This past November, my husband and I travelled to Paris to present a copy of The Art of Rebellion to the Director of the library archives of the Louvre Museum. At the same time, we took some photos of the locations in the book, and shot some videos as well, to share with readers our love of the beautiful city of Paris.

Eiffel Tower illuminated at dusk

Naturally, one of our first stops was at the Louvre, to revisit the Wedding Feast at Cana, by Veronese, The Bather by Ingres, and Madame Pompadour by de la Tour. I stood by the Wedding Feast to give you an idea of its immense scale. I could imagine Gabbi’s reaction to seeing these masterpieces for the first time.


Madame Pompadour by de la Tour at the Louvre

We stopped and watched several artists, copyists, as they worked at their easels in the museum, and goofed around when I spotted Michelangelo’s The Dying Slave.

Another day was spent at L’Orangerie to visit Monet’s Water Lilies installation, and a half day at the Musee d’Orsay, where much of the Impressionists work is displayed, including this one by Auguste Renoir. It is titled The Swing, and was painted in the gardens of what is now the Musee de Montmartre. renoir-painting-the-swing-painted-in-gardens-at-12-rue-cortot

We spent a full day wandering in Montmartre, visiting the Place du Tertre, climbing the 300 steps to the Sacre Coeur basilica, strolling down rue Gabrielle and rue Cortot, visiting the Moulin de la Galette and Eglise Saint-Pierre, just as Gabbi and Babette would have done. Although the landscape and views have changed considerably, locals have tried to maintain nineteenth century Montmartre much as it was.

Outside of dance hall Moulin de la Galette Montmartre ParisInterior of Eglise St Pierre Montmartre ParisMontmartre copper contraption 2 12-rue-cortot-now-musee-de-montmartre-paris17-rue-gabrielleplace-du-tertre-montmartre-paris

Naturally, we ate out and enjoyed the joie de vivre of Paris, strolling the night Christmas markets, sipping French wines, shopping and sampling food from around the world.

Christmas Markets Champs Elysee 2

I hope you enjoyed this visual hop through Paris on the heels of my heroine, Gabrielle de Villiers.

Au revoir!

Rave review in French magazine

The French Book Worm recently reviewed The Art of Rebellion, in The Good Life France, an English language magazine about all things French. The review said the novel is a “beautiful story set in France in 1900…through her storytelling she has given the lucky reader not only a wonderful tale but a glimpse into what life was like in the early 1900s”.


Why I write…

The Art of Rebellion Calgary Herald August 20 2016

When a friend emailed me to say my book had hit Number 6 on the Bestselling Fiction list of our local newspaper, the Calgary Herald, I was a bit stunned. I ran out to buy a copy of the paper, and had to open it to the Books section before I believed her. Sure enough, there was my name in the newspaper in proximity to literary heavyweights like J.K. Rowling and Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale is on my bedside table).

After I got over the initial excitement of being on the list, I realized why it meant so much to me. The reason I write is mostly to express my creativity – telling stories by playing around with words, plot and characters. It’s fun. Or I probably wouldn’t do it. But when I take time to really dig deeper into why I pursued publication, I realized it wasn’t for fame (too fleeting and superficial) or for money (impossible to make money at this gig!). It was so that my stories would reach a greater audience than just family and friends.

Discovering my book on the bestselling list means I’ve reached a broader audience. That’s where the lasting satisfaction lies – knowing there are readers out there willing to be taken on Gabbi’s adventures – for better and for worse. Mostly for worse, because that’s what makes stories, after all.

So thank you to all those people who purchased The Art of Rebellion, and are reading it. Welcome to my world. (Ed.note – The Art of Rebellion has appeared on the Calgary Herald bestseller list four times in 2016, most recently at #5.).



It takes a village to launch a book…

book launch food 3

The wise saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child…” but when it comes to launching a book, I believe this also applies. It certainly did for mine.

I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of those who worked behind the scenes to prepare the food, the decorations, the house and yard, and those who worked diligently and joyfully during the launch party evening.

I’m also grateful to family and friends who came to the launch, listened to my readings and even bought some books. And, especially, a huge thank you to the team of wonderful authors/editors/artists/marketers at Rebelight Publishing, who took a chance on my story, envisioning it to be a published novel! Thanks to Deborah Froese, Suzanne Costigan, Melanie Matheson and Melinda Friesen.

Now for the “villagers” behind The Art of Rebellion – in order of mug shots below…Maureen Boudreault, Dave Loader; Lucas Johnson; Lanice Jones; Rona Fluney; Joyce Sunada; Sandy Kemmet; Maryse & Peter Doner; Barb Lawrence; Diane Standing; Guy Sunada; Carole Atkinson; Inge Leahy; Vicki Keller; Stella Ehrler (who donated the book launch cake, created by her daughter Alix); Mark Moss and my amazing husband,Reyn Johnson; Eric Norrie; Connie Takken; Ellen Sidorsky; Jane Senda (not present but present in spirit through her gift of The Art of Rebellion aprons and tote bags).

