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?”



“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.”

Noble Blog Series #3: The Return to Ashley Falls



SPOILER WARNING: The following blog post contains minor spoilers from the first two books in the Noble series.


Noble introduced readers to the life and experiences of a private investigator named Miller Brinkman. Through Miller’s POV, I hoped to paint a clear picture of small town life in Ashley Falls. Miller was born and raised there. He knew every name. Every face. Every nook and cranny. And of course, every dirty little secret. While Miller knew everything about his home town, it did present me with one interesting challenge: Ashley Falls isn’t a real place. 🙂

I didn’t create Ashley Falls from scratch, necessarily. I viewed countless photos of mid-century small towns, read several pieces of literature and talked to local historians at length. I began building the town of Ashley Falls with a solid foundation. I wanted something that felt to readers like a cross between Mayberry and Little House on the Prairie. From there it was really just a matter of giving it life and sprinkling in some lore to make it feel real.

We learn a lot about Ashley Falls in Noble, but we never actually discover where it is geographically. There are many clues woven into the story to help give the reader an idea along the way. In the scene where Miller leaves Ashley Falls for the first time and arrives at the train station, he mentions how long the ride to his destination of Washington, D.C. will be. If someone had been determined enough to find out and did some digging through Amtrak’s train schedule, the answer was out there.

At the end of Noble, Miller packs up his things and leaves Ashley Falls behind for a new life in Boston, which is the setting for Noble: Bloodlines.  Even though Miller has left Ashley Falls, we discover through a twist at the end of Bloodlines that the reader stayed behind for a glimpse into Ashley Falls’ future, circa 1989.

But who were those new characters, and how had Ashley Falls become home to an apparent religious cult? These are among the questions that will be answered in Noble: New World Order, as well as confirmation on the exact location of Ashley Falls!

Although the world of Noble has changed over the five decades that have passed, Ashley Falls still plays a role in the shape of things to come. The area has become an abandoned ghost town, hidden deep within overgrown vegetation and dilapidated old structures. The only remaining ties to the Ashley Falls from Miller’s time are a few walls left standing, and the preserved property of the historic Carroll house.

As desolate a place as Ashley Falls has become, it is not without a few final secrets left to be uncovered. While most of the town’s shady history has been contained within restricted files, Demond’s journey eventually leads him to Ashley Falls and brings him closer to the truth. Desmond doesn’t yet realize that his role in the invisible war has already been determined, and his path set in motion…

Thanks for reading!

~ David

Noble: New World Order – Blog Series Kick-Off

concept art


Hello, and thanks for joining me as I kick-off a new blog series centered on the creation of my upcoming book, Noble: New World Order. NWO will mark the third and final installment of the Noble series. I know, I know. I can feel your collective groans all the way here on the other side of your screen.


I am caught up in the middle of a whirlwind of emotion: Happy to be able to finish the trilogy, but also bummed to have reached the end. Cue sad trombone. These characters and stories within the Noble universe have meant a great deal to me, and I will miss them dearly, but there is still a long way to go before NWO is completed. This blog series will be a means of helping me cope, while at the same time, hopefully delivering some interesting insight into the process of its creation. 🙂


I thought I’d start off this blog series by talking a little bit about where I’m at in the writing process. The entire book has been outlined for quite some time, but as with any writer, new ideas keep coming up as I go.


In the video game world, you have a set date near the end of the development cycle called “content lock.” In the world of a novelist, you can (and usually will) continue to tinker with your story up until the day you hit the “publish” button. It’s both useful and frustrating to have that kind of control at your fingertips, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Sometimes you just need to accept the story that you’ve written and feel confident sending it out into the ether.


As of this morning, I have seven completed chapters under my belt. Now, when I say “completed,” I mean to say that I have a first draft. A first draft is usually stable, but not something you want to share outside of your circle until it has undergone a proper edit.


It is within the first draft that you still find all of the embarrassing little mistakes like missing words or incorrect homonyms. A first draft is also the reason that a writer must always remember to give their editor a hug… or lots and lots of alcohol.


