All Things Books and Music

Why Write?

Why the book?

The book started from a song. The song started from loneliness. It was never in my mind to write a book, it just came to be of its own accord.

In late January of 2002, I moved into a third-floor walk-up room at The St. Louis Hotel in downtown Calgary. We had sold our house in December of 2001, and the new owners were a couple of days away from taking possession of what once was dear to my heart. My wife at the time had left for Winnipeg the day before, a cold and lonely day for me.

Iím a musician. Iíve been so since I was twelve. Iíve done many things over the years to supplement my living, but being a musician is the heart and soul of who and what I am. My best friend and I played in a band that often performed at the St. Louis bar. We had finished the night a few hours before. As I often do, I pulled out my Takamine acoustic guitar, sat on the edge of the bed and started playing. What came out was a song titled ĎI Call Your Nameí, an original blues-based song, sad and melodic, wrapped around a minor 7 chord progression in 6/8 time. I played it through a few times, jotted down the words, decided I liked it, and recorded a version for posterity via my Cakewalk 9 digital audio workstation. Sleep came easy, but had no length to it.

I woke in the night, bolting upright. Fully awake, I sat down to my computer and started typing. I really didnít know what I was typing, but I typed myself into exhaustion.

I woke up the next day tired and cranky, not fully understanding why. That was a Friday. I managed a private courier company and worked as the all-around IT guy at Bow City Philatelics. All day long, thoughts and faces tumbled through my subconscious, begging to escape. I ignored them as best I could and carried on with my busy day. By the time we were through playing the night at the St. Louis bar, I was ready for the long sleep I so desperately needed, but it was not to be. I doused the lights and embraced my bed, but it did not embrace me. Within a half hour, I was at the keyboard again typing incessantly at what? I did not know.

Saturday. Late in the day. I slept a long time. Too long. I was disoriented, and hungry. I went down to the bar and grabbed a coffee and possibly my thousandth order of the famous St. Louis chicken and chips, and hightailed it back to my fortress of solitude. I sat at my small desk in my small room and began to read what I had been typing. Close to a hundred pages by now. It was a story taking shape, but why? Why now? I still did not know. I only knew I had to keep on with it. Then, a warm and vibrant moment of clarity hit me. Suddenly I could see who I was, who I used to be, and who I would be. I dove in, writing all weekend, pausing long enough to hit the bathroom down the hall, or to slide down to the bar for another coffee and an order of chicken and chips, and to play another night in the rustic old bar.

The story was based on the song ĎI Call Your Name.í The people in the story became real to me. I didnít know them, but they knew me somehow, or rather, who I wanted to be. They became my friends. So, together, my new friends and I wrote a story about a Canadian prairie boy who ventures to Los Angeles, stumbles into fame and fortune, gets the girl, makes some enemies along the way, and has way too much fun, and heartbreak, at the expense of his enemies and friends alike. That book was called One Song, the first in a series of books about the adventures of Scott Yonge. Soup is the fourth book in the series, the story of the second generation of the Yonge family, set in the near future and a new reality.

And there is more to come. Why I write I cannot say. I can only say that I enjoy it immensely, and that it defines who I am. Other than having my family around me (something I avoided for most of my life), nothing gives me greater joy.

Why Publish?

I spent over forty years of my life as a professional musician. The events in this book are drawn from real life experiences on numerous tours throughout Canada and the US, and from hundreds of hours of recording studio sessions. I took those experiences and applied them to a fictional story, a fictional family, and fictional characters in the hope that I might convey to you, the reader, a sense of what it was like to be me in that life. It is as simple as that. The music becomes a part of the story. The story stems from the music.

Iím also an IT professional, specializing in audio/visual digital workstations and database servers. I got into computers in the late eighties because of music. When the first digital recording software became available to the PC market, I was forced to figure the programs out for myself. It wasnít worth the time for the computer stores to spend hours training staff. The demand for digital recording workstations did not justify the investment. From there, I ventured into the IT world, and have worked in that world while continuing to play music live and in the studios. It has been quite a ride! But it is not over. With the invaluable support and advice from my niece, Candy, I have taken the plunge into the publishing world with Candy forever at my side. I love doing this writing thing, but without her, I would not be here. Thank the powers that be for family!

Who Is Candy?

Candy Haugen is my niece. She brought me back to the family. Not that there was a problem between the family and myself, but my lifestyle over the years limited contact to a few monthly phone calls and a yearly visit or two, until Candy wielded her unique brand of magic on me. There is a photo of her holding Carl and Murphy (better known as the Comedy Team), on the Pictures page of this site. That photo was taken at my brotherís house in Athabasca around Easter of this year, about six weeks after Candy completed chemotherapy treatment.

