culotte de cheval + new "prix amical" for book!

Do my thighs look big? Some would be surprised French women ask themselves this question. But three months till summertime and, truth is, the French--men, women, and even children--are already dieting! They're talking about it at the picnic table, in the school yard, and in programs on T.V. 

The other day I overhead the term "culotte de cheval" and guessed the subject was fashion (as in "riding pants are out this season"). How wrong I was...

culotte de cheval (kew-lowt-deuh-shuh-vahl)

    : jodphur thighs

Back home we call it "pears." A person whose weight settles below the belt is considered "pear-shaped."

What about you? Where do you store your extra? Sur les cuisses (on the thighs) or on the belly (le bidou, as little kids say)? For me it's my middle--or anywhere, actually. I try not to focus on weight, for, as a dear friends says, what you focus on increases :-)

Today I am focusing on reader satisfaction--a much better place to center one's attention! My new book is already arriving in mailboxes! And the funny thing is I have not seen a copy of it yet (having only read the PDF format).

Because you will be seeing my book before I see it, can you please tell me: how does it look? How are you enjoying the photo-filled stories? Did you notice the puzzle in the back--and the interview? That's new, too!

If you enjoy the book, please consider rating First French Essais here on Amazon. It will be a great help to my book. Thanks in advance and I look forward to reading your book review! 

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click here for more pictures.


                     First wildflower bouquet of the season!

 A Day in a FRENCH Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Finally, "Un Prix Amical!"

Thank you very much for purchasing my First French Essais. The rumble you made while rushing for my book propelled it--to no. 38 on Amazon's Top 100!

If you only knew how many years I've spent, eyes glued to Amazon's Bestsellers page. I watched Twilight hit the charts, then Eato, Prayo, Lovo (translated, it seemed, into a bajillion languages!). And when Shades of Gray lounged like a slut at no. 1, I threw my arms in the air. Help me God! How could a prude like me ever make it to the bestsellers? Without a big publisher? Without a G-string?

And yet I dreamed... One day... maybe one day....

Years passed and THE DAY CAME! What a thrill to hit my computer's refresh button and see my rank finally appear--straight at the top!

But this morning First French Essais tumbled off the list...

...and Amazon slashed my book's price by 40%!!!

As book rank and price radically shifted, I felt both excited... and terrible! On the one hand my book now had the friendly price I'd tried so hard to get, but on the other hand my most faithful and supportive readers--those who purchased during the book launch--did not benefit from a prix amical, or friendly price.

If only writers were mindreaders! I could not know, when pricing my book, that Amazon would sharply undercut it, within 48 hours! Surprised to wake up and find my book selling for $13.50 instead of $22.50, I was amazed at how little control one has, finally, when "self" publishing.  

Let's go behind the scenes and see why:

When an author publishes her book, via Amazon's "print on demand" service, she sets the price based on page number and format--and how much she wants or needs to earn per book.

Because my book is 150 pages & full-color, the minimum price I could set it for was $18.50. But at this price, my royalties would be zero! 

...To make 0.5 cents per book, I would need to set the price at $19
... to make .65 cents per book... I'd have to sell it for $20

But this was no where near where I wanted to price my book! My goal being to offer a full-color book at $15 (a price that seems friendly to all, author included!).

Only at $15, my earnings would be $-2.35! Would I actually have to pay Amazon? 

What if I bought an inventory of books? Would the printer then lower the production cost? How about if I reduced page number? Or removed some color photos? Or did cartwheels? 

I tried every which way to lower the price for readers. Nothing doing! To make a return on my book, I would need to set the price over $20. And one more thing...

In order to make my book available to libraries and booksellers (or anywhere other than Amazon), I would have to set the minimum price at $28! (Get outta here!)

I finally settled on $22.50. For this price I would lose sales to certain countries, making a few cents in others, like England and France (for the latter I make a whopping 0.12 centimes per book!). I would also lose the chance to work with libraries, but could still earn slightly more than a publisher would pay me. And isn't that, after all, the goal of self-publishing? 

It is one goal of self-publishing. The bigger goal is to write what you want to write--and not what a publisher tells you to! But without a major publisher, one who who can buy 25,000 books and resell them at a cheaper price), I am at the mercy of Amazon (my printer).

Sunday morning I watched as Amazon threw me to the lions--or what I feared would be lions once my readers learned the current price of my book!! What to do now?

"Tell the whole story," Mom encouraged, as she always does. "People will understand. You must never be afraid to tell your story."

