Happy Anniversary, Little Stars!

July 15, 2021. It is a date destined to go down as one of the most incredible days in the history of world literature. It is the day I first unveiled OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS to the world. That’s right – one year of Andi Vargas, Tony Gardner, and Shooting Star. A year of reconnecting with old friends from Siegel City and meeting many new ones. A year of adventure, surprises, mysteries, questions answered, and still more questions raised. A whole-ass year of fun. And with this anniversary, I’m here to ask you guys for a little bit of help.

Bear with me, I’ll get to it.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS is a serial adventure, with a new chapter appearing every Wednesday. It is set in the world of my novels OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES and THE PYRITE WAR (as well as numerous short stories), and it incorporates characters and elements from those earlier works, but it stands alone for people who haven’t read the other stuff as well. It is, of course, still a work in progress, but it’s been a remarkable year in the lives of Andi Vargas and her friends. A year ago, Andi was a normal girl whose mother happened to be one of the most beloved superheroes in Siegel City. A year ago, nobody KNEW her mother was one of those heroes, but as readers know, that’s what kicked off the story. A year ago, she could still pretend to be “normal.” A year ago, she didn’t know that she would travel through time. A year ago, she had never been to outer space. A year ago, none of our heroes knew that ghosts were real.

Interestingly, these elements of the story are all things that were planned from the very beginning. But other things – things that may shock you – were not. Keriyon Hall didn’t exist a year ago, not even in my imagination, and if I’m going to be honest with you, he’s become my favorite character in the story. (The same thing happened with Sheila Reynolds in the original OPH – she makes a cameo in LITTLE STARS, and it was fun to see her again.) The Rubies of Byrel didn’t exit either. Nor did Daystalker. But these were characters and elements I discovered along the way and, as is always the case when you’re writing a good story, you learn that these things were really there all along, but the silly writer just hadn’t unearthed them yet. Other things have not gone the way I expected – Blip, for instance, was originally expected to play a much bigger role in the story than he has turned out to have – but that’s okay too. You need to follow the story the way it unfolds.

So here, on what is kind of the birthday for Andi and Tony and Lita and Draugr, I’m going to ask you guys to give them a present. Y’see, I’ve still got a ways to go before this story reaches its conclusion, and I’ve always believed the more the merrier. I would like to have more people following along with this story – but that’s not going to happen if they don’t know about it. So first of all, if you know people who like superheroes or coming-of-age stories or long, sprawling epics, tell them about it! 

But that’s not all. LITTLE STARS is (currently at least) exclusive to Kindle Vella, which means that the Amazon Algorithm gets to decide how many people can stumble across it. And for that to happen, it needs reviews on Amazon. Even a quick one, even one sentence would be ENORMOUSLY helpful and boost the story’s profile. And while you’re at it, go back and make sure you’ve hit the “thumbs-up” button at the end of each chapter you’ve read. (Honestly, I’m not sure how those work with Amazon’s algorithm, but they sure as hell can’t hurt.)

And if you happen to be someone with a blog or a podcast or one of those Ticky Tocky things the kids like so much and wouldn’t mind giving a review to a larger audience, that would be pretty swell. Please, let me know about it if you do.

Finally, if you have absolutely NO idea what I’m talking about…well, you’re in the majority. If you haven’t read any of OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS, head over to Amazon and check it out. The first three chapters are always free, and each subsequent chapter costs literally pennies (between 30 and 40, depending on how long that particular chapter is). Then once you’ve met Andi and her friends, hopefully you’ll want to stick around and see where they wind up.

Shoot, I’M still anxious to see where they wind up.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. You know. In case he hadn’t made that abundantly clear.

Screw It, Let’s See What Happens

There is a school of thought that says writers (fiction writers, at least) fall into two categories: the architects and the gardeners. The architects must plan everything meticulously. Every plot point, every character beat, every theme and turn must be prepared and calculated ahead of time, and when the actual writing starts all that’s left to do is the installation. The gardeners, on the other hand, don’t plan much more than where they’re planting the seeds and what they hope to reap from the crop in the end. Gardeners tend to the ideas like flowers or vegetables, nurturing them, coaxing them out of the ground, but often not actually knowing exactly what the final garden will look like. Plants are alive, you see, and difficult to conquer. It’s better to simply help them find their most beautiful form.

I’m a gardener. I tend to start with a concept (what if a reporter found out that the superheroes he wrote about were frauds?) or an idea that won’t get out of my head (there’s a little bald guy in my closet holding an ice pick and I don’t know who he is but he is FREAKING ME OUT). I’ll add in some characters I find interesting, and I’ll think about where the characters and the concept might end up if I put them together. And then I start. 

Now to be fair, very often the answer to where they might end up is “nowhere.” Sometimes the combination doesn’t work, the marriage doesn’t last, and I end up with yet another orphaned story opening. (So many orphans. I’m really quite ashamed of myself. Lucien from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman could have an entire damn wing of his library devoted to me.) But when it DOES work, and it DOES come together, this storytelling alchemy frequently brings me to a place that leaves me unable to imagine it any other way.

