Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Reading 2014
My publisher Jolly Fish Press is doing a Summer Reading Promotion this week. Maybe you've seen the hashtage #SummerReading2014. I hope you have.

ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN is being featured Friday August 1, 2014. It'll be promoted as hard as possible. Feel free to help. It'll be on sale on Amazon for only $1.99. Less than a side of fries.

I was asked to consider what Summer Reading meant to me as a kid. This article is co-hosted on The Jolly Fish Blog.

 Summer Books

Summer reading is a magical experience for me and always has been. I still get chills when on a hot summer day, I find a shady spot and open a new book. It’s happiness.

Looking back, I can identify three things that let me steer the slow boring days of summer into cherished summer reading time. What put a book in my hands so many years ago in those long hot days should still resonate with kids today.

The first was an organic reading group that sprang up when one of my friends found a new title. They’d talk about it and get us excited. We’d borrow it or get our own copy from the library or bookstore,  and join them in the adventure. We’d talk about plot twists and nasty villains while we played D&D or divvied up sides for ultimate frisbee. It was important to read then. I remember feeling like an outsider if I hadn’t read a book the others had. It wasn’t like I was ostracized. It was more like being at the ball field without a glove. – so much more fun if you can join in. I have my friends to thank for Tolkien and Thomas Covenant.

The second was a personal secret pleasure. I had some favorite topics of non-fiction I’d pour over all summer: game related stuff, history, philosophy, science and hobby manuals, books on painting or wood carving. But then there was Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Someone had given me complete editions of both authors and after a good day I read the stories like they were dessert. When the house was quiet, I’d read the adventures, the horrors and the poetry, and then I’d turn off my light and fall asleep swimming in the rich language and exhilarating stories. Not having a bedtime or a reason to wake up at any particular time the next day, I’d sometimes lie awake for hours, turning over the tales, seeing the pendulum swinging lower or imagining the secret code Holmes had deciphered to foil the plot. It sent me off to dream in classical style.

The third thing that sent me between the covers of a summer book was decidedly subversive. My family didn’t exactly shelter me, but they had rules. Being young and curious, I discovered that though I couldn’t get into R rated movies, the bookstore would sell me anything that didn’t have pictures on glossy pages. I found books on taboo subjects, titles that if they were movies my parents wouldn’t let me near. These I read in secret, seeing the controversies, exploring worlds that most kids never saw. It did me no harm and, in fact, I think it made me a much better person. Being a reader had prepared me to explore these new worlds. My personal experience was greater than most adults by virtue of my reading. I had a foundation of experiences and points of view that was far greater than my years. This influences me today as an author. I am careful to respect young readers. I do not “dumb down” my writing or steer clear of controversy. Having been a young reader myself once, I know how sophisticated they are.

A friend of mine once said that he reads because some of the best memories of his life never actually happened to him. He was speaking about living vicariously through books. This is the magic of reading. It allows you to live more than just your one life. As a kid in the summertime, without the pressures of school, books became for me a treasured personal treat, just the thing to make a dog-day of summer into a life changing experience.

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