Wine with Wendy on Wednesdays

My friend Wendy is a talented artist, an avid reader, and the mother of 5. How does she do it all? Je n’ai aucune idée! (I have no idea!)

The last two times we had a rendez-vous, we met for déjeuner – lunch – on a Wednesday, and we had a glass of white wine. As we caught up on each other’s lives, the subject of our creative endeavors came up.

Art, and writing.

Wendy is full of energy, smart, clever, and fun. She’s been encouraging me and my writing for years. Her objets d’art are lovely and cool. Last Wednesday, as we dined at La Petite Maison, I told her about my latest book – the one I’ve just finished writing, for which I finally decided on a title.

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I told her a little about the story, and although the book has already been edited, revised, edited again, and proofed, she asked if she could read it, pre-publication.

She wanted to be my beta-reader.

Of course, I said yes, and I sent her the PDF later that day. That night, she sent me her initial (very positive) reaction (phew!). She also helped me fine tune the “elevator pitch” or “log line,” and the “blurb” (description).

It was so refreshing to talk to someone who reads constantly (and reads a variety of work) about my next book. Inspired by the fact that our birthdays fall during the next two months, Wendy and I also decided on a new plan: we’ll have lunch at a French restaurant once a month, on a Wednesday, and have a glass of wine with our meal.

Une très bonne idée! et merci, Madame!

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List Post, Numéro Trois (de novembre)

  • Polishing my presentation for my Author Focus panel at Bouchercon 2014 this Saturday, November 15 at 12 noon (Harbor B)
  • Anticipating Release Date of UNDERWATER, just two weeks from now, on November 25, 2014!
  • Downloaded the Bcon app on my phone; je suis prête! (I’m ready! Thanks for suggesting I look, Jim!)
  • One (print) signed book purchased last week: Truth Be Told, the latest from fellow Sister in Crime and Bouchercon 2014 attendee Hank Phillippi Ryan, whom I met here in Atlanta at the MJCCA Book Festival
  • Revision/Plot sharpening: After a decision to trim and sharpen the plot (while paying attention to pacing), WIP now at 24k words…If I write 1,000 words a (work)day between now and the end of December, I’ll meet my goal of 50k by year end (which will be more than halfway done)
  • Caught up with and heard her thoughts on the attributes of good audio books on Saturday evening, over a glass of wine with a good friend
  • Wish I could be in two places at once: This weekend is UNC Homecoming (my husband’s college roommate is rumored to be attending), and this Thursday night is the UNC Relay For Life Gala*
  • Noticed Goodreads Giveaway of UNDERWATER – It began on October 28 and ends on Release Date, November 25! Get on goodreads and register to win one of 20 copies! 
  • Enjoyed a lunch out with mon prof et mes amies du cours : Just after I got a makeover, we met for class in Madame’s atelier and then had a French déjeuner at un restaurant français
  • It was a good football weekend: the Falcons and the Dawgs won! Let’s make that a trend!

* To which I donated print and audio versions of UNDERWATER, pre-release!

Ecoutez! (Listen!)

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List Post, Numéro deux:

Because “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” here is my updated List for this week October:

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  • Two more (print) books purchased, to read this month: a memoir and a work of literary fiction. Both signed by the author, and both authors are new friends
  • On track (?): WIP at 15k words…If I write 1,000 words a (work)day between now and Thanksgiving (and allow for my trip to Bouchercon in November), I’ll meet my goal of 50k by then. If. 
  • Work on Cover for ALL THE ABOVE has begun. Thanks, Michael!
  • Atlanta area bookstores: Some will stock a few copies of UNDERWATER upon its release by Thomas & Mercer on November 25, 2014. Lesquelles? Books for Less in Buford, GA; Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA; Charis Books in Atlanta, GA; and possibly Bound to be Read Books, also in Atlanta! (If it’s not in your bookstore, ask them to carry it)
  • Keeping up with travel updates from friends in the Czech Republic and in France maintenant!
  • Trying out a new Atlanta restaurant with mon mari later this month to celebrate mon anniversaire
  • Preparing my presentation at my Author Focus panel at Bouchercon 2014; looking ahead, même chose, plus ou moins, at the Atlanta Writers Club January 2015 meeting (“Member Minute”)
  • Taking heed of some advice of un ami, un auteur bien connu, en ce qui concerne my (unnamed) WIP and its writing, editing and development
  • Following and watching football: the Atlanta Falcons, the Georgia Bulldogs (Dawgs!), and the UNC Tar Heels!

