Writers, Go Figure…

So you wanna be a writer?

I think this is a question every would-be author should be asked before they jump into the ocean with the rest of us would-be authors, are authors, and best-selling authors. Why? Well, not to be mean for one thing, but to save some hurt feelings and manic depression if you really want to get down to it. Let’s sit back, well you sit back, and I’ll try to explain what I mean. Seeing as how this IS my blog you had to see that coming. You did stop by to read what I have to say after all. If you stopped by as an accidental Goggle search please free to continue on your way.

No hard feelings but understand you will be discussed in my next therapy session and by therapy session I mean when I talk to the guy in the parking lot of McDonald’s cleaning my windshield while I wait for my McGriddle. Like I can afford therapy. I’m an author. I can’t even afford a McGriddle.

Now, back to this Blog business.

Being a writer is totally different from being an author. An author gets paid. A writer writes because they need to write like they need to breathe. Now, before I hear an outcry of shock and rage, let me elaborate. Writing is something a person does instinctively. The need to express themselves is so overwhelming they write on anything — napkins, notebooks, their palms, literally anything in the rush to get the things out of their head and out into the world. It’s only as time goes by that this need evolves into the idea that somehow they can make money from doing something they love. Let me stop here and say this thought is great and all, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Making money is not as easy as it sounds and should never be the sole reason for doing something. When it is, you’re doomed either to failure or to becoming a heartless robot. Do it because you love it and let monetary gain be secondary in your reasoning.

Even once the concept of making money enters the picture you’re still just a writer. Writing needs a lot of things attached to it before Author enters the picture and a lot more things have to happen before Best-Selling Author is attached to your name. Luck for one thing. Don’t think I’m jaded or being negative about the process. I’m not. Luck is the fundamental element in any success whether it be in writing, or music or art. Why? Because talent and skill does not always equate to success. Most of the artists you know by name, Rembrandt and Van Gogh just to name two rarely made money from painting. They died poor and let’s face it more than a little crazy. Even fame isn’t monetary success. If fame and fortune are your sole reasons for writing, I feel sorry for you. That in no way means you won’t be famous one day. It just means I think you’ll be missing the emotional thrill of doing something that completes you on levels money and fame can’t begin to do. So the first thing you need to ask yourself is why are you doing this? Depending on the stability of your psyche in relation to your answer please continue on your chosen path.

So what does it take to become an author? I’m really not sure if I can answer that question. There are just too many variables in play to answer it. Again, I’m going with luck. Why? Surely, hard work and talent will get you where you’re going in your chosen profession. You’d think that, but I know way too many amazing writers who bowed out, not because of lack of talent, but because of lack of opportunity to get noticed. I’m not saying to fold up your laptop and quit before you even get started. Just do what you do because you love it and not for the reason of getting rich. I got sidetracked by gauging my success on sales and not readers reached. Trust me it’s not a backroad you want to go down.

Write because you love to write. Success is based on individual lives touched and not how often your checkbook is touched. The true value of being an Author is that. Over the past 10 years I have become richer not in cash earned but in lives earned. I’ve gained friends by meeting fellow writers and learning my craft from their influence, them picking me up, my failures, and from editors beating knowledge through my thick skull. I’ve become enriched by meeting fellow readers who have become family to my heart. They have guided me in both my writing and my personal life. Lastly, I have become a better man from succeeding in failing. Yeah, from failing. Because when you realize you’re not God’s gift to the world, you see the world as God’s gift to you. That world consists of His gifts to us, our talents, our family, and our friends. I, and a lot of my fellow authors, use those skills to bring joy to our friends and in the process we make more friends and for some blessed few we become family.

So, here’s to my fellow aspiring writers. May we one day become authors and call the world our family. Until then, let’s write like there’s no tomorrow, and read like the world is make believe. Me? I’ve been living in Middle Earth for so long, I have no clue what the real world even looks like.

Until next time, Happy Reading! And watch out for Orcs.

Jmo

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Rediscovery

This past week has been a bit of normal except for an upper respiratory infection that has kept me on sicky poo lock down. Not really. Being an adult, sick is just a state of mind that doesn’t prevent things like work and yard work. Though I have avoided the crap out of yard work with the exception of taking the trash cans to the road on garbage day. Still, being sick puts a damper on the creative juices to the point I’ve managed to avoid writing almost all together. But, is that necessarily a bad thing? During the heat of the not writing moment, I would have screamed a resounding yes.
Toward the end of this cold–hope it is at least–I have different thoughts on the subject. Sick is a chance to take a mental slow down and rest. Personally for me, I only tend to get sick when I’ve been pushing myself and haven’t given my body the rest it needs. Quite honestly, I don’t give my body or spirit a lot of things they need. Then again, does any of us really? Don’t bother to answer. We all know the answer, so let’s not bother to lie to one another.
I’m writing. Not as much or as fast as I would like, but I am putting word to page. At the moment, I think that’s the important thing. The whole process of freeing the story from the locked recesses of your mind, I mean. Once upon a time, it was the easiest thing in the world for me to do. I could just as easily watch my books unfold in my head and let them wash out onto the screen. Age and medication has made the process a bit more complicated but I am in no way ready to fold my notebook in half and toss it in the back of the closet.
I know of late my missives have had a maudlin flavor, and for that I refuse to apologize. I am documenting my crawl from the darkness. To deny how I truly feel would be to deny this path. I am not hiding who I am or my emotional descent into whatever. I want someone to read this and say, I’ve been there and totally get it. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. Not totally me, but close enough I can see myself when I look into the mirror. You’re welcome to take a gander. Whether or not you appreciate the experiences etched in my face and soul is entirely up to you. I am not asking for sympathy or pity with these blogs. I’m asking you to look at yourself and make certain the things I write about aren’t glaring back in your mirror. It’s too easy to miss that something is wrong. Too easy to write it off as just another bad day, or that everyone has these moods every once in a while. Because, before you know it that one bad day is a crappy month and rapidly becoming a year eating at your last nerve. I’ve been there and it isn’t a very pretty place to call home.
The thing is we need to fall on our knees. We need to lose our way and get stuck up against walls. If everything came easy, there would be no struggle, no reason to strive to become better than we are. This is our moment of discovery. Maybe, rediscovery is the better way of looking at the situation. I’ll fully admit before this wall, I’d pretty much run out of juice. Nearly 25 stories and I had become stagnant and bored. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t see the end of the story. No the probable WAS I could see the entirety of what was to come. There were no secrets left to uncover. There was no mystery. Nearly, a year and a half later I’m still in that pocket of finding me, but I’m getting closer to finding out who I am with 47 years under my belt.
As the words once again begin to flow, I’m excited at what’s coming out. I feel matured in what I have to say. Not a hundred percent grown-up, but not all boy either. I never want to grow out of who I was on the journey to becoming the refined me, burned bright in the fires of tribulation I’m going through. No, growing up should be an ongoing extension of you. You should never have to sacrifice parts of yourself in the becoming. If you do, you aren’t being honest to yourself, your craft, or to anyone you meet.
So I’m going to sign off here because this honesty is a bit unsettling. As an author I like to deal in fiction laced with honesty. Total truth is a tad too much for me to put out there, but then again, in the heart of fiction there is only truth to be laid bare. It is up to the reader to find you among the lies we call fiction. So I invite you to see me among the masks and tell me if you can see my journey or do I still have a lot more growing up left to do?
Good night my friends, and as always Happy Reading,
Jmo.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my many Moms

I have truly been blessed to have many mothers over the years. I know that sounds weird but it’s nonetheless true. Being someone’s mom isn’t always about birth and blood. Sometimes it’s about simply expressing unconditional love and being a positive influence on someone’s life. In this, I have truly been lucky. No, not lucky. Blessed, like I said before. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe God gives you the things in life you truly need and if that thing is love, then my life is a miracle above all others. Truly, anytime you have love come into your life for any period of time, you are enveloped in a miracle.

Throughout my life, I’ve had that. Most of the time I didn’t really appreciate it, but then again what kid does? We’re a selfish lot until basically we die. Sometimes though, we mature to the point where we see that we are the person we are thanks to the love of some very special people.  Me, I can look back and see four amazing women who started me down this path to being the man I am today. My mom of course, who gave me so much of who I am inside, be it good or bad. Still that’s what it’s all about, balancing the good against the bad and learning to accept ourselves for who we are. I am my mother’s son, but I am also myself in spite of who I came from. Please don’t think that statement in any way is a slam against my mother. I love her dearly and she did the best she could, but I’m more than the genetic makeup she and my father gave me. I am the product of the nurturing of my environment balanced with that slice of Ancestry dot com.

