by Terry Ambrose
In May 2013, Amazon announced the opening of Kindle Worlds. One of the initial offerings in Amazon’s first wave of fan-fiction releases included stories from Pretty Little Liars.
Since those first days when Amazon commissioned works to launch Kindle Worlds, the concept has become increasingly popular with readers and writers. One of the highly ranked worlds today is Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World, which incorporates characters from Neal’s Lei Crime mystery series.
Toby Neal is a clinical social worker who grew up in Hawaii and enjoys sharing the islands with readers around the world via her fast-paced mysteries that include a bit of romance. “My favorite reads are an immersive experience,” Neal said. “They draw me into a puzzling crime taking place in a part of the world I may never see, with colorful characters that I come to care about, and this describes the Lei Crime world. It’s peopled with the ‘local color’ of our polyglot culture here in Hawaii.”
Writers in the Lei Crime World have the ability to add their own brand of color. One of those authors is Christine Nolfi, whose own “Liberty Series” blends mystery, comedy, and romance. Nolfi chose to add a magical prequel to the Lei Crime Kindle World.
Eden Baylee is currently writing a psychological mystery/suspense trilogy. Baylee has written two novellas in the Lei Crime Kindle World and plans to write more. Her contributions involve a strong female lead named Lainey Lee and her adventures following a divorce.
Canadian Scott Bury writes in multiple genres, including historical fantasy, erotic-romance parody, and biography. Bury’s novella, Torn Roots, is set on Maui. He said he was surprised when he visited the island. “[The trip] showed me just how varied the islands are, comprising rain forests, sugar plantations, mountains and areas that look almost desert-like.”
That varied landscape is one of the things Bury thinks appeals to readers in the Lei Crime World. “Readers keep coming back to the same series, hoping to repeat the experience of the books they enjoyed.”
Julie Gilbert, a chemistry teacher and author of YA/sci-fi and Christian/mysteries, has participated in the Lei Crime Kindle World with three novellas. Her first novella for the world, Never Again, was from a YA perspective.
Nolfi also chose to leverage the world by taking a step back in time. The Shell Keeper is set before Lei Texeira, Toby Neal’s protagonist, moved to Hawaii and joined the police force. “I wanted to create a deeper, more poignant look at Lei Texiera while providing Lei Crime readers with a story brimming with wonderment.” Nolfi’s two stories have been very well received by readers and have been given five-star reviews by a large majority of reviewers.
Eden Baylee also chose to expand the world. She said, “Unlike the other Lei Crime Kindle World novellas, I do not directly use Toby’s characters in my books. Instead, Toby’s characters are woven into my plots.”
“I have been truly thrilled by the quality of the stories,” said Neal. “While most are mystery novellas, several women’s fiction and even a dog story are in our lineup. It’s been a heady and amazing experience to have writers love and enjoy the World so much that they develop stories within the world. They have new ideas and wonderful expansions on minor characters I’d never think of, let alone have time to write.”
Therein lies one of the major benefits to readers of the Kindle World concept. Not only can readers find new stories and perspectives on familiar characters, but they can also find new voices. Eden Baylee said, “From a reader’s perspective, there is no down side. It’s a different take on an existing series that readers obviously love and can’t get enough of.”
Gilbert may have summarized the main benefit to reader’s best when she said, “Before taking the leap to check out a new writer in their own world, readers get the added benefit of seeing the writer audition with familiar characters.”
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.