J. Lloyd Morgan's Blog, page 2

December 31, 2014

“I love you” are powerful words. So are “once upon a time” and “the end.” If you were to change just one word in those phrases, the meaning can shift dramatically. “I hate you” means something quite different than “I love you.”

The meaning of a singular word can be very powerful. Take for example when I worked in banking. Our leaders would call us each day and we, as managers, would have to “commit” to a certain number of items sold that day—like checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, and so on. Seriously.

I really struggled with this approach because I have always tried to be the type of person who does what he says he will do. The word “commitment” can be defined as “a promise to do or give something.” To me, I can commit to do things which I can control—like washing my hands after using the bathroom. But how could I honestly promise to open a checking account for someone I had yet to meet? I couldn’t. What I could do is promise to talk to everyone about checking account options and invite them to open an account. But could I force them to do it? No. Pressure them? Yes.

At the end of the day, we would have to report on how we did. If I said we didn’t open the amount of checking accounts I “committed” to in the morning, my boss would then phrase it as, “But you committed to opening more! Why didn’t you?”

See where this is headed? It became an ethical issue—all because of a singular word.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with another word. This one? “Assignment.”

As a college English teacher, I have a goal each semester: To give meaningful assignments which help the students learn and discover. I am not a fan of “busy work.” Because I’m the teacher, I have the authority to give assignments which the students need to fulfill to earn credit for the class.

Some students complain about the work load. My response? “You signed up for this class, and these assignments are part of the class.”

However, just because I have a position of authority does not give me the right to assign whatever I want. I can’t assign students to wash my car, or bring me lunch each day. In the end, each student has the right to choose which assignments to do. The tough part for a student is standing up and saying, “I’m not doing that assignment because I didn’t agree to do that. Just because you are the teacher, and have authority, doesn’t mean you have the right to make any assignments you want.”

To be fair to teachers, many of them have good intentions, but overreach with their authority. I understand that. We’re all human. We make mistakes. Sometimes we can really want to do something good, and still make mistakes.

For example, my students are required to write four major papers over the course of the semester. The hardest of the papers (in my opinion) is the argumentative paper because it requires at least three credible sources and needs to be at least three pages long.

I could, instead, give them the assignment to write a 30 page paper with at least 50 credible sources. After all, more is better, right? But that wouldn’t be effective to freshmen taking their first college English class.

My issue with the word “assignment” comes from one of its definitions: “a specified task or amount of work assigned or undertaken as if assigned by authority.”

In other aspects of my life, I’ve been receiving more “assignments” from those in a position of authority. While I have no doubt that their intentions are good, the challenge comes from the fact that the nature of the context in which these assignments are given can be somewhat at odds with free will.

Let me use a metaphor: I agree to work for a company where I am allowed to work from home. I agree to perform certain tasks within a certain time, yet I have the freedom of completing these tasks when and where I choose. 

Now, let’s say someone in authority somewhere up the chain of command decides something specific needs to be done at a certain time and at a certain place. Because they have authority, they give me an “assignment” to do it as they want it done.

Perhaps the work is something I would be doing anyway, and most likely willingly, because I agreed to work for that company—with the understanding the job let me choose. If that choice is taken away, then part of the fundamental aspect of the job has changed.

Maybe it is human nature, or maybe it is just me, but being forced to do something, even if that something is good, isn’t nearly as rewarding as deciding as an individual to perform an action on their own because it is the right thing to do.

I’m sure in a few years I’ll find another word with which I’ll take an issue. Perhaps it is an occupational hazard of being a writer and an English teacher.  

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Published on December 31, 2014 12:31 • 11 views

December 26, 2014

I’ve come to something of a dilemma when it comes to my writing. I’m keenly aware of my intended audience with each work I compose. In doing so, I’ve come to realize that my audience is different for each book. The problem this creates is that not everyone who reads one of my books may enjoy all of them.
Let me explain.
I am of the firm belief that if a writer is bored when they are writing, the work will be boring to read. At different points in my life, what interests me (as a writer) changes. For better or worse, I don’t believe I could churn out book after book that would fit in my Bariwon series. That’s one reason I wrote The Mirror of the Soulbetween books two and three of that series. At the time, I was more interested in that story than any others.
And then I went down a completely different path and wrote two books in first person. These books (Wall of Faith and Bring Down the Rain) were more simplistic in approach, both in the language used as well as the method in storytelling.
Whereas my other books used third person, and the stories unfolded through various points of view, my last two were more linear in nature—things happened in a specific order as told by one character.
This is perhaps over generalizing, but reading a book with multiple characters and told from more than one point of view requires more from the reader. They actually have to pay attention.
In a recent review of one of my books, the reader wrote, “I could not wrap my mind around what was happening.” Keep in mind that a different review of the same book stated, “This is a great allegorical tale of depth and a critical understanding of the human condition that transcends time and space.”
I could become discouraged and elect to keep my writing more simplistic so that I don’t confuse people who aren’t willing to invest the time or energy in understanding what is going on. This is what I’m struggling with at the moment. One of the books I’m working on uses more complex language and concepts. While I’m writing, a little voice inside my head keeps telling me, “The people who liked Wall of Faith and Bring Down the Rain won’t get this.”

