Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Yes, we have no storm

snow, windy, temps minus 2

The storm that was forecast never showed up here in Montreal - but we're very happy to have come into the city a day early. There was a huge storm expected - up to 40 cms of snow...yesterday. Michael's two sons were visiting us in the country and were supposed to stay until today, then drive in to Montreal. We were leaving too - to spend a few days here and relax. But with the 'weather bomb' forecast we had a large bacon and eggs late breakfast, then all packed up and scooted in to the city.


Traveling was so easy - and a relief not to have to worry about the weather.

Arrived in time for a late lunch at Bistro on the Avenue, on Greene ave (Bistro burger and fries) with the guys - then they left and Michael and I rented some movies and lay on the bed and began our 'vacation'.

Awoke to...nothing. No storm. A bit of snow right now, but hardly the blizzard we'd expected. yes, we have no bananas.

Apparently in the country there was epic rain, and now the temperatures are plunging, so the Eastern Townships will soon be a huge skating rink.

I could go on, and I know this is fascinating, but I think I'll stop talking about the weather.

.... hmmm .... nothing else comes to mind. ....

Actually, since we came in a day early (did I mention the storm warnings?) we now have a day 'free'. I plan to spend it writing the January newsletter and drinking coffee. And watching the dvds we rented. So lovely to have pretty much no agenda while here. I have a telephone interview tomorrow with a big Canadian lifestyle magazine (I'll be in the pjs, lying on the unmade bed, with crumbs stuck to my face - talking about my lifestyle) Then have to actually get dressed and head to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation studios for a live interview on Radio Noon. should air about 12:30 tomorrow. Shawn Appel, the host, and I will be talking about making changes in our lives...hitting a certain point in our lives and deciding the joke is over and it's time to finally go for the dream. Or, perhaps, I'll talk about the weather. A gal can dream.

Hope you're enjoying this always magical week between Christmas and New Year. Always seems such a gift, of time and family, of frivolity and quiet times. A deep breath.

Talk soon - hope you're well.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel - plus one


bright sunshine, though woke up to flurries - temps minus 3

I meant to wish you a Merry Christmas but our internet was off and on - so just managed a quick greeting on Facebook....but a longer entry here was impossible. So I gave up and rejoined Michael and Doug by the fireplace.

We had a beautiful Christmas. The photo was taken on Christmas eve....new snow, followed by a cloudless sky. It was simply breath taking. I took the photo from our front porch.

Christmas Day itself was perfect, from our hermetic point of view. Mild, but snowy and windy - quiet dramatic. And made us feel all the more content and snug by the fire. We listened to carols and talked all day - except for a brief period late in the afternoon when we watched a movie. then back to the fireplace.

Such a peaceful rhythm to our lives here. We drop by neighbours with little gifts and cards - and they drop by here. It's almost always a bit of baking.

I have eaten far too much - even had the dreaded 'seconds' of turkey dinner. I love thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, stuffing, and lise's chocolate and mint mousse. Then chocolates and clementines. I awoke this morning vowing never to eat again. but now am remembering the turkey leg and egg nogg in the fridge. I might need professional help!

Doug has left - and the bedding had been cleaned and beds remade for Michael's two sons who are arriving this afternoon. We made the traditional turkey casseroles from the leftovers - in layers. Made three. One for tomorrow night and one each for the guys to take home with them. Tonight, we have a special treat....Pat's Christmas gift to us is a vat of her spectacular seafood chowder. With fresh baguette I picked up in the village this morning.

Gary hoping to come tomorrow to take some photos - but snow forecast, so that might not work! Then lunch in Knowlton with Lise, at Cafe Floral while Michael takes his sons to lunch. Breakfast on Wednesday with Cheryl. Lovely to have time to see friends.

Michael and I hope you have had the sort of Christmas you wanted - whether it was quiet or rowdy - parties or peaceful times - or a mix of all of that. We wish you warmth and love. And offer our thanks for being there for both of us.

Happy holidays.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Splendor


slight flurries off and on, then sunny. temps minus 7

Not much snow, but still, just enough to cover the grass. Rain forecast for tomorrow...ugh. but - sometimes, when it's raining in the village, it's snowing up here. Fingers crossed.

The photo was taken by Susan, when we took Trudy for a walk on Sunday morning. Yes, there I am, in my pajamas. Outside. in winter. And proud of it. Thank God I'm already married - this look might not appeal to every man. Or woman. but dogs? They love it!

Having a lovely time - feel myself creaking back to 'normal'. I'm sure you know that feeling....waking up, and immediately 'switching on' - surveying all that has to be done that day. And then that amazing realization...nothing. Or at least nothing crucial. No speeches, no planes, no long drives, no dinners. No book to write, or re-write, or edit. Yet.

this is bliss. Just the regular daily chores and events. Calls to make, slight problems to solve. But no mountain to climb. No need to watch the weather. No need to formulate a plan b. or even a plan a.

Ahhh.

All the beds are made, the big groceries bought, the meals planned, the gifts wrapped. All heading to Friday when family begins to arrive. They're coming in shifts. And we love them all.

Tomorrow Gary is dropping by, if possible and weather permits, to take more author photos - hoping to do them outside, so it needs to be winter-y - but not too cold. happily, there's no big rush. Greece wants one asap, but we have some recent ones we might send.

My great friend Lesa Holstein has named A Trick of the light on her year end 'favorites' list. It's a terrific list, for those of you wondering what to read. And she has wonderful comments about why she liked each book. her blog is called Lesa's book critiques.

Hope you're not under stress and are enjoying the season. Michael just came back - gotta run to say hi and give him a hug. Speak soon!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Little Things and Great Friends


bright, sunny day - gorgeous - temps minus 8

Brittle day - in every way. heavy frost, like crystals clinging to everything. In the sunshine it is just spectacular.

Had a very fun day yesterday. Susan arrived from Montreal just before noon. We had a coffee together, then she and I hopped in the car and drove to Vermont. Stopped at the Pinnacle Peddler, in Richford, for lunch - then onto Enosburg Falls and the Hannaford store. It's a huge grocery store. Because it's american, there are all sorts of brands we don't get in Canada. Very fun. Susan really loves to cook and knows food - so I just tagged along and impulse bought. (two different kinds of egg nogg! Yum)

then home. We're allowed to bring groceries across the border - we just declare it and show the receipt. The Canadian border guards read it to make sure we aren't bringing in alcohol or tobacco or guns, I guess. Thank God egg nogg isn't considered a drug - yet.

Got home by about 4:30. It was pitch black already. Wow. Makes 6pm feel like 10pm.

Michael and I had a meeting to go to last night - and Susan had already planned to cook. We got home about 7:30. Desperately cold night. How wonderful to come through the door and smell all those wonderful aromas. You can see Susan doing the last minute preparations.

We put out the Christmas plates and set the table with Christmas decorations and crackers. Exchanged gifts. Susan had baked Michael eccles cakes (his favorite and a real treat) and made me a batch of raspberry shrub drink (my favorite). We gave Susan a tacky/fun New York Christmas decoration - since she loves New York more than anyone I know, including New Yorkers. And a personally signed Ian Rankin (she also loves him).

Our propane fireplace, after working brilliantly for a month, suddenly isn't working. Very disappointing, as the cold, and Christmas, close in. What's off, besides the fact it was working so well for so long, is that the flame doesn't just go out, but the pilot light goes out too. Bob, our construction manager, is on the case with AJR Lacroix - where we bought it. Fingers crossed they can solve it soon. But still - there are far worse things! And the rest of the house is working wonderfully.

Last night was the first real test of our geothermal in winter. Got down to minus 15 overnight, but it kept plugging away - keeping us snug and warm. Such a relief!

Now we're enjoying a quiet afternoon. Susan's headed home and we're watching football. Lovely not to have, or need, an agenda. tomorrow some chores in Cowansville - then home we hope for the fireplace repair person.

Watching Denver and New England. Great game so far.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Messiah



overcast, dreary, damp - temps plus 1

The last of several days of wet and gray. Very, very mild yesterday - up to seven degrees. And huge amounts of rain. We were very lucky - drove the almost 4 hours home from Ottawa through rain, but not the heaviest.

From Montreal we drove to Ottawa on Wednesday. Arrived just afternoon and went out for Indian food. Again, disappointing. Strange. I hadn't realized how very lucky Michael and I had been by having a terrific Indian restaurant around the corner from us in Montreal for many years. It closed a year ago. I'm afraid I just assumed all Indian restaurants were that good.

they aren't. Still - it was a treat.

