Saturday, 31 January 2009

Mad anglo on the loose

light, fluffy flurries, mild, temps minus 2

Just snuck out of bed. have been awake for a while staring out the window at the huge, soft snow flakes drifting down. It's mesmerizing. Also staring at the swarthy man stripped to his tee-shirt on the roof next door, shovelling.

Really, there's more pedestrian traffic on the third floor than on the main floor. He's strapped onto ropes and harnasses (which, honestly, only adds to the attraction) and is working so hard he must have over heated. His name is Emile and when he isn't shoveling snow to support his poor mother and sick sister, he writes poetry and is working on his first novel. OK, that last part I made up.

Really, what an amazing city that is so gorgeous. As though the snow, the cobblestoned narrow streets, the old walls and homes, the kind and generous people, the French food wasn't enough now old Quebec City offers near naked men on roofs to wake up to.

I LOVE this city.

Michael and I had such fun yesterday. Great breakfast with Peter, who managed to score us rare and precious tickets to THE social event of the Quebec Winter Carvival - the brunch at the Chateau Frontenac on the day of the finals of the canoe race across the St. Lawrence. All the dignitaries in town sip champagne, eat gourmet food and watch the race below. That's next Sunday, Feb 8th.

From breakfast we headed off to hear Prof David Hackett Fischer, whose latest book is called Champlain's Dream. We were told about his lecture (he's visiting from Brandeis Univ. outside Boston) and it fit so well with what I'm researching we decided to drop by.

We arrived to discover it was in a board room of the Quebec Ministere des Affaires Internationale. they asked, at the door, who we were and whether we had an invitation. We looked at each other and a very kind woman piped up, 'Oh, did Matthieu invite you?'

'Oui', we said. They showed us in and sat us near the head of the table. then a bunch of Quebec officials arrived, including the Minister of International Affairs himself. They were all very charming, though perplexed by the strangers, in jeans, at the head of the table.

This was a private talk given by the Professor. To Quebec government officials. And us.

But once again, Quebec showed her tolerance. There was no way those people didn't know we didn't really belong. But they let us stay and treated us as honoured guests.

We chatted afterward then left...walked home via rue St jean outside the gates, and went into Le Moisin - a fabulous Epicerie...cheeses, baguette, pates and terrines - fruits and vegetables, spices and jams...cookies and pastries. Home.

We bought the shop out and staggered home. We hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast so we lit the fire, got into our sweats, fried up the hot water bottle (which later sprang a leak all over Michael - disaster!) and had a lunch/dinner of pears and apples, baguette and cheeses and terrines.

This morning, while I stared at heroic Emile on the roof across the way, we heard the garbage truck...our garbage bag was sitting in the kitchen, waiting. Michael, dear one, raced down, threw on his boots and a coat and ran outside, chasing the garbage truck a block - finally catching it right at the Entrecote St jean.

Another mad Anglo - in middle of winter, wearing boots, a night dress and running through the snowy streets of quebec with a bag of garbage. Now, I wonder why they want to separate?

Quebec Winter Carnival started last night. Went to bed with the sight of fireworks over the roofs.


Keep well and warm. And thank you.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Champlain's dream - if not his body

flurries, milder, temps minus 8

We had such fun yesterday. spent a few hours at the marvelous Literary and Historical Society on St Stanislas. It's the oldest museum in North America and is actually, now this terrific library. Not very big, but with a balcony lined with old books, and books below, and a leather sofa and chairs and a wooden table (when I arrived there were fine china cups from a previous meeting). Toured and talked with Patrick Donovan.

Then Michael took me to the Saint Amour restaurant on Sainte-Ursule for lunch. It's considered by many the best restaurant in Quebec City, which is saying something. We celebrated making the 'list'. We were clearly English, though speaking French to the servers and maitre d' - but English to each other. And the people, where possible, spoke English to us. As a courtesy. The English was often halting, but it was like being offered something small but precious...tiny sweet bits of our own language, and their respect for it. How lovely.

Then we wandered through the narrow, snow clogged streets, slipping and sliding, since we were either climbing up a steep hill or skidding down. The city has soddered hand rails to the sides of buildings so we can steady ourselves.

When I got home there were tons of messages from friends and former colleages and Jacquie Czernin, who hosts the local CBC afternoon show, invited me on to talk about the New York Times bestseller list! Such kindness and support.

And now it's Friday. We're off for breakfast with Peter Black. He's a producer and journalist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation...he knows everyone and everything. Except plumbing. We were supposed to meet yesterday but in the storm somehow a pipe burst at his home...and he (poor delusional man) thought that was more important.

But we're meeting in 10 minutes for breakfast and a catch-up, and I get to run some murderous thoughts by him. Then at noon there's a lecture by the author of Champlain's Dream - he's from Brandeis University and won the Pulitzer with his last book. Really looking forward to that!

then home and a weekend of relaxing.

Be well - and thank you.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

New York Times Bestseller!!!

Cloudy, flurries, temps minus 5


Hope Dellon, my editor and Andrew Martin, the publisher of St. Martin's Minotaur called late yesterday afternoon with the news I've dreamed of all my adult life...for 30 years or more.

'You've made the New York Times Bestseller list with A Rule Against Murder!'

I started trembling then and I don't think I've stopped. However, the shrieking has died down...a little.

This is what's called the 'extended' list - which is for the top 35 hardcovers, and it's the list for February 8th (don't know wny it's a week ahead, but I suppose that's what makes the New York Times great...they see the future. Perhaps they're also built on a cliff). A Rule Against Murder is number 33.

We did it. You and I. I wrote it, you read it and told your friends - and over the course of the 4 seasons we've built the series. I am so grateful to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me this amazing gift. I will never, ever forget sitting in the living room in Quebec City, in front of the fireplace, clutching the hot water bottle (I think we've bonded) - and getting the call. Frankly at first I was confused about why both Hope and Andy would call. I figured it was either wonderfully good news, or horrific news. Since they probably wouldn't be the ones to tell me someone I love died or Michael or I have cancer I figured the news couldn't really be all that bad. Could it?

Andy even asked, 'Do you know why both of us would be calling?'

I think he presumed I knew it would be the Times - but since it has never happened to me before, it was so far from my expectations I honestly had no idea.

And then they told me. I might have shattered their ear drums with the scream. I know Michael came running.

Wow. Thank you for this. I really hope you feel the thrill too. You're as much a part of this as me. All my life I'll remember this moment.

On other news - the storm hit! Michael and I were exploring the Plains of Abraham, where the definitive battle between the French and English forces happened in September 1759 - and suddenly it started snowing...then more, then more. We ducked into the Cafe Krieghoff on rue Cartier for lunch and by the time we came out the blizzard was in full flight. What distinguishes blizzards from smily heavy snow is the wind.

The snow was hurtling sideways, and getting into our eyes, ears, under our collars. We have about 2 kilometers to, heads down, off we went. It's actually quite exciting. We were well dressed and there was never any fear we were in danger.

then arrived home to this terrific news.

