Author Archives: Scott Dyson

Review of “Your Soul To Take” by Sean Hayden

Just finished this YA offering from Sean Hayden and Untold Press.  Posted this review on Amazon:

I forgot how much I enjoyed the first book in this series (MY SOUL TO KEEP) by Sean Hayden, but I was reminded as I read this one. Sean has a keen sense of story and plot, and everything moved right along about how you’d want it to! I’m giving it five stars because I haven’t had this much pure fun reading a novel in a while (although I’ve read plenty of books I truly enjoyed).

If there’s a quibble, it’s that Connor seems a little too mature in his dealings with his girlfriend and his sister. Sometimes I think he’s missing the 15-year-old attitude a little more than is called for by his, um, condition. But otherwise I think that the other thing that Sean has a good ear for is dialogue, and when you put the two together (story and dialogue) you end up with a pretty darned good book! Enjoyable for young adults and old adults (like me).

That pretty much says it all for me on the book.

Untold Press is Sean’s (and Jen Wylie’s) publishing company, and so far I’ve enjoyed the fiction I’ve read coming out of their small press.  That said, it’s been mostly stuff by Sean Hayden and Jen Wylie.

So go ahead and take a look at it.  Reading it was a lot of fun!

*****

KDP Select and KU

I have never placed any of my works in either of these programs up until now.  But as of today, all of my short stories are enrolled in both of them for the next 90 days.  This means that Amazon Prime members can download any of my short stories as their “borrows” for a particular month, and Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow my stories and read them as part of their monthly subscription fee.

The stories are as follows:

  • Sole Occupant (and The Only Solution)
  • Odd Man Out (and The House at the Bend in the Road)
  • Jack’o’lantern (and The Moment and Sarah’s Puppy)
  • The Gateway (and America’s Pastime and Hot Spot)
  • Dead or Alive
  • Night Family
  • Rick’s Rules

If you have either of those services, and want to give my short stories a try, well, here’s your chance to do so for free.  I will take advantage of KDP Select’s program where I can make my short stories free for a couple of days and will post here and on FB when I do so.  Thanks!

*****

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic

Ran across the internet site The Short List, who posted this list of “dystopian novels.”  The list was controversial, omitting plenty of good novels and listing some that were arguable, like THE HUNGER GAMES and ARTICLE 5.  Also it mixed “dystopian” with “post-apocalyptic” novels as if there were no difference.

I think it’s likely that both dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories attract many of the same readers.  I know I am attracted to both.  But is there a difference?  In many comments, it is argued that post-apocalyptic novels are a subset of dystopian fiction, while others argue that the two are separate, closely related perhaps, but both branches occupy the same level of whatever tree one might be making to categorize science fiction.

I have my own “End of the World” list of both types of novels on Amazon on which I tried to stick with “post-apocalyptic” types of novels.  I did not include classic dystopian stories like Orwell’s 1984 or P.K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because they don’t paint a picture of a society that’s been wiped out by some catastrophe (hence, the “apocalyptic” part of the genre tag).  I stick to stories describing the world after something decimates (not literally; “decimate” means eliminate one of every ten people, I think) human society.  In The Stand, it is disease.  Likewise in Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers novels.  In Hugh Howey’s Wool, it is another form of disease brought on by nano-bots.  In Lucifer’s Hammer by Niven and Pournelle, it is an asteroid hitting the Earth.  In Stephen Baxter’s Ark and Flood, it is a flood of super-biblical proportions that destroys the environment as we know it.  In Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, it’s Ice-9.  (Read the book!  It’s lots of fun!)  In David Brin’s The Postman, it’s nuclear war.  In a bunch of books, it’s zombies!  How do the zombies get created out of your friends and neighbors?  Disease, usually.

