Sunday, 31 July 2011

Third Draft

sunny, calm, warm - perfect day - temps 28

A really lovely day....hardly a whisper of wind...not too hot. Not humid. One of those really magical days.

I spent it inside - writing. Or editing, I guess.

Started the third draft today. The plan (it should really be in quotation marks) was to get at the laptop by 8am, do fifty pages, and be finished early afternoon.

But then I had a brainwave. I'd do something I'd never done before. I'd work on the very last chapter first. I'd ben worried that in the two previous drafts I'd rushed it - been just way too tired by the time I reached the end and I wasn't happy with it. the second draft was way closer to what I wanted, but I knew I could do better. so I spend quite a bit of last week quietly pondering it. It's a funny process of not thinking about it, but trying to open my find and hope inspiration drops in. And a few ideas did.

In some cases it was a turn of phrase, in others it was a structural issue. Some stuff I wanted to play with...suppose I did this first, and moved that over there, and placed such-and-such here...God bless laptops, where I can play like that - move things about - and see.

So today, at 8am, I got started. Just the final chapter. And I finished at 5pm. Quite tired....and quite certain I am considerably closer. Might even be there....might have nailed it....but between us, I'm just too close to it now to know. so tomorrow I'll go to the beginning of the book and move forward - as I normally do.

By the time I reach the end again - at the end of the week I hope - I'll know if it works.

but I honestly don't feel stressed anymore. I know I'll get it, if I haven't already. That it's either there, or close.

Lovely day with no interruptions. Saw no one. Perfect writing day. ended with a barbequed steak and corn on the cob - sitting on the porch this peaceful evening.

tomorrow my brother Doug and his son Charlie arrive, along with....Buttercup!!! The hound from Hell. We only call her that because for many years she was totally unmanageable. Uncontrollable. the only consolation was that there wasn't a mean bone in her body, or her ferociously wagging tail. She simply had a surfeit of joy - and an ability to digest entire living room sets, then poop them out in the field. Fascinating to walk Buttercup. It's a sort of disgusting magic act.

They're arriving from Toronto tomorrow. am hoping to edit in the mornings and play with them in the afternoons. Weather's supposed to be very nice. Uncle Michael is really looking forward to it....besides the fact he loves them, we also all go out for soft ice cream in Sutton....and to watch Uncle Michael eat ice cream is something never to be forgotten. I'll try to take a photo - it too is a sort of disgusting magic act, where slowly, over the course of about 15 minutes, he morphs into a huge ice cream cone himself.

Talk to you soon - hope you've enjoyed your weekend.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Harry Potter

Sunny, warm, temps 30

Gorgeous day in Montreal. Yesterday threatened a bit, but turned out beautifully. Some accounting needed to be done, then lunch with friends, then Home Depot, to get some stuff (including in this case the not-proverbial kitchen sink) for the quickly approaching renovations. We went from having no idea what we really wanted - and not much of an opinion - to experts, in about half an hour. Sadly, as often happens, Michael held one expert opinion and I another. But Home Depot solved the dilemma by not having my 'opinion' we ended up with Michael's. And for the life of me now I can't remember what the difference could possibly have been.

We're off to see Harry Potter in about an hour. It's playing all over Montreal, of course. But among the theatres is the Imax - in 3D. So we bought tickets to that and will be going with the three Mounts. We're all extremely excited. Oddly, I read all the books, except the last. Can't explain why I didn't read the last one. Perhaps I didn't want it to end. I also didn't read the last Colin Dexter Morse book. Too sad.

Spent 4 hours today - from 10am to 2pm dealing with Rogers Canada, trying to get Michael a new blackberry, and to fix mine. I could have, of course, simply upgraded. Mine is quite old. But I'm used to it, and I like it, and it just seems wasteful too. So I had to hop in a taxi and find some small office downtown, crammed between two restaurants, where a man fixed blackberries and iPhones. After a couple of tries, he did it! Feels great. Especially given the big book tour coming up...didn't want to be without a blackberry, or with one that only semi-worked.

Off to do some work on the August newsletter (being sent out by Linda August 1st) - then the Mounts are picking us up at 3.

