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.

 

Latest on Amélie!

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I’ve finished the manuscript for Amélie: An Alsatian Tale (Book One)! FYI, this is a working title. It is currently being read by several Beta readers. Then, time to edit once again, and again, and again. I’m still up in the air on whether to continue my path of indie publishing or wander down that rocky road of traditional publishing. Decision to come soon. Input welcome.

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As this novel sits and marinates, I’ve begun the sequel to The Stone Manor! It’s been great fun to reconnect with my old friends, Mairi, Kathryn and Duncan, Beth, Ian, and Sean. Angus wondered why I’d taken so long to get back to them. Then, there are the new characters I’m meeting for the first time. I hope you’ll love them all as much as I do. For now, back to writing!

Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend 2015

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(Author, Pat Montandon, Darlin’)

“If you take a book with you on a journey an odd thing happens. The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it…yes, books are like flypaper—memories cling to the printed page better than anything else.”  INKHEART by Cornelia Funke

I have a stack of books I purchased at the Girlfriend Weekend. It is not quite as tall as the Empire State Building but close. I will need to buy a new bookcase to house them. And, we will not be able to buy groceries for the next two months. But, what can I say. I could not resist. Each time I heard the authors speak I was intrigued, first by their story, then by their book’s story.

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(A sampling of my book purchases)

As I begin to read each of these books the quote from INKHEART will be true because I will remember the author I met and the amazing time I had this weekend . . . and the memories will return. I will smile, I will laugh, I will dance, dance, dance.

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(The Queen Herself, Kathy L. Murphy)

Thank you, Kathy for following your dream and allowing all of us to be part of it! I love your energy, your heart, your creativity, and your love of books and their authors. You are amazing!

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(Our Grimm’s Tales Table)

Saturday night, we concluded the fabulous weekend with The Great Big Ball of Hair Ball – Around The World With Books! Our table chose Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Thanks to Jan Ward and Marsha Toy Engstrom for the fabulous table decorations!! It looked as magical as the tales themselves. We all dressed as one of the characters. What a fun group!!!!!!

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(A partial group pic)

I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with a hot pink, leopard print, tiara wearing group of book lovers. I discovered they accepted my fairy crown in place of a tiara and my bohemian dress in place of the hot pink leopard print. I met a lot of kindred spirits and made many new friends. Such an open-hearted group of people with a love of books and literacy.

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(Carolyn Turgeon as the Little Mermaid)

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was meeting and hanging out with Carolyn Turgeon, author extraordinaire and editor of Faerie Magazine. Dreams do come true people. She’s as beautiful and enchanting as her magazine. Subscribe to it now!!! And, if you love an amazing retelling of fairy tales buy her books.

I know you’re wondering which character I chose to be for the ball. Well, thanks for asking. I chose the twelfth fairy godmother from Sleeping Beauty. There were thirteen in the Grimm’s tale. The thirteenth was the evil fairy who cursed the princess with death. The twelfth fairy godmother held back her blessing till after and then saved the princess by changing the curse to sleep and not death.

would like to thank my son, Matt, for the beautiful fairy crown, my Christmas gift. What mother doesn’t want a fairy crown for Christmas. I’m so easy to buy for! I want to thank my daughter, Rachel, for traveling to Nacogdoches with me and doing my enchanted makeup and hair! And, last but not least, I want to thank my sister-in-law Cathy, for making my incredible feather cape! 

There is a long list of fabulous authors that attended the weekend. Too many to list here. So, I will just have to blog more about each of them in the future. I highly recommend you check out the Beauty and the Book website and look for the reading lists!

The weekend was magical and enlightening. I will remember it always, or at least till next year when I attend Girl Friend’s Weekend 2016. You should join us!

 

 

 

Kidnapped by Characters: Caught Up in the Story

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There are times when I find myself surrounded by the beauty of this village, the smell of French pastry, the sounds of their beautiful language, the church bells and the lone accordion player on the street. I love being in the moment. Especially this kind of moment. But then, there are those moments, hours, days, that I am swept up by the characters in my story, and I disappear into Medieval Alsace.

