Chet Baker was immediately intrigued and offered, in his own helpful and forthright way, to open the box for me. It was a continuation of Christmas as far as Chet was concerned. He got very good at chewing open boxes at Christmastime.
Luckily Bill of the Birds had my camera set to video. Chet's attention is a bit divided between the mystery box and a stack of strawberry pancakes on the kitchen table. It was a snow day and the kids were enjoying their second round. Cute doggeh vid alert! Oh noes!
Inside the box were the first two copies of my new book,
The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds.
brand new book , The First Frontier, coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (yaaaay!) at the same time!
My editor, Lisa White, explained that while these two copies of The Bluebird Effect were sent by air from the overseas printer, the rest are probably on a container ship (imagine!) making a slow crossing of the Pacific Ocean, and from landfall on the West Coast being borne by truck to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's warehouses. Release date (shipment from the warehouse) is February 20, which will translate into early March availability and shipment from my studio. So close! the time will fly. I've been busy taking pre-orders and I expect that to only pick up as the time gets nearer. I gotta say, the cash flow is much needed and welcome. Thank you!
I absolutely couldn't believe I was holding it in my hands. But the weight of it is very real--just an ounce short of TWO AND A HALF POUNDS of brand new book. And an inch thick, which doesn't sound all that thick, but it is a brick in the hands.
Melissa Lotfy's design is fun-loving and lavish, giving the hundreds of bits of artwork lots of space and room to breathe.
Lookit that osprey diving through the text! Sploosh!! This is a full-sheet watercolor painting, 30" high and it reduced down to a crystalline-perfect image. I page through the book with my mouth hanging open each time.
Piping plovers skitter over the sand, running from a wave. Honestly, the watercolors look like they were painted right on the pages. The paper is beee-yoo-ti-ful, too.
I think my favorite paintings are the ones with active brush strokes and feathered washes. I knew those would probably work best for the book, so I laid on those watercolory effects. And work they do, giving the illustrations a life of their own. Some of the birds look like they're flying right off the page, they're so crisp and clean.
Somehow, Houghton handled my pencil drawings so as to capture every stray line and nuance. Gorgeous. It's a picture book; it's an art book, 310 illustrations with 80,000 words of explanation. It's a memoir about my life with birds, injured, orphaned, endangered, or otherwise in my care.
Most of the sketches were done directly from living birds, so there's springy life, an uncomplicated essence and motion, in the drawings that studio drawings lack.
And some treasured mementos, like this hurried memory painting of a leucistic turkey vulture that flew right over our house--and that I saw again near Woodsfield, Ohio, a year later. There is a great deal of magic in turkey vultures. I explain in this chapter how the turkey vulture came to be my totem bird. So it's not all Science Chimp stuff--there's plenty of romance, too.
Bill and I oohed and ahhed and reveled. Bill said, "I've never seen a better printing job on any book." Coming from an editor and author of dozens of books, that's high praise. I concur. And I'm picky to a fault. Just ask Lisa, Martha and Melissa!
Our kitchen, stopped in mid-griddle on a snowy, strawberry-pancake, no school, very lucky Friday the 13th. Daughter Phoebe Linnea taking these photos of us. Thanks, Phoebs.
Well, two copies are here. The rest, dodging winter seaspray somewhere on the Pacific, rocking along on a slow boat from China. But they'll be at the warehouse before you know it! And I'll order a whole mess of them to inscribe to the recipient and send out from my little studio. I've converted sweet Charlie's aviary into a framing station/shipping depot. I can feel her loving, lonely spirit every time I walk into that room.
You can click HERE to pre-order The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds. And if you wish to add Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, In the Woods or Backyard Birding: Using Natural Gardening to Attract Birds, the same link works, too. There are clickable banner ads in the right sidebar of this blog, too.
I've got boxes that will hold one, two or all three. And if you want more, I can do that, too. Ima be a busy squirtle come March! Be sure to tell me to whom you'd like them inscribed.