Then back to the Ottawa hotel in time for a nap before the evening festivities. Met our friend Bal, his son Jim and Jim's wife Melissa in the lobby, then drove to the national arts Centre. Our friend Trevor was conducting Handel's Messiah. But one of the treats was that before the concert Trevor had agreed to a public 'conversation' in a smaller room, with one of Canada's great interviewers, Eric Friesen. We got there early and had terrific seats to hear Trevor and Eric talk about the Messiah, about music, about Trevor's feelings about music and approach to conducting. He was incredibly open and generous in letting us see into him. And Eric's insightful questions helped, of course.

Trevor had arranged for us to have a private box at the NAC. Just before the concert began we got to the box...the lights dimmed, the soloists walked onto the stage to thunderous applause. Then the concert master. And finally Trevor in his white tie and tails. Thrilling.

But....I have a fear of heights that is situational. I can sit on our fifth floor balcony in Montreal without a problem - but in a theatre I always have great difficulty. And, to my dismay, I felt it wash over me in bigger and stronger and more smothering waves. finally, I had to leave. I stood outside, looking through the glass door and hearing the muffled Messiah.

arrrgh.

Then I had an idea. I snuck back in and whispered to Michael....then I retreated again. And went downstairs to the main floor. Sneaking down the aisle, outside the concert hall, I finally saw what I was looking for. One of those small 'jump seats' reserved for attendants. But this one was empty. And close enough to the stage I could have been called on to have a solo!

So I snuck in, pulled down the seat - and enjoyed the entire concert. It was magnificent. magnified, if possible, by having great affection for the conductor. Trevor actually played the harpsicord, and conducted from there. It was a virtuoso performance. And the orchestra and choir and soloists were glorious. No other word. Glorious.

then the Hallelujah chorus....everyone stood. I asked afterward where that tradition came from...apparently the king (not sure which one) stood at that point in the work, and of course everyone else did. And since then, we all do it at every performance of the Messiah. Very communal.

when we left home for Montreal earlier in the week I forgot my glasses. Need them to read - it was very strange not to have them. But it meant I couldn't read the programme- and still haven't had time to do it. but have saved it for a quiet moment. A treat.

The concert was two and a half hours, but was over in a flash. Standing ovation, of course - and many curtain calls. We were so happy for everyone - they all seemed so pleased. Joyful.

Then our party retired to the NAC restaurant for dinner - when trevor entered to join us the entire room burst into applause. It was wonderful to see a man who deserves every honour, be honoured.

Dinner ended at midnight and we got back to the hotel, and collapsed into bed. Next morning we drove through driving rain to get home. so much rain that the dirt road leading to our house was slick and almost molten. The hills in particular were disconcerting, as the car slipped and slided along. But we were careful and got home in time to see the end of the marble installation. I took some photos to show you - you've been so supportive and encouraging, as our frayed nerves frayed further.

As you can see, the marble looks amazing. What a lot of work for Bob and Mike and Paul and Ashley and everyone who helped. Now we just have to learn to use it - and not treat it as though it wasn't stone at all but silk. Paul - the marble guy - said the sealants are so much better, that we needn't worry about staining anymore - if there is a stain, it's only on the sealant and we can just lightly sand it off, and reseal. It won't get down into the actual marble.

We'll see... But like the floor and everything else, it's meant to be used and lived in - stained and scratched. Like me. At least marble doesn't wrinkle (or grow a mustache) as it ages.

The latest drama is that our wonderful gas fireplace is not longer working. Pilot light went out and refuses to stay on. Lots of gas in the tank - the technician thinks it might be the valve. Michael and I nodded and tried to look intelligent. But it means a repair and no fire through the weekend. too bad.

Our friend Susan is arriving tomorrow - staying just the night. Very fun to see her for a pre-christmas celebration.

Hope you're enjoying yourself and this run up to Christmas. Be well.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tea


Snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain, snow, sleet.... temps at freezing

Not the nicest day to drive in to Montreal, but not really too bad. Had breakfast in Cowansville, then Michael and I hit the autoroute and arrived in Montreal just before noon. As you can tell, it's a raw day. Damp and dreary. But I had a real treat to look forward to - afternoon tea!

I thought it was wonderful and very thoughtful of the women at the french Quebec publishers - Flammarion Quebec - to decide to take Lise and me out for high tea. Very english! It's become a tradition. last year we went to a Montreal institution, Birks, for tea. But it was all booked up today - so Louise Loiselle, the publisher, found this other place - Maitre Chocolatier on Sherbrooke St - that serves very english high tea.

You can see the photo. Down the right side, from front to back (the window) are: Louise Loiselle, then Lise (My Assistant - as she is now legally known), then Louise Chabalier (one of the translators) then Marie-Claude, who works at Flammarion. Down the other side, from front to back, are Claire Chabalier (one of the translators - they're sisters), and Anne Saskia, who also works at Flammarion.

We had such fun. They are a terrific group. We laughed, and heard all about Louise and Claire winning the Governor General's award for translation - very moving story. The entire afternoon flew by in a cloud of conversation and thinly sliced cucumber. Lise had brought Hovey manor granola as Christmas gifts for everyone.

Then Lise and I walked back through the Christmas lights of Montreal - so pretty - and down to Ogilvey's, to look at their famous Christmas window. Then I walked her back to her hotel, where her husband Del was waiting, and hopped a cab home. dinner and an early night for Michael and me. off to Ottawa tomorrow to hear our friend Trevor conduct the Messiah at the National Arts Centre. A rare treat.

Speak to you soon - hope you're thriving!!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Peace and quiet


bright sunshine, new snow, mild, temps minus 3

Perfect winter day. My slight cold seems to have gone to my voice, so I sound like an adolescent boy. Lucky Michael.

So exciting to hear that the Toronto Globe and Mail has named A Trick of the Light one of the Best Crime Novels of 2011! Such an honour - and such fabulous company...it's a great list. I'm afraid I don't know how to do a link here, but Marjorie has a link up on my Facebook page, if you're interested. All great books!

Finally a quiet day. No one expected....though that often means nothing. Still, I have to say, it is very nice to have people drop in, and know they're welcome. But it's also nice to have nothing at all in our agendas for today or tomorrow.

The only issue now is that we're having some difficulty getting the TV to work. But that's not surprising. We're really in the middle of nowhere. No cable. We rely on satellite. If a cloud, or large bird, flies by we lose transmission. Thank God we're not the DEW line!

poor Luc, from Electronquie Knowlton has practically set up a cot here. We're considering putting him in our wills. But now he thinks he's solved it. I think mice in the basement might not help either. High tech, confounded by clouds and mice. Sort of poetic and perfect, really.

King's College Cambridge has ceded their place to Bing Crosby. He's now singing Silver Bells. I'm not sure I'd normally be drawn to the song or style - but this album is so intertwined and empowered by 50 years of Christmas memories, that I can't imagine the holidays without it.

We took the photo last night, to show you the lights on the honeysuckle outside the sitting room window. Hard to see in the photo, but you get the idea.

Have taken advantage of the quiet to wrap all the gifts. Most of the cards done too. Great feeling.

Heard from Linda in Scotland...a little damage from that 'weather bomb' a few days ago - but most back to normal now.

Michael has finished his jigsaw and is now beside the fire with his Sudoku. I plan to spend the afternoon reading. Ahhhh. Hope you're happy and healthy and enjoying your weekend.

Speak soon!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

lucky stars

clear, temps minus 3

We woke up to snow this morning. Not a lot, but enough to finally give us a Christmas feeling. Flurries a few times through the morning, then it cleared up and the day became lovely and sunny.

well, our Christmas tree is up and decorated! Lights on the tree outside too - throwing beautiful light into the house. We're having a few days of near constant activity here - fun things....details getting looked after. You know what it's like. The last five percent of renovation work. but a very fun five percent. Just lots of running around. but now the television is in, the stereo hooked up, King's College Cambridge singing carols, just for us. Fire lit. Michael has his afternoon hot chocolate and I have my tea.

