Monday, 31 March 2008


overcast, snow rain mix expected, highs zero

Joan Collins unfortunately can't be with us tonight. She's busy attending the birth of her next husband.
John Parrott

Have to say I've never heard of John Parrott but I thought this quote was hysterical. There's a 23 year age difference between Michael and me - I'm almost 50 and he's turning 74 while we're in London. So wonderful being married to an older man. He's comfortable with himself, strong, wise and funny. Very secure.

One of our favorite quotes about age and relationships is from Groucho Marx who said, 'You're only as old as the woman you feel.'

We're all packed and heading to Montreal. Having lunch with the Muirheads then off to help launch the Canadian Mystery website. It's being organized by McGill University and is at the Redpath Museum. Especially appropriate since one of the big Canadian mysteries is who murdered 2 Redpaths in the early 1900's. I'll be doing a 'dramatic' reading about that. My readings can lack drama since all the characters sound all the same - they sound like me.

Then off to London on British Airways tomorrow. Was hoping Terminal 5 would be sorted by then, but apparently not. Should have known things weren't good when a week ago we received a cheery note from BA saying our flight from Algiers was landing in the new Terminal 5.

I'll blog again from London! Tell you all about our flight from Algiers (dear lord).

Be well -

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Oh, just sugar-off

sunny, mild, gorgeous day, highs zero

Friendship with oneself is all-important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.
Eleanor Roosevelt

This is an absolutely stunning day. Picture perfect. Still lots of snow on the ground, but grass beginning to appear around the base of trees and beside our old brick home. Fed the dogs this morning then went out and fed the birds. Just wore a toque, mitts, a scarf and my regular clothings - no heavy winter coat. Wonderful.

It's a big sugaring-off weekend. That's when local maple syrup producers have parties and we all get together for baked beans and fresh bread - and the real purpose...boiling maple syrup drizzled on snow - where it immediately solidifies and turns into a kind of toffee. Then you take a stick or twig and roll it up and suck it. Yum.

It takes like childhood.

Of course, we have to elbow all the kids out of the way to get at it, just as we were elbowed as kids by greedy adults! Oh, the memories.

A local guy - Bobby Derby (upon whom Billy Williams in Three Pines is loosely based) - is having a big party at his maple forest today. It's also a fundraiser.

Had a great on-line talk yesterday for an hour with the wonderful readers and members of 'bookchatcentral'. My ridiculous computer kept kicking me off-line - but the members of the chat room were very patient and understanding. I felt like Curley in the Three Stooges racing at the wall and booooiing-ing back. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

But I sure enjoyed the chat - very supportive, there warm and thoughtful people. When we write in isolation I cannot overstate the important, at least to me, of people being supportive. And these people were.

And I know you are too - makes a difference.

One of the members was planning a Three Pines dinner - where she'd make meals described in the books. I thought that was a splendid idea. I wonder if people will come as their favorite character. I wonder if Nichol would be banned?

That would be fun for the next book tour - build it around a series of Three Pines dinners, that I could go to. Wonderful food and fun company. I'd come as Ruth - and I'm sure I'd be FINE.

Jane wrote to say there's a review of The Cruelest Month in the Richmond paper today - wonderful news. She included a very nice email she sent the book editor, suggesting a review. I blushed when I read it...but the third or fourth time I blushed less. Now I plan to have her email tattooed to Michael's chest.

I'm off - breakfast, then writing. My last day to write before heading to the UK. British Airways says we're going in to terminal 5. Oh, dear.

Oh, forgot to mention tomorrow - a couple of fun events...I'll be involved in the launch of the Canadian Mystery Project - all part of trying to get people interested in Canadian history. It's being done at the Redpath Museum in Montreal at 3:45 - and includes a few short talks - and I'll be doing a reading from a book loosely based on the murders of two Redpaths back in 1901. Fascinating stuff.

but before that Michael and I will be having lunch with three friends from Los Angeles.Cora, Oliver and Molly Muirhead. He's the son of one of Michael's oldest friends in the UK. Oliver is also a wonderful actor. I'll often see him in episodes of Will and Grace and Seinfeld and more recent stuff too. So that will be fun to see them again!

Long message, hope to blog tomorrow before we head to Montreal, then on to London on Tuesday.

Be well - beautiful day.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Bacon, eggs, coffee and friends - no mystery here

Sunny, cold, highs minus 10

A little 'bloggette' today - must run. Michael clearing snow off the car and starting it, and I'm supposedly up here putting dry cleaning in the suitcase. Pre-packing. Like a fish in a container ship.

Off to Sutton for breakfast with Cheryl at 8am, then coffee with Joan at 9:30. Feel odd 'scheduling' friends like that, but these days that's what it comes down to. Hope their patience extends further!

Then meeting Lise at work (she's my assistant) to go over last minute things, then doing the 'bookchatcentral' on-line talk at noon.

Then off tonight for a 5:15 meeting.

Received the revisions for the reading from the book based on the Redpath Murders that I'll be doing at the launch of the Canadian History Project on Monday in Montreal. Read and revised last night.

Must run - speak soon. Breakfast and coffee with friends...phew...feels like a huge exhale.

Speak to you tomorrow and hope this finds you well.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Another day

overcast, mild, highs plus 1

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
Winston Churchill

Things are starting to get busy. Am at 80,000 words for the new book. Not really sure anymore if that's long, or just right. Trying not to think about it. Re-read some of the stuff from earlier in the week, to get back up to speed, and found to my relief that I quite liked it. The 'Critic' must have been on coffee-break or at the bar in a brawl at the time.

Nancy Page coming this morning. She's our computer expert - debugs us, programmes us, gets us going when bad things happen. Though with me it's always the laptop and always when I'm on the road hundreds of miles from Nancy. We have an old computer we're donating to her to give to a local student. She also designed and printed my new business cards. She's wonderful. We did up 200 - thinking maybe we'd make each run a 'limited edition' and make each different. Like hockey cards. Makes it sort of fun that way.

Then off to dry-cleaners for UK clothing. And the office in Sutton to make sure I'm up and running on a thing called AIM - this is so I can do the online chat tomorrow at noon with bookchatcentral. I love talking to people like this, but hate the process of getting 'connected'. Still, Jill, who is organizing it is very patient. We'll see how long that lasts.

Did a conference call with some really smart readers in Austin, Texas last night. It was a book club and they read the books very closely and questioned me very closely. but not, I felt, with a view to tripping me up or finding fault, but just to push me to explain some of my choices. I always find that interesting.

Will also be writing this morning. I spoke to my UK editor, Sherise, yesterday and we've arranged to have Afternoon Tea at the Wolsely on Piccadilly next Friday. What fun!

Speak to you tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

But why does it have my mother's voice?

Mainly sunny, highs plus 3

I find television very educating. Everytime someone turns one on I go into the other room and read a book.
Groucho Marx

I love Groucho. One of my favorite lines from him is about Doris Day. He said, 'I knew her before she was a virgin.'

