Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Cheese Shops

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Americans sometimes imagine cheese as flat slices of yellow wrapped in plastic. But the image of cheese is changing here in the United States. We have larger cheese selections in the grocery stores, but we still have nothing that compares to cheese shops in France.
Here's a photo from a cheese shop in Nantes, France. 
From the street it only takes up a smidgen of space, but look how long and full of varieties of cheese it is. Along the top shelf, you can see some cheese houses. The French leave their cheeses out of the refrigerator, so they need a way to keep the flies off. 
The cheesemonger is even wearing a beret. How stereo-typically French is that?
Thanks for playing along today with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll all visit each other's posts to see more France pictures or learn about books and movies. 

France Book Tours -- Taking The Cross

Today, my husband Earl is writing a review of Taking the Cross by Charles Gibson for France Book Tours. 
Click the banner to see the entire tour for Taking the Cross and to follow the author's social media.

The back cover of author Charles Gibson’s latest work says he has written for an “inspirational book series.” With that notice and a title such as “Taking the Cross” the reader might think Gibson’s book is a proselytizing piece of historical fiction.
Fortunately, Gibson’s interest in history wins out in a well-written account of sacrifice in the face of religious intolerance.
Early in the 13th century, Pope Innocent III wanted to solidify the Catholic Church’s hold on Christendom. In that era that meant converting heretics — basically anyone, including Christian sects — who didn't follow Rome’s interpretation of Catholicism. Failing that, there was always the crusader’s sword.
The setting is the Languedoc region of southern France, at that time an area where nobility tolerated various reformist religious strains, including some that would be considered New Age or humanist today.
The fictional hero is Andreas, a knight who has fought Rome’s wars in the Holy Land and is now the protector of Raimon Roger Trencavel, a historical figure who was viscount of Carcassonne, Albi and Beziers. Trencavel was loyal to the Church of Rome but also believes the Albigensians and
Waldensians, who viewed poverty as the way to perfection.
To eliminate the Protestant threat, the pope sends his “warring hosts” into the region to convert or kill. Raimon Roger seeks a meeting with the papal legate commander to avoid bloodshed but is refused.
The ensuing massacre of entire cities — an estimated 20,000 in Beziers alone — begins 20 years of back and forth battles that depopulates much of the Occitan region.
The suspense and action of battle will give the hardiest reader of war stories the shivers. The violence is graphic but not gratuitous and is true to the age.
Andreas, Raimon Roger and their loyal knights, all who fought for Rome, now sacrifice much in their attempts to protect those considered heretics by their church. Throughout the book they adhere to “paratge,” whose exact definition the reader is left to surmise but whose adherents say go beyond honor and chivalry.
Andreas and other characters experience mystical dreams that portend danger and are dreams of the world to come. Some dream scenes are overly long and only when well into the book was it translucently vague to this reader do they portray good and evil, heavenly and satanic.
Gibson describes a region and crisis of France probably unfamiliar to most readers; it’s a different look at a country and age all too familiar. The characters have substance, whether a heroic night or a young woman in a new religious order trying to learn the secret of a letter from her father.
Over-explanation of some heraldic terms can be forgiven considering the complex thoughts threaded through the book. The writing is above par and well-researched but could a finer editing touch – some time transitions are jarring and descriptions are repeated too close together.
Overall, this Taking the Cross has several satisfying personalities: a tale of heroism in battle, a spiritual travelogue through time, or an historical look at one of France’s lesser known regions.
About the Author:
Charles Gibson first started reading about history and geography when he was seven. He
wrote his first short story at the age of nine. He continues to read and write whenever he can. Charles has spent many years researching the Middle Ages and the Crusades, and has traveled to the Languedoc region in France. He has combined the passions of history and geography and prose to finish his first novel, Taking the Cross. It takes place during the summer of 1209 in France. Charles Gibson has previously written for the inspirational book series God Allows U-Turns as well as for a Minnesota newspaper.
He also works as a project manager for a medical device company. He also loves travel writing,
and would like to start his own magazine some day about travel as a journey through life.The dominant theme of his writing is freedom. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
He lives in Minnesota with his lovely wife and energetic sons. He can be reached at cg [at] charlesgibson [dot] net

