Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For just the second time in 17 years, I went to a movie theatre Monday night. I had yet to see a “3D” movie, and although we have that new television and it does have that technology, my daughter and husband swore the experience was different in the theatre, and they were right.

There were six of us for this outing—my beloved and our daughter [I guess you could say the rest of us infringed on their usual Monday night excursion] our second daughter, and her two kids, who are the grandchildren I take care of. The movie: Pixar’s Brave.

I can’t tell you why I stopped being a movie fan. We used to go to the cinema from time to time, but when VCRs became all the rage in the 1970s and 80s [oh my God, I am getting old!] we used to not only rent movies every weekend; we rented a lot of them.

Sometimes we’d watch 3 movies on Friday night and 3 movies on Saturday night. This was a family activity, with all five of us in our living room, enjoying the entertainment together. We watched all different genres of films—except, of course, horror movies, or films that had tragically sad endings. I absolutely refused to watch them, period. It just wasn’t ever going to happen.

One incident in particular sticks out in my memory as I look back on those days, but I have to kind of qualify this story first.

As parents, my beloved and I took an unusual stance: we would both rather our children see a movie that had a bare modicum (pardon the pun) of nudity than have them watch a movie with extreme violence or where people got hacked to pieces. Now obviously, we generally didn’t go out of our way rent movies with nudity in them. But once in a while we would get “flashed”.

The year after it came out, we rented The Sword and the Sorcerer with Lee Horsley. In this movie there was one scene when the hero swung through the “harem” on a rope. For the span of about four or five seconds, while the camera ‘followed’ the hero’s swing, the viewer was treated to a background scene of several sets of naked, female breasts.

We were neither of us expecting this; we looked at each other, said nothing, and the movie played on. And, I thought, okay, no harm, no foul as not a one of our three children said a word about it. Christopher was nearly 11 at the time, Anthony 6, and Jennifer 5. I thought: whew, bullet dodged.

The next morning I awoke early to a strange sound. It was click, click, silence for about five seconds then click, click again. Coming from the living room, which was just outside our bedroom, it happened more than a dozen times, and I decided to get up to investigate.

There was my six year old son, Anthony, on the floor in front of the television, remote control in one hand, thumb of the other in his mouth, as he ran that harem shot on the screen over, and over again.

I kind of think my drifting away from watching movies—and television too, because I really don’t watch more than a hand full of hours of that a week—is tied to my reading and writing. At some point after my heart surgery, my interests changed, and I found that, given the choice, I’d rater either read or write than watch a movie.

Through our cable company, we’re able to rent movies on a “pay per view” basis without leaving the house, and if by chance I am in the mood to see a movie, then that is generally what I do. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen The Social Network, The King’s Speech, and The Iron Lady. My sister-in-law (my beloved’s sister) has made it her personal mission to see to it that every couple of months I’m subjected…er, treated to a “girls night”. She brings a couple of movies, “chick flicks”, usually, and she and I and my daughter commandeer the living room to indulge in this female bonding ritual. Hence, I’ve also seen Fried Green Tomatoes, Love Actually, and The Lake House. On the most recent of these evenings, we watched “It’s Complicated” starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

There are often margaritas involved in these rituals, so I guess they’re okay.

Ironically it’s my role as author that has prompted me to try and fit in a few more movies recently. Our film media does, after all, reflect our lives, and our collective consciousness. We can take our “social temperature” by looking at the movies we create and watch. It can be argued that it’s difficult to be current with the world if one is ignorant of the art, and art forms, being produced and celebrated by it.

Films and television shows draw the largest audience of all the arts.

While that is true, and I don’t want my books to begin to sound as if they are novels written by a woman not in tune with her times, one thing remains non-negotiable.

I still refuse to watch horror movies, or any movies that have a dreadfully tragic ending. It’s simply not going to happen.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My mother raised me to be polite at all times. There were certain mores of behaviour that she instilled in me, and I guess they stuck pretty well, because I still cling to them today, sometimes even in the face of unbelievable circumstance.

For example, when mom and I would go to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner, I wasn’t expected to just help with the after dinner clean up. I was expected to do it all—by myself.

Likewise, growing up, if I was a guest in anyone’s home for dinner, and they served something I really didn’t like, too bad for me. I was expected to eat it and say, “yum yum, thank you.”

