Tag Archives: my novels

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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3 freebies for 3rd annual Reader Appreciation Day

It’s Sept. 13, and you know what that means: something free from your favorite author of wonderfully weird fiction.

(That’s me, by the way.)

I started Reader Appreciation Day in 2016 as a way to get the word out about Capricon and Beyond, the free e-book compendium for The Renegade Chronicles. Then last year, I gave away free wallpapers for a then-upcoming short story.

Keeping this tradition is important to me because I truly believe that readers make writers better at their craft. (More on that here.)

To show my gratitude to everyone who has ever visited Altaerra, journeyed into the dreamscape, or simply took the time to read my blog posts, I offer these three freebies:

1. If Souls Can Sleep

In celebration of the upcoming release of If Sin Dwells Deep (Book Two of The Soul Sleep Cycle), Book One will be available for free at Amazon.com, Smashwords.com, and a slew of other online retailers.

Download If Souls Can Sleep as an e-book today to get a glimpse at the dreamscape before Book Two releases—but don’t dillydally because this is a limited-time promotion.

2. If Sin Dwells Deep

If you want to read If Sin Dwells Deep before the official publication date, you can enter the Goodreads Giveaway and try your luck at winning one of 100 free copies for Kindle.

Oh, and today is the last day of the contest, so do not delay!

3. ‘Ghost Mode’

Last—though certainly not least—I’m thrilled to share one of my short stories in audio, courtesy of KC Johnston at Story Tale Podcast.

“Ghost Mode” appeared earlier this year in the One Million Project Fantasy Anthology (available as a paperback or e-book at Amazon.com). If audio books are your music to your ears, check out “Ghost Mode” here:

And thanks again, readers, for your ongoing support as I continue to conjure up bizarre books and strange stories!

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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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When is a sequel not a sequel?

"What's next" scrawled on a blackboard with white chalk

After people finish reading If Souls Can Sleep, they often wonder, “What happens next?”

While Book One of The Soul Sleep Cycle provides enough resolution to stand on its own, readers already know a second book in the series is forthcoming. There is plenty of dreamscape real estate left to explore, but where might the story go?

The good news is Book Two is scheduled for release this fall.

The bad news is readers will have to wait a little longer to find out what happens “next.”

Solving the riddle

If Sin Dwells Deep is technically a sequel to If Souls Can Sleep, since it was written—and will be published—after Book One. However, the events of ISDD do not follow those of ISCS chronologically.

The two novels span roughly the same timeframe: Book Two starts a couple of months before Book One and concludes a few days before the epilogue of ISCS, though that doesn’t make it a prequel.

If Sin Dwells Deep can best be described as a parallel novel.

Bisecting a book

I’m not sure how other parallel novels are born, but for me it happened by accident. You see, I didn’t realize I was composing a series when I started writing If Souls Can Sleep. I had many ideas and thought (naïvely) that I could fit them all in a single book.

Before long, however, I saw the error of my overambitious ways. Juggling so many focal characters and intertwining plots became untenable. Rather than one freakishly large baby, it turned out I had twins.

In the end, I decided If Souls Can Sleep would be Vincent’s story, with Milton’s storyline supplementing the main narrative.

And the ideas that didn’t make it in? Well, they were prime material for Book Two. In fact, Chapter 6 of an early draft of If Souls Can Sleep—a scene that introduced Project Valhalla dream drifter Allison Greene—became Chapter 1 of If Sin Dwells Deep.

Exploring new territory

Whereas Book One introduced the idea of dream drifting, Book Two reveals many more details about Project Valhalla’s mission and the men and women involved in that top-secret operation. The reader will also learn more about “the enemy”—those responsible for ambushing Milton prior to the start of the series—as well as a terrifying new villain.

A handful of scenes from Book One are shown from a different point of view in Book Two. But Book Two is more than just Vincent’s story told from another perspective. If Sin Dwells Deep focuses on Allison, aka Syn, and even though dream drifting is a big part of her life, she has her own personal demons to confront.

In short, the two stories are interconnected yet independent.

Creeping toward a conclusion

Although If Sin Dwells Deep won’t answer the question “What happens next?” the next novel will answer a more pertinent question: “What is the true threat to the dreamscape?”

By the time Book Three hits shelves in spring 2019, readers will have a clearer view of the big picture, setting up a confrontation that has been building for years. Not only will If Dreams Can Die answer “What happens next?” it will provide a satisfying conclusion for the series.

As for what happens after that, I always hold onto a few ideas just in case…

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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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