Gifted Strangers by F.M. DiMeo
When you come across a unique idea you get excited. You may recall in my review of Dinos of the Old West I had one of those moments where I was literally begging anyone and everything that was listening for the story to be amazing. That it would pan out and be something worth reading.
When I came across Gifted Strangers I had a similar reaction. To date, there have been only three power sharers and steelers that I've discovered. Sylar from Heroes who stole powers from other supers, in most cases killing them. The second is X-men's Rogue who's future arcs may see the downfall of Ms Marvel in order to become the hero we've come to recognize but at the cost of being unable to touch people.
Third example is Mary O'Reilly from the Mary O'Reilly Paranormal Mysteries series by Terri Reid. Like Syler and Rogue, Mary has the ability to share her gift to see and communicate with the dead with certain individuals through touch. In Mary's case, no harm comes from Bradley, he's just able to see the paranormal entities floating around them. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, this series is amazing and like so many other things I review and talk about, binge-a-ble. (Available on KU! and Audable)
But never, have I ever found a tale where the author has their characters giving their ability away, let alone in the way that Fran does!
As always, let's get started with the author's blurb:
"Three strangers encounter a gift with the power to change lives in just one day. They become unlikely allies when the ramifications of this gift in the wrong hands become fatally clear."
And don't forget an amazing trailer!
You gave been experiencing the monotony of daily corporate life while struggling through the potential loss of your sibling, your best friend, a parent, a child... you are struggling and life feels like it is falling flat. Everything is going wrong that could possibly go wrong.
And you find this Post-It note stuck to your front door...
And then you let the universe know that you want something easy, something as innocuous as getting out of traffic and arriving in your office with everything ready for your day. And POOF! You've left your car behind and you're at your desk and you take a sip of your coffee and it is exactly like you want it.
Fluke? Miracle? And in moments you are making wish after wish and traveling all over the world in the relief of escaping everything painful in your life. Forget your car, who knows if it managed to get to the office, if it's back in it's regular parking spot or in the middle of the road. You are wishing your dream life into existence for only a few moments.
Wish by wish, moment by moment, just like Cinderella you've forgotten that PS. That caveat. You have to give it away tomorrow. When the clock strikes midnight the spell will be broken...
And you've given it away before you even realize you could have wished your loved one hale and whole again. You could bring back the dead. You could have done anything you've ever wanted including ensuring the quality of life, no matter how extravagant, from now until the end of your days.
But you didn't. And that my friends, is exactly what this amazing Vella is about. It's about life lessons and being incredibly careful of what you wish for.
With gripping characters you will find yourself lost in a fast paced world where strangers who have been given random extraordinary gifts from others come together. They're super heroes in their own right trying to prevent disaster from striking as this crazy wish magic is passed on from one person to the next.
In a quick nut shell, this is Gifted Strangers, a fan favorite Vella that will leave you wanting to yell at the characters as they play out their lives. Why didn't you wish for... how could you have forgotten? Wait, you brought back the dead? Are they a zombie are they real? Do they disappear with the gift too?
These are all amazing thoughts and emotions that will carry you beyond the current fifteen episodes of Gifted Strangers. More than worth every token spent, this story will leave you asking yourself what you would wish for and who's life you would change.
Then it's gone and you realize what it is you actually had and the consequences of the gift falling into the wrong hands or not asking for the right wish. And that my friends, is why I am completely hooked on Gifted Strangers. It's also one of the reasons I wish that authors received credit for second or even third read throughs. I couldn't help but go back and start from the beginning when it came time to write this review.
I kept asking myself a single question: How would I have reacted? Would I have done the same? Would I have made the same mistake Sylvie did? Because in this situation the characters are absolutely real in the situations that they have been planed in.
Today, I'll use that word that I hate using, accept this time I'll hyphenate it. Binge-a-ble. Exciting. Fast paced. Would have been a page ripper, not a just a page turner if I had this Vella in print.
