Local author, area booksellers team up to revive the serial novel

WESTMINSTER WEST — Local author Michael J. Daley and several area booksellers have teamed up to revive an older form of storytelling - the serialized novel.

Daley's Racing the Blue Monarch, a solar-powered NASCAR racing thriller, will be delivered to reader's emails in six parts, one per week, beginning July 1.

Though not exactly an E-book and certainly not between two covers, several area booksellers are gamely participating in Daley's self-publishing experiment by devoting display space to his promotional materials and selling subscriptions at their stores.

What inspired Daley to attempt to follow in the footsteps of such storytelling giants as Charles Dickens?

“Chance,” says Daley. “The core ideas for Racing the Blue Monarch were in my imagination for years, but it wasn't until a publisher was looking for serialized stories that I found the form that allowed me to write the novel. It seems obvious now that a race car thriller ought to be perfect for creating cliffhanger chapter endings, but sometimes you need an outside force to channel your creativity in the right way.”

Racing the Blue Monarch tells the story of 16-year-old Scooter Cochran, whose life has been off track ever since his older brother ran away from home. Scooter must overcome the hurt of being abandoned in order to “drive the solar-powered Blue Monarch to victory and save the world from global warming.”

Story tensions revolve around attempts by Big Oil to destroy the Blue Monarch before the race, the mechanical fitness of the car itself, if Scooter's driving skills are good enough to win, and the dark past of his brother that turns Scooter's efforts at reconciliation into disaster. In style and content, Daley has aimed the story to appeal to ages 12 to adult.

By the time the story was written, however, the publisher had evaporated. Daley turned to self-publishing, a strategy that had worked with modest success for his first book in 1995. That was before the electronic revolution when stockpiling physical books, taking high financial risk, and hand-selling were the rules.

“Today, the mantra for self-publishing is 'go online,'” Daley says, “And I was doing that, but with disappointing results. The fact is it's hard to get noticed when no one is looking. That's when it dawned on me - people are browsing in bookstores. They go there to discover something new. I'm very grateful that open-minded trait in their patrons was also reflected in the store owners who are willing to take a marketing risk with my story.”

Daley could have just published the complete novel, but he wanted to give the unique appeal of the serial form a test run with the reading public.

“I grew up a TV kid,” Daley says. “Episodic stories are in my blood. But TV shows try to deliver a satisfying story in each episode within a familiar world. That's not the point of a serial. They are more like soap operas. With each installment, the serial author creates a dramatic situation that leaves the reader eager, even desperate, to read the next part.”

Daley is an award wining author of science fiction, as well as early readers and toddler books. His nonfiction includes works on solar energy and nuclear power. A life-long advocate of solar energy, he has taken his Smokeless S'mores pizza box oven workshops to thousands of kids nationwide. He lives in Westminster West with his wife, children's book author Jessie Haas, in a hand-built home powered by a single 100 watt solar panel.

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