Val Wineyard Publishing

Val Wineyard Publishing

The Mistress of the Everyday Adventure

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Saturday 29th October  Atelier Empreinte

First, please refer back to my post of 18th July below . . .

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My books for sale and Tony who worked there behind his counter.  We had become firm friends and he always settled when my books sold.

It was true; the business had been officially declared bankrupt and on the Tuesday 18th October at Rennes-le-Château the place was open, with the bailiffs and auctioners to keep a wary eye on things, so that people could inspect the remaining books that would be auctioned that afternoon in Carcassonne.  (The ancient and precious books, plus the marble statue of Asmodeus, a copy of the one in the church at Rennes-le-Château, would be sold at a later date.)  Many couples were there that I thought might be professional book dealers, as well as Tony and myself.   I was not able to go to the Auction that afternoon but Tony did and later said;  "You will never guess who bought all the books in one job lot?"

  I had no idea and he told me, M. Painco, the maire of Rennes-le-Château himself.  What on earth? Surely he wouldn't want all those books just for himself to read by a cosy winter fireside?  Then my novelist's imagination took hold.  While the Atelier Empreinte premises were owned by a man called Mark, the next-door premises housing the old and precious books were rented to Atelier Empreinte by their owner - the wife of Monsieur the Mayor.   The maire himself also owned the gîte next door to that.  Meanwhile, anyone who has ever purchased a property in France will know that the maire of the commune must approve all purchases and sign the "Acte de Vente."  So what would happen next if this was a novel?  (By December 2016 people were looking at the property, for sale as an ordinary house, not a shop.)

  On Saturday 29th October was the second auction, of rare books and of the incredible marble statue of "the Devil" and Tony took me with him. He was noting what things sold for and it was surprisingly little.  When all the money was in, and the auctioneers' commission taken, not much would be left, meaning that in effect, Tony had worked for three months without any pay.  It is certainly not for lack of effort on his part that the shop got into trouble.

  I took a film of some of these proceedings.  The available light was not very good but I hope you find it interesting.  The sound is low because most of the voices were behind my camera, so turn your sound up.  Click  here to see it.

  Nobody bought the Devil!!!  Originally costing nine thousand Euros, nobody would even pay one!  he wasn't very pleased!


27th October

I will never forget this day! Earlier in the summer I needed more copies of "The Sacred Journey" because an American spiritual group all wanted to buy the book.  I was just two books short - "they must all be in Porte de Rennes" I thought, so quickly got some more printed.


  This dug into my printing budget rather, as I usually print more copies every spring, for summer sales - printing at the end of the season means my money "is riding" over the winter.  I was a bit surprised the previous printing was finished but it IS a popular book and then I went off to meet the spiritual group, give a talk, and discuss what was in "Sacred Journey" that they did find interesting.

  Today I was tidying my office and needed a cardboard carton, saw one under the table and pulled it out.  It was full of Sacred Journeys, I'd had no need to do a re-print after all!  Argh!   Double Argh!!!!!

  Always label boxes and organise your office properly! 

14th October

Went into Limoux with a friend to the famous Bio market and when we went to get the train we found there was a demonstration taking place!  It was quite peaceful and great fun with two bands playing and the train was only delayed for ten minutes!

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 Apparently the railway men - "cheminots" in French - were concerned that part of the Carcassonne-Quillan route would be replaced by buses.  The service is run by French Railways but sometimes a bus runs instead, but it is all 1€.  You can go nearly anywhere in the department of Aude by train for 1€, but for many routes you have to book 3 days in advance by Internet - but not on our local service here, Carcassonne, Limoux, Couiza, Quillan.
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  There were two different unions involved, hence two different bands.  The guy in red with the trumpet used to play in my previous village of Canet d'Aude, so I felt very at home in my region seeing him.

  People often ask me, why don't I get a car?  (It's always "get" never "buy.")  There's two reasons, one, I could buy a car but I couldn't take the chance of large bills when you least expect them, for repairs.  Secondly, I like to be "green" and enjoy using public transport.  Even though it can be infuriating at times!

13th October

Maybe you know this is a vital date for the Templars?  It was the date in the early 14th century when they were "rounded up," literally snatched from their beds, and then accused by the King of France of all sorts of atrocities, because of course, he wanted their money as the crusades against the "Saracens" had bankrupted the country.  Not far from Rennes-le-Château is Le Bézu, a ruined templar castle, where modern Templars go every 13th October and climb up to the castle in a torchlit procession, for an all night vigil - when the ghosts of Templars appear.


