Sci-Fi & Ambient Music: Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

Today, I want to talk to you about the importance of soundtracks. We use music to accompany a variety of tasks, such as exercise, housework, or to help us sleep. Something about music makes even the most mundane activities tolerable, and I say this as someone who has mowed an acre lot… with a push mower.

I love music, and I’m not talking about high school romance type of love. I’m talking about full-on, put a ring on its finger level of dedication. Think about a memory from your past—any memory at all. Can you still remember the song that played when it happened? If not, is there a song that reminds you of that time in your life? If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, then you *get* how amazing music can be.

Music is also a powerful mood enhancer, and some writers use that to their advantage to get into a particular mindset for their work-in-progress. I have peers who listen to loud, aggressive rock to inspire their dystopian playground, and I have peers who listen to classical music to maintain a calm state for their romance novel. Would it surprise you to know that I listen to ambient music when I write?

I know what you’re thinking: how on Earth could beautiful, ambient music inspire the crazy stuff that springs forth from my imagination, right? I don’t know how to explain the connection, but ambient music has always been a key ingredient in my storytelling recipe. The layers of sound swirl around my eardrums, and paint the scenes for me to write.

Whether I’m writing sci-fi, horror, or something in-between, there is always Hammock playing in the background. Pitchfork once referred to the Nashville duo as “Intensely visual music,” and I don’t think I could’ve said it any better myself. Their music jumps out of the speaker, and pours into the worlds I’m creating.

And I’m not alone. Hammock recently released two sci-fi inspired music videos in promotion of Oblivion Hymns (Deluxe Edition). Through these videos, watch as an immersive, gut-wrenching story unfolds without a single lyric or caption. Those emotions you’re feeling? That’s what fuels me as I create. Enjoy!

Part 1: In the Middle of This Nowhere

Part 2: My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb

REPLAY: Not Your Mama’s Gamer Podcast


My deepest thanks to the crew at Not Your Mama’s Gamer for having me as their guest on last week’s podcast. We spoke at length about writing, narrative, the video game community, and of course, BioWare! I may have even dropped some tidbits about my upcoming project with Tony Healey.

If you weren’t able to join us live, episode 96 is now available online for your listening pleasure. I really enjoyed the chat, and I hope you’ll have just as much fun listening.

Advantages to Writing Gooder

Reading is fundamental, my friends! Grammarly recently surveyed over 400 freelancers to determine what impact writing skills have on a person’s career opportunities and published the results in the infographic below. As you can see, there are clear professional advantages to further developing your writing skills.

As my pal Bernard Schaffer always says, “Write hard!” :)


A Day in the Life of a Community Manager

One of the questions I’m commonly asked is “What does a community manager do?” More often than not, this is followed by “Don’t you basically just hang out on Facebook and Twitter all day?” Although I’m sure the role differs from company to company, being a community manager at EA is sort of like being an air traffic controller. Massive amounts of communication flow through the community manager, and a key part of our job is to ensure we deliver those messages on time and without flaw.

Of course that’s only one facet of the job. While coordinating messages across various teams is a crucial part of the process, we also have many other tasks and responsibilities to attend to. So, for those interested in a future of community management, I’m lifting the veil and offering an inside peek into my world. Below you will find documentation of a day in my life on the job.

tl;dr – No, we don’t just basically hang out on Facebook and Twitter all day.


November 4, 2014

Hour 1: 7:00am – 8:00am

  • Check email: 71 new messages overnight. Our business is global, which means the other side of the world is working while those of us in North America sleep. I log all my action items on a “To Do” list. Notepads are your friend in this line of work.
  • Review daily reports: Waiting in my inbox every morning is a report that recaps the past 24 hours on our social media channels. This is where fan feedback really comes into play. Who is talking about us? What are they saying? Are there any topics that need to be escalated to the broader team?
  • Review performance metrics: I look at yesterday’s content on our social media channels and take note of their performance. How many people did it reach? Did people seem to like the posts? Did they share the content? Can our team learn anything from this to create even cooler content in the future?
  • Prep YouTube video: It’s a bit busier morning than usual because we have a new video going up at 9am. At this point, I perform the final checks to ensure that the video is ready to go live on time for both social media and the website.
  • Submit a blog to International team: As community manager, I am sometimes asked to write blogs for various outlets across the globe. For today’s video release, I’ve written a short article for Sony’s European PlayStation blog. I use this time to review final edits, give it one last read, and then pass along to our European team.
  • Check-in with mods: A team of diligent and friendly folks help us moderate our social channels to ensure that two-way communication is always available to our fans. Some of them work overseas to cover the channels during North American off hours, so I check-in during the shift change and exchange updates.