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter , Google + Enter to win a print copy of this book. Open to anyone in the U.S. or internationally.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Snapshot and A More Somber Subject

Today, I would like nothing more than to merely post a photo of the leaves turning brilliant colors. I was afraid the  leaves were simply going to fall off without changing, but I was wrong.
Here are a couple of trees near my house. The leaves have turned an orangish red that looks almost pink in some lights.

But my thoughts are on a more somber subject.
This week, I found out one of my college students died. "Passed away" was the wording they used in the email I received.
Elisha (pronounced like the Biblical prophet) was in my class this summer and again this fall. (Two different classes.) He was tall and slim. He loved football and planned to try out for a spot as a running back in the National Football League, even though he didn't make the team in college.
He came to my class after two years at another college. I was surprised that his writing was full of run-on sentences. We sat together that second class and read through his writing. I taught him that he paused naturally where the sentences needed punctuation. We kept working on it throughout the semester.
He finished class early, completing all of the work for the course before the end. And he moved on to the next class in September, which I also taught.
A few weeks ago, I asked him what was going on. "You aren't getting all the work done ahead of time like last semester."
He shook his head and promised to do better.
I didn't know what was going on with Elisha. I didn't understand then that this 20-year-old guy had started hanging out with a new crowd.
I didn't know that until I saw the newspaper story.
The story began by saying Elisha's parents filed a missing person's report when he didn't come home Saturday morning. He always came home. It was not in his nature to stay out all night.
I have a son the same age as Elisha, and he had stayed out all night the weekend before when he came home from college. I texted and called him until he finally responded that he had spent the night at his friend's house.
So immediately, I felt a kinship with Elisha's parents. Here we are trying to raise our sons past this tricky phase of life when they think they're independent but they're still making some very questionable choices.
My son has gotten himself into some trouble, but his choices haden't ended him where Elisha's choices did.
Elisha was with three other guys when two of them went into a store and robbed it. A SWAT team was waiting for them, and two of the guys were killed. Elisha was one of those.
I don't know if Elisha was a robber or if he was in the car. I don't know if he had a gun.
I do know, from the news story, that he had never been in trouble before, only traffic tickets.
Yes, he did make an awful choice, and that choice ended his life.
I just wonder how many times boys make decisions that bring them to the brink of death, that allow them to slip past narrowly.
I want to reassure Elisha's parents, that I believe he was a good kid who made some bad decisions at the end. But when I picture going to the funeral, I'm afraid they might have an open casket, and I keep picturing the slim shoulders of this boy sitting in my classroom.
And then it's only a tiny step to imagine that my own boys are squeaking past bad choices. No, they aren't tempted to rob stores or commit other crimes, but they all make stupid decisions.
I don't want to dismiss what Elisha and his friends did.
I just think 20 year olds don't think very far ahead; they don't see the consequences.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mulling Over Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year, but I've had some new insights into this season in the past few weeks.
My phone didn't capture a very good photo
of the eclipse. It looked pretty full each time.
I go for a run early in the morning while it is still dark, and October had barely begun before I started to feel the morning get a little creepy. Only a few leaves had fallen, but I could hear them, their dried carcasses scuttling along the street as the autumn wind blew. I knew it was only fallen leaves blowing, but I understood why Halloween was scheduled in October.
Then last week came the lunar eclipse, which was an awesome thing.
When I headed out the door around 5:15, the eclipse hadn't officially begun. The moon looked bright and round. I chased it for nearly an hour, watching as a bigger and bigger bite was chomped from the circle.
Finally, only a sliver remained, like a sideways Cheshire cat grin.
Before I turned my back on the moon to head indoors the moon had become a faint round glow. It was supposed to look red, but barely stood out against the dark sky.
I wondered what early people thought on one of those mornings when the dry leaves skittered across the ground like so many unseen creatures and suddenly the moon began to disappear. No wonder they would make sacrifices and call out to unknown gods. That stuff is scary.
This week as I ran, accustomed to the darkness and now careful of the leaves on the ground, which had become wet and slippery, I got to see Halloween decorations that my overzealous town inhabitants have draped their houses with. Orange lights are very popular, as are spider webs looking like clouds that landed in people's bushes.
Part of my run in down around a cul de sac. It's one of the more isolated sections of my run, and a street light along there seems to go dark every time I run past. It's like one of those motion detector lights, but it apparently goes out whenever I run near.
So I was concentrating on the dark street when I noticed to my left someone walking in a front yard. The person carried a flashlight and wore a long white gown. I couldn't really see the person's face but got the impression he/she wore a hat.
I wasn't too startled. I frequently see newspaper delivery people walking along the yards. It wasn't until I came back to that same road about half an hour later  and the sun shone bright enough that I saw two "ghosts" flapping in the
wind and I began to wonder if the person I saw out in they yard had been trying to scare me by acting like a ghost too.
But I wasn't scared because ghosts don't carry flashlights, and I didn't even see the pumpkin-headed ghosts waving on their clothesline.
So my autumn is full of new and possibly scary things, but I spent my summer sitting on the couch recovering from a foot injury, so I know that even scarier than running in the dark in the early morning, is doing nothing and growing out of shape.
So here's a photo of the brighter side of life from a walk I took with my friend Sheila. The fallen leaves, wet now, but still coloring the sidewalk like so much confetti.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Montmartre

