Chronicles From Château Moines

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Chronicles From Château Moines, my middle grade novel, is now Released!

Check here what Publishers Weekly wrote about my novel.

Chronicles From Château Moines is entirely a work of fiction, but the cultural, social, and historical backgrounds of the early 1970s in France and the USA inspired the writing.

The story starts on September 14, 1970.

This is back to school day in Château Moines, a small French town.

Sylvie isn’t too happy. Her maman has said no to the pair of Levi’s and other American clothes Sylvie dreams to wear for her first day in seventh grade.

Her best friend Annie on the other side is over excited: A new boy has just moved to town. And he is American.

A Few Words About Chronicles From Château Moines:

Although Sylvie is immediately drawn to Scott, looking so exotic with his American accent and perfectly faded Levi’s, she cannot say a word to him. Later that day, she can’t even write any good lyrics in her secret notebook either.

Sylvie has the feeling that this first day of school marks the beginning of a lot of unpleasant firsts.

If only she knew how Scott is feeling!

His mom has recently died and his father has moved his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott has to learn to live without his mom while adjusting to France.

On this first day of school he’s as displaced as can be. In his seventh grade class there is only Ibrahim who comes from another country. At home his eight-year old sister Stacey misses their mom very much, so Scott tries to be a good big brother, but this is hard.

Scott doesn’t even want to play his guitar anymore. Why does his father think that life will be better so far from home? This move is crazy.

While Scott and Sylvie struggle with their daily lives, the world around them is also in turmoil.

Chronicles From Château Moines is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era and social and cultural changes in France.

Told in alternating first-person chapters, from the perspectives of Scott and Sylvie, the novel is a story about loss and friendship, music and peace, and also about secrets.

A Few Thoughts on my Mind:

When my first novel Trapped in Paris was released, I wrote this blog post.

What I wrote is still on my mind but I want to add this:

Over the last two years I have been writing almost every day. Short stories in French, two novel-length manuscripts in English… Enough material to keep me busy for a while!

I also wrote many blog posts. Keeping up with my bilingual blog is teaching me discipline and patience. I have no doubt that I have been able to revise, edit, and seek professional help to move Chronicles From Château Moines from manuscript to publication, because of my blog.  

A blog exists through its readers. I cannot tell you how much your interest in my writing, your support and encouragement through your ‘like(s)’ and comments matter to me. You play a crucial role in my writing journey.

To Each of You: Thank You.

P.S. Check out Chronicles From Château Moines  HERE where you can purchase either the paperback or eBook version.  You can also order Chronicles From Château Moines from your favorite bookshop.

Automne Californien

Les décorations et costumes d’Halloween sont apparus depuis que la rentrée scolaire est faite – mi-aout pour la plupart des contés a travers la Californie – mais personnellement l’envie de l’automne et des ses célébrations n’arrive qu’avec des températures en dessous de 30 degrés Celsius.

Après quelques jours de canicule, synonymes de la version californienne de l’été indien, un début d’automne s’annonce timidement. Pour célébrer ce changement précurseur – nous l’espérons tous ici – de la saison des pluies, je me suis offert une randonnée en montagne.

Après Labor Day week-end – le premier week-end de septembre – Yosemite National Park retrouve la paix et le silence qui le rendent si extraordinaire. Le parc est divisé en deux pour ceux et celles qui aiment l’explorer : la vallée, la majorité des visiteurs s’y rendent pour admirer les cascades qui font la réputation de Yosemite, et le « back country » ou « high country » pour les amoureux des sentiers moins battus.

