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Experiments in Serialization

This spring, Amazon announced that it would be launching a new service: Kindle Vella. It’s a format that sells stories by episode or chapter rather than selling the whole book. There are advantages to this format: you can start a book and give up on it without having to pay for the whole thing. And there are disadvantages, too: buying each chapter for a few cents often adds up to more than the price of a normal book, especially compared to inexpensive ebooks.

But that’s not the real thrill of Kindle Vella. The thrill of a serialized book is waiting each week for the next installment. It’s like the way watching a television episode worked back before shows became immediately available and bingeable, or like following a comic or manga one episode at a time.

What’s more, the weekly episode is easy to fit into a busy schedule. Even if one can’t spare a couple of hours of solid booktime, one can probably spare ten minutes to catch up on this week’s episode.

I know all about the thrill of serialization, because I’ve been reading serialized webcomics for the last couple of years. I still look forward to Fridays each week, because three of my favorite series drop their new episode on Friday . . . but that’s beside the point. The point is, this format has worked very well for some platforms. Whether Amazon can make their platform work is an open question; the audience for serial fictions may not overlap with the audience for Amazon’s existing self published works.

I admit that I have a vested interest in seeing if Vella can work: I have a young adult novella publishing on Vella for new. But the bigger question for me is not whether my story will work, but whether Vella will succeed in bringing serialized online fiction to a more mainstream audience. Are readers going to discover and populate Vella? Right now, it’s too early to tell, but I’ll be watching to see.

In the meantime, if you’re reading this, go ahead and give Vella a try. The first three episodes of every story are free, and there are lots of genres to pick from!

Challenges

Love is Stronger

The prompt for Susanna Hill’s 2021 Valentiny contest asked for a story about someone being brave. Mine ended up being . . . a little creepier than your average Valentine’s Day story!

Love is Stronger

“Not scared, are you?” my cousin Dylan asks.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I say. I still shudder as we pass through the gates.

Inside, trees cast shadows that startle me, but I try to be brave.

Our feet break the crust of the February snow. We seek cover behind a hedge.

“He’ll see the footprints!” I whisper.

“Too late now!” says Dylan. We scurry from the hedge to hide behind a mausoleum.

“It’s cold,” I grumble. And creepy.  

“Shh!” Dylan whispers. “Not so loud.” Silently, we wait. And shiver.

I’m glad the sun is high in the sky. If this place gives me chills now, what would it be like at night?

Dylan gasps. “There he is!” We watch as an elderly man trudges through the gates, his snowboots sinking deep with every step.

Snow covers the names on the graves, but he doesn’t need the name to find the right spot. He lays down his bouquet. “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart.”

Then he turns his head, as if he hears something. We duck down. But it’s too late. He clomps toward us.

“Come home, kids,” he says, “and get some hot cocoa.”

“Grandpa, why do you still give Grandma flowers, even though she’s dead?” I ask.

“Because love is stronger than death.”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
Book Announcements, Picture Book Journey

Meet Sprinkles!

This charming donut is Sprinkles, the main character of Sprinkles to the Rescue (Hurn Publications 2022). This is the work of artist Jitumoni Goswami (see more of her work here), who will illustrate the book.

Although we have a long time to wait before Sprinkles’ book launches, it’s been really fun seeing the book come together, bit by bit and piece by piece. Truly, this book is a partnership, and I am in awe of the emerging artwork!

Challenges, writing tips

StoryStorm 2021!

Each January brings a writing challenge that’s both fun and useful: StoryStorm. This is an idea-generating challenge, in which you try to create 30 ideas in the span of 31 days. Each day there are helpful blog posts, too. You can find the first one here.

I’ve written about StoryStorm before; this is the third year I’ve participated. For this year, though, I want to set myself an additional challenge. You see, my problem with StoryStorm is that the habit of jotting down ideas doesn’t last with me once the challenge ends.

I want to stay in the habit of writing down ideas even when I don’t have a challenge to aim for. So this year, to start small, I challenge myself to come up with ten new ideas each month after StoryStorm. I know that I may very well not keep up with it, but I’m pretty sure that I will get more ideas than if I didn’t set a goal.

Sounds like a good idea, no? And hey, it’s not too late to join StoryStorm!

Challenges

Halloweensie Time!

Every year, Susanna Leonard Hill hosts her Halloweensie contest, which invites writers of children’s literature to write a Halloween story in 100 words or less. Today marks the first day of the Halloweensie contest, so if you want to read some great Halloween stories, hop over to Susanna’s blog!

And here’s my story . . .

The Spookiest House on the Block.

Skeletons dangled from the trees, twisting in the wind. Flickering lights barely illumined the sidewalk.

“Maybe we should just go to the next house,” Aiden whispered.

“No way,” Sophie said. She adjusted her mask, gulped, and crept carefully past clinging cobwebs.

“WELCOME!” Something lurking on the porch turned glowing red eyes towards them. Aiden shrieked.

Sophie ran past the figure and slammed her hand on the doorbell. “Trick or treat!” she gasped.

“Happy Halloween,” replied the man who answered. He dropped several treats into her bag.

They were full size Snickers!

“Best house on the block,” Sophie told Aiden.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com