Ten Things to Know About Me

Jimmie A. Kepler
Jimmie A. Kepler

1. I’m a writer of speculative fiction, nonfiction, poetry and a book reviewer. I primarily write science fiction and fantasy, poetry and review military history books. I sell a high percentage of my nonfiction. My bibliography is listed here.

2. I live with my wife in the Dallas – Fort Worth Area, but I’ve also lived in other places. I grew up a cold war era military brat. I did my bachelor and master’s degrees in Texas and my doctorate in California. Growing up I lived in Texas, Ohio, Texas, South Carolina, Illinois, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, New Hampshire, and Texas. I have worked in Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Washington State, California, Idaho, and Louisiana.

3. A partial list of my hobbies: reading, computers, history, walking/hiking, guitar, customer care and caring for my wife and aging-parents. I have a strong commitment to lifelong learning.

4. I know a secret about the Texans. As a fifth generation Texan and member of Texas First Families I know a lot about Texans. Texans think they are smarter than you, know more than you, and come from the best place on earth. Texans are born with a bad infection of Hubris – self-confidence is abundant. Garrison Keillor adequately explained a Texan’s view of gun control. They view control as holding the weapon steady as they squeeze off the next round.

5. Yes, Jimmie A. Kepler is my real name. It is Jimmie with an ie, not James. Why? That’s is my father’s first name. The A is for Aaron. I was named after my paternal grandfather whose middle name was Aaron. He passed away eighteen years before I was born. Kepler is my last name. Yes it is the same as the famous mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler. Am I related to him? Heck if I know, but I’ll claim him.

6. I graduated from The University of Texas at Arlington with a BA degree in History and minors in military science and English (creative writing and grammar). I have a MA degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I hold a EdD degree in educational administration.

7. In ancient history I was a commissioned officer in the US Army. I won the military draft with a lottery number of 25 back in the day. I even went to airborne school and jumped out of airplanes.  I’m honorably discharged at the rank of Captain.

8. Some people tell me I’m driven with lazor focus. I like to say I set and achieve goals.

9. I’ve been blogging and on the Internet since the 1990s. I used Compuserve all the way back to the mid 1970s. I used email as early as 1976 in the US Army and 1979 with CompuServe. I first used Chat in 1980. I’m an old dude. I’m older than Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs.

10. I am a Christian. My faith impacts all areas of my life. I am not perfect, but forgiven. I won’t preach at you.

My Oldest Son Was Born 37 Years Ago Today

My son KrisOn Monday, January 24, 1977 I was a second lieutenant on active duty stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was serving as the weapons platoon leader (81 mm mortars and T.O.W. missiles) in Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion 47th Infantry in the 3rd brigade of the 9th Infantry Division.

My unit was training with the 2 Battalion 77th Armor that week. In the early afternoon, I was receiving instruction of tank/infantry tactics when my company commander, Captain John Bratton told me my wife had been taken to the hospital to deliver our first child. Diane Davenport the wife of David Davenport the 4.2 inch mortar platoon leader had taken Benita to the hospital. My driver (yes as a mortar platoon leader I had a jeep and a driver) took me to my quarters. I got my car.  From there, I headed to the hospital.

Upon arrival, I found her and Diane. Diane stayed until I arrived to relieve her. My wife, Miss Benita, had her water break about 12:30 PM. Now it was the waiting game. We were in Madigan Army Hospital. It is a teaching hospital. I watched as over a dozen interns and residents as they looked at her lady parts and practiced attaching, unattaching, and reattaching a fetal monitor. At one point, she pulled the sheet over her head to hide from the endless eyes examining her.

Madigan was an old wooden frame World War I era facility. The maternity delivery room used the old hospital open ward concept with four delivery tables in the room. My wife was on one table. On the other was Brenda Schwarzkopf, the wife of then Colonel Norman Schwarzkopf. He was then commanding he first brigade of the Ninth Infantry Division. Their son Christian would be born about 2 and one-half hours after our son Kristopher. I like to joke and say I was on a first name basis with Schwarzkopf. He called me lieutenant and I called him sir.

Yes, I was in the delivery room. I helped coach with the breathing as we used the Lamaze technique to help with the delivery. Benita was amazing, brave and yes I watched it all.

Our son Kristopher was born just after 10 PM. I recall how excited I was to call our parents back in Texas. I called Benita’s parents first and then my parents. The time was after midnight in north Texas.With my call, both sets of parents were instantly wide awake. They were excited, but not as much as I was.

Just a few days later Benita’s parents came and helped with the new baby. I know Benita was so glad to see them and have their help.

Kris has added joy to our lives and continues to do so to this day. He is an outstanding young man. I am proud to be his father. The picture is from December 2013.  It is the most recent one I have of Kristopher.

Poem: Why Won’t You Talk

Why Won’t You Talk

Why won’t you talk?
About the things that you feel
Yes it’s you and me
We share a common history

What can I do?
To get through to you
What can I say?
To make your pain go away

Once you enjoyed being in my arms
Your personality charmed
You were made for me
We shared our destiny

But now distant you’ve become
Like the setting sun
A million miles away
You never want to play

Despair has overtaken you
More deadly than the flu
Will you ever return to me?
The girl once that I did see

While we share our life
As husband and wife
Somewhere gloom and despair
We were a handsome pair

To death do we part
Was our pledge from the start
I will stay the course
God’s strength is my source

I count myself blessed
I married the best
A lover and a friend
Faithful to the end

A companion for life
Together we survived strife
You’ve put up with me
Forever grateful I will be

Still I wonder … why won’t you talk?
About the things that you feel
Yes it’s you and me
We share a common history

Jimmie A. Kepler
© 2008
Originally published in: WORDS..RHYMES..POETRY & PROSE!

The Muse and Me

Have you ever had a muse, or a muse-like experience where you felt so passionate, or “taken over” by a creative spirit or compulsion to express and create? This is more than just “in the zone” … it’s almost as if someone or something takes over and writes for you.

Four examples of a muse in my life are shared below.

Example One – I was taking a senior level English course with the ominous title “Transformational Grammar and Advanced Creative Writing”. The program was exactly as the title … a writing course that made sure you dissected the grammar. Remember diagraming sentences? This was far more interesting as it dismembered each sentence to parts of speech, syllables, suffixes/prefixes and even lower in the structure. You could get credit for the course as a senior level English or Linguistics class. The professor was my first muse. She believed in and encouraged my writing. She was , the first to point out the value of reading regularly, journaling, and submitting what you wrote. She helped get me published the first time in a university publication and then a historical study in a military magazine. She told me I should embrace a bohemian lifestyle and write full-time. She turned me on to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.

Example Two – I was motivated to the point of being driven, to have a laser-focus. Me driven, can you believe? Anyway, I wanted to get into a doctoral program and needed to start getting published in my then chosen discipline – religious education. I went to the best conferences, met the right people, and paid the price. This wasn’t a once and done thing. It was getting one then two then three then four then five then six a year published. Sheer vanity … I wrote some very good articles like “What I Learned when a Church Member Died”, an article about preaching my first funeral and the shortcomings of the religious education curriculum to prepare the associate minister in this critical area is an example.

Example Three – Nancy Karen Vandiver Garrison … I know her from high school. We also went to the same university. We did prose interpretation and literary criticism together in University Interscholastic League competition way back 45 years ago. Thanks to social media and email we talk nearly every day for years and still do, as recently as in the last few seconds. She holds me accountable to keep on writing and never give up. More than anything, she encourages me to ignore the rejections. She also says what’s next when I get an acceptance. She is a darn good poet and supporter of the arts. Plus, we both love The Monkees!

Example Four – In 1992, I wrote 175 pages in one day for a nonfiction book I was working on. I have had some 50 to 75 page experiences in writing that happen the same way. Sometimes I have poems bounce around in my head and won’t quit talking to me until I relocate them to paper. It can be very surreal. I’ve had several magazine articles that I’ve sold to publications like Children’s Leadership, Preschool Leadership, Poetry & Prose Magazine and Bewildering Stories that just flowed almost perfectly.

I find the muse magically appears when I put my behind in the chair and write.

Background on Muses: The Muses, the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music, are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory personified). Hesiod’s account and description of the Muses were the one generally followed by the writers of antiquity. It was not until Roman times that the following functions were assigned to them, and even then there was some variation in both their names and their attributes:

  • Calliope -epic poetry;
  • Clio -history;
  • Euterpe -flutes and lyric poetry;
  • Thalia -comedy and pastoral poetry;
  • Melpomene -tragedy;
  • Terpsichore -dance;
  • Erato -love poetry;
  • Polyhymnia -sacred poetry;
  • Urania -astronomy.

