Denman Island is the place I call home. It’s one of the northern Gulf islands nestled between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Like all the Gulf islands, we are ferry dependent and known for our breathtaking scenery and artistic communities. At just twenty square miles and a population of 1100, you can’t swing a cat1 here without hitting a potter, writer, painter, poet, or jewelry-maker. In fact, you’d probably score a twofer.
We also have somewhat of a reputation as a tie-dye wearing hippy haven for pot-smoking flower children. But to be fair, tie-dying is an art, pot’s legal here, and growing weed is an agricultural endeavour.
My Denman writing perch overlooks the ocean. LBJs (official birder speak for little brown jobs—kid you not) flit around the deck pecking at bugs and seeds. Unending flocks of brant geese fly by, skimming the water. Eagles ride drafts outside my window, wings stretched, seemingly hanging mid-air.
Is it any wonder my books feature people who can fly? It’s also not surprising that the ocean herself is a character in each of my books. Sometimes she is gentle lapping waves or a breezy ripple, often she’s angry white caps. When she’s deep, her swells are overpowering. She appears green and grey and many shades of blue.
It’s an idyllic place to write. Quiet. Rural. A beach is never far away.
And though our island is ferry dependent, we are also self sufficient. When the zombie apocalypse hits, we’ll disable the ferry landing and still live pretty well (at least until the zombies figure out how to swim). Local farms supply a wide variety of fresh, organic produce, poultry and eggs, beef, pork, and lamb. We have a bakery, a hardware, a bookstore, a café, a bistro, a winery, a cidery, a medical clinic and a mobile dental bus (it’s a converted school bus with two treatment chairs). Our general store sells gas, propane, alcohol, postage stamps, and groceries. We have a food bank, and our free store offers a wide selection of housewares and clothing—just help yourself and leave a donation if you can.
But as much as I adore it, small island living isn’t for everyone. Some people feel isolated or claustrophobic here. Cellphone coverage is spotty, as is access to the internet. It takes effort to maintain anonymity. And if you get on the bad side of someone—well, you’d best apologize or agree to disagree because it’s going to be hard to avoid them.
And the ferry breaks down from time to time, leaving islanders stranded or waiting in hours-long lineups. Tourists arrive by the legions in the summer months and create their own lineups, but their dollars also add to the local business’s bottom-lines, so I’m not complaining. (Well, I am, but just a teensy bit.)
For me, the positive aspects of living on a small island outweighs the negative. In harvest season, everyone finds a zucchini or a bag of apples on their porch. Some islanders set up tables of free, overflow produce at the ends of their driveways.
The community comes together whenever one of us is in need, whether it’s because of a flood or a fire, sickness, or a death in the family. We are a diverse community that support and celebrate our differences. Book signings, concerts, and art exhibits are well attended. Our community is generous, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Denman Island is the place I call home. It’s where I write and without it, my books would be mere shadows of themselves.
1 Fun fact: Not wanting to offend cat lovers, I looked up the origin of “swing a cat.” According to Dictionary.com, “This expression, first recorded in 1771, is thought to allude to the cat-o’-nine-tails, or ‘cat,’ a whip with nine lashes widely used to punish offenders in the British military.”
JP (Jo-Anne) McLean is an urban fantasy and supernatural thriller author best known for The Gift Legacy series. The first book of the series received Honourable Mention at the Whistler Independent Book Awards. Her short story, Boone Park, won Honourable mention from the Victoria Writers’ Society. Reviewers call her writing addictive, smart and fun. Her books include endorsements from Ethel Wilson award- winning author Jennifer Manuel and bestselling author, Elinor Florence. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated.
JP’s body of work was included in the centennial anthology of the Comox Valley Writers Society, Writers & Books: Comox Valley 1865–2015. She is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her articles have appeared in WordWorks Magazine, Wellness and Writing hosted by Colleen M Story, Mystery Mondays blog hosted by Kristina Stanley, and others.
An intrepid young woman. An incredible gift. A terrible price to pay.
Emelynn Taylor’s gift didn’t come wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow, nor can it ever be returned. Now, it’s taken over her life. It strikes without warning, strips her of gravity and sends her airborne, unchecked.
Haunted by terrifying flights she can’t control, Emelynn vows to take command of her dangerous gift. She returns to the seaside cottage where it all began. Here, she discovers an underground society whose members share her hidden ability, and a man who sends her heart soaring.
But the deeper Emelynn gets pulled into this secret society, the more she questions their motives. Are they using the gift for good or for evil? Unravelling the truth will plunge Emelynn into a fight for her freedom—and her life.