Archive for the Writing Category

Keepin’ Up with the Bloggin’

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

I really should blog more but I never know what to talk about.

My stories are fiction after all, and fiction is what I do. There are myriad writing lessons and tutorials and  workshops out there that I really could only duplicate, not add to, due to their vast numbers already covering everything under the sun, so writing about writing would be redundant and pointless. Same with parenting. Same with just about anything I can think of to write here.

My stories. My worlds. My characters. THAT is what I have to offer that is unique and of value to you. So I suppose this is a reminder to you wonderful readers of those stories. Guts and Glory and Tipani Walker. Go read those, and I’ll spend time writing more of them. Fair enough?

Perfect. 🙂


This One’s For Me

Posted in Writing on June 14, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

It’s been a LONG year.


I turn 41 today, and looking back at where I’ve come from this time last year, I can say I really HAVE climbed a lot higher. It’s felt, as I’ve told friends, like climbing a mountain of shale at times, a few heaves up, and a mad slipslide back down, over and over again, but while I’m not at the top yet (that will happen when I sign my own homeownership papers) I am more than halfway up, and rising.

I’m writing this particular blog in order to remind myself of what I have actually accomplished, as a sort of birthday gift to me. As many of you know, I am ADHD (yes, really) and along with that comes a memory that may as well be a reused whiteboard. I retain a lot of my mistakes, funny enough, but always forget my accomplishments, so I often feel like I’m just dumb-lucky when things work out for me, when in reality I have worked my heiny off. So, to remind myself and motivate for the future, here’s a list of  things I have accomplished this year (and yes, this list is taking me a LONG time to remember in order to even write it down; going in order over the year helps):

  1. July 2017: Earned my way into a VERY good, stable job with benefits.
  2. August 2017: Escaped homelessness by the skin of my teeth through the use of hard work and quick thinking.
  3. September 2017: Finalized work on a convention where I was in charge of three huge areas (science, fantasy, and literature), including the creation and organization of programming, set design, and guest / pro scheduling and travel arrangements.
  4. October 2017: Put on said convention with a team of AMAZING people.
  5. November 2017: Pushed through the one-year anniversary of the worst experience of my life, and reminded myself that I have family and friends who love me even as I battled depression worse than anything I have ever felt.
  6. December 2017: Made Christmas for the children who live with me, even as I terribly missed those who were gone and held inside a terrifying fear that we would be evicted because I couldn’t figure out how to balance my budget right and keep it that way. Used that fear and a good measure of guilt to power my problem solving skills into overdrive, escaping the fate of homelessness once again.
  7. January 2018: Made up my mind to finally get my proverbial shit together. Made a plan to fix my budget, set things on autopay, and etc.
  8. February 2018: Failed in 99% of my budget plans. Almost lost electricity. BUT I set up a contract with Jessica Douglass (YAYAY!) to create beautiful new covers for “Guts and Glory”, and began planning real marketing for the series.
  9. March 2018: Marketing ideas crashed with no budget to build them. Lost motivation to write. Restarted budget plans in the midst of that loss, in defiance of depression. Set up my student loan payments to work (they’re still working now!)
  10. April 2018: Budget plan crashed. Tried again.
  11. May 2018: Bought a car so I could pick my children up from Wyoming. With my own credit. In my own name. Terrified, I redoubled my efforts to fix my budget. Found Lyft and Uber. Began driving for extra cash. Slowly and painfully began patching my bills and budget with the extra money.
  12. June 2018: Tomorrow, I will finalize the autopayments that kept slipping from my grasp before. As of today, I am stable and able to pay all my bills, as well as get groceries and even have some fun. I am also working on TWO books, both of which give me great joy.

Happy birthday Jess. You have accomplished a lot! ❤

(Now stop crying. ;-))

Oasis Islands in the Bog of Eternal Rejections

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on May 31, 2018 by Jessica Crichton


Over the years I’ve had plenty of aspiring authors ask me how to start in the book publishing business. While inside I’m wondering why they’d ask me and not someone who’s actually published (because I still do have that self-deprecation many self-published authors have — especially us “old ones” who lived through the not-quite-over days of self-publishing demonization), outside I ask them if they’ve written their book yet. About half the time they have not, so I tell them to start there.

