Expat Life

About last night… 5

Yes, I know there was a bratpack movie by that name. No, this isn’t going to be that fun cause no Rob Lowe…

I had a bad night last night and I thought I would share cause I’m all about the schadenfreude. And to explain why it was so bad I have to back a ways. For the second time since the baby was born my back went out. I actually have a long history of back problems going back to grad school when I hurt myself in yoga. Yoga you say? Yes, yoga. In places like Berkeley, where I went to grad school, yoga is a competitive sport. In fact, my German yoga instructor bore a strong resemblance to a drill sergeant. After that injury, I would get neck aches and eventually my back locked up.

In a panic I went to get a chiropractic adjustment yada yada yada, my back was in spasm for like forever. It took years to recover. Doing lab work was particularly bad because nothing was ergonomic. And it wasn’t just my back. The muscles at the base of my skull would tighten too and I would experience severe nausea all the time. I threw up a few times in the street out of the blue. That was fun. Things have improved since and with regular exercise I am pretty much ok. Until the baby was born that is and the regular went out the window.

So a few months back I had another incident where my back started to spasm after I put the baby to bed. But something new and fun happened- my front started to spasm too! The muscles over my diaphragm and stomach rippled, making it hard to breathe and making me void everything in my stomach. I had managed to wake my husband, who was sleeping on the couch, so I did have someone to hold my hair. He called the french equivalent of 911 and it was decided that if it didn’t pass in a few hours he would take me to the hospital. But it did pass and a few days later we found a chiropractor here for an adjustment.

Kinésithérapie isn’t quite the same in France as a chiropractor in the US. I’ve had much better luck with kine’s and physical therapists in France than in the US. I believe they get more schooling and it’s better regulated. So I was pretty confident they wouldn’t make it worse. And I was right. My last adjustment helped a lot, but since I didn’t really change my lifestyle it’s no surprise it happened again.

This time I didn’t wake my husband. I just puked into the sink and then lay on the floor with a heating pad until it passed. I wanted him well-rested in case he had to stay home and watch the baby today. But in the end, I sent him to work and I’ve been stretching a bit more. I will probably go to the doctor to get a course of physical therapy, which unlike the US they will happily give you here.

Maybe I will go see the same chiropractor. He was incredibly handsome. That’s something you have to be prepared for. In this part of France, the beautiful people walk around doing regular jobs like they were one of us. My dentist is really handsome. Shopkeepers etc. Heck, even some of the homeless people are lookers. It’s a bit weird that.

Anyway, the baby is being super good and super cute today. I think she sensed I needed that.

In other news, I signed with an agent earlier this week. She’s going to be pitching some of my books to audiobook companies. Unfortunately, she is not starting with my Lucy Leroux titles because they aren’t very highly ranked right now. I still get some sales and some KU reads, but my best performing book at the moment is Fire, my one non-erotic book. So that’s the one she’s pitching first. Hopefully, something will come of that. Fire is a fun read and I’m having a blast writing Air, the follow-up—when I get the chance.

If you want to help out and improve the chances of your favorite SO book making it to audiobook, you can leave a review on amazon! Positive reviews are a very big deal to indie authors. They can help improve the ranking and better ratings attract more readers. So if you haven’t left a review on your favorite Lucy Leroux book it would be amazing if you could do it now. Making Her His and Cursed are in line to be pitched for audio deals since they are the first of their series, but a review of any book would be great.

Finally, I should be getting SO4 back from the editor today! Gio’s story is well on its way to your kindle. I even chose a cover photo. I am still working on the name though.

What do you like?

A) The Roman’s Woman

B) Gio’s Game

 C) Gio’s Gambit

D) None of those, use this!

I really wanted to call it Gio’s Girl, but he makes a point of calling her a woman and not a girl. Gio’s good that way.

Ooops. The baby is up. Gotta go!

