Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

What a wonderful weekend we had! And for us, another unique way to celebrate a wedding anniversary on Friday. It was number 45 this year—and they all said it would never last!

As I’d mentioned we would in my last essay, David and I attended an author/reader event, KallypsoCon 2017, this year held in the near-by city of Burlington, Ontario this past weekend. This is a relatively new event in the world of book conventions, created and organized by Kallypso Masters. Kally is a wonderful writer and an exceptional human being.

It’s also a relatively small book convention—purposefully so. This year there were eleven “featured authors” and 100 readers.

This convention will never “grow”, because the purpose is to give the readers who attend a chance to meet and interact with each one of the authors. It’s truly an intimate gathering compared to those that boast more than a thousand attendees, and are organized for the purpose of making money for the corporations that hold them.

Dinner on Friday night, which was the first official event, featured an author at all but one table. The one table without an author had the guest speakers for Saturday evening. Then, after dessert and before the fun and games in the next room, we participated in “speed dating”. Controlled by a “timer”, authors (and the guest speakers) rotated so that by the end of the session, every reader had met and spoken to each of the authors and the guests.

All the readers had to do was sit and wait for their favorite author to come by. That was a fun idea, and a great way to break the ice for everyone!

The games were another way allow the readers to get to know the authors better. The first game called “five fun facts”. Each author had earlier sent in to the organizer 5 facts about themselves. We took turns pulling a “fact” from the box and reading it aloud, and the audience had to guess which author the fact was about.

I can tell you that some of my fellow authors have lived damned interesting lives! They’ve climbed mountains and won dance competitions, lived in Japan for a year and a half, were on a rodeo team, and one has even ridden a camel in the Sahara and spent the night in a Bedouin camp!

The next game left everyone in stitches. We were each given excerpts of someone else’s novels to read aloud (with names omitted), and the audience of readers had to guess who the author of the excerpt was. There was great emoting, and accompanying miming, and general hilarious Tom Foolery all around! And laughter…lots and lots and lots of laughter.

It’s hard to be anything but honest when you’re surrounded by and smothered in laughter.

What a genius way to kick off an event. What better way to make authors approachable than to have them ‘perform’ in such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere?

Saturday was filled with a Q&A session, a book signing, and another wonderful buffet dinner. In the evening, we had a presentation about BDSM by a couple living that lifestyle. What impressed me most about the evening’s program was the very real bond of love between the two. As an author, and one who has written stories featuring this interesting relationship dynamic, it’s invaluable to get real true info from people who really, truly know. Forget some of the books you may have read; this was the real deal.

Yes, we saw floggers and ropes—but the lion’s share of the information was on the relationship dynamic, itself. There is a power exchange in all relationships, whether you realize it or not. In lifestyle relationships, that exchange, and the boundaries, and the feelings, are constantly discussed because that is part of the deal. Communication is key, and in that one facet, the rest of us could learn a thing or two from them.

My favorite part of the weekend by far, of course, was meeting readers, exchanging hugs and conversation, and being inspired by the presence of those who share with me the desire to touch lives as we entertain.

Love,
Morgan

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

I’m busy getting ready for my one and only “author event” for 2017, which begins tomorrow. This will be the very first event of this sort that I have ever attended in my own country! One could even say that I’m not going to the event so much as the event is coming to me. Well, that is, one could (and did) if one wasn’t me. I would never make such an arrogant statement myself, unless I was employing extreme sarcasm.

Which I must confess, from time to time, I do.

KallypsoCon happens each year in a different location. Next year, for example, it will be held in Utah. But this year, it’s “KallypsoCon 2017: Canada Bound”. I’m looking forward to becoming reacquainted with some of the authors and readers who will be there, and also meeting new friends. There’s a definite energy to be had, spending time with those who are involved in the same vocation as I am. I don’t know if doctors or lawyers or teachers feel that way, when they attend events for their professions. I don’t know if this energizing is particular to a gathering of those involved in the creative arts. I suppose it depends on whether you look at your occupation as a job, or a calling.

I also love hearing from readers, because what I do for living is a particularly solitary endeavor. I don’t have an assistant at the moment, and while I do have some wonderful reader/friends who help me out with my reader’s group and with beta-reading my books, I tend not to “fish” for ideas or suggestions. My stories are my stories, products of my imagination, and so the tough stuff—coming up with the ideas, the plot twists, etc—that’s my responsibility. I’ve always believed that if I want people to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy one of my books, then I best be doing all the work and taking all the care involved in its creation.

