Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Wow, was it ever cold yesterday. Minus 16 and very windy, which is, of course, the killer! But not so bad today.
Had a fun day yesterday. Michael, Doug and I went to Cowansville for breakfast...almost didn't go since there was a bit of a snow storm...in fact we were part way to Sutton instead when it cleared so we changed course and headed to the Station. It's always such a treat.
The kids were asleep in the cottage...teenage boys would sleep until their wedding night I think. But they finally got up, so Doug and I dropped them at Mont Sutton and we took off to the bistro in the village to chat. It's one of the treats of his visit - a chance to get caught up. Doug's just back from a couple weeks in India. He's a follower of Amma and always comes back fortified after a visit to her ashram.
We love talking about things like belief and faith and how we screw things up. Doug more than me, of course.
Then picked the kids up at 4pm. They were yearning for one thing. Cereal. Go figure. So we stopped at a store and got them Fruit Loops.
Everyone came back to our place (the Big House - a short walk from the cottage) for dinner and a movie. We made roast beef (I way over-cooked it) with potatoes and parsnips...and maple syrup pie for dessert. Oh, dear Lord. Take me now. It's like a giant butter tart...and that can't be a bad thing.
Theo told a hilarious story about a lobster his mother brought home a few years ago and he thought it was meant to be his pet. (It was alive). He named it Chester and played with it. But doesn't seem to have recovered from the trauma of dinner that night. However, he admits, he loves eating lobster. Hope that wasn't a hint. Hey, we got him Fruit Loops, what more could they want?
The kids put a James Bond film on in the TV room and the three of us chatted...then it was time for bed. 8pm. Apparently the kids and Doug went back to the cottage and watched another couple of movies. We were bagging 'Z's' by then.
Tonight we'll have an easy dinner of left-overs. And they're heading back to Toronto tomorrow morning early. Weather's supposed to be good.
Everyone's sick around us these days. Poor Tony's down with the flu and Gary's been bed ridden...at least...hmmm. That's what they tell us. Though Gary did manage to get up to the cottage to pound some siding that wanted to go 'walk-about'.
Today's the first quiet day in a long time. I had some interview questions to respond to, in writing, which I just finished. And now will take a book and sit by the fire. Trudy managed to get up on the counter and eat 1/4 pound of butter, some fudge and shortbread cookies. Frankly, better her than me. But it was a race.
We don't stay up to see the New Year in. Haven't in years. Honestly, even when I was younger I never really saw the point...and most of the parties seemed strained. I actually think I'm just too lazy. I think we might re-set the clocks so they say midnight, celebrate, then go to bed.
Happy New Year!
Monday, 29 December 2008
It's a kind of damp, cold day. But fun. Had to zip in to the village to get some things for lunch. Michael's former lab technician, Claudine and her 16 year old daughter Katherine were coming for lunch. Driving 2 1/2 hrs from the lower Laurentians.
We decided to do a tortiere with wild rice salad, lentil salad and a green salad, as well as fresh baguette. Picked all that up then dropped into the bistro to say hi to brother Doug and Joan, having coffee together.
Arrived home just in time to greet Nancy, who was there to fix Michael's computer, again. Damn servor keeps messing up. Poor Michael - very frustrating.
And just as I got the groceries in, Claudine and Katherine arrived. Such lovely people. Claudine worked in Michael's lab (working on childhood leukemia) for decades. They adore each other, so it was such fun to see her again and get caught up. And Katherine, who is lovely, wanted to interview me for a school project she's doing. So we sat in front of the fire and while her mother and Michael chatted we yakked as well.
Doug came by just as we were getting up from lunch to take the dogs for a walk. He was just settling in when the phone rang...his son Brian from the ski hill. He and Theo were ready to be picked up.
They're coming over in an hour or so. We'll have a spaghetti dinner. Easy. Everything in this house is easy. Claudine and Katherine brought their HUGE black dog named Ebony and we all agreed when you have dogs in the country you can't be house-proud. Hair everywhere. Toys. Slobber. Bones. Mud from outside (though we try to clean their paws). Honestly, it looks like Fred Flintstone's cave sometimes.
Finished the draft of THE BRUTAL TELLING. Still not sure which version I like best, but we're off to Hovey Manor for a few days next week and I'll take both along and read them there. I know whichever I choose it will still need editing and polishing and tweaking. It's a process that never ends. The Neverending Story!
Oh, more good news. The Murder Stone was chosen the top mystery of the year by Margaret Canon of the Globe and Mail, along with Giles Blunt's No Such Creature. The Murder Stone was also chosen as the top pick by the Hamilton Spectator.
Be well and I'll talk to you tomorrow.
Sunday, 28 December 2008
It feels like spring. Easter, rather than Christmas. Of course, with the amount of sleep I can do maybe it is Easter. What did I miss?
There's a great review of A RULE AGAINST MURDER in this weekend's Charlotte Observor. The lead review, and four out of four stars. Wonderful.
Had a wonderful day yesterday. Breakfast with Joan was fun, as ever. And Michael joined us this time. Then worked more on book 5. One of the major issues with writing these sorts of puzzle mysteries is - not surprisingly - when to give readers the answers. Obviously who committed the murder is only one (albeit a large one) mystery. But that one is answered because of a series of small puzzles. they build on each other until finally the answer is clear.
But when and how to feed out the smaller solutions? It's about pace, and the pleasure of the reader. That exquisite tension when you long to know something... but once you do, that energy, that excitement can disappear...unless it leads to another mystery.
Right now with THE BRUTAL TELLING I'm struggling with one issue in particular. When to give the readers the answer. It's quite a big one, though not the ultimate answer. Do I tell you sooner or later. What leads to a richer reading experience? What's more fun? Knowing, or not knowing?
the danger in not telling until later is a) building up expectations, that the answer had better be worth all this wait. b) having people lose interest...milking it dry.
So I've actually written (or am in the process of writing) two versions.
I was inspired to do this partly after our visit earlier this month to the Rodin Museum...and seeing that clearly The Burghurs of Calais didn't just appear...he did any number of different versions, different studies...all of them there too. Fascinating to compare. Frankly, they all looked like masterpieces to me. But he was aiming for something specific. And the final one is better than all the rest...though all are brilliant.
So I thought I'd try that with the book...two different versions and see which one I like the best. So I'll have to rush off soon and get more work done on that. But it'll be worth it, I'm sure. Anything for a better book.
Yesterday afternoon we went across to our neighbors place - Guy and Nicole. Their two granddaughters were giving a Christmas concert for the neighborhood. Rachel is 13 and a gifted singer. Sarah is 11 and plays classical guitar. Incredible family. Paule - their mother, who was also there, was a ballet danger...as was her husband Martin (Guy and Nicole's son). You might remember my mentioing in a blog in April that Martin had died. He was in his mid-thirties and Guy and Nicole's only child. He had a virulent form of MS - so it was a long, slow departure. Torture for everyone.
But the children (perhaps as a result of this suffering, his and theirs) are amazing. Compassionate, dedicated, fun and funny. They speak French only, but learned a few songs in English just for us. Imagine that? Aren't people amazing? If anyone doubted the existence of Grace they just need to visit this family.
They did the concert, and Rachel even danced for us all...then had tea and Christmas cookies. Then left. Wrote a bit at home, went to Sutton to meet friends...then dropped by the guest cottage where Doug (my brother), Brian, his son and his great friend Theo had just arrived.
Such fun sitting there, fire on, tree lit, kids eating chicken wings Pat had made for them...and being with people we love so much.
Life is good. And, as though we had any right to it getting better, with it being so mild all the snow left and Maggie made it around the pond again! Hopping all the way, of course. But tail going the whole time.
This is bliss. This is contentment. This is good fortune.
I hope this finds you content, and surrounded by light. God knows, I have my off-days. When I'm filled with anger, jealousy, pettiness. When the world is bleak and unfair. When I not only want to cry, but do. I've written about those days as well.
Balance. I'm coming to appreciate how important that is. Things even out. My job is to be grateful for the good and accept the bad. And move forward.
Friday, 26 December 2008
Lovely, restful day. Boiled up the turkey bones last night and finished the job this morning so that by noon the aroma of home-made turkey soup filled the home. I think that's about my favorite holiday thing - the smells of cooking. Especially coming in from outside - all cold. And smelling homemade soup.
We had that for lunch, sitting by the fire.
Jim and Sharon came by after noon to say goodbye. And drop off the bed linen and towels. So we have a big load in, ready for our next guests to arrive tomorrow. Though, while Sharon and Jim can hardly be considered guests, our next set definitely aren't.
It's my brother Doug, his oldest son Brian (13) and his best friend Theo. They'll be staying at the guest cottage until the kids get bored and want to go home, which might be a day or a week or more. The kids love to ski and are looking forward to it, but unfortunately after all our snowstorms it's supposed to rain tomorrow and Sunday! Yech.
It's a wonderful practice - watching my stress level rise depending on the weather. And then needing to remind myself that a) I didn't cause it. b) it's not my fault (always crucial) c) it's actually Doug's fault d) worry will change nothing e) it's still Doug's fault
Don't you find Boxing Day just the most restful? No visitors? No place to go. Just puttering. And in this case finishing the revision of THE BRUTAL TELLING. The last 20 pages are always the most challenging (it's Doug's fault) because it's the explanation...which apparently should make sense.
So I'll re-read tomorrow what I did today and see if it's an improvement.
and if you read THE BRUTAL TELLING and hate the end, what do you need to remember?
Everybody together...it's Doug's fault.
Off for breakfast with Joan tomorrow, then food shopping...God knows what we'll have for dinner. For now I'm headed to a bubble bath.
Thursday, 25 December 2008
Merry Christmas! Hope you've had the Christmas you wished for. We did - a quiet one with good friends. What blessing.
The older I get the more I value simplicity. And so my wish for you today is simple. That you be surrounded by love and light.
Happy holiday. And thank you for the many gifts you've given me over the past year.
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Happy Christmas Eve! We have tortiere about to go in the oven. The potatoes are mashed. Jim and Sharon are arriving in an hour or so. The computer has been turned off (laptop) and moved from in front of the fireplace.
