Tag Archives: young adult

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... ***  

“E” by Kate Wrath

While perusing the "also viewed by" selections that Amazon provided on one of my own stories (I was either looking at THE INN or at the recently-free JACK'O'LANTERN and Other Stories) I came across a couple of selections that were listed as free.  The covers on two in particular grabbed me (plus the fact that they were free) so I investigated further, and upon a cursory read of the description I downloaded both.  (Hey, it cost me nothing, right?) Here's the Amazon description for Kate Wrath's book E:
Life is harsh. It makes no exceptions. Not even for the innocent. Outpost Three: a huddle of crumbling buildings choked by a concrete wall. Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards. Huge robotic Sentries police the streets, but the Ten Laws are broken every time one turns its back. Eden is determined, smart, and a born survivor. Stripped of her memories and dumped on the streets of the Outpost, slavers and starvation are only the beginning of her problems. A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to consume her world and tear her newfound family apart.
Does that make you want to read it?  It worked for me.  I like dystopian fiction.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I'm a sucker for futuristic extrapolations.  And the description gave me some of those:  an Outpost (this being #3, I'm curious about the others), robotic Sentries (advanced AI tech?), the Ten Laws (political commentary?), and crumbling infrastructure (again, political commentary?).  It also promises an interesting character with a lot at stake in Eden (hence the title "E?"). I've started HORNS by Joe Hill, but it's a paper version, and I can't read it in bed.  So out comes the Kindle, and the first thing there is Wrath's novel.  So I opened it up, and started reading. Kate Wrath grabbed me from the first paragraph.  "I wake up in a box of iron.  I know nothing, remember nothing.  There is one thought imprinted on my consciousness:  You have been erased."  From there it is compelling reading.  A picture of a society comes out through her protagonist's (Eden's) experiences as she struggles to survive in those first moments after finding herself deposited in this area like so much garbage.  The author uses language beautifully to convey the character and setting but she never loses sight of the story and plot as things set up. I wanted to find out more about the society and more about Eden herself. It isn't a perfect novel, but what is?  I just finished NOS4A2 by the acclaimed Joe Hill, and it was far from a perfect novel.  For me, for my reading experience, Wrath's E was the better novel.  So what makes it flawed?  For me (and your mileage may vary depending on where you come from as a reader), the novel began to suffer from some pacing problems at about the same time as the romantic triangle between Eden, Matt (who runs Outpost 3 and who doesn't seem to be a good person) and Jonas (her protector, a man with secrets) came into full swing.  Suddenly Eden's thoughts turned from survival and from her family and to her feelings for these men more and more.  For me, it bogged down the narrative.  I liked the problem-focused style of the first half better.  For me, it seemed like it changed Eden from this strong force of nature to ... something else. It wasn't a fatal flaw in any sense.  The story continued to progress, just at a slightly slower pace, and finally wrapped up in a sensible, satisfying conclusion.  I immediately downloaded Book 2, Evolution, and am already a few pages into it. One question I had as I read was, "Is this a young adult novel, or does it aim for an adult audience?"  I felt that it pretty much worked on the YA level as well as on an adult level, but usually the protagonist in YA is a teen.  (Thinking of Katniss and Tris here.)  In this book, I had the idea that Eden is a beautiful 20-something woman.  Maybe early 20's, but not exactly a teenager.  Maybe I'm wrong.  In the end, it didn't make a difference. I'll be posting a quickie version of this review on Amazon (when I get around to it) and will likely be giving the book five stars.  I think it deserves that rating, even if it weren't a first novel.  I hope that the rest of the series can keep up the standard. E by Kate Wrath.  Available at Amazon's Kindle store as well as other places. *****