I have participated in brainstorming sessions once or twice in the past, and I’ve found them very stimulating. Such encounters between writers is never one-sided, and as an author, I’ve given suggestions as well as received them. That’s a sort of authorly quid-pro-quo, and really, part of the professional process as far as I’m concerned.

What I don’t want to do, ever, is indulge in what I call “writing by committee”. I understand the motivation of those who do, and if that works for them, then more power to them. Some writers set themselves some really tough deadlines, where they have to produce new work on an accelerated schedule. The only way to do that is to have someone—or several people—taking over after the first draft has been etched, editing and polishing and getting it ready to send off. I’m not talking about editing here, which most of us experience; I’m talking about other people who take the author’s first draft, and produce the second. Now, I’m not knocking that process at all. Each of us has our own process, and to write in any way that ignores our intrinsic instincts and inner process is to betray the craft for which we breathe.

I’m pretty good at writing, at coming up with characters and crafting a tale about them. My writing speed has slowed some over the last couple of years, but I do the best I can. What I don’t excel at, what I’m not really very good at, is promotion. By nature, I’m a shy woman. If you’ve met me, you may dispute that. The truth is I’ve learned to be outgoing, but it takes a lot out of me. I would go to large conventions in the past, where I would meet hundreds of people, and stand in a room and “pimp” all the authors who were contracted with my publisher. I was delighted to do that, to give back to a company that took a chance on me. However, when I would return home, I’d be a wreck, energy-wise, for at least a week. To recover, I needed quiet, and I needed to just be me.

So, since I do suck so badly at promotion I’ve had to begin to think of that necessary activity in a different way. I’ve begun to think of it as socializing. I’m not touting my work, so much as I am taking a break from it to meet people who happen to like reading the same kind of books as I happen to write. I could never be cut-throat in my approach, either. I see other authors—in this case, the wonderful authors who will be appearing at this same event—as colleagues, not as competition.

I honestly believe there’s room enough for us all to succeed and to prosper. A few of these authors—Kallypso Masters (http://kallypsomasters.com ) Lexi Blake ( http://www.lexiblake.net), and Cherise Sinclair (http://cherisesinclair.com ) I’ve read and truly enjoyed. They have different styles, but share a talent and a bent for turning out wonderful, character-driven, page-turning books. The rest of the authors appearing, I’m sure I will read in the weeks and months to come. I’m always looking for new-to-me-authors to read.

This is a short event, from Thursday to Sunday, and within 40 minutes of home. I’m looking forward to being energized, and making new friends.

Love,
Morgan

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday, and my son, Anthony’s, 40th.

Anthony was born after my mother passed away. Actually, he was born the very next year. We commemorated the one-year anniversary of Mom’s death in April, and then he arrived, three months later, on her birthday. We have “Christmas in July” in this family, because my brother’s birthday is on the 1st, my mother’s, and then Anthony’s on the 5th, my daughter’s on the 13th, our wedding anniversary on the 14th and my birthday is on the 21st. July is a very busy month in the Ashbury household.

July is also the month we lost Anthony, on the 30th, in 2006. That makes this an emotional month, as well as a busy one. It’s no wonder that the beginning of July always gives a bigger meaning to the start of summer for me.

There can be no doubt that summer has indeed arrived. The temperatures are rising and the days are long. This is the last summer before my beloved retires. Originally—that is, after his last vacation time over Christmas—he’d said he didn’t want to take any vacation, since it would be his last year, and he would in fact be on vacation from November onward into infinity. That resolve didn’t last very long at all. He went back to work after the Christmas break the first week of January, and by the second week of January he was looking for a good excuse to take a week off.  I have one “author event” this year, very close to home. I’ll be at KallypsoCon 2017 in Burlington, Ontario from July 13 – 16. That’s “just down the road” from us. David has booked that time off work, and he’ll be serving as my “assistant” during this author/reader convention. What does my assistant do, you may ask?

Well in this case, he becomes my “go to” man for whatever I may need, and also wherever I may need to go by being the power behind my wheelchair, if I need it. I can walk. I use a cane, but I am able to walk—but not for long distances or extended periods of time. Usually, when I attend conventions, I rent a scooter. However, I couldn’t see taking on the expense of one this time when we’re driving just down the road, in our own car, and I have the wheelchair in the trunk of my car, anyway.

