Monday, 30 June 2008

Lovely day

sunny, hot, beautiful, temps 27

Another unexpectedly glorious day! Last year, when we had 6 kids visiting, it was bitterly cold and rainy the whole time. This year it's been fantastic. And it makes such a difference. having loads of fun.

Had a meeting today too in Knowlton about the launch of book 4 - The Murder Stone. Hoping to have the first launch at Brome Lake Books in Knowlton, and then the next day, have an event at Hovey manoir...but I'll keep you posted.

Anotehr bit of great news is that the Canadian crime convention, Bloody Words, has chosen its International Guest of Honour...Peter Temple...who's come from Australia. So he'll be the Int'l and I'll be the's next June and we really hope you can make it.

Must run - kids calling. Don't smell smoke, so it can't be that bad.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

With great Elan

sunny, hot, temps 30

What a day! Started with a huge thunderstorm, then forecast for rain the whole day, but it cleared up by 11am and was sunny and hot. Fantastic.

Poor Elan. About twenty minutes after my last blog she slipped by the pool and sprained her big toe. We were worried it was broken for a minute or so, but Uncle Michael checked it, and it's just bruised. But painful.

Then she got very quiet. Then, over dinner, she started to cry. It was heartbreaking. Not because her toe hurt, but because she was homesick. Poor one. We tried to comfort her. I hugged her and told her it was natural to feel like that. I had too. Everyone does their first time from home. And I told her if she really wanted to go we'd make sure she got home.

It was touch and go for a while. But she called her mother who was fantastic. She also told Elan it was natural to be sad, and a little lonely, and to miss home. But to remember, as well, that this was a great chance to have fun. To find out about other people and cultures. To learn new things. And to dig down deep inside herself and find the courage to not only stay, but to have fun.


By the time Elan hung up she was laughing, and not a tear since.

What courage - of the little girl, but also of the mother, not to say, 'Come home' but to tell her daughter she was magnificent, and strong and to remember that. And to look deep down and find what's there.

How lucky are we to witness that.

And little Rozie, our niece, what great devotion and friendship she's shown. It's hard to standby and see someone hurt. And have it affect her own good, carefree time. It can be a downer. And Roz just kept being kind and supportive and loving. And patient. Really, she must be adopted. Can't be a Penny. Though, thank heaven, she has a great deal of her mother Mary about her. So the Lingman's triumph.

Today we took the girls to Sutton for some shopping and ice cream while Doug took the guys golfing...then home for swimming in the pond and the pool.

Trudy, left out of her cage by mistake when we all left, had a field day with the chocolate chip cookies and the hamburger buns.

So everyone's happy.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Sex and the country

mainly sunny, warm, temps 26

A perfect day. Doug's taken the kids out golfing. I offered to go and watch from the clubhouse, but he explained this was a par-three course and the club house is a barn with a lawn chair.

So I'm at home, blogging. And doing laundry and the flowers.

So far so good. The guest kids, Elan and Spencer are wonderful. It's hard being a guest, especially as a child. rules you aren't familiar with, strange food and smells. Poor Elan is afraid of dogs. And snakes. And bugs. And frogs.

Still, she's sticking it out and making the best of it. I admire that.

We're having loads of fun. Kids living in the pool. Stopped long enough last night for chicken wings, carrots, celery, hummus and chocolate chip cookies (baked by Elan's mother - bless her!) Then the frisbee came out, immediately stolen and eaten by Maggie. Just as we'd almost convinced Elan that dogs are wonderful and gentle.

Michael and I went to bed (at about 9pm) and the kids watched Wedding Crashers on the DVD. We all seem to have had a good night's sleep, with Rozie and Elan sleeping on the sofa bed in the screen porch. We were all quite jealous since it was a hot, muggy night.

Then breakfast of cereal for the boys, pancakes, bacon and fruit for the rest of us.

So far no upsets, or tears. Little Spencer, who's about as cute as a button, said he wanted to see Sex and the City at the Princess (he calls it the Queen's) Theatre in Cowansville. Will have to call his Mom to see it that's OK. Michael's already announced he's not taking him. But I might. Mary, our sister-in-law, says it's OK for her kids, aged 10 and 12. It's rated 13 with adult accompaniment.

How bad can it be? Famous last words. What could possibly go wrong?

I'll let you know.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

But do they eat each other?

mainly sunny, warm, temps 26

One more day. Until the kids come. Doug, my brother, wrote from Toronto with a list of callisthenics we can do, to build up muscle mass before they descend. And take us down with them. Of course, it's far too late for that and we must now rely on cunning, and bribery.

Doug, his kids Rozy (who is just turning 12) and Charlie (10) are coming. His oldest, Brian (13) is at camp. Each of the kids is bringing a friend. Spencer for Charlie and Elan for Rozy. Doug is bringing his imaginary friend.

We have lists everywhere - of food, of activities, of hiding places.

Ice cream, candies, hard boiled eggs, cheese, orange and grape crush and root beer. And that's just for Doug. Actually, he's a vegetarian and doesn't eat eggs or mushrooms either. But, he does eat Caramilk bars.

We're watching the forecast, as though that helps. We waited anxiously to see what movie the local theatre, the Princess in Cowansville, would be playing while the kids were here. Praying for Kungfu Panda.

It's Sex and the City.

Never liked Sex and the City, and even less now.

They arrive tomorrow (Friday) mid-afternoon. 24 more hours. I think we need to just hunker down and pray for daylight.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Joyeux Fete

sunny, cloudy, drizzle, temps 20

Happy St Jean Baptiste! The patron saint of Quebec. This is the major holiday here. Fireworks, bonfires, concerts. The streets of Sutton are festooned with Fleurs de Lys flags (flag of Quebec). This is the unofficial start of holidays. And, actually - the week between St Jean Baptiste (the major French celebration) and Canada Day (July 1st - the major anglo celebration) is the timing for the fourth book in the series. THE MURDER STONE/A RULE AGAINST MURDER is set in that week.

Thunderstorm out now. too bad - always feel sorry for the organizors of all the events. Still, it will probably pass soon.

We don't really celebrate it - we do have a celebration on Canada Day, though. We have my brother Doug and four kids (ages 9-11) arriving on Friday. We bought (besides aspirin) a bunch of sparklers for the kids, and Michael. Used to be such fun writing our names (what else?) in light.

We have Monopoly and Checkers, Backgammon and I plan to buy Mad Magazine and a whole lot of comic books. I used to love all that as a kid. These kids might prefer the DVD's though. Oh well. We figure coming here is like visiting Grandpa and Grandma...lots of treats. And we go to bed early.

Edited two more chapters of book 5 today. My critics cap is firmly on and I have no idea anymore if it's crap or brilliant or anywhere in between - though I have my suspicions.

Had a very nice exchange of emails with another author at St Martin's Minotaur, Chris Grabenstein. He's not only a lovely man, he's a wonderful writer. His latest book is called Hell Hole and it's coming out this summer. He's won the Anthony and is extremely talented. As you know, I don't recommend all that many authors, but he's one. I haven't read his latest, but the whole series of Ceepak books are worth checking out.

