Wednesday, January 30, 2013

She Likes It!

In December, I had a giveaway of my novel The Summer of France. Jacqui at French Village Diaries won the book. She finished reading and wrote a review on her blog post today.
I hope you'll stop by and take a look at her kind words. And, maybe leave a message so I don't feel like I'm all alone in the publishing/blogging world. Hello? Echo, echo.
Jacqui also think did a bang-up job summarizing my book.  I may have to hire her on as a query letter writer or a back cover writer.
If you still haven't read my book and  you're a member of Goodreads, you can sign up to win a paperback copy in another giveaway. Just click to enter. The contest goes through Feb. 15. I'd also love to be your friend on Goodreads if you want to add me.
And, as an added bonus, here's a photo from Provence, the little village of Arles.

Earl and I stayed in Arles one night during our Provence bike trip. This is the Cafe Van Gogh. Love the color of the buildings and the chairs. Wish I were sitting there in the sun, having a glass of wine with all of you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

First Paragraph, Teaser Tuesday -- Amalfi Blue

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
I started reading Amalfi Blue: lost & found in the south of Italy by Lisa Fantino after a positive recommendation by a friend. I'm not too sure about it yet. See what you think. Here's the intro:
Today is Tuesday April 3, 2012. It's my third day here and it's a bit isolating and lonely. The apartment is lovely and I can stare out my window at yards of lemon and orange groves but I don't know a soul except business contacts.
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's my teaser from page 62 (42%):
The change in our relationship was palpable. I went to grab him and not let him go and although he hugged back, he gave me one of those Italian kisses on two cheeks, bestowed on everyone, including people they don't like.
What do you think?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Book and Movie


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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
This week, I finished reading a book set in France and watched a French movie.
I can't recommend the book too highly.
The book, A Chateau in Provence by Charles Wood, was such a strange title. The book truly had nothing to do with a chateau, but I thought the premise was fun. Some Americans vacationing in France get caught up in intrigue over a painting stolen by the Nazis and never returned. As a matter of fact, my own novel, The Summer of France, deals with some Nazi-stolen art as well, so, of course, I thought the idea was great. In spite of the good plot, the characters were not fleshed out enough so the reader could relate to them, and some basic editing would have helped the book. Also, when writing with a different language included, like French, it's always a good idea to check and re-check to get it right. Since I'm an English teacher, some basic punctuation issues, like misplaced commas, bugged me too.
Here's an excerpt from the book on page 63:
He tried the knob. he not only hadn't closed the door, he hadn't even locked it. He pushed it open and went to the side of the bed, knelt on one knee and reached his hand into the area between mattress and spring and felt the comforting bulk of his wallet. He felt relieved. 
The next thing Sam felt was an immense explosion in the back of his head followed by brilliant firewords behind his eyes. The room spun and tilted sidewise. His consciousness slipped away like a medieval ghost gliding out the door.

The book skipped back and forth from different characters points of view and the reader didn't get a chance to know any of them enough to really care about them.
This also counts toward the meme Books on France 2013 at Words and Peace.  I've vowed to read 12 books set in France and this is my second. It counts even if I'm not crazy about it, right?

We also watched a French movie Saturday evening -- Tous les Matins du Monde with Gerard DePardieu. The film was based on the life of the composer Sainte Colombe. It tells the story of the eccentric composer in mourning for the wife who dies young. He refuses to play at court
because he feels the music is more important than recognition from the king. The composer is left to raise two young daughters, and he teaches them both to play the cello as well. Then a young man, Marin Marais, comes to learn the cello from Sainte Colombe and one of the daughters falls for him. It's this young man who later becomes the DePardieu character.
Like many French movies, this one leaves a lot of questions. The opening defintely made me uncomfortable. Probably the first 15 minutes was a close-up shot on Depardieu as he began to tell his story. I just wanted to look away, but I had to keep looking to read the English translation.
The movie did hold my attention through the end even though I was very tired. And some things seems so French, like the daughter pulling her breast out of her blouse to offer herself to Marais. Or the line about the daughters growing up and that they now had to wear a pad between their legs because they bled monthly. I just thought that was something that wouldn't have been voiced in an American film. Maybe we're too squeamish, or maybe it's obvious.
The music throughout the film was lovely and full of emotion.
The movie took me to 17th century France for a short time, although the life seemed hard and fairly joyless. The composer took joy only in the moments that the ghost of his wife appeared to him, and (spoiler alert) the daughter dies young as well. The reviews of this on Amazon are breathless, so I suppose I should assume I didn't gather the true meaning.
Enjoyable, not a "must see."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Sunrise

