Welcome to the Writer’s Apocalypse

I’ve always found the word “apocalypse” to be fascinating. It can mean a prophetic revelation, but it can also mean a widespread or universal destruction or disaster.

As a Christian and a Horror Writer, both those definitions weigh heavy on the subjects I write as well as the content I include in my works. Some may think that the two terms, “Christian” and “Horror Writer,” mix like oil and water. It all depends on how you write the story.

If you Google the phrase “types of apocalypse” here’s what you’ll find:

  • Alien Invasion
  • Time traveling robot infested future
  • Rise of mutants
  • Cloned dinosaurs
  • Apes conquering the planet
  • Divine Judgment
  • Technology Singularity
  • Humans all turned into batteries

The list comes from this site. The article is titled “Apart from zombies, what other types of apocalypses are there?” Give it a read, it’s rather interesting.

The Writer’s Apocalypse. When I first came up with the name for this website I was taking a college course called W315: Writing for the Web. I had to create a website with a topic of my choosing. At that time I was just an aspiring unpublished writer. The main topic of the site focused on writing and my personal struggle to become a published author. Years later, I am the author of three novels and four short stories.

I am a survivor of the Writer’s Apocalypse.

However, even a survivor can die after the initial apocalyptic event. Look at The Walking Dead. Characters die from a plethora of ways, not just from zombies. In order to prolong that survival, one must sharpen their skills. Hopefully that way I can show others to survive the wasteland that is the Writer’s Apocalypse.

On this site you will find not just my books and origin story. You’ll also find author interviews, book and movie reviews, and my weekly blog Mastering the Craft.

Cross to bear

Do you ever sit down in front of a task and just stare at it for an obsessively long period of time without actually beginning said task because you just don’t know where to begin? No? Yes? Jim where are you going with this weird line of questioning? Well, as you can tell from the very first sentence, that was me when I started writing this week’s Mastering the Craft. At first I wanted to write something Easter themed since this will hit The Pilot News on Saturday. This will release on my site on Good Friday. Then I thought that since this will appear in The Starke County Leader on the Thursday after Easter, I thought I’d write something of a compromise. So hopefully you enjoy this mix between the two.

Idioms are expressions whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meaning of its constituent elements. Thanks Dictionary.com for making that definition so easy to understand. You’ve all heard some examples, but do you really know what they mean? For instance:

• “Wag the dog” means to purposely divert attention from an important issue by focusing attention on a more unimportant issue.

• “Sticky end” means that someone dies in an unpleasant way. I would make a joke about death and Michigan, but it’s Easter so I’ll just move on.

• “Born on the wrong side of the blanket” means that a child is illegitimate and that his or her parents were not married at the time of the birth. 

• “Tall enough to hunt geese with a rake” means that a person is taller than a person of average height.

Some idioms, however, can be predicable. “At death’s door” means that they are dying or very sick. “Cheat death” is another one that pretty much means what it says, that a person narrowly escaped a major problem or accident and is still alive. 

Another idiom that comes to mind is “cross to bear.” This idiom means that the person with a “cross to bear” has a heavy burden of responsibility or a problem that they alone must cope with.

You probably know where I’m going with this.

We all face moments in our lives when we think that a problem is so great that we have to face it alone. Or maybe we are simply too prideful or ashamed so we don’t seek out help. That’s when we have a “cross to bear.” It’s not the problem that causes us to bear the cross however, we do that to ourselves. If you’re dealing with an overwhelming problem in your life and you don’t seek out help, that’s adding weight to that cross. 

I was watching Captain America: Civil War in preparation for Avengers: Endgame and T’Challa (Black Panther) is talking to Black Widow about politics and how two people in one room can accomplish more than a group of people. That’s when his father interrupts the conversation and says “Not if you’re moving a piano.”

The idiom refers to Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha, the place where he was crucified. Jesus died for our sins. Sure, he could have chosen not to experience all of that pain, suffering, mocking, and abuse. But he endured it and paid the penalty for our sins. That penalty was his death. And he did it alone. 

“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,  ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (Which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’),” states Mark 15:34. Jesus is referencing Psalm 22 which is a prophecy about the agony of the Messiah’s death for the world’s sin. So Jesus knew that he would be temporarily separated from God the moment he took upon himself the sins of the world.

Jesus was alone at that moment so you wouldn’t have to bear your cross (your burden) by yourself. If you’re too ashamed or prideful to seek help from a person, then seek help from God. I mean, He’s always around and He knows what burdening you. 