We have chicken ready for the barbecue. Our trick (given to us by a friend) is to cook them in the oven first, then put on the sauce and barbecue them for the last 5-10 minutes, just for flavour. Otherwise, if we try to BBQ them from raw they come out carbonized on the outside and raw on the inside. Pretty good way to committ murder, actually.

Had a terrific book club talk with Lynn Kaczmarek and 16 others - by phone. I really wished I could have been there in person, and hope to be one day. They're about 4 hours outside Chicago, so who knows.

Made plane reservations back to England, for September. This time it's on Michael's business - he's been invited back to Cambridge (he's a grad of Christs College) for the inaugural meeting of a society of medical grads. It's a 'secret' society (as I kid him) so I'm not invited, but I am invited to tea in the Fellow's Garden and dinner in the Great Hall. Can you imagine how much fun that'll be?

And I have to say, Michael has spent 3 years schlepping all over the place with me and my books - it's so much fun to once again be the 'accompanied' for him.

We're at 131,000 words and dropping in the book 5 edit! It might be crap, but it's at least a small pile.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Make believe, in the garden

mixed sun and clouds and rain - temps 20

Started the day in Montreal - off to breakfast at Cora's then Michael's eye doctor appointment (all's well - next appointment in 6 months). Then I had a dematologist appointment - had a small spot on my nose which didn't go away - but of course it disappeared in the last week and I forgot about it, and the appointment. But we went anyway. We like Dr. Gerstein so it was fun to get caught up.

Then Frank the accountant where we talked tax - but also talked wills. It's been about 8 years since we made the last one and things change. So we're in the process of making new ones. One of the things that's changed are the books. Now, with luck, the royalties will go on long after I stop. So what to do with them? leave them to family? To a foundation? Choose a cause and leave it to them? Who knows how much it'll come to? Nothing? Gazillions? (our accountant assures us that's a number) A nice issue to have, and one I only dreamed about 8 years ago.

Editing going well. Drove back home after Frank, then after picking up the dogs and dropping off the husband I scooted across the border for gas. And had a chance to listen to music and think. I love that. I either go for long, quiet walks to think, sit in a bath, or get in the car, turn on my CD, and let the music and lyrics work magic.

I solved a couple of quite large ways I find thrilling.

And I realized, not for the first time, how much I depend upon inspiration. left on my own God knows how plodding, ham-handed, dull the books would be. Thank Heaven for music, and silence, and bolts from the blue.

The lavender is about to bloom. We tried to grow French lavender a few years ago - what was to have been a field of it is now B-mix. Grass and clover. But we put in some English lavender by the door. Campanula (bell flower) up too.

Had a friend, Maya, who died a couple of years ago. She helped me a great deal when we first moved here. Visited the over-grown gardens, brought lots of her own perennials, taught me about plants and structure. Gave me a whole lot.

It was only after she died, in the eulogy, that someone mentioned her delight in making up names for plants. Huh?

Anyway, the Maya flowers are doing well, though the Pennyitous seem to be fading.

Must be off.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Just nuts - and lobster

cloudy, sunny, rainy - temps 22

Mixed day. Was quite nice this morning for our walk, but just sat down for lunch and the skies opened. We could hear it coming. A thrumming in the forest. We looked up and the mountain in the distance had disappeared. And we could hear it getting closer and closer. Then the rain broke out of the forest at the far end of our pond, hit the pond and raced toward us in the screen porch.

Almost frightening when it's that strong. But we sat sipping our soups all safe and protected.

Edited this morning - two more chapters. Down to 133,000 words or so. Getting there. Am enjoying the story.

Had a hilarious thing happen yesterday. We were on our way in to Sutton to meet friends and passed a neighbors house about 4 kilometers away. Loads of cars. And another neighbor blowing up balloons.

It was clearly a party, and clearly we weren't invited.

Well - they had to die. First, they had to be made to feel like crap, and then die.

It actually felt quite bad (though not as bad as they would feel). I realized my feelings were hurt. fortunately we were meeting some people so I told them all about it and they laughed too, and said similar things had happened to them recently.

What a relief. I might be insane, but I'm not alone. Phew.

As I talked I realized a couple of things - I don't like parties, anyway - and while we like these people we've certainly had lots of gatherings without inviting them.

That too was a relief. Maybe I didn't have to kill them. Maybe I could just anonymously call the cops and complain about the noise.

Went off after than and had dinner with Cotton and two other friends, Tom and Anne at the gold club...on the verandah. It was lobster night! Yum.

Life, even in the asylum of my mind, is wonderful.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Time for friends

mainly sunny, warm. temps 25

Lovely day - lots of sun. Spent the day on the screen porch doing the edits. It really is sublime. The Japanese tree lilac is out - filled with ivory blooms, and filling the garden with sweetness. For me, it smells like summer. Between that, the roses and the peony it really is amazing. Peaceful, calm, lovely.

Didn't have time to blog yesterday. Michael and I've re-instituted our 2 kilometer walks before breakfast, and yesterday on the walk Michael realized we needed to go into cowansville, to the bank and the paper place. So off we went for breakfast too...did errands until about noon, then home.

It was rainy and cold, so I lit a fire and sat there, editing - until 8:30 pm. The first chapters are the hardest, I realize, since I was really just tossing things onto the page. As the book progressed I picked up the most interesting threads. But all that crap is still there in the beginning.

Have decided to drop 2 characters too. One fairly major, the other not. But this gives the existing characters, and the other new ones, more space to grow. That's fun. But it does take a certain re-imagining.

Today I worked from 9 to just now - about 4pm. But it's getting easier. And what an amazing workplace! No complaints here.

On our walk this morning we ran into 2 sets of neighbors and had nice chats. As we were heading back a car pretended to run us down and out jumped Andrew and Lori. They're really wonderful people. You know how sometimes you're with people and come back just a little down? Sort of draggy? Well, Andrew and Lori do the opposite for us. They're just delightful. Full of enthusiasm, interests - and they're very warm people. I'm growing less and less patient with cynacism and sarcasm. I was like that for too many years. It's facile, and meaningless. to me. Others, clearly, delight in that sort of personality. I don't. So it was refreshing and fun to spend even a short amount of time with Lori and Andrew. Andrew's from New Zealand and his mother Helen has become a friend of ours as well. We saw her last year when we were there with the books.

Then - back to work. Still - other people have real jobs. This is self-directing and I put as much or as little pressure on myself as I choose.

Michael's been invited to Cambridge (UK) in September, so we're considering going. That should be loads of fun. But enjoying being home for now. Hoping to get together with Andrew and Lori before too long. And really looking forward to seeing Cheryl, Gary and Joan shortly too.

I find the only struggle in my life now is finding that balance between work and friends. I'm afraid the friends and the social life have suffered. Happily, some are holding on for dear life.

Having dinner with Cotton and a few others tonight, then off to Montreal tomorrow for early morning drs appointments Monday. Just check-ups.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Wayne and shine

cloudy, rainy, cold - temps 14

It started out brilliant sunshine, but by 9am it was overcast, then started to rain. And it poured on and off all day. Wayne was out cutting the lawn and of course was way over by the guest cottage when it first started pelting down. I didn't think our old tractor moved that fast. I didn't think Wayne did. But this was no warm summer shower. More like a Scottish boys boarding school shower. Cold and unrelenting. I got caught in a downpour around noon, on the far side of the pond with the dogs. Happily I suspected it might happen so I was in rubber boots, a cap and my Barbour waxed coat. Autumn wear, really.

