Tuesday, 28 June 2011


mostly sunny, warm, temp 28

Bliss. We're at Hovey Manor on lac Massawippi in Quebec to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We were married in the tiny Anglican church on the hill above North Hatley. And had the reception and lunch in the rose garden of Hovey, and the dining room. 15 years ago.

It is so wonderful to be here - for four days. Wow. We arrived yesterday and immediately went to the tap room for lunch on the veranda overlook the lake...as you can see. Michael had the lobster roll - I had tomato and goat cheese salad. Later we sat in the rose garden. And this morning we walked to our private dock and sipped espresso while sitting on the bench. You can see our feet - Michael on the left in slipper and me in sockettes.

Did I mention this is bliss?

I realized why.

No worries. Not only no stress, but the biggest thing for me, and the most rare, is to find myself without a worry in my lap, or head, or chest. No worry on the path, or the horizon. And the worry factory, which generally chugs away morning, noon and night is closed.

Nothing to worry about. Here. Now. At Hovey. with Michael, healthy and happy beside me.

I wonder sometimes if I can ever truly appreciate how fortunate I am.

This morning we exchanged cards for our anniversary, and Michael gave me a lovely gift basket. 'Wonderful', I exclaimed. 'Soaps! I love soaps.'

'they're not soap,' said Michael. 'They're marzipan.'

'Even better,' I said, and picked one up. 'I think we should eat one now.'

I offered it to him - a lovely heart shaped confection. he took it then announced. 'This is soap'.

We both stared at the items on the table. Seems, all mixed together, were soaps and marzipan.

We decided going to the dock was the better part of valour. But I'll be having a shower later and will let you know if the 'soap' lathers.

How lucky we are to have found each other. I'm far from certain how Michael puts up with me. And, frankly, the writing career and all that entails for both of us wasn't part of the deal when we met and married. But he has been unrelentingly supportive and happy for me. As I'm happy for him and his own writing, his successes.

And when bad stuff happens and we stagger - the other is there.

Hope you're well and enjoying the day too!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Forbidden Journey - and butterbeer

Hogsmeade, Orlando, Florida - overcast, hot, temps high 80s

Wow, what a time!! Can hardly believe it's time to leave the Wizarding World and head to the land of muggles. Had just a blast. Up every morning at 5:30 to grab the water taxi with Linda and Bethany. Breakfast again at the Three Broomsticks. Bethany decided she really did want to go on the ride through Hogwarts - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

We consulted and decided not to go right after breakfast - for reasons I'm sure you can understand.

So we went for a long walk and we strayed further, over to the Universal Studios section - went on the Shrek ride. 4 d (whatever that is) - fun and funny. Had to wear those glasses, but wow, what an effect. And when the dragon sneezed water from the chair in front gets sprayed on us. Hilarious.

Then wandered back to Hogsmeade and the castle. 75 minute wait for the ride. Now, all of us were pretty apprehensive. We don't like heights, which as why we'd hesitated so long. Indeed, at the entrance, Linda and I sort of stared at each other. Which one of us would go with Bethany? finally, I decided I'd go - and gave the bags etc to Linda. Bethany and I got into line...and 30 seconds later Linda arrived. She'd decided she wanted to share the experience.

But we had to put the bags in lockers...so I took them and suggested Linda and Bethany go on, and I'd get the bags and purses into a locker and perhaps join them later if I could. But the locker room as a madhouse! No lockers to be had - pandemonium. finally I got lucky and found myself standing behind a family who were emptying their locker. So I shoved (stuffed) our stuff in...and got into line.

It is so clever what the Universal people do. Like at Disney world. The line keeps moving at a good pace...and it snakes all over the place. through the hogwarts biology lab, through the corridors, through dumbledore's study and Gryffindor's common room. And all along there're holograms of the characters, talking to each other, and to us. Keeping us entertained. They even have the talking, moving, portraits. Brilliant.

The time went by like a flash. then, up ahead, I saw Bethany and Linda...they waved me over. Now, I'm not keen on people cutting into line - nor am I hugely keen on one person saving a spot then 20 coming to join them. Though I can understand that. But I was bashful to move ahead of others and join Linda and Bethany. but I overcame that - excused myself, smiling, and explaining. Few people seemed bothered.

In no time were were at the ride. It's a stylized bench - with four seats and a high back. Bethany was in the first seat, then linda, then me, and a man joined us on the last seat. A rigid harness (can't think of the word) came down and locked us into place. And off we went.

Now, I've been (in younger and braver days) on all sorts of roller-coasters, but nothing came anywhere close to this!! it was the most extraordinary physical experience of my life - with the sole exception of when I parachuted. But this was a very close second.

It was amazing! It's actually, for the most part, a simulator. the bench tilts and twists and turns and goes up and down - but most of the action is on huge, all enveloping screens. Imax. We took off and swooped and swirled and followed Harry on his broomstick over forests and down cliff faces and along rivers, and breakneck speed. Then up and around and down. Meeting dragons and spiders and Dementors along the way. Then into the great hall.

The ride apparently lasts 4 minutes, but it sure felt longer. Only at the very end - the last 40 seconds probably - did I get to feel motion sick. They warn us - but I was so concentrating on my fear of heights I forgot about that beforehand. But then the ride ended and I was fine.

But thank God we didn't go after breakfast, or with a tummy filled with pumpkin juice (which is delicious, by the way) or butterbeer - also delicious.

What an exhilarating experince! Once off we hugged each other, and held trembling hands and could barely speak for excitement. At the ride - but as Linda so rightly said - at having done it! Overcome fears, and done it. And SO worth it. it always feels great not to give into fear. But this was more than that - it was, kore than anything really, the most amazing ride!

Linda and Bethany decided to go back this morning, but I need to catch a flight out, so declined. But I'd definitely do it again, one day. Michael would LOVE it!

