Saturday, August 31, 2013

Murder in the Tower of Happiness

As a mystery writer, I read a lot of mysteries. Any writer should read writers in their genre not to copy but for either as a lesson of what not to do or as inspiration. Murder in the Tower of Happiness, definitely falls into the inspiration category. 

Because I set my murders in a variety of places, I know how important setting the scene is, and author M.M. Tawfik makes Egypt seem so real that I can almost hear the crowds and feel the heat.

He also draws characters that are so realistic that it is if they are in the room with me.

Admitedly, I know Tawfik and have appreciated what I've seen of his writing since we first met with the Geneva Writers Group a couple of decades ago. In principle I always try and buy books from people I know in support, but buying them doesn't mean I want to shout their praise (Katie Hayoz's Untethered is another praise shouter book). 

I'm also a bit jealous of Tawfik. The original version of the novel was in Arabic and anyone who can write well in one language is worthy of praise. As translator of his own work, he writes well in two languages. Perhaps because the original language is Arabic, the beauty of the language takes this novel above the average mystery.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Revenge by the cat brigade

Scooby partied much too much last night at FONDUE NIGHT. This morning he just didn't feel like getting out of bed and moaned about headache, which we would spell hangover.

It was too tempting for Petite Cougar and Lady Leopard.

"May we have a fry pan?" Petite Cougar asked.

Thinking she wanted to cook something I gave her one.

"A couple of spoons, too," Lady Leopard said.

Before I could remind them that the spoons shouldn't be used on the Teflon, they had scampered into the bedroom and were up on the bed banging away on the pan.

I wish I had a photo of Scooby levitating. His groans could be heard all over the chalet. 

The two cats returned the pan and spoon with huge grins on their little faces.

For his adventures last night please see...


The object was to go to the chalet to relax and spend quality time in a beautiful place before my daughter returns to the states.

However, I still have newsletter work and novel work, my housemate has things to do and my daughter needs to send out CVs and look for a place to live in Boston.

Thus in this 300+ year old chalet there were three laptops.

What's dumb about that?


But, when I went to plug in my computer, I discovered I had brought the cord and battery that belongs to the laptop I bought for my new employee. My daughter will be taking it back to Boston to give to him. However, even though I'd also bought books to read (when am I ever without one) the thought of falling further behind did not make me happy. The Toshiba connection did not fit my HP laptop.

Daughter to the rescue: "Try mine." worked and we are taking turns recharging our laptop batteries

Just one more reason that I adore my kid.

Red Geranium tour of Les Marecottes

The weather is early fall crisp at the chalet, perfect for a walk. I decided to do a red geranium tour of the village. Here's a sample of the photos I took. I could have as easily done a pink geranium tour.

The announcement board for the village with the Swiss and Valais flags in the background and a mountain or two.
Geraniums to the left of me, geraniums to the right of me. As I was taking this the school bus came by leaving me pressed to the wall. I do like the St. Bernard painted on the bus.
 More geraniums on the path leading to a wonderful walk.

 The geraniums on the entrance to our chalet.
Okay, not red geraniums but one of my favourite places in the village. There's a water dish for dogs (see sing) and the bench invites hikers to sit and rest.

This mail box with Japanese-style painted flowers and a pot of geraniums leads up to another chalet.

In between I chatted to an old woman with a cane who was thrilled with the day, a couple with two little dogs. I knew my daughter who will disappear back to the States was still in hugging distance for a few more days and my lovely housemate was having a calm day (a rarity lately). Rick is back in Argelès doing things he needs to do and will be up next week. Life could not be better.

This is good. Our new watch words 


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Surprise at the chalet for all

With Llara getting ready to return to the States, Julia decided she HAD to go to the chalet because she's never been up there. I never argue about disappearing up into the magic of the mountains. Thus we piled into the car and headed for the Valais. And after the usual two-hour drive of drop dead beautiful scenery we arrived.

Because he, too, is stateside bound, Scooby asked to go. And, of course we said yes, the more the merrier. We would soon rue the more the merrier concept.

Scooby loved the charm of the chalet.

Llara and I immediately set off with Scooby to show him the fuzzy chickens, which had probably become Sunday lunch, because not only were they not in their pen, the pen was gone. What none of us knew Petite Cougar and Lady Leopard, who didn't think Scooby should get treated to the chalet, had stowed away and when we came back they were ensconced on the couch in a gab fest.

The two felines have become really good friends through their solidarity. Scooby's reaction when he first saw them was to shake. He hasn't fully recovered from their attack (see bandaged paw), but we three women, Julia, Llara and I encouraged him to make the first move toward, if not becoming friends at least being civil to each other.

The girls were not overly impressed, but at least they did not attack again. Lady Leopard being older was civil, but Petite Cougar would not even turn around and look at Scooby. It may be a tension-filled couple of days with them all the in chalet.

However, tonight we'll escape for a fondue. I'm not sure if it is wise to leave all three alone together, and taking all three could spoil it for the humans.

We have a powwow in about ten minutes to decide how the evening will play out.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Scooby faces two mad cats

"I'm here in Corsier Port. You can run, but you can't hide."

Ooohh oh! Scooby catches Lady Leopard and Petite Cougar talking about him over a cup of coffee. This doesn't look good.

Lady Leopard and Petite Cougar pin Scooby down. He is NOT a happy pup.

Scooby feels all fuzzy after a Vet gives him a shot for his sprained arm after his battle with his ex-lady friends.