Woke up with a slight sore throat - worsening a bit as the day has gone on. Longing for a bath but ran out of time today. But wow, I just kept thanking my lucky stars that it hit the day after my very last event. Wow. All through the book tour - and into the fall - I just kept praying for good health. A cold on tour is terrible.

and sure enough - now it hits, when I have all the time in the world (almost) to relax. Or at least, no obligations in cement. The last event - and it's not even mine, we're in the audience - is heading to Ottawa middle of next week to see Trevor conduct the Messiah at the National Arts Centre. The day before that, the wonderful people at Flamarrion Quebec have organized an afternoon tea and invited Lise and me - to celebrate the success of the past year and the imminent publication of the fourth book in French, Defense de tuer (which means - no hunting....it's a sort of play on the American title, A Rule Against Murder). Many people around here, ourselves included, have 'Defense de tuer' signs on our properties - warning against hunting on our land.

The nights draw in so early now. 4:30. Lovely to sit by the fire, listen to carols, sip tea and look at the lights outside reflecting off the snow.

Trudy needs to be fed and walked - she's reminded me a few times already (though she starts wondering at about 3pm).

I hope you're enjoying a quiet evening too. We're following the terrible storm in Scotland. Linda Lyall, who manages my website and newsletter lives there and she wrote this morning saying they were all on red alert for 165 mile an hour winds! Can you imagine? We're waiting for news from her.

Hope you're well - talk soon!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Goodbye New York...






rain, mild, temps 8

Well, we're back home....sort of. Michael's in sutton and I'm in Montreal. But we're back from New York City.

You know, I honestly can't imagine a more magical time! Not a single moment of the four days was marred or flawed or anything other than wonderful. Here are a few photos from the last few days in New York.

You can see Michael and me in front of the famous Picasso back cloth painting, hanging in the hallway of the Four Season's restaurant. We'd actually forgotten it was there, and as we were walking down the long hallway we both stopped at once, and gasped. There it was! And here it is, enhanced by the two goofy, blurry people obscuring it. Enjoy!

That was Friday night. Before arriving for dinner Michael and I went to Saks Fifth Avenue, because he's forgotten all his ties at home. Two suits - no ties. and because he's a bow-tie guy we can't just buy one on a street corner from the fella also selling hot chestnuts and giant pretzels. When we came out of Saks we noticed all these people staring at the outside of the building....some apparently filming it. We turned around and - voila! A light show was being projected on it.

Very fun....and very intricate.

From there we walked down to the rink at Rockefeller Centre - to see the huge lighted Christmas tree. You can see the photo of Michael - having all sorts of bright ideas.

We had a fabulous dinner with my editor, hope and charlie.

Then on Saturday Michael woke up not feeling great - upset stomach - so we ordered room service and spent the day literally in bed. Reading the newspaper, books, watching TV....napping. By late afternoon Michael was feeling well enough to go to the gala at the MetLife Centre for the Nero Awards. It's called the Black Orchid Banquet and the people are all passionate about the writing of Rex Stout - huge fans of Nero Wolfe. it was fascinating to hear them discuss nuances I never knew existed, though I read a lot of the Nero Wolfe books when I was younger....and even developed a bit of a girlish crush on Archie.

The Black Orchid Novella Award (bona) was also given out that night to James Lincoln Warren. It'll be published in the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, and it sounds wonderful! Congratulations Jim. He also gave a beautiful, gracious, moving speech.

And then the Nero was announced. You know the results. I was so happy to be there - it was a remarkable moment, to be in a room filled with men in tuxes and women in gowns...at the MetLife building in Manhattan....accepting an award named for one of the great creations in detective fiction. Wow.

On sunday Michael and I had breakfast at a nearby neighborhood hangout....Friend of the Farmer - which our friend Susan recommended last time we were in NYC. We loved it so much we returned. Then we walked all the way uptown, to Central Park, and took a horse and carriage ride through the park. then met my british publisher, who happened to be in NYC, at the Plaza for afternoon tea in the Palm room. A really magnificent room!

I'll tell you, New York anytime is wonderful - but at Christmas, it's even more extraordinary. Genuinely magical.

Then today we had breakfast, hopped a cab to JFK and onto a short jetBlue (45 minutes) flight to Burlington, VT. From there we got the car and drove to Richford, to pick up some packages and mail some on....then across the border to Quebec. As wonderful as New York was, it always feels great to cross back into Canada. Nothing political or social or anything more meaningful than home. As simple as that.

Though we are dreaming of a pied a terre in Gramercy Park! Never hurts to dream.

I dropped Michael at home, organized my clothes, then back into the car to drive to Montreal. I'll be speaking tomorrow at the annual Christmas luncheon of the Women's Canadian Club.

Then back into the car....and home! Dreadful rain driving in tonight. Driving rain. And some snow in the forecast for tomorrow - but it sure will be great to close the door behind us....and cocoon.

Thanks for your company in NYC. We left the hotel bill for you to pay....

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Nero Award!

clear, mild, temps 40

Bury Your Dead just won the Nero Award here in New York City. It was given out at a gala at the MetLife building. wonderful, wonderful evening. Lots of fun - whole evening celebrating the works of Rex Stout (who, of course, created Nero Wolfe). Mr Stout's daughter and some of his grandchildrn (and even a great granddaughter) were there too.

Very, very fun evening...and what a great honour. Wow! Michael and I went with Sarah Melnyk, my publicist at Minotaur Books. she's just terrific.

I wanted you to know right away. We have some photos etc, which I'll put on the next blog entry.

We're still in new york on Sunday - having Afternoon Tea at the Plaza with someone from my british publisher, Little, Brown. Imagine that - I feel so terribly fortunate. Wow.

Friday, 2 December 2011

New York City




sunny, mild, temps mid-forties

Beautiful day, in every way. We're in New York City - staying in the Gramercy Park Hotel. We've been to New York about once a year since the books were published....but we made the 'mistake' (at least for us) of staying the first few times in hotels in midtown. Which is pretty much like staying in the Grand Canyon. Not a lot of neighourhood feel. Just loads and loads of people and office buildings/hotels. Magnificent, but doesn't feel very human.

We honestly didn't like New York very much. Were in awe of it. But there wasn't much affection.

But then our friend Susan, who adores New York City, suggested we stay downtown...Greenwich, Chelsea, Soho....a place that is actually a neighborhood. With small restaurants and markets and where people live. So we found a place on Union Square....and started our love affair with this city. Now we've moved to Gramcery Park and the affair deepens. It just gives us such a thrill to walk out the door, turn onto Lexington and see the Crysler building...or look down park ave and see the empire state building. Just standing on Park Ave gives me a thrill!!! You can see Michael outside the Flatiron building, looking toward the Empire State building.

But I have to tell you about the flight down. We got up in Sutton yesterday morning...had breakfast. Tony came by, then Bob came by - but we got away just after 9am...drove to Burlington, VT for our flight. So much easier to fly out of Burlington than Montreal - we're already across the border, so no airport customs, and it's a lovely, small airport. We arrived early, and I parked the car while Michael checked the bags in. We already had our boarding pass.

When I arrived I noticed there was an earlier flight that had been delayed and was leaving in 20 minutes....I hesitated, but thought I might as well ask....could we get on the JetBlue flight about to leave?

Our bags had already been checked. We had boarding passes for the later flight - and the one I was asking about was about to leave.

the jetblue attendent said, 'I'll check' - which I figured was a long shot. next thing I knew she was handing us new boarding passes, new luggage tags and telling us to hurry!

We hopped it through security...no other passengers there and arrived at the gate just as they were calling the flight....and arrived in NYC before our original flight would have even left. It was wonderful.

The hotel is great - dinner last night was with six people from the publishers....Hope (my editor), Sarah (who does publicity), Jeanne-Marie (marketing), Matthew, who is Vice president of St Martin's Press...Sally, who is the publisher of St Martin's - and Andy Martin, the publisher of my imprint (which is a subsidiary of SMP) - Minotaur Books. We had one of the best meals of our lives...it's the latest Danny Meyer restaurant called Maialino. We shared a cheese plate and a salami plate...some had starter of sweet breads. Then the main course...most of us had roast pork...I had mine with pasta. It was amazing. Then we ended with an assortment of desserts. We agreed that Michael 'won' with vanilla ice creams drizzled with warm esspresso. Dear Lord!

We'd brought cheese wedges for everyone - to celebrate THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY...the cheese was Bleu Benedictine, made at the monastery of St-Benoit-du-lac.

This morning after breakfast we headed over to the Flatiron, I thought to discuss strategy for THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. But Andy led us into a room and there were fifty people, all part of the publishing team, from designers to marketers, to library and audio people - all people who'd helped propel A TRICK OF THE LIGHT to number 4 on the NYTimes list. And a huge cake with the cover of the book on it!!! And a gorgeous framed copy of the book cover and the New York times list. Wow. Michael got weepy. I got weepy.

