Archive for the Writing Category

Send Coffee

Posted in Writing on October 21, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Words

come slow.

Like Advantage, Threat, and

Hope.

I sit and shiver.

Inside.

Outside it is colder,

darker.

But I am tired.

And I shiver.

Words

come slow.

Inspiration.

Slower.

But still I sit,

shivering out the words

that will come.

Finding Me

Posted in Mental Health, Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Today, I’m thinking about paying it back.

Over the course of the last year, I have had some wonderful friends step up and help me out WAYYYY more than I ever wanted to need. Oftentimes this help came in the form of money, especially when I lost my job back in March. (Did I forget that part yesterday? Yeah… it was pretty easy to believe I’d lost every ounce of good luck I ever had for a while there!) I spent a great deal of time feeling guilty for that, and trying to figure out how to pay them back. For me, money was the only way to repay money, and I had none, so you can imagine how frustrating it became. A vicious cycle of feeling not good enough. One wonderful friend even made me promise NOT to pay her back. “I don’t want this to become a burden on our friendship,” she’d said. I’d appreciated that at the time, but didn’t understand how my presence in her life was at all beneficial to her – or anyone else, for that matter. In the darkest times, while I never considered suicide (because I refused to put my kids through that) I did seriously consider removing myself from everyone’s life for their own good. After all, the only thing I ever seemed to do anymore was take. I desperately wanted to give, but I literally had nothing to offer. For a long while, I didn’t even have the emotional energy to be there for them when they needed to talk about their own lives for once.

So why did my friends still want to be my friends?

Coming out of the dark has been a slow processes, but one big step up in it was finally landing a great, stable job with benefits in July. I now have an income again, but I’m still struggling a bit to get stabilized from the financial blast effect. For that reason I still can’t pay my friends back in money.

But if there’s anything I have learned this past year, it’s that money isn’t the most important thing in life.

Finding myself again has meant a lot of inner contemplation, meditation, therapy, and other hefty mental and emotional exercise. All to answer a question that some find easy to solve, but far too many struggle with:

What is GOOD about me?

I have always been GREAT at self-deprecation. Nobody has been better at owning my flaws than me. Even when I was shown this past year just how awful those flaws can be, while it was hard to see, it was soooo easy to accept. After all, I’d spent my whole life practicing the art of self-abuse. Self-hatred was only a natural next step in that processes.

And I have never hated myself more than I have this past year.

Healing doesn’t happen when you keep ripping off the scabs. Reliving my flaws every day, hating myself more and more, I could barely breathe, let alone heal. But for a long time I didn’t think I even had the right to. And that’s where any kind of hope to do so ended. In order to even begin healing, I had to learn to believe I deserved it, and I just didn’t have that in me. My self-hatred was so strong that I literally couldn’t come up with anything positive to say about myself without automatically adding a million “buts” and negative caveats to it.

I couldn’t SEE myself.

But my friends could.

Why did they keep helping me when all I deserved was pain? Why did they stay in my life when all I could give them was a burden? If I was such a terrible person, why did they still care about me?

Knowing the answer, I realized, was VITAL in finding a way to even begin crawling out of that terrible black hole.

And so I asked them. Sometimes on Facebook, sometimes in person, but never just once. I didn’t believe the answers. I desperately wanted to, but just… couldn’t. So I kept asking. It was almost a desperation, and not at all logical. Some people got tired of it, and more than a few unfriended and even blocked me. Many stated that I was needy, overly emotional, and shared too many personal things. Others never would be able to answer at all. My first ex, and father of my children, asked me “do you even HAVE friends anymore?” (I still don’t blame him for that, but to understand why you have to know details, and I won’t be giving any.)

But there were a few very special, wonderful friends who refused to give up on me. They answered my questions every time, always with the same answer, though sometimes stated differently.

Why did they keep helping me when all I deserved was pain?

Because I helped them in the past.

Why did they stay in my life when all I could give them was a burden?

Because I deserved friends and light in my life.

If I was such a terrible person, why did they still care about me?

