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!

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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

New Mes and all that.

You probably noticed that I took a break last weekend. No blog was just the tip of the iceberg where last weekend is considered. No, I don’t mean a reality based reenactment of the Hangover. Being an author is a consuming vocation. Your mind is so constantly turned inward to the imaginary worlds of your books that it’s hard to remember there might actually be a real world out there. Honestly, most of the time we don’t want to remember it’s there. Books, whether we’re writing them or reading them, are our ways to escape from our ‘real’ world. But sometimes, we have to venture out into that harsh reality for our own good. At least that’s what my family tells me.

Last weekend was one of those times. Only my family didn’t force me out of the nest. I went willingly. Apparently when I wasn’t looking, I developed some friends. Strange thing about friends that live close enough to be parts of your life outside a messenger window or Facebook status, they can convince you to leave your house. I know! If I’d known all that, I’d have kept to myself and ordered crap off Amazon exclusively. Oh well. What’s done is done.

That sounds funny and all, but for a long time, my life existed via my family and internet windows. I was fine with that. Really I was. Last year helped convince me, making friends led to sadness and woe. Why? Losing people sucks. Being who I am, I started retreating inside myself to the point where even simple communication became a hard thing to accomplish. Writing? Forget it.

Most writers want you to think that writing is a solitary sport. Something that can only be done when you block out the rest of the world and let yours be the only one that matters. For the most part that is true, but you have to allow outside stimulus to have some part in your existence. Work and the grocery store does not make a life. They make a sad and pathetic way to spend an excellent life. For a writer, it makes for a life without inspiration. For a normal human being, it makes for a life without meaning. Sadly it can also mean a life about to end tragically. For some people, it amounts to a life that never truly began. Maybe that is the true origin story of some authors, lives that never truly began. I hope not, but you never know.

Like I was saying, sometimes we get locked into our own agoraphobia. I’m avoiding the word rut but there it is. Ruts happen and if we let them, they take over every aspect of our lives. And that’s where friends outside of windows come in handy. Friends force you to step outside your comfort zone. They make you basically live your life instead of simply walking dead through it. For the last couple of years walking dead is the only way I can explain my life. Is it still walking dead? In some ways, but isn’t everyone’s life a bit zombie with intermittent happiness to make us go through one more moment to get to the next.

Back in January I did something different. I actively made friends.  Okay, not actively, but it happened without me trying. I mean it wasn’t just one friend. I made a few. This is totally strange for me, because I am the most introverted extrovert you’ll ever meet. It’s not that I dislike people, I just like to like people in small numbers. The point I’m working toward is letting one of these amazing people come into my life at a time. A couple had already been in my life, but I took the time to really get to know them. In the midst of meeting people, and becoming friends with said people, I started to see past the darkness of what my life had become. This might sound selfish to you, but they became my inspiration. I know using people to fuel your imagination is iffy morally, but it works.

People evolve you. They make you become more than you can be alone. They truly make you a better you. My friends have done that for me. They’ve allowed me to come out of my shell. I know it’s hard to believe I have a shell, but we all build them. It’s how we survive. Maybe shell isn’t the right word. Mask seems a better use of the vocabulary. However you wish to describe the situation, I can see myself becoming a functioning member of society because of their influence. Okay, we are talking about people that would hang out with me, so maybe functioning is stretching things a bit.

Let’s say this instead. My friends are making me a happier member of society. Along the way, they are introducing me to a me I’ve never met before, and that’s pretty cool. Who knows what kind of writer that might make me before things are done? Going to be interesting to see. I humbly invite you all along for the ride.

Til next week,

Happy reading!

Jmo.

Rebirth to a New Start… Or some such.

