Writers: Don’t Forget the Sugar

My favorite drink of all time.

It can be ordered at a bar or you can make it yourself.

Drink too much of it and you can get too sick to move. Refrain from drinking it at all and you could suffer major health issues.

I require it every time I come home from work, or home from a walk in the hot sun, or after playing with the kids, or even waking up in a sweat in the middle of the night.

There are three ingredients: Water, ice, and a squirt of lemon.

I have nothing against alcohol – I just don’t like it. I’ve tried whiskey, bourbon, beer and we now have several half-full bottles in the kitchen. Just doesn’t measure up to my taste buds.

I do enjoy a cold V-8 or a glass of milk. I even love bloody Mary – virgin, of course.

But just give me a cold glass of water with lemon and I’m all set. alkaline-lemon-water

But forget the lemon and I just might throw the water in your face. That’s just nasty. It’s like nonfat ice cream, or sugarless gum. What’s the point?

Most writers can tell a basic story. Introduction, conflict, resolution, the end. Easy. But what about the lemon? What about the stuff that makes the banal taste of water sweet (or sour)? What about the flavor?

Are you taking your story one step higher to add that touch of emotion, or comedy, or deeper insight into your characters? Don’t give your readers sugarless candy. Deliver the goods.

Give us a reason to relate to your character by cleverly providing a backstory.

Give us reason to find your characters’ departure from each other heartbreaking.

If you have a comic relief, don’t recycle old jokes you’ve heard elsewhere before. Be original. Give us fresh, new material that we can enjoy.

A Love Letter to Disney

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A while back I wrote a love letter to Pixar Animation Studios. I’ll never forget watching my viewership skyrocket that week. What was that all about? A couple of weeks later I received an email from Pixar Headquarters thanking me for my post and saying that it’s been making the rounds in the studio. Imagine that! I forget how long I cried. (The picture to the left is during the hysterics.) But the thing that made me happiest was knowing that the hard workers at the studio caught a tiny glimpse of joy they bring to our lives on a regular basis.

Yesterday Disney released the international trailer for their highly anticipated and surefire record-breaker, Moana. Take a second and watch it. I’ve watched it about nine times now and I still get chills.

It’s safe to say that Disney is on par with Pixar. After Wreck-it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and most likely Moana, we just need to stop denying it.

They bring a class and beauty to the world that we’ve all but forgotten. In our hurried and messy lives, Disney movies have a way of, I don’t know, restoring order. Even if it’s just the illusion of restoration – or better yet, the hope of restoration.

Their movies are not devoid of evil and chaos and bitterness and jealousies. And their resolutions aren’t as cookie-cutter as they used to be. Disney’s movies sell you on cute, sure, but they deliver on substance and depth.

I mean, how gut-wrenchingly hard is it to watch Hiro release Baymax into the Unknown? If that doesn’t tear you apart, I question your mortality. Not only is their attention to detail and vivid color out of this world, but almost every note strikes a cord with something deep inside us.

Why?

Because they take beauty to the extreme. They push the bounds of reality and expose us to a world of bliss and hope.

Like Pixar, they no longer make movies for kids. Their movies address us adults just as profoundly. Zootopia reminds me that even if I achieve my dreams, my story doesn’t stop and the struggles will keep coming.

Wreck-it Ralph delivers the hard message that I’ve been dealt my cards and I need to figure out how to make the best of it.

Frozen sings about letting go. Big Hero 6 shows us how to do it.

Thank you Disney, for the work and painstaking efforts you infuse in your movies. You have the challenge of not just catering to one specific audience, but to literally every single demographic. And you pull it off with class and style and unimaginable beauty.

I believe Disney movies do make the world a better place, even if it’s just a little. They bring families together. A reason for parents to take the kids out. They provide contexts for us to talk about serious things with our kids. They give us parents footing to address things such as good byes, racism, bullying, sibling rivalry, and my favorite: You don’t have to be a jerk just because you’re popular (Fix it Felix, Jr.).

