Tag Archives: my novels

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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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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(More) Infrequently Asked Questions

I spent a couple hours talking to myself today.

Again.

Technically, I was typing to myself, but it’s still an odd situation to be both the interviewer and interviewee. For one thing, I knew the answers to the questions before I asked them.

If Souls Can Sleep manuscript with flags indicating corrections

In two months, this marked-up manuscript will be a full-fledged paperback and e-book.

This Q&A will eventually find its home in my online press kit so that reporters, bloggers, and anyone else interested spreading the word about my upcoming book can get a quick overview about If Souls Can Sleep.

I did something similar for The Renegade Chronicles in 2016 and shared an excerpt from that self-directed Q&A in this blog. I jokingly referred to them as Infrequently Asked Questions because there was nothing frequent about how often I’ve been asked the questions in question.

What follows are my best guess at what people might want to know about If Souls Can Sleep and, admittedly, the things I would like prospective readers to know.

Oh, and welcome to the conversation!

What is If Souls Can Sleep about?

Here’s what the back cover will say:

If Souls Can Sleep introduces a hidden world where gifted individuals possess the power to invade the dreams of others. Two rival factions have transformed the dreamscape into a war zone where all reality is relative and even the dead can’t rest in peace.

The story centers on Vincent Cruz, a man who lost his daughter and never recovered from the tragedy. He’s stuck, haunted by a dream that replays the dreadful memory over and over. Then the dream suddenly stops, and he’s faced with a new nightmare that starts to bleed into the real world.

Who is If Souls Can Sleep about?

It’s largely Vincent’s story, but he’s not in it alone. Jerry, Vincent’s stoner roommate, and Leah, a sleep doctor with issues of her own, get pulled into the insanity.

There’s also Milton, a partial amnesiac who is on the run and doing his best to stave off sleep forever.

Who is your favorite character?

I don’t think I could ever pick a favorite, but I do loving writing characters who allow me to express humor. Jerry provides comic relief, but honestly, DJ—a possibly crazy bus rider—takes the cake for fun dialogue. He has some of the best lines in the whole book.

What is the setting for If Souls Can Sleep?

Most of the story is set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In fact, Vincent’s and Jerry’s apartment mirrors the one I lived in while attending college there. After writing The Renegade Chronicles, which take place in an alien world of my own devising (Altaerra), it was fun to draw from real-world locations and experiences. The bulk of the book is set in the year 2007.

If Souls Can Sleep also includes glimpses at other worlds that may or may not be real.

Who will enjoy this book?

I don’t start out by picking a specific demographic to cater to throughout the writing process. Instead, I write the best version of the story clinging tenaciously to my gray matter and hope there are people out there who will also appreciate it.

With If Souls Can Sleep, I set out to write something very different from the sword-and-sorcery fantasy stories I had been reading and writing up until then. I wanted to create a book I had never read before, something very unusual and unique.

To be blunt, this book was an experiment, not so much nudging me out of my comfort zone as submerging me into a completely unfamiliar environment. As a result, the book is a mashup of several different genres, including science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and metafiction.

Categorizing If Souls Can Sleep can be tricky, but I consider its genre-bending nature a strength because the story has something for readers of many different backgrounds. It’s complex yet accessible, peculiar yet relatable.

While fans of speculative fiction—including fantasy and science fiction—are perhaps the obvious audience, I’m pleasantly surprised to find, among my pre-readers, that the book appeals to people outside those genres too.

Bringing it back around to my initial goal: if you want to read a book that’s unlike any you’ve read before, give If Souls Can Sleep a try.

What makes If Souls Can Sleep unique?

I’m not the first person to entertain the notion of oneironauts (individuals who can psychically visit the dreams of others), but my take on “dream drifters” paints an original portrait of the relationship between life and death and the dreamscape. I’ve cobbled together a number of theories, philosophies and religious beliefs to put my own personal spin on the collective unconscious.

Things also get very “meta” in If Souls Can Sleep, as I explore what qualifies something real—including the people who populate books.

What is If Souls Can Sleep “rated”?

