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Jackie Kessler

Jackie is a copy chief for a business journal by day and moonlights as the science fiction and fantasy editor for online magazine WILD CHILD PUBLISHING. Her work has appeared in BYZARIUM (it's there now! Go peek! "Hunger" by Jacqueline Morse Kessler: ), WILD CHILD, PERIDOT BOOKS and TENEBRES, and her stories have been accepted in upcoming issues of FARTHING and FROM THE ASYLUM. She has written two novels (both unpublished, but hope springs eternal) and is currently working on a third, a sassy, magical chick-lit story.

You've written two novels that haven't been published yet, and are already working on your third. Are you looking for a publisher for your work? How is the process going?

Publisher, nothing. I'm looking for an agent. I've made my peace with Book One; that's my 16-year labor of love that either needs a complete lobotomy or needs me to be an established author before I crack it out and deliver it to my adoring editor and say, Have at it. Book Two, from which comes the excerpt, I'm getting ready to overhaul. I missed the initial wave of chick lit; now bookstores practically glow pink as soon as you walk through the door. So to really stand out (say numerous agents), the writing needs to be daring. I guess the book as is has too much angst, not enough sex, and needs to expand on the outlandish. Considering that the protagonist works in a store where the owner introduces himself as "Charles or Judy, darling, it's all the same to me," that shouldn't be too difficult.

The third book, my current WIP, is coming along. As of this moment, I have 52,000 words. I plan on finishing the first draft by Halloween. Of this year. (Hey, a girl's got to have goals.)

How do you juggle your day job as a copy chief with your creative writing - do you work on your novel at night and on weekends only?

My husband is ridiculously supportive, so he puts up with my late (late, late) nights. During weekends, he and the kids will give me some quiet time (read: they'll be playing, and I'll be in my home office with the door closed). I really couldn't do this without him. To a lesser degree, I'm lucky in that Book Two sort of wrote itself; most of Book Three is going that way as well. When I'm on fire, I bang out 2,000 words a night.

What's been your biggest dare as a writer?

You mean besides submitting my work again and again, and constantly preparing for (and receiving) heartbreaking rejections? Hmmm. Okay, two top spots: (a) Having my mother read Book Two and convince her that the mother character really, really, really wasn't her; and (b) For the WIP, I'll be going to a strip club with my husband for research purposes. Understand that I'm about as vanilla as a person could be, so this sudden dip into mint chocolate chip will be quite a dare.

Following is an excerpt from Jackie’s unpublished novel, HEY, CHARLES - YOUR SLIP IS SHOWING:

During my pavement pounding, I walked right past Charles’ Apparels, even though there was a huge Help Wanted sign in the window. I was many things - dumb for waiting until a heartbeat before graduation to get a job in a tight economy, clueless for not knowing how to put together a résumé. But I wasn’t blind. I walked past Charles’ on purpose. I simply wasn’t that desperate. Yet.

Charles’ had a reputation in Chester. Every small town must have a store like it - the one that’s known for being a sex store. Prostitutes didn’t necessarily work out of the basement, but certain items were sold behind closed doors. Items that didn’t come with instructions but did require batteries. And towels. It was the kind of store spoken about with glee by frat boys and with horror by housewives.

No way was I going to get a job in a store like that. I had my dignity. I had my pride.

And two weeks later, I also had no other prospects, but I did have credit card bills to pay. So I put on my darkest sunglasses, took a deep breath, and marched into Charles’.

* * *

It looked like a regular clothing store.

Dresses were hanging neatly off on the left; blouses and tops on the right. Pants, suits, and lingerie were toward the back. At the back of the store were shoes‹heels, every one of them‹and bathing suits. No bikinis. It wasn’t Saks Fifth Avenue by a long shot, but it was a heck of a lot nicer than a bunch of the bargain boutiques I had slummed in. Other than the incredibly tacky floral prints that seemed to have a life of their own, there was nothing odd about the clothing itself. As long as you didn¹t mind some of the fabric looking as if it had been cut from a shower curtain, that is.

The sex goddess behind the counter asked if I needed any help. She was this tall, blonde sun worshiper who oozed sensuality. You know the sort - she was damn good looking, and she knew it. Everything, from her short hair that was tousled just so to the arch of her brows to the almond tilt of the eyes, was just shy of model-standard. She must have been about five-foot-ten, and maybe one-hundred-ten pounds soaking wet, but with a full rack and annoyingly long legs. And she had perfectly even, white teeth. She was, simply put, gorgeous. I hated her immediately.

Putting on my best "No one can be that pretty and also be smart" smile, I told her that I was there about the job.

She blinked, then looked me up and down. She smiled again, but this time there was none of the phony warmth that salespeople have perfected over the millennia. This time it was a wicked grin.

"Really? About the receiving job?"

Too many jokes to consider, in light of the store’s reputation.

"Well, the sign said help wanted. I want to help."

She did the equivalent of a facial shrug as she reached under the counter.

"You need to fill out this form. Why don¹t you take a seat in the back room? I’ll tell the manager you’re here about the job."

She wasn’t smiling any more, but her eyes glittered with anticipation.

"Sure, thanks."
I took the paper and the pen that was next to the register, and then I followed her to the back of the store. I couldn’t help but notice that she had the audacity to glide rather than walk. Maybe the store wasn’t as evil as I had heard; maybe it was just that a living blow-up doll worked the counter, so Charles’ got a reputation. That had to be it. Smiling in relief, I pushed aside the curtain that separated the back room from the rest of the store.

And that’s when I understood why the bitch had grinned.

* * *

I suppose there are worse things than staring at a wall of sex toys when you are filling out a job application. I mean, I would have rather been right there in that room than, say, undergoing open-heart surgery with no anesthesia. But I have to tell you, it’s no picnic.

On one wall were dildos of assorted sizes, shapes, and colors. One in particular looked incredibly painful, and I didn’t know what bothered me more: that I was imagining what it could possibly ever fit into, or that I was staring at it in the first place. Next to the penises were what I assumed were some sort of sex toys, but I later found out that they were penis enlargers. Don’t ask me why any man would stick his schlong into a tube or a jar. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. Pun most definitely intended.

Vibrators of many varieties paraded on another wall, along with items that looked like car fresheners. One of the car fresheners turned out to be an anal stimulator. You¹d have to pay me a lot to stick something that looks like a miniaturized Christmas tree up my bottom. A real lot. As in seven figures.

Other things were there too: books, magazines, pamphlets, paddles, riding crops, assorted creams and lotions, oils, outfits. Lots of leather and chains. I felt like I had wandered onto a lost set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

When I get embarrassed, I turn bright red. You could see me coming ten blocks away. I would have put Rudolph out of business on Christmas Eve. It was embarrassing when I got embarrassed, as dumb as that sounds. But in this case, I didn’t turn bright red. I turned Fuck-Me Red.

Why don’t you have a seat over there?

Ah yes, the sex goddess. I cleared my throat and glanced at her. Sure enough, there was a huge grin on her flawless face. It stretched even wider when she saw my furious blush.

God, Lee, get a grip. Ms. 36-24-36 must have an IQ smaller than her shoe size. No one can be that beautiful and know how to do anything more complicated than walk across the street without tripping.

I walked over to the chair by the counter with as much dignity as I could muster, giving the crotchless panties nary a glance. Leaning on the counter, pointedly not looking at the various display items--what on earth could a small metal ring with spikes be used for?--I began to fill out the application.

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