Author Archives: Scott Dyson

“Bob said,” versus “said Bob.”

I’m wondering if readers even notice this.  I know that I didn’t until it was pointed out to me in the editing phase of my story “Playing Man” (which was published in QUANTUM ZOO).  I was informed by D.J. Gelner, my editor (who did an outstanding job, by the way) that the convention was to place the dialog tag at the end of the sentence, and it should be “Bob said,” instead of “said Bob.”  For example:

“I really want to try playing that Beatles song,” Rich said.

“Which one?  There are a million of them!” Peter said.

“Let’s do them all,” Carter suggested.

Is that qualitatively better than the alternative:

“I really want to try playing that Beatles song,” said Rich.

“Which one?  There are a million of them!” said Peter.

“Let’s do them all,” suggested Carter.

To me, they both read the same.  I read the tag and it vaguely registers as an identification of the speaker.  After being informed of the accepted (or proper?) way to write it, I started noticing, and while most fiction, especially indie fiction, does it the “right” way, Orson Scott Card’s book RUINS mixed them up indiscriminately.  And so do I, in most of my fiction.  As I read my short stories and longer works, I find both forms used, with no rhyme or reason to the usage except for the rhythm of the words in my head.

In other words, if it sounded right one way, I wrote it that way.  And vice versa.

I don’t know if it is “wrong” to do it that way, so I’ve been trying to make everything conform to D.J.’s rules.  But if I miss one, forgive me.


Nanowrimo — Knock out 50K words in November’s 30 days!

It seems like such a cool challenge:  write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month.  That’s almost 1700 words a day.  Not bad if you’re Dean Wesley Smith, who routinely writes a bunch of words every day.  But for me, it isn’t going to happen.  I could probably knock out a short story or two, but no way am I going to get 50K words written in a month.  Not the way I write.

I get a story idea, and I plow into it.  I have a dozen stories started on my USB drive that I carry around between office and home, and some of them will never get finished because they won’t go anywhere.  (And some just flow right out like they were telling themselves.)  A lot of times I loose focus on a story, and don’t know where to go with it.  So I do one of two things.  I either go back to the beginning, rereading and rewriting as I go, or I move on to another story.  Either way, I’m taking away from that 1700 word goal.

Then there’s my schedule.  I simply don’t have the time to write every day.  I’m not a morning person in general, and I certainly don’t have enough focus to get up early and write.  I wouldn’t, even if I didn’t have kids going off to school.  (Not that I’m doing much besides offering support services; my wife does the heavy lifting with the morning rituals for them.)  I tend to write best in the later afternoon and evening.  I don’t know why; that’s when the words will flow.  And so I don’t get to do too much with that, either.

So Nanowrimo is not a realistic goal when you work full-time and have family obligations.  Especially if you’re a pantser, like I am, and not a plotter.  When I don’t know what I’m going to write, I probably won’t write much.  If I know where I’m going, I can crank out the words, but those days are not that common.

Anyway, good luck to those of you actually doing it.  Hope to read a novel or two from the project.


Hanging with my ol’ friend Alex…

I finished reading Jonathan Kellerman’s KILLER, an “Alex Delaware” psychological thriller novel, yesterday.  The story grabbed me and I came to a point where I couldn’t put it down.

I feel like I’m reading about an old friend when I read Kellerman’s Delaware novels, and this one was no exception.  The familiar troika of Alex, gay police detective Milo Sturgis, and Alex’s significant other, Robin, are all present, as are a few bit players like Moe Reed and Petra Connor.  And the plot is familiar too:  A criminal case ties into Alex’s practice as a clinical psychologist.