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” reads Hebrews 4:12-13.

Happy Easter everyone, hopefully you learned a little more than just the meanings of idioms by reading this.  

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Leaving a Legacy

I’ll probably never have children. I’m cutting straight to the honest truth this week. I mean, I think I sort of blew my chances when my marriage ended a few years ago. And I had gotten married at the prime of my life too. Ten years ago I had a lot more hair on my head. Not like Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though. I’m talking like a little less than Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. You might think it weird that I’m talking in Marvel movies, but that’s only because Avengers: Endgame is coming out soon.

The reason why I’m talking about my lack of progeny is that I got to thinking about my upcoming death. That’s right, I’m dying. Spoiler alert: we’re all dying. Every day we creep closer to the inevitable end of our lives. It’s unavoidable, so it’s worth thinking about. Plus, being all alone in this house (or what I like to call the carcass of my broken marriage) I can’t help sometimes being depressed and thinking about The End.

It’s what we, horror writers, do. We think about The End. It’s only natural. At the end of writing a manuscript, those two little yet very important words mark the closing of a tale. In real life, it’s the same. Our headstones represent those two words. The End.

I asked myself once, while sitting alone in the empty house, what will be my legacy? What will I leave this world once I actually die? According to dictionary.com, there are five definitions for  Legacy. Three of them were boring and didn’t apply to my needs, and one of them was hilarious, but the one that stood out was this: “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”

If you were wondering, the hilarious one was this: “of or relating to old or outdated computer hardware, software, or data that, while still functional, does not work well with up-to-date systems.” Why is it hilarious, you may ask. I think the same definition could be attributed to people sometimes. Anyway, back to the real focus of my column.

What does that mean? Sure, it could mean inheritance. My father once took me to a storage shed and told me about the stuff he intends to give me when he dies. I told him, “I don’t want to hear about that. That’s just morbid.” Which it was, but that’s what he cared about. That “stuff” is important to him and he wants to make sure it’s taken care of when he passes (he’s still alive if you were wondering… hi dad!). 

For politicians, “legacy” could mean the laws they’ve passed or the service they gave to their country. He served not only in the Vietnam War, but he served as a senator from Arizona from January 1987 until his death in August 2018. No one can deny that he served his country. After his death, there were countless stories about his character. One such account written by Raoul Lowery-Contreras for the website www.thehill.com, had this to say about the senator:

“When one compares the character of John McCain with anyone else, one finds few men who measure up to the senator and the 1,800 days of torture, beatings and broken bones that he, and most other American POWs, suffered at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors. Real men must stand up now to be measured by the standards that Sen. McCain left us as his legacy.”

For writers, it’s pretty obvious what we leave behind: the articles, books, short stories, and other published content. You know, interestingly enough in the paper I edit (The Starke County Leader) I have this feature piece called “Throwback Thursday” where I take a front page from the past and give a summary of what happened. That front page is a small piece some writer’s legacy. That’s what they left behind for us. Now, being in a depressed mood, I realize that my books, articles, even the newspapers I edit won’t really make a difference in the world. A hundred years into the future, I doubt professors are going to be assigning my books as part of his syllabus. I don’t think I’m a terrible writer, but I’m no Stephen King. 

So what exactly should my legacy be and how should I go about leaving it when I pass (I’m thirty-three so I’ve got some time…hopefully)?

Well, there’s another aspect that I haven’t covered yet. I may be a writer, but I’m also a Christian. So, looking on the internet I find this really great article about leaving a legacy in terms of Christianity. It starts by quoting the Bible. 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” writes Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7. 

Fighting the good fight. Finishing the race. Keeping the faith. Isn’t that something that you’d want to be remembered for? I don’t want my nieces and nephews, my friends and other family, and others to think anything less of me. “Oh, Jim was nice, but he wasn’t that good at finishing what he started. He surely wasn’t one for standing up for what’s right. He wasn’t even a faithful dude.” That’s not exactly what I want people to say at my funeral.

I guess the point is that when you die, it doesn’t end at the grave. It’s my opinion that I’d rather strive to leave a faithful legacy than one of half-heartedness.

