Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Teresa Chris - lit agent

many sunny, cool, temps about freezing

Drain unclogged. Loved your thoughts on what message the universe might be sending. Bill (one of the readers) suggested next time I get a clog I send baking soda down after it, with a lemon juice chaser. As it was, we sent Gary down, and he found a huge plug in the basement.

All fixed.

the fun news today is that my literary agent, Teresa Chris, who is in London, now has a website.

It's a terrific site, and she's among the best in the world. She also specializes in finding new talent, and even in taking previously published authors in the doldrums and taking them to the next level. She loves a challenge and a success story. Sooo - if you're a writer looking for an agent, try Teresa. She also has sub-agents all over the world!

Must run - things are hectic again. How does this happen? But, as some of you have pointed out, better than a life where nothing happens. I've had that too. This is definitely better.

Oh, in other news, Hovey Manor had a fire! This was a few months back, when we were in St Lucia. But they're re-opening for real (they've been semi-opened since) this coming weekend...Sunday. And they have loads of specials. Now's a great time to visit!

Be well - speak soon!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Thank you!

overcast, some very light flurries, temps about freezing

Thank you all so much for your wonderful support after the Dilys! You make it so much fun. Love reading your comments. Thank you!

And now, back to reality.

The kitchen sink is clogged. Michael and tried everything - which was pretty much just staring at it. We also tried the plunger. when that didn't work we stared at the plunger for a while.

Now the kitchen looks like a plumbers truck exploded. Snakes and something called a 'bee'. Buckets. And, of course, the contents of the cabinet under the sink. We called - who else - Tony. He came and drained this, and plunged that. Took Michael on a tour of the basement to show him the piping. Apparently staring at piping also did not unclog the drains.

Then we called in Gary. He's working on it. We also have a call in to Dwayne, who is an actual, real, live plumber. Always a last resort.

We also have an energy audit happening here this afternoon. To figure out how energy efficient our old home is. My guess, and it's just a guess, is...not at all. I'm not sure how they do it, but it takes a couple of hours and we were told to clean all the ash from the fireplace or else it would get blown everywhere. Maybe whatever they use to blow ash might blow out the drain... A gal can dream.

Just finished an interview with the Halifax Chronicle Herald and have a conference call later this afternoon with the US publishers.

I have to admit, the writing isn't going as smoothly as I'd like. I long to run away, back to Montreal again for peace and quiet, where I can focus...but then remembered the plumbers crawling all over the apartment there after the burst pipe.

I wonder if it's karmic. The Universe sending a message. About pipes. Or maybe it's about plumbers. I wish the Universe would be clearer sometimes. Whatever the message, I don't get it. Maybe it's about clogs. or clogging.

I hope not.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Bury Your Dead won the Dilys Award!

A perfect day!

Just heard that Bury Your Dead did win the Dilys!!! It was announced last night in Santa Fe. The magnificent Barbara Peters (she of Poisoned Pen Press and her bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ) accepted for me.

The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (who give out the Dilys) asked each of the nominees who weren't there for a speech, in case we won. Here is the one I sent - and presumably, Barbara read -

I wish I could be here to look you in the eyes so you'd know how deeply grateful and overjoyed I am. But the truth is, I'd probably just blubber and jump for joy and make almost no sense. Barbara, would you mind jumping around a bit, for me? In a dignified sort of way, of course.

Thank you to the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association for the Dilys Award. Thank you for what it represents. Handselling. Not downloading. But actually pressing a paper and ink book into a customer's hand. Knowing the name of the book, knowing the name of the author. Knowing the name of the customer.

Now there's an art worth celebrating. Bookselling. What a very beautiful gift that is.

Thank you for this amazing award. Especially given the fabulous books and writers who were also nominated. Bribery does pay off. Tell your children.

Thank you too, to the most wonderful editors in the world, Hope Dellon and Dan Mallory. And to Minotaur Books, who have seen that a small mystery with very little blood and no sex, set in Canada can have something to say. What a terrific publisher they are!

I think the Dilys is especially precious to me because BURY YOUR DEAD is the sixth book in the Gamache series. I'm always afraid of falling into a routine, or getting lost as so many other magnificent crime novels are published. I have a lot of fears. Of not being good enough, of not writing the books you deserve to read. Of staggering when I should be leaping. But now, when I'm afraid, I can look at this marvelous award you've given me, and feel maybe I can do it.

BURY YOUR DEAD is, in many ways, about second chances. I've been given a second chance in life, and I am beyond happy to be taking it in your company. I will never forget Barbara's experience here tonight. Damn, I wish I was with you!

I also want to thank the gorgeous Barbara Peters and say that she is drunk at this very moment and will almost certainly be arrested before the night is out. She is also a very lovely woman, and a great friend.

Merci, tout le monde.

I'd have paid good money to hear Barbara say those words!

I'm so incredibly happy. As you know, Bury Your Dead was a difficult book to write - not so much because of the complexity of the interwoven story lines, but because of the emotional toll - on characters I love, and therefore on me. To win, then, such a meaningful award really goes to my heart.

As does all your happiness for me. you are so generous and kind. Thank you!

One more???

Oh, why not - Yippppppeeeeee!

And, the magnificent Lesa Holstine, over at Lesa's Book Critiques was at Left Coast Crime, where the awards were given out. In her blog today she lists the winners of the other awards....a great list to add to your TBR stack! Here's an excerpt from her blog -

The Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery Novel went to J. Michael Orenduff for The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein.