This feeling is at its most powerful when I hit a point I refer to as “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” You see, sometimes it feels like something in a story is not right, like a character is fighting against your plan, like you’re trying to find flimsy justifications to make them do something (or stop them from doing something) that they don’t want. And often, it turns out the reason for this is because the characters are smarter than you are and realize that your plan is actually wrong, and you should just let them do what they so clearly want to do, and figure out how it’s all supposed to fit together later. That’s when, as a writer, you should say, “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” And damn if that can’t be great.

I’m going to give an example that spoils several of the more recent chapters of Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, so if you’re not up to date, you may want to go catch up and come back. (I mean, you should do that anyway. It’s a good time.) 

When I started the Meta-Crisis arc, you may notice that Keriyon Hall does not appear at first. In fact, he hadn’t appeared for quite some time, which was making me sad because he’s become one of my favorite characters in the story (even though he wasn’t in the original outline – he’s that flower that you didn’t actually plant in your garden but that turns out to be the loveliest one). So I thought, “Well, the crisis is affecting the entire city. I should just check in on him and see how he’s dealing with it.”

As it turned out, the way he was dealing with it was trying to figure out what Andi and Tony would do in his situation, and do that same thing. Which was perfect, it’s exactly the way Keriyon thinks, but that led me to a problem. He was SO good at predicting what Andi and Tony would do that he wound up arriving at the same hideout as they did, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there.

Well, screw it. Let’s see what happens.

And as he’s there and starts to meet some of the other characters in the story, I realize that Andi is having a very difficult time talking to Keriyon, because she’s dancing around the fact that Keriyon didn’t know about Tony and Vic’s powers. And while they were dancing, Andi kind of informed me that she likes Keriyon, she trusts Keriyon, and considering all the crazy shit that was happening all around them, keeping her friends’ powers a secret wasn’t even ON her list of priorities, let alone at the top.

Screw it. Let’s see what happens.

So she told him the truth and Keriyon, being the unshakably loyal and positive person that he is, not only took it in stride, but decided to gear up and join them on the quest. And when we got to the end of the arc, and the “Young LightCorps” was revealed to the world, all of a sudden Keriyon Hall was in the picture with them. A character who was never supposed to be th– no, wait, that’s not right. He was never intended to be there. But he was most certainly supposed to be there.The stuff I’ve written since then (that you haven’t read yet) has convinced me of that. 

“Screw it, let’s see what happens” is recommended by eight out of nine muses. Ask Oneiros if “Screw it, let’s see what happens” is right for you. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If you haven’t read it yet… well, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself for the spoilers. 

80,000 and counting…

Can I just, though, for a minute?

A couple of years ago I had an idea for a story. And I took some notes and I puttered around on it a little, but ultimately it went nowhere. The thing is, it wasn’t an idea for a novel. It was… bigger than that. It was a very longform yarn (I hesitate to use the word “epic” because it kind of sounds pretentious, but in terms of length I can’t think of a better word to describe it), one larger in scope than a single novel. It wouldn’t really work as a SERIES of novels either, though, because the story contains dozens of arcs and episodes: some long, some short, some standalone, some interconnected. It includes a large cast of characters that would grow and develop and learn and change over time. If anything it felt like this was a project best suited either to the kind of storytelling we see in television or comic books — connected episodes, each a part of a whole, but with flexibility and a rhythm that novels don’t really have.

Now I don’t know anyone who owns a TV studio, and even if I did, I know enough about the industry to know that even if there WERE somebody interested in my story, I’d lose control over it almost immediately.

Comic books would have been perfect — this WAS the next installment in my superhero universe that began in the novel Other People’s Heroes, after all — but I don’t have a publisher, nor do I have the money to hire an artist to work with me. And I especially don’t have the skill to draw it myself.

So for these reasons (plus, if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think I was in the proper mental state to really devote to this story at the time), it was put on the back burner. Now guys, my back burner is CROWDED. There are a LOT of stories there — books, short stories, scripts, comic book ideas — all sitting and spilling into each other and getting moldy. And I feel guilty every time I put something else there, because I fear in my heart it will never leave.

Then this spring, Amazon announced its Kindle Vella platform — a service via which writers could publish a story one. Short. Episode. At. A. Time.

For the first time in ages, I went to the back burner and took something off, bringing it back to the front.

I’ve been working on OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS since then. It launched in July, and except for a Hurricane Ida-caused blackout in September, I’ve posted a new episode every Wednesday.

As of today, I’m about 80,000 words into the story, and I’m not close to finished. For comparison, the original OPH novel clocks in around 90,000 words. This is the point where a novel is ramping up to the conclusion. In LITTLE STARS, today my main characters have just discovered their FIRST clue as to what is REALLY going on.

And my goodness, it feels phenomenal.

I’m not saying this just because I hope you’re reading it (although I very much DO hope you’re reading it). I’m saying it because it’s been a long time since I had a fire under me when it came to writing. And for that long time it was like there was a hole in my life. There was something missing, something I had lost. I feel like I’ve got my hooks in it again. I feel like I’m reeling in something special.

Everyone ought to feel that way, don’t you think?

Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars in the Amazon Kindle Vella Store