*    *    * 

To those who paid the higher price, I am terribly sorry. I tried my best to get you the prix amical. But some things are out of one's control (a lesson I learn daily). Considering the life of a book, please know your purchase has given my First French Essais the healthy start every newborn needs!

To comment, click here. Mille mercis en avance!

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.

Shane cook2
Shane Cook, a reader in Texas, is the first to have received the book--as far as I know. Even I have not seen the actual product! I asked Shane to take pictures, so I could rest assured that the spine and covers were as they appeared online. Thank you, Shane! What a relief!

Shane cook
 ... And here is the back, as photographed by Shane. One detail, I just noticed, had escaped me: the note at the bottom of the polaroid. Thanks, Tami, at TLC Graphics, for the delightful caption!

To order, please click here. Every word and every detail in this tender book came directly from heart.  

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

My new book is available now! One reason to buy it today...


Ça y est... It's book launch day! First French Essais is now available here, on Amazon.

A Very Special Day in a French Life...
The morning sun is warming the countryside and still I'm trembling like a leaf--trying to write this crucial book launch page without a PR team, without a marketing director, without Mom.

Like the two shots of coffee I've just downed, I trust Mom will kick in very soon with a plan that would make Og Mandino proud.

"You don't have to be The Greatest Salesman in the World," Mom would say. You are God's Little Superstar!

God's Little Superstar? To think! 

It's good to think but currently my mind's a chatter!: How to sell this new book? Without seeming pushy? And you don't want to appear desperate... But do ask for help when help's needed!

H-E-L-P!  I would be so grateful if you would buy my book today. Here's why: when a number of readers buy a book within a short period, this alerts the book sensor fairies. (Translation: a surge in book sales can boost a book into Amazon's spotlight giving it the chance to be noticed by potential readers!)

To help this wish come true, please order "First French Essais" right now--buy it for yourself or for a friend (Easter, Mother's Day, upcoming birthdays...graduation or "Just Because Day"!)

I am deeply grateful for your help in shining the light on this tender book of photos and essays from France. In "First French Essais," I have done my best to illustrate real, everyday, French life--sharing as many useful terms and expressions--and beautiful snapshots--as possible!

Thank you very much for your support! I'm on my way, now, to dig out my husband's ski suit and warm up inside it. Not sure if it's cold in this room--or just the coffee talking. Either way, sounds like the beginning of a cheesy publicity stunt. Hmm....

P.S. for Kindle, iPad, iPhone... the e-book will be available two weeks from now. Consider getting the paperback today, for a friend. Merci beaucoup!


Bilingual chapter

Lots of educational goodies in the book First French Essais, including

  • one dedication chapter (a side-by-side bilingual story!)
  • "valorisant": the word that changed my career path...
  • colorful photos in every chapter
  • detailed photo captions highlighting villages, French culture, French quirks!  
  • a question & answer section 
  • a fun word puzzle to help you recall selected vocabulary
  • a gorgeous book interior and cover by TLC Graphics

Click here to order First French Essais. 

France and UK readers: First French essais is available at and

To leave a comment or a simple bon courage wish, click here


Every chapter in First French Essais has a polaroid photo beside the title, the picture recalls the image on the previous page. Isn't it lovely? Thanks Erin, for your hard work!

By forwarding today's post, you will help me spread the word of this very special book. You might also share via Facebook et compagnie (Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads). Much appreciated! 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Help pick the new book cover! + "Get to the point!" in French?


"First French Essais" book covers by TLC Graphics
Book cover designs by TLC Graphics. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Bonne Année! Have a New Year's goal? Mine is to be more concise in my writing. I'll practice today by getting straight to the point (er... just after today's word and our sponsor's message!):

aller droit au but (ah-lay-dwat-oh-bewt)

    : to get straight to the point


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

En écriture, comme en conversation, il faut aller droit au but.
In writing, as in conversation, one must go straight to the point.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Good news to start off the new year: A long-lost book project will soon see the light of day! After resurrecting an old manuscript, and dusting off the thick layer of doubt covering it, I spent last fall editing the volume.

I need your help now to choose a cover for this next collection of short stories titled "First French Essais." To guide you in picking the right cover, here's a brief description of the book:

As the title suggests, this memoir is made up of the "first" stories that appeared in this blog. And the French word "essais" in the title hints at "first attempts" at writing and at French life. This meaningful "writing/French life" combination is kicked up a notch in the subtitle, which reads: "Trying out Writing, Marriage, and France." (Not to be nonchalant about marriage! No, marriage is not something to try out! That's not at all what I mean to imply...)

