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.

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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.

I Am a Former Dalmatian Owner

spot_the_caveman_eaterI got Spot when I was in middle school. He was a dalmatian puppy, the runt of the litter, and I paid for him with my hard-earned paper route money. Had I done a bit more research, I may have chosen a different breed of dog, but as it was, I was able to give Spot a better home than the one into which he was born.

Here’s a brief history of the dalmatian breed: They are originally from the Dalmatia region of Croatia, thus the name. And they are known by two other nicknames, the carriage dog, and the firehouse dog. The reason for both the these names stems from the dalmatian’s unique relationship with horses. You see, no other dog holds a horse’s gaze so well as a dalmatian. They calm and comfort horses, which is why they are handy pets to have if you drive a horse-drawn carriage, or you need to get your horse-drawn fire wagon (from the earliest days of fire-fighting) anywhere near a burning building (which is somewhere that horses do not naturally like to be). By the time that fire engines took over the horse’s job, the dalmatian’s association with the profession was too established to disrupt. This is also why the dalmatian is part of the logo on Coachmen campers.

Dalmatians, as I learned after the adoption was finalized, are a breed that has been blessed and cursed by stardom. Who hasn’t heard of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians?

Pongo and Perdita are the very picture of the perfect dog. They are loving, loyal, and they look cool. How could a movie that casts dalmatians in such a positive light be a curse to the breed? Mainly because once everyone knew about dalmatians (or thought they knew them from their cartoon counterparts), everyone wanted one for a pet. This popularization led to massive breeding mistakes. In order to cash in on the breed, owners that had male and female siblings bred them with each other to meet the demand, leading to a whole generation of inbreeding complications.

That’s the story of where my messed up puppy came from. When I started looking for a dog, I searched newspaper ads for a while, but I didn’t find anything until a friend from church mentioned that their neighbor’s dalmatians just had some puppies. I called and they came out to do a home visit. Shortly after that, I passed over some cash and I had my dog.

I soon found out that there was a reason that they had done a home visit to me rather than having me come out to their house, and it had nothing to do with making sure that my home was suitable for a dog. A couple of weeks after I got Spot, I received word from my church friends who were neighbors with Spot’s original owners. They had skipped town, leaving their dogs in the house without food or water. By the time the authorities went into the home, one of the dogs was dead and the others had to be put down.

If I hadn’t adopted my dog when I did, he would have died.

As it was, his life was marked by neurosis and I’m fairly certain that he was a pure inbred. I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from getting a dalmatian. I do mean to encourage you to do your research about dog breeds if you are considering a new pet. Also, if a movie comes out and popularizes a specific type of pet, be wary of getting one of that kind. And if you already have that breed, please don’t inbreed it just to make a quick buck.

But if you are in a spot like I was and you have the opportunity to give a pet a better home than certain death, feel free to do the right thing, even if it is with a breed of dog that has been hindered by popularity.

Do you have a favorite breed of dog? What fascinating thing can you share about it?

I am enamored with disorderly used book stores.

The first impression that my wife and I had of Lowry’s Books in Three Rivers, Michigan was made when we parked outside the front entrance, or what we thought was the front entrance, anyway. The door that we parked near had a sign on it that said, “Lowry’s Books–The main entrance is five doors down.” We hadn’t even made it inside the bookstore and we were impressed by the expansiveness of the place.

The inside of Lowry’s Books is everything that a book lover would love in a used book store. There were books everywhere, floor to ceiling. There were huge stacks of books sitting on the ground. Bookshelves were arranged in a maze-like pattern, drawing the shopper deeper and deeper into used book heaven. And every time you thought you had come to the last room of books, you’d discover a doorway into another whole room of books.

The reason that my wife and I went to Lowry’s Books was because I was speaking at the Jot Writers Conference being held there. Had I known the used book glory that awaited us there, we probably would have made it there earlier in the day to accommodate the time needed to shop. As it was, I probably spent too much time buried in the stacks after the conference when I should have been hobnobbing with fellow writers. But if there is a community of people who would forgive me for ignoring them in favor of books, it is a fellowship of writers who attended Jot.

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Thanks again, to Tom from Lowry’s Books who allowed us to host our event there, but thank you also for having such a delightful bookstore in the first place. If you are ever within driving distance of Three Rivers, Michigan, Lowry’s is worth the trip. Just leave yourself a few hours to shop in order to make the trip worthwhile.

I am like Tolkien… and Prince | EXPLAINED

josh_symbolYesterday, I revealed that I once used a symbol to represent my name. Here’s how.

Also, I tell you what my middle name is.

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll tell you my social security number, my mother’s maiden name, and the names of my childhood pets. Just kidding. No one else should steal my identity. It is too big a responsibility for anyone other than me to handle.

But onto the hidden letters!

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josh_symbol_o

josh_symbol_s

josh_symbol_h

josh_symbol_u

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The “u” is upside down, in case you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t an “n”.

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It’s David, though I like to tell people that it actually Danger.

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josh_symbol_e

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Admittedly, the “m” is a bit on the wonky side. Use your imagination.

Now, honestly, did anyone who read this experiment with doing the same thing with their own name? Come on, you can share it here. This is a safe place.