Archive for the Kids Category

The Adventures of Bailey Boots #8: Nothing Moo Here

Posted in Bailey Boots, Comics, Kids, Reading with tags , , , on April 10, 2015 by Jessica Crichton


Bailey Boots is a curious girl. She tr–

Wait. Where is Bailey Boots?



… uh… says Bailey Boots? Silly B–

“I won’t come out! You can’t make me!”

But… Bailey Boots. Don’t you want an adventure?



But… why not?

“It’s scary.”


Please come out.


Okay, okay. If I promise no more cows, will you come out?


“No more cows?”

No more cows.


Cross my heart.


“Oh… okay. As long as there’s no more cows.”

… says Bailey Boots?

“Don’t push it.”


Okay! We’re back in business!


Bailey Boots is a curious girl. She tries new things every d–



… what now?


“Where’s Moo?”



“Yeah. He’s supposed to be on my shoulder now, remember?”

You… never really had Moo. You know that, right? Moo was a charac–


“No Moo, no me.”

Bailey Boo–


“Get Moo back, then we’ll talk Miss Big Writer Lady.”

Bailey, be reasonable.

“Moo first!”




Sigh. Fine. I’ll be back later.


“You’d better be. You’d. Better. Be.”

Bailey Boots #5


The Zombies are Coming… RELEASE DAY! YESSSSSSS!

Posted in Books, kidlit, Kids, Parenting, Reading with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by Jessica Crichton


“What was that?” Roach whispered, pointing across the water.

At the exact same time, I saw movement in the bushes under the archway. I hoped so hard that it was just my eyes playing tricks on me. I hoped. And hoped.


Then my hopes were crashed into a billion little pieces.

Small shadows — tons of them – broke out of the greater gloom, wading silently through the water towards us. I sat there, unable to move or even scream, as they got closer and closer. Soon I could make out human-like shapes, arms raised, legs moving jerkily through the green sludge.

About halfway across the water, the shadows gave out a long, low moaning-wail that froze my bones.

“What… what’re they sayin?” Roach whispered.

I shook my head. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breathe.

But I knew exactly what they were saying.


Yes, it’s THAT time! Finally! Time to reveal the exact release day for The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc, Book 2 of “Guts and Glory, Freedom Fighters of Nil”! (Book 1 can be found here.) So, without further ado, just in time for Halloween…

Online Ordering Release: Friday, October 11th, 2013

First Public Paperback Release and Signing: Saturday and Sunday, October 26th and 27th, 2013 at Glamirita Clothing and Accessories in Spokane, WA!

Thank you all for your patience while Jessica Turner and I have been working hard to bring you the best “Guts and Glory” ever! We promise, it’ll be worth it. 🙂

The Five Best Things about Raising Kids Poor

Posted in Family, Family Life, Kids, mothers, Parenting with tags , , , , on September 11, 2013 by Jessica Crichton


I see a lot of blog posts about parenting out there, and many of them are a lot of fun to read, laugh with, and relate to.  Still, these are often written about subjects to which I am woefully unrelatable, such as picking the perfect nanny, or how to get your kid into an ivy-league college starting in preschool. Now, I’m not saying these things aren’t relevant; I’m sure for many parents they are, or else they wouldn’t be written about. And I would never be one to judge any parent (unless they harm their children — that deserves a lot more than judgement, as far as I’m concerned). However, I am pretty sure I am not the only mommy out there who’s parenting world is a bit different than the perceived norm of soccer practices and brand-name baby carriages.

As I have written about before, I am not what one would call… well-off. Actually I’m not even middle class. Of course, when one says this, one is usually expected to follow up with reasons why being poor is a terrible thing, how they want to win the Lottery one day, how the world is awful and judgmental, etc.

I’m not going to do that.

As I said before, I’m not the only parent raising their children in what America calls poverty, and we have all heard quite enough about how horrible it all is. Heck, we’re quite aware of it in our own lives thank-you-very-much. But what I haven’t heard much of is the good things. The happy things. The wonderful day-to-dayness of parenting poor (as opposed to poorLY — that’s a very different thing). So, for myself and my fellow penniless parents out there, here is my list of the top five BEST things about raising un-monied children:

5) Our Kids Have to Learn to be Thankful


I’m not saying that those parents who are better off can’t teach their children to be meek and thankful, but I am saying that poor kids don’t really have a choice in the matter. My own children have learned from day one that they won’t get everything they want in life, not because I don’t want to give them all their desires, but because I can’t. Seeing that Mom would like to give them what they want, but still can’t do it, not only shows my children that the world won’t just give them whatever they desire, but it makes them far more thankful for what they can have. Though any parent can teach their child thankfulness, poor parents have the automatic default of showing their kids — in real time — why hard work is important.

Which brings me to…

4) Our Kids Get Daily Lessons in Reality


This is similar to #5, but not exactly the same. See, I am divorced from my children’s father as well as poor. This isn’t something I’m particularly proud of, but life is the way it is. However, it gives me a myriad of lessons to teach my children in order to improve their futures:

“Why are you and dad divorced?” “Because we got married too young — don’t do that.”

“Why are we so poor?” “Because Mommy didn’t do anything to get ready for having kids before she had you. Go to college. Get a career, not just a job. Be ready for your kids.”

My children get these lessons on almost a daily basis. My high school junior is planning college with a view towards a career, not just a degree, and my sophomore has said that she WILL get a PhD… because Mom now has a Master’s and she can do better. I’m proud of my children, what they have accomplished and will accomplish. I am also a natural spoiler. If I had money, my children would most likely be learning some very different lessons… and not the best ones.