As you can see I need your help! First things first: the book cover. Let's focus on that (we can work on the marriage later. (Whoops, there I go again! That's not what I meant to imply!)

*    *    *

Vote Here!
To vote on a book cover pictured at the top of this post, simply leave a message here in the comments box. There are 6 contestants--see their numbers to the bottom right of each photo. Let me know which is the most attractive! Click here to jot down your choice. Many thanks in advance!

Special thanks to the book angels over at TLC Graphics who designed this round of covers! Thanks Tamara Dever, for the covers, and thank you, Erin Stark, for creating another easy-on-the-eyes interior. I love your work! (Speaking of work, I've given you extra, Erin, as this book will be filled will full color photos and captions designed to grow the readers vocabulary even more!)

New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.

Once again, Bonne Année! May you continue to grow like this French beauty: branching out and unfurling, tickling the surface of the earth with your traveling feet.

Share a free subscription to this French journal and open up a new year of language and meaning for a friend. Sign up here.

Blossoming-cover-kdpNew to this blog? Download the ebook  or paperback and learn much more than French vocabulary--get to know the heart of this foreign culture. Click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


cabanon and delphinium or larkspur (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Blossoming in Provence Volume Two?".... Would this  photo work for the next story collection? The title could be written across the blue sky... the picture, bordered by a green cover? Your thoughts here, in the comments box.

ribambelle (une ribambelle de...)

1. a swarm, flock of (bees, birds...)

2. a string of (kids...)

3. a row of; stacks of (chairs...)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

Autour de la table et sous le mûrier,  il y avait une ribambelle de chaises de differentes tailles et couleurs. Around the table and under the mulberry tree, there was a row of chairs of different sizes and colors.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse 

Writer's block continues and it isn't a matter of not having a story to tell. There is a pervading dullness that creeps in each time I begin typing. Doubts begin to mount, weighing down what began as determination. Any stick-to-it-iveness... up and splits... and there's nothing left to do but to but to give up or go through.

I've been going through the 2006 story archives after realizing that a few stories were left out of Blossoming in Provence. My plan is to publish a second volume, or companion, to the BIP book... never mind that it might be a better idea to do a collection of vineyard stories (from 2007-8) or even a collection of recent stories (2009-2011), ones that might be more "mature" than the earlier vignettes?

Then again I have been reading your suggestions for a coffee table book of "best photos". I like the idea but do not currently have a good "publishing solution" (read: house publisher!) for this kind of project (the self-publishing software that I am using does not include a good template for a photos-only book). 

What with the blocks and the doubts you'd think the universe was sending some kind of big hint... such as: why not go out and play in the garden instead? Or what about a Sunday drive... on Monday? or even a ditch day??? 

It certainly could be argued that books are made of whys and whatabouts... but they are also made of hours and hours of turnout.  

Back to work, now, on two more stories for this current collection. Want to join me? Get out your red pen! Here are the next two chapters:

"Poursuivre": our puppy Braise is pursued by a big bad bistro chair! Click here to proofread this story.

 "Toile": Françoise, the art store owner (you may remember reading this rerun, a month or so ago... to begin proofreading, click here.

... and many thanks to those who sent in edits for the story "Tremper"... including the suggestion to leave this one out of the collection. Anyone else think this one should go? Or can we keep this account of an arts-n-craft-challenged maman?


Comments Corner
To respond to this post, thanks for clicking here! 


roses in Orange (c) Kristin Espinasse
Between this photo and the one at the top of this letter, which do you prefer for a book-cover image? There are three more photos (at the end of Friday's post) to compare with these. Thanks for letting me know your favorite, here in the comments.

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Processus: Janet Skeslien Charles, Parisian-based American author, offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at publishing a book.

Swallowtail Butterfly (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Le Papillon Jaune" (discovered last month, munching on our hearty Lila d'Espagne). Butterflies! Talk about processus!

le processus (pro sess ooce) noun, masculine

    : process

listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & example sentence: Download WAV or MP3

Le processus est toujours le même. The process is always the same.

"Processus" by Janet Skeslien Charles

Today, Janet Skeslien Charles, Parisian-based American author, offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at publishing a book.

Do you ever wonder why it takes 18 to 24 months for a manuscrit, a manuscript, to become a book? Today, we’ll look the processus, the process, of publication from start to finish.

In May 2008, my agent sold my novel to an editor at Bloomsbury, the independent UK maison d’édition, publisher, that first published Harry Potter. Helen, my éditrice, gave me six pages de commentaires, comments. (Single-spaced!) She looked at the big picture and gave global comments concerning the story line. I edited the novel from June to December.

