"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


We're doing "Halloween Lite" this year. We've got a small supply of candy--mini-chocolate bars. We don't get many mini-visitors, all the little kids are now older. Local parents no longer drive them down every dark country road to show off how cute they are.

But we're getting into the spirit of the day here at the Lodge.

Here's Ruth's impression of a Tasmanian Devil.

We decided to dress up--temporarily.

Lola realises that serving as Dog Queen is an awesome and weighty responsibility.

Being Princess of the Puppies is truly exhausting.

Later, after dark, I'll be wearing my blinking skulls deelyboppers. Ruth can't wait!

Saturday, Sunday and Monday were wildly windy. Today I drove round town checking on my campaign signs--none had blown down. It's odd and somewhat embarrassing to see my name in big red letters all over the place! And I visited the printer to drop off our candidate team 's hastily produced brochure. Leter this week it will be mailed out to all voters in our district. Our newspaper ad blitz begins tomorrow.

I'm going to spend the rest of today forgetting about the election, and focus on writing. And I'll try not to pass by the Halloween candy bowl too many times. It's terribly tempting....

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I spent yesterday, which was utterly gorgeous, confined in a large meeting room for an all-day training session for diocesan leaders. It was a good session and an articulate and dedicated group of people. The topic: Anti-Racism. And they fed us lunch. My chicken salad wrap was wrapped up in a very green wrap--spinach-y. Some people whinged, saying it was too green. But I liked it. Reportedly the same Very Green Wrap will also be available at the upcoming diocesan convention. That's ok by me.

Today we're confined to the Lodge. We slept very, very late because it's that sort of day. The weather has taken a terrible turn, it's like a hurricane outside--wet and violently windy. When I stepped out to retrieve the newspaper this morning, the rain was blowing in every direction and under my big umbrella! The electricity flicks on and off but so far has always come back on.

The girls are in Rainy Day Mode. I had a work session with Ruth this morning and let Lola join in--she's not as well educated, but for a few minutes seemed interested in what we were doing. Then Ruth and I played Fetch. Then I let them return to the important business of the day. As illustrated here.

This morning our church's annual Blessing of the Animals service was supposed to take place. But when the village cancelled their Octoberfest, the Blessing service was also cancelled. Given the weather, I'm relieved. Our priest offered to do individual blessings, as needed. Since he both he and our bishop have met Ruth--and touched, though not blessed her--I don't know whether we need to avail ourselves of his services at this time.

The Chap busted out briefly, driving to the village for some wine to go with our steak dinner and a DVD--The Madator. This plan for our evening entertainment sometimes ensures a complete and lengthy power outage. We hope not.

My white azalea is in bloom, has been for a few weeks.

Our candidate group has just received a massive infusion of cash--from a big politico. We already had a lot of dosh. Now I, our advertising maven, must find ways to spend it usefully in our three-town district in the short time before the election. Hmmmm. I had just got out of "strategery" mode, now I'm back in it again.

A friend and her friend in Philly have started their graceful new blog, Two Social Graces. You're only a click from enjoyment and enlightenment on civilised living in a modern and often uncivilised world.

It's clock-turning time. Oh, how I dread early dusk and darkness....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

When Pigs Fly

The last dream of the morning was about Shadow. I was feeding birds, and she helped by following me and carrying a container of bird seed. It wasn't quite a true-to-life incident, but near enough as makes no difference. I woke missing her terribly.

Perhaps that's why my spirits needed lifting. The President's speech and press conference didn't exactly do it for me. Neither did all the punditry that followed, on NPR and on cable news.

So I went into the city to have our snow tires put on the big Saab. And to run a few errands.

The dudes in the tire store are always great fun.

"You're here early to beat the rush!" one of them said.

"When does the rush begin?" I wondered.

"Babe, as soon as those flakes start flyin'."

Being called "Babe" was incredibly spirit-lifting.

I'm impressed that my tire guys have a subscription to the New Yorker. A white-boy rock station was blasting, meaning I could read a New Yorker review of Stephen Frears's film The Queen while--wait for it--Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody played. What could be more perfect?

I made it out of the tire store just before the pervasive rubbery aroma gave me a headache.

It was a blustery day, but there was autumn beauty to be seen. In a medical office parking lot, I spotted these valiant snapdragons, not yet killed by frost or covered by the falling leaves.

Then I spotted this autumnal sight.

