Wednesday, 31 March 2010


overcast, a little rain, temps plus 3

A little chilly. But the big news (besides Markus) is that the temperatures will be soaring to 20 degrees or more this weekend! and sunny. It should be a spectacular Easter long weekend. Yay.

And Markus has arrived. He's amazing. Very calm, very gentle. Huge. I fed him and apple and he bit it into three pieces from my hand. Very gentle and delicate.

He's resting now. But we're all delighted and relieved.

One of our friends - Sandra - who sometimes posts comments, wrote a few days ago to tell us about her wonderful dog, Ernie. Because they now have a baby, Flora, they find themselves in the heartbreaking position of having to find him a new home - preferably in Ontario or Quebec.

I asked Sandy if she could send me something, just in case one of you might have a home for him. Well, she just sent this link to her blog because she wrote about him today - with that's much easier than me trying to figure out how to get stupid ole photos on the blog. Funny - I could do it once...but just spent about an hour and couldn't figure it out. so Sandy was kind enough to send this Ernest -

On another front - We saw the skunk! The bugger was just waddling around our back garden. In the middle of the day. Clear not at all afraid of Trudy, or us. And why would s/he be?

Can you imagine if people could squirt each other like that? The office would be a whole different place. As would divorce court. Of course, the world might be a nicer place, if our bad behavior had such immediate and smelly consequences.

Wrote two thousand today. I was looking ahead to my schedule in April and realized it actually has quite a few events. Many of them social, but still events. So I really do need to not stumble now.

It's quite fascinating what is happening with the story. In some ways it feels as thought i'm running in place, because the time isn't moving forward...but the events are. Pacing is always interesting...can't all blast along, but neither can it lag.

Having breakfast tomorrow with Danny and Philip to discuss the Knowlton Literary Festival this summer. then back home to write. Friday looks free to just write. Saturday two of Michael's sons are arriving to celebrate Easter. That'll be huge fun.

And hoping to go for a ride on the weekend. Not on Markus...Jana said she'd take the first turn. Michael said he might even go for a trail ride, but probably not until later I'm not sure if he meant later in the summer or later in life. He told me the funniest story about his first, and last, time riding. he was a teenager and the horse took off back to the barn. With Michael clinging on and yelling, 'Whoa'. the horse went not just to the barn, with michael still on him, but into his stall. For the next ten minutes, until someone found him, Michael just sat on the horse in his stall.

It was no one's finest moment. Michael hasn't felt fondly toward horses ever since. But we might change that. Later.

Actually, he seemed quite taken with Markus, who was very calm and didn't seem inclined to kidnap Michael.

Don't forget to check out Ernest! He's adorable.

Hope you're have a good day...speak to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


overcast, showers, temps 4

Just out of a wonderful bubble bath. It's the one of the things I miss when we're in our Montreal apartment. The bathroom is very small - compact I guess. Fab shower...but small bath. At least, small for me. And I'm so spoiled by our huge tub out here, which I practically live in. Actually, we should use it as a tax deduction since I do a great deal of thinking in it.

the biggest thing we miss is Trudy. But now we're back and she's with us...feels great. Doesn't smell great...but the skunk aroma is more a suggestion than a hammer.

We drove out to the country this morning after breakfast. Lise arrived and we discussed some work things...including these wonderful bookplates we've been working on and that she had made. I've signed a few hundreds and now Danny and Lucy have them. They're selling them, along with the cafe au lait mugs. If I knew how to put a photo on this, I would. In fact, I wish I could put the photo of Markus I have. Might try to figure it out.

But there will be a photo of him on the April newsletter. As well as a photo of the new bookplates, if you're interested. If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter you can through the home page of my website.

He's not on the refuge site because he isn't actually with him. He's come from Toronto. We got an email to say he's just left Toronto, will arrive at the refuge around midnight, have a few hours rest, then head down here...arrive early afternoon.

We're all very excited. To be honest, we sort of think of ourselves as fostering him, since it's possible there are better 'parents'. People who know how to ride and will give him all the training and exercise he deserves. Lise knows someone who might be interested...and Jana, our fabulous neighbour who'll be boarding him - knows someone who might want him too. We're finding out a little more. He was, as we heard, a racer. Actually born and raised in Kentucky. He actually sounds kind of amazing.

We're so excited about him...and I find myself getting quite anxious at the thought someone else might adopt him. Even though I know it might be for the best for him. As you've probably gathered, our lives are so packed already we barely keep our heads above the press of details and needs. But I find myself resistant to not keeping Markus.

But we'll see. Not worry about it now.

Wrote 2,000 words today. Wow, was it tempting to just say...oh, I'm tired...let's just take a day off. But fortunately I didn't listen! But I did fuel my determination with chips.

Someone mentioned that it is a long way down if you off a horse who is 16.3 hands high. And I believe that's quite true. Fortunately, after a lifetime eating gummy bears, I bounce.

I'll let you know what happens tomorrow. Very exciting.

Monday, 29 March 2010


rainy, cool, temps 2

Not sure it's appropriate to say Happy Passover, given the nature of the holiday, but I do want to mention that first seder tonight, and the rest of these important days in the Jewish calendar.

Michael and I had a terrific day. Rose early and were out the door by 6:45. headed to downtown Mtl, for breakfast, then an 8:30 appointment with the eye doctor. Everything's GREAT! phew. Another appointment in 6 months...the longest we've gone between eye appointments in years.

Then off to the prostate doc. waited almost 2 hours in the waiting room. But we always do.

I always hold my breath at these appointments - for worry. But everything was great. PSA normal. Everything else normal.

Double phew. (A medical term)

Then we walked about half an hour through Montreal to our accountant's - Frank's - office in Old Montreal. It's tax time. always feels great to get that done. And now home.

Pooped today, for some reason. Decided not to write, but instead to get caught up on a bunch of details. We're heading back to Sutton tomorrow. Not sure what we'll have for dinner tonight, but I have an!

oh, by the way, if you want to check out the horse rescue network that we're getting Markus through, here's the website:

Talk to you tomorrow...

Sunday, 28 March 2010


overcast, rain and sleet on the menu. temps plus 2

Well, we got tricked into wearing our huge winter coats out to breakfast today, only to find it was actually quite mild. Everyone else walking around in spring-type jackets. And're in boots and parkas. At least I left the skunky one on our verandah. That would have completed the image.

And now, when we come in to Montreal, not only will we almost certainly be smelling of eau de pepe le pew, we'll be trailing horse manure. I'm ready for my close-up!

Well, plans for Markus are moving apace. Seems, as Marjorie and others have said, he's a retired racehorse. Thank you for telling us that! You'd have thought we could have googled OTTB ourselves, but preferred to guess. Oye, That Terrible Battle-ax... Our Two Tubby Bottoms... Off To The Booze.

see, it could mean any number of things. But I agree Off Track Thoroughbred is most likely when discussing a race horse.

But, frankly, we can see that he might not have been the most successful race horse. The description of him says he can walk, trot and canter. But it does not mention gallop, which would be an advantage in a race horse. Can you just see him trotting out of the gate? Amazing he lasted as long as he did. However, if that's his approach to life he'll fit in just fine with us. We'll get him a sofa, a diet ginger ale, a croissant and put Animal Planet on the TV...he'll be indistinguishable from Trudy, Michael and me.

jana, our saintly neighbour who has horses and has agreed to board Markus for us, has some questions for the rescue people, but she and I talked just now and agreed none of them was a deal-breaker, and we'd get him out to us (her) and if there're problems, we'll deal with them later.

And - get this - My Assistant Lise spent ten years grooming horses and riding them. Her husband Del was practically born on a horse...and they themselves had horses until their lives just became too packed. I didn't know that about Lise. So more and more this just feels fated.

And to hear from some many of you that you have, or had, horses is comforting. And a little disconcerting. It means I'm unlikely to convince you that OTTB means, Oh That Terrific Book. I only hope I can convince myself!

Wrote almost three thousand words today. Slow to start...each work plunked down, but picked up more and more speed. Quite an interesting, tense, scene. I realize I love to write scenes that on the surface are relaxed, pastoral even, but that crackle with suppressed energy. It's not about two people chasing each other across roofs, it's about a verbal and mental cat and mouse game. Two people sparring across their wine and cheese. Baiting each other, thrusting, hiding, attacking. With words and looks. Tense, subtle.

Very fun to write those scenes.

