Short Story: “04/05/94”

Introduction: Independent authors Brendan Swogger, Tony Healey, and I have been giving each other little short story prompts over the past several months. It started off as a fun way to keep our minds sharp, but quickly turned into a game where the three of us try to outdo one another.

It was Brendan’s turn to supply a new prompt, and this is what he came up with: “A man finds a penny on the ground. What happens next?”

I mulled this prompt over for far too long, fearing that Brendan had finally managed to stump me. Then an idea came to me that was a little abstract, but I thought maybe I could work with it. Below is the story that I came up with. I hope that you’ll like it. Also be sure to check out Brendan and Tony’s offerings on their respective websites as well.


By: David K. Hulegaard

Theresa’s phone call woke me up at 11:03 a.m. on Friday, April 8th, 1994. I remember because my first blurry-eyed reaction was to smack the SNOOZE button on my alarm clock, trying to get it to shut up. Once I had realized my mistake, I cleared my throat and then picked up the receiver, managing to produce a barely coherent, “Hello?” that sounded as though I had been gargling gravel.

With school being out, I had stayed up most of the previous night playing Super Nintendo, finally deciding on a bed time somewhere in the neighborhood of 5:00 a.m. The phone call had interrupted my plan of sleeping in past lunch time.

Theresa’s voice was bright and perky as always, which annoyed the shit out of me in my sleep deprived state, though, in fairness I had only myself to blame for forgetting to turn the phone’s ringer off. She also spoke in long stretches without a breath, spitting out more sentences per second than most people can generate within an entire conversation.

“Did I wake you up? Were you sleeping? I’m sorry. What are you doing? Do you need to eat? Do you need me to let you go? That sucks about Kurt Cobain,” she fired out in rapid succession. It was typical of our usual phone calls, only I lacked the patience to grin and bear it that morning.

As I was about to bring the conversation to an abrupt end and get some more shuteye, the sound of her voice saying “Kurt Cobain” lingered in my head, taking its sweet time to finally register.

“Wait… what?” I said.

“Yeah, you didn’t hear? They found Kurt Cobain’s body. He killed himself. So sad.”

I rubbed my eyes, still very groggy from the unceremonious wake-up call. I could hear her words, but I could not process them. I was alert enough to know that it was April, so I concluded that Theresa was attempting to play an April Fools’ joke on me, albeit a not very funny one. I could foster no reaction other than to lie there in stunned silence while I waited for her to spring the punch line on me, but it never came. Kurt was gone.

Like most other seventeen year olds at that time, I was devastated by Kurt’s death. I felt as though I had lost a close friend despite the fact that I had never met him. The thing about Kurt Cobain was that you didn’t need to meet him to know him. He was stitched into every composition he’d ever written, intricately layering his deepest, inner-most thoughts into every line, sometimes appearing as though he was speaking in code. Kurt wasted very little words, and even the most seemingly nonsensical lyrics were all a part of the world as he saw it. He didn’t care if you ‘got’ it or not, he just encouraged you to come along for the ride.

The day following Kurt’s reported death was a Saturday. I had not slept well and forced myself out of bed at a reasonable hour. My parents were already awake, eating breakfast together at the kitchen table, a two-seater that was little more than a glorified desk. Upon hearing the click of my bedroom door closing, my dad turned to look at me over his shoulder, almost tipping over the full glass of orange juice beside his left elbow. He scrambled to bury a section of newspaper underneath a pile of the morning edition.

As I staggered down the hallway into the kitchen, my eyes locked on the stack of newspapers.

“What are you trying to hide?” I asked my father.

My parents’ eyes met, followed by my dad letting out an over exaggerated sigh. He moved aside a collection of papers and uncovered the front page for me to see. Kurt Cobain’s angelic blue eyes stared back at me from beneath the headline, “Soaring Spirit, Fallen Star.” It was only then that I had shed my first tears over the news, as if somehow the reality had failed to sink in until that moment.

My mother got up from the table and put her arms around me.

“I’m so sorry, honey,” she said, kissing the top of my head.

“I don’t understand why you were trying to hide it, though,” I said, resting my head against my mother’s shoulder. “It happened yesterday. I already knew.”

My dad swished a sip of juice back and forth inside his mouth before swallowing and wiping his lips with a napkin.

“Well, son. Your mother and I just weren’t sure how you were going to react, so we just wanted to be cautious.”

“Cautious?” I pulled away from my mother’s touch. “As in you thought I might try to kill myself just because Kurt Cobain did?”

My mother moved over to my dad’s side and gently rubbed her hand on his back.

“We just know how much he meant to you, and we wanted to make sure you were okay first. We know he was your idol.”

I was livid. My “idol?” Like I was some mindless lemming that followed the herd over the cliff, incapable of independent thought? The glass had shattered, giving light to the truth about how my parents actually saw me, and that hurt even more than Kurt’s death. I stormed off back down the hallway and into my room, shutting the door behind me with enough force to let them know I was not to be disturbed.

The first Nirvana song I listened to after Kurt’s death was “All Apologies.” I didn’t know why at the time, but I just had to hear that song. Looking back now, it makes perfect sense. Subconsciously I knew that it would be the last Nirvana song to ever be recorded. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that my assumption would prove to be incorrect, but I would not receive that clarification for another eight years.

As I laid on my bed, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark sticker constellations on the ceiling, hands folded beneath my head, and listening to the music, I remembered something. It was the sight of my mom sobbing uncontrollably in front of the television when I was a child, no more than four years old at the time. I had never seen her cry before, which in turn, caused me to cry. My mother wrapped her arm around my waist and pulled me into her grasp as she wiped her eyes with a tissue in her other hand.

On the television were lots of police cars and flashing lights. People holding microphones and talking to the camera as lines of white text scrolled across the bottom of the screen. I could not follow what was going on, but I knew that whatever it was hurt my mother deeply.

Then it clicked: That was the day that John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in Manhattan. I realized right then that while age may separate the different generations of people, the pain felt from losing an artist so near and dear to your heart was universal.

It has been over eighteen years since Kurt Cobain’s death, and the sun continues to rise and set as it always has, each day serving as another step forward from that tragic day. The pain has subsided with time, but the impact of his music has not tarnished by a single day.

I never fear that Kurt will become just a distant memory from a time gone by in my life. At no point during the past eighteen years have I heard a single piece of music that could move me like Kurt’s did, and something tells me that I never will again.

