New release!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I’m delighted to let you know that Book Two in the Villa des Violettes series is now available on all platforms. I hope you enjoy the ongoing adventure of Kat and her new life in the south of France.

Click right here for the Amazon.com page!

Synopsis:

The Love in Provence characters are celebrating a glorious spring on the Côte d’Azur …

There are sweet-smelling blossoms, buds bursting into bloom, explosions of golden mimosa, dazzling sunshine, a shimmering sea …

And a worrying disappearance!

A hidden past is uncovered and shocking truths are revealed. But life goes on.

Kat and Philippe welcome their first B & B guests to the Villa and are busy with other demands, all the while keeping hope alive as police search for their friend.

A special request from Simone and an unexpected appearance turn a planned motorcycle trip on Corsica into so much more.

Thank you to everyone who has already taken the time to leave a review! Every single one is most appreciated.

My May Newsletter

It’s June already and this newsletter was hot off the press last week. I squeaked it out just in time!

Every once in a while I post a copy of my monthly newsletter here on my blog. If you already subscribe, then you’ve seen it and there’s nothing new here. If you would like to subscribe, just click on the link in the right column of this page. I’m still learning how to deal with the WordPress changes to setting up posts, so I apologize for the disparity in the size of some photos. I’ll keep working at it!

With almost 5,000 subscribers, I want to say thank you to all of you who enjoy my news and enter the great giveaways from my author friends. Now I have to begin thinking about the one for June! Bon weekend!

Newsletter #68                                                                       May 28, 2019

Bonjour

How are things in your neighbourhood? I’m happy to report that today we have windows and patio doors open with joyful birdsong wafting in. And I would say it is about time, Toronto!

Wisteria is just beginning to bloom here, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share these photos from visits to France at this time of year

Do you have wisteria growing in your garden or neighbourhood? Send me a photo if you do! I know it is prolific in some of the southern States.

Ta-daaaaaaa ~ Here’s a cover reveal we released last week of Book Two in the Villa des Violettes series. We have a few small details to finalize and then the book will be published! Stay tuned!

We’re all very happy with this new cover! The same talented artists who created the cover art for Book One, Donna Fedele and Clare Strohman, transformed the winter look into a glorious spring profusion.

In this new story, Molly refers to the explosion of purple blooms around the door of the Villa des Violettes as wisteria hysteria. It’s quite fitting, isn’t it? And yes, Molly comes to visit Kat and Philippe!  I’m pleased to announce the book will be out in just a couple of weeks.

The photo below, with cover artists Clare and Donna, was taken on our South of France Memories Tour last September … and no, we did not colour co-ordinate!

While we’re waiting for my new release, I’m happy to let you know that Amazon is offering each of the Love in Provence ebooks at a special June rate of $.99 US. NOTE:  JUNE 1 TO JUNE 30. If you already have your copies, that will be a great time to gift some to your friends. It’s so easy … just click on the “Give as a gift” link on the buy page! Instant gift shopping solved.  

The past couple of months I’ve been busy with edits and rewrites, but there’s also been an exciting change with our Women’s Fiction Fans group. As many of you may have already discovered, the name of our book loving community is now Blue Sky Book Chat and we are bigger and better than ever.

Part of the reason we changed the format of our page was to let readers have the option to post comments about books they like or other topics. In the past, only we authors could post to you and we wanted to give all members the same opportunity. We look forward to conversations with you about literature, laughter and life! The month of June is going to see thirty days of giveaways and other prizes to celebrate our new community. Tag a few friends and join us! Just click right here!

Speaking of books, here are this month’s giveaways. As usual, there’s an excellent selection and I wish you good luck with the draws.

Giveaway #1 ~ Lisa Barr has a new release coming next week and I couldn’t be more excited about itTHE UNBREAKABLES is set in Chicago and Paris as well as the south of France (no wonder it caught my attention!).  Lisa is offering two ebooks and if you don’t know her, you definitely should!

Along with writing novels, Lisa is also the editor and creator of the popular parenting blog GIRLilla Warfare: A Mom’s Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle.
Lisa has served as an editor for The Jerusalem Post, managing editor of Today’s Chicago Woman, managing editor of Moment magazine, and as an editor/reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Among the highlights of her career, Lisa covered the famous “handshake” between the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1993.
She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and three teenage daughters.

Connect with Lisa here.