It was one of those amazing moments in life...I never, ever expected to be feted in New York. By my publishers. It was a time I will never forget. Nor will I forget their kindness. And the kindess of Elizabeth and Silissa to organize it. Wow.

You can see the photo I took of all of them. the man holding my book is Andy Martin, the publisher of Minotaur Books. the other photo, of the three men, is of John Sargent - the head of the whole thing...of Macmillan. the big banana, standing beside Andy, who is standing beside Michael...and all are standing where I would not! the balcony outside John's office on the top floor, at the point of the wedge, of the Flatiron. Amazing.

After that - Michael, Sarah, Hope, Andy and I sat down and did a de-brief on the launch of A TRICK OF THE LIGHT and began to strategize for THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. Out, probably, in late august/early sept of 2012.

Then we had a fabulous Indian meal at Tamirind then I had my hair done. It was actually Sally - the publisher's - appointment, but when I asked her about how I could get an appointment at such a late date she said, 'Take mine!" So after some very feeble protests on my part, I did!

Now back at the hotel briefly. Meeting Hope and her husband Charlie for dinner at the Four Seasons. But first Michael and I are hitting Saks Fifth Ave, and seeing the tree at Rockefeller Centre...then walking over to the Four Seasons.

What a life! What an amazing, fortunate, life. Wow. Gotta Run! Speak soon. the Nero awards are tomorrow. Bury Your Dead nominated. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

getting closer....




overcast - very mild - 17 degrees - but very windy right now...

I can hear gusts of wind outside - but we're snug and safe and warm inside.

What an exciting time...the work continues - details. All making the place even better. After a couple of love, quiet, days today was a madhouse, starting at 8am. So many people - from Rose doing some last minute cleaning to Mike doing some minor repairs, to Terry the electrician and Lise and Del putting up christmas decorations outside - Bob arrived to supervise. But the big thing that Cameron arrived with the kitchen island and shelves. There's a photo of him when it was just installed. the other photo is the view from roughly where Cameron was standing (a little blurred) The last picture is taken from my chair by the fireplace., aftereveryone left - at 3:30 this afternoon. Still more to do....marble countertops to go in. Vermont Marble doing it....but they just called to say that the slab they were working on for us had a vein in it, and it cracked....so back to the quarry. Oh well.

We have an area rug that Kirk and jane helped choose and have ordered arriving for under the kitchen table (in the middle of the room). Cameron is also making us a bookcase for the cookbooks in the pantry.

But - for the most part - it's done!!! We can barely dare to believe it. A few small things happening tomorrow - then off to New York City on Thursday for the Nero Awards banquet. That's happening Saturday night. Bury Your Dead is nominated! Very exciting.

the geo-thermal fellows just arrived. Seems quite a large piece of the ducting was left off the machine in the basement.... at least, that's my understanding. And with winter coming on, we don't need that. Thank God it has been so mild!

How are you doing? It has been such fun to report from the frontlines of both my writing life and personal life - the renovations. Thank you for being interested. I appreciate it!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

One red dot



mainly sunny, mild, temps 8

A wonderful, mild, day. Ended up getting quite a bit of snow yesterday too - but it's all gone now. Beautiful day.

We set the alarm for 6am - and out of the house by 7:30 - over to the main house. Lise was already there - Deanna, Donna and Rose arrived a few minutes before 8. And the Big Cleanup began. Very impressive to see four women who hate dirt and disorder get rid of both. I was almost in tears.

While they did all the filthy work inside I decided to take advantage of the unusually mild day and clean the new windows outside. first, scrape with a razor the flecks of paint...then windex. All on top of a step ladder. I wondered if I'd feel uncomfortable, but it just wasn't all that high. It was actually quite fun - except for the torrential melt streaming off the roof and onto my head. I'd put on a raincoat and a hat, but of course it came down right on top of me. Sunny everywhere else on the property, except where I needed to stand. Felt a bit like a keystone cop.

but what a difference it makes to the windows. Feels wonderful.

I've come back to the cottage briefly to pack more things and get some lunch - and now will hop on back. The other people who came today was an Ikea guy who needed to fix something....and Mike.

He came initially to help move furniture but ended up doing the million-and-one things that suddenly pop up. The plates for the light switches. Putting bits of wood under furniture that wasn't level, figuring out which breaker had blown. It -

All the above was written two days ago...interrupted by the ringing of.the phone. It was Lise at the main house saying two fellows had just shown up with a truckload of furniture. I stopped in mid-sentence and flew out of the cottage. It was all the furniture we'd had re=upholstered....it had arrived!!! We'd been waiting three months for this moment, wondering what the 'new' old furniture would look like in our 'new' old home. How many times Michael and I discussed placement - and asked Kirk his opinion. To be honest, i couldn't even remember what fabric we'd chosen! So long ago and so many decisions.

Sure enough, when we got back to the main house the furniture was being unloaded - into the chaos....but they managed....and unwrapped and placed it. Wow - you can see the photo, taken today...even better than I dared dream. Oh, it gives me such pleasure, and at the same time a lovely, settled feeling of peace.

Home.

By five o'clock Friday evening everyone had left and Michael and I dropped into the chairs on either side of the fireplace, poured a diet ginger, got out some fruit cake - and sighed. Dear Lord, we made it.

As you can see, the kitchen isn't quite finished - but close enough so that we can live here and cook.

Saturday at 8am, Darol, who was putting on the wallpaper, arrived to finish the job. Then Ikea arrived with the new sofa that needed to be assembled (not just the feet put on, but it arrived in 5 boxes!! Then Mike arrived to help assemble it. I say 'help' as though he didn't do the whole thing - which he did. I was assigned the cushions....you can imagine how much assembly was necessary. It was the Ikea equivalent of being told to roll bandages and boil water.

by 1:30 the wallpapering was finished, Mike had assembled the sofa, we'd all sat on it and ate sandwiches. surrounded still by boxes and 'stuff' all over the place. I spent the afternoon picking up things at random and wandering around the house, trying to figure out where to put it.

To be honest, we got rid of a lot of 'stuff' when we packed up - and we're again 'editing' our belongings....paring them down. simplicity...though I think it's a little late for that. But we're doing our best.

Now - Sunday - it is quiet, finally. The day Michael and I have dreamed of since last winter when we first started thinking about this renovation - spurred on by the need to replace a solarium that was falling down and wouldn't survive another winter. We found Bob Ray, and he found Maurice and his men, and Mike and the electrician and plumber and painters. Gary joined us - and over just three months two roofs were completely rebuilt and replaced, the glass solarium became a sunroom with fireplace - new floors - a bathroom was remodeled so that if one day one of us can't make the stairs we can turn the TV room into a bedroom....the door to the bathroom widened to accommodate a wheelchair. In case. This house is a home. Forever, we hope.

We know how lucky we are. In our fiends. In Lise and Gary and Bob and Mike and so many others who've helped. In having this home - in having the ability to live here. A home we adore in a community we love. In having a certain stability in uncertain times.

On the fridge, I placed a single small red dot....a magnet. It can be seen from almost anywhere in the 'new' space. If you get really, really close, you can see there are three small words written beneath the red glass.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Office


snow, but mild - temps about freezing

Walked back and forth to the house a few times today, taking Trudy. Mostly because I couldn't be bothered to clean off the car. We had our first significant snowfall - loads of warnings out. Not a day to be on the highways. It hasn't snowed a great deal - 10 to 15 cm- but very heavy, sticky. The sort of snow that's very difficult and dangerous to drive in. Besides, it takes a few snows before we really get out 'snow legs'.

Garages packed with people trying to get their winter tires on. It's now illegal in Quebec not to have winter tires - which I think is a law long overdue....not just for the safety of the driver, but for the others on the road they might (and do) career into. But the deadline must have been chosen by someone who winters in Florida. December 15.

Generally by Dec. 15th we've had a number of significant snowfalls - like today.

Though, I say 'significant' but the truth is, we're far from snowed in. But, like the schools, we have declared this a 'snow day' and have decided not to leave home - except to trudge through the woods to let workers into the house, and let workers out (we find they work better and harder if locked in.... I'm kidding of course....)