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

As much as I love visiting many parts of France, I can't get over the excitement of Paris.
And I love going to Montmartre so all of Paris is spread out at my feet.
This is such a clean shot of Sacre Coeur. It looks pristine and artsy doesn't it?

Earl and I are on the steps in front of Sacre Coeur. He's so tall, you can't really see Paris spread out behind us, but take my word for it that it is there in all its glory. 
I hope you'll visit each other's websites to see more glimpses of France and know you aren't the only one dreaming of France.

France Booktours -- The Sharp Hook of Love

Click on the picture to be linked to the entire tour for 
The Sharp Hook of Love along with the author's social media sites.
Tackling a true-life love story can be daunting. After all, people who are familiar with the story already know how it ends, and this one, the story of Heloise and Abelard in Medieval France, does not have a happily-ever-after ending. Yet author Sherry Jones paints an intricate and delicate portrait of the historical characters in her novel The Sharp Hook of Love. The characters' love, confusion and fear feel contemporary rather than Middle Ages.
Heloise is a strong female character at a time when women were not expected to think for themselves. She is highly educated in the hopes that she can become the abbess of a nearby convent. But her studies take her into the path of Pierre Abelard and her focus changes from academia to passion.
I can't imagine the amount of research and the leap of imagination it took for Jones to bring these historical characters to life.

Quietly, so as not to awaken my uncle or Jean, we crept down the stairs and out the front door to confront the mysteries of the planets and wheeling stars, the moon hanging low like ripe fruit on a branch. He led me across the street and through the vineyards to the river. I followed him to the bank's edge, tiptoeing over my misgivings. What did he intend for me out here, shielded by the vines from everyone's view? In the moon's orange glow I could see dark shapes all along the bank, couples lying in each other's arms or strolling beside the churning deep. Breezes soughed across the swift-moving waters, edging the night with chill. I rubbed my arms, wishing that I had brought a blanket or cotte. 
Can't you almost feel it?
If you enjoy historical romances, I think you don't want to miss this one.
Make sure you enter the giveaway below.

“To forbid the fruit only sweetens its flavor”
Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.
But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the NĂ´tre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.
Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.  [provided by the author]
Enter the giveaway for a print copy in the U.S. or an ebook copy internationally.