2010 – 2019: My Journey Through the Last Decade

As 2019 draws to a close, like most people, I can’t help but look back at the past decade and evaluate my journey through it. Did I end the decade in a better position than I started? Did I make good decisions? Did I make the most of it?

2010

I began the decade in a somewhat tumultuous state. Game Crazy, the company I’d been working at for fourteen years, had filed chapter 7 and was going away forever. Game Crazy was more than just a job. My co-workers and colleagues were like family. I’d put everything I had into the company, and I was good at my job. I had the respect of my peers, and a solid reputation throughout the games industry.

Not all of my Game Crazy memories are happy ones—the last year or so was particularly difficult, feeling powerless as I watched something I loved dissolve right before my eyes—but I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Game Crazy was special, and that experience will never be replicated. I miss it more than I’ll ever be able to describe.

My last day of employment was in June of 2010, which kicked off a rather challenging couple of years. My area of expertise was so specific, and I struggled to find work in my area. I’d considered relocation, but didn’t want to leave my family and friends behind.

I used my newfound free time to explore a budding interest in writing. I took a blog series I’d started about a missing girl and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her disappearance, and turned it into a full novel titled Noble, which I self-published in October. It was poorly written, but the core idea was solid. More on that later.

2011

An alarming change in my mental health followed. Unemployment had me frustrated and feeling bad about myself. It was getting harder to pay the bills, and my girlfriend was putting herself in debt trying to bail me out. The more time I spent out of work, the more my frustration turned to anger. The anger intensified, evolving into levels of rage I’d never experienced before in my life, and it was terrifying. I knew it was time to take back control before I lost it completely.

I was upside down on my house, so I made the only decision I could at the time: I gave it back to the bank. Not a proud moment in my life, but necessary. My girlfriend bought us a new home and we moved to Oregon City, Oregon, a charming little town southeast of Portland, to start a new chapter in our lives.

Taking back control of my life involved more than just improving my mental health. I needed to make changes toward my physical health as well. I’d battled obesity from an early age, and had reached a weight of 325 lbs. The heaviest I’d ever been. After injuring my knee simply getting out of a chair, I’d had enough, and took immediate action. With a change of diet and exercise, I lost 128 lbs over the next two years.

In August, I released my second book, The Jumper, about a troubled ghost haunting a youth community center in Chicago.

2012

I caught a break in early 2012 and finally landed a job managing a video game store in Canby, Oregon. I was grateful to have a paycheck again, but the work definitely had a strong “been there, done that” vibe. It was also a massive lateral move that left me feeling empty and unfulfilled most days.

I began work on my third book, Bloodlines, a sequel to Noble. Shortly after its release in April, I followed it up with Strangers, an anthology chronicling the bizarre experiences of several travelers. Most of these stories were inspired by real-life events I witnessed while traveling across the country several times a year.

A few months into the new job, I’d already had enough, but had nothing else to fall back on, and unemployment was absolutely not an option. I decided to throw a “Hail Mary” and reached out to an old friend in the video game industry: Laura Miele at Electronic Arts.

It had been my dream to work at BioWare from the moment I booted up Stars Wars: Knights of the Old Republic nine years prior, but there had never been an opportunity for me. However, EA’s acquisition of BioWare a few years earlier created additional opportunities, and I contacted Laura to see if I’d be a good fit for any of them.

I can’t say enough positive things about Laura. Despite the negative things you hear about EA, Laura is one of the good ones busting her ass to make the company a better place. She responded to my inquiry quickly and connected me with EA’s marketing lead for BioWare. We emailed back and forth a few weeks before setting a meeting at E3 to discuss a community management position.

The entire interview process took around two months, but in July, I was officially offered a one-year contract, and they allowed me to work remotely from home. My first assignment was to prep the community for the upcoming Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut DLC. To say that I joined EA during a shitstorm of community outrage and backlash would be the queen mother of all understatements, but I didn’t care. I had achieved my dream of working for BioWare, and nothing could’ve spoiled that for me.

In November, as Obama re-election coverage and Mayan calendar hysteria dominated the news cycle, we sadly said goodbye to my sweet Aunt Billie. Even now as I write this, I can recall the sound of her infectious laughter.

2013

Life at EA was going well. Things were slow at BioWare, so I was shuffled around and put in charge of the Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel community. I even briefly worked on Dead Space 3. Once those games had shipped, and we’d gotten through the last of Mass Effect 3’s DLC, I moved onto Dragon Age: Inquisition full time.

In September, during a marketing summit in Edmonton, I contacted Johnny Pleasant, the manager of Hammock, one of my all-time favorite bands. I wanted to use my digital marketing skills to pitch in and help improve their social media presence. Johnny welcomed me to the team, and within a matter of days, I was knee deep into an Oblivion Hymns launch strategy.

My time at EA was running out, and they had a decision to make by the end of October. They could either bring me on permanently, or let my contract expire and part ways. Luckily, they opted to keep me, and I became an official “blue badge” employee.

The job offer came with a substantial pay raise, but also a stipulation: that I relocate to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and work out of the BioWare studio. I agreed, submitted all my paperwork to the Canadian government, and waited for an answer.

Also, in October, I married the love of my life, Jennie. We’d been together since 2008 and hadn’t been financially secure enough to tie the knot. But thanks to a stable job at EA, and some extra contract work for Warner Bros., we finally had the money for the wedding and honeymoon she deserved, and it was perfect.

Speaking of honeymoons, we spent ours eating our way through Port Townsend, a beautiful Victorian seaport on the Olympic Peninsula. More on that later.

