Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 26, 2017

I have a very low threshold when it comes to being content. It really doesn’t take a lot for me to consider myself to be reasonably satisfied in life. I suppose that’s a natural outcome from having lived a life where nothing much was guaranteed. You know how the so-call experts say that most families are only a couple of paychecks away from financial disaster? That was us for most of our years raising our kids. I’ll be honest with you: we got through it, but I sure as heck wouldn’t want to do it all over again.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about when it comes to my state of mind: I’ve often told family and friends that as long as I have enough coffee and bathroom supplies, I am content. Yes, that seems like fairly low expectations. But I can easily imagine how many people don’t have even that much. I’m grateful for the path I’m on, a path that has spared me from extreme hardship. I was born into a nation that hasn’t had armed conflict within its borders for over a hundred years. Not only that, but this is a land of relative prosperity. I never went without a meal, as a child. Maybe missed a few as a parent raising small children, but my kids never went without a meal, either. Nor did they ever suffer a “poor” Christmas or birthday, even when we were just a couple of paychecks away from financial disaster. As much as I know my life could be “better”, financially speaking, I am far more aware that my circumstances could always be much, much worse.

Gratitude and a positive attitude are so important in life, and I wish I could convey to everyone, just how crucial they really are. Those two things are vital to your mental health, I believe that with all my heart. As bad as things can get, and trust me, they get bad for everyone from time to time, if you stay grateful, if you maintain a positive attitude, the sharpest edges of the travails you’re traversing will be dulled. As long as you can keep your spirits up, then the muck you’re walking through stays on the bottom of your boots and doesn’t splash all over you and those close to you.

Now please, I don’t want to hear anyone tell me I don’t understand what it’s like; that I couldn’t possibly know what it is to experience (fill in the blank). I do understand. I’ve experienced times of great want, and times of great personal tragedy. My life has not been all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, to paraphrase a song from my youth. But no one’s is, and if you can understand that, then that right there is a huge bonus. That’s the first step. You can tell yourself, “ah, ok, it’s not the cosmos crapping just on me. This sort of thing happens to everyone”. The second step is to understand that hard times really do not come to stay, they truly do come to pass. So wash your face, brush your hair, put on a smile as you don your jeans and tee—and get to living through the day you’ve been given. 

We’re all in this together. Maybe we have differences, but that’s ok. In any given group, not all of the people agree about all of the stuff. That’s what makes life interesting. We were blessed with the great good gift of free will, and that gift absolutely guarantees diversity.

But we, all of us, are in this together. So don’t worry. When the water starts rising in your boat, know that you’re not alone grabbing that pail and bailing. Just take a look around the harbor. We’re all working right along side of you to stem the flood.

We were never intended to live our lives in isolation, but to band together in community. And just as hard times are easier to get through when shared, so, too, is joy multiplied that exact same way. 

That’s truly the way we were made.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Medieval Dragons and a Dragon with a Difference. Lindsay Townsend

Painting by C. J. Begas, 1828 (public
domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
Medieval people believed in dragons. In the east, dragons were seen as powerful, imperial, and signs of good fortune and plenty, but in the west they were often linked to Satan, the devil, "The Old Serpent", and regarded as trouble.

Sometimes such creatures are called dragons, at other times they are worms or wyrms, armed with poison like a snake. The hero Beowulf fights a dragon who lives in a mound and guards a treasure hoard. The Vikings believed in dragons that were more like serpents, so in the Poetic Edda we learn how Sigurðr killed the dragon Fafnir, who behaves very much like a snake.

Sigurðr and Reginn went up onto Gnita-heath and there found Fafnir’s track, where he slithered  to the water. Sigurðr dug a pit there in the path and went into it. And when Fafnir slithered away from the gold, he breathed forth venom, and it fell down onto Sigurðr’s head. And when Fafnir slithered over the pit, Sigurðr stabbed him in the heart with his sword. Fafnir shook himself and lashed about with his head and tail.


In Viking art dragons appear lithe and sinuous, coiling about. However ominous, they were popular in stories, suitable opponents for warriors in tales.

The appearance of dragons in the Middle Ages usually foretold disaster. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 793 tells of the first Viking raid on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, and the omens that preceded it: ‘Here were dreadful forewarnings come over the land of Northumbria, and woefully terrified the people: these were amazing sheets of lightning and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.’ 


In keeping with the heroic warrior theme but now in a Christian context, several saints battle with dragons in medieval tales. There is the famous Saint George and the Dragon (a dragon lays waste to the countryside and is offered sheep, youths and maidens as sacrifices. When the situation becomes so desperate that the king's daughter is offered, the knight George appears and vanquishes the beast.) In the ultimate show-down of good verses evil, the archangel Michael battles the great dragon Lucifer in the Book of Revelations. a text often illustrated by medieval artists.

For my own story of 'The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon,' I took these ideas of might, power, battle, knight heroes, sacrificial maidens and gold and gave them a twist. I hope my readers enjoy the results.

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon UK

The two book series on Bookstrand




More on my blog

Lindsay Townsend



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 19, 2017

Do you ever “cruise” YouTube? I’m going to confess that I do—a lot. Not only that, sometimes I do it when I’m supposed to be doing something else, usually writing. It really is a giant time suck, and I think the challenge of watching just one video should sit right up there along side that decades-old challenge of eating just one potato chip. I’m sure the more serious minded and the more sober of character among us likely have no trouble at all giving YouTube a pass. I’ve never claimed to be either of those things—serious minded or sober of character. I am, after all an author. We tend to be neurotic and full of whimsy by nature.

Lately, I’m an author who should put more time BICFOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard) than I do. So far, I haven’t been challenged on this YouTube cruising habit of mine—truly a time wasting habit—but if I am, I have my “explanation” ready, and in this, I’m blessed. You see, I’m a writer, therefore everything I do can be considered research.

There is some truth to that, in fact. If I could ask for something “more” for myself it really would be more self-discipline. I really do need more of that elusive quality. I try not to beat myself up about things. I’m in my sixties, after all, and I’ve spent most of my life “taking care of business” as it were. I’ve worked outside the home, kept the home, and raised my kids, all at the same time. I’ve seen 51 novels published since my first book came out in 2007. That’s an average of 5 novels a year, which isn’t too bad a record at all.

And still, I do beat myself up over this time-wasting part of my character. I’m not certain I know how to curb it, either. And just when I think I do, I see something on YouTube that is not only compelling, it underscores themes which for better or worse find expression in my novels. If you think my erotic romance novels are only about sex, I would suggest you read one. They have sex in them, yes, but that’s not what they’re about. They’re about people, and relationships and life.

But I digress. I wanted to tell you about a video I watched a couple of months ago on YouTube. (Another digression here for those who aren’t so familiar with this medium. If you see something you really like on YouTube, bookmark it. Otherwise, finding it again can be an exercise in frustration and futility.) This particular video I wanted to tell you about was part of a documentary on a senior citizen’s center, highlighting the effect the programs there had on the lives of those who participated, people who might otherwise just stay home alone all the time. This one woman couldn’t say enough about what a change the center had brought to her life. Her being able to attend that program gave her something to look forward to. The program ran weekdays, and she went every single day it was available.

One of the workers at the center asked her what she did with her time the other two days of the week, Saturday and Sunday, when there was no program running. She admitted to this worker that if she didn’t have something to keep her busy, she might possibly go mad.

So, she’d found an activity she could do, right there at home. The filmmaker’s cameras recorded her industry. Apparently, there was a huge amount of “junk mail” that came to her house through the week. On the weekends, then, she’d sit on her sofa, with that pile of junk mail on one side of her, and a garbage bag on the other. And what she did to keep busy was to open each piece of mail, and then proceed to tear each page of it into small pieces, which she then deposited into the garbage bag. This wasn’t by any means a speedy process for her. This lady didn’t move very quickly and it took her time to reduce full pages of paper to small bits.

