Category Archives: Writing

Happy Reader Appreciation Day!

Last year, I arbitrarily declared 9/13 “Reader Appreciation Day” and offered a free e-book on my website.

Continuing the tradition of giving stuff away in thanks for the support I’ve received from friends, family, and fans, I’m pleased to pass along these wallpapers:

These graphics are an adaptation of the cover that will accompany “Ghost Mode” when the short story is published later this year. The art was created by graphic designer extraordinaire Mary Christopherson, and I couldn’t be happier with how she brought the villain to life.

Speaking of upcoming projects, here’s a sneak peek at what the future holds for the fiction of David Michael Williams:

The Soul Sleep Cycle

I’ve been working on this genre-bending-but mostly-science-fiction series, on and off, since late 2006. Having finished the second draft of Book 3 earlier this month, thus ending the saga (for the time being), I’m eager to transition into publishing Book 1 as a paperback and e-book through my One Million Words imprint.

The Soul Sleep Cycle reveals a hidden world where a select few people possess the ability to prowl the collective unconscious. Two rival factions of dream drifters have turned the dreamscape into a war zone, and those sworn to protect the public must walk a razor’s edge of morality while fighting against those who would use their power to control life and death.

Book 1: If Souls Can Sleep

Vincent Cruz used to think he would give anything to bring his daughter back.

After years of reliving the morning his daughter drowned, Vincent’s recurring dream suddenly stops, only to be replaced by a new nightmare that stretches from his subconscious into the real world and beyond the grave.

With the help of his stoner roommate and a sleep doctor with issues of her own, Vincent must make sense of a dream in which he becomes Valenthor, a medieval warrior who also lost a daughter and who, like Vincent, has turned to the bottle for solace. But Valenthor’s clichéd quest is more than a coping mechanism that lets Vincent play hero, and unless he can figure out how his devious—and comatose—half-brother, the CIA, and an amateur fantasy writer figure into the phenomenon, he may lose more than his mind.

  • Projected publication date: January 2018

Book 2: If Sin Dwells Deep

  • Projected publication date: October 2018

Book 3: If Dreams Can Die

  • Projected publication date: April 2019

Short Stories

‘Ghost Mode’

“Ghost Mode,” an ominous yet playful story that depicts a dire fate for tech addicts in the not-too-distant future, will appear in One Million Project’s fantasy anthology. Proceeds go, in part, to cancer research. Learn more about that here.

Loyal readers might recognize the pompous protagonist—the Quentin E. Donovan—from a writing exercise tentatively titled “The Villain,” which was part of a crowd-sourcing experiment to help me decide what story to pursue. Read an early draft of the beginning here.

  • Projected publication date: December 2017

‘The Lake Road’

I don’t write much in the way of short fiction. In part, it’s because writing novels—and, inevitably, series—keeps me plenty busy. But small, self-contained stories can be an excellent palate cleanser in between drafts of longer works. I wrote “Lake Road” for just that purpose in 2010.

When an editor at One Million Project asked if I had any other short stories lying around for another of his publications, Bite Size Stories, I rediscovered my tale of a jaded guardian angel, remembered how strange and fun the story was, and worked hard to make it worthy of mass consumption. Now I can’t wait for the rest of the world to meet Felix and the unexpected adversaries he encounters on a certain rural Wisconsin road.

  • Projected publication date: TBD

ONE-SHOT

Amid writing, editing, and publishing novels and short stories, I also have entered into a so-far secret project that will stretch my creative writing skills in exciting new ways. I won’t go into details yet, but suffice it to say, ONE-SHOT is a collaboration with some extremely talented people and corresponds with an objective that’s been on my bucket list since I was young.

I’ll share more about ONE-SHOT in the months to come!

  • Projected publication date: Spring 2018

With so many releases on the horizon, I’d love to keep you informed along the way. Don’t miss future cover reveals and other teasers. Sign up for my monthly newsletter today!

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A tale of two book releases

For an author, nothing compares to your own book release—though seeing a friend get published comes awfully close!