Getting Back on the Bike…

There are moments in our lives that we just cannot forget. Typically, my unforgettable moments are the “firsts” of something. The first adult book (Jurassic Park), my first dance (8th grade, horrible experience), and my first feeling of intense dislike for the State of Michigan (when my parents divorced and I had to spend every other weekend in Niles). Another one of my firsts was my first new bike. It was a green speckled Huffy. That was such a significant memory because prior to that, if I wanted to ride a bike I was forced to borrow one my sister’s bicycles. As you can imagine, as a boy, riding around on a Strawberry Shortcake bicycle was not an appealing thing.

This photo was found on a Yahoo image search, but it’s an exact replica to what my sisters had (if memory serves me accurately).

Another memorable time of mine is when I crashed and burned on that bike. Every time. I honestly remember every single accident, every moment of panic just before crashing, every injury and the pain associated with that injury. I also remember that I didn’t just lie on the ground and cry. I got up and got right back on the bike. 

That’s what humans do. We get back up, we persevere, we try again. You might be wondering why I’m talking about memories and bicycles when this should be a writing column. Well, faithful reader, keep calm and read on.

I haven’t written one word in my fourth book since the beginning of March. I was too busy working, then going home and editing a book for my publisher. As some of you know, all of that work amounted to nothing because my laptop was stolen. I had a backup of my fourth book, but not a recent one. Turns out that I lost about 6,000 words give or take a few hundred. In the grand scheme of things, things didn’t turn out that bad. 

I thought to myself that as soon as April hit, I’d get back into the writing grind. I had my backup laptop configured, I finally got Word all situated on it, I had it all figured out. As I’m writing this, it’s the fifth day into the month and I haven’t written a single word. There have been nights where I’ll open the document and just stare at it for a few moments before closing it again. As I do, I make a mental promise to work on it later, the next night, or at a more opportune time.

Every time I look at the document, all I can see is that flickering vertical line at the end of the document. It waits impatiently for me to move it with my words. If there are any writers reading this, then I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m going through.

It isn’t that I don’t know where I’m going in the story. Because I do. However, I can’t get over that loss of progress. It was done. It was written. It was perfect the way it was and it was how I wanted the story written. How can I write anything better?

Ultimately, that flashing vertical line represents my faith in my craft. It represents my wavering belief that I can write something equal to what was there before the theft. 

We all have something we struggle with in our lives. Relationships, addictions, ethics, morality, faith, the list could go on and on. I’ve struggled, and still struggle, with many of those issues. What can I say, I multitask. Currently, I’m struggling with self-doubt. See, self-doubt and I are old enemies. It’s one of those relationships where the foes sit down and drink coffee and play a game of chess. Like the end of the first X-Men film. Only one of us will win the battle, but it won’t be the last time we face off against each other. 

You would think by now I’d know my foe’s tricks and battle strategies. I’d be able to counter his attacks and strike back effectively. You’d think I’d be able to overcome him in the end. But no, I’m still struck by surprise when my enemy makes his opening move. I’m still initially paralyzed by the crippling effects of his attack. I’m too weak to counterattack. 

I’m just not enough. 

I wish I could end this rant on a good note. I wish I could tell you that everything was okay again and that I’ve triumphed over my Self-Doubt. I wish I could tell you that Michigan isn’t as “Pure” as Tim Allen says it is in his commercials.

But I don’t have a magic lamp and those three wishes will still remain that: wishes.

I will make a promise, to you all. I’ll keep trying to get back on that bike. Maybe when I start writing again, that’ll be another lifetime moment I’ll never forget. The first time I truly defeated my self-doubt.

My Time Aboard the Ark

Typically, I don’t travel much. I normally stick to my little area in Northern Indiana. When I was younger I was more of an introvert and didn’t have much desire to travel. Things have changed since then and I’ve grown older, lost some hair on my head, and become less of an introvert. Now, I have places I’d like to visit. I had the opportunity to visit one such location at the end of March.

Several families from the church I attend, Cornerstone Community Fellowship in LaPaz, traveled south to Williamstown, Kentucky. On Friday, we went and toured the Creation Museum. On Saturday, we toured the Ark Encounter. On Sunday, we worshiped God before returning home to our normal lives in Indiana. 

To be completely honest with you all: I’m not that great at sharing my faith. I could talk all day about writing and my interest in film and other pop culture, but faith is something I’ve struggled with when it comes to sharing. I’ve put off writing this travel blog because whenever I try to write it, I’m at a loss for words. Even though I’m a published author and write for a living, I’m not sure that I could accurately document what I experienced that weekend. A good friend of mine recently gave me the compliment that I write my best when I share my heart. I will do my best to share with you my experiences.

