Author Archives: Scott Dyson

New Short Story – RICK’S RULES

I’ve released a new short story titled Rick’s Rules , available for Kindle for the low low price of $0.99!

Rick's Rules coverRick’s Rules is the third and final story in the saga of detective Rick Striker and his involvement with vampires.  The other two stories are Night Family and Dead Or Alive .

Here are the links:

RICK’S RULES

NIGHT FAMILY

DEAD OR ALIVE

Please feel free to check them out!  Thank you!

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My favorite wizards…

I’ve been writing a story with my son and one of the little plot devices we’re using is that some of the characters’ names are inspired by our favorite fictional wizards.

The trouble is that my son only knows Gandalf and Dumbledore.  (We aren’t including Harry Potter or the secondary characters as the main wizards of the story.)  So it’s been up to me.  And I’ve come up with a couple from my reading.  So here’s my list so far:

  1. Gandalf.  How can he not be number 1?  He must be, and he is.
  2. Dumbledore.  Almost as awe inspiring as Gandalf.
  3. Belgarath.  From the David Eddings works – The Belgariad, and Belgareth the Sorcerer.  Right up there with the top two.
  4. Harry Dresden.  Jim Butcher’s wizard is as cool as they get.
  5. Marla Mason.  Tim Pratt’s sorcerer has progressed far beyond mere wizard status.
  6. Walter “Wiz” Zumwalt.  The hero of Rick Cook’s Wizardry books.
  7. Max Zadok.  Laura Resnick’s centuries-old wizard in her Esther Diamond books.

Maybe I’ll come up with some more.  If you’re reading this blog, and you have a name, any name, toss it out there.  I’d love to hear it.

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New Short Story: NIGHT FAMILY

Night Family by Scott DysonMy latest short story, an 8400 word prequel to DEAD OR ALIVE, is here!  It’s available on Amazon for Kindle at this link:  NIGHT FAMILY. It contains a sample of DEAD OR ALIVE and a brief author’s note. It is the first “new” fiction I’ve published (the rest were written in the 1990′s).

Please download the sample and see what you think. Thank you!

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Lit Fic vs. Genre Fic

 

I like watching movies.  And I tend to like adventure movies, you know the type.  The big budget thrillers and sf/fantasy spectacles.  I enjoy the “smaller” movies, the ones that study characters, that use the sense of place as a major part of the story, the ones that explore relationships.  But on the big screen, and often on the little screen, the movies I’ll pay to watch and maybe even buy tend to be thrillers and sf/fantasy.  LORD OF THE RINGS, ENDERS GAME, THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE, and the HARRY POTTER movies are just a few examples of movies I’ve seen and enjoyed in the last several years.

Over the weekend I was watching the first lecture of one of “The Great Courses”, this one on analysis and critique while reading and writing, and how it can make “me” a more effective reader AND writer.  This first lecture sets the agenda for the 24 lecture series, and in it the professor talked a great deal about tone and about word choice.  She gave some examples of “good” writing versus “bad” writing versus “okay” writing.

“Okay” writing seemed to be technically solid but artistically bland.

I thought about that as I read the passages she presented in the lecture, and I agreed with her fully that her examples of “good” writing were far more artistic.  It was like looking at a photo of a weedy pond, then looking at Monet’s Water Lilies paintings.  Both showed sort of the same thing, but there was a richness to Monet’s work that certainly isn’t found in a simple photograph by an “untalented” photographer.

Then I thought about watching movies, specifically, the movies I like to watch.  To me, reading a lot of genre fiction, which is concerned primarily with telling a story, conveying the action that occurs to resolve the conflict, is a lot like watching some of these big budget movies.  They aren’t out to explore the relationships between characters to any great depth, certainly no deeper than needed for the story.  They aren’t concerned so much with exploring the issues that rise up in the story beyond what is needed to serve the story.

Or maybe they are.  Maybe it is simply that they emphasize the story above these other things, while those smaller “films” and literary fiction emphasize the relationships, the characters, the issues, in the absence of compelling story.  They find a way to make the “story’ about these items.  The conflict comes out of them, not out of some larger plot construction.

Does that make any sense?

As I thought about my fiction, I thought that no one is ever going to file my stuff under “Literary Fiction”.  Why is that?  I pay attention to my word choices.  I try to explore my characters’ motivations a little.  But writing like the examples given by the professor does not come naturally to me.  The metaphors and similes, the figurative language, the artistic flair that was evident in the writing in her examples, it just doesn’t flow off my pen (or my fingertips).