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(A wonderful book for a historical perspective.)

My latest research has been about alchemy. So, it is only fitting that Ursula Forestier, the village apothecary/herbalist should lure me into her shop, guiding me carefully to her back room where she has her laboratory. Her shop/home sits at the end of Rue des Forgerones, by the northern gate to the village. Her husband, Kubler, is the royal forester, so their location is perfect. Just beyond the gate lies the forest and the treacherous path leading up the mountain to the castle.

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(Her place is last building on the right just at the gate.)

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(View of north gate from outside village walls. Castle keep beyond wall.)

 

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This is the entrance to her lane. Her shop and home is just beyond the curve on the right. In the curve on the left, you can find Amélie Daragon at home with her family, her father and older brothers busy working in their forgery. Just before her home is the village miller, Loy Munier. Across the lane is Ansel Chevrier, the local goat herder. His wife, Yoland, runs the shop where the most wonderful cheese may be bought, as well as, wool for the weavers. The final shop along the river on the left belongs to Leon Fleuriot. He, too, is a blacksmith, like Amélie’s father, though he forges common implements for the village and not weaponry. He is the lone survivor of his family after the plague overtook the village some fifty years earlier. But enough about that. Let’s talk about Ursula our village apothecary.

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This is her home. The garden is just to the right, where all the herbs are grown. And just out of the picture before we come to the garden is the shop.

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If we look closely through the window we just might see her pouring an elixir into a tincture or grinding herbs in a bowl. When we first enter, the tiny bell on the carved wooden door announces our arrival. There is a magnificent Tree of Life fashioned into the wood. If you trace the trunk of the tree with your finger and whisper, “Life to one and all who enter this place,” you will be blessed with good fortune. This is what I’ve been told.

Just inside and along the left wall, glass enclosed cabinets of various shapes and sizes hold all manner of curious things. Oh look, this beautiful white object has a small note that reads, “Unicorn Horn.” And there is a brilliant feather labeled “Bird of Paradise: West Indies.” I could spend hours just gazing at all the treasures in these cabinets. Along the left wall are shelves filled with jars of liquid and baskets of herbs. The marble topped counter sits just in front of these shelves.  A scale sits on the left corner and a mortar and pestle to the right.  But the real marvel is through the closed door straight ahead. The laboratory. I would let you join us inside, but this is my first trip, and Ursula will not allow anyone else to join us. Secrets lie within. I promise to give you a glimpse in the very near future.

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I spoke of the plague earlier. Through this web covered window you can see into the crypt under the Chapelle St Michel. It is locked tight, but oh what lies inside will cause your skin to crawl like the creatures that inhabit it. If you’re brave enough follow me inside. I think it best we visit the crypt in August and not the end of October when its inhabitants might be up and about, as it were.  But it will have to wait till next time.

 

Picking Grapes: No Stomping Allowed

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Hello friends! This is the goal, just so you know. Fill your bucket with grapes, again, and again, and again, until the boss says it’s time to go home.

Once again, telling people you’re doing research for a novel you’re writing opens a plethora of doors. When we met Pierre Thomann last spring, and he gave us the private tour of his chapel, I was elated. Then, I discovered a Pinot Gris Grand Cru among his cadre of wines that tasted like the nectar of the gods. He began explaining about growing grapes and the whole wine making process once I told him I needed to know for my story. I decided to be brave and ask if it would be possible, when we returned in the fall, to pick grapes in his vineyards. HE SAID YES!

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(My grape-harvesting buddies.)

So here we are picking grapes the last week of harvest. This was the day to pick Gewurztraminier Grand Cru grapes. (Say that 5 times really fast.) Jim and I met Pierre and his wife, Titia, at their home/shop in Kaysersberg and drove up into the vineyards. We were paired up with someone to pick along side. I scored and got Titia. Maybe she thought I would need more help. After a very quick lesson in what was good enough to pick and what was not, we began.

