“Birthing” The Death of Big Butch

The core staff of Parisian Phoenix— Publisher Angel Ackerman, Art Director Gayle Hendricks and photographer Joan Zachary— met today with author and member of the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild Larry Sceurman (and his wife, Barbara) for a design brainstorming session about Sceurman’s upcoming debut book, a novella, The Death of Big Butch.

Last week Angel had mentioned this book in her update about the death of her MacBook Air, Rosie, from a dramatic tumble down the stairs. (By the way, Rosie attended the meeting today as a potential organ donor. Turns out Joan has a friend who may be able to salvage parts from Rosie.)

Larry is a member of the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild and as such understands the elements of a good tale. This particular book combines good-hearted nostalgia with some realities of growing up— not the growing up from child to teen to adult, but the maturation that occurs when a man (or a woman) learns that even when you’re a good father (or mother), there comes a day when you need to decide to let your youthful identity go in favor of a family-oriented life.
The story is about friendship, small-town Americana and progress— of the kind that threatens the “village” way of life.

Angel Ackerman, PARISIAN PHOENIX Blog

Previous Parisian Phoenix authors came organically, connections to people who launched the publishing effort. Remember, the press launched as a way to preserve Angel’s hobby stories, The Fashion and Fiends series. Click to purchase from Bookshop.org or Amazon. Or as always, contact us at angel@parisianphoenix.com and order author-signed books, shipped within the US for $20 the first book and $10 each additional, payment by credit card, venmo or paypal.

Darrell Parry and Seneca Blue had connections to Angel Ackerman and Gayle Hendricks respectively, and Charles Ticho had worked with Gayle on his genealogy book. Authors in the anthology were invited by the publisher. So, Larry is the first person to approach Parisian Phoenix without previous experience working with one of the founders.

And sure, Parisian Phoenix has other titles in a tortoise and hare style competition to the finish line and honestly, even as the publisher, Angel has no idea who might reach it first. Angel really hopes The FURR Itty Bitty How-To-Cat Book arrives before the Easton Book Festival and Angel’s appearance at “Sex in the Text.” (And “Sex in the Text” might be a conversational style event with the authors interviewing each other à la Oprah.)

Angel and Gayle have reviewed Larry’s manuscript and formatted it for book design, but Larry has a few more scenes to flesh out before committing the words to “paper.” Gayle has made the template for the book, so the file is waiting for the magic words. Gayle will have to do a post about the book design for this one, as always Parisian Phoenix has some new ideas to try.

Larry seemed a little perplexed as to why he needed to meet all these people, especially a photographer, but the process here at Parisian Phoenix involves celebrating multiple viewpoints. No matter what happens, Parisian Phoenix wants Larry to feel ownership in the creative process. We don’t want to make the book into our vision. We want the book to be the right blend of our brand and his vision.

The first question tackled: How do you feel about the type? Is it easy to read?

Gayle provided actual-size samples of his actual draft from a couple different sections of the book for Larry and Barbara to review, take home and read, and savor during the next view days. It received rave reviews at first, but we sent it home with the Sceurmans anyway.

Second question: How do you feel about the idea of line art accompanying the chapter/ date stamp breaks?

Discussion focused on what we could transform into line art that adequately represented both the story and the historical context of the tale. Details to come as the design unfolds.

Third question: Do we have any cover concepts or themes in mind?

Everyone stared at each other. This is why we include a photographer. Because even the line art could require some fresh photography. And these won’t be discussed in full, as production hasdn’t begun and we don’t want to expose too much about the book too early. We ended up with four main ideas:

  1. A “fun” hearse
  2. “Historic” buildings
  3. Bars
  4. Cars

From here, we had to determine what “feel” we wanted the cover to have. Nostalgia is a big one. The book is heartfelt, funny, but also serious. There’s a transitory feel to the story, a boy transforms from a young adult to a strong father figure, or so we hope. There’s an underlying vibe of alcohol culture, of Blue Collar America, of small town life, and questions about what we all value and where we dedicate our time.

So we decided on a “bars and cars” concept. Again, Gayle and Joan will have to hash it out. But Larry has agreed to provide some of his actual photos of his grandfather’s garage that inspired the family business in the story. And Maryann Ignatz, who contributed to last year’s Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, has graciously allowed us to shoot in Steve’s Café, a historic barroom originally opened by her grandfather, Steve Ignatz II.

The bar will appear on te front cover, a symbol of protagonist Jimmy Washburn’s youth, and the cars will grace the back cover, representing Jimmy’s dedication to his future and his journey.

Angel visited Steve’s Café today to shoot some basic images with her phone so Joan and Gayle can dummy some concepts before we have our first official Parisian Phoenix cover shoot.

Here are two of those images:

For more about growing up in the family business, Steve’s Café, order a copy of Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money.

And consider joining us next week at Easton’s Book and Puppet Company for Easton Book Festival’s “Sex in the Text.”

Published by Angel Ackerman

Writer, Editor, Traveler, Fashionista, Francophile, Student and Mother Publisher at Parisian Phoenix (parisianphoenix.com) Author of the Fashion and Fiends series

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