Friday, 29 February 2008

Hello, Chief? Would you believe, it's minus 31?

Clear, bitterly cold, temp. minus 31.

Dear Lord. Minus 31. Can't even imagine how quickly flesh freezes in that. fortunately there's no wind. If there was no one would venture outside. Except Tony, who helps around the place and pretty much keeps us running. Around Christmas he looks like Santa. Bushy white beard. Quite a mountain man. But as the season progresses he looks more and more like a Yeti.

God bless Tony!

Quite a busy day. Writing this morning. Have learned to shut out all distractions - phone, email, visitors etc. I have to, otherwise I'd still be writing A FATAL GRACE/DEAD COLD. do you remember Get Smart? I loved that show as a kid. Would you believe I had a tiny crush on Maxwell Smart? But when I write it's as though I bring down my own 'cone of silence' - with results similar to the show. It doesn't always work. Missed it by that much.

Cotton just called. We were supposed to go to dinner with her tonight but she's (not surprisingly) caught a cold so has cancelled. We have a small gift of home-made (not by us but by Manoir Hovey) granola. This granola is like heroine. We've hooked our friends, and now dole it out sparingly when they start 'jonesing'. It gives us power over everyone around us, which we like.

Pat just called - to thank us for the dose of granola we gave her! Lovely woman.

Am off for lunch with Cheryl - the one that was truncated a couple of weeks ago after a call from my agent. Have granola for her too.

Wish I could give you all some - perhaps it's time to introduce it to the bistro in Three Pines. I think I will. Will be writing a scene there today. Ha, that's fun. Granola on the menu now. With a nice hot cafe au lait. Yum.

Stay warm. Thanks for the company.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

To do list: #1 - Kiss up to Janet Evanovich

Brilliant sun, calm, cold, temps minus 16

Today really is cold - but since it's so calm it's actually very nice. In fact, it's more than nice - it's spectacular. Sun gleaming off snow - everything crystal and sparkling, the snow looks pink and blue depending upon the angle.

We've just returned home after a day at Hovey and two in Montreal. The city got quite a bit of snow, but nothing compared to here. There must be a foot of fresh snow. It's hard to write about it without slipping into 'purple prose'. Suffice to say, we feel like weeping, it's so beautiful.

Great to be home. Ran around doing small chores. Dry cleaning, appointment for Maggie at the vet, recycling. We have a composter out back - sometimes needs to be dug out before we can dump the scraps in. Amazing the difference composing and recycling has made to our garbage. And, of course, we don't use grocery store plastic bags anymore - except when I forget to take the canvas bags into the shop - which is about half the time.

Last minute organizing of media and events for the book tour. The big drama is trying to get to the Arizona television morning show studios in time, since I'll be flying in from Detroit that morning. Time difference on our side, but airline schedules aren't. Best we can do so far is 6am flight out of detroit to Phoenix. that gets me in at 8 or so. Rush hour. Sadly, I don't yet rate the St Martin's Minotaur private jet (I think Janet Evanovich is using it) or the chopper (probably Janet again). But one day!

Must run - there's a whole lot of lying around and doing nothing to be done.

Be well and I'll speak tomorrow - and if you haven't yet, you might want to sign up fast to the Newsletter (it's free). I have a couple of give-aways for the launch of THE CRUELEST MONTH in the March issue.

Take care of yourselves.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Agatha Awards!

Snow ending this afternoon (10-15cms fallen), cold and windy, highs minus 8

Well, we just received the BEST news! A FATAL GRACE (Dead Cold in Commonwealth) has been nominated for the AGATHA AWARD for Best Novel!

The nominees are:

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much, by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen (Penguin Group)
Hard Row, by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Murder With Reservations, by Elaine Viets (NAL)


What amazing company - and I have to say I'm both stunned and thrilled. This is voted on by readers, so it's even more significant. The winners are decided at the Malice Domestic convention in Washinton in April. You get a ballot upon registration.

To be considered for an award named after Agatha Christie is deeply meaningful to me. I adore her, as you know - and am indebted to her for hours of entertainment and comfort - and ultimately for a style of writing. My books are tributes, homages, to Dame Agatha.

I honestly didn't expect this, so I was trembling with excitement.

We actaully found out Monday afternoon, but were sworn to secrecy until all the nominees were told. Almost killed me not to tell you about it yesterday. Though it helped that, to celebrate, Michael whisked me off to Hovey Manor for the night. We were already going for breakfast Tuesdfay morning, but we decided - why not? Go Monday night, have a wonderful meal, and celebrate.

I believe in celebrating - you never know when all of this will disappear, after all. And what a gift this nomination is. Especially when you see the others on the shortlist.

We're in Montreal now - scooted in before the storm yesterday. Will write this morning then try to figure out how to get to the Montreal General Hospital for Michael's hearing exam. Snow - it's beautiful, but very hard to navigate.

I really am thrilled about the nomination. And I see that Charles Finch, who wrote, 'A Beautiful Blue Death' is nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel. I read it in manuscript and wrote an endorsement...great, fun book - with depth. Set in Victorian England. Wonderful main character too. A book well worth buying. I'm not familiar with the other nominees in his catagory, though I'm sure they're good too. But I have a fondness for Mr. Finch.

Hope you're well and thriving - will write again tomorrow.

Monday, 25 February 2008

snow storms and schedules

partly cloudy, mild, highs minus 4

I was wrong about the weather yesterday. When I let the dogs out I thought it was bitterly cold (and God knows it was clear - almost a sure sign it's extremely cold). But it wasn't cold at all! It was one of those amazing days when it's sunny and very mild. Temperature must have been hovering around freezing. Gorgeous.

Today is similar, though not quite as bright. And a little windy, so the windchill comes into effect.

Another storm forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday - and of course we have lots to do on those days. We're trying to figure out our schedule.

So far this is the plan;

Drive to Hovey Manor at 8 tomorrow for breakfast and to discuss the possible launch of the next book there. It's a stunning Inn on the shores of Lac Massawippi, about an hour from us.

Drive 1 1/2 to Cowansville for Michael's test for new glasses.

Try to get to Montreal (about another hour drive) before the snow storm closes in.

Stay night in Montreal. Write Wednesday morning in Montreal. Then Michael has a hearing test Wednesday afternoon. Will probably stay the night Wed. too. Drive back Thursday.

I'm also feeling a little overwhelmed by the degree of details descending. Thank God for Lise. But with all the mystery conventions I'll be going to in the next year I'm having difficulty remembering which one's I've registered for. And if I can't also register for hotel rooms at the time I register for the convention, then I can forget that too.

So far we'll be going to:

*Malice Domestic in Washington (flying direct from London for that) at the end of April
*CrimeFest - in Briston, UK, in June
*BookExpo Canada in June (flying direct from UK to Toronto for that)
*Wolfe Island Festival - in August in Kingston, Ontario
*Bouchercon, in Baltimore, in October
***Magna cum Murder in Muncie in October - I'm the guest of honor with delights me
*Left Coast Crime, in Hawaii, in March 09

I'm normally quite organized, and Lise is ulta-organized - but woke up at 3am wondering about Bouchercon. Sure don't want to miss that.

