This Is So Bessie Will Stop Standing On My Foot And Telling Me What To Do

My first big goal for the new year is to make a two-year anniversary revision to my first-ever book, “Seasons Of Friendship.” Although I love that first book because it’s something I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to do, I have learned so much since 2019.

This revision started as only an update of the inside illustrations. Below you can see a comparison.

The drawing on the left is from “Seasons Of Friendship.” It was made using the Sketches app on an iPad Mini (with my finger).

On the right is a newer style drawing using the Affinity Designer app on an iPad Pro (with an Apple Pencil). This updated drawing uses the same line and fill techniques as “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” The lines are much lighter even though most of the colors are the same.

There are also more color pictures throughout the book. This was at Bessie’s strong recommendation.

“If people are going to pay for a book that is in color, then there needs to be color on almost every page,” she told me while standing on my right shoe. (She does this whenever she really wants to make a point.) “People want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth.”

I did not argue with this, but I did wonder how she ever found out about money.

I should also add that Bessie pecked my shoe as she told me, “And don’t try making it anything except sweet and wonderful just like Little Bunny because that’s what the readers want too.” (They do love Little Bunny, and this was Bessie’s even stronger recommendation.)

Another big change has been with the writing itself. “Seasons Of Friendship” was written as a story collection based on many of my blog posts. They were loose and rambling but all centered on some aspect of friendship.

Writing “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” helped me to learn more plot-related skills. So the revision now has a plot. Just like Pearl and the others learned what Christmas is about through a series of events, I will learn what A Most Wondrous Place is about.

All of these things make it an almost completely different book, and so the title has been changed to “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place.” (You might remember how last week’s post ended with “You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you have always said.”)

What started as a one-time collection of stories just may be developing into a little series of books! But that will require some continuity throughout the series so the books look like they belong together. Back in 2019, I had not seriously thought of doing a series. It seemed just too monumental for me. But now, I want to give it a try with these 64-page full-color “How To” books.

If you have any feedback concerning the draft version of the cover for “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place,” please let me know.

You’ll notice the font has been changed to a more “chicken-made” style. I’ve reworked the background to one that can be more consistent but different by changing just the colors. (This one is green because spring is a great time to start raising baby chicks. But blue would be good for the book about Christmas.) The image on the front also appears within the pages of the book.

I would truly appreciate your thoughts about the font, overall design, color, and whatever else you may want to share. You are our loyal readers, and I want to hear from you. (And it will keep Bessie from standing on my right foot and telling me what to do!)

Gracie’s Special Reading List…“Pond People” by Cathy Cade

“Gracie’s Special Reading List” shares self-published or independently published books, often by authors who have sites here at WordPress. This is to promote other indie writers who have something valuable to contribute even though not traditionally published.

“Pond People” is exactly the kind of book I would have wanted to read as a fourth grade student. And look at that! There is my fourth grade dictionary, a Thorndike-Barnhart Junior Dictionary!

And if I had been reading this book when I was in the fourth grade, I would have pulled out my dictionary, and turned to this page to find out what the word “mirling” means and maybe even find a picture of one. And you know what? It wouldn’t have been in there. No definition. No picture. See? Nothing there! “Mirling” belongs between “mire” and “mirror,” but it’s not there.

But even though I would not have been able to find “mirling” in my elementary school dictionary, you would never have been able to convince me that there is no such thing as a mirling. Reading this book would have let me know without any doubt that mirlings exist, and I would certainly find one, maybe more than one, the next time I visited Brittles Mill Pond, the only pond close to our house.

One of the things that I like most about this book is that it does not feel a need to take readers to a far-off distant place or another world “somewhere out there.” It encourages readers to use their imaginations right here and now, right where they are, and whether they are exploring around a pond or collecting bits of nature right in their own backyard.

This book is so well-written that it is easy to get lost in its watery and mysterious world with Molly and Flash. (My chickens love Molly and Flash. They have definitely divided themselves into two groups. Some are “Molly Fans.” Others are “Flash Fans.”) The books author, Cathy Cade, has done a beautiful job of filling its pages with all of the imaginative wonderment that makes childhood special. Cathy posts here on WordPress, and if you’d like to preview some of her writing and excerpts from this book, please visit her site. 

