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An Empath’s Guide to Getting through Life When Hiding in the Closet’s Not an Option – a #HoldOnToTheLight post

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

#HoldOnToTheLight

Shit is hard today, yo.

For everyone.

One of the most amazing things about empathy is that it allows us to feel the emotions and pain of others as if they are our own. It’s a gift that brings art to life and that allows writers to breathe life into each character and make our readers love and hate them as we see fit. We understand emotion because we feel it so deeply.

The torture of empathy is that it allows us to feel the emotions and pain of others as if they are our own.

As much as the world needs more empathy with each passing day, it’s hell out there for creative empaths.

No matter when you turn on your TV or pull up your social media accounts, there’s some new tragedy to process. Record-breaking hurricanes. Devastating wildfires. Mass shootings in the most unlikely places. And that’s before you dip a toe in the toxic soup that is the political climate, particularly in the United States.

Even if you make it through the national and international news without breaking into tears or lapsing into a nihilistic torpor, the year seems to have gone tits-up for everyone. Several months ago, I learned that <a href=https://www.gofundme.com/make-joe-great-again-als-fund>a writing friend has been all but incapacitated by ALS</a>. Last week, I held <a href=http://cota.org/campaigns/COTAforWesleyB>a four-month old baby that needs a liver transplant </a> – which he can’t have until he goes through and heals from open heart surgery. Today, I read about an <a href=https://glittersquid.com/my-autistic-son-has-been-waiting-over-200-hours-in-the-er-for-a-psych-bed-in-north-carolina-828b7fcc0c02?gi=872981c6c195>11-year-old with autism that’s spent almost 10 days in the ER in horrific conditions to wait for a bed in the pediatric psychiatric ward</a>.

Yet, even when everything seems to be circling the drain, we are expected to function as if we weren’t completely overwhelmed. And as alluring as hiding in the closet might be, we are what the world needs most – the lights in the dark. The ones who can make the “other” relatable, to highlight what’s broken and connect our readers to it.

So how the hell do we survive to do that?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some tips to #HoldOnToTheLight in the middle of the chaos around us. Try one. Try them all. Use what works for you and alter or discard the rest. No one can give you the exact recipe to give you what you need, so tweak what’s there and make it work for you.

1 – Put on your own mask first

And by “mask,” I mean practice self-care. There’s nothing selfish about self-care, even if that means sitting through all eight Harry Potter movies and indulging in some guilty pleasure snacks.

In order to help others, you must be capable of providing health, and that means you need to address your immediate physical and emotional state. There’s a reason why those airline safety demonstrations emphasize that you should put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. There’s a reason the videos they show usually have an adult sitting next to a child. No matter who is relying on you and how vulnerable they are, you must care for yourself and your basic needs first. <a href=”https://bradfordhealth.com/halt-hunger-anger-loneliness-tiredness/”>HALT</a> and evaluate your current situation – are you Hungry (and Hydrated)? Are you Angry? Lonely? Tired? Your physical and emotional needs are closely linked, so if you’re not taking care of yourself physically, your body won’t keep up for long.

If you’re Hungry – eat something, and not just easy-to-hand snacks or junk food. Get a real meal. Real food. Something hot and balanced (yes, with vegetables). Are you Hydrated? Your brain and your body rely on water and need it to function and thrive. While I know coffee is the nectar of the gods and even alcohol has a place in life, you need water. If you’re not a fan of the taste, throw some fruit in there.

Are you Angry? Lonely? Find someone you trust and talk it through, or just spend time with. Neither anger or loneliness are conducive to feeling well or optimum decision-making. Connecting with people can make all the difference in the world and help you redirect your focus to positive actions, emotions and experiences.

Everyone’s busy and cheating on their sleep schedule, but if you’re Tired, thinking, processing and functioning get progressively harder. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, get some rest. Even a short nap can improve cognitive functioning, memory and improve your sense of well-being. Think of it like a reset for your brain.

Got HALT covered? Do something you enjoy, something that feeds your soul. What’s the one escape you crave doing when things get stressful? Curling up in bed with a good book or your favorite movie? Sneaking out and treating yourself to a killer milkshake? Or laying on the lawn and staring up at the stars? Whatever it is, make time for those moments that feed your soul. You are just as important as the people you want to help. The best way you can help them is to make sure you’re healthy enough to do so, emotionally and physically.

