Happy Friday, Everyone!
Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. released a new book on Tuesday,
Dave Cole's excellent young adult novel The Window.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Dancing Lemur Press,
so I'm happy to support a fellow author in DLP's author group.
This creepy paranormal book is perfect for young adult boys, but girls will enjoy it too.
As a retired teacher who's read countless books aloud to elementary-aged kids,
I know a winner when I see one, and this book is a winner.
The Window grabbed me with the first two lines:
"I was fifteen when I saw my best friend die. Although if I think
about it, I was fourteen when I saw him die the first time."
I flew through the 166 pages of this coming-of-age novel
with its unnerving supernatural twist.
Fifteen-year-old Brian Bingham is confronted with more than
the death of his best friend JK during the worst year of his life:
his grades are tanking, his parents are warring,
and he is falling in love for the first time.
The prospect of someone as clumsy and insecure as him
asking someone as confident and beautiful as Charlotte
out on a date is terrifying to Brian. But with JK as
his enthusiastic wingman, he has no choice but to plunge in.
I like how Dave's prose flowed as I read,
his words carrying me from page to page.
The characters, their challenges, and the setting
had an immediacy and authenticity that I appreciated.
Dave has a knack for blending expository information
into the narrative seamlessly.
The story had a timeless quality about it:
It could take place today, years ago, or in the future.
I don't care how old you are, the sight of a mysterious window
where no window exists is irresistible.
I'd look through it; wouldn't you?
Unfortunately, as we story lovers know, knowledge of the hidden,
the inexplicable, and the compelling usually extracts a cost.
Is the tragedy unfolding in "The Window" predestined
or can Brian change the future? Only time will tell.
I had an opportunity to ask Dave Cole some questions
about The Window, and he kindly indulged me.
I'm glad I had the chance to learn more about this talented author.
Questions for Dave:
1. I'm reading a review copy of The Window as I'm posing these questions. I'm a
retired teacher who's read a lot of books for kids of all ages. I know a winner
when I see one, and your book is awesome! How does a computer scientist
and software designer end up writing a paranormal contemporary fantasy
for middle school/high school kids?
Like you, I’m an avid reader. I’ve also always enjoyed writing. Working in a technical field is typically associated with being “left-brained”, but while software development does require analytical and methodical thinking, it can also be surprisingly creative. There are often different ways to solve the same problem, and developers revel in coming up with innovative solutions.
About five years ago I accepted a role with a large social networking company in California. Before moving my family, I decided to check out the area. That turned into two years of commuting back and forth to St. Louis. It also presented me with a lot of free time. I used the time to write a middle grade adventure series called The Math Kids—think a little bit of Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown, with a close group of friends who use their math skills to solve mysteries. That began my official writing career, and The Window was a result of that.
2. The characters and the setting of The Window are so normal and authentic
that a reader readily accepts the window as a portal into the future. How did
the idea of the window come to you?
I work out of my home office. One day I heard a screech of brakes and witnessed the aftermath of a near collision between car and bike. I wondered what would have happened if the driver had been a little slower to hit the brake. These accidents never turn out well for the bike rider. That thought led to “what if I knew what was coming and could have warned the driver or biker?” That thought became the premise for The Window.
3. How did you develop the plot for the story? Did you know how the storyline
and its ending from the beginning, or did it evolve as you wrote?
Some writers develop the plot from the beginning, carefully storyboarding and outlining before they ever write a line of text. I’m not one of those writers! I start with a broad idea and a scene or two in my head and let the story evolve as it goes. The Window took several unexpected turns I absolutely didn’t see coming until they happened. I also don’t write from beginning to end. I had written the ending long before I addressed the middle act of the book. I loved my original conclusion, but the story went a different direction, and I was forced to completely rewrite the ending.
4. You sound like one busy individual based on your bio. How do you find time to
write and what is your process?
I do keep busy, but I love the hectic pace. I was doing final edits on The Window, preliminary edits on An Encrypted Clue (book 4 in The Math Kids series) and completing the first draft of An Incorrect Solution (book 5 in The Math Kids series) all at the same time. Behind the scenes I was also working on a new novel. And did I mention I have a full-time job?
I try to write on weekends and a couple of evenings each week. Sometimes it’s only for an hour or so, sometimes I might write for seven or eight hours on a Sunday. I wish I was more consistent in my approach, but so far it seems to be working.
5. Every author who has published a book during the pandemic has wrestled
with promoting that book. How do you plan to promote The Window, and do you have
any advice for other authors promoting a book during this difficult time?
Welcome to the land of virtual book tours! I would love to do book signings instead as they are one of my favorite things to do! I was doing a signing for my second Math Kids book in Toronto. It was a big convention with book publishers from all over Canada. I felt good that my line of people remained consistent at ten or so people—that is, until I looked to my right and saw a line that wound around the convention hall and stretched into the hallway. I looked closer and it was Dav Pilkey, of Dog Man and Captain Underpants fame. Someday we’ll get back to those days.
In the meantime, my publisher has worked very hard to set me up with numerous guest blogs and virtual interviews. Working for a social media company, I’m also being quite active in promoting the book. My website is seeing quite a bit of activity these days and I have a nice cadre of loyal fans who are helping to spread the word.