Here’s the blurb: The worst birthday ever might just be the gift of a lifetime….
It’s Sophie Bloom’s forty-second birthday, and she’s ready for a night of celebration with Gabe, her longtime, devoted husband, and her two besties and their spouses. Dinner is served with a side of delicious gossip, including which North Grove residents were caught with their pants down on Ashley Madison after the secret online dating site for married couples was hacked. Thirty-two million cheaters worldwide have been exposed … including Sophie’s “perfect” husband. To add insult to injury, she learns Gabe is the top cheater in their town.

Humiliated and directionless, Sophie jumps into the unknown and flees to France to meet up with her teenage daughter who is studying abroad and nursing her own heartbreak. After a brief visit to Paris, Sophie heads out to the artist enclave of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. There, for the first time in a long time, Sophie acknowledges her own desires—not her husband’s, not her daughter’s—and rediscovers with painful honesty and humor her essence as she reawakens both her sensuality and her ambitions as a sculptor.

As she sheds her past and travels the obstacle-filled off the beaten path, Sophie Bloom is determined to blossom.

Allowing her true self to emerge in the postcard beauty of Provence, Sophie must decide what is broken forever … and what it means to be truly unbreakable. (FYI – it’s described as a steamy beach read, and it is in parts … oh là là … but more than this, it is a well-written story about family, forgiveness and starting over).

Giveaway #2 Bette Lee Crosby, a sister Lake Union Author and good friend, is offering one signed copy of her exciting new release, EMILY, GONE.

With 20 published novels, Bette Lee really needs no introduction to readers around the world and she has offered giveaways here before. It is the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama Crosby that she brings to her works of fiction. The result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away. Bette is a sister Lake Union Author and I love all of her novels. She lives in south Florida with her husband, Dick, and her sweet Bichon, Sugar.

You can connect with Bette here.

Here’s the blurb:  A missing child sets the lives of three women on a collision course in this powerful and compelling novel by USA Todaybestselling author Bette Lee Crosby.

1971 – When a music festival rolls through the sleepy town of Hesterville, Georgia, the Dixon family’s lives are forever changed. On the final night, a storm muffles the sound of the blaring music, and Rachel tucks her baby into bed before falling into a deep sleep. So deep, she doesn’t hear the kitchen door opening. When she and her husband wake up in the morning, the crib is empty. Emily is gone.

Vicki Robart is one of the thousands at the festival, but she’s not feeling the music. She’s feeling the emptiness over the loss of her own baby several months before. When she leaves the festival and is faced with an opportunity to fill that void, she is driven to an act of desperation that will forever bind the lives of three women.
When the truth of what actually happened that fateful night is finally exposed, shattering the lives they’ve built, will they be able to pick up the pieces to put their families back together again?

Giveaway #3 BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS is Camille di Maio’s newest release and she is offering two ebooks. Also from a sister Lake Union author! Award-winning writer, Camille Di Maio has lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawaii to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Now she lives in historic Williamsburg, Virginia with her husband and four children.

You can connect with Camille here.

Here’s the blurb: A legendary hotel on the Pacific becomes a haven where dreams, love, and a beguiling mystery come alive.
1958. Kate Morgan, tethered to her family’s failing San Francisco restaurant, is looking for an escape. She gets her chance by honoring a cryptic plea from her grandfather: find the beautiful stranger. The search takes her to Hotel del Coronado, the beachfront landmark on the Southern California coast where filming is underway on the movie Some Like It Hot.
For a movie lover like Kate, it’s a fantasy come true. So is the offer of a position at the glamorous hotel. And a new romance is making her heart beat just as fast. But as sure as she is that Coronado is her future, Kate discovers it’s also where the ghosts of the past have come to stay. Sixty years ago a guest died tragically, and she still haunts the hotel’s halls.
As the lives of two women—generations apart—intertwine, Kate’s courageous journey could change more than she ever imagined. And with Coronado wending its way through her soul, she must follow her dreams…wherever they may lead.

Congratulations to last month’s winners:  Ola Norman, Donna Neale, Andrea Stoeckel, Susanne Nadeau, Bev Farningham, Agnes Zelgert.

As always, send your entry for these giveaways to patriciasandsauthor@gmail.com. Names will be chosen randomly using random.org. This time we are curious to know what is growing in your garden right now. Finally, we have spring bulbs blooming everywhere in Toronto … it’s been a long time coming!

It’s a pleasure to offer these giveaways from my writing friends. Thanks for the great response each month. I’m glad you appreciate the opportunities and are so keen to enter. In case you wonder, we read every single one of your entries and appreciate them! I hope you enjoy meeting authors who might be new to you, and connecting with those you already follow. Savor their books, find out more about the writers and pass along their information to your friends.