And then I remind myself, “I’m not writing it for them. I’m writing it for the people who enjoy thiskind of story.”
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Published on December 26, 2014 12:58 • 7 views

December 6, 2014

One of my heroes is Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is a person who saw an injustice, and acted. It wasn’t easy for him or his family, and in the end he lost his life for what he believed in. I think one of the best ways to sum up what he fought for is reflected in this quote from his famous, “I have a dream” speech:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Though much has changed since he spoke those words, we, in America, are not living in that nation—and it isn’t only one group’s fault.
During recent events, I’ve been dismayed time and time again when news reports open with “a person with a certain colored skin did this to a person with different colored skin.” To me, that’s in direct conflict to what Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted. By including race as part of the act, I believe this actually propagates racism.
To be clear, I think there is a difference between being proud of one’s culture and showing honor to one’s ancestors, and racism.
Here’s a definition of racism that helps prove this point (notice the part I put in italics): “Racism: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”
I’ve had the chance to meet and work with people from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, including those who are similar to my own. Without question, many of the people I’ve met were awesome. They were good people who acted nicely towards others. And then, there were those who were jerks. Interestingly enough, I’ve never found the jerks to be isolated to a certain race or belief system.
Yet there are those who identify themselves as members of a certain race who feel like they are being treated unjustly, and often for good reason.
However, what would Martin Luther King, Jr. say to those who react to perceived injustice with violence and hatred? What does it say about a person’s character when they burn down businesses because they feel their race has been slighted? What does it say about a person who doesn’t promote an individual because of the color of their skin?

What does it say about you?
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Published on December 06, 2014 07:50 • 11 views

November 26, 2014

I’m delighted to announce that my short story “Winter Wonderland” has been included in an anthology of Christmas stories, just in time for the season!
This is the third in a series of anthologies where there are 25 stories—one for each day in December leading up to Christmas.
What makes this really cool is that each story is based on a Christmas Carol. I’ve been fortune enough to participate in each of the three releases.
This year, I chose the song “Winter Wonderland” and had a lot of fun with it.
What makes this anthology really special is that the proceeds go to charity!
The book is available in both print and ebook formats. Clickhere for more information.

And Merry Christmas!
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Published on November 26, 2014 09:28 • 10 views

November 14, 2014

Earlier this autumn, I was invited to speak at a middle school in Raleigh as a visiting author. These types of visits are a lot of fun, and inspirational. I find that I’m more motivated to work on my own books after helping students get excited about writing.
I recently received a package in the mail which was filled full of thank you letters from the students. It was a sweet gesture from the teacher, and the students.
Each of the letters thanked me for coming to the school, and then shared at least one thing they liked about the presentation. The letters were very sweet and flattering. Of course, when dealing with middle school students, you can never be sure what they will write.
Here are some of the parts that stood out to me from the letters:
“Thank you for telling us how to make a story and how to make people read it.”
“Your advice helped me a lot when I was revising my paper. (I think I made it 50% better.)”
“I used to hate reading and writing, but you helped me see reading and writing is fun.”
“That was my first time meeting an author. You are the best and funniest author I have ever met. Well, it is more like the only author I have ever met.”
“Can you put me in your next book? Make me a bad person though.”
“You gave me the inspiration to write a book. It will be about a girl named Elizabeth and how she started in middle school.”
“My dream is to become a famous writer. Maybe we can even write a book together.”

“My favorite part … I didn’t have any because I loved all of it.”
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Published on November 14, 2014 12:51 • 14 views

October 16, 2014



I’m delighted to announce that my latest book, Bring Down the Rain, is part of a blog tour!