I don’t think I can adequately explain to you why this affected me so deeply. On the one hand, I was beyond sad that there didn’t seem to be any family about to visit her, and that her “living” moments appeared to be relegated only to the days and hours the senior’s center was open. On the other hand, I was in awe of her positive attitude. It didn’t matter if what she’d chosen to do with her time was to a great purpose, or not; it only mattered that what she chose to do kept her busy.

A lot of my stories touch on the resiliency of the human spirit. I tend to look at the cup as being half full instead of half empty. And while many believe that hard times only bring out the worst in people, I tend to think that there are at least as many who shine in those circumstances, as those who don’t.

That wise old counselor, Anonymous, really had it right. He said, and it is true: Life really is five percent what happens to you, and ninety-five percent how you handle it.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 12, 2017

Anger and hate. These two emotions seem to be everywhere, filling the air around us with an invisible smog, a choking, cloying miasma with the power to destroy everything good, everything righteous, and everything beautiful. Can you see it? Can you feel it?

It seems that discourse today is all about “sides”, a kind of us-versus-them mentality that has developed into a scorched earth, take no prisoners kind of battle. It’s no longer just a matter that people are on two sides of an intellectual divide, with fervent belief in their own interpretation of the facts.

It’s that there are two opposing sets of facts, period. And for all I know, even more than two. All you appear to need to “create” reality is a loud voice, dogged persistence, and internet bots.

This is all my perception, I will gladly admit this, but I know I’m not alone in my interpretation of what is happening in the world around us. It’s extremely wearing, isn’t it? The word “compromise” has not only been struck from the lexicon of daily social interaction: I greatly fear it is being expunged from our very memories.

I’ve been totally upfront in these essays, letting my readers know where I stand, faith-wise. I don’t, as a rule, proselytize. And perhaps it’s because of my faith that I feel this darkness, this hate and anger spreading throughout the land so very deeply. You see, I’ve come to realize the worst perpetrators of this sickness are those who claim to cling to the very faith that is so dear to me, and at the core of my own beliefs.

What I can see, and what I believe, is their actions and their stated beliefs are at odds with Christianity, as I know it.

I’m not going to preach religion in this essay. I’m trying only to reveal my own intellectual and spiritual struggles with the world around me. And what I see are a whole lot of people whose actions do not reflect the meaning of the words they use to justify those actions. It all comes down to one thing, for me, and that’s having the fruit on the tree. You can’t say you belong to Christ if you are exhibiting behavior that is not Christ-like. This is not judgement; this is called spiritual discernment.

There are many in every faith who hold to good, positive practices and behaviors—behaviors like kindness, generosity, caring, and love. There are those who eschew religious faith completely who are kind, generous, caring and loving individuals. People who spread love, not hate. Christians do not have a monopoly on these qualities. No one religion does.

I suppose at the core it comes down to the fact that we are sometimes confusing two separate nouns representing two separate things: religion, and faith. The first is of man, the second is of God.

I know there is a purpose to the turmoil we’re all witnessing because I know who ultimately is in control. I also know I’m not the only one getting world-weary of the nastiness. I have no great idea or grand plan to combat the plague that is consuming so many in this world today.

All I can do is to say to you, this is what I think it is, and this is how it affects me, so that those who feel the same way know they are not alone. Sometimes, realizing you’re not alone can be a tremendous boon.

There is one more thing I can do. I can re-affirm my own faith, my own values, and repeat as my own mantra that hard times really don’t come to stay.

They truly come to pass.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 5, 2017

Now that we’ve gotten through winter, lost an hour’s cherished sleep, and been April fooled, it’s time to begin to consider the serious matter of gardening. While it’s true that I can no longer get down into the dirt myself, that doesn’t in anyway detract from the joy I receive planning what blooms we’ll have this year around the house.

For myself, I’ve given up on the veggies. The proper place for them is in a nice-sized dinner garden at the very least, and there’s only one place here for us to reasonably put one. There is room at the top of our backyard, but that climb is too steep for me. David continues to experiment with growing veggies in pots. We’ve also heard of a raised “table garden” but we haven’t found one yet. My beloved is considering building one himself. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s in charge of any veggie experiments as I begin to plan for the flowers.

One of my favorite flowers to get from a nursery and plant each spring are pansies. Around here, they’re only available in the very early spring, so I’ll likely be hunting them down within the next couple of weeks. I like to buy a veritable profusion of them, and then put them in the three rectangular planters I have, that will then hang from the front porch railing. They get morning sun there, and with watering, and care, they often fill out those planters beautifully.

My favorite perennial spring blooms are narcissi (the white ones with the yellow and red lines encircling the cup) and lily-of-the-valley. I’m also a big fan of lilacs, daffodils and tulips. It was a couple of years ago, now, that I finally got my hands on a pair of lilac trees. They’re planted, one at each of the two front corners of my house, where the one gets sun until about eleven-thirty each morning, and the other through most of the day. They haven’t grown a great deal in size yet, but they have survived the winters, so far. Near the base of the lilac tree planted on the north-east corner, the one that is shaded half the day, there are several lilies-of-the-valley that my son brought for me when he thinned out his own patch a couple of years ago. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when both the lilacs and the lilies scent the air at the same time. I remember that combined aroma from my childhood. It’s heavenly.

We have perennials lining the short walkway, from curb to stairs, and along the front of the house from the north-east corner to the walnut tree that anchors the south-east corner of the porch. Among those are two peony bushes—another favorite. Some flowers are pretty, and some smell divine—its those that have both of those qualities I tend to like the most.

Last year, we finally planted some gladioli in the back yard, at the back of the narrow garden along the fence. We had greenery last year, but no blooms. My fingers are crossed for this year. We have one “tub” garden, as well, next to the south backyard gate. This we’ve filled each summer with petunias, and whatever other annuals we have left over from planting in our various gardens and pots. The tub is a repurposed, oversized round garbage bin made of black plastic. It stands about four feet high. The flowers in this tend to be the most productive in the yard, likely because the bin started out as a composting bin.

A few years back, we purchased a gazebo and some outdoor carpeting, and transformed our back yard into a pleasant place to sit when weather permits. This year, we need to replace the carpet and the canvas of the gazebo. I’m not confident we’ll get that one done. Much depends these days on how much energy we have, and whether or not the weather cooperates. A new outdoor grill would be nice, too, as ours is nearly done. It’s good to have a list of what you’d like to do, isn’t it? At least having goals keeps your mind, and your spirit, active.

This is one of the things I cherish most about spring, and why it’s my favorite season. It tends to be the time of year when we think about new beginnings, and fresh starts.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday's Words for March 29, 2017

We have a dog, who is actually more than just a pet. He’s the baby of our family, the very apple of his daddy’s eye, and is more spoiled than any of our other children, who were born without fur, ever were.

Our baby is a member of the hybrid breed known as Morkie. He’s a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkie, and he turned four years old this past Christmas Day. He weighs all of seven and a half pounds. We became his forever family when he was eight weeks old. My beloved fell in love with him from a photo my daughter brought over that she’d printed from the internet, from a site here in Canada called Kijiji (which is comparable to Craig’s List).

Three months prior, we’d lost our beloved dog, Rochie (short for ferocious, which he never was), a ninety-pound lab-cross. Rochie was eleven. He’d suffered a stroke overnight, and the only humane thing to do was relieve his suffering, as he couldn’t walk and seemed completely confused and disoriented. David really loved Rochie, his best friend who he’d raised from a pup that had belonged to one of our grandsons. In the months following his loss, David seemed a little subdued. Our daughter informed me her father was lonely when I returned, in early February of that year, from a week away. She told me, admonished me, really, that Daddy must have another dog. I was unconvinced. This led to her bringing that picture and showing her daddy, and asking him if he would like to have “this cute little puppy”. And her daddy, who had previously admonished me in no uncertain terms that there would be no more pets in the Ashbury household? Yeah, he caved like a house of cards.