I go through periods of watching TV - but I'm very limited in my tastes. Biography Channel and HGTV. Mostly those house buying, house selling shows. Scares Michael. He's expecting to see a for sale sign on the lawn any moment. I particularly love Location, Location, Location. have blogged about that before. Pure fantasy, of course. I lie in my bath after a day's writing, and a 4pm it comes on. I watch Phil and Kirsty zoom all around the UK looking for homes. At extortionist prices. How do you in the UK do it? How do young families do it?

But that's my comfort food. Then I read books. Right now am snowed under reading books sent to me for endorsement. They're often very good, and it's a pleasure to help other writers - and my ego, in thinking my endorsement will help in any way. But I've actually started saying no, thank you. But it's a struggle. I think it's because I don't want people to hate me and I think they will if I say no.

Happily, I've started saying no, and you know what? People survive just fine. And so do I.

Have reached the amazing point in this book, which I reach in each and every book I write, where the whole thing is crap. Not just what I'm writing, but everything I've written, every word of the current novel is horrible, worthless, banal, confusing and poorly spelled. It's the nuclear bomb of criticisms, self dropped.

But it has happened with every book so far, so part of me is relieved it's here, and I can deal with it and move on. Shovel it out of the way. I'll tell you, the first time I felt this way - back in the first book - it was devastating. I believed it. I believed it the second time too, with the second book. But eventually I've learned that maybe this voice isn't right. I have a thick head, and it takes a disconcertingly long time to learn.

It's just the huge, stinking, slimy critic, clawing its way back into the room and demanding to be at the keyboard.

I spend a day or so letting it - then come to my senses.

There are people who see the worst, tear you down, want to make you feel like crap. Those people I don't let in my life. So why would I do it to myself?

So this is the end of it. The critic has left the building - to be invited back if she can behave herself, when it comes time for the editing.

Thanks for listening to the rant. Feels better.

By the way, spoke earlier this week at the Cote St Luc library. wonderful turn out, wonderful audience.

And tonight I'll be speaking by phone with a book club in Austin, Texas. So looking forward to that.

Be well. Speak to you tomorrow.

Monday, 24 March 2008

That Chocolate Bunny's a killer

Sunny, cold, highs near minus 5

I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed-reading accident. I hit a bookmark.
Steven Wright

I'm beginning to be quite annoyed by the length of this winter! I know, there's nothing I can do. But every now and then I get warmed beside the righteousness of a good complaint. Like now. There are two feet of snow out outside. It should be plus 5 and melting. Instead it's minus 5 with more snow forecast. At this rate it'll be August before it goes.

There - that felt better.

This is actually the first day I've felt stressed about the long winter. It's really a lovely day - brilliant sun - dazzling off the - WAIT! SNOOOOOWWW. Ugh.

Had a call this morning from Kathryn Kennison. She's a dynamo. She heads of the Ball Centre at Ball State University in Indiana. And she runs a crime writers festival called Magna Cum Murder. She's asked me to be the guest of honor this year - which of course I agreed to. It's a marvelous festival, in October. We go caught up and yakked and had a fun time. She hurt her leg and her doctor said it would never really be perfect again. She told the doctor this was distressing news because there were really only 3 good parts to her body. One was her legs, another were her gums and the last were her occipital bones. Now she was down to the final 2.

She's hilarious.

Wrote like a fiend this morning, which is why I'm late with the blog. Busy times. Am about 2/3rds of the way through the book. I hope. Either that or it will be the longest book ever written. Some days are harder than others. I find sometimes I just want to do anything but write. Root canal, peeling, wash the curtains. Anything. But I still write. If I give in to the laziness, well there's frankly no end to it. I think a huge amount of success in writing isn't so much creativity as perseverance and discipline. And, of course, gummi bears.

Looked around me at some stage early this afternoon, after I'd come up for air, and noticed I'd built a little fort around me. Books stacked everywhere. Reference books, cook books, poetry books, note books.

What a great life.

Our diets took a hit this past Easter Weekend, though not as bad as it might have been. As followed home from Richford by a chocolate bunny. or two. And a few eggs.

Michael, brilliant man, has discovered the real secret to losing weight. He re-adjusts the scales and has announced he's at his goal weight. No doubt with the help of the chocolate rabbit.

Who am I to disagree. And if he's there, then so am I!

We're off to Montreal tomorrow. I'm giving a talk and reading tomorrow afternoon at the Cote St Luc library. Oh, by the way, we've added an event in Boston to my schedule. I'll be doing a talk/reading/signing at the harvard Square Barnes&Noble on Friday May 9th. Just back from London and Washington. I'll be the one followed by chocolate wildlife. Hard to miss.

Be well - I probably won't blog tomorrow or Wednesday - but will speak to you Thursday.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

A Deeply Cracked Easter

Sunny, cold, highs minus 9

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

How can you not love a guy who wrote that? Actually I used that quote in A Fatal Grace – as part of Clara’s art.

Happy Easter.

I once said that on air at CBC radio and a listener called in to lambast me and point out that this is not a happy day. Christ was crucified on this day. I was about 21 years old and deeply sorry I’d offended someone. So I apologized on air. It was only decades later I realized I didn’t agree with that assessment. But I believe what makes this holiday so special isn’t that Christ was crucified, but that he rose.

This is a holiday of hope. And how can that not be happy?

Indeed, it’s such fun to be speaking to you on this day. This is exactly the time when my latest book, The Cruelest Month, is set. Over the Easter holiday. In my book it’s a very late Easter – being a movable feast I did my goddess thing and moved it to late April. So that the spring bulbs would just be poking out. A promise. But fragile, vulnerable. And in the book we find out what happens to anything that exposes itself too much and too soon.

In the words of Shakespeare’s Wolsley’s Farewell (a wonderful speech): A killing frost. It nips his bud. And then he falls, as I do.

In the book there’s a killing frost – both physically and psychologically. Aimed at a villager in Three Pines, but also at Chief Inspector Gamache.

Spring is an unsettling season – and Easter an unsettling time. As one of the characters says – not everything is meant to come back to life. Not everything that rises up is a miracle.

I hope you enjoy reading The Cruelest Month as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s about murder, of course, being a murder mystery. But at its heart it’s about second chances, and redemption.

Here’s to our cracks, and the hope and compassion that springs from them.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Swift Uplifting Rush

Sunny, cold, highs minus 6

I give you this
One thought to keep
I am with you still
I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken
In the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars
That shine at night

Do not think of me as gone
I am with you still
In each new dawn
Native American prayer

Michael and I had lunch yesterday with our very good friends and neighbours Guy and Nicole. One week ago they lost their only child, Martin.

Guy, and therefore Martin, has Abenaki blood in him. We gave them this prayer, framed. Nicole says she walks, morning, noon and night. And sometimes, deep in the woods, she screams.

Guy just cries.

I am the swift, uplifting rush

I wish we could be that for them. But all we can do is sit with them and trust that one day the howl will die down to a moan in the marrow.