There was a time when I would have abhorred using the device, as I know my mother did. That phase of my life—that martyrdom phase—has passed, thankfully. I walk as much as I can, and ask for help when I can’t. Asking for help has been one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do. Give help? No problem, I’m happy to. You need something? I am there, baby. Ah, but ask for help? Not so easy for me.

It wasn’t until I looked on that trait as a kind of unattractive pride that I began to change. I’m still not quite there, and my first instinct is to extend a hand rather than take one, but I am, after all, a work in progress.

I’m looking forward to this event, because I haven’t attended a convention for a few years now. I love meeting readers. They’re my focus, and while sometimes I may be a bit late answering the e-mails I receive from them, I do answer every single one. There might come a day when I can’t do that. But for now, I want my readers to feel free to email me, or send me a pm on Face Book. I will respond!

I’ve never attended this event before; it’s a fairly new one as conventions go, but wildly successful, usually selling out very quickly. The organizer, Kallypso Masters, (http://kallypsomasters.com ) is an author I’ve met and admired, a woman who is as warm and genuine as they come. She writes military romance and BDSM and possesses both talent and skill in generous proportions. Her stories are all page turners and definitely worth reading.

This convention is different in that there are limited numbers of authors, and readers. 11 authors, 130 readers, which allows for plenty of good, honest, interaction. I’ve been told that this is a stellar promotional opportunity. I know it is, but I suck at promo—at least what some people interpret as promo.

In my professional life, as far as I’m concerned, there are two things—writing, and readers. I love writing. I love interacting with readers. Whether the sales happen or not I tend to leave up to a higher power.

As I’ve said before, I don’t write for fame or fortune. I write to connect, to touch and hopefully, to uplift.

That’s just who I am.

Love,
Morgan


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

What the heck happened to May? Here it is the last day of the month, which means tomorrow is the beginning of June. Once June is over, that’s half of the year gone! Poof!

For a long while now, I have wished there was a way to bring back that sense of time I had in childhood—that sense that the days and weeks and months took what seemed like forever to pass. I wasn’t sure how that could be done, exactly, but that has been one of the things I sometimes muse on when I take my daily “legs up” rest. I need to put my legs up for a bit each day because of my arthritis. This rest period is also a time when I just relax in my electric recliner, and let my mind wander. Sometimes I drift off, sometimes I don’t. It’s usually past midday at this point and I’m usually slightly annoyed with myself for how little I’ve accomplished at that point. And being annoyed brings other petty peeves to mind—like how the older I get, the faster time seems to fly. So, having mused on the situation, I came up with a bit of a solution, and I think it’s working.

First, I haven’t read ahead as to what the summer is predicted to be like, weather-wise this year. I’d just as soon let that come on its own without any guesses from me. In fact, aside from any engagements that might be on my calendar, I try very hard not to anticipate ahead too much, period. The trouble with ‘counting’ down the days, in my opinion, is that you can end up wishing away your time.

Time is far too precious for that.

This is a concept I’ve meant to share with my beloved. However, he’s told me on more than one occasion lately that his “ways” are set. He says 64 is too old to change. I’m not sure I agree with that. But we’ve been married long enough now—forty-five years in July—that I try to respect his points of view—even if I don’t share them.

The other way I thought of to slow time is to simply appreciate and be grateful for each new dawn. I do take a moment to give thanks each morning, because I’m still alive. I imagine anyone who’s had a brush with their own mortality is very conscious that each new day is a gift.

I’ve enjoyed, this spring, taking note each day as to the way the trees have come back to life. In years past, I was so busy doing, I didn’t take the time to just be. Hence, each spring I would be shocked at the speed with which the trees seemed to go from bare twigs to full leaf. This year I paid attention more and I saw, because I did that, the incremental, though constant changes from day to day. Little buds that grew to become an aura of light green that gradually darkened and expanded to young leaf and finally to full leaf. That process took a few weeks! It wasn’t as fast as I’d imagined. Imagine that!

You see, it occurred to me that while our perception of time may be fast or slow, time itself lives beyond our human perspective. It moves at a constant rate, and has since it began. That fact cannot be altered, but our perceptions of its passing can be.

I suppose it all comes back to that mantra of mine you all have read many times before—everything in life is a choice.

