Thursday, 27 December 2007

One is lost, but maybe one is saved.

Overcast, light snow, high near zero

Can't believe Benazir Bhutto is dead. I'm really quite shaken. It would be foolish to be completely stunned, given previous attempts on her life, but still, one lives in hope. Poor Pakistan, what will become of her? Dreadful.

Doug, his ex, Mary, their three kids and their dog, Buttercup (the Hound from hell) arrive tomorrow - a day ahead of schedule. We're thrilled. Love them so much. Ran out and bought up the grocery store. All stuff that's bad for kids, and Aunts and Uncles. Then put the groceries in the guest cottage. God Bless the guest cottage!!!

We have a baby deer living over there. Saw her a couple of weeks ago, jumping into the woods. But yesterday she was right on the snowy winding driveway into the cottage, and she loped about ten feet off the road and hid under a tree. She's so young, and all alone and it broke my heart. I called around when we got home, to Anthony and Wayne and other old timers about what can be done to help the deer. It's unusual to find one alone, and so young at this time since most are born in the spring.

The options outlined by Wayne and Tony are: leave it alone. It's survived this long. Besides, Nature must take its course. OR, feed it apples. Not many - it still needs to forage for itself, you don't want it to grow dependent. But just enough to supplement it's diet and help it along.

So among all the treat for the kids we bought apples and spread them along the driveway.

I feel foolish for caring so much - and I know Nature will have Her way. But there is so much pain in this world I can't help - seeing Madame Bhutto die. Maybe this is one I can help. Maybe. I guess all I can do is my best, and leave it up to a higher power to decide.

I'll let you know what happens. Be well.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Oh, yes, I found my publisher at Canadian Tire.

Overcast, mild, highs minus 1

Hello there - hope you're having a relaxed day, digesting. Just spoke to a friend, Pat, and she's off to the Canadian Tire in Cowansville for their annual Boxing Day Sale. It starts at 1pm, but she was there (by mistake) at 9am and people were already waiting! Canadian Tire! Though, to be honest, they sell just about everything there.

Michael and I are staying home. Made the famous Whitehead Humdinger casserole from the turney leftovers. In a large casserole dish we put a generous layer of diced turkey, then stuffing, then poured gravy over it, then a layer of peas and finally the sweet potatoes, made with pinapple and a splash of maple syrup. Threw it in the cottage freezer for when Mike and Dom come down, first weekend of January.

Brother Doug, his ex-wife (but still friend) Mary, and kids Brian, Rosyln and Charlie are arriving Saturday. Pat (if she survives Canadian Tire) is making the kids chicken wings. It's all they want to eat when they come down. Wonder if she'll buy them at Canadian Tire? Perhaps I won't try any. Though, honestly, if I can eat a bag of gummy bears I can sure eat a Canadian tire.

Had a very exciting email from Alan Bradley a few days ago. He's Canadian and he won the Crime Writer's Association Debut Dagger in London last year!

If any of you have an unpublished mystery manuscript and have been wondering if you should enter it in the CWA competition - read this from Alan....

'You predicted that winning the Debut Dagger Award in July would change my life - and you were right! On the strength of that 3000 word submission,
a three book series has been sold to Bantam/Doubleday in the US and Canada, to Orion Books in the UK, and Italian rights to Mondadori in Italy.
I'm just finishing the first volume, "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" which is scheduled for publication in March of 2009.
The trip to London was nothing less than sensational, and what a warm welcome I was given by the CWA - as well as numerous agents and publishers! Like you, I am not a good flyer - but the trip to the Park Lane Hotel was too good to resist. I didn't actually realize - or even think about - the fact that I had flown to Europe and back until I was safely home.
In reality, the worst part of the flight was the quality of the movies that they kept showing!
Dorothy Jane Macintosh, of Toronto, was also nominated for the Debut Dagger, and it was a pleasure to meet her at the dinner. We put up quite a good show for Canada, I think!
My web site has just been updated to feature the series, which I'm unofficially calling "The Buckshaw Chronicles". It can be viewed at:'

It's so exciting to witness a dream coming true. It's like seeing a miracle. I'm beyond happy for Alan - and Phyllis Smallman whose Marguerita Nights is being published by McArthur this spring thanks to her winning the Crime Writer's of Canada Unpublished Novel Award.

The CWC deadline is December 31st - so hurry!

The CWA is still a couple of months away - their deadline is Feb 15th.