We had dinner together last night - our goodbye dinner...so sad to be leaving Linda and Bethany - but how wonderful to be invited to celebrate Bethany's 16th birthday. Oh, and the hotel - Loews Royal Pacific - heard it was her birthday and sent her a card signed by a bunch of them! isn't that kind???

You can see a photo above of Linda and Bethany with their butterbeers - and hogwarts in the background. And then Bethany with a butterbeer moustache.

Back home. Tired - but feeling wonderful. And, frankly, so looking forward to falling into Michael's arms. The best ride of all.

Friday, 24 June 2011

the Wizarding World!

sunny, hot, humid - temps low 90s

Day two at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! As you can see by the photos, it's honestly magical!! We're staying on site at one of the hotels so we get into the park an hour before anyone else.

Long day yesterday (thursday). Up at 5:30 in Montreal. Took almost 2 hours to get through the airport lines - then Bethany, Linda and I caught the flight to Orlando. Very easy. only about 2.5 hours. Linda had arranged for a driver to pick us up so we were whisked off to the hotel. We checked in (nice hotel gave us upgrades ((because someone asked - nicely)), then we had lunch (bento box for bethany, turkey club for linda and burger for me - linda and i asked for fruit instead of fries and each of us got this huge bowl of succulent fruit - yum). Then Bethany wanted to head over to HP world. We hopped onto the water taxi (free with the hotel) and it took us to the park...we waltzed through - rounded a corner...and there it was. Hogwarts.

I have to tell you, as someone who has read and loved the books, and loved the films - it was spectacular. Bethany, a composed 16 year old, went nuts. It was SUCH fun to see!!! So we toured Hogwarts yesterday....but it was SO hot and steamy and we were exhausted - so we came back to the hotel - to swim. Only to find some child had pooped in the pool.

Now, as someone who is not overly enamoured of children this place could be torture. But most are very, very well behaved - laughing and having fun, but not obnoxious. Mostly because I think the parents have made it clear this is a special treat, and they need to be on their best behavior.

Except for the kids in the next hotel room (the walls seem made of paper)...who have been screaming for hours now.

I keep reminding myself this is really their world, not mine. And to just enjoy it. However, if the wand I bought in Ollivanders today really did work...

This morning we were up at 5:30 - caught the 6:20am water taxi and were at aforementioned Ollivanders for 7am. A very small line-up - we got in in 15 minutes....and it is glorious.

They are brilliant here. Very respectful of the books, and of those of us (especially Bethany) who love them. Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks. More in and out of places. Got soaked by (not on) one of the rides...on purpose. It is so steamy hot here that was a HUGE relief.

We came back to the hotel by 1:00pm. Grabbed a swim and a relax by the pool. then showered and we're meeting up for a late lunch - then a quiet time.

What a fun holiday!!! Oh, we also dropped by Honey dukes - the sweet emporium. Bought chocolate frogs for Michael - and some bertie botts all flavour beans - for me!

More fun at the Wizarding World tomorrow. Hope you;re enjoying it as much as I am!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Harry Potter eve

mainly sunny - but rain expected later - temps 27

Beautiful morning! Am in Montreal, heading to the airport later today. Our flight isn't until tomorrow morning, but since it's a fairly early flight we've decided to treat ourselves to a night at the new hotel, built right over the Air Canada terminal that goes to the states - so we can pretty much roll out of bed and board in our pajamas. If we prefer to spend the next few says in Security World rather than Harry Potter World.

The 'we' I'm talking about are my friends Linda and Bethany. Bethany has just turned 16 and she wanted one thing - to go to Harry Potter world. Bethany's one of those amazing young women who is beautiful, smart, a terrific singer and very kind. And very aware of how lucky she is so she asks for very little. As a result, when she actually asks for something it tends to happen. Because people want to be kind to someone so selfless.

To be honest - while I might pretend this is a kindness we're doing for Bethany - if she announced tonight she no longer wanted to go, her mother Linda and would still go! We've been emailing and admitting we're almost sick with excitement ourselves! poor Bethany. What will she do with us? double the cringe factor.

So - the party starts tonight at the Montreal hotel. I have to return Sunday (Michael and I are off to Hovey Manor to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary - so you see, it's a soft landing)...but they'll stay on. Swimming with dolphins - then Disney World.

One of Michael's sons is coming to stay with him - a guys long weekend. It's the Saint Jean Baptiste weekend here in Quebec. The major holiday. Saint Jean Baptiste is the patron saint of Quebec.

I'll try to blog from Florida - bring you along. Pack sunblock. And money.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Food, glorious food

sunny, warm, temps 24

Not a hot day, but neither is it humid. Fresh and warm. Breakfast by the pool before the blackflies know we're there. Hardly any wind, so very peaceful too. Birdsongs...and the happy hummmm of the new heat pump. I find that very comforting.

Had a huge long, and hugely fun day yesterday. Joanne Sasvari, who is head of the Canadian travel writers association, came from Vancouver and is doing a story on the locations in the townships that have inspired the Gamache books. Well...

Michael and Danie Beliveau of Tourisme Eastern Townships joined us for breakfast at the Auberge West Brome - then Joanne and I jumped into the beetle, put the top down, and started the road trip. First to Sutton and a stop at La Rumeur - this magnificent old bakery (where michael and I have an account and have apparently racked up 14-hundred dollars worth of charges over the years. And not for lettuce.) wonderful breads, pies (sugar pies!!) Cheese from all over the world, but specializing in small Quebec fromageries. Pates, quiches. Dear Lord. Our tour almost stopped there. But we went on to Muriel's chocolaterie - handmade Belgium chocolates...we bought two boxes - one for us, one for Michael. Then to the Atelier Bouffe - a lovely kitchen wares store just down rue principale.

then home for a glass of something cold on the screen porch, before heading the scenic route to Knowlton, and seeing Danny at Brome Lake books. Again, we stopped and had a glass of sparkling water and a basket of chips by the river that runs through town.