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
The color in the sky this month has been lovely. Here's a sunrise over the Columbus skyline taken from my front porch.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Trailer

Please take a minute to view my book trailer -- it's like a movie trailer, but about my novel The Summer of France instead.
Well, it makes me want to read it again. I hope it convinces everyone else. If you enjoy it, will you like it on youtube?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Books on France -- French Illusions


Books on FranceThis year, I signed up to read 12 books set in France at the Books on France challenge held by Emma at Words and Peace. The first book I've finished for this challenge is French Illusions, which is a memoir, by Linda Kovic-Skow.
This was an enjoyable book that takes the reader to 1979 France and let's us see a French family through her eyes.
Kovic-Skow ended up going to France as an au pair because she wanted to learn French so she could become a flight attendant. But in order to get the job as an au pair, she had to pretend to speak French. It sounds like a vicious circle. So 22-year-old Kovic-Skow faked her French test and was hired by a well-off French family. That did not get her au pair experience off to a great start. The French family considered sending her home but in the end let her stay. She grew close with two of the children she cared for but did not get along with the mother of the family.
She also got to attend some classes in Tours and meet other young people around the world.
The story definitely engaged me as I hurried to find out how her au pair experience turned out.
Here's an excerpt from her dinner with the family's in-laws:
Soon Maurice brought in the next course, two large salads, one with crunchy lettuce and duck giblets and another featuring lettuce with truffles and walnut oil. An extravagant cheese board and French bread followed.
Throughout most of the meal, I felt ignored until Monsieur Dubois turned to me and asked a surprising question. "What do you think of Monsieur Carter? Many of us in France are amazed you elected him president."
"I really don't follow politics. I'm sorry. I wish I had more to say." My cheeks warmed, and I felt embarrassed  by my response. At that time in my young life, I knew very little about affairs of state.
Monsieur Dubois shrugged and turned to his father-in-law, muttering a few words before they exploded in laughter.
I remember those feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy as I sat through many dinners with a French family when I was an au pair.
In spite of some of the author's difficulties, I'll admit to being jealous of some of Kovic-Skow's opportunities. I didn't get any days off when I was an au pair. But she was required to do things I hadn't dreamed of, like make homemade yogurt.
At the end of the book, I would have liked some more details about how her time in France turned out. But maybe that will be another book.
The book is available on Kindle at Amazon for only 99 cents.

Teenage Maladies


This morning, while it was still dark, I walked into my son's bedroom laden with medicines.
Ibuprofen for the pain. A huge pink antibiotic. A bottle of "magic mouthwash" for throat pain. A bottle of cough syrup laced with codeine and decongestant.
Spencer has been sick since Saturday. Sick sick.
He went with some friends to spend the weekend at Ohio University. OU is known across the nation for it's parties, but Spencer did not get to enjoy the parties. He got sick right away. He sat on a couch, half conscious until one of the OU boys took pity on him and walked him back to the dorm room. He slept on the futon in a sweaty fever and arrived back home the next morning.
We doused him with ibuprofen and Sudafed and sent him to bed. We thought it was a cold.
He got progressively worse through the day. We decided he might have the flu. His whole body hurt. When he was awake, he bemoaned that he couldn't live like this. He's not prone to drama, so I planned to take him to the doctor on Monday, but I didn't count on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The doctor's office was closed.
I knew that he could take Tamiflu to shorten the flu if I could get him in within 48 hours. The pharmacist encouraged me to call the emergency number at the doctor. "That's what they're there for," she said.
So I called and one of the doctors would be in the office for a couple of hours. I took Spence in.
He was so miserable. All he had done was sleep for two days. He sat in the office with his head in his hands, his skin a chalky color, his breathing through his mouth shallow.
The doctor was one we hadn't seen before. She commented on his swollen lymph nodes and checked his liver. She wouldn't give him Tamiflu without a flu test.
Have you had a flu test? It involves a cotton swab on the end of a 7-inch long stick. The swab goes up and up into the nostril. It ended with a nose bleed for Spencer.
"Just a virus," the doctor said. Then she gave us a blood test for mononucleosis the next day and sent us on our way.
Spence just moaned.
An hour later, the doctor's office called. Spence had a check up the Wednesday before and our regular doctor had checked him for strep, but the rapid test came back negative. After we left the office, the doctor checked the follow-up strep test. Yep, it was positive.
So he's been on antibiotics since Monday and he's starting to believe that he might make it through. Yesterday, he managed to sit up and play Xbox for a little while. He even managed to yell at the TV a few times.
I think he's on the road to recovery. He'd better be. It's back to college next week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- A Chateau in Provence