The best way to hear about a good book is by word of mouth from dedicated readers like you. If you have time to write a short review, even better, and always appreciated.

This has nothing to do with books, but I couldn’t help mentioning it. Are you an NBA basketball fan? Toronto is recovering after a very noisy weekend celebrating the 6thgame win of the Toronto Raptors over the Milwaukee Bucks to clinch the Eastern Conference title. For the first time since the franchise began in 1995, they are headed to the NBA finals. Most of these games were nail-biters and I think it’s going to be an exciting series against the Golden State Warriors.

There are times when a lot of the news we are reading is not very uplifting, and sports has a way of bringing people together. Whatever team you cheer for, enjoy the competition and the tremendous effort athletes put into what they do.

This month I want to leave you with an article about cheese. As you know, Philippe is a fromager in the Provence stories and cheese often makes an appearance in the stories. I hope you find this article of interest. I’m going to look into ordering some of those porous bags they mention for storing cheese. I’ll let you know how they work out! (This photo was taken at “Philippe’s” fromagerie at the Antibes market.)

Stay well, my friends, be kind to one another, read a lot and appreciate every single day. Profitez de tous les jours! I’m reminded on a regular basis that the best part of being an author is hearing from readers. I value the messages I receive from you. Thanks also for sharing my books with your friends and for the reviews you write. It’s all most appreciated and inspiring. See you next month!

À bientôt!

Thank you, Claire McAlpine

Claire McAlpine has been an extraordinary book reviewer, in both French and English, on her blog, Word by Word, for many years. A multi-talented woman who is also a writer and an expert in the practise of Aromatherapy, Massage, and Anatomy/Physiology from the perspectives of both Eastern medicine and healing and Western. You can find out more about Flairesse by clicking here.

It’s always a lovely surprise to discover an unexpected review and I thank Claire for this lovely post on her blog, which for me was like opening a door and finding a room full of your favourite people yelling “Surprise!” ~ with confetti and champagne!

Merci mille fois!


MAY 21, 2019
 BY CLAIRE ‘WORD BY WORD’

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

Seven years ago I read The Bridge Club by Patricia Sands, which I loved. Her ability to immerse the reader into the emotional lives of her characters is thoroughly engaging and insightful and the stories of those women characters and the event that brings them all together to share parts of their history together has long stayed with me.

Her latest novel, Drawing Lessons offers something a little different, in that this time the main character, 62 year old Arianna, leaves her Toronto home, family and troubles behind, somewhat reluctantly, but with the blessings and encouragement of those she’s left behind, to try and heal a little from the heartbreak of what she has left behind her.

It is an interesting and provocative premise. Her husband has been diagnosed with a debilitating form of dementia and her family have encouraged her to go on a two week artist’s retreat just outside Arles, the same countryside and landscape that inspired Van Gogh to produce over 300 works of art in the frenzied sixteen months he spent there, until driven out by the locals.

“In his letters to his brother Theo, he said drawing helped him combat his depression. He knew, as we do, that working en plein air, we are able to capture light and images more quickly and from that create our interpretation.”

Arianna hasn’t painted for a long time and is wracked by guilt at leaving. Slowly she will find her way, through the surroundings and with the eclectic band of artists that have come together to reaquaint with their inner muse. And then there is the strange allure of the man from the Carmargue.

The beautiful cover art couldn’t be more appropriate to today, it being May and everywhere you go at the moment, the poppies are in full bloom.

Living in this area and knowing how much the author loves the south of France and how much of her writing is informed by her own experiences of living a few months of every year here, I wasn’t surprised to feel how immersed in the area this book made me feel. She really does capture something of the essence of being in this region of Provence, in the landscape and the town of Arles, adding something of the fantasy of a mysterious artist, horseman, the romance element. Not to mention the markets and the collection and preparation of the food.

“Winding past olive groves, beside vineyards, and through fields dotted with poppies and other wildflowers, from time to time they’d comment on the pastoral beauty. They could imagine artists through the centuries setting up easels along the way.”

It’s a timely read if you’re interested in Van Gogh, as this year there was the film At Eternity’s Gate that came out and he is also the subject of the new show running from March 2019 – January 2020 at Carrieres de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, a truly spectacular and original depiction of works of art, set to music, displayed on the inner walls of an old stone quarry.

If you haven’t been here and have an interest in open air painting, it’s a read that transports you to the Provençal landscape, ignites the imagination and all the senses and is likely to make you wish to indulge in a visit to the region yourself.