3)  Family Time is AWESOME


I’m sure going to the spa, or Disneyland, or beach house, or whatever is a lot of fun for some families. I’m even sure my family would enjoy such a thing. However, we have some pretty awesome family times ourselves.

For example, there are times when we do have some extra cash, so we have things like a T.V. and video game system for family-time livingroom sleepovers with popcorn, game tournaments, and family movies. There are also some great free, or close to free, family outings that we do on a regular basis. Here in Spokane there is a HUGE free fountain in the central park downtown where kids can run through and splash and have a blast. We go there often when it’s warm, packing a picnic lunch from our own home stores of budgeted groceries. This costs about $3 — for parking. We also go camping, which is a WONDERFUL time to not only give our kids some great memories, but spend real time with each-other without the distractions of T.V., laptops, or even cell phones. This usually costs a bit more for gas and some extra campy-style food, but we have some free campsites we like to go to, so that the total cost for an entire weekend of family fun is only around $40 max. Usually less. Wintertime offers parks for sledding with home-brought hot cocoa, or family game night with mommy-made kid’durves (usually tiny peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and chips).

Of course, this isn’t meant to say that our family times are any better than anyone else’s, but it is to say that yeah we have it. And yes, it can be AWESOME. Still…

2) It Takes Work


So, you might be saying “how the heck is this a GOOD thing?” Let me explain.

I am not going to sit here and say I know what it’s like to raise kids with money. That would be asinine, and a lie. That said, I DO know myself, and I know that if I had money to spare, I’d probably take as many shortcuts as possible to make my parenting life easier. However, I don’t have money to spare, and so I have to take extra time to spend quality moments with my children. Between job-hunting, bill paying, and the everyday stress of not knowing details about the future state of either, my kids could easily get lost in the shuffle. I have to make a concerted effort to remember to give my twelve-year-old the scraps of cloth and holey clothes I find in the laundry so she can practice her sewing skills. I have to work hard at planning creative birthday parties around a non-existent budget, to sign my kids up for the free programs at school so they can go to cross country practices and sing in choir, to plan a special fun meal with nothing more than a loaf of bread and some frozen hamburger, to stop and hug my kids, even when my mind is racing with anxiety over how the electric bill is going to get paid…

My kids aren’t stupid. They span in age from 6 to 16. They see things. They hear things. They know Mom and Dad (my new husband) are stressing out. But they also see past that. They see the love. They see the dedication. They understand that no matter what, they are the very most important thing to us. And they know this because it takes so much work to keep their lives as happy, carefree and normal as possible, even while our own feels like it’s falling apart.

1) Our Kids are Compassionate


Again, let me qualify this with the fact that I am not saying wealthier kids can’t be compassionate. What I am saying is my children have empathy for those in need, because they have been in-need themselves many times. We have been to the food bank where my kids have given other kids the donuts they just got, because maybe those kids don’t have a big sister who will bake for them later. My now sixteen-year-old daughter, when she was only eight and very shy, stood up for a friend who was being bullied because she herself was bullied so often for wearing the “wrong” clothes. My nine-year-old son shares everything he gets with his six-year-old sister, because he knows that maybe neither of them will get it again any time soon. I have been complimented in public, not for how well my children behave, but for how well they treat each-other. The words from one particular old lady will forever echo in my mind as one of the greatest moments of my life: “It’s so wonderful to see your children together. It’s obvious that they love each-other very much.”

Am I bragging? Maybe a little. 😉 But I have a sneaking suspicion that if my children hadn’t had it so rough growing up, they wouldn’t be so soft now. Sure, my influence and lessons have made an impact, but again, I am a natural coddler. If we had money, my kids would quite possibly not understand what it’s like to be in need, to be downtrodden, to be on the outside looking in. And without that understanding it’s very difficult to sympathize — let alone empathize — with others in the same position.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I want to remain poor for the rest of my life. Like the vast majority of people, I want the best life I can have for myself, my husband, and my children. This is why I have worked so hard to earn my Master’s (which I just received last month, hence the lack of job at the moment). Still, I’m a little tired of seeing only the bad side of being poor. Poor parents aren’t bad parents, and we aren’t always miserable, either.

In fact, sometimes being a poor parent is pretty danged great.

A Violent Idea

Posted in Books, kidlit, Kids, Reading, Writing with tags , , , , on June 28, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

This is chapter 16 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR

Chapter 16

A Violent Idea

Ellen hugged her knees, hoping there were no spiders this far underground as she sat on the stone floor of her cell. Outside the bars, her troll sentry sat still as a statue, his black silhouette dancing in the torchlight in front of him.

The girl thought over what she had learned, considering how it could possibly help her escape.

She knew a few things now that she hadn’t before; that she was the Elemental of Air while Rose was apparently the Elemental of Spirit, that her sidhe heritage was sylph, that Hephaestus had spies among his Earth-Born who worked for Adams, and that herself and her siblings apparently had magical — what Romin had called glamour — powers that were linked to their particular elements.

These were all important things to know. However, she couldn’t see how any of them could help her now.

From what Ellen had heard, Mae had had a visitor in her cell to help her escape. Ellen didn’t know what a sylph looked like, but even if it was hideous, it would be a welcome sight to her now.

Somehow, she felt that wasn’t to be her lot.

Suddenly, she heard a low growling sound. Her heart leapt into her throat before she realized it sounded strangely familiar.

The troll was snoring.

Great, she thought, beating her forehead against her knees. I bet anyone else would be able to find a way to use all this to their advantage. Me? I’ll rot in this cell with no ideas at all.

What is a sylph, anyway?

Her mind raced with images her mother had shown her of faeries. They came in all different colors and styles, and there were thousands of different types, but she couldn’t remember any of them being called by the title Sylph.

This was a dead end. Unless she knew what a sylph looked like, there was no way she could try to turn into one, if that would even help. And anyway, even if she managed to, the dwarf would return and see her as a sylph and know that Rose was actually the Elemental of Spirit and not Ellen.

That wouldn’t happen if Ellen could help it.

As long as these two — and Adams — thought Ellen was their biggest threat, Rose, and maybe even the others, would be safe. Or, safer anyway.

As long as Rose was safe in the first place.

Ellen grumbled, rubbing her forehead against her knees in frustration. OK, so the sylph idea is a dead end. What about my element itself?

She scowled as she remembered Dreadaxe’s words.

“… Air be also the most weak and pitiful o’ the elements …”

Weak and pitiful? She wasn’t weak and pitiful!

She sighed. Still, air was pretty flimsy, all things considered. Quinn had his boulders and steel. Kat had her hurricanes and floods. Mae had her pyres and fireballs. Rose …

Ellen stopped her list in her head, looking up in thought. Rose. What powers did Rose possess? Romin had never said, and Dreadaxe had seemed to think whatever they were they were powerful indeed.

But what could the powers of Spirit possibly be?

The girl shook her head hard. This line of thinking was not going to help her now. She had to focus.

How could she use air to her advantage here?

The troll choked on its saliva, its snoring turning into a half-cough before settling down once more. The keys at its wide green belt — the only clothing the hulking, furry giant wore — jangled as it shifted position.

Inside Ellen’s mind, something stirred that she did not like at all.



She could probably stop someone’s breath. She could probably kill someone that easily.

But could she really? Licking her lips worriedly, she stared at the snoring troll, contemplating her options.

 *              *             *

“Theeeeeeeee Aiiiiiiir-Eeeeeeempreeeeess seeeeeeeks nooooooooot heeeeeeer Eeeeeeeleeeeemeeeental, Maaaaaaaaster. Sheeeeeeee caaaaaaares noooooot fooooooor theeeeeee goooooooings-oooooon oooooooooooof anythiiiiing but her ooooooooooown plaaaaaaaaaneeeeee, aaaaaaaaaaaaaas youuuuuuuuu weeeeeeeeeeeell knooooooooooow. Weeeeeeeee knoooooow nooooooot wheeeeeeereeeeeee sheeeeeeeee is.”

“Then you had better start looking. Your Empress may not care where the Air-babe is, but I am certain that the Queen cares. I mean to find the brat before She does, understood?”

“Yeeeeeeees Maaaaaaaaster.”

With a curt nod, Adams looked around at his assembled servants as he listened to the Aerie Plane report. Besides Dreadaxe, who was busy carrying out orders in the Earthen Plane, all his most trusted and valuable spies were there.

The Air-Born spy who spoke at the moment was a will-o-the-whisp. The tiny glowing flicker hovered about five feet in the air and spoke in a soft voice that was half wind and no emotion. Like all of its kind, the color of the will-o-the-whisp’s glow was the only way to tell how it felt about anything. At the moment it was white, which was its peoples’ standard color and only meant it had no particularly strong feelings about anything at the moment. It had a name, but the windy, native language its people spoke was so alien to Adams’ human tongue that he couldn’t pronounce it, so he simply called it Spark. It had not been easy to capture Spark, and it had been more difficult to torture it into obedience, but Adams’ mastery of Air glamour had been a valuable tool in bringing it about, and, as the sorcerer had predicted, the will-o-the-whisp had become a very important tool, indeed, in Adams’ plans for the Air-Born.

The selkie from the Aether Plane looked more interested in her black fingernails than the Air-Born report. She was average for her kind, her sleek, long brown hair a perfect match to the seal fur she wore when in the water, her large, pupil-free eyes so dark brown as to look black, and her body tall and lanky. Over her darkly tanned skin she wore the typical clothing of her kind while in human form — a simple brown woven fur dress made from her own shed seal fur and no shoes. Her name was Leerya, and unlike the others she had freely come to Adams, bending knee to him and giving her loyalty with no need for persuasion. Adams still did not know her motives, but she had been a faithful servant for a very long time now, proving her loyalty in ways that would make many others run screaming, so he wasn’t too concerned. At least, not at the moment.

Lastly, from the Pyre Plane Adams had procured a salamander who went by the name of Ithiss. He was a rare prize, indeed, as salamanders were entirely loyal to dragons — especially the Fire-Lord — by their very nature. Birthed with the use of strong fire alchemy by elder Wisens, salamanders were literally created to be the lap dogs of their dragon masters. Ithiss, having come to The Great Empty to gather samples of the unstable terrain for his Wisen master, had been caught by surprise by some of Adams’ roving newmen, the only way a dartingly fast salamander can be caught at all. The sorcerer, using some of the strongest fire glamour in his arsenal, had managed to turn the salamander to his side, but not without damage. Like the vast majority of Fire-Born, Ithiss had been born brilliant. He no longer had that particular trait. Of course, Adams was more than willing to sacrifice the sharp mind of a salamander for the chance to earn a spy who was, to his Fire-Born masters, entirely above suspicion. The salamander’s black scales were accented by the orange crest of spikes that ran from his head down to his tail and he wore no clothing save for a small black belt slung across his chest that held four tiny but wicked poison daggers, dipped in basilisk venom.

