As a kayaker, in addition to learning how to instantly turn 180 degrees when sighting an alligator draped across the narrow channel ahead, I’ve learned one other important survival skill. When faced with the wake of a high-powered speedboat, steer your kayak into the waves. You’ll have a washboard rippling ride, but you probably won’t capsize.
My husband and I are now the proud owners of a Point 65 kayak made in Sweden. We bought this particular model because it separates into three pieces. This means we can break it down and carry it in our car, and then reassemble on-site. No kayak rack on the car, no heavy lifting. The right kayak for us.
Since buying the kayak a few months ago we’ve been out five times. In addition to alligators and waves, we’ve also battled wind and sunburn, but we’re catching on. There are a hundred great places to explore within twenty miles of our Florida home, and our plan is to launch in every one.
On the last trip out, as I watched speedboats on the Intercoastal Waterway from the safety of a “no wake” zone in a mangrove preserve, I wondered why people chose to fly by that lovely scenery instead of taking their time exploring.
That thought seemed familiar.
In the months since I turned in No River Too Wide, I’ve read eclectically. Since I’m interested in independently pubbing some of my new books, I’ve been choosing indie books with good reviews, to see what readers appreciate and seem to want more of. I have, in my own way, decided this is the perfect time to steer into publishing waves and avoid getting whacked from the side.
I’ve been surprised by my reading in many ways, but one thing is now perfectly clear to me. Many new authors I was introduced to are fabulous storytellers. They have great ideas with twists and turns and surprise endings. In the tradition of serialized novels, they know how to create cliffhangers, solve them, then create a new one at the end of the next chapter or even the next novel. They take their readers on a breathless ride.
They just don’t linger, and they don’t enjoy the scenery.
Am I talking about no description here? No. I’m talking about the internal landscape of place, characters, plot, the subtleties in the way people act, the tiny interactions that humanize the people who walk through our stories. I’m talking about elements that can slow a story. Some of the books I enjoyed were like canvases painted with bright colors and wide brushes. They were exciting, sometimes even breathtaking.
They were speedboat novels.
Not every indie novel fits this description. Some, like traditionally published novels, moved so slowly I couldn’t finish. Time and lavish attention were paid to scenes and descriptions that accomplished nothing. To stretch the metaphor to the breaking point, these were rowboat novels. They moved slowly, too often went in circles, and couldn’t get close enough to anything of interest to really investigate it.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I am a fan of kayak novels. I need a strong, gripping premise, a pace that’s fast enough to keep my interest but slow enough that I can ponder the important interactions. I want a novel that gives me a deeper appreciation of the struggles of humanity, the feel of a particular place and time, the well-wrought nuances of dialogue. I want an artfully written narrative, a story that can make me smile and occasionally cry, and most of all the tug that comes when the last sentence is finished and I realize the characters who have been so real to me will now live the rest of their lives out of my sight.
Do self-pubbed kayak novels exist? Of course they do, but I wonder if the ability to publish quickly also lends itself to speedboat novels? And I wonder if readers, who more and more often are reading on smart phones today, want more cut-to-the-chase narratives they can read quickly. When you’re standing at a checkout counter reading a novel, you don’t want to contemplate the mysteries of humanity. You want something to happen and fast.
I look forward to trying more indie authors and finding out if I’m right. I also look forward to finding many new favorite authors with long backlists to savor.
Maybe the best novels do everything, but independently or traditionally pubbed, it’s rare not to be able to fit a book into one slot or the other. Think about the novels you’ve loved best. Where do they fit?
Are you a kayak reader or a speedboat reader? Or do you love both depending on your mood? Comment and let us know.
Love giveaways? There are currently three in progress for my books, but two end soon. Here are the links:
- Emilie’s Celebration Giveaway on her website, ending May 15.
- Mira’s No River Too Wide Giveaway at Goodreads, ending May 24
- Emilie’s The Trouble With Joe Giveaway at Goodreads, ending May 15.
That’s a lot of books. I hope that you, my most faithful readers, win lots of them.