Archive for fiction

A Straight Person’s Guide to Labels

Posted in definitions, LGBT, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on March 26, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

We’re a people of labels. In order to understand each-other, we have to put each-other into categories, such as:

“Straight” – “I can talk to this person like a “normal” person, because they represent what I was raised to know.”

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“Gay/Lesbian” – “I will talk to this person like the opposite gender who I’m used to talking to. Wait… how can I talk to a man like I talk to a woman? Women are nuts, but men aren’t. How can I talk to a woman like I talk to men? Men are misogynists, but women aren’t. But this person… is? What? A man? A woman? How do I relate to this person? AGGGHH!

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“Transgender” – “Okay, I understand now that gay people are just people. But wait… is this a man or a woman? How can I know if this is a gay person or a straight person if I can’t even tell if they’re male or female? Yeah, the’re people, but how can I tell if they’re going to hit on me and make me uncomfortable? I want to hook up with a man/woman. Trans people are liars who I can’t trust.

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“Asexual” – “Um… what? There are people who don’t even WANT sex? How does that even work? Sex is AMAZING! How can you not want it? No way these people exist. You must be lying.”

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“Pansexual” – “OMG! You want ANYONE? You’re my GREATEST FANTASY! Wait… you don’t want to be with me? You’re an ASSHOLE! Elitist!  You can’t be Pan and tell me what you WANT. You want EVERYTHING. If you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite. Therefore you HAVE to want me!”

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“Bisexual” – “Okay, so you want to be with the opposite gender and the same gender. I have a 50/50 chance then. Sweet! Wait… you don’t want me? Why not? You want dick AND coochie! I have one of those! What.. you want an EMOTIONAL connection too? What are you, a normal person who wants LOVE? HA! Only NORMAL people get love! WEIRD FREAKS like you only want sex! Right? RIGHT! If you wanted love, you’d be with the OPPOSITE gender. Love can only exist that way, after all.

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I’m what society calls “straight”. I’m a woman who loves being with a man — namely, my husband. It’s acceptable in society to be who I am, but I often wonder what it would be like if my sexuality was marginalized. If loving a man, as a woman, was considered odd. Would I force myself to love a woman? No. I couldn’t do that. I could force myself to PRETEND I loved a woman, but it would never be who I really am. Does ANYONE have the right to decide who someone else is? What gives anyone the right to decide the truth of another person? If you need a label to know how to treat someone, you don’t understand the basis of humanity. May I suggest reading ‘Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, “What is Man?” by Mark Twain, or “Ulysses” by James Joyce, to better understand your place in the universe? Read. Learn. Grow. Otherwise, you may never understand the place you hold in the history of man… and that’s not an enlightened place to be.

THIS is why literature is important. THIS is why books matter.

~Jessica Rising

http://jessica-rising.com

Blight: Chapter 1

Posted in Books, Fiction, Literature, Reading with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

Here is the first chapter of my new YA novel, Blight. I thought I’d already posted it here, but I looked and can’t find it. Very odd. Please let me know what you think! Thank you. ~JR

 

Blight
by Jessica Rising

Chapter 1

Witchcraft.

The ancient word hangs in my mind as I kneel in the dirt. My fingers, chalky with dust, working slowly. Carefully. I can’t afford another mistake. Already the rocky ground is littered with broken bits of metal, cracked cogs and de-twined springs. Here and there, peppering the mess, shiny bits of white glass reflect the low light from outside.

That, I broke on purpose.

Even in the beginning there were only two of the fragile globes. The most important pieces. But I had to know how they worked, and the glass cover hid the details inside. I’d had to sacrifice one to understand the other.

A pointless sacrifice.

I lift up the uncovered innards to study them again in the faint light. The tiny bits are as mysterious to me now as they were when I’d first killed the Knight, three days before.

The bottom is curved around and around like the hand drills we use in the quarry, only much shorter and fatter. Above, surrounded by a jagged lip of the broken glass that had covered them, two tiny metal wires stand up side-by-side, connected at the bottom by a small cube of clear glass. Another wire runs along the top, connected back to the glass cube by even thinner, springy wires.

