Saturday, September 30, 2006

Yesterday the electricity went out. Or rather, the workers shorted our line somehow. Only half of our house has electric lights now. Last night, we cooked and ate dinner by candlelight, and had candles in the bathroom and hallway.

We live in an old house - it was built in the early 19 hundreds on the foundations of a house built in the late middle ages, which was built on the foundations of an ancient church, which was built on the site of a pagan temple and so on and so forth back to about 100 AD, when this valley was settled by Romans. Romans being what they were, they built bridges, temples, and made the roads as straight as possible, which is how we know the Romans were here. Before the Romans were the Gauls, a tribe that did not believe in writing and who thought trees and running water were sacred. But they worked with 'sky metal' (iron) and left traces of their presence.

Before the Gauls were nomadic tribes, and even before them were the ancient ancestors who hunted giant deer and woolly rhinos. This is a place for flint, and there are many stone axes and arrowheads in the local museum. So everywhere I look, there is a trace of the past. We drive on roads that were simple paths centuries ago, and the other day we took a walk down an overgrown trail that used to be the main road between our town and its neighbor, Civry. The road led to the water mill deep in the hollow, but water mills became obsolete with the advent of electricity and the mill fell to ruin, the road gradually disappeared, and no one takes that path anymore unless they are just going for a walk.

On the other side of the village square lives an old woman. She's bed-ridden and mostly senile. She thinks that it's still world war two, and that there are Germans under her bed. I used her for one of my characters in a book I'm writing. She's otherwise very spry and the nurse who comes twice a day and looks after her, says she's in great health. The war really affected the people in Europe. My mother in law was a child, but she still recalls the rationing and then making a frantic dash with her family to go from Paris to shelter in Bordeaux. My father in law's horses were all taken by the army. It was a hard time and too many suffered and died. It still casts a pall over the country. The French wear their memories of war like chains, and sometimes I feel ridiculously light and untethered compared to them. There are war memorials in every village, and the ceremonies are well attended by the whole village - children and grandparents, making their twice yearly trip to the village square to hear the mayor's speech, then the national anthem, and then the trip to the cemetery.

There is much honor and tradition here. The village I live in is old and tied to tradition, but it happily embraces the new. The mayor came rushing up to me on the street when he heard that the internet was moving to high speed. He wanted to be the first to tell me. So high speed internet and ancient Roman ruins coexist peacefully in this tiny village, where the most excitement comes when the cows get out and block the road, or when the school bus gets stuck in the mud at the hairpin turn on the tiny road leading across the plain. I like it that way. I like knowing most everyone in town, and I like getting goose eggs from one neighbor, and advice about how to plant garlic from another. It's quiet here, but it's good to look out the window and see the forest on one side, and the plowed fields on the other. Maybe it would be nice to have a little more going on, but for that, I can go to Paris.

I used to live in Paris, Lyon, and Bordeaux - too - so I'll tell you what I loved about those cities soon!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Life in France part 3

Things that drive me crazy:

There are no sidewalks here. Well, in the big cities and towns, of course. But in my town, in most of the country towns, there are no sidewalks.

For a country so in love with the bicycle - they are woefully behind in bike paths. There are no bike paths, and even in Paris, there are only a few. For bike paths, one must go to the public gardens or parks - and even then it's not sure they have them.

The drivers are mad.

The waiters are mostly obnoxious (except in the restaurant across the street from me.)

Anyone who works in the 'function publique' is obnoxious. They can't be fired, so they pretty much do as they like, which does not include work. They never work alone - always in pairs. And they do as little as possible. It is Extremely frustrating. They Never answer the phone.

The internet is still slower here than anywhere else.

French movies, books, and music is awful. There is a sort of law that says anything the French like, no one else will like, and huge best sellers in the US, for example, flop miserably here. I've only seen a couple French films I like, and only one or two musicians rock my boat (Francis Cabrel is one of them.)