And although her upcoming tour is now sold out, if you want to imagine what it might be like to visit the area and visualise the area where this story takes place, check out the itinerary of The Memories Tour 2019, run by Patricia and co-host Deborah Bine, The Barefoot Blogger and visit Patricia’s blog, or sign up to her newsletter on France related writing news and tips on visiting the south of France and the culture.

Innkeeper, author, risktaker

I love sharing stories of people who have taken chances, changed their lives and begun an entirely new adventure. Do you remember my post about Jacquie Gauthier? Hmmm ~ that reminds me I should do an update soon.

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Patricia Rickrode (aka author Jansen Schmidt) who, with her husband, left a California lifestyle to run a Bed & Breakfast in a stunning Victorian mansion, built in 1870, in historic Vicksburg, Mississippi.

PS ~ Please tell us a bit about your life before you decided to undertake this great adventure of owning and operating the beautiful Baer House Inn.

PR ~ Before innkeeping I was a paralegal for about 30 years in California. It was a very fast-paced, high-stress job, demanding job. It was one of the main reasons we decided to relocate; I had had enough of that business suit, make-up, and high heel wearing professional environment. The stress gets harder to deal with as one ages, at least in my humble opinion. I think there comes a point in everyone’s life where they just say, “enough is enough.”

PS ~ This must have been quite a leap of faith! Was there one aspect in particular that called out to you and said “go for it!”?  

PR ~ It was a bit daunting when we decided to pack up and leave everything we knew behind, but it was exciting too. I think the day I realized that I needed to quit my job was the day I realized it was time to completely move on. I was more than ready to do something else and the idea of working in an environment where people were basically happy and calm all the time instead of stressed, confused and angry was very appealing.

PS ~ Was the Inn fully operational when you took it over or did you have a lot of changes to make?

“Arrive as strangers, depart as friends.” What a great line on your website!

PR ~  We bought the inn as a fully functioning, turn-key business. It had everything needed to run smoothly. As is pretty typical in most real estate transactions, there were a few things that needed to be done in order for the loan to go through, but the seller had to take care of all of that. We have since switched out quite a bit of furniture, especially in the common areas of the house. The previous owner had a lot of very modern, contemporary pieces of furniture like sofas, recliners, and such. It was very pretty, functional and comfortable but it wasn’t our vision for the house, so we replaced that stuff with antiques as we found them.

PS ~ On what date did you open for business and how nervous/excited were you? Were there times you questioned this change in your lives?

PR ~ We took over ownership around the 20thof July, 2015. (I never remember the exact date.) I wasn’t really nervous, but I was pretty excited. We had a whole house full of guests, some of whom had been staying several nights, so one day the previous owner made breakfast and the next day I did. Everyone was super excited when I was introduced as the new owner. Nobody staying here even knew there was a sale in progress. As far as having doubts, I’ve never felt like we made a mistake. There are a lot of really nice things about California, but there are some really ugly things too and I have never wanted to go back – other than to visit our extended family. I feel like Vicksburg has embraced us and almost all of the guests here really have a good time and I feel like I’m directly responsible for that. That’s a good feeling. I never felt like that when a lawsuit was over. I never got any of the praise or even acknowledgment for the part I played in helping get it resolved. Now I get daily praise and gratitude. It’s a really nice feeling. Complete opposite from my work environment in California.

PS ~ Do you have much support staff? Are you and your husband fully involved in running the Inn?

PR ~ For the first year that we owned the inn, my husband and I did everything. We cooked, cleaned, fixed things, worked in the yard, did all the administrative and marketing stuff. Then my husband was offered a very lucrative job and he decided to take it, so we hired a housekeeper to help with the cleaning. In 2017, when I got my cancer diagnosis, we hired another gal to help with afternoon check-in and finish up some of the “afternoon chores.” Since then, we’ve kept them both on the payroll but the afternoon gal only works on the days when we have lots of people checking in.

PS ~ It certainly is a beautiful home with a welcoming feel to it. I think you have created a special place for people to visit. Do you have a few “highs and lows” to share? Wishes for the future?

PR ~ Often times we question our sanity about buying an old house because when things need fixing, we usually have no idea how to do that. Or we get halfway into the project and realize we’re in over our heads. Neither my husband nor I are very handy when it comes to fixing stuff so those are the low times. The times we wished we had an additional skill set. The highs are definitely the 5-star reviews and hugs we get when people leave. There are a lot more highs than lows, it’s just that the lows are so very frustrating. And expensive. As far as wishes for the future – well, I guess I’d have to wish for an endless supply of money, so we can hire someone to fix all those little things that need fixing.

