Yes, it can be really that bad. Complete with horrible segues, hopping from observations to sales pitches without even considering the relation and connection between them. And this habit is so widespread that others might not know that for a few writers, writing is still about the process, about the growth that comes in exploring new stories or, in my case, new ways to tell them.
It took me a while to get to the making of the City Quartet, and like any travel, the road is paved with surprises.
Thirty years ago, my first novel was published as part of the best-selling Dragonlance series. First books, I’ve gathered from my own experience and that of other writers I know, are always a “fly by the seat of your pants” experience, no matter how much you map and plot the book before you’re underway; given, however, that I was writing in a shared world meticulously drawn and connected, traveling with guides as bright and amiable as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, I couldn’t have asked for a more serene and level first journey, even though it seemed like a bumpy ride at the time.
For how could I have known that the road gets steeper and more perilous? That first-novel problems evolve into monstrosities when the second and third book loom in front of you?
Throughout the ‘90s I did my share of world-building: an obscure “Thief to King” trilogy and another pair of books--Arcady and Allamanda, set in a dissolving world peopled by figures from English Romantic poetry. It was through these latter books that I tried to learn some principal lessons of world-building: to find a consistency in things, and to recognize that, in ways, all things are connected. My later study and practice of Buddhism has come to confirm those lessons: you don’t have to agree with those ways of seeing the world, and if you agree, don’t necessarily have to look for them in your surroundings, but they’re good thoughts for a novelist, or at least I’ve found them helpful and assuring and even uplifting.
Throughout this period, my reading kept returning to some great magical realist writers—Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter, Toni Morrison. I was finding that they deepened my sense of the world, of my daily world and the experiences within it. Way back in 1925, the art critic, Franz Roh wrote about an art that displayed the “calm admiration of the magic of being…the discovery that things already have their own faces.” And in the new century this began to appeal to me more. I turned to more realistic, plausible settings, and estranged them by looking for their depths and connections.
So the City Quartet is set in a place that is and is not my home town of Louisville, Kentucky. Each of the four books stands on its own (or “will stand, as two of them are still in press at this time). You can read them in any order, read two of them, or three, or one. The payoff, I hope, in enjoying the Quartet is to see how cameo characters in one book come full focus in another, how a subplot in one is a major plot in another, how central places in all the books appear differently in the eyes of one book because someone else is seeing them, has come to them on the current of a different story. The Quartet—composed of Trajan’s Arch and Vine: An Urban Legend, of Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men—asks you to enter the world and connect its elements as much as you like, just as you do in your everyday surroundings, perhaps discovering that those elements already have their own faces, their own magic of being.
I hope you enjoy reading these books. I’m here less to pitch them than to say their magic has helped me understand my own experience, and that perhaps they can do the same for a reader.
About the Book
Dominic’s Ghosts is a mythic novel set in the contemporary Midwest.
Returning to the home town of his missing father on a search for his own origins, Dominic Rackett is swept up in a murky conspiracy involving a suspicious scholar, a Himalayan legend, and subliminal clues from a silent film festival. As those around him fall prey to rising fear and shrill fanaticism, he follows the branching trails of cinema monsters and figures from a very real past, as phantoms invade the streets of his once-familiar city and one of them, glimpsed in distorted shadows of alleys and urban parks, begins to look uncannily familiar.
Add on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
About the Author
Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.
Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.
Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities, and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the he Modern Fantastic in fiction and film. He is married, and has two grown sons.