Kindle Vella Reviews

Briardark by SA Harian

BRIARDARK Kindle and Coffee
Take a look at what’s in my coffee cup this week!

I love myself an amazing horror story, the kind that sucks you in so deep that you can get tripped up in everyday life. I had one such experience back while working for Big Blue (The Gaming Company that Shall Not Be Named). At the time, our office on the Irvine Campus had a single long stairwell that took you up to the floor. There were no windows, just the single solitary door.

While reading House of Leaves by Mark D Danielewski, I found myself more than terrified of that stairwell. Working the overnights didn’t help and I found myself unable to get up and down those stairs on my own until I took a moving package to Texas.

If you’re an avid horror reader, you’ll recognize the name Danielewski and the title, House of Leaves. Why mention something like House of Leaves in a review for a serial on a new platform like Kindle Vella? The answer is this: SA Harian did to the forrest what Danielewski did to that stairwell. Considering I live in an RV fulltime and live parked in the forrest on BLM land for more than half of the year, that’s saying a lot.

Read the above as: The dog needed to go out at 3 AM and I was so freaked out that I turned on all of the outside lights, the lights on our truck, the dogs light up collar and my neck light. I also didn’t forget my phone or flashlight. I was prepared! Everything from that 3 AM trip out into the dark trees, with very little moonlight thanks to the smoke from regional fires, brought this trailer from the author’s instagram to mind.

Considering the serial content and the comparison to Danielewski it’s hard to give you a fair and honest review without offering spoilers that will either make or break this serial for you. What I will tell you is that there’s a story within a story and that both stories are intricately laid out for you as the characters and readers are fed pieces of an unexplainable puzzle piece by piece.

Have you ever found yourself staring at the TV or the screen in a theatre, wanting to scream: DON’T DO IT! WHY DID YOU?

That’s the feeling you get when you read BRIARDARK. The feeling of, these trees aren’t right. Where did this path come from and how did I end up getting where I was supposed to go when that wasn’t the way I got here before? Is someone watching me? Am I being followed? Is this a trap? Is this safe? Am I safe?

How do I explain to you that my 3 AM freak out has stuck with me every time I get into the Jeep only to find it augmented by the presence of fog and smoke?

There are elements of BRIARDARK that set it above other works in the genre and this is where I get to talk about them.

As a writer you can place characters in unrealistic situations and believe that the way you portray their reactions is realistic. Often, that realistic response isn’t realistic at all and can alienate the reader all together. Unless you’ve defined a strange world within a world where they aren’t exactly human, there are some expectations that need to be met. In this case, our author has provided us realism in a way that makes the characters not just relatable, but real.

Sienna’s experiences during their adventure leave her questioning herself and second guessing her actions in a return to trails she traveled before. Once a volunteer searching for those missing on a mountain, she finds herself caught up in her own adventure where time seems to be bending around her in aways she isn’t quite sure are actually happening.

Her fears and concerns are completely justified and her reactions to her journey have you nodding along with her decisions every step of the way (so far!). While your brain screams ‘don’t do it’ when it’s time to continue their journey, you know in your head that her reasoning is sound. There’s a radio that they can use to call for help, they need supplies that should be waiting for them and they have a job to do. It’s the best decision for their team in order to prevent another return to the mountain in the future.

I’d say more about the rest of her team, but I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read through the current episodes. I do want to take a moment to introduce you to Holden, our other main character. Simply put, a real person complete with his own canine companion named Francis. Have I mentioned that I’m a sucker for dogs and the roles that they play in print and on screen.

He’s experiencing life post break up. He has a crappy day job that is tedious and easily hated, something far too many of us experience. He’s trying to get over his ex-girlfriend, but like anyone who has ever loved, the sting of that loss follows him. It’s during this relationship recovery that he stumbles onto a bit of history that links him to Sienna while completing tasks for his normally boring day job. His day job is to scrub old data or return it to it’s owner in the form of hard drives and other media.

Luckily for us as readers, coming across a simple hard drive will change his life, and ours as we see the world through his and Sienna’s eyes, forever.

This is where our story draws parallels to House of Leaves. There’s a story within a story here. With house of leaves, we find a script about a murder about movie in a house that is bigger on the inside than on the outside. We see the lives of the family that discover that house and find themselves both in and outside of time.

