Saturday, 31 May 2008


mixed, sun, rain, mild - temps 16

We're off to London tonight - then catching a train to Bath. Or Bahhh-th. I've never been there, but it was one of Michael's first wife's - Shelagh's - favorite places, so he's been there before.

We'll be meeting Teresa Chris - my redoubtable agent - there and Nancy, who is the woman who does the line edits on my books for the UK publishers, for lunch Monday.

Want to also mention that the June Newsletter goes out tomorrow and I have a special giveaway - not of the books, but a special Canadian collectable. The Parliament Buildings. No, not really. But actually not that far off.

If you haven't signed up yet, you might want to. It's free, of course, I each month I try to give away something special.

That's all the news for now. Will blog when we get to Bahhh-th.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Run, run away from the tour guide

Sunny, warm, highs 20

Lovely day. We're in Montreal and it feels like early summer. So great to walk out with just a light sweater. One of the delights of living in a climate with such extremes is appreciating things like that.

Had a busy day yesterday. Drove to Ottawa for the Crime Writers of Canada event at the Ottawa Public Library. It was a really fun event - lots of people out. Extremely interesting panel discussion moderated by Barbara Fradkin (a great crime writer) and featuring Robin Harlick, JD Carpenter and Adrian de Hoog. They talked, among other things about the difference between a crime novel and a mystery novel. Really got me thinking. And reminded me of the definition I once heard of the difference between a hard-boiled and a noir novel. In a hard-boiled you're screwed, in a noir I'm screwed. After the panel I spoke for about half an hour.

Michael and I arrived in Ottawa quite early so we sat in a coffee shop and read the proofs for book 4. YES! More proofs. For the same book. We just got rid of the US copy edits and now the UK is back for more. These aren't editorial changes, this is about reading the manuscript for typos really and any small thing that might have been missed.

I think it's karmic. Payback for having been a mass-murderer in a past life. I'm pursued by proofs.

I hate proofs. I'm not a detail person. This stage is slightly easier than the last one, but what amazes me is that it never seems to end. Everytime I go to the mailbox there seems another package of proofs to read over. And the funniest thing is after all this, going over and over the various versions, there will STILL be mistakes in the final version. Oh well, we do our best.

So there we were in the nation's capitol, proof-reading THE MURDER STONE (the UK/Canadian/Commonwealth name for book 4). Michael, dear soul, took a batch of pages and I took some - each with a red pen - and off we went.

After a couple of hours we decided enough of that - we'll go for a walk. So we walked over to the Parliament Buildings. Very impressive. I must admit to getting a swelling in my chest standing there and looking at them. We had about 2 hours before the Crime Writers of Canada event started so we decided to go on a guided tour of our Parliament Buildings.

Have you ever been?

I'll tell you - it was the dullest experience of my life, and I spent a holiday sorting mail. This was worse. Oh, My, God. If I ever wanted to commit murder I'd send the person on this tour. If I ever wanted to end my own life I'd go on it again. In fact, I think I'll contact the Hemlock Society. They should hear about this.

I could feel the will to live sucked right out of me. I think a little part of me died when the guide (wearing a Pan Am uniform from the 1950's) brought out what looked like a large dish towel, held it open, and explained that we couldn't (for reasons that are a mystery) visit the actual House of Commons, but we could see them, as reproduced on the dish towel.

We were then led past rows and rows of official portraits stopping at exactly none of them (I counted) for amusing/stirring/informative anecdotes that might bring Canadian history alive. Instead we were guided into the Parliamentry Library and told we couldn't speak because Members of Parliament were in there working hard.

It was empty. Except for us. Dying of ennui. Quietly.

I was livid when we left. How dare the actual Parliament Building tour people make our parliamentry history so dull. We had more passion, more pride, in a single block of our Boston bus tour than on the entire Parliament Building tour. It was pathetic.

This really does get me angry. I don't expect an entire Canadian history lesson, but I do expect some passion - some wonderful, colourful stories. Because they exist. Arrrghh. No one taking that tour could possibly come away feeling informed about Canada - our history of social justice, our struggles and sacrifices as individuals and as a nation to reconcile democracy, a free market, universal health care and education, the French and English facts, huge immigrant populations that enrich and challenge. The wars both internal and international that have been fought. The personalities.

Good God - they invited us to celebrate women getting the vote by joining Nellie McClung and others at a tea party! Who does this? Where's the pride, where's the heart and soul? The compassion, the courage, the doubts that make Canada such a remarkable place?

Because it is, you know. Flawed, and maddening, and marvelous.

The only ones who seem oblivious to this great history, parliamentry or otherwise, live and work on Parliament Hill. Let's get some historians together and re-configure that tour. Let's give those young men and women who are guides something to be excited about.

I say, throw away that dish towel!

Phew - that feels better.

After the CWC event we drove back to Montreal and got to the apartment about midnight.

Today was exciting. Had my hair done and my face waxed. Never done that before. It was excrutiating (though not as painful as the Parliament tour). I decided my moustache wasn't invited to England with us tomorrow. It was staying behind. So off I went and had hot wax.

It was REEEEALLY painful! Had my eyebrows done too. That wasn't quite as bad as the upper lip.

Sure gives a lot of power to the young esthetician. Reminded me of my good friend Wendy. When she was having treatment for breast cancer, and she suddenly had to host a special report on CBC TV, nationally. No on else was around. She was in the middle of chemo and had lost all her hair, so she slapped a wig on, and a new make-up person quickly did her makeup and she ran into the studio and did the report (can't remember now what the emergency was), only to discover in her dressing room later that the make-up person must have either been very nervous or malicious. She gave Wendy big, thick, arching eye brows, so that she spent the entire report sounding re-assuring and calm, but looking very, very surprised. On top of that, her eye lashes stuck to the top of her eyes, so that it looked as though she never blinked. Adding to the 'shock and awe' look.

We're going to see Wendy in a few weeks in Toronto - her cancer's gone thank God - and her brows are back.

Too late in the process did I think to ask if there'd be any side-effect to this hot wax thing. She explained, as she ripped, that yes, there'd be a little redness.

Now, 'a little' is clearly subjective. It doesn't seem much to her because she doesn't have to be seen in public like that. I'm now walking around for what she assures me will be less than 24 hours looking as though I just gulped Grape Crush, then spread it on my eye brows.

It's a new look. Really. You should try it.

Be well - talk to you tomorrow unless I go on another Parliamentry tour. Sauve qui peut.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Frost and Fear

sunny, cold, windy, highs 7

Hard frost last night. Had to turn the car on a let the windshied de-frost. I don't think the garden has been hurt - and thank heavens I shifted my you-know-what and brought the annuals in. They're safe.

It's reeeally cold today! I'm wearing a coat and hat outside, but I think I need gloves too.

Had a 2 1/3 hour breakfast with Cheryl at Le Cafetier on rue Principale in Sutton. Wonderful. We talked mostly about fear. Hers, mine, fears most of us have. Big, slimy, screaming, violent fears.

It's like admitting to some horrible disease, so what a gift to have a friend to talk to about these things - and to have her say, 'You too? I thought I was the only one.' Michael says part of his problem, and most people's problem, is we compare our raw, ground up meat to someone else's filet. Everyone else seems so much more together. But then, on the outside, so do we.

We're packing for the trip today so the washer and dryer are in full flight.

Off to Ottawa tomorrow night - anyone in the area is welcome to come to the event - it should be great! It's put on by the Crime Writers of Canada and will be tomorrow night at 7pm at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalfe Street. Two of my favorite crime writers will also be there - Barbara Fradkin and Robin Harlick. The other writers on the panel will be: Adrian de Koog, JD Carpenter and Suzanne Kingsmill.

Love to see you there. We're driving up from here - about a 3 hour drive, then back to Montreal after the event. In bed by midnight, I hope.

Hope you're well and I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Are you sane?

cloudy, cold, temps 10

risk of frost tonight. I bought flats of annuals two weeks ago and Lise (smart woman - my external brain, if you remember) said I was WAY too early. According to Lise (our assistant/gardener/judgement) we shouldn't plant annuals until after the new moon - in early June. So now Michael and I spend a great deal of time moving our annual garden into the mud room, then outside, then back in. Quite fun, really, to come down in the morning and see rows and rows of annuals, as though the inside of our home had become a field.

Had our great Cowansville breakfast - lots of coffee in white mugs, french toast, real maple syrup and mountains of fresh fruit. With a side order of bacon.