Hour 2: 8:00am – 9:00am

  • Submit a new blog to Editing: I’ve just received approval on a proposed blog I’ve written, so now I submit it to the extremely talented Editing team for a final coat of polish. Remember this, writers: Hug your editors. They bring your best qualities forward and prevent your worst from ever seeing the light of day.
  • Review upcoming merchandise calendar: New items are added to the BioWare store each week, and during the holiday season especially, it’s more important than ever to maintain an accurate snapshot of what’s coming and when to communicate it. This week is extremely active because Friday is N7 Day, and we’re debuting new products every day until then!
  • Send a personal tweet: Since we’re releasing a new video, I like to tweet my followers on Twitter to give them a heads up. Because it’s my personal account, I can speak more casually, and do things like give spoiler warnings. I enjoy being able to interact with our community by exchanging memes, or just listening all about Cullen. :)
  • Check-in with graphic designer: While reviewing our weekly content schedule, I create a list of custom assets needed for our social channels. This work is done by an amazing designer named Christie. Why is she so amazing, you ask? Because I am a terrible art director, and yet she still manages to create stellar pieces of work!

Hour 3: 9:00am – 10:00am

  • Set video live: With all preparations complete, the time has come to set the video live on YouTube, and get the word out across our social channels. Right on schedule! Following that, I add the video to our ever-growing DAI playlist.
  • Check fan messages: Now that the video is live, I have some free time to check all of our private messages on Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve ever wondered who replies to those, hello! Pleased to meet you. Remember, when you send feedback, keep in mind that it does get read by a real person that wants to listen, so as best you can, please be nice. We have feelings, too. :)

Hour 4: 10:00am – 11:00am

  • Content review meeting – This is where team leads assemble and review the plan for the upcoming week together. Did we capture everything? Is everyone clear on the plan? Are there any new opportunities for our teams to explore together? The call wrapped ahead of schedule, so we took a few minutes to review the latest #AlexAtTarget memes. You know, for research purposes, of course. :) Side note: Turns out that whole #AlexAtTarget thing was a viral marketing campaign. Who knew?
  • Review new screenshots – Our marketing team supplied a fresh batch of screens to use. I sift through them and look for ways to incorporate them into our social media content plan. What is the best way to use these? What kind of story can we tell with them? Which ones should be added to the website?
  • Test new video file – Today we’re trying something new: adding custom DAI videos to Instagram. In particular, we’ve created a short clip showing off the Sword & Shield of the Dragon from the Flames of the Inquisition arsenal pack. The first attempt needs some additional optimization, which I communicate back to the video team and await an updated version.
  • Finalize blog – The Editing team has returned the blog I submitted earlier this morning. Through tracked changes, I quickly review the recommended edits and update the text. As usual, the Editing team has worked their magic and made it better.

Hour 5: 11:00am – 12:00pm

  • Instagram update – A new version of the Instagram test video has been received from the video team. Nailed it! I post it to Instagram and keep an eye on the reaction of our community.
  • UGC review – BioWare fans create some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. No joke. We’re always on the lookout for things that we think our broader community would be interested in seeing as well. Today we came across an Inquisition rap song. Pretty amazing quality, even if rap music is not your thing.

Hour 6: 12:00pm – 1:00pm

  • Lunch – Even during a busy time such as a title launch, it’s important to always take your breaks. Sitting in front of your computer all day is not healthy, and I’ve got bills from my massage therapist to prove it. Eating a sandwich while continuing to work is not good enough. The work will still be there when you get back. Stand up, stretch, go eat lunch, and relax for an hour. That’s what it’s there for.

