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Reviews for Moon Puppets, Also Sandwiches

I received my first review for Moon Puppets! I avoided the whole nervous trope thing–making someone else read it first because I was afraid of what it would say. Instead, I couldn’t click the links in the email fast enough to read it. I was super excited to see my work reviewed by a stranger and posted on such a wonderful site like Indies Today. Here’s part of the review by Nicky Flowers:

“Flora Figglesworth is an adventurous young girl with one ambitious goal: Flora wants to broadcast shadow puppets on the moon for the entire world to enjoy! It’s a tall order, so she will need a little help and a lot of ingenuity. Moon Puppets uses a rhythmic method to convey a lovely story for young children. Vivid illustrations add a touch of whimsy to a well told story of a child reaching out to achieve a goal.”

You can read the full review of the book here: Moon Puppets by Baxter Bramatti | Indies Today

Moon Puppets also recently received a five coffee cup review by the Caffeinated Reviewer. Which is great, because the coffee cups are like stars but better because they are filled with coffee. Yes, I’ll take five cups of coffee, please. The Caffeinated Reviewer is a fantastic site for authors, including indie authors. When Kimberly, the Caffeinated Reviewer, reviews picture books, she reads them to her grandchildren to get their reactions too. Kimberly says Moon Puppets is “delightful, educational and imaginative” and you can read her full review of the book here.

On the same day that Indies Today posted my book, I noticed that my good friend, Molly, over at her lovely blog, Belle and Roses, gave my book a nice shout-out, saying, “It’s a rhyming book, which is so fun, the pictures are delightful, and my girls constantly choose it as their snack time story.” Thanks for the support, Molly, and I’m glad your girls like it! Even better than my book being on her post is the mention of her new found love of cucumber and peanut butter sandwiches. I love sandwiches. Please, everyone, share all of your sandwich recipes and ideas with me.

Sandwiches. Yummy sandwiches. Gimme. But I’ll take that whole one. Not gonna mess around with that half-sandwich nonsense…unless it’s to finish it and then eat the other half.
Pic source: Belle and Roses

If you’re interested in owning a copy of Moon Puppets, you can purchase it anywhere books are sold online or just click here for the Amazon link. The ebook is also free to download if you have Kindle Unlimited subscription. Not sure about grabbing a copy? Why not make yourself a sandwich while you think about it?

If You Are

This is part of the 5xFat series. The 5xFat series is a collection of musically inspired writing. I listen to one selected music creation by DJX on repeat while I write until I have some semblance of a finished piece. DJX posts a new creation each day so you can check out his YouTube page daily for more beats; I’m not that efficient so check back here often for new works. Feel free to be inspired by the music or words and do your own thing. We would love for you to share your creations with us in the comments here or DJX’s YouTube page.

You plant your feet on the ground. You tilt your chin up, adjusting the angle of your face to better absorb the sunlight. You feel the gentle breeze caress your cheeks. You smile.

The breeze grows stronger and with it, your smile wider. You hold the arm straps of your pack tight. You start to feel a soft pull at your back at first. The force tightens. You can no longer resist; you can no longer remain stationary.

You are pulled backwards. Your feet slowly scrape along the dirt and gravel. You do not panic. You continue to grip your arm straps and smile, eyes closed and your eyelids sopping up sunlight.

The ropes are fully taught. You don’t need to check them. The force of their pull replaces gravity. The wind takes over, opening the parachute and hauling you into the sky. 

There is no more ground beneath your feet.

You rise above the earth. You open your eyes but you don’t look down. You scan the heavens. You smile wider.

You float. The wind pushes. Your parachute ascends. You are a dandelion seed, if you are anything anymore.

You reach your destination. The parachute descends like a feather to your feet. You smile your biggest smile. You grab the ropes of your parachute and slowly, carefully, pull it towards you. You fold it neatly and gently place it in your pack.

You cannot remove the backpack. The arm straps will always be there. The parachute is at your back, if you wish to use it.

But you won’t.

Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay

Accordion Streets

This is part of the 5xFat series. The 5xFat series is a collection of musically inspired writing. I listen to one selected music creation by DJX on repeat while I write until I have some semblance of a finished piece. DJX posts a new creation each day so you can check out his YouTube page daily for more beats; I’m not that efficient so check back here often for new works. Feel free to be inspired by the music or words and do your own thing. We would love for you to share your creations with us in the comments here or DJX’s YouTube page.

I walk the same lonely streets
on loop.
Silent canvas shoes 
soften concrete.
The people here
are placeholders of time
occupying present memories
without feeling;
without a destination.

I walk the same lonely streets;
the accordion streets.
They stretch thin–
I cross with one
G    I    A    N    T       S    T    E    P
They grow wide–
I’m
        dodging
| c |     | b |     | b |
| a |     | u |     | i |
| r |     | s |     | k |
| s |     | e |     | e |
|    |     | s |     | s |
They gush and ripple–
I’m            hop-            -ping
                   on
                  logs,
r     ing t    e                   e riv
   id         h     fl         f th        e
                          ow o                 r

I walk the same lonely streets
until I                        stumble;
until I sink beneath concrete;
until my lungs fill with stone;
until I pull myself up;
until I purge dust and sand from my being;
until I reach my destination. 

Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

Two Trains

This is part of the 5xFat series. The 5xFat series is a collection of musically inspired writing. I listen to one selected music creation by DJX on repeat while I write until I have some semblance of a finished piece. DJX posts a new creation each day so you can check out his YouTube page daily for more beats; I’m not that efficient so check back here often for new works. Feel free to be inspired by the music or words and do your own thing. We would love for you to share your creations with us in the comments here or DJX’s YouTube page.

This piece is intended for both beats. Listen in any order.

Two trains
move at different speeds.

The first barrels down the track.
It hopes nothing stands in its way. 
It hopes to avoid the inevitable destruction
it will cause.
The precious cargo it carries
is hope.

The second is cautious.
It moves slowly as to not wake the sleepy dreamers
in their cozy beds,
moonlight smeared across their faces.
But the train is old.
It rattles;
it shakes the dreamers awake.
The hazardous cargo it carries
is fear.

Two trains
or is it one?

A look to one side
and you are lost
in open wilderness.
Mountains backdrop meadows
of wildflowers
and peaceful beasts.

The view across the train
displays towering cityscapes
and pressing concrete walls
with frantic, hasty graffiti
you cannot read.

Two trains
conducting your mind.

Image by Ein Kaffee from Pixabay

A Quarantined Book Release Party

I want to preface this post by acknowledging that a lot of people, a lot of families are struggling and suffering in terms of physical and mental health and finances due to the COVID19 outbreak. This post is in no way meant to be a “woe is me–I couldn’t do the thing I want to do” kind of thing. On the same note, I do believe we can complain and sit in our own self-pity about whatever we want. Our lives are constantly affected in new ways and I do my fair share of complaining these days, especially about the country’s toilet paper situation.

But no complaints here. This post is a “thank you,” a tribute, an acclamation to my wife.

Any fantasy I’ve ever had about releasing a book and throwing myself a party to promote and announce the work (but most importantly, to receive pats on the back and congratulatory nonsense from friends and family because hey, I did this and I’m allowed to be thrilled about it) died on March 13. That was the day the state of Michigan started promoting staying at home, and it was eleven days before my book was set to be released. Should I change the date? I thought about it for a little while but decided I didn’t want to do that. Too much time and energy and late nights and editing and revising and creating had gone into getting it ready for that date. The release was already delayed a few times for technical reasons. I was sticking with March 24 knowing that none of my fantasies about the launch would be realized.

And trust me, I’m a dreamer, so I have fantasies about everything. I imagined all of it: the miraculous sale of millions of copies of my book; #1 spots at the top of best-selling lists; the dreamt-about-too-many-times instant contract with Disney to turn my work into an animated short or feature film; and a friendly invitation to appear for a guest spot on Sesame Street. None of those things were going to happen, you know, because of COVID19 (and only because of COVID19, right?).

