Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Tumbleweed Dossier Audiobook: A History and Why Haley Pullos is Amazing!

For about a month, the audiobook for The Tumbleweed Dossier has been available on Audible. I'd like to talk a little bit about it, because it really is an amazing piece of narration by a fantastic young actress who I can't say enough good things about. First though, a little history. Last year I commissioned four audiobooks. One of them was my newest novel, Monkey, written in 2020 and published in 2021, and three were novels I wrote in the 2000s while enlisted in the United States Army.

The first of these novels, Happy Valley, was written for NaNoWriMo in November 2006. That's where you write an entire 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This was the first long-form piece of fiction I had ever finished. I was 25 and had just returned to Germany from my second combat tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In April 2007, after being reassigned from Germany to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, I began the second of these novels, Son of Santa. Are these books any good? I thought so at the time. I still think they are, but any writer knows that his first two sustained efforts are not going to be as good as their third. That's where you really hit your stride.

In May 2008, I was on loan to the Provo Army Recruiting Station in Utah. At the time, the Army wasn't meeting its recruiting goals, and for the second year in a row, I was called back to recruiting, a duty I performed as the youngest Army Recruiter in the year 2002 at the age of 21. On a weekend sitting in my hotel room in Orem, I started my third novel, The Tumbleweed Dossier. It was a rollicking adventure/X-Files homage with FBI agents Stanley B. Goode and Kimberly Hart investigating the disappearance of Daisy Dotson, a local girl from Tumbleweed, Texas who may or may not have been set up to be abducting by aliens! The story technically takes place in Texas, but it's really based on the small Central Utah towns I had to drive out to for recruiting duties in 2002 and 2008, particularly Delta and Richfield.

Like Happy Valley and Son of Santa, it was a short novel of 50,000 words. I was able to use everything I had taught myself from writing those novels and create, what I feel, the best of these three books. I wrote three-fifths of the book in Utah, and the final two-fifths back in Maryland after my 89 days in Utah were up. It was the most fun I had writing any of those books and I considered it to be the perfection of the style I had created for those 50,000 word novels.

In 2009, I didn't write an all-new novel. Instead, I wrote supplementary short stories for each of these volumes. The stories for Tumbleweed, it looked as if I was clearly setting up these characters for a continued series of paranormal investigations. Unfortunately, after 2011, I stopped writing prose fiction. I had gotten out of the Army in 2010 and was attending college for the first time at the age of 29. I was focusing on getting my degree in graphic design and taking a stab at this thing called self-employment.

For a number of years, I used my graphic design and art skills to write and draw a fun parody comic book series. I ran into problems when a certain rights holder to movie I had parodied in the first volume decided to take legal action against me. It never made it to court, but the first volume, the cornerstone of the whole enterprise, was torn down off Amazon and every other online retailer. In 2020, after four volumes, I officially ended that series. Dejected, I decided to take another stab at writing prose. I decided that this would be my great creative reset. I wrote Monkey, a 93,000 word novel about a wish granting monkey, in six months during the pandemic. It's probably the best thing I have ever written. It was supposed to be the first book I would write in this new creative phase of my life. I was going to write and publish a new book every year! But 2021 had other plans for me. Every book I tried to start that year crashed and burned. Towards the end of the year, I decided that I would re-publish my old books under my real name (as before I had used a goofy pen name) and commission audiobooks for all of them. That was when I encountered Haley Pullos for the first time.

I was having trouble finding the right voice. I wanted somebody who could embody the sassiness of some of the books main characters. While some people might argue that the book needed a male voice, I felt the female characters would be more fun to listen to as a potential narrator. But nobody who auditioned for that book really nailed what I was looking for. Then I found a Gone Girl sample by this girl named Haley. It's the infamous "cool girl" monologue everybody remembers from the movie, but it's just as memorable in the book. I was blown away. Her voice, her inflection, her attitude, it was everything I was looking for. Her bio said she had been in TV for years, but I immediately dismissed that. I was like “yeah, sure, uh huh.” In my years since the Army, I have met plenty of aspiring actors and actresses in the Utah indie movie community who make lofty claims about working in television that don't exactly pan out. But I wanted this girl and her attitude, so I sent her an email asking if she'd like to audition. She did and I was like “yes! This is amazing!”

But when it came time to offer her the book, I did a bit more digging. The first thing that popped up was her Wikipedia page, and I was all “oh shit, that's no good!” Turns out, she's kind of a big deal! Like really! She's been on General Hospital for thousands of episodes, has recurring roles on Netflix shows, and even went toe-to-toe with Hugh Laurie on House! I was stunned that somebody like this would want to work on my silly little aliens-abducting-vampires novel. I contacted my friend, director and sceenwriter Richard Dutcher, who had years before helped me write the screenplay version of Tumbleweed, and was like “I'm a little intimidated here. She's many magnitudes more important than I am. I feel like I'm out of my depth here.” He told me I was being stupid and to offer her the book. So I took his advice and we sealed the deal.

Months later, she delivered the finished audiobook. It was her first, but you'd never be able to tell that. Her performance is downright amazing. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but there's a certain scene where Haley's performance actually made me tear up. I wasn't expecting that. I've been through this material many, many, many times, and it has never made my cry until I heard this. That's what this whole experience gave me. This is what Haley did for me personally. She gave an experience I created 14 years ago a whole new life. I don't know what I can ever do to repay her for that.

And it's for that reason that I'd like everybody to give the audiobook a chance. Not for me, but for the amazing young woman who gave me this incredible gift. Give it a listen, write a review. Let her know how great she is. And for what it's worth, you're in for an incredible ride with aliens abducting vampires in a small Texas town.

- Dave Chadwick
Weber County, Utah
June 8, 2022

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