As it currently stands, NWO is on track for a late 2013 release. I don’t have an exact time table in mind, but I feel that the work that’s left to do can be completed within the next five to six months. I am not going to rush it, however, so if I’m not feeling confident that this book is going to live up to expectations, then it won’t see the light of day until I am.


There is a lot of pressure when completing a trilogy, and I am well aware of the consequences should I fail to deliver a solid conclusion. I feel really good about the direction of the series, and yes, I know how it all is going to end and I am quite satisfied with it. But, more on that later.


Thanks for tuning in to the inaugural NWO blog series kick-off! I have a long list of topics that I’ll be looking to cover over the weeks ahead, but please do let me know if there’s a particular area of interest that you’d like me to cover.


Still in need of a kick ass sign-off,


~ David K. Hulegaard

August Update

I’ve been quiet as of late, as you’ve probably noticed. Life has been busy, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to make the ol’ body agree to my “I only need four hours of sleep” game plan. However, despite the lack of hours I am able to utilize throughout the day, I have been working during my free time. Here’s just a quick update on what I’ve been up to.


I had begun working on my next novel about two months ago–a modern day ghost story with ties to an old pioneer legend–and hit a road block. I managed to write the complete first chapter, then stalled. The funny thing is that it’s not writer’s block. I know exactly where I want the story to go, but for some reason I just wasn’t “feeling it.”


So, I put the novel on hold and picked up another project I had kicking around, which is a collaborative effort between Tony Healey, Brendan Swogger and myself. We agreed on a theme and each of us took a different time period to tell a story about the same location: An old remote sanatorium in Canada with a history of paranormal claims. I had outlined all three acts of my contribution and was ready to go… only I couldn’t get started. I was beginning to worry, wondering what the heck was going on with my brain. All writers struggle with moments of doubt, or a lack of confidence, but this was unusual even for me.


After taking some time to consider my options, it finally hit me: The reason I hadn’t been able to get started on any projects was because subconsciously I knew that there was another story I needed to tell first. Thus began the process of writing the third and final book in the Noble series.


I had a rough idea of where I would be taking the series following Bloodlines, but not enough to begin outlining. I had intended to hold off on writing the finale until next year, or at least until the end of 2012, but then the ideas started to pile up before I even knew what hit me. Suddenly I couldn’t seem to focus on anything other than Noble. I missed my characters. I missed the universe and events that I had created. I’d left the reader with a cliffhanger, but in the end, it turned out to be me that had to know what happens next. My mission was clear. I had to get started.


I don’t have a strict timeline for completing the book. I am taking the “slow and steady wins the race” approach, but I can tell you that I am about three chapters deep at this point and it’s coming along quite well. I’ve still got a few plot points to fully flesh out, but I am very pleased with the concept. I hope that you, the reader, will be, too.


As of now, I have yet to hit the realization that at some point over the next few months the Noble series will be over. I don’t really want to think about that right now. It will only slow me down. I’ll have time to say my personal goodbyes to the series later, but for now, I’ve got a story to write. Back to it!

Updates! Updates! Updates!

Have you ever blinked and felt as though several weeks flashed by? That’s where I’ve been. I looked at my blog this morning and saw that I haven’t updated in over a month! I swear, it feels like I just wrote that last entry yesterday.

I’m not complaining, though. The time may have passed quickly, but it’s been an exciting and productive few weeks. Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to and what’s to come:

Noble: Bloodlines

I started work on this sequel back in July of last year. I got about halfway through before I realized something very important: The book was much better than Noble. A sequel should always be better than the first, right? Well, that’s true, but the difference was so extreme that I knew I had to “fix” the issues that plagued Noble. I hired a professional editor to go through it with a chainsaw and fix it.

She did.

The changes resulted in over 7,000 words being cut from the original manuscript, as well as a thorough scrubbing of the 72,000 words that remained. With the exception of one nasty review, the overflow of positive write-ups has been staggering! In my wildest dreams I never imagined such support.

