Monthly Archives: November 2015

THE INN price increase…

The Inn Cover 4 Today is the last day that THE INN will be priced at $0.99.  In case you aren't aware, THE INN is a 37000 word horror novella.  The description from its Amazon blurb:
BAND TRIP TO PERIL... The Jackson High School Band and student director Kimberly Bouton are making their biennial journey to a music festival in the deep South for fun and educational opportunities. Kim expects to deal with hormonal teenagers, a severe lack of sleep, and long boring bus rides, but the roadside inn where the band stays on their visit hides a sinister secret – and it translates to unimagined horrors for students and teachers alike... Check into THE INN, where the guests are the entertainment...
Tomorrow it will go up to $1.99.  So if you see this today and you were thinking that you might want to grab it, procrastinate no longer! My 25000 word novella THE CAVE will remain priced at $0.99, as will all of my short fiction and short fiction collections. ****

“E” by Kate Wrath

While perusing the "also viewed by" selections that Amazon provided on one of my own stories (I was either looking at THE INN or at the recently-free JACK'O'LANTERN and Other Stories) I came across a couple of selections that were listed as free.  The covers on two in particular grabbed me (plus the fact that they were free) so I investigated further, and upon a cursory read of the description I downloaded both.  (Hey, it cost me nothing, right?) Here's the Amazon description for Kate Wrath's book E:
Life is harsh. It makes no exceptions. Not even for the innocent. Outpost Three: a huddle of crumbling buildings choked by a concrete wall. Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards. Huge robotic Sentries police the streets, but the Ten Laws are broken every time one turns its back. Eden is determined, smart, and a born survivor. Stripped of her memories and dumped on the streets of the Outpost, slavers and starvation are only the beginning of her problems. A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to consume her world and tear her newfound family apart.
Does that make you want to read it?  It worked for me.  I like dystopian fiction.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I'm a sucker for futuristic extrapolations.  And the description gave me some of those:  an Outpost (this being #3, I'm curious about the others), robotic Sentries (advanced AI tech?), the Ten Laws (political commentary?), and crumbling infrastructure (again, political commentary?).  It also promises an interesting character with a lot at stake in Eden (hence the title "E?"). I've started HORNS by Joe Hill, but it's a paper version, and I can't read it in bed.  So out comes the Kindle, and the first thing there is Wrath's novel.  So I opened it up, and started reading. Kate Wrath grabbed me from the first paragraph.  "I wake up in a box of iron.  I know nothing, remember nothing.  There is one thought imprinted on my consciousness:  You have been erased."  From there it is compelling reading.  A picture of a society comes out through her protagonist's (Eden's) experiences as she struggles to survive in those first moments after finding herself deposited in this area like so much garbage.  The author uses language beautifully to convey the character and setting but she never loses sight of the story and plot as things set up. I wanted to find out more about the society and more about Eden herself. It isn't a perfect novel, but what is?  I just finished NOS4A2 by the acclaimed Joe Hill, and it was far from a perfect novel.  For me, for my reading experience, Wrath's E was the better novel.  So what makes it flawed?  For me (and your mileage may vary depending on where you come from as a reader), the novel began to suffer from some pacing problems at about the same time as the romantic triangle between Eden, Matt (who runs Outpost 3 and who doesn't seem to be a good person) and Jonas (her protector, a man with secrets) came into full swing.  Suddenly Eden's thoughts turned from survival and from her family and to her feelings for these men more and more.  For me, it bogged down the narrative.  I liked the problem-focused style of the first half better.  For me, it seemed like it changed Eden from this strong force of nature to ... something else. It wasn't a fatal flaw in any sense.  The story continued to progress, just at a slightly slower pace, and finally wrapped up in a sensible, satisfying conclusion.  I immediately downloaded Book 2, Evolution, and am already a few pages into it. One question I had as I read was, "Is this a young adult novel, or does it aim for an adult audience?"  I felt that it pretty much worked on the YA level as well as on an adult level, but usually the protagonist in YA is a teen.  (Thinking of Katniss and Tris here.)  In this book, I had the idea that Eden is a beautiful 20-something woman.  Maybe early 20's, but not exactly a teenager.  Maybe I'm wrong.  In the end, it didn't make a difference. I'll be posting a quickie version of this review on Amazon (when I get around to it) and will likely be giving the book five stars.  I think it deserves that rating, even if it weren't a first novel.  I hope that the rest of the series can keep up the standard. E by Kate Wrath.  Available at Amazon's Kindle store as well as other places. *****