I know there’s people out there who don’t watch Disney or Pixar movies just because they’re cartoons. I pity those people. They’re missing out on some of the greatest filmmaking in the history of film.

Thank you Disney, for all that you do. Keep at it, and we’ll see you in November!

For more on Disney check out

Baseball and Disney: https://adoptingjames.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/disney-animation-and-baseball/

and One of the Greatest Companies in the World: https://adoptingjames.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/the-greatest-business-in-the-world/

 

Climbing Up the Corporate Christmas Tree

keep_calm_and_climb_a_tree_round_ceramic_decoration-rfb33ecaa15d7445c81cf0e26aeaa3fcf_x7s2y_8byvr_324You’ve likely worked for bosses or managers who just don’t understand. I’m not talking about the inability to sympathize. I’m talking about a literal inability to understand the job they hired you to do because they haven’t done it themselves.

Mostly that’s due to someone inheriting their position through a variety of different means.

There are very few situations where I find this acceptable. Let me explain why.

My wife and I have differing Christmas tree styles we prefer in our living room each year. She thinks the bigger and fuller the tree the better. I prefer the smaller ones because there’s less mess and less decorating. She likes it to be chuck-full and overflowing with white lights and ornaments that date back to 30+ years. With her style, you have to wonder if there’s a tree anywhere underneath the decorations. As far me, bring out a strand of those big, bulky colored lights recycled from the 90’s, wrap them around once, plug ’em in, and wash the sap off your hands before you pour yourself some egg nog.

Everyone has different Christmas tree styles.

So let’s say companies are like Christmas trees. Someone who starts at the bottom and works their way up to the top is going to have a pretty good idea about what kind of Christmas tree they’re on. They’ll figure out that the red globes go on every third branch, the faded framed family portraits are hidden toward the back of the tree, and the higher up they climb they’ll find the ornaments becoming a little more fragile to remain out of reach of kids and dogs.

But someone who’s just thrown in at the top is not going to have as clear of an idea as to what kind of tree he or she is working with, because we’re all fixated on the star at the top. People don’t look down from the branch they’re on. We all only look up.

Bosses and managers need experience and an intimate knowledge of the company they’re managing. If you’re the manager or director of a call center and you’ve never been put through the fire of call after call of angry customers, you have no business managing people that go through it day after day.

If you’ve never struggled as a middle-class working American, I wish you’d think twice before running for president. Because how can you have a clear understanding of the plight of the common American people?

You see, as you climb the tree, you’re collecting broken ornaments, finding burnt lightbulbs, and noting bare branches. You’re building up a knowledge base of issues within the company that need to be resolved in order for synergy to exist.

My father owns a framing company out in California. Even though he owns the company, I’ve always admired that he himself can pick up a hammer and put in a day’s worth of hard work under the blistering sun.

It’s for this exact reason that as I build my publishing company from the ground up, I am putting myself through the fire. I have two manuscripts written that I’ve submitted to my partner Lynn. Through the editing structure we’re building, I’ve had to revise one and put the other on the back burner to be completely redone.Endever Arch

That way, when I come to one of our authors and point out problems in their manuscript, I can sincerely say, “I understand how frustrating this is … but trust me, it’s going to be a better book in the end.”

There are a myriad of reasons why it’s important for owners and managers to climb up the Christmas tree from the ground up. And to be honest, if Endever succeeds, I’m not going to just hang out at the top becoming best buds with the angel and hibernate in the safety of my secluded office. I’ll keep writing and pushing myself.

That way, if the style of the tree changes from white lights to colored lights, I’ll be ready to get my hands dirty and pitch in. After all, it’s my company, right? A guy should take pride in his possessions.

Endever Updates – Six Months Later

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Wonderful news is happening over at Endever Publishing Studios! In case you’re unfamiliar with my publishing company, I founded it early this year because I was tired of the way traditional publishing companies operated.

  • They recycle the same famous authors in their rotation rarely giving new authors a chance.
  • Traditional publishers put more effort in promoting their own books than exploring the unknown future of the book industry itself.
  • It’s a corporate world where there is a thick black line separating the authors from the corporate bigwigs who are more concerned with the money in their pockets than the art driving the paychecks. There is no reason for the two to be separate.