Mis à part Vernal et Nevada, les cascades de Yosemite sont saisonnières et après l’hiver très sec que nous avons eu l’an dernier, elles sont taries. Pour les remplacer, restent les lacs qui ne sont pas saisonniers.
Ostrander Lake est l’un d’entre eux. Ses trois avantages restent sa proximité de l’entrée sud du parc – qui est la plus proche de chez moi – son niveau de difficulté relativement facile et sa distance très modérée par rapport à la majorité des randonnées dans Yosemite.
Le sentier qui mène au lac est de 6 miles soit presque 10 kilomètres. Mais les 20 kilomètres aller-retour traversent un terrain varié ce qui est rend l’escalade intéressante. Les premiers quatre kilomètres se font à travers un paysage forestier que j’imagine superbe après la saison des pluies et la fonte des neiges. La flore dans Yosemite est spectaculaire au printemps. Le terrain devient plus escarpé vers la fin de la randonnée, mais cela reste une randonnée accessible à n’importe quel marcheur décent. On monte doucement en altitude et c’est nettement plus agréable que le début de Half Dome, par exemple.
Et puis, le lac se découvre soudainement, alors que rien ne l’annonce et c’est indiscutablement un moment de réel bonheur.
Des mots clichés viennent à l’esprit : lové dans un écrin de pierres et de sapins. Mais c’est exactement comme cela que le lac apparaît.
L’hiver, l’accès se fait en ski de fond et un refuge permet, avec réservation, de passer la nuit.
Cela fait rêver mais depuis mon accident de ski d’il ya deux ans, je préfère le plancher des vaches.
Hier il n’y avait personne sur le chemin et seulement trois femmes qui déjeunaient les pieds dans l’eau.
C’est dans ces moments là que je réalise l’immensité des Etats Unis. Tout comme lors de mes voyages estivaux d’ouest en est et vice et versa, ce pays ne cesse de me donner le vertige.

From a New Website to an Outstanding Writer

Since I started blogging in 2009, I’ve never been away from my blog for more than two weeks. Now I realize, where did time go between my last post early September and today?

 My number One priority was the publication of Trapped in Paris, my novel for young adults. The book and its e-version are now out in the wild world. I have been busy working at spreading the word. Nobody told me it would be easy, so no surprises here. Promoting is as hard as writing.

Then, I transformed my website, as you can see if you are reading now. My posts about writing for children, about writing for adults with NPR, about my little life in general, as well as my posts written in French are now easily – I hope – accessible from my website.

Finally, I have enjoyed an awesome beginning of fall.
Temperatures in California are finally seasonal. Goodbye Indian summer!
I went on an outstanding hike in Yosemite National Park to celebrate the cool weather. Yes, the Hantavirus still makes the headlines around here, and in all honesty it worried me, but I figured that if I didn’t spend the night, lay on the ground, or got locked in a poor ventilated restroom I would be okay.
I hiked with my long time walking buddy – everyone else was too lazy to join us.
None of us had ever been to Ostrander Lake. The trailhead is accessible from Glacier Road, shortly after the entrance leading to Badger Pass, the cool small ski resort of Yosemite. The hike to the lake is 12 miles round, mostly moderate and pleasant with only two miles uphill. No switchbacks, so a much easier hike than any other uphill hikes in the backcountry.
The path is a mix of forest-like, rocky and sandy terrain. Some outstanding views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Mt. Hoffman in the near distance, as well as the eerie remnants of a major wildfire from years ago rewarded us along the way.
And Ostrander Lake, which appears suddenly at the end of the trail, is pure beauty. There is even a hut for cross-country skiers in the winter season. A dream for any nature freak!
 
Last, but definitely at the top of my awesome beginning of October, I met one of my very favorite American writers.
I couldn’t believe that M.T. Anderson, yes, the one, would come to Woodward Library in Fresno, to talk about his writing and sign his books.
Anyone who read Feed knows what I’m talking about.
After Feed, I thought I would not even try to write dystopias, or anything for that matter, anymore.
I couldn’t find my beloved first edition of Feed when I bought it in 2002. My children were quite discreet about it when they saw me looking for it everywhere at home. I suspect that one of them stored it away. I can’t blame the thief: Feed is outstanding. The disappearance of my book gave me a reason to buy a new copy from Petunia’s Place, the only independent children’s bookstore in the valley,and to get M.T. Anderson sign my book.
The event was organized by the Arnie Nixon Center, one of the leading centers in North America for the Study of Children’s Literature, located in the Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno.
It was quite funny that M.T. Anderson came to speak on the night of Justin Bieber’s performance in town. The people who came to the library instead of attending the Bieber’s concert were in for a real treat. M.T. Anderson really spoke with us as we ate around a pretty nice buffet of hors d’œuvres and desserts.
No surprises his books are so successful, M.T. Anderson is passionate about his craft, easy going and smart. He is by far the most entertaining and approachable author I’ve got to meet over the last decade.
If you missed him, pay attention to his book tours. Go to a signing if he happens to cross your path. He is truly a terrific writer, a unique speaker, and I have the feeling, he is also a nice guy.
 
