Archive for Musings

On Encouragement

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

Lately I’ve been rediscovering my favorite T.V. universe of all time: Star Trek. I started by watching “Voyager” from beginning to end (thank you Netflix!) because it’s my favorite-favorite. Now I’m around the middle of “The Next Generation”. I’m watching them from favorite series to least-favorite. (Sorry “Deep Space Nine”.)

When you’re a trekkie like me you learn a LOT about Roddenberry’s universe, including behind the scenes stuff that can be quite illuminating. One of those things, which seems to be the same for every series (though TNG is the most infamous for it), is first season flopping. Though arguments abound over which series is best, it seems each one has started hard but ended beloved by at least a few fans (and in the Star Trek fandom, “a few” needs at least one k after it!) Indeed, when one re-watches TNG especially, one can’t help but cringe jeeeest a little at how… well… BAD… the first season or so is. No matter how much of a fan you are now.

For a struggling writer like me, that is enormously encouraging.

I’ve been writing seriously since I was 16. I decided on that particular age because I was first published then: my own review in the local newspaper on “The Chronicles of Narnia”, though I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. Now 24 years later (you do the math), I am still writing… when I’m not at my day job.

People tend to react similarly when you tell them you’re a writer. Questions like, “are you published?” abound, as well as comments somewhere along the lines of, “I have a great idea for a book — you should write it!” I’ve learned to field reactions like this with a fair amount of grace; after all most people really have no idea how the publishing world works, and I’m all about education. That said one question in particular still grates on me: the dreaded, “do you do that for a living?”

The answer is no.

Still.

24 years later.

No.

At least I’m not alone. The vast majority of writers don’t make a full-time living on it, and those few who do are mostly not the Stephen King types. They’re lower middle class on down, and they work hard for the privilege of writing full time. Many spend more time promoting themselves online, through school visits (for kidlit authors) and the like than they do actually writing, which is what they’d really rather be doing. In a way in this day and age even writing full-time is more than one job. And despite all that hard work, most full-time writers struggle with bills and “dry” seasons when their royalties are lower than usual. Sometimes these “dry” seasons can be anticipated. Other times they can’t. As a mother with children to feed, clothe, and house, I have not been comfortable enough with even my best royalties to try quitting my day job.

There are days — even weeks — when this can feel terribly discouraging.

Most every writer dreams of being free to write what we love without fear of becoming homeless. To not only have an editor, but one to whom we can go with an idea and automatically get clearance — and a nice advance — to write it. The J.K. Rowlings of the world are few and far-between, but to be one of them: that is OUR lottery dream.

And it’s a pretty, pretty dream indeed.

The funny thing is, despite their sometimes awkward or insensitive questions, most people outside of  the publishing world are extremely encouraging and supportive of writers. We are usually seen as brilliant, creative, unique, and even akin to superhuman for being able to even write a book, let alone publish and sell it. To most people, whether we can pay the bills or not with it has little to no bearing on this awe they view us by.

To writers like me, the dichotomy of this can be somewhat bemusing, but ultimately encouraging. I’m a brilliant superhuman, guys!

And so I keep writing my books and watching my “Star Trek”, dreaming of the day when my own first season comes to an end. When I can finally say I’ve grown out of “The Naked Now” and am ready for my own “Inner Light“. Until then, I’ll take the questions with the compliments, and keep my eye on the future prize of answering that dreaded question with a yes.

Finally.

Yes.

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Mornings SUCK

Posted in List with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Today, I am tired.

I promised myself I would write one blog post every day. That was on a good day. Today is a not-so-good-day. It’s a walking-in-molasses day. An I-need-to-be-in-bed day. One of those days I dread when I say I hate mornings. The whole REASON I hate mornings. Normally I’d put off my blog today, and replace it with a form of staring off into nothing in-between registering patients at the ER (my day job; folks gotta eat!) but I’m trying to write at least a little every day, so you all get a molasses post from me instead of a dead-eyed stare that you’ll never see because you’re not here with me anyway. In fact, I think I’ll even do one of those list posts people seem so keen on. Just cuz… well… I’m lazy today.

Congrats!

Jessi’s Top Five Reasons why Mornings SUCK (™)

5) Circumstantial Strife

I’ll begin by saying that I don’t hate mornings, per say. They can be quite lovely and peaceful under the right circumstances. My problem is that the circumstances are almost never right for me. As a night person, I quite literally gain energy as the day goes on, culminating in a brilliant burst of creativity and motivation…. juuuuuuust in time to go to bed.

