Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Don’t Understand You, Therefore, You Must Be An Idiot

Hubris. It is one of my new favorite words. While the word has been around a long time, it seems to be a trait more evident than ever on the world’s stage.

What does hubris mean? Well, depending who you ask or where you look, the basic definition means “arrogance” or “pride,” often in the extreme.

One way I see hubris demonstrated is when a person says, “What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense to me. You’re wrong.”

Think about it: each of us looks at the world a bit differently. Often, what we understand and believe is based on our experience and education. When our beliefs are challenged, we go with what we know to try to understand it. Sometimes what we understand, and what is presented to us, are in direct conflict.

What do a lot of people do in cases like this? They immediately jump to the conclusion that they are right and the other person is wrong. To me, hubris is directly related to how quickly someone will dismiss an idea or concept counter to what they believe.

My wife is an amazing person. We’ve been married for over 22 years now. We’ve learned a lot from each other. One of the biggest things I have learned as we’ve worked on home improvement projects together is that there is often more than one way to do something. At times, she will be convinced that one way to do a project is different than what I had in mind.

I’ll admit earlier in our marriage I’d get frustrated because I thought my way was better. But I learned to swallow my pride and we’d try things her way. And you know what? In doing so, I discovered my way wasn’t the best way after all. To be fair, sometimes we learned my way would have been better, but we wouldn’t know until we tried.

In the end, I’ve learned that when I take a moment to consider a new idea, and try to keep an open mind, I’m more willing to consider it as viable.

Still, there are things I won’t budge on—like many of my core religious beliefs—but I’ve discovered that when someone challenges them, one of the worst things I can do is state, “I don’t understand you, therefore, you must be an idiot.” 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All Things Considered, I'm Glad I'm Not Dead

Like many men, it takes a lot for me to go to the doctor. Maybe it’s because I hate sitting forever in the waiting room. Maybe it’s because every doctor I see has me fill out a billion forms. Maybe it’s because when the doctor asks me, “Do you drink or smoke?” and I truthfully answer, “No” they don’t look like they quite believe me.

I’d had a cough on and off for a couple of weeks, and it didn’t seem to be getting any better. Usually a few zinc cough drops will knock it right out, but not this time. It was getting bad enough that I started to have a fever, chills, low-to-no energy, and I was achy all over. Worst of all, any creative juices I had for writing or editing were zapped. Nada. Nothing. Still, I didn’t want to go to the doctor.

However, recently I heard of three men I know who weren’t feeling well and it turned out to be something serious—like operation type of serious. But that couldn’t be me, right?

Then one morning, I was coughing so hard that I started to throw up. That was enough. I looked up the closest urgent care that took our insurance and off I went.

A billion forms later, and after about an hour of waiting, I got in to see the PA (Physician’s Assistant). She was super nice and asked me a lot of questions, especially about the blood disorder I was diagnosed with several years ago (it’s genetic and can cause my blood to clot easier than most people.)

So, she wanted to do a test with a machine called an EKG. It tests the heart to make sure it’s working as it should. After having to shave part of my chest, she attached some wires up to me and ran the test.

A few minutes later, the PA came in, a serious look on her face. She said, “The results on your EKG are concerning. I’m not saying you’re having a heart attack, but you might be. We need to get you to the hospital.”

I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack. Then again, I’d never had one, so I wasn’t sure how it felt. Still, I’m not a doctor and wasn’t going to argue.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll head to the hospital. It’s just down the road. Where should I go when I get there?”

The PA shook her head. “If you are having a heart attack, you shouldn’t drive. I’ve already called the ambulance. They are going to take you.”

Ambulance? I was going to be taken in an ambulance? Sure enough, the EMTs came and got me, put me on a gurney, and wheeled me out of the urgent care.

We went through the waiting room full of people. I wanted to say something silly to the people waiting like, “I only came in for a hangnail!” but I didn’t.

The EMTs got me in the ambulance and ran another EKG on me. The results? My heart looked fine. That was a good thing. Still, off to the hospital we went.

