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.”
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
I’m happy to leave the illustrations for Moon Puppets to the super talented Taylor Graham.
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.
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.
*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!
If you write and have a Twitter account (I know that my one reader–hi, mom!–does not have a Twitter account so I have to briefly explain), you’ve probably seen tweets by others in the writing community like “post a gif (or picture) of your ideal writing space.” I’ll save my writer-gif criticism for a different blog post, but the comments of those tweets are usually filled with gifs and pictures of impossibly perfect cafes and beautiful landscapes that are similar to the one below.
That’s Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, for those of you who skipped the picture caption. It’s beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. Stunning. Inspiring. A description using all of those words and their thesaurus results couldn’t do the view justice. But is it my ideal place to write? Heck no. If you look at that picture and think, “Wow, I gotta get a pen and a notebook out there and create a story,” then you’re not being honest with yourself.
It took a 1.8 mile hike up a mountain to an elevation of 10,110 feet (I googled that) to get that view. And I was with my family, i.e. my wife, our two daughters (ages 6 and 3), my parents (hi again, mom!), and my brother and his wife. The air was thin; it was hard to breathe. I was exhausted, a little dizzy, and probably not thinking straight. I loved the view and the hike was worth it. But there was no way I was stopping to say to the rest of my group, “Do you all mind waiting for me to sit on this hard rock so I can selfishly write a piece of flash fiction that I’ll eventually scrap because I’m just really inspired from this view right now? Oh, I know I’m just going to be staring at a blank page for the next 30 minutes instead of the view of the mountains directly in front of me but this is something I really need to do. Also, that lake water is as cold as the Rockies because, of course, this is the Rockies, so do your best to keep my kids from going in the lake, because that’s what they will naturally want to do, without any help from me for I will be gasping for air on this uncomfortable boulder, trying to write something while constantly being interrupted by my body’s natural reflex to swat at mosquitoes. Okay? Thanks.”
No, my ideal writing space is a terrible, but safe, place. It’s my desk at work at lunch time. A place surrounded by windowless walls and the absence of any motivating decor. It’s a dark, uninspiring basement. It’s somewhere my internal voice screams, “Oh my gosh, this place is awful and/or boring. You have to get out of here. But you can’t right now because you are working or you’re stuck at home while your kids are in bed. You’ve got to think of something creative; you’ve got to pretend you’re not here; you’ve got to get lost in another world.”
The picture below is also not an ideal place to work on a manuscript. It’s an ideal place to have a coffee or drink some water or a beer or whatever liquid you prefer. It’s a place to take in the beauty of the natural surrounding and listen to the water as it flows through rocks down the mountainside while you contemplate your insignificance with the world. A place like the one below is a spot to think about how you are here in this world, how you don’t really matter in the big scheme of the universe but at the same time you do matter because you get to be at that spot, you get to be here on this planet and you get to have this life and move through these experiences. Keep the pen and notebook in your backpack and let your body, mind, and being soak it all in while you can.
So now that I’m back home and riding the same boring routine again (instead of a horse), it’s time to get back to work and escape my surroundings with some creative thought and writing. And I’m not going to show you my ideal writing place in pictures and gifs. Rather, I’ll show you pictures from my awesome trip to Rocky Mountain National Park so you feel jealous and angry that you didn’t get to see the fantastic views that I saw. Then perhaps you’ll use that jealousy and anger to inspire you to write your way out of those feelings. Then you’ll send me what you wrote to share it and thank me for giving you the inspiration to put an impressive piece of work together. You’re welcome.
Welcome to my Author Page. I’m so glad you made it. Come on in. There’s not much happening around here yet because I just moved into this place. Give me a chance to unpack some of these boxes over here and I’m sure I’ll find something exciting for you soon. Oh, please don’t touch them. I have them stacked carefully and I don’t want…Hey! No peeking either! I gotta get organized first. No, I’m not mad at you. I could never be mad at you. Why, my heart would turn into peanut brittle and crack into a million pieces before I was mad at you. No, I don’t have any peanut brittle. I think there’s some leftover pizza and a bottle of most-likely-expired-mustard in the fridge, though, if you’re hungry. No, I’m not suggesting you put mustard on the pizza. You can if you want. I’m just letting you know what’s available if you’re hungry. Yes, I’m aware that sounds disgusting. Well, do you know of any other author page that offers food? Stephen King’s page gave you tacos? Well, go on over to Stephen King’s page then. No, I’m not mad at you. I already told you that I could never be mad at you, remember? I’m just saying, why not go on over to Stephen King’s page if you’re hungry, grab some tacos, and then head back here and we’ll hang out some more? And bring me some Stephen-King-author-page tacos, won’t you? We’ll both feel better with some food in our bellies. But please, do come back. I’m hopeful there will be some cool stuff going on around here once I start getting some of these boxes unpacked. Also, I’m hungry and I’m looking forward to those tacos. I’d probably get sick if I squirt some old mustard on that leftover pizza I have in the fridge. Then it’d just take me longer to get to these boxes. It’s hard to unpack when you’re tethered to a toilet or stuck at urgent care. Alright, tacos first and then it’s time to get to work.
See you soon! Oh, and make sure to get extra guac. And something to drink, too. Or else we will be washing down those tacos with that old mustard. I don’t think WordPress has turned on my water yet.