Then we zipped off to the courthouse so I could get out of jury duty. Then to Canadian Tire for light bulbs and a gift certificate for Tony. Then off to the bank, then home to drop off Michael and get into Sutton in time to meet Michelle and Joan (Rose) for lunch at the Tintoretto. Such a riot. Michelle was one of the first people we met when we moved down here. I used her husband's name (Marc Brault) with his permission in book 3. He loves mysteries, though is suffering quite badly now from Alzheimers. Michelle is a wonderful potter.

Joan Rose is one of the funniest women I've ever met. She describes realizing she'd never be the actress she'd hope when she was in a play and as soon as she stepped on stage, before even opening her mouth, the audience started laughing. Both Michelle and Joan are in their 70's and were describing some of the trials - like having to renew drivers licences, in which one of the question is:

Are you sane?

I thought soup would come out of my nose when Joan described trying to answer that question. Is it just Canada? Do other government's politely ask that question? then believe the answer?

Had a small 'crisis' this afternoon when we got an email from the woman who was going to rent us her flat in London for 3 days in early June. I'm off to the Bristol CrimeFest convention June 5,6,and 7th - then we were going to London. It's the same flat we rented in April, and quite often in the past. We'd made all the arrangements, then she wrote to say she was double booked and we were out of luck.

Huh? Are you sane?

Those of you who've tried to find hotel rooms in London you know the difficulty. Not the hotel, but the expense! It's inconceivable how much hotels cost! So we put our heads together to come up with a plan - or a few plans.

Here were the options:

Not go at all
Find another private flat to rent for 3 days
Find a hotel
change flights and go to Toronto early (Sunday instead of Wednesday)
change flights and return to Montreal on Sunday then drive ourselves to Toronot for BookExpo Canada.

We called our travel agent about how much it would cost to change our British airways tickets. She looked it up, investigated then told us. 1,500 dollars. Each.

Are you sane?

When we regained consciousness we yelled, calmed down, and asked if there were alternatives. Yes, she said. Get this. The alternative is not to re-book, but to fly to London this coming Saturday night as planned. When we get in to Heathrow we go to a BA desk and change our return flight then. At that point it will cost us 200 dollars each. Funny how suddenly 400 dollars sounds like a bargain.

So that's our new plan. Plan is I think too hopeful. It's our new wild hope that that works. How can this be? I can understand a penalty for changing the return why 15-hundred before and 200 in the middle of the round trip?

I must be missing something - or perhaps I really am sane. Maybe this is the test. If the British Airways rules make sense, you're nuts.

Very cunning.

Off for breakfast tomorrow with the wonderful Cheryl - she who does the best children's books and illustrations in the world. So looking forward to it!

Then a day of laundry and packing. heading to Ottawa Thursday for an event in the evening - a panel discussion with other Crime Writers of Canada members to celebrate National Crimewriters week.

I'm not kidding.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Surprised by Joy

rain, cool, temps 13

Rainy day, but who cares - I finished book 5. Will probably be announcing this for the next week - just so it sinks in. As with most jobs, this takes me a while to detatch. All day my mind kept going back to the story, and I had to turn it off.

Not only am I not writing in the next 3 weeks I'm determined not to even think about it as much as possible, but to just have fun. Then let my calmer, cooler, more relaxed mind have a go at the first edit.

I think of writing as similar to sculpting - Some writers work from the bottom up and add bits and pieces until they have a stunning work. Others work more from the top down - whittling away at a giant mound of clay.

I'm the latter. My first drafts are way longer than they should be. I don't know, and right now don't want to know, how long this first draft is, but I suspect somewhere around 140,000 words. I'd like to get it down to 115,000. So I sculpt.

The good news is I know the themes, the characters, the plot, the setting, the action and tension, the love and laughter and warmth are all in there. I just need to cut away to let them out, and let them breath. Some characters won't make the cut - I already know of at least one who's going to be edited right out. Some scenes will go completely. But mostly, for me, it doesn't get done by taking out large chunks. The book comes out by taking a little here, a little there, adding a line or two, or even a scene. Adjusting, polishing.

I love this stage. The first edit, as you can see, is a lot of work and a little stressful. But not nearly as stressful as the first draft. Then after the first edit, if I'm happy, it becomes a complete and utter delight. That's when many of the grace notes are added, the tiny touches, like a painter adding that tiny dab of white to an eye. Makes all the difference. Brings it alive.

But for now the giant hunk of words is sitting in our living room, and there is can stay until we get back from the UK and Toronto. And just added a visit to Michael's wonderful cousin, Marjorie, in Elora.

Had fun in Sutton today. We've decided, since I wrote all of THE BRUTAL TELLING at home, that we really don't need the loft in the village as an office anymore. And Michael's very happy with his home office and writing in front of the fireplace as well. But another office/commercial space opened up in the same building. It used to be a creperie (made crepes) and the best cafe au laits. But closed. It's smaller and we thought we'd just move in there.

But we visited it today, and while it's wonderful Michael and I sat down and decided we probably don't need any office. We can work from home, and expand into the guest cottage if need be. A real cottage industry.

So that's what we've decided to do. Of course, that means selling a huge amount of stuff we've accumulated. Chairs and desks and all sorts of things.

I have to say, though - that loft was a god-send. We both loved working from there for 2 years. But now we don't need it. It feels like we've made a wonderful decision. And, you know what? If we were wrong, we can always find another place in the village, eventually.

Off for our Cowansville breakfast tomorrow - then all sorts of errands, including buying new sheets after I mistakenly (in a fit of spring cleaning akin to the Tasmanian devil) gave most of our sheets and towels away. Now we have tenents arriving Friday in the guest cottage and no summer sheets. I did, however, keep 4 washcloths. That should help.

Had the most wonderful time with my brother Doug. Lots of walks with the dogs and had lunch and just a beautiful time. On sunday morning I came down after my shower and there was no one in the home so I piddled around and made coffee and got the breakfasts going then went onto the screen porch to set out the breakfast things and in the distance I heard Michael laugh, then I heard Doug laugh, and off across the field, on the other side of the pond I saw the two of them, walking in step, and talking. I couldn't hear what was said, just a murmur. And the dogs were jogging along beside them.

It was so beautiful I actually started to cry. Tears of peace and joy, of contentment and wonder. At my great good fortune. Even writing this now I'm starting to cry again.

Must be off - dinner to make, and a husband to hug.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

The End

Sunny, gorgeous, temps 24

A perfectly brilliant day - the day I finished book 5!!!!!

THE BRUTAL TELLING is told. We saved it all over the place then I shut the computer before I was tempted to fine tune. Plenty of time for the major first edit when we get back in mid-June. for now - I'm on vacation!

I'm very happy with this book - and very happy it's over - at least the first draft. I realize the hardest work isn't the writing - which just requires discipline and determination. The hardest work is beating down the demons who say I can't do it.

Well, too late. It's done! When the time came I called Michael and I wrote, 'The' and he wrote, 'End'.


Friday, 23 May 2008

Do you have a dream?

mixed, cloudy, rainy, sunny, temps 10

Another mixed weather day - would go from beautiful and sunny to a cloud burst in no time.

I think I'm one day away from finishing book 5, which I've called THE BRUTAL TELLING. We'll see what it ends up being called in the stores! But now it's just pouring out of me as we drive to the finish. Wrote 2 chapters today. quite exhausting, but thrilling. Last chapter still to go...tying up. I always love that, but the trick is to do it with some elegance. Happily there's always the re-writes and the editing and the polishing to get it right.

Then had a quick lunch with Michael, and out the door to Sutton and coffee with Joan at the Tintoretto. It was Rhonda's last day there. she's managed the tea room for 4 years - but is now leaving to concentrate on her own business of restoring antique furniture. Very exciting for her - but sad for those of us who loved her even more than the food.

Joan runs the local yoga and meditation centre, and quietly counsels people on the side and she was telling me she's recently spoken to two people and asked each, 'Do you have a dream?' I thought, what a great question. then Joan said she was walking down rue Principale and got to talking to a middle aged woman and asked her, 'do you have a dream'. And I looked across the table at this lovely, lovely woman and thought - you lovely woman. Imagine talking to people about the things they dream of doing, or being. Awakening in them that one thing they'd regret not trying.

Then, after Joan left, I zipped across to Richford for gas (forgot passport but they let me through anyway) - then met another friend, this time at the Cafe Internationale, for a cafe au lait. This was Janet, who teaches voice at Stratford in Ontario and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg - she also specializes in the Alexander Method of voice. Very interesting woman. I had a chance to ask her, 'do you have a dream', and we talked about that for 2 hours! Isn't life amazing?