It’s funny to be thinking about all of this again. These thoughts are never far away from my mind, but never find their way passed my lips. Every so often, a random event or a conversation with a person can trigger these moments of reflection. One such event occurred today.

I walked out from the grocery story, plastic bags in each hand, and clumsily dropped the change from my purchase. I sat the bags down and stooped to gather up the coins. The lone penny in the bunch, its copper all shiny and clean, reflected the sun’s bright rays into my eyes and obscured my view.

When my vision returned, I noticed the date mark of 1994 stamped onto the coin’s face. I smiled and slid it into the breast pocket of my sky blue button-up. They say if you find a penny and pick it up, all that day you’ll have good luck. I don’t know about any of that, but at the very least, it provided me with a few moments of joy as I remembered my “idol,” and the twenty plus years of entertainment he left behind.

Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6 Review & Author Interview

Available now for Kindle
By comparison to life on Seneca 6, the old West depicted on the silver screen is about as wild as a kindergarten class dancing around the maple pole. The denizens on this ol’ mining rock are facing a rise in outlaw related activity, and the impending revolt of the planet’s native people. The townsfolk need a lawman. A man that won’t turn yellow in the face of danger. Sheriff Jem Clayton has faced insurmountable odds before–even lived to tell the tale–but something sinister is a’brewin’… something that not even Jem will be able to face alone.

Through the eyes of author Bernard Shaffer, the world of Seneca 6 has been greatly expanded upon in this follow-up novel, and Schaffer invites you to come play in his sandbox while his masterpiece unfolds around you.

As with all of Schaffer’s works, the reader will be able to count on two things: 1. Unparalleled character development. Each character’s path through the story is chronicled in meticulous detail, showcasing a broad range of emotion that is easy for the reader to feel. 2. Perfect pacing. Whether writing a flashback scene to flesh out the backstory, or carefully sprinkling hints at impending doom, Schaffer insures that the reader can sense something big lurking right around the corner.

Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6 is everything that a sequel should be. It’s bigger, badder, and packs one hell of a wallop! It’s somehow both new and familiar all at the same time. Fans of the first book will enjoy getting to see their old favorites return, while also becoming attached to the newbies stepping into the spotlight to shine.

Also, for new readers looking to take a chance on the series, this book is a completely stand-alone adventure, meaning that knowledge of the first book isn’t required, but encouraged.

The best thing about this series is that you don’t have to be a fan of Westerns to enjoy it. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the story, and with this book Schaffer has written something truly, well, magnificent.

Interview with Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6 author Bernard Schaffer

Thanks for stopping by during this exciting time to talk to us about your new book, Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6. First of all, congratulations! How are you feeling?

David, thank you for having me back. Congratulations to you as well. One of the best things about the Kindle All-Stars is that the core group of people involved have stuck together and evolved. I’m proud of you for all your hard work this year.

I feel good. I’m really looking forward to releasing this book. It’s strange to love something you create, not as a product but as a place. I write about Seneca 6 because in my heart, I wish it were real. Someday I’d like to ask JK Rowling if she felt depressed every time she finished one of the Potter books. I always feel bummed out when I have to leave.

Readers might remember from earlier interviews that you’re always working on multiple projects at the same time. How long had you been working on MGoS6?

I officially started work on it April 30, 2012. I only know that because Word says that’s when I created the file. I have earlier notes that go back to last year.

Upon the completion of Guns of Seneca 6, how long did it take before ideas for a sequel started coming to you?

Probably right away, but not many of them got used. I needed time to let everything gel into a coherent story. The ideas rolled in like trains and I’d greet them at the station and dutifully record whatever they were carrying. Eventually, I figured it all out.

So, Magnificent takes place a year following the events of the first book. Give us a quick overview of what’s happening in Seneca 6.

Guns ended with Jem Clayton taking over for his father as the Sheriff. Jem is a pretty badass character and as I sat down to write about him being in his office, all these little townsfolk kept coming in to bug him with their petty grievances. As I wrote it I realized that Jem would be thinking the same thing I am. “Get me the hell out of here.”

Ultimately, Magnificent Guns of Seneca 6 is about following our own destiny. Jem starts off as a Sheriff because he thinks it’s what he’s supposed to do. Haeinwa’tha goes off on a quest because it’s what he’s expected to do. Ultimately, their interpretations of their “perceived destinies” is what gets them into trouble.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be “scope.” There’s a lot going on in Seneca 6 and a large cast of characters in motion. Was expanding its figurative universe a conscious decision going in, or did it just sort of develop that way as you went along?

I realized early on that Seneca as a planet is much bigger than one little settlement. Look at Earth. We’ve got arctic regions, deserts, rain forests and more. Life of all different varieties exists everywhere you look. You can see drastic change just by jumping in your car and driving for a little while. Seneca is a lot more remote than we are, but I have yet to fully explore it in my mind. Who really knows what lies beyond the wasteland?

That being said I wanted to fully develop the area we’re focused on. I wanted to explain exactly who the Beothuk are as a rich and varied people of multiple tribes, much like our own Native Americans.

I also liked the idea of bringing Bob Ford back. In the first book, he’s pretty much a patsy for Jem’s Gentleman Jim. Something that gets thrown away. I wanted to explore what happens when you throw someone away and they come back.

In the original Guns of Seneca 6, Jem Clayton was the clear lead character. In Magnificent, it appears as though Seneca 6 itself has become the real star. Talk about what you learned from writing the first book and how that played into your creative process with the sequel.

Each of the characters was already a living, breathing thing by the second book. If you notice, I didn’t introduce anybody we’ve already met. There’s no preface. If you’re reading Magnificent Guns, I assume you already know whats going on. We just get down to business.

Speaking of your creative process, is it different for each series that you write? With Whitechapel, you maintained a painstakingly detailed timeline on a whiteboard next to your desk. With Superbia, you were able to draw from your own personal experience on the force. How does Bernard Schaffer prepare for a book rooted almost entirely in fiction?

It’s by far the easiest because I can just let fly. The Whitechapel books are difficult because they are constrained by reality. Timelines, vernacular, anachronism, all must be considered. Not always followed, as some of my British reviewers so kindly pointed out, but yes, considered.