Tomorrow - things I love!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Life in France part 2

When I moved here, I was 17 and just out of highschool. I'd taken one year of French in seventh grade, and knew about three words:

(hello, shit, and fall down)

It wasn't enough. Taxi drivers and French waiters took advantage of me, and I would walk down the streets in my bubble, not understanding when people spoke to me (unless it included hello, shit, or fall down...) and since the dogs in France are free to poop wherever they like and 'merde' is also used as 'Good Luck' I heard that word a lot.

The first words I learned were 'Right, left, and straight ahead'. I had a map, addresses, and I had to go from one end of Paris to the other every day on my endless round of 'Go-Sees' which is what a model does - go see the clients, the photographers, the art directors. So off I went, map in hand, and a vague notion of 'right, left, and straight ahead'.
Luckily the metro system in Paris is idiot-proof. It is Really easy to use. And it goes all over the city. I got to where I had to go with no trouble. (not too much trouble)

My big break came when I started dating a Frenchman. His English was limited, but his cousin had studied in England, and she came on most of our dates and translated. Learning the language of love while in love is perfect - and having a private tutor is even better. Things that helped the most:
Reading comic books (the French Love their comic books, and every house has a pile of 'Asterix', 'Tin-Tin', and 'Gaston LaGaffe'. )
Playing scrabble. (dictionary in hand, I beat the old ladies in the scrabble club. They let me cheat and use the dictionary. They served me tea and little lemon biscuits, and corrected my terrible grammar. Joining a scrabble club, reading comics, and dating a French man made learning French a lot of fun.
(they should think about that in school...)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Something New

I thought I'd try something new. A lot of people ask me (when I go back to the states) How I like living in France. So I will try to paint a picture of life in France for an American.
It might be fun to do it on a 'Good Things' 'Bad Things' scale.
Today I'll just tell you what struck me the most, and what was the hardest to get used to.

In France, politeness is an art form. When you walk into the post office, or into the bakery, everyone in line turns around and either smiles or says 'Bonjour Madame' (Madame because I am a Madame. If it were a guy, they'd be going 'Bonjour Monsieur'. ) And you are expected to smile and say 'Bonjour' back.
When you pay for your baguette, the boulangère (baker) will say "Merci, et bon journée!" And you are expected to say, "Merci, et bonne journée à vous!" (to which she will reply 'Merci' and this can go on for a while if you're not careful.)
When I used to live in Lyon (the capitol of Politeness in France) my neighbor would say 'Bonjour Madame' even if I had seen her already twice that day, had dined with her and her husband last evening at their apartment, and I'd just stepped into the elevator.
Bonjour Madame is infinitely more polite than just a simple 'bonjour'.
When you enter a house in France, everyone, including the children, come to the door to greet you. The children are all models of 'politess' and hold out their cheeks for kisses after saying 'bonjour'. When you go to a dinner party, you greet everyone with two kisses, (one on each cheek - but sometimes there are 4 kisses, and I never know when that applies, except some of my neighbors here are into 4 kisses and supposedly that is a country bumkin thing, and no Parisian would be caught dead kissing 4 times.
But you never kiss when you meet for the very first time, and you don't kiss the baker, no matter how many times a week you see him.
You shake hands the first time you meet. Then, as you are leaving the party, you kiss, because you have already met and shaken hands. Kissing is done without fuss - two little smacking noises in the air as you lightly press your cheeks togather. Glasses must be removed if both are wearing them. Usually the man will remove his, or if it is two women, kissing is done carefully and at a slight distance.
Men never kiss each other, but they do if they are father and son in some families, or closely related. Usually men shake hands or and pat each other on the shoulder if they are good buddies.
Men hold doors for women, pull their seats out, pour the wine (never pour your own wine at the table if you are a woman) and serve the women first. Women are pretty spoiled here. However, French women are expected to be able to cook well (my friends all cook like French chefs, which is REALLY annoying to me, lol. But I love getting invited to dinner) and they are expected to keep house perfectly (a slovenly French women is rare) and they are expected to look good at all times. (another frustrating thing - they all look like they just got out of the hairdressers, and their clothes are all ironed an and matched. They tend to wear skirts more than jeans, and have nice shoes. They tell me they can spot an American because of the frumpy shoes we wear. Huh. I am not giving up my sneakers - sorry.)
So living in France has its ups and downs, but at all times there is a polite smile (although the French waiter's will certainly be slightly supercilious)
and a cheeful 'Bonjour!' wherever you go.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I won't charge 95$

I was surprised to see one of my books is selling on Amazon for 95$!

