Lucky Friday the 13th!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

It’s Friday the 13th! Thought by some to bring bad luck, to me it’s always a date for good news because one of my sons was born on that date. Today, this Friday the 13th, brought me a different type of good news.

Drawing Lessons will be on sale in Australia beginning Monday. I  thought I would check my book stats on Amazon.com.au and I came across this lovely review. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this food for my writer’s soul.

I loved writing Drawing Lessons but I find it my most difficult novel to promote because of the sad beginning. I know I try to avoid it.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Simply gorgeous
ByBella  TOP 500 REVIEWER  on 2 February 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Wow. What an astonishingly touching story! I love how poetically this author writes. There was so much heart, so much beauty in this story. From the saddest situation imaginable grew something truly divine. So refreshing to read something that managed to paint such colourful images without being overly descriptive, and so wonderful to read something that blended all different kinds of people of all ages so beautifully. An absolute triumph from Patricia Sands.

If you have friends in Australia, please share this with them. Here’s the link in Amazon.com.au.

And the blurb:

The author of the Love in Provence series returns to the South of France with a poignant portrait of a woman who must learn how to create a new life for herself…

Sixty-two-year-old Arianna arrives in the South of France for a two-week artists’ workshop full of anticipation but burdened by guilt. Back home in Toronto, she has been living with the devastating diagnosis of her husband’s dementia and the heartbreak of watching the man she has loved for decades slip away before her eyes. What does her future hold without Ben? Before her is a blank canvas.

Encouraged by her family to take some time for herself, she has traveled to Arles to set up her easel in the same fields of poppies and sunflowers that inspired Van Gogh. Gradually, she rediscovers the inner artist she abandoned long ago. Drawing strength from the warm companionship and gentle wisdom of her fellow artists at the retreat—as well as the vitality of guest lecturer Jacques de Villeneuve, an artist and a cowboy—Arianna searches her heart for permission to embrace the life in front of her and, like the sunflowers, once again face the light.

Set in and around the intriguing town of Arles and down into the fascinating Camargue, the story also has the spirit of Vincent van Gogh woven into the pages.

Much of my research was conducted here in the peacefully beautiful setting of the monastery of St. Paul de Mausole, an easy walk outside St. Remy-de-Provence. Vincent admitted himself here in May 1889 for treatment. He found a certain degree of peace and acceptance from the health practitioners and his creativity flourished in between his psychotic episodes. Inspired by the light and beauty of the surrounding landscapes he built on his prodigious period in Arles (during the previous 18 months), producing some of his best work.

He remained for a year before leaving for Auvers-sur-Oise to live closer to his brother, Theo. Sadly, he died two months later.

It was here that I also observed visiting artists finding their own inspiration, surrounded by the aura of Vincent. Magic.

Travel without packing or passports …

Sharing my post this week from Women Writers, Women’s Books FB page, on the importance of location in the novels I write. What are some of the favourite locations from books you have read?

Location! Location! Location!

April 7, 2018 | By

This may sound like an intro for a real estate ad, but not this time. Rather it’s an intro to considering the importance of location in stories. The sense of ‘place’ is often vital to the heart of a novel and, speaking from a personal perspective, it’s absolutely essential to the stories I want to share with readers.

My first novel, The Bridge Club, is set in Canada with locations ranging from the pastoral Eastern Townships of Quebec to the stunning Coast Mountains in British Columbia. When I wrote it, I was focussed more on character development since that is what drives this story. The fine details of the locations were secondary.

Not so, when I began to write The Promise of Provence. I knew I had two primary goals. One was to write a meaningful plot with complex characters, to which women over fifty would relate. The other was to share the love affair I have had with the south of France all of my life. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted the reader to feel they were in settings with the characters in every respect. I hoped they would see, taste, smell, feel (as in touch) and even hear everything, just as the characters did.

In other words, all senses were employed.

That first Provence novel turned into Book 1 of the Love in Provence series, in good part because of the love my readers felt for the setting. Of course they became engaged with the characters as well, but it became clear that the majority of my readers are devoted Francophiles. They write and tell me they are transported by the stories and that’s my greatest reward.

When a woman living on a remote farm in Iowa writes and says, “Thank you for taking me somewhere I know I will never go in my life,” I know my work is done. My readers travel without packing or passports!

To continue reading, please click here.

Easter, Passover and … April Fish Day?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

This is a special holy weekend around the world and this year it is very early on the calendar. I send warm wishes to those celebrating Easter

or Passover ~ chag sameach

As I was doing some reading this week, I came across an article that spoke volumes to me about a meaningful message for both Passover and Easter.  It had to do with hope. I want to share it with you here.

