Meet VHP Author Marilyn Celeste Morris

Good morning everyone. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very talented and multi-published Marilyn Celeste Morris.

Marilyn, thanks so much for joining us today in the Potpourri Parlor…

Can you tell us a little about your next book to come out – After Camelot: Esther’s Quest? Is this a sequel to The Unexplored Heart? Do you have any more works planned based on these characters?

Marilyn: Yes, on all three questions. I also have sequels planned for my other novels: The Women of Camp Sobingo will focus on Trudy Cavanaugh and her fame and fortune as the Chairman of her father-in-law’s publishing empire. It will be named: That Cavanaugh Woman. The third book in the Sabbath Trilogy will be Sabbath’s Village, and will tell how the small town encounters witchcraft in their midst. So far, that’s the only sequels planned, but my other novels might cry out for a sequel.

I’m curious about your book The Cards We’re Dealt, Life with Lupus Erythematosus – what inspired you to write this book? I know that Lupus is a very personal issue for you, how has having Lupus affected you as a writer?

Marilyn: I kept a journal for many years, detailing my day-to-day search for answers to the strange symptoms I was experiencing, and the frustration of going to five doctors/medical centers in three years. When I was finally diagnosed, I wondered if others had experienced the same feelings and thoughts. I joined an online lupus support group and gained even more knowledge and insight about this baffling condition. I asked permission from the moderators asking if I could contact many of the participants and using their experiences, frustrations and how they shared their diagnoses with friends and families. They said they thought that was a great idea, so when a particular story or “rant” struck me as being part of my own feelings, I sent each one a permission document to sign and return to me. I borrowed liberally from my journals to use as an intro before I inserted their wisdom, experiences both positive and negative, and feelings of despair, anger, self-pity and moment of hilarity; one participant quoted a 12 Step prayer as: Lord give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those physicians who told me it was all in my head.

Do you work on more than one novel at a time?

Marilyn: Yes. First time anyone has asked me that question. Doesn’t everybody? By “work” I mean a few random scenes are written into the body of the novel, in no certain order, and saved with a notation of where those scenes could be planted. I carry 5 x7 note cards in my purse where random ideas can be written down before the experience is forgotten.

What historical time period is your favorite?

Marilyn: I don’t think I have a favorite time period right now. My two historical novels are reflections of the WWII era and 1860s Victorian years. I can’t tell you my reaction to discovering that WWII years are in the “historical” class, but I remained slack-jawed for days after learning that. I guess it’s because I am old enough to remember some of those years, even if I was just a child. As for Victorian England, it’s near enough to hold our fascination with the young monarch’s reign in comparison to the present Queen. But I’m open to other time periods; I love to research the distant past, too.

Why?

Marilyn: I attribute my fondness for history as a 4th grader in a Department of Defense Dependents School in Seoul, Korea, when we were distributed a small, red, leather-bound book titled “Ancient History.” When I read that my hero, Alexander the Great cried because he had no more worlds to conquer, I cried, too.

Do you have a vision board or other `trick’ to help motivate you?

Marilyn:  No. At the beginning of a novel, I keep my story line close at hand, so I can remember where I should change a character or insert a different scene. It’s fairly random until I near the end of the novel, where I review my so-called “outline” and revise if necessary.

Do you schedule time to write or is writing all consuming to the exclusion of everything else and you schedule time to do other things? Like eat.

Marilyn: I have a rather haphazard writing schedule. I like to joke that I do my best writing while I’m in the shower. Must be the cleansing of the soapy water. By that time, I have done the morning “pick up” routine, like unloading the dishwasher, etc. so I can feel free to write until I’m ready to do something else. My son has installed a graphic that comes on the screen reminding me that I need to take a break, which I cheerfully ignore. I write until I find a stopping point; then I go load the washer, unload the dryer, etc. until I’m ready to get back to the work in progress.

How do you “connect” with your readers?

Marilyn: I don’t know how or why I connect with some readers. I’ve had some rather nice comments on each one of my novels, and with my non-fiction works.

Can you tell us about any memorable author-reader interactions?

Marilyn:  Oh, I have a beautiful story about a reader’s reaction to my non-fiction book, Once a Brat, Always a Brat. My son and I were going to a friend’s funeral when the phone rang. Woody answered it, then handed it to me. “It’s about your book,” he whispered. I thought, “Which book?” and then, “Am I in trouble?” ‘But the voice on the other end of the line said, “I have to tell you how much I enjoyed your book, Once a Brat, Always a Brat. You see, I’m a brat, too, and I believe I was in Linz, Austria at the same time you were. In fact,” she went on while I tried to process what she had said, “you were probably in my younger brother’s class. His name is Joe Grotenrath.”

