Archive for Twilight

Buggars

Posted in Books, Young Adult with tags , , , , on March 4, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

One of the first things every kid in the Under is taught is to avoid buggars at any cost. Unlike spiders, buggars aren’t afraid of people at all. They run at us instead of away, and their finger-sized fangs are filled with skin-dissolving poison. Mother has a deep scar covering her palm from a buggar bite that almost completely dissolved her hand when she was little. I’d spent my whole life calling to Father when I saw one, watching him kill it with his pickaxe from a safe distance.

But Father wasn’t here now.

The buggars saw me fast, whipping around almost instantly. I screamed and threw the rock at the closest buggar. It hit its mark, squashing the thing into mush, but it gave the second buggar time to scurry up the wall behind me and lunge down at my shoulder with its fangs. I barely felt the sting over my panic, grabbing the thing and beating it against the top of the rock that had killed its mate until the overside matched the underside in buggar guts.

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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.

The Twilight of My Career: Part II ~ The Rest of the Book

Posted in Book review, Books, Fiction, Literature, Writing with tags , , , on October 12, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

So.

It’s taken me a while to get back to everyone on my Twilight adventure. It’s a long, troubled story that you don’t want to hear, yadda yadda. Still, the end result is, instead of doing this chapter by chapter I’m just going to post about the rest of the book, as during the interim I have completed reading it.

I already blogged about Chapter 1, so I’ll move on from there. As I first laid out, I’ll give a list of pros and cons for the story, and add them all up to decide, once and for all, weather I can continue to hate Twilight with my now educated opinion, or if I have to swallow my pride and decided that it’s… okay.

Pros:

  • Bella researches vampires early on in the story. Oi. I bet some of you were just WAITING for me to find THAT out, huh? Sadly, this is why it was important for me to read this book. So. Stephanie Meyer DID look into some vampire lore, did she? My anti-Vampire argument… is no longer valid. Though I still say vampires don’t sparkle. +1 for pro.
  • Wait… there’s actually a BAD GUY? Holy crap! Where did he come from, and why is there NO mention of him ANYWHERE in all the Twilight hype? The dude is actually pretty interesting, and smart, too. +1 for pro, for having someone in there that’s more like an actual vamp.
  • Wait again… there’s actually a PLOT? Holy crap! And it’s a good one, too! Kidnapped mother, father in danger, chase across the country, dark, seedy hotel rooms and creepy dreams? THIS is a horror novel! Why the hell doesn’t anyone mention this… EVER? +1 for pro, for having a PLOT.
  • I like Lucy and Esme. Why isn’t there more about them? Their backstories alone are fascinating. +1 for pro, for having a couple of characters I can actually stomach.
  • Stephanie Meyer has a degree. In English.  From a Mormon college, but whatever. It’s a degree. In English. That means… ugh… maybe she might know a LITTLE about writing. Maybe. +1… dammit.

Cons:

  • Vampires STILL don’t sparkle. And they certainly don’t sparkle like angels in the sunlight. Oi. My friend Jessica would argue with me on this, as apparently there IS an obscure sect of mythological nosferatu that sparkle, but I am going to be stubborn on this. You want a vampire? Look at Dracula. Damnit. +1 for con, for being dumb about vampires just so you can make them all pretty.
  • Meyer’s writing style gets on my last nerve. She repeats words incessantly (I was going to scream and throw the book across the planet if I read one more “murmur”), overemphasizes body language, (just how many ways can you describe Bella’s clumsiness, anyway), and WAY overdescribes the vampires while underdescribing everyone else. Sure, the latter might be on purpose, but come on. We KNOW Edward is hot. Move the hell ON already. -1 for being about as professional at writing as a Hollywood exec.
  • Edward is a jerk. Sure, that’s on purpose, considering he IS a vampire (allegedly), and he tells Bella this from the get-go, so it’s not like he’s even trying to pretend to be nice. But he’s also supposed to be the hero of this weird story, and a hero doesn’t stalk people, control people, and brow-beat people. The guy is the perfect example of a boyfriend who WILL become abusive if the girlfriend doesn’t dump his ass asap. -1 for creating a HORRIBLE example for girls to look for in a man.
  • Bella is whiny. Like… really whiny. And when she’s not whiny, she’s the perfect example of a cutter in training. I can’t imagine why any of her friends even like her, let a lone why all these guys at school are so into her. Apparently before she moved to Forks she wasn’t even noticed, but in Washington, boy-oh-boy, she’s like a supermodel! What happened? It makes this Washingtonian wonder if Stephanie Meyer thinks all our boys are so tired of all our girls that one new girl coming along, no matter how “plain” she is (as Bella is described numerous times), is like winning the lottery. And that? Well… that’s just offensive. Not to mention a HUGE character-hole, as far as I’m concerned. -1 for Bella.
  • Jacob. WHOO boy did the movie get HIM wrong! Okay, so this isn’t exactly the fault of the book, so I won’t take a point off for this, but since when did little Jacob Black become this big teen hearthtrob? He’s supposed to be like 13! WTH? The descriptions of him in the book do NOT coincide with the pictures I have seen… like… everywhere of the guy playing him in the movie. Just… no.
  • The actual plot… you know, the thing that made me so happy above… doesn’t even START until more than halfway though the book. Instead, Stephanie Meyer pulls the reader though this needlessly long, drawn-out torture of a romance between Bella and Edward, which reads like a cross between a psychotic’s diary and a stack of short romance stories out of Teen Beat or Bop. She could have given the reader a great image of their relationship in a few chapters, then gotten on with the actual STORY. But no. There had to be more murmuring! MORE! +1 for con for being storyline dumb.
  • Meyer pretty much took a fascinating cast of characters, then threw in two entirely flat, horrible characters, and made THEM the hero and heroine. Wait… what? Obviously she has some skill. The backstories of the vampires alone are fascinating. But she chose instead to be vapid and shallow. I can’t respect that. +1 for con for selling out and not living up to what I can easily see she is capable of.