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award for best historical mystery novel, events pre-1950, went to Jacqueline Winspear for The Mapping of Love and Death.

The Hillerman Sky Award for the mystery that best captures the landscape of the Southwest went to Margaret Coel for The Spider's Web.

And, since I was sitting next to him at dinner, it's a pleasure to say that the Watson for mystery novel with best sidekick went to Craig Johnson for Junkyard Dogs.

Thanks for posting Lesa - hope you don't mind my lifting it!

Congratulations to all the winners and all the nominees.

Now - it's back to the monastery for me!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Dilys tonight

sunny, cold, temps minus 5

Winter just keeps clinging on. But the sunshine really does make it easier.

We took advantage of our new hair cuts, and the fact we were actually dressed at 6:30 last night, to go to the Bistro on the Avenue for dinner. I had a hankering for steaks frites. Off we went - love that restaurant, on Greene. Feels very much like a Parisian bistro, though because it's in Westmount most people speak English.

We both had grilled ribeye, but instead of frites we had vegetables. And then shared the most wonderful slice of key lime pie.

We absolutely love our Montreal apartment. It's small, but perfect for our needs. And the location is wonderful, as you can tell. Walking distance to all sorts of great restaurants, and food shops and a bookstore, and the metro (subway). In the summer we can even walk to the Musee des beaux arts if we wanted. But not in the winter. We're far too delicate for that.

Tonight, in Santa Fe, the Dilys Award is being given out - and Bury Your Dead is on the shortlist! It's awarded at Left Coast Crime, which is an annual gathering of crime readers and writers, on the west coast. The Dilys is a particularly meaningful award since it's voted on by booksellers. It's for the book the Independent Mystery Booksellers across North America most enjoyed selling last year. Here's the complete list of nominees -

THE LOCK ARTIST, Steve Hamilton
BURY YOUR DEAD, Louise Penny
ONCE A SPY, Keith Thomson
SAVAGES, by Don Winslow

An amazing list of nominees - and again, it really is enough to be on the list, especially when you consider all the great books that were published last year.

By the way, the forecast for Santa Fe is sunny with highs around 55 degrees. I'd have thought it would be much warmer, but I guess not.

Have just finished the writing for today - wish I could tell you what's happening...but that would be a mistake.

Heading back to the country in an hour or so. Taking pizzas and chicken wings to Pat and Tony, to thank them for looking after Trudy and the house.

I'll let you know what happens at the Dilys. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Terracotta Army

brilliant sunshine, cold, temps minus 6

Minus 6!!! And a wind. Ugh. Still, nice to see the sun.

Finally went out today - I realized I hadn't been outside since we arrived, Tuesday. So Michael and I went to Nick's on Greene Ave for breakfast (bacon and eggs and toast). Then home. He read his manuscript all morning, and I wrote. Took a little while to get into it. But once immersed it boomed along. I still fear I'm running in place - but I think that's just my stinking critic. And if I am, I'll fix it in the next draft. Have to keep reminding myself not to worry about those things at this time.

Just write. Whatever I want. Stay loose, leave my heart open for inspiration. Do not be fearful. All things I whisper to myself at this stage.

After we'd finished - about 1pm - Michael and I hopped in a cab and went to the Musee des beaux arts in Montreal to see the latest major show - China's Terracotta Army.

My God, it's magnificent!! All those warriors they found buried. Found them in 1974....and there are clearly many, many more to be excavated. Apparently it wasn't unusual for emperors to be buried with figurines...but those were all tiny. Miniature soldiers etc. This was the first time hundreds and hundreds of figures - larger than life - had been found.

It is breathtaking to actually see them. There were about 10 of them in the show - along with a couple of the terracotta horses and lots of other pieces found at the site. It was fascinating. And all from the very first emperor of China, so that itself was fascinating.

I, of course, finished in about a nano-second and was in the cafe. Actually, that's unfair...with art shows I often whiz through, but this was really more archeology and history - both of which I find riveting, so it took about three nano-seconds.

Michael, being Michael, stopped and read every bit of information available, including, I think, some of the exit signs and schematics of the Museum. And listened to the audio commentary. I honestly turned mine off after a while. I found the tone patronizing and the content oddly dull....for something so exciting. Happily they had a few films to watch, to really situate how extraordinary these terracotta warriors are.

Then back into a cab, to the corner of Greene and Ste Catherine - to pick up dry cleaning, mail a card, and get my hair done. Not on the street corner (though that would explain why I've never enjoyed the experience) but at a salon new to me. I just walked in - having had enough of my wild hair. Somehow (I think it was the very pretty receptionist) Michael ended up in the chair next to me, being shaved.

So now we're home, with our new do's.

Writing tomorrow morning, then back to Sutton. I wonder if I can talk Michael into another pizza tonight....

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sleuth of Baker Street

overcast, light snow, temps minus 4

Well, they've patched up the pipe and the wonderful management here has agreed to wait until we leave before doing all the plaster and painting.

Michael's off for lunch with friends...I continue to write. But mostly, today, I wanted to let you know about the move of a great Canadian bookstore.

Sleuth of Baker Street. In Toronto.

Marian and JD have changed locations..from Bayview Ave in Toronto to 907 Millwood - it's about a kilometer away, so pretty close.

This is their first day open!

They're also, next Thursday, going to hold a fabulous sale of hardcovers, first editions, signed books - at their old store. It will last as long as stock lasts. If you have any questions, just give them a call: 416-483-3111.

As you might have guessed, Marian and JD are good friends of mine. Longing to see their new store.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Marjorie, Joan and Liz

Bright sunny day - cold - temps minus 5

Marjorie, from Connecticut, is today recovering from surgery to her hand. Never anyone's first choice of things to do in a day. But always great to be on this side of surgery. Many of you might know her - Marjorie is very supportive of many writers, especially Laurie R. King. And very supportive of me. Indeed, since I'm almost a facebook moron, she helps when I have particular questions. She also moves my blogs to the facebook page, and posts other mentions of the books.

Thank you, Marjorie! And so happy the surgery is over.

In other good news, our terrific friend Joan is celebrating her 79th birthday today. She runs the yoga centre in Sutton. She spent weeks and weeks in hospital but is now out...and coming home was the very best thing for her. Surrounded by her own things, eating fresh, healthy food, seeing friends. Her son Gary has been amazing in looking after her, and her other son, Glen has just arrived from Calgary.

Happy birthday, Joan. Now, I say that knowing full well Joan barely tolerates the phone, doesn't like TV, and wouldn't know a computer if she was served one in the hospital. So, come to think of it, i could say anything I want about her here and she'd never read it. Hmmm.....

Sadly, Joan is a wonderful woman and I can think of absolutely nothing mischievous to say. Such bad luck.

And, of course, I'm sure you've heard about Elizabeth Taylor's death. Always sad to hear such things. She did a lot of good, especially and spectacularly, for AIDS.

Well, we're in Montreal. Arrived yesterday afternoon after doing a bunch of chores on the way in from the country. Got up early this morning...Michael and I had breakfast in front of our computers. We scram into the city when we feel the need for peace and quiet time to write our books. No sooner had we settled in that I hear rain against the window in the living room.

I looked over and sure enough, it was teeming.


there was a huge and sudden flood from upstairs. I raced out the door while Michael grabbed some towels. Took the stairs two at a time, and got to the floor above. The door to the apartment above ours was open and a worker was there, holding a balled up towel to the wall. A pipe had burst with such force it sent water gushing to the ceiling, smashing into the walls, and was now pooling on the floor. It was as though a water artery had been severed. I asked if I could help and he said the plumber was racing downstairs to turn off the water.

The workers had been renovating the apartment when the pipe burst.

Unfortunately, while the water soon stopped, the next thing we heard was a banging on our door. The plumber. With scaffolding.

Apparently the only way to get at the broken pipe was through our wall.

This did not appear to be up for debate or discussion. He'd had to turn off the heat to our entire wing of the building, and until the pipe was fixed it would remain off.

So he and his assistant moved in, and we decamped to the bedroom, setting up make-shift desks and balancing our computers on them.

i"m still hiding in the bedroom. And I have to say, over the past few hours the temperature has steadily dropped. I might have to make another cafe au lait, and toast another hot cross bun. See how I suffer? Poor me.

Despite this the writing is going well. Reminds me a little of writing Still Life - taking the laptop with me as I trailed Michael around the townships. He was taking a watercolour course and they held classes 'on site'. Beside lakes, in farmer's fields, in barns and beautiful gardens. While he painted I wrote on a rickety little collapsible table I carried with me.

The plumber, who is quite a characters, has just popped his head in to say he'll be trying the pipe in five minutes....and turning the heat back on shortly after that.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, 21 March 2011


snow, strong winds, temps minus 4

Just so you know, the title of this post contains a typo.

Storm blew in about 2 hours ago. Not actually all that much snow, but dastardly strong winds. The mudroom (so appropriately named) door blew open and I didn't discover it until I went to take Trudy for her walk and check the mailbox. sitting in the living room, writing, I could feel a slight chill, and a draft. Little did I know the outside was piling into the house like marauders. And our heat was, understandably, fleeing.

but now we're sealed in tight. Or at least as tight as a united empire loyalist brick home gets.

March is a good month to be away from Quebec. As is, I have to say, April. Indeed, April might be a worse month here than even March. Only because of all the false hope. Each year we think maybe this really is it. Spring is here, for real. And each year our tender hope is crushed under yet another snow storm.

So one in mid-March is not exactly a big surprise.

I hear from some of your comments on yesterday's post that we're far from the only ones getting this storm. C'est la vie, I guess. And if we choose to live here, what can we expect?

The problem really is the transition months. Mid-March to mid-April. Mid-November to mid-December.

I'm thinking next year we might try to get to London for April. We've spent the month of April there in the past, renting a flat. But I found it frustrating to try to write when one of the great cities of the world was calling. Too many distractions. And when I was out enjoying London, I was frustrated because I felt I needed to be writing.

But I think I've matured enough in my writing and my process that fear, while always there, plays less of a role. Spends less time in the drivers seat. Yes - next April in London would be fabulous. And Michael's birthday is in April. It would be a fun way to celebrate.

As you see - I dream ahead.

Writing forging ahead. One foot in front of the other. I think it's going well...but then sometimes I feel as though while the word-count is going up, the story is not actually progressing. But I feel like that with all the books. And I might actually be right....and have to remember that with a first draft it doesn't matter. It will never be right the first time.

Issues like pacing are often, for me, more obvious and solved in later drafts - when I can see the arc. Right now the focus is on characters and plot. Getting those forged.