Because I wasn’t a terrible person at all. Because I was a good person, and they loved me for me.

After a while, the questions and answers turned into conversations. They reminded me of things I did for them in the past: Listening to them when they needed me. Giving them food or helping them clean their homes, or teaching them things. Even being a source of inspiration as a writer and – and this was the hardest to accept – as a mother. Most of these things I had entirely forgotten about. I was good at remembering every terrible thing I had thought, done, and felt, but terrible at remembering anything good. My friends were my memory, and they helped me begin to see myself as a whole human again.

In the end, though, it was one of my children who finally broke through and let the full, glorious light in, by showing me a video he said he thought I needed to see. You can find it here, but warning: it may trigger some deep pain if you have ever hated yourself. That said, it is mighty in the healing department too. It’s funny though; I didn’t cry until my son turned to me and said, “Don’t listen to the demon, Mom.” Then everything came pouring out, and my children held me as I cried.

Even now, writing that brings tears. But they are good tears. Healing tears.

I’m still pulling myself out of the shadows. Some days they overwhelm me, even now. But my friends, and my children, have shown me how I not only CAN pay them back, but how I have paid them forward in the past. Not with money, but with the Me I forgot I was. The Me they reminded me of.

And you know what? I kinda like her, too.

I’m Writing Again

Posted in Books, Healing, hope, Mental Health, muse, writer's block, Writing on October 18, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Hi.

It’s been a long year.

I just checked for the exact date of my last post. It was October 13th of last year. Three weeks later, on October 30th 2016, my life came to a violent, screeching halt.

I won’t go into details, as some of them are extremely personal and involve others whose privacy is vital. I WILL say that I am just now starting to write again, after two emergency moves, a messy divorce, and more personal and familial trauma than I’ve ever experienced in my life. I learned a lot about myself in this past year, and not all of it was pretty to see. In fact, most of it was just plain ugly. Falcor the Luck Dragon said of looking into the Magic Mirror Gate, “That won’t be too hard…” and for a long time I agreed with him. That’s because I’d never gazed at it myself. Now I understand Engywook’s reply to Falcor far better: “Oh, that’s what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!”

It’s also not just a glance. Looking into that Mirror can take days, weeks, months…

…or a year.

My last post was a good one. I was proud of it. I was also proud of “Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot” which I finished around that same time. I was writing a lot back then, but while writing can be highly therapeutic, I couldn’t bring myself to write after… everything happened. Instead, for the past 6 months I have been in traditional mental therapy, a course I just recently completed. And while I know the healing processes will most likely be lifelong, I’m finally beginning to feel confident and hopeful enough to at least begin writing again.

Thus, I am writing to you.

I haven’t written any fiction yet, though I’ve been getting ideas again which is SO nice. But I felt the need to dust off my blog and begin writing here again at least. To jump start something that used to bring me so much joy. To find that joy again. To be perfectly honest, I’m 100% sure that my fiction will be different now, and while I hope that means it will be better (what better for literary depth than a little real-life author trauma, right?) I am afraid to see it. My mind is different now. My soul has changed. I know that, and I have hope that it’s a change for the better, but I fear that actually writing will force me to look into the Mirror again to see who I have truly become, and I’m far from as confident in my reflection than I was the first time I looked.

This is a sort of ramble. For that I apologize. But it’s good.

I’m writing again.

A Twelvemonth of Adventure : Great Books for Each Month of the Year

Posted in Writing on October 13, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

Disclaimer: I am American, so many of these recommendations are based in the cultures and seasons of my own country. That said, if you come from a different culture and want to add your own to my list, please feel free to add them in the comments! Thanks! ~JR

I was falling asleep last night when it hit me:

It’s almost Christmas.

As usual when I ruminate on this time of year, I thought then, in-tandem, of a particular book which, for me, goes hand-in-hand with the season. Then I wondered: is there a book that reminds me of every month of the year?

“Yes”, I replied to me. “The answer is yes.”