So today I wrote the December newsletter and got caught up on some correspondence that had been piling up. Bought a new blackberry. I sort of toyed with an iPhone 4 - but I mostly use the machines for email - and sometimes for talk. I really don't need the other things. What I need is a sturdy workhorse. I loved my current blackberry - but it has now worn out completely. Had it repaired once - but now I think it's beyond that. So when my wireless provider called today with some new package options I decided to go for the Blackberry Bold 9900. Hope it's OK. Mostly, I just want the keyboard to work - but in my experience no one seems to make great mobile keyboards, except my old clunker. But, we'll see. I'm quite looking forward to having a new machine, though i offered it to Michael since he seems much more plugged in to these things, and I can have his old model.

So that's the sort of thing that happened around the office today. You can see the workspace, in our military-industrial complex. I think you can even see the snow through the windows.

Happy trails, for those of you traveling for American Thanksgiving tomorrow. have a wonderful, fun time!

Monday, 21 November 2011

When the dust settles



bright sunny day - cold - minus 5

I finally appreciate the full depth of that saying...Waiting until the dust settles.

The floor guys came on friday and sanded...without a bag to collect the dust. Our construction manager Bob Ray, who was there, describes it as akin to a dust storm in the Sahara. He and one of his workers, Ashley, went in on Sunday and cleaned up. They had to vacuum the ceiling. The walls. Inside the kitchen drawers.

The floor guys came back today....we were all shuddering....wondering what next. I went to the house at 7am to let them in. They arrived at 8. And announced they had more sanding to do. Now, I hadn't witnessed the ordeal on Friday, but Bob was almost in tears describing it. So I asked if it would be as bad.

They exchanged glances and said - 'No.'

I stared at them, nodded, and left. The better part of valour? Just chicken, really. I realized if they were lying or telling the truth, it didn't really matter - whatever was about to happen, would happen....and I had to just step out of the way, and let them get on with it.

We went back at 5pm...and rushed in before our courage failed. To find...the place almost pristine! Or, at least, not any filthier than it was at 8am. And the floors??? Well, they'd managed to get the first coat of oil on the reclaimed teak, and the floors are spectacular. My God - even better than I dreamed.

What a relief!

Lise and Donna and Lise's friend Rose are going in tomorrow, while the floor guys put on a second coat....to do a clean of the upstairs. It isn't too bad - but it sure is far from clean, after three months accumulating construction dust. I suggest to Lise they get those masks, so she's off to Rona to buy some first thing.

What a travail, these renovations. But we've had worse. We actually had our home - many years ago - burn down. All the way to a smoldering black hole in the ground during renovations. Apparently one of the roofers tossed a lit cigarette into a garbage can filled with saw dust. And the inevitable happened.

Measured against that disaster, anything else looks like a cake-walk.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I did another signing session at the Salon du Livres, at the booth of my Quebec publisher, Flammarion Quebec. Lots of people - but there were some quiet moments. I was telling you how horrifying those can be....one of the Flammarion employees captured a few of those moments on film.

This is what writers do with too much time on their hands....

Yes - that is what creativity looks like. I am indistinguishable from Jane Austen.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend - speak soon.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Salon du Livres



partly cloudy - chilly day - but getting milder....rain on the way.

We're heading back to the country this afternoon....can hardly wait. We'll be staying in the cottage for another week, while the floors are being sanded and oiled. It's made of reclaimed teak and I'l so impatient to see how the oiling comes up. The sanding man, who is apparently terrific, forgot the bag for his sander and instead of taking the time to go back to his shop to get it, he sanded all Friday without it.

We were in Montreal and didn't see the mess...thank heaven....but I can imagine. Actually, I'm trying not to imagine. Bob, who is running the renovations, said he sealed everything....and he is terrific. So maybe it isn't as bad as I imagine. I'm sort of seeing a brownish desert - drifts of wood dust. Settling on the counters, shot into every crack and drawer. Stuck to the walls. In our bed. A sort of Three Bears of construction.

We're heading home tonight, as I say....we'll take a few deep breaths, then go in and see. The beauty of imagining the worst is the huge relief when it doesn't happen. I'll let you know.

The Salon du Livres in Montreal was terrific yesterday. As you can see by the photo...packed with people - loads of families and children almost hysterical at meeting authors of their favorite books. Quebec is a highly literate society....love books, of all sorts. There's nothing like the Salon du Livres in English Canada. It's a huge book fair. There was, a few years ago, a Book Expo in Toronto - but that was for industry insiders, and not open to the public. I'd love to see a book fair in the english world. There are book festivals, but it isn't the same thing. At the Salon - it's open for almost a week and basically the publishers put up booths and their authors sit at desks and sign books. It's a lot less structured and formal than a literary festival. All sorts of panels happening, and on stage interviews....but it feels like this huge, joyous celebration of reading. Wonderful. Invigorating.

My event was between 3 and 4 yesterday. Met lots of people. fun to see the lines growing, from last year. I'll tell you, sitting at a desk for two hours (as I did last year) when no one shows up is exhausting...far more tiring that speaking with, and signing for, hundreds of people. It really is very difficult - sitting alone and making it look like I don't care. So it's nice when it feels like that time is past here in Quebec.

Had fun doing the interview with Kathy Reichs. You can see the photo of us - with Elizabeth holding the microphone to Kathy and Alison holding the microphone to me. Alison is the producer of the CBC national radio programme C'est la Vie. They recorded a conversation between kathy and me on Saturday afternoon at the Salon. I'm just amazed her her stamina - all the calls on her time, and she's still standing and smiling. Such fun to talk with her.

I'll be at the Salon again this afternoon from 3 to 4, then Michael is coming to pick me up and we'll head back to the country. Our reclaimed teak Sahara.

nahh - it'll be great. Fine, even...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Aunt Agathas and Amazon.ca

sleet- a blechy day- temps about freezing

One of those classic, cold, gray, late fall day...the sky threatening, and then delivering. A mix of rain and snow. Michael and I were out in it - against all odds I got off the bed today. Returned the DVDs - then went for Indian food (which sadly wasn't all that great) then headed to a hardware store...and got caught in the sleet.

We stopped and bought a Christmas gift that needs to be mailed out...dear Lord, how quickly Christmas arrives! And a box of Christmas crackers. They're just about my favorite part of Christmas...popping the crackers, wearing the silly hats, reading the stupid jokes and trying to get the cheap plastic gift to 'work'. Can't imagine why those crackers just give me such pleasure, but I know Christmas wouldn't feel the same. I think it's just impossible to take anyone, or myself, too seriously with those hats. Just relaxes everyone. Like wine, with a small explosive.

After that we headed home to the apartment.

The really fun news is that the great folks at Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor (run by Robin and Jamie and very influential in the mystery writers/readers community) has chosen A TRICK OF THE LIGHT as one of their Best Crime Novels of 2011. You can get their full list if you go to Aunt Agatha's website. it makes a wonderful reading list, and Robin provides very thought reviews of each book, so you get a flavour before committing to the book. I'm just so thrilled about this...a genuine honour...especially given the other books and writers listed, as you'll see.

And - closer to home - Amazon.ca has named A TRICK OF THE LIGHT one of the top mysteries of 2011 - and among the best 20 books (fiction and non-fiction) published all year.

I am so thrilled I can't tell you. Though I think you can guess.

On top of that, my UK editor, Dan Mallory of Little, Brown wrote to say he also thinks the next book, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, is by far the best of the Gamache novels. Phew - and yippee....and all sorts of joyous swear words I won't impose on you here. It was a beautiful letter, detailed and funny, and very moving. I printed it out and won't tell you how many times I've re-read it - and how many times I plan to continue to read it. My new hobby.

Thank you, too, for continuing to support A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. Hope it finds its way under some Christmas trees...love to think of it wrapped and waiting.

Off to do some errands tomorrow - accountant and Michael's eye doctor for a visual field. Then I'll be signing at the Salon du Livres (the book fair) in Montreal on Saturday and Sunday, from 3 to 4. On top of that, the CBC Radio show C'est La Vie - which is on the english network but talks about issues to do with french Canada - has arranged for Kathy Reichs and me to have a conversation. I'm not at all sure what we'll talk about, but I can guess. I've met Kathy a few times and have been so deeply impressed by her smarts and how friendly she is. No sense that she's 'here' and the rest of us are 'there'. So, I'm looking forward to it.

I'll let you know how it goes, and take some photos (and hope Kathy doesn't bitch slap me - or if she does, we catch it on film.)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Beautiful Mystery

many sunny, very mild, temps 16

Wow - very mild. We're finding the seasons seem to have been shifted by a month. November is like October...Sept like August used to be...

