Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Feeling Safe in France


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

This is a guest post that I did for a blog called "The Book Tree" and I thought I'd share it here.

In my latest novel, Paris Runaway, when a 17-year-old bolts to Paris, all the mother can picture is danger. She’s seen the movie Taken! She knows her daughter could fall into the hands of sex-slave traders. But even more, she fears the radical terrorists who make Europe their home – the suburbs of Paris or the outer arrondisements of Brussels where immigrants live in poverty. She watched the news that November night when terrorists killed young people in restaurants and at concerts in Paris, when we all posted “Je suis Paris” on our Facebook pages. So the mother chases after her daughter, hoping to find her safe and take her back to Florida. What the mother finds is a different way of life that seduces her.

The same is true for me. When I am in France, I don’t feel in danger.

Sure, when I was young and traipsed through the streets of Paris alone, I received some male attention. I was 23 when I spent three months in France. Freed from my nanny duty, I would venture into downtown Paris by train and see the sights – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, l’Orangerie where Monet’s water lily paintings cover the walls.


As I walked through Paris, my eyes round in amazement, men would call out to me, try to engage me in conversation. My plan of action was to ignore them – no eye contact, no smile, no recognition. And for the most part it worked – until it didn’t.

I’m not sure where I had been that day, when a persistent young man decided to get my attention. He called out to me in French. Then in English. He tried Spanish and a few other languages too. I continued to walk, head up, ignoring him.

He walked backward beside me for a while, trying to get my attention. Then he simply followed me, speaking the whole time, wheedling, trying to entice me. As the minutes passed, I began to grow worried at his refusal to leave me alone.

Ahead of me, inside a black, wrought-iron fence churchyard, I saw a door open in a stone building and the sound of organ music filtered out. Without glancing at the insistent man again, I slipped into the door and perched on a wooden kneeler, sitting through an entire mass to escape the dogged man who might, or might not, have been a danger to me.

Now, I’m a true grown up. Men might occasionally smile at me or nod their heads, but no one tenaciously tries to win my attention as I sight-see in Paris or Marseille or Aix en Provence.

When I tell friends and relatives that my husband and I plan to move to France, they cluck in worry. “It’s so dangerous there,” they’ll say.

Sometimes I simply point to the newspaper and the latest gun deaths in the United States, which is much higher than in France. Most of the time, I’ll shrug (I’m practicing my French shrugs) and say, “C’est la vie!” That’s life. We can’t be afraid to live the life we want; otherwise, we might get to the end and realize that we made it safely, but we forgot to enjoy the journey.

I hope you’ll take a journey in Paris Runaway and see what the main character, Sadie, chooses to do.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

A Professor's Hair Diary

A few weeks ago, I came up with the scheme of fixing my hair a different way for every day of the semester.
I teach Monday, Wednesday and Friday at one of my colleges beginning at 8 a.m. I plan to wear my hair down and curly -- natural -- the first day. Then after that I hope to wear a different hairstyle every day.
I'll capture the look on Instagram, which is now connected to my Twitter account, so if you want to follow along, my Instagram account is @runningfan63 and my Twitter account is @paulitakincer.
Grace has set up a Pinterest board with different ideas to try, and my hairstyles should get pretty elaborate quickly because Grace is leaving on Sept. 13. That means I'll only have her here to help me with my hair for a few weeks.
In addition to the challenge of trying to come up with a different hairstyle three times a week for 15 weeks, I wonder how long it will take the students to notice.
One of my teaching friends predicts they will never realize that my hair is different each time I come to class. I say they will.
My students have commented before if I start the semester wearing dresses every day and then switch to pants when it gets colder.
This morning, the day before classes begin, with seven total classes to teach, the whole idea is daunting, but hopefully the hairstyle meme will keep me enthused throughout the semester.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Evidence of Harry Potter in My Neighborhood

As I run in the mornings, up and down the streets of my neighborhood, I sometimes come across strange items. This morning, for instance, I found a quarter and put it in the tip jar at the Starbucks.
But sometimes, like a detective,  I begin to see a pattern. And I've decided the pattern is that Harry Potter and his wizarding friends live among us.
Today, I saw this shard of mirror on the sidewalk.

Everyone who has read Harry Potter remembers that his godfather Sirius gave him a two-way mirror so they could communicate. In the final book, Harry has only a shard of the mirror left, but he uses that shard to ask for help when he is held captive in the Malfoy's dungeon.
I didn't stop to use it, since running with a shard of mirror might be a bad idea.

Another sure sign of wizards in my neighborhood was this broom beside a tree.