And, have to say how thrilled I am to be asked to be Guest of Honor at Magna. It's a fantastic, intimate, smart festival run by Katherine Kennison out of the Univeristy in Muncie. It's three days (really 2) and you get to meet and mingle with some wonderful mystery writers. It would be fun to see you there.

On another topic, we received the Russian copies of STILL LIFE late last week. What a thrill. Though a little odd since my name doesn't appear to be on the cover. It is, of course, only in Cyrillic - so I can't read it. So it could be by anyone. But I know whose book it is. And it sends shivers down me to see my first baby translated into Russian. This book no one wanted.

Life astonishes - if we just keep breathing, and trying our best.

Thanks for reading - not sure if I'll be able to write for the next few days, as we battle schedules and snow, but will try. Be well.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Lovely, quiet day in Three Pines

Sunny, very cold, temp minus 15

Another very cold day. Shouldn't come as a surprise, this is Quebec in February after all. Hard to get out of bed some mornings, feeling snug and warm under the duvet. Haven't set the alarm the last two mornings since we had quiet days. Writing days. Bliss. Woke up at 7am anyway.

Michael's now managed to gain a pound. Since I don't weigh myself I have no idea how I'm doing, but have decided that his pound gain is his and his alone. I also know, from other periods of watching weight that this happens. He'll be down 2 pounds by Wednesday.

Lovely, quiet day today. Mike and Dom dropping by around noon to say goodbye, but that's all. I plan to stay in my pajama's all day, and write by the fire. Then have a long bath as my treat. I find when I write I need to be extra kind to myself. Normally that's with food - a pastry, some chocolate, what have you. But nowadays it's baths.

Am looking forward to the US tour in a couple of weeks. St Martin's Minotaur, my publishers, have added a lunch in New York City with the book buyers for Barnes and Noble. That should be fun.

How lovely, for now, to have a peaceful day at home writing the next book. Visiting with Clara and Peter, sleeping at the B&B, cafe au lait at the bistro, and following Armand as he unravels a troubling and perplexing murder. Sure hope he knows what he's doing.

Be well.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

A hostess tip, courtesy of Trudy

sunny and snowing lightly, astonishingly beautiful, calm, temp - minus 4

It's a day to stare out the window and wonder. We have a solarium at the end of our kitchen - glass on three sides. There's nothing like sitting in it during a snowstorm. We can see the storms coming across the mountain. The mountain will disappear in white, then the forest, then the field, as the storm marches toward us. Then it hits the house and we're on the inside of a globe of glass, protected and warm.

Today is much more gentle, just huge flakes floating down from clouds directly overhead - but the sun in low on the horizon and there are no clouds there. So it's all brilliant sunshine and gleaming snow. Stunning. Must write a book about it. Naw - never work.

We bought the property next door. The owner has Alzheimers so we've been talking with his daughters, who are devestated by the disease and the need to sell the property he loved. They were glad to hear it will never be built on, and remain forest, and that they can come and walk it anytime. They also asked if we'd mind if they scattered their father's ashes there, when the time came. Of course we said we didn't mind at all. Comforting, really, to know he'll be over there.

Mike and Dom arrived from Montreal yesterday afternoon - went to the guest cottage then came here for dinner. We chatted by the fireplace for a while then moved into the big country kitchen for dinner - Brome lake duck. About half way through we heard a little (though quite distinct) wretching sound. Like good guests no one said anything. But about 30 second later Dom's face scrunched up as though he'd just swallowed Buckley's Cough Syrup - which I'm pretty sure wasn't in the recipe.

Nope. We'd discovered the source of the wretching sound. No surprisingly it was actual wretching. Trudy had 'tossed'. Right beside Dom.

You know, I think if dogs only realized that if they want to attack humans they needn't bite, just throw up. We all recoiled from the table.

It was back to the living room. Michael set up trays by the fire and we continued in there. It was actually lovely. Very 'family' and relaxed. Hard not to be once the dog had thrown up on a guest. Gives you an insight into how elegant my dinner parties are when a dog throwing up is barely noticed.

But there's my hostess tip for today. To spice up your party get your dog to throw up.

No need to thank me.

It's a day to just write. Love those. So it's back to Three Pines for me.

Be well.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Dusty finds a home, at last

clouding over, light snow expected, getting warmer, highs minus 5

Dear God it was cold yesterday, but gorgeous.

Had a wonderful dinner with Kirk and Walter. Stayed on our diets as much as possible - no fries, no dessert, smallest, leanest steak on the menu. I expect to fit into a size 2 after sacrifices like that!

Kirk was telling us about the dog his mother and father just adopted. Michael and I had been contacted by a friend who wanted to know if we'd take this quiet 3 year old Golden named Dusty. His parents were elderly and going into a home. We hemmed and hawed and realized 2 is good for us, unless it's an emergency. So I wrote her back to say if the dog was in distress, or death row, we'd certainly take him, but otherwise we'd see if any of our friends would.

We talked to lots of people and sent his adorable picture around. People came close, but no cigar. Then I was chatting with Kirk. He and Walter had just lost one of their 2 black labs. I was hesitant, it being so early, but I asked if they'd be interested. He thought about it and said it was too soon - but his parents might take Dusty. they'd lost their golden a couple of years ago and were missing a dog dreadfully.

Calls were made, and two night ago Dusty entered the home of Kirk's parents, who fell in love with him immediately. Kirk was there, just to make sure all was well - and what did Dusty do as soon as he entered? He started to scratch. Then Kirk looked closer and saw the poor guy was in terrible condition. Hair matted and falling out, bloated, and infested with fleas!

God, it makes me so mad.

Thank God Kirk's parents are so loving and kind. He was immediately sent for a flea bath, and he'll get to the vet this morning, and be put on a diet and is on his way to recovery - like Susan's Hamish.

Honestly, had we known, we'd have taken him right away. But I think he's found a way better home than ours. Over dinner last night Kirk said he'd just called his parents to see how the dog was and his mother was whispering, 'Shhh, he's asleep'.

Kirk says he reminds him of our rescue dog, Seamus. And Susan's descritpion of Hamish. How a dog can be abused, or neglected, and still be so full of love.

Animals and gardens. Everything I need to know I learn from those two things.

Michael and I are off to Knowlton this morning to buy the 30 acres of land across the road from us. It came up for sale a few months ago and we immediately jumped on it. There's no house there and we want to keep it that way. We'll put a servitude on it right away and donate it to the local conservation/environment authority so no one will ever be able to build.

Baby steps. Michael and I could be way better about our environmental footstep, but we're trying.

Mike and Dom arriving just after noon for the weekend.

Book going well. 2,000 words yesterday. It's at an exciting stage! Always afraid the muse will flee, so I write madly away to keep her here - like Scherezade (sp).

Thanks for reading - will talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Dog Days

bright sun, bitterly cold, temp. minus 25

The car is a block of ice. Can't see in through the windshield. Dogs went out long enough to bark at the garbage man, then scurried back in. I put my hand out, and that was more than enough.