This is the short version of why I began my own publishing company. I named it Endever Publishing Studios because we are more than a company, we are studio, and by definition a studio is a place where art is created and experimented with.

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Six months later my co-owner Lynn Galloway and I have just signed our fifth author, and have seven books in production. We have received help from all corners of the industry from lawyers to cover design artists to editors all offering support and help in any way they can.

I’m impressed with how far we’ve come in just a short amount of time. I’m also very excited to share what Endever has in store for you all in just a few short weeks. We’ve come far, but we have much further to go. And somehow, in our ridiculously busy lives of demanding jobs, kids, and spouses, we are making the dream come true and we cannot thank all of you enough who have pitched in and submitted. Even your words of support and encouragement go a long way to get us through the tough days where it would just be much easier to pretend Endever never existed.

So stay tuned, because we might call upon your area of expertise to contribute to our company. But you’ll also want to be involved so that you can know about our upcoming book releases. More details on that soon!

Why It’s Good to Be Disturbed

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Netflix is stepping up its game! They’re actually making movies available that I care to watch or revisit (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Lethal Weapon…) But scrolling through the other night, there was one that caught my attention that I had forgotten was on my to-watch list.

It’s a Peter Jackson movie, so that was my biggest reason for watching it. In my opinion, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong are enough to set him up as one of the greatest directors of all time. But then, this one in particular seems to go unnoticed.

It’s called The Lovely Bones. Usually when I turn on a movie, I’m asleep within fifteen minutes. This one kept me up for the full two-hour-plus runtime. I was intrigued, disturbed, riveted, emotional, and all those other feelings a good film should evoke. But mostly I was terrified.

It’s the story about a girl who is kidnapped and murdered but doesn’t cross into heaven until she can help her family cope and find her killer.

I’d say it’s probably one of the most haunting movies I’ve seen in years. But these stories are so important! They’re important to us as parents because they remind us that our kids are never ever safe. Let me tell you, it’s going to be a long while before my daughter is out of my sight for a split-second in public.

Yes, we need the Finding Nemo reminders that we should be brave enough to let go of our kids every once in a while, but we also need the hard, cold slap in the face that there are psychopaths out there that will take our kids at a moment’s notice.

And we must be vigilant.

The movie also inspired me to begin drafting a new novel about kidnapping. Let’s just say it will be an exercise to visit my deepest fears and blow the siren for the rest of us.

These types of stories might be upsetting and disturb us, but they’re necessary. I hate hearing about people who don’t watch the news simply because it’s so depressing. I mean, that’s just the way the world is, and it’s better to know what’s going on in it than to be ignorant (these are strong words coming from a guy who wants to live at Disneyland).

My kids are going to be taught at a very young age not only to never talk to strangers, but why they shouldn’t. “Because you can be killed,” I’ll tell them. “There are people you can trust after your mom and dad are friends with them and as long as they never ask you to be alone with them. There are people you can smile and nod to at Target and the grocery store, and you move on. And then there are people that want to hurt and kill you. They’re the ones who go the extra mile to be friendly to you. They’re the ones you want to run away from and scream at the top of your lungs. No one will ever fault you for that.”

My children are going to be as prepared as I can make them.

I’ll never forget the story a friend of mine told me about how he was at the park with his two daughters and he saw a guy just looking at them. “I’ve seen that look before. I’m a man, I’ve had that look before. But when he starts looking at my girls that way… I walked up to him and told him, ‘You need to get out of here.’ I made sure he got in his car and left.”

My friend is a hero. It might sound like he let the guy off scot free, but at least for a while, that pervert is going to wonder who else is noticing him. Hopefully he’s going to think twice before acting …or looking.

I recommend The Lovely Bones to every parent. Forget the whole heaven vs. hell and afterlife stuff. Watch it for what it’s meant to be: A wake up call to us parents, and an attempt to fuse just a little bit of beauty into a tragedy we cannot fix or prevent.

Cover Design Artists, Apply Here!

