Wednesday, July 25, 2012

These words are coming to you from Anaheim, California. Mr. Ashbury and I flew in to LAX on Sunday last, and will fly home again next Sunday.

One thing I can say is that I now fully understand the concept of jetlag. I don’t recall it being so difficult to adjust to Pacific Time when we went to San Francisco in 2008. I’m hoping the difference isn’t due to the fact that I’m four years older than I was then.

Seriously, I went to bed Sunday night at 5:30 pm Pacific time, and slept until 6 am the next morning. I figured that was simply a sign that I had exhausted myself more I’d realized, in the days before we left. But Monday wasn’t much better. I laid down for an hour or so at 7, feeling totally wiped.

Mr. Ashbury pointed out that the reason for my Monday exhaustion was that we had spent a great deal of the day outside. He could be right. Between the time we spent by the pool—him reading and me writing—and the three plus hours we were out and about—him walking and me on the scooter—most of our day was spent in the sun and breeze of this city not far from the ocean. That’s a lot of fresh air and sunshine for someone who sometimes doesn’t go out of doors all day.

Today the real business of the conference gets underway. From 5 to 8 pm there’s a book signing event at the Anaheim Convention Center. All of the proceeds of this sale benefit literacy programs in this area. RWA typically raises thousands of dollars every year to benefit literacy. Local chapters, across the United States and Canada also donate money every year to this worthy cause.

On Thursday, the conference itself gets underway. I’ve chosen a few seminars to attend this year. I do love to learn new things. But I haven’t made a full schedule for myself. I prefer to tread lightly, and of course, I do need my writing time.

Mr. Ashbury and I have explored this area together over the last few days. Although I have rented scooters at previous conventions, the venues didn’t have many attractions close by to encourage me to go out and explore. Here, we’re only a ten minute walk from a couple of very busy tourist areas: Anaheim’s Garden Walk, and Disneyland.

The Garden Walk is definitely aimed at the tourist, with restaurants like Bubba Gump’s, clothing boutiques, and a very large movie theatre. Arranged in a park-like setting, it’s typical of what I love to visit when I’m in “vacation mode”.

Ah, Disneyland. The original. The theme park that changed theme parks forever. No, Morgan didn’t, nor will she, actually go to Disneyland.

We did, however, visit the commercial area right outside the park called “Downtown Disney”. It’s packed with places to eat and lots of stores. They had a Lego Store, and a store where you could build your own bear. There were t-shirts and jewelry, purses and hats, and souvenirs of every style and shape and description.

At home, I’m not much of a shopper, that’s true. But I do love to look when we’re away, especially at all the shiny and sparkly bits of stuff offered at these sorts of places.

Also within easy walking/scootering distance of our hotel were places like I-HOP and a 7/11, a Chinese Food restaurant, a pizza place, and a Subway restaurant. There are plenty of what we used to call “motor inns”, all with pools. This area is definitely geared toward the family. The prices range from the mildly irritating to the truly stunningly painful.

Being frugal sorts we purchased only one bottle of water from the hotel. The rest we got and will continue to get at the 7/11. And we ate breakfast yesterday at the I-HOP.

Mr. Ashbury has to be on his own for a couple of days now as I attend to the business of writing and being a member of the Romance Writers of America. And he has decided, for good or ill, that tomorrow he is going to go, on his own, to Disneyland.

When he told me that I just shook my head and wished him luck. And yes, I did wonder, just for a moment, if maybe the poor man isn’t losing his mind.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

For the second time in our lives, Mr. Ashbury and I are preparing to get on board a plane and fly to California.

A few years ago, we visited San Francisco, so that I could attend the Romance Writers of America National Conference being held in that city.

This occasion is for the same conference, but a different city: we’ll be landing at LAX and then taking the Super Shuttle to Anaheim.

I’m a member of not only my own local RWA chapter, Toronto Romance Writers, but also of two “online” chapters—Passionate Ink, and Kiss of Death.

The first is devoted to what we’ll call the writing of steamier romance, and the second to mystery/suspense authors. Most of my novels have suspense sub-plots, and I strive to hone my skills in this sub-genre with each new story written.

One major reason I’m excited about going to the RWA National Conference is that I will finally get to meet, face to face, with a member of my online writing group: D. B. Reynolds, author of the excellent paranormal series, Vampires In America.

D. B. and I have “known” each other online for a number of years. She and I share moderator duties of the Online Writers Group that is hosted by the website of New York Times bestselling author, Kelley Armstrong.

If you are a fan of a well crafted plot and compelling characters, then I recommend the series. Published by Imajinn Books, they’re available in e-book and print, at Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.

Whenever we travel for a conference or convention, I always make an effort to do some sightseeing and research in the area. As an author, having a variety of places you’ve visited is golden. It is, of course, possible to set a story in a city you’ve never visited—especially today with all of the research available on the Internet. There are virtual tours and local newspapers, Google Earth, and all manner of photographs and videos available so that a person can get a pretty good sense of a place without even leaving their chair.

But there is something to be said for knowing the scent of a city, the sight and the sound and the rhythm of it. And of course, nothing beats meeting and chatting with the people who live there.

As I have done for the last few conferences, I have arranged to have a scooter available at the hotel when I arrive. Despite wearing a step counter daily, and often managing to take between 5000 and 8000 steps each day, I simply cannot walk long distances without ending up in complete agony. Having a scooter means I’m not confined to the conference site, but can sample some of the neighborhood, too.

I’ve been told there is a wealth of eateries and shops, a virtual treasure-trove of tourist spots—within a five minute scooter ride of the hotel.

I’ll be signing books at the Literacy Autographing event—where all of the proceeds from the books sold go to fund literacy programs both locally and nationally. If you’re there, come by and say hi.

You doubtless recall all the teasing I’ve received from practically every member of my family—as well as several friends—about my proclivity for making lists before I travel. Well, I am pleased to report that my beloved has adopted this habit. Of course, he makes his list on a tiny note pad, from which he also crosses items off once they are in the suitcase. He says he uses the note pad for convenience but I believe he uses it because it is so easy to conceal. I think I’m the only one in the family—or anywhere else, for that matter—who knows that my beloved has adopted my ‘anal’ habit.

Or rather, I suppose I should say, I was.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mr. Ashbury has a “lucky vacation travel shirt”. I kid you not, he does, and it is beyond a doubt the ugliest thing I have ever seen.

I’ve very nearly thrown that shirt out several times, as he never saw fit to explain to me, before this most recent vacation, that this particular garment held significance for him.

It’s a collared, polo shirt. That’s about the only good thing I can say about the thing. It is red, with red “squares” interspersed with red and black squares, the latter which are tiny red squares with black stripes inside them. The whole thing is sort of like something you might see if someone zapped a checkerboard with a “shrink-me” ray gun.

If you look at it too closely while he is wearing it and moving, you’ll get dizzy.

I was trying to recall just how old this short sleeved, polyester-blend shirt is. If I am not mistaken, he wore it on the first ever trip we took—the first time we boarded a plane when we finally took our honeymoon after 17 years of marriage, back in 1989.

Yes, that shirt is old enough to get drunk in a bar, and vote.

My beloved has informed me that he intends to wear this shirt when we fly to California on the 22nd of this month, and again when we fly to Dallas in August. I have tried to reason with him that these ‘trips’ are not vacations, and therefore, they do not require the presence of this talisman.

The man looked at me as if I wasn’t quite “all there”. And then he asked me, in a most serious tone, if I really wanted to “tempt fate”.

Since we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary on Saturday, I suppose it’s rather late for me to lament his general lack of fashion sense. This is no slur against him, as he would be the first to agree that when it comes to taste in clothing, he doesn’t have any.

I think my first clue to this unfortunate reality was when, in our first year of marriage, he bought me a black and pumpkin-orange night gown. His desire to please me and to gift me with “sexy and fetching apparel” knew no bounds in those early years. I was always very appreciative of his efforts, of course—after all it really is the thought that counts. Please don’t ask me to list some of the other items he bought for me. I seem to have a black hole in my memory about these things.

They say the sub-conscious works to conceal traumas from the conscious mind as a means of “protecting” the psyche. I believe them.

