Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Picking Up and Letting Go

     Things are certainly picking up on the "Midnight to Morning" front. Today, The Daily Journal out of Vineland, NJ posted an article about the novel. Being that it is from my hometown, I was so very happy to have the chance to let others know about the book. It was also the perfect outlet for me to say thank you to those who have encouraged me. Of course, it also brings back memories. Nearly every afternoon for quite a few years, my father would hand me the change to go into J&J's to purchase The Daily Journal. It wasn't until I was a teenager that we started to have it delivered. To those who are visiting this blog due to that article, a warm welcome and I hope you hang around The Mania awhile. Also, here is a direct link to the sites where the book can be purchased: Click here for the lulu site and here for the Kindle one.
    This Saturday will be my first book signing. I'll be down in Charlotteville, VA at the Family Christian Store in Seminole Square from 10am to 2pm. Frank, the owner, has been wonderfully supportive of this project. While the novel was written for the "mainstream" there isn't any doubt when it comes to the main characters faith. There are just enough references for the Christian marketplace to pick it up. Frank will even be sending a copy to the regional office to see if it can be sold in the other Family Christian stores.
     As to the "letting go" reference, we are now only 7 days from the death of my favorite creative outlet. Last night I actually started to cry over the loss. My skills as a writer, especially the ability to get into a characters head and develop him or her, grew exponentially because of the time I spent in SWG. I wasn't there to shoot-n-loot or run the near endless quests and instances. I was in the game to roleplay, to make a character from scratch and see just how far I could take her story. She is at her highest point though and will spend her last day contentedly sitting on the top of the hill which sits in the middle of her town. As for me, I'll be mourning. It will be hard to let go. There are people I'll miss, those I know who won't keep in touch as much as others. There are two things I'll cling to though. One is the fact that I will put Amandiona's story down into book form, along with those she shared her life with. The other is the wonderful friendships that will last through this virtual ending. We will hold each other up and perhaps meet up again in another virtual world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On a wild ride...

      I have been meaning to sit down for over a week now and just write. There is so much in my head right now that it would be impossible to put any of it down in any kind of sense. As I said to Owen the other night, "My ADD brain used to keep my thoughts on train tracks. One train track would be on the novel, one on what to cook for dinner, one 'the game,' one on a friend who was having a hard time and so on. Now, it is all in a jumbled pile that is more cloud than anything organized."
     However, in that jumbled mess, a few things are standing out right now. The first being with how Midnight to Morning is doing. Three weeks have passed since it was published: Three weeks of teaching myself how to talk the book up. Three weeks of continuing my crash course in self-promoting. In those three weeks I've sold every copy I self-purchased and more are on the way.  There even has been a book signing set up.Unfortunately, there hasn't been a decent amount of online sales in either printed or e-reader form, and that is where the bulk of profit comes from. Another issue has been getting the word out locally. The good-ol'-boy network down here makes it almost impossible to get in the paper - even though I have seen them promot numerous local authors. My hometown paper up north said they would put in a blurb if I wrote it up, but it has yet to show up there either. So I sit and chant, "It has only been three weeks." and keep plugging away.
     The second standing out in my mind (and you all knew this had to come out sooner or later) is the astonishing amount of time I am spending online in-game. Well, chalk that up to my precious creative outlet being killed off on December 15th. There are people counting on me and people I am counting on. With all these years role-playing my dear Amandiona, she had to be given the happy ending she deserves. That means many more hours than anticipated are being spent multi-tasking. Take now for example. 'The Game' is up, as is two different instant messengers and I'm sitting here blogging! Now, look closely, I'm only going to say this one time. Yes, my SWG friends, I will put our story into book format. No, it will not be in the format you want. As it stands right now, making this a piece of fan-fiction causes a gag reflex. Lucas should not get any credit for the world we have written. I have years of notes, screenshots and memories. The lives of our dear "other selves" will be preserved in some form of printed fiction. I promise.
     With those things said, and the fact that Owen just walked in the door with dinner, I'll sign off for now. Clear Skies!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Strangest of Weeks

