Travel gremlins beware!

It snowed here yesterday, and so it seems only right that we’re heading off for the winter tomorrow.

Even so, it’s so beautiful, it’s always wrenching to leave. It’s said that home is where your books are, and leaving my books is hard. 

It’s going to be a long trip. We’re going to London, Paris, Burgundy and Switzerland before returning to Toronto and heading down to Mexico for six months. It’s a complex transition to pack for, a complex trip to plan! 

But by tomorrow mid-day, the items on my To Do Lists (note: more than one list) will have been ticked off, and those things not … tant pis! 

I believe in Travel Gremlins … don’t you? They’re a playful sort of spirit that will throw a surprise catastrophe in your path just when you’re about to step out the door. A basement flood, a child walking into a hornet’s nest, the cat having kittens—these are the more memorable tricks they’ve played on me in the past. I’m on guard! 

Going over one of my lists, I noted an invitation from the owner of The Red Wheelbarrow in Paris to stop in for a visit. She’d posted a lovely review of Mistress of the Sun on her blog. A few quotes:  

Mistress of the Sun was a thoroughly enjoyable read.”

“Rich descriptions aside, what elevates this book from romantic fiction … is the portrait Gulland paints of Petite. As portrayed under Gulland’s skillful hands, Petite is a conflicted person who struggles to do her best according to her convictions. While she loves the King greatly, she is unable to reconcile this love with her religious convictions.”

I’m looking forward to meeting the proprietors of The Red Wheelbarrow on this trip. Anyone who names a bookstore after a poem by William Carlos Williams is “thumbs up” in my mind. From the photo above, it looks like my kind of bookstore.  

My travel reading has been selected: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Have you read it? 

Reader letter of the week

I get the most wonderful mail. Here’s one:

I hope this email finds you well. My name is Kristin and just this past week, I have just finished reading your Josephine B. trilogy. I read all three books within a week and wanted to let you know of the impact your writing has made on me.

You see, I am planning a celebratory trip to Paris this fall with my mother. Paris has always been a city that has intrigued me, mostly for the tragic and romantic notions that surround it. Over the past several months, I have been conducting research on the places that we would like to visit. It is very easy to become overwhelmed, due to the city’s rich history that contains so much allure, stories, and sights. I honestly didn’t know where to begin. Once I did begin, I became lost very quickly in choices, guidebooks, travel websites, reviews, etc.

A friend, after hearing of my travel plans, recommended your books. The timing could not have been more perfect. As I was reading your books, I found myself keeping my laptop right by my side. I have probably used Google and Wikipedia more in the past week than I have in the past year. Without realizing it, I have given myself a “mini-education” on various aspects of the French Revolution and of course, Josephine and Napoleon. My next order of business is to read as much as possible on that time period, using many of your recommendations (from your website).

Our trip in the fall now has a better sense of purpose, as we will plan to visit many of the sites from the novels. I am particularly drawn to Malmaison, and hope to spend some time there during our visit. I plan on giving the first book in the series to my mother this weekend, I’m sure she will be just as charmed as I was.

I just wanted to express my thanks for your wonderful work. I am very much looking forward to buying your other books. I should probably save one for the airplane ride but I know that the temptation to read it right away will be too great!

Kristin and her mother will be celebrating two milestone birthdays together: she will be turning 30, and her mother 60. I can’t imagine a lovelier celebration.

Be sure to try to see David’s The Coronation of Napoleon in the Louvre, Kristin: the room it’s in is not open for viewing every day, so you have to find out when to go. It’s well worth it. I wept when I last saw it.

Enjoy Malmaison! And thank you so much for writing.

Readers: what places have you traveled to after reading about it in a book?

On the Road (at 63): travel advice for ageing authors

On the Road (at 63): travel advice for ageing authors

An unhappy thumb is a wonderful problem to have to deal with, since it’s caused by swarms of fans wanting their book signed. The Calgary reading was one of my favorites —intimate, yet of a good size. They forgave my stumbling delivery. (Note to self: write my talk out, experiment with reading different sections, practice.) And then they bought books and lined up to have them signed.

I write out names before I sign because people often want me to sign more than one and I fear misspelling a name. And so I have a record, neatly recorded in the lovely Moleskin I thought would be for recording thoughts about my next novel, but was rather quickly taken over by promotion notes. So: at my Toronto launch in February, I signed for 28. This was considered a smashing success: many had more than one book to be signed, and several, as well, only wanted a signature.

In Calgary, however, I signed for 46! Many, many of these were for more than one book. It seemed like I was signing for a very long time—an hour and a half—(Impossible, surely.)

The next morning, in Vancouver, my right thumb showed signs of stress. This worried me: if my thumb completely gives out, I’m incapable of shaking a hand, much less holding a pen—much less writing.

Add to survival gear list: an ergonomic pen.