Maybe you could class that as a white lie, but I don’t think there’s any real sin involved in that one.

We lived out in a rural community all through my youth, the same one my beloved and I moved to after our first year of marriage. You didn’t often get any “traveling salesmen”. Oh, they came by once in a while, but not often.

Even as I kid I got a kick out of the Fuller Brush man. He always had some little do-dad he would leave behind, even if you said “no, thank you”.

As a matter of fact, I recall when it was acceptable to say “no thank you” to the peddler at the door, and their response would inevitably be, “thank you for your time, have a nice day”.

Not, apparently, anymore.

Lately there has been a new breed of “traveling salesman” prowling our neighborhood. These are young, brash, hard-sell engineers who not only don’t take “no” for an answer, they’re rude.

And not only are they rude, they are pushy and try to intimate you. One man I particularly recall from a couple of years ago came to the door, wanting me to sign up with an “energy re-distributer”. Do you get them in your area?

Now, if the electricity rates had doubled when we got our “smart meters” - that is to say, if we were the kind of people to ignore the “peak periods” and use our a/c, our washer and our dryer at those times—then maybe, and I mean maybe, one of those contracts might have saved us a few dollars.

But I am leery, on principal, of anyone who wants you to sign on the dotted line right away. As if they know that if you have a moment to think things over, you’ll see reason and say: no, thank you.

So I told this gentleman, “no, thank you”, oh, probably about four or five times at least. Despite the fact that my anger was increasing I didn’t slam the door in his face or tell him to take, um, a flying leap. I was still trying, you see, to be polite.

However, this particular gentleman pulled out what he must have thought was his “big gun argument”. Now please keep in mind, I am dressed very casually around the house most days, when I am writing. My hair is caught up, haphazardly in a clip; I’m decently covered, but I am wearing jammies—long ones in the winter, short ones in the summer, but jammies for me are my “business apparel” of choice.

This would-be salesman of the year looked me up and down, and said, “Perhaps you’re just too stupid to understand what I’m saying to you.”

Now friends, there does come a moment, and I am certain my mother, rest her soul, would agree, when it is time to abandon that which clearly does not work.

So I said, “Actually, I probably would score well above you on any IQ test you’d care to name. Moreover, I’m a published author, and, congratulations, you’ve earned a spot in my next novel as the obnoxious itinerate asshole.”

Well, perhaps my mother wouldn’t quite approve of my language, but I did feel ever so much better when I then shut the door in his face.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Last Friday, my 26th novel became available from my publisher, this one under my second penname, Cara Covington. Considering that my debut novel came out in March of 2007, that’s a lot of books in a relatively short time. You probably surmise that I spend a lot of my time writing, and you’d be right.

The most amazing thing is, if I was still waiting for a publisher to say “yes”, I would still be writing, although probably not with as much confidence.

I guess I had to have a heart attack and then open heart surgery to get to the place where I was able to do what I love most in all of the world to do. Before my medical problems—at age 48—I worked for nearly 30 years in the field of accounting. I did accounts payable, accounts receivable, balance sheets, and payroll and benefits. I knew beyond a doubt that a credit was a debit and a debit was a credit, and just because it balanced didn’t mean it was right. I was pretty good at what I did, and I had been told by more than one boss that they’d never seen anyone work so quickly, or with so few mistakes.

A co-worker once accused me of treating my “job” like a career, a comment she thought was an insult, but which I took as a compliment. I have always believed that if you’re going to do something, you should do the best damn job at it that you can—especially if you’re being paid for it.

I carried that attitude over to my writing, of course. My beloved will tell you he shakes his head in amazement at how much time I spend looking things up, contacting experts, checking my facts...doing research to try and ensure that I get things right.

My sister-in-law once told me—and yes, I am still speaking to her—that since I was only writing porn and not The Great Canadian Novel, she didn’t see why I had to be such a perfectionist about it.

Well, aside from the fact that I don’t write porn, thank you very much, I am writing the great Canadian novel. To me, that’s what every one of my books truly is. Yes, they have graphic love scenes. But they also have compelling characters, and good plots. They often address real challenges that women, and men, face in life.

Each of my stories has more than one level to it. And even if they didn’t, there is value in simply giving your reader a few hours away from the challenges and stresses in their own lives.