The first influences on anyone’s life is our family. Mine is seriously matriarchal to say the least. I come from a family of strong independent women, who had to be strong to live through wars, death, and hardships most Americans will never experience in this technological world we live in. Their strength got passed down to their children and ultimately to us, their grandchildren. Before I move any further I’m going to say this in all honesty. My daughter and grandson are worse off because they had limited or no contact with my grandmothers. My grandmothers were heroines and pillars of strength and love within our family and the days we lost them, our lives became poorer. So, I can very easily say my first two mothers outside my real mom were these amazing women, who taught me the value of reading, education, and the strength that can only come from family. The same can be said of my Aunt Peggy, who helped fuel my desire and addiction to reading. To this day, she inspires me to read and never stop learning. You probably have her to thank for my ability to write. Blame her, or whatever. I leave that up to you.

I know it might be stereotyping but the South is full of strong women. It’s like we breed them from the high iron content in the soil or something. However you wish to view it, I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by these type of women through my life. My Aunt Evelyn and Aunt Doris are another example of why when a woman says don’t wash that kitty, don’t wash that kitty. My butt still burns from that whooping I got forty some odd years ago, but I digress.

Family weren’t the only influences I had growing up. Mrs. Williams, my third grade teacher, would be the next ”mom” to come into my life. She stood all of four foot if she stood an inch, but she taught me a love of learning and knowing things that go on to this day. As I entered Junior High, I got two new moms, Mrs. Merle Peirce who taught me Gifted Computer Science and Veronica Tappin who taught Gifted Humanities. Both women in their own right instilled in me a love of Science and Magic. Mrs. Pierce showed me there were no mysteries that we couldn’t unravel if we simply analyzed them to their core parts. Mrs. Tappin showed me magic existed in the world. In our rich history of humanity, magic constantly showed itself in the minds and imaginations of us the world’s children. If you have spent any time within my books, you can see the fruits of those ideals grown into a reality all their own. Thanks, to both these beautiful and smart women for giving me such a wonderful gift. Someday I hope I can pay this forward so their legacy can go on forever.

Entering High School, I found myself once again blessed, this time in the form of Mrs. Andrews. She truly became my mom, as she did to so many kids who passed through her class. Her son Sam was also a classmate of mine through high school. I think that created a bond with those of us who shared her class. Many times we spent our free time sitting in her classroom discussing whatever. During our time under her guidance, she further instilled the desire for learning and more importantly the belief that no matter what adversity came our way we could overcome it because we were stronger and smarter than we gave ourselves credit for being. Why? Because if she believed in us, it had to be true. Even as I grew older and doubt fueled me on to failure, I remembered back to her words, and fought out of the funk to do the ”impossible” or the impossible that my brain said would be a hurdle. The world is truly a sadder place without her, but she lives on in the hearts of ‘her’ kids as they inspire new generations of children to believe in themselves and the impossible only they can do.

That’s the thing. The beauty and wisdom of these women does not fade upon their deaths. I have lost some of my ‘mothers’ over the years, but whatever sadness my soul aches with their passing is forgotten in their memories living inside me. The valuable life lessons they beat through my thick skull are still there, and they continue to make me someone greater than I could have been if left to my own devices. God still places moms in my life to guide me through the worst part of my maturing. I thank Him every day for them. I am weak but the people He puts in my life makes me stronger and clichéd as it sounds, makes me a much better man.

Before I wrap this up, I want to thank a couple more people. They aren’t exactly moms but they are my contemporaries and constantly teach me to stretch my limits, give me comfort and give me love. Lynne Connolly thank you so much for your constant belief in me and the music talks. Alysha Ellis, thanks for being you and understanding sometimes that all it takes is some weird British geek speak to make things better. Lastly but in no way least, Paisley Kirkpatrick, thanks for simply being you. Love you more than words can say. Thank you for the fruitcake and truly making me a better man than I ever would have been without you in my life.

As I sign off, I want each of you to consider those other moms who have stumbled into your lives and your heart. Say a thank you or a prayer for them. Whether you notice them or not, they are a great part of your lives and the reason you are you. That alone makes them awesome and worthy of the love they share and deserve in return.