I write like I’m watching a movie.  Character A goes here, does this, has this expression on his face (mirroring his mood), Character B and C do this and that, then this happens, and so on and so on.  Like I’m watching and describing action on a screen.  It strikes me that a lot of genre fiction works this way.  I don’t know about romance, but SF/Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and Thrillers all seem to, at least to some degree.

I once wrote a piece about something Laura Lippman had written in one of her excellent mystery/thriller novels, something about how I could never have come up with the plot device that she did.  I know she responded to the article, but I don’t recall exactly what she said.  But I saw it as Ms. Lippman having a literary bent to her crime fiction.  I know a lot of authors have that.  Maybe it’s something that comes with time.

In the meantime, however, I think I’ll be content with “writing the movie”.

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About Me: 20 possibly interesting things…

I saw a post on author Randall Wood’s blog titled 25 Things About…Me and thought it might be fun to do something similar here.  So, without further ado:

  1. The first pop song (and the one that got me started on “that” kind of music) that I heard and really loved was Paul McCartney’s Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey off his solo album, RAM.  I was about 11 or 12.
  2. I wrote my first complete story as a seventh grader.  It was called “The Argonauts” and it was about a baseball team made up of all my friends that competed against other baseball teams from other cities.  My teacher said I should become a sportscaster.
  3. I started taking organ lessons at age 5.  My teacher was a man named Kay McAbee, a well-known show organist.  At that age, I was considered to be something of a prodigy.
  4. I joined grade school band in 6th grade as a mallets player.  In those days it meant I played glockenspiel and chimes for that band.  My band director was named Mr. Dan Kobe.
  5. In little league, I played second base.  My first game I went 2-2 at the plate and made like 4 errors in the field.  I never got another hit the whole season, and I only made like 3 errors in all of the rest of the games.  Turned out I was pretty good defensively and pretty horrid at batting.
  6. I published a magazine called “Rock” when in junior high.  We only made one copy and we passed it around to kids in our class.  We published at least 5 issues.  It was all about the stars of that day and age – bands like Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Chicago, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin.
  7. I was ranked first in my class my freshmen year in high school, out of 600 plus students.  I ended up graduating in the top ten, but could never get back to first after a disastrous turn in my speech class, which I took during summer school.  (Bad idea for me.)
  8. I decided that I wasn’t going to be a bell player in high school band and took drum lessons.  I marched double tenors for two years and snare for two years.  I was section leader for a semester my senior year.  I was the only one who could play every instrument in the section.  Playing multiple instruments became a theme in my life.
  9. I knew that I wanted to be a dentist when I graduated high school and it was a major reason I went to Loyola University in Chicago.  I wavered in that goal between junior and senior years, when I thought I might like to go into graduate studies of chemistry.  But I went to dental school anyway and haven’t been unhappy with that decision.
  10. I played in rock bands all along.  Some of them were called TANGENT, EXODUS, TENTATIVE, and NITROUS ROXIDE.  While playing in bands in high school I realized that if I wanted any say in the song selection I better learn how to play guitar.  I started singing in TENTATIVE, and in NITROUS ROXIDE I was the primary lead singer.  Ever since then I’ve always done a portion of the lead vocals, up until now.  I can play guitar, keyboards and drums, and I can fill in on bass if needed.  Later I have played piano and keyboards on my friends’ CD projects:  The Exit Specialists.
  11. Favorite musician growing up:  Paul McCartney (and Wings).  Favorite band now:  The Beatles.  I didn’t stray too far.  Favorite musical era:  Late 70′s/early 80′s.  I loved the Cars, the Stray Cats, Crowded House, the BoDeans, New Order, the Cure, Erasure, Rockpile, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe…should I keep going?
  12. I saw a Chicago band called Mike Jordan and the Rockamatics over thirty times.  Maybe even forty times.  They were a tremendously fun club band back in the 80′s and into the 90′s.  They had roots going to John Prine’s backing band, The Famous Potatoes.  Other favorites that I saw more than twenty times:  The Elvis Brothers (from Champaign) and the Bad Examples.
  13. I was exposed to the writings of Isaac Asimov in eighth grade, and the writings of Stephen King in late high school, but I really got reading King in college.  Other favorites included Robert Heinlein, Dan Simmons, Orson Scott Card, David Brin, and F. Paul Wilson.
  14. I joined Prodigy (an online dial-up service) back in the late 1980′s or early 1990′s and was active in the Stephen King Club and another bulletin board called King-Horrible?  When Prodigy raised rates, we migrated to Delphi Internet Services.  We started out in a virtual corner of a forum called The Clubhouse, but we soon formed our own forum called The Book and Candle Pub.  There I helped run the place, moderating discussions, coordinating author visits, and doing a little of this and that.  I started writing seriously again at that point.  Some of the authors whose visits I helped coordinate included David Feintuch, Jack Chalker, Janet Young Brooks (aka Jill Churchill), Bill Pomidor, and Terry McGarry.
  15. I wrote my first novel-length work in the late 1990s’  It is a “dental mystery” and I’m currently rewriting it to bring it up to date and plan on publishing it when it’s ready.
  16. My favorite baseball team is the Cubs, and I also enjoy watching pro basketball.  Michael Jordan brought me into the NBA, but I have stayed with it and I love sports statistics.
  17. I love to ride, though I haven’t done it much in the last couple years.  My longest ride was on the Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin.  We did a little over 50 miles on that day.  Most of my rides were more in the 25-30 mile range.
  18. I broke my ankle in late 2011, and still have the plate and pins fixing the fibula.  It has really affected my mobility.  That was the first surgery I’ve had.
  19. I used to dream of retiring from dentistry and opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore.  Now I don’t know what I want to do when I retire.  I still might try the bookstore thing, but probably will look at a specialty mystery/sf store, something more like that.
  20. My favorite vacation spot in the whole world is probably Arizona.  I’ve traveled to every part of the state except the southwest corner and have found so many cool things to see and do there.  From spring training baseball to Sedona, it’s my favorite state.  (I’m not so impressed with their politics.)  My second favorite is probably Disney World, and I’ve been there enough times to feel that I could write a sort of guidebook about it (under my real name) called DOING DISNEY!

