"Readers will delight at Ralwil’s perspective on earthly life as he and the Johnsons share a summer. The ingenious farmhand tries mightily to help the struggling family keep the farm, even inventing a money tree. Grady’s bond with the unexpected guest fosters a new level of responsibility and compassion in the teen. The unique, fablelike story with gentle charm and strongly drawn characters—human and otherwise—will satisfy with its quiet aura of resilience and hopefulness." Booklist
Published: August 1st, 2017
The night that eleven-year-old Grady Johnson looked out his window and wished upon a shooting star, his life changed forever.
Grady, his Ma, and younger sister Luanne are having a hard summer. Dad has died and the family isn’t the same. Though Ma is trying her best, Grady knows they don’t have enough money to get by.
The shooting star he saw was a space craft plunging to Earth, and landing at the back of their farm. Extraterrestrial engineer Ralwil Turth has one goal, to fix his power drive and go back home. But things don’t go as planned. Stuck in human form, he gets to know Grady and his family as he works on their farm. He starts to learn about what it means to be human, and the exotic charms of this planet like the taste of potatoes, and how amazing bugs are.
Ralwil grows to care for Grady and his family. On a trip to town, he realizes that money is what matters to humans, and is the cause of the family’s trouble. That night, he uses his technology to combine a twenty-dollar bill with an oak twig. Over the next week this grows to a towering tree, every leaf a twenty-dollar bill. This, Ralwil is sure, will solve all the family’s problems.
But the family’s wealth raises suspicion in this small town, and this soon leads to more trouble. With the family’s fate, and Ralwil’s life, on the line, Grady has to find the courage to help his family and save his friend.
Summer on Earth blends humor, adventure and poignancy to create an unforgettable story about finding home.
How to Write by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?
If you ask any fiction writer how they write, their answer will place them firmly into one of two camps. They are either a Plotter, or a Pantser.
Plotters plot their stories out ahead of time. They live and die by their outline. A Plotter puts the time in to figuring out the full arc of the story before they even write their first line. They know who their characters are, and what their relationships are to each other. Plotters don’t have to pull rabbits out of their hats to make the ending work. They don’t go wandering into dark alleys where they get stuck, or write themselves into a corner where they can’t get out. They’ve already thought through every detail of the story. They’ve found the holes that need to be fixed before they invested the time, and energy of writing out a novel, until they know exactly how it will work.
Plotters can be very prolific, because they know what they are going to write before they write it. This way of writing is efficient and productive, but sometimes there’s a cost for this. Plotter writers have to make sure they are showing real emotion. Sometimes the stories can feel a little flat.
You might be a Plotter if:
It’s the beginning of August, and you’re already done with your Christmas shopping.
You get excited about your to-do list.
Your desk is neat and organized.
When you go on vacation, you have a detailed itinerary of what you will do.
You type out your shopping list.
You hit all your deadlines on time.
As a proud and proper Pantser, I envy the Plotter. As a Pantser, I write by the seat of my pants. I make it a point to sit down every day and put in the time to write. But, as a rule, I have no idea where I am going. I am driving without a roadmap or GPS. Sometimes it feels like I’m driving with no headlights on a dark and stormy night. To a proper Plotter, this would be majorly stress inducing and considered certifiably crazy behavior. And they might be right. I have too many partially completed novels sitting on my hard drive. It is painful and discouraging to write a couple hundred pages into a story and then find out you don’t know where you’re going, and have no idea how to finish.
That said, I wouldn’t trade places with a Plotter. I think I have more fun. For me, a big part of writing is in the discovery. It is a true joy when you think your characters are going one way, and they surprise you and go off in a whole new direction. I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed out loud when someone in my story said something I didn’t expect them to say. Being a Pantser is about letting go, and letting your subconscious take over. When it is flowing, it feels like you have a direct line to the universe, and it is dictating the story to you and you are just typing as fast as you can, trying to keep up. The pain is real when it doesn’t work, but when it does, Wow! That is a cool thing. If I am surprising myself, I know my readers are also feeling that, and I think these stories have a real life to them because of that.
You might be a Pantser if:
You know you have the receipt you are looking for, you just don’t remember which pile you put it in.
You are why stores are open on Christmas Eve.
You like to wing it, and you cook without using a recipe.
Deadlines? It will get done when it gets done.
These are exaggerations of course, and most Pantsers try and have an idea of where they are going, and most Plotters will go off course from time to time as new ideas present themselves. When I first started writing my novel Summer on Earth, I had already written pages of notes. I knew it would be about an alien and a young boy, and I knew there would be a money tree in it. I knew the basics of the story, but I discovered the rest as I wrote. The novel I am writing now, will be a series. I know that I am going to have to get a whole lot better at pre-plotting, to make sure this all comes together in the best way possible. Each writer has a style that fits them most naturally, but taking on some of the other style can help to improve their writing overall.
About the author:
Peter Thompson grew up in Illinois, and lives near Chicago. He remembers how excited he was when the first astronaut stepped on to the moon. He has had an appreciation of space, and all its possibilities ever since. His love of children’s books developed while reading to his three sons. His first novel, Living Proof, was a thriller published by Berkeley Books. Summer on Earth is his first book for younger readers.