So, as you see, I got excuses for my online silence. But now that my website is up again, I will be back on a regular basis with more timely news on writing, reading, and just plain living.

Trapped in Paris

Trapped in Paris, my juvenile fiction novel (12 and up) has been released.
Set in contemporary Paris and the Parisian suburbs, Trapped in Paris is a fast paced action novel on a background of loss.

Social and cultural backgrounds separate Cameron and Framboise, yet when the two teenagers find themselves stuck at the airport in Paris, their paths cross, and they become unlikely partners in a fast spine-chilling four-day adventure, leading to the dismantlement of a human trafficking network and ultimately to the possibility of change and love for Cameron and Framboise.

What is Trapped in Paris?
The first idea of the story came to my mind when the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland in the spring 2010 and shut down air transportation through the entire world.
This incident triggered the set of adventures that happen to Cameron and Framboise. However, the novel remains the product of my imagination.
As often when I write, my French roots cross my now days’ life in the USA.
Paris came as a natural setting. Through the introduction of a few French words and short sentences, here and there throughout the novel, I share my affection for my native language.

 

A Few Words About Trapped in Paris:

Sixteen-year-old Cameron and Framboise have nothing in common and no reason to meet. But when a volcano eruption in Iceland interrupts all air traffic activity, the two teenagers find themselves trapped in Paris.
When they witness a murder on the River Seine and are kidnapped by a mysterious dangerous man, they become unlikely partners in a fast spine-chilling four-day adventure through the Parisian suburbs.
Confronted with exceptional events, Cameron and Framboise must rely on each other. When they get separated, after a disagreement, Cameron will trust his survival instinct, brave danger, and act with unexpected courage.
Ultimately Cameron and Frambroise will also overcome their personal grief and open their hearts to the possibility of change and love.

 

A Few Thoughts on my Mind:

1- The solitary writer.
I wrote Trapped in Paris alone but never felt lonely, thanks to a supportive group of fellow writers and a loving family. All of them provided advice, productive critique, encouragement, and countless joyful moments.
2- Profound changes
 Changes in the publishing industry are affecting writers, editors, agents, and more importantly the way books are made and distributed.
The appearance of e-books is still at its beginning. As anything new it challenges what was familiar. Book lovers – and I am one – still have a difficult time to consider e-books “real books”.
Of course, no screen can ever replace the touch and smell of paper.
Yet voracious readers remain voracious readers, with a paperback or an e-book.
This summer, because I traveled a lot, I couldn’t carry heavy books in my bag and suitcase. I purchased several books before my departure and downloaded them on my Kindle.
In the end, I read as much this summer as I previously did. That is why I’m happy to offer both versions of my novel.
3-To everything there is a silver lining.
The communication revolution that started in the mid 90s, and deeply changed the way we now listen to music, watch movies and interact with each other has more recently reached the book industry.
The way stories are now published and read has definitely changed, but it certainly hasn’t changed the fact that human beings crave stories.
Boys and girls, men and women, regardless of age, race, ethnic or national origins, we will always be seeking words that take us away, make us dream, laugh, cry, cheer, and make us more human.
Stories, either published in a physical book or electronically, found in a bookstore or online, still unite people through the universality of human feelings.
Trapped in Paris is available as a paperback and can be purchased in your favorite bookshop as well as on Amazon.com
In addition the e-book version for Kindle is also available.
Happy Reading!

