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This blog is about the writing of my book Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables. This book has been a year in the making plus the past 26 years. And actually, the one parable on Brutus was written 30 years ago. This Brutus parable was written in the first year of graduate school at Mary Washington College (now The University of Mary Washington), and the other 14 were written in 1989 through an internship at the college. Five new ones were added within this calendar year. For something basically written, how in the world could this process take so long? It is a very complicated answer.
The irony in the title is very reflective of the writing journey which has been so difficult. When the kindle version was being finalized, I noticed something strange. The title of the book was changed. How could this be I thought? I controlled every step of the process and never consented to a name change. The original title which was the same as my graduate project was Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables For Kids of All Ages. But somehow, “For Kids of All Ages” was changed to a sub-title. I just assumed that when the company that was helping me was exchanging emails in July, the staff didn’t want to write out the whole name. But the truth of the matter is they changed the title before the final printing, and I didn’t realize it. And once that happened, it was in cement. So the new title is Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables.
Actually, the title change is not a bad thing. By writing “For Kids of all Ages” I meant from the beginning that this book was not just for kids. In fact, unless I change the settings on the marketing tool, it is not listed as Children’s Literature. I am still contemplating what to do about that one. (I said this in the first version of this blog) It is very apparent that kids need to have a certain level of maturity to understand the deeper themes of the book. On the other hand, the shorter parables can be enjoyed at face value for non readers, hence my dilemma.
However, by writing the first version of this blog, I felt that I had classified my book incorrectly. I spent three days correcting the genre and search engine for Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables, and then had to proceed to rewrite this blog. The genre of my book is now Juvenile-Non Fiction-Animals-Pets. In the industry that is called the BISAC code. The kindle book is listed the same along with a second category of religion–inspirational.
My original decision to put this book under the pet category was that under juvenile, I had to pick an age. And I didn’t want to do that. But what they really want is the reader’s age. So I picked age 7 and 8 and up. But still, younger kids can enjoy being read the shorter parables.
Even though the bisac code is juvenile literature, pet loving adults will appreciate the deeper themes of the book. After all, it is the adults who make the final decision to bring a forever friend into the home, and the actual caretaker of the pet is usually an adult. And adults pay all the vet bills.
Oh, children say they will take care of the pet, but we know what really happens. That is why the story about a boy and his ducks is so timeless. Child wants pet. Child says I will take care of pet. Parent ends up caring for the pet. This plays itself over and over in families around the world.
The compiling of the parables required some editing. After all, times have changed since these stories were written. The biggest example of this is my story. “Being picked on and harassed” in school is one thing, but now everyone knows the name for this, bullying. Some of the parables were virtually untouched like the one about Dude, Rebel, Ricky, and Pete.
The format was kept the same. I love the insights that can be gained from quotes of literature. Some of the most meaningful words come from the Bible and hymns for someone with my background. (Long live Sunday School!) In fact having taught Sunday school to both children and adults for many years, I know these parables would make a great curriculum. Hence they fit into the genre of religion and inspirational.
I also included pet care for kids, the responsibility of pet care, and moral lessons from pets as sub category search engines.
The newer parables are probably too long by my mentor’s standards. My mentor was Dr. Susan Hanna. (I refer to her as the god mother of literature at MWC). She held me to high standards. It took me six weeks to get one parable correct for the literature standard of a parable. The first one I wrote, she said, “Well, you have three parables here.” Then I had two, and six weeks later finally accomplished the task. Dr. Glenn Thomas, an American Studies professor was also a psychologist. He saw to it all the psychology was appropriate. As I mentioned in the acknowledgements, I am eternally grateful for their help.
And then there was the issue of illustrating the cover of the book. Unfortunately, some of the company’s young staffers took the easy way out.
The original cover which I designed and provided the picture and told them exactly what I wanted was awful. It had a silhouette of a rabbit on the book the rabbit was reading. “No”, I said. I specifically said the rabbit needs to be reading my book. The colors of the original title and my name were so off in the first go around. They did get the background and highlighting color correct, but these people were graphic artists. That is their job. Even in the end, I have a constant reminder that I told them my name and title should be bold but equal. Well, I just couldn’t fight it anymore when it didn’t turn out that way.