Thought I'd pass on that great, very inspirational, news.

I know what it's like to get dozen's of rejections. To almost give up. To wonder if my book, my baby, really is that horrible. And then to get the break. But the breaks tend to happen to people who persist.

the other comforting thing is knowing that the more of us who succeed the more help there is for others. In my experience, success is circular, not linear. Get, give, get, give. Then, even if I don't go as far as I would have liked, at least I feel good about myself. No small achievement. Besides, a rising tide really does lift all boats.

Speak tomorrow, I hope. If I haven't exploded from left-overs.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Joyeux Noel!

Partly Cloudy, mild, highs minus 2.

Merry Christmas!

The special Christmas pastry is ready for the oven, the fire is laid, though not yet lit. The tree is lit and King's College Cambridge is singing The First Noel. And I thought of you - and my great delight at being able to write to you and wish you all great joy, and even greater peace.

It's just the two of us, Michael and me, this year - and we couldn't be happier. Calm, relaxed, but still oddly excited. Not about the gifts - we don't give each other many - but I think it's just the comfort of the familiar and well loved rituals. Turkey (way too much for just two of us, but wonderful for left-overs) sweet potato casserole, peas, stuffing, gravy. Yum. The smells, the music, the snow. This afternoon we're off to deliver a few gifts. Then sit by the fire as the turkey cooks and look at the new books and magazines and deeply relax.

Had a marvelous message from Margaret whom I met this September in Australia. She lives in Canberra and came out to the book event there. She wrote about her Christmas -

'Unlike the cold weather you've described so graphically, it's high summer here - the summer solstice last night - and I'm packing swim suits and beach towels and sun block to take to Sydney for Christmas with my daughter and mother ans sister and brother. Christmas dinner will probably be a seafood platter and salad (and champagne for those who drink) and then summer fruits - peaches, mangos, cherries.'

So different but so lovely. Sublime. I'd envy Margaret if I wasn't so happy here. So powerful to know that all around the world people who celebrate this holiday are doing it in their own way, with their own traditions.

Our traditions have changed a great deal since I was a child. Fewer and fewer people, fewer gifts, smaller meals. But, oh, I do love it - just as much as ever.

Each morning Michael and I hold hands and say a little prayer, then we say what we're grateful for. This morning I want to tell you how grateful I am to you. For reading the books, for your kindness and support and generosity.

Happy Holidays - Merry Christmas. Joyeux Noel.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Eve in Quebec

huge flakes of steady snow, mild - minus 3 Celsius

Merry Christmas Eve!

Sweet potatoes boiling on the stove right now, almost ready to skin and turn into a casserole for tomorrow. The house smells very sweet. And potato-y.

A gorgeous, picture postcard Canadian Christmas Eve. Torrential rains yesterday threatened to actually melt the five tons of snow on the ground, which would have been such a shame. But we still have lots of snow - and now this new stuff.

Lost power last night. Kept coming on and off. Michael and I were watching a Poirot DVD - Murder in the Clouds. Just as Poirot says, 'Of course I'm not all right. How could I be when -'

Bang - the power when off. We jumped out of our skins.

High winds and rain changing to snow did it. I finally went to bed. Happily the lights stayed on long enough for me to read and drop off. Michael said they flickered on and off for the next hour and he finally gave up and went to sleep too.

We're in the new bedroom!!! Gary's amazing Christmas gift to us. Poor guy worked until after 7pm every night last week and even came yesterday and again today. But the room is spectacular. Not large - but cosy and comphy - with a wall of bookcases and three windows - wide plank old pine floors and fresh lovely yellow paint on the walls. Michael chose the colour. It's perfect. Cheery without being over-powering.

And for the first time we have a television in the bedroom. My idea. But the funniest thing is, we're on Star Choice satellite out here - 400 channels to choose from, including one that only shows a roaring fireplace. And so far, that's all we've put on. (don't tell Gary - he struggled to get the DVD and everything going - he'd be furious if he knew Michael and I lie in bed and watch the fireplace!) It's mesmerising. We have a lovely open fireplace in the living room, and we'd tossed around the idea of putting one into the re-modeled bedroom, but it was just too expensive. So this is perfect. And humbling. When the Star Choice woman told me about it I guffawed, but she said it was very popular. And now look at me.