Be well. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Darn, more reasons for gratitude

Snow (about a foot!), mild, highs minus 3

At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honourable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
Maya Angelou

Isn’t that a marvellous quote? It reminds me of a prayer Michael and I say every day. We hold hands across the breakfast table and say, ‘God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’

If I could I’d pretend I wrote that but since I could never get away with it I might as well surrender to reality and admit it’s the serenity prayer. After saying it Michael and I, still holding hands and our eyes closed (at least I presume his are closed) list all the things we’re grateful for. Then we send out good energy into the world.

Jeez, writing it down and reading it makes us seem quite flaky. Oh well. I suppose we are. But we’re happy and content flakes, which makes our gratitude list annoyingly long. Especially when we’re starving.

Had three absolutely fabulous pieces of news yesterday. People Magazine has a fantastic review of The Cruelest Month!!! They gave it 3 ½ out of 4 stars and said it was ‘Impossible to put down.’

I’ll tell you, that is being laminated and going on the wall.

As well a lovely reader named Joan in Chicago wrote to say there's a mention, though by Marilyn Stasio in this coming Sunday's New York Times Review of Books. She talks about the Three Pines Mysteries being quite funny at times. I'm very glad she noticed.

The other piece of wonderful news was that The Cruelest Month has been chosen by the publisher to the St. Martin’s Press READ IT FIRST program. This is a terrific ‘club’ – so far 14,000 people have signed up to get advance chapters of new books put out by St. Martin’s. That way you get to ‘test-drive’ books and decide if you want to buy them or take them out of the library. How wonderful is that?

Had a quiet day 'at home' yesterday – more or less snowed in. Tony came to dig us out and within half an hour we were snowed in again. It’s the very heavy spring snow – clinging to the trees. It really is stunningly beautiful. woke up this morning to another six inches or more.

And we saw the very first cardinal at our bird feeder. Never had one before. Normally we get a dizzying array of what Michael called LBJs – Little Brown Jobs. Spot the city folk. Actually, they’re black-capped chickadees, sparrows, woodpeckers and blue jays. And now a cardinal. On the first day of spring. It brought snow and good news.

Spent the entire day by the fire writing. Such fun to sit with Gamache and Myrna in her used bookstore, as she makes tea and cookies and they talk. And he reads from a book that he’s known for years but has an unexpected connection to this murder case.

A week ago I’d risen again at 3:30 to catch a flight – this time to Houston. What a terrific city. I absolutely loved it. And my hotel room was enormous! As you might have gathered, my surroundings are important to me. Michael could be in a cave and not notice. I’d notice.

Spoke to the Neighborhood Library in Houston at noon, then did a talk/reading/signing at a wonderful mystery bookstore in Houston called Murder By the Book. Lots of people out – great questions. Very welcoming. And an extremely impressive staff. Makes a difference.

Must run – the writing calls.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Happy Spring!

Light snow, cold, highs minus 3

"... only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things."
Anton Chekhov

It's snowing here - never know it was spring! Still, the days are getting longer, and the snow lighter as well.

Well, I had the best time yesterday at the South Burlington Library. No trouble finding the place. The dreadful snow and sleet up here in Quebec turned into just good ‘ole spring rain in Vermont. Stopped for gas at the Pinnacle Peddler in Richford, the scene of my humiliating attempt a few months ago to smuggle two Restoration Hardware lamps into Canada. Won’t tell you where I tried to hide them. Then it was off to Burlington.

Had an easy drive, thinking about the book I’m writing. Gamache is walking down rue du Moulin with Myrna and they’re discussing a shocking scene both of them were involved in at the old Hadley House. I could see them, and hear them. Very helpful when writing actually becomes transcribing. Feels a bit like cheating. Will write that scene today in front of the fireplace with my coffee.
Arrived at the Burlington event a little early and met Louise Murphy, the librarian, who’s also a cook. She’d baked a marvellous spice cake for us.
A good number of people arrived, and because the weather was so awful there was a kind of life-boat feel to it. I yakked on for half an hour or so. Fortunately for everyone there it was riveting. Then answered some very good questions:

Do I think of it as the Three Pines Mysteries or the Armand Gamache Mysteries?

(Armand Gamache was my answer since he’s the centre that holds them all together)

The Arnot case becomes more and more important as the books progress, reaching a climax in The Cruelest Month – did I have that in mind when I wrote Still Life, the first book?

(no, actually. I wanted Gamache to have a past, and a mystery back there to explain why his career had stalled, but I wasn’t totally clear what it was. Only in writing A Fatal Grace did the Arnot Case become clear)

After suffering writer’s block for 5 years before finally writing Still Life, how is it you’re now writing so many books?

(alcohol and gummi bears. Really, just gummi bears. I signed a 3 book contract to begin with, then another one – taking the series to 6 books minimum. It would be a book a year. But after taking 45 years to write the first the idea of writing the next in 12 months terrified me. It’s not unusual. In fact, it’s called the Sophomore Curse. Nice. But after deciding to stop messing around with the dramatics, and just write the book I really want to – not worry what others thought – out came A Fatal Grace. And we’ve just found out it has been nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award for Best Novel. )

There were lots of other questions too. Very thoughtful and considered.

A week ago today I’d risen at 3:30 in the morning in Detroit to catch a 6am flight to Phoenix. 4 hour flight – very relaxing. Listened to my iPod and made notes. Was met at the Phoenix airport by brilliant sun and 85 degree heat. The man next to me on the plane was wearing what looked like a thong. I, of course, was in my jeans, cashmere turtleneck and jacket. Not because I didn’t realize Phoenix would be hot, but because I only had a carry-on and needed to wear the bulkiest clothing. This is where my clever system failed me.

The media escort picked me up and took me to an interview for Arizona Today. Very fun show. Ernest Borgnine was on right after me! Relieved they didn’t get us confused.

Had an event that night at the Poisoned Pen bookstore. Do you know it? Fabulous place. Run by Barbara and Rob Peters. To say it’s a mystery bookstore is like saying the Golden Gate is a bridge. Barbara has been rightly honoured all over the US and Canada for her contribution to the field of mystery and crime writing – both as a bookseller and publisher. She has her own imprint. She’s a real hero in the field, and it as so wonderful to have been invited there. Also met Lesa Holstein there. She lives nearby, is a librarian and has a wonderful, literate blog.

Then back to the hotel to sleep for another 3:30am wake up and another flight. Book tours really are a shortcut to dementia.

I’ll talk to you tomorrow...Good Friday. My latest book, The Cruelest Month, is set at Easter – where the villagers decide they’d try their hand a raising the dead. Not their best idea.

Be well.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Even The Windows Can Sing

Snow, freezing rain, sleet, highs zero

God respects me when I work, but He loves me when I sing. - Rabindranath Tagore

I came across this quote this morning and thought about my all-too-brief time in Detroit and Ann Arbor on tour last week with The Cruelest Month. I’d flown in the night before and checked into a hotel room that seemed mammoth compared to the one in New York City. Not a surprise there, but what was a surprise was discovering that my hotel room in NYC didn’t seem to have a window.