I almost screamed in recognition. “Joe Grotenrath! He was my boyfriend!” If 6th graders can have boyfriends, then he was mine. I remember standing with him on a balcony in the summer moonlight, where I got my first kiss. So long ago, and so far away, yet here was his sister. She was a senior in high school at the time, and they weren’t there as long as I was, but she managed to get her photo in our yearbook. She said she no longer had any of her memorabilia from Austria, so I offered to scan that yearbook’s photos and send it to her. We have kept in touch via email since that day.

 When you are not writing, what do you do to unwind?

Marilyn: I watch a lot of television. Good, bad or indifferent, I’m a big fan of television. Most of the History and National Geographic programs take me away to different times and places from my current project. Yet, I’m always taking mental notes, if not actual notes on my note cards, for other projects. I actually found a plot line for my current work in progress, where Esther discovers an amazing artifact I had not even considered, yet it fits perfectly in this novel.

Aside from yourself, of course, who are your favorite authors? Was there any particular author who inspired you to write?

Marilyn: I can’t say I have favorite authors; I’m an eclectic reader. But I do love Stephen King and Dean Koontz. (Many people express surprise that this “little old lady” loves the macabre, but I love it.) I don’t tend to run out and buy the current hit novel. Besides, I find it difficult to read anybody’s work while I’m writing my own novel. You could say, I get a “guilty feeling” that I should be writing instead of reading. And I don’t have any idea of who inspired me to become a writer, myself. I just know I was meant to be a writer from the first day in kindergarten when Teacher told us that the alphabet made words, words made sentences, and sentences made stories. I was drunk with power after that.

Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?

Marilyn: I’m definitely a morning person. I sometimes work through the “normal” lunchtime, until my blood glucose level is so low I have to stop and get something to eat. I take a nap when I need one, and sometimes I return to my laptop after dinner to finish a chapter or at least a thought left in limbo.

 Is there any one particular character in your novels that you feel is most like Marilyn Celeste Morris? How?

Marilyn: I have to admit I am becoming more and more like Esther Wooster, the wife of the famed archaeologist featured inThe Unexplored Heart. I have told the story about when I typed the words, “The End” to that novel, I was startled to see Esther Wooster storming into my office and settling beside my desk. “You just think this is the end,” she snorted. “I want my own book. I may have been a minor character in this novel, but I want to be the featured player in your next book. And it must have my name in the title.” Thus, After Camelot: Esther’s Quest became my latest work in progress. Normally I’m a pretty quiet, unassuming woman, due to my sheltered, compliant childhood as an army officer’s daughter, then the obedient, quiet wife of two corporate businessmen, but I found a whole other personality in my writings. So you might say, Esther has been begging to come out for many years. As has Trudy Cavanaugh, from The Women of Camp Sobingo, who inherits her father-in-law’s powerful position of Chairman of the Board of his publishing empire.

I won’t write about women who are weak and submissive. Can’t do it.

Can you describe your favorite place to write? Do you listen to music or watch TV while you write?

Marilyn: Although I have a laptop and could theoretically write almost anywhere, I prefer the desk in my bedroom corner for my writing. I pull the laptop close to me on a large lap desk, balancing the things on my armchair for comfort. I have the television going in the background, volume on low, but I’ve learned I can’t have music in the background: I want to get up and dance! Chair dancing is also non-productive, so I stick with television cable news channels.

What do you prefer to read, a print (paper)) book, an ebook, or an audiobook? Does it make a difference what you are reading as to what format you prefer?

Marilyn: In this technical age, I should be Amish. I haven’t tried too many e-book readers, no matter what the genre, but I love the feel and the ‘”heft” of a good print novel in my hands.

Please tell us a little about your home life- family, pets, community?

Marilyn: I have three grown children: Two girls and a boy. One of my girls is actually a step-daughter, but we cheerfully ignore that she was born to another woman who went off to Los Angeles with Lauri, at the age of 12 months, until her father, my second husband, discovered she was being mistreated so he flew out to LA from TX and literally kidnapped her, returning to TX with a bottle and one change of diapers. He and I had worked in the same company; I thought my kids, son Woody, and daughter Terri, 12 and 10 years old, and I were going to starve to death after I divorced their father. So, it seemed logical and practical for us to marry and raise our children. That lasted 12 years when we finally gave our marriage a mercy killing. Terri moved to CA where she is in the mortgage business; Lauri has my grandchildren, living on an acreage west of Fort Worth where she raises horses and gives riding lessons, both Western and Dressage. The kids are Joseph, 18, getting ready to go off to college,  Julia, 13, and Jayna, 7.