Me picking grapes Oct

(Me in my new French headband.)

This is not a job for the faint of back. It was a beautiful sunny day. There we were in a vineyard, with a French vineyard owner, and his family, and his workers picking grapes. And they were all speaking French and laughing, and it was like we were in a movie. A very lovely movie. Someone came along fairly often checking our bucket and replacing it when it was full.  The buckets were then taken to a large bin on a trailer. The owner and his son would take each grape one by one, inspect them, and drop only the perfect ones into the bin. This, among many other things, makes a grape good enough to be a Grand Cru.

Me & Jim Oct

Jim and I picked enough grapes between us in one afternoon to make 200+ bottles of wine. Not bad for a couple of newbies. We did all take a break mid-pick. At which point all the smart phones came out of pockets and lots of photos were taken with the crazy American writer and her husband, who volunteered to pick grapes for free for the purpose of research. So what I thought was romantic and such an adventure, was for them life as they know it. And this is why I write fiction. Taking people who believe they are living ordinary lives and making them appear fantastic, romantic, legendary.

Me & Pierre at his shop

(Me and Pierre in his wine shop.)

After picking grapes, we went to visit Pierre again and bought some of my favorite wine. He then took us on a tour of the inner courtyard, where the chapel sits. He explained that his family has been in the wine business since 1525. They started as wine barrel makers and obtained vineyards by 1600. This business has passed from father to son since 1525! His great grandparents married and joined vineyards. His great grandmother was a Saltzman (good French name), thus the business name Saltzman-Thomann. Pierre’s grandmother was niece of the Abbess of the Abbey of Alspach, here in Alsace. (How about that for a lovely alliteration.)  Because of said grandmother, their family inherited this property in the 1700s, with the chapel and the building that was the original Abbey, built in the 1300s.

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(The staff of the Abbess of Alspach from 1700s. It is displayed on the wall in the chapel.)

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(The former Abbey, later it was a hospital, now a residence.)

The Abbey had an extensive wine cellar and vineyards. It was built around 1440. Across from the Abbey in the courtyard is a doorway that used to lead to the bakery for the Abbey. There is a date of 1580 and the symbol for bakery above the door. Attached to the chapel is the butcher. The sign above its doorway has a date of 1739. As you can see, the Abbey was self-contained. Of course, many people in the valley worked the Abbey lands and paid with their harvests. Tithes were high.

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(Door to ancient bakery. 1580)

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(Door to butcher. 1739)

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(Date and symbol above doorway of butcher shop.)

Finally, Pierre took us into the cellar of the ancient abbey. The original wooden wine barrels are still there. They no longer use these as of several years ago when they changed to stainless steel tanks. When it was time to clean the interior of these barrels. Someone, (Pierre was the one to do this most often.) had to climb inside through an opening 10″ high by 15-18″ wide. He told us he had to raise his hands over his head and put them together like he was diving and go into the barrel, twisting his body as he went. WHAT? I was claustrophobic just listening to him tell about it! Anyway, now they are taking apart the barrels and labeling them piece by piece so they can put them back together somewhere outside the cellar. Pierre also said that during WWII many of the neighbors would come into this cellar along with his family to hide during air raids. We stood in the cellar for a few moments quietly, and I tried to imagine the fear they must have felt. The parents trying to console their children as the sound of war raged outside. Thankfully, only a few houses where destroyed in this small village during the war. The village down the road was not so fortunate. It was leveled. Not a house left standing. Tragic.

Me & Pierre in wine cellar

 

(Pierre and me in front of a wine barrel.)

So there you have it. Just a few snippets from our wine picking adventure last fall. I hope you enjoyed your time with us and will take a moment to feel the stickiness of the grape juice on your fingers. Now breathe in deeply as you raise your hands to your face. Ahh. The sweet smell of the nectar of the gods.

I will end our day’s journey with a few pictures of the vineyards once the harvest has ended. It’s late October and soon the leaves will fall from the vines, and they will sleep through the long winter ahead. Until next time. Bonjour.

