Two Titles, One (Hopefully) Unforgettable Story

Special Note: Since this post was first published, several changes have been made to both covers. Nothing that was too drastically different though!

Are my stories adult fiction disguised as children’s fiction or children’s fiction pretending to be adult fiction? On which shelf do they belong? These questions have perplexed me for some time. Adult fiction? Children’s fiction?

Neither of those labels accurately fit my latest book. After all, books with strong characters are like strong people. They don’t like to be labeled and put on a shelf. And both The Bottle Cap Lady and Pearl are strong characters.

The original planned title for my next book had always been “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” That is the title of the original two-part story about Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady from which the novel was developed.

But I have had second thoughts about the title. It worked well with the illustrations I had planned, but accompanied by illustrations, particularly my preferred cover illustration, it also gave the impression of being strictly a children’s book.

So I began considering “The Bottle Cap Lady” as a title because she is a main character. Though not in every chapter, she is as important to the story as Pearl. In fact, the ending could not have happened as it did without The Bottle Cap Lady.

Fortunately, as a self-publishing author, I realized (after Gracie’s gentle reminder) I am able to publish two books instead of one.

“How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” will be modestly illustrated and placed in Children’s Literature. (“Modestly” means each major book part will have an illustration rather than each chapter.)

“The Bottle Cap Lady” will not be illustrated and will be placed in Adult Literature.

They will have different titles, different covers, but the same story text. The only difference where text is concerned will be in the preface, introduction and epilogue. In these sections of “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens,” the illustrations are referenced and so these parts must be slightly different. (Yes, there will be things hidden in the illustrations!) The story itself will be the same.

One of the things I like about having different titles and covers is how it forced me to think differently about what I was writing. It’s not just a story about a clever little white hen. This is a story about how we think and feel, how we find value and purpose in life. Even though Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady might be “natural enemies” because The Bottle Cap Lady has served up more Deluxe Chicken Dinners than anyone, they are more alike than what either of them realizes. They are both outcasts and looking for something “out there” when all they need can be found in their own hearts.

The unanimous vote by my own chickens went to “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” because it has “chickens” in the title and they can only read the pictures. They have not noticed the cover of “The Bottle Cap Lady” has a waitress is carrying a tray with a fried chicken leg. When they do spot it…well, that is another one of those awkward discussions which I have been avoiding. It will be particularly important for them to understand that a Deluxe Chicken Dinner is not for chickens or a really fancy dinner given to chickens, you know?

But when it comes to book preferences, people are not chickens.

It is possible that a good number of readers would prefer one version over the other, and that preference may not necessarily match the shelf labeled for their age group.

Whoever decided that adult fiction is just for adults and children’s fiction is for children was certainly not a chicken!

I hope to have my final proofreading done within the next few days after completing the “read-aloud-to-chickens” test. (Gracie seemed quite delighted with what I shared with them yesterday evening.) Then both will be available through Barnes & Noble and hopefully Amazon as well as eBooks.

Once I have received proof copies of the paperback books, then those will be available as well. (Because of the global health crisis, the printing process will likely take longer than usual. So it may take a bit longer for those to be available.) It’s very important to me that the colors be right for the cover and the printing clear on the interior illustrations. I just don’t want to offer a book for sale that I wouldn’t consider buying myself.

Happiest Of Hatchdays, Little Girls!

Before we did a short Hatchday celebration this morning, I reminded everyone, “I know you girls want to enjoy your celebration, but before you do, let’s spend a moment remembering Blanche. Her own Hatchday is today too. She gave us all so much in the short time we had with her.”

They remembered Blanche with solemn and sincere silence, and then they enjoyed some worms from the compost pile. It was the perfect treat to start their day.

“These past three years have been wonderful,” I told them, “and I appreciate all of the goodness you have brought into my life. May we always remember our friends (feathered or not) with joyful hearts.”

This evening after I get home from work, they will have their “cool down treats” of cantaloupe and green grapes. Then we will all sit under the camellias, and I will begin reading their Hatchday gift to them. Before sharing with anyone else, each chapter must pass the all-important “read-aloud-to-chickens” test. I think they will like what I read to them, even if it takes the whole weekend. (This creative adventure is over 38,000 words!)

Before I can share any chapters with you, our readers, I must get the approval of Bessie and Gracie, my oldest hens. Bessie will ensure that my writing has been fair to chickens. (You already know how she is very emphatic about treating everyone fairly, especially chickens.) Gracie will ensure that my writing has been as accurate as possible. (She is very good with details and observed many events which I did not.)

More to come tomorrow, particularly about why you are seeing two books rather than one. For now, let the celebrations begin! More earthworms for everyone!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Little Girl Pearl, The Light-bearer

Thursday was my midweek day off with my new part-time status at work. I spent the morning drawing book illustrations like this one which is still a work in progress.

It was good to have an extra day at home with the chickens. One of the things I have at home but not at work is someone to jump up in the air and flap like crazy when they see me. But that’s what Pearl does almost every time I open the back door. She is the only one of my chickens who still does this.

But that is Pearl, my silly and ridiculously lovable Pearl.

Mid afternoon, I went out and sat under the camellias and read the newspaper. It began to rain about the time I turned to the comics page. The girls were plenty dry in their sheltered run, and I was only getting a few drops under the thick canopy of decades-old camellias. So we all settled in to wait it out. But Pearl seemed to be waiting for something special.

And then it happened, something totally unexpected for me but something I sensed my chickens knew would happen. They had seen it before on rainy late afternoons like this when I was away at work.

As the sky darkened from denser clouds, the fireflies began to come out. There were only a few at first, flashing on and off, dodging the raindrops. Any other day, they would not have appeared until late evening, three or four hours later. But there they were, more and more of them, dancing around us, bringing unexpected joy as the world grew darker if only because of a passing shower.

Now I understand much better why Pearl enjoys them, these little light-bearers, so much. She is a light-bearer too whenever she jumps up in the air and flaps her wings. I have to smile when I see her, no matter how cloudy my day may have been. She brings me joy.

Without a doubt, Pearl is one of my best egg-layers. But to me it’s not her most important job. Her best job is being a light-bearer. It’s what she was made to do, I think, and perhaps it is what we are all meant to do.

She looked into my eyes, hoping what I said was the truth, hoping to find her most needed answer there.

“I am out of jokes and silly hats and silly anything. How can you still love me?”

“I love you all the more, Pearl, when you have nothing to share except your heart.”

from “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

Often we are the only light some people have. So jump up in the air. Flap your wings.

Dance with your own unique light.

Share your heart.

Lately I have not been as good about reading posts here on WordPress as I would like to be. I worry about missing some really great posts. (I think I am about two weeks behind. Ouch!)

So if you have something that you’ve posted recently you are particularly fond of and shares your own unique light, why not give me a link or two in the comments below? That way I will be sure not to miss it, and others who read here can find you better! (And it might just send some “likes” and “follows” your way from new readers!)