A retail therapy session resulted in the purchase of some amazing flannel loungewear. One look at the winged pink pigs and puffy white clouds--in a style reminiscent of Terry Gilliam circa Monty Python--I just had to buy.

Once home, I had to wear.

My flying piggies and I are off to curl up with a cuppa and a good book a warm dog or two. I can think of no better mood-enhancer than that. Except the return of the Chap...which is imminent.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Day Not Like Yesterday

Yesterday was incredibly busy. Almost-never-leaving-my-desk sort of busy.

I priced and arranged placement of three political ads for my candidate group in three local newspapers. I drafted, finalised and submitted a convention report. I composed the text of a letter to some UK reference libraries. I checked in with people by telephone. They checked back. I emailed.

I forgot to eat any lunch--unless ginger biscuits count.

They were gingersnaps made by Archway--not quite as wonderful as McVities, but nice enough. In an idle moment--before I binned the empty packet--I studied the nutritional information on the back and discovered that a serving size is five cookies, equalling 150 calories. That's 30 calories per cookie. I reckon I consumed two servings over the course of the day, totalling 300 calories.

I've no idea how many calories I consume in the average day, because working it out requires the advanced mathematics skills I so sorely lack.

Yesterday for breakie I had a banana. For non-lunch, ten gingersnaps. During the course of the day I drank buckets of tea (milk, no sugar) and in the evening had my glass of wine. For supper (I dined alone, the Chap had a Vestry meeting), I fried 2 small eggs on small toasts and made a Big Green Salad with romaine lettuce. I don't think that adds up to zillions of calories--just as well, considering I sat at my desk all day long.

I did exercise with my free weights, as usual. And I climbed our staircase more times than I can count.

On a recent doctor's visit, I found out I'd lost several pounds since the previous doctor's visit a few weeks earlier. I wasn't trying, but I'm certainly not complaining.

Prime time television isn't the addiction it used to be, and I don't think it's my fault. Last night, I was actually working on my novel--except during Heroes. I have a lot of thoughts about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Unfortunately, yesterday's edition of USA Today beat me to it.

Yesterday I listened to BBC Radio 4 all day long. Today I've switched to Five Live.

Here's the current landscape from my office window. That's the winterberry tree with all the red berries--the birds have barely made a dent. On the grass below is a chipmunk who probably isn't Gilbert.

I'm loving today. There's nothing I'm s'posed to do but write a book. And make chicken curry for our dinner.

I don't know whether I'll lunch. Now that the gingersnaps are all gone.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Autumn Planting

"Crop" of the day--

political signs!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Shopping and Birdwatching

When the Going Gets Lonely, the Lonely Go Shopping....

Yesterday, which would've been my first day Home Alone, I busted out and headed for retail world.

My purchases:

1. Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen, which I last read twenty years ago. Her latest novel, Dark Angels (mentioned a few weeks ago) is the prequel to it. I found a trade-sized edition of TAGD on the "3 books for 2" table at Borders. But I couldn't find two other books I wanted, so I just bought the one.

2. A new bed for Ruth. At night, she happily sleeps in the bed formerly occupied by Shadow, a comfy round dog nest covered in the McCallum (my clan) tartan. She's a wee dog in a big dog bed. For travel purposes, and kennel stays, she needed something more portable. I found it at LL Bean Outlet, in the markdown area, among the catalog returns. For a very good price, you can get canvas dog bed covers already stitched with somebody else's dog's name. Yesterday, I pawed through returns from "Shamrock," "Trixie," and "Patches." Then I spotted one that hadn't been personalised, which also had a nifty fluffy top. Basically, it's a roomy pillowcase. So when I came home, I stuffed a pillow inside it and tossed it onto the sofa in our downstairs sitting room to see what would happen. No prompting necessary.

I've got a new bed

3. A very cute skirt.

4. Fresh food. Because I'm making Caesar salad for a candidates' strategy meeting tonight.

The Commuter, aka The Chap, met me at the new town library. I shrieked with joy when I went inside and saw all the recent changes. The carpet is laid, the stacks are in place, the light fixtures are up, the chairs for the meeting room are delivered. He and I sat together on the window seat of the Porter Adult Reading Area, holding hands, and imagining what it will look like when there's a sofa and chairs and a table. The wi-fi circuitry is already there....The committee decided on a moving date (December) and a date for the dedication/official opening (January). Be still my heart....

Today, my first full day Home Alone, is rainy. But I've got canine company, and the chipmunks. And the busy birds.

