Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013

It isn’t that hell has frozen over—not exactly. It’s just that around here, there is real time, and then there is Mr. Ashbury time. And, well, something has taken place over the last couple of weeks that bring that cliché I quoted above to mind.

Y’all know I love my husband to bits, but it does take him a while to get around to doing some things.

For example, shortly after we moved into this house, the shower bar—the one that holds the shower curtain in place—had a bolt snap at one end. This happened just when someone was about to take a shower, so Mr. Ashbury, being a student of his fellow Canadian Red Green, reached not for duct tape, but for a stick pen. Yes, he jammed a stick pen into the hole to keep the shower bar in place. That pen stayed in service until he finally got around to replacing the shower bar this past August.

We moved into this house, by the way, in 1989.

Not long after the shower bar episode, (I’m thinking no later than a month after we moved in, tops), we decided to pull up the carpet that was on the kitchen floor. Carpeting in the kitchen, plus my kids at the time, was just a really, really bad idea. Once the ugly, cheap indoor/outdoor carpet was up, we discovered that the floor beneath it was in serious need of repair. The tiles were cracked and broken with pieces missing, and two spots in the floor were actually really soft—and, subsequently, needed “boards” placed over top of them to prevent people, dogs, or cats from possibly falling through.

Mr. Ashbury took one look at that floor and said, “I’m going to have to replace that floor one of these days.”

I am pleased to announce that “one of these days” commenced a week ago Saturday.

Yes, after only 24 years, Mr. Ashbury went out, bought the supplies, and announced that he was going to hunker down on our Victoria Day weekend and finally begin to replace our kitchen floor.

I asked my best friend, whom I know to be a Christian woman, to say a prayer over this situation. As I have already reminded y’all, I love my husband but if you look up the phrase “higgledy-piggledy” in the dictionary, you’re as like as not to see a picture of him there. I’ll also remind you of the “tiles” he did in the living room a couple of years back—but not under the area rug and not under the furniture or the bookcases. The floor there does look good, as long as you don’t look too closely.

My friend who loves me and Mr Ashbury, and is very wise told me she prayed for an extra measure of expertise for him—and an extra measure of patience for me.

Mr. Ashbury’s plan was simple. He was going to put down new wood over top of the old—5/8th tongue-and-groove aspenite and then ¼ inch mahogany underlay over that. Then, the plan was to tile over top of this new surface.

Eight four-by-eight sheets were required of each of these materials to do the job. My beloved observed, after the second one was down, that this was going to be a lot more work than he’d originally thought it would be.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that when he originally thought of doing this job he was, in fact, 20 plus years younger than he is now. Of course, he’s a clever man, is Mr. Ashbury, and very well aware of the fact that he’s not as young as he used to be.

I’m very proud to report that as of the writing of this essay—a week and a day after the job was begun—my new kitchen floor is done, and it is beautiful! My husband did a wonderful job, as good as any professional could have done.

He credits that to the fact that he didn’t rush into doing the job too quickly, instead letting time pass while he considered the procedure in all of its many, myriad aspects—over the last twenty-three years.

I think I’ll just credit my best friend’s prayers, and leave it at that.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

Like most of you, I watched in horror the scenes of the aftermath of the tornado that swept through Moore, Oklahoma this past Monday. Mr. Ashbury had to leave the room at one point, unable to watch any longer once it was announced that some children had been lost in the wreckage of the school.

For us, because we’ve been there, nothing is harder to bear witness to than the loss of a child, or the scenes that follow, of the parents having to cope with that loss.

He and I do have differing views on some things. I don’t believe in turning away from all bad news completely; for myself, I always seek to understand people, in all of their possible situations and predicaments. Even an author of fiction chronicles humanity and needs to get that right.

But I guess you could say I am also always looking for the gold amid the dross. Crap happens with alarming regularity and with impunity to just about everyone. There’s a core to me that insists on believing that there has to be a basic something at the heart of these tragedies that transcends the corporeal. If we let the bad in life be the bottom line, then the bad consumes us and the bad wins.

Debris is a word that somehow fails to communicate the degree of devastation that I saw. What I witnessed on my television screen was houses and other buildings, made of plywood and large pieces of lumber and brick and concrete reduced to kindling and dust. Aluminum siding became twisted missiles of metal. Debris has such a nice, classy sound to it but there was nothing classy in what I was looking at.

It is a heart-stopping, reality-shaking experience to stand before a pile of rubble and know that is all that is left of the house you had, the house where you lived and loved and laughed. That experience is made easier if your loved ones are safe. Because as total as that loss is, it’s still the loss of stuff and not lives.

So I was looking at this field of rubble that stretched for so far and I thought, how the hell do you fix that? Where do you start? And as I was watching and listening to the coverage, I heard the reporters say that the path this monster storm took on Monday was nearly the exact same path as their last monster storm on May 3, 1999.

That was just 14 years ago! I would imagine that many of the people whose homes were turned to rubble on Monday also had the same thing happen to them back then. The current mayor of Moore, Mr. Glenn Lewis, was also the mayor during the 1999 tornado. In other words, these people have been there, done that, and now are about to do it all over again.