Thursday

Mandisa sang her song “Overcomer” that night.

The night before we toured the Creation Museum, a portion of us went to Fort Wayne, Indiana to attend the Christian concert, Winter Jam 2019, at the Allen county War Memorial Coliseum. I’m not really one for concerts. Most of them are loud, crowded, and if I’m going to be blunt the seats are too small. I’m a fairly tall individual and overweight so, for me, most concert seats are just too tiny. The coliseum seats were comfortable, but the music was too loud for my preference. I’m thirty-three years old, but I have an elderly man’s taste for volume. It was so loud that I couldn’t understand some of the song’s lyrics. Of course, if I knew the lyrics (which was about half the time) I could better comprehend the music despite the overwhelming volume. It was still a great experience. 

What wasn’t such a great experience was what happened next. I wrote about it in my Mastering the Craft column if you’re interested, but the summary was that our vehicle was broken into and most of the electronic devices were stolen. Including my laptop. 

Friday

Still suffering from the fallout of the theft, we woke up early at the hotel we stayed in and hit the road. Our destination was the Creation Museum in Williamstown, Kentucky. We met with the rest of the church group and, as one, we entered the museum. 

If you’ve never been to the Creation Museum, it’s an experience that’s one for the record books. I know, I know, but all puns aside it was an amazing time. The museum brings Bible history to life by exploring creation science with a plethora of exhibits, dinosaur bones, fossils, botanical gardens, a planetarium, zoo, zip line course, etc… The list goes on.

This is the actual skull of Ebenezer, the Allosaurus.

Go on, read that last sentence again because you might have missed it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. 

That’s right, dinosaur bones. When I walked into the museum I expected the exhibits on Genesis, Adam and Eve, the Ark, the Flood, and other biblical history. The one thing that I hadn’t added into the equation were the many displays, exhibits, and sculptures of dinosaurs. At the museum they explain that dragons were actually in reference to what we call dinosaurs. Back then, they were called by many names: behemoth, leviathan, dragon, and others. I’ll link the museum at the end of this blog so that if you’re interested, you can find more information.

The other really fascinating show they had was the 4D theater that showed the six days of creation when God created the heaven and the earth. The seats shook, lighting lit the room, the ocean sprayed on some of the audience. And the quality of the film was equally impressive. 

There was an exhibit for the Archangel Michael. It was a great exhibit.

We spent most of the day there and I feel like that wasn’t enough time to fully go through everything the Creation Museum had to offer. I know that I didn’t see it all and would like to take another trip down there someday to complete the tour.

Afterward, we traveled to a nearby church that was gracious enough to offer to shelter the group. What followed was a night of games, worship, food, and devotionals. One of my favorite activities that night was learning how to play 9-Ball for the first time. It’s like four square, but you play it like volleyball. 

The other favorite activity of mine that night was when I hosted Family Feud. Months before the trip, the organizer had everyone going fill out surveys about various Biblical topics. It was typical Family Feud and pitted Family against Family. On the trip down, I had searched for jokes related to the Old Testament. Here are just a few for your reading pleasure:

• What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why they are no longer living in Eden? Your mother ate us out of house and home.

• Who was the smartest man in the Bible? Abraham. He knew a Lot.

• Why couldn’t they play cards on the Ark? Because Noah was standing on the deck.

I know, they’re pretty corny but that’s because I’m from Indiana. If I had been born in Wisconsin, the jokes would be cheesy. 

I’m the one on the right. Photo by Angela Cornell.

Saturday

It was another early morning as we traveled to the Ark Encounter. One of the most impressive things about the Ark is that it doesn’t seem all that big. That is, until you are standing in front of it and your neck is trying not scream as you look up. Here are some facts about the Ark:

• The Ark itself is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high.

• The Ark has 3.3 million board feet of timber.

• The Ark is the biggest timber-frame structure in the world.

• The Ark is made with a variety of woods, including Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, radiata pine, and bamboo.


Words cannot describe what I felt as I walked each of the three floors. Each floor had something different for the audience. The one that stood out in my mind was the collection of religious texts from as far back as the 1500’s. As an English major and having learned Middle English, for a Chaucer centric class, it was a treat to try and read a page from the Book of Job from a Bible printed in 1540. 

