100 agonizing words

I recently spent five excruciating hours at my keyboard and have less than 100 words to show for it.

Granted, they are some of the most important words for my next novel—second only to the title, I’d argue—but the fact that so much time yielded so little leads to believe that blurbs are the blight of the publishing world.

OK, I may have griped about the challenges of various writing exercises over the years:

Today, however, I’m prepared to go on record as saying all else pales in comparison to penning the dreaded book blurb.

Not to be confused with a full-fledged synopsis (the bare-bones summery generally reserved for agent and publisher queries), a blurb is a relatively small chunk of text tasked with huge responsibility: selling the idea of the book to readers.

Blurbs are often found on the back cover as well as the product description page of an online retailer. Working in conjunction with an engaging cover art and a snappy title, the successful blurb hooks the shopper, converting a prospect into a customer.

Long blurbs run the risk of revealing too much. (Technically, revealing the protagonist, antagonist, and main problem should suffice.) Conversely, if the blurb is too concise or vague, an amazing plot could come off as uninspired.

It’s a balancing act even tightrope walkers fear.

Cropped out book blurb from the back cover of If Souls Can Sleep

Here’s the book blurb from If Souls Can Sleep.

 

For my last book, If Souls Can Sleep, I limited the blurb to five sentences: two for an enticing headline, one to tease the protagonist and plot, and two to introduce the world of dream drifters. Because that blurb received praise from reviewers, I took a similar approach to Book Two of The Soul Sleep Cycle.

Without further preamble, here is the still-in-progress blurb for If Sin Dwells Deep:

 

She swore to defend the dreamscape.
But who will save her from herself?

When her mentor goes missing, straight-laced Allison must rely on her alter-ego, the rebellious goddess Syn, to rescue him. Trusting anyone at Project Valhalla could cost her her life, but fighting alone might damn her very soul.

 


 

If Sin Dwells Deep — a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep — exposes the secret world of dream drifters and the classified government operation charged with protecting the collective unconscious from those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and what lies beyond.

 

Given how important these 100 words are, I welcome/encourage/demand feedback. Would that blurb motivate you to flip open the cover or, better yet, add to cart? If not, why?

Thanks in advance for your comments!

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‘Ghost Mode’ appears in new fantasy anthology

Five years ago, I declared anyone can write a short story—except me. Since then, evidence to the contrary has surfaced.

In 2014, “Going Viral,” my light-hearted yet sinister tale that plays with the theme of perception vs. reality in the Information Age, received honorable mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Looking ahead at 2018, it’s likely another story, “The Lake Road,” will be included in a collection produced by a fellow indie publisher.

But in more recent news, “Ghost Mode,” my sci-fi short story that takes augmented reality to a chilling extreme, is among 40 stories comprising the One Million Project Fantasy Anthology, which—along with thriller and general fiction anthologies—is fundraising to fight cancer, homelessness, and more.

The anthology’s editor included this introduction for my contribution:

When someone who works closely with emerging technologies on a daily basis presents such an ominous portrayal of tech addicts in the not-too-distant future, you can’t help but wonder if it’s meant to be caricature or cautionary tale.

Given Ghost Mode’s playful tone, it’s likely a little of both.

David Michael Williams works for an interactive agency specializing in digital communication. He writes speculative fiction that spans the gamut from sci-fi to sword-and-sorcery.

One Million Project’s fantasy anthology is available at Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats. All profits go to charity, so please consider supporting this worthy endeavor!

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How about a little nonfiction?

On the heels of publishing my new novel, If Souls Can Sleep, I penned a couple of guest posts for blogs devoted to the readers and writers of speculative fiction.

The first article describes in painful detail how unwary readers can be bitten by the writer’s bug. It published on Jan. 29 in Rising Shadow. The second guest post focuses on the dangers of genre fiction. That one published on Feb. 4 in Sci-Fi and Scary.

Here’s a peek at both of them:

Dragon logo of Rising Shadow

The best books make readers want to become writers

We all begin as oblivious victims.

Maybe it happened when you were a child, cracking open the cover of a surreal Seussian story. Or maybe the transformation transpired during adolescence when you first confronted the consciousness-expanding, mind-bending narratives of that pantheon of authors who enthrall the human psyche with the outlandish and otherworldly.

Whatever the circumstances, the books you’ve explored have changed you. You are a reader. Moreover, you are a reader of fantasy and science fiction.

Oh, the words on the page seem innocuous enough. It’s just fiction, after all. But make no mistake: you’ve been infected by imagination.

And I’m sorry to report that sometimes creativity is contagious.

Read on!


Tentacle-centric masthead of Sci-Fi & Scary

Why genres must die

Imagine coming face to face with chaos incarnate.

Maybe it’s an ancient abomination awakened by a sorcerer’s incantation. Or a rogue AI, unburdened by conscience, bent on overwriting our reality. Or perhaps you’re confronting some failed science experiment, a monstrosity fixated on destroying the very order upon which our civilization thrives.

Now, whichever form you wish to give this anarchic force, imagine it has done the unthinkable by destroying all notions of genre.

