Tag Archives: fantasy

BOOK GIVEAWAY: The Soul Sleep Cycle

All three covers of The Soul Sleep Cycle series

In celebration of the release of If Dreams Can Die on May 21, I’m giving away signed copies of all three books in the series.

Enter The Soul Sleep Cycle Giveaway.

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Kelly!

And don’t miss out on all the other extras coming your way:

I need your help! Please rate If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep at Amazon and Goodreads.

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COVER REVEAL: If Dreams Can Die

It’s with great joy that I present the cover for Book Three of The Soul Sleep Cycle:

 

The grave could not contain her grief.

Annette has devoted her life—and afterlife—to reclaiming her departed family, no matter the cost. To stop her from destroying the dreamscape, former enemies must unite and declare war on the so-called Lady of Peace.

But how do you defeat someone who is already dead?


If Dreams Can Die depicts the final confrontation between a death-defying cult and the CIA-sanctioned dream drifters sworn to defend the collective unconscious.

 

Book Three will be available in paperback and for Kindle on May 21.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the talented Mary Christopherson a huge shout-out for all of her hard work on the series’ covers. I can’t wait for the new paperback to join its predecessors on my bookshelf.

And because 35 days is a long time to delay gratification, I’ll be posting weekly updates on this blog as a countdown of sorts:

Did you like If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep? Please leave a review at Amazon and/or Goodreads!

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Renegade Chronicles coming to tabletop RPGs

After playing a one-shot Dungeons & Dragons adventure over the course of three days, I’ve decided to transform my sword-and-sorcery trilogy into game modules.

The decision comes after diving headfirst into the world of D&D last year. I estimate it’ll take me 3.5 years to transpose Rebels and Fools into a tabletop RPG and another 8.25 years to prepare the other two books as well as at least one bonus adventure that explains what the heck happens in Port Town after Klye’s band of rebels leave.

I could’ve jumped into writing a new novel, since The Soul Sleep Cycle is all but done, but it’s just easier to repackage something old than come up with new.

Features of The Renegade Chronicles games will include:

  • Every natural 20 will summon an army of drunken midge who cast random Level 9 spells on your enemies.
  • Every natural 1 will summon an army of drunk midge who cast random Level 9 spells on you and your party.
  • During every short rest, Scout will regale you will useless facts about the island. (Did you know that the best mutton in Capricon can be found in the village of Aron?)
  • All NPCs will be romanceable—except for Opal.
  • You can import your characters from other tabletop games, though dragonborn, tieflings, and any other races not native to Altaerra will be automatically converted into boring Level 1 human fighters.
  • Druids will be able to turn into Shek’s two-tailed scorpion, Ranfir (and only Ranfir).
  • You can recruit powerful NPCs to your party, including Father Elezar, Albert Simplington, and that one guy who leads the band of highwaymen in the second book.
  • Everyone gets 1 luck point, regardless of class, whenever Klye says, “I don’t believe in luck.”
  • Avoid TPKs by using time magic to kill Dark Lily when she’s still a kid.
  • If at any point you find yourself dual wielding the vorpal sword and Chrysaal-rûn, you win.

The D&D-inspired Renegade Chronicles modules will be available on eBay.com and Facebook Marketplace after I’ve play-tested them a bunch. So as not confuse the game with the book, the first campaign will be called Fools and Fools.

(Happy April 1st, everyone!)

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Return to the dreamscape with If Sin Dwells Deep

You don’t have to be a dream drifter to enjoy the collective unconscious. As of today, If Sin Dwells Deep is available in paperback and Kindle edition.

Books One and Two of The Soul Sleep CycleFans of If Souls Can Sleep, Book One of The Soul Sleep Cycle, will be treated to another twisted adventure in the dreamscape. Book Two focuses on the CIA-sanctioned gods of Project Valhalla.

Late to the slumber party? No worries. If Sin Dwells Deep is not a direct sequel. Because it’s a parallel novel, readers can dive into the series without having read Book One. (More on that below!)