Of course there is also another tradition at this time of year for many children. Fellow author and friend, Margo Lestz has an excellent post here comparing the traditions of children and chocolate at Easter. You may be surprised how the legends differ.

Chocolate is not quite so important at Passover.  But the traditions and foods that go along with the special meal, the seder, are celebrated every year.

Coincidentally this year, in some countries, this Sunday is also April Fool’s Day. For those who haven’t heard before, April 1st is celebrated in an altogether unique way in France.

Imagine my surprise the first time I saw childrenimages sticking paper fish on each other’s back, whispering and giggling, and then hollering, “Poisson d’Avril!”

Excusez-moi? Fish?

As Wikipedia explains: “In Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally tack paper fishes on each other’s back as a trick and shout “April fish!” in their local languages (pesce d’aprile!, poisson d’avril! and aprilvis! in Italian, French and Flemish, respectively). Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools’ Day postcards.

April-Fools-vintage-Image-TheGraphicsFairy.com

April-Fools-vintage-Image-TheGraphicsFairy.com

I had no idea where the tradition began and, after a bit of searching, found this explanation on France Travel Guide.

“Although the origin of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1.

However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them.

Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.”

poisson d'avril

Poisson d’avril

Boulangeries and patisseries deliciously get into the spirit with fish-shaped goodies. Oh … and did I mention the chocolatiers? Schools of fish of all sizes fill shop windows, the larger ones often filled with smaller treats. To a chocoholic, fish never tasted so good!

Since Easter usually falls around the same time, fish feature predominantly in shop windows through that holiday as well.

Maybe we should adopt a symbol for April Fool’s Day in North America, so there would be a good excuse to buy special chocolates on that day over here. Not that we ever really need an excuse for chocolate …

Wherever you are, have fun on April 1st and enjoy some chocolate.

Are you a prankster on April 1st or do you just grit your teeth and hope the day will pass quickly? Is there one April Fool’s Day joke in particular that you will never forget?

On  The Good Life France   (amazing photography and articles ~ you know I’m a huge fan!), there’s another article by Margo Lestz about April 1st in France.  Margo writes perfectly-researched articles, as well as entertaining books about some of the quirky history and traditions of France.  Click here to visit her website!

How will you celebrate this very special weekend?

Women’s History Month ~ meet Joanna Kafarowski

March is Women’s History Month. With that in mind, it is a pleasure to welcome our special guest. 

Dr. Joanna Kafarowski is a Canadian independent scholar who has a passion for the North. She has worked extensively with Indigenous women in the Arctic regarding natural resource management issues and has participated in a Last Degree North Pole Expedition. She is the author of the first comprehensive biography of female polar explorer Louise Arner Boyd entitled, “The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd (Dundurn Press, 2017)  and edited Gender, Culture and Northern Fisheries (Canadian Circumpolar Institute, 2009).

There’s quite a lot to read in this post, but it’s all extremely interesting. I’ve read this biography Joanna has written, and it’s a riveting story about a most unusual woman. I highly recommend it.

Now here is our Q & A

PS ~ You have such an impressive academic history that must have involved a tremendous amount of writing. (Congratulations on all of those accomplishments!) Did you always plan to publish something for the general public?

JK ~ Thank you for those kind words. I’ve written with so many different hats on that I guess it was inevitable! I’ve always written poetry; I was a freelance writer and book reviewer and of course, I did an awful lot of scholarly writing while at the university. I’ve been drawn to writing as a vocation since I was a child but so many other interesting projects took me down different paths. It wasn’t so much that I finally decided to write for the general public but that this particular story- this amazing life of female polar explorer Louise Arner Boyd took hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t actually know if I would seek an academic or a general publisher for this book. I had interest expressed by both but finally decided to go with Dundurn Press which would reach a wider readership.

PS ~ What is it about Louise Arner Boyd that first intrigued you?

JKAs a geographer fascinated with the North, I am naturally drawn to tales of polar exploration. Of course, the vast majority of these books are written by men about men. All very exciting but I was thrilled by a few tantalizing details about a twentieth century woman polar explorer named Louise Arner Boyd who was also a geographer equally intrigued by the Arctic as I was. I identified with her to a certain degree and the more I learned about her accomplishments, the more chagrined I became that no full-length biography of her had been written. Her story hooked from the start and hasn’t let go yet!

PS ~ Please describe some of your research techniques.

