Sunday, December 02, 2007

Virtual Book Tour: Marilyn Morris-Lupus, A Personal Journey

Marilyn Morris has been courageously dealing with her lupus since her diagnosis in 1988. Instead of giving into the pain and depression that follows, she chose to have the courage to fight back through her writing skills. Diagnosis: Lupus is her way of not only her way of coping, but a message to others that they are not alone. Diagnosis: Lupus is a must read for not only those who have the disease but for their loved ones.

Once a Brat

Diagnosis: Lupus : The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient
Following are some of the many questions I am asked when people learn that I am a published author. Some are painfully naive and others are painfully honest. We get the good with the bad.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
A: I knew from the time I was in kindergarten. I watched my teacher making marks on the blackboard and I understood that those marks made words, and words made sentences, and sentences made a story. I was hooked right then and there.

Also, my parents and extended family members were readers. I learned to read at an early age, and I knew I could write stories like the ones I read.

Did you do any writing when you were a child, in school?
Yes. My father was an army officer and we spent a good deal of our time living overseas. It was probably forced isolation when I was in a military compound in Seoul, South Korea, in the third and fourth grades. There were few kids to play with, especially in the winter. So I listened to music and wrote stories.
How about in high school? Did you participate in the journalism classes?
Strangely, no. The school newspaper dealt with facts, and I knew I wanted to write fiction. I remember taking a journalism class at the local junior college several years ago, and after I had written my assignment, it was handed back to me with all kinds of red marks on it. I knew then I didn’t have it in me to do factual writing. I’ll do an article, every once in a while, but it is usually about my own experiences with lupus or being an army brat, or something I have experiences with.
What was your first break into being published?
I wrote a couple of stories for confession magazines, using a pen name. My check was made out to the real me, though! And the Star-Telegram posted one or two of my columns when they had guest columnists, way back when. I was absolutely thrilled to see my name as a by-line, even if it wasn’t a “big break.” It was a start. Then I began writing a weekly humor/human interest column for a local weekly paper, and I did that for ten years.
So when was your first book published, and how long did it take you to write it?
I always say it took me 20 years to write my first novel, Sabbath’s Room. I was going through a difficult divorce and lacked any shred of self-confidence, so each time I pulled the manuscript out of the drawer, I worried that it wasn’t good enough. And this was all written on a typewriter, B.C. (Before Computers) But when a fellow Army Brat I met online in our military brats group asked me to proofread his book, and then he got it published, I thought, “If he can do it, I can do it.”
So by now I had a computer and Internet access so I screwed up my nerve and sent it off and they accepted it.

So how did you feel when your book was actually in your hands?
I felt like I had won the lottery. The book cover was great, and it felt good in my hands,
even had a kind of smell to it, like a new car smell. And it was a shock to see my words in book form, instead of on 8 ½” by 11”typing paper.

And your other books?
A. My book about being an army brat came next, after I met the Director of the American

Overseas Schools Historical Society at a national gathering for a group called Overseas

Brats that I had found on the Internet. Dr. Drysdale pointed out to me that I am perhaps

one of the “original” brats to be sent overseas after WWII, and he was correct. Then he suggested I write about my experiences and send a copy of the manuscript to the Museum Archives, where former Department of Defense Dependents School teachers had set aside to gather all our memorabilia, such as my 4th grade report card, dated 1947, in Seoul, Korea. Yearbooks, letter jackets, old school newspapers, etc. are catalogued and housed in our institution in Wichita KS. for historians and researchers. So when he received my manuscript, he wrote me and said, “This needs to be published. “ And it was. It’s titled, Once a Brat, and the cover is from a photograph of my father, mother, two brothers and me at his retirement ceremony in 1958.

My third book, Diagnosis: Lupus, The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient, was by far the most difficult to write. Taking writings out of my 5 year journal and putting them up for public viewing, was a daunting task. I had to admit I was angry, depressed, and fearful when I was diagnosed with SLE in 1988. A couple of years ago, I thought maybe some other person suffering from Lupus or any other chronic disease might like to know how I got through it, and that it’s normal to cry and be angry about your lost health. So I took some of my notes and put them in a manuscript and it was published.

I have been in remission for several years, now, but I am always aware that I could have a flare at any time. And I have to remind myself that I could be hit by a truck tomorrow, too. Nothing is guaranteed in our lives.

My most recent novel, The Women of Camp Sobingo, will be released as an ebook by Mardi Gras Publishing on June 9th, 2007. This is something entirely new for me, as I am such a non-techie person.

What is the least favorite thing about writing?
A. Writing is fun. Promoting is not. Forget the old school of thought that if your book gets published, you’ll be out on a glamorous book tour and make a lot of money and be famous. Not today. I published like a lot of my fellow writers do – I chose a print-on-demand company, which didn’t offer any kind of promotion for any of my books. That’s all left up to me, to get them into the bookstores (they are on-line, though, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble) and do what I can to advertise my books. That hasn’t happened yet, simply because I haven’t done the legwork. I learning to promote on the Internet, but I need to go in person to the brick and mortar stores to ask them if they will stock my books.

I recently held a book signing at a Hastings Books in Lawton, OK. where I was attending my 50th class reunion. A classmate of mine took it upon himself to handle the publicity details, and I was very pleased with his work. He can be my agent anytime.

I have to tell a story about how my 86-year-old mother reacted to my first novel, Sabbath’s Room. Keep in mind it’s a paranormal murder mystery.

She called me and said, “I sat down and read your book today, all in one sitting.”

I said, “Okay, what did you think?”

She kind of stuttered a bit, and I prompted her, “Go ahead, tell me if you didn’t like it.”

“Well, that’s not it. It’s just that….well, I was surprised by all the sex and violence.”

I have to tell you here, that the “sex “consisted of passages such as “necking like teenagers” and “she lay in his strong arms.” And it is a murder mystery, so it has some violence in it.

“Well, Mother, I’m sorry you feel that way. I could have put in a lot worse on the sex scenes and made the murder much more graphic, so what you’re reading is pretty mild. Are you ashamed of me?”

“Well, no. I’m not ashamed of you. It’s just that --- well,” she finally said in exasperation, “It’s just that I recommended it to my Sunday School class.”

I laughed and said, “Well, okay, next Sunday, apologize to your Sunday School class for the recommendation; that you didn’t know it had so much sex and violence in it.”

She said she would do that.

And guess what? My sales went up.

Gotta love those Methodists.

Marilyn Morris may be reached by email: to schedule a speaking engagement or arrange for editing services. See also for excerpts of all three books.

Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient is available at, and other online bookstores, or your local bookstore may order for you.

1. When and how did you learn you had lupus?
A: I was diagnosed in October 1988, but I had experienced many of the symptoms for several years. My general practitioner sent me to a rheumatologist who made the diagnosis, at last.

2. What were/are your symptoms?
A. I experienced severe joint pain, swollen and red joints, somewhat like arthritis, but with no disfigurement. And regular arthritis meds weren't working. Because of my age, (50 at that time) I was not a typical lupus patient, since it strikes most often in child-bearing years. I also had extreme fatigue and cognitive impairment.

Reynaud's Syndrome presents with a coldness in the extremities, such as being unable to reach into the frozen foods section at the supermarket without the hands becoming blue.

I didn't experience Reynaud's Syndrome, though I did have Sjogren's Syndrome, which is dry mouth and eyes. There are medications for the Sjogren's but I know of none for Reynaud's.

How do the symptoms present themselves?

In my case, they all hit me at the same time.

3. What kind of treatments are available?
A. The typical treatment for my symptoms included steroids (to reduce the swelling, but cause weight gain and a "hyper" feeling despite the ongoing fatigue (I called it "wired/tired" and I also took Cytoxan and Imuran when I developed vasculitis in my ankles. That made walking difficult and I had to use a cane for a while. I was also prescribed Plaquenil, an anti-malarial, which had been found to work very effectively on lupus. That course of treatment takes 3 months to feel the effect, and I am currently still taking Plaquenil once daily to keep lupus in remission.
Non-traditional treatments were applying heat to the affected joints, warm baths and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, like Ibuprofen.) They helped me somewhat, and often work well for some people, but I needed "big guns" for a while. I am often offered "cures" for lupus, and feel that as long is no harm is done, they just might work, but I generally ask my rheumatologist about them.
For a while, I was told by a reflexologist to eliminate all red meat, sugars, potatoes, tomatoes and squash, and when I followed her advice, I didn't hurt so badly. I forgot one day at lunch and absently ate jello and by 4 PM my knees hurt so badly I could hardly walk. I've also heard of some lupus sufferers using DHEA, (and I really don't know what that is) but again, I haven't felt that need to experiment, as long as what I'm doing is working all right.

4. You are the co-facilitator for the Fort Worth Lupus Support group. How do support groups help and how can one be found locally?
A. Once a newly-diagnosed person walks into our meeting room, they sense an immediate feeling of relief: somebody here understands this disease and I'm not alone. We allow them to "vent" and ask questions, focusing on the positive aspects of our recovery and treatment. To find one in your area, go to www.//Lupus. org and under the heading of "support groups" you will find one in your area. Our group is part of the North Texas Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America and is all volunteer. If someone has no access to a computer, someone in the medical/ mental health/counseling field has information about us. We often include nursing students in our meetings, who are required in their training to attend any kind of support group, and some choose our group.

5. How did writing the book help you?
A. Although the book consists of selected excerpts from about five years of journaling each day, I was surprised and pleased to see how far I had come from the very first pages to the time I finished journaling. I saw that I was afraid, angry, frustrated, in pain and despair that this would never end. Nobody seemed to understand I was really very ill, when I looked perfectly healthy (translation: How can you be sick when you're so -- uh, fat?) I realized that many people going through any kind of chronic illness must feel the same.

6. How do you want it to help others?
A. I want the reader to know he/she is not alone. Someone understands what they are going through. It's not all in your imagination, and you're not being a hypochondriac. I want them to know that the sooner they get a diagnosis of lupus, the sooner their treatment can begin and they will get better. They can have a better quality of life, even though this disease is still active. And they can achieve remission, for a day, a week, a month, or even a year or more. I want them to learn to recognize their limitations within this disease, and that they need to take care of themselves by not pushing so hard, and resting more often.

7. If you could say one thing to a person who has just learned he or she has lupus, what would it be?
A. Each individual presents different symptoms, making the diagnosis difficult. But once diagnosed and treatment begins, you will get better.

8. My book is available on, PublishAmerica' s site or you may ask your local bookstore order it for you.

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