Now need to rush out - breakfast, then I have a 10am meeting at the Literary and Historical society, just up the street on Saint-Stanislas to talk to Patrick Donovan about where the skeletons are buried. I love research.

Did I mention about the New York Times??? I feel like running through the streets laughing - proving to Quebec once and for all that Anglos really are nuts. Happy - but nuts.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Storm Watch

overcast, temps minus 15

It went down to minus 30 yesterday!

As you can see, we Canadians are fixated by the weather - or at least this Canadian is. There's a saying that history is geography spread over time. I believe it. Especially here in Quebec City where geography determined the founding of the settlement (its where the St Lawrence narrows and so is easy to defend - and its on top of a cliff so you can see down the river for can see the future.)

But geography also decides climate. And as Canadians we are defined by our climate. Oddly, not at all limited by it. We can grow everything we need, as long as we don't need bananas. And the snow actually makes getting around easy. We have ice highways and ice bridges. Some communities that are extremely difficult to get to any other time of the year become accessible in winter - by dog sled or now, by skidoo.

Indeed, the unofficial anthem of Quebec is by a wonderful, wizened Quebec chansonier/poet named Gilles Vigneualt...he wrote...Mon Payes C'est l'Hiver. My Country is Winter.

I think about these things today in this glorious city of Quebec because there're weather warnings out all over the place. For a country and city so steeped in weather this is unusual. Storms come and go all the time almost without comment. So this might be a
doozy (a word Monsieur Vigneault has yet to use in any of his poems). Mon payes n'est pas un floozy - Elle est vraiment un doozy.

This poetry stuff ain't so hard.

I'll let you know tomorrow about the blizzard. It's supposed to hit today. We'll be inside our old stone home, reading page proofs for the next book and research books on Champlain for another, sitting in front of the fire with the ubiquitous hot water bottles and coffee. In a home that's seen worse than whatever is coming our way.

Be well - I'll talk to you tomorrow, mon ami.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Lost and Found

clear, cold, windy, minus a gazillion

Hard to believe just a week ago I was in a cotton sundress in Phoenix, Arizona. On one side of me a honey-mooning couple were doing 'something' in the hotel pool and on the other side of me the inauguration of Barack Obama on television. I chose to watch the television.

It was 85 degrees and I was there to launch my latest book, A RULE AGAINST MURDER.

Now, here I am in Quebec City - minus 25 - and clutching a hotwater bottle like a babe. Indeed, there seems something biblical about this. Definitely Old Testament.

However, in the midst of the bitter cold, we found Paradise. Well, steak frites. And, in case any doubt remained, profiteroles. We had dinner last night half a block up the street (Saint-Stanislas) at the Entrecote St Jean - on rue Saint-Jean. Outside the mullioned and frosty windows people hurried by and Christmas lights gleamed on the snow, and inside we were toasty and warm eating steak and french fries and ice cream filled pastry drizzled with warm, dark chocolate.

The only thing that might have marred the picture was us...our clothes were fine, but our heads lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. It's the bane of a Quebec winter. Hat Head. And static electricity. As soon as we get indoors and take off our tuques (hats) our hair stands straight up, as though we've had a fright or a particularly good idea.

But then comes the fall. At some point during dinner some of the static electricity leaves (I wonder where it goes) and the hair falls. But not all of it. The hair that does subside then clings to whatever skin is exposed. Neck, cheek, ears. Half the hair plastered to the face, the other half reaching for the stars.

A Quebec winter is a test of true love. I had the great pleasure of sitting across from Michael and his grey Mohawk. And he got to see me - little Richard Simmons.

Then, when we touch each other we run the risk of electrocution. If we could just harnass this energy we could run the whole city.

Had a wonderful day 100 pages of proofs for the next book and set up an appointment with someone who knows all the history of this place where the body will be found. That will be on Thursday. I still need to find someone who can tell me about Samuel de Champlain. The founder and father of Quebec, 400 years ago. Whose body has never been found. They've somehow lost the founder. And it remains the biggest mystery in Quebec history.

I'm here to solve it. And eat croissants. Wish me luck.

Monday, 26 January 2009

A Cure for Despair

Clear, Cold, temps minus 20

Hi - below is the blog I wrote for today's Moments in Crime, the St Martin's Minotaur I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I'll be doing it all week. And putting the same blog up here, since I'm nothing if not lazy. You'll notice I've included some context you might already know if you read my daily bog often. Hope you don't mind.

My husband Michael and I are in Quebec City, for a month, researching an upcoming book. As soon as I finish this blog we're heading into the bitter cold day to bag our breakfast...which should be a bowl of cafe au lait, a croissant - or maybe a pastry. the local boulangerie (bakery) offers the regular eclairs and mille feuilles and tartes - but they also offer specific Quebec treats like an almond confection called a Jesuit and a wonder, warm sugar and cinnamon pastry called a Pets des Soeurs. A Nun's Fart, if you can believe it. Nothing like going up to a very nice young woman at the counter and asking for a fart, please.

Maybe I'll stick to french toast.

My plan in the upcoming book is to have my detective, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, visiting his mentor, now long retired and living in this magnificent city. It will take place a Quebec Winter Carnival - which is about to start. Of course, a murder happens. I visited the site of the murder yesterday - but won't say where.

Now, in order to write the book Michael and I needed to come here, around the Winter Carnival, to really experience the old city. So we've rented a stone house within the walls. Quebec is a fortified city - the only walled city in North America. And the home we've rented was built in 1752. It's stunning. Made of fieldstone with narrow, steep, worn stairs and beams and exposed stone - and almost no heat. Dear Lord, it's cold! We wear top to bottom long underwear - long johns as we call them - though Michael announced he had the whole team - long johns, long peters, long marks...everybody. We fill hot water bottles and hug them to us. And wrap ourselves in blankets before the fireplace.

One morning I'm sure I'll be breaking ice in the sink or toilet.

Still, it's worth it. Not only is the home gorgeous, but the city almost makes me weep it's so beautiful. Gracious and solid and comfortable. From our gabled, beamed master bedroom at the top of the house we see out over the metal roofs and chimnies. Wisps of snow swirl off the corners of buildings like ghosts.

This is a city haunted by memory. The provincial motto is: Je Me Souviens. I remember.

And what they remember is being conquored, by the English - four years after this home was built. They've never forgotten the loss.

As a novelist it's a perfect theme to explore. The place of memory in who we are, how we perceive the world - and how we hold on to anger. Would violence end if there was no such thing as memory?

Must go - we're off to a bakery on rue St-Jean - half a block up from this home...where we get our coffees and breakfast. I despair for my waistline - though honestly with all this long underwear I think that's a battle long lost. I'm a conquored person. Besides, how much despair can a person feel when surrounded by Jesuits and les Pets Des Soeurs?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Finding the Lit and His, and the light

sunny, windy, cold, temps minus 15

Feels almost summery compared to yesterday. Of course, today we got smart. Went out to the bakery (boulangerie) on rue St-Jean for breakfast and knew we'd be out walking for a little while, so we put our snow pants, ski mitts and mad bomber hats on...along with huge down coats.

