Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Playtime in France

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.
Labor Day weekend, when many of us have an extra day off work, is a perfect time to think about playing, but in France, they play very differently than we do. I'm talking about boules, of course, known as petanque in the south of France. I can't think of a sport in the United States that happens in the center of town and that people can join when they show up. Maybe the tradition of playing boules is similar to joining a game of pool  or darts in a bar or finding a game chess at one of those big New York City parks. Still, it's intriguing to think of people coming together, whether friends or strangers, each day to play a minimally athletic game.
My husband snapped some pictures of a game last time he was in Paris.
Do they have to stand in the circle when they throw?
Here's a close up of one of the balls in the dusty court. 
And here's a shot of the whole field or court, or whatever they call it. Lots of action going on here.
Have you ever played boules? I don't see many women playing it.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France today. I hope you'll visit each others blogs to see other moments in France.
I'll try to be more active on my blog this week. I have so many posts I think about writing but just haven't sat down to do it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Publishing Snafus

Update: If you read this post on Friday or after, you can see the tizzy that I had worked myself into. I had very little sleep that day, waking up at 2:30 a.m. and staying up until midnight to try to make the necessary changes. At 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, I was finally able to update my novel Trail Mix. It isn't perfect yet because the proofreader hasn't finished, so I'll be making more changes. I hate to have a release without a polished product, but soon it should be where I need it.
Thanks to everyone for your support. Where would I be without you?

So it's 3:30 a.m. and I'm awake in the dark staring at a blinding computer screen.
I've made a publishing mistake and I can feel it gnawing at my stomach. Rookie mistake, I know, but with my third novel coming out, can I really consider myself a rookie. From all the evidence, yes.
I fell for Amazon's pre-order pitch and I put my unformatted novel in place of the one that I was correcting. I knew I could go back and add the perfectly edited, perfectly formatted novel to Amazon, so that the readers who pre-ordered, would get the book I wanted them to have.
That's when trouble began.
My editor, who I love, is dealing with health issues. The date she would have changes to me kept getting pushed back. Yesterday was  my final edit day, and  my proofread novel did not arrive.
So when my eyes popped open at 2:30 a.m. and I tried to go back to sleep, I knew I'd have to get up to see what I could salvage.
I went to Amazon to change the release date for my new novel, and saw, to my horror, that no more changes could be made to the book until it was released.
I've paced the floor back and forth, the wood boards squeaking underneath my bare feet. I've pulled my tangled hair back into a pony tail, holding it with my fist before I release it -- that's as close as I come to pulling my hair out -- I've sat in front of the bright screen and wondered how to make this better.
The only place I publicized my pre-order novel was on my blog, so maybe some of you ordered it. If you did, don't open whatever is delivered to you on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
I promise a much improved, slicker product will arrive by Monday.
I just feel like I'm letting people down, people who enjoy my novels, and, yes, there are some!
I have a long day ahead of me, teaching at 8 a.m, driving one of my college boys back to school after his doctor appointment and getting him there in time for his 3 p.m. Italian class. Then the 90-minute drive back home alone, where I beat myself up about my mistakes.
And tomorrow night at 12:01 a.m., I'll be in front of the computer again, ready to pull the book off Amazon so that I can replace it with the polished novel that readers deserve
Thanks for listening to my middle of the night rant.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Paragraph -- The Church of Tango

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 am reading The Church of Tango by Cherie Magnus for France Book Tours. I'll post a review of this memoir in October. Here's the intro:
It was February, 1992, when I stood in my raincoat with my two suitcases in front of a locked courtyard gate in the 9th arrondissement. The airport taxi vanished, leaving me alone on the deserted street. The digicode I had brought from Los Angeles didn't unlock the big double doors of the eighteenth-century apartment building. What am I doing here? I wondered in a moment of panic. Am I completely crazy after a year of widowhood.
 What do you think?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Magic in the Moonlight