I’ve studied it for days, at every angle, but it still makes no sense. Both globes worked perfectly when I saw them focused on me within the hollow eyesockets of the Knight, blinding me with their bright glow. But they’d gone dead with it. I haven’t been able to make them glow since.

Frustrated, I pull my book out of its secret pocket in my robes. Something hits my knee. I look down to see its sister has followed it. I’ve had both books for as long as I can remember and known they were dangerous for just about as long. Books are heresy against Bask, outlawed in the Under. Nobody here can read.

Nobody except me.

I don’t know why I can read. Neither of my parents can. Nobody I know can. I don’t remember learning how, I just always have. Just like I’ve always had the books.

I pick up the second book. It’s smaller than its sister, thinner, with a brown cover that almost matches my robes. I’ve always wanted to read it but I can’t. The lock on its side keeps its secrets well hidden.

I put it back in my pocket and focus on the other book, the one I can read. A little bigger than my open palm, its title is 8th Grade Physical Science. I’ve read it so many times I can almost recite it word for word, but I still understand so few of those words. I open it to a wrinkled page with a picture of a bulb. My lips move as I whisper the caption under my breath.

“Electricity is a force created by a difference in charges due to gained or lost electrons. Electricity flowing between two points is called an electrical current. In order for these electrons to flow, there must be a difference in charges between the two points. Electricity always flows from a location with a negative charge to a location with a positive charge.”

Words. So many words, so little sense in them.

I stare at both bulbs — broken and whole, and bite back a scream of frustration. It’s right here. RIGHT here. Light for the Under. Freedom for my people. So close, but so impossibly far away.

The small cavern where I kneel vibrates to the long, low toll of a bell.

The waking-bell. And today is Atonement. I won’t have another chance at lighting up our darkness for another whole day.

Who is Squire Carroll?

Posted in Books, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

I’ve written middle grade characters almost exclusivity my whole life. But Squire screamed at me. She called out to me, She told me she needed to be heard.

Squire Ann Carroll.

She is sixteen years old, far too old for my usual characters.

Still, she called to me in my daughter’s voices — Cisily at 18, Emily at 16, Joei at 14 — and I knew I couldn’t ignore her voice. Women characters like Bela Swan, with her insecurity, like Katniss Everdeen with her stone-facade, like Anastasia Steele with her loss of control, all of them spoke to my daughters in a way that Squire couldn’t accept. And so Squire spoke to me. She spoke of strength and hope, of love of a man, and freedom, of individuality and understanding.

Squire Ann Carroll spoke to me as her sisters before her — Lewis Carroll’s Alice, and Lyman Frank Baum’s Ozma — that whimsy and truth aren’t engendered. That the hope of the future belongs to us all. That we must stop pretending we’re different — stop labeling ourselves and others — in order to find equality that will LAST.

Do you agree with Squire? Then read her story below, share this, and dive into her world to see what girlpower truly means, both without a man, and with. Squire loves a strong man, but she understands her own strength as well. Will you you join us? Will you support the light that Squire wants to bring to the Under?

Read her story, and decide…

Chapter 1

Witchcraft.

The ancient word hangs in my mind as I kneel in the dirt. My fingers, chalky with dust, working slowly. Carefully. I can’t afford another mistake. Already the rocky ground is littered with broken bits of metal, cracked cogs and de-twined springs. Here and there, peppering the mess, shiny bits of white glass reflect the low light from outside.

That, I broke on purpose.

Even in the beginning there were only two of the fragile globes. The most important pieces. But I had to know how they worked, and the glass cover hid the details inside. I’d had to sacrifice one to understand the other.

A pointless sacrifice.

I lift up the uncovered innards to study them again in the faint light. The tiny bits are as mysterious to me now as they were when I’d first killed the Knight, three days before.

The bottom is curved around and around like the hand drills we use in the quarry, only much shorter and fatter. Above, surrounded by a jagged lip of the broken glass that had covered them, two tiny metal wires stand up side-by-side, connected at the bottom by a small cube of clear glass. Another wire runs along the top, connected back to the glass cube by even thinner, springy wires.

I’ve studied it for days, at every angle, but it still makes no sense. Both globes worked perfectly when I saw them focused on me within the hollow eyesockets of the Knight, blinding  me with their bright glow. But they’d gone dead with it. I haven’t been able to make them glow since.