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
If you've read my blog at all, you'll know that a book titled A Chateau in Provence by Charles Wood would catch my attention. I had just finished another book set in France that I
enjoyed, so I was searching for a new read to download, because I was stranded with technology. If I had been on my computer, I would have read the reviews before I downloaded it and might not have bought it. I'm on page 66 of 183 and am on the fence about finishing. See what you think:
Sam Baker had looked forward to this moment since dawn -- ten hours and fifteen miles ago. That's when he had given in to the persistent nagging of his alarm clock and with Herculean effort coaxed his still aching feet from the warm bed and stuffed them back into his soaked hiking boots.
 
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's my teaser from page 63:
The next thing Sam felt was an immense explosion in the back of his head followed by brilliant fireworks behind his eyes. The room spun and tilted sidewise. His consciousness slipped away like a medieval ghost gliding out the door.
What are you reading?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Chambord in Loire Valley


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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
In May 1991, Earl and I visited France together for the first time. We visited friends and toured some castles in the Loire Valley. Here are the photos from Chambord.
From the lower level, Isabelle and I looked up at the chateau.
Here's Earl and Agnes on the famous spiral staircase.
Here's a closer shot of some of the details.
And even more elaborate details.
Before finally, the shot of the entire castle. Look at the sky. What a day.
 
I hope you'll play along. Leave your link and a comment. 


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Chocolates

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

This fall, a chocolate shop opened in my small town, just a mile from my house. It's almost enough to not make me long for France.
The cases are full of lots of truffles. Some of the chocolates have flat tops with interesting designs.
 
The owner is a friendly man who is usually in the back room making chocolates when I show up. Big windows look into the "chocolate kitchen" so he sees me and comes out to the shop.
If he is working on something new, he might give me a free sample!
The other day, my husband was in our little downtown with some cash in his  pocket, so he stopped and bought me four truffles. I think I'll keep a husband like that.
When the chocolatier places the chocolates in a box, he carefully arranges them so the box has an artful look. I've sent chocolates to my mother and my grandmother. Watching the chocolatier pack the boxes is almost as much fun as eating them. Almost.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Casual Vacancy -- A Review

Well, I did it. I finished all 503 pages of J.K. Rowling's first adult  novel, The Casual Vacancy.
If I rated books out of 5 stars, I'd give this one 3 stars. The first 100 pages were deadly dull and confusing with all the unrelated characters. As the characters came together, the plot moved along more quickly.
People who've read the Harry Potter series might think Rowling didn't veer that far from her original series with this book. Some of the main characters are two teenage boys (one of whom is an orphan who was adopted) and two teenage girls. They're all unhappy with their lives and find ways to get back at their parents.
But the main focus of the book was truly income and education inequality. One of the characters is a crass, poor teenage girl with a drug-addicted mom. The girl is made more lovable with her devotion to her toddler brother.
The middle and upper class characters have these fake worries in their life, like who will win the open seat on the town council, while the poor characters struggle to survive. The teenagers are self-absorbed and cruel.
Rowling's book did not become preachy, but perhaps it was her effort to avoid preachiness that caused it to be devoid of emotions. A good book should make the reader feel many things. This one didn't, even as tragedies unfolded at the end.
Although the book didn't evoke emotions, it did make me think more about what the middle and upper classes owe the struggling lower class. Rowling lived a life on the British equivalent of welfare, so she understands the differences between surviving and thriving. Here, she makes a point of showing us that the poor live a very different lifestyle, one that most middle-class people judge and can't begin to imagine.
If I saw a kid drowning, I would definitely save him. Shouldn't I reach out to those kids who I might not see drowning, but who are still struggling in a different kind of river?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Running Away

