Category: Thoughts

Helping a family in their time of need – UPDATED

Helping a family in their time of need – UPDATED

UPDATE – Thank you so much for all support and feedback we’ve received so far on this!  It has been truly remarkable.  I’ve updated the article below to include the address for donations. Again – thank you all, and God bless you.

Facebook can be a remarkable thing.  It gives you quick access to updates from your family.  It makes it easy to find embarrassing pictures of your friends from high school.  It can suck endless hours out of the day as you quest for jewels, build mafia empires, or create your perfect farm.  It can also, on occasion, give you the opportunity to help someone in need.  This is one of those times.


Last Friday, I got a message from one of my old friends.  I went to high school with both she and her husband, and we reconnected a few years ago on Facebook.  She was reaching out to see if there was anything I could do to help out with one of her husband’s coworkers, a man named Matt Braswell.  Both her husband and Matt work as firefighters, and in a cruel moment of irony – Matt’s house burned down while he was on duty last week.  As she told me his story, I knew that I had to find some way, however small, to help.


I’ve learned a lot about Matt and his family this week.  Matt is 26 years old.  He and his wife Tracy have three kids: son Jacob – age 10, son Leighton – age 3, and daughter Kenley – age 2.  He is a veteran of the Marine Corps and has been a Gwinnett County firefighter for the last 3 years.  While he was on duty last week in Gwinnett, the family’s home in Douglasville was completely destroyed by a fire.  Luckily, no one was injured – but the family lost everything.


Matt is an avid reader – a passion he has passed along to his son Jacob.  Matt is a sci-fi fan, and loves Star Wars and zombies (he’s a man after my own heart).  I’m told it’s not uncommon to find him engrossed in his latest book at the firehouse when the day’s work is finished.  Jacob has picked up his dad’s love of reading, and is also a budding artist.


When the fire devastated their home, it destroyed all of Matt’s and Jacob’s books, along with all of Jacob’s drawing books, supplies, and sketchpads.  As you know, I’m an avid reader and lover of books.  They have been my constant companions since I first learned to read.  They have provided me solace, inspiration, entertainment, and education when I needed it most.  The thought of losing all my books – my friends – it would just be devastating.  I don’t know Matt and his family personally, but I do know that no one who loves to read should ever be without books.  The firefighting community is helping the Braswell family with donations and the necessities they need – but there is still more that can be done.


When my friend contacted me, she said she wasn’t sure why she did it – she just felt like she should.  As soon as I got her message, I knew why she had that feeling – I needed to try and help this family.  They say the Lord works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes that’s true.  Sometimes, you just need to listen and you’ll find it’s not so mysterious after all.  Sometimes he just wants you to do the right thing.


That’s where you and I come in – I’m asking you for your help.  Do you have a few sci-fi or children’s books around the house you don’t need anymore?  Do you have a few extra dollars that could be used to purchase an Amazon gift certificate?  Do you have a sketchbook or some old art supplies you aren’t using?  If so, I ask you to join me in donating them to the Braswell family.  The love of books is a powerful bond we all share, and you can help me help them start to rebuild their book collection.


As I mentioned before, luckily no one was hurt in the fire.  The Braswell family lost all of their possessions, but possessions can be replaced – the important thing is that they still have each other.  None of us can take away the loss and the pain they feel, but if just one book can help Matt, Tracy, Jacob, Leighton, or Kenley find a few moments of laughter, or joy, or escape in the days and weeks ahead – well, I would like to think that would make the world just a little bit better place.


If you have something you would like to donate, here is the address:


Gwinnett County Fire Station #14

1600 Buford Hwy.

Buford, GA 30518

Attn: Matt Braswell


Thank you for your help and God bless you.




A few months back, my brother recorded a song he had written about our Granny.  It perfectly captures those trips up to Kentucky when we were kids, and later when we went up to visit her with kids of our own.

Guest Post – “Starving Artists” by Jared Sandman

Guest Post – “Starving Artists” by Jared Sandman

Jared Sandman’s Blogbuster Tour 2011 runs from July 1st through August 31st.  His novels include Leviathan, The Wild Hunt and Dreamland, all of which are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.  His next book, The Shadow Wolves, will be released in August.  Follow him on Twitter (@JaredSandman) and be entered to win one of several $25 Amazon gift cards.  See rules at for eligibility.

Starving Artists

Today I’d like to talk a bit about the differences between an artist (or artiste, as they usually call themselves) and a professional.  I know too many people who take pride in being labeled starving artists.  They feel if a creative individual makes money off his or her work, its impact or the effort that went into crafting it is somehow diminished.  This appears the same across multiple art forms, from painting to music to writing.

The dirty secret is that starving artists don’t have to starve.  Creative types are generally terrible with numbers (especially money), so shrewd businessmen easily take advantage of them.  These snake oil salesmen no doubt amassed their own fortunes by co-opting others’ bright ideas and wouldn’t be able to conjure an original notion to save their hides.  The artists get exploited in the partnership only because they allow themselves to be.

No one should make more money off an idea than the person who originated it.  I cringe when I hear stories of writers who got paid $5,000 for their novel, then sold the film rights for another $5,000, after which some screenwriter is hired at ten times that rate to perform one-fourth the amount of work.

Artists wait for inspiration to strike.  I find the notion of a Muse too lofty and romantic.  Professionals understand there’s no magic involved in the creative process (well, maybe a pinch).  The only “trick” involves applying one’s talents to the project at hand and not giving up until it’s finished.  For writing a book, that may take anywhere from six months to a year or two.  A professional knows to handle the job like any other career, which requires a tremendous amount of self-motivation and self-discipline.  For example, I know if I don’t treat it like a real job, no one else will.

This warrants two separate skill sets, and many people have difficulty balancing both.  There are the faculties associated with the creative side of the business and those on the entrepreneurial end.  After spending eight months working on a book, pouring my blood and sweat onto the page, I wind up with something to which I’m emotionally and psychologically attached.  It’s my responsibility to set aside those feelings when it comes to selling the project.  I must take off my Creator cap and put on my Businessman cap.  This novel’s no longer my pride and joy; it’s an intellectual property set to be auctioned to the highest bidder.

I understand it’s not all about money.  When cash alone (and not passion) drives one’s motives, one creates art that’s devoid of soul because it was developed for a quick buck.  (In the publishing industry, look no further than James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks to find proof of that.)

Bestseller money isn’t necessary for every writer.  I think most would be quite happy simply making enough to afford such luxuries as health insurance or a retirement plan.  A comfortable living is all many professionals ask; after all, that’s the only way we can justify doing what we love.

And that’s one thing on which both artistes and professionals can agree.

My First 40 Trips Around The Sun

My First 40 Trips Around The Sun

Birthdays are a time for celebration.  Once a year your family and friends come together to celebrate the simple fact that you exist.  Gifts are given, food is eaten, candles are lit and blown out, and of course, there is cake.  It’s a special day, no matter who you are or how old.

For me, birthdays are also a time of reflection, a time to think about the prior year and speculate on the year to come.  This year is no different, but it also marks a milestone for me.  This is the year I complete my 40th trip around the sun.  As the old saying goes, “40 is just a number”, and it’s true; but society still places a premium on each decade we mark off on this earth, so I feel I should, at least in some small way, do the same.

I am, by no means, a wise man.  I’ve made my way through these 40 years the best I could.  I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I’ve also had my fair share of moments in the sun.  Through it all, I’ve learned a lot of things – many, the hard way.  To mark today’s passing, I’ve decided to share some of those things with you – the 40 most important lessons in my life.  I can only hope they help my children navigate the way through their first 40 trips around the sun, to a place as good as I have.

  1. Your first love is not the same as your true love.  Both will linger with you your entire life, but true love is the only thing capable of filling the hole in your heart.

  2. Mascara doesn’t come easily out of hair that’s been teased and shellacked with Aquanet hairspray.

  3. Process is the last refuge of a weak mind.  It has its place and purpose, but action with thought is wasteful and lazy.

  4. Family is forever – no matter where you go; they’re always with you.

  5. Any man who can’t share his love of “Star Wars” with his children is a poor parent.

  6. Read More Read More

Star Wars – 1942

Star Wars – 1942

“What would Star Wars have been like if it had taken place during World War II?” If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that question – well – I would still be broke.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is, the folks over at Sillof’s Workshop DID ask the question, then created a set of custom action figures to provide the answer.

Incredibly detailed one of a kind pieces of artwork, these figures provide a glimpse in to an alternate world populated by bomber pilot Capt. Han Solowski, fighter pilot Corp. Lucas S. Walker, Reichsfurher Vader, and many others.  You can feel the authenticity and attention to detail that adds to the WWII mythos that wraps each figure.

Alas, these figures are long sold to a lucky collector.  But through the miracle of the Internet, we are still able to enjoy them in all their glory.  Head over to Sillof’s Workshop to see the entire series, as well as other reimaginings of the Star Wars universe, including Film Noir Star Wars, Medievel Star Wars, and Samurai Wars.  You won’t be disappointed.