For the doggie daddy, it was love at first sight. David really wanted the dog, and I’m not one to say no when my beloved wants something. Mr. Tuffy represents a couple of notable firsts for our family. He’s the first dog for which we paid money—and a lot of money, at that. He’s also the first small dog we’ve ever owned.

When he arrived here, we both fell in love with him. He was his daddy’s baby first and foremost, and while it had been agreed that the puppy would sleep in his crate (which was actually a baby’s play pen) beside the bed each night, almost right from the beginning, and unbeknownst to me at the time, David snuck him into the bed with us.

Yeah, that whole pretense of using the playpen only lasted until that day a couple of months later, in May when our daughter arrived to babysit him while we went to a writer’s event in the U.S.

Mr. Tuffy has earned his place as a beloved member of the family. He is, in reality, at the center of life here in the Ashbury household. He will eat dog kibble, but only as a side dish. Otherwise, his diet consists of chicken, pork, beef, liver—and even lamb. Hamburger, not so much. I shouldn’t say even lamb, because it is one of his favorites. Mr. Tuffy has a wardrobe filled with sweaters and jackets. He actually has more sweaters than I do. He has a box of toys in the living room. He sleeps on our bed at night, as I said, and during the day, one may often find him perched on my desk, between my tower and my monitor.

He also has his own “bed”, of course, and that is on the floor beside my desk—his second favorite daytime resting place. In this bed is a “blanket”, and several bones. He loves his bones. We refer to his bed as his bone-bed, and he’s in it for at least one nap every day—unless, of course, the cat decides she wants the bed, instead.

The cat has a habit of stealing his sleeping spots and has stolen every one except for the one which is our bed. On the rare occasions that the cat demands to sleep on the bed at night, her preferred (and only) spot is just above my pillow making it easy for me, her servant, to slip a hand under her and one on top of her as I try to go to sleep—and for her to bat me with her paw if I don’t.

Mr. Tuffy also has issues, the main one being extreme separation anxiety. This has been an issue that developed gradually and unexpectedly when he was about two, and has been ongoing. The vet has said we could medicate him, but neither of us has any desire to do that. Instead, we do what families do when one of their members develops “issues”. We simply cope. Mr. Tuffy is no longer left alone, ever. If we have to go out to a place where he cannot come, we take him to the one other place in this world where he will feel ok—our daughter’s house. She has Chihuahuas who have been his buddies since day one. And, considering the role she played in making sure we had Mr. Tuffy as her baby brother in the first place, it’s only fitting her house is plan B for us and for him.

I’ve known people in my lifetime who would have considered this kind of a problem to be a deal-breaker. I’ve known people who’ve decided after the fact that pets weren’t really for them, and have removed them from their families. But that’s not us. We take our obligations seriously. In our view, once you adopt a pet, that pet is yours—in much the same way that a baby born to you or adopted by you is yours—forever.

So yes, this is Mr. Tuffy’s forever home, and we will likely continue to spoil him, and deal with any future issues he may develop which, really, is no chore for us at all.

Giving in love, whether to a pet, a person, or a purpose is one of life’s greatest callings and purest joys.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday's Words for March 22, 2017

Life sure is complicated these days, isn’t it? Everything happens at the speed of light. People want what they want, and they don’t just want it now, they want it five minutes ago. Not only individuals, but our entire society, it seems, has pivoted to the instant, and even to the unreal.

There are instant foods that you pop into the microwave, aka the instant cooker, to prepare your daily bread; there are machines on street corners and in most stores where you slip a piece of plastic into the slot and receive back instant cash—and it doesn’t even have to be cash you have in the bank. It can be cash you don’t even really have at all.

Then there are all the bells and whistles attached to this behemoth we call the Internet. Talk about unreality? I like to play games. I always tell anyone who will listen that playing a few games each day helps my brain to stay limber. Insofar as that goes, it’s true. But one of the game sites I go to, where I pay a fairly modest annual fee to be a “member” will allow you to purchase, for money, things such as backgrounds and clothing, pets and other accoutrements for what essentially is a non-animated computer-generated image that is your “face” on the game site. Yes, you can pay real money for something that truthfully isn’t real at all. And what you’ve purchased is only “yours” for as long as you’re a member of that site. Stop paying your annual fee? Bye-bye avatar and all those purchased items.

This modern age we find ourselves in is a time when we, as individuals, as a society, have re-defined so very many previously well established and accepted concepts and norms of life.

TV commercials now show an “ideal” home life where evenings find family members sequestered in different rooms in the house, where they’re “on line”, or “watching movies”. Groups of kids in two separate rooms, and the parents alone in a third. This is the new, modern family time.

But it isn’t just activities that are being redefined, it’s actual tenets, the codes by which we as a society are organized and behave. I can recall a time, not so long ago, when individuals and society as a whole condemned the telling of lies. There was a time when, if you lied even once, you became known as a liar, and it was a long, long time before you would be trusted again. Being known as a liar was an anathema.

Making a mistake in life was something we all avoided, and still do, but it would happen regardless, and that was bad enough. But add onto that mistake the crime of lying? That didn’t just make your original mistake doubly bad—it made it practically irredeemable.

But today we are sliding into a world of “alternate facts”. People who should be our role models as examples of decency are lying on a daily basis, and getting away with it. They are getting away with it because we let them. We say they are confused, or not completely informed, or that they really didn’t mean, literally, what they’d said, or tweeted, or any number of euphemisms we use these days instead of good, old fashioned plain speaking.

I would dearly love to see us return to that plain speaking. I know it’s normal for someone of my age to wish for simpler, kinder times; hell, when I was in my teens, I heard older people then express this same, basic desire. But here’s the thing: There wasn’t anything as overtly alarming in those past times that inspired this desire in the older generation for those kinder, simpler days. It was more a longing to embrace once again that which was familiar, that with which they’d grown up. The desire was, basically, sentimental in nature.

It can be very disorienting when the minutia of life changes so much that those who are older can feel left behind, and long for the days when they weren’t in the dark, long for the times they felt included and a part of it all.

That is worlds away and far different from the problems facing individuals and our society today. The problem we face is not a problem of feeling lost in the unfamiliar: it is a problem of being divorced from basic decency and the truth.

The bad news is that until people stand up for what is right—until they are willing to speak truth to power and say, “no, sir, that is a lie”, and curb that tendency toward lying at every turn, things are only going to get worse, and they will get worse in ways we can’t even fully imagine yet.

The good news is that I just picked up a book that many of those very people who appear to be unwilling to do the right thing, claim to hold as a treasured source of inspiration. This book they claim to be the cornerstone of their lives, is a book that they claim to hold in reverence. I opened that very book, and I quickly thumbed to a specific point, and, whew, what a relief! Just when I thought everything had changed—turns out, it really hasn’t!

Exodus 20:16 still reads and means the same, exactly, as it always, always has—and always, always will.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday's Words for March 15, 2017

Crocuses and daffodils and tulips are awakening in my garden, (currently covered with an inch of snow), the grass had dared to turn green in places, and as I, despite the recent blanket of white, await signs that my small lilac trees survived another winter, at times it really does seem as if spring is in the air. My thoughts turn briefly to that age-honored tradition of spring cleaning—and then skitter away from it again. I used to look forward to spring cleaning—when I had the stamina to clean for the entire day. Oh, the joy of having those windows opened wide and the sweet, spring air flooding into my house! Good times, indeed!

I’m down to about half a day’s worth of stamina now, the other half taken up with resting in between spurts of activity. But it’s not only lack of stamina that I, as a sixty-two-year-old woman, must cope with in the here and now. It’s also a decrease in my flexibility and level of mobility that hampers me. Gone are the days of climbing onto the sofa or a chair or even a small step ladder to reach some out of the way spot. While I will, on occasion, use my small kitchen step stool, I’m very cautious when doing so, ensuring I have solid surfaces to hang on to just in case.