I see “dystopian” as being something different.  I see it as a society that’s gone “off track”.  Orwell’s vision is the classic example.  Suzanne Collins paints a dystopian society in her Hunger Games trilogy, and so does Veronica Roth in her Divergent novels.  (Apparently, The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of another earlier novel, possibly of Japanese origin, which I’d never heard of…but the knowledgeable commenters knew all about it.)  Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged paints a dystopia of sorts, and apparently so does her novel Anthem.  (I’ve read the first, not the second, and I remain unimpressed with the “philosophy” found in Atlas Shrugged, but that’s just me.)  A lot of current young adult fiction can be categorized as dystopian, especially The Giver.  How about The Maze Runner?  Dystopian, and possibly post-apocalyptic (I haven’t read the follow-ups yet.)  (Oh, and I know The Giver isn’t really current, but my kids were both assigned it for school reading recently, so for me it’s current…)

Anyway, lots of good suggestions for reading were given in the comments, and I plan on checking out a few of them.  There’s something about the current crop of dystopian novels, especially the YA stuff, that grabs me – maybe it’s the attention to social orders as we see them today, and the way that kids relate to one another.  Maybe it’s just that it’s more accessible, with a more modern style of writing.  I don’t know.  But I know for me, it’s sometimes hard to get to the excellent story, because of the style in which an older novel was written.  Earth Abides and On The Beach are both like that for me; so is Brave New World.  Great, if frightening visions of the future, but stylistically, they seem to take more concentration or something, and seem harder to get into, for me at least.

If you have comments about any of this, I’d love to hear them.  (And I really don’t need to hear from the Vuitton Bags or Nike whatever spammers anymore…everything gets caught in the spam filter and I delete it all because I simply don’t have time to check four or five hundred posts…)

*****

Recent reads

I finished three books up over the weekend.  There were some late nights of reading and a lot of in-between patients and even a little at-the-bank reading.

The titles were Huntress Moon and Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff and Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child.  I first came upon the first two after reading an entry on Joe Konrath’s blog a while ago.  I downloaded Huntress Moon when the author was offering it for free, and then it sat on my Kindle for a while.  Finally, looking for something different to start on the Kindle, I jumped into it.

I was really glad I did.  First thing I did after finishing it was to download its sequel.  (A third in the series will be out in October…coming up soon!)  Here’s my Amazon review:

This was one of the better books I’ve read in a while. A perfectly-paced thriller which has great characters and plotting, the author pulled me in and made me want more – lots more. (I already downloaded the sequel, BLOOD MOON.) In this book, Agent Matt Roarke witnesses the apparent murder of one of his undercover field agents, and notices the woman who seemed to cause the death. As he hunts for her, he connects her to two more murders – and the victims seem to be bad people. It builds to an exciting climax, and keeps the reader wondering just who this woman is, and whether she is as evil as the crimes attributed to her seem to indicate, or something else entirely.

This book sat on my Kindle for a long time, and I certainly am glad I finally took the plunge and read it. As usual, it led to another purchase by this author, and I look forward to finding more out about Roarke and “The Huntress”.

I haven’t reviewed GONE TOMORROW yet, but I have to say I did enjoy it quite a lot.  It’s vintage Reacher — well plotted, a building intensity and urgency, and wholly plausible.  Well, plausible in the sense that you could see it happening, maybe not that you buy the Reacher involvement.  That was a pretty strong coincidence, but if you’re reading this type of thriller, you have to accept things like that.  (Gotta get that main character into the action somehow…)  I hit a spot that I couldn’t put it down.  Wanted to pick it back up and find out how it ended.  I’m on to 61 HOURS now.

BLOOD MOON was more of the same from Sokoloff.  Her main character, Roark, decides to try to smoke out the Huntress by investigating the original serial murderer that made her what she has become — the Reaper.  They decide to find a crime that has some similarities, a family homicide (familicide) and pretend that it’s a crime linked to the Reaper.  Trouble is, it quickly becomes apparent that the crime IS actually linked to the Reaper — he’s back and he’s killing again.  He’s gotten a little better, learned a few tricks to disguise his crime scene, but it quickly becomes obvious to the experts what’s going on.

This one was just as tense and exciting as the first book, and I can’t wait to find out where the author goes with the next one.

I’m not going to link to these books; they’re all easy to find on Amazon.  Child’s book was a remaindered hardcover.  There are usually a few remaindered HC’s of his books around.  But they’re all worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of the thriller genre, as I am.

*****

Quantum Zoo is free!

The 12 story anthology QUANTUM ZOO, which contains my story “Playing Man”, is free starting today and going through Saturday!

Free is good, right?

If you haven’t downloaded a copy, grab it now…

QUANTUM ZOO!

Please consider taking a look at my own new release THE STRIKER FILES (which isn’t so new – it’s actually a compilation of three previously released single short stories, all set in the same universe and telling different parts of the same story, with a bonus short story included as well). Here’s that link: THE STRIKER FILES

Thanks!

