Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A soft landing

brilliant sun, warm, temps 20

Exquisite - the only way to describe the you might be able to tell, we aren't in Canada any more. Flew overnight Monday on BA - after some pleading, and a little bit of money (but not much) they upgraded Michael and me to Business class. Which meant we could wait in the first class lounge (flight delayed an hour, so left at 10pm) and had lovely meal on plane then, luxury of luxuries, a lie flat bed! Both of us actually slept on the flight. Arrived at 10am London time were met by a driver and brought to the Burford House Hotel, in (yes) Burford.

It's been such a busy time - and all the angst over the CanLit Hunger Games! - it felt a little like being shot out of a cannon and landing in the Cotswolds. Our first time to this part of Britain. My secret dream since I was in my 20s is to have a small cottage in one of the cotswold villages, and a flat in London.

But - to be honest - we love our home in Quebec so much, we'd never really do it....but it feels a little as though another childhood dream has come true (the first and cardinal dream was to be a writer) we are in a beautiful little Inn in a village - then on Friday we head to London for a month.

You can see photos we've taken just in the day we've been here...funny, askew homes and businesses made of stone, with slate roofs. for breakfast today Michael had the Full English (two eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled mushrooms and tomato. I had my favorite english breakfast of all time - which is increasingly difficult to find...finnan haddie - poached smoked haddock. Had cotswold honey with our toast...made from late flowering edlerflower, lime, blackberry, clover. Yum! Then we walked the old streets - went into the oldest pharmacy in England and bought some lotion created by the family more than 100 years ago and still made on site. We had tea in the little tea room across the street and now we're off to explore the local church. Indeed, I think one of the comments on the Facebook page said her ancestors helped build part of the church.

So great to have you with us.

dinner tonight is in the pub just up the road. Early dinner, since jetlag is still an issue.

The photo is of Burford High Street, looking out across the hills - and the afternoon tea Michael and I had yesterday in the suddenly reminded me a little of olivier's bistro....there was a small stone fireplace on one wall, and the mullion windows.

Tomorrow we're traveling to the nearby village of Abingdon, to visit an old friend. Dick. He's become our friend, but certainly started out as Michael's, from his days in Cambridge, almost 60 years ago. They've remained good friends ever since. Remarkable. Dick's showing us around his new place then coming back for dinner at the Inn tomorrow night.
then, London on Friday.

Hope you packed light - we now have cotswold honey and vials of handmade lotion! But so far, haven't bought a cottage. Who knows what this afternoon will bring!

Will keep you posted. Oh, the village has a bookstore! Went in and introduced myself and did the 'author' thing. always fun.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Armand is alive!

sunny, cool, temps minus 3 - windy

Armand Gamache has survived the CanLit Hunger Games, and it's all because of you!!!! You did it! Thank you, thank you. All your voting, all your getting the word out. All that energy and passion to keep him alive. Especially after that VERY strong finished by Anne of Green Gables.

Wow - what a thrilling week or so, as tribute after tribute fell. As the lead see-sawed among Joseph Boyden's Xavier Bird, Anne Shirley and Armand Gamache. Back and forth, back and forth.

But you came through for the Chief Inspector - putting him over the top! The final tally?

Gamache: 42.18 percent
Anne Shirley: 33.23 percent
Xavier Bird: 24.58 percent

Anne of Green Gables supporters, her main champions, on Prince Edward Island were very gracious in defeat, congratulating the Chief. And I happen to know he felt horrible about what he faced. Indeed, he asked me to pass on this statement of thanks:

What a horrific experience this has been, trapped and having to combat men and women whom I so admire. Anne Shirley, a favorite of my own daughter Annie. Xavier, who fought so bravely. Flavia and Scott and so many others. I'm keenly aware that the only reason I won was because of the support, the passion, the dedication of so many voters. I could feel them, cheering me on, giving me courage when my own flagged. Alone, I am nothing. This victory belongs to the team. Reine-Marie joins me in saying, thank you, thank you, merci. Vive les lecteurs. Long live reading and readers! And long live Canadian literature! Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec

I also want to thank you. I couldn't quite believe just how emotional I felt about this. At first it was great to know Gamache was included in the Canadian literary Hunger Games. But as the days went by, I became more and more engaged - and wanted him to win...the thought of Gamache dying out there was horrible.

so my gratitude to you goes beyond simple words. I could also feel your emotions - and commitment. How lovely, yet again, to know we're not alone. And this is a great example of the power of collaboration - of a team.