My son recently came home to live with me due to the economy in OR, where he was an insurance salesman, and while it’s been quite an adjustment, all in all we have learned to live together quite nicely. Especially since I have medical issues from time to time, and he does all the grocery shopping and the cooking.

At what point in your life did you first feel comfortable calling yourself an author/writer?

Marilyn: Just a few years ago, I began telling others “I’m a writer.” It felt awkward at first, but I finally got used to it. But now, I’m calling myself a novelist, since that’s the bulk of my work: “Novelist: Telling lies for fun and profit.”

Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?

Marilyn:
My website is:  http://authormarilyncelestemorris.blogspot.com/

BLOG: http://AuthorMarilynCMorris.wordpress.com

PUBLISHER’S SITE: http://bit.ly/LIq9iy

Free reads: First four chapters of all my books:  http://bit.ly/JZM0j4

Is there a place where readers can reach you?

Marilyn: Email me at marilyncmorris(at)sbcglobal.net

Do you have anything you want to say to your readers?

Marilyn: I’d like to thank them for reading my books, and especially those who gave reviews, unasked, but received gratefully. I’d like to think of my readers as women who have immense curiosity in many different areas.

Marilyn Celeste Morris, Author, Editor, Speaker
WEBSITE: http://authormarilyncelestemorris.blogspot.com/
BLOG: AuthorMarilynCMorris.wordpress.com
AMAZON: http://amzn.to/KSq5Ya
PUBLISHER’S SITE: http://bit.ly/LIq9iy

And now, free reads: First four chapters of all Marilyn’s books:  http://bit.ly/JZM0j4

Forces of Nature ~ Audible Audio Edition

What  happens when a fully-fueled bomber from the Air Force base just outside a large Texas city and piloted by a woman named Rory is flung by a fierce tornado into the country’s largest, busiest shopping mall? Begin the day with the mall manager, his assistant, the chief security officer, and Howard the Weatherman – whose predictions are always uncannily accurate, and in this case – deadly.

Forces of Nature Audiobook
by Marilyn Celeste Morris
& narrated by John Podulka

 

“An edgy, well-written suspense by the same author as the wonderful The Women of Camp Sobingo, Forces of Nature has everything from thriller and horror to romance and human foibles… Each of the characters resonates with the reader with depth and clarity, all while making an entertaining evening”s reading…” -Carl Benson, fan
 

About the Author

Marilyn Celeste Morris is a multipublished author of The Women of Camp Sobingo, (WWII era Historical Novel) Forces of Nature, (Mainstream Fiction) Volumes One and Two in a proposed Sabbath Trilogy: Sabbath’s Gift and Sabbath’s House, (Supernatural Mystery) My Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Sale and My Second Annual Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Sale,collections of humor/human interest columns written over ten years for a weekly suburban newspaper. She also has written two non-fiction books, Once a BratAlways a Brat, “part travelogue, part therapy session” about her world-wide travels with her army officer father from her birth in 1938 to his (their) retirement in 1958. Her other non-fiction work is The Cards We’re Dealt, which relates her own struggle for diagnosis and treatment of this immune disorder, with comments from other “Lupies,” and the criteria for diagnosing SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.) Her most recent novel is The Unexplored Heart, a Victorian era romance/adventure, and a sequel, After Camelot: Esther’s Quest will be released soon.

She is a strong supporter of the North Texas Chapter, Lupus Foundation of America and counsels newly diagnosed persons and their families about the ravages of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Marilyn has taped various radio interviews, local cable television programs, and is accustomed to speaking to groups about Lupus; the Life of a Military Brat, and The Pleasures and Perils of Being a Published Author.
She lives in Fort Worth TX with a neurotic black cat named Cleopatra and her grown son who does all the “heavy lifting” in the house and yard. Marilyn has three grown children and three grandchildren who live too far away for her liking. She is an omnivorous reader “reading almost anything,” she says, and watching the Discovery and History Channels.