It’s funny how many get irritated that a writer has to write. *Facemalm*

Anyway, if they have written the book, I tell them the obvious (to me anyway) next step, which is editing, workshopping, beta…ing and other various cleanING up… ings. The few who have done that enough to have nightmares about it (pro tip: this is a good indication that you’ve edited enough) may finally begin to dip their fingers in the Bog of Eternal Rejections that is… QUERYING.

Dun, dun, DUUUNNNN!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from their dream. In fact, I care so much about this particular dream that I haven’t given up in over 20 years of wading through the Bog. But anyone who expects this to be an easy road to money and fame is not cut out for being a writer. It’s hard. And it’s discouraging. And for the vast majority of writers it takes a very, VERY long time to even get trade published, let alone make enough money from it to quit one’s day job and write full time. (This is at minimum wage levels by the way, let alone millionaire status.)

*BIIIIG breath.*

Okay. Now that I’ve thoroughly dejected you with the bad news, it’s time to give you some well-earned good that may help you see a little light at the end.

I’ll start by saying no: I have not been signed by anyone as of the writing of this blog. Not any agents, and not any editors. My point isn’t a big bonanza LOOKIT I FINALLY MADE IT! post, and not just because signing doesn’t guarantee success any more than querying does. My point, instead, is to show a step towards that success, and highlight when, even though it’s not what you wanted, some things should still be celebrated as a victory. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and along the way there are plenty of positives we tend to overlook because they’re not the finish line. But it’s those positives that keep you going when it feels like you’ll never make it (and trust me, I know that feeling!)

So here are a couple of my own recent oasis islands in the Bog:

oasis 1

Ahh, full requests! For those who are brand new to the publishing world, or those who aren’t writers and are just interested, these are requests from agents or editors to see your full and complete manuscript. (If you’re wondering how you’re supposed to send a full manuscript when you aren’t finished writing it, let me give you a little advice: NEVER QUERY AN INCOMPLETE FICTION MANUSCRIPT! FINISH IT FIRST!) 


ANYway, these requests usually come after either an initial query or a partial request, and the first time you get one feels AMAZING! “YES!” you think, “THEY LIKED MY QUERY! I’M SO IN!” Except you aren’t. They’re just giving you more of a chance to be in. And I’ll be honest, every single one of my full requests have so far ended in a rejection. This can hurt even more than a query rejection because the request gives you more hope, and the higher you rise, the farther you fall.

“Wait!” you may be saying, “isn’t this supposed to be POSITIVE?” Yes. Yes, it is. And I’m getting to that. See, the fact that full request rejection can hurt so bad can make any writer forget how great they are as very positive guideposts. For example, my own history:

  • I got zero full requests for my first novel, The Veiling Society. (Don’t look it up; it’s not worth it.) Yup. Zero. I queried it for about 3 years before giving up and self-publishing, and this was back before Createspace when self-publishing cost an arm and a leg (or, in our case an entire tax return). This was my first true foray into publishing.
  • I got two full requests for Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine. That may seem pretty great except I queried about 60+ agents over the course of a few years.  As you know, I ended up self-publishing that one through Amazon, and I can say I don’t regret it at all.
  • As of this writing, I have gotten SIX full requests for Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot and I’m not finished querying. I’ve been querying for only half a year so far, and at the moment three of the fulls are still out there being looked at by agents. The other three did end up in rejections, but two of those were great rejections.

I’ll get to how great rejections are even a thing in a moment, but first I want you to look at where I’ve come. My writing HAS gotten better. My queries have gotten FAR better. Full request rejections hurt, yes, but the fact that you get full requests at ALL is something to celebrate. It means you’re closer than you were, and you’re GOOD at this! So good that they want to read more. And while rejections can happen for any number of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with your skill or passion, full requests are all ABOUT that! They mean an agent or editor liked what they read enough to want to read more.

And that, you should absolutely, be proud of!

oasis 2

Rejection hurts. That’s a fact of life in any circle, including publishing. But there are different kinds of rejections when it comes to agents and editors. Three main ones, in fact: (Yes, there are other kinds but I’m trying to be concise here. Pfft.)