That’s right. The man-made system for distinguishing offshoots of speculative fiction from one another as well as Westerns, romance and even more remote boughs of the fictional family tree has been uprooted. You’ve been cast into an overgrown wilderness where fiction is just fiction.

Your skin prickles as you consider the implications. Pushing back panic, you type the URL to your preferred bookstore. But you’re too late. The functionality to filter by category is gone; the shortcut to your favorite stories, snuffed out.

How will you ever sort through the thousands—no, millions—of books that have been published to find the science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy books you cherish?

Read on!


If Souls Can Sleep

I contributed the above articles to gain some exposure for Book One of The Soul Sleep Cycle, which is now available in paperback and for Kindle.

Order it here!

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If Souls Can Sleep available now!

If Souls Can Sleep cover displayed on a tablet and as a paperback

If Souls Can Sleep, Book One of The Souls Sleep Cycle, was published in paperback and for Kindle on Jan. 30. (Other e-book formats will follow.)

Order If Souls Can Sleep.

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2016 vs. 2017 (vs. 2018)

While numbers don’t lie, they don’t always cast the clearest reflection of reality.

Take 2017, for example. When comparing my business plan’s projections to what actually came to pass last year, I find that One Million Words and its president, publisher, and author—in other words, yours truly—have come up short:

1. Officially, zero books were published.

2. Two short stories were slated for publication in 2017, but neither released.

3. My Pun-a-Day Calendar campaign on Kickstarter proved unsuccessful.

4. Sales forecasts for The Renegade Chronicles dwarfed actual units sold.

5. While I did write the second draft of an existing novel, as planned, I did not achieve my goal of starting a new book.

On the surface, 2017 was fraught with failure. Digging a little deeper, however, I find I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished last year:

1. Although I didn’t publish any of my novels, I set aside time to help a friend publish his memoir, That Wonderful Mexican Band. Production-wise, I also got If Souls Can Sleep 99% of the way to market and made it available for pre-order during the 2017 Christmas shopping season.

2. Short stories “Ghost Mode” and “The Lake Road” are now expected to appear anthologies planned for 2018. Let’s call that a delayed success.

3. Was I disappointed that my Pun-a-Day Calendar campaign failed? Sure. Did I learn a lot in the process? Certainly. Scrapping this project also meant I was able to work ahead on If Souls Can Sleep so that it will release months ahead of time. (Jan. 30, people!)

4. The Renegade Chronicles’ sales have slowed to a trickle. It’s difficult to put a positive spin on that, but then again I didn’t put much money or time behind marketing the series in 2017, choosing instead to invest in the production and promotion of my next series, The Soul Sleep Cycle.

5. I guess writing my best-selling YA fantasy novel will just have to wait. Having said that, I did spend some time working on a clandestine collaboration that allowed me to flex my creativity in new and exciting ways. (I hope to share more about this project later this year.)

Analysis

Call it an obsession with stats—or maybe just a penchant for oversharing—but here, for the record, is how things shook out in 2017, compared to 2016.

If numbers aren’t your thing, go ahead and scroll down to the next section.

Bar graph showing breakdown of hours worked in 2017

Books published

  • 2016: 5
  • 2017: 0

Books sold

  • 2016: 164
  • 2017: 60

Total hours worked for One Million Words

  • 2016: 691.00
  • 2017: 603.75

Breakdown of time

  • 2016:
    • Writing: 190.00
    • Publishing: 183.00
    • Marketing: 185.00
    • Passion projects: 35.00
    • Business day to day: 41.50
    • Research and other random tasks: 56.50
  • 2017
    • Writing: 194.75
    • Publishing: 104.25
    • Marketing: 125.75
    • Passion projects: 93.50
    • Business day to day: 46.50
    • Research and other random tasks: 39.00

Looking ahead at 2018

Author vs. Publisher

I created One Million Words not because I wanted to become a publisher, necessarily, but because a publisher was needed to get books from my personal computer out to the masses. In a perfect world, I’d spend the majority of my time writing and editing novels, and playing the part of publisher would be a small but very necessary evil.

Unfortunately, my publisher hat must remain firmly in place for the time being.  Perhaps it’s only fair, since I wore my author hat for years while writing the first three books of The Soul Sleep Cycle. Those novels aren’t going to publish themselves.

Because I’ve decided to publish all three books within a relatively short amount of time—six to nine months between releases rather than a more typical twelve to fifteen—that doesn’t leave me much time in between promoting the launch of Book One and beginning the production schedule for Book Two.

And it certainly means I won’t be authoring the first draft of a brand-new novel before mid 2019.

The Renegade Chronicles vs. The Soul Sleep Cycle

They say an author’s back catalog is one of his greatest marketing tools. That’s a very good thing since I have neither the time nor the capital to invest in further promoting The Renegade Chronicles. Here’s to hoping that readers who stumble upon that trilogy give my new one a shot and vice versa.

Of course, I’ll continue to sign and sell copies of The Renegade Chronicles at upcoming events, but 2018 is going to be all about marketing If Souls Can Sleep and then If Sin Dwells Deep in the fall.