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.
I knew that Woody Allen had a new movie coming out, but I had no idea that it was set in the south of France until my friend Greg texted and told me that I should see Magic in the Moonlight.
I'm not a big Woody Allen fan, but I loved Midnight in Paris. I figured that, like me, Allen might have fallen in love with France. Maybe the culture helped him to relax a little and make his movies less neurotic.
Magic in the Moonlight is a far cry from some of Allen's insular New York movies with hysterical characters that obsess about small details. So maybe living in France has mellowed Allen.
The movie stars Colin Firth and Emma Stone -- two actors whose work I really enjoy. Firth plays Stanley Crawford, a famous magician. He travels to the south of France with a magician friend who requests his help unmasking a spiritualist. I think this part of the movie must have been based on Harry Houdini, who was a magician and who fought with spiritualists; spiritualists are people who claim to be able to speak to the dead.
Emma Stone plays the spiritualist character, Sophie Baker, a young woman from Kalamazoo, Michigan, traveling Europe with her mother, reading people's vibrations and talking to the dead. She is staying with a wealthy family from Pittsburgh, and the heir has fallen in love with her. Stanley's job is to unmask Sophie and break the spell.
As you can imagine, Stanley is a man committed to logic who doesn't believe in a spiritual life at all, and he becomes intrigued with Sophie's ability.
This film moved a little slowly. It didn't sweep me away the way Midnight in Paris did. I never forgot that I saw in the cinema with greasy buttered popcorn on the tips of my fingers.
The scenes set along the Cote d'Azur were lovely; the water sparkled more than Sophie's engagement ring.  Stanley's aunt lived in Provence, so the movie ventured there a few times. Although not much of Provence was visible, the feeling of Provence permeated. The light in the film helps remind you why artists like Van Gogh travel there to paint.
I don't regret seeing the movie, although it dragged a bit. I love France enough that I'll take any little gulps of it I can get.
But if you can only see one movie set in France this fall, I'd go with The Hundred Foot Journey.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Snapshot -- Book Cover

I'm sharing a snapshot that friend took, which almost became a book cover for my new novel Trail Mix.
The book is about two friends who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail as the ultimate diet plan as their lives are in flux -- kids going off to college, jobs and relationships changing. They aren't sure who they are anymore.
I love the hazy blue mountains in this picture and the way my friend Noreen looks so awed by the mountains. She's also very authentic with her bed pad and her walking pole.
But in the end, I went for a more polished picture for the cover.
What do you think? It's available now for pre-order on Amazon for Kindle. Hopefully the paperback will be up there soon too. 
Here's the blurb:
How does a woman know what she wants after spending 20 years thinking about her husband and children? Sometimes it takes an escape from everyday life, time to examine the forest before the trees become clear. With no previous camping experience, Andi and Jess begin the 2100-mile odyssey from Georgia to Maine. The friends figure life on the trail can't possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens home from college, and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives. At the very least, the women are bound to return home thin.
Looking forward to seeing all your Saturday Snapshots too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The College Race

I'm ignoring my blog this week as I rush to get my boys ready for college. Yesterday morning, I was just shaking my head. The boys might be feeling a little angst, but that is not translating into getting prepared. I made a list for them and told them to go to the store. They couldn't find the car keys. Tucker remembered having them the night before at a celebration. He immediately got on his phone and started texting to see if anyone had seen the keys. I told the boys to take the other car to the store. They left then a minute later reappeared. They had forgotten the list and the gift card they were supposed to use at the store.
New shoes are a necessity.
This kind of thing went on all day with just flustered activity here and there. We had a steak dinner and I planned it for 6 because Earl was supposed to be at a meeting at 7. But, he didn't get home from work in time to join us. We figured no big deal since Spencer is only going to be an hour and a half awainstead of a thousand miles away. I take Spencer down to college today so he can go through orientation. Then Tucker moves in tomorrow. The hectic will be replaced by an eerie quiet, I suspect. Hope you all are having peaceful weeks.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Arles

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.
My internet is acting up this weekend, so I'm writing most of this post on my phone. I'm borrowing a photo from my friend, Leah, who traveled to France this summer for the World Cup.
Leah stayed in Arles and took some beautiful photos of Les Arenes, a Roman amphitheater. 

