Tag Archives: short stories

Why “horror?”

My post from yesterday talked about what scared me, and I promised that I’d write something about why I write what I write, which is mostly horror.  The short answer is that it’s what comes out when I start writing.  So there.

There’s gotta be a longer answer, right?

Well, let’s see.  I write horror because I think it’s fun to imagine scary scenarios.  There’s usually a morality play at work in such stories; even if they glorify gore and torture, there’s a good-vs.-evil thing going on.  You the reader root for the good guy (usually).

I cut my fiction teeth on mysteries when I was small.  All mysteries seem to me to be “small horror” stories in a way.  Something bad has happened.  The mystery is who did it, or why.  Sometimes it’s a puzzle story about the act of figuring things out.  Think of thrillers.  Murders, terrorists, evil government agencies, disappearances, bombs, plane crashes — all these things can be elements of a horror novel.  But the focus is on the good guy solving the problem, not so much on the victim.

I remember a mystery I read when I was younger titled THE BLACK SPANIEL MYSTERY (or something close to that).  I remember that these puppies were disappearing.  Or rather, they were being replaced.  But one of the kids noticed that the markings of the puppy were not the same as the markings on the original puppy.  Why?  I can remember feeling for those puppies, as well as for the kids who were hurt by the puppies’ disappearance.  That the kids took it upon themselves to solve the puzzle made it a mystery.  But what if the puppies were being stolen just to hurt the kids?  Or they were going to do a “Cruella DeVil” on them and skin them for their lovely fur pelts?  That’s horror, no?

Further, I moved on to science fiction.  Asimov and Heinlein were my two main sources of entertainment for a long time (considering how many books both of them wrote, you can well imagine that getting through their catalogs took a few years…).  Again, we had mysteries, even in something like FOUNDATION, where the whole book is basically a search for the Second Foundation.  Along the way there is The Mule, a mutant who can rule the universe with his advanced mental powers.  That’s sort of scary, isn’t it?  He’s almost an alien in those books, and here he is taking over the human race.  Admittedly, Asimov’s emphasis doesn’t focus on any horrific elements, so it remains firmly in the SF realm.

Then finally, I found Stephen King.  Now here was horror.  We had a psychic girl going destructo on her high school prom, we had vampires taking over a town, we had the ghosts of evil in a big hotel recruiting the caretaker and convincing him to murder his snowbound family, we had a psychic who sees the end of the world in a politician’s handshake and acts to stop it, we had a virus which kills off 99.4% (or something like that) of the population of the U.S., setting up an epic battle between good and evil.  We had ghosts, we had aliens, we had monsters, we had zombies from a pet cemetery…all manners of horror.  All done with style.

I didn’t really read horror to be reading horror for a long time.  I just read authors.  Dan Simmons wrote some horror (Summer of Night, Carrion Comfort).  Robert McCammon did, too.  So did Orson Scott Card (Lost Boys) and Dean Koontz.  Finally I found authors who wrote nothing except for horror.  Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Phil Rickman, Melanie Tem, Nancy Holder, Poppy Z. Brite…  So many names, so many scary stories.  The tales varied.  Some were gross and bloody, some were moody and ephemeral.

I wanted to write science fiction, but nothing I wrote seemed to really work all that well.  Although I have a science background (chemistry major, lots of health sciences in dental school, and interest in the space program dating to my childhood, so I always took in information about the goings-on in science), my stories never seemed really plausible to me.  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe I knew enough to know that what I was thinking wasn’t really going to work, but not enough to figure out a way to make it believable.  Anyway, as big of a fan of SF as I am, I’ve only written three short stories that are more or less in the realm of SF.

Everything I write seems to always come back to either the supernatural, or to something evil.  I’ve liked that in short stories I can sometimes have the bad guys win (see my short story GARAGE SALE which is found in THE STRIKER FILES 3-In-1 COLLECTION, or my story THE FUN HOUSE in DIE 6).  I like going in that direction with my stories.  It seems natural to me.

