Archive for Stories

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.

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Uploading Killed the Video Star

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on April 18, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

The good news is, I got my first chapter filmed!

WOOOHOOO!

The bad news is, it’s been over a week and I still haven’t gotten it uploaded to my friend who’s editing for me until I can get better equipment.

Woohoo?

Now, I have pretty good internet at home. I stream Star Trek on Neflix like a champ, and even though there’s two teenagers and two adults using the wifi on phones and laptops and tablets (sometimes more than one at a time),  we hardly ever have issues. So why, then, won’t a simple 5MB video upload to Dropbox for me?

Well, as it turns out, download and upload speed are two different things.

Who knew?

Okay, okay, so maybe everyone. But bear with me. I’m new to this part of the digital age.

Today I’m at my day job which has excellent wifi, so I brought my old phone — which is what I use for my camera for now because it’s better than my current working phone in that capacity — to see if it’ll upload on their supersonic setup. I’ve been uploading all morning now, and just checked at my lunch break.

It’s 85% DONE!

WOOOHOOO again!

So all this is to say, no I have NOT given up on Scribbler’s Storytime. Just had a little glitch in the matrix, as it were. Soon — hopefully very soon — I’ll be sending everyone a link to chapter 1!

Moral of the story? If the obvious steps don’t work, carve some of your own. 😉

Stay tuned…

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 8-ish: Innocent Villainy

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

kiddo

Day 8… ish. I was off work for a week, so… yeah.

Anyway, HI! I have good news — thanks to my wonderful friend Molly, I have the ability to write at home again! W00T! Thank you Molly for letting me borrow your iPad; I will return it as soon as I am able to buy a laptop for myself. Does this mean I will be blogging more? I certainly hope so, but knowing my scatterbrainedness (and the fact that I kinda have a book to write) let’s just wait and see, shall we?

As for today’s subject, I want to talk a little bit about villains. Namely, making them 3-D in children’s books. The norm for giving villains depth in most stories is to give them a great backstory. A hard and fast — and even sympathetic — reason for doing what they do. Who are they? Why do they do bad things? What makes them really TICK, deep down inside? But for parents, who want their children to learn that it’s NEVER okay to be a villain no matter what the reason, and for kids, who see the world in black and white, just how do you keep your villain from being a parody, a shadow, or a mask?

This is a question I have run up against many times in my writing career. I am not afraid to say that 99.9% of my bad guys have been… bland and boring. Tropey. Exactly what you’d expect a villain to be.

Blech.

But I’m not alone in this. Think about the kids’ books you have loved. From Alice in Wonderland to Coraline, from The Wizard of Oz to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, villains in kidlit tend to just be evil for the sake of being evil. The Queen of Hearts just is a bully. No reason given. Other Mother is demonic and therefore naturally bad. The Wicked Witch*… well… need I say more? As for Count Olaf, I like to say he’s like The Joker with fewer reasons to be nuts. And I won’t even get started on any of Roald Dahl’s monstrous inventions!

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this. After all, a large part of what makes kidlit fun is the simple good vs. evil aesthetic often inherent in it. And every single example I have given is from a story (or stories) I adore. That said, can we give our young readers more in their bad guys?

As it turns out, the answer to that is a resounding YES! At least according to some contemporary authors who are doing just that.

One great example is, of course, J.K. Rowling. Is Voldemort evil? Yes. Does he do bad things? Ohhh yeah. But Rowling also delves into his past, weaving a tragic story of a boy who struggled with loss and defeat at a very young age. Does she use this to excuse his actions? Not at all! But it does show the reader that he is more than a scary mask floating on the wind. And this is even more prevalent in her “lesser” villains, especially in young Draco Malfoy, whose character development is a work of art akin to Michelangelo’s, in my humble opinion.

But I digress.

*Fangirls*

*Ahem*

Another example can be found in the “Percy Jackson” books, though to be fair Rick Riordan kind of cheated on that end, using myths and legends who already embody the rich depth that only comes from centuries of storytelling. But I digress. His villains still count.

Still, these examples are as few and far between as the list of fantasy and sci-fi children’s books on Amazon. (Hint: it’s small.) Maybe I’m just not seeing it. Maybe I’m reading young readers wrong. Or maybe — just maybe — we need more depth, more magic, more wonder, in kidlit overall. Not just in its villains, but in… everything?

I’m in danger of getting off-topic here though. Let me return to villains. (Though I’m seeing another blog topic in the near future…)

Rowling and Riordan (and maybe others I missed; add them in comments!) have shown us that yes, kidlit villains can be 3-dimensional, if we choose to focus just a little more on them. In fact, keeping with the “marketing” aspect of this blog series, making a children’s literary world deeper and richer overall has proven to be extremely successful and popular among young readers. So why don’t we do that more often? That’s the question I’ve asked myself lately, and why I plan on doing the same with my villain in “Guts and Glory.” At the moment Dr. Fixit is little more than a shadow. I’ll be changing that in book 3.

It’s time to make Nil real.

MUAAAHAHAHAAA!

 

*(I hope it goes without saying that I’m talking about the ORIGINAL CHILDREN’S book by L Frank Baum.) 

 

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 3 (Part II): Which Ends in Vetting Indie Kidlit

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Well, that was fun.

It looks like I may have to make a new pen name under the same profile on Amazon, though I don’t know if that will remove the old name or if I even can. Trying to research it is kind of a nightmare too. Nothing comes up about it at all that I can find.

In the end, I just emailed them. It’ll probably be answered after Christmas.

For now, I updated my RSS feed from here (so this should show up there now too — hi Amazon!) and will be doing little tweaks here and there. One thing I DO know is, I’m glad I’m doing this now instead of right before the third book is finished!

Speaking of doing things ahead of time, after emailing Amazon my spaz brain kicked in again and I started looking into reviews.

Ahhh! Another big knot!

There are so many review sites out there, and so many reviews OF the reviews that my brain is spinning just trying to untie it all. Kirkus seems safe, but I still need to look into just how much good they do indie authors, as I’ve seen many differing views on it, plus it’s expensive at between $425 and $575 a pop.   There’s also my whole “kidlit author” thing, which makes it more complicated as many reviewers don’t review children’s books at all, and often those that do only review trade published titles. I have gotten a great review of “Dr. Fixit” from Erik at This Kid Reviews Books and I would love to get more specifically for kidlit that actually take indie books.

One issue I keep running into time and time again is the fact that children’s books are SERIOUSLY hard to get accepted by libraries, bookstores, schools, and, as you see, even review sites. Now, I understand. I do. Everyone wants to make sure the books children read are vetted to be safe for them. I get it, and I wholeheartedly agree. That said, there’s got to be a better vetting system than trade publication. There are literally hundreds of thousands of books that are great for kids, that would help them learn, grow, and see the world in a billion better ways, that never get trade published simply because the big houses (and even the small presses) don’t have enough time and resources to devote to them, so they have to reject them. What if a group of teachers, scholars, and established children’s writers and editors got together to create a solid, dependable vetting system for indie kidlit, to keep parents happy AND let kidlit authors reach our readers?

Well… I just went off on a tangent, and I’m almost off work so I have to go. Just… think about it. If you know of any system in place, or you like / hate the idea, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 3 (Part I): Amazonian Knots

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Sooo… Amazon.

These days, it seems self-publishing is only really doable with the help of the online bookselling monolith. In some ways that’s great! Having their help with everything from sales presence to the creation of the actual, physical book is a BIG help! But in other ways… it can feel like a worse knot than Piper’s Rapunzel (self-promotion-within-self-promotion FTW!)

If you clicked the first link here, you saw that I have a little work to do cleaning up my profile before the big “Guts and Glory” push. My bio is a bit dated, for one, and my name is certainly outdated. The covers are the latest covers (which to be honest surprised me), but that will be changing soon as well (SQUEE!) Last I checked, which to be honest was far too long ago, there were three different versions of “Dr. Fixit” on Amazon. Now, there’s only the latest one on my author page (paperback vs. ebook notwithstanding), and when I do a search it’s the same (WHEW!) so that’s nice to see. Unfortunately now I have another version I’ll be updating onto the site, so I’m a bit worried about confusion there…

I have really two choices here, as far as I can see:

  • Begin a whole new profile on Createspace (Amazon’s self-publishing platform) under Jessica Crichton as opposed to Jessica Rising.
  • Rework my current Createspace profile to update everything.

There are pros and cons to both of these choices. For the former, obviously starting a whole new profile would make it clean and crisp from the gate, which is always nice. Plus, a quick Amazon search for “Jessica Crichton” turns up nothing except a link to Michael Crichton, which would be a great little bit of inner-site promotion even if his books are very different than mine. However, it would leave the Jessica Rising profile out there in stasis, including two different versions of “Dr. Fixit” and “Zombies” on the Amazon site, which could get really confusing really fast. Confusion is the LAST thing I want on my readers’ minds! The latter would take more work and probably frustration (Amazon isn’t known for being that user-friendly to indie writers) plus I’d worry I’d miss some bit of something and end up with a little mess leftover in the end, but it would bypass that whole doubling up thing, and I already have a years-long presence on Amazon there, including reviews I don’t want to lose. (Which, if you’re a writer, you know is seriously important!)

Hmmm… I think I’m going to try the latter and see how it goes. The reviews are certainly worth the extra work, though I still worry about missing loose ends.

Stay tuned: this particular post is going to have a Part II soon!

 

Song of Spirit – Prologue

Posted in Books, Reading, Writing with tags , , , on May 3, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

This is the beginning of my fantasy webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. I will be posting a chapter a day until the entire book is available.  As I go, I will post links below to each chapter. If you are just starting to read it, this is where you want to be. Otherwise, click here to get to the full linked table of contents.

If you are enjoying it, please let me know in the comments section. Thank you. 🙂

Read on! ~ JR

soscover2

“Water, fluid and fertile, to sing the world to life.

Fire, powerful and purifying, to forge the world to strength.