Need to write the April newsletter. Bye for now - and thank you SO much for all the support, with the book and with Markus.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Bells of Heaven

mainly sunny, cold, temps minus 5

Not as cold as yesterday, but pretty chilly. We're in Montreal - just spent the past hour wrestling with the laptop. Last time we were here I totally messed up the internet connection. Wireless. Had forgotten the password and wanted to connect the new MacBook...sooo, in an effort to do that, somehow I managed to erase the correct settings in Michael's laptop.

I told Michael I'd done it, but I don't think he quite believed me. Happily, he uses the desktop I've decided to right the wrong, and fix his laptop. And the fact I'm writing this is evidence it worked! I'd feel like more of a genius if I hadn't screwed things up to being with.

But the big news (I know, hard to imagine bigger than that) is that Michael and I are in the process of adopting a rescue horse.

His name is Markus. He's five years old and ridable. 16.3 hands high. An OTTB bay gelding.

I have to admit, I don't understand much of what I just wrote. Our friend and neighbour Jana, who will board him, says 16.3 hands is huge. You basically can see the curvature of the earth when you're on him. And OTTB bay gelding? Well, I know what a gelding is. And I know what a bay is. but OTTB? Michael and I tried to figure out what OTTB could possibly stand for. Off Track Betting? No, not enough 'T's. Could the TB stand for Thorough bred?

What I do understand, from my friend Sharman who lives in Montreal and volunteers saving horses, is that Markus needs a home. By Wednesday. Or else.

We contacted friends and asked if they knew of anyone who could help. And then, it suddenly hit me. I ride. haven't for a while but it sure would be fun. Jana lives just down the road - walking distance. If she could take him, we could pay.

Bless Michael. When I mentioned it to him there was just a slight pause. And that look. One I've come to recognise. A cross between perplexed and supportive.

To be fair, when we woke up we didn't think we'd get a horse before noon.

But it only took Michael a few moments to smile and say it would be fun.

Rescuing Markus just seemed right. Frankly, we just received the advance for the next three books and we thought - what better way to spend it than saving a horse? If you've read The Brutal Telling you'll know why it is particularly meaningful.

To ring the bells of heaven. How lucky we are to be given the chance.

Friday, 26 March 2010

And then a miracle occurs

bright, sunny skies - temps minus 10

Yikes - minus 10! I have long underwear on again! And thermal socks. I would have worn the big parka to take Trudy around the pond this morning except it was skunked and is now banished to the porch. Not certain what that will do.

One of my favorite cartoons shows two scientists. The older one is reviewing the younger ones work. There are formulae on one side of the chalk board, a gap, then formulae on the other. And in the gap is written, "And then a miracle occurs". The older scientist says, 'I think you need to be more specific.'

I often feel like that in my life. Either a miracle had occurred - like falling in love, or being published - or I think maybe one will the coat, by dint of being left outside, will suddenly be de-skunked.

when people ask how I got published I honestly have difficulty answering them. I mean, I know how it happened, the steps I took. Sending in endless letters to agents and publishers. Getting rejections, or more often just silence. Trying and trying. Editing, editing, re-writing. And finally entering the CWA Best Unpublished Mystery novel contest in the UK, and being shortlisted.

That was the break. But lots of better writers have done exactly that and haven't yet found a publisher.

when emerging writers ask that question I know how they're feeling. Like there's a magic formula...and then a miracle occurs.

And, honestly, that's pretty much how it felt. How do you ever explain success, when better people who work harder don't seem to find it?

I take some comfort in believing everything happens for a reason. And there's a reason all this happened to me at 50 and not 25. I know how lucky I am. I know a miracle when one happens.

difficult day writing. Lots of fear. Fear this book is crap. Fear I can't do it. Fear I'll give up. But I plowed along and worked and worked and erased and erased. Very frustrating erasing a thousand words because the scene just ins't going anywhere. And then - finally - I got it. I knew exactly what the scene needed to be about.

Some days are easy. I've been lucky so far with this book. A great deal of it has just poured out. But not the last few days. They've been a struggle. But best to keep plugging. And eventually, something will hit.

We're off to Montreal. Michael, bless his soul, stayed up late doing the them finished. so we'll do that while in Montreal too. Tony is here to pick up all the dog poop that has appeared on the lawn.

Talk about a miracle! That it magically appears, but even more, that Tony is willing to make it disappear.

Had a huge amount of fun speaking to the the Lakeridge Book Club in Florida last night. wish I'd been there in person.

Did I mention it's MINUS 10???

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Maudites Pacing

overcast, cool, temps plus 2

Difficult day writing....which is odd since it was a blissfully quiet day. Not appointments, not interruptions. But it occured to me last night, thinking about the structure and pace of the book, and where I am - that there was a problem. One important reference, and character, hadn't appeared yet. And I'm about a third, almost halfway through. This element could, I guessed, come in later, but it was probably better if it appeared earlier.

So I thought, and considered - not particularly worried since I knew something would occur to me. And it did. I realized there was a spot early on when I could slip in a paragraph or two. That's all it needs.

But this morning I needed to find that spot, and couldn't remember which chapter. Once I put it in, I realized a few others might naturally comment on this element a chapter or so later. So I had to hunt for that.

Once found, and inserted, I went to the new writing. Fortunately I enjoyed reading yesterday's pages - with some shaping - but as I wrote more I began to worry more. About pacing mostly. And whether the story is moving along as it should. My books, as you know, will never be thrillers. They have, intentionally, a more thoughtful pace...but they also speed up - then become more relaxed. Not sure if I'm describing this right. I never think of my books as slow moving...but there are different layers...and sometimes it zips along, a page turner. Other times are meant to be quieter, more thoughtful.

And clues need to be scattered in the right places at the right time so that they're natural, and almost inivisible.

Thank God for editing!

I feel a lot better about putting the stuff in that I did today - that was right. But there are just so many issues and elements and details at this stage in the book that it feels like tip toeing through a flower bed planted thick and budding. Don't want to squish anything by mistake.

It think it's just a particularly stressful part of the book...the middle third often is. It also feels like moving through fog. I think the point is to just keep going and hope it's forward.

But wrote 2,000 words then Michael and I went into Sutton to do some mailing, buy some drinking glasses for the city apartment and had a terrific late lunch. Then home.

Minotaur is mailing me the final page proofs for Bury Your Dead. Will need to read and see how the edits are. As well, my friend peter Black, of CBC in Quebec City was SO kind to read the manuscript to let me know if I went wrong with anything in the city. I did. Small things, thank God. Got the name of a micro-brewery beer wrong...Maudites Biere. And a few other things of that level - which is actually very important. And because he's a producer he also has an eye for he caught a few of those.

As well - my friend Lili sent back her copy of the manuscript for Bury Your DEad. her job was to read for French mistakes...of which there were a few, but those are being fixed.

It always amazes me the details involved in publishing a book. The huge amount of work people put in. And how much depends on the professionals, but also on friends.

Doing the book club tonight...writing tomorrow morning...then off to Montreal tomorrow around noon. This too is part of our desire to have more fun. We adore the Montreal apartment...and the city! So we pack up the laptops and head in. work in the morning and play in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


overcast, snowy, temps minus 2

I'm not kidding. We woke up to snow on the ground...not falling and melting, but actually piling up. What a very funny (and not in a good way) week. An 's' week. Stinky, skunky, snowy - and another 's' word comes to mind...

Actually - it's not that bad. In fact, it's quite attractive. Driving into the bank today Michael and I were remembering that it almost always snows later in April too...sometimes even early May. Now, that's a problem...because the leaves are out on trees and it bows and often breaks them.

As we walked into breakfast in Cowansville this morning we laughed with the guy shoveling snow and he said, 'Well, it is the sugar time'.

Quebec is like that. A lovely, often poetic society. Describing early spring, which can often be messy and muddy and unpredictable and often wearisome as the 'sugar time'. When it means is the time when maple sugar is made, when the sap flows.

We had our first flowers blooming by the house. Crocuses. Deep purple and yellow. Now covered in snow, but still visible.

Got home by noon - after stopping at Edwards feed store in West Brome for moth balls. Lise told us that if we spread them around the front porch where the skunk is living it'll leave. Apparently moth balls is their kryptonite. We wanted to spread them before the poor skunk had its babies. Tony says little skunkettes are about as cute as any living thing - unless they're under your front porch.

So, fingers crossed she leaves.

The house is smelling less like skunk. We've also - at Lise's suggestion - lit candles in the mud room - site of the most intense stink. Pat just dropped by and thought we were holding a seance. In the mudroom.