Adams had other Traveling spies, of course, and these were not the only ones he had situated around the power seats of each plane, but these were his oldest and most trusted, the ones who ordered the others.

At least, the others they knew about, anyway.

As Adams opened his mouth to speak, the great doors at the end of his audience hall were thrown opened with a loud BOOM that shook the walls, and Dreadaxe bounded in, followed closely by two of Adams’ very large newmen guards.

“Master, forgive!” one shouted as the other grabbed Dreadaxe by the scruff of his neck, hauling him bodily into the air. “The dwarf gave not the password, instead flying by us as if he meant to harm! We were not quick enough to stop.”

“Him,” Adams corrected.

The guard, a badger-like creature of mud, metal and fire, looked at him in confusion.

“You were not quick enough to stop him,” Adams explained. “Proper grammar is key, Aaron.”

Before the guard had a chance to reply, Dreadaxe screeched out choked, frantic words.

“Master! The fifth siblin’! She be the Elemental o’ Spirit, master! Spirit!”

Leerya snorted. “Spirit is not an element, dwarf. How silly!”

Adams nodded in agreement, though his eyes were on the second guard, a cross between a vulture and the swamp creature. “Let the dwarf go, Billy. He’s obviously lost some of his mind, but that is certainly not much of a loss.”

Billy dropped Dreadaxe on the ground, his eyes still on the sorcerer as the dwarf scrambled to his feet and ran to the foot of Adams’ chair.

“Master, do ye think perhaps this be somethin’ ta worry over after all? I knows as well as everyone here that there be only four Elementals, but there do be five planes. An’ The Psyche Plane be the very seat o’ the Queen Herself! If there be a Spirit Elemental we dunna know ‘bout … ”

He let the end of his sentence hang in the room; everyone could well imagine the consequences of that possibility.

“Really, Master, are we to assume that the Queen even needs an Elemental guarding her back?” the selkie said with a snort. “It’s ludicrous! Why would she bother?”

Spark flashed light blue, meaning it agreed. “Nooooot toooooo mentiooooon thaaaaaat theeee Spirit-Boooooorn toooooook nooooooo part in theeeeee meeeeeeeetings thaaaaaaaat biiiiiiiiirthed theeeeeeee Eeeeeeeleeeeeeemeeeeeentaaaaaals in theeeeee first plaaaaaace.”

Ithiss nodded excitedly. “Yes, yes! And the Queen has great power, but she can’t use it violently against anyone! The Queen is bound by old, old laws about that. Why, if that weren’t true … ”

He stopped short, his red eyes glancing at the sorcerer fearfully, the end of his sentence hanging like his own noose in the air. “… then the Master would have been destroyed eons ago.”

Dreadaxe growled. “And ye mean ta say ye canna see how ye both jest answered each-other’s questions?”

The room was silent. Adams folded his hands in his lap, sitting back thoughtfully.

“So you feel, dwarf, that the Queen has created her own Elemental that can use her powers to kill me?”

“Not bound by the same laws, nae,” Dreadaxe said with a curt nod.

Adams thought this over while his spies and guards watched silently. Finally, he nodded back. “This possibility is unsettling, but one I must consider nonetheless. I had hoped to have a little fun with our Elemental children, who don’t remember what their ancestors did to me nor are very powerful yet in their glamours, but I see now that was a fool idea.” He turned to the dwarf. “Kill the girl immediately. Give her no chance to retaliate, for if you are correct in her element, you will pay dearly for even a split second of hesitation. Bring the boy to me, however. I have… special… plans for him.”

Dreadaxe nodded curtly. “Aye Master. An’ it will be done.”

Adams turned to Leerya. “What do you make of your Princess?”

The selkie shrugged. “I have no idea, Master. Those dehydrated mermaids stay around her constantly. I can’t get close enough to see her, let alone speak with her.”

“Not acceptable, Leerya,” Adams said, eyeing her through his steepled fingers. “Are you not a courtesan of Poseidon’s court? Is that not why I agreed to your service in the first place?”

The selkie stuck her nose in the air haughtily. “Of course I am, Master.”

“Then use your position to get close to the Princess!” Adams boomed suddenly, making the selkie jump and shiver, all trace of arrogance erased from her seal-like face. “What good is a female courtesan who can’t even talk to a princess?”

Leerya nodded meekly, her eyes now on her bare toes. “Yes, Master.”

“Find her weakness and bring it to me,” the sorcerer added in a softer tone.

The selkie nodded again. “Yes, Master.”

Adams then turned to Ithiss. “What about the Sorceress? What do you make of her?”

The salamander wrung his clawed hands, his forked tongue flicking out excitedly as he spoke. “She is a very beautiful dragon, Master. I imagine even Peril Roma is taken with her, though he is being very hard on her at the moment, but that is a Wisen’s way, of course …”

“I did not ask if you had a crush on her, Ithiss,” Adams said in slow, deliberate tones as if he spoke to a very young child. “I want to know if you feel she is a threat at the moment.”

The salamander’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, no Master Adams! She is not even thinking about you! Her mind is on her brother, your Sorcererness.”

Adams raised an eyebrow. “Her brother?”

“Yes, yes! The Earth boy! She wishes to repay him for imprisoning her… and I dare say she wishes to do him great harm. Great, great harm! It is all she talks about, when the Fire-Lord will allow her to talk.”

Adams returned his attention to the dwarf. “What is this about imprisonment?”

“Yer orders ta tell Hephaestus that the Fire-Born threaten our babes, Master,” Dreadaxe explained. “The Earth-Lord took the news bad, as we guessed he would. Took it out on the Sorceress who was there at the time, shuttin’ her up in the dungeons.”

