Review of If Souls Can Sleep by David Michael Williams

One of our local writers has recently published If Souls Can Sleep.  From the book description:

First he lost his daughter. His mind may be next.

After years of being haunted by the day his little girl drowned, Vincent faces a new nightmare — one that reaches into the real world and beyond the grave.

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.

More information on the book is here and here.

From the press release:

The 350-page paperback captures elements of science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and metafiction, covering such disparate topics as Norse mythology and neuroscience.

 

“After years of focusing exclusively on sword-and-sorcery fantasy, as both a writer and a reader, I made it my goal to write something very different. I wanted to create a book I had never read before, something very unusual and unique,” Williams said.

 

“It was time to take a risk,” he added.

 

While categorizing “If Souls Can Sleep” can be tricky, Williams sees the mashup of genres as a strength because the story has something for readers of many backgrounds. He describes the narrative as complex yet accessible, peculiar yet relatable.

 

“This book has no shortage of paradoxes. I tried to break the rules without ending up with a broken story,” Williams said. “Fortunately, early feedback suggests the experiment was successful.”

 

“If Souls Can Sleep” will be published through Williams’ indie publishing company, One Million Words, on Jan. 30. The book is currently available for preorder as a paperback at Amazon.com and as an e-book through the Kindle Store. Other e-book formats will follow at various online retailers starting in May.

 

“If Souls Can Sleep” serves as the first book of The Soul Sleep Cycle. The sequel, “If Sin Dwells Deep,” is scheduled for a fall 2018 release, with a third installment, “If Dreams Can Die,” slated for spring 2019.

 

Williams is also the author of The Renegade Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy comprised of “Rebels and Fools,” “Heroes and Liars,” and “Martyrs and Monsters.” He is a 1999 graduate of UW-Fond du Lac and a 2001 graduate of UW-Milwaukee, where he studied creative writing. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state’s oldest writing collectives, in 2005.

 

His website, https://david-michael-williams.com, features a blog about his fiction and the craft of writing.

Publishers were interested, but couldn’t figure out how to classify the book to sell it, because of the genre-bending.  But if that’s so, then the market must have gotten too restrictive over the years: I’d say “sci-fi/fantasy” works fine.

Also, don’t be scared off by its being self-published.  This book is professionally done, well-written and well-edited (though it could have used one more run-through).  It reads quickly and holds the reader’s attention all the way through.  The characters are well-rounded.  And the concept–Who hasn’t wanted to explore the dreamscape as if it were more than just visions in our own heads, as if we could go there to visit friends and even departed loved ones?

Reading over some reviews–One person found it hard to get into at first, but I was pulled right in.  Maybe it depends on what you’re into.

Details on how to buy the book are here.  And yes, there will be more books later: It’s the beginning of a series.

 

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Repost from 2016: Just Finished Slaughterhouse Five

My first exposure to it was in college: My freshman year, my boyfriend Peter and I took a Winterim class (one month) called Science Fiction for the Fun of It.  Along with reading a book of short stories, every class period, we watched a movie.  One of them was Slaughterhouse Five.

Over the years, I completely forgot what was in the movie or what it was about.  I forgot there was such a city as Dresden.

I may have learned about the firebombing in school, since I see references to the raids on German cities in my old German and History textbooks.  I do remember learning something about the bombing in German class, and feeling appalled at the destruction of historic architecture.

But I don’t remember hearing about how many civilians died in these bombings.  Maybe I thought they had evacuated; I don’t remember.  I may have learned something about it in school, but it’s been more than 20 years since I graduated college (argh), so I forgot about it.

Fast-forward to 2015: While researching my novel about a Nazi time-traveler, I stumbled across some webpages which I thought were Wikipedia, but were actually some neo-Nazi site, and learned about the bombings, including Dresden.

Cross-referencing through various other sources has proven that while the site may have given me some faulty or one-sided info about the war, it is correct about the bombings.  Of course, it doesn’t give the other side, how the Germans bombed European cities and ravaged civilians deemed “subhuman,” such as Jews, Russians, Poles, gypsies, homosexuals, etc. etc.  But yes, the bombings really did happen.

In the course of my research, I discovered that Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is about the bombing of Dresden.  So I bought the book with birthday money and, these past couple of weeks, read it.  It’s such an easy read, and so short, that it only took two weeks.

Kurt Vonnegut not only hid in a meat locker with other prisoners during the bombing of Dresden, but had to help clean up the carnage afterwards.  Before the bombing, the beautiful city looked like Oz to him.  He saw the people there, with their translucent skin from having nothing to eat for years but potatoes, just trying to get here and there, go to work and home again.

He became a pacifist.  It took him more than 20 years to finally write about the experience, despite wanting to for so long.  He tried to find information for research, but they told him it was still secret.  Vonnegut writes that the government kept the extent of the Dresden bombing secret from the American public for many years, afraid of the backlash.