But something I never imagined took place instead: I got a surprise book release party with my wife and my kids.

I knew my wife had something in the works when she ordered me to spend an hour or two away from her and the kids and quarantined me in another part of the house (which I have to admit was nice in and of itself since alone time for any of us is rare these days). But I didn’t know exactly what they were up to until the big reveal that night.

What I didn’t know is that something greater than anything I imagined was going to take place.

When I was called to the basement for the big surprise, my kids jumped out of their hiding spot (after I pretended not to see them hiding under a desk, of course). They were wearing purple shirts, the same color Flora wears in my book, Moon Puppets. And they taped yellow cut-out stars to their shirts to make them look even more like Flora. I couldn’t believe it. Not only were they just as enthusiastic as I was, but the fact that they left the paper stars on and didn’t destroy them right away (the younger one lost hers while dancing a little later) and were genuinely excited to wear and show them made me feel better than any contract with Disney could have made me feel. So I felt emotionally richer, obviously not financially richer, okay? Let’s not kid ourselves.

My wife hung banners that she made with the kids to celebrate the release of the book. And she baked chocolate chip cookies to represent the moon and made star-shaped grape Jell-O cutouts.

“She’d use the cookies as the moon and the Jell-O as the sky. Her first attempt proved scrumptious, I gave both of them a try!”
That’s for all you Moon Puppets fans out there!

Then my older daughter presented me with a gift. When I opened the box I found a small pipe cleaner model of Flora herself. I couldn’t believe that she made the fragile little doll. It made me so proud to see that she was inspired by something I created to create her own special thing. The moment captured the true essence of the whole self-publishing process for me: create something positive and put it out there without fear of judgement.

I mean look at this! The kid doesn’t even know what Etsy is!

I couldn’t believe the detail to their party, it didn’t matter that no one else was there, that I wasn’t sharing the moment with more people, strangers even. It mattered to my family, to my wife, to make sure I got a book release party for my first book. A party so good, I’m not sure I deserved it.

How to Announce a Book Release to Family

This past Christmas Eve, as my family gathered around the Christmas tree after eating way too much Middle Eastern food (which has become a Christmas Eve tradition among my Italian-American family…garlic, yum), I finally broke the news to everyone that I was going to be self-publishing my first book in 2020.

Talking about doing so, especially with close family, is a lot different than writing about it to a bunch of strangers. Strangers don’t ask many questions, if any at all. Strangers take information in and then they continue scrolling through their social media feeds. Family on the other hand, they want to know things. While I was excited to make the announcement to my wife, children, parents, and the rest of my loved ones, I was still apprehensive.

I figured the best way to get it over with was to tell them the truth: I had to tell them the story about how the book came to be.

I told them that in the previous spring I met someone special online. And then that special person and I started to develop a relationship. It was fast-paced and exciting at first, but then naturally slowed enough to where we began growing comfortable with each other. Then I hit my family with the big news: that about nine months after meeting this person, he and I were having a baby (I admit my wife knew about the book and played along well, she had this serious look on her face and she just kept nodding in agreement to what I was saying, which was hard for everyone else to figure out if she was excited or disappointed with what I was sharing).

I got raised eyebrows from my family members. I got questions about who the person was and what exactly I was talking about, which worked well to avoid questions about my writing and about the book.

The only logical thing to do next was to tell them that I had a picture of the ultrasound. I handed my mom an envelope. She hesitated to open it, even trembling a little, afraid to view the contents. Inside the envelope, though, was a print out of the book’s cover and the first page of the story.

They were happy for me. As was expected and as it should be. I then answered their questions about the book as best I could, and about the very special someone I met online, Taylor Graham. Taylor was amazing to work with and his beautiful art has brought on a bigger life for Flora FIgglesworth and her adventure than I ever thought was possible.

Now that my family knows about the book, I hope they buy it.

