Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dreams

Have I mentioned I’m writing my fourth novel?  Oh, I know, everyone is either writing a novel, plans to write a novel or has the next great story idea.  So, with that in mind, I’ll start over.

Writing My Fourth Novel

Did I mention I am writing a novel?

Yes, I am. While I’ve published a science fiction novel, a historical fiction novel, a short story anthology, a poetry collection, and have a second unpublished science fiction novel, I have never published a literary fiction novel. Novel number four is literary fiction.

Even though I have hundreds of paid writing credits over the last 40 years in dozens of trade journals, magazines, literary journals, and science fiction magazines, few people view me as a writer.

Response of Family and Friends

Have you ever noticed the response of family and friends when they learn you are writing a novel?  You know the responses I’m talking about.  You’ve seen them.

There’s the rolling of the eyes up toward the sky.

There’s the bobbing the head up and down while shaking it in disbelief.

Sometimes they will express condolences to a spouse that you’re using your time in this way.  other times they will say “That’s nice.  Everyone needs a hobby.”

When I get responses like these I want to put my hands on their shoulders, look them directly in the eye and say, “Hello, did you hear me? I said I am writing a novel.  That’s because I am a writer!”

At this point they usually repeat, “That’s nice or I thought you worked with computers.”

I reply “Working with computers paid for my passion for writing before I became a full-time writer.”

It’s sad. They still don’t get it.  Oh, I can send them running out of the room in a hurry if I say, “Would you like to hear a chapter?”  Those words are like saying “FIRE, RUN, FLEE FOR YOUR LIFE!”

Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dreams

I mention all this to say, don’t let anyone steal your dream.  If you’re like me, you have to write.  You can’t help it.  It’s part of who you are.  So write!  And, tell your friends and family that you’re working on a novel.  Let them the progress you are making.  And you can drop me a note from time to time in the comments section.  I’ll understand.

Good Friday and Easter – My Personal Christian Testimony

Being good doesn’t get you to heaven. Being “saved or born-again” does. Here’s my story of “being saved.”

On July 11, 1977, my life changed. If you look up that date in history, you will find nothing historically significant happened on that Sunday. It was a remarkable day for me. Sunday, July 11, 1977, was the watershed event in my life.

July 1977 found me on active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Army. I was serving as Battalion Maintenance Officer, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington. Life was good. I had a beautiful, intelligent wife. I had a new son born in January that same year. My career was going great. I had just received a commendable rating during an Annual General Inspection in maintenance and Department of the Army General Inspection (DAIG). It was the first commendable rating since the division had returned from Vietnam.

Because of the DAIG commendable rating, I received a special officer evaluation report with addendums from my battalion commander, brigade commander, assistant division commander for support, and division commanding general. I with Named an Outstanding Junior Officer of the Ninth Infantry Division because of the commendable rating. I was branch transferred from the Infantry to Ordnance Corps to better utilize my giftedness in leading support maintenance. I received an offer of a regular army commission. I was asked to be assistant division commander for support’s aide.

I always tried being the best I could be and doing what was right. I was a perfectionist, high-achieving, and a workaholic. However, after all of this, I still had an empty, unsatisfied, void, and alone feeling.

Beginning in my college years I tried drinking, women, materialism, partying, and hanging out with the right crowd to fill this unexplained need I had. I knew something was missing from my life.

I was attending First Baptist Church of Lakewood in Tacoma, Washington. I noticed a group of men that seemed to have what I was missing. I attended a Bible study with them.

Here I found that God has given us an essential manual for life — the Bible. He has the answers to the problems and emptiness we may face. I found out I was here for a purpose, and not by accident. I learned Jesus loves me and desires to have a personal relationship with me. However, sin separated me from Him.

I realized I had a sin problem. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 But no one is perfect! We have all sinned and therefore cannot save ourselves by just living a good life. Why?

I learned there was a penalty to be paid for my sin. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

I learned God gives us a promise. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

I learned that God made a provision for me. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10

I prayed to accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus. I prayed, “Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that You died for my sins and rose from the grave so that I might have eternal life in Heaven with You. I willingly repent of my sins and ask you to come into my heart and life. Take control of my words, thoughts, and actions. I place all of my trust in You for my salvation. I accept You as my Lord and Savior, and this free gift of eternal life. Amen.”

Since then my life has not been perfect. It’s been far from it. I’ve messed up from time to time, sometimes failing miserably in my decisions and choices. However, I have had direction and purpose in my life. I know where I am headed. I have the Bible to give me the principles for daily living. I am never alone. I have had real peace for the last 40 years.

How about you? Have you ever been “saved”? You can do like I did.

Romans 10:9-10, 13 tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Why not pray this simple prayer and accept Jesus Christ today.


JAK DrawingJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support engineer. He is a former Captain in the US Army.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History with minors in English and military science from The University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Arts and Master of Religious Education degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the Doctor of Education degree. In his mid-forties, he returned to college completing the core curriculum for a computer science degree. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. He is an author. His books and collections are available on Amazon.

Buna, Texas and the Polka Dot House

Buna Polka Dot HouseIn southeast Texas at the southern end of Jasper county is a community called Buna. I lived in Jasper County from 1984 through 1993 and again in 1996. Buna was my home in 1992 and 1993. I had the blessing of serving a wonderful group of people as associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Buna.

Two large questions filled my mind when I first talked with the church’s search committee about joining their staff. The first was how the community got its name. The second concerned a certain house in town.

Buna was named by the owners of the lumber mill. I was told the Beaumont Lumber Company mill in southern Jasper County was first called Carrolla. It was named for the Carroll family. They were prominent Beaumont lumbermen and industrialists. The site was renamed Buna, however, in honor of one of the family’s cousins, Buna Corley. So Buna was named after a cousin of the saw mill’s owner.

The second question concerned that certain house. At first glance the house was nothing special. It was painted white like many other houses. At second glance I realized it was different. There were spots on the house. Cleaning my glasses didn’t help. The spots were still there. As I got closer I realized the spots were actually polka dots. The polka dots were painted blue!

Several members of the associate pastor search committee taught me the history of the house as they knew it.

Some told me a couple bought the house after World War Two and couldn’t agree on the color to paint it. They said the wife wanted a white house, but the husband wanted it painted blue. He grudging gave in painting it white to please the wife. Then he painted blue polka dots to please himself. I believe it was the Odell family that purchased the house.

Not all on the search committee agreed with how the house got its polka dots. Others told me the Davis family owned the house and later sold it to the Odell family. Some thought it may have already had the polka dots before the Odells got the house. One said no matter how many times the Odells painted the house white the dots just kept bleeding through the white paint so they finally gave up and kept the polka dots.

Buna water towerApparently the house originally had red and blue polka dots, though I only remember the blue ones. They were a royal blue, just like the high school colors.

Through the years the house has been a residence, florist, gift shop, home of the Buna Chamber of Commerce, and a few even remembered it housing the sub-courthouse of Jasper County.

Any residents of Buna that know the real or rest of the story please feel free to leave a comment.

Does Buna, Texas still have the little white house with blue polka dots? I don’t know for sure. I haven’t been to Buna since just after Hurricane Rita. That certain house was still there then.


A reader shared this website with me that has more info on Buna’s Polka Dot House: http://bunapolkadothouse.wix.com/bunapolkadothouse. Also please read the below comments to get the rest of the story from local residents and kinfolks of Buna’s Polka Dot House original owners and polka dot painters.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Writer’s Life: Remembering My First Sale

Today I was sitting back and reflecting on the writer’s life. It got me to thinking. How did I get that first sale? That first book review?

The first sale involved learning the system. I attended a Smokey Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I was a want to be writer. I learned some of the basics of magazine article writing. Maybe the most important happening at the conference was meeting editors and publishers. I talked to several publishers who expressed interest in working with new writers.

All the editors required that I write on speculation. That means I write on the subject they assign, but they have no obligation to buy my work. It allows them to see if I can follow their rules, meet their deadlines, write saleable copy, etc.  It lets them see how thick-skinned you are and if you take criticism too personal.

I had a kind editor who loved taking a few rookie writers under his wing each year and mentoring them. I had to rewrite six times before he bought the first article. My payment was 2 1/2 cents per word.  I received a check for $12.50, three copies of the magazine – one for me, one for my parents, and one for my wife’s parents. Plus my name was on the by-line. The article was published in a little magazine called “Sunday School Leadership” published by Lifeway Christian Resources. Its circulation was over 250,000 subscribers. It was read by my church members, seminary classmates, and members of the 40,000 plus Southern Baptist Churches in the USA as well as most directors of Christian education of all denominations.

I wrote an article or two for this editor every year for the next 15 years. It took me over a decade before I got a cover article. Once I did get a cover article I got one every year until he retired.  The first article is very basic. It is attached and titled: Who Does What?

I wrote the article in the Emory University Library in Atlanta, Georgia. I lived close to the campus. It was a favorite place for me to hang out and study.

In 1989 I was approached about reviewing books. At the time I would put a book review about once a month in my church’s newsletter. My editor was on the mailing list and said I wrote good reviews. He recommended me to a colleague. The thought of having someone give me a book for free to read was exciting to me. I bought and read about 100 books a year. The article for the first book I reviewed is attached with the simple title Book Review”.

I wrote this article while sitting in my church bus. I had taken the senior adults from my church to an event in the Smokey Mountains. We had the afternoon free and had gone to tour the Vanderbilt Estate in Asheville, NC.  One lady refuse to visit the house. She was protesting paying homage to the wealthy and decadent lifestyle I think. Even though the cost of the tour was prepaid, she refused to go on it. It was fall and cold in the mountains. I would not let her stay on the bus by herself. So, I sat out there on the bus all afternoon and wrote. I can write anywhere I think. The dear lady is still living and around 90 years old and still has strong convictions. The picture is of the Vanderbilt Estate.

What is my point? My point is if you love to read and write you can probably leverage it into a paying gig.  You will never get rich. I was reminded at the DFW Writers Workshop last spring that less than one percent of all writers are able to support themselves writing full time. So don’t quit your day job. If love writing why not go for it? Just write!

Devotional: Christmas Bells

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

About “Christmas Bells”

“Christmas Bells” is a minor, yet well known, poem written by a very melancholy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas morning in 1863 during the midst of the Civil War. It is anti-slavery poem as well as a seasonal favorite.

The poem was written six months after the battle of Gettysburg where 40,000 soldiers lost their life. In addition to despairing over the bloody war, Henry was also mourning the death of his beloved wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow. Fanny died in a tragic fire the same year that the Civil War broke out. In November of 1862 another personal tragedy added to his pain. His son, Union Lieutenant Charles Appleton, was wounded in the Army of the Potomac.

On Christmas morning in 1863, while sitting at his desk at the Craigie House in Cambridge, MA, Henry was inspired to write a poem as he listened to the church bells pealing. Their constancy and joyous ringing inspired him to write “Christmas Bells.” In spite of his sadness, Longfellow expresses his belief in God and innate optimism that indeed:

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep
The Wrong shall fail;
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Sometime after 1872 Longfellow’s poem was adapted into a Christmas Carol. John B. Caulkin (1827-1905) was a famous English composer who set the lyrics to a gentle, melodic tune which is reminiscent of bells ringing. The carol is entitled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Alternative tunes have been written for the lyrics but Caulkin’s melody remains predominant.

I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1966 – 1967. I was in the seventh and eighth grade. My father was in the United States Air Force at the time. As a student at Portsmouth Junior High School I took field trips to both Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow was a Bowdoin College graduate and was a faculty member before moving to Cambridge to teach at Harvard. We placed great emphasis when I was in junior high school on a classical education with understanding and appreciation of the arts including poetry.

Thanksgiving Magic

Thanksgiving Magic

Thanksgiving is a magical time
With miracles often ignored
Families and friends somehow
Find a way to meet, mingle and eat
Often with more food leftover
Than when they began.
Now the preparation is the amazing feat
Sometimes the magic is passed down
From grandmother to daughter to granddaughter
And sometimes the spells come out of book
That give the formulas on how to cook
With a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that
As the hand waves adding a dash of love
Leftover cornbread and muffins
Amazingly get changed to stuffing
How does she turn the cranberries to sauce?
Have you ever noticed how grandma and mother
Turn a pumpkin into a pie?
A pale turkey transformed into a glowing bronzed treat
Candied yams mysteriously get the marshmallows to melt
And somehow mother mixes gingerbread
and out comes a humanoid shape
With stubby feet and no fingers
But with a vanilla icing smiley face
And icing hair, shirt cuffs, and shoes
With shirt buttons of
Gum drops, icing, or raisins.
Yes the wizards of Thanksgiving
Are the magical mothers who cook.

Jimmie A. Kepler
2012

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Hello, I’m a Military Brat

Pease Air Force Base at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The picture was taken in the May 1966 from the balcony of the operations building. I was in the 7th grade. There is one KC-135 and six B-52s on the runway.
Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There are one KC-135 and six B-52s on the runway. The picture dates from May 1966. I was in the 7th grade. I lived on Pease AFB from February 1966 to May 1967 and was in the 7th and 8th grades while we lived there.

What is a military brat? A military brat is the son or daughter of an airman, marine, sailor, or soldier. These children of career military have shared characteristics. They grew up in a community of service. Sacrificing for the greater good is part of their character. They moved on average once every three years to a new state, region, or country.

Academic studies show military brats lack racism.1 They are the only color blind group in the USA. They are the most open-minded of any subgroup in the world. They are more tolerant and embrace diversity with respect for others better than their civilian counterparts to include those raised in liberal homes. They are equally respectful and tolerant of conservative, moderate and liberal points of view.2

They adapt to change and new situations better than any group in the United States. 2

They are socially independent. They do well in personal relationships. They put the needs of the other people ahead of their needs.

Military brats who grew up as military dependents particularly in the late 1940s to early 1970s are kinder, caring, and more loyal than their raised as civilian children counterparts. They were higher achievers academically and professionally make the best employees due to characteristics like self-discipline, self-starter, flexibility, and their personal fiscal responsibility. 2

Most military brats do not have a real hometown.2 Most do not know their cousins, aunts, and uncles or grandparents very well. Many do not trust the governments of North Korea, Russia, and China.

The word brat is not derogatory. It stands for:

B – Born

R – Raised

A – And

T – Trained1

I’m a military brat. My father served in the United States Army, United States Army Air Force and the United States Air Force (USAF). He retired from the USAF.

I am also a former United States Army officer. Growing up as a military brat helped prepare me for my service. It was all natural and comfortable to me. I felt it was where I belonged more than anyplace else in my life.

1 http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=military%20brat

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_brat_(U.S._subculture)


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffeehouse, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.