Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Happy Leap Day!

bright, brilliant sun, temps minus 10

someone asked the very good question recently about the temperatures....yes, they're in Celsius. so our zero is plus 32 in the Imperial (Fahrenheit) scale. Canada switched to the Metric system back in the early 80's, when it looked like all of North America would go....and then didn't. Still, it's sort of fun. Distinguishing. And once we got used to it (sort of) it makes sense, being based on a scale of metres and kilometeres. Kilo, as you know, is a form of Kilometre means a heavy metre. See how easy it is? And how well I've adjusted? Nothing to it.

this is leap day - which I will not try to explain in the metric system (though I could if I wanted to). It's a gift of a day - so fun. Happy Leap Day - especially those of you celebrating birthdays.

It also feels like a special gift to me - one more day of 'vacation' before starting to write the next book. We've decided to use the cottage next door (which we had been renting to friends) as my office. I can't think why we didn't do this years ago! As some of you might remember, I rented an office space in Sutton (the nearest village) a few years ago, for a couple of years (books 3 and 4 were written there). I felt the need to separate 'church and state'....home from writing. It worked as a fabulous psychological transition. And made it easier to relax when I got home. I can see how working at home is a mixed much easier, more comfortable....but isolating, and so difficult to shut off.

But after a couple of years I realized it was just a long way to we gave up that office and I wrote here at home.

But now I've decided to head next door. And it's perfect!!! Set up as an office - and no phone calls at all! No internet either - so no email distractions. Just the fireplace, the laptop, a kitchen to make coffee and lunch...and complete focus, in beautiful and familiar surroundings. And right next door!

Feel like a complete idiot not to have thought of it earlier.

Will report to you how it's going and feeling.

today I just want to sit quietly and 'see' the opening scene. Crucial. It is, actually, often changed in subsequent re-writes - but for the first draft it's so important to get off in the right direction....and reestablish Gamache and Clara etc. the characters, the tone, the village, the feel. that duality of great beauty and foreboding. Of something not quite right in Eden. Of friendship and hope and belonging. Under threat.

While part of me is afraid to start, and even bigger part can hardly wait to see how the villagers are doing!

Oh, tomorrow the March newsletter goes out, and in it is another contest (a draw really) to win an advance readers copy (arc) of THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY (which will be published August 28th). if you want to get in on it, just go to the website and sign up for the free newsletter.

Enjoy this exceptional day!

Saturday, 25 February 2012


snow, blowing snow - temps minus 7

Yippeee - went to bed as the blizzard began and awoke to what you see. Very difficult for me to capture on my old Blackberry, feels more dramatic than it looks. This is Trudy and me on our morning walk....about a foot of snow has fallen already, with more on the way. We can now barely see the trees at the other end of the pond.

Got a soaker taking the composting out to our compost bin, out back. It felt like childhood. And so great to shake the snow out of my boots when I got back inside - brush it off my socks, then head to the fireplace, put my wet feet up on the hearth - and let them dry. Our home now smells of coffee, wet dog, and wet wool. ahhh, home.

Finished reading the film script. Will let it digest for the weekend, then will contact the producers. It is all, for me, a learning process - and one thing that I've learned with age, it to pause. Think. Reflect. Be quiet. Then speak. so important to sit in silence. And equally important to speak. Neither necessarily comes naturally.

Bird feeders are full...good thing too. I think, through the window, you can see one of them - an open box...and I think there's a blue jay in it. We get blue jays and black capped chickadees and woodpeckers and mourning doves and purple finches - and what a friend called 'lbj's...little brown jobs. Yesterday we got home to find a family of wild turkeys. I keep hoping for a cardinal, but so far nothing.

We had some sad news yesterday. Lucy and Danny, from Brome Lake Books, had to put their golden Jessie down. Jessie was such a part of their family, and of the bookstore. So often there....but clearly slowing down and having difficulty walking of late. And finally, it was time. We're desperately sad for Danny and Lucy and their boys. What emptiness in the home. Jessie was also Trudy's mom. A lovely dog.

Good girl, Jessie. Good girl.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

films update

overcast, some snow, mild - temps at freezing

Beautiful day, as you can tell by the photo - that's the view from the kitchen sitting room....the forecasters weren't sure if it would come down as rain or snow - and fortunately in the night it came down as snow! So we woke up to this sort of fairytale world. And once again filled the bathtub with water, in case the heavy snow on the branches broke power lines.

So far, so good.