The Littlest Leroux 5

It’s been a little while since I posted last, but I have an excellent excuse. A little over three weeks ago my daughter was born. The littlest Leroux is healthy and doing quite well. She does quite well at keeping her mama up all night too. I hope we will settle into a routine soon, or  I fear the release date of the Roman’s Woman (SO4) will be pushed back to late fall, early winter 🙁

Giving birth in a foreign country is an interesting experience. And in this case probably nicer than giving birth in the US, although I can’t say for sure since I haven’t done that yet. France has excellent health care, particularly prenatal and infant care. Although my husband tells me the hospitals are poor, a four-day stay after the birth of a baby is standard. I saw an OB every month and even consulted with an anesthesiologist about the epidural procedure beforehand. In addition to that I took 5 or 6 “lessons” from a midwife during the last half of my pregnancy. This was in place of birthing/lamaze classes. Though I was worried that I was somehow missing out on some crucial information, particularly about birthing techniques, in the end I probably learned more from the midwife’s consultation, which extend after the birth. In fact there’s more lessons coming. It seems they do perineal retraining as standard here in France, so I won’t accidentally pee when I sneeze in the future :p, which is something US health providers should look into. I bet there are lots of mothers accidentally peeing themselves out there.

They even sent the midwife to our place during the first week to weigh the baby and to check on our breastfeeding technique. That last continues to be hellish. The baby lost too much weight during the first week so we were advised to supplement with a bottle and to step it back once she gained the weight back and then some. The unwise addition of nipple shields to improve her attachment has resulted in a heck of a lot of confusion on her part, leading to lots of screaming combined with the repeated punching and kicking of mama. Trying to go back to bare nipple is going to be hell, but we’re trying.

A minor note on epidurals. How awesome are they? I don’t think I could have gotten through the delivery without one. I thought I was going to pass out from the pain, which had started in earnest the night before the delivery. A trip to the hospital at midnight was apparently too soon. We got sent home after being told I wasn’t in labor yet. My husband drove us home and we got back into bed around three AM. After three hours of ignoring the contractions my water broke and off we went back to the hospital. I’m not sure how long after I finally got the epidural, but I was counting down the minutes.

In France, unless you have complications, a midwife delivers your baby. In my case, several midwives. Once in the hospital everything went like clockwork, except for some oversensitive equipment that kept pinging and signaling a problem when there wasn’t one. But in the end there were no actual problems and my baby was born without incident. She was also born with a full head of hair and more adorable than a newborn should have been. I thought newborns were supposed to be ugly for at least a week or two. But mine was too cute for words. All the midwives remarked on it too, so it wasn’t all in my head 😉

In a few days baby has her first-month checkup. I expect all good news. My pregnancy was average and so far all baby news has been if not good, then at least normal. And hopefully she’ll start eating better and sleeping through the night. Until she does I may have to learn to write one-handed on my iPhone, which I’m seriously considering trying during our endless feeding sessions. But hey, she’s super cute and totally worth it. It’s just easier to remember that fact when she’s not screaming.




A Pregnant Pause… 2

I was on one of my facebook groups and someone mentioned whether or not it’s sexy when the heroine gets pregnant. If you’ve read my books, I think you know where I stand. And you can also probably tell what kind of stories I was reading at the time I came up with Calen’s Captive.

There is a whole world of erotica out there with similar story lines. Call it impregnation or breeding erotica…I’m a sucker for it. But so much of it is unsatisfying for the simple fact it’s too short and doesn’t linger on the HEA. Often you don’t know if it will even have a HEA, which I find problematic. So yeah, in a lot of my books babies will come up. Not in every one, but enough of them for me to address it here.

