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I now have a new and improved blog site! I’m self-hosting for more options. One of these is being able to use my .com name. Sadly, I’ve been unable to transfer all you lovely subscribers to my new site. I would love for you to continue following me on the new site. I apologize for the inconvenience of having to resign up.

Below is a link to the new site!

http://www.terrihalebooks.com

See you there!

French With Friends

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Learning a new language is always . . . always an adventure.

I’ve decided to learn a new language. French. Why, you’re asking, if you live in Germany would you be learning French? Such a good question. I have a bit of a complicated answer. We now live minutes from the French border in the Black Forest. Near the wine country of Alsace. I’m absolutely in love with the small villages that wind their way up the valley wedged between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains. It’s breathtaking scenery, and the people are delightful.

I speak Spanish. I’ve learned that because of this, I’m not entirely lost when people are speaking French. Not entirely. I speak German, somewhat. They speak Alsatian there, which is a form of German. And some people speak a bit of English. All the same, these villages are in France, where they speak French.

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I’m setting my second novel in one of these small villages, Kaysersberg. I’ve written about it in previous posts. I’ve stayed there in the past for short visits, but this fall we will spend a full month in the same apartment from our previous trip. I am determined to be able to speak, if only like a five year old, to our many new friends there, in their language. French.

I’m currently using a program by Pimsleur,  goFrench. You listen and repeat. No dictionary, no books, you cannot look at a French word. Only listen! These are the rules. I’m afraid if I cheat and look up a word in my stack of books, the CD will immediately begin to self-destruct. Now I have you thinking of Mission Impossible, a likely title for this new adventure of mine. But what I want you to be thinking about is Friends. The sit-com. I was reminded of the episode where Joey was learning guitar from Phoebe. She would only let him practice the chords with his hands in the air, not touching the guitar. This is how I feel. (This is where I must confess I am a visual learner. It’s been difficult.) That being said, if you heard me repeating after the native speakers YOU’D be reminded of yet another episode of Friends. The one where Joey is learning French from, you guessed it, Phoebe. She would say a phrase and he would repeat it. The problem was it sounded nothing like what she’d just said. Get the picture?

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(Me, pretending to be French.)

I am determined! I’ll let you know how it goes. I have till October. I’d love to close this post with a lovely French phrase, but I don’t know how to read or write anything I’ve been saying. Ha!

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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.

 

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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.

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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, Le Fecht. We’re going to need a small bridge to get across. Wood or stone. More research. Next, we came to the L’ILL river. Even bigger. Bridge or Ferry? Continue the research.

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Le Fecht.                                                                                      L’ILL.

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!

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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!

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Enter at your own risk!

May 18 from 7:00 pm to midnight across France was “A Night at the Museum.” All museums were open and I assume free. At least the historical museum in Kaysersberg was. This museum is normally only open for one month during part of July and August. I was determined to see it hoping to find more information for my novel. When I asked if I would be able to get a private tour, the girl at the tourist office told me about Museum Night in France. I must say I had visions of the movie by the same name. I imagined Medieval knights and cloaked monks coming to life at midnight. I’m sad to say this did not happen, but it was still wonderful.

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Candlelit stone stairwell to the museum.

We had to climb a candlelit stone stairwell to get to the museum. It was only three rooms, mostly housing replicas of icons from the local church. There were some medieval weapons, a collection of neolithic stone tools, and random apothecary items. I would like to tell you more about what we saw, but our elderly tour guide spoke no English…French or German. We chose German. I must say I missed a lot, but he tried very hard to speak slowly and explain as best he could. He seemed very excited about the subjects he was talking about so I tried to do the same.

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View from the museum level into the courtyard below.

It was worth the tour  just to see inside this very old building. Actually, I would have paid money just to walk up the spooky stairs. There was a very large illustration of the town from the 1700s inside the museum. It was really fascinating, with specific houses and buildings marked with their construction dates. This will be useful when setting up the village in my novel.

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Ancient tower ruins.