We looked like cartoon characters...fortunately so did everyone else.

There's a particular sound that goes with wearing snow pants - a sliding sort of sound as leg rubs against leg. But I didn't care if I looked like a maniac, I was warm.

had a fabulous day. Breafast was a great bowl of cafe au lait and the biggest croissant I've ever seen...flakey and buttery. Then we (I) decided I should find the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec City. It's long been a hub of the small but vital Anglo community here. That and the adjoining church - which I couldn't remember.

Almost threw up yesterday when I did a google search on the Lit and His Society. As you know, I'm in Quebec City to research an upcoming book. Most of the action will centre on this very old Lit and His society and the church next door...and for plot purposes it needs to be within the walls of the old city. But the google map put it way outside the walls.

I was gutted. There went my entire planning and plot. Fortunately Michael swooped to the rescue, made a cup of tea and did more research and discovered the map was wrong. In fact, not only was the Lit and His inside the walls, it's about two blocks from our rented home!

So after breakfast we zipped up and went in search. Arriving at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in time for Sunday Service.

It's a glorious church. The walls are plaster and painted cream and robin's egg blue. The wooden box pews are in a graceful semi-circle, mirrored by the balcony above. There are huge stained glass windows all with variations on a rose theme or a nautical theme. Bright and cheery. the space is open. It was like sitting and breathing in light.

Not a crucifix in sight.

I believe it's the most beautiful church I've ever been in. It's 250 years old. I'd lived for 2 years in Quebec City - many years ago - and never visited. What a shame.

The sermon was lovely too. It was on the themes of Hope, Joy and Peace. And the minister quoted CS Lewis - Surprised by Joy. Which figured quite large in my first book, STILL LIFE.

After the service we went back to the church hall for coffee with the parishioners. It was an intimate and familiar and welcoming group. From there Michael and I stepped next door to the Literary and Historical Society library. A hidden gem - and it will be perfect for my needs.

After that we decided to walk over to the Chateau Frontenac - a massive old hotel (apparently the most photographed hotel in the world) - and walked along the Dufferine Terrace to watch the families eat maple syrup poured on snow and hardened into a sort of toffee...and tobogan down an ice slide.

by then our faces were frozen so we scooted inside the Chateau and made straight for the famous Bar St-Laurent. A paneled, circular bar with two large open fireplaces, overlooking the St. Lawrence river. We ate French Onion soup and watched the teams practice for the upcoming canoe races over the semi-frozen river.

and now, 6 hours after setting out, we're home. A fire in the grate, tea and pastries in front of us, hot water bottles filled.


A couple of small things to add...tomorrow I'm going to start of week of blogging on the St. Martin's Minotaur site, Moments in Crime. Join me if you can...though the blogs will be similar (probably identical) to the ones I'll be posting here...but thought I should tell you about it.

And, I had an email from a self-published writer asking what I knew about Google Booksearch, and whether it might be something she - as a self-published writer - should consider.

I wrote back to admit I knew absolutely nothing about it, except there was some copywright infringement issue recently...but that I would ask you. If you know anything that might help this woman, please write a comment, or email me from the website.

Thanks so much! Hope you're enjoying your visit to Quebec. I sure am!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Look up, look way up

clear, blue skies, windy, bitter cold - temps minus 25

Went out for breakfast this morning - stepped outside (wearing long underwear!) and the sidewalk had disappeared. the homes are built right to the narrow sidewalks, and overnight there was enough snow and wind that the sidewalks have become unpassable. We had to walk in the streets.

On rue St Jean - one block up there are bistro's, cafes, bookstores, clothing stores. Fabulous. But again, we had to walk on the road not because the sidewalks had disappeared under snow but because snow was being shoveled off the metal roofs - onto the sidewalks. We looked up and tied to ropes were men, hacking away at the ice and snow...and every now and then we heard a great, muffled thud as it came down.

God this city is splendid.

We chose not a great place for breakfast - but we wandered a bit after and found a wonderful bakery that also serves breakfasts, so we thought we'd go there in future for a simple cafe and croissant.

Now we're home - I'm still pretty tired, and it's so cold, that we've decided to light the fireplace, have a shower, get into PJ's and curl up on the sofa reading all day. Tomorrow we hope to find the big outdoor skating rink, a bigger grocery store - but mostly we want to walk over to the Plains of Abraham - or Champs-de-Bataille (battlefield) - where the English defeated the French in 1759. It has never been forgiven or forgotten. A strange, haunting place. The English scaled the cliffs from the St Lawrence river (a tactic the French never expected) and they fought a terrible, bloody battle...both generals dying in the process.

It has remained more or less unchanged ever since...though many years ago permission was granted for the lovely Musee des Beaux Arts du Quebec to the built there.

I can see Gamache and his Shepherd, Henri (who will be with him on this visit) walking the quiet, snowy paths through the battleground.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Quebec City - alors

light snow, windy, temps minus 15

We're in Quebec City! Arrived by train at 4pm...waited with a very long line of fellow travellers (so to speak) outside in the snow and blow for taxi's. None. Not a one. And then, when one did arrive and stopped to let someone out, someone at the back of the line tried to take it.

There was almost a riot.

Happened almost everytime a taxi didn't stop exactly where it should, someone at the back, or someone who couldn't be bothered to even join the line, tried to steal it. I cut in once and made someone take their luggage out of the cab and waved to the man at the front of the line to grab the taxi instead. When I finished and walked back to my place in line the others in the line applauded.

I'll tell you, it felt better than a good reivew (and those feel pretty good).

But eventually our time came, and within minutes we were at the home we've rented for a month.

It's better then I dreamed! We haven't been outside yet to explore the immediate neighborhood, but we have unpacked. That always feels good. That and going to the washroom for the first time in a new place. I think maybe I have more in common with Maggie than Michael.

You'll never guess...I howled with laughter. Up above our bed there are these stunning B&W photos of New York City...and the one right over my side of the bed is of the Flatiron building. Certainly iconic. But it also happens to be where my publishers offices are. St Martins Press has the Flatiron. Can you believe it? Not sure if it's a good omen or not. I choose to think it's a great omen for A Rule Against Murder...and for the book I'm researching here in Quebec City.

let me tell you about the home.

You walk in directly to the large living room with a fireplace, wood floors and three huge windows with shutters. The walls are 2 feet thick. Off the living room is the kitchen (small but totally modern with stainless steel appliances) and dining room combo. This is the real 'wow'. The entire wall is exposed old stone, with two more huge windows and a cathedral ceiling going up to the top of the house - 3 floors.

Up a narrow, uneven wooden stairway, worn down by centuries of feet - grasping the stunning, simple wood railing - up a floor to a loft office, a bathroom and a large guest bedroom.

Then to the top floor - up more narrow wooden stairs - to the open concept master bedroom, with cathedral ceiling, beams, dormers. It's immense. And a wooden railing looking down onto the dining room below.