Coffee + writing = a good read

Today I’m at my neighborhood Starbucks signing copies of my Suspense novel, UNDERWATER and my romance novel MAKE THAT DEUX !

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Come sample the new pastries, have a cup of coffee or tea and pick up your signed copy! Valentine’s Day is only 5 days away!

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Rendez-vous in the Big Apple

My husband and I spent a few days in New York City earlier this month, in between two bouts of record low temperatures up there, and (fortunately) days before snow fell in Manhattan.

As we walked from our hotel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the “Met”) one day, I tried to picture Candace Morgan’s apartment. Candace is the main character in my Suspense novel UNDERWATER, and she lives in Atlanta and New York. Undoubtedly, her place in the Upper East Side is tiny compared to the luxury penthouse condominium she owns down south. But it works, because she’s a minimalist – sort of.

In UNDERWATER, Candace spends most of her time in the city I know better, Atlanta (though she jets off to two exotic locations, only one of which I’ve visited).  Relatively few of the story’s scenes take place up north, none during the winter; however, unlike me, Candace knows her way around “the City.”

So, why did my husband and I schedule a trip there, with no thought to the January weather possibilities? Parce que we recently reconnected with an old friend from our college days in Chapel Hill, whom we hadn’t seen in decades. That friend and we decided to rendez-vous in New York (she lives in Boston), and she and we contacted three other UNC friends who live in and around New York and asked them to join us.

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The Old Well on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill, North Carolina:

We’d seen one of these friends a few times in recent years (although she, the Boston woman, hadn’t seen him since college), but we hadn’t seen or talked to the rest in over thirty years. Pourquoi? Because we had moved to Texas right after graduation and had simply lost contact. We hadn’t known their parents’ addresses or phone numbers  – pretty much the only way, back then, to find each other.

But now, thanks to technology, social networks and just plain serendipity – well, I’m going to credit serendipity too, because it just felt like it was a factor – all but one of us met on a Saturday at a Greek restaurant on 7th Avenue. We caught up over lunch at a round table, then continued to share memories and news at a nearby Irish Pub. That night, it was a smaller group at dinner at an Italian restaurant on 51st Street.

The one who couldn’t attend that Saturday had previously scheduled a weekend trip. But – serendipitously – we had arrived on Thursday, and she happened to be free for dinner that night, so we met at a fabulous midtown restaurant. It was a wonderful kickoff to a great weekend.

It was a  little weird to see each other again after so long and compare memories. On the other hand, it was somehow comfortable. We had all become friends without the benefit of instant and easy communication, and with the aid of serendipity. (Perhaps because we never did anything like it in college, exchanging emails and texts before and after our “reunion” in NYC felt a little odd – but only a little.)

I was glad the weather cooperated while we were there, and I’m thankful we dodged the snow and freezing temperatures (though ours down south have been pareil, lately). Next weekend, as I watch the Super Bowl, if it’s extremely cold (or worse) up there, I’ll be thinking of my northern friends.

With warm thoughts.

Rendez-vous at a French Café!

I’ll be signing copies of UNDERWATER on JAN 20, 2014 (MLK Holiday) from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at LA MADELEINE Country French Café in Dunwoody, Georgia (Perimeter Center West)!

Come enjoy a pastry or two, have un verre de vin and pick up your copy!

