The Wubulous World of Blogging

Being an author these days is a lot like being a carnival barker for a 1930s penny arcade or circus: you have to be able to sell your own work. If you’re self-published, you don’t have a publisher backing you up and are basically one shouting merchant in the marketplace from Raiders of the Lost Ark. And even if you have a publisher, your marketing is largely up to you.

So how should you go about it? Obviously, things like school author visits are a fantastic way to share your writing, but they don’t happen every day. You could hire Meryl the flying yak to bleat your name from the rooftops, but I don’t have that kind of cash.

Lots of authors also maintain a blog, which helps get their name out there. Having a blog lets potential readers get a sense of your personality, your interests, and just who the heck they’re buying books from But what should you blog about?

Well, if you’re like me, you blog about the intricacies of Scooby Doo, fast food, the ancient sport of lightsabers dueling, Sesame Street, gerbils, beards, and the dark god of the ‘90s known as the Furby. My blog is truly a place for those of high intellect and innate curiosity.

So head over to https://josephcaldaraauthor.com/blog/ and check out my musings. Just don’t take it too seriously. I don’t want to get angry letters from Furby fanboys.

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Reading Recommendations

When I visit with kids and parents about my own books, I’m often asked about books I recommend to young readers. I usually mention my own books first. Because, you know, books about cybernetic llamas don’t sell themselves.

But I do have several other suggestions of books for kids in roughly the same demographic as my readers. I decided it was high time I shared them:

1. Double Vision (Reading Level: 6th Grade and up)
Described as “James Bond for kids,” this series of books keeps the adventure and surprises coming at a rapid pace. The author, F.T. Bradley, has been a big help to me in my own writing endeavors.

2. Captain Underpants (Reading Level: 3rd Grade and up)
If I had to name only one book that got me into reading as a kid, it would be Captain Underpants. The misadventures of the two boys who transform their principal into a bombastic, briefs-wearing superhero has been beloved by kids for over twenty years, and the books were recently made into a movie.

3. Redwall (Reading Level: 5th Grade and up)
I started reading the Redwall books in sixth grade and devoured them like a starving poodle devours cupcakes. The books focus on small forest creatures such as mice, squirrels, and hedgehogs, who live in a medieval society. They go on epic quests, fight intense battles, and desperately try to defend their precious Redwall Abbey.

4. Treasure Island (Reading Level: 8th Grade and up)
There’s nothing wrong with the classics. Written in 1883, this book features adventure on the high seas, a treasure hunt, and an island full of mysteries. Treasure Island created many of the pirate tropes and traditions still seen in books and movies today and features some of my favorite characters in literature.

5. Two Dogs in a Trench Coat (Reading Level: 3rd Grade and up)
Though it hasn’t yet been released (the first book is set to come out next year), this series about two dogs who don a trench coat in order to follow their boy into the human world promises to be a lot of fun. One Scholastic editor recently described it as “the soul and essence of a Looney Tunes short [written] into a middle grade book.” I’m inclined to believe him.

6. Books based on movies, television shows, etc.
One of the best ways to get into reading is to read books based on franchises you already enjoy. Many movies and other media also have book adaptations. For example, there are mountains of Star Wars books, most of which are a lot of fun.

Feel free to email me for more reading recommendations, as these are really just the tip of the iceberg.

Review of “Animiximals” by Crystal Wenger

Before you read this post, I want you to think back. Way back, to your childhood, a time somewhere in-between the day you discovered hair underneath your armpits and that time you left the womb. A time when, if you were like me, you always looked forward to that special time of night when you would sit down with your mom or dad and hear them read you a story.

Most of the books I remember featured simple stories that were easy for kids to digest. I recall books like Corduroy, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and its oft-criticized sequel, The Diabetic, Morbidly-Obese Caterpillar.

But do you remember those…other books? The ones that didn’t have much of a story and instead just featured a long list of strange, whimsical creatures? I remember spending hours just staring at the pictures in books like There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and feeling a different set of emotions hit me each time I flipped to a new page like a thousand base-jumping hamsters landing gently on my skull.

Animiximals is such a book of goofy creatures, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to not just entertain, but to inspire their children. This isn’t just an imaginative book; there are plenty of those. It’s a book that sparks a child’s imagination.

Animiximals, written by Crystal Wenger, features a plethora of bizarre-looking creatures, each one a combination of two or more animals. You’ll meet creatures like a Dopher (a dog/gopher) a batsquito (a bat/mosquito), a butterfox (a bufferfly/fox), and a fishkin (a fish/chicken), which I eat my fill of whenever I go to Arby’s.

Every one of the images in this book stamps itself onto your mind. When I read through Animiximals, I immediately thought about what I would have done with this book as a kid. And that would have been to grab some tracing paper and recreate my favorite creatures so I could hang them on my wall.

The art has a lot of subtle touches, too. For example, each miximal is pictured next to a tree, bush, or other plant, which gives the reader a sense of its size (the zoose, for example, could easily destroy Tokyo in an afternoon.)

But the book isn’t just pictures. Each creature is described in sing-song-y rhyme. The rhyming language will grab and hold onto a kid’s attention like a starving chihuahua onto a chicken wing. But the best part about these descriptions is that they ignite childrens’ imaginations and cause them to look beyond the illustrations. They’ll picture the animal’s personality, voice, and mannerisms in their heads.

For example, the squig “doesn’t sound at all like a squirrel or a pig. It does, however, moo like a cow, bleat like a goat and makes these awful disgusting sounds from its throat.” Any kid who hears that sentence will immediately picture a squirrel-pig creature walking around a pasture, mooing.

My favorite part of Animiximals was actually its length. This book doesn’t just show you a handful of silly creatures and call it a day. There are twenty-eight of these things lurking within the book’s pages. It’s a nice, long read for a child and keeps the nutty critters keep coming.

If you have a kid who’s outgrown Go, Dog, Go, but is a little young for Bob and the Cyber-Llama or War and Peace, check out Animiximals. This book is an imagination-builder, a book that’ll keep your kid in that fun, make-believe mindset long after you’re finished reading.

And now that I’m done with this review, I need to stop by Hobby Lobby. I’ve got to pick up some tracing paper…