Sunday, 27 February 2011

The London Times Book of the Week

started sunny, but now overcast. Mild. temps about freezing

But it sure feels like direct and glorious sunshine to me! Oh, my God....did you hear the news! BURY YOUR DEAD has been chosen by the London Times as their Book of the Week! They only choose 52 books a year - out of all the books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, childrens etc published - for this. (Yes, I did the math!)


When I heard I wasn't sure my skin could contain the joy. And the surprise. And the joy. It really was overwhelming.


What this means, I've learned, is that the Times will tout it, but perhaps more importantly one of the major book chains in the UK, WH Smith, gets behind BURY YOUR DEAD. They put it in their windows, nationwide. Put it in the front of the store. And offer discounts on the book when you also buy a copy of The Times.

This goes on all week. And then it's someone else's turn to be excited and promoted. so while it is thrilling, it is also a little enervating. Like suddenly finding myself in a sprint. Though there is some comfort, when I choose to be comforted, in knowing there really isn't anything I can do in the next week.

Such an amazing thing. To be given the use of a magical gift....but only for one week. And we can just hope in that week enough people buy the book to create a following. so while it's exciting, it is also more than a little nerve-wracking.

But in a great way.

What a life. How unexpected it is. In every way.

Friday, 25 February 2011


snow, windy, mild, temps minus 2

Not quite the storm forecast - but dramatic enough to keep us here in Montreal. We were going to head back to Sutton today, but decided to stay. Had great fun today....a found day. Basically did very little. Except, I wrote the March newsletter.

I quite like writing the newsletter - and it's especially fun when I have time to concentrate and enjoy it. And don't have lots of other things weighing in.

So today, with Michael editing his book, I sat at the coffee table in the living room and sipped cafe au lait and wrote. To be honest, if you follow the blog everyday, there won't be much in there you don't already know (did I mention the Nobel prize, and saving all those orphans from the burning building?)

Yesterday Michael and I did something we love to do in Montreal. We went to a matinee. Barney's Version. The film of one of the great books out there...and certainly one of the finest, and funniest, Canadian books written. It's by the late Mordecai Richler. And is certainly one of my favorite books of all time.

The movie won Paul Giametti (sp?) the Golden Globe for Best Actor. A bit of an upset. But he's marvelous in the role of Barney.

And today, after finishing the newsletter and going out to get salads for lunch and dinner - I put on a favorite DVD. Sleuth.

Have you seen it? My God, it's brilliant. I watch it every couple of years and am always in awe. And keep thinking...'Come on, Louise...think, think. You could write a play like this.' So I sit and think, but all I ever come up with is a play about two men playing increasingly humiliating and deadly games, in an english country house.


Back to Sutton tomorrow. Having dinner with Louise. Then on Sunday we're going to Cheryl and Gary's new home for brunch. While the guys talk, Cheryl and I are going to go into her studio and do a little ritual. A smudging. Inviting all good spirits into her home. And into her studio, where she creates the most magnificent art.

Then, dinner with Bal, Linda and Bethany - in front of the TV - to watch the Oscars. Go Colin Firth! Long may you rule.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

UK Publication date!!!!

mainly sunny, mild, temps around freezing

I know this because I've finally been out. And no, not in my pajamas. Tragically, I had to leave those in the apartment.

But the BIG celebration chez nous today is that this is the publication date for BURY YOUR DEAD in the UK!!!! Feb 24th!

It feels as though I've been waiting for this for years. As you might know, we've changed publishers - from headline, who were terrific. I'll never forget how excited I was when they bought Still Life - and when it won the Dagger. And all my hopes and dreams. of taking Still Life to Hatchard's on Piccadilly, and showing the manuscript the Mystery section - and whispering into the bag that if it was very, very good, and very, very lucky then it could join the other books. There. On the shelves of one of the great independent bookstores in the world. In the UK.

Being raised and weened on British mysteries, being sold to a UK publisher was particularly moving. Don't get me wrong - being sold in the States was huge - thrilling! But my heart both sang and wept when I heard my books would be sold in the UK.

And then - to have that first one win the Dagger for best first mystery. I'll never, ever forget that night. And hearing my named called. And winding between the tables, whispering to myself, 'Remember this. Remember this.' My big fear is that it would be over and all be just a blur.

And I do remember it. Every breath. I remember hugging Michael for all I was worth. And thanking him.

But then, as wonderful as Headline and my editor there were, it felt like it just wasn't a fit. I'm not totally sure, but I think they might have thought the books were village cozies set in Canada. Which, of course, they were. And are. On the most superficial level. But I like to think they're that, and more.

So the books failed to thrive in the UK - doing OK, but soon, when I visited Hatchards, they were no longer there. No longer welcome with the other mysteries. And it broke my heart. So that I could no longer even go in to this bookstore that I loved. It just hurt too much.

But then we changed publishers, to Little, Brown (Sphere). And BURY YOUR DEAD is now out.

I don't dare hope for too much. Not again. Not yet. But, like Ruth in Clara's paintings, there is a gleam in my eye again. Not an expectation - but at least, now, I have hope.

Today Bury Your Dead is officially on sale in the UK. If you live there, please go in to Hatchards (or, actually, any bookstore) and buy 300. Each. And then go back and do it again. Thank you.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


sunny, fairly mild, am still in pajamas!

And plan to be all day! Barely moved from the bed. Watched Twister. Dreadful movie. I remembered it as being silly, but fun. Now it just seems ridiculous. Oh well. Watched the documentary on Pat Tillman last night. What an indictment. Very powerful. So I suppose Twister would pale.

Had some very sad news today. A friend I never met, but corresponded with has died. Connie Dean. She wrote a few months ago - in the autumn - that she wasn't feeling all that well and when it didn't get better she had a scan. Then she wrote that the doctor wanted to see her and Tom. Then she wrote that it didn't look good. Then the news. Pancreatic cancer.

We exchanged a few emails over the proceeding months, as she hoped for some treatments. But then learned she didn't qualify.

through it all her emails were hopeful and cheery. About wigs, and chemo, and grandchildren. About deciding where to put her energy.

But mostly they were about Tom. The man she loved and was about to leave.

I sent her the manuscript of A Trick of the Light to read, just after Christmas. If she wanted.

Tom wrote a week ago that Connie was no longer able to speak.

Last night he wrote to say she'd died.

Michael came to me in tears when he read Tom's short message. He remembers so well losing his first wife, Shelagh, to lung cancer. When he thought he'd die too, from sorrow and loneliness. He didn't die, of course. And got back up, and even opened his heart again.

I wrote to Tom. Tried not to be trite. To offer facile words. But perhaps to let him know we know what a remarkable woman has been lost.

Hope you're well - but I suspect among you some of you are facing your own difficult times. I hope, within that, you can find some peace. And even, like Connie, some laughter.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


clear blue skies, very cold - temps minus 18

Couldn't believe it this morning. Minus 20 when we started the car. Just glad the poor thing started.

Thank you for your patience - and for not complaining about the silence. Notice how I assume that my silence is a major tragedy and chasm in your life. Never mind.

We could not believe our eyes when we saw the devastation in Christchurch! We've been there, and it is such a beautiful city. To see their cathedral, an icon of the city, so broken - it left us open-jawed and speechless. And deeply saddened.

For anyone the images are terrible, but for those of you who know and love (and perhaps live in) New Zealand and Christchurch in particular, it must be almost unfathomable. Unbearable. I suspect you might feel quite isolated - and overwhelmed. Michael and I just want you to know that we're watching - and care. And not just us, but millions around the world.

Michael and I drove in to Montreal today - stopping at Ikea to fine-tune the kitchen decisions and arrange for their people to come measure. It's very exciting. And a little stressful - which is why we want Ikea's people to measure...because I frankly don't trust myself.

Am edging toward starting to write the next book. Next Tuesday - march 1st, as I've mentioned. it looms. Am trying not to get nervous, but to be excited about it. And, when the fear doesn't overwhelm me, I actually am. Can't remember when I have so looked forward to writing a book. I think it's not just the location that excites me - especially after our remarkable visit to the St-Benoit-du-lac abbey just before Christmas - but getting to explore music, gregorian chants, the effects of music on all of us, and the themes of the books. As well as re-joining Gamache et al.

I can see many of the scenes, and can hardly wait to write them.

I've also, for the most part, managed to clear the social decks - and the promotional decks - so that I have at least six weeks without interruption, to get the first draft started - before events start to close in.