Promo: The Unexplored Heart by Marilyn Celeste Morris

The Unexplored Heart

Impoverished but proud Vanessa Danforth is forced from her mother’s home by her new stepfather’s treachery in 1860s England. After graduating from stenographer’s school, she accepts a position at the estate of famed world explorer, Harrison Courtland. Made a widower by his wife s tragic death in the Himalayas, Courtland has retreated into his work while Vanni forges friendships with his daughter Katrin and the handsome physician from the neighboring estate. As Vanni encourages Courtland to unearth the ancient ruins at the edge of his property she discovers not only a stunning secret and a hidden treasure, but also her own heart’s desire.

(excerpt)

Rose and Vanni had become very good friends, to the point where on the occasions when their days off coincided, they planned trips into London, to shop and spend the days in sweet idleness, seeing different areas of the city and its outskirts each time. 

            On one occasion, when Rose had traveled by herself to London, she returned, white-faced and trembling.

            “What is it, Rose?”  Vanni inquired as soon as she could talk to the girl alone.  “You look a fright.  Was the train trip not to your liking?  Are you ill?”

Vanni examined her friend carefully for any signs of illness.  Yet, she saw nothing but fear.  Not illness.  Fear.

At last, when the two women were alone in the dining room, Rose looked around, lowered her voice and whispered, “I saw her, Vanni.”

“Saw whom?”  Vanni whispered back, looking around the room to ascertain they were indeed, unheard.

“Mrs. Courtland.  I saw Mrs. Courtland.  In London. With Dr. Thorne.”

Vanni’s jaw dropped.  “Surely you saw someone in her likeness, Rose.  Mrs. Courtland has been lost and presumed dead these five long years.  You can’t have seen her.”

Vanni simultaneously realized Miss Katrin was a young woman, ready to go off to boarding school in London.  She would go with Miss Rose on her next trip to London, with a two-fold purpose:  To investigate the school Miss Rose had chosen for her pupil to attend, and to either confirm or deny Rose’s observation of Mrs. Courtland and Dr. Thorne together, emerging from a hotel.

“Surely not,” she exclaimed to Rose as they entered the train station and prepared to disembark.  “Mrs. Courtland is most certainly deceased after such a fall in such a remote area.  I assure you, when Mr. Courtland dictated to me his notes on that trip, he was most certainly convinced, as were his fellow explorers, that the fall killed his wife. Mercifully, we assume, as she must have hit her head on the rocky stream bed, rather than drowning.  It was a quick death, with no suffering on her part.”

Vanni looked squarely into Miss Rose’s eyes, and the tutor’s eyes never wavered.

“It is Mrs. Courtland,” she insisted.  “You must see for yourself.  I have seen her a second time, and that only convinced me further that the two people I saw dining in the Grand Hotel restaurant were Doctor Thorne and Mrs. Courtland.  You’ll see.”

“Very well, Rose. First, we’ll investigate the boarding school you have chosen for our Miss Katrin.  Then we shall go to the hotel dining room for luncheon, and hope the elusive Mrs. Courtland shows up to confirm your belief she is alive and well and living in London.”

Rose nodded and upon arrival in London, they hired a hansom cab to deliver them to Miss Ellis’ School for Young Ladies a short distance away.  They had pooled their money to ensure they would have the funds to explore London as well as complete their stated purpose…..or purposes, as it were.

The boarding school proved to be acceptable to Miss Rose, and after interviewing Miss Ellis herself, Rose sealed the deal by telling Miss Ellis that a checque signed by Mr. Courtland would arrive in the next week’s post.

That errand completed, Vanni and Rose set off to the Grand Hotel, where they had a dual purpose:  enjoying a leisurely luncheon and spotting Dr. Thorne and the Late Mrs. Courtland.

“But what if they see us?” Vanni asked breathlessly, scanning the room’s occupants.

“Oh, this is a very large room, Vanni,” her companion replied. “They are so engrossed with each other, they scarcely take their eyes somewhere other than each other.  Besides, we are wearing broad-brimmed hats; we can tilt them down to hide our faces, if they do chance to look this way.”

Vanni shook her head in disbelief. “I’m not liking this part of my adventure in London,” she said in a low voice. “After our luncheon, I suggest we go straightaway back to Cornwall, to our regular duties tomorrow and forget this nonsense.”

“Agreed,” Miss Rose nodded.  “It is difficult to enjoy everything London has to offer two young women when they are embarked on a mystery chase.”  She laughed.