Poopfarts.

Tossing and turning because you have to try to sleep when your brain is at its most active and energetic is not fun. Nor is knowing that inevitably, when you wake in the morning you WILL have a case of…

4) Feeling Like You’re Hungover EVERY MORNING

You know that feeling. Faintly dizzy. A bit like you might have a fever but you know you don’t. Slow in thought and slower in body. Muscles tight. Eyes like sandpaper. Knowing that you COULD do something amazing today, if only you didn’t feel like you had been hit by a 12-lb bag of Sandman brand sandpaper. Hungover? Nope. Just another morning in the life of a night person. It’s normal. Average. Torture, but expected nonetheless. Every morning.

Forever.

It doesn’t help matters either, that…

3) Morning People Assume You’re Lazy

Okay. Can I rant for a moment? Thanks.

If I hear one more variance on “Why don’t you just go to bed earlier?” I will start stuffing pillows down throats. Remember #5? Remember how I CAN’T fall asleep when I’m supposed to? What makes people think that going to bed even EARLIER would help? Before you remind me that I said I get more energy as the day goes on, let me explain that the latest I feel tired enough to sleep tends to be between 12 and 2 P.M. So really, these people are telling me I should go to bed in the afternoon. Yeahhh… no.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to go off there. This one just irks me a lot. The assumption that night people are lazy because we’re either tired or asleep in the morning assumes that we do nothing all night. In fact, many of us do what morning people do during the day – we work. We just do it at different times. How does that make one lazy? I still don’t have an answer for that, but something tells me it has something to do with…

2) Societal Expectations

Why, you may ask, do I get up early if it’s so painful to do so? Remember that day job I mentioned before? Yeah. That. Day people run the world, after all. Even though we now have electric lights and computers and lack of superstition (in comparison to our ancestors, anyway), most “respectable” jobs (I.E. ones you can make a decent living at) are daytime hours, and daytimes hours tend to begin no later than 8 A.M.

My own begins at 7.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am SERIOUSLY thankful for my job, and to be fair, working in a hospital I could have any kind of hours; I was just “lucky” enough to land an early shift. That said, it doesn’t negate the fact that society expects human beings to be chipper and bright early in the morning, and if you’re not, there MUST be something wrong with you. Mentally, maybe? Or physically? Are you depressed? Are you sick?

WHY ARE YOU SO TIRED? What’s WRONG with you? DON’T YOU LIKE THE SUNSHINE? AAAA!

Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that bad, but sometimes it sure does feel like it. And when the society around you tells you something often enough you begin to believe it, which for night people results in a lot of…

1) Self-Doubt

My first ex used to tell me all the time that if I just TRIED harder, went to sleep sooner, and accepted that I’d be sleepy in the morning, I wouldn’t be so lazy. Nevermind that I had spent the entire night cleaning the whole house, a thing which he would have been quite happy for had I done it while the sun shone. Nope, forget all that. Because I now had to get some sleep from all that work, I was lazy. Sun + sleep = lazy.

Sun + sleep = lazy.

Sun + sleep = lazy.

Sun + sleep = lazy.

Sun + sleep = lazy.

Sun + sleep = lazy.

…told that over and over and over again for years, I ended up truly believing I was lazy. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to make up for that laze by cleaning all night or forcing myself to stay awake in the torturous mornings. Because I WAS tired during the day and I WAS awake at night, there was something wrong with me. I believed it, not only because my husband was telling me so, but because every TV show, movie, book, and acquaintance on the street agreed with him. “Early to bed and early to rise” isn’t just a mantra for our society it’s a holy code. If you don’t follow that code, even if you can’t because your body simply doesn’t work that way, then you’re wrong. Unholy. Outcast.

Well crud. I wanted to do a lighthearted, fun post today for once. I guess I still have some stuff to work through. I also guess this is my new therapy.

Well… this should be fun!

Also, to answer the above for myself: there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just a night person stuck in a day world.

