Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Interview

Over at Poe's Deadly Daughters (great title for a blog), Sandra Parshall, who won the Agatha for best first this year for In the Heat of the Moon, is interviewing me. Check it out, if you're so inclined: I like their web page - I have to figure out how to post pictures.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Of Blogging and Bunny Rabbits

As I write this it's 8:00 a.m., Friday, May 25. I’m sitting on the porch of our cottage in Alburg, Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain, watching a little brown rabbit nibble the clover and the creeping charley and the dandelions that cover our front lawn. I’ll mow it tomorrow, if the rabbit doesn’t eat enough. Meanwhile, it promises to be a beautiful day today, sunny, temperature in the high 20s (or 80s, given my locale). Just enough wind to ruffle the water and keep things from getting too hot. The iPod is on shuffle, working its way through the 1,945 songs in my rock library, currently playing a Beatles song. I don’t really like the Beatles all that much, but Pam does, and it’s only fair that some of the music on the iPod is for her, since it’s our main source of music at the cottage. I bought her an iPod Shuffle a couple months ago, when she was feeling under the weather, but it holds only a couple of hundred tunes. My iPod holds a few thousand songs, rock, blues, electronic, world, classical, and opera (mainly sopranos).

I’m going up the road to the local library later because a neighbour told me they have wifi and maybe I can check my email. I’m expecting my editor to send me his edits for The Dells, the next Joe Shoe book, which, if all goes well, will be out next winter. I’m also thinking about setting a book here, more or less, as a way of trying to break into the U.S. market. The librarian might be able to help me out with local history and contact information, like the location of the nearest cop shop. To grease the wheels, hopefully, I’m going to donate singed copies of my books, three to date. Imagine how excited they’ll be. Uh, that should be _signed_ copies; so far no one’s burned any of my books.

Are you out of your mind with boredom yet? I know I am. My life, outside of fiction, anyway, isn’t all that exciting, even for me. Can’t imagine how uninteresting it is for you, whoever the hell you are. But one of our fellow TypeM bloggers took the rest of us to task the other day for not posting on a regular basis. My assigned day is Saturday. Some of us had reasonable excuses, such as driving cross-country, but my only excuse was a lack of commitment, coupled with laziness and a tendency to procrastinate, which I’m going to write an article about someday. Sorry, old joke. Thing is, I’m not sure I like blogging any more than I like the Beatles. I don’t read blogs on a regular basis, except TypeM, and even then, only when I remember. I think one has to be something of an egotist to think that anyone else is interested in his or her day-to-day musings -- or live a significantly more interesting life than I do...

There’s a little red finch on the lawn now, crimping over the stems of dandelions with his beak to get at the seeds. Yesterday I watched a yellow and black finch do the same thing. Smart birds. Maybe I’ll look them up in the bird book ... later. There’s a redwing blackbird family nesting in a cedar we planted the year before last. Dad harasses us whenever we walk out to Pam’s wildflower garden. He’s afraid of the lawnmower, though. So am I ...

See what I mean? If you find that interesting, you need to get a life, for god’s sake. Surely you’ve got better things to do. I know I do. I don’t even know who you are. Who reads this thing, anyway, besides Charles and Rick and Vicki and Barbara and me (sometimes)? The only comments I’ve received to my posts, that weren’t some kind of spam, came from fellow bloggers -- no, sorry, I think there was one from a reader in California after I wrote about the shooting at Dawson College down the road from my apartment in Montreal. I can’t check right now because I’m off-line. Maybe when I go up to the library ...

I promised my fellow TypeMers that I’d try harder to post more frequently. I won’t promise to do it every Saturday, because it’s a promise I likely won’t (be able to) keep. And don’t expect all of my posts to be as exciting as this one.

It’s 9:20 a.m. now. Van Morrison is on the iPod. Don’t know where the bunny has gone. Didn’t eat enough, so I guess I’m going to have to mow tomorrow after all.

Michael Blair
Alburg, Vermont

Thursday, May 24, 2007

In B.C.

I made it! I’m settling in comfortably into Nelson after the Great Cross-Country Trek. Seven days, three time zones, five provinces, one driver, one passenger (canine). What a great trip. After we left Ontario the weather was generally good. I didn’t have any sort of a schedule planned out, each day I just drove as much as I felt like. We camped twice, once in Manitoba and once in Saskatchewan. I went to my mother’s hometown and the city of my birth, Winnipeg, Manitoba, where I haven’t been since I was about five years old, and to the town where my dad grew up, Indian Head, Saskatchewan. Indian Head is marked by a giant Indian Head on the side of the highway. And that’s about it these days. I loved driving across the Prairies. You can see all the way to the end of the world. The farms were getting ready for spring planting and everything looked green and prosperous. Then it turns a bit hilly, and you drive over a hill, and suddenly there it is in the distance. Mountains. Makes me wonder what the pioneers must have thought after passing across all that nice flat grassland to suddenly see that wall up ahead. They were probably not as pleased as I.

Then into B.C. and the Kooteneys to my favourite place in all the world. Nelson. I’ll be here for four months. Tomorrow I start my first house-sit – a beautiful home about five minute’s walk from my daughter’s place.

