Author Archives: Scott Dyson

Atlas Shrugged Redux – FIRESTAR

(I wrote this blog post in August of 2006 and am reposting here.)

Over two decades ago I read a thought-provoking book – ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. It’s a book which often seems to elicit passionate responses. If you agree with the points Rand makes, you love it, and probably most of her other stuff (though I haven’t read much else by her myself). If you disagree, well, you find tons of areas to pick away at it, some of it against the author herself, from what I’ve read.

I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the book before I read it. I had heard OF it, of course, but didn’t really know what it was about. What I read was a book about producers and consumers. People who create wealth and people who live off that wealth. I thought it had applications to the time frame in which I read it (early or mid 1990’s) and all the discussion about welfare reform, and also discussion about the tax code. Ronald Reagan and his guard going out, Bill Clinton coming in.

I found myself skimming the book, because of the bad prose and preachiness of parts of it, but I remember thinking that the first chapters set up an intriguing situation with the disappearance of certain influential and intelligent, productive members of society. But I read it to the end, and I still recall what I took away from the story back then. Mostly it said (to me) that a nation shouldn’t penalize its producers for producing. That makes a certain amount of sense on the face of it. There was also an element of what if large amounts of people “took their balls and went home?” In the book there is a backlash to having the fruits of their labor taken from them to support those who won’t (not can’t, but WON’T) work to produce fruits of their own. So those producers get mad and take their balls and leave. Thought provoking concept, if nothing else.

In FIRESTAR, Michael Flynn approaches the near future (the book was written in 1996, so most of this book’s future is already here) with optimism and pessimism. One rich woman, Mariesa Van Huyten (shades of John Galt, perhaps?) is attempting to save the world from itself. She is doing this by contracting, through her corporation’s Mentor subsidiary, to educate the youth of America in select school districts, with the goal of producing quality individuals for tomorrow’s work force. She is also doing it by starting her own space program in Brazil and attempting to develop a space vehicle which can launch itself like an airplane and return to Earth. This in the name of profits, but also because Van Huyten believes that dangers are coming from outer space, likely in the form of some asteroid or another.

In Flynn’s vision, there is no lack of competence on the part of the youth, only a lack of motivation, enthusiasm, and anticipation of a good future for themselves and the world. They are too cynical, too self-absorbed, and too understimulated. All that they need, in this world, is better schools and better teachers. Oh, there is a nod to their social situation with the subplot about a young gang member who can’t break out of his culture, and a nod to their home situations with a subplot about a budding poet who must overcome her mother’s attitudes about school and successful people. But mostly it’s about putting the kids in an environment where they CAN succeed. And of course, most of them do.

As far as the space program goes, there is the expected resistance from other corporations, the general public, and our own government and the tons of regulations they put upon up and coming businesses and ideas, aimed at stifling them and bogging them down and putting them out of business. In one part, Flynn details an account of a landfill which by law must be capped and sealed, but now has become home to ducks and geese and as such is now designated a wetlands. So the corporation, which is ready to cap and seal it, is prevented from doing so by one arm of government while another fines them for not doing it. Overstatement of stupidity, perhaps, but we’ve all heard these types of stories.

It wasn’t such a well-told story, with characters that took a while to really care about and get to know, and plots that seem to take forever to come to fruition, lots of loose ends left hanging, and some odd finishes to others storylines. But it had a very broad scope, taking in years, multiple settings, several plotlines, and a myriad of ideas. This makes it harder, in my opinion, to tell such a story with the same panache as a more focused tale.

The idea that one person can make such a huge difference is intriguing but not terribly believable in today’s society, a decade after Flynn wrote the book. Like John Galt, Mariesa Van Huyten is a mover and a shaker, but its hard to accept that all of her premises would come off so smoothly and be so correct. Only a few miscalculations make it into the story and they end up not being terribly important. Unlike John Galt, however, Mariesa is human enough that her work DOES affect her personal life and something suffers.

I could go on picking away similarities and differences between the characters and their motivations, but I’ll just say that while this was a hard book to finish, it was worth reading in the end, and I sort of wish I hadn’t left it sitting unattended on my shelf for so many years since I bought it off the bargain shelves.