Vive Gamache. Vive the readers who have kept him alive.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

May the odds be ever in your favour!

overcast, showers, mild - temps 12 degrees

We're having just a blast with the Canadian Literary Hunger Games! As many of you might know by now, as a nod to this phenomenon and the movie that just opened, the brilliant folks at CBC Books (part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) came up with the idea of having a CanLit Hunger Games. 12 male characters from Canadian fiction and 12 female were chose as 'tributes'. For this unfamilair (as I was until recently) with the idea....these characters are pitted against each other in combat, and only one is the ultimate survivor.

In the CanLit version the characters remain alive thanks to the votes of readers.

One of the Canadian literary characters in the Hunger Games is Armand Gamache!

Over the course of the past two weeks, readers have been voting - and characters have been 'killed off'. It has been increasingly fun and increasingly unnerving. Very strange to feel that Armand is actually fighting for his life and only our votes will keep him alive. And, as the Games have progressed, it become increasingly brutal, with the lead swinging wildly....but for the past few days it has come down to three competitors.

Xavier Bird - the main character in Joseph Boyden's award winning book Three Day Road
Anne of Green Gables - everyone's 'kindred spirit', who has done her best to kill Armand
And, our own chief Inspector Gamache!

Thanks to your voting, Armand pulled ahead a few days ago, and has remained there - though it has been extremely close, within a fraction of a percentage point at times!

I have to say, I've been so deeply moved by your commitment to helping Gamache.

Thank you, thank you. Merci! And now we're at the final day - the competition closes tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow.

Anne of Green Gables is surging....and Xavier's fans are loyal and passionate and want their guy to win. Armand is far from safe. But whatever happens, I want you to know how grateful I am. I know it's a game, but it's been wonderful to have such magnificent support!

The best character will win, be it Gamache or Anne or Xavier - but I feel Armand has already won...who wouldn't feel like a winner after seeing such support from all of you?

And I want to again congratulate CBC Books for a simply brilliant idea, one that bring the characters to life, and makes it fun and riveting, thrilling and moving. And make it clear that Canadian literature is all of those things, and more. Bravo.

And bravo to you - for breathing life into Armand - and doing your best to keep it there.

On another note - the writing for the next Chief Inspector Gamache book is going well - almost at 30,000 words for the first draft (which is normally about 120,000 by the time i'm finished the about a quarter through). It's sometimes terrifying, but mostly it is such fun...can hardly wait to get at the manuscript each day. Phew!

Off today to speak at a brunch celebrating the centenary of the Lennoxville Library. love that library! When I was with CBC Radio we did a few remote broadcasts from there. When I'm writing now I decline all speaking engagements - but I agreed to this one because it was this library. Looking forward to it.

Then tomorrow, Michael and I head to England! A few days at an inn in the Cotswolds, visiting a friend of Michael's (and mine) in a nearby village, then we've rented a flat in Knightsbridge until May. Wow! I love London...hope you do too, cause you're coming with us!

Hope this finds you well and thriving - and thank you again, for all your support - with the Hunger Games - and with so much more.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Vive Gamache Chair!

Gorgeous sunny (summer?) day - temps 20 degrees

This is about 15 degrees above normal. I think much of the east coast is breaking temperature records. Amazing. Daffs beginning to show.

Great news!!! Thanks to you, Armand is still alive and thriving over at the CBC CanLit Hunger Games, where he's pitted against other Canadian literary creations. You can vote for him once a day - and you don't have to be Canadian to do it. When last I looked, he was in third place. Anne of Green Gables was threatening to kill him. That can't be good.

