Interview on Writers & Authors on Fire Podcast

Want to hear a bit about how I come up with ideas and write my books? Check out the newest Writers and Authors on Fire podcast with John Vonhof!

As John interviews me on this podcast, we cover:

  • How to tell if your book idea is a good one (and how to find the BEST one).
  • Tips for writing a book series
  • The best writing advice I’ve ever received
  • Authors who inspire me
  • Great resources for creating ebooks
  • and much, much more.

View full show notes on the Writers and Authors on Fire website here.

And be sure to subscribe to John’s Writers and Authors on Fire podcast because every week he has inspiring and insightful interviews from writers from all over the world!

Owlegories, a Gospel-Centered Animated Series for Kids [Review]

Owlegories is a new animated series from Thomas and Julie Boto, who created Owlegories “because we wanted a fun way to teach our kids about our great God and His amazing love for us.” It’s geared to ages 8 and under.

The DVD, which is labeled “Volume 2,” features three 20-minute episodes—The Ant, The Fruit, and The Butterfly.

  • The Ant is about working together and finding three ways followers of Christ should be like ants.
  • The Fruit is about collecting fruit and learning about about the Fruit of the Spirit.
  • The Butterfly is about discovering three ways a follower of Christ is like a caterpillar.

In each episode, the five owls—Joey, Nora, Violet, Gus and Twitch—are sent on an adventure by their Professor. When they accomplish their mission, they’ve learned that episode’s lesson.

In all three episodes, the owl heroes have their plans challenged by a hummingbird named Fink and a bumbling, conniving owl named Devilin.

Owlegories DVDThe characters are self-aware, sometimes breaking the fourth wall and talking about the animators. The best thing about the series is the humor. It’s packed with it. There are plenty of re-watchable moments here, too. And with the top notch animation and overall presentation, there’s no reason this shouldn’t do well and start showing up on Saturday morning Christian television.

The episodes do borderline on being too preachy at times. The owls read a pledge every episode, quote scriptures and are straight-up given biblical lessons in their “Theowlogy Class.” The creators are so creative, I would have preferred if they’d creatively constructed the episodes to ramp up the humor even more since that’s their strength, and leave the plain spoken teaching for the animated recap and the nice vignettes by Christian leaders after each episode (Trillia Newbell, Angie Smith and Robert Morris). This short wrap-up is like a children’s church object lesson and is an addition parents will love. Though, in my real-life litmus test, my 7-year-old—who laughed out load with each episode, knew the character’s names by the end of episode two, and wanted to restart when they were over—lost interest every time the “real life person” started talking.

The DVD also includes an Extras section that has a slew of nine “Optical Owlusions,” which best as I can figure is the creator’s kids playing around with the video software. Kids and objects disappear and reappear on screen…and make you wonder why these appear on the DVD at all. Kids will likely enjoy checking them out once, but there’s certainly no replay value especially since this sort of thing is all over YouTube. A song video from the Ant episode, however, provides more promise and reminds you of a Veggietales silly song with Larry. Wish there had been more of these. Maybe they’ll make a future DVD/CD set full of them.

The creators also included a short presentation about why they made Owlegories.

Overall: Recommended.

Find out more about Owlegories at where you can also download their app.

You can get the Owlegories Vol. 2 DVD at FishFlix for $9.99, and if you sign up for their email list, you can get $5 off that. (You can also get that savings by texting 5-GIFT to 44222.) Not bad! They have plenty of other Christian DVDs, too.

Disclosure: I received this Owlegories DVD free from the FishFlix review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Age Are Your Books Written For? [Reader Question]

“What age are your books written for?”

I get this question quite often, and the answer is both easy and difficult.

The easy answer is, for most my books, “middle graders.” If you go to your local bookstore and look for my Super Sleuth Investigator mysteries, or if you see a magazine ad for the Commander Kellie and the Superkids adventures, you’ll see that both are listed as “for middle graders.” Same with the Amazing Laptop series.