Most of the Ark was dedicated to showing what life would be like on the Ark. Besides the animals, there was Noah, his three sons and wives, and his own wife that lived aboard the Ark. I can’t imagine what trip was like. A few years ago I traveled to Florida with my brother-in-law and my nephews. Let me tell you, there’s only so many times you can watch the Lord of the Ring movies before you start going mad. Those eight must’ve had crazy amounts of patience. Of course, they had all sorts of things they had to do. 

Again, we spent most of the day there. There was a point in the day where some of the youth taught me another game: Ninja. If you’ve never played, it’s such a fun and simplistic game. I’d never heard of it before.

That night we all gathered at the church for another night of games, worship, and devotional. This time, however, there was no Family Feud. It was an all-out Nerf War. Of course, for those pacifists in the group, there was 9Ball and Euchre. 

The Takeaway 

The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter were impressive. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity and time to take the trip. However, most of my memories from that trip aren’t tied to my singular experiences. What I mean by that, is that ten years down the line I’m not going to remember everything I read on the displays. I’m going to remember walking through the Ark with my twelve-year old nephew. I’m going to remember the look on his face when we read about Chief Shoefoot, a shaman in the Yanamamo people. I’m going to remember the selfie I took with my other nephew in front of the Ark (we both had matching hats and will forever be “hat buddies”).

I’m going to remember the bond I forged with the kids that taught me 9Ball and Ninja. I’m going to fondly remember the look on their faces when I tried to do a cartwheel in a game of Mother May I. I may not have stuck the landing, but I did fairly well. 

I’m going to remember my younger nephew trying to touch the images in the 4D movie. Whenever I hear a song by Buddy Davis I’m going to remember sitting next to my friend as we laughed at some of the humorous parts of the talk he gave at the Creation Museum.

Or the time when my brother-in-law and I conquered the Goliath Burger in the cafeteria. Believe me, it was both worth it and not worth it by the end of the day.

The Goliath Burger. Two beef patties, bacon, and American cheese. To be honest, don’t eat it because it’s probably loaded with calories. I didn’t really care that day though so….

The fellowship is what I’ll remember the most about that weekend.

So, in conclusion, should you visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter? Definitely. Even if you’re not Christian, it’ll give you something to think about and challenge your way of thinking. Should you visit those places by yourself? Definitely not. Because at the end of the day, what’s the point of going out and discovering and learning new things if you don’t have anybody to share in that experience?

Could you imagine if Noah was told: “build the Ark, but you’re the only one that can go.” What a lonely life that would’ve been.

At a loss for words…

Right now, I’m laying in a hotel bed typing this column on my iPhone. That’s one of the magical things about writing. Writers are sort of like time travelers. I’m communicating with the future. Originally, I had a column about April being National Poetry Month and why I don’t like writing poetry. I know what you’re going to ask, “But Jim, haiku you say that?”

Well, you’ll never read that column because someone stole my laptop. That’s right, you read that correctly. I don’t like reading or writing poetry. Seriously though, someone stole my laptop. I am literally out of words. Somehow, somewhere, Alanis Morissette is laughing.

The sad thing was that it wasn’t just my things that were taken. I was with my sister’s family in Fort Wayne attending the Christian concert Winter Jam. We got out to our vehicle and that’s when we found that someone had broken in and stole all the ibuprofen and electronics. They even took my sisters broken prescription glasses. I’m not sure if the thieves were being funny by taking the ibuprofen or if they were doing it strictly for drugs. By stealing the laptop and my nieces and nephews tablets, they caused a real headache.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m making jokes at a time like this. Mainly, it’s a defense mechanism of mine that some can find annoying. I understand, but at times like these my humor is all I have. That, and my intense hatred for Michigan.

As a writer, this theft left me staggering and speechless. They stole my livelihood. Everything I had written was on that laptop. That brand new, 15.6 inch Lenovo laptop that I’d worked to save up to buy. It may have only been about $400, but to a writer that’s a lot. A little known fact about writers: we’re not that rich. Worse than that though, they stole my hard work. I’d been editing a book for my publisher, Burning Willow Press, LLC. It was my second book I’ve edited for them. To say that I worked extremely hard to edit this thing would be an understatement. I had promised the Vice President of the company that I’d have that book back, edits completed, by the end of March. I wrote him an email tonight explaining what happened and that I was going to have to break my promise. There would be no way for me to complete the edits have them back by then. Even though I didn’t purposely break my promise, I’m still ashamed to have to tell him that I failed to live up to my word.

