Hopefully reading

Ever since the coronavirus officially entered Indiana, the state I live in, I’ve been reading books that had a post-apocalyptic and/or world spreading virus theme. For instance, I’m a little under 200 pages left in Stephen King’s “The Stand.”

At first, I thought I was reading it out of sheer morbid obsession. Reading a book about 99.4 percent of the world dying from a super flu while the actual world is living through a pandemic with flu-like symptoms. But then I got to page 904. For those that don’t know, “The Stand” starts with a super flu that kills off most of the population. The survivors are pitted in a battle between God and Satan. The prophet that God has chosen to lead His people is Mother Abagail. Spoiler Alert: She instructs some people to travel to the heart of evil, Las Vegas, and stand up to Satan’s prophet, Randall Flagg.

Here’s the end of Mother Abagail’s instructions. “But he is in Las Vegas, and you must go there, and it is there that you will make your stand. You will go, and you will not falter, because you will have the Everlasting Arm of the Lord God of Hosts to lean on. Yes. With God’s help you will stand.”

Now, only one of those chosen four were religious. The other three were skeptical at best, but they all believed in Mother Abagail. And Mother Abagail believed and trusted God.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I’ll be finishing the book this weekend. For those that have lost track of the date/time (I know I have on several occasions), it’s Easter. For those that don’t know the specifics, here’s a brief rundown of events.

Beginning in the Bible, Matthew 26:47, Jesus was betrayed by Judas. He was arrested, taken to the high priest Caiaphas, accused of false crimes, condemned to death, mocked, beaten, and crucified. Here’s the thing, Jesus knew this was going to happen. He knew Judas would be the one to betray him and that he would be put to death. Knowing all of this, he didn’t fight the Sanhedrin physically or try to escape (I imagine he could’ve if he so decided).

Now, I’m not saying that the Bible and The Stand are equal in importance. If there was one text, I would advise reading it would be the Bible.

Both have a great moral story to them and teach a valuable lesson. In fact, in each text, it’s the same moral story. The moral is that if you trust in God and stand against evil, you will prevail. Even if your results aren’t what you desire, you’ll eventually prevail.

And that’s why I’m reading the Bible and The Stand. Not for the doom saying or the plagues or the death and destruction. Trust me, there’s a lot of that in each book.
But there’s also hope.

In this time, the Era of Corona, we could use some hope. That’s why Easter is such an important time for those that believe in God. Jesus died and in three days he was resurrected. If we trust in God and are faithful to His instructions, then we will also live again in Heaven. It is my hope that you find something to read that inspires hope. For me, I find hope in the Bible and fictional novels like The Stand.

I wish everyone has a safe and happy Easter. Remain faithful to God, trust in the Word, and do the only thing we can in this harrowing time.

Stand.

The waiting game…

 I hate waiting.

I know, I know. You’re probably saying, “but Jim, you should never hate something because hate’s a strong word.”

And you’re completely correct. Hate is a strong, harsh, and deplorable word that should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances. For example, I finished a James Patterson novel the other day and I said, “I hated that book.” That example would show that I really, really disliked that novel. That example would also be a lie because that would imply that I still read James Patterson novels. Which I don’t. 

All of that to say, I hate waiting. Unfortunately, waiting is an essential part to the author life. Once you submit your manuscript or query to a publisher, you typically have to wait 60 to 90 days to hear back from them. When I first submitted my series to the first publisher (for all you new readers, that was an entire kerfuffle of its own) I checked my email constantly. I had the Gmail app on my phone and set notifications so that when I received a new email my phone would ding. Do you think that stopped me from logging into the app and clicking refresh every few minutes? For all you that said no, then you win a free imaginary chicken dinner! I checked the app every half hour for the first two days. It got to the point where I would wake up, use the bathroom, log into the app, then went back to sleep. That would happen every few hours. 

As time dragged on, I checked my email less frequently, but the urge was still there. After a few months and no response, my hopes began to shrivel up like slugs under a salt shaker. It was during one of those late night bathroom experiences that I read my acceptance email. I was so ecstatic. My waiting was over and I was soon to be a published author.

Oh course once you wait and then finally receive that acceptance letter, that doesn’t mean that the wait is over. No sir, you’re waiting has only begun. I waited a year before I was released by the publisher (like I said above, it was an entire kerfuffle of its own). Then I was forced to find another publisher and submit the series to them.

