Author Archives: Scott Dyson

My guidebook DOING DISNEY! has been published by Theme Park Press!

Hi, all,

In 2013, I published a Disney World guidebook.  The editor of Theme Park Press contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in seeing it published by his small press.

It’s finally out!

Doing Disney TPPLinks for purchase follow for Amazon:

For the paperback at Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Doing-Disney-Spend-Week-World/dp/1683900359/

For the Kindle Edition at Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Doing-Disney-Spend-Week-World-ebook/dp/B01MTXTFBL/

Take a look at it if it interests you!

*****

Recent reads

I finished a couple of very good thrillers recently.  First was Steven M. Moore’s GAIA AND THE GOLIATHS. This was the seventh Chen-and-Castilblanco mystery, and it deals with eco-terrorism and murder. It takes the reader from New York to Europe and also involves Moore’s Dutch Interpol agent Bastian van Coevorden on that end. It’s a well-constructed mystery that presents a balanced picture of the world of environmental activism along with several little nods to what’s going on in American politics today (the story is set a short time in the future, I believe).  As I’ve come to expect from Steve Moore, this is a really interesting, thought-provoking read right from the beginning.  Chen and Castilblanco are great characters, too.

The second was Steve Richer’s THE POPE’S SUICIDE.  Like Richer’s THE PRESIDENT KILLED HIS WIFE, this takes an unlikely crime involving a world leader and turns it around this way and that way.  There are many layers of intrigue going on here, and I found it to be a can’t-put-it-down type of book.  When the Pope is found hanging in his shower, suicide is the apparent cause.  But of course it can’t be that simple, not to mention the complications that a Pope’s suicide would cause for the Catholic Church.  Detective Donny Beecher is going through a rough time of his own, marriage falling apart and teen daughter rebelling and getting into some things that Dad wouldn’t approve of.  And he’s assigned as the lead detective for the investigation.  Solid plotting and writing make this a top notch read.  Now I have to go read THE KENNEDY SECRET.

Last, I read CRYSTAL CREEK by William Malmborg.  In this one, a paranormal investigator goes to a small town in Washington State where Bigfoot has been sighted, and a woman has disappeared.  Crystal Creek barely exists anymore, but there is still an inn, a police department, a diner, and a newspaper.  And everyone left in this little town seems to have a secret of some sort.  It’s a great premise and a good story.  If I have a bit of a problem with it, it’s that I didn’t care about the characters too much.  I don’t know why, but they didn’t make me feel that they were worth worrying about.  Everything about the story is well done, and it’s a good, fast read.  (As an aside, is it horror?  A thriller?  Whatever it is, what makes it that?)

So there you have it — three good solid books by indie authors.  Check them out!

*****

Health Care Debate

I rarely get political on this blog.  I think I can count two posts that might be seen as having political overtones.  And this will be the third, though for me, it has nothing to do with being a democrat or a republican, a liberal or a progressive or a conservative or right-wing extremist.  It has to do with health care, and what our goals should be.

It seems to me that most discussions between the two sides of our very polarized country break down because we start with different premises.  Case in point:  the second amendment.  There is a legitimate debate about exactly what the “founding fathers” meant when they stated:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Most gun proponents look at the second part — “the right of people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  They therefore assume that they have the RIGHT to own any type of weapon that is manufactured, as long as it can be classified as “Arms.”  Others look at the first part of that quote — “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” — and see that right to bear arms as being limited to their participation in a militia, say, the National Guard.  Still others look at the quote, written over 240 years ago, and believe that if the founders had an inkling of what would develop in weaponry — things like assault rifles and grenade launchers and ammo that could punch through the thick metal bodies of tanks (which were also unimaginable to them, certainly, in present form), they would have wisely incorporated some limits.

The point isn’t what is right or wrong about the second amendment, it’s that when we start with different premises, we will never agree.

So the trick is to find a common premise and that may indeed be a difficult trick.  So let’s start with this.  Is health care a right?  If so, at what level?  And if not, how do we deal with the health issues of those who can’t afford to pay for their care?

For example, I start with the premise that some basic level of health care should be accessible to all Americans.  I see that access to affordable health care at some level as a right.  Others do not.  I’d love to hear their reasoning.

I also see it as a reasonable penalty to pay some relatively small amount as a penalty for someone’s choice to not pay for coverage, because if that person ends up in the hospital, be it because of disease or accident, they’re not going to pay for it — the rest of us are, in indirect ways like higher hospital costs and higher insurance premiums.  Others see that as an infringement on their own right to not buy health insurance.  Where does their right end?  Does it end when that choice ends up costing the rest of us a lot more money in terms of health care?

Can we agree that an accident or a disease should not bankrupt a person or a family in order to pay for their health care costs?  That seems like a pretty low standard.

If we can agree that the above is a reasonable thing, then we have to decide how to achieve it.  I can tell you that lowering providers’ reimbursement will not work.  Sure, some physicians might be making inordinate amounts of money compared to an Amazon warehouse worker.  But who gets to decide how much money physicians, who have one of the most important jobs in the world, should be paid?  How much is enough?  I think it should be substantial.  I won’t go into all the reasons here, but I do know that if I’m having surgery, I want the best trained and smartest person available doing that surgery, and so do you.

So if providers’ fees aren’t going to be cut, where’s this savings going to come from?  Everyone has different ideas.  Sometimes those ideas get put together into health care legislation, and an attempt is made to solve some of the problems.  But the people who were getting rich off of other people’s misfortune might not like those solutions because some of them might cut into their profits.  And sometimes the goals of the people purchasing the insurance (employers and individuals) are at odds with the goals of those selling it (the insurance companies).  So nothing is ever going to be perfect.

In a perfect world, we’d all be able to go to the doctor when we were sick and not have to worry about not being able to afford the care we need.  And isn’t that what we should be striving for?  A perfect world?  We’ll never get there, of course, but it should be a goal.  The goals of American society should include affordable and accessible health care for every American, whether they are rich or poor, sick or healthy.  When you need health care, you need health care.  There’s no getting around it.

Can we all agree on that premise?  It seems so logical to me, but perhaps that’s because of my perspective as a family man, as a health care provider, and as a businessman who has employees.  Perhaps others have a different perspective on that premise.  Maybe there are those out there who don’t see that goal as being part of a perfect society.  I’d love to know why if that’s the case.  Please feel free to comment, anonymously, if you’d like.  (Just don’t get abusive or disrespectful.)

Because if we CAN agree on that premise, then we should see this new republican plan for what it is:  a BIG step in the wrong direction.

*****

Recent Reading

I haven’t been posting much here, but I couldn’t get through the entire month of March without at least one entry, so here it is.

I recently read a couple of non-fiction books.  First was The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.  Yeah, it’s the same guy who wrote The Big Short and Moneyball.  I can’t say I liked this one as much as I liked some of his other works.  It just didn’t seem as focused.  In the end, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be about the people he was talking about or about the ideas they came up with, or about the impact of those ideas on our everyday lives.  Maybe it was about all of those, but in the past he’s focused more on one recognizable goal and used the other parts to illuminate that goal.  It was an interesting read, but just not as good as some of his others.

The other non-fiction book I finished was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Now this one made me think.  It’s about success and the role that chance plays in that success.  It doesn’t say that success can come without hard work and a willingness to correct things that might be causing you to veer away from a successful outcome, but it does say that there is a lot of “right place at the right time” involved in peoples’ success.  For example, did you know that an inordinate amount of professional hockey players (at least in Canada) have birthdays in January, February and March?  Why would that be?  It can’t be just a random thing.  It turns out that many of the youth hockey programs have age-cutoff dates of January 1st.  So because of that, kids born in those months are simply older and bigger than other athletes at a period of time in their young lives when a few months can make a large difference physically.  So these are the kids who are a little bit more physically developed and they stand out, so they get selected for all-star teams and traveling teams and such, and get better coaching and more practice time.  And it keeps going until they actually ARE the best players.

I found that take to ring true, even in writing.  Sure, there are things you can control.  You can control the quality of your own writing and storytelling.  You can work to get better.  You can edit and proofread and take advice and criticism from your “team.”  You can work on your covers and on your blurbs.  You can market your works in such a way to increase their visibility, and when something doesn’t work, you can try something else that might work better.

But you can’t write what you can’t write.  If you write in a relatively unpopular genre, like I do (horror), you might just be stuck.  Conversely, if you write in a genre that tends to have voracious readers who stay in that genre, like romance, you might do a lot better.  Or psychological thrillers, or erotica.  Apparently those sell better in e-books.  If you’re just getting started today, you may find yourself with more of an uphill climb than if you had started right after the Kindle came out and e-books really became a thing.  Or if your stories just don’t strike a chord with readers, you are not positioned to take advantage of the market trends that are out there.

