Happy May


Today is May 1st, also known as May Day. In many places around the world, it’s also International Workers’ Day … a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of the working class. In some places, in fact, today is a national public holiday.

The ancient Celts celebrated May Day too. They called it Beltane and considered it the most important day of the year. It was celebrated with bonfires, Maypole dancing and feasting, and culminated in the crowning of a May queen.  They also considered it the beginning of summer because in the Northern Hemisphere May 1st falls halfway between our Spring equinox and the June solstice.

It’s not quite summer yet, but the tulips are in bloom, the lilacs are about to open and the garden is waking up from its winter slumber. And that’s something to celebrate. Happy May!

Perfectly Imperfect


I’m planning a trip to Japan. I’m not sure when I’ll go, but it’s on my longish short list of destinations to visit. “You must go in spring,” a friend told me the other day. “It’s a perfect time.”

Perfection seems to be the theme of the week. Maybe it’s the way the stars are aligning, or maybe February calls on our inner perfectionist, or maybe it’s simply coincidence. Whatever the reason, people seem to be tossing the idea of perfection around like happy celebrants tossing confetti at a wedding.

It’s starting to annoy me. Not the celebratory confetti thing; that sounds like fun. Although, having just googled confetti and the environment, I should probably find another simile. Or is it a metaphor? . . .

Now back from five minutes of checking the difference between simile and metaphor and thinking maybe I should scrap this idea entirely lest I make a mistake and write an imperfect blog.

There it is, the whole perfection/imperfection thing cropping up again.

Full disclosure: I have been known to have (cough, cough) perfectionistic tendencies, especially in a few areas of my life (those who know me well can stop laughing now). It’s a tendency I’m trying hard to overcome. That’s why my house is currently a mess (at least, that’s my excuse).

I didn’t start the week thinking about perfection. First, there was that conversation with a friend about Japan and the perfect time to go. Then there was an interview and tour I did for a feature on a new home build. The home is stunning. It could – and probably someday will – grace the cover of Architectural Digest Magazine. The word perfect was bandied about a lot during my tour, including a few apologies for areas that ‘weren’t quite perfect yet.’ Finally, there was a walk with friends where I learned that Bruce Springsteen has hair plugs (I’m not sure how I survived this long without knowing that, but amazingly I did). That morphed into a conversation about his plastic surgery which led someone to comment that they’d much rather watch him perform with a full head of hair and no wrinkles. He would be perfect that way.

We were walking in the woods when I learned about Springsteen. It had rained heavily overnight; the trail was muddy and littered with leaves. The trees around us were bent and twisted. Moss and Old Man’s Beard dangled haphazardly from the occasional branch, waiting for wind or a forager to carry it away.  Nothing about the view was perfect, yet it was perfect in its imperfection, as nature always is.

Our culture promotes the idea of perfection. We’re told everything can be improved: our bodies, homes, and relationships, to name only three. In the middle of writing this, I received an email from a local garden retailer extolling the virtues of the perfect patio plants now available to order. A few weeks ago, I learned that women in their thirties are getting Botox or ‘soft’ facelifts as a preventive measure to avoid ‘future imperfections.’

In Japan, they have something called wabi-sabi. An integral part of their culture, it’s the practice of celebrating and embracing imperfections. In fact, the Japanese have dedicated a 400-year-old art form – kintsugi – to putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. Kintsugi is designed to highlight the ‘scars’ and to create something more unique, more beautiful and even more resilient in spite of its apparent inadequacy. Many of the antique bowls used in the Japanese tea ceremony have cracks, uneven glazes and imperfect shapes. And they are highly prized for their supposed deficiencies.

When I write novels, I’m always careful to develop characters with flaws. Most writers I know are careful to do that too. We recognize at a deep level that flawed characters are more believable, more relatable, and more likeable. Yet it can be a real challenge to accept and let our own imperfections show.

That, I decided, was the lesson of this week. In a culture that favours the flawless, the perfect, the hair plugs or preventative Botox injections, I need to honour the beauty of imperfection. I need to let the housework go for a little longer still. Let the dirt collect a bit more in the corners. And I also need to book that trip to Japan. Even if I can’t figure out the perfect time to go.

My October Reads

We’ve had an unusually warm fall here on the west coast and a dry one too. My hometown of Victoria, a few hours south of us, has experienced the driest 90-day period since records began in 1898. While most of us have loved the endless summer weather (some have taken to calling it Augtober), virtually everyone also recognizes that rain is badly needed. Water levels are so low that salmon have had trouble spawning in some areas, and western red cedars and Douglas firs are also stressed. Thankfully, rain is forecast for Friday. I’m looking forward to it, not only for the environmental relief it will provide but for the opportunity to get out of the garden and into my reading corner. So here’s what I’m reading this month.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

The Last Good Funeral of the Year by Ed O’Loughlin

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Books read to date in 2022: 67

Happy Canada Day!