These days, of course, Mr. Ashbury either takes our daughter shopping with him, or he does the modern thing and gives me a gift card.

I return the favor by not giving him gift cards, but instead going to the mall and purchasing him the clothing he needs. While the fact that he always likes what I pick out for him doesn’t really mean much—he really doesn’t have enough clothing sense to know if the clothes I buy him are right for him or not—on those occasions when we go out, his family always compliments him on his apparel.

Now, I know that the astute among you will be left wondering, well, Morgan, where then did that ugly-ass red shirt come from in the first place?

Friends, I tell you honestly, I have no clue. I really don’t recall how that shirt came to be in my beloved’s possession, let alone how it became such an integral part of his wardrobe.

I can only surmise it was a gift from one of my in-laws.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

I’m pleased to report that we are in the United States for this historic holiday. A couple of years ago we were blest to be present in Philadelphia, at Independence Hall, attending the ceremonies held there to commemorate Independence Day. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

We later stood in line to see the Liberty Bell. For two history buffs visiting from Canada it was a wondrous day of celebration, and we very much felt the sanctity of the occasion.

Anniversaries are important, for they bring us back, however briefly, to the beginning. They remind us of what it’s all about.

We’re here on vacation for a few days, visiting our friends in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. This time we used my spiffy new TomTom to get us here and seriously, we’ve never made the trip faster.

It’s interesting when you get with friends after the absence of a year. It doesn’t seem as if anything has changed at all. You come in to a great welcome, and it’s just as if you were never really gone.

Our friend is a cop, and he always has great stories to tell, of course. In years past it is he who taught me how to handle and fire different styles of guns. My interest in weapons is tied to my desire, as an author, to get things right.

Our friend’s mother has her birthday today, and so we’re pleased to be here to help her celebrate.

My beloved and I have an anniversary coming up in a couple of weeks—our fortieth. 40 years – and they said it wouldn’t last. He and I are, in many ways, complete opposites. One of the ways in which we’re different is that he doesn’t like parties at all – and I do. As a consequence, you can count the number of parties we’ve attended, over the course of our marriage, on one hand. Seriously.

The only birthday party I’ve been the recipient of as an adult was the one I threw for myself on my 50th birthday. I had to take action myself, because, after being promised by my husband and kids that they’d throw one for me when I turned 40, they not only forgot to give me the party, they actually forgot my birthday that year.

I don’t have to learn my lessons twice. My beloved agreed that we could host a dinner at a restaurant to mark the occasion of our anniversary this year. I drew up a list and the girls—my daughter and second daughter—volunteered to send out the invitations and co-ordinate the responses.

We chose a Chinese Buffet restaurant that’s popular with so many of the family. The guest list had about 40 names on it; we decided that we’d pay for the meal, but leave ‘drinks’ up to the individual guests. The other point on which we were both fairly insistent was that on the invitations, we wanted the words, “best wishes only” to be written. We truly don’t want any gifts. We’ll have a wonderful evening surrounded by family and a friend or two, and count ourselves very rich indeed.

We had the names of our friends here in Hazleton added to the list, even though we know they won’t be able to make the trip north for a dinner. But we wanted them to know that, since they are close friends, we were thinking of them.

This is how we found out that our girls forgot to put that tiny, heartfelt message—“best wishes only”—on the invites. I’m not completely certain how I feel about that.

Friends, my first response wasn’t a pretty one. I know I should be taking the high road, here. I should just consider that they were acting out of love. I know they can’t necessarily see the value in hosting an evening at a restaurant without getting something back in return. I saw the looks on their faces when I said we were paying for dinner and didn’t want gifts. They both thought it was way too much money to simply “give” an evening to a lot of people we don’t often see.

A part of me counts that as a failure on my part. I obviously didn’t successfully impart to my daughter that there is value to be had in life far beyond the material. The best things in life really can’t be measured in dollars and cents. They are of the heart and from the heart.

Not often do I find myself in a catch-22 of my own making; I have to make myself accept what the girls have done as an act of love on their part, while simultaneously reconciling myself to the fact that, like it or not, there are going to be gifts at this dinner.

Proof positive that you never get too old to have life throw you a moral curve-ball.