New Fluffernugget

So you’d think that having a full-time job while maintaining a social life, keeping my home in order, writing on the side and taking care of two cats would be enough to keep my hands full. And it does for sure. But having had a dog for 15 years and losing him last year I found myself with a hole.

That being said, I would like to present to you the newest member of the Khoury clan, Gipsy Danger! She is named after the giant robot (jaeger) from the movie Pacific Rim. Because I figure a small dog deserves an epic name.

I am looking forward to getting back in shape with her help and the serotonin she will bring into my life!

Bye for now!

Follow Your Dreams a.k.a. Albutebuddies

So this is an image completely unrelated to my writing and seemingly out of left field for my readers. Let me explain:

I was recently prescribed an inhaler. So I had the above conversation with my neighbor and good friend Amanda and an idea came to me. What if I had a sticker made of my ‘albutebuddies’ concept to put on my inhaler case?

As quickly as the dream was born it faded ever so slightly. The thing is, while I can write till the sun goes down I can’t draw or paint to save my life. Seriously, if there was a gun to my head I might be able to produce a decent stick figure.

So for a moment I was stumped. At first I thought that I might be able to reach out to one of the TikTok artists I follow to commission something for me but that sounded far fetched. Then I remembered that I have a friend who is a talented artist!

So I reached out to her with my whackadoodle idea and she was on board!

What does this have to do with writing?

Absolutely nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

But it’s important to remember to welcome whimsy into your life. Feel free to be silly. Life is too short to take everything seriously. And being a writer is ALL about the whimsy and the creativity.

If you want your own Queen B product then check out her store or message her on Facebook.

Live a little!

Bye for now!

Marketing Takes WORK

In the above images you will note that. In the whole of 2019, I got just under 3000 views to my website. Just over halfway through 2020 and I’m pretty close to hitting those numbers again. I attribute this to many factors: my book releasing, a concerted effort on my part, and the dystopian novel that we call Current Events.

I’ve been pushing hard, mostly via Facebook, to make my presence known and the numbers don’t lie. It’s working.

But I want to keep that momentum going and because I didn’t have the foresight to major in Writing and minor in Marketing I need help.

That’s why I reached out to Amy’s company New Shelves Books. I met Amy at the Cincinnati Writer’s Digest conference in the late summer of 2018 (can’t believe it’s almost been TWO years since that event) and she was one of the presenters.

I got some great advice from her, as well as her card, and an offer to work together in the future when I’m ready. Well I had a very productive phone call with her the other day and am fervently hoping that my numbers grow quickly in the coming months with the help I’ve recruited.

Bye for now!

I Just Want To Be Able To Afford the Nice Cat Litter, Okay?

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The rich and famous writers of the world that serve as household names are few and far between when you consider how many writers exist in the world.  Would it be nice to only have to work 20 or so hours a week and spend the rest of my time writing?  Of course.  But I’m not making any plans contingent on that any time soon, if ever.

People will comment things to me like “well when you become a rich author” or if you’re my dad “When you get the first royalty check from your book’s movie deal” but I honestly don’t write for the money.  My dream is to share my stories with others.

My ultimate dream involves being in a bookstore and overhearing someone talk about how much they like my book(s).  It is a persisting and shining dream in my head.

The truth is, I don’t even expect to make much of anything off my writing.

But honestly, if I can just make enough supplemental income to buy the nice cat litter that clumps, and go on the occasional vacation, then I’ll be fine.

Bye for now!

He’s Handsome, He’s Ace, He’ll Punch You in the Face: Ezra Toth, EZRA TOTH!

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The title of today’s post is based off a line from one of my favorite movies, A Knight’s Tale, I couldn’t find that scene as a gif so here’s another scene that made me chuckle.

It has been brought to my attention that I have done little to call attention to one of the more unique aspects of my book. That aspect being that there’s no romance. Not for the Main Character at least. Not a single iota of love interest for Ezra. Quite the opposite, there is a complete and total absence of romantic feeling exhibited by Ezra Toth anywhere in the book. Why, you ask?

Because he is Ace. An abbreviated form of the official designation of Asexual as it is called within the LGBTQ+ community, this is the category in which people with little to no interest in relationships go. Now, just like anything else in this world, an Asexual doesn’t fall into a neat little box. There is a spectrum upon which people who identify this way fall.

However, I am in no way equipped to educate you on this subject as I am not ace but here are some lovely references if you would like to educate yourself on the subject. It is, after all, Pride Month, so why not learn about someone else with a different point of view?

https://www.asexuality.org/

Bye for now!