We're in Montreal - stopped by Nespresso to get a new machine...tired of fighting with the old one - though it owed us nothing. We'd used it many times a day, everyday, for years. And it still works - sort of. Trying to decide what to do with it. Give it to someone handy, I think.

The fun news is that I heard from the publisher himself yesterday. He called twice...once I was out doing errands and he (Andy) spoke to Michael....and the second time I was in. He called to say he'd just read THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, the eighth Gamache novel - and loved it. Indeed, he said he was trembling at the end and actually stayed home Monday morning to finish the book. Then had to call to tell me it was his favorite.

It was one of those calls an author (or at least this author) dreams of getting. Not only because it says something about the book - but it speaks so beautifully of Minotaur Books, my US publisher....that the head of the imprint himself would call. I've heard, of course, from my wonderful editor- and we worked on the editorial notes together....but to actually hear from the publisher is amazing. Incredibly passionate about books, and publishing - and so supportive. Wow.

I'm so excited to get THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY into your hands. We don't have a set publishing date yet, but it will probably be sometime next fall.

Someone asked a very good question on my Facebook page today about why it won't be out for 10 months when the book seems finished.

One of the great discoveries for me about the publishing industry is how very many decisions need to be made - and all the care that goes in to getting a book out. For instance, while the editorial decisions have been made - those to do with content and continuity and character and those sorts of things....the book still needs to be given to someone who specializes in doing the 'line edits'....that's for the most part spelling and grammar and some issues of continuity we haven't yet caught...if someones eyes are blue in one scene and brown in another...or if Gamache and Beauvoir are on their third lunch of the day. For those of you with an eye for this sort of thing, you'll know that even with all this scrutiny and very hard work, mistakes still sneak through.

She'll finish those notes in January and send them to me....I'll then go over the manuscript again. This actually happens a couple of times before we're happy and feel it's ready for you.

There is just an incredible amount of work that goes in to a book, long after the actual content is decided. Basically the process is:

I write five or six drafts of the book, until I'm pleased with it. Then I send it to my agent in London (Teresa Chris) - if she's happy, she'll send it to my UK editor (Dan Mallory at Little, Brown) and my US editor (Hope Dellon at Minotaur Books). They read it and get back with their notes....which are pretty much wanting to make sure the characters are consistent with their personalities, time-lines make sense - the structure and pacing and flow are good....there are no plot holes. They act as sophisticated, knowledgeable, rational 'readers'....since by then it's often very difficult for me to be able to stand far enough back to appreciate things like structure and pacing.

They'll give me their suggestions (and they are just suggestions....they never insist and never, ever make the changes themselves, but leave it up to me). I read their notes and think about them for a while - then do another draft - making the changes I think are appropriate. We can sometimes go back and forth a few times, fine-tuning as we go.

It's an amazing, quite intimate, process. On the one hand it's highly solitary. I conceive of the story, the tone, the plot and character development. Then they come on board...and as the process progresses it becomes a team effort. Not a committee - but a team. Each member has their expertise. Editing, grammar, marketing, publicity, strategy, cover design.

It's very satisfying and very powerful when everyone respects and appreciates the contribution of the other....and no one becomes a bully. We all have a place at the table, and have earned that place and earned the right to be heard.

I have a lot invested in it - emotionally, creatively - with my time and efforts. But so do the publishers - with their time and effort - and money. It all needs to be respected and valued.

Once the editing is done then the Advance Readers Copies - or ARCs - are printed. These are mostly for bookstore owners, libraries, critics...opinion makers. People who will read the book and pass judgement.

It's pretty nauseating, for a writer - for this writer. Ugh. I literally feel sick. I know it shouldn't matter - and when I wake up at 3am, anxious, I repeat that I've done my best...as long as I've done my best, that's all that I can ask of myself. The rest is up to others, and the Universe.

That helps. A lot. Until the next night. I suppose if I didn't care so much, I wouldn't worry so much. If I didn't put so much into the books, and genuinely care about the characters and you, the reader....then I might be more cavalier. but I think the person capable of writing the books is also the person who is vulnerable. It's the full package. I get the joy when things go well, and the heartache when they don't. That's the adult reality...can't have one without accepting the other.

Which is why, when the publisher himself calls, raving about THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, I subside into a chair, my legs weak but my heart strong and soaring. Phew.

Then - decisions about cover design start. And strategies of which week is best to put it out...what other books might come out then - when is it best to tour? Where should I go?

I'll be going to NYC in early December to meet with the publisher and discuss these things.

What a very long answer to a single question! I dare you to ask another!

Thanks for sticking with me - presuming you're still reading. Hope you're enjoying this late autumn day. We're off to lunch at the Tavern on the Square.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

At last


overcast, cool, temps 7

Actually, while I say cool, it is seasonable, and has been well above seasonable for a few weeks.

We're back from our retreat to Hovey. Our friends Bal and Linda have arrived and are staying at the cottage, and we decamped - and set up new camp - in our real home!!! Fianlly. It, and we, are covered in construction dust. yes, not great perhaps for the physical health but I can't tell you what marvelous things it's doing for our emotional health.

Home. Home. Hoooommmme. Ahhh.

And what an amazing job the guys have done. Honestly, there's nothing I regret....nothing I look at, tilt my head, and wish we'd made another decision. But like so many other great things in our lives, this was a team effort. Kirk and Jane helped with the decorating and design issues. Bob (our construction manager) is brilliant with his suggestions (often made a few times with increasing insistence, until we finally click in that it's not a polite suggestion, and we finally say yes). The fireplace was designed by Bob - agreed to by us....and executed by two amazing local guys...Mike, the son of a stone mason, and Ashley, a young guy originally brought onboard to just clean up but who discovered a deep love of and aptitude for working with stone. Lovely to see his enthusiasm - and the kindness Mike showed in mentoring him.

The photo is our very first breakfast in front of that fireplace. We look at it and don't see just the stone, but those two young men, working hard to get it just right.

In fact, we look all over this place and see the men who worked so hard. For money, yes, absolutely. It's a job. But we've, in the past, paid a great deal of money and had work done badly. Half-assed. By people who didn't really care. We can tell the difference. Our home is more than just walls and a roof to us. It harbours us. embraces us. And those who build it become special to us. Not that we'll have long term relationships with them - we won't. At least, not with most of them. But we will always see them here...building our safe harbour.

It's still a few weeks away from being finished. Later today Michael and I will carry the chairs and table and other things back to the dust imbedded living room...and cover them. And prepare the place for the workers like our good friend Gary, and Daniel the painter, and Mike and Bob and Ashley, to return tomorrow. While we move out again and back to the cottage. We're inching forward - and trying not to make too many, 'oh we don't care anymore' mistakes. Or the tempting, 'We're tired of paying, let's just go cheap' mistake.

A steady hand on the tiller - and we'll be home again before we know it.

Hope you've had a wonderful weekend....talk soon!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

11.11.11





overcast, drizzle, cooler - temps 6

Much cooler today....but yesterday at Hovey in North Hatley, Quebec, was another stunner of a late fall day. We never, ever expect it - and when sunny and warm temps happen in November, we all just walk around smiling. Here are some pictures Michael and I took down by the lake. It started off - until early afternoon - absolutely still. You can see how clear the lake it.

Lovely final day - picked up the car from the dealership....read in the library. Went for walks. we had scallops as an appetizer and then Michael had the halibut (I'd had that the night before) and I had filet mignon. They also do what's called in Quebec an 'amuse bouche'....which is a small sampling of something the chef whips up....a little something extra. Last night it was an oyster on the half shell, cooked with bacon and cream and melted blue cheese. Yes - I'm not making that up. And it was as yummy as it sounds, apparently. I like oysters, but Michael's the big fan - so I gave mine to him. And the smile said it was a wonderful few bites.

Drove home this morning, into gathering clouds and finally light rain. I stopped in Knowlton to have my hair done by Tammy - and Michael came home.

We'll be moving back to the house tomorrow night, so that our friends Bal and Linda can use the cottage. But the main house isn't quite as far along as everyone (read: Michael and me) had hoped. Always small glitches, I know. But still - we're almost there. Not much cooking, I think, will be happening in the kitchen - but to be fair, not much ever really happened. So it'll be a bit like camping....but such fun to see Bal and Linda and hang out for a few days.