Last night I gave the after dinner speech to a local club called Le Cercle. 60 people at the Auberge West Brome, including our neighbor Serge and a bunch of people I knew. But far more I didn't know. Frankly I wasn't really looking forward to it. A roomful of strangers...etc. Not scary, but stressful. But they were SO warm and welcoming. Especially the man who's the founder of the ground...Claude Grondin and his wife Lucille. It went well - but it's hard to fail when people are so kind.

My brother Doug arrived tonight from Toronto - about a 6 hour drive. We didn't know really when he'd come so we just had a loose dinner of baguette, cheese and hummus. Doug's a vetegarian - but fortunately he adores Caramilk bars - so we got him a HUGE one and put it by his bed. Doug spent a year with him and the asparagus I talk about is thanks to him!

Must go. Tired. But happy. Nice feeling to have 2 men I love under one roof.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Bye bye jury duty, and copy edits

mixed again, threatening rain, temps 8

We have the fireplace on. Quite cosy. Lilacs are loving the cooler weather and the aliums are just blooming too. Snow expected tonight. Must remember to plant the sweet pea and bring in the flats of annuals. Lise said she'd plant the peas, but the sooner the better I think and she comes on Friday. she's such a great gardener everyone wants her!

Had to cancel coffee with Joan today - that's the bad news. The good news is Michael found a loophole for jury duty. People over 65 are exempt, and so are their spouses - me. Ha ha.

So much for civic duty.

Have to head in to Knowlton to the notary to get an affidavit signed, then go next week to the courthouse for the exemption.

I wonder if anyone is happy about jury duty. I wonder if enjoying it is also an exemption.

Quiet day of writing. There's a reason no reality shows are made about writers. All we do is stare at a computer or into space. or eat. or drink. Very boring.

UPS just arrived to take away the copy edits for book 4 - A RULE AGAINST MURDER. Nice to have them gone.

Now, Michael and I are off to Knowlton for the affidavit. Will see if I can get arrested - something to spice up the blog.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Healing Spirits and Perry Mason

mixed sun and clouds, spitting rain, cool, highs 15

No snow today. As you see, the bar has been lowered.

The dogs went in this morning at 8:30 to be groomed. Only got them back at 5:30. Frankly I was getting worried. Old 'worse-case-scenario factory' here, churning away. They survived - but they look ridiculous! We asked for a summer cut. last year we took Maggie to be groomed for the summer and they shaved her - except for her head and tail, so she looked like two different animals grafted together.

We changed groomers.

But, I now suspect, so did this particular groomer. Though instead of shaving them, this time it looks as though the person cut their hair with a potato peeler. Great hunks have been taken out of the hair - thankfully not down to the skin.

the owners of the salon agreed it may not have been the best job, and have agreed to fix it - which should be interesting. From what I can see that would mean one of them would have to become omnipotent.

Went and had our beloved Cowansville breakfast - then did chores, including trying to find just a plain, simple dehumidifier for the guest house. Susan says she didn't break it but... Anyway, we couldn't find just a bucket in a box type. Woods I think makes them. Now have asked Tony to see if he can fix the old one, which is what we should have done in the first place.

We're trying to be less wasteful, but sometimes we're more successful than others.

Michael's barbecuing hamburgers right now - they smell divine.

Got a summons for jury selection today! I have to appear at the Granby courthouse at 8:30 Wednesday, May 28th. I couldn't believe it.

Just a few minutes earlier, before opening the mail, I was outside, staking up more peony, when our neighbor Nicole came by. She was delivering 'thank you' cards she and her husband Guy had made after the death of their son Martin. We got to talking - she told me how scalding Mother's Day had been - especially when people would wish her the best, then say, 'It's OK, you can still celebrate - it's for Grandmothers too.' Terrible. We both said that people don't mean to hurt, just the opposite, but that what had happened to Guy and Nicole was just beyond most people's ability to comfort, or even to talk. Her daughter-in-law, lovely Paule, gave Nicole for Mother's Day a video Martin had made - actually two of them. One of each of his young daughters. It was to be given to his mother after his death. She watched one - and heard his voice, strong and laughing, and saw him bathing his daughter, his body strong and certain. And she wept and wept. Didn't yet have the courage to watch the next one.

Another neighbor, Bobbi, from next door walked down the road and joined us. We listened to Nicole, and let her cry, and asked questions, and talked.

Bobbi has just received her jury duty summons too! Though I didn't yet know about mine.

After listening to Nicole we thought maybe we should invite all the women on the road to a ritual. Light the dried sage, do a smudging, and cleanse ourselves, and wish ourselves and each other peace, and light, and love. Calm and contentment. And mostly we'd send peace to Nicole, and surround her with white light and healing spirits. Then have cake and wine and diet coke.

We decided as soon as Bobbi heard about her jury duty we'd organize it.

But now that I'm on jury duty too maybe we should just get all the women onto the jury and do it there. Jury duty/cleansing ritual. Strike up a doobie of sage right there. come to think of it, that would probably put paid to jury duty, forever.

'Yes your Honour, notwithstanding we knew it to be wrong we invited healing spirits into your courtroom.'

I'll let you know when and where and you can join us in spirit - we can all send Nicole healing energy.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The End - almost - really

rainy, snow (!), cold, temps 3

Can you believe the rain turned to snow this afternoon? I was stunned - though you'd think I'd be used to it by now. such an odd, unsettled, season.

Spent most of the day writing. Enjoying this section. I can see the end now. Is this beginning to sound familiar? When I first finished STILL LIFE I announced to Michael that I'd written, 'The End', and he took me off to Hovey manor for the night to celebrate. Then six months later I told him I'd finished the edit - this time I was REALLY finished. He took me to dinner to celebrate. About 4 months later, again, the big announcement...the polishing was finished - this time for sure! He bought me flowers.

After a while he's stopped responding altogether. Funny, that.

Still, I have to say, that finished the first draft is the biggest thing. When I write the first words (back in january or february) and am counting every, single, word it seems inconceivable I'd ever write 'The End'. But now I can see the end.

Just don't tell Michael - he won't believe you.

The Mayor called today...I'd been told he wanted to ask me something. I began to suspect it was to play a role in the upcoming celebrations of Townshippers Day, which is being held in Sutton this year, on September 20th. I'd already had to turn it down since I'll be away - but I guess no one told the he asked again if I'd be the Honourary President, and again I had to say no thank you. I felt horrible. I love this community, as you probably can guess. And this really is a huge honour. But we'll be away - actually at a family reunion.

Hope my brothers appreciate this! Don't brothers always?

Maggie and Trudy are off to be groomed first thing tomorrow morning. Trudy's operation wound is almost healed...fantastic. We're off for our Cowansville breakfast and chores. Was trying to arrange a coffee tomorrow afternoon with Joan rose and Michele Brault, but it doesn't seem possible. Might get more writing in.

and will finally mail off the proof edits to New York - and do a ritual cleansing of the house.

Be well - I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Sunday brunch and the hammock's up - and I did neither.

mainly sunny, mild, temps 19

It's turned into a beautiful day after starting out quite mixed. Lovely and sunny when we wpoke up around 6am. We have no curtains on the bedroom windows so we wake up with the sun. Good thing we don't live in the Arctic. Then clouded over and looked threatening, and now it's gorgeous. Sat by the pool for half an hour while Michael did odd spring jobs like putting the pots for annuals (rather than the annual pot) around the pool - then, lovely man, he put up our hammock between two pine trees.

That's the sign of summer. It hangs between the pool area and the STILL LIFE orchard and catches just enough of a breeze to shoo away the black flies and mosquitos, and to be gently cooling on the hotest days of summer. And, of course, it's in the shade. Lovely to lie there with a cold drink and a good book.


But always a bit of a struggle to get up - mostly just trying to unwind it from itself. Like a Gordian knot. Thankfully we haven't had to slice it through yet.

Michael and I both wrote this morning, then headed over to the guest house where Susan had prepared brunch for Cotton and us. God, it was good. She made the egg dish you make the day before, with cheese and bread and eggs and mushrooms - and fresh asparagus. Yum. Then she found a recipe in one of our cookbooks - fresh tomatoes with goat cheese on top and proscuitto laid on top of that...stick it under the broiler for a minute or so and it comes out just divine. So much tastier (Michael reports) than the piece of paper I fed him the other day.

Now home. finally struggled out of the pool side chair, got the clippers, and while Michael wrestled the hammock I cut lilac. The first bush is in bloom. Did an arrangement of lilac, daffodils, white bleeding hearts and these arching Solomon's Seal. Now the whole home smells like lilac. Wonderful.