We're going to the Auberge Knowlton for dinner tonight with Kirk and Walter - God only knows what the temperature will be by nightfall. Best not to think about it. In fact, all I have on my mind is steak anyway, and I can tell you for sure, that's all Michael's thinking about today.

Almost 2 weeks into our diets. Michael's lost 5 pounds. My jeans are loose. But so is my will power.

This should be an interesting dinner. Kirk and Walter are on Weight Watchers and we're on NutriSystem. So we'll either all be drinking water and eating celery sticks or we'll order every disgusting thing on the menu. Four famished Townshipper, eating the napkins, plates, cheesecakes (oh oh). But not the floorboards, because that would be carb.

Will report back in dispatches from the diet front tomorrow. But I don't hold out much hope.

Had an email from a reader in Florida - Susan - that I wanted to pass on to you. She wrote, among other things, to say how much she liked the dogs in the books. Then she went on with her own story...

We currently have 2 Golden Retrievers, both rescues, both having lived unimaginable lives and yet forgive all and want to be with humans when ever they can. Hamish was found matted, filthy and weighing 120 pounds by the side of the road, slated to be put down in a county shelter (he was old and fat, so considered unadoptable, no matter that he had the gentlest disposition or the kindest eyes imaginable) when our rescue group got the call. We met him 3 months later, still heavy and slow, but with a spark that was undeniable. We fell in love and adopted him, continued his diet and slowly began to exercise him, and 3+ years later he weighs 75 and when he feels especially happy, will break into a canter, something unthinkable when we met him. When we added him to o! ur family he joined Ceilidh, a "retired" breeding bitch who had been kenneled and unsocialized for 7 years while she made money for her owners. We call her our "special needs" dog; supremely healthy (once we had her spayed), she was terrified by the world and all of its strangeness. Trust came slowly, but with time and patience, it did come. It also took time for her to accept having another dog in the house, (in fact for months we say that they inhabited the same house, but different far as she was concerned, he didn't exist) and now I look at her, and can't believe the dog that she was...she trusts him and plays with him, as if to say, "Come on slowpoke, lets go out and have FUN". She will never be outgoing or gracious in company, but she enjoys her life, and I am grateful to have her with me.

I felt both my heart and my tears welling up as I read that. And she sent a photo of Ceilidh and Hamish. here they are -

What better note to end on. Not a bitter day after all.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Thank you

clear, cold, highs minus 14

GREAT news! The paperback sales of A FATAL GRACE are booming in the US! Just heard from the publishers - and they're thrilled. And if they're happy you can just imagine how I feel. Wow. It's so exciting to think of people hearing about the series then buying the books.

I mention this for a couple of reasons - it's a huge event in my publishing life and I wanted to share it with you. But equally important I know people hear about the series through you. I know how many of you have been spreading the word - in some cases accosting complete strangers - well done! And I'm SO grateful.

It's so difficult getting the word out. I've been extremely lucky, but even so it's hard work. And a shattering number of wonderful books bob to the surface then sink from sight. There are just so many books out there.

that's still, of course, a possibility with the Three Pines series. We haven't quite hit the 'tipping point' yet. But I think we're close. And I know it's because you're such great support.

Thank you! And I'm afraid I'll be calling on that support again in a few weeks when the third book, THE CRUELEST MONTH, comes out in the United States. But, you know I hope, that I don't expect you to do anything. And don't feel badly if you don't tell anyone about the books. That's not expected, not what this blog or this experience is about. It's not necessary. Some people are good at it, and some not. Frankly, I'm not so good at it. It's excrutiating for me to approach a stranger in a store and tell them about my book. I feel like I'm melting.

I still try to do it (though don't always find the courage) - but then they're my books. I really don't want any of you to feel you should do the same thing. But I also do know most of you have told family and friends and that is massive.

I'm going on too long about this, and feel I've been a little flat-footed - but I'm thrilled and wanted to share the delight!

Great news too - I've finished the party scene. Will spend today going back over it...already I see a few small holes or wrong words. Things that occur in the night, or while watching the primary returns, just before my mind goes numb.

Had to decline an invitation to tour Canada's Northwest Territories next winter. I;'ve never been there and I hear the Arctic is amazing. I'd have loved to go but amazingly I seem quite booked already and just couldn't find the time. Next winter I'll be researching and writing the next book, in Quebec City, then doing the next US tour, the Hawaii (yup) for Left Coast Crime, then UK for British stuff. This is all a year away. But what fun. Still, I asked if they'd mind inviting me again the next year and I'll make time. It's not book sales there, it's a literacy push.

I was in the bath yesterday afternoon (where else) and heard a squirrel trying to get in through the roof. They can be quite destructive. My options were to call out for Michael, get out of the bath, or phone Anthony or Lise (only because she's our external common sense).

I stayed in the bath. Once out I noticed that the TV antenna was missing. Not a tiny rabbit's ear contraption on the roof, but quite a large tower planted in the ground next to the house. Either our squirrels know Roger Clemens or that scratching sound wasn't them.

As you probably know, a good writer notices things - so it's both humbling and disconcerting to realize someone could walk off with our communications tower and me not even notice.

Of course there's also the humbling evidence of laziness. Oh, well. At least I'm clean and hydrated and that's all that matters.

Off to the office today. Hope you're well and I'll write tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

When good luck takes flight

sun struggling out, but snow squalls forecast, highs minus 5

Lovely morning after a mixed day yesterday. We were in Montreal - great check-ups, all's well - and debated whether to drive back down. The wonderful Lise, who manages our office and takes care of us (she's basically our brains and our common sense) wrote to say 'stay in Montreal' since freezing rain and sleet was forecast and Autoroute 10 is dreadful in the best of times.

So we drove back.

To be fair, we were going to follow Lise's advice, but the bad weather didn't materialize, until about 4:30 when we were on the highway. Drove the last hour through sleet. But everyone kept their heads and it wasn't bad at all.

The temperatures have been fluxuation wildly - from bitterly cold to extrrmely mild. You'd expect we'd be thrilled with mild, but we're not. Partly because a Canadian winter, with snow and chill, is actually unbelievably beautiful. So quiet, everything muffled. I've never seen clarity like a brilliant sunny, crisp day after a snowstorm. Stunning. So we quite like the cold.

the other reason we love the cold is the bugs. As soon as the temperature struggles above freezing we're innundated with ladybugs. It sounds romantic. The symbol of good luck. And one or two, even ten might be. But there are swarms in our home. The guest cottage is even worse. We expect to see family and friends borne out the door on a carpet of flying ladybugs. It's especially difficult at night when the bedside lamps are one. and every bug in the house aims for it. You haven't lived until you've snorted a dozen ladybugs, for luck.

So we're happy with the cold. Especially when guests are visiting. Hard to explain how the idyllic guest cottage can suddenly become a Hitchcock set.

Still writing the party scene. Maybe this book will just be one long party scene at Peter and Clara's. Like the Mousetrap. A one set novel/play. Catered.