Here's the link - hope it works for you.

And, over at the CBC Bookie Award, A TRICK OF THE LIGHT has moved into second place...thanks to you. here's that link again:

But, as I mentioned before, all the books are wonderful and each deserves to win...and I think this method of choosing isn't so much a reflection on the quality of the winner as the wonderful readers.

But the big news for today is something else entirely! My Assistant Lise (patent pending), Michael and I have created a chair to be auctioned to raise money for a local cause. There's a space in the village of Sutton (or local village) called the Coeur de Village, Salle Alec et Gerard Pelletier. It's a sort of performance space, but not quite so grand. Modest in size but not in vocation. It's used by community groups to raise money, to put on shows, to show films. It's a crucial gathering spot. But it needs support. So a group of local citizens has come up with a wonderful idea - create chairs and auction them off.

48 local artists have been approached, including us! You can see the photo of our chair, which My Assistant Lise really did, but Michael and i helped. And that's Lise signing it. It's our Vive Gamache chair - and if you go to my website at: you'll find a link to the auction of our chair.

On our auction page you'll also find out how to bid, and also find a link for more information on the Chairs project. You might find a chair you like better. They really are amazing....people are so creative!

The chairs can actually be used too - they won't collapse, I promise. We tested ours. And then signed it. Lise and Michael and me. There will only ever be this one Vive Gamache chair. We hope you'll like it, either for yourself or as a gift for someone who knows the Gamache books.

the auction ends on May 5th. If you bid you might want to check back every now and then, to see if there's a higher bid.

In terms of getting the chair to you, not to worry, the auction committee has agreed to ship it to you free of charge.

Have fun - bid high and often! And enjoy the Vive Gamache chair, knowing you've helped a community very much.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The CBC Bookie and CanLit Hunger Games

torrential rains - temps plus 8

Unseasonably mild - but that has become the new normal. And we are approaching spring, after all!

Lots of fun things happening - including that we just found out that A TRICK OF THE LIGHT has been nominated for a CBC Bookie Award. Every year the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation nominates what it considers the best books in a number of categories....including mystery/thrillers. A Trick of the Light is among them.

But the fun twist, is that the CBC then opens it up for voting, so that readers get to choose the actual winners! Which means - if you'd like, you can go to the site and vote for A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. And - God bless 'em - we can vote every day! You'll see the results change through the day, on a percentage basis. Since I was about a week late finding out, and only now getting the word out, I'm afraid we really need your ongoing support until the contest ends on March 31st.

Having said that, when you see the shortlist in the 'mystery' category you'll know that all of the books deserve to win. However...

So - here's the link... I think it works.... if not, you can google CBC Bookie 2012, and that should get you there....scroll down to the Mystery category.

And - as though that wasn't excitement enough - there's a really cool contest also on at the CBC website. This is a nod to The Hunger Games film....

What they've done is chosen 24 Canadian literary characters, and pitted them against each other. 12 male and 12 female. And Armand Gamache is among them. fighting for his life! Every day, we get to vote for whichever character we think will/should win. And everyday one of them is killed off.

So far, Armand survives - but his percentage of survival is pretty low...yikes.

Soooo - once again, I'm asking for your vote. This one is mighty fun! Here's the link for the CBC Canlit Hunger Games -

Again, if it doesn't work, perhaps you can find it through googling...sorry for the extra work. I do realize you might just have other (even better) things to do with your time! But I thought I'd bring this to your attention.

This is really a brilliant idea someone at CBC had! A way to make reading fun, bring characters alive, and bring some books and series and characters to people's attention who might not be aware of them. And make reading a delight and not something stuffy.

Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Cover!!

overcast, light rain, temps plus 9

Wow - so mild. I'm still waiting for winter, and here we are actually in spring. We're 'sugaring-off' here, and no, that isn't a euphemism for something Ruth might say. Go sugar off! It's the maple syrup season...when the sap runs in the trees. Very traditional here - there're the cabane a sucres, the sugaring-off parties. All the traditional foods, including 'tire' on snow (though snow is becoming hard to find!)