Oh, also wanted to mention that the remarkable Julia Spencer-Fleming did an interview with me for her new blog!! She's joined the fabulous writers at Jungle Red Writers! Her first blog is tomorrow and she asked if we could have a 'conversation' for her first blog....I agreed right away.

If you'd like to read it, feel free to visit Jungle Red Writers tomorrow - or anytime actually! It really is a wonderful group of bloggers. And I loved answering Julia's questions. I'm a little worried that I gave the impression that I don't care that I'm writing traditional mysteries. I hope it doesn't come across as that. I care very deeply - it's just that I have no choice. I write what I love to write. And have no skill to do anything else. No other agenda except trying to do my best.

As always, Julia asked thoughtful and fun questions! So tomorrow, if you have time, pop by Jungle Red Writers.

And don't forget that Julia's new book is finally coming out - in a few weeks. It's called One Was a Soldier. I've read it and it is brilliant!!! Well worth the wait - and when you read it you'll see why it took so long. A beautiful, searching, gorgeous book.

Speak to you tomorrow. I have an interview at 10am with the Ottawa Sun. Turned down an interview on Radio Canada television - in french - since I need to concentrate on the new book. But said I'd happily and gratefully do it in August. In hopes that miracle finally occurs and I become completely fluent in french by then.

Hope you're well. Watching Libya. And watching Christchurch. You're not alone.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Agatha nomination

heavy rains, then sunny, unseasonably warm - temps plus 8

Can you believe it???! I am over the moon celebrating the nomination. BURY YOUR DEAD has been shortlisted for the Agatha Award for Best Novel in the US! This is such an important award - honouring the Grand Dame of mysteries...and so, it has added meaning. On top of that - it's a reader-driven award...the shortlist comes from readers sending in their suggestions.

The nominees are:

Best Novel:
Stork Raving Mad by Donna Andrews
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

Best First Novel:
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden
Maid of Murder by Amanda Flower
Full Mortality by Sasscer Hill
Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff

Best Short Story:
"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron, Crimes by Moonlight
"Size Matters" by Sheila Connolly, Thin Ice
"Volunteer of the Year" by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin'
"So Much in Common" by Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - Sept./Oct. 2010
"The Green Cross" by Liz Zelvin, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2010

there are two other categories - best non-fiction and best young adult fiction.

Congratulations to everyone!!! I suspect you are as thrilled and excited as I am.

The winner will be announced at this fabulous convention called Malice Domestic. It's held every May in Washington, DC, and is organized by people who love reading crime fiction. One of the many great things about it is its size. It's large enough to draw big name writers, but small enough that you get to run into them in the halls, and at breakfast, and at cocktail parties. You just never know who's in the elevator with you. If you like murder mysteries, consider coming to Malice Domestic. I'll be there. I love Malice Domestic.

On another subject, you might have noticed the weather report. And the lack of tropical photos.

The truth is - we came home from St Lucia early. I know, I know. Yet another piece of evidence for the looney-bin.

We were supposed to be there until this coming Monday - but we left after less than a week - and decided to take our quiet holiday in our Montreal apartment - watching crappy movies, lying on the bed, eating pizza. It was bliss.

The problem was the weather. It is normally sunny and hot in February. It sure was last year. But this year it was unseasonably rainy. Every day. Every night. Torrential rains - and huge winds howling through the slats in the shutters, and the trees. It was just too loud. Like living in a wind tunnel.

I longed for peace. And quiet. And while normally St Lucia would be perfect, this year was different. And I suspect most people would not mind the wind. it really wasn't the rain. It was the sound of the wind. No quiet. Apparently this is extremely unusual.

The villa itself was magical and even better than we dared hope! Absolutely breath-taking. Thrilling. Indeed, we offered it to a friend and his wife and they took it for a week themselves. So we don't feel quite as badly about leaving.

In fact, I think that's one of the great things Michael and I are discovering. If we don't like something, then leave. I actually did check the weather forecast and it was for solid rain for the upcoming that just decided it.

It was a brilliant decision. We were sad it didn't work out - but to cling on to something because we paid, and making ourselves more miserable is something we might have done 20 years ago. maybe even 10. But no more. Life's too short. Cut the loses and find what we do love.

And, ironically, we found it at home. Go figure.

But we decided to keep it quiet so that we could have that peace and quiet. And no guilt about not seeing people. We were, as Michael took to calling it, not in Montreal but in St Lucia adjacent.

