Up next for my 30 Days of Writers series is a good friend of mine. I met her online a few years ago through a writing group and we became close friends. We’ve met once in person, but we still continue to talk all the time. I’m happy to introduce L.M. Orbison!

L.M. Orbison

1. Please tell us a little bit about you as a person.

I’m 32, married. I have four cats. My cats are all named after food. I have Caramel, Vanilla, Hazelnut, and Pepper.

My favorite color is hunter green. I stink at math. 😀

Perhaps the most interesting thing about me, though, is that I have an unusual genetic condition called 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome otherwise known as DiGeorge’s Syndrome. What that means is, part of my 22nd chromosome was deleted when I was born. This chromosome is definitely not something I’d recommend being without if you can avoid it! 😀

2. Tell us about you as a writer.

You all have Chad Landman to thank, (er blame?), because he got me into Star Wars and that started my writing journey. How did it all happen? Well, pop some popcorn and get a drink because it’s quite a story.

When I was a little girl, I hated Star Wars and wanted nothing to do with it. It wasn’t for my parents lack of trying to get me to watch it. But I just didn’t care about it. I always left the room whenever they started, “those war movies.” Once in awhile, curiosity got the better of me and I peeked in to see what they were watching. Inevitably, I’d always pick the bad parts to come in at.

See, because I’d been in the hospital so much growing up, I can’t stand to watch any blood or gore on television or in movies. I just have a very limited tolerance for that sort of thing. To this day that’s still true and I almost always picked the bad parts to come in at. I usually picked when Obi-Wan sliced off the guy’s hand in the Mos Eisley cantina. One look at the guy’s severed, bleeding arm lying on the ground was enough to convince me to turn around and head out of the room again. Or even worse, when Luke’s arm was sliced off by Darth Vader. Or when Emperor Palpatine was electrocuting Luke Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi and Luke was screaming in pain. Yikes! I’d made the right choice to stay away from that!

I was a very impressionable little kid and those sorts of things scared me a lot. What happened to change all of that?

Well, a crush when I was 16. Fortunately for Chad and Bonnie and little Jacob, though, my crush faded over the years and went away. But that’s how it all began.

I had the pangs of adolescence just like any other teenager. That part of me wasn’t deleted to say the least. It was around the time the Special Editions were coming out back in 1997. Chad got tickets to Return of the Jedi and asked Leah to go with him on a date.

My sister was too young to date at the time, being only 14-years-old, so my parents asked me to chaperone.

Great, just great. Now not only do I have to sit through these movies I don’t like, I have to chaperone a date with a crush to add insult to injury! I knew that Return of the Jedi was the last one in a trilogy but I didn’t know much else about the series. I dug through my parents’ video collection and pulled out A New Hope. It was a VHS copy and I trundled out a teeny tiny 13” screen and put it in.

I was completely blown away by the storyline.

Unfortunately, we didn’t own The Empire Strikes Back, we only had the first and Return of the Jedi. I remember asking mom what happened in the second movie, “Oh nothing important except Han getting frozen in carbonite,” she said. “You can watch the third one without watching the second.”

She neglected to mention the key plot point of Luke Skywalker being the son of Darth Vader. Yeah, thanks mom. By the time the day of Chad and Leah’s date came around, I was actually excited to see the rest of the story on the big screen. It wasn’t as bad as I originally thought, being the chaperone either since it ended up being a group outing with several folks from church. I remember sitting next one of the guys from church and him whispering to me about all the stuff they had changed and I just smiled and nodded and I kind of wanted him to shut up because I hadn’t seen the movie at all yet. 😉

I was hooked on it the minute the theme song blared through the theater and the bold yellow words scrolled across the screen. From that time period, I became obsessed with it. I wanted to find out anything and everything I could about it.

At the end of my high school year, The Phantom Menace came out. In the months preceding the movie, I collected Pepsi cans (even though I didn’t drink Pepsi) and ate at Pizza Hut and Taco Bell to collect other stuff that was out. Instead of going to a graduation after party like a lot of other people in my class, I went to see Star Wars with my family.

Jedi were even cooler than I thought! Yes, Jar Jar Binks was super irritating, but I fell in love with the character Qui-Gon Jinn. Lots of other girls I knew liked young Obi-Wan. I didn’t like Obi-Wan. I thought he was a brat who needed a lesson in manners, but it was Qui-Gon Jinn who stole my heart. It wasn’t long after that that I discovered fan fiction and thought to try my own hand at writing some.

Maybe, I thought, if I practice writing this way I will eventually be good enough to write professionally someday.

So I began to write.

My very first piece was an atrocious time travel piece which involved Luke Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn that I wrote by hand on notebook paper. To this day I remember the title: Time and Time Again. The only person who saw any of this was my little brother, Tyler. At the time, he told me it was pretty good. I have my doubts, now, though. 😉

Then, killing time at Calhoun between classes, I met another fan who was equally as obsessed with it as I was at the time.

We started writing online over the AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Instant Messenger programs. We wrote some truly horrible and groan worthy stuff, but we were learning. Everyone has to start somewhere. Fortunately, many computer crashes later, those original pieces of ours no longer exist.

Several years passed and I went to Freed-Hardeman University. I wrote even more fan fiction when I was away from mom and dad and they couldn’t tell me to go to bed and turn off the computer.

Headed to the library to study? Nope, I was writing fan fiction. I studied too, of course, but college and I didn’t get along very well. Each semester I would start out strong, and then get really sick and have to struggle to keep up.