Also did some research this afternoon for the book. I find it helpful to do it as I go along, rather than read everything before I start, because by the time I hit the section on canning or the Galapagos or throwing pottery, I'll have forgotten. So I write until I hit that stage then do one of two things. Either make it up and keep writing then do the research at the editing stage and make changes then, or read what I need for half a day and get back to it next day. That's what I'm doing with this section, though there are sections I know I'll have to 'fact-check' on the first re-write - probably in June.

speaking of editing - I finished the proof edits last night around 11! Phew. Free at last.

Quiet night. Some friends - Don and Daphne - coming over before dinner. They're heading to Vancouver at the end of the month for his mother's 80th birthday and were kind enough to decide to give her my book as a gift - so they'd like me to sign it.

Have all of tomorrow to ourselves - except Gary whose coming over to finished work on our windows (which explains the scaffolding he'd put up - I'm relieved there's an explanation). We think of Gary as part of the family, though hope I don't discover he's there when I see him at the bathroom window! Having coffee with his mother, Joan, on Wednesday. And need to try to arrange a coffee with another Joan friend, Joan Rose and Michele Brault. As you see, when we finally do get home life gets busy. I'm so grateful to our friends for not dropping us since we're away so much! I know it's hard to maintain a friendship when one half is missing. So we try to make up for it when we do get home.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Co-incidence? I think not

sunny, warm, highs 25

Unexpected - a gift of a day. It was supposed to be rainy and cool and instead it was sunny - without a cloud - and not just warm but hot.

Michael, Susan and I headed into Sutton and were at the market before 9am. it was already crowded. Besides the normal market vendors the local school had tables and various groups were selling goods too.

We went straight to the baking table. Bought a lemon meringue pie, a rhubarb upside-down cake, a lemon loaf. Susan bought a bag of home-made doughnuts and pan of cinnamon buns. Then it was over to the flowers. Ooops, I knew there was something I forgot to tell Lise. I bought 3 flats of annuals, including butter-yellow snapdragons.

There's a huge amount of junk at the market - and we examined and considered each and every piece - then bought lots, including a vase and six glasses. You know the kind we used to get peanut butter and jelly in? With black and red hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades? Well, we now own a bunch.

That reminds me - we went to the Knowlton Antiques show last night. packed - hot - and loads of fun. Met people I only see once or twice a year. In the car home I was saying how wonderful it is to be in a group of 200 people and be happy to see everyone. Not a single person I was trying to avoid, or wished wasn't there (or anywhere). Bought a very nice glass vase.

Oh - one other buy at the market - one of my own books!!! In a pile of second-hand books which we always pour over. I bought it.

The mayor couldn't come, but his very nice assistant did - Richard Godin. He still didn't tell us what the mayor of Sutton wants. But Monsieur Godin is the brother-in-law of a prominent Quebec publisher, so in our talks he said he thought the brother in law should publish my books in French.

I've found it quite baffling that my books are translated into (among other languages) German, Russian, Japanese - but not French!

So I gave Monsieur Godin the book I'd just picked up at the market. Now isn't that a co-incidence? Had I not seen it, or bought it, I wouldn't have had a book to give him. Love when things like that happen in life.

Wrote for a couple of hours this afternoon then met friends for a coffee at Le Cafetier on rue Principale. Then off to see more friends - and home now.

tomorrow, brunch with Cotton and Susan (Susan's cooking - two days ago I fed Michael, by mistake, a slab of butter and a piece of paper.)

Then more writing. Enjoying this section a lot.

Off to take the US proofs to bed. I tell you, this proof editor is driving me nuts! She's putting semicolons in dialogue, adding exclamation marks (I never put in exclamation marks - it's very lazy) and italicizing words in the middle of sentences to add emphisis, as though you're really too thick to know what's important yourselves. Ugh. Oh well, I'm nearing the end. And Hope - my real editor at Minotaur - has given me an extra week to finish and has promised this proof editor won't be allowed anywhere near another of my books. I really, really appreciate support like that. She's great.

Off to bed.

Friday, 16 May 2008

You'll never take me alive.

mainly sunny, mild, temps 15

Lovely day - a little cloudy and not as hot as yesterday, but still lovely.

Gary and John came by to put the dock in. Took photos. had a hard time getting a shot of Gary at work since he stood around talking most of the time, but then he finally got going. (If I'm ever found dead, someone needs to question Gary).

But it really was so kind of them to come by. Will figure out how to get those pictures on the computer and put them up tomorrow, I hope.

Getting close to the end of the proofs for the US version of book 4. A RULE AGAINST MURDER. Phew. And I think I should be finished the first draft of book 5 by the end of next week.

Lise and Delmar and Donna came by to do the gardens today. As you see, a lot of people work hard to give us the life we clearly don't deserve. In fact, Michael I seem to be kind of in the way most of the time. Superfluous is I think is the word.

We're off to Susan's (guest cottage) for an early dinner then have tickets to Kirk's big annual Antiques Show and Sale in Knowlton. Tonight's the gala preview - get to buy early, sip wine (water) and eat nibblies - and meet all of Knowlton society. We're hoping to get away early and go for ice cream.

Then tomorrow morning the three of us are heading to Curly's market - the farmers market every Saturday morning in Sutton in the summer. This is our first weekend to do it. Want to get vegetables, a pie and maybe some roses and other perennials for the cutting garden.

And the mayor called this afternoon and wants to come up to our house tomorrow morning around 11. Hope if there's trouble someone will bail us out. But I suspect we'd just do our time and in a year or so walk up the drive to see Gary, Tony, Lise, Pat and Wayne lounging by the pool. And we'll be sent to the basement.

Serves us right. will let you know what happens tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

See how we suffer?

Overcast, drizzle, mild, temps 14

We need rain and we're getting a little today. Then it's expected to clear up and be sunny for this afternoon and tomorrow - which will be great for Susan, who's arriving for the Victoria Day long weekend. I wonder if Canada is the only country that still celebrates Victoria Day? It was traditionally the weekend cottagers opened up the summer place after the winter. Those lucky enough to have a summer place, that is. For most of us it was simply a very welcome long weekend. It's also the weekend when it's considered safe to plant the annuals (flowers). Before this weekend there's always the risk of a killing frost. Between you and me? There's always a risk in Canada - but it goes down dramatically.

As you see, we've put up another picture. This is of the spring flowers I talked about cutting the other day. They're the last of the flowers from the spring cutting garden - plus a rose I was given on Mother's Day. It's lovely to sit on the screen porch and have our meals. It was especially nice this morning - even walking the dogs - with the rain. Wayne cut the grass yesterday so there was this morning this wonderful, tender fragrance of spring rain and new grass.

We also now have green grass tracks through the house. Pat's going to kill me.

It looks like it's going to be a spectacular year for lilac. Our bushes are full of the flowers - not yet out. Another week, I think. Hope we don't miss them when we go off to England...but they'll come again next year if we do. Now, after Gary's construction - we have two new windows upstairs - one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom...both right above a lilac bush, ripe with buds. It's going to be amazing when they open! Imagine waking up to the scent of lilac?

Had a wonderful message from Robin who runs Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor (one of my favorite!). She wrote to say STILL LIFE is back on the bestsellers list! And The Cruelest Month has been given the coveted Black Diamond review by the website I Love A Mystery.

So far so good.

Wrote this morning - then got chilly and took a bath...and a few ideas floated to the fore. Very helpful, baths. Need to get a photo and bio out for the talk next week. And had to say 'No' with thanks to an organization called The Townshippers, who called this morning to ask if I'd be the honourary president of their Townshippers Day - which is being held in Sutton this year. We'll be in Toronto. I felt badly saying no, but I'm getting better at it.

Back to the miserable proof edits after lunch. Happily I no longer put off things I don't want to do. In fact, just the opposite. Now I do them as soon as I can - get them out of the way. Like JK Rowling and her wonderful 'Howlers', things I hate just seem to get larger if I ignore them.

Susan's coming for dinner tonight - BBQ'd duck legs, fiddleheads, fresh asparagus and probably a dash of mud.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Trudy's home!

Sunny, hot, temps 27

Well, it's really hot! Can't quite believe it. Keep changing clothing, getting skimpier and skimpier. But wow does it feel wonderful after the long winter - and that was just the April in London!

Here's Trudy, on our dock. She's home now and a little groggy after being fixed but besides that surprisingly peppy. We just need to walk her on a leash, which surprises her, and check her wound for infection. They gave us some pain-killers - will try not to take them ourselves.