After breakfast I set the computer up on the screen porch to start the big editor for book 5. But then the rain came and the roof started to leak, right on top of the computer. I quickly exited, stage left.

Michael did the word count last night and told me this morning.

140,000 words, more or less. About what I figured, for the first draft. I was worried it was more, and hoping for less. So I'm not surprised.

I think it should be about 120,000.

There are 39 chapters, so my plan is to work on 2 chapters a day and be fininshed the first big edit by mid-July (we're taking a few days off when Doug and 4 kids arrive - then off to Hovey Manor to celebrate my 50th).

I'm already behind schedule! I worked from 9am to 3pm and only managed to do the first chapter today. It took me longer to edit it than to write the damn thing. I think because now, knowing what comes later, I really needed to sculpt more finely, and get the foundation right. So I went over it and over it. And managed to take 800 words out at the same time.

This is what editing is about - tightening, yes. But also sharpening. But at the same time making the story more subtle. I love editing. Well, love is overstating - but it doesn't scare me as much as the original writing can.

But, so far so good. In fact, it's reading even better than I remembered - and I can be a very tough critic if I'm not careful. So that's a relief.

Spent some time today replying to emails and fine-tuning a few events for this fall, including the Canadian launches for THE MURDER STONE in October. The publisher's organizing two - one for Montreal and the other for out here in the Townships, perhaps at Hovey Manor which helped inspire one of the main settings for the book.

I'll let you know what things get firmed up for the launches.

Also spoke to Lynn Kaczmarek, one of the publishers and editors at Mystery News. She's asked me to speak to her book club, by phone, next week, so we chatted and tested the speaker phone. I like Lynn a lot. One of those people I wished I lived next to.

Talk tomorrow. Be well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Peonies and people

Mainly sunny, cool, temps 18

We're home. And the blessed peonies waited for us (how's that for ego?) They're up and out. We arrived home about 5:30 yesterday afternoon and the first thing we did after unpacking was take the dogs for a walk around the pond, with clippers in hand. Out at the pond the lupins are in full flight - a bank of purple and blue thrusting flowers climbing up from the water and into the trees and field. We scattered the lupin seeds 9 years ago, and now they're really growing and spreading.

I'm not the most patient person, but I sure am learning it be. And the funniest thing is, I'm learning how much more amazing everything is when you have to wait for it.

I cut a few lupins, then we came back and strolled through the garden close to home, and cut some peonies and alliums and gas plant and made an arrangement that sits in a tall vase on the wooden kitchen island. I swear to God sometimes I wonder whether we weren't in a fatal crash on the highway and this is Heaven.

Happily it seems we've arrived in heaven without that particular mess.

Came down this morning to a kitchen perfumed by peony. Ate breakfast on the screen porch. Then Michael and I spent the day returning calls, making calls, doing email, doing snail-mail, doing laundry.

The clothes line is now sagging under the weight of 3 weeks worth of clothing.

Our Volvo won't work. It's always something, isn't it? Starts just fine, but won't move forward or back. We took Michael's car to the store, and when we returned Tony was repairing a rip in the screen porch and we asked him about it. He had me rock the car back and forth and diagnosed that break pad at the right rear wheel has seized up. Clever man.

He's off home now to get his tools to fix it.

This really is what makes this place Heaven. yes, the peony. But ultimately it's the people.

Had a very nice invitation today from Edmonton to go out next year and speak at a couple of libraries. This co-incides with an invitation from the Alberta Library Conference to speak at their annual gathering in Jasper next year in late April. We can almost certainly combine the two events.

The only problem is that I already have an event in late April, as well as committments in January, February and March. And I need to write the next book. Sound familiar? If you've been reading this blog for a while now you'll recognize the dilema. In fact, you've lived it with me for a while. Perhaps I should make it like the game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and poll the readership of the blog.

Perhaps I should just make up my own mind, and try to be thoughtful about it. Hmm.

What I will do is something I'm trying to do in all aspects of my life and that's say, 'Thank you. I'll get back to you on that.'

And then think, instead of react.

I laid out on the grass by the pond this afternoon and watched the clouds overhead. Trudy came and lay beside me, after jumping first with both feet on my stomach. Maggie ran around the pond looking for frogs.

It was very peaceful.

Will speak to you tomorrow. Am starting the first edit on book 5, The Brutal Telling. This is The Brutal Editing. Afraid to see what the wordcount is.

Monday, 16 June 2008

CWA Dagger Forum

sunny, temp 23

This is my second post today -

I feel like a numbskull. There's something I've been meaning to let you know about and keep forgetting. The wonderful Margaret Murphy, of the Crime Writer's Association in the UK, wrote me about 10 days ago telling me about a new programme they have at the CWA. It's a forum on the novels shortlisted for the DUNCAN LAWRIE DAGGER and the DUNCAN LAWRIE INTERNATIONAL DAGGER.

If you follow the link it will take you there. You can make your voice heard on the nominees. It promises to be not only interesting, but intelligent and thought-provoking.

Along the same lines, TWO Canadians have been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger this year! That's the award given for Best Unpublished First Novel - the one I was shortlisted for a few years ago that led directly to my publishing career...and unpon which Michael and I based the Unhanged Arthur Ellis award in Canada.

The Debut Dagger Nominees are:

Amer Anwar (UK) - Western Fringes
Belinda Bauer (UK) - Blacklands
Russell Colman (Canada) - Desert Storm
Peter Dewar (UK) - The Eclipse of Lilith
Bill Harrison (Canada) - Nite Lite
Alison Marlow (UK) - The Stench of Lilies
James Oswald (UK) - The Book of Souls
Susan Schaab (USA) - Wearing the Spider
Ian Simpson (UK) - Devils and Disciples
PJ Watson (USA) - All the Wrong People

It's very exciting for all of them - and the best part of the Debut awards, be it the CWA Daggers, the Arthur Ellis, the Malice Domestic Unpublished Award (with St. Martin's Minotaur) is that being shortlisted can be enough to get you noticed and published. I didn't win in my year, but being on the list brought me just enough attention to get agents to finally read the book. That's the hardest part.

So, again, if you're a crime writer struggling to get anyone to read your manuscript, submit it to one or all of these competitions.

And don't forget about the CWA Dagger Forum - a terrific idea.

Speak soon.

Orange Alert

Mainly sunny, mild, temps 22

Storms blew in yesterday and cut the heat and humidity. Today much less savage.

We're having a lovely, quiet day in Toronto. Michael's interviewing a former colleague for his book on the neuroblastoma study, up at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Kids.

I had a massage. So we're even.

Watched the US Open last night - wow - amazing. Michael's rooting for Tiger, but like much of the rest of the world I'm rooting for Rocco. I normally cheer on Tiger, but this Rocco's story is just too good. 45 years old - never won a major tournament (perhaps never any tournament) and he finds himself in the playoff round today with the best player perhaps ever!