2 – Give yourself permission to focus on something else for a while

When things get stressful, your adrenal system amps up giving you the physiological response we know as “fight or flight.” This stress response doesn’t recognize the difference between, say, fighting a wild badger, watching videos of the devastation in California, Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida or watching loved ones suffer from forces outside your control. Your adrenal system cannot withstand the constant stress of soaking up all the negative energy in the world. You cannot thrive if your every waking thought is consumed with the tragedies near and far. Give yourself permission to take time to focus on something else, no matter how trivial that is. Narrow your focus and ask yourself what would make the most difference to you right now? Maybe it’s doing the dishes and clearing the sink. Look at your to-do list. What can you complete that would give you the most peace of mind, or the most satisfaction? Keep an eye out for the small things that give you the biggest sense of accomplishment. Maybe take that donation to the charity like you’ve been meaning to do. Bonus, not only do you get back that space in your house, you help someone else at the same time.

3 – Do something concrete

Very little is worse than standing by and feeling helpless when friends, loved ones or even strangers suffer. The blessing and curse of empathy means not only do you feel your helplessness, you feel their pain and want to reach out and alleviate it. So, instead of standing by, look for ways to incorporate ways of helping into your normal routine.

Do you meal plan or meal prep? What about making an extra meal or two and share them with a family that’s going through some hard times. No time for that? What about picking up a gift certificate when you go grocery shopping?

Cleaning out your closets can mean a bounty of extra stuff that can benefit others in need. Clothes can be donated to charities, and even old towels are often accepted at animal shelters.

Homeless people asking for help can pull at the heartstrings, though giving money is sometimes questionable help at best. Put together “care packs” that include travel size toiletries, snack bars, dried fruits, nuts, bottled water and other care items that can be offered to people in need. You will offer care and support in a tangible way, guilt-free way.

If you’ve got the time, volunteer with local charities, or offer to support with your creative skills. You never know what they need until you ask.

A little extra cash can be transformed into donations to individuals (GoFundMe sites, for example). You can even drop a little at a time on gift cards to grocery stores, department stores, gas stations, or local restaurants when you go shopping (even $10 can be helpful). A purchase you might not miss every couple of weeks can make a huge difference over time. Keep them on hand for those times when you need to reach out and give a little extra to someone in need.

Offer support to a neighbor, friend or family member in need. Don’t wait to be asked – offer service and support you can provide. Love working in the yard or tackling those miscellaneous household fix-it jobs? Offer your skills for an afternoon. Got some muscle and transportation? Ask what they need moved out of the house or donated. Limited availability, but gregarious and nimble on social media? Offer to help wrangle support from friends and family through social media. Look at creating Facebook groups to get disparate people together, pages on Band.us to manage just about anything, or on mealtrain.com to schedule meal delivery. You can even fundraise in a million different ways from yard sales, bake sales, raffles, partnering with local restaurants.

When large-scale (physical or political) tragedy strikes, even if you’re not close, you can still help by supporting charities, donating blood, contacting your Congressional representatives to communicate your position on how your tax dollars should be used (call or text via ResistBot) and raising awareness by rallying support on social media. With the latter, just be sure that you’re doing more than just sounding off. Have a point and a call to action for anyone who might be reading your posts.

4 – Acknowledge that you alone cannot fix the problem

With so much going on, and going wrong, the desire to do something is strong, and might push you to do more than you can responsibly handle. (That’s that blessing/curse of empathy biting you in the butt, in case you were wondering.) Remember that you can do amazing things, but you are only one person. No matter the problem, you alone cannot fix it, no matter how hard you push (see Tip 1).

Set boundaries and limits for yourself. If you’re making financial donations or donations-in-kind, honestly evaluate your budget and make sure you’re not giving more than you can afford. If money’s tight, look for those no- or low-cost options. Sometimes, just being there to sit with someone who’s sick or unable to care for themselves while their caregiver goes out for exercise or a break can be a huge help. If your schedule is already tight, evaluate your schedule and be honest about how much of your time is available. If you’ve got an hour, offer an hour. You don’t have to give up an entire weekend or even a whole day to make a difference. Be honest, communicate and support at levels you’re comfortable with to get as much out of the experience as you provide.