At almost 25-thousand words now. About a quarter of the way through the first draft. And when I finish the first draft I figure I'm about half way through writing the book. There will be at least four sometimes five, six or seven more drafts. But with each one the changes get smaller and smaller. Until it is just polishing. changing a word here or there. Things no one else might notice, but I do.

And still, without exception, when I read the final draft, after the books is out, I cringe, and wish I had just one more go at it.

Off to Montreal tomorrow...pat and tony and their one remaining dog, Filo, moving in to look after the house and Trudy.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Happy Spring!

First day of spring - glorious day here - brilliant sun - started off cold, but warming up. temps plus one

A maple syrup day. Perfect for the sap to run in the trees. It needs to be cold enough at night to freeze, then warm enough in the day for the sap to run. Friends just down the road had what's called here a 'sugar bush' - which means a stand of maples they tap for syrup. Then they hold a 'cabane a sucre' - a sugar shack...where they boil the sap down to the syrup and also make 'tire'. That's the special syrup that is warmed up, dribbled on snow, and it turns into toffee. Nothing like standing outside in the snow, rolling tire (pronounced teer) off the snow with a stick. And eating it. Grains of what's known as 'sugar snow' mixed in with the toffee.

often there's a party - with fiddlers, and scrambled eggs and beans and bacon...with syrup poured over everything.

I think this must be a bit like clam bakes in other areas. A real community event.

As you can see, I took a photo of our very special Quebec mud. on Trudy's ball. At least, we all hope it's mud. Except Trudy, who has a taste for the other.

Also took a shot out at the pond. this is significant because today is the first day Michael and I were able to take Trudy around the pond. Had to wear high boots, because every now and them we'd step on snow we thought was solid, and sink in to our knees. Quite a job yanking the foot out without losing the boot. of course, the boot became filled with that granular snow/ice mix.

But that's how we know it's spring.

The other clue is that we come back hoarse after screaming at Trudy to get off the pond. She doesn't see the difference between the frozen pond and the field. But of course, the pond is also busy melting. And if she broke through...

So we scream. And cajole. And bribe. Which is probably the reason she goes out in the first place. Knowing we'll offer cookies to come back. I'd offer the stuff that isn't mud, if it would get her off the fragile ice.

Right now it's probably OK - but at some stage we stop taking her around, just until the ice has gone out completely.

Did you see the Super Moon last night???

We didn't.


Oh well.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments about Aline. Wonderful to read. I wrote her and told her about them, and she wrote back to say how terribly moved she was.

Wrote this morning, as always. Actually, unwrote a lot. In reading over the past chapter I knew one scene was wrong. I tried not to admit it, but finally had to. So I undid it all, and started again. Now it feels right. So much of writing, at least for me, is slapping something down - then editing and shaping and undoing. But I need to have something one the page to work from. About half, I'd say, I get about right the first time....and about half is wrong. And then the trick is to go for walks, or stare into space, or make another cafe au lait, and see it. See what the characters should be doing. And saying.

It's actually fun, when it isn't terrifying.

they're a bit like Trudy, perhaps. Wandering out onto a pond, where they shouldn't be. And me screaming at them to come back. to solid ground.

happily, as yet, I haven't had to offer Gamache or any of them 'the thing that isn't mud' as an inducement. I suspect cafe au lait would work better for them.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Aline Templeton

overcast, mild, temps plus 4 - and very windy - which is great because it melt the snow faster

I was going to take a photograph of the mud in our driveway...great lakes of it. But then I realized everyone knows what mud looks like and you sure don't need to look at Quebec mud.

We have moved from the snow balls in Trudy's hair season to the mud all over her legs season. God help us if she runs into the house ahead of us. We spend the next ten minutes wiping down the floor.

Such a riot - I can hear Michael laughing and laughing on the phone. speaking to his cousin Marjorie, in elora, Ontario. Fun to hear such laughter.

Writing going well. 16-hundred words today. I went to sleep worried that something was off with what I'd written yesterday - and then I realized I needed to bring in another point of view. As soon as I thought that two things happened - I felt great relief at having solved the niggling anxiety...but also felt annoyance at having to undo what I'd done. But when I got to the computer this morning and started writing I realized I could weave the two together, and it would be even more effective.

I hope.

Had to stop now because I was getting tired, and a little confused. Fresh eyes tomorrow.

Mostly, though, I wanted to tell you about this fabulous crime writer named Aline Templeton. As you know, I rarely push other authors - not because I don't want to, or love their writing, but because the blog would be in danger of me appearing to be a sales rep for my friends. And all you'd get is sales pitches.

So I stay away from that, for the most part. With some the work of Ann Cleeves and Deborah Crombie and Julia Spencer-Fleming and a few others. Well, I want to add another to the list. Someone you probably haven't heard of.

The magnificent Aline Templeton. Like Ann Cleeves, Aline's books are set in Scotland. They're Christie-esque whodunnits, with modern twists and times. Not cozy at all - but traditional. And smart. And atmospheric.

They're set in beautiful Galloway in south-west Scotland, a place of seascapes, lochs, hills and forests but where there is also rural deprivation, unemployment and the struggle of all small communities to preserve their unique qualities in the modern world.