The waiter took their orders and Vanni allowed herself a glass of red wine, which she found she enjoyed in Courtland Manor’s dining room.  She thought back to her first days there, almost five years ago,and sighed.  So much has happened since she first met Mr. Harrison Courtland.

Her sigh was not missed by Miss Rose. “What is it, Vanni? Why are you looking so troubled?”

Vanni blushed unwittingly and then she raised her hands to her reddened cheeks.

“Vanni!  Do I see a blush on your pretty face?  What is it?  Are you in love?”

Another sigh from Vanni.  “Yes, I believe I am.  I am walking on air, happy as a lark and eager to be closer to him.  But, Rose, he is my employer! “

Rose laughed and reached out to touch Vanni’s hand. “Oh, Vanni, that is wonderful! Do not be shy about telling me your feelings.  Or admitting them to Mr. Courtland, either, when it’s appropriate.”

“How will I know when it’s appropriate?”

“I see the signs.  He has never been with any of the former secretaries like this before.  Have you not noticed at times he seemed somewhat befuddled, absent-minded, and even shy? Let him make the first declaration, Vanni.  You will see.  Soon, I think. ”

Vanni searched her memory and realized Rose was correct in her assessment.

“I suppose you are  right, Rose.  Thank you for telling me.  Now, we must eat our delightful lunch before our hunted prey appears in the room.”  She laughed.

“Our prey?  How droll,” Rose raised her glass in a mock toast. “To us! The detectives!”

At that moment, Vanni glanced toward the entry doors to the restaurant, leading from the lobby.  She recognized Jonathan Thorne immediately as he paused to speak to the maitre d’hotel as he patted the arm of the attractive woman who held his arm tightly.

“It’s Thorne,” she whispered to Rose, who immediately tilted her head so her broad brimmed hat shielded her face.  She indicated Vanni do the same.

“The woman with Dr. Thorne,” Rose hissed beneath her hat, “is Mrs. Courtland.  Look.”

Exasperated with Rose’s statement, Vanni muttered back, keeping her face shielded from the entry way, “You know I never saw the woman.  How would I know who she is?”  Nonetheless, she dared look at the couple entering the dining room.

Vanni’s breath seemed taken away.  The lady was the same image she had seen in the portrait in Courtland Manor; the titian-haired woman with the porcelain skin and her rosy red lips ……..was one and the same as the person now threading her way through the room.

Rose heard Vanni’s sudden intake of breath. “What is it, Vanni?  Do you recognize her from the portrait?  It is Mrs. Courtland, isn’t it?  No doubt whatsoever, Lisanne Courtland has returned from the dead.”

This last statement was said with great finality, and to punctuate her comment, Rose lifted a glass of wine to her lips and drank the remaining wine with gusto.

“I’m convinced, Vanni whispered, “this really was Lisanne Courtland, even though I’ve only seen  the portrait hanging on the stairway at Courtland’s.

“And,” she added in a low voice, “I saw her in a carriage with Mr. Firestone, my stepfather, who turned out to be a gambler and a womanizer.  One of those women was undoubtedly Mrs. Courtland. Lisanne.”

Rose, to her credit, did not look the least bit startled to hear that bit of information. “I could have thought so,” she said thoughtfully.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Vanni whispered to her companion-turned-accomplice in crime. “Surely we cannot confront them here.  Nor can we tell Mr. Courtland when we return tonight. But I have another concern about this….”

Rose nodded at her to continue, while watching Lisanne and Dr. Thorne take their seats at a dining table near the window.

“Katrin will be coming to London soon.  What if she sees her mother here?  What a shock it would be!  How can we prevent Lisanne from seeing her daughter, or vice-versa? We must not allow this to happen.  It would surely give the girl a shock.”

Rose pursed her lips.  “I agree.  We must not let that happen.  I could delay Katrin’s admission to the boarding school; I could invent some excuse to keep the girl at home until we can think of a way to confront Mrs. Courtland and get her to tell the truth about how she survived and where she has been these five years.  Think of it.  Katrin was a child of ten when her mother disappeared.  She is now fifteen, and a girl on the verge of adulthood.  The woman must be stopped.”

The women lingered at their table for a few moments, each one thinking how best to deal with this most unusual occurrence. Who do you tell when you find out a woman whom everyone thought had died suddenly appears in London, not only alive, but with a traitorous neighbor?

Do we tell her husband?  Or do we remain quiet and let this charade play itself out?

But most of all, how can we keep silent after we return to Cornwall with this dreadful secret? 

* * * *