But, even worse than that. They stole my ideas. Snatched right from my head. Everything I’ve written is on that laptop. Sure, most of that is backed up on an external hard drive so it’s not gone forever. That doesn’t change the fact that all of my ideas, all of my personal thoughts and creative content is in the hands of another person, a thief. I feel downright violated.

And there isn’t anything I can do about it.

I want to spring into action with a “particular set of skills” and track down the bandits and show them why they should have stayed in Michigan where they belong. I want to quell the sadness I and the rest of my family felt. Also, that insecure feeling of knowing a stranger had rifled through your things. That feeling that your safe, comfortable, secure bubble had just been popped by the sharp prick of a thief’s needle. I can do none of those things, however.

It was my younger nephew that spoke up and said that it was actually a blessing and a test from God. He went on further explaining that we didn’t really need the things that were stolen. The things we really needed were left behind.

Now, let me tell you something. Hearing someone, doesn’t matter the age, tell you that you never really needed that laptop isn’t an easy thing to accept. How can that person know this? They don’t understand that it isn’t just games and files on that laptop. I couldn’t tell you how many evenings I’ve spent hunched over that thing typing out words or editing that book. I wanted to tell my younger nephew that he was wrong, that to me, that laptop was practically my life.

It was at that thought, that laptop was practically my life, that I knew I was wrong and he was right. It was such a selfish thought. Sure, I’ve suffered a setback. Sure, I’ve broken a promise. Sure, I live about an hour south of Michigan. But at least our vehicle wasn’t damaged beyond repair. At least they didn’t take my prescription blood thinners. At least they didn’t steal our clothes.

Here’s the best at least of them all: At least we left the parking lot together and unharmed.

There are worse things than having your laptop stolen. Living in Michigan for example.

Us (2019)

When I was younger, I loved the films by M. Night Shyamalan. It was the twist endings that really did it for me. First it was The Sixth Sense(1999), then Unbreakable(2000), and finally Signs(2002). My affection for the director finally began to wane when I watched The Village(2004). It wasn’t that I hated the film, but it was the expectation of the twist. I went into the film looking for it and found it quite easily.

The same can be said with Jordan Peele’ssecond film, Us(2019). Having watched Get Out(2017), I went into this new film expecting and looking for the twist. I didn’t have to look hard for it either and found it rather quickly. Having said that, I found the film enjoyable, thought provoking, and a solid thriller with a side of comedy.

The story of Us begins with an unknown tragedy involving a girl wandering off by herself at a beach in 1986. Flash forward to the present and we find that the girl has grown up and has a family of her own. They are traveling to the same location, Santa Cruz, where that traumatic mystery took place. The family of four is soon assaulted by a doppelganger family. It’s kill or be killed for the family as they try to survive and figure out what provoked this deadly family reunion.

The first thing that convinces me of the quality of the film is the acting. Each actor has a killer clone, meaning that the actor plays two completely different roles, sometimes in the same scene. This onscreen duality is down right creepy. There is a scene where the mother, played by Lupita Nyong’o, has a discussion with her evil twin. Even though the characters share the same face, the voice and mannerisms are completely different. Nothing can be counted against the film where acting is concerned.

The film is listed as a Horror/Thriller. In the Horror department, it gets all the checkmarks. When it comes to a Thriller, that’s where the film falters. I ended up laughing more than I felt suspense or was scared. While laughter is greatly appreciated, and necessary, in a thriller it should only be used after a big scare. As the tension builds, the big scare is the climax of that tension. Afterwards, humor is used to put the audience at ease. Essentially, humor primes the audience to be scared again. In Us, it’s heavily used even during the tension building. The father, played by Winston Duke, is a prime example. Duke plays an excellent typical all-American corny joke spurting father. The problem is that during scenes where he should be scared or fighting for his life, he’s cracking jokes. Instead of the audience feeling dread that the father may die, the audience is laughing at the well written jokes.

Getting into the meat and potatoes of the film, the theme of UsI can’t really give you an accurate evaluation, for two reasons. The first reason is that I don’t want to spoil the film for you. There is more than one twist to this film which are interesting and thought provoking. The second reason being that I would like to view it a second, and possibly a third, time. This is one of those films where you really must be open and mindful throughout the film. Even then, trying to fully understand the meaning behind what Jordan Peele created will most likely take a second viewing.

