Friday, October 28, 2011

"Summer Breaks" Reviewed

I asked Rod Richards, author of "" and fellow card collector, to write up a review for my debut novel, "Summer Breaks."  I respect his thoughts and insights and have enjoyed reading the reviews of the many other books he has posted to his site.

One of the advantages to having Rod on my Facebook friends list: direct discussion.  He let me read the review before posting, and I was able to explain some of my thoughts on his responses.  He then had some follow-up comments, and the whole process showed me where certain weak areas might exist in the novel.

The two main issues he had with the novel: time and age. 

I wrote the story without a particular time in mind because it was meant to have nostalgic feel without limiting the setting to a particular decade or specific year.  I can see where that might actually detract from things in retrospect.  In one scene, Decker opens a pack of baseball cards and tosses most of them away.  As a collector, knowing just what cards (and what year of the cards) is a piece of information we basically thrive on.  Did he throw away a rookie card of some guy named "Eddie Murray?"  Was it Nolan Ryan?  How about Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols or, heaven forbid, Mickey Mantle?  Okay, well, the songs referenced in the story would prevent some of those names being opened in a fresh pack of dime-store cards, but hopefully you get the gist.  The date is probably more important than I had given thought.

The ages of the kids in the story, I thought, were self-evident.  But, after reading back over it again, I can see where a reader might not quite be sure just how old these kids are.  I did have one reader ask me, "Are you sure ten year olds would do this?"  I then explained that though this tale was fiction, some of the episodes in it were based on actual adventures I had myself... when I was about eight.  I figured no one in their right mind today would believe such things could happen to eight year olds, so that is why I made them all around ten.  As an aside, the original story was called, "Summer of Seven" and was about a group of seven kids who were all seven years old.  Again, I figured no one today would believe seven year old kids would be doing these things.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

There were a couple of editing errors as well.  They are the kind that we make when we insert words mentally we know should be there physically.  They even got by my editor.

What I really enjoyed about the review, especially when connected with the follow up conversation, were the afterthoughts I had because of it.  The story will eventually be included in a compilation of the "Decker Stories" once I finish the series, and some revision/reworking will certainly be in order.

The review can be found here:

Thank you, Rod, for the review and the thought-provoking discussion!

Two asides:
1) Yes, there will be a series for this novel.  The next book, "Lost Summer" is already in the works (meaning I have started writing it and will use it for my NaNoWriMo entry this year).
2) I always wondered by authors re-released some of their books.  And now I know why.  After a story has left an author, it takes on a life of its own, and just like real life, as the story ages, it gains new character, deeper personality, and age lines.  Sometimes, an author feels like they need to do a little plastic surgery to keep the story fresh - not really changing its appearance completely, but just enough for readers to see a slightly different side of it.  I don't plan on going all "Michael Jackson" with it.  But, maybe more like "Jennifer Grey" - just a nip to make the reader look twice.

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