I crafted several stories with a little fantasy of family because I was (CUE DRUMROLL) trying to get pregnant…

And now I am. Five months. They say be careful what you wish for. To some extent, this is true. I don’t have a problem with the extra weight—although my french doctors do—or dietary restrictions yet, but I’m only 5 months. I don’t even miss drinking, although I can’t say the same for sushi. I really miss sushi. And having to wear a bra is annoying. Remember Charlie’s aversion? That came from somewhere. I too took off my bra as soon as I walked in the door, but no more. I even sleep in one these days because the girls have grown an impressive amount. But I can deal with that.

What no one mentioned as a pitfall of pregnancy is the damn Bubble-Boy level of immunity. I was sick almost all of January and now I’m sick again. I get everything going around. Luckily I was spared February or I would never have made a key deadline (more on this later).

So right now I’m a raging snot-monster. The handsome Frenchman has on occasion brought something home with him from the office. I couldn’t go outside during January without getting an earache and landing in bed with sinus trouble for at least two days. And I’m not going to mention the nasty stomach bug I got from one of my friend’s babies. I can’t get near her adorable little ones while they are sick, and little kids get sick a lot 🙁

So far, the count is five major colds/stomach bugs since the new year.

Not to mention that I am normally a serious allergy sufferer. I used to do an immunotherapy desensitization thing in winter to prepare for allergy season, but my allergist advised against it while I’m pregnant so spring should be interesting.

Maybe it’s time to invest in my own isolation bubble…

Food, glorious food…in my books.

You might have noticed I like detailing the meals my characters eat in my books. That is no accident. I’ve always loved good descriptions of food in fiction, and while I do it in a more cursory way than my favorite authors I still have to do it.

Living in France means great food, but there are things I can’t get in this country. You might have noticed some of those things in Making Her His. Did you know you can’t get roast beef here? And for a long time the only iced tea you could buy was peach. I would kill for a lemon Snapple. Or clam chowder. And one day I’ll go back to Santorini to get another plate of shrimp saganaki from that one restaurant overlooking the caldera- if I can remember the name. Lots of places there serve shrimp saganaki and no two places do it the same. And when I’m doing that I’m going to stuff my face with real Greek yogurt served with honey and nuts, which is nothing like the stuff you can get in the grocery store.

I don’t always focus on what I can’t have. I’ve mentioned a few dishes that I can get regularly. A good duck confit is an unparalleled experience. This region of France is known for duck and duck products. Foie gras, magret… it’s all so very good. Not PC, but if that’s important to you, France is not the place for you. I once had a hachis parmentier of shredded duck confit covered in foie gras poêlé, which was in turn covered by the most buttery potatoes you’ve ever had. Someone in my books needs to have that dish someday.

You’ll see more of my cravings in print when Calen’s Captive hits your e-readers 🙂


What I think when people tell me how lucky I am to live in France.

So it’s mostly true. But it was never my intention to stay here and I don’t think about it the way other expats here do. It was supposed to be a year—two max. I’ve actually lived here a while. It’s like six years now. It feels longer.

I came here for a job and got stuck cause I fell in love with a handsome french man. Yes, it’s romantic.  And most people would love to get stuck here. I’m not going to dissuade them from saying shit like that cause for the most part France is nice. Atmospheric. But there’s a but…

Actually there are several.

France does have it’s upsides. Good food. They still have a lot of it that is unprocessed. And the healthcare system is good. Not perfect, but better than home. Yes, I went there. And yes it’s true. Granted they make you jump through a lot of hoops to get to an allergist, but probably less than in America. I’m starting to forget.

But there’s those other things… Like having to go to three or four different shops to get everything you want to make dinner. This is less true as time goes on, but stores are still highly specialized. The good meat is at the butchers and the good cheese is two blocks away, but at least there is a bakery at every corner. It’s great, but you need to make the rounds to get everything you want. When I worked it was torture because I only had Saturdays to run errands cause nothing opens before 10 and you can’t do anything before work. Most places are closed on Sunday. A lot of places are closed Monday too. Some places are only open Wed-Sat.

Waffles are a dessert here. And they sell pancakes pre-packaged next to the muffins. Have they started doing that in American since I left? Is that a thing now?

One other thing I wouldn’t have thought I would miss is preservatives. The expiration dates actually mean something here. I shop for the week on Saturday and by Wednesday I’m throwing out stuff because America’s magic little helpers aren’t used here. Which sounds nice in theory, healthy even. But try it for a while and see if you like it.

And then there’s the language. I am still awful at it after all this time. And yes, I’m to blame. I never got around to learning French. I’ve been busy and I really don’t need another person telling me that I really should so don’t bother. But there’s that thing that the locals tell you when you first get here that is supposed to make you feel better about having moved to the other side of the world—oh if you want, you can get away with not speaking French. A lot of people speak English. Or since we’re here in Southern France, Spanish too, which I do speak. But they never do. Cause fuck you.

So whatever, my french is good enough when I’m shopping. As long as I’m giving them money they don’t care that I’m butchering their language. Which, as beautiful as it is, is just as weird and quirky as English. I’m talking to you dear husband.

The big superstores are not in town. You need a car to get to them. And I don’t have one cause they’re too expensive here and getting a license is something of a trial, not unlike the Odyssey. Or so my husband would like me to believe.

Actually the license part is true. France does love its bureaucracy. I’m convinced they add layers of it just for the sheer pleasure of telling you you’re missing form 498B. Or that you’re in the wrong office. The office you need is on the other side of town and it’s only open on Tuesdays and Wednesday between 10am and 10:15am. Every other week. Unless it’s vacance scolaire, which means you’re better off trying next month.

We have rented cars for special events. And I had to drive because my husband never got his license. I didn’t know people could still get away with doing that before I moved here. But can I just say—roundabouts. Way too many of them.

What else? There’s a lot. You need a headhunter to find an apartment and their fees are crazy stupid. Also, apartments don’t come with lighting fixtures. Or bulbs. Just naked wires. And no refrigerators. You have to have your own and you need to fax your landlord proof of your renters insurance as soon as you sign your lease, but it doesn’t protect your things. Just their apartment.

And only this country would take the ultimate anthem of female empowerment—Aretha Franklin’s I Will Survive—and make it into a rugby song. I used to think it was funny when crowds of men would start singing I Will Survive at the top of their lungs, but as time goes on it kind of bugs me. That’s my song. Not yours.

Some nice stuff about living here. In winter there’s a brasserie in front of the metro that has a pop-up stand selling fresh oysters. It’s weird but nice. And they are starting to do American-style coffee shop drinks. There’s still no Starbucks in my town, but the local coffee shops are trying. Their mochas are way too sweet and they’re half Chantilly cream, but it’s a start. And after six years you can actually buy lemon iced tea. It sucks cause there’s only Nestea, but before you could only buy peach cause the french were too good for lemon. But at least I can buy mulled wine and roasted chestnuts in the street during winter.

When people get all gooey-eyed about France I do experience moments of expat guilt. I pass by absurdly attractive french people sipping their tiny coffees at open air cafes all the time and I think I should be doing that. I’m not taking advantage of the culture. I should be going to those chic farmers markets with my single reusable grocery bag made of organic cotton or recycled plastic with a baguette sticking out of it.

But even though I don’t work twelve-hour days anymore I still don’t have time for that. I have a series to write and I have to get that fight/sex scene down before I forget that really good line. So I need to go to the store that sells both tampons and batteries, as well as cheese, even if it’s not the good cheese. And just because I moved to France doesn’t mean all the dirty laundry and dishes get washed by themselves. I actually have to spend a lot more time doing them cause the appliances are tiny with only half the capacity of American ones. If that…

I wonder where all of these gorgeous people find the time to waste two hours at a cafe or street bar socializing. It’s a mystery. But it doesn’t really matter cause my French isn’t good enough for a sustained conversation and I have to walk twenty minutes to get to the only store that sells cottage cheese.