Luck might just be described as being in the right place at the right time.  It might be that you published your book on a day that, for whatever reason, it became more visible and grabbed the attention of more people so that it became ranked highly and thus became more visible.  It might be described as already being positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Even Joe Konrath admits that “luck” played a part in his own phenomenal success as an indie author.  Here’s just one post of many he has dealing with the subject.  (The comments are great, being from respected authors like Blake Crouch, Jude Hardin and Mark Terry, to name a few.)

Anyway, I got a bit sidetracked.

I’m currently reading Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, with Amy Wallace.

I’m also reading some fiction, but I think I’ll make another post (with links to what I’ve read) soon.  Before the end of March, for sure!

*****

The Philosophers of Today?

A while back, I was speaking with my retired MD friend, who is in the process of writing his memoirs.  From his description of what he was trying to accomplish, these memoirs are going to be sort of a combination of a biography and a philosophical treatise. He was bemoaning his view that the young people of today don’t have a clue what is coming at them in the future. He also suggested that there are no philosophers out there today helping to shape thought.

That’s an interesting observation, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. Is it true? I just don’t know. I recall back to my own time at Jesuit Loyola of Chicago, where I was required to take 9 hours of philosophy and 9 hours of theology. (I sort of cheated on the philosophy hours – “Logic” counted as a philosophy credit, and I had it in MATH in high school, and was good at those equations. So I took it and aced it. Didn’t feel much like philosophy to me, though…) Who did we study? Well, there were guys like Hume and Kierkegaard, and there was a guy named Mortimer Adler, who wrote the main book we studied, a volume titled The Difference Of Man and The Difference It Makes. Adler may or may not have some association with University of Chicago, and I think he’s still around and still writing.

I’m removed from the academic arena by over 30 years now, and I don’t know what is taught in a philosophy course today. And should philosophy be just about reading what the old thinkers wrote? Or should it be about developing your own philosophy? Learning what that means? Learning how to critically look at an issue and decide what is important about it?

I tend to think that perhaps the pop philosophers of today and of recent vintage are writing fiction as much as they’re writing non-fiction. After all, where else can a thinker work out the issues, speculate on the outcomes if one course of action is taken, explore options, even look at past events in a different light? “Speculative Fiction” is a name I’ve heard applied to some science fiction, and what is that if not an almost philosophical exploration of choices and outcomes?

The trouble is, this sort of “philosophy” isn’t considered serious. It’s ‘just’ genre fiction, it’s just made up stuff.

Still, I think some important thinking can be found in SF books. We’ve often heard the description “a cautionary tale” of a particular story, and that to me is at least a form of practical philosophy.

*****

“First they came….”

FIRST THEY CAME

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

— Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Short Story: GRANDPA

This is the first short story in my collection 14 DARK WINDOWS. You can get it in its entirety if you download the free sample for Kindle, but I thought that maybe some people who don’t do Amazon or have a Kindle might want to read it.  I wrote it a long time ago as a contest entry where the first sentence and six additional words were given and you constructed a story around them.  Enjoy!

GRANDPA

“All the King’s Horses, and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again!” Grandpa finished the rhyme and closed the book. “Well, Billy, what else would you like to do?”

Billy loved his grandfather. Grandpa always had time for a story, a game, or to simply talk. “I’ll do whatever you want to do, Grandpa.”

* * * * *

You can read the rest of this story by clicking this link or by going to “Stories” on the menu above and choosing “Grandpa.”

You can buy 14 DARK WINDOWS at Amazon by clicking this link:  14 DARK WINDOWS

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Superheroes in Thriller Fiction

A few years back, I read three books in a row that sort of opened my eyes to the use of some sort of super human in crime/thriller fiction. The first was Greg Iles’ The Devil’s Punchbowl, the second was Robert Crais’ The First Rule, and the third was C.J. Box’s Cold Wind. Let me throw in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series with this bunch.

It struck me as I read, that each hero/protagonist was aided by someone with almost superhuman abilities. In the three mentioned books all of them were Special Forces types. Iles’ main character is attorney Penn Cage, and I love his Natchez southern settings. In this book, however, Cage is up against really really bad guys involved with a floating casino, and he calls a guy to help out – an ex-Seal named Daniel Kelly. Kelly and his guys are so good it’s scary in itself. You’re certainly glad they’re on your side.

In the second book, Crais steps away from Elvis Cole, his usual protagonist, to allow Cole’s sidekick, Joe Pike, to move front and center. Pike is another Special Forces type, though I’m not sure about what branch. Totally confident and as tough as nails. And he’s got those Special Forces skills that make him seem invincible.

In the third book, CJ Box’s protagonist is a rather normal game warden named Joe Pickett. But Joe is friends with a guy named Nate Romanowski, who is wanted by the government. Nate is another scary-good ex-Special Forces type whose plans always seem to work out.

I threw in Bolitar’s name because he has his buddy Win Lockhorn, the prissy rich guy who (along with Myron) has some sort of Special Forces training and who also always seems to know he’s going to win. Fortunately for the good guys, he always has, so far.

Some of the other thriller series feature guys who are scary good at what they do, like Jack Reacher of the Lee Child series, or Lincoln Rhyme, the quadraplegic genius of Jeffrey Deaver’s books.

About the only guy who is really good but isn’t exactly a superhuman is Harry Bosch. But he’s close.

Just some stuff that crossed my mind as I knocked out those three books.  Does one “need” a superhero, invincible-type character in order to make things work in these sorts of thrillers?  If you can think of other examples, please post them in the comments.

*****

Publishing Paralysis

As you may or may not have noticed, I have not published anything…ANYTHING…in 2016.  It’s not for a lack of things to publish.  I currently have four works ready to go.  They are, in no particular order, ODD MAN OUT, RECIPROCAL EVIL, THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT, and finally, DEAD OR ALIVE.  Most are novella-length; RECIPROCAL EVIL is a bit over 50,000 words, while ODD MAN OUT clocks in at about 33,000.  I think that both DEAD OR ALIVE and THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT are around the same length:  approximately 27,000 words.

I have been writing.  I have a YA novel finished called THE SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD:  CIBOLA which is about 53,000 words.  I am about 68,000 words into an untitled end-of-the-world novel which was inspired by Hugh Howey’s WOOL.  I’m working on a longer vampire novel which would follow DEAD OR ALIVE and a horror story set in a fictional town called Addison Falls.  I’ve also been tinkering with a series that I started with my son a couple years ago, called THE NINE KEYS.  The first of that series is basically finished, and it is something around 68,000 to 70,000 words in length.  The second is about 20,000 words at this point and has a long way to go.  I also started a space opera novel but that’s stalled out at around 17,000 words at the moment.

Covers are done for three of the four ready-to-go works, editing and formatting are done for all four.  So what’s the holdup, you might ask (assuming that “you” are reading this and are interested in reading what I’m writing)?

I haven’t been selling much (okay, I really haven’t been selling anything!) and I need to do something different.  One option is to give up.  Or keep doing what I’ve been doing, which involves tossing up my writing, offering it for sale, and having no one actually find any of it.

The second option is to try to form a better foundation.  So far I have only published ebooks and only at Amazon.  So, my foundation is this blog/website, my Amazon author page, and my Facebook page.  I have, like, 64 followers on Facebook.  Not enough.  And depending on Facebook to get the word out is a crapshoot.  When I look at how many people view my posts on my Scott Dyson page there, often it’s like 7, or 13, or at best low 20’s.  So of those 64 people, only a small percentage even SEE my notifications when I publish.  Without paying FB to show the post to more people, I guess that’s about the best one can do there.

I am thinking of doing Instagram, just for my cover photos.  I have thought about taking down my collections and publishing the individual works for free on Wattpad, but after looking around there, I didn’t have much luck finding a lot of stuff I wanted to read.  I went specifically looking for my friend Steve Moore’s work there, and I didn’t find it with their search functions.  So I wonder how effective that will be for what I write.

I try to “network” with other writers as much as possible.  I will promote authors’ works (assuming they are something I like and read) here on these pages, with FB posts, and in any other way that comes up, and I have a few author-friends who have helped me out as well.  But I don’t think our audiences cross over very much, or at least what I write is not necessarily of interest to their audiences.  I read so broadly and across so many genres that I am happy to promote their stuff; even more, I WANT to suggest and recommend good reads to my friends.  I think that maybe if I could network with some horror authors, it would work better.  I have tried with a couple, but they don’t seem interested in reciprocating.