Then we're in to Montreal for some appointments then the Salon du Livres in Montreal next weekend.

tomorrow is Remembrance Day. And quite a numeral....111111 We've bought out fourth (or is it fifth) poppy for our lapels. they keep springing off. I'm beginning to think what we take for fall leaves are in fact poppies on the ground.

I am always so moved by Remembrance Day - and I know most of you probably are too. Hard not to be. Especially these days, when so many young ones have died in current wars.

We really do remember, you know. And give thanks. And are in awe of such courage - of the soldiers, but also of their families, to let them go.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A Perfecter Day!




sunny, very mild, temps 10

A stunningly beautiful stretch of days here in Quebec. Way milder than usual. Michael and I are at Hovey, and we spent the morning, after breakfast, sitting on the wide verandah with a coffee and the newspaper. Bundled up, but sitting in the sun and loving the fresh air and peace and quiet.

This morning for breakfast we had an omelet with melted brie, sauteed mushrooms, stewed apples and honey. With bacon and sausages on the side. I took a photo of it...oooops. Jeez, in the short time it took to describe it, it's gone! Michael?!

Speaking of Michael - there's a photo of him and Francine, at breakfast. the other shot is the salad I had for lunch yesterday. We took my beetle in to the dealership to get the winter tires on (though when it's this mild it's hard to believe winter will truly arrive - how soon we forget just a week or so ago!) then headed to Hovey yesterday morning in time for breakfast...then met Danie Beliveau of Tourisme Estrie (eastern townships) for lunch. She had a proposal she wanted to make.

She'd like to create a special Three Pines tour of the townships, based on places that have inspired the books. Very fun to think about...though as I said to Danie, the problem is that so much of the books really is fictional...my ideal. But quite a few places have been mentioned, and have inspired the feelings of the books. So we're considering it. The tour would be self-directing....letting people download it in English or French from the tourism site, and provide a map and some suggestions.

This has been a wonderful day or so at Hovey Manor...not just intrinsically beautiful - but we received some fabulous news!

Yesterday, A TRICK OF THE LIGHT was named one of the Top Ten Crime Fiction books of the year by Publishers Weekly.

Today, A TRICK OF THE LIGHT was named one of the Ten Best Mystery/Thrillers of the Year by Amazon.com.

Yipppeee!!!

And, yesterday afternoon, I finished the final editor notes on THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY - and sent it off to my New York and London editors. Phew!! How lovely to do it at Hovey.

So much to celebrate. Wow. And finishing the editor's notes brought it home to me yet again (though I have to say, I'm keenly away of this all the time) that this is a team effort. The writing, the editing, the cover design, the publicity, the tour, and the readers. you're the ones who bring the characters and the books to life. We share these honours.

Well, back to doing not much of anything here at the Manoir. Hope you're enjoying your day.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Perfect Day

sunny, mild, temps 10

I think it's slightly milder than normal....such an unsettled time of year. We often go away in November....last year we went to London for ten days, to meet with my agent and editor. And just be in London! Now, London in November isn't exactly the Bahamas - but better than here! And besides, London anytime is wonderful, in my mind.

But this year we're too tired, and too broke, to budge far. We're thrilled with the renovations, but I hate being in debt. Michael has a much bigger tolerance for it than I. So - it doesn't happen if we can't pay for it. Therefore - no big trips right now. But, honestly, this isn't exactly some big sacrifice! All I want is to be home. Curled on the sofa. Besides, so many decision to be made for the renovations....getting down to the details. Thrilling!!! but not the time to head off for long.

But.... we have decided to treat ourselves to a celebratory visit to Hovey Manor this coming week. Three nights. Just us. Eating and sleeping and reading...and eating. I hope not to get out of my slippers.

this is the beauty of having people we trust doing the renovations...Gary, who knows us so well and is a personal friend...Bob who has guided the renovations so beautifully for months, Mike and Daniel and Ashley. They can function just fine without us for a few days. (and we have the cell with us - not completely foolish!)

We'll get up at 6 tomorrow - head out by 7am....take the beetle to VW in Sherbrooke and drop it off to be winterized (tires mostly) - then get to Hovey Manor in time for breakfast. Meeting Danie Beliveau, of tourism for the townships, for lunch there. She has a proposal.

So happy to have sent off the latest draft of THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY to the editors. This gives us a few days grace. And we plan to use it. In slippers. So, if you're at the Manoir this week and hear two people shuffling along, it's just us.

And, to add to the delight, we put the clocks back last night and so have been given - like most of you - an extra hour.

Hope you have a terrific week. We bought our poppies yesterday after breakfast with Joan. Deeply moving to see the war vets, wearing their medals.

Be well - talk soon.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Snow Squalls


snow off and on - squalls - then sunny. temps 3 degrees

A raw day. Sitting in front of the fireplace here at the cottage - you can see the photo. Rustic, comfortable. There's Trudy eyeing Michael's snack. I think we're going to miss this place when the main house is finished.

It's looksing amazing, by the way. Stonework by Mike and Ashley is a work of art. And Gary got all the tiles this morning....went at 8am to pick it up, only to discover the place doesn't open until 9am....so when I called he'd just sat down with a blueberry danish and a double double. To wait. Not bad.

Michael, Kirk and I went off to Ikea this morning - had to return a bathroom cabinet that's too big. Wow - are those flat packed Ikea cabinet things heavy! We lugged it out of the car and to the returns desk where Michael waited about an hour while Kirk and I scouted sofas....then returned to Michael just in time to return the cabinet. Ikea for all their great design reeeeaaallly needs more staff. Though, have to say, the staff we dealt with either at the returns desk, the delivery desk, or the clerk in the 'living room' area were all magnificent. But way overworked. And absent. Very hard to find a clerk actually on the floor.

but we got everything done and collapsed in the cafeteria for an Ikea lunch. If you've never had an Ikea lunch you're missing something. the line moves fast and the food is surprisingly yummy. Kirk has swedish meatballs and vegetables and a sort of brownie pie. Michael had roast chicken and I had fish and chips. Perhaps because we were all exhausted, but the food sure hit the spot.

Then hopped in the car with the five million pillows kirk bought and the waste paper buckets Michael purchased. And headed home...through the snow squalls. It really was impressive to see the storm in the distance...like a massive gray wall had been erected across the highway. We couldn't actually tell what it was...rain or snow or ice. I have to admit, I was happy not to be alone in the car. Then we hit it. Sleet. Pounding off the car and the pavement - but only for about two minutes - then we were out the other side and into bright sunshine.

Arrived back to find that the chimney inside the main house has almost been finished and looks great. The trim has almost all been painted....and Gary has just about finished the tile backsplash behind the stove. Very exciting.

And - I sent off the edits for Book 8...aka - THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY.

Having breakfast in Sutton with Joan tomorrow. Chairing a meeting tomorrow night....and have Sunday all to ourselves. Ahhhh.

Hope you have the weekend you wanted. Be well, and I'll talk to you on sunday, I hope.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

GoodReads nomination


lovely, sunny day - temps 10

really, a remarkable fall day - just beautiful.

Long days - packed. Up at 6am - at the house (under construction) by 7:45. Cheryl came by with Gary to look. Love her reaction....such a great friend. We were at the house at 7:30 last night with the ebenist - Cameron and the architectural draftsman, Brian. Wonderful young guys with a new company....but they needed to see the new kichen and how the island they're designing wil fit.

Ypu can see this photo of the kitchen...Ikea. In - but not quite finished (I hope...)- but close enough that I can taste it. or perhaps that's sawdust. The marble template guys are coming tomorrow. We ran into a problem today with the chimney stone. Wrong colours. Take a week or more to get what we hope will be the right stone. And the hearth stone didn't fit. And the vent against one wall sticks out too far, which means the piece of furniture that wall was specifically designed to have, will stick into the room. And the light switch for the kitchen is behind the fridge. Which also seems a problem.

We all, like a band attached at the hip, move around the kitchen/dining area together...Bob, Michael, Mike, Gary and me. Going from one problem to the next. Staring at it. Heads tilted first one way, then the other. Trying to find the solution. I'll tell you, if staring could solve problem I'd be the most successful human in history. so we'd stare for a while, then move by mutual consent to the next.

But I know a solution will present itself. They always have. Or not. But I also know these are not real problems. They're inconveniences at best.

The great thing about today is that the gas people came again - and successfully hooked up the gas stove....and fixed the fireplace. I was far from convinced today would end so well. But it did. A huge relief.