Just got off the phone from a local man - Dr. Grondin I think he said his name is. He asked if I'd speak to his club in a weeks time. They have dinner meetings at the Auberge West Brome, just down the road. I said I'd love to. Then he asked the 'question juste' - do you speak French? What to say? for once I was honest...yes, I said, but perhaps not well enough to carry a 1 hour talk to people who've already had quite a bit of wine. Though, actually, that would help. They can have wine, I can take Trudy's pain-killers and we're all happy (except Trudy). I've given talks in French before, and run meetings in French - but it's just so much work, I'd rather not. But he was very kind and said his members understand English. I guess we'll see. If need be I'll try out my Russian.

Adeen haladeelnik. One refridgerator. Short, kind of mysterious. Almost poetic.

Trees are exploding in bloom - last of the daffodils cut - I put them in a vase and will walk over to the guest cottage to leave them there for Susan, who's coming down tomorrow. In fact, I put on my rubber boots to do that, then got side-tracked by messages, and thought I might as well blog while I'm here. My feet are quite hot now. I wonder if this blog is deteriorating?

Staked up the peonies yesterday and made arrangements for a local organic farmer to bring produce by every Thursday throughout the summer. Yum.

I'm off to take the flowers next door then sit out by the pool with the proofs. At one stage the proof editor actually calls Gamache stupid. I don't think that's called for. Another bit like that and the pages might find themselves falling into the goose poop zone of the pond.

Still writing book 5 - every morning and into the early afternoon. Things are coming together, clues revealed...stuff Gamache (who isn't in the least bit stupid) has wondered about throughout the investigation are becoming clearer. I love this part.

Be well. Be kind.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A real lift

Sunny, very warm, highs 22

Hi you can see I've FINALLY figured out how to put up a picture. A few months ago a kind reader gave me instructions, which I forgot. But now, voila, here is a pciture I took this morning. It's from the bench. This is where I stand each morning and think of how lucky I am, and say my thanks. And this is where Michael and I sit every day when we walk Maggie and Trudy. There's the pond in the foreground and our home in the distance.

Poor Trudy. She's still at the vet. Was operated on this morning to be fixed but she was so close to her 'heat' the vet needed to put in extra stitches and wants to keep her overnight to make sure she's ok. He says she's fine. She's very healthy. I'll put up a picture of her on our dock tomorrow.

Getting dressed this morning I was again reminded how great our trip to Boston was. One of the highlights, and I'm not being fascetious, was buying reeeally good bras from a place in the Copley Square, called Intimates. The owner was the one on Oprah. Well, they set me up with a couple of great ones. What a difference it makes! That bulge I'd been worrying about around my mid-section, and was dieting to get rid of? Turns out those were my breasts. Now, my pants fit a whole lot better, as do my bras, though I do feel a bit like a Trojan each morning, anticipating battle.

Had a great day today. Every Tuesday we go to a place called The Station in Cowansville for breakfast, which we did this morning. Then we ran around doing chores. Made an appointment for this afternoon to take Michael's car to Denis to change the winter tires.

I took about 100 pages of the US proofs for A RULE AGAINST MURDER to the station to pass the time. Sat in Denis's service station sniffing gasoline and doing the edits while he changed the tires. Really, between the gasoline, which destroys brain cells, and the edit proofs which are soul destroying it's amazing I didn't evaporate completely, leaving behind just a really fabulous underwire bra.

Proofs are a very interesting part of the process. They come after the editors and the writer have done all the actual 'content' editing, and are meant (from what I understand) to be mostly grammatical, factual, sometimes to do with continuity (if a character is wearing red on one page they should still be in red on the next - that sort of thing.)

Very useful, very necessary - very upsetting. As a writer it reads like a dense, endless complaint. And turns a book I adored into what seems like crap. I love the editing process - discussing character, themes, continuity, plot - really hashing it out with these brilliant editors I have in New York and London. But this just seems picky. And no one else can go through it, except me. Can't delegate, though I'd have been happy to give it to Denis and have a go at the tires.

Still, at one point as Denis's compressor was shrieking I looked up from A RULE AGAINST MURDER and thought how perfect my life really is. Flawed, clearly. Too many comma's, it seems and not enough semi-colons. But pretty damn good.

As you can see by the picture. To live in that place, with a man I not only love but respect, with friends and family, writing my fifth book and editing my fourth. My great good fortune follows me, even into the gas station.

Denis changed all the tires and charged me 15 dollars. Can you believe it? Perhaps crass to mention money, and breasts, in the same post - but can't help but think Denis is just a nice man. And that's one way he shows it.

I'm off - will pick up Trudy as early as we can tomorrow morning, then back to Three Pines and book 5. Hope you're all enjoying yourselves.

Monday, 12 May 2008


sunny, mild, temps 18

Anotehr lovely day - though mixed. When the sun went in briefly and the wind picked up it was quite cool. But this evening is stunning. Michael and I just came back from a walk. Needed to call Wayne Clarkson who cuts our grass. He also said he'd cut the guest cottage grass too. Tony normally does it, but announced that this year he'd rather do other things, of which we have no end. Happily Wayne is picking up the slack, and the cuttings.

Busy day - a little stressful. I find it's the accumulation of small things that gets me, not one or two huge things. Today it felt like a pack of details nipping away at us. The drinking water needed to be tested for the guest cottage. We're renting it out, and the water is a well, so we need to make sure we aren't poisoning anyone. Though if that was the case Susan would have perished months ago. Though, we haven't seen her recently...

Lots of birthdays coming up, so we needed to do cards.

Our laptop and Michael's desktop at work aren't working, so needed to meet with the wonderful Nancy Page, who performs exorcisms on our computers.

Had keys to be cut, groceries bought, Michael's meds to pick up, a chapter to read and critique, emails to respond to, and to top it all off, the US proofs arrived for the fourth book... A RULE AGAINST MURDER is what it will be called in the US - coming out in January. But I need to read the entire book, paying attention to the edited proofs and okaying all the small changes. It needs to be done by the end of the week and mailed back! Read 130 pages late this afternoon.

And, oh yes, book 5 to write. Happily that seems to be going well, though the characters (especially Gamache) keep following me into the bath and tell me where I've forgotten an important clue, or didn't pick up on an inconsistancy.

No boundaries, these characters. That's their problem.

And speaking of characters I said I'd discuss briefly why most of the young people in my books don't fare so well...Philippe in Still Life, Crie in A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold - Sophie in The Cruelest Month.

I don't really know why that is. the easy answer is that I was in quite a bit of emotional turmoil as a young person so I'm probably projecting. I think young people are heroic...and while not all the characters are heroic (especially Sophie), there is a very brave quality about them. Struggling mostly with themselves and their own insecurities. Not always successfully.

I think it's a difficult time - for the kids, and God knows, for the parents. All my friends who have kids entering that age are terrified of seeing their loving, kind child turn into a stranger.

However, I actually recognized this habit myself and decided to explore other sorts of young people in my next couple of books - including the one I'm writing. I'll see what you think.

I'm off. have a bit of a headache and need to get up early to take Trudy to the vet to be fixed. Take care, and thanks for reading, and for being so supportive. I really appreciate it.

Oh, we noticed that the 'forget-me-nots' are up, all through the grass around the pool, so in the sun the grass looks light blue.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

My Mother the Car

Sunny, warm, temps 18

We're home! Drive was very easy and enjoyable. Almost no one on the roads, the Franconia Notch State Park is breath-taking, and for once no torrential rains for the trip. And - Michael got the SatNav working. This very calm, soothing voice told us where to go. Gave us plenty of warning. Was very polite. For a while there I wondered if I wasn't developing a little crush on her, then I analysed my feelings more closely and realized it was much more intimate than that.

I want the soothing car voice as a mother.

The loving mother who gently directs us. Is forgiving when we make mistakes or strike out on our own. 'Please re-adjust your course.' 'Please, make a legal u-turn as soon as you can.'

No raised voice, no power struggles, no 'Wait 'til your father hears about that right turn you made, young lady.'

She's very clear, but flexible. Mom. Just in time for Mother's day. I bought her a nice tank of gas.

It's a drop-dead gorgeous day. Picked up the puppies from Pat. We walked around the pond as soon as we got home. Tons of bass. Two ducks arrived with a splash as we sat on the wooden bench. Trudy still hasn't figured out she's a water dog. Maggie made straight for the island and jumped in.

Place smells nicely of fresh cut flowers and wet dog.

Asparagus almost ready to eat. Barbeque on and ready for the steak. Just finished watching the Players. Was rooting for Goydos (?) - but he lost to Garcia in a playoff hole. Very exciting.

Back to writing tomorrow. Nearing the end - still. I'm at that stage where I've lived with this book, thought about it, made notes, dreamed up the new characters until they spoke and walked around in my head and finally started writing it for almost a year now. I'd like it to be over. And yet, I must say I'm LOVING this book. Had an idea in the shower for how to expose a clue - now can hardly wait to write it. Thrilling when that happens.