“How did she escape to the Pyre Plane then?” Adams wanted to know.

Ithiss answered. “My brother Sethiss, he busted her out, he did!”

Slowly, a smile began to spread over Adams’ face. “So Earth and Fire are gearing up for a fight.”

“Seems that way,” Ithiss replied, answering the sorcerer’s rhetorical question as he tended to do.

“What a wonderful side effect of my war rumoring!” Adams laughed, turning to Dreadaxe and Ithiss. “Nevermind about bringing the boy here, dwarf. I think I’d like to see what his sister will do with him, first. You and Ithiss must make sure this battle happens in The Great Empty.” He grinned wider. “I do dearly wish to see this!”

“But, Mi Lord, yer plans fer him … ”

Adams snorted. “I think, my dear dwarf, that watching two Elementals tear each-other to bits is worth a bit of sacrifice, don’t you? I haven’t been properly entertained in so very, very long!”

Next Chapter

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Quotes From the Daily Life of a Mommy Writer

Posted in Family, Kids, mothers, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 30, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

In case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear, I have kids. Five of them to be specific:

Kids1Considering their pictures are already all over my Steampunk Wedding page, I’m not too concerned with posting this pic. Though, as it is on that page, here they will be going by nicknames for their protection.

Zigzgging down from the top row from the left we have Hippie Chick (age 16), Drama Queen (age 15), Bratz Princess (age 12), Doctor Boy (age 9), and Baby Girl (age 6). Now that you can put faces to the “names”, I would like to submit for your approval (and some giggles), a few choice quotes that float around the air here at Casa Rising on a daily basis as Mom sits at her computer trying to work…

Doctor Boy: “Can The Doctor fly? (AKA Dr. Who) I bet I can! I need a normal screwdriver, though, cuz my window’s really hard to open.”

Baby Girl: “When I grow up, I’m going to be a spy at night and a teacher during the day!”
Bratz Princess: “When will you sleep?”
Baby Girl: “Duh. When I’m 36!”

Drama Queen: “Excuse me while I go find my dignity.”

Me: “Hi. How was your day?”
Bratz Princess: “I’m bloating and I gotta go potty. How was your day?”

Drama Queen: “Why is there PANCAKE BATTER in my COMBAT BOOTS?”

Baby Girl: “I already swept (a-tiny-toilet-paper-square area). It’s Doctor Boy’s turn!”
Doctor Boy: “Mom told YOU to sweep, not me!”
Baby Girl: “Nu-uh. You sweep (this tiny area) and I sweep (this other tiny area). Mom said!”
Doctor Boy and Baby Girl: “MOOOOOOOOOM!”

Hippie Chick: “I’ll be in high school until I’m OOOOLD!”

Bratz Princess: “I’m going to blow up… then explode.”

Doctor Boy: “That’s some bukly, BULGY baby!”

Baby Girl: “Since poop is stuff you already ate, you can eat it again, right?”

… and my personal favorite:


Sound like your house? How do you work at home with kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kids, Middle Grade, Reading, Writing with tags , , , , on May 29, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

This is chapter 13 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR

Chapter 13

Ellen stared up at the rough ceiling, watching the flames from her fireplace dance with the shadows. There was no way she was going to be able to sleep, even though she was exhausted. Romin was nuts to expect it of her. She frowned, remembering their conversation.

Mistress, it is certain that your sister is safe.

You seem pretty sure, but how do you know?

She was last seen jumping through a Fire Gate with a salamander in her arms.

OK… so?

So, Salamanders don’t have the power to create Fire Gates. Either she did it herself …

I doubt that. She doesn’t know the first thing about magic!

… or the Fire-Lord sent for her. Either way, she’s safe in the Pyre Plane by now.

Ok, but what if she did do it herself and ended up in the middle of space or something?

Romin had had no answer to that, instead telling Ellen to get some sleep. Ha. Like that was going to happen. Kat was who knew how many miles underwater, Quinn was dwarf brainwashed and Mae… nobody could tell Ellen with any certainty where Mae even was, let alone if she was safe.

With a sigh, she patted Rose’s sleeping form next to her. At least she still had her baby sister. Nobody was going to take her away.

Over Ellen’s dead body.


“We’ll begin with goblins. They be easy ta kill, once ya get the hang o’ it. Course, that be only after ye practice some with yer powers, Lad.”

Quinn nodded absentmindedly at the dwarven AxeMaster, his mind on what had just happened. After Mae’s escape, Hephaestus had insisted the boy begin training right away, as it was most certain that she would return soon to seek vengeance on the Earth-Born for her imprisonment, with a Fire-Born army to back her up.

The dwarves weren’t worried about the army; if they couldn’t handle a simple battle, especially on their own soil, they weren’t fit to call themselves dwarves. But there was only one way to beat an Elemental.

With an Elemental.

And so, when the vast majority of the dwarves had gone to their beds, Quinn had followed Hephaestus’ most skilled AxeMaster down into a warren of empty caverns near the dungeons.

To train so he could defeat his sister.

“Why isn’t Illthan teaching me?” Quinn had asked as they descended further into the dark, uninhabited parts of the dwarven realms.

The AxeMaster had swatted the air with a “bah” at the question, then grumbled an answer Quinn hadn’t expected. “Illthan Bogearth ain’t worth the leather in yer sword strap when it comes ta fightin’ lad. He ain’t no warrior.”

The boy hadn’t asked any more, afraid to make the AxeMaster angrier than he already seemed, but it concerned him that the mention of his friend and teacher had gotten such a negative reaction. Apparently, there were still some things Illthan had not taught Quinn about dwarven ways.

