Theme Reveal – #AtoZChallenge


Bonjour! Today is the day I’m supposed to reveal my theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge.

Today is also the day I was supposed to fly home from Switzerland, but I cut my trip short last Thursday due to travel concerns and suspensions. Anyway, I had written and scheduled this post en avance. Smart girl that I am, I’ve also written and scheduled all of the A to Z posts (years of doing this has taught me!).

If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you’ll know that I tend to post about four things: books, travel, music, and food. Previous themes in this A to Z Challenge have included Poets, Novelists, and Lyricists; Oh! The Places I’ve Been!; Smile and Say (Cheese); Listen Up! (Musical instruments); Paris Between the Wars (1919-1939); Broadway Musicals; 1968; and Bob Dylan covers. Whew!

So this is my 9th year. I usually have a few theme ideas, but I try to make sure I can cover all the letters before committing to a theme. This year’s theme is…….

YES, BUT WOULD YOU EAT IT?

Photo from commons.wikimedia.org

Stay tuned! Better yet, follow me with your email address and my posts will drop right into your inbox. The A to Z Challenge has posts each day in April, except Sundays.

Traveling through the Coronavirus


Image from Pixabay

Notice I wrote traveling through, not traveling with. Although I wouldn’t know if I have COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I haven’t been tested, I’m not showing symptoms, but yes, I could be infected. After all, I was in the midst of thousands of others this past week, at Boston’s Logan airport, Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport, Zürich’s airport, the train from Zürich to Fribourg. Then the markets and coffee shops and restaurants and stores in Fribourg. And, sadly, just a few days later, the packed train from Fribourg to Zürich, a flight from Zürich to Dublin, four hours in the jam-packed Dublin airport, six hours on the full airplane to Boston.

My little vacation and book research trip was cut short after president Trump declared Wednesday evening that, effective Friday, all travel from European countries to the US, was banned for 30 days. That’s what he said, what he supposedly read off a Teleprompter. (Yes, I know that Homeland Security later clarified it, but he’d already stated the mistruth.) I watched the speech, at around 2:00 in the morning in my hotel room, with a sense of dread. I was scheduled to be in Fribourg until Monday, 16 March. Under his directive, I would be stuck in Switzerland for another month. Now, you know I love Switzerland! But I couldn’t stay for a month. So, at 2:00 am Thursday morning, I began packing. I thought, just in case. I sent an email to my husband, letting him know I was awake and aware of the situation.

A half hour later, he called me. After a few choice words for Trump, he implored me to come home. “Do whatever it takes,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Just come home.”

By 3:30, I was dressed and packed. I sent messages to my friend Barbara, with whom I’d spent a lovely day on Tuesday, and to my friend Fabiola, with whom I was supposed to spend Saturday. I had friends sending messages to me. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘I’m worried about you.’

Fribourg train station
Thursday, 12 March 2020 5:45 am

I checked out of the hotel. Four nights unused, and although the guy at the desk said he’d look into it, I don’t expect a refund. I walked through dark and quiet streets to the train station (that brought back memories of my student days!), purchased a ticket from a smart machine, and rolled my bag up a ramp to track 3. The 6:04 train left on time – of course – and filled up at Bern, its next stop. Every time I heard someone cough near me, I pulled my scarf up over my nose.

I arrived at the airport by 8:00 and traveled up escalators to the departures area. When I inquired about where to find the Icelandair check-in desk, I learned that Icelandair doesn’t have a desk in the airport. (Note to self regarding discount airfares: sometimes you get what you pay for)

I was sent to FinnAir. I tried calling Icelandair and was told I was number 76 in the queue. After twenty minutes, I was number 72. I asked the woman at FinnAir if Swiss was flying to Boston that day. She directed me to another counter, where a very nice man looked up flights available Thursday to Boston. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was operating on zero sleep, one cup of coffee. I had last eaten at 4:00 Wednesday afternoon. He told me my best option was on Aer Lingus, Zürich to Dublin, Dublin to Boston. $1,397.00

I handed over my Visa card. The crowds at the airport, my understanding of exponential growth, and my intense desire to be home propelled me to the Aer Lingus check-in counter and down to the waiting area.

Both flights were full. Two women who had arrived in Prague on Tuesday and were flying back to Seattle, a nine-hour flight. “We had one day, yesterday,” one of them said. Four male college students on spring break, heading home early because their parents were “freaking out,” one said. When I defended the parents’ concern, they grinned and acknowledged it was the right thing to do. Most of the passengers, it seemed, were there because of the speech. Even the officials at passport control understood.