Then onto the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Benoit du lac...Brother Charles met us and as you can see - elevated us above our normal position. He literally, after the hellos, whisked us behind the locked doors and into an elevator where he brought out a key and got access to an area clearly not open to the public. As we went up he asked Joanne - are you afraid of heights?

My mind screamed...Joanne!!? Joanne??! Who cares if she is - I'm already faint with fear!! Me, me, me!!! And then the door opened and - voila.

You can see the photos and a sight few ever have seen. It's from the top of the highest tower, where there's a roof-top area, and then a sort of catwalk - to a glass enclosed turret. I made it to the stone balustrade, but no further. Brother Charles and Joanne strolled across the catwalk and I could see them inside the glass. He was pointing and describing and talking.

But I was perfectly happy where I was!

Can you believe those views? And the perfect day? It really was heavenly. And so peaceful. Breathtaking.

After we chatted with Brother Charles for half an hour or so it was time to head onward. We'd eaten half the chocolates, but offered the rest (about three) to him - and then noticed they'd all but turned to chocolate soup. We also made plans for Brother charles to perhaps visit us for lunch later in the summer and help with some of the editing of the manuscript. some large questions, some smaller...like the porter at the monastery. I have it as 'Porteur', but I noticed it is 'Porterie' - and the monk on duty is known as th 'portier'.

but I also have larger questions...it would be wonderful if he could visit us, we'd have a barbeque and a relax by the pool and I can pepper him with questions.

But, back to Joanne and me. Back into the car and off to Georgeville - a lovely, small village on the other side of Lac Memphremagog. Up and down and around the winding road around the lake - then we arrived and went into the general store, which is the inspiration for Monsieur Beliveau's general store in the books. Indeed Georgeville is one of the inspirations for Three Pines. We wandered around. I bought a warm blueberry pie to take home (they're famous in the area for their baking) - and Joanne and I each got an ice cream bar, for the road.

so far, lunch had been chocolates, potato chips and now ice cream. And she's a food writer. Oh dear. Still, I have to say, they were yummy!

From Georgeville we visited a place I'd never been - so it wasn't an inspiration for the books, but the Tourism woman seemed keen for us to go since we'd be in the area. and are we ever glad we did! It's called Bleu Lavandre. Blue Lavender. It's this HUGE lavender farm (ranch?). Absolutely gorgeous....acre after acre. Like landing in Provence.

They distill the flowers down to the oils and make soaps and creams and essential oils and even this wonderful hand sanitizer I also bought (Lise, are you reading??) two large lavender plants for our gardens. We actually already have a lavender 'bed' but I just couldn't resist.

It was getting late, so we scooted cross country and arrived at Hovey Manor around 5:30 - we were both pooped so while Joanne went to her room (a cabin right on the lake) I relaxed in the library and called Michael. Then we met for dinner at 6:30. She started with a frizzy salad with pate, and had the fiddlehead soup with lobster. They sent out an amuse bouche of cod on black garlic. then the main course for Joanne was venison and I had the halibut. Perfect! We had a window seat looking over the rose garden and Lac Massawippi.

for dinner Joanne had the poached pear and I did a strawberry and rhubarb aspic. And coffee and tea.

It was after 10pm and I still had an hour drive home. but it was a quiet, lovely night - an easy drive after a long, but very happy day. Joanne is wonderful company. We talked about the books, but mostly we talked about travel and food, great locations and great restaurants. How perfect.

Today is actually a day 'off'!!! No social engagements. Not much work. Sunny day. Laundry on the line. Heat pump on. Michael beside me. Georgeville General Store blueberry pie in the fridge.

All is right with our world.

Hope it is peaceful and gentle and kind in yours too.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The pen

Funny day - misty, humid....but sun trying to breath through.

I have a new favorite smell - I should probably say, fragrance. I walked into the living room the other day to get my laptop and I smelled it. Now, we mostly use the living room in the fall, winter and early spring. When we need the fireplace on. It is now suffused with woodsmoke. A sweet, musky sort of scent.

I'd also placed a vase of peony in there a day or so ago. I walked in yesterday and was gently struck (does that make sense) by the combined aroma. How beautiful and unexpected. Old woodsmoke - like settled happiness - and fresh, new, sweet peony - like a joyous child. Together. I swear I could have just sunk to the sofa and sat there all say.

but instead, I tool the laptop and left. but have found many reasons to wander back through. To sip the fragrance rather than gulp it. to savour it, and leave. So as not to run the risk of it growing mundane.

The pool people just arrived. Our pump for the pool is broken, and had to be shut off two days ago. Yikes. We watched and waited for the pool to turn green. Fortunately the worst of the heat was over and it grew cool at night - so far, so good. And now, bless them, the pool repair people have arrived.

Not the worst problem in the world to have, granted - but a problem nevertheless. And now it seems to be enroute to being solved.

Have a birthday party for a friend at noon today. Joan rose. One of the funniest people I've ever met. I think I've blogged about her before. She grew up with Michael and his sister Carol - and knew Michael's formidable mother. Joan could read an obituary and somehow people would laugh. She, oddly, has quite a severe face at times - but one you listen to what she's saying, she's hilarious. And very generous. One of these people with a gift for friendship. So, we're off to celebrate her.

Then a party tonight.

Oh, as you can see by the photo - the Arthur Ellis arrived....it's the Crime Writer's of Canada award for Bury Your Dead, for best novel this year. Wonderful award!

And I joined the terrific Yamaska Literacy people at the Cowansville Penitentiary yesterday for a couple of hours. Spoke to the inmates in the literacy programme about being a writer....and the obvious importance of reading, for me. It was so impressive. Half the inmates there are tutors - teaching their fellow inmates - and the other half are adult learners. I didn't ask why they were there in the pen. All that mattered at that moment was why there were there in that room. For some to teach and for some to learn - and for all, to feel more human. Including us.