Talk to you soon -

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Jack Layton

sunny, then stormy, then sunny - one of those days - temps 25

Cool down continues - very nice. Big storms kicked up, though, with huge winds and rain and lightning. then sun came out. I wonder if there's a life lesson....nah.

Like so many Canadians, I was devastated to hear the news that the leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada, Jack Layton, was stepping aside because he has cancer. He held a news conference yesterday, and looked gaunt. It was thoroughly unexpected - though he'd had prostate cancer a year ago. But he intimated this was a whole other cancer - though he wasn't specific.

Mr. Layton led the NDP to an historic position politically, when he won huge gains in the federal election earlier this year - and became Canada's official opposition. He absolutely stole Quebec's heart - and the voters here rewarded his candor and intelligence, his humour and passion, with an unprecedented number of seats.

The NDP is a socialist party - in as much as they believe in social justice, in a social safety net, in accountability. In providing universal and excellent health care and education. Obviously, there is sometimes a gap between the ideal and the reality, but the NDP has rarely lost their belief that it was possible to be strong, assertive, smart, and compassionate. That there's a place for intelligence and kindness in politics. And that the most fortunate looking out for the least fortunate is a social responsibility and not naive.

Canada is such a fascinating country. Our government is Conservative and the official opposition is socialist. I suspect most Canadians are a mix of I am. In some areas I lean toward the conservative. In many, I lean more toward the socialist. Sometimes I think I believe one thing, but when tested in real life I realize I actually believe the opposite. Or, in theory I lean in one direction - in practice I act another way.

We're all complex. Most people are a mish-mash, a tapestry of all sorts of beliefs. Very few people I've met are dogmatic, rigid.

Jack Layton is not a perfect man, and the NDP is not a perfect party - and their vision is not perfect either. But they believe in the best. And now it's time to believe that Mr. Layton will defeat this cancer. If he stood up for us, perhaps we can now stand up for him. Even those who did not vote NDP and never will. This isn't about politics, but about a good and decent man - and
praying for his recovery. Because, what country can't use good men and women?

Be well, Jack Layton. Be well, all of you.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Finally caught up with the finish line!!

sunny and hot - again! temps 30

Wow - what sizzling days!!! Great to be in the country - but too hot to sit outside. I know many of you are experiencing the same thing. Hope you aren't suffering too much with the heat. I find not being able to sleep the worst. God bless geo-thermal, and our great good fortune to be able to put it in, and to do it before the heatwave.

Finished the second draft!!!! 5pm yesterday. I was determined to do it....but not to rush so fast to the end that I skipped over things that needed to be done. I can do that if I'm not careful - get caught up in the goal and forget that point is a great product. A month from now it won't matter what day I finished the draft - but it will matter if I did a good job.

I'd not sooner finished, though, and celebrated....than I remembered an issue that needs to be added. But I won't worry about that now. Plenty of time to do that in the next draft. I'll take the week off, relax, watch the old Avengers and My Cousin Vinny and the new Poirot movies on DVD....and zone out. Then start the next draft next Sunday.

Each draft gets less scary, as I grow more confident that the book is shaping into what I want. What I'd hoped and dreamed it would be before I started. I aways have a 'feeling' for a book....what I want to feel when I've finished it, and what I long for you to feel when you finish reading....and that's what I'm aiming at. And with each draft, I get a little closer. Actually with the first and second I get a lot closer...and then each subsequent draft is fine tuning...those small but crucial elements. The grace notes. Smoothing, simplifying - getting my fear and ego and need to impress out of it - and make it simply the story I want to tell.

Of course, my ego masquerades as 'brilliant' writing. Turns of phrase that will enthrall and delight the reader. But over the course of drafts they get taken out, if their only purpose is to impress. And what stays is what needs to be there. I hope. But, wow, is it every painful!!! It's an imperfect process, because I'm so flawed. But the books, and perhaps I, get better. As a writer, but mostly as a person, I hope. Happily, I think the two for me go hand in hand.

So the second draft is done....and I'm going to chill out (sort of) this week....and just enjoy. Phew!

