Jmo the Unauthorized Authorized Autobiography: The Conclusion for now.

So here we are again discovering who J. Morgan is, or rather how I got to become J. Morgan, author and sometimes insane dude at the comic book store. For the past two weeks, I’ve talked about the things that inspired me as a young child and put me on the road to becoming an author. Though, inspiration without two very important things won’t get you very far. I think it’s time for us to go back to 1980. Come on it won’t hurt too much. Bell bottoms were still lingering around, but hair metal had yet to come into being. The second British Invasion hadn’t yet reached us, and I had been put into an insidious institution that did much to change my thinking about the universe, Catholic School.

It wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be. Sure, the nuns were scary but gave me many of the concepts I still cultivate today. Some of those ideas have percolated into the books I’ve written and many that will come. But, I wouldn’t call that the most important thing to come out of my education. If I had to point to one thing as a game changer, it would be having  Mrs. Ferschoff as my sixth grade English teacher. On a side note, years later I was able to thank her for being an early influence in my life. Okay, let’s move on to the why she helped me along this path to being a writer. At the time, I booed along with the rest of the class when she told us we’d be writing in daily journals. Who wanted to spend quality TV time writing down junk in some notebook? Apparently I did. She told us we could write about anything we wanted. What we did that day. Our dreams. Our hopes. Fictional stories. Whatever. The point was to express ourselves in words. She wouldn’t even count grammar mistakes against us. Hope my editor takes note of that revolutionary idea. So, I found myself writing elaborate stories involving invading Smurfs, ancient elves, Smokey and the Bandit and the all-time favorite at the time, The Dukes of Hazard. I can’t say any of these stories were any good, but I got stars and chuckles from her when she read them. I wish I  still had that journal. Like all the things from youth, it got tossed in fits of my trying to avoid hoarderdom.

The next few years passed with that spark lying dormant as I rushed into puberty, and knowledge of girls filled what few synapses still fired regularly. Then, writing again crept into my collective consciousness. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bailey, thought it would be fun to do some creative writing. Haikus, poetry of the worst nature consumed my nightly sinking into the dreaded homework. Poetry was for girls, or so I thought. When Mrs. Bailey began talking about some of my favorite musicians being poets, my outlook changed. As did my approach to listening to music. Jim Morrison was definitely a poet. You could hear it in the music of the Doors. Bob Dylan was a consummate poet. So, maybe there was something to this poetry business. I began writing loose fitted ideas down and forming them into poems and discovered I liked the process of doing it. Again, I won’t admit to them being especially good or well written but I liked doing it. Let me say this, all these poems were being composed without the threat of homework hanging over my head.

Our last assignment in creative writing was a short story. I pulled out all the stops to really impress her with my imagination. Unfortunately, this short story does still exist, but it shall never see the light of day. You can thank me later.

College was all about becoming an artist. Then one day close to registration I had to pick out an English elective to round out my requirements. In process of finding the easiest one to pull up my GPA, I saw something listed that blew my mind, Science Fiction as Literature. I rushed to sign up because a class this awesome sounding had to fill up quick. I succeeded in getting in and could hardly wait for next semester to get here. When it did, the class was everything I had hoped it would be, and dare I say more. Dr. Mc Guinness introduced me more to new authors and stories. He taught me the true purpose of school. It wasn’t, and isn’t, to teach you to read, write, and do math. Its purpose is to educate your mind to the concept of thinking. Don’t accept ideas you get from teachers and books. No work out for yourself the truth you find. Does it hold up to investigation? Does it ring true? The older I get, the more I see every day the truth in what I learned in his class. Ideas we held as truth back in the 90s aren’t true now. There aren’t nine planets in our solar system. History isn’t always how we see it today. Millions of little truths change as we as humanity learn more about the world we live in. I think out of everything I ever gleamed from my seventeen plus years in school, realizing the need to think for myself is the greatest thing any person could discover for themselves.

Other teachers reeducated my thinking. Another English professor Dr. Loomis continued to give me wonder in unravelling the hidden meanings behind some authors’ works. She gave me a love for Nathaniel Hawthorne that still amazes me when I reread one of his stories. Horror as Literature, another Dr. McGuiness class, continued my love of Hawthorne. I did take a creative writing class, but can’t remember the professor’s name, but I did like the class, but it was the above professors who I mark as the greatest influences on how I would later approach writing.