Had a lovely breakfast with Cheryl, Gary's wife, a couple of days ago. The winter solstice. Did a Winter Solstice ritual... lit a candle, wrote on a piece of paper what from the past year we wanted to let go of (pain, anger, extra weight, a bad relationship, low self esteem, fear - whatever...but Cheryl suggested it not be a list, but the ONE thing that might have marred the past year), then burned it. Only because we were in Chez Camil restaurant we decided not to do that - though frankly it wouldn't have been the first time customers at Chez Camil smelled something burning. Instead, though, we waited to burn the paper at home. Then on another piece of paper we each wrote what we hoped the new year would bring. Didn't show it to each other. Some things are just private...but it sure felt good.

Off to Kirk and Walter's for their annual Christmas Eve dinner tonight. Michael's been brewing his annual batch of gravlax to take. What a treat. It's a a relaxed evening with friends and acquaintances - many people we only ever see once a year at this party. Used to go to one of the local chapels for Christmas Eve service before the party - in fact, everyone did. But haven't in recent years.

It's so pretty driving around and seeing the snow on the trees, and at night, the Christmas lights.

I'll write again tomorrow, to wish you all a Merry Christmas on the day - though for the Australians and New Zealanders - MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Will speak tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

December is kind to THE CRUELEST MONTH

Clearing, highs minus 4

Great nerws today. We thought Michael might need hip surgery, but he doesn't. Phew. The bad news is he needs to lose weight - about 10 pounds. And worse news - so do I. Ugh. Especially at this time of year.

But the other bit of great news today is that the Kirkus Review in the US just gave THE CRUELLEST MONTH a starred review! Wow. I'm beyond thrilled, and relieved.

Not sure if you're familiar with Kirkus - I wasn't until Still Life came out. Seems in the US there are four main opinion making journals that do reviews of books a few months before they come out. This is mainly for bookstores and libraries, who obviously can't read every book, but need some help deciding which ones to order. So these publications are hugely influential. They're the Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. A starred review in any of them is significant. You can imagine how happy I am.

THE CRUELEST MONTH is coming out in the US in March, but you can pre-order it now at your local bookstore or through one of the chains, or Amazon. This is generally a good idea, in case they run out. I know in Canada the bookstores and distributers have run out of the Canadian first edition of THE CRUELLEST MONTH - which is both gratifying (to say the least) but also annoying since I hear Christmas is a big time for books. (Note the different spelling - the American version has one less 'el' - or if you prefer - the British has one more.)

The other reason to pre-order is that the first editions are worth more. Apparently a signed first edition hardcover of STILL LIFE is worth about 600 dollars now. Though, to be fair, subsequent books probably won't be worth quite that much since the runs are larger. But I'll tell you, after hearing what STILL LIFE is worth - and after giving all ours away to friends and family!!!! I'm keeping my subsequent copies! And signing them. Seems silly to sign my own books - but at least I don't dedicate it to myself. Well, maybe one...

I'll be updating the website soon and will put the full Kirkus Review up. Another reason for you to get out of bed in the morning. See what I do for you? Did I mention the review was starred? Pardon - I didn't hear that. Did you say, STARRED???!!!

Must be off, and not eat.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

snow, blowing snow, minus 12 (windchill, -20)

We're in Montreal. The sidewalks are reduced to one trodden lane through drifts of snow. We had more than a foot of snow on Sunday, then more yesterday and another 7 cms today. Streets aren't cleared yet. Cars skidding, many stuck in snowbanks which with time and bitter temps have hardened into concrete. Little girl, 7, trapped in a snowbank and suffocated. A 40 year old woman was hit by a snowplow last night and killed. Driver didn't even see her, and had to be stopped a few blocks away.


At one stage today I felt as though I'd stepped into the pages of my second book A FATAL GRACE - DEAD COLD in Commonwealth. Set in Quebec during a snowy Christmas season everyone was bundled up and anonymous. Perfect for committing a murder.

Michael and were out from 8:30am until 4pm - slipping and sliding, hailing cabs and walking, praying the wind would change direction and stop stealing our breaths and the blood from our faces. But have to say, we've had 2 winters that were freakishly mild. Almost no snow. This is the Quebec winter of my childhood. Of snowdrifts like mountains, big enough to toboggan down. People alternately smiling at each other and giving each other the finger - which in thick winter gloves is extra impressive.

Spent the morning in the hospital - Michael needed an x-ray. Huge waits. But still, people kept their tempers and managed to smile at each other. The ceiling at the Montreal General radiology department was festooned with brilliant red and blue fake icicles. They looked slightly threatening, like tiny Swords of Damacles hanging over the heads of these hopeful people.