TOMORROWLAND (the movie) and inspiration…

Having read quite a bit about Walt Disney, I may be seeing this recent Disney film with tinted glasses.  I remember being inspired by the stories that Disney put on film and on TV in a myriad of ways back in the 1960's, when I was inspired by the stories and the music to write my own stories and to learn to play the songs.  I didn't take my inspiration for my love of science from Disney (directly); it was the space program that grabbed me and made me want to learn.  Yeah, I was one of those kids who wanted to be an astronaut.  I dreamed about traveling to the Moon or to Mars, or to even more distant places.  My interest was fed by writers like Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke (the so-called Big Three) and by Charlton Heston movies like THE OMEGA MAN and PLANET OF THE APES. It wasn't till I started to study Disney that I realized how interested he was in the space program himself -- and in scientific advancement!  He made promotional films for NASA to help generate popular support for the project to put a man on the Moon, and in his parks was this area he called "Tomorrowland."  Tomorrowland celebrated the future by promoting the achievements of corporations in that direction.  It had exhibits like "The House of Tomorrow" and a futuristic "People Mover" and its retrospective tribute to technology, "Carousel of Progress."  I didn't know about these things till relatively recently because I didn't go to Disney World until 1975, and then as a member of my high school band who was less concerned with appreciating what I was seeing than with the existence of high school girls from other band programs in other parts of the country. So what's all that have to do with TOMORROWLAND, the movie?  I believe there is something of Walt Disney's persona in this film.  And that something is "Optimism."  Walt Disney was a futurist, according to Ray Bradbury.  A forward-thinking man who had his eyes on solving the problems of the world with technology, through corporations. The movie isn't as focused on corporations as agents for positive change, but it has the same optimism about the future that Walt had.  If I understood correctly, the story is that scientists figured out how to access an alternate dimension of reality and then proceeded to create a world where science was king -- where just about anything was possible.  (Sort of goes with Walt's old "If you can dream it, you can do it" mentality.)  In fact, the film starts with a boy inventor traveling to the World's Fair that Disney used as a testing ground for so many things that found themselves into his parks, including the aforementioned Carousel of Progress and the "it's a small world" attraction.  (At that fair, for the Illinois exhibit, Walt and company built an audio-animatronic Lincoln that people reported rose and stepped into the audience, shaking people's hands – of course it did no such thing but, well, that's how imagination works I guess.)  He makes his way to Tomorrowland with the help of a pretty young girl and a pin that she gives him.  Cut to the future – our future – where our space program is being dismantled and where pessimism reigns.  What's the best an intelligent young man or woman can hope for in this world?  It certainly isn't the Moon, or Mars. In the film's case, the intelligent young person is a high school girl who becomes intrigued by a pin she finds among her belongings after she is released from jail -- she was arrested for sabotaging the machines that are destroying the launch platforms at Cape Canaveral.  The pin shows her a shining land of science and technology that is beyond her wildest dreams, and she must find it. The straightforward adventure story that follows is competently written and it plays out in an entertaining manner.  But it was the concept behind that adventure -- the idea that you can make a difference, that your brain is more powerful than anything else, and that amazing things can be accomplished if our best and brightest put their minds to it -- that intrigued me. And it wasn't just me.  My kids were intrigued by the ideas, by the inspiration that they were able to take from the story.  I have smart kids, and we've always talked about accomplishing big things through intellect (not in those words, obviously), and they saw in this film something more than an unrealistic adventure story.  It's the same sort of feeling we have when we leave EPCOT or Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.  There's an enthusiasm after those visits, a feeling that anything IS possible, in fact. I found a review on a sometimes-Disney site called FutureProbe and I'm going to just quote the end of it:
The lesson our characters should have learned is that Tomorrowland isn’t a place you escape to, it’s something you make wherever you happen to be. The movie shouldn’t have ended with a bunch of robot children setting out to bring people to Tomorrowland, but with them setting out to bring Tomorrowland to the people.
I agree with the sentiment, but I think it's being nit-picky about the final message. So what if the robots are setting out to bring the best and brightest to Tomorrowland instead of rejoining the real world? In a sense, they are metaphorically doing exactly that – inspiring the young people to create the future instead of accepting it and "gaming the system" for their own benefit. Maybe "Tomorrowland" is MIT or Harvard or University of Illinois for some particular teenager, and maybe it's going to work for an environmentally aware company. Maybe it's just getting the best out of yourself instead of coasting. In any case, I found a lot to like about this movie.  I'm not going to argue that it's the greatest piece of filmmaking ever, but it's more than an entertaining story, or at least it can be. *****

Review of “Your Soul To Take” by Sean Hayden

Just finished this YA offering from Sean Hayden and Untold Press.  Posted this review on Amazon:
I forgot how much I enjoyed the first book in this series (MY SOUL TO KEEP) by Sean Hayden, but I was reminded as I read this one. Sean has a keen sense of story and plot, and everything moved right along about how you'd want it to! I'm giving it five stars because I haven't had this much pure fun reading a novel in a while (although I've read plenty of books I truly enjoyed). If there's a quibble, it's that Connor seems a little too mature in his dealings with his girlfriend and his sister. Sometimes I think he's missing the 15-year-old attitude a little more than is called for by his, um, condition. But otherwise I think that the other thing that Sean has a good ear for is dialogue, and when you put the two together (story and dialogue) you end up with a pretty darned good book! Enjoyable for young adults and old adults (like me).
That pretty much says it all for me on the book. Untold Press is Sean's (and Jen Wylie's) publishing company, and so far I've enjoyed the fiction I've read coming out of their small press.  That said, it's been mostly stuff by Sean Hayden and Jen Wylie. So go ahead and take a look at it.  Reading it was a lot of fun! *****

