Auguste’s great Vacation

Auguste contemplating the pond at the farm

We spent a week in Normandy. As usual, the Normandy weather in August was rainy and cool. It didn’t dampen our spirits (cliché, I know – and punny – I couldn’t help it!) and Auguste had the most fun! The first day, he disappeared into the Normand countryside and didn’t return until evening. I wasn’t very worried – we’ve been coming here since he was a puppy and he knows the whole farm by heart. He ran off, and didn’t reappear until suppertime. Then he trotted in, muddy and full of burrs and tired. The next day, off he went again, but this time Estelle found him on the road heading towards the polo farm. He was brought back in disgrace (he mustn’t go on the road!) and scolded. So then we decided to take him with us to the polo games, and so we did – and he made freinds with the children there, who insisted on taking him for walks and playing with him. Every evening he came home and dashed outside to hunt for rabbits. The rabbits didn’t mind – he’s got such short legs they literally ran circles around him (I’m trying to see how many clichées I can squeeze into one little blog post…)

We took him out to dinner, and he went with us to the Creperie where we saw a village with a “doggy bar” in the square – a drink stand with three different levels for big, medium and little dogs!

Doggy drink station with small, medium, and large water bowl holders.

What’s nice about France is that you can take dogs into restaurants. Auguste is very well behaved, and every time we went out, we struck up conversations with our neighbors about Auguste. In one restaurant, we met a couple who have been coming to France from England since 1950 – taking the ferry and driving down the coast each summer.

Of course, vacation is mostly for R&R – and this one was no different. Yes, Stef had to work, but whenever there was a break, we would find a quiet spot and relax. Auguste, in those cases, was always nearby!

On the last day,  he managed to get to the neighbor’s farm and their two daughters brought him back. As we were talking to the neighbors,  he escaped again and chased a rabbit who leaped across a ditch. Auguste wasn’t as lucky and fell in – he was covered in black, putrid mud. We hosed him down, dried him off, and put him under house arrest – unfortunately someone left the door open, and off he went again – but this time he went straight to the car. He’d seen our luggage and was afraid of being left behind!


The significance of time (Iconoclasm)

I don’t like destroying works of art.In the US, confederate statues are being torn down. To destroy them is, in my mind, pointless; the statues should go to a museum. Taking them down from public places is a good move, but not destroying them. There are statues in museums all over the world that have lost their significance through time but have simply  become examples of an artist’s work. The Dying Gaul, for example, was commemorated for a victory of the Romans against a people they had invaded and were wiping out. The statue is a masterpiece of art, but more than that – it represents a whole civilization that was vanquished. But now, in this day and age – no one cares. No one looks at the statue and thinks “Horrible Romans – they killed this man, and they invaded his lands, and they wiped out a whole civilization.”  But if they like the statue, maybe they’ll ask questions about it, and learn something. Maybe they’ll think it is a shame – and will reflect on how, in their present, things are happening that reflect history. And maybe it will change someone, deep inside.

Here, for example, are busts of Caligula – the most depraved Roman Emperor. If the Romans had destroyed them after his short but brutal reign, we might have doubted his depravity.  When he was assassinated, these busts could have been destroyed – but they weren’t. And now time has stripped them of any meaning except, perhaps, as a reminder.

How tragic it would be to lose this artist’s rendition of General Lee – and especially of  “Traveller”, General Lee’s famous horse. Centuries from now, when the Civil War has become a chapter in ancient history books, the art will still be there.

Destroying an image does not change hearts or minds – it may make some people feel better now, but in two or three centuries, will it really matter if this statue had been crushed or simply moved to a museum?

