Monday, July 26, 2010

Stealing Away Goodness and Great Movies

This has been a month oozing with goodness. It's filling me up and I'm tucking it down, holding on for when it gets cold and the snow starts and I seem to forget that it's not always going to be twenty degrees outside. As you can tell, I'm a fan of summer.

Friday's goodness came to me unexpectedly. Remember that contest I got nominated for? The one for the Six of the Month? Well, I won. I won the whole entire thing! When I logged into the website on Friday morning, I just kind of stared at the screen and said, "What the...". And my little sister's in the other room, going, "What happened?" And I'm waving her over, "Come here, come here," and pointing at the screen. And then she freaks out, so I freak out, and pretty soon we're both jumping up and down screaming and hugging each other. Those are the moments I live for. Those are the moments I save for a rainy day.

As I read further, I learned I'll be headlining the newest 6s book, called 6s: Half A World Away. It'll be available on CreateSpace starting Friday. I'll post details once they send me a link for it, so check back later for that.

In other news, I've been blessed in the movie and book department lately. This past week, I watched Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island which left me stunned. Same with Inception, which I watched Saturday. Both of them were so well-written, so well crafted, that I'm just hoping someday I can write something that brilliant. What killed me (both times), was probably the ending. If anyone can tell me for sure what it means--"what does this mean?!" as Rainbow Guy would say--I will feel so much better. The endings for both were ambiguous in the most painfully perfect way. What happens after the camera stops is up to you. And of course, I'm a Leo fan. It's been a Leonardo DiCaprio and apparently Joseph Gordon Levitt filled week, as I watched (500) Days of Summer last night, too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Making Someone Else's Mistakes

The other day, I spent some time thinking about why I want to write. Because when you tell yourself you're going to spend months, usually years, on one silly little book, one bound collection of papers, you need to know what you're doing has some purpose. Some meaning for you. And I'm not just saying that because people are selfish, because we tend to do something for someone only if we're going to reap the benefits. I'm saying it because it's true. Because when it gets hard, and you're thinking of throwing in the towel, you want to have a moment to remind yourself. You need to have your own pep talk. Everyone needs one. Even the most determined of writers need one.

For me, I have to get those words down on the page because as I write them, as the thoughts form, I hear my own voice shouting back at me. And it's saying, "Yes. Finally, you understand what it means to be a teenager."

It's more than that, though. I hope my books can teach people lessons, because that's important. You can't make all the mistakes in the world. Sometimes you have to learn from what other people did wrong. For instance, the main character in my newest book keeps going back to her boyfriend, despite the disapproval of her parents and her best friend. Sure, that tells you something wonderful about the girl: she's forgiving and loyal, but to a fault. Maybe you're not that kind of girl, but your best friend is, and after reading the book, you can help her because you feel like you've been inside this girl's head. Even if you don't agree with her logic, at least you're starting to understand it, right?

That's all we want in life. Someone to understand us and still love us. I hope my books can make people see that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sometimes Direction Leads You Elsewhere

And that's okay. As long as it leads you somewhere. Six Sentences had a contest titled "Mind Games", and when I first sat down to write, I ended up with what is now called "Hit or Miss", a far cry from mind games:

Barry sat across from me, staring so hard at my forehead that I thought he might burn a hole straight through it. My fingers hovered over the white pegs, even before he called out "B-12", sinking my cargo ship. I added another white peg to the boat, shaking my head. "Liar," he called out, standing up and peering over the other side of the grayish plastic barrier to find all my boats filled with white pegs, my game long over. That's how I ended up in the other room, eavesdropping while my husband of almost fifty years asked the customer service representative if he could speak to Milton Bradley himself about what to do when he found his wife cheating. At a board game.

I'm happy with it, but sometimes it baffles my mind. How does someone just sit at their computer with this small inkling of an idea, and come out with a life? A life that's never existed before? Do we have the authority to do that? That's some pretty powerful stuff, writing is.

Jumping off that, a great book needs a great image on the cover. I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by it's cover," right? That's half the battle for me. The other half? A great first sentence.
Here are some of my favorite first sentences from the YA genre:

"You can tell a lot about people from what they order for breakfast." - THE FORTUNES OF INDIGO SKYE, Deb Caletti

"To say my life changed when my mother married Dino Cavalli (yes, the Dino Cavalli) would be like saying that the tornado changed things for Dorothy." - WILD ROSES, Deb Caletti

"Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect." - NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, Justina Chen Headley

And why are they great opening sentences? Because the words are so definitive, so matter-of-fact, that you're forced to ask a boatload of questions: "Who ordered breakfast that was so transparent?" or "What did Dino Cavalli do that was so life-altering?" or "Why from behind? What am I missing?" There are hundreds of examples throughout written history, but these are just a few quick examples. My books each have to have a powerful cover and a powerful first sentence. I'm going to give you a small glimpse into each.