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic

Ran across the internet site The Short List, who posted this list of "dystopian novels."  The list was controversial, omitting plenty of good novels and listing some that were arguable, like THE HUNGER GAMES and ARTICLE 5.  Also it mixed "dystopian" with "post-apocalyptic" novels as if there were no difference. I think it's likely that both dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories attract many of the same readers.  I know I am attracted to both.  But is there a difference?  In many comments, it is argued that post-apocalyptic novels are a subset of dystopian fiction, while others argue that the two are separate, closely related perhaps, but both branches occupy the same level of whatever tree one might be making to categorize science fiction. I have my own "End of the World" list of both types of novels on Amazon on which I tried to stick with "post-apocalyptic" types of novels.  I did not include classic dystopian stories like Orwell's 1984 or P.K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because they don't paint a picture of a society that's been wiped out by some catastrophe (hence, the "apocalyptic" part of the genre tag).  I stick to stories describing the world after something decimates (not literally; "decimate" means eliminate one of every ten people, I think) human society.  In The Stand, it is disease.  Likewise in Edward W. Robertson's Breakers novels.  In Hugh Howey's Wool, it is another form of disease brought on by nano-bots.  In Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle, it is an asteroid hitting the Earth.  In Stephen Baxter's Ark and Flood, it is a flood of super-biblical proportions that destroys the environment as we know it.  In Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, it's Ice-9.  (Read the book!  It's lots of fun!)  In David Brin's The Postman, it's nuclear war.  In a bunch of books, it's zombies!  How do the zombies get created out of your friends and neighbors?  Disease, usually. I see "dystopian" as being something different.  I see it as a society that's gone "off track".  Orwell's vision is the classic example.  Suzanne Collins paints a dystopian society in her Hunger Games trilogy, and so does Veronica Roth in her Divergent novels.  (Apparently, The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of another earlier novel, possibly of Japanese origin, which I'd never heard of...but the knowledgeable commenters knew all about it.)  Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged paints a dystopia of sorts, and apparently so does her novel Anthem.  (I've read the first, not the second, and I remain unimpressed with the "philosophy" found in Atlas Shrugged, but that's just me.)  A lot of current young adult fiction can be categorized as dystopian, especially The Giver.  How about The Maze Runner?  Dystopian, and possibly post-apocalyptic (I haven't read the follow-ups yet.)  (Oh, and I know The Giver isn't really current, but my kids were both assigned it for school reading recently, so for me it's current...) Anyway, lots of good suggestions for reading were given in the comments, and I plan on checking out a few of them.  There's something about the current crop of dystopian novels, especially the YA stuff, that grabs me - maybe it's the attention to social orders as we see them today, and the way that kids relate to one another.  Maybe it's just that it's more accessible, with a more modern style of writing.  I don't know.  But I know for me, it's sometimes hard to get to the excellent story, because of the style in which an older novel was written.  Earth Abides and On The Beach are both like that for me; so is Brave New World.  Great, if frightening visions of the future, but stylistically, they seem to take more concentration or something, and seem harder to get into, for me at least. If you have comments about any of this, I'd love to hear them.  (And I really don't need to hear from the Vuitton Bags or Nike whatever spammers anymore...everything gets caught in the spam filter and I delete it all because I simply don't have time to check four or five hundred posts...) *****

Reading FEED by M.T. Anderson and 68 KILL by Bryan Smith

I get to read a lot of young adult/middle reader books because, well, that's what my boys read.  So I picked up this book called Feed  by M.T. Anderson, which is a young adult novel set in a future where everyone's hooked into a constant feed from, well, somewhere - sort of like Facebook and Amazon on steroids.  Imagine getting messages beamed right into your head based on what you just looked at or listened to or bought - like what Amazon does with its book recommendations and many other sites do now when we surf the net.  (Buy a pair of sneakers for an eighth grader?  Suddenly all the ads at your favorite music site are for shoes from Reebok or whatever...)  "TV" programming is beamed directly into the characters' skulls and instead of drugs, they go "mal", which seems to be visiting a site that sort of scrambles the feed to a point where you're disoriented and you seem drugged.  Everything is at the tip of one's...well...mind. The drama in this one comes when the main character Titus is attracted to a girl (Violet) and Violet has problems with her feed, and because these things are so integrated with the brain, it threatens to kill her.  How Titus reacts is a large part of the story, but just the way their world works is just as big.  It could be falling apart around them and no one would notice because they're too distracted by their feeds. It extrapolates what we're experiencing today, with political distraction from huge, important issues that have the potential to help all of us, and instead are framed to benefit corporations.  I'm enjoying the book, though I think it could be better structured.  And it's a bit confusing, being in Titus' head for much of the book.  He's a teenager in the future, where the slang, the actions, the terminology, are very different from what today's slang, actions, and terminology are.  And then it's more confusing because I'm not a teen and I don't understand some of the stuff from TODAY! I'm not going to have my 13-year-old read it yet because I think it's a little above him still.  But later, it may contain some important lessons and food for thought. ***** I've also started 68 KILL by Bryan Smith.  Can't say too much about it yet.  I like Smith's other horror offerings.  Hoping this one is as good. *****