Until next time,

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Reading,

Jmo!

Saying Goodbye for Now…

Sometime back around 1981 — at least that date sounds familiar. Anyway, I fell in love. Not with a woman though I’m sure a girl did occupy my thoughts, because quite frankly, I still go weak in the knees at the sight of blue plaid skirts and white button up shirts. It’s a Catholic thing, so don’t try to understand it. Back to what I was saying. I fell in love.

Fell in love with a voice. Yes, it’s possible, so don’t even try to fight  with me over this. Riding home from school, our bus had a radio that pumped out the local station Rock 102. The song that blared sent all the teenagers into fits of Karaoke, way before we knew what that was. The song was Little Red Corvette and I was hooked. That day started a forty year love affair that will probably follow me to my grave.

I can’t really say why the song captured me the way it did. Maybe it was the sexual rebellion the song sparked within me. It could have been the music itself speaking to me on a primal level, or the melodic lyrics that said so many things my brain hadn’t yet fully understood. Whatever the case, Prince Rodgers Nelson became my musical Jedi Master that day. By the time Purple Rain came out at the movies, I’d picked up his back stock of albums and had already conceived several plans to sneak into this R rated slice of heaven. I am pretty certain back then the only reason I clung to my Prince love was his glorification of sex and the dropping of the F Bomb. Teenagers. Go figure?

Then again to be perfectly honest, I had already developed a deep and abiding love for Rhythm and Blues from my parents. Dad loved old school rock in the form of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Big Joe Turner, not to mention Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. Mom was all 70s funk. Earth Wind and Fire, Ohio Players and the Commodores. Man, I can’t even begin to name all the musical influences I had growing up. It’s no small wonder that when I began to mature in my musical tastes I’d develop strong and definite opinions of my choices.

Looking back I can honestly say Prince was more of a rebellious streak for me. Prince taught me many things on my road to being who I am. Creatively he taught me to take chances. He showed me the value of never accepting good enough and to always push whatever envelope I found myself fitting into. At the time I probably didn’t see him as a mentor. I just saw him as the soundtrack to my life. Purple Rain defined my 80s. Diamond and Pearls my 90s. Musicology my 2000s. I’m still trying to nail down which album is summing up my 20tweens but I’m sure it’ll come to me sooner or later. The point is, Prince is the godfather of my painting and writing for so many reasons he should get a co-writing credit on my books.

But, I don’t think I can stop with just letting him take the blame for my imagination running wild. It would so belittle the impact he had on my growth as a human being. I always find it strange that people assume something about a person based on their color and geographic location. It never occurred to me to hate someone based on either of those things. Being a douchebag gets you on the list automatically. Prince helped cement my view on accepting others based solely on who they are. I have met many people over the years and adopted them fully into my heart. When I see them, I don’t see color. I don’t see religion or lack of the topic. I don’t even see political affiliation or sexual orientation. I see a person who completes my life in some mysterious way that I can’t explain nor see a need to even try. They are, and the fact that they are makes me happy. Not sure that sole credit for the belief rests with Prince, but I’m giving him partial credit. The rest I’m giving to Jesus for giving me a heart open to loving without condition.

This past week and a half has given me a lot to think about. That is often the way when you lose someone close to you. I know I have never met Prince except in my dreams, but he has been a real part of my life nonetheless. Losing him so suddenly like this has left an empty spot I struggle to fill. Not with another person, but with the memories of his music and the times in my life he was with me through the songs he wrote. I think along the way we are given people who influence us whether they know the impact they have on us or not. These people help shape the people we ultimately become. If you think about it that way, maybe the old adage is true. Live the values you speak, because your life is a roadmap for others to follow. I for one don’t want to be the one paving the road to hell for someone else. I have enough trouble keeping myself off that road without worrying about anyone else’s path.

So, as I say goodbye to Prince, I want to express rather inadequately the thanks I wish I could have given him personally in life. Since sadly that option is no longer open to me, I will live my life as he had. A living example of using the talents God gave me to their fullest and giving the world an example worthy of the man who showed me that Purple Rain is not just a song, it’s an ideal to live by.

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

Jmo wishing you all

Happy Reading and a life full of that laughter.prince