Learning Havana’s History

Despite our long day of travel to the cruise ship in Havana, there was no sleeping in the next morning. We met with our City Tour group at 8:00 am, and were soon eagerly aboard the buses.

The Castillo de la Real Fuerza, on the west side of the harbour, is considered the oldest stone fort in the Americas. It was built in the sixteenth century to defend the harbour against pirate attacks. It’s since become a maritime museum.

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Our walking tour started where the city itself started – at the main square. In colonial times, the square was the site of military exercises which led to it being called Plaza de Armas.

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In 1923, the square’s official name became Parque Céspedes, after Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. In 1868, the revolutionary hero freed his slaves and encouraged them to join him in the fight for Cuban independence. Céspedes became President of the Republic of Cuba the following year, until his deposition in 1874.

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I feel the need, at this point, to sheepishly admit my surprise at how many Cubans are black. I’d assumed they’d have the olive skin, dark hair and eyes of most Hispanic people. This is what I learned about this heritage. When the Spanish ‘discovered’ the Cuban islands in the sixteenth century, they were already populated by the Taino Indigenous people. As part of the often brutal colonization process, the Spanish enslaved and eventually wiped out the Taino. To replenish this slave workforce, over a million Africans were kidnapped and brought to the Cuban territories. Approximately sixty percent of the Cuban population are descendants of those African slaves.

On the east side of the Plaza de Armas is the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former official residence of Havana’s governors. Today, this impressive limestone building houses the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City of Havana).

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A stroll down busy, eclectic Calle Obispo.

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Originally a swamp, Plaza de la Catedral became the site of Havana’s grandest 18th-century aristocratic baroque mansions.

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La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada.

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El Floridita Bar, a favourite hangout of Ernest Hemingway.

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It’s never too early to enjoy a Hemingway Daiquiri, not even 10:00 am. Made with grapefruit juice and lime. Yum.

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Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

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Parque Central is a large square near the Capital Building, where the locals gather for boisterous discussions.

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José Martí statue in Parque Central. I’ll discuss this great Cuban hero a little later.

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The National Capital Building, like much of Havana, is undergoing restorations. No longer the seat of government, nowadays El Capitolio houses the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry.

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Across the street from El Capitolio, and facing Parque Central, is the Gran Teatro de la Habana, an architecturally awe-inspiring building.

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Havana’s colourful and diverse streets as viewed from my bus window.

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Many political rallies have been held at Revolution Square. Originally called Plaza Cívica, it was renamed Plaza de la Revolución following the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The Ministry of Interior buildings in the background feature two heroes of the most recent revolution, Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara.

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The massive José Martí Memorial dominates Revolution Square. The tower stands 358 feet tall and the statue is 59 feet tall. José Martí is probably the most revered man in Cuba. A Cuban patriot and freedom fighter, his goal from the time he was a teenager was to see Cuba a free democracy without slavery. Although he never lived to see his country achieve independence from Spain (dying in the 1895 uprising) he is considered a national hero for his dedication to the cause.

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I could’ve spent hours admiring all the old cars congregated at Revolution Square. We saw so many beauties, I plan to dedicate an entire post to them.

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A queue of cute little taxis.

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Our last tour stop was at Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (The Three Morro Kings Fortress), more commonly known as El Morro Castle. It offers one of the finest views of the city.

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The picturesque fortress guarding the entrance to Havana’s bay was built in the last decades of the 16th century and is one of Havana’s most visited places.

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At present El Morro Castle is used as a museum, and there’s a market where local artists sell their wares.

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As is the case at so many Havana locales, the fortress is a great place to observe the parade of classic old cars.

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Thank you to everyone who hung on to the end. I learned so much on that tour and am excited to share my newfound knowledge. Next week, please join me for a stroll along Havana’s Malecon. I’ll try to be a little less wordy.

A Few Bumps enRoute To Smooth Sailing…

Hubby and I recently returned from a cruise around Cuba and, although it was an interesting and action-packed week, my love-hate relationship with travel has been reconfirmed. I still love to go away. I still hate getting there.