Because yes, there were many who would object to the bombing of civilians.  Even back then, before the 60s and the peace movement.  Even though today I find–in the comment section of Youtube videos and blogs–people complaining about modern generations who aren’t willing to recognize what had to be done to win the war.

Really?  Must we–in order to fight an enemy, no matter how evil–do the same things the enemy does?  Because that’s what Nazi Germany did: firebombed cities.

Must we look on an entire city–whichever city–as full of evil people, just as evil as their government?  Especially in a totalitarian, fascist government which suppresses all opposition?

There was no organized, wide-scale movement against the government in Germany, because everyone who tried was killed or severely punished.  But I keep finding accounts and interviews of people who lived during that time; they keep saying, “My father was against the government, but he had to keep it very quiet or they’d take him away.”

Especially in 1945 when the war was clearly lost, and refugees fled the bombings of other cities and the advance of the Russians, how many of those people honestly still supported the government?  How many just wanted the war to end and sanity to regain control of the country?

But the Allied bombings didn’t just kill civilians of the Axis countries.  According to For You the War is Over by David A. Foy, the relentless bombings of civilians put the Allied POWs in Germany in serious danger, especially after Dresden: The POWs could sometimes be victims in air attacks on cities or trains.  Germans began calling the airmen “Luftgangsters,” believing they were deliberately chosen from the American mob to inflict death on women and children.

In the latter part of the war, any airman who was shot down over Germany was actually safer in the hands of enemy soldiers than of the civilians.  Civilians were in such a frenzy of anger and revenge that our boys could get lynched.  Angry guards in POW camps could become trigger-happy after their families were bombed.

And Hitler made things more difficult for POWs, so attempted escapes were more likely to lead to death instead of a stint in the cooler.  Only Eva’s influence kept Hitler from ordering the deaths of all Allied air force POWs after Dresden.  According to one POW, Stalag Luft I was very nearly wiped out in retaliation for an attack on a refugee train.  The POW claimed that SS troops were sent to do this, but the Kommandant’s troops surrounded them and refused to let them do it.

I see a lot of extreme thinking about these bombings: One side ignores the atrocities of the Nazis, even explains them away or says the Holocaust is a hoax.  They say there’s an Illuminati; they say Hitler and the Nazis were just misunderstood.  They say the Jews really are a problem and that xenophobia is not a sin.  They say the Allied leaders were war criminals.

The other side says the bombings were absolutely necessary.  They scold the people who say we shouldn’t have done this.  They say there was no other way to win the war.

But maybe there’s a middle way: recognize that while we had to beat the Nazis, that doesn’t mean our side was always correct in its actions.  We do the same in looking at American history with various groups, such as Native Americans and black slaves, recognizing when our government committed crimes against them; why not with World War II?

Yes, the governments we were fighting were evil, but that doesn’t mean all the people were.  And it doesn’t mean our leaders were saints who could do no wrong.  We can celebrate our leaders for winning the war, but realize that they were still human beings with faults, not gods.

And remember, going forward, that we can change how we do things.  Vonnegut taught his sons to never rejoice over a massacre of their enemies, and to not participate in one, or even work for a company which makes massacre machinery.

He also wrote that it’s our babies who are sent to fight these wars.  These kids are 18, 19, 20, and getting sent off to kill or be killed.  Even his criminally insane character Lazzaro considers the bombing of German cities, and says that back home he never killed anyone who didn’t have it coming.

After decades of trying but failing to write his book on Dresden, Vonnegut finally settled on something that worked: science fiction/satire.  In the midst of a silly story about a guy coming “unstuck in time,” captured by aliens and put in a zoo, and mated with a porn star, is a profound story about the evils of war.  Apparently this was the only way Vonnegut could truly deal with the trauma.  And he does it brilliantly.

 

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Reflections on Fire And Fury

I don’t want to get into a big, long treatise on politics, but give a few general impressions after finishing Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury:

First of all, his view of Trump is not a mastermind trying to be the next Hitler.  It’s more along the lines of what Howard Stern said many months ago, that Trump just wants to be loved.

The trouble is that Trump–in the Wolff portrayal–is so dim-witted that he fails at this and doesn’t know why, then lashes out and makes things worse.  And that he’s terribly unfit for the Presidency and his whole staff knows it.

Turns out that even as a business leader, he faked his way along.  He doesn’t have the acumen or the patience to read or listen to the kind of full, detailed explanations and reports that you’d expect a president to need to function in his post.  Wolff says that despite bragging that he’s a great negotiator, Trump is actually a terrible negotiator.  And many of his staffers are incompetent as well, knowing nothing about politics.