And that’s about all of the semi-interesting facts about me.  At least the ones I’m willing to share!

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So which am I?

Lots of activity in the blogosphere about self publishers recently.  It seems Hugh Howey had someone do a study about numbers of self published titles in the Amazon best seller lists, and then did some data extrapolation to determine estimated sales numbers and estimated dollar figures for sales, and he found that self published titles were beginning to become the majority of ebooks sold.  Others jumped on his data, and reblogged it, making their own comments about it.

On top of it all is the old “tsunami of crap” argument resurfacing, that as more and more people self publish, more and more “bad” books surface.  Apparently by “bad books” they mean poorly edited, typo-laden works, mostly by self publishers.  Maybe they mean bad stories as well, but mostly they talk about the quality of the craft used to write these books.  In other words, the stuff that a good copy editor will find and presumably correct.

Well, I wonder where I fall.  Am I part of the tsunami or are my works professional?

Here was my hope.  Most of the short stories I’ve published have been through the wringer with readers.  Then I put them through my wringer again as well.  I read them and reread them, correcting turns of a phrase and adding in missing words and fixing typos that generally were something like using “fee” instead of “feel” (in other words, typos that the spell check didn’t find).

So I thought (and still think) I’m putting out a pretty good product, even though I haven’t had anyone “professionally” edit these works.  Am I the best judge of that?  Probably not.  The reader is the best judge.

But maybe the stories aren’t good enough.  Maybe I’m not a good enough storyteller.  Again, I can’t judge.  I think the stories are pretty good; they’re the stories I wanted to tell.  So who does judge?  Readers, I’d guess.

Yes, I made three of my covers.  But I had four of them done for me by a professional who happens to be a good friend, someone who has designed covers for small presses.  Two of them are a little rough, I know.  My latest, for DEAD OR ALIVE, looks pretty decent to me.

I started with these short stories because they’ve been through the wringer, and because my hope was that they’d generate some sales and some income which I could then use to pay professionals for editing and covers on my longer works.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve only got the short stories, a 14 story collection, and a Disney guidebook (under my real name) out there so far.  I don’t do much promotion; I’m not on Facebook every day suggesting that people buy my stories.  I don’t tweet; I have been less than regular with updates to my blog.  I’ve hoped that somehow word will spread and a few will get sold here and there.  We’ll see.

So the question remains:  am I part of the “tsunami of crap”?  Who gets to say whether I am or not?

In my estimation, the only ones who get to make that judgement are readers.  So far they haven’t voted enough to let me know one way or another (all of my reviews are 5 star so far, but there aren’t many of them), but I intend on continuing to plug away until either something happens, or nothing at all happens.