They're a little hard to find in North America, but worth the effort. You might put in a request at your local libraries - or at an Independent Mystery Poisoned Pen (which I know sells her books) and Aunt Agathas - Robin was looking into getting Aline's latest in. Murder by the Book in Houston and Mystery Lovers Bookstore can always order. and Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto carries a fabulous collection of British crime novels. Aline's books are also available at

Aline's latest is called Cradle to Grave - you might have just noticed the book cover. It comes out at the end of March. You might also want to check out her website:

Off to walk trudy through the mud - then hose down the house. It's a full life.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


sunny, mild, perhaps even warm, temps 11

Yes, 11. Above zero. Celcius. On St. Patrick's day. The traditional storm did not materialize. It feels and smells like spring. And you can see the buds in the garden, right beside snow. But, if you turn around in our garden you see...snow banks 6 feel high.

It all depends on perspective, and perception.

I've decided spring is here...though we're not breaking out the culottes just yet.

Our friend, the amazing Nancy, wrote to us today - about her springtime memories of Eastern Townships roads...

When my kids were young and I piled the three of them in the car (to pick up
their father after work on Fridays)we had to travel the Bromont road. There
were 5 cahoos all in a road and we all yelled "CAHOOOOO" for each one !!
They still do it and they're 30, 32, and 34 !!!!

Had a funny day writing. Tough spot in the manuscript. Have to balance the demands of character development and drama with believable and appropriate behavior. Of course, this is true throughout the book, but there are specific parts in each manuscript which are more challenging. A balancing act. And still needing to drive the plot forward.

Happily, once I get over my fear with a nice hot cross bun, the writing goes well. And I have to keep reminding myself that the point is not to get it right at this approximation will do. Will get closer in subsequent drafts.

Our great friend Joan is home after 7 weeks in hospital. They're still not sure what she had - but suspect it was in the meningitis family. Terribly worrisome. We could have all used Dr. House. But now she's home and we visited yesterday and she is amazingly well. She'll be celebrating her 79th birthday next Wednesday. And is as vibrant as ever.

My new drug of choice is (besides the comfort of old drugs like gummi bears and hot cross buns) DVD's of the old Mary Tyler Moore show. My god, they're still hilarious! Especially Lou Grant...but really, all of them. One of the shows from the 70's that has worn well, in my opinion.

an easy place to park a tired brain.

Of course, our focus continues to be on events around the world.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


stunning, sunny day, temps freezing

Started this morning extremely and surprisingly cold! Had to scrape the ice off the car - both outside the car and inside! Sometimes, if there's any moisture trapped in the car (from breathing for instance), it can freeze to the windows.

So, while Michael scraped outside outside, I got in the car and shaved off the frost inside. And then it looked as though there'd been a blizzard inside the car.

But then the day warmed up and it is now glorious. A beautiful late winter day, snow melting, some muddy patches. And a smell of spring. A promise.


My assistant lise, on leaving yesterday, said, 'The cahoos were terrible driving up here.' Cahoos is the old townshippers word I couldn't remember to describe not so much the potholes (the use other old words for that), but the heaving of the ground that form sort of ski jumps.

doesn't that sound like the experience. We ca-hoooo over them. Then clunck to the ground.

Our geo-thermal guy is late...called to say he'd hit such a huge pothole this morning it crippled his car. Had a blow out and it ripped off his front fender. Car is in the garage and now he's using his wife's.

Ran around doing errands today...a day away from writing, but not from thinking about it.

Banking, some airline tickets to arrange, post office, town hall to pay taxes... chatted with Teresa, my agent. got caught up on some emails.

Trudy coming home today...any moment. We miss her so much and keep thinking we hear her, when of course we don't. Ghosts of puppies past. But Pat's dropping her off any moment. If they don't get launched into outer space by one of the...cahoooos.

Even more fun to say.

Hope you're enjoying the day. continued prayers for Japan. Such amazing people - not waiting for someone to help them, but co-ordinating themselves...helping themselves clean up. Sharing resources. Humbling and inspiring to watch. But heartbreaking.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Overcast, rain and snow, temps just at freezing.

First thing in the morning. last thing at night. We watch the BBC to find out what is happening in Japan. Wondering about the nuclear reactors. Worrying about the missing. The towns and villages just gone. Worrying whether there's enough drinking water and food for the survivors. And feeling like a voyeur, at home, eating and watching their sorrow. As though it was entertainment. But not being able to look away.

I know it isn't entertainment. Indeed, it feels a bit of a betrayal to look away. To turn on HGTV or a DVD instead.

Wrote to Kiyomi yesterday - she translates my books in Japan - to make sure she was safe. Here's her response...

Dear Louise,

The earthquake was so big , I couldn't stand in my office.
I was scared to death.
We were thrown into panic.
It took me to get home more than 6 hours. Usually it takes only 20 minutes.
But we, my family and friends who live in Tokyo , are safe and well.
Watching TV news, those tsunamis, I cannot believe they are real occurrences.

Best regards,

What a relief to get that email. I know many of you have friends and family in Japan. I hope they're safe. And remain safe.

Closer to home, we had dinner last night with our friend Louise. Today is the 6 month anniversary of Jacques death. She went back to work - is slowly building up to full-time. She was worried about having the energy at work, and the concentration. And worried about the kindness of co-workers, always asking how she is. And how tiring that is - though she knows they mean well. What she wasn't prepared for was how awful it was to return home after work. Alone. No one to ask how her day was. No one to tell and the silly little things that happen. Just silence.

She's getting used to it, she says. But it breaks our hearts that this is one more source of pain.

I suspect many of you know exactly how she's feeling.

It's been a difficult time. Our great friend Joan is in hospital, tests being done - no one at all sure what's wrong.

