Ask Huley #2

Hey, everyone! Welcome to the second installment of #AskHuley, where I answer your questions about writing, video games, music, and pretty much whatever else is on your mind. Keep those questions coming!

Our feature question this week comes from Flickamatuta:

What video games inspired you when you were younger to pursue a career in the industry?

mario

I’ve loved video games for as far back as I can remember. In some ways, the limitations of older systems forced us to use our imaginations more than we do now. Pac-Man was merely a collection of mustard-colored square pixels on my TV screen, but in my head he had arms and legs, and sprinted around 3D corridors with ghosts under each arm squirming to get away. He was a ghost hunting bad ass long before Zak Bagans! :)

Although this planted the seed, it wasn’t until I played Super Mario Bros. on the NES that it bloomed. Nothing had captivated me quite like Mario and Luigi, and there was no turning back. I was hooked, and played every cartridge I could get my grubby, peanut butter and jelly encrusted fingers on. I could literally go from Legend of Zelda to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out to Tetris to Strider to Gradius to Double Dragon all in a single afternoon. Needless to say, I grew up with minimal exposure to sunlight. :)

As I got older, my tastes gravitated toward story-based games. In particular, Chrono Trigger stands out as a watershed moment for me. Not only was it colorful and fun to play (Active Time Battle for the win!), but it had amazing depth and memorable characters, which were things I didn’t even know I wanted in a game. From there it was a steady diet of influential classics including Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy IX, Grandia, Lunar, Thousand Arms, and countless others. Even Mortal Kombat II, believe it or not.

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All of this led me to one realization: I had to work in the games industry. Somewhere. Anywhere. So, I started my journey as a customer service rep for a specialty games retailer called Game Crazy. I worked my way up the ladder until I reached a buyer position at the corporate office, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. At this stage I was still pretty hooked on Phantasy Star Online, and my tastes were evolving once again… or so I thought.

Around this time, a little game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic hit my radar, and everything I’d ever loved about story-based games came rushing back. Not only did it have the memorable characters and fun factor near and dear to my heart, but it introduced something new: the freedom of choice. The game threw tough decisions at me: scenarios I had to put some serious thought into because they altered the story’s progression. I was in control of my characters destiny, and I liked it! This was the precise moment in which I fell head over heels in love with BioWare.

I was happy in my role as a buyer, but I still longed for something more substantial. I didn’t just want to sell games, I wanted to apply my passion and knowledge to creating them. However, I didn’t know how to write code, so I chalked it up as a pipe dream and tried to put it out of my mind. And I did, for a time, but then came Mass Effect.

masseffect

After I played Mass Effect, I was more determined than ever to pursue my dream of working for BioWare. It took everything I loved about Knights of the Old Republic, refined the concept ever further, and set it in outer space. I’ll never forget the first time I arrived at the Citadel. It was about 10:00 p.m. on a work night, and I figured I’d play for just a bit longer before going to bed. The next time I looked up at the clock, it was after 2:00 a.m., and I’d still yet to give the council my Eden Prime report. If you look up “immersion” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Mass Effect.

The games industry experienced significant growth in the late 2000s. Companies expanded and created new roles in effort to keep up with changing consumer habits. Suddenly, there were more opportunities for people to work on games who weren’t developers. It took some time and effort (and a whole lot of luck!), but I eventually made it to BioWare in July of 2012 and fulfilled a dream nine years in the making. Now after nearly four years here, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that it was absolutely worth the wait.

Our last question this week comes from KO_Rollins2K16:

WM32

 

I see that you’re a huge wrestling fan, which is awesome. Who do you think wins the main event at Wrestlemania 32?

I don’t see any scenario in which Roman Reigns doesn’t win. Am I excited about that? Not really. I’ve got nothing against Roman—I think he’s got a lot going for him, and has “it” factor in spades—but he’s not connecting with the audience on the level he needs to. I don’t blame him for that, though.

I think the main reason the core WWE audience rejects him is because he feels forced upon them. WWE wants him to be the next John Cena right now instead of allowing it to happen organically. Reminds me of exactly what happened with Rocky Maivia in the late 90s. Although fans hated him at first, with a bit of work, he eventually became one of the biggest WWE superstars of all time.

So, that begs the question: how do you “fix” Roman Reigns? If I’m WWE creative, I completely repackage him and turn him heel in a meaningful, didn’t-see-that-coming sort of way. No more playing up his past with the Shield. No more coming down to the ring through the crowd. Ditch the faux-armor and army pants. Write his dialogue to sound like the most aggravating, ungrateful jerk on the roster.