Must run. Was going to have a day at home just to write but at 8am got a call from Kirk wondering about material for our newheadboard, which we picked up on our way home yesterday. He needs it. So the car is warming up, Michael is exercising, dogs fed and I'm heading out to deliver 3 yards of Waverly material.

If this is the extent of my problems, keep 'em coming.

My treat today is to sit in a bubble bath (after writing) and read the new edition of Country Life. I give myself monopoly money budgets. Two million pounds is pretty much minimum.

Be well, we warm, watch out for a swarm of flying good luck.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

What a complex party scene.

Sunny, clouds rolling in, very mild, highs plus 3

Great news - we're in Montreal and Michael found the missing 3,000 words while I paced in the living room and tried to 'let it go' - odd, but it worked. I was quite calm, considering. But it all turned out well. Phew.

Up to 25,000 words in the new book. At a challenging stage though. Without being too specific it's a dinner party at Peter and Clara's. A great deal needs to be said and done. Clues, false clues, mis-direction, characters introduced, characters developed, plot moved along. Mood and scene set. And all without taking 10,000 words to do it. Every word needs to count. So I keep telling myself, just write the first draft of this scene, then spend the rest of the week layering it. But just keep moving ahead, not worrying whether what I have already is perfect. But of course I keep going back over it and smoothing as I go. Nearing an end, I think, of the first draft of this scene. But will keep going back to it this week, layering, adding and shaping, like a sculptor. In fact, as I write the rest of the book I'll probably bounce back to this party scene, and shape some more as ideas occur to me. Most books have at least one sometimes a few extremely complex scenes. And the key, of course, is that they shouldn't read as complex. None of this should be declarative. But light and subtle, entertaining, moving even - but not heavy and dense.

It's a little, I think, like writing a short story within the book itself, or even a poem. It needs to be crafted, and every word needs to defend its place.

Have to say, except for the times I think it's all crap, I love scenes like these. Very difficult. Challenging. Scary. Really pushing me to try to be a better writer. And sometimes, I write things that are actually better than I am. And I'm amazed. Sometimes I write crap. Oh, well. I hope most of that I find and take out.

Very fun. Though slightly stressful.

Had a really fun weekend, when not writing, with our friends Barb and Ian, from Toronto. When they arrived Friday afternoon they were aquaintances, but now they're friends. Had dinner with them and Lucy, from Brome Lake Books, at our home Friday night. Very relaxed. En famille, as we say in Barb, as I think I mentioned in an earlier blog, is the noted children's author Barb Reid. She's been shortlisted 4 times for then Governor General's Award for Children's illustrations. Her website is

Yesterday Ian and Barb took us for a late dinner (we had something else to do earlier in the evening) at a restauranmt about 3 minutes from us, in a farmhouse in the countryside. It's called Il Duetto. Marvelous.

Then today, after writing, Ian and Barb came by the office and Ian spent an hour photographing me, and some with Michael too. He's a professional photographer. His website is: I can look pretty goofy in pictures. I have very little sense of my physical self - except for an almost total awareness of migrating cellulite. I'll put some of his shots up on the website, after a severe photo-shop session.

Actually, I say that but I'd never do it. I think authors who stay with a very old, or doctored, photo do themselves a disservice. When they show up at events everyone is stunned at how they really look. So, a little makeup - I'll shave the moustache - but besides that, I'm 'au natural'.

The Montreal Gazette had a very nice write-up of The Cruelest Month. A huge relief when the local newspaper says nice things. I was on the cover of this past Saturday's book section. There was a feature interview and then a review by Pat Donnally. Both very enthusiastic.

I realize I shouldn't care - but between us? I do. Plan to work on that in the next lifetime.

Hope you're well. For those of you in Ontario - happy Family Day tomorrow. And in the US - a very happy President's Day!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Better be tasty, it's a long way for dinner!

light snow, sun struggling through, breezy, highs minus 5

Had a lovely day yesterday. Peaceful, quiet. Went to the village briefly because Michael's computer at the office wouldn't stop sending this one email to McGill University. They wrote to say, 'Yes, they understood his request. He could stop sending it now.' Amazingly polite. So we shut down his computer.

We're not going in to the office a lot these days. Michael would, but I'm really enjoying writing this book at home. Each book is so different - like kids I guess. Just when you figure you have them figured out, along comes another one with totally different demands.

Still Life I wrote at my leisure at home, in fields, by lakes as I followed Michael and his eisel around. Took a few years.

A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold I wrote in the living room, and was so stressed I developed an antipathy to the room. I'm a homebody, so that was a sadness for me.

The Cruelest Month we decided to rent this magnificent loft space in the village. It's a former feed store, and we're upstairs with this huge, curved, vaulting roof. Stunning. We love it. Wrote in the morning, had lunch in the village, saw people. Felt so right and so free.

The fourth book was also written there, with great joy. But we also needed to travel, so it was also written on the laptop in the tiny fishing village of Newlyn, Cornwall, in a flat in Knightsbridge, London, in Seattle, in Vancouver. I learned writing book 4 that I actually could write anywhere. There was nothing particularly magic about the place. A great relief and freedom.

This book, for some reason, I really want to write back at home. In front of the fireplace. Cozy, comfortable, familiar. And the book is simply pouring out. Maybe it's also a bit like pregnancies (says she who has never been pregnant). Different cravings. With this book I crave home. But I know if I had to I could happily write it on a barge. Phew.

One of the unexpected gifts of being published is old friends reappear. That happened a few months ago when I got an email from Ian Crysler. A man I was a Lawrence Park Collegiate with (high school). He's a photographer now. And he's married to one of the most successful children's authors in Canada!!! Barbara Reid, who I also went to school with. She does amazing illustrations using plasticine to give them that three dimensional effect. Her works are simply stunning and if we had more than puppies I'd be buying boatloads.

They live in Toronto and we met up when I was there doing an event just before Christmas and invited them down here. Our local Brome lake books has a special Barbara Reid section, she's that popular and good. So they arrive today - an 8 hour drive from Toronto, poor ones. Staying in the guest cottage next door and coming for an easy dinner tonight.

I invited Lucy and Danny, the owners of the bookstore for dinner too. Lucy's coming but Danny's staring in the local Brome Lake Players amateur theatre production.

We'll have salmon, roast vegetables and rice. Fresh baguette, salad and ending with a Tarte Tatin and English cream. Not a NutriSystem pack in sight!

But first, writing by the fire. What a life.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A kiss and a hug

brilliant, clear day, fresh snow on the trees, picture postcard stuff, highs -6

Happy Valentine's Day! And a warm, deep hug.

While I agree with St Paul's letter to the Corinthians (wonderful excerpt - like most people we had it read at our wedding) that love is paramount, I'm not so sure about St Valentine's Day. I'm not at all cynical - in fact I don't have much patience for cynics. So it's not about the commercialism on this day - it's just that Valentine's Day doesn't mean that much to me or to Michael. I think, at the risk of being just too soppy, it's because he shows me his love every hour of every day - and I hope I show him how much I love him. We give each other cards all the time, just saying 'Thank you', or 'Well done', or 'I love you'. So it seems sort of redundant to do it on Valentine's day.

having said that, if we weren't on a diet I'd buy him a huge heart filled with soft centred chocolates, then eat half.

I suppose, to be honest, my celebration of this day is situational.

We're doing the NutriSystem plan. Michael just got on the scales and has already lost 3 pounds in less than a week! I don't use scales - I use my clothes. Fat clothing, regular and slim. I'm wearing sweats at the moments.

Writing went well yesterday. This is the first time I've tried to write a book and be on a diet. Normally, as many of you know, my books are fueled by food. in fact, I received quite a few emails from readers begging me to stop the descriptions since they're gaining weights just reading about dinners at Clara's and peter's and the Bistro.

Well, I;m sorry to report that dieting has only increased the luscious meals in the book! On ever page it seems they're eating something else mouth-watering.

Actually, it's been suggested that at some stage I might want to put out a Three Pines Cook Book, with recipes from the Bistro. What do you think?

We'll be celebrating St Valentine's Day tongith with NutriSystem's finest. The best way I can think to do it...lose weight, live longer, love longer. Perfect.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Smelling good

stormy, 10-15 cms of snow, windy, mild, highs minus 1

Quite a change from yesterday when it was clear blue, blue skies and bitterly cold. Temperatures around minus 14. Then overnight the temps soar and the snow moves in.

I woke up in the middle of the night - not sleeping so well in the last few weeks. Not sure why, but I think it might have something to do with age, hormones and the moustache that's appeared on my lip. And the communication cables sprouting from my chin. Wow, is it ever a good thing I'm already married. Got a lock on Michael. He, poor man, is accompanying his second wife through menopause. I advised that next time he needed to choose a woman in her 20s or 60s. He didn't disagree.

Anyway, waking up at 2:30 I heard the storm and got up to put water in the bathtub. This far out in the country we have our own artesian well, with an abundance of lovely sweet pure water. But if the power goes out so does the water. Being anal I find this thought horrifying. So a tub gets filled just so we can flush.

Power, miraculously, stayed on.

The workshop at the high school went well - no thanks to me. This was definitely thanks to the generosity of Charles Benoit and the patience and tolerance of the workshopees. I really am rubbish at this. If I'm ever stupid enough to agree to give another one, and you're in the position to sign up? Run. Flee. Take your children.

This particular workshop was to teachers, and it ended up being me talking about my process, the things I've learned, mistakes I've made, things I wished I knew before starting. (silly little things like how long a novel is. 80-100,000 works is the recommended length for a first crime novel - though there are always exceptions). I blabbed on, stumbled to a stop, and they back-filled by asking extremely intelligent questions. Like: Do you have an outline before you start? Now, you'd think I'd think to talk about that myself, but nooo.

As always it was just loads of fun meeting people. I'm actually quite shy and always prefer to stay at home. I think people scare me a little. But once out I always have a great time.

Writing going well, except Monday morning when I turned on the computer I discovered 3,500 words were missing from Chapter 3.

Oh oh.

I stared at it, willing the words to appear, which isn't as effective as you might expect.

I think what happened is that was exactly the place where my laptop froze when we were in Montreal last week. And I switched to Michael's desktop. Soooo, I'm thinking (hoping, praying) the rest of chapter 3 is still in Montreal on his computer. Of course now in my mind it's become the pivotal, most brilliant part of anything ever written (except, of course, this blog). We'll find out Sunday when we go back in. More doctors appointments. We all have to have a hobby, and sitting in waiting rooms appears to be ours.

Went to the office yesterday where Lise sorted us out, even instructing us on the Valentine's gifts we should give each other. (but stopping sadly short of buying them) Wrote 1,500 words (and saved them!!!) then met my good friend Cheryl for lunch. Place we'd decided on was closed so we went to Le Cafetier. We'd just settled in, and the order had just arrived, when Michael appears. He'd tried every restaurant in the village (not actually all that many, but it was cold and felt like more). He had a call from my agent Teresa in London. So Michael sat with Cheryl, drank my cafe au lait, while I went into the bitter day to speak to Teresa. I didn't want to stay in the restaurant, since I'd disturb everyone.

Not only was it terribly cold, but suddenly every huge truck in Quebec arrived and was either going forward or backing up with that Beep, Beep, Beep. It sounded like one of those Monster Truck Rallies. Teresa kept saying, 'Louise, Louise, where are you? Are you all right?'

She was in central London and it was quiet as a mouse, I was in my tiny Quebec village maelstrom. We talked for about 30 minutes while I looked through the bistro window like a waif, then I saw Cheryl get up. To go. I hung up on Teresa, rushed in, but she had to go back to work. I felt horrible.

And Cheryl even paid for lunch.

But I did get to tell her something quite lovely. While I was at the high school for the workshop I went to the washroom, and there written on the walls of my stall was only one sentence. It was clear and simple. 'Evan Matthews Smells Good.'

Evan is Cheryl and Gary's son. Isn't that an amazing co-incidence and a wonderful little sentence? So gentle. Not that he looks good (which he does) not that this girl who wrote it wanted to kiss him or anything like that. Nothing rude. Just that he smelled good. It's almost heartbreaking in its simplicity.

Nice day at home today - writing by the fire again.

I'll try to write more tomorrow.

Monday, 11 February 2008

That'll teach 'em

high cloud, windy, bitterly cold, highs minus 15

All the windows in the home are closed, but still there are frigid drafts, streams of cold air like ghosts through the house.

I'd love to stay home and write and soak in the new bathtub - but I have a workshop to give at the Massey-Vanier High School this afternoon. They're having a day in support of literacy and they asked if I would come and give a workshop.

I hate giving workshops. It's my least favorite thing. I'm not a natural teacher. After about 5 minutes I run out of things to say. Terribly awkward for everyone.

Recognizing this I put out a distress call to the most wonderful teacher of mystery writing I know. Charles Benoit. ( ) His debut novel was nominated for an Edgar - Relative Danger. And he has a new one out getting raves, Noble Lies.

But he's also a lovely, entertaining, kind and dynamic man. I thought, if anyone will help me, Charles will. So I wrote in a panic last week and he replied immediately, sending me the entire outline of the course he teaches in mystery writing.


So now I'll be talking for two weeks - ha! That'll teach 'em.

Thank you, Charles. But, one more favour - would you come up and teach the workshop? Pleeeease?

Had a great day yesterday. One of those days I long for. Nothing happened. Just sat in the living room in front of the log fire, snow falling outside, Michael on his laptop working on his book, and me on mine. Every now and then Maggie or Trudy would ask to play.

Did 25-hundred words, then took a long bubble bath. Bliss.

As you can see, I suffer for my art.

Need to be off - today's a busy day. Writing, talking to my agent Teresa Chris, and giving the workshop.