Only one time I was asked if I’d been to China or Iran. No one cared that I’d been in Switzerland, where there are nearly 650 cases and 4 deaths. That was on Wednesday. One day earlier there were only 500 cases.

I am home. My husband was at Logan last night to pick me up. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours straight. I’m going to self-quarantine while I monitor myself. I hope others do, but many won’t.

Photo M. Reynolds

As for Fribourg, it’s been in my memory for over 40 years. It’ll stay there, even if some of those memories aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. And the book? It’s still going to be written. A self-imposed quarantine gives me plenty of time to write.

Everything Changes – Even in Fribourg


View from the Zähringen bridge
Photo by M. Reynolds

I knew it wouldn’t be the same, and I didn’t even want it to be. The first time I was in this medieval town was late September 1978, when I joined a few dozen classmates to spend a year abroad. Since then, I’ve returned to Fribourg a half-dozen times, so I’ve witnessed the evolution of this town.

Still, memory is a funny thing. Walking down the Rue de Romont, I can see in my mind’s eye the tea-rooms and cafes. A lot has changed.

Photo M. Reynolds

My favorite place on a Sunday morning, for a cafe crème and mille feuille has closed. Le Chasseur, famous for all-you-could-eat raclette, is gone. But there’s a McDonald’s and a Burger King. Indian, Japanese, Thai restaurants abound, a reflection of a more diverse population and the tastes of Fribourg’s newer generation.

Along the Boulevard de Pérolles
Photo M. Reynolds

I lived on the Boulevard de Pérolles, number 13, in a tiny closet of a room tout en haut. Most of the shops I remember from my daily walks are gone, with a couple of exceptions. The Rex cinema and tea-room are still there, the tea-room a throwback to a different time. And it still fills up at lunchtime.

I tried to retrace my steps to the Cafe Chemin de Fer, the gathering place for American students. It was popular because the owners, Marcel and Marie, welcomed us, as rowdy as we were. I turned down the Rue de Locarno, but couldn’t remember the way. How could that be? I should’ve known the route with a blindfold over my eyes. Well, forty-plus years later….

Anyway, I figured it out. Now, I knew the old cafe was gone. I’d heard there was an Indian restaurant there in its place.

Photo M. Reynolds
Photo M. Reynolds

Look at that! I’ll have to go there tomorrow for lunch.

Anyway, the Perriard and Le Chasseur may be gone, the Cardinal Brewery is gone, cars can no longer drive over the Zähringen bridge and there’s a new, modern bridge on the landscape. There are more cars, roundabouts, and still more building. But the cathedral stands, the Schweizerhalle is still operating, and Fribourgeois still wait on the curb for the walk signal, even when there are no cars in sight.

Photo M. Reynolds
On Grand’ Rue
Photo M. Reynolds

I’m Going


Fribourg, 2007.
Photo by Martha Reynolds

In late December, I planned a return trip to Switzerland, a place I’ve visited numerous times, the setting of four of my novels. I’m writing a new novel and it, too, is set in Switzerland, just outside of Fribourg. So this would an opportunity to do a little book research.

It would be a solo trip – our elderly dog has never been kenneled and we’re not about to start. Besides, I only planned on eight days. Wistfully, I’d hoped for longer, but it just wasn’t going to work this time.

Of course, the news at the top of the page these past days is all about the Coronavirus. Because it’s everywhere, even in Rhode Island. A couple of cases here, a couple of cases in Switzerland, too.

So what do you do? I’ve been walking around the house, singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – “Come on, you’ve got to let me know!” In the end, it’s up to me, at least that’s what my husband says. As of today, Monday, I’m going.

I’m careful. I’m aware. I’m living my life, and I intend to stay safe. And I’m going to a country where at least the people in charge don’t cover up the truth in order to make themselves look good. Truth is truth. Let the scientists speak.

Anyway, I’m flying out. I’ll post photos when I can. Stay safe and wash your hands.

Spotlight on my Happy Ever After series!


I managed to sneak in a blog post before the end of a January. Sorry for not being more consistent, but January finds me deep into drafting my new novel. And I write it out in longhand (with my favorite pen) in a spiral-bound notebook my dear friend Lynne gave to me. I’ve written twenty-four chapters so far – yay, me!

Meanwhile, the three books I wrote as my “Happy Ever After” trilogy are being featured on various book blogs over the coming weeks. This is a way to let readers who may not know me learn about my books, and there’s a giveaway of the trilogy as well. You can follow THIS LINK to find out about all the tour stops and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Hey, if you know me, you know I’m big on giveaways. Belated congratulations to Geri C. in Indiana, who won my big December giveaway box. I’ll have another one coming up in the spring.