When the time came for me to actually pick up a computer and begin writing, I had only one influence that mattered, my wife Jenna. So much of who I am today comes from her loving me and me loving her. My daughter Morgan inspires a lot of my characters in little ways. The friends I’ve made since becoming a published writer have not only inspired my stories and its characters but they’ve helped teach me the mechanics of being a writer. They are much too many to list here and I wouldn’t dare to try(,) afraid I’d leave one of them out.

As I draw this who is J. Morgan diatribe to a close, I hope you take one thing away from it. Writers don’t become authors overnight. It is a long process of experience, inspiration, and determination. It isn’t a road walked alone. It is a life lived with love, pain and some tragedy involved. To truly express yourself in words upon a page or screen, you must first live and fully understand your world around you. Then, decide for yourself if escaping from your world and running to the one in your head will be a ride others will want to take with you. If you can honestly say yes, then begin writing and I can’t wait to see what your worlds are like.

That’s it for this week. Now, if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’ll go back to being a sick whiny man and annoying my wife with questions like, “Do you think I have fever?”.

Bye folks, and as always Happy Reading,

Jmo

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Jmo the Authorized Unauthorized Biography: Part Two

Last week I began the journey of how I became a writer. To recap. I got sick. I read a lot and became a geek. See pretty easy. But, we all know it’s more complicated than that. Writing is all about experiencing things, or in some cases wanting to experience things. That’s where reading comes in handy, but we’re jumping ahead of the story.

So, let’s backtrack to 1977. Bellbottoms were all the rage, as were sideburns, disco, and several other things I still try to forget. To state it as delicately as possible, my mother dressed me funny, and I went as fat Elvis for Halloween. There, my childhood horrors are all laid bare for you to imagine and snicker at.

1977 is important for a lot of reasons. I turned 8 for one thing. America turned 201 and in May of 1977 my life was forever changed! I know that is pretty shocking to hear someone say but it is nonetheless true as my wife and family can attest to. As the year began no one could foresee that not only my life but countless others would be sidetracked by something as insidious as a motion picture. If they had, I doubt they would have let it be shown in theaters.

To backtrack a bit in the auspices of adding flavor to the story, I had already developed some small love for Science Fiction. Planet of the Apes had instilled a love of the futuristic what-could-be in me. Well, it was about to be blown away by one simple phrase…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Yep, you guessed it. Star Wars. I am not saying it suddenly turned me into an author. Things like that don’t happen in a second or even in a few years. What Star Wars did though was fuel my imagination. At the time, I had no idea there would be a second or even third movie. That left me only one recourse to find out what happened next. I made up stories. That summer I think I flew the Millennium Falcon from one end of the galaxy to the next. Okay, I flew Vader’s Tie Fighter from one end to the next. Bad guys get all the cool toys and I wanted me a Tie Fighter so bad I could taste it. I had already been playing around with making up stories but now I had a purpose. To take over the universe.

My imagination didn’t stop there. The 70’s brought me another true love. The Three Musketeers came on TV on Sunday night and I was spellbound. Michael York and Oliver Reed instantly became my heroes. I wanted a sword, a big floppy hat, and boots that would have made Puss jealous. On one of my many trips to the local library I found the book and spent many hours in France. As a result, when not saving the, or enslaving, the galaxy rather, I was fighting the Cardinal and saving fair damsels in distress. That my friends is what I call a lot of overactive imagination at work.

Fortunately, I had a lot to spare. Good thing too, because my trifecta of greatest loves was about to stumble into my life. On yet another trip to the library, yeah, I was one exciting kid, I saw this strange book. It was white with like this ring thingie in the middle with strange writing all around it. That wasn’t the weirdest thing. No, it had a giant eye in the center of the ring. Drawn to it, I picked it up and flipped through the first few pages. It opened with a birthday party of all things. While my grandmother found some books of her own, I began reading. There were strange things called Hobbits who lived in a place called the Shire. There was even a wizard who made the best fireworks. Now, I liked wizards and fireworks. My grandmother came back to pick me up but it was too late. I was on a quest. To Mordor! With the Fellowship of the Ring. Btw, I would go on to own this book and the others. In fact I own probably around three or more copies of it for some weird reason.

