Oh, the Places I Write!

Our Kaysersberg flat

I’ve been taking every spare moment of late to finish my second novel (and begin the sequel to THE STONE MANOR), so my blog has sat dormant. With Book One of my YA Fantasy ready for an agent, I thought it might be interesting to backtrack a few of the many enchanting places I sat creating this fairy tale. It began in our cozy flat in the Alsatian village of Kayserberg, the setting for the novel. The village, not the flat. That’s our building. The ground floor is the restaurant, the next three floors are apartments. Ours is on the top floor, sitting up under the eaves. It was the old family flat, so lots of room, full kitchen, lovely antique furnishings, fantastic views.

Jean Jacques restaurant

This is the enchanting restaurant on the ground floor of our building, Le Capucin. It was home to my writing fits on numerous occasions. I ate more tarte flambée than should be allowed, but then I was in Alsace. If you are ever in Kaysersberg, which everyone should be at least once in their life, stop in and eat. Tell Jean Jacques and Gabrielle, I sent you. They are enchanting! More about them later.

Me writing in front of Kaysersberg apartment

When not writing inside the restaurant, I might be found outside in their sidewalk cafe area.

Me writing in kitchen in Kaysersberg

Some days I chose to stay in our flat and write at the kitchen table.

Me writing at bakery in Kaysersberg

Just down from our building was a trendy little French cafe. If the weather was nice, which it was often, I could be found here, trying to focus on my writing and not on the people around me.

Me writing at favorite bakery in Kaysersberg

A bit further down the street is my very favorite pâtisserie, Au Péché Mignon. Have you noticed a pattern? I eat, and I write. Why wouldn’t I? Right? The chocolate pastries are legendary. It’s a good thing our flat was on the 4th floor. Lots of walking, climbing, walking some more. And then we eat.

Me writing on bench Kaysersberg

Another of my favorite places to write was on this bench, above the village, near the chateau ruins. I would say this one does not have to do with food, but I think we actually picnic’d here.

Me writing at apartment in WF

When I was first diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2012, we got an apartment in Wichita Falls, Texas to be near our daughter and her family and near my oncologist in Grapevine. When we weren’t in Europe training and traveling for Young Life, I was here. And when I had moments of clarity and small windows of creativity, I would write . . . this fairy tale. I believe this story, this Alsatian tale, has been a therapeutic exercise for me, a means of escape through difficult times. There were days I killed off characters, and it was the right thing to do. I felt guilty the first time it happened because, as is often the case, she didn’t deserve it. I loved creating a world of my own making, some parts of it drawn from history, some drawn from folklore told me by people from our village, and some from my own imagination. I love being a writer!

My writing studio

We are no longer in that little apartment, a place that became my sanctuary. We now live right around the corner from our daughter in a lovely home. A gift to our family from God when we weren’t looking for it because we didn’t know we needed it. A few months after buying the home and moving in, our daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, this is where I write in those spare moments when we are in Texas and not in Europe, my very own space. It is as quirky and eccentric as I am.

The End screen Amélie

It is where I typed this. Book One has come to an end and is waiting to be discovered and given wings. I am very attached to this story because of the life I lived while writing it. Amélie and I have gone through a lot together. I am so grateful she introduced herself to me in that enchanted village in France. I have loved telling her story so far, and I can’t wait to continue the adventure that is her life in Book Two.

The smoke rising from lavender candle

And now, we wait.

 

Fairy Tale . . . Shoot!

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Fairy Tale Shoot was my January 2015 post. My first and only post of the year. The reason being, our daughter Rachel was diagnosed in February with breast cancer. The dreaded C dragon swooped into our realm and darkened our family fairy tale.

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(Before things went dark.)

2014 had been a difficult year for our family, so I was happy to say goodbye to it and welcome 2015 with open arms. Rachel traveled to Nacogdoches with me to be my personal assistant, (a.k.a. hairstylist, make-up artist, photographer, cheerleader), as I attended my very first Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend. I met Kathy Murphy, the founder and Queen Herself, along with many fabulous authors and book club members. It was a fun, enchanting time. At the end of the weekend. Rachel and I went to a wooded spot and did a magical photo shoot of my Fairy Godmother persona. ( Rachel is a fantastic professional photographer. Score.)

Then February came along and on our granddaughter’s birthday the dreaded news came, and our world turned upside down. It is still upside down as she is still in treatment, but the prognosis looks good, and we are grateful for God’s presence with us in these hard days, weeks, months, and now year.

