End of an Era

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Forgive me in advance if my thoughts are a little jumbled, but tonight was the end of an era.

My daughter and I watched the final Harry Potter film together. No longer is will she read any line in any of the seven books for the first time. She has now seen those words realized in a movie for the inaugural time. Every time now she thinks of Harry Potter, this will be one of the memories, and I am privileged to share it with her.

My daughter is just 10 years old, but started on the books a couple years ago. I tried to pace her along, trying to gauge when she was ready for the more mature subjects the latter books tread upon. Eventually, I gave in and let her read the final two books when she told me some of her classmates were giving her details about the final two novels. She was ready for them anyway, but I guess there was a bit of me where I felt as if I was rushing her.

Maybe the truth was that I was rushing myself.

I experienced the Harry Potter phenomenon first hand. I can still remember when I was a sophomore in college and was walking around a Best Buy store, looking for something cool to take back to my dorm room. Chances that I would find a compact disc were pretty high, but I stumbled on a book rack. I honestly have no idea if Best Buy made much money off of books, but one book jumped out at me.

It was a hardback of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I knew nothing about the book, the series, nothing. This was in early-Internet days, so remember Tumblr and Twitter didn’t exist yet. I bought it on sight, only to realize I had purchased the second book in the series. No matter – I loved it anyway.

I quickly found the first book (in paperback, unfortunately), and subsequently got each of the rest on the release dates.

I remember when the fourth book came out, I had it on preorder at my local store, but was going on vacation the day it was to be released. Just a couple days before my wife and I left for Williamsburg, Virginia, I was at the town library where the librarian had it just sitting out. A WEEK BEFORE THE MIDNGIHT RELEASE. I sneakily checked it out, but then was berated all y my wife during vacation for reading the book before it had even been released. I didn’t care. It was glorious.

When the final book came out, I read it straight through, beaming and agonizing the entire way. I didn’t know if I would feel like that about a book ever again.

Then my daughter learned to read.

It was a few years before she was able to read Harry Potter, and a little while longer before she wanted to, but when she finally dove in, she was just as enamored as I was. I heard from her along the way, asking questions about this character or that. Cursing (the way a 5th grader who isn’t allowed to cuss can) Professor Snape, only to see him for what he was in the end. I realized I was reliving it through her. I was able to pass it down, but just as Voldemort left a piece of himself in Harry (spoiler alert!), I found a piece of myself was there when I was reliving the memories with my daughter.

A couple months ago, she was reading the sixth book and told me about her favorite character. I kept my poker face, but I immediately despaired. I knew the fate of that character. I knew they were destined to die in the Battle of Hogwarts and there was nothing I could do about that. Was she really ready? There was no backing out at this point. She was too far in to give up now.

Ultimately, she handled it wonderfully, but I was sitting on the couch tearing up with the passing of each casualty in the halls of Hogwarts. I found myself feeling. I found…my younger self.

Harry Potter is a special book series and I was glad to share it with my daughter. But that time has passed. We will enjoy new and different books and movies together down the road, but we’ll always have Harry, Hermoine, Ron, Neville, and the rest of the many wonderful characters created by J.K. Rowling.

The whole experience made me think of our connections to books and how many of them we see feel connected to from our childhood. Obviously if we could all write like J.K. Rowling, then this would be a moot point, but the characters made the story. Get connected to the characters and the story will follow. Tell your characters’ stories and your audience will follow. I think my daughter would agree, after being so attached to the Harry Potter and his friends for the last few years.

So…I’ll be depressed for a while, but then I remembered…my son is learning to read. Check back in a few years after I do this all over again.

Book Review – Unconditional

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What is it that draws us into zombie stories? Is it the blood and guts? The mindless action, capped off by rolling lopped-off heads, shotgun blasts, and crossbows? The lifeless husks of former friends, colleagues, and strangers, lumbering around daring to infect the remaining population with their sickness?

I would dare to say there’s more than that. We search for humanity in our zombie stories – the remnants of our civilization, recognizable bits that show us there is something left. That not all hope is lost, in spite of the carnage all around.

