Inside Old Bones: Through the Eyes of a Child

Today’s edition of my behind-the-scenes look at my upcoming short story collection, Old Bones, takes us into a story that goes back several years. I will often attempt to give my story titles a double meaning, and Through the Eyes of a Child is one that does exactly that. It’s also one of a number of stories I’ve written with a child as the main character; maybe my first to do so, now that I think about it.

(I just now took a peek at the table of contents for Old Bones, and noticed this is one of three – arguably four, depending on how you look at it – stories which feature children as the main character. Over the years I’ve made an attempt to write not just from my own perspective, or that of others just like me. Writers, particularly beginning ones, will often inadvertently write every character as though they’re speaking through the character directly. Man, woman, child, modern, past, future: all written as if the character is a role being played by the author. I have attempted to avoid doing this, thus the inclusion of main characters that aren’t anything like me. The trick is to make the character relatable – if it’s a small child, make the reader believe these are the words and actions of a small child. I don’t always manage to pull it off, but it’s something I continue to work at.)

Several years ago my old friend J. Richard Jacobs – who I eulogized in this post – was looking for some stories for a themed anthology he called ‘Wunderkind’. He wanted stories about exceptional children, with special powers or traits. I thought about it for a little while, kicked around a few ideas, until I settled on what would ultimately become Eyes of a Child. The character, Tony, is a four-year-old boy with an IQ that’s off the charts. He also has a special secret ability that he doesn’t show or tell anyone about.

This is the part where I usually tell you about the incident or circumstances that inspired the story in question. I can’t do that today, because most of the plot behind this one stemmed from the game I play which I like to call “what if?” I almost never write to a prompt, but in this case I wanted to be included in this anthology, so I started kicking around ideas. Some of them were pretty far out, others simply lacked the impact I was looking for. I don’t know that it’s an entirely original idea – is anything, any more? – but I can’t recall ever seeing a similar story in my travels.

As with a lot of the things I wrote (and still write, if I’m being honest), I approached it with a sort of Twilight Zone mentality. I love the twist ending, and I like to think the reader doesn’t see it coming in this tale. The characters, Tony and his mother, Wendy, were named after real people. This, by the way, is something I frequently do, sort of an homage or tip of the hat to a friend or acquaintance. Most of the time I don’t tell anyone about this, not even the person in question. Rather, I prefer to let them stumble upon “themselves” when they’re reading and, hopefully, get a kick out of their inclusion (and if they don’t, well, then the story in question is purely a work of fiction and all resemblances to real people, living or deceased, is purely coincidental). I don’t want to spoil the story before you’ve had a chance to read it, but I will say that Tony was a real little boy I knew who passed away when he was about the same age as the boy in this story. Wendy is a friend of mine who has children of her own, though none (I don’t think, anyway) who can do the things Tony can.

The story satisfied my curmudgeonly editor, and he included it in his anthology. I was happy to share pages with many talented wordsmiths, all hand-picked by J. himself, and I was equally happy to have met with his approval. Wunderkind marked the third and final time my work appeared in the excellent Twisted Tails series, a fact I’m pleased and proud of. Now, I’ve chosen Eyes of a Child for inclusion in Old Bones, which I hope will bring pleasure and enjoyment to those who read it.

So that’s the story behind Through the Eyes of a Child. I hope you’re enjoying reading about the stories behind the stories, and will pick up a copy of Old Bones when it’s released. As always, thanks for reading. Be sure to pop over to my contact page and sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox.

Be safe, talk soon!

-JP

Inside Old Bones: The Crossroads

For this next installment in my Old Bones back stories, in which I discuss the origins behind the stories contained in my upcoming collection and delve into the creative process, we’re looking at a ghostly tale called The Crossroads. This one was written fairly recently, but it sprang from a decades-old incident.

For anyone familiar with the Miramichi area, you know ghost stories abound there. Every little hamlet and village, every town, and every inch of the vast, unbroken wilderness in between holds a spooky tale or two. You don’t have to look very far to find someone who either experienced something they couldn’t explain, or knows someone who has. Now me, I’ve spent more than my share of time rooting around the area over the years – long enough to have picked up more than a few of these stories. Some, like the Dungarvon Whooper (which we’ll get to in a future post), are well-known and oft-told. Others aren’t nearly as famous outside of where they took place. And then there are those, like this one, which virtually nobody knows about. How do I know about it, then? Because I was there.

The Crossroads starts off with the main character, Fred, telling his awestruck neighbor a ghost story from his past. He and his buddy were just youngsters when they witnessed an ethereal stagecoach-like carriage drawn by a team of horses with eyes that glowed red in the pitch blackness. It approached at a fast clip from behind the car the boys were in, charging down the old dirt road before vanishing into the dense forest without a trace. Terrified and fascinated, they investigate further and get a closer look at “the other side” than they ever imagined.