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115 115a Art of Rebellion apron REBELIGHT_LOGO_4C


Book Launch


June 30, 2016

91 guests assembled for the launch of my debut YA novel, The Art of Rebellion, published this spring by Rebelight Publishing (Canada). Many of my friends contributed their creative talents to decorate and prepare for the event – flower bouquets made out of book pages? Miniature Eiffel Towers? No problem, thanks to Lanice Jones, Rona Fluney, Maureen Boudreault, Diane Standing, Carole Atkinson, Vicki Keller! Alix Ehrler, created the spectacular book launch cake.


Friend and satcheler, Jane Senda (see created aprons featuring the book cover, unveiling them the night of the launch. We missed you, Jane. Thanks for modeling the aprons – daughter Maryse, son Luc and spa sister Sandy Kemmet!



Ninety plus hungry guests for the evening? No problem – our son Lucas Johnson agreed to cater the event. Far from daunted, he’s now considering offering a personal chef service (contact him through this website for now).

Just like a Parisian cafe, the chalkboard menu greeted guests at the door.


Luc’s food was fabulous, as anyone who attended could attest to. Arctic char bar – char flown in from Iqaluit personally by Lanice Jones, who also created the French pastry madeleines (when she’s not saving lives as a doctor). French macarons also came from our kitchen, in large part created by Maureen Boudreault. Here’s a sampling of the food we enjoyed:



A Parisian cafe-style awning highlighted the entry table (designed by Barb Lawrence) which displayed stacks of my books tied up with ribbon, as well as a draw basket filled with goodies. The awning, made by super-talented friends Maureen Boudreault and Dave Loader, is actually cardboard, covered by awning fabric, and really set the tone for all the decor for the night.



Inspirational speaker, wellness coach and uber-friend, Joyce Sunada, was the MC for the evening (see She kept things moving along smoothly, solving minor emergencies and mishaps without my knowledge. About 2 hours into the night, champagne was served and guests asked to gather outside on the lawn. Along with the draw for the gift basket, I read three separate passages from the book, cut the cake and signed copies of my book.



Whew! The last guests left after 2 a.m., after helping with clean up (Thank you Inge Leahy, Joyce Sunada and Sandy Kemmet!!) It was a great night, thanks to the many family and friends who showed up in support. Now – a breather before organizing public readings and signings this fall.




La Belle Epoque Hairstyles


During the Belle Epoque, a woman’s hair was her “crowning glory” – much as today. Up to and including the late 1800’s, European women wore their hair long and almost always styled up. Bobs didn’t come into style until after well after the turn of the 20th Century, indeed not really until after WWI. Even then, a short hair style on a woman was considered terribly daring.

Hair styling for 19th century women was a complicated, time-consuming affair. Hygiene standards from 1900 were a far cry from today. One magazine from that time advised “once a month” shampooing to ensure the scalp stays clean and the hair “pure”. Drying was a lengthy affair, for portable hair dryers were not available yet. In winter or on rainy days, one had to lay before a coal, gas or wood stove, sometimes for hours. After 1890, some Paris salons boasted a new invention – the hair dryer. However, it was a large floor model with a metal bonnet attached to a chimney pipe of a gas furnace, that blew hot hair onto the head. As you can imagine, women were at great risk of burns with such contraptions. It makes me appreciate my sleek, light hand-held dryer!

Many women, particularly more mature women (such as Gabbi’s mother Desiree), simply parted their hair in the centre and pulled their hair back into a severe bun at the nape of the neck. More stylish women preferred their hair drawn off the shoulders and into a snug knot near the crown of the head. Bangs were in fashion, often tightly curled, as were wavy locks on either side of the face. The Marcel curling rod, invented by a Frenchman, was indispensable by the late 1800’s and was heated in a small stove. Tightly curled bangs were especially fashionable at this time. By the end of the nineteenth-century, the more natural look of either the Pompadour or Gibson girl styles were becoming popular. These are described in the novel, and essentially a woman’s long hair is swept up and back from her face, often over a hair rat (see below), loosely knotted at the crown, with a few curls hanging on either side of her face, and perhaps the nape of the neck for evening.

hairstyles 2

Accessories included hair “rats”, which were mesh balls that were often used to give height to an updo. Women saved their own hair from their hairbrushes and then formed it into a natural “rat” or hairpiece. More decorative accessories included hair combs of tortoise-shell, bone or wood; ribbons or bows, wigs or partial wigs; tiaras or jewelled headbands for evening for the upper classes.

Women and men sometimes dyed their hair, but dyes were unreliable and damaged hair so badly it often wasn’t considered worth the risk. Hair products included various tonics, glycerine, ointments or oils, for women and men.

Of course, hats were de rigeur as soon as one left the house. By the end of the 1800’s, hats were huge and elaborate. Summer hats were often straw boaters but were decorated with ribbons, artificial flowers and even bird’s wings or feathers. At the 1900 World Expo held in Paris, fashion reporters gushed over hats “as big as dressing tables”. One wonders why women bothered to spend so much time on their hair if it was covered up by such large, elaborate hats, to say nothing of the weight of it all!

hairstyles 3