In the basement there's another bedroom - with windows...and a kind of makeshift powder room - but there're wonderful LG washer and dryer. Heaven.

The only drawback is only one real bathroom, and it's on the floor below the master...and one of us often gets up in the night...hmmm. But Michael has test-driven the stairs and says they're perfectly safe. I suggested a bedpan, but he's strangely resistant.

We're off in a few minutes to find dinner and a general store (depanneur) for soft drinks, milk, chocolate bars. The essentials. Ate Lesa's gummi bears already. Yum.

I suspect this is the home Gamache will be staying in when he visits Quebec City. My plan is to have him come here on his annual visit to his mentor in the Surete - now retired. I mention him in Still Life. And I think this is that mentor's home. Though I think I'll add another bathroom.

This magic I do.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


I'm sitting in the New Jersey airport, waiting for my next flight. Caught the red-eye midnight flight out of Phoenix. Great trip. Got the exit aisle - no one at all on my row. As soon as we got up I laid down with the pillow and blanket, plugged into my iPod. And dozed. Wonderful.

The plane was almost empty. Everyone was flaked out. And now one more short flight, then home.

Had a fab time in Phoenix. Gorgeous city. Palm trees, cacti (?), flowers in bloom. Temps over 80 - though apparently that's very unusual for January.

Had a long but lovely day Wednesday. A woman named Evelyn picked me up at the hotel and took me to the Mesquite library for a noon event. Very warm people - lots of thoughtful questions. And the librarian so generously gave me a pen - which I needed since all of mine ran out of ink simultaneously.

Then Evelyn whizzed me 40 miles away to Glendale, Arizona and the Velma Teague Library. Lesa Holstine, who has a wonderful, intelligent, fun blog is also the head librarian and had set up a really terrific event. Again lots of thoughtful questions - and Lesa (God bless her) gave me an Obama pin, a mug, and - get this - a bag of gummi bears!!! Is it any wonder I love Arizona?

Then it was back to Scottsdale and the taping of a 55 minute TV interview for 'Criminal Calendar' with the lovely host, Barbara Peters. She'll let me know what the link is so you can see it if you like. Barbara really is a natural. More like a conversation than an interview. Hope you like it.

Then we went to Trader Vics for dinner - and back to the Poisoned Pen for a last event.

Then Barbara dropped me at the airport. If I was pooped I'm sure she was even more exhausted. Always harder to be the host than the guest. But I plied her with Shirley Temples, and I think that revived her.

Had wonderful news when I turned on the blackberry here - The Cruelest Month, just out in mass market paperback made the bestsellers list in the US!

Must be off - next flight leaving soon and have a newspaper reporter coming to the Montreal apartment for a noon interview.

Thank you, Phoenix - I feel we all gave book 4 a powerful launch!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Phoenix, sunny, temps 78
5am - wide awake
6am - shower
7am - watching local TV shows - they show a live picture of Washington, and people arriving for the Inauguration of Barack Obama. And I'm in tears. Already. Indeed, I'm crying writing this. I wonder why I'm so emotional, so soon. But I think I know why.
Later, the tears might be for joy, but I think right now my early morning tears are relief. Relief that day has broken, after a very long night.
8:45am - a stunningly beautiful day here in Phoenix. Palm trees, pool, fantastic hotel room right by the pool. Had a lovely email from Hope Dellon, my US editor with St Martin's Minotaur, congratulating me on having the launch of A RULE AGAINST MURDER on this Inauguration day.
Funny, but for all I love this book and for all that it took a year of my life to write - it suddenly pales compared to what this day really means. But lovely to have the two events forever linked, if only in my mind.
Watching President Bush and President- elect Obama getting into the limo at the White House. 9:10am - all these smiling people - beaming - who are members of the cabinet and others who will hold high positions. To see their faces as they emerge onto the stage and see the crowds - their eyes widen, they smile - many say 'wow'. Hardened, probably many cynical - left in awe. 9:25am - the Clintons have just been introduced.
9:30 - the children are being introduced. Oh, dear - now I really wish I hadn't had all the coffee! Very poor planning. Those children are so beautiful.
9:40 - just put the 'do not disturb' on the door. Hate to have a vacuum going now!
I miss Michael - wish we were together for this. But you know, I know we're together in every important way in this moment.
Together first with Michael - but also with everyone I love and like and even dislike - and everyone I know, and have never met. Around the world.
9:49 - Obama introduced. Have burst into tears. (Me, not him).
9:55 - Pastor Rick Warren giving invocation. I have so many gay friends I so struggled with this one, but finally came to understand what Golda Meir meant when she said, 'a hero is someone who turns an enemy into a friend.' What a beautiful invocation - by Golda Meir and by Rick Warren.
Dear God, I'm crying again. Will be dehydrated at this rate.
10:05 - wow, look at the look of joy on the face of Yo-Yo Ma. Does it get more heavenly than this? This man transports himself, and me.
10:09 - President Obama.
10:30am - I can't speak. Why speak? Not a time for the head - but the heart and spirit. What would we do when the levees break? Run forward to help, run away? Take people in or lock the door?
10:32 - Elizabeth Alexander - words matter - wonderful poem.
10:35am - benediction. Perfect. Beautiful.
10:45am - throughout the morning a couple has been in the hot tube by the pool. Smooching. Newlyweds, I imagine. Note to self: do not use that hot tub.
10:55am - just finished the TV interview with KAZ tv and hosts Lou and Tonya. Great interview - very fun hosts - but who was watching? Honestly. Oh well. Still, it was fun.
11:20am - now sitting on the terrace outside my room on this huge double lounger. Inauguration on tv on one side - smooching couple on the other. Beautifully hot out here! So glad I didn't mix my bags up after all! Not in a bathing suit (wouldn't want to scare the horses) but am wearing a very light flannel. Kidding. Am in a light cotton nightdress. Not kidding. Reading the NY Times. Bliss. So glad to be here on this day.
1pm - just heard a commentator say of Barack Obama, here's the new President. Took me aback. Like being introduced after my wedding as Michael's wife. Felt good and right.
1:01 - Senator Kennedy seems to have been taken ill. Very worrisome
1:24pm - they're reviewing some marching bands now. My God, Michelle Obama's beautiful. Great dress too.
1:35pm - Obama's in his new car now. I suddenly felt as though I'd also been Inaugurated. I feel very excited - but also very calm at my centre. Perhaps because I finally feel as though we're all in good hands.
2:10pm - he's out of the car and I'm crying again. I wonder if I'll ever stop? But I can't help worrying that Michelle must be freeeezing!
3pm - actually have had to get clothes on. A sundress! Yay. Turned off the TV and am meeting Lee from Poisoned Pen who's driving me to the first event of my day - a talk at the Tempe Library.
9:15pm - back in the hotel room after an eventful (literally) day. Did the library then had dinner with Lesa, Patti, Kay and Barbara - then did the event at Poisoned Pen. It was recorded and is up on YouTube - will give you the address tomorrow.
Must call Michael. It's almost midnight back in Montreal.
What a great day. President Obama and A Rule Against Murder - both launched.