One day, not noticing the date but it was the 13th!, I took my dog for a long walk, about two kilometres on the far side of Montazels, and there I saw a cross which seemed familiar.  I did not have my camera with me but back home I dug in my files and sure enough there was this photo taken way back in 2003 - thirteen years ago!  Note the silhouette of Rennes-le-Château on the hilltop opposite.

  A couple of days later I went back - because the cross had been damaged, just a few days before I saw it.


  You can see, from left to right, Mont Cardou, then some other mountains, then Rennes-le-Château and then Bugarach on the skyline, with the village of Montazels below.

  I found out later the person who attacked the cross was mentally ill and had a grudge against the Roman Catholic Church.  He has now been taken away.  So sad. 

21st September - Vals Rupestre

I have been wanting to visit this village of Vals with its half-underground church for some twelve years or more!

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This church has long been associated with the Sacred Feminine, because one enters by this sort of staircase tunnel which leads, the French say, to the womb of the earth. But my reason for visiting was something else; at one time it had been owned by ancestors of my previous life and I wanted to find out more about them; which I did.

  There is a museum at Vals too, it is on the left as you enter the village and it does not call itself a museum, just "Bar-Expo." 

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  Entrance is free although one suspects a certain rivalry between them and the Café/restaurant, and their local wins are excellent.

The front, that you see from the street, is literally a café-bar, incidentally selling wonderful wine, and the word "Expo" in French means "exhibition" which was some of the remains - although the major items are now in museums at Tarascon and Toulouse - found in Vals.  They date from prehistoric times.  There has been a settlement here for thousands of years.

  Vals village is not far to the west of Mirepoix, which was a great Cathar town.  You can read much more about Vals by clicking  here for an article on my Mayor That Was Me site.  And for the book which tells you about my previous life experience, click here.  

16th September

I am suffering with the heat!  And my new dog Prisca is dragging me out for walks, and is adorable, but a bit naughty, she has never been used to a lead and she attacks the camera if I try and take a photo!

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   I had to get my friend Tina Hartzell to hold her down!  Tina and her daughter Lauren love dogs, and they were in the region doing tours, for people learning French and for herbal healers too.  She did me the very great favour of persuading my dog that days out in the car were a wonderful adventure.  The kennels had told me Prisca was one of eight dogs living miles out in the countryside and at first she was terrified, literally shaking with fear, if she had to be forced in a car, so you can see why it was a major step forward to see the dog enjoying a day out so much.

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I called the second picture, "Where's my chauffeur!"

  Later the same day I got a call from my friend Jacek in Poland.  He and his wife were coming for two days, could I meet them that night in the bar Ste Anne at Couiza?  Indeed I could.

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  They have a "snack" menu there, so my meal cost less than my wine!!  Jacek's big news was that his wife adored our region and so they would be coming more often!  It was good news, we laughed together a lot that evening.  Later I remembered his kindness when I was house-hunting in Carcassonne last year, which seems so long ago now.  Jacek is a doctor, a specialist in childhood diseases and pathology, he also teaches, so he is quite busy but sometimes snatches flying weekends via Barcelona.

2nd September at Limoux

You may remember that earlier in the year I was delighted to hear that the café opposite the station in Limoux was being renovated?


  Now the work is finished so after the visit to the market with a friend we thought we would fulfil the dream of Val and have an aperif while waiting for the 13h11 train back to Couiza.

  What I hadn't realised was that the place is a Restaurant, NOT a Café.  In French law, one can only consume alcoholic drinks with meals in an establishment which has a café licence - which is much dearer than a restaurant licence.

  Well, drinking lemonade is against my principles but I suppose water is better for you in the heat!  But this news was a blow.  I don't think I could attract all the British ex-pats and holiday travellers to a book-signing or party if wine was banned.

  But the lady there is so nice!  How on earth could I explain?  Anyway, the restaurant is open from 12h to 14h from Monday to Saturday, evenings and public holidays if reserved.  The phone number is 04 68 31 62 27 

31st August 2016

Hopefully French versions of "Marie d'Ables" and "Barbarian Gold" will be out by next summer.  Work has started on "Marie d'Ables" and a new translator is looking at the text of "Barbarian Gold" to assess the work needed.  Translating is a challenge-and-a-half, much more difficult than letting glowing words fall from the pen, metaphorically speaking.

