Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 26, 2017

This passed weekend, my husband—out of the blue, mind you—said something very un-David-like to me. He said, “I do believe I’ve become somewhat of a foodie.”

Unfortunately for my beloved, “smart ass” is not an affectation I’ve assumed; it’s the real me. I executed a quick glance down toward his “eight-and-a-half month” belly, but kept my mouth shut. Don’t look so surprised, I can keep my own counsel when the situation warrants. Sometimes. Maybe.

He, of course, saw where my gaze landed and laughed, so it could be argued, theoretically, that I didn’t really keep my own counsel at all. Whatever.

The truth is that, in the years since he quit smoking, my husband has put on a lot of weight and nearly all of it is in his middle. That doesn’t bother me, aesthetically speaking. My only concern is his health. He also has COPD. The extra weight doesn’t help his breathing. Especially for someone who was, up until fifteen years ago, a constant 129 to 132 pounds on a medium to slim frame.

His body wasn’t made for that extra weight…but I digress.

He has become a foodie, because, also since he quit smoking, food apparently tastes better than it used to. He began smoking when he was ten, a souvenir from a family visit to his maternal grandparents who owned a large farm in Alberta. Apparently, Gramps took young David out on the tractor on his beloved farm, showed him how to plow a field on that 320 acre spread—and then showed him how to roll a smoke from his “makins”, and what to do with said cigarette after it had been rolled.

David’s mother wasn’t very happy with her father, needless to say. She thought that once the family returned home to Ontario, David’s newly acquired habit would be history, but it wasn’t so. He finally quit smoking in 2002—at the age of 50—and in the wake of my heart surgery, which was when I, a ten-year smoker at that point, also quit.

So yes, I imagine food began to taste really good to him. I enjoy cooking, though I have tried to rein myself in lately. Instead of one day a week designated as a “no-cook” day, I now have two. But those other 5 days, I do my best to present well balanced, tasty, and sometimes innovative meals for us both. I do all I can to ensure the food I make is as healthy as possible.

I rarely buy “processed” meals; I tend to buy ‘fat free’ hams when we have ham, use very little butter and fry rarely, cut down on the salt, and I also use sucralose instead of sugar in desserts. Well, in most of my desserts.

For his part, David blames me, squarely, for his weight gain. He maintains that if I didn’t cook such enjoyable meals, he wouldn’t eat so much. I point to his three family-sized bags of potato chips a week habit, and ask, “really?”

Otherwise, to know that he now considers himself a foodie is kind of a tribute to a stance I took when we came home from our weekend honeymoon all those years ago. It was in 1972, of course, and we began married life in a small apartment over a store in an older section of a nearby city. He had a job, though I didn’t, as I was expecting our first baby, though I did get a part-time summer job later that month that was easy for me—a seasonal, clerical position. So money wasn’t in great supply for us. And as we returned to our tiny apartment after our wedding, he decided to lay down the law when it came to eating. Probably thinking of the way his father ruled the roost, he announced: “I’m telling you right now, I eat roast beef, roast pork, potatoes, creamed corn, and canned peas.”

I, who had lost my father when I was only eight and a half, and only being really familiar with my mother ruling the roost, replied in kind: “And I’m telling you, we don’t have enough money to eat roast beef and roast pork every night. But don’t worry, I learned how to cook, and how to stretch a grocery dollar, so you won’t go hungry. But you will have to eat what I put in front of you.”

Talk about a stand-off! But we quickly compromised. He would try everything once, and if he didn’t like it, I wouldn’t expect him to eat it, and I wouldn’t make it again. The only thing I made in those early days that he really didn’t like, was liver. And that, he began to like not long after he quit smoking, and now he asks for it regularly.

Therefore, I take the fact that he now considers himself a foodie—and he really is one—as a very definite, “mission accomplished” for that first, post-honeymoon stance.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

What a wonderful weekend we had! And for us, another unique way to celebrate a wedding anniversary on Friday. It was number 45 this year—and they all said it would never last!

As I’d mentioned we would in my last essay, David and I attended an author/reader event, KallypsoCon 2017, this year held in the near-by city of Burlington, Ontario this past weekend. This is a relatively new event in the world of book conventions, created and organized by Kallypso Masters. Kally is a wonderful writer and an exceptional human being.

It’s also a relatively small book convention—purposefully so. This year there were eleven “featured authors” and 100 readers.

This convention will never “grow”, because the purpose is to give the readers who attend a chance to meet and interact with each one of the authors. It’s truly an intimate gathering compared to those that boast more than a thousand attendees, and are organized for the purpose of making money for the corporations that hold them.

