Friday music – to an author’s ears

While checking email over my morning coffee today, I was thrilled to discover that a reader had just posted a 5 star review of my first novel, MAKE THAT DEUX! 

“GREAT BOOK!! I LOVE IT!” she said. “I really enjoyed reading this book. I liked all of the different characters and reading about their adventures. It never got boring. It kept me wanting to keep reading and reading. Great story!!!”

She had already read my third book, ALL THE ABOVE, which is nonfiction (a true story), and a very different type of book. Here’s what she said about that:

“I read this book in two days! I felt so many different emotions while reading it. I felt so sorry for the family to have to deal with this horrible and scary situation. Poor Jack having to go through cancer treatments while in the beginning of his college career. The book was very well written and an honest story of how the family coped during this time of tragedy. It showed how the McDermott family relied on their strong faith while so many obstacles were being thrown their way. I loved this book and had a hard time putting it down.”

I thanked her on Goodreads (she’d posted her reviews there, and on Amazon), and asked if she might consider reading my 2nd book, suspense novel UNDERWATER. She replied, “You’re welcome 🙂 I actually already read Underwater last year and loved it as well! I can’t wait to read your next one!”

All of that got my Friday (and my weekend, and month) off to a wonderful start! So, to celebrate, I thought I would share some (very old) photos from my year in Montpellier, France, the experience on which my novel MAKE THAT DEUX is based. (And it’s NOT a true story! Novel = Fiction!)

The handwritten words are grâce à one of my girlfriends, with whom I shared an apartment in Palavas* that year, and the photos come from a collage she made for me:

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Me (left), another girlfriend (right), and the teenage son of our program’s directrice, on a visit to Carcassonne…

 

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Like Jenny in MAKE THAT DEUX, sometimes I actually studied!

Our apartment building is still there…

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I’m on the right, with 2 girlfriends and the French boyfriend of one!

*Palavas-les-flots, a beach town 20 minutes away, where we livedFullSizeRender

My trip to France – the REAL story

[If you follow my blog, or any of my social media, you know that] I went to the South of France over the holidays. About a month ago, I was just recovering from jet lag, and about to begin a week of adventure over there, with my husband and our youngest, aka Mademoiselle.*

Once back in the U.S. (but being in love with France, and all things French), I was ecstatic to tell anyone who asked (and would listen) where we went (Montpellier, Avignon, and Lyon), what we did, where we stayed, etc. etc.

I could talk for hours a long, long time about our vacation, but, not wanting me to go on and on elaborate/tell stories about it, what most people were satisfied to hear was: “We had a great time!”

And we did.

But before the trip completely in any way fades from my memory, I’ve decided to describe some of our special memorable moments and events.

  • when, the first evening, we three walked down streets decorated with Christmas lights, and had dinner at a lovely restaurant, Le Petit Jardin, that was closing for the holidays the following day;
  • when, the next evening, the three of us dined at Les Jardins des Sens, in the hotel of the same name, and it was fantastic;
  • when we wandered through the town that weekend and had coffee and tea at Mademoiselle’s favorite cafés, where she had gone to study and hang out during the semester;
  • when I marveled at how Montpellier had changed (and how it hadn’t) since I was there a long time ago on my year abroad, and, when I had moments of déjà vu (except that I HAD already vu‘d), as we explored the city, and wandered around;
  • when Mademoiselle didn’t mind  minded  began not to mind again, that I was speaking French to whoever I could, and I did decently  fine  pretty darn well, practicing my French and communicating with tout le monde, in their native language;
  • when we wandered around, window-shopping, and going to museums and movies when almost everything was closed on Sundays;
  • when, after staying at good-to-great hotels in Montpellier and Avignon, my husband and I checked into a fabulous 5-star hotel near our friends’ home in Lyon (Mademoiselle stayed with them) for a few days, near the end of our trip (and we want to stay there again, someday);
  • when our French friends welcomed us into their home for the holidays, took us to church with them, gave us (very French) gifts, and included us in their family festivities;
  • when Mademoiselle suggested visiting Palavas-les-flots (the beach town, 20 minutes away from Montpellier, and where I lived as a student) on a Sunday – but, unable to find transportation, we gave up (although we could have taken a taxi, but didn ‘t think of it). But just knowing that Mademoiselle wanted to go there with me was almost enough;
  • when we ate French cheeses, crêpes, patè, and so much other good food, and drank wine.

So, if you were curious about our trip, but haven’t had time  were too shy  forgot to ask, but woudn’t mind knowing, there you have it.

*See my “Postcards from Europe” posts, in which I share the postcards I received from all over Europe from Mademoiselle last fall during her semester abroad.

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Above: a card we received from our friends after our return home. It’s an image of the Berges du Rhône et Hôtel-Dieu (the banks, or quays and paths, and the hotel on the west bank of the Rhône and the Presque-Isle – peninsula – between the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, which run through Lyon). The Hôtel-Dieu was a hospital for centuries, but is now being converted into a luxury hotel.