Had such a fun week with the Mounts and Trevor. As you can see from one of the photos, we had them over for dinner one night, and Michael spent dinner with them at the cottage while I was in Montreal working. When they came here for dinner we did a barbeque we'd never tried before, but had heard a lot about. Fresh salmon on cedar planks. I found the whole idea so intimidating I wouldn't consider trying....but then we decided that we might as well. Michael and Trevor did the actual barbequing - after we'd marinated the salmon. And it turned out beautifully. though i was a little concerned that when Michael invited them over for dinner he seemed to imply that we were serving them barbequed cedar planks.

but they showed up anyway. We also served fresh corn on the cob and broccoli salad, and tomato, bocanccini(sp?) and basil from our herb garden.

A few days ago I showed you our first tomato...well, the plants have been chugging away, producing more. But we seem to have invented a whole new form of agriculture. Micro farming. Producing micro-vegetables. We started with cherry tomatoes and now they've become slightly larger than atoms. We'll take out the magnifying glass for the next harvest. You can see the photo...the giant tomato is in fact a cherry tomato.

Michael is now off picking raspberries with Trudy.

Hope you're enjoying your Sunday and your summer. and I really hope this heat isn't getting to you too much. speak soon!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Easier near the end...

sunny, hot, hazy - like everyone else in NA it seems. temps 32

Came in to Montreal to concentrate on the final push. No interruptions - I thought. Arrived at 9 last night, driving in from the country. Unpacked, and straight to bed. Woke up at 7:30 to drilling. A screeching so loud I thought it was inside my head. And certainly, and disconcertingly, inside our apartment. I threw on sweats and looked into the hall.

I figured it must be in the apartment above us. So I marched upstairs. I felt like a villager off to slay Frankenstein's monster. Determined. Once up there I quickly realized there was no monster on that floor, so up I walked to the next level. Screeching continuing, but not as loud.

Back down.

I couldn't, for the life of me, track it down. It was like it was in the walls and ceiling itself.

So I went down to speak to the doorman. Sydney. wonderful man. He told me they were replacing crumbling concrete on some of the balconies.

'At 7:30 in the morning?' I asked.

He nodded.

'But why's it so loud right in our apartment?'

'Because it's a concrete building,' Sydney explained, and I realized not for the first time, 'and sound travels. And it seems the farther you are away from it the louder it gets.'

Which seemed both perverse and probably true.

So all morning, while I made cup after cup of cafe au lait in the Vive Gamache mug, I heard the screaming of either the drills or my fellow tenants. But, as you probably know from working on your own projects....a sort of miracle happens and the world fades away. After a while I was completely immersed in following Gamache, Beauvoir and the others through the halls of the monastery, as they tracked down a killer.

And they're getting close. I'm at page 266 out of 285. I started the say at 249 out of 280. I move forward and the end moved back. I may never end. I'll be blogging about this book for decades, and you, poor souls, will be patiently reading about it - or perhaps, like the screeching, you'll simply tune it out.

But i have to say, I'm excited about this book. It just takes a long time to get it right. When I finish this draft I'll take a week away then start at the beginning again. And keep at it until it's right.

Michael and I had the most wonderful day yesterday. We headed to Cowansville for brteakfast at the Station - where jackie served us the best french toast with sliced strawberries and bananas...then did some chores...then head to Hovey manor for lunch. We'd invited our friends who're staying at the guest cottage to join us. Bal, Linda, Bethany Mount and their friend Trevor, who also visited last year.

I've posted a not great photo of Bal and Trevor. Bal's on the left and Trevor's on the right. And one Bal took of Michael and Linda, with me in the middle. As you see, it was a spectacular day. And it gave us such joy to share a place we love with people we love. We sat under a tree and sipped Elderflower and chatted. Then went onto the verandah and had lunch. Duck confit, lobster rolls, grilled chicken salads, steak brochettes....and for dessert, lemon cream parfaits, brownies and fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Dear Lord, take us now.

But the day wasn't over. We hopped in the cars and zoomed off to the nearby abbey of Saint-Benoit, where the abbot, Dom Andre and Brother Charles were waiting. The abbot's preparing for a huge concert he's giving this Saturday as part of the Orford Music Festival....the abbot is one of the leading harpsicord and organ players in North America. He interrupted his practicing to see us.