"Even if I had enjoyed this flight, what followed could only be described as inevitable. With my eyelids finally drifting closed, my last few moments of peace in this world were cut short by a loud, overly friendly voice. It had been my third, maybe fourth attempt to sleep."

"In the beginning, you never see the end, but it's there. Just a little glimmer off in the distance that you have to squint to see. Beginnings were always the same: the morning after, so many bad decisions just reek of alcohol and loose lips. There I was, okay, several mornings after, trying to do laundry so I could rid myself of any memory of the stain on my shirt, the smell of liquor on my clothes. In the laundromat across the street from my neighborhood. And I prayed, just prayed, that my father didn't drive by, peering inside the glass interior to see my tired face staring back."

Note: The covers are mock-ups, and I'd love to hear opinions on them, even though I fully intend on redoing both of them at a later date. Right now they are placeholders for my website, which I hope to launch in the fall.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You Know What They Say About Good News

It comes in bundles, hitting you all at once like a wave drowning you in happiness. My cousin once said his mom's life was like drowning in chocolate. Really good, but really hard. Maybe mine's just like bathing in chocolate. I don't know if I'm quite at the drowning stage.

At any rate, I have news to share. That "Mind Games" contest I mentioned on Monday? Out of more than 300 entries, my entry was selected as one of the stories to be published. In a book. A "Mind Games" book. Of course I already bought the book, and it's being shipped to my house.

Another contest is in the works. This one, I failed to mention, since I didn't bother to vote in it, but somehow that didn't matter. It's for the June 2010 Six of the Month, also on the 6S Social Network, and the 6 finalists, myself included, were announced today. Now people have until Thursday, the 22nd, to vote for their favorite. As far as what the finalists will be receiving, I'm not sure yet. It's all hush hush as they say. I'm going to post mine below, and if you like it enough to vote, please do so.

"Half a World Away" by Kaleigh Somers

We ran through that cornfield, dodging branches, unable to see more than a few feet in front of us. And I prayed that if I squeezed his hand hard enough, if I never let go, we could break through some time-space continuum. When we stopped, me a few steps behind him, smacking hard into his back, I thought we'd done it. Above us, a rainbow covered the sky for miles in either direction, illuminating it. "Aw man," he said, shaking his head and dropping my hand, bringing me back to reality. Instead of a pot of gold, an endless supply of wishes, another world altogether, we were left only a moment away from where we'd started: two kids being called inside for dinner.

Check back soon. I'll be posting my 6S Mind Games story along with some mock up book covers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Few Updates

I've made a lot of progress on some projects in the last month, and I wanted to share. To let those of you who do read this know that when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. And, let's be honest. It's easier to be accountable for something you've told people.

1. KEEP IN TOUCH, my first YA novel, is now retitled RUNNING IN CIRCLES. I'm planning on going back to it at a later date and revising it, making it better, so that maybe it's sale-able one day. We'll see. The basic plot line is the same, but there's a couple believability issues I'm working out.

2. LEAP OF FAITH, my second YA novel, is finished (first draft, that is). Revisions are already underway and pretty far along. The title, in many ways, reflects how I feel about the book itself and the writing process. This one, in many ways, was easier to write than the first book. Often I woke up at midnight or even later, scribbling down plot ideas for the next few scenes, hearing the characters in my head while driving, sending myself text messages with dialogue when I didn't have access to paper and a pen. LEAP's about a high school junior, Faith, who, when the story starts out, is just recovering from a break-up with her boyfriend. She's caught up in a million little problems that all start to strain her, before she can't help but break down with the weight of all these secrets she's so good at hiding. All she really wants is to go back in time and not make one major mistake, but it's too late for that.

3. Six Sentences has a contest going on at their Ning site, called Mind Games. Submissions were due at the end of June, and winners will be notified on Friday. Cross your fingers that my entry made it! The owner's publishing a book compilation of the winners.

4. Speaking of contests, I also entered Writer's Digest's Your Story contest for the July/August 2010 Issue. The due date was on Saturday, and I'm not sure when notifications go out for finalists, but I'll be eagerly (and nervously) awaiting that as well.

That's all for now, but maybe in the near future I'll post some book excerpts and my mock-up covers for both novels. Keep reading!