Now, I’m the type who asks for better tables, or a better room. My husband stands by the potted palm whenever I do this, but it often works. I’m always respectful, and never demand or expect a change, but I might as well ask. So, when faced with this well of a room in NYC I called down and very nicely asked if it would be possible to move to a room with a window. There was a pause. Then the young woman politely explained that all of their rooms have windows. There was another pause.

‘Perhaps you should look for it,’ she suggested.

Now, as I’ve already said, it’s not like this was a basketball court. I could see the entire room from where I stood. I thanked her, hung up and turned vewy, vewy slowly. Bed, dresser, closet, bathroom. I went in there. No window. My astonishing powers of observation allowed me to conclude the window was either under the bed or in the closet.

I looked.


Then I peeked behind the headboard of the bed. Voila. Success. There was a tiny window. Opening it I knew for sure I was in New York City. Nowhere else on earth would a hotel room have such a view. It was the dirty wall of the building two feet away.

But then I moved on to Detroit, and a room with an obvious window – looking over the airport parking. Bliss.

That morning I did a couple of radio interviews then was driven to the Rotary Club to give a speech. I love Rotary Clubs. They do great work, are decent and thoughtful people, and very welcoming.

And they love to sing. They opened with the National Anthem. We all stood. 100 men and women faced the American flag, and I faced the man beside me. Again, after a minute or so, my astonishing powers of observation kicked in, and I vewy, vewy slowly turned to face the flag, just as the anthem ended.
Then it was announced that it was the national day of Mauritius. The paper in front of me had printed the Mauritius national anthem. But since it was also literacy day, it had the alphabet song too. Showing great wisdom the chairman decided we should sing the alphabet song.

Now, this might sound odd, grown men and women singing, ‘A, b, c, deee, eee...’ etc. But it was a gas. A lot of fun. We sang it as though it was a power ballad. Really joyous. Can’t remember the last time I had such fun singing.
After I’d given my speech they very kindly decided to sing the Canadian national anthem. They all faced the Canadian flag, and I faced the woman on my other side. Then vewy, vewy....

Later that day I had dinner with Robin Agnew, who runs with her husband Jamie one of the best mystery bookstores in the US – Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor. Then I did a talk and reading that evening at the Ann Arbor library. All in support of my latest book, The Cruelest Month.

And now I’m jumping in the car and driving from my home in Quebec down to the South Burlington Library in Vermont to talk to them about The Cruelest Month, and mystery writing. It’s today at noon and if you’re in the area put on your winter boots, hats, mittens, chains on the tires and come on out. It’ll be fun.

Let’s hope I face the car in the right direction, at least. Wonder how long it would take my amazing powers of observation to realise I’m in Bangor, Maine?

Wish me luck, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Be well.

Loving the fat around the mid-section

Clear, mild, highs minus 3

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. - Somerset Maugham

I got back to writing yesterday morning, while Michael wrestled with the taxes. But it was definitely a mixed bag for me. First the computer froze, again. Then after hitting every key several times like a four year old in a tantrum, it finally unfroze. Who’d have thought actually spanking the laptop would work? Then I re-read the chapter I’d written just before leaving on tour – just to re-familiarize myself with the story and ease back into the world of Three Pines. Of course, I couldn’t just read. I spent the rest of the day, until Michael’s eye exam, re-writing. Something I swore not to do until I’d finished the first draft.

I think I made it better, and I certainly felt immersed once again in the story, and I’m frankly loving the story. Like the rest of my mysteries, it’s set in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. A place that’s intentionally idyllic, with people I’d choose as friends. Clara and Peter, the artists. Ruth, the half-mad poet, Myrna who runs the used book store, Olivier and Gabri who run the B&B and the bistro. There’s a boulangerie for breads and cakes and a general store. Oh, yes, and a murder.

I’m more or less at the mid-point of the story and I made the mistake of getting a word-count. 60-thousand. So now I’m obsessing about the length of the novel. It’ll be way too long, my traitor head screams. Take out characters, take out plot lines. Trim, trim. This is not a drill, this is an emergency.

All my first drafts are WAY too long. I know that, and yet with each one it scares me. But I’m beginning (though you’d never know it reading this) to trust and recognize my process. I write like a maniac. Put everything in, then spend the next couple of drafts trimming and shaping. Adding here, yanking stuff out there. Trying to find that balance between a plot that zips along, and atmosphere and character development.

I received a marvellous, and crucial, bit of advice when I was writing A FATAL GRACE, my second book. I was very afraid and edging toward writer’s block, so I went to see a therapist. I’m a huge believer in asking for help and accepting it. She said something I’ve never forgotten and that broke the fear. She said, ‘The wrong person is writing this book. The critic is writing it. You need to thank the critic, show her the door, shut it but don’t lock it, because you’re going to need her later. But the creative you needs to write the first draft. Just write. Don’t second guess. Don’t edit. Even if what you write is nonsense, just allow yourself that.’

What a blessing that piece of advice is. Just write. Let yourself go. You can fix it, shape it, edit it later. Now’s the time for inspiration, not fear.
Phew. Needed to remember that today.

One week ago I’d begun the US tour for my latest book that has just come out, THE CRUELEST MONTH. The good people at the New Canaan library hosted a wonderful lunch with two other writers, Rosemary Harris, Jan Brogan and myself. It was such fun seeing so many of you, and I know some of you drove quite a distance to be there.

Thank you! I also dropped by a great NYC mystery bookstore called Partners&Crime to sign books.

Then last Tuesday I had breakfast with my editor at St Martin’s Minotaur, Hope Dellon, then lunch with two senior executives at Barnes and Noble. Diet is dead.

I was quite intimidated by the thought of lunch with these very important book people, but Dan and Paul couldn’t have been kinder. I tell you, I’d choose to spend time with them again, regardless of their jobs. They were thoughtful, funny, smart – and like real gentlemen they made me feel like I was too.

Thanks for reading. We’re off for Michael’s hearing tests today. I know it sounds as though he’s falling apart, but everything just comes up at once. And he’s so precious I need to keep him healthy. I once read that the healthiest men have nagging wives. Well at this rate poor Michael will live forever. In misery, but he’ll be immortal.

Michael's note: Louise is writing two blogs this week; here and at Moments in Crime. This is yesterday's blog, which she posted on MiC, but forgot to hit the publish button here. So you get two blogs today.

Be well, talk tomorrow.

Monday, 17 March 2008

A World of Wonders

Clear and cold, highs minus 11 Celsius

"A writer lives, at least, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes." William Sansom

I’m back from the US tour for The Cruelest Month! Not sure it’s fashionable to say, but I had a riot. When I was a journalist and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation I’d interview lots of writers on tour and almost without exception they whined and complained about the rigors of being on tour. Now, having done a couple myself, I’ve gain a certain sympathy for those writers. But I still wonder if they’ve taken a good look around at the jobs most people have. Basically on tour our travel is paid and organized. Someone meets us at the airport, takes us to a hotel. Everything is looked after. For me most days included a few media interviews then an event at noon, an hour or so quiet in the afternoon to get caught up on emails and business (or watch HGTV) then an event in the evening. The most difficult part was getting up at 3:30 for flights. My tour took me to New Canaan, Connecticut, New York City, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Phoenix, Houston and Burlington, Vermont this Wednesday. No 3:30 wake-up that day since it’s just down the road from my home in the Canadian province of Quebec.