‘Another!’ They Say

So after a little over two months post-release I am averaging 4/5 stars on most of the sites where reviews are available. That being said, I need you guys to take 30 seconds to do a Google review as well! Apparently there’s only one and it isn’t good.

But overwhelmingly the response has been positive and that fills me with an indescribably breathtaking joy. Yes there are some negative reviews, but if I waited to release my book till I thought it would be loved by everyone then I would be waiting a very very long time.

One of the most common comments is that they are excited to see what comes next for Ezra, what my next book will be, or what the sequel will entail. I’ll be honest with you, when I finished The Sword and Shield I had no intention of writing a sequel. While I knew Ezra’s story was hardly over I felt that I had provided enough closure to satisfy readers.

That being said, I have begun writing the sequel. I have written out a plot summary and most of Chapter One. It is still a ways away from being a reality (at least 2 years if not more) but I promise that it is going to become a reality even if it drives me to the brink of bat-shit insanity.

In addition, I am waiting on my agent to send me a contract! I won’t go into specifics yet but it’s definitely an exciting SOUNDING development. Hint hint, nudge nudge.

Bye for now!

It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams!

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There seems to be this common misconception, this unspoken rule, this bullshit, that you need to achieve your dreams early in life.

And you very well might, but don’t give yourself a deadline.  If you don’t publish your first book till you’re 50 that’s still earlier than the average person.

Because, as sad as it may be, most people don’t achieve their lifelong dream. Many don’t even come close. But for those who have achieved that monumental task, it was by no means an easy accomplishment.

Let’s look first at J.K. Rowling. At one point this phenom was once homeless, jobless, divorces, a single mom, and suicidal. She had nothing going for her except for a determination not to give in to despair and a brilliant mind. We all know how her story develops but for those who were under the impression that they have to be a published author in their 20s, she didn’t publish the first installment in the Harry Potter series till she was 32, which is still tremendously impressive.

Thomas Edison’s famous story of the thousand and one lightbulbs is a testament to not giving up, but his fierce determination in the face of adversity began far earlier in life. In fact, while I was doing research for this article I was delighted to learn that I share something in common with the man. We were both called stupid by teachers. Not exactly the most fun commonality to have endured but I’ll take what I can get. Not only was he told that he was “too stupid to learn anything”, he was also fired from his first two jobs. Edison’s is a story of true determination in a world that would have told him to give up.

My favorite rags to riches to infamy to fame has got to be that of Alexander Hamilton. Why? Because I love the musical. And when I say ‘love’ I mean I have almost every single word of every single song memorized. The man went through some serious shit.

On that note, I will bid you a fond farewell. I hope some of these examples help to motivate you that, even when things seem darkest, it may be just before the dawn.

Bye for now!

New Job, New World

So in late March I received an exciting offer. To give you a bit of background though we have to go farther back to February. That’s when the first round draft picks were taken from the healthcare campaign I was working on and moved them to the mortgage campaign I am now working on.

I was upset when the initial move took place because many of the people being moved to start the new mortgage campaign were close friends. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried as, in mid-march, I was made the same offer. To transition from my previous post to the one I am currently loving.

The thing that made this whole transition unusual was that it took place in the middle of a global pandemic. Near the end of March I had already transitioned to working from home and saw no end in sight. I was advised that I’d receive training with the rest of the onboarding team members via Zoom calls and emailed cheat sheets. To say that I was petrified is an understatement. I have never been good with e-learning. Any online classes I’ve taken part in have been complete disasters.

And the first two days of classes followed that trend in a spectacular fashion. I had a full blown panic attack Tuesday, convinced I was too stupid to do this and that I should just quit.  Obviously I wasn’t and obviously I didn’t but that’s where my head was at.

Over two months later and I am loving this job. All the stress is behind me and I am reveling in the fact that this position has half the stress and half the complexity. It also  has a 4/10 schedule, meaning I work 4 days a week and get three days off. So I’m loving this.

Is the situation ideal? No. But working from home is a lot less awful than I initially anticipated and I look forward to a schedule that incorporates both working in the office and working from home.

Bye for now!

Former & Forgotten Friday!

Welcome to the one time event wherein I make a fool of myself by showing you guys my old writing!

So I unearthed this dinosaur while going through an old external hard drive. It’s a short story I wrote for my college Creative Writing class back in 2011. Normally I’d burn this in effigy rather than allow it to see the light of day.

What can I say? I’m a masochist.