Chateau late Oct

Oct

Late Oct

 

The Village: There and Back Again

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(Kaysersberg, Alsace, France. Oct. 2013)

Let me begin by apologizing for the long silence. The Spring has been full of other work. But, I am back in France, and it is time to write! It’s been eight months since we were here last. Not much has changed. Although the weather is nothing the same. We arrived five days ago. Five very long, very hot days. I’ve not gotten much done beyond sitting in front of the fan with a damp cloth draped over my neck in our third floor un-airconditioned apartment. So when I say it was 97º F for a high yesterday, believe it . . . it was HOT.

But last night the clever north wind began to blow, and today is a new day. The sun is shining brightly, but the air has a hint of coolness. And I am thankful. The brain fog has cleared, and once again I hear my characters conversing. Once again, I wander the streets and the castle ruins following their lead.

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(Beatrix. Oct. 2013)

The day we arrived, I was greeted by our friends and neighbors. Beatrix from the shop across the street, Maurice, our red-headed friend, whose family owns the castle property, the lovely woman who runs the antique book store whose name I cannot recall, and our delightful landlords, Jean Jacques and Gabrielle.

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(Maurice. Oct. 2013)

I do love this village and the delightful people who live and/or work here. My biggest regret is my lack of ability to communicate in French. This limits any deep, meaningful conversation. And though I am determined to learn this beautiful language, I fear it will be some time before these conversations can be had. So for now, we talk about everyday life and family, and legends and love. That should be sufficient for the moment.

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(Top: Jean Jacques and Gabrielle in their restaurant. Bottom: The antique book shop. Oct. 2013)

The church bells are tolling as I’m writing, and they remind me of a simpler time when people knew the hour of the day by the clanging of bells. No clocks, no phones, no computers. And people didn’t count by minutes or hours, but by blocks of time, as needed. I could do with some simplification, less micro-management of my time and life. More reflecting, more deep breathing, more observing.

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(Bell tower of Église Set Croix. Oct. 2013)

I intend to post regularly while staying in Kaysersberg. Some writing will resemble mini-village tours, some will be from our time now and some from last October, and some will be about the novel that is currently in process. So sit back, and join me won’t you for our all too brief time in Alsace.

 

 

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.

 

Finding Yourself Inside The Story

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Luc Grun and me in his studio in Riquewihr, France.

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Our new friends and owners of the apartment we’d rented for the week invited us downstairs one evening to their restaurant to meet some of their best friends. We walked down from our third floor apartment and entered the restaurant. There at the table by the door sat Jean-Jacques, Gabrielle, Isabeth, and Luc. They’d started the party without us. Jim and I sat down, and we were all introduced. I sat next to Luc and Jim sat next to Isabeth. Let the magic begin!

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Inside Le Capucin Restaurant.

Luc is a mathematician, turned linguist, turned painter. He has a deep voice and an infectious laugh! We six spent the evening together, discussing all manor of topics. Our conversation was a constant mixture of French, German, and English. Most of the time all at once. It was like being in a movie, an indie film…French comedy. I love finding myself inside a story. Full of the most amazing characters. People I could never write. Bigger than life. Luc is just such a person. Jim and I drove to Riquewihr a few days later and visited him in his studio. It is a must see if you ever go to this delightful village. He’s on the main walking street mid-way up the hillside. #37. Tell him we sent you.

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Gabrielle and me in Le Capucin Restaurant.

I love finding kindred spirits in unexpected places, though I should have known I was destined to find just such a person in Kaysersberg. In fact, I’m so excited about our new friendship, one that will last a life-time, I’ve decided to take French this summer. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m laughing as I type this just thinking about summer posts…could be funny.

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One of Gabrielle’s pottery lamps.

Okay, I said she and I were kindred spirits. Look at what she can do with clay! She makes the most wonderful, whimsical lamps. The restaurant is full of them. I’m hoping to place my order when we return in the fall. We will definitely be visiting them at their farmhouse in the mountains near the village. Her studio is there.