Fran definitely delivers all of this and more and with the promise of Season One and a potential second season... I'm a fan and hope that you will be too.
Don't want to take my word for it? Here is a sampling of reviews from Gifted Strangers.
Kitty: First: What was your favorite book growing up? Has that changed as an adult? Growing up, my favorite book was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and anything by Stephen King! I was probably much too young to be reading Stephen King, but I was obsessed and gobbled up his books like candy.
I would say what changed as an adult is that I read much more broadly, across many genres with less of a focus on horror. But the seeds of magical realism and exploration seem to be a thread that still runs through most of my favorite books.
Kitty: Who is your favorite author?
Honestly, there are too many to count! I really can’t pick one favorite. A few of my favorite authors right now are Matt Haig, Deborah Harkness, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Alix E. Harrow, Gwendolyn Womack, Liane Moriarty, Kevin Kwan, Katherine Howe and Neil Gaiman. If any of these authors release a new book, I’m the first to pre-order!
I love books that transport me, pose philosophical questions and feature characters I want to spend time with. I like books that can be blunt about the gritty realities of life without being too melancholy or dwelling in hopeless situations. I always enjoy a bit of magic and some clever humor. Life is multi-faceted and I like my stories that way, too.
Kitty: Have these books or this author influenced your writing style? Yes, I’m sure they have. I once read advice that said, “write the book you want to read,” and at that point everything clicked for me. Since then I’ve focused on writing books that appeal to my favorite things as a reader, so from that perspective my writing style would have to be influenced by hints of all my favorite authors.
Kitty: Do you have a favorite serial that you would like to recommend to other authors? There are so many that look good! As a writer, I am easily distracted, so my process minimizes the amount I read when I am this deep into writing. (Not that I have much time to read with the pace of writing required for serial storytelling, it’s intense!)
I so admire writers who can read broadly while they write and still maintain their own voice and remain in the world of their story. I look forward to digging into many of the new Vella stories once Season 1 of Gifted Strangers is completed.
Kitty: What drew you to writing about 'super heroes’ through a lens of magical realism? Giving abilities away is something I’ve never seen before outside of power stealing Syler in Heroes and XMen's Rogue, could you tell us more about where this idea came from?
Okay, now I need to look up Heroes! [Looks up Heroes….] It’s a TV show! It looks good, I’m definitely going to check it out.
One of those hypothetical questions people like to ask for fun is “If you could have any superpower for one day, what would it be?” It seems like such a fun and frivolous question to answer. But I wondered, what would the next day be like? That is the question that initially sparked me.
Gifted Strangers started as a short story, where I wanted to explore on the page how someone would feel the day after having superpowers. What would they think about? Would they have regrets? Would it be a fond memory, or would they constantly yearn for the power back? How would the experience change them? After I finished the short story, I felt it had a lot more potential to grow into a series of connected stories.
Then Vella came along and I realized that Gifted Strangers was a perfect fit for the platform. As I wrote, the original story changed and the connected stories began to intertwine into a core trio of characters with a mission to prevent dangerous consequences of the power, mentor those who experience The Gift, and try to find its source.
Through my character’s experiences, it became clear that this was also a story about the power of thought. It is often said that our thoughts are powerful, and the thoughts we think lead to what we manifest in life. This led me to wonder, what if this superpower (this Gift) made the power of our thoughts instantly tangible? What sort of situations would that lead to?
Kitty: How many more episodes of Gifted Strangers do you see coming? Additional seasons, etc?
Season 1 is scheduled to wrap-up in May of 2022. While I don’t know the exact number of episodes, I have estimated somewhere between 50-60 total episodes to tell the story.
I hope there will be additional seasons, as I have three story arcs in mind, with Season 1 concluding the first story arc. It will really depend on readers reactions to the Vella platform. If readers enjoy the Vella format, there will be a Season 2! If readers don’t connect with the experience, but there is continued interest in the Gifted Strangers story, I will find a way to publish more.