There is no doubt that there is a direct link between an inability to read and write, and poverty - and crime. this isn't a subjective issue - a guess. There are clear and undeniable facts. Evidence. Statistics. And inmates who learn to read, and write, are far less likely to commit another crime when they leave. Because they have more options. And because, with luck, they are less angry, less fearful. They feel more a part of the world around them. They understand better the world around them.

And yet, the Harper government has cut funding for prison libraries.

My understanding is, they have now given the responsibility to the institutions themselves...but no more money for it. So now, strapped prisons must find extra money to maintain or create libraries.

I'm not sure what Michael and I can do - but we're sure going to try to do something.

But - more than lamenting what might happen, I came away feeling immensely, immeasurably impressed....by the literacy volunteers from the community, who do this because it's the right thing to do. Without thanks or ceremony. And deeply impressed by the inmates - for helping each other - teaching each other. Applauding each other. Apparently a few years ago this was a deeply divided community - but having a common goal - reading - has helped bring them together.

One of the inmates - Colin - won the prize in a contest, open to the whole Eastern townships - not inmates, but the entire population - for a radio play he's written! Isn't that amazing. We got to give him his prize.

And - another inmate - Greg - has written an article (for Canadian Families apparently) on what it's like to raise two children while in prison. He's been in since 1994.

Something to think about as Father's Day approaches.

And - Happy Father's Day!!! for tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Walking Miss Daisy

Scorcher - sunny, hot - temps 30

Too hot to be outside. Quebec! I'm telling you. If it's not minus 30 it's plus 30.

Well, we puppy-sat Pat and Tony's dog, Daisy. You can see her in the foreground of the picture, with Trudy behind her. She's a gorgeous golden mix - but she's mostly golden, as you can see. Just a funny sort of tuft of hair on the top of her head which makes her look like she's part blue jay. Daisy's a rescue dog, and just now a year old. Beautiful temperment, but with some separation anxiety...which we began to feel too. We longed for Pat to return!

In fairly short order Daisy (despite walks around the pond) had peed in the house - twice and destroyed the child-proof gate down to the mudroom. Granted, Pat had warned us to keep her in the same room with us - hence, the gate.

And walking Daisy was an experience. She definitely was not used to a leash. She'd get a whiff of something (perhaps our newest arrival, the gopher) and take off...yanking my arm, and thankfully the rest of me, still attached, along with it. At one stage she wiggled out of her collar and took off. I was terrified she'd smelled the porcupine. Or, perhaps worse, a deer and was about to disappear into the forest and not stop running til sunset. We'd never find her.

but then - as I ran after her shouting, 'Daisy!' 'Daisy!'....I suddenly remembered what works for me when I hare off after something. 'treat!' I started calling. 'Treeeeeeat!!'.

And, my God, didn't Daisy stop. Right at the border of the woods. She looked back, at the demented woman with the empty collar and leash - like a failed dominatrix - and either took pity on me, or (like me) was totally seduced by the promise of a treeeeeat. She came back.

Oh, what a relief. She got her cookie...as did Trudy, for being a good girl and not running off.

It was an extremely entertaining, at times amusing, but not very restful afternoon. Still, I have to admit, I'd rather baby sit a one year old puppy than a one year old human.

Watched the Vancouver Canucks lose to Boston last night in the Stanley Cup hockey finals. 4-0. Enough said.

Had breakfast this morning with Joan. Loads of fun - nice to be getting caught up with people. And tomorrow I'll be having breakfast with Cheryl. Then an 11am conference call to discuss the upcoming booktour. Then at 12:30 I'll be at the Cowansville prison, to talk to the prisoners about literacy. The local Yamaska Literacy Council gives classes and quite a few of the men attend. In fact, when the local radio station had a contest to write a radio play - open to anyone in the Eastern Townships - one of the inmates won! We'll be giving him his prize too.

Saturday we have a lunch to celebrate a friend's birthday - then a party Saturday night - and then spending all Sunday with Joanne Sasvari - who lives in Vancouver but is here to write a travel article on locations in the townships that have inspired my books. I'll be taking her to Brome Lake Books, and the monastery of St-Benoit, where Brother Charles has agreed to give us a special tour - and Georgeville...and finally, dinner at Hovey Manor. she'll spend the night and I'll drive home.

Next week I'm off to disneyland (or is it world?) in Orlando with Linda and Bethany Mount - to celebrate Bethany's 16th birthday.

Not a bad life at all! Butter Beer at Harry Potter World! I hope to blog from there.

Hope you have a great, relaxing, weekend.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Is that a sofa in the field?

sunny now, but started out overcast and cold! temps 19

Beautiful day now, though still on the cool side. As you see, our lupines are going mad! I realize I'd misspelled lupines as lupins. But a very lovely man named John wrote with his lupine story - and didn't mention my spelling error - but I did notice an 'extra' e
in his message.

One of us had made an error and I could guess who.

Turned into a busy day. Breakfast in cowansville - always a great start. Then met an acquaintance named Maurice for coffee in knowlton to talk about his book. Then met another acquaintance on the street and she told me about her book, and wanted me to read it. Then returned to find out an acquaintance in Montreal had called, wanting advice and...for me to read his book.

Maurice, bless him, didn't ask. He only wanted advice.

Unfortunately I'm finding myself having to decline all invitations to read books. I wish I could, but I just don't have the time or energy left. did some mailing in Richford...then got home to a bunch of paper-work. Contracts, info people needed, people who needed to set up meetings. All good stuff, but it became a little hard to breathe. On top of that, wayne was cutting the grass and the electrician came by.

I'm sure you have days like that. I just have to get by myself for even thirty second - normally the washroom - and take a few deep breaths. And remember that all this has to get done, it might as well be with a smile on my face.