Tragically, the elliptical machine is in there - so I don't think I can exercise until all the smell is gone. We might have to re-consider the mothballs. That skunk has come in handy...

Wrote a couple thousand words today. One scene has ended up being quite unexpectedly complex and problematic. So I've found myself going over and over it, adding lines here and there. But also got about 15-hundred words into chapter 10.

The wonderful Mary Jane Maffini called writing a first draft like having a daily colonoscopy. I thought that was one of the funniest - and most truthful - things I'd heard about writing!

After finishing yesterday I went over the final edits for the novella I wrote for literacy. The final edit had come in, so I read over them and made notes. Then sent it back. The novella's called The Hangman and lots of other Canadian writers are also doing novellas, including the fabulous Maureen Jennings, Gail Bowen, Joy Fielding.

Tomorrow is quiet...just writing. Yay! Except for a call in the evening to a book club in Florida.

And, I have to say, I was beyond thrilled to get a comment on this blog from one of my favorite writers ever - Deborah Crombie. Hi Deb. Now there's a great writer. And a lovely woman. We shared the most fun panel I've ever done...three mystery writers, Deborah, Rhys Bowen and me - at Bouchercon two years ago. No moderator, just us at the front, talking. Wasn't that fun, Deb?

Be well everyone. Talk to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Still Stinky

rain, rain, more rain, and...rain. temps 2

Blech. Pouring rain for most of the day. Our front lawn and driveway is flooded. Still, I need to remember this is normal at this time of year.

The skunky smell permeates the house! All night I kept trying to pretend the overpowering smell was just really, really strong coffee. That a skunk had peed into. There was really no escaping what it was! Thankfully Deanna - who would normally come to clean next week - agreed to come this morning. We warned her what had happened. And she came anyway!

We headed out for a birthday breakfast with Joan. Thank God the skunk stink hadn't stayed in Michael's car!! Hate to have to owe him one. Breakfast with Joan was very fun. She runs the local meditation centre - a sort of elder statesman of Sutton. She also happens to be our friend Gary's mother.

We then went over to the pharmacy to store up on peroxide...'cause it was pretty clear good old Trudy wasn't quite skunk free.

We got home with half an hour to go before Lise arrived for a meeting. And Deanna was still there (we'd sweetened the pot by giving her a bag of chocolate easter eggs). The place smelled MUCH better.

But it was time to jump in the shower with Trudy. We mixed up the magic peroxide potion (Michael's sister Carol wrote to say at the rate we're going we might have a wonderfully clean, but very white, dog! I think she might be right) then off we went, enticing Trudy into the walk-in shower with treats. poor Trudy - her mother's daughter. Betrayed by her stomach.

I went in too and we lathered her up. The trick, apparently, is to pour the stuff over her, work it into her coat - then wait ten minutes. At exactly this time Lise arrives. Trudy and me nakes in the walk-in shower - like museum exhibits. just standing there. Waiting. Lise waited downstairs but suggested Michael needed to take a photo. He actually came up with a camera!

I suggested he needn't take a photo!

Then we rinsed off...and I think Trudy actually does smell better. or, I smell worse.

After our meeting with Lise I was just sitting down to write when my sister in law called from Regina. Hadn't spoken for a very long time and they have lots of great news. It was such fun! But I have to admit, by the time I'd hung up, after an hour, I was tired. Sat at the computer, wrote 500 words and realized I was fried. It was late afternoon. the day seemed to have slipped away.

part of me was frustrated and felt robbed. But then I realized it had been a wonderful, wonderful day. filled with friends, and family - filled with wonderful people. Productive but also fun. It was life. Our lives. Which are full, even without the writing.

When I'm writing a book I can become tunnel-visioned. focussed only on that. And I'm of two minds about that. I believe the reason I can write what I do is because I am disciplined. And am not easily distracted. I need to be very clear about what I need to do. Writing, for me, is hard. And I'm always, always tempted to do anything but. And so, being distracted is a huge danger for me. But so is being blind to other parts of my life. The great gifts offered to me, of community and friendship, marriage and partnership.

So, as I write, I struggle everyday trying to find that balance. To be honest, i know I'm getting much, much better about writing, and enjoying myself. And part of that is remembering too, that writing is hard work, but it's also a privilege and a joy.

Have more fun! My mantra for the year. Who'd have thought a stinky dog would help teach me that? But then again, why not? Maybe she is rubbing off on me.

Monday, 22 March 2010


rain, snow, sleet, temps 2

Well, it finally happened. Trudy got skunked. Which pretty much means Michael, I and our home got skunked. And the car.


The day was actually going very well. Long day writing, but it went well. Was on a roll - did almost 3,000 words then stopped about 2:30 - tired. The plan then was to take Trudy out, walk around the pond, get the mail, do the blog, answer some emails, do some chores then have a long, hot bath.


We got around the pond, got the mail and Trudy and I were heading for home when she suddenly too off for the side of the house. Yelped. Then came running back, shaking her head and foaming at the mouth.

I was extremely worried - didn't think it was a skunk but thought she might have gotten something that perhaps poisoned her. Didn't know know what - but she was very upset and, as I say, foaming.

Then I smelled it.


It actually didn't smell like skunk. it smelled very pungent, very musky. But not the classic skunk. So at first I thought it was something else. I was wrong. And - I made a few stupid mistakes! Like taking her into the house and washing her mouth out with the kitchen. Not carrying that the water was going all over the kitchen area rug.

Now I care.

then I took her into the mud room and started washing her. - Trudy of course kept skaking - spraying skunk water all over. Including me. We finally - and way belatedly - called Pat and Tony who gave us the magic anti-skunk formula:

1 pint peroxide
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of dishwasher liquid

The problem was we only had the soap. So we put trudy in the pen out back and I jumped into the car and headed into town. About halfway there I started smelling skunk in the car. The new car. The new Mercedes. Which Michael loves more than life.


At the pharmacy a whole lot of people wanted to help me find my stuff...and leave.

Then off to the post office - and again, express service. Hmmm. I plan to speak to Lise about developing a skunk spray designed for impatient people. It's gonna be big, I tell ya. Huge.

Driving home I decided I needed to open the front windows, then the back. Desperate to get rid of the smell before Michael got into the car tomorrow morning. I was about 5 kilometers from home, all the windows wide open.

then the rain started. And the sleet.

when I got home it was upstairs into the shower, with Trudy...and me. Both getting hosed down. And you know what??! The magic formula worked.

Of course, now the rest of the house stinks. Trudy's the sweetest smelling thing in it.

Such is life in the country.

Off to breakfast tomorrow with Joan to celebrate her birthday. Then Lise is coming over for a meeting, here at World Headquarters. Then writing tomorrow afternoon.

God, even sitting here in the TV room blogging I can smell skunk.


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Whistling along

snowing!! quite heavily - temps zero

What a riot! So typical of Canada in March. Anything can happen, and does. We can swing from plus 20 to minus 10 in hours. Go from brilliant almost summer sunshine to what's happening outside our windows...almost a snow storm. Yikes.

I used to be quite frantic about those shoots of spring flowers tricked into coming out too soon. But after ten years (yes, I'm that fast a learner) I realized they survive a snow like this just fine. The problem comes later - if there's a snow or hard frost when they're actually in bud, or blooming. Then it kills them.

I think there might be a life lesson in there. The garden is full of them.

Thanks for your comments about bears. yes, around here they're black bears not grizzlies. Not normally dangerous unless one of two things happen. You get between a Mom and cub, or you surprise them. Which is why when you go riding in the woods you put little bells on the horses. Or when you go walking it's a good idea to carry a whistle, or sing, or do something that makes noise.

The bear stick would definitely be a last ditch effort. I suspect the bear would simply use it as a tooth pick.

Having two lovely, peaceful days in a row. To just write. Bliss. We sit in front of the fireplace, drink cafe au lait and eat toasted, buttered hot cross buns. Yum.

I'm now swinging wildly from worrying the book will be way too long, to worrying it will be over too soon - be way too short.

Michael keeps reminding me it doesn't matter. not at this stage. Just write and don't worry. That's what the second and third drafts are for...shaping, changing the structure and pacing. Taking out and adding scenes.

And he's right. I just have to remember that. Just write as well (or good - or goodly) as I can and worry about structure later. It sounds a bit like the Scarlet O'hara School of Creative Writing. Tomorrow is Another Day.