This year, I’ve had the privilege of watching two of my peers reach the finish line with their respective literary ventures. The vicarious thrill I feel for them is buoyed by the fact that I played a small part in both of their journeys.

I don’t mention my contribution to pat myself on the back. Both of these gentlemen are tremendously talented, and even without my help, they would have produced a story well worth reading (and buying!). But because writing can be such a solitary pursuit at times, I think it’s important to point out that we all become better writers when we can depend on our peers’ experience, expertise, and, above all, support.

Both of the writers I’m about to introduce are fellow members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin (AAW). Once I wrote about why writers groups still matter. If nothing else, the following examples should show that even if you could do it all yourself, it sure is nice to have some help along the way!

Always Gray in Winter

Cover for "Always Gray in Winter"I met Mark J. Engels midway through the first draft of his debut novel, Always Gray in Winter. I was immediately impressed by his deep, complex story, well-developed characters, and fierce commitment to doing the featured werecat family justice. It helped that he also possessed a natural knack for stringing sentences together; with the basics mastered, he was well on his way transferring the action-packed plot from his gray matter to computer screen.

Over the past year and more, our friendship deepened, and he peppered me with many questions on everything from the craft of writing to the query process to book marketing. I also had the honor of being one of his beta readers.

Though I don’t profess to know everything about this crazy industry, I did my best to guide him. (If nothing else, my own missteps might have taught him what not to do). In return, I’ve been blessed to have him as a beta reader for my Soul Sleep Cycle novels (publication pending!) and my go-to guy for advice when I started my own business.

Every writer—and every book—has a unique path, and it sure has been a blast to watch Always Gray in Winter blossom from a thick binder tattooed by many-hued highlighters to a bona fide paperback, which released just last week.

Congratulations, Mark!

That Wonderful Mexican Band

Cover of "That Wonderful Mexican Band"I’ve talked about Tom Ramirez before. He’s the one who exposed me to that old (apocryphal?) adage about how everything written before the one-million-word mark is simply finger exercises—inadvertently providing inspiration for the name of my publishing company, One Million Words.

What I haven’t said before—at least not officially—is that Tom is a mentor of mine. Not only did he invite me to join AAW in the first place, but also he has been both a tough critic and a generous cheerleader when I needed it over the years. Encouragement like that is a priceless thing for up-and-coming writers.

Some history: Tom had been working on his memoirs for as long as I have known him (11 years) and well before that too, on and off since the late 1960s. When he finished, it was time for me to return the favor by encouraging him to self-publish That Wonderful Mexican Band.

I also gave him a step-by-step plan for accomplishing this—not only because I had learned a thing or two while publishing The Renegade Chronicles, but because I truly believed his book needed to be published.

That Wonderful Mexican Band was released in January, and even though the pages tell of Tom’s life during the Great Depression, the book will always remind me of our 21st-century friendship.

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I couldn’t have said it better myself

While I love talking about writing, I recently learned I don’t like listening to myself talk about writing.

Or anything else, for that matter.

When tapping away at my keyboard, I can pause and select the perfect word. If I don’t like what appears on the screen, I can delete and try again. I’ll tinker with a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase until it conveys exactly what I want.

The same can’t be said for a live interview.

After being a guest author on the Speculative Fiction Cantina webcast, I downloaded an MP3 of the broadcast. I found some software to transform the audio file into text. I knew I’d have to do some proofing before publishing any portion of the interview because auto-transcribing is not a perfect science.

What I said: “I’m a fantasy and sci-fi writer.”

What the app heard: “I’m a fantasy inside firefighter.”

Poetic? Yes, especially for a robot. Accurate? No, though I sometimes feel like I’m putting out small fires when editing.

What I didn’t realize, however, was how much editing I’d need to perform on the things I actually said. All humans use speech crutches, phrases we return to again and again while our mind processes a response to a question or the next discussion point.

Like, valley girls aren’t the only ones who, like, overuse the word “like.”

Other offenders include “I think,” “actually,” and “sort of.” If I had a dollar for every time I deleted the phrase “you know” from the transcript, I could happily retire—or, at least, buy a new laptop. And don’t even get me started on restarted sentences and self-interrupting.