Much like experiences on the mountain and the scripts and movie that we learn about in House of Leaves, we have a character being spoon fed a mystery piece by piece. Even stranger is the way it’s being provided to him. As Holden investigates what he found on the drives, more of the files seem to be playable where they weren’t previously.

Who or what is causing this to happen? Why? We don’t know yet and it could be some time before we’ll even begin to get the kind of glimpses into the tangled web of a tale that will give us any sort of hint.

I want to say more about these decisions and experiences, but all I can tell you is that the curiosity, drive and self doubt our characters experience feel genuinely real. In this genre that’s a rare gift for readers who don’t have to stretch their minds far to suspend their disbelief.

This is the moment where the announcer for a gameshow or host of an infomercial says: But wait! There’s more!

Not only have I been so utterly creeped out that it’s a bit difficult to function when the sun goes down (remember that we’re full time RVers and live in different forests all year round…), I’ve also laughed so hard I shot my morning coffee out my nose. Twice.

If you’ve ever shot cola out your nose, you know it burns. Coffee is worse. The crazy part is that happened twice. You’d think I would learn not to drink coffee while reading. I don’t know if I can explain to you why this was so funny to me, it just was. Seeing the KindleQuote while writing this review has me laughing again.

Luckily no coffee at the moment.

At the time of writing this review, I have rabidly consumed the fourteen available episodes of BRIARDARK and may or may not be obsessively checking my Kindle App for more.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is what others have said about Harian’s Vella so far:

And now for something that I think is a lot of fun for me and readers. I reached out to Harian and asked them three questions that I hope will give you some insight into BRIARDARK and it’s creator.

Kitty: What drew you to write about horror?

Harian: Much of my favorite media is sci-fi or fantasy that relies really heavily on a creepy mystery…

Think Alien, LostAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, or  Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. Really good SFF horror  has a ton of suspense and mystery (in my subjective opinion), and when I find a book, game, movie, or TV show that does it well, I become obsessed with it.

With Briardark, I’m writing the story that I want to read and loving every second. 

Kitty: If you could tell readers anything about yourself what would it be?

Harian: I’m a total chicken in real life. Adventurous, but a chicken.

I definitely panic easy. Every time I think I’m even the slightest bit lost in the woods, I feel like I’m going to pass out. And yet I still love going on hikes and venturing into caves and then writing about horrific shit that happens in them–It’s sort of pathological, really. 

Kitty: If you could tell readers anything about Briardark or another work in progress that you haven’t already, what would it be?

Harian: Briardark starts off narrow with transitions between the research group and Holden, but it’s actually an epic, I am SO excited for the world to expand and for readers to realize what’s actually going on. I have several seasons planned. Each will be episodically released on Kindle Vella first and the seasons will be released wide in all formats (ebook, audio, print) after they wrap up. 

Finally, the most important question I can answer for other readers and for Harian.

Will I continue to read to read BRIARDARK? Yes. Every new episode will definitely be something I dig into.

Is BRIARDARK worth the token purchase? Yes! I actually had to buy more tokens when I hit Episode ten. What can I say other than the fact I’m an avid reader and since I’m normally the passenger when we drive, I have a lot of reading time on my hands.

How can you read BRIARDARK? If you’re on an Apple device and live in the US, KindleVella stories are already available for you in app. If you don’t have an Apple device, you can read BRIARDARK in any web browser.

Outside of the US, until the soft launch becomes more readily available, if you find an address that you can use for billing in the US you can use NordVPN to change your location and gain access to any KindleVella story available. If you don’t have a billing address in the US you can use the free 200 tokens offered by Amazon to read as many episodes as possible.

You can also find SA Harian on Instagram and on their website: http://sa-harian.com.

Next week’s Kindle and Coffee will feature the undead in Naomi Ault’s The Chew, where I’ll be accompanied by my Developmental Editor, David Cherbini who just so happens to be a rabid zombi aficionado known in the review world as Zombie Phreak. I’m so excited for it and more.

Until next time, share how you feel about Briardark by commenting below.