Well, by 'us' I don't mean Michael and me. Nor do I mean Bal, Linda or Bethany. I mean Trevor. If the abbot is one of the best harpsicord musicians in NA, Trevor is one of the best in the world. Trevor Pinnock is his name. He's also a conductor. Indeed, Brother Charles had seen him conduct Romeo and Juliet in NYC a few years ago, with Kathleen Battle performing.

When the abbot heard Trevor was around he issued a lovely invitation. And Trevor, lovely man, accepted.

Now, we thought it was to say a quick hello, and let the abbot get back to work. But instead, the abbot wanted to show Trevor his harpsicord, so off we went to his private practice hall in the abbey and there it was. Trevor seemed extremely impressed and sat down.

And started to play.

the rest of us slumped to whatever seats we could find...stunned. To have a private performance by a virtuoso was such a gift. It left Michael in tears. Moved by both the music and Trevor's generosity. And then, the abbot took the seat and performed one of the pieces he'll be doing on Saturday. We were agape with amazement. The sounds, the glory of the music, the power of these two men as they played. And their passion. And to be within touching distance - it was a treat beyond imagining.

Then it was time to leave Dom Andre to his work, after many thanks...and wonderful Brother Charles took us on a tour of the monastery...into places he hadn't even shown Michael and me before.

We said goodbye outside the monastery shop, where we went in and Linda and I cleared them out of fresh pies and apple crisps. The monastery makes cheese, but it also has an organic apple orchard, and make their own pies and sauce.

It was pathetic - like a feeding frenzy - probably scarred young Bethany for life - seeing her mother and me in such a state of rapture. Not unlike, now that I think of it, Trevor and Dom Andre when they were performing. Pies are our harpsicords.

Then, back home, a quick swim and into Montreal. Michael stayed behind with Trudy and the pool.

More writing tomorrow...while we were at the abbey Dom Andre told us an old monastic saying that eternity is a very long time, but it gets easier near the end. As someone increasingly familiar with eternity, I hope that's true!

Hope you're not melting!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hello, I must be going...

mailing sunny - hot and humid - temps 29

Very muggy. LOVING the geo. But I spend all day editing on the screen porch. Absolutely heaven. Take trudy for a walk when I get fed up or frightened, or confused. She is getting in good shape.

To be fair, the book is also in far better shape than I dared hope - both in terms of the quality and structure of the first draft, and the way the second draft is going. I made a lot of notes in the weeks I took off between the two, and I think they're paying off. Today was a bit dicey - some pivotal stuff needed to be added and switched around...but it worked well. Oh, thank heaven.

Amazing how powerful fear is. I was thinking this morning, after editing just 5 pages of the 25 I was hoping to do - that maybe I should stop. Just stop. I didn't want to do it anymore. Oddly, this wasn't in a particularly difficult section. and while tired, I don't think I'm any more tired than anyone of you.

I think it was fear...again. Not focussed, just sort of free-floating. fortunately I recognized the feeling...had it in the first draft too - and in each of the past I near the end of a draft I shy away from it. Feet that had felt light and strong suddenly feel leaden. Some invisible power is pushing me away from the end, like a polar opposite magnet.

But clearly that's not reasonable, and certainly not an option. So I just need to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Nose down.

And sure enough, within a page, that feeling had gone. Am now at page 228 out of 280. Slightly more than 60 to go, though I suspect I'll be adding some at the end. I think I hurried it, so desperate was I to finish the first draft. My hope is to be finished the second draft (first edit) by the end of the week. It should be possible, though I also know it slows down at the end, just because of the intricacy of it.

Had a fun day yesterday. Edited until 1pm, then Michael and went to Knowlton and had lunch with kevin and Terry Tierney. Then at 4:30 I interviewed Kevin as part of the Knowlton WordFest. Fabulous festival...lots of amazing guests. Kevin produced Bon Cop, Bad cop. Very funny - and the most successful Canadian film at the box office in decades. His new film is out in Oct and is called French Immersion.