I like stories about characters.  I believe that most horror, at least most entertaining (to me) horror, is character-centric.  If you don’t care about the victims, then you won’t care much about their story.  And there is always a very important struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong.  To me, that’s the cool part of a story in the horror genre — it’s the “good will rise over evil” aspect, the fact that while not everyone might live through this evil, in the end, somehow, the good characters will triumph.  Perhaps it will be at a steep cost, perhaps their lives, or the lives of their loved ones.  Sacrifices have to be made.  That’s a good story right there, in my opinion.  It’s a universal story; one that can be adapted across genres.  Maybe all, or most, good stories have it at their core, somehow.

Recently I read a book called SEASICK by Iain Rob Wright.  In the book a troubled cop on holiday finds that he’s reliving a day over and over and over and over and…  well, you get the picture.  It turns out (SPOILER ALERT, though I think that even if you know the end, you can probably read the book and enjoy it because it’s a pretty fun read) that there is a killer virus on the ship, released by terrorists, and when the ship reaches the dock, it’s going to infect the port, and the world, and everyone’s gonna die.  How is the cop going to get out of this?

Is this a thriller or a horror novel?  Well, the virus turns people into some sort of zombies, so that makes it horror.  But…terrorists…a plot to release a virus…a hero cop…thriller, right?  But, a sorcerer who is causing the day to repeat for this cop until he gets it right…back to horror…  But…

You see what I mean.  A good horror novel can be a good thriller.  It just has supernatural aspects, and doesn’t shy away from depicting the bad stuff that happens, even if it happens more or less “off camera.”

I like writing character-driven stories.  I think that most of my stories start with the characters and move on from there.  I don’t know if I succeed.  Read something I’ve written (all short stories, until THE CAVE goes live sometime this weekend, then I’ll have a novella in the mix as well) and come back and tell me what you think.  It happens that most of my stories end up being horror in some way, but they’re mostly just stories.

One of the best horror series I’ve read in recent years is F. Paul Wilson’s “Repairman Jack” series.  Why is it so good?  Because Jack is facing off as the champion of a supernatural entity, and opposing another, more involved supernatural entity, but the horrors are a mix of real-life horror and horror caused in an unbelievable way by something supernatural.  Because Jack is fighting for himself as a sort of every-man, and his family, and even for people he doesn’t know but shares humanity with.  Because in the end you just have to know what’s happening, how it’s going to resolve, and what will become of Jack and Gia and Vicky and Abe and others.

It is a character-driven series, in my view, and they are the type of books I love to read, and aspire to write.

Anyway, that’s a long answer as to why I write horror.  Mostly it’s because those are the kind of stories that I make up.  Lot of words to get back to that short answer.  Sorry!

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Cover Reveal!

My latest work, THE CAVE, is finished.  I had hoped to have it available by this weekend for Kindle, but I didn’t have enough time to get all the finishing touches done on the file.

But happily, the cover IS done!  And here’s a look at it:

The Cave JPEG 3-5

The photo credit goes to my wife; it’s a photo she took at a cave in Wisconsin called “Cave of the Mounds.” The cover composition was done by my son Kevin.

When I have more news, like the links to the ebook, I’ll post it here and on Facebook!

Have a great day!

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My second free promotion results…

So my promotion ended yesterday.  It ended with a slight uptick on the downloaded copies of my two short story trios but it still was unimpressive.  Thank you to everyone who DID download the stories.  Hope you find something you like.  Even more, I hope you’ll maybe try something else I’ve written.  DIE 6 has some pretty good stories in it….I think…

So how did it compare to my first giveaway, where I promoted my titles SOLE OCCUPANT and DEAD OR ALIVE?  Well, that time I gave away 144 copies of the two titles.  The first of them did better.  I don’t think it’s surprising.  The cover for SOLE OCCUPANT was done by a professional, while the cover for DEAD OR ALIVE was done by…well, by me.