My God, the snow is really coming down! but what do we care? The buds will survive, we have plenty of firewood, and hot cross buns. Perfect.

hope you do too.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Happy Spring!

overcast, mild but damp, temps 7

Nice first day of spring. Snow is fast disappearing. Grass - etc - fast appearing. Yesterday, before Derek and Cathie arrived at the cottage I took Trudy over there to make sure everything was fine. We walked through the woods between the homes, along the path. First time since fall. Wore rubber boots, and needed them. it was a mixture of sodden earth, mud, temporary rivers and grainy snow.

But, wow, was it beautiful. Very earthy. As was Trudy by the time we got back.

Love this time of the year. Michael made it around the pond for the first time in months. Still ice in the pond. No sign of the moose we've had in past years. Hope it's still on the property. Their territory is huge though...many miles. Even more kilometers.

And the bears are waking up. I keep trying to remember to take the 'bear stick' - but keep forgetting.

Had a fun dinner last night with Cathie and Derek. They're off today or tomorrow to the nearby monestary to hear them sing gregorian chants...and to buy chocolate and cheese.

The writing is going well. I'm actually quite surprised and relieved. One of the things I realize I enjoy alot is knowing what needs to happen in a scene, but not knowing when I sit down in the morning how this will happen. So I get to choose how it's revealed. Always a surprise. And when my choices work it's thrilling. When they don't, well, you can imagine how it feels.

Not a good night's sleep last night. But Michael, dear one, let me sleep in. Woke up to the smell of coffee and the sound of kibble hitting Trudy's bowl.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Happy first day of spring!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Thank you!

mostly sunny, mild, temps 12

A perfect spring day, on the eve of spring.

Yesterday was great fun. No biting or making strange...not even me. The students were respectful and full of questions. Wish I could remember what they asked, but I've forgotten I'm afraid. They were good questions though - about characters, and how long the stories are. Lots of groans when they heard my books are generally 120-thousand words. But I took your advice about telling them I have all these imaginary friends in my head, and village. We talked about what they like to read.

More than one said - especially the boys - that the book Diary of a Wimpy Kid really turned them on to reading.

I have to say, I was deeply impressed. I had them write first lines to a murder mystery, advising them the body generally shows up there. And they went to town. I actually thought there'd be loads of gore and midnight shrieks. But they were actually atmospheric without being cartoonish.

It was fun. Thank you so much for your help, and the advice to ask them questions and draw them out. That was brilliant, very useful.

When I'd finished Michael was waiting outside with Trudy - and the news we had to return to Montreal. We'd left an important bag at Chez Nick, where we have breakfast! Thank God someone found it and turned it in. Didn't steal it. Phew!

So off we went. We got very lucky again. it was only 2pm - so we hit the Champlain into Montreal just before rush hour...and got to Nick's. Picked up the bag...and scooted across the bridge just as it was beginning to get congested.

We were back home by 5:30.

I was pooped so after feeding Trudy I crawled into bed with a bowl of cereal. Read and watched TV. Which is why I didn't blog yesterday. Nor did I get a chance to write.

But I did today, and discovered that I had failed to save all of chapter 8...and so lost it all! Fortunately I hadn't written all that much and knew what I had to do.

A cheap reminder to always, always save, then save again.

I must say, in seven books, this is the first time I've done that. And I hope the last. And it sure might have been worse. And I got a good start on chapter 8 today.

We have Derek and Cathie arriving to stay in the guest cottage for the weekend. We've never met Cathie, but Derek is my great friend Pat's brother. pat and I worked together in Winnipeg. And Derek and I dated briefly but quickly realized we were better as friends. He eventually left winnipeg to get his law degree. It comes as a huge surprise to realize Derek just passed his 60th birthday! I knew him when we were both so young. And haven't seen him since.

But they're coming to stay, and we've invited them for dinner tonight. Then, as we told them, they're on their own. God bless the guest cottage!

Speak to you tomorrow - thank you again for the advice re: speaking to kids.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


mainly sunny, lovely day, temps 10

We're in Montreal and it is a picture perfect day. Sunny, mild. Everytime we come to our apartment here, close to Greene Ave in Westmount, we are reminded how much we love it! Montreal and the apartment.

Though had a disconcerting experience last night. At 10:45 we turned the lights off and suddenly heard a piano playing. It went on for a while. This morning I went to speak to the apartment management about it...not really sure if we heard right. The management people weren't in - but I spoke to the doorman who confirmed there's a person two floors up with a piano. Then while we were talking someone else came by and said - Oh, that must be ____________. She used to live above us and moved to your end of the building. Thank God! She plays at all hours and won't stop. Since she moved it's been peaceful.

Yeah - for some.

Now we've got her banging away at all hours.

The doorman suggested we call the cops on her...but I think we might keep that little treat as a last resort. We'll see how it goes. Fortunately we're not here all the time. I can't believe others haven't complained...and perhaps they have. We'll find out from the manager, Donna.

And, speaking of Donnas - I had lunch today with Donna Nopper - my publicist at Hachette Canada, who represents the new publishers in the UK. She flew in for the meeting and we went to the Bistro on the Avenue. Great meeting - very productive.

Also did a taped radio interview with Sharman Yarnell of CJAD.

Did my writing this a section where counting the words isn't very helpful since there's a lot of re-organizing happening. But as chaotic as the manuscript is at the moment I'm feeling very, very good about it. Heading down a fun road. Will see where it goes. I generally know better when I read over the completed first draft and get a sense of pacing and structure.

As you might gather, my process is to way over write, then winnow down.

A piece of great news is that The Brutal Telling has been nominated for the Evergreen Award, by the libray system in Ontario. Here're the details and other nominees...

The 2010 OLA Evergreen™ Award Program Nominees have been finalized!

TORONTO, ON – The Ontario Library Association and official Wholesaler, S&B Books, are excited to reveal the short-listed nominated titles for the 2010 Evergreen™ Award Program, which is part of the Forest of Reading™. All nominated titles are available on the Forest of Reading Program page of the OLA website, which you can visit at They are also listed below:

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny, Publisher: Headline
Burmese Lessons, by Karen Connelly, Publisher: Random House (hardcover), Vintage (paperback May 2010)
Come, Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant, Publisher: Knopf (hardcover), Vintage (paperback March 2010)
February, by Lisa Moore, Publisher: Anansi
The Heart Specialist, by Claire Holden Rothman, Publisher: Cormorant
The Mystery of Grace, by Charles de Lint, Publisher: Tor
Old City Hall, by Robert Rotenberg, Publisher: Touchstone
Oonagh, by Mary Tilberg, Publisher: Cormorant
Small Beneath the Sky, by Lorna Crozier, Publisher: Greystone Books
Underground, by June Hutton, Publisher: Cormorant

“We are looking forward to even more participation this year,” stated Shelagh Paterson, Executive Director of the Ontario Library Association. “It is about enjoying reading without any other obligations – aside from voting which the readers love doing.”

The voting for the Evergreen™ Program takes place during Ontario Public Library Week in October and the winner is announced in November. Every year the winner attends the OLA Super Conference in February to receive their Award and meet their fans from across the Province. The Evergreen Award™ program was introduced at Super Conference 2005 for adults of any age. It gives adult library patrons the opportunity to vote for a work of Canadian fiction or non-fiction that they have liked the most.

As you can imagine, I'm over the moon about this! To be chosen out of all the fiction books published in Canada is huge. And I'm thrilled. Soooo - for all of you living in Ontario - get out and vote...often.

We've ordered the pizza. Have rented Precious and The Informant. Not sure which one we'll watch. Probably The Informant since I'm not sure Precious is a gobbling pizza movie.

Back to Sutton tomorrow in time for lunch and meeting the kids at the Sutton Elementary School. But first, before we leave Montreal, we have Tara's ashes to deliver to Bal, Linda and Bethany.

And had some more sad pet news...quite devestating really. The German shepherd upon whom Gamache's Henri was based died. Henry was only six years old and had a short but terminal illness. Poor one. Poor parents.

Tough time for dogs! Tough time for dog owners.

I hope your pet is doing well. Looking forward to getting home and giving Trudy a hug - though I suspect she'd prefer a walk.

Wish me luck at the school! How old are they when they stop biting?

Monday, 15 March 2010


overcast, very mild, temps 12

Really, astonishingly mild. Almost warm. Doesn't stop us from still sitting by the fire every day. Writing. It's one of my favorite things on earth. And one of my least favorite. Depending on how the work is going.