Hour 7: 1:00pm – 2:00pm

  • Odds and ends – Many of my co-workers have taken a later lunch today, so it’s relatively quiet right now. I use this time to review works-in-progress, and complete my portion before passing along to the next person.

Hour 8: 2:00pm – 3:00pm

  • N7 Day meetingDragon Age: Inquisition may be coming, but we’ve still got N7 Day to prepare for before it gets here. The community team reviews the agenda for this year’s N7 Day festivities, and makes sure we’re all aligned on the same page.
  • BioWare Austin meeting – Every two weeks, I meet with my counterparts at BioWare Austin to catch up, review upcoming plans, and talk shop. Eric, Courtney, and Tait are all awesome folks!
  • Revisit direct messages – With all my meetings over for the day, I have some time to go back and check new messages from our social media channels. We receive over a hundred per day, so it’s important to check them as frequently as possible.

Hour 9: 3:00pm – 4:00pm

  • Revise drafts of works-in-progress – Projects I’m working on have been sent back to me with suggested revisions. That’s one of the best parts about working as a team: everyone lends their talents to ensure that each project is representing the best quality we’re capable of.
  • Award prizes for giveaways – We do a lot of contests and giveaways on our social channels, and each week I award prizes to the latest batch of winners. If that includes you, congratulations!

Hour 10: 4:00pm – 5:00pm

  • Catching up – As the workday draws to a close, I use the last bit of daylight to catch up on any new business that has come up throughout the day. This typically includes smaller tasks such as sending screenshots to partners, answering emails, confirming details on upcoming initiatives, and general preparation for the next 24 hours.

So, there you have it. Just a typical Tuesday in the world of community management. I hope you’ve found it educational. :) Got questions for me? Leave them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Noble!

Noble: Revised & Expanded


UPDATE: The promotion period for this offer has ended. My sincerest thanks to everyone that downloaded the book!


Sci-Fi lovers, in honor of my “baby” turning four this year, I’m giving it away for free for a limited time. If you’re new to the Noble universe, now’s the perfect time to join! Follow the story of Miller Brinkman, a small town private detective that stumbled upon a deadly conspiracy involving missing children, corrupt law enforcement, and an ancient civilization predating mankind.

I enjoyed Noble as much or more than novels written by my favorite, well known authors. Mr. Hulegaard brought his characters to life in a way that made me care about them.

“Noble is a book that is completely different from any I’ve ever read. It starts out as a mystery `who-done-it’ but changed genre about midway making it even more enjoyable!

Hulegaard captures the tone of the genre, but takes out some of the cliches that I find so tiresome.

I hope you’ll enjoy it! If you do, and would like to continue the story, books 2 & 3 are available now on Amazon.

Thank you for your support!

Mentors & Goodbyes: A Thank You Letter to Jessica Merizan

Most of you probably don’t know me. I am the community manager at BioWare for Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but I am not a public-facing figure. Although 99% of my job is done behind the scenes, there’s a good chance that you see my work several times a week. I don’t often step out from behind my desk, but on this occasion, I felt it was warranted.

As you may have heard by now, Jessica Merizan has left BioWare after serving as its community manager for the past three years. That would be sad enough in its own right, but it cuts a bit deeper for me personally. Having worked with Jess every day of my two-plus years with the company, I’m losing more than a co-worker and teammate. I’m also losing a mentor.


Let’s talk about mentors, shall we? In a perfect world, we’d all have a plethora of them to pick and choose from, but that’s not the reality we live in. We probably all work–or have at some point worked–with intelligent, caring people. Leaders that we’d follow into battle. However, that doesn’t necessarily equate to a suitable mentor by itself.

In addition to those characteristics, a mentor is imbued with vision, patience, and most importantly, a desire to invest in your future. A good mentor nurtures your development without ever losing sight of their own. A great mentor is a perfect cocktail of all these things, and assumes the role without even being asked. That’s what Jess was for me: a damn great mentor.