If that was all that my books were about, I would still strive to write the best book I could. The thing is, I love what I do, and I’m proud of what I do. If I wasn’t getting published, I would still be doing it.

I guess that’s the definition of happiness...and passion, too.

I know how lucky I am that I can devote my days to doing what I love. I know what it’s like to go to work each day, and sometimes wonder if you’ll get through the eight or ten or twelve hours. Folks who do that, who go to work day in and day out, even though they don’t like what they’re doing are, in my opinion, the real heroes in life.

I can’t say that I had a passion for accounting the way I have a passion for writing. It was boring work at times, but I found a way to make it interesting. I don’t put up with boring. I never have. If something needs to be done and it’s dull and dry, I find a way to make it palatable, and I work as quickly as I can to be done with it.

I may never be famous, or monetarily wealthy. Those things don’t really matter to me. I’ve always said that as long as I have the makings for a good cup of coffee, and plenty of toilet paper, I can get by.

But I am enormously rich in the work that I do, and the friends I have made, and the readers who read my books and then write to me to tell me that they love them.

I am blessed, and highly favored.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Not long after my mother passed away, I discovered a cache of old newspapers and magazines that she and my father had collected and saved. Among them was a souvenir program that had been printed for the coronation of King George VI—the father of our present Queen Elizabeth II.

I remember how thrilled I was to find these in 1976. Our parents raised us to think of ourselves as British subjects, which in fact we were back then. I suppose you could have called my parents monarchists, and been quite accurate.

Sadly, when we suffered a house fire in 1985, all those lovely pieces of history went up in flames.

My beloved and I are very much fans of the Royal Family, and consider ourselves monarchists to this day. Queen Elizabeth II is in fact the “Queen of Canada”, and David and I consider her our Queen.

Each Christmas, the Queen gives a televised ‘message’ and that message has been a part of my Christmas tradition all of my life. Canada does have a Prime Minister, who is the head of government, but our head of state is the Queen, represented day-by-day in Canada by “vice-regent”, the Governor-General.

The two of us have been paying avid attention this last week especially, as the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has been taking place here, and in England. We have been very conscious of the fact that we are living through the making of history. There have only been two diamond Jubilees for the British Crown, and both have been achieved Queen Regents. The other one, of course, was attained by Queen Victoria.

The Jubilee is the celebration of the Queen’s 60 years of service. Notice I said service, and not reign. The word ‘reign’ brings to mind images of power, opulence, self-indulgence—words that simply don’t fit our Queen at all. She is the embodiment of the word ‘service’.

Her Majesty has been known in the past to walk through the Palace in the evenings, turning off lights that don’t need to be on. She has put off renovations to the various properties and has ordered a scaling back of expenses for state dinners and balls (a lot of which she finances herself) to reflect the times. She could afford to spare no expense, but is sensitive that her people are going through difficult economic hardship. Ever frugal, she has been even more so in the last several years.

During the Second World War she trained as an ambulance driver and mechanic. When she turned 21, the then Princess Elizabeth gave a radio-address in which she pledged to dedicate her “whole life, be it long or short” to the service of her country, and the Commonwealth.

Over the years when I would hear different news commentators wondering aloud if the Queen would “retire”, I would shake my head because of course, she will never retire. She will be Queen for the whole of her life, period.

These special celebrations this past weekend are celebrations that will likely never occur again. The two next in line for the Crown—Prince Charles and then Prince William—will probably not attain 60 years on the throne, because they will be so much older at the time of their coronations than Elizabeth was.

And who knows what the future holds for the institution itself? At the moment, the Queen enjoys an 80 per cent approval rating. Yet the concept of having a King or Queen does seem to some people to be archaic. Monarchies can be considered institutions of the past.

In a hundred years, they may not even exist.

Old fashioned monarchies might be, but I can tell you that I, for one, have greater faith in Queen Elizabeth to put first the interests and well being of her people, than I do in our Prime Minister—or any elected politician, for that matter. There is not a single occasion that I can recall, where she has done anything that could be considered even the slightest bit self-aggrandizing.

Politicians by their very nature have extremely healthy egos. They seek office, and who among them does so for purely altruistic reasons? I cannot name a one.

Our Queen has been on the job without a vacation from her duties for 60 years. She has been there, through good times and bad times, ever dutiful, unwavering, and solid. At 86 years of age, she continues to inspire me.

God Save the Queen!