You hear that from time to time, as you watch the news coverage of natural disasters. Some people have had their lives destroyed, have rebuilt, and then have them trashed again.

And as I was thinking about that I realized I had found my golden nugget.

We humans can be and are many things. We can do good, or not; we can make a difference in the lives of others, or not. But our species, at its heart, has an indomitable spirit that seems to rise to the occasion in the moments of greatest challenge.

Yes, there are always going to be some people who don’t reach out, who don’t help—some who have a “me first” or “me only” attitude. But there are also always those who do reach out, who do put others first and they are the ones whose image, whose presence, shines the brightest.

We will forever carry in our collective consciousness the memory of these people. The first responders running into the World Trade Center; the ordinary people side by side with uniformed cops and soldiers running toward the bomb blast in Boston; and now in Moore, the image of teachers stretching their bodies over the tiny bodies of their students, their only instinct to care for and protect these children. These are the examples of what humanity can be, and these are the images that endure.

This is who we are at our core, and this is how we need to think of ourselves, from time to time—as part of a whole that perseveres and in the end, triumphs over adversity.

Please donate something to help the people of Oklahoma rebuild. Even five dollars will make a difference. You can give to your church or local bank, to the Red Cross at or, if you’re Canadian and want to help you can go to the Canadian Red Cross web site, and one of the options listed for donations is “Donate to the 2013 Tornadoes and Severe Weather USA Fund” . You don’t even have to have a credit card. They take PayPal.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15, 2013

As many of you know from reading my essays, I am a fan of life-long learning. Some of the things I have learned lately, however, have left me scratching my head—metaphorically speaking. Will someone please tell me when facebook became the 21st Century’s answer to the happy-hour pick up lounge? Egad, it is crawling with lounge lizards!

I guess I’ve been rather naïve because I just do my thing and never think beyond certain limits when it comes to people and how I interact with them. For example, when my daughter said that a lot of people on social media sites post pictures of other people and say it’s them, I kind of blinked. Really, I said. Why on earth would they do that? My daughter just shook her head sadly as if she had no hope for my ever “getting it” whatsoever.

I can assure her that I get it. It’s not that I don’t know that some people lie with impunity. I guess it’s more that I dismiss that fact and need to be reminded of it every once in a while.

I have a facebook account in my first pen name, “Morgan Ashbury”. I do not have an author page for people to “like”; not yet. I might create one of those sometime in the future under my other pen name, “Cara Covington”. But for now the facebook page I have allows me to keep in touch with my readers. That’s why I have a face book page in the first place, and that is what I very happily use it for.

I understand the value of social media with regard to getting the word out about my work, and more importantly, keeping in touch with my readers.

Because it is important and because I had been more or less slacking off in that regard, about a month ago, I decided to add some more “friends”. These were people I thought would be interested in returning the favor, as they were already friends of some of my fellow authors. Almost all of them accepted my friend requests.

And then the rhythm changed, and I became the recipient of friend requests myself. It was something to watch. There would be two and then four. One day there were twenty. Twenty! Some of these requests were from men. I didn’t think anything of it. Men do read romance—my husband is one of them. I don’t discriminate between persons, neither was I prepared to quiz each one sending me friend request to ensure that they are indeed a reader or at least that their interests were “pure”. So for the most part, I simply accepted every friend request that came my way.

My “friends” have gone from about 600 to over 1300 in just a matter of weeks.

And to my dismay, I have discovered that some of these new friends are lounge lizards. They are interested in hooking up.

For the record, one way guaranteed to put my back up is to send me a message beginning, ‘hello, dear’. The first time, I was quite surprised and yes, maybe just a little flattered. And then it happened again. And again! So I responded kindly, informing all who asked that I was very married, and planning to remain so.

That seemed to take care of most of them—although I did have one slimy son-of-a-biscuit-eater come back with “well do you have a daughter, then?”

I was delighted to discover that I could “unfriend” someone as quickly as I had “friended” them.

I suppose facebook is one of those modern conventions not meant for older people like me. Or at least that is one theory I have heard from someone who is much younger than I am. I take reasonable precautions, of course, and have since my first foray into the world of the Internet. I never give anyone any personal information, and I don’t encourage what my mother would have called “familiarity”. I am an old fashioned woman. I chat with a few fellow writers who are male, but I consider those to be, for the most part, professional contacts. Anything beyond that—any communication that starts either, ‘hello dear” or “hey baby”, I cut short.

I don’t believe in being rude. It’s a waste of time, and it puts negative energy out into the cosmos. Negative energy, in case you haven’t yet figured it out, is magnetic and attracts negative energy at least ten fold right back to you.

So I am never rude. I simply explain that I’m not interested in that kind of personal contact. Nine times out of ten the response I get is an apology and then no further attempts are made at “chatting me up”.

