Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Best Children’s Books to Teach About Diversity

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Following the global Women’s March, where kids of all ages marched alongside their parents in the name of equality and respect, you may be wondering how to talk to your own kids about what inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity really mean. And the good news is, the more you talk to them about diversity and accepting one another’s differences, the better equipped they will be to stand up to bullies at school. (more…)

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Q&A Series Part IV: How Does John and Crosley’s Friendship Develop?

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Welcome to Part IV in my Q&A series, where I answer questions you’ve asked through social media here on the blog! This week, I was asked, “How does your main characters’ friendship develop throughout the series?”

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For starters, Crosley picked out John to be his Night Buddy. There must have been a lot of reasons, but the only one Crosley mentions in the books is middle names. Crosley doesn’t have one, and neither does John, so they have this in common. Crosley thinks it makes you a little sharper to not have a middle name, if he’s being honest. And hey, we know that John is really sharp, and Crosley is definitely no slouch, so maybe there’s something in that reason. (more…)

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Q&A Series Part III: Why Did You Decide to Write for Children?

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Hi all! Welcome to Part III of my Q&A series, where I use this blog to answer the questions you have for me! Just a reminder, you can send your questions my way via commenting on my blog, or through my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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This week I’ve decided to answer a question I’ve gotten many times since Night Buddies was first released: “What made you decide to write books for children?”

The truth is, writing for children didn’t feel like a choice to me. The idea for Night Buddies (which you can read about in this blog post) came to me so strongly, and I knew it had to be written for children—for people like my son, who needed Crosley the red crocodile in his life and his bedtime stories. When I was younger, I thought one day I might be a writer, and I dabbled in writing short stories intended for an adult audience. But the first time I ever felt that I had written something worthy of being published for an audience was when I wrote Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, and I realized that writing for children was what I was meant to do after all.

Writing for children gives authors so much space for imagination, creativity, and fun. Kids are a fairly freeing audience to write for—all they are looking for in a book is to be entertained, and to be understood. They interact with characters like they would best friends, and once they are loyal to your story, they will love it for the rest of their lives. I love that I can create an entire world, be as goofy as I want, and work hard to make kids laugh instead of write something that seems “true” to real life. Writing for kids is a way to make me feel like a kid again.

But as fun and freeing as writing for children can be, it is also a tremendous responsibility. Writing a good book for children has the potential to turn them on or off to reading for the rest of their lives. But this is another way in which being an author of children’s books can be so rewarding; when you hear from a child whose life was changed by reading your book, you know all the work you put into writing it was more than worth it.

Who was your favorite author as a child? Did his or her work turn you into a lifelong reader? Let me know in the comments!

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Q&A Series Part 1: Where Do I Get My Inspiration?

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First off, I have some exciting news! At the most recent American Library Association Conference, all three of my Night Buddies books were proudly on display! You can see them there at the bottom of the shelf. Just want to say a MAJOR thank you to ALA for that amazing moment and photo opp!

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I was recently looking through my Goodreads page (for any of you who want to give me a follow, follow this link) and noticed that there are so many questions people have for authors like myself. So I thought it would be a great idea to start answering some reader questions here on my blog! Once a month I’m going to be answering your questions, so feel free to start sending them my way via Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads and I’ll make sure to answer every single one of them!

To start this new series off, I picked one of the most commonly asked author question: “Where did you get the inspiration to write your books?”

The truth is, inspiration—for every author—comes in a multitude of ways. But for me, the biggest reason I had for writing the Night Buddies series was my son, John.

As many of you know, I was a single father, and John and I had to find ways to entertain each other during our time together. What started out as reading stories before bedtime quickly escalated into creating our own stories, with our own beloved character…the red crocodile Crosley. After John had grown up, I wanted to find a way to keep our memories and Crosley alive, and share the stories we invented together with other young children who might enjoy them just as much as we did. And so, the Night Buddies: Adventures After Lights Out series was born.

Some other inspirations include the fact that I am a lifelong lover of books and reading, so the opportunity to write stories and help other people fall in love with books was a huge part of my decision to become an author. Stories by Roald Dahl were another inspiration; his imaginative worlds and the way he wrote for children have always inspired me as a children’s author.

And that just about covers it! Let me know via social media or in the comments below what questions you want answered next!

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National Indie Excellence Award Finalist Announcement!

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I’m so excited to announce that my third children’s book, Night Buddies Go Sky High, was announced to be a National Indie Excellence Award Finalist! We placed in the Chapter Book category among two other excellent titles (for a full list of winners, click here).

This is the first award Night Buddies Go Sky High has won, but makes the Night Buddies series an 8-time award winning series!

As an indie author, much of the time you wonder if your book matters in this large market, amid books backed by big-name publishers. But awards like the National Indie Excellence Awards (who have now been around for 10 years!) bring authors confidence and pride in the work they’ve put forth, as well as bring readers a great opportunity to give books they might otherwise not have known about a read.

I’m extremely grateful to NIEA for choosing my book as a finalist, as well as to all the readers who have believed in it all along. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now it’s time to celebrate!