Me in the ambulance
I got checked in, mostly correct aside that they thought I was 10 years younger than I am (thank you!). After two more EKG tests, the heart attack was ruled out.

BUT, (and that’s a big but) the PA was concerned I might have a PE based on my family history and blood disorder. PE? As in Physical Education? I asked for clarification. She said PE meant Pulmonary Embolism. Yeah, that didn’t help much. I asked for clarification again. She said, “It means a clot in your lungs.”

Me in the hospital
So, off I go to get X-rays of my chest. They also want to do a CAT scan. As I’m getting prepped for the CAT scan, the lady asks me, “Are you allergic to any medications?” I give my standard answer of “None of which I’m aware.” For a bit of fun, I did say, “But I’m allergic to cats, so maybe this isn’t a good idea.” She rolled her eyes and got me set up.

For the CAT scan, they have to inject something into your bloodstream. The lady said I’d feel warm all over, get a weird taste in my mouth and it may feel like I’m urinating. Fun times!

Once the CAT scan was completed, I got wheeled back to my room. Only now, I’m starting to itch all over. The lady who did the CAT scan looks me over and says, “You’re having an allergic reaction to the (whatever it was called that they injected me with).” My response, “Hey, I told you I was allergic to cats.”

So, they pumped me full of another drug to stop the itching.

Roughly 45 minutes went by while they reviewed my results. Finally, the PA tells me, “Okay. Good news. No heart attack. No clot in your lungs. Your blood pressure was really high when you got here, but that could be from being told you were having a heart attack. Your blood pressure is fine now. We’re going to diagnose you with Acute Bronchitis.”

She gave me some prescriptions and sent me on my way.

In the end, what do I take from all of this? I’m delighted that I’m not dead. Yes, the medical bills aren’t going to be fun, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Because my dad died when he was only 33 (I was 6 at the time), I’ve grown up with the understanding that we are mortal and can die at really any time. There aren’t any guarantees. 

Also, because of my faith, I’m not really scared of dying as much as wanting to be on the Earth a while longer to see my kids grow up, spend more years with my beautiful wife, and writing more stories that are bouncing around in my head. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Write The Same Thing, Only Different

I’ll admit it. When I started writing my first book, I was pretty clueless about what readers and publishers wanted. All I knew is that I had a desire to create stories.

It wasn’t until later that I began to realize the unwritten rules when it came to authors. It seems like one of the first of these rules is that writers should stick to a certain genre. I get asked “what kind of books do you write?” a lot. I generally respond with the vague answer of “mostly fiction.”

I created the Bariwon series (The Hidden Sun, The Waxing Moon, The Zealous Star). They are liberally included in the fantasy genre, though I disagree since there aren’t any non-human characters or types of magic used in the books. I would classify them as “medieval fiction.”

The Mirror of the Soul has a fantasy element to it, the diamond that shines when people touch it, but overall it is a story about human nature which happens to take place in France in 1453.

After my first four books, I realized that my works were of the medieval nature. In a sense, I was harkening to the mandate of some readers and publishers who want authors to “write the same thing, only different.”

But I knew there were other stories I wanted to tell. Wall of Faith certainly is a departure from my previous works. Set in 1988, it is also based on a true story, therefore not really fiction, per se.

I just announced my latest book, Bring Down The Rain. It also takes place in the late 1980’s, and though I draw on my experiences from high school, it isn’t based on a true story.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bring Down The Rain will appeal to a different type of reader than my previous works. I’ve gone against the grain of “write the same thing, only different.” But that’s not a bad thing.

Here’s why: another unwritten law of being an author is “write stories you are passionate about.” It’s great advice because if you are bored with the subject matter as a writer, it will reflect in your work.

In the end, I’m harkening more toward the second unwritten rule. The goal is to have yet another book come out later this year. It will be completely different than anything I’ve written before. I’ll say this much about it: the book takes place in contemporary times.

That’s not all. I have a number of ideas bouncing around my head. I make no promises on what will happen or when, but I will most likely write a full novel, or maybe even a series, based on my short story, “Howler King.” It will be a work of fantasy, with a twist.