From the discarded newspaper, it's obvious that a distracted wizard was reading the paper while riding his broom before he crashed.
I hope he was okay and eventually came back for the broom.

And another sign is this adorable cat trying to hide on top of my kitchen cabinets.

Actually, it's my cat, and he isn't wearing glasses like Professor McGonagall does when she transforms into a cat, but I figured I needed a third sign.
I'll be on the hopeful lookout for other clues that Harry Potter and his wizarding friends have come to Grandview Heights, Ohio.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Dreaming On a Summer's Day


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

So much of my life is spent dreaming these days, anticipating when my husband and I will move to France. I enjoy beautiful days like this one here in Ohio, but I can't wait to stand underneath the clear blue skies in southern France.

We debate if we will buy an apartment in a small city with a peaceful plaza, like this one in Beaucaire. There's a 2-bedroom apartment on this square here that gets glorious sunshine.
Or maybe we'll get a house on a river, like this one in Aude, not far from Carcasonne, France.

Or will we choose a house outside of a village with room for a pool, like this one near Castelnaudary on the Canal du Midi?

So, as you can see, I'm spending a lot of time dreaming about France. 
How bout you? What are you dreaming of these days?

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own love affair. And consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Three Things to Know Before Traveling Abroad

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

This is a blog post I wrote as a guest post for my blog tour.

No doubt, the easiest way to travel to Europe is in a book.
In my novel, Paris Runaway, single mom Sadie chases after her 17-year-old daughter, who has run off to France. Sadie has never traveled out of the country before but feels compelled to follow Scarlett, who might be in danger.
Sadie has no time to think about the things that might make her travel abroad easier, but you do. Go ahead and grab your passport, but take a little time to smooth the way once you get off the plane.
Transportation: Figure out how you’ll get from the airport to your hotel without breaking the bank. In Paris, you can walk between the airport and the train station, just pulling your suitcase behind you. And when you arrive at the train station, you’ll see a huge electronic sign that announces departures for places like Budapest and Milan. It all feels so cosmopolitan. For about 10 Euros, you can buy a ticket to take you into the center of Paris.
Hotel: When you are travelling to a big city like Paris, or during a busy tourist season, like summer, arrange your hotel ahead of time. Sadie didn’t arrange a hotel. She pictures showing up in France, finding her daughter and returning home. But it doesn’t work out that way. After being awake for about 36 hours, she’s forced to beg for a hotel room.
Here’s an excerpt from Paris Runaway:
Then I wandered along the street until I spotted a little hotel just two windows wide in between the packed-tight Paris buildings. Exhaustion led me to stumble in, and I tried to remember some French words from my long ago high school French classes to ask about a room. “Une chambre?” I said, and the proprietor shook his head. I didn’t know if he couldn’t understand me or didn’t have any rooms available.
So I tried again, “S’il vous plaît,” I pleaded. I knew my brown eyes were ringed with circles that shone a pale blue amidst the crinkled lines that had formed over 50 years. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept.
I looked at the man behind the counter at the hotel again. “Please. Any room will do. I’m so tired. Maybe if I sleep, I’ll be able to figure it out.” I’d spoken in English.
I didn’t know if the man understood anything I said, but he pulled out a ring full of keys that clanked heavily. He turned down a hallway behind the counter and motioned for me to follow as he walked toward the interior of the hotel, away from the street. 

Sadie got lucky. Hotel rooms are difficult to come by in Paris during the summer. In the rest of France though, I’ve traveled from town to town without hotel reservations. Each town has a tourism office. Stop in the tourism office and ask if they can help you find a room. Tell them how many rooms you need and what you want to spend, and they’ll do their best to book a room for you. We always had luck with that, even as we rode our bicycles to French towns.


Language: Most places in Europe, people speak English, but they do appreciate it if you try to speak their language. Some of the basics you should learn are hello, goodbye, please and thank you. A recent Facebook sign shows French restaurateurs informing patrons that a cup of coffee is cheaper if they begin their order by saying hello, “bonjour” and please “s’il vous plaît.” It’s important to know that French shopkeepers expect everyone to say hello when they walk into a store.
Don’t follow Sadie’s lead and show up in France without some basics, like in this excerpt from Paris Runaway:
“I’m in Paris searching for my daughter who ran away.”  The words stuck in my throat and melted away in the empty hotel room.
I wished I’d had time to practice those lines in French.
I hope you’ll take a trip to Paris in my novel, Paris Runaway. Then afterward, maybe you’ll be inspired to try some actual travel too.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own love affair. And consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.