Must run - Bal, Linda, Bethany and their friend Trevor have arrived...staying in cottage...came over for swims, drinks, nibblies. then I'm off to give the literacy speech to end the Knowlton WordFest. Bye!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Crossing our fingers, and our legs

mainly sunny - perfect day! temps 28

Woke up to the most exquisite day. Not a cloud. Warm but not sizzling. Sat by the pool for breakfast. Spent morning editing. It's going much faster now...and even I get caught up in the story...very, very fun when that happens. (though part of me is always, and constantly praying, that I haven't screwed it up!) So far, so good. Well over halfway through.

I've hit a patch I think might be problematic - but decided to break for the day and go at it fresh tomorrow.

Lise and donna came and did the gardens yesterday...and we had our very first harvest. A single cherry tomato. There's Michael, with the tomato (like a clown's nose, which Lise assures me, it is not). We cut it into quarters and shared with Lise and Donna. Nothing like a fresh picked tomato, still warm from the sun.

Susan, Shelagh and Shelagh's friend Jenny came for a swim yesterday - then w all went over to the cottage for dinner. Susan was barbequing and halfway through...pooopht. Out of propane. So susan and I trooped through the woods to our place, with the platter of chicken, and used our bbq. GREAT dinner. very fun conversations...especially riveting to hear Shelagh's experiences as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process with the native population. Especially the travesty of the residential schools, where young native kids were taken forcibly from their families and sent away to school where they had their language and customs beaten out of them. And it was made clear to them, they were barely better than animals. And certainly, far inferior to whites.

the shame is almost too much to bear. Shelagh described being there on Canada Day and each of the survivors of the residential schools were given a cupcake and a candle - to celebrate their own birthdays, since none were celebrated when they were children. The candles were lit and the lights turned off...and it was like, in Shelagh's words, the most beautiful church service. Like votives. And then they sang happy birthday, in their native languages.

Susan, Shelagh and Jenny are coming over here for dinner. Wild rice salad, fresh fruit for dessert and confit de canard on the bbq.

But there is one small problem. Our downstairs toilet broke, and in trying to fix it I made it worse. Apparently, and I know this will come as much as a shock to you as it came to me, I'm not a trained plumber. The water, then, wouldn't stop filling and options were a) spend eternity flushing the toilet b) sell the house c) turn off all the water in the house.

We took c. Now, normally there'd be a small valve close to the toilet, for just this sort of idiocy...erm...emergency. But there isn't one there.

We called - who else - Gary - who was about 100 kms away but said he'd come tonight - God bless him!! But finally we got through to Dwayne, our friendly local plumber. He's apparently on his way. And I cannot begin to tell you how much I'm regretting that bowl of cafe au lait this morning. But deeply grateful it was only one.

Off to the Knowlton WordFest tomorrow. I'm interviewing Kevin Tierney at the Old Masonic Hall in Knowlton, at 4:30. kevin's the producer of Bon Cop, Bad Cop.

Hope to see you there! Or anywhere. Most of all, I hope you're having a terrific summer.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Knowlton Wordfest

mixed day - some bright sunny periods, then heavy rain. Laundry on the line - of course. Still, our clothes have seen worse things than rainwater. Temps 25

Geo-thermal is finished and working brilliantly!!! In fact, it started working immediately - that was a week ago. Phil, from ClimaPur, pressed a button and within a minute we could feel cool air. for the first time ever, our old farmhouse had central air! Though clearly that wasn't the reason for putting in the geo. Actually, there were a few reasons. We wanted to be more responsible, and energy efficient. We had oil heat and that's just expensive and polluting, especially compared to hydro or certainly, geo-thermal. And we also wanted to not worry about what was happening in the world. To be so dependent on dictators and oligarchies. Multi-nationals.

But - get this - within a minute of the geo being turned on...there was a massive power failure! Caused, we were assured, not by us - it was county wide. And lasted 12 hours. So much for geo. or anything.

But when the electricity came back on, so did the air conditioning. Mostly, of course, we want it for the heating in the winter.