What do you think of awards for indie authors? Have you ever discovered a book you love because they won an award? Let me know in the comments!

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What Happened to #BoysWhoRead?

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As many of you who have been following this blog for a while know, I started a campaign some time ago called Boys Who Read, which aims to encourage children and parents together to make reading an enjoyable habit in their lives. As a children’s author, father, and lifelong reader, I wholeheartedly believe that books are an important part of expanding a child’s inner life, helping them to understand the world and the people within it with greater empathy, compassion, and curiosity.

As C. Gordon puts it, “A book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter any other way.”

And don’t our children deserve to know the pleasure of walking on that red carpet?

I have written about it before, and I will write about it again: As parents, we need to encourage our children to turn off their screens, turn off the Netflix, and pick up a book once a day. But the approach with which we encourage them to do so is extremely important. If we treat reading a book like a recreational activity (you’ve finished your homework, now you can read!) and going to pick out a book like an exciting outing (why don’t we go out for ice cream and pick out a new book!), then their mindset will follow.

But what is also important in helping your children fall in love with reading, is choosing the right books. Which is why every day this week on Twitter and Facebook I will share a book I think your child will love, using the hashtag #BoysWhoRead. Follow along, and share your own book recommendations with the hashtag so that parents all over can benefit and help their child become lifelong readers themselves!

Let’s work together to create a new generation of #BoysWhoRead. Can’t wait to see what you all have to say!

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The 2016 New Year’s Resolution You and Your Child Need to Make

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We are just a few days away from the start of the new year, and with that typically comes a reflection, or an assessment, of where we are at, what we’d like to improve in our lives, and what we’d like the coming year to look like. Some people do this in list form, forming a number of goals, or resolutions, for the upcoming year, others choose one word they’d like to theme the next year of their life. However you do it, I know that you’re looking to make some New Year’s resolutions, and for parents, resolutions tend to involve figuring out how to better their children’s lives instead of just their own.

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But what if I told you I had a resolution that would improve 2016 for both you and your child/children?

For regular readers of this blog, you know what a big advocate I am of parents and children taking the time to read together. And as such, I like to promote the campaign, Boys Who Read, which encourages the younger generation to fall in love with reading while taking advantage of all the benefits that come with it! (Read this article for a list of benefits reading has on child development.)

So as 2016 is rolling in, I am going to challenge any of you parents out there to make a New Year’s resolution of spending at least ten minutes a day reading a book, or short story, or poem with your child. It will not only help them in the numerous ways listed in the article above, but it wall also help you to strengthen your parent/child bond, and maybe even encourage you to remember why reading books can be so much fun!

If you take my challenge, reach out and tell me via Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #BoysWhoRead, or send me a picture of what you and your child are going to read together this year! I’d also love to hear if any of you are going to start out the challenge with a Night Buddies book!

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Wishing you all the best New Year. Thank you for yet another amazing year on this blog, on social media, and at all of the book signings and events I met you at this year.

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Give The Ultimate Night Buddies Gift Package This Holiday Season!

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Hello all! I want to start by saying a massive thank you to those who made it out to Scuppernong Books this past Saturday for my Night Buddies reading. It was a blast!

As you all know, the holidays are coming up, and whatever you celebrate, gifts are likely to be involved. As a father and the starter of the Boys Who Read campaign, I’m a huge advocate for turning books into gifts for our children (you can read my 2015 recommendations here), however I am very aware that what most kids are expecting to receive are toys, toys, toys! But that doesn’t mean you have to pick one or the other—here are some of my recommendations for turning the Night Buddies books into a full-on gift package!

First, you’ll need the books. Give one, or give the whole set, but this is going to be what the entire package is based on. You can purchase the books from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble—the links for each are on the book pages of this website!

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Next, I recommend buying your child’s very own Crosley—or Crenwinkle! You can find all kinds of toy crocodiles online, but here’s my favorite. He’s red, just like Crosley!

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One of the most important components of the adventures Crosley and John go on in these books is the Far Out Flying Machine. While a Night Buddies-specific version is yet to be created, you can find all sorts of toy blimps out there, and most of them even fly! This is a great site with many different options, ranging from $13 to $250.

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And last but not least, the thing no Night Buddies fan can go without, you’ll want to get include in your gift a set of Whatchamacallits. I’d recommend getting a toy tool belt (this is a handy, cheap, and stylish one), and filling it with whatchamacallits that make easy DIY projects! I have a blog post explaining how best to make some of Crosley’s favorites and most-used whatchamacallits here.

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And that gives you a pretty complete gift, filled with Night Buddies fun! Be sure to let me know and send me pictures via Facebook or Twitter (@Night_Buddies) if you choose to give a Night Buddies gift to your child this holiday season!