  • Rejection 1: The Silent Rejection
    • This rejection is the worst, and, because Murphy’s Law sucks, it’s also the most prevalent. How does it work? One word: Crickets. Yeah. Agents and editors just don’t reply to you at all. Ever. About anything. I understand why they do this. With thousands of queries in their inboxes a day, it’s just not a good use of their limited time to answer every one, especially ones they aren’t going to pursue. That said, it does suck. Every time. Especially when you don’t even realize you’ve been rejected until the spiderwebs in your inbox begin to show signs of cobbing.
  • Rejection 2: The Form Rejection
    • This is only slightly better than the silent rejection in that at least you know you were rejected. The good news is these are usually only given for queries, not partial or full requests. The bad news is, they give you nothing by way of constructive criticism. A typical form rejection is pasted below for your scrutiny. What does it mean? Noone knows. And I’m sorry, but if you get this kind of rejection from an agent, it’s all you’re gonna get from them.
      • Thank you for your submission, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately, we did not feel enthusiastic enough to take this further. We are sorry to give you a disappointing response, but thank you for thinking of us in connection with your work.We regret that we are unable to give further feedback due to the large volume of unsolicited submissions we receive.
  • Rejection 3: The Good Rejection
    • Ahhh the GOOD rejection. These usually come after a partial or full request, and they’re pretty neat to get, despite being rejections. What even is a good rejection? One that gives you real feedback of course! And not just because constructive criticism can be great for growing one’s skill, especially from the pro’s. No, they’re also great because they take TIME, and time is not something agents and editors have a lot of. So why would they waste time sending you, someone they aren’t even signing, an individualized rejection? Because they feel you’re worth that time! You. The tiny whisper in their storm. You were WORTH acknowledging! Even though in the end they had to pass, MENTION that rejection next time you query them with something new, because they liked what they saw, and they’re letting you know that. And to give you a little more pep to really PUSH for these rejections, here are the two I mentioned earner, both of which I have gotten within the last week (specific agent’s names have been deleted for privacy purposes.):
      • Hi Jessica,Thank you for being so patient throughout this reviewing process. I, and the other agents who read Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot, really enjoyed it. You’re an exceptionally talented writer and I liked SO much about this book, which makes my next comment even harder. I liked this book very much, but I didn’t quite fall in love with it the way I had hoped to in order to take on this project in such a saturated market. I wish I had better news! Please know that I genuinely adore your voice and that I’d be honored to take a look at anything else with your name on it.

        Thank you so much for the opportunity to read your work and for your interest in The Seymour Agency.

      • Dear Ms. Crichton,Thank you for the opportunity to read TIPANI WALKER AND THE NIGHTMARE KNOT.

        You’re a very talented writer and there were many elements of your book that I enjoyed: the strong voice, the authentic characters, and the originality of your ideas. I especially loved some of the passages about knots and time–very impressive. That said, after careful consideration, I just didn’t ultimately connect as strongly with the story as I would need to in order to pursue representation. As you know, these decisions are highly subjective and another agent may have an entirely different opinion.

        Thank you again for reaching out. I wish you the best of luck in finding a good home for TIPANI WALKER AND THE NIGHTMARE KNOT.


        Writers House LLC

Yes, you read the signoff right: that second one is from WRITER’S HOUSE. While it hurt to be rejected from both them and Seymour, these rejections, which not only tell me why they rejected me but also complimented specific things about my writing AND asked for future queries, were, once I was over the initial sadness, wonderful gifts to me, and proof that even if I’m still up to my knees in slime, I AM working my way through the Bog to the other side.

And you can too.

On Motivation

Posted in writer's block, Writing with tags , , , , on May 12, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

I don’t want to write this blog post.

Today, I have the motivation of a skink. It’s literally taken me two hours to write this much. Yesterday I wrote four chapters of “Guts and Glory” book 3, but today I can barely blog.