Kindle Vella Reviews, Project Updates, The Explorers, Under A White Moon Paranormal Mysteries

So much is happening in ten days!

It’s so hard not to spoil what’s coming. I know that I’m being asked when things are going to start picking up in this slow burn.

They are! What I can tell you is that I’m kinda wishing it wasn’t such a slow burn. There’s a strange yearning to fulfill my editor and beta reader’s requests to have the bodies start hitting the floor.

What I can tell you, without spoiling things, is that things are ramping up. You’ll soon be learning why X and Z are the way that they are. It’s important to the story that everyone knows what happened and how and why this wound is lingering.

And to answer the question before it is asked, no! We have not gone Randonauting in Yellowstone or the Targhee National Forest. It could be an interesting thing, but considering what I’ve seen content creators wander into on YouTube and TikTok, I am more than happy to live out Randonautica and Scarenoia vicariously through my characters.

You can find The Explorers on Kindle Aps for iOS and on Amazon’s website. Like with Kindle Unlimited, we haven’t seen a wider released. I have a feeling we’ll see things open up to Android devices before we’ll see them open up internationally.

If you’re an international reader and looking for assistance accessing The Explorers, please reach out to me. There are ways to get around localization. *caugh caugh* NordVPN *wink wink*, though I do believe you would need a billing address in the US. That said, you can still access free Kindle Vella episodes and use some of those free tokens that they provide new readers. I believe the number is still 200.

Exile is the first installment of The Chronicles of Eden which take place in the Under a White Moon Paranormal Universe. There are more stories in this universe to told than Eden’s.

This universe is my Passion Project. It’s had years of background development due to it’s nature as urban fantasy. This world within a world serial takes place in modern times and it took a lot to figure out how the different supernatural creatures and their various species worked.

What I can tell you is that our heroine, Eden has an amazing sidekick. That sidekick isn’t Detective Sean Willingham, it’s her mastiff hound mix, Boscoe. I don’t know, there’s just something about dogs that draw me into a story.

Atticus had Oberon.

Timmy had Lassie.

Shaggy had Scooby.

Akamaru had Kiba.

Eden has Boscoe!

Who wouldn’t want a Boscoe of their own? I know I want one, though Mr Wizard has said no to larger breed, wet mouthed dogs. We loved our Little Joe Friday, but slobber was a thing that we never really were able to keep up with.

What should you expect from Season One of Under a White Moon Paranormal Mysteries? Werewolves, hunters, a vampire or two, a wicked step sister and serial killers. Don’t forget the serial killers.

Unfortunately, links to Exile won’t be available until they go live on August, 30th. I’ll make sure to post them with that day’s blog which will include something else that is also just as exciting.

Kindle & Coffee Kindle Vella Serial/Web Serial Reviews

This new series of reviews will pop up almost weekly. They’ll include a write up carefully crafted to give you an idea of what the story feels like without spoilers, information on where to read, how to find the author, and possibly a TikTok video reviewing the serial. We’ll see how well that goes. I’m not really the greatest at editing TikTok Videos or Instagram Reels.

I’m good at finding music to go along with the videos I’ve shot and I really haven’t put myself into the videos yet. So we’ll see how that goes.

I promise to put my NoBS pants on and do my best.

Is it possible that there may be a review that isn’t the greatest or that I might not enjoy a serial I’ve reviewed? It happens, but that doesn’t mean what I’m reading isn’t something else someone to enjoy.

For example, I’m not that big of a fan of things that include a lot of sex, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it.

There will even be a quarterly Is Kitty Still reading It? Blog. But I’ll be frank. I gave up on Doctor Who for way too long after Billie Piper left. Kill or otherwise hurt a character I’m attached to and I may have to put something down for awhile. It wasn’t until two Doctors later that I went back to Doctor Who, still butt hurt over David Tennant’s departure.

That said, if there is a serial on Kindle Vella or another platform like Good Reads or Tapas that you want to see reviewed, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list!

*yes, Kayla! I’ve got a lot of reading to do for you :D*

And finally, the question I’ve been asked more times than I thought.

Okay, I’m going to say my words. I’m a writer, it’s what I do. Hear these words, or see them. And pay attention to what I have to say.