Pat and Tony lost their beloved dog Logan a week ago. He was 11 - quite old for a Golden - and healthy. He had a sudden seizure and died. they're inconsolable. They'd hoped to get a puppy for Logan to 'train' before the time came - they thought they had more time.

We've loaned them Trudy for a few days. Not totally sure, frankly, how we'll get her back!!

Had brunch today with Bal, Linda and Bethany, at the Cafe Floral in Knowlton. Yum. Scrambled eggs, brie, bacon and cafe au lait. Bring it on! The only trouble was wanting and needing to write...but I knew by the time brunch was over I wouldn't really have the energy. I'm much better writing while I'm fresh in the morning. and Michael's fine tuning his we decided to set the alarm to get up early. 6am. Except - with the time change - it was 5am.

but it worked. By 10am - when we hopped in the car to drive to Knowlton - we'd finished our writing for the day.

I'll tell you, the roads around here are atrocious! the ground heaves, as it thaws. Great holes appear. huge ridges and rents. Tony has a name for it, which I forget. Something old townshippers say to describe the spring thaw's effects on the roads. Something like a 'whoompa' or a 'gazump'...something with onomatopoeia...the word sounds like bumping over one of these heaves. Or heaving over one of the bumps. have to remember to ask Tony.

Michael and I are beyond pooped.

We're now more actively looking for a rescue dog - to adopt for ourselves. An adult. And trying to find a golden puppy for Pat and Tony. Tony says they'd love one.

Long post. Sorry about that!

Hope you're ok.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Huffed and Puffed...

overcast, rain, temps plus 3

What a time! Terrible earthquake in Japan...tsunami. Frightening to watch. Very odd to be having breakfast in front of the TV - something we never do except in extraordinary times...watching the news and the tsunami approaching across the Pacific. At first we were watching the Today show - but they only seemed to talk about Hawaii and the US mainland. So we switched to the BBC and heard all about Japan and the Philippines and Australia and the smaller, low lying islands. As well as the US.

Thank Heaven it wasn't worse.

Puts what we've been through in the past few days into perspective. But what tumultuous weather we've had. From being pounded by snow storms - that photo was taken by a neighbor in Knowlton - to gale force winds (at least, i call them gale force) to torrential rains.

The winds were so strong yesterday they blew the satellite dish from the guest cottage, as well as the eaves troughing and the soffits. Practically blew it down. Poor Bal and Linda and Bethany, not to mention Wayson Choy who came for some peace and quiet to finishing his next book.

I'm back in Sutton. Came down Wednesday...and had everyone over (by everyone I mean the guest cottage friends) for dinner that night. Salmon, chicken caccitore, shrimp, brown basmati rice and a baguette sliced and made into garlic bread. and for dessert a selection of cheeses, pears, grapes, and gluten free brownies.

All bought in Montreal at a caterer. Except the garlic bread and rice.

Wayson left today. Delightful man. Brilliant writer. He brought some origami birds and folded them before dinner, as we sat in front of the fireplace. And gave one each to Michael and me.

Bethany, who is 15, sang at dinner - she has a magnificent voice. and yes, we made her sing for her supper.

We just had a blast.

Writing every day, of course. Often, at this stage, I loathe the writing. Scares me to death. I'd rather be doing anything else. But with this book I actually long to be in it.

have hit a difficult patch. have been going over and over the same ten pages...needing to adjust. it just wasn't quite right. A lot of info needs to be imparted, and new characters met...and it needs to be done carefully. So that you don't get lost or confused. And so it also seems natural.

Would Gamache really ask that question next? What would Beauvoir be doing? Is that what one of the witnesses would say?

One problem that became obvious was that there were too many characters. But I needed them in that scene. What to do, what to do? I walked around with that problem, and every day I'd try to solve it - then write some new pages. And every evening I knew it wasn't quite right.

But last night I think I got the answer.

Combine two characters.

It wasn't really the answer I wanted, so I ignored it for a while. Then finally relented. And felt huge relief. But it meant going back over a lot of what I'd already written, and changing it. Just finished doing that. Fortunately it also simplifies the scenes, and that is always a good thing. makes what's important clearer. Makes each character clearer.


Michael went over to the cottage this morning, where Gary was working to restore the eaves and the satellite man, Luc, had showed up. Poor Linda and Bethany - it was like an invasion. Surrounded by men crawling all over the house.

Now we're waiting for Phil - who is coming to talk to us about possibly converting the main house to geo-thermal. We had someone in about 10 days ago, to also talk with this is the second quote and opinion.

Seems the way to go - though it's expensive to put in. pays for itself quickly - but still, a large hit to begin with. But fascinating to hear about.

Brother Charles, my contact at the abbey of St-Benoit-du-lac, continues to be very helpful, answering all sorts of mundane and sometimes riduculous questions.

In the meantime, over riding all this activity, we pray for the people of Japan. And all those effected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

London Times Bestseller!!!

brilliant sunshine, bitter cold, temps minus 15

Dear Lord, how the climate changes! From torrential rain to blizzard to bright blue skies today.

And the literary climate has shifted as well for me! I just had a call from my editor in the UK, the magnificent Dan Mallory of Sphere/Little, Brown, to say the words I never dared dream I'd hear.

Bury Your Dead is on the London Times Bestseller list!!!

Poor Dan, I might have shattered his eardrum. How wonderful he was to call to tell me, instead of writing an email. He said he wanted to hear my reaction. I think it will be ringing in his head like tinnitus for years to come. A crazy canuck shrieking for joy.