The other challenge I have is that I seem to have less “stamina” in holding my focus. Week by week, it seems more difficult for me to keep my mind centered each day on the main thing. Sometimes, the biggest battle is remembering just what the main thing is. I understand it’s a facet of getting older that our memories become less reliable than once they were. Yes, I do understand that, but I sure as heck don’t have to like it. And trust me, I don’t.

I’m at that stage in life where I’ve taken to writing myself reminder notes, and even as I do so, I chuckle, recalling my late mother-in-law and her experience doing the same thing. She was coping with this exact problem, and wrote herself notes so she’d remember what she had to do the next day. One of those notes, on one particular occasion, was to remind herself to pay the phone bill. She showed me the piece of paper as she related this incident. It was a torn scrap, and the words “Phone Bill” were printed on it in her shaky scroll and yes, each word began with the upper-case letter.

As she showed it to me, she laughed, telling me how she’d picked it up, looked at it….and tried to remember who “Bill” was, and why she’d wanted to call him.

That’s going to be me, next year, the year after, at the latest. I just know it. Getting older really isn’t a game for sissies.

My beloved has pointed out, more than once, that a faulty memory can be a fine thing indeed. I can see his point. Since I do, truly, want to keep seeing that glass as half full, I can rub my hands together in anticipation of all the books I can read all over again, for the first time. Now I just reread them to revisit old friends. Then, I will re-read to meet new friends. Sounds good to me.

But despite all the new challenges I face as I get older, I really wouldn’t want to be 30 again—unless I could keep all the knowledge, sounder judgement, and better attitude I’ve developed over my lifetime. And that’s the whole ball of wax, really, isn’t it? The purpose of life is to teach us lessons, for us to fully experience what comes our way, and, learning these lessons, to grow and mature and become the very best person we can be.

For now, I’m doing my best to cherish each day as it comes, to anticipate that my “good old days” are ahead of me instead of behind me, and to practice laughing at my self at every opportunity I’m given.
Fortunately, these days, that means I laugh a lot.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday's Words for March 8, 2017

I’m not much of a movie buff anymore. These days, I don’t even go out to a movie theatre except on rare occasions. I don’t watch many movies at home, either. In fact, my daughter was astonished when I told her that, this weekend just past I watched two movies, one on Friday night and one on Saturday: Arrival, and Trolls. Thinking about this past weekend has brought to mind those times long ago when the kids were younger, and our weekends completely predictable. Every Friday, we’d head to Blockbuster, and pick out four, or sometimes six movies as our weekend entertainment. Every once in a while, there would even be snacks and soda to go along with those movies.

Then, for the next two nights, we’d gather together on the sofa (the boys liked the floor) and watch those movies together. That was family time for us, and those times were golden. They inevitably led to our other great family time, Sunday Morning in Mom and Dad’s Bed. The kids would pile on, usually waking us up, and we’d talk and laugh, tickle and snuggle and read stories. At the time of our lives when we had precious little money to spare, we did what we could to promote family unity.

Supper time, our other great instance of family time, was always all five of us at the kitchen table, every night, together. It was a time of communion, with the television off. You can be certain if cell phones existed then, they’d have been off and away from the table as well—as ours are now when we sit down to eat, just the two of us.

This was our life in those lean but not so dismal years, according to my own recollections. I don’t doubt the facts of those memories. It’s possible, of course, that the beauty of them, the degree to which they were at the time of making them, cherished, might be open to interpretation. We’re all human, and our memories, our experiences past and present are inevitably colored by our own perceptions. We all have filters, built in filters and biases that have been molded and adjusted according to our own life experiences—and how we’ve reacted to those experiences—through the years of our lives.

The most vivid example of this I can give you is something to which I’m certain we can all relate. We all know at least one optimist who, no matter what, clings to their positive outlook. Conversely, we all know someone so miserable that they even complain about the whipped cream and the cherry on top.

It could be said that striking a balance between those two forces, pessimism and optimism, has been my life’s work. I’m not naïve enough to believe that life is all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, to quote a song from my youth. But it’s not all doom and gloom, either. I’ve lived long enough to understand that our perceptions have a lot of power. They have a huge influence on our emotional well being and how we react to everything we experience.

You might not believe this, but the reason I focus so much on this topic is because, from my early twenties, right through my thirties and even into my forties, I really had a crappy outlook on life. When I would look back on my younger days, or past incidents, I had a tendency to recall every time I was dissed or disappointed or hurt. It wasn’t the sunny days I recalled, only the rainy ones; not the joy of a friend’s company I remembered, but the hurt of that same friend abandoning me.

That I was able to change my perspective was no mean feat. It required hard work and prayer, which is to say, I learned to get out of the way, and let God do the heavy lifting on that one.

Once He opened my eyes to the fact that having that negative perspective in the first place was the source of most of my misery and heartache, I finally got on board with mostly looking at the glass as half full.

That’s why I try so hard to encourage people to have a positive attitude now. As long as you practice that tenet, as long as you tell yourself that no matter what happens to you, you’re going to choose to smile instead of cry, then your emotions will be your friend, and not your enemy.

And as long as you continue to choose to be positive, to smile instead of cry and step out on faith instead of cower in the shadows, then, no matter the minutia of the details, you will have won.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wednesday's Words for March 1, 2017

Who could have imagined days of seventy degree temperatures in February? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m 62 and I don’t think I recall ever hearing of seventy degree days in February. What I do recall is being a child of 7 who had a father who referred to the mid-winter month of February with a prefix that was a blasphemous expletive. What I do recall is that for most of my life—and maybe because of my father’s opinion of the month?—hating the month of February for the deep, bone-eating, joint-screaming sub-zero cold temperatures it usually brings.

I think February, ultra cold and foreboding as it traditionally has been, could be used as another example of the principle behind that old saying, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”.

But today is the first day of March. And in this household, March is celebrated as the last month of winter. That coldest season is marked on the Ashbury’s calendars as October to March, inclusive. That is, I believe, the only topic upon which in my thinking that is more glass half-empty than glass half-full. Each season is technically of equal duration on the calendar, according to all the dead scientists and government people who long ago decreed such things.

What I have experienced that led to this outlook, is that it can often be way too cold and even snowing in October, and we don’t get true warmth again until the first or second week of April. Any cold weather after April the first is spring—an unseasonably cold spring sometimes with rare spring snow storms, but spring nonetheless. The up side of using my stated belief in a six month long winter, is that just days after winter has officially arrived, it’s already half over.

This is the time of year that tries what little patience I have. For example, on this past Saturday, in the morning, the weather was chilly and wet with rain, with greenish brown grass everywhere. And by Saturday evening it was cold and snowing. All the snow in our entire area had melted days before, yet we awoke last Sunday morning with a dusting of white covering everything. My inner curmudgeon (which really isn’t so inner anymore) was screaming, enough, already! Get rid of the white kaka!

In the back of mind came the whispered words: patience, grasshopper.

Patience, indeed. I’ll let you know if I find any. In the meantime, my heart always yearns for spring, because it’s my favorite season. It’s the season of renewal and rebirth, a time when it is so easy to believe that anything is possible.

Now that I have flower bulbs planted in my front yard, I look forward to seeing those green shoots poking up. Last year, when several of my crocuses and daffodils and hyacinths were bravely emerging from their winter sleep, snow came yet again and covered them in an icy blanket. I honestly didn’t know if they would survive, or not, but they did.

I’m even more hopeful this year, because in our area the winter of 2016/2017 was a fairly mild one. Or I should say, is a fairly mild one, so far.

My hands will forever itch, each spring, to get into the good earth, working around my gardens and caring for my plants. This isn’t going to happen as it used to because of how very difficult it is for me to get down on the ground and get back up again. Fortunately, we have “window boxes” that we plant each year, and that we then hang on our front porch railing.

While I can get one of my grandchildren here for an afternoon to weed and tend my ground plants, I can get my own fingers into the top soil/peat moss blend we use for the planters. That’s not as personally satisfying as it was back in the day when I could be on my hands and knees in the dirt, ensuring the health of flowers and vegetables alike.

But the secret to happiness really is learning to improvise, adapt and overcome. Because it isn’t the body that needs to touch on these tributes to the past: it’s the soul.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Love Dragons and Romance? See 'The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon'

The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon (MF)
Medieval Creatures 2
Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 24,824
Fantasy,  Historical,  Romantic Suspense

PRE-ORDER HERE!

AVAILABLE: Wednesday, March 8th

[Bookstrand Romance: Historical, Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, HEA]

This story is a sequel to my Medieval Creatures 1 book, The Virgin, the Knight and the Unicorn.

BUY BOTH BOOKS HERE

Blurb

Can Princess Adela, heiress to a deadly destiny, be saved by the love of a knight errant?

The youngest of nine sons, Jesse is used to neglect and hand-me-downs. Becoming a knight through his own efforts, he encounters a beautiful, virtually naked stranger in the countryside above the farmlands of his old home. Who is she and how can he help her?

Flaxen-haired Adela D’Varm is compelled by the magic of a faery geas to remain in the high grasslands until she is rescued by a knight—a worthy knight who must contend with a dragon. But this dragon is no ravening beast, as knights soon discover if they offer Adela any insult.

Amiable and truly chivalrous, Jesse is different. Through their encounters—amusing, tender, exciting—he and Adela fall in love. But, even as they marry, Jesse and Adela encounter a deadly conspiracy and a final test for Adela.

It seems that Jesse has deserted her—or has he?

 Excerpt:


Ahead he could hear a deep rumbling, like a cat purring—a cat the size of a hut. There was a smell of blood in the air and a savour of roasted meat.
Dragons, like wolves, prefer to feast on horses, not men.
From where had that thought sprung? Jesse felt for an instant as if he was bathed in heat—real, forge-hot heat. Older memories and stories trickled up and down his back in a messy puddle of sweat.
A dragon. Walter the shepherd whispered there was once a dragon up on these high grasslands. A creature of faery. Maybe it has returned.
The sweat turned clammy on his back. Trying not to stiffen up, Jesse choked down a cough. Above him, how high and how far off he did not want to know, he listened to the sounds of gnawing.
Turn back or go on? Either action held both appeal and risk. To retreat might mean survival or a blast of fire at his back. To go on—if he bested a dragon, he would be as famous as Beowulf.
No doubt Beowulf was an elder son . With my luck, I could win and gain nothing but a few coins for my trouble. Any treasure would be claimed by my older brothers.
Jesse stopped crawling. Roast horse swirled in his nostrils and, despite his wavering dread, his mouth watered. Wanting to travel light and make haste, he had not eaten well for days. Succulent, hot meat tempted him to raise his head.
A dragon rose on its haunches to tear and swallow a morsel of some animal that once may have been horse. Again Jesse’s hunger flared.
His older brothers would never have attempted what he planned, but that was a virtue. Why not? he decided, as the dragon took another bite. A dainty bite, he noted, for a beast as long as a cavalcade.
It did not kill the knight. The thought was almost a prayer. Inspired—or mad, or truly desperate—Jesse threw down his weapons and rose out of the grass, his hands filled with herbs. He averted his eyes, hardly daring to look.
“Good day.” He was glad he had planted his feet wide apart and pitched his greeting above the steady breeze of the dragon’s breathing. “May I join you?
“I have brought herbs.” He raised his cupped fingers, allowing some greenery to slip from his hands so the dragon would know he was unarmed. “Good eating herbs, wild parsley, wild mint, wild sorrel, also called vinegar leaves. I think you will find they enhance the taste of your meat.”
He stepped forward, placed the herbs on a boulder, and stepped back. “The marigold is simply for the colour,” he added, his throat growing dry again as he sensed the dragon leaning closer.
It must work, a wild, mad babbling voice wailed in his head. Dragons are said to be silver-tongued and to understand speech. And I like animals. Jesse had worked with hawks, horses, oxen, sheep, chickens, and goats and found each creature appealing, in its own way. Dragons were creatures of faery, and perhaps more. If there is a dragon, there must be a maiden close, a living maid. The old stories always have both.
Those jaws of hell gaped nearer, each tooth sharper than any sword. Through his half-closed eyes, it seemed to Jesse for an instant that the beast was smiling, which was surely impossible. Determined to look his probable death in the face, Jesse stretched on tiptoe,  raised his head and stared.
Now he could study it more closely. The dragon  was a shining gold blending to silver, lean and long as a vast snake or a whip, but with powerful legs and a deep chest. Jesse could not see any wings, but he did note, with a certain detached surprise, as of someone who could perish at any second, that the beast was ornamented with flashes of silver and gold scales about its neck, like a necklace. It had a narrow, almost elegant snout, prick ears topped by small, shiny spines, and deep large eyes the colour of an emerald. Strangely beautiful eyes that were considering him in a thoughtful, almost tender way .
“Thank you.” The voice sounding in his head was not his, though how had the dragon spoken?
Jesse decided not to trouble over that and made a bow. He sensed the dragon deftly plucking at the herbs, heard the faint scratch of very sharp claws on the boulder, then flinched as a round cut of steaming horse steak was placed on top of the boulder, laid neatly beside the rest of the herbs.
No one would believe I shared my dinner with a dragon. Jesse ate in a daze. The meat was cooked to a turn, and tender.
“Thank you for the flowers.” Again the voice that was not his sounded in his head.
Jesse harnessed his manners and his wits and swallowed the final piece of meat before he answered. “It is my pleasure.”
A wave of heat surged over his neck, followed by a percussive clap of huge, scaly wings. The force half stunned Jesse, and when he stirred again the dragon was gone.

“Good day.” A small slim young woman stood over him. She gave the same greeting that he had given the dragon, and her dainty bare feet rested in the hollow made by the dragon’s claws. “Are you hurt?”
Jesse shook his head. The woman seemed to be wearing nothing but a cloak. She had a flower in her electrum-pale hair, a marigold.
The same as the spray I gifted the dragon. She has the same colour scales—sorry, hair—as the beast, and the same deep green eyes. What is going on?







Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday's Words for February 22, 2017

I am a believer in life-long learning.

For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean taking courses—although it could. There are all sorts of courses one could take without even leaving home, and a lot of them are free! But basically, life-long learning can even be as simple to achieve as being an avid reader, asking questions about the world around us, and looking for answers.

Life-long learning is more a mind set than it is any specific activity. It means being open to discovering new things. You need to have a healthy curiosity—about the world, the past, new discoveries, people, whatever. Perhaps it comes easier to me, being a writer. Writers always begin with those amazing two words: what if? They always begin with a question, and then go in search of an answer. 

I don’t ever want to stop asking “what if”. I don’t ever want to stop seeking answers—whether they are answers that will be contained within the covers of a novel, or just answers because I want to know them.

One of the things that’s wrong with modern life, in my very humble opinion, is there’s a definite lack of curiosity in people these days. Curiosity is that one trait that has propelled humanity forward, as a species. What’s over the next hill? What’s on the other side of that ocean? What are those lights in the night sky? If you think about it, without curiosity, we would all still be living in caves. Some would say that might not be such a bad thing. I strongly disagree. I believe that without curiosity, the human race would have become extinct long, long ago.

As we age, we humans, we become a little bit like hermits. I find this to be especially true if the times in which we are living are particularly uncertain. It can be so easy to just huddle within ourselves, becoming metaphorical turtles. Fear and uncertainty become awesome weapons in the hands of the greedy, wielded without conscience against the many. But if you give in to that, if you hunker down, close the shades, and live in a fantasy realm of your own construction, you’re not safer. In fact, you’re in more danger than you could ever possibly imagine.

We must keep learning. We must keep wondering what’s over that next hill. We have to keep our minds open to new people, new experiences, new ideas, and new discoveries. Giving in to fear, hiding from the truth, never helped anyone in the long-term. Short term gains resulting in long-term pain is a reversal of an old saying, but true, nonetheless.

Our brains, like any other part of our body, need to be exercised. The more you exercise your mind, the stronger it becomes. The stronger it becomes, the more formidable of a human being you are. Being a life-long learner means you are more likely to develop the ability to improvise when the need arises. You’re more likely to adapt to a changing situation, reading the signs around you yet being able to keep your focus on the main thing. Keeping an open mind, having a curiosity about the world around you, positions you to be better able to overcome the challenges you face. And trust me, folks, where there is life, there will be challenges.

The greedy, the corrupt and the bullies around us can appear invincible, can seem as if they are in control and fear nothing, and yet nothing could be further from the truth.

They fear those who are aware, curious, and insightful; they fear those who excel at the ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In short, they fear the life-long learners of this world and the power of the knowledge, and the knowledge of self they hold.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday's Words for February 15, 2017

As of today, the Ashbury family is at Retirement minus 279 days. Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were at R minus 323.

My beloved has been a little less than chipper over the last few weeks, because that wonderful beginning-of-the-end scenario he expected to happen mid January, so far hasn’t. He’d believed that by this point in his final working year of 2017 he’d be well entrenched in his routine. That routine consists of sitting in his truck, balancing between transporting loads of finished product to the stock piles and reading his kindle as he waits for the truck to be loaded.

He’s still boots on the ground, and the plant (the rock crusher) is yet to be “fired up”. I asked him what the problem was. He snorted. “What else? We’re waiting for the engineering firm they hired to figure out that while something may work in a computer simulation, it doesn’t necessarily work in real life.”

Basically, there’s this new “chute” for a product that is an over-sized rock called gabion stone. According to the computer simulations, that chute manages to control the rock coming out of the crusher just fine. The problem? In the real world, larger rocks cannot, on their own volition or even with the aid of a little bit of gravity, turn ninety-degree corners. Small gravel and sand, yes. Larger rocks? No. They just jam up the whole shebang. The laws of physics are laws for a reason.

I asked him if he was itching to go up to the office and show them, on the chalk board, why the chute won’t work. He shook his head. At this point, having given so many years to the cause, and having been looked down upon in the last several years by those with university degrees in engineering, he said that he’s finally gotten the message, that he isn’t “qualified” to design these pieces of equipment (despite having done so for many years, with his “designs” all having successfully lasted for decades). No, these days he’s quite happy to let the “experts” have at it. It’s not that he doesn’t care. He did tell them, when they first showed him what they were planning to do, that the chute wouldn’t work. They didn’t listen. In my opinion, that’s fair enough. He shrugged and said that it’s not his thousands upon thousands of dollars being flushed down the drain.

My husband hasn’t exactly been physically slogging away, though, during these last couple of weeks. Instead, he’s been managing a few crews of younger men, teaching them how to do other repairs that need to be done, and letting them slog away. Between you and me, I don’t think he minds that too much. The only problem is that he’s on his feet most of the day, and after several years of not being on his feet most of the day, it’s really hard for him to get used to it.

Aging really isn’t for the faint of heart.

He did perk up on this past Monday, as he was assigned to use another truck to do a job connected to clearing a section of the floor in advance of that area being worked. He’s glad not to be on his feet this week, and has his fingers crossed that they’re going to get things back to normal soon. His site has a quota, every year, of how much stone they are expected to produce to meet projected demand; the longer it takes to get started on that goal, the longer it takes to achieve it.

Often, his company ends up offering overtime hours to compensate when long delays happen. I won’t be the least bit surprised if he decides to go in on some Saturdays again this year, as he’s done in the last couple of years. He took advantage of the opportunity in the recent past because in the several years prior to that, there was no overtime offered at all. The person who was plant manager during those lean years claimed that was a company-wide policy; however, that was a lie. The truth was that the more money that manager did not allow his men to earn, the bigger the bonus he received for himself at year end. The result for his employees is that each one of those hard-working people had their annual income cut by several thousands of dollars, each.

You may have guessed that particular manager was the one who killed my husband’s love of his job and respect for the company he works for.

Of course, the grapevine has it that things are not going so well for that man; I’m not surprised in the least. I really do believe in the principle of sowing and reaping.

Or, to state it as popular culture would have it, the karma bus has picked that man up for a nice, long ride.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday's Words for February 8, 2017

There’s this wonderful meme making the rounds. I bet you’ve seen it. It depicts a wolf with a definite air of “smug” about him. The caption reads: “The groundhog said six more weeks of winter. So I ate him.”

This is a meme that I am sure my first born, my son Christopher, would enjoy having printed out, framed, and hung in his home office. He has long held that his favorite holiday, which isn’t a holiday at all, is Groundhog Day.

You know that old saw, “A son’s a son till he takes a wife; a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life”? Well that pretty much describes my relationship with my first born to a tee. We’re not in daily contact, or even in weekly contact. Our communications, never mind visits, are hit and miss—mostly miss.

Then, last March, he broke his left femur when a very large dog decided to attack my son’s dog, got away from his handler, and plowed into Christopher. That collision sent my son airborne, and he crashed down half on the road, half on the sidewalk. Being diabetic, we all knew he was looking at a very long recovery. Surgery was required, of course, and I was very worried about him. I began to text him each and every morning, and some days, I even got a response back. I was trying to get us both into the habit of at least a once a week contact.

I’m still working on that little thing.

But I have hope! On February 2nd, first thing in the morning, I sent him a message that read, simply, “Happy Groundhog Day”. I can tell y’all without reservation he is the only person I know (and I know a lot of people) to whom I would send this message. To my astonishment, he replied, not after his work day, but within minutes! And his reply simply filled me with joy and hope. He said: “Thank you. I was wondering if you would remember.”

That made my day for two reasons. The first, was that he sent his reply within a few minutes of my texting him. The second is the most important, and the source of my hope. He told me that he’d been thinking about me.

I’ve never been one to demand a lot from my kids, not when they were under my care, and not now that they’re adults. In some ways, that hasn’t been a positive thing for any of us. I likely should have demanded much more of them. My parenting wasn’t lackadaisical; it was, rather, parenting done by a woman who’d grown up without a father, and whose mother had instilled an unhealthy level of fear in her. I didn’t want my kids to ever be afraid of me the way I was afraid of my mother. I probably did allow them too much leeway when it came to expressing their opinions, and their freedom to choose certain aspects of their lives.

I’m not going to waste a lot of emotional energy in regret, because my attitude was the best it could have been at the time, all things considered. Hindsight really is 20/20, isn’t it?

Now, back to those prognosticating rodents. Apparently, according to the four varmints I’m aware of, there is no contest as to the ‘forecast’ for spring. The Canadian two (Shubenacadie Sam and Wiarton Willie) proclaim there will be an early spring, as does Staten Island Chuck. Only Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter.

I’m thinking poor Phil was likely rudely awakened from a pleasant nap, and that forecast was the rodent version of “a pox on you! A pox, I say!” One alternative is to somehow imagine that one area of the continent will hang onto winter while the rest of us bask in the hopeful renewal of springtime. I really hate to imagine that groundhogs could have that much power.

Of course, there is one more possibility: Phil could be wrong. But in these modern times, knowing that and getting the little varmint to admit as much are two entirely different things. Accepting responsibility for mistakes is, by all appearances, passé.