Things that had a lot to do with the KnowMaster himself.

The AxeMaster turned his back to the boy, grumbling under his breath as he collected stones of different sizes and shapes into a pile. Quinn sat on a boulder, thinking as he watched the dwarf work. He didn’t like the idea of fighting Mae, and not only because she was much bigger than him. Despite the fact that she was always mean to him, she was his sister. Sure, he had gotten her arrested, but she had it coming to her, anyway. Her people wanted to kidnap babies, after all. Quinn was a hero, he couldn’t let that happen!

Still, he didn’t want to hurt her.

The AxeMaster finished his work, wiping his hands together with a clap and turning to the boy.

“Now, lad,” he said gruffly; he seemed to be a very gruff dwarf overall, “pick up that little ‘un on the top o’ the pile.”

Quinn looked at him, confused. With a shrug, the boy stood up.

With a singular stroke, the AxeMaster swept the handle of his huge battleaxe under Quinn’s legs, tripping the boy up and causing him to land hard on his behind.

“OW!” Quinn cried, pouting up at the dwarf. “What’d ya do that for?”

“Yer not ta pick it up with yer hands, ye cur,” the AxeMaster growled. “Yer ta pick it up with yer powers.”

Quinn stood up, backing away from the axe’s reach and rubbing his behind. “I don’t know how to do that,” he whined. “Illthan never taught me that.”

The AxeMaster snorted. “Course he didn’t! He ain’t a warrior, as I’s said!”

“I like him more than you anyway,” Quinn mumbled.

“What’s that ye said?”

“Nothing.” The boy thought for a minute. “So, how do I do it?”

Again, the axe handle swept the boy to the floor.

“OW! Stop DOING that!” Quinn yelled, frustrated. “My butt hurts!”

“Then learn, lad,” the AxeMaster’s voice was a bit softer now, and Quinn looked up at him, questioningly. “If ye can’t learn down here with me and mi axe, ye don’t stand a chance against yer sister and her fire in a real battle.”

The dwarf’s tone was soft, but deadly serious. For the first time since meeting Twwwwp, the gravity of what he was doing hit Quinn like a hammer.

He was a hero… but heroes got hurt, too.


A shadow swept across the sleeping forms of Ellen and Rose, silent as the night. Leaning down, it easily took the toddler up in strong arms.

Leaning down, the shadow whispered, “Forgive me Mistress, for this. It is the only way. May The Great Queen guide your steps from here on out.”

Without another sound, Romin disappeared from the room, taking a still sleeping Rose with him.

A rough hand clapped over Ellen’s mouth, waking her instantly from a sleep she hadn’t realized she had drifted off into. The room was almost pitch black, its only light coming from the glowing coals of what was left of her fire. Above her, she could just make out two featureless shadows in the murk. One, which belonged to the hand on her mouth, was short and stubby, the other, huge and hulking. She tried to scream, but it came out in a muffled cry.

“Ye yell again, lass, and it’ll be the end o’ ye,” the short shadow whispered.

With a whimper, Ellen nodded, and the hand left her mouth. Before she could utter a word, she was thrown over the shoulder of the large shadow-creature. It was wet and hairy, and smelled of sweaty mildew, like a very dirty wet dog. She fought to keep herself from gagging as it carried her out of the room.

As the door closed behind them, her eyes strained towards the lumpy shadow of her bed, panicking as she realized with a deep dread that it was now entirely empty.


Kat tossed and turned in her opulent bed, unable to sleep. The next day she would begin her training, and while the idea of becoming a mermaid excited her, the thought of harming another creature with her water powers made her sick to her stomach.

Maybe he’s all gross looking, she thought, trying to envision Adams as a monster with three heads and slimy skin. She shuddered. Yeah, that’d help. Like squishing a bug. Good thing I don’t have to fight him alone.

She smiled softly as she was reminded of her siblings: Ellen, always so protective of her; Mae, so smart and tough; Quinn, her little buddy brother; And Rose, so adorable and cuddly.

She sighed. She missed them.

The mermaids were all very nice, but she had yet to really get to know any of them, not that she hadn’t tried. She had asked many of them questions about their friends and families, but had always gotten the same reaction.


The mermaids were very nice, yes, but also, apparently, very stupid.

Kat had seen other water creatures at the banquet and around Atlantis, and she hoped that some of them might not be so dumb. Without her siblings to play with, she was beginning to get very lonely.

She hoped she would see them again soon.


The moment Mae’s running feet hit the rusty red soil of the Pyre Plane, she burst into flames.

The sudden flare-up caught her off guard and she tripped, rolling over and over again in the dust, a human fireball. Finally, she landed with an “oomph”.

Still on fire.

She held up a flaming hand, looking at it curiously. There was no pain, no blistering. It was as if the air around her body was torched instead of her skin.

Sethiss had jumped from her arms the moment she had caught fire. Now, he scampered up to her, cocking his head in his birdlike way.

“My queen, why have you not shifted to your dragon form?” he asked, confused. “Your human form cannot sustain you here, as you can see.”

Mae looked at the salamander, raising an eyebrow. “Dragon form?” Her words sounded like the crackling of a campfire.

The salamander nodded. “Hurry, my queen. My Lord will not see you like this, and your human form will soon …”

Before he could finish, Mae shuddered, rubbing her arms. “OW!”

The burning had begun to get warmer than was comfortable, and it was getting warmer.

Sethiss nodded. “It will get worse, my Queen. The Pyre Plane was not meant for human habitation.”