So, in the spirit of keeping my sanity while I wait for my beta readers to finish my manuscript, and in the spirit of keeping all of our sanity by reminding us that there WILL be a 2017 despite how it may feel right now, I’ve compiled a list of great books to read for each month of the year. (Of course, your mileage may vary.)

canterbury-tales-mp

January can be a depressing month. Between the freezing cold weather and the jarring sudden silence of bygone holiday bustle,  it can feel as silent and cold as a tomb. To combat those feelings of woebegone cheer, one must read a book that is warm and fun, exciting and lighthearted. For me, no stories fulfill these requirements quite like Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

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Many people liken Chaucer to Shakespeare or Dante, but he’s really much more like Monty Python. The Canterbury Tales was originally published in 1478, a time that most modern people liken to molasses running over an iceberg. During that time, 99.99% of literature, art, architecture, etc. etc. etc. was based on Christianity, so it’s no wonder one would assume these stories would be as well. But while the characters in Canterbury ARE on a religious pilgrimage, that fact is only discussed at the beginning as a backsetting to the stories themselves — which are as secular and hilarious as they can get.

Here is an excerpt to illustrate my point:

This Nicholas had risen for a piss,
And thought that it would carry on the jape
To have his arse kissed by this jack-a-nape.
And so he opened window hastily,
And put his arse out thereat, quietly,
Over the buttocks, showing the whole bum;
And thereto said this clerk, this Absalom,
“O speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art.”
This Nicholas just then let fly a fart
As loud as it had been a thunder-clap,
And well-nigh blinded Absalom, poor chap;
But he was ready with his iron hot
And Nicholas right in the arse he got.

Translation: Nicholas, who’s sleeping with the Miller’s wife while he’s away, wakes up to take a pee and hears Absalom, another lover, out the window, calling for a kiss from her. So Nicholas goes over and sticks his butt out the window, which Absalom accidentally kisses in the dark. Angry at the joke made on him, Absalom burns Nicholas on the butt with a red-hot brand.

I love these stories because they show that even in the Dark Ages, humanity had a sense of humor. Plus, they’re great to read with a glass of rum while sitting by a fire on cold January nights when you need a good, warm laugh.

Here’s a link to a modernized version online. Enjoy!

feb

February is all about love… even if you’d rather it wasn’t. Sometimes Valentine’s Day can be pretty hard to go through, especially if you’re alone or your relationship is struggling. In fact, even if you’re madly in love romantically, it can be hard to feel love in the deepest month of winter when everything seems dead and people are seriously cranky… especially when you tell them “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Enter A Switfly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle.

swiftlytiltingplanet

Though the third book in this amazing science fantasy series doesn’t get nearly as much press as its big sister, A Wrinkle in Time, for me no story can be more emotionally fulfilling. At its best, time travel can be a roller coaster of fun, adventure, and excitement, but A Switfly Tilting Planet tilts even the best of time travel on its edge, adding a roller-coaster level of love for and about our own human race that we could all stand to remember.

The intrepid Charles Wallace travels through time in this story, yes, but he does it through the eyes of the people who are living that time, and the whole point is to understand them — their struggles, their hopes and dreams — and how each of them adds their own love and light to the tapestry of humanity.

Romantic love also holds a place here, as Charles’ sister Meg is now married to Calvin and pregnant with their baby. And if you want classic romance, there’s nothing better than “Patrick’s Rune”,  the ancient poem that Madeline L’Engle skillfully weaves in and through the story itself:

At Tara to-day in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

Seriously. If you’ve never read this book, get it. Read it. If any other story illustrates the abyssal depth of love better, I haven’t read it.

march

I see March as the early dawn of the year, when we’re just starting to see the sunlight poke above the treetops. It’s in March that the light at the end of the tunnel of winter begins to glow. After months cooped up inside we want to venture out, have adventures, and explore, but the weather is still not quite ready for all that.

For this reason, March is the perfect month for an epic fantasy marathon. Not only does it get us out of the house metaphorically, it also makes the days go by faster so that, when we’re finished reading, perhaps the world outside will be ready for us to have our own adventures.

