Those special dad moments #Writingdads #parenting

As I mentioned in another previous post, my son Jax has been putting himself to sleep at night and has been for a few months now. Usually, this happens pretty quickly but sometimes it doesn’t go so well. Those moments are bound to happen sometimes right? Well, tonight was one of those nights.

I came home during this process of him trying to go to sleep, and he was less than pleased with his situation. I wanted Stacey to do her homework so I decided I would go in and try calming him down. It worked a few nights before, but I thought it might be a fluke.

You see, several months ago, forever it seems, when Jax was “little” I would rock him to sleep and sing him Moonriver among other songs. It was our time, and it was calming and nice for both of us. But that ended when he got to big for that, and I won’t lie I have missed that connection and time with him. Tonight though was a nice revisiting of our old routine.

I picked him up and let him find a comfy spot to rest his head on my shoulder while I rubbed his back. It’s not often he lets me hold him like this, and the back rub is a relatively new thing that he enjoys. Anyways, while Jax was trying to calm down I slowly rocked him while standing up and sung our old favorite Moonriver.

By the time I got through the song three times (with some extra hums for good measure), he was sound asleep. Nights like tonight don’t happen often, but I will take them when I can get them. Those special quiet moments between Jax and I who might be the only person who enjoys my singing these days lol.

On another note do you ever wonder what Michael Buble sings to his kid at night? I do, and I’ve often wondered what famous singers sing to their kids before they go to bed. That would be an awesome article to write wouldn’t it?

 

 


14 Hours – My 600th blog post

Many parents, especially new parents, do a lot of research. I know Stacey and I have each done our fair share of that with Jax. She spends a lot of time researching ways to make him healthy premade meals among other things. Since Jax is getting older, he is moving away from puréed food, baby food and is starting to eat “normal food” I guess you could call it. He is also at that stage where he is putting himself to bed and sleeps through the night 95% of the time now. Which is completely awesome!

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My research has been centered on time management. You may be asking yourself why. Well, last winter semester was a tough transition with Stacey and me both in college and working. Now, add my writing into that and it made for a very busy schedule. I tried doing homework and writing while I was home alone with Jax and it did not work out very well. At that point, he was still not sleeping through the night usually. Last winter semester was probably my worst ever in the 4 ½ years since I had been at GVSU. I won’t say how bad but it was appalling.

I need to have a certain amount of focus and concentration when I am doing my homework and even more so my writing and that won’t change. For me, those require two very different modes of concentration, two different trains of thought. Now that Jax is older and more mobile, he doesn’t sit so idly by while dad is trying to do work (if he ever really did). I cannot blame him.

He wants to play and wants attention and that is where it’s gotten hard for me over the last few months at least. I didn’t want and don’t want to be one of those dads who are so focused on school and my fledgling writing career that I ignore my own son. I don’t want his first memories to be of me with my face buried in books or hidden behind a computer screen.

College this fall semester played out a little differently than what I had planned and there is still the writing. How do I make time for it? Where do I make time? How do I fit it all in along with the needs of my family? How do I not fail at everything in an amazing and spectacular fashion? A few months back while researching I found a blog written by another author who is also a parent to two small kids, twins in fact who were like 2 or 3. His advice on time management for writing was,

“Find the path of least resistance in a 24 hour period.”

 

For me now that is at night. I work better at night anyway and always have. With Jax on his schedule and Stacey usually asleep, the hours from 12:30 am to 3:30 or 4 am are the only time that I have just for me. It is the only time I can truly concentrate without interruptions on MY work. Do I feel bad about that? Yes sometimes. But I also realize it’s the only time I really have unless I just give up. Those hours are MY path of least resistance where I have to cram in as much writing related work that I can (school work also if I have that) into a short time frame. I only have 4 nights a week where I can do it. This leaves me with only 14 stable hours a week to write and build my business, my life, and career.