This morning it felt like my feet weighed a thousand pounds...lugging them into the living room. I just didn't want to write. I'd tossed a lot last night...thinking about this new, unexpected, direction the book has taken. Not comfortable with it. Having to wonder if my discomfort was because it was a stretch - daring - difficult even painful - but right. Or if the discomfort came from knowing, instinctively, it was wrong.

Toss, turn. Toss, turn.

I finally decided it was wrong. As soon as I came to that conclusion it felt better. This morning over breakfast I talked to Michael about it. He had some insight and a great idea. So that felt wonderful. But still - I just didn't want to go to work today. I thought though, if I don't what will I do that's better? Watch TV and eat gummy bears? And I realized there was nothing I would really rather do.

Once again, it was just the fear talking.

so I sat down anyway - and am very happy with today's pages. Am at 27-thousand words, more or less. About a quarter of the way through the first draft.

Went into sutton after that - to pay taxes and do some mailing. Then exercised at home - did a load of laundry - Pat came over with a recipe that needed copying.

Oh, congratulations to Alan Bradley, who won the Dilys award! Given out this past weekend by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Very well deserved!

We're off to Montreal tomorrow. Breakfast in Cowansville then into Montreal. Michael has a noon lunch with a friend and I'll settle into our apartment to write. Wednesday I'll be meeting my publicist for Hachette Canada for lunch - she's flying in from Toronto to meet and discuss the books and marketing. Then will tape an interview for Sharman Yarnell's show in CJAD.

Coming back to Sutton Thursday in time to speak to students at the elementary school as part of the Literacy Project. They've invited me for lunch first. I was laughing about the dreadful cafetieria lunches when I was growing up - but they said the Sutton Elementary School had won awards for the best meals in the province! Healthy, tasty, popular and inexpensive. for instance, today's meal is grilled chicken panini with raw vegetables and fresh fruit. On Thursday when I'll be there for lunch they're serving Baked Salmon with lemon, New potatoes and Bumbleberry muffins.

the meals cost five dollars. Amazing. And apparently the kids love it. Have made the transition from junk food, canned veg, and fries to this very happily.

Well, off to watch Fantasy Homes By the Sea. Nice escapism. Hope you're well!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

tick tock

rainy, blustery, cold, temps plus 2

Blechy day. But not nearly as scary as what's happening along the east coast. Frightening. All that rain, and wind and power outages. I know some of you live in the path, the centre, of that storm. I hope you're OK.

Here it's just a cold, wet day. Windy last night. We had dinner at the guest cottage with Bal, Linda and Bethany. We told them all about your sympathies and good wishes, after losing Tara. They were very moved.

By the way, time to move the clocks forward. Last night. Very good thing no one considers this blog their go-to place for news, or even information.

Still writing away. Some unexpected twists and directions...and at least one unexpected theme. But have decided to see where it takes me...follow it and see if it works. With these intuitive things, i find, they either are brilliant and inspired, or complete wastes of time and takes me way off track.

The jury is out. That's one of the reasons I think I like to write quite a bit each day...if I need to throw all this out and start again I can't afford to realize that in october. I need to know by June, before time runs out.

Slept well again last night. What a difference that makes!

The Mounts came by early afternoon and gave the keys back - they're heading off to Montreal, leaving the cottage. We'll miss having them there. We just adore them, as you know.

Well, off to watch HGTV. Location, location, location is on in a few minutes.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Getting it Wrong the First Time - thank heaven

Cloudy, mild, temps around freezing

Just finished the pages for the day. I'm surprised how easily it's going. Every now and then I worry that there's too much detail, then I worry its not moving ahead fast enough. Then I think of more things I need to put in. And then finally, I realize I'm right...there's too much detail here, too little there - stuff I've forgotten. And that I won't get it right this first time. The idea is to just toss everything onto the page - and hope for the best. Then get it right in the editing.

More and more I trust this will happen. Still, obviously, have doubts and loads of fears.

Did the ellipticating this afternoon - walked Trudy - made lunch for us and am now relaxing. We're off to the Mounts for dinner tonight. Linda's making the salad and dessert - "I'm" making the main course, and by "I'm" I mean of course, Pat. But I gave her the recipes all by myself.

Thank God for Pat!

Michael's working on his book. I had the best dream last night - that he had a publisher! I know he'll get one, he isn't even looking yet - but it sure was a fabulous, fun, dream.

Be well. Will talk tomorrow.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Knowlton Literary Festival

partly cloudy, extremely mild, temps 9

A good day at work. As I wrote the scenes it became clear what some of the themes of the book are - and how the actions and reactions of various characters are inter-related. This might sound odd, but it came as a surprise to me. When i started the book I knew the main actions...who died, who did it, why. Some of the major branches. And some roots. But how they intertwine, and some of the other themes come as a happy surprise. I basically just let the characters talk, and their natural reactions lead me to a deeper and deeper understanding. Of them, of the book.

It's a fascinating process. Both like painting a portrait - done in broad strokes at first, then more and more detail...and like digging a well...staying on one theme and going deeper and deeper.

What always surprises me is that so much is a surprise. But it also makes writing the books such fun. I'm hoping when you read them you're constantly surprised...cause God knows, I am writing when them.

Not sleeping so well these days. Never do when writing. or editing. Odd really, because I don't feel really, really stressed. I sometimes do, when writing...I've certainly been far more stressed writing. But so far so good with this one. But when I go to sleep it's hard to turn the brain off. To stop thinking. So I wake up about 3am...not worrying, thank heaven - but just sort of restless.

And then, like Maria in sound of Music, I think of happy things. or was that Mary Poppins? Either way, julie Andrews is my sleep mentor.

As I say, I finished writing early today, then Michael and I went off to Knowlton. I needed to meet with Danny at the bookstore - sign some books - talk about the upcoming Knowlton Literary Festival...the weekend of July 18th. The first one. Very exciting. If you're in the area - or can be - you'd love it. Knowlton is a VERY pretty village. And you'll get to meet Danny and Lucy. And me.

Phoned the Mounts to see if they'd like to meet us for lunch in Knowlton, but they were out. But met our friend Jack and his 93 year old mother, and joined them for lunch.

Jack told a funny story about his mother's last dog, who was a shih tzu. Apparently they had difficulty telling its front from it's back. Made all the harder since the dog had a habit of kneeling down, with his head on the floor and bottom up.

Heading off now to watch BBC World News. Thank you for all your kind words to the Mounts. We're having dinner with them tomorrow and I will pass them all on.

You're very kind.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


sunny - yet again! - and mild. temps plus 4

Wow - an april day. Trying not to worry because it's so mild. We almost always get a snow storm in March. Very unsettled. Usually hits around St Patrick's day.

Today's recycling day. Michael wheeled the huge blue container out to the side of the road last night. It rumbles and bumps along - we have quite a long and rutted drive. Sounds like a monster either leaving or coming. But last night I watched a show on hoarding. Ever seen it?

Very dramatic, very shocking. What I find most disconcerting is how apparently 'normal' they seem. But when you see their homes they're in an appalling state. I guess it's like any addiction - like alcoholism creeps up. Anyway, I started looking around our home and realized we have a fair amount of 'stuff' that could be recycled. Old magazines etc. All neatly stacked in the bookshelves, but our bookshelves frankly are overflowing. So I took a huge load of old magazines out to the recycling this morning before the truck came. Freed up the shelves for the books.

If you turn on 'Hoarders' in the next few months and find a tall woman and her adorable husband, both looking fairly normal, on the program you'll know the recycling stopped there.

Actually, i'm not a hoarder at all. Just the opposite. I think Michael could become one, if not closely supervised (by me). When we die our unfortunate relatives will have a heck of a job in the basement. That's where Michael keeps his 'stuff'. I've been advised not to call it 'junk'...but it is.

The writing went well today... I was tempted to continue after the 2,000 or so words but decided to stop.

We just had a call from the guest cottage. It's Tara's time. They've made an appointment with the vet out here for 2:20. Bal and Linda will drop Bethany off with us and take Tara in.

They'll have her cremated, they say. We mentioned that all our dogs, Bonnie, Seamus and Maggie have been cremated - but the ashes not buried. Indeed, perhaps that's what we hoard most. Dog ash. It's everywhere. But we couldn't quite bring ourselves to put them out, and never have them in the house again.