2014

2014 saw the end of How I Met Your Mother, probably my favorite TV show of all time. When I first discovered the show back in 2007, Ted Mosby and I had a lot in common. I related to his character deeply because we were going through near identical journeys at the same time.

The thing about HIMYM is that it’s not entirely a show carried by Ted’s quest for true love. The rest of the gang feels like your friends, too, and you become as invested in their lives as Ted’s. Can anyone get through the loss of Marshall’s father with dry eyes?

Even though I was ultimately disappointed with the ending, there’s no denying the impact the show has had on my life. It was a massive feat in character development and storytelling. Thanks to Hulu, I’m able to watch the series any time I want, and you know what? I still discover new things each time I go through it.

But more significant than a TV show ending its run, I’ll always remember 2014 as the year I conquered my fear of flying. Up to that point, I’d taken every long trip imaginable by either bus or train. After so many years, though, I couldn’t endure the wear and tear on my body anymore. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to get myself on a plane to San Francisco. A month later, I got on a plane to Boston. And after that, routine trips to Edmonton and Los Angeles followed. To be clear, I’m still absolutely terrified of flying and hope I never have to do it again, but at least I can say that I did it.

In May, I released New World Order, completing the Noble trilogy. I don’t know that it was the best book in the series, but I’m very proud of the ending. While writing the book, I was so excited to get to the last chapter and finally put the ending to paper that had been in my head for months.

2014 ended with one last trip to Edmonton for the launch of Dragon Age: Inquisition. I spent two cold-as-balls weeks with the dev team, serving as the line of communication between them and the community. We squashed a lot of post-launch bugs thanks to the awesome fans helping us out!

2015

By 2015, my life had made a complete 180, and things were good again after what felt like an eternity of struggle. Jennie and I both had good jobs with sufficient pay and were comfortable. Not wealthy, just comfortable. It was nice not stressing about how we were going to pay the bills each month.

Unfortunately, after more than a year of waiting, I received word back from Canada that my application for residency had been denied. I was heartbroken. I loved working in digital communications, but what I wanted more than anything was to become a writer at BioWare, and the only path was through Edmonton. My options were to either relocate to the Redwood Shores office, or continue working from home, knowing my career would suffer.

In the end, I chose to stay at home, and accepted that I had climbed as far as I was going to at EA. It wasn’t terrible, though. Since I was working from home, “home” could be wherever I wanted it to be… just not in Canada. So, my wife and I decided on that lovely Victorian seaport we’d honeymooned at in 2013. Our home sold within a week of listing, and then the pressure was on to pack up our lives and head to Port Townsend.

Before Port Townsend, however, there was one last thing to do. We went to San Jose for Wrestlemania 31! As lifelong WWE fans, this was a special moment for us. Neither of us had ever been to a major event like that, and you certainly can’t get any more major than Wrestlemania. The whole weekend was so much fun, and temporarily relieved the stress about our upcoming move.

The rest of 2015 consisted of settling into our new home, our new town, and absorbing the surrounding beauty. The Pacific Northwest, if nothing else, is consistently gorgeous.

2016

The year started off on a good note, as I released my next novel, Planet of Ice, the second installment in bestselling author Tony Healey’s Broken Stars series. Much to my dismay, the rest of the year wouldn’t be as kind.

Things were falling apart at EA. The company had undergone its third re-org in less than two years and with it came a significant rise in idiocy at the top. All the great work we’d done to separate ourselves from the “evil empire” that fans remembered was completely unraveled.

Suddenly, I had yet another new boss, this one about as useless as anyone I’ve ever worked for in my life. She consistently no-showed meetings, blamed me for incomplete tasks outside my scope, and she didn’t know the first fucking thing about our games. Granted, you don’t have to in order to work in the games industry, but it helps. She had no passion for our games. She wasn’t invested. EA was just another stopover to pad her resume. Last I heard, she’d already moved on after only two years.

I couldn’t ignore the simple truth any longer. My job wasn’t fun anymore. The last re-org had placed all the wrong people in charge, and no one seemed to know who did what anymore. My boss’s boss then gave me an ultimatum that he wanted me to start spending two weeks in Edmonton per month because it was important for me to be with the team.

I was happy to spend more time in Edmonton because it was indeed important for me to work directly with the devs, but two weeks per month? Half of my year spent away from my family? Who the hell would ask that of their employees?

In hindsight, he probably never expected me to agree to it. It was most likely an attempt to phase me out, and it worked. I decided to invest in myself and focus on my writing. I put in my two weeks notice in mid-October, and my last official day was on Halloween.

Despite everything, I was still gutted by leaving. It took me nine long years to get to BioWare, and after only four and half, it was over, taking my dreams of ever writing Mass Effect stories with it.

2017

I spent the first quarter of the year writing, taking my poorly written Noble trilogy and working with a professional editor to salvage them. This process wasn’t simply a re-edit, however. It was a complete rewrite from the ground up. I’d come a long way as a writer in seven years, and I was determined to give these books a new lease on life.

Icarus came first in January, followed by The Invisible War shortly thereafter, and finally The Reckoning in September. I’m beyond proud of how these books turned out, but I’d be lying if I said they made up for the EA paycheck I’d lost.

My wife had opened her own clothing boutique in town and was doing quite well. To help ends meet, I got a part time job as a projectionist for a classy, upscale movie theater. We weren’t as comfortable as before, but were getting by, and continued to love being in our little town.

The trouble was, the town was booming and attracting the attention of wealthy retirees from across the country. Tourism had always been the lifeblood of this town, which was great, but now people were buying vacation homes to “summer,” and leaving them empty the rest of the year.