Very fun time - wish I could say especially for children, but adults love it just as much.

But the VERY fun news for me, as you can see, is that Minotaur Books has come up with the cover for the next Chief Inspector Gamache book. THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY will be coming out August 28th - and this is the cover.

When Andy Martin, the publisher, sent it to me I admit, I hesitated before opening the attachment....very scary. Very important. Critical in get a cover that's compelling, beautiful, subtle, but makes a statement....and that reflects the tone of the book.

Extremely difficult to get it right.

But as soon as I opened it I knew they'd nailed it! Thanks to David Rotstein, the designer. He also did A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. And as much as I adored that book, and the astonishing blue of the cover, and the might of the moon - I believe I like this cover for THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY even more.

The fresh greens of the forest...but mostly, of course, the soft light. Anyone who's spent time in the woods knows that light, as it comes between the leaves and branches. Not a perfect, glaring light, but diffuse. It is at once inspiring, but also makes the darkness all the darker.

He's captured the duality in the series, and in THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY in particular. What Gamache finds, in that remote monastery. And the terrible outcome, for Gamache and for the monks.

I think it also helps that my name is getting bigger and bigger (not that I would notice that sort of agent told me. Honest)

I'm SO looking forward to having you read it!

I know, too, that I've said this before, and I'll be saying it many more times....but if you could tell others about THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY and the series, I'd be deeply grateful! I know you've already spread the word - thank you so much! But if you could post a comment on websites, or a review, or somehow get word out to the hundreds of thousands (millions) who've never heard of the books, that would be amazing.

How lucky I am to have you as a reader, and championing the Gamache books! I can hardly wait to have THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY in your hands! August 28th.

Oh, and you can pre-order it now, online or at your bookstore.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Definitely Disturbed

brilliant sunshine, temps plus 10

Amazing of those strange moments....snow everywhere, and yet it's warm outside. Hot, almost, in the sunshine. I remember spring skiing on days like this and getting a burn. And at the end of the day propping my long skis into the snow, then sitting in the snow, leaning against the skis, with a hot chocolate (later a beer), and sunning myself at the bottom of the hill.

Ahhh. Almost as wonderful as that lunch break, often at the small restaurant at the top of the mountain...clumping along in undone ski boots...waiting in line for the overdone hot dog and fries and hot chocolate. Always burned my tongue on the hot chocolate. Never anywhere else, only on the lunch break at the hill. The lunch always tasted so good.

This is such a day.

I think I'll take a couple of chairs out to our porch and make some soup for our lunch.

Rain tomorrow....but for today, we enjoy.

Writing going well. I realize how intimidating a new chapter is. How I go back, over and over, the former chapter....afraid to start a new blank page. Funny how humbling writing is, as I come face to face with all my insecurities, and all the places I've found to hide. of course, I'm only hiding from myself. But, oddly, it seems to work for a while. I think I might not be very bright.

Having fun writing this book - can't tell you why, but while there are all sorts of issues of complex structures and story lines and character development - I think I just am more relaxed. I know the story....but mostly I know I can always fix it later. I used to think I had to get it right immediately. What a stone around my neck that was. Took no chances, and took very few steps forward. But once that was cut away, wow. Suddenly, it becomes fun. Or at least, somewhat less terrifying.

Wrote just over a thousand words today. Spent the first hour or so reading the work from yesterday, smoothing, moving things, taking some things out. Lightening here, darkening there. Added a small exchange I thought about in the night. We'll see later if it works....the flaws become so much clearer when I start to work on the second draft.

For now my job is to be courageous and creative - to take chances. And to remember what a genuine privilege it is to write. To be able to write. And to have a story to tell. And to have you to read it.

A huge part of my enjoyment is being able, this time more than any other book, to keep the world away. And a big part of that is having My Assistant Lise. She came over the other day, with some paperwork, and another the things she'd done was brought a vat of gummi bears and the Do Not Disturb sign.