PS ~ Congratulations on publishing your soon-to-be-released second novel! I can’t imagine how you managed to find the time.

PR ~ Thank you. I’ve been honing my craft for about 10 years. I finished my first manuscript in 2009 simply to see if I could write one. (Hey, what can I say, I love a good challenge.) While I was deciding what to do with it, I started attending meetings at my local RWA group and taking lots of on-line classes. That’s when I realized I had no idea what I was doing even though I wrote an entire book. Since then, I’ve written 5 more manuscripts and outlined a publishing and marketing strategy, trying to implement everything I’ve been learning over the past 10 years. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but sure enough, 10 years. I’m not the kind of person who writes every day. That just doesn’t work for me. I’m more of a binge writer. When I have several hours, or days, at a time, I’ll write 50,000 words or more all in one sitting. That seems crazy to a lot of people, but that’s what works for me. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to write as long as you get the manuscripts finished and edited. I just schedule my time to include writing, just like I schedule breakfast every morning at a certain time. When you’re the boss, you can set your own hours and that’s what I do on both the writing and the inn fronts. I’m also pretty disciplined and that helps.

PS ~ It was great having you visit today. I love your story and wish you and your husband the very best as you carry on making your dream come true.

PR ~ Thank you for having me visit today. I enjoy your blog and your pictures. I live vicariously through your travels. I feel like I’ve spent lots of time in France and Canada because of your blog. Thank you everyone for stopping by.

Here are the links to connect with Patricia on social media:

Baer House Inn website: http://www.baerhouseinn.ms

Author website: http://jansenschmidt.com

Amazon author page for book details

Short link to buy book: http://bit.ly/2BBu7bb

Happy May Day!

Bonne fête du muguet!

I recycle this post every year because I don’t want to change anything about it. If you read it last year … or the year before , I hope you enjoy it again. And if you can find some Lily of the Valley to give to a friend, all the better.

En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait!

Provençal proverb ~ In May, do what pleases you!

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Here’s my May 1st muguet to each of you.

Every May 1st I like to share one of my favourite traditions in France ~ La Fête du Travail or La Fête du Muguet. The day is a national holiday ~ International Workers’ Day, like Labour Day in North America. But more than that it is an occasion when people give little bouquets or sprigs or pots of  le muguet (lily of the valley) to each other. Like so many of the things we love about France, the tradition has lasted for centuries. It began in 1561, during the Renaissance.

Click here to read an excellent article by Margo Lestz,  about this sweet tradition and all the history behind it.

Here’s another post about the tradition from Kristin Espinasse, everyone’s favourite scribe of daily French life.

Four years ago, my husband and I had just finished a magical stay (but then isn’t it always?) in Paris and the Loire Valley. We were driving south to the Dordogne region on May 1st and in every town, big or small, this was the scene. Even on a drizzly day. I loved it!

Dordogne and Les Muguets
Dordogne and Les Muguets 2
Dordogne and Les Muguets - Version 2

Obviously, young or old, everyone puts a lot of thought into this tradition.

A vivid memory of that rainy morning, is of an elderly woman sitting under an umbrella beside her small stand of bouquets of muguets. It wasn’t an appropriate picture to take … and no time to stop in the midst of traffic … but I’ve never forgotten the image. Does this happen to you sometimes when you travel? Your eye is the shutter and a particular image is captured forever in your memory?

Le muguet or lily of the valley represents a porte-bonheur, a good luck charm, to special people in your life.  I am offering one to each of you.

Does your culture or country have a special May 1st tradtion?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring!

Joyeuses Pâques, Joyeux Pesach, Joyeux Printemps!

Whatever joyous occasion you celebrate at this special time of year, may it bring family and friends together for reflection, fellowship, food … and chocolate. Let’s count our blessings and focus on how we can help those who cannot.

In France, the traditions around Easter are quite different than most countries. Here’s an excellent article from The Good Life France (my favourite website, as you all must know by now). It is written by my friend, Margo Lestz, who will give you all the history. It begins like this … “On the Thursday night before Easter, all the church bells go silent and they won’t be heard from again until Easter Sunday.” Click here to read more.