Postcards from Europe, #17

This card didn’t get to us before we left for our trip to France, but it was terrific to get it with our mail upon our return. We spent lots of time wandering through the rues of Montpellier, in the Centre Ville and the Quartier de l’Ancien Courrier. (If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram at juliemcdermott1 to see photos.)

Being in Montpellier with our daughter was wonderful, and it brought back many memories of my time there, when it was a smaller, quieter town. Back then, I motored around on a mobylette (moped) to and from the apartment I shared with two other students in Palavas-les-flots, the closest beach village on the Mediterranean Sea. Mademoiselle lived with a family in Montpellier, and she got around à pied (on foot) and on the (new to me) tram system.

Mademoiselle and I have a lot in common, and now we each have our time as a student in Montpellier, too. Something I never imagined, when I first wandered around there and began to love the French.

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Bonjour!

If this gets to you before you leave, consider this your first welcome to Montpellier! I can’t wait to show you and dad around, introduce you to my host mom and our director, and show you all the fantastic cafés we’ve catalogued during our semester here. I spent last weekend with the Williamsons* and they were absolutely wonderful – just like you said. I also have a parting gift of confiture du lait which is delicious. See you soon!

A bientôt, 

Mademoiselle

8-12-2015

P.S. They just turned the Christmas lights on and it’s GORGEOUS!

*The Williamsons are a French family (despite the anglicized last name) who live in Lyon and have been our friends since their son Charles was a summer exchange student chez nous several years ago. Unlike most other French families, Luc and Juliette have 8 (!) children, who are all teens or adults: Marie, Charles, Doriane, Aline, Lucie, Arthur, Blandine, and Astrid. We spent les fêtes de Noel with them this year, and they made us feel very welcome, and a part of the family! We hope they come visit us sometime soon!

Pizza and a Movie: Star Wars, Episode VII – the Force Awakens, in FRANCE!

Our Pizza Toppings at La Piazza Papa in Montpellier, France!

  • Black Olives
  • Ham
  • Mushrooms
  • Red Onions

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Movie:

Star Wars: Le Reveil de la Force

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Our final “Pizza and a Movie” for 2015 occurred during our vacation in the south of France for the Christmas holidays. Our first (and last) stop in France was in Montpellier, and on a rainy Sunday afternoon (and evening), we decided to go see Star Wars (in English, but with French subtitles, or the “Version Originale ST”). There were long queues for the Version Française (French dubbed version), but not for the Originale, so we were able to get tickets just before showtime.

What a great movie! I absolutely loved it, and if you saw the first and second movies (episodes IV and V) when they came out in theaters like I did in the 1970s, I believe you will, too. If not, I still think you’ll enjoy it. They seemed to take everything that worked really well in those two movies and do them again in this film.

Le résultat? My favorite movie of 2015.

In my French conversation class, we often talk about movies, and also about how an American film title is sometimes completely changed instead of just translated. This time, I like the translation better than the English title. “Le Reveil de la Force” does mean “The Force Awakens,” but, more literally, it means “The Awakening of the Force.”

That may seem like a small thing, but it’s significant to me, as an author who often agonizes over the exact wording of titles.

Another note: one scene in particular reminded me of the famous line in Episode IV: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” which has become a family saying chez nous. When you see this movie, you’ll know which scene I’m talking about.

The Pizza:

We had a drink first at a café on Place de la Comédie, then walked over to La Piazza Papa and asked to share (partager) this pizza. When the serveur brought it, the pizza had already been divided in two. It seemed fitting for a country that values l’égalité!

Vive la France! et Bonne Année 2016!

 

 

Postcards from Europe, #7

Over a month ago, Mademoiselle traveled solo by train through Paris and up to Rouen to visit her friend, Darrin. I had asked her never to travel alone in Europe, but she is an adulte, and she made her own decision. All went well, as you can read about below.

Just so you know, “Relay” refers to Relay for Life, the organization that helps raise funds for cancer research, that Mademoiselle and Darrin are/were involved in at UNC. I met him last spring, when my husband and I traveled to Chapel Hill for the event. He’s now a UNC grad, I’m told, and is teaching English in France before doing something else. I’ve never visited Rouen (or, tried to pronounce it), but I know it’s in the north of the country, in or near Normandy. A long way from Montpellier…

But it sounds delightful.

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Bonjour from Rouen!

I went to visit my friend from Relay, Darrin, this weekend and Rouen is so fun! Besides being the hardest city to pronounce ever, we spent the whole day exploring, window shopping, going to the Musée des Beaux Arts, and finding the best places to get crêpes.

Love,

Mademoiselle

10-10-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #4

Carcassonne is not too far from Montpellier, and I do wonder what it looks like now compared to a few decades ago, when I visited it with my group of study-abroad students from UNC. I remember that we had a picnic and did not eat at a restaurant, but we did drink wine. I also recall that my fear of heights kicked in as we toured it.