Dinner on Friday night, which was the first official event, featured an author at all but one table. The one table without an author had the guest speakers for Saturday evening. Then, after dessert and before the fun and games in the next room, we participated in “speed dating”. Controlled by a “timer”, authors (and the guest speakers) rotated so that by the end of the session, every reader had met and spoken to each of the authors and the guests.

All the readers had to do was sit and wait for their favorite author to come by. That was a fun idea, and a great way to break the ice for everyone!

The games were another way allow the readers to get to know the authors better. The first game called “five fun facts”. Each author had earlier sent in to the organizer 5 facts about themselves. We took turns pulling a “fact” from the box and reading it aloud, and the audience had to guess which author the fact was about.

I can tell you that some of my fellow authors have lived damned interesting lives! They’ve climbed mountains and won dance competitions, lived in Japan for a year and a half, were on a rodeo team, and one has even ridden a camel in the Sahara and spent the night in a Bedouin camp!

The next game left everyone in stitches. We were each given excerpts of someone else’s novels to read aloud (with names omitted), and the audience of readers had to guess who the author of the excerpt was. There was great emoting, and accompanying miming, and general hilarious Tom Foolery all around! And laughter…lots and lots and lots of laughter.

It’s hard to be anything but honest when you’re surrounded by and smothered in laughter.

What a genius way to kick off an event. What better way to make authors approachable than to have them ‘perform’ in such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere?

Saturday was filled with a Q&A session, a book signing, and another wonderful buffet dinner. In the evening, we had a presentation about BDSM by a couple living that lifestyle. What impressed me most about the evening’s program was the very real bond of love between the two. As an author, and one who has written stories featuring this interesting relationship dynamic, it’s invaluable to get real true info from people who really, truly know. Forget some of the books you may have read; this was the real deal.

Yes, we saw floggers and ropes—but the lion’s share of the information was on the relationship dynamic, itself. There is a power exchange in all relationships, whether you realize it or not. In lifestyle relationships, that exchange, and the boundaries, and the feelings, are constantly discussed because that is part of the deal. Communication is key, and in that one facet, the rest of us could learn a thing or two from them.

My favorite part of the weekend by far, of course, was meeting readers, exchanging hugs and conversation, and being inspired by the presence of those who share with me the desire to touch lives as we entertain.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 12, 2017

I’m busy getting ready for my one and only “author event” for 2017, which begins tomorrow. This will be the very first event of this sort that I have ever attended in my own country! One could even say that I’m not going to the event so much as the event is coming to me. Well, that is, one could (and did) if one wasn’t me. I would never make such an arrogant statement myself, unless I was employing extreme sarcasm.

Which I must confess, from time to time, I do.

KallypsoCon happens each year in a different location. Next year, for example, it will be held in Utah. But this year, it’s “KallypsoCon 2017: Canada Bound”. I’m looking forward to becoming reacquainted with some of the authors and readers who will be there, and also meeting new friends. There’s a definite energy to be had, spending time with those who are involved in the same vocation as I am. I don’t know if doctors or lawyers or teachers feel that way, when they attend events for their professions. I don’t know if this energizing is particular to a gathering of those involved in the creative arts. I suppose it depends on whether you look at your occupation as a job, or a calling.

I also love hearing from readers, because what I do for living is a particularly solitary endeavor. I don’t have an assistant at the moment, and while I do have some wonderful reader/friends who help me out with my reader’s group and with beta-reading my books, I tend not to “fish” for ideas or suggestions. My stories are my stories, products of my imagination, and so the tough stuff—coming up with the ideas, the plot twists, etc—that’s my responsibility. I’ve always believed that if I want people to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy one of my books, then I best be doing all the work and taking all the care involved in its creation.

I have participated in brainstorming sessions once or twice in the past, and I’ve found them very stimulating. Such encounters between writers is never one-sided, and as an author, I’ve given suggestions as well as received them. That’s a sort of authorly quid-pro-quo, and really, part of the professional process as far as I’m concerned.

What I don’t want to do, ever, is indulge in what I call “writing by committee”. I understand the motivation of those who do, and if that works for them, then more power to them. Some writers set themselves some really tough deadlines, where they have to produce new work on an accelerated schedule. The only way to do that is to have someone—or several people—taking over after the first draft has been etched, editing and polishing and getting it ready to send off. I’m not talking about editing here, which most of us experience; I’m talking about other people who take the author’s first draft, and produce the second. Now, I’m not knocking that process at all. Each of us has our own process, and to write in any way that ignores our intrinsic instincts and inner process is to betray the craft for which we breathe.