I’ve wanted to visit Cuba for a couple of years now, before it becomes overrun with Pizza Huts and McDonalds. After reading many horror story reviews of overcrowded and understaffed resorts, I realized the rest of the world was also rushing to get a taste of authentic Cuba.

Just when I’d decided I’ve missed my chance, I discovered Celestytal Cruises, which sails around the island of Cuba, starting and ending in Havana, with excursions in three other ports of call included. I was instantly intrigued, and it didn’t take much to convince Hubby this was an ideal way to see Cuba.

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Lucky for us, the unpredictable mountain highways were in good shape for our winter drive to Vancouver. My brother and his lovely lady, along with our youngest son, met us for dinner that evening. With a 3:00 am wake-up call, we hit the hay soon afterward. Hubby’s an early to bed, early to rise guy, so this was routine for him. But me? I’d rather go to bed at 3:00, then get up at that ungodly hour.

We washed down a stale muffin with a few swigs of chocolate milk before joining the surprisingly large group catching the 3:45 shuttle the next morning. We’d intended to grab a more substantial breakfast at the airport before our 6:00 flight, but only a couple of donut joints were open, all with long lines, so we decided to wait for lunch on the plane. Rookie mistake. But first I have to go on a bit about the airplane.

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I’d never flown on an Airbus 330 before. It was huge, with nine seats across and about 50 rows deep. We were seated over the massive wing, which completely obliterated the view below. Hubby liked the individual touch screens that offered a variety of TV shows and movies. And lots of washrooms, so no lineups.

It took us awhile to realize we weren’t getting fed. There was a for-fee menu, but not a for-free one – not even pretzels or stale cookies. I must be naïve, in this age of cutbacks, to expect to be served something to eat on a six and a half hour flight. We made due with a handful of peanuts I had in my carry-on.

I somehow had the mistaken impression we were flying directly to Havana. Wrong, again. First we stopped in Santa Clara, where we debarked the plane and were left standing on the tarmac, inhaling jet fumes, for about fifteen minutes before entering the terminal to have our carry-on luggage scanned and to present our passports (and of course I got picked to be wanded). Then we sat in the airport lounge for over an hour before returning to the airplane. Twenty-five minutes later, we landed in Varadaro, not Havana.

My experience with Cuban immigration was disappointing. Each traveler approaches the wicket individually. A sullen looking person took my ID, then motioned me to remove my glasses and look forward to have my picture taken. Strange scratching noises ensued, and a few stamps, before she returned my passport and motioned me to leave. I understand she might not have spoken English, but civility is universal. I gave her a smile and said hello when I approached, I gave her a smile and said thanks when she handed me my ID. She gave me nothing but suspicion and latent hostility. Not exactly welcoming to a visitor to her country.

We found our transfer bus without a problem, but then had to sit and sit, and sit some more. We overheard the couple in the seat behind us explain to their companions how someone had taken their red luggage in error, so the bus driver was trying to track down the missing suitcases. Apparently the driver hauled our red luggage off the bus for them to check whether it was theirs. When our names were mentioned, Hubby hightailed it off the bus to ensure our luggage had been reloaded. It had. Whew! By the time we left the Varadaro airport, the sun was setting on a long day.

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We hadn’t eaten anything since our muffins thirteen hours earlier. And we still had a two-hour bus ride to Havana. Thankfully, the embarkation process went smoothly, we were able to fill our bellies at the buffet, and fall gratefully into a comfortable bed. Yes, I really do hate traveling.

But I also really love exploring new places. And I couldn’t wait to explore this intriguing country with its complicated history.

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This is Cuba:

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And this is Cuba:

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But this is also Cuba:

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Cubans proudly display their flag everywhere.

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And they love their monuments. Jose Marti, freedom fighter and national hero:

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Carlos Manuel De Cespedes, 1st President of the Republic of Cuba:

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And all those classic cars! Wow!

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In the coming weeks, I’ll share some of what we learned on our travels in Cuba. I promise there’ll be lots of beautiful photos.

Show No Weakness Cover Reveal

Here it is, my lovely new cover for Show No Weakness! I particularly like how Roane Publishing was able to use the same two cover models as on the original cover. I’ve come to think of them as Cole and Joely.

