DAYTON — Sidney native Richard Von Meyer, now of Dayton, has lived many places: Columbus, Dallas, California, the East Coast.
But he has always carried a fondness for some places in his hometown. That’s why he put the Spot, Tawawa Park, the Moose lodge, the courthouse and the dwelling at the corner of Port Jefferson Road and Bon Air Drive in his novel, which is set in a fictional town called Elmwood. Elmwood, however, looks a lot like Sidney.
And the novel’s plot involves a corporation he called EMCO, which is an amalgam of initials in the names of Emerson Climate Technologies and Copeland Corp.
“Copeland was where my dad worked from the late 1930s to the 1960s,” Von Meyer said by phone recently. “Escape from the Net” is a futuristic story about a time in the United States when the federal government decides to create places for the less successful to live separately from the rest and how some avoid the “net” being cast over them, according to Amazon.com.
People living in Elmwood in 2034 notice that a large, military-like complex is under construction just outside of town. It’s not long before some Elmwood residents begin to live in that building, called the ISCP. When the book’s action moves to Washington, D.C., the story becomes one of political intrigue.
“I started it about four years ago,” Von Meyer said of story. Now retired, after having started and run several businesses including three music stores, he had been looking for something to occupy his time.
“The idea, when I first got it, seemed to strike me right away,” he said. “I read a lot of H.G. Wells, Orwell, Asimov. It brought me to thinking about what could happen (in the U.S.), given (current) trends. Then I had to think outside the box.”
When he revealed the plot to a friend in the apartment complex where he lives, the friend said, “That could happen in 20 years.” So he chose 2034 for the time period of the book. To get it written, he used an outline and at a specific time every day, he’d write for two or three hours.
“Like you were going to work. I’d take a day off every now and then and sometimes a week or two. Then you come back to see how you’re doing,” he said.
Von Meyer had written a few short stories in the past, but “Escape from the Net” is his first novel.
“There’s a big stretch between a short story and a novel. A lot of people have found that out, I’m sure,” he said. His biggest challenge was forcing himself to devote time to the work on a regular basis. He discovered that details about the characters were more important than he had originally thought. He also sought feedback from friends along the way.
“I would say I kept going because they said they liked reading it,” he said.
The second hurdle was self-publishing the book. He chose to distribute it as an ebook through Book Baby.
“The story almost becomes secondary. You get that done and you realize there’s a long road ahead of you. You have to learn all the formatting for an ebook. (Book Baby) takes your manuscript and puts it into ebook form and sends it to places like Amazon and they put it out there,” Von Meyer said.
“Escape from the Net” is available at most ebook outlets for $2.99. It can be read on ebook readers, tablets, smart phones and computers by downloading free applications. People can read the first 10 pages at no charge.
“The sales that are generated are paid back to Book Baby. Book Baby consolidates sales and pays you when your account reaches so much money,” Von Meyer said. He hopes eventually to also publish the 150-page book in a paperback edition.
A 1953 graduate of Ohio State Univeristy with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, Von Meyer joined the Army and then returned to Sidney to work in his family’s business, Flexo-Line.
“I was with that until the small town was closing in,” he said. He left for bigger pastures — Dallas — where he took a job in sales for the Schick Shaver Co. He played clarinet in a church orchestra, which is where he met someone who got him interested in starting a music store. His first store was in Dallas. He eventually sold the Dallas store, moved to San Francisco, and started another store in Menlo Park. Later, he started his third music store in Washington, D.C.
Von Meyer returned to Sidney in 1974. He opened a fourth business, making advertising specialty products. He has lived in Dayton since 1983.
There are a two short stories in the works now and perhaps a sequel to “Escape from the Net.”
When he’s not writing, Von Meyer enjoys golf, reading philosophy and attending concerts.
“I still sometimes play clarinet,” he said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.