Unconditional_sml2In Chris Pourteau’s latest short story, Unconditional, we get that taste of the familiar, but from a very unconventional source. Pourteau makes no secret this is a zombie tale, but this one is told from the perspective of the family dog, loyal to his boy. Porteau’s story is phenomenal, short, powerful, and heartbreaking.

I can’t say I cried(some may call me heartless, but I don’t cry easily — sorry!), but I was definitely moved by the tale. I came away with a new-found respect for dogs and wished I was more of a dog-person. While I came away with (mostly) dry eyes, I would dare anyone with attachments to their canine friends to do the same. You’ll want to punch Pourteau in the face when you finish, and that’s a good thing.

In the end, Pourteau has crafted an excellent short story that will leave you wanting more, but grateful for the end all at the same time. A mark of a well-done story.

So…get your copy. Read it and weep. Literally.

FREE Story – A Whimper

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Published earlier last year with the collection Baking With Swords, I’ve republished my short story A Whimper separately. For a couple days, it is…FREE! It’s just about 6,000 words (about 30 minutes reading time) and is a somewhat light-hearted look at the end of civilization. Click on the image below to get your copy today!

Whimper 5 (11)

Anthology Awesomeness!

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Whoa…time got away from me and I forgot to update you guys over here. In the span of one week in the beginning of 2015, I have two stories in two separate anthologies to tell you about. Let’s start with The Powers That Be.

Cover3Back in early 2014, I was privileged to be in my first anthology — WOOL Gathering. All the stories were centered around Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe and were penned by authors who had all previously written WOOL stories. It was a fantastic collection that I will forever be proud of. One of the best parts is that all the proceeds will go towards the National Novel Writing Month Young Authors program.

So, the authors of LOOW (the League of Original Woolwriters or perhaps the Loofah of Obstinate Wetness) have brought forth another charity anthology — The Powers That Be. It’s already been for sale for a few days and been holding steady on the Kindle Science Fiction Anthology sales charts. Nine stories, all centered around superpowers. Authors are: Ann Christy, WJ Davies, Samuel Peralta, Logan Thomas Snyder, Carol Davis, Thomas Robins, David Adams, Paul K. Swardstrom, and myself. And, I was able to cajole Ernie Lindsey into penning a wonderful Foreword to the book. All great stories, confirmed by the outstanding reviews we’ve received so far.

My story is called “To Sacrifice A King,” and deals with the oft-overlooked role of superhero sidekick. A touch of humor, a smattering of pop culture superhero references, and a question: do powers really make a hero?

For a limited time, just 99 cents and all proceeds for this book will go towards the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. The price will go up soon, so get your copy before it’s too late.

alien chrThe next book to tell you about is The Alien Chronicles. Throughout the back half of 2014, I watched a few independent anthologies get published — From the Indie Side, Synchronic, The Robot Chronicles & The Telepath Chronicles. After reading the first three and absolutely loving The Robot Chronicles (enough for it to make my top 18 list of 2014), I approached Samuel Peralta about joining in a future installment. He looked over my meager qualifications and invited me to join The Alien Chronicles.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. But I was also incredibly nervous. These anthologies are showcasing some amazing independent publishing talent and I was going to put my stuff up against theirs and say it’s on the same level. I worked hard to put out the best story I could — ultimately drawing back to my roots visiting my grandmother’s farm growing up. My story is called “Uncle Allen,” and has about the same vibe of my short story Ant Apocalypse.

But check out the list of authors joining me: Hugh Freakin’ Howey, B.V. Larson, Jennifer Foehner Wells (her Fluency was on my Top 18 List, too!), Daniel Arenson, Blair Babylon, Annie Bellet, Peter Cawdron (I love that dude), my good friend and writer WJ Davies, Patrice Fitzgerald, Autumn Kalquist, Moira Katson, Samuel Peralta, Geoffrey Wakeling, and Nicholas Wilson. Foreword by my pal Stefan Bolz. Holy Smokes. Edited by the incredible David Gatewood with a cover by the incomparable Jason Gurley and you have about a perfect package. People are going to love this book.

It’s up for pre-order right now and will officially be for sale on Friday, so pick up your copy and get to reading. Between these two books, you can read 24 stories for less than the cost of a Value Meal at McDonald’s. Amazing value for some amazing stories.