While Mademoiselle was touring Carcassonne, I was appearing at the Decatur Book Festival. She’s been such a great cheerleader for me this fall, as I go here and there to book signings and festival/writers’ conference panels! Something I never dreamed I’d ever do the day I spent in Carcassonne.

 

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Bonjour!

On Sunday we visited Carcassonne, a medieval fortress that has been completely restored and maintained in its original state. For lunch we went to this fantastic restaurant where we had cassoulet, a specialty of the Languedoc region, and plenty of wine (of course). After, we toured the castle and the cathedral and visited all of the touristy shops! So glad you had fun at the Decatur Book Festival!

Love,

Mademoiselle

06-09-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #3

This carte postale is hands down my favorite one so far. Nîmes is a town right next to Montpellier, and when I was the age of Mademoiselle, my coloc (roommate, and apartment mate) and I visited it one day toward the end of our year in France. However (and don’t tell Mademoiselle this), to get there, we “fait du stop” (hitch-hiked). But that’s another story.

We saw the Arena (L’Arène) too, but we didn’t get to tour it. I’m sure we looked in the guidebook before we went, but we didn’t see as much as  Mademoiselle and her friends saw. Wish we had!

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Bonjour!

We went on our first solo trip to Nîmes for the day, “une ville avec un accent,” and saw almost all of the sights on the other side of the card! La Tour Magne, Le Temple de Diane, La Maison Carrée, L’Arène, Le Jardin de la Fontaine, and the Cathédrale St-Castor. Nîmes is a beautiful small town with fantastic Roman architecture (apparently it was the largest city in Gaul/France during the Roman Empire). We did not get to see the Pont du  Gard (bottom right) but it was such a fun trip! Hope all is well!

Love,

Mademoiselle

5-9-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #1

My daughter (I’ll call her Mademoiselle, but if you’ve read ALL THE ABOVE, you know her name), is a junior in college, and is spending this semester studying in the south of France. She’s living in the same city I did (Montpellier), when I did the same (as a student at the same university*) for a year. Like me, she’s somewhat of a chronicler, and since August, she’s been sending me postcards (cartes postales) via la poste (snail mail).

Just as I’ve been doing with “Pizza and a Movie” posts, and as I’m starting to do with “Wine with Wendy on Wednesdays,” I’m going to do a series of posts sharing her postcards sent from Europe. Notice that she uses the French way for dates (day/month/year):

Voici la première carte postale:

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Bonjour à tous!

Today I visited the Château de Flaugergues, a small summer home built in 1696 by a member of the French Royal Court! Today it has sprawling gardens and the family that lives there makes wine (the rosé is the best) and it’s only 15 minutes away by train! I hope everything is good at home and I love you all!

Love,

Mademoiselle

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Of course, she’s been in touch with me and her father by telephone, text, email, and even the odd photo on snapchat or instagram. But her postcards seem more special, and they kind of link her time in France with mine.

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*The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

Par avion, with a kiss

“So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go.photo copy 4
I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
I don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go.”
– John Denver
 

Every couple has certain songs they know by heart.*

Like Jenny, the protagonist in my novel MAKE THAT DEUX, I didn’t mind almost enjoyed flying when I was younger…unless I was leaving behind someone I loved.

What once was an event – for which you dressed up – has changed. It’s now just a method of transportation that’s full of hassles and short of comfort, with bags, meals, and even legroom charged à la carte.

But some changes have been positive. No more smoking (if you don’t remember that, watch Mad Men). Better security, if sometimes aggravating. Presumably, better made airplanes. Cheaper flights? I suppose so, in “real dollars.”

The estimated cost of my round trip ticket from New York to Paris in 1979 and 1980 (with UNC’s Study Abroad group) was $385. Sounds affordable, but according to a Consumer Price Index calculator, that’s equal to $1233 today. I recently booked a round trip ticket from Rome to Atlanta for a family member for $1268.

[I know it was $385 because I saved the Estimated Costs information for my Year-in-Montpellier Program (based on 15 students in the group). Academic fees were estimated at $1,646 for the year. Lodging was $450, and ten months of meals totaled $820.]

In MAKE THAT DEUX, Jenny travels en avion, en train, en voiture (by car) and en mobylette (moped). She doesn’t hate to go to France, but she does hate to leave someone behind. She does it though, with a kiss…

In my upcoming novel, to be released later this summer, the main character (“C”) travels here and there by plane with the man she loves. She’s older than Jenny, and, like me, she’s not fond of flying. But she gets to travel the way I wish I could: first class, and sometimes by private jet – with a kiss kisses.

I won’t say where she and her boyfriend (“R”) go, or what happens while they travel together. But in an instant, everything changes…

*What are some of “your” songs? Here’s a few more of ours: “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina; “Chuck E.’s in Love” by Rickie Lee Jones; “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers; and “Rescue Me” by Linda Rondstadt

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