What is this book about? Here’s a short description:
“Starting at a new high school is hard, especially as a senior. At age 17, Derek moves with his family from North Carolina to Utah. Derek learns about the unwritten laws of dating in Utah, and that his mom and dad have a history at his new school—a history that threatens his future.
Set in 1986, Bring Down The Rain is a story of loss, grief, redemption, hope, and making life altering choices.”
Here are some of the reviews that have already come in:
“A very refreshing read with the plot being centered around a subject that is clearly important to this writer.  Readers will appreciate the diversity in the experiences of each character while difficult decisions are presented in how to deal with them.  Derek and Tiffany not only support each other but are able to impart wisdom and insight while demonstrating key ideas like sacrifice and integrity to work through choices that many will be able to relate to.
Morgan has successfully completed another moving, compelling and satisfying novel by advocating on topics that don’t come across as overly persuading or lecturing. Bring Down the Rain is an unforgettable and extraordinary book that is highly recommended for readers of all ages.  If this is your first by Morgan, you will not be let down or disheartened when finished.  A clever and witty story that will leave you wishing for more!” –The Book Stalker.com
“Morgan writes with an easygoing manner that is obviously influenced by his keen sense of time gained from being a television director. Couple that trait with a natural gift for communication of difficult moral issues, blend with a fine sense of comedy, and a (probable) firsthand experience at dealing with the atmosphere and philosophy of Utah and the result is a well written, entertaining, and uplifting book.” –Grady Harp, top 100 reviewer for Amazon.com

As part of the blog tour, I’m giving away two copies of my first book, The Hidden Sun. To enter, simply follow the directions below. And good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Published on October 16, 2014 07:09 • 9 views

October 1, 2014

There is a terrible plague which infects nearly every area of America. It can strike at any time, usually without warning. Immediate symptoms include increased blood pressure, anxiety, and on occasion, even nausea. The effects are immediate, and the lingering complications can last for years.
In a recent study, it was found that this pestilence can inflict more than 226 million people in America, usually those ages 16 and older.
The first signs of this infliction are flashing red and blue lights, generally noticed in the rearview mirror of a moving vehicle. This is followed by the person’s eyes being drawn to an instrument on their dashboard which indicates a number. Almost always, the person immediately begins to utter words of a crass nature.
While several options have been proposed to prevent such a tragedy, it is not enough. It is at this point that the United States government must come to the aid of its citizens. With all the advances in modern technology, there is certainly an effective preventative method which should be available to all those at risk, regardless of income level, age, or any other factor which can be used to classify people. An archaic term for such a device is “radar detector,” though there is surely a more sophisticated term. Perhaps we can draw upon Latin and call it, “Periculum^2.”
Opponents may argue that perhaps people should merely keep the speed of their vehicles below a certain level. This is unrealistic--no, this is a simpleminded approach. Everyone speeds.
It is clear that a device is needed to prevent unwanted tickets and possible long-lasting effects like higher insurance rates and even jail time.
The time to act is now. Contact your congressperson to have them put this into law. If enough of the population push for such a measure, the opponents’ arguments will soon become irrelevant, perhaps even mocked.

While speaking with the government official, ask that an addendum be added to allow free birth control to all high school students.  
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Published on October 01, 2014 16:32 • 8 views

September 20, 2014

To me, some of the most ignorant, and potentially harmful, words are when one person says to another, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
Oh, I believe the intentions may be pure, or even innocent, when someone says that. For example, a father may see that his daughter is throwing a temper tantrum. When he gets her to tell him what is the matter, it turns out that her favorite breakfast cereal is no longer being produced.
To the father, breakfast cereal may seem like a trivial matter—certainly nothing worth getting upset about. So, in trying to help his daughter, he says, “I’m sorry they are no longer making the cereal. But that’s not worth getting upset. You shouldn’t feel that way.”
You may be thinking, “I’m with the father on this one. He needs to teach his daughter not to throw a tantrum.”
If that’s your thought process, I don’t disagree. Tantrums aren’t good. But that’s not the point. You see, I categorize feelings and actions as two separate things—though they can be related.
In the case with the cereal, the father wants to teach his daughter not to throw tantrums. Logically, her tantrum is caused by her emotional reaction to something. Therefore, if he can change how she feels, then she won’t throw the tantrum.
That’s not a bad idea. However, it’s been my experience that humans don’t work that way. Based on our belief systems, our life events, our upbringing, and various other factors, we will have emotional reactions to things, and not always understand why.
Personally, I get rather upset when someone doubts my sincerity. I had a boss who questioned everything I did—and it nearly drove me nuts. However, just because I get upset doesn’t mean I then have a valid reason to throw a tantrum.
This is one of my favorite sayings: I can’t control how I will emotionally react to something, but I can control how I act on those feelings.
Based on this concept, when you tell someone, “You shouldn’t feel that way” what you are really doing is questioning him or her as a person and who he or she is. In other words, who are you to tell someone else how he or she should feel? You aren’t them. You haven’t experienced what they have experienced. How can you know what makes them tick when they may not be sure themselves?
Back to the story of the father and the daughter, a better way for the father to react is to address the daughter’s actions as being inappropriate. He should help teach her that she chooses how she acts—and that it is possible to not act on your feelings.
In addition, he can talk with her about why she felt that way about the cereal, without being judgmental about her feelings. He can work with her to understand her feelings so she can mature. In time, she may grow to understand what makes her feel certain ways, and what she can do to address her feelings on her terms.
Next time you feel like telling someone, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” think to yourself, “Why do I feel that he or she shouldn’t feel that way?”