And here's an artistic shot from within the arena. 

Leah also watched some bull games in Arles. The bullfighters tried to snatch the ribbons off the bulls' horns. The bulls weren't injured, but some of the bullfighters were in danger.

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please visit each other's pages to get more France infusions.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Snapshot -- White Water Rafting

One more picture of my sons and husband on their white water rafting trip.
This is a picture that they paid for as they were rafting down the river.
Spencer looks like a brute with his paddle in the air, while Tucker and Earl look like they're doing all the work.
Terrific picture of all of them, including the guide on the back.
Apparently, at one point, Tucker was flipped off the back of the raft and caught in a hydraulic. The guide reached in his paddle and helped pull him out. Since Tucker has been a swimmer year-round for 10 years and made it to the State swim meet this year, I figure he could have swum his way out, but what do I know about white-water rafting.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Restful Sleep

First, shameless self promotion: my novel The Summer of France is only 99 cents on Kindle today, both in the U.S. and the U.K.
Here's a review that was posted yesterday on Amazon by someone who calls herself  "crazy for reading"
Loved this story! I stayed up till after midnight each night reading it after my family went to bed. So many twists and turns I didn't want to quit.
If you haven't read it, hope you'll give it a try.
Today, my family will gather again, five adults in our small house, for another week before my sons head off to college next week. (Grace is in and out since she has an apartment about 20 minutes away.)
But on the first night that I spent home alone since...forever maybe, I went to bed and did not wake  up for seven hours, until the cat jumped on me at 6 a.m.
Some people think that sleep is only disrupted while kids are babies, but I can tell you that teenagers disrupt sleep even more.
Here's Tucker in his portable hammock. He looks kind of bored.
In my house, someone is pretty much always awake and rambling around the house. They come in at different hours. They're searching for food at 3 in the morning. The television in the living room may be too loud. The floors squeak, the toilet flushes.
I cannot remember the last time that I went to sleep and was oblivious to everything until the next morning.
It was beautiful.
Of course, part of that restful sleep might have to do with the fact that I knew the boys were with their father camping, rather than on a college campus, where they might or might not find trouble. So I may not sleep so peacefully once they've moved to college.
I'd better enjoy them while I can!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Don't tell anyone, but I have a day to myself.
I have work to do, but I don't have to go to work.
I might spend the day writing or reading books or swinging in the hammock as the sunny day hovers around 75 degrees today.
The kids in the neighborhood started school today. They start early so the high schoolers can finish the semester at Christmas.

My guys have headed out to go white-water rafting. It was an effort for them to get out the door. Husband urging them to get out of bed, gathering sleeping bags, the right shoes, light-weight jackets for the rafting trip. A coffee run.
One last trip to the store for a can of gas to heat the cookstove. And finally.
The car pulled away.
The boys let our house cat roam free as they prepared for the trip, so I had to track him down before the car pulled away. I held him and stood by the garage. When the car started to move, he dug his claws into my collar bones. Just a reminder of why he isn't an outdoor cat. He's petrified by cars.
As they pulled away, I pushed the button to close the garage door. The cat's claws dug into my other collar bone.
Now, the house is serene, plus fairly clean. So I can relax and do nothing or everything.
I know what you all are thinking: after next week, when my boys have gone to college, I'll be longing for the noise and the bustle.
Maybe. But it might take a few weeks before I'm anxious for those boys who stay up late, sleep in late, use three towels a day, eat constantly, to return home.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