OK - if anyone has read book one, and wants book 2 or 3, just e-mail me. I know Jacobyte books went out of business and the books are out of print - but I have doc. files that I will sell for 5$. Let me know if you want to finish the series. I won't charge 95$!

: -)

updates on the schedule

Scedule. Skedool? Skeddual?
Argh. I hate that word.

It's not the first time I've lived by such a strict schedule. When my twins came home from the hospital, they weighed 4 lbs each, and had to eat every three house around the clock. (8 bottles a day X 2 = some very frazzled parents, lol.) And my daughter is on a schedule - she was born on a schedule, I don't know where it comes from, but she's very methodical and careful with time. She loves her new watch and is never late for school. (I can remember galloping out of the house with one shoe on and the other held under my arm, my bookbag flapping, my hairbrush in hand, rubber band in my mouth, trying to catch the school bus...)
So time and I have never really gotten along.
But now that I have this brand new super-organized schedule, I have become a different person. (not really, lol.) But I am amazed that I have not yet forgotten a class, (well, yesterday, but it was because I thought it was Sunday already) and I haven't yet lost my mind. (trying to be very Zen about all this. Living by a watch is stressing me out, lol.)

And for a whole different subject -
Congratulations Beth and Bobby for your wedding, I heard it was sumptious and I wish I'd been there!
((((((((((((((((((((((((HUGS))))))))))))))))))))) from your Cuzzin!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New photo blog

I love taking pictures, so I started a new photoblog - There will be lots of photos from the countryside around here!
Bookmark if you like,

Monday, September 18, 2006

Plotzing right along

I guess when you're riding a horse you're trotting right along, and when your running you're jogging right along...and when you're writing you're plotzing right along, right?
My WIP is going very well. Merlin is now off to find someone to make him an antidote to the love potion that silly pest Kyla made him drink. Honestly - fairies have no sense of decorum. Merlin is an elf, Kyla is a fairy, and together they make sparks.
There is more to the story than that, of course, but it gets complicated, lol. Thus the plotzing along.

On the home front my fireman son Sebi has been admitted into his college of choice - the psychology school in Paris. Lucky sod. Now he has to find a place to live there. Argh. Not easy. He'll most likely become a commuter and learn the joys of public transportation - prices in the city are outrageous. We're way in the country, so it's an hour drive to his college. Well - we'll think of something.
The Other twin is in the US getting ready to go to a wedding this weekend then fly straight off to Ohio to start his 2nd year in college. *sniff* I miss him a lot.
Daughter has not given up ideas on 'How to Get a Horse'. She is driving me crazy but I must commend her persistence. Most kids would have given up by now. Three years' worth of "No absolutely Not" have not made a dent. I bet she becomes a writer. Rejection rolls off her like water off a duck's back. Quack. (or neigh, as the case may be)
No news from any proposals yet, which is just as well because I really want to finish Merlin's Song.
Anyone read Llewellyn's Song? Like? Dislike? Hmmm? JERR gave it Four Stars, yay! and a lovely review. Mommy is happy. (Yes, dammit, our books are like our babies, lol.) So it's nice when the baby gets up, toddles out the door, and is well recieved in the wide world.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Happy Sunday

On Sunday there is the traditional day of rest. It's a perfect day for long lunches and lazy conversations, and dogs sprawled comfortably on their beds.
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Changing Places & Covers

Kate pointed out that there is a book with my name where her name should be, lol.
Yes, sometimes people make mistakes. You should never believe all you read.
Here is the book I'm in, and here is the one where Kate is listed correctly. (She moonlights as Summer Devon)
I can't wait to see the covers! How can they post books for sale without the covers?
Everyone knows that you judge a book by its cover, right?
Well, check out my new cover for 'A Grand Passion'

Compared to my old cover.

