Saturday, 22 November 2008

Ornament winner - and Paris

Mainly cloudy, cool, temps minmus 6

What a fun day, so far...

Heading off by train to Quebec City...on Via Rail. I'm always a little surprised by how dull the terrain is. Very flat, not especially pretty...we hardly see the St. Lawrence river...but as we get close to Quebec we cross it, and that's quite spectacular. It's a wonderful train trip...I'm very lucky that my publishers send me first class so I got a lovely large seat to myself, with meals. And a chance to just stare out the window and daydream. Heaven.

Once in Quebec City it was 4pm and dark. Sun sets so early these days. Took a cab up to the CBC-Radio Canada offices on St. Jean, which is just outside Les Portes St. Jean - the gates through the thick stone wall into Old Quebec. There are three gates, of which this is one.

Jacquie Czernin had me on her 4-6 show. What a lovely woman she is. We worked together briefly before I moved From Quebec City to Montreal back in 1990 (can barely stant it that it was 18 years!!!). We had a great time on her show - chatting to the whole province.

Then Guy Dubois, the owner of La Maison Anglaise bookstore picked me up. He's an old friend and he and his wife Christine have a 2 week old daughter - their first. Gabrielle. Michael and I got her the softed little bunny rabbit doll. I forget how tiny and pretty little ones are. And Gabrielle is adorable...I met her later in the evening. But Guy drove me across town to my hotel.

Now - if you need to go to Quebec City - or actually the neighboring suburb of Ste Foy - you must stay at the Hotel ALT. It's a fabulous boutique hotel, all re-done, with amazing bathrooms, and ?TV's and lighting, huge high loft ceilings, massive rooms, comfortable huge beds. Perfect. It was all I could do to leave it to walk to the talk and signing. One note about the Hotel ALT - do not stay there if your interntion is to visit Quebec City - it's too far out. Ste. Foy is like Brooklyn ()well, not really - but in terms of distance to the city centre. I imagine most of the people at the hotel were like me - there on business. Very few tourists would choose to stay in Ste. Foy. Too bad because it really is a great hotel.

The talk mand signing was such fun. I LOVE the people at La Maison Anglise. They're the QC equivilent of Brome Lake Books in Knowlton. Independent, smart, beautifully and sympathetically designed by people who just love books. It a read community hub.

Rana Bose, whopse book is The Fourth Canvas, was also there. He read from his work and I bought 2 books! It sounds great. Then I had a chance to read. Loads of people - feels like old home week. Very fun and comfortable, and successful.

Back at the hotel by 9pm, in bed by 10pm - alarm at 6am - and off to the train station for an 8am ride back to Montreal, and the Quebec Salon du Livres...which is the book fair. Except this one, unlike any I've been to anywhere else, is open to the public...and lasts a week (with one day dedicated to schools). It's a madhouse...all these grown men and women on the literary equivilent of a sugar high. Racing from booth to booth to get books signed by old favorites, and meeting new was just buzzing. My signing was 2-3. Kim McArthur (my Canadian publisher) was there in all her glory. As was Taryn Manias of McArthur, and Debra Schram, a book rep who helped organize that Hovey Manor launch.

One of the very few disappointments in my publishing career - and it's quite a large and mystifying one - is that while the series is translated into all sorts of languages (including Estonian for heavens sake) it has no French publisher. I'm genuinely baffled. Anyway, one day perhaps.

The book is #10 on the bedsellers list this week so you'd think a French publisher (hello, Quebec is French!!!) might be interested. But apparently not.

But we had a riot at the Salon, signed loads of books, met lots of people.

Then hopped a cab, came home, re-organized clothing and bags and we're off to the airport in 45 minutes where again...oh yes...PARIS!!! Did I mention that before? Surely not.

We've decided not to take a computer - to make this a complete vacation. Will try to blog from Paris at least once, give you an update...but I hope you understand if it doesn't work.

Oh yes - the winner of the draw for the Three Pines Christmas ornament, designed and made by my fabulous assistant Lise is....London Kate! Distance notwithstanding.

Now, Kate - you need to give us your address. Please write it privately through the 'contact me' page on my website. Thank you and congratulations! It really is stunning.

Thanks to everyone who wrote emails and messages on the comments section of the blog. We'll have give-aways every now and then - and some through the newsletter as well and the website. Big one beginning on the website early in December, so you need to keep checking the home page.

Thanks so much - a bientot.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Quebec City

Mainly sunny, cold, temps minus 8

Quick blog - running off to the train station to catch the train to Quebec City for the event at 7pm at La Maison Anglaise. Beautiful, crisp winter day here. Just picked up the key to the apartment we're renting in Paris. Belongs to a friend here. It's in St Germain des Pres in Paris, right by the Luxembourg gardens. Heaven.