I was about the same age as the characters in the story when I was present for something very much like this happened. Similar setting, similar circumstances, and that same ghostly carriage complete with the team of horses. I didn’t personally see any of this take place, but I was at the wheel when one of my passengers did. He perched on his knees on the back seat and stared into the murky darkness behind us in silence, and when he turned around in his seat the look on his face left no doubt he’d seen something that spooked him.

At this point, the story goes in a completely different direction from the original encounter. In reality there was no further encounter with the horses, the carriage, or it’s otherworldly driver. We drove off into the night without further incident, though we debated the freaky encounter well into the night. Though I didn’t realize it yet, the seeds had been planted for The Crossroads. More than two decades would pass before I finally put pen to paper (literally – that’s how I write most of my stories, the old-fashioned way) and brought this old tale back to life. I like the direction this version went in, even if most of it isn’t strictly true to the original. The other principle player, the one who witnessed the carriage all those years ago, liked it too, even if he didn’t care for how it turned out for his character. I don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t tell you any more than that other than to say it ends in a way I could have seen playing out, had it come to that.

So, that’s the story of where The Crossroads came from. I realize there’s a fine line between sharing the behind-the-scenes stuff and spoiling the reader’s experience. Hopefully I’ve managed to straddle that line, and when the book is released hopefully you’ll read the stories and enjoy these “liner notes”, if you will, after the fact. More of these to come. In the meantime, thanks as always for reading!

Be safe, talk soon,

-JP

Dissecting Old Bones

Where do story ideas come from? It’s one of the most common questions I, and presumably most genre fiction writers, hear. It’s a legitimate question. I can only speak for myself, but in my case the answer usually comes down to one of two things.

The first is two simple words that form the basis for most speculative fiction: what if? Take any everyday situation or scenario, and ask yourself what if things aren’t quite what they seem, or what you might expect. A young couple sitting on a park bench having a conversation? What if they’re plotting a robbery, or a killing spree? A fisherman sitting on the bank of a peaceful stream? What if an unspeakable monster lurks just below the surface? The possibilities are endless; the trick is to figure out which ones will capture the imagination effectively and become intriguing stories.

The second type of story creation draws inspiration from real events and/or past experiences. In my travels I’ve seen and experienced all sorts of interesting and, in some cases, unexplained things. Some of these turned out to be perfectly mundane and explainable things, but that doesn’t necessarily take them off the table as good story ideas. As for the rest, the ones that defy reason or logic, well… those are even better story fodder.

This is all well and good, but broad-stroke generalities aren’t nearly as interesting as specific examples, right? So, since my first collection of horror stories, Old Bones, comes out later this year, I thought I would do a short series of entries here that takes a look at some of the stories contained therein and where they came from.

Today we’ll look at a tale called Fashionably Late. It’s the story of a young married couple attending a corporate Halloween costume party. This was one of those “what if” scenarios where I found myself thinking about how things might play out if the costumes the people at the party wore weren’t actually costumes at all. What would you do if you walked into a room filled with vampires and werewolves and such, only to discover these were real monsters around you? How long before they discovered you weren’t actually one of them? How would they react? The characters were loosely based on a real couple I know (who were pleased to learn they’d inspired this piece), which added an element of realism and believability. To the best of my knowledge nothing like this ever actually happened to the real couple, but I thought about how they might handle it if it had. Here’s a short excerpt:

Attention to detail was one thing, but the closer he examined some of the costumes the more he was convinced there was more to them than just extreme dedication to detail. The wiggling ears on the werewolf, the twitching antennae on the alien mutant, even the pulsing gills on the swamp creature. Somewhere in the back of his mind he questioned how a creature with gills could breathe out of the water, which made him aware that he hadn’t been thinking of the people in the room as his co-workers in costumes. Subtly, he crept closer to take a better look at the beast he’d seen eating the arm earlier, and it was only when he saw a small cluster of fleas leaping around near the neck and back that he came to the sudden, jarring conclusion that it was no costume. Realization dawned on him, creeping up from his subconscious with increasingly chilling clarity: these weren’t intricately detailed costumes. At least some of these people weren’t people at all. This was real, and he was in serious trouble.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for the creative process I’ll continue to feature the back stories from Old Bones here as we wend our way toward its release. To receive these posts directly to your inbox, sign up at my contact page and you’ll be the first to know whenever I add new content.

Thanks for reading and following along with me. Until next time!

-JP

Seventeen Skulls Cover Reveal

A couple of weeks ago I released a sneak peek at the cover of my upcoming short story collection, Old Bones. I’m excited about its release later this year, and I think the eye-catching cover art really does it justice.