Frustrated, I pull my book out of its secret pocket in my robes. Something hits my knee. I look down to see its sister has followed it. I’ve had both books for as long as I can remember, and known they were dangerous for just about as long. Books are heresy against Bask, and outlawed in the Under. Nobody here can read.

Nobody except me.

I don’t know why I can read. Neither of my parents can. Nobody I know can. I don’t remember learning how either, I just always have. Just like I’ve always had the books.

I pick up the second book. It’s smaller than its sister, thinner, with a brown cover that almost matches my robes. I’ve always wanted to read it but I can’t. The lock on its side keeps its secrets well hidden.

I put it back in my pocket and focus on the other book, the one I can read. A little bigger than my open palm, its title is 8th Grade Physical Science. I’ve read it so many times I can almost recite it word for word, but I still understand so few of those words. I open it to a wrinkled page with a picture of a bulb. My lips move as I whisper the caption under my breath.

“Electricity is a force created by a difference in charges due to gained or lost electrons. Electricity flowing between two points is called an electrical current. In order for these electrons to flow, there must be a difference in charges between the two points. Electricity always flows from a location with a negative charge to a location with a positive charge.”

Words. So many words, so little sense in them.

I stare at both bulbs — broken and whole, and bite back a scream of frustration. It’s right here. RIGHT here. Light for the Under. Freedom for my people. So close, but so impossibly far away.

The small cavern where I kneel vibrates to the long, low toll of a bell.

Curfew. And tomorrow is Atonement. I won’t have another chance at lighting up our darkness for another whole day.

Chapter 2

Mother’s warm, raggy hugs. Father’s beardy, scratchy kisses. Baby Derrik, all squirmy and giggly and snuggly in my arms. Grandfather’s weird quips, spoken at the most random times. Our home, tiny and hot, sitting at the top of the stoneshack heap of Cavern 16.

These are the things I remember as a kid in the Under. These are the things that keep me going even though it could all go horribly wrong.

Even though it probably will.

When I was little, the Under was home. It was peace. Behind the robes of my parents I never saw the horror just below the surface of my daily life.

We woke to the tolling bell each morning. We left our tiny home with everyone else, shimmying down the ladders to our neighbor’s roofs, then down more ladders to more roofs and finally to the pebbled ground below. The low light-lines embedded in the sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky walls illuminated the brown-clad subjects of Neighborhood D in their low, cold glow. My little feet, dusty and bare since birth, ran over the dips, pebbles and broken tiles of the cavern floor as I pushed through the throngs of other families headed into the quarry for another day of work. Father always called me over their heads, but I pretended not to hear him. It was our little game.

Coarse robes, bare legs and feet covered in sweat-drenched dust, gnarled hands clasping sharp pickaxes or the split, wooden handles of rusty shovels. I pushed through and around them all, bent on one goal — to get to our family spot before Father, and prove I was finally big enough to explore the dark cracks in the quarry walls that fascinated me.

But every time, he was there first. I’d break free of the crowd as they dispersed through the enormous, open quarry, and he was waiting for me with a wide grin, holding out my scraps basket.

Then one day the game ended, and with it, my childhood.

Running between the brown-clad legs, I didn’t see the spot of white until it was too late. I ran right into what felt like a rock wall.

The wall turned to look at me. My breath stopped. Underneath the soft white hood, a cold glow where eyes should have been. Thin, bloodless lips pursed below a set of ragged holes that only barely resembled a nose. The body, tall and thin, was covered from shoulders to floor in robes that matched the hood.

A Knight of Bask.

I’d heard of the Knights, of course. Everyone knew of the white-clad specters who policed the Under to keep peace among the subjects. I’d even seen a few from far away, but never this close. Close enough to smell it.

It stunk like rotten holemole meat.

The Knight turned away from me without a word. I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived. Within the next moment the crowd pushed back violently, knocking me to the ground. Pickaxes clattered to the cracked floor, screams echoed everywhere, and I looked up to see the Knight holding someone in the air by the neck.