As I did before with The Renegade Chronicles (Infrequently Asked Questions) and If Souls Can Sleep (More Infrequently Asked Questions), I’ve compiled a Q&A for my new novel.

And even though I have, in fact, been interviewed a handful of times about If Sin Dwells Deep, I’m going to keep the sarcastic naming convention for old time’s sake.

Even More Infrequently Asked Questions

What is If Sin Dwells Deep about?

Here’s the back-cover teaser:

Even good girls have secrets.

When straight-laced Allison sleeps, the rebellious goddess Syn wakes. Having a fling in the dreamscape may seem like harmless fun, but when a sadistic predator learns her true identity, the fantasy begins to bleed into real life.

If Sin Dwells Deep—a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep—exposes the hidden world of dream drifters and explores the war between gifted government agents and those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and that which lies beyond.

Who is If Sin Dwells Deep about?

Close up of Allison "Syn" GreeneThe story centers on Allison, specifically her struggles while navigating multiple realities and the morality of managing conflicting identities. The reader also gets glimpses into the mind of the Wolf, a disturbed dream drifter who is determined to punish Allison for her alleged sins.

Intertwined with the main plot are chapters that feature psychiatrist-turned-fugitive William Marlowe, who was presented as an antagonist in Book One and whose scenes help uncover the true threat to the dreamscape in Book Two.

Who is your favorite character?

In If Sin Dwells Deep, I really enjoyed creating point-of-view characters who were all very different from me. Allison is a conservative young woman; the Wolf is a sexual predator; and William is a gay man of Japanese descent. All three have unique voices and presented their own challenges to me as the author.

While I don’t think I can pick a favorite, I always appreciate the characters who give me an opportunity to express humor. The relationship dynamics of Allison and her love interest, Eben, were a lot of fun to write, though William—a scoundrel on the verge of a mental break—gave me some of my favorite lines in this book.

What is the setting for If Sin Dwells Deep?

The real-world scenes are split between Seattle and Philadelphia in 2007, but most of the action takes place in the dreamscape, the collective unconscious where dream drifters can access the minds of unsuspecting sleepers.

There are also a few flashbacks, both inside and outside of the dreamscape, that drop clues as to how the actions of William—and other members of the defunct Lucid Dreaming Society—resulted in the current conflict.

Who will enjoy this book?

With If Souls Can Sleep, the first book in the series, I set out to write something very different from the sword-and-sorcery fantasy stories I had been writing previously. I wanted to tell a story I had never heard before, something unique and unusual.

As a result, Book One and Book Two of The Soul Sleep Cycle are both mashups of several genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, suspense and metafiction.

Fans of speculative fiction—including fantasy and science fiction—are the obvious audience, but the series, as a whole, appeals to people outside those genres too. It’s a wonderfully weird story, so anyone who likes rich characters and unpredictable plots can enjoy If Sin Dwells Deep.

What is If Sin Dwells Deep “rated”?

Whereas I would have rated If Souls Can Sleep as PG-13, If Sin Dwells Deep earns an R rating. The Wolf is one twisted soul, which brings mature aspects into the story. There’s profanity, violence and sexual content. The suggested audience is age 18 and older.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote the first draft of If Sin Dwells Deep in about eight months in 2011 and 2012. It wasn’t until 2014 that I wrote a second draft. Then I wrapped up the final edits and proofing in early 2018.

On paper, it looks like it took six years, but when you ignore the time I spent working on other projects, I’d estimate just under a year from writing the prologue of the first draft to finishing the final version.

What does the title mean?

Cover of "If Souls Can Sleep"I really liked the title of Book One, If Souls Can Sleep, which came from a quote within the book. Using an “if clause” leaves the reader hanging and injects some suspense.

The working title of Book Two was “Almost a Fantasy,” but it lacked vim. So I tried to come up with something better, something that tied into the first title.

If Sin Dwells Deep was perfect in that it touches on two themes in the novel—whether one’s actions in a dream could be considered actual sins and the idea of “going deeper” while dream drifting.