The dialogue I write is so much smoother!

Nevertheless, I made it through the entire hour of the program, cherry-picking choice excerpts from the interview—the parts where I sound like I know what I’m talking about—and cobbled together a Q&A.

S. Evan Townsend (host): “David, tell us a little bit about yourself.”

David Michael Williams: “I am a fantasy and sci-fi writer. I live in Wisconsin. I’m a member of one of the oldest writing collectives in Wisconsin, the Allied Authors. I’ve been a member for more than a decade now. My day job is a writer—a content specialist, actually—at a website and advertising company. So I get paid to write at my day job. And in addition to that, I write novels, so I do quite a bit of writing. I have a wife and two kids, and yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.”

SET: “Tell us about your book.”

DMW: “Rebels and Fools is the first book in a sword-and sorcery-fantasy series called The Renegade Chronicles. I published them through my my indie publishing company, One Million Words. I published Rebels and Fools as well as the second and third books in the series on the same day.

“It was kind of an experiment. You know how people like to binge watch shows on Netflix? I thought, ‘I’m gonna let them binge watch my fiction if they want.’ I decided to do all three of the books of the series in ebook and paperback and even a three-in-one collection. That was early last year.”

SET: “When you say ‘sword-and-sorcery,’ I’m imagining elves and wizards and orcs and things like that. Is it that kind of a fantasy?”

DMW: “Yep, that’s accurate. Most (of my) characters are humans, but there are other races like elves and dwarves, although some of those I try to put my own unique spin on. I even invented my own race, a kind of demi-humans who are very prolific with magic, and they have the power of very potent wizards but the maturity and mentality of a child. I tried to take what I liked best about the genre I grew up reading and grew up writing and made my own world.”

SET: “How did the experiment work, publishing them all on the same day?”

DMW: “It was a lot of planning. In some ways it was, I think, very efficient because when you’re going through a novel and setting up your own style guide to make sure your writing is consistent—your prose is clean and certain words and situations are consistent—I think it was very good for that because I read them back to back. By knowing I was doing three books at once, I could work with the cover artist and say, ‘OK, here are the titles, here are what the books are about. Let’s make them look like they’re all part of the same series.’

“So in some ways I think it made a lot of sense. It’s more from the marketing standpoint that I may have shot myself in the foot, so to speak, because when you have three books at once, and you’re saying, ‘Hey, read my books! These books are out. Here’s what they’re about,’ you use up your marketing messages pretty quickly. Even looking for book reviews…it’s going to take a little while for (readers) to get all the way through the first two, let alone the third one.

“I don’t regret doing it though. I learned a lot. But when I look ahead at potentially publishing more of my books, I don’t think I would do that again. I would put some time at least in between releases so I could have them build up anticipation and have some additional touch points with the marketing.”

SET: “You have or you are planning on having a Kickstarter campaign for 2018?”

DMW: “I had one this year, and it already ended. I was trying to explore other revenue streams even as I’m trying to continue to market The Renegade Chronicles and working on my next series, The Soul Sleep Cycle. I am a huge fan of puns. In fact, I may have a sickness because even when I’m dreaming, I come up with some of the strangest and, as far as I can tell, some very original puns.

“I thought, ‘Hey, maybe other people would be interested in getting a fresh one every day,’ so I set up a Kickstarter—again, sort of an experiment—to just see what interest was out there. I had some backers but didn’t make my goal. So that’s not something I’ll be pursuing, which is fine. It’ll give me more time to work on the fiction side of things.”

SET: “So tell us a pun.”

DMW: “If you want a really nice hairpiece, you have to be willing toupee.”

SET: “What was your goal in establishing your business?”

DMW: “I had written The Renegade Chronicles years ago, and it was a while before I felt as though I was a good enough writer and objective enough to give them the harsh editing they needed to be published. Years ago, I tried to find an agent or publishers for the series, and there wasn’t interest at that time, and I moved on.