I didn’t know her, had never spoken to her before, though I’d seen her at the quarry often. She had been softly wrinkled in the face, with sharp green eyes and graying brown hair always pulled back neatly into a torn scrap of robe. Now, her face was purple and bloated from choking, her eyes bulged out sickeningly, her hair free and frizzy, half-covering her face and damp with sweat. Her legs jerked under her brown robes in an unnatural way I’ll never forget as the Knight moved through the parting people, heading toward a nearby hole in the ground.

An oobli.

They littered the floor here and there, deep, dark holes with bottoms set in wicked spikes. Most of the time the ooblis were empty, but we were always taught to stay safely away from them, and everyone knew what they were for.

Punishment.

The Knight stopped at the oobli, holding the jerking woman over it in one hand.

“Bask has spoken,” it bellowed. “The heretic shall be vanquished.”

Without another word, it dropped the woman and walked away. Just dropped her, like she was nothing. Like she was trash.

I ran, then, as far and as fast as I could. It did no good. I still haven’t escaped her gurgling screams.

I don’t think I ever will.

Innocence Lost

Posted in Books, Publishing with tags , , , , , on August 8, 2014 by Jessica Crichton

So the internet is all up in arms over Penguin’s new design for Roald Dahl’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In case you haven’t seen it, here is the cover: what Penguin maintains that the cover was designed in an effort to, “look[s] at the children at the centre of the story, and highlight[s] the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life, ready for Charlie’s debut amongst the adult titles in the Penguin Modern Classics series.” In other words, the idea behind the cover is to give it more of an adult style so it matches with the other — predominantly adult — titles in their Modern Classics series. The problems with this are many, but I’m only going to touch on the few that hit my brain the instant I saw the cover.

1) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is NOT an Adult Book.

Don’t get me wrong. I am SO happy Penguin saw the greatness in this book in such a way as to honor it with a place among their Modern Classics series. Other books in this series include 1984 by George Orwell, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. These are amazing titles and authors, and it’s a great honor for Roald Dahl’s beloved story to be included among them. My master’s thesis was entirely centered around my belief that children’s books can be as great a literary contribution to society as any Shakespeare or Hawthorne, so this elates me to no end.

The issue isn’t that Penguin has included a children’s book in its Classics series, it’s that Penguin is trying to pretend it’s NOT a children’s book. Of course, this is erroneous at best, because… well… it IS a children’s book. One hundred percent kid-approved. To emphasize this point, here are a few lines from the actual book:

“I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true.”

“The snozberries taste like snozberries!”

“Rainbow drops – suck them and you can spit in six different colours.”

“Oh, my sainted aunt! Don’t mention that disgusting stuff in front of me! Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!”

“Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” And at the same time, his long bony body rose up out of the bed and his bowl of soup went flying into the face of Grandma Josephine, and in one fantastic leap, this old fellow of ninety-six and a half, who hadn’t been out of bed these last twenty years, jumped on to the floor and started doing a dance of victory in his pajamas.”

If these sound childish to you, that’s because they’re from a children’s book. “But,” you may argue, “there are many deep and even dark passages in there as well”. I agree and if I ignored them I wouldn’t be much of a literati would I? For contrast, here are a few of those:

“Whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all if it hasnt been whipped with whips, just like poached eggs isn’t poached eggs unless it’s been stolen in the dead of the night.”

“Everything in this room is edible. Even I’m edible. But, that would be called canibalism. It is looked down upon in most societies.”

These are only a couple of examples, of course, but they work to illustrate the point. We can see that the first plays on words in a way that a child would most likely not understand, and both are a bit dark to say the least. However we also must also note that even these passages are written in a childlike narrative voice because Roald Dahl meant it as a children’s book. Even if adults CAN find deeper themes within, (and I maintain that this is definitely the case) creating a cover that alludes that the story is entirely adult-themed is ridiculous. As the author himself said of his work,

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” Roald Dahl

Books shouldn’t be daunting? I’d say that cover certainly is!

2) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a Beloved Modern Classic BECAUSE it is a Children’s Book

Adults love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because it reminds them of their childhood. As they will tell you, almost all of these adults read it for the first time as children. Children love the book, of course, because it’s written for them. Neither of these fans would get what they loved about this story from the cover. In fact, it’s raised an awful lot of fuss for this exact reason 

But you may say, “this isn’t for fans of the book, it’s for adults who have never read it before.” In that case let’s look at the two kinds of adults who fit into this category:

1) Those who know what the book is from movies and/or basic pop culture.

2) Those who don’t know anything about it because they’re simply not interested in knowing.

To be honest, Charlie is such an icon of kidlit I’d wager it would be difficult to find the latter subcategory anywhere. Still, for argument purposes let’s assume they exist. One of these people is walking along in a bookstore, looking for something they will enjoy (which, we have established, is NOT kidlit), and they see this cover. Now, I’m not going to argue that my instant translation of this cover is the same as anyone else’s but the general feel I have gotten from Facebook comments and in-person discussions is the same: this cover says that the story within is a drama about child pageants or some dark memoir written by a lady who went through horrible emotional and mental abuse as a child. The titles of Lolita and Valley of the Dolls have also been going  around, and I have to agree with those as well. So this random bookstore customer who doesn’t know the title sees this cover and thinks, “hey, that looks interesting”, because maybe they like that sort of thing. They then either pick it up and read the back (like most sane people), or they just buy it. In the former instance this person would find soon enough that it’s a children’s book and put it back down, thus not buying it. In the latter instance they would take it home, begin to read it, then take it right back to the store, possibly in anger for being duped. In either case this person does NOT give the bookstore any business.

In the end, this cover only serves to confuse and frustrate pretty much everyone. And why? Because Penguin chose it as a Modern Classic based on its own merits… then decided those merits weren’t good enough.

3) Different Themes Within the Story Could Be Used to Greater Effectiveness and More Validity

According to some critics, Penguin made this cover with the theme of the book in mind, which they state is “the loss of childhood innocence”. This theme could really be put on just about any children’s book ever conceived (except maybe The Wizard of Oz, though I’m sure there are those who would try), and I am a big proponent of freedom in literary criticism, so I won’t argue against that point. What I WILL do is argue that there are other themes Penguin could have gone for instead, which could be more effective in marketing and more valid to the story.

Let’s start with a short synopsis. I’m assuming most of you have read it (or seen one of the movies; I won’t judge as I’ve done both), so this will be simple review. However I feel it is warranted due to the subject at hand, so please humor me.

Charlie is a very poor boy living with his washerwoman mother and four invalid grandparents in a tiny shack. The one thing he loves the most in the world is candy, but he hardly ever gets any, and when he does it’s usually very small. One day, the mysterious owner of the local chocolate factory, Willie Wonka, sends out news that he will allow five, and only five, children into his factory to see its wonders. Those children will be chosen at random by way of a contest — five golden tickets hidden inside Wonka’s most popular chocolate bar. There’s a flurry of excitement as the five are found: Veruka Salt, the spoiled, selfish daughter of a millionaire; Augustus Gloop, a German boy who never seems to stop eating; Violet Beauregarde, a girl obsessed with competition — and gum; Mike Teevee, who you can probably guess cares for only one thing in the world — television; and… Charlie. These five are given a fantastic tour through the factory with their parents, and one-by-one learn the hard way that their personalities aren’t exactly the best: Violet blows up into a blueberry after eating gum that Willie Wonka tells her repeatedly not to chew, Augustus finds himself trapped inside — then shot out of — an exit pipe from the chocolate river because he can’t stop himself from trying to drink the whole thing and falls in, Mike is zapped into a tiny version of himself because he can’t control his excitement over the possibility of becoming television himself, even though Willie tells him they haven’t tested it on people yet, and Veruka falls down a garbage hole after trying to steal a golden-egg laying chicken that Wonka tells her is not for sale. In the end the only one left is Charlie. Willie Wonka tells Charlie that he is the winner of another contest — one nobody knew about — and the prize is the factory itself. He then names Charlie his successor, and Charlie, Wonka and Grandpa go home in the great glass elevator to tell the family the good news (and destroy the roof while they’re at it). The end.