JKGreat question! Writing a biography well means spending the time making sure that you have done your very best- following every lead, asking every question, looking at your subject from every perspective possible. Because this was the first comprehensive biography, it meant being even more thorough. I feel a responsibility not only to Miss Boyd herself but to future biographers of her who will consult my work. So one of my research techniques was to go wide initially and then go deep.

Because I shared a commitment to the field of geography with my subject, another research technique was to spend time walking in her footsteps- visiting her homes and neighbourhoods but, more importantly, grounding myself in the northern landscapes that resonated so deeply with her. This was of critical importance to me and enabled me to gain a deeper insight into her life and motivations as an explorer.

PS ~ How you did you weave the scientific details into this intriguing story? Was this a challenge initially or did it all flow with Louise’s personality?

JKOnce I had determined that the book would be best published for a general rather than an academic audience, I had to find the balance in the amount of scientific information I provided. In this regard, it was really helpful that I have a scholarly background and that I know my stuff. I had to make sure that I provided enough detail that readers understood how significant the contributions of Louise Arner Boyd were but not enough that they went to sleep. Part of the reason that I subtitled the book “A Life of Louise Arner Boyd” rather than “The Life of Louise Arner Boyd” was that I recognize there is so much scope for other LAB biographies- including a scholarly one. I’d love to read a book that goes into her scientific contributions in depth- and hope to do so in my lifetime!

PS ~ You certainly chose a fascinating and multi-faceted woman to study. Is there anything about publishing this story that has surprised you?

JKDuring the ten plus years it took to bring this book to fruition, I was completely focused on research and writing. I actually thought very little about the book being published although this was certainly my intention. I assumed that once the book appeared, I would do a few book signings and make an appearance or two and that would be the end of it. I was actually quite shocked by how much promotional work I have had to do and for such an extended time period. This has had both advantages and disadvantages. I had to join social media for the first time in my life and this was a steep learning curve for me. It requires a phenomenal commitment of time and energy but also has reaped huge rewards. I now network regularly with a fantastic group of other writers (including you, Patricia!), explorers and historians around the world and this has been marvellous. Social media has been critical in spreading the news about my book and I have no doubt that part of the book’s success can be attributed to this. On the downside, it’s been challenging to impose limits on how much promoting I do- and to recognize when it’s time to scale back promoting your published book and turn to new research. It’s always a balancing act.

PS ~ You are so right about that, Joanna. Social media is critical to the promotion of our work and, I agree, it does offer us the opportunity to connect with a fantastic group of writers. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you online and I look forward to us meeting in person at some point since we live close to each other … when we are home in Canada!

Now, please share with us the exciting news about the cruise invitation you recently received.

JK ~ I am delighted to share the news that I have recently accepted the summer position of Guest Lecturer for the polar cruise ship company Poseidon Expeditions. I will be sailing with Poseidon Expeditions on three separate cruises in May and June of this year. These cruises travel to West Greenland, Iceland, Jan Mayen Land and Svalbard and part of the route will re-trace one of Miss Boyd’s journeys. I’ll be lecturing on Louise Arner Boyd as well as on other related topics and can’t wait to return to the north and share Miss Boyd with a different audience.

PS ~ Congratulations! What a wonderful opportunity! With all of this on your agenda, are you also working on something new?

JK ~ I am still actively promoting ‘The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd’. In fact, at the end of April, I will be travelling back to California where Miss Boyd was born and raised including her beloved mansion Maple Lawn. I have a very hectic schedule giving presentations about the book throughout San Francisco and Marin County. However, I have started some preliminary work on another book which I am equally passionate about. I won’t be announcing any details for a few months but I can tell you that it is another polar biography. Any readers who were intrigued by Miss Boyd’s story- please stay tuned!

I can’t wait to hear more! Thank you for sharing all of this information with us, Joanna. It’s a pleasure to have you visit here.

More information: Joanna has a bachelor’s degree in English literature, a master’s degree in Geography, a doctorate in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies and a Professional Specialization Certificate in Heritage Conservation Planning. She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Member of the Society of Woman Geographers, an Affiliate Member of the American Geographical Society, a Member of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association and a Member of the Canadian Association of Geographers.   She loves travelling, reading, family history, birding, hiking, yoga and chocolate.

Click here to purchase The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd  on Amazon.

You can connect with Joanna:

 On her website

Facebook

Follow Joanna on her Amazon author page.

 

Treat yourself and others to this …

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Good news! Bonnes nouvelles!

Ida Young-Bondi, the creator of E-French Café and French instructor extraordinaire, has a brilliant new program. Take a look at this:

Click here to link to the rest of the information.