There. Happy ending. 😉

How my Cisgendered, Straight Sexuality Taught me about Truth

Posted in LGBT with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

I was raised by a mother who I still worship to this day. I grew up with two sisters who I have always looked up to. I am Pagan, and relate to the Goddess so much more than any male-centric god. I had a father who cared more about alcohol than me, and a shitty stepfather who abused me and my sisters to the point that we’re still dealing with the psychological rift he built between us even now. My first marriage was full of control and psychological and religious manipulation. I never had any reason to even respect a man until I was in my early 30’s.

Yet I am a heterosexual woman.

Why does this matter? Why should anyone care that I’m in the realm of “normal” for society?

Because if sexual orientation was a choice, I’d be the perfect candidate for a lesbian.

Funny, though. I have no interest in women. I have experimented, like many, but every time it felt wrong. I am attracted to men, despite my prison-like patriotical upbringing. Despite the rape I experienced as a nine-year-old at the hands of my stepfather’s fourteen-year-old son. Despite my religiously controlled first marriage. Despite everything I have endured that tells me men are everything I want to avoid, I’m still attracted to them. Despite my love of my mother, despite the adoration I have for my sisters, despite the closeness of my very best girlfriends, I’m attracted to men.

To men I should hate. To men I should fear. To men I was raised to avoid and be terrified of.

Yet after 37 years of experimentation and adventure, I know now that I am 100%, absolutely, positively, and completely heterosexual.

Because I. Love. Men.

I am attracted to males. I am sexually excited by males. I adore my husband and am so attracted to him that it sometimes drives me wild. It never felt natural to be with a woman. Never.

And this, above everything else I can cite, is why I am entirely supportive of  the LGBT community. Because if I, as a woman who never had a reason to even like men for the first three DECADES of my life, am still attracted to men, then how in the HELL could it be a choice?

Respect everyone. Love everyone. We all follow the path we love, and if we don’t then we’re on a path to Hell. Nobody deserves that. Never be the ferryman to that kind of place. Not for anyone. Not ever.

I refuse to ever point anyone in the direction of a lie.

Update From a Writer MIA: Part 1 ~ Graduate School, Theses Proposals, and Teaching Writing

Posted in Graduate School, Writing with tags , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

So it’s been a while since I blogged, and I’m feeling a little neglectful for that. How ya been? Ya good? Good. That’s good to hear. I will say, though, that there are some great reasons for my MIA status these last two months — events in my life that have changed oh, so many things. The bulk of these events are over now, for the most part, so that I can finally take a moment, breathe, and catch you all up on what’s been going on.

First, as usual, is school.

My previous term was over at the end of July, but of course that meant that the vast majority of July was spent doing schoolwork. I can’t honestly even remember if I posted my final paper here or not. I probably did — that time is hazy (for reasons I will explain in a bit). I am now completely finished with prerequisites, and will be entering into my final thesis proposal next term, starting October 1st. I am also taking a class on teaching writing, just in case I can’t repay my student loans with my writing alone. This should be an adventure, as I will be teaching undergrads who aren’t usually English majors. Stay tuned for some ranty blogs! oi. (Though my Facebook friends may be thankful that I have a distraction from their posting foibles for once!) As for my thesis, I am planning on creating a whole new literary theory, JUST for children’s books, based on Joseph Campbell. It should be fun! Watch for updates on that, for sure!

Anyway, so after school was out in July I STILL didn’t have a moment to breathe, despite the fact that the kids were gone to their dad’s for the summer. Why?

The HOUSE.

But that is an entirely crazy, epic adventure that I must put into a separate blog for reasons that will easily become apparent to anyone who reads it.

Stay tuned…

What Dreams May Guilt Trip

Posted in Family, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on July 24, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

What are your dreams like?

I don’t know about you, but mine tend to be pretty epically insane. And yeah, that’s really the best way to describe them. A typical dream of mine on any given night could easily encompass post-apocalyptic city homebuilding, underground cavern / basement excavation, buses being thrown through the air at a slow arc, flying, dying in numerous interesting yet totally unpainful ways, trips to the moon to watch the earthrise… the list goes on. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. After all, I do spend my days living in other worlds of my own making. When you write speculative fiction for kids, it’s not because your brain is wired for cubicle work. Still, every once in a while I wake up thinking maybe I had a little too much Kool-Aid the night before.

Like this morning, for instance.

