Summer in Texas

How’s Your Monday?

Dr. Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Monday, August 1, 2022

Take Out the Recyclables & the Trash

Yes, the writing life is glamorous – ha! I awoke at 6 AM and got out of bed. I put on my house slippers, made a pit-stop at the “necessary room,” put my iPhone on the charger, and headed downstairs.

Once downstairs, I first placed my iWatch on the charger. Next, I collected a bag of trash from the kitchen along with a bag of recyclables. I exit the house via the kitchen door, I walked passed the swimming pool, opened the back gate and places the bags in the alley. 

I returned to the back side of the house. Five more bags of recyclables and two more bags of trash awaited me. Carrying two bags at a time, I made four trips to deposit them in the alley. The trash collectors come about 8 AM and the recycle people between 10 and 2 PM. Mission accomplished. I come back into the house and lock the kitchen door.

Next, I put a new trash bag in the trash can and a new recycle bag in the recycle bin. 

Then I headed back upstairs, got dressed, pick up my now fully charged iPhone, and made my way back downstairs.

Take My Morning Medications

I refilled the water bottle before going to the restroom to get my seventeen morning pills to take. Once retrieved, I spent the ten minutes taking the pills and glancing at the online version of the Dallas Morning News. My iWatch is now fully charged so I retrieve and put it on. 

I tossed my MacBook in its black leather Coach bag along with the charger, noise suppressing headphones, and wireless mouse. I have an extra USB mouse in my computer bag in case I forget the wireless one.

A note I left on the table tells where I am going and what I’m doing. A stop at the mini-refrigerator gets me a Diet-Coke. I grab a new KN-95 face mask, exit via the front door, lock the front door, and put my computer bag in the back seat, get into my Mercedes, open my Diet Coke, turn on SiriusXM to channel 90 – NASCAR. 

Drive to Starbucks

I drink half the Diet-Coke during the ten-minute drive to Starbucks. The NASCAR news of the morning updates me on the latest happening. I’m a NASCAR fan following the Joe Gibbs Racing team’s four drivers.

When arriving at Starbucks, the handicap parking space was full so I have to park where I have to cross traffic to get into the building. I get my computer bag, my navy-blue Cardigan, and cane from the back seat and wait until there’s a break in the stream of traffic to cross the parking lot.

Once inside, I claim my table. All twelve tables are empty. I go to the counter where several baristas greet me by name. The manager says, Good morning, Jimmie. After returning their greeting, I pull out my iPhone and open the Starbucks app. 

The addion of funds to the app is my first order of business. I push a button and another $25 is on my Starbucks account. I order the Starbucks Eggs & Cheddar Protein Box and a large cup of blonde roast coffee. 

Daily Writing

While eating breakfast, I’m writing this post. When I finish, it’ll be time to get back to the daily writing as I head for achieving today’s word count on my pen name novel. 

So goes the exciting life of the writer. 

Air Conditioners, Sweaters, & Hot Weather

Today in North Texas

It’s Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Today is day 31 with temperarues100 degrees or warmer in 2022. We have not measured rain at DFW Airport for 51 days. We need rain and cooler weather in North Texas.

Hot Weather

Outside, it was over 90 degrees F when I left the house before 9 AM.

Hot weather is blanketing North America. The high today in Vancouver, British Columbia, is 91 degrees F. I’ll arrive there in 22 days.

I’ll be in Vancouver for three days before going on an Alaska Cruise-tour where I’ll end up at Mt Denali and the Denali National Park. It’s 38 degrees F with light rain at Denali.

Starbucks

I’m sitting in Starbucks this morning wearing my cardigan sweater (see today’s selfie) as the AC is frigid.

It’s morning writing, a walk in AC comfort, a visit to the allergy doctor, Bible reading, more reading for pleasure, and an evening swim are part of the day’s agenda.

Friends

I have a dear friend whose mother passed away peacefully in the in-patient hospice care unit this morning. I’ve known this friend since 1970. Losing your mother at any age is tough.

Today’s Selfie

The selfie is from today. FYI – My trifocals are for reading and computer. The regular or distance lease has no correction as my distance vision after cataract surgery is 20/20. I have to wear glasses for driving to read the dashboard.

My Mustache and Hair Are Turning Grey

Dr. Jimmie Aaron Kepler, July 2022

I’m a Believer

My day begins with daily Bible reading. This morning I read read chapter four, five, and six the Book of Exodus from the English Standard version the Holy Bible.

Yes, I’m a regular Bible reader. Yes, I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I’m a Believer, a Christian.

Starbucks Regular

I’m at Starbucks at Coit and Campbell in Richardson, Texas. My classic oatmeal with brown sugar is yummy. The cup of Blonde Roast coffee amazing.

Most mornings I write at a Starbucks in the north Dallas Texas suburban area. I’ve written at dozens of locations over the years.

Today’s Writing

Morning writing is on my agenda for the next few hours. I’m working on the first draft on book two in my pen name historical fiction series. I’m about 22,000 words into a 80,000 word book.

Grey Hair

I’ve been reading about grey hair recently. 

Why? 

Well, my whiskers have started looking like they have frosting on them. They facial hair is now about 60% grey and white and 40% brown. The hair on my head is changing as well. 

The root (newest part of my hair) has areas that are turning grey. My research shows (besides me turning 69 in November) that typically the hair’s root turns grey when they have mostly died off having no more or very little melanin (the brown or black pigment in hair).

The middle of the hair will have a bit of melanin because it was produced when there were still some functional melanocytes, and the tip (the oldest part of the hair) will still be full of melanin from when it was produced. 

From what I read stress and health – as well as aging – can cause the hair to turn grey. My guess is it’s my time unless the Covid and related stress has caused it. 

From my research, if I cut my hair short, it would be very grey because of the newer grey roots. With it the length I have (about 18 to 20 inches) it could take as long as two to three years to all go grey. 

On the other hand, I read that if turning grey is stress or illness related, remove the stress and recover from the illness and a majority of the hair will again start producing melanin and regain its pigment. Interesting. 

Google grey hair and join me in information overload.

If you’re grey, how old were you when your hair started going grey? The average age for white men and women is mid 30s.

I’ll take what God gives me. The photo shows the greying/silvering of my mustache.

Defeating Giants In Your Christian Writing Life

1 Samuel 17:40 English Standard Version (ESV), “Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.”

If You Are Going to Defeat The Giants In Your Christian Writing Life You Need To Use The Five Stones:

Stone One: Check You Purpose

Is it worthy enough to consume your time, energy, etc.? 

Why are you writing what you’re writing? We all know it is better to write a book or article that touches one life for Christ than to write smut that sells hundreds of thousands of copies. Is there an audience for your work?

Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV), “Call to me, and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

As Believers, we pray more when challenged with a cause.

John 14:13-14 (ESV), “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Being used by God and working in the Holy Spirit’s power is a privilege. 

Mark 11:24 (ESV), “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Stone Two: Count the Cost

To defeat Goliath, David had to:

1. Pay the price of criticism. 

We get that as writers from family members who say we need a real job or writing is a hobby and from reviewers and our writing group who don’t like or get our work.

2. Pay the price in loneliness. 

Admit it; there is a lot of loneliness and solitude in writing. Are you willing to spend the time with your behind in the chair?

Stone Three: Chart Your Course

Know your target audience. Who are you writing for and why?

1 Samuel 17:34-36 (ESV), “But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”

Stone Four: Consider Your Christ

Remember, David didn’t confront and kill Goliath alone. He gives us an example of positive faith that we can apply to our writing.

1 Samuel 17:45 (ESV), “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Do you include prayer in your writing preparation? Do you ask God to show you what you should be writing and to let His thoughts be your thoughts as you put words on paper?

Philippians 4:13 (ESV), “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

This verse includes four positives things:
  1. I can – is positive thinking.
  2. I can do – is a positive action.
  3. I can do all things – is positive faith.
  4. I can do all things through Christ – is a positive power.

Stone Five: Charge Your Challenge

Now get after it! Get your behind in the chair and write!

1 Samuel 17:51-52 (ESV), “Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron.”

Conclusion:

We kill the giants in our own writing lives because those needing to read what God has placed on our hearts will never see the words in print or kill the giants in their lives until we do it in our lives.


Photo Credit: Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

My Coffeehouse Writing Habit

Where I Write

I’m doing my morning writing at one of my favorite Starbucks. I like the location on Preston Road just north of Lorimar in Plano, Texas. I write here most mornings.

The photo is of my writing-table. I usually sit at the same table each morning. From left to right in the picture, you see my laptop bar, my personal porcelain Starbucks coffee cup. Using the cup not only helps the environment by decreasing the number of paper cups in landfills but it saves me 10 cents a purchase.

My Writing Tools

You can see the MacBook Air I use for writing. It has a 1TB solid-state hard drive as well as 16GB of RAM. It never crashes and is a high-speed computer. I have an external, wireless Bluetooth mouse that I use.

I use some writing specific software like Scrivener and Vellum as well as Microsoft Word for Macintosh.

When I Write

I’m usually at my Starbuck table between 6 to 6:30 AM. The Muse knows where to meet me. Working for years as a US Army officer and later for decades in the information technology field, I learned the power of habit and repeatable processes.
In the Army, we had standard operations procedures. It allowed us to work faster, safer, and more efficiently — and to save lives. In the IT field, we had repeatable procedures. They did the same thing.
Writing at the same place and the same time is kind of the same thing. My brain knows it is time to put fingers to the keyboard and input words into the computer. I also usually listen to the same instrumental music. When it starts, my brain says, “Time to be creative.”
Note: I am not saying you have to follow my routine. You need to find what works for you, to develop your own habit.

Photo Source: The picture was taken by the Author

Anyone Ever Laugh When You Say You’re a Writer?

You Need a Real Job

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

“Why can’t I be an author?” I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

“Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades you could even aspire to be a medical doctor or dentist,” she said.

I was heartbroken. Raised to believe I could do anything, now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing? Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only…

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.

Read

Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.

Write

I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.

Edit

This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.

Submit

To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.

Rejection

Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. The photo is a rejection I received from the New Yorker Magazine. I’ve been rejected by the best.

Acceptance

Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good.

Writers’ Groups

Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late.

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.


Photo Source: Pixabay

Kepler’s Aphorism #2 – Don’t Plan on Earning Enough Money Writing to Live On

I was sixty-four years old before I was able to write full-time and I don’t make enough money off my writing to support myself solely on my writing income. I required having multiple streams of income to achieve this goal. It also took my being debt free.

Even with my simple lifestyle, my combined earnings from my writing income, interest received on savings, and earnings from a 403B, my income is about what an hourly employee at a big box store earns. I am only able to write full-time through frugality, lack of debt, and a very modest lifestyle.

I have been writing full-time for twelve months. The plus is I have earned money from my writing every month. The minus is the monthly income from just writing has never made me four figures in a month. It helped that I understood the business, have been writing and regularly publishing since 1981, and had multiple books and articles published.

The late Ray Bradbury was one of the first who said don’t plan on making money writing. Bradbury and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit thirty-seven years old before they could afford a car. For years he sold newspapers on the street corner to get enough money to pay the rent. He even used a pay typewriter in the UCLA library that charged him twenty-five cents per thirty minutes of writing before he earned enough money to buy his own.

You can be a working writer and earn a modest income. According to BookScan, the average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.  With average royalties that’s less than $5,000 a year for a book and less than $60,000 over a book’s lifetime for an Indie author, you cannot survive on just that income. The earnings figure is significantly less for traditionally published authors.

You can see detailed information on author earnings at Author Earnings.


Photo Source: Pixaby

Kepler’s Aphorism #1 – You cannot be a working writer unless you submit your work.

This typewriter was used by President John F. Kennedy to make changes to his speeches while on board Air Force One. (U.S. Air Force photo)

There is truth in my saying. A writer is not a writer until he has written his article, short story or book and submitted the work.

A traditional writer cannot sell the piece until the agent accepts it, shops it, and sells it. A self-published writer must write the book, edit the book, market the book, and upload it to Amazon or Apple Books or Kobo or one of the other self-publishing platforms and let the public see the work where they have the opportunity to buy it.

You can’t be a working writer if you don’t submit. You can write, read books on writing, attend writer’s conferences, belong to a writer’s group, have a writer’s business card, and even lead a writer’s group, but until you put your work out there, you cannot be a working writer.


Photo Source: Public Domain (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/198115/air-force-one-typewriter/ and https://media.defense.gov/2007/Feb/21/2000513573/-1/-1/0/070221-F-1234S-002.JPG)

Nothing Routine About The Writer’s Life

Today is Wednesday, December 6, 2017. It was a chilly 45 degrees on my front porch this morning.

My Wednesday schedule is different from other days of the week. I arrive at my favorite coffee house a little later today. It was after 7 AM. They barista poured my tall cup of blonde roast coffee for me and I retired to my cold weather seat. On colder days I sit in the back of the coffee house away from the windows and door. This table has me away from the cold.

I connected to the Wi-Fi and launched Facebook. I write a reply to fourteen posts. If I respond to the posts and comments of people, they are more likely to engage my future posts and comments. The Bible says if this way in the book of Proverbs, chapter 18, verse 24a, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:”

Two acquaintances stopped by my table to visit with me. One asked me about retirement preparation. He retires the end of this month. The other man engaged in causal small-talk.

Since yesterday morning I attended a webinar on social security and medicare which my financial services provider hosted. It was informative. They explained complex and unfamiliar topics in simple, understandable terms.

I listened to Joanna Penn’s interview on “The Alliance of Independent Author’s Indie Author Fringe Podcast.” The subject of the podcast was How to Be An Author Entrepreneur. A transcript of the podcast is at https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/11/29/how-to-be-an-author-entrepreneur/. The bottom-line of the podcast was the hearer answering the question, is your writing a hobby or business? If it is a business, Joann Penn gave practical how-to steps on how to manage your writing business.

I also listened to Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn Podcast. The episode I heard was Estate Planning For Authors With M.L Buchman. A transcript of the interview is at https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/12/04/estate-planning-for-authors-with-m-l-buchman/. The bottom-line was your intellectual property rights are valuable – both to you in your lifetime, but also for 70 years after you die according to copyright law. So what happens once you’re gone? Have you ensured that your heirs and successors can still benefit? Having several books published plus being in my mid-60s, I found the podcast interesting as my work will outlive me.

I also worked on a poem I’ve had in my head for a while.

Today I have walking for my health at the mall, lunch with my best guy friend, some afternoon walking, and writing, and then Wednesday night church on my agenda. I will also write another draft chapter in my forthcoming book with the working title “In Jesus’ Name” though I am thinking of titling the book “How to Pray for the Chronically Ill.”

Have a good day and remember, if you write one page a day (that’s about 250 words), Monday through Friday, at the end of one year you will have a 240-page book!

As you can see, there is nothing routine about the writer’s life. Each day is a new adventure.