Kitty: Do you have any other serial works in the works?
Possibly! I have a novel that has been in the works for over 5 years, and time will tell if it’s a good fit for the Vella format. This novel also centers on a complex universe of magical realism, although it is a completely different premise and magic from Gifted Strangers.
Since this novel includes both contemporary and historic 1920’s era settings, I’m currently involved in revisions to seamlessly interweave the two timelines.
I had always assumed I would seek traditional publishing for this novel, but if readers want more Vella, that is definitely a possibility.
Kitty: How do you feel about Kindle Vella? If there was one thing you could change about it, what would it be?
Right now I am having so much fun living in the world of Gifted Strangers and hearing from Vella readers as each episode goes live. It really is an intense experience unlike any other, writing to a weekly deadline knowing Gifted Readers are waiting. Hearing they can’t wait for the next episode or want more is both anxiety producing and so exciting!
If I could pick just one change to advocate for, it would be the option for readers to purchase a “Season Pass” to a story, so they can read uninterrupted by the need to click to purchase tokens after each episode, and can instead just get lost in the story. When you read a traditional book, you don’t stop to evaluate every chapter on its own, the work is a journey and stands as a whole. I keep hearing feedback from readers who just want to immerse themselves in the story.
Other than that, I know the platform is new and I am hoping Amazon continues to expand the Vella reading options. I would love the ability for readers in other countries to access Vella stories, as well as the ability to read Vella stories on all kindle devices and to be accessible from the Amazon phone app.
I think the Vella format has so much potential for social interaction and I look forward to seeing reader discussions grow. As a reader, I love the idea of getting a weekly dose of my favorite characters and stories. I think of it like a favorite book that never has to end.
Kitty: If you could go back in time and tell yourself anything about becoming a writer and your writing career, what would it be?
JUST WRITE. That’s it. It really is that simple. You don’t need one more book on writing or one more writing class. Classes and books are all good things, but you will learn even more by writing regularly and seeking feedback to improve. No one is going to give you a magical badge that says, “Congratulations, you have passed all the qualifications and may now call yourself a writer!” (Although, I wouldn’t say no to a magical badge officially proclaiming me to be a writer.)
If you write regularly, if all you can do is think about writing, if your stories are begging to be released from the borders of your imagination and translated into words to be shared, then, Congratulations, you are a writer. Just write.
Kitty: Finally, if you could tell your readers anything about yourself, what would it be?
First, hearing from readers who are enjoying the story absolutely makes my day in a way that nothing else ever has before! As writers, we spend a lot of time alone at our computer with our characters. When they go out into the world in our stories, the only way we know our stories are impacting people is by hearing from readers.
So, I would tell my readers thank you for sharing your feedback, and thank you for spending time with Kayla, Sylvie and Evan. There are many surprises ahead in the story that I don’t think Gifted Readers will expect.
Sometimes I hate wrapping up a review. Writers may think I've stopped reading and waiting for new episodes once it's in the books. This is definitely one of the farthest things from the truth as there may be follow up moments where we revisit Vellas we've looked at in the past.
Are they still good? Are they still worth your tokens? Luckily, I may have some help coming on board to help hold me to this idea. It's a lot of work and a lot of reading.
Next week there won't be a Conversations Blog, but there will be an adventure blog coming up. That said, our next Conversations Blog will talk about the month of October in Vellaland and also resources for Vella authors.
We will also see two episodes of The Explorers and Exile. That's write! Two episodes each. The Explorers will be coming to you weekly with additional bonus episodes for the rest of the year. Help us reach 400 thumbs up for the Explorers and 100 for Exile by the end of the year and Explorers will be coming at you weekly during 2022! How is that for a New Years gift?
Until next time, have yourself some exciting adventures. Just not as exciting as X's as his adventures are starting to get scary!