Une Nature Indomptée

Depuis mon retour de Yosemite le week-end dernier, une autre personne, qui a campé dans l’un des sites du parc, vient de mourir des suites de l’Hanta virus.
Une variété de souris sont porteuses du virus. Leurs excréments et urine, respirés par un être humain peuvent le rendre malade voire provoquer sa mort. 
Au jour d’aujourd’hui huit personnes ont trouvé la mort après un séjour dans le Curry Village, 
le camping le plus populaire pour les randonneurs qui veulent atteindre le sommet de Half Dome, ou tout simplement pour ceux qui préfèrent la vie rustique au confort des cabines et hôtels avoisinants et les prix plus raisonnables du magnifique Ahwahnee Hotel.
Je ne suis restée qu’une fois dans l’une des tentes/cabines qui sont maintenant une par une démontées et fermées sans date de réouverture.
Le confort était bien sur rustique mais la propreté impeccable. Je ne suis jamais restée lors de mes nombreuses autres randonnées, préférant pour le confort de mon lit, quitter ma maison très tôt le matin.
Les nouvelles sont tristes parce que le parc reste l’un des plus beaux endroits que j’aie jamais visités, parce que la région vit du tourisme américain et étranger, et surtout parce que mourir en visitant la nature semble particulièrement injuste.
Régulièrement des visiteurs perdent la vie à Yosemite, mais toujours en ayant pris un risque non apprécié, souvent en bravant les forces de la nature, qui dans ma modeste opinion, nous domineront toujours.
Mais en ce qui concerne les neuf personnes qui ont été affectées par l’Hanta virus, elles n’ont rien fait pour mettre leur vie en danger.

Ce matin, comme presque tous les dimanches, j’ai marché avec l’une de mes amies. Nous avons parcouru nos huit kilomètres hebdomadaires en plus des plus courtes distances que nous parcourons seules le reste de la semaine. Nous nous entrainons ensemble lorsque nous préparons une randonnée dans Yosemite. Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Upper Yosemite Falls, autant de noms qui font rêver et ne peuvent être vraiment appréciées qu’après une longue marche épuisante mais récompensée par des paysages hors du commun.
Ce matin, nous avons parlé d’une belle randonnée pour le dernier weekend de septembre. Le lac Ostrander, qui s’atteint à partir de Glacier Road, l’un des points les plus photogéniques et les plus photographiés dans Yosemite, se présente comme une belle promenade, longue mais assez plate.
Pour le printemps, Waterwheels Falls, à partir de Tuolomne Meadows nous tente beaucoup.
Ni l’une ni l’autre n’avons fait ces deux randonnées.

Les nouvelles de l’Hanta virus nous rendent plus hésitantes, ou en tous cas, plus que jamais conscientes de notre vulnérabilité dans une nature peut-être très visitée mais jamais domestiquée.

Yosemite and the Hantavirus

Yosemite National Park is one of the most renowned National Parks in the US and the most visited by Americans and foreigners alike. People who set foot in this wonderland never forget the sight of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome and Clouds Rest.
Hikers, fortunate enough, to have walked the Mist Trail, the John Muir Trail and reached the top of the famed Half Dome, know that danger and raw beauty are often best neighbors.
Since I live in the southern foothills, I am a frequent visitor.
The news that people have contracted and died from the Hantavirus after staying in Curry Village is alarming and sad.
Although I climbed Half Dome four times, I only spent a night at Curry Village – my first hike to the top – in 2004.
I expected very basic commodities and was impressed by the rustic yet very clean facilities. Freshly laundered sheets were provided for the beds. A dresser stood on the wooden floor, which was clean.
The only drawback for me were the strict rules about food, drinks and toiletries – including toothpaste – that had to be put away in bear safe lockers. I knew they made sense but it’s annoying to pack your little personal things in a metallic safe to only retrieve them in the morning.
When I stayed in the tents, my friends and I ate before reaching the park so I had no opinion on the food served within Curry Village until I climbed Clouds Rest early June.
Our group had three teenagers and I had promised them pizza on the way home. We enjoyed a great outdoor meal on the large shady terrace of the pizzeria feet away from the tents. It was the perfect closure after a day spent outside.
Over Labor Day weekend, my family brought a young French student to the park and we ate our lunch on the Merced River, where we saw squirrels and deer, enjoying their own lunch.
At Glacier Point we admired Vernal and Nevada Falls, the two falls you pass on the way to Half Dome. People have lost their lives at these three outstanding locations.
Each time I go there, I am especially careful, aware of the strength of nature.
Only in wilderness do I find myself humbled by powers that can’t be tamed.
What is happening in Yosemite now is scary. It does scare me.
This morning I was planning a hike for late fall to Ostrander Lake, off Glacier Road and a spring hike to Waterwheels, accessible from Tuolumne Meadows.
As always, my hiking buddy and I made backup plans. Hiking in Yosemite means being able to change plans in case of a sudden change of weather.
Now it will also means being aware of the life that we encounter when we enter animals’ territory. We knew to be wary of bears and mountain lions. But mice?
So far everyone who died from the Hantavirus stayed at a campground.
These deaths are tragic and will have an impact on the park and affect the way visitors want to experience their stay in Yosemite.
As for me, I will check the news carefully, hoping that more answers will be offered to the visitors and that no one else will die after visiting what, in my opinion, remains one of the most awesome American landscapes.