This Writing Thing…

I sometimes wonder: what the heck am I trying to do with my writing? Like now. I’m wondering it, now, because I did a Kindle Countdown Deal for my novella THE INN, which has been my best earner (and by that I mean it’s probably made $50.00 since it’s been published). Wanna know how many books were purchased while the novella was marked down to first $0.99 for two days, then to $1.99 for two more days before going back up to $2.99 last Sunday?

Zero.

That’s not very many, is it?

THE INN has had some pages read in Kindle Unlimited, and so have a couple of my other books, but none have inspired the readers to write reviews or sign up for my mailing list.

So I sit back and wonder: Does my writing suck? I don’t think it does. I’ve had compliments from other authors and from various folks who have read the stories. Maybe it’s not perfect, but I’ve got a pretty decent editorial eye, I think, and I can tell when something is just not quality. Even my own work.

I’m not talking about not liking an author’s word choices or the way they turn a phrase. I’m talking about bad writing. Boring writing. Unclear writing. Unfocused storytelling. I recognize those things in a lot of other books I try, and I don’t see them in my own stuff. Nor have others, or so I’m led to believe.

In any case, I’m wondering what I want to get out of this gig? I know that when I started, I had some delusions of grandeur. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d made a bunch of money from my books. Then reality hit (very soon) and I hoped I’d just make a few hundred dollars a month, maybe a grand. That would have been cool. Instead I’m making virtually nothing.

It’s a catch-22… If I don’t make money, I can’t spend money to market the books. If I don’t spend money to market the books, I don’t sell books and don’t make any money.

So maybe it’s time to give up on the serious writing dreams. On the “becoming successful” as an indie author and publisher. Maybe it’s time to just throw stuff out there and hope it sticks somewhere, and if it doesn’t, so what? If I’m writing anyway, what does it matter?

It takes time and effort to do even the minimal Facebook and GoodReads promotional posts I make. I just don’t know if it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, there are still stories to be told. So let me get back to it, and go tell some stories.

*****

THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT is released!

So it’s done! I released THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT right before the new year, so that if you received a new Kindle or tablet for Christmas, you can load it up with five (count ’em!) Scott Dyson novels or novellas.

This will be my last release for a little while, as I am trying to finish a sequel to THE STRIKER FILES, the three-short-story collection about my detective-turned-vampire, Rick Striker. The first draft is done, and a follow-up is in the pipeline.

Grab THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT while it’s at the low low price of $0.99!

*****

Upcoming Novella: THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT

I have a new work coming out soon.  Maybe even before Christmas!  (But more probably around the new year…)

It’s called THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT, and it was inspired by a Richard Laymon work where the night doesn’t end.  But it isn’t Laymon’s story.  It’s all mine. 

Here’s the working blurb:


It’s an ordinary summer, much like any other –- until the day the sun stopped rising.

First, cell phone service fails. Then the electricity goes out. Those who leave aren’t returning. Those who stay home are disappearing.

Or dying.

Beth Evans doesn’t trust the neighbor who appoints himself block leader. She doesn’t believe him when he proclaims that the danger comes from beyond the ends of their street. All she wants is to keep her family safe, and to do so, she must find the truth on her own. 

But the most terrifying danger may be closer than Beth dreams…


I am looking forward to publishing my fifth longer work.  This isn’t a novel or even a longer novella like THE INN or ODD MAN OUT; it’s about 26,000 words, give or take. 

Watch this space for more information and a cover reveal!  Thank you!

*****

How I came to write ODD MAN OUT

I just released what I feel might be my best work – the novella version of ODD MAN OUT.  It’s a tale of jealousy and duplicity that leads to a nasty outcome, mostly set in a cabin in the North Woods of Wisconsin, probably.  I say “probably” because although that’s the type of setting I was envisioning, there is no specified region in the story. 