Oddly, a bit of a wrench to do that. I was within 30 pages of finishing this edit of The Brutal Telling - but getting tired. And, as you can imagine, these last chapters are the most complex so I don't want to be confused or tired or hurrying.
Maggie bouncing around already. We were a little worried yesterday when she didn't want her banana - which is her gummi bears...but by last night she was gobbling them.
Michael collected Trudy from Pat and Tony's place...they'd agreed to take her so we could concentrate on Maggie. Trudy seemed impressed with the 'air' where a leg once was, sniffed a big then got on with her puppy life. Maggie no longer seems quite as bewildered, though she does seem a little down. I expect that's natural.
We hope you have a really lovely Christmas. last year Michael and I spent it on our own, just the two of us. And it was so peaceful...we loved it. But this year we decided to invite friends for dinner...actually we eat around 2pm. Which means - we did the math earlier - the turkey needs to go in at 6am.
We'll be up with all the neighborhood 8 year olds. Thought about asking Tony to come up and put the turkey in but we think that would be the end of the friendship. I once called Pat (who does some cleaning for us) to tell her we were having guests and ask if she'd mind coming by to clean. I left a message on her machine only to get a call an hour later from a friend, Liz, to say if we really needed her to clean she'd do it, but she was a little confused.
Seems I'd called the wrong number, and had inadvertently asked Liz to clean our home, for a dinner party she wasn't invited to! Oh dear.
Hope you enjoy whatever Christmas you've been given this year. Quiet, hectic. Alone, filled with people. And hope you feel peace and contentment. Hope we do too!
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Beautiful day after the storms of the past 2 days. Linda Lyall, who manages and has designed my website and lives in Scotland wrote to say Quebec made the BBC newscasts because of the terrible storms. We, however, loved them.
A maggie update - she's doing brilliantly. Michael and I are exhausted. Like with all stress we didn't appreciate the weight until it was gone. We all had a bit of a stressful night. Maggie's adjusted amazingly to life without that leg...though she was groggy and kinda drunk and we had to lift her up[ the stairs of course. But she actually ate her dinner.
We got up every few hours last night, making sure she was OK. It would be horrible for her to survive the operation but be killed by our incompetence. Odd, but looking at the wound and the spot where a leg used to be doesn't bother or upset us at all. Nor does it seem to upset her. As many of you wrote in, your own pets had the same experience. Don't I wish I could be as accepting and adaptable.
Maggie spent the day in the kitchen, so we did too for the most part. Or in the dining room wrapping the last of the gifts. I'm the world's worst wrapper. No patience. I just slap the paper on, tape it, fold, tape. Done. No finesse. Not even an attempt at aesthetics.
the good thing about Maggie in the kitchen is I got almost all the Christmas cooking done. Hard suace. Cranberry sauce. Sweet potato casserole, regular mashed potatoes. Tomorrow Jim and Sharon are coming for Christmas Eve dinner of tortiere and mashed potatoes, and chocolate fondue with fresh fruit.
Did another 80 pages of editing...am at page 430 of a 520 page manuscript. Might even finish this edit of THE BRUTAL TELLING before Christmas. Wouldn't that be great?
Snow, freezing rain and rain expected tomorrow. Safe travels. Oh, speaking of travels I had the most hilarious email from two guys who've become email friends. Donald and Ray, who live in Kansas City and are known as The Gay Travelers. They write columns for gay publications about all their travels. They wrote a lovely note of sympathy about Maggie and some very funny travel experience about a woman whose son Buddy spent 2 days trying to get home this past weekend. It was really only funny because I realized he'd made it just fine.
But if you're traveling, please be careful. Be prudent. Be sober. Be alive to celebrate this wonderful season. Will talk tomorrow.
Monday, 22 December 2008
Just heard from the Vet...Maggie sailed through the operation and is doing really well!! Oh, what a relief.
Thank you for all your thoughts.
And, we get to pick her up in a couple of hours and bring her (or, as my brother says, most of her) home! We're both thrilled and leery. We know for sure she'll be far more comfortable and happy at home. But will we kill her? This will clearly demand good sense and judgement - from the woman who just recently tried to flush a whole pot roast down the toilet.
Doug, my brother, wrote this morning wishing us luck and saying he and his dog Buttercup said prayers for Maggie before breakfast - though he wasn't sure if BC's prayers weren't for him to friggin hurry up and put down the food bowl.
Can't quite believe that they amputate a leg in the morning and she'll be home in time for dinner. But more than anything, we're relieved.
We set the alarm for 6:30 this morning. It was still dark, but Trudy was all excited. I looked outside and could see a dark figure outside, against the snow. It was Tony. He'd come up to dig us out from all the snow that fell overnight, so we could get Maggie to the vet for her 8am appointment.
Imagine doing that? He was out of bed before we were on a blizzardy morning, shoveling.
I'll tell you, even by country standards Pat and Tony are remarkable. Angels, really. We try to keep up with them in terms of kindnesses, but we're so far behind even Tony couldn't dig us out.
We got to the vets in time, going very slowly along the snow-clogged, white-out roads. Michael took a picture of Maggie outside the vets, just in case. And we were fine until we had to say goodbye and they led her away. As soon as the door closed I started to cry. Happily it wasn't my normal slobber - but neither could I pretend I had something in my eye. Except a bit of grief.
Anyway, now we all get to heal.
Did loads of wrapping today, and will make hard sauce and cranberry sauce tomorrow, then the sweet potato casserole the next day.
This is a celebration. Be well, and will report in tomorrow.
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Happy Winter Solstice. Happy shortest day of the year, Happy Hanukah!
We were expecting to be walloped by a terrible blizzard, and at about 10 this morning the snow started, the wind picked up and Michael ran outside to his car to go into the village to pick up salmon, so he could make his world famous gravlax. (we tried to get it last night but by the time the party was over the IGA was packing up - fish counter closed). So he hot-footed it out to Sutton.
I cleaned up the breakfast things, brought wood up from the basement, ran water in the tub in case we lost power...then lit the fire and started my days editing.
Michael blew in an hour later - laden with salmon, clever lad. So the gravlax is fermenting, or whatever it does...but have to say, it's yummy! Basically it's like smoked salmon, only actually sort of 'cooked' in salt and dill over three days. I think I just made that sound disgusting. But it's great.
Doing lamb for tonight.
the storm seems to have died down. Bit of a shame...not quite the howler we were hoping for.
Maggie's bouncing around...tomorrow's the big day. As it nears we're more and more confident in our decision. We think she'll sail right through. Kirk and Walter, bless them, invited us for Christmas Eve dinner, but Maggie will have just gotten back so we had to take a pass, though we might drop in for half an hour, with a plate of gravlax (and to see their new kitchen! - always a snoop)
THE MURDER STONE climbed back up the bestsellers list this week. Number 5. Always great for the week before Christmas.
Tomorrow, we start collecting names for the big draw! Thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur (US publishers) we're giving away 10 signed copies of A RULE AGAINST MURDER. This is to promote the launch of the book January 20th in the US.
Tell your friends, tell strangers. Order early since I know here in Canada there are no more hardcovers and I know they're selling fast in pre-orders in the States. If you want to enter the draw you need to go to the Home Page of my website and click on the icon. Good luck!
Thank you again for all your kind wishes, and wonderful stories about 3-legged pets. Honestly, I think I prefer them now. Trudy had better not stand still long.
I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. In the meantime ---
Happy Winter Solstice, Happy shortest day, Happy Hanukah!
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Amazing day. Brittle, brilliant. Gleaming day. Crunchy under foot. A day to freeze the nostril hairs and take your breath away. The air seemed to crystalize so that it sparkled. Off phenomenon. But beautiful.
I want to take a moment to tell you all how deeply grateful Michael and I are for your kindness, your thoughts, your support as we head toward Monday and the day Maggie has her leg amputated. We know it's the right thing. But it's hard. Made considerably earlier by the kindess of friends.
We went through a period a number of years ago when Michael's health was in question and I was so taken by how crucial kindness was. People calling to ask. People cutting articles out of the paper they thought we might like to read. Nothing, by outside measurements, immense. But inside this terrible world we suddenly found ourselves in those acts were anything but trivial.
I think people often run away from people in grief, or pain - for fear of either saying the wrong thing, or that too much will be asked or expected. they'll need you to cook dinner, or take them in, or do something extraordinary. But I know how amazing just a smile is. An arm squeezed. That small human contact. Far more important, I found, than any grand gesture could ever be.
So we're sustained by your kindness...and we know Maggie will be bouncing around before we know it. Who needs 4 legs anyway...really very greedy.
It's the new economy. Less is more.
Friday, 19 December 2008
Ok, not very cold compared to my brother and his family in Edmonton...minus 29. I remember living for a couple of years in Winnipeg (LOVED it) and it got so cold the tires froze square. The car seats felt like concrete. I remember crying in the car it was so cold.
Now that I've remembered that today here actually seems downright warm!
Did another 50 pages of the manuscript. I've found that perseverence, perhaps even more than creativity, is what matters as a writer. Head down. Keep going. Don't even think about quitting.
Had a wonderful day at home...sat by the fire and did nothing but edit.
Maggie's doing all right - no worse, which at this stage is a blessing. Michael called the vet and confirmed the amputation. We're to take her in Monday at 8am. By now we can hardly wait, since the leg is clearly bothering her.
Off for breakfast in Knowlton at Chez Guy with Cheryl...then having coffee tomorrow afternoon with another friend, in Sutton - Janet. Then off to a Christmas party tomorrow night. That gives me 3 hours, I figure, to edit tomorrow. Hope to do my 50 pages...but will do my best. My goal is to finish this edit (there will be many more) by Christmas.
Had a wonderful delivery yesterday. The FedEx left a book. Michael's book!!!! the one he wrote. Well, helped to write. He contributed a chapter in the medical text book: HEMATOLOGY OF INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD
Must go - dinner's ready. Speak tomorrow.
Thursday, 18 December 2008
I'm all better - no more cold or flu - but yesterday Michael crawled into bed and announced he was sick. I took his temperature. 101. Out with the hot water bottle, the Tylenol, the trashy magazines, and Sudoku. Poor guy.
