Word of the Day #3 & #4

Posted in definitions, fun with tags , , on December 18, 2014 by Jessica Rising

Hi! Sorry I didn’t do this yesterday. It was… a hard day. Anyway, so to catch up here are TWO words for your dialectical pallet!

Copse

käps/
noun:
a small group of trees.

Civil War Battle

Pictured: A corpse covered copse

And…

Sedition

səˈdiSH(ə)n/
noun
conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.
synonyms: rabble-rousing, incitement to rebel, subversion, troublemaking, provocation; rebellion, insurrection, mutiny, insurgence, civil disorder.

Civil War Battle

Pictured: Sedition in a corpse covered copse

Word of the Day #2

Posted in definitions, fun with tags , , on December 16, 2014 by Jessica Rising

Caveat

ˈkavēˌat,ˈkävēˌät/
noun
a warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations.
synonyms: warning, caution, admonition; proviso, condition, stipulation, provision, clause, rider, qualification

tumblr_lgahz0tmNB1qbolbn

Source: Google Definitions

Literal Lyrics

Posted in different, fun, weird with tags , , on December 14, 2014 by Jessica Rising

Guess the song.

Go outside.
It’s foggy.
It’s hard to see anything
including you.
But the sky is clear.
It’s easier to see when you look up.
How can the fog be here and not there?
It’s like there’s a big gray area between them.

I walk through the fog
and think a lot about myself.
But I have no idea what I’m thinking, really.

I visit my friend Maria.
She’s sad.
I don’t know why.

[Chorus:]
Our town is pretty straight-laced.
But I know it’s not really that great.

My friend moved here from a bigger city.
She thought things would be fictional here.
She likes the ocean.
It reminds her of the circus.

She drives to my house sometimes
and gets naked.
Then she talks about religion.
She’s probably nuts, but she knows it.
Normal people make her nervous.

[Chorus:]
We’re trying to find our place in our town
but nobody is different here.
So we talk all big,
but we never do anything about it.
She’s thinking of moving away.

The kids here should move away as fast as they can
if they have hopes and dreams.
Because they’ll be stuck here if they don’t.

Maria says I’m nuts.
She says she knows she is, too.
But then she does something smart
like telling me to leave this place.
She says, “we’ll be crushed here”.
Then she gets nuts again and
talks about jumping off buildings.
Because she’s bored.
She must really be bored.

[Chorus:]
In our town, I’m always thinking about her.
But I know there’s plenty of time.
Our town is peaceful and perfect,
and so are we.
The darkness at night covers up our imperfections.

It’s so dark I can’t see.
I need you to catch me.
I’m going to fall.
Catch me before I fall on you.
I feel pressured to be perfect
in our town.
I feel pressured to be quiet
in our town.
I’m blind
in our town.

Word of the Day #1

Posted in definitions, Family with tags , on December 14, 2014 by Jessica Rising

In case you haven’t noticed, each title of the “Guts and Glory” books includes one “big” word:

  • Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine
  • The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc
  • Rise of the Nefarious Numbots

It’s probably pretty obvious that I did that on purpose, but just in case it isn’t… I did that on purpose.

I’ve had a fascination with words since I was very young; they are quite literally magical to me. I suppose this interest comes with the territory as a writer, though I learned a large part of my vocabulary not from writing, but from reading. I have always felt the responsibility to pay that particular blessing forward to my own young readers, so while I edit my books a bit, I don’t usually take out the “bigger” words.

Well, I’ve decided to take that one step further and introduce a “word of the day” entry on my blog. Don’t worry, most entries won’t have this long intro. I just like writing long things. (I am — you know — a novelist and all.)

Anyway, so without further adieu I give you word #1, which also happens to be my (current) very favorite word of all time:

Abysmal: extremely bad; appalling.

əˈbizməl/
adjective
1.
informal
extremely bad; appalling.
2.
literary
very deep.

abysmal

Pictured: An abysmal abyss of adobe

Source: Google Definitions

Blight

Posted in Uncategorized on December 6, 2014 by Jessica Rising

One soul.

Many lives.

Most are lowly, behind-the-scenes cogs of history, forgotten to the ages.

Some are trailblazers, builders of history in the forefront of time.

Then there are the few whose soul purpose is to destroy, burning down the facade of history through the heat of their passion and pain. Through their very existence, they carve out a bloody gash in time and space.

These souls are called Blights.

A new Blight has just arisen. And she’s ready to rewrite history once more.

Watch for more about “Blight”, the new Young Adult dystopian thriller by Jessica Rising!

My Top Five Surprises about Signing with a Publisher

Posted in Publishing, Writing with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by Jessica Rising

Trade publication.

It’s the Holy Grail of career advancement for many writers. I’ve personally dreamed of it for as long as I can remember. While most little girls around me where playing out their future princess wedding, I imagined my published masterpieces in bookstores, libraries, and homes all over the world. I chased that dream through elementary, middle school, high school, marriage, motherhood, college, divorce, remarriage, and graduate school.

And now — after more than three decades — my lifelong passion has finally come true.

When you dream of something your entire life, you generally bounce back and forth between two highly conflicting thought processes. On one hand, my hopes could soar higher than the moon. I imagined myself as a super-star author, my books beloved my millions, spending the rest of my life cozy with my royalties, free to do nothing but write forever. On the other hand, I tried to keep myself grounded. I researched formal manuscript format, query packages, publishers, agents, and the publishing industry as a whole. I knew from a very young age that trade publication would not happen fast or easily — and that it most likely wouldn’t be lucrative enough for a full-time career — but I was persistent. Even if it didn’t happen today, it would someday. That was enough.

