Can Amy’s rocky start in Paris turn into a happy ever after?
Amy didn’t realize how stale her life was until she jetted off to Paris without telling a soul—not even her husband—and had the adventure of a lifetime. Now as she tries to establish herself in the City of Light, she finds that despite a fun (and quirky) group of friends and the ability to indulge in French pastries whenever she wants, reinventing her life is much harder than she imagined.
Then on Amy’s thirtieth birthday, two unexpected visitors leave her wondering if she will soon be saying au revoir to Paris and the new life she’s struggled to build. Her estranged husband, Will, shows up—but is he interested in reconciliation or separation? And a young woman who arrives on Amy’s doorstep unleashes chaos that could push Amy out into the street.
As Amy’s Parisian dream starts to fall apart, she must decide: return to the stability of Will and Phoenix (if that’s even still an option) or forge her way forward in Paris? Amid secrets and surprises, set in enchanting gardens, cozy cafés, and glittering Parisian streets, Amy must choose between two very different worlds. And each has a claim on her heart.
K. S. R. Burns is the author of the Amazon bestseller, THE PARIS EFFECT,
its upcoming standalone sequel PARIS EVER AFTER,
and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF WORKING GIRL:
Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use.
She has lived and worked in four countries and 22 cities,
No longer a wanderer, Burns now resides in the Pacific Northwest,
where in addition to novels
she writes a weekly career advice column for The Seattle Times.
What a great way to start July! It’s my turn to host Cris Hammond who is on a virtual book tour with his extremely enjoyable From Here to Paris.
All expats are interesting people, since it takes a certain sort of person to up sticks and not just move, but move to another country, but some are definitely more interesting than others. For many, expatdom often happens as a result of unemployment, and this is Cris’s case. As he succinctly puts it in the blurb, “your life can fall apart just enough to allow you to put it back together again in a whole new way”. And what a way!
Cris, a cartoonist and then a boat photographer, buys a barge, Phaedra, and explores the French canal system. Phaedra needed a good bit of attention before the trip, and Cris had to grapple with plenty of other new challenges, such as French, France and dealing with locks. And that’s just for starters.
Cris and his wife Linda rise to the challenges they face as expats afloat. There are plenty of entertaining anecdotes as we follow Phaedra’s dignified progress along the French waterways, enjoying the scenery and sharing Cris’s ups and downs on the way. It’s a book of self-discovery as well sightseeing and, as a fellow expat in France, it paints a realistic picture of the country as seen through foreign eyes.
I asked Cris some questions about his book, barging and Paris.
What inspired you to write From Here to Paris?
It never occurred to me that what we were doing was “book worthy” at first. But I did know that lots of our friends thought that we were setting out to do something verging on the crazy, and they were always eager to hear the latest news, catastrophic or euphoric. I’d regularly send short stories back to a growing number of people who seemed to always be fascinated and asking for more. That kind of interest and support made me feel good, regardless of whatever immediate challenges we were facing. As time went on, the stories began to pile up and someone said, “Hey, why don’t you turn this into a book?” That was another thing I’d never done before, so, since we were into trying new adventures, I gave it a shot.
Please describe it in 100 words (ok, 113!)
From Here to Paris is the story of how we climbed out of our well-worn corporate trench, took a look around, and decided it was time to shake things up. It’s also the hilarious tale of selling the burdensome house, returning the leased cars, shredding the credit cards, and abandoning the mind-numbing commute in favor of a joyful struggle toward a fresh, more fulfilling life. One we imagined as being lived in jeans, and filled with leisurely afternoons aboard our Dutch barge, Phaedra, floating along glass-still canals through medieval villages and rolling vineyards of Burgundy toward our ultimate goal, to live on our barge in the shadow of Notre Dame, in Paris.
What’s the appeal of barging?
For me there are several things that recommend a barge over a house or an apartment. The first thing is that we’re always on the water. Living on the water can be a challenge at times, but it’s also almost always lovely, interesting, and relaxing. Another unique appeal is that the barge moves. We aren’t always cruising when we’re in France, but when the urge to go out to somewhere new hits, we can untie the lines and be gone. Phaedra is also extremely comfortable in a very compact space. From her stained glass windows that fill one wall, to her wonderfully carved woodwork that decorates her from bow to stern, living aboard her is like living in a varnished, glowing jewel box. To be honest though, I enjoy sitting in the cockpit in the evening, watching the sun go down with a glass of wine every bit as much as I love driving here through the canals and rivers of France. It’s all good.
What are your three favorite things about Paris?
The first thing is the feeling that comes over me of youth and joy when I’m on the streets of Paris. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like a kid again. Also, as I mention in the book, being an artist, I feel, when I walk through Paris, that I’m in a place that epitomizes an artistic approach to life. I love the museums, but I also love the way that Paris is a city that is made for walking. And I think this leads me to the third thing, the cafés. I can’t get enough of the people watching.