5 – Spread your energy around, not thin

There are so many deserving causes and people, it can be hard to forget Tip 4 and end up over-committing yourself or your resources. Setting boundaries can be as simple as picking a number of causes and championing them for a set period of time, then switching to another deserving set. For example, pick three causes and spend your energy on them for 90 days. After that period, re-evaluate your causes and change them as you see fit. Or re-evaluate as things come up. Be realistic with what you can reasonably do, and keep your focus as narrow as it needs to be so you can thrive while still supporting the causes closest to your heart.

 

6 – Make good art

Art teaches empathy and understanding in a way that little else can and restores us even as we create it. Art is as unique and enriching as its creator. We are the only ones that can create the art within us. Create. Indulge in your passion. Share it. Our great, wise uncle Neil Gaiman reminds us that no matter what happens, we must create good art. To be reminded, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plWexCID-kA>give a listen</a>.

 

Now, empath, #HoldOnToTheLight and go create good art. Use your empathy effectively to give where and how you can without depleting yourself or your resources. Share your gift with the world, and help make it a better place.

 


About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

 

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

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Music and Writing

November 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Music is something I need like air. It feeds my soul. I was never without a book and some kind of portable music player (Walkman, Discman, and once I could afford it, the original iPod shuffle). I developed some mad mix-tape skills. Even through college, I struggled to fall asleep without something playing in the background, something that drove my roommate nuts. Well, nuttier. I used music to create a soundtrack to my life, to orchestrate my moods and to manipulate emotions. I learned to do it so well, I had my own little “therapy” sessions with one friend conducted through the intense power of music. With history like that, it’s not surprising that music is a part of my writing process. Sometimes, it’s the inspiration for an idea, sometimes it’s fuel for creativity while working, but most often, it’s both.

Everyone’s process is different, of course, but what I’ve discovered works for me lately is keeping a playlist of songs for each story I’m working on. Sometimes, I slap it together quickly with the story dictating exactly what it needs, and other times it’s as much a work in progress as the story it’s attached to.

But why is this a valuable use of my time?

  • Inspiration: Songs come to me for a reason. Either it’s the tone or mood of the song, the lyrics, or something about the story the song tells. When I’m not sure where the story needs to go, these songs tap into the lizard brain and help me pull forth that core of the story that might be hard to express in rational thought. Music helps the words flow.
  • Continuity: I write slow and I write in bursts because life. Keeping a playlist is a way of preserving a headspace for the story. I listen to it even while doing other tasks (working, shopping, driving, laundry) because it keeps the creative world churning and fresh. It helps me prime my creativity so that when ass meets chair, words happen efficiently.
  • Focus: I suck at focus almost as much as I suck at discipline. The meme about having 2,857 browser tabs open in my brain is a pretty accurate description. Add to it, though that they alternately demand attention by playing some kind of audio that makes me click over to them. It adds up to getting next to nothing done in one sitting. For me, music distracts the noisy parts of my brain. Song lyrics give the chatty, interrupt-y part of my brain something to gnaw on while the rest of me can work on writing and creating worlds with words.
  • Portability: I don’t always write at home, and I don’t always write on my computer or laptop. Having a palylist of songs, especially a private playlist saved on the internet somewhere means that even if I don’t have the physical elements that tell my brain it’s time to write, I can use the auditory clues of a playlist to make the shift. (Behavioral psychology FTW, yo.)
  • Enjoyment: My musical memory associations are as strong as scent associations. Maybe stronger. I have music that reminds me of people, of events. I have bought albums not because the music is particularly good, but because it connects me to someone or some time. The summer I painted my bedroom walls a beautiful shade of red, “Inside Out” by Eve6 was my jam and I danced almost as much as I painted. The Moody Blues make me think about my dad. There are about 4 albums that define my college experience, and one that introduced me to a part of myself I never knew existed. After writing the story, those songs are the soundtrack to that story, and it makes me smile. And I want to share that with you.

Recently, in response to the heinous HB2 legislation in North Carolina, Falstaff Books published We Are Not This: Carolina Writers for Equality, a charity anthology benefiting Time Out Youth, Equality NC and the Queen City Theater Company. My story “Trapped” is included, and I want to share the playlist for that story with you. I have engineered the list a bit to make it flow. I cut a few songs (because they didn’t have a logical place in the playlist and because I recognize that most people can only handle so much Amanda Palmer/The Dresden Dolls.)