     October 15th, that was the day I had set aside as the release date for the novel. However, that wasn't to be, and I knew it long before the date arrived. The injury to my hip over the summer had put me in a bad way emotionally and I had dawdled on various tasks in the must-do-before-publishing list. Those tasks included making sure I had cover art, that I had made all the recommended changes by my wonderful editor, and had completed one more "read aloud" to catch any other errors. There were also other tasks, like making sure a friend of mine has the results of my "beta test" on his book before too much time had passed. As the day approached, only the edits had been finished. I started telling those who questioned that October 30th would be the day instead.
     As that day approached, I was still without cover art. Panicking, I turned to my husband and he worked for hours until a new concept came to both of us and a totally unexpected cover jumped out of the screen. I was overjoyed, but still the novel wasn't ready. I had nearly a hundred pages left to go over, and he was leaving for a family trip (I read aloud to him.) Tears were shed, but I allowed the day to pass by and made up some good excuses to push the date to November 5th.
     That was when the insanity started. Normally, I get some quiet time in while working at the high school. I've relied on that time to write/edit/research. This week it was not to be. I spent nearly every break either covering for someone or helping out with something. When the students were in the room, even though I am just a "lowly substitute," I ended up in detailed conversations about various topics with them instead of sitting back and watching as they complete the assignments left by their regular teacher. Then there is the PRAXIS II test I'm taking on the 12th. Somewhere along the way I was managing to take notes out of an extensive textbook to assist with studying for it. Internally, I was fretting and fussing over pushing back the date again. This would mean that the novel wouldn't make it onto mainstream sites like Amazon until too close to Christmas. Evenings were spent multi-tasking and I was waking at 3am with insomnia and putting myself back to sleep by proofreading.
     But our God is a God of wonders and I know to trust His timing. Even though I fussed, I kept reminding myself that it was in His hands. The final read-over was completed late on November 5th and my husband put together a back cover for me. I knew the 6th was out of the question for a print date. Knew there was NO WAY I could pull it off. Why? Because in the online game I play (which is a month from destruction) those I interact with had scheduled the final battle for the virtual town I manage. It was going to be an all day event in one way or another. But remember...God's ways are mysterious...Just as we were starting to gather for the battle, the server we were on crashed. Not just a "wait ten minutes and you'll get in" crash, a "whoops we broke the whole thing" crash! By the time it was repaired, most of my friends had given up and we were forced to reschedule. I was so very frustrated at the waste of a day!
     Then it happened. I looked first at the computer, then at my netbook, back to the computer again, and grabbed the flash-drive. One transferred file, a reset of margins, shock at the page count, and a quick run through Word later (the book was written in OpenOffice) and I started the process to upload the novel to Carefully going over each step, I made it through and ordered the first copies. It was late, really late, but I was strangely awake. That alone is amazing because I'm normally in bed by ten. However, I took the strange level of alertness and went ahead and completed the process to make it and E-book as well. It was midnight when the book went live...ironic since the title is Midnight to Morning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On Choices...

This month has been an interesting one. There has been some major progress on the book scene, a few set-backs on the health scene, the continuing countdown to the end of something that has become a lifeline to me and a couple blasts from the past. I'll be honest, that last part shows some major progress in my life.
     It wasn't that long ago when anything or anyone from my past was banned from my present. All that was allowed in was my best friend from childhood and my family. But, social media works in weird ways. I joined Facebook because of my wonderful online friends at Tiel Talk. Then, a little at a time, people I knew from my childhood church started to trickle into the "friends list." A year later I stared letting down my guard a bit and people I knew from Cumberland Christian School joined the group along with former co-workers. However, there was one group that always got the "not now" or flat out "ignore." It was anyone from my seven years in Colorado. Why?
     That question gets answered in today's mania. See, a couple weeks ago, someone asked me why I've been coming across online as someone in their early twenties versus someone nearly thirty-four. Supposedly, I'm "normally" a serious minded person with a no-nonsense personality. I had to think that over, reread posts, and ask a few others. It's not like I didn't know, I just wanted to verify before verbalizing it. I see my twenties as something that was taken in a series of bad situations. From the two years of lies that turned into three and a half years of an abusive marriage, to moving thirteen times in eleven years across three states, to just wandering lost as I tried to figure out who I was and how I was going to move on. Right in the end, just as I was getting my feet under me and was in a wonderful relationship with the person I call my soulmate -the man I am now married to- my minor health issues from years past became not so minor. The twenties were something I didn't have such fond memories of and wanted to forget.
     I'm facing a condition that is increasingly affecting my quality of life. I think that was the first reason why I started down this road. I want to live my life to the fullest while I am still physically able to. I spent six weeks of this summer on my back, and believe me there was a lot of depression and bad attitude to go with it. That had to stop and one of my dearest friends sat with me one evening and forced all that bad emotion out so I could see how I was coming across. Before the injury I had been on this younger persona road, and he helped get that back on track. The second would be finding out how much fun it is to teach high school students and the joys of mentoring a few of them. They make me feel young, and if anyone was in the Lowes in town last Friday, act young. (Yes, that was me with one of my students trying to find items in each aisle that could take out zombies.) Then you throw in my virtual world where many of the people I interact with are in their twenties and, if they are older, they generally don't act it. It is a place where I can forget the pain and frustration for a couple hours, a place I can laugh freely. The combination has healed me more than anything.
     So, in His perfect timing, God decided it was time for me to face the twenties I actually lived through and not the ones I'm recreating in my daily attitude. He took what had to be the two "safest" people out of that painful seven and a half years and put them in my path. Oh, I balked and whined for sure but hit "accept" anyway. You know what I found out? It wasn't so bad facing them. If anything, it built up my confidence. I am just as eager to press forward with this younger persona online and off. I'm not going off and making stupid mistakes with a live-and-learn attitude. I already did that! This is just how I am choosing to be. As our elders may say, "You are only as old as you think."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Once upon a year (PKU post)

     Once a year Owen and I take a day off of work and take a little trip. The drive is probably one of the most boring in the state, but the destination city isn't so bad. We start the day with a list of places we want to shop at and a list of items we just cannot get in our rural county. One of the most important, if not THE most important, stop is at an international food market. It is inside where my husband of four years suddenly turns into a child. We wander through the aisles, making frequent pauses to pick up food from his youth. Various British or European items fill the little basket until we just give up and grab a proper cart. Ribena, McVitties, Walkers Chips and more are piled in. I just smile and hope the bank account can handle the withdraw.
     After our shopping adventures, it is the real reason for our visit. Owen starts to get moody and I just sigh and pick up the bag I brought along. Inside is a notebook, three days of diet sheets, something for me to drink, one of Owens' metabolic formulas and whatever magazine we decided to bring along. We check in at the front desk of the massive clinic attached to the even more massive hospital system and head up to the fourth floor. That is where things get a bit more uncomfortable. That floor belongs to the "Children's Hospital" and the bright murals, toys and children all hit you at once. However, it is also where the Genetics department has its clinic. Owen is here for his annual appointment with his nutritionist and his metabolic specialist.
     I smile and do what I can to settle him down as we wait for his turn. In truth, I'm not doing so well myself. I had overdone it over the past couple days and my own condition is acting up. However, what is, is, and we are soon called back. Barb is a wonderful woman with a no nonsense attitude and years of dealing with stubborn patients like the one sitting next to me. She first asks the basic questions, then notices that Owen has not sent her a blood test in too many months. I cringe as she gives me a look that says "and why not? You're his wife." After years of seeing that look I say, "I'm his wife, not his mom. He gets reminders and suggestions about it." For once, she actually agrees...normally I still get that look for the rest of the visit. She then makes Owen complete the test from start to finish right in front of her. He was so embarrassed, but it needed to be done. PKU isn't something to mess with. From there she looks over the three days of diet sheets she asked for, talks to us about his low weight and lower stamina, asks about his daily formula and all the other things that go along with being an adult with PKU. Then, she says something that made me want to scream. She wants him to take his blood one month from that day and send it in with a month of diet sheets. No, no, no! My mind screams.
     If you read anything at all from the PKU blog I wrote for two years you know what it is like to have someone with PKU in the house. If not, I encourage you to read that journey. I know full well that he is not going to keep those sheets and it is going to be up to me. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, partly from the announcement and partially because by that point I could trace my sciatic from hip to arch. Barb notices, looks at my hand brace then down to the compression garments showing on my crossed legs and asks how things are with me. Since screaming wasn't an option, I just shrugged it off with a "as well as it can be" and hoped she would bring in the specialist soon. It worked! Dr. Wilson and Owen chat up what is going on with the PKU world and offers up some hope with BioMarins latest projects. He also comments how it is nice to see me off a cane for once. I had to agree, even though I wished I had it with me by that point. With that we are dismissed, hopefully for another year. Of course we will see each other along the way, at various picnics, walk-a-thons or cooking classes. But Owen sighs with relief as we leave and I cringe again, thinking about the diet sheets and how in the world I am going to make him take his blood on schedule. Just another insight into Morgan's Mania!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More On Midnight