Mae’s eyes grew wide. The last thing she wanted was to burn to death in a fire world. “How do I turn into a dragon, Sethiss?” she asked, beginning to panic. “Please! Tell me!”

The salamander flicked his tongue out, thinking. “You need only think your dragon name,” he said. “Forgive me, my Queen, I forgot that you still know so little.”

“I’ll forgive you when I’m not on fire anymore!” Mae snapped, the flames beginning to make tiny prickles of pain all over her body. “What’s my freeking dragon name? Come on!”

Sethiss cocked his head again. “I do not know, my Queen. None know a dragon’s real name but the dragon themselves.”

“Well that helps,” the girl retorted, automatically beginning to slap at the flames that still covered her. It was pointless, she knew, and she forced herself to stop and think about this in a rational manner. She took a deep breath, remembering how she had made the Fire Gate, and tried to forget the painful heat as she closed her eyes.

Hopefully, her name would come to her as the magical words had in the dungeon.

Ignoring the heat was almost impossible, but she knew that if she couldn’t concentrate, she would die. And in a very excruciating way, at that.

A name echoed in her mind.


She grumbled, frustrated. Of course her name was Mae, but that was her human name! What was her dragon name?

Again, her name repeated itself: Mae.

Slowly, the pain began to recede.

Mae gasped in hope. Maybe her human name was her dragon name!

Mae! She thought with more force. My name is Mae!

Great relief flooded though her as she felt the flames die instantly. Opening one eye and then another, she watched the ground move further away in fascination. It didn’t hurt, but she felt a strange, strong pressure within her muscles and a gentle prickly feeling all over her skin as her body grew in size and changed shape. Her fingernails grew long and sharp, darkening to a deep black color even as the skin of her hands toughened into leathery red scales. Her combat boots stretched to their limit and burst as her now wickedly clawed feet ripped out of them. She felt her mouth elongate into a lizard like snout, sharp ebony barbs growing out of it from between her nostrils, then continuing down her back, ripping what was left of her already shredded black t-shirt. Her teeth sharpened into enormous deadly barbs and a pair of black, spiral horns grew out of her red-scaled forehead. She grew a tail, and lastly, out of her back sprouted a magnificent pair of red and black scaly bat wings.

She stretched her wings out fully, feeling their power with giddy excitement. Their span was far wider than she was now tall. She dug her clawed hands into the ground, pulling out gigantic chunks of rusty soil as easily as she had picked up her books at home. Her tail beat against the ground behind her, a powerful, barbed club.

Deep inside, she began to feel a rumble. It grew in intensity and strength before bursting out of her mouth as a satisfying roar that shook the countryside. She felt entirely, completely, and wonderfully alive.

Sethiss bowed low to her. “My queen, you have now truly returned.”

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Spoiled and Soiled

Posted in Books, Kids, Parenting, Reading, Writing with tags , , , on May 13, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

This is chapter 8 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR

Chapter 8
Spoiled and Soiled

Kat watched herself in a giant mirror carved out of a pink clamshell, smiling with delight as the mermaids, lounging on special chairs to accommodate their tailfins, brushed and braided her curly hair, painted her fingernails and toenails a shimmering aquamarine, and chattered happily.

“It is so amazing to have you back, Princess,” one mermaid said, daintily biting her lip as she painted the final coat onto Kat’s pinky nail. “I grew up hearing about you, but never once thought I would actually meet you!”

“Does this mean Adams is back?” another asked fearfully as she brushed Kat’s hair.

“Of course not, silly!” a third giggled, her fingers deftly braiding. “Our Princess kicked his fins last time so hard he’ll be licking his wounds until The Great Queen ends the world!”

At this, the entire group exploded into giggles.

The mermaid’s chatter faded into the background as Kat replayed her journey to Atlantis in her mind. Her chariot-bubble had sunk far below the waves of the Aether Plane, accompanied in the front by Poseidon and behind by his guards.

Though she had left her siblings behind, Kat had not been afraid as she watched a rainbow kaleidoscope of sea creatures glide by her bubble, some so close that they almost brushed against its iridescent side. The underwater scenery was surprisingly clear, revealing far-off gray and white whales as they drifted lazily by, sleek sharks darting here and there among schools of brightly colored fish, and a massive blob of almost invisible jellyfish hanging in the water, a clear-colored rainforest of tentacles.

It was all beautiful and amazing, but nothing compared to the great city itself. Like all little girls, Kat had watched the mermaid cartoons on TV where they showed an underground city that they sometimes called Atlantis. Naturally, she had expected to come to similar place, a traditionally fairy-taleish palace made mostly of white and blue coral-like materials with different kinds of shells placed here and there for show.

The true Atlantis, she soon found out, was beyond anything any of the artists or animators had dreamed of recreating. Kat first saw it as a speck in the water ahead, though as they neared the shadowy form it grew in size as well as detail.

The great city stood on the very tip of an enormous undersea mountain that was so tall its base could not be seen below, even in the crystal clear waters of the Aether Plane. The rough coral that made up this mass was every conceivable color, a literal rainbow of a mountain, and here and there all over its sides grew an array of underwater plants, most of which were so fantastical in hue and form that Kat was certain they did not grow on her plane at all. Multicolored fish of every shape and size swam among these plants, some darting in and out among them as if they lived there; somehow, Kat was certain they did. Atlantis itself seemed to be molded from the mountain on which it stood, each of its many irregular, tall, slim coral spires and turrets covered in underwater foliage of every shape and color imaginable. The open windows of the city itself were relegated to shadowy afterthoughts set at regular intervals under the moving, sparkling life that covered its walls.

The entire place shone through the shimmering blue waters in such deep, rich rainbow hues that it had nearly taken Kat’s breath away.

Central to the city, rising at least forty feet over all, was the Tower of Poseidon. Unlike the rest of Atlantis, the Tower was only one color — gleaming white — and its sides were smooth and sleek. It rose from the middle of Atlantis like a giant spike, its tip sharp as a needlepoint. Its only discernable features were the small round windows that ran up and down its front in a perfectly straight line.

It was within this Tower that Kat now sat, gazing dreamily out of one of its round windows. Her suite was more lavish than she had ever dreamed a home could be, and had been specially prepared for her with a giant oxygen bubble surrounding all four rooms. Within these rooms she had an amazing assortment of goodies, including a waterfall shower bath the size of a pool, a large, richly linen-ed bed crafted from a giant half shell, and an art studio that included homemade paints as well as an array of easels holding shellback canvases and giant poster-sized seaweedy paper. The sparkling mother-of-pearl floors were covered here and there by delicately braided rugs of many colors that smelled faintly of fish, and the coral walls formed natural shelves of unique shapes and sizes on which thousands of small mermaid dolls had been placed. The dolls had been beautifully handcrafted out of sea sponges and various bits and parts of the gorgeous Aether Plane plantlife.

All this had been prepared especially for Kat based on questions she was asked on her way to Atlantis.

Her favorite part of this new life, however, was the dresses.

Half of one of her rooms was a giant closet, stuffed full of the most beautiful dresses she had ever seen, all her size, which had also been asked of her on her journey in the bubble. In preparation for her dinner with Papa Poseidon (a name that had come to her tongue quite naturally), she had tried on almost two dozen entirely unique styles already, posing in front of the full-length mother-of-pearl mirror as the mermaids oohed and awed and told her how beautiful she was.

Now, dressed in her final choice — a poufy aquamarine ball gown boasting a dark pink sash across the chest and matching cinching ribbon up the back — she sat in front of her lavish vanity and watched the mermaids put the finishing touches on her formal dinner look. The braiding was finished, and they deftly piled the tiny braids on top of her head with the natural curls they had left free, arranging it all in a multilayered waterfall look that Kat adored. Her bangs fell softly across her forehead with little curls hanging down at her ears and neck, and a small white coral tiara completed the look. Her fingernails and toenails were painted aquamarine with a tiny, real pink shell added to each, to match her gown.

The mermaids squealed and clapped with delight as she got up and stood once more at the full length mirror.

Kat smiled at herself, twirling around this way and that in front of the mirror in pure joy. She was a true princess!

“I have always wondered,” one mermaid pondered as she watched Kat dance before the mirror, “what it would be like to have legs.”

“Oh it would be just awful!” another replied. “How would you swim?”

“I swim just fine,” Kat retorted. “I just kick my legs real good. What’s it like to not be able to walk?”

The mermaids looked at each-other confusedly.

“What is walking?” the original speaker asked.

Kat walked to the vanity, then turned around and returned to the mirror. “That’s walking,” she said.

“Ah, so that is what it is called,” another mermaid replied, clapping her hands in delight. “When we set up your rooms we were very curious how you would possibly get around in this strange, heavy bubble, then when you came and we saw, we were so surprised!”

“But don’t you see sailors walk around on their ships?” Kat asked, confused.

The mermaids looked at each-other again, giggling.

“There are very few of us who even go close to the surface, Princess,” the same mermaid who had spoken before answered.

“Father fears for our safety,” another answered with a shudder.

The mermaids all shivered at once, dramatically. A few even pretended to faint. Then they all burst into laughter.

“Oh,” Kat said, confused. “But… why would Papa Poseidon be afraid of anything?”

“Oh, he isn’t of course!” a few mermaids said at once.

“He’s just worried about us, Princess,” another explained.

“There are bad things on the Surface,” another agreed.

Kat was about to ask what could possibly be bad in such a wonderful place when a horn blew in the hallway. It was funny sounding, deep and foggy. It took the girl a moment before she remembered it was being blown underwater.

The mermaids all jumped, clapping in delight.

“Father calls for us!”

“Dinnertime at last!”

“The feast! The feast!”

“You simply must come at once, Princess!”

At that, another bubble was formed for the now beautifully-adorned Princess Kat and they were on their way to an underwater banquet in her honor.

“I am seriously going to kill that boy!” Mae fumed to herself, pacing angrily back and forth in the small cell. It was barely tall enough to allow her to stand, and her head brushed the wet, rough stone ceiling as she paced, bringing droplets of stale water raining down on her. As a precaution, the dwarves had surrounded her cell with pools of musty water and thoroughly wet down the walls, ceiling and floor inside. Not only this, but the cell itself was located directly below an underground lake beneath Hephaestus’ palace, and continuous runnels from the tarn ran down the walls and kept the ceiling damp. Besides a pile of moldy, wet straw in one corner, the small cell was entirely empty.

Mae was very wet, very dirty and very angry.

“I don’t even know how to use fire,” she muttered to herself, annoyed at the abundance of water surrounding her. “All this stuff about elements is confusing,” she went on, grabbing the damp iron bars of her cell. She leaned her forehead between two bars and sighed, looking at her combat boots as she kicked at the bars. “I didn’t even want to come to this stupid place in the first place,” she muttered.

She sniffed, but denied the tears she felt coming. She was no crybaby.

Instead of crying, she would figure a way out of this.

Then she would wring her brother’s scrawny neck.

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