From Here to Paris has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?
Yes, I did.
Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?
I don’t think so, unless you think having to wear a scuba diving wetsuit whenever I write is quirky. (I don’t wear the flippers though.) Other than that, I find myself writing a lot of dialogue and sometimes it’s as if I’m just taking dictation from the voices I’m hearing in my head. I used to write a syndicated daily comic strip. I’d write non-stop for two weeks, then draw for two weeks, in order to get a month’s worth of strips out. During the writing time, I was pretty much a zombie, lost into the world of my characters. I’d walk right past people I knew, mumbling to myself, without even seeing them. I don’t know though if, in the world of writers, that is all that unusual.
Tell us briefly about what book’s coming next.
Well, I’m continuing to write my short stories and adventures for the folks back home. I’m getting that feeling again from my readers that there’s another book in that growing collection.
What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Get an editor that knows your voice and what you are trying say. Take their suggested edits as just that, suggestions. A good editor is invaluable, because we all have something to learn. But you’re a unique person with your own voice and your own story. Have faith in it.
What one snippet of advice would you give to anyone planning to visit France?
Give yourself enough time to enjoy your time past the jet lag malaise. See Paris but don’t try to see it all in one trip. You’ll be back. Also, try to get out of Paris and see other parts of the country. I’m convinced that France is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It’s worth getting lost in the countryside for a week or two. You’ll be back.
Thanks to Cris for the great interview and photos.
Cris Hammond is a nationally known artist, cartoonist, and entrepreneur. His comic strip, Speed Walker, Private Eye, was seen daily in over 150 newspapers across the country, from The Miami Herald to The Seattle Sun Times, The San Diego Union, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune. His paintings of ships and the sea have appeared in galleries in Sausalito, San Francisco, Tiburon, and Carmel, California. He led special effects teams to Academy Awards for Special Effects in motion pictures including Star Trek IV, Innerspace, and The Abyss, among others. In 1994, facing penury, he left his artistic pursuits, bought a briefcase and a couple ties, and went out and got a real corporate job. Eight years and four more neckties later, he walked into his office one morning and was ambushed by the waiting Exit Interview Team, which informed him that he was, as of that moment, “out on his ear.”
After a suitable period of bi-polar careening between panic and reflection, he realized that he was too young to retire and too old to go looking for another corporate job. So, he sold the house, bought a barge in France and started painting again.
Now he and his wife, Linda, spend half the year in California living and working in their tiny art studio near San Francisco, and the other half doing the same thing on the barge in France. Piloting their 1925 Dutch barge Phaedra, they’ve meandered through more than 1200 kilometers of canals and rivers and negotiated more than 850 locks in their travels from the Rhone wine region, through Burgundy to Chablis and down the Seine into Paris.
This book is an absolute delight from start to finish. But don’t read it – at least, not in a public place. It’ll have you smiling to yourself at the author’s light, lively smile, chuckling quietly at the faux pas, which are a normal part of expat life, that she shares with us and occasionally laughing out loud at the sudden ridiculousness of a crazy situation she finds herself in. And there’ll be the odd gasp of horror at the hair-tearingly-out stubbornness of French bureaucracy, and once or twice of admiration at our narrator’s partying stamina. People sitting in the airport terminal or doctor’s surgery around you shoot you looks of alarm and sidle quickly away from this clearly insane person giggling to themself!
Vicky Lesage shares the adventures of her early years in Paris, warts and all – and that’s what’s so wonderful. ‘Confessions’ is absolutely the right word to go in the title. The author doesn’t spare the French and she doesn’t spare herself. However, she only has a dig at French people when they deserve it, and is quick to admire all their good qualities, of which there are plenty. She’s less forgiving of herself, calling herself a ‘nerd’ now and again and worrying about her language skills. What she forgets to tell us is that Resourceful is her second name. There seems to be nothing she can’t cope with, and she tackles Paris head on – and wins!
We join Vicky as she finds friends, frustrations, places to live, fun, work, more frustrations and, on the way, the love of her life.
I honestly can’t think of anyone who won’t enjoy this book. If you’ve ever thought of going to France either to visit or to live, or even if you haven’t, you’ll get a sharp insight into what it’s like in this country. From the shopkeepers, who regard you as ‘Satan’s spawn’ because you want to pay with a €50 note, or, worse still, a credit card, to the fonctionnaires who always seem to withhold crucial information and thus complicate your life a million times more than it needs to be, to the bewildering number of public holidays, and finally to getting married there. Fabulous!
And as well as being a thoroughly brilliant book to read, it’s a showcase of good self-publishing practice. Here I put on my professional editor’s hat. We have the following:
• a classy, sassy cover
• an extremely well-written and well-presented text
• short, punchy chapters
• acknowledgements and table of contents at the end of the book: I wanted to dance when I saw that! Why? Well, these items take up valuable space in the free sample 10% or so that interested readers download when they’re considering buying an ebook. Given that an ebook opens at the last point you read to, you don’t need a contents list to find your page, so push that to the back. It’s there, but it’s not intruding, as are the acknowledgements. I’ve always advocated this approach but there’s been resistance. We’re too used to having these elements up front. Please, follow Vicky Lesage’s example!
• a chatty ‘about the author’ section, inviting us to review the book in exchange for a bonus story not in the book and to get in touch.
We have not only authoring, but indie authoring at its very, very best in this little gem of a book. It’s a self-publishing party in itself!
And to finish, here’s a short extract from the first chapter.
Sister Mary Keyholder
I would like to say that when I first stepped off the plane and embarked on my new life in France, something memorable happened. Or something funny or amazing or romantic or at least worth writing about. Truth is, I don’t remember. I take that to be a good thing. Considering all the mishaps I’ve had since moving here, “uneventful” nearly equals “good” in my book.
Looking back all these years later, I see myself as a hopeful, naive girl full of energy stepping off that plane. Tired of running into my ex-boyfriend seemingly everywhere around my midwestern American hometown, and having been unceremoniously freed from my IT job, this fearless 25-year-old was ready for a change.
I had dipped my toes in the proverbial European pond over the course of several college backpacking trips and now wanted to experience living there. To wake up to the smell of fresh croissants, to drink copious amounts of wine straight from the source, and maybe meet a tall, dark and handsome Frenchman. Who was, of course, not a wienie.
Oh, to be back in the shoes (or flip-flops, as it were) of that intrepid girl, arriving in a new land, successfully commandeering the Métro and her luggage, triumphantly arriving on the doorstep of her destination.
The smooth sailing didn’t last long.
I had sublet an apartment for the summer from an unseen Irish girl, Colleen, using Craigslist. The photos showed a charming, yet tiny, apartment that I already pictured myself living in. You’d think this was where the story starts to go wrong, but the girl and the apartment did exist! Making it probably the last apartment to be legitimately rented online before scammers cornered the market.
For me, the issue was getting in to the apartment.
First I had to get the key. Colleen had agreed to leave it next door at the convent (Me? Living next to a convent? This’ll be good.) The Catholic schoolgirl in me had an overly romanticized notion of how a Parisian convent would look. I was expecting some sort of Gothic cathedral with nunny looking nuns. So I must have walked past the modern, imposing structure about twenty times, sure I’d been conned, before I noticed the sign. Ahem.
I retrieved the key using a combination of my shaky French and the logic that, c’mon ladies, how would anyone else have found out about this bizarre scenario and come knocking on your door?
“Bonjour, je m’appelle Vicki. Comment allez-vous?” I asked the group of navy-blue-clad, pious-looking women gathered inside the doorway.
The elderly (aren’t they all?) nun closest to me cautiously replied, “Pas mal. Et vous?”
Ack! What did she say? I was so busy forming my question I didn’t plan for her response! Just keep going, you can do it. “Je cherche une clef.” I’m looking for a key.
“Oui, une clef.” Now I know that’s not much to go on, but let’s be real. Do lost girls often come to their door? Hrm. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s how girls become nuns? Better speed this up before I get stuck in the nunnery, never to be seen again. “Colleen leave key? It’s for me.”
“Oh yes, a key! For an American girl. That must be you.” Was it that obvious? Was it my blonde hair? Wide, toothy smile? No, it was probably my command (or lack thereof) of the French language.
“You’re friends with Colleen?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure how to answer that since we weren’t really friends, but then again I wasn’t even sure that was the question. My French wasn’t up to the task of explaining how I knew Colleen, and for sure if I said we weren’t friends, Sister Mary Keyholder would never hand over the precious key.
“Yes,” I said with a smile, then promptly got the heck out of there.
Key and two heavy suitcases in hand, I headed to my new apartment building. The number on the front, 20, was written in the ornate curlicue script that most French buildings employ. The large windows of each apartment were fronted by black wrought-iron rails, providing the perfect vantage point from which to observe the goings-on of the street below. I eagerly punched the five-digit code into the digicode reader to the right of the door and was in.
Next issue: finding the actual apartment. You’d think this would be easy since Colleen had said it was on the third floor. Silly me, that seemed like enough information until I scoped out the situation.
Problem 1: Once inside the front door, I saw two buildings – one that faced the sidewalk (in which I was currently standing) and one past a quiet courtyard containing a few trees and a large, overflowing trash barrel. Which building was it?