Just now I darted out to capture our resident pair of pileated woodpeckers. On is on the tree trunk, near the top, the other in silhouette on a branch to the left. These conditions aren't the best for photography, but the red head markings definitely show up.

Our Pileated Woodpeckers

A flock of robins and some sort of thrush are eating the winterberries like mad today.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Changing Landscape

The trees are hurriedly shedding their leaves, though there's still some lovely colour here and there. Despite the change of season, and some extremely low temperatures, one of my roses continues to produce. A few minutes ago, I was admiring Eglantyne, a David Austin English Rose.

It's very concerning, the vast quantity of red berries on the winterberry just outside my office window. The branches are heavily burdened, bending down to the ground. The wild shrubs and bushes I see when driving about the neighbourhood are also loaded with berries. We had many, many more acorns and beechnuts than usual. Odd, because it was a very unstressful growing season and all the trees are healthy. Is this nature's way of warning us of a harsh winter? There's no denying that Lola's winter coat is coming in thick and fast--and early. She's an Alaskan husky who looks ready for an Alaskan winter.

This day brought a sudden a change to our domestic life here at the Lodge. This morning the Chap began a new phase of his professional life, very exciting and rewarding and lucrative and all good things. But he'll be working from an office about 20 minutes away, instead of here in our forest. After a dozen years of daily togetherness--except when he's commuting overseas--I'm not at all accustomed to having the place to myself day in, day out. It's an adjustment. No more darting into his lair to pose a question or seek an opinion or just hang out or deliver a cup of hot tea.

Not that his constant presence was so very distracting, but I've high hopes of greater productivity as a writer. I remind myself that I wrote my first seven novels during a period when he went to an office.

No telling what Lola and Ruth will make of it all. I predict the wee dog will be overcome with excitement when the Chap returns at the end of his day.

In addition to banging out the manuscript, I've plenty of busy work to keep me occupied, mostly planning for upcoming travel--pleasure and research. I've been doing all things necessary to ensure my reader's passes at various libraries are in effect, and will be pre-ordering materials. At the moment, I'm obsessed with the details of the Siege of Belgrade (1688), in which my male protagonist takes part. Fortunately, I've located a contemporary account,published in the same year, which should prove immensely useful.

Last spring, Hampton Court was my obsession. Just now, it's Windsor Castle. Haven't been there for yonks, look forward to my return--and my first time with the Chap as my escort. He last went there in his student days. My female protagonist is buried in some unknown location within St. George's Chapel, and I feel a pilgrimage is in order.

In case anybody is wondering what became of Gilbert the Chipmunk, the short answer is, I'm not sure. By now, his tattoo has probably faded, making it impossible to pick him out of the chipmunk mob. Yesterday I spotted two smallish rodents--one in the backyard and one near the wood pile--and either might have been our former lodger. Perhaps he's the shameless perp who stole those miniature hyacinth bulbs I planted on Sunday....I knew it was chipmunk territory, but I wanted them there enough to risk it.

I continue working with the Graduate every day, so she doesn't lose all the knowledge she gained. She is a working breed, after all!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Graduate

Last night was a big event for our family: Level 1 Obedience Class final exam and graduation.

It was a double graduation for all the Monday night students: 4 black and white dogs from Level 1--Rosie, Kate, Abby, and Ruth--plus Shiloh and Brodie, the 2 puppies in the Puppy 1 class.

Ruth was the smallest one. Even the puppies were bigger than she is! She was a bit growly around those pups. Either because they were so bouncy, or because she didn't think they belonged with the "big dogs."

Ruth checks out the puppies

Before the exam started, Ruth was feeling prepared and confident.

Ruth is feeling confident

She did well on all the tests. Her highest achievement was sitting in response to a hand signal, rather than a verbal command. She was the first one to sit, and won a prize. On the "come" exercise, where she had to come to me on command from far across the room, it was a photo finish for first place among all three Border Collies. Ruth just missed winning that one, too.

She was a very good dog.

Ruth gets a treat for good work

After the exam, there was a play period. The puppies went wild.

a blur of dogs and puppies

Ruth preferred to sit on the sidelines with her good friend Abby and watch from a safe distance.

Ruth with the Chap. Look at that happy face--she just found out she's getting her diploma!

I get a diploma

Here we are in our graduation photo, looking serious, superior, and very highly educated.

proud graduates

Then there was a party with treats for everybody. Ruth's teacher says she can do anything she wants, she's such a smart doggie. We talked about Certified Therapy Dog training, and Doggie Dancing. A therapy class starts up after the first of the year, that's probably our first choice.