Like all indie authors, I could use more reviews on Amazon. Yep, you’ve read this before. But I’ll keep asking because it truly helps. Just a few words will do, and I’d rather have honest feedback, even if it’s critical. It helps me be a better writer.

Back to the new novel. The year is 1981 and the setting is…..wait for it….yes, it’s set in Switzerland! That means I need to go back and research. No, really, my husband insisted. So off I go in March to visit with my friends and refresh my memory. Expect this new novel in late November – I’m already excited about it! I’ll share more as the year progresses.

We’re living in uncertain times, my friends. Each day provides us with opportunities to be kind. I don’t want to miss those chances, do you?

A Decade of Writing


Happy New Year! And happy new decade. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were freaking out about Y2K??!

Ten years ago, on December 31, 2009, I was still working as a fraud investigator. My work environment wasn’t good, but it would grow worse throughout 2010 until I finally had enough.

We lost our little pug, Jessie, in May of 2009.

While we were dog-less, we took a trip to Lugano, Switzerland, in September that year.

Then by October, my husband indicated he was ready for another dog, and our little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bonnie, arrived in early November.

After I finally quit the job that was making me physically sick, I began writing my first novel in 2011. And here, on the final day of 2019, I’ve published nine novels and one non-fiction journal. And I can’t wait to begin my new book!

Thank you, all of you, for reading these blog posts, for taking a chance on an unknown author, for being a loyal reader, for buying my books as gifts for yourself and for others, for posting reviews, for letting me know that I write books you like to read! I am grateful, so grateful.

A December Full of Books


expo

Yes, the 7th Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo is this Saturday! Our biggest event of the year, the Expo features over 120 local authors in all genres – history, romance, mystery, science fiction, children’s books. Fabulous raffle items this year, free admission, free parking, and even Santa! If you’re in the vicinity, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello.

JINGLE VALLEY GIVEAWAY!

Next up – Martha’s big giveaway! My newest novel, All’s Well in Jingle Valley, was released earlier this week. It’s my 9th novel and my 10th book, and I’m so, so grateful to be doing this thing I love. All’s Well in Jingle Valley is actually the third (and final) book in The Happy Ever After series, which includes my 2015 novel A Jingle Valley Wedding and 2018’s April in Galway. While I hadn’t intended to write a trilogy, when I wrote the ending to April in Galway last year, I decided to weave the story into Jingle Valley. The first book, A Jingle Valley Wedding is discounted at Amazon (ebook) to just 99 cents for the month of December.

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So – here are the details to qualify for the giveaway:

  • If you pre-ordered the book prior to November 15, let me know in the comments (3 entries)
  • If you pre-ordered the book between November 15 and December 1, let me know in the comments (2 entries)
  • Post an honest review at the Amazon site before December 13 (5 entries)
  • Post an honest review at the Amazon site before December 22 (4 entries)
  • Share the book and its buy link on Facebook (3 entries)
  • Post a photo of the book on Instagram and use the hashtag #JingleValley (3 entries)

And what can you win?

  • ~ a black Eccolo journal with magnetized closure and a fancy pen to record your brightest thoughts (maybe this will be the year you write that novel?)
  • ~ an Almond Cookie gift set from Carol’s Daughter, featuring Almond Cookie Softening Body Wash, Almond Cookie Frappe Body Lotion, and Almond Cookie Nourishing Hand Cream
  • ~ a $10 Starbucks gift card
  • ~ a set of postcards from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (Dalton, Massachusetts is practically next door!)
  • ~ a small box of maple sugar candy from Stockbridge
  • ~ a Vera Bradley zip ID case in Romantic Paisley
  • ~ and of course, a signed copy of All’s Well in Jingle Valley with a fabulous BookFlip bookmark
  • ~ and there may be a surprise or two! (I always add a little something)

I’ve got two more book signings this month – on Saturday, December 14, I’ll be at  Stillwater Books in downtown Pawtucket from 1:00 to 3:00.

And on Saturday, December 21, I’ll be at Ink Fish Books in Warren from 1:00 to 3:00.

Finally, let me say THANK YOU for supporting me since I began this writing journey in 2011. I am very grateful for all of my readers, whether we’ve known each other for decades or you’re someone new who’s recently discovered my books. My personal goal is to write a book each year as long as I’m able to do so. I’m already planning and plotting my next novel!

Wishing you warm blessings, comfort, and good health this holiday season.

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