There are symbols that have been defaced and torn down – the Swastika, or Lenin’s statue in Russia – and more recently, Saddam Hussein’s statue in Iraq. But what did breaking this accomplish? A statue isn’t a wall . When the Berlin wall was torn down, that was a true change and changed many  lives for the better. Walls are being built right now between Mexico and the US, and walls are imprisoning Palestinians. Instead of art, we should be tearing down walls. A statue isn’t a flag. A flag is a rallying point – and I have no problem with flags being burned or torn apart. But a statue is not a rallying point.  Art should be removed from public places because there, they do stand for something, whereas in a museum,  they are only relics – they have been reduced to an artist’s work.

In history, it’s often religious objects that are destroyed – in the 16th-century, iconoclasm in the Protestant Reformation attacked and defaced statues of saints. That continued after the Revolution in France. Some of what is  happening now is almost facial: one statue is being taken down and returned to the Sons of Liberty, who had put it up. But during the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty pulled down and destroyed the gilded lead statue of George III of the United Kingdom on Bowling Green (New York City), melting it down to be recast as ammunition!

So maybe this post should have been called Iconoclasm.


On the beach – in the rain

Vacation for a week – and a week of rain here in Normandy.  It’s typical Normandy weather, with clouds scudding across the sky, rain dropping intermittently, and the sun peeking out for a few splendid moments and making everything glisten.

We wanted to ride on the beach, but the day we went it was rainy. That didn’t deter us. At 5:30 in the morning we were up and by 6:45 we were at the polo stables. I rode India, a sweet paint pony who was slated for refereeing that afternoon. Stef took two horses on hand and rode a pretty dun pony called Jax. The rain held off until we reached the ocean, and then it poured. But the horses loved to stand in the waves. After we rode back with a group of about forty horses, and the noise as we walked through the village was astounding. 

Here you can just see the tips of India’s ears, and Stef with his two horses in front of us. 

I have been coming to Deauville in August forever, it seems. We stay at an old farmhouse and eat Camembert cheese and drink cider. We wake up early (OK, the part I don’t like much) so I usually stumble downstairs at 7:00 to have coffee with my freinds before they have to start their day (the husband is a farmer, and the wife is now mayor of her tiny town – her first wedding as mayor was for her own daughter! There are roses and hydrangeas in the garden, and apple trees – of course.

And there are rabbits – August is in heaven! The first day we arrived, he left and didn’t come back until sunset!




Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab


Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab
by Columbkill Noonan


GENRE: Mystery / Mythology


BLURB: Barnabas Tew is a private detective struggling to make a go of it in Victorian London. Fearing that he is not as clever as he had hoped to be, he is riddled with anxiety and plagued by a lack of confidence brought on in no small part by his failure to prevent the untimely deaths of several of his clients. Matters only get worse when Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, is referred to Barnabas by a former client (who perished in a terribly unfortunate incident which was almost certainly not Barnabas’ fault). Anubis sends for Barnabas (in a most uncivilized manner) and tells him that the scarab beetle in charge of rolling the sun across the sky every day has been kidnapped, and perhaps dismembered entirely. The land of the dead is in chaos, which will soon spill over into the land of the living if Barnabas (together with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) cannot set matters to right. Pulled from his safe and predictable (if unremarkable) life in Marylebone, Barnabas must match his wits against the capricious and dangerous Egyptian gods in order to unravel the mystery of the missing beetle and thereby save the world.


Barnabas CoverExcerpt: “Perhaps there’s been a mistake,” he said. “Maybe I’m not really dead. Is there someone I could talk to? Someone who could straighten out this mess?”

“Sorry,” said Anti. “But this is how it is. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t dead.”

“I just would have thought that dying would be, well, more noticeable,” said Barnabas sadly.

“So does everyone,” said Anti. “Almost no one really believes they are dead at first. And it must be especially hard for you, to have gone in such a, well, an unexpected way.”


Columbkill NoonanAUTHOR Bio and Links: Columbkill Noonan has an M.S. in Biology (she has, in turn, been a field biologist, an environmental compliance inspector, and a lecturer of Anatomy and Physiology).
When she’s not teaching or writing, she can usually be found riding her rescue horse, Mittens, practicing yoga (on the ground, in an aerial silk, on a SUP board, and sometimes even on Mittens), or spending far too much time at the local organic, vegan market.

