Saturday, July 30, 2011

Butterfly Babies: Invasion of the Caterpillars

                                          Joyce Sanders prepares to release butterflies
                                          at Butterfly Estates in Fort Myers, Florida

Early this morning I went on the lanai to check on my butterfly babies. Instead of pupating overnight as I had prayed they would, they had stripped entirely three milkweed plants that I added only two days before. What is more, they were crawling faster than I imagined possible for a caterpillar, as they frantically hunted for food. Like energetic two-year-old's anxious to explore, many of them had managed to escape the nylon netting and were crawling around the floor.

As I raced to scoop them up before my cat could get to them and returned them to their cage, I realized I had "opened a can of caterpillars" when I rescued those Monarch eggs from the wasp last weekend. I noticed that one of the caterpillars had attached itself to the wall behind the cage and had begun to pupate. I carefully picked it up and placed it in the cage. It is amazing how attached I have become to these little creatures and how responsible I feel for their survival!

I quickly realized I had more than I bargained for on my hands and called Joyce Sanders, manager of the butterfly house at The Butterfly Estates  in Fort Myers. We have a membership with the Estates and Joyce has been a prolific source of information for me. Her suggestion (which never occurred to me) was to bring the caterpillars to her and she would see them through to maturity. Once they have emerged from their cocoons, they will be released in the garden enclosure at the Estates to the delight of the visiting children and adults.

As for me, I have decided that the next time I want to observe the transformation of a butterfly, I will buy an authentic butterfly cage and limit the number of eggs I put in it. With my children's book, Benny's Angel, about to go on the market, my plate is too full to be foster mother to an army of caterpillars.

                                                                                                         ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker

Friday, July 29, 2011

Butterfly Babies

I have been watching one of God's most fascinating creative miracles begin in my own backyard. Ten days ago, after I had painstakingly gathered all the elements needed in my garden for attracting butterflies, a Monarch butterfly deposited a host of tiny white eggs on the milkweed plant.  Unfortunately, danger was lurking for these butterfly wannabe's in the form of a wasp that flew back and forth around the plant. Wasps will eat butterfly eggs, so to protect my new babies, I quickly moved the potted milkweed to the lanai.

The eggs soon began to hatch and before long there were about 25 tiny larvae crawling around. They rapidly grew into fat caterpillars that are devouring their weight in milkweed leaves. I can almost see them growing before my eyes! Yesterday I added three more plants to their dinner table and they are making short work of them. Some of the caterpillars are becoming lethargic, a sign that their metabolism is slowing down and soon they will form the "J" position and begin to enclose themselves in cocoons. Then they will begin their mysterious metamorphosis into beautiful butterflies.

                                                                                           ~ Laura Nonemaker

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Benny's Angel: Coming to Life

Recently I received the galley proof of Benny’s Angel. What a thrill to hold this preliminary copy of my first children’s picture book in my hands!

The journey to this point has taken almost exactly one year. It began last summer as I sat praying and contemplating in what I call my “secret garden.” Suddenly, a little rabbit scurried across the path. I thought of my granddaughter’s pet rabbit, whose name was Benny, and the concept for Benny's Angel began to take shape. This spring Benny went to “rabbit heaven” but his namesake was born in my imagination that day. Through the pages of Benny’s Angel, he will lead young children on an exciting adventure in God’s Secret Garden. 

My final task before printing was to go over the proof with meticulous care to check for typos, incorrect spacing, and errors in indentation. Once the corrections are complete, I will sign off my approval and place my first printing order. Before long, Benny’s Angel will be available for pre-launch book signings and other promotional events. Soon Benny and his friends will come alive in the imaginations of children, just as he did in mine.  
                                                                                                      ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Visitor in My Garden

A short while ago, as I walked through my butterfly garden, I spotted a long-awaited visitor – a lovely Monarch butterfly. If you have been following this blog, you have read my previous posts on Designing a Butterfly Garden, which have been the fruit of my beginning research on this topic. What fun I have had watching my own butterfly garden take form!

The Monarch may have explored my little garden before, but today I was there to see it for myself. Even more exciting, it fluttered from the vicinity of the milkweed, which I can only hope means it was laying its eggs on this, its favorite birthing locale.

