I Believed I Could Fly

                                                            Superman

Greenville, South Carolina

In 1956, my father returned from a one-year tour of duty in Turkey. Our family moved to Greenville, South Carolina. The United States Air Force stationed dad at Donaldson Air Force Base, a C-124 airfield that emphasized air transport and called itself the “Airlift Capital of the World”.

My first memories are from living at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville from 1956 – 1958. That was also the first house my parents owned.

Faster than a speeding bullet!

My favorite TV show during those days was Superman. Superman always began, “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! … He fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!”

In 1956 and 1957 I would run around the house with a towel for a cape and wearing only a t-shirt and my tighty whities pretending I was Superman. I would have my arms stretched out in front of me, my head down as I was flying around the living room and kitchen.

I would try to fly.

One evening I decided I would try to fly. I got on the couch, then used the arm of the sofa as a step before I was standing on the top back of the sofa. Suddenly, with arms outstretched I jumped toward the television.

Instead of flying, I feel like a rock. My forehead found the corner of the coffee table. I didn’t fly but instead received a big cut.

The emergency room

We had to get in the car and drive to the emergency room at Donaldson Air Force Base. The wound was so severe that even with my mother holding a washcloth and applying pressure on it, blood was flowing from my forehead into my eyes where I couldn’t see.

I asked my mother if they would get me a seeing-eye dog if I went blind. Suddenly, the laughter filled the car. My parents were laughing at me.

Fifteen stitches

The doctor also chuckled as I received the fifteen stitches to stop the bleeding as mother retold the story. I have heard the seeing-eye dog story for over fifty years. I last heard my mother tell the story on my sixty-first birthday. She was in the hospital and shared the remembrance with the nurses. Sadly she passed three weeks later.

The happy ending was I got stitches, didn’t go blind, learned I couldn’t fly, and learned my mother had a great memory.

Growing up a military brat was a never-ending adventure.

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.

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.

Courage

Announcing you are an author and writing a book takes courage.

You are putting yourself out there when you tell family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers you are writing a book.

bigstock_story_22267431

People will have different reactions. Some will show support. Others may get excited. A surprising number will be negative. The reactions are all over the spectrum.

If a parent, partner, or spouse isn’t supportive it hurts. I can hurt very deeply. For many writers finishing the first book is a lifetime dream. Just sharing you are writing exposes yourself.

Too often your spouse, parents and friends just don’t get it. They may even be shocked and horrified by what you write. Don’t be surprised if you write romance, erotica, violence, or horror that people are shocked by what you write.

When you write you put your personality into your book.

The book is an expression or who you are. It reflects your mores. Do not fool yourself, people will judge you by what you write. If it has Christian themes they may call you a religious nut. If it has shooting and beatings, they will call you gruesome. If it has sex they may think you are a sex fiend.

You’ll find the judgment of more severe when you have just one book. With only one book it becomes the lone standard by which you are judged and unfortunately, often attacked. When you get two or three or more books the public sees different sides of you. The more you write and publish, the more you bloom. You’ll find your self-assurance increasing. You will proudly declare you are a writer; you are an author.

It doesn’t stop here. Almost all will have an opinion about you and your writing

When you first start writing, you may be timid in letting others know you are writing a book. After all, almost everyone says they are going to pen the next great novel. You know lots of people talk about writing a book, but few really finish one. Dealing with the criticism and praise can be confusing.

You will confront disapproval, pessimism and judgement. You will wonder how family and friends can be so mean in their comments. You will feel worse as you share with beta readers and go through the editing process. It will feel like they are attacking you personally when they are just sharing their thoughts on the quality of your writing.

You have to be thick skinned. You have to listen to the editors and make corrections and grow. The criticism will start dying off as the editing process continues and you show them you are actually going to do this. When they see you can follow through, the kind words will follow. The criticism will decrease unless you have written on a hot topic.

The skeptics will diminish as you complete your project. If you give up and quit, be prepared to hear the I knew you didn’t have the self-disciple comments. Those comments are probably on target.

You’ll find how you react change to others over the writing process. At first you almost apologize for being a writer. Your self-confidence grows as you get further into and then actually finish the book. You become proud of what you have done.

There’s more. You can’t please everyone. Some will not like your book.

This is inescapable. You have to face. If you are the emotional type, this will be hard. You’ll soon learn if your temperament is right for this sort of work. This is really amplified when you are a new author and emotionally attached to your work. You may feel that a rejection of your book was a rejection of you. This isn’t the case, but it is a hard lesson to learn.

Here are a few thoughts to help deal with these experiences.

Realize that how you feel and react is normal.

You are just learning about writing books and the business of writing. Don’t beat yourself up. There will be enough others doing that to you. Be easy on yourself and learn from the experience.

When the hurtful comment is left as a review or when someone says it to your face, don’t take it personally.

Go ahead and take a deep breath, exhale slowly and do not rebut or argue with them. Ask yourself if it is useful criticism that you can try to use to improve your book. If yes, learn from it; use it. It might be jealousy. If so, smile and ignore it. Is it jealousy, or a comment that does not help?

Positive self-talk helps.

It took guts to write your book. Your view is valid. Remind yourself you can be an author. Remember you are creative. Self-talk is okay. Psych yourself up. Repeat and say over to yourself you can write the book. Someone once said, “Fake it until you make it!”

You can do it!

Writing and publishing a book is an attainable object. The one ingredient you’ll need more than anything is persistence. Take a long term view. Set deadlines and meet them! Most of all, enjoy the journey. If your writing touches one life or heart you are a success.

Remember, when people make remark about you writing and your dream of writing a book, just take a deep breath, nod, and carry on. It’s your dream. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Hold on tight to your dreams and then achieve them!

Picture Source: http://www.mycity-web.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/bigstock_story_2226743.jpg

I Believed I Could Fly

Superman

In 1956, my father returned from a one-year tour of duty in Turkey. Our family moved to Greenville, South Carolina. The Unites States Air Force stationed dad at Donaldson Air Force Base, a C-124 airfield that emphasized air transport and called itself the “Airlift Capital of the World”.

My first memories are from living at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville from 1956 – 1958. That was also the first house my parents owned.

My favorite TV show during those days was Superman. Superman always began, “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! … He fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!”

In 1956 and 1957 I would run around the house with a towel for a cape and wearing only my brief undies pretending I was Superman. I would have my arms stretched out in front of me, my head down as I was flying around the living room and kitchen.

One evening I decided I would try to fly. I got on the couch and then stood on the arm of the sofa. Suddenly I jumped with arms outstretched.

Instead of flying, I feel like a rock. My forehead found the corner of the coffee table. I didn’t fly but instead received a big cut. We had to get in the car and drive to the emergency room at Donaldson AFB. The wound was so severe that blood was flowing from my forehead into my eyes where I couldn’t see.

I asked my mother if they would get me a seeing-eye dog if I went blind. Suddenly, the laughter filled the car. My parents were laughing at me.

The doctor also chuckled as I received the fifteen stitches to stop the bleeding as mother retold the story. I have heard the seeing-eye dog story for over fifty years.

The happy ending was I got stitches, didn’t go blind, and learned I couldn’t fly. Growing up a military brat was a never-ending adventure.


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.

Martian Mondays: The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Ten: The Locusts

Chapter Ten – “The Locusts” – This story first appeared in The Martian Chronicles. This vignette concerns the swift colonization of Mars. The title refers to the rockets and settlers that quickly spread across all of Mars.

A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years. This story is advanced from February 2002 to 2033.

Attending a Writer’s Conference Can Be Awkward

Last Year's East Texas Christian Writer's Conference
Last Year’s East Texas Christian Writer’s Conference

I have attended various writersconferences for over thirty years. Today and tomorrow I am attending the East Texas Christian Writer’s Conference. It is the fourth time I’ve attended this conference.

Awkward describes attending a conference for the first time. This is especially true if you have never been to that particular conference or any writer‘s conference for that matter.

You need to accept that the conference is work and sacrifice. The sacrifice comes from the time and money you invest in the conference.

You made the choice using vacation time on yourself instead of spending it with a spouse and loved ones. Money is spent on the conference registration fees, travel, meals, lodging, and supplies like a new pen and notebook.

You learn that selecting the right conference for you and running the gauntlet of getting your partner to agree to your attendance, getting the time off work, registering for the meeting, obtaining lodging, and selecting the conferences to attend is work. It is work packing for the trip and then more work unpacking when it is over.

When you go to a new location and know no one it can be stressful and lonely. It can be scary as you meet new people including writers you are a fan of.

It involves choices. Which sessions do I attend? Should I skip a session I paid for to meet and mingle? The sessions are fun.

You look at not only what sessions and panels are there, but you look at the guest list. You focus on who is coming. Make a list of authors, publishers, and editors attending the conference. Ask which of these do I admire? Are there attendees that you would like to meet and make an impression upon?

Then you look at what agents you are interested in as well as what publishers you are interested in. Once you know the publisher you‘re interested in find out which editors work for them and who is going to be at the conference. This takes a little bit of research.

Look at the acknowledgements of your favorite book and usually you‘ll find out who edited the book. You then look at the guest list for the convention and find out who is present. You might have an editor or agent present you want to meet.

You need to find out what the agents, publishers, and editors are doing. Do not talk to them in the escalator, in the bathroom or when they are meeting with their top author for a meal. A good time to meet them is after a panel or after a session they taught. You need to have some follow-up questions for them. Tell them which of their works or authors you enjoy. Ask them what is coming up next. DO NOT mention your own work at this point. You can do that in other settings. For example, in some cases you can make appointments through the convention to pitch a completed manuscript to them.

I know a lot of writers are shy or introverted. That will rarely sell your book or manuscript. I am an outgoing introvert. I am not shy, but have a strong tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in my own mental life instead of focusing on obtaining gratification from what is outside the self. You have to get over the shy. Writing isn’t a loner craft. It takes the community of the editor, publisher, and even publicists as well as the writer.

The most important part of the conference involves meeting new people and make a good impression. You are there to learn and to network. The networking is critical. You can encourage one another. You need to focus on always being nice, always being friendly, and always being courteous.

Attending a conference is a wonderful experience. I am doing it today and tomorrow.