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Published on September 20, 2014 10:32 • 5 views

September 17, 2014

Throughout my life, I’ve had this drive, this need, for things to be fair. I can’t say why. Although part of me thinks that it comes from growing up in Utah. Among Latter-day Saints, I believe there can be a prevailing feeling of being the victim. After all, people of the LDS faith (the Mormons) had to leave what was then the United States of America to find religious freedom, and I believe some of that bitterness has been passed down through the generations. For example, I’ve noticed as a fan of BYU’s football team there is a sense of trying to be taken seriously on the national stage—and being outraged when that isn’t the case.
Regardless of the reasons for my feelings that things need to be fair, I also find that I’m not afraid to stand up for things that I believe to be right. The challenge with that, as I’ve grown to understand, is that I’m an extremely sensitive person. Generally, I’ve learned that I don’t have a problem when people disagree with my opinions. After all, I do believe everyone has a right to choose. What I really struggle with is when I feel like me as a person, my character and integrity, are being attacked because I don’t agree with someone.
A few years ago, I attended the LDStorymakers conference in Provo. I was a newly published author. Because I had published through a “traditional” publisher, I was allowed to join the LDStorymakers as a member, and therefore get a discount to this awesome conference which I had heard so many good things about.
And it was amazing. I met a lot of really nice people. One of these wonderful authors was serving on the Board of Directors for LDStorymakers. After we chatted for a bit, she asked if I’d like to become involved. The idea was rather exciting.
Time passed and I learned that there was an “At-Large” position opening soon. This person would be voted in by the membership, and their primary responsibility was to represent the membership and bring issues or concerns to the board.
At first, everything was going great. I contributed by helping with the scholarship fund to help people attend the conference. I attended the monthly meetings via phone and voted on things that needed to be voted upon.
Not long after, I had some serious issues with my publisher. Suffice it to say, I was able to get my rights back to the two books they published. I looked at different options, and elected to pursue this new avenue opening to authors commonly referred to as “indie publishing.” I would bypass the traditional publisher and work directly with the printer and distributor. I got to choose my own covers. I was able to hire my own editor. My old publisher required that I do a lot of promotion, so I was already doing that.
After “going indie,” I discovered two things. First, I loved the creative freedom AND I was making more money. Second, there were certain traditionally published authors who looked down their nose at indie publishing.
Now it wasn’t everyone, or even close to the majority. But there were a number of people who openly criticized indies as inferior. In addition, (and I think this ties back to the whole “victim mentality” of a lot of LDS folks) several indie authors were quite offended.
In my ignorance, I didn’t realize that when I first joined LDStorymakers that indie authors were not allowed to join. After all, my first book was traditionally published, so I hadn’t given it a second thought. When I asked about indies joining, three main reasons from several members of the LDStorymakers came up. First, LDStorymakers is a guild for traditionally published authors. That’s what they do. Second, there really isn’t a gatekeeper on indie work to ensure its quality. Third, LDStorymakers couldn’t really handle taking on a whole lot of new members without more people helping out (commonly referred to as “infrastructure”).
All these answers made sense to me. After all, LDStorymakers had been around for a long time and it was working.
However, now that I was aware of these two different types of authors (traditional and indie), I became more aware of LDStorymakers members asking the same questions. After all, the publishing world was changing dramatically. Indie publishing was taking off (as I experienced firsthand).
Over time, I also realized I had an ethical dilemma. I was voted by the membership to represent them, yet if LDStorymakers was truly only for traditionally published authors, I didn’t really represent them. I had switched to the indie path. I carefully considered my options, and in doing so, re-read my responsibilities. I even mentioned to the Board of Directors that since I was no longer affiliated with traditional publishing that perhaps I should resign. I was encouraged to stay. I even stayed on for an additional year. 
During the next few months, it occurred to me that there was enough concern among the members of the LDStorymakers around membership requirements that it was my responsibility to bring it to the attention of the board. When I did so, I was a bit shocked to hear that it was something brought up often, every year or so. Yet, as far as I could tell, the members hadn’t been allowed to vote on possible changes—for various reasons, some of them logical and noble.
I urged the board to at least ask the members if they wanted to look at different membership options. Specifically, put it to a vote. I’ll be honest here when I say I had to really push to get a vote to happen. But it did.
The results? By an overwhelming margin, the members who voted said they wanted to look at different options.
At this point, the BOD decided to form a committee to look at various options. I declined to participate for two main reasons. First, I will openly admit I thought that indie authors should be allowed to join. I didn’t want it to come across that I was trying to force my personal opinion into the mix. Second, I was finishing my Master’s degree at the time and was swamped with school work.
The committee that was formed worked their tails off, looking at different options. The most controversial of the options was around indie authors. Some were convinced it would never pass. At the very least, I wanted the members to have the option to vote on it.
Several months passed while it was debated. I’ll state that one reason it needed to be pushed to the back burner for a bit was because of the annual conference which took place in April. That event is by far the biggest event in which the LDStorymakers are involved—and a valid reason for a delay.
With that completed, I once again began to push for a vote. I was met with a lot of resistance. And some of it started to turn personal. One person even said I had threatened to quit if I didn’t get my way—that was based on my comment that perhaps I should resign if I didn’t truly represent the members. I’ll openly confess that the sensitive part of me started to get outraged. I was trying to do my job, and yet somehow my motives and character were being called into question.
I honestly thought about quitting because the stress was starting to impact other parts of my life—stress caused from a volunteer position in which I was trying to do what I had been voted in to do.
But the other part of me, the fighter, hung on. As of this moment, the LDStorymakers members are voting on three possible options for opening up more membership, including allowing indie authors.
During this process, I have received emails from five different people accusing me of various things (abusing power, falsifying information, and trying to advance my personal agenda) and attacking my character—all because I pushed for the vote to happen.
The one thing that I reminded all of them is that I gain nothing, personally, from the results of the vote either way, aside from knowing that I did what I was elected to do.
And now the good news. For every bad email, I received at least two positive emails thanking me for making a stand and speaking out for the membership. One person even admitted that they wanted to speak up, but felt like if they did they would receive the same treatment I did from the few who were brash enough to make accusations.
In the end, have I taken offense when people have disagreed with me? I’d like to believe that wasn’t the case at first, but I will admit that once the comments became personal, that clouded my reaction when people were offering different opinions. I wish I had been better than that. At the same time, I honestly believe I’ve tried to do what I thought was right.
At the very least, the members have been allowed to vote on choices for changing membership options—options which I feel will only make LDStorymakers stronger and better, and able to serve a larger group of people. Chances are good that at least one of the proposed options will pass, if not more. Even if none pass, at least the members were the ones to make the choice—the people I was voted in to represent. 