For those that already hate him, you’re giving them yet another reason to boo, and he’d draw heat like few others on the roster can. Believe that.

Thanks for another round of great questions! Remember, if you’ve got a burning question for #AskHuley, here’s how to submit it. Until next time.

Ask Huley #1

Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining me for the first ever edition of #AskHuley, and thank you for submitting your questions. I’m excited to jump right in, so away we go!

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Our first question this week comes from Natalie:

I’ve been a follower of yours for some time now, and you’re a really lovely person with an admirable dedication to your work – especially writing. My dream is to one day become an editor at BioWare (or writer, but I prefer the editing process!), and I’ve been thinking that perhaps a good way to work my way up is to start at QA, or become a Community Manager — which seems like an awesome job that allows one to flex and hone their writing skills.

My question is: do you have some advice for becoming a Community Manager? I’ve started a blog to write journalistic articles (reviews, analyzations, op-eds, anything and everything) and am participating on forums and community blogs to engage with different communities and people, but I don’t know where to really go from there. I guess I’m just a bit stuck at the part where you know what you want to do, but don’t know exactly how to get there.

Aww, thanks so much for the kind words, Natalie! I appreciate that more than you know. I have some thoughts about your question, but first I’d like to share the same piece of advice given to me when I started out, and that is to never look at any job as a foot in the door. The reason is because you could be in that position for a long time while waiting for your dream opportunity to open up, and if you start to feel stuck in your role, it will take a toll on you and affect your job performance. That’s not fair to you or your employer.

Instead, identify your end goal and put yourself on a path to get there. In the case of writing and editing, be on the lookout for assistant, associate, or sometimes even intern positions. Most people aren’t able to start at a studio like BioWare (especially if you’re not already living in Canada), so I’d recommend looking for jobs at smaller companies to gain some experience, build your resume, and hone your craft. It doesn’t even have to be a video game company. Any experience is worth its weight in gold. Gain a reputation as an extraordinary editor, and you’ll stand out among other applicants.

Another key component to getting where you want to be is through networking. Thanks to social media, access to professionals in your field of interest is literally at your fingertips. On the BioWare side, Karin Weekes, Ben Gelinas, and Cameron Harris are all very active on Twitter, and are three of the most amazing editors I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.

One thing I can tell you from experience is that while not impossible, it’s very hard to transition from community management to writing and editing. I’d recommend pursuing community management only if that’s a field you want to be in for at least the next five years. Community management opens many career paths to explore, but not typically in development. Again, not impossible, just way more challenging.

Best of luck, Natalie, and thanks for the great question! Feel free to hit me up anytime if you’d like to talk about this some more.

Our next question comes from Sartoz:

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Well, #AskHuley, since your bio has said nothing about ME:A, there is no point attempting to ask questions about the game. So, why even bother to make the effort to communicate with the fans? So, I will ask a non ME:A question: what is your function and responsibilities?

I appreciate how excited you are to learn more about Mass Effect: Andromeda (and believe me, we’re excited to talk about it), but since this is my personal website, I’m afraid I can’t disclose any new information about it. I can tell you that we’re hard at work on it, and that we’ll definitely have more to say about the game later this year, but stay tuned to EA/BioWare’s official channels for breaking news.

As for why I’d bother to make an effort to communicate with the fans, it’s important to note that I have many interests and activities that extend beyond my day job at BioWare, as I’m sure our fans do as well. I’m a published author, I’m passionate about many forms of entertainment, and I’m a firm believer in two-way communication. I mean, we can talk about anything under the sun, so why not?

As it relates to my function and responsibilities, I’m the content manager for BioWare Canada, which means I get to work on great franchises such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. In some ways, my role is similar to that of a managing editor for a newspaper or magazine. I work with many teams across EA and BioWare to create content for social and web that is hopefully informative and entertaining, whether we’re announcing a new game feature or debuting a t-shirt design in the BioWare store.

Even when we’re in-between releases (like right now), the show must go on, and I’m always hard at work trying to come up with new and interesting things to keep the conversation going. But my job isn’t just about talking, it’s about listening, which is even more important, in my opinion. We’re not just a company that sells products. We’re a company that strives to make our players feel like a part of the overall experience, and we evolve through your feedback. So, keep it coming!

Our last question this week comes from Derek:

Making-a-Murderer

Dear #AskHuley, I only have one question for you: did Steven Avery do it?

Oh, man. I can tell you one thing, I’m glad I wasn’t on that jury! It’s difficult to try and answer this question without spoilers, so for those that haven’t yet seen Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” I highly recommend it. Regardless, I’m going to do my best not to disclose anything vital.