Okay, so the initial obvious theme here is “don’t be a douche”. All of the other children are greedy and selfish and they pay for it not only by way of humiliation, but also losing the chance to be the next Willie Wonka. Dahl’s theme of self-morality is obvious here, especially since in the book (unlike the original movie), Charlie does nothing wrong and is just happy to be there and experience such wonder. This is a theme that adults don’t tend to like, however, as it can be seen as condescending to those who are supposed to have already learned the basic lesson of being a decent human being. Telling someone not to be a douche isn’t exactly a selling point, but it can certainly be used for a more valid cover design. How many villains have sold stories? Darth Vader, for one, has been a huge moneymaker. So show Violet being a selfish brat. Show Augustus with his mouth full of chocolate. Heck, make it into a “Seven Deadly Sins” style of imagery. This can be done both in a way adults will be drawn to, AND still in keeping with the obvious theme of the book.

Still, you may argue that adults don’t want the obvious. We’re pretty good at looking into things and finding far deeper meaning than sometimes is even considered by the author. (Mark Twain had a few things to say about that!) What if the goal of Penguin here is to show adult readers that there is more to this children’s book than meets the eye? This is a perfectly acceptable goal as far as I’m concerned, but I believe they have gone about it all wrong.

I feel that one possible buried theme within Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is that of human companionship. Willie Wonka lives in a huge, wondrous factory… all alone. Of course there are the  Oompa Loompas, but they’re more like sentient pets than friends for Wonka (we won’t discuss here the inherent racism that they could very easily represent). Wonka is extremely wealthy and successful… but he’s also very lonely. Charlie on the other hand has nothing… except his family. He lives in a shack with five — five — adults who adore him. He is not lacking in love or companionship for certain! In the end, Wonka invites Charlie and his family to move into the factory as he teaches the boy everything he needs to know to run it. Why would he do that? (Other than the fact that the Buckets live in a shack, I mean.) Because he’s lonely! One of my favorite quotes from the book is this:

“Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.” Charlie Bucket: “What happened?” Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

It’s more than possible that Wonka isn’t just speaking of Charlie here but of himself as well. Charlie got a chocolate factory and a bright future. Wonka… got a friend. This theme could also be incorporated into the cover in a more adult-style by simply showing Wonka standing starkly alone in front of his factory. This is only one example, of course. I’m sure Penguin has plenty of real artists who could do a far better job.

4) The Cover is Pretty Much Everything the Book is Not

Speaking of Penguin’s artists, let’s wrap this up by discussing the cover as it is, and its assumed theme. This theme of “childhood lost” isn’t a unique one as I earlier pointed out, but it is special in that adults can perhaps relate to it better than some other themes within children’s books. Alright, that is understood. Yet even working with this theme, and even adding in the darkness that Penguin mentions (which I won’t dispute exists; the boat song is in the book, and Dahl was known to have written adult horror before he began his children’s books), I still maintain that it could have been executed far better.

First and foremost, Charlie is not a girl. I’m all about transgenders and supporting their right to be who they are, but Charlie Bucket isn’t even close. He is a boy. Period. It’s pretty simple that way. Yet this cover depicts a girl. Why? Why doesn’t it depict the main character, or at least someone who could possibly be him? This image is very misleading, giving the impression that the main character is female when nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to depict the loss of innocence with dark tones, fine, but for the love of God do it with a boy so the cover is at least somewhat relevant to the actual story! Sure, depicting the loss of innocence for a boy may be more difficult but it’s far from impossible. Soldiers come directly to mind. A dead-eyed boy in dirty combat gear perhaps? That’s one of many scenarios which could be explored that, while still not completely relevant to the story within, would at least have some relevance to the main character.

Secondly, the book has no characters who could even match the girl on the cover in the first place. Some have mentioned she could be Veruka, but Veruka would never allow herself to become this automaton; however bratty she was, she was certainly self-aware and vibrant. The character on the cover depicts nobody from the actual story, nor any scene that happens in it. Sure, sure, I understand that Penguin is going for metaphor here but there’s such a thing as too vague, especially for the general public. Include something relevant. Anything! Come on, Penguin, throw us a bone!

Third, and perhaps the most damning, is the blatant sexualization of the girl on the cover. Strike one: she’s a little girl. Strike two: it’s a children’s book. Strike three: this assumes that adult readers are really only looking for one thing, which is pretty damn insulting.