Now, I could go the easy route and list Tolkein’s classic fantasy series here, but if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve read that already if not watched the films. Besides, you don’t need just four books (including The Hobbit in there) when you’re waiting out the end of winter — you need a serious series. Like, say 14 really long, intricate, teeth-sinking books.

Allow me to introduce to you Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series!

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You may already know of this series — it is pretty popular, after all — but whether you know of it or not, I’m still going to recommend it. For escaping into another world full of deep characters, magic, mystery, intrigue,  and adventure, you would be hard pressed to get better. Of course, if you have read this series all the way through multiple times, I have a great runner-up to offer which you probably haven’t read: The “Godslayer” Chronicles by James Clemens. Trust me, you’ll love it, too!

Victorian illustration and poem 'April showers Bring Forth May Flowers'

We all know April is rainy, but it’s the kind of rainy we don’t mind. Sometimes it’s cold rain, reminding us that the chill isn’t quite finished, but other times it’s warm, hearkening the coming of spring by melting whatever snow remains from the dying winter. If you’re going to see rain and sunshine at the same time, chances are you’ll see it in April. (And yes, that’s a thing.) April is a time of balance — between ice and water, storms and sun.

Thus, the perfect month for poetry.

poespak

Poetry is the song of the soul. If any genre personifies the storm of emotions that April represents, it’s poetry. Up and down, hot and cold, love and hate, they’re all there.

The book I am recommending is, of course, only one of billions of books, tomes, scrolls, chapbooks, and anthologies that hold the poetry of the world. However, I recommend this book specifically for two reasons: one, if you don’t read a lot of poetry it’s a great shapshot of some of the greatest poems and poets of our time, and two, it comes with CDs of the poets reading their own work, including Tennyson, Plath, and even Whitman! Amazing recordings these are, though some are haunting in their antiquity, but absolutely perfect for transferring to mp3 files to listen to while out on a stroll during April’s gorgeous rain-dappled days.

Book city

Ahh May. It’s getting warm and dry now and we can go outside a lot more often. Most people do just that, beginning to stock their camping supplies and offering early-annual backyard BBQs to their friends and family. School is still in but everyone there — students and teachers alike — has the summer-itch. Kite-flying and skydiving reach an all-time high (see what I did there? Heh) in May as well. Energy is also high, as we feel the natural buzz of sunshine coursing through our veins.

So, what better to do in this energetic month of joy than revisit classic childhood favorites?

Book city

I wanted to keep this list one book per month, but to be fair if you’re an adult you can read these stories back-to-back no problem, and honestly as a lover of children’s literature I couldn’t choose just one. From  The Wizard of Oz to James and the Giant Peach; from Anne of Green Gables to Half Magic, reading in May should be full childlike fun and adventure. You can find a wonderfully exhaustive list of every book I would personally recommend here so you can truly enjoy May at its lighthearted and sunny best!

Silhouette field with aurora sky at night

I’m kind of partial to June. Maybe it’s because school is out and the kids are happy. Maybe it’s because my birthday falls almost in the middle of it, or maybe it’s just the way the sun shines high in the sky. For whatever reason, I think June is a pretty great month. During this time, however, people aren’t inclined to read much, as the beach is calling and camping is in full-swing. Warm enough to for swimming but not yet deathly-hot, outside is the place to be in June. So what book could I possibly recommend for this month of outdoor bliss?

Why, Scary Stories  to Tell in the Dark, of course!

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There is more than one book in this series, but the first is the one I’ll always remember. When the swimming is done, BBQ is over, and everyone is gathered around a flickering fire — the only light for miles around — nothing can beat reading out loud from the best of the best of scary campfire stories!

June may be pretty and bright, but when the lights go down we can all use a little shivery goodness.

july

July — Explosive month of fireworks and hot dogs. We’re getting into the swing of summer now, and it’s time for everyone to put on our patriotic smiles and wave our star-spangled banners high (well, in America anyway).

