The tulips are indeed out and are a sight for sore and bleary eyes. It also feels very muggy and humid as though summer has already kicked into high gear. Reps can be forgiven for often getting our seasons all mixed up; while technically it's spring 2007, it feels like summer, we're currently working on our fall lists, and spring 2008 information is due shortly to hit our desks any day now.
In Ottawa, we like to stay at the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel because the rooms are big, with full working kitchens and a dining table where we can spread out our work. We're in the midst of doing the non-glamourous part of our jobs and prepping for our fall books selling appointments. We've just been through a week of sales conference, heard numerous editorial presentations and marketing/publicity plans and now we have to pull all our notes together, think about our specific markets, hone in on the best selling points and comparable titles for the dozens of books in our catalogues, and come up with the most perfect pitch and synopsis that can be articulated in 30 seconds or less, which is often how much time we're given to sell any particular book. The whole process is a bit akin to cramming for exams at the last minute and just hoping the key points stick when you are in front of the buyer.
But as always when we're on the road, there are some lovely compensations. Another reason we love this hotel is for its proximity to our favourite breakfast spot in Ottawa - The Scone Witch. Located in a house on Albert between Lyon and Bay, this place makes the most delicious savory and sweet scones - they stay moist for at least three days. I highly recommend their herb & onion and their lemon poppyseed. We always grab extras for the drive home. Other favourite haunts in the city are Zone ( a great store located in the Market that sells home and kitchen accessories, great gadgets and costume jewelry), The Book Bazaar (a wonderful literary used bookstore), Yarn Forward (one of those yummy wool stores where, especially in the winter, every ball just feels so soft and tactile you immediately want to knit a dozen scarves) and all the great independent stores in the Glebe area, including Octopus Books and the Glebe Emporium.
One of the books I'll be talking about to librarians tomorrow is set partially in Ottawa and across the river in Hull, Quebec. Fred Vargas is France's best-selling mystery writer and if you are a fan of Reginald Hill, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell or Henning Mankell, you really should give Fred (short for Frederica) a try. Her latest, Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, features her regular detective, Comissaire Adamsberg, who reluctantly travels to Hull to take a course on DNA forensics given by the Quebec police. When an ill-timed one night stand leads to the murder of a woman - stabbed by a trident in an eerie echoing of several previous murders in France - Adamsberg is the number one suspect. In order to clear his name, he needs to stay out of jail and make his way back to Paris to solve the case himself. The book is worth reading if only to see how he manages to sneak past the police and airport security to get out of Canada. And that's only the beginning of his troubles. He's fairly sure he knows who the real murderer is, but the only problem is that the man in question is dead. This is a wonderfully intricate, meaty and literary mystery. And don't let the fact that it takes place in winter deter you from taking this to the beach. So what if the seasons are out of whack? Welcome to my world.