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Endever Publishing Studios, LLC is making tremendous headway toward our first book releases. First off, I cannot thank all of you enough who submitted your manuscripts and/or book ideas. I’m amazed at how many awesome ideas there are out there! And feel free to keep ’em coming.

My company has some wonderful news I’ll be sharing in the near future, but before that, I want to open up the floor to artists this time.

As a new and unconventional publishing company, we are mulling over a few different ideas to proceed with our book covers. I’m particularly excited about a few of them, but I’ll refrain from sharing them just yet.

Now, though, I would like to invite anyone and everyone who considers themselves an artist to submit samples of your work and your style to Endever. Here’s how to go about it:

Send up to four pieces of artwork you’ve created that depicts your differing styles. This can include watercolor, Photoshop, photography, CGI, realistic, cartoony, whatever your style(s) is. Show us what you’ve got. Send them as attachments to Endeverpublishing at gmail dot com.  

In the body of your email please include your name, residence, website/blog, and any other pertinent information condensed into a paragraph or shorter. If we are interested in what you show us, I’ll ask for more samples.

By the way, here’s Endever’s blog so you can snoop around and see what we’re about in case you’re still unfamiliar with us: Endeverblog.wordpress.com.

So get submitting and we look forward to seeing what you’ve got!

How Finding Dory Will Make Me a Better Dad

maxresdefaultYou may laugh, but I highly doubt I’m the only dad who wanted one specific thing for Father’s Day: to go see Finding Dory. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we’re struggling through a hard time in our extended family. (Thank you so much Pixar, for consistently providing a light to us in dark times.)

The movie’s release also comes at a time when my kids are still young, which I’m so grateful for. Finding Dory sucker-punched me in the father-gut as it forced me to examine my current parenting techniques.

By the way, this post will be spoiler-free if you haven’t seen the movie, which you should (it’s shattering records already).

Right off the bat being a father has shown me how impatient I can be. You really never know how much of a perfectionist you are until you become a parent! But when my kids mess up, I’m quick to lose my temper and, I’m sad to say, make them feel bad for what they’ve done.

Finding Dory was like looking into a mirror when Marlin berates Dory (his surrogate daughter, I take it) for her disability (short-term memory loss). I can sympathize with Marlin because- “Son! I JUST told you not to pull on the dog’s ears! What’s wrong with you??”

See what I mean?

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The way Inside Out reminds us parents not to encourage our kids to act contrary to how they feel, Finding Dory practically scolds us for expecting our kids to be perfect despite their learning disabilities (and, as my wife often reminds me, they’re just kids). And for me, the message stung like a jelly fish.

635948550074796045-finding-dory-fdcs-dory10-125-per16-125There are plenty of messages to be found in Dory for the kids too, such as they never need to feel limited by their imperfections. And no matter what, there’s always a way out of their problems, no matter how dire, if they’re just brave enough.

Okay, maybe those reminders aren’t just for the kids.

All in all, Finding Dory doesn’t disappoint. It’s no Toy Story (1,2, or 3), but it’s still millions of leagues (pun) from being an animated movie not closely monitored and fostered by the Disney/Pixar powerhouses. In fact, Finding Dory, in all it’s excellence and daring, encourages, inspires, and illuminates laughter and happiness in an increasingly dark world.

Perhaps it’s a timely movie for all of us at this stage in our history.

Oh, and by the way, the photorealistic short film that precedes the feature is nothing less than 100% brilliant (my second favorite in Pixar’s short film lineup, just behind Presto!). I’m so excited for our kids to see it so I can teach them that things aren’t always as threatening as they seem.

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Yeah, we left the kids at home to go see an animated movie. How often do I have to stress that Pixar/Disney movies are not made for kids? They’re brightly colored adult movies that kids can happen to enjoy, and Dory is no different.

Once it’s been out for a little while, I’ll talk about the film’s climax and why I think it’s so perfect.

Oh! And what did you think about that Beauty and the Beast trailer?? Is that going to be amazing or what? Sarabeth and I have already made the proper arrangements to see it next March.

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