To keep up with Columbkill, visit her blog at, find her on Facebook at, or follow her on Twitter



Columbkill Noonan will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway


The land of the dead is in chaos – the scarab who pushes the sun across the sky is missing! Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead, needs help. But who can he get to help? Anubis, decides to hire Barnabas after hearing about him from one of Barnabas’s clients (perished, poor fellow – though not by any  fault of Barnabas’s!)
Poor Barnabas Tew! A detective who cannot detect – he is seriously thinking of hanging up his thinking cap and getting another job – perhaps he’d be better suited to being a lowly assistant – and his assistant could be better suited as a…chimney sweep! As you can see – life is not all roses for Barnaby Tew. But Anubis is most persuasive, finding the scarab could be the key to saving the world, and Barnabas has high hopes – and in this charming, Victorian era novel, Egyption mythology and mystery are combined in a thoroughly satisfying tale. Barnabas is a clever detective (despite his misgivings and lack of confidence) and Wilfrid, his plucky assistant, is always there when needed – and he is needed when the story moves from their home in England to the Egyptian underworld and they must face the dangerous and unpredictable Egyptian gods!
Lots of twists in the tale, much fun and adventure, excellent writing and interesting historical and mythological anecdotes make this a highly recommended book!

Historical TV shows- The White Queen

So I’m watching The White Queen, and I’m hooked on the story. Confession: I love Philippa Gregory’s books. But I’m also explaining the story to my daughter, and I’m telling her not to pay too much attention to the history, because this is a dramatized version of a fiction book. There is much to be said of these period dramas – I think a lot of people who would be indifferent to history are happy to watch things like “Rome”, “The Tudors”, “The White Queen”,  and “The White Princess”.  So, on the whole, there is nothing wrong with it.  And history, so they say, is written by the victors (in this case it’s written by a bunch f script writers under the direction of a group of people who could care less who won the war as long as the story hooks spectators & makes lots of money for their channel.) And finally, this is what hurts the most. Sacrificing reality for fiction in the name of profit. But there is nothing new here, and in the series, Henry Tudor wins the battle and ends the War of the Roses, which, basically, is what happened. But the writers have done something almost subversive. They have managed to strip the story down to the bones,  and the bones are all about money and power. How interesting it is to look back in time and see that finally nothing  has changed. The king (president, leader) still hands out prizes to his nobles (investors) to ensure their loyalty, and the nobles close ranks and make sure no outsider can break in and diminish their fortunes. The wealthy close ranks, claim paying fair taxes will ruin them, and give each other prizes of money and position.  They stab each other in the back, kill and marry for money, and climb over their rivals bodies to reach the top. That part of the story is all (and still) true. However, discrepancies have been included to add drama. Why portray Henry’s mother as a fanatical tyrant? Why have the romance between Richard III and his niece Elizabeth? In that century, cousins were not allowed to marry except by papal dispensation, which means the uncle and niece romance was certainly not going to happen. And who killed the princes in the tower? In the series, everyone, from Anne Neville to Buckingham to Henry VII’s mother is guilty. No one admits to anything, everyone wishes their death. A rather clever way to try  to cover the fact that nobody, in fact, knows “whodunnit“. My money’s on Buckingham, only because he had access, time, and was reputed to be crazy enough to do it. To make Henry VII’s mother part of the plot is just gratuitous drama – and making poor Anne Neville  into such a strange doormat-type character was odd as well. The Neville sisters were simply pawns in the game of thrones that was the War of the Roses. The witchcraft part was strange too – and to make it almost a real/fantasy with the storms and the charms was interesting, but  not exactly historical. But aside a couple nitpicks about clothing and anachronisms, I enjoyed the series and am looking forward to “The White Princess”.