Petite Cougar and Lady Leopard begin to form a friendship despite their age differences. Shared experiences and female solidarity win.

I shivered happily

I shivered last night and pulled the blanket up.


I'm a cold weather person who has been panting in the heat. And even if it is nice to run outside without bundling up, I will trade the convenience for the energy cooler weather gives me.

After all those years of going back to school in the fall or getting my daughter ready for the reentree, September will always mark the new year for me. 

Unlike my father who lived in Florida in the winter and summers on his boat in Scituate, MA, a leaf falling meant it was time to head south, quick before the second one fell.

For me, it is yes, I've survived another summer. So far I haven't seen a leaf, but there are fallen acorns in the yard, another mark of autumn. And the shiver is hopeful too.

autumn,crisp,fresh,fall,fotolia,golden leaves,oranges,seasonal,trees,veins

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dates and train trips


Too many goings and comings of too many people have led to major date confusion. Llara missed a train and confused her return date to Boston. I totally lost control of people coming and going to/from the wedding and even a friend coming to Geneva told me Sunday the 26 only he was arriving the Monday 26th. At least it's not just my DNA that has date confusion.


As I was composting my ticket (date stamping a ticket in a machine) I realised that my Carte Senior which gives me everything half price had expired. The Argelès train station hadn't open. Fortunately there was no conductor on the train. In fact, there were no conductors on any of the three trains so I needn't have worried.


I thought I was in the wrong station. It has been completely redone since I was there. Now the toilets don't require a map to find. The best news was that my favourite cookie place in Carcassonne has an outlet in the train station. Sadly it too was closed, but next time I'm through, I'll definitely be a customer.

It didn't long to buy my new Carte Senior in the bright new sales office so I would be legal with my reduced priced ticket.


There's now a Starbuck's in the Lyon train station. However, I stuck with my St. Paul's sandwich. As I was thinking all the trains were on time in this voyage (sometimes train schedules are a suggestion) were on time, they announced a delay of the Geneva train, but it was only five minutes late.

My daughter did get the date I was coming back right so she was at the station. I'm just sorry I had no cookies to give her, but then again, I'm not sure they would have survived the trip.

I caught the Petite Cougar...

...sneaking into my luggage after I packed for Geneva. I gave in and said she could go. We did get a photo of her at the train station. See

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Deidre and Julia strike again

My great and talented roommate took the picture and Deidre Wait, who has designed all my book covers, did the final design...

Not sure of the publication date in the next of the murder series, but thank you to both these talented women.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pride in patirimony

The Catalans are very proud of their patrimony...For the third time in as many years I've taken a tour with Jean-Marc. The first two tours were in English, but on Thursday nights during the summer they make it a major event in French. The woman at the tourist office provided Rick with an English summary sheet and I added bits and pieces that he might have forgotten from last year's tour and/or find interesting.

I can almost keep straight the battles between the sons of Jacques Le Conquerer and the French and Spanish not to mention the different pirate attacks over the decades. I still would not want to take a test but I can give a mini tour.

And there were a few myths added in that I hadn't heard. Hercules allegedly came to the area with a beautiful woman. They slept together but in the morning he was gone (a bit like Scooby and Petite Cougar). The locals adopted her and she gave her name to Argelès. Of course there are stories such as it is named after a flower.

One of our first stops was a the church Notre-Dame del Prat. There's been a church on the site since the 900s. The church did appear on my cover for Murder in Argelès but the guide didn't know that. After all the novel is in English.

The church's altar is in the opposite geographical direction of altars in  most churches.

This tour had extras. A story teller told the group three tales. The first was how the yellow Catalan Flag came into being when a knight reached into the blood of fallen knight and with his four fingers marked the yellow flag with the four red stripes.

The second was about a visit to Argeles from the Perpignan Bishop. Wine played a big part.

A man, a dog and a beautiful woman made up the third story.

On the other side of the church, now a square built over an ancient cemetery, Catalan musicians waited for us and they explained the different traditional instruments before a mini concert. The door at the right of the photo is now used as a summer tourist office, but for years it also served as a prison.

We were given a course in the Sadane which looks simple and Rick and I did manage not to trip anyone as we tried it. I also learned the cobla that I'd heard about but couldn't define was the melange of instruments that sound like a tired child whining about not wanting to go to bed.

Finally we were treated to local sausage, wines and desserts. A man from Lyon tried to explain the difference to me between saucesse and sauscisson (sp?) but failed. It doesn't matter. They were all good all locally mad.

The cost for it all was 8 Euros/9.86 CHF/US$10.68/£6.80. And we got to keep out wine glasses.

You know you are old when...

You have lunch with a three and five year old and their father, who you first met when he was a bump in his mother's stomach. That the father had grey hair too, does nothing to increase the feeling of youth.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

From a piece of publicity

I went on a picnic at Racou Plage last night attended by people from at least eight countries all because in 2008 a woman staying in my flat picked up a piece of publicity from a local language school.

I ended up contacting the owner, who helped me become a little less bad (although I always tell people, she's not responsible for any continuing mistakes.) She's really good.

These lessons ended up in us becoming friends, meeting for coffee and the general sharing that friends do. We've attended each other's wedding, gone to art exhibits, etc.

However, she and her husband do these fantastic parties which bring together locals and students. Last Christmas it was at the school. Last night was at the plage despite an earlier light rain and wind.

It's a pot luck or Canadian supper as the French call it, with everyone contributing something to eat.

The summer is almost over. Picnics are winding down. But I love the connections from a 2008 advert.