We couldn't help but marvel at how different this is than what Michael and I were looking at a week ago at this time. But equally beautiful.

Headed off early (after digging out the car and almost getting stuck on the driveway....and then finding a snow drift at the end of the drive where the township plow cleared the road...right onto our driveway. Always fun, blasting through that. We headed into Sutton for breakfast at Le Cafetier...Michael to sit quietly on his own with reading, and me to meet my friend Lou. She and I met when we both volunteered at the tiny village library. there were two desks for volunteers, side-by-side. One for the English side (me) and one for the French side (lou). Well, it was so quiet that she and I ended up talking for our whole shift.

When I became president of the library (yes, as lofty and powerful as it sounds) one of the first things I did was bring Lou onto the board. She was so well suited to it that she ended up as president herself a term or so later....and did a fantastic job. We've been friends ever since, but always have difficulty getting together, with her job as translator and mine (as a writer). so it was wonderful to finally manage it.

But the big excitement is the formal announcement of what we (and perhaps you) already knew... The first two books in the Gamache series have been optioned....CBC Television has signed a development deal....and we're underway. The first draft of the screenplay for STILL LIFE arrived yesterday. I started reading it on my computer, then realized I really wanted a 'hard' copy - in paper. So while we were breakfasting this morning, Bob who does photo copying in the village, made two for me and one for Michael.

Have spent the rest of today reading the script.

It's a VERY strange experience. Won't comment on it at this stage....first draft and all. And still early days. No casting yet, of course. Not until we have a script we're all happy with. Like writing a book, it's a process.

More snow in the forecast for tomorrow. Storm warning out. Having breakfast in Knowlton with our friend Cotton and her sister. Then home for more reading by the fire.

Hope you're having a good day too - and are safe and warm

Monday, 20 February 2012

Goodby Jamaica, hello Sutton, mon

sunny, mild, temps about freezing

Yes, we're back home - otherwise the weather report above would be disconcerting (and disappointing) for Jamaica.

We had just the best time! And just what the 'doctor' ordered. Peace and quiet....lots of pampering. Great food. We even liked it when it rained, though that wasn't often. For our last two days we were moved from the little Blue cottage, to a larger one (yes, an upgrade!) on a small spit of land jutting into the sea....that's the view from our bedroom.

Michael is saying 'goodbye'. Well, first we had you can see.

The travel day was long, as they so often are. The Air Canada flight didn't leave until 6:30pm, which gave us much of the day by the beach. It still amazes me that we can have papayas on the terrace overlooking the sea in the morning and go to bed with snow outside that night.

After the last swim we returned to our cottage, ordered lunch and then I showered (remembering to take my sea salted bathing suit in with me) - then Michael's turn. We did the last of our packing and checked out by 2:30. It's a 90 minute drive to Montego Bay - but a very pleasant one.

We'd pre-booked the exit row seats, and checked our luggage at the AC counter...only to discover the flight was delayed. Now leaving at 7:45. We sat in the lounge...and waited....and plane outside the window, which as you know is never a good thing. finally at 8pm it arrived.

But they'd changed the aircraft - and suddenly our extra-legroom exit row was a regular (very squished) seat. I asked the flight attendant (while Michael tried to disappear into the seat) if the exit row was available, could we switch, since we'd requested them.

she came back a few minutes later with the great news that because of the plane change, everyone's ticket had gotten screwed up, and they'd put a baby in the exit row - again, not a good thing. So the baby (and family) had to leave - and take our seats.

Well - talk about turbulance. The mother was furious- absolutely apoplectic, to the point where she wouldn't even look at us or talk to us as we tried to change seats - just snarled. I can completely understand her annoyance....the exit row seat on this particular plane had huge legroom - room enough for a jacuzzi, a bed and a sofa (almost)....I'm 6 feet tall and stretched out my tip toes didn't reach the seat in front of me.

but the regular seats had people breathing on the person in front of them - it was awful.

This mother's problem wasn't sitting in the tight seats, it was being ejected from Eden.

But, well, too bad. We jumped into them and buckled up, and the woman in front also nabbed the seat next to me - she was lovely and we had a terrific chat during the 4 hour flight about iPads etc. We don't have one, and she showed me hers and described how it might be helpful for Michael and me.

The flight landed at just after midnight - then the race to customs and immigration, which is notoriously packed at the Montreal airport. Sure enough, our flight landed at the same time as at least one other....we spied each other down the corridor, with the escalator to immigration between us. Then, like knights of the middleages - we paused, then all ran toward each other. fortunately we didn't clash, or cross swords....but we did converge on the escalator.