As result, housing became limited and prices went up. Rental prices went up. Restaurant prices went up. Our rent was $875 a month when we moved to Port Townsend in 2015, and by the end of 2017, it was $1,400. We couldn’t afford to be there anymore, and our landlord was less than empathetic.

We knew the end was coming, and had to start thinking seriously about what to do next.

2018

Our lease expired in March, and with nowhere else to go in Port Townsend, we moved to Vancouver, WA to stay with my parents while we got back on our feet. If you’ve never had the luxury of living with your parents in your 40s, I don’t recommend it. But we do what we must in order to survive.

Sharing a small ranch-style home with my parents was difficult, but on the plus side, I got to see them every day. While living in Port Townsend, we saw them maybe 3-4 times a year, and this arrangement allowed us to make up for lost time, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. More on that later.

Finding a job proved to be more challenging than I’d expected. It took nearly five months of searching and interviewing until I landed at Nautilus as a chat support agent. It was fine at first, but it became apparent early on that I was punching well below my weight class. I made the best of it—even got promoted after three months—but it wasn’t a long-term fit. Especially not with Nautilus’ extreme mis-management and financial woes.

Much of 2018 is a blur because we were so miserable. We missed Port Townsend. We missed having jobs that we cared about. We missed our independence. I never wanted to return to Vancouver and there we were. Completely stuck with no signs of unsticking.

2019

Neither of us could take it anymore, so we kept our eyes peeled for a way back to Port Townsend, and in February, it came. A mortgage loan officer needed an assistant to come in and run her marketing and manage her customer database. The pay was decent, by Port Townsend standards, and as far as jobs in the area were concerned, it was a good one. I took a chance and sent in my resume.

The phone interview wasn’t great, but it earned me a face-to-face interview. She offered me the job over beers, and Jennie and I were so excited! We were given a chance to come back to the place we never wanted to leave and hit unpause on our lives.

Two weeks later, my mom got sick. At first, the doctors thought it was pneumonia, but further tests revealed significant damage to her pulmonary system. She’d apparently suffered a heart attack at some point without even knowing. While the most immediate threat to her health, it wasn’t even the worst of it. Her kidneys were failing, and the latest scan had revealed an aggressive cancer growing inside her. She was on borrowed time.

The doctors scheduled a triple bypass on the day Jennie and I were set to move. Mom made it through surgery, but a couple of days later, the doctors discovered that the valve they’d replaced was contaminated, and scheduled another procedure to swap it out.

The surgery failed, and the doctors gave us ten minutes to decide Mom’s fate. They could open her back up and try to correct the procedure, or we could simply let her go peacefully in her sleep. They didn’t give her good odds at surviving another open-heart procedure, and even if she did, it was going to require extensive rehabilitation. She’d have lived out her last days in a nursing home, which she was terrified of.

So, we decided to let her go. It wasn’t fair, but it was the kindest option. My mother passed away on April 10th, 2019 at the age of 69, and she took so much love and light with her. Love and light that I haven’t been able to fill.

Since her death, life has continued to deliver one swift kick to the face after another. I’m sad most of the time. Miserable at my job. My latest novel has been rejected by nearly 100 agents. We’re being swallowed up by the constantly rising cost of living. And I genuinely don’t know what the future holds. I’m trying to be optimistic, but it’s hard in the face of continuous struggle.

2020

The last decade had extremely high highs and devastatingly low lows. It peaked in 2015 and cascaded downhill from there. But did I end the decade in a better position than I started? I’m employed. I’m happily married. I’m living in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I’m playing my guitar again.

It’s hard to dispute that I made a lot of progress over the last ten years. It’s also hard to dispute that I struggled more than 50% of the decade. But I’m trying to not let that overshadow the amazing milestones I reached, and the times of joy I experienced.

So, what does the future hold? Perhaps a move to the east coast. Perhaps a career change. Perhaps a string of luck. Whatever the answer, I know it’s going to involve much change, and I’m ready.

~ David

Free Write – December 2019

** Work-in-progress **

 

The old mantel clock starts ticking for the first time in months, repetitive and angry. Or perhaps it has been all along, but I’ve grown too accustom to the sound to register it anymore.

The clock has been in my family for generations. The last remaining vestige of my grandfather’s life before America. Its exact placement in his house is still so clear in my mind: on the hearth with the wobbly brick at the end. The centerpiece of an otherwise ordinary living room.

His fondness for it left an indelible imprint on me. When he told tales of its history, I gave my undivided attention, captivated. It was the only thing of his I wanted when he passed. The clock, his prized heirloom, and I, now its keeper and docent.

At this time of night, the clock’s beautiful cherry color is lost, blending into the darkness. A chime used to announce the arrival of each hour, but it has been silent for many years now. When money allows, one day I’ll have it fixed. Grandpa would’ve liked that.

I close my eyes and try convincing myself that sleep will come, but my brain is restless. My bedding is damp, and my heart is racing. Strands of frizzy hair stick to the moisture on my face. I dreamt about her again. Is this her way of sending me a message from wherever she is?

I wouldn’t normally believe in such a thing, but the visions are becoming more frequent. More vivid. In this most recent dream, she appeared on my TV and spoke to me, but I couldn’t decipher the muffled words, crackling in my ears like static. I put my hand on the glass and felt only the smooth cold barrier between us. What is she trying to tell me? Is she scared? Confused? Alone? The thought is too difficult to bear and weighs heavy on my mind throughout another sleepless night.

 

When I arrive at the medium’s place of business, an ADU located not far from the main house on the property, I’m filled with instant shame and regret. It’s all a scam dating back to the Victorians, isn’t it? A ruse perpetrated by soulless con-artists who take advantage of desperate people, exploiting grief for profit. Sickening. Yet here I am. Why? Because she believed in this stuff.