American Favorites for New and Old Comers

Years ago, I was proud to be able to introduce Paris to one of my best American friends. She and her husband still talk of the Paris-by-night car drive my husband and I offered them.
It is only normal, I think, to show your hometown and your native country to a foreigner. Besides, there is some natural pride to show off your knowledge and fluency in a place you love.
I must admit that I’m not able anymore to keep up with the new cafés and restaurants, which open in Paris while I’m gone, neither with the new idioms that update the French language.
However, I am now able to show California – at least some parts of it – to foreign visitors.
This Labor Day weekend my family hosted a young Parisian girl, daughter of an old friend from the university. She will be studying in California for a year.
Through her eyes, I relived my first months in the US where everything was new and exciting. Even equipped with an iPhone and a MacAir, and able to text, take pictures, e-mail and Google anything at anytime, her discoveries weren’t any different from mine.
She loved cinnamon as much as I did – we don’t use it as much in France.
She wondered what ‘We Finance’ meant when we drove past a used car lot. I had tons of questions related to money when I moved here. American money stuff still puzzles me sometimes.
She asked where she could find plain yogurt – take note Americans, yogurts here are too sweet for French palates.
Diners are among her favorite places to eat.  Men : diners are exotic for a French woman.
Cinnamon rolls are her new croissants. Although she already noticed how sugary they are and that she should keep them as a weekly treat. Remember : French women don’t get fat for a reason.
She found strange the constant ‘Hi, how are you ?’ but already liked them. Please, never stop saying ‘Hi, how are you ?’ We miss them so much when we are abroad.
She liked anything western look. Yeah, cowboy boots and hats are sexy for French women. When real cowboys wear them.
She loved the ice creams flavors unvailable in France. Paris can have Berthillon and its sorbets, but where else but in the US can you find Butter Pecan, Blueberry Crumble and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream ? Very sweet for the French, but a small scoop satisfies us.
She was astonished by the vast land. Yes, space is very American and French are in awe of it. I miss our beautiful land after weeks in Paris. 
Through her eyes, I fell in love again with all that and so much more.
In three days, I realized that I could now talk of California as well as I spoke of Paris to my American friend.
And also that I was showing off my America to a French as much as I showed off my France to an American. 

Epater et Faire Craquer une Parisienne

Lorsque je suis arrivée aux USA, tout m’apparaissait nouveau et par conséquent excitant, même ce qui était choquant pour la française que j’étais.
Au fil du temps le dépaysement des premiers moments s’atténue et l’extraordinaire cède la place à l’ordinaire. Les visites de me parents et famille m’ont longtemps permis de voir les Etats Unis à travers leurs yeux étonnées. Mais leurs séjours se sont espacés, et c’est moi qui maintenant redécouvre ma France natale en leur rendant visite.
Alors quand la possibilité de faire découvrir la Californie à quelqu’un qui ne la connaît pas se présente, c’est une chance que je ne laisse pas passer.
Au cours de ce long weekend de Labor Day (fête du travail aux USA, toujours le premier lundi du mois de septembre) ma famille a reçu la fille d’une très ancienne copine de fac qui vient étudier pour un an à San Francisco. Et à travers ses yeux j’ai revécu le temps d’un weekend mes premiers jours de vie en Californie.
Son émerveillements devant la beauté naturelle de Yosemite et de la côte entre Monterey et San Francisco, sa curiosité par rapport au comportement amical et courtois des américains, et ses efforts pour mieux comprendre la langue et la culture américaine m’ont ramenée des années en arrière quand tout était une découverte de tous les instants.
Je n’ai eu aucun mal à partager son enthousiasme naïf et sincère. Je me souviens encore du mien.
Mais ce qui était nouveau était de pouvoir parler de ce pays qui est maintenant le mien avec fierté et émotion.
Je n’avais pas d’iPhone, pas de MacAir, ni même d’adresse e-mail en 1990, et si cette jeune française pouvait en un clic envoyer à sa famille des photos et textos illustrant ses découvertes reflétant l’évolution foudroyante des vingt dernières années, ce qui n’avait pas pris une ride restait l’essentiel.
Découvrir un monde qui n’a rien, ou si peu, en commun avec celui dans lequel on a grandi reste une expérience inoubliable.
Même si la France s’est américanisée et que les américains mangent plus de fromage et boivent plus de vin que dans les années 90, il reste encore les cinnamon rolls, les diners et le café to go pour épater et faire craquer une parisienne.