******

Works in Progress

And then there were four.

Most of what I’ve published so far is short fiction.  The longest is a three story series, coming in at about 24K words.  The stories are roughly 7K, 8K and 9K, and they’re all about the same story but told from different points.  The longest short story I’ve put out there so far is THE GHOST TRAIN, part of the DIE 6 collection.  It comes in at something over 10K words.

But I’ve been working on longer stories.  And I finished my fourth over the weekend.  This is not to say it’s ready to publish.  It isn’t.  None of the four are.  But the story is complete.

Here are the four:

  • THE CAVE – a horror story about five eighth graders who find a cave in a forest preserve and the cave is something more than just a hole in the ground…  (around 23K words)
  • THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT – when the sun fails to come up for several days in a row, a girl’s familiar street becomes a frightening place to be.  (Around 27K words)
  • DEATH BY APPOINTMENT – a who-dun-it featuring a young dentist as the sleuth.  (around 45K words)
  • COLLEGE EVIL – a college kid researches the nature of good and evil, and starts seeing assaults which are happening on his campus in a very graphic way.  How is that possible?  And they are getting more and more personal… (about 45K words)

Those are all just working titles, obviously.  I’m not great with my titles.  But 45K is short-novel length, right?  I’m thinking of combining THE CAVE and THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT into one novella-collection, then putting the other two out individually.

Look for them sometime after I get them edited…

*****

A tale of two reads – VIRGIN by F. Paul Wilson and LAMB by Christopher Moore

I recently came across LAMB by Christopher Moore in a bookstore in Michigan, and, well…I bought it.  Again.  I’d lent my copy out and it lost its way home.  I’ve read it before; it was my introduction to Moore’s work and I went on to read several more of his titles.  I have liked them all but LAMB remains my favorite.

I also bought a “boxed set” collection of ebooks (6 for $0.99) and the first one in that set was F. Paul Wilson’s VIRGIN.  Wilson is another of my favorite authors; his Repairman Jack saga gave me a lot of exciting reading pleasure.  After reading it, I found out that it was an early work written under a pen name.

The reason I’m writing about both of these is because I read them back-to-back, and both deal with biblical themes.  VIRGIN is sort of DAVINCI CODE meeting grave robbers.  Due to a series of “chance” happenings, an ancient cave is opened up in the deserts in or near Israel, and an ancient scroll is stolen.  When the scroll turns up in the United States, it is determined to be a fake – the ink is only 12 years old, even if the papyrus is 2000 years old.

But the truth of what it says cannot be hidden, apparently, and a priest and a nun go off in search of a religious treasure – the body of Mary, mother of Jesus.  And when they find her, things go off the rails.  It was a fun story that got a little preachy at the end, even if some of the preachiness felt…well – right! – in today’s world.  Seems the remains of Mary have a lot of power over people, and they signal a second coming…

LAMB is a very funny take on the life of Christ, told by his childhood pal and BFF Levi, who is known as Biff.  Biff takes us through the time of Joshua’s (Jesus’) childhood, how they come to be aquainted with Mary Magdalene, and what they do for those years between age 13 and 30 (or so).  (Hint:  It involves those Eastern wise men who came to seek out Joshua when he was born.)  Josh stays pure and on point and in character (for the most part), though he is also a normal kid in many ways.  But Biff is totally a normal kid, a lot like kids of today – interested in girls and…well, girls.  Biff is totally devoted to Josh, and travels with him as a sort of protector and someone who is able to deal with the world as it presents itself to them, on the world’s terms.

Turns out Biff checked out before getting to the end of the story, and is brought back to life by the angel Raziel to tell the story that only he can tell.

I may have found it funnier because, as a Catholic, I got the references.  A lot of bits in this book made me laugh out loud, and parts of this story were touching enough to bring a tear to the eye.  In some ways I wish this wasn’t fiction.

So while both stories get thumbs up from me, LAMB gets the far stronger thumbs-up.  I loved it.  I liked VIRGIN too, but not nearly as much as LAMB.  And now I’m done with reading religious themed books – until I find another, that is.  Or until I decide that a reread of LAMB is in order.

*****

Yes, I like physical books!