What Is a Middle Grader?

“Middle grade” is generally classified as that grade between childhood and teenage years–specifically ages 8-12. (Sometimes broadened to ages 7-13.) Though the term isn’t as popular as it once was, some people call them “tweens,” which is short for “in-betweens.”

The problem with such classification is that it pigeonholes readers, and–let’s face it–we’re all different.

Over the years I’ve received emails from 17- and 18-year-olds telling me how much they love the Superkid series. I’ve also received emails from parents of 7-year-olds telling me the same. Ironically, neither are in the “middle grade” market! When it comes right down to it, books are books and even as an adult, I love a good middle-grade novel. Hey, I enjoy a good picture book. But then again, I’m a children’s writer, so maybe that doesn’t count. Sure, me and that 17-year-old are getting something completely different out of a novel than a 7-year-old might be getting, but that’s the beauty of the written word.

I’m tempted, given this divide, to just label my own books as for “ages 7 and up.” But that’s the difficult answer, because it doesn’t fly in a bookstore.

Targeting to Middle Graders

Truth be told, in the end, I embrace writing for a specific genre. It gives me something to shoot for as an author. I know if I write a book targeted at 8-12-year-olds, I’ll hit my mark. I write what interests them, in a language that speaks to them, but invite anyone who wants a good adventure story that packs a punch to pick up the book.

(By the way, if you want to learn more about writing for children and learning about the breakdown of ages and interests, you might enjoy my Children’s Writing Super System online video course, where I talk a lot about this.)

So if you’re looking for a good, action-packed middle-grade novel with a solid moral message you can trust, then you’ve come to the right place. That’s who I write books for. Well, them and anyone else who enjoys a fun read.

Christopher P.N. Maselli

Read World’s Longest Thank You Note (Call Me Ishmael)

April 30, 2016

Proud to be on the “World’s Longest Thank You Note” for Call Me Ishmael, a unique project that places fun phones in libraries, schools and bookstores. When patrons pick up the phone, they hear audio-recorded messages from other readers around the world, helping them discover great books.

They began their Kickstarter project last November and blew it out of the ballpark with a whopping $23,785 donated from 537 backers!

See if you can find yours truly on the note—joining the project in honor of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Vermont, a bookstore with great ties to the Vermont College MFA program I attended.

Thank you for celebrating reading, Call Me Ishmael!

Christopher P.N. Maselli

How to Get Your Kids to LOVE Reading

April 22, 2016

Occasionally parents ask, “How can I get my son to love reading?” or “What can I do to get my daughter to start reading regularly?”

As a parent, we have a responsibility to be diligent in helping our kids find their way to reading paradise. Here are the three keys we’ve worked to instill with our children when it comes to reading.

Get Your Kids to LOVE Reading by Finding a Subject They Love

When I was a kid, I didn’t enjoy reading much at all. In fact, I didn’t read much until I was a preteen. Why? Because that’s when I was introduced to “V.” It was a TV mini-series about a band of resistance fighters who fought human-feasting aliens. Absolutely silly, but I loved the show. And when they came out with a series of novels based on the show, I had to have them. I went from barely reading at all to reading 300+ page books written for adults. I loved the subject and it made all the difference.

Thankfully, my parents didn’t stop me from reading because they didn’t like the subject themselves.

They realized it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. So find what makes your kid tick—maybe a sport, a technology, or a certain animal, and then find books to match their passion.

Help Your Kids LOVE Reading by Finding a Format That’ll Ease Them In

That said, full-length adult novels aren’t where most kids enter the market. My own boys started regular reading with graphic novels. As boys, they’re visual, so the comic-like graphic novel was the perfect solution.

I was at the library one day and heard a mother steer her child away from the comics stating, “No, Henry, those aren’t real books.” Sadly, she missed an opportunity. Of course, in this genre, parents must check out the comic first to make sure it’s not too violent or filled with steamy images, but that aside, there are a LOT of great comics and graphic novels out there to get your kids interested in reading.