These days, truth no longer matters: it’s all about the spin.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday's Words for February 1, 2017

Here I go again, probably getting myself into hot water. It is not my wish to offend anyone. But I must speak out, because right now, my heart is hurting. It’s hurting for many of my friends and readers.

I’ve been watching the Face Book posts that have been entering my news feed since January 20th and even before. I can’t recall another time when I felt so disheartened by what I was seeing. There is so much anger, so much hatred, you can literally feel it choking off the very breath of freedom.

Many of my friends are citizens of the United States, which has recently experienced a very hotly contested election. The divide between the two political parties has been, to my observation in recent years, absolutely toxic, and it’s getting worse. It wasn’t always this way. It doesn’t have to be this way!

A trend began about a decade or more ago that is so full grown now that it’s commonplace, and that trend is to demonize one’s political opponents. It has been noted by various different U. S. researchers that in these times of increased political polarization, people in that country tend only to congregate with and talk to those who are of the same opinions as themselves, sometimes even moving to live near others of like mind—politically speaking. Cordial dialogue and friendship between people of opposing political viewpoints is practically non-existent anymore. This entrenches the concept that “I am right and you are wrong.” But the lies and the vitriol online and elsewhere, on both sides, has poured gasoline on the situation so that sentiment has become, “I am good and you are evil” and even, “I am of God and you are Satan!”

I’m not a part of this great ideological schism, because I am a Canadian. But I am also a human being with a heart and a soul and a conscience and, yes, an intellect.

Anyone on either side demonizing the other, is in the wrong. Period. Anyone on either side telling someone on the other side to shut up, or otherwise interfering with their ability to express their opinion is in the wrong. Period.

My American friends, you live in a nation that holds as sacred both the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. I’ve seen these documents with my own eyes. My beloved and I viewed them on our trip to D. C. back in the 1990s. You call them sacred documents? I can tell you they are indeed, for an aura of sanctity filled the very room they were in. We both felt it, as did all of the rest of the tourists around us, everyone talking in hushed tones. The only other place I experienced anything like it was at Arlington National Cemetery.

What makes these documents sacred to you? That they are old? That you can see them through green glass (which was how they were on display when we saw them)? Or is it the words they contain, the meaning of those words, and the heart and the soul of those words, held as holy truths written during a time when most governments of the day were monarchies or tyrannies?

The following quote is about a part of your Constitution, the First Amendment. The First Amendment, as in the very first thing deemed important enough to be added onto this document of holy truths. This quote is from the Cornell University Law School website, and you can find it here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

“The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.”

Yes, the amendment only forbids Congress from interfering with these rights…but is not congress representative of the whole of the American population? Or do you think it’s all right to spew hate-filled diatribes against your ideological adversaries, because hey, you have a right to your free speech and you’re not the congress, after all, and in addition to all that, you are good and they are evil?

Now, reasonable people will tell you that having the freedom of speech doesn’t allow you the freedom to shout “fire” in an enclosed public space, like a movie theatre, because that would cause a panic, a stampede, and people could be wounded or killed. Can we all agree on that, at least?

Well I believe that you should observe the spirit as well as the letter of the law. I believe reasonable people should also refrain from vitriolic rants aimed at spreading hate against others, because that could and likely would end in the possibility of damage to the spirit and wounds to the soul.

To be precise, you cause damage to the spirit of your adversaries—and wounds to your very own immortal soul. Can’t we go back to the time when we all agreed to disagree on certain things? Can we not offer to our brothers and sisters the very same right to an opinion that we cling to ourselves?

When you deny the right of others to hold their own opinions, insisting all must only believe in yours, at the very least you make yourself a prisoner of your own narrow mind set, ceding your right to change your own mind. At worst, you reject the very concepts of democracy, of a democratic republic and metaphorically turn your back on those two documents you claim to revere.

Please, my friends, can’t we all be a little bit kinder to one another, and respect each person’s right to their own beliefs?

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Thursday, January 26, 2017

RELEASE DAY: Precious Love (Special Operations 7)

PRECIOUS LOVE

Special Operations 7

AVAILABLE NOW!!!

[Siren Publishing: The Stormy Glenn ManLove Collection: M/M, HEA]

Frankie Di Salvo thought he had died and gone to heaven the day Porter Reece walked into his life. The man was everything Frankie had always dreamed of. But more than that, Porter's friendly personality and protectiveness drew Frankie in like an eager puppy. He was willing to agree to anything to keep Porter.  

Porter Reece had been looking for one good thing in his life, and he found it in a gorgeous man named Frankie. The times he was able to spend with Frankie between missions were the only things that kept him going when life got hard.  

When Frankie's life gets put in danger, Porter does the only thing he can think of and takes him back to the compound, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that his fellow marines and friends will help him protect Frankie. But the danger his precious love is in isn't just coming from an outside source. There are those at the compound that want Frankie gone as well.

Can Porter convince them that Frankie is innocent before it's too late?

And even if he does, will Frankie still be around for him to love?

http://www.bookstrand.com/book/precious-love


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday's Words for January 25, 2017

Despite the amazing recovery from the great recession of 2008, times are still really tough for a lot of people.

Those that have jobs may have seen their hours cut. Some are still out of work, or newly out of work, and are just getting by, barely managing to keep body and soul together. For those who are working hard, frustration builds because it’s getting harder and harder to make those dollars stretch. The cost of living keeps climbing while the wages do not. Some people are looking for creative ways to make ends meet, coming up with all sorts of unique money saving options – from shaving cheap bar soap to make liquid laundry soap, to using less expensive paper products to substitute for the costlier. Some are using paper bags to make drawing pads for their kids, melting old crayons to make new—the creativity of the human spirit can be truly amazing.

Free stuff is a great resource, too, isn’t it? When you have the opportunity to snatch up free stuff, it’s a bonus. I like it myself. Some places where I go to shop have “rewards” programs, and there’s nothing better than buying that roast of beef at the grocery store, or filling your car’s gas tank, on your “points”. It really makes me feel as if I’ve ‘won’ for a change.

There is, however, one category of “free stuff” being offered on the Internet that is not free at all. In fact, it’s worse than these items not being free because they are, in truth, stolen property. And, since I am a published author, you may have guessed that one category is books.

Now, if you go to Amazon, or to an author’s web site, and a book is free, that’s perfectly ok, it really is free. The author or the publisher have elected to offer a free book hoping that after you’ve read and enjoyed it, you will then purchase other books that author has penned. It’s a great marketing tool, especially for brand new authors. But that’s not what I’m talking about. No, I am talking about those unassuming looking “sharing sites” where people upload books and say to all and sundry, “come and get ‘em. They’re free!”

The only legal sources of free books are the author, or the publisher (and this can be through valid third party sellers like Amazon, Apple, Google, Nook, Kobo, etc.). Period. If you have or are partaking of web sites that offer free books, and only free books, the rest of this essay is directed to you.

Those books, ALL of those books on ALL of those sharing and torrent sites, are stolen property. When you buy an e-book from the author, a publisher, or a legitimate third-party vendor, it is yours, but it is not yours to share. You may not send it to friends or family, and you sure as hell may not send it to the world at large by uploading it to a ‘sharing’ site. That is called pirating. Pirating is theft.

I know times are tough for you, but let me ask you this: because you’re hurting financially, does that give you the right to steal money from my paycheck? Of course, not—no more than it gives me the right to steal money from yours. I am going to assume that until this very minute—again, as I said, if you were doing that whole sharing thing—you didn’t realize it really is, by legal definition, theft.

No, don’t use that excuse that authors are all rich and it’s only a couple of bucks anyway. Most authors are not rich. Very few authors are, you see. Some of us are just barely making a living—just like you. We need the money from each and every sale. When you steal from us, you are taking food out of the mouths of our children; you are preventing us from providing for our families, paying our electric bills, paying our mortgages or rent, and enjoying the fruits of our own very hard labor.