I was no writer yet, but hey I was only nine. All my stories took place in my head, but what stories they were. I think the point I’m trying to make in a rambling sort of way is that you can’t be a writer unless you have great inspiration early in life. I’m not saying Star Wars and Lord of the Rings work for everyone, because we’re all made different. What appeals to me, isn’t necessarily going to jazz up the guy or girl next door. It’s all about finding something that you love and makes you happy when you read it, or watch it. That’s what inspiration is all about. It’s not what someone else says you should love. Nope, love is personal and should never be dictated to you or forced upon you by popular vote.

I really can’t tell you why these three things impacted me so strongly, just that they did. As I’ve grown older, I’d fallen in love with other genres, but none of them resonated with me like these have. I can ride a horse and travel out west and get submerged in the story as it unfolds. I can even get locked in a haunted house and scream my head off until I’m able to rip open ‘The End’ waiting for me on the last page. Since you probably know already, I write Romance novels, you know I can fall in love with the idea of falling in love between the pages of a good book. Reading is about, for me at least, falling into love each time you open a book. Doesn’t matter the book, it’s all about the ‘escapist’ emotional connection you feel from the first word of the first paragraph that lasts until the last breathless word of the last page.

Through becoming a writer, I’ve discovered the art of fiction is the same way. Unless you fall into love with the first word you write and keep that love growing to the last page, it shows. I hate to say it but I don’t always succeed in accomplishing that. The hardest thing about writing is staying in ‘love’. Life drives creativity totally away at times. Heck, even the story will present problems you hadn’t envisioned when you start out. Sometimes, gasp!, you’re just plain wrong about what your own story should be about. Just because you love something, it doesn’t automatically mean you understand the complexities of it. Otherwise men and women wouldn’t be two different species most of the time. Okay, all of the time, but you get the point.

First loves are always the strongest loves of all. You remember your first kiss but rarely the tenth or so. When writing, it’s up to you to keep that love alive not only for yourself but for your readers. That might be the hardest thing of all to do. This brick wall, if you hit it, shouldn’t discourage you from writing. It’s the point where honesty comes in. you have to be honest enough with yourself to say this honestly isn’t working and you need to step back until it does work. Forcing it will bring you some honesty you really don’t want. It comes in the form of the greatest and worst thing an author has to face, the voice of their readers. Trust me, you would rather wait for a story to work than to discover it doesn’t in the court of public opinion.

Okay, that’s it for this episode of Jmo revealed. Stay tuned until next week, as we get to the unusual education of said me. It sounds more exciting than it is, but the point is to get you to come back and read more. So, there’ll be explosions, international spies, alien abductions with prerequisite anal probes, and shiver, nuns!

Jmo the Authorized Unauthorized Biography: Part One

Last week I had a great idea for a blog to kick off the New Year and all that. Okay, it might have been a mediocre idea for a blog, but the point is I had one. Even intended to write it. Started it and everything. Things, though, just sort of happened. First off, I threw out my back. Secondly, we went to see the grandbaby. Finally and most importantly, I got the final edits on Scrolls of Eternity Book Two. I figured those three things offered me the perfect excuse to ignore the whole idea of a blog. Yay, me! This week my life has settled down and I truly believe I had a blog worthy idea.  I guess it’s up to you to decide if it is one, or just me waxing poetic as usual.

The idea is basically this. People always enjoy knowing as much as possible about artists of any sort and how they became what they are. In my case, it’s creatively confused. Hopefully, you know what I mean. What set me on the road to becoming an author of some small acclaim? That last bit might be only in my mind but let me live with my delusions. So, for a week or so, I’m going to tell the story of a young boy who would eventually grow up, but not become a fully functioning adult, to write books and doodle occasionally.

If you get bored, I won’t blame you for hopping over to another Blog that isn’t being self-serving in its message. Because, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, this is more for me than you. It seems in the process of living to be middle-aged I’ve forgotten who I was, or who I wanted to be when this thing got kicked off. Trust me I plan to only hit on the high points. Why am I doing this? Simple. To understand where you’re going, you need a firm grasp on where you’ve been. Human type people have a tendency to selectively ignore their past. Besides, maybe something in my path to becoming an author will strike a chord in your own path.

Attempting to become a published author is a scary thing. Being a published author is scarier still.  You are asking to be judged first by submitting a book to a publisher, then continuously by those who will read your books. Submitting a book is daunting in and of itself because you’re usually only asking one or two people to either love your baby or tell you the love child that you’ve spent months, years, crafting is as smelly as a baby’s backside after a bottle of iron enriched formula. Trust me, if you don’t already know, that’s smelly as all get out.