I quickly left the garden so I wouldn’t scare it away, but later I will check under the milkweed leaves to see if there are any eggs. Then I need to do some more research to find out whether this same butterfly will return to its eggs, should they be present, or leave its progeny to fend for themselves. If anyone has that information at hand, please comment. If you love butterflies as I do and have any useful tips, feel free to comment as well.
                                                                                    ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Benny's Angel Audio Book

This week I helped pick the narrator for the audio download of Benny’s Angel. It will be offered as a bonus to buyers so that children can listen to the story as they follow along in the book. I had the opportunity, if I desired, to do the narration myself. I would have loved reading my story to all the children who potentially would hold Benny’s Angel in their little hands. However, time and logistics would not permit me to make that commitment.

I received links to four narrators. Two were men and two women. My task was to choose three potential narrators, list them on an on-line form, and put them in order of preference from one to three. It was a difficult choice, since each had appeal. I listened to them repeatedly in order to compare the strength of voice, expression, animation, and rate of speech. I also took into consideration whether a child might prefer to hear this particular story told in a male or female voice. The subject matter has a bearing on this, in my opinion. A tale of knights in shining armor might be more convincing in a man’s voice, while a story involving angels might be more appealing in a woman’s voice. My own thoughts about this were confirmed when I spoke with my 10-year-old granddaughter. Since she is an avid reader and a very wise little girl, her opinion about this carries a lot of weight with me. Of course, the final decision rests with the media department at Tate Publishing.  

In addition to submitting my preference for a narrator, I was asked to list the names of the characters and any unusual words, along with their phonetic spellings. This will avoid their mispronunciation by the narrator.

My excitement continues to build as Benny's Angel moves closer to printing time. The next step will be to examine the hard-copy proof for errors and that will be the topic of my next update.
                                                                                    ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Designing a Butterfly Garden: Part II

Now that I have a good selection of flowers that contain the nectar on which butterflies feed, the next order of business is to add host plants where they can lay their eggs. The host plants become a source of food for the larvae that emerge from the eggs. Different species choose different plants on which to lay their eggs. I especially want to attract my favorites, monarch butterflies, with their vivid black and orange markings. They will lay their eggs only on milkweed. I also love yellow butterflies, such as sulfurs and tiger swallowtails. They prefer cassia bushes and trees, with their bright yellow blossoms. Since cassia trees grow quite large, I have chosen a bush.

In addition to nectar and host plants for laying their eggs, butterflies like a watering place, such as a birdbath or saucer. It is important to put some sand or dirt in the container and keep it wet. Some pebbles or small rocks where the butterflies can sun themselves is a nice addition. I found a large, heavy glass saucer with an attractive blue and brown swirling pattern. It is deep enough to hold some water and a few smooth rocks. I placed it on a decorative plant stand, which I anchored in the garden by means of some landscape pins.

The next step in preparing a butterfly garden is to nurture the plants, being careful not to use chemical insecticides. Then comes the most difficult part of all - waiting patiently for the butterflies to arrive.     
                                                                                   ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Must-Have Power

" The capacity for self-control, the ability to master one's sinful impulses and deal with them constructively, is itself a crucial moral power."
                                                                                                ~ Will Herberg

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Choosing a Cover Design for Benny’s Angel

My first children’s book, Benny’s Angel, made it through copy editing, conceptual editing and illustration. During the month of June it moved to the cover design phase. Last week I chose from several potential cover layouts. I evaluated each design based on its appeal to potential buyers, both children and parents. Which design will make them want to pick Benny’s Angel in preference to another children’s book sitting next to it on the bookstore shelf?

In addition to the appeal of the cover illustration, factors that could influence their choice are color combinations, font design, font size, and the balance of all the elements together. Primarily, I put myself in a child’s mindset and tried to figure out which cover would most engage his imagination so that he would want to open up Benny’s Angel and read it.

After a lot of evaluation, I chose a design that needs just a little tweaking to match my vision. The same department that did the cover design also did a great layout of the text and illustrations and sent it for my approval. I assessed it for text breaks, flow of the story with the illustrations, and readability of the font. Once the cover design is complete, a galley proof of Benny’s Angel will be sent to me for a final edit. If there are no corrections, the book will go to print. Stay tuned for the next chapter in the journey to publication of Benny’s Angel.

                                                                                    ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker