Innermost Secrets 49 – 53

DSC00863The series really is coming to a close, just not today. I’ve decided to stretch it out to another week. So there will be one more post next week and that is it.

Want to start at the beginning? Try these: Innermost Secrets 1-8, 9-15, 16-21, 22, 23-27, 28-32, 33-3738-42, and 43-48.

49th Innermost Secret

  • I’ve gone over Niagara Falls in a hot air balloon, and lived…

I’m a daredevil. What can I say?

One of my favorite Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy (an old bit from Saturday Night Live) was along these lines: Love isn’t something that you put in chains and send over Niagara Falls in a barrel. That’s called Houdini. Love is when you like someone a lot.

50th Innermost Secret

  • My heart stopped beating in 1994.

I was twelve in 1994. Or eleven. It depends on if we’re talking about before or after my birthday.

51st Innermost Secret

  • It never restarted.

True fact.

52nd Innermost Secret

  • Vengeance is spelled J-O-S-H.

I was a big fan of the movie, The Count of Monte Cristo” when it came out. So much so, that I was led to read the original by Dumas. Oh man, did the movie version simplify things! Also, oh man, did the movie version change major plot elements! That said, I enjoyed both the movie and the book, though I probably wouldn’t have like the movie much had it been a more true representation of the book (the book was basically a soap opera). But I bring this up because the major theme of both stories was vengeance.

I’m also a big fan of Monte Cristo sandwiches, for which my body will one day get its revenge on me by giving my a heart attack or something. Oh well. Some things are worth it, and the unholy offspring of a ham sandwich and a jelly doughnut is worth it in my book.

53rd Innermost Secret

  • I was second runner up in the World’s Strongest Woman Competition last year.

There was a time when I enjoyed saying really awkward things (that time is still now). One of my good friends in high school, a girl, was quite strong and said one time that she had strong pectoral muscles. But my other friend who was dating her at the time did NOT appreciate when I would say things like “Nice pecs Julie.” I’m glad that I’m so much more mature now.

And since I’ve decided to drag things out another week, you’ll just have to wait until next week for the final secret.

Book Review | The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

What’s better than a fantasy novel featuring a magical orphan? A fantasy novel that focuses on three magical near-orphans.

I picked up John Stephens’ book, The Emerald Atlas, at the insistence of my pal, Bob Evenhouse. I never heard of Stephens or his book before, but according to the book cover, it was a New York Times Bestseller and carried an endorsement from Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Why not give it a chance?

Meet the children with the surname P. Kate is the oldest, the responsible one, the one charged by her soon-to-disappear parents to watch over her younger siblings. Michael is the middle child, the brain and the nerd with an obsession for dwarves. Emma is the youngest, the one who answers questions with her fists and defends her older brother.

Moved from orphanage to orphanage, each worse than the last, the children P have landed at the strangest orphanage yet. With no other children, a cranky cook, a handyman ex-photographer with secrets, and a mysterious director, the orphanage at Cambridge Falls is like nothing the children have seen. But when they discover the green book behind a hidden door, their adventures really begin.

Time travel, magic, and the mysterious forces beneath Cambridge Falls mix to create a fantastically fast-paced story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are well-written, the plot compelling, and Stephens’ handling of time-travel masterful. The only complaint that I have is that I don’t yet own the next book in the series.

100 Word Challenge | The notes from the piano…

When eccentric recluse Otto Silversmith died, rumors ran rampant about the riches he had squirreled away. But as the workers cleared his estate, it wasn’t the money they found. It was the notes.

From the piano, a note to his nephew: “Avoid loose women.”

From beneath the kitchen sink, a note to his doctor: “Warm hands under water before exams.”

After ten, the workers laughed. After fifty, they smiled. After hundreds, they groaned. Notes in books, behind pictures, stuffed into shoes.

Thousands of notes went into the dumpster, but for the one that remained hidden.

“Word two from note in clown portrait. Word ten from…”

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I am Proud to be a Weakling

I am a Weakling.Great things have been happening in my writers group, The Weaklings.

One of our members, Andrew Rogers, has been named as a finalist in a Michigan writing contest. Andrew and I met quite a while ago (see the full story here), and have been encouraging each other to write ever since. His story, Archived, is available to be read via this link. Be sure to vote for him (you can vote once a week per computer).

In other Weaklings news, we are moving forward in planning Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference. It’s a one-night writers conference that is free to attend. It’s being held at Baker Book House at 2768 East Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 on Friday, February 8th. As one of the presenters, I’ll be speaking on the topic of flash fiction. Be sure to follow our Jot blog for all the latest posts and news. I recently wrote a post over there about what people can expect from Jot. I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to vote for Andrew!

New post on Jot, the writers mini-conference that my writers group is putting on. Enjoy!

Jot Writers Conference

Jot is a new type of writers conference. For one thing, it’s cheaper (free). For another, it’s shorter (one night, four hours). And last, you actually get time to write (yes, write).

When we started throwing around the idea of creating our own writers conference, we knew that in order to be successful, it would have to fill some unmet needs. West Michigan is already home to Breathe, Maranatha, and bi-annually, Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing.

So what were the needs that we saw going unfilled? While the writers conferences mentioned above are all wonderful conferences in their own right, they all require significant investments in both time and finances. What if we made a conference for writers like us, strapped for cash and too busy to write when we want to?

Thus was Jot created. We’ve done five of them now. #6 will be held…

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Innermost Secrets 43 – 48

DSC00863The series is coming to a close. One more post after this and the emotional scarring that you’ve incurred for the sake of my secrets will be done. Give thanks to your deity of choice. Of course, if you are just starting into my blog now, feel free to travel back to the beginning of my innermost secrets and let your horrors commence (Innermost Secrets 1-8, 9-15, 16-21, 22, 23-27, 28-32, 33-37, and 38-42).

43rd Innermost Secret

  • I’d sell my soul if I could test drive a Honda Civic. Oh yeah!

Do you see this car? Oh Yeah!

44th Innermost Secret

I’m not really this fat. I pad, and heavily.

Is it a lot of work for no discernible reward? Sure. But is it worth it? No.

45th Innermost Secret

  • I play poker with El Chupacabra on Thursdays.

There was a time a while back when I was a song writer. The songs I wrote were of a comedic, but I like to think educational, nature. One of my hits was a song about El Chupacabra. If you are not familiar, El Chupacabra translates roughly to “The Goat Sucker” and is a mythical(?) creature who preys on sheep and other animals. But rather than eating animals outright, it simply punctures the animal’s skin, liquifies its organs, and sucks out all the innards through the bite mark, leaving husks where once virile animals roamed.

I’d tell you how El Chupacabra and I started playing poker, but that is a boring story, so I won’t.

46th Innermost Secret

  • I was aboard the iceberg when the Titanic hit me (I won).

Too soon?

47th Innermost Secret

  • I’ve never understood any joke, ever.

This is true. I have no sense of humor. Only a sense of smell, which, at times, I wish I didn’t.

48th Innermost Secret

  • My chest hair once tried to kill me.

Don’t ask me how. Please. Respect my privacy. Why are you even reading my secrets in the first place?

Flash Fiction Challenge Entry | Judith

This is my entry to yesterday’s flash fiction challenge. I’m looking forward to reading your submissions!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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As a girl, Judith made money selling homemade potholders, the kind no one would ever use to actually hold a pot. But people bought them anyway.

Judith had no idea why.

But she loved spending sunny days on her parents’ porch, weaving the loops over, then under, over, then under.

The weather was kinder then. On a porch of her own, Judith couldn’t remember when she’d last seen the sun. With the stress of her job, she was the loop of yarn being stretched over, then under.

A small voice broke her reverie.

“Hey lady! Buy a potholder?”

Judith smiled.

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Flash Fiction Challenge | Under the Weather

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Feel free to use this in your own blog entry.

True to my word, I’m starting up some regular flash fiction challenges. And since my entire family has come down with a collective cold, you can see where I’m drawing my inspiration for this challenge.

The rules are simple. Write a piece of flash fiction that includes the phrase “under the weather”. Aim for 100 words or less. Post your entry, or a link to your entry if you have your own blog, in the comments below. There’s no end date on this challenge.

If you do have your own blog, be sure to link back to this post so your readers can read the other submissions as well. Feel free to use the image above as a link if you know how to do that.

That’s it. Have fun. I can’t wait to see your submissions!

I’ll post my own pretty soon.

The Importance of Re-reading

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
C.S. Lewis

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
C.S. Lewis

I love the library. I love that there are places filled with books that are free for the taking. I love browsing shelves, discovering books and authors that I might never have tried had I had to pay for the book.

“But Josh,” says Johnny Everyman, “you work at a bookstore. Your job depends on people buying books, not getting them for free from the library.”

Hear me. Libraries are like drug dealers giving true book lovers the first hit for free. Addicts like me will come back, money in hand, ready to pay what it takes for the next high.

And here’s the thing. When I read a free book from the library, if I really love the book, I will want to own the book. I will put that book on my wish list until I have the money to go out and buy it. I don’t just want to read it once. I want to re-read it, again and again.

Sure, reading a book for the first time is exciting. You don’t know what is going to happen. Your impressions of the characters are visceral, the plot twists leave your mind reeling, the mystery of whodunnit keeps you up much too late. But what if the book isn’t good? The excitement is replaced by the feeling of being cheated, of having your time wasted.

With a good book that you are re-reading, sure you know the characters, but now they are old friends that have a sweetness all their own. Sure, you know the plot and you know how the book is going to end, but it is the journey of getting to the end that is the fun part. Besides, you are going to notice things with each reading that you will have missed the first, second, and third times. You will discover aspects of the characters that you somehow missed, favorite scenes will take on new life with each reading. And best of all, you don’t have to worry that the book is going to be a waste of your time, because it has already passed the test.

DSC00965For me, re-reading is the best part of any book experience. There are so many books that I have re-read over the years, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to name a few. All of these (and more) are great books and deserve another trip through.

I believe that C.S. Lewis had something with his rule about reading an old favorite between each new book, if for no other reason than to refresh your mental palette and remind yourself what good reading tastes like.

What books do you re-read regularly?

I am a Recreation Major.

Recreation is a discovery major. I was told this in Rec 101: An Introduction to Recreation. No one (or very few people) come to school to get a degree in Recreation. In fact, when I was in college, there was only one major that fewer people were pursuing, and I don’t even remember what it was. Probably Underwater Basket Weaving.

By now, you are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about. What is Recreation? What type of job does a Rec major do after college?

“I know,” says Johnny Everyman. “You teach gym in school.”

“Nope,” I say. “That’s phys. ed.”

“Oh,” says Johnny. “Then it’s like a sports therapy thing, right?”

“Nope,” I say. “That’s not it either.”

Recreation is the business of leisure. It takes many forms. There are private recreation jobs through organizations like the YMCA, summer camps, cruise lines and resorts. And there are municipal recreations jobs, which were recently made popular by the show, Parks and Recreation. Also, the DNR, military bases, etc.

One of my favorite memories of explaining recreation was with a friend for whom English is a second language.

“I was a recreation major in college,” I said.

“You went to clown college?” he said, laughing his head off.

“Close enough,” I said.

But here’s the thing. I loved being a Rec major. Because there weren’t many people pursuing Rec degrees, I had small classes with the same set of twenty or so students and we got to know each other pretty well. I learned awesome stuff in my classes, like how to juggle and the correct way to tie your shoes (yes, there is a wrong way, and most people use it). In one class, we went backpacking and got credit for it.

8camp_597_300_all_4_c1And then for my internships, I got to work at two very different, but equally awesome summer camps. It was fun.

“But Josh,” says Johnny Everyman, “You don’t work in recreation now.”

That’s true. I now work in a bookstore, but you’d be surprised at how many of the skills that I learned in college carry over to my bookstore job. I help plan a lot of events, market a lot of events, and every now and again, I help tie someone’s shoes.

As it happens, I love my job, and I love the fact that I get to leave it at the end of the day. The downside of working in recreation is that you are working while everyone else has free time (because you wouldn’t have a job if other people didn’t have free time). Often, you live at your workplace (summer camp, cruise line, etc.) and even if you don’t, you are still on call 24 hours a day. This is not an ideal schedule for everyone.

Being that I don’t have a job in my field, would I do things differently if I had the chance today? I don’t think so. I loved my education. I might have swapped my minor from Communication to something writing-related (and not newspaper writing, because that still falls under the Communication minor).

So if you are headed to college soon, or in college now but unhappy with your chosen major, why not choose Recreation? You’ll learn a lot of the same things that a Business major will learn, but you’ll have a lot more fun doing it. Plus, you’ll be in good company (me).