Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

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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Writing Tip: Commit To Your Projects

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People often talk about writing a book as similar to giving birth to a child. You conceive the idea, spend many months forming it into existence, and then birth it out into the world to develop a life of its own. While that metaphor makes sense to me, I’ve always looked at writing the Night Buddies series a little differently…

Writing a book is like entering into a long-term relationship.

You fall into head-over-heels love with your book idea, and jump into a relationship with it. You spend long nights alone together, you envision a long and prosperous life together. Maybe you’ll become a New York Times bestseller. Maybe this book will allow you to quit your day job. This book is “the one,” and it’s about to change your life forever.

But when you’re a few months into the writing process, that puppy dog love starts to wear thin. You start trying to put some distance between you and the book. “I’ve worked on it enough this week, it’s time for a break.” You get into arguments, the plot holes start to show themselves. You realize your book is actually going to take a lot of work, and it doesn’t look so pretty and fun anymore. You might start to resent your book; you may even start to hate it.

But that’s the thing about long-term relationships—they require commitment. You have to keep showing up for them even on the hard days. You have to resist the pretty new people (or book ideas) that come along and try to tempt you away from what you know deep down is actually working. And the more you commit to it, the more it prospers and develops into something beautiful, and yes, something potentially life-changing.

The only way to ever complete a project and try to see your big dreams come true is to finish what you start. You can look up every writing tip in the book, but it won’t matter how well you write if you don’t commit to writing your projects through to completion.

Commit to writing your book through until you type the words, “The End.” Commit to editing that book until it reads exactly right. Commit to working on your book until all the kinks are smoothed out. Savor late nights alone with your project. Remember why you originally fell in love with it. Don’t give up on it, even if you send it out into the world and it gets rejected, or poorly reviewed, or ignored. Keep committing to it every single day, and you will see the benefit of that commitment change your life.

You’ll get to hold your finished book in your hands and think, “That was the best commitment I’ve ever made in my life.

Do you prefer to think of writing as birthing a child or committing to a relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Q&A Series Part 2: Advice for Aspiring Authors

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One question authors get asked all the time is, “What advice do you have for someone who wants to write a book?” or “How do I get a book published?” So for today’s Q&A, I thought I’d share my answers with any of you aspiring authors out there!

The really true, and absurdly simple, answer to the question, “What advice do you have for someone who wants to write a book?” is just to write one. That’s the great and difficult thing about writing…it doesn’t take a special degree to do it, it takes the discipline of sitting down every day to write your book until it is finished. And if you have a story you want to write, the greatest thing you can do it to let that desire drive you until the last word has been written.

That’s the best piece of advice I have—tell a story that matters enough to you that you will be motivated to finish it. When I decided to write Night Buddies, Crosley and the other characters had been living both in my head and in my son’s life for so long, telling the story so they could come alive for other children was motivation enough for me to finish it. Each book in the series has been driven by that motivation, and I’ve become a published author because I wanted to tell this story so badly.

So if there’s a story you’re dying to write, that’s all you need to write a book. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking you need anything more to make that dream come true.

The harder question, and the one I think most people really mean when they ask how they can write a book, is how do they get it published. There are an endless number of answers to this question, but what it truly boils down to is research. You need to decide whether you want to traditionally publish, or self-publish your book, whether you want to try for an agent, and whether you want to hire an editor. If you want to self-publish, you need to decide how much you want to budget for that, what you want your cover to look like, if you want a print book or ebook, how you want the interior design to look like, etc. I personally decided to self-publish my books, in part because it meant that kids could get their hands on it much quicker than if I had to go through the long, traditional publishing route.

So how do you get your book published? First of all, write the best book you can. Work on it until the manuscript sings, and get some second opinions too. And then, research how you want to do it. Whichever way you decide to go about it, I promise that publishing a book is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have!

What other questions do you guys have for me? Keep letting me know either in the comments or via social media!

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Camp NaNoWriMo: Thoughts on Writing Books

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When you usually hear the term “NaNoWriMo” it’s equated with a marathon-sprint of writing that takes place in the month of November. Anyone in the world can sign up to the challenge of writing a 50,000 word book in a single month (this comes out to just under 2k words a day), and thousands—perhaps millions—of people finally have the excuse they need to get that book in them out onto paper.

And for the summer-loving folks, every July a spin-off event with the same rules called Camp NaNoWriMo takes the writing world by storm again, causing many authors and aspiring authors alike to ask the question, “Should I participate?”

This event has plenty of supporters, and some of those who participate go on to have their original NaNoWriMo project published as an actual book (think, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which sat on the NYT bestsellers list for 7 weeks). But while many are quick to shout NaNoWriMo’s praise, there are a fair chunk of individuals (and authors) who despise the event as well.

Why, you might wonder, would any event that encourages people to write—and write a lot—be a bad thing?

Now, I’m not a participant of the NaNoWriMo events, and probably never will be (2k words a day sounds more like a nightmare to me than an exciting challenge). But I’m not a critic of the process either. Those who oppose it typically use the argument that writing fast equals writing crap—but I don’t think anyone who completes their 50,000 word first draft in 30 days would disagree with that when they look back over it to edit.

What those critics forget is just that—in order for a first draft to become a book, it will go through many, many rounds of edits.

Some authors prefer to take their time when writing their story. They prefer writing in slow, deliberate chunks to let the magic of their made-up world really soak into them. But other authors get bored if their first draft takes too long to put down on paper, needing a challenge like NaNoWriMo to get them out of their “perfection” brain and just write the story. In either case, editing will be needed.

Writing a book is a long process. One that takes longer than 30 days, no matter how you look at it. But if you’re participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, you’re taking a giant leap toward getting that finished manuscript in your hands, which is something to be celebrated!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month? Let me know what you’re working on in the comments!

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My Journey from Single Father to Author

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I’m so excited to share with you this week an article I wrote for the Good Men Project! This was my first time writing for them, and I hope to have many more articles to share in the future. Let me know what you think of this one either in the comments, or over on the Good Men Project comments.

Looking forward to hearing from some of you guys. Enjoy!

Post originally appeared on goodmenproject.com here

When my son John was born, I didn’t expect to become a stay-at-home father. I didn’t know any other dads who stayed at home to take care of their kids most of the time. I didn’t grow up with a stay-at-home father, and the concept of being a man who changed his job description from a solid 9-5 to being a single homemaker was not something I ever envisioned.

But then John came around, my wife and I soon divorced, and there I was with full-custody of a young boy who needed someone to stay home and look after him. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just entered the greatest time of my life.

As a stay-at-home father, I felt like two different people. Half of the time I spent with John I felt like a kid again. John and I did everything together, went everywhere together, and were about as inseparable as any two friends can be. During the summers we drove through forty-eight states and five Canadian provinces.  We participated in all kinds of father-son activities: little league football, basketball, and baseball, as well as boxing, golf, boating, camping . . . the sky was the limit, and I loved seeing the smile on that boy’s face when he got lost in doing something he loved.

John got his first puppy, a St. Bernard he named Henry, and we loved him so much that I began breeding St. Bernards. Most of the memories I have of John’s youth are of our adventures, his laughter, and the feeling that I was getting to experience life through a child’s eyes for a second time. But the reality of being a stay-at-home father and raising a child by myself wasn’t always idyllic.

There was the time I arrived to pick him up at the movies when he was ten, and the theatre he had gone in was dark and deserted. He was nowhere to be found. When I finally got hold of security, we turned the lights on and found him sunk down in one of the seats, asleep and quite unaware of the panic he had caused.

There was the time when his kindergarten French teacher told me John probably had a learning disability because he was having trouble in her class. Now he speaks ten languages and has an M.A. from Edinburgh University with honors in Russian and German—and wouldn’t I love to tell all this to that teacher!

There were the six years of piano lessons that were like ripping out my fingernails just to get him to practice, until we finally threw in the towel.

There was trying to be both mother and father, parent and friend, teacher and student. I had no examples to follow, no comrade to turn to on the hard days, no office to escape to when watching Sesame Street for the hundredth time made me think I might actually be going crazy.

But those hard days are nothing compared to the good stuff.

Sitting side-by-side on cross-country trips, lots of sports honors, tons of academic awards, a year in Germany and learning German, but best of all, reading stories at night before John went to sleep. In fact, being a stay-at-home father led me to my current occupation as a children’s book author.

Night-Buddies-Go-Sky-HighIt was essential to me that John be exposed to literature and the pleasure of reading from Day One, so I stocked up on children’s stories, from Grimm, Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, and Roald Dahl, eventually to the likes of Dickens and Victor Hugo. But one night when he was about seven, I suggested that he ought to create his own bedtime companion to keep him company while he slept—from there, the main character of my children’s series, Night Buddies, was created.

Many nights John and I made up stories involving him and this bedtime companion, a red crocodile named Crosley, until Crosley became another member of our little family. John always held onto his love for reading, and when he grew up and started traveling the world, creating new adventures for himself, I turned my memories of the little guy I once looked after, and his goofy buddy Crosley, into a book series that I would be able to hold in my hands. Because in all honesty, being a stay-at-home father was the best job I’ve ever had—I don’t want to forget a thing about it. And given the chance, I would do it all over again.

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Is Writing Full-Time a Reasonable Goal? The Ugly Truth Behind a Big Dream

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Every writer has been given the obvious, but kind of heartbreaking piece of advice, “Don’t quit your day job.” As in, don’t ever expect to be able to live off of your passion. Some callings are always meant to be side hustles, not real, pay the bills, careers. As always, we can look at the exceptions to this rule—J.K. Rowling the billionaire, Stephen King, James Patterson. Even Amanda Hawking ended up making a prettier penny than I ever expect to see through self-publishing. We convince ourselves that we could be the next big thing, and we might be. But does that mean having an end-goal of being a full-time writer is a reasonable goal?

I would say both yes and no. And my yes or my no are dependent on your answer to this question: what kind of full-time writer do you want to be?

Let’s say you write one book every couple of years, like myself. You self-publish. You blog each week. You market to your heart’s content. But the fact is you have a smaller pool of work to bring in a profit. So if you’re expecting to make a full-time living off of a small pool of work, no matter how brilliant that work is, I would say that goal is very near unreasonable. Let me also point out that I don’t think that means you should start cranking out books that haven’t been well written or don’t mean anything to you just to make your body of work larger. I fully believe in taking a precious amount of time to write the absolute best book possible. Yes, your bank account might not grow as quickly that way, but at least you’ll be proud of the work you’re putting out into your reader’s hands.

Now, let’s say you write a book every few months to publish. You have multiple series going, make your readers hungry to come back for more to see how your story ends, you give out free e-book once in awhile and you have such a large body of work you can hardly remember them all. Now the goal of writing full-time looks a little more reasonable. If you’re writing enough and getting enough people (not a ton of people) to purchase each book you put out, you keep your publishing costs low, and you keep at it for years, you just might be able to gather enough income to keep you afloat. But chances are, the profit you make still won’t be able to compare to your full-time job with benefits. Plus, once you decide to go for writing full-time at this stage, there will be an added stress to your writing life that wasn’t there before. This isn’t a fun hobby of yours anymore, a creative calling you love to pursue. This is what pays your bills and provides for your family—there can be no waiting for the muse to show up. You have to keep up with your work no matter what happens.

Personally, I think the most reasonable way to make writing full-time a reality in your life is to become a freelance writer on top of writing your creative projects. I know many people who make their living this way. They write articles for paying magazines and blogs, conduct interviews for websites, copywrite for brands people searching for their voices and brands. Half of their days are spent writing for other people, and the other half is spent on their creative projects. You might not be writing what you want to write full-time, but freelancing gives you so much more freedom than you would with a typical 9-5. There will still be hardships. There still won’t be a company offering you benefits and vacation time. But you’ll be devoting yourself to your passion, getting better at it each and every day.

So no, most of the time writing as a full-time career is not a reasonable goal to keep in mind unless you have unlimited resources, or are retired (let me tell you, being retired is the best thing that happened for my writing life!) But if you have the drive and are willing to do whatever it takes, unreasonable doesn’t have to be a word you care about. The only thing that matter is that you’re going to go for it.

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It’s Book Festival Season! Come Meet Me.

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Hi All! Today I want to share with you the news that I will be attending two events in North Carolina next month in September. I haven’t done an event for some time now, and I am very much looking forward to sharing the news of Night Buddies Go Sky High’s release, and meeting as many readers as possible!

The first event I will be attending is the Bookmarks Books and Authors Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from September 10-12. This is a very exciting event for children’s authors especially, and there will be a lot of fun activities for kids to enjoy! The program for this year’s festival describes the event as follows:

“Bookmarks is the Triad’s literary resource for connecting readers with authors. The Winston-Salem based nonprofit produces the Carolinas’ largest annual Festival of Books and Authors, an Authors in Schools program, and a series of Author Talks presenting bestselling and award-winning writers. In 2015, Bookmarks created a Summer Reading Program to encourage K-12 students across North Carolina to respond to books through written, visual, or video responses.”

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This festival heavily promotes the idea of getting more kids to fall in love with reading, which is exactly the vision I had when I came up with the “Boys Who Read,” campaign. Encouraging a young generation of boys (and girls) to fall in love with books instead of only focusing on their iPads and video games is something I, and Bookmarks, believe will empower and strengthen them. The festival is completely free to attend (though some discussion panels require tickets, visit their website for more details) and will be an excellent opportunity for authors and readers to connect!

And if you weren’t already convinced to attend, David Baldacci is giving the opening keynote. Needless to say, this festival is going to be huge.

I am also going to be attending #SIBA15 in Raleigh, North Carolina from September 18-20! This is a tradeshow for southern independent booksellers to meet authors, and hopefully discover new, fresh books! The schedule of events for the weekend can be found here.

I can’t wait to get out there and meet other authors, booksellers, and readers this coming month. Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter/Facebook if you are planning on making it out!

 

 

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I’m a Self-Published Author: Here’s Why You Should Be Too

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In today’s world, self-publishing is an option available to every author, on any budget. With the mass of books being released this way, you might wonder if putting your book out in the world without a traditional publisher is worth it. Will anyone read it? Are you wasting your time?

As someone who has successfully self-published three juvenile fiction titles, I’m here to tell you that in a lot of ways, self-publishing is actually better for authors than traditional publishing. Here’s why:

Once you are satisfied with your book, you can release it.  When you want to publish traditionally, there are a number of hurdles you have to overcome before your book is released. You’ll spend months seeking out agents, months revising the novel once (and if) you find an agent, months seeking a publisher, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s close to a year or longer of having a completed novel that nobody is able to read. And even if you do lock down a publisher after all that searching, it’ll probably be a year or two before they release your book. When you choose to self-publish, as soon as you’ve written your book and spent time editing it or having it professionally edited, you can release it—you would have a book on shelves for people to read in the same amount of time it would take for you to finish your first round of agent querying!

Your have full control over your story. Traditional publishers may decide to publish your book under certain conditions: it needs a love triangle included, the crocodile should really be a dinosaur, etc. They want the books they publish to resemble what is already selling, and if your story aims to be a bit different, they might ask you to change it. When you publish your own book, it is 100 percent your story, on your terms.

You reap the benefits. Let’s say you write a bestseller. Or even just a moderately successful novel. If you had it traditionally published, chances are the contract you signed gives a huge amount of the royalties to the publisher—most take up to 85 percent. You’ll also have to share 15-20 percent of the profits with your agent, leaving you with . . . well, you get it. When you self-publish, you earn a much higher percentage of your royalties. With Createspace, one of the most popular self-publishing services, for example, authors earn 40 percent of the royalties. I’d say that’s a pretty outstanding difference.

How you go about marketing is up to you. Even with traditional publishers in today’s world, marketing is a responsibility mostly left for authors to take care of themselves. But if you self-publish, you can decide if you want to take on a publicist, who you want as your publicist, and how exactly you want to go about promoting your book. Since all the money for marketing is coming out of your wallet (which I know can be a bummer), you get to decide what levels you will go to in order to publicize your work. You don’t have to settle for a subpar publicist and mediocre marketing if you’re not on your publisher’s list of most-anticipated novels; your book is your priority, and you can publicize accordingly.

When we put so much effort into writing and perfecting our stories, I think it is only natural that we have as much control over the publishing process as possible. I certainly know that I wouldn’t have chosen to publish Night Buddies any other way.

How do you feel about self-publishing? Would you consider going that route to publish your book? Let me know in the comments!

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Writing and Parenting: Where to Find the Balance

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When I was first coming up with the Night Buddies stories, I was a single parent trying to figure out the balance between spending ample time with my son John while still working enough hours to be able to provide for us. The actual writing of the books didn’t come until later, when John was grown and able to take care of himself, but I know that many of you out there with that novel idea formed and ready to go in your heads aren’t as keen to wait for your child to be on their own before setting pen to paper.

So what if you didn’t have to?

Finding a balance between writing a book and being the best parent you can be is no easy task, but I believe it can be done. Here are my top five tips for how to find the best balance between the two!

1. You are one person, and especially as a parent, you only have so many things you can devote your time to. Your priorities should revolve around your children, your job (if writing isn’t your full-time profession), and your writing if you are going to get your book written. Other things should fill in the space between, but shouldn’t make you lose focus of your priorities. You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin in an effort to do it all!

2. Keep a consistent schedule. If you wake up an hour earlier than your child to get writing done, do it every day. If your child has a bedtime of 7 pm, make sure you stick with it. Routine is good for you, and for your child. When your time is appropriately scheduled, you will be able to see the small gaps of time you might not have known you had in order to get some writing in. Scheduling your time will also allow you to have a stopping point that you shouldn’t try to work past. If you schedule yourself two hours of writing in the evening, from 7pm to 9pm let’s say, but you don’t go to bed until 11pm, don’t try to work your way through until the end. Your schedule needs room for relaxing too!

3. Teach your kids about your work. When you explain to them what you are doing and how important it is that you do it, they’ll be more respectful of your writing time than they would be if you just locked yourself away with no explanation. Children are curious people! If you’re writing a children’s novel, read chapters to them as you go along. If you’re writing more adult content, simply tell them that you’re writing a book and that it’s very important to you. This will teach them to value passion and work, and is an important lesson for them to learn, even at a young age.

4. Sometimes it’s okay to do things the easy way. If you signed up to do a bake sale with your children’s school, you don’t need to bake dozens of cookies from scratch if you don’t have the time for it—this was what pre-made dough was made for. It’s easy to fall into the trap of always trying to be the “superhero parent,” but sometimes it’s okay, even necessary, to grab a pizza for dinner, tell your kids that they need to entertain themselves for an hour, or ask someone else to host after-school playdates. Being the best parent you can be is important, but being the best parent is an unrealistic goal to achieve, especially when you have writing to get done!

Courtesy of Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

5. Don’t be afraid to enlist help if you need it. Author Sarah Dessen hires babysitters for the afternoons to watch her daughter, even though she’s doing her writing from home. If you can afford childcare, or your family members offer to watch your child for an afternoon, it’s not admitting defeat to accept the help! Everyone needs help now and then, and if your writing is important to you, accepting help in order for your writing to not suffer is something you should never feel bad about.

Just remember, being a parent is not an excuse to not achieve your goal of being an author. Whether you have time to write for four hours a day, or only twenty minutes every morning, you’ll be able to get that book written as long as you stick with it!

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