If you’ve ever read any of these books, you know that Alex consults for the police, and Milo Sturgis is sort of a one-man police force due to some incriminating information he has over the current chief of police in Los Angeles.  Milo can do pretty much whatever he wants, and he has the best clear rate of any detective in L.A., thanks in no small part to the insights of his psychologist sidekick.  Alex also has varied experience ranging from hospital work to clinical therapy to court work to…well, he’s done a bit of everything, it seems, and he’s good at everything.  But through it all is a sense that he’s human, with human doubts and failings.  No superman sleuth here.  And there aren’t any special forces types waiting in the wings to bail them out if they get in over their heads.  I like that.   So many detectives have someone who is a little too tough to be believed, really, at their beck and call.  Not Alex.  He has Milo and a few other cops.  And Milo has Alex.

I also liked the voice that Kellerman uses in these first-person novels.  Alex is talking and thinking and telling the stories that make up the plot of these crime thrillers, and his voice is distinctive.  There’s a “clipped” feel to the writing that makes you know it’s Alex and not some other point of view (though I can’t really recall Kellerman altering the POV away from Alex in this series…but there’s a lot of books and maybe he has done so a time or two, shifting perhaps to Milo’s point of view).  You’re in Alex’s head, and it’s a comfortable and comforting place to be; a character who is confident in his skills but not omniscient or always right, and his discomfort when he thinks he’s been hoodwinked or something comes through and it feels right.

There was a point in the series where I felt Kellerman was “mailing it in” with these stories, that perhaps he had lost the passion for telling Delaware tales, but somewhere along the line, he got back on track (in my view) and these recent ones have been excellent.  This one is no exception.

This book starts with Alex talking about a woman walking into his office and making a thinly veiled threat to shoot him right then and there.  Needless to say, it spooks Alex, but he convinces himself that it wasn’t much of a threat and he doesn’t need to inform the police. At this point, he flashes back to the case in question, one where a woman (the woman who threatened him) wants to use the legal system to take her sister’s child away from her, using her considerable resources to hire “experts” and high-powered attorneys.  Alex is brought in by the judge, and he supports the child’s mother.  The judge agrees with him, and the case is resolved in that manner.  The woman, not accustomed to losing, makes her threats.  Alex informs the judge of what happened, and that is, he hopes, the end of it.

When Milo and another cop show up on his doorstep a short time later, Alex learns that the woman has tried to take out a contract to have Alex (and perhaps the judge, as well) killed.  The hit goes to a Hispanic gang, and it so happens that Alex had some dealings with this kid when he was a young diabetic who wasn’t following medical advice.  Alex made an impression, and as luck would have it, this kid, now a young adult and fully involved in the gang, really likes Alex and prevents the hit at the gang level, and in fact, goes to the cops.  Lucky break for Alex.  Once again, Alex feels the brush of death against him, how close he came, if not for this serendipitous relationship with a gang member in days gone past.

But the woman turns up dead, and guess who’s the prime suspect?  No, it isn’t Alex.  It’s the sister, who appears to have left town the very night of that murder.  Milo’s sure it was the sister who did it; everything seems to line up.  Motive, opportunity, and then the flight.  But Alex is so sure that he couldn’t have been wrong about her…and once again, Alex faces something that shakes his outward confidence.  You can feel his internal discomfort as you read these sections, as he tries to project calm and confidence outward.  But Robin knows, and so does Milo.

I was less than thrilled with the resolution of the case.  It worked, but I was hoping for something a little…less out of left field, I guess.  I won’t say more.  It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did make me wish that there had been a more elegant solution to the mystery presented; that is, where was the sister, who killed the woman who threatened him, and what happened to the baby.

A good, quick, fun read that kept me sucked in for a day and a half with non-stop reading at night, in the morning, and finally, between patients and over lunch until I finished.  Looking forward to the next one when it hits the bargain shelves at Barnes and Noble.


THE HURRICANE by Hugh Howey – my mini-review

I wanted to post this review of Howey’s THE HURRICANE, which I ended up enjoying quite a bit.  It wasn’t perfect, but…well, you can read my review, copied from Amazon…

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, and at first, I was a little disappointed, because it took the story a little bit of time to grab me and pull me in. It seemed that a lot of pages were dedicated to showing me what a non-descript high school kid Daniel was. But I knew it was a Hugh Howey story, and so I kept reading. Finally, as the storm hit, the story kicked in, and when Daniel meets a neighbor girl who he previously didn’t even know existed, we are treated to the real Daniel…the kid being hidden by all the BS that is high school social interaction. And from there the story became (for me) a compelling read, demanding that I continue until I reached the end.