I chose this particular medium in part because her name is Karen. Not “Madame Karen” or “Karen the Magnificent.” No gimmicks or bluster. Just Karen. And I like that. The other main contributing factor is that previous clients have left countless positive reviews on her Facebook page. None of this implies trust, however, but I’m confident that my hundred bucks at least earns me an empathic ear.

The windows are covered with colorful psychedelic patterns on sheer fabric. I knock on the door and a shadow passes behind the makeshift curtains. A woman with short white hair answers. She greets me and offers her hand. Bright blue veins poke through her thin, soft skin.

“You must be Avery. Please, come in and warm yourself,” she says, shivering and pulling her gray, cable-knit sweater tighter across her body.

I want to turn back around and leave and pretend I never came here in the first place, but I don’t. I follow her into the dimly lit space. My eyes gravitate toward the seating arrangement: two leather chairs facing each other. A dark-stained coffee table between them. An active lava lamp, the room’s only light source, bounces off the faux wood-paneled walls.

“Have a seat,” she says.

I ease into the nearest chair and she sits down in the one across from me. Her eyes find mine and lock in, followed by a warm, gentle smile. Am I supposed to speak first? My hands twitch, though I try to still them. I know she’ll be watching my body language closely, homing in on any sign that may direct her reading. That’s how they do it. They gauge your reaction to the things they say to determine whether or not they’re on the right track, making it appear as though they’re channeling the great beyond for guidance.

“It’s natural to feel guarded,” Karen says. “I know the first meeting can be especially awkward, but you’re in a safe space here.”

Shit. It’s starting already. I need to stay calm and not give her anything she can work with.

“I’m an open book,” I blurt, sounding as convincing as a death row inmate claiming innocence.

“Great. Shall we begin then?”

With my eyes now adjusted to the low light, I glimpse her business license hanging on the wall behind her, nestled between two framed nature photographs. One beautifully captures sun rays peeking in through the forest. The other showcases a breathtaking snow-capped mountain range. Maybe the Rockies or the Olympics. I’m not sure.

“You’ll have to forgive me,” I say. “I’m new to this sort of thing. I don’t really know how to start.”

“Your message said that you’ve been experiencing strange dreams. Would you like to begin by telling me a little more about them?”

“Okay.” I hesitate, rub the back of my head. “How does this work? Am I supposed to leave out certain details that may influence your reading or something?”

Karen clasps her hands. She crosses her legs and chuckles. “Try and forget what you’ve seen on one of those silly manufactured TV shows. I’m a medium. I have a gift, but it doesn’t include psychic powers. The best way for me to help you is to know as much information as you’re comfortable sharing.”

Although her tone is kind, I can’t help but feel like a dog just bopped on the nose with a rolled-up magazine. Does this happen to her a lot? Do people like me, close-minded and full of pre-conceived notions, make appointments just to come in and waste her time? I’ve already paid for this session, so I may as well use it.

“It’s my mother,” I say, ending the conversation drought. “She passed earlier this year.”

Karen’s face softens, erasing all traces of her earlier grin. “I’m so sorry.” She reaches for a tissue box, but I wave her off.

There’s sincerity in her voice, which I appreciate. I imagine Karen hears sob stories like mine daily, so her ability to still demonstrate genuine empathy is impressive. After all, how many dead relative stories can a person really hear before they eventually start to lose effect?

“Anyway,” I continue, “things were fine at first. Well, not fine, obviously, but the expected grief you feel after losing someone close. Then a few months ago, the dreams started. Maybe once a month, then every couple of weeks.”

“And now?”

I swallow against the lump forming in my throat. “Every couple of days.”

Karen curls a finger and taps it against her upper lip. “I see.”

“I thought about seeing a therapist. That maybe this was all part of the grieving process, but… instead I’m discussing it with a medium. So, clearly I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Karen shifts in her seat. “Do you feel embarrassed by coming here?”

“Honestly?”

“Please.”

“I’m not a believer in any of this crap.” The words escape with more venom than I’d intended. “Sorry. I really don’t mean any offense, it’s just…”

Karen raises her hand. “No apology necessary. It’s quite all right. What I do can’t be scientifically proven, and as such, will always be the subject of ridicule and skepticism. I get that.” She leans forward. “But you’re here—not in a therapist’s office—so there must be some part of you that believes I can help.”

First Birthday Without Mom

In retrospect, I probably should’ve taken the day off. I wasn’t sure how it was going to hit me, only that it was going to hit me. How could it not? For the first forty-two years of my life, I’d wake up every August 20th to a phone call from Mom singing “Happy Birthday” to me. This year I didn’t. Next year I won’t either. This is just how it’s going to be from here on out, and it fucking sucks.

After losing a parent, one of the first things you start thinking about in your grief are the holidays and special occasions that they’re going to miss. The first family get together. The first bit of exciting news you can’t wait to tell them. The first Halloween. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas. Their next birthday. And of course, your next birthday. Each one feels different than the rest, but no matter what, they all hurt.

I can’t remember exactly when, but after a certain point, my birthday ceased to feel important to me. Getting older wasn’t fun anymore. I’d traded in my He-Man action figures and baseball card collection for annual doctor visits and the joy of living from paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday anymore. It didn’t mean anything to me. This drove my mom nuts. She’d get so excited about my birthday, and I’d Eeyore all over it. “Well, it still means something to me!” she’d say.