Happily, we were near the front, so there was only a small wait. Then through customs, got the bags and into taxi and home by 1am. We decided to drive straight down to Sutton, getting here at 3am.

So wonderful to be home. Feels as though we've been gone longer. My Assistant Lise had left a vase of roses and gummi bears (for me) and chocolate wafers (for Michael). We crawled into bed and ate the treat - marveling at the day.

Now we're all unpacked (often that can take a week or more) - laundry is even done! And sneaking slowly back into real life. Refreshed.

I knew I was exhausted - indeed, I was even getting a little worried about my physical, but also mental, state....felt over burdened and staggering. But now feel so much better.

I'll be starting the next book (book 9) on March 1st. I've decided to take my time....when you read (as I hope you will) THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, you'll see why book 9 needs to be written carefully... Like holding something delicate, fragile, alive...and needing to take care.

Fun time, as I approach the first words of the first draft. And try not to get all scared. though I think fear is just part of the deal. It means I care. But there's also joy, at being back with characters whose lives fascinate me - and whom I love.

So nice to be home - and back with you!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Agatha Nomination!!!

sunny,, and humid and gorgeous

Yes, we're still in Jamaica....and loving every minute. Even loving it when the rains come - gives us an excuse to retreat to the deep covered verandah of our room, continue reading, and watch the rain. A few days ago we were all at dinner, out the huge outdoor terrace, under the stars....looking out over the caribbean - when the heavens opened. There was a rush for the 'lifeboats' - and the live band kept playing. It was hilarious. No sign of Kate Winslet or Leonardo, (or Celine) - but it felt a little like 'sauve qui peut'. Well, all the guests ended up in different parts of the Jamaica Inn....and the waiters found us all, and brought our orders without a pause, as though this is just to be expected.

We've met the most interesting people here....mostly British and American. A US General, a British Lord and Lady, a movie star, a composer of West End musicals, and then a whole lot of 'regular folk' like us. All mingling and enjoying quiet, and calm - and passing the time of day when we meet. It feels as though time has stood still here. It's a nice feeling.

But really what I wanted to tell you is that we've received the most wonderful news!!! A TRICK OF THE LIGHT has been nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Mystery Novel in the US!!! Here's the complete list for Best Novel -

Best Novel:
The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis (Berkley)
Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)
Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

As you might know, I'm friends with a few people on this list, especially GM Maillet (whose book I heartily and happily endorsed) and Margaret Maron - loved her book too. Donna and I go back a number of years and I always like her company, and her books. Krista I don't know, but will get her book and I'm sure it's terrific.

How wonderful it feels to be in such splendid company.

Here are the other nominees, in other categories, including my friends Chris Grabenstein, Dana Cameron , Barb Goffman, and the magnificent Rhys Bowen....

Best First Novel:
Dire Threads by Janet Bolin (Berkley)
Choke by Kaye George (Mainly Murder Press)
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)
Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab (Berkley)
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend (Berkley)

Best Non-fiction:
Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linden)
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks by John Curran (Harper)
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)
Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel by A. B. Emrys (McFarland)
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris (Ace)

Best Short Story:
"Disarming" by Dana Cameron, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - June 2011
"Dead Eye Gravy" by Krista Davis, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
"Palace by the Lake" by Daryl Wood Gerber, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
"Truth and Consequences" by Barb Goffman, Mystery Times Ten (Buddhapuss Ink)
"The Itinerary" by Roberta Isleib, MWA Presents the Rich and the Dead (Grand Central Publishing)

Best Children's/Young Adult:
Shelter by Harlan Coben (Putnam)
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (EgmontUSA)
The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner (EgmontUSA)

Best Historical Novel:
Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy (Signet)
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)

Congratulations, everyone. so exciting. The winners will be voted on and announced at the end of April at Malice Domestic in Washington. If you don't know Malice Domestic, it's a fabulous mystery reader/writers conference, featuring panels of writers discussing their work and process. It's big enough to to attract some of the finest writers of traditional mysteries internationally, and small enough that you actually get to chat with them. Very fun and wonderfully organized. Well worth going. Unfortunately, I won't be there for the first time in years - I have to be in London at that time. I can't tell you how much Michael and I will miss being there - they've become like family.

For now, though, we find solace in the caribbean, sipping ginger beers and eating grilled fish. Heading home Saturday. What a lovely respite.

