Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

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.


There is No “Right” Time to Write

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One of the most common problems among new writers is when they say this: “I can only write when [insert arbitrary rule here].” Sometimes they think they can only write in the early morning, sometimes only when their children are out of the house, sometimes only when they feel inspired—but every single one of these answers is the root cause of a writer’s failure. I’ve found a lot of advice about writing to be insubstantial, but this one piece of advice is what I’ve heard every great writer say, and what has been proven to me throughout my journey as an author . . .


There is not “right” time to write. Write anyway.

It is always going to be easier to not write than it is to write. Sitting down with no distractions, opening up a blank document unsure of what to fill the page with, staying there for hours, days, and years of your life until you feel like you’ve finally come close to what you wanted to say are just a few of the reasons why you should just close your laptop and give up on the novel you dreamed of writing one day. But those reasons won’t deter the passionate writers. The ones who dream of their stories every time they close their eyes. The ones who see the people walking down the street as characters. The ones who itch to get their words down on napkins, receipts, or the back of their hands when nothing else is available. To them, writing isn’t confined to a certain time of day, or a certain mindset. To them, writing is something that happens always, just because they are alive.

I agree with those who argue that setting aside a certain time of day, every day, will help a writer get their work finished. But relying on that time alone increases the risk of the writing never happening at all. Schedules change every day. Kids get sick and stay home from school, friends ask you to stop by for dinner, partners need someone to talk to after a stressful day. Writing time gets interrupted, and it can be hard to get back when you forget that all day, any day is the perfect time to write.

Louis L’Amour said it best when he wrote, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”


Louis L’Amour

There will always be an excuse to not write; the timing isn’t right, there’s too much on your to-do list, you feel uninspired. Start writing anyway. You’ll be grateful you gave all the time you had to your story when your finished novel is in your hands.

What’s the best writing advice for beginners you’ve heard? Let me know in the comments below!



The Benefit of Doing Live Readings as an Author

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I was fortunate to be invited to do a live reading of my newest book, Night Buddies Go Sky High, at the store Books to be Red on Ocracoke Island, NC last week, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had since the book released earlier this year. A close-knit, enthusiastic group of both children and parents came out to listen to my reading, and through that experience I had the opportunity to take on an entirely different perspective of my book.


Marketing a book seems to be all about the Internet these days. You have to do blog tours, keep up-to-date on Twitter and Facebook, send out e-mails, and all kinds of things that allow you to interact with readers—but Internet interaction can only take you so far. When you get the chance to hear someone laugh at a particularly funny scene or line, watch their eyes light up as you imitate character’s voices, and have the chance to answer their questions or talk about the characters face-to-face, that is when you really feel as though you’ve passed your book on from being your creation, to being something for other people to love.

As an independently published author, it can be more difficult to set up in-person readings, you’ll have to foot any travel expenses, and you might not get the giant crows showing up the way they do for best-selling authors—but let me tell you, doing a live reading is worth all of those difficulties. I’ve had the opportunity to read in schools, libraries, and independent bookstores like Books to be Red, and no matter how big or small the crowd, I always walk away glad to have gone through with it. Connecting with readers is one of the most rewarding parts of being an author, and no connection is more intimate than one established in a live reading.


If anyone who came to my reading on Ocracoke Island is reading this, thank you so much for taking the time to come listen to me read. If any other independent authors are reading this, look into setting up a live reading as soon as possible; you’ll have a chance to market your book the old-fashioned way, by connecting with individuals person-to-person, not computer-to-computer.

Have you ever attended a live reading? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!


Book Recommendation Time! Best Parenting Books

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With so many parenting books on the market these days, it’s difficult to sort through and choose the ones that will be most applicable to your situation and your life. This is why I’ve provided a few different types of parenting book titles below—from ones aimed to parents of young children, to general parenthood stories, to books targeted directly to fathers. I hope you find that each one of them has something special to offer you and your children!

Father for Life

Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change, by Armin A. Brott: In this book, Brott explores how fathers evolve from the time their child is born and on, and how children influence their fathers’ development. The author combines his personal experience with advice from experts and interviews with other fathers, adding up to a “wise guidance on what it means to be a devoted dad over time.”

Kids Will Listen

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: This is one of the most popular parenting books on the market, and for good reason. Mazlish and Faber delicately and logically explore what it means to effectively communicate with your children. It has been referred to as a “parenting Bible,” and I can’t say I’d disagree.


Raising Boys, by Steve Biddulph: This book explores just what it says in its title; that raising boys is an altogether different task and therefore requires a different approach than raising girls. Being written from a psychologist’s point-of-view, it is filled with bits of scientific information, but is still easy to follow and downright humorous at times. It includes chapters on testosterone, sports, and how boys’ and girls’ brains differ, and focuses on boys’ development through many phases of life.


The Velveteen Father: An Unexpected Journey to Parenthood, by Jesse Green: This is my favorite of the list, which is in part due to the beautiful storytelling and in part due to the fact that the author was an acclaimed writer before turning his subject matter to parenthood—I’m always supportive of dad-writers! This book tells Greene’s story of falling into parenthood unexpectedly and the many unexpected challenges and joys accompanying that lack of preparation. Amazon wrote it best when it said the book explores, “the transformative effects parenthood can have on people who least expect to become parents—and of how we are repeatedly made anew by the love of children who need us.”