Routine illnesses for most people, aren’t routine for me. It takes me weeks to get over even small things like ear infections. The doctors and school nurse never really knew how to help me, either. To add insult to injury, I had asked for tutoring help and my tutors never showed up. So finally, I decided that college away from home wasn’t for me and took time off to get experience in the field of education that I’d been studying.

That same summer, I met Tim and three months later in December, we got married.

I wrote more and more fan fiction and eventually learned how to create my own original characters in the Star Wars world. I posted a lot of it at www.theforce.net. (No, I am not telling you my screen name if you don’t know it, so don’t bother asking. :p I don’t want potential publishers finding it and seeing how terrible I was.) It was at this same message board that I met several Dear Friends, most of whom I am close with today, despite the fact that I don’t post there anymore. But I digress.

My health began to decline not long after Tim and I got married and a year after; I had my fourth open-heart surgery. I remember my dad telling me that I should make a character go through what I had, as therapy in my fan fiction. I said, “No thanks, Dad.” It was bad enough living through heart surgery once. I didn’t dream that I could do that to a character. Little did I know…beating up characters is actually fun! Especially if you’re having a bad day.

In the hospital, they make you get up and walk to prove that you’re strong enough and healthy enough to go home. I hated walking laps. It’s not fun at all to try and walk around when you’re in pain and hurting. I remember my parents enticing me to walk after the surgery by telling me there was a computer in the playroom.

Then I could get online and check my story to see if I had any replies and post.

You know, I actually fell for that?

I walked all the way around to get to the playroom to post a little note to my readers.

Even more time passed. I never healed up from that surgery properly. We discovered that my left lung had been paralyzed during the operation. Most of the time, this problem corrects itself during the first two years post surgery. Unfortunately in my case, it didn’t correct itself. It stayed elevated and I was put on oxygen. Not long after that, I won disability.

Eventually, after writing about Jedi for ten years, I was getting a bit bored. The prequels and the excitement surrounding new movies were over and I wanted something new. I also had more time to write now than ever, since I was at home on oxygen. But what to write about?

I proposed to the question to one of my Dear Friends.

“Maybe you should try writing your own things now?” She suggested.

I paused for a few minutes. “Maybe so.” After all, my lung was damaged and I was on disability by this time, so it wasn’t like I had anything else to do.

Was she right? Was it time to write my own stories? Maybe, just maybe, now was the time. But again, what to write about? I liked the power that Jedi had. It was pretty awesome. And I knew I couldn’t blatantly steal from George Lucas. I did not want a Cease and Desist letter showing up in my mailbox right when I was trying to launch a career.

What could I write that could wield the same power?

Then it came to me. Dragons! I could write about dragons! Dragons have tons of power, way more than Jedi even! There are no limits with dragons, I thought. They don’t even have weird rules about not getting married! I could do all kinds of stuff!

Sometime in there, I stumbled upon Holly Lisle’s website. Her website www.hollylisle.com has a lot of free advice for writers. I read almost every article she had posted. Then I forgot about it for a while and another Dear Friend pointed me back to her one day. I bought Holly Lisle’s Create-A-Plot Clinic and soon after that, I signed up for her How to Think Sideways course.

Three years later, I got my first publishing credit for a short story called “Tortellini.” I also finished and edited my first manuscript: The Fart Heard ‘Round the World.

3. What types of writing have you written? Which is your favorite to write and why?

Humor is my favorite thing to write. I love settings with off-the-wall scenarios. My first published short story, “Tortellini,” is about a neat-freak dragon that loves to cook. My first full manuscript is called The Fart Heard ‘Round the World and it’s about a boy named Alex Offal who is so terrified by performing in the school play that he trades places with his twin brother, unaware that Ethan has a stinky agenda of his own. I’ve got a story about a kid who is so crazy that he drives a Dark Lord up the wall to the point the poor Dark Lord is begging the heroes to come and arrest him just to get away from the kid. And a lazy hero who mooches off his mom until she finally shoves him out the door and makes him get a job, so he goes to work for a temporary service. Right now I’m working on a Christmas spy comedy called North by North Pole.

4. What are the three things you need at your side as you write? Why?

Three things I need: Music. I can’t write in the quiet. I need orchestra music that fits the scene. I’m a big fan of movie scores and I put playlists together before I start writing. It’s like having an outline with music. It really helps capture the feel of the scene.

I have a favorite pen, a Pierre Cardin pen. It’s weighted and has a cushioned grip. I have three of them, even if they are discontinued. 😛 But luckily the refills aren’t, and I buy them in bulk on ebay. 😉

I also need an outline. I prefer breaking things down chapter by chapter with bullet points. I’ve lately gotten to where I like large, oversized pieces of drawing paper to do my brainstorming and outlining on. The bigger pieces of paper help me visualize the story a little easier.

5. If you were to give other writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Practice, practice, practice. Everyone starts somewhere. Your first drafts will be bad. Horrible, even. But they will get better if you work and polish them.

6. Where can we find out more about you?

I am lmorbison on Twitter.

You can also find my short story, “Tortellini” on amazon. 😀 http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Creation-Sideways-Writers-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00E3FQT94/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385685391&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Adventure+of+Creation+Holly+Lisle

I have a Facebook page but quite frankly, I’d rather be writing than updating it, and trying to keep up with all these characters in my head, multiple social media sites, and my health is a huge challenge! 😀

I also have a blog www.orbisonhearts.tumblr.com that I share with my mother about the story of my health. But it hasn’t been updated in a while.