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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas in Bayeux - Stephanie Burkhart

Today I'm delighted to host Stephanie Burkhart. Steph's article is about the period of her life that led up to the inspiration for Christmas in Bayeux. She's also included an excerpt from her book and if you scroll down to the bottom you'll find she has a little surprise for someone. Over to you Steph.

I'd like to thank Sue for having me on the blog and allowing me to visit today. Just a little about me: 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've been to Disneyland Europe. Now, the adventure over, I work for LAPD as a 911 Operator. 

In 1986, I was stationed in Muenster, Germany, an 18 year old private in the US Army. When I joined the army I asked the recruiter if I could be stationed in France. He told me that American troops left France in 1966 and the closest I could get was Germany. I was game for that. 

I took 3 years of French in high school and I loved the language. In my studies, I fell in love with the nation. My first trip to France was in 1987 and it was for my 19 year birthday. I went with a friend, Marc, who I had done Basic and AIT training with. We rode the train in from Frankfurt. From there, we got a hotel room and with our travel guides, we were off.  The travel guides helped me get by with my French. We saw the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, (before that pyramid in front of it) and I took a picture of the Venus de Milo. I thought my flash was off, but it was on. Yikes! The Louvre police was in hot pursuit, but I was quicker, managing to avoid them. We visited Napoleon's tomb – crafty old dodger set it up so you have to climb up a second floor and "bow" down to look at him. We went saw a mini Statue of Liberty in the Seine near the state buildings. 
One place that I would have liked to have gone, but never did, was the beaches of Normandy. In my short story, "Christmas in Bayeux," Aiden Seward goes there to help heal his wounded heart. 
My research revealed several interesting facts. There is an American National Cemetery nearby where Theodore Roosevelt Jr. is buried. The land is considered American soil. War veterans from World War I and World War II are buried there.  Bayeux also has a gothic cathedral similar to the Notre Dame in Paris.  There is also a tapestry there in a local museum called the Bayeux Tapestry depicting William the Conqueror's conquest of England. 
I will get there. Gimme another 10 years…
BLURB: Aiden Seward is an Iraq war vet who has gone to the Beaches of Normandy to heal his wounded heart. Noel Rousseau was the girl he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help heal the ache in Aiden's heart?
Noel never let go of his hand. They made their way to the bluff and climbed the stairs that led to the cemetery. Aiden froze when he saw the crosses, row upon row.  Such sadness. So many good lives lost.
"There are over 9,000 buried here."
He nodded. Speech left him.
"The French people have high regard for America. You liberated our people from severe oppression. The people in Bayeux and all along the coast will come up to American tourists and shake their hands, thanking them for the service their grandfathers gave so long ago."
Aiden was shocked. Americans were thanked for their service? "You're serious?"
"Yes. Why?"
"It's just that France seems so aloof—"
Noel held up a hand, stopping his train of thought. "DeGualle thought it best to promote an independent spirit for the French people, and in doing so, while he helped the nation get its pride back, he also harmed us in the eyes of others. It is true Parisians can be aloof, but you'll find that the people who live outside of Paris are open and friendly."
"Noel, no one in Iraq ever shook my hand."
"Je suis désolé."  
Aiden drew in a deep breath. It seemed unbelievable, but Noel spoke with such strong conviction in her voice, he believed it to be true. He wanted nothing more than to be thanked and appreciated for his service. 
Facing his apprehension, he walked the rows of the crosses, finding an occasional Star of David. One name caught his eye.
"Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.?"
"Yes, your president's son is here."
Aiden dropped to his knees. Everyone suffered great loss – not just him. He hung his head in his hands and sobbed, releasing the rest of his heartache. His body shook.
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Goodie Time: Leave me a post and I'll pick out two winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Tell me your favorite Christmas story and I'll pick a winner to receive mousepad of the anthology's cover. I'll come back on 23 NOV to pick the winners. 


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Wow, absolutely beautiful! I love your use of French - which is a language I speak very little of and would like to speak more of! Great photos!

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Steph. I've tried several times to get to Normandy, too, but never seem to get there.

I love the way you connect the modern war to the earlier wars. It really adds to the bittersweet poignancy in the excerpt.

Danielle Thorne said...

What a wonderful history you have! Eluding the police in France? Service in Germany. Fun interview!

Maggie Toussaint said...

I love that excerpt, Steph. So gut wrenching for me too. I felt his pain and exhaustion.

Thanks for taking me on a tour of the world with your stories!

Sue Perkins said...

Hi Steph, Your whole post and photos are wonderful. It's an honour to have you on my blog.

StephB said...

Sue, thank you so much for having me. It's fun to visit! hehe.

Julia, nice to meet you. I love the French language and when I was learning it, I thought it was easy. LOL!!

Keena, if you make to Normandy, take lots of pics and share with me. hehe

Dani, OMG I was scared! I thought they were going to kick me out of the Louvre!

It's fun to visit other places, isn't it?

Goodie time!

Congrats to Keena and Dani - you've won the autographed postcards. Send me an email to or with your snail mail and I'll get that off to you.

Congrats to Julia Rachel Barrett! You've won the mousepad. Send me an email to or with your snail mail and I'll get that right off to you! Thanks to everyone who popped in.


Margaret Tanner said...

Great blog and excerpt Steph, love the mingling of modern war and past wars. I have visited the 1st World war battlefields and cemeteries in France, a truly poignant experience.