Even though this film is based around a family, it is certainly not meant to be viewed by a family. The film is rated R for violence, terror, and language. There is only suggestive sexual content, but the film is highly violent with scenes of murder and other violent acts. There is also a high content of profanity. Us is not considered to be family-friendly.

Overall, I thought that Peele’s second entry into the Horror/Thriller genre was a solid one. However, it was plagued with too much humor and a predictable twist. If I had to give some advice to the director, I doubt Jordan Peele will ever read this, I would advise him to be careful to not fall into that trap that Shyamalan fell into where the endings were so predictable that it made the films unenjoyable. Uswon’t be the greatest film of 2019, but I’ll wager that it’ll be in the top twenty. In fact, I’ll put five on it.

Thank a Journalist Day was March 13

***Before reading, please note that the following rant is entirely a biased article about journalism. The writer of this rant is a journalist after all. At least he claims to be one. Now back to our original Mastering the Craft. Enjoy.***

You have to be crazy to be a journalist. Now, I realize what you’re all thinking: “But Jim, everyone thinks that about their jobs.” And you’d probably be right. Please, just hear me out and take a few minutes to read my irrational reasoning.

In order to understand the mind of a journalist, you have to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis. I could be all fancy with you and say that “we’re the protectors of truth” or that we “keep politicians honest” or even that “we report Fake News.”

While that might be true, here is what I personally think we do:

• We tell the public what happened at a government meeting, school board meetings, an event, something else of public interest.

• We let you know what’s going to happen in the future. Examples of this include the Community Calendar, fundraising opportunities, concerts, hot button issues taking place at a public meeting, and other events of public interest.

• We bring to light issues that might have been kept buried. That’s investigative journalism and you have to wear a fedora and have a Chicago or New York Mobster Era accent when you question individuals.

• We are on our own side. What I mean by that is, when we write an article we are emotionally detached. We do not share our opinions with our readership. Admittedly, this is one of the tougher parts of our job. Some succeed in doing this while others fail. But hey, we’re only human.

Anyone can snap a picture and/or write an article about a government meeting. In today’s age anyone can report on the news through a blog or creating a Facebook Group and calling it “(insert name) News.” It’s easy, but what’s not easy is what you do with that knowledge you gained when you attended that meeting.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” stated the fictional ill-fated Uncle Ben.

If you want a quote from a better source than a comic book character, I’ll use the one I found at http://www.americanpressinstitute.org.

“The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds,” states the website.

Sometimes people don’t like reading the truth. I know, you’re probably wanting me to reference Jack Nicholson but I refuse to do it. It’s true though, that old phrase, the truth hurts. Sometimes people don’t like to read about what was said during a meeting. I remember one time I used a quote from a clerk-treasurer a few years back. The town had to remove the flower pots in front of the downtown bar because inebriated patrons were using it for things other than horticulture. She called me out on it on one of my last days at that paper. “Why’d you have to quote me on that?” I replied back, “Hey, you were the one that said it.”

Being a journalist is a tough gig. You’re mostly working on your own, on a deadline, and constantly holding back personal bias. Sometimes we witness the aftermath of some of humanity’s worst actions. Fatalities in car accidents, court cases involving some of the worst things imaginable, events in Michigan. Okay, that last one was a personal bias and used for comedic purposes. But you get the point. Most of the time we don’t receive the kudos and thanks for doing the job. Sometimes all we receive is criticism and angry voicemails telling us how poor a job we did.

So yes, we have to be crazy to do what we do.

To be fair, we also get to know the people that make our coverage area great. We get to see the few individuals attempting to make their communities better. We get to cover the fundraising efforts, the not-for-profits trying to provide children the essential items they lack, the prayer breakfasts, and a plethora of other activities and events that balance out the bad.

Sure, you have to be crazy to be a journalist. But, speaking as a journalist, I have enjoyed these past four years of insanity. Here’s hoping there’s more where it came from.

Wednesday, March 13 was “Thank a Journalist Day.” If you didn’t read it in the newspaper you most likely didn’t even know it existed. It was declared and signed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The day was created by students at Ball State University and asked people to participate and state why they believe journalism was important.

In closing, I would ask this: if you are at a meeting/event/sporting event/ribbon cutting/or other various public activity and see someone with a recorder or notepad, go up (after the event, we’re working after all) and shake their hand and say thanks.

Or you could buy the local newspaper. Because, come on, there’s much more in it than Sudoku and Family Circus.