My Top 10 (Actually 12) Favorite Short Stories of 2015

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2015 is almost up, and you know what that means…

That’s right — excessive weight gain around the holidays!

Also Top 10 Lists!!

Last year I loved making my Top 10 books of the year (which ended up being around 17 or something), but this year I’m going to break down my lists into smaller categories. One of those will be the Top 10 (Actually 12) Short Stories I read in 2015.

Obviously not comprehensive, and not all were written in the past year, but all made a big impression on me. I’m terrible at telling you exactly which was THE BEST, so I’m just going to give them to you in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Fair warning — many of them are in the Future Chronicles anthologies since I’ve read each of them this year making them a significant reading source for me each time one was released.

A few caveats: A few stories may not have made the cut because I only took one per anthology, and I definitely left all of the parts of Hugh Howey’s Beacon 23 series off since they’ll make an appearance as a full novel on my best books of the year list.


Zero Hour by Eamon Ambrose

zeroRight off the bat, we get a revelation. Eamon has been well-known in the indie community for a few years as being a top reviewer and a big supporter of indie writers. That much talent wasn’t going to stay hidden behind his blog, though, and we were treated to the first of three (so far!), short stories by Eamon in August. The story could be written off, except that Eamon penned the story in the dreaded second-person perspective. You know — the same POV that you read all those Choose Your Own Adventure books in back in middle school. Eamon pulls it off with a flourish and is a fantastic new voice.

The Traveler by Stefan Bolz

tt chronI love how Stefan Bolz writes. Always interesting. Always compelling. Always positive. Even in The Traveler, which originally appeared in The Time Travel Chronicles, where bad things happen, there is an overall optimistic outlook. Bolz has the unique ability to take a dystopia and make it a place you want to be. In The Traveler, Bolz gives us a nuts and bolts (pun definitely intended) look at time travel as our protagonist builds a machine from scratch. The story is poignant and touching, and is one of a handful of phenomenal stories from that anthology.

Free Fall by Peter Cawdron

freefallPeter Cawdron is perhaps the best writer who you should be reading if you aren’t. He’s written stories about aliens, genetic engineering, time travel, and has most recently been focusing his time and talents on zombies and the monsters humanity creates. Free Fall is set in Cawdron’s zombie universe and is a fascinating take on the genre, putting an astronaut in space at the time of the z-pocalypse. What does he do? How does he react when a distress call comes to him from a little girl on earth? The tale is thrilling and captivating.

Tasty Dragon Meat by KJ Colt

dragonIn The Dragon Chronicles, one title took the title of the “Most Talked About,” and that was Tasty Dragon Meat. KJ Colt managed to tell a story that was funny, scary, and thrilling all at the same time. Who would imagine that ingesting dragon meat would do anything besides fill a starving man’s stomach? The idea that the addictive flesh of the dragon had hidden qualities was fun and inventive and earned Colt a spot on this list.

A Long Horizon by Harlow Fallon

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nThe Immortality Chronicles was the first Future Chronicles title to send proceeds to charity. One might think the stories would be subpar, but throughout it, the authors strove for excellence. Harlow Fallon’s A Long Horizon capped the collection with a bang. The story spans hundreds of years from a ship bound for the New World from Europe to a ship in deep space bound for unknown destinations. One thing is consistent – an alien who has formed a symbiotic (even parasitic) relationship with its host, a woman who was just on the cusp of adulthood on her voyage to America. It is touching, interesting, and visceral.

Piece of Cake by Patrice Fitzgerald

aiPatrice Fitzgerald takes artificial intelligence and adds something we all can relate to – cake. Originally published in The A.I. Chronicles, Fitzgerald’s story takes the cake (sorry!) as the story of A.I. run amok with political correctness. There are certainly shades and hints that allude to our society today and the steps we take to making everyone the “same” and ignoring unique body shapes. I applaud Patrice’s work on the story and how it rings true, but also how it hits the funny bone as well.

Writer’s Block by Hank Garner

writers blockEarlier when I mentioned Eamon Ambrose, I talked about how much of a boon to indie publishing he’d been. Hank Garner is quickly becoming a major voice for publishing with his Author Stories Podcast. Recording one a week, Hank is giving a voice (literally) to dozens of writers who deserve to be heard. Garner is a heck of a writer as well, publishing a number of works this year, including Writer’s Block, a story that most any writer can relate to. Of course, it isn’t as simple as just a case of writer’s block, as our protagonist Stu finds out and we get a magical story out of it.