It’s difficult for me right now to show the appropriate enthusiasm and appreciation for this wonderful cover because I very recently lost my beloved Mom. My first thoughts were, “I can’t do this.” And then I remembered how proud my little mom was of my writing and what a supporter of my work she was. She wouldn’t want me to ignore this special milestone any more than she would want me to wallow in my grief.

So this one’s for you, Mom. Isn’t it pretty?

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It’s Official!!

The contract’s been signed. The blurb and tagline have been refreshed. Cover art ideas are being bandied about. And a press release has been issued.

I’m pleased to say that in April of 2017, Show No Weakness will be released by Roane Publishing. I’m so happy that my first book baby will once again be available for sale. Hopefully it’s the first of many.

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Interview With Author Tricia Schneider

Today on Monday Musings we’re visiting with author, Tricia Schneider, to talk about her new release, The Pirate’s Lady.

Welcome, Tricia. Please introduce yourself.

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Tricia Schneider is an author of historical, paranormal and gothic romance. Before the supernatural took possession of her pen, she worked for several years as Assistant Manager and bookseller at Waldenbooks. After the store closed, she turned to writing fiction full-time. She has written both short stories and full-length novels published by The Wild Rose Press, including her newest book, The Pirate’s Lady, and her historical paranormal romance series, The Merriweather Witches. Tricia is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives in the Pennsylvania coal region with her musician husband, their 4 young children and 3 rescued cats.

Working at a bookstore would be one of my greatest joys and probably my biggest downfall – all my wages would go to buying books. What does your family think of your writing? Have they read your work?

My husband and children all encourage me to keep writing, but then rarely give me the opportunity! I’m envious of those writer friends of mine who have families who cook and clean so they can go write. That doesn’t happen in my house! I’ve been a writer for longer than I’ve been a wife or a mother, so none of them are really impressed. It’s just something that I’ve been doing for as long as they remember. My husband is very selective with his reading and the romance genre isn’t his type of book. Although, I am his favorite author whose books he’s never read!

Yup, same here. None of my boys or my hubby have read my books, but they’re great fans. Where do you write? Describe your writing space.

I’d love to say that I have an office where I can close the door and escape each day to write, but my house isn’t big enough for that. I can’t even claim the closet! No, my writing space is typically the sofa in the living room. I have a laptop that I keep on the end table (next to my craft box!) so it’s easily accessible. Then I can open it whenever I have a few minutes to type. These days, I usually write during my 18 month-old son’s nap time. But, there are times where I write while he’s busy playing with toys or occupied with his siblings.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, are your song choices different with each book?

Most of the time, yes, I do listen to music while I write. If the kids are all playing nicely, I’ll grab my headphones and get to typing as fast as I can because I never know how long that will last. I need the music to distract me from the noise of the kids playing or if my husband turns on the television. My typical writing music is Type O Negative. It’s dark, moody and loud which fits nicely for most of the paranormal stories that I write. Sometimes, I’ll hear a particular song which strikes me as inspirational for a story so I’ll listen to that. Right now, I’m listening to Staind for the paranormal romance I’m writing for NaNoWriMo. I listened to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack for The Pirate’s Lady. That was fun!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I’m an avid reader with an out-of-this-world TBR list that keeps growing faster than I can read. And if that’s not enough, this year I taught myself how to knit. I knit, crochet or cross-stitch while I’m watching TV. I’ve made a few baby blankets and scarves for my kids. I knitted a dress for my 6 year-old daughter and I’m currently working on a sweater for my husband. I also knitted fingerless gloves for myself for when I’m writing in the winter. My house is over 150 years old and drafty. Those gloves keep my hands toasty while I’m typing on the keyboard!

Wow, you did a great job teaching yourself to knit. I taught myself too, but never progressed beyond chair covers and little blankets for my wee dog. I’m also a voracious reader. I think most authors are. What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading Almost a Princess by Elizabeth Thornton. It’s a historical romance set in England during the Regency era. This is Book #4 of her Men from Special Branch series.

How long have you been writing and how did you decide to become a writer?