Superbia is more a case of saying, “All right, I know what happened. A whole bunch of other people know what happened. How do I tell the story but tweak it enough to keep it interesting and fictional?”

For the Guns books, I just need to be in the mood. I included my Guns iPod playlist in the Acknowledgments section to pay homage to the songs that kept my fires going.

Guns of Seneca 6 was described by many reviewers as a steampunk/western hybrid with elements of science fiction. MGoS6, while still steampunk, appears to have left the sci-fi elements behind in favor of a more traditional Wild West flavor. Did you find that your influences varied a bit between the two books?

It was more of keeping the story consistent with who the people in the story are. The stars of this book don’t really have access to too much technology, so it doesn’t play that big of a role. And generally, when they do get their hands on some, it goes badly.

Readers got a taste of the native people of Seneca 6’s culture in the first book, but the Beothuk are at the heart of the story in Magnificent. Giving life to that culture, including language, must have been exhausting. How did you go about its creation?

I’ve spent an ample amount of time with Native Americans. My old partner is a Seminole, and through him I’ve been exposed to their culture in ways that I could never have imagined. Anything you see about the Beothuk in the Guns series begins with what I believe to be true about the American Indian. Most of the language in the books derive from Native American words, including the names of the main Natives who are based on real people.

The seed for the Beothuk involvement with this story began a long time ago with one of my mother’s friends.
It’s a common joke among Natives that every white person they meet has a grandmother who was a Cherokee princess. I’ve seen it happen.

My mother’s friend is kind of daffy, I mean, she’s a sweetie and would do anything for you, but you understand what I mean. So, long story short, I was telling her how we’d just gotten back from a powwow and her eyes kind of glazed over. “Those are my people,” she said. “All of my life I’ve felt a special connection to them and have visions of being one of them. I bet if I went to a powwow and TOLD them that, they would take me in as one of their own.” Yeah. Because the Native Americans have nothing better to do than adopt needy old white ladies, right?

History has really done a grave disservice to the American Indian. We’ve turned them into some sort of fairy tale. I suppose that’s better than the Scary Red Injun John Wayne preferred, but I’m not so sure all this post-Dances With Woves/ casino wealth myth is any better. Ask any average American if people are lucky to be Native American. I bet they say yes. I bet they say all Natives got rich off casinos. Meanwhile poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse is running rampant on most reservations. Christ, I sound like Marlon Brando. I can’t apologize for it though. It’s a serious issue.

Your ability to create rich, entertaining characters is well-documented. Readers always have a hard time identifying their favorites. What about you? Is there a personal favorite for you within MGoS6?

I love Sam Clayton. It’s one of those things because I killed him off so early in the first book but he just looms over everything. I’m still not done writing about Sam, though. Or Tom Masters, for that matter.

The other character I adore is Bug. It’s funny but I call them their nicknames in my head. To me, he’ll always be Bug, the daredevil child doing tricks on the back of his destrier.

Since you love to bury hidden references within your books, any hints to the readers as to what area of knowledge they should brush up on in preparation?

I think anyone who knows the history of the Old West is going to love the books. For the people who don’t, they are in for a treat because the Western genre is as deep as any other. If someone reads Guns and decides to watch “The Wild Bunch” or go read a Ron Hansen book, I did my job. If they go to a powwow and experience Native culture (without, somehow, managing to tell everyone about their Cherokee princess relative) then it’s a win.

I certainly didn’t invent the Western, or the sci-fi Western, or Steampunk Western. I’m just doing my part to carry on the tradition.

Without spoiling anything for the reader, I will just say that you’ve certainly left enough slack at the end of this book to pick up later. Are you already thinking about a third Seneca 6 book somewhere down the road?

A few people have called Magnificent Guns my Empire Strikes Back. I can promise you two things. One, the Guns of Seneca 6 will return. Two, it won’t have any Ewoks or music numbers.

You’ve got an amazing Superbia series. You’ve got an amazing Seneca 6 series. You’ve got amazing collections of short stories. You’ve talked about your impending return to Whitechapel, but you’ve been unusually quiet as of late about your upcoming plans. So, what’s next for Bernard Schaffer?

I learned earlier this year that I needed to shut my trap about my plans. Nobody cares what you say you will do. It’s what you finish and deliver that counts. From here on out, I’m only discussing projects that are definite.

Each series has its own audience, and my goal is to make every release from now on a major event.
I feel like my writing is only growing stronger and I want to bring that to Superbia 3 and Whitechapel 2. If you liked what came before, find something to hold onto because I’m not swinging for the fences anymore. I’m trying to put it out of the stadium.

For more information about Bernard Schaffer, please visit his official website

Short Story: Road Trip

INTRODUCTION: Brendan Swogger, Tony Healey and I are at it again. We had so much fun with our little creative writing exercise a couple of weeks ago that we thought it was time to give it another go. This time, the prompt was short and sweet:

A bored kid sits in the backseat on a road trip. Something abnormal in the sky catches his eye. Go.

Knowing Tony like I do, I expected him to indulge in his passion for UFOs, so I knew that I had to try something completely different with my submission. You can read Tony’s short story “Ray” here.

Brendan, on the other hand, is a wild card. That kid is so creative that I never know just what angle he’s going to come from. I only know that he’s going to blow my mind with whatever he writes. At the time of this posting, Brendan had not yet submitted his story, but when he does, it can be found here.

As for mine, read on below. I went a little abstract this time out. I hope you’ll like it!

Road Trip

By: David K. Hulegaard

Oswald’s lips glistened with drool as he mashed the buttons on his GameBoy. His eyes followed the action on the tiny green-tinted screen with intensity until the LOW BATTERY light flashed, then the picture went blank. He slapped the side of his GameBoy in frustration, trying to eke out one last drop of juice from the batteries, but it was no use. He dropped the device hard onto the seat beside him.

“What’s the matter, Oz?” His father asked, looking into the rearview mirror.

“The stupid batteries died, and I was just about to beat the Green Goblin.” Oswald folded his arms across his chest and pouted. “It’s so stupid!”

Oswald’s mother turned around in her seat to face him. “Didn’t you bring extra batteries, sweetie? We told you this was going to be a long trip. Remember?”

“Yes, mom,” Oswald sighed. “I did bring extra batteries, but I used all those up too. This sucks!”