Attached to the museum building was the remains of an ancient tower. We wondered around in the dimly lit courtyard taking in the medieval atmosphere. I replaced the plastic tables and chairs with wood and stone, threw in a few large scruffy dogs and…voila! Tonight the museum, tomorrow the chapel built in 1391. So much history. Meet me at the chapel!

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Sometimes you just have to pack your bags and go there…

My husband and I have taken a week of vacation and driven to Kaysersberg, Alsace, France. As I’ve said so many times before, it is my favorite Alsatian village. The people are enchanting! It’s the perfect place to set a novel in the Middle Ages, which is just what I’ve decided to do.

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1. Restaurant LE CAPUCIN, 60, Rue du Général de Gaulle. 2. View from our window.

We found this fantastic apartment online. The ground level is the restaurant. The next three floors are apartments to rent. Our apartment is on the top floor. The views are amazing, enchanting, transporting. I look out the windows and am taken back to a much earlier time. When there were no cars, no telephones, no internet. At first this can seem fantastic until I take a deep breath and remember there was no sewer system, and I see the woman below me dumping the waste from her bed chamber pot onto the street below. The horses have left their deposits in the streets, as well. Hmm. Snap out of it. Back to the enchanting view.

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View from my writing spot.

As I sit and write this post, the church bells are chiming. They’re beautiful. A few days ago, it was Pentecost Sunday, and the bells rang long and loud. It’s was a beautiful call to prayer. This is sweet music to write by. When we first arrived in Kaysersberg, our landlady met us at the bridge to show us the way to the apartment. We parked on the street, which was filled with tourists (It being Saturday.) and quickly unloaded our things. After finding a parking spot nearby, we returned to the restaurant and met the owners in their private garden in the back for a glass of wine. This was the only warm sunny day we’ve had. It was perfect. Gabrielle speaks English quite well. She’s delightful. Her husband, Jean-Jacques, grew up in Kaysersberg in this very building! It was his home, and he has inherited it. They turned the garage into a restaurant. And his father’s dentist offices into apartments. Their family living quarters are also now apartments.

When I told them I’m a writer, and I’ve come to research and write, they got very excited. Gabrielle said, “Oh, my husband will be so happy. He started a book about this area, but his computer died, and he lost it all. You must talk to him and help him.” And, talk we did. Over several glasses of wine and as many hours. Jean-Jacques’ English is not as good as Gabrielle’s. But that didn’t stop him. He did drink quite a bit of wine. He said he also speaks Chinese, but only after the 7th glass of wine can anyone understand him. So as our conversation went along, he would pour himself another glass of wine, saying, “Oh, I need another glass to lo0sen my tongue so my English will improve.” It was such a fantastic afternoon. He told me that Arthurian legends really began here. Lancelot in particular was from here. I gasped when he said this and told him I had already written this into my novel. They both looked at me and said, “We have been waiting for you to come!” Magical!

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Local delivery truck.

So you’re asking yourself, Is everything in this village cute? The answer is a resounding YES! Even the delivery trucks are cute. I wish I would have stood next to this one so you can see how tiny it really is. And it has a stork hanging from the rearview mirror, a symbol of good luck in this region.

When I wrote my first novel, The Stone Manor (which will be published at a date soon to be announced), I had been to Scotland before, but not to the Isle of Skye, which is the location of the novel. I did all my research from books, libraries, online, and memory from my first trip. Then, when I had finished writing we took a trip to Skye, and I retraced the steps of my novel to make sure it was all accurate. Or as accurate as a work of fiction should be. It was wonderful walking through my novel so to speak.

This is a similar feeling but in reverse. I’ve come here many times. But I’ve written very little so far. This week is a “jump start” for my novel. It ‘s incredible to sit here in this village and write my story. To hear the characters speak to me as I walk through the narrow cobblestone streets. I love living in the middle of my story. I’d love to bring you along as I write and explore. Stay tuned for A Night at the Museum.

Terri Hale Books

Writing About Fiction, Travel, and Life

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a dose of truth. a choice for joy. life abundant.

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Occasionally radioactive with a chance of superpowers. I use them to fight cancer. Also I write.

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