But he crawled back out of bed to go with Maggie and me to the vets. Her leg is getting much worse and a decision has to be made.
Hope is a funny thing. It shifts, changes, adjust. It's alive. As we've gone through this with Maggie we first hoped her leg could be healed. Then we hoped it wouldn't get any worse. Then we hoped the steroids would work. Then we hoped amputation wouldn't be necessary. And when we took her to the vet yesterday we hoped it would. We hoped he wouldn't say there was no hope left, and her time had come.
At first he looked at her leg and said, if you tell me to put her down I won't stop you, I won't argue. I could feel the tears, and fought them down. I don't cry all that often, but when I do it's a mess. And I needed to think, not feel. Not yet.
So we asked about amputation. He hummed and hawed. What to us a month ago was unthinkable had suddenly become the thing we most hoped for. Please, say yes to amputation both Michael and I thought. The vet called a colleague, and reviewed Maggie's x-rays, then returned.
He examined her again and asked some questions...yes, she gets around fine limping on 3 legs (the rear left leg broke last winter and couldn't be fixed - it was actually the elbow joint...it's been getting worse since, though she didn't seem in pain until a couple months ago...but she hasn't put weight on it for 3 months or so). Yes, her appetite is great. Yes, she goes up and down stairs, with encouragement. She sleeps, wags her tails, goes to the dishwasher to lick the dishes. She still has a great quality of life. Except for the leg.
But she's a 10 year old golden.
I'm not saying this was an easy decision for us. Is it fair to put our beloved dog through an operation like this? Would it be more loving, more humane to let her go? Honestly? I don't know the answer. Are we being chickens by hoping for amputation? Just putting off the inevitable and forcing her to live with pain, longer?
I don't know.
We do believe she loves life still. Loves her walks to the pond, her treats, her food, her snuggles. And we honestly believe without that leg, her pain will be gone and her life will improve. And that she's in great shape, except...
The vet has agreed that amputation is a legitimate option - and the operation will be on Monday. Apparently it's more traumatic for the 'parents' than for the 'puppy' - I hope that's true.
But we love her - and while we'd hate to see her go, we'd really hate to put her down without trying every reasonable option. We'll see. And watch her closely. And if, after the operation, she's still in distress - well, then hope will shift one more time.
We hope we have the courage and decency to do what's right.
But for now, we have every reason to believe it will be a greart success, and three-legged Maggie will be in fine form!
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Been sick in bed for 2 days...flu I think - so much for having the shot! Started feeling queasy yesterday morning on our way to breakfast, but I thought that was just stress. It always hits me in the stomache. But as the day progressed (and we did chores all over town) I got to feeling more and more nauseus. Had to do some grocery shopping, including buying Michael his dinner...by then I knew I wouldn't be eating anything.
Now, if it's folly to grocery shop while hungry, it's even worse to do it when wanting to throw up.
Poor Michael. I came home with mince tarts, pannetone and broccoli. Then had a hot bath, crawled into bed. Took my temperature. 101. Within an hour it had climbed to 102. Spent the night trying not to throw up. I suspect Michael (after a dinner of broccoli and pannetone) probably did the same thing. But at sometime in the night the fever broke and the nausea disappeared.
Having been motion sick a few times in my life I think nausea is just about the worst thing. I kept thinking of my friends who've gone through chemo and thought if they can take it for months on end I can sure not whimper for one night.
Passed the time by planning my funeral. Very moving. You were all very sad. I did wonder what would happen to book 5 - THE BRUTAL TELLING...since it's still in the editing stage.
However, it appears (against all odds) I've survived. Still a little wiped...but had enough energy to get up for a few hours and do another 50 pages of editing. Happily I really do love this book so it didn't add to the desire to vomit.
Small snow storm on the way for tomorrow....10-15 centimeters expected. But what makes it a storm is really more the winds. I love storms, as long as we don;t have to go out in it.
Lise dropped by today and delivered 3 amazing, exhuberant gift baskets she'd made. chocolates, truffles, cookies, pickles...one is a gift for us and 2 we ordered to give to friends. One to Lucy and Danny at the Brome Lake Books, and the other to neighbors Guy and Nicole. I'll tell you, Lise is the MOST amazing woman. Her talent is matched (and perhaps exceeded) by her generosity.
Talk tomorrow...be well. I won't kiss you.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
It's a dull day, outside. But lovely inside. Tree is up and decorated, as is the house. We don't go overboard - just a few small things. Wreath on the door. Santa sleigh on the roof. (kidding).
Today I editing about 60 pages of THE BRUTAL TELLING while listening to Christmas carols in front of the fire, with the tree lights on. Somehow, it doesn't feel like work. Now am off to a bath. Michael and I had a terrific dinner last night at the bistro in Sutton with David and Lili. Steak frites. Can't go wrong. We talk a lot of politics...US, Canada, Quebec, and local. biggest thing in our lives is this massive, horrible gas station and convenience store in the middle of town. It's so tall it actually blocks out the view of the ski mountain. 16-hundred people signed a petition (organized by city hall) to stop construction...and city hall ignored it and allowed the building anyway. Sound familiar.
So we're boycotting it. If you come to Sutton, please get gas somewhere else. And please use the tiny convenience store down the street...the one in danger of going under because of the gas company store.
Honestly. The service station used to be a real delight. Privately owned, it hired young men and women - kids really. Often their first jobs. They'd pump the gas...and older people would come from miles away because they didn't have to get out of the car on cold, rainy, snowy days. And the kids were so bubbly and nice.
The first thing the new owner did was fire the kids, make it self-serve, then ignore the wishes of the population and expand.
Here ends the rant.
We're off for breakfast in cowansville tomorrow - and hoping to take Maggie to the vet. And do more editing. As you see, it's quite a long process, this writing of books.
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Another stunning day, but totally different than yesterday. We had another 4-6 inches overnight so there's about a foot of fluffy new snow. So white and undisturbed. And with the sun bouncing off it its like a field of diamonds.
We have a glass solarium attached to our country kitchen - I think I've described this before. When we're sitting in it it feels as though we're outside. Particularly spectacular during storms. But this morning it was even more magical. The snow on top had partially melted and encased half the glass in ice. That alone is beautiful. But when the sun strikes it it becomes like a prism. And through that prism of light and colour we can see the yard...the birdfeeders piles high with snow, the pine boughs and white fences and stone walls all coverred. And in the background sky. Perfect blue sky.
I could stare at it all day.
Lise dropped in around 9am...she had tea and we had our coffees. She brought gummi bears and home-made date squares. Does it get better than that? We chatted and I told her how much people are loving the Christmas ornaments she made. Showed her the emails and told her about the other reactions. I know how much she appreciates what you say.
Thank you, from her and me.
Hoping to decorate the tree and the house today. Going out for dinner tonight with a couple of friends - David and Lili. Then back in to some more polishing on book 5. It never actually ends!
Hope you're well...and don't forget to enter the draw for the signed copies of A FATAL GRACE! This contest ends Monday - but then a new one begins...for signed copies of THE CRUELEST MONTH. But you need to sign up for the newsletter. You can find the info on the website homepage.
Enjoy the day.
Friday, 12 December 2008
Stunning day - loads of fresh snow - about 10 inches...25 or so centimeters. Piled up on the trees and in the fields and on the roads. so beautiful. Everything shades of gray and dark green today. And yet it is so peaceful. Muted.
Not great for travel. Lise was supposed to come this morning but we called back and forth and at first re-scheduled for 1pm, then cancelled completely because the roads really are too treacherous. We drove in to Sutton early before it got too bad and did a few chores. Bought orange biscotti (not exactly a chore) then when we got back home safe and sound we celebrated by making cafe au laits and dipping the biscotti into them. Lunch was home made soup I made yesterday after roasting a chicken and boiling it up. fills the home with such comforting aroma.
Got the Christmas decorations up from the basement. The tree is up in the lving room. Lights on. Fire laid in the hearth...but probably won't get further until Sunday...perhaps tomorrow.
Did some Christmas cards today...then laid out on the sofa in the TV room and watched Gladiator. Wept and wept. (fab sound track too!) I'd forgotten just how wonderful it is.
It is the dream - to be in the country, with husband and dogs, and friends visiting, fire laid, tree up, christmas lights outside, and snow gently and insistantly falling. And no need to leave. No planes to catch. No trains. No long drives.
A deep dream of peace. Hope you've also found some peace, in your own way. Or can see it coming...I know you probably haven't started your vacation yet.
Thanks for reading...I'll report in from the home front tomorrow. Oh, yes. Dropped by the bakery meaning to buy fresh croissants (they were out) but comforted myself by getting a fresh pear and cranberry pie. The place smelled of tortierre in the ovens. Heaven.
Peace and heaven. Of course, I think I appreciate it all the more for having gone away a lot.
'Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
as home his footsteps he hath turned,
from wandering on some foreign strand.'
My grandfather taught me that poem when I was 8. I actually use it in book 4 (THE MURDER STONE/A RULE AGAINST MURDER). Gamache remembers his father teaching it to him - though I use an earlier bit.
I love wandering on some foreign strand...but my heart burns for home.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Stayed in Montreal last night. The snow had stopped (Montreal had about 30 centimetres) but it was dark by the time the train arrived and rush hour...and I thought...well this is why we've kept an apartment in the city. So I chatted with Michael a couple of time, walked to the store for dinner. Didn't feel like ordering pizza (I might be dying)...but at the store all I felt like was fruit so got two small buckets of sliced mangos and some yoghurt.
As soon as I got home I smelled someone cooking steak. And looked down at my pathetic pile of fruit. Had I really forgotten I'm a carnivore? Of course then all I craved all night, as I ate the mango, was red meat.
Michael and I are trying to do one day a week vegetarian. To save the planet and our waistlines. Its an imperfect effort. And result.
Had lunch today in Sutton with our friend Cotton. Just ran into her coming out of the bakery, and Michael was at the post office - so we all met up at the tea room for lunch. Always fun when that happens.