God Bless Charles Benoit, and all who sail on him.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

An audie book, it's true.

more snow expected, but sunny now, highs minus 5

Glorious day at home. Had some snow last night, not much but enough to smooth everything out and have it cling to the trees. And now this brilliant day with sun almost blinding off the snow. The only break in the field is where the dogs have played this morning.

I mentioned yesterday that A FATAL GRACE is just out in paperback in the States. Well I'd also like to mention that it has been nominated for a prestigious AUDIE award in the US - for Ralph Cosham's reading. I know I mentioned this before - but what I didn't have at the time was the list of the other finalists. Here it is...

Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh, narrated by Adam Grupper
Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger, narrated by Buck Schirmer
The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke, narrated by Will Patton
Up in Honey's Room by Elmore Leonard, narrated by Arliss Howard
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny, narrated by Ralph Cosham

I know all the norminees are as delighted as I am. I'm especially pleased, of course, for Mr. Cosham. Well done!

And - great personal news - the laptop is working again. A lovely reader wrote with some suggestions, and one was about the keyboard template. Well I pressed a bunch of buttons - turned the thing off overnight - looked at new laptops from DELL - then re-booted...and the keyboard worked again.

Off to continue the book on my favorite (very old) laptop by the fire.

How lucky am I?

The next book calls. Speak soon.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

cuirass - perhaps not what it sounds like

Sun struggling through thin clouds, snow in forecast, high minus 8

The paperback for A FATAL GRACE has just come out in the States! This is incredibly exciting since the hardcover is important and leads the way, but the big market 'penetration' is with the paperback, since more people are likely to pick it up. Fans buy the hardcover (like you, I hope!) but non-fans might take a chance and buy the less expensive paperback, and find the series. So please, if you live in the US or know people there, perhaps you could mention the paperback for A FATAL GRACE, which is the second book, and is known as DEAD COLD in the Commonwealth.

Thank you! Really, a thrilling day.

Hilary, a reader, left a comment on yesterday's blog and I wanted to 'broadcast' it. She wrote to tell us about a site she'd found called It's a word game. I went to it before mentioning it here. You choose a definition for a word, from a multiple choice, and if you get it right 20 grains of rice will be donated to the UN World Food Programme. I think Hilary said she'd played yesterday and got up to 5,000 grains. I just played and got to about 500. Was stumped by the definition of 'cuirass'. I got it wrong. Never heard of the word. Never heard of lots of the words. It's very humbling. But also, as Hilary says, addictive. Great fun - and for a great cause. And seems to be legit.

Thanks Hilary.

Just back from a flying visit to Quebec City. Wonderful time. I really do forget how magical that city is! I almost embarrassed myself in the cab yesterday morning by weeping I was so overcome by its beauty. It was snowing slightly, large, gentle flakes, snow piled up on the roads from pervious falls. Narrow streets with old stone homes and restuarants and cafe's, tin roofs and garrets and tiny parks. Glorious. I lived in QC for two years, but still need reminding.

The next book, after the one I'm currently writing (11,500 words!) will be partly set in Quebec City during Winter Carnival - which is on now. Michael and I will rent an apartment in the old walled city for 3 weeks at this time next year and research and write. Can hardly wait.

I was there to do a segment on the CBC National Radio show, Sounds Like Canada. It went out live yesterday morning from the magnificent Chateau Frontenac, hosted by Shelagh Rogers, who is as brilliant as she is warm and lovely. Made each and every person feel welcome and relaxed - and it was a fabulous show. Mostly organized and researched by our great friend Susan McKenzie - so we're really proud of her!

Susan, Michael and I went out for dinner in the old city Thursday night. Susan came by our hotel room, which she'd arranged for, and was staggered to see we were given a HUGE corner suite! Ha. The rest of the dinner we teased her about the tiny, dark, back room she'd been allocated by the CBC. Actually, she had a suite too, though not quite as magnificent as ours. Susan explained it was given to us by the hotel, not the CBC, and only because we were so old. Everyone else in the hotel were kids, there for Carnivale.

She also gave us the most amazing gift. A Li Bien ball Christmas decoration she'd found at Pier 1 in Montreal. If you've read A FATAL GRACE/DEAD COLD you'll know how amazing it is to find one of these. It's become a new treasure for us. Susan is an old treasure. Very, very old.

But WOW, was it cold Thursday. Bitter, bitter wind. It has been a while since I was outside and it felt like someone was taking a potato peeler to my face. The wind was right in our faces. Then, coming home, it was in our faces again! A kind of reverse miracle. Whichever way we turned, there was the wind, full blast. Literally takes your breath away.

Must run. I always plan to write a short blog then end up blabbing on. We're in Montreal, heading home this morning. Be well and we'll talk soon.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

In the mean time

overcast, light snow, highs minus 4

The reason I know the forecast is because I listen to my friend Mike Finnerty on CBC Radio One in Montreal. Mike and I worked together in Quebec City centuries ago, when he was just starting and I was a senior journalist. I moved to Montreal and when he came too a year or so later we re-established our friendship and became quite close. Even, dare I admit it, collaborated on a script for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The agent who sold many scripts to the programme read it and took us on, but sadly the show was cancelled shortly afterward.

Mike and I began working together on the same radio show, and as can happen when two strong willed people come together at work, we had a falling out. It was an excrutiatingly slow process. We'd pretend all was well, but quietly hurt each other. we'd have periods when we didn't speak (on a team, that really isn't good). It was unbelievably painful to lose a friend like that, and in so public and obvious a way. And to have to still work together so closely every day.


Eventually Mike quite and I followed shortly afterward. Mike went on to a fantastic, stellar career at the BBC in London. I, of course, was consumed with jealousy. Not only was my sworn enemy doing brilliantly, but he was doing a job I'd have loved to have had in a city I adore.

But with the passage of time something happened. We both grew up. I can't remember whether he contacted me or I contacted him, but when I was in London a couple of years ago promoting STILL LIFE we got together for lunch. I was very afraid. Afraid perhaps I'd buried my putrid emotions rather than letting them go. So easy to mistake the two. Afraid of being alone, over a long, long meal with someone I no longer had anything to say to.

But there was something I wanted to tell him.

He met me at Broadcasting House in London. I was curious to see whether my envy had followed me there, shadowed me. But I felt nothing, except unease at seeing him. And wondering if I'd turned fat, drab, dull in the meantime. He showed up, and was all bright and smiling and wonderful. The Mike I'd loved as a friend so many years ago.

He gave me a fascinating tour of the BBC and his offices and the programmes he oversaw, and with each step my dread lessened.

Then over lunch I said the one thing I'd wanted to say to him for a long time. I told him I was sorry. I'd been a horses ass, and behaved very badly. And I wanted to apologize.

It was a lovely, quiet, peaceful moment in a frantic London lunch hour restaurant.

He smiled and said he was sorry to.

And we left it at that. No need for a catalogue. But it was clear we both felt differently. The old resentments had been let go.

I remember reading somewhere, and probably writing, that time doesn't heal old wounds. Time, on its own, does nothing. With some people (and all my books are based on this) time makes old wounds fester. I write about it because I've seen it in people. People who let go of nothing. They might think they have, they certainly claim to have. But it's still there. One resentment piled on others, because if you hold on to one slight you hold on to many. Until finally resentment turned to bitterness and bile.