At that time I promised to do the same for my new novel, Seventeen Skulls, in the near future. Well, the future is now. Allow me to present to you, for the first time anywhere, the cover of my forthcoming novel, Seventeen Skulls:

I’ll have more to say about the novel itself in future posts. For now I just wanted to share the cover, and my excitement for its impending release. Watch this space for more information including teasers, blurbs, excerpts and launch date!

-JP

Introducing Old Bones

As I mentioned in my last post, I have two new books coming out in the next little while. As I also mentioned, one of these will be a collection of short stories. Some of these stories you may have seen before, as there is a smattering of reprints included in there. But there are also a number of brand new, never before seen scary tales that I’m very excited to share with everyone. I won’t tell you any more about them just yet – but keep an eye on this space for hints and teasers.

To make up for the lack of information let me share with you something just as cool: introducing the cover for Old Bones, the first collection exclusively containing my own work.

Pretty snazzy, huh? Oh, and it’s also unique in the sense that it’s the first horror short story collection my publisher, World Castle Publishing, has ever produced. That’s all, just this one. So that’s a special and rare honor that I’m very grateful for.

To say I’m thrilled about this would be selling it short. Short stories are what I cut my teeth on in this industry. They’re still my go-to when I’m stuck or in a bit of a creative lull. For this collection I’ve selected some of my favorite stories from over the years. In turn, each of the stories included here has a back story about how it was created, where the idea came from, the process, and so on. Maybe down the road I’ll do a post dedicated to some of those behind the scenes tidbits.

For now, I hope you like the cover, and I promise there will be a cover reveal for the new novel very soon. Keep watching this space for more info and updates, or for even more prompt service feel free to drop by my contact page, fill out the info, and receive updates delivered right to your inbox.

Until next time, stay safe and talk soon!

-JP

First One of the Year

The New Year has started off with a bang in this part of the world. Yesterday I awoke to blinding, sideways snow which persisted well into the evening. I don’t know what the total accumulation was, other than “more than I would have preferred”. Thankfully, aside from dog walks and keeping the back deck cleaned off, I was happy to sit and watch from the comforts of my couch, all snug and warm.

Today, now that we’ve dug out from underneath the wintry blanket, I have some exciting news to share. First, the final edition of the Scary Snippets franchise was released just before New Year’s. The follow-up to last fall’s Campfire Edition, this time around it’s the Virtual Edition – technology gone wrong and wreaking havoc. This has been a fun series to participate in, it inspired me to write original pieces for both editions my work appeared in, and I’m proud of my stories.

And now, the main event. My publisher, World Castle Publishing, contacted me with an offer. I’m pleased to announce that as of this morning I have signed a contract for two more books – one novel and a short story collection. Release details and dates aren’t finalized just yet, but we can expect to see one or both later this year. It’s a good feeling, after a nearly sixteen-month gap between novels, to see the results of my patience and diligence bearing fruit. As with most of the things I’ve written, I’m proud of these forthcoming projects, and I’m excited to share them with you. As always, details to follow as they’re available.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year, and wish you all continued health and happiness moving into 2021. Until next time, stay safe, talk soon!

-JP

The End of a Long Week

My writing output this week, I’m sorry to say, was curtailed by a nasty dose of food poisoning. It was unfortunate (aside from the obvious reason) because of my recent novel progress, which is thanks in part to my recent posts here in this space. What does one have to do with the other? Well, it’s no secret that writers will occasionally procrastinate, and I’m not exempt from this. I’ve found, however, that discussing my progress in this space pushes me along to keep my nose to the grindstone. And so earlier today, despite my less than peak condition, I did manage to hammer out roughly a thousand words toward the cause.

Today, however, I wanted to take a brief detour from this little online diary of sorts in favor of a friendly mention of my previous novel, Terror in High Water. Another trait I share with many writers is reluctance to self-promote. I’m always hesitant to push my own work too hard or too often, even though it’s in my best interests to do so. With that said, I’m very proud of High Water and want to see it enjoyed by as many readers as possible. It’s been just under seven months since its release, and so far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, some of which can be seen in my dedicated page.

I’m thrilled with the response it’s received, so like I said, I thought I’d take this chance to give it another quick mention. I’ve gotten quite a lot of attention from new folks recently – which is awesome – some of whom may only know of me through other outlets or “friend of a friend” connections. All good – the more the merrier around here, I always say. And if someone stumbles upon this space and is curious, either about High Water or some of my earlier work, I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

I know I throw this into the conversation frequently, but as a final note, let me repeat the mantra: book reviews are a wonderful and inexpensive way to really brighten a writer’s day. Word of mouth means so much in terms of a writer’s credibility, more so than virtually any form of marketing. Reviews have such an impact in terms of exposure and future sales, and are invaluable to those of us who haven’t quite gotten the attention of the masses yet.

Again, thanks for your interest in me and my contributions to the world of fiction writing. Feel free to spread the word and mention me to any of your friends or acquaintances who might also enjoy what I do. If you’ve read this far and I’ve piqued your interest, there’s an option to sign up to receive updates directly via email. Whatever the method of delivery, however you may have learned of me and choose to spend your time here in this space with me, thank you. It’s all very much appreciated.