At first, because I hadn’t been grabbed by the story, I was noticing the simplicity of the writing. After finishing a Stephen King novel (REVIVAL) before starting this one, I missed the masterful command of language that I believe King has. There was a lack of elegance and beauty in the words and phrases used to convey the story. I started to wonder if, because of the great plots of other Howey offerings, I’d missed this about his writing. And I still don’t know, because when the story grabbed me, it grabbed me, and if that lack of elegance was still there, I didn’t notice it. (I suspect it was, and I just was beyond paying attention to it.)

For me, the mark of a really good story is that I want to know what happens to these characters down the road. Howey made me care about them, and that is a success in my book.


THE INN is live!

I finally did it!  THE INN, my 37,000 word horror/suspense/thriller, is live on Amazon!

Take a look at the cover:

The Inn Cover 4

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:


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…

It’s not for everyone.  It’s horror (nothing extreme, but people die and such, like in most horror), and it’s the realistic type of horror, not the supernatural type.  But please take a look if you are so inclined.



My reality…

As you might know if you read the “About Me” section or my bio on Amazon or in any of the ebooks that have it in them, I work full-time as a healthcare professional.  And I am “Dad” to two teenagers, with all the attendant responsibilities.  I also have an older parent who still lives by herself and still drives, but is starting to get a little forgetful.

So I’m a little busy.

Work is about how it always is.  A little slow in September, as usual, after the kiddies go back to school and the parents take a breather from appointments.  I can always use a few new patients (so if you’re in the Crest Hill, IL area and you need a dentist…)  And my mom is about how she always is, also.    Both require a lot of time, but both always have and probably always will.

Then there’s the kids.  Both are involved, and both keep us plenty busy.  So where do I find the time to devote to my attempt to publish my stories?

I have this book, THE INN, ready to go; I had the cover done and had finished a final editing pass of the file.  But when I showed the cover to my wife, she thought we could tweak it a bit.  So I looked for the picture on the site where I thought I got it, a site where you can grab photos for free, for any use you want.  (I think it was Pixabay.)  But it wasn’t there.  So I searched the internet, and realized that I hadn’t found it there at all, but had seen it on a website and had saved the image to my computer.  I didn’t know about the rights to the image I had, and couldn’t really find anything, so I thought, it would be easier to find another image and make a new cover.

But I just have not had the time to do it.  This weekend is our first big marching band competition, and we’ll be gone almost all day for that, so I don’t know that I’ll get to it anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the book sits there, ready to publish.

If I get to it over the weekend, I could possibly have it available for purchase next week.  It’s a short novel or a novella, about 37,000 words (I think), and I think horror-thriller fans will like it.

The next one that is written but needs some rewrites and then editing is something I’m currently calling RECIPROCAL EVIL, but I’m not sure I like that title.

I finished Hugh Howey’s THE HURRICANE and will try to copy my Amazon review to the blog sometime later.

Till then, have a great weekend, readers!  (Am I being optimistic by making that a plural?)


More Mini-reviews…

Finished up three books last week.  Two were ebooks by Edward W. Robertson, who writes the BREAKERS series.  The first was BLACKOUT, the final book of the eight-book BREAKERS series.  If you’re not familiar with the Breakers world, it is a post-apocalyptic tale where two things happen to end civilization as we know it:  a viral disease that claims around 99% of all people (like in King’s THE STAND, which Robertson admits to using as his inspiration in this series) and then an alien invasion.  Turns out, the aliens, huge crab-like beings, sent the viral plague to Earth, and they figured they’d wipe out all of humanity with it, but when they come to claim the empty planet, they find plenty of humans willing to fight them and their advanced technology.  BLACKOUT, as the final book, occurs as people are trying to rebuild some sort of civilization and society, only to discover that a second “mother ship’ of alien “Swimmers” has arrived.