However, there are still thousands upon thousands of people that have no idea Noble even exists. With Bloodlines, I hope to change that.

Over the past month the manuscript has undergone the editing process and is now in the hands of the final proofreader. Once I get it back from her, all that is left is to make the necessary corrections and push the PUBLISH button.

Words cannot describe my excitement to share this book with you all! If you liked the story from the original, I can’t wait to hear what you think about the direction it’s going. Noble’s ending left a lot of unanswered questions, all of which will be addressed in Bloodlines… of course, there’s still a finale coming to wrap up this trilogy, so don’t go expecting everything to be tied up in a neat bow. I personally guarantee that Bloodlines will leave you scratching your head, but in a good way!

The official release date is still not set, but I expect it to be available on Amazon within the next two to three weeks. This is my most ambitious novel yet, and I’m investing in a significant marketing push to back it up! Stay tuned.


What’s that? While Bloodlines went through the beta reading stage I quietly took on another book? You’re darn right I did! I am very excited about Strangers. Rather than write a novel, I compiled an anthology of short stories that all shared the central theme of train travel. Bloodlines exhausted my brain, and I needed a break from Miller Brinkman’s universe. I think Strangers reflects that, though not quite in the way you might think.

You wrote a collection of short stories about train travel? That sounds so boring!

Yeah, I suppose it does sound boring at first, but if you’ve read any of my other books, you know that I have a love for the strange and unusual. So, I took that love and applied it to an unconventional setting. Even though Strangers isn’t a Sci-Fi book, I am confident that fans of my writing will find something “familiar” to them. I mean, it is still me, right? I can’t very well write a book without some inclusion of the paranormal, can I? Based on the feedback I received during the beta process, I think my readers are going to come away both shocked and satisfied.

As I type this, Strangers is getting packaged up and ready to send off to my editor. Once I get it back from her, I’ll apply the edits and send a clean copy off to my second editor for the final proofreading. I don’t want to commit to a date yet, but I expect Strangers to follow closely behind the release of Bloodlines.

So, what’s next?

I’ve been fleshing out some ideas for Noble 3, but I’m not quite ready to begin work on it. I am too emotionally connected to the series right now and need to give myself a little separation to think about the creative decisions I’ve made and what impact they’ll have on the finale. I also want to allow time to collect feedback from readers and weigh their reactions and expectations first.

My next project will be a return to the paranormal. I love ghost stories! This story is set in modern day Oregon City, Oregon. Oregon City was founded in the 1820s by Dr. John McLoughlin, and was the first incorporated city west of the Rockies. It became the new home for pioneers that had traveled across the Oregon Trail. While much of the city’s historic past is well-documented and proudly on display, there is a darker past that people rarely speak of:

If you’re quiet enough, you can hear her. She’s out there right now, stalking her prey from the woods under the cover of night. There’s nowhere left to hide. She’s coming for me, and I’m powerless to stop her. Soon I’ll be dead, and no one will ever know why.

With love,


Happy Birthday, Noble

Today is October 16th. I can hardly believe it was a year ago today that I published my first novel, Noble. The memories are still so fresh in my mind: The fighting with an ever-changing outline. The extensive research about life in the 1940s. The late nights where writing a thousand words was impossible to do in less than three hours. The road to publication was long and difficult, but I don’t have a single regret.

Okay, that’s a lie.

I regret all the mistakes that I made as a first time self-published author. I regret not hiring a professional editor. I regret investing $5,000 into a PR agency that netted me a grand total of seven followers on Twitter. I regret rushing the book to market without a marketing plan. I regret most of all that I didn’t deliver my best effort. My readers deserve better than I gave them.

Most writers are hard on themselves, but this is not just me being overly critical and holding myself to some ridiculous standard. I believe in the story that I’m trying to tell with the Noble trilogy and I believe in its strength as an intellectual property. In my heart, I believe that this trilogy has legitimate potential to sell some books and entertain many more readers than I have already reached.