As soon as we got home, we showed Lola our diploma.

Lola is impressed

We had a private party--the girls got a little ice cream.

The Graduate curled up on the sofa with me to watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and went right to sleep on my lap.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up

I wish I'd remembered last Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I needed to borrow theirs, because I might not be having the typical American Thanksgiving this year. (That sounds pitiful, but trust me, it's really not.) I am thankful for so much, and if I start itemising, I won't get round to posting about my wonderful weekend!

I missed about 70% of the writers' group meeting, but did attend the lecture on story mapping by the visiting speaker, Annette Blair, who did a fantastic job. I first met her years ago, we were signing books at a Barnes & Noble somewhere--it was one of her first signings ever, for her first book, and she was so thrilled.

The Blog Free or Die event was fun! According to reports, about 25 area bloggers turned up. All were so nice and interesting--not that I met every single person, I could just tell.

TJ, the organiser, has a blog called Better Living Through Chemistry. Here he is, showing us how it's done.

I wasn't the only author. This fellow, J.A. Eddy, co-authored a novel, which he self-published. I came home with a copy. Doesn't his wife look proud? As she should be! He co-blogs with his brother at Weekend Pundit.

Driving home at dusk, I meet three deer walking across our road from the woods to the meadow. It's a common sight. I tried to photograph them, but it was too dark. In the picture, all you can see is blackness with three sets of glowing eyes staring back at me.

Yesterday we had an emotional church service (our priest shared some happy/sad news), followed by a Via Media session. The Chap and I went up to the cottage to do some end-of-season stuff.

I've posted plenty of pics of the Cottage at the Big Lake in autumn. Here are some scenes from the Lodge on the Little Lake.

Glowing trees.

Serene water.

This morning Ruth spotted a ruffed grouse in our front yard. Naturally, she barked at it, just like she does when she sees the big brown rabbit. Or a deer.

Obedience class graduation is tonight. We'll spend the day cramming for the final exam. And I'm making cookies for the party afterwards. Doesn't she look excited?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Plan for the Day

It's absolutely gorgeous, so even though I've been out and about nearly every day this week, I don't mind driving into the city yet again...

to photocopy some research materials at Kinko's...

to attend a writers' group meeting...

and to do this--

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Favourite Dog Book Author

The Chap received some awesome news yesterday, which I won't go into at the moment. We're very celebratory here at the Lodge. More on that later.

As you can see from a glance at my sidebar, I am a huge fan of Jon Katz. Like me, he loves and lives with Border collies--although mine have always been mixed breeds with BC the dominant breed. I've corresponded with him. At one time he was thinking of writing a book about women and their relationships with dogs, but then his life changed and he seems to have focussed even more intently on his own relationship with his dogs. And other critters.

There's some interesting stuff happening on the Katz front.

1. His new book, A Good Dog: the Story of Orson, Who Changed my Life was just published.

I first met Orson in the pages of A Dog Year, when he was called Devon. Unfortunately, I already know something about the book that makes me doubtful I'll be able to read it. I'll explain why in the comments box. So don't go there if you don't want to know. Warning: the Amazon reviews also contain the spoiler.

2. Next year there's going to be a movie of A Dog Year.

3. The movie stars Jeff Bridges. Good job, casting director! And it reminds me that I need to watch The Big Lebowski again.

4. It was shot on location at Katz's real farm in Upstate New York.

That's it for now, I'm away. More celebrating to do...more plans to make.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Parting Shots

I'm still contently inside my bubble of autumn beauty and lakeside peacefulness. But already I'm remembering my Real World responsibilities, and all the activities, uncertainties, delights, and challenges of the week to come.

As I said to a friend on the phone yesterday afternoon, "This may turn out to be the major momentous week of our entire year. So far." Perhaps an exaggerration. The next several days will tell.

But for now, I'm puttering about the cottage in my bathrobe, taking care of things left undone. I'll finish the final edit on my magazine article, polishing it up for submission tomorrow. I must clarify my answers for a candidate profile to appear in the newspapers, and choose a photo to send in with them. And I need to finish reading an 8-day old London Sunday Times, so I can throw it out. I'll pay particular attention to the "Culture" section, to see what's on in London...now that there's a chance of going over there in the next few weeks. One more thing that needs to be resolved this week....

Like every other morning, the body of water spread out before me is so clear and still that standing on our porch, high atop the hill, I can see the bottom of the lake.

