Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I wear a step counter every day. The purpose of this little device is to remind me not to spend my entire day sitting on my butt in front of my computer.

That dual nature of mine – anal and completely sanguine – plays against me more often than not. It means that while I have a detailed plan and schedule on any given day, I’m capable of ignoring same and going off into my own little realm of silliness. Wasting time doesn’t pay the bills, as my mother would say.

Unfortunately I’ve shown a real knack for wasting time. The step counter makes a bit of a sound every time I adjust my position in my chair, reminding me that I have to get up and move around. I have to stop wasting time and start moving.

Ideally, walking is the best exercise there is. But as many of you know, walking isn’t something I do very well any more. I can walk some. Oh, not the brisk strides the health gurus promote. But at this point in my life, I figure any steps I take are better than no steps at all. And I know that if I don’t take these steps every day, very soon I won’t be able walk, period.

I don’t waste time thinking of what might have been; that smacks of self pity. No, I’m not perfect. Yes, I do have tiny bouts of that malaise from time to time. But my pity parties are private affairs, by invitation only—and so far, I haven’t invited anyone to join me.

Osteoarthritis is a disease that has good days and bad days, but will never be gone. On good days I can manage anywhere from 6000 to 8000 steps. I’ve even hit 10K a few times – and in case you were wondering, that is the number of steps that most healthy adults should be taking every day: ten thousand steps.

On bad days, I’m lucky to hit 3000. Thankfully, unless the weather sabotages me, I don’t have many really bad days.

I’m not telling you all this to get you to feel sorry for me. I don’t need or want anyone’s pity or even sympathy. I’m telling you this to let you know that everyone has challenges in their lives. We all do, and so we are none of us really alone. Life is hard and often unfair – but it hard and often unfair for everyone.

If you see someone who appears to be living a life of perfection, for whom nothing seems to go wrong ever, may I suggest you take a moment to complement them on their acting abilities.

I used to swim every day until my body developed certain conditions that made that not a very good idea. I think we’ve found and fixed the problem, and I’m looking forward, in a couple of weeks, to renewing my pool membership. I’m going to be less aggressive than I was – swimming every day was difficult and too high a goal. I’ll aim for three times a week and see how that goes.

I’m very fortunate that I can do that; I’m very lucky that there is a facility near enough and the cost is reasonable enough that I can manage to do it. I’m very fortunate that I can do a lot of things to make life easier for myself.

I spend time every day focusing on how very fortunate I am, and I do count the blessings in my life, every single day.

 I do that, because being grateful makes me feel good inside.

Being kind to others, and lifting people up instead of bringing them down, are in reality extremely selfish actions and ones I indulge in on a regular basis. They fill my heart, lift my spirits, and cheer my soul. Nothing feels better, and nothing else can give me that kind of return on investment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I’m back home from Chicago, and life is slowly returning to normal. I know that in not too many more days, the week we spent in the Windy City will fade from our memories, and it will feel as if a great canyon of time separates us from the awesome events of RT 2012.

Insofar as I can, I strive to always live my life with an attitude of gratitude. I do spend time each night giving thanks for the blessings in my life. Thinking back now on the experience of this year’s convention, gratitude is the emotion I feel the most.

I had such a wonderful time at RT in Chicago this year. I had to miss last year’s event in L. A., due to a few health challenges. How amazing, then, to return after that absence and feel as if I’d never been away. There are countless volunteers, wonderful people who each year make this event happen. You see the same sweet souls, in city after city, people who are devoted to books and authors and readers, and prove it by stepping up to the plate, time and time again.

I try to always let these wonderful people know that I appreciate them and the work they do. Their motivation may be love of all this bookish, but never doubt their contribution involves a lot of hard work. I believe they truly work harder for free than most of the folks I know anywhere do for a paycheck. These volunteers who are on their feet 10 and 12 hours a day are mostly of my own generation—in other words, they’re not young’uns.

I’m grateful for the readers who, each time I attend this convention, tell me how excited they are to meet me and how much they love my books. I’m always so surprised when that happens, and so humbled at such times, too. To know you have readers is one thing; to be asked for your autograph, or to have your picture taken, is quite another.