Of course these days it’s harder and harder to be proud of our country. Between oil spills and protests, bloated prisons and protests, and voter suppression and… protests, it seems we’re imploding in an antagonizingly slow but sure fashion. Still, no matter what side of the political fence we’re on, for the most part we all want to be proud of our country. After all, this is where we were born and like it or not, it’s how we identify to the world.

Is there any book that can help us get back to the sense of patriotism we want to feel when the fireworks roar in the sky? I’m sure there are many, actually, but my personal recommendation is Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee.

maniac-magee

If you haven’t read this story, do it. Seriously. Technically it’s a children’s book (big surprise from me I know), but though it’s set forty years in the past, it tackles so many of the issues we still face today in the most optimistic way possible. I can’t do this story justice by way of explaining to you just how beautifully it illustrates the true American dream, so I’m posting two excerpts here for you instead:

It was the day of the worms. That first almost-warm, after-the-rainy-night day in April, when you bolt from your house to find yourself in a world of worms. They were as numerous here in the East End as they had been in the West. The sidewalks, the streets. The very places where they didn’t belong. Forlorn, marooned on concrete and asphalt, no place to burrow, April’s orphans….

For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black.

Between fire hydrants, orphans, baseball, bullying, corner stores, and racism, Maniac Magee couldn’t be more American if it tried. But when you read about our country though the eyes of this bright, optimistic, hopeful boy, something of his outlook rubs off on you, and you can finally start to see the fireworks once more like you did as a child — with a bit of a spark of what patriotism is really all about.

Us.

Print

I always called August AAAAughust, because of how hot it gets. If February is the deep chill of winter, August is the molten coal-bath of summer. Most people are inside in August, not so much from a tiredness of summer as simple self-preservation.

Swimming is a must if one is outside — or at the very least running through a sprinkler — and nobody goes out the door without an armor-coat of super-strong sunscreen between their skin and the powerful rays of Solus. So what does one read in August, indoors while surrounded by fans and sipping iced tea?

The cool story of an even cooler girl, living in the hottest place around, of course!

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Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block is an outstanding story of a girl with a fascinating life in the city of Angels (that’s Shangri-L.A. to you). Set in the 80’s, the story follows Weetzie and her best friend Dirk, two punk rock young adults with some of the most interesting fictional personalities I have ever seen. Their world is a hyper-reality of strange cars, genie wishes, witch babies and 50’s throwbacks.

Ahhh… Well, It’s difficult to really explain this story, so I’ll just say that you want to read it, and August is the best time to do so.

Trust me. 😉

set of business card with a calendar grid, and sights of London for business meetings

September! Just when we think we can’t take any more heat, the weather is turning cool again. Huzzah!

Honestly, Autumn is my favorite time of year. It’s crispy, everything smells like leaves and chimney smoke, and I get to dress in my hoodies and sweaters again. People are also reading once more as we sit in our chairs or couches, snuggling up at night with a warm cup of tea and maybe a furry friend at our feet.

But the hustle and bustle of everyday life is at its most meh in September as well, as we ruminate on past summer fun and worry over the coming excitement — and stress — of the holidays ahead. Stuck in the middle, September can be a real purgatory of the mundane…

Zzzz…

*Snort*

Oh! Hi! Man, I need an exciting story to rev things up! How about you?

Enter Mr. Stephen King.

Awww yiiis. This man has written SO many amazing stories that normally it would be hard to choose one. In fact, I have chosen eight. That’s right: when September blahs hit, nothing can quite cure them like the “Dark Tower” Series!

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Even if you’re not a fan of horror, I’d still recommend this series. Though there is obviously a horror element (it is Stephen King after all), the stories encompass so much more. Part western, part post-apocalypse, part dystopan, part sci-fi, and part fantasy, The “Dark Tower” series is a must for overcoming the September blahs. Just be sure to follow every twist and turn; it’s easy to get lost in Mid-World…

october

And now we come to October, the month of spooks and hallows. I could try to stoke my literary ego and twist the month into something else so that my choice isn’t predictable or cliche…

NAAAAAH!

Am I kidding? My FAVORITE holiday is Halloween! My favorite colors are orange and black. My favorite art style is goth-innocence. I am NOT going to pass this chance up. My only real problem is choosing.

