When I was a kid, I pictured being an author as this almost magical experience not too dissimilar from a Jedi using the force. I imagined writers as artistic figures who were are able to tap into this ambiguous creative spirit that flowed through their body and onto the page. I thought inspiration could be triggered by small things, but once struck would burst from my brain like a hidden reserve of oil.
The reality is much less sexy. Inspiration definitely plays a part in the process and there are scenes I've written that seem to appear almost fully constructed (See Ezekiel's fight with Eden's dad in The Thin House), but 99% of writing is a lot more like playing with a Rubik's cube. You have a general idea of what is should look like and you spend a lot of time shifting and moving pieces to make it fit just right. Editing and rewriting play a much role in delivering a finished book, than I ever would have guessed. Particularly in the later stages, which is where I find myself.
So as a respite from the formatting and back and forth with printing services, I thought it may be therapeutic to take a break and share a little more about what comes next in The Hinderwood as well as future books.
Readers of The Thin House noticed that one of the strongest relationships in the book is between Finn and his Grandparents Ezekiel and Eleanor Blacklock. Eagle eyed fans may have also noticed that the story is dedicated to grandparents. I've said in earlier posts that I grew up in a Southern storytelling culture that was largely established by my parents and grandparents. When I wrote my first book I wanted to capture the feeling I grew up with of a young boy who is thrust into this world of elaborate and colorful mythologies.
Some people expected the second book to continue on this theme, and to basically see the continuation of Finn's story. I can honestly say that was never the plan. I envision Jackalope Stories as three separate, standalone (if overlapping) stories that are all ultimately tied together in an "event style" fourth book that serves as my bookend to the world I first created with Thin House.
That said, each of the three standalone stories is really founded on a type of relationship and a different stage in my own life. Thin House was my childhood relationship with grandparents and parents; whereas, The Hinderwood is my adolescence and my relationship with my younger siblings. I had a lot of readers ask about the parallels from my personal life that worked their way into the first book, and I've said before that good writing is personal writing. I expect this to intensify with book two.
My siblings spent countless summers and weekends exploring the town and vast networks of trails my grandfather and great uncles cleared through the pine forest surrounding all the rural homes. It hasn't changed much since I was a kid, and it still has a magical quality that is hard to articulate. When I started considering the setting for The Doe Brother's story there was no other possibility. It was easy to picture Jack and Jimmy walking the quiet country roads and doing odd jobs for crazy old guys like Buford and Cash, who are based lovingly on my great uncles.
I actually first visited Opossum Trot as a writer when working on a comic book a couple years back. The comic didn't work out, but the quirky town has been stewing in the back of my mind for some time now, and I fully intend to go back not only for Hinderwood but for other future projects as well.
Readers may remember Opossum Trot from The Thin House. I actually mentioned the Opossum Trot Funeral Home in the chapter introducing The Auditor. It's no coincidence that book two follows one of the otherworldly bureaucrat's other files, and I think it's safe to assume you will see more of him throughout book two and three. In many ways The Auditor is the glue between the stories and his story is a big part of what I have planned for the finale in book four.
Anyways, I hope you're as excited as I am. I feel like I've been hanging out in Opossum Trot for years now, and I can't wait for you to do the same. Talk soon!
I have been waiting for this day for some time. In my experience, writing fiction that hasn't been shared with anyone is learning to live with voices in your head and elaborate invisible worlds that no one else visits. If you do your job right this imaginary world doesn't always feel so imaginary. You can clearly envision the geography, local flora and fauna, and the overall vibe of this place that exists in your head. Not only that, but the citizens of this fictional place become more and more real until you can almost hear them bickering, laughing, and vying for your attention. This phenomenon intensifies until you reach a point where you have to do something about it, or see a therapist.
So to put off having to set up an official appointment with my father-in-law, it's time for a new book. I can now officially announce that the second book in the Jackalope Stories series will be released on February 19th. To celebrate, I would like to reveal the completed cover for The Hinderwood which you can see below.