I needed a break from hours of final edits and thought to come and ramble here instead. The decision has been made, although I think there will still be some self-kicking for it. I am going to try self-publishing "Midnight to Morning." Already there is a small plan in place to converse with regional stores and how the income from any copies sold will be used to further expand the books reach. Of course, the best thing would be for you to read it. It will be sold on Amazon and I think Barns and Nobles sites so writing reviews are also helpful. If you enjoy the book, telling others would be amazing too. For my international friends, yes it will be available overseas.

Many have asked for a synopsis of the book, and it is something I struggle with putting into words aloud. Let's see if I do better in print.

Nichole and Gareth Jones find themselves living in a British run refugee camp after the United States government has collapsed under the disaster of multiple attacks. Life is tough in the camp, but they have made the most of their situation and are assisting others...until a double tragedy occurs. Nichole finds herself in danger, but also finds that she is being watched by what she is told are "good guys" on the outside. Through a series of events she finds herself on the outside of the camp, in a place she didn't know existed and with a group trying to prevent a global catastrophe. It is a story full of unanticipated twists and turns, some frightening, many inspiring and all on how she goes from the midnight of her life to the dawning of a new day.

The hope is to have this out by late October, early November. Anyone who is interested in helping with a last minute "beta test" I would be forever grateful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On dedication

    It had been a long week. We had meeting after meeting after meeting and in between those most of us were rushing to set up our classrooms and photocopy what was needed to start the school year. I was caught between helping another teacher catch up on those copies and restlessly pacing the halls, waiting on the 11th hour changes to the Chemistry schedule. On a whim, I paused to check in on another teacher. We were just starting to talk about the start of the school year when it sounded like one of the maintenance workers started dragging equipment across the roof.
     That thought lasted all of about five seconds. It was about the time that the hanging lights started to look like swings on a playground. Both our eyes grew wide as reality hit. We were in an earthquake and it was quite the ride. Once it was over we stood, mouths agape and looked around. She said it seemed big and instantly thought about the nuclear plant just 30 miles from here. I pulled out my phone and started texting first my husband, and then my brother. He works about 80 miles from here and I wanted to know if he felt it.
      As we wandered, more excited then dazed, into the hallway a few of us started to smile and laugh. What a moment. Just hours before the school year was to start and we experienced our first earthquake. As the reports came in we shook our heads and looked over the inside of the building for damage. Initial reports said it was a 5.8 and out of Mineral. We are only 25 miles from there so no wonder we felt what we did. The administrators checked in on all of us and then the most amazing thing happened. We shrugged it off, grabbed our "gear" and went back to work like nothing happened. Talk about dedication! There was a job to be done and no 'quake was going to stop us!
      The administration stopped us instead. While six of us stood in line at the copier, comparing texts and tales, the announcement came that we had to evacuate the building. We just looked at each other like "But..but...we have all this work to do!" With a sigh, I took the stack of papers back to the teacher I had been helping and apologized for not being able to complete it. Then, wheeled bag dragging behind me, I started for the door...and immediately stopped at the other Chemistry classroom. Unable to help ourselves, we just started talking over the first day of school and the schedule issue and all that "teacher stuff." It took another administrator reminding us that the evacuation was not optional before we locked the doors and went outside. That is dedication.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Midnight to Morning...