Lovely to be home - with Michael and the girls. And heaven to know we aren't going anywhere for a month...until A RULE AGAINST MURDER comes out January 20th in the US. I'll be going to Phoenix for a couple of days just then. Then off to Quebec City for a month to research the next book.
But for now - we're home. Bring on the blizzards. We have hot chocolate, christmas cake, duck tortiere (today is NOT the vegetarian day) and clementines. And each other.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Had a great time at Casa Loma last night. forgot to mention another mystery writer who was there and read from his first mystery - though he's written many other books. John Moss. His book is called Still Waters.
Casa Loma was beautifully decorated for the holidays - Christmas lights and a massive tree in the huge hall. Lovely.
Came back to the hotel, called Michael, read and went to sleep. Breakfast arrived about half an hour ago and now I have to run downstairs and grab a cab to the train station...heading back to Montreal. We'll see what the roads are like for the drive down.
We're nearing the shortest day...night fall comes early. It's dark by 4pm - and dusk by 3pm. And the sun doesn't rise before 7:30 pr 8am.
I'll write more tomorrow. Be well.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Am in my lovely hotel room at the SoHo Met in Toronto. Having breakfast of hot porridge, fresh fruit and coffee. Coming here is one of my favorite things. The rooms are amazing, the staff aware and happy (some people are good at this job and others shouldn't be close to the public - but at the SoHo Met they choose people who manage to be solicitous without being surly or obsequious). The general manager is wonderful! One of my favorite hoteliers ever. David Kelley. Hope to grab a coffee with him later.
Thank you to Taryn Manias at McArthur and Co (Canadian publishers) for putting me up here for 2 nights - heaven.
Came down yesterday afternoon by Via1 - first class - also thanks to McArthur. I mention first because it isn't all that much more expensive than regular, but what a difference. Much more room - and not a bad hot meal. Met Jill Walker, a friend from CBC, on the train. We worked together in Quebec City...so we had a fun chat then retired to our own chairs. I stared out the window for 5 hours, listening to my iPod and letting my mind wander.
Can't tell you how useful that is...not only deeply, deeply relaxing, but creative. Had a whole bunch of ideas for THE BRUTAL TELLING and book 6. The only question seems to be whether I can read my notes. Writing on the train isn't actually all that easy. So, if THE BRUTAL TELLING is garbled to you, I'd blame the Canadian railway system. (I do for most things anyway)
Am spending much of today addressing the editors notes on THE BRUTAL TELLING then being picked up by Ann and Taryn from McArthur to head to a 7:30 event at Casa Loma. Loads of terrific Canadian mystery writers there...
John McFetridge - wonderful writer of the Toronto series of noirs
Sean Chercover - whose latest Trigger City is getting rave reviews everywhere
Mary Jane Maffini - one of my personal favorite authors
Linwood Barclay - who is a huge bestseller
Giles Blunt - No Such Creature
Everyone on the list is an Arthur Ellis winner or nominee - and this is an unbelieveable opportunity to get a signed book as a Christmas gift - from any or all of us.
Speaking of signed books - don't forget to go to the home page of my website http://www.louisepenny.com/ and sign up for the signed copies of A FATAL GRACE. It's a Christmas giveaway. Good luck.
And, we did the draw for the Three Pines Christmas ornament - thank you to everyone who entered. The correct answer to the question was 'Ogilvy's'. And since I'm in Toronto and forgot to bring the winners names I can't tell you who won - except that we've notified them so if you haven't heard... But thank you for entering. It was a fun contest...and a fabulous prize.
Quebec election held last night. Mike did an amazing job hosting the election special. Provincial Liberals won a majority...and the official opposition is the separatist Parti Quebecois. They always do this dance...take turns leading. Though this is the third mandate in a row for the Liberals.
Must go. Porrdige getting cold - not many foods worse than congeled porridge.
I'll try to blog tomorrow, but I have an early train and depending on weather will try to drive back to Sutton. Speaking of weather (as all Canadians do) it was minus 22 yesterday morning when we wiped the snow off the car to head in. And the windchill made it feel 10 degrees colder. And yet - it was also terribly beautiful. A brilliant blue, crisp morning. Dangerous driving though. Black ice.
But way milder today Michael says. Rain expected. Would much rather have snow and minus 20!
Sunday, 7 December 2008
Had a marvellous dinner with Mike and Dom last night. Fire on in the guest cottage - cold night - we walked in and were wrapped in warmth and the most luscious aroma. Slow cooked lamb provencale. Dom's from France and really, really know how to cook. So we sat and chatted over drinks - wine for them, water for Michael and me - then moved into the dining room and just had a great time. Mike and I go back before I met my Michael...we worked together in Quebec City...and Dom is an amazingly talented marketing person. He was just in London co-ordinating the launch of 2 new high end fragrances. So fun to hear about their lives, and to talk about our candidly with people we know and trust. It was fun, calm, relaxing and stimulating at the same time.
Then home to the puppies, last out for the night - and fell asleep in Michael's arms.
Have a fairly quiet day. Pat and Tony came before breakfast to pick up things we're giving to the Reilly House - a senior's centre in Mansonville...Pat volunteers there. After finishing the blog I have some emails to return, an interview to do, the ornament draw to make (for the two spectacular Christmas balls Lise made, inspired by the Three Pines books) - and two book endorsements to write...one for a Canadian publisher (terrific book actually set in Norfolk) and one for an American publisher for a mystery also set in the UK (the writers are both British) - it's a manor house mystery set in 1805 - with a wonderful Miss Marple-esque aunt/detective.
Couple hours work should do it. Then off to Toronto tomorrow for an event at Casa Loma at 7:30 Tuesday night. Weather's supposed to be horrible! Mix of rain and snow. Wouldn't you know it?
Received my notice in the mail about the start of my mammograms. Every Canadian woman starts screening (if she wants) at the age of 50...having a mammogram every 2 years. Have a close friend - Sharon - whose cancer was found that way - early too, thank God. I'll do that after Christmas.
I'll try to blog tomorrow morning before heading in to Montreal - then hopping the train to Toronto. We have a provincial election tomorrow...looking like the Liberals will win with the Parti Quebecois (the separatist party) coming in second...no big surprise there.
Take care - talk tomorrow I hope.
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Just came home after having breakfast with Joan in Sutton and running some errands and found 4 deer in the field, including a baby. They didn't seem at all bothered by us, but we waited to walk the dogs until the deer had disappeared. Even then Maggie and especially Trudy picked up their scent and hared off after them. No hope of ever catching a deer, of course - besides, they were long gone.
The dogs then ate what the deer had left behind. Disgusting. I hate to tell you the things those dogs will eat. And then, when we go to buy dog food the person always asks whether they prefer lamb or chicken. Honestly, they'd really prefer lamb or chicken poop. These are not choosy animals.
Had a hilarious time yesterday with the marvelous Nancy - who rescues our computers at least twice a month. This time both computers and both printers, and the blackberry were malfunctioning. After a time she solved the computer problems and turned her considerable attention to the printer. Mine, she discovered, needed to be plugged in. And Michael's was slightly more complex...his had sunflower seeds inside.
Seems while we were in Paris the mice had work to do and were either printing, faxing or copying. They'd left a stash of seeds there. Can you believe it? We can't figure out how they (or it) got into the printer, but they can squeeze through the tiniest crack. So Nancy dumped the seeds out and now the printer is ours again - but there's going to be one pissed off mouse in a few weeks when it saunters in looking for dinner. As Nancy said, it could have been worse. Could have been a bear in there.
Had great news this week - A RULE AGAINST MURDER got another starred review. This one from Booklist! Here's a quote...
“Readers who haven’t discovered Louise Penny and her Armand Gamache series yet are in for a treat….Not only are we treated to Penny’s usual rich characterizations, but the atmospheric and beautiful language will make you want to take your next vacation at the manoir….One of the best traditional mystery series currently being published.”
So that's three starred reviews - Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist, and a rave from Publishers Weekly. I want to remind those of you in the US that the book goes on sale January 20th - co-incidental with the inauguration of Barack Obama. Hope he doesn't mind being over-shadowed.
Just a reminder too that the newsletter draws are nearing...we'll be holding it tomorrow for the Three Pines Christmas ornaments, and later in the week for the free copies of A Fatal Grace. All you have to do for the books is sign up for my newsletter.
Must head off - Monsieur Charbonneau, the chimney sweep is arriving any minute now (he actually wears a tophat), and then we're heading to the guest house for dinner with Mike and Dom. We're providing the dessert, which of course Laurent in Sutton is actually making. It's a yummy custardy-tarty thing he called F and B - which stands for framboise et Bleuet...Raspberries and Blueberries.
As you see our intolerable life staggers on. Talk tomorrow. Hope you're well.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Michael's off at the dentist and we've packed up ready to go back to the country. Funny, but I feel a bit conflicted. I really miss home, and the puppies and the friends. But I don't miss what feels like the press of everyday life - of needs. Mail to be opened, responded to, phone calls to return, all sorts of invitations. So muich better to have them than not - my feelings get quite hurt if I feel left out. But at the same time, just to be contrary, I feel stressed about social engagements and really just want to lock the door, close the curtains, draw a bath, play with the puppies and not have to be sociable.
But I also know that once home I'll feel much better.
Have absolutely nothing planned for tomorrow - except laundry. Need to remember the radio interview this afternoon.
Oh, and fabulous news!!!! Sarah Melnyk, my publicist at St Martin's Minotaur in the US wrote yesterday to say A RULE AGAINST MURDER had received a starred review in Library Journal! There are 4 big journals that do literary reviews before a book is published in the states. Libary Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Booklist. To be reviewed in any one of them is really the goal since they're innundated with books and can't possibly review them all. And clearly a starred review is spectacular and rare.
Bookstores and libaries rely on these journals to decide which books to order and promote, since they can't read all the books either.
So this is especially good news.
As well, the large print rights to THE MURDER STONE were sold at auction in London yesterday. All the books have been published in large print, for people with difficulty seeing regular print, but this is the first time there's been an auction - which means two publishing houses were bidding against each other. That feels good.
Michael and I have been discussing selling one of our cars since for the most part we do everything together anyway. Given both the economy and the environment, it seems to make sense. The only problem is when I need to travel that would leave Michael alone in the country without a car.