When I first came to BioWare in 2012, it was intimidating to say the least. Mass Effect 3 had just released, and well, we already know how that story goes. Needless to say, folks were busy. Despite the tumultuous time, Jess took me under her wing from day one and continued to do so every day that followed.

No matter what, Jess always made herself available. Bad day at work? Jess was there to listen. Troubles in my personal life? Jess was there to listen. Generate ideas so crazy that Mike Laidlaw’s face was sure to melt? Jess was there to listen… and to prevent Mike’s face from melting. Are you starting to sense a theme here? :)


Jess has shown me more support than I could ever repay to her. If I’m being completely honest, she’s shown me more support than anyone I’ve ever worked with, and that’s saying a lot. I hope that in some small way, I made her time at BioWare a little easier by being on her team. At the very least, I hope I brightened her day every so often by simply being the goofy, dumb ass that I am.

I would love to thank Jess for everything she’s done for me, but words don’t really seem to cover the debt. She has gone above and beyond to help facilitate my career development, and she did it all selflessly. We were never in competition with each other for anything. We were a team. We were two, like-minded and creative people that wanted to be a part of something amazing. We both shared a genuine passion to entertain, celebrate with our fans (we’re huge fans, too!), and support the hard work of our incredibly gifted studio. We certainly gave it our best shot.

So, if you take anything with you from this blog post, please let it be this:

  • Find your mentor
  • Listen to them
  • Learn and evolve
  • Pay it forward

If you’ve already got a mentor, give ‘em a nice big hug and thank them (I love you Karin Weekes & Ann Lemay!). Remind them how much you appreciate their efforts. Someday, become that mentor to someone else, and help cultivate the next rising star in your world. Together, let’s all keep perpetuating awesome.

I love you, Jess. Whatever I accomplish during my career at BioWare will be largely attributed to you and your guidance as a mentor. I will miss you more than you know.


Guest Post: Tony Healey – Let’s Help Tilly

At the beginning of this year I released a charity anthology, featuring the work of 16 fantastic writers and the artwork of the legendary Bruce Pennington, with all proceeds to go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust (we’ve not hit enough for a donation yet – but we’re getting there).

The original inspiration for that collection of stories – and for doing something to raise funds for CF in the first place – is a little girl called Tilly.

She has a chance to win a free holiday with her Mummy and Daddy next year, but she needs your help. It’s very easy and will only take 2 minutes of your time.

Step 1. Click this link

Step 2. LIKE the Haven Facebook page (you can always UN-LIKE it later).


Step 3. Hit the VOTE button.


That’s it!

Of course, if you wanted to be super-duper cool you could also share the above link and get your friends to vote too. In fact, here’s the link again in case you want to do that.

I’d like to see Tilly reach 1,000 votes and take first place. I’ll also be promoting this via my Official Facebook Page, too.

Thanks for your help and support. Let’s win this brave little girl a holiday.

Ask a Writer Blog Series: Writer’s Block

Got a question for the panel? Tweet it to me or click “leave a reply.”

This week: How do you deal with writer’s block?

David K. Hulegaard, author of the Noble series, Strangers

Always know where you’re headed before you even write the first word. If you think through your story carefully, and create a detailed outline to follow, then writer’s block should never become an issue. That said, if you ever do find yourself struggling to make progress, put down your project and start writing something else. Anything else. It doesn’t matter. Exercise your brain. Keep your mind stimulated and your creative juices flowing. After some time away, you should be able to jump right back into your primary project with a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Bernard Schaffer, author of the Superbia, Guns of Seneca 6, and Grendel Unit series

Writer’s block is a waste of time for serious authors who should be focusing on growing their body of work. It’s meaningless self-gratification. It’s a distraction that should be avoided like bushes of poison ivy. It’s emptier than a classroom of students interested in exploring the underlying depths to Michael Bay movies. To be perfectly blunt: it am dumb.

Wait, you said writer’s block? I was talking about blogging.

I don’t believe in either one.

Tony Healey, author of the Far From Home and Fallen Crown series

Writer’s block is an excuse. A way of saying, “I can’t be bothered,” and making it look like you have a head cold. Everyone who believes in such a mystery flu has their own remedy: “Go for long walks!” “Give yourself time out!” or “Here Are My Top Ten Tips for Beating Dreaded Writer’s Block!”

There is no such thing. If you’ve run out of gas, you’re burned out . . . it’s not writers block. You’re just bloody tired. Have a rest. Don’t do any writing for a few weeks. Watch some TV. Writer’s block is not to be confused with “I’ve run out of ideas”. To be frank, if the latter applies to you, then you have no business writing in the first place.

Everyone is a veritable fountain of ideas, of creativity. Nobody dries up. Even if you find yourself playing with the same motifs, the same themes, the same character archetypes . . . it’s all jazz. That’s what writing is: pulling stuff out of thin air, laying it down on paper, getting it to a point where you’re happy with it, and moving on to the next best thing. You don’t say “I’ve got Writer’s Block”, you say “I’m tired”.

You rest, then you come back and give it your all. And probably you’ll get tired again. That’s the nature of the beast, my friend. That’s the result of putting so much of your heart into making the smoothest jazz ever heard. And thank the maker you did.

William Vitka, author of the Hroza Connection and The Bartender series

Writer’s block is utter crap. It’s the literary equivalent of self-diagnosing yourself with Asperger syndrome to explain your shitty, anti-social behavior. If you are stricken with a case of ‘I can’t write,’ then write something anyway. Chances are, you’ll fall into the flow again. It’s almost like muscle memory. Don’t over-think it.

Ask a Writer Blog Series: Editors

I receive a ton of great questions from aspiring authors on Twitter. In fact, they’re such good questions that trying to answer them within 140 characters can prove challenging. So, I decided to start a new blog series where I can respond to these questions more in-depth.

Of course, there are many different types of writers, and there are no one-size-fits-all answers. With that in mind, I’ve invited a group of my peers to join me and share their valuable insights and experiences as well. Let’s get started.

Got a question for the panel? Tweet it to me!

This week: What are the characteristics of a good editor?

David K. Hulegaard, author of the Noble series, Strangers

I’ve been blessed to work with both good and bad editors. I say “blessed” because it’s important to know the difference between a highly-skilled editor and an overpaid grammar-Nazi.

A good editor is someone that you can always trust to have your best interest in mind (Hi, Jessica!). Any editor can correct your grammatical errors and typos, but only a skilled editor can help you identify plot holes, inconsistencies in character behavior, and also challenge you to think about your work from a reader’s perspective.

The best editors recognize your areas of improvement and coach you through it. Whether a gentle touch or tough love approach works best for you is entirely a matter of preference. I prefer working with people that aren’t assholes, but your threshold may vary.

A bad editor is someone that tears apart your work for the sole purpose of placating their ego (usually compensating for their own shortcomings as a writer). They won’t try to help you understand your mistakes or identify your areas of improvement. They pretty much just shit on you and make snarky comments at your expense. A bad editor can’t offer you anything more than a general editing pass because that’s all they’re capable of.

What’s important to remember is that for a good editor to do their job effectively, you must be willing to listen, and you must be willing to sacrifice your word babies if necessary. Choose your hills to die on carefully, because a good editor is usually right. The key is trust.

Bernard Schaffer, author of the Superbia, Guns of Seneca 6, and Grendel Unit series

Absolute cruelty in the face of poor performance. Delight in victory. Thorough steadfastness for the duration of the project. A guiding eye. An overall view. Knowing when to make a stand. Knowing when to let the author make theirs.

Tony Healey, author of the Far From Home and Fallen Crown series

They catch all the stuff you miss. All the little grammar things you probably don’t even think about when you’re composing your latest masterpiece. They tighten your writing, rein it in, ensure it’s clear and easy to read. A good editor doesn’t just stick to a style sheet, but bends according to each author’s voice. To the needs of the project, taken on its own terms.

A good editor is there to give you advice, to offer an encouraging word, to bite your head off when you keep making the same mistake over and over and over again. They give your their best because it’s their name going on the book, too. They’re helping you shape it into something that will hold a reader’s attention. They have your best interests at heart even if it seems like they’re getting on your case from time to time.