I think more people should embrace that concept, and take the time to see how very true it is. There is always a choice, and you, the individual are truly in the driver’s seat—oh, maybe not so much for things that do happen to you beyond your control.

But you’re most certainly completely in charge of how you react to those them.

Love,
Morgan

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in North America. I specify the location, because I know that in the United Kingdom the occasion is also celebrated, but quite a bit earlier—this year, it was on March 11th.

When I was a child, I didn’t always have any money to buy my mother something for Mother’s Day. I usually made the card for her, although once in a while, I bought one. Sometimes I managed to get Mother a fancy tea cup and saucer set (they had them at our local Kresge’s store, and at a very affordable price). Those times I couldn’t buy her one of those cups, I would go out to the garden and pick her a bouquet of her own flowers. She always claimed that as long as she was “remembered”—that meant a card when I lived with her, and at least a phone call but preferably a visit once I was older and out of the house, she was happy.

One of the biggest sins a child could commit in my mother’s eyes (and here the word child refers to adult children) was forgetting either Mother’s Day, or her birthday. I’m sad to say that one birthday did go by without my calling her, or even remembering the day. All these years later, I don’t remember the circumstances, only the result. I think I was more upset about my transgression than she was.

I find, as I get older, there are some ways that I’m becoming more and more like my mother. And this stance of “you don’t have to buy me anything, just remember me” is one of those ways. Flowers and cards are lovely—I have a drawer full of cards that I’ve been given over the years as I never throw them away—but the time my kids spend with me, either on the phone or in person, is truly the best gift of all.

This past Mother’s Day, my son Christopher and daughter Jennifer both came to visit me, as did my “second daughter”, Sonja. I enjoyed visiting with my son and his wife in the morning, and the girls in the afternoon. They all brought cards and hanging baskets of flowers for the porch. My great-granddaughter, when she visited the next day with her nanny, picked me a tulip from my own garden. I considered myself very blessed just for all those visits alone.

You can be sure, I cherish that tulip, even more than those lovely hanging baskets.

The traditions we honor in our families are important. They form the legacy that we, through our observance of them, hand down to the next generation. My parents have been gone many years now, and yet some of the things they did for us and the way in which they did them, found expression in my own family as I was raising my kids. For example, all of my kids got giant oranges in their stockings for Christmas, as did their children—and as did I, when I was little.

That’s not to say the traditions we pass down mean the same now as they did then. These days, large oranges in December are not such a luxury as once they were. There were Christmas mornings when we wanted to eat those oranges first, before even the candy and the wonderful full breakfasts our mother made. Those big oranges were juicy and sweet, and we didn’t even have to share them!

I hope those of you who are mothers were blessed to spend time with your children last Sunday. And I hope the traditions you’re building in your families blossom into loving legacies.

They’re a true and beautiful way to keep those long gone from this earth, close to your heart, and a way for your children and grandchildren to remember you.

Love,
Morgan


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Just in case you were wondering (and I am sure you were) today marks 196 days until my beloved hangs up his hard hat, parks his safety boots, and turns in his final punch-card. Only 196 days to go, and I am nowhere near ready for the change that is headed in my direction at the speed of light.

I’ve been giving the matter a great deal of thought, as you can imagine. This is going to be a huge adjustment for both of us, and completely different than the one we’d imagined it would be, just a decade ago.

Ten years ago, my husband still loved his job, and really didn’t want to think about retiring at 65. He felt certain, in fact, that all things being equal, he’d still be happy to work at 70 or even 75, that they would have to drag him away from his truck, kicking and screaming.

The fact that he no longer loves his job, and the added complications that COPD have brought to his life changed things, of course. And while his bosses have known for several months that his retirement was coming up, it has come to light that they’re a little reluctant to see him go.

He’s still the go-to man when something in the production line goes wrong and no one can figure out how to fix it. They’ll ask him to supervise the repairs which he is happy to do. He just can’t do that work himself anymore as it usually involves a lot of climbing up and down stairs, and we’re talking a few dozen feet in the air. His boss told him they didn’t know what they were going to do without him. Who was going to train the younger ones coming on staff, in the proper way to do things? Last year the company hired several new employees, and David spent some time training every one of them.

There was a time he would have been persuaded to put off retiring. As they continued to try and convince him to do just that, he told them point blank: if they wanted him to stay that badly, they could provide him transportation back and forth, to and from work.

He doesn’t have a driver’s license, and hasn’t for more than thirty-five years, a consequence of his misspent youth. The long daily treks are too hard on me, and our daughter, who has been driving him every day for the last several years, has had enough. The distance is about 25 miles one way, so for my daughter or myself to chauffeur him, that’s 100 miles a day. Personally, I don’t believe they’ll take him up on his offer and that’s really just as well.

My husband, in his career, has left his mark. He has trained several men who are now supervisors—some at his own site (the boss directly below the plant manager being one), and some at other sites throughout the province.

The main crushing plant that he built himself, beginning some thirty years ago, has mostly been replaced now, but it did the job for a couple of decades. And while all the equipment in the production line is relatively new, the principles of how to turn big limestone rocks into various gravel products remains the same. In this day and age, more than ever, you have the case of people with a lot of book knowledge but no practical experience designing systems that never seem work, straight out of the gate.

But that’s the way it’s always been, isn’t it?

So here we are, counting down the days to something that not so long ago, really, seemed way, way off in the distant future. It’s funny how that works, but I know it’s a common thing. So common, in fact, that John Lennon once included that very observation in a song.

Life really is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Love,
Morgan



Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashury

It’s finally May! This is my favorite month of the year, because usually, by May, the winter is past, and the flowers are blooming. Usually, by May, the aroma of freshly mown grass is mixing with the scent of those flowers in the air. Laundry can be seen flapping happily in the breeze, and the hope for new beginnings that seems to always dwell within my heart is alive and thriving with anticipation.

Yes, I’ve qualified all of the above with the word “usually” because we all know nature can and will have its own persnickety way. This must have been so when I was a child, too, because my mother adhered to what at that time was an old saw—that you didn’t plant your garden until the Victoria Day weekend, the weekend closest to the 24th of the month of May. This wasn’t just an adage, it was an acknowledged fact. I also reference the seed packets that we used to get. That caution on the back that warned not to plant until “all danger of frost was past” meant near the end of May, according to my mom.

In May, the days become noticeably longer. What May also use to represent to me was the end of the television viewing season. New seasons of returning shows and brand new shows began in the fall, and ended in May—freeing me from the addictive pull of the “idiot box”, allowing me lots of time to do yard work.

The television season seems to be constant now, but I still adhere to my own, admittedly old fashioned notions. All of the series I watch are on the same American networks from my youth—ABC, NBC and CBS. I really don’t do the cable programs, although my beloved certainly does. Being an author of romance, I probably shouldn’t admit I’ve never watched “Outlander”, but it’s true, and I have no logical explanation for that. My husband loves that show, and he’s also a huge fan of Game of Thrones. That one I can tell you without reservation I will never watch. I tend not to view anything with blood or violence.

When I’m not watching the handful of television programs I enjoy (mostly dramas or a couple that are considered reality shows. We won’t even talk about so-called comedies these days) I’m at my computer, writing, or at least pretending to be, or I’m reading a book. My beloved is happy to don his wireless headphones, so I can escape the noise of the box while I work or read. Yes, that does put us in separate rooms for a good part of each evening, with the added conversational hindrance that he’s wearing those headphones with the volume on high. Shouting from here to there gets me nowhere. But hey, that’s what cell phones and text messaging are for, right?

May is the month when I can leave the doors to my house open for a bit each day. Sadly, those doors lack screens of any kind, so as soon as the bugs begin to emerge, the doors remain closed. But at least I usually have a few days when I can air the house out from the long winter. I do have a couple of windows that still have their screens, and that helps, too.

May isn’t the month when the ants show up, usually. That’s April, and I was actually getting worried because April was nearly done and I hadn’t seen a single one. Silly, right? I was worried about not having the usual ant problem. But in these times of climate change and evolving (or maybe devolving) natural occurrences, no ants by mid April is different. If the ants can’t survive, what chance do we have? But whew, I can report seeing, and disposing of my first ant of the season on April 27th.

Curiously the little bugger was on my writing desk, not in the kitchen. Hmm, that’s still different. Maybe I should have stayed worried? Naw. Worrying is for those who don’t have any vision, who don’t have any courage…and who don’t have any hope.

I may not have a comprehensive vision, and I doubt I’m particularly brave. But hope? Yeah, I’ve got lots and lots of that commodity.

So much so, that I spend my life doing what I can, fostering that quality in others.

Love,
Morgan