Please now take a moment to silently judge my short story:

“No Face”

“There was a forest, once, which lived on the summit of the world.  It was a metropolis of life that surpassed any other forest in the world.  The sunrise was born on the wings of firebirds who carried it across the sky.  The sky was a blue so pure that the water that ran under it became cleaner simply through its purity and goodness.  And all the animals were free and happy to venture far across the lands, having adventures and frolicking and…”

                I wasn’t actually there.  The time and place in which this story takes place was so long ago that the idea of man and woman had not yet been conceived.  Maybe, if someone had taken a sledgehammer to whoever it was beforehand then the world would be a better, simpler place.  But instead I stood in something questionable, at one of the many poorly equipped zoos across the country.  The sun was hotter than it should have been for this time of year and every breath brought little toxins into the body.  I stuck my  hands through the bars, palms loaded with peanuts, for the most talkative elephant that I had ever met in my entire life.  And I had met quite a few.  It wouldn’t be long before they would be taking this semi-ancient elephant to some quiet reserve to live out the rest of his life in quiet dignity.  After which he would be off to the taxidermist for a dignified stuffing.  Meanwhile, his mind was still strong and elephants never forget.  Right now he was remembering one of his many past lives, one of his first, who had been told a story about one of the most important birthday parties since the incident with the gorilla.  He chewed slowly, like he had all the time in the world.  And who knows?  A lion could escape from the exhibit down the way and maul me in the prime of my life.  With that in mind I threw my hamburger into the closest garbage can I could find.  Then it was only a matter of politely asking someone four times my senior if he might tone down his flowery speech for the sake of my “no child left behind” education.  He agreed, but only because closing time was coming fast and then I would have to leave.  However, even more than their memory’s, elephants are most famous, or infamous depending on who you ask, for taking their time.  So I could almost hear nature texting before the last of the peanuts began a horrific roller coaster ride and then – it was time for a drink.  I was able to find a bathroom and reply to nature’s text just in time for –

                “ – gathering flowers.  Everyone lived with a general feeling of peace and security.  Yes there were problems but those come with any society.  It’s just that trees are all around better arbitrators of justice than any other creature.  Not including the superior and inordinately wise rulings of the elephants, of course.  But this story is about the trees.  The trees, in those days, grew tall and strong and those few times that a tree fell it was so great that when it hollowed out from years of decay an entire herd of antelope were able to take shelter there come winter.  There were few wars but when neighbors became enemies it was a simple matter of the wrongful party uprooting and walking to another part of the forest.  Sometimes there would be deep emotional ties to their home dirt but back then all dirt was rich and pure so all things would settle, and peace restored.

                In this, the centermost of all forests, lived the royal court.  Presided over by the first tree, whose name was of such magnificence that it simply couldn’t be translated into petty human speech.  The King Tree had many children but his first daughter, who had sprung to life from one of his fallen branches was just about to celebrate her 10,000th summer.  So word was sent out by bird, fish and all manner of quickfooted creature to search out the Great Trees and lead them to Home Forest where they would celebrate.  Oak, Pine, Birch, Cypress, Palm, Willow, Maple, Ash, Sumac and even the great Redwoods of the deep woods made the long journey.  There hadn’t been a gathering the likes of this since the gorilla incident.  In fact there were so many trees that King Tree had to beseech Sister Rain to send her clouds over what was now the most massive forest in all of history so that they would not dry out.  Finally, a full mood graced the skies and all trees raised their faces to the sky (to the great and unpleasant surprise of squirrels and birds for miles around) to pay homage to the Moon who watched over them.

And then the drinking.

                Long ago there used to be a magykal well that, when absorbed through the roots, had been known to make even the hardiest of trees a bit tipsy.  Only an hour into the festivities you couldn’t find a single animal in that forest.  Because who really wants to be surrounded by a forest full of drunk off their roots trees?  They laughed and drank, sang songs dirty enough to make bark peel and, after the race, it took the soil months to recover.  King Tree was showing anyone he could a series of rock carvings of his precious daughter, to her great mortification.  They ranged from her first uprooting and steps as a sapling to her graduation from the Owl’s School for Higher Learning.  When the moon was too covered by clouds to see, faeries risked the chaos to bring a gift of glow globes and spirits to the festivities.  This went on for many nights and days without tire.  However all things must end and soon everything began to wind down.  Laughter turned to yawning and branches stretched as they made themselves comfortable.  But then the saplings and faeries began to cry.  Soon the great trees also felt the sense of unrest that comes from an unkind presence drawing nearer.  The forest stilled.  Eyes of deep brown, emerald and gold turned north to a coldness that drew nearer.  A great heavy and blindingly opaque fog settled over everything.  And then there was an eruption of sound as trees hastened to make a path.  King Tree and his advisors could see nothing from their spot on the hill except a frantic need to avoid the new guest and a dark restlessness that followed in its wake.  The stars disappeared from the night sky and everything grew cold.  At last the great trees closest to the clearing where the court stood began to part.  Though the King observed that it was not out of respect or even as simple as fear but a matter of survival.  King Tree saw the birch closest to him showing signs of decay and death that had no place in a young, healthy tree.  But as the young birch went further from the path the signs of death and age dissipated.  It was then that King Tree, with a deep breath and a shiver that he felt in the roots that were deep enough to cause a small earthquake.  He took one last grim look up at the dark sky and then cast his eyes downward.