This time I gave away 71 copies in total.  Forty nine copies of JACK’O’LANTERN and 32 copies of THE GATEWAY were given away (by zombies…no, not really…by me).  Half the number of copies, though almost as many copies of JACK’O’LANTERN were given away as of DEAD OR ALIVE.  Anyway, why so few this time?  I have a few theories.

First, I did not have the opportunity to tag my giveaway with another giveaway.  In that case it was QUANTUM ZOO, with the giveaway promoted by all twelve authors (to some degree) and D.J. Gelner shared my status update, where I plugged both my own stories’ free status as well as that of QUANTUM ZOO.  This time, no shares from any authors.  (One offered but didn’t follow through, far as I could tell.)  I did have two friends share it with their own friends, and there is not much overlap between our groups of friends.  Anyway, when D.J. shared it on FB, my post views approached 300.  This time my post views were around 150 (maybe a bit more).  Half the page views, half the downloads.  Plus, people who were downloading QZ might have theoretically searched out works by the other authors in the collection and found a couple of mine on promotion, and grabbed them that way.  I’ll never know.

Second, these two covers are probably my worst covers.  I did them myself, and they were the first and second covers I ever did.  I’ll probably try to redo them sometime when I have the time.  But I don’t want to spend any actual money on them.  At $0.99 per download (which means $0.35 to me) it just does not make sense to spend the money on them.

It’s a shame, really.  I’ve had really good feedback on some of the stories.  Annetta Ribken once said of JACK’O’LANTERN (seen in a less edited form on the Friendly Fiction forum on Journalscape) that she could totally see it in a YA Halloween themed collection.  J. Michael Major listed AMERICA’S PASTIME (part of THE GATEWAY trio) as one of his favorites of the 14 DARK WINDOWS collection.  THE MOMENT also received good comments when I posted it on a blog a few years back.  And SARAH’S PUPPY won a contest on The Book and Candle Pub several years ago.  I think they’re decent stories.

Here’s Annetta’s quote (about JACK’O’LANTERN):

I can so see this in a YA Halloween anthology.
Cute and interesting premise. nicely done!

Author Eric Mayer (of the John the Lord Chamberlain mysteries) said this about THE MOMENT:

I enjoyed the story. From what I recall of eighth grade it seems true to life. Although I only wish I could’ve been bright enough to ever come up with a ruse like that. I’m surprised you could concoct this from six words not of your own choosing. Out of curiosity, do you recall what the words were?

I couldn’t, by the way.  I remembered “pirate” and “tommy gun” and “black cat” once I read it and looked for them.

And J. Michael Major’s Amazon review of 14 DARK WINDOWS:

It’s always fun to discover a new, talented author, and Scott Dyson is my latest find. The fourteen creepy tales here range from wistful and romantic (“The Moment” and “Ghost of Love”) to the horrific (“Hot Spot” and “The House at the Bend in the Road”). My personal favorites are “The Only Solution” and “America’s Pastime,” but all are wonderfully written and there is something here for everyone — just don’t read these hair-raising stories when you are alone at night! I look forward to reading more by Dyson. Buy a copy today and tell your friends about this exciting new author!

So there you have it. The results of the giveaway.

I had been debating whether to put ODD MAN OUT on promotion next month.  It’s my best cover, and I like both stories.  But I don’t know if it’s worth it.  Maybe I’ll just schedule it for a two day giveaway or something like that.

Better get something new written and published.  And soon.

Take care!  Thanks if you downloaded them.  Heck, thanks if you’re reading my blog!

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Free Promotion is here!

Started today, January 29th.  For five days only, ending February 2nd (Monday).

Two of my titles are free for Kindle on Amazon via KDP promotion.

Here are the links:

The Gateway Coverand

Jackolantern Cover

Please download them, read them, if you like them, consider leaving a review.  There are SIX (!!!) short stories contained in the two titles.  See the previous post for a description, or check out the Amazon book page for that same description.  They’re more or less flash fiction pieces.  The longest clocks in at something around 1800 words, if I recall correctly.