Thanks if you’ve bought one of my stories.  Heck, thanks if you’re even here reading this.  I appreciate any recognition I get.

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New Free Story!

Back in the days of the Book and Candle Pub, we held a writing contest, with the challenge to write a story in the world of Stephen King’s opus, THE STAND.  You could use the characters, the settings, whatever you wanted.

I chose to write a story about a vignette set in my own town.

As I recall, I didn’t win – but I still think the story was pretty decent.

If you look under the “Free Stories” tab, you’ll see it:  CHOOSING SIDES – Fan Fiction set in the world of THE STAND.

Check it out!

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The World of Silos – Hugh Howey’s WOOL saga

First, let me start off by saying that these books by Hugh Howey have been a great influence on me.  Not only do they tell a captivating story about a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been exterminated except for a relative handful of people selected to be saved in “silos”, vertical cities dug into the ground somewhere in Georgia, but the story of the publication and Howey’s subsequent success grabbed me like not too many other stories recently.

Nitpickers can find all the problems with the writing and the story that they’d like to, but I read a story about a strong female character who fights to learn the truth that is withheld from the descendents of those original Silo inhabitants.  And I was inspired by the tale to read more independent fiction in the subgenre that WOOL and SHIFT and DUST reside in.

But even more, I was inspired to self publish by Howey’s story of success – something he wrote became popular simply because it was a story that grabbed others as it grabbed me, and he became a self-publishing success story.  What does it matter that he’s made millions from the product of his imagination?  That’s just a difference in degree from what other self-publishers, including myself, are doing.

And then, Mr. Howey opened his world to others, who could write fan fiction (basically) and publish it and perhaps make some money off of it.

So I thought I might try something.  It isn’t really coming together like I wanted it to.  My story doesn’t really want to play nice with the facts as they’re already established by the stories that exist.  Facts that I asked Mr. Howey about, and received a prompt reply with plenty of helpful information (hence, my post a few weeks back about Howey being a really nice guy).

Here are those facts.  The nanobots that are used to exterminate the human race – they aren’t sprayed or released on the day of the Convention, when everyone is hustled into the Silos (in the book SHIFT).  They are already in everyone, and everyone who goes into the silos has to be immunized against them.  They become active when they do because they are tiny computers and they have a “clock” in them.  There is no time frame for how long they remain viable in the environment.  Howey envisions many years, I think.  Maybe a hundred.  But he says that it isn’t specifically spelled out in any of the stories he wrote, nor is it spelled out in any of the stories that others wrote that he is aware of.  He said I could make it whatever time frame I wanted.

It didn’t work for my story, anyway.  I wanted to write about people who were living with the aftereffects of the nanobots’ activation and the death that it entails.  Trouble was, there was no way to have survivors.  Well, there is, actually, a way to have survivors, but those people weren’t the story I wanted to tell.

I may still tell the story I wanted to tell, if I can figure out how to make it work without the backdrop of Hugh Howey’s WOOL saga.  But for now, it won’t be a “Silo” story.

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Horror vs. Science Fiction (for me as a writer)

My collection, 14 DARK WINDOWS, contains a mix of horror stories and stories about people from everyday life.  All were written a while ago, and when I selected the stories for the collection (and to publish individually), I felt that these were the ones that held up best.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have any science fiction stories, but I didn’t feel they held up all that well.  Technology bypassed them.  Computers have gone so far past the imagined systems in my story, which is titled “An Artificial Yearning”.  The story was ABOUT computers (well, it was actually about people and isolation and some other things, but computers were integral to the plot), so to have them be so different from what I wrote back then made it lose credibility, even to me.  I can rewrite it, but so much would be changed, it might be a completely new story.

My other story of note was “No Time Like The Present”, and it was about a time travel paradox.  I submitted it to a few different publications and was told that it was sort of the same old thing as far as the plot went.  That doesn’t really mean much; I think it’s still a good story, but I don’t know.  I read it and think it reads okay.  But does it hold up over time?

Horror holds up over time.  A ghost story is a ghost story, a tale about demonic possession is still the same after ten years.  Maybe after a hundred years.  Look at Lovecraft – his stuff still inspires people today.  Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, shapeshifters, zombies – they’re all still out there scaring people today.  Yes, the “feel” of the writing is different (thanks, Mr. King!) but the old tales hold up.

I guess that’s why the horror stories worked.  I guess it’s why the stories about people worked, even after 10+ years.  It’s why my science fiction did not hold up nearly as well, even in my own eyes.

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