Format is also a reason so many parents appreciate my solve-it-yourself mysteries. In fact, my 5-Minute-Mysteries in Adventures in Odyssey’s Clubhouse magazine are consistently a reader favorite. Is it because of my literary genius? I wish. The truth is, they’re fun. They’re quick, easy and interactive. They have clues and sometimes involve science. They’re clever. Those things override any hangups a boy or girl has about reading. Before you know it, they’re “graduating” from a 5-minute-mystery to a full-length historical article. Then a book. It was all part of the plan.

Get Your Kids to LOVE Reading by Finding a Time That Works

Ask yourself when your child is most open to reading and make it easy to read at that time. It could be before they go to bed, as something to do before the TV is allowed to come on, as an in-the-car activity, or before their friends come knocking each day.

I even think it’s fine to let reading be a “chore”—because it’s a pretty fun one, and certainly within your child’s ability. When reading becomes a gate to other activities, and it’s something they know they have the power to do, kids will walk through the gate…and often linger to enjoy more than they’d planned.

Help Your Kids to LOVE Reading When You Make It Interactive

And, of course, there’s something about reading together that’s magical between a parent and child. Whether it’s five minutes before bed to help your child wind down, in the morning over devotions, or after dinner during a little family time, reading can be a family event. Alternate reading paragraphs, use funny voices…or just quietly read your own books together in the same room.

How do you get your son or daughter to enjoy reading time? You make it part of their life.

How have you helped your kids creatively enjoy reading time? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Christopher P.N. Maselli

photo credit: Dad and son reading a book via photopin (license)

How to Create a Reading Environment in Your Home

April 19, 2016

As parents, we want our kids to develop a love for reading, and part of that comes through creating a reading environment in which they can thrive. When you do, they’ll begin to appreciate the written word even more. Here’s how:

Create a Reading Environment by Buying Bedside Lamps

Reading before bed or for the first 15-minutes of “lights out” can feel like getting away with something. It’s a great way to help young ones transition from a fast-paced day to a good slumber. Get them some good reading lamps and they’ll be ready to go. My favorite are these 4-Watt LED Flex Neck Clip-ons from Amazon.They’re bright yet dimmable, they don’t get hot, and they easily clip to a headboard. And at $14.99 they’re well worth it, and since they’re LEDs they’ll last a very long time.

Improve Your Reading Environment with a Trip to the Library

It’s easy to forget they’re there, but your local, free public library often has a revolving selection of the latest and greatest children’s books. Let your kids pick out their own titles, no matter what they are (age-appropriate, of course). With invested interest, they’ll be much more likely to read them when they get home. These can sit right by their bedside lamp, ready to have their spine broken open.

Create an Environment for Reading by Filling Some Bookshelves

If you don’t have a bookcase of children’s books in your house, now’s the time to get one. When my children started reading, I hit garage sales one Saturday morning to find sellers offering boxes of books for 10¢-25¢ each. When I found a good selection, I’d offer them a discounted price for the whole box and move on. By the time I got home, we had shelves full of age-appropriate children’s books. We put this right in our game room so whenever the kids went to play, books were there beside their dolls, Legos and action figures.

The Ultimate Reading Environment Hack: Let Them See You Reading

Kids imitate their parents, and if they see you reading and enjoying a good book, they’re more likely to do it themselves. You can compound this point by talking about books, too. Over dinner, ask open-ended questions about the books your kids are reading, and talk about what you’re reading. Talk about plot lines, what characters are doing and what are the funniest/scariest/saddest parts of your current stories.

Make your home an environment that perpetuates the power of the written word…and help your kids discover a lifelong love for reading!

Have any other tips for creating a great reading environment? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Christopher P.N. Maselli

photo credit: The summer room via photopin (license)
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