That’s why I made the decision to go back to the drawing board and create a second edition for Noble. Call it “2.0” if you like, but I’m calling it Noble: Revised & Expanded. It’s the version of the book that the original should have been. I’m doing this not just in honor of Noble’s one-year anniversary, but also as a precursor to the next book in the series, coming in early 2012.

What’s new in Noble: Revised & Expanded? Everything! I hired a professional editor to tear through the original manuscript. Long gone are the typos and grammatical errors. Long gone are the wordy, confusing sentences that don’t make sense. Long gone are the lengthy stretches of exposition and information dumps without giving the reader a break. All of these mistakes have been replaced with clear, clean sentence structure and short, succinct thoughts that capture the moment in greater detail. Old, tired exposition has been replaced with new dialogue between characters and additional devices to flesh out the backstory. I’ve also re-hired James McDonald (The Jumper) to lend his unique vision of the Noble universe to the brand spanking new front cover. This is not just a simple re-issue. This is a complete re-launch with oodles of new content, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you!

But don’t just take my word for it. Please, celebrate this special anniversary with me and read for yourself. Below you will find the new and improved first chapter from the book. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Chapter One


(Heavy breathing) My name is Jane Em—“ [Crackle] “and if you’re hearing this, please, I beg you, help us. They brought us, here, but I—I don’t know where here is. They told us that they were—“ [Section missing] “But they didn’t tell us why. Something about, oh, I can’t remember. It didn’t make any sense. They rarely told us anything at all. We just had to do what we were told to. But they lied. Ph—“ [Crackle] “did exactly what he was told to and they just—they just let him die. Didn’t even try to help him. Those bastards! They knew all of this was going to happen!” [Pause] “Mom, for what it’s worth to you now, I’m so sorry. If I had known that it would have ever come to this, I—I would’ve—“ (Sobbing) ”How could you do this to your own child, mother?”

[Section missing]

“We were brought here in blindfolds and handcuffs. They didn’t speak at all until we arrived. I remember being on an airplane and then a big vehicle. A bus, maybe. We were all so scared. Well, almost everyone. It seems like ages ago when I first met Alyssa. She was so strong and refused to break down and cry. She said it would only give them the satisfaction they wanted, but I couldn’t keep myself from falling apart.” [Pause] “Alyssa was part of the second group from our cell that was sent into that place. I don’t even know how to describe it other than to say that it looks like something left over from an—“ [Section missing] “—ion. Despite how frightened I am, I feel a sense of awe when I look at it. The architecture is unlike any I’ve ever seen. How could something like this exist un—“ [Crackle] “I told Alyssa about my suspicions, but she didn’t care much about my theories. She focused only on our escape. The rest of us never felt like we had a chance, but she refused to give up.” [Pause] “God, I miss her so much.” [Pause] “When they came for her, I think we all knew what was about to happen. We lost all hope. Still, there was a part of me that believed she would come back. I refused to believe that anything could stop Alyssa. She wasn’t a soldier, but she was just, I don’t know, different somehow from the rest of us. Phillip used to call her ‘Bitch on Earth’ because he thought that she was scarier than any kind of hell.” (Laughs) ”And yet, she wound up disappearing too. Just like the rest.” [Pause] “Yesterday I saw a blinding blue glow coming from that place. What was that? Please be alright, Alyssa. We need you.”

[Section missing]

“I don’t know how this is legal. Aren’t there laws to prevent this type of treatment? That’s why I took this recorder. The carelessness of that guard leaving it behind might be our only hope for rescue. At the very least, it could be the last chance to document of our final days. They would kill me if they knew I had it, but I don’t care. Any day now it will be my turn to go in and then I’ll be dead anyway. Maybe death be better than this. Whoever finds this, just know that we were here. [Crackle] “ I hope this tape is found some day. If we can’t be saved, then I hope our story can help save the others like us. There’s just so much that I don’t know or understand. I think that’s what is scaring me the most. What is happening to the others when they send us into that—that thing? Listen. You can hear their screams even now.” (Crying) ”Are they real? I can’t even tell anymore. I hear them inside my head all the time. So much pain.”