Spent much of today relaxing and wandering around. Thanking the people at McArthur publishing for being so fabulous. And spotting orange people all over the place. I remarked on this to Ann Ledden from McArthur who said she'd noticed the same thing. People who seemed to be tanned but are the colour of (as Ab Fab would have it) and old man's scrotum.

And not just one person - but a whole bunch. men and women. Then Ann twigged to it. There's also a bodybuilding tournament on at the convention centre - the orange people must be body builders who, having decided steroids weren't screwing up their bodies fast enough, they needed to do something to their skin to turn it orange.

I wonder what these people see when they look in the mirror? Obviously something attractive. But they're probably saying to each other, 'Do you see all those soft, pasty people? Who can they be? What can they be thinking?'

Am back in the hotel room now. Have a 2:30 conference call with St Martin's Minotaur to discuss the publicity campaign for book 4 - known as A RULE AGAINST MURDER in the States. It's coming out in January, and I'm very excited.

We're off to Sutton and acres of moose poop tomorrow. Ah, home.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

BookExpo and The Murder Stone

mixed, sunny and stormy, temps 25

What a long, eventful day. A good day, but tiring. Michael had an early breakfast with his son for Father's Day and I had a quite breakfast and made notes on editing the next book. I've tried not to think about it while away, but there are some fairly intricate elements that need fine-tuning and ideas came to me. Thought I shoulodn't ignore that gift. So I nibbled raisin toast, drank coffee and made notes in the hotel.

Then went to BookExpo Canada - had a 10:30 television interview, conducted by Lynn Hamilton, a fantastic Canadian mystery writer. But when I arrived to go up to BEC there was this honking great line. Down the corridor, around the corner, down another corridor. We were practically into Lake Ontario. Quintin Jardine joined me and we spent most of the time complaining until we looked up and realized the line and practically sprinted ahead.

So I made the interview, but barely. Scooted down there by Taryn, of the publishers.

Then back upstairs for a thing called 'Speed Dating' with the authors. Ten of us, including Quintin and Rick Blechta (have you read his books? if not, give them a try - he's brilliant) were given 5 minutes each to tell booksellers etc why they should stock our books.

Wasn't my finest 5 minutes. I hate that question. I honestly don't know why anyone should read them. I know I love reading and writing them - but what to say? It also went against my Canadian rarified I can barely look at a balance sheet (not quite accurate). So I bumbled along and listened, in awe, as the others made sense. Awe and a little annoyance.

Then a 1pm signing at the Crime Writers of Canada booth with the fabulous Phyllis Smallman, whose first book is called Marguerita Nights. she was signing it, and I signed Dead Cold and The Cruellest Month. Huge long lines for our books, and that always feels good.

After 45 minutes we ran out - most frustrating for the people who'd waited in line for, well, 45 minutes.

Then Michael and I scooted downstairs to the hotel restaurant for lunch. Or, miracle, brunch! A buffet. You can't tell me that isn't a marvelous sight. So we fell into the roast beef, and vegetables and salades and seafood and cheeses.

It was disgusting. And that was before the lemon cheesecake and panacotta. Dear Lord.

Then a 3pm signing at the McArthur booth of THE MURDER STONE - book 4 - the summer book in the cycle. I was again paired with Phyllis. Both our lines were huge - and yes, at BEC, size matters.

This is Phyllis's first, but not last, book expo and she's met loads of fans and made lots of new ones. It's great and a real privilege to see a fantastic career begin.

We had 200 Advanced Reading Copies of THE MURDER STONE - those are the proofs. The book itself won't be out until October.

But Michael managed to grab an extra one for us to give away to one of you. But, since as you can imagine, it's quite rare and valuable I'll wait and give it away in the next Newsletter - the July one. So, if you haven't signed up for it, you might consider it. Whoever wins, I'll sign it for you too.

We ran out of the proofs of THE MURDER STONE and had to turn people away...again, that felt awful.

From there we were whisked by car up to the mystery bookstore Sleuth of Baker Street, on Bayview Ave in Toronto, for a special party with Ann Granger, Quintin Jardine, David Gibbons, Phyllis Smallman, James Nichol and me. It was a party/signing.

We were then supposed to go out for dinner, but it'd been a long day, at the very end of a long couple of weeks. Hard to believe just a week ago we were in Bristol at CrimeFest. And Michael and I are a little tired.

So we begged off dinner and came back to the hotel. Got dinner and now we're watching the US Open. Such fun. The day was long, exhausting, but still a dream. What writer doesn't love signing books? And to see THE MURDER STONE as a book for the very first time - heaven. I always get very emotional. My baby, all ready for the world. I hope the world likes it. But either way, it knows it's loved, by it's mother.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Our own Disney film

Mainly sunny, humid, warm, temps 26

muggy day, though not to hot. Apparently there was a huge storm last night, at about 9:30. I slept through it. Pathetic.

Having a terrific day. Michael called Marjorie and she's feeling better. (after we leave...hmm). Went to the Royal York Hotel to have Michael's beard trimmed - then off to lunch with our friend Wendy, her husband Liam and daughter Katie. They live in an area of Toronto called the Beaches. Very old neighborhood - very fun. I think we'd be very tempted to live in the Beaches, if we lived in to TO. Liam loves to cook so we sat in their kitchen and had a wonderful lunch, then went for a walk along the boardwalk, along the shores of Lake Ontario.

Michael's watching the US Open. In an hour or so we're off for the annual BBQ at Kim McArthur's place. She's the head of McArthur and Co. Publishers. Every year during the BookExpo Canada she has a BBQ. Hundred people invited - and everyone comes. It's a real scene. It's at her home and her husband Les cooks. Get to meet loads of other authors, as well as booksellers and critics. The first year I was almost sick with anticipation and anxiety - but this is my 4th, so I'm not too worried. I've come to realize there's almost nothing I can do at any single event to either totally screw up my career or get me on the bestsellers list. So I might as well just relax and enjoy it. Close my eyes and think of England, as my mother used to say.

Had a very funny, and informative email from Lise at home. Here's what she said:

Delmar was working at your place yesterday (edging gardens) and during his break took a walk to the orchard to see how good a polenator your really are, and let me tell you that you must have been really good because; once there it would appear that "Bulwinkle's" wife and daughter or son had also been to the orchard. He would like you to know that you did such a good job with the feather that the tree must have BEEN loaded with pears.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Bulwinkle also noticed and really appreciated your efforts. She has stripped all but 5 or 6 pears (and leaves) from the trees, and since her daughter or son couldn't reach the pears they did a taste test on the apple trees. Delmar thinks she will probably be back to finish it off (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is not so). (It's so sad. I can imagine how will feel reading this, I feel the same)

If anyone tries to tell you it was deer, set them straight it was moose. Delmar found tracks around the tree and right straight through the trenched Linden area. And he also found moose poop in your pool (yech!).

I was there today and can confirm his findings because I found moose tracks and pooh in the pool garden also.

Maybe Pat bring the dogs around to "piddle" in the orchard and pool area. I think because they haven't been there in a while their scent has disappeared with all the rain. Once you are home and doing the walk around the pond with them their scent will probably keep her away, I really hope so.

So sorry to give you this news, but thought you like to know.

Moose? In the pool? We knew there were moose on our land. Tracks in the woods. But we hadn't seen any - ever. And now Lise writes this! Should get her to check inside, maybe they're in our bed, eating gummy bears and watching the US Open too.