So, the final count, including my count for chapter 1, is…

10 points positive.

10… points… negative?

… Well. THAT wasn’t what I was expecting. O.o

So, now I guess I have to ask my readers. How do I break this tie? What are your thoughts?

Works Cited:

Meyers, Stephanie. Twilight. New York: Little Brown & Company, 2005. Print.

The Twilight of My Career

Posted in Book review, Books, Writing with tags , , , , on September 15, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

Sigh.

Okay, so I just have to come out with it.

I’m reading Twilight.

Yeah. The one with the sparkly vampires that that one chick wrote overnight which started the zombie apocalypse by turning its fans into mindless, shrieking drones. THAT Twilight. I, like the overwhelming majority of my professional peers, have hated that book and the series it spawned almost since it was first introduced to the public. My reasons have been varied and — I have felt — highly justified. They have included:

  1. Stephanie Meyer isn’t even a writer. She herself admitted that she just decided to write a book one day after having a dream. This alone drives dedicated, hardworking writers batguano nuts. Now, add to the fact that she became an overnight billionaire and superstar from it, and, well, she’s not my favorite person in the world. Call it jealously. I don’t really care. There it is.
  2. Vampires don’t sparkle. They just… they don’t. They’re evil, demonic creatures of the undead who literally suck human beings dry and don’t care that we have feelings. Or boobs, for that matter. The fact that they have not been proven to exist does not mean we can just go stomping all over their lore. Lore that has existed in numerous cultures all over the world for centuries, by the way. It’s the same to me as saying that Tinkerbell is a faerie (the Disney version; Barrie’s original is MUCH closer to the lore of the fae), or that Jesus was a dancing clown that did magic tricks. Just… no.
  3. From what I have been told by numerous people, Bella is the epitome of the very WORST role model a girl should EVER have. That whole “I can’t survive without a man” thing? Not that men are bad — I happen to be entirely and completely taken by my own wonderful husband — but to base your entire reason for living on ANY other human being is just asinine. Bella has no identity of her own past what Edward thinks, and it just gets worse from there, until, when she finally becomes a vampire, what is left of her already negligible personality is gone. Just… gone. Sucked (heh) up by a man who is now, almost literally, her entire Self. Now, it’s true that teenagers are VERY insecure — especially girls — but that only means that it’s MORE important that they don’t have a role model who bases EVERYTHING SHE IS AND CARES ABOUT solely on the opinions of another person. A person who, by the way, is ALWAYS putting her down — the perfect image of an emotional abuser. Just… no.
  4. The writing style, again I have been told, is awful. The reason? I assume #1 on this list. It makes sense, after all. And if there’s one thing I can’t read, it’s awful writing. It gives me a headache.
  5. I hate anything that’s that popular. Sorry. I just do.
  6. Edward is a stalker. That’s not romantic. That’s creepy. He’s also dead. And WAY older than Bella, who is a minor. Why is none of this creepy to any of the series crazy fans? Oh yes. Because they’re crazy.
  7. The movies remind me of the worst teeny-bopper idea of horror ever conceived  They’re like a cheerleader and a football player decided to write a soap opera about vampires.