We have more discussing to do. It's really more a psychological issue since friends would be happy to drive him into the village, or we can stock up for the day or two I'll be away. But it's not comfortable feeling isolated like that. We might get a little car to just scoot around in as a second car. I looked at Mini Coopers on the web and thought they looked fabulous - but do you see the price? 31,000 dollars for a car that fits in my purse?
More talking and more searching. And like everyone else - less spending. Heard a wonderful phrase on the Today Show this morning. More love, less spending. Makes sense to me. Spend time with people instead of giving gifts. And maybe choose to give gifts to people really in need, instead of Michael giving me one more thing. I like that idea.
Enough babble. We've ordere a couple of pizzas to take down to the country to Tony and Pat - to thank them for looking after Maggie and Trudy. As soon as they arrive and Michael calls, we're heading home.
Be well - will talk tomorrow.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Nice quiet day. Had breakfast with Jim and Sharon at Chez Cora's and now home. Still replying to emails and doing Christmas cards. Started to wrap gifts for people too. We have Mike and Dom coming to the country this weekend and Susan the following weekend...then Jim and Sharon for Christmas. It's a wonderful time to be with good friends.
Tomorrow we need to return the Paris apartment key to our friends. Then Michael has a dentist appointment, then hop in the car and head to the country. I have an interview with the local radio at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon.
I'm very happy to say there isn't much to report. Except, the heat's off in the apartment here. Good excuse to get back into pajamas, do up a hot sack, make a tea and crawl back under trhe covers and watch season one of Entourage. I think I'm hooked! Watched Get Smart Monday (didn't like the movie) and Hellboy 2 yesterday (by Jane Austin I believe). Funny with an odd sort of charm. Tonight I have Tropic Thunder on the playlist.
Talk tomorrow. Hope you're well. We're all getting quite antsy about the economy, but we keep reminding ourselves that we've been through it before - these things are cyclical...and we need not panic. Cut down on spending, yes. Be sensible (my strong suit, as you may have gathered) - but don't panic. Breathe through your nose, as my friend Sharon says.
So we breathe, and count our blessings.
Monday, 1 December 2008
Back from Paris! Early. I know, sounds loopy to me too, but Michael and I decided after a couple of days that really, we just wanted to be home. OK - I was the one who decided. And, it gets worse - if possible. We arrived on a Sunday. It was snowing! Can you believe it? But, it was still Paris so that wasn't too bad. We were staying in a friend's apartment in St Germain des Pres (great area). But by Monday I realized I was just exhausted...and that the vacation I really wanted and needed was to just stare at a black wall for a week, and do nothing...I had no energy left, and Paris demands energy. So, over a cafe cream in a local bistro, I broached the subject with Michael...could we go home early?
This was not the question he was expecting. Can we buy an apartment ourselves in St. Germain? Can we head off to the Louvre after lunch? Can we go to the Michelin starred restaurant for dinner.... all those he might have found natural if not welcome. But my actual question left him speechless.
And then he smiled, took my hand, and said yes. When would you like to leave?
I thought about it and said, Wednesday. Two days from then. Which would have put us at 3 days in Paris.
His eyes widened a bit, but still he smiled. By now he might have been numb. Or just grateful I didn't ask if we could go to a real estate office and see about an apartment of our own. It's quite helpful that I've tenderized him a bit by making passing references to ridiculous things like that. Anything slightly less ridiculous sounds downright rational. Like leaving Paris almost as soon as we arrive.
Once back at the apartment he called Air Canada, re-booked, paid the penalty.
Next day we had breakfast at Les Editeurs (a fab bistro in the place d'odeon), walked to the Musee Rodin (great museum - astonishing to see the Burghurs of Calais which I refer to in book 4 right there - as well as the Gates of Hell, the Kiss, the Cathedral etc - thrilling) then off to Au Bon Marche (a department store like Harrods in London - if in Paris you really must try to drop by) We go there for the food court, of course.
In the food section - in front of the bank of cheeses - I turned to Michael....
I'm thinking...(I could see him stealing himself - here comes the apartment question...) Maybe we shouldn't leave tomorrow. Maybe we should stay a little longer.
Once again, he looked stunned. Paris seems to have that effect on him.
When? he managed to ask.
Well, maybe Saturday?
Bless his soul, he smiled again, albeit slightly thinly, and said yes. So we loaded up on presents from Maxim's of Paris (chocolates) and cheeses, cold cuts, baguettes and pastries and headed back to the apartment. And the phone.
Yes, said nice Air Canada, for a penalty you can re-book. They didn't buy Michael's argument that one of us had been insane during the last re-booking and maybe we shouldn't have to pay twice. And don't they have a 'family pack' a discount for bulk re-booking? no.
So we got seats on the Saturday flight back to Canada. Then Michael had the very good grace to admit he was happy about that...pleased to stay longer and pleased to head home slightly early.
I think had Rodin witnessed what Michael did for me last week he'd have included his imagine in the selfless men of the burghurs of Calais. Or maybe the Gates of Hell.
So for the remainder of our time we had breaskfast every morning at Les Editeurs, went to Notre Dame, twice. Once to just lap it up, the second time for an hour or so of quietude. The choir was singing and we sat at the front away from the crowds...and it was magical.
We went to the Louvre (late November is a great time - almost empty) walked the Jardin des Tuileries - had steak frites on the rue de Rivoli and wonderful seafood at La Mediteranee. Walked through the Jardin de Luxemburg (next to our friends apartment) - bought newspapers and baguette and cheese every afternoon and went home exhausted to feast.
Then climbed on the plane and came home. I was ready. This has been a tiring year and I really, really just want to do nothing. So now we're back in Montreal - with a stack of rented DVD's and books and a big, comfortable, familiar bed. Here until Wednesday, then back to Sutton and 'real' life.
Have an interview this afternoon with the Toronto Star and want to respond to about 250 emails (not kidding), but will take my time.
Because I was away I didn't get a chance to wish those of you in the States a very happy Thanksgiving. Hope it was exactly as you wanted it to be.
It is good to be home. Though, an apartment in Paris would be nice. Oh, Michael...
Saturday, 22 November 2008
What a fun day, so far...
Heading off by train to Quebec City...on Via Rail. I'm always a little surprised by how dull the terrain is. Very flat, not especially pretty...we hardly see the St. Lawrence river...but as we get close to Quebec we cross it, and that's quite spectacular. It's a wonderful train trip...I'm very lucky that my publishers send me first class so I got a lovely large seat to myself, with meals. And a chance to just stare out the window and daydream. Heaven.
Once in Quebec City it was 4pm and dark. Sun sets so early these days. Took a cab up to the CBC-Radio Canada offices on St. Jean, which is just outside Les Portes St. Jean - the gates through the thick stone wall into Old Quebec. There are three gates, of which this is one.
Jacquie Czernin had me on her 4-6 show. What a lovely woman she is. We worked together briefly before I moved From Quebec City to Montreal back in 1990 (can barely stant it that it was 18 years!!!). We had a great time on her show - chatting to the whole province.
Then Guy Dubois, the owner of La Maison Anglaise bookstore picked me up. He's an old friend and he and his wife Christine have a 2 week old daughter - their first. Gabrielle. Michael and I got her the softed little bunny rabbit doll. I forget how tiny and pretty little ones are. And Gabrielle is adorable...I met her later in the evening. But Guy drove me across town to my hotel.
Now - if you need to go to Quebec City - or actually the neighboring suburb of Ste Foy - you must stay at the Hotel ALT. It's a fabulous boutique hotel, all re-done, with amazing bathrooms, and ?TV's and lighting, huge high loft ceilings, massive rooms, comfortable huge beds. Perfect. It was all I could do to leave it to walk to the talk and signing. One note about the Hotel ALT - do not stay there if your interntion is to visit Quebec City - it's too far out. Ste. Foy is like Brooklyn ()well, not really - but in terms of distance to the city centre. I imagine most of the people at the hotel were like me - there on business. Very few tourists would choose to stay in Ste. Foy. Too bad because it really is a great hotel.
The talk mand signing was such fun. I LOVE the people at La Maison Anglise. They're the QC equivilent of Brome Lake Books in Knowlton. Independent, smart, beautifully and sympathetically designed by people who just love books. It a read community hub.
Rana Bose, whopse book is The Fourth Canvas, was also there. He read from his work and I bought 2 books! It sounds great. Then I had a chance to read. Loads of people - feels like old home week. Very fun and comfortable, and successful.
Back at the hotel by 9pm, in bed by 10pm - alarm at 6am - and off to the train station for an 8am ride back to Montreal, and the Quebec Salon du Livres...which is the book fair. Except this one, unlike any I've been to anywhere else, is open to the public...and lasts a week (with one day dedicated to schools). It's a madhouse...all these grown men and women on the literary equivilent of a sugar high. Racing from booth to booth to get books signed by old favorites, and meeting new authors...it was just buzzing. My signing was 2-3. Kim McArthur (my Canadian publisher) was there in all her glory. As was Taryn Manias of McArthur, and Debra Schram, a book rep who helped organize that Hovey Manor launch.
One of the very few disappointments in my publishing career - and it's quite a large and mystifying one - is that while the series is translated into all sorts of languages (including Estonian for heavens sake) it has no French publisher. I'm genuinely baffled. Anyway, one day perhaps.
The book is #10 on the bedsellers list this week so you'd think a French publisher (hello, Quebec is French!!!) might be interested. But apparently not.
But we had a riot at the Salon, signed loads of books, met lots of people.
Then hopped a cab, came home, re-organized clothing and bags and we're off to the airport in 45 minutes for...now where again...oh yes...PARIS!!! Did I mention that before? Surely not.
We've decided not to take a computer - to make this a complete vacation. Will try to blog from Paris at least once, give you an update...but I hope you understand if it doesn't work.
Oh yes - the winner of the draw for the Three Pines Christmas ornament, designed and made by my fabulous assistant Lise is....London Kate! Distance notwithstanding.
Now, Kate - you need to give us your address. Please write it privately through the 'contact me' page on my website. Thank you and congratulations! It really is stunning.
