Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday's Words for March 30, 2011

If any country or people deserves the title of “those with the most convenient memory”, I think it should be Canada and Canadians.


Canada gets more snow on average than any other country on earth. We quite often get snow in March, April and occasionally, even in May.


For as long as I can recall, we never, ever planted our gardens before the Victoria Day (May 24th) weekend, because to do so before that date was to risk frost or snow damage.


Yet every year we forget all this, and find ourselves griping when—as happened last Wednesday—Mother Nature gives us a new dumping of snow smack dab in the middle of March. We got more than six inches here that day, and that was before 6 a.m.!


We need to be reminded of a few salient facts about winter (and why I personally consider winter to run October to March inclusive), especially winter in the northern half of the continent. And right about now, we need to recall that we in this country generally get one third of our total snowfall for the year in March.


Acknowledging these facts doesn’t, of course, make the reality of that white stuff on the ground outside my window any easier to take. Nor does it warm body and soul when the thermometer insists on staying below the freezing mark.


I had such great plans for spring. The temperatures had been warming, the snow had all melted, and I began, once again, to yearn for the sight of flowers in my yard.


Of course, I’d have to plant them, first. The bulbs my daughter and grandkids put in more than a year ago failed to come up last spring. The lily of the valley bulbs I bought this past October to go into the ground the beginning of November, some unknown person accidentally put on top of the toaster over before turning the toaster oven on.


I’d left them in the kitchen, you see, near the back door, hoping that someone would take the hint and plant the darn things.


Unfortunately I am at the mercy of others for this task, as my yard is too uneven, and too sloped for me to negotiate without the danger of falling.


Not all that many years ago, when I could get out and garden, I used to have at least one dream in the middle of every winter that I was doing just that. There’s something so intrinsically life-affirming about getting your hands into the soil, planting seeds or plants, and weeding a garden. Is there any greater luxury than going out to your garden, picking a fat, red juicy tomato, and making yourself a toasted tomato sandwich?


And what joy we would experience, when our veggies were ready to be picked, having a dinner of nothing but the fruits of our labor!


I know spring is coming, even if Environment Canada warns us this year that it will be later and cooler than normal. This yearning for the warmer, growing season, I believe, is just a part of nature’s cycle. We can’t help ourselves from craving it. We humans are part of the animal world, really, a part of nature, and it’s how we were made.


At least that’s what I tell myself when my desire for an end to winter gets a little frantic around the edges. Love, Morgan http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury http://wednesdayswordsbymorgan.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday's Words for March 23, 2011

It will come as no surprise to any of you that there are many things in life I simply don’t understand.


In the last few weeks, the news media has been full of stories about over-paid celebrities acting like spoiled children, about rock stars dying from drug overdoses and irresponsible and unprofessional behaviour by some adults we consider to be entertainers.


I don’t understand why some people work so diligently to get themselves to a place of success and then turn around and do their damnedest to throw it all into the dumpster.
The part of this that’s scary is that this sort of self-sabotaging behaviour is not just a by-product of celebrity.


I grew up without a father, and my mother was a nurse. Nurses in those days didn’t make a lot of money. I knew at an early age, that if I wanted to go to university, I would have to work to put myself through school, or get a scholarship.


When I was about fourteen, a new house was built two doors down from us in our rural community by a man who ran a very successful business. This family was, to put it mildly, very well off.


The children were a fair bit younger than I but it was a small neighbourhood. I spent some time over at their house, and actually sometimes got to babysit when the parents went out.


These kids had stuff I could only dream of having, but they didn’t particularly seem to treasure their possessions. That didn’t bother me all that much, I just remember thinking it was very strange.


What did bother me was that their parents were willing to foot the bill for university, big time—tuition, rental of an apartment, a car to drive, money to spend...but not one of those kids took them up on the offer. Not one of the four of them could be bothered to go to university.
I’ve seen this sort of thing time and again, some people being offered opportunities and benefits that others would cherish, and either these people don’t want the opportunity, or they don’t respect it, or they do their best to mess it all up.


In just the last month, we’ve seen unbelievable behaviour from an actor whose name I will not mention, another musician was found dead of a suspected drug overdose, and yet another revealed that missed concert dates in the past was a result of his drug abuse. A female singer/actress is currently before the courts, certainly facing jail time, for numerous offenses including breach of probation and theft.


Just this week another musician trashed the back stage area of a nationally televised morning show because the interviewer asked him questions about that pesky assault he committed against a former girlfriend while she still was his girlfriend, instead of stroking his ego by talking about his new album.