I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series and one that followed logically from everything that happened before.  The people who I’ve gotten to know over seven books all seem consistent with the character that they’ve exhibited throughout the saga.  The aliens became a bit more knowable, and it set up another series in the same universe, but set many years in the future.  The other series is called the REBEL STARS series, and the first book of this saga, titled REBEL, is the other ebook I read.

I grabbed REBEL as part of a promotional “box set” with ten “galactic tales”, titled STARS AND EMPIRE.  (None of the other titles have really grabbed me much, so REBEL is the only one I’ve read, and it may continue to be the only one…)  So anyway, in REBEL, a crew of space asteroid miners is working on an asteroid when they make a discovery — an ice-bound alien ship.  Seems that this is a Swimmer spaceship, and these humans are the descendants of those people who dealt with the Swimmers when they first attacked Earth.  As they excavate the vessel, they are attacked and everyone except for one is killed.  Their discovery, which they had tried to keep secret, is stolen…and when someone gives the survivor a chance to recover it and also to get revenge on the murderers of her crewmates, she jumps at it.

It was a solid SF tale that made me want to read further in the series.  I think Edward W. Robertson is an excellent storyteller, and even if one didn’t care for post-apocalyptic tales, this REBEL STARS entry can be enjoyed as a straightforward SF novel.  (As an aside, I read another book by Robertson called THE ROAR OF THE SPHERES . which also dealt with colonization of our solar system, though that one was more focused on AI’s. The book has been renamed and re-edited, but I’m not sure what the new one is called.  (ETA:  The author informed me that the book is now called TITANS.)  It was also a very good SF book.)

And, speaking of Stephen King, I tackled REVIVAL, which is his second newest (FINDERS KEEPERS is his newest at the moment) novel.  I hadn’t heard great things about this novel, but I have to say I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

It’s a bit of a slow starter.  When our hero, Jamie Morton, meets his “fifth business”, pastor Charles Jacobs, he’s only six.  And there’s a lot of backstory that King gives us in his usual colloquial style, about Reverend Jacobs’ fascination with electricity (the “secret” electricity, he calls it) and then the death of his lovely wife and young child and his subsequent loss of faith.  And of course, there’s Jamie’s backstory, his youth, his high school years, his discovery of the guitar and of rock and roll music, the love of his young life, Astrid, and his subsequent loss of his own faith and his separation from Astrid as they graduate from high school.

Jump forward a bunch of years and Jamie is a lifer in the music industry, being good enough to play professionally but not really quite good enough to be a star or in an A-list band.  He’s tooling around playing gigs at small venues, roadhouses and state fairs, and he’s doing a lot of drugs.  Mainlining heroin, in fact.  He’s reached bottom when he encounters Reverend Jacobs at the Oklahoma State Fair, where the former religious man is using his electrical inventions to take people’s photographs and do something … interesting … with them.  He takes Jamie in and uses his electricity to cure Jamie of his addictions.  He also hooks Jamie up with a job in Colorado, as a studio musician and recording engineer.  Jamie owes him big-time.

A third encounter with Pastor Danny (as Jacobs is now calling himself) occurs, as he and his boss (who also owes Jacobs) go to a tent-revival where he is performing genuine healings using the electricity, although he covers it in religious jargon and is clearly making a lot of coin doing so.

King masterfully weaves everything together at the end, and I didn’t care how implausible it was by then, because I just wanted to know how Jamie ended up.  I was satisfied with the conclusion; like Robertson’s Breakers series I described above, it seemed fair and logical with what happened in the book up until then.  King tends to be a bit wordy, but I like the way he uses language to bring characters and setting to life, and allows one to glimpse the inner workings of his characters’ brains.  The ending was about what I expected once I got past the steampunk vibe the book was putting out (with electricity being the main focus), but the journey, for me, was worth it, as it usually is with King’s books.