[Section missing]

“Shit! Here they come! They’re right outside the door, I need to—“ [Crackle] “Wait. It can’t be! Is that really you?” [Crackle] “Aly—“ [Crackle] (Screaming)



I will never forget the day that I first heard that recording, nor will I forget the events that led up to it. That message was recovered from a government issued tape recorder at the area formally known as Location 2208-C on October 16th, 1948. It’s hard to believe that it was nearly two years ago when I first heard it. I still remember it all like it was yesterday. So much has happened over the past three years and the world has not looked the same to me since. I suppose it will ever look the same to me again. The unsuspecting people of this world were carrying on about their everyday lives, completely clueless as to the dangers that had been lurking beneath them for centuries. A great battle was waged and many lives were lost. It was one of the most tragic events to ever happen in the history of humanity and the people of the world don’t even know the story… but they’re about to.

My name is Miller Brinkman and I am, rather, I was a private detective for the better part of my adult life. Murder is a rare occurrence in a place like Ashley Falls, but it does happen from time to time. No matter how much on the job training you receive, there is no way to prepare for the horrors that you will see. I had nothing but respect for the brave men who fought tirelessly to protect our community, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant for me.

Nevertheless, I still had a special place in my heart for helping other people, and I knew that I was meant to put it to good use somehow in this crazy world. I suppose you could say that the desire to protect people was my calling, if you’re the type of person who believes in that sort of thing. To me, there was no greater feeling in the world than the sensation I got from helping others who couldn’t otherwise help themselves. So, I decided to become a private investigator. My client base was limited to folks with what the Sheriff’s boys would consider minor needs, petty complaints, but I didn’t mind that at all. To me, there was no case too insignificant to pursue.

I investigated things like crooked business partners accused of taking a little extra off the top, or lowlife con men trying to scam honest folks out of a few extra bucks. I was once even called upon to put a preacher under surveillance by a jealous wife who thought that her husband had been pursuing interests outside of their home other than scripture. I kept an eye on the preacher for about a week, and was happy to report back to her and tell her that her suspicions were unfounded. As it turned out, the good wife did not allow even a drop of alcohol in the house, and the preacher couldn’t seem to completely exorcise his internal desire for the occasional glass of wine in the evening. That was about as exciting as things ever got around these parts.

Ashley Falls sits on a sprawling piece of land, but much of it goes unused and the actual town itself only consists of three main parts. You’ve got the farm lands, which run along the river, then the residential area where most people live, and finally the sizeable unpaved downtown area which houses the shops, the diner, the church, the bank, the bar, and other things of the like. Outside of these main sections is a vast wooded area that encircles the town. It was a strategic location for the American patriots during the Revolutionary War because the woods helped to fortify their hideouts.

On the outskirts of town is a place called Sunset Hill, which is a popular spot for the younger people. I recall spending a lot of time there in my youth as well. It’s located near a sheer cliff where the river that runs through town, drops off into a waterfall, and connects to a sister river at the bottom many feet below. Because of its elevation, it does provide a beautiful view of the sky and the world below it. It faces the setting sun at dusk, which is as gorgeous as anything you could ever put on a postcard, and obviously is how it gets its name. I had once asked the Mayor if the name Sunset Hill had been chosen because they’d finally run out of family names, but all that seemed to do was illicit a dirty look. I’ve never been able to prove it, but I feel confident that my votes haven’t been counted during an election ever since.

Sunset Hill is a great name, though, and at least it was awarded its name because of something pleasant that makes people feel good, unlike our town.

As the story goes, back during the time of the Revolutionary War, there was a family that settled out here amidst the beauty and marvel of the lands. They were the first family to ever call this place home, as best anyone can tell. Because of the secluded nature of the area, it was a popular piece of land for those opposing the British to seek shelter and plan their next move.