I know of several good people who are giving up their hard-won dream of being a published author because they are no longer able to support themselves, thanks to the pirates. It was for many of them, as it was for me, their only dream. They’d achieved it! Can you imagine experiencing the joy of achieving your life-long dream—and then the crushing grief of having that dream stolen away from you by greedy, selfish people?

So, thieves—and that is exactly what you are— to recap: you’ve not only stolen our paychecks, stolen the milk for our table and the bread from our babies’ mouths. You’ve also stolen the dreams of those who only wanted to earn their living by painting pictures with words to uplift their readers. You’ve also stolen the anticipation of new stories from the thousands of readers who rely on their favorite authors to help them get through these very same tough times that we’re all experiencing.

If you are getting your books from these “sharing sites”, they’re not free—they are actually costlier than I believe you’re willing to pay.

Please stop. Honor the rights of myself, and others, to earn our living doing what we love to do, what we do best and that which uplifts you in these tough times.

It’s the right thing to do, and I thank you, in advance, for choosing to do the right thing.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Friday, January 20, 2017

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER: Precious Love

PRECIOUS LOVE

Special Operations 7

AVAILABLE: Thursday, January 26th

[Siren Publishing: The Stormy Glenn ManLove Collection: M/M, HEA]

Frankie Di Salvo thought he had died and gone to heaven the day Porter Reece walked into his life. The man was everything Frankie had always dreamed of. But more than that, Porter's friendly personality and protectiveness drew Frankie in like an eager puppy. He was willing to agree to anything to keep Porter.  

Porter Reece had been looking for one good thing in his life, and he found it in a gorgeous man named Frankie. The times he was able to spend with Frankie between missions were the only things that kept him going when life got hard.  

When Frankie's life gets put in danger, Porter does the only thing he can think of and takes him back to the compound, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that his fellow marines and friends will help him protect Frankie. But the danger his precious love is in isn't just coming from an outside source. There are those at the compound that want Frankie gone as well.

Can Porter convince them that Frankie is innocent before it's too late?

And even if he does, will Frankie still be around for him to love?

http://www.bookstrand.com/book/precious-love


AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER: Beyond the Darkness

BEYOND THE DARKNESS

Dark Court 1

AVAILABLE: Thursday, February 2nd

[Erotic Alternative Fantasy Paranormal Romance, M/M, HEA]

Nothing in Zack Banning’s life makes sense. Not the head injury that ended his career, and certainly not the sexy dreams he’s been having about a mysterious blue-eyed stranger who seems to know exactly how to send Zack straight into the flames of ecstasy with every touch. Zack can’t decide what disturbs him more—how much he longs for the dreams to be real or the fact that they feature another man.  

Eljin has spent the last several months frightened and alone. The single bright spot was the tentative connection he forged with Zack, a fellow captive with no memory of their encounter. Desperate to return across the veil but unwilling to leave Zack in danger, Eljin sets out to convince Zack of the miracle that holds them together before the forces conspiring against Eljin’s entire race pull them apart forever.

http://www.bookstrand.com/book/beyond-the-darkness

TIME MACHINE DISCOUNT: Cowboy Easy

~~ $.99 ~~
 
On each day of each year (2006-2011), the following titles were released. We celebrate each anniversary date by offering a tremendous discount for a limited time. Enjoy them now!


COWBOY EASY

Blaecleah Brothers 1

[Siren Classic ManLove: Erotic Alternative Cowboy Romance, M/M]

Lachlan Blaecleah never expected to find the love of his life in the middle of a street fight with two other men, but he knew the moment he saw Asa Miller that he wanted to get to know the man better. He jumps into the fight and becomes Asa's knight in slightly tarnished armor.

Asa Miller is amazed by Lachlan every time he looks at him. He's a walking, talking cowboy fantasy come to life, complete with hat and boots. After being rescued by him and taken home for a night of debauchery at the hands of the sexy cowboy, Asa isn't sure what to do next. Should he stick around and get to know Lachlan and his large family better or run from the feelings the man invokes in him?

Before Asa can make his choice, someone else steps in to separate the two men, on a more permanent basis. Asa has to decide if what they have together is worth the heartache he feels when he almost loses the man he loves. Or should he guard his heart and lose his cowboy forever?

http://www.bookstrand.com/cowboy-easy

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday's Words for January 18, 2017

Are we there yet?

Those aren’t my beloved’s exact words, but they might as well be. After today, he has 307 days to go until he is retired. They’re still finishing up repairs and yard clean-up at the quarry where he works. It’s all part of getting ready for when the bulk of the crew returns and they can fire up the rock crushers for a new season of turning large limestone slabs into various sizes of gravel. When that happens, David will be back in his truck full time, driving from point A where his giant vehicle gets filled with the crushed stone, to point B where the product is stored in a pile on the floor of the quarry.

Until that time, he is doing whatever needs done—and it’s a more physical process than he’s used to. Many nights he comes home so spent he goes straight to bed for an hour before supper, just to recharge his batteries.

I feel for him. I’m not as young as I used to be, either. Each day I learn this anew as I set an aggressive agenda for myself—and then realize my to-do list was a bit too optimistic. Friends, getting older is not for wussies.

I tried to encourage him, when he took over driving the big truck, making his job more sedentary for him, to exercise and keep his stamina where it had been when he first climbed into that truck. After all, we don’t truly understand the meaning of the phrase “use it or lose it” until we’re over fifty. I’d like to tell you he heeded my words of wisdom—but I can’t. No, he gave in to the joy of not having to bust his butt, and simply reveled in the inactivity. The result of this, of course, is that when he has no choice but to be more active, it takes a lot more out of him than it should. Certainly, it takes more than it would have if he’d kept moving.

The other result of his lack of physical activity is that he’s gained a fair bit of weight over the last few years. That doesn’t bother me, image wise. I don’t tend to look at a person based on their physical appearance. But the added pounds are not good for a man whose body had always supported a very modest weight, a man who also suffers from COPD. I haven’t criticized, and was very happy when he announced over the Christmas holidays that he really wanted to lose weight and would, come the new year.

I’m doing my part to see that his goal is achieved. He needs to do his part by resisting the urge of the extra snacks. He knows this, of course. It really is all in his hands.

I take after my parents who were both overweight. I’ve been heavy all my life. Losing weight for me isn’t an easy process anymore and really never was. I have my own health issues, including hypothyroidism, diabetes and heart disease. I also have severe arthritis, in my ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. I had resumed going to the pool, determined to get back to where I had been before my gallbladder rebelled and interfered with my ability to go swimming.

Unfortunately, my reward for several months of increased activity was such a bad flare up of my arthritis that I could barely walk and really couldn’t even climb stairs without the aid of my hands—on the steps above me. The flare up and acute pain have eased off, but my new normal is a lot less active and a lot more painful than it had been. All I can do now is keep moving. I still wear my step counter, and I refuse to just sit still when it hurts like hell to move. I understand that to stay sitting on bad days will limit my abilities even more. As I’ve already said, getting older is not for wussies.

My beloved was thrilled when, just before Christmas, he got a letter from the government about his OAS – Old Age Security. It’s a stipend outside of the Canada Pension Plan that we receive up here, once we’ve turned 65. The letter confirmed his first check will arrived the month after he achieves that landmark birthday.

As for the rest of his future retirement income – his CPP and his company pension - he’ll have to make arrangements for those. He will, from time to time, mention this thing we have to do, or that thing, to prepare for his happy event of retirement. My only input here is that I’ve told him he needs to make a list of what has to happen, and any questions he has.

I don’t believe I’m being anything but fair when I tell him, like his eating habits, that’s in his hands, too.

If you’d like to see a picture of my beloved and his beloved truck, you can see it at my WW blog: http://wednesdayswordsbymorgan.blogspot.ca/2017/01/january-18-2017-are-we-there-yet-those.html or you can go to my website and view my “journal”.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury