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a science fiction novel, a historical fiction novel, a short story anthology, a poetry collection, and have a second unpublished science fiction novel, I have never published a literary fiction novel.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.

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.

Tuesday Morning at Starbucks

My Favorite Coffee House

Coming Here to Write

Howdy yall. It is Tuesday morning, November 28, 2017. I’m sitting at my favorite table at the Starbucks at 2201 Preston Road in Plano, Texas. Located next to the Barnes and Nobles Bookstore, I’ve been coming here to write in the morning for years.

I wake up every morning just before 5:00 AM. I do the personal hygiene stuff, dress, and drive the ten miles from my cookie-cutter suburban house to my favorite coffee dispensary. I usually arrive between their opening at 6 AM and 6:30 AM. I have a cup of their blonde roast or Pike’s Place coffee most days.

Why This Coffee House?

I know what you are thinking. Why this coffee house?

The bottom line is I like it. It is small, does not have a drive-through, has excellent customer service, and doesn’t get upset if I take up my table for 3 to 5 hours.

When I started stopping at this Starbucks, my motivation was two-fold. First was the location. It is located about halfway between my home and my now retired from the day job. Second, my goal was to write for 60 to 90 minutes before continuing my trek on to the day job. You see, I am a writer.

Give the Best Part of My Day to Writing

Over the years I was able to write a book every 9 to 12 months in this coffee house. I would give the best part of the day to my writing. Because of my regular attendance “the muse” knew when and where to find me. I started this near-daily routine when I was in my late 40s. Now in my mid-sixties and retired from the day job I return each morning to the same table.

I’ve also encountered a half-dozen store managers, over a hundred baristas, and learned there is a core group of regulars. A running club meets here every Tuesday and Friday morning. They arrive about ten minutes until 6 AM. At 6 AM sharp they start their morning run. It is a group of 12 to 15 with ages spanning from the thirties to the early seventies. They run for an hour and then have coffee and fellowship. I can call by name more than 50 regular patrons of this Starbucks. Most days you can set your clock by the time they arrive to get their daily caffeine.

Solving the Problems of the World

I write first drafts of books, blog posts, magazine articles, short stories, and poetry while ingesting my daily two cups of caffeine.

After writing I often solve the problems of the world in discussions with some of the men and women. I have built relationships with people. From time to time some of the people have called, texted, or shared spiritual needs with me. I have prayed with some of the patrons before their surgeries or when they are hurting from family relationship issues.

A Christian Worldview

I am a Christian and see things through a Christian worldview that many don’t have. I have been allowed to share my Christian testimony many of these same people.

No, I am not a perfect, in your face Bible thumper. I am far from it. Too often I am a hypocrite and fail in following God’s principles. I just get up each day, confess my sin and try again.

What Do I Write?

What do I write? I write religious nonfiction and religious science fiction. I also write historical/literary fiction under a pen name.

Most mornings after writing I either head to the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve or The Shops at Willow Bend shopping mall and walk for 45 minutes to an hour. Afternoons find me doing the business of writing with marketing, editing, etc.

 

A Rocking Chair with a Warm Plaid Blanket

August 31st I retired from my day job as a full-time information technology professional. Amazing coworkers, an ever-evolving workplace that had more changes in my last three years than I had experienced in the previous forty-five years combined, and me, the baby-boomer, thriving with a Millennial skillset working as a Salesforce admin and data integrity analyst filled my last few years.

So … I transitioned to a rocking chair with a warm plaid blanket and shuffleboard at the senior center. Hold it; I did no such thing. Instead, I took off Friday, September 1 through Labor Day Monday, September 4, and then started a new job on Tuesday, September 5 as a full-time writer.

No, writing isn’t my “retirement job.” It is my job.

Writing isn’t something I always wanted to do. To the contrary, I have been writing the 1970s. I had been selling my work and publishing regularly since my first professional writing sale in September 1981.

Since the first fall of the Reagan Revolution, I dreamed of someday transitioning to writing full-time. Through the 1980s 1990s, and 2000s I wrote and sold dozens of magazine and trade journal articles to Christian publications with names like Deacon Magazine, Church Leadership Magazine, Discipleship Training Magazine, Baptist Program, Baptist Standard, and Sunday School Leader Magazine. Weekly newsletter and newspaper columns, as well as secular publications like Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, Poetry & Prose Magazine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and scholarly journals with limited circulations, also house my thoughts and essays.

By 1997 I was writing online on my Geocities website and had moved on to LiveJournal May 1999. In June 2003 I started blogging using WordPress. https://Jimmiekepler.com, https://prayersforthechronicallyill.org, and https://keplersreviews.wordpress.com are my primary places I blog. Over the years I have also written for several blogs and websites. Just Google my name, and you will find more than you ever wanted to know.

I started writing and publishing books in the last ten years. I am the author of the books Thy Will Be Done: 60 Prayers for the Chronically Ill, The Rebuilder, Miss Sarah’s Secret: A Story of Betrayal and Redemption in Texas, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, Charlie’s Bells: A Short Story Anthology, The Cup, The Paintings, and Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection. Google the title and my name and you will find out more about them as well as where you can buy the books.

So now I write. Monday through Thursday morning I get up and go to my favorite coffee house before sunrise. While there I usually write about three hours. Next, I walk for forty-five minutes to an hour before returning home. I have lunch around eleven thirty. I’ll do household chores like dishes and laundry.

Next, I will either read or study. I sometimes attend webinars in the afternoon as well. I do the business of writing tasks and some marketing in the midafternoon. By three-thirty, I am back to walking to complete getting my 10,000 steps for the day.

Tuesdays this fall I attended a grief workshop. My father passed away last summer. The grief counseling workshop has helped me. Some Wednesday evenings I attend church. On other Wednesday’s I visit my writer’s group at night.

Several Wednesday’s a month I have lunch with my best guy friend. Friday morning I start with attending Men’s Bible Study at my church at six thirty in the morning and then write.

On Saturday mornings I attend a Men’s Bible Fellowship coffee where we solve all the world’s problems. On Sunday’s I go the church and Bible Fellowship Class with my wife. Sunday afternoons are blocked off for lunch with her and anything she wants to do.

How is the writing going? I am glad you asked. Since the first of September, I finished writing “Thy Will Be Done: 60 Prayers for the Chronically Ill.” I came out in print and Kindle versions November 1. I am working on a large print version of the book as well as a sequel “In Jesus Name: 60 More Prayers for the Chronically Ill.” February 1, 2018, will be its release date. I also am writing another fiction book under a pen name. It will be out in early 2018.

You won’t find a rocking chair with a warm plaid blanket and shuffleboard at the senior center in my future. I have too many stories to tell. Besides, I am finally living my dream as a full-time writer.

Exercise and The Writer

I found it at the used bookstore and couldn’t resist taking it off the shelf. It’s just the kind of book I would love to have in my library. And the collection of words was half-price!

Yes, I’m a book junkie and was in a “book house” feeding my addiction to hold, caress, and smell a print book. Even in the age of Kindle and ebooks, I love the feel and aroma of a print book, even an old book. I’ll never forget the wonderment I felt when I first saw my name on the spine of a print book.

On Monday I walked six miles with other aging walkers at my local climate controlled shopping mall. I am walking five to six miles a day since my retirement the end of August. I guess I have earned the title of mall walker.

It was fun watching the mature and motherly do their daily workout. They seemed to be the only two groups walking at the mall. I bet you can guess which group I belonged to.

Yes, I know walking is a lot of work. It took me two hours and twenty-five minutes to walk what I could run in thirty-six minutes only forty-one years ago when I was a US Army officer jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. When I gazed at my feet I thought of the nearly one-thousand dollar investment I had in my custom made prescription orthotics from the podiatrist that was inside my SAS walking shoes.

As I write working on a nonfiction and fiction book daily I know I already have more to do each day than there are hours in the day. Exercising was an afterthought. After a  scare with my heart and by my cardiologist in July and August that was underlined by a recent survive I completed for author Joanna Penn on writers and the writer’s health, I am making exercise a major priority in my life.

The Apostle Paul taught in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (The Living Bible), “May the God of peace himself make you entirely pure and devoted to God; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept strong and blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back again.” I’ve often imagined Jesus and his disciple talking and laughing as they walked along the dusty roads of Israel. I can see the disciples shaking their head trying to understand and Jesus laughing with a contagious laugh when they did not understand the master teacher’s parable and were begging for clarification.

I’m sure their walking helped them to relax and have a clear mind. My walking is doing the same for me. Yet, like the disciples, I sometimes have to ask for the Father to help me understand the teaching found in his holy word, the Bible.

Are you making time to exercise? As the verse says we need to keep our spirit, soul, and body strong. Exercise will help. And with a strong spirit, soul, and body you will have the clarity of thought to write and maybe one day see your name on the spine of a print book.

 

Hold On Tight To Your Dreams

Hello there. Welcome to jimmiekepler.com, the blog of a writer, poet, and polymath named Jimmie Aaron Kepler. This is Jim Kepler.

On my blog, I communicate about how I write, my writing process, and how I manage to do it while maintaining a life. From time to time I’ll interview other authors on the same subjects.

I don’t have all the answers. Like you I struggle. My struggle is a thirty-five plus years journey of writing while working a day job, being a husband, father, grandfather and caregiver.

Presently I work full time as an Applications Support Engineer for a Fortune 500 privately held company. I average 45 hours a week on my day job. I spend another ten to fifteen hours a week in my car during my daily commute. I am the primary caregiver for my wife of forty-plus years who is battling Stage IV Melanoma Cancer and Neuroendocrine Cancer. I also am the primary caregiver for my ninety years old father who lives 50 miles from me with all of the city of Dallas, Texas and its traffic in-between. He still drives and lives on his own.

Today I am the blog’s guest. My name is Jim Kepler. I earned a bachelor of arts degree in history with minors in English and military science from The University of Texas at Arlington and a master of religious education and master of arts degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I later earned a doctor of education degree as well as completed the core curriculum of a computer science degree.

Relax, I promise not to hit you over the head or between the eyes with the Bible. I confess I write science fiction with faith where I include Christianity and other belief systems. I try to avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Religion in Science Fiction.

Since high school, I wanted to write. I was told writing was not a real job for a man who would someday need to support a wife and children. Graduating from college, I did three years active duty as a commissioned officer in the US Army. I then headed to grad school.

When I finished graduate school, I started taking writing seriously. I attend my first writer’s conference. There I was offered a nonfiction magazine article assignment. I jumped at the opportunity.

Over the next fifteen years, I wrote, sold, and had published one to three articles a year. I was paid at professional writing rates. I penned a weekly newspaper column for fifteen years. I also wrote a nonfiction book, sold it, and then had the kill fee clause in the book’s contract executed. I was paid twenty percent of the contract by the publisher to cancel the book. I was devastated. I started losing my motivation to write.

Then life seemed to get in the way. I did a major career change where I started doing a large amount of corporate training, technical writing, and curriculum writing. I also went back to college and faced the common challenges of career, parenting three teenagers, having my wife develop a serious illness, and caring for aging parents.

Because of this, I took a ten years break from writing articles. I still wrote and worked on a few poems. I also started writing and publishing book reviews in the military history field as well as blogging. I did not write any book-length manuscripts, magazine articles, short stories, etc. during this season of life.

In 2007 I was revisited by my Muse. She encouraged me to start writing again. This time I started over as a newbie. Instead of writing nonfiction I decided to write short stories, historical fiction, and my favorite, science fiction.

That same year I started the next great American novel, joined an excellent writers group, and started writing and submitting short stories and poems. Along the way, I sold a few short stories as well as placed at some writing contests.

The writing contest affirmations of my skills helped my ego and increased my drive. Somewhere in this time, I learned the need to focus. My focus was improved by listening to podcasts on writing like Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” and Joann Penn’s “The Creative Penn.”  Dean Koontz and Diana Gabaldon also were podcasting during this time and provided great insights and motivation.

I took me three years to complete that first novel. It was historical fiction. I went the traditional route pitching it to agents at Cons, small press acquisition editors, and publishers at more Cons, and finally self-publishing the first novel to minimal sales. It proved to be of great value as it showed me I could complete a book. I have since written the first two books of a four-book science fiction series.

Through the years I found myself wanting to be a full-time writer so bad I could taste it. I modeled the habits of the people who successfully transitioned from day job to full-time writer. I started writing an hour a day before work, giving my best time and effort to my writing before going to the day job. I would also write for two to three hours on Saturday.

So I’m chasing the dream. In the weeks ahead we’ll pursue the dream together and meet other writers pursuing their dreams.

And you’ll be reminded to hold on tight to your dreams.

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.