This is where I need to tell you that the following day after meeting Luc, we had lunch at the restaurant with two more of their dear friends. A retired couple who were professors of Biology and English. They were delightful! Jean-Jacques prepared a traditional Alsatian dish for us for lunch (which was delicious) and we spent hours eating and talking about life and legends. We talked about how there were many people in the area with the family name Ancel. Now the reason this is important has to do with Arthurian Legends, Sir Lancelot in particular. If you break down his name in French, which he was according to legend, it is L’ancel’ot…Little Ancel. My mind was spinning with ideas for my novel. Sadly, our time had to end, as I had another appointment with a local historian on the other side of the village. We made a date to visit our new professor friends at their farm, which is very near Jean-Jacques and Gabrielle’s home, when we return in the fall. I can hardly wait!

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Me in the doorway of  The Golden Lion Restaurant in Kaysersberg.

Notice the name above the door at the restaurant in the above photo. J. Ancel. Jim and I had walked by this restaurant, next door to our apartment all week long. We decided to try it out our last night in town. We walked in and immediately loved the place. The tables were beautifully set, the light fixtures were iron, there were huge beams across the ceiling, and the food…well, DELICIOUS. As exciting as all this was, I had no idea that fate once again had led me to this very place. The owners of the restaurant were none other than, you guessed it, the Ancel’s. Sir Lancelot’s family. Here I was, inside my own story, and loving it. I giggled like I was a little girl when we first noticed the name on the menu. What a perfect way to end a perfect vacation.

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My room with a view.

As I sit upstairs on my final night in our apartment the church bells are ringing. I open the window and lean out, looking toward the steeple rising above the house tops. It’s dark out, except for the lamplight on the street just below our window. No one is around. The bells are suddenly quiet, and I listen for ancient voices whispering on the street below. I look up at the castle tower and see a loan figure standing in the open window. She waves to me, inviting me to come closer. It’s her story I find myself a part of. Her name is Amélie.

 

Heroes Real and Imagined: Knights Across the Centuries

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Knights in Shining Armor are not always what they seem.

In April, we drove to France for lunch. (I love saying that!) We met several friends in Riquewihr, another lovely Alsatian village. After eating something very delicious (I’d like to tell you what it was but I don’t remember. You just need to know that everything I’ve eaten in Alsace has been delicious.), we walked up the main street and looked in the many wonderful shops. I saw this Knight standing in the doorway of one of the stores and knew I had to have my picture taken with him. I say him, though he never spoke to me, nor did he raise his helmet so I could see his face! Anyway, I took the photo and sent it to our grandson, Graham, back in Texas. He and I have this thing about knights and dragons and such. One of the first things I noticed about this particular Knight in Shining Armor was the size of the armor itself. If I stepped up on the platform, it appeared to be just my size. So, this could have belonged to Joan of Arc. Hmm. All this to say, in my new novel, a trusted knight is sent on a dark errand . . . not a shining one at all. His travel takes him across the valley from Kaysersberg to the Rhine, then on to the Black Forest. In order to familiarize myself with the terrain, Jim and I drove in as straight a line as possible to the river. It was a beautiful drive. Looking across the vineyards toward the Vosges mountains and the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. As you can see the weather was lovely. Cold and rainy. The perfect day for a dark ride east. The first body of water we came to was a small river,

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Le Fecht.

We’re going to need a small bridge to get across. Wood or stone. More research.

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Le Fecht.                                                                                                              L’ILL.

Next, we came to the L’ILL river. Even bigger. Bridge or Ferry? Continue the research. A few miles further down the road, we took a side trip from my story in search of a more modern knight. Jim had read there was a monument honoring Audie Murphy in Holzwihr. An intense battle took place in the woods outside the village in WWII, and he saved the day, the village, and much more. A true knight. Do a little research of your own and check it out. Very interesting!

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Jim next to the Audie Murphy Memorial near Holzwihr, France.

