You don’t know Jack!

C.S.E. Cooney, author of Jack o’ the Hills, has been busy cooking up a little treat for those of us who (like me) can’t get enough of Jack Yap

Jack Yap

Jack Yap was his Marm’s good boy, maple-syrup mouth, toffee-tongue, such sweetness, wasn’t he? His Marm’s pride was Jack Yap, so Marm told her neighbors – so she told him every day.

“Jackie, love,” she said into his muteness, “such a laddie, such a cuddlewump! Always smiling, aren’t you? Always helping your poor old Marm around the house.”

Jack Yap’s duties, which he did each day with seeming cheerfulness, were to bake the bread in the morning, bring his Marm her tea, unchain his brother Pudding from his bed and then take him to the outhouse.

Recall, Jack o’ the Hills is a fairy tale novella released by Papaveria Press earlier this year that includes two tales in one: “Stone Shoes” & “Oubliette’s Egg”.

Jack Yap once had his mouth sewn shut for talking too much. His brother Pudding has to wear stone shoes or he’ll just wander off. Will little obstacles like these keep the boys out of trouble? Not for the twinkling of an eye. There is magic in the hills, shapechangers and monsters, and Jack Yap has a hankering to meet them all and maybe kill a few. What he and Pudding find in the hills, however, changes both their lives, taking them out of the country and into the cruel and wonderful world, where witches and princesses await. Sometimes they are even the same person.

While reading Jack o’ the Hills is a pleasure only experienced by those who have, well, actually read it, hearing C.S.E. Cooney read Jack Yap would be a treasure indeed. And that is exactly the mischief being brewed right now. Here is what Ms. Cooney tells us about Jacks in general, about her Jack and about how to aim for the moon:

“One of my brothers (my brothers are Legion; just trust me when I say it was one of the younger ones, the next one down from me in fact, otherwise known as Aidan) wanted to be called Jack when he was a kid. I mean, I sympathized. I wanted to be called Mabel. Too much Pirates of Penzance or something. So I called my brother Jack for as long as that phase lasted. When I remembered.

Then there was the Jack of the movie Legend, a rag-and-tatters woodland boy who jumps from trees and communicates with Gumps. Well, a Gump, anyway. The Gump. There was Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas and Charles de Lint’s Jack the Giant Killer. And, of course, Sondheim’s Jack from Into the Woods, who had a “sunny, though occasionally vague disposition” and a Thing about Cows. 

All of these Jacks informed me, but they are none of them my Jack. My Jack Yap has a little to do with Loki and a little to do with Mr. Fox. He has a lot to do with the violence that begets violence, but also with a fierce and feral kind of love. Love for family, love for friends, love for beauty that can’t be tamed. He’s a red-head. Lethal with a poker. Guardian to an elder brother (name of Pudding, by the way, speaking of “sunny, though occasionally vague” dispositions). Breaker of eggs and devoted swain of a shapeshifter named Tam.

I wrote “Stone Shoes” in college and “Oubliette’s Egg” after. When Papaveria Press agreed to publish them both under the title Jack o’ the Hills I was beside myself. I’ve been toting my sweet little (horrid little) Wonder Tale to conventions and open mics, giving readings and hawking wares. And you know what people keep telling me?

“As much as I like it, I like it even better when you read it out loud.” Or, “I keep hearing your voice in my head when I read it on the page.”

In fact, it was a fellow named Jack, whom I met at WisCon through writer Alexandra Erin, who said, “You should make an audiobook of this!”

I called my brother. No, not that brother. My other brother. One of them. Let’s call him Jeremy. Because that’s his name.

“Remi? Uh, will you help me with this GarageBand mumbojumbo? Puh-leeez???”

My awesome brother (well, they’re all awesome; that is the nature of my brothers) taught me all sorts of things. Purple tags and exports and splits and stuff. And also, ’cause he’s a musician, he agreed to set the section breaks of my audiobook with a little tune we’re composing together. After all, if Neil Gaiman can intersperse his Graveyard Book chapters with the Danse Macabre on banjo, we can try and be at least as cool. Aim for the moon, right?

Of course, if Jack Yap ever aimed for the moon, it’d probably be because he thought it looked like an egg, and felt a huge, hungry desire to break it into itsy bitsy pieces.

He can’t wait to meet you.”

Jack Yap isn’t just a character. He’s a situation, and, I kid you not, he is real. He’s the kind of real you lock your windows against at night, or put a chain around your refrigerator to protect your eggs. He’s a natural disaster, waiting to happen, and you really, really want to get to know him. And soon you’ll be able to hear C.S.E. Cooney read Jack to you!

I’m a bit afeared, because last I heard, Jack Yap was heading north.

I live in the north…

and I like eggs.