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How Chapel Hill has changed, on the surface…and below

A few weeks ago, when I was in Chapel Hill, N.C., someone asked me what the town and university was like when I was a student at UNC (before and after my year in France). Was it very different? The answer is yes, and no.

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The Old Well on UNC campus

Back then, life was simpler, more private, and much more dependent on serendipity. On the other hand, some things are much simpler now, like “typing” a paper and doing research. It’s easier to arrange a rendez-vous (“date?”) now, but even easier to renege on one. *

Very few students studied abroad when I was at UNC, and those who did applied for the (young) program through the Romance Languages Department in Dey Hall. Now, there’s a Study Abroad Office and a wealth of information available on the UNC Global website. And when I was a student, college debt was much less, even in “real dollars,” and few students signed up for it – college tuition was much more affordable, and so was a year abroad.

The UNC campus hasn’t changed much, except for many new buildings and, of course, fewer parking lots. The town has changed a bit, though. The Franklin Hotel stands close to the spot where the Greyhound Bus Station used to be. Lots of restaurants have come and gone (see below). Now, you go to the Dean Dome for basketball games (if you can get tickets) instead of Carmicheal Arena.

But the Post Office on Franklin Street remains where it was, and so do the Carolina Inn and Granville Towers. The Graduate Library, Wilson, still stands of course, and so do Morehead Planetarium, Playmakers Theatre and the Paul Green Theatre. If you want to live near campus, you can still find rentals on McCauley Street and West Cameron Avenue. And it’s still a short walk to Carrboro.

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The house on West Cameron Avenue where I lived during my last year at UNC

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When I was a student, I worked during the year to help pay expenses. I was a waitress at Spanky’s, the Carolina Coffee Shop, and at the Country Squire, a steakhouse located on the bus line between Chapel Hill and Durham (important, because I didn’t have a car). Spanky’s and CCS are still in business, but the Country Squire was torn down after I graduated, to make room for I-40.

Like any college town, many establishments have disappeared:

 – Papagayo’s (new when I was a student)
 – the Rathskeller (I only went there once)
– Krissa, a favorite Greek place 
– the Yacht Club (fancy, but in a basement)
– Hector’s
– Sadlack’s (where my husband worked as a student)
– Roy Roger’s
– Harrison’s (another bar is there now, I think)
– the Mad Hatter
– the Shack 
– Troll’s 
– the Porthole, a restaurant in the alley next to CCS
 

But some remain:

– Four Corners
– La Residence
– Squid’s (in a different location now, I think)
– He’s Not Here
 – the Station in Carrboro
– Aurora (moved)
– Breadman’s (also moved, but only across the street, and a bit different now)
– Crook’s Corner (way different, and in a different place)
– Pyewacket (used to be vegetarian)
– Ye Olde Waffle Shop, a CCS competior
– and of course, Sutton’s Drug Store.
 

Below the surface changes, I’m sure that life as a UNC student is different now, but still the same in many, many ways. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

Which is a very good thing.

* See my post of Sept. 19, 2012: Call me maybe, but don’t break my heart: Sortir avec quelqu’un

“How is that romantic?” – 4 ways, and a comment

During a recent family vacances au Colorado, I was asked this question about Paris.

Imaginez! (Imagine!)

To be fair, I think the person who asked me has never been there. I joined in his conversation with another (male) family member about Italy and France, and I was probably the person who brought up the idea of romance. But when he asked the question, I was speechless at first. What was the answer, and how could he not know it?

I started to say something about the history, museums and art, and then he they quickly seemed to believe that it was that simple, and didn’t let me explique.* Non, messieurs! C’est pas vrai!

Because I’m an esprit de l’escalier**  kind of woman, and a list-maker, I thought about it later, and here is the réponse I might have given:

1. It’s not just the art and history; it’s their relationship – their connection – to the people, and to the city. It’s something tout à fait français  – absolutely French – and something you just feel. New York City and Washington D.C. have a lot of museums and history, but I don’t find either place particularly romantic. For other reasons, I really, really like them, though.

