Sunday, July 17, 2011

Christmas in July - Visit Bayeux with Stephanie Burkhart

Hi all - my Christmas in July release with Victory Tales Press is "Christmas in Bayeux," an international contemporary. Aiden Seward lost his parents to a traffic accident while serving in Iraq. Now out of the Army, he visits Bayeux, France and meets with his old friend, Noel. Can Noel help heal his wounded heart?

I grew up in Manchester, NH. Manchester is the second largest French speaking city in the US and I took 3 years high school French. I love the language and in my studies, I grew to love the nation. France was the perfect setting for my story. I've been to Paris several times. I also visited Lembach, France in 1988 and that experience has been with me throughout the years. My experiences in Lembach made their way into the story.

Lembach is a small town in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France just over the German/French border. I was dispatched along with a fellow soldier, Private East to pick up a squad of soldiers in Pirmasens, Germany. East and I took a detour and ended up in Lembach.

Needless to say, we were an odd sight, walking around the town in our US Army military uniforms. The locals stared at us – hard. As we walked around the small town square an older man approached us. He spoke no English. I had my "French for Travelers" guide and my pronunciation was decent so I engaged him. He enthusiastically shook our hands. "Américains?" "Oui," I answered. He proceeded to thank East and I not only for our service, but also for the service of our grandfathers who liberated France from Germany.

It was a moving experience that humbled both of us.

It was lunchtime and East and I went to the local café for lunch. With my trusty "French for Travelers," I ordered our food – salad and sandwiches. We were quite the attraction in the café. Patrons stared at us. In fact, several of them approached us while we ate and thanked us. Before we left, the manager came to us. He told us our meal was free.

East and I wouldn't have it. We had francs for the occasion. Between the manager's English and my French, I learned the residents of the town loved Americans. In World War II, we had indeed liberated them from Germany's occupation. We were still heroes to them – 40 years later.

East and I were truly humbled by how the town embraced us. As we made our way back to our military van, we thanked God for this rare opportunity to visit France.

This experience found it's way into my story. Enjoy the excerpt:

She pushed two wooden double doors open and they walked into a wide open-spaced entrance hall. "Is this a museum?"

"Oui. It houses our best known prize – the Bayeux Tapestry."

"What is that?" His voice was laced in curiosity.

"Dix Euros," said the clerk. He was in his mid-thirties and wore a blue uniform.

Aiden put his hand over Noel's hand as she reached for her purse. "I'll get it."

"Vous êtes Américain?"
"Oui," said Aiden.

The clerk held out his hand. Aiden slowly took it, surprised by the gesture. What was he doing?

"Américains we like. World War II, yes? Merci – thank you," the clerk said in halting English.

Aiden was stunned. Noel said this occurred, but he didn't think it would happen to him.

"De Rein. Thank you, sir."

"Non, Monsieur, merci. Keep your money."

"Oh, I insist."
"Oui, thank you, merci."

Noel smiled at the clerk, thread her arm through Aiden's, and they walked into the museum. There were a few people milling about in the halls, but it wasn't as busy as he thought it would be. Maybe everyone was at the Christmas markets.

He paused before they got far. "You said—"

She gave him an easy smile. "You handled that well."


Vist the book teaser on You Tube and feel free to give it a "like." LINK:



GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment about the story, the book trailer, Bayeux, or anything to do with Christmas. I'll pick a name out of hat on 19 JUL. Winner will receive a $5.00 to Amazon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:I was born and raised in Manchester, NH. When I was 18, this New England Patriot fan joined the US Army for a great adventure and spent 7 years overseas in Germany. I met a fair-haired California boy and we were married in Denmark in 1991. Little odd fact: I was stationed in Muenster, Germany in 1987 when Pope John Paul II visited that city.. Now, the adventure over, I work for LAPD as a 911 Operator.


Teresa K. said...

Stephanie my friend it looks like I'm the first one to post. I love the storyline history.
I think it's wonderful how you used your real life experience to create your books background.

I too have been to Paris and my French was high school French. It was enough to get me by with my Travelers Guide book dictionary.

I always heard how rude the French were to Americans, however I didn't find that outside Paris. The countryside towns the people were so kind.

I can't wait Stephanie to read this story and thank you again for wanting to help me with the Vampire Ball.

Teresa K.

StephB said...

What a treat to see you pop in! High School French goes a long way. Even now when I see French I'm very pleased that if I don't know the word, I've got the pronounation correct. hehe.

Outside of Paris, just about everyone I encountered was very kind and generous. I'm glad I was able to use my real life experience to bring this story to life.

I'm currently working on a promotional CD for the Vampire Ball - and getting readings done of the first chapters of my book. As soon as they're ready I'll send you an email.


Cheryl Pierson said...

What a great experience you had! That's so cool. How nice that the French people still remembered how the Americans helped them in WWII. Many countries have short memories, and it's "what have you done for me lately"--nice to know it wasn't that way with the French. Love the excerpt, too. I have that story of yours, but I never have any time to read right now, it seems. I'm hoping that will change in the next few months. I'm going to start carving out at least a half an hour a day to READ.

Kathleen O said...

I think it wonderful that a lot French people are so thankful for what the allied armies did to free Europe from the ravishes of a madman...
I never made it to France, but many of my family has, and they as Canadians were treated just as nice by the French people. I am glad to know my American friends have recieved the same treatment.

What a wonderful story.. I love it Steph..

StephB said...

Cheryl, if you get a chance, I'd be tickled if you read it. There was a lot of good will in the small French towns I visited. The French people are a lot more resilent than we think. It was very heartwarming to be remembered for our campaigns in World War II.

Kathleen, what resonates with me is the fact those thanking me - their parents or grandparents were in the war so they had to be have been taught to have that respect and they honored it. I believe the Canadians also had a beach or two on Normandie they they fought for so it doesn't surprise me that the French would remember that.

I was delighted to draw on this experience and make it a part of Aiden & Noel's story.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Steph - I love the way you weave your own rich life experiences into your amazing stories!

I've never been to France and I'm thinking after reading this that I should - very soon.

StephB said...

Lindsay, you really should visit. Normandy is especially beautiful.

Congrats to Kathleen O! I picked your name out of the hat to receive an Amazon GC! Please email me at or so I can square that away with you.


Kathleen O said...

This so fantastic. Thank you so much for picking my name...