     For those who know me personally and have been following along on social media, this blog post is a long time coming. For the rest of you, well now you'll know too!
     In the autumn of 2009, after years of encouragement and comments from friends and family, I decided to take my love of writing and start doing something with it. At first, the idea was to use the binders full of stories I had written about one particular character and turn it into a series of smaller books for young adults. However, about fifty pages into it, I was frustrated beyond all measure. It was about that time that I started having a series of "nightmares." They were not the true wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat kind of thing, but they were eerily realistic and deeply personal. These dreams happened night after night for nearly three weeks. I was disturbed by them and told a few people about them. All said the same thing, "You should write about that instead, it sounds like a great book."
      So I did. I sketched out all that I remembered from the dreams - 27 pages full of sentence outlines. After many days spent "day-dreaming" the content order and filling in some blanks, I started. That was in December of 2009. In January of 2011 the first draft of "Midnight to Morning" was completed. It is a long novel and was written to be the first in a four book series. Through the rest of this year there has been numerous edits, a lot of soul searching, research into how to make this dream get onto published paper and more sleepless nights than I can remember. It all has been wonderful though.
      The novel is almost ready for print, and now the big choice must be made. Do I pick a couple of sites that work with large groups of publishers, write a proposal, pay the huge fees to post it for six months and sit and wait? As someone who has only had minor poetry published and has only written a handful of online articles, I don't have much on the "wow factor" outside of the first two chapters that are posted with the proposal. I'm virtually an unknown. The other choice is to self-publish and hope that enough people take interest in the novel that word spreads and enough copies are sold. I'm not very good at talking myself up, but would have to learn quickly in order to sell the heart I've put into the book.
      The decision will need to be made fairly soon and I would enjoy input from as many people possible. Today, I'll be putting links to this blog on the social media sites I'm involved in and linking to blogs I read frequently. In other words, this blog is going live today, even though I've been working on it for a month (see that hesitation thing going on?) Thank you for joining me on this wild ride of life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughts on Friendship