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Elizabeth Woodville (1437–92), Queen Consort of Edward IV of England

Weddings and such


I suppose it’s the season of weddings – or just seeing a photo that made me think about them. We have two weddings this summer: a city wedding and a country wedding. I was married in the country, on a rainy, September Saturday. The first wedding I remember was my uncle’s wedding at the lake. I wore my Easter dress with its matching hat with the little daisies. My brother was trying to learn to whistle and in the middle of the wedding, he let out a piercing whistle. It made the wedding more memorable for everyone!

And here we are today, watching Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”, with weddings galore – (like many of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies!) So I reflect back on my own wedding, on a rainy, blustery September day.  With a yellow tent, a barbecue, a polo game (of course), dancing and much wine. “…to you I give myself, for I am yours! ” “You and you, are heart in heart.”  “You and you are sure together as the winter to foul weather…” 


~ 7 Days with You ~

TourBanner_SevenDays (1)Seven Days with You by Hugo Driscoll


GENRE: YA Romance



Sean Johnson’s life as a small-town farmhand has been nothing but predictable, but when he meets Sophia Hillingdon at the local animal sanctuary, she gets him out of an eighteen-year rut, away from the mundane existence on the farm, and a grieving, drunken father.

Sophia is the first person who understands him and makes him believe that he might get out of their small town, who tells him, he has the potential to be whoever he wants to be and do whatever he wants to do.

But as their relationship unfolds, it is the most devastating of news that will change both of them forever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Continue reading

The Chocolatier’s Wife &  The Chocolatier’s Ghost

The Chocolatier’s Wife &  The Chocolatier’s Ghost by Cindy Lynn Speer

author banner


GENRE: Fantasy Mystery



author cover2The Chocolatier’s Wife: ROMANCE, MAGIC, MYSTERY…. AND CHOCOLATE

A truly original, spellbinding love story, featuring vivid characters in a highly realistic historical setting.

When Tasmin’s bethrothed, William, is accused of murder, she gathers her wind sprites and rushes to his home town to investigate. She doesn’t have a shred of doubt about his innocence. But as she settles in his chocolate shop, she finds more in store than she bargained for. Facing suspicious townsfolk, gossiping neighbors, and William’s own family, who all resent her kind – the sorcerer folk from the North — she must also learn to tell friend from foe, and fast. For the real killer is still on the loose – and he is intent on ruining William’s family at all cost.

The Chocolatier’s Ghost: Married to her soul mate, the chocolatier William, Tasmin should not have to worry about anything at all. But when her happily ever after is interrupted by the disappearance of the town’s wise woman, she rushes in to investigate. Faced with dangers, dead bodies, and more mysterious disappearances, Tasmin and William must act fast to save their town and themselves – especially when Tasmin starts to be haunted by a most unwelcome ghost from her past…literally.

author cover1The Chocolatier’s Ghost is an enchanting sequel to Cindy Lynn Speer’s bestselling romantic mystery, The Chocolatier’s Wife. Continue reading

A favor…

Could you – if you’ve a minute, have read my book, and have a Guardian Newspaper username – trot over to this site and using the template below, vote for my book? I’d be eternally grateful!
[Guardian UK username] – Vote # 1 – Legends of Persia
[Guardian UK username] – Vote # 2 – [Book title only from list]
[Short 100 words or so review of Legends of Persia]
legends persia3(1)

Vamps and Pixies


Sebastian is a jaded vampire and Jessica’s a sparkly pixie–and according to the laws of the vampire tribe, any pixie foolish enough to fool around with a vampire is put to death. But Sebastian has met the woman of his dreams and fallen head-over-heels in love with an adorable, gum-chomping pixie! He is determined to teach Jessica how to act in front of the fairy court in order to fool the queen into blessing their marriage.

But between spankings and bouts of lovemaking, who has time for lessons? Luckily, there is the Fairy Finishing School. Jessica’s education is about to begin. That is, if she can get the bubblegum out of her bleached blonde beehive hairdo. Continue reading