ODD MAN OUT started life as a short story, back in the 1990’s, when I was helping to run a Delphi forum called THE BOOK AND CANDLE PUB.  We had a short story contest there, called the “Publican Brief” (paying homage to the John Grisham novel), and the challenge this time was to write a story around the provided opening sentence and six random words.  I don’t recall what the words were, but I know the opening sentence was something like “The smell of pines invaded my senses…”  It’s still in the story, but it’s in a different spot; it is no longer the opening line.

I published the short story with another story called “The House At The Bend In The Road.”  Together they were less than 4000 words.  I think the original “Odd Man Out” was about 1600 words.  My friend Rich Siegle did a cover for it, and briefly we tinkered with the idea of doing a comic book treatment or illustrated version of the story.  My feeling at the time was that it was only my second thing published, and I didn’t think it would be worth the time or effort we’d have to put into it.  After all, I was going to sell it for $0.99.

Interestingly, it was the first thing I sold.  Within hours of publishing it, a copy sold!  I thought, this publishing business is easy and fun!   I was right about the “fun” part, but the “easy” part really didn’t play out.  I’m not a big seller.  My friends, apparently, are not big readers, and even though I’m a member of several reader/writer groups on Facebook, I don’t seem to sell many books.  

But that’s neither here nor there.  At some point, I though, I have this great cover.  And it’s gracing the front of a couple of short stories that don’t sell at all.  Why not use it on something else?  Could “Odd Man Out” benefit from a longer rewrite?  I’d done it with another story, “Dead Or Alive,” and it went from about 2400 words to 7500 words, and spawned two more stories of 8500 words and 9600 words.  (These became THE STRIKER FILES collection.)

So I started writing.  The short story served as an outline, so to speak.  I had my characters, I had my background and I had my setting.  So it was just a matter of fleshing things out.

The story grew to something around 34000 words.  No longer a short story at all.  Now it was a full blown novella.  Could I have made it even longer?  Maybe.  But I felt like I would have been adding for the sake of adding, not for telling the story I envisioned. 

Rereading it, as I have been doing for the past couple of nights, has been instructive.  I have never read something I’ve written so soon after publication and felt as positively as I did in this one.  I hope it gets an audience.  I hope it helps me get an audience.  I think it is good enough to do so. 

NEW RELEASE: ODD MAN OUT novella

It’s official!  ODD MAN OUT is live on Amazon! 

Here’s the blurb:

It’s going to be one crazy weekend. Crazy enough to kill…

Everyone has always enjoyed the annual Halloween getaway at Roger’s cabin, even if some of Roger’s games are a little… strange. And this year, it’s once again Roger’s turn to pick the game they will play.

Roger wants everything to be perfect so he’s put a great deal of thought into his scavenger hunt. After all, he loves Amy and he’s determined to win her heart.

He’s also determined to deal with Amy’s fiance, Paul. Paul pretends that he and Amy were destined to be together. That Paul didn’t steal Amy from him. That he and Paul are still best friends.

The meals, the campfires, the game, it’s all part of Roger’s revenge plot. Only he didn’t plan on his secretary driving to the cabin and screwing everything up.

But what’s a few more murders, between friends?

Check it out! 

*****

ODD MAN OUT cover reveal!

This is sort of an anticlimax, but the rewritten, novella-length version of ODD MAN OUT will be coming out very soon!  And the cover is the same as the old cover for the short story.  (It’s too good of a cover to waste on that short story!)

So:  Without further ado, here is the cover to ODD MAN OUT:

 

Thanks to Rich Siegle for the tremendous cover art!  It was exactly what I was thinking of when I envisioned an image for the short story, and will work great on the novella also!

*****

Read the review of DIE 6!

I’ve always been proud of these 6 short stories, and am happy to share a review from author Steven M. Moore, who read and reviewed the story today on his blog. 

Please, visit Steve’s blog, read the review, and while you’re there, check out Steve’s offerings.  He is an excellent SF/thriller author who writes hard science fiction and classic mysteries.  He’s got a lot to check out! 

Here’s the link to Steve’s review of DIE 6.  

And don’t forget that DIE 6 is still free on Amazon for today and tomorrow.

6 short stories, 123 pages