Thank you, Mr. Amstrong

600 millions people watched you on July 20, 1969.
I was one of them, a little eight-year-old French girl, whose parents didn’t own a television set. Our neighbor offered for my family to watch what would forever remain in the collective memory of the ones who saw you step and walk on the moon.  
Thank you for making us dream, Mr. Amstrong. 

Vivre en California

Depuis mon retour en Californie les températures dans les collines qui bordent l’entrée sud du parc national de Yosemite ne sont pas descendues au-dessous de 95 degrés Fahrenheit, soit environ 35 degrés Celsius. La première partie du mois a vu des températures atteignant les 45F. 
Mes parents en Normandie se sont plaints d’une vague de chaleur. « Ecrasante » a dit ma maman. Il faisait 30C sur la Basse-Normandie.
Mon mari qui était à San Francisco pour business il y a deux jours a eu froid dans le Sunset, quartier toujours ou presque dans le brouillard, particulièrement en été.
Aujourd’hui encore des incendies ravagent le nord de la Californie. Ou je vis, l’air n’est pas affecté mais il peut l’être lorsque le feu attaque Yosemite, Kings Canyon ou Séquoia, les trois parcs nationaux au nord et au sud de ma maison.
L’été californien est atypique. La baie de San Francisco connaît des températures fraiches et des nuits froides. Dès que l’on quitte les frontières de la ville et qu’on entre dans la péninsule et qu’on atteint le sud de la baie (Palo Alto jusqu’à San Jose vers le sud, Pleasanton sud-est de Berkeley) les températures montent très vite.
Les foothills connaissent des étés très secs, très chauds et très longs. Jusqu’en Octobre nous sommes en vêtements légers, avec heureusement des matinées et des nuits plus fraiches vers mi septembre. Halloween traditionnellement marque un changement très net et très attendu par les californiens.
La fin de l’été indien pour la baie de San Francisco, l’automne tant rêvé pour de nouvelles plantations pour les résidents de la vallée. Commence ensuite la longue attente pour la saison des pluies.
Dépendant énormément d’El Nino, les années se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas.
La saison des pluies et des neiges a été quasi inexistante l’hiver dernier et si cela n’a pas affecté les réserves d’eau – l’hiver précédant avait été extraordinairement mouillé – les incendies sont la conséquence de notre hiver très sec.
Je ne me plains pas. Aucun incendie n’a ravagé ma région et l’air est peu pollué. Il ne fera que 100 F aujourd’hui (40 Celsius) et plus tard dans l’après-midi. Ce matin était agréable, me permettant un petit déjeuner sur l’une de mes terrasses. Je ne suis rentrée que parce que mon Mac avait besoin d’être rechargé.
L’été en Californie je pense à Thanksgiving, quand je pourrai faire une longue promenade avant de prendre l’apéritif dehors.
Je pense aussi à la beauté de Yosemite quand les pluies de l’hiver font déborder les cascades et pousser des cris d’admiration aux touristes.
Ce sont ces moments qui me font aimer la Californie davantage encore.
Un état à trois couleurs : le bleu du ciel, le brun brulé de son herbe – les natifs disent doré – entre mai et les premières pluies, et le vert dès les premières gouttes d’eau.
Vivre en Californie c’est apprendre à oublier les quatre saisons, à vénérer la pluie, à craindre une nature extraordinairement belle mais puissante et donc dangereuse. 

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