I’m grateful because I made several new friends at the convention. Two in particular I spent a great deal of time with, both of them fellow Siren authors. Heather Rainier is the talented creator of the Divine, Texas, series; and Peyton Elizabeth is a brand new author with four books about to be released, beginning in May, with her debut novel Not So Common.

I’m grateful and honored that I got to spend an entire morning with my friend, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong. Her YA novels are hugely popular, and I am thrilled that she’s so successful.

I was also able to touch base with the some of my other writing buddies—Emma Wildes, Lara Santiago, and Raina James. We don’t get together as often as we would like, because time and circumstance often can be very cruel. But every moment I’m in their presence is truly special, and another thing in my life that I am thankful for.

Most of all, this year, however, I’m grateful for Mr. Ashbury.

This is the first time in several years that he has accompanied me to RT. The last time he made the journey was in 2007 when the convention was held in Houston. That was just after the release of my very first novel, and was also the occasion of my very first book signing.

He wanted to come to Chicago, and had intended to visit a few museums Monday and Tuesday, but couldn’t, as I reported to you last week. When the convention opened on Wednesday, however, he made it his mission to be there for me, going with me first to register, and then on to club RT where I was very pleased to help host my publisher’s table once again this year.

My beloved dubbed himself my “stand here and stand by” man, and he truly was that, and much more. I rented a scooter for the duration, and so he carried my paraphernalia—no mean feat, let me tell you—and he helped me get from A to B every time I wanted to. And then he stayed with me, ready to pitch in if I needed him. I certainly could not have done what I needed to do at the convention without him.

Mr. Ashbury very much enjoyed meeting and chatting with Mr. Rainier, too. And I would be remiss if I did not here acknowledge that good man, the husband of my fellow author and new friend.

Rarely have I been blessed to witness a couple so devoted to each other. Mr. Rainier braved what must have appeared to be a daunting pool of estrogen, and in so doing showed his love and support for his wife. Sir, my metaphorical hat is off to you. I am a fan.

We each of us live our lives, and do our own thing. Sometimes, we lose sight of the bigger picture, by putting ourselves first, doing whatever it takes to be ‘one up’ on those we imagine ourselves to be in competition with, uncaring if others are hurt in the process.

But we truly shine as human beings when we seek to serve; when who we are and what we do touches, and gives increase, to others.

This past week, I have been so touched. And so, refreshed and renewed, and ever grateful, I’m ready to face whatever comes next.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Here I am, once more on site for the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention. This year, the convention is being held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, just outside of Chicago.

This gathering has a soft spot in my heart. It was at RT 2006, in Daytona Beach, that I, a middle aged, unpublished author, pitched to the publisher of the then Siren Publishing, Amanda Hilton.

The lady said yes, and from that moment on, my life was new again. I should point out that I was the 12th author signed to this wonderful company. Now, Siren-Bookstrand has more than 300 authors!

Not everyone is gifted with a second chance in life. It could be argued that my second chance actually occurred in December of 2002 when I underwent emergency open heart surgery. Regardless of when it actually took place, I have been given one, and I’ve done my best to do my best with the blessings I’ve received.

I’m honored to once more be one of the authors representing my publisher here at RT. If you’re going to be here, too, please come and see me at Club RT. I truly enjoy meeting new people.

You’ll all be pleased to know, I’m sure, that our TomTom performed flawlessly and got us here without a single wrong turn. It did want to take us across the border at Windsor, Ontario/Detroit, Michigan, while we instead wanted to cross at Sarnia-Port Huron, which we did—but the device took our human rebellion in stride, recalculating the remaining route for us without a word of complaint.

The entire journey entails about 8 hours of driving time, but we wanted to arrive unstressed, so we left a day early, and had a stopover outside of Lansing, Michigan. Leaving next Sunday, we’ll make the drive home in one day.

The hotel here is both beautiful—Hyatt hotels generally are—and huge. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I called ahead and booked a scooter for the week. It’s certainly isn’t an expensive proposition (much less of an expense than the valet parking is), and most definitely worth every penny to be able to move about freely.

My beloved is shaking his head and chuckling silently, no doubt recalling recent history and my reluctance to use any mobility assistance of any kind, except for my cane.

