Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Lovin'~Quick Book Review of The Summer I Turned Pretty

I just came from a trip to the beach, and did not write one bit, except for a shopping list, a few short poems, and drew a few mermaids for my daughter, Lucie. But it was not time wasted.  I read three books, had great family time, and despite not writing, found that I got inspiration near about everywhere, and ideas for future books, and characters for my current WIP.

I had the pleasure of reading, among others, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han.

What a treat! If you haven't read it, surely pick it up, it's the story of Belly (sorry, Jenny Han, I wasn't a huge fan of her nickname, I must admit), and it focuses on one summer of a young girl's life where she makes that very subtle transition from girl to woman, and is (for the first time), truly noticed by members of the opposite sex.

Because I am lazy, here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

I highly recommend this book--it was the perfect book to take to the beach, and it really took me back to that first summer that I had my first kiss...

I was fourteen, and it was the summer between freshman and sophomore year. Inexplicably (in my mind), a sophomore guy on the swim team named Dean Schiller (and was a complete clone of Kevin Bacon with a mild case of acne), made it known through the high school grape vine that he liked me. I was stunned, because he had dated the cute girls, and I had never thought of myself as one. One summer night, he walked me to a senior's house (story told to my mom: we were walking to the yogurt store), for a real live party. With drinking. And seniors. And...cue panic attack.

When it was time to go home (you know, from the yogurt store....) he pulled me outside and swooped in for the kiss (cue orchestral music). my naive, never-been-kissed, how-on-earth-was-I-so-sheltered mind, I thought you kissed with your mouths closed, and lo and behold was stunned beyond belief when all of a sudden I felt something warm and slimy in my mouth and to my utter disgust realized it was his tongue! Needless to say, I covered up my shock pretty well (and later learned to, uh...enjoy kissing as the years wore on), however once safely home, I made sure to wash out my mouth multiple times with mouthwash, completely grossed out by the most obvious spreading of germs.

Anyway. Ha.

 Completely true story there, and it still makes me laugh, even to this day.

So, I'd love to know, if anyone's reading this out there, what was your first kiss story? Best summer romance? Come on, summer is almost over, I'd love to hear some good ones, before it's just another memory.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

All I Ever Needed to Know about Writing a Book I Learned from Les Miz

It has been a very eventful summer, I must say. I have succeeded at one of my many goals of motherhood: I have gotten at least one of my children hooked on musical theater. My oldest daughter, Kateri was in her first play this summer, Cinderella (best mouse evah!), and has caught the acting bug. As a former theater kid and proud patron of the arts, I love it.

We had some friends in the local 15-20 year old production of Les Miserables, and just came from an amazingly talented, heart wrenching performance. I swear, I've seen this muscial several times: once in London, twice in Los Angeles, two locally, but it never gets tiring. Never. I was a wreck--cried on and off throughout.

Well, I got to thinking, while watching this play, what is it about Les Miz that brings people back again and again? On the way home, I decided there are seven things that we can learn from Les Miz to make our stories stronger:

1. Have a theme, and string it throughout Les Miz has several themes woven throughout: the quest for freedom, the quest for love, social injustice, the goodness versus the evilness of humanity. And since it's a musical, the acutal melodies are interwoven and echoed throughout in the different numbers. This ties the whole musical together, and in the same way, themes can tie your book together. In the beginning of Les Miz, we see the people unempowered by the injustices of their life. At the end, we see the people unified, despite the fact that they lost the battle. The layering of the themes strengthened the story.

2. Have lots of highs and lows A good story like Les Miz (and hopefully our own works in progress!) had lots of highs and lows. We are never kept guessing, and we are never dull. In one scene, Cosette and Marius have declared their love, then seconds later, Epinone is crying her eyes out for her unrequited love, and at the same time, the bad guys are trying to raid Cosette and Jean Valjean's house. Lots of action makes for a great plot.

3. Conflict, conflict, and more conflict I know I struggle with this one, because in real life, conflict makes me uncomfortable and I don't like it. But when I don't read about conflict on the page, I get bored, fast. When Marius joins his friends at the ABC cafe to talk about the revolution, he has just met Cosette, and has fallen in love. The last thing he wants to do is talk about some stupid war, and this creats lots of good, yummy conflict between him and his buddy, Enjolras.

4. Comic relief  Even the darkest story (and let's face it, Les Miz is pretty dang dark) has its share of comic relief, and this lets the reader have a mental break, almost, from your surely gripping story.

5. Kissing! Well, I do write YA, right? And let's face it--every good story needs some romance, and kissing. Oh, and also? Love triangles--they are always kind of fun. I quite like them when they work in a story. (Les Miz has one of the most gripping love triangles ever. Poor Epinone--took a bullet for that cad, Marius and still didn't get a kiss on the lips.)

6. Kill some people  Yeah, I said it. But it's true, right? This sort of goes along with conflict. In a good story, bad things have to happen. Okay, not necessarily death, per se, but events in people's lives that are earthshattering. Death. Divorce. Break-ups. Sickness. We want our books to reflect the things that happen in real life, but on a much grander, more dramatic (shall I saw poetic?) way.

7. Answer your story question Last but not least, make sure when you type The End on your beloved manuscript, that you have answered the question that initially started the story to begin with. Did he get the girl? Did the aliens invade planet Earth? And in Les Miz--Did Jean Valjean find happiness?(yes, but he died)
Did the people find empowerment? (yes, but at a price)

Anyway, you get the picture.