That was an EC surprise for me.
They've already changed one other cover - my 'Argentine Lover' cover.
I figure as long as they're at it, they should change my Diamina cover.
What do you think?
Look at this page and tell me which covers you think EC ought to change.
I vote for:
Gladys Hawke
Storm Warnings

Any other votes?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

too much cccooooffffeeee

Yes, too much coffee this morning - or I made it really strong, lol. I can hardly sit still. Luckily there is gym class this morning so I will soon be reduced to a wet puddle on the floor, lol. Our gym teacher is terrific, but she has decided to start this year off with Energy!
I also take yoga class. I love my yoga class. I've been taking it now for three years, and I really look forward to it. It gets the kinks out of my back and leaves my body feeling relaxed and supple (and I am NOT supple, believe me. I stare at my toes and wonder if I'll ever be able to touch them, lol) But yoga and gym are a nice balance.
Someone was blogging about balance today - how to balance writing and family - health and work - yin and yang...and I have to admit I don't really think about it. Like most people, I guess I just tackle each day as it comes and try to do my best with it. But looking closer, I discovered that I have been creating a sort of balance in my life. My schedule is pretty full (and I just got another student for Wednesdays) but I have spaced it out so there is enough free time in between so I can write. And my gym class balances my sedentary life as a writer, and my yoga class balances my sore gym muscles and soothes me.
And coffee wakes me up!!
It's time for gym!
Hurrah for coffee!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rummage Sale

OK, I'm wiped out, lol. I was up yesterday at 5:45 when I heard Andrea come in the front gate and start getting our stand ready (where does she get that energy???) So I staggered down to help, broke a glass, and sent myself inside to make coffee (much more productive than trying to help Andrea who has everything under control - and can somehow see in the dark!) At 6 a.m. there were already people walking around with flashlights buying stuff. One stole Andrea's fax machine. Argh. It was dark, and the fax machine was in a black bag. Oh well. By 7 we were all set and drinking coffee and nibbling brioche. The sun was coming up, and everything was bustling as the last vendors arrived and set up their stands.

(Here is a picture of me (green) Andrea, and Lynne early in the morning - it was still chilly.)
The kids got up around 9 and set up their stand in my front garden. They organized themselves - there were five girls selling, so one would go out on the street and hold a sign pointing to our house, where another sign said "Everything for Sale!" I got several offers for the house.

(here is a view from the house looking out past the kids' stands to the street)

By 11 we decided it was time for a little apperatif, so I got some pinot (sweet wine, sort of like port, from the Charente region of France) from a stand and we had a glass of that. Then I went around the stands and bought:
Smoked ham
(The bread and brioche stand right next to ours)
and made lunch for everyone. Andrea bought some chilled rosé wine to go with that. Then it was more sales until 4, and we needed more coffee.
At 5 we decided pinot was more fun than coffee.
At 6 we were getting ready to pack everything up and clean up the mess.
It was fun.
I counted the kids and adults we had at the house yesterday and came up with 10 kids and 6 adults. Plus two dogs. Can't wait for next year! (and I even have some pinot left over!)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The village rummage sale

We're having the village rummage sale on Sunday - from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. the entire village is closed off for traffic and there are stands everywhere selling junk, antiques, and more junk, lol. It's a mad house - my house is right on the village square. I reserved 6 meters in front of my house - so I invited lots of friends and their kids, I'm leaving the house open, and we'll sit, hopefully sell some things, drink wine, and keep dogs and children from running out the front gate, lol.
PRAY that the weather is nice!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Advice and Such

I was cruising around the web (I know, you're supposed to say surfing) and I came across some advice on how to write a novel. It amazed me. Here were well-known published authors giving away wonderful advice. Actually, as Jay Lake said so well, it's not advice, it's experience. And I thought it was interesting to read the different takes on writing novels. Justine Larbalestier has her advice here, and Elizabeth Bear (how cool can you get?) has advice here.

Apparently, it all boils down to coffee, determination to see it through, and a system for organizing plots and thoughts. The coffee and determination are the same, give or take a little milk & sugar, but the systems for organizing plots and thoughts differ widely. One writer's outline is another writer's poison. (or writer's block, as the case may be!) So what does that say about your own writing?