If you’ve ever read any of my work, then you know how much I love a good conspiracy theory. The trouble is, this is very real, and is an extremely heartbreaking story for everyone involved. I think Steven’s lawyers presented a compelling defense, and if true, then it speaks volumes to the level of corruption within our judicial system. It’s not just infuriating, it’s terrifying.

Can I say with all certainty that he’s innocent? No. However, I believe there’s more than enough evidence to suggest reasonable doubt, and he should be entitled to a retrial far away from Manitowoc County. If he is innocent, I just hope the truth comes out before his entire life is stolen.

Well, hey, this was fun and these were great questions! Thanks again for submitting, and if I didn’t get to yours this time, stay tuned. If you’d like to submit questions for a future edition of #AskHuley, please do so! Here’s how.

Introducing #AskHuley

I receive so many great questions on social media, but often feel that I can’t provide adequate answers in 140 characters or less. So, I’ve decided to do something about it. Today I am pleased to announce the creation of #AskHuley, a weekly blog post dedicated to questions submitted by my wonderful friends around the world.

Ask Huley

What type of questions will I answer? I’m happy to talk about whatever strikes your fancy. Want to discuss writing and/or publishing? Curious about community management or life at EA/BioWare? Want to exchange thoughts about the current state of video games, music, film and TV, or WWE/NXT? Or maybe you just have general questions about yours truly. Whatever it is, hit me up, and I’ll always give you the most honest answer I’m capable of.

DISCLAIMER: Although no topic of conversation is off limits, from time to time I get asked questions about sensitive areas that I’m not at liberty to discuss. For example, if EA/BioWare has yet to make an official announcement about something, please understand that I won’t be breaking any news here.

If you’d like to submit questions to #AskHuley, please select one of these three options:

  1. Tweet me using the hashtag #AskHuley
  2. Leave your question in the comments section of this post
  3. Email hulegaardbooks [at] gmail [dot] com

I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Planet of Ice Available Now

It’s here! It’s here! No, not the new phone books – Planet of Ice! Collaborating with the great mind of Tony Healey on this novel was definitely a highlight of my young literary career, and I hope that you’ll enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Planet of Ice

If you’re new to the Broken Stars series, be sure to check out book one: Age of Destiny. See how Max’s exhilarating adventure across the galaxy began, and how it sets up what’s to come in Planet of Ice.

New Book 1 Cover

I always love to hear what readers think, so if you’d be so kind as to leave a review, I’d appreciate it very much! Thank you for your continued support. There’s more to come in 2016!

Get Age of Destiny Free All Weekend Long

With Planet of Ice’s release on the horizon, series creator Tony Healey is offering Age of Destiny for free on Kindle January 8 – 10. This is the perfect opportunity to pick up volume one in The Broken Stars series and get up to speed before the next installment releases later this month.

New Book 1 Cover

The Terran Union is at war. As the conflict with the Sjan reaches a breaking point, the fate of the stars themselves rests in the hands of Max and his ragtag band of friends; a group of misfits who might just prove to be the galaxy’s last, best hope . . .

Download it at no cost for a limited time

Once you’ve completed Age of Destiny, continue Max’s adventure across the broken stars in Planet of Ice, coming soon to Kindle.

Planet of Ice

When a mysterious message prompts Delta to leave the crew unexpectedly, Max, Kort and K1RB pursue her to a mining colony on Quaris—a distant planet with a seedy reputation. To find Delta, the team must traverse a harsh, unforgiving environment; face certain death at the hands of murderous mercenaries; and uncover the powerful secrets hidden beneath the planet’s frozen crust . . .

My Favorite Book of 2015

While I spent the bulk of my free time last year writing and wasn’t able to consume as many new books as I would’ve liked, selecting my favorite read of 2015 proved to be a no-brainer: Past Dark by Tony Healey.

Past Dark by Tony Healey

I’ve enjoyed Tony’s fine work for the last several years, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch him develop and mature as a storyteller. He continues to raise the bar every year, and in 2015 he produced some incredible work, including my pick for best read, Past Dark.

Compared to much of Tony Healey’s other work, Past Dark is a slow burn. It begins as a sentimental, yet bittersweet voyage back to the summer of 1995, a time Chris Peterson spent with his best friends, Ant & Kay. Chris recalls the innocence of youth: Building go-karts, going to carnivals, dealing with bullies, a first kiss… and then something far darker. Yes, once you’ve settled in, Healey flips the script, and you’ll love it!

20 years later, tragedy draws Chris back to the town he grew up in, and old wounds are ripped open. Although Chris had escaped from a turbulent period in his childhood, returning to the scene of where it all began brings back the pain and terrifying memories.