Yes, I understand that the sexualization of this girl is what depicts the loss of childhood innocence. I’d have to be a total dolt not to know that, and I’m just above that classification, thank-you-very-much. Yet I can’t help but wonder if Penguin had ulterior motives in using that particular brand of innocence lost. There are other ways to lose one’s innocence. Heck, Penguin could have used some of the themes they maintain are in the book itself. (I know, novel idea.) But no, they went with the lowest common denominator, going so far as to sacrifice any actual relevance to the story in order to make the cover “sexy”. And why?

Because it sells.

Penguin, you lost quite a bit of my admiration. That was a dick move.

Update on “Rise of the Nefarious Numbots”

Posted in Books, Family, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2014 by Jessica Crichton

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is: “Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine” — now published through Second Wind Publishing LLC (YAY!) — will be available at Spocon, as will “The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc”, both with updated covers (pictured below). Of course I will also be there in person to sign, talk, and teach!

Now for the bad news.

“Rise of the Nefarious Numbots” will not be available at Spocon this year after all. This was a difficult decision, but in the end I chose to ensure a quality story for my readers rather than rushing the story so it will be out quickly. I plan on having “Numbots” available in a small scale in September, at Glamirita Clothing and Accessories in the Garland District in Spokane. It will also be available to order online for one day only as an Amazon title, before switching over to Second Wind Publishing for national release. I will let you all know when that will be as soon as I am able.

Thank you all for your patience. I promise it will be worth it! 
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The Weird Kid

Posted in Books, Family, kidlit with tags , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Jessica Crichton

The Weird Kid

A Short Story of Nil

by Jessica Rising

Books peeked around the corner at the weird Kid Gadget had brought home. He made a face behind his way-too-big goggles.

For three years, the brothers had lived together all alone in the big, broken down mall, Books learning everything he could from Gadget. Mostly, Books’ big brother had only let him hold things and read instructions out loud, saying a Stick wasn’t big enough to learn anything important. But two days ago, Books had finally earned his name. Gadget had promised that now he was old enough to learn the interesting stuff, and even said he could actually help with Gadget’s newest invention, the Rock Walker! Books had been so excited.

Then, this little… thing… happened.

She was tiny, way littler than Books who was pretty littler than Gadget anyway, with dark eyes and skin and frizzy black hair. Like all the tiny Sticks that always showed up around Nil, she wore a dirty white, shapeless dress. That was it. She didn’t have any shoes or gloves, or even tire armor! Every time before when they’d found  one of these tiny Sticks, Gadget had left it there, saying another group of Kids would find it and raise it right. He said he was too busy inventing important things to worry about another Stick. But he’d chosen Books to raise because he’d shown he was smart from the moment he’d found him.

“Ya was standin’ inna port, wailin’ up a storm, like all the other Sticks,” Gadget had told him many times, “an’ I was gonna just leave ya there. But when I turned ta leave, ya said, ‘hey, where ya goin?’ No little Stick ever talked ta me bafore, an’ I was kinda lonely, so I thought I’d just show ya the ropes, ya know? Now stop askin’. I toldya tonsa times already!”

But now there was this new little Stick that Gadget’d actually brought home. Books didn’t really know how to feel about that.

“Well?” Gadget asked from behind. “Whaddaya think?”

Books glanced back at his big brother. Gadget was tall and skinny, with green eyes and dirty blond hair mashed up in thick braids he called dreadlocks. He wore big gloves and big goggles, just like Books, but unlike his little brother he also wore a long, stained white coat over his Nil rags and tire armor. When Books had asked about it, he’d said scientists wore coats like that. Books had never found one in the scrap that fit him, but he kept looking.

“I dunno,” Books said honestly. Gadget always said to be honest whenever possible. “She’s kinda scrawny.”

“Sure,” Gadget said. “But I think she’ll be okay.”

“Why’d ya get her?” Books asked. He felt himself get all hot and stuffed-up inside. He sniffed hard to make sure he didn’t cry. Scientists never cried. “Ain’t I good ’nuff?”