Does Book Two pick up where Book One left off?

If Sin Dwells Deep is not a direct sequel to If Souls Can Sleep.

With Book One, I realized early on that I was trying to write three books at once. I had to cut two significant storylines in order to streamline it. In the end, Book One became Vincent’s—and to a lesser extent, Milton’s—story.

Yet I knew I wanted to reveal more about the gods and goddesses of Project Valhalla. Ultimately, I decided If Sin Dwells Deep would be a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep. This allowed me to tell another side of the story—the stuff that couldn’t fit into the first book—while giving readers an alternate entry point into the series.

Because If Sin Dwells Deep is a parallel novel, readers won’t have to have read If Souls Can Sleep first. They could start with either book, though I suspect reading them in the order they were published will be more satisfying.

Does that mean Book Two tells the same story as Book One?

No. If Sin Dwells Deep isn’t just a retread of the first plot. While the new book will fill in some blanks, shedding light on Project Valhalla’s actions during If Souls Can Sleep, it’s strong enough to stand on its own.

Although the two books share a handful of scenes, I thought it was important to make both books self-contained. The two books are interconnected yet independent.

There will be closure in If Sin Dwells Deep, but the overarching saga still needs a conclusion—hence, a third book in the series.

How many more books will there be in the series total?

At least one more: If Dreams Can Die.

The third book is slated for publication in spring 2019. If Dreams Can Die will wrap up the saga that began in If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep. It will provide a satisfying conclusion to the myriad, intertwining storylines.

However, I always leave a couple of doors open in case I want to return to a series—and, more importantly, if readers do. I try not to let myself think too far ahead, but I do have ideas for a fourth installment of The Soul Sleep Cycle.

Where did you find inspiration for this book?

I like putting realistic, relatable characters in strange situations and seeing how they will behave.

As with Vincent in the first book, If Sin Dwells Deep focuses on an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation. What would you do if you could do anything without consequences? Who would you become?

Allison uses the dreamscape as an escape. So does the Wolf, though his explorations skew to a much darker extreme. And then there’s William, who hopes to capitalize in the real world from what he can do in the dreamscape.

As for the dreamscape itself, well, I’ve always had vivid dreams. Why do our minds produce their own movies every night? What if dreams actually link our brains to others? I find psychology and neurology fascinating. There is still so much we don’t understand about the science of dreams; I suppose that is what science fiction is for.

What is your next project?

Frankly, I have no idea what I’ll pursue after I publish If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die.

If sales of my existing books support it, I’d love to revisit The Renegade Chronicles or The Soul Sleep Cycle someday. Yet I know I’ll need some kind of palate-cleanser in the meantime.

I have no shortage of ideas. That’s the silver lining of working on a series for so long: new ideas pop into one’s mind while elbow-deep in the current project. I jot them down for later. I’m not sure which I’ll pursue, but I expect I’ll write something a little less complex next—maybe a short story or a stand-alone novel.

The young adult (YA) market is tempting not only because those books seem to be selling well, but also because I’d love for my kids to be able to enjoy my fiction in the next few years. Someday I’d love to write for a comic book or a video game. Only time will tell!

When will If Sin Dwells Deep be available to purchase?

It already is! The paperback and the Kindle edition were published on Oct. 2, 2018, with other e-reader formats to follow in January 2019.

Any other questions? Leave a comment below!

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A fantasy author’s approach to D&D

Over the past few weeks, I’ve become well acquainted with a gnome barbarian by the name of Ozric.

Painted miniature of a bald, muscular gnome wielding a sword and shield

Ozric, gnome barbarian

That could prove to be my first mistake: choosing a gnome barbarian for my first foray into Dungeons & Dragons. Even an uninitiated noob like myself knows there are more suitable combinations of race and class—a halfling rogue, an elf wizard, a dwarf barbarian—but I couldn’t resist. A gnome who aspires to be a badass warrior is too fascinating to ignore.

As a newcomer to the game, I know I should prioritize winning, but the writer in me craves a good story.

