Guest Post: Author David Hulegaard!

Hello hello! Given that I’m elbows-deep in working on the last book of the Wonderland Cycle, a task which is proving extremely time-consuming (it’s going to be a huge book, and there’s a lot of work ahead of me yet,) I thought I’d like to spend off time not talking about my own books, but introducing you all to new authors who you may like. Today I’d like to introduce you to sci-fi author David Hulegaard, creator of the Noble trilogy. David interviewed me a few weeks ago on his podcast, which I was horrible and forgot to post about here, as we are both contributors to the Edge of Oblivion charity anthology benefiting sufferers of Cystic Fibrosis in the United Kingdom. Since then I’ve gotten acquainted with his work, and I think that you may like it. His upcoming book, Noble: New World Order will be out soon, so I thought it was high time that I got him to write a little something about himself and about his process.

Without further ado, here’s David on his Noble trilogy:

David Hulegaard

March of 2010 was a difficult time. The COO of my then-employer corralled all of us into a tiny conference room and delivered the news: the company had filed for chapter seven bankruptcy—no more lifelines. After fourteen years of service, the time had come to begin a new chapter in my life, only I had no idea what to do next.

With time on my hands, rather than wallow in uncertainty—well, rather than just wallow in uncertainty—I decided to do something I had always wanted to do: write a book. I had an idea for a novel fresh in my mind, and I churned out a first draft within about three months. Like most first works, it needed a lot of TLC, but I’d proven to myself I could do it. From there, an addiction was born.

On October 16th, 2010, Noble was released into the world. When I completed the book, I thought of it as a stand-alone novel. I had no intention of writing a sequel, and yet here I find myself in 2014 about to release the final book in a trilogy. Crazy!

Some have described the Noble trilogy as “sci-fi noir;” a mish-mash of genres. The series started in the 1940s with a small town private detective investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl. In the upcoming finale, New World Order, the story concludes in modern day with an epic showdown seven decades in the making.

Along the way, the plot introduces corrupt law enforcement, rogue FBI agents, government cover-ups, ancient civilizations, a serial killing cult devoted to honoring Jack the Ripper, and a plot to manually induce the Armageddon. Sci-fi noir? Just another day at the office with my twisted imagination.

As the Noble trilogy nears its end, what I hope people will take away from the experience is that I did my damnedest to entertain them. The path through the series is often dark and gritty, with moments of levity to round out the journey.

Whether my books make you laugh, cry, tense up or become angry, the greatest compliment in the world to a writer is that you felt something. That is my goal with every story I tell, and I hope that the Noble trilogy offers that to anyone that reads it.

Fantastic stuff. But what about this process?

Like most writers, I am the proud owner of an invisible box that safe guards all the idea fragments that spring up in my head. Inspiration can strike at any time from any number of sources, and as such, my “idea box” is never empty. Although it’s beneficial to possess a well that never runs dry, it bums me out to know there will be stories I won’t get to tell during my lifetime.

With an overflowing box of ideas, it can be difficult to decide which one to pick as the next project. In my experience, there’s usually one or two fighting to get out, which narrows down my options. As an example, while completing my upcoming book Noble: New World Order, I already had my sights set on a particular next project. When I sat down to begin the initial outline, another idea from the box wrestled its way forward and demanded out first. Who am I to argue? J

Ask ten writers to describe their process and you’ll get ten different answers. While there is no single “correct” way to approach writing, I’ll talk about what works best for me:

  • Selection – Which idea is ready to become a story right now? Which one fills me with the most excitement to create?
  • Clustering – Once I’ve identified the story I want to work on, I break out my initial ideas into oval hubs on a piece of paper (or in most cases, several) and build off of them. Let’s say cluster one is about an evil king that lives in a castle, and cluster two is about a hero attempting to overthrow him. From those clusters, I draw lines that connect those ideas with new ones. An evil king is pretty boring by itself, so I need more. Was he always evil? If not, what led him down that path? Does he have family? What’s his connection to the hero trying to stop him? Is that hero male or female? This phase goes on and on until I have answered all of the questions that a reader might ask as well.
  • Outlining – The first draft of my outline is very high-level. I put all of the key ingredients in order, but leave room to expand the story between them as I go. In essence, my first outline is the critical path, and I develop “side quests” to round out the story. Sometimes the best ideas come to me while the book is already in progress.
  • Chapter Summaries – Using my outline, I compose another high-level overview of the story, only this time broken out by chapter and with a bit more detail. Again, I still leave myself room to improvise, but this part ensures that I stay on track. It basically tells me, “These are the points you have to address in this chapter to stay on target.”
  • Character Summaries – Some writers like to do this part earlier, but for me, I wait to lock down character personalities until I have the story fleshed out. I usually have a basic archetype picked out for them, but it isn’t until this phase that I start the deep dive into their psyche.
  • Chapter One – Now it’s time to begin writing the book! It’s good to give yourself writing goals. It keeps you motivated. However, I’m not a big fan of word count goals. I find that if I focus too much on word count, I start panicking and stretch things out to hit my goal, which is bad. Instead, I recommend setting your goals with scenes. Write until your scene is finished, and don’t worry about how many words it is. Focus more on the fact that you’re making progress, and that will ensure that you don’t get frustrated or burnt out.

So, there you go: a little peek into how I write books. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to contact me if ever have questions about writing, or just want to talk shop.

Thanks very much, David! I urge you all to give the Noble trilogy a shot – sci-fi noir is of course one of my favorite genres, and David’s books have a lot to offer to the reader. If you’d like to learn more about David, follow him on social media, or pick up his books, you can use the following avenues:

Website
Amazon
Facebook
Twitter

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Eleven Years Without My Neighbor.



The best neighbor you could ever have.

I am not a very pleasant person sometimes. In fact, a good friend of mine fairly routinely describes me as a ‘dark-hearted motherfucker’. That’s pretty accurate, I feel. I am angry, cynical, and have a dim opinion in general about people. I think that people are terrible animals, as I have said many times before, and that there is no such thing as base good in the world – that we must ascend to it, and that we are all capable of doing so. Now I’ve dealt with a great deal of dark things growing up, and there’s no denying that it’s colored me. It shows up in my fiction, my interviews, and what I post online. However, it may surprise you to know that I am not, in fact, a horrible bastard-man that eats children for fuel. In fact, I love people very much, despite of what I might feel about their animal basis. There are two forces of brightness and stability in my life growing up in my life that I can credit this to: my parents, who I am pleased to say are still with me, and Fred Rogers, who is not. Eleven years today, Fred Rogers, host of public television standard Mister Rogers Neighborhood, left the world. I believe that we are greatly impoverished for it.

I was a very smart, very sensitive kid – I say this because, as my wife will probably tell you, all signs of intelligence and emotional vulnerability tend to abandon me at times now that I’m an adult. But I grew up in rural West Virginia in the 1980s, and basically all that intelligence and sensitivity got you back then was the shit beaten out of you on the playground (and on the bus, and on the walk home, and the walk to school the next day) on a daily basis. I was basically terrified of kids my age growing up until junior high. This fear also filled me with a desire to understand adults, with whom I was more agreeably aligned and whose actions I could more easily understand. I spent a lot of time at home and inside watching public television. Sesame Street was wonderful, as were the rest, but nothing made me happier than when I could sit down in front of the television at 7:30 in the morning (and later, as I got older, in the afternoons) when that little trolley sped on through its miniature neighborhood past the little yellow house with its white porch and awnings, the credits would roll, and Mister Rogers would invite me into his home. I loved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood because he spoke to children about very important and very adult things – dealing with one’s anger, nightmares, divorce, war, and even death (which, it must be said, Sesame Street also did wonderfully) – in an honest and natural way. Fred Rogers said that “children can spot a phony a mile away” and he was absolutely right; there were so many moments when, as a child, I felt that I could not trust the adults that were around me. Mister Rogers, though, I could always trust. As a child, especially when surrounded by adults who constantly fought and were so absolutely monstrous to one another when they thought that children couldn’t see, I needed that kind of center, that open and honest place that I could feel emotionally and intellectually safe. Fred Rogers gave that place to me. He was, in some ways, a grandfather – I never really thought of him as a father figure, my own father had filled that slot very well – that I had always wanted. And no matter what happened, no matter what kind of a beating I’d gotten that day or emotional abuse had been put to me, whatever sadness I could see in the faces of my family members, I would go home and have someone tell me that I had made the day a special one just by being myself. Nothing bad that could happen meant quite so much in the face of that reassurance.

I dearly miss my neighbor, but even though he’s gone, his legacy remains. May many more generations of children and parents experience it, for the benefit of everyone. Fred Rogers taught me about dignity, kindness, patience and mutual respect in ways that nobody else has, or perhaps could – for that alone, I owe him a debt that I can never repay even had he not passed on. It is because of him that I try and help people whenever I can, whether they are aware of it or not – he always said that as a child, his mother told him to “look for the helpers” in times of trouble. It is because of him that I know that while I may fall into the trap of human frailty, I can climb back out and be twice the person I was before I stumbled. In some ways, it’s because of him that I have any faith in the world at all as a grown man. Many of you out there, readers and friends, have young children…and if you never experienced Mister Rogers Neighborhood, I would ask you that you put aside whatever television show your kid is watching now, find it somewhere – even on Youtube if you must – to sit down and experience it right alongside them. There are some who would blame Fred Rogers for starting a culture of excessive doting, or of ‘soft’, over-sensitive children…but I’m telling you, as someone who grew up with a very wounded heart, that this is unequivocal bullshit. In many ways, as a child and as an adult, Fred Rogers saved my life.

So here’s to you, Mister Rogers. And to all of you, who follow me and read my work, a moment of heartfelt sunshine to pierce the gloom. Thank you. For everything.

You are my friend, you are special.
You are my friend, you’re special to me.
You are the only one like you.
Like you, my friend, I like you.

In the daytime, in the nighttime,
Anytime that you feel’s the right time
For a friendship with me, you see,
F-R-I-E-N-D special.

You are my friend, you’re special to me.
There’s only one in this wonderful world.
You.. are.. special.

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The Primitives Are Writing The Future.

UPDATE: Sean P. Fodera has since written an apology to the women of science fiction, and to the subject of his abuse, Mary Robinette Kowal. Kowal has accepted the apology “without reservation”. That’s lovely, and I’m pleased he seems to have made an attempt to make amends, but the point below still stands.

So I was going to write this long, rambling, angry post about the crazy sexism going on with certain members of the SFWA and the SWFA bulletin. Then there’s this jackass, and of course The Great Fedora. I mean Fodera. Whatever. Now obviously this is hardly representative of the SWFA at large, which is full of fantastic and accessible people like Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi. Alas, like so many organizations, the SFWA is also apparently chalk full of extraneous assholes spewing shit in all directions and this is what brings us here today.

I was going to write this whole big thing and go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about how angry I am at these people to whom I looked for inspiration as a budding writer. However, I am often given over to foaming at the mouth like some big ridiculous dog and nobody needs to see that. Instead, what I’m going to say is the obvious, that this is a fucking travesty. Science fiction is supposed to be about the future. The best science fiction is, in fact, that which projects such social issues as sexism and racism through the lens of the fantastic so that discussion can be raised. People are flawed, and their work can be problematic. I know my own work, for all my best intentions, is hardly perfect. But what happens when those who write the future demonstrate themselves to be prime movers of the very problems which hold the future back? These aren’t exactly writers that speak from the depths of obscurity, like yours truly. These are writers of renown and influence, and to them I say this: the future is coming. The future is here. Who do you think you are, denying the new generation who comes bearing new ideas? Do you know nothing of history? Are you straight up fucking blind? You are, by these actions, playing out the very narrative that you as authors should know very well – the old guard does nothing but hold back the march of progress when they cling to antiquated ideas.

Maybe I see these things differently as an author of dystopian fiction and a generally cynical person. Maybe you’re just assholes, I don’t know. Either way, you should be ashamed of yourselves. I know that I’m certainly ashamed of you. I urge you to remember what you create and what it means to the people around you. Remember your responsibility, both as human beings and as stewards of the future – a future which should be for all humanity, not just certain segments. Your responsibilities do not end with your own personal feelings. Evolve, and do not be a part of the calcifying forces which hold back human progress. Be an example, especially to the new generation of authors whom some of you spit on even now. Don’t serve as an object lesson of what not to be.

That’s all I’ve got I’m going to say on the matter. I guess things got away from me a little after all.

EDIT: You know what? I found a wonderful reenactment of what must go on in the heads of these esteemed literary dudebros.

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