When You Don't Know What Happens Next

I have always been addicted to serials. During my growing up days, we would spend Saturday mornings within the dark, cool confines of Kilgore’s downtown Crim Theater, watching, what was billed as, “Pulse-pounding, thrills, spills, chills, thrilling, thundering, throbbing, breathless, and breakneck adventures” on the silver screen.

These were the serials and no self-respecting motion picture or motion picture house could do without them: Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, Don Winslow of the U.S. Navy, Commando Cody, Ace Drummond, Dick Tracy, Gang Busters, Sea Raiders, The Phantom Creeps, Zorro’s Black Whip, and The Mystery Squadron.

They came on every Saturday morning. Each episode lasted twenty minutes.

And the screen always went blank in the middle of a spine-tingling cliffhanger that all but guaranteed we would spend another nine cents the next Saturday morning to see how in the world our hero would get himself and the heroine out of such a mind-numbing, cold-blooded, blood-curdling predicament. It didn’t takes much to curdle our blood in 1952.

Would Flash Gordon be able to free himself from the chains of the evil Emperor Ming and escape the planet Mongo?

Would Billy Batson find the secret tunnel that led him to the ancient wizard Shazam who would miraculously transform little Billy into Captain Marvel?

Would Commando Cody be able to fly to the moon and save the United States from mysterious forces, primarily The Radar Men, who were threatening to blow up earth?

Would Dick Tracy be able to keep the Masked Mystery Villain from using his Sound Weapon to destroy the Bay Bridge?

Hold your breath. Grip the armrest. And scream when necessary. God, it was good to scream. Now that was entertainment. That was on-the-edge-of-your seat entertainment.

Back on the farm, we could only tune in to three radio stations, but every day my mother would faithfully sit down as soon as we finished lunch to listen to Our Gal Sunday as the deep-throated announcer said, “Once again, we present the story of an orphan girl named Sunday from the little mining town of Silver Creek, Colorado, who in young womanhood married England’s richest, most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrope. The story asks the question: Can this girl from the little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?

Each day, the fifteen-minute episode would end with my mother wringing her hands and wondering what would happen next, and if she could possibly have the patience to wait until tomorrow and find out. It was amazing what mayhem and mischief could happen in a little Colorado mining town.

The elitists called them Soap Operas. The Soap Operas made it to television as General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, and All My Children, to name a few.

And such prime-time offerings as Dallas and Dynasty made soap operas legitimate, and even the elitists watched them. It seems they loved cliffhangers as much as everybody else and spent one whole summer trying to figure out who shot J.R.

Serials, masked as soap operas, have never left television.

Now they are coming to print. And they will be appearing on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

Beginning today, October 8, 2012, we are launching serialized novels on our blog pages. I am introducing the serial versions of Secrets of the Dead and Wicked Little Lies. Linda Pirtle is providing you an advance chapter-by-chapter preview of her debut novel, The Mahjong Murders. And the prolific Stephen Woodfin, who has more novels bouncing around in the air than a Barnum & Bailey juggler, will let you follow along as he writes The Lazarus Deception.

Over the next few weeks, Caleb and Linda Pirtle will be showcasing serials by some of the most talented authors in the marketplace. They may have different genres. They may have different styles. They may have different voices.

But they all have one thing in common. They can write. Their words can hypnotize you They can make you laugh. They can make you cry. They can make you think. They can scare the hell out of you. If you haven’t discovered them before, it’s time you did. Their works represent what good, emotional, and thought-provoking story telling is all about.

And here is what is really exciting. For the first time, you will be able to witness the creation of a novel with authors writing from day to day or week to week, flying by the seat of their pants, working without a net.

And you have a chance to participate in the novel’s development. Comment at the end of each chapter, tell the author what you liked, what you didn’t like, which characters should be changed, what new plot twists need to be added, and how the story can be improved.

These chapters are by no means the final and missing puzzles of a finished product. They are a rough draft. The authors are depending on you to help them find a hole in the plot and give them ideas on how to fill it up. I know I’ll be listing the names of those who help me along the way on a special acknowledgements page when the novel is finished.

There is very little new under the sun. Serials have been around a long time. We’re glad to bring them back. We only have one goal. We want to leave you hanging on as many cliffs as possible while we write merrily along.


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