Why step away from The Renegade Chronicles? For starters, the success of If Souls Can Sleep will greatly impact the success of the new series as a whole. So if The Soul Sleep Cycle is to have any chance at finding its audience, I can’t afford to be splitting my efforts between rebels and dream drifters.

Introvert vs. Extrovert

I won’t lie: I’m far more comfortable sitting behind a computer screen than taking my show on the road. The author in me bristles at being pulled away from the narrative to navigate real-world obligations, though the publisher in me understands that publishing without selling is pointless.

I do a fair amount of marketing from the comfort of my own home—including writing these blog posts—but there’s no denying the fact that I sell more copies of my books at events than I do through other marketing channels. Which is why I already have four appearances scheduled for 2018, including the If Souls Can Sleep book release/signing on Feb. 10.

Keep an eye on my Facebook Events page to see where this introvert will turn up next.

Work vs. Play

Passion projects are good because they give one the opportunity to step away from the norm and try something different—and possibly help others in the process.

Too many of these diversions at once, however, are detrimental to productivity on all fronts.

With that in mind, I’m committing my One Million Words time to a single side project in 2018. Admittedly, this secret initiative is a just-for-fun kind of endeavor—yet my inner businessman is quick to point out that the project might one day turn a profit.

This isn’t to say that editing, publishing, and promoting my novels isn’t fun, but I have to admit it’s nice to cleanse the palate every now and then, especially when I have a dozen months of publishing and promoting ahead of me.

So that’s the plan. And if anything changes along the way, I’m sure you’ll read about it here.

If Souls Can Sleep cover displayed on a tablet and as a paperbackPsst!

My new novel, If Souls Can Sleep, is coming Jan. 30.

Preorder it here.

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Preorder If Souls Can Sleep

I’m elated to report that Book 1 of The Soul Sleep Cycle is now available for preorder!

If Souls Can Sleep will be published Jan. 30, 2018, but you can reserve your copy today—in paperback or Kindle e-book—at Amazon.com. (Other e-book formats will follow.)

If Souls Can Sleep cover displayed on a tablet and as a paperback

Let me take this opportunity to publicly thank Mary Christopherson for her amazing cover art. I presented her with a complex assignment, since this novel doesn’t fit snugly into any one genre, and she rose to the challenge, producing a cover that captures all of the strangeness of the story.

See more of her brilliant work at http://mary.design.

One more thing: If you’re planning to purchase If Souls Can Sleep at some point in the future, please consider preordering it. Amassing preorders positively impacts sales rankings, which in turn increases the book’s visibility on Amazon. In short, making a preorder gives my novel its best chance to succeed.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Preorder If Souls Can Sleep as a paperback or e-book.

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Exhibit will feature If Souls Can Sleep cover art

When it comes to event marketing, the more, the merrier!

In that spirit, I’m delighted to announce that my books will be featured alongside the artwork of some of incredibly talented individuals: my coworkers.

Among them is the cover artist for both the forthcoming “Ghost Mode” short story and my next novel. In fact, those who attend the artist reception Dec. 15 will get a sneak peek at the If Souls Can Sleep cover art.

Here’s more information about the event from the press release I crafted yesterday:

Four employees holding their works in front of a BrownBoots Interactive sign

From left: David Michael Williams, Samantha Nelson, Mary Christopherson, and Alan Hathaway.

BrownBoots colleagues will showcase their off-the-clock creativity at Tour the Town

Pottery, digital art, illustration and fiction will come together to create an eclectic exhibit at the next Fond du Lac art walk.

Four employees of BrownBoots Interactive, a full-service marketing and website development agency located in downtown Fond du Lac, will share their artistic endeavors and passion projects at the next Tour the Town Art Walk, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15. The artists, along with their diverse display, will appear at the Riverwalk Art Center, 33 W. 2nd St.

“While providing our clients with stellar creativity is a big part of the day-to-day at BrownBoots, many of us also extend our talents to endeavors outside of the agency,” Alan Hathaway, president and owner of BrownBoots, said. “This exhibit is a testament not only to the team’s impressive scope of abilities, but also their aptitude as individual artists.”

Hathaway will display and sell his wheel-thrown pottery featuring an assortment of custom-formulated glazes. His works range from cups to vases to decorative bowls, all of which he formed and fired at his home studio in Eden, Wis.

Samantha Nelson, a web developer at the agency, will show and sell her illustrations, which cover several narrative ideas, notably wildlife and concept artwork. Her works span the gamut of pen and ink, watercolor and digital painting.

Graphic designer and photographer Mary Christopherson will contribute samples of her digital art that prominently feature photo manipulation, a technique that uses Photoshop to seamlessly combine multiple photographs to create a new image.

David Michael Williams, content specialist, will sign and sell copies of his sword-and-sorcery novels, The Renegade Chronicles, as well as present a sneak peek at the cover of his next book, “If Souls Can Sleep,” designed by Christopherson.

Riverwalk Art Center will host the Artists of BrownBoots exhibit through Jan. 19, 2018.

I’ll have more information about the release of If Souls Can Sleep—including links for preorders—in the days ahead. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out.

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