Thanks for grabbing them!

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Another KDP Select promo coming up…

I’m running a promotion on two of my titles, THE GATEWAY (with AMERICA’S PASTIME and HOT SPOT) and JACK’O’LANTERN (with THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY).  They will be free starting on Thursday January 29 for five days.  The promo ends on Monday, February 2.

The Gateway CoverAn imaginative boy discovers that the gateway for all evil has been opened, and his neighbor has been possessed! The fate of the whole world, or at least his neighborhood, is in his hands now. He must act to destroy the Gateway.

A 1500 word short tale of horror.

(Also found in the collection 14 Dark Windows.)

Contains two bonus stories:
America’s Pastime – a 1300 word short horror story, &
Hot Spot – a 700 word short horror story (dedicated to Dale Vincent Schwitalla)

Jackolantern CoverAs four young wanna-be Halloween vandals terrorize the far side of their neighborhood by smashing pumpkins, they encounter a jack’o’lantern that is by far the biggest and ugliest pumpkin they’ve seen this night. But this pumpkin is more than it appears.

A mild horror short story of about 1300 words.

*Also contains TWO bonus stories (NEITHER IS HORROR):
THE MOMENT (about 1500 words) and                                                                                                    SARAH’S PUPPY (about 1000 words)
And a short author’s note.

(These titles can also be found in the collection 14 Dark Windows.)

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Please feel free to download them, starting Thursday January 29.  Thank you!

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Kindle Giveaway (via KDP Select) – Success or Failure?

So the giveaway is over.  I put two of my titles, SOLE OCCUPANT and DEAD OR ALIVE, on free promotion from Wednesday 12/10/14 to Sunday 12/14/14.  How did they do, you ask?  Well, between the two of them, I gave away 144 copies of the two short stories.  I really didn’t know what to expect as far as numbers, but it was mentioned to me by SF/Thriller author Steven M. Moore that giveaways used to be measured in the thousands and now they’re measured in the hundreds.

I piggy-backed this giveaway on the concurrent giveaway of QUANTUM ZOO, hoping for a few shares of my posts promoting both giveaways on Facebook so that I would be exposed to other authors’ fans, but the only share I got was by D.J. Gelner, the editor of QUANTUM ZOO.  (Thanks DJ!)  It did help, because instead of around a hundred people seeing my posts, close to 300 saw the first post with the links in the comments.

SOLE OCCUPANT got more downloads than DEAD OR ALIVE did, in the US by 75 to 50.  It’s a much shorter title, with two stories adding up right around 3100 words, while DEAD OR ALIVE is a single story of about 7800 words, something like that.  DEAD OR ALIVE is part of a larger “trilogy” of vampire detective stories, which I hoped might work in its favor.  SOLE OCCUPANT has a cover made by professional Rich Siegle, while DEAD OR ALIVE features a home-made cover.  I don’t think it sucks, but no way is it as good as Rich’s cover.

My hope was that perhaps I might get a paid download or three of one of the collections.  I haven’t had a paid sale in a month.  My other goal was to get a review or three.  But so far, out of 144 titles given away, there are no additional reviews, either good or bad.  I don’t know if that means that most of the downloads haven’t actually been read, so I suppose there’s still some time.

A third goal was simply to get some of my work into the hands of readers, who may or may not like it, but I figured it was worth a shot.  Tastes vary, and out of 144 tries, you’d think that maybe I might get a new reader or three.

It’s sort of depressing.  A commenter, John Ellsworth (I think) on one of my other posts suggested that I focus on writing something longer.  I have longer pieces out there, nothing approaching 80K words (the length he suggested) but maybe closing in on 50K for a couple of them.  Nothing under 23K, I think.  Mostly horror, though one of them is a mystery.

It’s sort of one of those catch-22’s, in that I want this to be a self-supporting hobby.  I am willing to pay for covers and editing, but I want to see enough earnings to suggest that it’s worth it for me to do so.  I hoped to sell enough short stories to make enough money, even if it was just a hundred bucks a month, to pay for cover art for some of these longer projects.  But it’s been a no-go.

So what should I do?  Keep writing?  (I’ll do that anyway.)  Keep publishing?  (Not as certain about that one.)  I’m dismayed by the lack of reciprocal promotion I get from authors whose works I’ve promoted on my FB page and here on the blog.  Not even a “Like” from any besides D.J. and J. Michael Major, who has also reviewed a few of my stories on Amazon.

That’s okay.  I have to admit, however, that it makes me less enthusiastic about supporting (via promotion on either here or on my FB page) other indie authors.  I’ll still support the ones I like to read by buying their books, and possibly reviewing them if the mood strikes me.

Maybe this giveaway experiment will result in sales down the road.  Maybe it will result in a few reviews, positive or negative.  But right now, I have to come down on the side of “failure” when asking myself if it was a success or failure.

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Successful giveaway?

Just a quick post to update the KDP Select promotion for two of my titles.

I’ve given away 114 ebooks in 3 1/2 days (today being the 1/2).  It’s scheduled to run through tomorrow.  (12/14/14)

Here’s the links:  SOLE OCCUPANT

DEAD OR ALIVE

It will be interesting to see if getting these two stories in the hands of readers results in any reviews of the stories or better still, any increase in sales from them.  Crossing my fingers…

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Two titles free for download from Amazon!

My short stories SOLE OCCUPANT and DEAD OR ALIVE are both available for download for free as of today, December 10th, through Sunday, December 14th.

SOLE OCCUPANT is a 14 page, two story combination that features the short story SOLE OCCUPANT (about 2400 words) and THE ONLY SOLUTION (about 700 words).  It’s short, to be certain, but it’s also free!

DEAD OR ALIVE is a 32 page short story and is the first story of THE STRIKER FILES, a combo-volume featuring all three stories of the series plus a bonus story (priced at $2.99 at Amazon).  DEAD OR ALIVE is free today through Sunday.

QUANTUM ZOO remains free as well, until Friday!

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Sales report

All I can really say is, it’s a good thing I’m a dentist!  Haven’t sold a book or had a short story bought since October 23rd.

I counted, and I have eleven titles out there.  They range in length from the very short (14 pages) SOLE OCCUPANT, which is in Kindle Select and KU, and costs $0.99, to my six-story collection DIE 6, which has 123 pages and is priced at $2.99.  Also there is THE STRIKER FILES 3-in-1 COLLECTION, 93 pages also priced at $2.99, and my non-fiction title (under my real name) DOING DISNEY, which is again priced at $2.99 and contains 101 pages of information about visiting the Florida resorts.  14 DARK WINDOWS is a fourteen-story collection of short “flash” fiction, 63 pages, and is once again priced at $2.99.

What could I do?  Perhaps a full collection of ALL of my short stories, would come in at something around 250 pages (maybe a bit more), and price it at $4.99?  I have five stories in the very early stages of readiness for publication, all need rewriting and editing, but none are ready to go tomorrow.

Anyway, I know I don’t do much to promote the stories.  The only people who have bought them are people who know me through Facebook, for the most part, or knew me from my days at Delphi Internet Service when I helped run the Book and Candle Pub.  I submitted a story to the anthology QUANTUM ZOO with low expectations, but it was one of the twelve that was selected for inclusion, and I’d hoped that perhaps someone would read my story there and decide to check out at least one or two of my other stories, but the problem is that very few of the stories I’ve written and published would excite the QUANTUM ZOO target audience.  So perhaps my efforts for that collection are wasted.

Who knows?  For me, a good story is a good story.  I’ve bought several of my co-authors’ stories but I don’t know if it is working in reverse.  Oh well.  I don’t really NEED the income.  I can just keep writing, and when they’re ready, publishing, and if they catch on, great.  If not, so be it.

As the saying goes, it was worth a try.

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