And he looked.

And stared.

And King Tree began to shake with a terror unlike anything he had ever known in his many, many years.  But he was a king and so he must maintain a sense of composure.  The tree was small and pale.  It had no leaves despite the plentiful summer rains that had brought a forest full of healthy rich green leaves.  It’s surface was completely white, not the pure white of the moon but more like a barren deadness which was accentuated by the fact that it was stripped of any of the usual textured bark. 

It was also missing something else.

It had no face.

King Tree took a steadying breath and sunk his roots deep into the ground to keep him upright.  As other trees began to realize what was in their midst a muttering began which cascaded back from the center out until it became a whispering roar. 

Hoooooooooooooooooooooo

A deep, horrible, rattling breath that seemed to echo from all around the forest.  It reverberated through the hollows and sent shivers down to the roots of every tree in the forest.  More horrible than the cold that sapped from the air as it seemed to draw all warmth from the air though, was the fact that the intruder had no mouth with which to draw breath.  And then it spoke, the voice devoid of gender, emotion, or life.  The voice seemed to come from everywhere, nowhere and all trees were forced to lean in to hear. 

I bid you, King Tree and subjects, greetings and good wishes.  I am a far traveling visitor come to bring you a gift in honor of your joyous celebrations.  I am called –

“DO NOT SPEAK YOUR NAME IN THIS PLACE!”  King Tree roared, breaking the spell of fear and numbness that had spread over the forest like a cold snap.  King Tree dug his roots deep into the ground, drawing on all his reserves to gather his strength to confront what was in front of him. 

                There is a Death that is natural and good.  It is the natural end to all things and leads things that live to what comes after all of this.  It causes beings to live with more purpose than they would if there was no foreseeable end.  Death has a twin.  One made from the bad that comes out of every good.  It has no name to speak of because it has been stricken from all knowledge.  It can only be known as ‘End’. 

King Tree I implore you to listen to my offer before jumping to hasty conclusions.  I wish to bless you and yours in honor of your daughter’s celebrations.  I would give the trees the gift of eternal life!  Yes you live long and fulfilling lives but no tree is impervious to the wear of time.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that you would never need to be separated from your loved ones?  I can offer you this. 

Of course after such a statement it’s only natural that chaos, whether by panic or excitement, and there would be no productive conversation for quite a while.  The forest argued far into the night, which sent what few animals who had decided to begin the trek home made a hasty retreat.  A drunken forest was nothing compared to an angry one.  Like most arguments between trees speech was quick, but so wordy that by the time everyone had said their piece (and there were quite a lot of someones)  a full month had passed.  And all that time the small, seemingly harmless white tree stood motionless and silent.  King Tree matched his silence, but only because he was attempting to keep End’s power at bay.  The fog had not yet dissipated since that night.  It hung heavy and damp and trees refused to drink the sweet, cloying water that it emitted.  Finally, after an old Sakura tree had petitioned to have a flock of eagles drop End into a volcano the forest grew still.  Because it was now the King’s time to speak, and he was due only the most quiet of silences.  The King knew what he was going to say because he had said absolutely nothing for a month for the sake of listening to his subjects.  After all that listening and thinking, the words that come out of your mouth are bound to be good ones.  He wished that he was in a field playing knock rock with his friends like the good old days.  This is not what he wanted to do when he grew up.

“Change is slow.  When it comes, if it comes at all there are always compromises.  Sometimes, progress for the sake of progress is not the wisest choice.  Sometimes, things have been the way they are for a reason and to interfere with tradition, not to speak of how the basic flow of nature would be corrupted by our actions.  But I have a question for you,” King Tree said, directing his attention to the ghostly blemish that had encroached upon his territory. 

“I ask you, who has come with no invitation or warrant.  Answer me this; has anyone else been presented with your gracious offer?” 