One night, British soldiers were in the area chasing after an escaped American patriot who had caused quite a ruckus. The soldiers found the home of the Carroll family, and were convinced that the patriot must be seeking refuge inside. They stormed the front door and questioned the frightened family, but no answer they could give was deemed acceptable to the soldiers. The Carroll’s were accused of harboring a fugitive, and told that they would face certain death if they continued to defy the crown. Just then, a pale child with curly red hair made her way down the staircase, with her favorite doll clutched by its arm in her right hand. Seeing an opportunity, one of the soldiers grabbed the child violently and demanded that they give up the fugitive, or the child would suffer as punishment. The Carroll’s pleaded with the soldiers, and maintained that they knew nothing of a fugitive. They were just ordinary farmers living a quiet life out in the woods.

Angered and frustrated, the soldiers finally lost their patience, and bound the family at the wrists. They marched them through the woods and to a clearing where they spotted the cliffs. They forced the man and his wife to their knees and told them they had just one last chance to surrender the fugitive. Sobbing uncontrollably, and still without an answer, they could only plead for the mercy of the British soldiers. In a fit of rage, one of the soldiers grabbed the little girl and lifted her up on to his shoulder. He then walked over to the edge, and dropped the petrified girl over the waterfall to her death.

Stricken with immense sadness and rage, the man got to his feet and charged at the soldier in front of him. With two shots from his pistol, the other soldier downed the man before he could reach his target. The two men then cut the woman loose and instructed her that she was to live, and tell the story of what happens to those who oppose Britain. The woman wrote down her horrific story in a journal and left it out on a table in the front room of her home before taking her own life with a blade from the kitchen. In the journal, she mentioned wanting to find the afterlife so that she might seek the forgiveness of her darling Ashley.

When discovered by colonists looking to establish a township years later after the war had ended, the settlers decided to name their new home Ashley Falls to honor the memory of the poor child spoken of in the sad tale left behind. The Carroll’s home, now treated as a historical monument by the town’s leaders, still stands to this day. People are allowed to visit it and pay their respects, but are not permitted inside. It has sat there uninhabited for over a hundred and fifty years, and has become fodder for many generations of local ghost stories. I still remember my grandfather spinning yarns when I was a child that scared me half to death!

Life in Ashley Falls was pretty quiet most of the time. It might have even been considered dull by some standards, but it was a tightly knit community of mostly honest people just doing their best to get by. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone else, which wasn’t all that hard to do with a population of roughly 4,200 people. It wasn’t the kind of place that people from the outside desired to move into, and the people who were already there rarely had any interest in moving out.

There’s an inside joke about Ashley Falls that goes something like “stick around long enough, and you’re bound to have something named after you.” Well, it’s probably not all that funny of a joke, but I suppose that depends on your familiarity with Ashley Falls. Most everything here is named after one family or another. Either our town does it in an effort to pay respect to the families that made our community great, or they’re just severely lacking in creativity.

Most of the families that live there have been there for several generations. Around these parts, most families are either farmers or shop owners. Visitors from the city come to stock up on fresh produce, or to purchase quality hand-made goods from the shops, and then they’re gone just as quickly as they came. It’s the life and survival of a small town, and we embrace it. People from here don’t dream of growing up and becoming politicians or lawyers. Especially not since the war ended. People dream of preserving Ashley Falls exactly how it is, and living in a community of people that are just as much a family as their own parents.

The legend of the haunted Carroll home became a staple of our little community. Parents used those stories to scare their misbehaving children, and the school kids would then use those stories at sleepovers and play tricks on the first person to fall asleep. The story has changed many times over the years, but I remember the version from when I was a child.

My grandfather said that Lady Carroll would walk through the town at the stroke of midnight every night looking for her darling Ashley. She would peek into the windows of every child’s bedroom and take the ones that were awake instead of sleeping like they were supposed to. There was a two year period in my youth where I was starting to go to bed at around eight o’clock to insure that I would be fast asleep long before midnight came around. My parents always loved to tell that story whenever I started hanging around with new friends, or God forbid a girlfriend. It was all in good fun, but everyone understood the seriousness of the source material.