What keeps me reading…

I could have titled this post "What stops me from reading," but I haven't found too many things where I just set something aside and say "the heck with that one."  Which is to say that I finish most of what I start.  As a wannabe-writer, I read articles and blogs when they deal with craft, and a common theme seems to be that we need to keep our foot on the pedal throughout our works of genre fiction.  Is that true?  I've been thinking about it after reading Joe Hill's NOS4A2.  Because as I read that book, there were a few times early on where I almost set it aside and moved onto something else. Why?  Well, if you read my review on Goodreads of the book, you'd see that I felt there were times the author, like his father Stephen King, bogged himself down in narrative details that were designed to add richness to the setting, to the character, to the plot.  But unlike his father, every instance of this in Hill's novel did NOT work.  They just pulled away from the main thrust of the story.  I can't get specific on it, because 1.) I don't have the book with me and 2.) I didn't take any notes.  I just knew that I was considering putting the book down without finishing.  (I've had that feeling in Hill's father's works as well, notably recently with UNDER THE DOME.) So I started thinking about what I, as a reader (a former VORACIOUS reader who did about ten books a month, currently a less voracious type who maybe does three or four books a month), look for as I read.  What keeps me reading?  I already stated that one thing that MIGHT stop me from reading is having too much extraneous detail added into the narrative.  Another might be an inconsistent plotline. So far, I haven't thrown anything across the room for grammatical/typographical errors.  (Good thing, too, because I'm reading so much on my Kindle and it might break if I threw it.)  So I think I can safely rule them out as what makes me stop reading.  And the converse, that it is excellent grammar and absolutely clean, perfect typing that would KEEP me reading, is also out.  I believe that these things appear or disappear based on the reader's (my) involvement in the story.  If a story has really pulled me in, I tend to skip over the grammatical/typographical errors.  Now, I admit that I haven't really found a single work that is LOADED with the things (apparently contrary to Amazon's reviews, which seem to find typos everywhere they look in a lot of indie fiction...are those people who are actually reading, or are they people from big publishing houses and bookstores and such who have an axe to grind against indie writers?).  Most every book has a few.  Some more than others.  No pattern as to whether it's more prevalent in trad-published fiction or in self-published fiction.  Most pass by my eyes while registering in a very superficial way with my brain.  (Like, "oh, they meant 'wind' and not 'mind.'  Got it.) Yet, I can definitely notice differences in what keeps me reading.  What calls to me when I put it down, making me want to get back to it as soon as possible.  What I can leave for days or weeks at a time and come back to it, not feeling much urgency.  And mostly, I feel it comes down to plot. If an author gives me a compelling plot, I'll keep reading.  If I have to know what happens next, I will think about the story until I can get back to it.  Story by itself isn't enough.  I think that there are stories in everything.  Plot is what makes them compelling.  The difference between these two might be summed up by this quote:
A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order. A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.
(The quote is from Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft 5th ed. Longman, 2000, by Janet Burroway, and paraphrases E.M. Forster.) The best history gives us both story and plot.  The most boring history simply gives us the story of what happened.  So I can fully agree with this quote.  I forgive a lot when a plot sucks me in and makes me want to read until I can't keep my eyes open or I'm finished, whichever comes first. But what about characters?  What if you have a great plot, but you've put the most boring characters in it that you can imagine?  Is it still compelling? I would suggest that you need both.  Plot is first, but the characters cannot be cardboard cutouts.  This is not to say that everyone needs to be a superhero, or a CIA spy, or something like that.  In fact, in my opinion, there is something compelling about reading a character who is ordinary.  Someone about whom you as a reader might say, "I know people like this guy or girl." That's what works for me. Great characters with a less-than-compelling plot will be less readable, for me, than a great plot with okay characters.  You have to care about the characters, but you also have to be interested in the situation they find themselves in. The third important element for me is setting.  I've often felt that setting can almost act as another character in a novel.  Stephen King does that as good as anyone.  As I read his early novel SALEM'S LOT, I came to know the community of Jerusalem's Lot as well as I knew Ben Mears or Barlow or any of the other characters in the book.  It's the same with other King novels as well.  Castle Rock and Derry became almost-characters in King's fiction, staple settings that worked for multiple stories, and their quirks and their denizens were almost as important as the actual characters. That said, setting as an element of fiction falls to third in importance.  While masterful description of setting is a huge asset to a story, a generic setting doesn't kill said story IF the characters and the plot are there. When I review books, I tend to try to look at them in this manner.  I try to mention all three of these elements in the review, and discuss whether they were great, good or average.  (If they're bad, I usually don't bother reviewing the book.  I usually don't like to say anything bad about a book.  The exception is those authors, like King, Koontz, Coben, etc etc, who have a track record, and whose works I find myself comparing to other works by themselves and not so much to other works by other authors.  Often, I think that a second tier King or Coben novel is better than some novels which I've given high marks to, but how can I rate UNDER THE DOME or THE WOODS the same as the best novels by those authors?) So in summary, for me, it's:
  1.   PLOT
  2.   CHARACTERS
  3.   SETTING
So why can't I seem to finish DROOD by Dan Simmons, whose works I normally love?  I don't think it's the characters or the setting, so it must be the plot.  Unless the pacing is dragging it down so far for me that I can't seem to bring myself to resume reading it...  Length can be daunting, and if you don't see an end in sight, it can be hard to pick up something that's really dragging for you.  The aforementioned books by King and Hill both have that issue with length. But maybe that's a discussion for a different day, and a different post. Also, there is the promise that a book makes as I read it.  If it doesn't live up to that promise; if it ends up being something other than what I believe it is based on the promise it makes with its descriptions, its cover, its early chapters, even its characters and setting...again, maybe that is a different post.  And is about as close as I can get to craft, since I'm a far more accomplished reader than I am a writer (whether I'm a critical enough reader is debatable, but it is what it is...) Thanks for reading, and if you haven't done so, go buy one of my books and see if I live up to the things I talk about in this post.  🙂 *****    

Giveaway results

It isn't the first time I've given JACK'O'LANTERN (and other stories) away.  But it's a Halloween story, and I think it's pretty good.   The title story was published on a magazine/blog site called "Friendly Fiction" a few years back, and the site's editor had a go at it, suggesting changes.  I made several at that time, and ignored a few that I disagreed with.  The result was a fairly tight story.  I connected it with two other Holiday stories, THE MOMENT (about a junior high student who finally finds the courage to ask his crush to dance at the school Halloween mixer, through the anonymity of a costume) and SARAH'S PUPPY (where a little girl hears the barking of a puppy that she's hoping she'll get for Christmas and meets a bearded stranger by the tree in her living room), because all of them feature younger children and holidays, even though only the title story is horror. So, for Halloween, I decided to give it away again.  What the heck? I thought.  Maybe someone will like the stories enough to buy the collection that it's also a part of, 14 DARK WINDOWS(No one did.)  But I also put in sample chapters of both of my $0.99 novellas, THE INN and THE CAVE.  My hope is that someone will read the three short stories, read the sample chapters and be interested enough to check out the novellas.  Maybe realize that they're bargain basement priced at $0.99, and will buy one or both. As it turns out, I did sell one copy of THE INN during the giveaway.  Whether it was because of the short story giveaway, who knows? All in all, I gave away something like 33 copies of the collection, which is back up to $0.99 today.  Would I buy it myself for $0.99?  No.  I'd spend that same $0.99 and buy the collection mentioned above.  I clearly state as the first line in the story trio's description that it is part of that collection and that the collection also costs only $0.99. The pattern was something like this:  Thursday, 8 free copies were downloaded, with virtually no promotion besides mentioning it on Facebook.  And I think the downloads occurred before I even made the Facebook post.  On Friday, 6 free copies.  Saturday, only 1 copy was downloaded.  I posted pictures later on Friday of my own pumpkin carvings on my Scott Dyson page, with another link to the giveaway title.  On Sunday the number went back up to 5 free downloads. Then on Monday, I thought to mention it on Goodreads, in a group I lurk within called Horror Afficionados.  As a direct result of that mention, 13 more copies were downloaded.  More to the point, they were downloaded by people who like horror, if I can safely assume that those who read the post in the promotion topic on the bulletin board.  I can only hope that they get around to reading them and like the sample chapters enough to try my novellas. So the promotion is done for now. I've been thinking about a topic for a post soon about how I personally rank the elements of a novel when I'm reading it.  Still thinking about how to organize it. Till then, have a great day. *****