In January 2009, the réviseur, or copy editor, contacted me about her suggestions for the novel. She looked at the text sentence by sentence, word by word, looking at the meaning of each word and phrase. Here is an example of one of her comments. “The line reads: ‘Jane accused me of having a crush on her boyfriend.’ The word ‘accused’ here seems a bit strong.” The réviseur was right. Jane wasn’t angry. I changed the line to “Jane teased me about having a crush on her boyfriend.”

In February 2009, I received the American couverture, or cover.

Although we loved the cover, Bloomsbury USA went with a couverture with a bolder look. Which one do you prefer?
In May of 2009, I received the proofs, the typeset text, and locked myself away because it was la dernière chance, the last chance, to change anything. Then the correcteur, the proofreader, looked at every letter and all the punctuation.

It was a pleasure to work with the editorial team. It felt like a luxury to have people pay such close attention to my words and characters. I loved the images that the artists created. Until this point, the processus was private. Everyone who had read the book had loved it.

The next part was public. The book came out on September 9, 2009 (or 9-9-09), nearly a year and a half after it had been sold. Les critiques wrote les critiques, reviewers wrote reviews that ranged from “Good for ambitious readers” (Josh Cohen of Library Journal) to “Chick lit with edge” (Kirkus). Readers on, GoodReads, and LibraryThing weighed in. The first reader reviewer didn’t like the book and posted her comments on seven different sites. It was hard to see those harsh words posted so many places. Luckily, several other reader reviewers had kind things to say. At readings, I met people who had very different but equally valid points of view concerning the characters’ actions. Talking to them made me rethink my own book.

People commented not only on the text but also on the social issues of the novel. On one site, a man registered as “Galactic Love” called me “flat out biased” and “jealous”. He also used the phrase “arrogant bit**es”, referring to American woman. On another, a woman registered as “SS” listed everything wrong she found with the book. Luckily, I have received many kind emails and reviews from readers and the negative posts have been minimal, though I do think it is surprising what people say when they are anonymous. I feel lucky to have the support of great independent bookstores such as the Village Voice, the Red Wheelbarrow, and Shakespeare & Company here in Paris as well as Rainy Day Books in Kansas City and Fact & Fiction in Montana. It has been wonderful to meet so many people who are passionate about books.

From manuscript to roman, from private writings to published work, it has been a rich experience. I hope that you have enjoyed my posts this week. It has been a pleasure to share a little of my journey with you. Bonne continuation!


Le Coin Commentaires
Mille mercis to Janet for sharing her stories with us this week and for breathing hope into our own creative endeavors. To leave Janet a message, please click here.

I leave you with a mot de remerciement from Janet: 
Un grand merci to all the thoughtful, generous people who read my posts and took the time to respond. I was overwhelmed by your kindness, appreciated your support, and enjoyed learning about your experiences in France. Again, many thanks to Kristin who kindly let me visit her wonderful blog as guest this week.

%2AIMG_3559_small[1] Janet Skeslien Charles’ debut novel Moonlight in Odessa was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of their top ten debut novels of Fall 2009. 

9781608192328[1]-1 It was Book of the Month in the September issue of National Geographic Traveler. BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime featured Moonlight in Odessa for two weeks in February 2010.

Click here to order Janet's book.

See Ann Mah's interview with Janet, here.

un manuscrit = manuscript
le processus = process
un agent = agent
une maison d’édition = publishing house
un éditeur, une éditrice = editor*; publisher
commentaire = comments
un reviseur = copy editor
une couverture = cover
la dernière chance = last chance
un correcteur = proofreader
le mot de remerciement = a thank you note 
*rédacteur/trice = editor 


"Nature's Palette" - a close-up of those beautiful wings.

A Life of Her Own A Life of Her Own: The Transformation of a Countrywoman in 20th-Century France, by Emilie Carles

From the publisher: Emilie Carles was born in 1900 into the rigidly conservative patriarchal world of a poor and isolated peasant community in the High Alps of France. Her autobiography is the tale of a world that has largely disappeared and of the one that has emerged to take its place. 

Customer Reviews:

Emilie Carles started out her life the same as many of her neighbors in her predominantly peasant town in France. Unlike her neighbors, she went on to receive an education and break out of generations of grinding poverty and ingnorance. The very fact that she is able to chronicle her most unusual life is a testament to the power of the human spirit. 

Emilie Carles A hard-bound edition of this book is available, here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.