Illustrations

Some people have asked me why I did’t create the illustrations for my upcoming book, Moon Puppets, myself. Well, you know what they say: pictures speak louder than words. Trouble is, my pictures scream nonsense at you.

This is Mort McClaw. I concocted him when my daughter asked me to draw a “fighting wrestle monster.” He was supposed to have the power of moving rocks with his mind but instead he ended up thinking about chocolate chip cookies. I’m thinking about chocolate chip cookies now too. You too? Good. Send me some.

I’m happy to leave the illustrations for Moon Puppets to the super talented Taylor Graham.

Sick Joke

Clearly the savage who placed the box of Kleeex on a table doesn’t know that the proper placement of Kleenex boxes are on the top of toilet tanks.
Image by Alberto Adán from Pixabay

You’re on your third week of having a sinus infection (you know your mom’s right, you should go to the doctor) and the most soul-crushing and hurtful thing you have to go through is dealing with the last few tissues in a box of Kleenex. You wonder what heartless individual working at Kleenex had the sick idea to wad up the last ten tissues in the box and make it impossible to retrieve just one in a civilized fashion.

Oh, but just pull one out slowly,” they say. “You know they do that because it’s supposed to let you know that the box is almost empty and it will soon be time to replace it,” they tell you.

But you can’t pull it out slowly when you have a newborn-baby-mustard-poop-like substance Niagara Falls-ing out of your nostrils. You’re ripping those tissues out of the box like your grabbing cash in a fan-flurried money booth. And since you can’t pull it out slowly, in one quick movement you’ve managed to fling the box across the bathroom as you watch the bottom wad of Kleenex descend like white-winged angels upon the back of your toilet seat. You look at the fallen tissues, your nose tingles and your eyes water. You can’t use them. Wait, when was the last time you cleaned the toilet? It wasn’t that long ago. But you did pee recently. You’re aim is decent but the last time you went you sneezed, causing your line to stray from its intended trajectory (if you were standing), or causing increased pressure to create the possibility of too much splashing that you can’t say for certain doesn’t exist (if you were sitting). You can’t use those tissues. They are trash now; wasted opportunities at breathing freely. Try not to cry as you throw them away, it will just make your nose run more. 

So now you look down at your hand, and oh look, what’s that you’re holding? One tissue! It’s the one you ripped out of the box so violently. Good for you, you hung on to it. But yeah, that is, in fact, the last one. I guess you are aware now that it’s time for a new box of Kleenex; their plan worked!

You open a new box, if you’re lucky enough to have another, and you realize that the Kleenex packaging engineer did the same thing to the first tissue in the box. If you take your time with it, you’ll be able to pull out the top one without ripping it and cram the rest of the opening wad back into the box at the same time snot uses your philtrum as an irrigation ditch to get to your mouth.

So yeah, it’s time to call the doctor and get that antibiotic.

The Holidays: Jeff Bezos’s Tupperware Party

The holiday spirit was dead: to begin with.

Those ornaments look delish! Jeff really outdid himself this year!
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Product parties. At some point in your life you’ve sat through a demo of Avon, tried on some Color Street nails, wondered how many people fondled the sex toy you held in your hands, tasted a Tastefully Simple cheese dip, stuck different candles to your nose to sniff them and wondered how many people had fondled them before you, or breathed in the fragrant air of a Scentsy wax and were glad you didn’t have to touch anything.

And you hated it. You hated all of it. You hated the cheap crackers and the plastic cheese the host served. You hated the chocolate cake you made and brought to share because you could tell everyone just thought it was fine and you knew they all forgot about it by the next day. You hated the mixing of the smells from all the products. You hated the fact that you could no longer distinguish one smell from one another after sniffing only the first three of the forty. You hated that you had to pretend you had preferences. You hated the people there for saying that they liked one scent more than another even though you knew they, too, could not distinguish the smells. You hated the host who invited you. You hated the product.