Instead of having some plan in mind for taking down the press, free speech, etc., he seems to bungle into making outrageous attacks on the Constitution.  He doesn’t realize what he’s doing, just wants to get back at somebody who upset him, or he’s just rambling about something he knows nothing about, or–in the case of NFL knee-bending–stumbled upon a way to stir up crowds at his rallies.  Because he can’t stand boring a crowd with a dull prepared speech; he needs cheers, love, adoration.

What makes this even worse is that when the leader of a country is unfit, somebody tries to step into the vacuum and be the real power behind the throne, the puppet master.  And that’s exactly what has happened, with various forces–alt-right, establishment Republicans, moderates–trying to take over, and fighting amongst themselves.

Another problem is that getting rid of Trump one way or another–impeachment, 25th Amendment, resignation–wouldn’t fix the problem.  If anything, his election and nominal presidency have brought into the open problems which have been there for some time.  For example, the alt-right/white supremacists.  They’ve been emboldened, and aren’t likely to just slink away if Trump is taken out of office.  Wolff says that Richard Spencer specifically intended to link the movement with Trump in the Charlottesville rally.

Then you have the establishment GOP.  They don’t want to impeach Trump because he’s their shot at finally getting their policy wishlist.  The GOP doesn’t serve us, hasn’t for some time; they serve the corporations.

Just look at Wisconsin: The media stopped paying much attention to us after 2011’s furor over Act 10 died down, but we’re still suffering not just from the effects of Act 10, but from having the GOP in power.  They’ve gerrymandered their way into keeping and holding onto power, so much so that a court ordered them to fix it.  But instead of fixing it, they decided to fight, costing us more money.  We’re lagging behind other states; I hear of some great economic recovery, but here in Wisconsin, companies still suffer and talk of closure.  Walker refused the aid offered by the government for implementing the Affordable Care Act.

We had a non-partisan watchdog group keeping an eye on the state government, but because it investigated Walker, the GOP government shut it down.  A GOP Supreme Court ended the investigation, saying there was no wrongdoing, despite mountains of evidence saying the opposite.  Now the GOP is going after the people who were involved in the investigation, slandering them so publicly and fiercely that their targets are talking of lawsuits.

This is separate from Trump, existed before Trump, and will still be there after Trump.  Trump is a malignant narcissist, but he alone will not bring us into fascism.  No, the GOP as a whole, working together, and using him as a tool, can bring us into fascism.

As the last page of the book describes Bannon’s view,

The Trump presidency–however long it lasted–had created the opening that would provide the true outsiders their opportunity.  Trump was just the beginning.

And yes, Kelly hates Trump, just as we all suspected.

And who is the person having a rumored affair with Trump?  Wolff said to read between the lines.  😛  At first I thought it was Hope Hicks, but her affair was with Lewandowski, and Trump seems to treat her more like a daughter.  And yes, that means saying she’s the best tail Lewandowski will ever get, because you know Trump talks about his real daughter like that.  Which is also disrespectful to Lewandowski’s wife, who should be the “best tail” he’ll ever get.  <eyeroll>

Is it Nikki Haley?  In the epilogue are some hints that it might be her.  But I still suspect Hicks.

Wait–Despite all the complaints that he was careless about facts, he had *three* fact-checkers.  So yes, it was fact-checked.

And, oh yeah, I’ve downloaded the other Fire and Fury, the one which people kept downloading by mistake: a book about Allied bombings on Germany during WWII.  This actually ties right in with the novel I’m writing, so it’s research.  🙂

Having the same name as Wolff’s book, led to a sudden jump in sales for a book which hadn’t received a whole lot of attention before this.  A very confused review–saying why do liberals love it so much when there’s nothing in it about Trump–even made it to Stephen Colbert (watch here).  That review is no longer there, so I think the confused reviews have all been weeded out.  🙂

 

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Review of The Seventh Cruise: WWII Novel

One of my favorite people in my Writer’s Club, Karl Stewart, recently published The Seventh Cruise.  The Amazon link, which also includes a plot summary, is here.  The author’s website is here.

Stewart bases his novels on his real-life family, starting with his great-grandfather, See-Bird Carpenter, a Choctaw Indian who made a name for himself in rodeo.  The second novel in the series is based on the Hatfield and McCoy conflict, because his great-grandmother–See-Bird’s wife–was related to the Hatfields.  In the third book, his father, still a young teenager, leaves home to join the Navy in WWII.  He serves on the USS Hancock.

Battle scenes are vividly described, framed by a love story between Stewart’s parents, here given the fictional names of Stu and Maggie.  We also see the ever-present threat of PTSD, as the sailors and airmen fight to keep the images of war from their heads.  Stewart based the events of the book on the real-life experiences of various survivors of WWII.

And the occasional chapter–including the opening–is from the point of view of  a kamikaze pilot, based on a real-life pilot who decided not to crash into the Hancock.

You can read about all three books, and learn how to buy them, at the author’s website here.

 

 

 

 

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