Michael G. Williams has a new queer sci fi book out: A Fall in Autumn.
WELCOME TO THE LAST OF THE GREAT FLYING CITIES
It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.
Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.
Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.
Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?
Michael is giving away an eBook copy of “Perishables,” book one of The Withrow Chronicles, with this post:
Everybody hates their Homeowner’s Association, and nobody likes a zombie apocalypse. Put the two together, and Withrow Surrett is having a truly craptastic night.
Enter via Rafflecopter:
The sun was over the trees at the southeastern edge of the sloped opening in the forest when I awoke. The sun woke me, actually: its rays on my face, the flicker of shadow and light as it played across my closed eyes. I was half dressed: my shoes off, my feet bare, and my coat spread over me in lieu of a blanket. My shirt was somewhere, probably. I wasn’t wearing it, anyway, and my eyes hadn’t opened yet, but I could feel it nearby the way you can sense an old dog by your chair or a former lover on the opposite side of an otherwise perfectly nice party.
My back curled against something firm and supporting and I felt gentle fingers stroke the tufts of silvery black at my temples. Hematite, a man told me once. I would always love him a little for saying that. My hair there wasn’t yet gray but no longer black and when wet it looked like hematite, and he said it like that meant something deep and significant and mystical I didn’t understand. Having someone’s fingers run through it felt good, though. It felt like a happy memory, like something I didn’t expect would happen much anymore if it ever really happened in the first place.
That simple touch was a comfort to me. It’s the most minor thing and, for that reason, the most missed when it’s gone. I don’t go long stretches without being touched, but it had been a while between caresses. This was that: a caress, and more; not exactly sexual but not exactly platonic. It was that happy in-between we call intimate. I made myself vulnerable to other men, and they themselves to me, more times than I can count in my too-short life. It didn’t always work out, though, that my usual flavor of street trade would show basic human kindness in return for mine.
None of that mattered, though. Those guys were long gone. Right that second, someone ran his fingers through my half-asleep hair, intimate and kind and caressing. I felt vulnerable and that was okay. For a few moments I wasn’t dying and I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t lonely and I wasn’t alone. The sun felt good, and the breeze through the branches sounded like Gaia herself telling me to go back to sleep. I thought for a moment I might be okay with dying fairly soon if I got to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life.
“Okay,” I groaned. I didn’t move and I didn’t open my eyes because I wasn’t quite ready for the moment to go away even as I lifted the pin to pop its balloon. “You want something. So tell me what it is. Because if I say yes – if– I may not have much time to hold up my end of the bargain.” My voice dispelled all the magic of the moment, but his fingers were still at my temple, resting there, ready to go back to what we shared moments before. I rolled over and looked up at Alejandro, his purple hair down over half his face as he leaned on one elbow. I didn’t kiss him, but I did put one hand to his jaw and brush his cheek with my thumb. I wondered if he could feel that – really feel it, like skin feels it. “Let’s not pussyfoot around this. You want me to do something. The whole story about the angel and thinking someone was trying to kill you was bullshit, but there was something there, something worth chasing, so let’s have the truth now and get on with things.” I tried to smile at him. His expression was completely blank.
With the hand he used to brush my temples, he laid a fingertip behind my ear, cupping my face with barely a single point of contact. He still didn’t smile, but his eyes searched my face, my own eyes, for something. It occurred to me the correct phrasing might be to say he searched my eyes for someone. I assumed he’d been alive long enough to know a hell of a lot of people, and I would bet a nickel he looked for one of them in me. There are a hundred romantic stories about golems: meat sacks like me throwing ourselves at a golem out of infatuation with their embodiment of agelessness.
If he’d been there before, heard a hundred thousand of us wail about mortality and still willing to hear number one hundred thousand one, he must have a lot of love for humankind. No, I thought, more than that: he must have loved the hell out of oneof us at some point. Maybe he was waiting for that guy to walk back into his life, reemerging from the vast but finite pool of genetic factors we possess as a species. I wondered if I simply seemed close enough to that long-lost lover to pass muster for a night.
I also wondered what made a golem want to get laid in the first place: ever the detective, after all.
“I really did see an angel in Splendor,” Alejandro said. He still wasn’t smiling. If anything, he had the muted seriousness, the understated gravitas, I’d long since come to recognize as the posture of someone telling the truth at long last. I wondered how long it had been. “I swear it to you. I swear it.” He surprised me, then, because he didn’t cry, golems don’t have tear ducts, but his eyelids quivered with the autonomic response to strong emotion. He still hadn’t moved at all, and we were shielded from the breeze so that his hair hung straight down like a perfectly still and settled curtain across half the stage of his face. “And I believe it would try to kill me if it knew I were here.”
Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
Melissa McArthur, and she is just amazing. She’s a writer and editor and educator, too, and incredibly talented at everything she does. I loved working with her on this. The cover went through several different design phases, because we really wanted to get it right, but the moment I saw this cover I knew it was perfect. I couldn’t stop looking at it. She really knocked it out of the park. I was looking at it on my laptop and someone else – just walking past where I was sitting – literally stopped and said, “Wow, whose book is that?” I just couldn’t imagine a better representation of the facts of the story but also of the way Valerius feels very alienated from the city and the people around him even as he’s completely in love with living there and knowing them.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I write part-time, but I always have a project going. The realities of life and bills and such are that I have to keep a day job to live, so I write on weekends. That severely limits my writing time, and it slows down my ability to produce, but I also think that I benefit from having to be slowed down. It gives me a few days between writing sessions to process and come up with better ideas or where the story should go next. I have tremendous admiration for people who can write full time, and by no means am I trying to say my process is better than any other writer’s. We all find the process that works for us, and there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong” for that. But for me, having a day job and being forced to slow down has been an important and undeniably good fact of my writing career.
Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
They almost always start with a character. I can think of short stories I’ve written that started as the idea for a plot, for which I needed to find the right narrator and experiencer, but I would say 99% of the time it starts with characters. I tend to write in first person, and I tend to treat it as a roleplaying exercise. I like to dig deep into the character’s mindset and perspective and let their choices and reactions flow naturally rather than shoehorning them into a specific plot outline. In the case of A Fall in Autumn, and in the case of my suburban vampire series The Withrow Chronicles, it started with a character. The character arrived in my head along with a very specific moment of the book I could fully visualize, as though both the character and that moment had stepped out of a taxi in front of me on the street, and that was that. I was off and running. That isn’t to say the plot stayed the same from the first draft to the published version, by any stretch, but the character of Valerius as he first arrived proved more and more true and accurate the more depth he gained with writing and rewriting and more rewriting.
What’s your drink of choice?
A Manhattan – preferably with rye, and on the rocks, though bourbon and/or up will do just fine, thank you – with two brandy-soaked cherries and a sliver of orange peel. Make it with some blood orange bitters and I’ll come running from outside to get a taste of that. Manhattans were sort of the signature drink of my fraternity in college and I’ve loved them ever since. A good Manhattan is a great way to greet the evening.
What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
Oh gosh, you know what I like to talk about! Ha!
First up, we have two cats: Vladimir and Elvira. Vladimir is the one pretending to nap in the back. Elvira is, as always, front and center and in the middle of things. (We named her that because her coloring suggests her namesake’s cleavage!)
We also have two amazing dogs, Joxer and Gal. Joxer is the hound mix on the left; Gal is the Bassett hound on the right. Joxer is extremely chill and sweet and loving and just wants to nap and snuggle. Gal is extremely social and outgoing and wants to be friends with everyone and everything.
That’s such a deceptively peaceful photo of her! I love her energy and her openness to others.
Gal and Elvira were instant friends and playmates when we adopted Elvira last year. They routinely check in with each other, and they’ll chase each other back and forth around the house. My husband has even taken some great photos of them grooming each other. Gal and Elvira are absolute BFFs. (All credit to my husband for these photos. He’s much better at capturing the animal moments than I am.)
What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I’ve just signed a deal for 4 more books in the world of A Fall in Autumn and will be writing the sequel over the summer. I can’t wait! I expect the second book, to be titled New Life in Autumn, will be out a year from now.
Later this year I have several other works, already finished and coming out from Falstaff Books:
Nobody Gets Out Alive will be coming out sometime soon, probably over the summer. It’s the fifth and final(-ish) book of The Withrow Chronicles, my suburban vampire series about a guy who became a vampire in the 1940’s and has declared himself the boss of all of North Carolina’s blood-drinkers. The series is a ridiculously fun sequence of genre mashups – vampires and zombies, vampires and superheroes, vampires and spy thrillers, vampires and war, vampires and their witch frienemies – telling a story that gets increasingly complex as Withrow slowly but surely learns the world of the supernatural is much bigger than he thought.
I also have the four-novella San Francisco urban fantasy series, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN. It starts with Through the Doors of Oblivion, and it’s about some of the most evocative moments in San Francisco’s history – such as the 1906 earthquake and fire – and witches and demons and time travel and real estate scams. I’m just exceptionally proud of it, and I get to really focus on the features of San Francisco I most adore, which are not necessarily the parts of the city they try to highlight for tourists. I don’t know exactly when that one is due out, either, but it’s made it through the content edits and the copyeditor and it’s now with the proofreader, so it’s getting close!
And, last but not least, I’ve reached the rights-reversion point on a bunch of short stories I sold years ago so I’m possibly going to reclaim those rights and produce an anthology of short stories and nonfiction essays I’ve written for various venues. That’s a maybe, though. We’ll see.
Thank you so much for having me – I really appreciate your and your readers’ time and attention. I hope you enjoy A Fall in Autumn and I would love to hear from you about it!
Folks who sign up for my monthly newsletter get a free short story and can read the ongoing first draft of a story set in the world of A Fall in Autumn but in our time rather than 12,000 years from now. Give it a shot! I keep marketing to a minimum and try to focus on rewarding your interest with new content.
And thanks again!
Michael G. Williams writes wry horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction: stories of monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He is the author of three series for Falstaff Books: The Withrow Chronicles, including Perishables (2012 Laine Cunningham Award), Tooth & Nail, Deal with the Devil, Attempted Immortality, and Nobody Gets Out Alive; a new series in The Shadow Council Archives featuring one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures, SERVANT/SOVEREIGN; and the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn. Michael also writes short stories and contributes to tabletop RPG development. Michael strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.
Michael is also an avid podcaster, activist, reader, runner, and gaymer, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall and Mu Beta Psi. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, two cats, two dogs, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.
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