     Had to think this post over several days before actually sitting down to write it. In this ever changing world we are now exposed more and more to the "virtual world." From social networking sites and message boards to strangely obsessive simplistic games and the world of MMO's, it is all there at our fingertips. With those things becoming so much a part of our daily lives, it is only a matter of time before people start to talk about things outside of whatever subject or system brought them together.
     It can be uncomfortable to talk with someone whom has most likely have never been seen, or whose voice might have never been heard by the other person. The back of ones mind could be tingling with ancient warnings about strangers and media reports of horror stories related to online relationships. However, there is some common ground or bond with this person, and the conversations start to flow. As hours and days past one of two conclusions can be come to. Either the person on the other side of the screen is an excellent actor or there really is common ground and a genuine enjoyment of the others company. If this had been anywhere else other than online, it would be the grounds for a real friendship.
      That makes me think hard about what defines friendship. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines friend as "One attached to another by affection or esteem" and as "A favored companion." Friendship is defined as "The state of being friends." All three sound simplistic really. A friend is someone you like, someone you enjoy being with, someone you have key things in common with. Yet near everywhere I go, there is a line drawn between "friends" and "online friends" with the latter being perceived as meaning less or not even real, just because of the platform that brought the them together.
      My first experience with "online friends" came about with the help of a message board I started reading and posting on. The people there had helped with a health crisis in one of my parrots. Over the months certain members of the board communicated with me outside of that site. I saw them as friends, not making a separate section in my mind between them and the friends I could see and speak to. As time passed, one of them ended up parrot sitting for me and three attended my wedding! (The wedding which happened because two people started talking on a moderated online dating site.) It was the first time these people saw each other face to face. During that time those "online friends" also gathered together to help one of us who was struggling with a dangerous illness. It seemed to me that we were there for her more than those in her "real" world. The lines blur so easily in moments like that. 
    Shortly after, I started playing an online MMO. At first those avatars on the screen and the words they said in the chat channels were distanced in my mind. I just learned the game and followed along. But, as with the message board, over time conversations deviated and one on one discussions began. Here was a group of people with a common bond through the game who discovered there was even more alike than once thought. Cautiously, the barriers came down and it was discovered who was being real and who was acting. I've had the privilege of meeting one of those friends face to face, and had many many hours of long conversations with another. They have become near and dear to me - two I would consider "best friends."
      Yet, there are so many around me that cannot see that "online friends" can be just as meaningful and vital to ones life as "real-world friends." Those online have been there when the others have not. Through the game we talk near daily, something that doesn't happen with the others. The miles drift away as conversations draw us closer. There is a real flesh and blood person there whom never would have been known about if not for the miracle of the internet and development of these platforms. There shouldn't be a differentiation between those we have gotten to know and love through work, school, church or other outlet and those we have bonded with online.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts on the garden/homestead

     I just came back inside from working on our garden. Neither it, nor I, are a pretty sight right now. In late May I had re-injured my left hip and while most of the plants were large enough to handle it, the weeds went on a growing spree while I was healing. We started planting outside back in March and have been working on succession plantings and crop rotation. Because of how fast it turned hot this year, we are harvesting weeks before anticipated. This has helped with our homesteading goals for the year.
      Braving the heat, I've spent the last two days pulling up black bean and cow pea plants. The beans are already dried out and ready to pick. We spent yesterday evening watching an older sci-fi series (Seaquest) and shelling beans. So romantic! Looks like tonight will be the same thing. I was like a toddler in a toy store though, running my fingers through the near full bowl of black beans. It blows me away that we have been able to grow so much of our own food out of five 4x10 raised beds!
     I love learning how to preserve what we have grown and tonight will hopefully trying out the new pressure canner. Last year we froze all of the tomato sauce I made. Last week I froze several large batches. The big basket I use to collect them is full again so it's time for more sauce making. This time I'm going to try properly canning it. I've done a series of foods that just need a water bath process (peaches, apple butter, pickled beets) with complete success. Hopefully, this will be just as successful. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome to Morgan's Mania

     I'll start out with being honest. This isn't exactly what I had in mind when deciding to start a new blog. Previously, I ran one for Ryan's PKU Foundation of Virgina and it wasn't much of a success. What I hope to eventually do is have a series of blogs set up for the various things I want to write about. In the meantime, this is going to be a true "mania." You'll never know what is in store and I will be jumping from topic to topic. I promise, though, to make each on a separate entry.

    What will you be seeing here on Morgan's Mania? That is a good question. Most likely there will be posts on homesteading, gardening, the adventures of being owned by a handful of critters and about living with and being married to an adult with PKU. There is also bound to be posts on Compassion International covering the amazing work they do as well as stories from my two beautiful sponsored daughters. Of course there will be posts related to the online gaming world I have been part of these last few years. Hm...what else? Oh and since I'm in the middle of publishing my first novel, it is a safe bet that some comments will be made there too.

    So, pull up a chair, sit back and enjoy the ride. I know it will be a wild one!