Still on vacation until Tuesday, so I don't think you'll hear from me. That's something else I need to respect more - my private time. And I know for sure, from all your comments, that you respect it....more than I do! Thank you for that.

Speak to you next week. Hope whatever you're doing, where ever you are, you're enjoying it!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

bit of rain - cool

We're having another lazy day! Reading and relaxing. Am preparing more and more for the upcoming book, which I start to write March 1st. I actually begin to think about it a year or two in advance, since so many elements of the books are intertwined and the roots, if you care to trace them, go back into earlier books. So I need to be aware of where the books and plots and characters are going.

But the finer points begin in earnest in the summer before I start to, about eight months before. As you know, I also do some 'on-site' research at Saint-Benoit-du-lac in September and again in December. And have spend quiet time just letting things settle and bubble and solidify and take wing.

It's such a fun process - in many ways for me the most fun....just letting the themes present themselves. I carry a notebook for book 8, split into different sections, and have much of it already filled with ideas, thoughts, quotes, themes - how events and themes might intertwine...and refer to the past and be relevant to future books.

But it is crucial, I've come to realize, not to 'peak' too soon. If I think about it too much while away - a few weeks before I actually come to write it - then it could begin to get stale instead of exciting. Like eating too much of my favorite meal. I want to hit that 'sweet spot' - where I know where the book is going, how it begins, and the main themes - and am both excited and comfortable.

And them I start to write. But I don't want to run the risk of over-thinking or over-planning. Again, that perfect balance of direction and inspiration. Room to breathe.

yesterday, over breakfast, Michael and I talked about the book....a lovely part of the process for me is that conversation with Michael where I tell him where I'm at and we bounce idea around...generally at this stage. I hadn't yet decided who the victim will be. It was between two characters....but which makes the best victim? And who should remain alive to deal with Gamache etc. Dynamics. Tension. conversations. Relationships. All need to be examined, turned around, dissected, and fit into place.

I love those conversations - and Michael says he does too. he's very good at it. Bringing up this aspect, that thought...what ifs...

Over coffee we decided on the victim. though, frankly, that might still change. But for now I'm very happy with it.

Next conversation? The killer! you'd think by now I'd know all that...but really for me the important preparation is things like the themes, the setting, the characters, what propels theme. Their issues and pain and joys...and how they all intersect.

Am also about to start reading The Naked Now by Richard Rohr as part of my preparation (nothing to do with Valentine's Day, I promise you.)

Speaking of which, I hope you're enjoying Valentine's Day.

thank you SO much for all your lovely, fun, supportive comments about the Barry and St. Lucia! The truth is, I've decided to try to stay off the computer as much as possible until the vacation ends. But I'll be back on next week and tell you all about it!

Be well - and thank you for your company.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Barry Nomination!

some sun, showers and windy, temps 27

Yay - heard yesterday that BURY YOUR DEAD has been nominated for the Barry Award for Best Crime Novel!!! Here's the list for Best Novel and Best First -

The Barry Award Nominations 2011

Best Novel

NOWHERE TO RUN, C. J. Box (Putnam)
THE LOCK ARTIST, Steve Hamilton (Minotaur)
MOONLIGHT MILE, Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
BURY YOUR DEAD, Louise Penny (Minotaur)
SAVAGES, Don Winslow (Simon & Schuster)

Best First Novel

GUTSHOT STRAIGHT, Lou Berney (Morrow)
ROGUE ISLAND, Bruce DeSilva (Forge)
THE POACHER'S SON, Paul Doiron (Minotaur)
SHERLOCKIAN, Graham Moore (Twelve)
THE HOLY THIEF, William Ryan (Minotaur)
ONCE A SPY, Keith Thomson (Doubleday)

The nominations and Barry Award are coordinated by George Easter and the people at a wonderful publication called Deadly Pleasures Magazine in the US.

It's a terrific list - though, dare I say it - a little short on female writers. I'm never sure what to make of that, and hate to sound petulant and ungrateful for my own nomination - and definitely am always wary of playing the sex card...but it is a curiosity and I put it out there as a question - especially since I know so many mega-talented women crime writers. There are other categories and more women appear there - if you're interested you can go to the Deadly Pleasures website.

Funny sort of time here in Saint Lucia - we've been in sweaters most of the time - but when the sun comes out and we're in it, it's lovely - though still a little cool. I say the temps 27, but that's from the official forecast...I think because we're in a lush a gorgeous forest it is a little cooler...and the rain - sometimes torrential - also cools things.

There's also extremely strong winds which kept up awake the night before - howling through the slats in the shutters. It's such fun - there are few windows and those are high ground level there are those tropical shutters that open so that there's little distinction between inside and out. And with a view like that - can imagine. Our jaw hits the ground every morning.

And speaking of mornings - that photo was taken this morning...again, my dainty feet and well -turned ankles on the low wall. Michael and I were sitting on the verandah outside our bedroom, sipping coffee and delighting in the view. Beautiful morning.

The rain and wind, when they come, seem to come out of nowhere - lash the place for a few minutes, then blow away. Perhaps it's a feature of this place, or perhaps it's a strange year. Our taxi driver said that normally they get little or no rain in February - and that was our experience last year in Saint Lucia.

Well - I'm heading off for another coffee and more gawking at the view...then getting out my Ngaio Marsh and reading. Lovely to have a terrific book to read.

Hope you're managing to relax too - or at least are not too stressed.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Paradise Found

sunny with cloudy periods, temps 79

As you can see, we've found nirvana. And it is every bit as wonderful as it looks. Though perhaps even more wonderful because of the snow that hit just before we left!

We went over to Mike and Dom in the guest cottage for dinner Saturday night. When we left the meeting in Sutton at 7:30 there was already a couple of inches of snow - and huge flakes swirling down. We got to the cottage and had a terrific evening. Mike and Dom had visited many times, but then they returned to London for a couple of years before coming back to Montreal last fall. this was their first time back and the first time we'd really gotten together. Dom had cooked up a storm. And the storm outside was broiling away. There was a fire in the grate. One of those magical evenings with good friends, and lots to get caught up on, and magnificent food.

Then - about 11pm - it was time to head home. We were driving to Burlington, Vermont, on Sunday and wanted to get a good sleep. Well. We stepped outside and about a foot of quite heavy snow had fallen, and more coming down. We didn't think too much of it - until our car - the beetle - got stuck in the snow at the far end of the drive (which is really a dirt road).

We rocked it, and rocked. And it just kept skidding. Then Michael took the wheel and I pushed. Still nothing. So I trudged back down the drive to the cottage, and thumped on the door. Dom came running. They'd done most of the clean up and were just relaxing with a drink in front of the fire.

In my mind that'd always the best part of a dinner party. When everyone leaves - the dishes are done - and you can relax, and dissect.

The very worst thing that can happen, besides a meteor hitting, is a guest returning. And, the worst of all, is a guest returning covered in snow, saying she needs help in the blizzard.

But Mike and Dom were magnificent. Without hesitation or any hint this wasn't exactly what they'd just love to do, they got their coats and boots and hats and mitts on and out we all ran through the storm. At the car I took over the wheel, Michael face directions, while Dom and Mike pushed.

Thank God for gyms. And swimming. And weight lifting....and all the things Mike and Dom do (that we don't). But still they had to push and push and I wasn't at all sure we'd get it out. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw their handsome faces smushed against the window. They didn't appear to be smiling.

But suddenly they gave a great shove and I hit the gas at the right moment and we flew out of there. And didn't stop until we got home!

Then called them with great thanks.

But I have to say, I wasn't then sure we'd get the bug out of the driveway the next day for the 90 minute drive to Burlington. But Sunday dawned bright - the storm over. Tony came early and shoveled, and shoved the suitcases into the car. The plow came and got the snow out of the drive. And we were off.

The drive was actually very easy. We got to the airport hotel, checked in (upgraded, thank you very much for asking!), ordered room service and watched the Super Bowl. Well, Michael saw it all the way through, I pooped out about halftime.

The alarm went off at 4am. We caught the 4:30am shuttle to the Burlington airport. Got on the 6am jetBlue flight to New York City, then the 9am flight to Saint Lucia.

I'll tell you, when those wheels left the ground in NYC I felt like giggling hysterically. I honestly did not think everything would come together. Including that we wouldn't get another storm that might affect the flights.

Michael, on the other hand, didn't give it any thought. He just assumed all would work out, and smiled his way through the days leading up to the departure. Not a worry.

I envy that man. Part of me likes to think things go so smoothly for us because I worry and sort of clear the path ahead. Anticipate possible problems and make sure they're solved.