In early 2017, Candy was diagnosed with stage 3 Colin Cancer. That year for Candy, was a year I wouldnít wish on my worst enemy. After the initial shockwave, she assessed the situation and dug her heels in for the fight, armed with the positive outlook and the vigor and common sense that has propelled her through most of her eventful life.

Radiation was first, to shrink the tumor to a reasonable size. Then came the surgery, to remove the tumor and a good chunk of her large intestine. She was left with a stoma bag, giving her innards time to properly heal. Then came the wait. She knew what was coming. Chemo. But not yet. She had six months of recovery to endure before beginning that particular hell.

Thatís where I came in. Around mid October of 2017, I made a trip out to visit my mom in Victoria. I was very close to my mom, and Ralph, my stepdad. She was near her time, we all knew that. Candy was there, along with her mom and dad, one of my three older brothers. We were all there to say goodbye. I hadnít talked much to Candy over the years, but through our conversations on the coast, we found we had a lot in common, and agreed, before returning to our respective homes, to keep in touch via texting.

We had lots to text about. My mom, Candyís grandma, died a little over a week later. Ralph did a wonderful job during the last two years of her life to bring the world to Mom when she could no longer go to the world. She died peacefully at home with the family, the great grand kids, the grand kids, and the kids, all around her. There was no sadness, only love and gratitude for the opportunity to have had her in their lives. That circle of love continues.

About that time, Candy began chemotherapy. Eight rounds of treatment, two weeks apart. She would be in the doctorís office for a couple of hours on chemical day while they pumped her with the lifesaving concoction. That was part one. Part two was a bag she dragged around with her for another forty-eight hours, a slow drip of a different kind.

Chemotherapy sneaks up on you. The first couple of sessions, no big deal. You feel sick for a while on chemical day, but you recover quickly, and everything seems normal. But each additional session weakens you, drains you of the energy that defines you, and the nausea stays with you longer and longer. And the tingling in the extremities begins, and your hair thins out, and the light feels like it is slowly fading from your eyes. How do I know? Because I would text, every day, and I would phone, and I would ask, and she would tell me. I said tell me, not complain. Never once did I hear her complain, or feel sorry for herself, or give the least bit of a whimper, or ever show a sign of defeat.

Candy also suffers from severe migraines, and the chemicals used to treat her cancer are absolute triggers for migraine sufferers. She has endured migraines since she was a young girl. Brutal. But again, she managed them, never complaining while raising two fine sons on her own. She worked hard to advance her career, so she could give her sons, and herself, a better life.

At the fifth cycle of treatment, her parentís new routine was to drive down to Edmonton from Athabasca on chemical day and pick up Candy and the Comedy Team, and take them back to Athabasca for the rest of the week. On chemical day of the sixth cycle, I called her on the trip back to Athabasca. She was in the rear seat of her parentís car, sick from that dayís chemo dose, weakened by eleven weeks of continuous assaults from the poison raging through her, irritated by her hands and feet in a state of continuous tingling and cramping, and in agony from a pounding migraine ascending on her as the weather took a turn for the worse. I didnít ask her how she was, I knew. We small talked it for a few minutes, then she said to me, ďUT (Uncle Travis), you sound so tired. Are you looking after yourself?Ē What could I say to that? Sheís going through her own personal hell in the back seat of that car, and sheís worried about me.

ďMe?Ē I finally said to her. ďWhat about you?Ē

ďOh, Iím fine. I just need to sleep a little. Only two more treatments to go.Ē

Only two more treatments to go. Thatís NC (niece Candy), always the positive. That moment changed me. How could it not? More small talk, than I got off the phone with the feeling that I needed to say more. But what? Turns out, I had already started something, something I have never done before, though I was hardly aware at the time that I was doing it. This is what I texted to her.

Sleep my lovely niece
Rest your weary eyes
And with thy own strength
Heal yourself from within
And come the dawn, in the early light
Purge us all from the darkening night
For the essence of one
Is the essence of all
We stand below to catch you
If you fall
So soar above us, engage the fight
And sleep my lovely niece

From that moment to now, Iím a new person. Candy has inspired me to be a better man, to live a better life, to dream a bigger dream. Her belief in me, her belief in my work, has spurred me on to complete the publication of Soup. She has walked the pages with me, co-wrote seven of the songs with me, and taught me that every moment of life, good or bad, is ours to cherish. And best of all, she has taught me the meaning of family. The love and strength that comes from within that circle is everlasting. Thatís who Candy is.

Candy is doing fine. She has had reconnective surgery and has kicked her stoma bag to the curb. She grows stronger every day and is living every moment of her life. She has many years and many dreams ahead of her to fulfill. Yet I canít help feeling, through it all, the life that was saved, was mine.