In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty meaningless word. Just three harmless little letters plucked from an alphabet of twenty-six. It’s a word that we use countless times every day and never give it a second thought. It’s not a word that you examine for a deeper or hidden meaning when said, you just know what it means. Your brain uses it to connect the dots of a sentence. It doesn’t serve any greater purpose in the English language than to imply tense.

Or so I thought. Only when forced to associate it with a loved one do you truly begin to understand the devastative power that it possesses.

My Aunt Billie was an amazing woman. She was the sweetest person I have ever known. She was the kindest soul in our family. She was a talented singer. And today, we lost her.

I wish that I had the ability to write something that would make you all feel as though you had known her, because you would have loved her as I do. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and welcomed all strangers as family. It’s a trait she inherited from her parents, my grandparents, and one that has been passed down the family line. I will never be as good of a human being as my Aunt Billie was, but I’m sure as hell giving it the best that I have.

I was an affectionate child—perhaps overly so—always happy to embrace the members of my family with hugs. Our family was a little old-fashioned, so it wasn’t considered appropriate to hug the men. I was too young to understand that at the time, but it felt cold, and only made me more affectionate toward the women in our family.

Because I didn’t get to see her every day, Aunt Billie always took the brunt of my calculated hug-fest when I saw her. She never complained, and she never turned me away. In fact, one year for Christmas her and my Uncle Casey had a custom t-shirt made for me (presumably at one of those t-shirt stores popular at malls during the ‘80s) with a picture of a bear, arms outstretched, that said, “I Need a Hug.” It would’ve been considered “uncool” to wear to school, so I only wore it around the house and tried to hide it. What I wouldn’t give to have that t-shirt now.

My Aunt Billie loved football and was a diehard Raiders fan. Or at least pretended to be for the sake of my Uncle. 🙂 I remember going to their apartment as a child and seeing the, “We interrupt this marriage to bring you the football season” sign hanging on their television dial. I’d learn to “get” that joke later on in life.

My Aunt Billie also made the most delicious soft-batch cookies: Chocolate with peanut butter chips. I have never found another cookie as good as hers, and I can still taste them to this day. She’d fill the cookie jar with them before we’d visit, and I swear my sister and I would eat until it was empty.

I mentioned earlier that my Aunt Billie was a talented singer. I had the chance to see her perform with her big band many years ago, but her love of music went back so much further than that. She could have been the next Shirley Temple. No, seriously. She was discovered by a talent scout as a kid that had big plans for her career. It didn’t wind up happening, but my Aunt never abandoned her passion for singing and entertaining a crowd. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to see her do it.

I could go on and on and share stories about her, but the point is that she was incredible. She was an example of what a person should be. She was too good for this world, and she enriched the lives of everyone that knew her. I am a better person because she was a part of my life. I know it’s cliché to say this, but there really will always be a part of her with me as I live out the rest of my life.

Aunt Billie, this part is just for you. I love you. I thank you for everything you’ve added to my life, and I am sorry that we have run out of days together on this earth. I will never forget a single thing about you, nor the kindness and generosity that you’ve taught me. I wish we could have had more time. There’s never enough time. However, I am so grateful that I had one last chance to hear your voice, and I am so happy that my last letter to you brought you joy and made you feel a little better as your health began to fade. I miss you so much already.

And God, if you’re real, take care of my Aunt Billie, because there is no place that deserves her more than Heaven.

CD Review: Hammock – Departure Songs

I don’t normally do music reviews. In fact, this is my first one ever, but when you encounter something as meaningful and personal as Hammock, it tends to make you want to sing its praises from the mountaintops.

A brief history: 2006 was the roughest year of my life, and many of my days were spent in solitude with nothing more than my thoughts to pass the time. It was during that time that I stumbled across Hammock’s Raising Your Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo. One listen was all it took, and my musical horizons had been forever changed.

Hammock’s music is nearly impossible to describe. I could throw about a hundred adjectives out there, but none of which would ever feel like the perfect encapsulation. Dreamy. Hypnotic. Beautiful. Life-changing. None of those are incorrect, yet they fail to do the music justice.

Though a bit simple, I summarize my experience with Hammock as follows: I have listened to music my entire life, but it wasn’t until after I discovered Hammock that I actually heard it.

Back in July, Hammock released a video from their upcoming album for a song called “Tape Recorder.” I must have watched the video fifty times, never growing tired of it. As gorgeous as Hammock’s music has always been, I had never found myself as immersed in sound as I did with “Tape Recorder.” I feel no shame in admitting that it brought me to tears.

That brings us to October 2nd, 2012, when Hammock released their latest offering, an epic double album titled Departure Songs. Clocking in at nearly two full hours of ambient bliss, Hammock continues to do what they do best, and yet, seem to evolve with every album. Each time I think that they can’t get any better, they prove me wrong, and I’m elated to be.

Hammock set a new benchmark with 2010’s Chasing After Shadows… Living with the Ghosts, but Departure Songs blows right on past it without apology. Tracks such as “Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life,” “Together Alone,” “Pathos,” “(Leaving) The House Where We Grew Up,” and “Hiding But Nobody Missed You” are immediate standouts, but there isn’t a dull track anywhere to be found. In fact, the album is so coated in complex eardrum pleasing layers that your favorite tracks will most definitely change between your first listen and your seventh.

Departure Songs is less an album and more an emotional exploration. It will make your heart both sink and swell over the course of its duration. Your mind’s eye will get an extended workout as the textures of sound hit your temporal lobe with the force of a mack truck and bring serene images to life.

If you are new to the splendor that is Hammock, Departure Songs is an incredible place to start, full of nineteen rich and tasty morsels that are slowly digested over multiple listens. If you’re like me, you’ll wonder why it had taken so long to find them, and immediately seek out their other recordings (which is money well spent, I might add).

If you are already a Hammock fan, then there is nothing I’ve said in this review that you didn’t already know, and you are well aware of their brilliance. In which case, I thank you for reading any way. 🙂

This review is rather wordy, but the bottom line is this: If you have not yet purchased Departure Songs, you should. If you’re not sure whether or not their music is right for you, then I strongly encourage you to listen to some samples and find out. Hammock could very well be the same musical awakening for you that they were for me.

Blog Post: Trolled

When I think about how much the Internet has changed since its inception, my first thought usually skips past all of the benefits and lands on the negative. Why? To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps the darker, colder side of humanity makes a longer lasting impression on me, which I suppose is what it means to be “trolled.”

Ah, yes, trolls. The aggravating and vocal members of the Internet that seem to believe that anonymity grants them a license to be a dick. No matter the topic of conversation, a troll will arise within a matter of time to shit in your cereal bowl for no other reason than to fill the emptiness in their lives. It’s kind of sad, actually. You just want to scoop them up, give them a hug, and repeat “It’s not your fault” over and over again, Good Will Hunting style.

The subculture of trolls may have evolved in recent years, but the concept itself is nothing new. Trolls have actually existed since the dawn of the Internet, they just weren’t organized enough to attract the same attention that they do today. While spamming chat rooms and spewing hate was enough to get you TOS’d back in the heyday of the Internet, there are few repercussions today, which essentially kicked the door wide open for the modern day asshole to emerge.

I am reminded of a time before the new millennium, in which I was in my early twenties. I had saved up enough money to buy my first laptop, and get my very own AOL subscription. Those of you who just laughed, you’re old. 🙂

Anyway, one of my main uses of the Internet back in the 90s was to engage with people that shared my same taste in music. As grunge was being phased out for the revival of punk, it was getting harder and harder for me to find fans of the bands I liked. Upon doing a search one day, I was able to find a chat subscription for the band Swervedriver.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar, a chat subscription was essentially like signing up for a newsletter, only every time a member of the group sent an email, it went out to the entire tree. It wasn’t uncommon to receive hundreds of emails a day if a topic of conversation was hot enough.

When the conversation of “who are your other favorite bands” came up, I was excited to see so many responses with bands from my personal CD collection. Excited, I quickly responded to the thread with my top five favorite bands of the moment, and waited with anticipation for the replies to come in.

You know that awesome “Expectation vs. Reality” scene from 500 Days of Summer? That’s kind of what happened. In my head, I expected to have all these other Swervedriver fans embrace me with open arms for my awesome taste in music, but in reality, I got just one response: “You like Treble Charger? Ugh. I am ashamed that you are a fan of Swerve.”

Two things:

1. Yes, he really did call Swervedriver “Swerve,” which predated the traditional douchebag by a few years, so I’m kind of impressed.

2. His AOL screen name was “CADENCES.” So, with this being the Internet in 2012, and with millions and millions of people out there…This is long overdue, but if you were CADENCES@AOL.com back in the 90s, you’re a dick, though I suspect you probably already knew that.

Now, bear in mind that I was still very young, but I was able to curb my anger enough to sock him in the gut. I replied, very simply, “If I wanted your opinion, kid, I would have asked for it.” That’s right, no big shouting match, no big overuse of F-bombs, just calling an adult “kid,” and it felt… WONDERFUL!

Naturally, I received about as douche-y a response as you could imagine from this pretentious chode, but I didn’t let it get to me. His insecurity was transparent from the get-go, and I wasn’t about to waste my time on it. Though I imagine today that ol’ CADENCES is stewing in a bath of vinegar and water, I can’t help but wonder if he still trolls the Internet on a never-ending quest to find more people to disagree with.

The moral of today’s story is this: Wear thick skin and always consider the source of the troll trying to rile you up. Meaningful feedback comes in the form of people that matter to you, not some sad, lonely, and pathetic douche nozzle who can only criticize in lieu of any real substance in their life. Keep your chin up and throw your shoulders back, because you are you, and you need to own that shit! 🙂

The Embarrassing, but True Story of San Francisco

I was in San Francisco on Friday for an important meeting. Although I wasn’t doing any of the presenting, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous. All the usual things started racing through my mind on Thursday night: Please don’t sleep through the alarm! Don’t forget your badge! Be ready in case you’re put on the spot! With so many potential pitfalls running through my head, it was a miracle that I made it to sleep at all.

My alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning as planned. I figured that I was off to a good start. I got out of bed, showered, got dressed, gussied up, and poured the first cup of coffee—the first of an inevitable many—to get my juices flowing.

My nerves started to kick in as the clock moved ever so close to 8:00 a.m., or maybe it was just the caffeine. I couldn’t really tell for sure. I did the mental checklist that we all do to assure ourselves that we’re not forgetting anything:

  • Do I have my wallet? Check.
  • Do I have my badge? Check.
  • Did I brush my teeth? Check.
  • Am I on time? Check.
  • Do I have my room key? Check.
  • Do I have everything that I need before I step outside the hotel room? Check.

I stood in the doorway, propping it open with the toe of my boot as I looked back into the room to double-check that I hadn’t left anything important behind. Everything appeared as it should be, but I still couldn’t shake the sensation that I had forgotten something.

I always get like that when I travel, and it drives me nuts! Deep down I know that I haven’t forgotten anything, but somewhere within the contours of my brain, I convince myself that I have. It’s frustrating because it is purely psychological, but I can’t seem to overcome my doubt.

As expected, the work day came and went, and I was thrilled to discover that I hadn’t really forgotten anything. All that useless worry and stress over nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief, said goodbye to my co-workers, and headed back to the hotel.

As I walked down the sidewalk, watching the gorgeous orange sun set behind the hills of San Francisco, I laughed to myself. What an idiot! I’d gotten myself all worked up over nothing, as per usual. My nerves may have gotten the better of me at the start of my day, but in the end, everything went off without a hitch.

I rode the elevator up to my floor, put my key in the door, and threw my laptop bag down on the couch. The room was immaculate, tidied up by the service staff while I was at work. The bed was made, the trash had been emptied, and the thermostat had been reset to a temperature slightly warmer than I like it.

I entered the bathroom, admiring the fresh set of towels that had been neatly folded and put away on a counter above the toilet, when I something caught my eye. It turned out, much to my chagrin, that I actually had forgotten something after all… my dirty underwear, still wadded up next to the tub where I had left them prior to my morning shower.

Slightly embarrassed and apologetic to the cleaning staff at the Sofitel Hotel, the moral to this story is simple: Don’t let your co-workers catch you with your pants down, but definitely don’t make the hotel staff have to clean around your balled up undies.