6. I love that you coach elementary school math teams! Math literacy is as necessary
as reading literacy. Have you done school presentations with your Math Kids series?
Do you have any tips for authors giving presentations at school?
I have done a few school presentations and had plans to do quite a few more this year before Covid shut things down. If I’m speaking on The Math Kids, I usually try to show them some math they have never seen before. The goal is to show them that math is not just worksheets. My biggest tip on school visits is to leave plenty of time for questions. If I’m there for 45 minutes, I’ll only plan on talking for 15 minutes and then open things up. I always get great questions from the audience, some that really make me think.
7. How did you land your contact with Dancing Lemur Press?
Did you have an agent or did you query?
I just spoke about this topic at a writing group. I did not take the “traditional” path to publishing. First, I’ve never been able to get an agent, although I haven’t written off that option for the future. For The Window, I queried Dancing Lemur Press directly. They rejected it, but they provided excellent insight into what they liked and what they didn’t. I took their advice to heart and did a significant restructuring of the book. They were kind enough to reread the book after the modifications and chose to publish the new version.
8. What did you learn about improving your writing and story by working with
an editor on The Window?
Working with an editor is great—once your ego comes to grips with understanding the editor is being constructive and not trying to crush your spirit by deleting that one line of perfect prose that took you hours to get just right.
One of the things I learned was that there are two phases to the editing process. First is the story phase. Does the story flow well? Are the characters and settings believable? Are there any issues with the timeline? Does the structure of the story work? This is where I did my first major rewrite. I had originally written the book as a series of alternating past and present scenes. I thought this was a clever way of approaching a book that deals with being able to see into the future. What I succeeded in doing, instead, was jumbling the message. Sometimes I gave away too much of the story at the wrong time. In other cases, the reader was confused on when the scene was taking place. The editor suggested doing everything in the present and letting the story unfold naturally. Their criticism was spot on and The Window is a much better book as a result.
The second phase was more straightforward: word choices, overuse of certain phrases, tense issues, dialogue construction, and so on. My editor sent me a style guide that allowed me to find and fix many of my mistakes by myself. This sped up the process while giving me a great lesson in improving my writing.
9. Do you have any tips for unpublished writers who are working on a paranormal
manuscript for juveniles?
Read lots of books in your genre and age range. Read the best sellers and the ones in the bargain bin. What are the themes? What’s already been done? Where would have made changes if you were writing the same book?
Write, write, write. Not all of it will be good, but you’ll learn more with each session at the keyboard. Get honest feedback from your intended audience. It doesn’t help to have your niece praise every word. Find readers who will give you that tough criticism. It’s hard to take but you’ll get used to it.
Finally, be patient. Be prepared to spend time waiting for responses from agents and publishers. Even after you finally get that contract, the waiting isn’t over. The process of publishing a book takes a while, but the end result is worth it!
10. What are you working on now?
I’m working on two projects. The first is The Triangle Secret, book 6 in The Math Kids series, due out in April of 2022. The second is tentatively titled Three Weeks in October, a novel about the relationship between a dying father and his son told through the lens of their love of baseball. I also have a file of five or six other story ideas that I am looking into developing.
11. Is there anything I haven't asked about that you would like to share about
Writing is a solitary endeavor, but it really helps to have a support system. Family and friends who provide encouragement. Early readers who are willing to give feedback on your books. A publisher who is willing to take a chance on you. An editor that polishes a rough stone into (hopefully) a diamond. Thanks to everyone who has been there for me throughout!
Thanks, Dave, for your informative answers to my questions. It
was fun to "meet" you during this unusual time. I look forward
to reading more of your books. I hope you have great success
with The Window.
* * * * *
Young adult fiction is typically written for readers 12 to 18 years old,
but I would recommend this book for avid readers as young as 10
and to the many adults who enjoy this genre.
Choosing a book for boys to read is often challenging,
but boys will connect with the contemporary issues in The Window.
Good luck to Dave and all my writing friends!
Till next time ~
On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
The Window by Dave Cole
A dark window to the future…
Everything changed the day Brian Bingham looked out the attic window and saw something that wouldn't happen for another week. Through a mysterious window no one else can see, Brian gains a portal into the future. But the future is not always something he wants to see.
Brian has enough troubles in the present without worrying about the future. His parents are constantly fighting, his grades are plummeting, and his new relationship with Charlotte, a girl way out of his league, is in jeopardy.
When the window reveals his best friend's brutal death, Brian’s world is turned upside down. He must find a way to change the future…or die trying.
Release date – February 2, 2021
$13.95, 6x9 trade paperback, 170 pages
Print ISBN 9781939844767 / EBook ISBN 9781939844774
Young Adult – Paranormal (YAF045000) / Contemporary Fantasy (YAF019010) / Horror (YAF026000)
Dave is from St. Louis and has a degree in Computer Science. He is the author of The Math Kids series for middle grade readers. When he is not designing data center management software, he is usually reading, writing, or coaching elementary school math teams. He loves writing and his wife loves that he has found a hobby that doesn't cost money!