I'm interested in history, in trying to relate the past to the present and to understand how people thought about their problems and pleasures. —Claire Tomalin

And so it begins...bagging and boxing, hoping my treasures travel safely to their new home.

I found packing my non-fiction books depressing. At first, I thought it was because it was like saying goodbye to old friends, but then I realized it was something else entirely. It was depressing because I registered how little time I’ve spent in their company in recent years. I miss them. I miss researching historical events and stumbling across minutia that make my heart hum. I miss writing historical fiction.

So as I placed them in their cartons and methodically dragged the tape across the top, snugging them closed, I made a promise to them and to me. If I can write YA and contemporary romance at the same time, why can’t I add a third? History will once again become my present.

Because an illusion is an illusion. Reality always exists despite the facade. ― Kasie West

A friend said that she doesn’t respond to my Facebook posts because they’re always so positive and they make her sick. Now, that is her unique and wonderful sense of humour shining through, but I’ve thought a lot about it. About how we present to the world, and the reality behind the pictures and posts. All is not what it seems. It never is.

There is a lot of ugly in the world, perhaps more so now than in many decades. In this day and age of social media platforms, the bombardment of negativity can be overwhelming. Many people use their Facebook as a place to vent, to share their frustrations, or to promote their political point of view. And that is absolutely fine. That is their choice, but it’s not mine. I share snippets of my life, for friends near and far. However, there is a caveat that led to my friend’s statement. I only share the positive which, I suppose, is not just misleading but somewhat disingenuous.

The posting of all things good creates the image of a seamless infallible life. While I believe I am blessed in so many ways, life is far from perfect. I have spent years writing, rewriting, agonizing over it, and rewriting again.  I’ve written far more than anyone will ever see. There are rejected novels and novellas in dormant folders on my computer, manuscripts sitting in a cabinet, yellowing with age. But what you see is a published author, thrilled to promote her books. This spring we worked endlessly on the yard, watering and weeding, cutting and digging sod until I literally popped a vein in my thigh, but what you see are lush gardens with vegetables and flowers in bloom. Due to a health scare, I reconsidered some of my choices. I began to work diligently at good eating and exercising, but what you see is—voilà—I’m looking better than I have in years.

Nobody’s life is flawless. Everybody experiences anguish and pain, worries and fears, and has to climb his/her own mountain, whatever it may be. This, of course, is not apparent in many posts, mine being no exception. But so often, the positivity of a photo is simply the trick of a distant lens. Zoom in and the reality can be very different.

These red chairs in my yard are the perfect metaphor. Look how wonderful they appear from far away. Look closer. Despite painstakingly sanding and painting them each spring, they actually are in terrible shape. And that is what we have to keep in mind when glowing images make us feel as though our own lives pale in comparison. Behind every cheery red chair, there is one cracked and peeling and dolloped in bird poop.

I am not a romantic, but even I concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose to pump blood. —Violet (Dowager Countess of Grantham)

I’m not much for television. I don’t even know the magical sequence of the myriad of controls that my husband uses to turn it on. During his absences, they lie dormant in a basket, and the house is filled with silence. Or music. Depends on my mood. But, as happens in everyone’s life, things change. This particular change has come in the form of Netflix. Oh my, what took us so long?

The absence of commercials is a terrific feature. Its intuitive design—tracking your viewing, knowing where you left off, analyzing your tastes and basing suggestions on them—well that’s crazy modern and downright convenient. The absolute best thing about it is that you can fall in love with a show and then just keep watching it. And watching it. And watching it. Which happened last month with Downton Abbey.

Now, I have always found the vast array of brainless gibber on television uninspiring and, often, downright irritating. I felt I gained nothing when I watched it, which led to years of avoidance. But apparently, I had simply been choosing the wrong programming. Not only was Downton Abbey vastly entertaining, it informed my writing.

It used every trope, some of them several times, and wrung every last drop of emotion from them: Edith’s rags to riches and Sybil’s riches to rags; Mary’s forbidden fruit…enemies to lovers, love triangle, friends to lovers, second chance at love (My, Mary was busy!); Violet’s strong character, a woman of steel with a heart of gold; The Grantham’s dabbling with the mid-life crisis in marriage. That’s a small sampling.

For me, there was no better story line than Anna and Mr. Bates. An unlikely pairing, they were perfectly suited but constantly challenged. Every time it looked as though they were going to enjoy their happy-ever-after, their worlds were torn apart. It is the stuff and business of romance novels. Seeing it play out on the screen, feeling the angst and rooting for their success, proved to me that it works. There is nothing entertaining about a smooth relationship. When all is well, put up a roadblock. Make them miserable. Give them hope. Then make it worse. The triumph in the end is so much sweeter for it.

There were so many small stories woven throughout, each one serving a purpose to the larger story. Poignant, philosophical, and at times, heart-wrenching, the tension is often broken by laugh-out-loud moments. It is an exemplary model of a writer’s craft enhanced by actors who are masters of show-don’t-tell and who have the courage to take the time needed with their lines. For it is often the spaces between the words that speak the loudest.