Thanks to everyone who wrote emails and messages on the comments section of the blog. We'll have give-aways every now and then - and some through the newsletter as well and the website. Big one beginning on the website early in December, so you need to keep checking the home page.
Thanks so much - a bientot.
Friday, 21 November 2008
Quick blog - running off to the train station to catch the train to Quebec City for the event at 7pm at La Maison Anglaise. Beautiful, crisp winter day here. Just picked up the key to the apartment we're renting in Paris. Belongs to a friend here. It's in St Germain des Pres in Paris, right by the Luxembourg gardens. Heaven.
Tomorrow I'm heading back to Mtl for a signing at the huge Montreal Book Fair - called the Salon du Livres. 2-3pm signing. Then grabbing Michael and the suitcases and off to the airport. Hope not to get caught in traffic...there's the Santa Claus parade in Montreal tomorrow and Grey Cup - the HUGE Canadian football finals in the city this weekend too.
Lots happening this weekend.
Thanks for all your entries in the Christmas ornament draw! Will choose a winner tomorrow and hope to have time to post the blog before we leave.
Speak soon - have a great weekend!
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Wonderful day - Lise arrived at 9am to help us dig out from the office overload! All the stuff we'd moved from the loft-office in Sutton was still sitting in my study at home and Michael's office right next to mine. It looked like someone had turned the house upside down.
I reeeeally hate dis-order. I don't need everything all tidy - that would drive me crazy too. But after a point I find I get totally stressed in an environment that's cluttered. Our home can get like that. I love to throw things out and Michael, well, doesn't. So we've tried to compartmentalize things...his study can be as topsy-turvy as he likes, and mine is in whatever shape it's in. We try not to interfer in those areas. But often that 'mess' expands into the kitchen and dining room and living room - with mail and magazines and newspapers and books all piled up. I actually like a bit of that - feels comfortable and lived in and not too anal...but it reaches a stage with me where I just want to scoop it all up, put it in recycling and be shot of it.
We reached that stage at home about a month ago but our lives have been so hectic there wasn't anything we could do.
Until today. Glorious today...glorious Lise!
With barely a gasp she saw the disaster areas - the we rolled up our sleeves and unpacked boxes and bags - sorting into recycling, stuff to give to the senior's home for their sales, stuff to keep, and garbage. When in doubt I'd hol;d something up and Lise would ask, Are you ever gtoing to use it? No? Well, maybe someone else will.
Wise - very wise.
Lise also made a dozen Christmas decorations with Three Pines themes...each an original work of art, each designed to hang on the tree! I've signed a small card attached to each, and dates. So that each will become a collectors item.
Am taking two to Quebec City with me tomorrow. One to give away on t5he CBC radio show - Jacquie Czernine's 4-6 show tomorrow...and the other to give away at the event I'll be at tomorrow night in Quebec City at La Maison Anglaise bookstore, in Ste. Foy. I'll be there with another author - Rana Bose. REally looking forward to meeting her.
And I want to give one away to one of you right now...since you're so sup[portive and loyal, and have helped spread the word about my books.
If you leave a comment at the end of this blog saying you'd like the Christmas decoration I will ask Michael to choose a name at random - then ask Lise to mail it to the winner! If you can't - for whatever reason - leave a comment, then just go to the 'contact me' page on the website and leave a message there. I'll give it a few days.
We're in Montreal now...after Lise got us all sorted out, and Tony came to get Maggie and Trudy, Michael and I put the cases in the car and drove to the city. I signed a stack of books at the McGill bookstore where Kim (one of the managers) gave me her copy of a book she adored...AN EXPERT IN MURDER by Nicola Upson. Kim knows I adore Josephine Tey, and in this book Ms Upson has taken the bold move of making Josephine Tey the detective. Imagine that.
Will try to blog tomorrow before heading to Quebec City by train. Lovely journey. 3 1/2 hours...very relaxing. Take care, and don't forget to enter the draw for the handmade Three Pines - dated and signed Christmas ornament!
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Hi there. A quick blog today. maggie's just fine! Yay - well, not perfect but vet says the swelling is what he expected and not to worry. It's not a crisis. Thank heaven. And she doesn't seem in pain. Phew.
Great day - finished polish and will email manuscript for THE BRUTAL TELLING to Teresa tonight.
Busy day - 2 loads of laundry. Nancy coming because my desktop is frozen. helped Tony take Christmas lights off a massive tree out front - we're putting them on the honeysuckle instead. Now have to run over to the guest cottage where the water system seems to have failed! Michael there now trying to figure it out...Tony there...but apparently I've put the manuals somewhere. Oh oh.
If I don't come back you know they've killed me.
Talk tomorrow - I hope.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Odd, but doesn't feel nearly as bitter as the other day when the temperature m,ust have been the same. And it was sleeting. But as always it's the wind that's the culprit.
Lovely to wake up to a layer of fluffy snow. Had already made an appointment to have the winter tires put on this morning, so off we went. Now, the snow might have looked beautiful, but it was surprisingly treacherous underneath. The car was sliding all over the place, and difficult to stop. Happily we're quite used to this sort of driving in Canada...still, it's never pleasant, or comfortable. But we made it just fine. I'm always mostly worried about the people driving toward me. Had a friend I worked with in Thunder Bay years ago who was driving to southern ontario over Christmas with her kids and they were killed in a head-on collison on the highway. A truck lost control in the other direction and hit them. I was quite young and up until that moment thought I was immortal. After that I became mortal. And others became threats. Not sure, honestly, even if you see the truck losing control ahead of you there's much you could do anyway on a snowy highway. Except pray. I wonder where the love of God goes in that moment? Perhaps I should pray I never know. Reminds me of that searing poem from the first world war by Sigfried Sassoon when describing crowds cheering for young men departing for the front - Sneak home and pray you never know
The Hell where youth and laughter go.
Well, enough of this. It remains a beautiful, gentle day. We're home for now. Have just wolfed down a sandwich then looked at the plate and wondered where it went. In 20 minutes we're off again with Maggie to the vet. I dread it - always imagine the worst - but I think it will be just fine. He might give us stronger medication for her swelling. But her tail still wags, and she hops around the pond and gobbles her meals (like her Mom). She has Michael's ears, but definitely her Mom's eating habits. Life seems to still hold a lot of pleasure for her. And while we can see her personal truck starting to veer out of control on the highway ahead we think it's still a distance off.
Hope to finish the polish this afternoon - but if too tired I'll do it tomorrow. Feels so good to be at this stage...almost makes up for all the agony earlier.
Be well and will chat tomorrow. Thanks for reading.
Monday, 17 November 2008
chilly day but dressed warmly and at least made it around the pond twice today! Gary came, poor guy - to fix a leak in our roof (it's always something) and was press-ganged into helping me load the winter tires into the car. Have an appointment in Cowansville at 8am to have them put on.
Breakfast in Cowie while that's being done, then off to do some errands. And in the afternoon we've made a vets appointment for Maggie. Her leg is badly swollen again, so want it checked out before we head out.
Polishing going very well...now at page 503...less than 30 pages to go. Hope to have it finished by tomorrow night. That would leave Wednesday for washing clothes for the trip. Pulled out the Time Out Paris and drooled. Michael ordered our Museum Passes so we're just going to go Museum Mad. Yum.
Will write again tomorrow...hope you're well. Hope all your animals are healthy too!
Sunday, 16 November 2008
It feels far colder than it is - I think it's the wind. Took the dogs around the pond this morning and it was fine, then tried at noon and only got as far as the water, tossed the ball a couple of times, cried, poop! Pee! at them, gave them a cookie then scaddadled back home.
To the fireplace.
To Pat's homemade parsnip soup, like velvet.
To the warm laptop - and THE BRUTAL TELLING.
Am now at page 399 - out of 530. Need to finish by Thursday when I head to Quebec City for an event at this fabulous bookstore there called La Maison Anglaise. That's at 7pm on Friday. Though I have a CBC interview at 5pm. Then back to Montreal the next day to do a signing at the Salon Du Livres - the massive Quebec bookfair. That's on Saturday from 2-3. Then have to rush home, pack and head to the airport for the evening flight to Paris.
Can hardly wait, as you might imagine.
But between now and then I need to finish this polish. It's going well. Infact, I'm really enjoying it...both the book and the process. As those of you who have been reading the blog for the past year know - there have been times with this book I've just wanted to throw it, or me, off the roof. It's been, alternately, brilliant and a pile of crap.
So hard to tell the difference when it's the censurous little voice in my head doing the telling.
But now I see the shape of it, the structure, the characters. I see them and feel them, follow them. I can see the bumps that need smoothing, the slow parts that need zipping up, or taking out. But it really is fine-tuning at this stage. Phew.
Had a wonderful parcel waiting for us when we got home yesterday...it was a quite large box and inside were two cocktail glasses, heavy, elegant, and etched with three pine trees, then underneath were the words, Three Pines.
They were - and are - stunning. And inside was a card from Donald Pile and Ray Williams. They're award winning celebrity travel columnists...syndicated in gay publications across North America. They'd heard of Three Pines and written to tell me some of their readers had told them about the books...so I sent them a couple. And now we're making tentative plans to meet in Maine in mid-June. Who knows, but they sure seem like extremely kind, very interesting people.
As you can see one of the very unexpected and delightful gifts of having books published in meeting people I would never normally meet. And seeing how much kindness there is out there.
Am off - the bath calls, and I for one can never resist.
Saturday, 15 November 2008
I want to sincerely thank Lee Ann for her lovely, courageous blog. I left it up for a few days to let as many people as possible read it. Thomas, by the way, is the young man on the left of the photograph.
Had a busy week since I last spoke to you. Had a fun event at the Westmount Public Library Wednesday night. I used to live in Westmount, which is a city within the city of Montreal. It's quite Anglo - famous for it really. Thouigh, happily, those lines are blurring. But it was particularly moving for me to speak there since I used to sit in the library doing research, when I only dreamed of writing.
Then I hopped a train next morning for Toronto and went to a fund-raising event organized by the amazing Janet Sommerville, a teacher at Royal St George's Academy. Every year she gathers 6 authors and organizes a signing at Ben McNally's bookstore in TO - so that people can buy great signed first edition books as Christmas gifts - and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Ryerson Reading project.