For me Easter has always been a holiday about rebirth and new starts. It has also been a special day for me because of my faith in Jesus and the beginning of my love affair with ‘The Ten Commandments’. That in turn led to my love affair with Egyptian history. Okay, if you want to get right down to it, Easter is what solidified my faith period. Christmas is nice but commercialized up the ying yang, even back when I was a kid. It was more about presents than Christ. Easter though offered true magic. The magic of a risen Savior. I know it might sound profoundly weird, but this gave me the heart to believe in magic. Not real magic, but the kind of magic that’s part of the human condition being able to overcome just about anything.

Imagination is a fickle thing. This fickleness has been the subject of a lot of my blogs of late. I’d be lying if I said my writing is going smoothly. A nice combination of medication and life has been making creating anything a pain in the butt. That said, I got nothing. Writing at first was a fast-paced process that gave me a much needed release of the darkness lurking behind my smiling face. It truly was a demon release type of thing. Now, it feels like the demons have taken over the project. It probably comes from keeping those demons locked up for so long.

I’ve always heard comedians have a dark side the likes that no one can ever believe. As someone who writes romantic comedies, I can tell you it’s true. Why? Comedians laugh because we see the world as it truly exists around us. We feel the pain deep inside those we love and call friends. Ultimately, we take that pain and misery into ourselves. In the midst of sucking all that knowledge in, we transform it into something others can handle. Small doses of reality sprinkled with laughter. See, we can laugh at pain if it’s masked as comedy. Slapstick reality.

Those of us who write comedy have a divine purpose. We make the world safe for others to enjoy. We paint smiles over misery. We create laughter from the tears of others. We bring comfort to the people desperately needing to escape the lives they live, even if it’s only for a moment, a brief grasp at happiness. I’m not saying all comedians are insane bipolar sacks of misery, but some are. Just check out the death rate of comedians. It lends credence to the theory. Not saying it’s a road I plan to go down, but I’ve walked down some dark paths before coming into the light.

But, this blog is about rebirth and new starts. Or, at least it began that way. So let’s stick to that topic.

As I venture forth into 2016, I look at what I’ve done and question it all. I don’t question its worth. I don’t see it as wasted efforts or anything. I just question if that was the path I was meant to walk. Obviously I walked it and walked it pretty well for the most part. I made it this far relatively sane and mostly alive. That has to count for something.

But, what does it mean? This rebirth business, I mean. Where am I going? Honestly, I don’t know. My guts are so twisted up, I barely know what’s hunger, knowledge, or gas anymore. This is the thing that matters most, or it does to me. I’m not ready to give up. Sometimes this confusion hurts worse than a knife in the chest, but I refuse to let it consume me. Instead, I’m letting it define the man I will be when I come striding through the crap that’s piling up around me.

Why struggle when giving up is so much easier?

I might fall to my knees. If I do, I won’t stay down and die. No, I will gladly stay on my knees and ask for the help of the only person who can lift me out of this path of wrong choices. Okay, remember I mentioned that today is Easter – I talked about it way back at the beginning. Well, right now I might not see the reason for this walk through the desert, but God has a plan. I firmly believe that, otherwise I WOULD have given up a long time ago. So when I can work through this fire, I’ll have a story to tell.

And that story will be me. You, as the reader, will have to figure out which parts are real and which parts are made up to protect the names of the innocent. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda – you know the usual BS that people hide to protect the person behind the mask. Well, my mask is slipping and when it finally falls, I hope I’m half the man I hope I’ll be. Isn’t that all any of us can ask of this journey we call life?

Til next time,

Happy Reading and don’t let your new start slip away,

Jmo

A Moment to Ponder

I try to spread myself around a bit. By that I mean, I do more than simply write Romance and the occasional Young Adult. When the mood hits me, I’ve been known to write a poem or twenty.  What do I write about? Same thing I attempt to compose in my books. Emotions. Except in my poetry I don’t hide behind characters. Poetry is all about revealing your inner self, even if it is only to yourself. I think it’s also about revealing how you view your personal relationship with the world around you. in short, poetry is all about discovering yourself. As a result, of all this self discovery, I normally only share my poems with a few select group of friends.

Again, why? Maybe, it’s because I’m afraid of showing the world who I truly am. That fear limits you as an artist in some ways. A lot of ways. So today I’m throwing open my inner self to you my friends. Hope you walk away with something that might give you something to think about and maybe a voice to explain how your own heart searches to find purpose in this strange world we call home.

Sad is the times of our life,

as childhood wanes

into the light of aged musings

Give me the youth I remember,

the soft delight of shadows

across a brilliant sky

I feel the harsh sun at my back,

the gray morning of forever at my feet.

Should I bequeath myself to the inevitable?

And continue the journey,

or sit upon this throne of sorrow,

passing the memories of what should have been

across the tips of my fingers.

a childhood game remembered too late.

My head hung low

I question the fate allotted to me,

Damning the choices that brought me

To the impasse I have given to myself

in hollowness of my arrogance.

Alone I stand at the precipice,

A crossroads of decision.

With a shrunken smile I follow

the path most traveled.

Feel free to kiss the feet of the fool

Who thought everything

was but a handful of ambition away.

Too late realizing

age brings wisdom to those few

who survive the tribulation

they create in the wake of

their passing through life,

yet it does little

to change the outcome.

Life is the hand

we deal to ourselves.

 

 

A Beautiful Disaster

Life is a beautiful disaster. Not sure who said that, but its freaking true. Life paints a painful picture on the best of days, and Greek tragedies on the normal days of the week. So what’s so beautiful about it?

The story of the human spirit that is told in the living of it.

Please examine that statement of fact. If you don’t agree with what I just said, this blog isn’t for you. Thanks for stopping by and checking things out. I promise I don’t hold your moving on against you. People disagree and that is again part of the beauty of the life we live. Let me get on with this before I lose track of what I intended to write.

Any great life is not about happily ever after. There is no happily ever after. There is happily for now. That’s all any of us get. Moments of happy surrounded by tribulation and pain. Those moments might equal seconds or linger on for weeks at a time, but happy is not a constant. Happy is a fragile state of mind. Enjoy it while you can. The story of your life is just like the stories most of us like to read. A rough road to travel ending in a brief but satisfying explosion of happy.

The job of a good writer is to turn that real life journey into a fictional story close enough to the truth to be believable, but fictional enough that people can enjoy reading it. If a person grabs a fictional book, nine times out of ten it’s to escape reality not to be reminded of it. I say writer because writers work for a living. Authors seem to just go on talk shows and cash checks. Not saying all people called authors are authors. Some are some of the hardest workings writers you’ll ever meet. For now, I’m just a writer whose brain isn’t working as hard as it should.

Why?

Because I’m busy getting my ass kicked by that beautiful disaster called life. Call me insane but I think that’s the fun part. And, the part that most people enjoy reading. I know I do. The struggle to overcome those things that we all must battle to move forward to the next hurdle in becoming who we are meant to be. Everyone has heard the saying write what you know. I say this. Knowing something isn’t necessarily the same as having lived it. I know about childbirth but I haven’t lived through it, except you know as a baby. Pretty sure that doesn’t count. If I wrote a scene about it, my take on the subject would be slightly plastic because I have no physical reference to draw from. Doesn’t mean I can’t tell it convincingly, but it won’t have the heart of something told with my own life experiences to back it up. Being a drunken fool riding on top of a car I can pull off like a champ. So writing what we know is only half the battle when it comes to being a writer.

Breathing life into it, takes more than skill or talent. It takes a combination of skill, talent, and experience. Something else adds into the mix, and it’s something most people who aspire to writers don’t have. The balls to lay their souls bare for all to read. Well, enough of our souls to entice readers into achieving an emotional connection with the characters within our books.

All the books I’ve fallen in love with over the years have had that connection. I strive to achieve the same level of love in my books. I want the people who read my books to walk away breathless with anticipation for the next scene. That’s where life experiences come into play. Sure, my books are about Vampires, Werewolves and things decidedly not real life. The heart of my books is about being true to who I am. That truth is in my characters and the story of their lives. The story I lay out is for my friends, because readers sounds so impersonal, to enjoy.

