Tag Archives: science fiction

If Dreams Can Die is available now!

Promotional graphic for If Dreams Can Die

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.

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Q&A: If Dreams Can Die

As we creep closer to launch day, here’s an in-depth look at Book Three of The Soul Sleep Cycle:

What is If Dreams Can Die about?

Cover of If Dreams Can DieLife and death, love and hate, hope and despair, dreams and reality, identity and illusion, friendship and rivalry, faith and doubt, damnation and redemption—these are all themes found within The Soul Sleep Cycle and If Dreams Can Die especially.

But the back-cover blurb sums up the story much better:

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.

Who is If Dreams Can Die about?

The book focuses on Annette Young, a woman who lost her husband and daughter early in life and never fully recovered from the emotional trauma. She takes matters into her own hands, making compromise after compromise in the pursuit of what she perceives as a happy ending for everyone.

It’s up to the reader to decide whether Annette—as the so-called Lady of Peace—is a hero or a villain.

Characters from the first two books also carry the story at various points, including Milton, a dream-drifting pioneer recovering from a coma; William, a brilliant but dangerous fugitive; and Allison (a.k.a. Syn) a CIA-sanctioned dream drifter. If Dreams Can Die introduced a new point-of-view character as well: Brynhildr, the valkyrie commander of Project Valhalla.

Where does If Dreams Can Die take place?

That’s a tricky question since many scenes take place in shared dreams. Real-world action is split between the East and West Coasts in the U.S., while various dreams and memories will take readers all across the globe, including China, Russia, and maybe even Antarctica.

And then there’s the tumultuous space between dreams, the setting of the series’ climax.

Who will enjoy this book?

I’d love to say anyone can pick up If Dreams Can Die and enjoy it, but that’s simply not true. Although I think the story is strong enough to stand on its own, newcomers to the series would lack necessary context to understand the full extent of the plot.

Readers should definitely read If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep before diving into Book Three.

As for the series as a whole, fans of speculative fiction are the most obvious audience. The Soul Sleep Cycle contains elements of several genres, including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and suspense. The series could also be categorized as dreampunk, a subgenre that raises the question “What is real?”

However, anyone who loves rich characters and unpredictable plots can enjoy the series.

What is If Dreams Can Die “rated”?

The suggested audience is age 18 and older. While If Dreams Can Die lacks the explicit sexual content of its predecessor, Book Three nevertheless contains course language and explores mature subjects, including infidelity and suicide.

What does the title mean?

I established something of a naming convention with the first two books, If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep. I’ve always liked using “if clauses” for the series because they inject a sense of suspense.

I decided on the title If Dreams Can Die very early in the project. Dreaming and death have been prevailing themes throughout the series, and then there’s the ambiguity. Are all dreams on the chopping block or just one woman’s vision? The alliteration didn’t hurt, either.

Does Book Three pick up where Book Two left off?

Yes, it does.

Whereas the first two books were parallel novels, covering roughly the same time span from different sides of the saga, If Dreams Can Die begins immediately after the events of If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep.

How difficult was it to write Book Three?

In some ways, it was more difficult than I had anticipated. I knew, broadly speaking, where the series was headed. I knew how it had to end. But how I was going to tell this story changed throughout the planning phase and from draft to draft.

The greatest challenge was choosing the right narrators. Book One, by and large, was told by three point-of-view characters; it was Vincent’s story, as told by Leah and Vincent himself, with Milton’s scenes providing hints at the bigger picture. Book Two centered on Allison/Syn, with chapters from William’s and the Wolf’s perspectives sprinkled throughout.

I knew Annette had to tell her story in Book Three, but what other voices were needed? I struggled to find the best support narrators. In the end, I decided not to artificially restrict myself to only three p.o.v. characters.

Milton, Allison, and William return to provide their perspectives for a handful of chapters, and Brynhildr also steps into the spotlight to reveal more about the dynamics within Project Valhalla.

Is this the final book of the series?

I honestly don’t know.

I do know If Dreams Can Die spells the end of the story I set out to tell when planning Book One. But I’d love to return to the dreamscape someday. I suspect Daniel’s daughter has an interesting life ahead of her, for one thing, and the future of Project Valhalla surely contains some twists and turns.

If there is enough interest—and if there are enough sales—to justify it, I’d love to add a fourth book to The Soul Sleep Cycle.

For now, however, I’m excited to pursue something new. I’ve been working on this wonderfully weird series, on and off, for 12½ years, so there’s a backlog of stories I’m eager to tell.

Where did you find inspiration for this book?

First and foremost, I wanted to provide a satisfying resolution for the series. I’m not one to tie up storylines with tidy, little bows. Yet the first two books posed a lot of questions, and I felt it necessary to answer the most important ones before the end of Book Three.

If Dreams Can Die is largely Annette’s story, a tale that started decades ago when she lost her family. What makes Annette remarkable isn’t her ability to dream drift, but her single-minded determination to defy the natural order of things to accomplish her goal—no matter the sacrifice.