I’m onto Hugh Howey’s THE HURRICANE and King’s FINDERS KEEPERS (ebook and hardcover), and will probably post something on both of them when I finish them.


Update on THE INN:  I decided that I’d better not use the cover image I was going to use because I’m not sure about the rights and permissions of it, so that is what’s holding up the release at this moment.  I made a different cover, but I’m not sure about it either.  So…I’ll post something when I finalize the new cover.


Mini Reviews

After I finished GARDEN OF BEASTS, I read two more books, and I wanted to make a few comments on each.  I sort of read them simultaneously, so I’ll start with the one I just finished and move on to the other after that.

The first was THE BRIDE COLLECTOR by Ted Dekker.  We’ve all read this book before, in some form.  It was a serial killer thriller featuring an FBI team hunting a killer who is kidnapping beautiful women and killing them by draining their blood through their heels, then posing them by hanging them off of dowel pegs placed in the wall and gluing their shoulders to said wall.  As usual, there is a bit of discussion of forensic evidence and a lot of talk where the investigators discuss the killings and try to come up with a profile of the killer.

It wasn’t great, but it was good, and kept me reading.  Actually, toward the end, I really wanted to know what was going to happen, not so much because I was into the solution to the crime but because of the characters.  They were the most interesting thing about the book.  Dekker’s FBI guy, Brad Raines, is a troubled man who is, apparently from the reaction of all the women he encounters, really really really good looking.  (Yeah, I used three “really’s” there to emphasize the point because Dekker really emphasizes it.)   His psychologist/teammate Nikki Holder is also really really really beautiful, and they have a connection, and maybe even some sparks are going to fly between them.  But they never get started too much, because the evidence points to a private mental health facility called CWI (Center for Wellness and Intelligence), where high-IQ mental health patients live and receive treatment.  There they meet Paradise Founder, a young woman who has some issues, and her little clique of savants.

Those characters are the most interesting in the whole book, in my opinion.  They’re quirky and original, and I liked reading about them.  In fact, I’d love a whole book about them.  Brad Raines, who is sometimes referred to as “Rain Man”, finds that he has some things in common with the individuals housed in CWI, in that he’s a bit of a mental case himself with plenty of issues, and he’s quite obsessive/compulsive when it comes to his investigations.

Dekker took a few risks with the way the story played out, and I have to admit that there was a point where I was almost sort of put off by what happened.  But overall, it was a fairly typical serial-killer thriller novel, with the plus that it had some non-stock characters who added a lot to the narrative, in my humble opinion.


The second book I want to write a little bit about is one called NIGHTMARE CHILD, by Ed Gorman writing as Daniel Ransom.  This one was a fairly stock horror novel as well.  In it, a young 9-year-old girl is murdered by her sister and her sister’s husband (for her inheritance), and they get away with it.  That sounds like a typical thriller, right?  But then little Jenny, the dead 9-year-old, comes back.  She first encounters her neighbor, who she always called “Aunt Diane” and who lost her husband and is childless, though not because she doesn’t want or can’t have children.  Then Jenny returns to her sister’s house, where things begin to get strange.  (As if having a girl return from the dead isn’t strange enough.)  Diane is inclined to believe that the sister and brother-in-law are abusing the little girl, but is that the case?

This one is a well-written and well-constructed horror novel, and I wouldn’t expect less from Ed Gorman.  Everything I’ve read by him in the past has always been really engrossing.  This one is good, but I dont know…maybe I expected more when I saw that Ed Gorman wrote it.  One problem is with the ebook formatting.  There are chapter breaks, but within chapters the sections where point of view shifts and they aren’t separated in any way; they just run into each other.  After I got used to it, I was able to immediately figure out that there should have been a break in a specific place, but at first it threw me and pulled me out of the story as I struggled to figure out who was where and who they were interacting with.

All in all, it was a good read, worth the $2.99 I spent on it in the Kindle store, but not up there with the best of the genre, or even with the best of Ed Gorman.

