My Beautiful Struggle + [sleight]

Guest Post & Giveaway: Sleight by Janenifer Sommersby

Today I have a hilarious author here visiting my blog. Her name is Janenifer Sommersby and she is the author of Sleight.

She's sharing a a lovely story with us and a great giveaway!

Monday mornings suck. Well, pretty much every morning sucks because I am a night owl, and as such, I go to bed far too late for my own good. That would explain the squinty, puffy eyes and the latest crop of crow's feet that are perpetually worsening on my face. Alas, the children in my home (three of them, ages 17, 9, and 6) must be delivered unto the hallowed halls of their respective learning institutions, and as such, I have to drag my butt out of bed with the sun five days a week. I suppose I could avoid this morning thing by homeschooling my kids, but one of two things would happen: 1. We would kill each other; and/or 2. My children would grow up unlearned, slobbering down their fronts as they try to figure out how to spell c-a-t by their tenth birthdays. Bad enough the youngest one doesn't know how to tie shoes or ride a bike yet (BUT he is writing the first of what he says will be a nine-book series — not too shabby). I'm too selfish, and too sleepy, to ever consider homeschooling.

SO, off to school we went. Upon climbing aboard the big silver whale that is our car and turning the corner at the end of our block, I excitedly announced,"I killed someone last night." My children know that their mother is a little cracked. They understand the context of my words. Yes, they know I have a bit of a temper (I'm Irish), and they know that Mommy tends to say things that other moms don't say, at least not out loud (like,"If I were in charge of the world, no one would be allowed out on the roads on the days I have errands to run because they cannot drive!"). So announcing my murderous intent did not instill fear into their little hearts. In fact, it hardly gave them pause. Instead, the seventeen-year-old rolled her eyes. The six-year-old continued humming the theme song from Little Big Planet (he lives in his own world, that one… ). The nine-year-old said,"Was it a good guy or a bad guy?" My answer:"He was a good guy with a sad heart. He killed himself, actually." The nine-year-old said,"Was he possessed when he did it, or did he do it because he wanted to die?" These are the sorts of conversations that happen in my house. I write books. My husband writes screenplays. We're tragedy addicts.
There will be those among you devoted readers who will think, Oh, she has corrupted their childhood with such thoughts of violence, and you might be right. However, let me assuage your fears and explain that it is all part of the Master Plan to Educate and Enlighten. (All parents are supposed to have one of those. That's what the portly nurse with the pink cheeks and a mean streak told us when the first kid was born. She shoved the brochure in the pretty new diaper bag as we tried to slink out the back door of the maternity ward.) I am a Shakespeare nerd. (If you hate Shakespeare, at LEAST love the words and the tangled webs woven.) My kids have had to listen to me ramble on about Hamlet's tragic conundrum, the plot intricacies of Othello and, Macbeth, and my personal favorite, Titus Andronicus, a play with such violence that it was banned from the theater for nearly three centuries. I have made the conscious decision to expose my children to the beauty of life and the sadness of death, not because I want to scare them but because death is part of life. I want them to grow with an understanding of the world around them, for better and for worse. Beyond that, I want them to grow up to be better storytellers. They may not choose this difficult but exhilarating writer's lifestyle, but there are a lot of classes between now and adulthood in which they have to write stuff that has come out of their own imaginations. Maybe this will open up the field a little for them.
Given this disclaimer, my kids know what I say about this poor person I've killed is fiction — they know it's not real, that it's all in the name of crafting a believable, dynamic storyline. A good story MUST have conflict. There must be something happening to the characters to move the story forward. They know that Mommy is not out at night playing vigilante, though there are those times when I wish such behavior were legal…
Not all stories will have murder and carnage. Lots of good stories, in fact, don't touch on the dark stuff at all. Those authors must live in a different mindset than I do, and I applaud them for that. One of these days, I'd love to be able to write something without having to introduce a character to the Pearly Gates. But death is an important catalyst in a great number of stories: think Harry Potter. Lily and James Potter are murdered by Voldemort, and Harry's life is set before his third birthday; he will forever be on the road toward redemption, to avenge his parents untimely and vicious ends. Their deaths begot Harry's life's purpose: defeat Voldemort. In The Hunger Games, the threat of sweet Prim's assured failure (and subsequent death) in the Games' arena is what compels Katniss forward onto that stage in place of her little sister and keeps her moving forward as she fights to save her own life, and the lives of the people in her district. All characters must have a purpose, or else they do nothing but stagnate on the page.
In my novel Sleight, my main character Gemma is burying her mother in the opening scene. I did not murder Gemma's mother; someone else did that. But it is the discovery of who and when and where and why that will provide tension for Gemma as the story continues. It drives the story forward. Cars, humans, animals cannot move without fuel; stories are no different. Every author uses a unique grade of fuel, contingent upon the story they are telling. The important thing, however, is that the fuel is present, and that there are bumps and hiccups along the route toward acquiring said fuel. Think about that next time you're reading a story that isn't grabbing you, or perhaps while reading a story that grabs you by the throat and hardly affords time for you to breathe (The Hunger Games did this for me). Are you feeling anything? Are you compelled to keep turning the pages/pressing the forward button on your ereader? Did the writer do his/her job?
Good stories have this. As I said, not all stories will have murder and carnage and fights to the death. Jodi Picoult and Tom Perrotta and John Updike write human stories, but they all have conflict. Terry Brooks writes fantasy, but his characters are very real with very real problems. All of these stories are all flush with fuel.
But what do I know… perhaps I am doing nothing but setting my children up for sessions with their own therapists. But damn, the stories that will come from those sessions. Bestsellers, I can assure you, full of conflict, ripe with indecision, and, I hope, heavy on the happy endings.

Sleight by Janenifer Sommersby Ebook Version: 342 pages March 25th, 2011 Series: AVRA-K #1 Her mom is dead.
Ghosts follow her around.
Her best friend is an elephant.
And she’s about to meet the biggest game changer of all: a boy. With a secret.

When circus-dwelling Gemma Flannery learns she will be attending public school for the first time in her seventeen years, little does she know that fitting in with her 12th-grade classmates will be the least of her concerns. A pro at hiding her knack for seeing the dead (“shades”), Gemma is grieving the recent suicide of her mentally ill mother, a process eased by the introduction of her first real love interest, the charming and painfully handsome Henry Dmitri, who is harboring his own collection of dangerous secrets. Together, they will be presented with a frightening challenge: to assume their roles as heirs to a 3000-year-old magical text, the AVRAKEDAVRA, a book the ├╝ber-rich, sleight-of-being master Lucian Dmitri would do anything to get his hands on. As each terrifying layer in her new reality melts away, Gemma unearths truths that her quiet, nomadic life with the Cinzio Traveling Players is not at all what she’d always cherished. Gemma and Henry must rely on each other to stop Lucian’s diabolical plotting that will bring the world to its tired, scab-riddled knees, and are sent on the flight of their young lives, to save themselves, their families, and the world from the darkest kind of destruction.

Let the chase begin.

Prize:

  • 1 US winner will receive a signed copy of Sleight.
  • 2 INTERNATIONAL winners will receive an ebook of Sleight.

Rules:
  • You must be at least 13 to enter.
  • Name and email must be provided and counts as 1 entry.
  • Extra entries are possible and links must be provided.
  • Contest is US/International and ends May 13th.
  • Once contacted, the winner will have 48 hours to respond.
  • The form must be filled out to enter.

Find Janenifer Sommersby Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook
Purchase Sleight Amazon | Smashwords
You can read a sample by going to Smashwords