Well enough about that. Let’s get this show on the road…

When I was six I had pneumonia. As a result I spent some time in the hospital. Yeah, it wasn’t very nice. Not sure if it was a result of being so sick, but most of my earliest memories are of being in a hospital bed and relearning how to use my lungs. During my time under doctor’s care, my parents and grandparents were constant fixtures around my bed. I can still remember my grandmother sitting there feeding me Melba toast with cream cheese slathered on it and it being the only thing I’d eat. Let’s face it hospital food is about as nasty as school cafeteria food. Another memory is her reading to me.

All my family read. Mom, Dad, aunts, you name it. Reading was as much habit as breathing is. My road to recovery meant I didn’t get to play outside, and this was way before video games. Heck, we only had three channels on TV and only two of them came in with any clarity, without the use of aluminum foil strung between the antennas. Again about television, most houses only had one, so you were held prisoner by whatever your parents wanted to watch. As a result of those restrictions on entertainment, trips to the library were my favorite vacations as a kid. Trips to actual bookstores were absolute nirvana.

By the time I became addicted to reading, 1976 rolled around. The Bicentennial brought about a love of nostalgia about the birth of our country. I can remember reading a lot of biographies about the founding fathers. George Washington, Paul Revere, Babe Ruth were some of the ones I remember best. Hey, Babe Ruth might not have been a founding father but baseball is America’s pastime so he counts. Besides, as a chubby kid, a real life story about a chubby kid who made good was pretty cool. I read other things but those biographies really had an impact on me.  Looking back, I think this is where I first began loving History.  Another thing I still hold onto from my childhood is a big book I got for Christmas from one of my cousins. It was all about heroes from the Bible. I would pour over the stories of Samson, David and Goliath, Daniel with the lions. It was all just so amazing.

My mother being somewhat over-protective after the whole pneumonia thing kept my outdoor activities under a minimum for a while, which only fueled my need to escape to other worlds. Another big influence on me was Sunday Night Movies. From the moment I saw Planet of the Apes on television, I was hooked on Science Fiction. When I discovered movies weren’t the only places you could find things Science Fiction, I headed to the local library. Most of what I read were kid’s books and the occasional attempt at something grander.

About this time, I discovered something else more insidious and habit forming, comic books. My first book, which I still have was the second issue of not only my favorite TV show but became my introduction to comics in general, The Six Million Dollar Man. From there I discovered Spider-Man, a Saturday Morning Cartoon favorite. The Hulk, which was another television addiction of mine. I also liked the Fantastic Four. My parents would take me to used book stores which not only had books but comics as well. It was on one trip I found a ragged out copy of Swamp Thing #8. I fell instantly in love. Bernie Wrightson’s artwork totally blew me away, though at the time I had no idea who he was. I must have read that comic a hundred times until the cover barely hung on. At the time Swamp Thing had been cancelled so instead of hunting every month at the local Drug Store for an issue, I had to be content with finding them occasionally at used book stores or trading with some friends who collected comics.

I’m not sure if being sick and coddled helped make me into a writer, but it make me an avid reader. I’d spend hours in strange new worlds, or living in our distant past. I loved being somewhere else, being a hero saving the universe one minute, or helping George Washington free America from British rule. My growing imagination couldn’t be stopped. So yeah, maybe this was where it all began. I remember constantly making up stories for my Mego action figures to act out or drawing the stories in my head.

Having an overactive imagination in no way makes you a writer. Sometimes it just makes you a little crazy. BUT, it is a key element in what goes into making a writer. By this time, I had it bad, though I didn’t realize it. That’s the funny part about things like this. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your brain is constantly preparing you for what lies ahead. At a kid of seven, I didn’t have dreams of being a writer or an artist even. I just wanted to play with my action figures and maybe become Spider-man. That’s part of the process too. You start out seeing all you can be until you become what you were supposed to be all the time.

I’m not saying I was supposed to be a writer, but for the time being I am one. Who knows where my imagination will take me next? I don’t for dang sure, but I can’t wait to find out.

Come back next week as I continue the story of how a young impressionable boy would become a geek, a student of human nature and ultimately the Jmo you see before you now. Til then, happy reading!