The interesting thing is most authors spend at least twice that amount of time on their writing and writing-related work if not more during a week. I would kill for 30 hours a week for my writing but 14 hours is all I have for sure. I have to take what I can get. Sometimes I might get another 2-3 hours during the week If the writing gods are feeling generous.

During the days when I am not at work and I’m home with Jax while Stacey is at work that is HIS time. That is OUR time. That is HIS time to spend with his dad and MY time to spend with my son. Even if I am sitting on the couch and he is in his play area with Frozen or a Preschool Prep video going we still talk, interact and growl at each other when we are not walking around and playing. I don’t just ignore him. I could be selfish and find a sitter or call a relative to virtually raise my kid for me while I work, but I hate it when parents do that.

In the evening when Stacey is home is OUR time together with Jax. After he goes to bed that is our time to eat dinner, cuddle, and watch a movie, Chopped or MasterChef together since we are into those shows right now. For as much writing and writing-related work that I have to do I need and want family time. Uninterrupted family time. Which was another bit of advice that I gleaned from another writers blog which said something along the lines of,

“Family time is family time. Writing time is writing time. Each deserves its own uninterrupted space without one interfering with the other.”

 

I am doing my best following this advice because it’s the most sensible advice I could find for someone in my situation. When other guys are out at the bars, hanging out at coffee shops with friends or playing video games at that point in the night I am in the garage writing or sitting at the kitchen table doing homework with abundant coffee. Why? Because that is where I would rather be and I think, that is where I need to be if I want to succeed at this and improve our lives. My social life (if you can call it that) can wait until I sell a few books I guess. This is a business and I have to put as much focus on that business as I can; even if it’s only 14 hours a week. I can get by with 4-5 hours of sleep.

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So please allow me my 14 hours without judging or making me feel bad. It is all the time that I have to work on the only thing that makes me happy professionally. It’s all the time I am allowed as a dad.

So my fellow writers who have little ones running about. How do you handle or manage your time?

 

http://www.gofundme.com/aDadsDream


Email List for Authors. Yes…No? http://bit.ly/1WK8atE

Ever since becoming and author I have tried my darndest to learn exactly what I need to do in order to market myself, my books and my budding business. I will say I am doing a lot better than I was 3 years ago when I published my first novel Running Northwest, but I still have a ways to go; most Indies do I suppose. Especially since this relatively new business has a tendency to change at least when it comes to online marketing.

One thing that has always bothered me in terms of marketing is the notion that we (authors) need to have email lists and newsletters. I understand how they work and why they are theoretically relevant. However, if you are like me, you hate junk mail. I read less than what I delete without even opening. I spend about half an hour a day, at least, just sifting through the shit I get in my 4 email accounts. I am a subscriber to a few authors and book marketers emails/newsletter. I won’t lie I am very picky about whose I sign up for no matter what they are giving away for free in a rafflecopter.

Part of me feels like newsletters and email lists should have gone the way of dial-up internet. At least every other week though I read something about how we authors need to have these newsletters and email lists. I just don’t wanna annoy people with constant even bi-monthly junk mail that they may or may not read. Now, with the release of  my 2nd novel,  All the Roads Home on the horizon I am again pondering the question and necessity of email lists. I am again asking myself, “Should I,” or “shouldn’t I.”

So fellow authors I ask you, “Should I,” or “shouldn’t I,” and why or why not.

I ask readers and consumers in general. Do you like getting newsletters like this from authors you enjoy or companies you follow?


A glimpse into my All the Roads Home playlist

 

Music is fairly big part of a writer’s life I think; or least it is mine. We use it to set moods, bring out emotions, and stabilize our own, so we get our minds into a specific place while we are writing a particular scene or story. For my first novel Running Northwest, I relied heavily on playlists while I wrote the whole thing. I was tedious and damn near methodical while I created them with different genres and songs for individual chapters and scenes. It was complicated to say the least. I dare say I spent far too much time on the playlists than I should have.

With my soon to be released novel All the Roads Home, I relied less on multiple playlists covering many genres and instead more specific genre lists with random songs thrown in. For instance, one list was Jazz and included over a 100 years of various Jazz music.