   This is important to me because, after the Brexit vote in the UK the number of British Tourists have dropped dramatically.  How can I sell books in English to English tourists if they don't come?  (The Americans come but their numbers have dropped, if only slightly, as some are concerned about terrorist attacks at airports.)  And so it seems to me that to expand, I must publish in French as well as English.  (Or write a book called "The Perils of Publishing"? !!!) 

  Meanwhile, my taxi-driver tells me that tourism has increased in our area, but the new visitors are from place like Slovakia, Russia and Japan.  Help!  Apparently they come to see Carcassonne and then explore the region more thoroughly.  The Tourist Office publishes tourist information in all languages, but I don't think I could handle that!

27th August 2016

Went to a wonderful party held by French friends by the Tour Magdala and later in Le Jardin de Marie.

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  So, full of the joys of rosé and red, it was quite a shock for me afterwards when I visited the new "Boutique de la Domaine" in Rennes-le-Château and saw this;


My translator/French author was selling this book, that I had published, under her own name AND had undercut the price!  WHAT a misunderstanding!  She thought her promotional copies could be used in that way.

   This is my first book to be translated into French and I had thought the boutique du Domaine wanted books only in English so I hadn't supplied them but of course they could sell a book in French from my list if they were interested to do so.  I'm not very good at promotion, but being a small publisher means you learn as you go along!  So the management of the boutique is selling "Claudia Procula" in French on my behalf now and it was all to my benefit in the end. 

  For more about the Boutique du Domaine in Rennes-le-Château, click here

  For more about Claudia Procula French version, click here.

 Kris wants to move on to better things now, and I can't say I blame her.  We did the book as friends do things together but now she is ready for a different career.  I will miss her dreadfully but have another translator in view.  I have sent Kris the text of her actual words in the book (her words are her copyright, but not the book) just in case she ever wants to do her own version of Claudia Procula.
14th August - Rennes-le-Château life

It was the annual "Day of Books and Strangeness" yesterday and indeed there was a strange atmosphere.


Myself with Kris and friends

My friend Annie Jal was ill so couldn't come, life's always fun with Annie, and Kris had a pressing subsequent appointment (she said) so instead of being three for most of the day we were only one - me! It was so quiet!  There were only half the stalls that there usually was, and there was no buffet serving drinks, so soon after 12 noon everybody went to Le Jardin for lunch and the place was deserted.  Some people came from Montpellier to promote their French mystery magazine called Top Secret, but after an hour no one had passed by so they left. 

  In the circumstances I had a good time, better than most, talking to people, making new friends, munching a sandwich and drinking wine, and ended selling more than most people did that day but still I was worried.  The person organising it was associated with the Atelier Empreinte bookshop which had closed, and nobody really knows what will happen to the bookshop and so there's an air of uncertainty.

  For a niche publisher like myself this loss of sales worries me naturally, but generally my books are getting better known, and sales on Smashwords and Amazon are slowly but surely increasing but I am however, wracking my brains to devise more creative ways of selling!

  It seems to me also that this year there are less English-speaking tourists at Rennes-le-Château, even though the village is offering more and more every year such as the Esoteric film festival, when strange media types are patrolling the village and filling up Le Jardin.

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  Brexit is to blame of course, for there are less British tourists in our Rennes-le-Château region, although tourism has increased here overall.  

 Meanwhile, who will be running the changing politics among the French at Rennes-le-Château now Atelier Empreinte has gone?  Well, here's a clue!

  His name is Christian Doumergue and he has written and published many books in French.  He can also act as you can see!

23rd July.  Girls gotta have fun!

On Wednesday evening my friend Maria arrived to stay for three days and we walked up to Montazels to have a look at the château and the house where Bérenger Saunière was born.

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  The tree appeared to have been trimmed but otherwise there was no sign of life about the house;  I wondered for the hundreth time, had it really been sold?  It's a short walk up to Montazels from Couiza so we came down and discussed things further at the bar St. Anne.  The castle is really in a sad state of repair; is there anything that can be done?  We found out the name of the owner and also the name of a contact in the local historical society.  I have yet to ring him however . . . for more about the chateau, click this article about Montazels here.

On Thursday we went to a bookshop in Couiza called Ulpian.  It is most unusual - you can find it more-or-less opposite the post office.  Owned by Sylvain who comes from Toulon, it is only open for July and August every year.  Then, Sylvain indulges his passion for Rennes-le-Château and its secrets.