In the three novels I've written, the main characters all run away to try to solve their problems.
This week, I wish I were a character in my novels.
I'm fighting the urge to run away.
I know it's ridiculous...it's just that I'm so tired.
That sounds even more ludicrous if you knew that I woke up at 4 a.m. before finally getting up at 4:30, knowing I couldn't go back to sleep.
But I'm tired of worrying about paying for college.
I'm tired of trying to direct my teenagers down the right path when they keep taking left turns.
I'm tired of arguing with my teenagers about their choices.
I'm even tired of walking in the bathroom and seeing that the tissue box, which is supposed to sit on the back of the toilet tank is gone -- again!! Someone (a teenager?) confiscates the tissue box, smuggling it back to his/her room.
This week, I know that a check for about $1700 is coming our way. And I know that I should pay college bills and buy new tires for both cars. That is the sensible thing to do with the money.
But I can't help dreaming of taking that money and running away -- traveling somewhere, anywhere -- and leaving my worries behind.
Do you think they would follow me and be compounded by my guilt?
I can imagine myself on a beach in Florida.

Or maybe I could look out at the Mediterranean from a beach in Corsica.
Or maybe I could go sit in a cafe in Paris and just watch the people to forget about my worries.
 
What if you were getting some surprise money? Where would you run away too?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- The Flaneur

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
As I start back to teaching classes today, this little book is perfect to put in my bookbag in case I have spare time to read and want to escape to Paris with The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White. I love the cover with the photo of the fountain (is that Luxemburg Gardens?) and the drawings of the chairs. I can feel those chairs waiting for the Parisians who will fill them on the first sunny day. Here's the intro:
Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zurich a backwater.

If I didn't already want to read this book, the intro would not lure me.

Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's my teaser from page 34:
Paris is a world meant to be seen by the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail. The loiterer, the flaneur, has a long distinguished pedigree in France.
I'm looking forward to this stroll through Paris, since I can't visit in person until I finish sending my kids to college.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dreaming of France -- French Illusions memoir


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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
I'm always on the lookout for fun books and especially books set in France.
Emma at Words and Peace blog alerted me to a new book about an American au pair in France.

Of course, since I've written 25,000 words of my own non-fiction account as a nanny in France, I had to read this one.
I'm only a couple of chapters into reading this memoir, which is called French Illusions. The author, Linda Kovic-Skow, tells the story from the late 1970s when she wanted to be a flight attendant and was turned down because she didn't speak another language. She determined to learn French by going to France as an au pair. Of course, she pretended she already spoke French to get the job as an au pair.
I'll let you know what I think when I finish.
I'm looking forward to your Dreaming of France posts today.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Author Talk

A few months ago, Clay, a fellow teacher invited me to speak to his writer's group.
I agreed and didn't worry too much about it, until he included me in the email to the group. The email said they would schedule about an hour for me to talk.
Gulp.
Me? Talk for an hour about anything? Nothing?
I was suddenly nervous.
I emailed my author friends and asked them -- what do I talk about?
But I needn't have worried. The group was supportive, welcoming and curious.
It wasn't at all like me speaking to them or lecturing them. It felt more like a group discussion. During my part of the agenda, I brought up some points and everyone shared their thoughts on it. Sometimes the discussion veered off the road, but we generally got things back on track.
One thing I had planned to do was read from my novel, The Summer of France. Afterall, publishing the novel was got me an invitation to the group.
Although I talked about the novel, where the idea came from and how it evolved, I never actually read from it.
Have I told you that story?
My book started out with the idea of a couple escaping from their everyday life to run a bed and breakfast in Mackinac Island, Michigan. If you haven't visited Mackinac Island, you should. It's an island that's reachable by boat and doesn't allow cars. It's full of horses and carriages, along with bicycles. And it's famous for its fudge.
My husband and I even went to stay in a house that might be turned into a bed and breakfast. I was going to call the novel, Fudge Ho!
So that idea evolved into a novel about an Ohio woman, Fia, and her family who go to Provence, France to run a bed and breakfast for the Fia's great uncle. The great uncle married a Frenchwoman after World War II, but he is hiding from a war secret.
As you can tell, the idea changed quite a bit, but I'm thrilled with the results. If you haven't read it yet, I hope you will.
You can buy it in ebook form or paperback on Amazon. The Summer of France.
The discussion yesterday didn't focus only on my novel though. We tackled the tough subjects like the state of the publishing industry.
I left feeling invigorated and supported, plus the group bought five of my paperbacks that I'd taken along.
The next time I'm invited to speak, I'll definitely feel less anxious.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Babies