So now, almost 6 - have fed and walked Trudy - nice quiet time around the pond - the sun is finally out....and a steak is about to go on the barbeque...well, in an hour or so.

Pat and Tony are bringing their new dog, Daisy, over for us to babysit tomorrow while they pick up a relative. Daisy is gorgeous. One year old and very bouncy. Apparently she likes to eat sofas. Will report back to you on that one! Now, Buttercup Penny can not only eat a sofa, she can poop one too - so we'll see how Daisy does.

And on that note, I'll leave you! Be well.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Bye bye summer...

rain, cold, temps 15

I wore gloves this morning. As you can see by the photo. Not just any gloves, though. These are wonderful, hand knitted and designed by a terrific woman in Bradford, PA, from wool gathered from her alpaca, named Cinnamon. Dear Lord, even as I wrote that I saw how unlikely it sounded...but it's true! People really are amazing. And you see the three pines design. Perfect gloves for today!

But wow, it is chilling today. Bone-chilling. Damp, windy, unseasonably cold. Bringing Trudy in from her morning walk I was sure it might snow. But no - just steady, heavy, rain.

A great day for a....spa treatment! We zoomed off to West Brome. Hit the spa at 9am. Michael wasn't particularly interested, but he brought his bathing suit with a view to taking a dip in the indoor pool, then reading. But when we arrived I'm afraid he was seduced by the fire in the main lounge of the auberge and the promise of a hot cup of coffee...so I left him there, reading, and went off for my massage.

And hour and a half later Lynda had done wonders - concentrating on the feet and the scalp. And the shoulders, of course. By the end I felt like a side of meat...and thought they'd have to come and haul me away. What a beautiful thing a great massage is!

Got to Michael just as brunch was starting - 11am. Wonderful seat by the window. He started with a cavalcade of salmon. I tripped and fell into a vat of croissants. And cheese.

As most of you know, a buffet is not for amateurs. This is highly strategic and needs planning. Sadly, I was out of practice and let my stomach over rule my head...and filled up on those warm croissants and melting brie and Oka cheese. Still - enough space for scrambled eggs, bacon, roast beef, lamb. Fruit salad (for show), creme caramel, chocolate cake. And I have to say, that was nothing compared to Michael's superhuman displays. I need to test him for steroids. Though this has always been his strongest category. buffets. I'm very proud of him.

Grand Prix in Montreal today...though it might have been cancelled because of the heavy rain. Honestly, it's unbelievable.

Back home now - laid and set the fire in the grate. Yesterday I made a few arrangements of lupins from the pond and the first peony of the season. What a wonderful combination. You can see the one I put on the piano in the living room. In the foreground is my favorite photo of all time - Michael in St Mark's Square in Venice, making like St Francis. Up on the armoir you can see a wooden model of our home made by our friend Jack Walker. It's actually a birdhouse - how brilliant is that?

Sipping tea now. Happy to be inside. Hope you're comfortable and enjoying the day, whereever you are. I must say, I love it when you tell me a bit about where you live.

Friday, 10 June 2011


sunny, warm, temps 24

Beautiful day, as you can see. The photo was taken from the patio where I was sipping cafe au lait this morning and reading the final chapter of Michael's book on this amazing study they did on screening for a childhood cancer, and the shocking results. Reads like a thriller - which Michael as the main character. It's wonderful.

As you can also see, my decline continues. I couldn't even be bothered to put on matching socks. Oh well. I'm just glad I remembered clothing at all. god knows what tomorrow will bring!

I told Michael this morning that we need to consider ourselves in Copenhagen. Away. Not at home. No visitors, no phone calls. Nothing. Our wonderful neighbour Guy called and wanted to drop by the a DVD he'd made of photos from the party a week ago, and we had to ask it he could wait a day or so. Gracious man that he is, he readily agreed, and we'll see him tomorrow afternoon.

But I just want one day, just one day, without human contact. Without anyone else's needs - no matter how kind.

I imagine parents must feel like this sometimes...loving their children but longing for not just peace a quiet, but personal time. To find themselves again.

In the background of the photo you can see our canoe. It came with the cottage next door when we bought that. Phil, who is doing our geo-thermal, needed to check the pond at the big house (sounds like prison - the Big House) so Tony brought it over. We warned Phil it was quite tippy. He smiled and assured us he knew how to 'operate' a canoe. So Michael stood on shore and watched as Phil leaned right, then left, then right, then left - and made his fragile way across the pond - almost never completely upright.

Over burgers he explained that the canoe appears to be made out of foam - with a thin layer of metal. So it sits right on top of the water. He agreed it was the tippiest canoe ever. It will stay here, awaiting the kids, because if anyone loves a tippy canoe it's children.

And now will spend the afternoon either watching videos (I still call them that!) or reading a Ngaio Marsh - Surfeit of Lampreys. Or a bit of both. on the porch. Here, in Copenhagen.

Hej! Hej!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Nero

hot, muggy, thunder storm, but still muggy - temps 28

thank you for all your lovely comments yesterday after I reached the end of the book! Oh, it just feels amazing. Freeing.

Now - probably three more drafts - though they progressively less arduous, until finally, with luck, the last one is a polish. then it gets sent - at the end of August I hope - to Teresa Chris, my agent in London. If she likes it, it gets sent to my two editors, Dan with Little, Brown in London, and Hope with Minotaur Books in the US.

While I'm on tour in September I hope they read it, make their notes and by the time I finish tour I can consider their suggestions and spend the time until Christmas fine-tuning the book.

And then, begin the next one in the New Year....though I try to take january and February to relax, and start planning the next book before getting down to writing it in March.

It took me a few books to work out that structure for my work-year. I used to just go along, doing what needed to be done. And that works brilliantly for some - but I realized I felt off balance the whole time. Vulnerable. And I needed structure. In my work-day and in my work-year. From there I can diverge from it - still need to be flexible. But it cuts down on worrying if I'm going to make deadline or not. Now I know where I'm at. One less thing to worry about and more energy to put into the writing. And my life with Michael.

