2016 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2016 has been a heartbreaking year. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably already aware of the multiple celebrities we’ve lost this year, as well as the tumultuous Presidential election that has caused a division within this country unprecedented in my lifetime.

The year started off somber. On Thanksgiving 2015, we found out my Mother-In-Law had been diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gherig’s disease – also the disease for which there was the Ice Bucket Challenge). This disease is a horrible disease which causes one’s muscles to stop working and atrophy away. There is no known cure.

In January, I decided to dedicate what little free time I had to writing, with the intent of getting published. I still haven’t completed any of the stories I originally set out to write, but I’ve written several others. To my great surprise, the very first story I finished was accepted by the very first publisher I submitted to (The Last Ride, in the A Journey of Words anthology). I wasn’t expecting to get published in my first year of writing, but that’s what happened. I’ve since had two more stories picked up for publication, and two other stories have won first place in writing contests. I now have multiple other works in process and have even started up a Beta Reader Group to have multiple reviewers go over my work before it gets professionally edited. I never expected things to go this well, especially in the first year. In this area, I’ve been very lucky.

On March 29th, I lost a friend of mine I had known since Kindergarten unexpectedly to meningitis. Brandon had just relocated his wife and two very young sons to Las Vegas. He passed on his 41st birthday. Nobody even knew he was sick until it was too late. His passing was a complete shock to all of us.

In June, I had a bit of a health scare. I had been getting chest pains for a few days and was finally convinced by my wife to go to the Urgent Care. I ended up being sent to the Emergency Room and spending the night. It turns out I had simply pulled a muscle in my ribcage. While I was in no immediate danger, the extensive tests did uncover that my Diabetes was much worse than previously thought, so I am now on a new regiment of medication, diet, and exercise to get it back under control.

On December 14th, ALS took Jackie, my Mother-In-Law. She passed peacefully, in her sleep, surrounded by all of her immediate family. While we are all happy she is no longer suffering, words cannot describe the void she has left behind. As the turnout to her Memorial Service showed, her kind heart not only touched that of the family but of quite a few coworkers and friends. There haven’t been too many dry eyes in my house the past few weeks, and I suspect that will take quite some time.

My writing has been cathartic in getting me through all of this, but the biggest help has been my family. My wife, kids, parents, sister, and her boys and husband. There is nothing more important. Hug your loved ones if you can. Call them as much as you can. Don’t let bad feelings stand in the way. You never know what conversation will be your last, so make them all end on a positive note.

I am hopeful for 2017. Hopefully, the broken hearts within my family and friends can begin to heal. Hopefully, I can maintain the momentum in my writing. Hopefully, the country can find a way to proceed in some progressive and functional manner.

I wish the best for all of you and your loved ones in 2017.

– J.M. Ames

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Looking for Beta Readers!

What exactly is a beta reader? A beta reader is someone who reads through a story towards the end of the refining process, just before the final edits and provides feedback to the author about what they read.

What I would be looking for in general is what works, and what doesn’t. I will have a few custom questions at the end of each read. This feedback is invaluable and will have an effect on the final drafts I send to my editor. I am looking for people in all walks of life – writers, editors, and most importantly readers. Strangers, friends, family – all input is like gold.

What does it mean for you? Being a beta reader allows you to contribute to the story’s strength. It also earns you a free, signed copy of the final draft once published. Longer works such as novels will also include your name in the Thank You section.

If this sounds at all interesting to you, please let me know either by replying to this post, on my Facebook page, PM’ing me, or emailing me at JMAmesAuthor@gmail.com. I will be adding you to a private Beta Reading Group. There is NO PRESSURE to commit to any one story.

I am a pretty diverse writer, so if you have any genre or story length that you prefer, include that. Conversely, if there are any you will NOT read, include that as well. Currently, all my stories are shorts, but I do have some novel-sized pieces in the works.