As parents, do you enjoy reading parenting books? Have you found any to be particularly helpful or insightful in your own life? Let me know in the comments below!











Writing on Vacation is Hard To Do: Here’s How to Keep Your Story Alive on the Road!

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One of the difficulties that comes with being a writer is that your job is never finished. You don’t get to come home at the end of the day and cut off thinking about your job completely, and you don’t get to take a two-week paid vacation; as writers, our thoughts are always consumed by the story we are writing. For people who like to travel, like me, this difficulty is made even harder. Writing on the road is not an easy task, but here are some pieces of advice I’ve learned and used through the years to make writing and traveling coexist as easily as possible.


Write at the beginning or end of the day. Chances are, if you’re traveling with others, they won’t want to be up at sunrise ready to start the activities of the day. Or if they do, they won’t be awake late into the night. Choose which time of day you have the opportunity to be alone and use it to write. Bonus: you’ll get to see some beautiful sunrises or the midnight glow of the moon in a place you’ve never been before.

Write during downtime. Every vacation has downtime. Maybe you’re trying to kill time before your next bus or train arrives, maybe there’s an hour wait before your table is ready for dinner, or maybe everyone has decided to take an afternoon nap. When you aren’t actively doing something or spending your time with loved ones, use the time to write. It will put your mind at ease to accomplish something, and you’ll be able to enjoy your next activity that much more.

Think about your story while driving. This piece of advice is mostly relevant to road trips, but it can also be applied if you have a long drive to reach a certain destination from your hotel. When you’re driving, you can’t do much else other than think. Use the time to think about your story—what you want to happen next, if your characters are developed enough, what you think you need to work on, and what you think you’re succeeding in. Brainstorming and analyzing your writing is sometimes just as important as actually getting the words down, and you’ll feel more prepared when you find time to sit down at your computer next.


Enjoy your travels. Your writing will benefit from you living your life to its fullest. I know, I know. It’s hard to turn off that little voice in your head that tells you you need to be writing. But when you are in a new place, seeing new sights, and spending time with the people you love, it’s important that you dedicate time to fully immersing yourself in the moment. Your story is always there to come back to at the end of the day. By letting yourself truly enjoy your vacation, hopefully you’ll experience a number of things that you can use in your writing later on. A writer’s true job is to live . . . otherwise there would be nothing for them to write about.

Do you try to write when you travel? What advice do you have for staying on track even when you’re away from home? Let me know in the comments!


Book Trailers 101: The Tools You Need to Make Your Trailer Work

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As authors, we write books for people to read. We don’t make movies; we want people to follow our stories through our words.  So where do we start when we have to all of a sudden turn our literary stories into visual ones?

Well, when I was making my trailer for Night Buddies Go Sky High, I began by thinking about what a book trailer ought to do.

1. Give readers information on what Night Buddies was about.

2. Give readers a feel for what they would find on the page.

3. Generate enough interest in a viewer to look more into reading a Night Buddies book.

When you’re creating a book trailer, you have to understand that most likely, the trailer won’t sell the book. Trailers are used as a jumping point, meaning that they should be intriguing enough, cute enough, or funny enough for someone to think, “I want more.” With that in mind, I knew I had to focus on how to give readers information about my book and give them a feel for its style in an intriguing, cute, or funny way. No pressure.

I think the best thing you can do as an author is work with what you have. I knew I wasn’t going to make a million-dollar, special-effect-filled, Hollywood-style trailer. My book didn’t call for one of those. What I needed was something simple, short, and to the point. I decided to use what visual tools I already had—the illustrations from my book—and combine them with my strongest asset, my writing.

What I ended up with was this:

I utilized what tools I couldn’t use in a book, mainly audio such as children’s cheering and music in the background that gave a sense for the whimsical, cute nature of the story, to make the trailer that much more interesting to watch, but overall I just let my characters tell the story, just like they do in the book. I’m of the mind that book trailers don’t have to, and really shouldn’t be, complex. If you have an interesting story, and a book trailer that really represents it, you don’t need to worry about making it feature-film status.

Do you enjoy watching book trailers? Have you used one to promote one of your books? Link it in the comments below!


Need to Get Your Boys to Read? Here’s My Top Tips to Help You Do it!

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You want to know what I think? I think that right now, we are living in a time where most boys are encouraged to play sports or video games by their friends and by society to be considered “normal” or “cool.” We aren’t living in a world where the next generation of boys will be a generation who loves to read. But that’s not right. Reading opens up kids’ minds to think of things they might never have had the creativity to imagine before, it improves their performance in school, and it’s a way for them to entertain themselves away from the Internet or the television, which they’re probably getting more than their fair share of.


So how do we do it? How do we make the next generation a generation of boys who read? Here’s my top four ideas about where we begin.