Even if that story means little Ozric will have to defy the odds to survive.

An inauspicious origin

Now I’m no stranger to fantasy. My first series, The Renegade Chronicles, falls firmly in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

But I’ve never played D&D, not properly. Oh, my cousin and I bought a reduced-price starter kit decades ago. Alas, we were too young to puzzle it out, and so I was left to get my fantasy fix from 8-bit Nintendo RPG games inspired by their tabletop counterparts.

Years later, I discovered DragonLance books—novels that served as companions to the D&D modules (campaigns?) by the same name. By that point, Magic: The Gathering was gaining in popularity, so I tried my hand at that card game.

Any hope of finding a group with whom to play D&D fizzled like a fireball with insufficient mana. Or so it seemed.

Fate intervenes

You wouldn’t think a man in his late thirties could come across so many disparate conversations about D&D at the same time. Jake Weiss, the cover artist for the The Renegade Chronicles offhandedly mentioned he was interested in starting a D&D club. Then a fellow Cub Scouts leader told me he was creating a campaign to play with his sons.

Finally, my sister was invited by some of her work friends to give tabletop gaming a try. She enjoyed it so much, she helped my kids roll their own characters and has, to date, DMed a couple of sessions for not only them, but also my mom. It didn’t take much coaxing to talk my wife and me into creating characters of our own.

And here I thought D&D was dead, along with any chance for me to experience it.

Full disclosure: as of writing this, I still haven’t actually played D&D, but after taking the first step—discovering Ozric’s stats and selecting his abilities—I’m awfully eager for my first session. Meanwhile, the writer and world-builder in me can’t sit idle.

How does a fantasy writer prepare for a story-based game? In a word, research.

Quest for knowledge

Cover of the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook

Don’t leave the tavern without it!

Like any adventurer worth his d12, I first sought out a tome containing what I needed to prepare. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I read the D&D Player’s Handbook from cover to cover. (OK, so I skimmed through the chapter on spells. Sue me.)

Now I know the rules, more or less, but reading about an alternate reality and actually visiting one are two very different things. I asked around for the best way to familiarize myself with D&D and received a unanimous answer.

“Watch Critical Role.”

A handful of episodes into their second campaign, and I have to admit I’m feeling more comfortable with the nuances of the game—though my sister warned me not to expect a Matt Mercer level of quality from her dungeon master experience.

Equipped with an idea of how a story might unfold as well as the rules of the world, I was ready to turn to one of my favorite exercises as an author: characterization.

A gnome by any other name

Creating characters has always been the best part of storytelling for me. Even the most exciting adventure is doomed to fail if the cast falls flat. That’s why I’m a firm believer of getting to know my characters extremely well before putting pen to paper.

For my major characters in both The Renegade Chronicles and my new series, The Soul Sleep Cycle, I slogged through fifty or more questions, forcing myself to invent/discover details about the people populating my story.

I did the same for my gnome barbarian, and one of the first things I learned was “Ozric” isn’t even his real name.

Over the course of four hours—and 7,000 words—I ascertained plenty more about Ozric’s personality, motivations, and backstory. He’s probably more complex than the average barbarian, but if I’m going to give voice to a character, I have to know him. That goes for novels and D&D alike.

Revelation

A writer typically lives within his story for months and maybe even years before it goes out into the world. Even after beta readers have provided feedback on a manuscript—even after a publication date has been decided upon—nothing makes a book feel more real than seeing the cover for the first time.

Similarly, I had the privilege of seeing Ozric in three dimensions, thanks to the painted miniature my sister produced for me. That same night, she texted me a note containing secret information only he knows.

The game is afoot!

Anticipation

Painted miniatures of a gnome barbarian and his companions

Ozric and friends

Very soon Ozric will meet Phoebe (a dwarven cleric played by my daughter), Johnny (an elf rogue played by my son), Cordelia (my wife’s half-elf ranger) and Saphira (my mom’s halfing cleric). We’ve even convinced my step-father to join us as a half-orc fighter named Spencer.