My four cents (two for each book)…


Review – GARDEN OF BEASTS by Jeffery Deaver

I purchased this novel in hardcover when it came out, at Sam’s Club (the reason I know is because it still had the sticker on it)  probably circa 2004, and then I shelved it and never read it.  Why not?  Well, I have to say that I’m not a big historical fiction reader, and when I re-read the blurb on the dust cover, it just never grabbed me, never made me want to pick it up next.  There was always something that grabbed me a bit more.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot on my Kindle, but I still have stacks of hardcover books I’ve picked up off of the bargain tables at various bookstores, especially Barnes and Noble.  Recently I’ve been making a bit of an effort to clear some of those that have been staring at me the longest, and this one jumped out at me.  I’d read something on Steven M. Moore’s blog praising the novel, and I thought, “That one has been sitting there a long time…why not give it a try?”

I’m very glad I did.  GARDEN OF BEASTS:  A Novel of Berlin 1936 was a first-rate thriller with world class villains — the Nazis.  Hitler, Goering, and Himmler (among others) all make appearances as American “button man” Paul Schumann agrees to go to Berlin with the Olympic team in order to hit, not Hitler, not Himmler or Goering or Goebbels, but a fictional character (I think) named Reinhard Ernst.

This Ernst fellow seems to be a different sort than those others, a more rational man who is motivated by a love for his country, not a blind adherence to the politics of hate and racism.  But he is the “architect” of the German military buildup, and the Americans feel that he needs to be eliminated, and in a public manner.  Schumann is dispatched to kill him in return for having his record expunged and being paid a large cash sum, which will allow him to “go straight”.

Once there, however, things are not as simple as they are laid out.  Ernst, involved in a project called the Waltham Study, has to outmaneuver Goering, the air minister, and deal with family issues as Schumann stalks him through Berlin.  Schumann and his contact collect the information and the weapons that he will need to carry out his assignment, and meets up with a German con man named Webber and the manager of his boarding house, Kathe Richter.  Oh, and along the way, he falls in love — with Ms. Richter.

Plenty of intrigue and misdirection follow as Schumann tries to finish his job and get back to the United States.  The ending was satisfying and somewhat unexpected.  I only wish I had not waited over ten years to read it.  What other treasues are waiting for me among those stacks?


Watch this blog for announcements about my next novella, a 37000 word work I call THE INN.  It will be available on Amazon for Kindle by the end of the week.


New title coming out…

I finished up my final editing pass over the weekend, and I think it’s time to post the cover for what will be my most recent and my longest published work to date:  THE INN.

THE INN is about a high school band who takes a school trip to a music festival in Alabama, and focuses on their student-teacher, a 22-year-old college senior named Kimberly Bouton.  But this inn has some strange goings-on, and both the teacher and the kids experience that strangeness first hand.

I haven’t written the blurb yet, but I’m working on it.  This is a serial-killer-horror type of novel (or is it still a novella at around 37000 words?  Probably…) with the standard trappings of horror novels of this type.  I wouldn’t call it “extreme horror” — there are no graphic descriptions of — well, anything, really.  But it’s full of mature and disturbing occurrences, like most horror novels.

I’ve alway been a fan of horror movies, even the slasher-type of movies (though I think it’s been really overdone and I haven’t seen many in the last several years), and I recently read some novels by indie horror writer William Malmborg , especially one called TEXT MESSAGE and one called NIKKI’S SECRET.  After I read them, I thought that I could probably write something like those stories, and this is my attempt.  I’d like to think that it has my usual level of character development (for better or worse) but I don’t think it is for every reader.  If you don’t care for this sort of horror novel, take a pass on this one.  OTOH, if you liked RED DRAGON or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, you might not be totally put off by this one.

THE INN, a horror thriller which clocks in at about 37000 words and contains a sample chapter of THE CAVE as well.  Here’s the cover:

The Inn Book CoverI’ll be posting links to it on Amazon in a day or so…