Tag Archives: sci-fi

Happy Reader Appreciation Day!

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

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

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

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

The Soul Sleep Cycle

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

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

Book 1: If Souls Can Sleep

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

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

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

  • Projected publication date: January 2018

Book 2: If Sin Dwells Deep

  • Projected publication date: October 2018

Book 3: If Dreams Can Die

  • Projected publication date: April 2019

Short Stories

‘Ghost Mode’

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

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

  • Projected publication date: December 2017

‘The Lake Road’

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

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

  • Projected publication date: TBD

ONE-SHOT

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

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

  • Projected publication date: Spring 2018

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

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Cancer: one hell of a plot twist

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

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

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

Besides, I hated cancer.

Cover of the first One Million Project short story anthology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope prevails.

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

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

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

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

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Some bad news about my brand

What is the digital equivalent of schizophrenia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won’t.

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

Related posts:

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Some never escape magic’s grasp

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

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

In a word: magic.

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

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

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

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A glimpse into the (possible) future of augmented reality

Pokémon GO is only the beginning, people.

While Google Glass never really caught on, cell phones are finally poised to bring augmented reality (AR) into the mainstream thanks to a certain catch-’em-all mobile game. By leveraging GPS and overlaying computer-generated images on a real-world environment, Pokémon GO has taken a big, bold step forward in a technology that, prior to now, had taken a backseat to other advancements like 3D and virtual reality.

By Gieson Cacho [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gieson Cacho (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Even as I write this, developers, executives, and marketers are seeking out new ways to exploit AR.

Perhaps ironically, a game populated with brightly colored and sometimes cute creatures has already raised serious concerns—from at least one automobile fatality to insensitive Pokémon destinations.  Then there are instances of trespassing, distracted pedestrians, and lures that attract human victims in addition to the in-game prey.

It’s not all doom and Gloom (Pokémon pun intended), but as with any new technology, the good will inevitably be accompanied by the sinister…and the silly.

While pondering the Pokémon GO phenomenon—and admittedly participating in it—I was reminded of a short story I wrote a while back about a future where AR has penetrated every facet of society, including entertainment, commerce, and even face-to-face communication.

For all of our sakes, I hope “Ghost Mode” turns out to be an inaccurate prediction of what is to come.  It could be a cautionary tale.  Or maybe it’s just the musings of a closet technophobe.  In any event, I hope you enjoy this story of a near-future star whose search for excitement goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Your password: celebulicious

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A different class of writing

Spending time with young people can make you feel old, but it can also make you feel young, too.

I had the pleasure of talking with students at Waupun High School yesterday. My mission: to share my educational background, professional writing experiences, writing advice, and tips for getting published with the fledgling writers—in 45 minutes or less.

waupun-warriors

Despite my best efforts, I might have uttered “when I was your age” at least once.

In all seriousness, it was a very casual environment, and even though I did most of the talking, I couldn’t help but be a little inspired as we went around the circle, and the students told of their current projects and future ambitions.

Because I’ve been up to my (pointed) ears in editing a certain fantasy trilogy, I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a shortcut here by repurposing my notes from yesterday’s spiel—quasi-transcripts, if you will.

Hopefully, you’ll find a nugget or two of wisdom regardless of where you are on the path to authorhood.

My story

I started writing in earnest in high school. My fantasy tales bore a resemblance to the books I was reading at the time: DragonLance, Forgotten Realms…you know, books with dragons on the covers. Mostly, I engaged in world-building exercises and episodic storylines, though there was at least one false start to a novel

By senior year, I knew I wanted to be a novelist. At UW-Fond du Lac, I signed up for an independent study writing course. It turned out to be a one-on-one with a professor, where I delivered a chapter for her to critique each week. This was one of the most valuable college courses I ever took, and I learned an awful lot about the basics of storytelling, the importance of word choice—and how to meet deadlines.

In those two years, I wrote two-thirds of what would come to be Volume 1 of The Renegade Chronicles. When I transferred to UW-Milwaukee, I completed the first draft and then rewrote the entire manuscript from scratch senior year since my writing style—not to mention skill level—had dramatically changed since freshman year.