Stay safe, talk soon!

-JP

The Year That Was

The year is winding down rapidly – time for one last post before we roll over into the 2020s. As a sort of recap I thought I’d take a look back at 2019 as it unfolded from my perspective. As it turns out there’s quite a lot to review!

The biggest news, for me at least, was the release of Terror in High Water. I can’t say enough how pleased I am with how it turned out, and the kind words and support I’ve received. It’s widely available on numerous platforms in paperback and ebook.

My story, The Grand Finale, appeared in the Deadly Bargain anthology. It too was well received, and I’m proud of my inclusion in its pages.

The Canadian Dreadful anthology was next. This was a learning experience that contains a version of my story, The Sound of Passing Traffic.

Speaking of learning experiences, this fall saw the debut of my new course, An Introduction to Publishing. It’s a one-day seminar that’s a sort of companion piece to my Crafting the Short Story course. Both are offered through UNB’s College of Extended Learning and will continue into 2020 and beyond.

High Water has drawn interest locally in a few ways. A signed copy was included as part of a prize package offered by Fred-E-Scene, which is a showcase of local news, business, arts and leisure, and more. It’s a great resource that I highly recommend for anyone in or around the area.

I recently did an interview with Allan Hudson, founder and driving force behind the South Branch Scribbler. It was a cool experience in which we discussed a variety of topics. You’ll be able to check out in the coming weeks – I’ll keep you posted there.

Another “I’ll keep you posted” item is my first foray into children’s horror. Mother Ghost’s Grimm is a multi-part series focused on horror (age appropriate, obviously) for young children. Volume One, which includes a number of my friends, released earlier this month. I’ve got a story called The Little Ones in the forthcoming Volume Two, in which I’ll share pages with many other friends and my better half, Sheryl. She’s got a new release as well, an all-Canadian anthology called Creatures in Canada. It’s got a great author list and lots of cool stories. Worth a look!

Lastly, even though it won’t see the light of day until well into the new year: I’ve sent my second novel, Seventeen Skulls, to my publisher just before Christmas. It’s far too early in the process to divulge any more than that, but as with everything else on the horizon, I’ll keep you posted.

Have a safe and Happy New Year. Thank you for your support and all the cool experiences. See you on the other side!

-JP

Winter All-Purpose Post

Today’s post is a bit of a catch-all, as I bring you up to speed on some of the things going on in my chilly little piece of the world.

First, Terror in High Water is rolling along and getting some positive feedback. I’m grateful for the kind words and all the attention it’s been getting. Watch for reviews, spotlights and interviews, and more in the New Year.

As an aside, books make great Christmas gifts. For those unable to flee south and escape Old Man Winter, well… it’s always hot in the little Texas town of High Water.

Speaking of Terror in High Water, it recently received its first five-star review. You can read it here. I’ve also added a page on my site dedicated solely to High Water, which you can check out here.

The Fred-E-Scene holiday wishbook was released right on schedule and received with much enthusiasm. Thanks to the management and staff for being so cool to work with.

Also – and I’m sorry I didn’t know about this earlier – 13 Horror Street made High Water their Scream of the Day on release day.

Another first for me: I get to share a table of contents with my better half! I mentioned this briefly before, but I figure it bears repeating as we creep closer to the launch date. To recap:  it’s a slight departure for me, but we’ve delved into the world of children’s literature: horror edition. Presenting the Mother Ghost’s Grimm anthology. Here’s a little peek at the cover art. Sheryl and I will appear in volume 2.

Little Ones

Fun stuff. Looking forward to this cool project.

More to come later. Stay warm, stay safe. Talk to you soon!

– JP

 

Two Months of Terror

Winter is coming, folks. Those frozen winds creep ever closer, and sink their icy claws in a little deeper, with each passing day. It’s a wonderful time to curl up with a good book, safe from the frosty months ahead. And speaking of good books, if I might be so bold…

My novel, Terror in High Water, was unleashed just about two months ago now – almost to the day, as a matter of fact. It’s a chilling tale of terror in the old west with scares and twists, nightmarish monsters, and the ultimate showdown between good and evil.

I think it’s a pretty good book, but to be fair, I’m a little bit biased. So why don’t you be the judge? Pick up a copy – it’s available at most popular outlets – and leave a review with your take on it. Think of it as a dual-purpose Christmas gift: copies of the book make excellent gifts, and reviews left on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. help spread the word to other prospective readers, which helps me reach the biggest audience possible.

Like I said I’m pretty proud of my work, and it makes me very happy to hear that somebody – friend, family member, colleague, complete stranger – liked it too. Reviews help make that possible. It would be an honor to read yours.

-JP