Under the Grassy Knoll by Richard Gleaves

tinfoilDavid Gatewood is one of the best editors out there, and he took a chance this year by publishing Tales of Tinfoil, a short story anthology centered on conspiracy theories. The anthology is a bold choice and I think it pays off. Gleaves’ story leads the collection with a JFK rabbit-hole tale. Where Gleaves shines is the attention to detail and the plausibility. By the end, I was almost convinced that was the actual circumstances of the president’s assassination. Gleaves’ main work on his Sleepy Hollow series is lengthy (the three books total over a half-million words), but the short story here is a fine work, indeed.

Unconditional by Chris Pourteau

Unconditional_sml2Apparently this year Chris Pourteau just wanted to rip people’s hearts out. He originally published Unconditional on its own at the beginning of the year, and then folded it into an anthology entitled Tails of the Apocalypse featuring stories of animals in the end times. I’m sure with both appearances, readers left the story a few tears fewer. Basic premise: What about the family dog during a zombie apocalypse? Here’s the twist — the story is told from the POV of the dog who is loyal to the last. Well done, Mr. Pourteau, thanks for making me think of it all over again. I hate you.

Where Dragons Lie by Thomas Robins

41MGayjgjJLThis may be more of a novella, but I’m putting it here anyway. Right about the time The Dragon Chronicles was out and garnering five-star reviews, Thomas Robins released the first of two stories in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons and those afraid of them. The title dragon isn’t all he seems to be, however, and you’ll find yourself questioning a lot as you read through the story. Robins has since followed it up with a quasi-sequel and I hope he continues the story in 2016.

Concerns of the Second Sex by Pavarti Tyler

althistoryI don’t know if I can say it much better than what I said about this story when it was first released with the alt.history 101 title in July. So here we go: “Important? Yes. Important. Take Pavarti Tyler’s story for example. Entitled Concerns of the Second Sex, her tale looks at a world where the 19th Amendment never came to be. In fact, with the absence of the women’s vote, the world has reverted to a place barely recognizable. Well, recognizable if you’ve read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but that’s about it. Tyler pays homage to Atwood with this story and takes it a step further with the treatment of other races, including race mixing. If we never respected the rights of half of the species, why would the race movement of the 50’s and 60’s be successful, either? The story is tragic, yet Tyler does give it a hopeful note. I found it poignant and an important story to read and understand where we’ve come from and where we are going.”

Carindi by Jennifer Foehner Wells

darkAn emotional gut punch rounds out this list as Jennifer Wells gets all the feels as the heart of the Dark Beyond The Stars collection. The authors and curator didn’t try to focus on it, but each of the authors for the anthology is a woman, showing that science fiction isn’t just for men. One of my favorites was Carindi, set in the universe of Wells’ debut novel, Fluency. The story focuses on dependency, love, and sacrifice. When everything you have is in the hands of someone else, what is does love mean? In the end, our actions are the loudest words of all, as we find in this moving short story.


…and there we go. What a great list. By no means is this comprehensive. I read a lot this year, but my my own admission, my reading list was mostly limited to independent publishing, namely The Future Chronicles anthologies. I rated A LOT of stories as five stars this year, so this list could change a lot depending on my mood. There were certainly stories that were great, but I had to set the line somewhere. Don’t worry — still going to have a Best Books of the Year list coming up in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for that.

But what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

 

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TIME HEIST only $0.99 (for now)!

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My buddy Anthony Vicino has his novel on sale for just 99 pennies today!  I’m reading it right now and am loving it so far. Go get it!

Get your copy of the bestselling cyberpunk technothriller, TIME HEIST, for only $0.99. Do it now or I’ll set my rabid robo-puppies on you!

Source: TIME HEIST only $0.99 (for now)!

Remembrances of my Grandma

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This was quite a summer. I didn’t get all the things done I had planned, but I did a lot of important things. Things I don’t regret one bit.

One of those things was saying goodbye to my grandmother. Grandma Long was 99 years old when she died in July — a month shy of her 100th — and was the cornerstone of my mother’s side of the family. I know I can’t claim much when it comes to Grandma Long; all the grandchildren except for me and my siblings lived in North Dakota by her. But I still knew I would regret it if I didn’t make it to North Dakota for her funeral. It was a long trip, but it was worth it.

Since we didn’t live in North Dakota, my parents tried to make sure my siblings and I got time with grandma and grandpa. I was the last one to spend significant time with them — six weeks over the course of the summer of 1991. She taught me a lot and I learned a lot about the value of hard work during that time.