Leaving Holzwihr, we traveled on across the valley to the Rhine River. It’s very industrial along the river in this area today. I was continually asking myself what this all looked like seven hundred years earlier. So many questions. Finding the answers is part of the adventure I find myself a part of.

 

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The Rhine River bridge at Breisach am Rhein, Germany.

Join me next time for the final days of my writing vacation. I’ll introduce you to Luc. You won’t be disappointed. A current knight  who yields a paint brush in place of a sword!

Of Carriages and Chapels: Medieval Moments

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Chapelle de l’Oberhof

“Will I ever get through those locked gates to see the 14th century chapel?” I’ve asked that question for a number of years now, and FINALLY, I learned the answer this week. This chapel is privately owned by the Thomann family. They also own Salzmann Thomann Vineyards. I went on their website, found their email address and explained my quest. I said I was writing a novel set in Kaysersberg in the Middle Ages and would love to tour the chapel.

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Inside the gates, in front of the chapel.

That very evening, as if by magic, I had an email from the owner telling me to ring the bell or call at the shop, and he would let me in to see the chapel. I was so excited; I could hardly sleep that night! I imagined sitting in the chapel, listening for the voices of the characters I’ve created, and possibly those I have not yet met. However the next day I realized, it was impossible to be left alone inside the chapel, as it was filled with wonderful art and icons. Truly a beautiful place of worship. And, I, being a complete stranger, was still afforded a personal tour by the owner.Jim took lots of pictures while I asked questions

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Window above doorway into chapel.

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Beautiful kneeling benches at the front of the chapel.

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Gravestone in the center of the chapel floor.

The interior was beautiful. The stone floor was fantastic. In the center was the carved stone slab in the above photo. I asked the owner about it, and he told me it was the grave of the builder of the chapel. There was a glass encased ornate staff from the Abbess of the nearby Abbey of Alspach on one of the walls. I stood in the center of the chapel and listened. I heard Amélie speaking with someone I did not recognize. Aha, a new character! I can’t wait to write the scene. The funny thing is I have no idea what I will write. But, I know once I begin the characters will have such a story to tell! Speaking of telling a story, here is a scene from the opening of my novel. (This is just the first draft, still a bit rough around the edges.) The village cheered as the opening procession of La fête des Vendanges marched down the main street toward the royal platform. The Harvest Festival had been celebrated in Rois de Montagne for centuries. As Madeline stood with her family near their shop waving her homemade banner, she felt a bite to the breeze that blew through her long black hair. Pulling her shawl across her belly, she shivered. Her unborn child stirred. Something was not right. First, the foot soldiers passed carrying flags representing the kingdom and the royal family. Madeline’s young sons yelled and jumped up and down with excitement. What boy did not want to be in the royal guard? Papillon, Rois’ town cryer, followed the soldiers announcing Borchard, the mayor, and his wife, Marie, riding on horses modestly adorned with flowers. Musicians played while jugglers and fire-eaters entertained the villagers along the main street. Several wagons with barrels of the new wine from the local vineyards rolled past the crowds. Everyone cheered, excited to indulge in the celebration following the parade. Finally, King Ulrich appeared, riding his war horse, flanked by his most trusted knight, Sir Galle de Oberay, steward of the castle. Each villager bowed. However, only briefly as the queen’s litter came into view. Everyone tossed flowers to Queen Giselle and shouted blessings. She was greatly loved and her beauty was unsurpassed. Her golden hair, braided and wrapped into a bun, gleamed in the sunlight.

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Philippe waiting to carry me through town!

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Me and my lady-in-waiting, Nina.

First, the chapel. Now this! There next to the bridge across from the chapel stood my carriage awaiting me! For a mere, 8 Euros, you can take a 30 minute ride through the medieval streets of town. Yes, please! I didn’t look like Queen Giselle as I rode in my own carriage along the same street I’d just written about, but I waved at passersby just the same. It was beyond fun! Tomorrow, we go for a drive across the valley toward the Rhine River to get a feel for the lay of the land. What do river crossings look like now? What might they have looked like then? Wait till you see what we found along the way!