When Kindle Unlimited soft launched it was a nightmare. Luckily this soft launch, while hiccupy hasn’t gone too terribly.

Was there frustration that free tokens were given to readers to entice them to the platform? You bet! Especially since part of the platform includes providing readers three free episodes.

But this is all part of the growing experience that Amazon will experience as they move the Kindle Vella to other devices and regions. At this moment, there aren’t as many readers as many of us would have liked. Let’s face it, serial readers are a different audience than those who read novels.

Some readers specifically chose to stay away from serials because they’ve been ‘burned’ by authors who embark on projects and then drop off the face of the earth leaving stories unfinished forever.

Can we all be real and understand that when something like that happens is pretty, well shitty. That’s the best way I can explain it.

That said, I don’t want to be an author that leaves people hanging. It’s one of the reasons I have so much work done on the serials I’m releasing. There are 40+ fully outlined episodes of The Explorers, twenty three of them written. The last five in a state of rewrite until I’m 100% happy with them. Luckily I have a little bit of time to work out the kinks before I continue on.

Under the White Moon Paranormal Mysteries has three full epic length novels complete. Each novel represents a season. That means I have a lot written material for all of you.

If something happens to me, I can promise that the rest of the episodes will be posted and in the worse case scenario, outlines will be posted of what wasn’t completed to give you an idea of what would have happened to your favorite characters.

Moving on… The good news is that the platform, like all things, will grow. The market for it author wise isn’t super saturated. Getting in during the early months is something that is great for writers looking to build or expand their brand. And we all need to face the fact that writers are their brand.

As the platform grows, there will be more readers. Authors need to do what they can to self promote and advertise. This isn’t any different from traditional publishing, self publishing or just dumping random poorly formatted work out onto KU in hopes of someone reading it.

I’ve got a few ads that I’m planning in order to increase visibility after Exile releases. It’s important to use social media and ads to drive readers to your work, even if what you write isn’t what they like. That’s why readers have three free episodes and that pocket full of free tokens to get started. In a sense, readers get to try before they buy.

Do I think the platform will grow? Yes!

Do I think it’ll be worth the risk to get involved in this new experiment by Amazon? Sure do. Worse thing that happens is the service fails and I take my work down while retaining my rights and release it again in novel format. Sure there’d be a bit of work involved, but that’s what happens when you’re self employed.

This isn’t a review of the service, this is simply a ‘it is what it is’ moment.

To be honest, we’ll need to wait and see what happens after the full roll out to be able to fully review and take a stand as to how effective a service it is.

What I can tell you is that I believe there will be a lot more to come.

Well, that’s it for today. If I don’t end things here, I’ll never stop.

Until next time!

Project Updates, The Explorers, Under A White Moon Paranormal Mysteries

So you want to be a writer… Now what?

You want to what? Typewriter banner

Writing is a work of passion. Not everything you write is good or even great. Most of the time, when you write, you doubt your words and when you go back you can’t help but wonder what the hell you were thinking.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was on to something and realized later what I had was a nightmarish ball of shite! At least I’m not afraid to say it or admit it. Yes, there have been so many false starts, horrific stops and a lot of words that ended up cut, deleted or otherwise destroyed as they were better left forgotten.

But what does all of that mean if that’s your passion. If writing is the one thing that will fulfill your soul, what do you do?

Do you ignore it? Do you day dream about it? Do you tell people about the stories you’ve been ‘working on’ but never do anything with?

Or do you ‘bite the bullet’ and do something about it?

Vampires have the craziest teeth and since I write about them, why not?

In my case, thinking of biting bullets brings to mind vampires or werewolves attempting to dodge their imminent demise using their teeth. It’s an image that both inspires creativity and makes me laugh due to it’s mildly inappropriate visual.

In my case, I bit the bullet a long time ago. Even while working full time jobs in the corporate world, (yes, once upon a Big Blue was a thing), I still wrote. I scribbled down ideas during breaks, when I woke up and during long daytime hours that I should have been using to sleep.

I’m not afraid to say that i have several manuscripts that were completed in their second or third drafts. While I never did anything with them after those drafts, they’re still stories and passion projects that may come to fruition on the future.