I have just treated two good friends to this who cannot get out much, and they are delighted with the gift. Ida’s photos steal you away to France and you have the image to savour forever. It’s the perfect gift for the Francophile who has everything!

If you follow Ida on Instagram or Periscope or on Facebook, you already know she is an excellent photographer and she knows France doublement à l’envers/inside out and backwards … all the narrow allées, ancient doors and windows, perfect Côte d’Azur vistas and small details that make us swoon.

You know how I feel about sharing photos from France. Imagine receiving one every day from Ida with un petit goût/a little taste of information about it.

For a limited time there is a reduced price for the first few people to sign up. Don’t wait.

Come back in a month or so and tell me how much you are loving this. I already am!

And please share this with your friends. Merci!

eFrenchCafe Website – http://www.eFrenchCafe.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/eFrenchCafe/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/efrenchcafe/

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/efrenchcafe

Periscope – http://www.periscope.tv/efrenchcafe

Think warm, please!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I’m hearing from my friends in Nice that it is ch-ch-chilly and une vague de froid, a cold wave, is in the weather forecast. The annual Carnaval de Nice is well under way and it’s not nearly as much fun having to be bundled up to brave the elements.  So let’s think warm for everyone there!

To read about all the colourful craziness of this festival, which began in 1830, click on the following link. Margo Lestz shares the history and entertaining details in “Carnival Kings, Silly Strings, and Blooming Things”.

Even if we can’t be in Nice now, just reading about it will make you laugh. An air of warm hospitality fills the town … and, of course, temptations abound ~ such as the traditional treats les bugnes or beignets de carnaval. Deep fried pastry flavoured with orange flower water, they are simply melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

Today’s post sends out vibes of warm moments in Nice, in the hopes Mother Nature will change her plans for all the eager celebrants. Surely this year’s Roi de l’Espace, King of Space, seen in this short video, must have some influence on the elements.

And even though the beach umbrellas are all stored away until summer arrives, I hope these sunny memories help stir a little warmth.

Are you having a cold wave in your neighbourhood too? Whatever you are doing, I hope you enjoy a bon weekend

 

Twitter Chat & Marco Island Writers talk

Good morning! It’s a new week with lots of good things happening. Is today a holiday for you? It’s Family Day in Canada and President’s Day in the USA!

I’m just popping by to remind you about our great Twitter Chat tomorrow … if Twitter’s your thing! Check out the schedule at the end of this post to see when your favourite authors will be on. I’ll be there from 1:30 to 3:00 tomorrow and would love to answer some of your questions. The giveaways will be awesome! 

More news …

If you happen to be in the Naples, Florida, area this Wednesday, February 21, please drop by the Marco Center for the Arts, 1010 Winterbery Dr., Marco Island at 6 p.m. I’m delighted to be speaking at a meeting of the Marco Island Writers group. It’s always a pleasure spending time and exchanging thoughts and ideas with other writers.

The public is always invited and first time visitors are free. Thanks so much for the invitation,  Michael Meguid and Joanne Tailele.

Please feel free to share with your friends in the area. We’ll be happy to see them!

Here’s the full agenda for tomorrow’s twitter chat. (You may need your reading glasses! )What time works for you?

What are your plans for the week? Whatever they are, I wish you a good one!

Come to France with us in September!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Would you love to find yourself taking a photo of this view? Come to the south of France with Deborah Bine and me in September 2018 and we will take you here … and many other beautiful places too!

There are just a few openings left on our Memories You Promised Yourself women’s tour and we hope you and a friend, sister, daughter, mother or …  some of your book club … might want to join us.

Here’s a letter that Deborah sent to her newsletter subscribers this week. I couldn’t say it better myself, so she gave me permission to post it here for you too. Deborah is kind like that … and such a good friend! Have a look … and feel free to share!

 

Hello Barefoot Blogger Friends,

I’m reaching out to you by email to personally invite you to join me on the “Memories You Promised Yourself” women’s tour of the south of France, September 10-23. Hopefully you read my recent post with highlights of the tour. I want to encourage you, if you’re the slightest bit interested, to come along with me and best-selling author, Patricia Sands, on this adventure.

I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Patricia has led tours the last four years for readers of her “Love in Provence” novels. This is my first go at it. Needless to say, I’m beyond excited. Just like my move to France, it’s a dream come true. Not only do I get to spend twelve days with Patricia, who is one of my dear friends, I also get to meet interesting new people like you.