As I mentioned, The Hinderwood is the second installment of The Jackalope Stories Saga, but much like The Thin House it can be read as a standalone story. However, readers from my first book will appreciate a continuing sub plot that will frame future books and lead to a final story that will tie everything together in a conclusion that's been several years in the making. In the coming weeks you can check back here for more teasers and character spotlights in advance of our February release, but for now check out the back of book summary below. Talk soon!
When Jack and Jimmy Doe left New Orleans to live with a new guardian in Opossum Trot, Mississippi, the brothers thought they would finally live out a normal childhood—at least by their standards. They expected unfair fights with schoolyard bullies, hard work with ornery neighbors, and an endless supply of terrible though well-intended cookies.
But one Halloween night, Jimmy convinces his older brother Jack to break through the chains and locks on a wooden shed behind the town mortuary. By the time Jack rubs the blinding light from his eyes, Jimmy is already gone, stolen away by a pale hand with sharp, yellow nails. While Jimmy struggles against his ravenous captor, Jack can only give chase into a strange world—taking every risk necessary to find his lost brother before time runs out.
Because once spirits in the Hinderwood forget their purpose, they fade… or they feed.
So first off I know it's been a while since we've had an update here, and I apologize for the lull. However, the reason for the lack of blog posts is that I've been hard at work on a range of projects that will be coming your way sooner rather than later. You'll notice I said projects as in plural. I can't say much about one of them, besides make sure you keep your eye out around here on Halloween. But I wanted to take some time today to tell you a little bit about a larger one coming your way in 2021.
The support for The Thin House has been exciting, and I'm happy to announce that you will be able to visit the world of The Blacklocks, The Auditor, and Chester the Jackalope again, and quite soon. I can officially share that the sequel, Hinderwood will be released in 2021.
Hinderwood will take place in the eccentric town of Opossum Trot Mississippi. I first created Opossum Trot as a setting for a comic book that I worked on a couple years back. It's based loosely on the town of Liberty, Mississippi which is where my mom's family is from. I weave a lot of family stories and characters into the fabric of this fictional town, and I'm excited to welcome you. Opossum Trot is a special place not only in the Jackalope Stories universe, but also as a setting for future books not involving Chester and company.
The story will follow brothers Jack and Jimmy Doe. Their adventure begins when a Halloween dare involving the local mortician and his mysterious cellar goes horribly wrong. The Doe's will need all the help they can get as they're pursued by a relentless predator called The Needlebone Man, and readers from The Thin House can expect to see some familiar faces. I hope you join Jack and Jimmy on this otherworldly odyssey featuring undead coyotes, consecrated baseball bats, and high stakes chess matches.
As we get closer to release, I'll share some teasers and background information on some of the characters and places. For now be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram, and check back here regularly for updates. Talk Soon.
Last week I was talking to a friend who recently finished The Thin House, and they asked a question that has been on my mind for quite some time, "What are you going to do next?" I've gotten variations of this question pretty much since the release of the first book. This particular query is thrilling to me for a couple reasons. The first and foremost being, I'm tremendously excited about where we go from here. The truth is, I have been since long before The Thin House was released.
Many of my readers have admired the artwork on our home page. The image was created by Kurt Chang and features fan-favorite character from the first book, Chester the Jackalope, toiling away at a typewriter in a warm and inviting library. Many have commented on the eclectic details of the setting, and noted Easter eggs from the book, including Ezekiel Blacklock's gun belt, a plate of Eleanor's biscuits with honey, and the brass-knuckles from the werewolf fight. However, there are a lot of other specific and unusual items in Chester's library that don't appear in the book, at least not the first one.
Some noteworthy details in the art include, a hand-carved baseball bat, a marble chess piece, and a sleeping pit bull. There are others as well. The inclusion of these objects was a conscious and planned decision to nod at what lies ahead for Jackalope Stories. The plan has been in place for some time, and if you enjoyed The Thin House I think you will be pleased with where we go from here. Without spoiling anything, I wanted to talk a little about what you can expect.