A ten dollar bill was left behind on the dresser…

A Live Acoustic Performance

I love Fall. It is my absolute favorite time of year. There’s something about the cooler weather, shorter days, and browning leaves that fills me with emotion. Some days it is nostalgia, others it is lingering sorrow that festers within and bubbles over, but the season always gives me plenty of moments of pause and reflection. I love that, and I wish it all lasted longer than the couple of months we get prior to Winter.


When I was younger, I often channeled those feelings brought on by Autumn and used them to feed my creativity as a musician. Times have changed as I’ve grown older, but there is still something cathartic about strumming a few chords on a guitar and singing a few words from your soul. Sure, I sound mega-douche-y, but I am being sincere. I imagine that anyone who creates, be it music, art, or books, knows what I’m talking about. There’s something about the ability to create that reaches a place seldom touched, like that annoying itch in the middle of your back that you can’t quite reach.


I recently picked up my guitar again after nearly a year of watching it collect dust in my music room. The calluses may fade, but the rhythm never does. I strummed a few bars of an old song and remembered why I had ever fallen in love with playing my guitar in the first place. It scratches that itch, I suppose.


Below is a video I shot over the weekend performing the song “Fables” from my old Twelve Days in June days. It’s not pitch perfect, but I’m not trying to sell anything. It’s just a reminder to enjoy the things in life that make you happy. Find your passion and never give up pursing it.

Video not working? Click here

Obesity: My Personal Journey

I still remember it clear as a bell. You tend not to forget when a doctor tells you that you’re showing three of the four markers of diabetes at thirty-four years old. You also tend not to forget when a doctor tells you that if you don’t start making some changes, you’re looking at a heart attack within the next ten years.


That wasn’t news to me. I had battled obesity since I was very young, and I had been through the song and dance before where my doctor warned me about potential health issues in my future. At twenty-one, I lived like I was too young for heart failure. At twenty-five, I lived like I was too young for heart failure. At thirty, I lived like I was too young for heart failure. At thirty-four… came the reality that I may not have much longer left to live.


It was frightening to hear about my impending heart disease, but after years of abusing my body with poor eating habits, I still couldn’t seem to course correct even though I knew I needed to.


Before long, the doctor’s words of warning started to become a reality. I was at the heaviest I had ever been and my body was finally starting to give out after years of carrying around more weight than it was designed to.  I was sitting in my favorite chair, watching TV in the living room. I tried to get up to go use the bathroom, only my body failed to cooperate. I pushed off of my knee and fought my way to a standing position like a man over twice my age. I was out of breath and my face was red. Then, when I turned to walk toward the bathroom, my knee popped. Although I was alone at the time, the humility is not something that I will ever forget.


I was an embarrassment to myself and I went through a terrible depression. The experience was enough to finally make me see the light–to see that it was now or never if I wanted to enjoy any type of quality of life. I needed to lose a lot of weight, but more importantly than simply diet, I needed to learn how to eat.


That was two years ago this week… and officially 130 pounds ago. I would be, like, the most boring Transformer ever.


Although I am still not quite at my ideal weight, I’m within spitting distance, and I feel incredible! No more back or joint pain, and the sugar-free icing on the cake, I no longer strain for breath when I bend over to tie my shoes.


I have a new found confidence, no longer hiding behind oversized clothing. Old friends are amazed when they see me and ask how I did it. It’s not fancy, or some type of magical cure, but its the truth: I simply didn’t want to live that way anymore. I knew how I got myself into that situation, so all I really had to do was reverse engineer it.


They say that sticking to a diet is the hardest part, but now that I have learned how to eat, it hasn’t been an issue for me at all. I didn’t give up the things that I used to eat, I just know how to portion them now. I eat more home cooked meals instead of going out. I exercise for thirty minutes a day. I can now look at food and know the caloric impact that it will have on my body.


And though it is a combination of all of these things that has allowed me to maintain a healthier lifestyle, there is no other motivator better than wanting to stay healthy for the people that you love.

Side-by-side comparison


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!

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 ApiarySociety.com.

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.