But we know it's time. And were planning on burying them together this summer. We told Bal that Tara was welcome to join them. But I think, right now, they're just concentrating on getting through the next two hours.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Mille miles, quel que kilometres - pardon?

sunny, brilliant day...temps minus 3

someone asked recently and I forgot to say that the temperatures I post are celcius. So, zero is freezing. I remember when Canada switched over to the metric from the Imperial system - back in the early 80's. I'd just started with CBC Radio - my first job on air, hosting the morning show in Thunder Bay. I loved it. Learned the craft from people who loved radio, and respected the audience.

For the first year or so we gave everything in both metric and imperial...temperatures, distances, weights. Quite helpful. But then came the dreaded day when were were mandated to stop, and to just give everything in metric. I was only about 22 or 23, and even I had difficulty making that transition. I still think in both metric and imperial. I have no idea what a gram is. But then I don't really know what an ounce is either. A kilometer I'm OK with...miles are beginning to fade. Everything seems so far away when we travel to the states. A sign will say something is 50 miles away - but it takes us almost an hour. It's so faaaaar. Are we there yet? I realize I read miles but thing kilometers.

And while I'm good with kilometers, a meter baffles me as do centimeters. I'm 72 inches tall, but have no idea how many centimeters.

This is not an unusual situation in Quebec. Most kids - especially anglos who tend to learn both french and english - spend a few years mixing the two languages. So they'll say to their parents, 'Can I ferme le light?' 'Can I have a chien?' And now throw metric and imperial into the mix and it, yet again, is no wonder Canada doesn't rule the world. No one understands us. Least of all, ourselves.

Love your comments about Little, Brown. I'm extraordinarily happy.

And did 2,000 words today...up to 16,000. My goal is to hit 25,000 by the end of the week. Perhaps, a tiny voice says, I should spend more time worried about quality than quantity. But this system has worked so far, why change?

Off to see if Michael would like to take Trudy for a walk up the road. We try now to do two kilometers a day. Perhaps one day we'll be bold and try for two miles.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Little, Brown!!!

sunny, mild, temps minus 2

Another splendid day. Not sure it the syrup will be running today - perhaps a little too cold. Water on the driveway frozen today. Crunched my way with Trudy to the mail box. I remember painting it when we first arrived her. Put on a bright fresh blue paint, the house number and then stenciled Michael's last name...then realized there was very little space for my name. so I ended up printing it long hand. So Michael's name is huge and symetrical and mine all squashed in and trailing off to the side.

Now, a decade later, the mail box had been whacked by the garbage truck, by the recycling truck, by the snow removal tractor. The blue paint is faded and chipped. The metal box is all dinged. But our names remain. I look at it and think I should repaint it, but I sort of like the 'lived in' look.

Great news about Tara! She's still with us...or actually with the Mounts. Amazing the will to live. And be with the family.

And other great news - that I've known for a few month but couldn't say anything about. I've changed British publishers and will now be published by one of the most prestigious and serious houses in Britain. Little, Brown. A storied publisher. I'm beyond thrilled. My editor there is Dan Mallory - who was an Oxford professor of literature (even teaching detective fiction) - before joining Little, Brown.

Michael and I had tea with him in London and got to know him. Very important for me to have a personal relationship with an editor. It is such an intimate relationship, there needs to be trust there, and the absolute certainty the editor knows what I'm trying to do with the books, and will fight fiercely for it within the publishing house, and beyond. And there needs to be mutual respect. I just adore Dan - and his very impressive ideas for the series. It's exciting.

Cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am. So Bury Your Dead, as well as the next three books, will be published by Little, Brown in Britain.

For the american market I've stayed with my US publisher, Minotaur and my fabulous, dazzling editor there, Hope Dellon. It also helps that Dan and Hope are very interested in working together and making sure they come to decisions that will build the Gamache books in both big markets.

I'm a big fan of collaboration and team work. As you know, I'm very competitive...but in my experience the best way to succeed is to work well with others. A team is always going to be more powerful than an individual. And more fun.

I realize many people feel much more comfortable on their own...but I don't. Besides, if it doesn't work out, I plan to just blame Dan. Or Hope. Or Teresa. Or Michael. Or Trudy. Or you.

Gives me comfort at night.

Breakfast in cowansville this morning. Then 15-hundred words written. Woke in the middle of the night realizing two things didn't make sense in the manuscript...or, really, I'd forgotten something that would make sense. I have a notepad by my side of the bed so I made more notes. sometimes the notes are a little too cryptic.

Dog food.
Why not?
When arrive?

things like that that in the morning make no sense. But these notes this morning did. So I was able to go back and insert a few references and am now writing a scene that needed to be there.

As I write the book comes alive more and more. Very fun.

Michael and I are considering going to London for a couple of weeks in May...but i need to be finished this first draft by then. Don't want to be in the Big Smoke and still writing...nor do I want to interrupt the writing for two weeks. But if the timing works out it would be perfect. When I finish a first draft I need to take a couple weeks off, to detach and be able to edit.

We'll see. I'll know better in a month.

Off to ellipticate on the torture device, and listen to Billy Bishop Goes to War.

Once more into the breach, dear friend.

Monday, 8 March 2010


Sunny skies - a few clouds, breezy - temps minus 3

Nice day - I'm thinking of taking Trudy snow shoeing this afternoon. Too bad thinking about it isn't enough!

Picked up the copy of Billy Bishop Goes to War that Maurice at the local radio station had kindly transfered to CD. I'm so excited about it - but have decided to save listening to it until I exercise tomorrow. Always good to hold out a treat for myself - normally it's an eclair.

Got an email from Jen Forbus this morning. She has a terrific, and very creative, blog called Jens Book Thoughts. She wrote to say the voting has started in the first round of the Detective matches. As you might know, Armand Gamache is going head-to-head with Jesse Stone, by Robert Parker. Gamache might be at a slight disadvantage because he doesn't carry a gun. Perhaps I'll give him one, just for this tournament. But I don't think so. He must use his wiles to win.

Here's Jen's message -

Week 1 of the World's Favorite Detective Tournament is open for voting. Come fill out your ballot; it's quick and easy!

And then pass the word along to all your friends! Support your favorite detectives in our own Mystery March Madness.

If you'd like to enter the contest, there's still time to do that. Entries for predictions of who will make the Elite Eight, the Final Four, the Championship and who will take it all, will be accepted through midnight tonight only:

Good luck to all the detectives!

I hope the links Jen sent work.

The writing went much easier today. it often does after struggling for a day. There's a sort of breakthrough. did 2,000 words today and am now sitting about about 12,000 works in the first draft. I generally race through the first draft, pushing myself, mostly because I really don't like first drafts and want it over with. Having said that, when the writing is going well there are few feelings like it on earth - at least in my experience. That sort of bliss that comes from doing well what I know I'm meant to do.

Still, it's hard work and it is clear to me now that while I'm willing to work hard, and I know that is the only way I'll achieve what I want...I don't actually like working hard.

Do you know what it is? Fear.

The fact is, if I didn't have a contract to write...if my publishers dropped me - I would still be doing exactly what I'm doing today. Writing an Armand Gamache mystery. I just need to remember I'm doing it because I love it.

I also need to remember that most people have really, really hard jobs. They don't get to sit in front of a fireplace. They don't get to wander into their own kitchens and make cafe au laits. Or break up work by snow shoeing with their dogs. Most people don't get to write blogs for kind readers, or respond to people who have taken the time to write nice emails.

Most people work hard, for little money, for almost no recognition, often for demanding and demeaning bosses.

I get to open my laptop and enter Three Pines, and have meals with Clara and Myrna, Gamache and Beauvoir.

And sometimes it's hard. But a bad day today is still better than my best days before I was writing. When fear had won.

The only shadow over our lives today is worry about the Mount's dog, Tara. She's old and frail and almost certainly dying. Linda sits up with her all night, both dozing when they can. Linda and Bal worrying whether Tara is in pain. Whether her time has come. but as they put it, what they want to do is get rid of the suffering, not the sufferer.

And so they continue to comfort Tara. And wait. And pray to know when her time has come.

Today, when we got up at 7:30 their van wasn't at the guest cottage. And it still hasn't returned. We wonder if Tara's time came in the middle of the night and they took her into Montreal. to their vet there. I guess we'll find out.

Very sad, as most of you know - having faced exactly this same decision. And perhaps some of you are facing it right now too. if so, my sympathies.

Be well. Speak tomorrow.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


sunny, mild, temps minus 2

Another beautiful day. Went out to Cafe Floral in Knowlton for breakfast with Linda and Bethany, while Bal and Michael had breakfast at another table. Bal's a fascinating man. The father of palliative care in Canada. One of those people Michael and i realized we both knew before we knew each other. Michael and Bal were friends and colleagues - both being doctors within the McGill teaching hospital network.