But perhaps what I learned most from Grandma Long was what I ended up taking when I left. My mom asked if I wanted anything when I got ready to leave the farm this summer and I took…books. Ultimately that’s what I learned from grandma — the love of words on a page. Everywhere you went at grandma’s house, you could find a book, or a Reader’s Digest from 1986, or some other piece of literature.

Of course, I didn’t learn to read or fall in love with reading at grandma’s house, but her love of learning meant she was a teacher in a one-room school as early as the 1930’s. Her educational career spurred on her children — all four of grandma’s children (my mom, two aunts, and uncle) worked as teachers at one time or another. That educational line trickled down even further into my immediate family with my older brother and I both going into education with our wives working as teachers as well.

So when I had a look around, I didn’t want gold plated dishes, jewelry, or priceless heirlooms. I was grateful for a handful of books from her shelves. The books she surrounded herself with were dated for sure. (I have a story about a science report I attempted to research once at her house using World Book encyclopedias from 1960. About the Moon. The Moon. That we didn’t land on until 1969. Oy.) But while the copyright dates might have been from her childhood or even before, the knowledge was immeasurable. In an era before Kindles and Wikipedia, my grandmother had a library at her house. Her house in the middle of North Dakota miles away from the nearest town.

I hope that I can pass along my own love of knowledge and my passion for learning to my children and my students. When people look back at my life, can they say what we did for my grandmother? If they can say a tenth of what they did about her, I’d be honored.

Chronicles Week! (with Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway!)

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Been radio silence around here for a couple months. Sorry about that…I’ll fill you in later. Suffice it to say this summer didn’t go exactly as planned on the writing front, but was still productive as well.

(Yes, yes…I’ll get to the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway in a bit…)

But while I haven’t been updating Ye Olde Blog at all this summer, I’m breaking that fast now for Chronicles Week.

Let me back up a bit. When I started writing, I credited a lot of the reasons why to one man — Hugh Howey. After reading his blog and WOOL, I was heartened by his approach and the success he had. Not success as in worldwide blockbuster multi-millionaire success, but rather just simply getting that book written and published success. I told anyone and everyone that it was due to Hugh Howey’s career that I had one as well.

While I still credit Hugh a lot, I’ve taken my own course in the past year. And what a year it’s been in my life. Exactly a year ago this week, I arrived home after flying to Africa with my wife to adopt our four (now five) year old son. If you’re familiar at all with international adoption, you know that the transition isn’t always smooth. Our son has been a blessing on our lives, but my writing schedule took a huge hit. I went from being able to write hundreds or thousands of words a day to dozens. Maybe.

So it was a huge boon when I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Samuel Peralta.

robot chSam is the publisher and curator of The Future Chronicles. A year ago at this time he’d only published the first of the series — The Robot Chronicles. I nabbed an early copy and wrote up a review for it and honestly included it in my best-of-the-year list. I saw some of the authors he’d included in that volume and knew I was as qualified as some of them. I asked about being considered for a future anthology and he graciously read my novella Ant Apocalypse. A few weeks after returning from Africa (and writing virtually nothing the whole time), Sam got in touch with me and offered me a spot in The Alien Chronicles.

I will honestly tell you my heart skipped a beat when I read the message that Sunday afternoon (yes, I can tell you exactly where I was) and I had to read it a couple times before I would believe it.

I knew the quality of story the Chronicles called for, so I took a personal day off teaching and wrote all day. The worst part of that? I ended up scrapping the entire story I spent the day on and went a different direction. But I needed that time to convince myself the first story wasn’t as good as the story I ended up writing — Uncle Allen.

(Hold on, the Paperwhite giveaway is down a bit, hang in there…)

alien chWhen The Alien Chronicles released in early January 2015, my story was one cited in a number of reviews as a favorite, and I reached a bigger audience in that month than I had in the previous year and a half I’d been publishing put together.

The Chronicles allowed me to keep writing, but adjust my new life around quality stories with a larger audience thanks to the dozen writers featured in each volume. Being put alongside writers like Hugh Howey(!), Jen Wells, B.V. Larsen, W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, and… (I could literally go on all day…) has elevated my stories and pushed me to write even better than I did before. The relationships I’ve developed in the past few months have shown me the different ways to be an author in today’s new publishing system and Samuel Peralta is a true visionary with goals for the Future Chronicles for multiple anthologies down the road. I’m as thankful for Peralta and the universes he has had a hand in creating as I am for Hugh Howey at the start of my career.

the-z-chroncilesUncle Allen led to Z Ball (my editor says its my best yet) in The Z Chronicles and I’m one of the few veteran voices to be featured in The Immortality Chronicles (now up for preorder — get your copy now!)

With all that said, it’s CHRONICLES WEEK! All the authors behind the current Chronicles books (so far we’ve had Robot, Telepath, Alien, A.I., Dragon, Z, and Alt.History 101) plus the half-dozen or so planned in the next eight to nine months are showcasing the Future Chronicles anthologies. If you haven’t yet read a Chronicles book, there is a special edition due out in a month, entitled (appropriately enough) The Future Chronicles. It will feature ten stories which have previously appeared in Chronicles books and five NEW stories, as well as a Foreword by Hugh Howey himself(!). It’s up for preorder right now for just 99 cents.

And in honor of the celebration, The Future Chronicles authors are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Wait, there’s more! Not only will you get a brand new Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing machine will be pre-loaded with all the Chronicles titles already released. Each of these books have hit #1 in the Sci-fi/Fantasy Anthology list and you want to win this thing. Visit here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for all who entered!)

Still here? 

uncle allenOkay…visit The Future Chronicles this week and check out all the amazing books there. If you want a taste, my Alien Chronicles story, Uncle Allen is FREE this week only. Check it out as a taste of the collection.

Book Review – Brother, Frankenstein

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BookSized_Frank_SmallOne of the best things about the Indie Book Revolution is that readers have the chance to read stories that never would have seen the light of day under the previous model of publishing. Compelling, interesting, and engaging stories that would have been shunned by the New York publishing houses. Yet thanks to the digital revolution, we get to enjoy these imaginative tales for ourselves. We get to be the Gatekeepers.

Michael Bunker’s newest book Brother, Frankenstein is one of those books. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but it is too daring, too out of the box, too…Amish…to be a traditionally published book. We like our Amish in neat little romance books. A girl in an apron on the front cover, clutching a bouquet of flowers, and a covered wagon driving away in the distance. There’s too much risk to allow the Amish to mix with sci-fi in the way Bunker does in Brother, Frankenstein.

But in that risk, in taking a leap of faith that readers can cope with “out of the box,” Bunker has achieved a wonderful book that transcends many of the books you would be able to find on the shelf of Barnes and Noble today.

In a way, this was always meant to be. The simple life of the Amish, combined with the world’s first truly science fiction story – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The moral dilemmas that Dr. Frankenstein encountered and dealt with in the groundbreaking novel are presented here as well. In Bunker’s work, Dr. Chris Alexander has a military grade robot body that is just in need of a heart and brain. The donations come from an autistic Amish boy who was dying anyway. Dr. Alexander believes he is giving the boy a gift. Another chance at life…in a body that can wipe entire towns off the map with the firepower contained within.

As Dr. Alexander goes on the run with Frank, the government sends in an agent who is as ruthless as he is skilled at his job – Cyrano Dresser. Dresser approaches the search for Frank and the Doc as his own White Whale, and has no problem in running over whoever gets in his way. He is a special type of evil villain and I can totally see the character on the big screen.

So, with the government hunting them down, where do the fugitives go? Amish country of course. There they fit in (as best they can), and Alexander works to contain Frank’s emotions. Emotions aren’t Frank’s friends – that’s because when he gets mad, he transforms into a Voltron-type robot capable of mass destruction. Not quite Amish.

In the end, I found the book to be quite enjoyable and Bunker’s best work to date. Pennsylvania was a Bunker’s previous attempt at “Amish Sci-Fi” but he’s refined his style and his pacing in Brother, Frankenstein was much improved. The stakes are high for Alexander and his experiment, and the emotional payoff for the reader and for Frank is worth it.

Author Interview – Jennifer Ellis

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Jennifer Ellis is one of five authors with books releasing next week under the “Apocalypse Weird” banner. The series started out with The Red King by Nick Cole and is spreading like a firebomb with the next books in the series, which include entries by Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, E.E. Giorgi, and Cole himself with the follow-up to Red King. After reading Ellis’ book Reversal, I knew I wanted to interview her on my blog. The novel is a great read, in or out of the AW series. It reads a lot like a Clive Cussler novel with bits of Dean Koontz mixed in for good measure. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, check out that M.S. Corley cover as well. Wicked.

Oh…and there may be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned in advance.


WS: Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t you start with a short background about who Jennifer Ellis is and your career thus far.