I’m not a really happy flier, but after a week of flights everyday I’ve become one. It’s quite a long and convoluted form of ‘fear-of-flying’ therapy, but it works. First you write a book, spend years trying to find an agent a publisher, get it published, write two more books, then go on tour. Voila, fear-of-flying disappears. Nothing to it.

What made it easier is that I traveled with only a carry-on bag. My media escorts were astonished that I could be a week on the road and have a tiny bag. Didn’t tell them all that was really in the carry-on was underwear and gummi bears. My mantra for the book tour was, ‘Don’t dribble, don’t dribble.’ Pretty much my regular mantra anyway. One good dribble on the clothes I was wearing and I’d be reduced to speaking to the Detroit Rotary Club wearing underwear and gummi bears.

But it really was a wonderful time. The Cruelest Month is my third book so I suppose the process is new enough to me still to be a delight. All my life I’ve dreamed of writing a book, and I even dared, secretly, to see myself on a book tour. Then with the CBC when interviewing those complaining authors I wondered if they knew how lucky they were. Obviously not. Most people do jobs for little pay, long hours, without anyone looking after them or applauding. What a personal tragedy to complain. Yes, a book tour is hard. It’s long, it’s tiring, it’s stressful. It’s a little frightening – especially the fear no one will come out. Or I’ll miss the flight. Or eat my wardrobe. But, oh my God, what great good fortune gave us this career?

I must say, though, I was happy to get home Saturday night. Michael, my husband, met me at the airport and I burst into tears seeing him. Surprised us both.

I’ll write more about the tour tomorrow. Today Michael and I are in Montreal. We keep a small apartment here but live most of the time in an area known as Quebec’s Eastern Townships, by the border with Vermont. We’re heading out for breakfast, then Michael will see the accountant about the taxes and meet a friend for lunch while I nip back to the apartment to continue writing my next Chief Inspector Gamache mystery.

WAMC-FM, a National Public Radio affiliate in New England will be calling for an interview this afternoon – then we’re off to get Michael’s eyes tested. He has glaucoma, so we’re always very careful.

I’ll write again tomorrow. Be well, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

I'm baaaack

cloudy, mild, highs plus 4

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

The tour is almost over - Burlington, Vermont on Wednesday. But I'm home!!! Made the tight connection in Chicago and arrived back last night. And Michaerl surprised me by being at the airport - and I burst into tears. Didn't expect him - and didn't expect to cry. But I fell into his arms, the tears already flowing. Poor guy. We talked a lot (as St Martin's will find when they get the phone bills from the hotels!) but it wasn't the same as being able to stalk him in person. He gave me all these cards to open at each stop - then even sent one to the hotel in Houston (my last stop) but it didn't arrive. Lovely, lovely man.

And I read his beautiful blogs. Just noticed what a dreadful word 'blog' is - I realize it comes from weblog - but doesn't sound as lovely as many, many blogs actually are - including Michael's.
As I tolod people on the tour, despite a lifetime as a pediatric hematologist (he's the doc you NEVER want to have to meet) and sitting at the bedside of desperately ill and sometimes dying children, Michael is the most joyous man I know. Actually, it's not despite his work, but because of it, I believe. He knows what tragedy is, and he knows what a blessing and gift life is. He sees children denied it - and knows what a betrayal it is when people turn that gift of life into a self-manufactured misery. Like Gamache, Michael is happy not because he's never met loss and sorrow, but because he has.

But now I've kicked him out of the 'blogging' chair and reclaimed it! Haha. The power. Whaaahaha.

I'll write about the tour as the days progress - don't want to make this first one an essay - but I do want to say what a joy it was to meet some of you - and how genuinely grateful I am for your support - Donna and Lesa - and Kay, I read what you wrote Michael (as did others) and I'm moved.

St Martin's Minotaur has asked me to write their blog next week - so I'll actually be cheating (not for the first time - you should have seen the size of the pizza we had for dinner last night, disgusting) and using this blog as theirs - but you might notice some odd things because I'll be introducing myself a bit - saying things I realise you've already heard. So my apologies in advance. This is what comes of sloth.

Today is a day to recover...we're staying in Montreal because we have a series of appointments (not least with FRank, our accountant about the taxes) early this week. Might do some writing this afternoon. Took my notebook, sat on the plane, and made notes... scheming. Very healthy. Thank God Homeland Security didn't see any of the things I wrote. Murder on the mind.

It's so good to be back - but such a real joy to meet so many of you.

Be well, and I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

A Bittersweet Day

Cloudy, minus 4, no word of rain!

To be alive is power,
Existing in itself,
Without a further function,
Omnipotence enough. - Emily Dickinson

This is a bittersweet day, joyous and sad. Two friends have lost loved ones and there are two funerals. One has an important birthday and Louise is coming home.

Guy and Nicole, dear neighbours, lost their son, Martin, this week after years and years that he suffered with multiple sclerosis. Such richness he gave to the world, exercising his amazimg talents: as dancer, musician, writer, humourist and humanist. He leaves a profound emptiness, but much love.

Lise and Delmar lost his brother, Wayne, after a lengthy illness; again, far too young. We've heard of his family gathering, of supporting each other, particularly Wayne's parents, and our hearts go out to them all. And it's Lise's fiftieth birthday. 'If I can just be with everybody, supporting them, that's enough for me', she told me. A generous soul.

And, joy of joys, Louise is flying home from Houston, through Chicago, her work done. Last night she appeared at Murder By The Book, then could relax, enjoy a meal, and get a good night's sleep. With no need to rise at 3 or 4am for a flight. Instead, a leisurely breakfast, reading the paper and relaxing, before her noon flight. The change in O'Hare seems a little tight, but I know she'll make it. I'm afraid our diets may be bruised a bit tonight! Gotta celebrate!

So long for now, till Louise needs me to sub again. And thanks for reading my blog and all your kind feedback.

Be well and ciao

Friday, 14 March 2008

A Sutton Day

Overcast, snow flurries, -3 degrees

A person who is looking for something doesn't travel very fast - E B White

I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but I'm not travelling at speed today. It's a quiet day, a no-news day, a peaceful day. I finally got around to brushing Maggie and Trudy, which they tolerated, even seemed to enjoy a bit. They do like the reward they've earned after it's done. And the brushing was long overdue. I collected great handfuls of fur from each.