Mine varies; I use outlines or not (right now I'm working on three books. One from an outline, one from a detailed synopsis, and one from a one sentence blurb.) I have never used charts or cards, if I have an outline I never use it as a rigid structure, but rather as a suggestion of how the book should flow, and if I work from a detailed synopsis, you can be sure the whole thing will change until the finished work has little to do with the synopsis at the beginning, lol.
What helps me most is a time frame (I think it's because of my dyslexia) and a map is always a plus; I love devising a map for my books. But time sometimes gets loopy and I have to be careful not to have overlapping actions. Character descriptions don't worry me. I picture the hero and heroine so clearly it's like their photos are in front of me. But I will write Dave in one page and Don on the next, so I'm always checking to make sure Dave doesn't become Don. (right now I have a Kyla, and I have to make sure She doesn't become a He.

I'd like to say that I write fast, but I don't. I have revision-itis. I have to go back and re-read everything and revise what I've written before plowing on, so I do a lot of reading. On the plus side, I figure if I don't get bored reading the darn thing over and over, hopefully my readers will stay enthralled, lol.
One way to make a book go faster is to cure yourself of revision-itis and just leap into writing. I do that once a year in November when I join the NanoWrimo, a really fun way to write a novel in a month! (or at least 50,000 words)
How do you get motivated and what systems help you the most??

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I have a schedule (gasp!)

I'm working two part time jobs this year - and no, two part times don't make a whole, lol, and it only adds up to about twelve hours a week of real work. The rest of the time I get to write, which is lucky as I have three dealines for this month, and a translating job sitting on my desk that I stare at every once and a while and sort of shudder. Well, not shudder exactly, but I think I'll take a couple aspirin before I start - there are a lot of technical and colloquial phrases in it.
SO, I printed up some handy-dandy schedule sheets, another two calendars (remember how obsessed I am with calendats, lol) and I have made myself a schedule.
It might not seem like such a big deal to you, but I have dyslexia, and time, numbers, right, and left have no meaning to me. Left on my own, I probably would not eat and sleep but rather just keep going until I keeled over.
Last year, the village put in a clock on the church tower and now the bells ring the hour - and that's incredibly helpful. So I am finding ways of scheduling my days, and my life is now regimented like a soldier's. Hup-two! Wake up at 7, jogging at 8, shower at 9, work until 12, lunch and housework until 2, work until 4:30, part time job until 6:30, then dinner, kids, and more work on deadlines until 11p.m.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays that all changes, my other part-time job kicks in, and on Tuesdays and Thurdays the jogging is replaced by gym.
On Sunday she rested and didn't get out of bed.

Monday, September 04, 2006


OK, I admit. I sent a query and first page to Miss Snark for her Crapometer.
I wasn't sure how it worked, never having participated in a crapometer before, but let me tell you - I got GREAT feedback.
She doesn't pull her punches, but she gave me some excellent advice.
And so I'd like to say THANK YOU MISS SNARK for giving so much of your time and energy in helping us struggling writers. Because it's ture - no matter how many books you publish it's always a struggle to write. It's a struggle to start a new book, to outline (what I'm thrashing through right now - two outlines for my agent) & wrap everything up in a satisfying ending.
It's very hard to craft a first page that will hook the reader and make him want to keep reading.
Miss Snark might be snarky, she's also terrific. And if I knew who she was, I'd send her a pail of gin.
Now I don't know the politics of a crapometer, so I'm not telling which number my entry was, lol. Can you guess?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

My bright and shiny new blog!

I love my new blog look - thank you Daisy Mae for fixing this up for me!!!
(if you want a bright and shiny new blog look, click on Daisy's link on the side bar - she's got some great designs!)