 

Hmmm…

Ya know what? I’m gonna go all out with the one, the only, Bram Stoker, baby!

dracula-barnes-and-noble-leather-classic-187x300

As the home of Halloween, October deserves the very best, and among the great horror novels of our time Dracula is the king. If you have only ever seen any of the millions of adaptations done to Stoker’s classic since its publication in 1897, I implore you to read the original novel. You won’t be disappointed.

As a runner-up (because I can’t help myself with this), any of Anne Rice’s wonderful vampire novels are also a great bet to chill you on those creepy October nights! (Though I’m partial to Memnoch the Devil.)

november

For those who don’t know, I am Pagan. Celtic Pagan to be a bit more specific. What that means is that I honor the faeries as they are, which is a far cry from their image in most of American society. Wild, unpredictable, wise, and powerful, the faeries of the Tuatha Dé Danann are the literal embodiment of nature. For me, November is the embodiment of them.

November: the month of power and peace. Of stormy days and calming nights. Of stark beauty and muted decay. Of light and dark, crisp leaves and smooth mud. The month when flora and fauna either goes to sleep or dies, depending on its strength. November is not benevolent, nor is it malevolent. It does what needs to be done to keep nature strong and beautiful. It preserves the way things are, for the way things will become. This describes faeries to a “T”.

For this reason, I have chosen to veer a bit from my usual fiction picks and recommend a non-fiction work for November: Faeries by Brian Froud.

faeriesbook

Many would disagree on my label of “non-fiction” for this work, I realize. But for me it is 100% true. Take the book out to the center of a wood in November and read it, then tell me if it wasn’t the very best choice for this magikal month!

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And now we come back to December, the month that gave me this idea in the first place. I know the book and I know the reason, so let’s get to it!

There’s something mystical about Christmas, and for me that goes far deeper into history than the birth of Jesus. Yuletide has always been a time of mystery, magic, fire, and beauty, evoking feelings of peace, warmth, and comfort to those lucky enough to celebrate it in their own fashion. For me, only one book can evoke those same feelings even in the bright heat of June:

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising

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This story takes place during the Christmas season in an undefined time period somewhere between the 1940’s and the 1970’s. Old magik is undoubtedly a theme in the story, but moreso for me is the magic that Susan Cooper weaves into her Christmas scenes. Cooper evokes a strong sense of warmth, peace, and wonder with her caroling scenes especially, but also holiday comfort and familial love in the scenes where the hero — young Will — is at home with his family. Think the Weasleys Christmas at home, but with the ancient, Celtic magic of the Druids. Weaving true and ancient magic with the comfort of Christmas is the ultimate incantation to me — strong enough, even, to commit me to a blog that has literally taken all day to write.

And now we have gone all the way around the year. I hope you enjoy these stories year-round in your own life, and please add your own to the comments!

 

 

 

 

Not Enough: Four Reasons why I Can’t be Satisfied with Self-Publication.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on September 27, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

“Why waste your time and energy on querying when you can self-publish?”

It’s a question I’ve grown used to over the years as I’ve posted on Facebook about my querying adventures… which always end in seemingly-obligatory rejection.  Because they love me, fellow writers, family, and friends all want to know the same thing:

“Why do this to yourself?” they ask. “It’s the digital age! You don’t have to deal with agents and publishers anymore!”

Actually, yes: I do. But it’s not always easy to explain why. After all, many writers have found great success in self-publishing, and it’s no longer a huge no-no even among the well-read.

Heck, I actually have self-published, even writing quite a few blog posts about my adventures. In fact, my self-publishing career has spanned longer than most know, as my very first self-publication came out way back in 1998: a story called The Veiling Society, which I wrote as a sophomore in high school (and — warning — reads like it). When print on demand came out, I was shocked and ecstatic, and jumped on the opportunity to show my stuff with Song of Spirit, and of course the “Guts & Glory” books.