Oh well. As I wrote Lise, I'm not all that worried. I kind of figure this is their land more than ours. They're welcome to the fruit...just hope they don't kill the trees. And she's right - when we get home and Maggie and Trudy start peeing around the moose will stay away again. I just don't want to scare them. Might try the puppies on their leashes for the first few says.

Talk soon.

Friday, 13 June 2008

What remains

sunny, warm, temps 26

We're in Toronto. Had a fun day today. Checked in to the InterContinental, Front Street. McArthur, my Canadian publisher, has very generously put us on the Club floor, which means a private lounge with breakfasts, afternoon tea, cocktails, DVD's, newspapers etc. It's like a British Airways lounge (by which I now measure every aspect of my life).

Then, as Michael cringed and tried to teleport himself somewhere else, I asked if there were any suites available. Can you believe it, there was! So they upgraded us to a suite.

Then we hopped out and caught an early showing of the new Indiana Jones film nearby. I love matinees! Always feel like such luxury. We got buckets of popcorn and diet cokes and sat in the near empty cinema. Heaven.

Loved the movie - but the bar isn't very high for Harrison Ford. Anything he's in is fine with me. My favorite Indiana Jones was the previous one, with Sean Connery. We own the DVD and I watch it every 6 months or so. I can practically mouth the lines. What fun. As you see, we run a vigorously intellectual household.

Just got out of a shower. Had dirt wedged under my fingernails. It's been a while since I had the earth smeared on my hands - and it felt good. We were in the village of Elora for the past two days. Visiting Cousin Marjorie.

Elora was one of the principle inspirations for Three Pines. In fact, Gabri is loosely based on a man named Steven in Elora, and Cousin Marjorie inspired both Ruth and one of the Three Graces from the second book. She has two very close friends and they did almost everything together. If you saw one there was a pretty good chance another was close. Like a pack. Marjorie, Margo and Kay. All over 80. The Three Graces.

This trip, though, was quite different. Margo has sold her lovely old stone home in the centre of the village and moved into a brand new seniors residence. Kay has left Elora for Toronto to be closer to family. And Wednesday when we arrived at Marjorie's from Montreal, for the first time ever she wasn't at the door waiting.

The inside door was open and we opened the screen door and called. No answer. Called again. This time we heard a shuffling.

It was Marjorie. With a smile, but looking weary. Then it came out. She'd only the day before returned from a week in the hospital. We were horrified. That we didn't know and that now this suddenly frail older woman had two guests. We immediately asked the obvious.

What was wrong? What happened? Afraid of the answer.

Atrial fibrillation. I could see Michael relax. He knew what it meant, and while it wasn't brilliant news it wasn't the disaster it might have been.

A lot of people have it. It's when the heart speeds up, and won't slow down. It can be extremely serious, if not treated. But Marjorie came home from the hospital with lots of drugs.

Still, this once energetic woman who zoomed all over the world, helped organize the local book sale, played bridge, gardened and has countless friends was suddenly weak and exhausted.

We sat with her and asked questions. Michael looked at her drugs, and took her pulse-rate. But I couldn't shake the feeling we shouldn't be there. We would be a burden when all she wanted to do was rest.

I made dinner. (No, not peanut butter sandwiches - I surprised even myself by producing chicken breasts with fresh tarragon and elderflower and newly cut asparagus.) Michael made a salad - we washed up and all went to bed early.

The next morning we made breakfast then Marjorie asked me to put in her vegetable garden. She could have given me the winning lottery ticket. I was relieved and thrilled. We could actually do something useful. So under Marjorie's stern, percise and exacting eye in went the lettuce, basil, parsley, red onions, zucchini, squash, scarlet runner beans and another sort of bean. Then I weeded for 2 hours while Marjorie napped on the sofa and Michael, bless him, called her doctor and talked to him, doctor to doctor.

As I weeded I realized how sad I was. That the vacations to see Marjorie had clearly changed. She who always met us and had a gourmet meal prepared and had planned dinner parties and trips to the theatre and restaurants, was human after all. And needed our help.

Of course, there's every reason to believe once the medication is adjusted and she gets some rest, she'll be fine. Perhaps better than ever.

But it was a wake-up. And it was a feeling I suddenly recognized. From visits to my grandmother many, many years ago, as she aged. And to my mother, who went from striding ahead of us even in our adulthood, to falling behind until we needed to walk very slowly and pretend we weren't so as not to upset her.

Roles naturally change. But we don't have to like it. We do need to accept it, though.

And it felt good to get dirt on my knees and see the earth under my nails, and have a few hours to reflect on what really matters.

Michael came out and watered the new vegetable garden and as I watched him I remembered a prayer he told me about. One someone told him when he thought he'd die from sorrow when his first wife died.

Thank you God for everything you've given me,
Everything you've taken away,
And everything that remains.

This too I've learned in the garden.

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

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


sunny, stinking hot, humid, temps 31

Dear lord, we're meeeelting. What a country. From minus 30 to plus thirty in not that many weeks.

Heard great news from Lise at home who reports that we almost certainly won't miss the peonies. They're about to burst open, but the show lasts about 2 weeks and we'll be home at about this time next week. Do you know peonies? They make my knees go weak.

I think I'm a bit of a flower whore (or is it john?) Show me a well turned ankle and an overwhelming perfume and I'm smitten. I think peonies (originally from Japan I believe) are about the most perfect flower. All sorts of colours, though ours tend to be classic pink. Very full, bigger than a large man's fist. And fragrant? I sometimes stand in the centre of our formal english garden (as opposed to the wild pond garden) and feel the tears. Especially on a day like today. Hardly any breeze so the aroma stays in the garden, and with the heat and humidity the flowers radiate sweetness.

To add to their beauty, they only last 2 weeks. Inevitably there is what a good friend calls a 'peony rain' which drums down so hard it flattens the flowers, which need to be staked anyway since their heads are so heavy with flower.

And - to add further to their beauty - peony bushes are extraordinarily long-lived in Quebec. It's not unusual to see an old farmhouse abandonned and neglected, but a peony still blooming. It is the optomist, the hopeful flower - that knows when to bloom and when to rest. In our garden the first full bloom of our roses comes at the same time as the peonies. Michael and I sit in our chairs, with florid pink lemonades, and wonder how we got so lucky.

I remember when Still Life first came out and we had to go to Toronto for BookExpo - to sign the advance copies. I cried as we left, filled with sorrow that we'd miss this most blessed week in the garden, but filled with amazement and gratitude it was for that reason - so see and sign my first book. As it turned out the peony held on - and now the blooms are increasingly gorgeous, and long-lived.

We're off for my 4th bookexpo tomorrow (the event is over the weekend in Toronto) - but there are no tears. I know the flowers will be there - and if not, they'll be back next year.

This I know, and this I trust.

I really have learned so much in that garden.

Had more good news - Teresa heard from Spain today and it seems we've sold the books there, for translation. Indeed, there seems to be an auction, so that's nice.

Had breakfast with Susan this morning - she's going to spend part of her holidays in the guest house this summer.

And had a lovely invitation from the village of Georgeville, not far from where we live, to come and do an event when the next book comes out. I actually get nice inviations like that two or three times a week and I'm always grateful and try to fit them into the schedule, though some are quite far away and more difficult.

The reason I'm specifically mentioning this invitation is that she did something both smart and kind. In the invitation she mentioned they could make my event a fundraiser for their village library. And I realized how much I prefer to do fundraisers rather than straight events.

I say this in case any of you would like me to visit - I think there's a better chance of my fitting your event in if you could make it a fundraiser for anything that's important to your community. It could be the library, the local no-kill shelter, literacy, a family in need of extra money because of an emergency, Habitat for Humanity. Whatecver you decide. I wish I was of the stature that would bring in significant amounts of money, but every little bit helps.

Anyway, something to consider.

We're leaving early tomorrow for the 6 hour drive into Ontario. Going first to the village of Elora to visit Cousin Marjorie. (one of a few older women who inspired Ruth). Will try to blog from there, but I know Marjorie doesn't have internet. Might sneak away to a cafe.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Old fruit?

clearing, hot and humid, temps 29

We're home. How wonderful. Well, we're in the Montreal apartment, which is home too. Staying here for 2 days then driving to Ontario.

Flight on BA was happily might remember on our way over a week ago we were upgraded from World Traveler Plus to Business Class. Heaven. Well yesterday we were downgraded! Can you believe it? Went from World Traveler Plus (which is a small step above economy) down to economy - in the middle seat of the middle row. Poor Michael had a man in front (tiny man too) who not only put his seat all the way back, he managed to push it back even further. When I get to be Queen of the Woild airlines will change their seating...and everyone will follow my etiquette rules - or die. There was also a deeply disturbed infant three seats over who howled most of the way, while his father drank red wine, right from the bottle. Most sensible.

But we're home now. Rented a bunch of movies, got in our diet drinks and lunch with a view to getting into bed, eating gummy bears and watching movies. And then two brawny men appeared on our 8th floor balcony. A kind of horrible miracle.

Seems they're workers and it was time to work on our balcony. With a drill.

So much for our quiet, relaxing day.

Heard from Dolores Gordon-Smith today. She writes marvelous mystery novels set between the world wars. Seems she found my blog and had this to say about yesterday's post...

I mean, hang on a minute, old fruit. What d'you mean, your peringrinations at breakfast and your table-nicking was my fault!!!
It so was not. My manners are of the highest quality and I'm so squeaky-clean in this regard you could eat your dinner off me. (And all right, sometimes I look as if someone has!)

She's delightful.

Speak to you all tomorrow.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Hello, we must be going

sunny, mild, temps 21

lovely day - and we're leaving. a quick post just to say, in the words of Groucho Marx, 'Hello, I must be going - I'm here to say, I cannot stay, I must be going.'

Just had breakfast. Wonderful to walk in to the magnificent dining room and see all sorts of people we know. Wander from talbe to table just saying hello (I must be going). But we kept being seated at someone else's table. The hostess showed us to a table, we sat down and 1 minute later a befuddled man appeared with his plate from the buffet looking around. The waiter very quickly gave us coffee we hadn't yet ordered and orange juice, we hadn't yet ordered. We took it, then I caught the look which had gone from befuddled to a glare.

We'd not only taken his table, we were drinking his coffee and orange juice. Like the three bears. We apologised, offered to leave, but by then it was really too late.

20 minutes later we got up to go to the buffet ourselves and ran into Dolores who'd just arrived and we decided to put two tables together and sit together, which we did. Suspiciously soon after more coffee, orange juice and toast arrived, which we began to eat. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sight that had become familiar. Someone hovering with a heaping plate of buffet food, staring at us.

I smiled and tried to imply in my sympathetic look that it wasn't my idea to sit there - Dolores was at fault.

They left and found another table.

We're wondering if the same technique might work on British Airways. If we wander into First Class, take a seat, start eating the pre-flight canapes, will someone just sneer but let us stay? Perhaps not.

One of the great benefits of our around the world flight last year with BA was that we earned enough points to get us their platinum card, which gets use into the first class lounge (from there we have to cover our heads and skulk into the economy seats). What a lounge! Food, drink, leather chairs and sofas - showers even. We now try to arrive almost a day ahead since it's so much nicer than home.

Must be off. Taxi ordered for 10:15 - train at 11am to London, then express train to Heathrow from Paddington (switch for Terminal 4) - then check in - and the lounge.

For those of you in Canada, our wonderful friend Susan McKenzie has a special report tomorrow (Monday) in the second half of Anna Maria Tremonti's CBC Radio programme, The Current. You might want to check it out. We're hoping to take Susan for lunch tomorrow in Mtl.

Take care, be well - speak to you tomorrow

Saturday, 7 June 2008

A circle of friends

SUNNY, mild, temps 18

On hold with British Airways, hoping desperately the batteries on our cell phone don't give out before we confirm our new flight back to Montreal tomorrow evening...on hold...on hold...

OK - a couple of hours has now gone by. Not - thankfully - on hold the whole time. BA actually answered quite quickly and explained we can't check in on line because we'd switched flights. Were supposed to go to London tomorrow, but our housing arrangements fell through. So decided to return to Montreal tomorrow night...then on to Elora, Ont to visit Cousin Marjorie, then onto Book Expo Canada in toronto next weekend.

Clear as mud, as my Grandmother used to say.

Anyway - we had to switch flights and that didn't go down well with we need to do all that confirming at Heathrow tomorrow.

Once off the phone Michael and I went down for dinner. We've opted out of the CrimeFest Gala. Frankly I hate gala's. Not big on crowds to begin with, Michael doesn't hear well in loud places, and I find it exhausting...and we're already a little tired. So we just came back from a wonderful, peaceful dinner in the spectacular dining room of this hotel.

Apparently Cary Grant was from Bristol - though he was known by his birth name here (have just forgotten it) - and when he'd come back to visit he'd stay here. I can see why. It's lovely - and we have by now quite an aquaintence with hotels. And I have more than a nodding aquaintence with luxury. Michael could curl up in a sack and he'd be happy. I need (well, want anyway) Frette sheets and Molton Brown bath stuff.

For a conference hotel this is surprisingly luxurious. You'll be surprised to hear though I didn't pull my usual stunt and ask for an upgrade, or simply pay for an upgrade. I decided to just go with whatever the hotel gave us (convention blocked rooms)...and have been totally happy. Who'd have thought it.

Really, a marvelous hotel.

And have had a wonderful time at this convention. Have met the most fun people - starting with the 10 people we spent Wednesday with on tour, then a bunch of authors...Lesley Horton, Stephen Booth, Aline Templeton and Dolores Gordon-Smith. We all took Ayo out for dinner last night then spent much of today together in one form or another - panels together, had lunch with agent Teresa by the water together. Drinks after our last panel in the splendid bar.

Just a really comfortable, fun, warm group. And what a relief to be able to talk to them about first drafts, and word count, and titles and cover art and all the things I stress about. And find out they do too. And somehow we all muddle through.