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Earl's nieces have been giving us a baby boom recently. And luckily, one of them moved just a few minutes away. Last weekend we got to visit with six-month-old Regan. Here she is hanging upside down.
 
Earl's other niece just had a baby on Dec. 21. And we hadn't seen the new baby yet, but finally he was released to the family last weekend. From the expression on his face, I can tell that Grant doesn't think it's a good idea. He is very concerned at two weeks old.

Friday, January 11, 2013

End of Vacation

Tonight, my long vacation comes to an end.
I finished teaching and submitted grades on Dec. 22. Since then, I have been lollygagging -- as far as work goes. I've read and watched too much TV. I've worked out and visited with family. I've harangued my kids and I'm sure they've wished I'd go back to work.
Classes started again Monday for one of the colleges where I teach, but I didn't actually have to show up until today -- my Friday night class. So, although I've communicated with people online, I hadn't faced students, turning on my entertaining teacher face.
Here's something surprising -- I get less done when I'm off work than when I work.
I do less housework.
I cook dinner less often.
I'm basically pretty unmotivated when I'm off work.
But everyone needs some down time, so I'm going to accept my laziness. No, I'm going to embrace my laziness.
I had some family life stress over my vacation; Maybe lying around rather than accomplishing things is what I needed to bounce back and become an A-personality professor and author.
I hope everyone had a chance to relax, even if you didn't get to a beach or ski lodge or didn't get time off work, like we college professors did.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

When to Put a Book Down

Reading can be tricky.
I won't keep reading a book that doesn't interest me. There are too many other good books out there.
So my first 100 pages of J.K. Rowling's novel The Casual Vacancy plodded past. Because the book wasn't interesting, I wasn't compelled to pick it up in my few spare minutes. Because I didn't pick it up at every opportunity, each time I had to try to remember who this character was or who that character was. There are lots of characters and none of them is the protagonist. None of them is the one character you are pulling for or rooting against.
In addition to lots of characters, the book didn't evoke any emotion in me. It was dull.
So why didn't I stop it?
I made the mistake of looking at the Amazon reviews. It has bad and good reviews. The bad reviews, unfortunately, said intellectual things like, "This book sucks." or "What a waste of time." The good reviews, of course, went into detail about how this is a great saga and that just because it is difficult reading does not mean that  the reader should put it down. The good reviewers were claiming that the rest of us were lightweights.
So I determined to keep reading, even if I don't like it. Maybe I'll change my mind by the time I get to the end, or maybe I won't, but I'll be able to give an honest review of it.
What I think so far is that editors are too bowled over by Rowling's fame to tell her to tighten her writing at the beginning of the book.
How about you? How far do  you read before giving up on a book? Or are you one of those who never gives up? You'll read to the end no matter what.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- The Casual Vacancy

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
I'm reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.
Has everyone already read the intro?
Here it is:
Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.


Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's my teaser from page 73:
The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, was being ashamed of what they were; lying about it, trying to be somebody else.
 
