I’m delighted to welcome author D.C. Blackbird here today as he makes a stop on his Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tour to talk about his latest release JEKYLL SAYS…GOOD DEEDS CATS DO THAT YOU SHOULD TOO!
Thanks to D.C., I have a copy of this darling book to giveaway to 1 lucky visitor who comments on this post by 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, March 2. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment, if it’s not included in your profile.
On June 9th, 2011 I had to say goodbye to one of the greatest cats I have ever had the honor of knowing. His name was Jekyll and he truly was among the best of the best. But that is the subject of a whole different discussion (and book). That morning I promised him and myself that I would use any abilities I may have to immortalize his name and do my best to let others know how truly special he was.
I gave myself a deadline. On December 9th, 2011, a book about him would be published. I had to get to work. Like everyone else, I have my share of daily obligations. Unlike other people, I had a lot of walls and bridges thrown in front of me at the same time. I was obligated to finish other books and scripts; I had to promote a feature film that I help get produced, and so much more. Oh! And I also had to pack up all of my possessions and move to a new house in a few months. On my daily “To Do” list I actually had to write, “eat some grapes” and “walk outside and get some fresh air” and “try to sleep.” Seriously. Otherwise I might not have done any of those things.
I’ve been working as an Investigative Journalist since I was 17 years old, so I was used to having deadlines and writing fast. But quality was always important to me. I never wanted anyone to walk away from something I wrote (or did) and think they didn’t get the full worth for their valuable time or money. When one goes to a restaurant and orders a salad and gets some wimpy slices of pale iceberg lettuce, a couple of thin slices of cucumber and tomato that one can see through, and the salad dressing looks like it was lightly applied with an old paint brush, then they are disappointed. They should be. If one orders a salad and it comes with in a big bowl filled with a mix of crispy spring greens, fresh cherry tomatoes, black olives, chunks of peppers and cucumbers, shredded carrots, slices of celery, mushrooms, and red onions, with some toasted croutons sprinkled on top then they are thrilled. Especially if they include a side cup of dressing! And don’t forget about the basket of fresh-baked warm bread. The restaurateur of the latter obviously cared enough to serve the best that can be served. It was worth the extra time and effort because the customer would be happy and would come back.
That is my attitude about writing. It should take time. It should be done right. It should be memorable. If not, then it should not be done at all. When I write, I do not do for me. It is done for you. You are the one who has to eat the salad. But it must represent me well. I want to be proud of what I write. And in this particular instance, I wanted to represent and showcase Jekyll in the best light possible. I wanted him to be proud of me because I was proud of him.
During my entire career as a writer I never sat in front of a blank piece of paper or computer screen, preparing to work as if I was a drone on a factory floor, turning bolts. I don’t have that ability. Instead, I think about what I am going to write. I also talk about it. Mostly, I talk to myself. Aloud. I walk around my house. I walk around the garden. I walk through nature trails. I run ideas, scenes, and dialogue through my head and I rarely take notes. This is easier when I work as a journalist because I am usually armed with information attained from a great deal of research. But writing fiction is different, even if research was done. And writing songs and poems is a matter that has no literary equivalent. I spent countless hours talking out loud while counting syllables with my fingers. Sometimes I would tap my feet to make sure the word and lines had a “jazz” or “rock ‘n’ roll” rhythm. Doing so was sure to attract the attention of some of the squirrels in my backyard.
By the time I sat down to write JEKYLL SAYS … it was just a matter of physical labor. How long it took me to write the songs/poems was just a matter of how quickly I could type. Of course not ever word or line came out perfectly. Even Paul McCartney changed the lyrics from “Scrambled Eggs” to “Yesterday.” He probably made the right decision. Everyone has heard the adage that “writing is re-writing.” Of course that is true. Especially when I wrote the songs/poems because I was always inclined to choose words for their sound, rhythm, and syllable-count, as I did for their meaning. So I tweaked until I was sure that Jekyll would be proud of the book that would have his name on it.
Once my text was done, I made a list of images that I wanted to accompany each song/poem. Even though I am an illustrator myself, I was not eager to create original drawings or paintings of Jekyll. For starters, I was (and still am) too emotionally sensitive to the subject matter. The idea of drawing Jekyll’s beautiful eyes would leave me in shambles and it would never get done. So I set off on a quest to find the right artist who can understand my visions and bring them to life. My instructions for the design of each illustration were very specific. In fact, they not only included the smallest details, but often times I included inspirational images that I either drew myself or liberated from online sources.
I have worked with many graphic artists and illustrators over time but I was looking for something different than I had seen from them. After hiring a handful of artists to create essentially the same mage, I was fortunate enough to find one who really dazzled me with her unique and charming style. While she worked on them, I continued to tweak my text, which of course included walking around my house while reading (or sometimes singing) them aloud! My seven cats did not think I was a candidate for therapy. They were already used to this behavior from me.
Once the illustrations were in place I took in a deep breath and then sent off PDF copies of JEKYLL SAYS … to a few friends (because we are all obligated to do that) but more importantly, to people who I don’t know too well (or at all) and would not be afraid to hurt my feelings. Getting feedback is always great. There is no such thing as a bad suggestion because even if someone offers an idea which a writer feels has no value whatsoever, there just might be new sparks that fly that lead to new ideas in one’s head.