The main theme of my fifth book (which emerged as I wrote) is belonging - and loneliness. And how devestating one is, and how blessed the other is. I can sometimes feel quite lonely at these conventions - even with Michael...and surrounded by other writers. I can get intimidated, and shy, and feel on the outside (placed there by myself, not deliberately excluded) so I know the difference between being 'in' and being 'out'. And how lovely and warm it feels to be in the circle. And one that happened so naturally - and wasn't formed out of desperation but we just felt right together.

I wonder if this is a kind of 'fox-hole' friendship...or the sort formed on cruise ships, then once at home port we never connect again. I don't think so, but we'll see, I guess. No matter the length, it was a great gift while here.

Had a very nice breakfast with Richard Reynolds, who is in charge of the mystery section at Heffers in Cambridge - and is very prominent in the British mystery/crime writing community. He's someone we met in april when I did an event at it was like meeting an old friend...and even more so after the breakfast.

On paper it made no sense coming here - the expense versus the book sales. But what an investment in so many other less tangible ways. But ways that are even more meaningful and real.

As you can tell, Michael and I have had a great time at CrimeFest in Bristol. Off to London by 11am train - then on to Heathrow. Fingers crossed the plane works out. I'll blog probably Monday from Montreal.

Thanks for coming to CrimeFest with us.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Food and fun in Bristol

sunny - god knows if it's mild or not

finally - a brilliant sunny day and we're inside the Marriott Royal Bristol hotel at CrimeFest. Oh well, there are far worse places. We're have a blast. Nice turnout - not perhaps spectacular. But Ian Rankin is here and Laurie King and the guy who writes the Dexter books.

Had a panel today on Location. Very interesting - everyone else sets their novels in various parts of scotland, including the spectacular Ann Cleeves, whose current series is set in the Shetland Islands. It was so intersting to hear them all describe where and why. Very moving too.

It made, also, a nice contrast to my books so we were able to talk about location and climate as separate characters in our novels.

Then had a hysterical lunch with Michael and three other writers - Lesley Horton, Dolores Gordon-Smith (whose books are set in the 1920s - between the wars) and Aline Templeton, whose books are set in Scotland. We laughed until I thought we'd all choke...mostly stories about rabid agents and ludicrious editors, and horrible book events. Makes me feel very relieved to know I'm not alone in all these ridiculous experiences and perceptions. Especially the story of the agent who says, 'As you know I have a photographic memory for books. Now, what are yours called again?' to her own author! Or the writer who agrees to make all the changes her agent demands - waits two weeks then sends in exactly the same manuscript, unchanged. And the agent proclaims it brilliant - so much better for her changes.

Not that I'd ever do that...

The Arthur Ellis awards were in Toronto last night...and congratulations to the winners!!!

Jon Redfern and RendezVous Crime – Best Novel for Trumpets Sound No More
Shane Peacock – Best Juvenile for Eye of the Crow (Tundra)
Dorothy McIntosh – Unhanged Arthur (Best Unpublished First Novel) for The Witch of Babylon
Leslie Watts – Best Short Story for “Turners”
Julian Sher – Best Non-fiction for One Child at a Time (Vintage Canada/RHC)
Liam Durcan – Best First Novel for Garcia’s Heart (M&S)
Mario Bolduc – Best French Book for Tsiganes (Libre Expression)

I'm so happy for all the winners.

I understand the evening was VERY exciting and we really wish we could have been there. It was fun to hear too that THE CRUELLEST MONTH was announced as having been the bestselling Canadian book at Sleuth of Baker Street. Thanks to all of you who bought the book, and to Marian and JD for shoving it on so many of you!

We're off for dinner tonight. Taking Ayo Onatade out for a birthday dinner with a few other people. She's lovely - one of the first people in London to be really kind to us, long before Still Life came out. She's one of the senior people at Mystery Women magazine, and does lots of reviews. She's also just a really fun person. So we're off to celebrate with her and Lizzie Hayes and a bunch of other people who heard about the dinner and want to come.

Tomorrow I don't have a panel until 4:30...get to hear others talk about the craft. Fascinating and inspiring.

Be well, and I'll report in tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A slippery situation

Mainly sunny, cool, temps 13

Having a very nice day. Went out with George Gamble, who's the regional sales representative for Headline in the West Country. From what I gather from George that's everything west of the River Jordan. Huge territory.

He took me around to sign stock and meet booksellers. He's wonderful. Very warm and friendly and very efficinet. Makes it look effortless - and we all know what goes in to that.

Then signed a couple hundred books for his to give to other booksellers we couldn't visit.

Back at the hotel we registered for CrimeFest - and met a whole lot of people including Lesley Horton, the president of the Crime Writers Association of Britain who joined Michael for lunch - but I had another, vital appointment.

A massage. Full body. Relaxation. With aromatherapy. Bliss.

And now I'm 'off'...well, as soon as I find Michael. He (and, strangely, Lesley) has disappeared. I need him not only because I live and die by him, but I also need money. To pay for the massage. I thought I could put it on the room, or pay Visa...but seems it's cash or nothing.

Happily, what with the aromatherapy oil, I slipped out of their grasp and came to the room to find Michael.

then decided to blog while hiding out. Most embarrassing.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Barely making the bus!

Mainly sunny, mild, temps 15

Wonderful day, especially compared to the rain we've been having here. Everything is VERY green. I may not be the first person to comment on that in England.

We're now in Bristol. Woke up in Bath - having arranged a taxi to Bristol. We were told it would take about 15 minutes since they're side by side. Well - not really. Took an hour. And we were to meet our bus tour. End up being 30 minutes late into Bristol, keeping everyone waiting.

Michael and I are, in many ways, complete opposites.

He's very patient, relaxed - deliberate. He's the tortoise.

I'm the hare. Impatient, I walk fast, leap to conclusions.

He makes me more deliberate - and while he takes longer to come to a conclusion (while I wait and fidget) he's almost always right.

I get him off his ass.

We're a good team - when we remember to respect and honour each other, which is the vast majority of the time. When we don't, well, it ends in tears.

So for me to be half an hour late was almost inconcievable. We have a joke in our family about my mother (now 10 years gone) that she'd pack, get her coat on and wait with her purse by the door 24 hours before having to take a trip. It wasn't all that far off the mark.

But guess who I meet in the mirror? The front hall mirror as I prepare for a trip 12 hours away? Poor Michael. But he's almost always late. almost missed more planes and trains with him than ever. Very stressful...and not just for me, but for any living creature.

It really is some jest of an omnipotent humourist that we've fallen completely in love. Like those odd relationships where a lion will fall for a volkswagon, the touching relationship our dog Trudy has with the sofa arm.

Unlikely - yet fulfilling.

Anyway, the tour, bless them, waited for us. this was a tour set up by CrimeFest for those of us registered. It started at 9am and we were back at the hotel about 6pm. Long day. (some buggers were late!) But what fun. We visited the fabulous Wells Cathedral. 400 statues around the outside, dating back to the medieval times and perhaps before. In fact, historians studying early armour have no actual examples of it - the only place they're depicted is in a couple of these ancient statues high on the outter walls of Wells Cathedral.

Then off to Glastonbury - what in some quarters is recognized as Avalon, as in the Arthur legend. In fact, the bones of King Arthur and Gweneviere are said to be buried at Glastonbury. Very old site - druid first (with a Tor) then Christian. History of both tolerance and intolerance. and horrible deeds. I'm more drawn to and curious about the pagan history, though sadly we didn't get much of that except gentle mocking. I'll have to return on my own one day.