First Paragraph -- Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

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.
Maeve Binchy has taken me to Ireland so many times. Finding this posthumously published book thrilled me Chestnut Street. Here's the intro.
so I could take one more trip. I'm currently lost in her many working class stories in the book
It was all the harder because her mother had been so beautiful. If only Dolly's mother had been a round, bunlike woman, or a small wrinkled person, it might have been easier for Dolly, this business of growing up. But no, there were no consolations on that score. Mother was tall and willowy and had a smile that made other people smile too and a laugh that caused strangers to look up with pleasure. Mother always knew what to say and said it; Mother wore long lilac silk scarves so elegantly they seemed to flow with her when she walked. If dolly tried to wear a scarf, either it looked like a bandage or else she got mistaken for a football fan. If you were square and solid and without color or grace, it was sometimes easy to hate Mother. 
 This book is a series of short stories all connected to Chestnut Street. Sometimes the characters appear in each other's stories, but most the time they stand alone.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dreaming of France -- The Hundred Foot Journey (The 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
We went with some friends to see The Hundred Foot Journey on Saturday evening. This is opening weekend here in the U.S., so that was pretty early for me to venture out to the theater.
I'm going to admit that I never got through the book, but I was seduced by the trailers and by the fact that the movie showed beautiful French countryside and was filmed in the village where Sally, my blogging friend, lives.
My overall reaction -- I loved it. I'd go again  just to sit there and soak in the sights, imagine the smells, the sound of French rushing past my ears. The movie had no subtitles, but much of it was in English. English was a common language between the Indian family and the villagers.
Often, the words were spoken in French then someone repeated them in English or part of what they said was translated so it became obvious as to the meaning.
The movie rushes through the beginning part that is set in India, showing the love of the family for each other as they create food in their own restaurant, before the political difficulties that led to them being driven from their restaurant and their mother dying. Sad, they plan to search Europe for a place to start a new restaurant. Their brakes fail in Southwestern France, and that's where they set up, just across the street from a Michelin-star restaurant run by Helen Mirren's character. A rivalry ensues.
Some of my favorite scenes showed the rivalry increasing as the Indian cooks prepared for their restaurant opening, cutting vegetables and meat to Indian music, which quickly segued into the classic French chefs chopping vegetables to classical music.
Hassan, the Indian chef, is handsome and charming, entranced by French cuisine and a young French chef, Marguerite. I thought Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon,  was winsome and sincere, trying to help the Indian family, yet jealous of Hassan's success.
The scenes set in St. Antonin felt truly French, even though I know they included false store fronts. The long shots of the village nestled in a valley were breathtaking. I'm not sure if the faraway shots were of Sally's village or not, but I'm sure she'll let us know when she sees the movie. In France, the movie doesn't come out until September.
My husband had read the book, and he told me there was a lot more sex. The movie barely whispered of sex, A scene of Marguerite and Hassan with rumpled clothing, although romance bloomed throughout.
Any criticisms of the movie? As much as I love Helen Mirren in this role, maybe they should have chosen a French actress. Even Charlotte Le Bon is Canadian rather than French. I wonder if her French accent sounds Canadian to the French. And I wonder how Mirren's French and her accent sound to the French too.
This movie is probably too American for the French, but what can we say: We Americans love a happy ending, a lesson learned, a conflict resolved.
Thanks for playing along today with Dreaming of France. Please visit each other's blog so that you can have even more experiences in the country we love. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Bright and Dark

I have been woefully absent from my blog. Finishing up a semester at one college, teaching four nights a week at another, preparing two boys to go to one college while my daughter goes back and forth from her apartment at another college.
Today, I'm attending a funeral of my running friends Noreen, sometimes called Stephanie. You may recall that Noreen is the one who dealt with breast cancer by running, and running circles around us.
Noreen's mother died last week of cancer as well. My friend Pam and I will drive two and a  half hours to support Noreen, cause that's what friends do.
I'm wearing a coral colored dress because Noreen asked everyone to wear orange and black in support of her mother's favorite high school. I don't have orange, so coral will have to do.
So here's a picture of some sunflowers from our community garden. Hope you all have a terrific weekend.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