Now you might have noticed a theme in all of these points. In case you didn’t, I’ll spell it out: none of them come from my own reading of the material. They are opinions based on the opinions of others: things that I have read or seen or heard second-hand. And no matter how justified they are or how real they feel to me, they aren’t educated — and they aren’t professional.

A couple of weeks ago two of my friends called me on that, and I had no choice but to answer.

They came to me with the words “we love you” (which worried me right away; you had to be there), and proceeded to handed me a stack of Meyers’ work. These are very brave friends, I’ll tell you that. But also caring and kind and wonderful. They are both fans of Twilight, who respect me as a writer and a friend and asked me the question I had hoped nobody would ever ask: “how can you say you hate it if you have never read it?”

Ugh. Dagger to the ego.

See, I call myself a professional. I take pride in both my own writing and my knowledge of the profession as a whole. But a professional does not hold opinions that aren’t their own. A professional does not jeer at another’s work just because they don’t like how it “smells”. And above all, a professional does not take the words of rumor — nor the opinions of others — as undeniable fact.

And dammit, I don’t just call myself a professional. I am a professional. So I have begun to read Twilight of my own accord and thus form my own, educated, professional opinion.

I have also decided to document this adventure in my blog, chapter-by-chapter. I will try to be as unbiased as possible, though I am human and therefore fallible. That said, to try and counteract this inescapable fallacy, I will  give a list of bad AND good thoughts as I go through each chapter. I will also give a tally of points between these, in the end comparing the two in order to make a final judgement that is as unbiased as possible.

And so begins my newest adventure…

My thoughts on Twilight Chapter 1:  First Sight

The Good:

  • Meyers’ writing style is easy to read. I found myself breezing through the first chapter like a hot knife through butter. As a children’s writer especially, I know that it is far easier to write wordy, flowery prose than it is to truly engage a reader who might have an entirely different thought processes than you. One point for positive.
  • The narrative voice of Bella is convincing as an uncomfortable, awkward teenager who is trying to find her way in the world. I bought her as a high-school girl hook, line and sinker. Another point for positive.
  • Bella is relatable. I can see why so many teenage girls fell instantly in love with these books, seeing themselves in Bella’s shoes as easily as trough a mirror. Point three.
  • The storyline begins interestingly, and the cliffhanger at the end of chapter 1 is one I can respect as a fellow writer. If I didn’t already know from its huge commercialism that Edward was a vampire, I’d be very curious to know why he reacted like he did to Bella. Meyers fulfilled a very important writers’ mantra here: keep the reader turning pages. Another point for positive.
  • I feel the need to point out a particular passage I enjoyed: “Inside the truck, it was nice and dry. Either Billy or Charlie had obviously cleaned it up, but the tan upholstered seats still smelled faintly of tobacco, gasoline and peppermint.” (Meyers 12) I liked this description because it brought to mind the exact smell of so many old trucks I grew up riding in here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll admit: it made me smile. One more point for positive.

The Bad:

  • As a denizine of Washington, I wasn’t thrilled by Bella’s hatred of my beloved state. It not only painted her as someone I personally could not connect with, but also as a whiny, superficial brat. One point against.
  • Meyer describes everything. I’m all for description. Heck, I love Anne Rice and J.R.R. Tolkien, the King and Queen of description! But Meyers’ descriptions border on (and sometimes completely pass), redundancy. Here is one great example of what I mean: “Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino.” (Meyers 18) Okay, so they’re pale. That’s enough with the use of the word — “… I glanced sideways at the beautiful boy, who was looking at his tray now and picking apart a bagel with long, pale fingers.” (Meyers 20) … pale. Ugh. Something tells me this word in particular will haunt the rest of my reading of this book, but Meyers seems to have a thing for redundant description overall, “pale” notwithstanding. And speaking of redundancy…
  • Meyers doesn’t seem to understand the reason thesauri exist. The repetition of same words within a few sentences drives me entirely nuts, and she does this often. Example: “In the Olympic Peninsula of Northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains in this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old.” (Meyers 3) Okay. We now thoroughly and without a doubt know that Forks is a town. Use the word one more time and I’m going to go entirely bonkers! Also, it’s depressing. We get that. Move on. This is not the only time Meyers does this, by the way. It’s consistent. One more point against.

The Conclusion:

Five points positive, three points negative. Meyers is off to a good start! Of course we haven’t started on the whole “vampire” thing just yet, so we’ll see…

Works Cited

Meyers, Stephanie. Twilight. New York: Little Brown & Company, 2005. Print.

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