Here are some favourite pics of the past 24 hours.

The cottage, from the dock, where the dogs are lurking.

A colourful spot by the shore.

The Big Boat heads up the Bay on Sunday afternoon, one of two "Leaf Peeper" cruises that passed by.

The way we conclude each and every day, sitting on the screen porch, watching the sun sink over the mountains.

Other than editing my article, I haven't done a bit of "work" for days. I brought some book stuff along, just in case I was in the mood. But I wasn't and don't feel at all guilty about it!

In the days to come, I will look back upon this calm, quiet time, with gratitude.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Festive Weekend

We arrived at the Cottage on Thursday, the first of many sunny autumn days.

On Friday, our wedding anniversary, I took this photo from the living room window. The late afternoon sun was sparkling on the water, and the maple by the dock was glowing.

Saturday morning, I rose very early. There was a thick fog obscuring the mountains, and mist was rising from the water--extremely picturesque. I left the Chap and the girls at the cottage and began my journey round the lake to the church where the diocesan council retreat was taking place.

Here's the Bay, just south of the Point. In the center of the picture, surrounded by fog, is a loon. Probably the one we heard calling to us at 4 AM!

On the other side of the Bay, where I rarely go, I paused at a pullover marked Scenic View. When the day is clear, it's possible to pick out our cove and cottage. I was barely able to do it. But I did get this shot of the top of the Bay, where the clouds were doing marvellous things.

Good thing there was no traffic at that hour to slow me down! I made good time, considering how often I pulled over to snap photos. The vistas were extraordinary, just the right combination of cloud, mist, morning sun, blue sky, and bright trees.

The retreat was very successful, the food and fellowship outstanding, and we finished early! My homeward drive was slower, the leaf-peepers were out in force. But heavy traffic couldn't mar the beauty of the golden afternoon. Driving past the Scenic View spot, I didn't stop but I could glimpse our dock on the opposite shore.

The Chap and the girls were happy to see me.

Yesterday was another important anniversary--on a long-ago October 7, the day after I wedding, I first arrived at this wonderful, magical place on the lakeshore. In instantly knew how important and necessary it would become to me. A milestone well worth celebrating.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy, Happy Day!

Today my husband and I celebrate many years of marital bliss and blessings. We're spending our anniversary here at the Cottage on the Big Lake, the same place that we spent part of our honeymoon.

We've exchanged cards and gifts, and look forward to a day of togetherness--admiring the spectacular foliage, walking the dogs, cooking and eating a festive dinner....

We've had such an eventful and well-travelled life together in the years since our lovely wedding, but we remember every detail.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Catching Up

I've lived inside a whirlwind since Ruth and I returned from the cottage! Church on Sunday, candidate meeting that afternoon, obedience class last night, today an afternoon meeting and an evening meeting. All along I've had to do some prep for a diocesan retreat being held all-day Saturday on the Big Lake. Plus, the Chap and girls and I are running up to the cottage for a long anniversary/Columbus Day weekend.

Ruth and I went to obedience class without the Chap last night, he had a meeting at church. I snapped some pics before we began.

This is Ruth with her best friend Kate, another Border collie mix.

And this is Ruth with her other best friend Abby, also a Border collie mix.

We had four dogs in class last night, all black and white. (Last week there were eight, it was too crowded.) The first half of the class was very challenging, we learned something extremely hard. Ruth had had a long and active day, her concentration wasn't very good and I came close to losing my patience with her, which didn't help. But after a play break, she was very cooperative and aced the new task repeatedly.

The autumn foliage gets lovelier by the day--practically by the hour. We had a gloomy wet spell, but now it's warm and sunny. Haven't had time to change out my summer clothes for the other kind (although I dug out a selection of warm things for cottage use). So far it hasn't mattered much.

Only a few roses in the garden now...not much blooming besides my false sunflowers, so bright and yellow. But our Lodge has been brightened by some lovely flowers given to us by people. With really long stems, so I can use the big blue glass vase that was my late mother-in-law's.

This lavish bouquet was given us by Tess Gerritsen and her husband when they came to lunch. It lasted forever.

And I received this batch of beautiful sunflowers after church. When I said how lovely they were decorating the altar, a member of the Altar Guild gave them to me to take home. Thanks, Yvonne!

Off to bake some cookies for a meeting. Haven't done it in a while...I got sidetracked by my efforts to create the perfect Key Lime pie!