Can I Really Write a 500-Word Story??

IMG_0703Submissions are starting to roll in slowly but surely for our writing contest. Remember, the winner will win $150 plus publication perks. (The deadline is February 25, so don’t waste too much time!)

Maybe you’re wanting to submit, and you have a good idea for a story, but you’re just having a hard time figuring out how to condense it into just 500 words.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s impossible.

Continue reading here…

BIG Changes Ahead for Adopting James

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Adopting James will be changing ownership soon. I don’t know to whom yet.

You’ll notice that I’ve been writing more about writing than about foster care and adoption lately. That’s because, even though I’m still an advocate for adoption and foster care, I am setting my social media laser more on my new publishing company and getting it off the ground.

(You’ve submitted your short story for a chance to win $150, right???)

Here’s the rub.

Just several hours ago I opened up a new blog, Endeverblog, that will feature more in-depth, practical writing advice, as well as video blogs (as soon as I learn how to develop a smooth video presence) and updates about Endever Publishing Studios.

So follow it. Watch three nearly-nobodies build a revolutionary publishing company from the ground up.

The analogy I used for my team was this: Right now, we’re on a rickety wooden boat, just barely able to get to the first port. When we get there, we’ll buy the tools to fix the boat and make it a little bigger. After so many ports, I hope to expand our boat that is Endever Publishing Studios, into a super tanker.

So join our blog, submit your short story, and root us on. We’ll need all the support and encouragement we can get. (Besides, you may end up working for us if you’re passionate about seeing a change in the publishing industry.)

Adopting James, meanwhile, will still go strong for several more weeks, but eventually I am going to transfer ownership and hand the reins over to someone who can redirect it back to focussing on adoption and foster care. This will free me up to step back and put more energy into Endever. I’ll still be around to post guest blogs, and you can still see my latest posts on Endever, so it’s not such a sad and final parting.

Nothing’s happening with Adopting James just yet. We’re still in talks concerning its future. So keep stopping by and don’t miss a single post. We’ll be in touch.

Click here to submit!

Follow Endever on Facebook and Twitter to watch us grow!

Any questions, please email me at endeverpublishing@gmail.com

Is the Foster Care System Perfect?

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Sarabeth and I were extremely lucky with our daughter when she was our foster daughter. (The picture is her at the zoo a few months ago.) Other than the tedious waiting, everything went smoothly from the day we brought her home from the hospital to the day we brought her to the courthouse to sign the official adoption papers, one of the happiest days of my life (even happier than the day Pixar Animation Studios wrote me a personal email).

Stupidly (and luckily for us), no friends or relatives sought her out. She had no visitations whatsoever.

But what about the people who have their foster kids taken away from them because the states deem it best to return them to their parents who had their kids taken away from them in the first place? (Whether it be for abuse, financial loss, drugs, etc.)

One thing that floors me is the states’ insistence on reunifying these broken children and babies with their (often) undeserving parents.

The state values reunification over anything else, and, often above the child’s own safety and wellbeing.

Think about it. Foster parents go through rigorous background checks, take many hours of classes and training programs, they’ve proven that they’re financially and mentally stable, yet the state insists, “We will do EVERYTHING in our power to reunify the kids with their parents if they show even just a sliver of change in their habits and behavior.”

Thus violating their own motto (at least this is our state’s): “Moves hurt kids.”

I’m not complaining about the system. Right now, I’m just questioning it. I’m questioning if the whole foster care system is even operating as smoothly as it could be. Are America’s foster children being given the fairness and safety they deserve?

Are foster parents treated fairly when they form a bond and connection with the kids given to their care, provide a safe and loving roof over their head, and then the state rips them apart at a moment’s notice?

Are social workers being treated fair? Overworked, underpaid, overwhelmed.

If you’re a foster parent or know of any, what are your thoughts about the system? Where would you like to see improvement? Or is it as good as it could be? Share your thoughts below.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to read the email Pixar wrote me! Also, need an editor for your manuscript? Consider me. 

