I’m back.

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Well, here I am.

I stepped down from blogging two months ago in order to prepare for and participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. How did I do? I don’t have a novel, but I have a start. So that’s something, right?

The break from blogging was good in other ways too. I was able to spend more time with my wife and kids. I was able to make progress on some home repair projects. And I was able to get some perspective on whether my blog was a worthwhile investment of my writing energy.

On that last point, I found it pretty interesting that my break from adding posts for two months didn’t really hurt the number of daily visits that I had. Most people read my blog for two reasons, Raccoon Facts and the Origin of Bah Humbug. The few people who contributed to the daily visits for my newest content were mostly friends of mine from Facebook.

And now, I’m back–albeit somewhat differently than I was before. Here’s what you can expect from this blog: fewer posts with better focus.

Rather than just a space online where I can spill my thoughts, I want my blog to work for my writing career by being something of a resume for potential publishers to use when considering my stuff. In order for that to happen though, my posts need to be a bit more consistent with the areas in which I seek publication. That means that this will primarily be a place for flash fiction and thoughts related to fantasy and science fiction.

At the moment, I’m not going to delete the backlog of random posts, but I’m not going to rule that out as I move forward. I’ll see you each Tuesday and Friday for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for reading.

I’m stepping down for a time.

Here’s the deal. I’m going to take a bit of a break from blogging. I’ve published 1,041 posts (today is 1,042) and I’ve only missed 1 scheduled day since I started over 3 years ago. And that has been well and good, but aside from a few flash fiction pieces, I haven’t written on any of my book projects. I haven’t been able to get one step closer to the goal for which I started blogging in the first place.

As I have told plenty of groups of writers, a blog can be an excellent part of your platform (your credentials when trying to get a book published), and that was the initial reason that I started mine. I wanted to have a space where people could read my writing. I wanted to improve my writing by making sure that I had my buns in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard everyday. But most of all, I wanted my blog to work for my writing career.

It has… to a point. I don’t think I’d be working as a marketing manager for Discovery House had I not blogged and learned a bit about the world of social media. I know I wouldn’t have been qualified to speak at the writers conferences of which I’ve been a part over the years. And those things have helped me make real connections to other writers (and the publishing world is driven by connections). But at the end of the day, if you don’t have a book of your own, you aren’t going to get anything published, regardless of how many connections you have.

nanowrimoI plan to finish one of my novels during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is in November. I’m going to take the month of October to prepare. If I have extra time, I may throw something up on my blog from time to time, but it isn’t going to be consistent.

The good news is that if you think you are missing on my daily posts, there are 1,041 other posts to read on here. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss any of my newly published posts, the best thing to do is the sign up on my email list for email notifications.

Now, if I don’t see you again for a couple of months, happy reading! And if you, like me, are going to write a novel this November, happy writing! See you on the other side.

A Few Words about Discovery House

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak at a meeting of the Word Weavers in West Michigan. One of their members asked me to talk about my employer, Discovery House, as well as my involvement with the Jot Writer’s Conference and blogging. As you are reading this, I’m going to assume that you are familiar with my blogging history, and I know that I’ve blogged in the past about the Jot Writer’s Conference, but aside from a couple posts about my move to Discovery House, I haven’t written much about my employer.

Let’s fix that.

dh_logoWho is Discovery House?

Discovery House is the book publishing arm of Our Daily Bread Ministries (ODBM). ODBM has over 75 years of ministry experience. Starting as a radio ministry in Detroit, Dr. M. R. DeHaan was a preacher with a vision for getting people into their Bibles by using all available methods. Thus, the radio ministry started producing monthly devotionals known as Our Daily Bread, but branched out to include the television program “Day of Discovery” (started in 1968 and is one of the longest running Christian television programs), book publishing with Discovery House Publishing, and online Christian education programs with Christian University GlobalNet and ChristianCourses.com

Discovery House was established in 1987 as a way to delve further into the Bible and it’s life application in ways that were impossible with the Our Daily Bread devotionals.