Motivation. Where does it come from? Why does it go away? And how on Earth do you stay motivated enough every day to keep going, even when you would rather turn on the TV and drool into your ice cream for 8 hours straight? I know that to get from A to Z in the career I want, I have to do something to push towards that goal every day, but some days — and even back-to-back days — I just can’t. You could say that really, I just don’t want to, but when it comes to creative writing, “can’t” and “don’t want to” are very similar. After all if you don’t want to write, that reflects in your work and everything ends up stinky. So it’s not just motivation to write that’s needed, but motivation to want to write, which can be a lot trickier than just forcing yourself to sit down and smash keys.

Sorry, but this post isn’t going to wrap up with a pretty list of motivational ideas, unless those ideas are in the comments in which case they belong to you, and I thank you for them. I myself don’t have the answers, just a blog post with a dichotomous purpose: asking for ideas and forcing me to write something today, even if it’s not much at all.

Another Excerpt from “Guts and Glory” Book 3!

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2018 by Jessica Crichton


I sat in the back.

I always sat in the back.

My little brother stood at the front, next to the teen spokesperson. I was torn between feeling left out (as always) and being happy I wasn’t noticed.

When us teens woke up in Nil, Mom barely noticed me as her kid. Instead, she said everything was okay and that Glory had saved us all. I love my little sister, but my mother is my mother too, not just Trevor and Tabitha’s. And as I sat and watched the meeting between the kids and the teens, I couldn’t push down the feeling that had been growing inside me for days now.

Like I wasn’t quite a Tate.

“We teens know the kids helped take the curse off us, so thanks fer that an’ all, but ya can’t ‘spect us ta follow kids inta battle!”

The teen spokesperson was not much more than a kid herself. Her name was Wendy. Mom’s work again. She’d told us all that we should choose names from Earth, even though none of us were from there. But Mom insisted that Earth names would give us independence, since none of us could remember our Nil names, and At Igh Schoo we were only named after our ranks. I was only a Mindseer for a short time, but the name had stuck more than “Emily” ever did. And my tattoo, like all the teen tats, remained on my face: a blood-red tear down my left cheek. Even then, I felt more like Mindseer than I’d ever felt like Emily Tate.

“I’m willing to work with the teens, but we are in command,” my brother said. His voice was a lot more powerful than I’d ever head it. He’d definitely grown up a little since we came to Nil.

Wendy laughed. “Yer in command ‘a the kids, sure. But the teens ain’t gonna follow ya. Why would we? We’re bigger an’ stronger an smarter than any kid could ever be.”

“Because we saved your sorry butts, that’s why!” Trevor said, leaning in to Wendy and squeezing his fists at his side. “And why are you talking for them anyway? You’re barely older than me!”

Wendy didn’t flinch. “Because, KID, I’m a leader.”

“Some leader!”

The crowd gasped and parted to make room for the new voice – a teen I vaguely remembered seeing somewhere, at a time that seemed long ago. His red hair was super short, shaved almost to his scalp, and as he looked around at the crowd of kids, teens, and zombies, his green eyes flashed in a way that made me shiver. His mouth was a thin, tight line, and he wore all black, with the exception of a red hoodie two sizes too big for his lanky body. Around his neck was a circle of black feathers, and his face was tattooed with a tribal spike down one side – the rare tattoo of a commander.

Then I heard my brother make the weirdest noise I’d ever heard, like a cross between a groan and a scream. I turned to look at him, and his face was so white I was worried he’d faint right then and there.

“F— Fist!” he gasped, his eyes wide. “What… how… where—”

The new teen stopped walking and, to my shock, bowed low at his waist, sweeping his arms back in a grand gesture like some kind of old-fashioned lord.

“Guts the mighty leader ‘a the Dark Crows! I salute ya!”

Trevor closed his mouth and shook his head hard. “H– hello Fist,” he croaked. Then he seemed to notice the crowd again, and cleared his throat. “What— what brings you here?”

Fist smiled, his thin lips rising at the edges just barely enough to notice. “Ta take my rightful place leadin’ the teens, ‘course.”

Guts blinked.

Wendy sucked in a sharp intake of air. “How dare—“

Before she could finish, Fist took two long, gliding steps to the front and shoved her roughly aside. “Move over, soldier,” he snarled at her. “Or didya think rank didn’t mean nothin’ nomore?”

“B— but Fist, you’ve never even wanted to be a teen,” Trevor stammered. “Why would you want to lead them?”

