I’d like to post a review I received a while back and then discuss it for a moment.
(Reprinted with permission)
Pale Winter Sun
Intriguing, unique, distinctive
Mick Collins’ book Pale Winter Sun synopsis from Good reads:
Isolation in the cold of winter. That’s all Mark Jensen has as he fights to survive.
Living in the small Mormon community of Grason, Idaho, Mark and his best
friend Trevor have no one but themselves. Both are shunned from their families
for simply trying to live open and honestly as homosexual. Cold and queer, the
boys make do with what little they can, counting on no one but themselves in
the stark Idaho countryside.
Mark’s struggles increase when he becomes afraid of confiding in his last
friend. The growing realization that he is bisexual confuses and conflicts him.
It leaves him feeling more alone than ever. Friendships are redefined and
stretched to the limit as the two young men scratch by and they ask
themselves; can they survive each other?
It is very rare to read a book that strays from the normal plotline. Collins’ book
was definitely different from what I normally read, but it was a breath of fresh
air. The daily struggles the characters face places ideas in a new perspective.
People in similar situations as the characters share the same feelings and
conflicts. To be able to experience that through the characters was intriguing.
For the most part, people do not realize the struggle that comes for being a
homosexual. Collins’ was able to show the internal conflict not only between
the character relationships, but also the individual themselves. The atmosphere
of the book (winter, cold, isolation) compares with the feelings of the two main
characters. They are considered queer, people are cold toward them, and they
feel isolated from their community. The storyline was unique and it made it
stand out. Mark was a strong character in the book. He stayed true to himself
and it stood out throughout the book.
The reason it did not get 5 stars was due to the writing itself. The writing style
was not as refined as some other books, but there is emotion and the message
is clear. If the writing style was more fine-tuned, then the book would have
been even more captivating.
Emma Hall (The Kindle Book Review)
The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an
independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the
author or Amazon.
Ms. Hall wasn’t able to post this to Amazon because it someone from the Kindle Book Review already posted one, apparently. Amazon (wisely) won’t let me post it under my own name, so I am posting it here. Which does kinda suck, because I lost a few reviews when I uploaded a new edition a couple months ago.
(Updated – the review has been posted to Amazon. Thanks to G.W. Wright for showing me what to do)
Sales haven’t been great, especially since the new edition came out, and that is partially my fault. I haven’t been pushing it much, mainly due to work and trying to get over this damned cold. But then again, sales for books, especially self pubs, are down anyway. I have already put in some time to find new and exciting ways to get the word out, but that takes time and money. I am stock piling both so I can do it right. That includes a push to get the book into libraries and local stores in Allentown. I’ll keep you fine folks posted on that as developments happen.
Back to the review:
This review is indicative of a common thread I have come across with Pale Winter Sun. The message, the story, and the characters are engaging and on point. The narrative isn’t typical to the genre and the overall feel of the story is of isolation. Mark and Trevor’s struggle are not trivialized, and Mark’s journey especially, is clear.
This is what I wanted. I wanted the points to be clear, non-cliched, and the story to be interesting. I feel that is mission accomplished. Go me!
The other common thread is that the writing lacks. I had hoped that getting it edited again would relieve that particular problem. And while it was much needed and certainly helped immensely, it didn’t solve it completely. And if you know writers, a ship full of compliments can sink with one tiny raft of critisism. We writers are an emotionally unstable and touchy lot. So yeah, the last bit kinda bummed me out. I try not to stay down long, or dwell on the negative, despite my proclivity to so exactly that. Hell, if a lifetime of battling depression has taught me one thing it is DON’T FEED THE BEAST.
I stood back and looked at this review, and other feedback I’ve received, and put it into perspective. When I wrote PWS, it was message driven. I had a point to make, dammit, and I was going to make it. Well that’s great, but in doing so, I let my writing of said message suffer. Another thing I realized; I have only published two books and a few short stories. Night Shall Overtake was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. To be honest, I didn’t really expect it to get published in the first place. Really, I decided to test the field with it while trying to hammer out another project. While amazing and awesome, it also spoiled me. Thankful as I am, I’m sure there would have been lessons to learn had I needed to work at getting it published more than I did. PWS being self published, I think those lack of lessons hurt in terms of the strength of how it is written.
Being the pragmatist that I am, I had to think about what I was going to do about all this. PWS will probably not go though a third edition any time soon. I’ve too many other projects on the burner right now. And honestly, I haven’t the heart to rip it apart one more time. (and maybe I’m just a little bit lazy, too) If my writing lacks a little, but the story still holds up, I’ll take it and go with that for now. I still think it’s a book that can help kids, and parents, dealing with gender, identity, sexuality, and all the components that make up a family.
If PWS is staying put, then where am I employing these learned lessons? The future of course, or really, the present. Current projects are under severe scrutiny and retooling. I am still trying to find my voice and become a better writer. A task that will never end, most likely. If I focused too much on story, and not enough on style, then I will work hard to get my style down. Hopping genres probably didn’t help the issue either. My next novel, A Geography of Purgatory(working title), is back to the dark and gritty and I think it’s the perfect chance to really find myself as the writer I can be. As someone who takes such things seriously, I owe it to myself. I also feel that I owe it to anyone who decides to take a chance on one of my books. There is a godawful amount to stuff to read out there, if they do pick up something of mine, I want to make damned sure it’s worth their time.
In case you are wondering: I have no time lines on Geography as it’s still out to the beta readers, but I’ll keep you posted. Going to try the standard publisher route again, then if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll self pub. At least that’s the current plan.
tl;dr – Writer gets a good review, then whines about it. In the end he learns a very important lesson.
Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and mistakes are good as long as you learn something from it.