If it were a movie, it would likely earn a PG-13 rating. There’s swearing, some violence, drug and alcohol use, sexual content, and other mature topics. I expect the story will resonate with readers age 17 and older. That’s the suggested audience.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I started writing If Souls Can Sleep on Dec. 31, 2006, and it took two and a half years to compose a complete first draft. I then edited it, jumped into writing the sequel, and worked on a handful of other projects. By the time the book hits shelves, it will be more than 11 years in the making. (More on that here.)

Fortunately for fans, they won’t have to wait that long to get their hands on the sequel…

What does the title mean?

The title comes from a quote found within the book: “If souls can sleep, then why not dream?”

I flirted with other title options but realized, as time went on, that the opening line—“If souls can sleep”—could function as an apt foundation for the series as a whole. I also liked the idea of using a clause that leaves the reader hanging, an inherent sense of suspense.

The titles of the next two books in series follow a similar formula: If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die.

Is this another trilogy?

Yes. Sort of. Maybe?

I have written three books for The Soul Sleep Cycle to date. It wasn’t my intention to write a trilogy. In fact, I once (naïvely) believed I could tell the entire story in a single volume. Halfway through If Souls Can Sleep, I realized I needed to streamline my subplots. A second book became necessary to tell the whole story, and even before I started writing If Sin Dwells Deep, I realized I would need a third book to reach a satisfying conclusion.

Quite possibly, three books are enough. Yet I always leave a few doors open for future storylines, just in case…

Why didn’t you publish all three at once (like with The Renegade Chronicles)?

I certainly could have, and I’m sure there are those who would rather not have to wait to see what happens next. But publishing three books at once presents many challenges. I learned a lot from publishing The Renegade Chronicles en masse, and I didn’t want to end up cutting corners just so I could get this new series out there all at once.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s also difficult to sustain public interest when all three books are available on Day 1. As a compromise, however, readers won’t have to wait too long for the next installments.

If Sin Dwells Deep is slated for fall 2018; If Dreams Can Die, spring 2019.

Where did you find inspiration for this book/series?

As with many of my story ideas, the inspiration came as a random thought—this one at a roller-skating rink in the late ’90s. I was thinking about the strangers in our dreams and wondering where they came from. Do they wear the faces of people we glimpsed in passing over the years? Or are they composites our subconscious cooks up to fill out the cast of any given dream?

What if they are real people—other dreamers?

The rough outline of a short story popped into my head, but it never made it to paper. Almost a decade later, the idea resurfaced, allowing me to play with a handful of abstract concepts, including identity and the definition of “real.”

For Vincent, I thought, “What is the worst thing that can happen to a guy?” Because I was a new father with a young daughter at the time, the answer came easily: losing a child.

How does a parent cope with that? What if he can’t?

Will you write any more Renegade Chronicles books?

Writing more about Klye and the gang would be a lot of fun. I have no shortage of plots mapped out, so jumping back to Altaerra wouldn’t be too difficult.

I’ve written a complete draft of a novel starring a young wizardess who will eventually cross paths with the characters from The Renegade Chronicles. The epilogue of Martyrs and Monsters hints at that storyline. It’s possible I may polish up that book and publish it someday.

Sales of The Renegade Chronicles will also go a long way toward determining whether I return to Altaerra. (So if you want new stories, tell your friends about the existing ones!)

What is your next project?

Preparing If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die for publication will take up a significant chunk of 2018, not to mention promoting If Souls Can Sleep.

I’m currently working on a collaborative project in a different medium—a new discomfort zone—but that is a secret for now. I also have had an idea for a standalone novel that’s been trying to get my attention for years. Maybe I’ll finally get around to outlining it.

When will If Souls Can Sleep be available to purchase?

The paperback and Kindle editions will be published on Jan. 30, 2018. I plan to make it available for preorder earlier that month.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates…

Did I miss anything? Do you have a question that wasn’t addressed? I’d love to satiate your curiosity if I can. Just leave a comment below!

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How long does it take to write a book?

Answer: I have no idea — even after writing nine of them.

Maybe some authors have a formula that produces consistent results, but for me, the question is too nuanced to allow for a simple solution. Here’s why:

  • No two novels are the same.
  • I tend to work on other projects in between drafts, which artificially extends the timeline.
  • I don’t consider a book “done” until it’s published.

In other words, the writing itself is but one portion of a much longer process that starts with choosing a worthy idea to pursue and ends the moment the product is available for purchase.

Sometimes it can feel like centuries pass between penning the prologue and typing “THE END.” | Image by Alan Jacobs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Often that journey has as many ups and downs—and plot twists—as the fiction itself.

Take Project 5, for example…

After writing the three books of The Renegade Chronicles and a standalone (and currently unpublished) Altaerran novel called Magic’s Daughter, I attempted to compose a book that would merge characters from both works. I abandoned it after 22 chapters because it felt like I was simply filling in the blanks, and truth be told, I was starting to burn out on sword-and-sorcery fantasy—as a writer and a reader.

I decided my next book would take a step in a drastically different direction. I chose the working title “Project 5” because, well, I hoped it would yield my fifth complete novel. (Not very creative, Ghost of David Past!)

In June 2006, I began plotting an urban fantasy novel set in present-day Earth. The cast included Benedict Strong, a nearly immortal magic-caster who defied his heritage by trying to live a normal life; Lady Pandora, a stage magician who used real sorcery in her shows; and a few others.

I wrote a couple chapters before losing interest.

Next, I embraced a completely new plot — a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid that would eventually become If Souls Can Sleep. Once that story got its hooks in me, there was no turning back. Here’s a snapshot of the steps leading from inception to publication:

Dec. 10, 2006 — Began brainstorming a new Project 5, starting with rough character descriptions.

Dec. 31, 2006 — Wrote the prologue and began researching sleep disorders while hashing out ideas for the plot.

March 5, 2007 — Wrote the first chapter and then drafted a chapter a month for the next two years.

Oct. 30, 2008 — Realized that I was trying to write three books in one; removed select scenes from the first draft and saved them for Books 2 and 3.

April 7, 2009 — Developed an outline for the remainder of the novel after finishing Chapter 24 to prevent “writing in circles.”

July 1, 2009 — Finished the first complete draft of If Souls Can Sleep.

July – September 2009 — Read through the first draft and made notes for editing.

Oct. 18, 2009 — Started working on the heavy edits.

May 2, 2010 — Finished the second draft.

May 3, 2010 – Sept. 4, 2017 — Did lots of other stuff.*

Sept. 5, 2017 — After finishing the second draft of Book 3 in The Soul Sleep Cycle, jumped into proofing and prepping If Souls Can Sleep for publication through One Million Words.

Sept. 20, 2017 — Finished the production and marketing schedule.

Sept. 21, 2017 – Jan. 29, 2018 — Tackled/tackling all of the tasks required to publish and promote the book.

Jan. 30, 2018 — Publishing If Souls Can Sleep.

* Nota bene: I set aside If Souls Can Sleep for seven and a half years while I worked on a variety of other projects, including writing and editing the next two books in The Soul Sleep Cycle; co-writing and publishing a children’s chapter book (The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers) with my wife; writing a few short stories (“The Lake Road,” “The Monster and the Mirage,” and “Ghost Mode”); reworking and submitting “Ghost Mode” and an older story, “Going Viral,” to various publications; and publishing the three novels and a digital collection comprising The Renegade Chronicles as well as a free e-book compendium (Capricon and Beyond). I also spent time marketing The Renegade Chronicles, creating an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for a pun-a-day calendar, and making this website during that time.

You could say that If Souls Can Sleep will be 11 years in the making when it publishes early next year—though, technically, the inception for the series goes back even further.

According to the first entry in my Project 5 notes, dated Dec. 10, 2006:

Years and years ago, I thought that it might be fun to write a story about a man who meets a woman that he swears he knows. And she seems to recognize him, though neither can say from where. At some point, he would recall her as a recurring character in his dreams.

There was, of course, more to the story, but a lingering question has (in a sense) haunted me from that point forward: Who are the strangers that appear in our dreams? Are they real people whose names we have forgotten—or perhaps never knew—or are they amalgamations that our minds concoct when it needs nonspecific characters for a scene?

My next book will contend that dream strangers are real people, even if they do not exist in what most would call the real world.

“Years and years ago”?

That initial inkling has evolved—maybe “mutated” is a better word—over the course of decades, which only underscores my belief that the life of a story spans far longer than the time it takes to write it down.

Regardless of when this labor of love actually began, one thing remains true: I’m looking forward to finally sharing If Souls Can Sleep with the world in 2018!

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