But you bought some anyway. You spent money on an item you were certain was overpriced, an item you never even dreamed you’d purchase in all of your life. You bought those candles that sit unburned in a drawer somewhere in your house; those containers that have only ever contained the air they were packaged with; that sex toy that has never left the trunk of your car, because at the time you bought it you weren’t aware that it came with a free bonus order of shame and embarrassment.

Even after making your guilty and regrettable purchases, and knowing that you hated the whole product party experience, you went to another. And another. Heck, you might have even hosted one of your own.

And don’t tell me you haven’t done this. You have. You do it at least once a year. Your parties are called many things: Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or simply “The Holidays.” Jeff Bezos is the host and he kindly invites everyone, including you.

It’s a new shower curtain from Amazon* today, because you know you’re not cleaning that thing before people come over, and a turkey from Whole Foods tomorrow. It’s an unnecessary purchase of a Nespresso machine only because it was on sale. Forty-two percent off is a good deal, I won’t argue with that, mathematically speaking. It all happens so fast while you stand around uncomfortably in your dress-up close, holding in your farts. It’s just like that Pampered Chef party you went to years ago. You know, the one where Janice shot you that disapproving look after you took the last helping of the only edible dip they let you try. Only this time it’s not Janice. This time it’s Aunt Betty because the girlfriend you brought this year gave her opinion about the green bean casserole, simply saying it was “fine.”

You don’t want to be at these Bezos product parties either. You’d rather be home in your comfy clothes while your uncontrollable children climb on you and add stains to your sweatpants that are slowly becoming their abstract artwork. Instead, you’re at the Holiday Product Party and your children do the same, except now it’s to your nice sweater, you know, the one you bought specifically for these kinds of product parties, and now your kids’ filthy hands are ruining it. And it’s so hot. You wish you could take it off, but you can’t, that is even if you can get your kids off of you first.

You’ll tough it out though. What else can you do? You’ve spent so much time making regrettable and guilty purchases in the days and weeks leading up to the party that you can’t go home yet. You have to stay for the dessert you made. You know, the green Jell-O salad that will make you sick to your stomach as you watch everyone around you force it down because they’re so full of food but you brought it and they have to at least try it, only if it’s just a little bit. “Oh no, a little less than that, please. Oh, well, that’s okay, I’ll share it with Bill.” Yikes, now Bill has been roped into eating some. Doesn’t Bill have diabetes?

You’ll certainly look forward to the silent and dark days of January and you’ll be glad when it’s all over. But you’ll do it all again the next time there’s a product party. Whether it’s because of some innate guilt or a desire to punish yourself, you’ll be back next year with the same sweater, the same gift cards, and the same green Jell-O salad. You know it’s all a scam and you are aware that the only people that truly benefit are the hosts like Jeff Bezos. But next year he’ll figure out a way to sell you that new Roomba you missed this time around.

Oh, you bought enough Scentsy wax and Tupperware throughout the year to give away at your Holiday Product Party! Smart!
Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

*Disclaimer: I do understand the dichotomy I have presented between this post and the fact that I will be self-publishing my first book using Amazon’s services real soon, so there’s no need to call me out on that. Instead, stay tuned for more posts with hyperlinks to products on Amazon and be sure to use them to buy the book for your next holiday product party!

Basil

It smells like my uncle.
It smells like my mom.
It smells like her sauce
’cause her sauce is the bomb.

It smells like my cousins.
It smells like my dad
when he ate all the leftovers
and made me feel sad.

It smells like my brother,
except for his feet.
He can make some mean meatballs
and it smells like the meat.

It smells like the garden
when I’m cutting the grass.
If I eat too much,
it even smells like my–

Naw, but I can wish.

It smells like my grandpa
when he crushes a leaf.
It smells like his mouth
when it’s stuck in his teeth.

It smells like my grandma,
whom I sure miss the most.
It smells like her apron–
even smells like her ghost.

It smells like my memories
from times long ago;
it smells like my childhood,
where I wish I could go.

It smells like the only
smell I want nasal.
It’s my favorite smell
and that smell is basil.