Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Miss Edna (1928-2012)

On this date in 2012, Edna Milton Chadwell, better known as Miss Edna, passed away at the age of 84 in Phoenix, Arizona, where she'd lived a life of quiet anonymity since the early 1980s. Her final days were tragic. The previous October (or September--my memory is imprecise) she was involved in a car wreck that left her hospitalized with an array of injuries. From what I understand, her memory was affected, and her brain stopped converting short-term memory into long. In practical terms, it meant somebody could introduce themselves and begin a conversation with her, but five minutes later she'd have no recollection. Over the previous three years I feel I've gotten to know her as much as any person alive today who wasn't related to her. She enthusiastically supported my book project and graciously invited my wife and myself into her home for hours of interviews. It is my everlasting regret that I did not complete the book in time for her to have her own copy.

And speaking of the book, it was exactly one year ago that I walked away from a publisher who wanted to publish the book--but only if I'd agree to a contract that very much not in the best interests of me or my book. I won't say that ending that association after several months of discussion and planning was the hardest thing I've ever done--it was actually fairly easy, given their "take it or leave it" attitude. But after more than a year of getting my hopes up when publishers expressed initial interest only to say "nevermind," and a similar year of futile agent-hunting before that, it was pretty damn painful. At that point I was seriously beginning to question if the book would ever see the light of day, and I had a growing paranoia that someone, somewhere, would beat me to market with a history of the Chicken Ranch that would render mine irrelevant (there no basis in fact for the paranoia, but then again, paranoia thrives in the absence of fact).

What a difference a year makes! I've been impressed with my current publisher, History Press, and at times overwhelmed by the amount of input I have in the final form the book will take. My editor, Christen Thompson, has been fantastic. I'm expecting to get the copy edited manuscript back in the next week or so, and barring any unforseen hiccups, we're on track for an August release. That's right--we have an actual release month now! August marks the 43rd anniversary of the Chicken Ranch's closure, and the book should be available in time for sale at the Fayette County Fair and at the Texas A&M bookstore during Aggie home football games this fall (if Aggies do not prove to be a huge market for this book, I will be sorely disappointed).

Yes, there's a lot of water gone under this particular bridge. The coming year looks to be exciting, to say the least!

Now Playing: Billy Joel Cold Spring Harbor
Chicken Ranch Central

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