“Okay, okay, Ozzie.” His mother rubbed his knee. “Let’s not get all worked up about it. When we do our next stop for gas, we’ll buy some more. All right?”

“Well, when’s that gonna be? We’ve been driving forever.”

“It shouldn’t be too much longer, Ozzie.” His mother turned up the volume on the radio. “We’ll listen to some music. Just try and relax, and we’ll be there before you know it.”

Oswald hated listening to the radio with his parents. For a nine year old boy, it was torture. The dial never left the Oldies station on the AM band. Even worse, they somehow knew the lyrics to every track that came on, often enticing them to burst into song at high volume.

The booming voice of the disc jockey seemed to fill car, announcing Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” as the next tune.

“Honey!” Oswald’s mother gasped and squeezed her husband’s arm. “Remember this?”

“Are you kidding me?” He smiled. “How could I ever forget our first date? Even if you did originally show up just to meet my brother.”

“You stop that!” She smacked his arm, making him laugh so hard that he snorted. “It was your friend Arlene that set it up, as you may recall. Besides, one look at you and I knew it was never going to be between your brother and I.”

“And don’t think he’s not still sore about it.”

“Well, it all worked out for the best.” She leaned in and kissed her husband on the cheek, tracing light circles on his neck with her finger.

Oswald groaned and pretended to vomit.

His mother looked back at him and smirked. “Sorry, sweetie. You’ll understand one day.”

“I’m so bored!” Oswald whined. “Are we ever going to get there?”

“Here,” his father said, pressing a button on the dashboard. A panel dropped down above Oswald, exposing a sunroof. “Why don’t you recline your chair and lay back. You can look outside and watch the planes go by.”

“Fine,” Oswald grumbled. He turned the plastic black dial at the side of his seat until he was positioned flat on his back.

“That’s my boy,” his father said.

Oswald stared up at the murky sky through the glass. The blanket of gray clouds was so thick that it appeared still and endless. There was nothing to look at. No planes flying by to make believe were space shuttles returning from a mission to mars. There weren’t even any seagulls overhead to take aim at with his trusty invisible light zapper.

As Oswald continued to observe, he noticed a discoloration in the sky; a patch of clouds much darker—almost black—than the rest. The longer he kept his eyes on it, the more it appeared to contort and take shape.

“Mom? Dad?” Oswald said, almost in a whisper. “Do you see that?”

His parents did not hear him over the sound of their harmonized singing to the radio. Oswald was panicked, but could not tear his eyes away from the spot. He was afraid to even blink.

The darkened clouds began to take form. Oswald could see it clearly, the outline of a massive skeleton peering down from the heavens right at him. He squeezed the vinyl armrests beneath his sweaty palms.

“Mom? Dad?” He called out, his voice more shaky this time.

The skeleton’s giant mandible flapped up and down as though speaking, but Oswald could not hear what it was saying. His eyes stung and leaked fluid out the corners. The skeleton moved a leg, making its bony shell visible as it poked through the clouds. Oswald shut his eyes and squeezed them tight. He did not want to see any more.

“Mom! Dad!” He shouted.

Oswald’s cry startled his father. The car swerved toward the shoulder before he could correct it and regain control. His father took a deep breath and centered the car back in the lane.

“What on earth is the matter?” His mother asked, placing a hand over her heart.

“Look!” Oswald said, pointing up at the sky.

His mother leaned forward to look up through the windshield. “What am I looking at, sweetie?”

“What? You don’t see it?”

“All I see are clouds, Ozzie.”

Oswald cautiously opened his eyes, one at a time. He peeked out the sunroof through slits, no longer seeing the skeleton figure from before. He opened his eyes wider, but still saw nothing.

“I don’t understand. It was there!” Oswald returned his seat to an upright position. “I saw it!”

“Saw what?” His father asked.

“The thing in the sky! The skeleton!”

His parents exchanged glances and grinned.

“Perhaps you just fell asleep, Ozzie?” His mother said. “You were probably dreaming.”

“I wasn’t, though.” Oswald rubbed his eyes with his fists. “I know I was awake. I saw it!”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you, sweetheart.” His mother reached back to pat him on the leg. “There’s nothing there now.”

“You know what I’ll bet it was, Oz?” His father said. “You know how if you stare at the patterns on the ceiling long enough they start to turn into faces? That’s probably what happened with the clouds. With your imagination, you just made the boring old clouds turn into something more interesting to look at.”

“You think?” Oswald scratched his head.

“I’d bet money on it.” He winked at his son in the rearview mirror.

That explanation made sense to Oswald. He remembered a time when he had stayed home sick from school with his mother, and had stared at her chair for so long that it appeared to be rocking on its own. He had given himself a good scare over it, but learned a lesson about tricks the human brain can sometimes play.

The car passed a blue road sign that said GAS NEXT RIGHT. Oswald’s father flipped the turn signal and took an exit off the freeway.

“Here we are, buddy,” his father said. “When we get to the station I’ll give you some money to run in and buy some batteries while I fill up the tank. Sound good?”

“Thanks, dad.”

“And then, on to Longview!” His mom said, shaking her fist in celebration.

As the car approached a traffic signal at a quiet intersection, Oswald turned around in his seat to look out the back window. He saw the giant skeleton in the sky. Its fingers poked through the clouds and pushed them far enough apart to stick its head through the opening. Jade embers burned in its eye sockets as it cocked its head to the side and locked on to Oswald.

The car came to a stop. Oswald held his breath. A warm, damp sensation enveloped the front of his pants. The skeleton reached an arm out and waved goodbye as the light turned green and their car sped away.

Guest Post: Tony Healey – The Making of The Stars My Redemption Part 2


Guest Post by Tony Healey

The Sci-Fi Adventure Novel ‘The Stars My Redemption’ is released June 1st in the Kindle Store.

I pulled something at the bottom of my back and took a few days off work. I took painkillers and tried sitting in an armchair but it was too painful. The only relief I could get was to sit up at the dining table as straight as possible. So, in pain and a little doped up, I started writing on my laptop. I’d had an idea for something involving an amoral character killing everyone on a spaceship. And a week or so prior to me pulling my back I saw that there was a local short story competition. There were no set guidelines on what they would accept, only a word limit.

Seeing as I had nothing better to do, I started to write. I finished ‘Frank’ in a day or two, then let it rest. I edited it (I’m not very good at editing myself) and submitted it, thinking nothing more of it. A month or two went by, and then I heard from them. ‘Frank’ had made the long-list of 40 from about 150 submissions.