My mother once thought that I was going to move to the city one day and become a famous writer or some nonsense like that. I will always remember the day that she referred to me as a genius while talking to some of her friends. She loved it when I would bring home my written stories from school because she thought they were so creative. She’d ask to read them right away, and when she was done, she’d pin them up on the kitchen wall so that she could read them again while preparing supper. I never did envision myself as a writer, though I did win an award in school once for my report on Ashley Carroll, but I’m not trying to boast.

Years later, after my folks had passed, I pretty much gave up on writing all together, but I never forgot what they had taught me about finding my own way in this life. I owed them that. It wasn’t long afterwards that I took up an interest in law enforcement, which then eventually led to me opening up shop downtown. The day that I officially had opened my very own practice was the proudest day of my life. It was quite the accomplishment for me back then, and to think about it now reminds me of a very happy time of my life.

Working downtown took a lot of getting used to for me. Since I essentially grew up on the mill, I didn’t have many occasions to go downtown as a child. Once in a while, dad would let me go to the bank with him, or mom would take me shopping for new school clothes when I grew out of the old ones, but we pretty much kept to our side of town. I remember how much smaller the downtown area was when I was a child. Our little town has done some growing over the years.

Ashley Falls certainly isn’t the type of life for everyone, but I’d say that most of its people are very happy. From time to time, you’d hear rumblings from people that didn’t quite see things that way, and would convince themselves that there was a better life waiting for them in the city. One such person comes to mind, as a matter of fact. Coincidentally enough, it’s the very person whose story started a chain reaction of events that came to an end with the discovery of her recorded message.

The Jumper: Overview

It’s an exciting time around here! As I type this, my next book, a novella titled The Jumper, is nearing completion and will be releasing in the next few weeks. Earlier this week I unveiled the final cover art, so it seemed only fitting that it was time to give you a sneak peek at the story behind the art. I thank you for your continued support and look forward to being able to share the book with you. Check back soon for the opportunity to download the first chapter for free!


When the real estate market collapsed, so too did R.C. Dawson’s retirement plan, forcing him back into the workplace at 54 years old. He took the night custodian job at a youth community center, thinking he’d get to enjoy the peace and quiet. He was wrong.

The community center was a beautiful old building with a dark secret. It was the home to a mysterious shadow figure they called “The Jumper,” an innocent looking teenage boy harboring a rage that prevented him from moving on.

R.C. now finds himself on a chilling collision course with a powerful force, a 25-year old mystery, and a night he’ll never forget.

The Jumper

The crumbling economy affected us all differently. A “recession,” they called it. Well I’ll tell you one thing. Their RE-cession was a helluva lot more like a DE-pression, if you ask me. So there I was, a grown ass man at 54 years old and lookin’ through the God damn classifieds like a school kid lookin’ for a paper route. Forty years since the first day I started workin’ and I was tired. Damn tired. Too damn tired to be lookin’ for a job at 54, I’ll tell ya that much. But what more could I do? I thought I was smart. I thought I had saved enough of my precious pennies for a rainy day like the damn bankers always told me to do, only someone forgot to tell them that it was possible for the market to come tumblin’ down some day. I guess I can’t blame ‘em. If you had told me that the economy was gonna collapse back then, I’da knocked your damn head off and called ya crazy.

So there I was, lookin’ in the wanted ads. Pickens were slim and this beggar couldn’t afford to be too damn choosey. I circled the ad for a night custodian and gave them a call. When I retired, I sure as hell didn’t think I’d be comin’ out of retirement to be wipin’ up piss off the floor, but it was a job and they couldn’t fill the position. Knowing that, that shoulda been my first clue to keep on lookin’. I panicked and when they offered me the job, I pounced on it. The pay was good. Too good. That shoulda been my second clue to keep on lookin’ for another job, but I was blinded by all them damn dollar signs. I knew it wasn’t gonna be the proudest work a man like myself could get, but at that price, I wasn’t sure I was gonna be carin’ all that much about my pride.