No, time does nothing. It's what we do with time that matters. If you want to let things go, heal, move on, forgive and be forgiven - then time is your friend.

I know that about myself. I feel things deeply, perhaps too deeply. I get my feelings hurt. And sometimes I hurt others, by mistake or on purpose. But I never hold on to anger. Sometimes it takes minutes to pass, sometimes decades. But with each moment I'm working to let it go. If only because I don't want to be shackled to that person for the rest of my life.

It was a moment of great grace, in that London restaurant, when Mike and I started on the long road back to friendship and trust.

And now he's back in Montreal. He stayed in our apartment while getting himself sorted here and preparing to take over as host of the flagship CBC radio show. And he comes down to the country and stays with us, getting to know Michael and Michael him.

We feel a bit like a family, with Mike as a brother. In fact, he's almost exactly the same age as my beloved younger brother Doug.

And I'm genunitely proud of him and thrilled for him and his happiness is mine.

And it's a relief.

Michael and I are off to Quebec City today - 2 1/2 hour train trip - wonderful! Staying at a hotel in the Old City. Going out for dinner tonight with our great friend Susan McKenzie, then doing the national CBC Radio show, Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers tomorrow morning. If you live in the Quebec City area, come on by - it would be such fun to see you there. It's between 9 and 10:30 - in the Chateau Frontenac, overlooking the astonishing St. Lawrence river.

I probably won't write for a few days but will tell you all about it later.

Be well.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


cool, overcast, highs minus 5

Well, all the melting snow from the last few days has now frozen, so the sidewalks and roads are ice again. This is disconcerting when walking, of course. Not only perhaps falling and breaking a wrist or leg or hip - but falling into traffic. Still, when a cafe au lait calls from the bistro, I must answer. My duty as a Quebecoise.

Yesterday was extremely frustrating. On paper it was a 'day off' - which meant a day when all I had to do was write. LOVE those days. When I'm writing I hate distractions. Sadly, that comes to mean social events, phone conversations, grocery shopping. Anything. I become extremely focussed and absorbed and solitary. Enter my own little world. So days when no one is coming over, there are no breakfasts, lunches or dinners, no meetings or events are just heaven.

Yesterday was supposed to be one of those days. But, as you can gather, it didn't quite work out. Nothing big, just a series of small irritations that normally wouldn't be irritations at all. Even great things become slightly annoying when I'm trying to write. I have no idea how people with children write books!

Though there was one quite large irritation - the laptop froze. In the middle of a sentence. I have no idea why, or what I touched to bring this one, but it was something. I could move the cursor with the mouse, but nothing on the keyboard worked. So I re-booted (happily I could still save). And still nothing, which was surprising. Re-booting normally works. I find it works when I'm having a bad day too. Sit quietly, turn off for a few minutes, then re-boot.

But this time nothing. Michael, dear man, tried to fix it (after I'd hit every key many times and even did the kiddie thing of whacking the keys with my hands. Strangely, that didn't work either)

God bless Michael. He gave me his desk-top. I think he was afraid I was going to re-boot him.

So the book continues. Little dramas to keep things interesting. Laptop still frozen, but then lots of things are in Quebec right now.

Heard from Sharon Sutherland yesterday - a great friend upon whom Clara is party based. Clara is actually a kind of prism of lots of friends, male and female, and myself. But mostly, of course, Clara has found a life of her own, independent of me, it often seems. But a large part of the inspiration came from Sharon - a really wonderful artist. I suddenly realized she has a website and thought I should link to it, so you can all see her works. So I asked and she said yes. Will take a few days to organize this, but I'll let you know when it's up.

You know, one thing (besides Michael and the puppies) that sustains me as I write is hearing from readers. Sort of helps give me purpose and reminds me that there are people who feel the same way I do about Three Pines and the characters. So I don't want you to think your emails aren't welcome or are an intrusion in this time of focus. In fact, just the opposite.

I just felt like a shy little girl telling someone they were my best friend. Funny how vulnerable I can suddenly feel. Perhaps that's all part of writing too.

Take care, be warm and I'll try to write tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

I keep the book in my head - actually in the gaps of my teeth

overcast, gray, snow turning to rain, highs plus 2

Michael's doing his new back exercises and I'm getting caught up on emails. Had a good day yesterday running around going to appointments. Michael's eyes are VERY good. And his back is doing well.

I went to the periodentist for a cleaning. Quite like the periodentist. Gives me time to think. Realized I had a word wrong in the manuscript, and came up with a couple of small ideas. It's a quiet time in the day, except for my occasional squeal when the nerve gets hit. Or the woman doing the cleaning makes tsking sounds. It was pretty much an hour of squeal, tsk, squeal, tsk.

Apparently I have some rather large gaps between my gums and some teeth. Small communities live in there, and I'm planning a condo development. Perhaps, on snowy days, I can park the Volvo in there too.

Heard from the UK publicist and I have an event with Brian Freeman, a wonderful American writers of mystery/thrillers, at Heffers books in Cambridge, at 12:30 on Thursday April 17th. Also have a critics and booksellers party to go to in London the night before. And Sherise, my editor at Headline, wrote to pass mon a wonderful review of The Cruelest Month in the Birmingham Post, by Mike Ripley - one of the funniest and warmest men in the business. He teaches Crime Fiction at Cambridge, as co-incidence would have it.

They're also exploring the possibility of my doing a cruise with Cunard lines...being one of their guest speakers. Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Wasn't going to write yesterday, but gravitated back to the laptop in the Montreal apartment and ended up putting in 4 hours. Not all that many words added, but fine tuning some of the stuff I had and adding some descriptions. I realize I'm not all that great at physical descritpions. I keep forgetting to put them in. Partly, I think, because I see the people so clearly. Partly because I figure you all know what the village and the characters look like (short sighted, really, since many people come to the series late). But mostly, I've come to realize (a dental chair revelation) because I'm concentrating on their inner selves and not actually all that interested in what they look like on the outside. I think I've gotten better at realizing the editors are absolutely right, and people want to 'see' the characters, not just feel them. So I was doing a bit of that yesterday.

Must be off. Breakfast - cafe au lait at a local cafe with fresh fruit while Michael has cafe au lait and something (anything) with bacon. Yesterday it was a fruit filled crepe with maple syrup and whipped cream! Boys.

Speak to you tomorrow and hope this finds you well.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Super Game

mild, clear, highs minus 2

We're in Montreal. Apartment not producing odd smells, but then neither is it producing hot water. Always something. Oh, well. We have cold pizza in the pridge and all is right with the world.

Watched the Super Bowl last night. Very exciting. Turns out I was rooting for the Giants. (I'm not just saying that because they won). I realized I was when the game began and I was thrilled when they got a field goal in their first possession. I really like football. My favorite sports, except, perhaps soccer.