It’s a stark contrast to the Vincent’s actions at the end of If Souls Can Sleep

And while I didn’t set out to write a book about grief and hopelessness and the value of life, I have seen the impact of depression firsthand. Even though I write books with fantastic elements, I believe it’s important to ground my stories in reality, which means writing believable characters grappling with relatable problems.

What is your next project?

As mentioned earlier, I have no shortage of ideas.

Staring a new series sounds like too much of a commitment right now. Maybe I’ll try my hand at a stand-alone novel, something for a slightly younger audience so that my kids don’t have to wait so long to read it.

I’m also flirting with the idea of releasing a new novel set in Altaerra—the same setting as The Renegade Chronicles—as a serial on the Radish app. I’d love to transform The Soul Sleep Cycle novels into audiobooks to reach a wider audience.

All I can say for certain is that I’m far from finished with this crazy thing called being an author.

When will If Dreams Can Die be available to purchase?

If Dreams Can Die will be available in paperback and for Kindle at Amazon.com on May 21.

 


 

Only one more week to go! Plenty of time to catch up on anything you might have missed:

Psst…could you do me a favor? If you’ve read If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep, please leave a quick review at Amazon and Goodreads!

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Meet Annette Young of If Dreams Can Die

Some of my favorite villains are those who see themselves as heroes, and Annette Young falls wholeheartedly in that flock.

I tend to create character profiles for my point-of-view characters because I need to know as many facets of their personalities as possible. Typically, this happens before I begin the first draft of a book, which means my initial impressions of a character doesn’t always match up with the final product.

portrait of Annette Young

Of course, I had gotten to know Annette quite a bit by the time the third book came along. She quickly became one of my favorite characters—not only because there’s a dearth of middle-aged-housewives-turned-deities in fiction, but also because I sympathize with her to such a high degree.

Is Annette two-faced or simply a woman divided? I’ll let the reader decide.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt* from the character profile I penned roughly three years ago.

*Warning: if you haven’t read both If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep, you will encounter spoilers!

Annette Josephine (Ringgold) Young

Appearance

Annette was a big woman in the later years of her life. She was of average height for a Caucasian woman (5’5″) and weighed more than 300 lbs. She had dark brown eyes and long brown hair, which she typically wore up in a bun or some other conservative up-do. She would wear a ponytail at home or in casual circumstances where she knew her companions well.

When she was younger, she spent a lot of time outdoors, and living in the South, she sported an attractive tan throughout the year. After the car accident that claimed her husband’s and daughter’s lives, she became more of a shut-in, and her complexion lightened.

She has no tattoos or any other body modifications; she finds such things crass. Her ears are pierced with one hole each. Annette has dimples and a few chins.

Annette always took great pride in how she looked and was wont to wear fancier clothing and accessories than the occasion strictly called for. She prefers dresses and ostentatious jewelry, such as a bejeweled owl broach. Her favorite fragrances are of the floral variety, especially roses. She wears a lot of makeup—some might say too much eyeshadow.

In the dreamscape, however, Annette has reverted to the very thin frame she boasted prior to marrying Herbert (before love “fattened her up”). As the Lady of Peace, she wears her long hair in braids and sports a simple, shapeless white dress. She also goes about barefooted. The only jewelry she wears are golden hoop earrings. She appears to be in her mid-twenties, though everything else about her resembles a picture of her from her First Communion.

Attitude and Behavior

Annette consistently conducts herself with an air of propriety. She has excellent manners and insists that others show the same courtesy to her and others around her. While she takes pride in her looks, she doesn’t come off as haughty. When angry, she might snap and come off like a scolding schoolteacher. Even when she is upset, she tends to hide her feelings behind a mask of civility.

Others might mistake her for being naïve or simple-minded because she tends try her best to get along with everyone, but she is a very intelligent woman.

Since her mother used to scold her for fidgeting, Annette tends to fold her hands on her lap or in front of her (when standing) so that she isn’t tempted to play with the fabric of her clothes, tap her fingers against surfaces, and so forth. But despite her best efforts, she has been known to shake her wrists to make her bracelets clatter when nervous.

Annette has a thick Texan accent, and sometimes she uses expressions associated with the Deep South. But her drawl comes off more like a Southern aristocrat’s than a redneck’s. She can be sarcastic at times, but it’s subtle because she prefers to be positive when she speaks. She doesn’t swear and scolds other people when they do. Her body language also conveys how she feels: she might frown or sigh or click her tongue or fold her arms or wrinkle her nose to express displeasure. Her smiles are very warm.

History

Her childhood was very structured and, one might say, old-fashioned. She was a debutante, and proper etiquette was stressed her house. While her parents weren’t particularly wealthy, she was a little spoiled because she was an only child. She lived with both of her parents, who if they weren’t passionately in love, seemed to get along well enough. Her entire youth was spent in Berryville, Texas, and after she married Herbert Young, she moved to a larger city nearby.

