Archive for yalit

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


by Jessica Rising

Chapter 1


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.

The Difference Between Middle School and Middle Grade

Posted in Books, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on April 10, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

Despite my best efforts to quelch it, there has been a general consensus among my family and friends that I write young adult books (YA). This even happens with my fellow writers. The only ones who seem to understand that I write middle grade (MG) are other children’s writers. I was starting to get very frustrated, as there is a very big difference between YA and MG (and, in fact, this is actually a large part of my Masters thesis). Then I realized why people were so confused, and I felt the biggest *facepalm* ever.

Middle Grade sounds like Middle SCHOOL… which is YA age.

Oi. No wonder everyone thought I wrote for middle school teens and not kids! So here’s the deal…

YA books are generally geared towards ages 13-17. They are the teen books. Examples of this are Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, and Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume.

Young Adult:


MG books are generally split into two age groups. There is Lower MG for ages 7-9, and Upper MG for ages 8-12. Lower MG are books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, and Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.

Lower Middle Grade:


Upper Middle Grade are books like The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan, Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, and Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine by… me. 😉

Upper Middle Grade:


Of course, there are overlapping titles. MG itself overlaps between the ages of 8 and 9, for differing reading levels. But the biggest overlap is between Upper MG and YA. This often happens when a series begins as Upper MG and, as the characters and readers grow, becomes YA. A great example of this is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Upper MG:




There are also single titles that are difficult to put into a certain age group. For example, many people in the publishing world aren’t sure whether Charlotte’s Web by E.B White is Lower or Upper MG, or whether Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is more appropriate for Upper MG or YA. Still, generally speaking the difference between YA and MG is all about the age of the main character(s). If they’re 7 to 12, it’s probably MG. If they’re 13 to 17, it’s YA. This is only according to general publishing world consensus, which means there are plenty of exceptions.

So, to wrap up. Middle School is Young Adult and Middle Grade is Elementary. But only sometimes.

Wow… I can’t blame you for being confused. Too bad “I write books for ages 8-12” is such a long explanation compared to “I write middle grade”…

John M. Cusick

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