With the tragic fire that occurred this week at the beloved Notre Dame in Paris, thoughts will also be centred on the impact that has had around the world. Whether for religious reasons or for the tremendous historical symbol it represents, the hope is that what was lost will be rebuilt. Response has been heartwarming and unifying, from the greatest to the smallest level. The heroes of that day are les pompiers, the men and women firefighters who worked tirelessly to contain the flames and those who helped save the priceless art.

This photo is from my last visit to Paris in 2015. I will be back there in September for a few days, on my way to co-lead ~ (with my BFF Deborah Bine) ~ my fifth women’s tour in the south of France … click on that link if you want to know all the great things about that adventure! I hope some day I have the opportunity to take a photo of the newly restored grande Dame.

Bon weekend everyone!

Pain, Amour et Chocolat

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Where else but France would a Valentine’s lovefest include bread? Some might look at the title and think “pain” = heartbreak, considering the love connection, but nope, not here …  le pain is the French word for bread.

This weekend, this three-day show will tempt crowds celebrating love and all its pleasures in Antibes which, as many of you know, is my favourite place on the planet. It was my home for 4 months in when I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence. My husband and I have returned every year since.

More specifically this show focuses on the simple pleasures of bread, love and chocolate. Click here for the 2019 information.

This may sound crazy to some but, for me, stepping into a French boulangerie (bakery) is the same as finding yourself in the most intoxicating chocolate shop.  Seriously, the display of goods in some French bakeries is like that in an art gallery.

IMHO, no one does baking better than the French – from the basic baguette, brioche, and croissant to the morning superstars of pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to the variety of round, flat and long loaves to the cakes and pastries that scream to be eaten at any time of day or night. Delicieux!

Bread has always been a staple of the French culture but nowhere was its political significance greater than at the beginning of the French Revolution. A shortage of grain due to droughts and poor farm management caused the price of bread to increase way beyond the means of the  poor who were also being taxed outrageously while the aristocracy cavorted. For some, bread was the only meal of the day. In response to growing unrest, one government leader suggested the peasants should eat straw … hmm, not a wise move … he was soon found hung in the square, his mouth stuffed with straw.

Bread riots spread and when a rumour suggested the government was hoarding flour at Versailles, the palace was stormed. Read about The Women’s March on Versailles, October 5, 1789.  King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, went by carriage back to Paris followed by an enraged mob that grew to tens of thousands, all hell broke loose and the rest is history.

This was one of the earliest events  of the French Revolution and, although it has grown into a bit of a post-Revolutionary urban myth, it proved to be a defining moment along with the  storming of the Bastille three months earlier.Click here to read more about the French Revolution and other political and social issues that brought it about.

This is a typical lineup at least twice a day, at one of my favourite boulangeries in Antibes.

After the revolution, the government made certain bread would always be affordable for even the poorest family and, as a result, bread is surprisingly inexpensive in France. Bakeries are found in every town, down to the smallest hamlet and bread is baked twice a day. Lineups are part of the tradition and very social although you need to know what you want to order when your turn comes up. Dawdling is not a good idea!

Every region of France has its own remarkable and unique stye of cuisine and that includes bread. Virtually every meal includes bread but no side plate for it … so don’t ask for one!

So here’s to love and chocolate and … well, why not … at least if you are in France … to bread!

I don’t usually eat a lot of bread but when we are in France it’s a different story and one of my mantras is “Vive le pain” as I waddle trot off to  join the lineup for our daily supply. Fortunately visiting that part of the world also involves a lot of strenuous walking and hiking so you can fool convince yourself you’re working off that croissant! Here’s a shot of our bread board on a typical day.

How do you feel about bread? Is it part of your normal diet or a once-in-a-while treat? Do you or have you ever made your own bread or pastries? Back in the day, my grandmother and my mother made bread every week. When you travel are there places you visit that serve traditional food  you love to eat?

February 14th is many things

Happy Valentine’s Day ~ Bonne Saint Valentin ~ One Billion Rising ~ V-Day ~ Break The Chain 

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Of course there’s a place for hearts and flowers and chocolate and mushy love songs, but there are many girls and women around the world who receive none of those. Not on February 14th. Not ever.

Have you raised your voice? “Every February, we rise – in countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face. We rise through dance to express joy and community and celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence. We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.”

This year, once again, One Billion Rising is set to escalate RISINGS against all forms of violence against women and will continue to highlight where all these issues interconnect.

Here’s a song we should all add to our repertoire. It too is a song about love. This infectious anthem shares a message that is universal. Share it everywhere you can. Help break the chain of violence towards women and girls. BREAK THE CHAIN.

Click here to see V-day events happening around the world today.