First Draft of My YA Novel Completed

First off, thank you SO much to those of you who posted questions about writing on yesterday’s post. I will be addressing each one of your questions in subsequent posts.

Yesterday at around 3:00 EST I sat in a Starbucks by my house and tears flowed down my face. My earbuds were plugged into my ears and Coldplay was singing about a sky full of stars.

I completed the first draft of my fourth book. My editor and I are now hard at work to bring you the best book possible – a completely fulfilling and emotional reading experience you will not be able to walk away from unchanged.

Many of you have read snippets about my YA novel, These Great Affects. I wasn’t crying at Starbucks because I was so happy to finish. I was crying because the book is heart-shatteringly sad!

It is a raw look at a girl who befriends a charming boy, but she doesn’t fall in love with him until after he dies in a tragic and senseless accident.

I believe it has everything a YA novel should have and, I hope, more. Love, humor, joy, devastation, prom night, out-of-touch parents, first loves, first kisses, death.

In These Great Affects, I hope people of all ages will fall in love with the main characters, be reminded of the joy and terror of high school, and maybe learn to appreciate the life that is given to them and live it the best they can while they’re still here.

There is no release date yet, and I have a lot of people in line to review an advanced reader’s copy of the book. I’m still accepting requests, so if you’re interested in doing that, check out this link for instructions.

Follow me on Twitter: @atoy1208 0r Facebook

On Writing: ASK AWAY!!

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Most of my readers, from what I can tell, are writers or aspiring writers.

Bloggers, columnists, authors, poets, storytellers, dreamers…

And we all have so many questions! How do you complete projects? How should you publish your book? What the heck’s wrong with all these literary agents rejecting every single one of your brilliant ideas???

Sure, you could Google these questions and get general answers to the public, but I’m offering you a chance to post your questions about the writing world below.

I will do my best to answer them in separate blog posts. Leave your name, your blog or website and I’ll mention you as the asker of the brilliant question. I know I’m no John Grisham (he’s not answering questions as far as I know) or James Patterson (does he even WRITE??), but I’m focused on reaching their level and well on my way with two books coming out this  year that are projected to be pretty big: an emotionally-driven YA novel about a girl who falls in love with a boy *AFTER* he dies, and a powerful biography about a patient advocate doctor who sued a multibillion-dollar insurance company for violation of fair procedure. 

So, I may be in the same boat as you, and I’ve got questions myself, or you may even be ahead of me. But we still can learn a lot from each other.

Ready? Set. ASK!

Seriously, email me if you want an advanced copy of my YA book: These Great Affects

Follow me on Twitter: @atoy1208

Or Facebook

Why Every Movie Theater Needs A Storm Trooper

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While the highly anticipated new Star Wars installment is preparing its thrusters to hit every movie theater in America in a couple of weeks, I think, and I hope, movie theaters are taking proper precautions.

(Disclaimer: I knew it was a mistake releasing Star Wars merchandise as early as they did, and not surprisingly, Black Friday sales suffered drastically this year. Just saying.)

In the same way Columbine set off a trend of school shootings, I think we  recall that fateful morning we all woke up to the news that a new trend had begun: Deadly shootings erupted in a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Because of that, movie theaters are now no longer safe.

Not to mention, big events are being targeted as supple killing grounds for murderers. Star Wars isn’t just a huge movie, it’s also a major worldwide event. I just hope some sadist isn’t sitting in a dark room polishing his machine gun with a big red circle around December 18 on his calendar.

From a killer’s perspective, it’s the perfect way to corner unarmed victims: a packed and dark room with no more than two exits. Bingo. Bam! Bam! End of story.

Sure, I’m excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I dread what sort of evil plots might be in the works. I think about all the 30-some-old parents taking their kids to see the Millennium Falcon soar into light speed on the big screen, and I hope everyone walks out alive (and cheering like mad because it’s the greatest Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back).

I think movie theaters should post Storm Troopers outside of each Star Wars showing. Okay, even if they’re not in galactic uniform, at least armed security guards, or undercover police. (Still, the Storm Trooper thing could be super cool.)