Past Dark is masterfully told, and calls to mind the work of Stephen King. I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys traditional horror.

Get your copy on Amazon here.

Tell me your favorite books of 2015 in the comments!

Announcing Planet of Ice

Happy Holidays, everyone! If it seems as though I’ve been quiet as of late, you’re right, and for good reason. I’ve been hard at work on several upcoming writing projects. In fact, this is the busiest I’ve been at any point within the last five years, and I love it!

While I’m not yet ready to divulge everything in progress, I’m very excited today to reveal first details about my next book: Planet of Ice.

Planet of Ice

Some things in life simply go together: peanut butter and chocolate; crackers and cheese; J.J. Abrams and Star Wars (sorry, haters, but flaws aside, The Force Awakens was awesome); and now David K. Hulegaard and Tony Healey.

Written in collaboration with the English best-selling author (and good friend), Planet of Ice is book two in the Broken Stars Sci-Fi series. Working with Tony in this capacity was an absolute pleasure, and as the series creator, his wealth of knowledge and guidance were invaluable. I can’t say enough positive things about the experience.

My goal with Planet of Ice was to handle Tony’s universe with great care, and put my spin on the story and characters while still coloring inside the lines. Tony granted me such creative freedom that my imagination was never restrained or compromised. I never felt afraid to try something bold and make it ‘mine.’ If I ever veered too far off course with an idea, he steered me back on track gently.

The Broken Stars series is about an extraordinary boy named Max, whose destiny is part of a master plan to restore order to the galaxy. In Planet of Ice, we follow him on the next leg of his adventure, and learn more about his team… and those who stand in his way.

When a mysterious message prompts Delta to leave the crew unexpectedly, Max and company pursue her to a mining colony on Quaris—a distant planet with a seedy reputation. To find Delta, the team must traverse a harsh, unforgiving environment; face a network of deadly mercenaries; and uncover powerful secrets beneath the planet’s frozen crust.

Planet of Ice releases in late January 2016. If you’re interested in an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for a review, please contact me for more information.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out book one in the Broken Stars series: Age of Destiny. Tony is a master storyteller, and he has set the stage for an amazing voyage across the galaxy.

I’d like to thank Tony Healey for putting his trust in me, and for allowing me to play in his sandbox. I had a great time doing so, and I hope everyone will enjoy it. And who knows? If all goes well, I may even have my hand in the next installment as well. :)

Bringing Lissette to Life

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to collaborate with an amazing artist by the name of Eve F. She’s the one responsible for the nightmare-inducing cover to my short story Dollhouse (for which she’s still not sorry). I mentioned during an interview with her for my website that we were collaborating on additional projects as well. While it’s still a bit early to talk about all that, I wanted to give you a small taste of what we’ve been working on.

Lissette

This is an incredible piece of character art Eve drew of Lissette from the Noble trilogy. If you’re familiar with the books, then you already know that Lissette becomes a major player in the story after a brief introduction in Bloodlines. She’s special to me, as all my characters are, but in a way that’s much harder to describe.

As a male writer, I used to fear whether or not I’d be able to create believable female characters. Would she sound like a woman written by a man? Would she come across as a collection of male-perceived stereotypes or tropes? Would she feel forced and unnecessary? And ultimately, could she be more than just a ‘strong female character?’

These questions swirled around in my head for months until I got a piece of advice from a friend of mine: “You don’t have to know how to write a female character. You just have to know how to write people.” He was right. I’d been over-thinking it.

Yes, there are differences to consider between male and female characters, but at the end of the day, we’re all human (or Yaeren, as the case may be), warts and all. Such a simple realization, but one that allowed me to overcome my doubt and opened up a whole new side of my creative process to explore. And through this budding confidence, Lissette was born.

I needed a leader—a bona fide badass—and she fit the bill. Lissette wasn’t looking for her white knight. She’d kick his ass and take his steed if the situation called for it. Although she’s being hunted and is in continuous fear for her life, she’s more than capable of taking care of herself.

However, beneath her battle-worn exterior is great sadness. This isn’t the life she chose, it was the one forced upon her through circumstances beyond her control. On the battlefield, she’s tough as steel, but away from the fight, she’s tormented by thoughts of a life that could never be, and the man who stole it from her.

Lissette is one of my greatest accomplishments as a writer, and I hope readers will love her as much as I do. I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to Eve F. for capturing her in such amazing detail. I took one look at this art and said, “That’s her!” I even got a little misty-eyed because it was like seeing one of my kids born. Thanks to Eve, Lissette is real, and I couldn’t be any more of a proud papa than I am at this moment.

Interview on Hyrule Hyrulia

My sincerest thanks to Ashley Barry at Hyrule Hyrulia for the opportunity to chat! Ashley is a wonderful writer, and it was an honor to speak with her about our writing projects, my day job at BioWare, and of course, the video games we’ve come to know and love! Final Fantasy fans in particular are sure to enjoy listening to us gush about the franchise for a considerable chunk of the interview. :)

Check it out here:

Designing a Book Cover: Meet Eve F.

I’m just going to say it: I suck at art direction. While I’m able to visualize my created worlds in great detail, I’m utter crap when it comes to visualizing book covers. Many writers love having that level of creative control, but me, I know my limits, and feel quite relieved handing over the reins to someone more qualified.

Although I try to add input during the cover creation process, a professional designer possesses an eye for art that I lack. I’ve worked with many designers over the years, and haven’t been disappointed yet. However, after five years, the time has come to freshen up the look of my books going forward, and I’ve found just the right person.

Allow me to introduce you to Eve F., an extremely talented graphic designer from Germany. Working with Eve has been a collaboration in the truest sense, as we’ve spent hours upon hours together discussing ideas and reviewing concepts (thank all that’s holy for her unbelievable patience). She is the ultra-gifted mastermind behind the cover for my latest release Dollhouse, but it won’t be the last project we’ll work on together. More on that at another time. :)

So, without further ado, let’s get to know Eve:

[DAVIDHULEGAARD.COM]: To start things off, tell everybody where you’re from.

[EVE F.]: I’m originally from near Stuttgart, Germany, but now I’m based closer to Frankfurt.

[DH.COM]: When did you first discover that you had artistic ability?

[EVE F.]: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I haven’t always been good at it, but my interest in drawing and painting kept me practicing and continuing over the years. When I finally got my first drawing tablet in my early teenage years, there wasn’t much doubt about my passion for art anymore.

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[DH.COM]: Can you remember the first thing you ever drew?

[EVE F.]: I don’t remember my very first drawings anymore, but there’s one noteworthy example from my past I still remember. When I was in kindergarten, the kids in my group were painting a picture of a green field with the sky above. Everyone else painted the sky as a blue line on the very top of the paper, but I made the effort of filling in the entire paper except for the green floor. That is how it was in real life, so I painted it like that, and I remember being a little bit sad that not everyone would do it like that.

[DH.COM]: What are some of your favorite objects or scenes to illustrate?

[EVE F.]: Characters, people, creatures; mostly from the fantasy genre. These categories have been my focus for years now. When it comes to objects, I prefer metallic, reflective materials (like armor) or leather (like armor as well). In general, I enjoy painting pictures that challenge me, and make me learn and improve in the process. Considering that, there’s probably nothing I don’t enjoy drawing.

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[DH.COM]: How did you come up with the cover concept for Dollhouse?

[EVE F.]: Sometimes I come up with good ideas right before falling asleep—that odd state in-between conscious and unconscious. I always keep a pen and paper right next to my bed in case I come up with something during the night. That is exactly what happened the night I read the story, and went to bed some hours after.

Mental images of Dollhouse kept occupying my mind until I hit the point where I came up with the idea, which I then scribbled down, half-asleep. The next morning, I didn’t even remember having done that until I stepped on a bell on a string–which I use to play with my cat–and apparently she had carried it into my bedroom. When I heard the ring of that tiny bell, I had one of those “Oh, yeah, I remember!” moments. I instantly started working on the cover.

DollhouseScribble

[DH.COM]: Some people have mentioned being pretty freaked out by the cover. Did creating it give you any bad dreams?

[EVE F.]: I didn’t have any bad dreams. In fact, quite the opposite happened. It made falling asleep very hard for me. The male mannequin in particular popped into my head occasionally when I closed my eyes, which then had me wide awake every time.

[DH.COM]: Was Dollhouse your first book cover?

[EVE F.]: Yes. I’ve made a couple of music-CD covers before, and some story illustrations, but this is my first real book cover.

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[DH.COM]: Did you enjoy the collaboration process with a writer?

[EVE F.]: Yes, a lot! Working with Dave has been very pleasant and uncomplicated. In general, it felt like we’ve been on the same page for the entirety of the process, from start to finish.

[DH.COM]: Where can people see more of your work?

[EVE F.]: The best ways to find more of my work are my tumblr page, my deviantart page, and my website. I haven’t been as active lately as I’d like, due to starting a new job, but that will change once I’ve settled into my new environment.