So, talk a walk through the weirdness of my brain. Download We Are Not This and read “Trapped.” Use this as a soundtrack as you listen, or just a companion piece to enjoy:

“Trapped” playlist – YouTube

And, if you’re interested in seeing a sliver of what I cut, here are a few bonus tracks I just couldn’t let go:

“Trapped” Bonus Tracks playlist – YouTube

Let me know what you think!

Be sure to leave a review of We Are Not This on Amazon or Goodreads, or on your own blog. Reviews help authors!

Something Like a Review – The Chosen by John G. Hartness

August 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Disclosure: I know the author personally. I purchased this book with my own Audible credit because I wanted to read it. This post is simply a reflection of my desire to share a piece of fiction I enjoyed from an author I choose to support.

John is one of the best marketers I’ve ever seen in action. If you’ve seen him at a con, you know what I mean. No panel is complete without his signature “buy our shit” proclamation, and if you’ve never witnessed his epic readings replete with Sasquatch dick jokes, you’re missing out. So when he promoted “The Chosen” as “the book that got me fired from one of my jobs for blasphemy,” I knew I had to read it.

In true John style, “The Chosen” is an irreverent and humorous poke at things people take “super cereal.” He introduces us to an Adam and Eve (yes, THAT Adam and Eve) that will send the devout for their rosaries, an angel that will make you question both your definition and affiliation with good/evil and an unforgettable motley crew as they set off on a road trip to save the world.

One of the things I loved most about this book, and I did love it, was the knowledgeable and respectful ways religious belief was handled. And warped. I listened to this as an audiobook, but I’ll be getting my hands on a copy of “The Chosen” to see how the hell he managed to have his characters refute the creation story in a way that 1.) makes sense, 2.) was amusing, and 3.) respected the essence of the story. While I’m not religious, I could tell that Hartness is knowledgeable about the material, respects those who believe it, and yet finds ways of cutting through the poetic language and creating a plausible story.

So, if he’s so respectful, why might he have been fired for blasphemy? Well, let’s just say that after millennia of walking the Earth after their expulsion from the garden, Adam and Eve aren’t exactly what the faithful may expect. But after all they’ve witnessed, I can’t say that I blame them for the way they change. Character development, yo. Even though it’s not what many would approve of, the changes to their characters feels genuine, as if they really are people who’ve lived tens of thousands of years, witnessed some of the greatest tragedies of history, experienced their own personal tragedies and yet, still manage to function in our crazy world. Theirs is a creation story I want to believe, and the choices at the end are believable and fulfilling.

And what are those choices? Well, that’s what you’ll need to find out. Suffice to say that there’s a Pandora’s box feeling to the tone at the end (and if you know your mythology, you’ll know what I mean). I read this and was able to put all the recent tragedies and horrific occurrences aside for a little while.

Pick up this book – however you choose to ingest it, and read it. If you’re super sensitive about religion, this isn’t the book for you, but if you’re willing to have an open mind and enjoy a well-written piece of fiction with a religious (though not proselytizing) bent to it, this is the one I’d recommend.

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Available in various formats from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 5 stars

Potential re-read: Definitely, especially to figure out how the hell did did what he did.

Dead-tree worthy?: Yes. You’ll find your own reasons, I’m sure, but from this writer, my purchase is motivated by the need to figure out how the hell did did what he did.

Something Like a Review – The Fireman by Joe Hill

The second I saw the promo for this release, I marked it down on my calendar. Fate intervened on my behalf and prevented me from buying it right away.

An ominous start for Something Like a Review from an author I’ve raved over in the past, isn’t it?

Patience, grasshopper.

My local indie bookstore hosted a release party for an author friend’s book, Daughters of Shadow and Blood, Book 2: Elena. While wandering the stacks, to what should my wondering eyes should appear, but an autographed copy! After spending roughly two hours cradling this substantial book to my chest, I knew I’d need to invest in a digital copy to prevent damage to my preciousssss.

Ahem.

Sorry.

Draco Incendia Trycophyton, aka Dragonscale, infects people all over the world. People spontaneously combust and spark wildfires decimating the land. The infected are feared, hunted and killed to contain the infection and prevent fires. But not everyone falls prey to the spore. Some learn to coexist with the fungus and band together to survive, living in harmony with the spore and each other.

This is a rich, complex story that has lingered in my mind long after finishing the book. The lush detail evoked a vibrant, post-apocalyptic world, but in the end, it wasn’t the spore I feared. Harper flees the world she has known after she’s infected and finds a group of survivors hiding out in the New Hampsire woods. Under the care of a mad leader, the group evolves into an zealous, persecutory evangelical knot more terrifying than the prospect of burning to death.