Speak soon -

Sunday, 12 February 2012

One Love

sunny, hot, temps...I honestly don't know - but it's hot!

We're in Jamaica...ahhhh Been here for a week now. Arrived last Saturday evening - in quite heavy rain. And the biggest clog at immigration I've ever seen. Our flight from Montreal arrived just as two of the biggest planes I've ever seen got to the little terminal in Montego Bay. A Virgin Atlantic and a British Airways. Both from London. Both full. We joined the back of the line halfway down a corridor. We very, very slowly snaked forward....until we turned a corner and our hearts fell.

Before us was an open room jam packed with annoyed people. The bank of immigration desks had just a few officials....and so we just inched along. Everyone around us (and it began to feel like a bunker or a lifeboat - we became comrades) was saying the same thing - we'll never return to Jamaica. I have to admit, I was feeling the same thing....and then I realized we'd had a 4 hour flight, they'd had ten hours from London - then two more hours inching forward in a hot, stuffy room.

But then something magic happened....we finally got through immigration, got our bags and within minutes were in the private limo drinking Ting (a fabulous, refreshing Jamaican drink of lightly carbonated grapefruit juice - we gulped it down) and were heading through the dark and the rain toward our destination.

The Jamaica Inn.

I'd found it a few years ago - drawn, I suspect, to the name. Daphne du Maurier and all....though hers was bleaker, being in Cornwall.

But then I forgot about it and we went off first to Sandals in Saint Lucia (which was terrific, but I'm afraid too many people for this hermit) then we disasterously rented a villa between the Pitons in Saint Lucia, as some of you might remember. Rented it fro two weeks, lasted three days and skiddadled home. (Now there was an interesting conversation with Michael...Oh, honey....) It was high up, with howling winds - and rain. The view was astonishing and the home was absolutely beautiful....but upon closer examination on our return to Montreal I realize they make it quite clear, the villa between the Pintons is in a rain forest. D'oh!

So we felt like goldilocks and the three bears....looking for the vacation place that would be 'juuuuust right'. Someplace warm, where we could swim in the ocean, have great food, be looked after but also private. Tranquility, peace and quiet. And pampering. (for Michael, of course - I'm very rugged and disdain luxury)

And then Michael reminded me of the Jamaica Inn. I went back to the website and there it was....the place I'd been looking for all along I'd already found. How perfect is that. Like the TS Eliot lines about returning home and finding it for the first time. those words always haunted me, and have happened so often....I realize I was looking for something that was always there.

And that was the case with the Jamaica Inn. We were late deciding to go. What with the renovations, and all the travel in the fall, Michael and I decided it would be best to stick close to home, lock the doors and just relax by the fireplace. But then we found it impossible to 'unplug'. There seemed constant calls on our time, despite My Assistant Lise's best efforts. I'll tell you, after all she's done for us in the past month she's in line for a promotion....My Goddess Lise. My Hero Lise. My Friend in Line for a Truckload of Licorice Lise.

And there were hints from my agent and publishers that perhaps I should stop whining (they didn't put it like that, but I think that was the gentle message) and just go away someplace, like everyone else.

And so we called Monyc at the travel agency and asked her to book the jamaica Inn. We lucked out and got the Blue Cottage. Right on the beach, as you can see by the photos....between us and the ocean is an almond tree and some palms...and a few paces of soft sand.

We arrived in the rain and dark - long since forgetting the upset of the long wait at immigration. Checked in - Shirlene was waiting with a hug and a 'welcome home'....we were brought to the cottage - and a few moments later a waiter arrived with two fruit punches and a bottle of wine. We put the wine, unopened, in the fridge, where it sits still....then ordered dinner and sat on the verandah. We could see nothing....but we could hear the waves against the shore.

Dinner was light - a cold papaya and lime soup and a greek salad.

Then bed.

Next morning we awoke to the sound of birds and waves on the beach, and sunshine. We looked outside and saw what we'd been searching for, for years. Peace and quiet in the tropics.

We've been so lucky to have a home that is settled and calm and peaceful....we live within an hour of our favorite inn....Hovey Manor, which also offers peace and quiet and comfort. We have a flat we rent in Knightsbridge, in London, which feels like home....right in the thick of one of the great cities in the world - but is an oasis. (we'll be going there for the month of April). And now we've found our home in the tropics.