“Like” the Facebook page.  Follow V-day on Twitter. Let’s all do our part …

Break the Chain

Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me
I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful
I feel my heart for the first time racing
I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand
I know there is a better world
Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand
Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise (x4)

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise (x4)

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

(Repeat chorus)

The indomitable Laura Bradbury

If you don’t know Canadian author Laura Bradbury, it is time you met her. And once you do, I have no doubt you will become as big a fan as I am. Not just of her books, but about her philosophy of life in general and the way she lives and writes about it.

As the tagline here on my website says, “Everyone has a story.” You know I am all about the unique experiences life presents to each of us … and Laura has quite the story to tell.

I’m delighted to have her visit with us. Here’s a quick introduction from her website. You have to love this: Described as the lovechild of Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” Laura Bradbury’s bestselling GRAPE books are a treasure trove of escapism and romance.

That gets your attention, doesn’t it? And having chatted with Laura during these past few months, the description sounds bang on … with a twist. Laura is also a survivor.

And now our interview:

PS ~ The story of your journey to writing novels is fascinating … and more than a little frightening. Please tell us how it all came about.

LB ~ I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life, but by my late thirties I’d started and abandoned about seven manuscripts. I was afraid to share anything I wrote, for fear I would be judged as talentless at the one thing I wanted to do for a career.

I went down a winding path of diversions, including a law degree at Oxford, a love affair with a Frenchman (now my husband), three children, renovating old houses in France… Just before I turned forty I was diagnosed, completely out of the blue, with an often terminal autoimmune condition of the liver and bile ducts called PSC. It was a complete kick in the teeth from life.

There is currently no treatment for PSC. There is no cure. The only hope for survival is a liver transplant, but first I had to get sick enough to qualify for one while dodging all the other ways PSC could kill me.

The day after I was diagnosed, I woke up feeling like I was being suffocated by a lead blanket of grief and fear. My entire life changed on its axis. I went downstairs, flipped open my laptop, grabbed a Post-it, and scribbled, “Fuck you. I’m not dead yet” on it. I stuck it on my screen and began to write my first published book, My Grape Escape. Ten months later I self-published it, and it quickly became a bestseller.

PS ~ The challenges you faced were immense with the sudden discovery of your degenerative liver disease. I will link to your blog here so you don’t have to repeat the entire story, but is it possible to say what the greatest lesson is from living through this epic struggle?

LB ~ There are several, but the most important one became crystal clear, especially in the moments before I was put under for my twelve-hour living donor liver transplant. Here it is: love is all that matters. I knew with absolute clarity in that moment that the measure of a life well lived is loving hard and being loved hard back. I had lived that, and I experienced truly life-changing acceptance and peace that had alluded me until that moment.

The other thing is to not waste a moment being untrue to yourself. Chase after your dreams—write that book, paint that painting, have that baby, take that trip. The hospitals I spent months in were full of people who, like me, were never expecting in a million years they would end up sick. Do not waste time in fear or procrastination.

PS ~ Such an impactful and frightening way to learn this important lesson in life! You inspire us. Now to the simpler side of life … If you had to choose between living in Canada or France, which would it be and why?

LB ~ That’s a tough one. My husband is French (from Burgundy), and our three daughters are Franco-Canadian, so our household is a grab bag of French and Canadian no matter where we’re living. All five of us are citizens of both countries.

In France, particularly at our home in the heart of the Burgundian vineyards, I love the food, the wine, the history, our friends and family there, and the rolling vineyards and benign landscape (no bears, cougars, tsunamis, or earthquakes—which for a West Coaster like me is not the norm!).

Typical village in Burgundy

In Canada I love the ocean (we live on Vancouver Island surrounded by the Salish Sea); the freedom to be an entrepreneur; the opportunities for our girls to play sports, get involved in clubs, and hold part-time jobs; my dad’s smoked salmon; and of course friends and family.

What actually feels the most natural for us is living half and half (and traveling a lot in between!). It’s impossible with school-age children right now, but half and half is our ultimate plan.

PS ~ Of all your books so far, do you have a favourite? Why that one?

LB ~ I think it has to be My Grape Paris. I began this most recent book in my Grape Series when I was extremely ill before my transplant on March 22, 2017. I dedicated it to my dear friend Nyssa, who donated 73% of her liver to save my life (we are both doing great). Writing My Grape Paris, a light, romantic, escapist story, got me through the scariest, darkest period.