There’s a foreboding sparked by the realistic, plausible and almost prophetic example of the camp inhabitants and leaders and speaking to the larger problems in the real world lurking under the plot lines. Not only does it give the story depth, it creates a lasting impression of disturbance and unease.

And though expertly done, there were a few quirks that irritated me throughout the novel. Pop culture references are a pet peeve of mine because I think they can take away from the timelessness of the story. In this novel, there were a lot and covered everything from classic rock to Mary Poppins and Harry Potter. A few were great and integral to the character, but overall, I could have done with less and been happy. The other quirk I hadn’t noticed in his previous books was the habit of including little “throwaway” comments. These usually appeared at the end of chapters, and while they could be considered overt foreshadowing, they felt spoilery and frustrating. Omitting them altogether would punch up the tension, but that’s my opinion.”

Like NOS4A2, there were a couple of Easter eggs throwing back to King’s universe (like a character’s behavior leading to the comment that she had “forgotten the face of [her] father.” Even as hill builds a solid reputation for himself and his work apart from the spectre of his dad’s work, these little homages make my inner (and outer) fangirl squee with delight.

Overall, I loved this book and I’m glad I’ve read so few of Hill’s books that I still have plenty to get me through until the next one.

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Available in various formats from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 5 stars

Potential re-read: Definitely, especially to figure out how the hell did did what he did.

Dead-tree worthy?: Yes. You’ll find your own reasons, I’m sure, but from this writer, my purchase is motivated by the need to figure out how the hell did did what he did.

Something Like a Review – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

 The first book I read by Joe Hill was 20th Century Ghosts, and that was before I knew anything about him. I was so smitten with his work that I looked for more. To my surprise (at the time), he had a new book coming out – NOS4A2. Since I’m kind of a nerd for reading license plates, I was stoked over the vampire reference. Get it? Stoked? *rimshot*

On release day, I bought the hardback – an expense only reserved for my most favorite authors – yet I still didn’t have time to sit down and read it. Since I had audible credits, I snagged it, downloaded it and listened.

Hill tells a fantastic story, weaving character and world-building detail with enviable skill. Victoria’s ability to find things leads her to a magical passage to take her wherever she wants to go. But even her benign magic goes wrong, leading her to Richard Manx and his ’38 Rolls Royce Wraith. Victoria escapes Manx’s attempt to  whisk her away to “Christmas Land.” Years later, it’s her son in Manx’s magical car, and she has to get him back before he’s changed forever.

One would think that a place called “Christmas Land” is a place any child would want to go, but Hill makes even the most appealing place a horrifying prospect. While you feel the child you were celebrating the prospect, the adult recoils as the story unfolds. It’s chilling, and not just because of the snow.

As if losing myself in a great story by a great author wasn’t enough, imagine my delight in discovering Stephen King universe Easter eggs. This was the story that secured future shelf space for more Hill books and recruited me to his legion of fans.

Though comparison to King is unnecessary (and a bit unfair), the biggest compliment I can pay Hill is that he’s taken up King’s mantle as a Master of Horror, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Available in various formats from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 5 stars

Potential re-read: Absolutely. I want to go back and read the dead tree version and see what I missed!

Dead-tree worthy?: Yes. Just yes.

Something Like a Review – Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

We all have a special place in our hearts for the loud, brash personalities in our world. How else do you explain the popularity of the “carny-handed mango man,”or Nigel Farage?  Or the she-beast, Ann Coulter?

Granted, that place we hold for the blustery and abrasive might be a gator-filled swamp or an oubliette, but hey, those are places.

And sometimes, we seek out these personalities because we sense the benevolence behind the shock-and-awe tactics that make us laugh. For me, this is the lure of Chuck Wendig.

Everyone has their own opinion, of course, but I find Wendig’s particular brand of hyperbolic (and sometimes juvenile) humor is exactly the sugar to help me swallow writer life lessons and general insight buried within. I’ve drunk deep of his audacious wisdom from his daily blog posts at terribleminds.com, his Kick-Ass Writer and all his other writing books. But, until now, all I’d read was his writing advice.

Intrigued by the hype around his new cyber-thriller, Zer0es, I picked it up. The premise of technology becoming a horror thrilled me, and I had to see what he could do.