You see, I just don’t get it. I’m an author, and my books sell pretty well, but I’m not rich, I’m not a celebrity or anything. Do I want to be? I wouldn’t turn it down. No, I wouldn’t turn it down for one second.


And I sure wouldn’t do my best to screw it up, either.


So what’s the problem with these people? Too much money, not enough sense? Not enough intelligence so that they actually believe their own press? They pay their entourages to treat them like they’re above us all, and then they believe that they are?


I’m not sure what the cause of this problem really is, anymore than I know how to cure it. But one thing I do know is this: the spotlight shining on their misbehaviour, the attention paid to them in the media and on social networks, and our avid gobbling up of this kind of gossip in the tabloids can only exacerbate the situation.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury
http://wednesdayswordsbymorgan.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday's Words for March 16, 2011

How do we even mentally process the destruction that took place in Japan last week? How can we possibly understand it?


Few words came to mind as I watched image after image flash past. A wall of water moving inexorably over fields, carrying with it debris so concentrated and intense that there’s almost no way to work your way through it. Towns reduced to piles of rubble so all-encompassing, you wonder how anyone could have survived.


Rescuers stymied because they cannot reach those who are in need, and blanketing all, an eerie stillness. It’s the stillness of death, and although officials are being cautious in numbers, we know the final count of the dead and the missing will be more horrendous than we can really imagine.


Then came yet another layer of fear and peril as officials and experts tried to deal with the failure of nuclear power plants, this danger with the potential of widespread fall-out that could, theoretically, affect the entire world. For this nation, particularly, that prospect must truly be hell on earth.


We pray, we send aid, we watch—and maybe we begin to perceive, in a uniquely personal way, the frailty of our species, and the world we’ve built for ourselves.


We live our lives every day, going through the motions and minutia as if this world we’ve fashioned will always be here. And although we understand there are such things as catastrophic natural disasters, we never really think these things could ever actually happen to us.


But it’s more than that, isn’t it? We never really think it can happen in a modern, civilized, well-governed, well-organized country. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ve seen devastation in places where the infrastructure is weak or non-existent, where we know the government such as it is, is corrupt, and there’s always been that tiny voice that said, “well, if they just had proper safeguards in place, or if they just had a democratic, well organized government in place to take care of their people... Or, if they were the sort of government that cared about their people...” And now we see the truth, because Japan did meet all of the above criteria, and Mother Nature, bitch that she can be, wreaked havoc anyway.


How do you deal with that level of destruction? How can anyone deal with it?


The same thing could easily happen to us. Those images we’ve been seeing on the television, or on the computer, could easily be images of our towns, our cities, and our countries. There are geologic fault lines on both coasts of North America, and right down the freaking middle of the continent, too, and that’s not even including the huge caldera in Yellowstone Park. So yes, those images we’ve been seeing could very well be images of ourselves.


I searched and found the following, at this site: http://www.9and10news.com/category/story/?id=284572&cID=1


The American Red Cross is accepting monetary donations online, by mail and even by phone."

The local Red Crosses across the nation start trying to generate interest in people helping on a larger scale and making donations so we can provide the funding that’s needed," said Kevin Bavers, Executive Director for the Northwest Michigan Red Cross.

People can donate online at www.redcross.org or they can write a check to their local Red Cross chapter.To make things even easier, people can text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to relief efforts; the charge is automatically added to your phone bill.


If you can do so, please donate. Next time, it may very well be us who are in need of such help. And really, after all is said and done, aren’t we all just one planet, and one people?

Love,
Morgan

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday's Words for March 9, 2011

It’s March, and with this last month of winter comes not only the hint of spring, but the promise of the convention season, fast approaching.


Usually at this time every year, I’m eagerly counting down the days until it’s time to attend RT, making my lists, and finalizing my travel plans.


If you’ve read my essays over the years, you know how much I enjoy this particular convention. How could I not? It was at RT in Daytona Beach in 2006 that I met and pitched to the publisher of Siren, now Siren-Bookstrand Publishing.


Others characterize the RT Convention as party time, and while I don’t completely disagree with that assessment, for me it has always been the time when I get to meet my readers. Each year, I’ve come away from that wonderful convention renewed and re-energized. I’ve made so many friends at RT, and some of them I know will last a lifetime.


So many of you who have attended RT, whether the convention was in Houston or Pittsburgh, Orlando or Columbus, have taken the time to stop by and say hello to me. I have been privileged to be asked to sign books and bags and even t-shirts! Some of you have even asked to have your pictures taken with me.


All of that has simply thrilled me. Just imagine, here I sit alone in my little house in a small town in Southern Ontario, Canada. Each day I “go to work”, in my pyjamas, sitting at my keyboard, letting my imagination take me where it will, and then you, yes you, seek me out and say, “I love reading your books”!


Wow.


Bottom line, no matter what anyone who writes may say, and regardless of what other motivations make us do this crazy thing, we write books so that others will read them.


Your reading my work validates me, and gives me a satisfaction nothing else ever has, or ever will.


So it is with great disappointment that I must tell you that I have to miss this year’s Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention.


I’d been very excited when I learned it was to be held in Los Angeles; we’ve only been to California once, and going to LA was a dream for the both of us.


Some of my favorite authors whom I have never met will be there, and I had been anticipating lining up to meet them. As well, some good friends were going to be there, people I only see once a year. On top of that, this year, a member of my writing group – D. B. Reynolds – has been nominated for a Reviewer’s Choice award.


Unfortunately, I’m going to have to give this gathering a miss this year. The main reason is timing. It’s being held a bit earlier than usual, which I didn’t think, last year, was going to be a problem.


I forgot to take into consideration the vagaries of middle age.


My beloved and I are both facing some minor health challenges that come with the territory of getting older. Rest assured, it’s nothing serious, but these challenges must be met, which involves the inevitable tests and appointments with doctors. Not activities we want to choose over the excitement of attending the convention, but ones we must see to, nonetheless.


It’s going to be very strange for me, not partaking of the hustle and bustle and fun. But since I’m in this career for keeps, I can always look forward to next year.


I don’t even have to know where it will be held. God Lord willing, and the river don’t rise, I’ll be there!

Love,
Morgan

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday's Words for March 2, 2011

Just because things were a certain way back in the day, doesn’t necessarily make them outdated today.


“Don’t believe everything you read,” was a maxim I grew up with. I was schooled to not automatically accept something just because it was in print. I was encouraged to think for myself. To examine and explore, to determine the relevance of any bit of news or information I came across.


I seriously doubt “they” are teaching that in the schools any more. I especially wonder if they are teaching children how to think, period.


As my education progressed, I was taught that often, the written word—that is, the written word in the world of non-fiction, and historical recording—often times was a tool to be used. Propaganda, if you will. “What is the author’s frame of reference?” That question needed to be answered before it could be determined how close to being true a document was.


They don’t call it frame of reference or bias, anymore, or propaganda, or even lies. They call it spin. And somehow this word, ‘spin’ has transformed the same product into something shiny and hip and acceptable. Somehow, it has come to pass that if you repeat it loud enough and long enough then it becomes the truth.


Am I the only one who read 1984?


Why don’t we return to some of our previous codes of conduct?


Do you know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see an interview conducted with a celebrity hopped up on something, where said celebrity makes outrageous statements, and the interviewer says, “okay, let’s stop this. You’re obviously sick, everyone is laughing at you. Get yourself to a psychiatrist, dude. We’re done here.”


I’d like to see an interview with a despot who proclaims that all is well is his country, that his citizens are not being slaughtered as they protest, that they’re not even protesting because they all love him, and have the interviewer say, “you’re a criminal in the eyes of the world, and a liar, whom no one believes, and we’re not even going to give you air time.”


Yes, I’m na├»ve. I know I am. I expect people to do what’s right, and not what’s most beneficial to themselves. I expect honesty, and that, sadly, seems to be a dying character trait.


People lie and cheat in small ways every day and think nothing of it. Do they do this because all around them, and in the news media, and on line, and in government, and even in our religions, everyone seems to be doing it and not only getting away with it, but flourishing because of it?


Yes.


When we paint lies with a patina of respectability, when we use those lies to sell our tenets, to advance our interests, we are telling the world it’s ok to play fast and loose with the truth. What is true anymore, anyway?


Here following, in my opinion, is the real damage and the real danger of this.


Manipulators knowingly tell lies to advance their cause, without fully understanding that those lies are taken by many people as being absolute truth; down the road, it may be necessary for those same manipulators to change course, and avow the exact opposite, to send a message that must be heeded by those same people to avert disaster, only no one is going to believe them, because those people have already been told “the truth”.


We’ve forgotten the teachings of the past, and the phrase, ‘moral responsibility’ these days is nothing more than a sound bite.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury