Tag Archives: short story

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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‘Ghost Mode’ appears in new fantasy anthology

Five years ago, I declared anyone can write a short story—except me. Since then, evidence to the contrary has surfaced.

In 2014, “Going Viral,” my light-hearted yet sinister tale that plays with the theme of perception vs. reality in the Information Age, received honorable mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Looking ahead at 2018, it’s likely another story, “The Lake Road,” will be included in a collection produced by a fellow indie publisher.

But in more recent news, “Ghost Mode,” my sci-fi short story that takes augmented reality to a chilling extreme, is among 40 stories comprising the One Million Project Fantasy Anthology, which—along with thriller and general fiction anthologies—is fundraising to fight cancer, homelessness, and more.

The anthology’s editor included this introduction for my contribution:

When someone who works closely with emerging technologies on a daily basis presents such an ominous portrayal of tech addicts in the not-too-distant future, you can’t help but wonder if it’s meant to be caricature or cautionary tale.

Given Ghost Mode’s playful tone, it’s likely a little of both.

David Michael Williams works for an interactive agency specializing in digital communication. He writes speculative fiction that spans the gamut from sci-fi to sword-and-sorcery.

One Million Project’s fantasy anthology is available at Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats. All profits go to charity, so please consider supporting this worthy endeavor!

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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

(Editor’s note: If Souls Can Sleep is available here!)

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

(Editor’s note: OMP’s Fantasy Anthology is available here!)

‘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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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.

“Ghost Mode” was published in the One Million Project Fantasy Anthology. Buy it in paperback or for Kindle at Amazon.com.

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An old short story for Throwback Thursday

Back when I worked in a newsroom, a colleague of mine was wont to say, “Everyone loves old photos.”

A (sneaky) monkey

“In his mind, there was but one rule: survive.”| “Mantelpavian female 2 db”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

While the accuracy of any absolute statement is debatable, I don’t remember readers complaining when the newspaper printed black-and-white photographs. On the contrary, we tended to get positive feedback from folks who then took the opportunity to wax nostalgic about yesteryear.

I believe the Throwback Thursday (#TBT) trend serves as further proof of mankind’s fondness for looking back.

Why do we do it? To remember the Good Ol’ Days, I suppose. To laugh at our questionable taste in fashion. And to take measure of how much has changed.

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I’m sharing a very short story I wrote in college. As I reread it, I can’t help but wander through the scenes of my young adulthood, chuckle at my cumbersome loquaciousness and overt penchant for alliteration (OK, some things haven’t changed), and to marvel at how much my style has evolved.

If you want to indulge in a bit of frivolity with me, read on or download a PDF for your e-reader.

Monkeys

By David Michael Williams

The chorus of a popular R&B song rent the morning, ripping me from my blissful slumber. Motor memory launched me from my mattress, across the cluttered hardwood floor, and over to where the alarm radio blasted its musical message at a mind-reeling volume. After turning various knobs and fiddling with a few buttons, the dream-destroying decibels were banished back to the black and brown box.

The bedroom door was open, as it always was. I lived alone and had no need for privacy. Still half asleep, I proceeded into the living room, where I began to search for the remote control in all the usual places. When the clicker could not be found lodged in the recliner or atop the computer desk, I wandered over to the couch.

That’s when I saw it, a baboon regarding me with more than a passing interest. He sat there, perched on the middle couch cushion, following my every movement with those brown eyes of his. Eyes that looked as thought they could have belonged to a person. Eyes that harbored intelligence without the burden of conscience.

I couldn’t move.

I hated monkeys, secretly feared them. Their very existence is a sick parody of humanity. I knew the little brute, despite his diminutive size, had in him a barbaric strength that could easily overpower my best efforts. In his mind, there was but one rule: survive. No social mores or rules restricted his behavior.

He was capable of anything.

I began to back away slowly, but that only seemed to earn his ire. I recalled that dogs could sense fear in people and wondered if all animals shared this skill. In spite of my growing fear, I took another step backward and practically fell on top of the recliner.

At this point, the deadly primate rose from his crouched position into a more-or-less upright stance. I considered making a break for the apartment’s only exit. How fast could the little bastard be? Would one kick send him reeling into the television, causing it to explode and, at the very least, render the hairy fiend unconscious? Or, would my desperate flailing only provide him a limb to sink his yellowed teeth into?

Monkeys have little concern for personal hygiene. They only groom their fur in order to find insect snacks. This baboon represented everything mankind left behind in climbing up onto the throne in the Animal Kingdom. Humans are at the top of the food-chain. Not only do we possess opposable thumbs, but we have the intelligence and integrity to use our skills responsibly. Homo sapiens are the rightful owners of the planet, the chosen genotype.

I just wish someone would have explained all that to the monkey.

I couldn’t have told him even if I had thought it might do me some good. I couldn’t even manage a scream as he vaulted off of the low-riding couch, long baboon arms swinging, and shrieking like a banshee on a sugar high.

I reached for the nearest weapon—my lava lamp. I always wondered what the mock-magma actually was and whether or not it would burn on contact with skin. Now seemed as good a time as any to find out. The monkey-turned-missile sailed through the air, honing in on his human target. His eyelids all but disappeared as his unfeeling eyes bulged out. A stream of saliva trailed from his lower jaw.

He was probably hungry, as there was no food in my refrigerator.

I swung the lava lamp, bludgeoning the baboon, bashing in the side of his hairy little head. He was too stunned to counterattack, so I pressed my advantage. Dropping the lava lamp, which was unwieldy and hadn’t even shattered, I reached for my left shoe. I had to finish the job. It was Man vs. Beast, and I didn’t intend to let my species down.

As I brought the black shoe down upon his huddled, unmoving body, I went into some sort of frenzy, experiencing a bloodlust that the Neanderthals must have felt as they brandished their clubs against their rivals for survival. By the time I finished, it was 9:52 A.M., and I was in no mood to go to work.

The baboon’s body was an unrecognizable mass of blood, entrails, and dirty hair. I ended up throwing the dripping carcass off my back porch. Then the gravity of the situation hit me all at once. I fell into the recliner, shaking, terrified of the animal I had had to become in order to defeat the baboon.

And what if there was another one tomorrow morning?

Now don’t you dare feel sorry for the monkey. They are not the cute, innocent little creatures you want to believe. They are wild. Dangerous. Capable of anything. But you won’t believe me. You’ll continue to write children’s stories about them, continue to visit the zoo and wave to them. Only when one sneaks up on you, on some unsuspecting Tuesday morning, will you admit your err in judgment. But by then, it might be too late.

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Building a better book title

I’ve stumbled upon something more challenging than writing an ending: choosing a title.

Titles represent anywhere from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of words.  They have to be worthy of all that hard work you put into your short story, novella or novel.  And they must be marketable.

I’m almost never satisfied with my first stab at a title, so I slap a placeholder at the top of the page and move on.  For those short stories that don’t inspire a second draft, what started as a temporary solution becomes permanent.  (I’m looking at you, “Of Men and Monsters” and “The Unholy Grail.”)

Two of my better tales started out with very generic titles: “Dime Story” and “Virus Story.”  The latter eventually became “Going Viral,” with which I’m reasonably satisfied.  For a short time, I titled the former “Between Twilight and Dusk,” but at the end of the day (pun intended), the name didn’t really mean much.

I never got around to tweaking the title of “Dime Story” not only because I like that it sounds like “dime store,” an anachronistic reference to the main setting of the story, but also because I don’t think it’s publishable.  Why bother wracking my brain for something better?

If short stories prove difficult to title, then naming novels is downright impossible.  I struggled for a long time with the titles to the first three books of The Renegade Chronicles.  At one point, I even considered naming them Genesis, Exodus, and Revelation.  (Ugh.)  The most recent drafts bear these labels: The Road to Faith, The Keepers of Faith, and Defenders of Valor.

Not horrible, but the first two still come off sounding like spirituality-themed nonfiction as opposed to sword-and-sorcery fantasy.

The best I could do for my fourth book—a prequel of sorts—was Magic’s Daughter.  Surprise, surprise, there’s already a book (or two) by that name.  And even if it weren’t unoriginal, I don’t find it especially inspiring.  It lacks…verve.   Of course, the fact that book titles can’t be copyrighted leads to a lot of books sharing the same or very similar names.  Type in “Nemesis” on Amazon.com, and you’ll find books by Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, Phillip Roth, and plenty of others.

Personally, I strive for novelty wherever I can, titles included.  I also find that with books and movies with names borrowed from abstract emotions or situations don’t stick in my brain.  I want to see the title.

So what comprises the perfect title?  Well, it has to be appropriate—that is, make sense in some context with the story itself.  It should be memorable (so that your reader can tell his/her friend about it…and preferably where he/she bought it).  And, I daresay, it should be creative.

Oh, it doesn’t have to be frightfully clever, and it certainly shouldn’t be too cute.  Take Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.  Is there anything more ordinary-sounding than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?  And yet we instantly want to know more about her.  Why does she have a tattoo of a dragon?  Where is this tattoo?  And what’s this I hear about her kicking a hornet’s nest and playing with fire?

We already see the titular character…or at least we think we do.

My problem is I overthink things.  There’s probably nothing inherently wrong with “Magic’s Daughter,” as far as titles go.  Perhaps picking the perfect title requires a bit of magic.  Maybe it’s more instinct than science.   While writing (and rewriting and reworking and…) a recent novel, I wrestled with the title every now and then, ultimately pushing off the Big Decision for another day.  I flirted with Adrift for a while.  It tied into one of the sleep phenomena featured in the book and also served as homage to one of my favorite TV shows, Lost.

Adrift?

Eh.

Then one day while reading a random passage, I came across a key quote penned by one of the characters: “If souls can sleep, then why not dream?”  If souls can sleep…

Bingo.

Not only does If Souls Can Sleep summarize an underlying philosophy in the book, but also I love how the hypothetical nature of the “if” clause adds a hint of suspense.  In hindsight, it wasn’t so much a “eureka!” moment as a “hey, this could work” thought.  But the more I considered it, saying it aloud and pitting it against the test of time, the more convinced I became that there could be no other.

Now I find myself with a short story I intend to send to market.  The working title—“The Villain”—still presides over the first page.  I don’t hate it, but maybe there’s a better option…

That’s where you come in.  Please take the poll below, and let me know which one sounds like a winner.  And if you want a glimpse at what the story is about (or at least, the first part of the first draft): go here.

—Editor’s note: Thanks for the votes.  “Ghost Mode,” it is.  Interested in reading the whole story?  Go here.

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