July 1st will be different this year without the concerts, large street parties and especially without the fireworks (Team Sheltie is quite happy the latter are cancelled). I hope you get a chance to celebrate somehow. I’ll be away from my desk, aiming to catch the sunrise and hopefully the sunset too. We aren’t a perfect country by any stretch, but I’m proud to call myself a Canadian. Enjoy the holiday everybody!

My October Reads


It’s nearly the end of October. Yesterday’s torrential rain sent gusts of leaves falling from the trees. Good thing the garden has been put to bed for the winter because it’s the kind of weather that doesn’t encourage outside lingering. Luckily, I have some great books to keep me company when the rain is falling. Here’s what I’m reading this week:

By the fire: Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

Before bed: Deep Water by Lea Tassie

On the weekend: The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

Books read to date in 2019: 50


Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada (Columbus Day weekend for my friends south of the border). It’s that time of year when we gather with friends and family to celebrate the many blessings in our lives.

It’s not always easy to be grateful, particularly if we follow the news and witness horrors like we did last week in Las Vegas or when we see world leaders using Twitter to taunt, bully and inflame. It can also be difficult to feel appreciative when we face our own personal challenges, and we all have them. But that’s the time gratitude is particularly important.

This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m grateful for many things, but I’m especially grateful to live on the beautiful west coast in a city where nature is valued and in a country with strict gun laws. I’m lucky, and I need to remember that.

Early last week, in the middle of all the horror unfolding in Las Vegas, a Steller’s jay appeared in our back garden. We’ve lived here thirty years and this is the first time we’ve had one in our yard. They aren’t common on the south coast, at least not in our area. He came with a partner (jays pair for life) and the two of them spent most of the week swooping from tree to pond and back to the tree again. They’ve gone now; they’ve moved on to grace another garden with their presence but I’m grateful they visited us at all.

Happy Thanksgiving to  you and yours.

My October Reads

stormyweather-300x198As I write this, a series of big storms is predicted for the Pacific Northwest and we’re scheduled to head off to the mainland to see family and friends. Normally we’d reschedule but there’s a high school reunion planned so we’re motivated to make the trek. Let’s hope the weather cooperates. If not, I’ll be staying home and reading by the fire. I have a few extra books on hand just in case. Here’s what I’m reading this month:

At the gym: First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Beside the fire: Unearthed by Alexandra Risen

Before bed: Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Books read to date in 2016: 60

Save The Cat

Fairwinds Schooner Cove and marina.In a few days I’m heading up island to Schooner Cove for another Red Door retreat with the Pen Warriors. These ladies have been getting together every three or four months for fifteen years! I’ve been part of the gang (with a few breaks here and there) for a good part of that time.

Retreat is an act of moving back or withdrawing. And that’s what we do. We withdraw from the outside world. We retreat from our families, our responsibilities, and the news of the hour. We spend a couple of days concentrating on writing, publishing and all things related to both. We always leave time for personal catch up and we never go hungry (or thirsty) but for the most part, we work. We follow an agenda (thank you, Bonnie) which varies from session to session and can include everything from story critiquing or group plotting to blurb writing and promotion. And we generally leave time to talk about craft.

Up for discussion this time is Blake Snyder’s classic Save the Cat. Most of us read it soon after it came out in 2005, but we decided to read it again and discuss it at the Red Door. Snyder was a Hollywood screenwriter who maintained you need a log line to summarize a story even before coming up with a character or a scene. He felt the log line helps with clarity and focus and ultimately results in a stronger story. If you haven’t read Save The Cat I recommend it. If nothing else, it’s one more thing to consider and another possible tool in the writer’s tool kit.savethecat

Vacation Time

P1000623Heads up: the blog is taking August off though I won’t be. I’ll be working flat out for the next couple of weeks in an effort to conquer my ‘to do’ list.

I’m just about finished another round of revisions on One Good Deed, I have a book proposal to finish by the beginning of September, and a couple of articles to research and write too. I also have line edits to tackle for Million Dollar Blues and I’ll be exchanging emails with Estrella Cover Art as we work to come up with a cover concept. I’m planning to send that story into the world sometime this fall.

It’s going to be a fun (and busy) three weeks. At the end of it, I’ll be rewarding my efforts by escaping up island for a few days at the beach.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. See you in September!

My October Reads

foggyfallmorningThe leaves have pretty much fallen from the trees, our apples have been harvested (and turned into crisps and pies), and later this week we set our clocks back an hour to standard time. Many people don’t like the fact that it gets darker earlier, but I don’t mind. It means it’s lighter in the morning, which makes it easier to get up. Not only that, the darker evenings are a perfect time to curl up and read a book.

Here’s what I’m reading this month:


Beside the fire: The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos


At the Gym: Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger


On the Kindle: Hope in a Jar by Beth Harbison


Books read to date in 2015: 70