When someday finally came on April 16th, 2014, the reality was somewhere in-between my fantasies and my logic… and all of it was a surprise. For example I learned that…

5)  Publication isn’t Scripted

I knew exactly how it would go. My careful research had told me the steps:

  • Query an agent
  • Get a full manuscript request
  • Send the full manuscript
  • Get a contract
  • Get a publisher
  • Become a rockstar writer

Not so much.

This may still very well be how many writers step into trade publication. Not me. My steps turned out to be a bit more… wobbly:

  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Repeat for a few dozen years
  • Query
  • Get a partial request
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a full request
  • Wait with baited breath for six months
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Rant on Facebook about how frustrating it all is
  • Get a PM from a mysterious fellow writer, suggesting you query their publisher
  • Shrug
  • Query
  • Get a full request
  • Sent the full manuscript
  • Get a contract offer back, along with a confession of headhunting all along on Facebook

A publisher. Headhunting. Me? I’d never even considered that! Of course, when something like that happens, the first sane response is cynicism. I didn’t enter into my contracts lightly. I did my research. Predators and Editors said they were legit. AbsoluteWrite said they were legit. Their current authors (with whom they got me in contact just for this purpose), said they were legit. I was floored!

This was not how I expected to make my dream come true, but it didn’t dim my joy in the least when I signed those contracts and sent them back. Finally, all my hard work was paying off! Little did I know that…

4) It Doesn’t Get any Easier

I didn’t expect that I would be rolling in money; I’ve been in the biz — albeit the far side — for too long to be that silly. However, I DID think that at least most of the work was behind me. Like most modern writers, my first publication was self-wrought. With self-publishing comes the arduous task of marketing your own books. At least, it’s arduous to me. I love speaking and signing at cons, but travel is often very difficult for various reasons. As for blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc., I would honestly much rather just be writing my fiction than promoting it. But I did it, because my work is important to me. Now, with a publisher to do that for me, I was sure I’d finally be free.

Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, my publisher certainly promotes my work. Every time I Google Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine I find new websites where Second Wind has placed it, much to my delight. (I’ll admit sometimes I even squeal like a little girl.) But in this day and age of e-books, blogs, and author websites, the author is expected to do more self-promotion than ever before. My job isn’t finished when I send my manuscript off, it just changes from one who creates to one who promotes that creation.

I’m still not too great at that end of things but I think I’m getting better. Time will tell. For now, I’m still chugging along because my writing is still one of the most important things in my life. Well, when I say chugging along I really mean trudging. You see…

3) It Feels Even Longer than it Takes

Everyone who has studied the publishing industry even a little bit knows that for us, a minute is more like a day, an hour is like a month, and a month can be years. I’ve known this for a very long time, first by way of research then with querying experience. I know that publishing a book can take more than a year from manuscript to shelf. I wasn’t expecting overnight success. Still, I did think I’d be in regular contact with my publisher in order to know what was going on while I waited.

Not so much.

As a professional, it’s expected that I can keep a schedule and make deadlines without someone holding my hand. Can I email or text my publisher if I have questions? Of course. Does he email and text me every day to keep me updated on my own progress even while handling the careers of all my fellow Second Winders?

No.

Months can go by when I hear nothing, then one day an email might come discussing a million details that have come up during that time, then nothing again for another long stretch. This can make a long wait feel even longer. But that’s really okay in the end, because…

2) It’s Never About the Present

I’m thrilled that Dr. Fixit is officially published for the first time ever. I’m ecstatic that Zombies is undergoing its own transformation as I type. I’m chugging away to complete Numbots and finally finish the trilogy as my very first truly published work.

Still, as far as I’m concerned, the “Guts and Glory” books are all but complete.

When you work in a slow industry like publishing (even self-publishing and e-books are slow; if they’re not, you’re doing it wrong), you have to learn to live in the future. Living in the past is never a good idea for anyone, as various memes, sage advice, and mothers everywhere have told us over and over again. It stunts growth, steals hope, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure you’ve heard it all, as I have. But living in the present isn’t much better when you’re a writer. It can seriously  make you go mad waiting and wondering and hoping, not to mention the fact that if you’re worrying about a present manuscript, you’re not writing the next one.

And that’s what I’m doing now; writing the next one.

Blight is my new YA book which I am very excited about. I’ll tell you much more about it as time goes by, I’m sure. Writing it helps me not think so much about the progress of “Guts and Glory” but it won’t be ready for querying for at least a few months, let alone publication. I’m looking at the future with my new story, just as my publisher is with “Guts and Glory”. This is a very good thing, because…

1) It’s Not a Single Great Leap into Dreamland

Okay, I’ll admit, I’ve dreamed of it often.

THE moment.

That shining beacon of victory, when everything comes together, when my rockstar agent signs me with a major publisher from the Big Six, and my work becomes a New York Times Bestseller. Then, and only then, will I be a real boy — I mean writer — at last.

I still dream of it. It’s the winning lottery numbers, the Holy Grail, the moment of release.

And it’s probably never going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from a defeatist. In fact, my sisters will tell you I can be unrealistically optimistic at times. (Okay. pretty much all the time.) But I have learned in my three decades of writing that it’s a series of baby steps, not one great leap, that will take me to the success I dream of. I took those baby steps up to this point — reading, writing, studying, querying and self-publishing — and I have only taken one more now with my small press publication.

Who knows what the next baby step will be? Might there come a moment when I can’t breathe from the amazement of what has happened in my career? Maybe. For now, though, I’m looking to the future, waiting on the present, working very hard, and expecting the unexpected.

Because in the end, all that really matters is my stories themselves. Everything else will come in its own time.

Innocence Lost

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

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.

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