I'll be heading into town later to pick up some papers for my tax man, Frank Leboff, after not budging from here all week. I hope I haven't forgotten the way. Country living can be like that. Frank has been my accountant, our accountant, for nearly thirty years, maybe longer. He's wise and ageless and happy and we're great friends. Missed installments, missing papers, and complicated advisories are all the same to him. No problemo! Adds a lot of comfort to our lives. I never enjoy collecting all the papers, but I do enjoy chatting with Frank and turning it all over to him.

Yesterday, I seemed to bustle all around here doing bits and pieces, keeping busy. Not much to show for it, but some relief that I'd done it all. This blog is about my only task today. Nothing too strenuous. Quite fun really

It's later, and I'm back from town with all my papers, which now fill an outsize briefcase. Frank said there'd be more papers yet to come and he was right. There were two more in the mail today.

Now, finally, some news. I've talked to my sweetie who's loving Houston (85 F) and her hotel, which makes me happy. Just as good is an email from Linda Richards, an author and friend, who's just finished her second book 'Death was in the Picture'. She wrote with a heads-up to Dorothy L, where Lesa Holstine posted about Louise at the Poisoned Pen last night in Phoenix. If you think that's great, and I do, - thanks Lesa - then there's even more, with pictures, on Lesa's blog: Great pictures, great description of my honey.

And...People Magazine will review The Cruelest Month next week, the March 31st issue. Whoopee! Louise gets home tomorrow, but I'll try and do another day, before returning it to your regular host, the talented...

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Doggie conversations

Clear, cold and sunny - minus 14. Montreal is closing in on the all-time record snowfall year, with 20-30 cm more to go. Not everyone is pleased with this.

Friendship and community are, first of all, inner qualities - Henri J M Nouwen

It's being a long week without Louise. The dogs are not adept at sustaining conversation, though they're always cheery, particularly around mealtime. Their mealtime. They've shown little interest in my Nutrisystem, probably a good thing, since there are package everywhere, ignored by everyone but me. Still, it's working. Minus 9 lbs so far. It's all portion control, something I'm a slow learner about.

Louise and I chat several times each day. With several events scheduled in each city, she's up at 4:00am to catch the plane. By evening, she's exhausted, but also very happy that everything's going so well. Such a privilege to be on a US book tour. More good news. The paperback edition of A Fatal Grace has just been released and is #6 on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association February bestseller list.

Parenthetically, I couldn't remember the word 'paperback' for the last paragraph so went to the IMBA list. The surprise was that I lost this site and had to start all over again. Now, I see there's a 'save now' button. Next time!

Anyway, I did my taxes today, which is a relief. Now I can relax. Probably a good date to do them on (Mar 13).

Be content and I'll blog tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

A Rich and Rewarding Day

Sunny, clear day, high 0 degrees (centigrade)

Free man is by necessity insecure; thinking man by necessity uncertain - Erich Fromm

Both Louise and I had busy days - in our retirement! Louise breakfasted with Hope Dellon, her editor at St Martins Minotaur, signed some books at SMM, then went to lunch with the buyers from Barnes and Nobles, together with the SMM team. A good feeling all round 'specially as the chief buyer loves Louise's books. Then to La Guardia and an hour's delay before her flight to Detroit. Now, she's tucked up in bed, preparing for an interview at 8:35am, then a Rotary Club luncheon, and an evening event in Ann Arbour tomorrow.

I took Maggie to the Vet for 8:00am for a repeat X-ray of her leg, which showed an old unhealed fracture once again. So she'll have an unstable joint and probably some arthritis in time. But you wouldn't know it to see her run around most days. In the interval, I had an enormous breakfast, then visited 5 different shops in Cowansville. Once home and unpacked, there was a phone message from Guy and Nicolle Carignan, our immediate neighbours and very dear friends. Martin Carignan, their son, had succumbed after eleven years to multiple sclerosis. I wrote a card, walked over to visit them, left the card and a phone message. They called back and came over for a cup of tea and we shared a long time. We all felt better. Then, I cooked my Nutrisystem dinner and got caught up with Louise by phone. So glad I was here and not travelling. It's clear someone else knows what's best, far more so than I do.

Two rich and busy days for Louise and Michael.

Be well. I'll write some more tomorrow.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Lots and Lots to Read

Clear, partly sunny, minus 12 degrees

I am still learning - Michaelangelo's motto

Michael here - subbing for Louise, while she journeys around the USA. Up till now, we've travelled together to all her events. It's been a ball. I've met so many marvellous people I never expected to meet: writers, editors, fans, booksellers - on and on. We've been around the world too - another highlight I never expected to experience. Now, we have friends all over the world. I'm sure we'll have even more after this week's tour.

But I'm home with Maggie and Trudy (our Goldens) doing taxes and saving us a bit of dough. We renovated our bedroom- bathroom and bought an addition to the property, so it's a good time to cut back. Everyone is, it seems. I'm sorry for all the grief people are experiencing as the economy dips and jobs are lost. Heartbreaking! I wish I knew what I could do.

Anyway, I'm writing a book too - on neuroblastoma - as I probably mentioned the last time I subbed here. One of the benefits for me is that I need to read classic articles on medical topics.

One such, by Alfred G Knudson, Jr., expounds his two-hit theory of cancer causation, something I've known about for years. But to read his articles describing it, the evidence it's based on, and the quality of his writing, his science, is a delight. The two-hit theory says that some cancers, particularly in children, arise after two genetic mutations. In hereditary cancers, in families, one of the mutations is inherited and is in every cell. Nothing happens unless another mutation occurs. In sporadic cases, two mutations need to occur in the same cell. This theory explains why hereditary cancers appear earlier, and can be multiple, while sporadic cancers are far rarer, occur later and are rarely multiple.

An example is retinoblastoma, a cancer of the retina of the eye. A specific retinoblastoma gene is known and there are hereditary and sporadic cases. This is the disease that Knudson studied in elucidating his theory. Well-known Canadian guitarist Jeff Healy, who just died in his forties, suffered from it as a child.

Now, I'm reading another classic by Hiroyuki Shimada in which he descibes the patholic classification of neuroblastoma into favorable and unfavorable histology.

The Shimada classification is used worldwide to characterize this disease. He showed that favorable histology was associated with an 87% survival, while for unfavorable histology it was only 7%. Again, the clarity of his writing, his thought, are breathtaking. What a privilege to actually sit and read them.

I use Entrez PubMed, the website of the US National Library of Medicine, where I can download recent articles, through my McGill retired status. But for older articles, like those written around the study I'm writing about, twenty to thirty years ago, I need help. And the help I get is from Joanne Baird and her co-workers at the Medical Library of the Montreal Children's Hospital, where I worked for two plus decades. I send her lists and after a week or two I receive a fat envelope with all my requests inside. I have about 30 waiting to be read. I'd better get going!