To briefly summarize our tour, we’re covering a lot of bases on the itinerary – the famous Côte d’Azur, or “Riviera”; romantic towns and marketplaces in Provence; historic landmarks of ancient Gaul and the Romans; bustling seaports and wildlife sanctuaries; as well as picturesque villages that inspired Cézanne and Van Gogh.



For twelve days we’ll taste the favorite foods of the south of France, we’ll drink the wine, we’ll experience the lifestyle and we’ll enjoy sharing time with fun-loving, adventurous, interesting and like-minded women. At the end of our time together we’ll look back and honestly say it was the “trip of a lifetime.”

Only a few spaces are remaining, so please check out the trip details onlineand make your reservation. Invite a friend or family member to join you and receive a $100 discount.

I look forward to spending time with you in the south of France!

So do I! If you have any questions, be sure to send them to me. If you have concerns about traveling on your own, listen to this video from Liz Hore. Liz was  one of the unforgettable group of women on our tour last year. Thanks for this, Liz!

 

Sweet or savoury?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Sweet or savoury?

Now that we’ve finished celebrating January in France by eating la galette des rois, the king’s cake, it’s time to sweep away those crumbs and haul out the crêpes pan!

February 2nd, is La Chandeleur, Fête des Lumières,  Jour des Crêpes. You might know it as Candlemas.French-Candlemas-La-Chandeleur-Crêpe-Day

Churches will celebrate the tradition of the lighting of candles.

Then it will be all about … what else, this IS France … food!

Crêpes and cidre. Unlike our apple cider, this drink has a touch of alcohol.

The day is often accompanied by fortune telling and in many kitchens, crêpes are flipped in the air with the pan in one hand and a coin in the other. If the crêpe lands back in the pan, the year will be a prosperous one. Children hold their breath in anticipation!

Similar to our North American, Groundhog Day, there’s a prediction about winter. “Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure.” If  there is dew at dawn, winter will soon be over.

As the French do so well, the day is a fun-filled, family time. If you’re tempted to celebrate your own Jour des Crêpes, they are delicious and light  and easy to make. Click right here for a recipe.

images-2There are crêpe stands or crêperies everywhere in France and today, as well as through the weekend, there will be few people not enjoying this simple and delicious food with a filling of choice ~ sweet or savoury.  Crêpes have a history that goes back to Biblical times and in France, Britanny is said to have established the true crêpe recipe.

Get in line right here! Bon appétit!

Have you ever made crêpes? Which do you prefer, the French crêpe or it’s slightly heavier English cousin, the pancake? Are you a fan of sweet or savoury?

Here’s what  The Good Life France has to say about French traditions on February 2nd.

 

It’s happening! South of France Tour 2018

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Picture yourself flying to the breathtaking Côte d’Azur!

Introducing our September  2018 tour :

(Logo design by FoxandForeststudio.com)

It’s official! Deborah Bine (Barefoot Blogger) and I invite sixteen women to join this tour for twelve exciting days in the south of France. Most of you know that we both are totally in love with this part of the world and enjoy nothing more than sharing that passion with others. We will wine, dine and tour you to the most remarkable settings as you gather memories to last forever … avec plaisir!

We are SO pumped about the fabulous itinerary we have planned that combines the right balance of active and leisure time. Arrangements were organized through the talents of Nancy McGee, owner of Absolutely Southern France travel company.

We begin in Nice and explore, for five magical days, the Côte d’Azur settings from my Love in Provence series. Then we will stop in Aix-en-Provence for a market day morning and afternoon stroll in Cézanne’s footsteps, before we arrive in the ancient town of Arles.

Arles is the setting for most of my latest novel, Drawing Lessons. We’re going to be based here for the next week and I’ll share some of the characters’ favourite spots around town. We will feel the spirit of Vincent van Gogh throughout the winding streets and be surrounded by amazing monuments from centuries of Roman civilization. Some days will be spent discovering the fascinating environment of the Camargue.

 

During this second week, Deborah gives us the inside stories from some of the  special towns and breathtaking sights in the area she calls home! Drop by her website to see more photos and videos from the spectacular area around charming Uzès!

Click here to see more details about costs.

Per person US $4375 based on double occupancy / 16 participants

(There is also a roommate matching service or singles supplement, for those travelling alone.)

$ 100 Early bird discount (ending January 31st)

First three firm reservations will receive signed copies of Patricia Sands’ novels, Drawing Lessons and The Promise of Provence.

Past participant  $100 discount

Bring a friend $100 discount

Contact Absolutely Southern France to make arrangements and see all the details of the itinerary.  Don’t hesitate to contact Deborah or me, if you have any questions. The adventure is waiting to begin! Are you going to come along?