Earth, solid and deep, to nourish the world to abundance.

Air, spacious and pure, to lead the world to knowledge.

Spirit, loving and wise, to watch over it all.

~Ancient blessing, spoken together by representatives of

all five planes at the birth of each original Elemental.

..

..

Prologue

It was dark.

But it always was, so that was nothing odd. At least not to those who lived among the perilous mini tornadoes of red and blue that whirled willy-nilly all over the ever changing, ever shifting black countryside of The Great Empty. The blue cyclones were searing hot, the red, burning cold, and both could burn and freeze the life out of any mortal creature who dared walk among them.

But then, those who dwelled within The Great Empty were not mortal.

Though there were many different kinds of immortals in The Great Empty, only one race could say they were truly native to the dark lands. These unnatural creatures made of mud skin over organic skeletons with jagged metal teeth and fangs were kept alive by twisted elemental glamour, and were known to all as newmen.

On a day not too long ago, two of these newmen squatted on the only solid part of the landscape — the black ground near a towering rocky fortress — talking low together. The first one was small and rat-ish looking with big sharp metal front teeth, mud-like skin and a shock of thorny weeds for hair. He was a sorry sight, in torn, dirty green overalls and nothing more and he continually glanced around as if expecting someone to drop on top of him at any moment. His companion was much larger, resembling a gorilla, with drops of dark, scorching oil dripping from his fanged mouth like drool and his hollow metal eyes glowing with literal fire. His clothing resembled a military uniform, dark blue with gleaming metals at his breast. It was clean and pressed, with not a bit of material out of place. In fact, it would be perfectly neat and tidy but for the bib of steaming oil burn along the jacket collar from the creature’s deadly drool.

These two mismatched metal monstrosities ignored the familiar currents of hot and cold that spun and blew among the shifting countryside around them, much more interested in their conversation. It was, after all, the reason they had met here in the first place.

“They’re coming, you know,” the first one whispered, his voice a mixture of rat-ish squeaks and nails on a chalkboard.

The second leaned in closer to hear. “Who?” he growled, his deep voice also matching his own apelike looks.

The rat-creature grinned, an evil glint in his fiery, hollow eyes. “The Elementals. They’re coming.”

“I have heard that already,” the second retorted, waving a wickedly clawed hand. “Have you called me here for nothing more than idle gossip?”

The rat-creature giggled madly. “But they’re coming. They are. ‘Tis not idle gossip.”

The ape snarled low in his throat, a warning to the other. “It is not possible. The Elementals are safely humanized and lost among their weak kin on The Earthen Plane Surface as they have been for centuries on end. All know this. Even if, by some slim chance, they have been found…”

The rat giggled again, rocking back and forth on its hind legs. “Ah, but they have been. They have been found! It know it! I do!”

“And you know this, how, Alexander?” the gorilla snarled. “Even Master Adams has not had any such confirmation of these rumors. If he had, he would have surely taken action.”

The rat leered up at his companion, his grin dark and twisted. “I know what I know. You can know too, for a price.”

Fast as lightning the ape jumped forward, grabbing Alexander by his throat with big, muddy claws. Though these creatures were immortal, they were not impervious to pain. The ape’s iron grip around the rat’s thin throat caused the latter’s eyes to bulge, and he made noises not unlike the screeching of an old iron hinge.

“Now,” the gorilla said, his blazing eyes flaring bright. “Let’s try this again. When I let go, I want you to answer my question. If you say anything but the answer to my question, I will proceed to rip that throat right out of your neck, and that won’t feel very good at all. Are we clear?”

Alexander nodded enthusiastically. When the ape let go and sat back on his haunches, the rat fell backwards, choking and wheezing in a cacophony of screeches and squeaks. Finally, he climbed back up and sat down again, gasping for breath.

His eyes remained on the blasted black ground as he answered the ape in a mumbled whisper. “I saw. I saw the elf-pet sneaking around here. He run off towards the Midnight Gate.”

The gorilla growled again, unsatisfied. “That means nothing to me, Alexander,” he said, his voice full of danger. “The elf has visited both here and the Earthen Plane Surface many times before. In fact, he is always Traveling. It has been well known that he looks for The Elementals, but has not found them.”

“This says otherwise,” Alexander replied, holding up a scrap of paper he had taken from the breast pocket of his overalls.

The gorilla took the paper, unfolding it and reading it warily. It said simply, “Bring them home”, and was signed with the grand seal of The Great Queen Herself.

The gorilla eyed the rat. “This fell from the elf’s pocket?”

Alexander nodded.

“And he ran to the Midnight Door with great haste?”

Again, a nod.

The ape stood up, throwing a handful of coins at the ground in front of the rat. “Tell no one else of this or you know what will befall you, minion.”

The rat nodded, happily scooping up his coins and scurrying away without another word.

The ape turned his gaze in a different direction, his drooling mouth twisting into an evil smile as he looked up at the monstrous fortress above.

Master Adams will be quite pleased, he thought as he returned to the fortress’ main gate. Quite pleased, indeed.

Next Chapter

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