But I think that's a conceit. I think I worry less. But that might be a conceit too. I actually suspect we're a great team. I actually do solve problems, and Michael makes sure I'm not one of the problems.

We arrived in Saint Lucia, James met us at the airport and by 4pm we were in the villa being greeted by Fabrice (he's in the photo above - and I bet you thought that was Michael). He's the caretaker and lives in a cottage on the property. And Febs, who is the property manager. And Basil.

Basil is a chef and the wonderful owners of this private villa, Betty and John, arranged for Basil to cook us our first meal. so we changed out of turtlenecks and winter boots - then sat on the porch looking at the Petit Piton, eating nibblies of fish fritters and mixed vegetables. Sipping diet cokes. And wondering at our great good fortune.

then Basil served us a dinner of squash and spinach soup, mahi mahi (a St Lucian native fish) with lime and finely chopped vegetables and fruit relish, and for dessert a local specialty, coconut pie with chocolate sauce.

It was even better than it sounds.

By 8:30, though, we were in the huge king four poster bed, with a view of the now dark pitons. And out into the caribbean.

Bliss. Honestly.

this morning, more heaven. Shaka came and made us a breakfast of coffee and fresh fruit platter. We've fended for ourselves for lunch and dinner. Michael swam, I read. A few showers today and quite windy. But beautiful. And the design of the villa is brilliant so that even if it rains we can sit where you see Michael, and be protected...and watch the sailboats down below.

Tomorrow we might even leave the villa. Or we might not. How wonderful not to worry anymore.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Brome Lake Books

sunny, beautiful day - awaiting the next dumping (of snow) temps minus 7

Lovely day, while it lasts. To the left is a photo we took last week after having breakfast in Knowlton. Such a beautiful village.

I'm sitting here eating homemade madeleines and sipping cafe au lait, having just read your thoughtful comments from yesterday's blog on Fenn. Loved them all. And I think we feel much the same way. Don't want to stop progress - but desperately want the printed book to remain. Our experience was similar to some of yours...we have a nook, and my husband in particular loved it - used it all the time. We're taking it on vacation. But after a few months he's mostly back to books.

I just hope enough publishers and bookstores can hold on until everything finds an even keel again. So that ebooks have a place, are a handy and wonderful tool. But I don't want to confuse a colleague with a husband.

And to the Fenn woman (and wonderful aunt) who lost her job last week - many, many thoughts go out to you and your family. What you said in your comment was personal and powerful - and not at all angry or bitter. Just sad. Am hoping you find a job you love soon.

And, speaking of wonderful independent publishers and booksellers, I wanted to really introduce you to Danny and Lucy. They run the bookstore in Knowlton - Brome Lake Books. Many of you have bought signed books from them, as well as bookplates and the famous Vive Gamache mugs. Their store is on the edge of Mill Pond - and is everything a bookstore should be, as you can see. And you couldn't find finer people than Danny and Lucy. And their three young sons. And their golden, Jessie (who happens to be Trudy's mother!)

I wanted you to be able to put faces to the names, since I mention them quite often, and many of you have spoken to them. If you'd like to get in touch with danny and lucy, you can email them at:

the other two photos above are of Danny, with Michael and Jessie. And then Danny, Lucy and Jessie. In their store, of course.

In my opinion, they're heroes - as are all people who work with books - and press them into young hands. And old hands. And my hands. Sometimes heroes need help too.

To digress, the scrumptous madeleines I'm devouring were made by Dom. he and mike have come to the guest cottage for the weekend. They arrived yesterday, knocked on our door, and handed us a 'Dom's Dozen' of the warm sponge cookies (made with lemon and orange). A Don's Dozen, Mike explained, is 11. Someone ate one.

My God, are they good! Michael couldn't resist and fell on them as soon as the guys had returned to the cottage.

We're heading over there for dinner tonight. We visited Mike and Dom in London - when Mike was working with the Guardian - but now they're back and we have so much to get caught up on. Dom's cooking!

Might blog tomorrow from Burlington, VT. We're heading there tomorrow because our flight to NYC then on to Saint Lucia is 6am Monday. So we'll get to Burlington, have lunch, watch the Super Bowl. Drag ourselves out of bed at 4am...and be swimming in the caribbean mid afternoon. (actually, more likely snoozing - but at least it'll be warm).