Everyone we’ve met here has been welcoming and eager to assist. We’ve been taking our time, getting to know the layout of the hotel, and getting to know the area of Rosemont just a little. We’ve been decompressing, and that is always a blessing.

On Monday we took a brief drive around, and found a Target Store and an IHOP. Tuesday was a quiet day for the both of us. My beloved had planned to tour some of the area museums, but found the muscle he’d pulled in his back just a couple of days before our vacation began kept him instead here at the hotel.

He never really minds this, though. He brought a few books with him, and is already planning what books he intends to buy at the upcoming book fairs. This convention features two such events—an e-book and graphic fair this Thursday, and a giant book fair on Saturday.

I was also blessed to spend the morning on Tuesday with New York Times Bestselling author Kelley Armstrong. Tuesday was release day for Kelley’s new book, The Calling. She’s not only an exceptionally talented author, she’s a very nice person, too. I feel blessed to call her friend.

Today, Wednesday, is the day the convention begins in earnest. The writers are here, the registration area is about to open, and the next few days of madness are about to unfold.

I’ll be very busy, of course, but I never mind that. I’m sure there’ll be time to squeeze in at least one dinner with friends.

Like many who come to RT annually, it’s my one chance in the year to touch base with my friends and grab a little renewal for myself.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Some of you may be wondering—after reading these essays for the past few years—if perhaps I’m not just a bit different from other people.

You’d be right.

It’s not that I’m schizophrenic, not at all, but I do have a dual personality. About some things I am a gung ho, let’s get ‘er done, take charge, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead kind of gal. And about other things—well, let’s just say that procrastination is my first, middle, and last names.

My beloved bought me a wonderful Christmas present this past December 25th, something that I really wanted and that will undoubtedly prove to be a great time and stress saver. He bought me a GPS unit for my car, a device called a TOMTOM.

This past week, we finally took it out of the box and began to learn how to use it.

Now here I must confess that what actually happened was that one day last week when my daughter brought her father home from work, they came into the house, and my daughter said, “Where’s the GPS?” Clearly they’d had a discussion in the car on the way home and decided that the time had come for me to breach this latest technological frontier.

She took it and the instructions, and, as my dear husband sent me a smug ‘so there’ kind of look, sat down and began to figure out how to use the device.

In my defense, I could point out to my beloved that it was also his daughter who put together his brand new 55 inch Samsung 3D TV and showed him how to use it, and who also comes over to ‘fix’ it from time to time when it ‘acts up’.

But I have to admit, I had put off learning how to use the GPS. I do much better when someone can show me how to use something new: when they can say do this, then that, then the other, and ta-da, I’ve got it!

To be honest, some of this modern technology intimidates the hell out of me. I usually can figure it out, eventually.

 Given enough time I might even become proficient at it. Of course, given that same time, the creators of technological do-dads reinvent the darn do-dads and you have to start all over again.

This GPS device has proven, so far, to be easier to use than a lot of the other things I’ve acquired over the past year or so. I like that it talks to me. That way, I really don’t have to look away from the road and focus on it. I like that it gives me a 500 meter turn warning for upcoming turns, and that it repeats the instructions a couple of times.

And if I make a wrong turn it doesn’t chew me out. It doesn’t huff, get angry, or give me the cold shoulder. It just stays silent until it recalculates a new route for me to follow, starting from where I am. And then it resumes giving me directions as if nothing untoward had happened.

In other words, my new GPS device is a much better navigator—temperament-wise—than Mr. Ashbury.

As we were testing the device, and driving down one of the area’s major highways, I noticed that the GPS screen not only displayed the speed at which the car was moving, but the speed limit as well. Did you know, if you go 10 kilometers over the posted speed limit, those two indicator numbers on the TOMTOM turn red?

My daughter and I discussed this, and we wondered. If the device is capable of receiving information from a satellite, is it also capable of sending information to a satellite?

I can foresee a time when if your vehicle is equipped with such an apparatus, your driving in the red zone will be followed shortly by you receiving a speeding ticket.

I have every faith in modern technology. It definitely, eventually, and without fail will get you in the end.

 It’s really only a matter of time.

Love, Morgan