Sweet dreams.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Happy Martin Luther King day

Flurries, mild, temps minus 5

Nice day - a little snow. Just came back from breakfast with Michael. Hard to believe I slogged through snow to breakfast here and will be having dinner in the heat of Arizona.

My only concern is a very tight connection - one hour, in Cleveland. Doesn't leave room for any delay in the first flight. Still, weather's not bad so it shouldn't be a problem. But I always relax more when I'm on the connection.

On hectic days I tend to break things down in my head, so the day doesn't seem to daunting. Get to airport, check through security, get on plane, find connecting flight, fly to Phoenix, get taxi to hotel.

There. And all I need to think about is the task at hand, not the 5 to come. Makes life much easier, fun, less stressful. So right now all I need concern myself with is the taxi to the airport. Pretty easy.

I remember going on the US tour last year for The Cruelest Month. First stop was New York, but a massive snowstorm closed all the airports, including Montreal. Just barely made the first event, having begged my way onto a plane. That won't be a problem this time, just that connection. And my reasons are selfish....I really want to be comfortable in Phoenix to watch the Inauguration tomorrow - not on some make-up flight. But, happily, either way is fine.

And Happy Martin Luther King day. Listening to some of his speeches, and reading some in the weekend papers. Like Shakespere, I can't believe how he captures the human soul. And his words are timeless.

So excited about the Inauguration - and thrilled to be experiencing it with Americans, in Phoenix. And so looking forward to this launch for A RULE AGAINST MURDER.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I'll be the one in the straight-jacket

flurries, windy, milder - temps minus 9

Had a terrific phone call yesterday with my older brother, Rob and his family - daughter Sarah and wife Audi. It was Rob's birthday and wonderful to get caught up. They'd just returned from a 14 day cruise in the caribbean. Princess Cruises. They reported it was OK. Their first cruise and Rob and Audi say they'd made a different choice next time. Perhaps go with Princess, though the food apparently wasn't very good - but they'd definitely choose a newer, smaller ship. This one seemed 'tired'. And I think if you're on it for 2 weeks you'd want wonderful food - at least I would!

Their son, Adam, is having adventures in Australia and their oldest daughter, Kim, is in New Zealand - in a town called Franz Joseph. Isn't that a great name? At least, I think that was the name. Perhaps it was Franz Ferdinand. But I think it was the former. Sarah and Audi asre hoping to visit Kim in a few months.

Rob and his family live in Edmonton. Rob's an assistant Deputy Minister in the government, and I'm always so proud of him.

We're in Montreal now. Had lovely, long breakfast with Joan, which stretched to almost noon. Heard, among other things, that her son (and our friend) Gary has grown a mustache and beard. She says it looks great. Can hardly wait to see it, but am afraid by the time Michael and I get back from Quebec City it might be gone.

Had a friend, Sharon, write to ask about the results of the second mammogram. Don't have them yet but the radiologist wen tout of his way to reassure me it was nothing. I should have asked if what they saw looked a little like a gummi bear. Or a muffin. Actually, I don't think they saw anything...just wanted to be sure.

Off to Arizona tomorrow...2pm flight. Should arrive about 7:30pm local time. REally looking forward to watching the Inauguration on TV Tuesday. Have a TV interview (by phone if you can believe it!) 10am Tuesday with KAZ-TV - a show called: AM Arizona. Then 3pm event at the Tempe Library, 5pm dinner with some loyal readers, 7pm event at Poisoned Pen.

On Wednesday there's noon at the Mesquite library, 2pm at the Velma Teague library, 4pm telelvsion interview with Barbara Peters to go on YouTube, 7pm - another event (with Rhys Bowen) at Poisoned Pen - then a midnight flight back (changing planes in New Jersy) and arrving in Montreal 10am Thursday morning. Then have a noon newspaper interview in our Montreal apartment.

Then kill someone. Haven't decided who, but I worry for the newspaper reporter.

Will try to blog tomorrow, but...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Does the hot water bottle make me look fat?

light flurries and sun struggling through, windy, cold, temps minus 20

Last night Michael looked at a thermometre we'd forgotten we have - the previous owners put it in - in the living room and now hidden behind curtains. It has a probe for outside. It's old - in fahrenheit - and it said minus 40. It might have been broken. Will try to check in summer and see if it still says minus 40.

We're going like mad on the elliptical machine...which for us means doing it for 5 minutes at a time, then gasping for breath. I had no idea four sedentary years writing could be this bad for the muscles. However, you should see my fingers...they're like action stars. Buff, pumped. Now, doesn't that sound attractive. More than once I've been extremely grateful I'm already married.

Spending the day packing. I've given a lot of thought to the Arizona book events, but not to my wardrobe. I find it very difficult to believe I won't be needing the long underwear and hot water bottle. But, what makes it even more of a challenge, I arrive back in Montreal Thursday morning then have a newspaper interview - then head out to Quebec City for a month, the next day - Friday. So I really need to pack for Phoenix (one of the hottest places) and Quebec City (one of the coldest). Out come the long underwear and hot water bottles again.

Hope I don't confuse the suitcases. If so, when you come to the Phoenix event I'll be the one drenched in perspiration, sporting a cashmere turtleneck, long underwear and snowboots.

Honestly - I wonder if publishers know what numbskulls they're sending on 'parade'?

Still, it's a lovely life. Will try to blog tomorrow. Having breakfast with Joan then Michael and I are heading off to Montreal.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Maggie update

Sunny, beautiful, cold - temps minus 28

Balmy compared to yesterday. Went out to do the composing this morning in PJs and gloves - almost froze to death in the 2 minutes it took. Even the dogs don't want to go out.

Speaking of dogs, Maggie is doing magnificently. Almost totally adjusted to life with three legs. She's playing with her sister Trudy again and even running after the ball. I think she's feeling better than she has in 6 months or more. No pain. I have such respect for people who live with chronic pain - it must be exhausting.

Heard an unfamiliar sound downstairs just's Michael on the new elliptical trainer. We're taking it slow. 5 minutes at a time. Don't want to over do it then either hurt ourselves or get discouraged. Important to set the bar at a reasonable height, at first. I do the same when I'm writing. The goal is 1,000 words a day, but I start slow. 250, then 500, then creep up to 1,000 so that I enjoy the process.

Have another day to look after details before we head out next week for 5 week - starting in Arizona then off to Quebec City. Have added 2 television interviews to the events in Arizona.

Take care, hope you're well.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

safe landings

sunny, brilliant day, bitterly cold minus 21

It was minus 32 this morning, according to the car. A neighbor said she'd looked at her outside thermometre and the mercury had disappeared!

But, this is Canada, after all. We went off to Knowlton for breakfast. When we walked into the cafe a wave of steam was produced...the mixing of the bitter cold and the humidity inside. It was almost blinding...but very fun.