No matter how much I resisted, Mom refused to let me ignore my birthday. “I don’t understand what happened. You used to love your birthday,” she’d say. This was true. As a kid, Mom went out of her way to make my birthday feel special. My birthday parties had a template: invite the neighborhood kids, rent a movie, organize games, and the coup de grâce was always her cake.

One year she made a Cookie Monster-shaped cake, which my uncle insisted for years turned his poop blue. One year she made a Pac-Man cake, which remains my all-time favorite. Somewhere in the family archives exists a photo, but for now, you’ll have to use your imagination. It was a peanut butter-frosted sheet cake. Pac-Man was a cookie, and she drew the ghosts and game board by hand with different colored frosting.

Mom loved being a mom, probably more than anything else in the world, and her family was her most prized possession. She only ever wanted us to be happy, and if devoting hours of her day to a Pac-Man cake could put a smile on my face, she’d do it without a second thought. That’s just who she was.

One year she took me to see the live-action Masters of the Universe movie, just me and her, even though she had no idea what was happening. To be fair, I didn’t either. Something about “not Orko” hiding a magic Casio keyboard from bad guys, and Courtney Cox and her boyfriend using it to start a sweet synth band?

Even though my recollection of the movie itself is hazy at best, what I remember clear as day is the ending. He-Man defeats Skeletor, and as the triumphant music dies down, Dolph Lundgren turns toward the camera and declares, “Victowy” in his thick accent. My mom laughed so hard. She said He-Man had seemed so tough up until that point. It tickled her so much that it became a running joke between her and I. For decades, we’d randomly say “Victowy” to each other for no reason whatsoever, and it never failed to get a laugh.

So, today I sit in front of my keyboard, now forty-three years old, sipping an iced coffee and hating my birthday as usual, but this time, wishing with all my heart that Mom was still here to sing to me.

Mom, I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart… victowy.

Ghost Stories – Coming Soon

I’ve been quiet for some time now, but that’s not because I haven’t been working. A lot of the time, things are in progress, and I’m not allowed to discuss them until the official announcement goes live. Now is one of those times. I’m beyond thrilled to announce my involvement with an upcoming audio-only anthology, Ghost Stories.

A couple of months ago, Blunder Woman Productions put out a submission call for spine-chilling, spooky campfire stories (more The Woman in Black and less Saw). My good friend Tony Healey encouraged me to go for it, and said that he’d always loved my creepy story, The Starlight Mile. I considered it, but knowing that the story was seven years old, and how much my writing had improved since then, I didn’t have high hopes. That said, the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I ultimately decided to take the challenge.

I sat down with the original draft, and to my dismay (but not my surprise), the writing quality was far scarier than the story itself. A lot of work needed to be done in order to make it submission-worthy, but the deadline was coming up fast.

I took out my literary scalpel (and in some cases, my literary chainsaw) and went straight to work. I cleaned up some clunky sentences here and there, adjusted some unnatural dialogue, and clipped out entire sections that kept the story from moving forward. By the time I was done, I’d cut the story down to around 3,700 words from nearly 6,000!

After reading the newly-edited version, I felt good about it, but needed outside opinions. The feedback I received contained very few notes and high praise. I made a few more tweaks, then sent it off. Two weeks later, I received word that my story had been chosen.

This project is incredibly exciting because it’s audio-only, and I’ve never had my work narrated before. Not only that, but the narrator assigned to my story is Tim Campbell, an award-winning voice artist, and he is legit! Check out his work here.

The anthology is currently without a release date, but it’s coming later this year. Hopefully, in time for Halloween! I’ll keep you posted as more details emerge, but in the meantime, check out the full list of authors and narrators hoping to scare the bejesus out of you come fall:

  • The Clockmaker by Beth Green, narrated by Danielle Cohen
  • Dream In Black Static by Ambrose Ibsen, narrated by Joe Hempel
  • The Family Ghost by Susan C. Hunter, narrated by Holly Palance
  • Geiststurm by M K Gibson, narrated by Kyle Tait
  • Goat by Matt Godfrey, performed by Amy Landon
  • The House by Tanya Eby – Narrator & Writer, narrated by Rhett Samuel Price
  • The Rabbit Hole by Jack Soren, narrated by Hillary Huberr
  • She Is By The Window by Anthony Addis, narrated by Marni Penning Coleman
  • The Starlight Mile by David K. Hulegaard, narrated by Tim Campbelll
  • Wendigo by Molly Coyle, narrated by Lauren Ezzo
  • The Whimsy by Petrea Burchard, narrated by Rachel Jacobs

Nothing but love,

~ David

For Mom

I lost one of my best friends in the world on April 10, 2019, and now a once-bright corner of my heart grows dim. My mother, Kathy, had more capacity for love and empathy than any human being I’ve ever met. Without her in my life anymore, my chest aches in an excruciating and unfamiliar way, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with all this pain. I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Mom was sweet, and kind, and had the most amazing sense of humor. Not only was she funny, but she was the best audience to have around because she would legitimately laugh at even your worst jokes or puns. As intelligent as she was, and believe me, she was, she’d also laugh so hard at a stupid fart joke that she’d snort, which only made her laugh harder, and before you knew it, the whole room would be in tears, laughing with her.

Mom loved many things in life. Among her favorites was her faith, the Beatles, lighthouses, cows, Ghost Adventures, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hallmark movies (especially the Christmas ones, which she’d watch year-round), reading, thimbles, drives out to the coast, Harry Potter, crocheting, and Animal Crossing. Oh, you bet your ass, Animal Crossing. She’d paid off Tom Nook so long ago that she took her bells to her grand kids’ towns and started paying down their debts, too.

As silly as it is, it’s also a perfect example of quintessential Mom. Whatever she had in life, be it in the real world, or a virtual one with a cat and hippopotamus for neighbors, she wanted to share it with everyone. I’ll never forget the time we’d all just sat down to dinner as a family and were interrupted by a door-to-door salesperson. Everyone was so annoyed, except Mom, who instead invited the guy in to join us.

Now, you might be tempted to think this happened years ago when neighborhoods were all a bit safer, right? Nope. This was just last year, and for the record, the guy politely declined. We teased Mom relentlessly, of course, insisting that he was likely more afraid of her than we were of him.

As dear as she held all of her favorite things, there’s nothing she loved more than her family. If given a choice between wealth, world peace, a cure for cancer, or a Sunday afternoon at her house surrounded by family, she wouldn’t have even hesitated to pick. You could’ve presented her with that same scenario a million times, and her choice would’ve always remained the same: she wanted to spend as much time with her loved ones as possible. I’m so grateful that I was able to see her and talk to her nearly every day during our last year together.

In the days since Mom passed, the family has received countless messages, emails, and cards of condolence. Mom touched so many people in her life, and as we’ve read through all the notes, one common theme has emerged: everyone had their own special relationship with her. Somehow, regardless of how well she knew them, she was capable of being all things to all people, and she wasn’t even trying. She did it happily, with a smile on her face, because she genuinely cared. Mom was the Michael Jordan of caring.

No matter how hard you try not to think about it, somewhere in the back of your mind from an early age, you always know that this day is coming, but it sure doesn’t make preparing yourself for the inevitability any easier. The loss my family has suffered is immeasurable, and the impact of her absence will be felt for the rest of our days. However, if there is any comfort to be had at all, it’s in knowing that her and I are so much alike, and now I have the honor and privilege of carrying her with me. Perhaps I will use this opportunity to try and be even more like her.

If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: time is shorter than you think, even when it feels like it will last forever. Don’t let it go to waste. Love harder. Dream bigger. Savor all your special moments. And never let an opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to you pass you by.

I love you with all my heart, Mom, and I will miss you forever.

2017: The Year in Review

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was feeling the stress of making a bold decision to leave my stable, high-paying job in pursuit of creative freedom: to focus solely on my passion for writing and storytelling. While my paychecks are certainly lighter now, in retrospect, I’m still overjoyed by the decision I made. More and more of my soul was getting sucked out by the day, and although there are new sources of stress to face now, I feel so much more rewarded by what I do.

I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest thanks to everyone who has supported me. Thank you to everyone who has invested in an unknown and given my books a chance. I hope you’ve been entertained, and I hope that you were able to step into Miller Brinkman’s world and love it as much as I do.

2017 saw the birth and end of the Noble trilogy, and now it’s time to move forward. I have two novels in the works which I hope will see the light of day in 2018. The first of which is the sci-fi story I’ve been wanting to tell for a few years now.

While working at BioWare, I often dreamed of writing for Mass Effect. I crafted a story line I thought might fit just in case I ever received an opportunity to pitch to the team. That opportunity never presented itself, which was disappointing, but then I realized that my story didn’t have to be Mass Effect at all.

What I had was the beginning to a new franchise–one in which I could create and take ownership of. I’m so pleased with how it’s coming along, and I look forward to sharing more information about it in the near future.

The second novel on the docket is a post-apocalyptic fantasy. I actually started working on this as part of a writer’s workshop group late last year, and I cranked out the first four chapters in short order. However, I put it on the shelf following the workshop’s completion, but I can still hear it calling to me. Perhaps it’s time for me to start listening.

Again, I can’t thank you all enough for your continued support, encouragement, and kind words. It means more to me than you know. I wish you all a warm and wonderful holiday season. I’ll see you in 2018!

~ David

Destination Mystery Interview

Wow. This year has really flown by, hasn’t it? It’s been a busy and productive year, though, and I couldn’t be happier about that. However, 2017 isn’t over yet, and I’m pleased to share that I’ve done one final interview before the new year.

The wonderful and lovely Laura Brennan hosted me on her fantastic podcast, Destination Mystery. I had so much fun chatting with her, and I hope you’ll give it a listen!

Talk Nerdy to Me Podcast

A huge thank you to the fine folks at the Talk Nerdy to Me podcast for having me on this week’s episode. We chatted about many cool things, including my writing process, the wacky world of professional wrestling, how Mass Effect fan-fiction became the basis for my next novel, and so much more!

Check it out below, or download wherever you get your podcast fix. If you’re in a rush, my interview segment comes on at 1:13:10.


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The Reckoning: Prologue

Jamison, West Virginia
2014

“Police in Charleston have confirmed the identity of a thirty-one-year-old woman found bludgeoned and dismembered in a hotel dumpster earlier this week, but will not release the name until the victim’s family has been notified. Captain Curtis Abbott declined to speak to the media about the specifics of the investigation, but confirmed that the department is following up on several promising leads.

“When asked if this grisly murder could possibly be linked to a similar murder committed last month, Captain Abbott again declined to comment. He advised the people of Kanawha County to remain calm, but stay vigilant. More on this macabre story as it develops.”

Natalie switched off the television and shuddered. Jeez, she was only a couple years younger than me. She set the remote down on her coffee table and walked into the kitchen. An overflow of garbage was preventing the trash bin lid from closing. Yes, that’s what I need right now, she thought. Some household chores to take my mind off the Charleston slayings.

Natalie tied the bag’s plastic drawstrings into a bow and lifted it out of the bin, then leaned the bag against the wall while she took a buffalo plaid flannel from the back of a dining chair and put it on. She opened the sliding glass door to the backyard and stuck her hand out. A solid gray canopy of angry clouds stretched across the sky, but they had yet to produce any rain. Natalie expected it wouldn’t be long.