France Book Tours -- France on the Brink

Today, for France Book Tours, my husband Earl is doing a guest blog post. He loves history and he has become a bit of a Francophile thanks to my influence, so this book seemed perfect for him. Here's what he thinks of France on the Brink by Jonathan Fenby.
Author Jonanthan Fenby writes that the problem with the French is “They cling to the past and present, but want a different future.”
After reading Fenby’s On The Brink, it’s clear that even a Frenchman, or anyone intimately acquainted with the Hexagon’s politics and history, would nod in agreement.
“Brink” begins as a political science textbook but it’s soon apparent the author is preparing you to try to understand a “very special place.” 
What is clear is that whether Socialist, Communist or conservative, each political flavor proffered a unique solution to rising debt and  unemployment and  the loss of French culture, whatever trait or tradition was under assault, all crumble in the face of routine strikes and a fickle public quick to call for change, any change
The revolving door of governments through the five republics is dizzying to the reader.
Understand that this is a country where the best minds aspire not to medicine or engineering, but to  the Ecole Nationale d’Administration to be a public administrator (not to be confused with ‘public servant’), only to realize that their learning seldom translates into practical and efficient governance.
The betrayal of its Jewish people in World War II and current resentment of immigrants that has fueled the rising success of the ultra-conservative National Front taints the egalitarian banner of the Revolution
However, it’s clear to the reader that Fenby, who has spent most of his life living in and/or writing about France, loves the place. He is the counselor who holds a mirror to the misbehaving country with a black eye because it is worth saving.
Despite politicians who ruled as a job for life, the Great War that decimated the male population, and an inflated opinion of their role on the global stage, the French are a very special people.
Their Paris is the city of museums and leading vacation destination in the world. Their villages, although many practically depopulated, are the lovely remnants of its agricultural past and post card to the world.
But the French need a new vision, Fenby writes. Its leaders must stand up to protests and street action that takes “precedence over legislative action and diverge from the opinion of a 19th-century politician who said, “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”
If you love France, you may pity the French or fear for them after reading this book. If you don’t, it will only reinforce your disdain for their haughty view of themselves.
But just remember, France has been on the brink for a long time, kept from tipping over only by the innate strength of the French people.
 If only they would learn a new lesson. Such a great country deserves that opportunity.

Synopsis from the publisher
France on the Brink was chosen as a New York Times book of the year and hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “a comprehensive and entertaining diagnosis of what ails French society” when the first edition was published at the turn of the century. Since then, the crisis enveloping France has only worsened, and this second edition, completely revamped to cover the developments of the past fifteen years, offers a fresh assessment of where the nation stands. New chapters chart political developments under Presidents Chirac, Sarkozy, and Hollande; the rise of the hard right National Front; and the unrelenting economic woes that have led to unprecedented levels of disillusion and fragmentation. In this new edition, Fenby offers a loving though candid and unvarnished picture of the nation, contrasting its glorious past with current realities.[provided by the publisher]

About the author:
Jonathan Fenby  reported from France for a variety of newspapers, including the Economist, Christian Science Monitor, Times of London, Guardian, and London Observer. Married to a Frenchwoman, he was, to his surprise, made a Chevalier of the French Order of Merit in 1990. He is also the author of acclaimed biographies of Charles de Gaulle and Chiang Kai-shek, among other works. He lives in England.

Follow him on Twitter | Goodreads

If you're in the U.S. or Canada, you can enter to win a print copy of this book. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Colorful Nice

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.
Last week I blogged about the rich blue of the water and the reflections in Nice. This week, I'm sharing with you some other colors.
These photos were taken by my friend Leah when she went to Nice in June. Leah's an artist and I'm sure she'll soon be capturing these colors in her artwork. Here's her Etsy page and her Facebook page.
Here's a shot down the street outside their apartment in Old Town, Vieux Nice.
Don't you just love the array of colors and how they all seem to fit?
But someone always has to step outside the accepted colors, like the owner of this door.
What do you think? Like it or too far from the color scheme?
I wish I had the opportunity to walk the streets and see all of these building. I can't wait to see what you all are dreaming about today.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...