What do you think? Have you read it? Do you plan to? Should I keep going? On page 93 now and it is a bit of a struggle to keep all the characters straight and to figure out who I should be rooting for.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Dreaming of France -- The Camargue



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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
On one of our trips to France, we visited the Camargue. We didn't explore as much as I would have liked, hiking the trails in search of flamingoes that stop there on their migration, but we did see some wild horses.
The wild horses in the Camargue are born brown then turn white. Here's a mother and foal.
We also saw the Camargue cowboys riding the white horses and coralling a bull through the streets. Here are a couple of shots from that exciting experience. Again, something that wouldn't happen in the United States because we would worry about someone suing if the bull got loose.
I would love to stay at a bed and breakfast in the Camargue and explore it leisurely. It's on my some day list.
 
.

Remembrances

My Aunt Marie, dressed in blue, her hair a faded honey color that reached nearly to her shoulders, stood watching her 12 adult grandchildren get their photograph taken.
"Do you want to get in there and have your picture taken with them?" I asked her.
"I guess," she said and took a few steps toward them. Then she stopped.
"No," she blinked away tears. "It's too sad without Dad."
We were at the dinner following her husband's funeral.
My Uncle Clarence died New Year's morning in his sleep. He hadn't been sick. His oldest son thinks he knew he was getting ready to go: "He always said he wanted to go on the back of a tractor and he ran that thing pretty hard the last forty-eight hours."
One of my other aunts asked Marie how old she was when they married 66 years before.
"I was one month shy of my 17th birthday," she said.
In Kentucky, where they lived, she had to be 17 or get her parents' permission to marry.
"My parents wouldn't sign," she said. "They liked Clarence just fine but thought I was too young to know what I was doing."
So her cousin forged the signature, and Clarence married Marie, and they were together for 66 years until Tuesday morning when she found him still in bed at 8 a.m. He had watched the celebration of the New Year before dying in his sleep.
During the funeral, I was sitting behind my Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim has one daughter and one granddaughter. So when the preacher read the list of survivors for Uncle Clarence -- four children, 16 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren -- Uncle Jim exclaimed, "Lawd Al-mighty!"
Uncle Clarence was in the Navy during World War II, so soldiers stood by the gravesite and gave a 21-gun salute. A sailor was there to play "Taps."
When I wrote my novel The Summer of France, I based one of the characters on my uncles' war stories. The character Uncle Martin was a Kentucky boy who jumped in to join the war effort. I even dedicated the book to my uncles.

My Mother in the center. Uncle Albert is on the far right with Uncle Junior next to him.

But I never gave Uncle Clarence a copy before he died. I took copies yesterday for Uncle Junior, 91, and Uncle Albert, 80,  who are still healthy. I wanted to make sure they knew they had inspired me. And I gave a copy to one of Clarence's daughters. So many of us have older relatives that we take for granted. Don't wait until it's too late to gather their stories.
You never know when  you may need a story to draw on, and all of that wisdom is just waiting to be shared.  

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Shoveling Snow

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
We had a lot of snow after Christmas, and when I went out to shovel one day, my daughter ventured as far as the couch to take a photo of me.


 
This break was the perfect time for it to snow, since I didn't have to be anywhere. I could just enjoy the beauty of the snow, although, I'm still annoyed at the people who don't shovel their walks. It's treacherous to try to walk anywhere as the snow has been packed down to ice.
I look forward to seeing everyone else's Saturday Snapshots.


Friday, January 04, 2013

Review -- Farewell, Dorothy Parker

Truthfully, I haven't read a lot of Dorothy Parker. I've only read her pithy quotes, but who wouldn't fall in love with those?
"If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you."
or
"This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it."
or
"You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think."
Her words are like fine chocolates that shouldn't be gorged on, but instead tasted and savored individually or they could lead to a stomachache.
Author Ellen Meister, in her new book Farewell, Dorothy Parker, brings Parker to life as a mentor from death to her timid character Violet Epps. Violet is a movie critic with big opinions who can't seem to speak up for herself in her own life.
At the beginning, I didn't like Violet very much. She stood in front of a maitre'd and was overlooked without a peep. That bugged me. She didn't have the gumption to break up with her mooching boyfriend. In fact, not very much about Violet was likeable. Luckily, she was immediately plunged into interacting with Dorothy Parker. Violet meets Parker when she's asked to sign the Algonquin Hotel guestbook. Somehow, she ends up taking the guestbook home only to learn that Parker's ghost is attached to it. That's how Dorothy Parker ends up in Violet's house on long-term loan, ready to give advice and prod Violet into having a backbone.
I would have to say the first part of this novel dragged a bit, but then it captured me and I finished it in one afternoon.
Meister, of course, had to channel Dorothy Parker in order to portray her wit, and I think she did quite well. Here's a passage in the book that made me chuckle. Violet is showing the ghost Dorothy Parker how computers work and allowing her to write an email. The Parker character speaks first:
"In my day, cc stood for carbon copy."
"Now it stands for nothing."
"Like your politicians..."