In doing research on geo I read an ad that said, 'We turn dirt into heat'. and that's what it does. Takes cool, or heat, from the earth and uses it in our home. For about the price of running a refrigerator.

Of course, the initial cost is huge. But we figure if we live another 93 years, we'll have it paid off. (actually, in our case, the geo will have paid for itself in 4 years.)

Del, Lise's wonderful husband, came by with his team on Saturday, and smoothed out the earth, put down good soil, and seeded. In a few months we don't even know it's happened.

That's the plan.

Editing going well. Up to page 125 - out of 290. Dropped almost 5,000 words so far. Want to drop another 5,000. But right now the goal is the best book, not the shortest.

The big event this week is the literary festival in the nearby Quebec village of Knowlton. it's regularly voted one of the prettiest in Canada. It's just lovely....and one of the inspirations for Three Pines - though Knowlton is much bigger. And exists.

This coming weekend is the second annual WordFest. And what a thrilling line-up!!! Shelagh Rogers is coming....she one of the most prominent Canadian journalists and radio hosts with CBC. She was just given the Order of Canada. Her programme is called The Next Chapter, and is about books. She'll be staying in the guest cottage, with susan. they're good friends. And shelagh will be doing a number of events at WordFest.

Some of the other guests are: kathleen Winter, who wrote the hugely successful book, Annabel, which was shortlisted for, among other things, the Governor General's Award for Literature.

Anne Fortier, who wrote Juliet.

Kim Thuy - who'se first book, Ru, won the Governor General's Award as well as the grand prize at the 2010 Salon du Livres in Montreal.

Sheree Fitch is a massively talented and successful writer of children's books. she's also a poet.

And there are all sorts of other great literary guests.

I'll be doing two events. on Saturday afternoon, between 4:30 and 5:30, I'll be interviewing the magnetic Kevin Tierney. He's a screen writer and film producer/director. He produced and co-wrote the highest grossing film in Canadian history, Bon Cop, Bad Cop - which is hilarious! His latest film is about to come out and is called French Immersion, co-written with one of the most prominent and successful Canadian screenwriters, who also happens to be a neighbor here, Jefferson Lewis.

Kevin and I will take the stage at the Old Masonic Hall, at 79 Lakeside, on Saturday. It's a ticketed event, as most are.

and on sunday night I'll be giving the keynote talk at the Peter Gzowski dinner for Literacy, to wrap-up WordFest. Shelagh will be the MC for the evening.

If you want more info, or tickets, you can call Danny and Lucy at Brome Lake Books in Knowlton - 450-242-2242 or email them,

In fact, Michael, cotton and I are having dinner tonight with Danny and Lucy and the kids. Looking forward to it.

speak soon - hope you're thriving!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Still here - plugging away!

mainly sunny, hot, temps 29

Beautiful day...sunny, hot and humid - though clouding over a bit now. thunder storms forecast.

My brother, Dog, dropped by for a short visit. Just overnight. always such fun having him here. And I think, given Lucy's unexpected loss, that added a layer of gratitude. That I could still hug my brother. And laugh with him and tell him things few others would be interested in. And see him and Michael kid each other, and be so comfortable together.

We called back and forth to Regina, where our other brother, Rob and his wife Audi live. We're trying to arrange the annual family reunion for Thanksgiving. We think we'll rent a home in or around Niagara-on-the-lake. Beautiful community in Ontario, close to Niagara Falls.

I want to sincerely thank all of you for your support of Lucy. I know how much she, and her family, have appreciated it. And I appreciate it too. thank you.

Sorry for the blog silence. Feeling a little overwhelmed right now. With the editing, and the need to keep up a certain pace so that I'll be finished before I go on tour. And all sorts of great things happening, but each demanding time and attention. Teresa Chris, my agent, has just sold the books to be translated into Greek, Taiwan (Chinese), Portuguese (bringing the total to 20 languages)- but most of these countries need complex tax forms filled out and stamped by Canadian tax authorities and sent on.

That takes time. And who really likes paperwork???