Yes, great King.  The mighty Stones of Bismark have accepted my offer only this past seven day.

“Lies!”  Cried a voice from behind a cluster of Elm.  Out walked a great monolith of stone, each step so heavy that his feet sunk deeply into the ground.  “My people are strong of heart and mind and would never fall for the likes of you!”

You have no reason to be upset, great figure of stone.  Your people have ascended to a higher place in the world, free of dangerous weatherly wear or plants that would seek to grow and crack your illustrious selves.  All you need to do to join your brethren is enter the sacred circle they have formed and you will join in their happiness.

                Without another word the Stone Chief of Bismark turned and sprinted away, the force of his thudding feet uprooting small plants for miles around.  The chatter was dangerously close to turning into another month long “debate”.  King Tree cleared his mighty throat and all was silent.  When he spoke, no matter how hard he tried to hide it, his voice was tinged with such sadness that it began to rain and the fog dissipated.

“My friends.  I am but one tree standing against the gales of time.  I cannot force the entirety of treedom to bow to my will if they are reluctant to follow me as things are.  I know how many trees are present and I know you are leaders of forests of your own.  I trust each one of you to make this decision with the good of your charges in mind.  I ask that any tree willing to accept…End’s offer would send a leaf down to rest in a pile at my roots.  I would also not force a decision on others if the majority voted a certain way.  Perhaps End will allow that only certain trees, those willing, took part in his offer.” 

King Tree looked down at End as if daring it to challenge his ruling.  End only nodded a silent acknowledgement of consent.  There was a short pause as words were considered and decisions made.  Soon there was a rustling and leaves began to float along the slipstreams till there was a good sized hill in front of King Tree.  He reached his roots into the pile and counted.  No one moved or breathed or thought.  They just stood, fixated on their King who seemed to take a year and a day on his counting.  Finally, his roots withdrew from the pile and he opened his eyes to look upon his subjects.

“Of the ten million forests in this world, fifty-thousand of them have chosen to take a new path.  We will wish them only the best in their new life,” he turned to End.  “The deal has been struck.  You have claimed a great many of my trees and now I demand you leave this place.”

Very well King Tree.  Until the crossroads.

“Till then.”  But End had already vanished.

Suddenly, trees started screaming.  They ran and cried and many would crowd around one and scream at it.  King Tree pushed his way through to the closest group of trees and they parted.  What stood before him had once been an elderly Birch with a poor sense of humor.  And for all intensive purposes he still was a birch.  But his face was gone.  His body had gone stiff and there was no sign of the light where his essence had been.  All around the forest trees were discovering that their friends had also gone stiff and cold.  King Tree that if he didn’t act soon he would lose his people to panic and despair.

                “My people!”  Most trees were shocked into a shaky silence, all others had either settled into quiet sobbing or had passed out.

                “A terrible thing has happened.  No one here is to blame, for the trickery of the great Evil is powerful.  We will leave this place and find a new home safe from this disease.  Come!”  He uprooted and began to walk.  And the procession was such that the like had never been seen before and would never be seen again.  They disappeared into the night and vanished from this world.

                A few hours later a thundering sound could be heard as the Chief of Bismark came running back.  When he realized that he walked in a graveyard he slowed to a stop.  The field wasn’t bare exactly, but compared to what it had been there may as well have been no trees at all.  The Chief tried to ask one of his Redwood friends what had happened but he was met with silence.  He achieved the same results no matter where he went and at last, exhausted, he sat down in the clearing where King Tree had once been and put his colossal head in his enormous hands.  After he collected himself, because despite what you may have heard the stone people are quite an emotional lot, he went to ask a small boulder what had happened.  The Chief was so devastated that the trees had met the same fate of his brothers that he went wandering.

                One day he got stuck in a mud patch and was sinking when an elephant heard his cries for help and pulled him to safety.  To repay the elephant for his kindness the Chieftain told him his story.  And elephants never forget.  So generations of elephants later I get to tell this story to you.  Peanuts?”

                I tossed the rest of them into his waiting mouth and said thank you.  You never forget to say thank you to an elephant.  I walked through the almost empty zoo, it was closing time but it hadn’t been that busy to begin with.  The ground was still covered with stuff of a questionable nature but now it was accompanied by trash that people couldn’t be bothered to put in the proper bins.  The wind picked up, sending rank fumes from the dump next door over the animals who were forced to endure it day after day.  It didn’t matter though because their senses of smell had died long ago.  I walked out of the zoo a little bit wiser and a lot sadder.  And on the bus ride home I couldn’t help noticing the trees.

The trees without faces.