Cue the anxious email checking. And of course, it happened that way. Even though this time I knew that I wouldn’t receive a response until months later, I still checked multiple times a day. I still performed the late night bathroom and email checks. I still jumped at the sound of that new email notification.

Waiting is something that doesn’t just pertain to an author’s life. It’s part of everyday life. Everyone has to wait for something. It could be a book response, your turn at the BMV, attention from the person you’re interested in, or an oven preheating. We all wait for something.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways,” states Psalm 37:7.

Even if you’re not the religious type, you have to admit that The Bible has amazing advice. Have any of you tried to “be still?” It’s not that fun. It’s that other part that gets me sometimes. “Do not fret when people succeed in their ways.” 

I see that all the time. For me, it’s hard to not become jealous when I see another author succeed where I’ve failed. It’s tough to wait for that response and then get it only to have your dreams shattered. Lately, I’ve been struggling with that. I’ve sent out submissions and wait, only to have them rejected. I try and not become discouraged, but it’s tough. You put yourself and your work out there only to have it denied. Sometimes I feel like I should just give up entirely and quit submitting. 

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil,” Psalm 37:8 continues.

All of my fretting as I waited for the publisher’s response caused me to doubt myself. As the days waiting grew longer, I began to worry. Worry would then turn into fear. So when I get those rejection letters, that doubt has already infected me. 

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering,” said Yoda.

I know, this is a weird column this week. The Bible and Yoda quotes. 

The point of this odd column is that we all wait for something. You must be vigilant during the waiting process. Don’t let your mind wonder to those feelings of self-hatred and loathing. Fill them with something that uplifts yourself. Don’t fall to the dark side like Darth Vader. 

If this didn’t help you with your waiting problems, here are some obligatory cliches that might aid you:

• A watched pot never boils.

• All things come to him who waits.

• You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.

• If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.

Taking the Time to Read

It seems like everything has its own awareness month. For some things I wonder if it’s really necessary. For instance, look at the month of July. Did you know that the month of July, among other things, is National Hot Dog Month? Seriously. Now, I know I’ll probably get some hate from me dissing National Hot Dog Month, but come on.

However, there is one awareness that I’d like to talk about and it’s very near and dear to me personally as well as professionally. That’s National Reading Awareness Month. It’s been observed by the nation since it was launched in October 2007 by the Women’s National Book Association. Its mission is to increase public awareness of the joy and value of shared reading among other things. You can look them up at here for further details if interested.

It should be pretty obvious why I would encourage more people to read. I’m the editor of a newspaper as well as a published author. The more people I can get to read means more potential buyers of papers and books. Getting you to read is good business.

On a personal level, reading is something that I should be doing more. Stephen King once said that “if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Lately, I’ve been failing on doing both of these things. Writing news is a bit different because it’s my day job. I’ll always be doing that, but it’s my creative writing that’s been neglected. As an experiment, I didn’t pay my internet bill when it came due. I wanted to see what life would be like without the internet to distract me away from reading and writing. I might add that the internet is really not to blame, it’s strictly myself. People shouldn’t blame man-made things for their problems.

Having no internet at my house, at the beginning, seemed like such an inconvenience. How was I supposed to communicate with the outside world? How was I supposed to upload posts on my blog? How was I supposed to work from home? My panicked mind threw up a plethora of other questions to make me reconsider going through with the experiment. It’s at the end of that week long experiment. Do you know what I found out?

I survived the entire week without internet. I finished two books I had partially read and got halfway through a new book. I watched movies I haven’t seen in years. I woke up early and went to my local cafe and used their internet before going into work. Life without high-speed internet at home is possible. I’m not saying it’s possible for everyone because I don’t know your personal situation. Maybe it isn’t possible, but it’s at least worth trying.

There’s a passage from The Bible that I thought of during this week of internet isolation. The passage is from Mark 9:43 and reads “if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.”

Now before any of you start dismembering yourselves, don’t. That’s not what I’m saying. For me, the internet was causing me to stumble in my writing and reading. Again, I’m not blaming the internet, but my dependency on it. Video games with my friends for hours at a time, endlessly watching Netflix, hours of YouTube channel surfing, the list goes on.

I replaced those things with reading books as well as writing my own. Will I pay that internet bill and restore internet connectivity to my home? Yes, because you should always pay your debts. Will I end my internet service once and for all?

I’d like to say I would, but it’s the weekend and my friends are most likely already online…