Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pass-along post: KDP Select and Amazon's Recommendations Engine

Post by David Gaughran: Amazon's Recommendation Engine Trumps the Competition.

Some interesting discussion on the future of KDP Select going on in the comments.  I had some modest success with KDP Select when Super first came out, but I agree with the general assessment that it's usefulness in getting paid sales is waning.  The best current use for it, IME, is as a way of getting those all-important reviews, and I'm not sure that being restricted to Amazon for 90-day stretches is the best way to go about it when issuing a Smashwords coupon is so easy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

REVIEW: Alexander Death by JL Bryan

Description: While Seth searches for Jenny, Dr. Heather Reynard of the CDC unravels Seth and Jenny's secrets.

Alexander opens Jenny's mind to her deep past, and to the full horrific extent of her powers.

Torn between her feelings for Alexander and Seth, and between her past lives and her present, Jenny must prepare to face her enemies while fighting against the powerful, ancient darkness within, which threatens to grow until it consumes her...

My Thoughts:  All right, I'm probably one of the biggest champions this book series has and will gleefully fangasm about it to anyone who stands still long enough to let me.  JL Bryan has still created one of the most interesting and complicated heroines I've read over the past few years, and hands-down the best female villain.  Ashleigh of the first book will never not be deliciously evil and clever.  

That being said, I do have to finally admit that the series is starting to suffer as it rounds into its third installment, so much so that I'm not sure yet if I want to read the fourth.  (I would feel this way even if the wear and tear hadn't become so apparent, as Alexander Death comes to such a natural stopping place that to open the series up to further books seems a little forced.)  Jenny has run off with Alexander in order to save her own life after Ashleigh's latest attack, Seth is trying to find Jenny again while being harassed by the Department of Homeland Security, Ashleigh is sadly marginalized as a villain, and Tommy...well, Tommy actually really disappointed me.  The potential for truly epic villainy or even a stance as a solid antihero expressed in the second book of the series just sort of *poofs* off into nowhere, but he still gets his happy ending without actually doing anything to earn it.  Throw in a fairly silly PSA about drug use and a what-the-hell black ops rescue, and I did a fair amount of giggling through my fingers at points of this book.  

This isn't to say that Alexander Death doesn't still have a great deal to recommend it, because it does.  Though she doesn't get as much to do as in the first and second book, Ashleigh is still absolutely electric.  (She's Randall Flagg with a better leave-in conditioner, people.  I'm telling you, even if I didn't like Jenny so much, Ashleigh alone is worth the price of admission.)  The descriptions of the kids' past lives are rich and varied, Seth is back to being the good-hearted goober we saw in the first book, and the final showdown ties together three books worth of themes and plot lines in a neat little bow.  It's a fitting end to the series, but who am I kidding? I already know I'm going to read the fourth book sooner or later.  It's like crack.  (So maybe I was supposed to learn something about Jenny's little stroll down the dark side, after all.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Self-Forgiveness and Mindy

Everyone makes mistakes, right?  I know I have.  Hell, the last five years of my life have seemed like nothing but one long mistake at times.  I know what it's like to feel as though your very touch brings rot  to everyone you care about.  That aspect of Mindy's personality comes to me very easily.  In December of 2012, my GRE scores expired.  See, back when I was in college, I had my whole life planned out.  I was going to go to graduate school, get my Ph.D., and sail smoothly into a career as a tenured professor.  (Tenure-track positions hadn't declined quite so much that the idea was completely laughable at that point, but...well, let's say I wasn't completely living in reality on that one.)

And then I had a complete meltdown that involved me sobbing on a bathroom floor for three nights and scaring the living crap out of everyone who cares about me, the start of a six-month period where it seemed as though I broke just about everything I touched.  How does this relate to Mindy, you ask?  I know what it's like to screw up so badly that you feel like you can't ever do anything right again, and I put that into Mindy.  (What, you thought it was relentless optimism and natural goodness that came naturally to me?  Oh, you are just adorable.)  I also, after my friends forcibly dragged me out by my ankles, threw me into the shower, and then made me start sending out job applications, learned how important it is to forgive yourself for your mistakes.  More importantly, I learned how to let other people forgive you for your mistakes.  That's Mindy's main struggle in Leech and, frankly, throughout the series.  It's been an interesting experience writing that in a character who's not by nature a classic brooder, especially since Mindy sits alongside Ophelia as one of the series' major moral voices.

Like I said, Mindy's not really a brooder.  She's good for the sake of being good, but in a chirpier way than Ophelia's Hepburn-esque poise.  She's optimistic, she sees the good in people and gets them to see it, too, and she knows the value of a plate of hot wings and a good football game.  I'm not going to lie, I had to stalk one of my more wholesome friends a little bit in the writing of Leech.  She eventually learned to handle my popping up over her shoulder and stage-whispering "Say something wholesome!" with a fair amount of grace.

Leech can be found for sale on Amazon and Smashwords.