I got back to editing My Grape Paris a month to the day of my transplant. The problem was that my advanced liver disease had adversely affected my brain prior to the transplant, and when I got back to work on it with a healthy brain and body, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I had written! I basically rewrote My Grape Paris from scratch.

When I finally published it in April 2018, it was so symbolic—even though the story has nothing to do with my illness or my transplant. I honestly didn’t know if I would be alive to finish the book, so when I finally had the paperback in hand, it was physical proof I survived. It also represented how writing had been a lifeline throughout my PSC journey and transplant.

PS ~ Do you have a set routine for writing or do you take it as it comes?

I work mainly when my two youngest daughters are in school, from around nine o’clock until three o’clock. My issue isn’t so much finding the discipline to write but the time. I pick up some hours on the weekends if I can, but unfortunately I am not an early-morning or late-night writer.

I create a newsletter for my readers every two weeks that I devote much time and love to, and that, as well as other marketing, is quite a lot to cram into my free hours these days.

As for the creation of new books, I am what is termed a “panster” (i.e., I barely outline, and my rough drafts are VERY rough) rather than a plotter. I’m so envious of plotters!

PS ~ LOL! As a confirmed pantser myself, I hear you! What can we look forward to next from you?

My goal is to publish my first novel this March, entitled A Vineyard for Two. It’s a romantic fiction set in the Burgundy vineyards. Here’s the blurb!

Up-and-coming winemaker Cerise Desloires believes in soul mates. Trouble is, she’s sure she’s already found—and lost—hers. Now the young widow has inherited half the vineyard she considers her own, and she’s got one chance to produce a vintage that could make or break her career. But when the flashy, impetuous Clovis de Valois is revealed as heir to the other half, her dreams of independence are dashed into chaos.

Cerise and Clovis seem to be opposites in every way that matters. Can their passion for winemaking—and secretly each other—unite them beyond their differences? Or will their clash ruin the vineyard, and the hearts, they’re both desperate to save?

A Vineyard for Two is my first fiction, so writing it has been a steep learning curve. I always want to expand and learn new dimensions of the craft.

PS ~ That’s definitely a story that will appeal to me and my subscribers! We will look forward to the release and I will share the news here, bien sûr! Now, please tell us what you would like us to know about your family.

Anyone who has read my Grape Series memoirs is familiar with my passionate, hilarious, and at times incomprehensible French husband, Franck!

We have three daughters. Our oldest, Charlotte, will soon be nineteen and is currently backpacking in Southeast Asia before university in the fall. Our middle daughter, Camille, is seventeen and already a world traveler with a deep interest in public service (she just returned from building a school in Sri Lanka). Our youngest, Clémentine, is eleven and quite a spitfire. She loves riding horses, playing the ukulele, and soccer.

Since my transplant my family is unequivocally my first priority, and I feel very fortunate to have them.

Laura, merci mille fois! Thank you for taking the time to visit here today. Your story inspires on so many different levels. It’s a pleasure to introduce readers here to you, your books and your contagious outlook on life.

Laura has graciously offered to giveaway three ebooks of My Grape Paris in my January newsletter. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, you can be by clicking on this link. Once you are signed up, go to the newsletter and enter the giveaway. Bonne chance/Good luck!

Dear Readers ~ you can connect with Laura in so many great ways! Here are her links:

Subscribe to The Grapevine – www.bit.ly/LauraBradburyNewsletter

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Bradbury/e/B00GRGF6A0

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

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/laurabradburywriter/?hl=en

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.ca/bradburywriter/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Author_LB

Bon weekend, tout le monde!  Take time to spend a while with a good book! Be kind to one another … and stay warm if you are in the parts of the planet experiencing a deep freeze these days. 

South of France Memories Tour 2019

It’s that time again! Time to book your place with us from September 15 to 27, 2019, to come along on our awesome South of France tour.

My good friend, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger, and I have the pleasure of spending 12 memory-filled days with 16 women as we share our passion for the south of France. We visit the charming, historic towns and villages featured in my novels and on Deborah’s website. We only change hotels once in the 12 days 🙂

Bring along a friend or relative, but we also guarantee you will have a wealth of new friends after the first day! Read the testimonials from past tours to see what an unforgettable experience this is! Join us! 🥖🧀🥂☕️✈️🇫🇷 Sept 15-27/19 ~ four spots left!
Click on this link for all the details http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/memories-tour2019/

Click here to go to this page on my website.  You can then follow along day by day on last year’s tour. The following photos tell a small part of the happy story!

How it all begins!
Shopping at the markets!
Join us for the trip of a lifetime!