Pat and Tony and their puppies are coming by tomorrow morning, to help us shove luggage into the beetle, then they'll stay here to house-sit - and shovel snow!

Oh, wow - Dom and Mike just dropped by with another batch of fresh madeleines. We might never leave. Might not fit through the door!

But hope you packed your sun screen - we're off to Saint Lucia!

Friday, 4 February 2011


overcast, windy, light snow temps minus 10

One of the largest publishing companies in Canada - HB Fenn - declared bankruptcy yesterday. It wasn't a massive publisher, though it did do some fine original publishing - but it was a massive distributor of books for American and British publishers. Including my next three. I only mention my connection because it meant I'd gotten to know some of the Fenn people recently. Faun - their rep who lives in Ottawa. Rob Howard - their VP. He came to Montreal a couple of weeks ago today to meet and discuss strategy for A Trick of the Light.

I feel terrible for the 125 employees...and, of course, the few I actually knew. Spoke to Rob this morning to see how he was doing. It was a shock to everyone - except probably the president. That's what makes this all the more tragic in Canadian publishing circles. Fenn was started by Harold Fenn. And is still owned and run by him. A gracious man now in his 70's - he knew all the employees and cared for them all. And, I suspect, kept Fenn afloat longer than others might, for them.

There aren't very many family, privately owned 'old world' publishing houses left. By old world I don't mean old fashioned. Fenn hired young and dynamic people. but I mean that sort of personal touch and relationship that matter to Mr. Fenn. This is a terrible time for him.

But I suspect, not to be a doom-sayer, that this presages fundamental changes and re-structuring in publishing.

Mr. Fenn said it was many things, but one specific he mentioned in a statement was the increased popularity of e-books. I know they're very popular - obviously. You'd have to be a fool not to realize that. But I'd held a hope that a balance might be found, to make room for e-books, but not to sacrifice 'book' books, and the people who publish them. And the stores that sell them.

Who knows what this year will bring. It's clearly crucial to embrace change and not try to sabotage it. Not be someone who laments the passing of the 'past'. And yet...I can't help but wonder if the brave new world is a better one. I feel a bit like the owner of a horse and buggy, looking at the horseless carriage. And feeling dread. And sadness.

I have no desire to stop progress - but I sometime wonder if we really know what we've created.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Weather Permitting

snow, snow, snow temps minus 9

The snow seems to be tapering off a little now - but it was fierce this morning. I took a couple of photos at about 10:30, when Trudy and I went out to feed the birds. When the snow gets deep Michael and I have to wear our old rubber boots because our snow boots aren't high enough. So - like so much in life - it's a trade-off. Rubber boots have no insulation, so our feet get very cold very fast - but they're dry. Unless we've mis-calculated and the snow is higher than thought, in which case it tumbles into the boot.

Very delicate decision making. This is perhaps another reason Canadians don't rule the world. We spend most of our time trying to figure out what to wear. I think our national motto should be 'Weather Permitting'. Or maybe that could be the name of our national anthem - instead of 'O Canada'.

We've been watching the events in Egypt. Rapt. On tenderhooks. What will happen next?

Also watching the dreadful storm hitting Australia. My God, just when I think I have a handle on the power of nature, this cyclone Yasi hits and all my ideas are shown to be pedestrian. Nature, if it wants, can wipe us all out. What resilience the Australians show. I am absolutely in awe.

Our storms here are bad - and certainly unusual along the US coast. But nothing compared to what has hit Australia. If you're there, please know we're thinking of you.

In the meantime, here in quebec, we're snowed in! spent much of yesterday with Kirk at Ikea, looking at kitchens and doing a design on their computer programme. Quite remarkable.

Today Michael and I were supposed to have breakfast in Knowlton, meet a friend who has just finished his first book to talk about publishing. Go to visit Danny and Lucy at Brome Lake Books, then have a meeting with our contractor.

But the snow means we're stuck at home...doing what we do best. Lounging by the fire! REading the Ikea catalogue. Thinking about hot chocolate. And the eliptical machine.

If we can get out, we have an appointment for the VW beetle in Sherbrooke....then breakfast at Hovey. Hope weather is OK for our flight out Monday. if not, you'll hear the shriek!

Speak to you soon - hope you're safe - and no snow has gone into your rubber boots.