Six Gun City

I really needed reference photos.
I was trying to put the assets for the town together, and found myself researching ghost towns. I needed one that looked western, but also… in the middle of the forest. It was a high request, but eventually, I found Six Gun City. It was PERFECT, it looked exactly how I imagined the town, one strip, old wood and primed for a high noon showdown.
I looked for videos so I could get angles of it, when I found it was in Kentucky… slap down in the middle of the forest in Cumberland Falls- just two hours away.
I could get my own videos and pictures of this place.
I could feel what it’s like to be there myself.

Immediately, I called the team up. They were as excited as I was, it was Nonesuch.
We agreed we would leave the next morning.

That night, I spent a couple hours researching how to get there. I put together the maps and markers we would need, printed them out for each of us, including the pictures of the trails, markers, and checkpoints.
It wasn’t easy, and as sure as I was that these were the correct instructions, from multiple sources, something in me kept telling me that there was no way this was actually going to work.
We weren’t going to find this place.

That fear settled on me again.
We were jumping off of marked trails and trekking into the middle of nowhere. We could potentially get lost, but even if we didn’t, what are the chances I did this all right and we’d find this place? What if it’s not even there anymore? All we’d have was the papers that I printed.
It was on me- my idea, my directions, and everyone’s trust was in me.

I woke up that morning, and as we packed in the cars and headed out, I remember the anxious thoughts pacing my mind about how stupid I was gonna feel if I got a bunch of people rounded up overnight for some impulsive trip to some rumored place hidden in the middle of nowhere… and there was nothing.
And why did everyone go with me? Did they think I knew more about what I was doing than I really did? That I was totally capable of finding some obscure place in the middle of nowhere? I’d never done it before! Why did they even agree to go? And what if I was wrong? What if everything I thought I knew about this place wasn’t true? Why did they trust me?
If I was wrong…They’d think I was an idiot. A girl who got too excited about the latest and craziest thing and followed whatever whim I was on.
If I’m being real honest, the biggest fear was that they would start slowly distancing themselves from me if it failed. They’d see that I wasn’t the person they thought I was, and I’d feel even dumber for losing these friends because I risked my friendship by exposing them to this intense, stupid side of myself. This part of me that fails constantly. I’m deeply embarrassed by my emotional whims, and even more embarrassed by my failed ones.

When we got to Cumberland Falls, we grabbed more maps and drove out to the trail.

It had just rained. So the water was high, and right off the bat, the first part of the trail was flooded. I was tempted to turn around already. This on top of the battle in my head was already so much. I didn’t want to make everyone have to figure a way around this. There might be more flooded trails ahead of us. We shouldn’t have done this.
But then Audrey suggested heading up the hill around the flooded trail.
I was actually pretty nervous to do that. It was steep, and I’m not the best climber, but I was willing.
Everyone agreed to do it.
And as we went around even more around the flooding, I started to fall behind. But when I looked up and saw everyone waiting for me… I got an inkling of some kind of patience with myself.
They were waiting.
And I noticed something about myself then.
I felt like I was going to be left behind.
Then, of course, I became afraid that they were frustrated that I was holding everyone up.
At one point, in my rush to keep up as much as I could to not hold everyone up, Averi offered me her hand, and I remember trying to tell her not to worry about doing that because If I slipped we’d both fall. But she said something about how if she was willing to catch me, she was willing to fall with me.

As we kept along my researched route, we kept hitting all the checkpoints. Each one to my genuine shock.
It was actually working.
Everyone was having a great time.
Then, tired, out of breath, it was time to branch off from the trail.
And soon enough, we hit more checkpoints- and I remember the reward of having faith, the unbelievable feeling of running out ahead of the rest of the team… seeing the familiar path from the pictures, those orange slides, and turning to see that allusive town that I scoured the internet for.
I already made the big, scary steps researching the town, gathering the people to get there, and daring to go out and walk in it myself. What a bold, stupid thing to do. And I did it.

We took our pictures, videos, and experienced the surreal feeling of the town. It felt exactly like Nonesuch. We talked about scene ideas we got from rubble and all the accents and details we could add.
But the biggest takeaway for me was the fact that I actually did it. My whim… wasn’t a whim anymore. It was a dream come true.
There in that twice burned town, I remember realizing that I am enough for God. That He provides what I need, and not because of me, but because of Him, and He makes me who I need to be. He gives me all that I need to fulfill what He calls me to.
My team doesn’t need me to be enough, they trust God to be enough. For me to lead this team into an unknown- they don’t trust me as a human, they trust a God who is guiding all of us.