Be well. I hope to hear from Louise any moment telling me she's en route to New Canaan, CT.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

New York, New York - I can't make it there!

overcast, flurries in forecast, temps minus 6

Bed is the perfect climate.
Noel Coward

Well, the biggest, honking storm I've ever seen hit us yesterday - and through last night. It ended at around 6 this morning. I know, because I was up at 4:30. Checked my Air Canada flight to NYC - cancelled. They said I could re-book by calling this number - so I called this number and sat on hold for - get this - 4 hours! I'm not kidding. At one stage I called Michael in the country and said, 'I'm not sure if I've just ended up on hold and they've forgotten about me - maybe I called the wrong Air Canada number, can you try?' So he tried and couldn't even get onto hold - they weren't taking calls anymore. Recorded message said whole Eastern Seaboard was shutdown and there was a HUGE volume of travellers trying to re-book. Bugger off. That last part was mine.

So at 8:30 this morning Air Canada finally answered me. My left ear is flat. I know all about their bonus frequent flier points and the specials between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and New York. The recording will be my last conscious thought on earth, 40 years from now. My last words - 'This is a deal that's hard to say no to.'

So now I can't fly out until tomorrow morning - which will make it very tight to get to the New Canaan library for noon. The publishers have arranged for a limo to pick me up at the airport and drive me there. Fast. I'm sure I'll make it for the panel discussion, which I'm really looking forward to. It's with the wonderful Rosemary Harris (Pushing up Daisies) and Jan Brogan (Yesterday's Fatal).

But yesterday's storm was fantastic. All the buildings around our apartment disappeared. Couldn't see anything - it just descended upon us. Howling and blowing. Almost a foot fell in 12 hours. It was stunning, and frightening and very beautiful. Nice to be warm in the apartment. And I still am!

So, another day in Montreal, then heading out.

Nice bit of news though - The Cruellest Month was again on the bestsellers list here - ninth week!

Hope the storm wasn't too hard on you - I know the Eastern and Central US, as well as the Toronto area were whacked.

Stay warm - stay in bed. I plan to.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

haircuts for the radio

overcast, storm warning, temps minus 3

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I had become too famous.
Robert Benchley

Did you know it's Daylight Saving Time? 2am tomorrow, March 9th. We set our clocks forward. This is my public service announcement for the day.

Am in Montreal. Didn't order pizza last night - quote a victory. Instead had pasta primavera and keylime pie. Yay!

Snowed last night, but this morning it's fairly clear. Forecast still calling for 35 cms of snow today. But tomorrow is supposed to be okay.

Had my hair done yesterday - new place. Very scary, escpecially just before the big American tour. Can just see them shaving my head, and me being too stunned or too polite to stop them. Happily people quite expect writers to be a little nuts, so there is leaway for a bad haircut or bad judgement.

Laptop all set up - coffee brewed - bowl of fruit by the computer. It's a writing day. I'm determined to get to the revelation before I heave tomorrow am.

I've asked Michael to do the blogs while I'm away since the scedule is very packed. Added a Vermont NPR radio interview for next week, in anticipation of the South Burlington Library event on the 19th...getting difficult to squeeze the events and interviews in. Good problem to have. When I first toured with STILL LIFE no one wanted to know about me. Things are changing. Probably the haircut.

I'll report in when I can, in the mean time - be well.

Friday, 7 March 2008

I think I can, I think I can

sunny, cool, highs minus 6

A man's life is what his thoughts make it.
Marcus Aurelius

The calm before the storm. Huge one expected to hit Quebec tonight, tomorrow and perhaps in to Sunday. Wouldn't you know it?

Am flying to NYC Sunday to start US tour. Not sure the planes will be flying, but not much we can do about that. As some of you know, I wasn't always happy about flying but have gotten over it, for the most part. But must admit when faced with flying and a major winter blizzard, I feel that 'ol time anxiety.

the trick, I've learned, is to pretend I'm someone who is not afraid.

Works in other areas too.

Well, am driving in to Montreal today, to avoid the roads and the storm. Will try to post tomorrow.

Be well, and speak tomorrow!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

May I be honest with you? Oh oh.

sunny, beautiful day, highs minus 5

'Honesty' without compassion and understanding is
not honest, but subtle hostility.
Rose N. Franzlau

Love that quote.

It's a gorgeous day. Have abandonned the quota system of writing - I was aiming at minimum 1,000 words a day - in favour of an overall goal. There's a pivotal scene in the book that I'd love to reach before heading out on tour. Sadly it seems the more I write the further away it gets! I keep thinking surely Gamache will make that discovery - but no, other scenes become necessary. But it's fun because the pace picks up as the characters race toward this event - unknowingly. Still, I don't seem to be 'racing'. I need to be less concerned about the length of the overall novel and the structure just think about getting the story down.

All my first drafts are terribly long. About 25 percent too long. happily, I love to edit, and that's where the shape comes out - the structure. I take out here, add there. Characters disappear, or appear. Names get changed. But I have to have something to work with. I consider the first draft my raw material. Why I think I'll get it right on the first draft is nuts. Never have, never will. Though, to be fair, the books need a lot less editing as I go along and gain confidence, and just get better with practice. But still - editing is my friend.

Had more wonderful news yesterday from Hope Dellon, my editor at St Martin's Minotaur...PEOPLE magazine is doing a review of The Cruelest Month! It's to hit newsstands a week from today.

That's a great email to receive. I read People Magazine. In the bath. Divine.

Another piece of news is that a great friend and wonderful crime writer will be in Montreal on March 12th, doing a signing. He's Rich Blechta, and his latest novel is called A Case of You. He's signing in the Schulich School of Music lobby at McGill University, which is a brilliant idea. He's a grad from the school of music of McGill, and his books are wonderful melding of murder and music. He really is well worth a read - and if you can get to McGill for the signing you're in for a treat. I'd be there too lining up if I wasn't going to be on my own tour.

Thanks for reading - I'll speak to you tomorrow. Be well.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

My invincible summer

snow, freezing rain, strong winds, another storm, temps minus 7

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me
there lay an invincible summer.
Albert Camus

Well, this is certainly a winter of depth, and length! But what a summer inside! Yesterday was the US launch for THE CRUELEST MONTH. The good people at Goldberg McDuffie Communication in New York, the publicity company hired to take the books to the next level, sent a goegeous bouquet of roses. Especially stunning on a dreadful, dramatic day like this. It's a 'water in the tub' day - in case the power goes out. Oh dear, I can hear a drip behind me, which means the roof is leaking too. Oh well. It's always something.

We had the most wonderful review of THE CRUELEST MONTH from the prestigious publication Mystery News. One of the editors, Lynn Kaczmarek, did the review herself and gave it five out of five quills. Here's what she wrote:

The Cruelest Month, by Louise Penny

Somehow in this day of the thriller where crime fiction is becoming more noir by the moment, Louise Penny is almost single handedly taking us back to the good old days of the traditional village mystery. Influenced by Simenon, Christie and Sayers before her, Penny is doing them all one better. Still Life won most of the major awards, A Fatal Grace was a fitting sophomore effort, but The Cruelest Month soars above them all.

Luckily, we’re back in Three Pines once more with our cadre of friends, including Peter and Clara Morrow (both painters—though Clara may just be more talented), Gabri, (whose partner Olivier owns the local bistro), Myrna (whose large and generous frame is almost as big as her heart), Ruth Zardo (the all-too-direct nationally known poet who is found with two baby ducks following behind), and Odile (who is definitely not a nationally known poet). It turns out that there is a psychic in town on vacation and a group of folks decide to go up to the Old Hadley place for a séance. All in good fun, really—until one of them ends up dead. Could one be scared to death in Three Pines?

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team are called in to investigate. But there’s a traitor in the mix somewhere and Gamache ends up trying to figure out much more than who or what killed another member of the Three Pines family.

These books are so much more than traditional mysteries—the writing is sublime and the characters unique yet much more developed than their individual quirks. They can be kind and cruel. It’s so easy to love Gamache—intelligent, compassionate, he’s the one rooting for the underdog. But to somehow love Ruth Zardo as well? Not an easy feat.

In Louise Penny’s books, these characters breathe. And they die. “Loss was like that, Gamache knew. You didn’t just lose a loved one. You lost your heart, your memories, your laughter, your brain and it even took your bones. Eventually it all came back, but different. Rearranged.”

And this place, this wonderous, fantastical place—“How do you explain a village like Three Pines where poets take ducks for walks and art seems to fall from the skies.” The answer, of course, is that you don’t. You’re just incredibly thankful that it exists, if only in the brilliant mind of Louise Penny.

Characters and place really do it for me, but the intriguing nad complex plot made this book one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a while. Me, the fireplace, snow falling quietly outside and The Cruelest Month—it was magical.
My recommendation is that you go out right now and buy copies of Still Life and A Fatal Grace and immerse yourself in this world. You should have them finished just in time to read The Cruelest Month and behold the ushering in of a new era of traditional mysteries—21st century-style.

And on that note, my friends, I'll leave you. Breakfast, then back to Three Pines. My goal is to hit a certain scene, a turning point in the book, before the US tour begins on Sunday. Lots of writing, but I mapped it out yesterday. Hope I don't spring a leak.

Be well.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Cruelest Month starts her journey

overcast, mild, temps around freezing

Words and magic were in the beginning one and the
same thing, and even today words retain much of their
magical power.
Sigmund Freud

THE CRUELEST MONTH launches today in the United States. And to celebrate I've decided to add a new, fun, feature to the blog, and that's a daily quote. Not, perhaps original, but I love quotes and often find inspiration, a laugh, comfort, wisdom and truth in them.

This quote by Freud starts the whole thing off, and accompanies THE CRUELEST MONTH on her launch. If you've read the book you'll know the powerful connection between this sentiment and the themes of the book.

And, I've found it to be true in my life as well. The power of words, to hurt and to heal.

Off you go, little one. Good life, and blessings.

Monday, 3 March 2008

neither sleet, nor snow...

freezing rain, temps minus 4

This won't be a long blog since we have to scoot out the door - freezing rain just beginning to tap at the window. We need to head to breakfast , then the bank, then Michael's physio across town. It's a shame it's right in the middle of the 'freezing rain warning' but that can't be helped.

We're off - talk to you from Sutton - will drive down this afternoon if the weather improves.
I'm sure it's not that bad.

Oh, Canada.

Take care.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Spring has arrived - inside

sunny, calm, lovely day

When I went to bed last night it was clear and mild, when I woke up it was clear and mild, and at sometime in between it managed to snow about 5 inches. Cars are covered in it. Fluffy light snow that would collapse down to nothing if challenged. Like white bread. used to love putting a slice in my fist, smushing it into a ball and eating that.

Can't figure out why my generation is living longer when you think of the things we put in our bodies. Tang. White bread. Anything in a can.

I belonged, until recently, to a group of women who'd get together once a month and one of us would do a presentation on some theme chosen at the beginning of the year. The theme that year was memory - so I chose to study smell and memory. Really very interesting the power of scents to trigger not just memory, but emotion. If there's such a thing as time travel it's fueled by scents.

But, as part of my research, I ran into an fascinating survey. It discovered that if you ask people over 70 what their favorite smells are for the most part they'll say things like roses, fresh baking, fresh mowed grass - that sort of thing. If you ask people under 50 chances are they'll say things like Vics Vapo Rub, gasoline - that sort of thing.

Not everyone fits into the catagory, but I thought it was telling. And now I've told you.

As you know, my books are filled with aromas - most of them natural - because they're so calming. Bacon, fresh coffee and wood smoke in the morning. A garden after a rain. Even mud.

Went into the local grocery store the other day and they had a massive display of tulips - so I bought about five bunches. Tuplips and snap dragons. Now we have bouquets in almost every room, including the bathroom, so that when I relax after the days writing I see spring. As long as I don't look out the window.

We're off to Montreal today - again! We were supposed to zip in and out tomorrow for physio for Michael but the forecast is for freezing rain and snow tomorrow morning. Not worth the risk. We're so fortunate to have kept a small apartment in the city, for times like these.

Pat will look after Maggie and Trudy - who pout when we return home. We call Pat's place the 'spa'. They adore it and her.

Pants very loose - and no that isn't a comment on my morals. It's a comment on our diet! It's working. And, miracle of miracles, it's actually easy! of course the book tour will be a dietary disaster - oh well.

I'll try to write tomorrow from Montreal. In the mean time, enjoy your Sunday and be well.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

In the dream time

snow, blowing snow, temps minus 6

Well, March has come in like a lion. Do you have that expression where you live? We say if March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb. Not sure that's true, but I hope so - given the storm raging outside. When I let the dogs out I noticed the huge snowbanks that had been sculpted by the wind and the eddies. Particularity off the stone walls. It looks like a sculpture park out there. And if the sun comes out and the wind dies down it's going to be stunning.

But I think this storm is supposed to last all day and into the night. We have to go out tonight, as we do every Saturday. Oh, well. It's worth it.

Have a wonderful review of The Cruellest Month in today's The Scotsman newspaper in (can you guess?) Scotland. It's the lead review and at the end they say 'There's real pleasure here.' What a nice line. And that's what I aim for in the books. Not to scare the pants off you. Not to fill you with dread. But the opposite really. To have you smile at the end. Be filled with pleasure, and peace. And the certainty that while terrible things can happen - goodness exists. Kindness exists.

This is such an exciting month for me, as those of you who've received today's Newsletter know. I won't repeat it all but just a little.

THE CRUELEST MONTH is launching - on Tuesday - across the US!!!!
A FATAL GRACE continues to boom off shelves in the US.
DEAD COLD/A FATAL GRACE launches in Germany to huge press.
STILL LIFE launches in Russia.

And, I'm heading out on the US tour - in about a week.

In the meantime I write by the fireplace. This really is my dream but every now and then I get overwhelmed with fear, and want to run away. Want to stay in bed, want to eat every cake ever baked. Want to hide - and do anything but write and tour.

Then I remember. This is my dream. And not all of it's easy, but every single minute is a blessing.

Thanks for your company - makes it so much fun.