So for this late edition of #Mondayblogs I thought I would share a few of the songs that were on my playlist. I suppose you could call this the All the Roads Home playlist because in some way these songs could define the story.

  1. Backwater Blue – Dinah Washington

  1. Georgia on my Mind – Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis

  1. It Never Entered my Mind – Miles Davis Quintet (Workin)
  2. Unsquare Dance – Dave Brubeck
  3. Bye Bye BlackBird- Joe Cocker
  4. The Way you Look Tonight – Tony Bennett

  1. Against the Wind – Bob Segar
  2. With You Without You – Brad Paisley
  3. Best of Me – Michael Buble
  4. To Love Somebody – Michael Buble

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrHN9tJLaQ0&list=RDQrHN9tJLaQ0

 

And Promentory Promontory by Trevor Jones Last of the Mohicans by Trevor Jones Last of the Mohicans because that is a writing staple for me.

 

 

 
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Positive influences on a future author

The other day I had a chance to sit and have coffee with one of my aunts while my mom was in town for my son’s birthday. We do not see each other or talk as much as what I would like but its just the way it is. This is the same aunt my mom went to Europe with this year for two weeks, and much of our conversation revolved around that trip. Eventually though the conversation switched to books and how things were coming along with my next novel. It was nice to talk to someone who was so interested in my writing and this new career path I am heading down. She picked up my first novel Running Northwest last year and from all accounts seemed to enjoy it.

Then she brought up when I couldn’t read so well.

Yes, you read that right.

Back when I was in 1st and maybe 2nd grade (6 or 7 years old), I had a VERY hard time reading. My mom helped as best as she could but got frustrated by how slow I was on the pick-up (she tried her hardest) and at that time my dad was working second shift.

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my aunt and my mom (moms in the back)

Nancy having a master in elementary education became my tutor two nights a week, I think. Perhaps it was only one night a week. I only remember bits of those days in the early 80’s; things like these paperwork books for school we used and slowly sounding out words in books we read. I remember being rewarded with popcorn and a glass of coke at the end of the night before one of my parents came and picked me up. However, more than anything I recall how patient she was with me.

I remember being frustrated at the slow pace of it all. I remember feeling dumb and wondering what was wrong with me that I was not able to do something that seemed so easy for my friends and classmates. Things turned around somewhat quickly I guess because by the time I was in 3rd grade I was at reading at a 5th/6th-grade reading level.

My aunt had an enormous library in her apartment back then in the years before e-books. Almost an entire room was taken up by bookshelves, which were stacked full. I was interested in these long before I could read anything on them; particular covers caught my eye. However, as my reading abilities progressed during elementary school, even after she stopped tutoring me it was from her that I began borrowing books. It was a reward of sorts. I could borrow them once I could read them.

This was where I started reading works by from authors like Stoker, Twain, Dickens, Asimov and James Michener’s epic novels that I love to this day. It’s where I first got and read things like the Hardy Boys, Stephen King’s novels like IT, Pet Cemetery, and Carrie. As well as Where the Red Fern Grows, several books by Arthur C Clarke (started with 2001: A Space Odyssey of course) and many others.

While we sat and had coffee the other day, we joked about that fact that the same kid who could barely read at one point ended up becoming an author himself. For me, it just shows what a difference one person can make in a kids life. I likely would not be who I am today without that extra effort and encouragement from my aunt.


End of an era. PBS just tickled Elmo goodbye. http://bit.ly/1EqWfWv

Remember when everyone could watch Sesame Street?

By Michael J Melville

PBS

sesame-street

Before cable, before Amazon Prime, Netflix, satellite TV, TLC, Discover Channel and the History Channel, many kids, myself included grew up on a channel called PBS. The Public Broadcast Service (WGVU) in my area here in Michigan aired educational programming. I grew up and went to elementary school watching shows that aired on this station during the 80’s.