Elizabeth in Ottawa wrote, and one of her questions had to do with the fate of young people in my book (not good) - and wondered why that was. She asked if maybe in the blog I could talk about that. And I will - tomorrow. Unless I forget. Don't mean to, but sometimes things just slip right out of the head.

Off to watch Michael BBQ. And offer tips. He loves it when I do that....

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Lucky Penny

mostly sunny, cool, temps 60

What an interesting time. We're adoring Boston. Lovely city - trees and spring flowers in bloom. Really gorgeous.

People we came to visit didn't show up. To be fair, they'd told us they wouldn't, but we thought we'd come anyway and hope. On top of that no one came to the signing at Harvard Coop last night. And my UK publicist keeps calling me by the wrong name.

These are humbling times. Funny, how you could win the Agatha one week then have the publicist get my name wrong and no one show up at an event the next. Bit of a reality check, and a bit humbling.

But, you know, this terrific young worker at the Harvard Coop - Santhi - had read The Cruelest Month and had taken the time to write an intro to me. So we sat together and she read it to me privately. It was wonderful. Then we talked and she told me all about her own dreams to be a writer, her hopes of being accepted into a MFA programme, her dream of writing a novel. We talked about poetry and belonging and character development. And then I thanked her sincerely and we left.

I think no one was meant to come. Just Santhi and Michael and me. It was a blessed 30 minutes, and reminded me yet again that I'm living not just my dream, but so many others too. And even if no one ever showed up again I'd still write. Because, really, what would I rather be doing?

And I'm sure the publicist is sincere when he assures me he doesn't know why he keeps calling me by the wrong name. I think I know why. I think I need to laugh at myself, and realise I might win awards and get lots of strokes - but there's a long way to go. And how lucky am I to even have a publicist?

And today, while waiting for people who didn't show, Michael and I read out loud to each other and talked about fears and faith, and choice and perception. And how lucky we are.

Then we went onto Newbury Street, and Filene's Basement. Bought a white sweater and a top. Then had lunch at Stephanie's (I had the Stephi Burger - perfection - Michael had the biggest Lobster Roll I've ever seen. People kept wandering by our table pointing and saying to each other, 'That looks good'.)

Then off to the Barbershop Lounge so Michael could have his hair and beard trimmed. We both had our shoes shined. I'd never sat at a barber shop and had my shoes shined, though Michael had. Marvin did it for us, and it was such fun. What a difference it makes to shoes!

More shopping after at Coply Square, and back to the hotel. Now we're relaxing and watching the Players golf tournament on TV. Out to a steak house for dinner.

You know, the other thing Michael and I talked about today was that all we can do is our best. And we leave the rest up to fate. And accept whatever is decided. The real gift is knowing how lucky we are, even when, or perhaps especially when, things don't go as we might like.

Hope you're well. We're heading back home tomorrow - not sure I'll blog. Had some thoughts about the book and can hardly wait to get home to write!

Friday, 9 May 2008

A good spanking - then we go home

overcast, mild, temps 65

Heading down to breakfast - had a GREAT dinner last night. Within easy walk of the hotel. past quite a seedy bar. As we walked by an older woman came out and said to the bouncer, 'Daddy spanked me and now it's time to go home.'


Just wanted to let you know about today's events, if you're in the Boston area.

I have a stock signings at Porter Square Books - 25 White Street in Porter Square - at 5pm. This is VERY informal and is mostly me just signing the books the store has on hand. Not really a formal 'public' event - but the public is welcome and I'd love to see you.

The actual event is at 7pm at Harvard Coop (now a Barnes and Noble). I want to call it Hardvard Co op, but people seem to call it Coop, as in chicken. It's in Harvard Square and I'll be giving a talk about the books, and doing a signing.

I'd love to see you there, if you can make it!

Michael and I think we'll do a bus tour of Boston - one of those 'jump on and off' tours. While we've been to the city before it was always on someone else's agenda so it's beyond delightful to discover 'our' Boston and how much we enjoy it.

See you later today, if you can make it - and might even blog later - but I did want to get out the info on the events since quite a few people were asking and I realized I'd been vague, which apparently isn't good with public events.

Speak soon...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Not ready for my close-up or 'Interview of the living dead"

mainly sunny, warm, highs 73

We're in Boston! Short post today since we just had a nap and heading off for 7pm reservations for dinner at Legal Seafood on Stuart. Love Boston! Drive very easy. Got up at 4am, left at 5. Split drive with Michael, though he did the worst part and probably the longest, including entering the city.

We stopped off the 91 at a placed called Wells Something (something is mine, not the town name - wells river? lake?) at a truck stop for breakfast. Everyone, including the border guard recommended it. P&H truck stop - or something. Had the BEST Western omelette with cinnamon raisin toast. Almost bought a home and moved in.

Arrived in time for 1pm TV interview - which was fun. BATV turns out to stand for Brookline Access TV - local cable. In an old school. No camera person, a florescent light kept going off and on during the taping. No make-up person and I had the biggest blemish on my forehead so that I looked as though I'd been shot. The poor host, Diane, was totally relaxed and professional. And - miracle of unexpected miracles - she's read the book! And we had 30 minutes. Wow. riches.

It was such fun...God knows what it'll look like. Then, in cab back, all we heard was French. He was from Haiti and had a local haitian station (a rhyme) on the radio. Come all the way to Boston and first thing we hear practically is French.

Must be off - Legal seafood awaits! speak tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


Mainly sunny, mild, temps 14

Another gorgeous day. The asperagus is just coming up in the cutting garden. Normally I realize it's up when I see it in bloom out the kitchen window. This year I'm determined not to forget it's there.

How wonderful is fresh asperagus? My brother Doug planted it when he came to live with us for a year. We miss him - but thank God he left his vegetables.

We're off to Boston tomorrow. One of our favorite cities. We adore it. Quite a bit like Montreal we find - a very people-oriented city. We're going down mostly on personal stuff. But once the people we were visiting settled on what weekend would suit them we re-arranged the Burnham Library event (originally for this weekend) thanks to the kindness of Marty, and made arrangements to be in Boston. Then I got in touch my the publicists about it.

I'm fortunate to have two publicists (high maintenance, you know...all those unreasonable requests). There's Hector at St Martin's Minotaur. He's absolutely fantastic. Just had a baby, and it hasn't seemed to have thrown him off at all. Though Hector sleep deprieved and Hector normal are hard to tell apart.

And we have Kathleen at Goldberg McDuffie in New York. They're terrific publicists.

So I contacted them, told them the weekend our people wanted us in Boston and asked if there was anything they could set up.

Loe and behond, they did! A TV interview tomorrow, and two signings on Friday. Leaves Saturday free for our personal stuff - which we're really looking forward to.

I'll be posting from Boston to keep you up to date.

We decided to drive down...leaving 5 am tomorrow - to make the 1pm tv interview.

Must run...lunch is ready. Just back with Michael and the 'girls' from a walk. Tons of tadpoles in the pond - and huge numbers of bass. Sadly our little duck eggs have been abandonned. And the ducks are gone. Feel horrible about that.

Will try to post again well.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Busy Bees

Sunny, warm, highs 21

Wow - a beautiful day! Sat outside having a cafe au lait with Cheryl in the village. We sat under a cherry tree just about to bloom. Splendid. She showed me the watercolours for her latest children's book. She's a remarkable artist and she has a series of picture books for children - Dragon Dreams is out now, the second Mother's Dreams is at the publisher and she's working on Mermaid's Dreams. One illustration was so amazing it almost made me cry.

Went across the border for gas again - and to Cowansville for breakfast with Michael. Left the Volvo at the station to have its winter tires taken off (we feel it's safe now) and the all season's put on.

Came back to find Tony had put the barbeque and garden furniture out, and the Adirondack chairs around the pond. And the bench I gave Michael last year for his birthday is out. We immediately walked the dogs and sat there, chatting, in the sun.

After having coffee with Cheryl I did some grocery shopping, (including steaks for the BBQ!) and picked some stuff up at the new hardware store, then noticed the ice cream 'cabin' was open on Main Street for the first time - so went over and got Michael and softie chocolate cone. He was at work. By the time he'd finished it there was chocolate all over his gray beard. He looked like the happiest kid in town.

Received quite a funny email from Lise a couple of days ago under the heading "pear" - which of course I took personally. Actually, what she and Delmar meant was that our pear trees were about to flower and the bees cycle had been disrupted by the warmth, then a killing when the trees bloomed the bees might not be there to pollinate them. So, Lise asked, could we?