It's early Sunday morning. Today I'm heading into Paris to meet some friends. I'm going to spend the day there and then we'll all meet my husband for dinner somewhere. My friends have mostly come in for the 'pret a porter' show here in Paris - two of my friends are buyers and one has a stand, so I'm going to go check it out.
I'm not a fashion victim - like I said before, I buy most of my clothes from Ye Olde Thrifte Shoppe - but my friends don't get to Paris often and I want to see them!!!
Maybe I'll even see some clothes I like, lol.
My husband said to my daughter the other day "Your mom doesn't care what she puts on in the morning."
I overheard that and wasn't sure if he was vexed about having a wife who jumped out of bed and grabbed whatever was on top of the laundry pile, or if he liked having a wife that didn't spend an hour every morning trying to decide what to wear.
I went to Catholic school and wore a uniform - and I loved not having to think about what to wear. I believe I grew out of being fashion-conscious in school. Never having to worry about what I was wearing or what anyone else wore was very liberating for a teen, honest.
My daughter announced her school was going to make the students wear a uniform - and she was thrilled. She agrees with me about the advantages of a uniform (she's not a teen yet - of course she agrees with me) but I was happy to hear that. Too many girls in my daughter's class dress like - well - provocative doesn't begine to describe it. I'm sure you've seen the sexy barbie look - well, it scares me. I don't know what the mothers are thinking.
I think the uniform will be more along the lines of a suggestion here - like navy blue pants, white shirts, and navy pullovers, for example. I'll be interested to see.
What do you think about uniforms for school?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Bhopal Disaster

The person I detest the most today:
Warren Anderson ( )

I saw a documentary about Bhopal and was horrified. How can anything so dreadful happen and a company like Union Carbide be left to continue blithely on its way? I have to find out what Union Carbide manufactures so I can completely boycott it. I will not be affiliated with such horror.
And the worst is going to the Union Carbide site where it tries to explain the horror by claiming it was sabotage, and that the Indian authorities are well aware of the identity of the employee and the nature of the evidence against him; in essense, saying the Indian government is protecting one person responsible for the deaths of over 10,000! Does that make sense? No. And the truth is that a faulty, untested joint had been sent to the factory for the workers to use, and that joint was the cause of the disaster.
"Twenty years after the Bhopal tragedy, Dow Chemical continues to deny responsibility and is still producing some of the world's most deadly chemicals. Today, we are supporting the call for Dow to be held accountable for the devastation that the Bhopal disaster inflicted," says Corporate Accountability International Campaigns Director Patti Lynn.

For more information:

Friday, September 01, 2006

New Year

It's September!
Yes, and vacation is over. Quite honestly, this is one summer I'm glad to put behind me. I'm starting a new year.
I have always used September as a starting point in the year. Some people use Jan. 1st (for some strange reason) and even others keep the 'olde' ways and start the year off in April, while a good many people in China have their new year February. But for some reason it seemed right to me to start the year in September.
When I was little, that was the month I began a new school year and had crisp new notebooks, sharp yellow pencils that hadn't faded to stubs, pens with ink in them, and even new shoes and clothes. September I walked down the driveway to catch the bus and my bookbag (smelling of new plastic) full of notebooks with nothing doodled on their virgin pages, my new shoes a little stiff, my new sweater a little scratchy, and my new haircut a disaster as usual. My lunchbox was even shiny and new, with no scratches, and my thermos still intact. (The thermos never lasted long.)
I'd walk up our long drive, past the fields where the corn was harvested and only tattered stalks remained, past the barn where potatoes were being sorted and sacked, and past the migrant workers sheds. I'd pass the white trailer where the farmer's son and his new wife lived.
At the bus stop there would be a crowd of kids in September. The migrant workers hadn't moved on yet, so their kids started school with us. I'd know them, having played with them all summer, and we'd compare new lunchboxes and shoes, and stand in a wiggley line as the bus drove up, lights flashing.
The air was dusty and smelled like newly dug potatoes and goldenrod, and the first fall leaves would crackle underfoot. We'd hurry to board the bus, our hearts pounding, wondering who our new teacher would be, and if our best friend would be in our class. The driver would hollar for us to sit down and be quiet, and I'd press my forehead against the window and hope this new school year would be wonderful.
Most people see autumn as the end of the year. But I always thought of it as a new beginning.
What is the beginning to your year?