1. Put interesting books on acceptable school reading lists. Books don’t have to be extraordinarily literary or realistic to be beneficial to education. Especially among younger kids, why not let current bestsellers count toward silent reading credit? Why not let kids do book reports on something they find interesting? If they can read what is popular amongst their generation, kids might start bonding over the books they read just like they do over the video games they play.

2. Never put down books that they find interesting. To go along with my first tip, as parents we shouldn’t judge books that seem too silly, or too “boy-ish.” The book is based off a video game? It’s still a book. The book is about some guy who wears underwear outside his pants? It’s still something for them to get acquainted to the literary world with. If we want boys to read, we have to let them read what they want; the more they do read, the broader their literary interests will become.

3. Seek out reading role models. A lot of celebrities participate in reading campaigns for children. Seek them out. Or maybe there’s a teacher, an older sibling, or a basketball coach they look up to greatly; ask that person to talk to your kid about reading. If the person they think is the coolest in the world tells them they think reading is cool, chances are your child will want to give it a shot.

4.Take your child to book fairs/festivals. Book fairs usually have lots of games set up for kids, and book festivals have everything from games to live readings and full-on shows to peak the younger generation’s interest in reading. They happen all over the country, are usually free entry, and will end up being a fun day for the family—your child finding a book they’re dying to read would just be the cherry on top.


How do you interest your child in reading? Do you think it’s still important for kids to read? Let me know in the comments below!


Making the Decision to Write a Book

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I guess you could argue whether you ever “decide” to write a book—sometimes the idea is just in you and you feel obligated to write it down, or sometimes you’re just born to be someone who never walks away from a blank page. For me, writing the Night Buddies books fell somewhere in between needing to write it and deciding to write it. Let me walk you through just how it went.

First off, I was born a reader. And when my son John was born, I knew that I was going to do whatever I could to introduce him to the joys of reading too. (To see a post about how to go about getting your kid to love reading, click here.) Like I’ve mentioned in this blog before, to get John to really get into story-telling I had him come up with his own character; and that’s when Crosley, the first character for the Night Buddies series, was created.


But having a character for me and my son to talk and imagine up stories about was not something I immediately imagined would lead to me writing a book. That was something that occurred to me in slow bits, over many years. I had always been a lover of books, and I had written a few short stories here and there, but when I started thinking about Crosley being a character for the page and not just in our home, a short story just didn’t seem like enough. That’s when I started thinking about a book.

But when deciding to write a book, you can’t just think about one character. I had a good start, but a long road ahead. I had to think about another main character—and who better to star in my stories than my own son? Then I had to think more in-depth about the story and what my two characters would do together, I had to think about why Crosley was a red crocodile instead of a normal green one, I had to come up with a host of other, secondary characters. In short, I had to develop an entire world. But the more I thought about these things, the easier it started to get. And by the time I had everything thought out, the decision was already made.

I was going to write a children’s book!

Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecke Scare cover

From there, of course, there were many challenges along the way. But by committing myself to this project and having the firm goal of, “I’m going to write a full-length children’s book” in my head, all those challenges were easier to overcome.

If you’re thinking you might have an idea for a book, or maybe the only idea you have is that you want to write a book, I suggest that you decide to do it. You’ll have a lot of work ahead of you, work that could take years to complete, but I can tell you this . . . turning my little idea of a crocodile named Crosley into a real, tangible book was the best decision I have ever made.



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!


Night Buddies Go Sky High Is Finally Here!


Night Buddies Go Sky High

It’s the day I’ve been looking forward to for awhile now. Yesterday, my third children’s book, Night Buddies Go Sky, was officially released!

In all the excitement leading up to this day, I thought I would share with you all exactly how the Night Buddies series came about. And if I’m being truthful, I have to give credit to my son John. We used to read together every night, but one night when it was late and he wanted the stories to continue I advised him to start making up his own adventures, and that’s how Crosley the red crocodile was born! We came up with Crosley stories all the time until he became a member of our family.


Once John was already grown, I realized that between Crosley and my son John, I had the makings of a book in my hands . . . and that began the long journey to where I am today. I had written short stories in college, and have been a long-time book addict, but deciding to write a children’s book was the biggest writing project I had ever taken on. It became clear to me early on, however, that there were only two, very basic things I needed to make the Crosley book a reality—always use more imagination than I first thought to use, and write the thing every day until it’s done. The combination of these two things has gotten me through three books so far!

In Night Buddies Go Sky High, our two Night Buddies John and Crosley fly over to the Pineapple Cheesecake Factory to top off Crosley’s supply.  Once there, they find Big Foot Mae staring at a mysterious new dot in the sky . . . and it turns out Brother Crenwinkle has seen it too! They decide to investigate the thing, so they modify their racing blimp for extreme altitude and take off into the stratosphere.  What they find will absolutely warp your mind!

In honor of the book’s release, I’m giving away five free books on Goodreads. All you have to do to enter the drawing is click on the link below and click “Enter to Win!” The giveaway will be open through April 16, so be sure to tell your friends to enter too!

Finally, I just want to say a thank you to all my readers. Your support has been instrumental in continuing to bring Crosley to life book after book, and we both hope you’ll enjoy this new adventure!


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What is Ol'Sands Up To?

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