I thought ‘Maybe I’m not as bad a writer as I thought.’

I published ‘Frank’ onto the Kindle, and after getting a few positive reviews I had the bug. I thought of ways I could expand ‘Frank’ into something longer, and I was still mulling that over when Bernard Schaffer started up the Kindle All-Stars and said that he was putting together an anthology of short stories based on the kind of anthologies put together by Harlan Ellison. I thought ‘I can do something for that’ and so sat down to write ‘Redd.’

After that, I truly had the bug. I started to plot a story that could make use of both ‘Frank’ (now renamed ‘Beast’) and ‘Redd’ as flashback scenes. At the same time I was reading ‘The Stars My Destination’ by Alfred Bester. I thought ‘What if Abe isn’t so bad afterall? What if he’s tired of everything he’s been up to, and is open to change?’ Using Alfred Bester’s title as a starting point, I decided I’d call the novel ‘The Stars My Redemption.’

That was how it started. At the same time I was very interested in the idea of serial fiction; releasing a story in parts, one a time, like they did in the old days of Sci-Fi. The tradition dates back even further, of course, to the works of Dickens and other such writers. So I decided to write the novel in 3 parts, and release them one a month.

I had mixed results. For one thing, I didn’t hire an editor. I edited it myself. Big mistake. Whilst readers enjoyed it, they picked up on the fact that it hadn’t been properly edited. Also, as I came to realise when I published part 2, serializing work like that is one of those things with an ever decreasing return. The further on it goes, the less people remember to come back for the next part. Also, they will only buy it when it is free. The only way to truly serialize something, I feel now, is to release it for free on a website. Whether that means text on the screen, as in a blog post, or something the reader can download is up to the writer. But that is the only way to do it really.

However that is not to say that serializing work on the Kindle can’t work. I’m writing an ongoing series of short ebooks, in episodic format called The Honeycroft Series. These are released as and when I write them, but the difference is that each episode is self-contained, with its own arc. It’s different to cutting a novel into 3 and serializing it. With Honeycroft they’re all individual episodes that make a bigger whole. I like to think of it as being like a TV season.

So before part 3 was due to be finished up and published, I dropped the idea. I took both parts 1 and 2 off and decided to finish The Stars My Redemption up and just put it on there as a regular novel.

It didn’t happen. I started working on other stuff. I wrote several short stories. As is always the case with me, I went from one project to another without completing anything. And all the while TSMR sat on my computer, sort of finished, sort of not.

I had the ending half-written, but it wasn’t working for me. And the thought of tackling it didn’t exactly fill me with excitement. You see, there’s another problem with serializing something that isn’t finished, and that is that you have to finish it.

Also, when you have a lot of time in between finishing up and releasing each consecutive part, you lose interest. That’s what happened to me. It’s been a long learning curve for me, the writing of TSMR. I now see that the only way to write a novel is to sit down and actually write it. Start from the beginning, and write all the way to the very end. Hit full stop on that last sentence, go back to the beginning and start your next draft.

That’s the work ethic I am adopting now, as I write my second novel. It’s a bit different to TSMR in that it is not Sci-Fi and is set in World War Two, but I am applying what I learned from the writing of TSMR to get it out in a timely manner.

So anyway, there I was with my unfinished book. And then Laurie comes along. She works with me in editing my short story ‘Burial’ and then on ‘Dark Orb’. She says ‘What else are you working on?’ to which I email her a list of unfinished projects. Some I’ve started, some are just ideas. Some are merely the dream of an idea.

After seeing that, Laurie emailed back with ‘Firstly, you need to get organised. Start something. Finish it. And another thing, what’s happening with The Stars My Redemption?’

I said that it was ‘resting’. But even as I typed that I knew I was lying to myself. It wasn’t resting. I was putting off working on it. I was being the worst kind of writer, a lazy one.

Laurie told me in no uncertain terms that I should be working on it, that there were people out there waiting to read it. So I set to work. I rewrote the ending, then did a few more rewrites. Then we started editing.

I think that what’s coming out of the editorial process is a good novel. I think it works. Come June 1st I am confident that what readers will get when they purchase The Stars My Redemption will be a professional, well-written and well-edited book that they will enjoy. I have now come to realise that writing the book is only half the work. The other half comes in editing it to a polished, high standard.

We’re getting there with The Stars My Redemption. I learned a lot writing it. A hell of a lot. And you know what, having been knee deep in this book for weeks now, I am really enjoying it. I know I’ve got a good book on my hands. I’m confident about it.

I know that if readers have as much fun with the book as I have had working on it, then I’m doing all right.

PART 1 appeared 05/25 at Apiary Society

PART 3 will be appearing 05/27 at

Memorial Day Weekend Free Books Promotion

In the mood for a little reading this Memorial Day weekend? I’ve got you covered. May 26th and 27th only, four of my books will be up for grabs in the Amazon Kindle marketplace for FREE!

Included in the promotion are:

The Night Shift: This short story prequel to my paranormal mystery novella The Jumper follows the back story of community center custodian Craig Dixon. Craig’s terrifying encounter with the ghost of the community center is not a story that he likes to share with others. In The Night Shift, we found out why.

The Darby Forest: Two Tales of the Arachnolox: This creature double feature is a two-pack of cryptozoology goodness! The short stories “Bait and Switch” and “Prolific Mythic” come bundled together, giving the reader two different looks into the existence of the mythical Arachnolox. Does it really exist? Will the characters find it? Will they live to tell about it?

Strangers: This collection is packed with eight dark and twisted tales from the deep, morbid recesses of my mind. Inspired by actual people that I met during my travels over the years, Strangers explores the sometimes uglier side of humanity. How much do we really know about the people we travel with? Perhaps it’s better not to know.

Noble: Bloodlines: The second book in the Noble trilogy picks up two years after the events from the first book. Detective Miller Brinkman thought he could outrun the painful memories of his past… he was wrong. Leading a team of special agents tasked with stopping a sinister group of Jack the Ripper cultists, Miller reunites with an old nemesis along the way… and the new threat she brings along with her.

AMAZON US: Get ‘em here!

AMAZON UK: Get ‘em here!

Thank you for your support! I hope you’ll enjoy my books.