I submitted chapters of my book for various writing workshops, and peer review also proved incredibly valuable. (Though in one class, I had to convince the professor that genre fiction had merit before we were allowed to present fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc.)

Meanwhile, I took as many literature and linguistics classes as I could. Beyond English courses, I signed up for philosophy, psychology and a ton of history courses. An all-too-common adage dictates one should write what one knows. Ergo, the more you know, the more you can write about.

I somewhat regret I didn’t take any journalism, marketing, or radio/TV/film classes. At the time, I wanted only to write fiction, so none of those related disciplines appealed to me. Then again, I picked up many of those skills later in life.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, I taught for a year in China, where I had my favorite job title to date: foreign expert. While overseas, I wrote a sequel. I also tried to publish a short story I had written in college (to no avail) and researched agents to represent my fantasy novels.

When I returned to the U.S., I got cracking on Volume 3—while racking up rejections for Volumes 1 and 2.

I was fortunate to find an entry-level position at a newspaper. As a news clerk, I mostly was responsible for formatting lists, such as marriage licenses and school lunch menus. (Have you ever questioned the proper spelling of “tri-tater”?) I typed up letters to the editor, too.

But I also got to do some proofreading and wrote an article here and there. In less than I year, I was promoted to entertainment writer and editor. I picked up a slew of skills in the newsroom—writing and proofing using AP style, headline writing, lead writing, pagination/layout, the basics of photo editing.

Most importantly, I learned the virtues of brevity.

After a few years, I went to the “dark side”—public relations and marketing. At UW-Oshkosh, I wrote press releases, coordinated interviews with faculty and staff, wrote articles for the online news publication and the alumni magazine, became a wiz at Word Press and other content management systems, taught myself project management, and supervised student interns.

I learned even more when I became an account executive at BrownBoots Interactive, including more website skills, search engine optimization (which injects a lot of science into the art of writing), writing for TV and radio commercials, managing multi-channel marketing campaigns, estimating on projects, blogging, and much more.

That’s right, the guy who couldn’t care less about journalism, public relations, and marketing in college grew to appreciate them and, if I do say so myself, excel at them.

But my dream has always been to be a novelist…

About 10 years ago, I joined Allied Authors of Wisconsin. Because I couldn’t get an agent to bite on The Renegade Chronicles, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and wrote a sci-fi novel that got very good feedback from my beta readers. An agent, who is also a member of AAW, elected to represent If Souls Can Sleep.

And because I didn’t learn my lessons with The Renegade Chronicles, I wrote a sequel before selling the first one.

My wife and I wrote a children’s chapter book to test the waters with self-publishing. (More on that here and here.) But between a full-time career and family obligations, I always felt as though my fiction got short shrift.

Earlier this year, I decided I to take a chance and put my fiction on the front burner. I transitioned to a new role at the agency to allow for larger pockets of time for writing and editing fiction. I created a business plan and am committed self-publishing The Renegade Chronicles in 2016.

My long-term goal—my dream—hasn’t changed remains the same: I want to make a living writing fiction.

Writing advice

There’s no shortage of writing advice out there (and sometimes tips contradict). But here is some advice my mentors gave me “back in the day”:

  • Margaret Weis: “Treat your writing like a job. Write on a schedule.”
  • R.A. Salvatore: “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t, you’re a writer.”

I’ll add a few of my own observations to the mix:

  • Embrace a variety of life experiences—everything is fodder for your writing.
  • Learn as much as you can about the industry and gain related skills. Even traditionally published authors have to be business-minded marketing experts.
  • Write as many different kind of things as you can because you might be surprised at what you’re good at…and what you might enjoy.
  • Don’t turn your nose up at any writing gig—even if it’s the company newsletter—because everyone has to start somewhere.
  • Get feedback from others (e.g., writers groups, online forums) but realize that not all critiques are created equal. Not everyone is your target audience, and ultimately, it’s your story.
  • Always write what you love and do whatever you can to hold onto that passion.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up.