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Mtl for a signing at the huge Montreal Book Fair - called the Salon du Livres. 2-3pm signing. Then grabbing Michael and the suitcases and off to the airport. Hope not to get caught in traffic...there's the Santa Claus parade in Montreal tomorrow and Grey Cup - the HUGE Canadian football finals in the city this weekend too.

Lots happening this weekend.

Thanks for all your entries in the Christmas ornament draw! Will choose a winner tomorrow and hope to have time to post the blog before we leave.

Speak soon - have a great weekend!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Christmas ornament draw!

Mainly sunny, cold, temps minus 6

Wonderful day - Lise arrived at 9am to help us dig out from the office overload! All the stuff we'd moved from the loft-office in Sutton was still sitting in my study at home and Michael's office right next to mine. It looked like someone had turned the house upside down.

I reeeeally hate dis-order. I don't need everything all tidy - that would drive me crazy too. But after a point I find I get totally stressed in an environment that's cluttered. Our home can get like that. I love to throw things out and Michael, well, doesn't. So we've tried to compartmentalize things...his study can be as topsy-turvy as he likes, and mine is in whatever shape it's in. We try not to interfer in those areas. But often that 'mess' expands into the kitchen and dining room and living room - with mail and magazines and newspapers and books all piled up. I actually like a bit of that - feels comfortable and lived in and not too anal...but it reaches a stage with me where I just want to scoop it all up, put it in recycling and be shot of it.

We reached that stage at home about a month ago but our lives have been so hectic there wasn't anything we could do.

Until today. Glorious today...glorious Lise!

With barely a gasp she saw the disaster areas - the we rolled up our sleeves and unpacked boxes and bags - sorting into recycling, stuff to give to the senior's home for their sales, stuff to keep, and garbage. When in doubt I'd hol;d something up and Lise would ask, Are you ever gtoing to use it? No? Well, maybe someone else will.

Wise - very wise.

Lise also made a dozen Christmas decorations with Three Pines themes...each an original work of art, each designed to hang on the tree! I've signed a small card attached to each, and dates. So that each will become a collectors item.

Am taking two to Quebec City with me tomorrow. One to give away on t5he CBC radio show - Jacquie Czernine's 4-6 show tomorrow...and the other to give away at the event I'll be at tomorrow night in Quebec City at La Maison Anglaise bookstore, in Ste. Foy. I'll be there with another author - Rana Bose. REally looking forward to meeting her.

And I want to give one away to one of you right now...since you're so sup[portive and loyal, and have helped spread the word about my books.

If you leave a comment at the end of this blog saying you'd like the Christmas decoration I will ask Michael to choose a name at random - then ask Lise to mail it to the winner! If you can't - for whatever reason - leave a comment, then just go to the 'contact me' page on the website and leave a message there. I'll give it a few days.

We're in Montreal now...after Lise got us all sorted out, and Tony came to get Maggie and Trudy, Michael and I put the cases in the car and drove to the city. I signed a stack of books at the McGill bookstore where Kim (one of the managers) gave me her copy of a book she adored...AN EXPERT IN MURDER by Nicola Upson. Kim knows I adore Josephine Tey, and in this book Ms Upson has taken the bold move of making Josephine Tey the detective. Imagine that.

Will try to blog tomorrow before heading to Quebec City by train. Lovely journey. 3 1/2 hours...very relaxing. Take care, and don't forget to enter the draw for the handmade Three Pines - dated and signed Christmas ornament!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Maggie fine!

cloudy, light flurries, temps minus 2

Hi there. A quick blog today. maggie's just fine! Yay - well, not perfect but vet says the swelling is what he expected and not to worry. It's not a crisis. Thank heaven. And she doesn't seem in pain. Phew.

Great day - finished polish and will email manuscript for THE BRUTAL TELLING to Teresa tonight.

Busy day - 2 loads of laundry. Nancy coming because my desktop is frozen. helped Tony take Christmas lights off a massive tree out front - we're putting them on the honeysuckle instead. Now have to run over to the guest cottage where the water system seems to have failed! Michael there now trying to figure it out...Tony there...but apparently I've put the manuals somewhere. Oh oh.

If I don't come back you know they've killed me.

Talk tomorrow - I hope.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A gentle day

flurries, cool, temps minus 3

Odd, but doesn't feel nearly as bitter as the other day when the temperature m,ust have been the same. And it was sleeting. But as always it's the wind that's the culprit.