However, I will explain the origin of the cover. I had to keep the words to a minimum in the book. When I got the family rabbit out before Easter, I decided to humorously put a copy of my doctor’s original book cover, Eat Right for Your Type in the rabbit’s hand, and send the picture to Dr. D’Adamo. I also sent a copy of the picture to Sally Gould, who, 30 seconds before I did, said it would make a great book cover for my pet parable’s book
The rabbit on the cover of the book honors the The Holasek family. The actual rabbit was in the Holasek family grocery store window almost a 100 years ago. It is about 4 feet tall and paper mache. The rabbit always had reading glasses on. I changed the apron to a dress some years ago that my Aunt Evelyn Holasek made for Holly. (Aunt Evelyn was also my mother’s first cousin.) So by using this dress, I honor that side of my family too. Of all the Loucka’s I was closest to my Aunt Evelyn. I never knew my mother, but I caught glimpses of her through my cousin/aunt.
When I look at that cover, I smile just like Grayson did when he first saw it. The rabbit represents a hard-working legal immigrants and their first generation American family that always practiced “The Golden Rule.” Grandpa Holasek fed half his neighborhood on credit during the depression so families would not go hungry. He fed the hobos off the train too. He knew what it was like to be hungry, and he did not condemn the poor and misfortunate. And he encouraged his children to go to church and practice what they learned. This was all passed down to all of us.
Going back to the book design, the photographs in the book give life to all of the pets in Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables. I made the decision very early in the writing of this book to include my amateur photographs since photography has always been a hobby. I wish that I had used a better camera years ago. Carol took the pictures of Ricky and Pete. (The rodents were stock photos). In publishing standards, those 30 pictures classifies a book as a full color book.
But there were some problems with the photographs. The graphic artists had problems matching a picture with the paragraphs in the last 4 pages of the book, constituting a several month horror story. One of the worst excuses I heard with the gerbil and hamster write up next to a picture of a cat and a boy was “we don’t read the text.” But then a staffer, a pet lover saved me.
Anna, who I got by accident as a member of my “team” liked the book previously when I talked to her. She loved pets. She said, “I see clearly what you are upset about.” This time she listened and went into action. ‘I know the head graphic artist,” she said. “I will correct this.” And she did. When the kindle edition was ready to go, I encountered the same problem. She fixed that too. So I am very grateful to her. I practically told her that I would only communicate with her if and when I did this again.
And please note that to write a book labeled full color with photographs raised the price point. I had intended for the book to be released to libraries. But guess what? Then, the book would have had to be a dollar more for the profit to be 3 cents. (That is called third party distribution) That made zero sense. But the pictures make the book and it was a good decision. My hope for this book is maybe an established big name publisher would consider reissuing the book. I have complete rights to Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables, so I have control of what happens to this book in the future. And my grandson and I explored the possibility of turning the book into a screenplay intertwining the life of the pets with my family.
Marketing is a now upon me, and I have zero experience in this field. Good reviews always help market a book.
Along the way, I had help from many different people:
- Marion-Hailey Moss who has written so many books was an inspiration.
- Many of my family members stepped up to help when I needed them throughout the process.
- But Sally Gould was there for me every step of this last year. She helped me edit, and had to listen to the countless hours of my complaining about the self publishing place that made me so stressed out. For a book written by April, it should not have taken til September to get the final edit, cover design, and the pictures in the correct place.
All in all, I am very proud of Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables. It is a giant check off of my bucket list. And I know Stacy is smiling down. I honored him a lot because he always relented when we wanted another pet, and he paid all of the pets upkeep including those vet bills. As he jested, he had to do so many deliveries a year to pay for Sasha’s vet bills. Pure bred animals always have more problems. There is no denying that. And although Sasha was a rescue dog, she was still a pure bred Husky. Sasha had chronic sinus infections, and had to see a dog opthalmologist for corneal ulcers many times, and that specialist was 35 miles away. All families know the feeding and upkeep of any pet is costly.
So, this book is dedicated to Stacy, and Peyton, Carter, Meredith, Jacob and Grayson. It is also dedicated to all the beasts (pets) that were and are part of everyone’s family.
One of the most important messages of the book is the responsibility and care of the animals. I tell the truth of mistakes we made along the way. The pet always pays for those mistakes. Actually, the entire book honors all of these pets that have enriched our lives so much. And the instructor in me used the pets to teach these moral lessons. Except for Lady and Ricky and the gerbil, all of the pets were rescue animals.
So basically this book, Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables was written for all pet lovers. They will understand and appreciate this book. Pet lovers come in all ages including children. “The reader will delight in the challenges and joy of these pets that have enriched my life beyond measure.”
Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables can be found on amazon.com in both paper back and kindle editions.