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  He has some amazing ideas (and he had taken copies of my books to sell which is a rare favour - he does it only for people that he likes!)  For example, he can prove that Jesus and John the Baptist were brothers.  Like many in Languedoc he thinks Jesus survived the crucifixion and came here . . . and so I organised an event so that he could explain everything to English people, with me as translator.  In the event he hardly needed me at all and everyone was fascinated.

  So do go along when you can, he is open Wednesday to Sunday in July and August.

  One of the people was Tina Hartzell from the States who was preparing a tour based at Rennes-les-Bains, so we all went there for lunch and then Tina and Maria and myself went to St. Hilaire near Limoux.  I have long wanted to see the abbey there, especially after learning that the monks of St. Hilaire supported the Cathars of Limoux and refused to persecute them.  The natural independence of the Languedocians!

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  The altar was made by "the master of Cabestany" in the seventh century and is called "The Sarcophagus of Saint Sernin" but it's extremely unlikely the fourth century saint of Toulouse was buried here.  However, I was not impressed by St. Hilaire, like many of the big cathedrals it was too perfect and the history heavily "sanitised" with tourism in mind.  For example, they never mention that it was founded by a certain Saint Benôit, real name Witiza, who was Visigothic and even Arian!  The abbey started life in the 8th century, around the time that Rennes-le-Château was at the peak of its Visigothic glory.

  So we called on my friend Jack who owns the guesthouse in St. Hilaire called Maison Orchidée for a refreshing rosé.

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The guesthouse is adorable, I liked it as soon as I walked in, much of the decor is of natural wood that has been lovingly converted by Jack.  He is also a great raconteur and had us enthralled with stories of his youth . . . here's the link.

  That night there was music in the parc municipale of Couiza - my old friend Michel Aubenas was playing and I made lots of films of him - and the next day we went to the mass for Mary Magdalene in the church at Rennes-le-Château.


This is a photo previously taken;  I would not be so impolite as to take photos during a service!  The mass was very nicely done with some wonderfully sweet words about Mary from the priest.  I like him; I had met him before when researching "Marie d'Ables and the secret of the Hautpouls" (here) and to my utter delight he remembered me!

Monday 18th July

Back to the trials and tribulations of Val Wineyard Publishing!  I had been thinking about my future ever since the Atelier Empreinte bookshop was obliged to close in May, due to financial difficulties.

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   They first sold one of my books in August 2009 and had done so consistently ever since.  When I moved to Couiza in 2015 I became firm friends with Tony who worked there, because he too lives in Couiza.  I had got the impression all was not well when Atelier Empreinte in Rennes-les-Bains closed for ever in 2015, but for the flagship in Rennes-le-Château to close, also their adjacent ancient books department . . . I was quite shocked.

  Professionally, this was a large part of my small business - what other outlets were there for books about Rennes-le-Château, in English?  I was well content with the orders I was consistently receiving from Porte de Rennes but obviously needed more exposure than just in one shop.  Alternatives would have to be found!  I would also have to look at other Internet outlets beside Amazon, and increase the percentage of books sold that way, but the vast majority of my sales were in local bookshops.  How else could I reach English-speaking people coming from the States, for example?

  Then came the referendum in Britain confirming the people wanted to leave the European Union.  (For more about this, click here.)   Local guesthouses run by Brits were already reporting less bookings and now British tourists were thinking twice about coming to France as the pound would not buy so many Euros.  In France workers were protesting against a proposed law that would reduce their workers' rights and people like train-drivers and air traffic controllers were going on strike.  All this caused a decline in tourism and the local economy is starting to suffer - Atelier Empreinte is not the only business in the region to close down.

  "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," I told myself firmly.  But I had made a huge gesture, to move from the Narbonne region to Couiza to develope further the writing part of my life. 

  Would this turn out to be in vain?

15th July

Today was Bastille day in Couiza.  This great national event is often staggered in the local villages. otherwise they would all hold their festivals the same day, and so this year Couiza's festival was on the 15th July, not the 14th.  But the day before, the 14th, we heard the dreadful news about the crazy truck driver who mowed down and killed over eighty people who had been on the Promenade des Anglais at Nice for the festival, watching the fireworks.