And I knew Bal from having interviewed him a few times on issues of terminal care, of assisted suicide and euthanasia, pain management. And then I spent a few years volunteering at his Palliative Care ward.

So when Michael and I got together Bal was a mutual friend. I remember showing up, together, at a party at Bal's home the first Christmas Michael and i dated. Bal opened the door and saw us standing on the stoop...and his eyes dropped to our hands. We were holding them. And Bal, bless his heart, started to tear up. And he hugged us both and said, 'Two of my favorite people are together. I'm so happy.' And he was. And is. He and Linda are two of those rare people who can genuinely feel, and share in, other people's happiness.

Bal also knew, first hand, what a great gift our love was. He'd been Michael's first wife's palliative care physician, and managed her care until the day she died, in his ward, Michael by her side. So he knew Michael's great grief, and he now knew Michael's great joy. And mine.

We'd sort of drifted apart for a number of years...and then caught back up a couple years ago. And now they're among our best friends. As Linda says, kindred spirits. it's fun that Linda is close to my age, and Bal is close to Michael's. Linda's a former teacher and sensible, sensitive and very, very funny.

It also helps that Bethany, their daughter, is 14 and just an amazing girl.

So it's lovely to have them in the cottage for these two weeks, but the timing is poor since I really need to concentrate on writing. I'm in 'quarantine' as Linda puts it.

But I managed to slip out of quarantine for breakfast this morning. But, as a result, it is now 5pm and I've just finished writing for the day.

Very difficult day writing. This is the price of going out to play. I get distracted and lose track of the story. Which is why I don't do it often. There's a time for everything, and this, frankly, is the time to focus and to write. But, it was worth it...

the problem was, as I think I mentioned yesterday - I ended chapter 3 not totally sure how chapter 4 should start. And when I sat back down at the laptop at 11:30 - full of scrambled eggs and muffins - I still didn't know. I tried a few sentences out.


Chief Inspector Gamache...

'Hello, numb nuts.' you can guess who.

but none was right. Couldn't tell you why, I just knew this chapter should not start with any of those people... so I stared. I made cafe au lait. I made sandwiches. I got more firewood. But always, always, imagining. thinking. Trying to see...

Then I wrote:

Inspector jean Guy Beauvoir...

And I knew it was right. But this was four words and that left 1496 still to write today...and I had no idea what they would be. But I did know - at a level I can't explain - that those four words, and all they meant, were right. That was 5 hours ago. And now i"ve staggered to a stop. The chapter's a little (well, more than a little) ragged. But I'm too tired to think anymore. tomorrow morning I'll be fresh and be able to edit and smooth.

Some sections are just difficult...often the transitional ones....and some just fly along. this is a difficult section, for some reason. I used to think if a section was difficult it must be wrong, but now I've fine-tuned that feeling. I know can tell, more sense really, the difference between a section that is wrong, and a section that is right but just hard.

It's wonderful to know that now. I didn't with the first two, perhaps even three books. It just comes with experience. And confidence to trust that 'knowing'...the instincts. And trust that if i've made a mistake that's part of the process too, and I can always fix it in any one of the 4 or 5 edits I'll be doing on the finished manuscript.

Well, off to feed and walk Trudy. She just plopped her considerable chin on the keyboard...then ellipticate - then zone out.

Hope you've enjoyed your weekend!

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Beautiful, sunny day - calm - temps minus 4

Doesn't feel nearly that cold. The sun and lack of wind make a huge difference. The long driveway is a skating rink...need to be careful walking Trudy.

Woke up and invited Michael for breakfast in the former chez Camil's...never remember the new name. This has a few purposes...I realized I had a package at the post office that needed fetching, we have a DVD that needed to be returned (2012 - never did see it since the blue ray wouldn't work in our blue ray machine) - and I suddenly - and happily - remembered my resolution.

Have More Fun.

I was in danger of tipping over in stress...and taking myself and what I do FAR too seriously. And becoming a stress bucket. or at least, lose perspective.

This would not be good, if for no other reason than writing would stop being fun. It's hard work - and stressful - and frightening - but it can also be fun...and I can't afford to lose that.

So - off we went for breakfast. Michael, as you might have gathered, rarely needs to be asked twice if he'd like a meal out. trudy came too and curling up in the back seat - the windows open a crack.

We had bacon and eggs - a couple cups of surprisingly good coffee (it isn't always) - then headed out. unfortunately both the post office and DVD store were still closed. But we put the disk through the slot and I'll have to call them later and tell them there might be something wrong with either 1) the disk 2) us.

Got home and went right to work on chapter 3. paul, our upholstered, came to measure the chair arms for sleeves. We remembered that cotton had given us a tin of home-made ginger cookies (a very happy moment in our day).

I just finished chapter 3. A few hesitations...I suspect some will come out in the first big edit (second draft) - but for now it does what it is meant to do. Fun to start building the house.

So - 2-thousand more words today. Up to 9,000 for the week.

What is a little disconcerting is that I don't know where the next chapter will begin. I always try to end when I know how to start the next day. But I know for sure something will present itself.

We're meeting Bal, Linda and Bethany in Knowlton for breakfast tomorrow. As you can see, breakfast is my social meal of choice.

And - speaking of which - The five writers nominated for the Best Novel Agatha have decided to meet for breakfast on the Friday of Malice Domestic in Washington. I genuinely like Rhys, Donna and hank - and while I don't know Lorna we have exchanged emails and she sounds lovely.

I would much rather have a community than an award. And yet, I'm very, very competitive. I wonder if this comes with age, and realizing I can't call a statue when I need help. I can't turn to an award for comfort or company.

Besides, I know it's possible to win awards and be a good, decent person at the same time. It's also possible to lose awards and be a good decent person.

I would - like all of them - prefer to prove the former.

But in the meantime, we will meet for breakfast and get caught up - and enjoy each other's company.

Friday, 5 March 2010

You're Welcome

sunny, mild, temps zero

Another gorgeous day. Long day writing. Needed to edit what I'd already done. re-read and touched up chapter one... I liked it...much to my relief and surprise. Then read chapter 2 and didn't like it! Well, I saw a lot of very rough, sort of clunky, spent a few hours smoothing and editing and re-shaping. Now I quite like it. But took a long time. Then I had a dilema. Stop for the day, or keep going.

I kept going...writing 1,000 words in chapter 3.

The hard part of starting a book - besides not running shrieking down the middle of the road hoping to be hit by a truck - is knowing how much to say, when. When to bring in much to say about them. And when to bring in other elements, clues, red herrings etc. A book, at least mine, are sort of diamond shaped. Starting fairly simply - then bringing in more and more things. Don't want to hit people with too much too soon.

Happily - I keep reminding myself - there is the editing...especially the second draft. things are so much clearer then.

On another subject altogether...Margaret posted a comment on yesterday's blog in which she copied what NBC anchor Brian Williams had to say when the olympics were over...after he'd spent two weeks in Vancouver... it was so great I've copied it here. Thought you'd like it...

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor
After tonight's broadcast and after looting our hotel mini-bars, we're going to try to brave the blizzard and fly east to home and hearth, and to do laundry well into next week. Before we leave this thoroughly polite country, the polite thing to do is leave behind a thank-you note.

Thank you, Canada:

For being such good hosts.

For your unfailing courtesy.

For your (mostly) beautiful weather.

For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television.

For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents.

For your unique TV commercials -- for companies like Tim Hortons -- which made us laugh and cry.

For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon.

For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games -- you've made wearing your name a cool thing to do.

For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display.

For not honking your horns. I didn't hear one car horn in 15 days -- which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting.

For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years.

For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy.

For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary.

For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one.

For always saying nice things about the United States...when you know we're listening.

For sharing Joannie Rochette with us.

For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society.

Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us.

And thank you, Mr. Williams. It was a pleasure. Come back soon.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


brilliant sunshine, cooler and breezy, temps zero

The first of the maple syrup has arrived. Calls back and forth last night, announcing it. The cans were spotted at EdwardsFeed Store in West Brome. Pat said she'd pick us up a couple pints. And down the road cars were parked beside a cabane a sucre - basically an old shed, a sugar shack - on a neighbours property. A young man was shoveling snow - part of the process.