“The goal of Discovery House is to publish books that feed the soul with the Word of God, fostering growth and godliness in the lives of God’s people. That was part of our founding vision, and we want it to be true of each new release that we offer. Whether you’re looking for books, music, video, audio, software, greeting cards, or content to download, we try to provide you with materials that focus on Scripture, that show reverence for God and His Word, that demonstrate the relevance of vibrant faith, and that equip and encourage you in your life every day.” –Carol Holquist, publisher

What does Discovery House publish?

my_utmostOur #1 best-seller is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Discovery House is the authorized publisher of the Oswald Chambers Publication Association and has exclusive rights to all of Chambers’ writings.

Our top books for this past year have been the Our Daily Bread for Kids Devotional by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley, The Discovery House Bible Atlas by John Beck, Prayers for Your Children by James Banks, A Grandmother’s Prayers by Kay Swatkowski, The Our Daily Bread Devotional Collections (new each year), and Adventuring Through the Bible by Ray Stedman.

How many books does Discovery House publish each year?

Between 25 – 30, though that doesn’t necessarily include re-cover projects or new editions of existing publications.

What type of books is Discovery House looking to acquire?hurt_people

Discovery House loves books with long tails. We are known for our devotional offerings, but we publish a number of topical books as well. We do not publish fiction and we’ve only just ventured into the academic sphere with the Bible Atlas and the children’s arena with Our Daily Bread for Kids. We are not currently seeking submissions for children’s products as all of the plans for our children’s line are being commissioned by the publishing house. This coming year, we are publishing devotionals, bible study material, books on prayer, Christian living titles, memoirs, and a couple of book apps.

How does Discovery House acquire its books?

There are three main ways that we get the books that we publish: unsolicited manuscripts, agented books, and commissioned products. Most publishers only publish the last two of types of acquisitions. For new projects, Discovery House publishes mostly unsolicited manuscripts.

What are the submission guidelines?

You can find them here.

If you are ever in the West Michigan area, you can feel free to stop in for a tour, where there is a chance that you would hear a lot of this information again. But on the tour you would also get to learn about Our Daily Bread Ministries as a whole and even see the big printing presses where they are made. Thanks for reading!

New Word I Just Learned: Blad

“Blad” sounds like a third-rate vampire knock-off movie (either as a mix of “blood” and “Vlad” if it is a classic vampire movie –or– as a misspelling of “Blade” which is a different kind of vampire/vampire-hunter protagonist), and maybe it is, but it is also an underused publishing term.

papereen-26-1420209A “blad” is a booklet, used as an advertisement. It’s probably a mashup of the words “blurb” and “ad.” And the publishing industry uses them frequently, though you may recognize them differently in the current digital age. For instance, the “Look Inside” feature on most Amazon book listings is essentially a “blad.”

In doing my research for the word, I’ve come across another reason why “blad” should be brought back into use. It is also a bit of a play on words, because “blad” is related to the word “blade,” which is the Proto-Germanic version of “leaf”. Think about a blade of grass. Same thing. But, wait a second! What are the pages of a book called? Leaves. Thus, on a whole different level a “blad” is a subsection of a book.

So now that you know, you can help me make “blad” popular again.*

*I have no idea if it was ever a popular word. But I think it should be.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

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Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Are there really unicorns in the Bible? Kinda.
  2. In Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Hocus Pocus, the main character bemoans the futility of ignorance in describing a series of failed perpetual motion machines. I’ve always had trouble imagining what those might look like until now.
  3. What do blind people see? *Hint* It isn’t black.
  4. I’ve toyed with the idea of a store that only sells one item a week. It always seemed like a crazy idea, one that you’d never find in the real world. But then I heard about the Japanese Bookstore that only sells one book title per week.
  5. And I don’t know if you are familiar with Oyster, the Netflix of e-books, but they may have just been snapped up by Google.

Enjoy!

In Light of the End of the World Yesterday

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According to TruthLamp.com, which “shines the light on underreported news,” we may have all lived through an apocalyptic event yesterday. So, I guess congratulations are in order. Hooray for us!

If you haven’t read the article linked in the top sentence, take just a minute and fix that.

Okay, now that you know the facts (that there are too many things pointing to the end of days to ignore), let’s look at the actual news headlines yesterday. Surely, if there was anything apocalyptic happening around the globe, someone aside from TruthLamp would have noticed.

  • The pope visits the USA and dines with the homeless instead of congress.
  • Volkswagen’s CEO resigns amid a vehicle emissions scandal.
  • China’s president visits the USA to drum up some business.
  • Selfie deaths outnumber shark attack deaths.

Okay, maybe that last one is cause for alarm, but I think it falls short of the four horsemen riding through town collecting souls in the great harvest.

I think my favorite part of the article was the fact that it opened and closed with examples of failed prophecies. It warned against the dangers of predicting the end times, but then it said, “Aw, what the heck. Let’s do it anyway!” And then it presented a bullet list of possible signs of the apocalypse, including two Hollywood films that made mention of the 23rd of September.

Fortunately, the article also said that the final battle might not happen on this day exactly. It could just be sometime this week.

Here’s my take on apocalyptic prophecies: They are a bad idea. If they are really true, the only people who believe them are usually too distant from society’s core to have any influence over rationally thinking citizens. If they are false, then rationally thinking citizens have even more reason to disbelieve the fringes of the faith community who prophesied. Why even believe in God if He’s going to lie to you about the big finish?

It is possible that the writers of this article simply wanted to put people in a frame of mind to think about the possibilities that we may not live forever, and that we’ll be called to account for our actions. Perhaps it was to light a fire under our buns to spread the gospel before the lost have a fire lit beneath their buns eternally.

Whatever the case, even if their intentions were good, they were misguided. In the words of those theological giants of music, R.E.M., “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

Goodbye, Spider-Man.

spider-man“Honey, I’m afraid that your Spider-Man jammies don’t fit any more. I think it’s time to…” she searched for a different way to say that she’d throw them out, “retire them.”

George, gingerly holding the threadbare suit of webbed red and blue, was a bright boy of seven years. He had an infectious laugh and impressive problem-solving skills. Just last week, he had figured out how to reach the cookies in the top cupboard without his parents knowing, at least until they went to get a cookie and found them gone.

“I know,” he said.

It was time. The pajamas had been his weekend uniform since his fifth birthday, when they were far too large for him. Now, they were faded and stretched in unnatural ways. Not only were they his favorite superhero pajamas, they were his only superhero pajamas.

Maybe he was getting too old for Spider-Man, though. Though he still insisted on wearing them all weekend, even he tried to find reasons not to accompany his mom to the grocery store any more.

Yeah, it probably was time.

Reluctantly, George placed the pajamas in the bag that his mom held open to him.

“I’m proud of you, honey,” she said, closing the bag. “Now, why don’t you pick out some clothes and we’ll head to the store. Maybe we can pick out some doughnuts from the bakery counter. It’s going to be a super day, you just wait and see.”

“Okay, mom,” replied George. “Super… I’ll be out in a minute.”

A few moments later, George emerged from his fortress of solitude. With a pair of red underwear overtop of his blue sweatpants, a white t-shirt with a poorly markered “S” on the front, and a red towel tied at his neck, George ran to join his mom.

Yeah, he decided, it was time to move on from Spider-Man. It was a super time to move on.

On the Origin of Egging Someone On

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“Stop egging your sister on.”

It is a phrase that I’ve used as a parent, though I’ve never understood it. Is “egging” even the right word?

For the longest time, I thought that the real phrase was “agging,” which isn’t even a word, but I justified it because I thought it was somehow slang for “aggravating” or something like that. But I was woefully wrong.

The phrase really is to “egg on,” and it has nothing to do with a bird’s eggs or being on top of anything. The verb form of “egg” has the same etymological root as the word “edge.” Thus to “egg someone on” carries the same idea as “edging them onward” or leading them down a specific path. As we use it, it specifically refers to leading someone down the path of frustration.

So now I can say the phrase with confidence, even if I don’t want to say it because it means that my kids are aggravating each other. Oh well.

Word power!