“Meanwhile, for the series I am working on now, The Soul Sleep Cycle, I do have an agent who is shopping those books around. So knowing I had an agent with a project out there but also having the books of my own…I just wanted to see if I could do it myself. I was going to take fate into my own hands and give this a shot. I still felt very strongly that there was value in the stories and there was an audience out there for them.”

SET: “You mentioned your day job, and you told me what expertise you have in your marketing job does not apply to book marketing. Why is that?”

DMW: “I shouldn’t say nothing applies. I mean, if you understand search engine optimization for giant business-to-business corporations, you’re going to understand how to use keywords in your author’s website. Some stuff does translate.

“But book publishing is such a unique business. I think a big part of that is supply and demand. Anyone can self-publish a novel. You have this market that gets flooded with products, and that product is all over the board as far as quality goes. What if you could have a DIY soda? I would have this new cola. You can buy it on Amazon.com. I don’t know why you’d buy it over Coke or Pepsi or any of those other ones that you’ve heard about all your life—which would be the Stephen Kings and the Dean Koontzes of the world, those authors who have brand recognition. And imagine hundreds and thousands of other people have a recipe for cola too. How do you find the buyer who’s going to have that particular set of taste buds—not to carry the metaphor too far—that’s going to enjoy what you’ve created? That, for me, has been the challenge with book marketing.

“It’s just a very strange landscape when you think about it. How do you reach readers when people are giving away their product for free and saying, ‘Hey, just take it. Maybe you’ll like me and you’ll buy more of my stuff’? This has just been an education and a lot of experimentation.”

SET: “You also said you’d like to write for a videogame or comic book. Why is that?”

DMW: “I’ve just always been interested in storytelling, whether it’s playacting or sketching or writing a manuscript. I’ve always been fascinated with telling stories in different and unique ways. I am fascinated with challenging myself. Could I write a comic book? What percentage of dialogue to action would there be?

“And then in video games, with roleplaying games, the player makes a choice. As a writer, you have to write a story that has multiple beginnings, multiple middles, and even more endings. I think that would be a lot of fun.”

SET: “I have a writer friend who’s convinced that in the future, books are going to go away, and everybody is going to write for video games or something like that. You have another generation, and there won’t be more books. All storytelling will be visual.”

DMW: “I hope that’s not true, and I suspect people who grew up reading books and loved books are not going to leave books. Like for me, I still read, and I play video. They’re not mutually exclusive.

“Look at how many TV series and movies and video games are being made based off of existing fiction. I think some of the best ideas are still coming to the surface first through the written word. But there will always be a need for storytelling, so maybe it’s not the worst thing that I have that interest in the tech side of things because no matter what the format is, as long as I can tell my stories, I’m going to do it.”

SET: “What do you find most challenging about writing?”

DMW: “I think back to when I was first starting to geek out on writing and realizing that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life…high school. I’d stay up on a Friday night, and I’d be up on my computer till 2:30 in the morning. Whenever the muse struck, I just went with it. I had these long glory sessions of pure unadulterated creativity.

“Even after graduating college, with my first job, Monday to Friday, before I went into the office, I’d crank out 2,000 words. I’d get up super early. I was committed, and I wanted to tell these stories. As life goes on…I got married, had kids, and worked jobs that sometimes were more demanding. You come home, and you’re just exhausted. You don’t have the wherewithal to put two words together, let alone 2,000.

“So the challenge has been trying to find that balance of getting large enough chunks of time where I can be effective.”

SET: “What specifically do you love about writing?”

DMW: “I mentioned earlier that even before I started writing, I liked storytelling. I liked inventing characters and narratives. For a while it was sketching and drawing. I think part of me would have really enjoyed going on to be an illustrator of some kind. But at a certain point in time, I realized writing was the quickest way for me to get the ideas down, to record what was happening in my mind.

“It was my default for a while, and I thought, ‘You know, I’m not the greatest writer, but I am a good storyteller. I have good ideas, and I can get better with the writing over time.’ I was just writing scene after scene after scene. Then I thought, ‘It probably makes sense to actually try to find a beginning, middle, and end and put together a book.’