I’m pretty good at writing, at coming up with characters and crafting a tale about them. My writing speed has slowed some over the last couple of years, but I do the best I can. What I don’t excel at, what I’m not really very good at, is promotion. By nature, I’m a shy woman. If you’ve met me, you may dispute that. The truth is I’ve learned to be outgoing, but it takes a lot out of me. I would go to large conventions in the past, where I would meet hundreds of people, and stand in a room and “pimp” all the authors who were contracted with my publisher. I was delighted to do that, to give back to a company that took a chance on me. However, when I would return home, I’d be a wreck, energy-wise, for at least a week. To recover, I needed quiet, and I needed to just be me.

So, since I do suck so badly at promotion I’ve had to begin to think of that necessary activity in a different way. I’ve begun to think of it as socializing. I’m not touting my work, so much as I am taking a break from it to meet people who happen to like reading the same kind of books as I happen to write. I could never be cut-throat in my approach, either. I see other authors—in this case, the wonderful authors who will be appearing at this same event—as colleagues, not as competition.

I honestly believe there’s room enough for us all to succeed and to prosper. A few of these authors—Kallypso Masters ( ) Lexi Blake (, and Cherise Sinclair ( ) I’ve read and truly enjoyed. They have different styles, but share a talent and a bent for turning out wonderful, character-driven, page-turning books. The rest of the authors appearing, I’m sure I will read in the weeks and months to come. I’m always looking for new-to-me-authors to read.

This is a short event, from Thursday to Sunday, and within 40 minutes of home. I’m looking forward to being energized, and making new friends.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 5, 2017

Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday, and my son, Anthony’s, 40th.

Anthony was born after my mother passed away. Actually, he was born the very next year. We commemorated the one-year anniversary of Mom’s death in April, and then he arrived, three months later, on her birthday. We have “Christmas in July” in this family, because my brother’s birthday is on the 1st, my mother’s, and then Anthony’s on the 5th, my daughter’s on the 13th, our wedding anniversary on the 14th and my birthday is on the 21st. July is a very busy month in the Ashbury household.

July is also the month we lost Anthony, on the 30th, in 2006. That makes this an emotional month, as well as a busy one. It’s no wonder that the beginning of July always gives a bigger meaning to the start of summer for me.

There can be no doubt that summer has indeed arrived. The temperatures are rising and the days are long. This is the last summer before my beloved retires. Originally—that is, after his last vacation time over Christmas—he’d said he didn’t want to take any vacation, since it would be his last year, and he would in fact be on vacation from November onward into infinity. That resolve didn’t last very long at all. He went back to work after the Christmas break the first week of January, and by the second week of January he was looking for a good excuse to take a week off. I have one “author event” this year, very close to home. I’ll be at KallypsoCon 2017 in Burlington, Ontario from July 13 – 16. That’s “just down the road” from us. David has booked that time off work, and he’ll be serving as my “assistant” during this author/reader convention. What does my assistant do, you may ask?

Well in this case, he becomes my “go to” man for whatever I may need, and also wherever I may need to go by being the power behind my wheelchair, if I need it. I can walk. I use a cane, but I am able to walk—but not for long distances or extended periods of time. Usually, when I attend conventions, I rent a scooter. However, I couldn’t see taking on the expense of one this time when we’re driving just down the road, in our own car, and I have the wheelchair in the trunk of my car, anyway.

There was a time when I would have abhorred using the device, as I know my mother did. That phase of my life—that martyrdom phase—has passed, thankfully. I walk as much as I can, and ask for help when I can’t. Asking for help has been one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do. Give help? No problem, I’m happy to. You need something? I am there, baby. Ah, but ask for help? Not so easy for me.

It wasn’t until I looked on that trait as a kind of unattractive pride that I began to change. I’m still not quite there, and my first instinct is to extend a hand rather than take one, but I am, after all, a work in progress.

I’m looking forward to this event, because I haven’t attended a convention for a few years now. I love meeting readers. They’re my focus, and while sometimes I may be a bit late answering the e-mails I receive from them, I do answer every single one. There might come a day when I can’t do that. But for now, I want my readers to feel free to email me, or send me a pm on Face Book. I will respond!

I’ve never attended this event before; it’s a fairly new one as conventions go, but wildly successful, usually selling out very quickly. The organizer, Kallypso Masters, ( ) is an author I’ve met and admired, a woman who is as warm and genuine as they come. She writes military romance and BDSM and possesses both talent and skill in generous proportions. Her stories are all page turners and definitely worth reading.

This convention is different in that there are limited numbers of authors, and readers. 11 authors, 130 readers, which allows for plenty of good, honest, interaction. I’ve been told that this is a stellar promotional opportunity. I know it is, but I suck at promo—at least what some people interpret as promo.

In my professional life, as far as I’m concerned, there are two things—writing, and readers. I love writing. I love interacting with readers. Whether the sales happen or not I tend to leave up to a higher power.

As I’ve said before, I don’t write for fame or fortune. I write to connect, to touch and hopefully, to uplift. That’s just who I am.