She suggested finding a feather from one of the geese and rubbing it on all the flowers, thereby spreading the pollen. I asked if we had to be naked, and apparently not.

So yesterday afternoon I checked and the buds had popped. I found a feather and made like a bee. Happily as I was busy pollenating I noticed 'another' bee buzzing around. A real one! But I kept at it anyway, just in case. So we should have a great crop of pears this fall.

With our very first advance cheque for STILL LIFE Michael and I wanted to do something special. We thought about it and decided to give 25 percent away - and spend the rest on planting an orchard. So every year now we walk through the STILL LIFE orchard, and see the changes. And marvel. And each autumn we harvest our good fortune, and eat it!

Can't find the propane tank for the BBQ - must call Tony. Poor guy must think we're morons. Actually...

Speak to you tomorrow. Be well.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Pastries, peepers and the Burnham Library

Sunny, warm, beautiful day, temps 17

What a splendid day! Took the dogs over to the guest cottage pond. Remembered my rubber boots - but that didn't stop the dogs from getting all 97 paws filthy - right up to their stomachs. Mud everywhere.

We stood on the dock and the dogs ran around the pond, looking for frogs. That got the mud off them. The weeping willow, which two years ago seemed infested with something and likely to die - which we washed down and looked after one weeping branch at a time - is now huge. Thriving. I can't quite believe it!

A piece of siding has been torn off the guest cottage. Must get Gary up from the basement to see about that if he doesn't mind.

I get so many compliments about the publicity photo of me out by our pond and that's only because of Gary. He's not only a great contractor, his first job was as a commercial photographer, with huge accounts, like Loblaws. So I AM just another piece of meat. Fine by me, as long as the photos keep looking good. I think the trick is I'm so relaxed around Gary. Like having one of my brothers taking the photo - if my brothers knew anything about photography.

Had a wonderful time in Colchester Vermont at the Burnham Library. It was drizzling, so really a very good day to go for a little drive and talk to friendly people. It took about 1 1/2 hrs to get there. Driving there is always a little stressful - especially since we decided Michael should stay home with the dogs.

But it turned out to be very easy - a really relaxing and pleasant drive. Gave me a chance to clear my head and listen to music. I really enjoy driving. good thing since we're driving to Boston on Thursday.

the Burnham Library event was just a joy. Marty, the head librarian who organized it, had refreshments, and books for sale and it was all very 'together' which I appreciate. Makes life calm.

Lots of people out - very welcoming and happy. I'm always so grateful when people come out to book events. There's just so much else people could be doing - life is hectic these days...and they'd take time away from relaxing, reading, taking a long bath. Well, it just feels wonderful.

Thank you to all of you who came out. A huge thank you to Marty - a fabulous time! And a massive thank you to Phil - who I met for the first time a couple of months ago at the event in south Burlington. He lives in the Danville, Vermont area, I believe, and drove up to see me. His sister was also there - she works at the Burnham Library. Wait a minute - do you think maybe he drove up to see her? Nah.

He also brought 4 huge pastries from his 'local' - the Edelweis Bakery - and gave them to me to share with Michael. What generosity! Phil, thank you again. I was so touched. And I have to say, these pastries kick Nutrisystem's butt! I think perhaps the less said about butts at this point the better.

We now have a duck and a goose in the pond again.

The peepers are out! This is a fun, annual event here. Peepers are tiny frogs that give a shrill trill at night for about 2 weeks of the year when they're mating. I talk about them in The Cruelest Month. At first they're quite romantic. A very country sound. But when they're all in full voice - and after about 10 days of it - and all through the night - well you such want to tell them to **** off already. But I love them. Always relieved to hear them back, and never happy when they grow silence again.

There is also a gentle wiff of skunk around our back porch. What could that mean?

having a lovely day writing - just writing - and polishing off Phil's amazing pastries. Yum - bliss.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Phyllis Smallman - Marguerita Nights

rain, wind, cool, temps 8

We need the rain here, so this is great. Canadiens lost last night - so they're out of the play-offs. The great thing about sports is that there's always next year.

Will write this morning then head, about noon, down to Colchester, Vermont, for my 2pm event at the Burnham library. Thanks so much to Phil for pointing out that my original plan, of going to Burnham, Vermont, was flawed.

We now have 2 ducks in the pond! have named them Rosa and Flora, of course - though we suspect that is also flawed. More like Rosa and Phil probably. We'll see.

As I mentioned in last night's post, I have the very great pleasure of being a friend of Phyllis Smallman - friend and fan (though we've never met, I've read her book). She won the inaugural ARTHUR ELLIS AWARD FOR BEST UNPUBLISHED NOVEL (aka The Unhanged Arthur) last year for her terrific book MARGUERITA NIGHTS.

Since the new Authur Ellis nominations were just announced I asked Phyllis to blog today, and tell us what winning last year has meant to her. Here she is:

Hello Louise,

You were asking what it meant to me to win the Unhanged Arthur from the Crime Writers of Canada. Well, it's the difference between nothing and everything - the difference from having a mystery on my computer and a published book in my hand. A year ago being published was still a dream and yesterday I went into a bookstore on Salt Spring Island and saw my books on display on the table closest to the door. Can you imagine my excitement?

Last April I went to a Mystery Writer's of America conference and listened to a panel of editors and agents. After talking about the difficulty of dealing with all the query letters and manuscripts they receive, one of the editors said, "The problem is there are just too many people writing books." Not what I wanted to hear. No editor will look at an unagented manuscript so the slush pile has moved from the publisher's office to the agent's office and now the average agent gets 75 to 100 query letters a week. That's just a letter to say, "May I please send you my manuscript?" How many of those letters do you think actually get read? The Arthur Ellis contest for unpublished manuscripts is a real chance to be seen and maybe published.

I'm very grateful to you, not only for getting the idea, but for carrying through with your vision. Most of us don't follow through with our good ideas. Without you there wouldn't be an Unhanged Arthur award and I'd still be sending out query letters to add to the slush pile.

Last Wednesday I was on a panel at the Vancouver library. We were there for the announcement of this year's Arthur Ellis finalists. Every person on the panel opened an envelope to read out the short list for each category. When William Deverell read out your name I nearly stood up and cheered. My emotions were a strange mix of pride, delight and completion, although why I should feel pride in an accomplishment that is yours alone I'm not sure. So what does it all mean to me? The earth and the moon and the stars and a dream come true. Not much.


Oh, Phyllis - thank you. You talked about 'completion'. I know that feeling. it's how I felt when you not only won, but were picked up to be published my McArthur. I felt my obligation to the Gods of Mercy was done. I'm so happy for you, and I'm happy for me. And for Michael, who is the co-founder of this award, lovely man - and the CWC - GREAT organization!

I almost took the paragraphs out where Phyllis thanks me. I didn't want any of you thinking that was the purpose. I really debated, and had my fingers on the delete buttons...but then I realized this was Phyllis's voice, and not mine. It wouldn't be appropriate to decide for her.

So, thank you Phyllis - and congratulations once again to this year's nominated books in the Best Unpublished Catagory....

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel: the Unhanged Arthur (cash award from McArthur & Company)

Patricia Flewwelling, Mummer’s the Word
D.J. McIntosh, The Witch of Babylon
Amy Tector, The Paris Letters
Kevin Thornton, Condemned

Good luck to all!!!

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Flushing the Canadiens

Overcast, spitting, cool, highs 12

windy today, and rainy. Really not all that cold for Quebec at this time of year, but the combo of rain and wind, well it gets right into you.

Had a fun day today. Woke up to Trudy and her stinky stuffed toy in my face. I whispered, 'Where's Daddy?'. That gave me a few more minutes sleep.

Wrote all morning - moving toward the end - though still about 25 thousand words away. Would love to be finished this first draft before we head back to England at the end of the month.

I like deadlines. Gives me structure and certainly gives me purpose. But I'm a bit of a maniac about deadlines. I actually get my books in months ahead. While I love having them, and need them...and when I was writing STILL LIFE without a contract I realized I needed to give myself deadlines. Something to shoot for. The downside is that I feel so stressed by a deadline I just drive myself, way beyond what could be considered reasonable.

But, I also want the summer off - to relax. So this is my plan: Finish the first draft by the end of this month. Go to CrimeFest in Bristol then BookExpo in Toronto. Return home by mid-June. Work on second draft through June. Finish that before going away at beginning of July. Polish through July. Get it to my agent by the beginning of August...and take August off. Except for the promotion events at Wolfe Island, Ontario and in Michigan.