Now, this dream wasn’t specifically fantasitical in any way. Really, it was just a typical schoolday for me… in high school. Still, that’s nothing really new, either. Who hasn’t had dreams about being back in high school and missing graduation, or being naked, or something along those lines? Only I was fully clothed, and to be fair it was really kind of a hybrid between high school and college. (The night before last I dreamed of being in college, too, only there were vampires involved, and something about going to Seattle… Whatever.) Last night’s dream started out with me in the school kitchen for some reason, doing something — maybe volunteer work, I don’t know — between classes. A friend of mine asked me to help her with some homework, which involved reading a Cliffsnotes version of ALL of Shakespeare’s plays. By the time we were halfway though, classes had changed (which really is quite a feat in and of itself; I mean come on, halfway through Shakespeare within an hour?), and we were both late for our next class. I ran out and started searching for my fifth period classroom, which was math, a class that I never got along with. Ever. Even in college. Anyway, this class, and the science one after it, have featured in past dreams of mine as classes I am constantly missing, being late for, and otherwise entirely failing. Often I can’t even find the classroom for the math class, and end up skipping it entirely and running for sixth period science instead. This time, though, I did find it. On my way I also found food: a sack of potatoes, a bunch of onions, some eggs that looked like bluebird eggs / Easter decorations, and something else I can’t remember now. The food was just sitting around for people to take, I guess. Anyway, outside the math classroom there were bunches of the food, which I assumed meant the teacher didn’t want us bringing it inside, so I left mine with the others. Inside, the teacher welcomed me back with open arms as I told him I’d do my best to make up for lost time, and try to pass despite always missing class. It was good times. Afterwards, I grabbed the food up again and headed to science class. When I got there, I found that my food had gone bad, and so I had to make a choice: search for better food or get to class.

Yeah… THAT isn’t metaphor or anything.

Which brings me to the point of this blog (yeah, there is one, I swear). Math and science have always been my worse subjects. Thankfully now, as a graduate liberal arts student, I don’t have to take any more of those particular tortures. Still, they remain a subconscious link to my deepest discouragements and self-doubt. Food, of course, is the classic metaphor for providing for ones self and one’s family.  Choosing between something I have been a failure at my whole life and yet refuse to give up on (as is apparent in the re-occurrence of these classes in my dreams), and providing for my family which I am not currently doing (my husband has the job, and yesterday… well… I won’t get into it; let’s just say he needs to find a better job)… Yeah. Guilt trip dreamscape, anyone?

So when I woke up from this blatant self-brow-beating, I had to ask myself: is it all worth it? I’m not too proud to say we are struggling right now, and it’s gotten very discouraging recently for myself and my husband. As an able-bodied, right-minded (mostly ;-)),  adult, shouldn’t I be working to help provide for my family, instead of chasing dreams that might never come to fruition? A master’s degree won’t get me a job writing — publishers don’t look at resumes — so why am I working so hard to get one? Every time I bring this up to my husband, he tells me to stay in school. “It’s where you belong right now,” he says. “You’re working toward the future of all of us.”

My husband is a wonderful man.

Still, I wonder. Sure, my masters work is helping make me a better writer, but is it making me good enough to warrant all the time, stress, and money I’m putting into it? And for that matter, is my dream of being a writer worth another year of struggle, wherein we have to tell the kids they can’t have enough school clothes, can’t order from Scholastic book fairs, and… worst yet… my eldest can’t have her yearbook… again?

Until these questions are answered one way or another, I fear these dreams have only begun. And at the moment, I honestly have no answer.

Having Your Cake and Writing it, too

Posted in Books, Middle Grade, Publishing, Writing with tags , , , on July 21, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

I’ll admit it, okay?

Sigh.

I’ve been kind of frustrated with the whole traditional publication game. Okay? There it is. And a game it is, full of rules, regulations, and secret codes you have to figure out just to survive. Still, I have spent the better part of my life figuring out said rules and perfecting my gameface. Why? Because at first that was the only way to make my dream of being a writer come true, and even now, as an old-schooler, it still feels that way deep inside. I honestly won’t feel like I have succeeded until I have a Scholastic, Harper Collins, etc. logo on my dust cover. I know, I know, that’s blasphemy these days, when so many authors are going the indy route. But to a girl who dreamed of a Newberry Honor far more often than she ever imagined her wedding day, it’s just… it’s not the same, and it never will be.

There. I said it.

And so, the excitement of “Guts and Glory” being SO close to that goal has been euphoric, and I am doing everything in my power to make it happen. Everything. So the idea of self publishing that particular series… well… that’d be like professional suicide at this point. I’ve worked SO hard to get to this point. There’s no way I’m going to ruin it now. However, having worked so hard on my website, my brand, and my professional presence, I have felt the ever increasing need to offer… something… of worth to my wonderful blog-readers and young fans (yes, I do have some who aren’t my own children lol). Not only that, but when you say you’re a writer these days, and all you have to show for it is a blog, well, that’s just not good enough. Not when you can self-publish so easily.

Then came the offer to be on a radio show, and that’s when I knew I had to do something. I mean, how could I let an opportunity like this go by, right? But what could I possibly promote? I couldn’t self-publish “Guts and Glory”, as I have stated, and Winter is in-processes as my final graduate thesis, so it was also out of the running.

Enter “The Elementals”.

As I have stated in a few places, this is a series I have been writing for my own children, who are the main characters. Though it’s been fun to write and share with my family, I have not expected it to be published for a very long time, if at all. This is because it’s epic fantasy for kids, which is a genre most publishers won’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Why? Well because epic fantasy as a genre breaks a LOT of the major rules for writing for kids. It’s long, for one, at 600 + pages, and it switches point of view constantly. There is such a long list of characters in the first book alone that I have put a character glossary at the end of it, and the world wherein it is set is extremely complex and multifaceted in its culture and history. These are all things that children’s books should never encompass… and I have done them all with “The Elementals”. Why did I do this? Honestly? Because it was fun. That’s all. Like I said, this series was never really in the running for publication, and I figured (as I told my kids), that if it ever was traditionally published, it would be because my name as a brand carried major weight at that point.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some epic fantasies for children that have been very successful. The main one that comes to mind is, of course, “Harry Potter”. But when you look at the series, pay attention to the length and depth of the first book. Yeah. It wasn’t until she had earned the right that J.K. Rowling was allowed to truly make her books epics. Another epic fantasy series for kids is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising books, which, while they are amazing and I adore them, are hardly famous bestsellers. (I know, but ask any average kid if they know who Susan Cooper is… you’ll probably get a “no”, sadly.)

And that’s why a publisher will not publish “The Elementals” at this time… or possibly ever. I believe that this is a sad thing, indeed, because kids can and will read and enjoy epic fantasy, if given the chance, and if it’s written at their reading level.

And so, I have begun self-publishing “The Elementals”. I still have no idea if it will be particularly successful in any professional or monetary way, but that’s not really the point for me. What is? Well, for one, showing my kids that their series is important to mom, and two, to give something to my readers while I work on traditionally publishing “Guts and Glory”. Also, it just feels good to do something truly productive while I build my career… and, as always, it was fun!

So, maybe we writers can have our publication cake and write it too. 😉

Pseudo-Writer’s Block

Posted in Publishing, Writing with tags , , on December 28, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

I’m writing this blog on my phone at about 6:30 AM after a night of agonizing writing. I use the verb very loosely. What I did last night wasn’t so much writing as it was treading water, trying desperatley to stay above the waves.

On my fifth rewrite of Trevor Tate’s adventures in Nil, I finally know what will happen, exactly how the story will go, and exactly how mag it SHOULD be… if I can get it right, that is. I have the voice mostly figured out (though Trevor has a way of cracking jokes that plays jarringly against his bad temper, as well as a need to directly speak to the reader that, while charming, I have been warned against doing so many times it’s become a mantra to naysay it every time it comes up), and I have the characters, gadgets, giant bugs and robots that make the story interesting. What I don’t have is the drive to finish it.

No, that’s not right… I don’t exactly have writer’s block, per se’… More like writer’s meh, I guess. I want to work on it when I’m not, there’s no lack of excitement for the craft or the story there, but the moment I sit at the computer, I find myself feeling entirely at a loss to put coherent sentences together, let a lone be quirky and fun while at the same time  throwing in those ever-important tension-strings of plot and mystery.

I know what I’m doing, who I’m writing about, and where they’re going. Heck, I LIKE all of it too! It’s an amazing adventure, if I do say so myself… only I can’t seem to get my brain to WORK well enough to make it HAPPEN.

Anyone else ever feel like that, or am I the only one who’s ever suffered from pseudo-writer’s block?

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