TITLE: The Boys of Summer
AUTHOR: Sarah Madison
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Reese Dante
LENGTH: 200 Pages
RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2015
BLURB: 2nd Edition
David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of film-company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches… and Rick Sutton, the hot, ex-Air Force pilot who is flying him around.
Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll with a WWII listening post. Rick’s injuries and a lack of food and water mean David has to step up to the plate and play hero. While his days are spent fighting for survival, and his nights are filled with worrying about Rick, the two men grow closer. David’s research for his next movie becomes intertwined with his worst fears, and events on the island result in a vivid dream about the Battle of Britain. On waking, David realizes Rick is more than just a pilot to him. The obstacles that prevented a happy ending in 1940 aren’t present today, and David vows that if they survive this stranding, he will tell Rick how he feels.
“I don’t think we’ve got much choice.” Sutton’s voice was grim. “We’re lucky to have that much. Hold on, these trees are coming up faster than I’d like.”
Still fighting to keep the nose of the plane up, Sutton guided the recalcitrant aircraft toward the so-called clearing, the ground rising up to meet them far faster than was comfortable. David found himself leaning back in his seat, bracing his hands on the console as the tops of trees scraped the underside of the plane. Branches swiped at the windshield, and David had the sudden impression of being in a car wash scene as written by Stephen King.
“Duck your head!” Sutton barked. “Wrap your arms around your legs!”
“And kiss my ass goodbye?” David shouted, raising his voice over the increasing noise as he obeyed Sutton’s orders.
Incredibly, Sutton laughed. It was an oddly comforting sound. Like everything was somehow going to be all right because Sutton was at the controls.
The moment of humor was gone in a flash. The plane screamed with the sound of tearing metal and the sharp, explosive crack of tree limbs and breaking glass. David kept his head down and his eyes closed, praying to a God he was pretty sure had more important things to do than to keep up with the well-being of one David McIntyre. Despite being strapped in his seat, his head and shoulder thumped painfully against the passenger side door as the plane thrashed wildly. There was a moment of eerie, blessed silence, and for an instant, the assault on the plane seemed as though it had lifted. Eye of the storm, David thought, just before the plane hit the ground.
Someone had left the window open and it was raining on him. How incredibly annoying. He shifted, intent on reaching for the offending window, when a jolt of pain ran through his shoulder and he gasped. When he opened his eyes, nothing made any sense at first. Then he remembered the crash, and realized that his side of the plane was pointing up at the sky. The rain was coming down in a steady stream through the broken windshield. The sound of the rain on the metal hull of the plane was nearly deafening.
He winced at the pain in his neck when he turned to look over at the pilot’s seat. Sutton was slumped to one side in his chair, unmoving. His sunglasses were hanging off one ear.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” David murmured, hastily undoing his seatbelt so he could reach across to Sutton. His skin was cold and damp where David touched it, and adrenaline pounded through David’s veins as though he could jumpstart Sutton’s heart by sending his own pulse beating through his fingertips. “Sutton! Rick!”
David fought to free himself of his seat, twisting for greater access to the other side of the cockpit. When the seatbelt came open, he fell half across Sutton. Sprawled practically in his lap, David could now see the nasty cut on the left side of Sutton’s temple. The pilot’s side of the plane had taken a lot of damage, and David yelped as he encountered a sliver of glass. Bits of the windshield and console were scattered like confetti over Sutton’s jacket. “Sutton!” The lack of response was unnerving. He tossed aside the sunglasses and worked a hand down into Sutton’s collar, feeling frantically for a pulse.
I have this saying, “Everything is grist for the mill.” By that, I mean that everything we experience, either good or bad, has the potential to wind up in one of our stories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the midst of a terrible event and a cool, detached part of my mind is memorizing the details, nodding quietly and saying, “I’m going to use this in a story someday.”
No, I’m not going to relate the exact experience in identical detail. The events of my life aren’t going to translate word for word into the lives of my characters. When I do write that scene, it will be so transformed that even someone present at the original event wouldn’t recognize it. But anyone who has maintained a hospital vigil will immediately know what I mean when I mention walking down a corridor painted in celery-green, passing darkened rooms with just the light of the monitors to indicate there’s anyone there. They’ll recognize the stale coffee and the outdated magazines, and feel the hardness of the plastic orange plastic chairs. They’ll know what it is like to watch endless hours of cable TV or read a book cover to cover and not remember a single word.
Or perhaps the ‘grist’ is not in the imagery, but in the emotions triggered by an event. There’s a reason I tend to write older characters. I don’t think many young people have had the kinds of life experiences that I find make for interesting storytelling. So I enjoy writing stories about people who make their own families, or discover life is more than mere survival. I can relate to characters who feel as though they’ve never been able to be their real selves, or have to hide certain aspects of their lives. I empathize with characters who’ve struggled to pay the bills, or place undue expectations on themselves, or are filled with self-doubt. I think I have a pretty good handle on those emotions!
I think this is really what the sage advice, ‘write what you know’ really means. It doesn’t mean that you write about the trials and tribulations of a middle-aged woman. It does mean that you write about the fear of losing a way of life deeply precious to you—even if that means leaving the comfort of that life in order to fight for it. That’s what some scholars think was behind Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings stories. Think about it. How many of you fell in love with the Shire and wanted to live there yourself? Now imagine a great and terrible evil that is coming to destroy all that you love. Tolkien didn’t know Hobbits, but he knew what a middle-aged man treasured and would fight to keep safe.
Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech at the University of the Arts in 2012 about ‘making Good Art’ out of the tragedies in our lives. This is a beautiful speech well worth listening to for a variety of reasons as he advises about a life as a creative being. He talks about all the things that could go wrong in our lives and urges his audience that whatever happens, Make Good Art. Do what you do best.
2015 was kind of a sucky year in many ways. I didn’t write as much as I would have liked. I lost a lot of time with a personal injury and family issues. Just when I thought I was dragging myself up on dry land after treading in the water of debt, I got hit with a bunch of new bills. I recently came across this amazing post about writing an obituary for your previously bad year—why? Because everything sounds marvelous in an obituary! Then it occurred to me that we as writers are doing this all the time. We’re taking the bad things in our lives and giving our characters the resources and strength to deal with them. A lot of the time we give them the happy ending we were denied. As Gaiman also once said, “Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.”
Those truths come from our own mills. Remember that when you think you’re better off without any grist.
Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a large dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. An amateur photographer and a former competitor in the horse sport known as eventing, when she's not out hiking with the dog or down at the stables, she's at the laptop working on her next story. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.
Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards and is the winner of Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards.
Winner’s Prize: E-copy of The Boys of Summer
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