So many things have come as a surprise in having a writing career. Most very, very good. The magnificent friends I've made...the people I've met. You. And the excitement that never diminishes in having a manuscript accepted....and then, that magical day of holding it in my hands. Wow.

but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Right now, as I seem to race toward the fall tour, I want to finish the book. And not just finish - but make it as wonderful as I can. So I find I need to stop and go back, and go over, and add, and adjust....then move forward. And it always takes far more time than I expect. I had a thought today about how to make a scene better about 20 pages tomorrow I'll go back and redo it. sort of like ripping the knitting out. Painful - but if you want a creation you're proud of, that will forever be associated with you - then it is necessary.

Michael and I stayed in Montreal after James Hoblyn's funeral - figuring getting over the bridges on a friday afternoon would not be pleasant. So we over-nighted at the apartment, woke up at 5:15am - drove to Sutton (bridges a dream) - and met Gary and Cheryl for breakfast at Le Cafetier.

Susan's at the guest cottage, so we went over there for dinner Saturday and she came over here for drinks and a swim yesterday before doug arrived.

The Knowlton literary festival, called WordFest is this coming weekend...I'll tell you more about it in the next post - I hope.

sort of a scattered post - but lots to catch up on.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

James Hoblyn - 46

sunny day, warm, temps 25

We came in to Montreal to be at the funeral of James Hoblyn.

Neither Michael nor I ever met him. Nor have we met his wife, Josee, or his three daughters, Emilie, Charlotte and Ashley. Nor have we met his brother, Thomas.

But we know and love James' sister, Lucy.

Lucy and her husband Danny own and run Brome Lake Books in Knowlton. Many of you have spoken to Lucy on the phone, arranging for Vive Gamache mugs, or signed books. And I know how much Lucy and Danny love the contacts and have grown to feel many of you have become friends.

In fact, Danny and their youngest son, Ben, were at our place having a swim and drinks by the pool on Sunday, before they got the news.

James Hoblyn was 46. An executive at Bombardier. He was training for a marathon. He was adored by his daughters and loved by his wife. And he died of a massive heart attack.

I honestly can't speak to how many friends he had, but if he's like Lucy, he had a whole village full of friends. What I do know is that Knowlton convulsed when it heard. With pain. for one of their daughters, in such pain.

If you're one of the many people who have corresponded with Danny and Lucy - or spoken to them - perhaps you can email again. A word of kindness. and support. I know it often seems there's so little to be said in the face of such grief. But we all know how deeply meaningful it is to feel that support. Even from relative strangers. Every bit of kindness helps.

their email is:

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


mainly sunny, hot, temps 29

Beautiful day! Lots of deer flies...annoying little bug***s.

I spent the last two days (one night) at the spa Eastman, to celebrate our friend Louise's 50th birthday. We had a blast. Massages, walks. A lecture last night on reflexology. This morning Louise helped me practice for two french interviews today. A TV interview - which was very fun, but very stressful - and a radio interview, with Radio Canada - with two other authors, Johanne Seymour and Andre Jacques. Both write crime fiction. So that was easier...others to take the burden.

enjoyed both a great deal! One of the great things at this spa is that there were no TV's or phones in the rooms, and guests were asked (told) not to use cell phones, laptops or blackberries in the public areas. Unbelievably relaxing to not even see them. But - for the first time ever - I forgot my blackberry at home...and so had no way to contact Michael, since there were no phones in the rooms! Luckily Louise has a cell and she lent it to me. So a couple of calls a day...a nighty-night and a good morning.

Felt very strange.

This afternoon I headed home to Michael and the chaos. It actually wasn't chaos, it just appeared that way. the geo-thermal is going in and I have to say, it's not exactly like a calm walk through the forest. there were two massive earth diggers, men laying piping, others draining our old oil tanks and others removing the old furnace - to be donated to a family who needs one. Poor Michael was here all day yesteday and reported that it was extremely stressful. I arrived home mid-afternoon and immediately lost all benefits from the spa.

It was seeing our beautiful lawns dug up, And the noise. Wow, does that wear fast. Still, there was nothing we could do except trust. And by 7pm, the diggers had left, having filled in the holes and leveled the earth. Quiet was restored. And phil and rob were working in the basement, to get it all hooked-up.