  I just wish these lounge lizards would come with a warning label so I could avoid the situation in the first place—sort of like the Internet’s version of the leisure suit or greased back hair.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8, 2013

We’ve returned home from RT and are slowly working ourselves back into our normal routines. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I always seem to need to take a couple of days to get used to being home, especially after a convention. There’s a sense of slight disorientation that always sets me on my pins when I step into my house after being away for a week or more. I’m not sure what that’s all about. I just know it never lasts long.

Insofar as I can, I try to live my life with an attitude of gratitude. It’s the best way I know to always be filled with positive feelings. As I write this, I’m reviewing in my mind all of the many activities and the busy days I experienced over the last week.

It’s always a thrill for me when I meet readers. I’m just me. I’ve looked in the mirror at the same person for more than a half century. I don’t consider that I’m anything special. I am blessed to have been able to develop this “second career” just after having had to retire from the work-a-day world due to heart surgery.

I get up every day and do glamorous author-stuff like dishes and vacuuming and cleaning the toilet. I intersperse the domestic goddess duties with writing sessions. Throw out any image you may have of a state of the art office in a posh house. Nope, it’s just a desktop computer atop an old oak library desk I purchased years ago at a flea market. To have my keyboard at the right height, the desk drawer is open with a varnished shelf laid over it to rest the keyboard upon.

My chair is state-of-the-art, but only because the one I had for 7 years and sat in every day was wearing out and my back was getting sore. Chrome and black mesh, adjustable and ergonomic, it’s comfortable as well as being functional. And I sit down at the keyboard in it each day wearing my jammies. Comfort, you see, is key for me.

A Diva, I most definitely am not.

This is me, just me, and when I attend a conference or convention and readers come up to me and squeal, or cry, and want to hug me I feel...humbled. And I understand anew that without these wonderful people reading my books, I would be nothing.

The dream is mine, and continues to be mine, but the validation of that dream—and my paycheck—comes from my readers. Anyone who follows me on facebook knows that I am always saying, and will always mean with all my heart that I have the best readers in the world.

It was marvelous getting to spend time with some of my fellow authors. We met the fiancé of our friend, Peyton Elizabeth. A retired marine, this gentleman is no stranger to the concept of “manning up”. As far as we could see, he is perfect for our dear friend.

Corrine Davies and her husband were fun to be around. This was their first experience at RT, and they both seemed to enjoy the event.

Authors, well most of the authors I know personally, tend to be introverts. It’s not easy to stand in front of strangers and talk about our work. But I have to tell you to look at my fellow authors for whom I knew this was as hard as it was for me, you wouldn’t know it. They seemed like naturals, and they behaved like the consummate professionals they all are.

My best writing buddy and fellow conspirator in the Divine-Lusty cross overs, Ms. Heather Rainier—what can I say about her? I thank God every single day that he saw fit to bring us together. I can’t adequately convey to you how big a blessing she is to me. And it’s a no-brainer to see that Mr. Rainier is truly the inspiration for Heather’s strong and caring heroes.

So here I am at home, catching up on family and sleep, and ready to get down to the brass tacks of doing what I love most in all the world to do—write.

I think I’m the luckiest—and most blessed—woman in the world.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1, 2013

We’ve arrived safe and sound at the site of this year’s RT Booklovers’ Convention—Kansas City, Missouri. These last few days have been spent familiarizing ourselves with this new, to us, venue, resting up and—gasp—shopping.

The hotel we are at is connected to the Crown Center, a complex of shops and restaurants. There was a time not that many years ago when one of the things I loved to do was try different and varied foods. Since my stomach can no longer boast a spirit of adventure, fancy restaurants are no longer a draw for me. Mr. Ashbury loves to go out and experience fine dining, and has taken himself off his diet for the time that we are here. He’s done well in the last few weeks and I am confident this brief interruption will not set him back.

We’ve been reunited with most of our good friends, and I am looking forward to meeting and greeting some of my readers. If you’re in the vicinity and want to meet me, Heather Rainier, Peyton Elizabeth and Corinne Davies, we will be in the area known as “Club RT”. Our “misters” will also likely be not far from us, and they’re worth saying hello to as well.

And this brings me to a confession I have to make with regard to last week’s essay. I posted this correction on my Face Book page, and I need to post it here, too.

When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. In this case, I was partly wrong.

I offer my apologies to one and all for some of the misinformation I inadvertently included in my previous Wednesday’s Words about the RT Convention.

I was under the impression that all e-published authors were being excluded from the Giant Book Fair at the RT Convention this year. Certainly, the self-published authors are being excluded.

Where I was wrong was in the details. Apparently if individual e-publishers were willing to absorb a deep discount on books and handle the shipping costs involved in sending these books to the convention, then their authors could indeed sign at the Saturday Giant Book Fair.

Some publishers chose not to do this, and so those authors are unable to attend.

The RT Convention remains an excellent venue for authors as a place to meet and greet their readers. If you are an e-pubbed author and were thinking of attending RT next year, you should still consider doing so.

The readers who attend each year are avid in the pursuit of their one “guilty pleasure” – reading. And because they travel from city to city, using the event as their annual vacation, they are loyal.

RT is still a good place to be, if you write, or read, books.