Writers love playing the “what-if?” game.
It’s how we get our best ideas. Many years ago, I read a series of articles in The Oregonian about the growing problem of eco-terrorism in the western states. One line in particular grabbed me: the reporter wrote, “It’s a miracle nobody has been killed.” So, I thought, what if eco-terrorists did kill people? And that led to my novel, No Time for Kings.
A few years later, I started experiencing lucid dreams. When these occur, you become aware that you are dreaming…and can control the outcome of what happens next. Most often, I chose to fly, and the sensation was heady. It felt like an out-of-body experience. That prompted me to ask myself, what if you could master lucid dreaming so expertly, you were able to bring objects from your dreams back to the waking world? And that led to Dream Sailors, a novel some nine years in the making.
I’ll never be accused of being a prolific author!
I finished writing the book in 2017, but typing “The End” didn’t mean I was done. Not by a long shot! Any writer worth their salt knows the real work begins with the editing process…and that’s often harder than the actual writing. Personally, after spending so much time working on a project, I like to savor that feeling of accomplishment for a while before diving back in.
So, savor I did. And then I decided to quit my job and move 1,250 miles across the country. Add in three new jobs plus a full-time freelancing gig and I barely had time to breathe, let alone edit a 271-page manuscript.
Then, a few months ago, Amazon announced they were rolling out Kindle Vella. It’s billed as “an interactive reading experience for serialized stories.” There are some unique features: the first three chapters (called episodes) are free, then you can buy tokens to unlock additional episodes if the story captures your interest. The number of tokens required is based on word count, and they aren’t too pricey. An average book should end up costing $10-$15. Authors can add notes to each episode, offering readers behind-the-scenes information and other fun tidbits. It’s a very different publishing model, but I think it’s got great potential.
Ever since Stephen King released The Green Mile in serial form back in 1996, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing something similar. I felt the short chapters in Dream Sailors lent themselves well to the format, and by uploading one chapter (episode) at a time, I’d be forced to edit along the way.
Today, Kindle Vella went live…and I’m excited to announce the launch of Dream Sailors! Feel free to click on the link if you would like to check it out for yourself, but there is absolutely no pressure! Currently, there are eight episodes available for immediate reading. I plan to publish a new one every Friday. There are 27 total, which by my calculations means the final episode should be available on November 19, wrapped up just in time for Thanksgiving!
I kinda feel like Taylor Swift, dropping a new album on an unsuspecting public without any fanfare.
I feel a mixture of emotions. Excitement that I’m finally able to share this story. Fear that I’m finally able to share this story. Look, other than cocky bastards, most writers are plagued with self-doubt. I’m no exception. I have no idea if Dream Sailors is any good. Most people enjoyed No Time for Kings, but this one is completely different in every way possible: technique, narrative, genre. I’m too close to it to be able to determine whether it’s brilliant or stupid. Most likely the truth is somewhere in between.
Plus, only one other person has read it…and her name is not Tara. She had mostly good things to say, but maybe she was being polite. Another friend offered to be a beta reader, but either life got in the way or he grew bored with the whole thing because I never did get any feedback.
No worries, Jeremy. We cool, bro.
So, if you like first-person sci-fi crime thrillers that feature Elvis Presley and parallel universes (does such a genre even exist?), Dream Sailors might be right up your alley.
The closest comparison I can make is Inception meets The Fugitive.
I’m also curious to see the reaction to Kindle Vella itself. Publishing on a brand new, unproven format feels like a gamble. It’s not perfect: currently, it’s only available on the iOS Kindle app and the web, so Android users and those who read on their Kindles are out of luck for now. There are plans to make it available on both of those platforms in the hopefully near future, and that’s something I’d really like to see. A dedicated reading device will make the experience more user-friendly and distraction-free.
On the other hand, I’m able to publish a novel easily…and it’s not costing me a dime. I’ve got nothing to lose and can always opt to go the traditional route and publish a paperback and Kindle version if the response is good.
Regardless, I’ve taken a page from my protagonist. I’m not only following my dreams—I’m taking control of them.