Next morning I spoke for an hour to some of the older students at the school itse;f. They're studying DEAD COLD. Wonderful questions they had - and for a room full of 17 year old boys, they were very respectful. Indeed, I spoke there last year and came up with the character of Elliott, from THE MURDER STONE based on one of the young men at that school.
Took the train home and arrived 8 last night. On the train I asked the man ahead of me not to put his seat back, since I have quite long legs...I asked very nicely and did say putting the seat back partway wouldn't be a problem, but nal the way might be. He was so kind, and didn't budge his seat. As we neared montreal I gave him a signed first edition of THE MURDER STONE as a thank you - and realized how good it felt to be able to do that. He said his wife reads loads of mysteries, so with any luck she'll enjoy that. But I was sincerely grateful to him. His name was Andre, and his wife was Barbara.
We're still in Montreal...heading bacvk to sutton. Friends - Bal and Linda Mount - are staying at the guest cottage this weekend...we're going over there for coffee and dessert tonight. Then hope to finish the polish on THE BRUTAL TELLING. Need to get it done before we head to Paris next Saturday. What a nice sentence that is!
Take care, hope you're well, and thank you again to Lee Ann. Beautiful woman.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Since Louise invited me to guest blog, I’ve been thinking about how we have spent the four years that have passed since the death of my son Thomas in Iraq on November 11, 2004, Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day here in the United States. Coping with the sudden death of a beloved child is difficult enough but the fact is he died in combat in a war that most do not understand. It leaves us in an ambiguous position with people wanting to be respectful while still expressing their opinion. Our decision on the night that he died was that we wanted Thomas’s memory to be honored, not used by anyone to make a point about the war. We have since discovered that even asking that his memory be honored can be a tricky proposition but memorials have become our cause.
Thomas’s death left me with a thirst for information about life and death in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Thomas’s unit remained in Iraq, I read the StrykerNews website daily, praying for the safety of his fellow soldiers, only once finding the dreaded press release announcing the death of a soldier whose name I knew. This website has a tribute page for the fallen of the various Stryker Brigades, and even now I go back to read it at least once a month. New names are added from time to time, and occasionally someone posts something new about Thomas, even four years later. I am comforted when I find that someone else has remembered him.
Ultimately, the quest for more information has turned into a quest for memorials, evidence that people remember our soldiers, all of them. Whenever I visit a new town, I search out the local war memorials. Sometimes they include names of the fallen, sometimes they have scenes of battle or service. These memorials are particularly numerous in the U.K. In addition, I have developed a sixth sense in looking for references to war memorials in popular culture. Picking up any book at random, I will find that our protagonist is celebrating Remembrance Day in Australia or looking at statues of fallen soldiers. Maybe a year after Thomas died, I read a travelogue by Tony Perrottet, Route 66 AD. In the course of his tour of the Mediterranean region, Mr. Perrottet stops in Turkey to visit the monument where his great-uncle, killed in battle during World War I, is listed. This evidence that even a man who died young and had no children is remembered two generations later reassured me that Thomas’s memory would not be lost either. When I came across Louise’s description of the window in St. Thomas’s in her village of Three Pines (The Cruelest Month), also honoring men who died during the Great War, I thought “Yes! This is why we remember.” And also I thought, “This is how we can remember.”
I’m not expecting a national memorial to the soldiers of Operation Iraqi Freedom any time soon, but a local one would be nice. In the meantime, I content myself with these more subtle memorials. They keep reminding me that we need to keep reminding our community of the sacrifice made by our sons and daughters. Thank you Louise, and thank you all for remembering.
Lee Ann - http://www.souvenons.blogspot.com/
Monday, 10 November 2008
Woke up to snow. Not a lot, and by afternoon it had mostly melted but love lying in bed and looking at it drifting down. Hard to get out of bed those mornings. Dogs LOVE the snow, and so far it isn't deep enough to hamper them.
Had today to ourselves...I spent it in sweats by the fire, editing. Really enjoying THE BRUTAL TELLING. Am at page 221 - not quite halfway through (it's double spaced so not nearly as long as it sounds.)
had wonderful news...great review in Publishers Weekly of A RULE AGAINST MURDER (which is the title of book 4 in the states.) Here's an excerpt...
Murder interrupts Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his wife’s annual summer holiday at Quebec’s isolated, lake-front Manoir Bellechasse in Agatha-winner Penny’s intriguing, well-crafted fourth mystery (after 2008’s The Cruelest Month)....Seamless, often lyrical prose artfully reveals the characters’ flaws, dreams and blessings.
And, speaking of THE CRUELEST MONTH, Robin Agnew at Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor - a real force within the publishing community - has put THE CRUELEST MONTH in her list of Top 10 books for 2008!!! Yippee.
You can go to her site to read the complete list. I'm in amazing company, including William Kent Kruger, marcus Sakey, Cronelia Read, Chris Grabenstein and others. It's a wonderful guide to what to read, if you've run out of ideas.
Michael and I are off to Montreal tomorrow. I'd like to remind those of you in Montreal that I'll be giving a talk at the Westmount Library Wednesday evening at 7, then am off to Toronto, and doing a signing at Ben McNally books on Thursday at 7pm.
Tomorrow is a special day. Remembrance Day here in Canada. also known as Armistace Day and Veterans Day.
I've asked Lee Ann Doerflinger to guest blog. She lost her son, Thomas, in Iraq. He died on November 11th. I'll be keeping her blog up for a couple of days...beginning tomorrow. So we can all count our blessings - for people like Thomas and their sacrifice. And that it hasn't happened to us. Though I do realize Lee Ann is far from alone. Perhaps you too have lost someone. If so, please know, our hearts break for you.
Sunday, 9 November 2008
This is a normal November day - gray, chill, a little rain. But had a fabulous lunch! I tell you, Bill Richardson is just the most wonderful man. Funny, warm-hearted, never a bad word about anyone - no sting in the tail. Just a really smart, kind man, and terrific writer. Cheryl and I and about 60 other townshippers went to the Auberge in Knowlton to hear him read from his latest book, OLD FATHER WILLIAM AND HIS WELL ORDERED WORLD - it's a kind of bathroom book filled with lists...like...a list of people who had bad things happen to them while in a sheeps costume. A list of people born on a kitchen table. A list of famous people who only met once. All told from the perspective of an elderly man who has taken to his bathroom and decided (with the help of meals-on-wheels never to leave).
It's hilarious. I bought 3! Great Christmas gifts.
Then came home and saw, yet again, hunters trolling the backroads...looking for deer. A neighbor saw one yesterday driving, and pointing a rifle out his window. Dear God. I drove slowly ahead of one truck with the intention of honking at any deer in a field, to drive it away, but fortunately I didn't see any.
But when we talk in the woods at this time of year we need to wear bright colours and make sure the dogs have bright collars on.
the downside to country living.
Am heading off to the fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate and more editing. Talk tomorrow.
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Am running a bubble bath so I can't write long. If I hear Michael screaming (generally the signal the bath is full) I'll have to sign off.
THE MURDER STONE is moving up the bestsellers list. It's now number 2 on the Gazette list!
Having a quiet day at home in front of the fire - editing. Intersting and fun part of the process, having been away from THE BRUTAL TELLING for almost a month. I can see places where it can just be smoothed a little, clarified a little, made more subtle. I'm at page 130 now and have stopped for the day. A little tired...we're going out tonight so I also want to relax in a bath. And I want to write a new scene...a fun scene I think/hope. Nothing long, but I do want it to be precise, so I want to approach it with a fresh mind.
Off tomorrow with Cheryl for lunch at the Auberge in Knowlton, to hear Bill Richardson talk. He's a writer from Vancouver, who is also a broadcaster on CBC Radio. I find given my exerpience on book tour I really love supporting other writers...I know how scary it can be. And this also seems like fun.
Off to bathe. Hope you're having a relaxing weekend. Talk tomorrow.
Friday, 7 November 2008
It continues very mild for this time of year in Quebec. Did you see the huge storm in South Dakota? Wow. Those early storms are killers...snow tends to be wet and heavy. But - have to say - if you don't have to go out in it, and everyone you know and love is safe - they're great! I LOVE snowstorms. Absolutely nothing in the world like being at home, in front of the fire, with a hot chocolate and a good book while the snow piles up outside.
Last night was a lot of fun at McGill University's bookstore. Kim - who organizes events - was lovely and gracious and effective. Very important, that last. And Anna Asimakopulos was gorgeous and articulate - a great listener...steered the conversation, make the think, was smart and thoughtful. And the audience asked terrific questions too.
When it was over I scooted out of Montreal and was back home by 9pm. Michael's feeling better, as is Maggie. What a relief!
This morning we went to Knowlton for breakfast - cafe au laits, scambled eggs and melted brie - bacon for Michael. Dropped off some organic vegetables to Pat, who brought us over some home-made apple crisp yesterday, and some soup for Michael. So kind.
Then we got our flu shots at the local clinic. Great to have that done.
Terrific news from the UK. The ever picky Time Out London gave THE MURDER STONE a terrific review - sandwiched between reviews for Michael Connelly and Stephen King. Here's an except in which they highlight something no one else has...
'...but it's not all shudders and suspense: a terrifi scene of a child teaching an adult to throw sticky biscuits at the manoir's ceiling offers giggle-inducing comic relief.'
And had a call from Greg...he's a travel agent specializing in Africa. Michael's 75th birthday is coming up in April and he's talked about wanting to go on a safari one day. So I figured - well - what better place to wake-up on your 75th birthday than in a luxurious tent in Botswana? With me?
We're just beginning our research but it was such fun to see Michael all excited after his conversation with Greg. I think in trips like this - once in a lifetime - the planning is as much fun as the event. And Michael sure seems to be having fun.
Life here is good. Worked on the book this afternoon. Teresa gave me some notes...for instance I'm so familiar with the characters she pointed out I tend not to really introduce them anymore. So she asked me to go over the manuscript one more time and try to read it as though I was new to the series. An interesting exercise.