“I decided I didn’t want to just write for myself anymore. The stories are there, and rather than have them evaporates, I wanted to get them down. Maybe it’s my ego. I don’t know, but I thought, ‘If people enjoy them even a fraction as much as I do then, then why not?’

“One of the greatest joys I’ve had since The Renegade Chronicles has come out…I’ve had these characters, I’ve known them, for 20 years. When people talk to me about them, and they’re seeing the story from such a different perspective, it just brings me such a joy because now they have a life independent of me. There’s something thrilling about that.”

SET: “I totally agree. I tell people I want to be read by strangers. But the flipside of that last question: What frustrates you about writing?”

DMW: “I think in some ways I’m my own harshest critic. Sometimes I get hung up on very minute details like word repetition or ‘Is this a theme, or am I unintentionally retelling the same story or rewriting the same scene in a different way?’ I get frustrated when I don’t feel like I’m growing, and sometimes that happens when you spend a lot of time in the editing stage, and you don’t have a chance to just create.”

SET: “Why should people buy your books?”

DMW: “I have a background in marketing, so I’m never going to say this book is right for everyone. I wouldn’t say that about my book. I wouldn’t say about anybody’s book. I think there’s a certain demographic who will enjoy The Renegade Chronicles—people who grew up reading shared-world books like Forgotten Realms and DragonLance. I think they would get a kick out of reading what I did because it was strongly inspired by that.

“I also think of kids who grew up reading Harry Potter. If they’re looking for something that has maybe a little bit more action, many characters and multiple storylines…The Renegade Chronicles is maybe wedged somewhere between Harry Potter and something more hardcore, like A Song of Ice and Fire, the Game of Thrones-type stories. There’s death, and there’s battles, but I’m not quite as R-rated as George R.R. Martin.

“Whether you’re a diehard fan of fantasy and or you have never given it a try, it’s a nice entry point into the genre.”

SET: “What motivates and inspires you?”

DMW: “For me, it boils down to two words: ‘what if?’ Just about any character I’ve ever developed—any mystery, any plot—has always come from something that is entrenched in this world, and you put a twist on it. What if this had happened instead? Or what if a person in this situation would do this? How would they react to that? It starts to be a puzzle.”

SET: “Is there anything you want to add before the show ends?”

DMW: “I want to thank you for having me. I love talking about writing. I’ll leave you with one final pun since you kind of caught me off guard earlier: A bookworm that leaves its food lying around is a literal litterbug.”

SET: “That’s a good one. Thanks a lot, David. I really appreciate you being on the show.”

DMW: “It was my pleasure. Take care.”

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Cancer: one hell of a plot twist

I wish I could say my intentions were altruistic, but that would be a lie.

When I first caught wind of the One Million Project—a charitable organization determined to raise £1,000,000 for cancer research by selling short story anthologies—my first thought was how the One Million Project and One Million Words, my publishing company, might work together.

After all, our brands sound awfully similar, and we both deal with fiction. If I could donate one of my short stories to help secure money for cancer research while gaining some exposure as an author—international exposure—that’s win-win, right?

Besides, I hated cancer.

Cover of the first One Million Project short story anthology

Proceeds from One Million Project anthologies are donated to great causes, including cancer research.

Or, at least, I disliked it in the same abstract way most Midwesterners lament hurricanes and earthquakes. They don’t happen to us, but we don’t like them on principle. I really didn’t have anything against cancer personally because cancer hadn’t affected me personally.

The fact is there is no shortage of causes in the world, no dearth of diseases that kill people or otherwise make their lives intolerable. I gave to the American Cancer Society a while back because a friend who knew someone suffering from cancer asked me to. I donated once and have deleted every follow-up email from the American Cancer Society since then.

Come to think of it, I delete a lot of emails and ignore many social media posts that advocate for activism. Can you imagine if you shared, liked, donated to, and genuinely cared about every injustice in the world? But, honestly, that’s what cancer research was to me when I told the editor of the One Million Project he could publish my short story, “Ghost Mode,” for free: one good cause is as good as another.