She lived in the small suburban town of Jamison, not far from Charleston. Her house was nestled in the heart of Settlers Grove: a quiet, secluded neighborhood at a higher elevation that the locals referred to as ‘the hilltop of doom.’ The nickname stemmed from a geographical phenomenon specific to the area; ‘the calm’ was a weather anomaly prevalent in the early weeks of spring.

During the calm, a silence fell upon Settlers Grove. No wind, no birds chirping, no dogs barking. A heavy rainfall followed, lasting for hours, but when it was over, the sun came out and the sounds of everyday life returned.

The calm has definitely started, she thought. Hope I don’t get soaked.

Natalie grabbed the garbage bag and hurried to the receptacle at the side of the house. She threw the lid open and dropped the bottom-heavy sack inside. As she dragged the receptacle toward the curb, two young men approached. Both were dressed in hooded sweatshirts and baggy jeans, with backpacks slung over their shoulders. She recognized one of them as Jay, a twenty-five-year-old living in a run-down rental property down the street. She’d recently had trouble with him.

One afternoon last week, she had come home from work to find Jay and a couple of his friends snooping around the front of her house. They’d scattered as soon as she pulled into the driveway. Although their behavior was suspicious, they didn’t seem to have disturbed anything on her property.

Days later, however, Natalie received an electronic delivery confirmation from UPS while she was at work, only to discover that the packages were missing from her porch when she got home. With all the houses in the neighborhood spaced a fair distance apart, no one saw anything. The police investigated, questioning Jay at Natalie’s recommendation, but they didn’t find enough evidence to arrest him.

Natalie slowed her pace and waited for the men to pass before continuing to the street. On the way, one of the receptacle’s wheels locked up and scraped along the ground. She knelt down for a closer look—there was something jammed inside the wheel well. With her petite fingers stretched, she reached behind the wheel and dislodged a bulbous rock.

The first drop of rain splashed on top of Natalie’s head. She tossed the stone aside and wiped her hands on her jeans. When she got up, a young man in a white hoodie stood in her periphery.

Natalie gasped.

“Ah, my bad.” The man put a hand on his chest. “I didn’t mean to scare ya. The name’s Thilo. Got a sec?”

Natalie rolled the receptacle into place at the curb. “I’m sorry, I really need to get back inside before the downpour.”

“Yeah, totally, but real quick, though,” he said, stepping toward her. “What’s the deal with calling the police on my boy Jay?”

Natalie moved to the opposite side of the bin. “I think maybe there’s been a misunderstanding.”

Thilo smacked his lips and took another step. “Kind of a bitchy thing to do, don’t you think?”

Natalie glanced toward the front door. Shit. I came out through the back and my keys are inside. “If you’ll excuse me, the rain will be here any minute now, so—”

“You know what I think?” Thilo rolled up his sleeves, revealing a tattoo on his forearm: a snake tangled in the eye sockets of a human skull. “I think maybe you haven’t gotten any in a while, and you were looking for a way to get his attention.”

“Well, don’t worry, girl,” another voice said from behind her. “You’ve got it.”

Natalie spun around to face Jay, standing there with his burgundy hoodie pulled up over his head. A numbing twinge of electricity shot down her spine. Her heart raced. They’ve got me boxed in.

A light, misty rain sprinkled down from the sky as Thilo inched closer. Natalie patted her pockets in search of her cell phone. Dammit, she thought, visualizing it on the kitchen counter. “Look, the calm is starting, and I need to get indoors.”

“Good idea,” Jay said. “Why don’t you invite us in and we can keep this party going.”

Natalie gulped. “Sorry, my husband’s on his way home, and I should get started on dinner, so…”

“Husband, huh?” Jay scratched his patchy goatee. “Can’t say I’ve ever seen a man around your house before.”

“Is that right?” Thilo folded his arms. “Aww, and here I thought we were becoming good friends. Why would you go and ruin it by lying?”

Jay put his hand on her shoulder. Natalie shrugged it off and backed into the garbage receptacle. The rounded plastic edge pressed against her back. “Guys, please. I just want to go back inside.” A silent tear streamed down her face. “I’m sorry about the misunderstanding with the police. It won’t ever happen again.”

Jay placed his hands on either side of the receptacle, pinning Natalie against it. He looked her up and down. “You’re right about that.”

The skies opened up. As a hard rain fell, Natalie screamed for help, but Thilo quickly reached around and covered her mouth from behind. Her eyes widened. Jay shushed her and grabbed her hand, forcing it down toward his beltline. Her fingertips found the cold metal of his belt buckle.

“You see, there’s consequences for calling the police on an innocent man,” Jay said. “But don’t you worry. I’m sure we can work something out.” He opened his zipper.

Natalie closed her eyes. Someone, please help me!

Thick raindrops hammered down on the lid of the receptacle. Without warning, Thilo removed his hand from Natalie’s mouth and screamed out in pain. She opened her eyes. Jay was staring over her shoulder, his jaw quivering. His grip on her wrist loosened.

Natalie shoved Jay backward and ran toward the house. She slipped in the mud in the soaked front yard and fell hard to the ground, the wind knocked out of her. As she struggled to get up and catch her breath, a hulking figure came into view behind Thilo, appearing to hover in midair.

A gloved hand jutted out from its midnight-blue cloak. Its fingers punctured the skin of Thilo’s shoulder, sinking deep into the trapezius muscle. The white cotton fibers of Thilo’s hoodie darkened with the blood gushing from the wound.