I do have a special affection for this book because Cathy gave me the opportunity to do the artwork for her cover as a gift of appreciation for her writing. She also helps other writers within the Whittlesey Wordsmiths group and provides numerous posts to guide other indie writers and self-publishing authors around the world.

Hopefully the cover illustration for “Pond People” gives a feeling of mystery and beauty that matches the truly excellent story found inside. A cover can draw a reader in, but it’s the written words inside that will keep the reader turning the pages. Cathy does that exceedingly well. Seriously, how suspenseful is this?!?

As Molly launched, a paw descended, dark as death. She found herself hurtling into a swipe that would scoop both fish and mirling out of the water.

“A paw” refers to a cat’s paw, and all my chickens were on the edge of their perch when I read this part to them. They couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next! (Cats and chickens are rarely best friends.)

Why not visit Cathy’s website titled Writing Wrinkles? I’m sure she would appreciate it if you said “Hi!” And don’t forget to consider purchasing her book on Amazon! My chickens and I would really appreciate your support of Cathy and her work.

And I’ll bet you too will be likely to try and spy a mirling or two the next time you pass by a pond!

One more thing…I’m still looking for at least one more indie author to help with a free book cover. Maybe that’s you?  

Happy 100th Anniversary, Little House!

Today is the day I’ve been waiting to celebrate for almost 14 years. December 15, 2020 is my house’s 100th anniversary, the day it turns 100 years old! The year 1920 comes from the city records, and the month and day December 15 come from the foundry date stamped into the bottom of the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Happy Anniversary, Little House!

I bought my house in 2007, the year that marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. (Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World.) It is interesting to note my house’s neighborhood, Westhaven, was opened up for development in 1907 as part of Jamestown’s 200th anniversary celebrations. At the time this was “the distant suburbs” from the main downtown area of Portsmouth and there were still large family farms here along the Elizabeth River.

If you drive down High Street from the Olde Towne riverfront to the city’s border with Chesapeake, the neighborhood architecture tells the story of how our little city developed through the centuries and decades. Our neighborhood is at about the halfway mark and right across High Street from Maryview Hospital. (When I started doing some major renovation work on my house, it was nice knowing there was an emergency room right around the corner just in case I ever electrocuted myself or fell off of the roof!)

Rodman Avenue runs through our neighborhood all of the way from the original Rodman’s Barbecue Restaurant on High Street to Moseberth’s Chicken on Airline Boulevard. (Moseberth’s was renamed “The Chicken Place” in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.”) Airline Boulevard is also where you’ll find Norfolk County Feed and Seed. We get all of our garden plants, chicken feed, and chicken scratch from those good folks.

This is our neighborhood, and we love how it is tucked away from the main roads and has kept its distinctive “small town” feeling from decades ago. Even though we are right in the middle of a small city surrounded by even larger cities, you’d never know it. There are no stockade fences. Kids ride bicycles and play outside. I have chickens. My next door neighbor has a pig and a goat. Veterans have vintage cars in their garage and take them out for a drive on Sundays.

The main part of my house was originally just 28 feet wide and 30 feet deep. (Later a den and laundry room were added to the back.) My house was built on six city-sized lots, three along our street where the house faces, and three along the next street behind us where the railroad tracks to the port were. That was a lot of land for not a lot of house. But back then, that was how they started building homes here. At the time, I imagine the larger yards were good for gardens…and chickens! Over the years, portions of these generous yards were sold off and homes from later decades were built between the original homes. That is what happened with my house.

I’m really only pointing all of these things out for one reason: this is all real. From my little house to my chickens right in the middle of the backyard garden, it is all real. (But there are times when my imagination might get the best of me. The Bottle Cap Lady is actually a compilation of several different real people, not a single actual person.)
Often I wish I could be like writers who “create worlds” and “create characters” to fill those beautifully and elaborately created worlds, but I can’t. I just don’t have those skills, and it’s possible I never will.

But if your own imagination can fill in the colors and details that are missing here, if you feel like you know my chickens personally, and if you feel like you are sitting with us under the camellias surrounded by our backyard garden, then perhaps my limitations are not so bad. Thank you for sharing this Happy Anniversary with us!