In the cabane a sucres of my childhood there'd be long pine tables filled with food. Baked beans, fresh bread, eggs...all smothered in maply syrup. Les Oreilles de Christ... Christ's Ears (not kidding). I can't quite remember if they were pastry or fried pork rinds. With maple syrup. I do know that Les Pets des Soeurs (Nun's farts) are pastries. I blogged about them last year when in Quebec City.

This is a glorious day - sun blinding off the snow.

Pat just arrived with the syrup. Kirk called - he's coming in a few minutes with new pillows for the living room. Cannot have too many pillows. Which reminds me - I was out with Trudy this morning, jogging with her down the driveway - when I realized that I am not designed for running...or even jogging. Too awkward. Now swimming I can do...and certainly bathing. I walk very well and toss things up into the air and catch them also very well. I have great hand/eye co-ordination, and am very good at napping. But I don't run well.

The writing went quite well today. Trying to keep the critic at bay, but that door is straining against the force of the critic wanting in. And every now and then, from the gap under it, comes a whisper - the book is dull, it's stupid. The characters are silly and characaturish. Quite a whisper. You can imagine what it says when actually allowed right into the room.

But so far, so good. Finished the second chapter. I won't tell you what happens at you needn't worry.

What a relief these days are when all I need do is write and answer emails.

We're now discussing the cover designs for the American publications. Extremely interesting and very difficult in that it is so subjective, and very hard to find words to describe when a design works and when it doesn't. And why it doesn't.

Well, off to relax...I went into Sutton as soon as I finished the some grocery shopping. And bought four bouquets of tulips. Ahhhh. Now we have a huge vase of them on the pine table in the kitchen and another huge vase on the piano in the living room.

Oh, Kirk is here - must fly. Speak tomorrow...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Gamache 'one-on-one'

overcast, mild, temps zero

Lovely day...feels and smells like spring. I noticed the spring bulbs are coming up in the cutting garden, right next to the house. I'm sure the shoots will be snowed under, but they always seem to survive.

Lise dropped by...we got some work done. There are so many details that go with being a writer. I think that's one of the big surprised...all the 'other' things. Mailing, emailing, events - questions, interviews, discussions with publishers and editors. With my agent.

The writing often seems the easiest.

I suddenly wrote 2,000 words today. My plan is to finish the second chapter quickly - just dump the words on the page - then go back and smooth...shape. Quite fun this way. Then I exercised and listened to the music...hearing conversations - again. I do think there is almost no noticable difference between being a writer and being insane.

A few of you wrote to ask about the process. I always know who did it, who gets killed. Why. and some of the main themes. But I don't know how Gamache will solve it. And while each scene has a purpose, I don't necessarily know how the points, clues, development will happen. Always a surprise.

Gamache has just arrived on the scene.

But, I also know, there's a pretty good chance this opening will not be the same as the one you read. The beginning often needs changing since by the end of the book I'm clearer about the themes and the beginning needs to be sharpened. We'll see. The big thing is to just get something down and worry about the editing later.

On another topic, I had a very fun email from Jennifer Forbus. She writes the great blog,

Here's an excerpt from her message -

This email is to inform you that you have at least one detective who received enough nominations to make the "World's Favorite Detective" tournament that I will be hosting for the "Detectives Around the World" theme week. I'm going to run the tournament like the NCAA basketball tournaments that will be occurring simultaneously, so there are 64 detectives that will go head-to-head culminating in the final two having their showdown during the theme week April 11th to the 17th.

I am announcing the 64 detectives that made the tournament tomorrow on my blog. Beginning Friday I'm going to take entries for a contest connected to the tournament. And the first week of voting will kick off on Monday, March 8th.

Seems Armand is going one-on-one with Jesse Stone by Robert Parker. Hmmm.

doesn't that sound like fun?

Anyway, back to messages etc.

Speak tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Maple syrup and ideas running

mainly sunny, temps zero

It's a perfect late winter day. A little on the mild side - but perfect for maple syrup season. Apparently it's a great year so far for syrup producers...they need lots of snow (which we've had) - then days above freezing and nights when the temperatures dip back down.

We once considered tapping some of our trees but decided it was too much work... we'd also thought about getting bee hives and producing honey (notice we have not considered growing turnips or brussell sprouts - but maple syrup and honey. If we could grow gummy bears and hot cross buns, we would)...but it became clear that if you produce honey you also produce bears. We found this less attractive.

Fed the birds this morning - the off to Cowansville for breakfast while Deanna cleaned. We just get in the way.

Home by 11am, and right to work.

Just finished the pages for the day. 16-hundred words so far. Finished the first chapter. And made notes on thoughts for the next chapter. i find especially at the beginning of a book it's crucial to keep that momentum going - to always know where I'm going next. When I get back to the book the first thing I do is re-read the work from the day before...this helps get me back into it, and i can smooth and add. Did a lot of that today. I find I do more of that at the beginning of a book - because I'm getting more and more familiar with the story. Connecting with it. And so the details, the little turns of phrases, often come to me when I'm reading over the pages from the previous day. To be added.

Fun, and a bit of a relief, to be getting deeper and deeper into the book - in my head. To hear conversations, to see scenes. To finally heave BURY YOUR DEAD behind and move into A WORLD OF SIGHS.

As you see, I only briefly visit the 'real' world. It's such a fascinating, strange, life - being a writer. living so much in my head - trying to open my heart to inspiration - seeing things that don't actually exist. hearing voices.

As you see, I'm preparing the ground work in case I'm ever charged with a crime.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Monday, 1 March 2010

He shoots, He scores!!!

A superb day - no matter what the weather is (overcast and mild)

Did you see the game? Dear God - Michael actually had to leave the room he was so stressed! We were up 2-0 at one point, then the US scored and it was 2-1 for the longest time. We all, including the Americans, expected Canada to collapse - as it had in previous games. And sure enough, with about 5 minutes left...well they didn't so much collapse as started paying defensively. Instead of trying to win they were trying not to lose. We were all shouting instructions, and warnings, at the television.

The time was counting down. The Americans, a fabulous team, were firing shot after shot at the net. They pulled their goalie and put an extra player on. Boom, boom, boom.

And, with 25 seconds left - they scored! Our heads almost exploded.

It went into sudden death overtime. I now know why they call it sudden death. Not the team's - but we'd be the ones to die.

But about five minutes into the game Sidney Crosby - the kid from Coal Harbour - scored! Pandemonium!!! Shrieks, clapping. poor Trudy got at excited and upset. I raced around the house trying to find michael, yelling, we won! we won!!! He was in the bathroom...praying I think.

It was a great game. And while we sure wanted to win, we also all knew if the Americans won they too deserved it. Wow.

And now the Olympics are over. And I started book 7 this morning.

A World of Sighs. The title, not the experience.

I set the bar at a reasonable height. 500 words. I generally, when I get into the swing, set it at 1,000 words. But I find when I'm at the very beginning it is so scary and intimidating I need to set the goal where it is fairly easily achievable. Be kind to myself. And be reasonable. Work up to it.

But I did 800 words. Granted, I wrote the title 20 times. Perhaps those words don't count.

Funny, but when I start a book I count every word. Hoping for more. And by the last chapter I'm praying for less - my books are always too long. But, when you're at 800 words out of 120,000 - it does not seem too much.

I'm writing on the old laptop. Familiar, comfortable. Again, the beginning is not a time for me to mess things around. There are already too many unknowns. I realized getting out of bed this morning that there are certain things I need to do to write the book I want to write...

1) write with joy - gratitude
2) leave the critic outside
3) set the bar low, then raise it.
4) drink cafe au lait and eat cookies
5) be kind to yourself
6) focus, don't get distracted
7) write with joy

So far so good. When I'd finished I put my iPod on and got onto the elliptical torment device. Did 20 minutes and listened to what is the beginning of the soundtrack for A WORLD OF SIGHS...

Requiem for a Tower - Lux Aeterna
Falling - Alicia Keys
Ali in the Jungle - the Hours
Beds are Burning - Midnight Oil

I know more music will present itself as I go on, but this is enough. When I'd finished I lay spread eagle on the bed, listening to the music, exhausted...and my mind free. All sorts of ideas for polishing what I'd just written appeared. So I went downstairs and added them. Best do it before I forget. And I can always take it out later.

There's nothing mystical about writing a book. It seems to be about knowing yourself. And setting myself up to succeed. What works for me might not work for any other human - that's the folly of giving advice. All I know is what works for me.

But it's nice to be at that stage where I trust it. As you know, there will be some distressing, depressing days when nothing is working and I just feel like dying. So might as well celebrate the happy days.

thanks for keeping me company!