Had magnificent news yesterday! My great friend - and a fabulous writers - Jane Cleland wrote to tell me that BURY YOUR DEAD had been nominated for the Nero Award! It's an American award given by the Wolfe Pack - and organization dedicated to the works, obviously, of Rex Stout, whose character was Nero Wolfe. the award is given to the mystery book that most exemplifies literary excellence, ala Stout.

I'm afraid I don't yet know who the other nominees are = but this is the first time one of my books has been shortlisted for this award. Very exciting! As you see, I'm quite greedy!!

Hope you're enjoying your day. I sure am!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Sunny, unspeakably lovely day. Hot and humid - temps 32

Wow - a scorcher! But so beautiful. We're VERY glad Trudy got her puppy cut. We dropped in to Brome Lake Books to hang around and bother Danny and Lucy this morning, and their dog, Jessie (Trudy's mom) also had her puppy cut. Adorable.

Well - it's done!!! On Monday night I lay in bed, thinking of the writing for Tuesday, and I thought - I think, if I work really hard, I can finish the book tomorrow (Tuesday). So I awoke yesterday morning with that intention. Even, I said to myself, if it takes until midnight!

So by 8:30 I was in front of the laptop, with a coffee and breakfast....stayed there through lunch...had burgers on the porch with Michael and the fellow who is doing our geo-thermal - Phil. He was here to paddle around the pond and see if it's deep enough (it isn't). but we all broke for some of Michael's great burgers.

then everyone, back to work.

Midnight came and went. Michael went up to bed. Trudy curled up and started snoring. And I wrote and wrote and wrote. Determined to finish. I could see the end...though as always, it was a tease. Showed me its well-turned ankle, and then slipped further and further away. But finally - at 2am - I caught it. Oh, my God. What a feeling. So few words more satisfying to write, at least for me, than THE END. though by then I was so punch-drunk, and had hit so many wrong keys and had to backspace and re-write it felt as though I was writing each word, each sentence, each paragraph twice! I reached the stage of such exhaustion that I just wanted the murderer to stand up in the middle of a scene and give himself up! (safe to say "him" since this book is set in a monastery and they're all 'hims' - and some hymns ((forgive me, I'm still a little tired))

Normally when I get to 'the end' I made a ceremony, a ritual, of it. To mark this momentous and joyous occasion. But at 2am this morning all I wanted to do was spell THE END right.

I am thrilled to be finished the first draft. I turned out the lights and hauled by achy body upstairs. But not before noticing all sorts of weird sounds about the house at that hour. Including a huge thudding on the window that kinda freaked me out. I went over there and the world's largest moth was trying to get in. It reminded me of that B-grade Japanese horror monster, Mothra. Mothra was trying to get into our home.

I went back to writing. Bookzilla was waiting for me to wrestle it to the ground.

Upstairs I found Michael reading...waiting up for me. Isn't that amazing. He asked if he could save my work and I thanked him, but let him off that hook. Normally after each writing session he saves the work on his 'stick' then down loads it to his computer. I'm always afraid my old clunker will finally clunk its last - and die. And the book will be trapped inside. But I couldn't ask Michael to go down and save it, so we rolled over and went to bed.

When I woke up at 8am Michael was already up. He'd saved the work and had even done a final word-count, since he knows I can't really relax until I hear the 'bad' news. But it wasn't so bad! What a relief. Still needs 10-15-thousand words taken out, but I think I can do that without too much blood and shrieking.

We celebrated by going to cowansville for eggs, bacon and french toast, and all the coffee in chipped white mugs we could drink. And that amazing creeping realization that I don't have to hurry home. I don't have to think about that day's writing, or tomorrows.

I can relax. it takes me a while to really 'get' that - and totally unwind. But it begins.

I plan to take a week off - maybe more. Probably more. But hard to tell right now. I love the book, but I'm so pooped I can't think about it. But I'll know when its time to do the 2nd draft. It's so important for me to step back, detach, get some distance and perspective. Breathe. And then plunge in again.

Thanks for holding my hand through all this. You make it even more fun!

Monday, 6 June 2011

And the murderer is....

brilliant sunny day, temp 28

Gorgeous day! We had breakfast by the pool. One of those magical mornings. Then Michael sat outside and I went into the livingroom, fired up the laptop and got to work. Coming to the end....I think. Time to start revealing major things...but I find...well...I don't wanna. And you can't make me.

Oh, dear.

It's the oddest feeling. Wanting to hold onto the secrets as long as possible...maybe put them upside down at the end of the book. In pig latin.

Or, maybe I should just reveal them. Which, actually, I am. But it really was a struggle to let them out.

After writing for four hours Michael and I hopped in the bug (top down) and drove into Montreal. Michael's left eye was acting up, the one he'd had operated on a couple of years ago. We got into the eye doctor - and he said all was well. Yay!!! A false alarm, but so worth going in, for peace of mind. Was a time when Michael wouldn't tell me when something was wrong. But I tenderized him enough, over 17 years together, that he now tells me when he only thinks, maybe, something might be going wrong. Dr. Penny looks after the rest.

Sooo - hopped back into the car, drove across the Champlain bridge, which always feels great...and headed home.

With one pit-stop. Exit 55. Yippeee. Mcdonald's! We almost never go in - a few times a year, if that. And only when we're famished. Like today. Burgers, fries and a soft vanilla ice cream for the car.

Home by 5:30 - walked Trudy around the pond then Michael and I sat outside, sipped diet ginger and went over our agendas, trying to figure out our summer schedules. Have to say, that was fun...who is staying with us, when? Best not to double and triple book. Time for ourselves. Time for friends. Time to edit. (and maybe let out some secrets...)

Hope you had a great day too.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Tote bags, chocolates and chants - oh my!