Overall, this is a great book, though I say that with a caveat.

When I was still in the first third of the book, my writing group was discussing what we were reading. I mentioned this one, and there was a lot of curiosity about it given Wendig’s blustery portrayal of himself on his blog. My only fair answer at the time was that it was … odd, but that I wanted to keep reading. The beginning, in my opinion, is somewhat jarring and disjointed. I felt thrust around, not really given a chance to orient myself with the characters, and how they were connected. In my opinion, there was something missing, though I still can’t identify what. As the book progresses past that point, however, and the characters converge, that jangling sense of disharmony dissipates and the story comes together in a beautiful, terrifying way and barrels through to its chilling end.

Wendig’s panoply of characters rings true to their stories, and histories, even if they become overwhelming and obnoxious at times. This is one of those casts of characters that is both unforgettable, and sometimes difficult to spend to spend time with. Wendig works a bit of magic, though, making you care about the most abrasive personalities even though you’d gladly reach into the story and slap them silly (I’m lookin’ at you, Rachael).

The punchy style and staccato rythym has been a matter of contention in some of his books. At times, I felt like I needed a break to catch my breath, but that sensation served the story. Wendig used the style to great effect and I’d argue that it was necessary to create the pace and physical effect on the reader that this novel achieves.

Zer0es is a chilling book because of the sheer plausibility of the technological horrors Wendig concocts.  We could be living with a similar, undetected tumor of dystopic existence growing in our midst. Our own Typhon might be watching now…

Definitely worth the read, I’d give Zer0es my standard “Lord of the Rings disclaimer” – get through the beginning, and you’ll be sucked in. Now, it’s all over until the release of the second book in the series, Invasive, in August.

 

Medium: Kindle version from Amazon.com

Other: Available in various formats from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 4 stars

Potential re-read: When I feel the need to be reminded of technology’s dark side, yes.

Dead-tree worthy?: Maybe. I think I’ll need to read through it again to figure that out. There is a certain amount of irony of only owning a digital copy, though.

Something Like a Review – Year One: A Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Collection by John G. Hartness

Disclosure: I know the author personally. I purchased this book with my own Audible credit because I wanted to read it. This post is simply a reflection of my desire to share a piece of fiction I enjoyed from an author I choose to support.

One of the benefits of connecting with local writers is getting an opportunity to meet interesting people and discover stories you might not have found otherwise. Buying books becomes an act of shopping small, and when you find something you love, sharing that love promotes and supports people you know and care about.

I discovered John’s work after encountering him at ConCarolinas. And, yes, “encounter” is the correct verb. Though I was slow on the uptake, I did become hooked on Bubba and was curious about his other writing. His pitch for Quincy Harker snared me: “Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker had a son. They named him Quincy. His guardian angel calls him Q. Dracula calls him nephew.” Given my love for things horror, and his sense of humor, I was sold.

If I could imagine a figure from classic horror coming to live in Charlotte, North Carolina, Quincy and Uncle Luke (aka – Dracula, to the rest of us) would be the perfect fit. There’s plenty of culture to suit an old vamp like Luke, and enough to keep Quincy and Charlotte-Mecklenberg police officer Rebecca Flynn busy for a long time. And that’s before we through Federal Agent John Smith into the mix.

I already knew Hartness is adept at blending horror and humor, but in the Quincy Harker novellas, he skillfully tilts the scale away from the humor while still retaining snark to keep you snorting through Quincy’s one-liners. This series is darker, and deeper than the Bubba stories, but showcases John’s potential for range. His writing style is cinematic, and breathes life into the mundane that has me looking over my shoulder whenever I go through parts of Charlotte that show up in the novellas. This is one of those series that you can just imagine Netflix or Amazon Studios picking this up and making a series out of it. So, how ’bout it, guys? #HarkerTV Hells, yeah.

In the end, this is a series that should not be missed. The voice talent on the audiobook does a great job with all the characters, but especially Quincy. He’s the voice I hear in my head when I imagine this badass Demon Hunter. You can buy the individual novellas, but really, you’re going to want them all, so go for the compendium. It’s worth every cent.

 

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Available in various formats from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 5 stars

Potential re-read: Yes, especially as the other novellas/collections are released.

Dead-tree worthy?: Probably, but I liked the audiobook so much that I probably will stick with that.

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