Lovely to wake up to a layer of fluffy snow. Had already made an appointment to have the winter tires put on this morning, so off we went. Now, the snow might have looked beautiful, but it was surprisingly treacherous underneath. The car was sliding all over the place, and difficult to stop. Happily we're quite used to this sort of driving in Canada...still, it's never pleasant, or comfortable. But we made it just fine. I'm always mostly worried about the people driving toward me. Had a friend I worked with in Thunder Bay years ago who was driving to southern ontario over Christmas with her kids and they were killed in a head-on collison on the highway. A truck lost control in the other direction and hit them. I was quite young and up until that moment thought I was immortal. After that I became mortal. And others became threats. Not sure, honestly, even if you see the truck losing control ahead of you there's much you could do anyway on a snowy highway. Except pray. I wonder where the love of God goes in that moment? Perhaps I should pray I never know. Reminds me of that searing poem from the first world war by Sigfried Sassoon when describing crowds cheering for young men departing for the front - Sneak home and pray you never know
The Hell where youth and laughter go.

Well, enough of this. It remains a beautiful, gentle day. We're home for now. Have just wolfed down a sandwich then looked at the plate and wondered where it went. In 20 minutes we're off again with Maggie to the vet. I dread it - always imagine the worst - but I think it will be just fine. He might give us stronger medication for her swelling. But her tail still wags, and she hops around the pond and gobbles her meals (like her Mom). She has Michael's ears, but definitely her Mom's eating habits. Life seems to still hold a lot of pleasure for her. And while we can see her personal truck starting to veer out of control on the highway ahead we think it's still a distance off.

Hope to finish the polish this afternoon - but if too tired I'll do it tomorrow. Feels so good to be at this stage...almost makes up for all the agony earlier.

Be well and will chat tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Spare tires - the rubber kind

flurries, cold, windy, temps -3

chilly day but dressed warmly and at least made it around the pond twice today! Gary came, poor guy - to fix a leak in our roof (it's always something) and was press-ganged into helping me load the winter tires into the car. Have an appointment in Cowansville at 8am to have them put on.

Breakfast in Cowie while that's being done, then off to do some errands. And in the afternoon we've made a vets appointment for Maggie. Her leg is badly swollen again, so want it checked out before we head out.

Fingers crossed.

Polishing going very at page 503...less than 30 pages to go. Hope to have it finished by tomorrow night. That would leave Wednesday for washing clothes for the trip. Pulled out the Time Out Paris and drooled. Michael ordered our Museum Passes so we're just going to go Museum Mad. Yum.

Will write again tomorrow...hope you're well. Hope all your animals are healthy too!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A chilly but pleasant day

blustery, light flurries, bitter cold, temps -2

It feels far colder than it is - I think it's the wind. Took the dogs around the pond this morning and it was fine, then tried at noon and only got as far as the water, tossed the ball a couple of times, cried, poop! Pee! at them, gave them a cookie then scaddadled back home.

To the fireplace.

To Pat's homemade parsnip soup, like velvet.

To the warm laptop - and THE BRUTAL TELLING.

Am now at page 399 - out of 530. Need to finish by Thursday when I head to Quebec City for an event at this fabulous bookstore there called La Maison Anglaise. That's at 7pm on Friday. Though I have a CBC interview at 5pm. Then back to Montreal the next day to do a signing at the Salon Du Livres - the massive Quebec bookfair. That's on Saturday from 2-3. Then have to rush home, pack and head to the airport for the evening flight to Paris.

Can hardly wait, as you might imagine.

But between now and then I need to finish this polish. It's going well. Infact, I'm really enjoying it...both the book and the process. As those of you who have been reading the blog for the past year know - there have been times with this book I've just wanted to throw it, or me, off the roof. It's been, alternately, brilliant and a pile of crap.

So hard to tell the difference when it's the censurous little voice in my head doing the telling.

But now I see the shape of it, the structure, the characters. I see them and feel them, follow them. I can see the bumps that need smoothing, the slow parts that need zipping up, or taking out. But it really is fine-tuning at this stage. Phew.

Had a wonderful parcel waiting for us when we got home was a quite large box and inside were two cocktail glasses, heavy, elegant, and etched with three pine trees, then underneath were the words, Three Pines.

They were - and are - stunning. And inside was a card from Donald Pile and Ray Williams. They're award winning celebrity travel columnists...syndicated in gay publications across North America. They'd heard of Three Pines and written to tell me some of their readers had told them about the I sent them a couple. And now we're making tentative plans to meet in Maine in mid-June. Who knows, but they sure seem like extremely kind, very interesting people.

As you can see one of the very unexpected and delightful gifts of having books published in meeting people I would never normally meet. And seeing how much kindness there is out there.

Am off - the bath calls, and I for one can never resist.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Out of the Fog

Dense fog, mild, drizzle temps 10

I want to sincerely thank Lee Ann for her lovely, courageous blog. I left it up for a few days to let as many people as possible read it. Thomas, by the way, is the young man on the left of the photograph.

Had a busy week since I last spoke to you. Had a fun event at the Westmount Public Library Wednesday night. I used to live in Westmount, which is a city within the city of Montreal. It's quite Anglo - famous for it really. Thouigh, happily, those lines are blurring. But it was particularly moving for me to speak there since I used to sit in the library doing research, when I only dreamed of writing.