JE: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. I started off as a serious academic and have a PhD in Geography, but quickly decided academia was not for me. I always wanted to be a writer and I could not see how a career teaching at a university and being forced to publish or perish could fit with my writing aspirations. I’m also a bit of a lone wolf. I like working on short-term projects, over which I have significant control, on my own, preferably in my house, in my pajamas, with the option to sneak out for a skate ski in the afternoon. So for the past sixteen years, I’ve worked as an independent consultant doing research, coordinating projects, and writing reports for multiple clients in the fields of sustainability and climate change. I started writing fiction seriously in 2007, and after having an agent and trying the traditional route for several years, published my first novel , A Pair of Docks, in 2013, which is a middle-grade science fiction fantasy. I have published two more since then—the second in my middle grade series, called A Quill Ladder, and a dystopian action adventure novel for adults, called In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. Reversal will be my fourth novel. I also have published two short stories in anthologies—Synchronic and Tales from Pennsylvania.

My writing career thus far has been pretty fun, and I’m so glad I decided to go indie. I have had lots of amazing breaks and met lots of fantastic people. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career, but plan to ramp things up significantly in the coming year. I had just started two pretty major and intense consulting contracts in December 2013, which left very little time for writing over the past year. Those two projects will be done in March, and I’m really looking forward to focusing more on writing.

Reversal_FT_FINALWS: How did your involvement in AW come about?

JE: I had met Nick Cole and Michael Bunker through my involvement in Synchronic, which I was invited to join by my editor, David Gatewood, and got to know them a bit through the Facebook Launch Party and subsequent Facebook interactions. You know Michael and Nick—never a dull Facebook moment when they are around, beards and all. It’s sort of like working with Iceman and Maverick. And more importantly, they are both seriously great writers. Then I worked with them both in the Tales From Pennsylvania anthology. They asked me to join the AW crew and after doing some quick math in terms of whether I could generate the required word count to produce a complete novel by December, I gave them a resounding yes, and have been thrilled to be along for the ride ever since.

WS: What inspired your story Reversal?

JE: Well, I am Canadian, so I wanted to do something with a bit of a Canadian and snowy spin. I also have friends who have done Arctic research and I thought the Ellesmere Island setting offered a lot of scope to do something a bit different than what the others were doing. Also, since I do have a background in climate change and geography, I wanted to take more of a geomorphological and environmental approach to the apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. I’ve always been interested in the different theories of mass extinction and what from an environmental perspective might finally do us in.

WS: One aspect I was impressed with was the authenticity. Do you have a background in Arctic research?

JE: Thanks so much. No, I don’t have a background in Arctic research. But I did hang out with people who did do northern research in grad school and heard a lot of their stories, mostly about not being able to shower for 45 days. I also spend a lot of time in a snowy climate, as I live in a ski town. We have bears in town and our yard routinely. Regular black bears of course, but I am accustomed to thinking about bears every time I go out for a run in the summer. I also did a research paper on penguins in university, and when I started writing Reversal, I had just finished reading a book about Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic. Pulling the rest together was just pure straight research, which I am pretty used to doing.

WS: What’s it been being a part of the initial AW team?

JE: The best! They are such a great group and have been fantastic to work with. It has also been super exciting to be part of something that is such a revolution in publishing. But it has also been a bit nerve-wracking because of course I wanted to make sure my novel measured up to Nick’s and Michael’s and the other two launch books by Chris Pourteau and E.E. Giorgi.

WS: How about that Corley cover?

JE; I love it. He is a pro and totally worked with me to develop the elements that I wanted to include. It was great fun to be able to imagine what my characters looked like and how I saw the various settings and be able to send him links and have him just produce them with his pencil. That is true talent.

WS: Any hints on your next book?

JE: My next Apocalypse Weird book will be called Undercurrent. Sasha will carry on to the Falkland Islands in search of Murphy and Soren, and then back to the Arctic to retrieve the green folder with the mysterious coordinates with the help of Gregor, who has uncovered some information regarding the polar bear tags. They will encounter more than they bargained for, and discover that all magnetic roads lead to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, the Deccan Traps in India, Parhump, Nevada and the year 1974. That is of course, assuming I get to write it, because that is not a given in the Apocalypse Weird world, as readers have to connect with my writing and characters, so if you want more Polar Wyrd, make sure you leave a review for Reversal.

WS: One last thing…exploding penguins???

JE: It seemed appropriately apocalyptic. I do feel a bit bad about the penguins. No real penguins were harmed in the writing of Reversal, I swear. I might have to have the penguins take over the Antarctic research station in Undercurrent to make up for it.


Seriously — if you love a good thriller, Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal might be right up your alley. A bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, a bit supernatural. All together a great read. It is just one of the five Apocalypse Weird books releasing on February 23.

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.