It might be argued that theaters can’t afford the extra cost, so then I issue a challenge to LucasFilms and Disney.

What if, with the exuberant amount of pre-sale tickets, they shelved over a small percentage to each major movie theater franchise to help fund the cost of extra security at least for the 18th of December.

That way, everyone can go home that night dreaming of Wookies and wake up a week later to find light sabers under the tree. We don’t need another Batman incident, and we certainly don’t need another Sandy Hook where children die just short of Christmas because of some sick freak.

Share this on your social media sites if you think the studios and theaters should partner up in taking extra precautions for their audiences.

And may the force be with us all.

(Sorry for the cliche sign-off, but it’s to be expected, so…)

Why I Took My One-Year-Old to See “The Good Dinosaur”

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(The Picture above is dark for a reason. Since our little guy isn’t adopted yet, posting pictures of him is generally frowned upon. Good thing most babies look alike from the nose up.)

I took my one-year-old to a matinee showing of The Good Dinosaur today. Some people would say that’s too young to take a kid to the movies. Don’t worry, we went to the earliest showing on a weekday and the theater was empty. So if he cried, it wouldn’t have disturbed anyone.

There’s a few reasons why I chose to do this (other than that I don’t want to break my streak of seeing every Pixar movie in theaters).

  1. Our kids don’t watch TV. Our son and his almost-two-year old sister have never seen Playhouse Disney and they’ve never heard of Spongebob Squarepants. Sure, they’ve seen Mom watch House Hunters and me watch an old movie, but in our house, the parents pick the shows. Our children don’t rule the roost, and they have no claim on the remote control. Sarabeth and I feel pretty strongly that any kid show on TV is there just to act as a babysitter, plus it’s all extremely annoying, I’m sure. You can check out a separate post on this topic here. That said, I will never forget my son’s face when the lights went off and the screen lit up. He was mesmerized for a full 90+ minutes. (He didn’t cry once.)
  2. Pixar is quality entertainment for everyone. While The Good Dinosaur wasn’t the greatest of Pixar movies, it was still light years ahead of just about any other movie put out there. I want my kids to appreciate the value of storytelling and quality entertainment that challenges us to be better people, and live better lives. Pixar does that. (Check out love letter to Pixar, here.) Basically, if my kids are going to watch movies or TV, I’m not looking for just “appropriate,” I’m looking for quality and depth.
  3. This is gonna be our thing. Today I started a tradition. I hope that when our son is in high school, he’ll still want to go see Toy Story 8 with me (and yes, I would be thrilled if they made a Toy Story 8). I would have brought his sister Katherine along, but she can barely get through a whole commercial, let alone sit through a whole movie. I’m hoping by March she’ll be into animals and will want to see Zootopia, because that looks like it could be the funniest movie ever.

So, about Pixar’s latest installment. It was really good! People have to prepare themselves not to compare it to the greats like The Incredibles or this year’s Inside Out.

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Pixar tends to aim their movies more at the adults, but The Good Dinosaur is the exception. It’s very much kid-friendly, but not in a bad way (except there’s a scene with the pterodactyls that about made me crap my pants). The story is familiar and even predictable, but if you think about it, that’s territory Pixar has never covered before, so in a way, that’s breaking new ground for them.

Oh, and it’s not your typical dino flick. It’s really a Western in disguise! So you John Wayne and Roy Rogers buffs are gonna dig it. Below I’ve rated the Pixar movies from worst to best, so check out where Dinosaur makes its mark (see what I did there?). This list is constantly fluctuating as I learn to appreciate each film for different reasons.

16. Cars 2

15. Brave

14. Wall-E (I know! I know! There’s something wrong with me!)

13. The Good Dinosaur

12. A Bug’s Life

11. Cars

10. Monsters University

9. Toy Story 2

8. Monsters, Inc.

7. Up

6. Finding Nemo

5. Ratatouille

4. Toy Story 3

3. The Incredibles

2. Toy Story

1.Inside Out