Busy the hair cut. It looks pretty good. Not really sure how it'll look when I try to do it - which is to say, shower then let it drip dry. I don't wear make-up, I don't iron clothes and I don't blow dry or dye my hair.

This is my version of growing older gracefully. Or at least growing older obviously. But a relief not to look like a guy after the haircut.

Had the second mammogram...always fun. Then Michael and I headed to Canadian Tire to buy an elliptical trainer. We buy most of our things at Canadian Tire. But don't tell anyone. Honestly, we belong way far away from civilized company.

Got this honking great thing and it now sits in the mudroom. It was the floor model, the only one they had left - so was already assembled. They delivered it right away and it arrived on the open back of a pickup truck looking like a frozen Miss America, waving. Quite regal. Though a little rigid.

Must be off. Salmon for dinner in front of the fire. Did you see the news about the plane that landed in the Hudson? My God, what great news that everyone is safe. Amazing story. Magnificent.

Be well, be safe and warm. Will talk tomorrow.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Hello, I must be going...

clear, though with slight haze of ice crystals, cold, temps minus 23

I saw a woman on TV this morning toss a cup of hot water into the air and it turned to ice before it hit the ground. Never seen that before. Not the day to go outside.

So, it's just past 10am and I'm in my flannels, don't plan to get out of them! Fireplace is lit, Sting is on the stereo. Puppies curled up on the rug.

I debated whether I should do the blog now or wait, in case something interesting actually happened. This is the magnitude of my decisions today. But, of course, I realized nothing was actually going to happen today. Though there is always the unexpected. For instance from my study window I see the snowplow has arrived to dig us out. We had a brief storm yesterday, but it only dropped a couple of inches. Still, I guess that's enough to plow.

Isn't this thrilling? There really is a reason no reality show follows writers around.

But something exciting did happen yesterday. Michael's barber, a woman named Maryse, agreed to cut my hair. So I cancelled the appointment I had in Montreal Sunday and re-booked with her for tomorrow. Now, I am just a little concerned that she says she doesn't cut women's hair. Do you think that might be a problem? I wonder if she realizes I'm a woman. True, the moustache might be throwing her off. Though at the very least it'll be nicely trimmed tomorrow.

Honestly, how bad can it be? I guess whoever shows up at the Phoenix events will see. If I look like your grade 8 gym teacher you'll know what happened.

Speaking of Phoenix Barbara Peters and I decided we'll do 2 events at Poisoned Pen. The concern is that the first one is at 7pm on January 20th - inauguaration day. We figured people might just prefer to watch it, and the surrounding events, and the news recaps. But I'll be at Poisoned Pen that night. But we decided to offer another event at the bookstore the next night - Wednesday Jan 21st - also at 7pm...for those who couldn't make the first.

Then it's off to the airport for the red-eye back home.

Must go - there's a whole lotta nuttin goin on without me.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Does that storm system look like a muffin to you?

overcast, mild, windy, temps minus 1

Just came back from a wonderful lunch with Lise. I do like her so much. She gave me five handmade Armand Gamache bookmarks to take to my events in Arizona - to give one out per event. So it you're there, we'll see about doing a draw or something.

We chatted away at the Cafe Floral - saw a bunch of people we knew. Had fish chowder. Yum. And stopped by Lucy and Danny's bookstore in Knowlton - Brome Lake Books. They'd just shipped a signed copy of The Murder Stone to Hilary in Medicine Hat Alberta. Fun idea.

This morning Michael and I headed off to Cowansville for breakfast, stopping first at Denis's service station to replace a burned out headlight in the volvo. Then breakfast of french toast, bacon and fruit.

As you see, my life has become very simple, as has my conversation. I have two topics. You can choose from either the 'weather' column or the 'food' column. Sometimes I can be persuaded to talk about travels and airlines.

Just looked outside - in the five minutes I've been writing this a storm has blown up! Almost a white-out. And HUGE winds. Unfortunately we need to head into Sutton to do some banking and so Michael can get his beard trimmed.

He hinted, quite broadly, the other day that maybe I wanted to get my hair cut too. Now, Michael wouldn't notice a cow if I moved into our home so I have to figure my hair must be pretty bad for him to say something. And, to be honest, I haven't had it done since the dasterdly 'drag queen' episode in Cambridge, England in September. But perhaps it has grown out enough. Or, maybe Michael prefers the drag queen look. Hmmm. Though this does bode well for the future, especially the moustache I'm working on.

Be well - will talk to you tomorrow.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Globe bestsellers list!

Mainly sunny, some flurries, temps minus 9

Lovely, gentle day. Hopped off across the border to main some packages, pick up some gas. I love driving, but mostly because it gives me a quiet time to listen to music. and let my mind wander.

Had fabulous news - The Cruellest Month is on the Canadian national (Globe and Mail) mystery bestsellers list - at #2! Just below Dan Brown. Frankly, it's a bit of a mystery (as in, a total mystery) how these lists are made up. Since The Murder Stone (Book 4) is consistently on the bestseller list, I can't imagine why book 3 should suddenly show up...but I'm thrilled.

Had a call from the hospital about the mammogram - I have to go and re-do it. This might become my new hobby. Seems they can't get an accurate reading on my previous test. I might have moved, or left. So, it's back Thursday afternoon.

Off to Cowansville tomorrow for breakfast, some errands, then heading to Knowlton to meet Lise at Lusy and Danny's bookstore (a book Michael had ordered is in) then have lunch with her at Cafe Floral. What amazing good luck to actually like the people I work with. Or at least most of them. Can only think of a couple whose company I wouldn't readily seek out - and I suspect it's mutual.

Am making a huge pot of chili con carne, and doing lamb for dinner tonight. As the weather gets colder and the snow closes in I nest more.

Will talk to you tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

MC Mikey-Mike

Snow, temps minus 10

Man, was it cold last night. We had to go out, as we do every Saturday evening, and it was bitter! Even by Canadian standards. But what a moon, again! It was almost daylight, except the light it threw onto the snow made everything a sort of gray. it was like walking through a very quiet Netherworld.

And there must have bgen ice crystals in the atmosphere because there was the biggest halo around the moon. Huge, and distinct. Often, when that happens it's barely there, but last night there was no mistaking it.

Today there's a gentle snow, like dust falling. It adds up, but nothing dramatic.

I've been emailing with Barbara Peters, the brilliant owner of Poisoned Pen in Arizona. It occured to both of us that really, to try to do 2 events on the day of Obama's Inauguration was folly. So we're considering moving what events we can to the next day - Jan 21st. Will let you know. It might not be possible. In which case, whoever is meant to be there will. I certainly won't be. I'll be watching the TV. (Kidding).

Michael's downstairs writing his book and listening to rap music. Usher, Will Smith, Eminem. I'll have to start refering to him by his rap name, MC Mikey-Mike.

By the way, I did want to mention that I try to respond to every email - but sometimes it isn't possible. And sometimes I think I'm responding but the BlackBerry isn't really sending. Or, last night I had a very funny message from a person named Patenaude - I tried to write back, but it kept saying undeliverable.