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Top 5 Books to Buy Your Children This Holiday Season

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Chances are, your kids’ Christmas/holiday gift lists consist of toys and technology (iPads seem to be one of the biggest hits), but what about putting a relatively cheap, simple, and thoughtful gift under the tree that your children can cherish their entire lives? Giving books as presents will help your kids to see books as fun rather than as associated with boring schoolwork, and the stories they fall in love with at young ages can turn them into lifelong readers. The trick to all of this is just picking the right book! Here are my top 5 favorite children’s books that will make wonderful stocking stuffers this season!

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat. This children’s book is for younger readers (it features illustrations, but is broken up into chapters), and it made the American Library Association’s list of Notable Books for 2015! The short description is as follows: “In four delightful chapters, Beekle, an imaginary friend, undergoes an emotional journey looking for his human. Vibrant illustrations add to the fun.” Definitely a fun story that will stick with your children throughout their lives…and it’s a fun one to read together with your kids as well.

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Beautiful Moon…A Child’s Prayer, by Tanya Bolden. This is a great one for the holiday season when you’re trying to teach your kids about gratitude and helping others. It follows the prayers of a boy thinking about the homeless, the hungry, those at war, and his family in a beautiful, touching way that is still accessible to children. It is another on the American Library Association’s List of Notable Books for 2015, and I’d say it’s placement is well earned!

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The Boys Book of Survival (How to Survive Anything, Anywhere), by Guy Campbell. This one is a sillier book for a bit older children, ages 8-12. The Amazon summary says, “Lost in the desert? Stuck in quicksand? Confronted by a man-eating tiger? Trapped at a school dance? Fear not, brave reader! With this essential survival guide, you’ll find a way to get yourself out of every imaginable predicament, whether it’s an avalanche or a zombie invasion!” It’s a fun, easy read that kids don’t have to devour all at once—the perfect gift for guys and girls looking for a fun, mostly practical, and interesting read.

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The Chocolate Touch, by Margot Apple. This book is a spin-off of the classic King Midas and the Golden Touch story, but features a greedy chocolate lover who might end up finally tiring of his favorite food. It’s silly, it’s cute, and it’s a fun read. Plus, I’m always a fan of spin-off books—let’s keep those old classic tales alive!

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And of course, I can’t help but recommend the Night Buddies series! These books are easy enough reads that any child can find themselves getting sucked into the stories, but feature a broad enough vocabulary and interesting slang that will help them become better readers. I always incorporate a theme of friendship and teamwork into each book, which make them great reads for the holiday season!

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Were you ever given a book as a gift? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Obstacles Children’s Authors Face, and How to Get Past Them

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Hi All! Before I get into this week’s blog post, I do have an announcement to make.

Coming up on December 5th, I will be holding a reading and signing at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro at 11 a.m.

I am so excited for this event. Holding readings where I can listen to kids’ reactions, see their smiles, and meet people who have shown an interest in my stories is one of the most rewarding experiences a children’s author can have. However, children’s authors (and all authors, at that) face a number of obstacles every day that make these rewarding experiences all the sweeter. Here are a few typical obstacles children’s authors face, and my tips on how to make the most of those difficulties.

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The number of children’s books on the shelves. How do we get our books to stand out among not only all the new children’s books coming out every day, but also among all the old classics (Roald Dahl books, Junie B. Jones, etc.)? Parents will often want to read their children the same books they loved as children, and they’ll pick up other, newer books as other parents recommend them.

So how do you make this obstacle work for you? Promote your books among parenting websites, among the parents in your town, among mommy and daddy bloggers—anyway you can think of to reach parents with your books, this is how you will get your book to stand out. Word of mouth is the best promotion tool there is!

Finding an original story to tell. Children’s books tend to want to promote good, moral values to children. But how many books can be written about being kind, sharing, finding self-assurance, being a good friend…the list goes on and on. The types of characters that interest children tend to be limited as well, with countless stories featuring princesses, and dragons, and animals, and magicians or wizards.

So how do you overcome this challenge? My biggest piece of advice is to focus on your characters. Maybe on the outside your story could seem like just another stereotypical, archetypal story, but if you put in the time to flesh-out your characters, your story will be original. Just like no two people are exactly the same, no two characters, if written well enough to seem like real people, will be the same either.

Balancing writing and a day job. Writing children’s books will not make you a living. Yes, I know there are exceptions (JK Rowling certainly made more than enough money to live on with Harry Potter), but don’t expect to be the exception. Most children’s book authors also need a day job in order to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. And it’s hard to come home from a day job and get back to that book that may or may not stand out and may or may not be original enough of a story to tell, but they have to do it anyway if they ever hope to put a book out to struggle in this world.

Overcoming this challenge is simple—choose writing. Choose to put in the effort. Sit down every day. Give your hands to your day job, but give your soul to your writing. You might not make money, you might not be the next massive success, but you will be able to fulfill your calling to be a children’s author, and hopefully touch a few readers’ lives.

No obstacle in the world should stop you from doing what you feel called to do. And no obstacle in the world will stop me from writing Night Buddies books.

What obstacles have you encountered as an author, or in following whatever passion you have? Have you found a way of coping with those obstacles? Let me know in the comments!

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Children's Museum of Alamance County
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