Then finally a stop at the gardens of Stourhead. Stunning!!!! anyone who cherishes gardens will go nuts. They're an 18th century English garden designed by Henry Hoare. Up until this time most english gardens were very formal and rigid. He decided to create a lake, and grottos and flower beds overflowing and trees planted thick - for their structure, and colour and leaves. There are moments it's fall-on-your-knees gorgeous.

sadly we had to race around the 2 mile lake - only three of us chose to do the whole thing, but wow, was it worth it. If you yearn for peace, and beauty and serenity - come to Stourhead. Give yourself a of hours. come, as we did, mid-week before the crowds appear.

Now we're back in our latest hotel. tomorrow morning going out with George, the sales rep for Headline (my UK publisher) for this territory, to sign stock for a few hours. then CrimeFest begins.

Oh, yes - we had lunch with Michael Jecks - many of his Knights Templar mysteries are set in this area. He's terrific.

Anyway - off to bed. Hope you're well.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bath water

rain, temps 13

Not perhaps surprisingly, it's raining. pouring...but we still love Bath. It's a glorious city!

Went to the Roman baths today. I didn't realize they'd only been found and excavated in 1880. Amazing. They suspected they were there - but no one knew where, or for certain. Then a woman living in the centre of Bath complained to the city that she had warm water leaking into her basement.

An inspector went. Sure enough, she did.

He had the brights to call the Chief Archeologist for the area and he knew immediately what it was. But the whole place was built on. Private homes. But he convinced the city to buy up all the homes in the very centre of Bath, tear them down, and dig.

They were stunned by what they found. Almost perfectly intact Roman baths. The entire aquaduct system still working 2,000 years after being built!

the tour was great fun. We had those wands you hold up to your ear and press a number, and out came all these fun, interesting facts.

I was tempted to steal a couple and send them to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa to show them how it could and should be done.

In fact, I think we could simply use exactly the same tour. Ancient Roman Baths, modern Canadian parliament. Almost indistinguishable. A bunch of powerful men getting into hot water.

Then had a fab lunch, thanks to a recommendation from Teresa and Nancy yesterday. There's a bridge in Bath called the Putney's the only bridge in England that has shops on it. But down one side there're stairs - they're almost invisible.

'They're narrow, and slimy, and dingy,' said Teresa.

'And they're dark,' added Nancy.

There's a reason these two women (who adore Bath) aren't writing the tourist guides. But they sure know their restaurants. If you take those stairs they lead down to the River Avon and a tiny restuarnat called the Riverside Cafe, build into the stone wall of the bridge.

We had a wonderful lunch. Ordered Dandelion and Burdock brew to drink - then had to send it back because it was .5 percent alcohol. Not much, but too much for me. But how could you not love a place that turns weeds into drink?

Off to Bristol tomorrow morning and a tour of Wells and Glastonbury.

Thanks for coming with us to Bath - hope you've enjoyed it!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Taking the waters in Bath

rain, cool, temps 14

Most of today here in Bath was unexpectedly beautiful - mainly sunny and mild. But the rain moved in and now it's neither sunny nor mild.

Tons of people writing in about the newsletter give-away - which is a maple leaf pin I bought at in Ottawa at the Parliament Buildings - it's a collectors item because it's made from the copper roof that had been on the buildings from 1918 to 1996. Such fun to hear from so many people. Michael will do the draw in about a week.

Spent the day out in this gorgeous city. Met Teresa and Nancy (the copy editors for my books) for lunch at the Pump Room. Tasted some of the healing bath Roman waters. They're naturally warm - and naturally a little stinky. Someone had written to warn us - but we drank it anyway.

Not really all that bad!

The lunch itself was sublime. Love Teresa - and really, really liked Nancy. So grateful for the work she does on the manuscript to polish and make it better. And she's a wonderful, fun, nice, kind and smart person. So it was a real pleasure.

Then they took us all over Bath, into little shops and back alleys we'd never go into. Teresa wrote a book on Georgette Heyers Regency period in Bath - so she's a real expert. I'll tell you, she had us powering along - even holding up the umbrella with shouted instructions to keep up. Which we ignored.

Love the British papers. They're all agog here about Lord Snowdon and the affairs he had while married to Princess Margaret - one affair produced a daughter who has just been revealed. But an article we read yesterday was talking about Snowdon's background and said he came by this gallivanting honestly. His mother's name was Anne, and she was known as Tugboat Annie, because she went from Peer to Peer.

How can you not love a nation that does that?

Must run - dinner calls - and a hot bath.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

But will it melt the fuselage?

Partly cloudy, humid, warm - temps 25

We're in Baah-th. Phew. Just walked back through the gorgeous city after having Afternoon Tea at the Royal Crescent Hotel. Outside, in the walled garden. It was other-worldly. We were exhausted after the flight and train etc...but it was so peaceful back there. Sipping Darjeeling and eating cucumber and salmon and egg sandwiches, and scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves. Beside the roses in full bloom and foxglove - all the lush early summer flowers.

One of those moments of complete contentment.

It's been a long day, of course. Woke up in Montreal - caught 9:40pm flight to London - got a 11am train from Paddington to Bath. Then taxi to our hotel (not the famous Royal Crescent but one called Dukes Hotel - very nice. Perhaps just a little tired - so it's a good fit with us). Then Michael and I debated whether we should have a nap - it was 2pm - or push through. We decided to unpack and go for a walk - heading across Bath to the high tea.

What a beautiful city. I've never been here before. I didn't realize it's so small. It is, in many ways, like Old Quebec City. Both are Unesco World Heritage sites - because of their rich history and stunning, unique beauty. The architecture is completely different, but the feel is oddly similar.

So happy to be here.

Though we had the BEST flight. Can you guess what happened? Yes - an upgrade! I almost fell on my knees blubbering. We've given up completely on Air Canada and switched to British Airways for flights to London. So far after 25 years flying AC and not a single upgrade we've been upgraded on BA twice in a year to Business Class. Dear Lord - they almost had to call security to get us off the plane when it arrived. It's fabulous. Lie-flat beds. Need I say more?

Actually, the man across the aisle from me farted the entire way across the Atlantic but that could have happened in economy as well, to even greater effect. But this was bad enough. So pungent was the smell I was slightly surprised the oxygen masks didn't descend.

It reminded me of a story I heard at Malice Domestic about Jeffrey Deaver, whose dog pooped in the middle of a party he was giving and the fumes were so noxious it set off his fire alarms.

This man had a bit of the mutt about him.

But still, for an upgrade I was willing to hold my breath for 6 hours.

We're actually in the UK to go to CrimeFest, which is an annual convention for mystery writers and readers. Never been to it but I'm on two panels so it should be fun. It's down the road in Bristol and starts Thursday.

On our way back to the hotel we picked up some diet cokes, a Sunday London Times, a magazine on the Cotswolds, a salad and a sandwich. We're going to nest. And emerge in time for breakfast tomorrow and lunch at the Pump Room with Teresa, my agent.

Hope all's well with you! I have a funny story to tell you about the Audie Awards in Los Angeles, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Take care.