I mention this because I do feel badly when people take the time to write, and be so supportive, and then they think I don't care - when I do, deeply. So - if you're the Patenaude who wrote, know that I tried!

I also had an email recently from Armand Gamache. Now that was a very strange feeling. He lives in the US and was curious, understandably, how I came to use his name. I explained that 'Armand' is the name of a friend of ours, and 'Gamache' is MC Mikey-Mike's tailor in Granby. A lovely, dignified man.

Had some keys made for the house to give to Lise so she can dig out Michael's study, and just tried them. Not a one worked. Oh dear. Back to the hardware store. Pat and Tony will be staying here in our absence, of course...with their brood of dogs, but Lise still needs her own keys.

Off now - lots of nothing to be done.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Moonshadow, moonshadow

brilliant sunshine, temps minus 12

A stunning winter day. After all the snow we had it's still in the trees and on the branches and piled on top of our stone walls and birdfeeders. And now comes the first cloudless day. It just looks like heaven. Sets the heart to thumping it's so beautiful. And peaceful. I think there's no peace on earth like a still, calm winter day. Every sound is muffled. The snow is undisturbed by tracks.

The only thing moving are those flying pigs mascerading as birds.

Last night it was a clear, clear night. And if not a full moon then almost. You should have seen the gleam. On the midnight snow it was almost daylight. And the moonshadows? Bold, clear.

What a world.

Today I'm looking after odds and ends. Lise (as part of her taking charge of Michael's area) needs storage boxes so we're consulting over that. Some photocopying necessary. Some emails and phone calls. Details. I hate details. But I generally have a day when that's all I do, and it's amazing how much can be done in very little time. Classic, isn't it? I dread it for days then get it all done in half an hour.

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

Friday, 9 January 2009


lights snow, cold, temps minus 15

Atmospheric day...lovely with all the snow. But very cold, and windy, which of course just tears at the skin.

Great news today - A RULE AGAINST MURDER has been chosen as a BookSense Pick (Now known as the IndieNext picks). This is for Independent Bookstores across the United States, and they only choose 20 books per month - Fiction and Non-fiction, for the entire country. And they chose A RULE AGAINST MURDER.

As well, the Charlotte Observer gave it a fantastic review, and The Mystery Reader gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

So far, so good.

Lise came by today at 9:30 and we did some work. In fact, she's designed some lovely, simple, classic bookmarks - with three pines on them. Promoting the series. Isn't she amazing?

Then we showed her Michael's study/bomb site. Her job, while we're in Quebec City for a month, is to organize him. We believe this is the last we'll ever see of Lise. Perhaps the last anyone will see of her.

Honestly, how did we get so fortunate as to be working with Lise???

Then Michael and I hopped off to the hospital in Cowansville for my mammogram, which didn't worry me. Frankly I gave it almost no thought - except that odd combination of annoyance and gratitude. I really do get very moved when I realize I live in a society where they write to invite me to have a mammogram, and will write every two years to remind me. Saying it's "free" really is a misnomer since we pay for all of this with quite high taxes. But to be able to waltz into the hospital and waltz out 20 minutes later having had it all done is fantastic. And comforting.

Except it was so cold, it meant I had to get out of my sweats (Lise always sees us either in sweats or flannels - she wouldn't recognize us otherwise) and get to Cowansville. Happily Michael drove, dropped me off and went off to Loblaws for some groceries. Clay-pot chicken for tonight. I can smell it roasting. Yum.

Long bubble bath upon returning home (after putting the clay-pot in the oven). Watched a BBC programme called Escape to the Country while the scent of the dinner wafted up. So relaxing.

Will blog tomorrow...hope you're well.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Miss Penny rests for a Day

snow, snow, snow temps minus 5

Beautiful day - loads of snow...well over a foot. Haven't been out all day - yay. Haven't been out of my sweats all day...except to shower. Have barely been off the couch. Wall-to-wall television.

That's how I relax now. Sometimes watch a movie but mostly it's just mind-numbing staring. HGTV property shows, renovation shows, old sitcoms.

Last night we watched Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I'd seen it before and loved it and Michael gave me the DVD for Christmas, but he'd never seen it. So on it went. Fabulous, fun movie. And once again I was impressed that the actor who plays Joe, Ciaran Hinds would make a good Gamache...not exactly as I see him, but close - and certainly close in the character he plays in this movie.

Tomorrow will be back to work, of a sort. Lise is coming in the AM. we have mailing to do, and Michael's office to organize (read: excavate) Then off in the afternoon for my first mammogram. At least the story will have stopped by then.

Had wonderful news from Sandra Ruda, a fabulous librarian in Chicago. She informed me that A FATAL GRACE (DEAD COLD in UK and Canada) was chosen one of the outstanding books of 2008 by the Reading Council of the American Library Association.

Must go - puppies need feeding. That means I probably have to stand up.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Birds, boots and breakfast

Snow storm, temps minus 5

We skiddadled out of Manoir Hovey before breakfast - a catastrophe really since the day before we'd had (besides their buffet of fruit, home-made granola, cheeses and warm croissants) the 'inspiration' of the day - an omelette with guyere, honey, wild mushrooms and cooked apples. Dear Lord.

But we awoke to snow, and lots more forecast, and we knew while we needn't be on the highway long it is a particularly treacherous stretch. So we packed, paid and zipped out. As it was, one lane was already snow-clogged. But we crawled along, reached Sutton, did some shopping and went into Chez Camil for breakfast. A friend came in shortly after that and joined us. Wonderful to sit inside with coffee and scrambled eggs and see the snow intensify. And know we're safe.

A foot expected. (of snow).

As soon as we got home and unloaded the car I went to feed the birds, again. Good God, it's amazing they can fly, with all the food they eat. We must have the fattest birds in Canada. We can open a theme park. Waddle World.

Of course, in my enthusiasm to feed them I forgot I didn't have my big winter boots on...just the 'driving' winter boots. I learned that lesson the hard way...never drive in the huge gallumpin' boots. I ended up parked in the lobby of the local Knowlton bank that way. Interestingly it was a few years ago, also returning from Hovey in a huge snowstorm. This was even more nerve-wracking. White-knuckling it on the highway through the blizzard...literally praying to see the turn off and dreaming of the moment we arrive back. Well we did, and had to stop at the bank, so I pulled in and put on the brake. But my boots were so huge my foot actually came to rest on both the gas and the brake at the same time. The car, aided by the slippery snow, zoomed side-ways, jumped the curb, went up the handicapped ramp and hit the bank. As Michael told it later to the insurance people, 'We knocked over the bank'. Michael, by-the-way could hardly wait to spill the beans on me. Even before they'd really answered the phone at the insurance agency he was saying, 'My wife did it.'

Sadly, that was actually true.

So now I have my 'walking in the snow' big boots. And my 'driving and staying on the road' smaller boots.