What got me writing again and actually taking my writing seriously? Was it the pandemic? Was it the stay at home orders and not having anything else to do? Or was there some sort of inspiration that got me writing?

If I was to be really honest with everyone, including myself, there was a combination of factors. Lock down was definitely a big one, but another was I really wanted to finish NaNoWriMo again. I’d made it through three Novel writing months and two Camp NaNo events in the past. Add lock downs and the threat of covid in addition to being out of work and I found myself in the middle of the perfect storm.

It was a make it or break it moment. On November 2, 2020 I sat down at the computer and started writing. The first day wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. I was easily distracted and in another moment of honesty, I actually gave up on my Day One.

My first day lagged and lagged. I had an amazing story to write. I had notes. I knew how the story was going to end, I had my character flushed out and the world within a world urban fantasy setting I had created was vibrant. It was clear in my head that I could almost see it.

But the words just wouldn’t flow.

Worse, the next day when I reread what I wrote, I was more than done. I’d quit. But something had happened in the NaNoWriMo Discord server I’d found myself in. Something crazy. Something I’d never done before or experienced before.

Thanks to Discord, I discovered… AUTHORTUBE!

While I can tell you that Pomodoro Sprints work for me, I know that they don’t work for everyone. But those sprints, with an audience of people watching someone else as they honed their craft was life changing. I was suddenly writing, not rewriting what I wrote, just writing. and I was accountable to the timer and the groups I was writing with. Here’s a link to Devin Cutting’s Daily play list. These lists have someone live at almost every moment of the day hosting write ins.

Some of my favorite hosts are on primarily on Twitch. You can find them under the Writers tag.

On my Day Two I hammered out over eight thousand words. Despite my journal saying otherwise, at the end of the day I had all but forgotten my miserable start. Over the course of November I wrote 125,000 words. I wrote the first draft of a book and started the first draft of it’s sequel.

I’m not going to say or even pretend that everything I wrote during November was amazing or keepable. But that is what editing is for.

So, now for the now what. What’s next now that you know you want to be a writer? Just do it. You don’t even need to have a plan or an outline. Just get it done. You can go back and edit later. You can find critique partners and even editors when it’s time.

But what if you don’t know where or how to get started? You have a story and the characters in your head are just as real as the people you talk to everyday in person, via text or in the virtual world.

The good news is that in addition to Author Tube has more resources than you can throw a book at. If you need something more hands on, an actual class, there is a Master Class for that.

You want to write novels for young readers, Judy Blume has a class for that. Poetry Bill Collins. Mysteries and Thrillers leads you to David Baldacci, Dan Brown and James Patterson (even though his writing has gotten a weeee bit Hokey since he started working with Bill Clinton IMHO). NK Jemisin teaches world building for Science Fiction and Fantasy and I have to tell you her class is amazing! If screenwriting is your thing, Aaron Sorkin also has a class and so many more.

I’m actually getting ready to to take the David Baldacci class. While I have a serial to finish that is already a thriller, I have a feeling that his class could help nudge me in the write direction to make sure that The Explorers has an end it deserves while starting another project. Keep in mind I five months of The Explorers and nearly two and a half years of Under the White Moon Paranormal Mysteries Episodes almost ready to go and just needing a little bit of polish before they are posted. It’s absolutely crazy!

What is your next step? Is it research? Is it an outline? Is it a short story? Is it writing a one sided conversation? Is it something that will change your life or the world around you?

If you want to write, do it! Never be afraid of it. Quality comes with editing and practice and we have to start somewhere.

If you’re looking for a friend out in the virtual world to take a Thriller/Mistery Master Class with, then I’m your girl. I’ll be starting on Sept 1 and posting about my experience on Instagram, TikTok (yea that will be a thing) and maybe YouTube, though I’m not sure I’ll be able to get somewhere that I’ll be able to upload content of that kind of length for a bit.

The moral of the story is that if you’re passionate about something, be it writing, photography, hiking, exploring, skating, singing, dancing… no matter what it is. Do it.

Maybe we can do some of that learning part together.

SO! If you’ve made it this far and you’ve decided that writing or something else is your thing, tell me about here or on Instagram. Maybe we can hold each other accountable.

Until next time!