~ David K. Hulegaard

Guest Post: Angela White – Scenes of the Apocalypse #18: Side Effects

Scenes of the Apocalypse #18 – Side Effects

The Apocalypse could bring about horrors that we can’t accept now. It might make current problems worse or bring new ones, but the threat of side effects will be there either way. Who’s to say one of them wouldn’t be a new virus that makes people insane and sends them out looking for blood?

Did you know that there is currently a disease that has many of the symptoms as a Zombie? Called Nodding Disease, it’s scary to think the walking dead plague may have already arrived. Does that mean we are now living in the start of the Apocalypse? It would certainly explain why the CDC has an online page telling people what to do in the event of a Zombie-outbreak.

Zombies are only things of myth, legend, and the imagination, right? They exist in stories…but what if there was already a chemical that transformed people into raving lunatics with only violence in their minds? There is. Now imagine that chemical released on a Warhead, in a major city, during the Apocalypse. Within a year, the new rage disease would spread across the planet, consuming everything.

But what if it also mutated?

In my series, a nuclear war releases chemicals from foreign and US bombs and these toxins mutate current diseases into more lethal forms. One of those, I call Rage Walkers disease. It is the newest virus to challenge mankind’s stronghold on the earth.

“Seven very gifted survivors are destined to rebuild their country after a nuclear apocalypse…If they can stay alive long enough to find each other. Impossible to put down.” – The Review Blog

“What causes their eyes to do that? Do you have a theory?”

Luke sat his mug down so she wouldn’t see the way his hand shook. “None I care to share.”

“I have ideas of my own, you know.”

Luke grinned. “Are they naughty? We’ve got a few hours to kill.”

Kendle didn’t return the joke, too worried to be distracted so easily.

“I think it’s something from the War.”

That had Luke’s mind taking notes. He hadn’t thought of that. “Like a side effect?”

She was thumbing through one of the old magazines he’d dug out for her. “Chemical Warfare.”

“Our nukes didn’t have that shit.”

“But if there was a world war, not just our weapons were fired, right?”

LJ saw her point and found himself almost able to see where she was going. “If it were a gas, it could affect optic nerves, too…”

“Yes. I think parts of this island are contaminated with something that has side effects that include dementia, rages, and changes in appearance, like a mutation almost. Did you see the twitching the Mayor was doing when we first met him by the creek? Some type of chemical nerve agent is what I think.”

Full of realistic and fantasy situations, the Life After War series is a combination of more than 7 genres, so there’s a good chance of everyone liking it and learning a few things about survival at the same time. You can get a free copy at the link below, of the first book in the series. It’s free for all of this year to celebrate the possible end of the world on 12/21/2012.

Adrian’s Eagles: Three months after the War of 2012, Safe Haven refugee camp has made it to South Dakota and now holds six of the seven special survivors meant to lead the rebuilding of their country -but it can’t be done until they find a safe place to settle… and who can think of peace when there’s a huge camp of foreign invaders less than a day behind their group and they only want one thing? Safe Haven and everyone inside the light.

Watch the trailer for this series

Free-The Survivors-The bestselling novel that started it all.

See on iTunes

More Scenes of the Apocalypse

Btw, a huge thanks to David for hosting me on my Scenes of the Apocalypse release tour. Have you read Resistance Front yet? It’s only $0.99 and all the profits are being donated to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children! I just downloaded a copy to my Kindle. Gonna have a great summer of reading by the time I gather up all these new books!

Short Story: Oil Change

INTRODUCTION: Here in Oregon City, we have a fifteen year old phenom named Brendan Swogger. He’s a high school student with a passion for writing dark and twisted stories that rivals my own. He recently wrote a short story based upon on idea that came to him during a visit to the dentist. I don’t know what type of dentist Brendan goes to, but the end result wound up being something straight out of the movie Saw.

I had an idea. In order to help stimulate a budding young mind, I presented Brendan with a writing exercise. If he could concoct such a deliciously devilish story based on something as routine as a trip to the dentist, I wondered how he would do with something even more mundane, such as waiting on an oil change. I submitted my challenge to Brendan, and he had responded with a completed story within a couple of hours. You can read Brendan’s story Acid Eyes here.

It wouldn’t have been fair of me to make Brendan do this challenge alone, so I decided that I would take part in the same exercise. Below is my offering. Happy reading!

Oil Change

Brendan Huntley leaned in through the rolled down car window and kissed his wife on the lips.

“You’re sure you don’t need me to stay and wait with you?” she asked.

“No, honey. I’ll be fine.” He smiled and stroked her cheek with the tip of his finger. “I’ll be home in just a little bit.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.” She took her foot off the brake, letting the car roll forward a few inches before bringing it to a stop again. “Oh, and you have your keys just in case you beat me back home?”

“Yes, dear.” Brendan patted his pants pocket. “Go on. I’m fine.”

Brendan’s wife blew him a kiss and drove away. Brendan stood and waved, watching until her car became a tiny speck in the distance. He turned to face the mechanic’s garage, surprised to find all the bay doors closed. He checked his watch.

12:54 p.m.

They said to be here at one o’clock, he thought. Maybe they’re not quite back from lunch.

Brendan approached the main entrance and placed his hands on the glass to block out the sunlight as he peeked in. The door was unlocked and pushed open. He stepped inside the building and found the lobby unoccupied. There was no one behind the counter either.

Brendan heard voices. A TV in the corner of the waiting area was playing clips from NBC sitcoms at low volume.

“Hello?” Brendan called out.

A man entered from the garage through a swinging door, wiping his hands clean with an oil-covered rag.

“Can I help you?” The man slipped the dirty rag into the back pocket of his navy blue coveralls, then grabbed a toothpick tucked behind his ear and put it in his mouth.

“Hi, I’m Brendan Huntley.” Brendan reached out to shake the man’s hand, but he just stared at it, chewing on the toothpick between his front teeth. Brendan retracted his hand. “I’m here to pick up my car. It’s the red two thousand seven Kia Rio. You guys told me it would be ready at one o’clock.”

The man mashed a few buttons on the keyboard without looking down at the screen. “Doesn’t look like its ready yet. Why don’t you take a seat and wait a few minutes while I go check on your vehicle.”

“Uh…” Brendan glanced down at his watch. “Well, do you have an estimate on how much longer it’s going to be?”