But now the big friggin birds are fed and I have snow inside my jeans up to my knees.

Still, we're home, and safe, and satisfied. Nowhere to go for 2 days.

Hope you're safe and sound, healthy and happy. Talk tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


Mainly sunny, beautiful day, temps minus 10

While we had breakfast here at Manoir Hovey we sat by the french doors and looked into a magical landscape of frozen lake and shore and the sun, obscured by flurries. It was one of those odd Canadian phenomena where it is both sunny and snowing.


And peaceful.

It's mid afternoon and we're off to the main library (in book 4 it's where Gamache and team make their Incident Room after the murder in the manoir Bellechasse) for afternoon tea...Thunderbolt Darjeeling and scones.

home tomorrow...and snow storm expected...hope to slip out before it hits, though it would be lovely to be snowed in at Hovey.

Monday, 5 January 2009

New York Times

light flurries, temps minus 4

Actually, we spent most of the day inside! We're at Hovey and our room is actually the Montcalm cabin, so we have to get our winter coats and boots on to walk to the main building for meals. Not exactly a hardship. It takes 2 minutes at most and is beautiful. It's all decorated for the season, with lights and cedar boughs. they've lit up a few pines on the property so when we eat at night we can see the trees gleaming off the snow. Very, very pretty. And restful.

This is a brand new room for Hovey - they just renovated it, turning 2 smaller rooms into this amazing suite. Bliss.

Spent the day (when not eating, which was about 10 minutes) in front of the fireplace in our room, editing THE BRUTAL TELLING (book 5). Doing about 100 pages a day, which is easy since at this point it's mostly spelling errors and some slight smoothing. Good to do it in such large chunks since it gives me a better sense of flow and where there might be duplication. This is quite a complex, rich story and I need to make sure it both makes sense and is entertaining.

And we had fabulous news from the publishers at St Martin's Minotaur - book 4, A RULE AGAINST MURDER will be reviewed in the New York Times on January 25th. Yay!

Back to work...have a few emails to answer. I'll tell you, this makes a pretty good office!

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

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Feeding the Birds

overcast, flurries, cold, temps minus 15

Went to feed the birds this morning...they're ravenous! Gobbling up the sunflower seeds. Very funny to see them - woodpeckers, blue jays and black capped chickadees...all fluffed up, which is something they do with their feathers when it"s really cold.

had a great day, doing more editing and now I'm off to the meeting. But I wanted to write, to thank you all for your thoughts...and your celebration.

We're heading to Hovey Manor tomorrow for a few days - but I'll try to blog from there.

Be well - and a heart felt thank you.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Surprised by Joy

Mainly sunny, though light snow falling now, temps minus 10

Michael and I went into Knowlton for breakfast this morning - scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms, fruit and toast with spiced blueberry and rhubarb jam. Yum.

Michael's back - which has long been vulnerable - started giving him grief last night. So it was back to the little red pills, a couple of big blue ones, a massage with a special cream and a hot water bottle. This morning he woke up feeling much better, and even did his exercises. Then off to Knowlton.

This is a special day. In fact, when we returned we lit the fire, made a tea and while he got down to writing his book I did more editing on mine. I'd put a special CD into the player. The music from the film, The Piano. An old film, and I can tell you exactly how old. 15 years.

I only listen to it once a year. On january 2nd.

And as I listened to it, I felt the tears come. I sat in the living room, with Michael, and the fireplace and the dogs asleep at our feet, and the cold outside, and cried.

With relief. And gratitude. With amazement. And joy.

This is my anniversary in AA. Fifteen years. Sober. Fifteen years ago, at the age of 35, I knew the best was behind me. I'd staggered to a stop. Not so much weighed down with years of drinking, but hollowed out by it. Empty.

What brought me to my knees wasn't alcohol, but what it did to me. What it stole. My self respect, my laughter, my ability to make and keep friends. Eventually even my desire to have friends.

I was on an island, looking at the mainland. And slowly, the mainland was sinking, like Atlantis. Until there was no hope left. Just me. Alone.

I think I could have sustained the anger, the self-pity, the victimhood, even the pain. What I could no longer sustain was the loneliness.

And finally, on January 2nd, after trying for years to stop drinking on my own, I got help. I went to my first meeting. And a miracle occured. I don't use that word lightly or often. But I know it happened.

I walked out of that meeting no longer needing to drink. I worked hard, and continue to work hard, at AA. Doing the steps, going to meetings. But in that instant I went from wanting to die, to wanting to live.

In my books I write about Clara's painting of Ruth - as the old, embittered, forgotten Virgin Mary. And that Clara painted her in the instant when despair turned to hope. It was just a glimmer in her eye, barely there. But there. Clara captured Grace.

All my books are about that. About despair, yes. But ultimately they're about hope.

Gamache is kind, compassionate, thoughtful - not because he's too innocent, too naive, too stupid to understand how cruel the world is...but exactly because he does know. He knows the worst, and chooses the best.

I learned to do that. The world didn't change - I did. I wanted to die, was going to die. At 35 there seemed nothing but a chasm. And no way to sustain that loneliness for another week never mind 40 years.

Now, 15 years to the day later, I look at my life and marvel. At the love I'm given and the love I give. At the friends, the family. At the people who helped me. At Michael who I met 14 years ago. At the puppies. At our home. At the books I get to write and the people I get to meet.

But mostly I marvel at the inner landscape. At the island that became a mainland, that became a continent, that became a lovely, kind, caring world. Inside.

At 2 years sober we're given a medallion by our sponsors and asked what phrase we'd like engraved on it. I thought about that and chose - Surprised by Joy. A phrase I used deliberately, with gratitude, in Still Life. I keep that medallion with me always. To remember.

Tomorrow I'll be going to an AA meeting - making coffee beforehand, setting up chairs. Someone will give me a 15 year cake. And I'll have the great honour of giving Janet, a woman I sponsor (mentor) a cake celebrating her 10 years of sobriety.

I don't often talk about this. It's called 'Anonymous' for a reason. But once a year I talk about it in case there's someone out there who believes their life is at an end. In case there's someone reading this who feels on that island, yearning for the mainland. In case there's someone staggered by loneliness.

I want you to know, you're not alone.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


clear, bitterly cold, temps minus 22

Happy New Year!!!

The January newsletter was sent out today, and in it I talked about Michael and my disquiet about the economy, and the fact we knew were weren't alone. But that, oddly enough, in reflecting on what might happen in the coming year we came to the conclusion, yet again, that it didn't matter.

It's really forced us to look at what does. Health, friendships, community, belonging.

But more than anything - love.

And today I've received back so many deeply moving messages from people talking about their own feelings, their own situations. In language direct, elegant, simple, poetic and clear.

Who we are is not threatened. What we believe is not vulnerable. What matters is safe.

How powerful is that? How freeing is that?

How beautiful is that?

Thank you, everyone, for filling up my heart. I am indeed rich. No bailout necessary. Or wanted.

Blessings to all of you as you move into and through 2009. How lucky we are.