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(Siblings: Sean and Rachel)

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(Family Racing for the Cure!)

This has been her personal fight, but not without the support of our entire extended family and many, many friends. We have all surrounded her with every ounce of love and strength and courage we could muster, and then, we abide. It’s a helpless feeling to watch your child fight for her life. There are no words to truly describe the depths of these emotions, so I won’t even try. But, I have watched her stand strong, and on those days she could not stand, I watched her husband carry her . . . I watched her brothers lean in . . . I watched her family and friends circle up around her . . . I stood with her dad on her behalf.

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And yet . . . there are days when no one else can stand up for her, and she fights on because she is a warrior. She is strong and brave and beautiful. And I love her with all my heart.

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The battle continues. It requires the drinking of poison for an entire year, but she has beaten the C dragon, and she has the scars to prove it. Fairy Tale . . . shoot! This is real life!

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And because this is real life, I write fairy tales. There are days I cannot gather one creative thought, and I sit. Then, I am carried away by my own emotions and I write. Several characters lost their lives in 2015. It was a dangerous year. However, no matter how dark and desperate things appear, I will bring light to my story, and my heroines will be strong and courageous, ever-flawed, but heroes just the same.

I have come to realize I cannot wish away bad years, bad months, bad weeks, bad days. What I can do is embrace each day as a gift. I have to take it as it comes and do with it what I can. I have to live in the middle of the pain and the mess and feel it completely. And, I am grateful for the days that are full of joy and beauty and light, because I have those as well. Life is an adventure! Grab your sword, your bow, your wand, your pen, whatever weapon you use and join in.

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This hangs on the wall in my writing studio as a reminder.

(Original quote by G. K. Chesterson: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”)

 

THE STONE MANOR IS HERE!

Book Cover

After almost three months of working on updating this blog site, it’s finally up and running. (Thank you, Andrew Hale and Andy Fronius!) AND, after beginning my novel, THE STONE MANOR, over six years ago as a short story, it’s finally published! I’m beyond excited. It was a very long pregnancy. The labor was intense, but a labor of love. Now that my baby is here, I just sit and stare at it.

I attempted to have it published by October, but realized it just wasn’t going to happen. Things always take longer than you think. I started looking at dates in November, as in, what happened in history, famous people’s birthdays, famous and infamous inventions. You know me. Why wouldn’t I? Suddenly, a thought came to mind. I should look at the birth dates of my MacDonald ancestors, since the story is partially based on them. AND GUESS WHAT? The first MacDonald in my line born in the US to my Isle of Skye ancestor was born on November 6, 1788. There it was!

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(This is a photo of my great-grandparents. My great-grandfather, James Rueben Little, was the great-grandson of our MacDonald ancestor. This is also his fiddle!)

I realized I had very little control over the exact date my novel would be for sale. I knew November 6th was a long shot. However, my novel is all about ancestral dreams, fairy glens, and fate. In keeping with the fairy tale theme, it was, in fact, published on November 6th. This just makes me smile.

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(Your dreams are worth your best efforts to achieve them.)

Last night, Jim and I went to our favorite Thai restaurant in Percha, Germany (near Munich) to celebrate my dream finally coming to fruition. This was my fortune at the end of the meal. The dream theme continues. This also made me smile . . . and laugh.

Dreams do come true. I’ve loved the journey, from putting the first words to paper to pressing the PUBLISH button on my laptop. I know newbie novels don’t sell themselves. I’ve a lot of work ahead of me. But, I’ll be doing it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, a fairy song I once heard in my dreams.

 

Amelie: From Castle to Cottage

39 Kaysersberg Chateau Tower Roof View

(Castle tower in Kaysersberg, Alsace, France.)

When a character introduces herself…

Following my last trip to Kaysersberg, I began researching names from the region. I wrote out a list, mostly from the Middle Ages. As I began to read each name aloud a character began to form, with a story to follow. My Alsatian Tale is taking shape. No doubt, it will shift several times before finally settling on the printed page.

But for now, she has a name…my heroine. Amelie. Her life began, as is fitting for this fairy tale, in a castle. But as fate would have it, at fifteen, she  finds herself living in a small village, in an even smaller cottage.

Life in a castle may appear charming, but for Amelie it is among the timbered houses and along cobblestone streets that the real story begins.