Wow. Both an hysterical wow, but also a quiet, heartfelt, deep down wow. Wow.

How many times I heard, in rejection letters, 'Nobody is interested in a mystery set in Canada.'

And still we hear it. And still Canadians often feel they need to set their books in the US or Britain or elsewhere. But readers are so much more open than they're given credit for. Bury Your Dead, the most Canadian of all my clearly Canadian books, is the one that has been embraced in Britain.

And before that, the American put it on the New York Times list.


Now, I have a personal favour to ask. Can you spread the word? Tell everyone you know in the UK about the books and the Times list? And maybe even more people in Britain will pick it up. Thank you SO much for your help!

In other fun news (not to do with me, you'll be happy and shocked to hear) - do you know Marshal Zeringue? He has a couple of Blogs. One is called the page 99 test...where he asked writers to read page 99 of their latest book and say whether it's representative of their book, and if people only read that one page, what would be their perception. A fun exercise.

But he also has a wonderful blog called Coffee with Canines - and after I mentioned Danny and Lucy a few times, and ran a photo of them in their bookstore (Brome Lake Books) with their dog Jessie, Marshal contacted them and asked if they'd take part in Coffee with Canines.

Danny did - and you can see the results if you google Coffee with a Canine and find the latest's Danny and Lucy McAuley & Jessie. He actually sent a link, but I can't seem to cut and paste it into the blog.

the post is wonderful....exactly like a visit with them. Very funny, very moving, very warm.


And thank you again for celebrating with me!!! Yippeee....

Monday, 7 March 2011

A shack in the woods

snow, blowing snow, temps minus 3

At least it's mild. And frankly, I'd rather have snow than rain at this time of year. Though yesterday started as rain, quite heavy at times, then changed to snow - and by night it was a blizzard. And we woke up to the blizzard, continuing.

You might notice a slight shift in perspective as you look at the photos. That's because I decided to scoot in to Montreal for a few days - to write quietly on my own. I wish I'd thought of that with all the other books. Just the first few I can totally focus. Just get in some food, some diet ginger ale, some DVD's, and spend the day writing. Then completely relax. Then wake up in the morning and write some more.

I can't explain why this makes such a difference, but it does.

Earlier in my writing career I wasn't sure why so many writers describe the process as isolating. I felt, and still do in so many ways, that I have never been so connected to the world around me, and my fellows, than when I'm writing. Because I have to pay close attention. Listen closely. Observe. Be very present. Take it all in.

But now two things occur to me. When I'm doing that I'm connected....but it's in a sort of observer capacity. engaged at times, absolutely...but often one step removed. Watching.

The other thing is that I find as time and the career and the demands go on, that I crave and need privacy more and more. It really is easier to write when I'm alone. I can see why writers often go away. Often renting a shack in the woods, where they know no one. Where there's often no one to know.

This apartment in Montreal is my 'shack in the woods' - ironic since I left my home in the woods to come find peace.

And when I say I yearn to be alone to write - that doesn't exclude Michael. I'd be happy to have him here. As it is, when we're apart we call and email all the time. But we decided he should stay home to look after Trudy. She's always happiest when at home, and we;re so often away it didn't seem fair.

But coming to Montreal was, for me and the writing, wonderful. This is what I consider bliss. Writing, and not having anything else to think about. Not shopping, not cooking, not making yet another excuse to a kind invitation from a friend.

And the writing is going very often, when I come to the second draft I end up changing a lot of the beginning of the first, so I'm not sure how much of this you'll ever get to read...but it doesn't matter right now. The key is to get it down, and keep moving forward...and getting deeper and deeper into the characters and themes. The rest will sort itself out in time.

As you can see from the snowy photos - Michael took some as he and Trudy struggled to go for a walk. And I took the Montreal street scenes...along Ste-Catherine, near Greene Ave. they don't really do the blizzard justice since you don't get a sense of the snow whipping by.

I know many of you have been clobbered by the same system. Hope you're staying safe.

Michael went off to have dinner at the cottage last night with Bal,Linda, Bethany and their friend, a fellow Canadian writer, Wayson Choy. I've never met him, but they're coming over for tea on Thursday afternoon. I'll obviously be home by then, otherwise it would be a ridiculous invitation!

Hope you're safe and sound, where ever you are!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Yogurt, Dr. Freud?

rain, mild, temps plus 5

I keep thinking it's unseasonably warm, then remember we're into March...and anything can happen. March and April - real messes here in southern Canada. I remember being in the St Patrick's Day Parade, through Montreal. This was when I was a host on CBC Radio. They put us into an open car - convertible. It snowed. It always seems to snow on March 17th. The parade is famous for it. It's known as the last snow of the season.

That's a lie. We've sometimes had snowstorms (albeit rare) in May.

So at this time of year it rains, and snows, and freezing rain, and hails and sleets. But, c'est la vie.

Writing going well. Wrote 13-hundred words today and finished a chapter. I'm feeling oddly calm. Relaxed. But a reflection of not caring, but I think of feeling quite sure of the story, and enjoying where I need to take it. I'm not one of those writers who does best in pain, or anxiety, or fear.

If I'm actively fearful my writing will be terrible. I'll be trying too hard. Often trying to impress. Like trying to hit a golf ball a million miles and only end up hooking or slicing or dubbing it completely. But when I'd be relaxed and happy, my swing would be natural and the ball would sail out there. And I'd enjoy the round.