If I don’t post for a while, you’ll know what I’m up to—re-watching Downton Abbey. J

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."— F. Scott Fitzgerald

Every once in a while, I catch a hint of fall on the mid-afternoon breeze. The evenings are cooling down quicker and the nights are getting a touch chillier. As autumn gently eases in, a sense of excitement grows within me. Renewal. Beginnings. Possibilities.

Maybe, it’s because for two thirds of my life I headed off to school each September. As a student, as a teacher, and as a principal, each new year was filled with anticipation. There was always so much to look forward to—new people, new learning, new experiences. The nerves days prior, the sleepless night before, and even the anxiety as I drew close to the school, were all part of the hype of a new year.

Conversely, it was also a return to the mundane and the predictable. Everything became scheduled. You knew when you’d be in motion and when you’d be sedentary. Even your body readjusted to timing the sating of simple physical needs like eating and using the washroom. And there was comfort in that, in knowing what comes next, in being back in routine. There was also satisfaction in it. I knew, without a doubt, I was going to accomplish something each and every day.

This week marks the fifth fall since my last return to a new school year, yet I still respond the same way. After a whirlwind summer of visitors, social outings, and many fabulous outdoor adventures, I am excited and ready to restructure my days and get back into the groove. My pencils are sharpened. My laptop is charged. Story lines are unrolling and I am anxious to get them down.

For me, autumn is not the beginning of the end of a year, but the first shiny season of a new one. May it be the same for you. Happy fall everyone!

Repetition doesn't create memories. New experiences do. —Brian Chesky

When was the last time you did something for the very first time?

This is a question posed by a friend of ours. She uses it to push herself into new adventures. Well, my husband and I took up the challenge and went sea kayaking for the very first time…and loved it! Our fantastic guide, Brian, from Wilderness Kayaking gave us the perfect first experience—a five-hour tour with a delicious picnic lunch on the shores of the stunning Sansum Narrows. We’ve already signed up for a moonlight kayaking outing during the next full moon. How awesome is that?

And, next week? We’re trying paddle boarding. I’m not sure the photos of that adventure will be as impressive. J Still, I’m totally pumped to give it a shot.

So, what say you? What’s your answer? When was the last time you did something for the very first time?

When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting. —Jon Kabat-Zinn

There’s nothing like a bright shiny new idea. My heart flutters, my hands get a little clammy, and as excitement races through my veins, I head to the laptop to get the thought down. Inevitably, I stare at the essence of the concept and then become a blank slate. As in barren, empty, blindingly vacant. No grand plot, no intricate details, no sense of what I am supposed to do with this glossy image in my mind. It used to frustrate me, but now I know what to do.

I bore my brain into submission.

Others may need stimulus to spark creativity. I need bland mind-numbing tasks. In the winter, I get on the elliptical. I despise the elliptical, not simply because I am not a fan of exercise, but also because it feels like such a waste of time. As the minutes tick by, my mind becomes desperate to escape the monotony. It digs beyond the stagnant frontal lobe into the corners, unearths that idea, and starts to rub it to a polish again. A little plot insight here, a little character trait there, and suddenly my brain is running faster than my legs. I quite literally chase my story, huffing and puffing the plethora of particulars into my voice recorder.

At this time of year, I don’t use the elliptical to outsmart the stubborn creative cortex of my brain; I use gardening. More specifically, weeding. Now, there is no more boring outdoor task on a beautiful spring day than kneeling in your flower beds and pulling out quack grass, clover, and creeping vetch (Yes it’s a weed. I looked it up. J). And while some may claim it’s satisfying in the end, it doesn’t negate that it is also one of the most tedious gardening tasks. Which is great for me. With each weed I yank, my mind recedes from reality and returns to its own garden, taking those seeds and nurturing them into full-grown stories.

I have a bright shiny new idea. It’s for a series. There’s a lot of thinking that needs to be done. I may have the nicest gardens on the block this year. J

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams. - Oprah Winfrey

Life on the island is unending indolent pleasure. We begin each day with coffee in bed with our fur babies. After a shared breakfast, we walk for an hour and enjoy the bucolic landscape that comforts us with its serenity. For the remainder of the morning, we are in proximity of one another, but for the most part, lost in our own activities. Keev journals, then plays piano or works on languages, and rehearses for his upcoming performance. I write.

We enjoy lunch together and then take a walk with the girls. Afterwards, at this time of year, the four of us curl up together ostensibly for a nap, but it’s usually just a snugglefest with quiet conversation and belly rubs…for the girls, not us. J Our afternoons are filled with shared house and garden chores, followed by quiet evenings of reading, or more often than not, socializing with the many wonderful people who share our lives.

It’s no wonder that we haven’t left our little corner of the world very much in the almost three years we’ve lived here. Celebrating a landmark anniversary, we decided it was time to venture further afield. Last week, we headed to the city. It was our first trip to Vancouver and we had a blast. We walked for hours each day, exploring the nooks and crannies of Stanley Park, Gastown, China Town, the Olympic Village seawall, and Granville Island. Our B & B was decadent and breakfasts were drool-worthy.

We had a fabulous time…and were entirely thrilled to come home. I enjoy travel. I enjoy new experiences. But I enjoy my life here more. Wrapped in the beauty of the island, surrounded by good friends, and warmed by a love that remains true and strong after all these years, there truly is no place like home. I am living the dream.