“Sir, if you can just wait for a few minutes, I’m sure it won’t be much longer.” The man scratched the back of his slick, black hair. “I’ll go check on it now.” The man exited back through the swinging door. The words EMPLOYEES ONLY were stenciled in bright yellow paint.

Brendan walked into the lobby and took a seat on a plush, leather chair with a chrome frame. He looked around at several displays of car parts, but could only recognize the windshield wiper blades. He leaned forward and sifted through a pile of magazines on the table in front of him. The covers of periodicals such as Mopar Monthly and Gearhead were adorned with slender women in short shorts making love to the camera while holding metallic cylinders up to their mouths.

Maybe it’s a car guy thing, he thought. Or I’m too old to find this type of thing appealing.

The crashing sound of steel spilling onto cement came from the direction of the garage, causing Brendan to drop the stack of magazines in his hands. The noise was quickly followed by a bloodcurdling male scream.

Brendan sprang to his feet and ran toward the front counter. He was met by the same toothpick chewing mechanic from before. The man entered the room with complete calmness, leaning against the door with his hands behind his back.

“My Lord! Is everything all right out there?”

“Yes, sir. Everything is fine.” The man slid his toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. “Just a little accident.”

“A little accident?” Brendan rubbed his forehead. “You about gave me a heart attack! I heard a scream and I…”

A spatter of blood across the chest of the mechanic’s coveralls caught Brendan’s attention and stopped him mid-sentence. He didn’t remember seeing it on the man before.

“Are you bleeding?” Brendan pointed at the man’s chest. “Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

The man looked down at his coveralls, then wiped off the blood with his bare hand.

“That won’t be necessary, sir. Like I said, we just had a little accident. Happens all the time.” The mechanic grinned.” It’s a… hazard of the job, you could say.”

“Oh… okay. So, about my car?”

“Right. The o-seven red Kia Rio. Let me just go grab the keys for you. Please, have a seat and I’ll be right with you.” The mechanic once again left Brendan alone in the lobby.

Brendan took a deep breath to regulate his pulse, then sat back down as instructed. A few minutes of silence passed before the slow whine of a hydraulic lift filled the lobby.

“No! No! No!” a voice begged from the other side of the employee only door, followed by a deafening crunch.

Brendan stood up and walked over to the counter slowly. The mechanic re-entered the room, accompanied by the sound of his shoe soles sticking to the tile surface with each step. His face, hands and the upper portion of his coveralls coated with droplets of crimson.

“Oh my God!” Brendan’s mouth dropped open as his face went pale. “Is that…?”

“No, sir. A carburetor exploded on us out there. Spewed fuel all over the place.” The mechanic pulled the rag out from his back pocket and wiped his face. “We’ll be mopping up that mess for days.”

“I’m sorry. I feel so foolish now.” Brendan put his hand over his heart as color began returning to his cheeks. “I’m not much of a car guy, so I have no idea what all goes into what you guys do. Sounds pretty intense, though.”

“It sure is, but once you have the love for the job, it gets easier over time.” The mechanic reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “Your vehicle is parked outside and ready to go, sir.”

“Great! Thank you very much.” Brendan reached for his wallet. “So, what do I owe you?”

“No charge today, sir. On the house.”

“What?” Brendan furrowed his brow. “That can’t be right.”

“I promise, sir. It’s right. It’s a… a repeat customer special.”

“Wow. I, uh, I don’t know what to say.” Brendan put his wallet back into his pocket, then collected his keys from the mechanic’s moist, grime-covered fingers.

“No need to say anything, sir. Have a great day.”

Brendan headed for the door. He stopped and turned back as he reached the exit. “Say, I don’t believe that I caught your name. I’d like to tell your manager how happy I am with the star treatment that you’ve given me today.”

“Me, sir?” The mechanic pushed open the swinging door halfway and stood in the threshold. “I don’t work here.”


I didn’t become an author because I wanted to make tons of money, which is good, because I haven’t. 🙂 I became an author to escape the doldrums of a corporate retail job as the company slowly drifted toward bankruptcy. There were literally days toward the end of our existence where my only requirement was to fill a seat so that the office didn’t look empty. Needless to say, I played a lot of solitaire. Then when I got home at night, I wrote a little bit more of the manuscript that would eventually become Noble.

It’s hard to believe that was all two years ago. I’ve written and published four books since then. It wasn’t hard, not really, because I quickly discovered that I had a passion for it inside of me all along.

I loved creating! Inventing characters, setting up obstacles for them to deal with, and of course, trying to think of the compelling twists and turns that the characters would experience along the way. I felt as though I had finally found my calling after years of banging my head against the wall in the real world.

Then a funny thing happened: My books started to sell. Not in droves, mind you, but as an unknown independent author without an ounce of reputation, even a trickle of sales is flattering beyond comparison. I joked with my fiancée, telling her that someday I was going to take her out to dinner with the royalties check I received from my book sales.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I received my first royalties check in early 2011: $17.63. I took my beautiful girl to a little place in Vancouver, Washington called Sheridan’s Frozen Custard and treated us both to one of their peanut butter and chocolate milkshakes—our favorite. We had scarfed down countless Sheridan’s milkshakes before, but in my mind, not one of them had ever tasted as sweet.

Creating a Villain – The Art of Noble: Bloodlines

WARNING: Contains minor spoilers about the NOBLE series.

“What do you want your cover to look like?”

I drew a blank. I felt like an idiot. The Noble series is my creation, my brainchild, and yet I couldn’t generate a single image inside my head as to what the cover should look like.

And that is how James McDonald and I began working together on the cover for Noble: Bloodlines.

I’ve always been fond of isolating a harrowing moment from my books to serve as its cover, but I found the selection process to be particularly difficult with Bloodlines. There are so many pivotal moments. So many twists and turns to capture without spoiling its secrets. So many essential characters to the plot—any one of which deserving of the spotlight.

However, in the end I came to the conclusion that there had been one key character I had neglected to consider: Alyssa Noble.

When we’d finally met Alyssa Noble near the end of Noble, we’d already heard a great deal about her. We knew that she was violent. We knew that she was a remorseless killer. We knew that she walked as a human, but wasn’t one. We knew that she was… naked.

However, there was still so much about her that we didn’t know. It had been my intention all along to bring her to the forefront of the story for the second book, so it made sense that she should also become a prominent fixture of the key art. The only question I needed to answer was, “What does she look like?”