Writing is like that for me. I think about a book for months before I start. Research. Read. Sit quietly and empty my mind. Sit quietly and fill my mind. Listen to music. Read poetry.

And then, start to write.

I need to be calm and confident. And while it's difficult it can and must still be joyful. When I feel like that I'm open to the universe. Not writing to impress others. Not writing out of fear. But instead feeling confident enough to take chances. When I'm afraid I play it safe. Take no chances, go down no dead ends. I don't explore and take risks.

As a result, when I write in fear or stress when happens is OK. But OK isn't nearly good enough. It was once, many years ago. But no more. Now I need to do my best. And then try to do better. And the only way I can get there is to be filled with joy. that fuels courage. Besides, it makes the writing so much more fun.

But I did have an odd dream last night (feel free to glaze over about now). I dreamed one of the books was being made into a film. We were all getting to the set - preparing. And suddenly (can you guess?) - I realized I was supposed to write the screenplay. And I hadn't.

oh oh.

then the actor playing Gamache completely ignored me - except to ask for yogurt.

I'm frankly just grateful I kept my clothing on throughout the dream.

Perhaps I'm not quite as calm and worry-free as I think. Still, I did manage to find the yogurt.

Friday, 4 March 2011

BYD takes UK - photographic proof

mainly sunny, chilly, temps minus 7

So now we're at 2,500 words...feels good. Going surprisingly well, except for that achingly horrible moment when I'd finished one scene - hit return. hit return. Put my hands over the keyboard - and waited. And waited.

Dear Lord - I suddenly realized I had no idea what happens next.

That isn't exactly true - I knew what the next scene was, I just wasn't sure how it should start. It was chilling. But off I went. And erased. And started again. And erased. Third erasing. Phew. time to change the diapers.

My wonderful publisher/editor in London - Dan - sent these photos and others. One is from Stanstead airport (the one with the drinks and candy in the background) - the blurry one is from a WH Smith in London. Doesn't it look great?! blurry and all. Candy and all. To see Bury Your Dead in its own stand throughout Britain, right next to the London Times. Still makes me light-headed with delight.

How happy I am!

More writing... and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

In the beginning...

snow squalls, chilly, temps minus 5

Well, now the sun is almost out. A few minutes ago we couldn't see the pine tree just out the back window, for all the snow.

Started Book 8 today. Was expecting and planning to start yesterday - first of March - but then I remembered Deanna was coming to clean and we generally try to be out of her way. Besides, hard to concentrate when all I hear is a vacuum. So we arranged to do errands etc.

But then turns out Deanna's week is next week! D'oh. I hesitate to suggest this was my subconscious looking for one more day of vacation - but if there's one thing on earth lazier than my conscious, it's my sub-conscious.

But here we are! Just finished writing for the day. Always momentous - that first day. I had set a goal of 500 words. Ended up writing just over 900. Feels good. First go a little rough...but I read and re-read and smoothed. And now I like it. Will re-read it tomorrow before starting on the original writing for that day. I find it's important not to get caught up in editing, at least for me. I can smooth and polish and edit for days and weeks and months, ending up with the finest 1000 words you've ever read...but no closer to actually writing the book. For me, editing can be an escape - I can hide in it. Kidding myself I'm being useful, when all I'm doing is running on the spot.

Some people can do it. I can't. For me I need to just keep pressing forward. I read over the work I did the previous day, do some editing and polishing - mostly to get myself back into that world. Then I need to write original text. One small foot in front of the other.

Each book, I realize, has different needs. The previous book - which is at the publishers and will come out in the US and Canada in the fall - is called A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. With that I felt I needed to just get that first damned draft done. No matter what a dog's breakfast it was. And, heaven knows, it was a bit of a mess - that first draft. But that's what editing and second and third and fourth drafts are for. I'll never get it right at first.

But other books - like BURY YOUR DEAD for instance, and this book, I think - I have a better idea initially where I'm going and why - and the themes. And so I plan to write a little slower but a little surer. I suspect the book, and the drafts, will be finished about the same time - they always are - and sent to my agent. But with the '1,000 words a day or more' books the second drafts contain more substantial changes. The '500 words a day' books take longer, but perhaps need fewer changes in the re-writes.

But, honestly - all my first drafts are messes. And while I give myself permission to write only 500 words a day, I really am more of a sprinter. I dash forward....and then go back and clean up the mess. It seems to be in my nature.

So - check back with me in 2 months and we'll see where I am. I'll probably have forgotten all about this newfound insight and will just be bumbling along, at speed.

I find a first draft generally takes 3 months, depending upon how many interruptions I have in that time. All of which I've agreed to. Every year I promise myself to turn down everything in those 3 months, and every year I seem to end up with even more commitments. This year, while april and the beginning of May are quite full - at least March is almost empty. yay.

Michael and I have decided to investigate geo-thermal. We had arranged for someone from NextEnergy to come on Monday - before I'd started writing - to look at the house and give us an idea of what it would cost, what would be the advantages environmentally and economically - and what would be the disruptions. But there was a huge storm - freezing rain, snow, winds yuck! So we re-scheduled for this afternoon at 2. We'll get a few quotes then decide.

At the top, by the way, is a photo of Trudy I took from where I was writing. For three months, as I write, when I look to the right I see the fireplace, lit. If I look to the left I see Trudy with some stuffed toy in her mouth - waiting for me to do something important. Like play.

A small world, but a good one.

Hope you're well. Thanks for coming along as we start Book 8.