Maybe I was more aware of cancer than some of the other sicknesses and social issues sweeping our planet. Certainly, cancer has been around awhile, its presence ubiquitous in all manner of media. As it happens, I chose brain cancer as the instrument of one of my character’s death. I also remember pondering the possibility that cellular sabotage might be a side-effect of our species trying to evolve. Natural selection at work and all that. The premise of a sci-fi story I’ll probably never write.

However, cancer went from being an intellectual concept to a tangible presence when my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in March.

I won’t go into the ugly details. Anyone who has ever come into contact with any disorder under the umbrella category of cancer knows it’s never pretty. Struggles seldom are. That’s why we use phrases like “the fight against cancer” and talk about sufferers as though they are warriors. Because they are—soldiers in an insidious civil war where their bodies are battlefields and the rebels will never negotiate, let alone surrender.

It’s tempting to portray cancer as a villain if you’ve endured the chaos it sows, especially if it robs a loved one of his or her life. Perhaps that’s why we personify natural disasters. When the enemy has a name, it’s easier to band together to battle against him.

I see cancer more as a plot twist. It can happen at the beginning, middle, or end of a narrative. For the patient, everything changes in an instant. Time splits into two eras: Before Cancer and After Diagnosis. And yet good can bubble up from the bad. Friends and family come together, gaining clarity of what is truly important in life. Individuals overcome.

Hope prevails.

I’m delighted (and blessed!) to report that my father’s prognosis is optimistic. I write this from his living room as he watches a TV show about fishing. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be doing some fishing of his own next spring.

Tuesday used to be a day of isolation for me—a pocket of time in which I could be creative and productive on my own terms. Life intervened with one hell of a plot twist. But all in all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help my family. For me, this has been a reminder that fiction is fine, but the real world takes precedence.

Of course, I’m still writing as much as I can, when I can…hence, this blog post.

One Million Project’s fantasy anthology is slated for November or December. When it comes out, I’ll still be excited for “Ghost Mode” to reach an international audience, but the release will be much more meaningful than that. And even though he’s not a sci-fi kind of guy, I’m dedicated the story to my dad.

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My book marketing marathon continues

More than a year after I published three books in one day, I’m still working on getting the word out.

In between Goodreads giveaways and soft-touch marketing for The Renegade Chronicles, I’ve been focusing on a new sci-fi series, The Soul Sleep Cycle, which may or may not debut in early 2018. But even though I’m excited to share new stories, my search for sword-and-sorcery fans is far from over

And so I’m delighted to announce a couple of upcoming book marketing events:

Speculative Fiction Cantina

Friday, May 26, 2017
5 p.m. CST
http://tobtr.com/10020673

I’ve been interviewed for author profiles on blogs here and there, but I’m tackling my first live podcast next week.

The Speculative Fiction Cantina covers sci-fi, fantasy, horror, alternate history, steampunk, cyberpunk, and “things weird and wonderful in the world of books and writers.” Author Aram Keledjian and I are tag-teaming for the May 26 episode.

In addition to the interview, I plan to do a reading from Rebels and Fools.

—Editor’s note: an archived recording of the program is available here.

Downtown Fond du Lac Wine Walk promotional image

Tour the Town Art Walk / Wine Walk

Friday, June 16, 2017
4 to 8 p.m.
Macy Place Art and Tea Shoppe, 82 S. Macy Street, Fond du Lac, Wis.

I’ll be one of two featured artists at Macy Place for Tour the Town Art Walk, and I’m delighted to announce that my partner in crime will be none other than Jake Weiss, the talented designer who created the covers for all three Renegade Chronicles novels as well as the free ebook compendium. The art walk is free.

Even better, the June art walk coincides with downtown Fond du Lac’s annual wine walk, which means we’ll all be able to raise a glass to the literary arts. Sorry, that was just hokey. Anyway, you’ll be able to chat with Jake and me, see some of the concept art for the covers and buy a book (or three). I’ll sign copies and maybe do a short reading.

I’d love to see you or hear from you on the podcast. Of course,  if you’d rather bypass all of this marketing stuff and go right to the stories, feel free to buy The Renegade Chronicles in paperback or ebook formats at any time!

 

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Some bad news about my brand

What is the digital equivalent of schizophrenia?

Whatever it is, my website has it. More specifically, my brand suffers from it. That’s right, I have a brand. Every author does. Except I ended up with two brands because I bandied about the phrase “One Million Words” for years and then finally formed One Million Words LLC in 2016.

On paper it seems so easy: David Michael Williams is an author, and One Million Words is a publisher. But at this point, OMW publishes only the works of DMW, so the two identifiers are irrevocably interwoven.

Should one-million-words.com redirect to david-michael-williams.com or the other way around? One could argue they should be two separate websites, but it would be ridiculous to maintain two websites with near-identical content.

The professional marketer in me bemoans the fact that OMW has taken a backseat to DMW. After all, a legitimate company should have its own logo, website, LinkedIn profile, and so forth. But if I’m being honest, One Million Words LLC is nothing more than a string of words created expressly for the spine of my self-published novels.

Until the company produces works by other authors, it really doesn’t need to be more than that.

Don’t worry. Even if the One Million Words brand disappears someday, I’d never make my name into a logotype.

I have a bigger problem on my hands, however: David Michael Williams, as a brand, is broken.

Nota bene: Marketing is my day job. I’ve worked with countless companies and organizations on branding exercises, so I’m no stranger to concepts like positioning statements, brand platforms, target audiences, as well as the formal guidelines that govern all marketing communications. And while a solitary novelist differs from corporation in many key aspects, the same fundamentals apply to any entity that sells a product.

The root of my dilemma—my identity crisis, as it were—is that David Michael Williams, the human being, is inconsistent.

If I penned only sword-and-sorcery fantasy books, it’d be much easier to market myself, my novels, and my company. But I also write sci-fi and other subgenres of speculative fiction. You might be thinking, “No matter. Many authors publish fantasy and science fiction. They’re close cousins.”

OK, but I co-wrote a children’s chapter book too. There was also a certain stillborn pun-a-day calendar. And I can’t promise I won’t attempt an interactive storytelling experiment at some point in the future. (Anyone wanna play a grammar video game?)

Some may argue that an author should use a different pen name for each genre he tackles. There’s wisdom in that, but at the same time, I can’t get enthusiastic about juggling additional aliases. I’m one guy with a lot of different ideas who doesn’t want to limit his possibilities; is that a crime?

No, but it can be confusing to consumers, which negatively impact profits.

Or perhaps I’m oversimplifying things. There are plenty of professionals who straddle genres and/or media. Some of my favorites include Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame (though I like Invincible much more and am excited about the recently announced movie); the Decemberists, whose talented fingers touch projects ranging from music and visual art to children’s novels and board games; and the insanely brilliant Neil Gaiman, whose entire career I’d love to clone.

Given those folks’ success, it would seem that a diversity of creativity can be something of a brand in itself. That does give me hope, though in the short term, it won’t make building a fan base any easier. Because as much as it would streamline things, I can’t focus on just one aspect of storytelling.

I won’t.

Which means regardless of whether my website banner says “David Michael Williams” or “One Million Words,” visitors are going to get a messy, mixed bag of imagination.

Related posts:

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Some never escape magic’s grasp

How do I celebrate my blog’s fifth anniversary? I write a guest post for someone else’s! Here’s the intro. Click on the link at the end to read the article in its entirety at PrincessMyParty.com.

What do princesses, superheroes, and space explorers have in common?

In a word: magic.

Perhaps that fact is most obvious with the princesses. After, the fairytales that inspired Disney’s roster of young royals are rooted in magic. Where would Beauty be without her Beast—not to mention his castle full of not-so-inanimate objects?

When princesses aren’t succumbing to sleeping spells, they’re conjuring up blizzards or breaking the Guinness Book of World Record for most impressive ponytail. Magic is in their blood.

Is it in yours? Read more at PrincessMyParty.com.

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Filed under Writing