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 Life With Gracie…Snowhens And Snowchicks

Snowhen and Snowchicks

Near the end of the day, I heard soft whispers.

“You ask him.”

“No, you ask him.”

“It was your idea.”

Finally, Bessie spoke up. “When you make our morning breakfast salad…tomorrow morning, that is…would you be able to include grated carrots?”

“I think so. Sure. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason in particular. It’s just we didn’t get any this morning or the morning before. We thought you might be out of them.”

“Oops. Sorry about that!”

“No worries,” she said. Then there was an almost uncomfortable pause. “And before you grate them, can you snap off the tip ends and put them in without grating them?”

“Yes, I guess so.” I was beginning to wonder why there were suddenly so many special requests. Usually my chickens are happy with whatever I give them. “Any reason why?”

There was a soft chorus of delighted chicken giggles.

“Do you think it would be okay if we have a little free range time before going up to roost for the night?” asked Gracie. “I will keep watch over everyone so you don’t have to. You can go in and start making your dinner if you’d like.”

At this point, I knew something was up because they were trying so hard to be nonchalant. “Thanks, Gracie. I think I will. You aren’t trying to get rid of me, are you?”

Gracie just smiled.

From the back window I watched. They were definitely collecting things from under the holly tree and shrubs. But they were being very secretive about it. Gracie and Bessie were trying to block my view, just in case I might be watching from the back window. (They know me very well, don’t they?)

Later, as I made sure they were in their coop securely for the night, Emily asked, “I was just wondering about this. So will there still be snow all night long the way you told us when we woke up this morning?”

“Yes, that’s right. Same forecast as this morning. You did have plenty to eat today, didn’t you? So you can stay extra warm tonight?”

“Oh, yes. I did.”

“Good. You’re the smallest, and I worry about you staying plenty warm, particularly on a cold and snowy night.”

“I will be fine,” she said.

There was another soft chorus of delighted chicken giggles.

“You girls snuggle up closer, and fluff out your feathers for more insulation.”

The next morning started like any other morning except it was colder and there was a blanket of snow in our yard and in part of the chicken run. When I returned home from work, I discovered what all of the secrecy had been about. They had prepared a surprise for me and had a great time doing it.

Much of this had been Bessie’s idea, I guessed, because she is the one I most expect would have said, “If there can be snowmen, why can’t there be ‘snowhens’ and ‘snowchicks’?” She is always concerned about fairness.

Still, it didn’t matter whose idea it was. It didn’t even matter how they had done it. What truly mattered was how they had simply enjoyed the anticipation and the doing. My joy in receiving their surprise was nothing compared to the joy they held in their hearts while preparing it.

I am at a time in my life when I don’t go searching for the delightful or for the extraordinary. Those joyful things come to me like freshly fallen snow. I anticipate them. I keep my eyes open. I look for ways to share them as my own surprises for others.

Even when there are no more chickens in my backyard to build snowhens and snowchicks in February, I know there will somehow be delightful surprises for me right outside my own backdoor. And I also know my chances of discovering those delightful surprises will be greatly increased by my willingness to give delightful surprises to others. This is probably one of the greatest secrets Bessie and my other chickens have shared with me. They give simply for the joy of giving. Love provides them with gifts to give.

My Life With Gracie taught me to look for and to create delightful (if only temporary) surprises.

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