When people ask or make predictions about the sequel, the common assumption I'm confronted with is that the next time we visit The Thin House will be for Finn's second summer with his grandparents, and that the series will largely follow his growth as he spends more and more time with Ezekiel, Eleanor, and the guests at their boarding house. This is a nice idea, but while I can appreciate series like The Boxcar Children, that is not where we are going.
Though The Thin House has a young main character, I never intended my book to be a children's book necessarily. I've got another post where i'll discuss maturity levels in my writing, but for now I will simply say that some of the most intellectually stimulating books are told through the lens of a child's perspective, and that's where I wanted Jackalope Stories to begin. Throughout the course of future books in this series, the protagonist(s) will get older much like my readers. Furthermore the series will not be a Finn's Adventure of the Summer serial. I've got something slightly more ambitious in mind.
Like most of my character's I have a lot of affection for Finn Anglin. He's based largely on a younger version of myself learning from the prominent adults in my childhood. We will see him again in the course of upcoming books, but he will not be the main character again until the last one. When I planned out the four stories that I hope to write in this series, the primary goal of The Thin House was to build a sandbox. Put another way, I wanted to create a world with fertile ground in which to harvest exciting, and earnest stories.
The second and third book, both of which are far along in their development, will take place in the same world as The Thin House. You will see familiar characters, places, and an overarching sub-plot that I hope will pay off in a big way as we approach the end. However, each book will be a standalone story that can be read and appreciated with or without the benefit of the rest of the series. I don't want to get into major spoilers, but I will say if you want a peek at what the series will be, pay close attention to Chapter Six of The Thin House.
I recognize this may not be what some expected, but as the person who's spent the most time in this world and with these characters I'm very excited for you to see what lies ahead. If you enjoyed The Thin House, if the characters felt meaningful and interesting, I believe you will be pleased with the next couple steps in this journey, more so than something as formulaic a Finn's annual adventure.
I'm on track to release the second book in early 2021. I'm looking forward to sharing information and previews over the next couple months. The Thin House will always hold a soft spot in my heart, but that world is about to get a lot bigger. Our next stop will be Opossum Trot Mississippi. I can't wait to show you around.
A pretty cool milestone took place this weekend. A store agreed to carry my paranormal YA book. This particular store isn't the first to pick up my book, I've been fortunate enough to have a couple commercial distributor orders for The Thin House. The reason this specific store is special is because of what it is, I.e. my local comic shop.
I've said before on here, that I'm a pretty big comic fan. I grew up on my dad's old silver age comic books. My earliest memories were mostly X-Men, Thor, The Justice League, and my all time favorite, Batman. Besides these treasures, I also devoured anything I could get a hold of at used bookstores, and local libraries. I still remember the triumph of discovering the entire run of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's The Long Halloween at a flea market, and getting all thirteen issues for ten bucks.
I really didn't understand the joy of a great local comic shop until I was an adult. I found my current shop shortly after I returned from my missionary service and started college. I'd read about a then rising writing talent named Scott Snyder who was about to start a run of Batman comics with one of my favorite artists, Greg Capullo, and I wanted to experience it as a monthly subscriber. My search led me to a store that at the time was called Comics and Stuff. Now, eight years, two owners, two locations, and a name change later it is still my local comic shop.
I still keep a list of subscriptions at what is now Bombshell comics even though I no longer live in Hattiesburg. I do this because it's an awesome store, with great customer service, that has made accessing illustrated storytelling so special. This store and the management over the years have not only provided the comics I was looking for, but also introduced me to whole new worlds of stories including Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley's Invincible which is now one of my all time favorite series.
When I released my book, one my personal goals was to get it in Bombshell Comics. Not because I necessarily expect to sell a ton of copies there, it's a comic shop after all. But anyone who has had a regular relationship with a business for years knows it evolves into something special. Particularly with a local comic shop, once you make the New Book Wednesday trek for the hundredth time you start to realize you're part of a community. I've been part of a great one for eight years, and I was delighted when the owner Jarred Howze said he'd carry a couple copies of The Thin House.
