Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Whimsical Adventure: A Review of The Wizard in My Window

by J. David Clarke

The Wizard in My Window by J. David Clarke is slightly outside of my normal fare for reading. There are a lot of people who live and breathe YA (Young Adult), particular YA Fantasy. I am not one of those people. I feel it takes a lot to stand out in such a saturated genre. Now that I've given my disclaimer, let me begin by saying that The Wizard in My Window does indeed stand out.

The short novel/long novella follows the Collier Family as they move into their new home. While his elder 15-year-old sister Nicole is too busy in her world of teenage angst, Timothy claims the upstairs room with a peculiar mark in the window. That mark is, you guessed it, in the shape of a wizard. It doesn't take much time at all before a magical spell book called the Magus Liber appears followed my a new relic each day. As the kids learn what these artifacts are capable of (and begin playing with them in properly reckless youth fashion), ancient beings are drawn to its power.

Where this book excels is in its narrative. It is refreshingly nonlinear and takes a couple of unexpected sharp turns during the adventure. One of my personal pet peeves with the YA fantasy genre is its overuse of the coming-of-age template. I was happy to see Clarke exercised some real creativity in breaking this mold. I was happy to say at about three-quarters of the way through, that I couldn't tell exactly where the story would end up. The main characters in this story are also very well defined, and Clarke did a good job giving each Collier (even the baby) a distinct personality.

The Wizard in My Window could use a little improvement, in my opinion, with character dialogue. Sometimes what the characters have to say is somewhat pedestrian, perhaps bordering on corny. This is most noticeable, I think, with the book's villains. My second issue has to deal with the way the characters expressed emotion. Sometimes characters yell in ALL CAPS or with multiple exclamation marks. This is particularly true from Nicole. I found it to be somewhat distracting.

Overall, The Wizard in My Window is an entertaining, fast read. It's a good choice for young adults and big adults alike.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I'm Sorry Amazon...I Want an Open Relationship

Dear Amazon,

When we first met in 2012 and you batted your lashes at me from across the room, you were clearly the alpha girl at the party with your sexy Kindle and #1 market share. Other e-readers just seemed to fall in your shadow. Then I bought you a drink and we talked a little. Free promotions? You'd put me in the Kindle Prime library and pay me some undetermined cut of a pool for every borrow? You were the whole package! All you asked from me in return is that we be exclusive and not see other people. Like every guy, I was a little hesitant about committing but in the end I just jumped in head over heels.

Then the honeymoon phase ended. You became a little clingy by automatically reenrolling me into another 90 days of KDP Select, but I didn't really think anything of it at the time. With our free promotions, while fun and exciting at first, you... just seemed to get bored, as if your mind was elsewhere developing new promotional tools for more famous authors who could take you out to nice dinners at fancy restaurants. The once triple-digit free downloads promos slid into double-digit downloads and before long, I'm ashamed to say, we got to a place where our downloads only gave away like two copies of my novel The Golden Merra a day. What happened to our sales algorithms? Sure, you threw me a bone with your Kindle Countdown Deals, but you made it all complicated by saying I could only enroll after my price had been fixed for so many days and telling me I was ineligible because I had already used the free promo option. I couldn't figure you out! I thought you meant one thing, you meant another; we just didn't connect on the same level anymore! I'm sorry for that angry email I sent you, by the way.

Look, we'll always have some great memories... like the time my short story "Waves and War" almost had 1,000 free downloads in one day, beating out a Tom Clancy ebook for a hot minute. But I think it's time we started seeing other people. It's time we face facts here; our relationship has gone from KDP Select to It's Complicated. I'm not saying we can't still be friends or you can't sell my work. In fact, I know you've been selling the books of many other writers for a long time and I'm willing to accept that a part of who you are. I've done a lot of thinking the last few months, and I've learned a lot about myself, a lot about distribution and marketing strategy too. I've realized there are other fish in the sea: Nook has a great royalty rate for lower priced ebooks that will be perfect for my short fiction and Smashwords is just so easy to get along with.

I know it's hard. Please don't cry. It's not you, it's me. Well, okay, it's kind of you. But you're still Amazon, though, and you alway will be. You're great! And I'll never be able to live without you. What writer could? I know it'll be awkward for a while -- what do we tell the kids? What if the neighbors ask? But, you know, I don't think this is something to be ashamed of. We're just two very different people who need to focus on our own goals for a while. Besides, a lot of authors are doing multi-platform these days.