Gadget grinned, and Books braced for a joke about his crying. But Gadget surprised him by being serious. “I just figgerd we needed a new Stick ’round the place ta do the work ya used ta do, cuz ya ain’t no Stick no more… Books.”

Every time Gadget used his new name it made Books all happy inside, like when the orange Nil sky broke open for a second and showed the bright yellow light on the other side.

“Ya mean I can stop sweepin’ an’ holdin’ scrap an’ makin’ food?” he asked, excited.

“Not yet,” Gadget said. “Ya gotta show her how first. But then she’ll do the Stick work till she earns her name. That’s when we’ll find ‘nother Stick.”

Books felt his excitement peeter out like the broken balloon in a book he’d read once. “She’s gonna be a scientist, too?”

Gadget nodded. “She’s smart, Books. Just as smart’s you when I found ya.” He punched Books in the shoulder. “Only smart Kids’re ‘lowed ta live here.”

Books looked back at the weird Kid. For once she was quiet, just looking around with her big brown eyes like she’d never seen a mall before.

“She don’t look too smart.”

Gadget pushed Books gently in the back. “Go say hey ta your new sis.”

Books growled under his breath, but walked out into the room anyway. The Stick looked at him curiously.

“Heya, Stick,” he said.

“Stick?” she asked in a tiny voice.

“Yeah,” Books said. “You are a Stick ’til ya earn your name. I earned mine, so I’m bigger ‘an you ,so ya gotta listen ta me, got it?”

The Stick looked a little confused, but she nodded anyway. “Yup!”

“Good,” Books said. “Cuz ya gotta be real smart an’ know yer place ta live here. It’s the best place in Nil, though.”

“What’s name?” the Stick asked.

Books squatted down so he could look at her closer. “Books.”

She grinned. “Books!” Then, without warning, she jumped at him, wrapping her scrawny arms around his neck and squeezing tight.

Books looked back at Gadget, who leaned against the wall watching them with a smile. Gadget didn’t smile much, but Books really liked it when he did.

He squeezed his scrawny new sister back. “Sure Stick,” he said, “ya gonna be a good parta our family, I think.”

He sniffed again. But this time is was maybe a good sniff.

Maybe.

Parenting while Living in the Shadow of the Greats

Posted in Books, Mothers, Parenting, Writing with tags , , , , on January 21, 2014 by Jessica Crichton

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There is very little I know about this life. One thing I can reasonably state as fact, however, is my direct connection with the greats of literature. This isn’t because I sit around reading their work, brooding over the depth of their prose. I’m not even proud that I’m part of this “elite” group. It actually… kind of sucks.

See, I actually live the life they did… only in my own century.

I am what most people call “a night person”. This isn’t particularly a romantic title, but I don’t really care. (Does that make me totally emo awesome? Still don’t care.) Seriously, with a bluntness that only comes from being entirely, raw-honest, I can say that more than half the time I wish I could be… normal. Just normal. Able to go to bed at what “decent folk” call a “decent hour”. Able to get up in time to get my kids ready for school with a smile on my face and scrambled eggs in their bellies.

The reality, however, is far darker.

My kids love me, and I love them. I get up with them long enough to get them out the door. I go to EVERY parent-teacher conference, and I schedule mommy-daughter and mommy-son dates. Their birthday parties are AMAZING. We eat dinner around the table more nights than not, and discuss the craziest subjects, like religion, philosophy, and politics.

Yes, even with the 6-year-0ld.

But on a day-to-day scale, I drop the ball. A lot.

My kids know how to make their own breakfast. Even my youngest. My kids’ bedding goes weeks without being laundered. Sometimes their underwear does, too. They read a lot… but they also play a lot of video games. There are days when they don’t see me at all, because my nocturnally natural and professional schedule just doesn’t work with the one I am trying to let them have.

Usually, that’s on the weekends… usually.

If Edgar Allen Poe had kids… if Emily Bronte’ followed the traditions of her gender in her time… if Mark Twain was a single father… they’d be me.

I’m torn between being proud of my natural predilection towards nocturnal-literati-weirdness, and my fear that my children are being neglected because of it. But there’s one thing I do know, and that’s the fact that I was born to be a crazy writer.

Sometimes I just wonder if maybe I should have been a cat person instead of a mommy…

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