandalous love affair, among other things. Amidst the handful of other women there, Florance is the perfect chambermaid, meek, mild, and forgettable. No one has a clue that she’s also a novice spy.

When handsome young Handy McHanagan arrives at the base, he sets everyone agog. He’s charming, artistic, and … an accomplished gardener. His arrival may just be a mistake on the part of naval command. Or is it something more sinister?

Because killer seals and subzero ice storms and aren’t the only danger in Antarctica: a enemy spy is on the loose. Florance has been ordered to choose between queen and country and her heart. Because penguin is off the menu now–and murder is its replacement.

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Author Bio:

Author Xina Marie Uhl lives in sunny Southern California with her husband and assorted furry and scaly pets. The setting of her first novel, NECROPOLIS, has been heavily influenced by her interest in ancient history. She holds both a BA and an MA in history. In addition to fiction writing, she teaches college history courses and writes educational materials. When she isn’t reading and writing, she enjoys hiking, photography, and planning new travel adventures.

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dogs, history, research, Uncategorized, US history, writing

Animals in History, Oh My!

If I had unlimited time, I would probably spend several hours a day, every day, learning Latin and perusing old newspaper articles. Alas, I do not have unlimited time, but in my research for various fiction and nonfiction projects I do come across some interesting bits now and again. You may recall my rampaging monkey post. This is another post in the same vein.

First we will start with the wild. Bears! I do believe this has the makings of an American nursery tale.

bears history
Thursday, November 2, 1894. Sturgeon Bay, WI, Vol XXII, The Democrat.

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! Hyenas can be pretty dangerous, too.

Chicago cemeteries hyena

Dogs in danger always pulls at the heartstrings! It seems that Jack London’s Call of the Wild may have inspired some unsavory people:

Dog slavers
June 18, 1910, v. 26 n.25, Sausalito News.

And last, but not least, apparently dogs have been accompanying folks on car rides for quite some time.

dog automobile
March 19, 1905, Omaha Daily Bee.

You will notice that these articles are from around the turn of the 20th century. That’s the setting of my latest project, a quirky romance between a dog musher/postman and a bicycle-riding pastor in 1911 Alaska. Check out my newsletter to keep apprised of its progress and to read free flash fiction while you are at it.

general wackiness, humor, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Travel Throwback Thursday – Minnesota for the Dumb

travelsilly

It’s a fairly innocuous travel snapshot, the above. My daughter, dog, and I, kneeling on a walkway somewhere in northern Minnesota. Right after this photo, my husband took the dog back to the truck, since the walkway was slippery and he didn’t want to risk falling. My daughter Brandy and I are of a more adventurous mindset, though, so we followed the walkway down to a quiet little lake.

And, oh, look! There’s a boat!

We hurried down to the edge of the lake to where a forest service sign read – “Use the boat and return.”

What a nice offer!

We proceeded to push the solid metal rowboat sort of like this one:

But heavier. MUCH heavier, we discovered.

Shove, grunt, shove, grunt

We moved it three inches.

Cue some more shoving and grunting.

We got it several feet past the mud and reed-covered bank. Well, good. We were getting somewhere.

“Get in!” I told Brandy.

She clambered aboard and tried to row.

“It’s heavy!” she complained.

I got in and tried to row.

There was more shoving and grunting.

Now the boat was ten feet into the lake. But it weighed 800 pounds and we couldn’t get it to go anywhere.

“Let’s take it back to shore,” I said, gasping for breath.

Brandy jumped out of the boat and assisted me. We dragged the dang thing back three feet. Sweat dripped from our limbs and obscured our vision. No musclebound lumberjack offered to help us. In fact, there was no one anywhere nearby except for the mama wolf and her cubs watching us from the woods. An owl hooted in the distance.

“I can’t do it anymore, mommy,” Brandy cried, plaintive.

She collapsed on the shore, overcome with fatigue. I sagged down next to her.

Horrific visions clouded my mind. The mama wolf and her cubs would pounce upon us at the earliest opportunity, shredding our flesh and cracking our bones. The fluffy youngsters would lick out the marrow with their plump pink tongues. Brandy and I would be able to do nothing to save ourselves, since we had both torn muscles and exhausted ourselves to the point of no return. Need a visual? Watch what happens to this guy and you’ll have a good idea:

A while later, my husband and the dog came down and found us, and dragged us to the nearest emergency room. There, nurses pumped fluids and electrolytes into our depleted forms. We eventually recovered, but not without much woe.

Well, all right. I may be exaggerating slightly. Because that sounds a lot better than what really happened.

We attempted to push the boat back to shore, and failed. The boat sank. Oh no! We tugged energetically. More sinking. Mud, flies. Ick and physical depletion. Then:

Aw, to hell with it.

“Sorry, rangers!” we called as we scampered back to the car, leaving the boat drowned near the shore.

“Time to go!” we urged Dave, who threw the truck into gear and squealed the tires as we left in a spray of pebbles.

Brandy and I shared a nervous giggle. I tried not to think about the curses that would echo around the pleasant lake when some poor federal employee had to dig out the boat.

Sorry, Minnesota. You meant well, you really did. You just didn’t gamble on two weaklings trying to use your solid metal boat …

humor, inspiration, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Travel Throwback Thursday: Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada

I came across this picture while cleaning my desk just now. It was purchased some years ago on a road trip from California to Alaska when we stopped in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. I was so struck by how awesome and majestic it is. I just HAD to have it.

eagles

Then the lady manning the desk told me about the local area it was taken, a place that attracts lots of these noble and beautiful birds:

the city dump.

Oh, reality! You are so ironic sometimes, aren’t you?

general wackiness, humor, Uncategorized

The Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

When Dave and I got married all those years ago, I pledged to take him for better, for worse, for richer, for poor, and so on.

There was nothing in those vows about creating him undergarments out of toast.

“It keeps falling off!” he protested.

You try securing toast to someone’s underwear while they are standing there complaining about it,” I said, as I struggled to extend the transparent tape around Dave’s waist in a manner which would hold up for at least a few minutes.

I had made sure to toast the bread earlier. I had even, thoughtfully, let the toast cool off before slapping it on my husband’s body. What more did he want?

At about this point in the blog post, you may be wondering what in the world I’m talking about. You see, Dave and I were participating in one of the wackiest weeks of our life, also known as the Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen, or GISHWHES  for short. Started by the Supernatural actor Misha Collins, for reasons that remain murky at best, it involves a weeklong frenzy of weirdness. Thousands of people all over the world compete in teams to see who can earn the most points by doing things such as:

No. 69:  Provide a picture of someone wearing toast for underwear. Butter and jam are optional.

Seriously?

Yes. Most seriously.

Below is visual evidence of our “success” for this item. It may be interesting to note that, later, I was scrolling through my cell phone pictures to show someone the toast underwear when a teenage boy standing nearby happen to glimpse the uncropped version of this photograph. He shrieked and called for bleach to soak his eyes in. He may still be blind to this day.

Underwear made from toast

GISHWHES consists of around 150 items that are so bizarre, so insane, so unexpectedly brilliant that you can only laugh, and then get busy trying to figure out how to accomplish them. Evidence:

No. 2 Create a video. Go order food at your favorite fast food restaurant. Greet the attendant, explain how hungry you are, what you want to eat, and how good it will make you feel. One thing, you must speak as the Bard wrote. Place your order in Shakespearean verse.

(The sound is quite low at the beginning of this 30 second video, but hang in there, it gets better)

No. 14. Create an image. You, dressed as The Flash in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel. If this is too difficult, you will get full credit for dressing as The Flash in any actual, operational particle accelerator.

Luckily, Dave had one of those at work. And making The Flash costume turned out to be the biggest hassle. It resulted in Dave buying a women’s small red shirt and decorating it. Getting the shirt off his head afterward involved some personal injury and a visit to the chiropractor.

theflash

Work was also useful when it came to:

No. 121. Create an image. Enjoy a burrito standing in front of a laboratory. The international laser warning sign must be visible behind you.

burrito

Lest you wonder where I was with all this craziness, I was doing things such as:

No. 56. Take a picture. Create an online dating profile for your pet on a real dating site.

6BkMv5D

Why did we choose to participate in such an offbeat event? God only knows. The entire endeavor involved an exhausting, stressful, bizarre, hilarious week. Most of the people who join in this challenge are college-age, and rightly so since it takes a lot of energy, fearlessness, and dedication.

If this blog post has not discouraged you, but intrigued you instead, you are in luck. Sign-ups are currently open for this year’s GISHWHES, which will take place from August 2 – 9.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

humor, photography, travel

Field Photography for Dummies

“Why are you holding back?” Dave asks, gesturing for me to follow after him.

“I’m afraid the bear will eat me!” I hiss and cower behind the car.

“Don’t be silly!” he scoffs, then hurries to join the 800 other gawking tourists jam-packed by the side of the road.

Three minutes earlier, while driving leisurely through Yellowstone National Park, we’d come upon a dozen or so cars parked beside the road. Eager tourists pointed and snapped photos of a mama black bear and her three rambunctious cubs. While I was thrilled to see this sight –  not just one bear, but four! – I had heard one too many stories about protective mother bears ripping off people’s heads to heedlessly rush up to the bears. So it was that Dave hurried to the side of the road for a look while I hung back with visions of this in my mind:

After observing the lack of bloody death for a few minutes, I realize that the mama bear and her cubs are far more interested in eating grass and grubs than me, so I venture closer and manage to snap a picture or two.

My experience of wildlife photography went something like this:

OMG there’s a bunch of bears! Grab the camera! Dash across the road, trying not to faceplant as you keep larger and more scrumptious looking tourists between yourself and the bears. Fumble with the camera and tripod. Realize you have the wrong lens. Run back to the car and and dive into the piles of travel detritus. Paw through said detritus like a starving wildebeest after a morsel of food until you grab the right lens. Skitter back to setup. Attempt to screw new lens on while keeping track of various lens caps. Realize tripod is on uneven ground. Nervously eye wild creatures. Adjust tripod legs. Try to remember rudiments of basic photography. Fail, and put the dang setting on sports.

Try to use autofocus; hear whir of motor for so long that you flip it off autofocus and focus manually. Take a picture. Realize that you need the remote trigger, which is back in the car. Stampede back to the car again to find it. Dig through the junk everywhere and locate it after lengthy and passionate cursing.

Adult black bear eating grass

Breathing hard, make it back to your camera again and after some fiddling, begin snapping pictures. As mama bear drifts closer to the roadside, try not to imagine her claws sinking into your skull.

At about this time the park ranger usually shows up and orders tourists back at least 100 yards, first using his nice voice and then when ignored, bellowing into his loudspeaker like a roid raging weightlifter to get back and while you’re at it, PARK OFF THE ROAD, DAMMIT.

Later, in the safety of your hotel room, review your pictures. Complain to Dave:

mama black bear and three cubs

“They’re all so crappy compared to the professionals.”

Listen to Dave try to console you, then go back to berating yourself for general idiocy and talentlessness.

Remember the first suggestion from the photography books you consulted prior to the trip. Images should be set on high quality RAW. Check settings and find that it’s on low quality. Howl in agony.

Then come home and write a blog post. Take comfort that at least you succeed in that!

humor, Uncategorized, writing

Silly Stories and a Work in Progress

I’ve released a couple of humorous short stories in a free collection – woo hoo! These will soon be part of a free audiobook collection available from Podiobooks, but for now I’m hoping for a few (million) downloads. Please partake, share, whatever! Description:

This light-hearted short story duo is sure to make you smile, chortle, and outright laugh. “A Fairy Tail” follows the desperate adventures of Sir Craig as he tries to rescue his beloved from a fiendish sorcerer. However, Boots, a shapechanger who favors the form of a unicorn, is a rival for fair Gregoria’s hand. Will Craig rescue Gregoria? Will Boots get to eat apples out of Gregoria’s hand?

“Out of the Bag” is a short short story long on imagination. Jason the cop expects a normal day on the force, but a chance encounter on a breaking and entering call changes everything.

 tumblr_n6jy6jq8WJ1qzlui1o1_400

 Smashwords * Amazon

 Today is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so, today’s snippet relies on WIPpet math – 8 sentences (6/4 … four paragraphs from page 6). This is from my short story “The Pomegranate Tree.” This is the middle of a confrontation between the mysterious servant Doso and the king’s daughter Callithoe. 

Doso shoved aside the press with sudden violence, approached like a mad thing, like a wild woman. Callithoe shrank back reflexively. Doso’s words were like barbs, flying like poisoned arrows.

“Is it disrespect to speak of what is to one who wishes to believe lies? You do not know what I know, maiden. You do not know how young life can be snatched in a cruel instant. How even though you gave every last bit of yourself to a child, you sheltered her and nourished her, and carefully planned for her life – her blessed life – how the gods might despise your feeble efforts.” Doso’s voice resonated through the room, past the close walls, for they were like the shrieking of a bird in distress – high and relentless. Spittle flew from her lips. Her eyes were on fire.

“Oh, no. You don’t know how they turn on everyone – even on their own, and they snatch away that sweet young thing, that beautiful, innocent daughter. They call it a slip, an accident. She hit her head on the rocks, mother. It is no one’s fault. But you know the truth, that the King of Hell took her – he who rides a chariot pulled by dark frothing steeds. He dragged her down into the underworld. She tried to come back to you – she would always try to come back – but he wouldn’t let her.”

She paused, eyes going far away, as though she had just heard the words she had spoken. Tears gushed from her eyes, then.  

I should be finished with this story within a day or two and I could really use a beta reader or two. It’s around 15 pages long – about 6,000 words. If you’re interested please do let me know – I’d be happy to return the favor, of course.

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

cats, general wackiness, humor, writing

Cats on the Move — Another Edition of Fantastic Gifs!

I’m hard at work recording an audiobook of my humorous title The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior and it occurs to me that I haven’t posted any crazy cat gifs in a while. I maintain a Cat’s Guide page on Facebook where I post funny cat pictures and links on a regular basis, but Facebook is not a fan of gifs. Therefore …

1. Tuesday is HOW far from Friday?

funny-animal-gifs-animal-gifs-eternal-mondays

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. “Oh, hi there, dog.”

anigif_enhanced-22353-1393681863-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-26515-1385052116-25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-13850-1385051640-37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-27202-1385052591-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like these? Check out my other gif posts: here, here, here, here, and here!

 

cats, humor, writing

That Time My Cat Taught Me a Lesson After Trying for Only Six Years

Black and white kittenI’ve had Charley the Kitty since she was about four weeks old (her lopsided mustache reminded me of Charlie Chaplin, and so inspired her name). For school community service credit, my daughter decided to foster a litter of motherless kittens. What could be better and more fun than raising a bunch of cute kittens? Well, turns out that’s a lot harder than it sounds. I really gained an appreciation for a mother cat, after having to bottle feed five kitties several times a day. The Kittens all over mankittens were quite accomplished at crying for food as well as getting milk all over themselves as they frantically sucked down the contents of their bottles. The mess they inevitable created caused us to bathe them every day. Drying off after the baths, they would climb up on my husband, since he was warm and cuddly, apparently.

When the kittens were old enough to adopt out, I chose Charley to keep for myself. We just had a special bond from the beginning. She wasn’t the cutest or sweetest of the cats, I have to say, because she’s a little grumpy and rather demanding. However we just clicked. Perhaps because I’m a little grumpy and demanding as well? Who can say? Certainly not my husband! Anyhow, Charley has always communicated when she feels Nov2013 049strongly about something. This could result in a hiss or a growl or a loud, demanding meow when she’s hungry or cold.

When I started to work from home as a freelance writer one of the perks was more time spent with my animals, including Charley. However, Charley had a habit of meowing in the loud and fierce way around noon every day. I did the obvious – made sure her litter box was clean and her food dish was full — but that didn’t satisfy her. My plaintive question of “What do you want?” went unanswered. Eventually, though, I figured out what she wanted me to do – namely, snuggle with her in bed at the beginning of her afternoon nap. So now, almost every day, she meows at lunchtime and I go and lay down with her as one with would with a child, and put her to sleep. I’m quite proud of myself for figuring out her message after only a few years of trying. Who says old humans never learn new tricks?Cover art for The Cat's Guide to Human Behavior

This was one of the experiences, coupled with my rather fertile imagination, that led me to write The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior. This humorous look at living with humans from the cat’s point of view has been recently released and is looking for a home on your ebook reader or bookshelf.

You know, just in case you want to do a little fostering of your own.

~

If you enjoyed this little story, check out the Nature’s Recipe blog hop for other participants’ stories.