Feeling a little frustrated that I need to put in one more day on the edits to the manuscript, and just can't find the time. And with all the distractions I can't seem to find much time to even think about the book. But I'm hoping Thursday...

the november newsletter went out today - always a very fun day. Linda Lyall, in Scotland, works very hard on the design and editing after I send her the text and some photos. Indeed, Linda also designs my website.

Just interrupted by a phone call and didn't get back to the blog for a few hours.

My goal is to get the edits of Book 8 - The Beautiful Mystery - done by the end of the weekend, if not before. Just bits and pieces left to do at this stage. Thank heaven...but so important not to flag...so easy to stall close to the finish line.

Just received some very fun news...A TRICK OF THE LIGHT has been nominated for the GoodReads Readers Choice Award for Best Mystery. I have to say, I'm very, very happy about this....the first time for this terrific nomination.

Well, off to bed. Hope you had a terrific day.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

First Snow!




mix of sun and cloud. temps 3.

We woke up to snow on the ground. the forecast earlier in the week had called for it, then said we wouldn't get any, but New England would get hammered. I was sorry to hear both. I love the first snow, and the first snow storm....as long as we don't have to travel. So it was great to get back to Sutton from Quebec City in beautiful sunshine - then wake up to a little bit of snow. you can see by the photos, it's not much...more a suggestion, really. But pretty. The photos were taken this morning when Trudy and I were out for our walk.

Then Michael and I headed into Sutton for breakfast at Le St-Patrick. He had it with three other guys...Jack, Peter and Chris. And I have breakfast with Cheryl. Oh, how it filled my heart to be with a close friend...to hear about her life. And to tell her about mine. Not so much our external lives (though there's a bit of that, of course), but the invisible life....that is so real....the emotional life. Our interiors. Being on tour is a funny sort of thing. Never lonely because there are always so many people around - and that's wonderful and exciting and stimulating. But, of course, they're not friends. And while I do a lot of talking - it's not about my deepest thoughts.

Lovely to be home with Michael - and with friends. And feel that embrace.

What I consider the last event of the tour happened Friday night in Quebec City. But first, the Ikea kitchen arrived 7:30 Friday morning....and with it, four men, who burst out of two trucks and barely said hello. Within minutes they'd set up a sort of command post, with our plans - and benches....and off they went.

I was terrified that I'd mis-measured and nothing would fit. As it turns out, I had mis-measured....but apparently that happens all the time...and they just adjusted to it. I had to leave about 11am for the drive to Quebec City, which takes about 3 and a half hours. By then we'd discovered most of the problems and come up with solutuons.

Such a relief when there's no drama. I love being around people who say, 'No problem. We'll fix it.' I try to be like that too.... calm, constructive, positive. Because I know how much it means to me when others are like that. I'm running short of patience with people who make heavy weather of everything.

Ikea - at least these installation guys - worked like Trojans, and were cheery and adaptable and never tired of saying, 'pas de probleme madame.' It's not a problem.

Though I did get a mnessage from Michael when I arrived in Quebec City asking why I'd ordered a dark wood cabinet in the middle of a white kitchen. I blanched. And explained that I hadn't. And took a deep breath, repeating to myself, 'pas de probleme, madame....pas de probleme.' And sure enough, when it was explained, the Ikea people realized it was the company mistake - they installed it just to make sure the measurements were right, but said they'd be back next week to do an exchange.

Phew.

QuebeCrime on Friday was a blast. Stayed in a fun little hotel in downtown Quebec City - the old city. Hotel du vieux quebec. One of the terrific 'real' quebecois restaurants - a real bistro - is on the main floor, but not part of the hotel...les freres du cote.

I immediately went to the Literary and Historical Society - to just sit there and gather my thoughts....and who should come through the door but many of the other writers on the agenda for that night. Here's the worst photo ever taken, of us...in the library of the literary and historical society. You see, from left to right - Guy Dubois, who owns La Maison Anglaise - the english bookstore in Quebec and who helped create QuebeCrime, Ian Rankin, me, Simon Jacobs, the exec director of the Morrin Centre which houses the Lit and His, Anne Emery, a crime writer from Halifax and Denise Mina, a crime writer from Scotland.

After this Anne and Ian and I went off for drinks and french onion soup to the Maritime bar of the Chateau Frontenac. I have to say, it was a wonderful experience, to sit there, in that company.

One of the many unexpected events in an unexpected and very blessed life.

The readings that night, Friday, at St Andrew's Presbyterian church (right beside the Lit and His) were wonderful. So in awe of the other writers. Brilliant and funny and searing. And such great company.

And then...headed home. tomorrow I'm meeting a fellow crime writer and neighbor for coffee and conflab. And on Tuesday Propane de L'estrie shows up to hook up the new gas stove. I, of course, am worried that they won't be able to do it. There is no reason I should feel like that....(c'est pas un problem, madame, I need to tell myself) - but seems the worry factory is still in operation.

But I have to say - the kitchen is lookign great. yesterday, when I arrived home and Michael took me right over to show me, we spent a good half hour just opening and closing drawers....and marveling at the design. Honestly, PVR is lost on us. Give us a good drawer to open and close and we're happy for hours.

Speak soon - I hope. Sorry it's been so long between posts....but I do think of you, you know. And carry you with me, when I think of how lucky I am.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

QuebeCrime

clear skies - etc...

OK I know you know the weather - because it's only been a couple of hours since my last post - but there was something I'd wanted to tell you in the last post - and forgot! So I decided to post twice today. I go days without being able to write anything, but today - after doing 100 pages on the next book - I find myself blogging twice.

Go figure.

But I wanted to tell you about an event I'll be at later this week. On Friday (after the Ikea kitchen is delivered) I'll hop in the car and drive to Quebec City...one of my favorite places on earth. Because of this amazing crime writers/readers festival that's going on. The first annual (we hope) QuebeCrime! Most of it, over the weekend, will be held at the Literary and Historical Society, in the Morrin Centre, in Old Quebec. The setting for BURY YOUR DEAD.

I can't tell you how thrilling it is to know that magnificent anglo library will be the scene of this great celebration of crime writing.

And QuebeCrime has the most wonderful line-up. For instance, my event at 7pm on Friday night (at the nearby St Andrew's Presbyterian Church) will also feature Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Anne Emery and John Brady. Lawrence Block will also be at the festival, for an event on Saturday, at the Lit and His - and some of the other crime writers are Andrew Pyper, Hilary Davidson, Ian Hamilton, John Farrow and others. Very exciting!

It's a great excuse to come to Quebec City! If you'd like tickets you can call: 418-654-9523 or email: tickets@quebecrime.com

It's going to be wonderful. So looking forward to it. Hope to see you there.

Debut Dagger

mainly sunny - temps 10- breezy

One of those classic late October days....a wind that goes right into our bones. Buuurrrr.

We spent a wonderful weekend in Toronto, celebrating Doug's 50th birthday. Went for dinner to this great new Italian restaurant in a part of the city called Cabbagetown. I used to live there, when I first graduated college....with two friends. Guys. Brian and Bob. We lived on Seton Street in an old victorian. Amazing fun. Goegeous place. I'd just started at the CBC - which at the time was in an old red stone building within walking distance.

As so often happens, I had no idea how lucky I was.

It was such fun to be with Doug - and fun to be back in Cabbagetown. And the food at this restaurant was fabulous. The place is called F'Amelia. Great name.

We also had Indian food, for lunch that day. Doug loves Indian food and it's not exactly a hardship for Michael and me either. Yum.

So strange to be celebrating my younger brother's 50th. but I think we;re all so happy with where we are in life, that birthdays and age are almost meaningless. We're all far happier now than when we were in our 30s. A lovely, peaceful, place to be.

Now we're back in Montreal. Have a doctor's appointment tomorrow so that Michael can have his eye looked at. Conjunctivitis, he says. I call it 'pink eye'. Either way, it doesn't hurt him, but since his eyes are fragile, we want his doc to take a peek.

I also, though, wanted to let you all know that the Crime Writer's Association in Britain is now accepting entries for this year's Debut Dagger award. It's for the Best Unpublished Mystery...so if you have a manuscript for a crime novel and haven't yet found a publisher - this is your chance. It's the contest that launched my career - and Alan Bradley's and a whole lot of other people. Just google CWA or Debut Dagger...I'm sure you can find it.

And, speaking of the fabulous Alan Bradley - his latest book is about to come out. It's called I am Half sick of Shadows and is amazing! Long live Flavia!

Hope you're well - speak soon!