I guess I’m one of those few remaining readers who actually like to have a physical copy of a book.  So now I’m gonna get all mystical on you and give you a couple of reasons why I like them.  And maybe a couple of things that people mention that they like about them that I don’t really care about.

First, I don’t care about the smell.  Book paper does, somehow, have a different odor than, say, a ream of copy paper from Office Max, but I have never grabbed a book and just held it to my nose and basked in the glory of the scent of the book.  Nope, smell doesn’t do it for me.

Second, I don’t care about taking notes in the margins.  Of course, I can do that easily on my Kindle.  But I was never one to take a pencil or pen to a book.  A lot of my books look as good after I read them as they did when I first brought them home from the hospital…er, ah, the bookstore.  (Sorry, got books and babies confused for a second there.)

Now what I do like about them.  I like the way they look on the shelf.  I have a room in the basement, and I have far more books than I have shelf space.  But the shelving I have…well, I really like the way that all of the Stephen King books look when I line them up.  I like the way my Kellerman books look.  My Asimovs and Cards and my Evanovichs and my Connellys and Wilsons and Cobens and Crais’s and Whites and Graftons and Clancys and Deavers and…well, you get the picture.  They’re colorful and they just look elegant, to me at least.

I also like browsing in that room for books.  There’s something about being surrounded by books that gives me a warm feeling.  (Some readers probably know the feeling; it is the same feeling you get at the bookstore or the library…except with prettier books (no clear plastic dustcovers) and all books that I love or have loved at some point in my life.)   Even searching through a box of paperbacks brings back memories as I come across forgotten books that I had a passionate fling with…oops, now I’m getting books mixed up with girlfriends…

I also like that I can resell them, easily lend them, donate them, and otherwise share them more easily (sometimes, the exception being sharing with my kids) than I can with an ebook.  I feel like I have an asset.  Like my 1969-1973 baseball cards, they don’t cost me anything sitting there, and they could return at least a few pennies.  I consider the dollars spent to be money I spent on the story.  Having the physical book is pure value in my view.

I like ebooks, too.  I publish ebooks.  I buy a lot of authors’ ebooks, especially independent authors.  I certainly spend more on them today than I do on physical books, in part because they’re so easy to read and obtain and in part because I don’t have any more space for physical books (my kids are contributing to the p-book collection now, so even though we don’t have room, we continue to build the collection).  I love the fact that I can cart my Kindle to a park or a restaurant (yes, when I get out of the office for lunch once a week, I take the Kindle and part of the attraction of going out is that I get an hour to read in peace).  I love the fact that I can store hundreds of books on that device, and pick and choose what I feel like reading.

For example, I just finished two books by author Sean Hayden (one was a collection of short fiction with Jen Wylie, the other was a short novella called LADY DORN), and didn’t know what to read before starting Bobby Adair’s fifth SLOW BURN book, and I decided to read something that was on my Kindle for a long time.  I found a book by Jon Jacks called WYRD GIRL, and it was a wyrd (weird) story that I didn’t love but I didn’t hate either.  It was a quick read and I was glad to clear it from the queue.  With a physical book, I probably wouldn’t have done that.

But I still love physical books.  I like the way they look.  I like the feeling of them when I’m reading.  Even so, I have enough of them to last me many years.  Ebooks are about the story, and while p-books are about more than that (at least for me), the story is what I really love.

*****

Amazon vs Hachette again?

It seems every other article on The Passive Voice and on Joe Konrath’s blog (okay, it’s every article on Konrath’s blog) is about the Amazon/Hachette dispute.  Most of them center on the 900 or so successful authors who signed Douglas Preston’s letter (I’m not bothering to link to it; it will be easy enough to find from TPV or Konrath’s blog if you want to find it) and their accusations against Amazon, who they feel is holding their books hostage, and therefore costing them money.  How it’s costing them money, I don’t know.  You can still order their ebooks at the click of a button, and you can still order their physical books as well – apparently their pre-order buttons are gone and so people aren’t able to buy their books before they’re out and then they don’t get listed as highly on the NY Times bestseller list the day their book is released and…

Well, you sort of get the idea.  They’re complaining about the fact that the dispute between their publisher and Amazon is costing their publisher sales – presumably sales that will be held against them in the future, since they’ve pretty much already been paid for their books with their seven figure advances.  I mean, Stephen King is a very rich man.  If he never wrote another book, he’d still be a rich man.  If his SON never wrote (or sold) another book, his SON would be a rich man, simply by inheriting his father’s estate (or a third of it).  Is King Koch Brothers-rich?  Probably not, but he’s so much wealthier than the rest of humanity, he certainly falls into that 1%.