There's some stress, but it's all manageable. And really, what else would I rather be doing? this really is a dream come true.

I asked Phyllis Smallman, whose wonderful book Marguerita Nights has just come out, to write a blog for me. I specifically asked her to write about her experiences with the Unpublished Arthur Ellis award - she won last year and as a result her first book is now in the stores - published by McArthur and Co.

Like me, she got her break through a contest for Best Unpublished Crime Novel. If you're a mystery writer, please consider checking out the CWA Daggers, the Malice domestic/St. Martin's Minotaur contest and the Crime Writers of Canada contest. They work!

Anyway, back to Phyllis. she wrote the most beautiful blog and I'd intended to put it up immediately, but had to go out, and I don't want to put it on for only a few hours. So I'll put it on the site tomorrow. Please look for it here. And look out for her book in the stores and on Amazon.

I'm off to Colchester, Vermont to speak at the Burnham library tomorrow at 2pm - I might see some of you there.

The duck and goose are still at the pond. Very friendly too. I swear to God we're going to have a new species in a few weeks.

Michael is watching the Montreal Canadiens playoff game. I can hear it in the background. He just reported...Philadelphia has scored 3 goals in 5 minutes. Unbelievable. But we should have known. Michael's good luck charm, bought in New Zealand, fell into the toilet. That can't be good. Frankly I'm glad if we have to have bad luck, it's with the Canadiens.

Yikes, I can barely stand the sound of the game - so stressful!!!

Well, I'm off. Dogs to be let out and given their evening treats. Thanks for reading - and I'll put up Phyllis's post tomorrow.

Friday, 2 May 2008


sunny, warm, highs 16

What a glorious day! spent the morning writing - a little scary getting back into the story, but once in it seemed to go well. All these red herrings and misdirections and suspects floating around - at this stage I need to be tying them up and resolving things, which I am, but I keep remembering things that need resolving! I should probably write them all down. And of course emotionally things are coming to a head for many of the characters. At this stage it's more an issue of structure and pacing than plot and character.

Trying to keep the critic out of the room - but she's wily, and strong and cunning. Happily, so am I.

The contest to win a signed copy of Julia Spencer Fleming's new book I SHALL NOT WANT is a huge success...almost too much! I'm overwhelmed with replies. Since I like to write back to everyone this might take a while. if you wrote - thank you SO much...the letters are wonderful!!! but please be patient. I definitely will respond.

Walked around the pond with the puppies this morning. Heaven. I stop at the far side and say a little prayer, and feel myself surrounded by light and love. It's a very peaceful moment in my life.

For some reason this morning there was only one goose, and a lone duck. I'm hoping they're both young and haven't yet found mates. I'm also hoping they don't mate...

Went to the feed store Edwards this afternoon for dog food, then into sutton for groceries...walked right by the gummy bears. Now I regret doing that!

Spoke to Gary and Cheryl. Gary did an amazing job on our ceiling. He was putting in a support beam while we were in London. When we got back the otehr day we ran in, at midnight, to look. Nothing. Furniture exactly where we left it - no beam in the ceiling. Clearly Gary had spent three weeks watching the sports network in flat-screen high definition on our bed. But, that wasn't right since there were no crumbs. Finally we saw some tiny marks on the living room ceiling...Gary had managed to bury the support beam. Though, when I called this afternoon he did say he'd just sprinkled some plaster around, re-arranged the furniture slightly and scratched the ceiling. We'll get the bill in a few days. We'll pay it, as we always do, with dog poop.

Having lunch next week with Cheryl. So looking forward to it.

Must run - have a couple hundred emails to respond to. Hope you're enjoying the spring. Be well.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


sunny, snow showers, cool, highs 3

I've actually tried to publish this post for 2 hours... not sure I have the energy to write another one! But I did want to tell you a few things -

We're home. Home.

the book I'm writing now is about home, and belonging. I really am a home body. My sign is Cancer - and we're very nurturing, and sensitive (sometimes over) and love nesting.

I really, really enjoy traveling - especially to London! And adored Malice Domestic, and genuinely love meeting people.

But then it's good to get home.

This morning while pouring the kettle I noticed tulips almost in bloom on the cutting garden. And daffodils, and bugs on the trees. Lise, who is also our gardener, had been here with her wonderful husband Del and they'd prepared the spring gardens. It's as though Lise and Del had fallen from heaven and landed in our lives. How lucky are we?

The geese are back - plump and honking. No babies yet, but there will be I'm sure.

When we left there was ice on the pond and 5 feet of snow. And now there are geese and tulips.

I was going to write today, but Pat brought the dogs back and so I decided to spend the day walking around the garden and the pond, with Maggie and Trudy (who immediately got her entire head covered in burrs). I cut the tulips and put them in vases around the home...and snipped the fragrant daffodils and they're in vases now too.

The writing will wait - this won't. And the book, one about home, will be the better for this day.

Had a wonderful evening in Montreal last night at the Crime Writers of Canada event for the Arthur Ellis nominations.

Met a young woman shortlisted for the Best Unpublished award. Patricia Flewwelling is her name. Her book is called MUMMER'S THE WORD. She felt exactly as I had when I'd been shortlisted for a similar award. Stunned, excited, disbelieving. But knowing something very significant had just happened.

And had a lovely email from Dorothy McIntosh, whose novel THE WITCH OF BABYLON is also shortlisted for the Best Unpublished Arthur Ellis.

And - I was nominated!!! For THE CRUELLEST MONTH in the Best Novel category. Wow, does that feel wonderful - perhaps even more so at home. There's that theme again. Belonging...I think it's as potent as love...perhaps even more.

Congratulations to all the nominees...and it was a fabulous evening. Jim Napier in particular gave a brilliant speech.

Here are all the nominees for the Arthur Ellis awards...

2008 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists

Best Short Story

Vicki Cameron, “Eight Lords A’Leaping” in Locked Up (Deadlock Press)
Maureen Jennings, “Wreckwood” in Blood on the Holly (Baskerville Books)
D.J. McIntosh, “The Hounds of Winter” in Blood on the Holly (Baskerville Books)
Rick Mofina, “As Long as We Both Shall Live” in Blood on the Holly (Baskerville Books)
Leslie Watts, “Turner” in Kingston Whig-Standard (July 7, 2007)

Best Non-Fiction

Rodrigo Bascunan & Christian Pearce, Enter the Babylon System (Random House Canada)
Robert J. Hoshowsky, The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada (Hounslow/Dundurn)
Julian Sher, One Child at a Time: The Global Fight to Rescue Children from Online Predators (Random House Canada)
Brian Vallée, The War on Women: Elly Armour, Jane Hurshman, and Criminal Violence in Canadian Homes (Key Porter)
Paul Watson, Where War Lives (McClelland & Stewart)

Best Juvenile

Anita Daher, Racing for Diamonds (Orca)
Anita Daher, Spider’s Song (Puffin Canada/Penguin Canada)
Vicki Grant, I.D. (Orca)
Shane Peacock, Eye of the Crow (Tundra)
Drew Hayden Taylor, The Night Wanderer (Annick Press)
Best Crime Writing in French
Mario Bolduc, Tsiganes (Libre Expression)
Johanne Seymour, Le Cercle des Pénitents (Libre Expression)
Pierre H. Richard, GHB: Grossier, Horrible et Bête (Editions Pratiko)
Diane Vincent, Epidermes (Triptyque)
Norbert Spehner, Scènes de Crimes: Enquêtes sur le Roman Policier Contemporain (Alire)

Best First Novel (cash award from Book City, Toronto)

Claire Cameron, The Line Painter (HarperCollins)
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood (William Morrow/HarperCollins)
Liam Durcan, García’s Heart (McClelland & Stewart)
Susan Parisi, Blood of Dreams (Penguin Australia)
Sharon Rowse, The Silk Train Murder (Carroll & Graf)
Marc Strange, Sucker Punch (Castle Street Mysteries/Dundurn)

Best Novel (cash award from Sleuth of Baker Street, Toronto)

Linwood Barclay, No Time for Goodbye (Bantam)
Terry Carroll, Snow Candy (Mercury Press)
Maureen Jennings, A Journeyman to Grief (McClelland & Stewart)
Louise Penny, The Cruellest Month (McArthur & Company)
Jon Redfern, Trumpets Sound No More (RendezVous Crime/Napoleon & Company)

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel: the Unhanged Arthur (cash award from McArthur & Company)

Patricia Flewwelling, Mummer’s the Word
D.J. McIntosh, The Witch of Babylon
Amy Tector, The Paris Letters
Kevin Thornton, Condemned