Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

4 Ways to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

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Halloween is almost here, and while some get excited for costumes, trick-or-treating, and scary movie nights, most writers out there will tell you that the best part of Halloween is when the clock strikes midnight…and NaNoWriMo officially begins!

Every November thousands of writers come together with one common goal—to write a 50,000-word novel (or start of a novel) in one single month. It’s crazy. It’s audacious. There is more coffee consumed in one month than the rest of the year combined. But it’s also a time to start making your novel-writing dreams come true, no perfectionistic pressure allowed! (more…)

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How Reading Before Bed Will Improve Your Life

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Do you remember the days you were a kid, falling asleep to your parents reading you a bedtime story? Well, it turns out immersing yourself in a good book before falling asleep actually has benefits that can last you your entire life! As tempting as it is to get on your phone and scroll through social media until your eyes get heavy, or to turn on a TV show to play in the background while you nod off, here are four reasons you should abandon those habits and pick up a book when it gets dark out. (more…)

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Writers: Pay Attention to the Details

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Now that our kids have gone back to school, we writer-parents have a little more alone time on our hands to get back into a writing groove. Which is why I thought now would be a perfect time to share a few writing tips over the next few weeks with you!

I’ve given and been given a number of writing tips over the years—I think, as writers, we are always seeking the expertise of others to consistently improve our knowledge of the craft. But so much of the writing advice out there focuses on helping writers through big scenes. They focus on making big plot decisions, on structuring your novel, on getting your main character just right.

And while all of this stuff is MAJORLY important, I’d like to tell you all today that good writing pays attention to the small details every bit as much as it focuses on the big plot points. Don’t let any part of your book remain insignificant…even the smallest scene needs to count.

The scenes you might think need the most attention are the ones where a mystery is revealed, a character dies, an explosion happens, etc. etc. But what about the scene where your character is talking to his mother? What does that scene have to do with your story? What does it reveal about your characters or the way the view the world?

Small details, like the weather, or the time of day, or what the air smelled like, will also significantly improve your story once you really focus on them. Details ground us in stories, and they are every bit as important as the big plot point that drives the story forward.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are NO parts of your story that should slip by you as unimportant, or even as less important than something else. Make a decision to pay attention to every word you write down. Make everything count. And I promise, your story will be the better for it.

What small details do you like to pay attention to in your writing? Are you a fan of writing the details? Let me know in the comments!

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Fall Book Recommendations!

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Fall 2017 has been, and will continue to be, a time for fantastic new children’s and YA book releases. Today I’m sharing with you some of the most anticipated yet!

It Takes A Village, by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Written by our own historic former presidential candidate, this picture book was written to inspire America to celebrate its differences by coming together. The Washington Post says, “It Takes a Village offers a universal, unifying message. It captures perfectly Clinton’s vision of a multicultural America working toward a constructive goal.”

All’s Faire In Middle School, by Victoria Jamieson.

After winning the Newbery Honor in  2015, we have been eagerly awaiting Jamieson’s new book—this one about a girl named Imogen who is going to public school for the first time after growing up homeschooled. It’s already a bestseller on Amazon after releasing just this month!

Robinson, by Peter Sis.

Based on a real story from his childhood, Sis blends fantasy with reality in this dreamy Robinson Crusoe-inspired tale. Kirkus Reviews calls this, “an enchanting love letter to the magic of childhood.” The perfect book to curl up with on a cool fall evening!

What are you looking forward to reading this fall? Let me know in the comments!

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How To Let Your Purpose Find You

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Often, career advice, love advice, and advice on how to be your happiest self is rooted in the idea of finding your “purpose.” Authors, counselors, and religious leaders express to us that we are here to do something, and staying focused on our “why” for being on this planet will result in us living our best lives.

But more often than not, I encounter people who have no clue what their “purpose” is supposed to be. They spend so much time trying to figure out how to discover their purpose that they are missing out on living the life they are in, and so concerned that they can’t be happy without a purpose that they don’t enjoy the happiness in front of them.

If you’re trying to figure out what your purpose is, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to keep looking for it—it’s possible that in living your life, your purpose is going to find you.

For most of my life, I did not know that I was supposed to become a children’s author. I always enjoyed books and reading, and dabbled in writing short stories for adults, but I was focused on living the life I had in front of me. I was a single father living out the purpose life handed to me when it brought me my son.

In living my purpose of being a father, I would read my son bedtime stories, and eventually we started making up our own stories about a red crocodile named Crosley. Slowly, and over the course of many years, it dawned on me that Crosley could become more than a bedtime story kept as a secret between me and my son. When my son was grown, my new purpose had spent time building itself up inside me—I was supposed to write the Night Buddies books.

I’m not saying that it will be easy, or that you should put no thought into what you are supposed to do with your life. But if you do these three things, your purpose might just find you:

1. Follow your curiosity.

2. Make connections between your responsibilities and your passions/hobbies.

3. Be open to allowing your “purpose” to change over time.

Do you think having purpose is important to your life? Let me know in the comments!

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The Changing Role of Fatherhood

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Regular readers of this blog might be aware that I raised my son John as a single father. I’ve written about the challenges of single parenthood, about asking for help as a single parent, and about the importance of being an active father in your child’s life. But when I came across this article, everything I believed about being an active father in my son’s life felt validated.

Titled, “Embrace Fatherhood and Your Child Will Reap the Rewards,” author Wanda Wyont explores the changing role of fathers in the home, and uses scientific research and facts to back up the idea I’ve always known to be true—children benefit from a father’s involvement in their lives. Weaving statistics together with her own relationship with her father, and exploring the changes that relationship went through during her childhood and adult life, Wyont really captures the what it means for a child to have an active, involved father, rather than just the traditional breadwinner.

If you’re a father, in a single parent family or otherwise, or a mother who wants to better understand how she can work together with her partner to keep him as involved in your home life as possible, this article is a good place to turn to. She even includes quotes from children about their fathers! It is an encouraging, heartwarming read that gives me hope.

Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!

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4 Ways to Find Inspiration as a Writer

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One of the most fun and most difficult parts of being a writer is finding your next story. Sometimes a bestselling idea will hit you out of nowhere, but more often than not you have to go out into the world and seek inspiration. But where do you go? And how do you do it? (more…)

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Tips for Writing Children’s Fiction Like A Pro!

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Writing a book that children will fall in love with at a young age is an important goal for many reasons, the most important of which is that one good book can turn a child into a reader for life. Do you remember your favorite book as a kid? Ol’ Sands does. When asked in an interview what his favorite book as a child was, he answered, “The OZ series. Critics said Frank Baum had no literary merit, and I understand what they meant, but kids weren’t interested in literary merit. They knew what they liked, and that guy had a captivating imagination if anybody ever did.”

So that brings us to the question, what makes a good children’s book? Should it possess the same qualities of adult literature? What makes it special? (more…)

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Book Recommendation Time! 4th of July Reads

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The 4th of July is almost here! And you know what that means…BBQs, relaxation, fireworks, and a whole lot of red, white, and blue. Last year I wrote a post with my top 4th of July-themed children’s book recommendations (which you can find here), and this year I want to add to the list!

So without further ado, here are my top 2017 recommendations to prepare your kids for the 4th!

Red, White, and BOOM!, by Lee Wardlaw.

This picture book takes readers through the many ways different cultures across America celebrate this classic American holiday. Filled with fireworks and poetic writing, this is a must-read!

Happy Birthday America, by Mary Pope Osborne.

This tale weaves the story of one family’s 4th of July celebration with the history behind the holiday. It will get your kids excited for a fun day of activities, while also teaching them something new!

Fourth of July Mice!, by Bethany Roberts.

This is a delightful book in Roberts’ Mice series. It follows the Holiday Mice as they celebrate the 4th of July in the most traditional of ways—a baseball game, a parade, a picnic, and best of all, fireworks! It’s delightful and sweet, a book you won’t want to miss.

Apple Pie 4th of July, by Janet S. Wong.

Sometimes we forget that what it means to be American looks different for so many of us…that’s where this book comes in. Wong shows the very different cultural experiences of Americans, and shows readers exactly why that in itself is the American way. A great and eye-opening read for all!

Does your family have a 4th of July tradition? Let me know what it is in the comments!

 

 

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Turn Your Child Into a Reader This Summer!

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There’s nothing better than the feeling you get as a parent when you walk into your child’s bedroom and see their nose buried in a book, completely lost in a world between pages. Today most children spend more time on their iPads or watching television than they do reading books, but I know that just one great book can turn a child into a lifetime reader. Here are some of our suggestions to help you make that happen before back-to-school!

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1.) Pick out a book for them that is tailored to their interests. If you know your child loves horses, pick out a book that revolves around horses. If they like television programs about witches and wizards, pick out a book that is about witches and wizards. Make sure you pick a book at their reading level so that they don’t get frustrated reading it (once they start reading more, you can steadily find books that will be more difficult for them to read). In the beginning, it is just important to find a book your child will enjoy, so that they begin to associate reading with fun.

2.) Set aside a specific time, preferably right before bedtime, for them to read. This makes reading turn into a habit, and makes it more likely for them to choose to read at that time on their own later on. Plus, studies have shown that watching television before bed might interfere with sleep quality, so reading is a good, calming alternative!

3.) Don’t take away their other forms of entertainment. This will make reading feel more like a punishment than a reward, and you only want them to have positive associations with reading if you want them to fall in love with it. If your child is used to and enjoys watching a certain amount of television or playing video games for a certain amount of time in the day, allow them to continue. The goal is to incorporate reading into their routine, not to completely change their routine.

4.) Take them to your local library and let them explore. Libraries can be an exciting place for kids, especially during the summers when most libraries offer reading contests and rewards. Plus, allowing your child to pick out his or her own books gives them a level of independence, and it lets them try new things and develop their own reading tastes. Taking them to your local library once every couple of weeks can be an exciting excursion for you two to share!

5.) Read with them. Some of my favorite memories associated with reading are the times when my mom and I would trade off reading chapters of my favorite books as a little kid. Not only does your child get to learn a better vocabulary as you help them through the difficult sections, they get to bond with you at the same time as they are falling in love with books. When you read with your child, it’s always a win-win situation!

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What is Ol'Sands Up To?

Sands talks about the origin of the Night Buddies Adventures Series.