Illustration Art Video For Our Next Book

Great news! Our hardback proof of The Shoebox arrived on Wednesday, and it looks really good! So that was the final print proof. No more changes! And a hardback book? What could be better?!? CluckŸ-BuckŸ!

The video is completely in black-and-white because all of the illustrations are also. We didn’t want to give the impression that anything will be in color, so even the title slide is in black-and-white. (The book jacket does have color.)

We really hope you will enjoy the video!

hardback with matte jacket, paperback with matte cover, 6” x 9,” 50 lb. white paper, 270 pages, 27 chapters with a full-page black-and-white illustration for each chapter

September 30th is the official publication date. Why not sign up for our weekly newsletter for more exciting news?!?

Thanks so much for reading—and watching!

John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia

One final note…Gracie is doing okay. She has her good days and her not-so-good days. That is, there are some days she relies on me more than on other days.

She and I are working together to get as much of her life down in notebooks while we can, but that does limit how much time we can spend on WordPress and social media.

We really appreciate those of you who have stuck with us even though we are not the best WordPress community members.

An Interesting Pair of Writing Tools

Emily’s Drawing of Amelia Flying

I can’t really say for sure if these would be called “tools,” but I thought they were interesting. While I was writing part the text for today’s post titled “Into The Speckless Sky,” I wanted to check on how much like a poem some parts were.

Those were where Amelia described a remarkable flight she made. Since I’ve said before she has the heart of a traveler and poet, I thought it might be good to have her words in poetic form. While editing, I found these two companion websites: Poetry Assessor and Lyric Assessor.

You simply copy and paste some of your text in, and you will find out how it ranks based on more well-known texts.

On the Poetry Assessor, my text scored 0.3 out of a possible 5.0 which is not good. I guess I’m not a poet!

On the Lyric Assessor, the same text scored 4.5 out of a possible 5.0 which is good! I guess I’m more of a song writer? Should Amelia be singing? (Actually I think Pearl is more the songstress, particularly when she is wearing her Let’s Go Bananas hat.)

Anyway, that little test did convince me to not try to present the text with poetic formatting!

Just wanted to pass these two websites along. It may be fun for some of you to try out, but I don’t think anyone should say “I’m a lousy poet” or “I’m a lousy lyricist” from doing this. (They seem to be of an academic exercise for someone.)

To me, the bottom-line question is this: “Do the words touch another heart?” If the answer is “Yes,” then nothing else matters. Call it what you will. Format it however you will. Just touch another heart.

Awkward Apologies

With “A Most Wondrous Place” finally published, I have been eager to draw and write new material. I have wanted to expand the stories to include more about Lefty. I think he can add balance to an “all-hen” group of characters and help these stories appeal to more readers. Today’s post also hints at more mysteries that are part of the secret lives of chickens. I think I may be on the right track here, but let me know what you think, okay?

Lefty was learning to crow. His first attempts were weak and even embarrassing, but he was persistent. He practiced until he got it right. My neighbors did not appreciate his desire for perfection.

My heart had hoped that somehow he might learn to be quiet. He had been My Best Little Buddy from the moment he started watching everything I did. He had studied all the construction of their new home just as if he was going to do everything he saw me doing. Likewise, he had been my best gardening companion while we prepared the spring beds. Whatever I was interested in, he was interested in too.

But he had to be what he was hatched to be, and that was not a calm and quiet bird who followed me around everywhere.

“There is more to a rooster’s life than you realize,” he told me. “Do you know why roosters crow, even young roosters?”

“Is it to show everyone that you are the boss?”

He laughed. “That is what I thought at first when I was learning. But it is more than being loud and bossy. It is to tell all the other birds what is happening. We take in all that we see and hear and then send news, warnings, and sometimes even commands.”

“And what do they do with what you tell them?”

“They pass those messages on to others, and then those pass it on to others.”

“But they don’t speak Chicken.”

“There is a voice, a language, in all bird tongues. It is under the layers of species and kind. It is The Ancient Language. It was the language born when the first birds leapt into the air and flew. They called out in amazement to all the world about what they could do.

“It is the common language we birds hear all around us. It is a language that encircles the world at the speed of flight and the speed of sound.

“Then above The Ancient Language is Old Chicken, the language of the first chickens. It is only for chickens. No other bird can understand it.

“Above that is Chicken, the language we speak with other chickens and the people who love us. We build language upon language and then language upon language again and again.

“To your ear, when a bird speaks or calls or sings, it may sound like a single language, a single sound, but it is not. This is why someone must listen with their heart to understand what we are truly saying.”

I had never read anything like this in an encyclopedia. But I believed every bit of it.

“Lefty, you are not a little chick any longer, are you? These are not things a little chick would say. You really are a rooster now.”

He nodded proudly.

“You’ve grown up, and I hardly noticed until now. I think I wanted you to stay My Little Best Buddy forever. But that’s not possible, is it?”

He shook his head sadly. He sensed an even bigger change was coming for him. The other birds, the ones who flew from place to place carrying messages, had told him change was coming.

It was in their calls of news from the outside world. He had heard what they said about roosters out in the country and around the world. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

There would be hundreds and even thousands of hen voices for every rooster voice. Roosters did not matter as much to people as hens.

By then, it was late evening, and we watched the crows moving from treetop to treetop. They were sharing secrets I would never know. But Lefty knew. He was already learning of life out in the country from the messages they brought to him.

“I am sorry I could not be the kind of chicken you wanted me to be,” he said.

“Don’t apologize, Lefty. I was wrong and selfish to want you to be something you could never be. I wanted you to be My Best Little Buddy who followed me everywhere. I wanted us to do things together. Just the two of us. Forever.”

“We did have some good times together, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we sure did. But you grew up, and I stayed the same. I should never have tried to silence you or hold you back. Love always has hope, but love is not love when it will not let another be who they are meant to be.

“I don’t know what else to say except I hope you will forgive me, Lefty.”

“It is rare for a person to ask forgiveness of any animal, particularly of a chicken. Our lives depend on you.”

“But that doesn’t mean we can treat you any way we want. Even when we are treating you well, if it is not what is best for you, then it is wrong. It is something I worry about, Lefty.”

“Perhaps you have not stayed the same as much as you think,” he said.

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

By the way, I purchased the Apple eBook to make sure it looks good, and I’m very pleased! It is in “fixed” format rather than “flowing” format. Pages turn just like with a print book. Resolution and color on the illustrations is just as good as when they were drawn on my iPad.