Each morning we've been here we have our breakfast of Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee, fruit plate of ripe papayas and local bananas and the sweetest grapefruits we've ever tasted. And toasted english muffins with marmalade. You can see the photo of Michael at breakfast. And on the beach. And my feet - the view I look at from our lounge chairs.

One of the great luxuries at the jamaica Inn is space. There's no fighting for the best beach chairs....everyone has their own and they're all front line, under those natural umbrellas, offering shade. Steps to the soft sand beach and the warm water.

The food is like something out of a dream. Fresh grilled catch of the day (grouper and snapper and others) - and grilled lobster, and charcoal steaks, and lots of curry dishes with mango chutney. And all available grilled or blacked or jerk (a Jamaican speciality)....and amazing chilled soups. Five course dinners - though we often can only manage three. Tuesday nights there's a beach barbeque, with a bonfire and torches and candles.

People dress for dinner - casual elegant - and meet for cocktails on the deck looking over the croquet pitch and pool and off into the caribbean.

for two people intent on quiet we have been unexpectedly social. Invited to cocktails at different people's rooms - hosting cocktails one night.

At dinner a live band plays, not intrusively, and we dance under the stars.

And yes, it is as other-worldly and idyllic as it sounds. Very British colonial. Not for everyone. There is very little to do, except read and swim and relax. Most people are like us - interested in being friendly, without needing to be clingy. Cordial. Happy to spend time together and happy to separate. And the staff are exceptional. What a difference that makes.

We took a small fishing boat to see the shoreline, and Dunn's River Falls (which was insane with people and difficult to appreciate the beauty) then we stopped at a reef and snorkled.

Oh, and then there's the spa. And the wedding on the beach this morning.

We're halfway through our visit. Rupert is giving us a croquet lesson this afternoon....which I suspect will be too much activity. So far the most exercise we've had is pulling our bathing suits off and on.

We cannot believe our good fortune. To have found this place, and to be in a position to be able to come here. We are keenly aware of how lucky we are, and are determined to enjoy this very great blessing. As you can tell, that doesn't take any effort at all.

I hope you enjoy this visit with us! At first I was going to not blog while here - but honestly, so much of this is happening because of you and your support of the books, that I wanted to tell you how much fun we're having, and to bring you along. Michael and I talk of you often.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Wild Oats

sun struggling to come out - very light fluffy flurries - mild temps minus 2

A very nice day - after the torrential rain yesterday. of course, now we have to be aware of what is under the dusting of snow. Hidden. Every time either Michael or I go outside, or someone arrives, we shout, 'Watch for ice!'

The rain yesterday has frozen - and now the snow just hides it. Very sneaky, these Canadian winters. And I suspect winters elsewhere in the northern hemisphere. But I still wouldn't trade it for anything....though....well...

We are off to the caribbean on Saturday!!! Two weeks. We found a place with a private cottage on the beach - the rooms have no TV, no radio, no clocks even. Ahhhh. My Assistant Lise, when I get stressed, keeps sending me photos of our little cottage. Just seeing it relaxes me.

So now we're getting prepared. Small crisis when Michael realized the Superbowl is sunday, and this resort doesn't seem to have a television anywhere. He was a little embarrassed (after a month scolding me for even considering taking my laptop and making me promise to leave it and the blackberry behind) to suggest that maybe the laptop wasn't such a bad idea.

So - fingers crossed (I guess) that we can find it live on the internet. I actually really like football too, so it's no hardship.

We're packing...had to find our carry-on - which I finally did, in the basement, covered in dust and cobwebs. As well, I've spent some of today not only doing the laundry but sewing the cuffs of Michael's slacks. (Now, sewing means sticking seeds in, right?)

We will definitely be the 'lower orders' at this resort....Jed and Granny Clampet, trailing cobwebs and oat seeds. At least we'll be guaranteed our privacy. The cranks on the beach.

Pat and Tony arriving tomorrow, to move in and housesit Trudy, with their dogs, so we can go in to Montreal a day early. I desperately need a haircut....was a little tempted to take the pinking shears to it today, but decided that was a whacko step too far, even for the Clampets.

Have to say, I'm loving sitting here watching the birds on the feeder. Mesmerizing.

Oh, I also wanted to tell you that we have a released date for THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY! It will be out August 28th - and is available to pre-order now. If you haven't already signed up for my free newsletter, you might consider it since we're holding a series of draws each month for advance copies of THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY.

Since we're taking the laptop I might blog once from our little cottage....just to say hi. It's nice to keep in touch.