  This upset me greatly because I have friends in Nice, in particular Kris Darquis my translator.  She and Jean-Luke had been at the event, but left immediately the fireworks ended, as did my friend Julien, on holiday there.  When something like this happens, one thinks life is ordinary and one realises, when one hears the news, that it isn't.  They escaped death and horror by five minutes.  I met someone else, who lives in Couiza, who witnessed the whole thing from a hospital window, because a relative was there having special treatment at the best hospital in the world for their illness.  It is at Nice, overlooking the Promenade des Anglais. 


  And so 15th, the next day in Couiza, the Bastille Day ceremony was very subdued, in respect for the dead.  We all met at the town hall and the Maire gave a speech.  On a lighter note, the new sign for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity was revealed.  Unfortunately the "E" was in danger of dropping off!  This cheered me up but I still shed a tear at the ceremony at the War memorial.  We were all offered free drinks at the bar St. Anne and there I met Jacques from Rennes-le-Château, he lives half-way between Le Jardin de Marie and Luke Owen's studio.  And we had a jar together.


  He walks 5 kilometres down the hill from Rennes-le-Château and 5 kilometres back, just for a drink at the bar St Anne.  He introduced me to white pastis.  It has less chemicals than the other brands and it is much better for your health.

  I needed it.

9th July

My big personal news . . . I got a little dog! 

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  I found her in the local refuge, called SPA, she had been there seven months and had such a lovely face that I couldn't understand why no one had adopted her before.  She is sweet-natured too.  She was three years old and had lived all her life among 8 dogs on a farm deep in the countryside.  Hence, she loves other dogs and walking under the trees in the park, but needs to get used to the traffic, so that I can take her with me everywhere I go.  I re-named her Prisca, only because it sounds like Fosca.

  Then, three weeks later I researched Prisca, which is the name of a saint.  Prisca was only 13 but tortured horribly for refusing to give up her faith, in the first century. There still exists on the Aventine in Rome a church of St. Prisca. {Have a look at this link - quite extraordinary!)  It stands on the site of a very early title church, the Titulus Priscoe, mentioned in the fifth century after being built in the fourth.  And blow me, my research found a picture of Saint Prisca with the same sweet expression that Prisca has.

  Oh, and she learnt English in three weeks.  Such a clever doggie!

1st July 2016

I went to Limoux on the bus from Couiza to get some olives.  They have a "Bio" market there, organic to you and me, on Friday mornings, and a guy does those olives in oil, Greek style, but with the kernels removed and they are cheaper than in the shops!  They are not too salty and are delicious.  There is always a queue.

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In the town centre is this lovely goddess!  I bought shorts and sandals for summer, organic salad and olives.

  The Bio market is tremendous, with endless stalls of "home-grown" vegetables and salad, plus plants and herbs for your garden, some quite exotic, like Hibiscus and Gladioli. The regular market in the town square is good too, I got some tee-shirts and shorts for a fiver each and some hand-made leather sandals that would have cost 80€ anywhere else. I was tempted by a pottery elephant but I had run out of "spends."

  Then I went into the Bar du Commerce for a drink. It was NOT serving la-di-dah tourist meals under colourful umbrellas in the arcades outside, it is a real café where the French go.  They were serving Duc de Joyeuse wine from Couiza so they know what they are at there!

  They provided a newspaper in the traditional style. I read that the French are very concerned about the killing of Jo Cox, because she was pro-European; they think that was the reason she was attacked by a madman.  All in not well in France either, nearly 9.5% of the French working force are unemployed and there has been strikes and go-slows as part of the campaign for workers' rights. Green issues are not forgotten in France - they have put 20k/hr restrictions on 46km of autoroutes around Paris to reduce pollution.  

   On the way there to Limoux, just 19 minutes journey from Couiza I got talking to the lady on the 1€ bus, which was due to stop at the railway station at Limoux.  She told me she and her husband were talking over the café there.  I thought this a wonderful idea, because I could stop at the café instead of waiting in the station for the return bus or train.  I hope they hurry and finish the work!

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She said I could do a book-signing there, because they have no end of English people using the Ryanair Carcassonne/Limoux/Quillan 1€ corridor. I often see them in Limoux getting on the train for Carcassonne, where the airport shuttle bus waits to take them to the airport.  Thus the café opening is really good news, one can take refreshment while waiting for the bus or the train. (Sometimes it's one, sometimes the other, don't ask me!)

When I got home I posted this info on Facebook and someone told me I was the mistress of the everyday adventure!

  So I thought I would use that title for my "Publisher's Blog" posts.

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