But the biggest thing I want to do is set up a mailing list.  And I don’t really know how to go about it.  I mean, signing up is easy.  And it seems that putting the widget on the website is not a big challenge either.  But most authors I’ve spoken to who use mailing lists effectively offer a free work, and all I have are mobi’s of my works.  I’d certainly be willing to offer one or both of my short story collections, or even one of my novellas, for free as an incentive to sign up for the list, but as I have not used any of the software (Vellum, Sigil, Calibre) that apparently can generate ebooks in various formats, I don’t know how to get these files to give away.

As a mailing list builds, eventually you have a ready-made list of people who are interested in receiving information about your releases, and maybe, just maybe, you can sell enough books upon release to push your work into some sort of visibility on Amazon.    I think that this sounds like the best way to increasing sales and visibility.

I also plan on giving away both of my short story collections (as they’re both in Amazon Kindle Select and in KU) and I want to try a FB experiment, ask some friends if they’d share the links to the free books, see if I can give away a bunch more than I usually do.  Watch this page for announcements about those giveaways, or if you’re a Facebook friend, watch my feeds there.

Anyway, I’m going to try to break the paralysis in the next month or two, and get this stuff out there for anyone and everyone to read.  If anyone is interested, that is…

***

 

ODD MAN OUT – Prologue

(I have three new stories ready to go; I’m just dragging my feet on publishing them because I want to get a few other things in place before I start running them out there.  One is a long version of my short story “Odd Man Out,” which was published as a standalone (with another short story called “The House at the Bend in the Road”) and as part of the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS.  What follows is the Prologue of that story, which is novella-length (about 33,000 words, if I recall correctly).  Watch this space or sign up for my soon-to-come mailing list to find out when it is available on Amazon.

ODD MAN OUT

Prologue

Roger Sinclair checked the calendar that hung on the wall over his computer. October nineteenth. Only the nineteenth. It seemed that the thirty-first was taking forever to arrive this year. Time was dragging.

Anticipation had a way of making the passage of time seem very slow.

The Cabin Weekend was approaching, and Roger had big plans for the traditional yearly gathering of his friends.

Friends. That was a laugh. They didn’t like him any more than he liked them. They used him. They always had. Vinnie, Jack and Paul – they hung around with him – no, they let him hang around with them – because he was smart, dependable, and well-off. He made them feel superior – Look at rich, smart, loser Roger, who can’t get a girl and gets shunned by everyone…but us! We’ll take pity on the loser, and we’ll take advantage of his brains and his wealth.

Like the Cabin Weekend. They always went to Roger’s cabin. None of them had cabins. And why spend money on a real vacation when they could just sponge off Roger? Vinnie and Susan, Jack and Nancy, and Paul and whatever hot-looking hosebag he was dating at the moment.

Well, not this year. Paul wasn’t dating a hot-looking hosebag anymore. He was engaged. To Amy Wellington. Amy might be hot, but she was no hosebag. She was the epitome of class. She was the girl of Paul’s dreams, as Paul himself had pointed out.

She was also the girl of Roger’s dreams, but that was beside the point. Paul never cared about what Roger wanted, only what he wanted. He wanted Amy, so of course he ended up with her. That’s how it worked with Paul.

No matter that he had been Roger’s guest at a charity function when he met Amy. Paul had deigned to accompany Roger to the event when Roger’s own date fell through. ‘Fell through’ is sort of misleading. She dumped me on my ass, he remembered. Bitch.

Focus! Roger forced himself to get back on track with his thoughts. This wasn’t about Melissa, the stick-up-her-ass bitch that worked in the IT department of Roger’s family’s company. The point was Paul, and how he met Amy, and how he had practically run Roger over in his zeal to get to her first.

Paul knew that Roger saw her first, that Roger wanted to take a shot with her, but could Paul let him have a chance? No, of course he couldn’t. What Paul wants, Paul gets.

Roger’s fantasy was that Amy would see Paul for what he was and eventually they’d split up. It would be Paul’s fault, of course, and Roger would be there for Amy. He’d be the understanding friend she would need, the shoulder she could cry on, the guy who’d be there for her as she worked through the pain of their broken engagement. Of course it would end Paul’s friendship with Roger, but that was okay. It wasn’t a real friendship, and it had not been one for a long time. Ever since that day at the frat party back in college…

Focus! he told himself again. This isn’t about embarrassment that Paul caused him in college, this is about Amy Wellington. Paul’s fiancee. Roger’s one true love.

And the Cabin Weekend would be the time when things would turn in favor of Roger.

#

(To find out what happens at the Cabin Weekend, watch for ODD MAN OUT at Amazon or on these pages…)