Michael rooted for the Patriots...and I did feel horrible for them, especially those terribley long faces on the bench when NY scored with 29 second left. Oh oh.

Must run - doctors appointments start at 8 and it's 7:45.

Writing went well yesterday. Another 2,000 words. I know mI'm really in to the book when I stop obssessing about the word count. Like a dieter counting calories.

Did someone say diet?

Off we go. Take care

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Let's hope I'm not writing the 'long bomb'.

Overcast, light snow expected, mild, highs minus 2

We're off to Montreal today - plan to spend almost a week away from the country home, though it's actually quite fun. Feels like a vacation. We have lots of doctors and dentists appointments - happily just check-ups. Amazing how many pieces need to be checked-up as we age. Taking the car in to be serviced. It's a Volvo. We love it. Not completely co-incidently, Gamache drives a Volvo.

Speaking of him, I continued writing the book yesterday - the scene that introduces Gamache, Beauvoir etc. Each scene I write, particularly at the beginning, needs to have at least two purposes, so the story is driven along. Often, especially at the beginning, the purposes are scene and tone setting (crucial at the opening of any novel), pace setting, introducing characters and often a clue or red herring. The clues are sometimes physical, sometimes psychological or emotional...common threads.

But, most of the time, the exact method of doing all this - the contents of the scene, are a mystery to me until I actually sit down and write. Now, sometimes at the end I think - well, that's crap. That just doesn't work. But often I sit back and wonder where it came from. So many unexpected things happen. That's the beauty of planning, but not over doing it. It's a learning process, and I do it imperfectly, but I really need to leave space for inspiration. Perhaps even the divine. Those moments when ideas appear on the page out of the blue, or themes are sharpened without my even planning it. How wonderful that feeling is. Way makes up for all the agonizing and insecurities and fears.

I remember reading about Hitchcock, who was a famous planner. He story-boarded everything...every scene, so that it looked like a graphic novel before he shot a frame of film. He said that was the creative a result, the actual filming bored him to tears. I'd rather not get to that stage - so scrutinize and organize and plan a book that there was no room to breath, to see where a scene went. And not enjoy the writing.

Must run - pack up for Montreal - then on to Quebec City on Thursday for CBC radio's Sounds Like Canada. (If you live in Quebec City, we'll be doing the national radio show live at the Chateau Frontenac on Friday morning, starting at 9am. - come along and say hi to Shelagh Rogers, my friend Susan McKenzie ((she's a CBC network producer)) and Michael and me)

I'll be writing this morning, then driving to Montreal in the afternoon, ordering pizza and watching the Super Bowl. Not sure who to root for. Who doesn't love an underdog? So I'm drawn to the Giants. But also really hate to see the Patriots remarkable streak come to an end. And as much as I try not to like Tom Brady I do. I think he's just an amazing athlete, and I admire that. Great poise. Great courage. So really, whoever wins, I'm happy. I suspect that might be a female thing.

Speak soon, be well.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

The light thrown by Terry Fox

snow, fairly heavy, windy, highs minus 5

Well, the car is buried under about 6 inches of snow and about half an inch of ice. Snow plow just showed up to dig the driveway out. Had to scream 'Cookies, treats!' to get Maggie and Trudy in when I heard the plow coming. These snowplows are huge things - they look almost prehistoric, with massive metal claws and shovels and flashing lights. And the guy in the glass cabin can barely see for all the snow he's shovelling and blowing, on top of the snow naturally falling. And our dogs aren't really traffic trained. Nor, it must be said, are they all that bright. Beautiful, huge hearts that I think are so big they've squeeze space from their brains. I expect they'd be no match for the snow beast.

Happily yelling, 'Cookies, treats!' does the trick. Michael also came running, so the whole family is safe.

Lovely to be snug at home as more snow falls. It's supposed to end by this afternoon, but we're in a kind of microclimate up here. On a plateau. The top of one mountain, surrounded by other mountains. We'll be snowing and 1 kilometer away down the road it'll be sunny. We quite like it. We sort of disappear into the clouds some days. They might be harvesting bananas in Sutton today, for all we know.

Started the next book yesterday. Sat by the fire. Said a little prayer. Stared at the blank page then fell in to it, like off a cliff. Trusting I can fly after all.

Had set a goal, a minimum, of 500 words. I normally aim at 1,000 words a day but have found I need to be gentle and kind to myself at first. I want to enjoy the writing and not set a goal too high or frightening. Turns out, I wrote the whole first chapter - slightly over 2,000 words.

I LOVE this book.

But as I stared for that minute at the blank page, feeling all the fears swimming about beneath, I remembered what I once read about writing. This person (I believe someone famous, perhaps one of you can attribute this) said writing a book is like driving between New York and San Francisco at night. You can't see your destination. All you can see is to the end of your headlights. And that's all you really need to see. So just go as far as the end of your headlights. Then again. And again. And eventually you'll arrive.

How lovely. And kind. And for me, true.

I also remember reading Douglas Coupland's recent biography of Terry Fox, the young Canadian who'd lost a leg to cancer and decided in 1980 to run across the country to raise money for research. At first no one paid any attention, but after a while the whole country was rivetted on this handsome boy, with his funny hop and clenched fists, making his way one painful step at a time - running. Across the country.

Coupland was given access to Terry Fox's diaries, and in it Terry said much the same thing. Every morning when he woke up his intention wasn't to run across Canada. That would be too daunting, far too scary. Instead, his goal was to run to the next corner. Then the next, then the next. Beautiful.

And that's what I do when writing books. I know, clearly, the eventual goal. I have a map even. But if I thought everyday about what was ahead in the coming months I'd crawl back to bed. Couldn't do it. But what I can do is run to the next corner. (fueled by cookies and treats)

So, it's off to the next bend in the road this morning.

Terry Fox ended his run halfway across the country. His cancer had come back. He died in 1981, at the age of 22. We still hold Terry Fox runs, and every Canadian school child knows about him, and raises money in his name.

Be well, and I'll let you know how my own run is going. If you're a writer too, just aim for the corner, even if it's only a few steps ahead.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Once upon a time...

cloudy, mild, high minus 2 - storm warning! 20 cms of snow & freezing rain

LOVE storms, glad I'm not on the highway, though.

Over dinner last night (Italian restaurant closed, so we ended up at the Internationale eating pear and turnip soup followed by wild boar and blueberry sausages.) Cotton explained she suggested the French subtitled Chinese film because it's called STILL LIFE. Fun! I'd even read a rave review of it.

However - wish I could sound very sophisticated and say I loved it, darling. But I didn't. Long silences. French subtitles came and went in a flash, so I caught very little. Chairs were concrete and the big haired woman in front kept moving her head to block out my view. I eventually shut my eyes and listened to the music. At the end we agreed there might just be a cultural divide between Shanghi and Sutton. I suspect the film was brilliant I was dull, but I often suspect that.

Starting the next book this morning. Laptop up and ready by the fire. Fire laid and ready for match. Coffee pot on. Storm approaching. Three Pines awaits. I even know my first line. A line I've waited 40 years to use.

Il etait une fois.