Sunny, warm, temps 20

Lovely, fresh day. Not at all humid. Had first coffee of the morning by the pool - sun out, but black flies not yet awake. The photo was taken by Michael this morning when he walked Trudy. Our wild flower field, by the pond. Lupins! Love 'em. And writing this on the porch, to the thrum of bees.

I think all our fish have 'left' the pond - to the big pond in the sky. Sad...after ten years of raising the bass. Apparently, Del thinks, an otter or some such might have gotten in during the winter and done what they do best. Happy for it - sad for the fish. But, as a result, we have so many tadpoles in the pond we can practically walk on it. Normally the fish would eat them...but now they're thriving. Can't begin to imagine the sound of all those frogs, in a few weeks. But we love having frogs. Shows a healthy eco-system. Or, a lack of bass.

Wrote 37-hundred words this morning and into the afternoon - until I ran out. Emptied the brain. Only muck coming out now. so decided to stop.

And then I did the draw for the three gifts from Saint-Benoit-du-lac. The tote bag, the chocolates and the Gregorian chants.

The winners are:

Tote bag - Alice
Chocolates - Beth
Chants - Kathleen

Congratulations. The winners have been told. And thank you all for entering, and also for your kind comments, on my contact email, but also on the comments section of the blog. I read them, and feel so warmed.

Have a meeting tonight, in Sutton....and all tomorrow to write. Getting closer. But then, you've heard that before. As I approach, The End seems to get farther away. But I'll get there one day!

Speak to you soon -

Friday, 3 June 2011

Arthur Ellis, Brother Charles, Manoir Hovey - oh my!

brilliant sun - cool - temps 14

Warming up. We're back home after an eventful - and unexpected - 24 hours!

As many of you might have heard...BURY YOUR DEAD has won the Arthur Ellis Award, given out by the Crime Writers of Canada - for Best Crime Novel of 2010!!! It is so deeply moving, and meaningful, to be recognized in my own country, by fellow writers, and readers.

The awards were announced at the Ellis banquet, held this year in the beautiful city of Victoria, British Columbia. Unfortunately, Michael and I couldn't be there - wrestling with writing! But Tony Bidulka, my friend and fellow crime writer, accepted for me. he was also the MC for the night. And a past nominee. If you don't know his, you must check out his books. Just look up Anthony Bidulka!

And congratulations to all the winners.

Stevie Cameron for her non-fiction book: On The Farm
Short story: So Much in Common, by Mary Jane Maffini, published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
Juvenile/young adult: The Worst Thing She Ever Did, by Alice Kuipers.
French: Dans le quartier des agités, by Jacques Côté.
First novel: The Debba, by Avner Mandleman.
John Jeneroux picked up the Unhanged Arthur Award, which recognizes the best unpublished first crime novel, for his manuscript Better Off Dead.

Yesterday began at 5:15, when our alarm went off. We hopped (well, that might be an exaggeration) out of bed and were in our cars by 6am. Michael in his 'real' car and me in the Volks beetle.

The beetle had a 7:20 appointment at the dealership, 1:20 minutes away in Sherbrooke.

We scooted there, arrived right on time, and handed it over....for its check up - but also to change the tires. I was still driving on the winter tires and even in Quebec, it's safe to change to regular tires by June.

Then we headed to Hovey manor for breakfast. ahhhh - bliss. Eating a honey, granny smith apple, mushroom and feta cheese omlet, while looking out over the rose garden.

I turned to Michael and said, 'I have an idea.'

Now, Michael's smiles range from the absolutely luminous - when told that lobster fest had begun in the village to polite, when told that Buttercup Penny - the hound from hell - would be visiting.

And then there was a special category of smile reserved for when I say, 'I have an idea.' More grimace, really, than smile now that I think of it.

He grimaced and asked what it was.

It turned out the car wouldn't be ready until late in the day - which meant we either fought rush hour traffic through Sherbrooke at 5pm - having driven an hour and twenty to even get to the city - or we could return the next afternoon. Still, frankly, a pain.


'Why don't we just stay at Hovey for the night?'

Now, this wasn't as insane as it sounds. Hovey is only about 15 minutes drive from Sherbrooke. We could stay the night, get up early, have breakfast, and drive to the dealership.

There was, however, a flaw, and you might have already seen it. Michael sure did.

'What about our clothes? And toothbrushes?'

Now, I could see he wasn't actually against the idea. In fact, his grimace had become a genuine smile - not lobsterFest luminous, yet, but getting there.

the other element in our day, as you might know, was the whole purpose of it really....being at Brother Charles's final vows. At 11am. At the monastery of Saint Benoit du lac. Which was about half way between hovey and home.

We looked at our watches and realized, given a good tailwind, we could rush home, throw some clothes in a bag and make it in time for final vows.

Off we raced. Got home...estimated we had 10 minutes to pack...ran around like mad. Packed the car. Raced off. ten minutes behind schedule. Fortunately, Lise was there and she lives close to St Benoit - and screamed the 'fast' directions to us as we roared out the driveway. Something about a rocket ship and either route 243 or 245.

We'd be fine, we told ourselves.

And, oddly enough, we were! We got to Saint Benoit with ten minutes to spare. Met Brother Raymond and other guests in the entrance. Found seats. And waited.

I'm not sure I can describe what it was like. All the monks in robes, of course. The abbot in special robes, with a shepherd's staff. The most magnificent organ music. And when the organ died away the monks, without accompaniment, began their Gregorian Chants. And then Brother Charles arrived and I don't think there was a dry eye.

It lasted 2 hours. Afterward, over dinner at Hovey, I asked Michael how he found it. We both, of course, found it deeply moving. To see a man we care about take such a profound step. After all his perseverence, his belief that this was what he was meant and made to do. To see his love of God, his faith. To hear the gentle and loving words of the abbot. To see Brother charles greet all of his brother monks not with a kiss, or a handshake, but by softly touching their heads together.