But over the years I’ve found I have a few problems with the whole thing that I cannot shake. Maybe others have felt the same, I don’t know. But with so many asking the question, I feel the answer needs to be given in a detailed, rational way. So here goes: four reasons why I can’t be satisfied with self-publication.

1) I SUCK at Sales

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

Seriously. I couldn’t sell a glass of water in the desert. (I’d end up giving it away; people need to drink!) For this reason, my sales have never been anywhere near where they need to be in order for me to write full-time, and that is my goal. More than that, it’s my life’s dream. In order to make that work in self-publishing, I’d have to have a completely different personality — one that can sell — and I simply don’t.

There is one other way to sell enough books to make it viable — write a lot of them. The problem I have with that, to be perfectly blunt, is it’s simply not quality writing if I’m throwing out books every week like a machine. And I can’t put my name on something I’m not proud of.

2) I Write Kids’ Books

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

QUICK — think of a well-known children’s author whose stories are self-published.

Got nothing? Yeah, me too.

Most of the fellow writers who ask me about self-publication have one other thing in common: they write for adults and/or teenagers. And when it comes to publishing, their world is very different than my own.

Most self-published authors promote their work through social media and/or blogging. They can also go on small book tours, book groups and/or conventions where they can talk to their readers about the stories they both love.

My audience is a BIT harder to reach.

Children don’t read blogs, and while I can reach them through conventions, with a full-time job that has nothing to do with my writing, I honestly don’t have the money or time available to do as many as it would take to really get my name out there. Online, kids spend most of their time either on hugely corporate (AKA Disney) or educational websites, both of which are monitored and trusted by parents — and like Fort Knox to small-beans writers like me.

In order to reach my particular audience the way I need to, I have to have my books in libraries and schools.

School districts don’t trust self-published books (and as an educator myself I don’t blame them; there’s no regulation whatsoever and therefore no guarantee that the books are quality or even appropriate) and they don’t invite self-published authors to school visits, which are a huge source of revenue and promotion for kidlit authors. Unless one knows a librarian, public libraries aren’t much better.

In other words, if you write for kids, you’d better have a skeleton key of great magnitude in order to break through all of the doors between you and your readers. More often than not, that key is a big-five publisher.

3) I Still Need to Pay the Bills

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

I’m about to say something antithesis to many artists — including writers:

Money matters.

And self-publishing doesn’t make most people much money at all.

Now, I’m not talking about making billions of dollars. While that would be nice, it’s not really a huge item on my list. But what I DO want is to write… while keeping my electricity on. To write… while feeding my kids. To write… preferably under a roof of some kind.

Many of the writers who ask me about self-publishing are self-supporting. They either make enough from their books to pay the bills, are married to someone who pays the bills, or are content with writing on the side while they… pay the bills. I could go into this subject in an entirely different blog post, and maybe I will sometime, but for now I’ll leave it at this: in the end, I still need to pay the bills.

4) It’s Simply Not My Goal

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

When people ask me how long I’ve been writing, I honestly can’t tell them. Writing for my whole life is impossible, of course, but for as long as I can remember I’ve told stories, and for almost that long I’ve dreamed of a career in writing.

Not a hobby. Not a small business. A career.

For me, that means book tours and big name publishers. Children all over the world reading and talking about my books. And my biggest bucket list item: a Newberry Award.

Self-publishing has taught me a lot, and certainly by way of conventions opened up a wider gate into the publishing world than I had access to before, but it’s not my end goal. It never has been.

To be honest, it simply will never be good enough for me.

My goals have not changed: Scholastic or Penguin publication. Newberry Award-winner before I die. I have wanted these things for as long as I can remember. I still want them. I don’t see that ever changing.

I hope this helps, and that those of you who choose to self-publish aren’t offended. Some people are happy self-publishing. There are a lot of pros to it, for sure. It’s just not for me. How about you?

The Dilemma of Online Writing Communities

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on June 10, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

On the great advice of my big sister, I recently joined Wattpad. Like she predicted, I love it. The community is welcoming, the Wattpad people are nice and accommodating, and after only a couple of months on the site, “Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot” has 380 views and is a featured story on the main Adventure page. I’ll wholeheartedly recommend it to any aspiring or professional writer out there.

So why is the word “dilemma” in the title of this entry?

I’ll admit something I that hate about myself — I haven’t read much since I got a smartphone. It stinks, but lately I’ve spent more of my free time on Facebook and Twitter than reading, even though I literally have thousands of stories and books to choose from, not only on Wattpad but also Goodreads and through my writer friends. I could be reading all day, every day, if I had the time, and I can certainly spend most of my free time reading like I used to.

So why haven’t I?

It’s not an issue with the screen — I read Facebook and Twitter just fine all day without hurting my eyes. It’s not about an aversion to reviewing stories — I’ll review the stitches out of a story I love. It’s certainly not a lack of passion for the written word. That has NEVER been a problem of mine. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s wrong for a while now, and I finally think I have hit on the culprit.

Anonymity. Or rather, lack thereof.

See, when I read books as a kid or a teenager, or even an adult before the Internet went supersonic, I didn’t have to worry about whether I’d like the story or not. If I liked it, I could read it and find more books by the author. If I didn’t, I could just put it down and walk away. No muss. No fuss. The author wouldn’t know I didn’t like their book, and we’d both go on our merry way.

But things have changed, and oh BOY have they changed!

With online writing communities, people are always wanting you to read their stuff. That’s fine. That’s why I’m there, too, and I really do enjoy finding new, exciting stories to read. But here’s the issue — what if I don’t like their story? They’re right there online, and they know I’m reading their story. I can’t just put it down and walk away. If I do, at best they’ll be hurt and think I’m a jerk but never tell me, and at worst they’ll badger me for eons about what I loved about their story until I’m forced to tell them I hated it, and hurt their feelings. And this isn’t about reviewing, either. If I like something about a story but there are also issues, I have no problem giving a little advice if they want it.

This is about simply not liking the story. That’s it. I just don’t like it.

I can’t give constructive criticism on that because it’s my own opinion which has nothing to do with whether others will like it or not. Case in point: I have a lot of fellow writers friend me on Facebook, and many of them write romance. I won’t say I hate romance, because that’s a mean, mean word, but I will say most the time I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than read it. Does this make their stories worthless? Absolutely not. Do I read them? Absolutely not. I haven’t even read my best friend’s books for fear that the genre itself will make me hate them. Which would hurt her. Which I never, ever, ever want to do.

And therein lies my dilemma.

I can no longer simply enjoy or discard a story. With the internet comes a lack of anonymity that I once took for granted. This lack tints every word I read in “what-if-I-hate-it”, because I know the writer will want to hear my opinion. I certainly want to hear opinions on my own stories, too. And I’m a soft-hearted soul. Saying, “I’m sorry, I just didn’t like it” feels… bad. For me and for them. So, what is the solution? It can’t be not reading, which is what I’ve apparently defaulted to, so what can it be? I don’t know. What I do know is I have to fix this.

Because I miss reading like we’d all miss breathing.

Finally! A Simple Synopsis Generator!

Posted in Literature, Publication, Publishing, Writing with tags , , , on October 16, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

We’ve all struggled with it — the dreaded synopsis. I, personally, have such trouble with them because I tend to make my plots too complicated. Erm… well… convoluted is probably a better word.

ANYway, so most of you know I teach college composition. In the advanced comp class, I teach Toulmin’s Model of Argumentation. It’s a fill-in-the-blank, simple way to form a simple academic argument that’s easy to defend with reputable sources. I taught it last night for the millionth time, and on my way home from class I started to think: what if Toulmin’s Model was implemented for a fiction plot instead of an academic argument?

It’s now 6:30 AM, and after a full night of work, I have a synopsis generator that has worked, in the most simple form, for every story plot I’ve thrown at it… including my own. You can choose between a character-driven or plot-driven story. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

 

I’m pretty happy with my own results… even if it doesn’t really resemble Toulmin anymore. 🙂

Click Here to Download: PlotGenerator2015

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