When Your Past Looms Longer than Your Future
Debra Coleman Jeter
When my grandfather lay dying of pancreatic cancer, he remarked that he could remember his entire life in the space of a few minutes. But could he really? Of course not, but I don’t doubt that all he could remember just then took only a few minutes. Granted, he was only sixty, younger than I am now. Years later, my aunt, who died of lung cancer at about the same age, made a similar statement the last time I saw her. “Our life here really is just a vapor,” she said. I believe she was quoting James 4:14:
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. ESV
Last night my husband and I watched a television show in which a man kept re-watching videos of his late wife and of their life together. I commented that though we have loads of photos, we have very few videos of ourselves, which might be for the best.
If you’re blessed, as I am, to have spouse, parents, and children and grandchildren still in your life, we should be so thankful. If we have lost loved ones, we should cherish the memory of having had them in our life.
Yet, I believe God wants us to live in the present. Remember when David grieved his dying child and pleaded with God to spare him? When the child died, however, he dressed and ate and moved forward. When questioned, David said: “…But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” 2 Samuel 12: 23 NCV
I know moving forward is not that easy. Perhaps my greatest fear is of the loss of my loved ones, and particularly at an age that feels premature to me, when they have not lived as long as I hope they will. But we cannot fully live our lives as we should if we’re too busy looking back or dreading what lies ahead.
I sit and look out this morning at a calm silvery sea with the sunlight peeking through the clouds, and I think what a glorious world we live in and what a blessing today truly is. As we read in Psalm 118: 24: This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (NKJV).
Is There a Troll in Your Life?
Debra Coleman Jeter
On the evening of my book launch for Joy After Noon, a one-star review appeared on my Amazon page. Because it was the only review and had appeared so quickly, it caught my attention at once. I read:
Total waste of time. “Wish I could recommend this book; but it was a waste of time to read. Author needs to consider another line of work.”
I lay awake that night, unsettled by a head full of swirling thoughts. Was I so horrible a writer as to deserve a review of this nature? I knew, of course, that not everyone would love my books. I’d read some pretty harsh reviews of books by other authors I admired, books I cherished. So I was prepared for criticism. But not for abuse. Did I have an enemy; and if so, who? The review felt too personal to be from a stranger. As a teacher for over twenty years, I’d given more than a few poor grades. Could the review be from a former student?
When I posted a statement on my launch website (seeking other reviews to balance this one), I was introduced to a new term. New to me, that is, but not to those more savvy in the ways of the internet. Troll. An internet troll.
This led me to do a bit more investigating, and here’s what I found:
I discovered that internet trolls often review products or books they have not even tried. They trash the creative efforts of others without giving them a fair chance.
In my case, the troll/reviewer identified herself on Feb. 28, 2019, when the review was initially posted, as “Marie.” My new novel had only been made available a day or so before, and Amazon takes up to 48 hours to approve a new review. Not a verified purchaser, she subsequently changed her name twice in the first week of March, first to Joan and then to Sammie. I found a similar review from the same “Marie” (subsequently showing up as Sammie) on my first novel, The Ticket: one star review with the heading “Save time, and toss it!”
Then, on the same day that Joan became Sammie, I discovered that my nonfiction book “Pshaw, It’s Me Grandson” had just received a new one-star review in March of 2019 from the same reviewer though the book was published 13 years earlier: “Blah … you will be glad you didn’t buy it.” Because this book had not been rated often (only 4 reviews, all 5 star), the 1-star review from Sammie dropped my average from 5 to 2.5 because Amazon weights recent reviews more heavily than older ones.
If she really dislikes my books so much, why would she keep reading them—and rush to obtain a copy of Joy After Noon as soon as it came out (although Amazon doesn’t list her as a verified purchaser)? I have no idea who she is or why she has singled me out.
Having submitted countless academic papers over the years and having received my fair share of rejection letters, I believed I’d grown a thick skin. I have advised junior faculty I mentored on multiple occasions not to have thin skin when submitting their research to journals. Yet, here I was, lying awake over a sentence or two dashed out by someone who, most likely, had never seen—much less read—my books.
As frustrating as this is for the writer or seller or artist, I also have to wonder what experiences in the trolls’ past motivates them to do such a thing—to waste precious moments of life that could be spent in a hundred more productive ways in an effort to get a reaction or cause pain. In the end, you have to feel sorry for the troll.
Online Book Launch: JOY AFTER NOON
I’m no expert on this topic, not by a long shot. Still, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in case it might be useful to someone planning a book launch.
First, things can happen fast, so it pays to be prepared. Organize as much as possible before the event. Try to anticipate some of the questions likely to arise. For example, what’s the book about? Where did the idea originate? How did you design, or choose, your cover? What’s the underlying message or theme? If you can write a brief paragraph to answer some of these, you can copy and paste it into the comments during the launch to save typing and time. You should advise participants to hit the “refresh” button frequently during the launch or they will miss many of the comments—and do this yourself.
I created a series of questions that relate to the book but do not require participants to have read it yet. Joy After Noon deals with a second marriage for the husband, and the wife feels threatened by the stellar qualities of the deceased first wife. So I posed a question about jealousy. She also has to deal with step-daughters who are in the throes of teenage angst. So I posed a question about our fears for our kids, step-kids, or grandkids. I located images on the internet to accompany each question. Before the launch began, I opened a WORD document with the questions and an images folder, so that I could quickly move back and forth, and paste a question (and accompanying image) if the discussion started to lag or drag.
To encourage participation, I offered a lottery with participants getting entries for their comments. The winner would be announced the following evening to allow individuals unable to attend to read the posts for a full day following the launch and continue to comment.
Alicia Paige Boggs organized the event for me, and she took charge of creating the invitations, sending reminders, and setting up the Facebook party. As I’m not skilled in the arena of social media, this took a lot of pressure off. I was able to invite my Facebook friends simply by clicking a button. When I sent her link to friends not on Facebook, or not in my Facebook account, I wasn’t quite sure how it would work or whether they would be able to see the party. I’d recommend sorting these technical issues out in advance so you know what to tell people who ask.
Above all, relax and have fun! The event is a celebration. Your friends will be so supportive, they will make you feel good about your achievement. Who can ask for more?