Tips for getting published

A lot has changed since I was in high school. Back then, you were supposed to write and publish short stories (which I sucked at), and you couldn’t hope to publish a novel without an agent. Also, self-publishing was for losers, and vanity presses that preyed on amateur writers made it expensive, too.

Today, self-publishing is both respectable and profitable. Print-on-demand means publishing a book is relatively inexpensive, though there are outside costs like proofreading and cover design. The biggest challenge is getting noticed above the noise.

As someone who is still on the path to publication, I don’t have any surefire secrets for becoming a bestseller. I do, however, have a couple of tips:

1. Don’t publish before you’re ready. After more than a decade between drafts, I’m now hacking apart The Renegade Chronicles, and they’ll be much better for it. And do your homework to avoid wasting your time…or getting sued.

2. Don’t be afraid to take chances. By the time you’re ready to publish a novel or a comic book or your memoirs, a lot is going to have changed. It’s never been a better time to be a writer, but it’s also the Wild West of publishing right now. If you want to get noticed, you have to experiment.

If you follow the crowd, you’ll always be behind.

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Anyone can write a short story (except me)

It’s a piece of advice I’ve heard on many occasions:  At writing workshops in college.  In an enrichment session with book editors at Gen Con.  During conversations with accomplished authors.  While perusing countless website articles on the ever-popular topic of how to get published:

Short stories first, then novels.

There’s an undeniable logic to this “start small” progression.  Agents and book publishers are bound to take a writer more seriously after he or she has writing credits from journals and magazines under his or her belt.  Anyway, perfecting a story of a few thousand words must be easier than whipping a full-fledged novel into shape…right?

Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been much of a short story guy, not as a reader or a writer.  In both instances, I prefer the extended opportunity to get invested in a group of characters (make that “people”) and to become infatuated with a wide-scale world, as opposed to sampling a bit-sized plot.

Call me ambitious—or maybe naïve—because I decided early on that I was going to skip the short story phase of my fiction-writing enterprise and jump right into a novel.  No, make that a trilogy.  Better yet, an epic series that could spawn ten or more volumes!

When Book 1 didn’t get picked up, however, that brought me back to the drawing board.

But did it stop me from pursuing book-length fiction?  Nope.  Even as the first installment of a new series was (and still is) being considered by a major publisher of science fiction and fantasy fiction, I began work on the sequel.  Meanwhile, I created a website (even though I hated blogs), started following other writers’ blogs, and made  Facebook and Twitter accounts for David Michael Williams, the author.  In short, I did everything I could think of to give myself a leg up in my quest to become a published writer of fiction.

Everything except for writing short stories.

To be honest, a lack of interest in short fiction is only half of the reason why I seldom dabble in the medium.  The fact is I’m not very good at it—in part because of a lack of practice and in part because it’s difficult for me to think small.  My stories are seldom self-contained.  The conflict is consistently complicated; the stakes, always higher.  Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself I couldn’t write a good short story because of my penchant for complexity.

However, at a serendipitous meeting with the very editor who has expressed interest in my novel If Souls Can Sleep, I heard the familiar refrain: If you want to break into the business, try to get some short fiction published.  And this time, for whatever reason, it struck a chord.

Instead of continuing to try to be the exception to the so-called rule, it was time for me to do as I’d been told time and time again…

Last week, I made my final edits to a sci-fi short story I had written just for fun a while back, a tale I’ve found myself tinkereing with and updating every year or so.  “Going Viral” is the best of my handful of attempts to write a simple, straightforward story.  Therefore, it was the prime candidate to accomplish my ongoing mission of getting something—anything—published in the fiction arena.

In up to eight weeks, I’ll know whether the good folks at Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine will be the ones to give me my first break.  If not, it’s on to the next publication.

Ironically, even as I’ve been researching possible publications to submit my short story to, I’ve come to enjoy reading short fiction more than ever before.  Maybe it’s because my leisure reading time is sporadic at best, and indulging in a handful of pages in a single sitting is more satisfying than letting days pass in between chapters.  Or maybe I’ve come to appreciate the unique and creative challenge these writers face when stripping a story down to its essential parts.

And just maybe I’ll find the inspiration to further hone my skills at writing short fiction.

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