I can't sing Bombshell's praises enough. Over the years I've participated in midnight release parties, Free Comic Book Day, and several other fun events. The staff is courteous and knowledgeable. They regularly host artists, cosplayers, and other special guests. Even during Covid-19 they are doing everything they can to safely support the needs of customers like me. I highly recommend a visit.
No matter how successful The Thin House becomes, this particular milestone will always be special. There's something awesome about my book having a home at my local comic shop. Bombshell Comics and Stuff is located in Hattiesburg, MS on Hardy Street.
You can find them on Facebook and Instagram or check out their Website at Bombshellcomicsonline.com
Fun fact about me, the adults of my childhood were correct when they told me I watched too much TV. But for better or worse that's how I was as a kid, and it's how I am as an adult. I love TV and movies, and though sometimes I struggle to remember the names of people I meet at work, I can easily rattle off quotes from Nick-at-Night, the cast of obscure movies like The Terror (1963), and the plot of just about every episode of Batman The Animated Series (as well as every other Bruce Timm show).
I love old stuff like The Twilight Zone (Sterling) and new stuff like...The Twilight Zone (Peele). Whether we are talking about mysteries and detective shows like Fargo and Justified, horror like Stranger Things and The Haunting of Hill House, Sitcoms like Superstore and Brooklyn Nine Nine, or animation (looking at you Bob's Burgers) I'm in. To give you a sense of the wide net of my veiwing interest, during the quarantine I've polished off the following:
Before we get to the actual cast, let's talk format. I'm a big fan of mini-series, and I feel like that is the most natural way to tell a visual story for The Thin House. I wrote the book so that each chapter was almost a self-contained story, so you could almost do an episode for each chapter. So ideally we are looking at something like a Netflix single season mini-series. Also, technically The Thin House rides the line between middle grade/young adult fiction, but I like to think I wrote in a mature voice that could be appreciated by an older/family audience. So, I wouldn't really see this as a children's show/series, more like something tonally close to Umbrella Academy or Locke and Key.
Now, without further adieu let's look at my cast:
So there you go. This represents a dream scenario, the reality is that any of these actors in these roles would be awesome (Especially Jeff Bridges as Ezekiel, I mean come on) I am also prepared to defend these castings with examples if necessary. Anyways, I want to hear what you think on this one. Who do you see in these roles?
I am sincerely grateful for those who have left reviews so far on Amazon and Goodreads, and as a way to encourage more, I have previously mentioned a raffle. Everyone who has submitted a review so far is already included. In addition, anyone else that leaves honest feedback for The Thin House on Amazon or Goodreads will be entered into a raffle. The winner will receive a free T-Shirt. I'll be doing the drawing when we reach 20 reviews on Amazon, and I'll announce the winner here on the website.
A note for those wishing to participate. Amazon is very particular about the reviews they post so if a member of your family has already left feedback you will most likely not be posted. In this case I recommend using Goodreads instead. And of course, I really want honesty here. I'm not encouraging anyone to leave feedback that doesn't accurately reflect your opinions on the book. I hope to be announcing a winner soon! Best of luck!
Setting plays a big part in my writing. I'm currently working on the sequel to The Thin House, which takes places in a fictional version of my mom's hometown, where I spent a lot of time as a kid. I'm excited to introduce the world to Opossum Trot Mississippi, but today I want to talk about the setting of my recent book. The Thin House is set in Abita Springs Louisiana. Abita is a real place, and my one regret about the book is not taking more time to discuss it. Like many of my favorite places, Abita is small, rural, town with a giant personality.
Abita Springs was first settled by Louisiana pioneers in the 1800's, but was first discovered by the Choctaw Indians who were drawn to the area by it's mineral springs and Artesian wells. They called the place "ibetap" which means fountain. There is a legend that one of sons of the first settlers married a Choctaw princess named Abita. The couple supposedly moved to nearby New Orleans where the princess fell gravely ill, and wasn't responding to any treatments. The legend states that by returning and bathing in the healing mineral waters of "ibetap" she was miraculously healed.