Sesame Street was the first and foremost among them. I have fond memories of watching this show after school and even during 1st, 2nd, and maybe even 3rd grade while I was in school at South Elementary in Grandville Michigan. I remember going as a class in 2nd grade to the library once a week (maybe more) and watching Sesame Street and the now slightly creepy Letter People.

Property of PBS

This the Sesame Street I grew up watching (Property of PBS)

Myself along with many other American kids (and others) grew up learning our shapes, letters, colors  and other things from the likes of Grover, Burt & Ernie, Big Bird, Oscar and their human counterparts. I firmly believe Sesame Street played an important and pivotal role in my youth and education while making me a better person. For all intensive purposes shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Roger Neighborhood MADE PBS and I believe are the reason PBS has existed this long and improved in the way that it has.

My son, Jax who just turned a year old already enjoys watching the show and has his own favorites that excite him already. It is nearly an everyday staple in our home added to shows like Sid the Science Kid, Thomas the Train, Dinosaur Train and Daniel Tigers Neighborhood. I can safely assume there are many other households in this same boat.

Yes, the show has changed over the years, but only in most minimal of ways to keep it modern and effective from what I have seen. Sesame Street from my perspective as a parent is just as pure now as it was 30-33 years ago when I first started watching it even before I was in school. When I found out, I was going to be a father it was one of those shows I immediately looked forward to watching with my son when he was old enough.

“By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was the fifteenth highest-rated children’s television show in the United States. A 1996 survey found that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three years old. In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children. As of 2014, Sesame Street has won 159 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards—more than any other children’s show.” (Wikipedia)   

Can Elmo spell HBO

 

Tonight I was watching NBC news, and they did a story about Sesame Street, which caught my eye and eventually pissed me off. It seems that HBO, which is famous for adult-oriented shows like Game of Thrones and The Sopranos, now owns the rights to that iconic American TV show for 5 years. Yes, you read that right; HBO now owns the rights to Sesame Street.

Instead of doing something, humble, altruistic and good for American kids like putting money into the show or PBS in general HBO just decided to buy the show I guess. That is not even the worst. My understanding is that starting next season all new Sesame Street episodes will air first on HBO and then a mere NINE months later on PBS.

Yes, you read that right. I said NINE whole months, almost a year. Which is fine for households like mine who have HBO (for now) assuming it is made available on On-demand.

However, what about all those households that can’t afford HBO? What about all those kids who do not have access to expanded cable, On-Demand, and whose families rely on PBS and broadcast Television because they cannot afford otherwise? Why are they getting forgotten about and screwed over?

It is disappointing that kids now and future generations may not have FREE access to the most current episodes of a show that has improved and changed the lives of so many for decades. It is disappointing that PBS even allowed this to happen. I would love to know who thought this was really a good idea.

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From my own bathroom

It makes me wonder where all that money went from product licenses for all those Sesame Street branded toys, clothing, and children’s items that parents have purchased over the years. Where did all that money go from all those Tickle Me Elmo’s that were the IT Christmas toy on and off for the last several years?

sesame

It also makes me wonder what the future holds for the show that is one of those educational cornerstones for so many American kids and still shown in so many classrooms and elementary schools. I should be curious to see just what HBO will do with the show…However, I am not. I am not because I am worried about what they will do TO the show. Why mess with something that is working just fine and that HAS been working just fine for FORTEY FIVE YEARS and you know they will.

There is a reason Sesame Street was on PBS, why it started on PBS way back 1969, and that reason was so ALL kids, rich, poor or in-between had access to the same quality educational programming. Something similar to that line is used every time PBS has their fundraising drives or tries selling one of their shows dvd’s. In fact, Sesame Street is now broadcast in 140 countries all on FREE public television.

I don’t get appalled by much, but I find this action, this course appalling. With this action between PBS and HBO, they are effectively saying that those kids and families who cannot afford HBO are essentially getting the educational leftovers. Unless of course, HBO decides to offer, their channel free of charge and we all know that is not going to happen.

 

(on a side note I have no recollection AT ALL of Elmo being on “the Street” in the 80’s but apparently he was)


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