A good editor – no, a really good editor – like the lady I use, Laurie Laliberte, is all of the above and more. And that’s when she’s telling me: “Each time you abuse a semi-colon a kitten dies.”

Because it’s all about the work. None of it’s personal.

“Man up, put on your big boy pants and fucking own your writing or I’m increasing your rates!” she said to me one day.

Well, the rates have stayed the same. And I’ve sold thousands of books. So I guess that’s a really good editor for you.

William Vitka, author of the Hroza Connection and The Bartender series

A good editor gives a damn about the story as well as the writing. Yes, they sure as hell will catch the mistakes you missed — and bludgeon any adverbs or semicolons to death with a log — but they should also help guide you. They should make sure your tale doesn’t run off the rails. Or, at least, do their best to. Much of that is up to the writer. A shitty story is still a shitty story, even if it has perfect grammar.

A Sneak Peek at my Next Project

As part of my 2014 Birthday Charity Drive, I’m offering reward tiers as my way of thanking contributors for their generosity. If you’ve looked them over, you might have noticed that some tiers offer the opportunity to name characters and locations in my next book.

Um, that’s great and all, Dave, but what is your next book?

Great question! I don’t normally talk about my books this far out, but in this case, I thought it was only fair for you to know a little bit more about your potential investment. In the interest of protecting my intellectual property, I’m only going to provide a vague overview, but I promise to continue updating as progress is made on the book.

I had a question to answer: where do I go now after wrapping up the Noble trilogy? I’ve dabbled in the past. I’ve laid some groundwork in the present. What about the future? The future feels like a ripe sandbox for my imagination to play in, and I’ve got more than a few ideas that would fit well within that setting.

What do you see when you think of the future? Flying cars? Colonization of the galaxy? All disease cured? The ability to stream your brain onto the Internet? These are all tantalizing possibilities, but what if the future isn’t as grandiose as we imagine it to be? What if other than basic upgrades to make our everyday lives more efficient, the future isn’t all that much different than it is today?

At least, not yet…

My next book focuses on a point in time where a major technological discovery is about to happen. Secret government labs have developed some groundbreaking new tech, and the FBI has already committed a new division to utilizing it. However, the tech is limited, and scientists anticipate decades before they can unlock its full potential. But what if somebody with dangerous motives already has?

Now, let’s meet the protagonist. The story focuses on Rachel Ibanez, head of the FBI’s secret new division.

“Know this, sweet Rachel: your story once had a different ending. That man pushed you, you fell, and you died here on these rocks. I’m rewriting your story because I am investing in your future. Don’t disappoint me.”

A mysterious stranger saved Rachel from certain death as a young girl, only to vanish after these cryptic words. Those close to Rachel listened to her story, but blamed severe psychological trauma and shock for her “hallucinations.” A period of anger and depression followed as she struggled with the worth of her existence. Rachel felt so isolated at times that she often wished her savior had just let her fall to her death. Why was she saved? How was she saved? For what purpose?

Rachel’s strength allowed her to overcome her fear and eventually face her attacker. Once she felt the satisfaction of putting a sadistic criminal behind bars, she set out on a path that eventually led her to the FBI, where we meet her in the book many years later.

As an experienced federal agent, Rachel’s track record on high profile cases made her the overwhelming choice to lead the FBI’s new division. Despite the reputation Rachel has garnered for her years of dedicated service, there are many within the FBI that don’t respect the work of her team. She has quite a rivalry going with other top agents, which only fuels her motivation to be the best of the best.

Ready for a change…

I love Science-Fiction—I read a lot of it—but something that has been bugging me is the absence of prominent female characters within the genre. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great Sci-Fi authors out there doing exactly that, but we’ve got some serious catching up to do. So, rather than lament and simply long to meet more FemShep-caliber characters, I decided that it was time for me to start creating them instead.

I hope that you have enjoyed this sneak peek at my next project. I am very excited for the world to meet Rachel Ibanez, and I am thrilled with how the story is coming along. Although I don’t anticipate my book publishing until 2015, I will update my blog with more information over the months ahead.

Thank you for reading,

~ D