Almost immediately I received an email from my friend Leah Frieday who I originally met on Facebook. She is an incredible singer and I already knew she was a great graphic artist because she generously designed a beautiful poster a month earlier for a film I was a part of. Her email was really short. “I love this. I read it to my daughter and she loves it, too! Please tell me that you did not hire anyone to design the layout yet. I have some ideas!”
Her email hit me like a thunderbolt. I have written fiction and non-fiction my whole life and never really had to deal with working with someone to “design the layout” of any book. I was not sure what to think or expect so I just wrote back to her, “Sure. I trust you. Have some fun. I am eager to see what you come up with.”
Leah must have the ability to move like a whirlwind and have a creative mind that can kick into high gear instantaneously because not too soon afterward, she sent me another email. I opened it up and it was like an explosion of color happened in front of me. It was like one of those great salads appeared before my eyes! What this creative genius accomplished with colors and design was incredible. Before my book reached her, my version may as well have been a quant, abandoned cottage along the seashore. But after she sprinkled her magic, JEKLL SAYS … became a renovated Victorian Mansion – with a gabled roof, shingled insets, angled bay windows, smooth plastered walls painted in vibrant colors, a marble fireplace, elaborate ceiling cornices, frescoed ceilings, and more!
It takes a lot for me to be speechless. Guess what? I was speechless. Once I came to my senses I realized that I probably owed Leah, her husband and their daughter a trip to the Bahamas! After all, how do you compensate someone for caring enough to bring joy and beauty into your life? How do I thank someone like Leah enough for doing something that would make Jekyll proud? Her contribution was priceless. Not just because of her skills, talents, and gifts, but because she was motivated by the goodness in her heart.
Once her magic was complete, I submitted it to more friends (different ones this time) and more people that would not be afraid of hurting my feelings. One thing that I found interesting was how many people thought I wrote “a children’s book.” Did I? I suppose if children read it then I wrote a children’s book. Many told me that they read it to their children who really loved it. Remember, these were people who were not afraid to hurt my feelings. Of course there were other people told me that there were some words in there that some children might not understand.
My thoughts about whether or not JEKYLL SAYS … is a children’s books is this: When I was a child I read books and stories by Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Edgar Allen Poem, Roald Dahl, and many others. I did not understand every single word in their writings, but I certainly enjoyed them. Also, are they writers of “children’s books?” I don’t think they are. I think they just wrote great stories. I read them when I was a child and as a teenager. I still read them as an adult.
JEKYLL SAYS … is fresh out of the oven and a great number of people of all ages around the world have contacted or approached me to tell me how my much they enjoy the book and that they read it over and over again. Some people have told me that they are glad I wrote it. Others tell me that I should be proud of myself. But in my mind the one who should be proud is my Jekyll. He was smart, and beautiful, and loving, and had such a positive impact on everyone who was fortunate enough to meet him. As a result of his priceless golden heart, a book was written about him. And now he is having a positive affect on people around the world who never met him. But they now know of him.
Benjamin Franklin once said "If you would not be forgotten … either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing."
Jekyll did things worth the writing. When people ask me to describe my book I tell them: “JEKYLL SAYS …” (Good Deeds Cats Do That You Should, Too!) is a series of amusing and educational poems told from the perspective of a wise and warm-hearted cat named Jekyll. Each perky poem epitomizes something about Jekyll’s vivacious personality and the lessons he teaches are designed to encourage compassion for all living beings, while promoting and encouraging goodness, civic virtues, high principles and values.”
That is true. And I hope people enjoy it and learn from it. But most of all I wanted to immortalize my friend and let others know how great he was. I miss him every single day and always will. He was important. He still is. His name was Jekyll. And I hope people listen when JEKYLL SAYS …
D.C., thanks so much for guest blogging and sharing how your book came about. Jekyll sounds like he was an amazing cat. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to him.
Now a bit about D.C. He is an American poet, songwriter, and author, along with being a world-renowned adventurer and traveler to places that stamp passports with bark and tree sap. In case you never heard, D.C. is one of the world's greatest feather & leaf jugglers and has performed this great skill before Royal Courts throughout Europe as well as in diners throughout New Jersey between snacking on corn muffins.
D.C. is the author of Jekyll Says More! (Lessons & Trends For Felines & Friends) and Dreaming of Kittyland. He is also one of those animal-loving folks that cares for dogs, cats, birds, and runs into traffic with a cardboard box to save turtles in the middle of the road.
Learn more about D.C. at his website at www.WelcomeToKittyland.com, on Twitter, on Facebook, Amazon, Kindle, YouTube, Smashwords, Createspace, and his Official Tour Page.
Here’s a brief description of JEKYLL SAYS … GOOD DEEDS CATS DO THAT YOU SHOULD, TOO: it is a series of amusing and educational poems told from the perspective of a wise and warm-hearted cat named Jekyll. Each perky poem epitomizes something about Jekyll’s vivacious personality and the lessons he teaches are designed to encourage people of all ages to be healthy and happy.
The poems in JEKYLL SAYS … consist of rhyming couplets with equal syllables. They have a merry meter and rip-roaring rhythms which make them lively and lyrical and fun to read (or sometimes sing!) aloud. More than anything, JEKYLL SAYS … is perfect for cat lovers of all ages, as well as anyone who has ever known and/or loved a companion animal. This book is also appealing to those who desire a break from their busy lives and who want to read something that is joyous and uplifting.
Profits from the sale of this book benefit animal adoption, care, liberation, rescue, and welfare organizations.
Share your thoughts on today’s post. Have you ever learned from watching and listening to your pet? Thanks so much for stopping by.