Is it necessarily my life?

No, but parts of it belong to me and I share it with you like I do in this blog. Full of love and the trust that in some way it brings you splashes of love and joy. That is how I mean them to be. My letter is to you all because you are not just readers, or friends. You are the family of my heart.

 

Until next week,

Happy Reading!

Jmo

Living on the Inside

A long time ago I fell in love. Not sure when, or with what, but the emotional impact was immediate and everlasting. How everlasting? Over forty years and still going strong. Have I got your curiosity piqued? I have mine and I know the answer. Yes, I am this weird in real life. What am I talking about? Reading of course. I’d have to be pretty pervy to have been in a relationship for almost as long as I’ve been alive or an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Whatever the case, I have always had a book either in my hand or close by since way before I could read one. I still have one handy if you want to know the truth.

I firmly believe that early love of books led to me being freakishly introverted. Hey, because when your best friends are fictional characters, introverted is the least of your problems. As a sickly kid, playing for the most part wasn’t embraced by my over-protective mother, so I had to experience things through the adventures in my books. Thought I did, at least. Later on I came out of that shell. Came out as much as I am able to exit my hole inside myself.

That last bit wasn’t meant to elicit sympathy. It is simply a statement of fact. Here’s the kicker. Once you’ve become an introvert, completely trusting the world to be ‘real’ isn’t going to happen. The world is the thing that sent you inside in the first place. Most of us are functioning members of society. We go to work. We show up with smiles, and seem ‘there’. Thing is, most of the time, we’re somewhere else when we’re standing right in front of you. Some of us genuinely need professional help. Heck we all probably do, but for some of us, we channel that mystical inside into worlds never before seen by mortal man or woman. I know those psychiatric types might have something to say about that statement but think on this. Without us weird out-of-our-head imagainaunts, you wouldn’t have Middle Earth, Narnia, or any number of other worlds that teach our hearts to believe in hope and magic.

I was and am one of those inside thinkers. Giving yourself totally to a world that gives pain and suffering is such a scary proposition, I honestly can’t see why anyone would want to do it. Then I remember, that world also gives love, comfort, hugs, and so many things of beauty that giving in to the need to disappear inside falls away. It might lurk and wait for an opportunity to come back out to pull us inside ourselves. That’s its job. Our job is to decide to say screw it, and give our love and faith to the world.

Artistic types are good at giving their inside to the world. How many of us listen to a song over and over because it says the things our minds are too afraid to say out loud. We look at paintings or works of art that do the same things. Books, poems, movies, even television shows, give us views into ourselves that we might otherwise miss without someone else showing us the way.

As a writer, I consider it my job to help others see that way. I live inside and rarely do I venture out. Thanks to my family, especially my beautiful wife Jenn, and the wonderful group of friends God continues to grow around me I can walk in the sunshine. More importantly, through my stories I can help others to make that same walk with me. That brings me more joy than I can express in words. As wonderful as inside can be, it’s a dark lonely place that just closes up around you. I still find myself there from time to time. Luckily, as I said, I got people who love me and won’t let me stay there for long.

I know I’m rambling but hopefully in my ramble I’ve come to the point. Writers unleash their inner selves through our stories and books. As magical as those worlds might seem, never forget how lonely the act of writing those stories can be. We might draw inspiration from the world around us, but the world inside us is where all the living really takes place. So, next time you see a writer mumbling to himself, or herself as the case may be, just be grateful they don’t have a laptop handy. Who knows where you might wake up if the power of that writer’s inside is strong enough to make our world as real as their world is to them.

Scary thought, huh?

Well don’t dwell on it too much, just enjoy the magic in my stories and who knows? Maybe one day they will be real. I’ll settle for a SyFy television series. Why be greedy about it?

Til next week, Happy Reading!

Jmo