Then I hopped a train next morning for Toronto and went to a fund-raising event organized by the amazing Janet Sommerville, a teacher at Royal St George's Academy. Every year she gathers 6 authors and organizes a signing at Ben McNally's bookstore in TO - so that people can buy great signed first edition books as Christmas gifts - and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Ryerson Reading project.

Next morning I spoke for an hour to some of the older students at the school itse;f. They're studying DEAD COLD. Wonderful questions they had - and for a room full of 17 year old boys, they were very respectful. Indeed, I spoke there last year and came up with the character of Elliott, from THE MURDER STONE based on one of the young men at that school.

Took the train home and arrived 8 last night. On the train I asked the man ahead of me not to put his seat back, since I have quite long legs...I asked very nicely and did say putting the seat back partway wouldn't be a problem, but nal the way might be. He was so kind, and didn't budge his seat. As we neared montreal I gave him a signed first edition of THE MURDER STONE as a thank you - and realized how good it felt to be able to do that. He said his wife reads loads of mysteries, so with any luck she'll enjoy that. But I was sincerely grateful to him. His name was Andre, and his wife was Barbara.

We're still in Montreal...heading bacvk to sutton. Friends - Bal and Linda Mount - are staying at the guest cottage this weekend...we're going over there for coffee and dessert tonight. Then hope to finish the polish on THE BRUTAL TELLING. Need to get it done before we head to Paris next Saturday. What a nice sentence that is!

Take care, hope you're well, and thank you again to Lee Ann. Beautiful woman.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

This is why we remember

Since Louise invited me to guest blog, I’ve been thinking about how we have spent the four years that have passed since the death of my son Thomas in Iraq on November 11, 2004, Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day here in the United States. Coping with the sudden death of a beloved child is difficult enough but the fact is he died in combat in a war that most do not understand. It leaves us in an ambiguous position with people wanting to be respectful while still expressing their opinion. Our decision on the night that he died was that we wanted Thomas’s memory to be honored, not used by anyone to make a point about the war. We have since discovered that even asking that his memory be honored can be a tricky proposition but memorials have become our cause.

Thomas’s death left me with a thirst for information about life and death in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Thomas’s unit remained in Iraq, I read the StrykerNews website daily, praying for the safety of his fellow soldiers, only once finding the dreaded press release announcing the death of a soldier whose name I knew. This website has a tribute page for the fallen of the various Stryker Brigades, and even now I go back to read it at least once a month. New names are added from time to time, and occasionally someone posts something new about Thomas, even four years later. I am comforted when I find that someone else has remembered him.

Ultimately, the quest for more information has turned into a quest for memorials, evidence that people remember our soldiers, all of them. Whenever I visit a new town, I search out the local war memorials. Sometimes they include names of the fallen, sometimes they have scenes of battle or service. These memorials are particularly numerous in the U.K. In addition, I have developed a sixth sense in looking for references to war memorials in popular culture. Picking up any book at random, I will find that our protagonist is celebrating Remembrance Day in Australia or looking at statues of fallen soldiers. Maybe a year after Thomas died, I read a travelogue by Tony Perrottet, Route 66 AD. In the course of his tour of the Mediterranean region, Mr. Perrottet stops in Turkey to visit the monument where his great-uncle, killed in battle during World War I, is listed. This evidence that even a man who died young and had no children is remembered two generations later reassured me that Thomas’s memory would not be lost either. When I came across Louise’s description of the window in St. Thomas’s in her village of Three Pines (The Cruelest Month), also honoring men who died during the Great War, I thought “Yes! This is why we remember.” And also I thought, “This is how we can remember.”

I’m not expecting a national memorial to the soldiers of Operation Iraqi Freedom any time soon, but a local one would be nice. In the meantime, I content myself with these more subtle memorials. They keep reminding me that we need to keep reminding our community of the sacrifice made by our sons and daughters. Thank you Louise, and thank you all for remembering.

Lee Ann -

Monday, 10 November 2008

How lucky we are

snow, cool, temps about freezing

Woke up to snow. Not a lot, and by afternoon it had mostly melted but love lying in bed and looking at it drifting down. Hard to get out of bed those mornings. Dogs LOVE the snow, and so far it isn't deep enough to hamper them.

Had today to ourselves...I spent it in sweats by the fire, editing. Really enjoying THE BRUTAL TELLING. Am at page 221 - not quite halfway through (it's double spaced so not nearly as long as it sounds.)

had wonderful news...great review in Publishers Weekly of A RULE AGAINST MURDER (which is the title of book 4 in the states.) Here's an excerpt...

Murder interrupts Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his wife’s annual summer holiday at Quebec’s isolated, lake-front Manoir Bellechasse in Agatha-winner Penny’s intriguing, well-crafted fourth mystery (after 2008’s The Cruelest Month)....Seamless, often lyrical prose artfully reveals the characters’ flaws, dreams and blessings.

And, speaking of THE CRUELEST MONTH, Robin Agnew at Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor - a real force within the publishing community - has put THE CRUELEST MONTH in her list of Top 10 books for 2008!!! Yippee.
You can go to her site to read the complete list. I'm in amazing company, including William Kent Kruger, marcus Sakey, Cronelia Read, Chris Grabenstein and others. It's a wonderful guide to what to read, if you've run out of ideas.

Michael and I are off to Montreal tomorrow. I'd like to remind those of you in Montreal that I'll be giving a talk at the Westmount Library Wednesday evening at 7, then am off to Toronto, and doing a signing at Ben McNally books on Thursday at 7pm.

Tomorrow is a special day. Remembrance Day here in Canada. also known as Armistace Day and Veterans Day.

I've asked Lee Ann Doerflinger to guest blog. She lost her son, Thomas, in Iraq. He died on November 11th. I'll be keeping her blog up for a couple of days...beginning tomorrow. So we can all count our blessings - for people like Thomas and their sacrifice. And that it hasn't happened to us. Though I do realize Lee Ann is far from alone. Perhaps you too have lost someone. If so, please know, our hearts break for you.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Bill Richardson

overcast, drizzle, cool temps 8

This is a normal November day - gray, chill, a little rain. But had a fabulous lunch! I tell you, Bill Richardson is just the most wonderful man. Funny, warm-hearted, never a bad word about anyone - no sting in the tail. Just a really smart, kind man, and terrific writer. Cheryl and I and about 60 other townshippers went to the Auberge in Knowlton to hear him read from his latest book, OLD FATHER WILLIAM AND HIS WELL ORDERED WORLD - it's a kind of bathroom book filled with list of people who had bad things happen to them while in a sheeps costume. A list of people born on a kitchen table. A list of famous people who only met once. All told from the perspective of an elderly man who has taken to his bathroom and decided (with the help of meals-on-wheels never to leave).

It's hilarious. I bought 3! Great Christmas gifts.

Then came home and saw, yet again, hunters trolling the backroads...looking for deer. A neighbor saw one yesterday driving, and pointing a rifle out his window. Dear God. I drove slowly ahead of one truck with the intention of honking at any deer in a field, to drive it away, but fortunately I didn't see any.

But when we talk in the woods at this time of year we need to wear bright colours and make sure the dogs have bright collars on.

the downside to country living.

Am heading off to the fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate and more editing. Talk tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

bubble, bubble, tea and brownies...

Rainy, mild, temps 13

Am running a bubble bath so I can't write long. If I hear Michael screaming (generally the signal the bath is full) I'll have to sign off.

THE MURDER STONE is moving up the bestsellers list. It's now number 2 on the Gazette list!

Having a quiet day at home in front of the fire - editing. Intersting and fun part of the process, having been away from THE BRUTAL TELLING for almost a month. I can see places where it can just be smoothed a little, clarified a little, made more subtle. I'm at page 130 now and have stopped for the day. A little tired...we're going out tonight so I also want to relax in a bath. And I want to write a new scene...a fun scene I think/hope. Nothing long, but I do want it to be precise, so I want to approach it with a fresh mind.

Off tomorrow with Cheryl for lunch at the Auberge in Knowlton, to hear Bill Richardson talk. He's a writer from Vancouver, who is also a broadcaster on CBC Radio. I find given my exerpience on book tour I really love supporting other writers...I know how scary it can be. And this also seems like fun.

Off to bathe. Hope you're having a relaxing weekend. Talk tomorrow.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Hooray for Captain Spalding...

cloudy, rainy, mild, temps 13

It continues very mild for this time of year in Quebec. Did you see the huge storm in South Dakota? Wow. Those early storms are killers...snow tends to be wet and heavy. But - have to say - if you don't have to go out in it, and everyone you know and love is safe - they're great! I LOVE snowstorms. Absolutely nothing in the world like being at home, in front of the fire, with a hot chocolate and a good book while the snow piles up outside.


Last night was a lot of fun at McGill University's bookstore. Kim - who organizes events - was lovely and gracious and effective. Very important, that last. And Anna Asimakopulos was gorgeous and articulate - a great listener...steered the conversation, make the think, was smart and thoughtful. And the audience asked terrific questions too.

When it was over I scooted out of Montreal and was back home by 9pm. Michael's feeling better, as is Maggie. What a relief!

This morning we went to Knowlton for breakfast - cafe au laits, scambled eggs and melted brie - bacon for Michael. Dropped off some organic vegetables to Pat, who brought us over some home-made apple crisp yesterday, and some soup for Michael. So kind.