Alyssa Noble, First Draft, by James McDonald

James McDonald is an amazing and gifted artist, but he does lack the ability to plug into my mind’s eye and download the mental images that I create. As a writer, you might think that describing Alyssa’s physical features to an artist would’ve been easy for me, but it wasn’t. I’d given her form in the book, but that didn’t guarantee that James would read my words and see the same picture. Thus began the Alyssa Noble collaboration process.

Alyssa may be heartless and bloodthirsty, but in my mind, she also needed to have sex appeal. I mean, I’ve made her the physical embodiment of death and destruction, so it would only be right to bless her with assets that balance out her flaws, right? Ahem…

The first concept James came up with was a basic sketch to see if he was on the right track. She looked a bit like Aeon Flux to me, but for a rough sketch? Not bad. The next phase was to create a 3D model of Alyssa and determine how she would be worked into the cover shot.

In Bloodlines, we get to see more of the sinister inner-workings of Alyssa’s psyche. Miller is scared to death of her, and I felt as though the reader needed to be clear on that fact. I really wanted the reader to grasp just how dangerous she is. Although Miller had survived his encounter with her at the end of Noble, it wasn’t out of an act of kindness. She wasn’t looking to turn over a new leaf.
Early cover design concept, by James McDonald

So, I selected a scene from the book in which Alyssa and Miller have an encounter. Alyssa’s physical appearance has evolved since he last saw her, which only adds to his fear. Since Alyssa walks around without clothing, I told James that a delicate approach was needed. I remember specifically saying to him, “Some alien side-boob is okay, but let’s not get banned from book stores,” which I must admit is a sentence that I never thought I would utter.

I then gave James a challenge: I wanted a lean, mean, fighting machine, but not at the sacrifice of Alyssa’s femininity.

When James submitted concept #2, he was right on the money. Alyssa was ripped, yet still feminine, just as I’d asked for. She had sex appeal, yet Miller was down on his knees with an intense look of fright upon his face. The fogging effect was intended to help mask some of the nudity, but was also a part of the scene that James had been able to glean from my description.

Test image, by James McDonald
With a look and feel for the cover decided upon, all that was left was to add in the text. Since the title treatment for the Noble series had already been created, it was an easy implementation. To make sure I was happy with it, James threw together a test image to show me what the text would look like on a dark background. In the center of the sample image was an alternate version of Alyssa Noble, knelt down in the shadows. Even though it wasn’t quite right for a cover, I still thought it was a great piece of art. Maybe I’ll find a use for it somewhere else down the road.

As James was working hard to finish the cover image, I started having second thoughts about the concept. I loved his design, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I was missing something. I felt like there was too much negative space, and I worried that it didn’t capture enough of the story’s mystery. If you’ve ever read any of my books, then you already know that creating intrigue is my primary goal. With Bloodlines, I’ve upped the ante, and it was crucial that the cover reflected that.

I ultimately decided that the cover needed something else: The first glimpse of a mysterious new character in the series. Once again, James knocked it out of the park. After I saw his updated submission, I knew there was nothing left to do to it. It was ready to go. Perfect.

And just who is the massive winged-creature lurking in the background of the final cover image? Well, you’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself. 🙂
Final cover image, by James McDonald

Guest Post: An Excerpt from BURIAL by Tony Healey

Tony Healey's "Burial" is available now on Kindle
Upon my acceptance into the Kindle All-Stars last year, it didn’t take long before I met the other authors and got the opportunity to read their work. Before I knew it, I was up to my eyeballs in unpublished works-in-progress written by my fellow KAS crew—some of which I still haven’t gotten around to.

I became a fan of several of the other writers in the group, one of which is my guest poster today, Tony Healey.

Even though Tony is best known for the characters that he has created as part of his The Stars My Redemption series, it only scratches the surface of his talent. With each new story that Tony releases, I am in awe (and maybe even a bit jealous) of his creativity, and his ability to shift between genres with minimal effort.

Tony is imaginative, and his pool of story ideas is vast. If you like the subject matter of your reading material slightly left of center, then you need to be reading Tony’s work.

I could go on and on, but I’m going to let Tony himself talk a bit about the creation of his recent release, Burial. Following that, be sure to read the included excerpt and see for yourself why Tony is a modern day master of the strange and unusual.

Tony Healey: On Writing Burial

I thought of the twist in the story first before sitting down to work out the rest. So in a way I worked backwards. I do that sometimes when it comes to writing. I don’t always start at the beginning. That’s the fun of it sometimes, I think.

I remember reading an interview with a writer where he described writing the very last chapter of his novels first before going back to the beginning and working his way toward that end point. I find that to be an interesting approach. It doesn’t always work to do it that way, but with Burial it did.

Burial is a short story of roughly 35 pages, written in pulp horror/thriller tradition, with an ending that will split readers right down the middle. They’ll either love it or hate it. It was edited by Laurie Laliberte, of the Kindle All-Stars, and it was our first time working together as author & editor.

To say that we took every approach possible with Burial would be an understatement, but it was worth all the hard work, though I’m sure I had Laurie pulling her hair out at times.

When you first work with an editor, you have to sort of hit the ground running when developing a relationship with each other. But, you know, we got there in the end, and now we’re back working on another short story of mine, Dark Orb, which should be out soon. Maybe David will let me hijack his site again when it’s ready!

Editor’s Note: Dark Orb released this week. Tony has a standing invite to take over my site any time he’d like.

An Excerpt from Burial

By: Tony Healey

His name was Fred Aniello. Six months ago his wife walked out on him. At least that’s what he told anyone who asked. No, I don’t know where she is. Another man? Maybe. No I didn’t suspect anything. I thought we were happily married. No she doesn’t have any friends out of town that I’m aware of… and so on and so on. That’s how it always seemed to go. Over the months he’d become very fluent in the continuation of the same story, embellishing it when needed with the occasional show of water-works.

A little while into the lie, he imparted the bad news on his neighbour ‘the old man Rickett’ who laid a heavy arm around Fred’s shoulders. “There there, don’t worry about it son.”

But he wasn’t worried. Not in the slightest. It was all done, dusted… buried.

Or so he’d thought…

BURIAL is a short horror story of 7,000 words available on the Kindle Store for only 99c.