These folks didn’t tell me much about their company and I wasn’t too keen on the askin’. If I just kept my nose, and them floors clean, then the paychecks would keep on comin’. The lady that hired me told me that they were some type of non-profit organization and did some type of charity work, but beyond that, I wasn’t askin’. And I was fine not askin’ questions. That was until my first night on the job when I met the day custodian during our shift change. He seemed like a decent fella. I asked him if he had any words of advice and he simply said, “don’t piss him off and you’ll be fine.” Before I could ask just what in the hell that was supposed to mean, he was off like a flash.

My first night on the job was memorable and that’s underselling it. I was told to only clean the bottom floor and under no circumstance was I ever to go upstairs at night. That probably shoulda been my third and final clue to start packin’, but I couldn’t seem to listen to my own common sense. The only thought ever in my damn mind was that pile of bills next to the night stand that wasn’t gonna be gettin’ any smaller by me not workin’. The lady told me to bring headphones and that listenin’ to music was gonna make the job a little easier to swallow. I’m too old to be carryin’ my record player around town and I’m sure as hell too old for one of them damn fancy music gadgets that all the kids are wearin’.

After moppin’ floors for a couple of hours, I started to hear voices. Ain’t that some shit? First I was goin’ poor, then following that up with goin’ crazy. I was alone in the building, but I know I was hearin’ someone talkin’. I called out and said “hello,” but I never did hear nothin’ back and that was fine by me. I went back to work, but after a while, I started hearin’ them damn voices again. They were coming from upstairs. Now when someone tells me there’s somewhere I ain’t supposed to be, I’m gonna listen, but if there was someone that had done snuck into the building, they sure as hell weren’t gonna catch this fella with his pants down. I may be old, but I ain’t goin’ down without swingin’.

I climbed up them stairs to the second floor and it seemed normal enough. That’s when I saw him for the first time. It was just a corner of my eye kinda thing, but these eyes hadn’t done failed me yet, so I know what I saw. I began walkin’ towards where I’d seen him, but there was no one there. I could smell this horrible stench that I could only best describe as the smell of someone pissing on freshly poured bleach. It was so potent that I almost passed out. It seemed to be comin’ from the bathroom. Against my better judgment, with my t-shirt pulled up from under my uniform to cover my mouth, I stumbled into the bathroom and it was filthy. It was like a gas station bathroom, only makin’ that gas station bathroom look clean enough to eat off the floor. It was so damn nasty that I emptied my dinner into the sink and then got out of there as fast I could.

When I got out of the bathroom, I walked into the lobby and there he was. He looked like just your average teenage white boy in need of his father’s belt and a damn haircut. Now I ain’t no coward, but this white boy done stare at me in a way that made my skin scrawl with all kinds of goosebumps. It was like he was starin’ at my soul, or maybe through it, I don’t know which. Before I could say a word, he smiled at me with the creepiest damn smile you did ever seen, then turned and ran towards the open window before jumping out of it. I yelled for him to stop, but he didn’t respond. I ran to the window expectin’ to see this poor kid splattered on the pavement, but there wasn’t a damn thing on the ground below. I knew that was some damn freaky shit I just seen and was so startled that I backed away from the window until I made contact with something behind me. I turned to look and it was him. He was covered in blood from head to toe and was still starin’ at me with that same creepy ass smile as before. He let out a scream and lunged towards me. I thought this was the end of ole’ R.C. for sure, so I closed my eyes tight and braced myself to meet my maker.

Then there was silence. I opened my eyes and I was all alone again in the room. The smell was gone and the window was closed up. No sooner than I cried out “fuck this” was all the time it took me to drop my mop, punch my time card and get the hell out of that freak show… but I’d be back. No sir, my story doesn’t end there. Not by a long shot…