We were hoping to be finished today - but something sprang a leak and they realized they just couldn't finish tonight. So they went off to the guest cottage - and now I finally get a chance to sit down and write you.

You know, this is all wonderful...but when we yearn for peace and quiet and find both shattered, it gnaws away. Still, I'm very lucky to have good friends to celebrate birthdays with...and the chance to go to a spa. And the chance to put in geo-thermal.

Tomorrow it's back to editing. had some thoughts while away. I think they'll work. We'll see.

Oh, Danny and Lucy at Brome Lake Books are having some trouble with their computers and other stuff - so if you're trying to order the vive gamache mugs and either haven't heard back or are waiting for them, they asked me to ask if you'd mind holding tight for a few days until things get sorted out. They also asked me to tell you not to worry - they'll get to all the emails and orders and the mugs will be sent out asap.

we're starting up the geo-thermal tomorrow morning....I'll let you know how it goes. Fingers crossed!!!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The rose

Sunny, gorgeous day - temps 30

Stunning day - sunny and hot. Went for a swim in the pool for the first time. Blissful. Breakfast outside, then back onto the screen porch to start the second draft of book 8.

Terrifying. tossed and turned last night - as per usual before starting the first edit. My big fear is that I'll start reading the first draft and realize it sucks. Now, I have to say, I sort of expect parts of it to stink...but not the whole thing.

As those of you who have read the blog for a while know, my approach to the first draft is to get the 'critic' away from the keyboard, preferably out of the room and out of ear-shot....and just write. Have fun with it. Take risks. Follow unlikely avenues and see where they lead. Just fly and soar and feel and throw it all in there.

At the end of the first draft I have a pile of words and - with luck - a story is in there. And more.

Then I take some time off, to recover and detach - and enjoy life. then I get back to it. And yesterday was the 'get back to it' day.

the only thing is, the critic has been cooling her heels for six months now. Biding her time. thinking up and storing up insults. And now, the door opens and she's allowed back in.

The trick, at this stage, is to make sure it's the critic in the room and not all sorts of life-long insecurities - mascarading as a rational, thoughtful, helpful voice. At the beginning of the edit the two can be confused....all mixed up by fear. But as it goes along I can distinguish the useful voice from the fearful one.

So - all this to say - I actually like the editing process....I simply loathe the first day. And today was no different. Took me a few hours sof reading and re-reading the first few pages to settle back into it...and to 'hear' what would really make it better. Wow, was it scary when, for half an hour or so, I thought I'd lost both the thread of the story and the desire to write. What a carnivore fear is!

But with perseverance the howl settled down, then disappeared....and by the time I'd finished for the day I loved the opening chapter. I'd made a few changes - but the structure and message remained unchanged. And that felt wonderful.

I think about a book for about 8 months to a year before I start the first draft...but for all that, I find I only really know what a book is about when I finish that first draft. And so, of course, it will need shaping and tuning - as the themes are sharpened.

We were at Hovey, as you know, for most of the week. A beautiful way to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary-and then, on Friday, my 53rd birthday. I'd spend part of the week telling Michael (with some pride at my obvious enlightenment) that I felt very relaxed about my age and didn't care in the least that I was turning 52. It was only on Thursday that he told me, gently, that maybe I was calm about it because I'd had a year to get used to it. And that, in fact, I was turning 53.

Actually, I just laughed. I don't care at all. In fact, I've always felt older than my years, and I'm married to an older man, so this doesn't matter. but then, we're extremely lucky to have our health. And that's clearly what matters. Not age, but condition. And attitude.

When we arrived home yesterday and got in to the house Michael said he wanted to show me something. he led me back outside and pointed.

There, by the path to the pool, was a new flower bed! Planted with roses!!! Lise had done it while we were away!!! Michael had the idea and then he and Lise had schemed about where to put it and how many. It's for our 15th anniversary - and Michael knows I adore roses. Initially they'd thought of 15 bushes, but realized that would be a huge bed and perhaps less is more. So Lise chose three exquisite rose bushes...and among them she planted one of the lavender plants I'd brought home.

You can see Michael amid the roses. My lovely shade tree, my shelter. My Michael.