Clearly it's a little late for that.

Hope you're well and enjoying the season.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Starting book 9

overcast, temps minus 4

More snow than expected overnight...but still, not much. A few inches. It finally looks like winter. Had a nice storm last week - probably a foot of snow, all told. Great for the ski hill and the skiers. And for those of us who just like the look of snow on the trees and ground.

But temps supposed to go up to plus 12 this coming week....and a whole lot of rain in the forecast. Ugh.

Started writing the new book last Thursday. Had set a goal of 200 to 500 words a day. 200 words is quite low...but I really want to be kind to myself with this book. To not lash myself forward. But to remember to write with joy. Even the sections that are terribly difficult.

Went next door, to the cottage. And perhaps it was the tranquility there - or the lack of distractions (probably more likely) - but the first day I wrote more than 1,000 words - and four days into it I'm at more than 5,000 words.


What bliss to just have the book to think about. I've gotten much better at declining invitations - both professional and personal - during this first draft. Still feels uncomfortable. Hate saying no. But now I'm appreciating the difference. When all I have to do is write. And when I'm not writing I can just relax, and not have to concentrate on other people, listening to them, or being expected to talk. Michael and I can just sit by the fire and read or chat, or watch TV - no stress.

Yesterday was a case in point. I'd written more than 2,000 words and come to the end of a section. And I knew what the next section had to be....but I didn't know how to do it. Where it would be set, who the other characters would be - what the dialogue would be.

All I knew was that it needed to re-introduce a major characters and give a sense of what had happened between books. It had to carry a load of emotion and facts....without feeling like a dump truck. It needed to be entertaining, (riveting, I'm hoping) - and elegant and natural. It needed to flow. And feel, above all, effortless.

From the moment I stopped writing yesterday, until I sat down at the computer today, I thought about it. Brought out various scenarios, listened to 'conversations' in my mind. closed my eyes and tried to see.

Would they be here? Would they be there? Why? What's the purpose of that location.

Because each setting needs to have a purpose - to help move the story forward. Each word and phrase needs to have a purpose - either in the plot or in the character development, or back story, or mis-direction, or all of those things. Layers.

and yet - have it all appear simple and easy.

I don't want you to feel you're wading through the book - slugging away.

I have to say, for some writers it might be easy - but not for me. And so if I also have a social event, or a talk I need to give, while trying to write, it's such a handicap. And for years I agreed to events....agreed to having friends visit, or to having dinner with them - agreed to give interviews and read other manuscripts....spent afternoons replying to emails and making phone calls. And doing the blog (at one time I blogged everyday - and I can't any more).

all those things I did because I wanted to. They gave me pleasure. But then I could see, more and more clearly, that they also took away from my focus. So now I blog every few days, I decline almost all interviews. I see friends rarely, at this stage.

I become a hermit.

Thanks to Michael, who is so kind and understanding - and a huge thanks to My Assistant Lise (patent pending) - who does respond to the emails, and does the mailing, and keeps my schedule and does a million things to keep this boat afloat. So I can concentrate on just paddling along.

After thinking about it for hours, I sat down at the computer this morning and started to write. I knew it was a pivotal scene, so I gave myself permission to only write 500 words....but to make them count. Set the scene off properly. I had, though, no idea what the first words would be.

But I just started writing....and darned if those first words didn't set exactly the tone I needed. Totally unexpected. Now, all this might change in the next draft....but I'll worry about that then. For now, I wrote more than 1,000 words again today, and am happy (and more than a little relieved and surprised).

Will now 'putz' around the house, as My Assistant Lise (patent pending) would say - putting up a few pictures. Mindless wandering.

Day away from writing tomorrow (which is also why getting the foundation of the next scene down was so important) - doctor's appointment tomorrow morning (just a check up) then Lise is coming by early afternoon.

Our gas fireplace is acting up again, so hoping to have that fixed tomorrow as well.

Hope you're enjoying the day....and please don't worry that I'll say too much and spoil a surprise in this book....I'm keenly aware of the need to be careful. No spoilers here!