Though I had no intentions of returning to Bariwon after I finished The Zealous Star, it seems like the characters and setting aren’t done with me. Chances are good there may be another book, or two, or three, from Bariwon.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Bring Down the Rain" announced

I'm pleased to announce my next book, Bring Down the Rain.

Here is the synopsis:

"Derek discovers going to high school in Utah is vastly different than in North Carolina. After an accident ends his dreams of playing in the major leagues, he starts his senior year by trying to figure out what to do with his life. Derek begins to date Tiffany, the school paper’s news editor. With her help, he learns the importance of a concept he never fully understood: sacrifice.

Set in 1986, Bring Down the Rain is a story of loss, grief, redemption, hope, and making life altering choices."

Here is the cover:

The book is slated for a summer 2014 release.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why use a pen name?

I confuse people on purpose. Any of my published works have me listed as “J. Lloyd Morgan.” But that’s not the name I go by in real life. My first name is Jason. That’s what most people call me, aside from some aunts that call me Jakey.

Why then do I use a different name when I write? There are two main reasons. First is branding and marketing. That’s right, branding and marketing. “Jason Morgan” is a very common name. However, “J. Lloyd Morgan” is much less common. In fact, if you Google “J. Lloyd Morgan,” you’ll find my books.

The second reason is privacy. There are some readers that are a bit, well, persistent when it comes to their favorite authors. We’ll leave it at that.

But those two reasons aren’t the only ones why writers use pen names. And this is where it gets to be a bit sticky. Some writers are going to be ticked off that I bring this up. So be it. It’s not the first time I’ve brought up something that makes people uncomfortable, or at the very least consider their actions.

Another reason for using pen names, which I think is legitimate, is that some authors write for different genres and will, at times, use a different name for each genre. Let me give you an example: A person who writes horror might use the name “I. B. Scary” for their pen name. The same person may also write romance. Would “I. B. Scary” be a good name for a romance writer? Probably not. Instead, the same person may use a different pen name for their romance novels like “Lotti Kissez.”

So, what’s so controversial? Nothing, yet. This is where I’m going to rattle a few cages. I know of some authors who profess to follow a certain moral code. Most of their written works lines up with that moral code. For example: they don’t believe that people should be slaves to other people. Therefore, nothing in their written works glorifies or promotes the idea that slavery is good. Get it?

However, there are those who then write stories that may indeed include elements that diverge from their stated moral code. Because they don’t want people to know it’s them, the same person who writes stories that sticks to their code, they use a different pen name.

That’s a concept I struggle with as a writer. I’ve written in several different genres: historical fiction, medieval fiction, contemporary fiction, and fantasy. My next two books are different genres from others I’ve written. One thing I’ve been consistent about is sticking to my moral code. There are no swear words or descriptive sex scenes in any of my books. It’s a line I won’t cross—no matter what I write. To that end, I have decided to use only one pen name.

I bring all of this up based on a couple of situations I recently encountered. The first one was at a meet and greet of authors I hadn’t met before. One of the ladies told me she wrote sweet romance under a certain pen name, and erotic fiction under a different pen name. When I asked why, she said, “My mother would have a heart attack if she knew I wrote erotica.”

The second situation came from my kindle. There was an advertisement for a book on the front of the kindle. The cover said something along the lines of “New York Times Bestseller Jane Doe writing as John Doe.” It struck me as odd. Why, oh why, would you have two different pen names if you would openly announce both pen names on the cover of your book? I figured they did that because Jane Doe was a popular author, and John Doe wasn’t, so in an effort to sell more books, the writer had to tell the world they are the same person.

I guess it all comes down to this: each writer has stories they want to tell. Some writers are willing to compromise on their core beliefs for the sake of making more money by writing books that are considered “in demand” by some publishers.

This point was driven home to me one day when I was a guest author at a high school. One of the students asked me, “Do you make a lot of money from writing?” I gave my vague answer of “I do just fine, thank you.” Another student in the class spoke up. He said, “I’ll bet he could make a lot more if he wrote porn. He could even use a different pen name, like Buck Naked.”