But that’s neither here nor there.  The hard fact is that most people who write a book will NEVER be published by a large publisher.  Most will never be published by a publisher of any size…unless said publisher is themselves.  Who has made it possible for anyone with a book to get it published?  Amazon.  I suppose you can give some credit to iBooks/Apple, Kobo and Sony, and even to Barnes and Noble’s Nook.  But Amazon’s the big fish in this pond.

So Amazon’s publishing anyone and everyone…right?  No, not right.  The writers are publishing themselves.  Amazon (and B&N and the others) are distributing their works.  They are making it possible for a writer to reach readers.  In some cases, like mine, it might be only a couple of readers with each book.  In other cases, it’s hundreds, maybe even thousands.  In still other cases (we’re all looking at you, Mr. Hugh Howey), they sell enough to basically get rich.  Cool, huh?

Well, I suppose it isn’t cool if you’re Stephen King, or James Patterson, or Douglas Preston.  If you’re those guys, you want the club to remain closed to new members.  Only those approved by … by who? … can get in.  Meanwhile, every dollar spent on a Scott Dyson (or an Edward J. Robertson, or a Steven M. Moore, or a Bobby Adair, or a D.J. Gelner, or a J.M. Ney-Grimm, or a Lindsay Buroker (I’ll stop there) is a dollar not spent on a book by King, or Patterson, or Preston.  Maybe, instead of buying books by all three of those guys, and supplementing the purchases with more purchases by Coben and Evanovich and Child and Connelly and…, this buyer only buys two of those authors’ new books.

Plus, we write trash, swill, whatever.  We must write swill, because no agent or editor at a big publishing house, ever got to look at our work, and no one could tell us that we sucked.  Except the reader.  The readers can tell us we suck.  And apparently they do, in blogs and in Amazon reviews and such.  But they also tell King and Coben and Patterson and Preston and Evanovich and Child and Connelly and… that they also suck.  Sometimes.

Because the reading experience is subjective, what one person likes is not necessarily what another person likes.

Well, I went a little off track there.

The truth is, Amazon  is not always a publisher.  What it always is, is a RETAILER.  Just like T.J. Maxx and Walmart and Target and Macy’s and Walgreens and Michael’s and Barnes and Noble and…wait, Barnes and Noble…they’re the ones Amazon is competing with, not the publishers.  They’re a purchaser of supplied product, in this case, books.

Why is that so hard to understand?

They aren’t paying a 70% royalty to KDP writers, they are taking a 30% cut for distribution from KDP author/publishers.  30% is their margin between $2.99 and $9.99.  Above and below those numbers, their cut is far worse for the author/publisher- 65%.   But when you think about it, what is being sold at that lower number?  It’s short stories and short-ish novellas, works that were otherwise unsellable.  I’m sure they do it that way because that is how they want these ebooks priced.  So those are their terms.  As an author/publisher, it’s take ‘em or leave ‘em.

What happens to RHP or Hachette or whoever, when they price above those lines?  I’m not sure, but I have a feeling they’re getting more than 35% of the profit.  I really don’t know.

Nor do I care.  While it bothers me to see misinformation getting bandied about, and authors saying things about Amazon that do not appear to be grounded in actual facts, in the end, it doesn’t affect me as a writer.

I have seven short (ish) stories priced at $0.99, and three collections/longer works currently priced at $2.99.  I just would like to see myself move more copies.

As a reader, however, I can unequivocally state that I refuse to pay more than $9.99 for an ebook.  Actually, I refuse to pay more than about 6 bucks for an ebook for myself.  I might go higher for my kids’ books.  I also will never pre-order a book (or a movie or just about anything else).  I don’t see the need for it.  It’s not like there is suddenly a shortage when it comes out, and it’s not like I don’t have enough books to read.  If they are successful in pushing up the price of ebooks to the reader, I will simply buy even more independent fiction.  There are plenty of authors I like writing plenty of books I like.  I’m not all that picky when it comes to a good story.  I will buy less traditionally published fiction.  What I do buy will likely often be remaindered copies.

So there.  That’s the extent of what I can do about higher ebook pricing.

*****