“Easy,” Fist said. His voice changed instantly back to nice when he spoke to my brother. “If a Tate’s in chargea the kids, then a Tate’s gonna be in chargea the teens, too.” He put his arm around a very uncomfortable Trevor and squeezed. “After all, brothers gotta work tagether, right?”

Kinesthetic Learning as an Adult

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2018 by Jessica Crichton


It’s funny what we think we know. Logic can serve us well, or, if imperfect, it can lead us far off the path we wish to tread.

My own logic, for example, is almost comically imperfect.

Pathos, Logos, and Aramis — I mean Ethos — are the three pillars of critical thought. In order, they mean emotional, logical, and athoritic (athoritical? Hmm…) proof. In other words, we use these three tools to prove something is true in academic study. Personally, I’m stronger in pathos than the others, though I absolutely understand the importance of ethos — trusting authorities who have done a ton more research and work in an area than I have. Sometimes these pillars can be abused, such as when a crooked politician uses ethos and pathos alone to convince the masses he’s correct, or, in my case, when only logos is used… and the logic is flawed.

I am a kinesthetic learner. That means I have to actually do something to understand it. If you just tell me or show me, I’m not going to retain anything. I’ve known this ever since 6th grade, when I was invited to the “smart” kids’ school because my best friend went there and they had a bring-a-friend day. I did such a great job that the teacher was confused as to why I wasn’t enrolled. She even called up my regular teacher to ask. The reason? I made D’s and C’s. The “smart” kids made A’s. Funny thing was, if I had gone to the “smart” school, I would have made A’s because they taught kinestheticly, as opposed to the “regular” school that taught exactly the way I didn’t learn. The “smart” school teacher understood this and got angry, but there was nothing she could do. I continued to go to the school that was wrong for me simply because I couldn’t do well enough there to go to the one that was right.

Frustrating, but I learned an important lesson — I wasn’t stupid, just different.

I used that lesson through middle and high school, and while I didn’t get perfect grades, I did okay for myself. College and graduate school were even better. I learned what I wanted, how I wanted, earning my Bachelor’s as valedictorian and my Master’s with a 4.0. You’d think I’d remember all that as I continued to learn after school.

Yeah… not so much.

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog (and thank you if you have!) I’ve been going through a new adventure lately, trying to learn how to sell my books and get myself into the industry as a viable (read: respected by my colleagues) author. Now, my logos thinking told me there were logical steps to take to go about this that made sense. They were, in order:

  • Write the book
  • Edit the book
  • Publish the book
  • Tell people about the book online
  • Wait for people to read the book and thus, care about it
  • When the people cared about the book, then they would come to the website, watch the videos, buy the next book, etc.

So, logically the LAST steps would be to:

  • Finish the website
  • Write Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. to an audience that’s already there because they already care about the book
  • Keep posting videos, again for an audience that’s already there because they already care about the book

This made sense to me. I was using logos, after all. LOGIC! The ONE of the three pillars of critical thinking that NEVER LETS YOU DOWN.

Turns out, I’m not even part Vulcan.

Another part of my logic was that writing anything about… well… writing… on here would be pointless, considering how many other writing blogs are out there covering the exact same thing. Pointless, redundant, and a waste of my time to tell people what everyone else has already told them a million times.

All this, of course, flew in the face of what everyone was telling me. I have friends in the industry who I love and respect beyond this world: published authors, agents, editors. All of them have given me advice. I can imagine how many authors like me — unpublished in trade but wanting to be, unagented, unable to write full-time — would kill to be in my place. People pay good money just to sit with an agent or editor for a few minutes, and here I had them as friends, telling me what I needed to do in everyday conversation… for free! But I blew off that coveted advice. Blew it off! Why?

Because to me, it wasn’t logical.


This brings us back to the way I learn. They told me things. I didn’t get it. They showed me things. I didn’t understand. I argued because it didn’t make sense that anyone who hadn’t even read the book would care to follow me, watch my videos, go to my websites, etc. Why would they? What would be their motive if not to learn more about books they already liked? This was LOGICAL dangit!