She liked spending time outdoors, socializing with family friends. Some of her favorite activities included playing cards (bridge mostly), croquette, and other lawn games as well as swimming. For a short time, she even competed in swimming. She also dabbled in various crafts, including painting and sculpting, but as she got older, she turned to more utilitarian pastimes, such as quilting and needlepoint.

Annette has fond memories of her youth and young adulthood. She wanted for nothing and was generally treated well by those around her. She has always been an extrovert who prefers to surround herself with friends. Most of her best memories center on special occasions and large gatherings, including religious milestones, holidays, and her wedding. One of her favorite memories was when she met Herbert at the Henderson County Fair. He won her a goldfish, which he named Annie Fishgold—a sort of play on words for Annie Ringgold, the name Annette went by when she was young.

Hobbies and Interests

A couple of Annette’s favorite past times are baking and eating. While she once played tennis and other outdoor party games, her poor physical shape prevented her from doing much of that after she put on so much weight. Playing cards while gabbing or discussing just about any topic over a nice meal are her ideas of a good time. She also dabbled in floral arrangements (her favorite flowers are marigolds). She enjoys traveling and adding to her decorative spoon collection.

Although she wasn’t much of a reader in her youth, her thirst for knowledge on certain topics made her a voracious reader as an adult. Most of her books have to do with dreaming, coping with grief, and religion—particularly New Age concepts, such as astral projection, lucid dreaming, prophecy, and anything that pertains to the afterlife. She might watch horse racing on television, but most other sports are too barbaric for her, including football. She likes dramas and romantic comedies with happy endings. She has been known to read the occasional bodice-ripper too.

Annette is a big fan of Frank Sinatra and other crooners from the Big Band era. She feels as though there’s a certain classiness to the music. She also likes older movies and musicals. As with TV shows, she prefers a certain level of romance in her stories, and happy endings are a must. Annette has a healthy sense of humor and likes to laugh. She has a somewhat sophisticated sense of humor and isn’t a fan of slapstick or jokes at others’ expense.

Beliefs

Honesty was an important virtue for Annette growing up; lying was not tolerated in her house. She tries to be honest whenever she can, but as her plans have evolved, she has leveraged deception on a more and more regular basis. So while she abhors being lied to, she has had to “bend the truth” and keep secrets from those around her—regrettably.

Most of her crimes, she feels, are imperative and that the ends justify the means. Her desperation would prompt her to kill—and woe be to anyone who gets in the way of her reuniting with Herbert and Deirdre.

Annette is not proud of her vices. She tells herself that all of her misdeeds will be overshadowed by the good she is doing. Her biggest fear is failing to reconnect with her lost loved ones—and damning her soul if it turns out God is real.

Despite the fact that she grappled with depression while grieving for her deceased husband and daughter, she remains an optimist. Everything she has done since The Accident is out of hope that she can reconnect with her family. She used to believe in fate, but now she believes an individual must make her own destiny.

Annette was raised Catholic. From a young age, she was captivated by the idea of the spiritual realm—praying to the departed souls (saints), the idea that there were angels flitting between Heaven and Earth, and the realms beyond death: Limbo, Purgatory, Hell, Heaven. She took most of the teachings of the Bible very literally, and she mostly lived her life in accordance with the tenants of Christianity.

For as long as she could remember, she had very vivid dreams. She hoped, at first, that it meant she was a modern-day prophetess, but her parents scoffed at the notion (they were Catholic, too, but more as a habit than anything else). Her priest tiptoed around her questions, but when (in private school) she was caught reading about dream interpretation, she was told that such notions were ungodly—one step away from Ouija boards and fortune telling.

When Herbert and Deirdre died, it shook her faith to its core.

Relationships

Annette loved Herbert dearly. She once felt as though she had been blessed by God and thanked Him for bringing them together. When that love was taken away from her prematurely, she devoted her life to reclaiming it.

Annette was a virgin when she married Herbert. He is the only man she has ever been with, and their sexual habits were rather ordinary. It wasn’t the most important aspect of her marriage, though she was sexually attracted to Herbert, who wasn’t a traditionally handsome man. He’s the only man she’s ever been with.

She loves children—her Deirdre most of all. Annette always wanted a big family, and she surrounds herself with mannequin children in the dreamscape, finding peace in their play.

She has few friends, but those she trusts are very dear to her. They include Levi Nathan (first and foremost) as well as other members of PEACE, some of whom are dream drifters while others attend to the real-world administration of the organization. Two of her closest friends were Milton and William, though her relationships with them have become strained in recent years, and she worries that both men now see her as an enemy.

Annette doesn’t really hate anyone. She is disappointed by William’s betrayal, and even if she sees Project Valhalla as an obstacle, she doesn’t have anything personal against its members.

 


 

More extras are still coming your way!

Help an author out. Please rate If Souls Can Sleep and If Sin Dwells Deep at Amazon and Goodreads!

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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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FREE EXCERPT: If Dreams Can Die

Book Three of The Soul Sleep Cycle won’t be available until May 21, but you can get a sneak peek today.

Read the prologue and first two chapters of If Dreams Can Die.

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

Reviews are important. 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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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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