Then off to get our hair done which with knitted pompom hats is really a waste of time - the hair looked great for about three minutes. Then the hat went on. Scampered across the street to the bistro on Greene Avenue for lunch. Off came the tuque and the hair stood straight up. Happily everyone in the restuarant had the same 'do.

Am reading the proofs for The Cruelest Month - and left them in Sutton! What an idiot. Found a HUGE mistake (which I won't tell you about - but it's in the first UK edition!!!) Needed to tell the US editors quickly, so had to call our contractor Gary, who has now aquired squatters rights to our bedroom. He read us the notes over the phone. He was disconcertingly close to them, which means he either ran down the stairs to the living room, or he was snoozing by the fire when we called.

Off now. Doctors appointments tomorrow am, lunch with good friends Jim and Sharon (upon whom Clara is loosely based) and one more night in Montreal before we leave. Might even catch a movie - a great treat while in the city.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Driving in winter - sauve qui peut

Snow, stormy at times, high minus 6

Fed the birds again - hungry little so-and-sos. But we've had so much snow it must be nearly impossible for them to get food elsewhere. Heard today that after this snow Montreal will have had 100 centimetres of snow so far in December. Montreal normally gets 200 centimetres for the whole winter. This is amazing. But beautiful.

Mike and Dom decided not to come after all - didn't want to risk driving back to Montreal through the storm. Good decision, I think - but we're sorry.

Went to a fun Christmas party last night. Michael and I are frankly so bushed from our work and travels we're respectfully declining most invitations this season - but last night's party was at David and Lili's place. Lili is the Quebecoise woman who proof-reads my manuscripts and corrects my idiotic French. David is an artist - his medium is glass. Fantastic. Their party is the 'social event of the season' out here...people come for miles. Great mix too.
Almost ran David and one of their guests down in their driveway, as I tried to park the car in the deep snow. Most ungracious of me. Michael I were looking forward to seeing David and Lili (though we knew they'd be busy with a house full of guests) but also to seeing another couple we've become friendly with - Lori and Andrew. We met them this summer - along with Andrew's mother Helen, who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She and her two friends, who live in Auckland, are the 'tea-ladies' - so named by Lori's mother. Anyway, they're a riot - and were extremely supportive during our book tour of New Zealand in September. Funny how people appear in our lives when we need them. Hope they feel the same way, rather than thinking, 'Damn needy Canadians - and why's she always on about this Gamache guy and some village called Three Pines?'

Must be off - the sofa is calling. Be well, and we'll talk soon.

Friday, 14 December 2007

All Weather, all the Time!

heavy snow, (unexpected), highs minus 2

we were supposed to get maybe 10 centimetres of snow today, ending in the afternoon, but we've already had that and more - and it's just teeming down. Gorgeous! Anthony is here to help put the Christmas tree us. He looks just like Santa - huge white beard. Funny to see him in the living room wrestling with the tree. Now he's outside shoveling and digging out the cars. He was telling us as a boy in the back woods he was responsible for keeping the three woodstoves going. There wasn't any insulation in the house and when he'd wake up he could see his breath. He remembers going to bed as a child with a hot brick, wrapped in a towel, to warm the bed. He loves - absolutely comes alive in - the outdoors. And today is magical. Mild, but lots of stunning snow.

Huge storm forecast for Sunday - up to 40 centimetres. As you see, Canadians, or at least this Canadian, are obssessed with the weather. My favorite channel, aside from HGTV is the Weather Network or Meteo Media in French.

Friends Mike and Dom expected to visit for the weekend, but not sure they'll come down. Tomorrow (Saturday) is supposed to be great - sunny and cold. But with the storm expected Sunday they almost certainly won't make it back to the city, and work Monday morning. I wrote to warn them, and say that as far as I'm concerned, being snowed in is just about the most wonderful thing that can happen. We adore Mike (haven't met Dom yet but hear great things), so our hope is they'll be forced to stay in the guest cottage for the rest of their lives.

Dreamed about Martha Stewart last night. I must be coming down with something. (off white and tasteful, no doubt)

Be safe. Speak to you tomorow from Weather Central.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Deer and Dogs and Doug, oh my.