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Published on September 17, 2014 08:03 • 2 views

September 4, 2014

Cruise control is a blessing and a curse. Whenever I have to travel any length, I use cruise control, mainly to ensure that I don’t go too fast—getting speeding tickets stinks and can be pricey.

All too often, the following situation happens: I’m driving down the road, fat, dumb and happy. Ahead of me, in my lane, is a car which is going slower than I am. As I get closer, I check the passing lane, and if it is clear, I’ll go around the person. No big deal, right?

A little while later, the person I passed is coming up on my tail. Many times they’ll pass me, and before you know it, I’m creeping up on them again.

The whole time, my speed hasn’t changed. And this drives me nuts.

I was thinking about this and how it compares to life. Many times I feel like I’m just chugging along. I’m the kind of person to plans things out and gets after them, pacing myself. Then BOOM! Someone will call me or email or something and tell me they needs help right then.

Of course, I’ll do what I can to help them. And in doing so, I’ll figure out what caused the urgent matter. Often, the reason for the problem is due to poor planning, or someone putting something off until the last minute. In a sense, I’m the one keeping my speed steady, and they are the ones changing speeds. Sometimes they get in my way, and I have to slow down, or sometimes they go zipping by me, sometimes recklessly.

I’m pretty chill with the “live and let live” attitude, or to be clearer, that everyone has a right to choose.

However, as my college English students are finding out, when I say an assignment is due, it is due. It’s been interesting how many students have Internet or computer problems 30 minutes before an assignment is due.

So yes, I tell me students, I believe you when you say your computer blew up or the Internet suddenly disappeared. I also believe I gave you a week to do the assignment which could have been done before the last minute.

“But! But! But!” they say.

I respond, “My speed hasn’t changed. I’m on cruise control.”

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Published on September 04, 2014 17:18 • 16 views