Must be off...am addicted to the news now.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
What a glorious day. We're breaking records here, and everyone in the village has a smile on their faces.
There are two reasons for this - and only one is the weather.
Watching the election last night, and the beautiful concession speak of John McCain, and the powerful, poetic speech of Barack Obama I was reminded of - what else? - poetry. And John Donne in particular. That poem where he says no man is an island...and that 'each man's death dimishes me.'
Well, the opposite is also true. Each person's life enriches us. No one was diminished last night. Listening to Senator McCain, then President-elect Obama - watching the faces, the tears, the rapture even - I knew we were ennobled by those men.
What luck. Like every other reasonable person I know it won't be all 'skittles and beer' as my grandfather might have said. But for today this is a glorious island we find ourselves on. Together.
Michael's still sick in bed. We were supposed to go to a dinner and book club event tonight, but I'll go alone. Will make roast chicken for the sick one. Tomorrow I'm off to an exciting event in Montreal - at the McGill University Bookstore...in their cafe. I love this store, and the people who go there. I gave a talk there in the spring, and this time the wonderful Anna Asimakopulos - the host of the CBC Radio programme Cinq a Six (Saturdays at 5pm)- will interview me. So if you're in the area...5:30 pm tomorrow - drop by. You also get to meet Anna - who is brilliant. Much more interesting than me.
And the MRB - the Montreal Review of Books - gave THE MURDER STONE a fabulous review.
The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene...we realize that there were plenty of clever clues along the way.
So that's pretty fun.
Be well - and talk tomorrow.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
unusually warm today. lovely. Michael's a little sick - is spending the day in bed. Just a cold, but he's tired too. On the very good side, Maggie's a lot better! Her leg isd less swollen and she made it all around the pond this morning. Didn't think we'd see that again. She still can't use her leg, and never will again, but she appears to be without pain, or it's at least managable. Phew. So the spectre on the hill has receded.
We spent yesterday afternoon at the notary office in Knowlton, signing over 50 acres of our property to the local conversation authority, so that no one will be able to ever build on it and the wildlife habitates will remain unspoiled. It was definitely a case of enilightened self-interest. Everyone wins. We get privacy, unspoiled countryside and a tax break and the community gets more green land...it helps the environment and our own quality of life.
We could never have afforded to buy the land and donate it if it wasn't for the books - and you supporting them...so thank you! You share the credit (but we keep the tax breaks!)
This morning I arranged for the Euros for our trip to Paris later this month then headed back in to Knowlton to meet Tim Belford for lunch. He's an old colleage at the CBC and a terrific guy. After lunch he taped an interview with me. Then I met Laura for a coffee. She's a very successful and creative local playwright who wants to adapt one of the books for the stage. So we discussed it. Very fun.
Got a couple of Cafe Inn pizzas for dinner, then home to Michael.
We're both almost sick with excitement about the election. Can hardly wait for polls to close. I don't know how you Americans stand the wait...aren't you just bursting? I realize people from both sides read this blog, and this sure isn't the place for politics, so I won't tell you who I'm rooting for, though I suspect you can guess - but I know people on both sides are so passionate. It really is thrilling. And deeply moving to see people lining up for hours to vote. Wonderful. Have to say, I have respect for both candidates ability to keep fighting - what stamina. I couldn't do it, that's for sure.
And, whoever wins, history will be made tonight. And we get to witness it.
Be well - deep breaths - and I'll talk to you tomorrow.
Monday, 3 November 2008
Snow still sticking around...spent most of the day in bed. Was going to just veg, watch a movie, read. But had forgotten that the publisher had sent hundreds of book pages to sign. 600. So I watched School of Rock (hilarious movie - love Jack Black) and signed my name.
Thank you so much to all of you who wrote about my last blog. I want to tell you that we think Maggie is a little better, with the adjustment to her medications, but we also know that might be wishful thinking. So it's 'watchful waiting'. And some healing thoughts. Thank you for all your kind thoughts. Your messages were deeply meaningful to Michael and me. It think it's impossible to overstate the importance, the comfort, that comes with knowing you're not alone.
The other issue many of you wrote about - and chose to email me privately and personally - was the issue of being mocked and belittled. And how hurtful and insidious it is. Again, it was comforting (though perhaps that isn't very generous of me) to know that I'm not alone in that either. How many of us struggle with it? With the guilt of being made to feel we're to blame, or being irrational, or over-sensitive...or my personal favorite - the ones who make us feel ashamed and accuse us of being bullies because we have the audacity to stand up and say something.
Thank you, thank you for your personal stories. I'll be responding, if I haven't already, to all of you. The other thread that ran through some of your responses was the genuine guilt of knowing that after being in a negative, cynical, harsh environment it began to rub off...and the horror of realizing we'd turned into those sorts of people ourselves. I know I've been guilty of that in the past.
When I made a huge change in my life about 15 years ago and decided I was becoming the sort of person I wouldn't choose as a friend, a woman gave me some wonderful advice. And it's simple. And it's something I try to follow. this is what she said.
Choose your friends wisely.
I know I can be impressionable...less so as I grow older, but it can still happen. If I hang around with selfish, self-centred, complaining, entitled, negative people (many of whom are also very smart, fun and funny, bright and full of laughter - very attractive) then there's a chance I'll become like that. If they gossip and say mean things about others, before long I might too.
So I decline that temptation. Now I try to set myself up so that I'm more than likely to be the kind of woman I respect. And I do that by having friends I respect. Choosing to be in the company of women and men who are kind and compassionate, who are tolerant and don't need everyone to agree with them. Who respect a dissenting voice but have the courage to voice their own opinion...not pick a fight, not with a view to swaying the other or debating, but simply stating what they believe. And leave it at that.
And you know what - there are tons of you out there! And I'm so lucky to have found you.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
We're home! Phew. Did a wonderful signing this afternoon at the Sutton bookstore, Livres D'or. Place was packed. I wasn't expecting that since, frankly, everyone knows they'll eventually see me in the produce section of the grocery store anyway. But still, they came out and it was a wonderful party.
It feels so great to be home. But I'm tired. Have felt like curling up and crying most of the weekend. Had the IFOA panel yesterday. Met an old CBC colleague, Marc Cote before hand and we got caught up. That was fun.
Then did the panel. It was the worst panel I've ever been on. Now, granted, I'm a little tired and stressed - but i still know the difference between a panel that was acceptable and one that wasn't. In fact, I just came off 2 of the best panels I think I've ever had - one at Magna Cum Murder and the other at Bouchercon. And I've done about 50 panels now - and moderated quite a few in my writing career, never mind as a journalist.
I suspect from the audience POV it might not have been a disaster. But I know what the potential was. 4 mystery authors...most of whom are thoughtful and have a great deal to say, and a desire to say it. And yet it was flat at best, and insulting at worst.
My problem was much more personal. At one stage I almost got up and left. I was so angry I could feel the tears. I was asked about the main character and how I chose his particular qualities. This is something I've thought a lot about. This is pivotal to the series, to the tone, the approach - to why the books are bestsellers and have won awards worldwide. It doesn't just happen. I was 2 sentences into it when one of the panelists made a snide comment. The audience laughed. I stopped - addressed it briefly - then continued. At which point someone else on stage made a sarcastic comment. The audience laughed. At that point I stared at her and stopped talking.
The panel was a series of half interesting comments from 3 of the panelists (I include myself) interrupted and punctuated by unhelpful, unkind, sarcastic, cynical comments from the other two on stage.
Honestly. It was incredible. As a former CBC Radio host, where interviewing people and moderating panels was my job...under often adversarial and difficult conditions, I know the difference between questions and comments designed to elicite information - to make people comfortable, to get them to open up and really think and contribute. And questions and comments designed to make the speaker look clever at the expense of another person.
I know the snide, easy sarcastic comments weren't meant to hurt me personally. They popped out, probably unthinking. But as I said at one stage, in an attempt to stop them, I'm weary of cynicism. In my bones. Deep down. Not because I'm undefended against it, but because I've been cynical in my life - mostly at the CBC. And I know how facile it is. How easy, how cheap. How tiring. And how unhelpful. If you really want people to talk, don't insult them. Don't go for the cheap laugh. Listen. Be kind.
Anyway, all this to say, you win some, you lose some. This one I lost. And almost lost it. And perhaps I should have. The times I've felt the worst in my life is when I've failed to stand up for myself.
Well, at the very least, I won't be in the company of either of them again. Life's too short. I really do choose to be with people who are kind and supportive. It might seem Polyanna-ish. I'm sure to some it does. Even naive and childish. So be it. It would have seemed that way to me years ago too. Before I turned my back on all that and chose to be kind. But I didn't choose to be weak.
I had a similar experience in terms of insulting behavior when we were last in London. I stood up for myself, was told I was wrong and ungrateful and should not only be sorry, but thank them. I did. And have regretted it since. That was a mistake. I'd hoped that if one of us could rise about it and show good sense and forgiveness, it would stop things from deteriorating, and the others would see sense too. It didn't work that way. So, again, forget it. I will now do what I want - not what they want. Unless it suits my needs too. And I will not quickly choose to be in their company. I'm professional enough that if I have to I will, but it won't be out of choice. And it won't be for long. One of the perks of being 50 and not needing to be insulted and diminished.
Was a time when I felt I had no choice. I needed the job and the bullies won. Now I have a choice. And I choose not to be in the company of people who behave that way. Never again.
Back home we had some good news and some bad. The good news is that The Murder Stone has moved further up the Bestsellers list!
The bad news way overshadows that. Maggie - our 10 year old Golden with the bad leg - is worse. Her whole leg is swollen now and she's not getting around. We've decided that one of us needs to stay home with her now. We upped her pain killers and put her back on steroids, and lay down with her and gave her love and 'high fives' and rubbed her tummy and she licked us. But her tail barely thumped. Though she managed dinner and Michael helped her outside.
We'll do what we can. We just don't want her in pain. And it's so hard to tell with these dogs. They're so stoic. I'm afraid we're heading toward a terrible decision, but one all dog owners and lovers eventually have to make.
Anotehr reason to be kind to each other. And supportive. Isn't life hard enough?