The habits of medieval cats

I was surfing through some of the blogs on WordPress and came across this interesting post … and as a cat lover, I feel compelled to share my find:   Paws, Pee, and Mice: Cats Among Medieval Manuscripts.  (And it is related to writing.)  Enjoy!

A fan’s thoughts on A Beautiful Mystery

Spoiler Alert!  I am a huge fan of Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache series and in the following post, I talk about her most recent novel.  If you have not yet read it, then you may not want to read my post since I give too much away.  This is an abridged letter I wrote to Ms. Penny after finishing A Beautiful Mystery.

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Dear Ms. Penny,

I have loved your Inspector Gamache series since first listening to Still Life from Audible.com two-and-a-half years ago. You are a master at blending the standard structure of a mystery with the philosophical underpinnings of a literary novel. I deeply admire your skill in character development as well as plot formation. Since I listen to your novels, I’ve been able to “whip” through them while driving to work or knitting or taking walks. I’ve just finished A Beautiful Mystery and now I have that long wait ahead of me until the next novel.

I am writing to you after some careful reflection and a long talk with one of my closest friends, who is also a great fan of yours. I found A Beautiful Mystery troubling in a few ways that I want to share with you. It’s a testament to your writing that Inspector Gamache and Beauvoir have gotten under my skin to the point where I felt strongly affected by this last novel.

I was devastated by Beauvoir’s decision to leave with the Superintendent. His agony, his self-destructiveness was nearly unbearable. I had grown so fond of Beauvoir and was thrilled at the beginning of the novel to find that he and Annie were in love. I can understand that his injuries (both physical and emotional) from the raid would leave him vulnerable to the Superintendent’s manipulations, but was it inevitable that he would leave with him? I want to beg you to tell me that he will be all right in the next novel, that he will be redeemed, that all will be resolved and then all would be right in the world, but I know you can’t tell me that, whether or not you already know his fate.

Maybe my reaction to Beauvoir’s breakdown says more about me than the novel, but I do feel so “invested” in this series. Not financially, but up until now, the novels have been an escape for me. Yes, terrible things happen, like murder, like Clara throwing Peter out, like Ruth having to give up her duck, but the murders are resolved, Clara probably needs some time away from Peter anyway, and Ruth showed she was capable of nurturing and loving by caring for the duck.

And the murders were central to the stories as well, whereas, in A Beautiful Mystery, the murder became incidental, almost unnecessary except as a vehicle for putting Gamache and Beauvoir in a closed environment where they had no choice but to face their demons in the form of the Superintendent. By the time the murder was solved, I really didn’t care any more. I would have preferred that Gamache and Beauvoir had left together, leaving the murder for the Superintendent to investigate. The murder just didn’t matter to me once Beauvoir started falling apart.

The cliff-hanger ending also left me feeling distressed. That probably sounds funny, and I do feel a bit embarrassed to admit it. Really, this is just a novel, but the characters are so true to life. Gamache is not perfect; if he was, he would have been more forthcoming with Beauvoir, addressed his anxieties instead of just ordering him about as if the raid had never happened. He is partly to blame for Beauvoir’s breakdown and it makes sense that he is.

I guess I’m really writing this because I want to understand why you chose to end the novel the way you did. I don’t think you needed a cliff-hanger. This was your 8th novel and you are such a celebrated writer that surely you know that your next novel will be a bestseller as well. Really, if Beauvoir had regained his senses and chosen to stay with Gamache, I would still be eagerly awaiting novel #9. I would just have a more happy anticipation. As it is, I’m worried, even scared, that we will lose Beauvoir entirely to the “dark side.” So I await novel #9 with some trepidation, now that I know I care (too) deeply about these characters that you have painted with such skill and love.

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If you’ve read this far and have your own thoughts on A Beautiful Mystery, please share them.  I am eagerly awaiting How the Light Gets In (due to be published in August of this year), but part of me also dreads it.  What does it mean when a writer, as a reader, can’t handle things going bad?

And then back again

After a 3 years’ absence, I’ve decided to re-enter the blogosphere but with a different purpose. I simply want to write, and I’m tired of writing in my head. Initially, this blog was to be a resource to me and anyone who happened by, a writing resource with links to websites and other blogs devoted to the art and science of writing. I wanted to be useful. I didn’t want to write about Me. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in Me. But recently I finished reading Quiet by Susan Cain and now that I have a better understanding of myself (shy, sensitive introvert that I am), I want to make the jump from thinking nobody would care to I don’t care if nobody would care … about Me. I want to write.

Writing used to be a way to hide from a world that frightened and confused me. I was very introverted as a child, no doubt in part because I needed but didn’t get glasses until I was 10. Everything scared me. Life scared me. And yet there were times when I could act outgoing, although I don’t think anyone much liked me when I was like that. I was very emotional, would cry if anyone looked at me the wrong way, and crying wasn’t something tolerated very well in my home. It was a sign of weakness. Which meant I cried a lot.

I wrote trying to imagine having some control over my life, wanting to believe I had a better relationship with my family than I did. Wanting to believe that at the end of the day, they loved me. As a young adult living away from home, I wrote in journals, trying to decipher the world around me. I had moved to a place radically different from the one I grew up in. I embraced “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” and spent too many years making a mess of myself. And writing very little.

I went back to school, took writing classes, tried using my writing as I had in the past, to work through and survive both physical and emotional trauma. What I always lacked was confidence. I never wrote with any real confidence in my writing. When anyone did try to support me (most often, a teacher), I almost literally ran the other way. I don’t know what I was afraid of: most likely, failure, but what kind of failure? I grew up feeling like a fraud, and I still harbor some of that today. I’m afraid I will disappoint. I disappoint myself every day, but I’m used to it.  I hate disappointing others. And without confidence in myself, I couldn’t very well use the support given to me. Only a fraud would do that.

So now, decades later, I have very little to show for my writing. I’m way past the halfway mark of my life, and I do have many regrets, not the least of which is I didn’t write more. I might have had a different story if the internet had been around when I was young and isolated. Although there is a lot of crap out there, I’ve come across writers that I never would have known if it wasn’t for the internet. They are not all published writers, but they write. They seize the opportunities that the internet provides. I think some of them might even be shy, sensitive introverts like myself.

I have regrets and some of those regrets I can do nothing about. But the regret that I didn’t write more … I don’t have to die with that regret. That one I can change.

Part-Time Monster

I eat books for breakfast.

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