2. It’s the streets, the restaurants, the gardens and the neighborhoods of Paris…and it’s les français (the French) themselves. What (American) woman doesn’t know that Frenchmen are (normalement) très romantique?

3. It’s La Seine, the river that runs through Paris! A body of water*** (whether sea or river) at sunset or later, makes everything more intimate. How? Je ne sais pas.

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4. It’s l’amour – love. It’s in the air in Paris, whether you’ve just discovered one another, or are rediscovering…Trust me.

Enfin, the “comment:” Another (short) conversation came up about becoming fluent in French, and someone (who doesn’t speak a foreign language) asserted that “you have to live there.”

Hmm. I diligently studied the language, il y a longtemps et récemment, lived in France for a year as a student, and now I practice and speak it autant que possible. I’d love to live there again un jour, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue speaking it and improving my fluency. C’est possible, madame!

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Sunrise at a beach on the Atlantic in Florida earlier this year

* With over thirty members of the famille converging in two cabins in the Rockies for a week, it was hard to finish your sentences without being interrupted (and I’m just a belle-fille et belle-soeur – much nicer sounding than  “outlaw”  daughter- and sister-in-law)

** See my post L’esprit de l’escalier, spiral staircases and faux-amis

*** While there’s romance in my novel MAKE THAT DEUX, there’s more water than romance in my upcoming Suspense novel…. More later!

A (baker’s) dozen little-known facts – about me

Look for my BOOK TRAILER to be released soon for MAKE THAT DEUX!

While I wait for the finishing touches on it, here’s some trivia about me. My family (and relatives) know most of these faits peu connus (some of which are a bit embarrassante), but the rest of the world may not:

1. When I lived in France for a year as an exchange student, I didn’t (yet) have a driver’s license. But it wasn’t necessary to have one to drive a moped (mobylette). Phew!

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Not my mobylette, but the same color mine was. (Why didn’t I take a picture? Because cameras – and film – were expensive!)

2. Since my birthday is October 20, I was always one of the oldest in my class growing up (when I started 1st grade, you had to be 6 years old by Oct. 1). In 9th grade, I set out to finish high school in 3 years, which I did, tying with another girl for 1st in my class. When I started at UNC, I was 17.

3. I was 2nd-runner-up in my high school beauty pageant (“Miss Tiger”).

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4. I worked at the Carolina Coffee Shop on Franklin Street (and other restaurants) when I was a student in Chapel Hill, and I once waited on Alan Alda. I don’t remember getting a big tip…

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5. I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was 26 years old and pregnant with twins, & I’ve never had another ear piercing (or any other kind).

6. One of my sons is a brain cancer survivor and was operated on by a renowned Duke neurosurgeon.* My son is doing terrific now & is involved in Relay for Life at UGA, which helps raise funds for cancer research.

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7. I don’t wear bracelets or turtlenecks (though I used to wear both, but only once in a blue moon).

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As a college freshman, wearing one of the two turtlenecks I remember ever owning.

8. I’m a slow reader, and always struggled to make A’s in English (which I did in high school, but not in college…Oops!)

9. Maybe because I’m very nearsighted (and my parents didn’t realize that until I was 12), I didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until I was 10 years old. I couldn’t see the ground in front of me!

10. I don’t get seasick, but I do get migraines occasionally.

11. My hair is naturally curly, and while my kids were growing up, I experimented with many different hairstyles and lengths.

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Me when my third child was a toddler and my twins were in 1st grade

12. I left the promising field of computers and technology in the mid 1980s to stay home and raise my 4 children for 20 years, during which my family moved across the country 4 times.

13. I don’t know how to cook (much)…actually, that’s a well-known fact about me!

 * Dr. Allan H. Friedman, Neurosurgeon-in-Chief, Duke University Hospital; the same doctor who operated on Senator Ted Kennedy several years ago.

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