Another thing that's still there today is the water. There is a fountain near the center of town where locals and visitors call fill up jugs of the water to take with them. I can't speak to the validity of it's healing nature, but there is a noticeable freshness that is very nice. My wife and I top off our water bottles whenever we pass through.
Today the town boasts a handful of very pleasant restaurants, The Abita Brewery, and fascinating places like the Abita Mystery House, a museum for folk art, old arcade games, odd collections, and general weirdness. Side note when my wife and I first visited the place we found this really strange looking gray cat that led us through the entire exhibit, and i'm still not sure if it was staged somehow or if we almost stumbled into Narnia. I highly recommend stopping in and exploring if you have the chance. Totally worth the $4 admission.
Abita has an almost otherworldly quirkiness that is palpable from the moment you first drive into town beneath a hollow of massive oaks, with hanging curtains of Spanish moss. There are strings of Christmas lights in the trees that give the community an even more magical vibe at night. It's truly a special place. I knew when I first started building The Thin House that it needed to be nestled away in the rural edge of Abita Springs. I challenge anyone who read the book to take a visit and see if you can't feel some of the eccentric warmth that I tried my best to capture in The Thin House. There's a reason my wife and I now live just a couple miles away.
The hardest thing about being an independent author is easily the marketing. I love the actual writing, and as I've said in the past I really love working with artists. While I enjoy talking about my book, particularly with fans, I don't like doing so in a way that doesn't feel organic. This is probably why I cannot make twitter work.
So, I'm trying to be creative when it comes to finding ways to share my story with potential readers. Since we are still pretty much in quarantine, I've been unable to go around to libraries and books stores, and conventions are not really an option. However, I recently had a really cool opportunity. I was asked by a teacher to help with a virtual creative writing class for 5th-8th graders. It was a great experience and allowed me to talk about my book and some general thoughts on story crafting.
I thought I'd share the video
Now before anyone rips on me, I am very aware I'm awkward on camera. And sometimes off camera...But besides allowing me to speak about my book, I really thought this was a great opportunity to share what humble insight I have into the writing process. Particularly as it relates to my last point in the video.
I always had this idea that writers were just born with almost magically infinite supplies of creativity, and being an author essentially meant tapping into this inspiring force of imagination and writing what comes out in an almost prophetic way. Now to be clear some people are just born with great imaginations, but the reality is creativity is a skill that can be learned. In the video, I compare it to a muscle that can be strengthened with regular use.
Furthermore, creativity alone won't get you that far. Being able to come up with a great idea is wonderful, but crafting that idea into story, much less a book requires a hard work and discipline. I say all of this to drive home the fact that if you want to be a writer you can be. It's a matter of consistent effort more than anything else. I find that truly encouraging. I hope you do too.
"The Wild Card Bandits" Created and owned by Teo Skaffa.
It was a collaborative experience, and Teo was incredibly intuitive. I found the process to be similar to my own writing, where you start by essentially building the skeleton of a story and gradually put meat on the bones. I can't tell you how exciting it was to see the artwork begin to take shape, but to give you a sense of where we came from I thought it would be fun to share some of the different stages which you can see below.
It was wonderful seeing this world I spent so much time developing come to life visually. Teo's use of atmosphere and textures helped really nail the ethereal warmth and folksy charm I wanted to permeate The Thin House. I was very fortunate to work with someone so talented, but also so accommodating and hardworking on my first book. There was a lot of formatting and re-formatting that was necessary to submit the story for publication and Teo always brought solutions. I truly can't imagine delivering a product of this quality without him.
I'm currently working on the second and third book in the Jackalope Stories Saga. Ever since Teo created The Thin House cover, I've been eagerly anticipating what he comes up with for future corners of the world in which I spend an increasingly large amount of time. Even when he isn't working on projects with me, Teo is always creating something worth viewing. I highly recommend you check out more of his work on his website.
Visual art plays a big part in my writing either directly or as inspiration, and I hope to share more of these spotlight articles in the future. Until next time!