Then we got our flu shots at the local clinic. Great to have that done.

Terrific news from the UK. The ever picky Time Out London gave THE MURDER STONE a terrific review - sandwiched between reviews for Michael Connelly and Stephen King. Here's an except in which they highlight something no one else has...

'...but it's not all shudders and suspense: a terrifi scene of a child teaching an adult to throw sticky biscuits at the manoir's ceiling offers giggle-inducing comic relief.'

And had a call from Greg...he's a travel agent specializing in Africa. Michael's 75th birthday is coming up in April and he's talked about wanting to go on a safari one day. So I figured - well - what better place to wake-up on your 75th birthday than in a luxurious tent in Botswana? With me?

We're just beginning our research but it was such fun to see Michael all excited after his conversation with Greg. I think in trips like this - once in a lifetime - the planning is as much fun as the event. And Michael sure seems to be having fun.

Life here is good. Worked on the book this afternoon. Teresa gave me some notes...for instance I'm so familiar with the characters she pointed out I tend not to really introduce them anymore. So she asked me to go over the manuscript one more time and try to read it as though I was new to the series. An interesting exercise.

Must be addicted to the news now.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

stunning day

beautiful, sunny, warm, temps 20

What a glorious day. We're breaking records here, and everyone in the village has a smile on their faces.

There are two reasons for this - and only one is the weather.

Watching the election last night, and the beautiful concession speak of John McCain, and the powerful, poetic speech of Barack Obama I was reminded of - what else? - poetry. And John Donne in particular. That poem where he says no man is an island...and that 'each man's death dimishes me.'

Well, the opposite is also true. Each person's life enriches us. No one was diminished last night. Listening to Senator McCain, then President-elect Obama - watching the faces, the tears, the rapture even - I knew we were ennobled by those men.

What luck. Like every other reasonable person I know it won't be all 'skittles and beer' as my grandfather might have said. But for today this is a glorious island we find ourselves on. Together.

Michael's still sick in bed. We were supposed to go to a dinner and book club event tonight, but I'll go alone. Will make roast chicken for the sick one. Tomorrow I'm off to an exciting event in Montreal - at the McGill University their cafe. I love this store, and the people who go there. I gave a talk there in the spring, and this time the wonderful Anna Asimakopulos - the host of the CBC Radio programme Cinq a Six (Saturdays at 5pm)- will interview me. So if you're in the area...5:30 pm tomorrow - drop by. You also get to meet Anna - who is brilliant. Much more interesting than me.

And the MRB - the Montreal Review of Books - gave THE MURDER STONE a fabulous review.

The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene...we realize that there were plenty of clever clues along the way.

So that's pretty fun.

Be well - and talk tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


partly cloudy, very mild, temps 17

unusually warm today. lovely. Michael's a little sick - is spending the day in bed. Just a cold, but he's tired too. On the very good side, Maggie's a lot better! Her leg isd less swollen and she made it all around the pond this morning. Didn't think we'd see that again. She still can't use her leg, and never will again, but she appears to be without pain, or it's at least managable. Phew. So the spectre on the hill has receded.

We spent yesterday afternoon at the notary office in Knowlton, signing over 50 acres of our property to the local conversation authority, so that no one will be able to ever build on it and the wildlife habitates will remain unspoiled. It was definitely a case of enilightened self-interest. Everyone wins. We get privacy, unspoiled countryside and a tax break and the community gets more green helps the environment and our own quality of life.

We could never have afforded to buy the land and donate it if it wasn't for the books - and you supporting thank you! You share the credit (but we keep the tax breaks!)

This morning I arranged for the Euros for our trip to Paris later this month then headed back in to Knowlton to meet Tim Belford for lunch. He's an old colleage at the CBC and a terrific guy. After lunch he taped an interview with me. Then I met Laura for a coffee. She's a very successful and creative local playwright who wants to adapt one of the books for the stage. So we discussed it. Very fun.

Got a couple of Cafe Inn pizzas for dinner, then home to Michael.

We're both almost sick with excitement about the election. Can hardly wait for polls to close. I don't know how you Americans stand the wait...aren't you just bursting? I realize people from both sides read this blog, and this sure isn't the place for politics, so I won't tell you who I'm rooting for, though I suspect you can guess - but I know people on both sides are so passionate. It really is thrilling. And deeply moving to see people lining up for hours to vote. Wonderful. Have to say, I have respect for both candidates ability to keep fighting - what stamina. I couldn't do it, that's for sure.

And, whoever wins, history will be made tonight. And we get to witness it.

Be well - deep breaths - and I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Thank you

cloudy, cool, temps 10

Snow still sticking around...spent most of the day in bed. Was going to just veg, watch a movie, read. But had forgotten that the publisher had sent hundreds of book pages to sign. 600. So I watched School of Rock (hilarious movie - love Jack Black) and signed my name.

Thank you so much to all of you who wrote about my last blog. I want to tell you that we think Maggie is a little better, with the adjustment to her medications, but we also know that might be wishful thinking. So it's 'watchful waiting'. And some healing thoughts. Thank you for all your kind thoughts. Your messages were deeply meaningful to Michael and me. It think it's impossible to overstate the importance, the comfort, that comes with knowing you're not alone.

The other issue many of you wrote about - and chose to email me privately and personally - was the issue of being mocked and belittled. And how hurtful and insidious it is. Again, it was comforting (though perhaps that isn't very generous of me) to know that I'm not alone in that either. How many of us struggle with it? With the guilt of being made to feel we're to blame, or being irrational, or over-sensitive...or my personal favorite - the ones who make us feel ashamed and accuse us of being bullies because we have the audacity to stand up and say something.

Thank you, thank you for your personal stories. I'll be responding, if I haven't already, to all of you. The other thread that ran through some of your responses was the genuine guilt of knowing that after being in a negative, cynical, harsh environment it began to rub off...and the horror of realizing we'd turned into those sorts of people ourselves. I know I've been guilty of that in the past.

When I made a huge change in my life about 15 years ago and decided I was becoming the sort of person I wouldn't choose as a friend, a woman gave me some wonderful advice. And it's simple. And it's something I try to follow. this is what she said.

Choose your friends wisely.

I know I can be impressionable...less so as I grow older, but it can still happen. If I hang around with selfish, self-centred, complaining, entitled, negative people (many of whom are also very smart, fun and funny, bright and full of laughter - very attractive) then there's a chance I'll become like that. If they gossip and say mean things about others, before long I might too.

So I decline that temptation. Now I try to set myself up so that I'm more than likely to be the kind of woman I respect. And I do that by having friends I respect. Choosing to be in the company of women and men who are kind and compassionate, who are tolerant and don't need everyone to agree with them. Who respect a dissenting voice but have the courage to voice their own opinion...not pick a fight, not with a view to swaying the other or debating, but simply stating what they believe. And leave it at that.

And you know what - there are tons of you out there! And I'm so lucky to have found you.

Thank you.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Maggie's lessons in kindness

Mainly sunny, cool, temps 3

We're home! Phew. Did a wonderful signing this afternoon at the Sutton bookstore, Livres D'or. Place was packed. I wasn't expecting that since, frankly, everyone knows they'll eventually see me in the produce section of the grocery store anyway. But still, they came out and it was a wonderful party.

It feels so great to be home. But I'm tired. Have felt like curling up and crying most of the weekend. Had the IFOA panel yesterday. Met an old CBC colleague, Marc Cote before hand and we got caught up. That was fun.

Then did the panel. It was the worst panel I've ever been on. Now, granted, I'm a little tired and stressed - but i still know the difference between a panel that was acceptable and one that wasn't. In fact, I just came off 2 of the best panels I think I've ever had - one at Magna Cum Murder and the other at Bouchercon. And I've done about 50 panels now - and moderated quite a few in my writing career, never mind as a journalist.

I suspect from the audience POV it might not have been a disaster. But I know what the potential was. 4 mystery authors...most of whom are thoughtful and have a great deal to say, and a desire to say it. And yet it was flat at best, and insulting at worst.

My problem was much more personal. At one stage I almost got up and left. I was so angry I could feel the tears. I was asked about the main character and how I chose his particular qualities. This is something I've thought a lot about. This is pivotal to the series, to the tone, the approach - to why the books are bestsellers and have won awards worldwide. It doesn't just happen. I was 2 sentences into it when one of the panelists made a snide comment. The audience laughed. I stopped - addressed it briefly - then continued. At which point someone else on stage made a sarcastic comment. The audience laughed. At that point I stared at her and stopped talking.

The panel was a series of half interesting comments from 3 of the panelists (I include myself) interrupted and punctuated by unhelpful, unkind, sarcastic, cynical comments from the other two on stage.

Honestly. It was incredible. As a former CBC Radio host, where interviewing people and moderating panels was my job...under often adversarial and difficult conditions, I know the difference between questions and comments designed to elicite information - to make people comfortable, to get them to open up and really think and contribute. And questions and comments designed to make the speaker look clever at the expense of another person.

I know the snide, easy sarcastic comments weren't meant to hurt me personally. They popped out, probably unthinking. But as I said at one stage, in an attempt to stop them, I'm weary of cynicism. In my bones. Deep down. Not because I'm undefended against it, but because I've been cynical in my life - mostly at the CBC. And I know how facile it is. How easy, how cheap. How tiring. And how unhelpful. If you really want people to talk, don't insult them. Don't go for the cheap laugh. Listen. Be kind.

Anyway, all this to say, you win some, you lose some. This one I lost. And almost lost it. And perhaps I should have. The times I've felt the worst in my life is when I've failed to stand up for myself.

Well, at the very least, I won't be in the company of either of them again. Life's too short. I really do choose to be with people who are kind and supportive. It might seem Polyanna-ish. I'm sure to some it does. Even naive and childish. So be it. It would have seemed that way to me years ago too. Before I turned my back on all that and chose to be kind. But I didn't choose to be weak.

I had a similar experience in terms of insulting behavior when we were last in London. I stood up for myself, was told I was wrong and ungrateful and should not only be sorry, but thank them. I did. And have regretted it since. That was a mistake. I'd hoped that if one of us could rise about it and show good sense and forgiveness, it would stop things from deteriorating, and the others would see sense too. It didn't work that way. So, again, forget it. I will now do what I want - not what they want. Unless it suits my needs too. And I will not quickly choose to be in their company. I'm professional enough that if I have to I will, but it won't be out of choice. And it won't be for long. One of the perks of being 50 and not needing to be insulted and diminished.

Was a time when I felt I had no choice. I needed the job and the bullies won. Now I have a choice. And I choose not to be in the company of people who behave that way. Never again.

Back home we had some good news and some bad. The good news is that The Murder Stone has moved further up the Bestsellers list!

The bad news way overshadows that. Maggie - our 10 year old Golden with the bad leg - is worse. Her whole leg is swollen now and she's not getting around. We've decided that one of us needs to stay home with her now. We upped her pain killers and put her back on steroids, and lay down with her and gave her love and 'high fives' and rubbed her tummy and she licked us. But her tail barely thumped. Though she managed dinner and Michael helped her outside.

We'll do what we can. We just don't want her in pain. And it's so hard to tell with these dogs. They're so stoic. I'm afraid we're heading toward a terrible decision, but one all dog owners and lovers eventually have to make.

Anotehr reason to be kind to each other. And supportive. Isn't life hard enough?

Be well.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Fabulous Reviews!

mainly sunny, milder, temps 12

Great news! book 4 (A RULE AGAINST MURDER in the US and THE MURDER STONE in Commonwealth) has just received a prestigious STARRED REVIEW in the Kirkus Reviews.

This latest treat in the series (The Cruelest Month, 2008, etc.) will keep fans salivating in anticipation, savoring each delectable morsel and yearning for more.

I'm thrilled!!! As well, it received a rave review in today's Globe and Mail...

Four stories and four seasons on, Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series gets better with each book. Penny has found her perfect formula with the carefully constructed puzzle plot in the perfect village with the classic cast of characters. The fact that it's modern Quebec is the icing on the petit four....Once the puzzle is set up, it's impossible to put this book down until it's solved. Devotees of Christie will be delighted by Penny's clever plots and deft characters.


I had great fun in Collingwood and Thornbury Libraries on Thursday, though Ann Ledden (of McArthur and Co) and I got lost on the way to the Thornbury Library. In the middle of the country. We stopped and asked a road maintenance man who was very patient and kind and gave us directions... turn left at the rock-cut and right at the first swamp.


Living in the country myself I'm used to directions like that. When you get to the cows, turn left. Then another left at the huge oak tree. However, I do recognize that they can be confusing. When I returned to the car with these directions Ann stared at me as though I was kidding. I repeated them, louder, but she remained unconvinced. And now slightly frightened. I tried to calm her by passing on his last words as I walked away 'You can't miss it.'

Being a literary type Ann recognized famous last words - and often the very beginning of a murder mystery or horror book.

We found the rock-cut just fine but then ended up discussing the difference between a pond and a swamp and missed the next turn. We called the library and Jennifer there talked us in to Thornbury. Just a few minutes late.

In Collingwood Janey, the librarian, took us out for a fish and chips and bread and butter pudding dinner. Yum. Then I did the talk there and we were home by 11pm.

But didn't sleep well...there was a persistent thudding in the duct work of our hotel room. We complained every day and every day someone came up to 'fix' it - but as soon as they left the thudding came back. Finally - belatedly - I asked that we be moved...and so now we're in a small but quiet room. Phew. hbad a great sleep.

Today - Saturday - I'm meeting a former colleague, marc Cote, for coffee at 11 then doing a panel with John Brady, Leonie Swann, Tom Rob Smith - and moderated by Siri Agrell. Strong panel - really looking forward to it. Then we scoot over to the train station and catch a VIA train to Montreal. Arrive home about 9pm.

Drive to Sutton tomorrow morning and have an event at the local Sutton bookstore - wonderful place called the Livres D'or - at 2pm tomorrow.

Will try to blog tomorrow with an will be so fabulous to be home. We miss our friends - and can't tell you how much we miss the dogs!