Thilo cried out in agony as Jay looked on, frozen in place. A dark trail soiled his jeans from crotch to ankle. The cloaked figure tightened its grip, ripping and pulling until Thilo’s trapezius muscle detached from the bone. Thilo wailed and dropped to the ground, clutching the gaping abyss beside his neck. He writhed around on the asphalt and vomited.

Natalie slid backward on her rear, unable to tear her gaze away from the figure’s hypnotic, pennant-shaped blue eyes. What is that thing?

Jay looked down at Thilo’s bloody shoulder, then turned and ran in the opposite direction. The cloaked figure melted into the ground and popped back up in front of him. Jay smashed into the figure’s broad chest like a cement wall, knocking himself down. He pinched his nostrils and examined the blood on his fingers.

The cloaked figure drifted toward him. It raised its hands and pressed them together in front of its chest, fingers extended and pointed up toward its chin.

“What are you doing?” Jay asked. “Leave me alone!”

Waves of purple lightning coursed down the figure’s arms and formed an undulating ball of energy around its hands. Billowing smoke rose from the tips of its fingers.

“Get the fuck away from me!” Jay scooted backward on his hands and feet. “You hear me?”

In one swift motion, the cloaked figure spread its arms out at its sides. Jay’s body disappeared into a cloud of smoke, leaving behind a mound of pink and white sand in the street.

Natalie screamed.

The cloaked figure turned its head and glided toward her. She covered her eyes and cowered as the rain soaked through her clothes to her skin. “Please don’t hurt me,” she whispered.

“You have no reason to fear him,” a soft, kind voice said. “You’re safe now.”

Natalie opened her eyes with reluctance. Above her stood a fair-skinned woman with long ginger curls, dressed in an olive-green hooded scarf and a lilac gown, sullied with dark stains.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked.

“I… I’m, uh, Natalie.”

“Hello, Natalie. My name’s Lissette, and this is Kelasis.” She swatted the cloaked figure’s arm. “Where are your manners, Kelly? Help her up.”

Kelasis offered his hand to Natalie, but she shook her head and got to her feet. She looked at the pile of sand in the street where Jay’s body had been. “Did you kill him?”

Lissette brushed Natalie’s wet hair off her face. “We sent him somewhere he can never harm anyone again.”

“To a realm where he will most likely be violently killed,” Kelasis added.

Holding Natalie’s gaze, Lissette grinned and jabbed Kelasis with a blind elbow. “Are you okay now, dear?”

“Yes… I think so.”

Kelasis wrapped his cloak around Lissette, shielding her from the rain. “Then we should be going.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Lissette said. “I don’t want to be in this area any longer than necessary.” She shivered. “Too many bad memories.”

~ * * * ~

Natalie slammed the sliding glass door behind her and locked it. She tugged on the handle several times until she was satisfied that it was secured. Water dripped off her body and pooled on the engineered hardwood floor. What the hell just happened?

She swiped her cell phone off the counter and dialed 9-1-1. The rain pounded against the siding of the house, making it difficult to hear the faint ring as she waited for an answer on the other end. Outside the kitchen window, the overflowing gutters spewed like a busted dam.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” a bored voice answered.

“My name is Natalie Clausson. I live at 521 Maple Street, and there’s been an… an altercation outside my house.”

“Did you witness the altercation?”

Natalie ran her hand through her hair. “Yes.”

“Was anyone hurt?”

“Yes. Two men.”

“Are they still there now?”

Natalie walked across the living room to the front door and peered out through a half-moon window. Thilo was slithering away on his stomach, leaving a trail of red smear across the pavement behind him. “One of them is, but he’s badly injured and moving slow.”

“Okay, thank you, Miss Clausson,” the dispatch operator said, typing. “I’m sending someone to your location now. Can you give me any additional details about the altercation before the police arrive?”

“Yeah, it was a…” Natalie looked toward the clumpy pile of wet sand that had formerly been Jay. A slender young man dressed in crimson robes stood in the middle of the street. He turned his head toward her house and locked eyes with her through a pair of black leather goggles with clear lenses.

“Ma’am? Are you still there?”

The young man smiled at Natalie and put a finger to his lips. He raised his hood and walked away.

“Ma’am? Are you all right? Do you need help?”

Natalie ran back into the kitchen, leaned against the pantry door, and slid down to the floor. Rainwater dripped from the ends of her hair and plopped against the tile. She dropped the phone at her side and brought her knees up to her chest.

“Ma’am?”

Preorder The Reckoning on Amazon today!

New to the Noble Trilogy? Start the adventure here!

 

The End is Near…

The time has come, ladies and gentlemen. I’m pleased to announce that the grand finale in the Noble Trilogy will release on Friday, September 15, 2017. The Reckoning will be available in Kindle and paperback format, and is available to preorder right now!

Sixty years after the conclusion of an ancient war, hardly anyone on earth is aware of just how close humanity came to extinction. The same goes for Charleston Police Officer Desmond Kalish—for now.

When a string of horrific murders sends a shockwave through the West Virginia capital, Desmond is determined to put the culprit behind bars. A break in the case puts the police hot on the killer’s trail—at the same time thrusting Desmond into the heart of a secret world that will stretch his concept of reality beyond its limits. Desmond faces a choice: run back to the familiar, or accept the danger of the unknown?

Before Desmond has a chance to weigh his options, an enigmatic preacher emerges from the shadows to set a sinister plan several decades in the making into motion. To prevent the coming apocalypse, Desmond and a team of mysterious agents must head back to the place where it all began: a little town by the name of Ashley Falls.

Preorder your copy of The Reckoning today!