My new book, In the Shadow of the Glacier, which comes out in September from Poisoned Pen, is something different for me. It’s the start of a series, a police procedural in the style of a traditional village mystery. It’s set in a small town in the Kooteneys. A small fictional town by the name of Trafalgar. Now that all the chaos of packing, and moving, and traveling and visiting is over, I’m ready to start to second book in the series. It’ll be wonderful to actually be in the area I’m writing about. If I can’t remember what the trees look like climbing the side of the mountain, I’ll just look out the window. . Or perhaps walk into town to sit at the coffee shop and ponder the nature of trees.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crazy Trainwreck

As those of you playing at home know, I host The Smart Set, a weekly radio show at Jazz 90.1 here in Rochester (Saturday nights, 5-6pm, also live at It’s an over-the-top radio show, broadcasting “live” from venues like the Kow Tow Room high atop the Imperial Hotel (Where Subservience is More than a Tradition!), the Blue Buddha Lounge at the Tiki Village Motor Inn (Twice voted Best Bar in Town by the Middle School Student’s Association), the Club Flamingo (Home of the famous ten-minute happy hour), and the Red Fez (Always a Tassel, Seldom a Hassle). There are lively crowds, strange drink specials and each week I get to play 15 or so great swingin’ tunes.

But last night I played a tune so bad that even I cringe recalling it – Pat Boone’s rendition of Black Sabbath’s Crazy Train. [See Steve's comment below]

Now I love a good Pat Boone tune as much as the next guy, but this…this was unforgivable. I fielded four calls during the song – three saying it was god-awful and one thanking me for playing his request.

The gent requesting the tune - and it had to be a prank - had called the week before asking me if I could somehow find a version of this and add it to the show next week. Unfortunately, it was easy to find. It clearly falls in the what-were-they-thinking pile, with a weak performance by everyone involved, especially whoever coached the back up singers to do that Toot Toot Crazy Train! thing.

Why am I telling you this? After inflicting it on my listening audience I feel morally obligated to warn others.

My next show will be on Saturday, June 2nd. Listen in if you can – I promise not to repeat that mistake.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers Day

It’s Mother’s Day in the States so I’ve been busy calling all the mothers in my life. There’s my step-mom, Joanne, who, on top of being a most wonderful person, may well be my strongest promoter, Carol Roth, my best friend Rick’s mom, who probably saw me as much as my family did much of my youth, and my wonderful mother-in-law, Lydia, who, in addition to birthing a beautiful baby named Rose, always has some cake or some dessert waiting for me when I stop by. I love my many moms.

My real mom, Merle Benoit, died a few years ago.

It’s hard to feel sad when I think about her because more than anything, she taught me to laugh – at life and at myself – and even as I write this I’m smiling as I remember all the little things she said and did. They wouldn’t make sense to you but to me they are the source of more joy and happiness than I probably deserve.

She died before Rose and I moved overseas, before I even started writing Relative Danger. She never got to hear about our travels or share in the excitement that came with getting my first book published or the thrill of that Edgar nomination or the rush that comes with seeing a new book hit the stands.

Sometimes people who knew my mom show up at book signings. They often congratulate me on my success and say things like ‘your mom would be so proud of you.’ Yeah, she would have.

But the truth is my mom would have been proud of me if I failed at everything I tried to do. Because she was my mom.

I love my many moms.

And I miss the one I love the most every day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dispatches from the First Stop on the World Tour

Like Charles, I went to Arlington Virginia for Malice Domestic. The drive down from Oakville was largely uneventful, and it was nice watching the trees turn green as I drove. I managed to get lost about 3 kilometers from the hotel. Whereupon I circled around and around for about an hour. Saw the pentagon several times: they must now have my license plate number on file. I stopped at a hotel and got directions, and still managed to stay lost. But I found my destination eventually. I am good with driving on highways and following maps, but in a strange city it’s another story.

Much excitement one morning when my room flooded. The toilet flushed, and just kept on filling, and filling. I was rooming with Robin (RJ) Harlick, the author of the Quebec-based Meg Harris series. We rushed about taking all our belongings to higher ground, i.e. the beds, and tiptoeing across the soaking wet carpet. I called the front desk three times to explain that this really was an emergency. Eventually housekeeping arrived, and we were moved to another room. We had a good laugh down on the first floor (our room is on the second) to see garbage cans and buckets laid out to catch the torrent of drips descending from the ceiling.

I blended conference-going with seeing the sights. The conference was in Virginia but the subway line to Washington is located in the bowels of the hotel. I was last in Washington when I was 12 years old and on holiday with my family. It might have changed a bit. I’m a good walker when I’m a tourist, and made my way from monument to monument, and saw the National Portrait Gallery I had a very nice light lunch at Les Halles. Les Halles is Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant: he’s best known as a writer about foodie things (Kitchen Confidential, in particular) but has also written a small mystery, whose name escapes me at the moment. A small lunch salad and cup of tea was surprisingly inexpensive at such an upscale place.

Then it was off to Pittsburg for the outstanding Festival of Mystery. What a great event. I drove down with Clea Simon (Mew is For Murder and Cattery Row) and Gammy Singer (A Landlord’s Tale and Down and Dirty) and we had a great time. Marred, sadly, by the very first speeding ticket in my entire life!!! Something to remember Pennsylvania by.

All in all, a great start to the world tour. I’m back home in Oakville to finish packing up, and off across Canada in a few days.

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Malice towards none...

Okay, here’s the deal.

I’m off to Malice Domestic, the mystery convention held outside of Washington, DC, the same convention that bestows the much-coveted Agatha award. It’s a cozy kind of conference – thematically, not spatially – and it’s kind of a stretch to see how I fit in, but it’s a lively crowd and a good time will be had by all.

Here’s where you come in.

The first person who mentions this blog entry will be treated to as many martinis as he/she can handle at the hotel bar.

Don’t be shy, run right up and shout that you saw this entry – odds are you will indeed be first. Now this offer excludes any other blog-mate (sorry Vicki) and you’ve had to have actually seen this entry to qualify – I’ll look deep into your eyes and will know the truth. Also, anything over 3 martinis is just asking for trouble so I reserve the right to cut you off, you gin-soaked lush. Okay, maybe four, but no more than six, by god.

And Jarred? You get your first drink free anyway since one day I will be able to say ‘I knew him before he became famous.’