Like any good storyteller, my mind is already running amok with ideas of how Ozric will relate to the members of his motely party and how he might approach the problems likely to arise.

You might be asking yourself why the fantasy writer isn’t the one DMing the campaign. For one thing, it’s incredibly intimidating to jump into that role without any prior D&D experience. For another, I’m afraid I’ll enjoy it too much.

It took four hours to flesh out Ozric; I can only imagine how long it would take to plot out a campaign. If I’m going to wrap up The Soul Sleep Cycle next spring, I can’t afford to get too distracted.

Crafting Ozric’s story in real time will have to suffice—assuming my little gnome berserker survives his first battle.

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Cover reveal: If Sin Dwells Deep

By auspicious happenstance, my 100th blog post coincides with another milestone: the completion of my next book’s cover.

Behold!

If Sin Dwells Deep will be published as a paperback and for Kindle on Oct. 2, 2018. The Kindle version will be available for preorder at the end of the month IS AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER NOW!

Here’s the back-cover text to tide you over until then:

Even good girls have secrets.

When straight-laced Allison sleeps, the rebellious goddess Syn wakes. Having a fling in the dreamscape may seem like harmless fun, but when a sadistic predator learns her true identity, the fantasy begins to bleed into real life.

If Sin Dwells Deep—a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep—exposes the hidden world of dream drifters and explores the war between gifted government agents and those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and that which lies beyond.

Because I’m up to my elbows in pre-release book marketing tactics (which will likely include penning some guest posts), I’ve elected to use the rest of this article to highlight some of my favorite posts from this blog.

Without further ado, here’s my Top 10 blog posts…so far:

10. Celebrating a writing milestone? Listen up!

About three years ago, I created a soundtrack for a novel I was working on. The songs all—directly or indirectly—tie into the plot and characters of If Sin Dwells Deep. (Available soon!)

9. It’s a…business!

This short but significant post announced the birth of One Million Words LLC, my indie publishing company. The business, now 2½ years old, resembles a toddler today: lots of unexpected fun and requiring constant supervision.

8. How to make a person

No, this isn’t sex education. I once used this blog to share writing tips, and this post featured a series of interview questions to get to know your characters better and transform them from two-dimensional ideas to full-fledged human beings.

(Pro tip: I recently used these same questions to flesh out my new D&D character.)

7. Why sci-fi and fantasy?

I get asked this question a lot.

6. What every writer needs

Spoiler: it’s an audience. I followed this post up with three others related posts: What else a writer needs to succeed (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). While I think this series could be helpful to other writers, I’m including it here because it also gives readers a glimpse into a writer’s journey (and psyche).

5. The Good, The Bad, and The Ungrammatical

The odds are I’ll never make a video game about grammar, but what I love about this post is the reminder that writing doesn’t always have to be a serious and that writers should always have a dream or two in their back pockets.

4. ‘Who is your book about?’

I composed a “Meet the Renegades” blurb as far back as fall 1997, when I was drafting the first chapters of what would eventually become Rebels and Fools. That guide was meant for the English instructor reviewing my chapters for an independent study class. It was with great excitement that I introduced the rest of the world to Klye Tristan and the gang.

3. Friends and family of writers, beware

Another common question from readers: where do you get your ideas from? The answer: just about everywhere, including the people closest to us.

2. Why writers groups still matter

I wrote this treatise on the importance of writers groups more than five years ago, and I still believe strongly in the message. In fact, a fellow Allied Authors member and I tackled this very topic on the Read.Write.Repeat. podcast, which will air later this month.

1. Storytelling can take many forms

Predating my life as a writer, I told my stories by other means. Before the cast of The Renegade Chronicles made it to the page, they were LEGO minifigs. As a nod to my humble roots, I transcribed the characters from If Souls Can Sleep into the same medium, bringing my fiction full circle.

I’d like to thank all of my readers over the years. I hope you’ll enjoy not only my next book, but also many more blog posts to come.

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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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