When Violet learns that she can carry the guestbook around allowing the ghost of Dorothy Parker to travel with her, the two of them encounter a neighbor going for a run and Parker asks if Candy, the neighbor, knows of a nearby smokeshop:
Candy blinked. "Smoke shop?" she said again. 
Mrs. Parker shrugged. "Vile habit. I used to say, 'I'll quit when I die,' but it turns out even that was harder than I thought."
Meister imagines a Parker who would banter about her current state -- dead.

An entire novel can't be built around a few clever phrases though, and Meister didn't rely on the presence of Parker alone. Her character was in a situation where if she didn't grow a backbone, she was going to lose things she loved, like her job and the care of her niece. So Parker's appearance was fortuitous in helping the character change her life.
And, in turn, Violet helped Parker face things that she might be avoiding after death, the idea of crossing over to be with loved ones. The novel deals with Parker's painful childhood and whether her mother, who died before she turned five, would love her in the afterlife. Meister could have stayed on the surface and dealt only with the wisecracking Parker, but she dug into some of the true emotions that the larger-than-life woman might have dealt with.
This is definitely a book worth picking up.
I received an ARC from Putnam to review the book and the quotes may change in the final version. The free book didn't slant my review. The book will be available in February and can currently be pre-ordered on Amazon.
I enjoyed this novel and was a little bereft at the end when I had to close the book on the characters.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2013, I'm Ready For You

What can I say?
An inauspicious beginning to 2013, but I'm sure things will begin to look up from here.
My Uncle Clarence died on Jan. 1, 2013. He's my mother's second oldest brother. In his 80s, he was slim, his hair still dark, and he had a high, southern, tenor voice. Yesterday, he watched the ball drop at midnight, went to bed about 12:30 then his wife couldn't wake him up the next morning. He hadn't been sick.
Uncle Clarence told me stories about fighting in World War II when I asked him. He showed me a huge certificate he got in the Navy when they crossed the International Date Line. His younger brother, who fought in the Korean War, got a tiny billfold sized certificate. It's funny that they both carried those with them. The big certificate was in an envelope in the car.
But some less dire things happened on the first day of the new year too.
For New Year's, we let Tucker, 16, have a gathering. He refused to call it a party. But there were a lot of kids here. Earl and I camped out at the neighbors, coming over every hour or so to check on the party.
Sometimes a cat is the only comfort.
Tucker promised to control things and he had a miserable time, which is to be expected. He explained that at one point, giving up, he took the cat and lay on his bed. He couldn't wait for everyone to go home.
At 12:15, he shot over to the neighbor's house to get the car keys and drive home a friend.
"Don't you want to wait til everyone leaves?" I asked him.
"Nope," he said.
Grace and her friends had returned and were shuffling teenagers out of the house.
"Does everyone have rides home? Anyone need a ride?" Earl and I asked. We aren't stupid about teenagers and alcohol.
After everyone left, Grace said the toilet in the downstairs bathroom was broken. I figured it was either clogged or the handle had come unhooked from the mechanism in the toilet tank.
Nope.
The toilet tank was empty of any water and had a big hole in the bottom of it. How does someone put a hole in a porcelain toilet tank?
Luckily, whoever did it, knew to turn off the water to the toilet so it didn't flood the whole house. Also, the towels in the bathroom were lying in a wet heap where someone had cleaned up the water overflow.
So whoever broke the toilet was very responsible. Someone also left money on top of the toilet tank and more cash in the mailbox.
Earl spent January 1 driving to Home Depot and buying a new toilet tank. He installed it and had moved on to shoveling the neighbor's driveway by mid-morning.
And those were just some of the activities that started my New Year.
How bout you?