It is Malignant

The sun will not rise for another hour. I am sitting in my favorite Starbucks in Plano, Texas.  My friend Jim is sitting at the table next to me. He is 72 years old and retired from IBM. He is a Oklahoma State University graduate. He was a pitcher on their baseball team in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He pitched a no-hitter in the college world series in 1960. After college, he signed with the Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale Los Angeles Dodgers playing a couple of years before putting his engineering degree to use. He actually made more money as an engineer than as a ball player. Times have changed.

Jen and Loren are the barista’s on duty this morning. They usually are the opening crew. They sweet smile and good morning greet me five mornings a week. This morning all three asked me about the pathology report on my wife’s tumor.

My bride of thirty-nine years had surgery for a malrotated intestine just before Christmas. During the surgery, they had a surprise. They found an unexpected tumor. The doctor was unable to remove the entire tumor due to its being in one of the lymph nodes. The doctor who performed the intestinal surgery is also the director of surgical oncology.

After we got to the car, we prayed and shed a few tears as we digested the news. She is so brave. I am scared for her. We both have a strong Christian faith, which certainly helps. The reality of the news still stings.

After getting home, I call our daughter making sure she had the news. We emailed family. I also posted on Facebook the bullet points of the exam. We had over 30 replies.

I’ll write more on this adventure in life in the days ahead.

When Washington Burned: An Illustrated History of the War of 1812

One of the least known wars in United States or for that matter British history is the War of 1812.
The War of 1812 was a rather disorderly event. At times it had several minor campaigns going on at the same time. They weren’t coordinated, were hundreds of miles apart and had little or nothing to do with the other campaigns.
The author has produced an understandable account out of this disjointed war. His narrative is well organized. The structure used has each chapter covering a distinct area. They are restricted to a geographic area.  The genius of this approach is let you keep needed focus without covering everything happening on all fronts at the same time. The coverage of the Naval engagements is excellent. They receive their separate chapters.
The illustrations are first-rate. The majority of the images are present-day. He makes skillful use of maps to show the more intricate campaigns. This is an excellent single volume history of the War of 1812. It explains what happened. It explains why it happened. The coverage is balanced with US and British material. The book would be an great addition for community libraries, school libraries and is a must for the personal library of military historians. It would also make a nice “coffee table book”.
Arnold Blumberg and Casemate Publishing have provide a well needed, quality book on the War of 1812.

Life Goes On

It is Monday, January 6, 2014. With a new year, we get a new beginning, a fresh start on things. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for a new start.

2013 ended in less than spectacular fashion. My household faced many challenges. The top of the list included my bride of 39 years having major intestinal surgery. We are still waiting for pathology results on a tumor they found. They told us they were not able to remove it all. I had bad bronchitis.  Had two shots, two Z packs, two rounds of antibiotics and two different cough medicines. The medications included steroids which raised my blood pressure to higher levels than it normally is. Even on my blood pressure medicine, the blood pressure is high.

Last Thursday my 86 years old father fell and broke his neck. The aftermath of that event is a major challenge. It placed a good dose of fear in my mother.  He is home, but in a neck brace.

Balancing work, care for aging parents, care for a sick spouse, routine work and doing household chores for both residences for several days has me worn out. My parents have my brother staying with them for a few days. There are tough decisions to face in the days ahead about both my parents and my spouse. Oh, let us not forget about the day job. One does have to work to earn money.

One thing I know, life goes on whether you are ready for what comes your way.

How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War

How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones is a scholarly look at the Civil War. Hattaway and Jones have produced a great book on Civil War logistics, planning, and administration. They authors seem to focus more on the logistics and strategy side over the tactical side.

The book was very good, but at times, it was a dry recitation of chronology, dull facts, and statistics. I had to force my way to complete the book, and it took two attempts to get it read. Most copies of the book will collect dust on some university library bookshelf. It is too deep and too dry for most readers. Better to borrow this book from your library than spend your money purchasing the book.

Review: How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones

Looking Back

Benita, Jimmie, and Kristopher Kepler 1977
Benita, Jimmie, and Kristopher Kepler 1977

Have you ever sat down with a cup of hot coffee and reflected on your life? Go ahead; raise your right hand if you have done it.

If you are looking in my direct, you will see I have my hand lifted high. I admit I have had many of those melancholy moments.

No, I am not planning my eulogy, but at sixty years of age, I look back from time to time.

What is the catalyst for my latest round of self-examination? I think it is a combination of various things. First, I turned sixty years old this past November. Add to that my wife recently had major abdominal surgery. Finally, it is the New Year, which all by itself causes reflection.

One of the first things I do when reflecting is thinking about where I have been. Growing up as a military brat during the Cold War and Vietnam War gives me a different perspective than many.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about my childhood. It really was fun and different. I lived many places. My laundry list of places lived before I reached adulthood include:

  1. San Antonio, Texas
  2. Bowersville, Ohio
  3. Greenville, South Carolina
  4. East Saint Louis, Illinois
  5. Greenville, South Carolina
  6. Glendale, Arizona
  7. Sequin, Texas
  8. El Paso, Texas
  9. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  10. Bebe, Texas
  11. Schertz, Texas
  12. DeSoto, Texas
  13. Arlington, Texas
  14. DeSoto, Texas
  15. Fort Riley, Kansas
  16. DeSoto, Texas

I also attended eight schools for my twelve grades of public school. The schools were in Arizona, Texas and New Hampshire.

The advantage was getting to see and experience much of this great country called the United States of America. The disadvantages were a lifelong feeling of not having roots and not having a true hometown. I even felt an outsider at my own high school where I attended from the middle of the ninth grade through graduation. I sometimes feel that way when some of use get together for a Saturday evening meal.

Other time I think back to winning the military draft lottery when we use to have such a thing. I was a one of those pivotal moments in my life. It meant I was going into the US military. I had the choice of going immediately or going later. I could have gone immediately by enlisting or just waiting to be drafted.

The Vietnam War was winding down at that time, but they were still sending combat troops. They would do that for another eighteen months after I graduated high school.

I selected another option. It was to defer my military service. I did this by joining the United States Army Reserve Officer Training Corps is college. This lead to me being commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army upon college graduation. It guaranteed I would graduate from college on time and serve in the military.

It also leads to three other items. First, it took me to Fort Lewis, Washington. There I attended First Baptist Church of Lakewood. I accepted Jesus Christ as Savior at Lakewood.

Second, it provided me with the G.I Bill educational benefit that I used to get my master’s degree.

Third, it provided the G.I. Bill house financing benefit I used two purchase two homes. I doubt I would have ever been able to buy a house with the 20% down payment requirements in place in the 1970s and 1980s.

I think back about choice I made like marriage and the birth of three children. I reflect on attending, graduating from seminary, and serving five church over a sixteen years period.

I look at leaving ministry and retraining for work in the information technology field. I think of how I could have been a better husband and parent.

No, I don’t have regrets. You cannot change choices, so any reexamination isn’t a good thing to do.

I also think about the future. I‘ll write about that on another day.

Battle for the City of the Dead: In the Shadow of the Golden Dome, Najaf, August 2004 by Dick Camp

The year was 2004. During the spring and summer the Iraqi nation was overwhelmed with violence. The nation’s Shiites and Sunnis headlined the sectarian fighting. The Army of Iraq had been disbanded by the United States Proconsul. The results of his actions were infusing a large number of angry young men into the streets of the population centers in Iraq. These men had no jobs skills, no jobs, and no prospects for employment. These men were literally angry in the streets. The clergy fueled their anger which developed into a rage and campaign for jihad against the United States and all “occupation forces”. 
By August 2004, Muqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, called upon thousands of Mahdi Militia, his armed followers and de facto private army, to resist the occupation. Fighting would break out in several locations. The holy city of Najaf, the site of the largest Moslem cemetery in the world, and the Imam Ali Mosque were major sites of fighting. U.S. forces found themselves fighting in 120-degree heat. The battleground was through a tangle of crypts, mausoleums, and crumbling graves. The fight was rough. It had the religious zealots against the motivated and disciplined United States Army and Marine Corps troopers. It makes for a spellbinding account of Americans in battle.
The book itself is excellent. Dick Camp tells an excellent story. The quality of the book is remarkable. I am referring to everything from the writing, the large amount of high quality color pictures, and even quality of the paper the book on which the book is printed.