I wrote my first full-length novel when I was 15 years-old. It was during summer vacation and I was bored. I’d had an intensely vivid dream the night before, so I began writing the dream and it quickly turned into a novel. I wrote that story in a week! But, I had nothing else to do back then and it was so much fun! Before that, I’d written several short stories to entertain myself and my little brother. Basically, I’ve been writing for fun since I could pick up a pencil. The thought of publishing my stories never even crossed my mind until I took a creative writing class during my senior year of high school. The teacher had mentioned one of my story assignments to my classmates, recommending that they should read it. Really, I was such a shy kid so I was embarrassed by the attention. Later, he took me aside after class to encourage me to seek publication. He believed with a little more work, I’d be able to get my stories published. That was the beginning for me. I started reading and studying every book I could find about writing fiction.

Good for you! When did you first become published?

During the next few years after high school, I published a few poems in some poetry anthologies and won a few awards and honorable mentions for my work. Then a writer friend told me about a calls for submission for a werewolf romance anthology with The Wild Rose Press. I wrote The Witch and the Wolf and submitted it to the publisher. Although my story wasn’t selected for the anthology, the senior editor liked it so much she contracted it as a regular submission. My first romance book was published in 2010.

That’s wonderful and speaks to your writing talent! Are you a plotter or pantser?

I’ve always seen myself as a pantser, but lately I believe I’ve grown into a combination of the two. A plantster? Whenever I get a story idea, I write down as much as I can, recording every bit of information I have for the novel. It’s never a complete outline, but it’s enough to give me a bit of direction. I fill in the holes while I write and I’m often equally thrilled and appalled by the idea of what happens next? It’s kind of like I’m reading the book as I’m writing it.

Your process sounds very similar to mine. Whatever works, I say. Is it difficult or easy for you to come up with titles and character names?

Titles are not my thing! I have no clue when it comes to titles. I’ve been lucky that most of my published novels have been rather easy to name like The Pirate’s Lady. Simple. Self-explanatory. You already have an idea what the story is about just by reading the title. However, I do have a work-in-progress that is nearly complete and is still untitled. I’ve been working on this particular project for over a year and I still have no name for it. I might have to get help with that one. Character names are much easier for me. Despite the full shelf of baby name books I have in my library/dining room, the names for my characters most often pop up while I’m brainstorming the story. Sort of like the characters tell me their own names. They introduce themselves to me.

Ah, those titles. So important and so hard to nail down. Good luck with that work-in-progress. I hope the perfect title comes to you soon. When you finish writing a book, how long before you begin writing the next one?

I always have a work-in-progress at some stage. Being the kind of writer that doesn’t adhere to a strict outline, sometimes I get to a point in my story where the characters stop talking to me and I just don’t know what happens next. When that occurs, I take a break from that story and move onto something else. I hop from story to story, so I actually have about 3 stories going at the same time. When I finally finish one story, I’m already involved in another story so I don’t really wait in between my writing. I just move on to one I haven’t finished yet.

You’re very lucky that way. I can only focus on one storyline at a time, or I might accidentally end up with crossover characters, haha. Tell us about The Pirate’s Lady.

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Captain Marco Dante was captured and sentenced to hang two years ago, but he escaped before his punishment was carried out. Now he’s come back to the woman whose memory kept him alive those long months in prison. Arianne had been his grand passion, but he failed to see how much she meant to him until it was too late. Can he recapture her heart? Or has he lost her forever?

Arianne never imagined she’d see her notorious pirate lover again. Though her heart sings with joy at his return, she knows he hasn’t come back for her but for the treasure he left behind. She agrees to help him find it, but can her heart withstand one more adventure with him?

Good stuff! We’d love to read an excerpt.

“I have a life here now.”

“There’s nothing for you here. Your place is by my side. In your heart, you know ’tis true.”

She looked away, turning her gaze to the ocean’s waves pounding the beach with hypnotic rhythm. A few moments ago, she sat here, mulling over her life’s misfortunes and attempting to reach a decision about her future.

Her fate.

Arianne shook her head. “I no longer travel your path. You sail without me, my friend.”

She pushed her bare toes into the grainy sand and stood, brushing the remaining sand that clung to her petticoats. In the silence of the crashing waves, she turned and walked away.