This trip was the trip I heard in the beauty of the adventure, nature, and love of my friends, that I am worthy of this calling of mine. God’s calling for me to write these stories isn’t a crazy whim- it’s a real place that He has equipped me to find, a real dream that He purposefully put on my heart.

The Beginning of A Crew

Our original set up in my spare room.

I had just finished my first experimental project, Lonely Awake.
The last book was shipped that day, a fun night with my mom packing up stickers and books and taking them to the post office to ship.
And that exact night, I had a dream.
I was wandering around in a dark forest, when I found my husband, Joe. I hugged him and felt relief, as I had been looking for him for a while. But the thing is, when I looked at him, it… wasn’t him. It looked like him, but I knew it wasn’t. I ran away and found myself in an old staged town, full of copies of myself and my husband. On a bench, a large woman in a striped shirt and a trenchcoat invited me to sit next to her. She offered me a clipboard for notes, and informed me that I can’t go home until I find my husband. She helped me narrow down the slight differences between the copies of my husband until I found him. And I woke up.
I immediately and viciously started writing out the elaborated concept from this unsettling and intriguing idea. I spent the next month fleshing out the characters and the story, and started posting the canvas version over 2020.

Through 2020, Nonesuch was barely my concern, because God was preparing my heart for the work He would really do with this story.
The pandemic brought me face-to-face with the evils of the world, quickly building a fighter in me. The anger and loneliness of that season encouraged the prayers and brought me the stories that God would use to show me who He said I was, and to prepare me for what was to come.

God often speaks to me through my imagination. Through little stories I imagine just for me.
But one especially stood out.
I stood on a path, and behind me was something God wanted to show me. He told me to turn around, and at first, I didn’t want to, because I knew what was behind me. I could sense the size… the responsibility. I turned around and wanted there to be simple rabbits, or little animals… but I knew when I turned around, that I would be standing before a pride of lions.
A pride of lions that were following me. No aggression, but ready to go where God said to go with me. Lions I was responsible for, that I answered to. Lions who I would be leading.
I knew so clearly at this moment, God was telling me something big was coming, and soon, and He was going to provide the people I needed to make something big happen.

The pandemic carried on, I uneventfully finished writing Nonesuch, sort of disappointed and frustrated that I made no sales and didn’t have nearly the audience I did with Lonely Awake. But… I felt something so sure about going forward. I still had a feeling that this was all just beginning. It felt strangely easy at this time to have faith, with nothing to lose.

A couple months after I finished the canvas version of Nonesuch, Webtoon emailed me an offer to turn Nonesuch into an Original. I excitedly accepted.

I really had begun to form a pretty strong enmity with the world over the events of 2020, and then I brought my first daughter into it all. A sense of duty and purpose was instilled in me, and I realized here that God had a plan for my stories, to bring His truth into this world that my daughter would grow up in.

During 2020, Joe and I had also moved back home before we had Gwendy. We used to live in Bowling Green, and we were finally done driving back and forth to see our family three hours away, (another large inspiration for Nonesuch) and now that we were settled, we were in the market for some friends.
Jon Mark was a family friend of Joe’s, and an acquaintance of mine from high school as well, so we felt comfortable accepting his invite to join Audrey’s new D&D campaign.

I knew Audrey in high school, and always loved her art. So, naturally, I was elated to get to know her a bit more. When me and Joe showed up to that tiny apartment Audrey and Averi shared, squished on the couch and folding chairs and bean bags around dice and character sheets, we all instantly clicked.

We started meeting regularly. Eventually we started meeting at our house, and we were getting along pretty well.

The time to start working on the new Nonesuch was rolling in, and I had no idea how I was going to find anyone who knew how to use CorelDRAW. I needed in-person people so I could easily train them. It felt obvious that I should ask Audrey. She was already listening to me talk her ear off trying to get the new outline down. When I asked if she wanted to start helping me shade some panels, she was totally on board. I also offered the job to Averi, who seemed interested, but I could tell she held some reservations. I didn’t want to pressure her, but Audrey seemed to. I left the invitation open, when eventually, Averi accepted.

And there we were. Bitsy & Company.