Sunny, brilliant, crisp day, minus 20

When I let Maggie and Trudy out this morning I noticed two things simultaneously. The car was frozen and a huge, magnificent deer was in mid-air, leaping over the stone fence from our gardens to the driveway. In what looked like slow-motion it then leapt into the field then into the forest. It seemed to float. Maggie and Trudy noticed this at about the same instant and immediately took off after the poor thing, with me, slippered and sliding, in pajama's through the brittle snow, screaming after them. Ah, the peace and tranquility of the country.

Happily for all of us our Golden Retrievers are scaredy cats. Twenty feet into the forest and they were running back to Mommy who was looking like Dorothy Hamill gone bad. We all slinked back to the house, except the deer.

We love deer. Many gardeners don't, since deer eat many of the flowers and are considered pests by some. But we could watch them all day, and figure they were here first. If they want to eat the roses, that's OK. For the most part they stay in the field by the pond, but sometimes they come closer to the house. My brother Doug once rescued a baby deer who'd somehow fallen into our pool and couldn't seem to get out. Doug instinctively scooped it up and placed it kicking on the grass. They both stood stunned, then it took off. I wonder if this was the same deer. Looking for Doug. Close - it found dogs instead.

We have mice in the house, and deer in the field, carpenters in the bedroom, and black-capped chickadees, blue jays and woodpeckers at the feeders. The place is a riot.

Off to mail more Christmas cards. Each year I swear I'll stop, and each year I seem to send more.

Great news yesterday - the UK editor read the fourth book and called to say she thinks it's the best Gamache mystery so far! Can't tell you what a relief that is. My mind plays so many tricks on me as soon as the manuscript's out of my hands. I become convinced it's something the deer leaves behind. So that was thrilling news. Still waiting to hear from the NY editor, whose opinion is equally important - but I feel I can at least begin to exhale. No title decided on for the fourth book, but I'll let you know as soon as we have one. It's set, of course, in the summer. Fun reading it at minus 20.

Off to the village (real, not fictional). Speak to you later. Stay warm.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Shovelling it

blowing snow, mild, highs -1, dropping to -20 tonight

Sure feels like winter and Christmas. I love it, but then I don't have to cope with it. I remember when I lived and worked in Montreal and had no off-street parking. Trying to cope with a car in the Plateau Mont Royal quartier after a snow storm was a real pain. Now Michael and I just look at each other over our second cup and decide we don't need to go into the village.

Though actually, this morning we're having breakfast in Sutton with Joan Matthews, a great friend. She runs the yoga and meditation centre in Sutton. We don't do yoga and she doesn't read my books and it's all in perfect balance. We know and support each other where it counts. Joan is also our friend and contractor Gary's mother. So it's payback time for all his antics.

Had breakfast in Knowlton yesterday with another friend, Cotton Aimers. Great name. Her 'real' name is Kathleen, but as a child her younger brother couldn't say Kathleen. It came out Cotton. Could have been worse. I have a younger brother, so I know what they're capable of. Cotton gave us a Christmas gift - a donation to the Guardian's chosen project this holiday. The newspaper is asking readers to donate, and instead of spreading the money around they chose one large project for a single community. This year they're providing water for a village in Africa. Great gift. We gave her a bag of home-made granola.

Must be off - Michael's fed Maggie and Trudy and is now digging the car out. Must help. Eventually. Oh, he's back in. Phew.

Speak soon and hope you're well and content.

Friday, 7 December 2007

That's a funny looking dog.

Overcast, 5 cm of snow expected - beautiful

Tony, a wonderful man who helps us with the property, put our outside Christmas lights up - on a huge honeysuckle right outside our kitchen solarium window. We used to have all white lights, which were dramatic, but after a while we felt it was a little cool, a little stylized for our taste, so this year we went with multi-coloured lights. Very joyous and warm. And when we turn the lights out in the kitchen at night the splendid outdoor lights bounce off the snow and the colour floods into our kitchen. We wonder why we didn't do this years ago.

Came back from doing a couple of radio interviews in Montreal yesterday. One with a real radio legend - Bob MacLean. Formerly of CBC Radio and television and now doing a show on a Hamiliton, Ontario radio station - fortunate Hamilton to have him.

Then was asked to be on the CBC flagship radio show, Sunday Edition, with Michael Enright, to discuss the sentencing of Conrad Black. His attorneys had submitted character letters from 100 friends, attesting to Lord Black's kindness and generosity. In a taped interview we discussed issues of character - and how useful letters of these kind are - and as a journalists and novelist, how I go about constructing character. And the obvious duality of criminals. The often kind and compassionate public face - and the private actions. How often do we hear from neighbors (after the arrest), 'Well, he seemed like such a nice man.'

That will run this coming Sunday on CBC Radio. Also gave me a chance to have lunch with two wonderful CBC producer and friends - Susan Mckenzie and Jill Walker. Almost missed the interview we were having so much fun.

But - the good news for me and for a weary public, is that that was my last event until January!!! Now I can concentrate on Michael and Christmas.

First thing Michael and I did was gave each other gifts from World Vision. In gratitude and recognition of how much we have. We pledged 2 goats to a family and some chickens to another - we stocked two medical clinics and bought school books. And a bunch of other things. And you can too - if you feel like it. We needed to, because frankly there have been times I've been almost nauseus with the amount of good luck I've had this year. We try to give back as we go - but I don't think we can ever get even again.

Anyway - if you feel the same way, you might check out I suspect it operates in other countries too. US, UK etc.

I remember Bill and Melinda Gates saying that it's easy to give away money - but it's very difficult to give it away effectively. At the time I had very little, and wasn't in a position to give much away. That's changed. And I understand what they mean. We give out quite a bit locally - to projects and individuals. But we also wanted to act globally. Since Michael has a medical background, the clinics appeals to us (and he had a goat as a child - one of my favorite stories. He lived in downtown Montreal - in an area of extreme privilege called the Golden Mile. While others walked their standard poodles and King Charles Spaniels, little Michael walked his goat) and I work for literacy, so school books also appealed to us. WorldVision offers all those programmes and many, many more. At various levels of financial committment. And we've checked it out - it does good work. As do many, many other organizations.

Here's to lights - all sorts of different colours - bouncing into our homes. It's good to be home.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

An ode to Michael - who loves both wisely and well

light snow, sun trying to get through, high minus 4

Finally home. To Michael. Though I have to say I'm not sure he missed me quite as much as he should. Will have to remind him how adorable I am. But, I do know he had a great time with Puni and Tutu and their children. He sounded absolutely buoyant! But now I'm home and the party's over. Ha.

I read his blogs, dear man, and was astonished by how lovely they were, but also by how humble he is. He really is an amazing man. Former head of Hematology at the Montreal Children's, he spent a lifetime trying to help children with cancer, both at their bedside and in his lab. He's one of the world's leading scientists in the field of childhood leukemia, so much so he was awarded Canada's first named chair in Pediatric Hematology. He just finished co-authoring a chapter for a medical text and last year wrote a definitive work for the British Journal of Hematology - by invitation. He also plays the piano beautifully - with great gusto and joy - paints and has had his works accepted in juried show - and acts as an example to anyone who knows him that kindness and caring trump cynicism. He saw and experienced terrible things in his life, and is the happiest, most joyous man I know. What a great privilege it is to be married to a man I not only love, but respect and admire.

As many of you know, Michael is the inspiration for Gamache - who knows that evil exists. Has witnessed and experienced cruelty - but has the courage to choose kindness. So many people who might know better mistake kindness for weakness. But, as Auden wrote of Yeats - `Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry.` My theory is we often have to be hurt into compassion and kindness. I know I did - and I know Michael did too. He could have gone into bitterness - turned on others, become judgemental and petty. We`ve all known those people. But instead he became hugely compassionate.

It`s hard to have a bad day around Michael - though I do sometimes try and succeed. But it never lasts long.

Now we`re off to Cowansville and breakfast at the Station restaurant. Yum. Then picking up construction supplies for Gary, who seems to have moved right in. Is there really such a thing as a bull nose, or is he setting us up again. Can`t you see the scene now at the construction supply place.

`Excuse me, Monsieur, but do you have a bull nose`.

Then it`s off to the medical clinic in Knowlton.

Speak to you all tomorrow - and I hope you`re well!

Monday, 3 December 2007

He's in our prayers...

Our first winter storm, 20-30 cm snowfall, with high winds, probably -20 with the chill factor.

Louise is on the train home to Montreal and our new flat screen TV as I write. Overnight, the snow fell and the wind whipped. I don't know how snowfall can be measured with all the drifts everywhere, it's packed hard under my car, nothing on top, but I'm sure not going outside to try myself. I'm going to sit by the fire and listen to Baba Brinkman. Baba's a remarkable and highly talented rapper. He's a young man, late 20's, from Vancouver, whom we met at the Brisbane Writers Feastival in Australia in September. He has a CD called The Rap Canterbury Tales. I've just started listening to it and it's fantastic. So this will be a short blog.

I was well fed yesterday. Home-made carrot soup (Tutu), Lasagna (Puni), Canelloni (Alicia) and meringues (Tutu). Such fun to meet up again, get caught up on news, show them our home (under some construction) and eat. I was stuffed, but surprisingly had no trouble eating more of the leftover lasagna and canelloni later.

A parent whose three year old son is battling neuroblastoma kindly sent me two articles about neuroblastoma screening. I wrote him back, mentioning they were about the neuroblastoma screening study my book's about and thanked him for them. He had read quickly and thought Louise was writing about neuroblastoma. She's certainly offering me huge encouragement, sound advice and the voice of experience as I struggle toward my first forty thousand words.

I think my circulating hot chocolate level may need a boost...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Where did I put that...

Cold, but calm, -11 with 30-40 cm snow expected tonight.

Tutu and Puni are coming for lunch, with her son, Rafael, and her daughter Alice; one each. Louise was surprised when I called her in Toronto, but happy. You're lonely, she said (yesterday's blog), so you invite three unattached young women for lunch. I hope she's happy.

I've known them probably about forty years. They're daughters of my first wife, Sheilagh's best friend Alice. Haven't seen them for the last 15 to 25 years. Catching up time.

I'm under orders to talk more about myself in this blog (see comments, yesterday). Which isn't hard. Basically all I do all day. I didn't sleep well. The puppies let me sleep in an extra twenty minutes. Very understanding. Nothing to do with lunch. My guests are generously bringing it, all except dessert (a sugar pie) which I found at La Rumeur Affamee in town.

No. I thought I'd lost part of my manuscript. Three scenes to be exact. Yesterday, I lied just a bit. I'm not writing a mystery novel at all. I'm writing something called creative non-fiction, about a study of screening for neuroblastoma in children in Quebec which occurred twenty years ago. The facts will be accurate (I hope), the conversations made up. Anyway, after midnight when I'd finished a spell of writing, I realised the word count was lower than expected and when I checked some scenes were missing. I'd been working with an earlier version and saving it not just on my hard drive but also on the memory stick. Affected my dreams, since I really liked those scenes.

Good news! I found the other version this morning, updated everything and resaved the file with todays date. Whew!

Now, I'm off to feed the birds, lay the table and clean up my mess, before everyone arrives.

Bon appetit.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Hi, there...

Overcast, -13, one inch of new snow, a light breeze.

Good morning! It's awfully quiet around here. I'm not alone. Maggie and Trudy are here, but Louise is in Montreal about to catch the train to Toronto in another 40 minutes. So, I'm in charge. Michael's in charge.

Which means six dinners waiting for me in the frig for four nights and lots of free cell on the computer. Well, and I'm in charge of the Blackberry, erasing all the spam over the weekend and responding to requests when instructed to. Yesterday, while Louise was in Montreal, overseeing the installation 0f our new flat screen TV, I did a little seasonal shopping in Knowlton and Cowansville (for her). But I won't tell you what I got.

What I will tell you is my opinion of Louise Penny, mystery author. I think Louise writes the best murder mysteries ever written, clear reflections of her marvellous self (except for the murder part). She writes beautifully, her characters are unique and unforgettable, her settings are to die for and I for one never succeed in finding the killer (until I'm told), being led astray time and again by her crafty red herrings. And I'm told Chief Inspector Armand Gamache resembles me. Makes my head swell. I just can't stop talking about how brilliant she (and her books) are. And you have this skinny from an experienced and totally unbiased critic; her husband. (There, I've used a semi-colon; hangover from my scientific writing).

Anyway, I'm probably preaching to the choir. But you don't have to take it from me. Before you head out again for more seasonal shopping, with more relatives in need of reading Louise's unique mystery series in mind, please be informed that Louise received an email from her Editor, Hope Dellon, at St Martins Minotaur Press, yesterday, congratulating her on a great review of 'A Fatal Grace' by Tom Nolan in the - are you ready - The Wall Street Journal. Whoopee! The Wall Street Journal. Unbelievable!

Here's the link (I hope):

If this doesn't work, I can copy the review into this blog later.

At 73, this is my first blog ever. Who would have believed it. Maybe I'll tell you about my own mystery novel tomorrow...