Inside, her heart bled. Yet, she deserved no better. Her life led to this heartache. That she walked away from this man now, after all this time only confirmed it.

“Arianne, you’re coming with me.”

His serious tone warned her of his intentions. She spun to face him, unsheathing her sword in time to block his attack. The sound of metal striking metal pierced the moonlit darkness. Her ears rang with the sound.

They stood, neither moving. She stared into his eyes. “You would take me by force?”

“Never by force,” his voice lowered to a growl. “You will come willingly.” And he smiled, that knowing one she hated.

She let out a howl of outrage and swung her sword. He easily blocked. They stepped a deadly dance of striking blades, until again they were trapped by heated gazes.

Her breathing was heavy, labored, filled with excitement. She looked at his lips, wanting to taste them but knowing she dared not. Her will was never strong around him. With one touch she might lose herself and want him again for forever. But that dream would never be achievable with Marco.

With him, she’d always be alone.

“Come with me, Arianne.”

“No.”

She pushed away and again they danced. Her feet moved lightly as she sprang, her petticoats swirling with each movement though she hoped they would not entangle her legs. Her arm swung with lithe movements as she fought. She equaled him with skill and grace. Each time their swords clashed, the noise pierced her soul. That she fought him was a testament to her determination to escape his tyranny over her heart. She could not succumb to him again.

As they battled, a sheen of sweat appeared upon his brow. The exposed skin of his chest glistened in the moonlight. His arms flexed as he swung his sword. His grace, his power, his energy seduced her.

Her heart pounded. Her skin ached to touch his. The heat in her lower regions grew to a fiery inferno. She trembled.

Again, they locked blades.

They stood a moment, staring. His gaze burned into her soul. She licked the salty sweat from her upper lip, and his eyes followed the movement with utter fascination.

He pushed their swords away. With his free hand, he grabbed her shoulder, pulling her tight against his chest. Arianne tilted her head to look into his eyes. The blue depths called to her, like the ocean’s waves licking at her feet. The yearning to go to him was too great. She hadn’t the will to fight.

She does go, right? She must. 🙂 What inspired you to write about these particular characters?

I was driving to the grocery store one day when a scene flashed in my mind. A man and a woman in 18th century clothing battling with swords on a sandy beach by the ocean. The image intrigued me and soon I began asking all sorts of questions about these two people. Why were they fighting? Where were they? Who were they? What were their secrets? By the end of the day, I’d written a brief story idea about Marco and Arianne.

Don’t you love it when a story falls together like that? Is this a stand-alone story or part of a series?

At this point, The Pirate’s Lady is a stand-alone story that I felt compelled to write. I can’t promise I won’t write about one of the secondary characters down the road someday. It could eventually grow into a series, but right now I have no plans for it.

What can we expect from you after this? Which of your projects is next?

I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month again this year. I’m writing a New Adult Paranormal Romance titled Loving Boone. I don’t really have much of a description for it yet since I’m only half-way finished. I can tell you that the hero is a shapeshifter and the heroine is called home from college when trouble arises with her father.

Sounds intriguing. Where can we find you and your books on the internet? Please share your links with us.

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

The Wild Rose Press

Amazon

B&N

Thank you for visiting us today, Tricia. Best of luck with The Pirate’s Lady and all your future writing endeavors.

Breaking News!

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I’m excited to announce that Show No Weakness has been given an offer to publish. This is all in the early stages, the contract hasn’t been signed, and I don’t know if the company will also want to publish It’s Complicated, but I’m thrilled at the possibility of having my first book-baby back out there again.

I’m not sure how much editing will need to be done or how long their publishing process takes. Meanwhile, I plan to focus my energy on finishing the third book in this series, in hopes that this new publisher will be interested in all three books. Which means, posts to this blog might become sporadic. I’ll still host the occasional author, and I’ll definitely share photos and stories of my adventures, and I’ll also post relevant writing updates as they happen.

So, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be busy getting reacquainted with both my laptop (poor thing hadn’t been turned on since July and needed a zillion updates) and my story, which has been neglected far longer than that.

BICHOK:

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