And then Brother Charles lying, prostrate, for 20 minutes. not budging. Not a quiver of his feet or hands or head. Absolute sublimation.

I asked Michael what he thought about, while the 2 hour service was going on. He said he spent the time praying for Brother Charles. For the Lord to bless him. And for the Lord to continue to shower Brother Charles with his love.

And what, Michael asked, did you think of.

oh oh.

The truth was, while I tried to pray for Brother Charles the whole time, I found my mind drifting. Sometimes to the book I was writing - and actually came up with some ideas. Sometimes to ridiculous things. I got to wondering if gummy bears had any natural ingredients at all. And what would be worse...a spoonful of gummies or a spoonful of canned whipped cream.

And then I remembered to pray for Brother Charles.

And then I wondered if the brothers played any other instruments, or just the organ. And then I wondered how old the organ was. And then I wondered how long a person could live eating just gummie bears. And then I wondered if monks ate gummies.

And then I remembered to pray for Borther Charles.

And so it went.

But I have to say - it was beautiful. The joy was evident. Their adoration evident. And the love Brother Charles has for his community and them for him was evident. It was like watching a particularly beautiful, and gentle, wedding.

then we all went into the basement for a special lunch, celebrating his final vows.

And then - Michael and I went to the monk's shop and bought three things - for you. To thank you for being my writing community. For joining me in Three Pines, and following Armand on his travels, both external and internal.

for always being with me - whether the news is good (like today!!) - or not so good.

What we got are: A box of chocolate covered cranberries, handmade by the Trappist monks in Mistissani Quebec. They're a fabulous as they sound, and it's a miracle they haven't been eaten yet!

A CD of the St Benoit monks singing their world famous Gregorian chants.

And a tote bag, with the monastery on it.

Now, feel free to enter for all three - or if there's one you'd like more than the others, please tell me. I know, for instance, some of you would love the chants - but some of you would rather not be given that. so, if you'd rather not have the chants, please let me know.

To be put in the draw, just write to me at: contact@louisepenny.com just put in the subject line which of the gifts you'd like - or all of them - that's good too!

I'll do the draw tomorrow afternoon. Random.

From there, Michael and I went back to Hovey - and after a fabulous dinner of smoked salmon and duck (for michael) and fiddlehead soup and halibut for me - I heard the amazing news about the Arthur Ellis.

What days we have. I know God loves Brother Charles - but we sure feel blessed too.

Thank you for being a part of it.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

final vows

sunny, hot, windy, storm warning out. temps 30 degrees

We finally fled Montreal and are back out in sutton. Stunning summer day. What a season! So completely unpredictable.

I wrote this morning - a fun scene....though now I realize I got one of the character's character wrong. Need to go back tomorrow and fix it. And ads Michael drove out in the beetle - top down much of the way - other thoughts came. So that when I'm finished writing to you I'll go and make notes. fun stage to be at. The end game. And pieces falling into place, some by design, but much fortuitously. How strange, it always seems to me, how much of a book is by chance.

Despite my best efforts, this will be a hideously long first draft. So I'll need much of the summer to edit. It's always a balancing act. No use me diving immediately into an edit the day after I finish the first draft...since I'm WAY too close. I need to disconnect, get distance and perspective...then be able to go at it and read it with fresh eyes. As you might read it.

And so the mistakes will be more obvious. and, if I time it right, as soon as the scene, or character, or plot goes wrong, I'll know it. It's often upsetting - and I can spend an embarrassing amount of time pretending it's just fine, before going back and fixing it...but wow, so much easier when you 'know'...even if I live in denial for a while.

Tomorrow is a day Michael and I have been looking forward to for a long time. As some of you might remember, last fall and winter Michael and I went to a local benedictine monastery, Saint-Benoit-du-lac. It's famous in quebec for it's cheeses and it's chants. Gregorian chants.

My next novel (the one I'm just now finishing) was going to be set in a monastery and I needed to do research. So I called up, spoke to the prior (who spoke some english, but not all that much. and was just charming). He immediately understood and invited us to stay a night with them, in a cell. I actually thought I'd have to stay in the nunnery next door, but when we arrived, they'd put us in their presidential suite. Though I suspect no president has stayed there - but they'd be welcome.

The Benedictines have taken, among other vows, a vow of hospitality. Lucky us! And they take it seriously.

the prior, smart man that he is, quickly handed us over to Brother charles. And within minutes a deep friendship was formed. We just fell in love with him. He's an American, who converted a few years ago...came to Quebec. learned French. And was in the final stages of becoming a benedictine monk. He was also in charge of their archives and library. An avid and voracious reader - he also happens to love crime fiction!!! And have quite a mind for it.

A partnership made in heaven.

For the next 24 hours Michael, Brother Charles and I walked the halls, went into places few ever get to see, sat in on private prayers. heard the monks sing their famous chants. It was increasingly peaceful. Restful. Beautiful. It's a time neither Michael nor I will forget.

As I've been writing I'll get in touch with Brother Charles and ask questions, about their lives and their music and their prayers and vocations. He answers every question, quickly and clearly and with good humour.

And tomorrow, Brother Charles is taking his final vows. He asked if Michael and I could be there, and we didn't hesitate. What a beautiful thing to witness. Above is a photo of him (with Michael bulging from the archives - not properly filed.)

Oh, one other note...in sending out the newsletter today I made a geographical error. Actually, it was a stupid mistake. I placed North Conway in Vermont instead of New Hampshire - where I knew it was! Just one of those mind-burps. Pardon me.

I'll be there at White Birch books this fall, to make up for having to cancel due to a sudden flu last fall. When I have a date I'll let you know!

Have a terrific evening. We'll fire up the barbeque and see what happens. I'm trying to convince Michael to do in the pool. Water still to cold for me. I'm delicate, you know.

Speak soon.