But I had forgotten two vital things about myself:

  1. Logos is not my strength.
  2. I learn by doing.

Lately, I have begun to dip my toes into the “illogical” waters of my friends’ advice. I’d like to say I came to my senses, but to be honest it was more of a pathos response. In other words, I was discouraged by the results of my own logos-fuled decisions. So, begrudgingly (“it doesn’t make SENSE dangit!”) I turned to ethos, and finally listened to the authorities who had been trying to teach me all along. What was that advice?

Act like I already have an audience, and they will come.


But, as illogical as that seems to me, the results, though small at this moment, have been a lot more encouraging even within the first day or two, than in months of following my own logic. I’ve Tweeted about both my book and my blog even when nobody seemed to notice, replied to other people’s Tweets, posted on Facebook in what felt like a vacuum, worked more on a website it has felt like nobody would ever visit, and continue to upload videos to a Patreon only two people follow. I’ve stayed positive when I felt anything but. I’ve been upbeat, excited, and prevalent. Does it still feel like I’m screaming into a void? Most the time. Are people responding anyway? Yes! Not tons — not even tens — but enough to keep me going.

I’m doing it, and thus learning how. This is my strength. I can’t forget that.

Still doesn’t make any freaking sense though. Grumble

A Sneak Peek at Book 3!

Posted in Reading, Writing with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

The actual writing of books is an isolating experience. One in which readers don’t hear much about the stories they’re waiting for. Taking that into consideration, I’ve decided to post the first chapter of Guts and Glory book THREE! here so you can have a sneak peek at what I’m working on. Happy reading! ~ JC

The Legend of Guts & Glory: Book 3 (Title Pending)





Back and forth, up and down, my new sword hacked at the weeds of swampy Noc. Some were slashed off instantly, others — the big ones — took a few more whacks. I didn’t mind. Those were the most fun.


“Might wanna aim higher,” a voice said from behind me. “I hear those ‘dults’re pretty big.”

“WHO–” I spun around in the mucky swamp floor. My boot didn’t.


Face, meet mud.

The voice laughed. I looked up, wiping green muck from my eyes, and saw a girl I’d never seen before.

She was a Teen — I could tell that from the three-stripe tattoo under one brown eye — but she looked about my age. I figured she couldn’t be older than 13 but since Nil Kids don’t celebrate birthdays, she wouldn’t have known if I asked. She had darkish skin, and black hair pulled back into a tight braid. She was skinny everywhere but her face, her round cheeks even rounder from the huge smile she was giving me. Like everyone from the city of Nil, she wore layered rags, heavy boots, and old tires on her arms and legs for armor. Unlike most, she carried no weapons that I could see, though she did have a few multicolored ropes tied around her waist. From them hung a floppy leather bag.
She leaned down and held out a gloved hand, still smiling like a loon. “Yer mighty-tighty Guts the brave! Hero ‘a Nil! Right?”

I took her hand and pulled myself to my feet. “Something like that,” I muttered, trying to wipe big slabs of mud off my knees. “You know it’s dangerous to sneak up on someone who has a weapon, right?”

She laughed again. “I ain’t too worried ‘bout YOU anyhow. MUD-MAN.”

“Mature,” I muttered. Spotting my sword in the muck, I picked it up and wiped it off as good as I could on my dirty pants, careful to keep the sharp edge away from my skin. It was small, curved, and made of a few different metals patch-soldered together. It wasn’t much more than a glorified knife. At least, on the outside.

Gripping the hilt, I flipped a hidden switch under the hand guard. With a FOOSH! of electric blue sparks, the blade lit up in dancing lines of electricity. Books had been pretty excited about that.

“See? It matches yer buzzballs!” He’d said when he showed me.

To my satisfaction, the girl jumped back a little.

“You know me,” I said to the girl, flipping the switch off again. The sudden loss of blue light made me realize how dark it was getting. “But who are you?”

“Goin’ by the namea Wendy fer now,” she said. “I’m here ta take ya ta the meetin’.”
I grimaced and sheathed my sword. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

She turned in the darkening shadows. “C’mon Hero ‘a Mud. They’re gonna start fast.”

Groaning inwardly, I followed Wendy-the-Teen back to Camp Zombie.


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